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Welcome to Thursday, where Hamas claims responsibility for a shooting that killed three people in Jerusalem just hours after Israel extended a ceasefire in Gaza, Henry Kissinger dies at age 100, and Singapore gets some company at the top of the world’s most expensive cities. Meanwhile, Turin-based daily La Stampa’s correspondent at the Israel-Gaza border describes conditions amid the fragile ceasefire.
[*Namaskār - Odia, India]
On democracy, republics and Lula's theory of relativity
A democracy is not just the vague and dangerously malleable promise of popular rule. It is instead an institutional regime or “republic” that defines and protects the rights of the people, and of individuals, writes political science professor Federico Saettone in Argentine daily Clarín.
In a column in this newspaper (Clarín) earlier this year, Professor Loris Zanatta drew our attention to declarations made in July by Brazil's President Lula da Silva rejecting criticisms against Venezuela's socialist regime. Lula said "democracy is a relative concept, for you and for me," when asked if Venezuela is a democracy.
Zanatta observed that the Brazilian leader was being cynical, and with that position would have failed any "political science, history of ideas or philosophy" assignment.
Days later, writing in the Diario Perfil, sociologist Eduardo Fidanza accused the Italian academic of judging Lula from a political scientist's perspective, without regard for the realities of Latin Americans. These, he wrote, had to do with persistent inequalities, unemployment, economic stagnation, criminal gangs and insecurity, and in such conditions, says Fidanza, the republic becomes a "luxury few can afford."
Firstly, political science isn't an entirely theoretical or speculative discipline. For some time now it has specialized in subfields most of which rely considerably on empirical and statistical approaches. Political science does of course use theories, to understand and analyze reality. Only, empirical evidence is required to validate those theories.
Political theory aside, the problem appears not to be in democracy but in the notion of a republic. The two concepts have had different trajectories.
The Greek city states practiced democracy in the 5th and 6th centuries BC, and as is known, citizens regularly gathered in the Agora, the city's place of gatherings, to debate public affairs. When that civilization ended, democracy effectively lay dormant until the 17th and 18th centuries, when rationalists, thinkers of the Enlightenment and revolutionaries extracted it from old books to make words like liberty and equality a reality.
As the late political scientist Giovanni Sartori once said, the greater a democracy's scope and sway, the more it must curtail its moral and ethical pretensions. A problem arises in fact when democracy becomes confused with 'the people.'
For the 18th and 19th century revolutionaries, 'the people' or 'nation' was the single repository or representative of national sovereignty. That fueled a formidable political movement that inspired both the Jacobins of the French Revolution and latter-day, Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries. Seeking to end the old monarchy for good, the first lot sent thousands of Frenchmen to the guillotine, accusing them of being "enemies of the people."
The Leninists or Bolsheviks later understood better than anyone that ending the capitalist order — the monarchy of money — needed a party with a leading role, which in time, inevitably perhaps, became the interpreter of the 'people's will". Not unlike the Jacobins of the French Terror, the party wouldn't make do with fighting the bourgeoisie and turned on all those it labeled enemies of the people.
They came to number in the millions, first in the Soviet Union, and now in China, Cuba and North Korea. The leaders of those countries state, unflinchingly, that single-party rule is an expression of popular democracy.
Back in the 18th century, it was in fact the conservative revolutionaries on this side of the Atlantic who could reconcile democracy with the popular will. This they did by resorting to the republican ideal of limiting it through the separation of powers or system of checks and balances.
They turned democracy into the republic: a political regime compatible with individual liberties.
So no, it would not be right to call the republic a luxury.
— Federico Saettone / Clarín
• Hamas claims Jerusalem attack: Hamas has claimed responsibility for the shooting in Jerusalem that left three dead, saying in a statement that “the operation came as a natural response to unprecedented crimes conducted by the occupation,” referring to Israel's military campaign in Gaza. This comes as Israel and Hamas struck a last-minute deal on Thursday to extend their ceasefire for a seventh day. Stay up to date with the latest on the war between Israel and Hamas here.
• Henry Kissinger dies at 100: Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who became one of the most influential and controversial foreign policy figures in American history, has died at the age of 100 at his home in Connecticut. Look at how the world is reacting.
• COP28 opens in Dubai as 2023 set to become hottest year: The COP28 climate change summit has opened in Dubai, gathering about 70,000 delegates and world leaders who will negotiate on whether to agree, for the first time, to phase out the world's use of CO2-emitting coal, oil and gas. UN secretary-general António Guterres said at the start of the summit that 2023 will be the hottest year in human history, a warning that should “trigger world leaders to act.”
