The World Today for March 18, 2024

Listen to Today's Edition
Voiced by Amazon Polly


The Face of Defiance


Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat who is the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in the US, recently delivered a speech criticizing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and calling for new elections in Israel, reported CNN. Afterward, President Joe Biden, who has been critical of Israel’s actions in Gaza lately, said Schumer made a good speech, added NBC News.

Writing in the Hill, Council on Foreign Relations fellow Alton Frye said the rift between American and Israeli leaders over the war jeopardized one of the closest alliances in the geopolitical global order today. The Wall Street Journal similarly described the situation as a “serious crisis.” World Politics Review, meanwhile, argued that American support for Israel was “becoming all cost, no benefit.”

In an interview in Politico, Netanyahu rejected those assertions, saying he was destroying Hamas, the Iranian-backed leaders of Gaza. On October 7, Hamas and its allies killed around 1,200 people and kidnapped more than 200 hostages. Around half have been released.

These diplomatic disagreements underscore how even Israel’s friends have become uneasy over the carnage in Gaza. Israeli forces have killed more than 31,000 Palestinians and wounded almost 73,000, reported Reuters, citing Gaza’s health authorities. A quarter of Gaza’s 2.3 million people face famine.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong recently said Netanyahu had to end the fighting in Gaza and address the “humanitarian catastrophe” in the region or else risk further losing international support, noted the Times of Israel. She and her counterparts in Canada and New Zealand have called for ceasefires so that aid can reach Gazans.

German officials have also appealed to Netanyahu not to attack Rafah, a city on the Egyptian border, where more than 1 million Palestinians have fled in order to avoid Israeli attacks, according to the Anadolu Agency.

Netanyahu has since approved such an attack, the Guardian reported.

Many Israelis agree with Netanyahu’s foreign critics. Thousands have taken to the streets demanding that Netanyahu, a conservative whose coalition depends on hardline religious political parties, step down to allow other leaders to bring an end to the violence. Israeli security forces have used water cannons against the demonstrators, the Telegraph wrote.

Netanyahu is defying the world, wrote Politico, with his stance on Rafah, ceasefires, aid, and most of all, on rejecting the possibility of a Palestinian state. “The positions that I espouse are supported by the overwhelming majority of Israelis who say to you after October 7: ‘We don’t want to see a Palestinian state,’” he said.

Still, according to columnist David Ignatius of the Washington Post, this stance may lead to Israel’s allies helping – or forcing – Israel to become Gaza’s rescuers.


Switching Teams


Niger’s military government revoked an agreement that allowed United States military personnel and civilian staff to operate in the country, the latest move by the junta which has severed ties with other Western partners following last year’s coup, the Guardian reported.

On Saturday, junta spokesman Col. Amadou Abdramane announced the ending of the agreement “with immediate effect,” following a meeting last week between the Nigerien military government and a US delegation.

Abdramane said the discussions revolved around the sub-Saharan country’s military transition, bilateral cooperation and Niger’s choice of partners in fighting Islamic insurgents in the Sahel.

He accused the US delegation of not following diplomatic protocol, as well as denying the “sovereign Nigerien people the right to choose their partners and types of partnerships capable of truly helping them fight against terrorism.”

While he stopped short of demanding the removal of US forces, he said their presence is “illegal and violates all constitutional rules.”

As of 2023, Washington has about 1,100 troops in Niger, where the US military operates from two bases, including a $110-million drone base – known as Air Base 201 – in the country’s central regions.

Since 2018, the base has been used to target Islamic State fighters and militants from an al Qaeda affiliate in the Sahel region. But the US military has suspended operations from the base since the July 2023 coup.

Following the takeover, the junta has severed security ties with France and other European partners and recently signed a military agreement with Russia.

Analysts told Bloomberg that revoking the agreement with Washington would eventually spell the end of the US presence in Niger, as well as halt “all hopes for the West to save the relationship with the new military rulers.”

They added that one chief concern of the US was to prevent Russia “from gaining a foothold” in Niger and in other West African nations that have experienced coups in recent years, including Mali and Burkina Faso.

Russian troops are already present in Mali and have been recently deployed in Burkina Faso.

Go West, Young Man


The Welsh Labour Party elected Vaughan Gething as its new leader this week, the first Black head of government in Wales – and in Europe, Politico reported.

Gething will be confirmed as Wales’ first minister next week following a highly divisive leadership contest that followed the surprise resignation of his predecessor Mark Drakeford in December.

Gething, who served as the British country’s economy minister, secured more than 51 percent of the vote against his opponent, Education Minister Jeremy Miles.

