The World Today for November 28, 2023

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Hitting Pause


Diplomats worked overtime into Tuesday morning to extend the ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas by 48 hours beyond the four-day deadline to Thursday morning , the BBC reported. Both sides said that they wanted to prolong the peace and continue exchanging hostages beyond the deadline, the Guardian reported.

Hamas has released 62 of the 240 hostages that the militants kidnapped when they broke through the barriers separating the Gaza Strip from Israel on Oct. 7 before going on a rampage that resulted in an estimated 1,200 Israeli deaths. Israel has released 150 Palestinian prisoners.

Israeli forces have since killed more than 11,000 Palestinians in Gaza in retaliatory attacks designed to destroy the Hamas leadership, reported the Associated Press.

Egypt, Qatar, and the US brokered the four-day ceasefire that started Friday, the day after Thanksgiving in the US. The talks began after Qatar, an ally of the US, suggested to American officials that they establish a team dedicated to freeing captives, Al Jazeera reported.

President Joe Biden pressed the Qatari case in October when he traveled to Israel to speak with leaders in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Israel has said that the truce could continue for every day that Hamas releases 10 more hostages. Israeli officials won’t allow Palestinians to return to northern Gaza, from where they fled to avoid Israeli attacks. But, as part of the deal, Israel has permitted trucks carrying fuel and other aid into the territory on the Mediterranean Sea through neighboring Egypt, added the New Arab news site.

Adina Moshe was one of the freed Israeli hostages, wrote the Times of Israel in a story describing how Hamas terrorists shot and killed her husband on their kibbutz before taking her.

Moshe’s loved ones were not the only ones waiting for word of her release.  As the New York Times reported, Israeli families whose relatives were taken on Oct. 7 have been on an emotional rollercoaster as they’ve seen the conflict escalate.

Israel has also come under withering criticism, however, for its prosecution of the war. Observers at Amnesty International, for example, accused the Israeli military of conducting indiscriminate attacks that failed to distinguish between Hamas murderers and around 2 million ordinary Palestinians who have lived in a tightly controlled sliver of a non-state for their entire lives.

A Reuters story that featured images of columns of Palestinian corpses wrapped in blue plastic bags waiting for burial in a mass grave attested to the results of the Israeli campaign.

The fighting probably isn’t over, but both sides, remarkably, aren’t always only seeing red.


Same Patterns, Different Names


Sierra Leone reduced its 24-hour curfew to a night-time lockdown Monday, a day after gunmen attacked a number of military barracks and prisons, prompting concerns of a potential coup in the West African nation, the BBC reported.

On Sunday, unknown gunmen tried to break into the key armory in the country’s largest military barrack in the capital Freetown, leaving 20 dead and several wounded, Al Jazeera reported.

Authorities said the attackers fought against security forces and also targeted major detention facilities, freeing an unknown number of detainees, the Associated Press added.

But President Julius Maada Bio later said calm was restored and that most of the leaders of the attack had been arrested, although he did not give any details about the perpetrators.

Bio described Sunday’s events as a “breach of security” and an attack on democracy, but stopped short of calling it an attempted coup.

The United States, the European Union and the West African regional bloc ECOWAS condemned Sunday’s violence.

The attack comes during a period of deep political tensions in West and Central Africa, where a series of coups in recent years has seen eight countries end up being ruled by military governments.

In Sierra Leone, the situation has remained tense since Bio was reelected in June, a vote that international observers criticized for a lack of transparency in the count, as well as acts of violence and intimidation.

In August, authorities arrested a number of soldiers accused of plotting a coup against the president.

A Risky Opportunity


The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is planning to use its position as the country of the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) to negotiate oil and gas deals, according to a series of leaked documents that have cast a pall on the international talks happening later this week, Politico reported Monday.

The Centre for Climate Reporting released documents Monday showing briefing notes prepared by the UAE organizers for meetings with more than a dozen foreign governments during the COP28 summit that starts Thursday.

For example, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) is expected to tell Berlin that it is ready and able to increase liquefied natural gas supplies to Germany.

The CEO of ADNOC is Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, who is also COP28’s president.

Meanwhile, the briefing notes also propose telling oil-rich nations, such as Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, that “there is no conflict between sustainable development of any country’s natural resources and its commitment to climate change.”

The leaked documents include estimates of ADNOC’s commercial interests in various countries. Notably, ADNOC’s business ties with China amounted to $15 billion in the past year, $4 billion with the United Kingdom, and $2 billion with the Netherlands.

Following the leaks, foreign officials and climate change advocates warned that if the allegations were true, they would amount to “a real scandal” for the UN conference and damage its credibility.

However, COP28 representatives countered that the documents are “inaccurate and were not used by COP28 in meetings.”

Not Making History


New Zealand’s new government will scrap world-leading legislation to ban smoking for future generations in order to fund tax cuts, a reversal that prompted criticism from health officials and concerns about the well-being of the country’s Indigenous Māori, the Guardian reported Monday.

Last year, then-Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Labour Party cabinet introduced a new law that would stop those individuals born after January 2009 from ever being able to legally buy cigarettes. The bill was aimed at preventing smoking-related deaths and saving the health system hundreds of millions of US dollars.

The legislation included a series of measures, such as making smoking less affordable, reducing the amount of nicotine and cutting the number of stores allowed to sell cigarettes from 6,000 to just 600 nationwide.

The law would have been implemented from July 2024, but the new center-right coalition led by the National Party said this week it would repeal the amendments, including “removing requirements for de-nicotization, removing the reduction in retail outlets and the generation ban.”

Finance Minister Nicola Willis noted that the measures will be removed before March 2024 and that the revenue from cigarette sales will go towards the coalition’s tax cuts.

She explained that the decision came following coalition talks between National and its two other coalition partners, the populist New Zealand First party and the conservative ACT party.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said that the reversal would prevent a hidden tobacco market from emerging, and stop shops from being targeted for crime. He added that the government will work on lowering smoking rates through education and other smoking policies.

But supporters of the anti-smoking law expressed shock at the government’s move, saying it could cost up to 5,000 lives a year, and be “catastrophic” to Māori communities, who have higher smoking rates.

Others suggested that recent modeling showed the law would save around $800 million in health system costs over the next two decades if fully implemented. It would also reduce mortality rates by 22 percent for women and nine percent for men.


A Group Effort

A new study suggested there is some truth in the proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child,” Euronews reported.

Anthropologist Nikhil Chaudhary and his team recently studied how modern-day hunter-gatherer societies fare in childcare responsibilities and compared them with contemporary parenting in Western countries.

They focused on the practices of the Mbendjele BaYaka, a semi-nomadic tribe in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The team explained that the society had a communal parenting system, with more than 10 members of the tribe taking care of a child.

In modern societies, it is generally the child’s birth parents who take care of the little one’s needs.

The researchers noticed that the Mbendjele BaYaka approach benefited both parents and children: The youngsters would get nearly nine hours of close contact with various tribe members, giving some time for mothers to rest and work.

In comparison, infants in Canada and the Netherlands received less than 30 minutes of close contact with others per day.

The findings showed that an important portion of this interaction was skin-to-skin contact, a form of connection recognized by medical researchers for its various physical and emotional benefits. These include regulating a baby’s heart rate and breathing, along with promoting brain development.

Chaudhary noted that the study suggested that children may be “evolutionarily primed” to expect high levels of physical contact and care, while adding that through history parents have never faced the same challenges regarding a lack of support as they do today.

“Therefore, contemporary hunter-gatherer societies … can offer clues as to whether there are certain child-rearing systems to which infants, and their mothers, may be psychologically adapted,” he said.

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