Researched by: Rachel John & Aarthi Ramnath
The Israel-Palestine war: The latest update
For more context on the Israel-Palestine war, check out our two-part series on the Hamas attack on Israel: part one lays out the Hamas offensive and failures of Israeli intelligence; part two explains the big picture—and Hamas’ motive driving what seems like a suicidal attack. Also read: our Big Story on the ground offensive by Israel, which will decide the fate of Gaza and the power balance in the Middle East. We look at the larger geopolitical picture in the region in this Big Story.
Death toll: 10,812 people have been killed in Gaza—and over 4,200 of them are children. Also this: According to the UN, 158 people have been killed in the West Bank since October 7—including 45 children. And 2,400 have been injured—including 250 children.
Point to note: US officials testifying in front of Congress have admitted that the actual death toll may be higher. Reminder: Biden told reporters that he didn’t believe Hamas’ numbers—implying that they may be exaggerated. Meanwhile, United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, said that the number of civilians killed shows that there was something “clearly wrong” with Israel’s military operations.
Short pauses: Israel has agreed to daily pauses of four hours. These are specifically to “facilitate a safe passage of civilians away from the zone of fighting”—rather allowing more humanitarian aid. Israel has also opened a second corridor leading into south Gaza. Associated Press has lots more details.
Israel wants Indian workers: The Israeli Builders Association is negotiating with New Delhi to hire up to 100,000 Indian workers—to replace the 90,000 Palestinians who have now lost their work permits. These will likely be jobs in the construction industry—where Palestinians make up 25% of the workforce. The Ministry of External Affairs said this was a “long term” conversation—and doesn’t have anything to do with the war. (Mint)
Something to see: Jewish students in Brown University held a sit-in to protest the bombing of Gaza—and demanded the university cut all ties to Israel-linked companies. The police arrested 20 students—who were led out while a massive crowd of students sang Olam Chesed Yibaneh (I will build this world from love) in solidarity. It’s quite a sight. (Boston Globe)
World Cup 2023: The Kiwis win big
New Zealand defeated Sri Lanka by five wickets. Trent Boult took three wickets for 37 to restrict Sri Lanka to 171 runs—a goal the Kiwis reached with 160 balls to spare. The pressure is now on Pakistan since New Zealand is two points ahead. They will need to wallop England tomorrow to qualify for the semis. Point to consider: India is now most likely to meet New Zealand in the semifinals. Indian Express explains why the team should be wary. (Hindustan Times)
Meanwhile, in Pakistan: The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has accepted the resignation of chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq—who faces conflict of interest allegations. He is linked to a company that manages a number of national team players. (The Hindu)
US backing for Adani port
There has been great angst in New Delhi over China’s investment into Sri Lanka’s ports. For example: the new Port City Project in Sri Lanka created sovereign Chinese territory just a few hundred kilometres away from Kanyakumari (explained here). But the tides have changed ever since New Delhi stepped in to bail out Sri Lanka from its post-pandemic economic crisis. Also: the cold war with China has deepened the love affair between Washington and New Delhi.
The result of all this burgeoning pyaar: The US is investing $553 million in a Colombo port terminal being developed by Adani. The added benefit for Gautam-bhai:
The US funding may serve as an endorsement for the short seller-stung Adani Group, as well as the controversial port project in which it holds a majority stake. The conglomerate has been fighting a raft of corporate fraud allegations levelled by Hindenburg Research and various media investigations, which it has repeatedly denied.
Bloomberg News via Business Standard has lots more.
The iPhone hacking saga: The latest update
The context: On October 31, a number of opposition leaders received an Apple notification that said:
ALERT: State-sponsored attackers may be targeting your iPhone… These attackers are likely targeting you individually because of who you are or what you do. If your device is compromised by a state-sponsored attacker, they may be able to remotely access your sensitive data, communications, or even the camera and microphone.
This included everyone from Shashi Tharoor to Mahua Moitra, Priyanka Chaturvedi, Sitaram Yechury and Akhilesh Yadav. Also: journalists like Sriram Karri and policy wonks like Samir Saran. The government promised to look into it—while the Opposition accused it of snooping.
What happened now: We now have some information on one of the people who received that alarming message. According to the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), government-backed hackers tried to plant spyware on the phone of an Indian journalist working with their organisation:
Sullivan said an internal forensic investigation tied the intrusion effort against Mangnale's phone to Israeli firm NSO's Pegasus hacking tool. The spyware allows hackers sweeping access to the targets' smartphones, allowing them to record calls, intercept messages and transform the phones into portable listening devices.
