Researched by: Rachel John, Nirmal Bhansali, Aarthi Ramnath & Anannya Parekh
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.
One: As we explained in yesterday’s Big Story, the Al-Shifa hospital in north Gaza has turned into a battlefield. Yesterday, Israeli forces stormed the complex—claiming it was the “beating heart” of Hamas operations. Here’s what they found:
In a video filmed at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, a military spokesman, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, showed about 10 guns, ammunition, protective vests and Hamas military uniforms, some of which he said were hidden behind M.R.I. machines, others in nearby storage units and some behind what he described as a “blast-proof door.” The assertions made in the video could not be independently verified.
In any case, not exactly proof of that “beating heart.” Hamas, of course, called it a “fabrication” etc. But, but, but: The IDF then deleted the video they had posted.
Reminder: Proportionality is at the heart of international humanitarian law. You can see the video here. Reuters has more on the operation. New York Times has an eyewitness account. Also in NYT: A single powerful photo that captures the chaos, desperation but also heroism within Al Shifa.
Two: The United Nations Security Council finally passed a resolution calling for “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors throughout the Gaza Strip.” The vote was unanimous—with the US and UK finally getting on board—though the final draft watered down “demand” to a “call.”
Three: Israeli ministers continue to make outrageous statements—signalling a desire to oust Palestinians from Gaza. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said the “right humanitarian solution” would be the “voluntary migration” of Gazans to the West:
A cell with a small area like the Gaza Strip without natural resources and independent sources of livelihood has no chance to exist independently, economically and politically in such a high density for a long time.
Things to see: The Biden White House spokesperson suffered a moment of lapse in logic while briefing reporters on US “intelligence” on Al Shifa. Watch it here. More fun to watch: Māori protesters performed the Haka at a pro-Palestine rally in Auckland.
World Cup: How sweet it is…
India pranced into the finals with a commanding performance that makes them seem unbeatable. If you missed the match, we won by 70 runs. But that number does little to capture the guts and the glory.
And Tendulkar tweeted:
The first time I met you in the Indian dressing room, you were pranked by other teammates into touching my feet. I couldn’t stop laughing that day. But soon, you touched my heart with your passion and skill. I am so happy that that young boy has grown into a ‘Virat’ player.
Shami’s dream spell: After India set a daunting total of 397, Mohammed Shami destroyed the Kiwis’ hopes with an astonishing spell—taking seven wickets for 57 runs. His seventh wicket sealed the victory—and earned Shami a pyaar ki jhappi from Rohit:
You can read swooning descriptions of his prowess in Indian Express.
The three GOATS: Thanks to David Beckham, we had three GOATs in the stadium in Wankhede, Mumbai:
One sour note: There were reports of last-minute changes to the pitch—engineered to benefit India. The semi-final was initially supposed to be played on Pitch 7 at the Wankhede Stadium—which is “fresh” and never been used in the tournament. Instead, at the last minute the game was shifted to Pitch 6—which has been used twice. Indian Express first reported that team management requested a slower pitch:
A slow pitch is expected for India’s World Cup semi-final against New Zealand after the team management asked BCCI curators to shave off most of the grass on the Wankhede Stadium playing surface… “It won’t be a turner but the team had asked for a slow pitch. It was the main reason we shaved off the grass,” a source said.
And in a leaked email, independent pitch consultant Andy Atkinson wondered if the upcoming game on Sunday "will be the first ever ICC CWC final to have a pitch which has been specifically chosen and prepared to their stipulation at the request of the team management and/or the hierarchy of the home nation board." When pressed on the matter, the ICC said:
This change was made on the recommendation of the venue curator in conjunction with our host. The ICC independent pitch consultant was apprised of the change and has no reason to believe the pitch won’t play well.
Bada bhai Adani’s Cyprus connection
The context: The International Consortium of Investigative Journalism (ICIJ) conducted a global investigation into six Cyprus-based financial service providers—based on more than 3.6 million leaked documents. Much like the Panama Papers and Pandora Papers, it offers some eye-opening revelations about money laundering.
Global findings: Cyprus Confidential’s most explosive findings are about the role of the island nation in helping Russian oligarchs duck EU sanctions—imposed after the invasion of Ukraine. Example:
[T]he Cyprus arm of global accounting giant PwC [PricewaterhouseCoopers] helped Alexey Mordashov, one of Russia’s richest industrialists, transfer a $1.4 billion investment to his life partner in a bid to elude European Union sanctions… Together, reporters uncovered how PwC’s Cyprus arm partnered with small firms specialising in creating shell companies and providing frontman directors to dozens of Russians with ties to the Kremlin.
You can read more over at the ICIJ website.
India findings: Indian Express was ICIJ’s India partner. It has uncovered the names of 66 Indians who managed to procure “golden passports” given by Cypriots to super-rich people. One of these is Vinod Adani—the elder brother of Gautam Adani. Many allegations against the Adani Group involve offshore shell companies linked to Vinod-bhai (explained in this Big Story). Indian Express has lots more on the passports.
No Rwanda deportations for UK refugees
The context: In 2022, Boris Johnson’s government inked a deal which, in essence, turned Rwanda into a dumping ground for migrants seeking asylum in the UK. These refugees would be sent on a one-way ticket to Rwanda—where they can apply for asylum to live, but in Rwanda. Home Secretary at the time—Suella Braverman—declared: "They will not stop coming here until the world knows that if you enter Britain illegally you will be detained and swiftly removed." Rishi Sunak put his weight behind the policy.
The law was challenged in the courts—as violating the basic human right to seek asylum—which has been protected by international law since 1951. There’s loads more context in this Big Story.
