The World Today for November 03, 2023

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Bracing for the Storm


Israel Defense Forces (IDF) recently deployed drones to strike at Hezbollah, the Iran-backed militia that also wields significant political power in Lebanon, Reuters reported. The rocket fire and missile exchanges between the IDF and Hezbollah and its allies have become a daily occurrence, the newswire wrote.

These Lebanon-based militias that include a wing of Gaza’s leaders, Hamas – all designated as terror groups by the US and the European Union – have been escalating their attacks on Israel since Hamas overran Israeli defenses and massacred civilians in the south on Oct. 7, as Deutsche Welle explained.

As a result, the atmosphere in Beirut and elsewhere in Lebanon has grown tense as fears of war breaking out in the country grow. Restaurants, hotels and bars have been emptying in the Lebanese capital, which has long been known for defying hardship to live life to excess.

But people in Lebanon, a mosaic of religions and groups, are nervous. The Lebanese remember the war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006, when Israeli jets leveled entire blocks in Beirut. Many of those who suffered in 2006 now sympathize with Hezbollah.

Beirut resident Abu Qassem’s sisters and daughter were among as many as 20,000 people who had fled southern Lebanon to escape escalating violence near the Israeli border. “I’m too old to fight myself, but if war breaks out, I will go to the village to cook or wash their clothes,” he told the Guardian. “For us people of the south, after God, we only have faith in the resistance.”

Others don’t care about the politics but can’t leave: Syria isn’t an option anymore as it was in 2006 when it took thousands of refugees from Lebanon, and rents in other parts of Lebanon have skyrocketed as people move away from the south. “Everyone in Lebanon is in financial hardship,” said one elderly woman in a suburb of Beirut. “I can’t go and burden other people. If I die, I die in dignity at home.”

Lebanese leaders are working furiously to avoid a full-blown war, however, as memories, scars and rubble also linger from the brutal civil war it experienced between 1975 and 1990, which was also exacerbated, in part, by the involvement of armed Palestinians, Israelis and Syria. According to researchers, no country has been more impacted by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than Lebanon – and Palestinian refugees are blamed for the civil war that killed more than 100,000 people.

Now, as a result of those fears, Prime Minister Najib Mikati, for instance, has reaffirmed his commitment to the United Nations resolutions that were designed to maintain peace on his country’s border with Israel, Al-Monitor noted.

And as Hamas pressures Hezbollah to increase its engagement, Lebanese politicians are pressuring Hezbollah to refrain from escalating conflict with Israel, the Washington Post reported. “All Western countries are talking to us, are sending their ambassadors, saying Hezbollah must not enter the war,” a senior Lebanese official told the newspaper. “What we tell [Hezbollah], as the government, is that, ‘We can’t take a war.’ And the answer is, ‘We understand you. But we can also not take the fall of Hamas.’”

Mikati, however, has good reason to do everything he can to keep the fighting from escalating in his country. There’s a good chance the Lebanese state would not survive a conflict, Reuters explained, citing an “economy in ruins and a crumbling state.”

Lebanon has been on the verge of collapse for years, lacking the resources to properly dispose of trash, or keep track of a warehouse of fertilizers that exploded in 2020, killing more than 200 people, injuring 6,000, and damaging the harbor and other parts of the capital. Jobs have disappeared, banks are robbed just to recover personal savings and inflation at times has reached 350 percent, according to the World Bank. The country has lacked true political leadership for years, wrote GIS.

Hezbollah so far has coordinated attacks so as not to elicit devastating responses, said analysts. They want to harass Israel as a member of a coalition of pro-Iranian, anti-Israel organizations – the “axis of resistance,” according to National Public Radio – not trigger a humanitarian crisis in their backyard.

The situation, however, is perilous. American officials and researchers at the International Monetary Fund have warned that, even without a full-blown war, more violence could seriously undermine Lebanon and other fragile states in the region, the Associated Press reported.

These assessments aren’t yet using the analogy of a powder keg, but they might as well be.


Taking Charge


Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva ordered a temporary militarization of the country’s most important ports and airports, a move aimed at addressing the rising crime in the South American nation following a series of incidents in Rio de Janeiro state, Reuters reported.

The leftist president said soldiers will cooperate with federal police to manage security operations in key airports and ports, including the port of Santos in São Paulo, and its main airport Guarulhos.

Those ports and airports are key logistical hubs for booming cocaine exports to Europe, while also receiving contraband like high-caliber weapons that contribute to street violence.

Brazil’s army and air force will also be deployed to strengthen the border with neighboring nations to curb the flow of weapons and cocaine into Brazil.

