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India’s Narendra Modi suffers a stunning election setback in a narrow victory, China invests in the ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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sunny New Delhi
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June 5, 2024


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The World Today

  1. Modi mania dims …
  2. … jeopardizing his agenda
  3. Women central to EU race
  4. Japan’s stance on foreigners
  5. Flying Chinese cars
  6. We’re not deglobalizing
  7. Energy goals not on target
  8. Post-Big Bang Theory
  9. Govt. offices to homes
  10. Kids find T. rex fossil

A ‘fake’ Degas bought online turns out to be real.


Modi mania dims with narrow victory

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Modi’s magic is fading,” “Modi’s power has peaked,” Modi has been “cut to size by the people:” Headlines following the largest election in world history illustrated a stunning setback for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose party narrowly won, but lost its outright majority in parliament, likely forcing it to rely on regional allies to govern. “Victory feels like defeat” for Modi, an Indian news anchor said. Modi’s strategy of campaigning on his cult of personality, casting himself as “the deified personification of the people,” fell short, bucking the narrative that he is an invincible force, a political scientist wrote in The Indian Express.


Modi’s economic goals just got tougher

A sugar factory in Maharashtra, India. REUTERS/Rajendra Jadhav

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s underperformance in the country’s elections will make it harder for him to champion his most ambitious economic and social policies. Modi’s campaign harnessed ties with business leaders and pushed stocks to record highs through his infrastructure investment pitch. But “rural Indians have just taught Modi and the stock markets a tough lesson — that millionaires are no measure of a country’s prosperity,” Bloomberg’s Menaka Doshi wrote. With a coalition government, Modi will likely still be able to push a broadly pro-business agenda, but more aggressive labor and land reforms will be more difficult to achieve, analysts said. Controversial efforts to advance the Hindu nationalist agenda associated with Modi’s party could also be put on the back burner.


Three women central to EU election

Nearly 400 million Europeans vote this week to elect the European Parliament, a contest that will offer signals on whether the global populist wave that’s hit the US and South America will sweep the bloc next. It also spotlights the “three women who will shape Europe,” The Economist wrote: The dynamic between European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, and populist French figure Marine Le Pen could impact the EU’s approach to migration, the Russia-Ukraine war, and the power of the bloc itself. Observers are closely watching whether von der Leyen could form a coalition by partnering with Meloni or Le Pen, whose hard-right groups have scrambled to “make themselves more palatable to the mainstream,” including by breaking ties with more extreme factions, The New York Times wrote.


Japan opens up to foreign workers

REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Younger Japanese people are more receptive to the influx of foreign workers than older generations who have limited to no interactions with foreigners, according to the first-of-its-kind survey by Japan’s immigration agency. The number of foreign workers in Japan hit a record 2.04 million last year, plugging a labor shortage in the aging country that has been historically resistant to immigration. But those attitudes appear to be changing: A separate poll in Japan’s Asahi newspaper suggested that more people have accepted that foreign workers are essential to the economy. But some are still wary: “We need skilled workers,” one conservative Tokyo businessman said, but “we do not want to repeat the mistakes that European countries made with unrestricted immigration.”


China invests in flying car industry


The Chinese city of Guangzhou is putting $1.4 billion toward the development of flying cars, dubbed the “low-altitude economy.” The investment reflects the government’s belief that piloted and autonomous civilian aircraft could serve as a growth engine to help reverse a sluggish economy, Nikkei reported. While regulatory hurdles remain, China has loosened some restrictions on the nascent industry and plans to put the new money toward building takeoff and landing points for the craft. Guangzhou makes sense as the place to start: It’s home to two prominent flying car companies, and is located in the same province as Shenzhen, a major tech hub.


Experts: The world isn’t deglobalizing

REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis

Despite the popular narrative that the world is “deglobalizing,” evidence points to the contrary, two experts argued this week. Economist Brad Setser wrote in Foreign Affairs that the global economy is not breaking into what a Bloomberg columnist described as “rival and increasingly hostile blocs,” in part because of continued trade with China. Beijing has become more, not less, reliant on exports, Setser argued, even with the rise of US tariffs. In World Politics Review, Roland Benedikter of the Italy-based Eurac Research made the case for “reglobalization,” defined by major shifts that result in “two or three visions of global order that are opposed to each other, or at least differentiated. Nevertheless, they currently coexist alongside each other.”


