The World Today for November 10, 2023

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Young Bloods


Ecuador, just a few years ago, was an oasis of relative prosperity and peace in the region. More recently, however, it’s become overly dependent on oil and, therefore, prey to the dramatic economic swings that often occur in energy commodities. Violence has skyrocketed as the South American country, sandwiched between narco-states Peru and Colombia, has become a center of the cocaine trade. Corruption is endemic. Opportunities for youth are now rare.

Now, a fresh face has emerged to tackle these challenges in the form of 35-year-old President-Elect Daniel Noboa, who won Ecuador’s presidential election in the second round of voting last month, CNN reported. Many hopes are pinned on this young man’s lapels.

Noboa will take office amid extraordinary instability. Lame-duck President Guillermo Lasso triggered the presidential election after he dissolved the Ecuadorian legislature to avoid impeachment. Anti-corruption presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio was then assassinated days before the first round of voting in August.

Now, Noboa will serve out the remaining 18 months of Lasso’s term, meaning he will need to move quickly to convince voters that he should remain their leader. He will, in a sense, be running an election campaign as soon as he takes office, noted the North American Congress on Latin America.

“He must deal with the insecurity,” Ecuadorian political scientist Santiago Basabe told Al Jazeera. “To some extent, he should promote public health, support the most impoverished sectors, and grant opportunities for higher education. Other than that, I don’t think he can do much more in this given time.”

A center-right businessman and banana fortune heir – his father ran for president unsuccessfully five times – Noboa is pledging to increase spending on social programs, crack down on crime, and solicit foreign investors to reinvigorate the economy, wrote

Noboa arguably has the wind at his back. He defeated left-wing candidate Luisa Gonzalez, an ally of popular former president Rafael Correa, because voters want bold ideas and change, not incumbents and business as usual, the Economist wrote. Correa was sentenced to eight years in prison on corruption charges but has escaped justice by living in exile in Belgium. Ecuadoran authorities are now seeking his extradition.

To reduce crime, Noboa will need to uproot networks of foreign and local cocaine traffickers who ship their product out of the country’s Pacific Ocean ports, explained the Council on Foreign Relations. That illegal commerce has fueled a spike in homicides to 40 per 100,000 people, one of the worst rates in the Western Hemisphere. More Ecuadorians have been migrating northward to the US and elsewhere to escape that violence, too.

Accordingly, he plans to “militarize” the country’s ports and borders, according to teleSUR.

More violence could be the result in the short term. But law-abiding Ecuadorians might tolerate it as long as they are not on the receiving end anymore.


Hostage Diplomacy


Israel has agreed to daily, four-hour pauses in operations inside Gaza to allow more civilians to leave the northern part of the enclave and let more humanitarian aid enter from Egypt, US officials said Thursday.

The Israeli Defense Force said on Thursday it was conducting “tactical, local pauses for humanitarian aid,” that were “limited in time and area.”

Tens of thousands of civilians have fled northern Gaza along the Gaza Strip’s main north-south route, as Israeli ground forces advance into Gaza City.

Even so, about 250,000 remain in northern Gaza, the main target of Israeli airstrikes.

At a summit in Paris on the conflict Thursday hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron, United Nations humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said of the humanitarian crisis in the enclave: “The situation is insupportable … To allow it to continue would be a travesty.”

Israeli officials earlier this week denied there were food shortages or a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Also, President Biden confirmed Thursday that he had asked Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu for a three-day pause earlier this week to allow for a possible release of 239 hostages being held by Hamas inside Gaza, including 10 Americans, as well as to facilitate humanitarian aid deliveries and the exit of foreigners from the enclave, the Washington Post reported.

He also again rejected a more comprehensive ceasefire, as has Israel.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported that Israel and Hamas nearly reached a deal to release dozens of hostages just days before the Israeli army launched a ground invasion in the Gaza Strip in late October.

At the core of these discussions was a proposed deal that could yet see the release of up to 50 hostages, a move that might prompt a temporary pause in the Israeli bombardment of the enclave in response to the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas and other Palestinian groups.

The assault on Israel killed roughly 1,400 people and around 240 others were taken hostage and moved to Gaza. In response, Israel launched strikes and a ground invasion that have raised concerns about the humanitarian situation in the strip. According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, the death toll has surpassed 10,800, with more than 26,000 wounded.

