Elections in Greece to be Held on May 21

elections Greece
Greeks will head to the polls on May 21 to elect a new parliament. Credit: AMNA

The Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis officially announced the date of the parliamentary elections on Tuesday, saying they will take place on May 21.

Speaking at a meeting of his ministers in Athens, the conservative leader said that if the first round of voting is inconclusive and a government is not formed, the second round will take place by early July at the latest.

Mitsotakis noted that the date marks the end of the government’s four-year term, and also takes into account the national university entrance exams in June and the start of the tourism season.

The premier also spoke of the perils of an inconclusive first round, describing the failure to form a government as a “trap,” while adding that the first round will determine “who will govern” and the second “how they will govern.”

“Citizens need to know who they’re voting for as prime minister,” Mitsotakis said, warning that the simple proportional representation system has resulted in a “maelstrom of instability” in other European countries.

Looking back on his government’s time in office, Mitsotakis said that “Greece is in a much better place in 2023 than it was in 2019.”

Conceding that “mistakes were made,” he said that the government’s work “will continue” to “change Greece more unconventionally and boldly.”

Elections in Greece in the shadow of rail disaster

The elections will be held in the shadow of the rail disaster of February 28 at Tempi where 57 people lost their lives.

Public anger over the long-time deficiencies of Greek railways is depicted in the polls, which show that Greeks are turning their backs on traditional parties, including the governing New Democracy (ND), SYRIZA, and socialist PASOK.

The parties who have governed Greece for decades and make up Greece’s political establishment are seen as responsible for the archaic railway system and their response to the tragedy.

Until the tragedy, all opinion polls showed that the governing party had a seemingly unassailable lead. Main opposition SYRIZA, which governed the country between 2015-2019, was following, with Socialist PASOK in third place.

A series of polls now show a significant drop in the popularity of ND. They also show that SYRIZA and PASOK seem unable to reap ND’s losses.

Political analysts note that the angry and shell-shocked public is joining the pool of undecided voters and the smaller parties, such as the Communist Party (KKE), Yanis Varoufakis’ Mera 25, and right-wing populists.

Beneficiaries could include the extreme right party “Ellines” of Ilias Kasidiaris, a former senior member of neo-fascist Golden Dawn currently in jail — if he is allowed to run in the elections.

As a result of the discrediting of the political system, a large increase in the abstention rate could also be recorded.

Is This a Goblin Shark Spotted in Greece or a Harmless Toy?

Goblin Shark Greece
At the top, is the suspicious specimen photo. Below, is a picture of an actual, verified goblin shark. Credits: Giannis Papadakis / Nicolas Straube / Mediterranean Marine Science / Gizmodo

Scientists who published a photo of what would be the first-ever goblin shark found in Greece and the whole of the Mediterranean Sea have retracted their report. The retraction, submitted on March 20, follows Gizmodo’s earlier reporting on the saga.

The scientists published a short description of what they claimed was the first goblin shark in the Mediterranean, based on a single, low-quality photo provided to them by a Greek citizen scientist in May 2022.

The photo was shot on the Greek Aegean island of Anafi. It then appeared in the journal Mediterranean Marine Science.

None of the researchers saw or interacted with that alleged specimen directly. The photo purporting to show the formerly living shark showed no scale, and the scientists were unable to make a firm estimate of its size.

Goblin sharks, elusive and distinctive looking deep-sea fish, have been documented in many places around the world but never before in the Mediterranean Sea.

If the 2022 record were genuine, it would represent an important range extension that could dictate future research funding or even marine conservation spending.

Yet many doubt its validity.

Goblin shark in Greece “doesn’t look natural”

“It didn’t look right,” David Ebert, author of the book ‘Sharks of the World’, told the New York Times. “It’s too small, and its gills don’t look like they’re actually open,” he said, adding that “It doesn’t look natural at all.”

Ebert and others were cautious because there had been no direct examination of the shark by someone with a formal science background.

Experts have said the specimen’s lack of teeth, overly rounded fins, and the low number of gill slits didn’t fit the characteristics of a goblin shark.

A photo of a plastic goblin shark toy sold by an Italian toy company, DeAgostini, was found online.

Experts argue it looks suspiciously similar to the goblin shark found in Greece.

