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Israel boycotts Cairo ceasefire talks, Pakistan gets a new leader, and Monaco’s royals get into trou͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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March 4, 2024


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The World Today

  1. Latest Gaza talks stall
  2. China’s ‘Two Sessions’
  3. Pakistan’s new PM
  4. India’s new naval base
  5. Scam workers returned
  6. Haiti violence escalates
  7. Monaco royals probed
  8. Macron’s Seine test
  9. F1’s transformation
  10. Big fish tourism

The billionaires at the Ambani wedding festivities in India, and how a controversial documentary in South Korea became a big hit.


Israel boycotts latest Gaza talks

The U.S. carries out its first Gaza aid drop. REUTERS/Kosay Al Nemer

Israel reportedly boycotted a last-minute sprint in Cairo to hammer out a ceasefire deal before the start of Ramadan after Hamas refused to send a list of hostages who were still alive. The U.S. has signaled that a deal is imminent — and Vice President Kamala Harris called for an immediate ceasefire Sunday — but the two sides remain deadlocked: Hamas wants a permanent end to the war, a nonstarter for Israel. The stalemate comes a day after the U.S. airdropped food into Gaza, and as several countries backed a U.N. inquiry into a chaotic incident at a truck convoy in Gaza, during which scores of Palestinians were killed. Israel insisted Sunday that most died in a stampede, but local authorities accused Israeli troops of firing into crowds of Gazans trying to get desperately needed food.


China economic plans in spotlight

Zhang Ling/Xinhua via Getty Images

China’s plans to kickstart its slowing economy will be front and center at this week’s concurrent annual meetings of top policy advisors and the National People’s Congress. During the “Two Sessions” — a rare public glimpse at the Chinese government’s priorities — officials will unveil the 2024 GDP target, while analysts and investors watch for signs Beijing could further relax property policies or embrace more aggressive stimulus measures to encourage consumer spending. It’s typically a time to also set foreign policy positions, but experts say China will stay neutral on the 2024 U.S. presidential election, in part because President Joe Biden and likely GOP nominee Donald Trump “share the same strategic stance on China, differing only in their tactics,” the South China Morning Post wrote.


Pakistan picks new PM

Pakistan National Assembly/Handout via REUTERS

Pakistan’s parliament named former leader Shehbaz Sharif the new prime minister Sunday, likely continuing weeks of political turmoil following an election marred by violence and vote-rigging allegations. Independent candidates associated with jailed former prime minister Imran Khan won a plurality of seats, but Sharif — who served as prime minister for over a year until last August when the parliament was dissolved — will now lead a coalition government whose leading party is headed by Sharif’s older brother, fellow former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. The parliament’s Sunday vote saw protests and chants of “thief” from the opposition, in a sign that the new government is “seen as foredoomed,” a political analyst told The New York Times.


India to build naval base near Maldives

An Indian navy vessel in Mumbai. Bhushan Koyande/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

India plans to build a new navy base near the China-friendly island nation of the Maldives to counter Beijing’s growing influence there. The navy will commission plans to build the base on March 6, only days before the Maldives begins expelling Indian troops, fulfilling newly installed President Mohamed Muizzu’s “India out” election pledge. Indian defense officials said the naval base — set to be built on India’s Lakshadweep islands — will boost its surveillance of adversaries in the Indian Ocean region. Once-cordial relations between New Delhi and Male have soured after the election of Muizzu, who is seen as having a pro-Beijing tilt and broke from tradition to make China his first international visit instead of India.


Scam center workers return to China

About 900 Chinese nationals who had been forced to work at “scam centers” in Myanmar returned home on Saturday thanks to help from Thai police officials. Southeast Asia has become a hub for mass fraud operations, according to a recent United Nations report, which found that gangs traffic hundreds of thousands of people into running online scams on victims around the world. Beijing has grown increasingly frustrated with Myanmar’s failure to crack down on the schemes, and even gave tacit support to an offensive from ethnic rebel groups last year in order to pressure the country’s ruling junta to close the scam centers near the China-Myanmar border, CNN wrote.


Haiti gang violence escalates

REUTERS/Ralph Tedy Erol

Hundreds of inmates fled Haiti’s central prison after armed gangs attacked the facility Saturday, as unchecked violence peaked in the Caribbean nation. Gangs, who now control most of Port-au-Prince, have attacked several state institutions in recent weeks, including the airport and central bank. A prominent gang leader said it was part of an effort to detain the country’s police chief and government ministers and overthrow Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who is in Kenya to sign an agreement for Nairobi to send 1,000 United Nations-authorized officers to Haiti to combat the gang violence, following the country’s repeated pleas for international support.


