An Italian Power Play

An Italian Power Play

Imagine: It's October 2019, and European bureaucrats are facing down a brash leader who has promised to bring Brussels to heel. No, not Boris Johnson, who appears increasingly determined to take the UK out of the EU on October 31. I'm talking about Matteo Salvini.

Italy's right-wing interior minister plunged the country's government into turmoil on Friday by demanding a no-confidence vote in Europe's third-biggest economy. It's the beginning of the end for the uneasy, 14-month-old governing coalition between his right-wing Lega party and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement. Salvini visited a string of Italian beaches in his swim trunks over the weekend to take his case to Italian voters. Parliamentarians have been summoned back from summer holidays; the Italian senate is due to meet today to decide on a date for a no-confidence vote, which could take place as soon as tomorrow.

An anti-immigration crusader who has risked sanctions by pushing ahead with big tax cuts that would break the EU's budget rules, Salvini is gambling that an early vote will allow Lega to consolidate its growing popularity in Italy and install him as prime minister. His chances look decent: One recent poll put Lega's support in Italy at 36 percent, double that of 5-Star, and also comfortably ahead of the more mainstream center-left Democratic Party (PD). Rules that give any party or group of parties that win 40 percent of the votes in a national election in Italy a "bonus" allotment of seats could allow Salvini to form a government without former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and his Forza Italia party, instead relying on the smaller Brothers of Italy party, which Salvini much prefers. Investors reacted nervously on Monday to the prospect of a budgetary showdown between an emboldened Salvini and the EU.

The gambit could backfire. Parties seen as breaking up a government tend to suffer in subsequent polls in Italy. Matteo Renzi, the former PD prime minister, has suggested banding together with rival factions to block a Lega takeover. Lega is also facing an unfolding scandal about top party aides' attempts to solicit funding from Russia ahead of European elections this past May that could complicate citizens' choices in a new poll.

But if Salvini and Lega win, it could embolden a politician whose rants against immigrants and Brussels have resonated with Italian voters fed up with traditional political parties. For the EU this autumn, the biggest source of political turmoil may not be a charismatic politician who wants to take his country out of the bloc, but one who wants to stay in and wreak political havoc.

"I knew that history was my life's calling."

On Bank of America's That Made All the Difference podcast, Secretary of the Smithsonian Lonnie Bunch shares his journey and present-day work creating exhibits that inspire visitors to help our country live up to its ideals.

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

What is going on in Bosnia with Bosnian Serbs boycotting all major institutions?

Well, it's a reaction against a decision that was taken by the outgoing high representative during his very last days, after 12 years of having done very little in this respect, to have a law banning any denial of Srebrenica and other genocides. But this issue goes to very many other aspects of the Bosnian situation. So, it has created a political crisis that will be somewhat difficult to resolve.

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It's easy to judge the Pompeiians for building a city on the foothills of a volcano, but are we really any smarter today? If you live along the San Andreas fault in San Francisco or Los Angeles, geologists are pretty confident you're going to experience a magnitude 8 (or larger) earthquake in the next 25 years—that's about the same size as the 1906 San Francisco quake that killed an estimated 3,000 people and destroyed nearly 30,000 buildings. Or if you're one of the 9.6 million residents of Jakarta, Indonesia, you might have noticed that parts of the ground are sinking by as much as ten inches a year, with about 40 percent of the city now below sea level.

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Why do (most) world leaders drink together? It can get them to agree on stuff they wouldn't while sober. Booze "helps people get cooperation off the ground, especially in situations where cooperation is challenging," says University of British Colombia professor Edward Slingerland. Alcohol, he explains, allows you to "see commonalities rather than just pursuing your own interest," which may put teetotaler politicians — like Donald Trump — at a disadvantage. Watch his interview on the next episode of GZERO World. Check local listings to watch on US public television.

In countries with access to COVID vaccines, the main challenge now is to convince those hesitant about the jab to roll up their sleeves, and this has become even more urgent given the spread of the more contagious delta variant. So, where are there more vaccine skeptics, and how do they compare to total COVID deaths per million in each nation? We take a look at a group of large economies where jabs are available, yet (in some cases) not everyone wants one.

Viktor Orbán, Hungary's far-right populist prime minister, likes to shock people. It's part of his political appeal. Orbán has proudly proclaimed that he is an "illiberal" leader," creating a frenzy in Brussels because Hungary is a member of the European Union.

It's been over a decade since the 58-year old, whom some have dubbed the "Trump before Trump" became prime minister. In that time he has, critics say, hollowed out Hungary's governing institutions and eroded the state's democratic characteristics.

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Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

QR codes are everywhere. Are they also tracking my personal data?

Well, a QR code is like a complex barcode that may be on a printed ad or product package for you to scan and access more information. For example, to look at a menu without health risk or for two-factor verification of a bank payment. And now also as an integral part of covid and vaccine registration. QR codes can lead to tracking metadata or personal data. And when your phone scans and takes you to a website, certainly the tracking starts there. Now, one big trap is that people may not distinguish one kind of use of QR codes from another and that they cannot be aware of the risks of sharing their data.

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Now that the Tokyo Olympics are finally underway, your Signal crew will be bringing you some intriguing, uplifting, and quirky bits of color from a Games like no other…

Today we've got— the best freakout celebrations!

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