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Biden calls for a ‘pause’ in Gaza fighting as pressure on Netanyahu grows, the world sees a spike in͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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November 2, 2023


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The World Today

  1. Biden calls for Gaza pause
  2. Global antisemitism on rise
  3. Ukraine in stalemate
  4. Offshore wind struggles
  5. AI safety declaration
  6. China limits web anonymity
  7. Europeans’ Africa regret
  8. Guyana accuses Venezuela
  9. Japan’s stagnant science
  10. Space plane nears liftoff

The Panama Canal dries up further, and a book on British colonialism in India wins a prestigious prize.


Biden calls for pause

REUTERS/Leah Millis

U.S. President Joe Biden called for a “pause” in fighting in Gaza in order to get hostages out and aid in. His remarks signal a change in tone: He has so far largely avoided publicly telling Israel how to conduct its operation. According to Politico, the Biden administration believes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s days are numbered and it has been discussing possible successors. A White House spokesperson denied any such conversations, but several analysts suggest that Netanyahu is an obstacle to Biden’s hopes for an end to the Israel-Gaza crisis. “Biden has hitched his fortunes to a man … who is co-creator of the ghastly dilemma with which Israel is now faced,” the Financial Times’s U.S. national editor wrote, in a piece titled, “Netanyahu is an albatross around Biden’s neck.”


Fears of rising antisemitism globally

REUTERS/Yves Herman

Concerns are growing that the Israel-Hamas war is driving rising antisemitism worldwide. In the U.S., antisemitism is at “historic levels,” the FBI director said, while reported antisemitic acts rose sharply in Europe — in some cases to the highest on record — following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel. “France is seeing a wave of antisemitism not equaled since 1945,” the French writer Bernard-Henri Lévy told The New York Times. Reuters also tracked significant instances of antisemitism in Argentina, Brazil, Russia, and South Africa. In China, antisemitic comments have proliferated online, even including a flood of negative reviews of the 1993 film Schindler’s List.


Ukraine admits slow progress

REUTERS/Alina Smutko

Ukraine’s efforts to repel Russian invaders have reached a stalemate, Kyiv’s top general admitted. Speaking to The Economist, Valery Zaluzhny likened battles between the two countries to World War I and admitted that he had underestimated Moscow’s tolerance for losses of troops. His remarks point to broader frustration over the lack of Ukrainian advances in Kyiv’s much-touted counteroffensive, and the implications for U.S. and European military support, which may wane if there isn’t more progress. One aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told TIME recently that the Ukrainian leader feels betrayed by his Western backers: “They have left him without the means to win the war, only the means to survive it,” the outlet said.


Wind giant cancels US projects

Shares in Ørsted, the world’s largest offshore wind firm, dropped 20% after it scrapped two major U.S. projects. The Danish company said supply-chain issues, high interest rates, and an inability to get tax credits were behind the decision. Offshore wind is facing challenges worldwide: In the U.K. a recent renewables auction saw zero bids for offshore licenses. Developers blamed rising costs and a difficult regulatory environment. On the other hand, solar energy is booming in Europe, with private households and businesses leading the way: An analysis said capacity will grow 30% faster this year than last, with rooftop installations accounting for 70% of new developments.


Nations sign AI safety declaration

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. Leon Neal/Pool via REUTERS

China, the U.S., and the U.K. were among 28 nations who signed an agreement to ensure artificial intelligence is developed in a “human-centric, trustworthy and responsible” way. The “Bletchley Declaration,” named for the famous English World War II codebreaking site where it was agreed, says advanced AI could cause “potential for serious, even catastrophic, harm.” The summit was also attended by tech leaders, including the CEOs of Google DeepMind, Anthropic, and OpenAI, as well as Elon Musk. China, the G-7, and the U.S. all recently took steps towards regulating the safe rollout of AI.