The measure will last until May 2024 and comes as the country has experienced a spike in violence in recent months. The situation has been particularly severe in Rio de Janeiro, which has seen deadly clashes among drug lords, vigilante mafias known as “militias” and police.

Last month, three doctors were brutally murdered near a beach in Rio after allegedly being confused for rivals from a militia. Last week, militias set fire to dozens of Rio buses after police killed one of their leaders in an operation.

Brazil has increasingly become a focal point for the trafficking of cocaine to Europe, which has led to the empowerment of local criminal organizations and a worsening security situation felt across South America, including gang-related violence in Ecuador.

Lula’s decision to deploy the military also marks a notable reversal of his earlier stance to avoid sending soldiers “in the favelas, exchanging gunfire with gangsters.”

Under his right-wing predecessor President Jair Bolsonaro, the number of homicides in Brazil had significantly decreased from previously record highs.

However, public opinion polls indicate that Brazilians have a less favorable view of Lula’s ability to effectively address the rising violence.

A recent poll showed that 32 percent of Brazilians expect the security situation to worsen during Lula’s presidency, marking a six-percentage-point increase from a previous survey conducted in May.

The Race of Snails


Montenegro’s parliament approved a new government this week – five months after the country’s elections, Politico reported.

The new government is made up of a coalition of pro-European, pro-Serb and Albanian minority parties, with former Finance Minister Milojko Spajić serving as the country’s prime minister.

Spajic said the government’s key foreign policy priorities will include joining the European Union, continuing its participation in NATO, improving relations with neighboring countries and involvement in multilateral organizations.

Montenegro declared independence from Serbia in 2006, initiated EU accession talks in 2012, joined NATO in 2017, and has adopted the euro as its currency.

In recent years, the country has experienced widespread anti-government protests. In April, long-standing President Milo Đjukanović was defeated in a historic presidential election.

Meanwhile, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen met with Spajic and President Jakov Milatovic as part of her four-day tour of the Western Balkans. She urged officials to advance the Balkan country’s EU integration process, the Associated Press noted.

Von der Leyen also announced a $6.3 billion investment package for EU candidates in the Western Balkans, on the condition they implement certain governance reforms.

Full-Nest Syndrome


An Italian court ordered the eviction of two men in their 40s, who were living with their mother for years and had refused to abandon the comforts of the family home, the Guardian reported.

The case centered on a 75-year-old woman in the northern city of Pavia, who had grown tired of taking care of her two sons – 40 and 42 years old – even though both of them have jobs.

The mother had tried to convince her grown children to find a more autonomous living arrangement. She also complained that her sons did not contribute to the household expenses or chores, prompting her to go to court.

The judge, Simona Caterbi, ruled in favor of the mother and ordered the sons to leave the house by Dec. 18. In her judgment, Caterbi clarified that while it was initially acceptable for the men to continue residing at home due to the “obligation of the parent to provide maintenance,” this arrangement was no longer reasonable considering that they were now in their 40s.

The case underscores the phenomenon of Italian adults continuing to live at home with their parents, whether the elders want them to or not.

The tradition of multigenerational living under one roof persists in Italy, but the prolonged stay of young adults at home has increased in recent years due to challenging economic conditions.

Last year, nearly 70 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 34 still lived with their parents. A 2019 study found that of the young adults living at home, around 36 percent were students, more than 38 percent had jobs and nearly 24 percent were searching for one.

Some politicians and critics have called these individuals “bamboccioni” (big babies), saying that some adults are living with their parents for the convenience of a free room and board.

At the same time, there have been cases of adult children taking their parents to court for failing to provide financial support.

In a 2020 case, Italy’s supreme court dismissed the case of a 35-year-old part-time musician, who claimed his $21,000 income was insufficient for self-sufficiency and requested financial assistance from his parents.

The court’s decision said that young adults don’t have an inherent entitlement to parental financial support.


This week, Russian President Vladimir Putin revoked Russia’s ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), a move aimed at aligning Moscow with the United States, which has signed but not ratified the treaty, Al Jazeera reported. The CTBT, drawn up in 1996, bans all nuclear explosions, including live tests of nuclear weapons. It is unclear whether Russia will resume nuclear weapons testing – Putin has said he remains undecided on the matter. Russian officials suggested that Moscow would only resume nuclear tests if the US does so.

