Death toll from Japan quake rises to 30

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Tuesday, 2nd January 2024

At least 30 people were killed after a powerful earthquake hit Japan on New Year’s Day, with rescue teams on Tuesday struggling to reach isolated areas where buildings had been toppled, roads wrecked, and power cut to tens of thousands of homes. “Very significant damage, numerous victims, collapsed buildings, and fires have been confirmed,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said this morning. “We have to race against time” to save lives, he added. Army personnel were dispatched to help with rescue operations, while one local airport remained shut after the quake tore open cracks in the runway. According to the Japanese news agency Kyodo, another quake of 5.6 magnitude hit this morning. It was recorded at 10.37 local time (2.17am in Malta) in the central-western Japanese prefecture Ishikawa. Japan was hit by at least 155 earthquakes between yesterday afternoon and this morning.

South Korea’s Opposition leader stabbed

South Korea’s Ppposition party leader, Lee Jae-myung, has been hospitalised after being attacked during a visit to the southern port city of Busan, sustaining injuries that health officials said were not life threatening. Lee, 59, was stabbed on the left side of his neck with a weapon by an unidentified man pretending to be a supporter, South Korean news agency Yonhap said. The assailant, wearing a paper crown with Lee’s name on it, approached Lee asking for an autograph, then suddenly lunged forward and attacked him. The assailant was quickly subdued and arrested at the scene. Lee was taken to Pusan National university hospital, arriving approximately 20 minutes after the attack. Officials from his party said he was conscious while receiving treatment in hospital. He was later transported by helicopter to Seoul where he will undergo surgery.

Photo: Sohn Hyung-joo, Yonhap/AP

Cancer in UK to hit one diagnosis a minute

One person a minute in Britain will be diagnosed with cancer within a generation, amid warnings that the country could lose its position as a research “superpower” on the disease. According to London’s The Times, Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, has said that even as the burden of cancer is increasing, investment in stopping it is failing to keep pace. “We are at an inflection point,” she said. “There are worrying signs on the horizon. And now is the time to act to retain a globally leading position over the future decades.” The charity has projected that, by 2040, the number of cancers diagnosed in the UK will have risen by a fifth, to one a minute. Its analysis also found that, at the present trajectory, Britain risked creating a £1 billion gap in research. The government has pledged to make the UK a science superpower, building on its leading position in life sciences in particular, including cancer. However, Mitchell said that a relative lack of funding, compared to nations such as the US, meant it was “getting much harder to attract talent to the UK”.

Israel to replace Palestinian workers with foreigners

Israel plans to permanently replace all Palestinian labourers with foreign workers, in a major, ambitious initiative aimed at ridding the country of a perceived security threat, the Kan public broadcaster reports. Thousands of construction and agriculture workers from the West Bank have been barred from entering Israel for work since Hamas’s mass invasion and onslaught of 7th October. Hamas reportedly gathered some of its intelligence for the attack from Gazans who had permits to work in Israel. To prevent a potential repeat in the West Bank, Kan says the government does not intend to allow the Palestinian workers back after the ongoing war. The reported plan by the finance, interior and labour ministries would see Israel bring in 25,500 workers from Sri Lanka, 20,000 from China, 17,000 from India, 13,000 from Thailand, and 6,000 from Moldova. Additionally, the government intends to incentivise Israelis to work in construction and agriculture, as well promoting technologies that could cut the number of employees needed in these fields.

Photo: Michael Giladi/Flash90

Israel begins troop pullback from Gaza

Israel has pulled tanks out of some Gaza districts as it announced plans to shift tactics and cut back on troop numbers, but fighting raged elsewhere in the Palestinian enclave along with intense bombardment. Israel says the conflict in Gaza, which has reduced much of the territory to rubble, killing thousands and plunging its 2.3 million people into a humanitarian disaster, has many months to go. Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said on Monday that assessments were underway to prepare for the “gradual return” of Gaza residents to their homes in the north. He said Israel will “provide the best security and civil conditions for the residents”. But it also signaled a new phase in its offensive, with an official saying on Monday the military would draw down forces inside Gaza this month and shift to a months-long phase of more localised “mopping up” operations. The Israeli official said the troop reduction would allow some reservists to return to civilian life, shoring up Israel’s economy, and free up units in case of a wider conflict in the north with Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah.

