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Friday Briefing: The U.N. Warns of Disaster in Gaza

WorldFriday Briefing: The U.N. Warns of Disaster in Gaza

As Israeli troops moved toward the border with Gaza before a possible ground invasion to dismantle Hamas, a U.N. official warned of a humanitarian “disaster” in the blockaded territory.

Six days of Israeli bombardment have left more than 300,000 people homeless, and there was no immediate sign that emergency relief would be allowed in. Israel has pummeled the 140-square-mile Gaza Strip, already under a 16-year blockade, with airstrikes of a magnitude and intensity not seen in its past assaults.

The Gazan Health Ministry said that 1,417 Palestinians had been killed and 6,268 others had been injured. The ministry also warned that the health system “has begun to collapse.” Gaza’s sole power plant stopped generating electricity yesterday for lack of fuel, shutting off lights, refrigerators and other devices, and much of the region lacks running water.

Antony Blinken in Israel: The U.S. secretary of state condemned Hamas’s “reign of terror” as he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, but he also suggested the need for restraint in strikes on Gaza, calling for “every possible precaution to prevent harming civilians.”

New Zealanders are heading to the polls on Saturday in an election that is likely to show a rightward and populist shift in the country’s politics.

Pollsters predict that the opposition center-right National Party will form the next government with some smaller parties, despite what critics describe as its lack of vision for many of the country’s more vexatious issues.

Still, New Zealand’s proportional voting system could deliver last-minute twists, and New Zealand First, a small, populist party known for opposing immigration and supporting retirees, may once again become a kingmaker, as it did in 2017.

Context: Inflation is squeezing the economy, a spate of unusually violent crime has been on voters’ minds and there is a strong sense that the country has never been further off track. So polls indicate that most voters will punish the governing center-left Labour Party, which under Jacinda Ardern won a majority just three years ago.

Political fashion: Politicians typically swat away questions about their appearance, but Te Pati Maori, a New Zealand political party which could make gains this weekend, has wielded fashion as a political weapon.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said yesterday that the government would seek to dissolve the Japan branch of the Unification Church, more than a year after the fringe group’s ties to conservative Japanese politicians were revealed in the wake of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s assassination in July 2022.

After the killing, lawmakers scurried to contain the political fallout and began to scrutinize the church, which was found to have manipulated its members into handing over large sums of money over several decades.

What’s next: If the Tokyo district court orders the Unification Church to dissolve in Japan, the church will lose its property tax exemption and have to dispose of its assets. The church could appeal to the Supreme Court, or take its activities underground.

An international team of scientists has created the brain atlas, a $375 million effort to map the human brain in much finer resolution than ever before. The project, described in papers published yesterday, has identified more than 3,300 types of brain cells — an order of magnitude more than was previously reported. The researchers have only a dim notion of what the newly discovered cells do.

A collective of writers and artists is aiming to shake up the world of comic books, an industry dominated by the “Big Two” — DC and Marvel. One of the principal tenets of the new company, known as Ghost Machine, is creator ownership. It’s writers and artists will jointly own, operate and profit from the company.

The tension between artists and rights goes back to the earliest days of comics: In 1938, the creators of Superman sold their rights to the character for $130, with no inkling of how valuable the hero would become.

Ghost Machine’s first offering, “Geiger: Ground Zero,” will be out in November, followed in January by “Ghost Machine” No. 1, a comic that will introduce four shared universes, each with a focus on action, family, horror or science fiction.

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