Beyond A Shadow Of A Drought
May 12, 2021
The Good News
“For if life had taught her anything, it was that healing and peace can begin only with acknowledgment of wrongs committed.” — Susan Abulhawa
“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” — Robert Louis Stevenson
No End In Sight For Repeated Retaliation
(Abbas Momani via Getty Images)
Tensions in Israel-Palestine are never far from an explosive conflict. This week, things reached a boiling point once more, resulting in the worst eruption of violence between Israelis and Palestinians in recent memory.
With a long history of conflict between the two peoples, it’s challenging to trace the violence back to one inciting event. The current rise in tensions, however, is attributed to an effort in the courts by an Israeli settler group to evict six Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, a predominantly Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem. Clashes between Palestinian protestors, Israeli police, and far-right Israelis sprang up around the Old City of Jerusalem, injuring five Israelis and hundreds of Palestinians.
Compounding on the violent clashes, Israel and Gaza exchanged barrages of rockets on Monday. Only one Israeli was wounded in the 200-rocket attacks from Hamas, the organization that controls the Gaza Strip, while Israel’s rockets killed nine children and 15 others in Gaza. In their firm response, the Israeli government cited as particular motivation the seven rockets Hamas fired at Jerusalem — the first time the city had been targeted since 2014. Also on Monday, Israeli police cracked down on Arab protestors near al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, injuring more than 300 Palestinians. Unfortunately, the attacks continued Tuesday, with rockets from Gaza killing two Israelis and the retaliatory airstrikes killing at least 26 Gazans.
Neither side appears interested in backing down, each claiming necessary retaliation for the latest attack. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “We did not want to escalate, but those who chose to escalate will be hit forcefully.” In Gaza, a spokesperson for Hamas’ military warned that “If Israel continues to attack, we will turn Ashkelon into hell.”
Ashkelon is an Israeli coastal city just north of Gaza and has been the focus of many rockets over the past few days. At least two residents of Ashkelon were killed when a rocket struck their apartment building midday Tuesday, and at least three Israelis were hospitalized when rockets hit a school and residential building.
In the course of the attacks, Palestinian infrastructure has suffered much worse than Israel’s. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, the strikes have put even greater pressure on Gaza’s already-struggling healthcare system, which is currently trying to combat a surge in coronavirus cases. The Ministry spokesperson said that Israeli strikes near a quarantine center in southern Gaza severely hindered their ability to service individuals housed there. According to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), infrastructural damages and other civilian impacts — like the refugee camp near Gaza City that was hit by a rocket Tuesday, resulting in two deaths — are the fault of Hamas. “We go to great lengths to strike only military targets,” said the IDF spokesperson. “They are in houses, courtyards, near schools and mosques.” (WaPo, $)
Is More Policing The Answer?
- France saw its second national homage to a police officer in less than two weeks following the daytime shooting of Eric Masson, who was killed last week during a routine inspection of a street corner. “It’s a reality that there is violence in our society and it’s swelling, and that each day the role of our police is made more difficult by this violence,” said President Emmanuel Macron following a memorial for the slain officer.
- Experts, however, have noted that more French police were being killed in past decades than today, but that police tactics have hardened in recent years, leading to increased distrust amidst claims of systemic racism within the police, racial profiling, and videos showing apparent abuse and sometimes deadly violence.
- In contrast to the United States’ recent efforts to curb police powers, France has opted to strengthen them instead. Macron has promised 10,000 more officers in the streets by the end of his term and increased the police budget. The prime minister has also laid out a series of measures to ensure courts get tough on anyone dishonoring the uniform and a guarantee of 30 years in prison for the killing of a police officer, the same punishment as for terrorists. (AP)
Population Growing At Glacial Pace
- Despite efforts to increase birthrates in the past half a decade, China is currently seeing its slowest population growth since the 1960s. On Tuesday, the government released the results of its once-a-decade census, saying the overall population of China grew to 1.41178 billion in the 10 years leading up to 2020, a slowdown that was expected, but still worrisome for the future of the country. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, there were officially 12 million babies born in 2020, 2.65 million fewer than were born in 2019.
- China ended its one-child policy in 2015 to encourage more births, but the annual growth rate of 0.53% is the lowest since the early 1960s when China was dealing with the aftermath of tens of millions killed by famine. Replacing the one-child with the two-child policy has done little to stimulate population growth over the past few years.
