NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg has warned against underestimating Russia's determination to continue the war. The EU has delivered 300,000 of its promised 1 million shells to Ukraine, with calls for closer alignment of Ukrainian and NATO arms production. Ukraine reported killing five high-ranking Russian officials in an air strike, and claimed that Russian casualties have reached 327,580. Ukrainian air defences successfully intercepted 21 Iranian-made Shahed drones heading towards a region where an airbase is located. Meanwhile, Russia escalated attacks in the Donetsk region, intensifying artillery fire, airstrikes, and ground infantry attacks. British intelligence indicated the potential use of 500kg cluster bombs. Russia also claimed control of the village of Khromove, near the city of Bakhmut.
The ‘Elgin Marbles’ are ancient Greek sculptures taken from the Parthenon in Athens and currently housed in the British Museum. The British government argues that the marbles are a part of world heritage, while Greece has called for their return to their homeland. The argument has flared up with the visit of the Greek prime minister to the UK. When he raised the issue in a TV interview, Rishi Sunak cancelled their scheduled meeting, claiming that he had reneged on his promise not to campaign publicly about their return. The Greek foreign minister, at a NATO meeting, has said their claim is based on ‘history’ and ‘justice’. This issue highlights the broader question of repatriating cultural artefacts taken during colonial times.
On 30 November Israel and Hamas struck a last-minute agreement to extend their ceasefire for a seventh day. Both sides agreed to extend the truce, with Hamas releasing more hostages and Israel receiving a list of those to be freed. So far, 97 hostages have been released by Hamas and 180 prisoners by Israel: however, there are reports that israel has been arresting more Palestinians. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/11/28/arrests Washington hoped the truce could be extended further to free more hostages and let more aid reach Gaza. The ceasefire has allowed 220 lorries a day to bring in humanitarian aid to the strip, but two-thirds of its residents are homeless and more than 15,000 have been killed during the Israeli campaign. The USA has urged Israel to specify safe zones for Palestinian civilians if and when its offensive resumes. Meanwhile, soon after the agreement three people have been killed and six injured by Hamas gunmen in Jerusalem: see
Pope Francis has announced that due to health concerns he will be unable to attend the COP28 climate conference in Dubai, which will run from 30 November to 12 December. The Pope has been an advocate for environmental protection and climate action, and his absence from the conference is seen as a setback to efforts to address climate change on a global scale. The Vatican is investigating whether there is any way he could contribute to COP28 remotely. Representatives of 197 nations will be attending the conference, and among notable participants will be King Charles III, Rishi Sunak, and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.
President Sultan al-Jaber has denied allegations that the UAE plans to use the COP28 climate summit to negotiate oil and gas deals with other nations, as reported by the BBC on 27 November. Leaked briefing documents indicated the UAE's intention to discuss fossil fuel agreements with fifteen countries during the summit. The documents revealed proposed talking points for various countries, including China, Colombia, Germany, and Egypt, regarding fossil fuel collaboration. Mr Jaber, who is also the CEO of UAE's state oil company, Adnoc, and renewables business, Masdar, dismissed the allegations, calling them false and inaccurate. The controversy raises concerns about the intersection of climate goals and fossil fuel interests. The hope is that COP28 will help limit the long-term global temperature rise to 1.5C, which the UN's climate science body says is crucial to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. But that will require drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions - a 43% reduction by 2030 from 2019 levels.
Tajikistan is a beautiful mountainous country; the Tajik language is related to Iranian. After gaining independence in the early 1990s, the country endured a tribal-based civil war that resulted in significant loss of life. Despite having untapped mineral and hydro-electric potential, the economy has never fully recovered from the conflict, poverty is widespread, and it is Central Asia’s poorest nation. Islamic influence has grown, with the construction of impressive mosques and changes in clothing styles. The Church experienced growth in the 1990s but has since stalled, and Christians represent only 0.1% of the population. Local leadership is emerging, and church leaders collaborate to address cultural issues and establish guidelines. Sadly, many church members and even some leaders have emigrated for work or in hopes of a better life. Nevertheless, we praise God for each Tajik believer. Previously dominated by Russian culture and language, the church is now taking steps towards establishing its own identity.
The information minister has declared that attacks on several locations in the capital, Freetown, were in fact a failed coup attempt led mainly by bodyguards of the previous president, Ernest Koroma. On 26 November they attacked a military barracks and a prison, freeing over 200 prisoners, but by the next day calm had been restored by the security forces, with most of the attackers killed or captured. President Bio remains unharmed. Sierra Leone, which is still recovering from a 1991-2002 civil war in which more than 50,000 were killed, has been tense since Bio was re-elected in June. The result was rejected by the main opposition candidate and questioned by international partners including the USA and the EU.
Prime minister Anthony Albanese has issued a national apology to survivors of the thalidomide scandal and their families, marking the government's first acknowledgment of its role in the tragedy. Thalidomide, initially a sedative but widely used as a morning sickness drug in the 1950s, led to severe birth defects in at least 10,000 babies globally. A report in 2019 revealed that 20% of cases could have been prevented with earlier action. Survivors have long sought acknowledgment and compensation, pointing to the examples set by Canada (in 1991) and the UK (in 2010). 140 survivors have registered for a financial support programme which gives a one-off payment of £260,000 each, with subsequent annual payments of between £2,600 and £30,000. Mr Albanese has now reopened the application process for those who might have missed it previously.