Photo: Israel Defense Forces

15 civilians killed in an raid on Deir el-Balah

The Palestinian news agency Wafa says 15 Palestinian civilians were killed and several others injured in an Israeli shelling that hit a house in Deir el-Balah, in the centre of the Gaza Strip. Again according to Wafa, other victims were also recorded yesterday in the Nuseirat refugee camp and in the centre of the city of Khan Yunis. The latest toll provided by local authorities speaks of 21,978 deaths in the Strip since Israel began attacking the Palestinian enclave in response to the 7th October attacks carried out by Hamas.

Photo: Israel Defense Forces

Escalations on the Lebanese border

Three Hezbollah fighters were killed after Israeli forces launched air strikes targeting southern Lebanon, Sky News reported on Tuesday. Artillery fire between Hezbollah and Israel has rattled the border since the start of the Gaza conflict, with Israel’s military saying it carried out an air strike on Monday. Residents and security sources said Israeli raids targeted houses in the Lebanese village of Kafr Kila near the border, killing three people. They identified them as rescuers, but Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement later said on its Telegram account on Monday that the three were fighters with the movement. The Israeli official said the situation on the Lebanese border “will not be allowed to continue. This coming six-month period is a critical moment.”

Photo: EPA

Iranian warship Alborz enters the Red Sea

Meanwhile, Iran’s Alborz warship has entered the Red Sea, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported, at a time of soaring tensions on the key shipping route amid the Israel-Hamas war and attacks on vessels by forces allied to Tehran. Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis have been targeting vessels in the Red Sea since November to show their support for the Palestinian group Hamas in its war with Israel. In response, many major shipping companies have switched to the longer and more costly route around the Africa’s Cape of Good Hope rather than pass through the Suez Canal, which handles about 12% of global trade.

Photo: Fars News Agency, Mahdi Marizad/AP

Israeli court strikes out controversial Netanyahu bid

Israel’s Supreme Court has struck down a highly disputed law passed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government that rolled back some of the high court’s power and sparked months of nationwide protests. The law was part of a broader judicial overhaul proposed by Netanyahu and his coalition of religious and nationalist partners that caused a deep rift in Israel and concern over the country’s democratic principles among Western allies. Netanyahu’s Likud party said the Supreme Court’s decision was unfortunate and that it opposed “the will of the people for unity, especially during wartime”. Yair Lapid, Opposition chair and a former prime minister, praised the court.

Photo: Debbie Hill, AP

Clinton to be identified in Epstein documents

Former US President Bill Clinton is going to be identified as one of several John Does in previously-redacted documents related to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, according to ABC News. Fox News’ Alexandria Hoff reported on Monday that Clinton “is not the only big name expected to be released”. Nearly 200 names connected to the Jeffrey Epstein-Ghislaine Maxwell sex trafficking conspiracy could be released by a New York judge as soon as today, exposing or confirming the identities of dozens of associates of the disgraced financier that until now have only been known as John and Jane Does in court papers.

Jenni Hermoso to testify over World Cup kiss scandal

The Spanish footballer Jenni Hermoso is expected to appear in court today to give evidence against the former president of the country’s football association over an unwanted kiss during Spain’s World Cup win last summer. In a closed-door session Hermoso is set to give her version of events which turned celebrations after the victory in August into a global #MeToo moment. When Luis Rubiales planted the kiss on the lips of the striker, he sparked the #SeAcabo [It’s Over] movement in Spain and beyond, over sexual equality. The football boss, who has always insisted that the kiss was consensual and denies any wrongdoing, was banned from all football-related activities by Fifa, the sport’s world governing body. State prosecutors have accused Rubiales of sexual abuse and coercion for allegedly pressuring Hermoso to speak out in his defence after his actions prompted a worldwide controversy.

