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Morning Briefing: Europe Edition
A delay in Israel’s plan to overhaul the judiciary.
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March 28, 2023, 12:11 a.m. ET
After days of intense civil unrest, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he would delay contentious plans to overhaul Israel’s judiciary. Netanyahu’s move, after the assent by a powerful right-wing ally, was an attempt to give him time to try to de-escalate the crisis and manage competing demands.
“When there is a possibility of preventing a civil war through dialogue, I, as the prime minister, take a timeout for dialogue,” Netanyahu said. The move came “out of a desire to prevent a rift in the nation,” he added.
Israel’s main labor union called off a general strike, but protests continued late into the night. Netanyahu’s move appeared — at least in the immediate term — only to harden the country’s divisions. Police used water cannons and stun grenades to disperse pro- and anti-government protesters who were blocking main roads, hours after Netanyahu’s announcement.
Netanyahu’s concession came after Itamar Ben-Gvir, who leads a powerful far-right political party and is the national security minister, said that he was open to postponing the vote. But Ben-Gvir made it clear that he would not back down. “The reform will pass,” he said on Twitter.
Context: Netanyahu’s government, the most right-wing and religiously conservative in Israeli history, is trying to give itself greater control over the selection of Supreme Court justices and to limit the court’s authority over Parliament.
Demonstrations: The proposed changes have incited one of the deepest domestic crises in Israel’s history. Street protests and strikes have halted some health services and blocked flights from leaving the main airport. Here are photos.
The German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks are more advanced than the Soviet-era tanks that Ukraine has relied on so far. Germany has used them for decades. So have more than a dozen other European countries. Poland, which had prodded its allies to give Ukraine more advanced equipment, had already given Leopards to Ukraine.
The Challenger tanks from Britain arrived, too, Ukraine’s defense minister said. He said on Facebook that he had ridden in a new Challenger and compared it to a Rolls-Royce. In January, Britain promised 14 Challenger 2 tanks, in an effort to persuade other countries to follow suit.
Context: Western allies initially declined to give Ukraine the more powerful equipment, fearing that it could escalate the conflict.
What’s next: The first round of Abrams tanks from the U.S. are expected to arrive this fall.
The top U.N. nuclear safety official plans to visit the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant this week. A possible Ukrainian offensive in the south could escalate fighting in the area and raise fears for the battle-scarred nuclear plant.
Travel for millions of people in Germany was upended yesterday when public transit workers staged the largest transit walkout in decades. The strike halted most trains, trams, buses and ferries, forced the cancellation of most flights and served as a warning about the stakes of salary negotiations.
About 155,000 workers walked out in the “mega-strike,” as it was called in German media. Two of Germany’s largest unions called for the strike in an effort to gain leverage in talks with the government. The workers seek salary increases of more than 10 percent to keep up with inflation.
A British comparison: Like the strikes in Britain by nurses, postal workers, train drivers and teachers, the unrest in Germany is driven by the rising cost of living. Inflation was 8.7 percent last month in Germany and 10.4 percent in Britain.
THE LATEST NEWS
Scotland’s top party picked a new leader: Humza Yousaf. He is on course to be the first Muslim leader of a democratic Western European nation.
President Biden plans to visit Northern Ireland next month to mark the 25th anniversary of the landmark peace agreement. But he doesn’t plan to see King Charles III, which could be interpreted as a snub.
Germany wants more semiconductor manufacturers. But the competition is stiff, and some wonder if wooing the companies is worth the cost.
The World Bank warned of a damaging “lost decade” of long-term economic growth potential, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine and the pandemic.
The Biden administration plans to hold off more strikes in Syria, at least for now, seeking to avoid a wider war with Iran and its proxies.
Taiwan’s former president, Ma Ying-jeou, is visiting China, a first for any sitting or former leader of Taiwan since China’s civil war ended in 1949.
Two of Lebanon’s leaders tried to delay daylight saving time to ease the Ramadan fast. That decision led to chaos; the leaders, who are Muslim, hadn’t consulted other religious groups. Christians rejected the change.
Conflicts between humans and elephants are an urgent problem across Africa, as people encroach on formerly wild areas. The encounters are often dangerous for all involved.
So, some conservationists are using artificial bee sounds to keep elephants away from people. Early evidence suggests that the buzzing technology could work.
SPORTS NEWS FROM THE ATHLETIC
U.S. national team could land a high-scoring 21-year-old: Folarin Balogun, who has played for England’s Under-21 team, was born in the U.S. He is eligible to play for England, the U.S. and Nigeria.
A son follows in the footsteps of a Real Madrid legend: Marcelo wove himself into Real Madrid’s history during his 16 years with the club. His son Enzo is looking to do the same.
How to fix Tottenham Hotspur: Antonio Conte’s rant last week suggested he saw Tottenham as a broken club. How can it be repaired?
ARTS AND IDEAS
We have a new newsletter that will teach you, in just five days, everything you need to know about A.I. and chatbots. The first edition asks a deceptively simple question: What is “artificial intelligence”? Here’s some history to bring you up to speed.
In 2012, what shifted the entire field was the idea of a “neural network.” That’s basically a mathematical system that learns skills by finding statistical patterns. (By analyzing thousands of cat photos, for instance, it can learn to recognize a cat.) Neural networks allows services like Siri and Alexa to understand speech, identify people and objects in photos and translate languages.
Then came large language models. Around 2018, companies like Google, Microsoft and OpenAI began building neural networks that were trained on vast amounts of text.
Somewhat to the experts’ surprise, these systems learned to write unique prose and computer code and carry on sophisticated conversations. Such technology is sometimes called generative A.I., and it has laid the foundations for ChatGPT and other chatbots, which are poised to dramatically change our everyday lives.
Tomorrow, the newsletter will look at how chatbots work. Sign up here.
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