The World Today for December 26, 2016


A Call on Christmas

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was livid over the United States’ decision to abstain from voting against a United Nations Security Council resolution that condemned settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

On Christmas Day, an angry and frustrated Netanyahu summoned the American ambassador and representatives of other countries that supported or refused to block the resolution, The Washington Post reported. He also recalled Israeli ambassadors and canceled diplomatic trips.

Netanyahu “squarely” blamed President Barack Obama for the slight, the Post said.

“From the information we have, we have no doubt that the Obama administration initiated it, stood behind it, coordinated on the wording and demanded that it be passed,” he said.

The passage of the resolution shocked the region – even its original Egyptian sponsors were surprised it passed, The Jerusalem Post claimed.

The New York Times argued that, emboldened by the expected future support of Donald Trump in the White House, many Israeli conservatives were pressuring Netanyahu to abandon the two-state solution.

The prime minister has been supporting both settlements and a Palestinian state — garnering conservative votes at home while keeping his options open in foreign affairs. Now Netanyahu might be forced to abandon the idea of a Palestinian homeland.

“He has to choose between the international community and [ultranationalist leader Naftali] Bennett,” Hebrew University of Jerusalem Political Scientist Shlomo Avineri told the Times. “It is not an easy choice, but he has to make a choice. Is Israel going to alienate itself from the whole world for the sake of settlement activity?”

The leader of the Jewish Home party, Bennett is currently minister of education and minister of diaspora affairs.

In protest of the resolution, Bennett held a presser at the Western Wall – the remnant of the temple in the Jewish capital millennia ago – to assert Israel’s rights over land claimed by Palestinians since the late 1940s.

Netanyahu is now betting on Trump.

“The embattled leader is now placing his hopes in the incoming administration of Donald Trump, which is shaping up as the first major player to embrace Israel’s nationalist right and its West Bank settlements,” wrote the Associated Press.

Not to be outdone, Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolinian whom Trump thrashed in the Republican primary, threatened to defund the UN unless the organization repealed the resolution, CNN reported.

A repeal won’t happen. The Security Council chamber burst into applause when the resolution passed on Friday.

But, with Trump in charge, defunding could occur, further reducing the UN’s already slim chance of reversing Israel’s building on disputed territory.



Congo Killings

The Democratic Republic of Congo is spiraling into violence in the wake of President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down and hold elections on schedule.

Militias killed at least 34 people in the eastern part of the country over the weekend, while similar attacks and violent protests related to Kabila’s refusal to step down have surged over the past week, the Guardian reported.

Ethnic violence was responsible for at least some of this weekend’s killings – including at least 13 Hutu civilians killed by an ethnic Nande militia on Sunday. Meanwhile, 40 people were killed during protests against Kabila last week.

Local mediators from the Catholic Church hope talks between Kabila’s ruling coalition and the main opposition bloc will produce a deal by Friday for Kabila to step down after an election in late 2017. But others fear the violence could escalate into a wider war like the regional conflicts that killed millions of people between 1996 and 2003.

No Survivors

Not long after the assassination of Russia’s envoy to Turkey, a Russian military passenger plane crashed into the Black Sea minutes after it took off en route to a military base in Syria.

All 92 passengers — including members of the Red Army Choir and Yelizaveta Glinka, who had won broad acclaim for her charity work – are believed to have perished in the crash, the Washington Post reported.

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared Monday a national day of morning, as an inquiry continues into the cause of the crash.

The plane’s destination, as well as the recent assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey by an assailant who shouted about the war in Syria after the shooting, naturally gave rise to speculation about a possible terrorist attack. But Russian officials said that was unlikely to be the cause of the crash.

Similar Tu-154 type aircraft have been involved in a number of prominent crashes over the past 20 years – including the 2010 crash that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski and various other Polish officials, according to the Associated Press.

All Too Real

When it comes to international diplomacy, a little social media goes a long way.

Days after US President-elect Donald Trump vowed via Twitter to ramp up America’s nuclear arsenal, Pakistan’s defense minister threatened a nuclear strike against Israel in response to a fake news report of a similar threat from his Israeli counterpart, the New York Times reported.

“Israeli def min threatens nuclear retaliation presuming pak role in Syria against Daesh. Israel forgets Pakistan is a Nuclear state too AH,” Pakistan Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif tweeted on Friday.

He was apparently responding to a fake news report on, a site that is well known for publishing conspiracy theories and false reports. The report also misidentified Israel’s defense minister, giving the name of a former holder of the office instead of the current minister of defense, Avigdor Lieberman.

Fortunately, nobody let fly with any actual missiles – only missives – as a result. The real Israeli Ministry of Defense responded via Twitter to explain the confusion, and Asif’s message was reposted some 400 times – mostly by users mocking him for his mistake.


Bad Santa

An observational study has mapped the frequency with which Santa visits certain children – and it has absolutely nothing to do with being on the naughty list.

Inspired by a childhood stint in the hospital over Christmas, John Park, a physician now studying public health at Harvard University, set out to determine which factors define whether a hospital – and its smallest patients – will receive a visit from Santa.

Using a statistical analysis with a sample of over 200 hospitals in the UK, Park and colleagues began to cross-reference certain variables against Santa visits.

Naughtiness wasn’t a factor – there was no correlation between Santa visits and youth conviction or truancy rates. Neither was a region’s distance from the North Pole.

But they did find that there was a particularly strong correlation between Santa’s visits and a region’s deprivation rate – which accounts for factors such as unemployment and poverty. The more deprived the area, the less likely its kids were to see Santa at their local hospital.

While Park isn’t surprised by the findings, he does think a lack of holiday cheer could be a matter of public health.

“It’s difficult to say whether a visit from Santa directly relates to improved health care benefits,” Park told Quartz. “But there certainly are elements whereby improving the environment in which care is provided certainly produces positive results in terms of health outcomes as a whole.”


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