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The News Not Noise Letter: US is Days from a Shutdown and IDF Tanks Surround Gaza Hospitals
“Catastrophic” conditions at Gaza’s hospitals. The new House Speaker has hours to keep government funded. And what do 2000 earthquakes, a magma tunnel and sinkholes in Iceland foretell?
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First, Non-War Headlines:
How Can We Make This More Complicated? Shutdown Edition: With just days to avert a government shutdown, House Speaker Mike Johnson has unveiled his plan to temporarily fund the government. As with many of Johnson’s endeavors personally and professionally, it’s pretty unusual. Johnson is proposing a spending bill with two different expiration days. The bill would fund certain government agencies through January 19, and fund additional parts of government through early February 2. Johnson says this two-tiered approach will enable Republicans to “fight for conservative values” (i.e., wage two different spending battles in the new year). The problem: so many GOPs already oppose the measure he’ll need some Democrats to pass it. While Democrats like the fact that the bill doesn’t include spending cuts and that it gets the government funded into the New Year, the White House panned the two-tiered deadline as “unserious” and there is grumbling that it doesn’t contain funding for Ukraine or Israel. Reminder: Johnson has never chaired a committee, has no major legislation under his belt, and voted against Speaker McCarthy’s last effort to fund government. Now he has to work legislative magic. The US can’t afford another shutdown. (No, really. Moody’s just cut the US credit rating outlook from “stable” to “negative.”)
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News from 2024 Campaign: The 2024 GOP presidential field is thinning – South Carolina Gov. Tim Scott is the latest to drop out of the Republican primary, two weeks after former VP Mike Pence left the race. Meanwhile, frontrunner and former President Donald Trump is outlining increasingly extreme policies if he’s re-elected. In the past week he proposed that as President he’d create new detention camps for immigrants to speed forced mass deportation; he’d tell the DOJ and DHS to “go down and indict” his political enemies; and echoed fascist rhetoric by calling his political opponents “vermin” while insisting that “the threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous and grave than the threat from within.” Totally cool and normal stuff to hear from a major political candidate? Meanwhile, he asked the judge in his federal election subversion trial to approve TV cameras in the courtroom (unlikely, per longstanding federal court precedent); apparently in Trump world, there is no bad press.
SCOTUS Ethics Code: Big day at Supreme Court. The most powerful judges in the nation now have their first official ethics code. Go team. In the last year investigative journalists exposed undisclosed gifts and luxury experiences bestowed on a few justices (most notably Clarence Thomas), raising many ethics questions. The Court’s new code does not set monetary limits on gifts but bars justices from activities that “detract from the dignity of the justice’s office,” “reflect adversely on the justice’s impartiality,” or “lead to frequent disqualification.” It outlines when a justice must recuse him or herself but does not create any enforcement mechanism. Honor code! All nine justices signed on to the code. If you’re so inclined, you can read the full 15-page ethics code here.
Xi Visit: Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Biden will have their first face-to-face meeting in a year this Wednesday during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. Tensions between the two countries have skyrocketed since their last sit down. The leaders are expected to discuss Taiwan, Iran, Ukraine, the Israel-Hamas war, and election interference. The White House says the US will also push China to reopen a permanent line of communication between the two nations’ militaries, as a way to reduce the chances of “mistakes or miscalculations or miscommunication.” Recall that last month a Chinese jet flew within 10 feet of a US B-52 bomber over the South China Sea. You can read more about what’s at stake in the meeting here and here.
Iceland Volcano: Iceland is bracing for an “unprecedented” volcanic eruption about 25 miles outside Reykjavik. Seismologists have recorded 2000 earthquakes in the region in the last 48 hours; authorities evacuated the coastal town of Grindavik, where sinkholes have appeared under some houses and experts warn that a 10-mile “magma tunnel” could be forming under the town. The Iceland Meteorological Office said Saturday that “an eruption could start at any time in the next few days.”
