Since Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic "I have a dream" speech in August 1963, the number of Black Americans elected to the US Congress has increased dramatically. Still, it wasn't until 2019, more than half a century later, that the share of Black members serving in the House of Representatives reflected the percentage of Black Americans in the broader population: 12%. To date, only seven US states have sent Black representatives to serve in the US Senate.
Here's a look at Black representation in every US Congress since 1963.
Six days after Hamas launched one of the biggest-ever attacks against Israel, the country’s military campaign in the Gaza Strip is ramping up. The Israeli military has ordered some 1.1 million civilians living in the northern half of the Strip to move south ahead of an expected ground invasion.
So far, Israel’s Air Force has dropped more than 6,000 bombs on the Strip, targeting Hamas leaders and infrastructure. But Israel’s military positioning has shifted: In contrast to previous military campaigns where its focus was on conducting surgical strikes on military sites, the IAF is expanding its mandate to include a broader range of Hamas-linked targets, even when they also serve civilian purposes. For instance, in recent days, Israel bombed the Islamic University of Gaza, where it said Hamas engineers were being trained to build explosives.
The fact that Hamas is launching its operations from civilian strongholds is also no longer a deterrent for the Israeli military.
Israelis across the right and left, bitterly divided over politics, overwhelmingly back the government’s stated aim of eradicating Hamas and making this the last war Israel fights with the terror group. They also are united in mutual loathing for the current government – led by PM Benjamin Netanyahu – which failed to preempt and respond to Saturday’s carnage, and, according to the public, is responsible for the failed Gaza policy in the first place. A whopping 86% of those polled say the government is responsible for Saturday’s massacre, according to a new Jerusalem Post poll.
Netanyahu, who has been premier for the past 13 years (minus a brief stint in opposition), has sought to bolster Hamas in the Gaza Strip to weaken its rival, the Palestinian Authority, which controls parts of the West Bank.
As long as the secular nationalist PA remains feeble under octogenarian President Mahmoud Abbas, the thinking went, Bibi and his right-wing governments could avoid having real conversations about Palestinian statehood.
Under Netanyahu’s watch, Hamas has received truckloads of cash from the Qataris that it has used to bolster its terrorist infrastructure. What’s more, it increased work permits for Gazans in Israel to nearly 20,000 in 2023 compared to 2,000-3,000 in 2021 in an attempt to keep the calm in Gaza.
Part of this approach was rooted in a core belief: better the devil you know than the one that you don’t. As a result, Israel was willing to tolerate rocket attacks and semi-regular military flare ups with Hamas and other terror outfits. But Saturday’s massacre has shown this to be an abject policy failure.
“We have here the collapse of Netanyahu’s conception that if he weakens PA and strengthens Hamas,” the status quo can be maintained, said al-Monitor journalist Ben Caspit at a webinar on Thursday.
So what – or who – comes next? Although no one knows who might take over the Gaza Strip if Hamas is wiped out, Israeli leaders no longer believe that tomorrow could be worse. The worst has already come.
Australians will vote on Saturday in a referendum on whether an Indigenous Voice to Parliament should be enshrined in the constitution. “The Voice,” as it has become known, would establish an advisory body to the government on issues that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Importantly, it would have no legal power to enforce its recommendations.
Background. Indigenous Australians, also known as the First Australians, include hundreds of thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have lived on what is now Australian territory for thousands of years. Currently, they make up about 3.8% of the country's 26 million people.
For much of the first half of the twentieth century, Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families as part of a government scheme to hasten the disappearance of Indigenous culture. These children, who were often placed in state-run institutions rife with abuse, became known as The Stolen Generation.
Since then, Indigenous Australians have been stuck in a cycle of poverty and are incarcerated at disproportionately high rates, currently making up 32% of the prison population.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, for his part, has been pushing hard for Aussies to vote “yes” in order to address historic wounds and improve living conditions for impoverished Indigenous communities.
But proponents of a “no” vote, including the opposing Liberal Party, say that creating a race-based, unelected body is divisive and will only exacerbate racial divides and have few actionable implications.In order to pass, a majority of voters and a majority of states (four out of six) will need to vote in favor. No referendum has ever passed without bipartisan support and the latest polls show that this one is unlikely to either.