“Today, we turn a page in the book of our nation’s history,” the 50-year-old politician told party members. “A history we write together. Not just because I have the honor of becoming the first Black leader in any European country – but because the generational dial has jumped too.”

Born in the former British colony of Zambia, he is the son of a white Welsh father and a Zambian mother. His parents moved to Wales when he was two and later settled in England after experiencing racism in the Welsh countryside, he said.

His victory in the Welsh Labour leadership means that currently the United Kingdom and its constituent nations – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – are being led by minorities, according to the Telegraph.

While the UK’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was born to parents of Indian descent, Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf is the son of Pakistani immigrants, and Northern Ireland is led by Michelle O’Neill and Emma Little-Pengelly as its first female duo at the helm.

Observers noted that Gething will be an important player in the UK’s general election later this year, which will see the opposition Labour Party campaign to end 14 years of Conservative rule.

Labour has held power in Wales since the creation of the country’s legislature in 1999. However, the party is currently grappling with challenges, including backlash over a 20 miles per hour speed limit policy, extended waits for National Health Service treatment, and farmers’ protests against green subsidy plans.

‘A Journey of 1,000 Miles’


A Japanese high court ruled that a ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, a move that has divided the country’s judiciary and could pressure the conservative government to act, Reuters reported.

The High Court of Sapporo, on northern Japan’s Hokkaido Island, said that rules in Japan’s civil code limiting marriage to two people of opposite genders are “unconstitutional” and “discriminatory.” Judge Kiyofumi Saito added that the ban violates Article 14 of the Constitution, which provides that all citizens are equal.

The ruling was the first one to use such strong language. It came after other decisions, issued by lower courts, arguing the ban was in a “state of unconstitutionality,” the Japan Times noted. Those verdicts had frustrated rights groups because they represented little progress.

The Sapporo court’s decision was met with tears of joy from activists. One of them told the Japan Times it went beyond their expectations.

The verdict’s firm language is expected to force the government to act, as the environment is increasingly congenial for advancing LGBTQ rights in Japan. A recent public opinion poll showed that nearly two-thirds of Japanese people supported same-sex unions.

However, the ruling conservative Liberal Democratic party of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida opposes the measure.

Press secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi said the government would monitor public opinion and upcoming court rulings, believing that “an introduction of same-sex marriage closely affects family values of the people.”

On the other hand, the Sapporo court said that “enacting same-sex marriage does not seem to cause disadvantages or harmful effects.” Advocates added that the ban could even harm the Japanese economy.

Japan is the only member of the Group of Seven – whose member states are listed among the world’s wealthiest – offering no legal protection for same-sex couples, Reuters explained.

An executive at Goldman Sachs in Tokyo told the newswire that by keeping the ban, Japan risks repelling talented foreign LGBTQ workers who could not move to the country with their partners and enjoy the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts.

So far, nearly 400 local governments in Japan have approved partnership systems for same-sex couples, with a limited set of benefits.

US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emmanuel praised the court ruling’s step on “a journey of 1,000 miles” toward legalizing same-sex marriage.


The Eternal Lure of Lipstick

For thousands of years, people of all genders have painted their lips – but how early humans began to master the craft of producing lipstick long remained a mystery.

That was until a team of scientists decided to analyze an intriguing tube-shaped stone container unearthed in Iran two decades ago.

Inside, they found traces of pigments and other ingredients still used to make lipstick today, Science Alert reported. Carbon dating suggested the sample dated back 4,000 years. This indicated that whoever made the item already had extensive knowledge of the chemistry required for cosmetic adornment compared with their ancestors.

For example, ancient texts reveal that Queen Puabi of Ur in Mesopotamia, who lived around 3500 BCE, used white lead mixed with crushed red rocks to paint her lips, the Washington Post explained. Though lead is now known to be toxic to humans, no detail was found on the impact of makeup on the monarch’s health.

In their study of the Iranian stone container, scientists found hematite – a black stone that takes on a bright red color once ground into a powder. They also found vegetable waxes and oils. Meanwhile, there was only a minimal proportion of lead-based minerals.

“The minimal traces of lead minerals suggest that such artisans understood the dangers of direct ingestion of lead,” one researcher told Science Alert, adding that this also suggested an occasional use of makeup reserved for formal contexts.

Ironically, the sample was found in a country that now restricts the use of makeup. Iran banned cosmetics, including lipstick, after the 1979 Iranian Revolution turned it into an Islamic republic. The prohibition has been eased since – but still stands for government workers and medical students.

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.