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Israel strikes hundreds of targets in Gaza and Lebanon, a shock result looms in Argentina’s presiden͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
cloudy Tel Aviv
thunderstorms Buenos Aires
cloudy Lagos
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October 23, 2023


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The World Today

  1. Israel: War may last months
  2. Argentina vote defies polls
  3. China probes iPhone maker
  4. Roche’s $7B bowel-drug bet
  5. Battery ‘game-changer’ near
  6. Heat causes food crisis
  7. Storm Babet floods N Europe
  8. Solar hydrogen breakthrough
  9. A fuss over Nigerian names
  10. England hero Charlton dies

PLUS: The London Review of Substacks, and the Colombian district named the world’s coolest neighborhood.


Israel warns strikes could last months

REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Israel said it had struck more than 320 targets in Gaza over the last 24 hours as it warned the war could last months. Its attacks could go on for “one month, two months, three months... at the end there will be no more Hamas,” the Israeli defense minister said. The humanitarian situation in Gaza continued to worsen: Water, fuel, and electricity supplies are shut off, with desalination plants offline, leading to growing water shortages. The price of water has doubled. U.S. President Joe Biden led an international diplomatic effort with the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, and Italy, supporting Israel’s right to defend itself but calling upon it to ensure civilians got enough food, water, and medical care.


Massa and Milei to face run-off

REUTERS/Mariana Nedelcu

Sergio Massa, Argentina’s finance minister and the leftist government’s candidate for president, smashed expectations to win the first round in the country’s presidential elections. Pollsters had forecast that the radical libertarian Javier Milei, who has vowed to take a “chainsaw” to the country’s institutions, would win, but he came second with 30% of the votes. Massa and Milei will now face a run-off next month, where the state of the economy — inflation surpassed 100% this year for the first time in decades — is expected to be the focal point, with both candidates offering vastly different remedies. “We have never had so much polarization,” a voter in Buenos Aires told Reuters.


Beijing begins Foxconn tax probe

Chinese authorities launched a tax investigation into Foxconn, a Taiwan-based company that is the biggest maker of iPhones and one of the largest employers in the world. The probe underscores the uncertainty that foreign businesses face in China — several have faced investigations and raids. The news will send a political shockwave across the Taiwan Strait: Terry Gou, the company’s China-friendly founder, is running as an independent candidate in next year’s presidential election. Gou, who is running last among qualifying candidates, has sought to deny he’s doing China’s bidding. “If the Chinese Communist party regime were to say ‘If you don’t listen to me, I’ll confiscate your assets from Foxconn,’” Gou said at a campaign event, “I would say ‘Yes, please, do it!’”


Roche buys bowel-drug firm

The pharmaceutical company Roche will buy the developer of a new treatment for inflammatory bowel disease for $7 billion. It will gain the right to develop, make, and sell Telavant Holdings’ RVT-3101, a treatment for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. The drug, which is about to go into large-scale trials, is a “promising” treatment which uses antibodies to target a protein involved in the conditions: More than 8 million people are diagnosed with IBD worldwide. Roche also announced the results of a trial into an immunotherapy drug which reduced death rates from a rare lung cancer by 76%, as growing understanding of the human immune system transforms drug development across several fields.


Solid-state batteries near, says Toyota

Toyota said it was close to being able to mass-produce solid-state electric-vehicle batteries which would have double the range of existing cutting-edge batteries and could fully charge in 10 minutes. The company recently announced a breakthrough in the technology, seen as a “game-changer,” the Financial Times reported, which could lead to EVs capable of traveling 700 miles on a single charge. But scaling up production was expected to be slow and expensive. Now, though, Toyota says it will be able to produce solid-state batteries at the same rate as its existing ones by 2027. Some analysts are skeptical: Toyota has repeatedly pushed back timelines in the past.


Heat drives global food-price spikes

Record-high temperatures sent food prices soaring across the world, turning local staples into luxuries. In Nigeria, jollof rice, the country’s national dish, has “stopped being affordable for most,” according to a restaurant manager in Lagos, as the price of rice soared by almost 50%. The fires that recently devastated southern Europe caused a shortage of olive oil so harsh that gangs are getting involved in the trade. In Peru, meanwhile, an extended drought caused in part by El Niño, a warm-weather pattern, has caused a country-wide shortage of limes — the base for the country’s feted ceviches and pisco sours — that is “a cruel paradox” for a food-exporting nation, a former government minister said.


Europe sees floods in north, drought in south

Ritzau Scanpix/Mads Claus Rasmussen via REUTERS

At least five people died in major flooding as Storm Babet hit northwest Europe. In Britain, two were swept away, an 80-year-old woman was found dead in her home, and one man died when a tree fell on his car. A woman in Germany also died, while hundreds were evacuated across Britain, Germany, and Scandinavia. Some rivers reached their highest recorded levels — in one case 12 feet above normal — as a few areas saw almost 10 inches of rain, roughly two months’ worth, in three days. Southern Europe, meanwhile, faces the opposite problem: Parts of Spain are struggling for drinking water after two years of heat waves and drought. Much of the south of the country risks desertification, The New York Times reported.


