Pope eats with trans women at the Vatican

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Tuesday, 21st November 2023

Pope eats with trans women at the Vatican

On Sunday, Pope Francis hosted lunch for 1,200 poor and homeless people, including several trans women, many of whom are Latin American migrants and sex workers. The Associated Press reports that the lunch was held in recognition of the Catholic Church’s World Day of the Poor. Francis’ lunch comes days after the Vatican declared that trans people can now be baptised and become godparents, so long as doing so doesn’t pose the “risk of generating a public scandal or disorientation”. The Pontiff has been making great public strides toward connecting with trans Catholics. “Before, the Church was closed to us. They didn’t see us as normal people; they saw us as the devil,” Andrea Paola Torres Lopez, a trans woman from Colombia, told AP. “Then Pope Francis arrived and the doors of the Church opened for us.”

Chinese ‘life-or-death’ warning to US over Taiwan

Taiwan is “a life-or-death” question for Beijing, with no room for compromise on the status of what China regards as part of its territory, China’s former ambassador to Washington has warned the United States. Cui Tiankai, China’s longest-serving envoy to the US until he stepped down in 2021, made the comments in an interview with the Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post published on Monday. China claims Taiwan as part of its territory. “The Taiwan question is a matter of national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and national unity. So this is something like a life-or-death question for China… there’s no room for concession,” said Cui, now officially retired. He further highlighted China’s readiness to do anything to defend its national sovereignty, reiterating the gravity of the situation from Beijing’s perspective. But Cui also mentioned Beijing’s willingness to pursue peaceful means for reunification, provided its “one China principle” was respected. The position differs from the American “one China policy”, which formally recognises Beijing instead of Taipei but doesn’t support Chinese territorial claims to Taiwan. Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Jeff Liu, told Newsweek that the island was “not subordinate to the People’s Republic of China”. This is a status quo recognised by the international community, and China should recognise this fact, he said. The question of its relations with China will be at the forefront of Taiwan’s general election next year.

Photo credit: Jetty Images

‘660 people brought back to Libya’ – IOM

Over 660 illegal migrants were intercepted off the coast of Libya last week, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) reports. From 12 to 18 November, 662 people were rescued at sea and brought back to Libya, explains the UN agency in a statement released yesterday evening. The IOM says that, in total, 14,894 migrants have been intercepted off the Libyan coast since the beginning of the year, while 940 have died and 1,248 have disappeared on the Mediterranean route.

‘Raid on hospital in compliance with international law’ – Israel

The Israeli operations against the Indonesian hospital in the northern Gaza Strip were proportionate and “in full compliance with international law, Netanyahu’s foreign policy adviser, Ophir Falk, said last night. “We fully respect international law, with proportionality and distinction: there is a clear military necessity to destroy Hamas and that is exactly what we are doing,” Falk told CNN. “We are making a clear distinction between civilians and terrorists.” Twelve people, including patients and medical staff, died after Israeli tank fire hit an Indonesian hospital yesterday.

Photo credit: Egyptian Health Ministry/Handout/Reuters

‘Hamas nearing truce with Israel’ – Haniyeh

Meanwhile, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said today on Telegram, “We are close to reaching an agreement on a truce” with Israel. Hamas officials told Al Jazeera that details of the truce will be announced by Qatari mediators when it is finalised. The ongoing talks, the sources explained, would concern a truce of “a certain number of days” and would include agreements for the entry of aid into Gaza and the exchange of hostages taken by Hamas with people imprisoned by Israel. In particular, the release should concern Israeli women and children in exchange for Palestinian women and children.

Photo credit: Nohra/Lebanese Official Government via AP

Biden believes Hamas hostage release deal is near

US President Joe Biden said on Monday he believed a deal was near to secure the release of some of the hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza, telling reporters “I believe so” when asked at the White House about a possible agreement. Reports last week said that Qatari mediators had been seeking a deal between Israel and Hamas to exchange 50 hostages in return for a three-day ceasefire that would help boost emergency aid shipments to Gazan civilians. Some 240 hostages were taken during Hamas’s deadly cross-border rampage into Israel on 7 October, which prompted Israel to invade the Palestinian territory to wipe out the Islamist militant group. About 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed in the Hamas assault, according to Israeli tallies, the deadliest day in Israel’s 75-year-old history. Since then, Gaza’s Hamas-run government said at least 13,000 Palestinians have been killed, including at least 5,500 children, by unrelenting Israeli bombardment.

Photo credit: Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

200 people convicted in Italian mafia ‘maxi trial’

An Italian court has convicted and sentenced more than 200 people of crimes including criminal association, extortion, and bribery in what has been described as Italy’s largest mafia trial in three decades. The verdicts mark the end of a three-year “maxi trial” held in a high-security courtroom in the southern Calabria region built specifically to hold up to 350 defendants, accommodate 400 lawyers, and hear from the 900 witnesses providing testimony against an extensive network of members belonging to the notorious ’Ndrangheta. Although more than 100 individuals were acquitted by the court, the sentencing represents one of the most significant blows to date against the powerful organised crime syndicate, which enjoys a near-monopoly on the European cocaine trade.

US announces new Ukraine package

The US on Monday released a new $100 million aid package for Ukraine, announcing more artillery rounds and anti-aircraft munitions as Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin made a surprise visit to Kiev. The package includes 155 millimetre artillery shells, Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, small arms ammunition, and Javelin and AT-4 launchers. Austin said at a Monday press conference in Kyiv that the package will help Ukrainian troops in the coming months “have the means that they’ll need to be successful fighting in the wintertime”.

Photo credit: Rodrigo Abd/AP

Surprise visit to Kiev by German Defence Minister Pistorius

German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius arrived by train in Kiev for a surprise visit aimed at reaffirming Berlin’s support for Ukraine in its war against Russia. Pistorius is expected to hold talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Rustem Umierov and President Volodymyr Zelensky. Berlin, the second largest supplier of military assistance to Kiev after the United States, is seeking to offer reassurances after a shift in focus to the war in the Middle East sparked concerns about declining support for Ukraine.

Photo credit: Andreas Stein/DPA

Dutch far-right party leader in hospital after assault

The leader of a far-right Dutch populist party was assaulted at an event in the northern city of Groningen on Monday, two days before the Netherlands holds a general election. Thierry Baudet, leader of Forum for Democracy, was taken to a hospital in the city, the party said in a post on X. The party said Baudet was “alright” and was treated by a trauma surgeon after being hit on the back of the head and next to his eye with a beer bottle. A security guard was also injured. Police said the attacker was arrested and investigations continue.

Photo credit: ANP

Main photo credit: Franco Origlia/Getty Images

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