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Israeli forces look to move into southern Gaza, a UN summit in Nairobi hopes to reach a global deal ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
snowstorm Nairobi
cloudy Paris
cloudy Guatemala City
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November 17, 2023


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The World Today

  1. Israel widens Gaza push
  2. Plastic pollution deal hope
  3. Sanctions hit Alibaba
  4. Advertisers flee X
  5. Making tech interoperable
  6. Santos to stand down
  7. Guatemala ‘intimidation’
  8. Sean Combs accused of rape
  9. Climate hits swan migration
  10. Edith P-AI-f

Mexico’s water shortage, and a Netflix film about an unsung gay civil-rights activist.


Israel eyes south Gaza operations

REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Israel signaled it would expand its military push in Gaza to the south of the enclave. The widening assault came as both the U.N. Security Council and the ASEAN Southeast Asian grouping called for a truce, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken pushed for Israel to stop violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank — though U.S. President Joe Biden indicated Washington had not given Israel a deadline to cease its campaign in Gaza. Iran’s foreign minister, meanwhile, told the Financial Times that Tehran had insisted to the U.S. via backchannels that it did not want the Israel-Hamas war to expand into a regional conflict, though he warned the “real confrontation” had only just begun.


UN summit on plastic pollution

A major U.N. summit in Nairobi ends today, with hopes that it could lead to the first global treaty to tackle plastic pollution. As the world gets richer, demand for plastic increases: The U.N. forecasts that global consumption will double by 2050. The negotiations will discuss improving plastic recycling and limiting production, and whether targets should be set by states or by an intergovernmental body. At the same time, places around the world are cracking down on plastic: New York state is suing PepsiCo, the world’s second-largest food company, over plastic pollution, arguing that it is contaminating water and harming wildlife in the Buffalo River.


Alibaba cancels spinoff over curbs

The Chinese tech giant Alibaba canceled plans to spin off its cloud-computing business, blaming U.S. chip restrictions. The Hong Kong-listed firm’s shares plummeted on the decision, the latest fallout of Washington’s wide-ranging efforts to curtail China’s access to cutting-edge semiconductors. Alibaba had planned to reorganize its sprawling company into six separate business units, with the $11 billion cloud division, Asia’s biggest, among the prized assets. But bans on the sale of artificial-intelligence-focused chips to China “created uncertainties” — Alibaba Cloud embeds generative AI and leases those AI capabilities to cloud customers. It came a day after fellow Chinese behemoth Tencent acknowledged having stockpiled high-end chips ahead of the U.S. restrictions.


Advertisers suspend X ads

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

The European Commission and the tech giant IBM stopped advertising on X. The moves were ostensibly unrelated to recent criticism of the platform’s owner Elon Musk for appearing to endorse antisemitic posts, but piled further pressure on the company, which has seen its ad revenue plummet, according to Reuters. The IBM decision followed a watchdog report which found corporate adverts being placed alongside content promoting Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, while the European Commission’s move was designed “to avoid risks of reputational damage,” it said, according to Politico. The challenges facing X could also impact Musk’s other businesses: A Tesla investor told Bloomberg she was “appalled” by Musk’s latest remarks, and warned his “behavior has the power to tarnish [Tesla’s] brand long-term.”


Tech firms work together

Microsoft and Apple moved to make their products more interoperable with rival systems. Microsoft launched a Windows App, meaning users can run Windows on their iPhone, iPad, or Mac. Windows has long allowed remote connection to other PCs, but streaming a Windows desktop to non-Windows devices was previously impossible. The app is in preview, and only for business customers, but is expected to be made available for personal use. And Apple announced that it would allow iPhones to text more smoothly with Android devices — read-receipts, images and video, and internet calling will be easier between the two systems. Google, which has called on Apple to make the change for a long time, sniffed that it was “happy to see Apple take their first step.”


