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China rebukes India’s Modi for accepting Taiwan’s congratulatory message, SpaceX’s Starship finds su͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
 
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June 7, 2024
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The World Today

  1. Hamas’ ceasefire ultimatum
  2. China rebukes Modi
  3. Beijing’s pullback from EU
  4. SpaceX makes waves
  5. Washington targets AI
  6. Pentagon uses AI
  7. ECB cuts interest rates
  8. Indians love tequila
  9. Canada’s conspiracy queen
  10. China’s pipe waterfall

A “mango capital” in a US village, and our latest Substack Rojak.

1

Hamas responds to US ceasefire deal

REUTERS/Abed Khaled

Hamas’ leader said Thursday the group will only accept a peace agreement if Israel agrees to a permanent ceasefire, in his first response to last week’s proposal detailed by US President Joe Biden. The White House is also turning up the heat on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accept the ceasefire deal, using regional powers, allies, aid groups, and Israeli politicians to squeeze him “from all sides,” Politico wrote, so that he “feels the heat no matter where he turns.” Israel’s allies are increasingly frustrated with Netanyahu dragging his feet on the agreement, as his military continues its Gaza assault: An Israeli airstrike targeting Hamas militants on Thursday killed dozens of Palestinians sheltering at a UN-run school, including children.

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2

Modi rebuked for congratulations

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

China rebuked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for responding to Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te’s congratulatory message on winning the election. Beijing warned Modi to be cautious about Taiwan’s “political conspiracy” after he spoke of forging closer ties with Lai, underscoring heightened tensions between Beijing and Delhi as the West courts India to contain China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific. Most Chinese political analysts agreed that while Modi is “weaker” after his party lost its parliamentary majority, his “tough” foreign policy won’t improve India-China ties, according to the Tracking People’s Daily substack. Conflicts in Modi’s coalition could also make it difficult for his party’s “diplomatic agendas to advance,” wrote one Fudan University researcher.

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3

China pulls back on European investments

Chinese investment in Europe fell to its lowest level since 2010, according to a new report by two think tanks. Analysts from the Rhodium Group and MERICS said the 4.4% decrease between 2022 and 2023 was due to Beijing’s capital controls and the RMB’s depreciation, though the European Union’s policy of de-risking from China also spooked investors. However, the fall was “cushioned” by ongoing Chinese investment in electric vehicle production, the report said. The European Parliament elections, which began Thursday, could also dictate the bloc’s approach to Chinese investment: Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who has a pragmatic approach to Beijing, will likely play a “pivotal role” in shaping EU policy.

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4

SpaceX’s Starship makes splashdown

REUTERS/Cheney Orr/File Photo

SpaceX’s Starship, the most powerful rocket ever launched, splashed down successfully on its fourth test flight. Three previous launches had all failed: The first exploded soon after takeoff, the second almost reached space but fell apart, and the third entered orbit but burnt up on attempted re-entry. The fourth lost several tiles from its heat shield, and suffered damage to its flaps, but was able to land softly in the Indian Ocean after traveling halfway around the world in less than an hour. In the short term, Starship will help launch even more satellites for Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet service; in the longer term, NASA hopes to use it to return people to the moon, while Musk dreams of colonizing Mars.

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5

US regulators crack down on AI giants

US regulators are investigating Microsoft’s deal with an artificial intelligence startup, as Washington intensifies scrutiny on the biggest AI players. The US Federal Trade Commission is probing whether Microsoft’s $650 million investment in Inflection AI, which the tech giant characterized as a hiring decision, was actually an acquisition that it failed to disclose, CNN reported. The move comes as the FTC and the US Justice Department are nearing an agreement that would see them ramping up antitrust investigations into AI giants like OpenAI, Nvidia, and Google. Both agencies have said they want to avoid repeating the mistakes of allowing social media and online advertising to grow unchecked.

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6

AI reveals badly behaving satellites

NASA

The US Department of Defense has contracted an artificial intelligence startup to track potential weapons in space. Slingshot Aerospace said its new system, called Agatha, can accurately detect when a satellite is malfunctioning, Defense One reported. Keeping tabs on all the satellites and other objects in orbit is increasingly difficult; there are around 9,000 satellites in orbit, and SpaceX and other private companies launch new ones several times a week with no traffic cop in space to track them. As the orbit gets more crowded, the Pentagon is betting on AI to help flag when a satellite stops behaving the way it should — a potential sign that it is a space weapon or has been hacked by a nefarious actor.

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Live Journalism

According to Gallup, 62% of the global workforce is not engaged or actively disengaged at work, costing the global economy an estimated $8.9 trillion per year. How will global leaders respond? On Wednesday, June 12, guided by new survey data from Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2024 Report, Semafor’s editors will provide a pulse check on how workers around the world are feeling.

You’ll hear policymakers, business leaders, and Gallup experts discuss topics including rising loneliness, work-life balance, competition in the labor market, the mental health crisis in the office, and why Gen Z is looking at trade schools over traditional degrees.

RSVP for in-person or livestream

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7

ECB makes interest rate cuts

European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

The European Central Bank cut interest rates by 0.25% on Thursday, marking the first rate cut in five years. The move reflected an improved inflation outlook across the Eurozone, but one analyst said it’s “clearly far too early” to make any further cuts, and ECB president Christine Lagarde was “wise to be tight-lipped” about the bank’s future moves, a Financial Times editorial wrote. The US Federal Reserve, which usually leads global monetary policy, is predicted to slash rates in September, and the EBC will likely “be hesitant to cut twice ahead of the Fed, as this could weaken the euro and send inflation higher,” MarketPulse wrote.