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Hospitals in Crisis: It is difficult to watch the video and hear the stories coming from Northern Gaza, where IDF tanks now surround multiple hospitals. Many thousands of Palestinian civilians have evacuated these hospitals, but the most severely wounded and sick remain behind, and doctors who stayed describe conditions as “catastrophic.” The WHO says Al-Shifa, the region’s biggest hospital, is “not functioning as a hospital anymore,” as oxygen and other crucial medical supplies run out. Their head of plastic surgery told ABC News that without fuel, doctors had to remove gravely ill babies from nonfunctional incubators, wrapping them in tin foil to keep them warm.
The IDF says evacuation is still possible including for the infants. They say transportation is there and ready to move. But an Al-Shifa neurosurgeon told NBC News that, due to intense fighting around Al-Shifa, “It is not safe to move out. It is not safe to stay. We don’t know what to do. Please help us.” He also said the hospital asked the International Committee of the Red Cross for help with evacuations.
The IDF says soldiers are surrounding the hospitals because Hamas command centers are located underneath them – with a headquarters under Al-Shifa. The IDF claims to have killed 21 Hamas operatives who they say were firing shots from inside the Al-Quds hospital and released this video. In another video the IDF claims to have found weapons caches, an underground headquarters, and signs that hostages may have been held in a basement room at Rantisi Hospital.
The US backs up Israel’s claim that Hamas has command centers under the hospitals – but insists the IDF must protect the injured inside as they target the tunnels underneath. “The United States does not want to see firefights in hospitals where innocent people, patients receiving medical care, are caught in the crossfire,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on CBS News’ Face the Nation. Sullivan emphasized that the US has directly communicated this with the IDF.
You can listen to doctors in Gaza describe the conditions they’re working under in this episode of The Daily. Warning: this is an extremely difficult listen.
Netanyahu vs. the US, On Air: In a news conference over the weekend, Israeli PM Netanyahu tripled down on his determination to “continue to control security” in Gaza “indefinitely” after major combat ends. He told CNN that Israel will have “overriding, overreaching military envelope” over Gaza – whatever that means. The White House quickly countered that. “No reoccupation of Gaza,” Jake Sullivan said on Face the Nation. Watch both sides’ language on this issue; it’s one area of public and growing division between Netanyahu and Israel’s most powerful ally.
Pressure on Bibi: And Netanyahu faces growing rage at home. Over the weekend, anti-Bibi protests by the families of hostages took a sharp and furious tone. “They can't tell us, ‘trust us,’ [when] that sentence has had no meaning since October 7,” one protester told Haaretz. Hundreds of people outside PM Netanyahu’s home continue to call for his resignation. A Nov. 3 poll showed more than three-quarters of Israelis want Netanyahu to resign but his governing coalition is holding together, so he’s still in the job.
Saudi Summit: Over the weekend, Saudi Arabia hosted a summit of Arab and Muslim-majority nations focused on Gaza. In attendance: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin-Salman (MBS), Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Syrian President (read: dictator) Bashar al-Assad, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, among others. Some of them called for an immediate ceasefire; none emerged with a plan to get more aid to civilians, win the release of hostages, gather investment to rebuild Gaza, or stand up a security solution for a post-war Gaza.
And finally, here’s a little News That Doesn’t Suck:
De-automating: British supermarket chain Booths announced it will get rid of nearly all of its self-checkout stations and hire more cashiers by popular demand. “Delighting customers with our warm northern welcome is part of our DNA,” the company said in a statement, and they believe de-automating serves that mission. Though some customers worry the switch will make shopping less efficient, many others told the BBC they welcome the return of human interaction to grocery shopping. “I like to have somebody to talk to,” one customer said. Another added, “I think shopping is a boring, mundane thing to do and I think if staff are there chatting to you, it just makes it better.” This echoes increasing evidence that self-checkouts (and other forms of technology and automation) are increasing loneliness, particularly among seniors. Hopefully restoring these everyday human interactions will brighten grocery shoppers’ days.
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