Saudi Arabia has won the bid to host the World Expo 2030 in Riyadh, scheduled to take place from October 2030 until March 2031. Saudi Arabia received 119 votes from member states after a secret ballot was cast during the 173rd General Assembly of Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) in Paris. The two other cities in the running included Busan, South Korea’s second most populous city after Seoul, which garnered 29 votes, and Rome, with just 17 votes. The last World Expo was held in Dubai, a mega event which ended on March 31, 2022, convened 192 countries and millions of visitors from across the world. Osaka, Japan, which will host the next expo in 2025. Held since 1851, World Expos promote international cooperation in economic development, trade, arts and culture, and highlight advances in science and technology.
EU launches global alliance against traffickers
Opening the conference in Brussels for a global alliance against traffickers, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen urged the establishment of new bilateral partnerships that focus on the routes but we also need a global Alliance. “We know how difficult it is to tackle migrant trafficking but when we joined forces we made progress. Since my visit to Lampedusa we have joined forces with Italy. Crisis management is important but it is not enough. We need a systemic response that excludes traffickers from these activities.” The conference brings together representatives of 57 countries around the world and was announced by von der Leyen at the State of Union last September. “We must cooperate between member countries and agencies with a single European centre that coordinates information. Europol must increase its forces to support member countries”, said von der Leyen, while also announcing an update of European legislation to make the fight against trafficking. “We must prevent and dissuade people from entrusting their lives to traffickers. The best way to save lives is to prevent these people from making that journey,” she added.
Harsher punishment for human trafficking
Meanwhile, the European Commission on Tuesday unveiled two draft laws that toughen the punishment for the crime of human trafficking and expand the role of Europol, the bloc’s law enforcement agency, as the bloc struggles to bring down the number of migrants lured in by networks of smugglers. Euronews reports that in the first 10 months of 2023, the EU saw nearly 331,000 irregular border crossings, with the Central Mediterranean route accounting for the vast majority of incidents. The figures represent the highest level for that period since 2015 and have led to calls from member states to harden the common migration policy. Under a new directive that updates the 2002 framework, causing the death of a migrant could lead to a maximum of 15 years in prison – up from eight years foreseen in the current legislation.
Rescuers free all 41 workers from Indian tunnel
Rescuers in India pulled all 41 trapped tunnel construction workers to safety, ending their harrowing 17-day ordeal stuck beneath piles of mountainous rock and rubble. India TV reports that all the workers trapped in the tunnel were plucked to safety as nightfall descended on the site. Video footage posted online shows the jubilant scenes where the exhausted workers gasped for their freedom for the first time in more than two weeks. The workers – who were trapped beneath a collapsed road tunnel after a portion of it collapsed during a November 12 landslide – were pulled out through a metre-wide diameter passageway made of welded pipes inserted through the rubble. The rescue brought a dramatic end to an operation fraught with setbacks and delays.
Pope cancels attendance in Dubai’s COP28
Pope Francis cancelled his trip to Dubai for the UN climate conference on doctors’ orders Tuesday, even though he is recovering from the flu and lung inflammation, the Vatican said. The Pontiff revealed Sunday that he had lung inflammation. Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said Francis was improving from the flu and inflammation of his respiratory tract that forced him to cancel his audiences Saturday. But the doctors have asked the Pope not to make the trip planned for the coming days to Dubai. “Pope Francis accepted the doctors’ request with great regret and the trip is therefore cancelled,” he added. The pope, who turns 87 next month, had part of one lung removed as a young man.
Australia apologises for thalidomide tragedy
Survivors of the harmful morning sickness drug thalidomide were in the public gallery Wednesday when Australia’s Parliament made a national apology to them on the 62nd anniversary of the drug being withdrawn from sale in the country. Thalidomide, also sold under the brand names Contergan and Distaval, was available in 46 countries – including Malta – and caused birth defects, stillbirths and miscarriages. Survivors with limb deformities and one with no limbs were in the House of Representatives gallery to hear Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s apology. “This Parliament offers a full unreserved and overdue apology to all thalidomide survivors, their families, loved ones, and carers,” Albanese said, adding, “This apology takes in one of the darkest chapters in Australia’s medical history.” Doctors had assured pregnant women that the drug was safe.
