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Putin rejects an independent investigation into Navalny’s death, Turkey accuses seven of spying on b͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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February 21, 2024


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The World Today

  1. Ceasefire resolution fails
  2. Navalny inquiry rejected
  3. Sudan’s hidden war
  4. Chinese airplane opportunity
  5. Turkey arrests spies
  6. Megaprojects drain Saudi
  7. Video war heats up
  8. LA captures rain
  9. Old logo upgraded
  10. Bad iPhone trick

A four-part biopic series on each member of The Beatles gets the green light.


Deadline for deal heightens pressure

REUTERS/Mike Segar

The U.S. vetoed a third United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, saying it would threaten ongoing efforts to broker a deal to release hostages and temporarily pause the fighting. Israel, Hamas, and their allies are under increasing pressure to strike an agreement after Israel announced it will push into the town of Rafah absent a deal by the start of Ramadan on March 10, Israeli outlet Channel 12 reported. As the Muslim holy month approaches, tensions are brewing within Israel over reports that the government is considering restricting access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, an important Muslim religious site in Jerusalem. The head of Israel’s internal security service reportedly warned such a move could create a “false sense of war between Jews and Muslims.”


Kremlin rejects Navalny inquiry calls

A memorial to Navalny in Rome. REUTERS/Yara Nardi

The Kremlin rejected calls Tuesday for an international investigation into the death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in prison. Officials have said the cause of death is still “undetermined,” but independent investigators — including journalist Christo Grozev, who helped identify the Russian agents who poisoned Navalny in 2020 — are already digging into the case. Grozev told Meduza he fears Russian President Vladimir Putin could be on the verge of “an entire new wave of repressions and murders” targeting opposition leaders. The U.S. and European Union, meanwhile, are planning new sanctions against Russia over Navalny’s death.


Refugee official warns of Sudan crisis

Sudanese refugees in Chad. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

The humanitarian crisis stemming from Sudan’s ongoing civil war is much larger in scale than the Darfur conflict of the early 2000s, which rose to the top of the international agenda, the head of the Norwegian Refugee Council warned. Nearly 700,000 people have had to flee, while only 3.5% of the $2.7 billion requested for international aid has been raised, according to a United Nations office. War broke out last April between Sudan’s army and a paramilitary group, which has targeted a specific ethnic minority in Sudan, according to people who fled to Chad. The refugee official told the Financial Times that the world was largely ignoring “textbook ethnic cleansing.”


Boeing’s difficulty is China’s opportunity

Boeing’s ongoing reputational crisis could give China’s aircraft manufacturing industry an edge. An in-flight door blowout on Boeing’s best-selling 737 Max last month put more scrutiny on the U.S. company just as its competitor, Commercial Aircraft Corp of China, began gearing up to expand overseas. While U.S. and European carriers are unlikely to buy Chinese planes, Comac’s offerings may be more appealing in regions like Southeast Asia, where U.S.-China tensions are less sensitive and budget airlines are expanding rapidly. Boeing’s weakness “looks like a rare chance for Comac to take market share, albeit a small slice, from the Airbus-Boeing duopoly,” the Financial Times reported.


Turkey accuses China of spying

Uyghurs protest at the Chinese consulate in Istanbul. Sercan Ozkurnazli/ dia images via Getty Images

Turkish authorities arrested six people accused of spying on members of the ethnic Uyghur minority group on behalf of China’s intelligence agency. Thousands of Muslim Uyghurs fled to Turkey from China’s Xinjiang region in recent years after Beijing arbitrarily detained large swaths of the population in re-education camps, an effort U.S. officials have labeled a genocide. China’s treatment of the Uyghurs, who have linguistic and cultural ties to Turkey, “has long been a contentious issue” between Ankara and Beijing, Al-Monitor reported. But the arrests could pose a risk to Turkey’s efforts to “position itself as a hub in the Chinese trade corridor project aiming to link Asia and Europe.”


