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Mexico elects its first woman president, Trump says the public won’t ‘stand for’ his jailing, and th͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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June 3, 2024


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The World Today

  1. Sheinbaum wins in Mexico
  2. Zelenskyy criticizes China
  3. Russia’s Olympic disinfo
  4. Trump OK with jail
  5. Renewables windfall
  6. Gas market to grow
  7. Strikes paralyze Nigeria
  8. Amazon gets drone win
  9. Lab diamonds aren’t forever
  10. Centenary of Kafka’s death

The London Review of Substacks, and a live-action manga adaptation is a Netflix hit.


Mexico elects first woman president

Raquel Cunha/Reuters

Claudia Sheinbaum was elected as Mexico’s first female president. Her landslide victory — preliminary results showed her winning around 60% of the vote — could also herald a congressional supermajority that would allow the ruling coalition to change the constitution. Sheinbaum, the former mayor of Mexico City, has vowed to build on the legacy of populist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, including a proposal to weaken the Supreme Court and national electoral body, a move that opponents say poses a threat to the country’s democracy. Security will top her agenda, followed closely by the need to spur economic growth and accelerate Mexico’s green transition. “This is a recognition by the people of Mexico of our national project,” Sheinbaum said.

For more on the world’s most important elections, check out Semafor’s Global Election Hub. →


Zelenskyy points finger at China

Edgar Su/Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused China of undermining an upcoming peace conference over Russia’s invasion of his country. Beijing, Moscow’s most important ally, has been blamed by the West for at least implicitly supporting Russia over the war, but Kyiv had largely avoided criticizing China. At the Shangri-La defense forum in Singapore, however, Zelenskyy described Beijing as “an instrument” of Moscow. His remarks were part of a Western push for Asian support — the Dutch defense minister said the war’s outcome would have a “profound impact” on the entire world — but the president of East Timor said that much of the region’s disillusionment with those claims had to do with the West’s “incomprehensible tolerance of Israel’s brutal war on the Palestinians.”


Russia targets West with disinfo


Russian internet trolls using artificial intelligence launched a campaign to discredit the Olympic Games in Paris and sow fears of terrorism at the event, research by Microsoft showed. The efforts included a documentary using an AI-generated voiceover impersonating Tom Cruise that attempted to undermine the International Olympic Committee, which banned Russia from next month’s games over its invasion of Ukraine. Microsoft’s report comes shortly after OpenAI identified campaigns by state actors and private companies in Russia, China, Iran, and Israel to manipulate public opinion around the world. However experts said these campaigns weren’t believable enough to be effective. “They’re still struggling with the old problem of how to get people to fall for it,” an investigator at OpenAI said.


Trump says public won’t accept jailing

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY via Reuters

Donald Trump said he was “OK” with going to jail, but that the public might not “stand for it.” The former US president was convicted last week of covering up a payment to an adult film star and could face prison, although custodial sentences for similar convictions are rare. The verdict shows no one is above the law, but still “deepens the United States’ war with itself,” a columnist for Foreign Policy wrote, likely forcing Republicans to attack the judicial system. The decision could nonetheless hurt Trump’s campaign: A poll found that 10% of registered Republicans and 25% of independents said the verdict would make them less likely to vote Trump, enough to make a difference in key swing states.


Solar drives health and wealth

Australian farmers are seeing a windfall from renewable energy, leading the nation’s transition away from coal. The world’s largest onshore wind farm is under construction in Queensland, with each turbine worth $26,000 annually to landowners, Oil Price reported. Another huge wind-and-solar project in New South Wales will offer rebates to neighbors, and enormous battery and solar projects are also under way. Farmers, hit badly by drought in recent years, are increasingly open to using land for renewables. Meanwhile, the growth of renewable energy in Chile led to a significant reduction in respiratory illnesses in nearby communities as they pivoted away from coal, new research suggested.


Gas market primed to grow

The global gas market is likely to grow substantially in the years to come, new projections showed. Oil projects are becoming less attractive, Goldman Sachs said, with the price required for investments to be worthwhile rising in recent years. By contrast, demand for gas in Europe — which has reduced its dependence on Russian imports — and elsewhere means that market will likely grow 50% in the next five years, the bank’s analysts said. Southeast Asia is pursuing the fuel particularly aggressively because it is seen as a lower-carbon source of energy than coal, which much of the region relies upon: Countries there have announced $220 billion of investment in the fossil fuel to potentially double their gas-fired power capacity.


Nigerian workers go on strike

Members of Nigeria’s two biggest labor unions went on strike, demanding an increase to the minimum wage. The strikes have paralyzed the country’s main airport and major disruptions are expected to hit the health and banking sectors. Unions want the monthly minimum wage be raised to about $375, almost 17 times higher than current levels, to reflect economic realities: Inflation has soared to a 28-year high after the government ended a costly petrol subsidy it claimed was unsustainable, with annual food-price inflation in particular topping 40% in March. It has left many struggling to meet basic needs, and forced others to turn to “throw-away” rice for sustenance.