Announcing on Wednesday that Israel had formed a unity government with the opposition, PM Benjamin Netanyahu said at a press conference that “we put aside all differences to face an enemy worse than ISIS.”
The war cabinet includes the PM, along with his Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, both from the right-wing Likud Party, as well as leader of the National Unity Party Benny Gantz, a former military chief of staff and head of the defense ministry.
Uniting a divided nation. “The most important action [now] is to establish the unity of the nation,” Netanyahu said in an attempt to convey unity to Israel’s enemies. Netanyahu himself has come under intense scrutiny in recent months for driving a wedge through Israeli society and politics by trying to diminish the power of the country’s judiciary.
Along with the military, the two political factions will oversee decision-making for the duration of the war in the Gaza Strip. No legislation unrelated to the war effort will be passed in the Knesset during this time, according to a statement released by both sides.
Crucially, this move sidelines far-right members of Netanyahu's coalition government, like National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who, according to Haaretz, rallied against the formation of a unity government that would dilute his own power.
In his address to the country, Netanyahu also confirmed new details of the Hamas attack against southern Israeli communities on Saturday, including revelations that families had been burnt alive, while children were handcuffed before being abused and killed. The gruesome imagery is indeed galvanizing a previously-divided people, but it is also stoking public rage at the government and intelligence community for failing to protect its citizens.
Prospects of a humanitarian corridor. As Israel continues to bomb Gaza and prepares for an imminent ground invasion, the Palestinian death toll is rising. Key Hamas leaders have reportedly been killed, along with hundreds of civilians.
The US, for its part, says it is working with Israel and Egypt to secure a humanitarian corridor for Gazans that would help evacuate civilians, after Israel imposed a blockade on the coastal enclave, cutting off water and food deliveries, and electricity. But this effort is complicated by the fact that Israel has in recent days bombed the only crossing connecting Gaza to the Sinai Peninsula. Meanwhile, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, who has made national security his top priority, has also made it crystal clear that he does not want to absorb an influx of Gazans or risk terrorists crossing the border. “National security is my first responsibility and under no circumstances will there be any complacency or negligence,” Sissi said in recent days.
The US’ stance. After Biden on Tuesday addressed the “sheer evil” of the Hamas attack, there are now reports the US could soon send a second aircraft carrier group to the Eastern Mediterranean in order to deter Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah from joining Hamas in the fight against Israel.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Israel this morning to meet with Israeli leaders, and will then head to Jordan where the issue of securing the release of civilian hostages taken by Hamas, including many Americans, will likely be the focus.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is Jewish, said that he wants to visit Israel in a show of solidarity, putting an embarrassing spotlight on Netanyahu who has been broadly criticized for failing to adequately back Kyiv amid the Russian invasion.
US President Joe Biden on Tuesday did not mince his words when he gave his second address about the Hamas terror attacks in Israel.
“The brutality of Hamas’ bloodthirstiness brings to mind the worst rampages of ISIS,” he said, adding that he told Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu that “if the United States experienced what Israel is experiencing, our response would be swift, decisive, and overwhelming.”
The aim was to show Israel’s enemies that there is little daylight between the US and Israel, and, crucially, to warn those who might be seeking to join the conflict – like Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon – not to dare. This comes after a barrage of rockets was fired at Israel from Lebanon on Tuesday, while Hamas rockets continued to rain down on southern and central Israel, including Tel Aviv, the most populous city.
After emphasizing that Hamas’ actions are a threat to the free world – and reminding viewers that the US has deployed its USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier – the largest warship in the world – to the Eastern Mediterranean as a deterrent, Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen vowed to hit Israel with missiles if the US gets involved.
What’s more, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who flanked Biden during Tuesday’s address along with Vice President Kamala Harris, will head to Israel on Wednesday to meet with Israeli leadership.
Biden also confirmed that Americans are among those taken hostage by Hamas in Gaza and said Washington would ramp up aid to the Jewish State, including the delivery of Iron Dome missile interceptors, which are used to destroy incoming rockets.
The latest from the ground. The death toll in Israel has surpassed 1,200 since Hamas launched a series of massacres against southern Israeli towns on Saturday. As the Israeli military and ZAKA – Israel’s identification, extraction, and rescue squads – comb through kibbutzim and communities, they announced on Tuesday that 40 infants had been murdered on one kibbutz alone – including some gruesome beheadings.
