The World Today for August 01, 2023

Listen to Today's Edition
Voiced by Amazon Polly


To Be Reasonable


Left and right in Israel are split over the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu curtailing the country’s high court from citing the “reasonableness doctrine” in its decisions.

As the Atlantic magazine explained, the doctrine is a British common law tool that gives judges the power to overturn government decisions – but not legislation. Netanyahu believes his officials are better suited than the court to determine what is reasonable. The problem is polls indicate that most Israelis disagree with him.

Months of protests – the latest on Saturday seeing tens of thousands hitting the streets across the country – followed Netanyahu’s announcement of the proposal earlier this year. President Isaac Herzog, whose office is largely ceremonial, recently called for peace amid fears that violence could erupt on the streets, based on the anger that the proposal has elicited, Reuters reported.

Already, medics have walked out, unions are threatening a repeat of strikes that shut down the country in recent months, and reservists and veterans are threatening to quit, with many already having handed in their notice.

Many of these Israelis dislike the conservative policies of parties that are crucial to Netanyahu retaining the prime minister’s office, and also avoiding prosecution on breach of trust, bribery, and fraud charges.

The country’s far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, for example, recently led more than 1,000 nationalist Israeli settlers to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a Muslim holy site in East Jerusalem, a majority Palestinian community that is technically part of the occupied territories of the West Bank, Al Jazeera reported. Far-right Israelis have called for the mosque’s destruction and its replacement with a third Jewish temple to succeed the two that were destroyed in ancient times.

In a sign of how heated debates have become between the pro and anti-government sides in Israel, Tamir Pardo, the former chief of Israeli’s vaunted intelligence agency, Mossad, said in an interview with the Jerusalem Post that Netanyahu has “aligned himself with racist and horrible parties.” Pardo went so far as to compare Ben-Gvir’s violent, close-minded, ultranationalist mindset to that of the Ku Klux Klan in the US.

The US might change this equation. As Thomas Friedman recently revealed in the New York Times, President Joe Biden is determining whether to pursue a plan to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia in exchange for Israel preserving the possibility of a two-state solution that would someday make Palestine a sovereign, independent nation living amicably next to Israel.

As the Times of Israel noted, this deal would compel Netanyahu to take more moderate positions on matters involving Israel and Palestine. That would unsettle his ultranationalist allies, forcing the cagey prime minister to join forces with moderate and liberal political coalitions that might be open to diplomatic successes in exchange for reduced tensions with the Palestinians. Currently, violence between Israelis and Palestinians is surging to a level not seen in more than a decade, observers say.

It’s an offer Netanyahu might not be able to refuse.


Sins of the Son


The son of embattled Colombian President Gustavo Petro was arrested for money laundering and illicit enrichment this week, for allegedly taking funds from drug traffickers in exchange for including them in his father’s peace efforts to end a decades-old guerilla war, Reuters reported.

Nicolas Petro, a politician in Atlantico province, along with his ex-wife, Daysuris del Carmen Vasquez, were arrested Saturday. Vasquez had previously told local media that two people allegedly involved in drug trafficking had given Petro money for his father’s electoral campaign.

The younger Petro, who has been a target of investigation since the spring, has denied the charges.

The president said on Twitter (now X) that it was painful to see one of his children jailed – but that he would not intervene.

Petro took office on a pledge to bring peace to the country by ending Colombia’s 60-year civil conflict, which has killed 450,000 people.

In his first year in office, he has revived negotiations with the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group, which have led to a ceasefire to begin this month. Efforts to hold talks with the major criminal gang, Clan del Golfo, however, have faltered due to continued violence.

A proposed law to regulate criminal network surrenders, giving participants lower sentences in exchange for information and restorative work, has provoked outrage from victims and widespread criticism – including from the attorney general.

Meanwhile, the arrest of his son is the latest scandal to hit the leftist president, threatening to derail his agenda.

Earlier this year, for example, Petro’s chief of staff and the Colombian ambassador to Venezuela, allegedly falsified documents, and threatened and illegally interrogated a nanny they both employed at different times, explained Agence France-Presse.

Banning Beauty


The Taliban is forcing all beauty salons in Afghanistan to close, shuttering some of the last spaces available to women outside the home, the Associated Press reported.

The Taliban said it decided to ban beauty salons because they offered services forbidden by Islam and caused economic hardship for the families of grooms during weddings, the newswire said.

Grooms’ families customarily pay for pre-wedding salon visits by brides and their close female relatives.

Meanwhile, the Taliban listed a series of services offered by beauty salons that it said violated Islam, including eyebrow-shaping, the use of hair extensions and makeup – it said the latter interferes with the ablutions required before prayer.