Monaco royals under fire

The prince of Monaco, a tiny country best known for its casinos, grand prix, and status as a tax haven, is under scrutiny for allegedly favoring his nephews’ business interests. A yearlong Bloomberg investigation found that the nephews’ construction company secured state contracts worth more than $60 million, while Prince Albert II helped quash a lawsuit from a rival developer over an apartment building the nephews were hoping to develop near the Casino de Monte-Carlo. Police have raided government offices, though the prince and his family deny wrongdoing. Monaco is one of few countries where the palace is still the center of power, and European officials have grown concerned that the wealthy nation “is still a back door to western Europe for financial crooks,” Bloomberg wrote.

Live Journalism

A world class line-up of global economic leaders has been announced for the 2024 World Economy Summit, taking place in Washington, D.C. on April 17-18. Speakers include Brian Moynihan, CEO, Bank of America; Henry M. Paulson, Jr., Former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury; Suzanne Clark, President & CEO; U.S. Chamber of Commerce; John Williams, President and Chief Executive Officer, Federal Reserve Bank of New York; José Muñoz, President & COO, Hyundai Motor Company; Jared Bernstein, Chair, White House Council of Economic Advisors; Richard Lesser, Global Chair, Boston Consulting Group; Sim Tshabalala, CEO, Standard Bank and Gretchen Watkins, President, Shell USA, Pat Gelsinger, CEO, Intel; Sen. Ron Wyden, (D) Oregon and more. Speakers, Sessions & Registration here.


Macron vows to swim in the Seine


French President Emmanuel Macron said he would swim in the Seine to prove how clean its water is ahead of the Paris Olympic Games. Some swimming competitions this summer will be held in the Seine, whose polluted waters have been barred to bathers since 1923: Paris has spent $1.5 billion upgrading water and sewage facilities. Macron said that a long-term benefit of hosting the Games would be the newly clean river, and when asked if he would take the plunge, he said “I’ll do it.” He did not commit to a date, however, joking that it might attract journalists. Three test swimming events in the Seine had to be canceled last year after high levels of E. coli were detected.


F1 works to attract younger fans

Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen won the Bahrain Grand Prix, the first of the new season. The Red Bull driver won a record 19 out of 22 races last season and is expected to defend his title. But Formula 1 is changing even if the winner is not: Since the former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone left seven years ago, the competition has seen a major rise in revenues and profits. It’s also cracked the U.S. market, partly on the strength of the Netflix documentary Drive to Survive, and its fanbase has become younger and less male: The Financial Times reported that 40% of F1 fans were women, up from 32% in 2018. Perhaps not coincidentally, it also dropped the practice of “grid girls.”


Whale sharks not harmed by tourism

James D. Morgan via Getty Images

Swimming with whale sharks is a $1.9 billion global industry, and new research suggests that — as practiced in Australia, at least — it is not harmful for the sharks. Whale sharks, which are not related to whales, are the largest fish in the world, with adults growing to over 36 feet long, and are harmless to humans. More than 25 million people sign up to swim with them each year at 46 sites in 23 countries around the world, raising scientists’ concerns about the negative impact on the sharks. But researchers attached tags to sharks off Ningaloo, Western Australia, and found they had limited exposure to tourists with minimal impacts. The researchers said that Ningaloo’s shark-swimming industry shows that “wildlife tourism can be sustainable.”


March 4:

  • Malaysia hosts its annual palm and lauric oil pricing exposition in Kuala Lumpur.
  • Australia hosts Southeast Asian leaders in Melbourne for the three-day ASEAN summit to discuss trade, climate change, and maritime security among other economic issues.
  • South Korea and the U.S. begin the annual Freedom Shield military exercise as a way to fortify joint defenses against the threat from North Korea.
Semafor Stat
406.36 billion

The total net worth of just five of the guests at the pre-wedding festivities for Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s son. The celebrations in Gujarat attracted global business and tech titans including Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, and Indian billionaires Gautam Adani and Kumar Mangalam Birla. The five were part of a star-studded, 1,200-person guest list that included Bollywood stars and Rihanna, who was reportedly paid $9 million to perform.

Syngman Rhee. Bettmann via Getty Images

A Korean political documentary about the country’s first president is a surprising — and controversial — hit. Films in the genre typically receive “mediocre attention at best,” Korea JoongAng Daily wrote, but promotion from celebrities and conservative political figures fueled the popularity of The Birth of Korea. It documents the life and legacy of former President Syngman Rhee, sparking debate about whether it unfairly glorified him; Rhee’s government was seen as authoritarian, and mass protests in 1960 over rigged elections led to his resignation. “Most cultural content in the past focused only on what he did wrong,” director Kim Deog-young said. “This film sheds light on the other side of the story.”

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