The toy “shows a great similarity to the specimen in the published image,” Jürgen Pollerspöck, an independent shark researcher and a co-author of the report doubting the Greek goblin shark’s authenticity, told the New York Times.

“It looks an awful lot like a toy shark,” deep-sea ecologist Andrew Thaler agreed.

“I think it’s very possible that it could be [a] degraded plastic toy,” Joana Sipe, a scientist studying plastic degradation at Duke University, told Gizmodo.

The study authors have officially retracted the photo and their study.

“The above authors remove these recent publications due to remaining uncertainty because they are based on a visual observation by a citizen (citizen scientist), without a specimen being available. The available information was not adequate to support this record based solely on photographic evidence and direct contact between the authors and the citizen,” the notice by the authors reads.

Related: Blue Sharks Swim Alongside Fishing Boats in Greece

ABCD: The Grain Giants that Make a Bonanza from Surging Prices

ABCD Grain giants
Credit: CIAT, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0/Wikipedia

ABCD is an acronym for the world’s grain giants that in recent years have made a bonanza from the surge in wholesale prices of grains, mainly wheat, corn, and oilseeds.

The acronym stands Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge, Cargill and Louis Dreyfus, the powerful but relatively unknown conglomerates that have controlled the global agricultural supply chain for decades.

In May 2022, just three months after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the “granary of Europe”, the prices of wheat, corn and vegetable oils reached historic highs.

According to the French daily Le Figaro, Cargill reported a 23% increase in revenues to a record $165bn by mid-2022. And during the second quarter of the year, Archer Daniels Midland had its highest profits ever. Its yields soared to a 157-year high, according to statistics compiled by Bloomberg.

2022 was also a great year for US-based Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), which posted a record net profit of $4.34 billion, up 60% compared to 2021, Le Figaro says.

China’s state-owned COFCO and a couple of other contenders in Asia are now joining the ABCD to share in booming profits.

ABCD quartet controls 70% to 90% of the global grain trade

But “the ABCD quartet controls 70% to 90% of global grain trade,” Jennifer Clapp, a food security economist at the University of Waterloo in Canada, tells Le Figaro.

“It is impossible to know the exact market shares shared by these four giants. Two of them are also not listed on the stock exchange and do not publicly share detailed data on their financial returns,” adds the Canadian professor.

“At a time when the food and energy security of millions of people is in doubt due to rising food and commodity prices, the colossal groups of the international agricultural sector are making record profits,” Public Eye, a Non-Governmental Organization based in Switzerland, said in mid-January.

“If they bought wheat in January 2022 for delivery in three months, if they paid before Russia invaded Ukraine and the prices of the commodity skyrocketed, they could sell it later at an astronomically high level,” explains Jennifer Clapp.

The ABCDs have recently been targeted by NGOs and independent scientists.

“Demand for grain has not weakened since the outbreak of war and we remain well positioned to take advantage of the profit opportunities that are presented to us,” Missouri-based Bunge CEO Greg Heckman admitted in February, according to Le Figaro.

Cargill countering accusations of “opaque super-profits” reminded that it is not the one that determines food prices.

Unlike Bunge, Cargill denies it benefited from the crisis. The company claims to have contributed to the stability of the global food system, noting that it has disbursed nearly $162 million to aid humanitarian organizations.

The ABCD quartet is also drumming up the explosion in its operational costs. It claims big increases in nitrogen fertilizer prices, shipping, and fuel.

“These dinosaurs, unknown to the general public, are not mere middlemen in the global food market and supply chain. They own and exploit arable land, supply farmers with seeds and fertilizers, buy their own grain production, ship it, store it, resell it,” says Richard Fleuren of Le Figaro.


Greece Thanks Pope Francis for the Return of Parthenon Fragments

Pope Parthenon Fragments
Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni thanked Pope Francis for the return of the Parthenon fragments. Credit: Ministry of Culture

Greece thanked Pope Francis for the return of the Parthenon fragments during a visit to the Vatican by Culture Minister Lina Mendoni on Monday.

The meeting follows the reunification ceremony which took place on last Friday in Athens, which saw the three fragments of the Parthenon that had been preserved for more than two centuries in the Vatican Museums returned to Athens and the Acropolis Museum.

Minister Mendoni presented the Pope with a letter from Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, thanking him for his important decision to donate the three fragments of the Parthenon to Archbishop Hieronymos.

