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This Week: February 2

Photo credit: Helen Quach

By Jack Garland, Matthew Royer, Sofia Alcomendas, and Aashay Ghiya

March 7, 2024 10:56 a.m.

French farmers protest. Social media CEOs testify in Congress. Podcasts contributors Sofia Alcomendas and Aashay Ghiya discuss with Podcasts Editor Jack Garland. Matthew Royer, assistant News editor for national news and higher education, joins the show.

Jack Garland: Today is Friday, Feb. 2, and you are listening to This Week by Daily Bruin Podcasts. We’re back with another recap of the week’s news. We’ll start off with some international news, followed by some national news, and then we will be joined by a Daily Bruin News editor. And they are going to give us an update on some Daily Bruin news. I’m Jack Garland, I’m the Podcasts editor and today I’m joined by three new voices so you won’t have to hear my voice the whole time.

Sofia Alcomendas: My name is Sofia Alcomendas. I’m a Podcasts contributor and the international correspondent today.

Aashay Ghiya: And I’m Aashay Ghiya. I’m a Podcasts contributor and a national news reporter for today.

JG: And later on in the episode, we’ll be joined by Matthew Royer, who is the assistant News editor for national news and higher education. Sofia, this is your first time on the podcast. We’re happy to have you here. Can you tell us about the biggest international news story from this week?

SA: Yeah, so the top story of this week is that French farmers unions are striking against the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. According to the European Commission, the Common Agricultural Policy is about food, the environment and the countryside. Farmers are protesting now because government policies and global events are causing their incomes to drop. The COVID-19 pandemic, war in Ukraine and climate change are all making it harder for farmers to effectively carry out their work. The cost of running these farms has been driven up by increasingly expensive fertilizers, fuel, electricity and pesticides. The farmers claim that the multinational conglomerates are running local farmers out of business and that the farming sector is over-regulated and hurt by food imports. The goal of their protest is to boost prices and limit bureaucracy.

JG: What are the French authorities doing about the protest? How’s the government responding?

SA: The French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal announced millions in aid and tax breaks and vowed to end state subsidies for fuel. President Emmanuel Macron is lobbying for the farmers at the EU summit and is meeting with the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen to discuss wide solutions for the protest. The EU parliamentary elections are in June, so many leaders at the summit are eager to please the farmers.

JG: You mentioned the EU a couple of times. Have these protests spread throughout the EU?

SA: Yes, so Spanish, Italian and German farmers are all joining the movement to ease environmental regulations and limit imports and fuel costs. Farmers are aware that these deeply rooted issues will not be resolved in a few days, but they are urging their governments to bring down food inflation and lessen the bureaucratic red tape.

JG: So a farmer protest movement in France seems very far removed from life at UCLA. What’s the Bruin Angle on this?

SA: The strike doesn’t directly affect Bruins, but the fact that it’s spreading to other countries in the EU shows that it’s important to be aware of what’s going on in the world. You can find inspiration or encouragement from people and movements thousands of miles away. In recent years, many protest movements have spanned continents, which can make them more effective.

JG: Interesting, and what other news is going on around the world this week?

SA: The 27 member states of the European Union have agreed on a $54 billion aid package for Ukraine. On matters of security and financials, the EU must pass measures unanimously, and for months, the populist leader of Hungary Viktor Orban has been threatening to veto any aid package to Ukraine. Now that the veto has been lifted, the EU will be able to assist the Ukrainian economy and military forces, both of which have struggled in recent months as Russia has continued its war on Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that European and American aid is critical for Ukraine to win in the war against Russia.

JG: I’m sure the Ukrainians are happy about this new aid package. What else is going on around the world?

SA: German authorities seized $2 billion worth of bitcoin. As part of an investigation into an illegal file sharing platform, German authorities acquired 50,000 bitcoin, the largest amount ever seized by German law enforcement. The website was Movie2k, and while it was active, it allowed users to illegally download nearly 880,000 copies of films. The site received thousands of visits each day from around the world and was even among the 25 most visited websites in Germany. As of now, the German programmer is held in jail, and the bitcoin will remain with the government until they figure out what to do with it.

JG: That’s a lot of bitcoin. Thanks for that update, Sofia. And now we are going to turn to Aashay, who is going to give us the national news updates. Aashay, thanks for being here. What is the top national news story from this week?

AG: Well, the CEOs of various social media companies testified at a Senate hearing regarding the impact of their products on children’s well-being. The Senate Judiciary Committee questioned Mark Zuckerberg of Meta, Shou Zi Chew of TikTok, Jason Citron of Discord, Linda Yaccarino of X and Evan Spiegel of Snap. They were asked about their company’s efforts to prevent things like child abuse and eating disorders, both of which have been connected to their platforms. Families whose children took their own lives due to social media were present at the hearing. And CEOs were called to publicly apologize. Zuckerberg restated Meta’s commitment to industrywide trust and safety standards. He claimed that Meta has invested $20 billion to the effort and has 40,000 employees working on the company’s safety concerns.