Saudi projects drain cash supply

A proposed Saudi development project. Neom

Saudi Arabia is planning another sale of shares in its state-owned oil company as splashy infrastructure spending depletes its cash supply, The Wall Street Journal reported. The country’s sovereign wealth fund — which supports so-called “gigaprojects” like a real estate development featuring a giant cube and a Red Sea island resort — reported $15 billion in cash last fall, its lowest level since 2020. The Gulf nation has funneled billions into entertainment initiatives in the hopes of becoming an economic and cultural powerhouse. Analysts don’t think Saudi Arabia is on the verge of a financial collapse: It will likely continue spending until the end of the decade, “and then there will be a reckoning,” a Middle East Institute fellow said.


Short-form video war heats up

Photo Illustration by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Universal Music Group’s decision to yank its catalog off TikTok this month has created an opening for rival short-form video platforms. YouTube Shorts, which launched globally in 2021, recently released new features allowing users to showcase music videos in their content, timing that “suggests it’s a direct response to TikTok’s current music licensing battle,” The Verge wrote. TikTok is still the top driver of music and cultural trends in the U.S., but in India, where the app is banned, Shorts is now the platform favored by 80% of internet users. YouTube is betting its existing user base and extensive content catalog will help Shorts break through globally.


LA avoids flooding by capturing rain

Los Angeles received six months’ worth of rain in three days earlier this month, but it captured the water rather than allow it to cause devastating flooding. LA has become a “sponge city” in recent years by replacing impermeable surfaces, such as concrete, with permeable ones, like dirt and plants. Instead of using gutters and sewers to funnel rainwater away, planners are increasingly adding gardens and green spaces that allow water to filter through to underground aquifers. In combination with traditional dams, the sponge-city infrastructure allowed LA to capture 8.6 billion gallons of water between Feb. 4 and Feb. 7, enough to supply 100,000 households for a year, WIRED reported.


Oldest logo gets refresh

Newscast/Universal Images Group via Getty Image

The world’s oldest logo, which hasn’t been altered since the 1880s, is getting a refresh. Lyle’s Golden Syrup, a British brand, is represented by a dead lion surrounded by bees, with the Biblical slogan “Out of the strong came forth sweetness.” A marketing academic told the BBC that the religious connotations — stemming from founder Abram Lyle’s devout Christian beliefs — could be “exclusionary.” Victorian-era Christian industrialists shaped several modern brands: John Kellogg, of breakfast cereal fame, for example, was a Seventh Day Adventist with strict views on sexual health. The dead lion will be replaced by a stylized lion’s head on bottles of syrup, although on the original cans — themselves a 150-year-old design — the logo will remain unchanged.


Apple debunks wet phone rice trick

Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

If your phone gets wet, it’s not actually smart to put it in a bag of rice, Apple warned consumers. The rice trick is a persistent urban myth, working on the basis that rice is water-absorbent and will suck the moisture from your dampened phone. In 2015, The Verge traced the idea back to mid-20th century methods of protecting camera equipment in tropical locations, but there’s less evidence it works on iPhones. Apple said in a recent support document that the trick could “allow small particles of rice to damage your iPhone.” The company recommends instead unplugging your phone, tapping it gently, and letting it air-dry. Flagship suggests using your untouched rice in a burrito or with a curry, as nature intended.

Live Journalism

Semafor’s 2024 World Economy Summit, on April 17-18, will feature conversations with global policymakers and power brokers in Washington, against the backdrop of the IMF and World Bank meetings.

Chaired by former U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein, and in partnership with BCG, the summit will feature 150 speakers across two days and three different stages, including the Gallup Great Hall. Join Semafor for conversations with the people shaping the global economy.

Join the waitlist to get speaker updates. →


Feb. 21

  • HSBC Holdings, Hang Seng Bank, and Bank of East Asia report earnings.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron meets with Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov in Paris.
  • G20 foreign ministers meet in Rio de Janeiro.
Wikipedia Commons

A new four-part film series will tell the story of each member of The Beatles. Conceived by Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes, the series will tell interconnected stories, with one movie from each member’s point of view, Deadline reported. While several documentaries have told the story of Paul, John, George, and Ringo, the scripted series will chart new territory, as it’s the first time the band members and their families have granted full scripted film and music rights. A producer said there’s “nothing off limits and no sense of the band wanting him to tell a particular ‘authorized’ version of their rise.” When Mendes first pitched the series in Hollywood, “just about everyone flipped their mop-tops for it,” Deadline wrote.

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