Pope Francis decided to return Parthenon fragments in 2021

Pope Francis resolved to return the Parthenon fragments from the Vatican Museums’ collection to Greece after his apostolic tour of Greece and Cyprus in December 2021.

During his 45-minute meeting with Mendoni, the Pontiff expressed his endless respect for Greece as the cradle of Western Civilisation, highlighting his relationship with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

As a token of gratitude, the Greek Culture Minister presented the Pope with the ‘Refugee’ replica of a 1st century BC marble statue (known as ‘To prosfygaki’), a special gift to reflect the Pope’s love for children and his constant efforts to better the conditions refugees face worldwide.

The original statue of the ‘Refugee’ was unveiled in August 1922 in Gerontiko of Nyssa, Smyrna by archaeologist Konstantinos Kourouniotis who managed to salvage the find during the first days of the destruction of Smyrna.

For decades, the Greek government has been at pains to repatriate pieces of the Parthenon that were appropriated without Greek consent. The recent return of these fragments from the Vatican’s collection represents a significant milestone, but dozens of pieces remain in foreign collections, most controversially with the British Museum.

Parthenon fragments return ceremony
The ceremony marking the return of fragments of the Parthenon to Greece from the Vatican Museums. Credit: Vatican News

The donation ceremony held in Athens was presided over by Ieronymos II, Greece’s most senior archbishop, and Mendoni.

Representing the Vatican was a delegation that included Bishop Brian Farrell, Secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity; Archbishop Jan Romeo Pawłowski, Apostolic Nuncio to Greece; Msgr. Andrea Palmieri, Undersecretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity; and Prof. Barbara Jatta, Director of the Vatican Museums.

“Initiatives like these show the way, how the pieces of the Parthenon can be reunited, healing the wounds caused by barbaric hands so many years ago,” said Mendoni.

“This takes us to the just and moral demand of the entire Greek people, and of this government and its prime minister, for the final return of all the sculptures of the Parthenon,” the Greek minister added.

The three fragments of Pentelic marble are remnants of a 160-meter-long (520-foot) frieze that ran around the outer walls of the Parthenon Temple on the Acropolis, dedicated to Athena, goddess of wisdom.

The fragments came into the possession of the Vatican in the 19th century.

Greece and China: The Wisdom of Ancient Civilizations

Greek art china
Chinese culture, like Greek culture, belongs to one of the oldest civilizations. Credit: /Wikimedia Commons

Chinese culture belongs to one of the oldest civilizations, as does Greek culture, and Confucian teachings have been regarded as providing the definitive morality that underpins Chinese mentality and behavior, regardless of any religious background.

By Steve Bakalis

“The values of the cultures of our two countries, as well as the way in which we approach and understand the world, the universe, life, science and culture emanating from them, cover a broad spectrum and are renewed over time, and are destined to provide valuable spiritual guidance for overcoming the difficulties of our times and building a community with a common future for all humanity,” said Sun Chunlan.

These sentiments are aligned with the revival of the Silk Road, which has connected Greece and China since the time of Alexander the Great, and aims to open more channels of communication and cooperation between China and Greece, as well as between the West and the East. And the constantly growing presence of a Chinese community in Greece gives us yet another reason for cultivating partnership with China.

In the meantime, the controversy surrounding the AUKUS defense pact which was first signed between three nations (the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia) 18 months ago, returned to the spotlight with the Australian government’s recent decision to back it up with a $368 billion spending commitment for the acquisition of nuclear powered submarines.

Former Prime Minister Mr Keating, who was very critical from the start, insisting that Australia should move closer to China rather than to the United States and the United Kingdom, said history will be the judge of this pact in the end.

In his view, it is a mistake, offers no solution to the challenge of great power competition in the Asia-Pacific region, and offers Australia no security. The coverage of his perspective, politics and policy in the media sought to isolate Keating and portray his perspective as outdated, highlighting to some extent a societal reluctance to acknowledge different opinions.

A restructuring in the global economy

Against the background of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow, and amid forecasts that the global economy, after a long period of contraction, is expected to have another round of slow growth (2.9 percent, compared to 3.4 percent in 2023), nations are facing economic downturns whose scope and magnitude is troubling, while still trying to manage the fallout from a public health crisis. All of this requires careful moves to avoid worsening economic and social disasters.

