World roundup: April 26 2023
Stories from Israel-Palestine, Sudan, Ukraine, and elsewhere
TODAY IN HISTORY
April 26, 1803: At around 1 in the afternoon a hail of some 3000 rock fragments, weighing around 37 kilograms in total, rains down upon the town of L’Aigle in France’s Normandy region. A French scientist named Jean-Baptiste Biot was dispatched to catalog and study the event by the French Academy of Sciences. His fieldwork determined conclusively that the fragments were of extraterrestrial origin, establishing near-definitive proof for the hitherto widely questioned existence of meteors. Biot’s work at L’Aigle birthed an entirely new field of study, meteoritics, and was the first of many significant scientific contributions he would make in his career.
April 26, 2005: Under considerable international pressure due to its suspected involvement in the February 14 assassination of then-Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic al-Hariri, the Syrian government withdraws the last of its occupation forces from Lebanon. Syria had invaded Lebanon in May 1976 during the Lebanese Civil War, in support of Maronite and conservative Muslim factions and in opposition to the Palestine Liberation Organization and leftist militias. Tensions later emerged between the Syrians and some Maronite leaders, like current Lebanese President Michel Aoun. Initially the Syrian military presence in Lebanon was legitimized by the Arab League under the auspices of a peacekeeping force, but by the mid-1980s the Arab League had stopped renewing its mandate and the Syrian presence in Lebanon could be considered a full-fledged military occupation.
In today’s global news:
Worldometer is tracking COVID-19 cases and fatalities.
The New York Times is tracking global vaccine distribution.
According to the World Health Organization, deaths from COVID have dropped by 95 percent worldwide since the start of the year. While there are still people dying, and the virus seems to cause long-term effects in some patients that still need to be studied and managed, this is obviously positive news. WHO officials say they’re still hoping to declare a definitive “end” to COVID at some point, though it seems pretty clear the virus has transitioned from pandemic to endemic.
A new poll commissioned by Al-Monitor puts the Turkish presidential race in a virtual tie, with incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at 45.2 percent to Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s 44.9 percent support. A majority of respondents (62.1 percent) say they’re unhappy with Turkey’s current political environment and a plurality of them (45.8 percent) believe the country is on the wrong track, figures that should work to Kılıçdaroğlu’s benefit but that he hasn’t been able to translate into a convincing polling lead. Worse, from Kılıçdaroğlu’s perspective, nearly a fifth (18 percent) of voters aged 18-25 say they’re still undecided. The youth vote should be a core part of a winning opposition electoral coalition, but Kılıçdaroğlu—an old candidate tied to the old guard of Turkey’s oldest political party—may simply not be connecting with that bloc.
This is probably not going to play a serious role in the election, but Erdoğan has been forced to withdraw from a number of campaign events this week over what he says is a stomach bug. I say “probably not” because if his illness lingers, worsens, and/or sparks rumors about a more serious health issue that could have an electoral impact. If the race is as close as it appears to be in polling even a small impact could be significant. I’ve already seen rumors about his health cropping up on social media though not from anything I would consider a reliable source.
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