• D.C.
  • BXL
  • Lagos
  • Dubai
  • Beijing
  • SG
rotating globe
  • D.C.
  • BXL
  • Lagos
Semafor Logo
  • Dubai
  • Beijing
  • SG

Israel provokes global anger over its deadly strike in Rafah, the European Central Bank is poised to͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
sunny Seoul
thunderstorms Yangon
sunny Hangzhou
rotating globe
May 28, 2024


newsletter audience icon
Asia Morning Edition
Sign up for our free newsletters

The World Today

  1. Israel condemned for strike
  2. China’s MidEast moves
  3. Alibaba signs Beckham
  4. Myanmar’s next phase
  5. ECB ready to cut rates
  6. Oktoberfest bans song
  7. Dating apps woo women
  8. Crows can count
  9. CEOs skip commencements
  10. CD players’ comeback

A 40-year-old break dancer eyes Olympic glory.


Israel criticized over Rafah strike

Palestinians put out a fire after an Israeli strike in Rafah. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Israel faced global condemnation for a strike that killed dozens of Palestinians sheltering in the Gazan city of Rafah, an incident Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a “tragic mistake.” The strike heightens Israel’s international isolation: Italy said Israel’s actions can no longer be justified, France was “outraged,” and the US is reportedly assessing whether the “heartbreaking” incident violates President Joe Biden’s “red line.” It’s the latest diplomatic setback for Netanyahu — the UN’s top court ordered a stop to the Rafah offensive, and another court sought an arrest warrant for him — and highlights how “Israel’s premier, and the ultra-right extremists he depends on to hold his ruling coalition together, are making it ever harder even for allies to support it,” the Financial Times wrote.


China makes new Middle East push

Egypt's president and Chinese leader Xi Jinping in 2018. Andy Wong - Pool/Getty Images

China is making a fresh diplomatic push in the Middle East to counter the US’ influence there. Leaders of Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates are set to meet with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing this week, with Palestine and the war in Gaza likely high on the agenda. Experts said Beijing could also try to seal a long-sought free trade deal with Gulf states. China adopted a relatively muted stance on the Israel-Hamas war and strikes in the Red Sea, but it has become increasingly assertive on global issues, the European Council on Foreign Relations wrote this week. The wars in Ukraine and Gaza have “reinforced the narratives of a declining Western-led order,” leading Gulf nations to consider diversifying their ties.


Beckham is Alibaba’s global face

Chinese giant Alibaba’s e-commerce platform AliExpress hired David Beckham as its first global brand ambassador in a push to compete internationally with domestic rivals. Chinese brands Shein and Temu have made inroads in the US and Europe through aggressive marketing, cheap pricing, and import tactics that have attracted scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators. AliExpress ads featuring Beckham are set to run for up to a year, mirroring Temu’s viral blitz in the US earlier this year, in which it ran five ads during the Super Bowl. In South Korea, AliExpress has also appointed Tang Wei — a Chinese actress who is popular in South Korean cinema — as its ambassador there.


The West’s role in Myanmar’s evolution

Floods in Yangon on May 11. Myo Kyaw Soe/Xinhua via Getty Images

Western powers should recognize and support resistance forces in Myanmar to prepare for the next phase of the country’s evolution, an expert on the country argued in Nikkei. “The recognition of the new reality may be uncomfortable, but also can point to geopolitical opportunities,” wrote Ashley South, a researcher at Chiang Mai University. Ethnic armed groups have made gains against an ineffective regime, and they are especially important for mitigating climate change, South argued. Projections show large parts of Myanmar will become uninhabitable and food insecure in 10 to 20 years; in other conflict zones, ethnic armies have provided health and education services to civilians. South called on diplomats and donors to work with the local power-holders and stop “living in the past.”


ECB ready for rate cut

Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank. Zhang Fan/Xinhua via Getty Images

The European Central Bank is poised to be one of the first major central banks to cut interest rates from their landmark highs when it meets next week. The French central bank chief said that “barring a surprise,” a June 6 rate cut is a “done deal.” Asked if he was proud of Europe cutting rates before the US, the ECB’s chief economist said that while “central bankers aspire to be as boring as possible,” such a move wouldn’t backfire. Eurozone inflation has fallen in recent months and is now close to the bank’s 2% target, while US inflation has proved stickier, delaying any rate cuts until after summer. But some analysts worry that the divergence between the two banks’ rate cuts could weaken the euro.