Boost for Amazon drone deliveries


US regulators said Amazon delivery drones could fly out of their operators’ sight, removing a major barrier to their widespread use. Amazon launched its drone delivery project in College Station, Texas, in 2022, but was required not to send drones “beyond visual line of sight.” The Federal Aviation Administration lifted that requirement after Amazon demonstrated that its drones could detect and avoid obstacles in the air. Amazon will now scale up its operations, with a goal of hitting 500 million annual drone deliveries by 2030, although it has a long way still to go: It shut down its only other drone delivery site, in Lockeford, California, this year.


De Beers’ natural diamonds gamble

De Beers said it would stop producing lab-grown diamonds for jewelry. The company shocked the industry by launching a lab-grown brand in 2018: Artificial gems are indistinguishable from natural ones to the naked eye, and sell at a 90% discount. But De Beers had a tough 2023, and is rethinking its model. The firm once held a near-monopoly and focused its marketing on diamonds rather than its brand, most famously with the 1947 slogan “a diamond is forever.” Its CEO told The Business of Fashion that it would return to something similar, marketing natural diamonds as “the epitome of authenticity … created a billion years ago,” gambling that people will pay a premium for an identical, but “authentic,” product.


100th anniversary of Kafka’s death


The author Franz Kafka died 100 years ago today. His work dealt with faceless authority, self-loathing, and the fear of being alone, topics that remain vital today, the author Sarah Chiche wrote in Le Monde, saying he has “become an icon for the so-called Gen Z” and “has never been more alive.” His legacy will be explored in an upcoming BBC radio documentary, alongside that of Orwell, another author whose name is used as an adjective. “It’s not certain that all the young people who quote Kafka on social media actually read him,” said Chiche. “But the fact that some of them do so with passion is in itself a cause for celebration.”

  • Turkey’s foreign minister visits China for talks.
  • Croatia’s president meets with his Brazilian counterpart in Brasilia for the first time since the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1992.
  • Kosovo holds an annual tractor-tyre river race.

Lost in translation

Can anyone produce a large-language model as dominant in Chinese as ChatGPT is in English? “The answer is a decisive no,” Robert Wu, the head of a Beijing-based research firm, wrote in the Baiguan newsletter. His logic: LLMs are — for now — not inventive, but based on source material, and given widespread political, social, and cultural censorship in the world’s biggest Chinese-speaking society, it is unlikely at any point in the foreseeable future to rival the English internet.

Still, that does not preclude two potential outcomes, Wu writes. For one, Chinese companies could still create LLMs for the Chinese market, in much the same way that Baidu, Tencent, and Alibaba have built themselves to cater to domestic audiences, attaining financial success in the process, with fitful experiments abroad. A second, bigger threat to Western firms is the LLM equivalent of TikTok: “Having poor Chinese-language training material will not prevent Chinese companies from making a globally competitive LLM product, catering to the global audience.”

What women want

Three key elections have just concluded in India, Mexico, and South Africa, with each country making progress — one way or another — in increasing women’s representation in politics: India’s government passed a bill introducing a quota for the number of parliamentary seats to be filled by women (though it has yet to become law, and did not apply in this just-completed election); Mexico saw its first-ever woman elected president; and South Africa saw 15 political parties field more female than male candidates.

But as Akshi Chawla notes in #WomenLead, far less is known in many of these places about the women actually casting the ballots. “For those of you who follow Indian politics, you’d have noticed – the ‘woman’ question has been a big part of the political discourse,” Chawla writes. “But the woman here is the woman voter, not so much the politician. All political parties have been trying their best to attract women’s votes. But how women vote remains a little enigmatic.”

Child’s play

Social norms, Kevin Maguire argues, teach fathers that their parenting must compete for time and attention with their careers and their interests, and many men take the lesson that they must then distance themselves from their emotions in order to succeed. In fact, he writes in The New Fatherhood, the opposite is true: Truly exploring the depth of their feelings for their children “is additive,” ultimately offering “new abilities to funnel back into your career and interests.”

“For generations gone by, boys have been introduced to The Well of Feelings at an early age,” he writes: “They come to equate the well with darkness and fear. They learn to stay away from it.” But if they have children, “these tiny humans pull you towards the darkness as you wonder what was down there all along, carefully prying nails out of old boards that kept you out — or that kept something else in. And then you realise it might not be so scary after all. In fact, it’s rather beautiful.”


Golden Kamuy, a live-action film based on the popular historical fiction manga, topped Netflix’s most-watched non-English language movie list. The story, set in Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido, follows a war veteran who helps a young girl get revenge for her father’s death. The feature-length film follows an earlier anime adaptation of the comic and CBR said it brought “some of the most memorable moments from the anime to life with painstaking faithfulness,” taking advantage of a bigger budget and picturesque landscapes.

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