Note: Last July, the Maltese government announced it would offer €3 million in compensation to Maltese victims of thalidomide. While it was internationally condemned in 1961, thalidomide remained commercially available in Malta until 1968. The Maltese Thalidomide Association (Stand Up for Thalidomide Malta) estimates that there are around 30 to 40 survivors living with disabilities related directly to the effects of the 60’s German drug in Malta. – Editor
Hamas gives Israel list of hostages to be released today
The list of the sixth set of hostages expected to be freed today, Wednesday, has been given to the Israeli government and families, two sources familiar with the matter tell CNN. This will be the second release in the extension of the truce. Another group of 12 hostages, comprising of 10 Israelis and two Thai citizens, were released by Hamas on Tuesday, according to officials. Thirty Palestinians were also freed from Israeli prisons, officials confirmed. Over the first five days of the truce in Gaza, Hamas has released 81 hostages, primarily women and children. Israel has freed 180 Palestinians from prison – mainly women and minors – many of whom were detained but never charged.
Hamas is “striving to extend the truce” with Israel in the Gaza Strip by using all of the cards it has in negotiations, a member of the militant group’s political bureau said. Ghazi Hamad said Hamas was in contact with Qatar and Egypt regarding the truce and that there are “efforts being made by other countries to pressure for a ceasefire. We are striving to extend the truce to stop the aggression once and for all, by using the cards we have,” Hamad said in a statement.
‘Continuing the war is giving Hamas what it seeks’ – Biden
“Continuing on the path of terror, violence, murder and war means giving Hamas what it seeks. We can’t do it,” US President Joe Biden said in a post published last night on his X account. “Hamas unleashed a terrorist attack because it fears nothing more than Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace,” Biden explains. According to the American journalist Patty Culhane, former White House correspondent for various US media and now reporter for the English-language Al Jazeera channel, the message shows that something “is slightly changing” in the position of the American president, who so far has never publicly called for a lasting ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. “Usually that’s how, when it comes to Israel, US politicians subtly change their messages through social media, through leaks,” Culhane says. Meanwhile, the CIA director, a central player in the Biden administration’s effort to negotiate a hostage deal, is in Qatar to push for a broader agreement that would include negotiations for men and soldiers, a source familiar with the talks tells CNN.
Meanwhiler, the United States airlifted more than 54,000 pounds of medical items and food to a logistics hub in Egypt to be brought into Gaza, according to US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. The US military said it will fly three planeloads of humanitarian aid in the coming days. United Nations officials have also been emphasising the increased need for assistance, especially the need for supplies to operate critical services and sectors like sewage, water or hospitals.
Rosalynn Carter honoured
Rosalynn Carter was remembered Tuesday as a former US First Lady who leveraged her fierce intellect and political power to put her deep Christian faith into action by always helping others, especially those who needed it most. A gathering of first ladies and presidents – including her 99-year-old husband Jimmy Carter – joined other political figures in tribute. But a parade of speakers said her global stature wasn’t what defined her. “She had met kings and queens, presidents, others in authority, powerful corporate leaders and celebrities,” her son James Earl “Chip” Carter III said. “She said the people that she felt the most comfortable with and the people she enjoyed being with the most were those that lived in absolute abject poverty, the ones without adequate housing, without a proper diet and without access to health care.” The Carter Centre announced her death on November 19 after living with dementia and suffering many months of declining health. She was a force behind husband Jimmy Carter’s rise from peanut farmer to winner of the 1976 presidential election.
Puerto Rico’s famous stray cats will be removed
Hundreds of stray cats that roam a historic seaside tourist area of Puerto Rico’s capital, where they are considered both a delight and a nuisance ,will be removed over the coming year, under a plan unveiled Tuesday by the US National Park Service. The estimated 200 cats live on 75 acres surrounding a fortress at the San Juan National Historic Site that the federal agency operates in Old San Juan. Cat lovers responded to the plan with dismay, but the agency noted that the felines can transmit illnesses to humans. The six-month timetable to remove the cats is unrealistic, said Ana María Salicrup, secretary of the board of directors for the nonprofit group Save a Gato, which currently helps care for the cats and which hopes to be chosen to implement the plan.
Main photo credit: Ahmed Yosri/Reuters