Oktoberfest bans song over chant

Closing of the Munich Oktoberfest in 2023. Felix Hörhager/picture alliance via Getty Images

German officials banned a popular song from being played at both private and public Oktoberfest celebrations later this year after right-wing groups co-opted it as a xenophobic anthem. L’Amour Toujours, a 1999 track by Italian DJ Gigi D’Agostino, is a discotheque staple, but it recently went viral after several videos showed young people — including some members of Germany’s far-right AfD party — chanting “Germany for the Germans, foreigners out” over the song, Bavarian outlet BR24 reported. Experts said the song’s newly problematic connotation reflects a growing normalization of racist and anti-immigrant sentiment as Europe’s far-right ascends in the polls; the AfD made gains in local elections Sunday, but failed to secure outright victories in a German region where it is popular.

Mixed Signals

Introducing Mixed Signals, a new podcast from Semafor Media presented by Think with Google. Co-hosted by Semafor’s own Ben Smith, and renowned podcaster and journalist Nayeema Raza, every Friday, Mixed Signals pulls back the curtain on the week’s key stories around media, revealing how money, access, culture, and politics shape everything you read, watch, and hear.

Whether you’re a media insider or simply curious about what drives today’s headlines, Mixed Signals is the perfect addition to your media diet. Listen wherever you get your podcasts.


Dating apps woo young women


Dating apps are desperately trying to woo Gen Z women as their stocks plunge and users decline. Major players like Bumble and Match Group, which owns Tinder and Hinge, are exploring content moderation plans and other tools to address dating app fatigue among women — Bumble recently found that 70% of their female users had experienced “burnout.” Match Group’s CEO called women and Gen Z “literally the most critical demographic for all dating apps” in a recent earnings call; both its shares and Bumble’s have dropped more than 80% from their 2021 highs, the Financial Times reported. Tinder is now experimenting with an AI photo feature to best “showcase” users’ personalities. Bumble, meanwhile, ran ads earlier this month urging women not to become nuns, but the campaign backfired.


Crows even better at math than we thought

David McNew/Getty Images

Crows can count their own caws, a new study revealed. Corvids were already known to be very smart birds, capable of tool use and simple arithmetic. But in an experiment, crows were trained to produce a certain number of calls corresponding to visual cues of the numbers one to four, and they were correct most of the time. While it wasn’t “true counting,” which involves a symbolic understanding of numbers, one researcher told Nature it could be a precursor of that ability: Human toddlers similarly produce the number of speech sounds that correspond to the number of objects they see — like saying “one, one, one” instead of “three” — before they are able to master symbolic counting, Scientific American noted.


CEOs are wary of commencements

Apple CEO Tim Cook gives a speech at Gallaudet University in 2022. Brian Stukes/Getty Images

Speaking at US graduation ceremonies has become less appealing for business leaders. The commencement speech has traditionally been a sought-after gig because it gives speakers the chance to impart wisdom and crack jokes to a receptive audience, but just three Fortune 50 CEOs are speakers this year, The New York Times reported. Protests over colleges’ ties to Israel have impacted graduation ceremonies across the country; some speakers planned alternate remarks in the event of a disruption. Many CEOs are staying out of the spotlight and avoiding appearing political, a lesson learned from 2020, when businesses rushed to support Black Lives Matter protests. “They got called woke. One group said they didn’t go far enough, one group said they went too far,” a speechwriters association head said.


K-pop group revives CD players

CD players could make a comeback in South Korea thanks to a K-pop girl group’s retro marketing technique. Aespa offered copies of their newly released album along with a small CD player for just over $100, and they instantly sold out. Physical CD sales increased globally in 2022 for the first time since 2004; fans like owning a tangible piece of media from their favorite artists, while many musicians, especially K-pop acts, use CDs as a way to juice their album sales. But younger fans don’t have a way to listen to the physical records, so Aespa’s approach could chart a new strategy in a streaming-dominated landscape, The Korea Times wrote.


May 28:

  • Spain, Norway, and Ireland are set to formally recognize a Palestinian state.
  • The president of the United Arab Emirates visits South Korea in the first state visit by a UAE president.
  • Electronics trade show Semicon Southeast Asia takes place in Kuala Lumpur.
Xu Yanan/Xinhua via Getty Images

A 40-year-old break dancer is on the cusp of making a historic Olympic appearance. Japan’s Ayumi Fukushima seems primed for a spot in the Olympics’ first-ever breaking event, with 16 “b-boys” and “b-girls” competing for medals. Fukushima, a teacher who has been break dancing for two decades, is a trailblazer in a male-dominated sport and recently won an Olympic qualifier in Shanghai that was dominated by Japan. “All the young people are very strong,” Fukushima said of the other Japanese competitors. “It’s not only winning, we enjoy this moment.”

Hot on Semafor