The World Today for October 31, 2022

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When Israeli voters cast their ballots for parliament on Nov. 1, they will arguably be making the most important political choice in a generation, argued Times of Israel columnist David Horovitz recently. Specifically, Horovitz rang alarm bells about the far-right Religious Zionism party, which aims, he contended, to gut the independence of the judicial system and give excessive power to whoever has a majority in parliament.

Religious Zionism’s proposal, for example, would likely help former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu elude the three charges of fraud and breach of trust he is currently facing in Israeli courts, Horovitz claimed.

The upcoming Israeli election – the fifth since 2019, as i24 News reported – is undoubtedly about Netanyahu. Serving as prime minister from 1996 to 1999 and from 2009 to 2021, he barely hung on to power for years until his popularity took a blow when he was indicted on fraud charges. The opposition managed to cobble together a coalition to oust him last year.

As the Washington Post explained, the new government collapsed due to infighting – they really only agreed on getting rid of Netanyahu – and now polls say that Netanyahu and his fellow conservatives are running neck and neck with their rivals.

A major factor that could affect the election is turnout among Arab voters, who comprise a fifth of Israel’s population, added the Guardian. Arab voters are key to keeping moderate Prime Minister Yair Lapid in office, according to Foreign Policy magazine.

The politics of personality don’t include other extremely important issues.

New Palestinian resistance groups like the Jenin Brigades and Lion’s Den have shifted Palestinians’ resistance to Israeli policies in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza, Middle East Eye reported. The groups call for direct violence against Israeli troops and settlers and criticize Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who cooperates with Israel and recently called off elections he was expected to lose. They appear to be preparing for a new, full-scale “intifada,” or uprising against Israeli influence, noted Agence France-Presse.

Domestic tension within Israel is also rising. TikTok star Hadar Muchtar, 21, for instance, launched her political movement, Youth on Fire, to urge her fellow young citizens to vote on Nov. 1. Disaffection among young people over the rising cost of living in the Jewish state is central to her project. As Al-Monitor wrote, rent and transportation are 40 percent more expensive in Israel than in the 19-nation Eurozone.

Netanyahu evidently didn’t address those issues well while in power. His rivals evidently couldn’t do so. Both sides will have to deal with the dissatisfaction they’ve fostered.


The Revolving Door


Brazil’s former leftist president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva narrowly defeated conservative incumbent Jair Bolsonaro Sunday, in what has been described as Brazil’s most significant election since the return of democracy to the Latin American nation almost 40 years ago, Reuters reported.

With 99.8 percent of the vote counted, Lula was declared the winner with 50.9 percent of the vote over Bolsonaro’s 49.1 percent.

The stunning victory in the presidential runoff vote comes a month after Lula failed to secure an outright win in the Oct. 2 first-round vote, Bloomberg reported. Bolsonaro, meanwhile, surprised pollsters with a far stronger showing than expected even as he trailed Lula.

The two candidates had represented two different visions for Brazil: Lula – who governed Brazil from 2003 to 2011 and went to prison afterward – has pledged to return Brazil to the prosperity present during his presidency. He has also promised to heal the nation’s deep divisions, restore democracy, save the Amazon rainforest and end hunger.

Bolsonaro, who faces numerous criminal investigations, had vowed to bring back Christian values to the top levels of power and cut bureaucratic red tape to encourage growth. The former army captain has strong support from the country’s powerful agribusiness sector and its evangelical community.

Following the first round, Lula warned voters that the incumbent will erode democratic institutions if granted another four-year term. Bolsonaro, on the other hand, countered that his leftist rival will set Latin America’s largest economy on a path that resembles Venezuela.

Meanwhile, the clashes between the bitter rivals had raised concern among Brazil’s electoral authorities and its international allies that Bolsonaro would contest the outcome of Sunday’s elections. That’s because for almost a year, Bolsonaro has attacked election officials over potential vote rigging, saying he would not step down if fraud impacted the elections.

On Sunday, police aligned with Bolsonaro attempted to thwart voters with roadblocks and checkpoints on their way to the polls, the Washington Post reported. That followed a call by highway police chief Silvinei Vasques to vote for Bolsonaro on Instagram, the newspaper O Globo reported.

Regardless, now, Lula has become the latest leftist leader in the region to best conservative candidates, a club that includes Colombia, Chile, Peru, Honduras, Argentina and Mexico.

A Different Kind of Hostage


Russia suspended its participation in the United Nations-brokered deal to allow grain shipments from Ukraine over the weekend, a move that raised concerns over food shortages and skyrocketing cereal prices around the world, The Hill reported.