In June, the Taliban announced that salons would have one month to wind down their businesses, which spurred a rare public protest in which dozens of beauticians and makeup artists gathered in the capital Kabul, before security forces used fire hoses, tasers and guns to disperse the demonstrators.

The deadline expired July 26.

The decision is the latest curb on the rights and freedoms of Afghan women and girls following edicts barring them from education, public spaces including gyms and parks, and most forms of employment. Women are ordered only to leave home with a male relative.

The ban also drew concern from international groups worried about its impact on female entrepreneurs, especially women-headed families with no male breadwinner.

Meanwhile, the United Nations said it was trying to get the prohibition reversed, saying it “will impact negatively on the economy,” which has collapsed since the Taliban takeover in 2021.

“This isn’t about getting your hair and nails done,” said Heather Barr of Human Rights Watch. “This is about 60,000 women losing their jobs. This is about women losing one of the only places they could go for community and support.”

Despite initial promises of a more moderate rule than when it ran the country in the 1990s, the Taliban reneged on those promises since seizing control of Afghanistan in August 2021 when US-led forces pulled out.

The Morning After


Italy is mulling leaving China’s Belt and Road Initiative, almost four years after it controversially became the only Group of Seven country to join it, Bloomberg reported.

Defense Minister Guido Crosetto, a close ally of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, said in an interview Sunday that Italy must “get out” of the China pact “without creating a disaster.”

Italy was harshly criticized by France, Germany, and other countries when it signed up to Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s flagship investment initiative in 2019. Now, the alliance is due to renew automatically at the end of the year unless Italy abandons it.

Bloomberg reported that Italian officials have reassured the US that Rome will exit the pact, but Meloni refrained from any public announcement in a visit to the US earlier this month.

“Our national interest means also having a dialog with Beijing and one can have good trade relations independently from the Belt and Road,” Meloni said in an interview after returning from Washington. “The issue is finding the right balance.”

Meloni now faces the challenge of disentangling herself from an alliance that’s brought little economic advantage, without sparking a diplomatic crisis with Beijing.

Signing up to the pact “was a reckless and improvised action by Giuseppe Conte’s government,” Crosetto said. “We just exported some oranges to China … while they have tripled exports to Italy in three years.”

Meanwhile, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Sunday during a visit to China that he had pressed Chinese leaders to further open their markets to foreign companies, amid tension over Beijing’s surging trade surpluses, the Associated Press reported.

At the same time, he added that while France, Germany, the US and other Western economies are attempting to “de-risk” – become more independent from China economically – economic “decoupling” from China is impossible, an “illusion.”

“There is no possibility of having any kind of decoupling between the American, European and Chinese economies,” he said.

China has lashed out at Western efforts to de-risk, with Premier Li Qiang last month calling the concept a “false proposition.”


Cracking History

Researchers recently decoded the “unknown Kushan script,” an enigmatic ancient writing system that has baffled linguists since its discovery in Central Asia in the 1950s, Scientific American reported.

And now, scholars are hopeful that the discovery opens up new possibilities for unraveling the language and history of the Kushan Empire.

In their study, a research team deciphered the text using rock face inscriptions found in northwest Tajikistan in 2022, which contained sections of a known but extinct language called Bactrian.

Lead author Svenja Bonmann explained the decoded script was used to record a previously unknown Middle Iranian language, likely one of the official languages of the ancient Kushan Empire. The empire existed in Central Asia and northwestern India from 200 BCE to 700 CE and co-existed with the Roman Empire at its peak in the second century CE.

Bonmann and her team explained that deciphering the Kushan script was not easy because many texts using the language were likely written on organic materials, such as palm leaves or birch bark, which decomposed over time. But surviving inscriptions on cave walls and ceramics found mainly in present-day Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan provided valuable clues to the researchers.

The recent discovery of bilingual inscriptions in Bactrian helped them decrypt the meaning of the Kushan script. Words referring to the Kushan emperor Vema Takhtu as the “king of kings” were crucial in unlocking the phonetic values of certain characters.

The authors hope to decipher the remaining characters and fully understand the mysterious Kushan script by analyzing more inscriptions.

Thank you for reading or listening to DailyChatter. If you’re not already a subscriber, you can become one by going to

Not already a subscriber?

If you would like to receive DailyChatter directly to your inbox each morning, subscribe below with a free two-week trial.

Subscribe today

Support journalism that’s independent, non-partisan, and fair.

If you are a student or faculty with a valid school email, you can sign up for a FREE student subscription or faculty subscription.

Questions? Write to us at

You don't have credit card details available. You will be redirected to update payment method page. Click OK to continue.