The World Today for October 26, 2023

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‘The Champagne Fascist’


Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, an icon of the far-right in Europe, recently announced that she would separate from her longtime partner Andrea Giambruno, a television journalist.

The split came two days after recordings of Giambruno’s “foul remarks and suggestive comments towards a female colleague” surfaced in the Italian media, wrote the Guardian. It was not the first time that Giambruno had embarrassed himself in this manner.

The development was classic Meloni. She is a powerful woman – a feminist icon, one might argue, sitting astride one of the most important countries in Europe – standing up for herself in her private life against a boorish, toxic male, political commentators said.

Ironically, however, she took this feminist stance as the leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy, a political party descended from the supporters of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. Meloni and the party took power in late October last year on a campaign platform that emphasized “traditional families” over “gender ideologies.”

“Europe’s liberals trembled” when Meloni and the Brothers of Italy took power, quipped the Economist. She has governed, however, the British magazine concluded, as a pragmatist rather than a disruptor.

After a year in office, Meloni appears less radical than her critics portrayed her, Deutsche Welle wrote. She has toned down her criticism of the European Union – one of her election campaign slogans was “raging against Europe” – and continued the economic policies of her predecessor, Mario Draghi, a former technocratic prime minister and ex-president of the European Central Bank. She has also backed NATO’s support for Ukraine, the Associated Press added.

To be sure, Meloni is far right. She has pushed for conservative social policies like limiting parenthood to biological parents and banning Italians, including heterosexuals, from pursuing surrogate maternity abroad.

She has also opposed the migrations of North Africans, Middle Easterners, and others who have been entering the EU through Italy, and promised naval blockades. The number of migrants coming to Italy by boat has almost doubled to 140,000 compared with last year, however.

The prime minister has also not made much progress in solving some of Italy’s historic problems, like low productivity, cumbersome bureaucracies, low salaries, low investment in research and development, and other issues, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation wrote.

Still, Meloni is a savvy political operator who, at least so far, appears to be controlling the restive coalition of far-right parties that she needs to remain in office, argued Paris-based Washington Post columnist Lee Hockstader.

She doesn’t need Giambruno.


A Sober Assessment


Israel was not responsible for the deadly explosion at al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City, according to US intelligence officials, who said they conducted a thorough investigation into the Oct. 17 blast that caused up to 300 casualties amid ongoing fighting between the Israeli army and Hamas, the Washington Post reported.

The hospital explosion prompted protests throughout the Middle East and international condemnation, with some reports faulting Israel for the destruction.

Israel has denied involvement in the blast and blamed a Palestinian militant group for the incident.

The exact death toll remains unknown, but the number is estimated to be between 100 and 300 people, while the Hamas-run health ministry put the figure higher.

In their assessment, intelligence officials said this week that they have determined with “high confidence” that Israel was not responsible for the hospital explosion, after analyzing various videos and using geolocation techniques.

They traced the explosion to a rocket launched within Gaza that experienced a mechanical failure midflight and crashed into the hospital.

This conclusion was based on factors such as the nature of the damage caused by the explosion, which was consistent with a rocket rather than Israeli munitions. The trajectory of the rocket was tracked based on videos from four locations. The rocket’s motor became unstable during its flight, leading to its failure, a change in direction, and the eventual explosion at the hospital.

Despite efforts to find evidence tying the rocket to Israel, analysts have not discovered any, the newspaper wrote, adding that no Palestinian group had come forward with evidence as would be expected to show Israel was to blame.

However, the analysts couldn’t definitively identify the group responsible for launching the rocket due to insufficient information.

The limited intelligence available to investigators included intercepted communications and language patterns of the speakers. These suggested that the individuals involved were “affiliated” with Hamas and that the rocket was probably launched by Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

However, due to a lack of more conclusive information, this assessment remained at “low confidence.”

Meanwhile, Israeli forces entered northern Gaza early Thursday morning in a “relatively large” incursion described as “preparing the ground” for a long-anticipated fullscale invasion, Sky News reported. Citing Israeli Army Radio, forces went in with tanks on an intelligence-gathering effort while also striking Hamas targets, before withdrawing hours later.

