Hamas and Israel make their 3rd prisoner-hostage exchange
Hamas released 17 more hostages yesterday, including one American — Avigail Idan, who turned 4 on Friday, nearly seven weeks after her parents were killed in the Oct. 7 cross-border assault on southern Israel.
Here’s what we know about the hostages.
The Israeli prime minister’s office said that 14 Israelis, including nine children, and three foreigners were released on the third day of the negotiated cease-fire. The terms of the deal — which began on Friday and involves the release of 50 hostages in exchange for 150 Palestinian women and minors in Israeli custody — has allowed for the longest break in fighting in Gaza since Oct. 7. It is slated to end on Tuesday.
Israel has offered to extend the pause by one day for every additional 10 hostages released, and Hamas later announced that it was seeking to extend the truce as well.
Here’s the latest.
Delays: Hamas threatened on Saturday to postpone the second trade, claiming that Israel had not allowed enough aid to reach northern Gaza. After an hourslong delay, the exchange went ahead, and Israel released 39 Palestinian prisoners and detainees. The delay raised fears that subsequent releases would be similarly fraught.
Aid: 200 trucks of food, water, medicine, fuel and cooking gas have arrived in Gaza each day during the cease-fire, according to President Biden. With practically no fuel or coal, families are burning doors and window frames to cook what they can scrounge. “We went back to the Stone Age,” one man said.
What’s next: An extended cease-fire could create more opportunities for other countries, particularly the U.S., to pressure Israel to scale back its military response, which has killed more than 13,000 Gazans, according to health officials there.
Australia’s fire season starts early
After the warmest winter on record and an unusually warm and dry spring, hundreds of fires have broken out along Australia’s east coast, including one that razed 53 homes in Queensland. Last week, on the west coast, strong winds and an unseasonably early heat wave fueled a raging blaze just over a dozen miles from the Perth city center.
By Sunday, firefighters had contained the Perth fire, which had burned through about 4,500 acres and destroyed 18 homes.
Stoked by the El Niño weather pattern, and worsened by climate change, this is the country’s first dry and hot year since the summer of 2019-20. This season is expected to be the worst since that period, when nearly 500 people died from direct fire exposure and smoke inhalation.
Unvaccinated children are driving a surge in outbreaks
Outbreaks of diseases that primarily kill children are spreading, driven by disruptions to health systems during the coronavirus pandemic that left more than 60 million children without a single dose of standard childhood vaccines.
By the midpoint of this year, 47 countries were reporting serious and deadly measles outbreaks, compared with 16 countries in June 2020. Nigeria is currently facing the largest diphtheria outbreak in its history, with nearly 600 deaths so far. Twelve countries are reporting circulating polio virus. Many of the children who missed their shots have now aged out of routine immunization programs, and account for nearly half of all child deaths from vaccine-preventable illnesses, according to the organization Gavi, which helps fund vaccination in low- and middle-income countries.
Protecting those children will require a costly vaccination blitz.
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The World Health Organization classifies its Africa region as the one with the highest suicide rate in the world, with some of the lowest public expenditures on mental health. A nonprofit initiative is aiming to change that.
Hair salons are already a favored gathering place for women. By offering mental health training to hairdressers in West and Central African cities — where counseling remains barely accessible, let alone accepted — the plan could provide relief to hundreds of clients.
The Beatles, A.I. and pop music’s bleak future
The Beatles’ latest single, “Now and Then,” was made possible with artificial intelligence tools that isolated John Lennon’s vocals from an old, muddied recording. The song was topping the charts in Britain and the U.S. within days of its release this month, pointing to a future where no golden goose need ever stop laying eggs, my colleague Peter C. Baker writes.
Much of the conversation about A.I. tools and art has focused on what “new” material a computer program can generate on its own. But the successful rollout of “Now and Then,” Peter writes, suggests a more plausible path for A.I. and the business of culture: making it easier to monetize existing content that is already profitable. There’s no reason not to picture a future in which our favorite entertainers are endlessly re-presented to us, hampering investment in innovations and experiments that result in novel art.