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- “Murderous anti-Semitism, disguised in UN sky blue”
“Murderous anti-Semitism, disguised in UN sky blue”
🪳One trillion cicadas | 😢 “Doom spending” | 👠 Mrs Tall
The EU’s 27 leaders have agreed a €50bn aid package for Ukraine. Hungary’s Kremlin-friendly prime minister, Viktor Orbán, blocked the four-year deal at a European summit in December, but was talked round in meetings last night and this morning with the Italian, French and German prime ministers. Alan Bates says he will reject the “cruel” and “derisory” compensation proposed by the government for the Post Office Horizon scandal. The former sub-postmaster, who inspired the recent ITV drama about the faulty IT system, says he was offered a sixth of what he had requested. A monkey that escaped from a zoo in Scotland has been caught after five days on the lam. Officials at the Highland Wildlife Park near Aviemore say the Japanese macaque was tranquilised and is now being given a health check.
Palestinians waiting for UNWRA rations. Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty
“Murderous anti-Semitism, disguised in UN sky blue”
The United Nations faces one of the biggest scandals in its history, says Felix Dachsel in Der Spiegel. Some 12 employees of its Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which supports Palestinian refugees, have been accused by Israel of participating in the Hamas attacks of October 7th. “Social workers and teachers on UN salaries – involved in the largest campaign of extermination against Jews since the Shoah.” And this isn’t the first time UNRWA has been in trouble: an EU investigation in 2021 found that some of the schools it runs across the Middle East used textbooks that contained anti-Semitic material and incited violence against Israelis. The agency, which has a budget of billions, said it would tackle the issue; instead, the problem appears to have got worse. And now we are confronted with “murderous anti-Semitism, disguised in UN sky blue”.
America’s “knee-jerk reaction” is to suspend funding to UNRWA while an investigation takes place, and nine other countries have followed suit, says Josh Rogin in The Washington Post. But as shocking as the allegations are, pausing “vital food and health aid” to Palestinians is both “inhumane and strategically stupid”. UNRWA is by far the largest provider of food and health services for the two million civilians in Gaza, 1.4 million of whom are currently sheltering in the agency’s sites. UNRWA also supports three million Palestinian refugees living in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, many of whom are the descendants of those forced out of Israel in 1948. If the agency’s finances prevent this work, then the countries’ governments – especially Jordan, a key US ally – “will be left holding the bag”. This, needless to say, will further inflame a region already in turmoil.
This spring will see “a rare, buzzy natural phenomenon that hasn’t happened since 1803”, says Smithsonian Magazine: the emergence of more than a trillion cicadas from under the ground in central and southern US states. It involves two separate populations of “periodical cicadas”: Brood XIII, which surfaces to mate every 13 years, and Brood XIX, which surfaces every 17 years. The next time these two particular broods line up will be 2245.
Four years after Brexit, leaving the EU appears to have made British politics “more European”, says Dominic Green in The Wall Street Journal. Whitehall’s pro-EU civil servants have an “almost French level of contempt” for voters. While German farmers block the roads, “Britain’s paper-pushers erect legal obstacles and say ‘No, Minister’”. And Conservative prime ministers “come and go with almost Italian rapidity”.
Time for some pecuniary pearls of wisdom. TikTok/@Lilianzhang_
Financial advice is a “booming business” on TikTok, says The Guardian: a survey last year found that 80% of Americans aged between 18 and 41 turn to social media for personal finance advice. And naturally, Gen Z has rebranded those “historically dry topic” with “cute viral terms”. There’s “loud budgeting” (very openly sharing your money goals with other people) and “money dysmorphia” (holding a distorted view of your finances). And when it seems like the “only cure to your big sads is buying new shoes or a $75 candle”, you’re apparently at risk of “doom spending”.
Houthi rebels on the outskirts of Sana’a, Yemen. Mohammed Hamoud/Getty
The age of the bandit
Everyone insists the big winner of the post-American world will be China, says Janan Ganesh in the FT. In fact, it’s more likely to be “the non-state actor”. Look at the Middle East. Neither Hamas nor the Houthis are a state, yet the former has upended the region’s politics and the latter has its hand “around a chokepoint of world trade”. The group that killed three US soldiers in Jordan isn’t a sovereign power, either; its backer, Iran, recently exchanged fire with “irregular Sunni forces” across the border in Pakistan. It’s the same elsewhere. Ecuador, previously a “model of order” for South America, is “succumbing to drug gangs”. The Sahel is “so rife with jihadis and secular bandits” that France has abandoned a long counter-insurgency mission there.
This is particularly disconcerting because we’re supposed to be living through “the comeback of the state”. Brexit, Donald Trump, Xi Jinping – these were all meant to be signs of a “longing for sovereign grip”. But while some leaders have strengthened their own countries, they are finding it ever harder to “prop others up”. This is making everything more fragmented – the world today is not so much “multipolar” as “non-polar”. And given that nation states provide the order which underpins global economic growth, the consequences of this trend could be “dire”. You never know, it may even make some of those cheering the end of the American order think again – they must be finding a decentralised world “nicer as an idea than as an experience”.
To The Times:
Some women bemoan being tall and others regret being small (letters, Jan 25–27). However, it could be worse: one can be both.
Roslyn Tall (5ft 2in)
It might just be the plane of pioneering aviatrix Amelia Earhart, who disappeared over the Pacific in 1937 during a round-the-world flight. Earhart became an “international celebrity” for her record-breaking feats, says The Wall Street Journal, which included being the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to the US mainland. This plane-shaped sonar image, taken by an underwater drone at the approximate location where Earhart vanished, could be a “vital clue” to her vehicle’s whereabouts. Former US Air Force pilot Tony Romeo, who masterminded the search, says: “I feel like a 10-year-old going on a treasure hunt.”
“Beware the fury of a patient man.”