Hollywood gets back to work
The context: In May, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on strike for the first time in 15 years. At the heart of their discontent: the rise of streaming. And to add to the studios’ woes: the actors went on strike in July—expressing similar concerns—about both streaming and AI. We explained the strike at great length in this Big Story. In September, the WGA called off the strike—and reached a tentative deal with the studios but the actor’s strike continued.
What happened now: The actors union SAG-AFTRA has finally inked a three-year deal worth over $1 billion. No one knows the details as yet but the studios claim it is a huge win for actors. The agreement still has to be ratified by union members. The really good news: get ready for all your fave series and movies to get back on track. New York Times and Associated Press have more.
Indians may lose UK asylum rights
The Rishi Sunak government has introduced draft legislation that would add India to a list of “safe states”. These are defined as countries where there is “no serious risk of persecution of its nationals”—and deporting their citizens doesn’t violate the Human Rights Convention. This means that Indians will no longer have the right to claim asylum—and they can be sent back home much more quickly.
The move is in response to increasing numbers of Indians arriving in small boats. Indians are now the second largest group of migrants crossing into the UK over the English Channel—amid a “surge in attempts to evade work visa restrictions.” (The Hindu)
Baptism for trans Catholics
The Vatican has said that it's okay—under certain circumstances—for trans Catholics to be baptised and serve as godparents. The announcement was made in a statement signed by Pope Francis—and it says:
A transgender person, even if they have undergone hormone therapy and sex-reassignment surgery, can receive baptism under the same conditions as other faithful, if there are no situations in which there is a risk of generating a public scandal or disorientation among the faithful.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t change the Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage or parents. (NBC News)
Say hello to the largest aircraft in the world!
Pathfinder 1 is 24.5 metres long—and is the “the largest aircraft to take to the skies since the gargantuan Hindenburg airship of the 1930s.” What makes it really cool is not its size but that it is a “prototype electric airship” The company that built it—LTA Research—is backed by Google founder Sergey Brin. What’s also interesting:
LTA’s airships could eventually carry 200 tons of cargo each—roughly 10 times as much as a Boeing 737, according to Weston, making them a viable alternative to freight planes, ships, and trains. [LTA CEO Alan] Weston and Brin want to use the airships for humanitarian relief missions since the aircraft doesn’t require much infrastructure to take off or land.
TechCrunch has lots more details. You can see the blimp-like design below.
Five things to see
One: Thanks to an undersea volcanic eruption near Tokyo, we now have a new island—which may or may not survive: “The new island could grow larger and change shape if the eruptions continue, but it could also disappear beneath the waves. Islands formed in a similar way in the area in 1904, 1914 and 1986 all disappeared due to erosion.” The footage of the eruption below is pretty amazing. (The Guardian)
Two: The Washington zoo has bid farewell to its last giant pandas—mom Mei Xiang (25), dad Tian Tian (26) and their three-year-old son Xiao Qi Ji. The couple were born in China and came to the zoo in 2000—and were likely yanked due to cooling relations between the US and China. Reminder: All pandas are “leased” by Beijing to overseas zoos—and it retains claims over all pandas born to these leased animals. We looked at the debate over the role of the giant panda as a brand ambassador of wildlife conservation in this Big Story. For cuteness overload, check out this farewell video from the zoo staff. (Washington Post)
Three: Fine art prices are soaring through the roof. Pablo Picasso’s 1932 painting ‘Femme à la montre’ fetched a whopping $139 million at a Sotheby’s auction in New York. The backstory of the painting involves details that we would find a bit icky today: It’s a portrait by the 45-year-old artist of his 17-year-old lover Marie-Thérèse Walter. (Reuters)
Four: Here’s the trailer of the greatly hyped Indian adaptation of Archies—starring every nepo baby known to Bollywood. That’s Agastya Nanda (Amitabh Bachchan’s grandson) as Archie, Suhana Khan (Shah Rukh Khan’s daughter) as Veronica and Khushi Kapoor (daughter of Sridevi) as Betty. The movie will start streaming on Netflix from December 7. (Indian Express)
Five: We’re not exactly sure why anyone would need to remake ‘Mean Girls’—a bona fide and enduring classic. It’s encouraging that the screenplay is written by Tina Fey—and we get Jon Hamm playing Coach Carr. But do we really need this? The movie is set to hit the theatres on January 12. (USA Today)