Is an Israel-Hamas Ceasefire Approaching?
Let's start with Middle East now, where there were reports that a truce agreement between Israel and Hamas may be on the horizon. Now, it should be worth noting from the start that the current speculation suggests that such a truce would only pause fighting in the Israeli offensive. In return, Hamas would release at least some of the Israeli hostages. Rumors of such a truce have come from senior US and Israeli officials, as well as the Qatari prime minister. There's little at the moment in terms of timescale, though, Izzat Al-risheq, a senior Hamas political leader, spoke to Al Jazeera and said that talks for a truce would still last a number of days, but didn't say specifically how long he thought it would take. President Joe Biden was also asked about whether he thought the deal was close. To which he replied, I believe so. The white House went on to say that negotiations were in the endgame stage, but refused to give any additional details.
UK COVID Inquiry Scandals
Back here in the UK. The Covid inquiry continues, with key scientific figures giving evidence to the committee. One of the most senior of these figures at the time was Sir Patrick Vallance, who served as chief scientific adviser. It was claimed in Sir Patrick's diary that Dominic Cummings claimed that Rishi Sunak, who was at the time Chancellor, said that he thought the government should "just let people die". Vallance did admit, though, that he himself did not hear Sunak say these words. The diary entry was from the 25th of October 2020, which was around the time that the government was debating introducing a second national lockdown. Vallance claimed that Boris Johnson argued that the government should let it rip, referring to the virus, with Sunak agreeing. Writing about the meeting on this date more generally sir Patrick described it as shambolic. The inquiry also highlighted that Sir Patrick had some disagreements with Sir Chris Whitty, the government's chief medical officer. In his diary, Sir Patrick referred to Sir Chris as a delayer, as he believed that his colleague was more worried about the long term health risks associated with shutting down the country, whereas Sir Patrick believed in calling lockdowns earlier. This is just another snapshot in a lengthy inquiry, which is routinely showing the dysfunction and chaos at the heart of government during the lockdown period.
Albanian Opposition Sets Fire in Parliament
Yesterday, the Albanian opposition set off smoke bombs and started a small fire in the middle of their parliament building. In fact, this was a deliberate attempt to stop the House from voting on next year's budget. Opposition MPs piled chairs up and set off different coloured smoke bombs. As they were doing this, security in the chamber tried to keep the protesters away from Prime Minister Edi Rama. It appears though that this protest was not all that successful. The government passed the vote during the chaos in less than five minutes. The de facto leader of the opposition, Sali Berisha, a former prime minister, has accused the government of trying to silence the opposition in parliament. Berisha said of the incident that our goal is to bring pluralism back to Parliament. Prime Minister Rama said on Twitter that the opposition brought the vocabulary and manners of the street into politics, heightening tensions between the two. Rama and Berisha have been engaged in a public argument for the last few weeks over a high profile corruption case. In essence, prosecutors allege that Berisha exerted pressure for the conclusion of the privatisation procedures in favour of others including his daughter's husband. Berisha was not arrested himself as he has immunity as an MP. His son in law was arrested though. Berisha has accused Rama of setting the prosecution against him. Rama denies this accusation.
OpenAI Civil War
Turning to the tech world now, where OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, has been plunged into a corporate civil war over the sacking of former OpenAI CEO Sam Altman. In their statement last Friday, OpenAI's board of directors claimed that Altman was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities. This triggered the resignation of OpenAI President Greg Brockman, and the drafting of a letter to the board by OpenAI employees. In that letter, the vast majority of employees called for the resignation of the board, accusing the board of firing Altman without cause, negotiating in bad faith and harming the core mission of OpenAI. Critically, that same letter threatened the board of directors with a mass employee exodus to Microsoft. The same company that owns 49% of OpenAI. For its part, Microsoft has used this situation to hire both Altman and Brockman onto their newly created advanced AI research team. This team is likely to receive the lion's share of OpenAI team members, should they choose to quit in protest of Altman's treatment. The board of directors has largely remained silent on this matter, with only one board member, Ilya Sutskever, talking to the media to express his deep regrets for his participation in the board's actions, indicating the opinion of the board of directors in flux.