The heartbreaking headlines out of the Middle East have justifiably dominated the news cycle this past week. A ceasefire agreement appeared to be holding on Friday after Israel’s 11-day bombardment of Gaza killed at least 243 Palestinians, including 66 children. At least 12 people in Israel, including two children, have been killed in the latest escalation of violence.
The deeply asymmetric conflict has raised a question that resurfaces every time it reignites: Why is the United States unequivocal in its support for Israel?
We’ve got that story, as well as a few beyond the Middle East, including a fascinating look at the Earth’s growing space junk problem, US-South Korea relations, two nuclear reactors in China that are raising concerns and a roller coaster week for Bitcoin believers and other crypto enthusiasts.
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The amount pro-Israel groups donated to US political candidates during the 2020 electoral cycle, about twice as much as during the 2016 campaign, according to non-profit watchdog group OpenSecrets.org.
That money helps explain why the US has been and continues to be unequivocal in its support of Israel in a stunningly asymmetric conflict with Palestine. But it’s not the only reason. Al Jazeera’s William Roberts has that story here.
That’s the value of goods South Korea exported to China in 2020, almost double the $74bn worth of exports it sent to the US. That’s partly why South Korean President Moon Jae-in will be walking a delicate balance when he meets with US President Joe Biden at the White House Friday. Al Jazeera’s Dominic Fitzsimmons takes a deeper look into the summit here.
The number of CFR-600 sodium-cooled fast-neutron nuclear reactors China is building on the islet of Changbiao in Fujian province.
When completed, the two reactors will produce plutonium, which can be reprocessed and used as a fuel source for other nuclear reactors — or used to produce nuclear warheads.
But no one outside of Chinese officials and the companies overseeing the construction of the reactors knows if they are being built for purely civilian energy purposes, or if they might serve the additional purpose of acting as a nuclear deterrent. Al Jazeera has the story here.
That’s roughly what one Bitcoin was worth in morning trading in New York on Wednesday, marking a 31 percent crash from the day before. But sticking with its rep for nausea-inducing price swings, the world’s biggest cryptocurrency surged 33 percent by early afternoon on Wednesday. Read that story here.
Cryptocurrencies have been particularly volatile since one of their biggest fanboys, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, threw Bitcoin under the bus for its carbon footprint, and tweeted that Tesla will no longer accept it as payment for its electric vehicles. Oh – and by Friday morning, one Bitcoin was worth around $38,000. There’s a reason Bitcoin boosters are called HODLers (as in “Hold On For Dear Life”).
About 71 percent
The share of the Earth that is made up of water, which was good news for China’s space agency after one of its Long March rockets responsible for transporting the first piece of the country’s new space station into orbit made an uncontrolled re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.
Fortunately, most of it burned up on re-entry, but bits and pieces of the rocket crashed into the Indian Ocean near the Maldives. The incident has renewed a long-standing debate over space junk: the bits and pieces of rockets and other vehicles that get left behind on the trip into orbit. Al Jazeera’s Amy Thompson has that story here.
The number of working cats an animal shelter in Chicago has deployed to help fight the US city’s vermin problem in an eco-friendly way.
Rats are a big problem: the Windy City topped US pest control firm Orkin’s Top 50 Rattiest Cities List for the sixth consecutive year in 2020.
Tree House Humane Society says its teams of two to three feral cats scare off rats with their pheromones — and often become part of the family at the businesses and homes outside of which they live.
There’s currently a months-long waiting list for the feline entrepreneurs — which means it seems like it’s working out perfectly. #sorrynotsorry. You can read that story here.