Italy: An Innovative Government?

When it comes to political dysfunction, Italy is an innovator. In the 73 years since the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini collapsed, the country has had 64 governments (soon to be 65).


Yet as my pal @gflipton explains, an unlikely pact between Italy’s left-wing 5-Star Movement and far-right Lega, which should be finalized this week, would represent an even more novel accomplishment: a marriage of evenly-matched populist parties from opposite ends of the political spectrum that even the most creative anti-establishment leaders have struggled to emulate elsewhere.

But beyond a shared disdain of the status quo and establishment politicians, there are few areas of agreement between Five-Star and the League, meaning that this marriage could be a rocky one.

Perhaps the thorniest issue is fiscal policy, where both parties want to put more money in Italians’ pockets, but disagree on how to do that: 5-Star wants to implement a universal basic income scheme for all citizens, while the League favors a 15 percent flat tax. Either of those options would severely test Italy’s already-shaky adherence to EU fiscal rules — current estimates suggest they would cost an additional $100 billion to $120 billion a year, a potentially dangerous economic burden for Europe’s second-most indebted country (after Greece).

Can both parties get what they’ve promised their voters without coming to blows with each other or provoking a crisis with Brussels? The 5-Star/Lega tie-up is a political high-wire act with almost no safety net below.

Microsoft has a long-standing commitment to child online protection. First and foremost, as a technology company, it has a responsibility to create software, devices and services that have safety features built in from the outset. Last week, in furtherance of those commitments, Microsoft shared a grooming detection technique, code name "Project Artemis," by which online predators attempting to lure children for sexual purposes can be detected, addressed and reported. Developed in collaboration with The Meet Group, Roblox, Kik and Thorn, this technique builds off Microsoft patented technology and will be made freely available to qualified online service companies that offer a chat function.

Read more at Microsoft On The Issues.

A potentially deadly new coronavirus that can be transmitted from one person to another is now spreading across China. Chinese state media say it has infected about 300 people and killed six, but the number of undetected or unreported cases is certain to be much higher. Complicating containment efforts, millions of people are on the move across the country this week to celebrate the Chinese New Year with family and friends.

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Norway's government breaks up over ISIS returnee – Norway's right-wing Progress Party said it will resign from the country's four-party coalition government over the prime minister's decision to bring home a Norwegian woman affiliated with the Islamic State in Syria. The woman, who left Norway for the conflict zone in 2013, was arrested shortly after arriving in Oslo with her two children, on suspicion of being a member of ISIS. Prior to her return, she had been held in the Al-Hol refugee camp in northeastern Syria, along with thousands of other family members of ISIS fighters. The defection of Norway's anti-immigrant Progress Party undercuts Prime Minister Erna Solberg's parliamentary majority, likely making it hard for her to pass laws in parliament. This case reflects an increasingly common problem for European countries: the Islamic State's self-proclaimed caliphate has largely collapsed but what should countries do about the return of former fighters and their families to societies that don't want them?

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20,000: Sri Lanka's president has acknowledged for the first time that some 20,000 people who disappeared during the country's brutal civil war are dead, dashing the hopes of families who had held out hope that their relatives were alive and in military custody. The conflict, which ended in 2009, split the country according to ethnicities, killing around 100,000 people, mostly Tamil rebels.

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Since Martin Luther King Jr delivered his iconic "I have a dream" speech in August 1963, the number of Black Americans elected to the United States Congress has dramatically increased. Still, it wasn't until last year, more than half a century later, that the share of Black members serving in the House of Representatives reflected the percentage of Black Americans in the broader population —12 percent. To date, only six states have sent a Black representative to serve in the US Senate, and many states have never elected a Black representative to either house of Congress. Here's a look at Black representation in every US Congress since 1963.