The US expressed concern over Russia’s withdrawal from the CTBT, viewing it as a potential risk to the global agreement against nuclear testing. The move may be a pressure tactic in response to US support for Ukraine in its conflict with Russia. The last remaining bilateral nuclear weapons treaty between the US and Russia is New START, set to expire in early 2026, and has been suspended by Russia since February. Discussions on strategic stability and arms control have been stalled, with Moscow insisting on a change in the US’ hostile stance toward Russia before resuming such dialogue.

Also this week:

  • In a candid admission, Ukraine’s top commander, Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, has acknowledged that the conflict with Russia has reached a “stalemate,” with no immediate prospects of a significant breakthrough, according to the New York Times. The use of modern technology, precision weaponry, and drones by both sides has resulted in a protracted positional war, preventing either party from making substantial gains. Gen. Zaluzhny highlighted the need for advancements in electronic warfare and expressed concerns about being drawn into a protracted conflict similar to World War I. Western-supplied weapons have not yielded the desired results, and the willingness of Western allies to continue providing support to Ukraine is waning, partly due to the conflict between Israel and Hamas diverting attention and resources.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s support for Israel during its conflict with Hamas has complicated Ukraine’s efforts to win the support of Arab and Muslim nations in its war against Russia, the Washington Post reported. Zelenskyy’s backing of Israel has brought attention to Russia’s close relationship with Iran, which supports Hamas and supplies weapons to Moscow. However, Zelenskyy’s stance has strained relations with countries such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, which have previously supported Ukraine. These nations have accused the West of double standards in the Israel-Gaza conflict.
  • European Union leaders endorsed a plan to use the profits generated by frozen Russian state assets for reconstructing Ukraine, Politico reported. Following a summit by the European Council, leaders called for the European Commission to propose legal mechanisms to facilitate the use of profits from Russian assets held in the EU. These assets, worth over Eur200 billion, were frozen as part of sanctions imposed at the beginning of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The proposal is to use the profits generated when Russian securities reach maturity and which are reinvested by financial intermediaries to support Ukraine’s recovery and reconstruction. However, there are concerns among some EU capitals and the European Central Bank that this move could disrupt financial markets and weaken the euro’s status as a reserve currency. Meanwhile, in response, Russia warned that it would confiscate assets from EU countries if the bloc moved forward with the plan, according to Voice of America.
  • Representatives of more than 65 countries participated in a two-day conference in Malta this week to discuss and endorse Ukraine’s peace plan, Euronews wrote. The conference aimed to secure international support for President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s 10-point peace proposal. Notably, Russia was not invited to these talks, and China chose not to participate. The event marked the third round of discussions in recent months and represented a diplomatic win for Ukraine, as international support for its peace plan continued to grow. During the conference, five of the plan’s 10 points were successfully addressed, focusing on key areas such as nuclear safety, energy security, food security, prisoner releases, and the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
  • A mob of hundreds of people stormed an airport in the Russian region of Dagestan, targeting a flight from Israel, the Associated Press noted. The mob waved Palestinian flags and shouted anti-semitic slogans, an incident tied to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Clashes with the police erupted during the unrest and more than 80 people were detained. President Putin blamed the violence on “agents of Western special services” in Ukraine, but offered no evidence to support this claim. US officials denied the allegations and called Putin’s allegation “classic Russian rhetoric.” Following the incident, Israel called on Russian authorities to protect Israeli citizens and Jews in Russia. Israel has also updated its travel warning to the highest level for Dagestan and other regions in southern Russia, advising Israelis to avoid them.



Humans can’t survive on Mars but that doesn’t mean mice can’t, Cosmos magazine reported.

A research team found recently that leaf-eared mice have no issues surviving at the summits of Andean volcanoes more than 20,000 feet in altitude.

These areas are considered “Mars-like” environments and rank among the most inhospitable on the planet, researchers wrote in a new study. They are known for being arid, cold and oxygen-poor.

“Even at the base of the volcanoes, the mice are living in an extreme, Martian environment,” said lead author Jay Storz.

Storz and his colleagues discovered mouse burrows and collected 13 mummified leaf-eared mice from three volcanoes: Salín, Púlar and Copiapó. They also caught a live rodent that made its home on the peak of the extinct Llullaillaco volcano located between Chile and Argentina at an altitude of more than 22,000 feet.

The team then conducted a genetic study to determine whether mummified mice originated from a population distinct from the live specimen. Their analysis showed they were “all one big happy family,” according to Storz.

The researchers explained that their findings suggest that the mice can survive the harsh, high-altitude regions without any issues. The study also challenges previous assertions that the rodents had hitched a ride with the ancient Incas that lived in those regions.

“It just boggles the mind that any kind of animal, let alone a warm-blooded mammal, could be surviving and functioning in that environment,” said Storz.

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