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New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

The Soapbox: Economic reform in Argentina, sexual misconduct case in Australia, German reparations in Poland

The Soapbox is a weekly column by WSN covering major news developments at NYU’s campuses and study away sites abroad. Global consciousness for a global university.
Max Van Hosen
The Soapbox is a weekly news column rounding up stories worth reading for a global university. (Illustration by Max Van Hosen)

Content warning: This article contains mentions of sexual assault and harassment. 

In Argentina, Congress debates economic reform bill

Far-right libertarian president Javier Milei, who is also the leader of the right-wing party Libertad Avanza, is lobbying for his economic reform, known as the Omnibus bill, to be passed through the lower house of congress. The bill aims to improve the country’s economy through the privatization of state enterprises and a cut in spending. 

Milei won a controversial presidential election against the left-wing candidate. Milei sees libertarian policies as the solution to Argentina’s current economic woes. His unconventional approach has won the support of Argentines, who voted Milei into office by the largest margin since 1983. Now Milei has to deliver on his promises with a minority coalition in Congress.

Argentina is currently facing its “worst economic crisis in decades,” with inflation rates reaching upwards of 200%. At the start of his leadership, Milei devalued the peso by more than 50%. If the bill is passed through Congress’ lower chamber the bill will be handed to the Argentine Senate for approval.

The bill is facing opposition from the country’s leftist party Unión por la Patria, with Argentina’s former foreign minister Santiago Cafiero leading the charge against Milei’s plan. The bill has lost more than half of its original 664 articles after negotiations with Unión por la Patria. Moderate opposition parties have expressed that further negotiations must be established before passing the bill through Congress.

“We reject the Omnibus bill because it puts fuel in Milei’s chainsaw to hurt the daily lives of the Argentines,” Cafiero wrote on behalf of the left-leaning opposition party, according to Reuters.

If passed, the Omnibus bill, which would grant the president overriding power over Congress during emergencies and privatize state enterprises in key industries related to national security, could upset the balance in Argentina’s bicameral system and expose sensitive state operation to foreign influences.

In Australia, rugby player accused of sexual assault 

Professional rugby player Kurtley Beale pleaded not guilty to one count of non-consensual sexual intercourse and two counts of sexual touching at Sydney’s Downing Centre Court in Australia.

The victim, who has remained anonymous due to personal safety concerns, alleges the incident took place in December 2022. After a telephone conversation with the victim, Beale was arrested near Sydney during a vehicle stop and banned from all forms of rugby for the time being.

The victim said that the assault occurred when she had entered a men’s bathroom to avoid the long line for the women’s one. She said that Beale locked himself in the bathroom cubicle with her and forced her to engage in oral sex with him. The victim added that Beale proceeded to pressure her into having sexual intercourse, despite her verbal opposition. 

One month after the incident took place, Beale and the victim spoke on the phone, before which the woman made “handwritten notes” reminding herself to “convince him he is guilty and not innocent.” 

In cross-examination on the trial, Beale’s lawyer Margaret Cunneen suggested that the encounters were consensual and the woman fabricated these claims to gain sympathy from her fiance. As the court heard earlier, the plaintiff and her fiance had an argument on the morning of the day of the woman’s alleged assault. Beale’s lawyers also brought video surveillance footage which shows the woman, her fiance and Beale conversing shortly after the assault allegedly took place. 

In Poland, leaders ask for World War II reparations from Germany

Poland’s new foreign minister Radek Sikorski urges German leaders to be “creative” in thinking of ways to compensate for the 6 million Polish lives that were lost during World War II. Sikorski’s ideas include a commemoration project in Berlin to acknowledge Poland’s suffering at the hands of Nazi Germany’s invasion and occupation.

On Jan. 30, Sikorski spoke at a joint press conference with German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock in Berlin, hoping to improve bilateral relations. The German government has repeatedly acknowledged its “historical responsibility,” but argues that it had been settled decades ago — specifically by the Two-plus-Four Treaty of 1990 which helped regulate the borders of Germany and aided in the unification of the country. 

Poland’s new request is a toned-down initiative compared to the previous right-wing government’s October 2022 demand for $1.3 trillion in reparations. The demand was handed to Germany’s Foreign Ministry, citing the Nazi’s invasion in 1939 as reason. The new pro-European Union government took power after defeating the Law and Justice Party last October.

The former right-wing government, which ruled Poland from 2015 to 2023, increased tensions between the two nations. Germany insisted that reparations were permanently concluded when “Warsaw relinquished seeking reparations.” Poland said that the decision was not legally sound because it was made while Poland was under communist rule.

Contact Maisie Zipfel at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Maisie Zipfel
Maisie Zipfel, Deputy News Editor
Maisie Zipfel is a first-year double majoring in Journalism and Politics, and double minoring in Gender and Sexuality Studies and Spanish. She is a Yerba Mate enthusiast, a Taylor Swift fanatic and an anti-Greek Life turned sorority girl (Deeph or Die). When she’s not writing in the WSN basement you can find her isolated in Palladium for NYU’s Competitive Dance Team practice, obsessing over her Four-Year Plan or trying to weave in time to take a nap. You can reach her on instagram @maisiezipfel, on LinkedIn (her favorite social media platform) @MaeZipfel or preferably on Venmo @mkzipfel.

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