Farmers Protest Across Europe

Happy Thursday! The launch of Google’s latest artificial intelligence image generator, Gemini, probably didn’t go as smoothly as the tech giant had hoped. We at The Dispatch were more disappointed, however, when the model refused to illustrate an image “of a person who reads The Dispatch”—such a picture could apparently “lead to inaccurate representations and harmful stereotypes,” according to the chatbot. 

We wouldn’t characterize the traits widely associated with all our readers—wisdom, virtue, integrity, charisma, attractiveness, etc.—as “harmful,” per se.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • The United Kingdom announced new sanctions on Wednesday targeting six Russian prison officials who worked at the penal colony where opposition leader Alexei Navalny died late last week. U.K. officials have concluded, according to Bloomberg, that guards at the prison constantly subjected Navalny to torture-like conditions and solitary confinement.
  • James Biden testified before the House Oversight Committee in a closed-door meeting on Wednesday as part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry into his brother, President Joe Biden. “I have had a 50-year career in a variety of business ventures,” James Biden said as part of his opening statement, as reported by multiple outlets. “Joe Biden has never had any involvement or any direct or indirect financial interest in those activities. None.” Hunter Biden, the president’s son, is expected to testify before the committee next week, on the heels of the indictment of former FBI informant Alexander Smirnov, a key witness in the impeachment inquiry, that alleged Smirnov had lied about the Bidens’ business dealings with Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings. 
  • President Biden announced Wednesday the cancellation of $1.2 billion in student loans for about 153,000 borrowers, affecting individuals enrolled in the income-based repayment program called Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) who have been in repayment for 10 years and took out $12,000 or less. “If you qualify, you’ll be hearing from me shortly,” Biden said Wednesday, referring to an email selected borrowers would receive alerting them that their loans had been canceled. “The Biden-Harris Administration has now approved nearly $138 billion in student debt cancellation for almost 3.9 million borrowers through more than two dozen executive actions,” a White House fact sheet said. 
  • Former Vice President Mike Pence launched the American Solutions Project, a $20 million organization that seeks to defend conservative principles from “​​the populist right and progressive left,” RealClearPolitics reported on Wednesday. “Our nation was founded on conservative principles that have stood the test of time,” Pence said in a statement. “The Constitution and this great American experiment must not be swayed by movements or personalities, but must hold fast to the time-honored principles that have made America strong and prosperous and free.” Pence sought the Republican nomination for president this cycle but dropped out of the race before a single primary vote was cast after his brand of conservatism failed to resonate with voters.
  • The University of Alabama at Birmingham, which houses the largest hospital in the state, announced Wednesday that it would pause all in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures. The pause follows an Alabama Supreme Court ruling last week that said frozen embryos created and stored through IVF were legally considered children under the state’s wrongful death laws. “We are saddened that this will impact our patients’ attempt to have a baby through IVF, but we must evaluate the potential that our patients and our physicians could be prosecuted criminally or face punitive damages for following the standard of care for IVF treatments,” the hospital said in a statement released yesterday.

We Are Farmers

Farmers gather on February 17, 2024, to stage a protest against the coalition government’s agricultural policies as they convoy with tractors and other agricultural vehicles in Dusseldorf, Germany. (Photo by Kadir Ilboga/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Farmers across Europe are taking to the streets in their tractors once again to protest a host of issues, including rising agricultural costs and shrinking profits, the costs of environmental regulation, and potential trade agreements that could undercut the European market. As Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo observed earlier this month, farmers face a “lasagna” of problems. And amid the renewed protests, European lawmakers are weighing their climate policy aims alongside the interests of a politically potent bloc as elections later this year loom large.

Farmer protests have become a more frequent feature in Europe over the last few years. The Netherlands, for example, was the site of particularly large demonstrations in 2022. But since the beginning of this year, protests have spread throughout the European Union (EU), reaching Spain, France, Greece, Belgium, Poland, Germany, Italy, Romania, and the Czech Republic, with long columns of tractors clogging the streets of cities ranging from Brussels, Barcelona, and Prague. In France, farmers tried to create a barricade of tractors around Paris by blocking the roads leading into the City of Love. In Berlin, tractors lined up at the Brandenburg Gate. In Rome, a farmer convoy rolled past the Colosseum.

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