Santos won’t seek reelection

REUTERS/Julia Nikhinson

George Santos — the U.S. congressman indicted for fraud, credit-card theft, and lying to federal election regulators, among other charges — said he would not run for reelection. His announcement to Semafor came following a damning congressional ethics report which said his conduct “warrants public condemnation.” Members of the House of Representatives were unsatisfied with his decision, with even Republican colleagues calling for him to resign. Santos portrayed himself as “the full embodiment of the American dream” but ultimately admitted to falsifying his education history, employment record, and religion. At one point he claimed his mother narrowly escaped the 9/11 attacks, though she was likely not in New York City at the time.

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Guatemala targets president-elect

Guatemalan prosecutors moved to strip the country’s president-elect Bernardo Arévalo of immunity, an effort critics said was aimed at blocking him from taking office after he secured a surprise victory in August elections. The U.S. imposed visa restrictions on several government officials over the latest move, while the Organization of American States called for an end to the “act of intimidation.” The incumbent government’s push to block Arévalo from taking power has highlighted the rampant corruption in Central America’s biggest country, with critics claiming President Alejandro Giammattei is attempting to cling on to office to avoid prosecution.


Puff Daddy accused of rape and abuse

REUTERS/Mike Blake

Sean Combs, the rap artist and producer also known as Puff Daddy or Diddy, was accused of rape and abuse. The singer Cassie, whose legal name is Casandra Ventura, sued Combs, her former romantic partner, in a Manhattan court, saying that he plied her with drugs, beat her, and raped her during their 13-year relationship, which began in 2005 when she was 19. The suit “depicts Mr. Combs as a violent person,” The New York Times reported, suggesting he may have blown up a romantic rival’s car. Combs “vehemently denies” the charges, which his lawyer said was “blatant blackmail … riddled with baseless and outrageous lies.”


Swans abandon UK as climate heats


Europe’s smallest swan is changing its migratory patterns over climate change. Bewick’s swans’ migrations from their Arctic breeding ground to Britain have been observed for almost 60 years, with 10,000 swans’ movements recorded. But as temperatures increase, the annual flock of 700 has dwindled to around 100, one of the world’s longest-running studies of a single species found. “They arrive in Germany and the Netherlands and they think, ‘It’s good here. I’ll stay. I’ll not bother to travel all the way to England,’” one scientist told the BBC. Britain’s wildlife has seen other climate-driven changes: More species of jellyfish, and occasional sea turtles, have been spotted in recent years.


AI Piaf to narrate her own biopic


A new biopic of Edith Piaf will use artificial intelligence to generate her voice and image. Edith, set in Paris and New York between the 1920s and 1960s, will use archival footage of the French singer, interspersed with content made by an AI tool trained on hundreds of images and voice clips. The robo-Piaf will narrate her own story, as well as singing and conversing. The 90-minute film is still in early production, but proof-of-concept video and audio has already been made. It’s not the first AI-generated use of a dead artist’s voice — Andy Warhol narrated Netflix’s The Andy Warhol Diaries from beyond the grave.

  • Jordanians are set to stage a mass protest in the capital Amman in support of Palestinians in Gaza.
  • Argentines vote in the presidential runoff on Sunday.
  • Rockstar, the 49th solo studio album by U.S. singer-songwriter Dolly Parton, is released.
Semafor Stat

The percentage of Mexico’s population that lacks access to a reliable water source. Despite the country’s substantial rainfall — Mexico City receives about as much as London — poor water-management infrastructure means much of it goes unused. The issue is having major political and economic implications. Although Mexico received record foreign direct investment this year, the lack of consistent water supply, especially in the drier states where the country’s manufacturing base is located, could imperil future investments. Mexico has also become one of the largest consumers of bottled water, with expenditure on water tripling in 15 years. “Citizens are angry,” Americas Quarterly reported.


A film about an unsung civil-rights hero was released on Netflix. Rustin tells the story of Bayard Rustin, a gay Black activist who strategized the 1963 March on Washington, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his legendary “I Have A Dream” speech. The biopic explores the events leading to this pivotal moment in history as well as Rustin’s public and private battles in a racist and homophobic society. “This gripping portrayal of Bayard Rustin’s life and legacy is a moving tribute to a man who overcame both external and internal monsters to fight for justice and equality,” Felipe Patterson wrote in REVOLT.

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