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Hopes rise for a ceasefire deal in Gaza, tensions grow between China and its Southeast Asian neighbo͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
 
sunny Manila
snowstorm Nairobi
sunny Mexico City
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April 30, 2024
semafor

Flagship

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Americas Morning Edition
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The World Today

  1. Gaza ceasefire hopes
  2. China’s SE Asia tension
  3. Blood donor breakthrough
  4. Mexico-US migrant deal
  5. American dream over?
  6. AI tech battles
  7. EU buys Russian fertilizer
  8. Floods devastate Kenya
  9. Soccer spending cap plans
  10. Swift still dominant

The airport that’s gone 30 years without losing a piece of luggage, and Europe’s best new building.

1

Hopes of Middle East truce

Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

Diplomats voiced hope over progress towards a Middle East truce. Proposals center around a multi-week ceasefire during which 33 Israeli hostages held in Gaza would be released: Talks had languished for weeks, but Israel has reportedly reduced the number of hostages it wants released, in part because it believes that many of those being held have already died. Meanwhile US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington was close to offering Saudi Arabia a security deal to incentivize Riyadh’s normalization of diplomatic ties with Israel, a potentially momentous shift. Separately, Beijing said it had hosted talks between rival Palestinian factions to push them toward their own reconciliation.

Yet huge hurdles remained to peace. Hard-right members of Israel’s cabinet are opposed to any deal with Hamas, and the country is still committed to the militant group’s annihilation. Hamas, for its part, is pushing for a permanent cessation of hostilities, rather than the temporary truce being discussed. Diplomats also worry that potential International Criminal Court warrants against top Israeli officials could upend ceasefire talks. Throughout, the cost for those in Gaza is mounting, with tens of thousands dead and humanitarian officials warning of mass hunger.

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2

Manila-Beijing tensions rise

Adrian Portugal/Reuters

The Philippines said China damaged one of its boats and erected a floating barrier in a disputed part of the South China Sea, where tensions between Manila and Beijing have ratcheted up. Their row centers on an atoll where the Philippines has a rusting ship that it repeatedly attempts to resupply, efforts blocked by Chinese vessels using water cannons. It is the most dangerous of several maritime disputes between Beijing and Southeast Asian nations: The Washington Post said recently it could be the site of “Asia’s next war.” The issue has implications for Washington, ultimately helping strengthen US alliances with countries who see Beijing’s actions as evidence of its expansionism.

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3

Universal blood transfusions near

@givebloodnhs/Instagram

Newly developed enzymes that can remove blood-type markers raised hopes for universal blood transfusions. Patients’ blood type dictates who they can receive transfusions from: Antigens in the donor’s blood are detected by the immune system and rejected if they don’t match the recipient’s. A new study found that cocktails of enzymes would remove the sugar molecules that denote A, B, AB, and O blood types, and other previously unnoticed markers: One author said they were “close to being able to produce universal blood from group B donors,” although type A blood was more complex and required more work. Universal donation would significantly reduce the shortage of blood needed for transfusions, especially for those with rare types.

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4

US, Mexico to curb migration

The US and Mexico agreed to clamp down on migration across their shared border. Record numbers of migrant crossings have made immigration one of the key issues ahead of the US election, highlighting Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s influence on the November vote. In the past, deployments of police forces and troops to Mexico’s southern border have led to drastic drops in the ultimate number of crossings into the US. AMLO’s critics fret this leverage has led Washington to shy away from criticizing the Mexican president’s increasingly autocratic rule, with one former Mexican foreign minister calling Biden “The Appeaser-in-Chief.

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5

American dream out of reach

The American dream — of upward financial mobility, owning one’s own home, and retiring in a measure of comfort — is increasingly out of reach, new research showed. Overall economic growth is strong in the US, but home affordability is at its lowest level since 1985, younger generations are being priced out of the stock market which has driven huge wealth in recent years, and about a quarter of those above the age of 50 who have not yet retired say they expect never to do so. “It feels like we make too much money to still feel like we’re behind,” a 31-year-old accounting consultant told The Wall Street Journal.

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6

Apple poaches Google AI staff

Aly Song/File Photo/Reuters

Apple poached dozens of Google staff to build its artificial intelligence team. The iPhone maker is building an AI lab in Zurich, Switzerland, and Financial Times analysis of job postings and papers found at least 36 AI specialists had moved from Google since 2018. The Zurich site is reportedly driving Apple’s efforts to build a generative AI model to rival OpenAI and Google’s Gemini, even as it weighs licensing Gemini to power iPhone AI features. AI is increasingly the battleground for Big Tech: Samsung announced that its memory chip division returned to profitability for the first time since 2022 on the back of its increased sales of AI-ready chips, and said that its latest chips would go on sale in June.