Certainly, this presents challenges, but also opportunities, for governments around the world who find themselves in hitherto uncharted seas. Within this uncertain landscape, we are witnessing a restructuring in the global economy. For example, China’s share of the world economy is on the rise, from just 3.6% in 2000 to 18.6% today. threatening the hegemony of the United States as an economic superpower.

This development was predicted 90 years ago by Bertrand Russell, who said that China is capable of overtaking America as a superpower, based on a long-term development horizon that differs from the short-term mentality of Western nations, while pointing out that:

“The Chinese are a great nation, incapable of permanent suppression by foreigners. They will not consent to adopt our vices in order to acquire military strength; but they are willing to adopt our virtues in order to advance in wisdom. I think they are the only people in the world who quite genuinely believe that wisdom is more precious than rubies. That is why the West regards them as uncivilized” (The China Problem (1922), Ch. XIII: Higher Education in China – Bertrand Russell)

The Greek poet beloved in China

Nikos Kazantzakis, whose heart was also won by China, has the same way of thinking. When he fell ill duing his last visit to China, he longed to spend the rest of his life there. Later, he was honored by the Communist Party as a great writer and lover of peace.

It is no coincidence that during his November 2019 visit to Greece, in his official speech, Chinese President Xi Jinping referred to Nikos Kazantzakis as a giant of modern Greek literature. He added that “Confucius and Socrates were two masks that covered the same face of human logic’, pointing out that great civilizations have much in common, and offer lessons for the future.

Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis
Photograph of Nikos Kazantzakis, from his personal archive. Photo credit: Dioptra publishing house

Greece and China two great ancient civilizations

Indeed, Chinese culture belongs to one of the oldest civilizations, as does Greek culture, and Confucian teachings have been regarded as providing the definitive morality that underpins Chinese mentality and behavior, regardless of any religious background.

Besides this, they also serve as a practical guide to regulate the conduct (through human virtues and values) of the lives of millions of people in China, Japan and the newly industrialized countries of East Asia such as South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore, all these countries having been influenced by Confucianism.

And so we see in the East a model of economic development that is aligned with Confucian philosophy, where moderation is one of the key drivers, and therefore one of the important catalysts for maintaining and perpetuating a healthy economy, underpinned by the “right culture”. Indeed, China’s reliance on ancient Confucian economics has become both the driving force behind China’s modernization, and one of the main reasons for China’s “boom” in recent years.

It is also noteworthy that both Confucius and Plato have human moderation at the center of their thinking, and their wisdom guides us towards the need for people to live harmoniously, while at the same time pursuing economic dynamism. Plato taught that wealth is important to individuals and societies because it gives people the freedom to choose to live a “just” life, and facilitates higher levels of well-being and happiness, but attachment to wealth alone, without a moral compass, will lead to decay.

Still, China’s rise is creating much uncertainty worldwide by challenging US hegemony. The words of Chinese President Xi Jinping following his visit to Moscow: “The international community has recognized that no country is superior to others, no model of governance is universal, and no single country should dictate the international order,” seem to resonate with the thinking of both Bertrand Russell and Nikos Kazantzakis.

Steve Bakalis is an expert on international business education and management, He has held adjunct appointments with the Australian National University, the University of Adelaide, and the University of International Business and Economics. 

Copper Made Bronze Age Cyprus an Important Trade Hub

Copper Deposits Make Bronze Age Cyprus An Important Trade Hub
Because of its copper deposits, Bronze Age Cyprus became one of the most important trade hubs in the Mediterranean. Credit: Zde / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Recent archaeological excavations led by the Swedish Cyprus Expedition at the Hala Sultan Tekke on the south coast of Cyprus have revealed new insights into the area’s past.

The most recent discoveries indicate that the Hala Sultan Tekke complex on the west bank of Larnaca Salt lake, in the city of Larnaca, was far bigger than what was previously believed. It is estimated to have covered a large area and was one of the most important commercial centers in the eastern Mediterranean region during the Bronze Age.

Research Project Continued for 13 Seasons

The research project, which began in 1927, aims to map the island’s archaeological history. The most recent expedition, led by emeritus professor Peter Fischer of the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Gothenburg, started in 2010 and has continued for 13 seasons.

The excavations have unearthed substantial numbers of luxury products made of gold, silver, ivory, and semi-precious gemstones, in addition to imported pottery and other commodities, which indicates that there was a strong demand for the city’s manufacture of copper.