Israel says that 156 soldiers were slain in the rampage, while the rest of the victims are civilians.
As Israel recovers bodies from the south, sporadic fighting with Hamas militants who remain in Israel has also broken out.
Meanwhile, the Israeli air campaign in Gaza continues, with Israel targeting Hamas facilities and personnel. In the densely populated Gaza Strip, Hamas fighters have been killed along with many civilians. The Palestinian death toll has surpassed 2,500, including 1,500 Hamas militants killed inside Israel after they waged Saturday’s attacks. The death toll inside Gaza is 1,055, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, and about two-thirds of these deaths are thought to be Hamas militants, according to David Makovsky of the Washington Institute of Near East Policy.
Israel has also placed the coastal enclave under a blockade, cutting off water, food and fuel shipments, exacerbating an already dire humanitarian situation.
Israel, for its part, will soon launch a ground offensive that could drag on for months. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said to Israeli troops on Tuesday: “I have released all the restraints, we have [regained] control of the area, and we are moving to a full offense.”
“Whoever comes to decapitate, murder women, Holocaust survivors — we will eliminate him with all our might, and without compromise.”
Days after Hamas’ deadly terror attacks across southern Israel – in which militants murdered residents of border towns and music festival attendees, resulting in more than 900 deaths – Israel has launched a war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
So far, the Israeli Air Force has begun intense bombardments from the air, but a ground operation is expected. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly told President Joe Biden that his government has no choice but to conduct a ground invasion to reinstate Israel’s deterrence capabilities, mobilizing 300,000 reservists.
What are the options facing Israel in the Strip as the war evolves? And what is currently the situation for Palestinians in the coastal enclave?
A different kind of operation. From Israel's perspective, there are no good options as it seeks retaliation for what Deborah Lipstadt, the US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism, called the worst attack on Jews since the Holocaust.
Hamas, in an unprecedented move, has reportedly taken up to 100 Israelis hostage, including octogenarians, babies, and scores of women.
Some questions to consider: How does Israel make sure the hostages aren’t killed by its air raids? And how does the military reconcile two seemingly conflicting objectives – waging a full-blown assault that’ll wipe out Hamas for good and safeguarding the lives of dozens of civilian abductees stashed across Gaza? Is Israel willing to engage in an extensive operation even at the risk of harming Israeli hostages?
A Hamas spokesperson threatened on Monday to start executing the hostages if Israel’s bombardment of civilian homes continues.
One of Netanyahu’s far-right coalition partners, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, has already said that hostages should not be considered when executing a response, a view wholly out of step with the vast majority of Israelis.
What’s more, while Israel says it has secured border communities from Hamas terrorists, it remains a challenge to keep the region free of infiltrators given that the barrier has been breached in many places.
Meanwhile, Gaza is home to more than 2 million Palestinians. Since Hamas, which is deemed a terror organization by the US and EU, violently seized power of the enclave in 2007, Gaza has been subject to blockades at the Kerem Shalom Border Crossing with Israel. Critics say this is a human rights violation while supporters say it aims to protect Israelis against the sort of terror attacks seen over the weekend.
Still, more than 80% of the Strip’s spotty electricity supply comes from Israel, along with much of its food supplies.
Crucially, Gaza has for the past decade also been subject to a full blockade on the Rafah Border Crossing, which connects the Strip to the Sinai Peninsula. Under the leadership of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, a national security absolutist who abhors the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’ sister organization, Egypt has curbed imports through its crossing in response to Hamas building a network of tunnels used to coordinate jihadist training camps and attacks in the Sinai.
Israel, which on Monday said it would halt all food, fuel, and water shipments to the enclave, has said that no stone will be left unturned in cracking down on Hamas leadership and its military infrastructure.
But in the densely populated Strip, roughly the size of Washington, DC, there’s little protection for civilians, and Hamas embeds itself in civilian areas to complicate reprisal efforts. As of this writing, the death toll in Gaza has passed 500, and around 70,000 Palestinians fled to shelters.
What happens now? “For the first time since Hamas’ takeover, the possibility of Israel going in and cleaning out Gaza [of Hamas] and potentially reoccupying the strip is on the table in a real way,” Neri Zilber, a policy advisor at the Israel Policy Forum, said at a briefing on Monday. “This won't be like previous rounds with Hamas in Gaza. There’s no going back.”
