Researched by: Nirmal Bhansali & Aarthi Ramnath
The Israel-Palestine war: The latest update
Death toll: The death toll in Gaza increased to 7,028, including 2,913 minors. The number of Israeli deaths are at 1,400. The Gaza health ministry, which is controlled by Hamas, has released its first detailed report with names, ID numbers, ages and gender of all the Palestinians who have been killed.
A practice raid? Israel launched a brief ground assault in North Gaza—to “prepare the battlefield.” What’s notable: For the first time, Israeli leadership indicated that it was prepared for a long occupation:
Benny Gantz, a retired general and a member of Israel's war Cabinet, said any possible ground offensive would be only "one stage in a long-term process that includes security, political and social aspects that will take years. The campaign will soon ramp up with greater force," he added.
The US remains sceptical—and believes that “Israel lacks achievable military objectives in Gaza, and that the Israel Defense Forces are not yet ready to launch a ground invasion with a plan that can work.” New York Times has that angle. Time has more on what a ground invasion would look like.
Point to note: There is greater pressure now for a humanitarian pause—since a ground invasion will inevitably result in far greater civilian casualties. Only 74 trucks have been able to enter Gaza since Saturday—and the numbers are slowing down.
About those hostages: It is increasingly becoming clear that the majority of the hostages held by Hamas are not Israeli. Most of them are Thai:
More than half of the estimated 220 hostages hold foreign passports, some of whom are dual nationals… That includes a dozen Americans, as well as German, Argentine, French, Russian and Filipino victims. But the largest group, numbering 54, are from Thailand. Thai nationals also make up the largest group of foreigners killed by Hamas during its Oct. 7 assault, and nearly two dozen are still unaccounted for.
The Thai nationals are most likely migrant labour. There are around 150,000 foreign workers in Israel—a little under 4% of the total workforce. (Quartz)
Some things to see: A greatly beloved Al Jazeera correspondent Wael al-Dahdouh lost his wife, son, daughter and grandson in an Israeli airstrike. An anchor announcing the news of his loss—broke down in tears:
Yet another mass shooting in the US
A man went on a shooting spree at a bowling alley and restaurant in Lewiston, Maine. At least 18 people were killed and 13 injured. The police have launched a manhunt for Robert Card—who served as an Army reservist for decades. However, he only worked as a petroleum supply specialist. But there had been plenty of signs of trouble:
During the summer, his military reserve commanders became so concerned by statements he made targeting his own unit that he was sent to a hospital, according to the person familiar with the investigation. Card received about two weeks of inpatient psychiatric treatment, the person said. It is not clear if any other consequences followed.
And he told people he was hearing voices—in the run up to the shooting. But Maine does not have a ‘red flag’ law—which allows law-enforcement or relatives to take away weapons who pose a danger to themselves or others. Data point to note: There have been 36 mass killings in the US just this year. Washington Post has more on Card. New York Times has the latest on the manhunt.
World Cup 2023: Bye, bye England?
England were beaten by Sri Lanka by eight wickets—raising questions about the team’s World Cup prospects. England have now lost four out of five games—and only have four more left to play. They will have to win all of them to make it to the final four. ESPNcricinfo figures out England’s unlikely chances of making it—while BBC Sport lays out its disastrous World Cup campaign.
The House Republicans finally have a Speaker
After weeks of melodrama—and the elimination of three leading candidates—the Republicans have managed to pick a House Speaker. His name: Mike Johnson and—surprise, surprise—he is a Donald Trump supporter. Johnson will immediately face a number of pressing tasks—including funding the government which is teetering on the edge of shutdown. Also: approving billions of dollars in aid to Israel and Ukraine. New York Times has more on Johnson’s political views (BBC News)
This music can be a pain reliever
We’ve long known that music helps relieve pain but a new study has now identified which kind works the best. It’s not necessarily soothing sonatas or Spotify’s ‘calm vibes’ playlist. What works best are our personal favourite tunes—which make pain less unpleasant by about nine points. Also this: “We found that reports of moving or bittersweet emotional experiences seem to result in lower ratings of pain unpleasantness, which was driven by more intense enjoyment of the music and more musical chills.” So playing your favourite mopey Taylor Swift song may be a good idea the next time you have a painful visit to the doctor’s office. (Popular Science)
Chimps experience menopause too!