According to Peter Fischer, “Our investigations and excavations show that Hala Sultan Tekke was larger than was previously thought, covering an area of some 25 to 50 hectares, which is a big city by that period’s standards. Usually, settlements at this time and in this area covered only a few hectares.”

Cyprus’ Mines and Copper Production

Cyprus’ mines produced more copper than any other in the Mediterranean during the Bronze Era. The sooty workshops of Hala Sultan Tekke were located in the city’s north. This was done so that the southerly breezes might carry the noxious smoke and odor away from the present city of Larnaca.

The excavations have revealed smelting furnaces, cast molds, and slag, all of which attest to the site’s rich history of copper manufacturing. Researchers have also found evidence that the ore used to produce the copper was transported to the area from mines in the neighboring Troodos Mountains.

Despite the hazardous nature of the copper production process, the area flourished due to its central location in the eastern Mediterranean and a well-protected harbor.

Evidence of Trade

Researchers have found abundant evidence of trade with neighboring regions, including  Greece, modern-day Turkey, the Middle East, and Egypt, as well as with further-flung destinations like Sardinia, the Baltic Sea region, Afghanistan, and India, in the form of pottery, jewelry, and other luxury items.

The research has also shown that highly sought-after purple-dyed textiles were produced in Hala Sultan Tekke. The purple mucus used to make the dye was harvested from a specific type of murex.

The area also exported earthenware decorated with human, animal, and plant motifs. The artist responsible for these painted themes has been dubbed the “Hala Sultan Tekke painter” by academics.

Peter Fischer notes, “The great thing about the many pottery finds is that we can assist our colleagues around the Mediterranean and beyond. No pottery has the same spread as the coveted Cypriot pottery during this period. By finding locally made pottery that we can date in the same layer as other imported pottery that was previously difficult to date, we can synchronize these and help colleagues date their finds.”

Name of Hala Sultan Tekke

The Bronze Age city (3300 BC-1200 BC) was given the name Hala Sultan Tekke, after the mosque that was built ( 1760-1817 AD) not far from the excavation site.

After more than 500 years as a significant trading center, the city eventually fell, around 1200 BC, along with numerous other advanced Bronze Age civilizations in the Mediterranean.

Around this period, it was widely believed that an invasion by the “Sea Peoples” wiped out the Bronze Age civilizations of the eastern Mediterranean by demolishing their towns.

Αerial Footage Released of Gigantic Breakaway Antarctic Iceberg

Αerial Footage Antarctic Iceberg.
Αerial Footage of Gigantic Antarctic Iceberg. Credit: Ian Potten/BAS

A massive iceberg in Antarctica named A81, bigger than the city of Los Angeles, recently made headlines for its mind-blowing size.

The iceberg was birthed from the Brunt Ice Shelf on January 22, 2023, after a gigantic chasm finally snapped through the 490-foot-thick ice shelf, which had been widening for almost a decade.

The iceberg has since traveled around 93 miles into the Weddell Sea. The Halley Research Station of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) took the film of A81 as they flew over the iceberg on their way back home.

The Calving Event

When the crew first detected the gap in 2012, the calving event was anticipated, according to Oliver Marsh, a BAS glaciologist who just returned from the Halley Research Station.

“This was a calving we knew was coming. BAS has been monitoring the Brunt Ice Shelf and the chasms formed across it for over a decade. Since glaciologists first observed Chasm-1 widening in 2012, BAS science and operations teams have been anticipating the calving event. High precision GPS instruments, as well as satellite data, have been used to monitor the widening of the chasm and in 2016 BAS took the precaution of moving the Halley Research Station inland to protect it” Marsh stated.

As it broke away from Antarctica, A81 encompassed an area of around 600 square miles, and it is now calving many little icebergs along its shoreline.

Impact on Sea Levels

Researchers from the BAS will continue to follow A81 to determine where it will ultimately go and what effect its melting will have on the level of the ocean when it is completely gone. The melting of the enormous iceberg may have a huge effect on the levels of seas all across the world.

It is possible that the sea level will rise as a result of the iceberg melting into the ocean. Professor Geraint Tarling, head of the Ecosystems team at BAS said, “An iceberg of this size will have a big impact on the ocean ecosystems which support the rich diversity of marine wildlife found in this Antarctic region.”

