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Hard Numbers: Gaza hostage talks continue, Brazilians bake, Thais toke, Record-scratch in Madagascar election

Israelis protest in front of the Ministry of defense to free hostages taken by Hamas terrorist on October 7th 2023.

Israelis protest in front of the Ministry of defense to free hostages taken by Hamas terrorist on October 7th 2023.

Raphael Gotheil / Hans Lucas via Reuters

50: Negotiations to release some of the Hamas-held hostages in Gaza continued Wednesday, as Qatari mediators reportedly sought the release of 50 civilians in exchange for Israel agreeing to a three-day cease-fire. Hamas kidnapped more than 230 people during its Oct. 7 rampage. For more on the challenges facing hostage negotiations, here are comments from somebody who knows a thing or two about the subject.


100: More than 100 million people in Brazil are sweating it out amid one of the country’s worst heat waves in recent memory. Nearly 3,000 towns and cities are currently under heat alerts as temps climb above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Experts say the El Niño climate phenomenon is partly to blame. We say it’s a great excuse to watch the sweltering 1955 Brazilian neo-realist classic “Rio, 40 Degrees.” (Celsius, celsius!)

6,000: Thailand’s Parliament is looking to roll up the country’s nascent cannabis industry, as weed shops bloom across the country. Last year, Thailand became the first Asian country to decriminalize cannabis, but in the absence of clear rules for a legal marijuana industry, more than 6,000 weed dispensaries have opened. Fearing widespread addiction, lawmakers have rewritten draft laws to restrict recreational use, and focus on medicinal applications.

10: At least 10 of 12 opposition candidates are boycotting Madagascar’s presidential election, which is set to take place Thursday. They’re all rivals, but their main beef now is with President Andry Rajoelina, who they say should have been stripped of his Malagasy passport when he took French citizenship in 2014. They also say Rajoelina, a 49-year-old former DJ running for reelection, has packed the courts with allies and weakened the electoral authorities. Weeks of protests have met with violent crackdowns. With a boycott of this size, will the election even be seen as legitimate?

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