Breakthrough raises solar hydrogen hopes

Flickr/Brookheaven National Laboratory

A breakthrough in producing hydrogen with solar energy could increase efficiency sixfold. At the moment, “solar thermochemical hydrogen” — hydrogen produced by splitting water molecules using heat from solar energy — is inefficient: Only about 7% of the sun’s energy becomes usable hydrogen. Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers, however, found a way of improving it, cycling the metals used to grab oxygen atoms away from the water molecules. The new system improved efficiency to 40%, making hydrogen a much more viable way to store solar energy. If it is scaled up, “it could drastically change our energy future,” one scientist said.


Nigerians’ many names cause problems

The academic records of three major Nigerian politicians, including President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, were shown to be in names other than the ones by which they are now known. All three men faced accusations of fraud, which they have denied, but the subject has raised fresh debate in Nigeria. Most Nigerians have several names, explained one Nigerian journalist in the BBC, especially Christians who often take new names upon confirmation. The “casual attitude” towards names can sometimes be used to advantage, she said: Girls who escaped Boko Haram kidnap were offered international scholarships, and if they didn’t want to go, those girls’ names were often given to a sister or friend. If Nigerian record-keeping starts getting stricter, she says, “having multiple names on different official documents” could lead to problems, as Tinubu is finding out.


Charlton, England’s World Cup hero, dies

REUTERS/Carl Recine

Bobby Charlton, hero of the World Cup-winning 1966 England soccer team, died aged 86. Charlton, alongside his brother Jack, was part of a dominant Manchester United side in the 1960s, which then suffered an unthinkable tragedy when their plane crashed on the runway, killing eight players: Charlton escaped with head injuries. An elegant midfielder who scored spectacular goals in large numbers — he was England’s record goalscorer for 45 years –– Charlton was one of soccer’s first global superstars as the newly televised game reached larger audiences. He was presented with the World Cup trophy by the late Queen Elizabeth II: In 1994, she would also give him a knighthood. The Guardian called him “a complete player,” and “the quintessential English footballer.”

  • EU foreign ministers meet in Luxembourg to discuss crises including the Israel-Hamas war and Russia’s war in Ukraine.
  • South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol is on a state visit in Saudi Arabia.
  • Seventeenth Heaven, a new album by K-pop boy band Seventeen, is released.

Fallout without fallout

In the years after World War II, Britain — desperate to gain the atomic bomb, and despite the “special relationship” not likely to get the secrets of how to build it from the U.S. — built a plutonium-enrichment plant at Windscale, on the edges of the beautiful Lake District national park. But they didn’t really know what they were doing, and the resulting facility caught fire and spread radioactive graphite ash across the countryside.

Jack Devanney, a nuclear engineer, notes something unusual about this event: The lack of panic. The plant’s management, which, he says, had a good relationship with local communities, kept them closely informed. Nearby milk production was condemned and farmers compensated, but no one was evacuated. The rest of the Windscale plant continued operating. And — even though the release was far larger than that at Three Mile Island, which led to a declaration of emergency and partial evacuation — later studies found no health impacts from the incident. “It is possible to have a release,” writes Devanney, “without a panic.”

On demand

It’s received wisdom that building more roads doesn’t ease congestion: It simply encourages more people to drive. “One more lane should fix it,” the caption on one meme says, over a picture of 18 gridlocked lanes on a freeway. This concept is called “induced demand” — the more you provide something, the more people want it, so there’s no point providing more of it. But that idea is flat wrong, says the economist Ben Southwood. Instead what there is is suppressed demand: More people want to do the thing than are currently able to, and providing more of it will mean more people can.

With any other good, this would be obvious, he says. If people in Soviet Russia were queuing for hours to get enough bread to meet 50% of their calorie needs, and then enough bread was provided to meet 60%, the queues wouldn’t get shorter. But it would still be an improvement. There are reasons not to build more roads — “Car traffic is noisy, it pollutes, it’s space-hungry, and it can be dangerous,” says Southwood — but they do let people get from place to place, and the idea of “induced demand” is fake.

Seeing the forest for the trees

Ten thousand years ago, 57% of land was covered in forest. By 1900, that had fallen to 48%; now, it’s 38%. Stephen Clare, an environmental scientist, was driven by those startling numbers to study deforestation and sustainable forest practices. But his research led him to a surprising, and heartening, discovery. “My belief that forests were doomed to devastation so long as globalization, industrialization, and population growth continued was too simplistic,” he writes.

Net forest loss peaked in the 1980s. The annual rate is half what it was then, and in many countries it has reversed: Forests are growing back. It’s especially true in developed nations, but poorer ones are increasingly reforesting too. The process of going from deforestation to reforestation is called the “forest transition.” Most countries around the world are undergoing it. “Without slipping into complacency,” says Clare, “we should recognize that the fight against deforestation is one we’re winning.”


Laureles in Medellín, a city in northwest Colombia, topped Time Out’s coolest global neighborhoods list. Home to the main local fútbol stadium and a popular nightclub strip, known as La 70 — “where every bar and restaurant floor can turn into a dance floor with the right song” — the magazine notes that the area is also surprisingly laid-back with traditional Colombian neighborhood vibes. It is also spared most of the tourists and expats who flock to nearby Poblado. Smithfield in Dublin and Carabanchel in Madrid won second and third place.

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