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FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron walks next to Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on the first day of the G7 summit, at the Borgo Egnazia resort, in Savelletri, Italy June 13, 2024.

REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane/File Photo

Macron-Meloni spat spotlights Europe’s left-right divide

They’re calling it the death stare: In a clip that went viral, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni was caught glaring at French President Emmanuel Macron at the G7 summit late last week.

The two leaders clashed afterItaly demanded the removal of a specific reference to “safe and legal abortion” from the final G7 statement. When Macron told reporters he regretted the change,Meloni shot back, saying he was out of touch with his voters and accusing him of campaigning at the summit.

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Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during a press conference at Trump Tower in New York City, U.S., May 31, 2024.

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Hard Numbers: Trump takes to TikTok, Mexican mayor murdered, Shootout outside US Embassy in Beirut, A criminal epoch?, Spain’s menstrual law misses mark

5.2: From president to felon to social media influencer? Donald Trumpposted his first TikTok from a UFC fight last Saturday. He has already amassed over 5.2 million followers, beating Biden at his own game, who in 3 months has failed to even reach half a million followers. The app Trump once sought to ban as president has now become a part of his campaign for presidency as he hopes to woo the younger vote.

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Sailboat statue La Vela, on the shoreline at Stresa, Lake Maggiore, Italian Lakes, Piedmont, Italy

IMAGO/robertharding via Reuters Connect

Top question for G7: How to Trump-proof Ukraine aid

Ahead of this week’s G7 Finance Ministers’ Meeting in Stresa, Italy, leaders might be feeling a little stress-a’d themselves. With the US election still anyone’s game, the world’s great democracies are increasingly concerned a victory for Donald Trump could severely impact, or even cut off, aid to Ukraine.

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FILE PHOTO: Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni attends her end-of-year press conference in Rome, Italy, January 4, 2024.

REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane/File Photo

Hard Numbers: Meloni suffers Sardinian blow, Russia jails another critic, Japan’s baby bust continues, Big Oil pumps Big Money

0.4: The rugged island of Sardinia has dealt rightwing Italian PM Giorgia Meloni the first serious electoral blow she’s suffered since taking office in 2022. In local presidential elections (Sardinia has special autonomy from Rome, and its own president) a candidate from the left-leaning anti-establishment 5-Star Movement beat the Meloni-backed candidate by a mere 0.4 points. Alessandra Todde will now become not only Sardinia’s first female leader, but the first 5-Star member to head any of Italy’s 20 regions.

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Spain, Girona, 24/02/06. Several hundred farmers gather on the highway to protest against bureaucracy, Europe and water management.

Alexandre Bre / Hans Lucas via Reuters Connect

Brussels bows to farmers on green goals

On Tuesday, the European Commission scrapped a plan to limit pesticide use and excluded agriculture from its roadmap to cut greenhouse gasses as the ruling coalition attempts to quell bloc-wide protests by farmers.

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Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni

Guido Calamosca/LaPresse/Sipa USA via Reuters

Italy aims to export migrant crisis to Albania

Can Albania accept migrants deported by Italy? A court in Tirana is deciding on the legality of an agreement with the Italian government, in which Rome can send EU asylum-seekers to the Balkan country.

The Albanian courts technically have until March 6 to make a decision, but their verdict is expected to come sooner because both sides have something important to gain. Under the deal, which has been tacitly endorsed by the EU, up to 36,000 migrants a year would wait in Albania while Italy rules on their asylum claims. In exchange, Italy has pledged to support Albania’s bid to join the EU. Italy would fund and run the migrant facilities, but the land would remain in Albania’s hands.

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Leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy party Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni waves to the people

REUTERS/Alberto Lingria

Ciao Ciao China!

All belts are off now in Italy. On Wednesday, Rome officially withdrew from China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing’s signature global infrastructure, trade, and investment scheme.

Flashback: In 2019, Italy – then governed by a strongly euroskeptic coalition– became the only G7 country to officially join BRI. For China, it was a coup to bring aboard Europe’s third-largest and the world’s seventh-largest economy. Rome, for its part, hoped for a bonanza of trade and inbound investment from Beijing.

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Meloni during a rally as part of the campaign for general elections.

(Photo by Nicolò Campo/Sipa USA)

How Tolkien’s hobbits got political

What do Italian conservatives and American hippies have in common? A love for The Lord of the Rings. Though JRR Tolkien insisted his books were apolitical, his fantasy epic has fueled movements across the political spectrum and around the world.

Giorgia Meloni, a huge Tolkien fan, became Italy’s first female prime minister and its most conservative since World War II last year. At her final campaign rally, Pino Insegno – the voice of Aragorn in the Italian-dubbed version of “The Lord of the Rings” – introduced her by invoking Middle Earth’s Kingdom of Men with “Sons of Rohan, my brothers, people of Rome … the day of defeat may come, but it is not this day!”

Now, Insegno’s voice can be heard throughout Italy’s new Tolkien exhibit, a €250,000 traveling exhibition funded by Italy's culture ministry and opened by Meloni herself last week in Rome. Meloni, who considers the trilogy sacred texts, said that “Tolkien could say better than us what conservatives believe in.”

Meloni’s tribute to Tolkien is no coincidence. “The Lord of the Rings” has influenced Italy's conservative movement since the fall of Mussolini.

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