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7

EU fertilizer imports from Russia up

The European Union imported twice as much urea, a common fertilizer, from Russia in the year to June 2023 as a year earlier. Europe’s efforts to wean itself off Russian gas for energy have been largely successful, with predictions of an energy crisis after Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine not coming to pass. But crop nutrients, themselves made from natural gas, are a different story: Russia is a major exporter of fertilizers, which are carved out by Western sanctions, and the country’s fertilizer revenue surged 70% in 2022 on higher prices. “Fertilizer is the new gas,” one industry CEO told the Financial Times. “We are sleepwalking into handing over critical food and fertilizing power to Russia.”

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Friends of Flagship

Face-Off: The U.S. vs China is a podcast about how two nations, once friends, are now foes. Host Jane Perlez talks with diplomats, spies, and cultural superstars like Yo-Yo Ma about why the dangers are high, and why relations went awry. Click here to start listening.

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8

Flooding kills dozens in Kenya

Dozens of people died in Kenya because of flooding caused by heavy rains, with some fearing the death toll could rise as rescue efforts get under way. The month-long deluge, which has devastated large parts of the country, underscores developing countries’ vulnerability to extreme weather, cases of which become more common as global temperatures rise. According to the International Monetary Fund, low-income countries make up the bulk of nations at greatest risk from climate change while having the smallest capacity to invest in adaptation. One estimate puts developing countries’ resiliency-investment needs at $2.4 trillion a year through 2030. “Unfortunately, countries that need to adapt the most often lack the means to do so,” the IMF wrote.

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9

Premier League backs spending cap

English Premier League soccer teams voted in favor of plans for a spending cap. European soccer is increasingly concerned about teams with rich, sometimes nation-state-owned, owners spending vast sums to obtain success: Two Premier League teams were docked points this season for breaching spending rules. The new proposals suggest anchoring maximum spending to a multiple of the TV revenue generated by the league’s bottom-ranked team. Abu Dhabi-backed Manchester City, on course to win their fourth straight title, voted against, as did their dysfunctional rivals Manchester United. While technical and legal hurdles remain, 16 of the 20 teams in the league — the world’s richest — backed the idea in principle.

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10

Swift dominates charts, again

Mario Anzuoni/File Photo/Reuters

Taylor Swift once again broke chart records, with the top 14 tracks on Billboard’s Hot 100 all from her latest album. The extended edition of The Tortured Poets Department features 31 tracks, all of which debuted in the top 100 — alongside Cruel Summer, which was already there — and she gained her 14th Billboard No. 1 album, tying her with Jay-Z for most among soloists (she still trails The Beatles’ 19 among all artists). The Tortured Poets Department also sold more vinyl records in a week than any album in at least 33 years, became the first to gain 300 million streams in a single day, and the fastest to reach 1 billion streams. In-the-know music lovers suggest that Swift might be one to watch.

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Flagging
  • Britain’s post-Brexit border checks come into force.
  • Samuel Miele, a former fundraiser for indicted US Representative George Santos, is set to be sentenced after pleading guilty last year to defrauding campaign donors.
  • Fiasco, a new French-language mockumentary series, is released on Netflix.
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Semafor Stat
30

The number of years Japan’s Kansai International Airport has been operating without losing a single piece of luggage. A multilayer process that relies on three staffers confirming the destination of each suitcase has meant that no luggage has been misplaced since the airport opened in September 1994. By comparison, the world’s airlines mishandled an average of 7.6 pieces of baggage per 1,000 passengers in 2022. However the airport staff will face their toughest test yet when Osaka, which is served by Kansai International, hosts the World Expo 2025: The airport is expected to receive more than 37 million passengers that year.

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Curio
Arch Mag/X

The Study Pavilion, a gridded steel and wood structure in northwestern Germany, was named Europe’s best new building. Designed for the Technical University of Braunschweig, the campus creation won the Mies van der Rohe Award. It was lauded for “its ability to challenge the constraints and imagery of sustainability, creating a welcoming and playful environment for study, collaboration and community gathering.” Among its features are sound-absorbing yellow curtains that can be drawn to create distinct zones, Dezeen reported. The building beat 361 other projects including a slaughterhouse-turned-art gallery in the Czech Republic, a renovated 15th-century convent on the island of Corsica, and a Spanish school with zigzagging roofs.

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