New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

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New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

The Soapbox: Humanitarian crisis in Gaza, health care in the UK, former premier dies in China

The Soapbox is a weekly column by WSN covering major news developments at NYU’s campuses and study away sites abroad. Global consciousness for a global university.
Max Van Hosen
The Soapbox is a weekly news column rounding up stories worth reading for a global university. (Illustration by Max Van Hosen)

In the Gaza Strip, Israel’s ongoing siege creates a humanitarian crisis

A convoy of at least 33 U.N. trucks carrying humanitarian aid entered through the Rafah Crossing into southern Gaza on Monday, as the Israeli military scales up its ground invasion in the north. The convoy, which is carrying food, medical supplies, water and sanitation equipment, is still significantly smaller than the amount of aid coming into Gaza before the Israel-Hamas war — more than 500 trucks worth of aid and supplies per day. 

Previous supply batches have been under threat of bombardment, with the Israeli military claiming supplies would go to Hamas — the Palestinian militant group controlling the region — rather than civilians. The Palestine Red Crescent Society, a branch of the International Committee of the Red Cross operating in Gaza, said that a total of 144 trucks have entered Gaza between Oct. 7 and Oct. 29. The U.N. calculated that at least 100 trucks a day would be necessary to meet Gaza’s humanitarian needs. 

The Israeli military has put the Gaza Strip under a total blockade for three weeks to keep supplies out of Hamas’ control. The blockade coupled with targeted airstrikes on Hamas militants and key infrastructure has depleted essential food, power and medical supplies. Low fuel levels have caused power outages and internet blackouts, paralyzing hospital operations. According to a doctor at Gaza’s largest hospital, Al-Shifa, a third of its patients would die if fuel runs out. 

An Israeli military spokesperson described Hamas’ attacks on pipelines as one of the primary reasons for the significant reduction in water supply. Israeli experts also believe that Palestinians in Gaza can use energy from solar panels not damaged in airstrikes as well as generators to fight the effects of the electricity cut-off.

The U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution to call for a cease-fire in the occupied Palestinian territories after the the United States, China and Russia vetoed several U.N. Security Council resolutions on sanctions and humanitarian interventions in Gaza. The United States voted against the General Assembly resolution while key allies — including Australia, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Ukraine — abstained. 

Craig Mokhiber, the director of the New York office of the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, resigned over the organization’s response to the war on Tuesday in a letter criticizing the United States, United Kingdom and other European countries for their complicity in the conflict.

“You don’t have to agree with everything in the letter to see that he’s made a powerful and depressing case that the U.N. lost its way on human rights when it comes to Israel and Palestine, partly due to pressure from the U.S., Israel and other governments,” said Louis Charbonneau, the U.N. director at Human Rights Watch. “It’s not too late to turn the U.N. ship around, but they need to do it quickly.”

In the United Kingdom, a health-care contract worth millions of pounds is delayed

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service delayed the awarding of a 480-million-pound contract to modernize the country’s medical record system with artificial intelligence following data privacy concerns. The U.S. analytics firm Palantir Technologies currently sits as the top bidder for the NHS’ biggest-ever information technology contract, but handing British patient data over to the firm has raised privacy concerns.

The contract aims to create a federated data platform that would integrate access to existing patient information across all NHS portals, meaning that doctors from different hospitals and clinics nationwide would be able to access updated patient data. The British health-care system is already 7 billion pounds in debt, with inflation and worker strikes expected to raise debt even higher. The contract, despite costing almost half a billion pounds, could help save British hospitals at least 234 million pounds every year on the maintenance of physical records. 

With 7 million patients waiting in queue, the NHS is looking for ways to streamline patient care. A previous attempt by the NHS to digitize patient data was scrapped in 2016 for lack of privacy precautions. With a record number of patient data coming out of the pandemic, and the country conducting the largest-ever health study in the world involving more than 5 million participants, privacy of health care data in the U.K. has come under heightened scrutiny.

Palantir has publicly stated it will not acquire patient data without approval from the British government. The U.K. health minister has admitted that the government will not seek additional consent from patients should it decide to share data with the winner of the contract. Members of Parliament across the floor are pressuring the conservative government to ensure data privacy. 

“Palantir’s extensive lobbying efforts in the U.K. are an obvious attempt to whitewash their background at the heart of the world of espionage — with all its implications for ethical behavior and lack of transparency,” conservative politician David Davis told The New York Times.

In China, former second-in-command suddenly passes away

Chinese president Xi Jinping and members of the Politburo, China’s executive decision-making body, attended the funeral of former premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Nov. 2. Li passed away at 68 last week after a sudden heart attack

Li served as a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, a seven-member group that leads the body, and was the nation’s premier from 2013 to 2023, having overseen an economic boom that has more than doubled China’s gross domestic product. De-bureaucratization and privatization under Li led to policies that diversified the Chinese economy from manufacturing into e-commerce. He also helped devise the “belt and road initiative” that has characterized much of Chinese foreign policy since 2013. 

Having grown up during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, Li quickly rose through the ranks of the Communist Youth League to become a well-educated party member. With a Ph.D. in economics, Li became a staunch proponent for development and privatization; he once defied the Chinese state narrative to claim that 600 million Chinese people live with less than a thousand yuan a month. Li was ousted from power at the 20th People’s National Congress after Xi replaced Li Keqiang with longtime ally and former mayor of Shanghai, Li Qiang. 

Following Li’s death, the Chinese government has censored comments online regarding his passing and increased police presence in Beijing. In 1975 and 1989, the death of reformist leaders in China sparked pro-democracy protests in the authoritarian state. 

“Simplifying the bureaucracy and relinquishing control is the self-revolution of the government. It is not clipping nails; it is amputation,” Li told reporters at the 12th National People’s Congress. “We have to do it even if it hurts.”

Contact Samson Tu at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Samson Tu
Samson Tu, Magazine Managing Editor
Samson Tu is finishing his B.A. degree in politics with a thesis on the state of civil society development in the People's Republic of China. Synthesizing his experience in journalism and training in politics, Samson is going to attend the NYU School of Law after his undergraduate to study intellectual property law. Samson attempts to make sense of Heidegger and Sartre or edits photographs on his 15-hour flight between New York and Taipei. He always prefers the flights to New York. Send an email to [email protected] for ideas about WSN's monthly magazine issues!

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