World In Brief
Policymakers in the European Union agreed on Friday to enact the "A.I. Act," which regulates artificial intelligence. It includes the use by law enforcement, for water and energy services, and imposes transparency requirements on large general-purpose A.I. systems like ChatGPT. Penalties for companies violating the regulations could amount to as much as 7% of their global sales.
Haitham Al-Ghais, secretary general of the OPEC oil cartel, instructed members in a December 6 letter to aggressively counter all efforts at the COP28 climate talks to phase out fossil fuels. In the first week of the talks, Saudi Arabia was said to have refused to discuss the future of fossil fuels. Many have also expressed concern about the huge number of fossil fuel lobbyists given access to the climate talks.
The US yesterday once again blocked a UN security council resolution that demanded an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, provoking widespread anger. The UN director of Human Rights Watch posted on twitter (aka X): "By continuing to provide Israel with weapons and diplomatic cover as it commits atrocities, including collectively punishing the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza, the US risks complicity in war crimes."
Discussions are ongoing in the UN Security Council in response to the draft resolution by the UAE that demanded a ceasefire in Gaza. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the situation in Gaza is the worst he has ever seen, and that "conditions for the effective delivery of humanitarian aid no longer exist." Robert Wood, deputy ambassador to US Ambassador to the UN Linda-Thomas Greenfield, proceeded to announce that the US would be using its veto to block a ceasefire. Analysts have questioned whether Wood had used Israel's draft language in telling the Council that Hamas' Oct 7 attack was "the worst attack on our people in several decades."
An opinion piece by Michelle Goldberg this week in the NY Times addresses head-on the problem western societies are having defining and addressing "anti-semitism," while preserving the right to free speech in their democracies. The US and EU are not doing so well. This week the US House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution stating that “anti-Zionism is antisemitism.” The resolution effectively deems any criticism of the Israeli government as antisemitic.
US Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders, a progressive independent, has called for additional US aid to Israel to be conditional. Sanders clarified: "I do not believe that we should give the right-wing extremist Netanyahu government an additional $10.1 billion dollars with no strings attached to continue their inhumane war against the Palestinian people."
Hunter Biden, son of US President Joe Biden, has been charged by the US Justice Dept with conspiring to evade taxes on millions of dollars in foreign income.
The United Arab Emirates has asked the Security Council for a Friday morning vote on a draft resolution to demand a humanitarian ceasefire in the conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza strip. The U.S. is being watched for a potential veto of the resolution.
Reuters and Amnesty International are demanding that Israel explain the killing of Reuters video journalist Issam Abdallah and injuring of 6 others on October 13 in Lebanon by an Israeli tank. Expert analysis of the evidence determined that the press group was clearly visible on an open hillside, were in the same place for over an hour, wore helmets and jackets with PRESS markings, and there was no militant activity in the area. Agence France-Presse said that because they were hit twice in quick succession by Israeli fire, it was clear “The strikes were deliberate and targeted."
For the first time during his tenure as Secretary-General of the UN, António Guterres has invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter. He is appealing to the Security Council for a ceasefire in Gaza to avert a humanitarian disaster.
It was the 4th and final debate last evening between the four Republican presidential candidates hoping to cut into Donald Trump's 40-point lead. The NY Times reported that former New Jersey governor Chris Christie was the "only one running against Trump," and that political strategists and pundits were left feeling "it is most likely too late to topple the front-runner."
Israel is once again shelling the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza, and Israel tanks have surrounded the area. Civilians in the north have received no aid since early December, and about 100,000 are still in the camp and at risk of starvation. There is no functioning hospital.
As carbon pollution continues to heat the planet, a report from Global Tipping Points indicates that five important natural thresholds are already close to being crossed. Tim Lenton from the University of Exeter’s Global Systems Institute said: "Tipping points in the Earth system pose threats of a magnitude never faced by humanity.”
Humanitarian relief in the Gaza strip has completely collapsed, with the Gaza health ministry reporting 1,207 Palestinian civilians killed since the temporary ceasefire ended a few days ago. Israeli forces and Hamas are said to be fighting door-to-door. UN and aid agencies say nowhere in Gaza is safe.
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