The Israeli Defense Forces said they had carried out over 250 airstrikes on Gaza in the last day, the BBC added.

Causing Tremors


Hundreds of Moroccans took to the streets of a city near the epicenter of the catastrophic earthquake that hit the country last month to protest against the slow emergency response by authorities, the Associated Press reported.

The protest took place in Amizmiz near the High Atlas mountain range, a town that saw entire neighborhoods leveled during the Sept. 8 earthquake. Nearly every citizen in Amizmiz lost a relative or a friend in the 6.8-magnitude quake.

Organizers said the demonstrations were aimed at drawing attention to the “negligence by local and regional officials,” and criticizing how some residents have been excluded from emergency aid.

Demonstrators expressed concerns about the dire conditions in temporary camps, delayed financial assistance, and the need for dignity and justice, highlighting years of marginalization.

They also chanted the name of the country’s ruler, King Mohammed VI, and urged him to visit the town and assess the situation.

In the earthquake’s aftermath, Morocco established a commission and a special recovery fund. The government began providing initial monthly payments of around $240 and planned to offer up to $13,600 to rebuild destroyed homes.

However, many residents claimed they had not yet received emergency cash assistance, sparking worries about shelter as winter approaches in the mountains.

The protests follow criticism leveled at Morocco for initially accepting limited foreign aid after the earthquake, with officials saying they needed to alleviate logistical challenges during a critical period for emergency response.

International search and rescue teams expressed frustration at their inability to enter the country to assist.

Slow Paces


Japan’s supreme court ruled Wednesday that the government cannot require transgender people to undergo sterilization in order to change their legal gender, a ruling that places the country in line with other developed democracies on LGBTQ rights, Bloomberg reported.

The case centered on a Japanese man who wished to change his legal status to female. The plaintiff said that surgery would impose harsh physical and economic burdens, adding that the long-term use of hormone therapy has resulted in reduced fertility.

In its verdict, the court found that it was unconstitutional to require citizens to be sterilized before they can officially change genders, the BBC added.

The ruling will force the government to amend a 2004 law, which requires that a person can only change their gender if they have no reproductive function.

The legislation also requires people wishing to change their gender to be above the age of 18, unmarried – because same-sex marriage is not allowed in Japan – and have no minor children. They also must be diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

Human rights groups welcomed the ruling, but others – including members of the ruling party – opposed the changes.

Meanwhile, despite the new ruling, the plaintiff will still not be allowed to change his gender because of another requirement: The 2004 law requires the reproductive organs to resemble those of the gender with which they identify.

The supreme court asked a lower court to rule whether gender changes without surgery can be allowed.

The verdict brings Japan closer to Western countries in terms of LGBTQ rights. Earlier this year, the country passed a law promoting LGBTQ understanding – but did not provide any specific rights or ban discrimination.

According to Equaldex, there are 86 nations that allow changes to legal genders, with 39 of them requiring surgery.


True Colors

The Parthenon Marbles, also known as the Elgin Marbles, currently displayed at London’s British Museum, appear at first glance as white marble.

But like many ancient sculptures, they were once full of color, Smithsonian Magazine reported.

Now, a new study has used a novel method to discover a “wealth of surviving paint” initially used 2,500 years ago.

A research team analyzed the marbles at a microscopic level using luminescent imagining, a non-invasive technique that detects traces of Egyptian blue – a pigment of calcium, copper and silicon.

They found evidence of Egyptian blue on 11 pedimental sculptures and one figure, including on the belt of the Greek Goddess Iris and on the crests of waves from which the God Helios emerges.

The analysis also showed evidence of white and purple pigments, with the researchers noting that the ancient carvers were very meticulous in mimicking the textures they were trying to depict, such as skin or linen.

Still, the team said that their findings could not create a full reconstruction of the what Parthenon sculptures originally looked like.

Even so, the study could help historians have a better understanding of ancient art, according to lead author Giovanni Verri.

“As we try to understand the ancient world, we inevitably try to simplify the picture,” he told Newsweek, “but this proves that the ancient world was more complex and diverse than we would like to believe.”

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