A76A – Another Giant Iceberg

Glaciologists are also keeping a close check on another massive iceberg known as A76A, which separated from the Ronne Ice Shelf in Antarctica in the month of May 2021. The colossal chunk of ice is the largest portion of A76 that is still in existence, making it the largest iceberg in the whole world.

The iceberg that broke off from the ice sheet and became known as A76 spanned an area of around 1,700 square miles, making it somewhat bigger than the state of Rhode Island.

On October 31, 2022, satellite photos showed that iceberg A76A had finally begun to move away from the coast of Antarctica and towards the Drake Passage. The passage will pull the berg closer to the equator, which is when it will finally melt.

Sniffing Body Odor Tested As an Anxiety Therapy

Sniffing Body Odour Anxiety Therapy
Swedish researchers have proposed that sniffing body odor can be used as a therapy against anxiety. Credit: FotoMediamatic / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Swedish researchers are currently conducting tests with volunteers to see if smelling other people’s body odor could be beneficial in treating social anxiety. The new study, led by Elisa Vigna of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, was presented last weekend at the European Congress of Psychiatry in Paris.

The scientists are using armpit sweat in their experiments because they believe that the scent triggers certain brain pathways that are associated with emotions. This, in turn, may provide a calming effect for those who suffer from social anxiety.

While the researchers have some early findings, it is too soon to draw any concrete conclusions. They will be presenting their initial results at a medical conference in Paris this week.

The logic behind the research

Our body odor might communicate our emotional state, such as whether we are happy or anxious, to others who can smell it, according to Swedish researchers. This could even elicit a similar emotional response in those who smell it.

To test this theory, the researchers asked volunteers to donate their armpit sweat while they were watching a scary or happy movie. Then, they asked 48 women with social anxiety to sniff some of these samples while receiving mindfulness therapy.

Mindfulness therapy encourages people to focus on the present moment instead of dwelling on negative thoughts. Some of the women were given real body odor samples to sniff, while others were given clean air.

The women who were exposed to the armpit sweat appeared to benefit more from the therapy than those who were not. This suggests that body odor can affect our emotions and our interactions with others.

The sweat produced when a person is happy can have the same effect as when they are scared by a movie, said Ms. Elisa Vigna, the main researcher at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. This suggests that human chemical signals in sweat could play a role in how people respond to treatment.

Since it’s possible that merely being around someone else can have a positive effect, more research is needed to confirm this. To that end, the team is conducting a follow-up study with a similar design, but this time they are including sweat from people who are watching emotionally neutral documentaries, according to Ms. Elisa Vigna.

Do all people have sweat odor?

Sweat on its own doesn’t have a particular scent, according to Harvard Health Publishing. It’s only when bacteria mix with the sweat produced by your apocrine glands that a noticeable odor is emitted.

Moreover, it is also possible that a person may sweat excessively but not smell, according to Cleveland Clinic.

The sense of smell plays an essential role in our emotional well-being. The charity aims to raise awareness about disorders that affect our sense of smell and taste, said Duncan Boak, who works for the charity Fifth Sense.

Losing the ability to smell the people in our lives, such as our partner or children, can lead to feelings of isolation and depression. This is is an initial study, and more research is needed to fully understand the connection between our sense of smell and our mental health.

Israel PM Pauses Legal Reform to “Avoid Civil War”

Israel protests 2023
Netanyahu Pauses Legal Reform to “Avoid Civil War” in Israel. credit: wikimedia commons / Hanay CC BY 3.0

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has delayed his government’s controversial new judicial reforms until the next parliamentary session in the face of widespread protests, strikes, and a refusal by some Israelis to perform mandatory military service.

“When there’s an option to avoid civil war through dialogue, I take a time-out for dialogue,” said the Israeli Prime Minister on Monday.

The political crisis was sparked by the incumbent government’s intention to take full control over the committee which appoints judges. Netanyahu says that the move would prevent the courts from over-reaching their powers but critics have argued that the changes will help him face an ongoing trial for corruption.

Netanyahu faces mass demonstrations and political crisis

On Saturday, 200,000 protestors rallied in Tel Aviv alone, to oppose the government’s judicial reform plans. It was the 12th consecutive week that demonstrators gathered to express their disapproval.

