World roundup: January 24 2024
Stories from Israel-Palestine, Myanmar, Russia, and elsewhere
TODAY IN HISTORY
January 24, 41: The Roman Praetorian Guard assassinates the sitting emperor, Caligula, for…well, a bunch of reasons, including the regular ridicule he heaped upon the Guard’s commander, his (alleged) plans to move the imperial capital to Alexandria, and his, shall we say, grandiose sense of self. With no real plan in place for succession, another Guard faction smuggled Caligula’s uncle, Claudius, out of the city and he was subsequently proclaimed emperor. Claudius turned out to be a competent emperor, and modern historians tend to put him in the “good” (or sometimes even “very good”) tier when ranking Roman rulers. His reputation definitely benefits by comparison with both his predecessor and his successor (Nero).
January 24, 1984: Apple begins selling a new computer it calls the “Macintosh.” After some early struggles related to its relatively low performance combined with a relatively high price, and then a mid-life crisis related to essentially the same things, I would have to say the product turned out to be fairly successful. The Macintosh, or “Mac,” is credited with driving the move toward the graphical user interface and it still accounts for a significant, though probably decreasing, portion of Apple’s revenue.
A new study published in the journal Nature on Wednesday finds that groundwater depletion is accelerating in many parts of the world, especially in “dry regions with extensive cropland” as the AP put it. This is bad, but the findings are not entirely bleak. Apparently the researchers also found a portion of aquifers in which the rate of depletion has actually declined over the past 20 years, not coincidentally in places where governments have taken steps to improve water management. So assuming world leaders can agree to accept scientific reality and craft rational, effective policy in response to a critical challe-yeah, OK, I’m just going to move on.
Negotiations around the ceasefire plan we discussed in yesterday’s newsletter are reportedly heating up. According to Reuters, the Israeli government and Hamas “broadly agree in principle” on the framework of an initial one month cessation of hostilities combined with prisoner exchanges. They remain deadlocked over the question of what comes next, or perhaps more accurately on the question of whether anything should come next. As I mentioned on Monday, Axios reported that the Israeli government had offered Hamas a two-month ceasefire and prisoner exchange but with what seems like an explicit commitment to resuming hostilities at the end of that period. Hamas apparently rejected that proposal but has made it clear that it is amenable to a new ceasefire/exchange deal, and the scheme that emerged yesterday was centered on a one month ceasefire that could be extended beyond that. Reuters is reporting that Hamas wants the outline of a path from that ceasefire to a full cessation of hostilities laid out ahead of time and Israeli leaders do not.