At the same briefing, Dr. Nimrod Novak, a former advisor to President Shimon Peres, said that Israel’s objective now “is to change the equation in Gaza for a very long time to come.” Given the scale of atrocities in recent days, he said, “what's happening now from the air is far less restricted in considering the humanitarian situation” than during previous escalations.
“The fact that Hamas has chosen to place itself amid civilian population will no longer serve as a deterrent,” he said.
The US military on Thursday shot down a Turkish drone in northeast Syria, a remarkable development pitting two NATO states with an already complicated alliance against one another.
The Pentagon said that it warned Ankara several times beforehand that its hardware was too close to US troops stationed there, and that it made the decision to strike when the Turkish drone came within 500 meters of US personnel.
How’d we get here? As part of its decade-long mission to abolish the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the US still has 900 troops operating in northern Syria. They work mainly with the Syrian Democratic Forces – a ragtag group of anti-regime militias including many Kurdish fighters.
Turkey, for its part, has long considered the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known as the PKK, to be a terror group and has regularly launched operations in northern Syria aimed at rooting them out. What’s more, in recent days, Ankara has launched a fresh bombing campaign against Kurdish forces in Syria after a recent suicide bombing outside Turkey’s security headquarters in the capital – attributed to PKK members trained in Syria – killed two people.
Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said this week that PKK infrastructure and energy facilities in Syria and Iraq are “legitimate targets,” but the Pentagon came to believe that Turkey’s bombardment was imperiling US troops.
Washington is trying to de-escalate. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Thursday that he’d spoken to his Turkish counterpart and emphasized that Washington understands Ankara’s “legitimate security concerns.”
The US, along with its EU partners, has been pushing in recent months for Ankara to give the greenlight to Sweden to join NATO. But Turkey says that’ll only happen when the US agrees to sell it F-16 fighter jets, something the US has so far refused to do in part because of disagreements over relations with Russia and … conflicting operations in Syria.
Relations between the US and Turkey were already very messy, particularly since 2019, when Ankara purchased Russian S-400 missile defense systems. This event will only generate more bad will.
Hard Numbers: EU migration deal, WTO forecast downgrade, Brazilian doctors shot, the Pope's climate message, Fat Bear Week
250,000: EU migration ministers have reached a historic preliminary deal that would see frontline states move migrants – specifically those arriving in large numbers due to acute crises like war or climate disaster – to other EU states for processing. This comes after EU officials said that 250,000 people had entered the bloc so far this year through illegal migration routes. The agreement still needs to be passed by the EU Parliament.
0.8: The World Trade Organization has downgraded its export growth target for the year to 0.8%, down from a 1.7% forecast in the spring. Stubborn inflation, China’s economic woes, and supply chain kinks exacerbated by Russia’s war in Ukraine are pummeling manufacturing industries. How do we make sure that global trade is fair, particularly for debt-burdened states in the Global South? Ian Bremmer discussed this with WTO chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on the latest episode of GZERO World. Watch here.
4: On Thursday, four Brazilian doctors were shot – three fatally – on a Rio de Janeiro beach while visiting the city for an orthopedic conference. There’s speculation that the attack was politically motivated because one victim was the brother of a federal lawmaker who is also married to another lawmaker. Both belong to the same leftist party as former Rio city councilor Marielle Franco, who was gunned down in a still-unresolved crime in 2018.
20.92: The earth's average ocean temperature reached 20.92 degrees Celcius (69.66 Fahrenheit) in September, the second-highest figure ever recorded... after this August. It's the fourth month in a row of record-breaking global temperatures, and the unignorable deterioration of climactic conditions prompted Pope Francis to directly name and shame the United States and major fossil fuel producers for exacerbating the crisis and call out the hypocrisy of hosting the UN's marquee climate conference in the United Arab Emirates in an update missive on the environment.
10 million: There are just a few more days to cast your vote for the Fat Bear Week competition, where betting and mammal enthusiasts alike tune in to watch brown bears of Alaska's Katmai National Park gather along the Brooks River to catch salmon swimming and stock up for the winter. In 2022, more than 10 million people tuned in to the livestream. So who is the favorite? A 70lb (31kg) one-year-old cub known as 806 Jr.