The negotiations are primarily taking place in Qatar, a key intermediary that has hosted the Hamas political leadership in exile for years.

Arab and Western officials told the New York Times that Israel had delayed its Oct. 27 ground invasion of Gaza to allow for hostage negotiations. However, talks encountered obstacles amid communication and logistical issues between Hamas’ leadership in Gaza and Qatar.

Questions also linger as to whether the political leadership in Qatar had the authority to finalize and implement any negotiated deal. Hamas leaders have also claimed that the group does not have control over all the captives, noting that other Gaza factions that joined its assault last month took some hostages of their own.

Amid delays and lack of trust, Israel opted to proceed with its ground assault, anticipating that military pressure might compel Hamas to yield. This week, for example, Israeli ground troops pressed into Gaza City.

Even so, the officials noted that negotiations resumed following the ground invasion and are still underway.

On Thursday, Israeli President Isaac Herzog told NBC News that Israel has not received a substantial offer from Hamas, adding that there are “thousands” of officials working on the hostage issue.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu raised eyebrows this week when he claimed that Israel would “for an indefinite period” have the overall security responsibility in Gaza, “because we’ve seen what happens when we don’t have it.”

His comments prompted questions about who would administer the Palestinian enclave after the conflict, with US officials saying they would not support a reoccupation and the displacement of the Palestinian population.

Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials also emphasized they have no intention of “reoccupying Gaza,” adding that they would “review an alternative mechanism” for the enclave once the fighting is over.

Power in Numbers


A rebel alliance in Myanmar scored a series of battlefield victories against the country’s military government, an offensive that many observers believe is the biggest threat to the ruling junta since it seized power almost three years ago, the Washington Post reported.

On Oct. 27, the Three Brotherhood Alliance launched a surprise offensive in the northern state of Shan, which borders China. The alliance said it captured more than 100 military outposts and took control of a number of major highways and border crossings.

The 10-day campaign has reportedly displaced tens of thousands of people, as well as disrupted business and travel between Shan and China. Analysts said the disruptions would block a major source of funding for the junta and further strain the army’s relationship with China, one of its few remaining allies.

In a rare admission, army officials said it had lost control of three towns in Shan and the border with China. Junta leader Myint Swe said the country could split “if the government does not effectively manage the incidents happening in the border region,” according to the Global New Light of Myanmar news outlet.

The offensive comes as Myanmar’s military junta continues to fight a multi-front civil war with various rebel groups nearly three years after it ousted the country’s democratically elected government.

The Three Brotherhood Alliance is comprised of three armed ethnic groups that initially remained neutral after the military takeover in February 2021. But tensions rose over the junta’s increase in attacks nationwide and also the spread of illicit activities in military-controlled areas.

Security analysts said that many of the armed groups are individually too small to beat the military, but they have shown an unprecedented level of cooperation over the past few weeks.

Leaders and supporters of Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement praised the offensive as a turning point in the war. Even so, some observers were cautious, saying the rebel groups are operating in their own interests and their ties with the country’s pro-democracy movement are shaky.



French Justice Minister Éric Dupont-Moretti went on trial this week for allegedly using his position to target other officials, the first minister in the country’s modern history to appear on trial while still in office, the Associated Press reported.

Dupont-Moretti, whose case is being heard by the Court of Justice of the Republic, a special court with jurisdiction to try government officials for crimes, is accused of using his position to order probes targeting magistrates who investigated him, his friends and former clients. The minister was a renowned lawyer before entering office, and earned the nickname “Acquittor” for successfully defending 145 clients. He is being prosecuted in two separate cases, Le Monde explained.

In the first, his chief of staff ordered an inquiry into the investigations carried out by Judge Édouard Levrault – who had indicted two of Dupont-Moretti’s clients in a corruption case in Monaco – causing an outcry among magistrates. Levrault was eventually cleared.

The second is linked to the scandal surrounding the Libyan government’s funding of former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential campaign. Dupont-Moretti, a close friend of Sarkozy’s lawyer, had his phone tapped by the office of the National Finance Prosecutor (PNF). After being appointed to his current post in 2020, he requested an inquiry into the PNF’s investigation. The magistrates were subsequently cleared.