As the country’s largest labor organization declared a strike, Israelis observed their society grind to a halt. Services, ranging from the major airport to shops, banks, and even hospitals, were disrupted.

In the face of these massive protests and strikes, the Israeli Prime Minister announced today that he would pause the second and third readings of the controversial justice bill until the next parliamentary session.

Political situation

During a televised address to the nation, Netanyahu commented that Israel had been brought to a “dangerous cross roads” and blamed an “extremist minority” for “tearing Israel apart.”

“We are at the start of a crisis that endangers our basic unity” Netanyahu continued. “This crisis requires us all to act responsibly.”

He urged members of the IDF’s reserve forces to resume their service. “Israel cannot exist without the IDF, and the IDF cannot exist with refusals to serve,” said Netanyahu. He said that refusals to serve could result in “the end of the state.”

The decision to delay the judicial reform has bought Netanyahu and his government some breathing space but it has not resolved the issue. Those in opposition to the reforms wanted them to be scrapped entirely.

It would seem that the delaying action has brought about an end to the immediate crisis, given that the country’s national labor union has called off further strikes. However, protests and strikes could just as easily resume if Netanyahu attempts to push through his legislation at a later date.

What are the opposition saying?

Naturally, Israel’s main political opposition leader has weighed in on the crisis. Yair Lapid has expressed his willingness to engage in “genuine dialogue” with the coalition government provided that the judicial reforms are suspended for a an adequate duration.

“We need to let the president determine a mechanism for the dialogue and trust him to be a fair mediator,” Lapid continued. “This is what we have demanded for the past months – genuine and constructive dialogue, by a leadership willing to take responsibility.”

The opposition leader expressed hopes that an honest discourse process would allow Israel to emerge “stronger and more united”.

Supermassive Black Hole Faces Earth

Black Hole Faces Earth
Scientists discover supermassive black hole that now faces Earth. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech / Royal Astronomical Society / CC BY 4.0

An international team of space experts has discovered something incredible: a galaxy with some very unusual activity going on in its core, which has led to its being reclassified.

The galaxy is called PBC J2333.9-2343, but after some new research, scientists have realized that it’s actually something different. This discovery has been shared in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Located an incredible 656 844 372 light years away, PBC J2333.9-2343 is now known as a giant radio galaxy that stretches across 4 million light years. The most surprising part for researchers is that it has a blazar at its center.

A blazar is a superactive area in a galaxy with a relativistic jet that travels very fast and is pointed toward us. These jets are incredibly powerful and are considered one of the most intense things in the universe.

What makes PBC J2333.9-2343 so interesting is that its jet has suddenly changed direction by as much as 90 degrees. Before, it was moving in a way that was perpendicular to our line of sight, but now it’s pointing straight at us.

Composition of blazars

These jets are made up of tiny charged particles such as electrons or protons, which move extremely fast, almost at the speed of light. These particles circle around a strong magnetic field, producing radiation that can be seen across a wide range of electromagnetic waves.

The blazar jet in PBC J2333.9-2343 is believed to originate from the supermassive black hole located in its center or possibly from nearby. When the jet is aimed directly at us, the radiation it emits is significantly stronger than that from the rest of the galaxy.

This results in high-intensity flares that are even more powerful than those seen in other radio galaxies, leading scientists to reconsider the classification of this amazing phenomenon.

The lead researcher, Dr. Lorena Hernández-García, explained that their initial hypothesis was that the direction of the relativistic jet emanating from the supermassive black hole in the galaxy had shifted. To confirm their assumption, they conducted extensive observations.

Their findings revealed that the core of the galaxy was no longer providing sustenance to the lobes, indicating that they were ancient and no longer active. Meanwhile, structures located nearer to the core showed signs of more recent and ongoing activity in the form of younger, active jets, said Dr. Lorena.

Determination of its classification

When the two jets of a galaxy are pointing toward the sky, it is classified as a radio galaxy. However, if one of the jets is pointed toward us, the Active Galactic Nucleus (AGN) of the galaxy is known as a blazar.

The galaxy PBC J2333.9-2343 was originally thought to be a blazar, but recent observations have shown that it is actually a radio galaxy with a blazar at its center.

In the past, changes in the direction of jets have been observed in X-shaped radio galaxies, but this is the first time that such a phenomenon has been observed in a nuclear outburst originating from the AGN, according to the Royal Astronomical Society.