• Russian strikes kill one in eastern Ukraine: Russian missile attacks in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region killed at least one and injured 10 overnight. Meanwhile, the Kremlin announced Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold his annual press conference and field questions from the public on Dec. 14, stoking speculation that he will use the occasion to announce that he is running for president again in the 2024 election.
• LGBTQ+ news, good and bad: Nepal has registered its first same-sex marriage in the western Lumjung district, five months after the Supreme Court issued an interim order clearing the way for such marriages. This makes Nepal the second place in Asia, after Taiwan, to legalize same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, Russia's Supreme Court has ruled that LGBTQ+ organizations should be labeled “extremists”, in a move that could enable Moscow to target activists within Russia. Follow Worldcrunch’s LGBTQ+ coverage and subscribe to our LGBTQ+ International newsletter here.
• Singapore & Zurich tied for world's most expensive city: Singapore and Zurich came on top of the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)’s list of most expensive cities, followed by Geneva, New York and Hong Kong. This is the ninth time in 11 years that the Singaporean city-state, which has the world's highest transport prices, tops the rankings.
• Britain bids farewell to its only pandas: Visitors of the Edinburgh Zoo will be able to say goodbye to giant pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang on Thursday on their last day in the spotlight before they are sent back to China. The pair had come to Scotland in 2011 as part of a ten-year agreement between the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and the China Wildlife Conservation Association, which was extended for two years due to the pandemic. Read more about China’s giant panda diplomacy here.
🗞️ FRONT PAGE
Like many newspapers around the world, The Washington Post pays tribute to Henry Kissinger, the influential and controversial diplomat who helped shape late 20th-century politics. Kissinger has died at age 100 at his home in Connecticut — see here Worldcrunch’s international collection of “very mixed” reactions to his passing.
According to a report by the European Defense Agency, the EU bloc’s military spending was up 6% in 2022 as compared to the previous year, reaching a record €240 billion ($260 billion) in 2022. Although this is the eighth year in a row that the European Union increases its military budget, this is a major uptick, notably caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
What's left of Gaza: scenes of destruction, pangs of desperation
The information coming out of the Palestinian enclave is scarce but undoubtedly grim. For Turin-based daily La Stampa, an Italian reporter from across the border gathers information from inside Gaza amid a fragile and inevitably temporary ceasefire.
🇵🇸 When we ask Sister Nabila Saleh to describe the situation in Gaza, she responds by sending ten photos: images of rubble, destruction, and desolation. They suggest that the point of no return has long been surpassed. Communication is challenging; on WhatsApp, conversations are impossible, only snippets of written sentences arrive on each side. Still, they suffice in describing the hellish conditions they've been facing for the past seven weeks.
⚠️ "We are witnessing an unbearable human tragedy. Despite the pausing of hostilities, humanitarian needs persist," an official of the International Committee of the Red Cross explains to La Stampa. "People lack basic necessities, the bare minimum for survival. The aid distributed is not sufficient to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of people in desperate need of assistance." The official notes that colder weather is coming, with masses of people living in tents without beds, pillows, or blankets.
🚚 The only flicker of hope has been the somewhat shaky ceasefire between Israel and Hamas since Friday that has allowed a wave of aid to reach the Strip, with 200 trucks coming in each day, although humanitarian organizations consider the convoys far from sufficient for meeting the needs of the two million people still in Gaza. The resources include deliveries of fuel to power generators in facilities, including hospitals. Gaza has not had a regular supply of electricity since its only power plant was shut down on October 11.➡️ Read more onWorldcrunch.com
➡️ Watch the video: THIS HAPPENED
“I have serious doubt it is complying with international humanitarian law.”
— Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has expressed skepticism toward Israel and its respect for international law as part of its actions in Gaza. “With the footage we are seeing and the growing numbers of children dying, I have serious doubt [Israel] is complying with international humanitarian law,” Sanchez said in an interview with Spanish state-owned broadcaster TVE. “What we are seeing in Gaza is not acceptable,” he added.
📸 PHOTO DU JOUR
Police and emergency services are working at the site of a shooting in Jerusalem that saw two gunmen kill three people at a bus station in the Israeli capital. The two assailants were shot dead by police on the spot; meanwhile Hamas has claimed responsibility for the attack, which it says was in retaliation to Israel’s actions in Gaza. — Photo: Chen Junqing/Xinhua/ZUMA
👉 MORE FROM WORLDCRUNCH
• A Profound And Simple Reason That Negotiations Are Not An Option For Ukraine — GAZETA WYBORCZA
• Is Disney's "Wish" Spreading A Subtle Anti-Christian Message To Kids? — RELIGION UNPLUGGED
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger
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