Splainer

Friday, May 21 2021


Dive In

What is true, and I'm actually being serious here, is that there are, there's footage and records of objects in the skies, that we don't know exactly what they are. We can't explain how they moved, their trajectory. They did not have an easily explainable pattern. And so, you know, I think that people still take seriously trying to investigate and figure out what that is.

That’s the former president of the United States Barack Obama admitting the existence of UFOs in a television interview. And that’s pretty huge! Also huge: Next month, national security officials will have to submit an unclassified report on “unidentified aerial phenomena” to Congress—which will make for very interesting reading. On a related note: Obama also privately called Donald Trump a “madman”, “racist, sexist pig”, “that fucking lunatic,” and a “corrupt motherf***er”—which is far less surprising.

Big Story

A fragile peace in the Middle East

The TLDR: Just as Israel looked ready to dig in, its cabinet approved an unconditional ceasefire—and hostilities came to an immediate end… for now. We previously did a long explainer offering context and reasons for this conflict—which we recommend checking out. Here we offer a shorter overview of the ceasefire, the likely reasons, and whether it will hold.

 

Tell me about the ceasefire

The truce was mediated by Egypt, and took effect at 2 am local time. On Thursday evening, the Israeli cabinet unanimously approved the Egyptian proposal for a “mutual and unconditional” ceasefire. Both sides claimed victory, as expected. Hamas claimed that Israel had agreed to “remove its hand from Sheikh Jarrah and al-Aqsa”—which Israeli officials flatly denied. The Israeli government boasted of “significant achievements in the [military] operation, some of which are unprecedented.”


But, but, but: Both sides also kept the door open for resumed hostilities. Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said, “The reality on the ground will determine how we move forward,” adding that “the defense establishment continues its readiness to protect Israeli citizens.” Hamas, meanwhile, vowed to fire rockets at Israel if it violates the deal—hence signalling it still has the arsenal to continue fighting.

 

Point to note: As the Wall Street Journal notes:

 

“Cease-fires during previous wars in Gaza have proved fragile. Truces lasting just a matter of days were broken in the last round of significant fighting in 2014, as each side blamed the other for renewed rocket attacks and airstrikes. In one instance, following the collapse of a weeklong cease-fire, Israel launched an airstrike against the head of Hamas’s military wing, Mohammed Deif, killing his wife and children but failing to kill him. The conflict lasted another week.”

 

OTOH, even when fragile, ceasefires offer a valuable lull in the violence—offering space to negotiate a more lasting agreement, and allowing people to return to their homes in Gaza.

 

The damage to note: The truce has been reached after 11 days of relentless airstrikes—though Gaza has paid the far greater price. As of today, at least 230 Palestinians have been killed, including 65 children and 39 women, and 1,710 wounded. Another 58,000 have been forced to flee their homes—that’s out of a population of 2 million. Also this:

 

“[T]he Israeli military has conducted over 1,450 airstrikes on the Gaza Strip since last week… and have destroyed more than 1,000 houses and apartments as well as dozens of government buildings, schools, hospitals and businesses.”

 

At least 50 schools have been damaged—disrupting education for 42,000 children. Also running low: food, electricity and drinking water. In other words, simply ending the violence will do little to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. 

 

Israel’s death toll: 12, while 348 have been injured. The reason: Israel’s Iron Dome system blocked over 90% of the 4000 rockets launched by Hamas. Gaza, however, does not have any air raid warning system—leave alone air defense capabilities.

 

Why the sudden U-turn?

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In today’s edition

Headlines That Matter

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  • The brand new world of LSD
  • BBC News mired in Diana scandal

 

Weekend Advisory 

  • G-scale—a Richter scale for orgasms
  • The history of aphrodisiacs—from health tonics to sexual aids
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