Few animals live way past their reproductive years. Humans are the exception—along with a handful of toothed whale species and Asian elephants. Our closest relatives—the great apes—didn’t seem to share this characteristic. Researchers have now discovered a remote population of wild chimpanzees in Uganda who live for decades after they go through menopause: “Their fertility declined around 30 years of age, with no births observed after 50; some of the chimps survived for 10 or 15 years beyond that.” They also display hormonal changes similar to those experienced by humans.
Why this is interesting: For starters, chimps in captivity continue to reproduce almost until they die. Scientists also say that it may point to a more uncomfortable fact: “[T]he findings could reflect how past research may have underestimated the lifespan of wild chimpanzees before modern humans started hunting them and logging their habitats.” (Science Alert)
GenZ to Hollywood: Less of the sex, please!
We don’t know if this is true of younger Indians, but a new survey shows that most of the kids between ten and 24 in the US aren’t big on sex/romance on the screen:
[M]ajority of adolescents aged 13-24 (51.5%) wanted to see more content centred around friendships and platonic relationships, rather than romantic ones. A near-majority (47.5%) said sex was not needed for the plot in most TV shows and movies, while 44.3% felt romance was overused in the media. Nearly 39% wanted to see more aromantic or asexual characters on screen.
Contrary to what Hollywood may think, they’re not big on the ‘sex plus trauma’ plotlines of ‘Euphoria’ and ‘The Idol’. Nor are they keen on watching BFFs fall in love. Some of this mirrors the decline of sexual activity among GenZ. But it also reflects the desire to make human connections in multiple ways. Read more over at The Guardian or watch this video released by the research team.
Hello, it’s Twitter/X calling!
Yes, you can finally make audio and video calls on the platform. But only a few early users have been given access for now. And we don’t know if it will be available for free users. But here’s how it works, according to The Verge:
There’s also a new “Enable audio and video calling” toggle within the app’s settings, which says you can “turn the feature on and then select who you’re comfortable using it with.” It includes options to allow audio and video calls from only people in your address book, people you follow, verified users, or all three.
It involves first doing the following: “Go to Settings > Privacy & Safety > Direct Messages > Enable Audio & Video Calling.” The Verge has lots more details
Finally: A Swedish language dictionary!
It took 140 years but we now have the The Swedish Academy Dictionary—“a historical record of the Swedish language from 1521 to modern day.” It has 33,111 pages spread across 39 volumes. It’s quite an achievement except the project has taken so long that earlier volumes are already outdated. For example: the word ‘allergy’ didn’t exist in 1893—when volume A was put together. “Barbie doll”, “app”, and “computer” will be among the 10,000 words that will be added to the dictionary over the next seven years. (The Guardian)
Splainer easter egg!
Editor’s note: Every once in a while, we drop something funny, whimsical or beautiful in an unexpected part of the edition. Our last easter egg was a painting by Pere Borrell del Caso to inspire your great escape from the haters. Its title: ‘Escaping Criticism’:)
This one isn’t much fun—but it perfectly sums up what a newsroom job feels like when things go bad—very bad.
Three things to see
One: Hurricane Otis slammed into the Mexican coastal city Acapulco at midnight on Wednesday—at the speed of 270 km/hour. At least 27 people have died due to the hurricane and here’s why experts are alarmed:
Scientists said the speed with which Otis intensified from a tropical storm into a category five hurricane — the highest level of storm — on Tuesday was rare. It broke the record for the fastest intensification rate over a 12-hour period in the Eastern Pacific, gaining 80 mph in that time.
And the extent of damage below:
Two: Over 40 years ago, a museum director in Florence found a hidden room underneath the Basilica di San Lorenzo—the official church of the Medici family. Its walls are covered in charcoal and chalk drawings believed to be the work of Michelangelo and his disciples. They were painted when the great artist was forced into hiding—afraid of retribution for his rebellion against the powerful Medicis—who were once his patrons. These masterpieces—ok, masterly doodles—have finally been thrown open to the public. You can see one of them below. (NPR)
Three: We are the land of not just snake charmers—but snake paramedics. Like this policeman who administered CPR to a (non-poisonous) snake that had drunk pesticide-laced water. Constable Atul Sharma says he learned his skills by watching the Discovery Channel. Reminds us that it is far harder to show compassion to animals who aren’t quite cute or cuddly. (NDTV)