- According to Dr. Ye Liu, a senior lecturer at King’s College London, “the government had to address the intersecting factors behind the low birthrate, which include rampant workplace discrimination against women of childbearing age and ‘scandalously low’ public childcare funding.” (Guardian)
Additional World News
- U.S. Vessel Fires Warning Shots at Iranian Patrol Boats (NYT, $)
- Army of fake fans boosts China’s messaging on Twitter (AP)
- German priests defy Pope Francis with blessings of same-sex unions (WaPo, $)
- ISIL committed genocide against Yazidis: UN investigation (Al Jazeera)
- A Coronavirus Variant First Found in India is Now Officially a ‘Variant of Concern’ (NYT, $)
- Cali emerges as epicentre of unrest in ongoing Colombia protests (Al Jazeera)
- Global renewable energy industry grew at fastest rate since 1999 last year (Guardian)
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Beyond A Shadow Of A Drought
(Justin Sullivan via Getty Images)
- With “acute water supply shortages” turning into a crisis, Governor Gavin Newsom has expanded the drought emergency declaration to include 41 of 58 counties in the state of California. This state of emergency now envelopes almost a third of the state’s population. California only recently emerged from a multi-year drought a few years ago.
- The main fear brought about by this drought is wildfire season, which was brutal last year with over 6,500 square miles burned. This year, the Sierra Nevada snowpack was at only 59% of its average on April 1st, which is normally when it is at its peak. The snowpack provides about a third of the state’s water supply.
- Warm temperatures in April and May are to blame for the snowpack melting. The melt also seems to have been absorbed by the ground, rather than flowing into reservoirs and rivers. Warmer temperatures also meant thirstier citizens, who used up the water supply more quickly than anticipated. Newsom is urging residents to check for leaks, take shorter showers, and turn off their faucets when not in use. (Guardian)
Key Abortion Cases Up For Debate
- Back in February, the Supreme Court agreed to hear three consolidated cases regarding a Trump policy that targeted abortion providers. This week, the Court will announce whether or not they will dismiss the case. With such a conservative-leaning Supreme Court, the decision will indicate how safe abortion rights will be in the coming decades.
- Title X provides federal funds to healthcare providers to provide “family planning,” which includes birth control and infertility treatment. Trump’s policy prohibited those providers from referring patients to abortion clinics.
- The policy also requires a “physical and financial separation” between Title X recipients and abortion clinics, a requirement that Planned Parenthood alone estimated would cost over $600K per location. These cumbersome requirements led to many providers leaving the Title X program, threatening their financial security in the process.
- President Biden had already begun the process of repealing the policy when the Court announced that they would hear the three cases, which are consolidated under the name American Medical Association v. Becerra. The Biden Administration is expecting to have Trump’s policy repealed before the Court makes a decision. If the Court does decide to hear the case, it would be a bad sign for abortion access, as the Court could rush to make a decision before Biden can repeal the policy. (Vox)
Additional USA News
- How One Man’s Fight Against An AOL Troll Sealed The Tech Industry’s Power (NPR)
- US states oppose ‘unjust’ plan to shield Sackler wealth in opioid settlement (Guardian)
- Why Soaring Stocks Could Be Bad News For The Economy (NPR)
- How College Became a Ruthless Competition Divorced From Learning (Atlantic)
- Airline passengers fined $20,000 as US agency cracks down on unruly fliers (Guardian)
- NBC cancels next year’s Golden Globes for lack of diversity (Al Jazeera)
- Why Support For Refugees Is Higher Than You Might Think In Parts Of ‘Trump Country’ (NPR)
- Migrant children held in mass shelters with little oversight (AP)
- Government Housing Vouchers Are Hard To Get, And Hard To Use (NPR)
Look Before You Post
- Facebook has announced that they will be testing a new feature for their social media platform which will promote “more informed sharing.” The new feature will prompt users to open and read articles they wish to share on the platform. Twitter started testing a similar feature in June of last year and rolled it out to all its users more broadly in September.
- This effort is the latest trend for social media sites that have dealt with accusations of promoting widespread misinformation over the past decade. The message will read: “You’re about to share this article without opening it. Sharing articles without reading them may mean missing key facts.”
- Twitter has continued its efforts to police misinformation and create a more inclusive space by adding a feature which prompts people to reconsider tweeting “offensive or hurtful language” last week. Features like the one Facebook started testing Monday, which “nudge” users to stop sharing uninformed content, can potentially accomplish more by gradually shifting how people post on the platform. (Vox)
- New Drugs Could Help Treat Obesity. Could They End the Stigma, Too? (NYT, $)
- Pet Cats Fall For Optical Illusions Too (NPR)
- MDMA Reaches Next Step Toward Approval for Treatment (NYT, $)
- Homeless Oaklanders were tired of the housing crisis. So they built a ‘miracle’ village (Guardian)
- Private-equity firm revives zombie fossil-fuel power plant to mine bitcoin (ArsTechnica)
- The Secret Origins of Amazon’s Alexa (Wired)
- AIDS virus used in gene therapy to fix ‘bubble baby’ disease (AP)
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