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This Week: May 17

Photo credit: Helen Quach

By Jack Garland, Olivia Miller, and Shiv Patel

May 17, 2024 4:54 p.m.

The Slovakian prime minister survives an assassination attempt. A United States senator faces corruption charges. Podcasts contributor Olivia Miller and Podcasts editor Jack Garland discuss these stories and more. Daily Bruin staffer Shiv Patel, the incoming campus politics editor, joins the show to discuss the strike authorized by UC student workers and researchers.

Jack Garland: Today is Friday, May 17, and you’re listening to This Week by Daily Bruin Podcasts. Welcome back to another episode of This Week. For the international segment today, we’re talking about the assassination attempt of Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, an update from the war in Gaza, and the summit between Russian President (Vladimir) Putin and Chinese President Xi (Jinping). And then for the national segment, we’ll be talking about the corruption trial of Senator Bob Menendez, the two scheduled debates between President (Joe) Biden and former President (Donald) Trump, and the latest inflation numbers. I’m Jack Garland, and I’m the Podcasts editor and the national correspondent today.

Olivia Miller: And I’m Olivia Miller, a Podcasts contributor and today’s international correspondent.

JG: And Olivia is the Podcasts editor for next year. Alright, Olivia, so what is the top international story from this week?

OM: The prime minister of Slovakia, Robert Fico, was shot five times on Wednesday. Currently, Fico is in serious but stable condition, and the deputy prime minister believes he will survive. This attack was politically motivated and conducted by a single perpetrator. The alleged assailant is a 71-year-old who was involved in anti-government protests.

JG: And Olivia, can you tell us more about Prime Minister Fico? What kind of politician is he?

OM: Prime Minister Fico is a controversial person in European politics. He has a strong bond with Russian President Putin and has suggested that Ukraine should give land to Russia. Therefore, he is viewed by many as pro-Russia and anti-West. Even before the attack, political tension in Slovakia was high. The interior minister claimed that the country is on the brink of civil war and that the assassination attempt confirmed that.

JG: And what other stories from around the world are we covering this week?

OM: In the Middle East, the evacuation of Rafah in the Gaza Strip has begun ahead of a planned Israeli invasion. This city is suspected to be one of the final strongholds of Hamas. However, in recent days, Hamas appears to be resurgent in regions of northern Gaza, further complicating Israel’s war effort. And in China, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping began a two-day summit. The relationship between Russia and China has grown strong as tensions between the two countries and the West have risen. In February 2022, before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Putin and Xi declared a no-limits partnership.

Now let’s move to the national news updates for this week. Jack, what is the top story?

JG: This week, the trial of New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez began in New York. He faces 16 criminal counts that include bribery, obstruction of justice and acting as a foreign agent. The prosecution alleges that Menendez accepted gold bars, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and even a Mercedes-Benz convertible in exchange for him using his position of influence in Washington to benefit the governments of Egypt and Qatar.

OM: That is a massive charge. How has Menendez responded?

JG: Menendez has pleaded not guilty, claiming that he is being targeted because he’s a prominent Latino. After being indicted, he stepped down from his position as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He has not, however, resigned from the Senate, despite calls from fellow Democrats to do so. And he’s planning on running for reelection as an independent if he is cleared of the charges.

OM: So what are his odds? Is the case against him strong?

JG: The prosecution’s case seems pretty solid. In a court authorized search of Menendez’s home, FBI agents found gold bars previously registered to someone else implicated in the scandal, and they found $480,000 in cash. And one of the co-defendants has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the prosecution.

OM: What else is going on across the country?

JG: After a month of speculation that the two may not meet for a debate, President Biden and former President Trump have agreed to two debates before the November election. The first debate will be on CNN on June 27 and the second debate will be on ABC on Sep. 10. These debates are notable for a few reasons. They were not organized by the Presidential Debate Commission, which has scheduled the date and location for debates since 1988. And they will also not have a live audience. And the June debate is unusually early.

And in other news, inflation eased slightly in April. It increased 0.3% compared to March, which was 0.1% less than expected. Inflation now stands at 3.4%, down slightly from last May, when it was 4%, but still above the inflation goal of 2%.

Now we’re joined by Shiv Patel, the campus politics editor for next year. Shiv, thanks for coming on.

Shiv Patel: It’s good to be here. Thanks for having me on.

JG: What Daily Bruin story are we highlighting today?

SP: Yeah, so Wednesday evening, the United Auto Workers Local 4811 union, which represents graduate students, post-doctoral researchers and academic student workers, successfully passed a vote to authorize a strike. Voting took place Monday through Wednesday, with 79% of participating workers voting in favor of the strike. The vote was first announced during an event hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine and the UC Divest Coalition at UCLA commemorating 76 years of Palestinian resistance.

JG: So now that the strike was authorized, what comes next?

SP: It’s unclear. The UC has said that a strike would be unlawful, being that workers who participate may not receive pay. Members of the union hosted an assembly Thursday afternoon to discuss next steps, which appear to include picketing.

JG: And is anything like this happening at other schools across the UC system?

SP: Yeah, so on Tuesday during the UC Board of Regents investment committee meeting, the university’s chief investment officer said that if the UC were to meet students’ demands to divest from weapons manufacturing, it would have to sell $32 billion of its $175 billion investment portfolio. Additionally, on Thursday, the academic and student affairs committee again deferred voting on Item J1, which if passed would bar university departments from posting political statements on their home webpages.

JG: Thanks for that update, Shiv.

SP: Thank you for having me on.

OM: Thank you for joining us today. Come back next Friday for another episode of This Week.

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Jack Garland
Olivia Miller | Podcasts producer
Miller is the 2024-2025 Podcasts producer. She was previously a 2023-2024 contributor to the Podcasts section. Miller is a fourth-year communication and sociology student from San Diego.
Miller is the 2024-2025 Podcasts producer. She was previously a 2023-2024 contributor to the Podcasts section. Miller is a fourth-year communication and sociology student from San Diego.
Shiv Patel | Campus politics editor
Patel is the 2024-2025 campus politics editor and a Photo contributor. He was previously a News contributor on the campus politics beat. Patel is a second-year mathematics and economics student from Gilberts, Illinois.
Patel is the 2024-2025 campus politics editor and a Photo contributor. He was previously a News contributor on the campus politics beat. Patel is a second-year mathematics and economics student from Gilberts, Illinois.
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