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8

India’s tequila craze

Diageo

Indians have a newfound appreciation for tequila. Sales in the country nearly doubled to 123,000 cases last year, up from 68,2000 cases in 2022, The Economic Times reported. A “literally non-existent category” of booze a few years ago, now Indians have access to nearly three dozen agave products including recent launches like US reality star Kendall Jenner’s 818 brand. The spirit has become especially popular among millennials with higher disposable incomes because of its “young fun perception,” said one Delhi bar owner. Whiskey, however, remains the country’s most popular poison since consumers prefer stronger drinks that can easily get them buzzed, according to The Economic Times.

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9

‘Queen of Canada’ disrupts tiny town

Screenshot from YouTube Reine Romana Didulo

A QAnon-inspired conspiracy theorist who declared herself “Queen of Canada” has disrupted the peace of a small Saskatchewan town. Romana Didulo, who came to Canada from the Philippines, formed a fringe political party in 2020 before leading a convoy of followers around the country. She claims to have talked with Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and extraterrestrials, and her followers believe she has divine powers. Her convoy recently entered the town of Richmound and took over a former school building from which Didulo issues “decrees” — ordering followers to “shoot to kill” people trying to administer COVID-19 vaccines. Residents have unsuccessfully tried to evict Didulo, The Walrus reported, and she apparently “plans to repaint the school purple and gold, her royal colours.”

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10

Pipe-fed waterfall causes uproar

Penta Springs Limited/Alamy Stock Photo

A waterfall billed as China’s tallest was discovered to be fed by a pipe. The 1,000-foot Yuntai Mountain Waterfall, in a national park in Hunan, has millions of annual visitors. But one hiker who reached the top found that the water was flowing from a pipe built into the rock face: His viral video got 24 million views across social media, where the topic “the origin of Yuntai Waterfall is just some pipes” began trending. The national park, posting as the waterfall, said it had made a “a small enhancement in the dry season… so I would look my best to meet my friends.” The local government then intervened, saying operators should explain the “enhancement” ahead of time to tourists in future.

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Flagging

June 7:

  • Ireland head to the polls for the European Parliament elections.

June 9:

  • India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is sworn in for a third term.
  • India and Pakistan face off in the Men’s T20 Cricket World Cup in New York City.

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Substack Rojak

Rojak is a colloquial Malay word for “eclectic mix,” and is the name for a Javanese dish that typically combines sliced fruit and vegetables with a spicy dressing.

Nepotism, baby

Nepotism allegations are roiling a regional election in Indonesia. The nepo baby in question is Kaesang Pangarep, the youngest son of outgoing President Joko Widodo. A controversial court ruling recently eased the age requirements for Jakarta’s gubernatorial candidates — they now have to be at least 30 years old at the time of inauguration rather than when they’re nominated. That paves the way for Kaesang, who turns 30 a month after the November election, to run. (Widodo’s older son is now the country’s vice-president elect after a court — headed by his uncle — also eased the age eligibility for candidates last year.)

“It wouldn’t be an Indonesian election season without more twists,” Erin Cook writes in Dari Mulut ke Mulut, her excellent newsletter about Southeast Asia. It’s unclear whether the ruling will be applied to the upcoming election, since the nomination stage is underway. But even if Kaesang is able to run, the ploy may backfire if voters see it “as just a step too far,” Cook wrote. “Could this be the mouse that sunk the boat for Jokowi’s dynasty building?”

The Trump (We)Chatter

What news China’s internet censors tolerate can offer insight into what the Chinese Community Party will tolerate. Case in point: After former US President Donald Trump was convicted of 34 felonies, online users and academics mostly echoed his rhetoric that the trial was a witch hunt meant to help Joe Biden. That may seem ironic given China’s aggressive anti-corruption push, but “there’s a special exception made for US election drama, which is touted as proof that the US is a failing society,” Lily Ottinger writes in ChinaTalk.

Some posts critical of Trump survived the censors, though, with Ottinger saying it was unexpected to see “detailed praise for the rule of law” on Weibo. She noted that oddly enough, in the comment section on every post, someone jokingly referenced South Korea, which has convicted several former presidents: “What’s going on here? Coordinated posts, or just a bunch of passionate nationalists who coincidentally have groupthink about South Korea?”

Gaming the marketing industry

In China’s latest Pizza Hut advertisement played on social media, dancing characters on a pirate ship discover pizza from a treasure chest, invitinggamers to a “Pizza Hut Party with 99 tasty flavors.” It’s a play on the name of a Chinese game developer Bluepoch’s video game, Reverse 1999 (重返未来99), that has partnered with the fast food restaurant chain for a marketing campaign.

China’s gaming ads are ubiquitous across malls, public transportation, and small retail spaces, and are key to bringing in more video game users who are otherwise not targeted in more “traditional” gaming channels such as streaming, Shenzhen-based gaming consultant Daniel Camilo writes in his “Gaming in China” newsletter. The seamless integration between a product like boba tea and a video game creates its continuity in people’s daily life, and “legitimizes, destigmatizes and democratizes the medium across different demographics that don’t necessarily crossover in other fields,” Camilo writes.

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Curio
Wikimedia Commons

A village outside Chicago in Illinois holds what some claim is the “mango capital of the world.” Jaidev “Jai” Sharma’s import business, MangoZZ, sources premium mangoes from across the Indian subcontinent, but “without national bias,” writes the Chicago Tribune’s Ahmed Ali Akbar, including Chaunsas from Pakistan and Alphonsos from India. Sharma treats his mangoes like family members, comparing the sweet Kesar to a daughter, and a very good Alphonso to a son. “Mango is not a product,” he said. “It’s a living thing.”

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