World to miss energy target

REUTERS/Prapan Chankaew

The world is on course to double, but not triple renewable energy output by 2030, the International Energy Agency said. Last December, nearly 150 countries agreed to the more ambitious goal, but few have taken any policy steps to achieve it. The IEA’s director said the gap was “ambitious but achievable … if governments quickly turn promises into plans of action,” and called on countries to include specific targets in their climate action plans. Not all countries are lagging behind on renewable generation: China is moving faster than its plans, and last year added more renewable capacity than the rest of the world combined.

Live Journalism

New cybersecurity threats are emerging regularly. With artificial intelligence and other advanced technology on the rise, bad actors have dangerously sophisticated tools at their disposal to carry out malicious attacks online. Yet, even in a technologically advanced environment, humans remain at the core of cybersecurity as both defenders and perpetrators of cyber threats. That has profound implications for cybersecurity policy in tackling the weakest links and what can be done to proactively address issues instead of reacting to problems that have already done some damage.

Join us on June 18, in Washington, D.C. when Semafor’s editors will lead crucial conversations on these underlying security issues while exploring innovative cyber resilience solutions, the complex regulatory landscape governing cybersecurity, trends across threat vectors and the education necessary to provide individuals with their own defense tools.

RSVP for in-person or livestream here


Unraveling a cosmic mystery

Screenshot from Simons Foundation website

A new observatory in the Chilean desert is seeking to answer a fundamental question of the universe: What happened immediately after the Big Bang? The Simons Observatory is made up of four telescopes that together will try to prove the theory of cosmic inflation, which suggests space-time accelerated faster than the speed of light in the moments after the universe’s birth. To do that, it will look at little ripples in the cosmic microwave background, which give clues to the early universe other telescopes cannot see. Cosmic inflation theory is a founding principle for our understanding of the universe, but as one professor told The New York Times, “To date, there’s no smoking gun.”


Turning government offices into houses

REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Canada’s government could turn half of its office space into housing. Canada — like much of the Western world — is facing a housing crisis, with Ottawa one of the worst affected cities. One government official told The Globe and Mail that converting federal buildings could both ease the housing shortage and reduce costs. The minister said the buildings on his department’s land were already 40% empty before the pandemic and that figure has since risen with the growth of remote working. The decision could provide 50,000 city-center housing units, causing less environmental harm and creating less NIMBY opposition than building condo towers from scratch.


Kids uncover young T. rex fossil

A T. rex skeleton replica at the Universum museum in Mexico City. Wikimedia Commons

Three children found a young Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton on a hike in North Dakota. Brothers Liam and Jessin Fisher, 7 and 10, and their cousin Kaiden Madsen, 9, spotted a bone in the Hell Creek Formation, home to several T. rex finds. A paleontologist friend thought it was likely a relatively common duckbill dinosaur, but on excavating with the boys, soon found the lower jaw: “It doesn’t get any more diagnostic than that, seeing these giant tyrannosaurus teeth staring back at you.” The dinosaur is believed to be a juvenile, roughly 13 years old at death. A documentary of the 2022 find is being made, and one of the brothers said other children seeking fossils should “put down their electronics and go out hiking.”


June 5:

  • Italy’s highest court is expected to deliver a verdict in Amanda Knox’s slander trial.
  • UN Secretary-General António Guterres speaks at the American Museum of Natural History in celebration of World Environment Day.
  • Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif visits China to meet with Xi Jinping and other business leaders.
A photograph of Degas. Wikimedia Commons

A thrifter who bought a masterfully drawn “fake” Degas artwork online for $1,000 ended up with an authentic Degas worth around $13 million. The famous brothel scene, Éloge du maquillage (In praise of cosmetics), painted by the French impressionist is now on display at Institute Français in Madrid. In 2021, the buyer from Barcelona bidded for the work that was first listed for only $1; the owner at the time didn’t think it was a genuine Degas even though it bore the artist’s signature, Artnet reported. But the thrifter enlisted the help of an art expert who determined that the painting was a famous Degas that had been missing for decades.

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