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Biden arrives in Europe ahead of D-Day memorial, Modi scrambles to make coalition deals after electi͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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June 5, 2024


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The World Today

  1. Biden arrives in Europe
  2. Modi scrambles for deal
  3. Mexico mayor murdered
  4. OpenAI safety warnings
  5. EV battery passports
  6. Nippon Steel ‘nightmare’
  7. Iran nuclear fears
  8. Ethiopia’s costly war
  9. Disappearing websites
  10. Lunch is off

A new lease of life for an iconic deep-sea submersible, and an exhibition of a much-loved Japanese artist opens in Bilbao.


Biden begins Europe tour

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal with US President Joe Biden. Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters

US President Joe Biden landed in France for a state visit that will underscore alliances as well as divisions with America’s European partners. The trip — to mark the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings that began the liberation of France and the end of World War II — will also include talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and a G7 summit in Italy, showcasing Western cohesion in support of Ukraine’s efforts to repel Russia’s invasion. Washington recently allowed Kyiv to use US weapons to strike Russian territory and Europe has sought to free up funds to send materiel to Ukraine.

Yet key issues divide the trans-Atlantic allies: On Ukraine, Biden told Time magazine that while a Ukrainian defeat would mean “you’ll see Poland go” and other nations would soon face Russian aggression, he nevertheless did not “support the NATOization of Ukraine.” And while the US has stepped up its criticism of Israel over the war in Gaza, it remains far more supportive of the country than much of Europe, with Israel just yesterday inking a $3 billion deal with America to acquire advanced fighter jets.


India opposition yet to concede

Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, until recently seen as invincible, was reduced to negotiating with a slew of unreliable coalition partners after an election in which he fell short of the absolute majority he craved. The opposition coalition, which performed much better than expected, was yet to concede, with smaller parties reportedly demanding major concessions to join Modi’s government. Modi falling short — undone in part by growing inequality and a lack of jobs for young people — gave succor to critics who feared for democratic freedoms. One analyst wrote in Foreign Policy that while his party will continue to dominate Indian politics, “from the summit, the only way is down.”

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


Mexico’s gender violence challenge

Hours after Claudia Sheinbaum was elected as Mexico’s first woman president, gunmen killed a female mayor. While Sheinbaum’s victory represented a leap for women in Mexico, many are still victims of gender-based violence. According to official figures, almost 3,500 women were killed in the country last year, likely a major underestimate. Sexual violence against women has also been on the rise: In 2022 alone, nearly 60,000 cases were reported, almost none of which were prosecuted. “The [judicial] system is so inefficient that there is no price for killing a woman,” the sister of a lawyer who was killed in southern Mexico said.


AI firms silencing workers’ fears

Dado Ruvic/Reuters

Artificial intelligence workers warned that the industry is stifling concern over the safety of AI. Thirteen current and former staffers, including 11 from OpenAI, signed an open letter, endorsed by the “Godfather of AI” Geoffrey Hinton, saying whistleblower protections are insufficient and confidentiality agreements “block us from voicing our concerns” on issues including the possibility of human extinction. Vox recently revealed that OpenAI staff were threatened with the loss of equity if they didn’t sign restrictive agreements upon leaving. And one OpenAI worker who worked on the safety of potentially superintelligent systems said he was fired for raising concerns about security, arguing that protections against foreign actors stealing key secrets was “egregiously insufficient.”


Volvo to issue EV battery passport

TT News Agency via Reuters

Volvo will issue the world’s first “passport” for electric vehicle batteries. All EVs sold in the European Union from 2027 will need to report the origins of their constituent parts, their carbon footprint, and their user history. The move addresses some concerns over the sourcing of raw materials, much like a “conflict-free” diamond certificate — lithium and other minerals used in batteries often come from unsafe or ecologically damaging mines. And it’s also to ease secondhand purchases of EVs: One engineering academic told Electrek that mileage doesn’t fully reflect battery health, and that tracking a battery’s life will help customers “learn much more about the vehicle they’re buying.” The passports will be based on the blockchain and in theory unfalsifiable.


Nippon fights for US Steel

A decision to block Nippon Steel’s takeover of US Steel would be a “nightmare” for unionized American workers, an executive from the Japanese firm told Semafor’s Liz Hoffman. Experts believe the deal could help the US manufacturer cut costs and become more competitive against some of the world’s biggest steelmakers, many of which are Chinese. The acquisition remains on hold over a national security review. However, both US President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have promised to block the takeover should they win in November, underscoring the rise of protectionist policies across bipartisan lines in the US. Their stance is “a sign that protectionism has run amok” in the US, an expert wrote in the Financial Times.