China tightens online rules

Omar Marques/SOPA Images/Sipa USA

China’s major social networks rolled out rules requiring major influencers to display their real names. The guidelines did not appear to be mandatory, but will result in loss of income and visibility for those who don’t comply. Critics worried that the rules removed one of the last pillars of anonymity on China’s heavily regulated internet, but some analysts noted that users were already required to provide so much personal information when signing up for accounts that the authorities could determine their identity anyway. China’s social media has long been tightly regulated to stifle dissent, with censors cracking down most recently on “overly effusive comments” praising former Premier Li Keqiang, who died last week, including well-known phrases he uttered in favor of economic reform.


Former colonial powers address African slaughter

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. REUTERS/Nadja Wohlleben

Britain’s and Germany’s heads of state expressed regret over their nations’ behavior in the colonial period on respective Africa trips. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier apologized and sought forgiveness during his trip to Tanzania, which Germany ruled for 30 years until the end of World War I: More than 200,000 people were killed when troops suppressed a 1905 uprising. King Charles stopped short of a formal apology, which would have to be agreed by the British government, but acknowledged “abhorrent and unjustifiable acts of violence committed against Kenyans” during their struggle against colonial rule. He offered his “greatest sorrow and regret” for “wrongdoings.” British forces killed and tortured thousands of Kenyans during their fight for independence in the 1950s.


Venezuela, Guyana in border dispute

Guyana’s prime minister accused neighboring Venezuela of a military buildup on the countries’ border, part of a century-long territorial dispute. Venezuela has claimed ownership over two-thirds of Guyana’s territory — including the region where vast oil deposits were recently discovered — since an 1899 ruling that set modern-day borders. Despite a 2018 resolution by the International Court of Justice siding with Guyana, Caracas maintains its claim: A referendum due next month will ask Venezuelans whether they back the annexation of the territory. “Venezuela has never recognized, nor will it recognize, the ICJ for the resolution of this issue,” President Nicolás Maduro said.


Japan’s stagnating science sector

Japanese research is no longer world class, according to a government report. Japan boasts a large number of scientific researchers — the third highest in the world, behind the U.S. and China. But its output has dropped in quality: Japanese research made up 6% of the world’s most-cited papers two decades ago, and just 2% now. While it still ranks 5th in terms of the number of papers published, it’s 13th on measures of quality. A science policy analyst told Nature that while other countries had increased investment in science, Japan’s funding had stagnated: “Japan’s research environment hasn’t progressed from the past, and career prospects in academia are only getting worse.”


Commercial space plane nears liftoff

Sierra Space/Twitter

The world’s first commercial space plane is nearly ready to fly. Getting humans safely from orbit to Earth is difficult: As spacecraft hit the atmosphere at orbital speeds, friction heats them up to thousands of degrees. The usual solution is to drop astronauts in a heat-proof capsule before opening a parachute, which is effective, but bumpy. Sierra Space, a U.S. company, has built Dream Chaser, capable of descending gently from the International Space Station and landing on a runway. It’s smaller, cheaper, and hopefully more reliable than the Space Shuttle, which was retired after some high-profile disasters. Initial tests should begin in a few weeks: “Plunging into the ocean is awful,” Sierra’s CEO said. “Landing on a runway is really nice.”

  • China will cremate the remains of former Premier Li Keqiang, and flags will fly at half-mast across the country in mourning.
  • Pakistan will start expelling undocumented immigrants, including hundreds of thousands of people from neighboring Afghanistan, in a plan that’s been criticized by rights groups.
  • Double Exposure, a film festival focused on investigative reporting, opens in New York.
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The average number of ships that will be allowed to cross the Panama Canal every day from February, down 50% from the recent average. The cut comes in response to a drought that has seen freshwater reservoirs on which the canal relies drop to historic lows. Canal authorities said October was the driest in the region since 1950. The fall in traffic could send shockwaves across the world: Almost 6% of global trade — and 40% of U.S. container traffic — passes through the canal every year.


A book about the advent of British colonialism in India won the British Academy Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding. Courting India: England, Mughal India and the Origins of Empire, by Nandini Das, explores early British encounters with India’s Mughal rulers in the 17th century. “The jury was drawn to the contrast between an impoverished, insecure Britain and the flourishing, confident Mughal Empire and the often-amusing, sometimes querulous exchanges between their various representatives,” LitHub reported of a book described as offering a radical challenge to mainstream understanding of Britain and its early empire.

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