Chatter: Peace in the Middle East?




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Need to know:
Today, contrary to expectations, is not day nine of the Israel-Gaza conflict. Instead, it's day one of the Hamas-Israel cease-fire.

About 17 hours in, the truce appears to be holding. Israel says that several rockets were fired from Gaza after the deal came into effect last night, though Hamas denies it. Meanwhile Israeli troops said they had arrested 55 "terror operatives" in the West Bank overnight, including members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

In Gaza City, thousands of people are said to be celebrating at a rally to celebrate the "victory" (which both sides have claimed). Yet residents fear that this cease-fire, like others before it, will prove only temporary respite from decades of violence. Gazans say that short-term gains, such as the easing of Israel’s Gaza blockade, will eventually be overshadowed by the chronic, unaddressed ills of the long-running conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

The truce appears to be holding. But it ended a battle, not the war.

Want to know:
The Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for at least three attacks on Shiite Muslims.

At least 31 people are now confirmed dead from bombings yesterday in Rawalpindi, Karachi, Shangla and Quetta. Twenty-three died in the Rawalpindi blast alone, as a suicide bomber targeted Shiites on a procession to mark the holy month of Muharram. The Taliban, who do not consider Shiites to be true Muslims, say they were behind the first three strikes.

Security is heightened in anticipation of further violence during the holy period, which runs until mid-December.

Dull but important:
It's the rumble in, er, Brussels today as European leaders begin negotiating the EU's next seven years of spending.

That should be easy enough, right? ...Oh. The European Commission, the EU's executive body, wants the bloc's 27 members to contribute more than $1.3 trillion to its central budget over 2014 to 2020. But several of the largest contributors, led by the UK, say there's no way they'll agree to it, especially when spending at home has been ruthlessly cut. They're threatening to veto, while their neighbors who say they need the funding accuse them of tearing Europe apart.

At best, analysts say, we can expect today's talks to run over into the weekend. At worst, they'll collapse. That would necessitate an emergency summit early next year, or, at very-absolutely-really-we-mean-it worst, rolling over the 2013 budget into 2014 month-by-month plus inflation – which would end up costing far more than the pro-austere say they're willing to pay.

Just because:
For the first time in human history, more people are obese than hungry.

And we're not just talking about Thanksgiving: it's a new reality that stretches from the 7-Elevens of Southeast Asia to the debt-stricken countries of Europe, from malnourished sub-Saharan Africa to globalized South America and beyond.

On a day that America sets aside for overindulgence, GlobalPost investigates the patterns of consumption that make obesity a world problem, 365 days a year. The planet is fat. Will it kill us?

Strange but true:
What's the worst thing you can call someone from New Zealand? Australian.

That's not even a punchline, it's truly what a court in Britain decided when a dual British-New Zealand citizen accused a neighbor of racism for calling her a, ahem, "stupid fat Australian b***h."

"She knew I was from New Zealand. She was trying to be offensive. I was really insulted," said plaintiff Chelsea O'Reilly, who apparently found the Aussie epithet harder to stomach than her neighbor's expletive or threat to kill her dog.

The neighbor in question, one Petra Mills (who was – shocker – drunk at the time of the rant), denied using the "racist" term in question, with what has to be one of our favorite ever legal defenses: "I did not use the word 'Australian.' I used to live with an Australian person. She was very nice."

The court fined Mills £110 ($175) for racially aggravated public disorder. Some of your best friends might be Australian, love, but after that they certainly ain't Kiwi.