For more from the world of business, subscribe to Liz’s twice-weekly newsletter. →


West worried by Iran tensions

Rafael Grossi, director general of the IAEA. Leonhard Foeger/Reuters

Western diplomats voiced worry of increased tensions with Iran as Europe pressed for censuring Tehran over its nuclear program. Britain, France, and Germany want to call out Iran for poor cooperation with the UN’s nuclear watchdog, which has said Tehran is building up its stockpile of fissile material. The US was reportedly previously opposed to such moves, fearing an Iranian reaction, but a State Department spokesman told reporters this week that Washington would act with its allies. The proposed censure is only likely to pass with a slim majority, the longtime diplomatic reporter Laura Rozen wrote in her newsletter. Also potentially ramping up tensions was the killing of an Iranian general in Syria on Monday by airstrikes blamed on Israel.


An irresponsible use of fiscal deficits, geopolitical uncertainty, changing demographics, and the Net Zero transition are only some of the reasons why macro volatility will stay elevated in the next decade. It’s all covered in The Macro Compass, a free newsletter written by a former head of a $20 billion portfolio. Each issue is packed with analysis, insight, and macro news spoken in plain English — subscribe for free.


Ethiopia confronts cost of war

Ethiopia needs $44 billion to repair the damage from its war in the northern region of Tigray, equivalent to roughly a third of the country’s GDP. The figure, reported by a consortium of NGOs, comes on top of the country’s economy collapsing during the two-year conflict that ended in 2022. Although economic growth is still expected to reach 6% this year, according to the International Monetary Fund, the figure nonetheless represents one of the slowest rates of growth in two decades. A soaring inflation rate and a yawning government deficit may in turn further slow growth. “A country often seen as a model for the rest of the continent may instead be a warning,” The Economist wrote.


China’s vanishing internet

A growing number of the internet’s webpages are disappearing, particularly in China. The country is known for its vast censorship regime — deployed most recently during yesterday’s anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown — but its broader internet is itself shrinking: Huge numbers of Chinese blogs, social-media posts, and outlets that operated in the decade to 2005 have vanished. The overall number of websites has also declined a third between 2017 and 2023, and, despite a growing online population, the number of Chinese-language sites has fallen as a proportion of the global internet, The New York Times’ China business columnist wrote. The problem is a global one: 38% of websites that existed in 2013 are no longer accessible, according to Pew Research.


The death of the lunch break


The American lunch break is dying. The rise of hybrid work and increasing food prices are keeping US workers out of food shops at lunchtime: In Boston, weekday lunch transactions are down 10% since 2019, and across the US are yet to reach pre-pandemic levels. One Boston restaurant said it “used to have a line out the door every single [week]day,” but as more workers are bringing food from home, it’s now lucky to see queues two or three days a week. This is despite most leisure spending staying resilient despite higher costs — an analyst told NBC that office workers are keen to spend their money at weekends. Weekend brunch, in particular, is the new weekday lunch.

  • The St Petersburg International Economic Forum opens in Russia.
  • New Zealand’s foreign minister meets with Vietnamese leaders in Hanoi.
  • Under Paris, a French shark horror, is released on Netflix.
Semafor Stat

The percentage of the ocean floor now accessible by Alvin, the iconic US research submersible. The little boat was commissioned in 1964, and is best known for carrying the first explorers to the wreck of the Titanic in 1986. Its original service depth of 4,500 meters — about three miles — meant it could reach 68% of the ocean floor, but a recent upgrade, including a new titanium hull and stronger seals, now allows it to reach 6,500 meters or four miles down. It will allow scientists to study places such as the Aleutian Trench in the northern Pacific, believed to teem with living things: “People know they’re there,” one researcher told Science, “but nobody’s had a good look.” An initial mission is now under way.


An exhibition showcasing the work of Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara opens at Spain’s Guggenheim Museum Bilbao this month. The retrospective will introduce visitors to paintings, drawings, sculptures, and installations by Nara — best known for his distinctive images of children with oversized heads and expressive eyes — over the last four decades. The show “reflects his empathetic response to the people and places he has encountered,” Art Plugged reported.

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