JG: So that was Zuck’s response. What did the other CEOs have to say?

AG: Well, Yaccarino of X stated her support for federal legislation like the STOP CSAM Act. It allows individuals who have been exploited online to sue tech companies. Some tech companies are already being sued for safety concerns related to their sites. Snap, for example, is facing legal action over claims that it has been used by children to buy and sell illegal drugs. Despite these concerns, technology stocks are still trading at all-time highs.

JG: So you mentioned the STOP CSAM Act, and it sounds like it has some support from the big tech companies. Does it have any critics?

AG: Well, yes, the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation claimed that regulation of online content may actually allow for broader surveillance of communications. This may undermine free speech and privacy-protecting techniques like encryption. This also ties into the debate over Section 230, which protects online platforms from being held liable for user content. Previous proposed legislation such as the EARN IT Act of 2020 was stifled on similar grounds. And it’s unclear what the tipping point will be for this legislation to pass.

JG: How does this conversation about social media safety affect UCLA students?

AG: Well, this hearing affects all UCLA students because many of us use social media a lot. Attempts to regulate harmful content may dramatically change what’s in our feeds and what gets flagged. We should be more mindful of the content that we post and consume online. With every regulation comes a new hack or loophole to evade screeners, whether it be using symbols for letters or code words. It’s important that we push tech companies to increase safety on their sites while also making sure that the government respects our right to privacy.

JG: Yeah, there’s been a lot of talk about AI regulation recently, but it’s important to remember that there still has been no major federal regulation on social media companies. So we’ll continue to follow this topic. What are some other headlines from across the country?

AG: Well, a drone killed three U.S. troops in Jordan on Monday, escalating tensions in what is already a highly tense situation in the Middle East. It appears that the drone was mistaken for a U.S. drone returning to a military installation called Tower 22. In addition to the three soldiers who lost their lives, 40 others suffered injuries ranging from cuts to brain injuries. This is the first incident of U.S. troops being killed in the Middle East since the beginning of the war in Gaza. President Biden blames Iran for providing the weapons for the attack and vows to take action.

Elon Musk’s company Neuralink has installed its brain chip into a human for the first time. In September, the FDA cleared Neuralink to perform human trials on people with ALS. Musk reported that the subject experienced neuron spike detection. Spikes are crucial for cells to send information around the body and are a promising step towards the brain-computer interface.

JG: Thank you for those updates, Aashay. Now, as I mentioned at the top of the show, we will be joined by Matthew Royer. He is the assistant News editor for national news and higher education. Thanks for coming on, Matthew.

Matthew Royer: Of course. Last Wednesday at the Westwood Presbyterian Church last week, community members gathered for the Westwood homelessness count. Over 150 volunteers appeared to count the unhoused community here in Westwood to help make sure resources are allocated properly in the community of Los Angeles. The count can bring not just money to Westwood, but it also helps local elected officials know where to allocate those resources.

JG: So after the count is done, what happens with that information?

MR: Yeah, information will be sent to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, who will tally the data that is sent by volunteers. Something interesting is, this isn’t just the only count. There are counts going on all over Los Angeles over that three-day period last week. So when that data is sent, they will tally it, they will study it and then, in a few months from now, usually in the early spring, there will be a report released that will allow the community to know where resources need to go and where the largest unhoused communities are in Los Angeles.

JG: And is this information shared with the state or federal government?

MR: That’s a great question, Jack. It is. It’s shared with both the state and the federal government. And I think most importantly that the federal government is allowed to get that information. This report and this data that is also going to be sent to the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the federal government will also allow the federal government, both legislatively and in the executive branch, know where to send money to here in California. So whether it’s your local congressional representative or your U.S. senator, they’ll be able to know where they can request money to be sent in their communities.

JG: That’s a very important topic, especially in Los Angeles. And I’m glad that you all are covering it. Thanks, Matthew.

MR: Thank you.

JG: That’s all we have for this week. Thank you for joining us. Take care.

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Jack Garland
Matthew Royer | National news and higher education editor
Royer is the 2023-2024 national news and higher education editor. He is also a Sports staff writer on the men’s soccer and softball beats. He was previously the 2022-2023 city and crime editor and a contributor on the features and student life beat. He is also a fourth-year political science student minoring in labor studies from West Hills, California.
Royer is the 2023-2024 national news and higher education editor. He is also a Sports staff writer on the men’s soccer and softball beats. He was previously the 2022-2023 city and crime editor and a contributor on the features and student life beat. He is also a fourth-year political science student minoring in labor studies from West Hills, California.
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