What happened now: The Supreme Court has unanimously held that the policy of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda is unlawful. The reason: they will be at “risk of ill-treatment”—and could be deported back to their home countries—where their lives may be in danger. Essentially, it undermines the very basis of asylum.
Rishi Sunak’s response: indicated that he will try and do an end-run around the judgement:
Sunak said the government also would seal a legally binding treaty with Rwanda that would address the court’s concerns, and would then pass a law declaring Rwanda a safe country. Sunak said that if legal challenges to the plan continued, he was prepared to consider leaving international human rights treaties — a move that would draw strong opposition and international criticism.
FYI: The Rwanda plan has cost the British government at least £140 million ($175 million) in payments to Rwanda—without a single plane taking off. Associated Press has details on the verdict. BBC News offers a good overview of the Rwanda policy.
Say hello to the AI Weatherman
Google announced that its AI-driven software can beat traditional models hollow. Graphcast’s 10-day forecasts are more correct than other models 90% of the time. The reason: the current system of prediction is called ‘numerical weather prediction’ (NWP). It plugs all sorts of weather conditions into large models that simulate upcoming changes—based on all sorts of scientific principles. In sum: “It’s complicated, expensive, and calls for tons of computing power.”
Graphcast relies more heavily on historical data:
In other words, it’s a machine-learning model that makes predictions based on what happened in the past. There’s a lot of fancy computer science involved, but in general, it’s a lot simpler in terms of the level and number of computations it requires.
Also very impressive: Chinese companies—Huawei and China Mobile—claim they have built the fastest internet in the world. Its 3,000 km optical fibre network links three cities—and can achieve a stable and reliable bandwidth speed of 1.2 terabits per second. This super speedy internet will allow you to download 150 HD films within a second. To put that in perspective, an average broadband internet user in India can expect a median download speed of approximately 52 Mbps. (Bloomberg News, paywall)
An unexpected benefit of magic
We’re all so enamoured with the idea that creativity is driven by personal angst. The more tortured the artist, the better the craft. Turns out one kind of artist—the magician—is less prone to mental disorders than the rest of us. According to a new study, “despite their job involving the illusion of delving into mystery, magicians were less likely to have unusual experiences such as hallucinations or cognitive disorganisation.” We don’t really know why this is true—but here’s one theory put forward by the authors:
Greengross said magicians scored low on “impulsive nonconformity”, a trait that is associated with antisocial behaviour and lower self-control. “This trait is valuable for many creative groups such as writers, poets and comedians whose acts are often edgy and challenge conventional wisdom. Magicians can be equally innovative and push the limits. However, many magicians perform familiar tricks or variations of them without feeling the need to innovate.”
Also intriguing, mental profiles of magicians are more similar to scientists and mathematicians. (The Guardian)
The world's first sperm whale reserve
The Caribbean island of Dominica is creating the world’s first marine sanctuary for endangered sperm whales. It will ban commercial fishing and large ships from entering this 800 sq km area off the island's western coast. This area is a “key nursing and feeding ground” for the whales—who suffer severe injuries due to ship collisions and fishing gear. Btw, the survival of sperm whales helps fight climate change as well:
Sperm whales defecate near the surface because they shut down non-vital functions when they dive to depths of up to 10,000 feet (3,000 meters). As a result, nutrient-rich poop remains along the ocean surface and creates plankton blooms, which capture carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and drag it to the ocean floor when they die.
Five things to see
One: Former Pakistani cricketer Abdul Razzaq made a tasteless—and nonsensical— remark about Aishwarya Rai while discussing the team’s performance (or lack thereof). Here’s the English translation of what he said to the press:
Younis Khan had a good intention as a captain and it gave me confidence to perform better. Everyone over here is talking about the intention and Pakistan’s team. Actually, we don’t have good intention to develop and polish players in Pakistan. If you think that by marrying Aishwarya Rai, a good and pious kid would be wrong, it would never happen.
Two: On a funnier but still disrespectful note. Priyanka Gandhi mocked PM Modi—comparing him to Salman Khan who spent most of ‘Tere Naam’ in tears: “A movie on him should also be made with the title ‘Mere Naam’.” The Election Commission has already issued a notice asking her to explain herself for a similar comment made at a Madhya Pradesh rally. (Economic Times)
Three: The Kiwis have picked the Bird of the Century—and no, it’s not the kiwi. The winner is pūteketeke aka the Australasian crested grebe. The endangered bird has a rather colourful personality:
It has a chorus of grunts, growls and barks and engages in an elaborate set of mating dances, including the “weed dance” where the birds offer each other water weed and the “ghostly penguin” where they rise chest to chest.
If the pūteketeke ever gets to make an award acceptance speech, it ought to start with John Oliver—who appointed himself as its official campaign manager. He even bought billboards in New Zealand, Japan, France, the UK—and yes, India. The high point: When he dressed up as a pūteketeke for his appearance on the Jimmy Fallon show:
Four: A 1962 Ferrari sold for a record $51.7 million at a Sotheby's auction in New York—making it the most expensive Ferrari ever to be auctioned. Also: “The striking red 330 LM/250 GTO model, which is the only GTO Tipo 1962 to have been raced by Formula 1's Scuderia Ferrari.” We don’t claim to know what that means but we presume race car fans will be suitably impressed. But hey, it looks real pretty:) (Bloomberg News via Money Control)
Five: Here’s an instant cure for your Diwali nostalgia: Rishi Sunak enthusiastically singing ‘Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram’ along with his wife and kids at the Vedic Society Hindu Temple in Southampton. See? You’re looking forward to Christmas already!