Photo: Getty

200 arrested during Dutch New Year riots

More than 200 people had been arrested on New Year’s Eve during riots throughout the Netherlands, in which dozens of police officers were injured. Dutch police in several cities were attacked with fireworks and stones, in what a spokesman told broadcaster NOS was a night of serious incidents and “unacceptable” violence. In Rotterdam more than 100 vehicles had been set on fire there, while in Amsterdam, The Hague, and other cities riot squads were needed to disperse violent crowds. Riot squads were also used throughout the country to assist fire brigades who were attacked with fireworks while they tried to put out numerous fires.

Photo: Netherlands Police

Zelinskly-Putin: ‘Clash of the Titans’

Volodymyr Zelensky’s Ukraine aims to shift the focus of the war to Crimea. Vladimir Putin’s Russia is only open to peace on its own terms and, ‘alternatively’, is ready to wipe out the enemy. 2024 opened with cross-messages between Kiev and Moscow, while the conflict that began in February 2022 heads towards year 3. Already in the last message of 2023, Zelensky bet on a successful campaign in the new year. Now, in words to The Economist, the Ukrainian president turns the spotlight on the strategy that Kiev aims to implement: in 2024, Crimea and the related battle in the Black Sea will become the centre of gravity of the war.

On the other hand, Putin’s message leaves little room for interpretation: “The strategic initiative at the front is in the hands of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and the enemy is gradually being swept away,” says the Russian president in a meeting with soldiers hospitalised at the Vishnevsky hospital. “We have the means of destruction that no other army in the world has.”

Moscow says the Kremlin is ready to lay down its arms. However, peace can only come on Russian conditions and they do not intend to renounce the regions considered annexed to its territory. Ukraine does not accept territorial sacrifices.

Disney’s most famous character loses his copyright

Mickey Mouse, one of the most iconic characters in popular culture, no longer has copyright protection. The world-famous Walt Disney character, who made its screen debut in the short film Steamboat Willie in 1928, is not the only iconic work to be available to the public. Disney is also set to lose its copyright of Winnie’s beloved sidekick, Tigger, who first appeared in the book The House at Pooh Corner 96 years ago. US law allows copyright to be held for 95 years – with Congress expanding it several times during that period. Disney looked set to lose the copyright to Mickey and Minnie in 2004 but benefited from a 20-year extension from Congress. The Passion of Joan of Arc, directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer,  Dark Princess by W. E. B. Du Bois, Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence, and Orlando: A Biography by Virginia Woolf are among the thousands of works that have entered the public domain.

The oldest man in Italy dies at 111

Tripoli Giannini, known as “Tripolino” – the oldest man in Italy – died in his home in Cecina (Livorno), at 111 years of age. “I thought he was immortal and… instead!”, said the man’s son, Romano. His death occurred on Sunday morning in the family home. “Tripolino” was very well known, not only in Cecina. In addition to being the oldest person on the peninsula, he was also by far the oldest among the Bersaglieri, the Army corps in which he had served, a membership he proudly claimed throughout his life.

Born in Cecina on 20th August 1912, “Tripolino” had been a trader and ran a fruit and vegetable shop. In his long life he witnessed great historical events from the twentieth century to the present day, including two World Wars, the election of a dozen Popes, the Monarchy, and the Republic. He had always enjoyed good health and survived multiple epidemics: from the Spanish Flu, which plagued Italy when he was a child, to Covid, when he was already well over a hundred years old. Italy’s oldest woman, Domenica Ercolani, died last November, aged 113. She died in her home in Pesaro, in the arms of her 87-year-old daughter.

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