Russia’s ministry of defense explained that the decision came after Ukrainian forces launched a drone strike against Moscow’s Black Sea Fleet in Crimea. The attack damaged one of Russia’s minesweepers.

Officials said the ships were “ensuring the security of the ‘grain corridor,’” before announcing their decision to suspend their participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

Moscow also blamed the United Kingdom for training and guiding Ukrainian forces in the drone attack, and accused Brits of being behind explosions that hit the Nord Stream gas pipelines carrying natural gas from Russia to Europe in September. The Kremlin did not provide any evidence.

Britain responded that Russia was making “false claims of an epic scale,” while a Ukrainian official appeared to dismiss Russia’s claims as ridiculous, the Washington Post added.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative was established in August under the auspices of the UN and Turkey. Under the deal, grain shipments were allowed to leave Ukrainian ports for the first time since the war began in February.

Ukraine is one of the world’s biggest grain exporters. Russia’s previous blockade raised concerns about food shortages in developing countries and increasing cereal prices. Africa and the Middle East have borne the brunt of the impact.

The suspension of grain exports also adds more uncertainty to the state of the global economy, which is already plagued by high inflation, steepening interest rates established by central banks, and energy shortages.

The Real Horror


Halloween celebrations in South Korea turned deadly after a stampede over the weekend killed at least 153 people in one of the worst disasters in the country in years, CBS News reported.

The incident happened Saturday night in the capital Seoul’s leisure district of Itaewon – long known for its bar scene – after crowds of people started entering a narrow downhill alley near the Hamilton Hotel.

One survivor said many people fell and toppled on one another “like dominos.” Officials are investigating what led people to surge into the narrow space.

The majority of the victims were teenagers and those in their 20s. More than 80 people were injured and the death toll also includes at least 26 foreigners, NPR noted.

About 100,000 people had gathered in Itaewon for South Korea’s biggest outdoor Halloween festivities since the coronavirus pandemic began. In recent months, the South Korean government had relaxed Covid-19 restrictions.

Saturday’s stampede is South Korea’s biggest disaster since a ferry sank in 2014, killing 304 people, most of them high school students. That incident exposed lax safety norms and regulatory shortcomings – it was partly blamed on excessive and poorly-tied cargo, as well as a crew that was ill-prepared for emergency scenarios.


Mesopotamian Gondoliers

New remote sensing data collected via drone showed that an ancient city in modern-day southern Iraq closely resembled the famous Italian city of Venice, ART News reported.

The Mesopotamian city of Lagash was founded more than 4,600 years ago between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. First excavated more than 40 years ago, previous studies using satellite images had suggested that the city was built on 33 small marsh islands.

But new drone footage shows that it was made up of four marsh islands that were connected by waterways, according to a new study.

The discovery came about after a research team found evidence of unseen buried structures, including ruined buildings, streets, walls, and other features near ground level. They also came across the potential remnants of harbors and footbridges on each island that would have connected each sector.

But the findings also show that Lagash and Venice shared a few other commonalities in the way the two cities functioned: Each marsh in Lagash had developed its own distinct economic practice – similar to Venice.

Waterways crossed, for instance, on a marsh island where fishing and gathering reeds for use in construction were common. Other islands appeared surrounded by gated walls, enclosing streets and areas featuring large kilns, where farming and other activities like pottery making may have taken place.

The marsh islands also showed how the urban area developed over time: Some neighborhoods had well-planned layouts, while others were arranged haphazardly – which researchers suggest could be because of an influx of immigrants.

Sadly, Lagash didn’t evolve into another Venice because the city was largely abandoned nearly 3,600 years ago.

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 630,248,144 (+0.42%)

Total Deaths Worldwide: 6,589,313 (+0.17%)

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 12,832,541,199 (+0.09%)

Countries with the highest number of confirmed cases worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*

1. US: 97,450,639 (+0.26%)
2. India: 44,653,592 (+0.02%)
3. France: 36,987,918 (+0.67%)
4. Germany: 35,571,131 (+1.13%)
5. Brazil: 34,815,258 (+0.10%)
6. South Korea: 25,557,309 (+0.97%)
7. UK: 24,122,909 (+0.18%)
8. Italy: 23,531,023 (+0.78%)
9. Japan: 22,302,251 (+1.28%)
10. Russia: 21,118,937 (+0.24%)

Clarification: In Friday’s newsletter, we used the headline, “Blood and Soil,” for our story on Tanzania. A reader, however, has brought to our attention the historical use of “blood and soil” as a Nazi slogan in the 1930s and 1940s. We were unaware of this linkage and would like to clarify that our use of these words, this slogan, was unintentional.

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