The minister raised eyebrows when he said he would not step down during the trial, breaking an informal tradition in which members of government resign when coming under investigation.

France’s magistrates’ unions warned that the minister’s actions weaken the judicial branch, while raising concerns about the operation of checks and balances in French democracy. The government, meanwhile, expressed its support for Dupont-Moretti, invoking the presumption of innocence.

If convicted, Dupont-Moretti could face five years in prison, a $537,000 fine and disqualification from holding public office.

His trial will run until Nov. 17.


This week, the Group of Seven (G7) nations emphasized its continued support for Ukraine, even as the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas threatens to overshadow the conflict, Al Jazeera reported. During a meeting in the Japanese capital of Tokyo, G7 representatives and European Union (EU) officials issued a joint statement stressing their commitment to Ukraine and asked China to refrain from backing Russia. Meanwhile, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev linked the West’s behavior to a rising risk of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons being deployed. He also criticized the so-called colonial approach of Western powers in regard to EU enlargement negotiations.

Also this week:

  • The European Commission has recommended the start of formal EU membership negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova, marking a significant step toward their joining the bloc, the Guardian wrote. The decision is contingent on Kyiv satisfying conditions related to combating corruption, adopting lobbying laws in line with EU standards, and enhancing safeguards for national minorities. The recommendation, which could lead to the largest expansion of the bloc since 2004, must be ratified by prime ministers at a summit in December. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed the decision, emphasizing the country’s European aspirations amid its ongoing conflict with Russia.
  • A Ukrainian spy agency confirmed on Telegram they were responsible for the car bomb that killed Luhansk lawmaker Mikhail Filiponenko on Wednesday, Reuters reported. Filiponenko had been involved in the separatist movement in the Luhansk region since 2014. He had served as a high-ranking military official in the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic, which Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed to have annexed days before ordering the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The spy agency justified their actions saying that Filiponenko “brutally tortured people” – he allegedly set up torture chambers for civilians and war prisoners in the region. His election to the local assembly in September was heavily opposed by the international community.
  • Polish truckers blocked border crossings with Ukraine to protest an EU deal allowing easier access for cheaper Ukrainian drivers into the bloc, Politico noted. The truckers demanded the restoration of transport operation limits for Ukrainian haulers, arguing that the influx undermined their business. The protests were not officially sanctioned by the Polish government. The EU deal permits shippers to transport cargo between Ukraine and an EU country without extra paperwork, but does not allow Ukrainian truckers to pick up and drop off loads within the EU. Ukraine, already impacted by Poland’s grain import ban, has faced challenges exporting goods crucial for its wartime economy due to the border protests.


When Mars Cooled

A crashing meteorite and data from a four-year-long NASA mission recently unveiled hot new details about Mars’ core, upending what scientists thought they knew about its fiery interior, Nature magazine reported.

It’s smaller and more complicated than they previously thought.

Between 2018 and 2022, NASA’s InSight mission observed and reported on the Red Planet’s seismic activities to learn more about its interior. But in September 2021, the agency’s craft detected seismic activity on Mars caused by a meteorite impact.

The impact struck on the side of the planet opposite InSight’s location, which allowed the probe to capture seismic energy traveling through the Martian core, reaching greater depths than previous “Marsquakes.”

In a new study, a research team used the data to uncover a layer of molten rock enveloping Mars’s liquid-metal core. This finding challenges previous assumptions about the planet’s interior: Scientists initially believed the planet’s core had a radius of nearly 1140 miles and contained high amounts of light chemicals, such as sulfur mixed with iron.

But the impact data showed that what was thought to be the boundary between the liquid core and the solid mantle is, in fact, the upper edge of a new molten rock layer. The core is beneath this molten layer and is smaller than previously thought, with a radius of approximately 1025 miles.

The adjusted core size has key implications for our understanding of Mars: It implies that the Martian core likely has fewer light elements, matching theoretical predictions. The discovery of a second liquid layer also aligns with other planetary observations.

Meanwhile, another study proposed that the molten rock layer may be a relic of an ancient magma ocean that once blanketed Mars. As this magma cooled and solidified, it left behind a deep layer of radioactive elements that still release heat, keeping the rock at the base of the mantle molten.


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