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

South Africa’s Ramaphosa seeks a government of national unity, voters think local in the EU election͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
sunny Johannesburg
thunderstorms Hong Kong
sunny Dallas
rotating globe
June 7, 2024


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

The World Today

  1. SAfrica’s ANC seeks deal
  2. Local focus in EU election
  3. US, Russian nuclear fears
  4. Russian warships near Cuba
  5. HK protest crackdown
  6. Misinfo academic’s misinfo
  7. Huge data hack
  8. Canada’s streaming tax
  9. A ‘Google for DNA’
  10. US stuns Cricket World Cup

A book recommendation from Paris, and a South Korean architect takes over London’s Hyde Park.


ANC seeks ‘national unity’

Cyril Ramaphosa at a recent rally in Johannesburg. Alaister Russell/Reuters

South Africa’s ruling party said it would seek a government “of national unity,” the prospects of which are slim given the vast differences of the potential coalition’s partners. The African National Congress made the pitch after it received less than 50% of the vote in last week’s election, the first time it fell below that threshold since Nelson Mandela led the party to power in 1994. But the idea is unlikely to gain much traction. The proposed coalition would include Marxist and pro-business parties, and two potential coalition members are quarreling over alleged Russian funding: According to the center-right Democratic Alliance, former President Jacob Zuma’s party performed surprisingly well in last week’s polls because of financing from Moscow.

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


The EU’s national, regional election

Annegret Hilse/Reuters

The killing of a police officer in Germany, apparently by a man from Afghanistan, has hardened a debate around immigration during European Parliament elections, demonstrating how the bloc-wide vote is largely being fought over national issues. Following the stabbing, Germany’s chancellor this week publicly supported resuming deportations to Syria and Afghanistan, sparking criticism from rights groups who described the plan as legally unfeasible, while the anti-immigration AfD blamed the government’s immigration policy for the death, Zeit noted. Elsewhere, French voters are focused on President Emmanuel Macron’s legacy, and Spaniards are seen to be taking part in a referendum on their national government, with Ukraine or broader Europe-wide issues lower down the priority list, Politico said in its EU Confidential podcast.


Nuclear risks rising

Both the United States and Russia are taking up more assertive nuclear weapons postures. Leaked Russian documents seen by the Financial Times show Moscow planned for the use of tactical nuclear weapons in the initial stages of a conflict with a world power, which the FT said indicated a threshold for their use “that is lower than Russia has ever publicly admitted.” Meanwhile, the Biden administration is expected to announce its embrace of “a more competitive approach” to nuclear arms control, a senior US official told Semafor’s Mathias Hammer. The latest moves come with Beijing and Moscow having rejected Washington’s calls to discuss arms control in recent months.


Russia courts Latam

Russian warships will arrive in Cuba next week, part of a broader response from Moscow to increased US support for Ukraine. The move comes shortly after Bolivian President Luis Arce, on a visit to St Petersburg, signed an agreement allowing Russian firms to develop the country’s vast lithium reserves, giving Moscow a stake in a mineral essential to accelerating the green transition. Russia has ramped up its presence across Latin America since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, including by deploying mass disinformation campaigns across the region. “The result is that one of the world’s most democratic regions has chosen not to flex its muscle in support of Ukraine and its shared values,” two experts wrote in Americas Quarterly.


HK crackdown expands

Fans cheering during Hong Kong’s World Cup qualifier against Iran. Tyrone Siu/Reuters

Hong Kong authorities arrested three people for insulting China’s national anthem in the city’s latest crackdown on dissent. The two men and one woman were accused of turning their backs to the field or failing to rise during the broadcast of the anthem ahead of a soccer World Cup qualifier, the South China Morning Post reported. Beijing has tightened its grip on the territory since widespread protests erupted there in 2019, drastically curtailing freedoms in the process. As a result, some of the Chinese pro-democracy movement has decamped to Japan, which Nikkei noted represented a repeat of history: Tokyo was the home of many revolutionaries who eventually overthrew the Qing Dynasty in 1911 to create the Republic of China.


Who misinforms the misinformers?

Joan Donovan during a visit to New Zealand in 2023. US Embassy/Flickr

A famous misinformation researcher may have been spreading misinformation. Joan Donovan, formerly of Harvard, published the “Facebook files” leaked documents about the company’s research into user harms: She said she was ousted from the university after Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg donated $500 million to Harvard in 2021. But Stephanie M Lee of The Chronicle of Higher Education uncovered evidence that many of her claims — such as that Harvard took the copyright to a book that she wrote, and that a Meta employee shouted her down during a meeting — were false. Donovan responded by suggesting that Lee was out to discredit her: “This shows me,” Donovan wrote, “that Harvard and Meta chose you.”


Huge hack exposes millions

A hack of a cloud storage company may have been one of the largest data breaches in history. Snowflake rents server space to companies to store huge datasets. At first the firm said a “limited number” of customer accounts had been compromised, but cybercriminals are offering to sell 560 million customer records from Ticketmaster and 30 million from Santander, as well as another 570 million from two financial services companies. Infostealer malware has been on the rise since the pandemic, with more people working from home: It targets “sensitive info like browser data (cookies and credentials), credit cards, and crypto wallets,” a security expert told WIRED, allowing hackers to access people’s accounts.

Mixed Signals

In the latest episode of Mixed Signals from Semafor Media, presented by Think With Google, Ben and Nayeema dissect the battle brewing between American newsrooms and President Biden, wondering whether the Brits are to blame. Then they call up Richard Linklater, famed director of films including Boyhood, Dazed and Confused and, his latest, Hit Man, to contemplate whether it was Marvel, #MeToo or something else that took sex out of the cinema. Finally, Max opens our eyes and hearts to the world of faith-based news.

Listen wherever you get your podcasts.


Canada taxes Netflix to fund radio

Canada will impose a tax on streaming companies to fund its public broadcasting system. From September, video and music services making over $25 million annually will pay a 5% levy on their Canadian revenues, which will be directed to “areas of immediate need” including local news, French-language content, and indigenous and minority broadcasting. Industry bodies called the tax “discriminatory” and a “protectionist subsidy for radio,” arguing it would make it harder for global streamers to work with Canadian creatives. The tax is expected to raise around $150 million per year.


‘Google for DNA’ boosts biotech


A tool that works “like a Google for DNA” is making biological data easily searchable. Swiss researchers said they indexed 10% of all the world’s known DNA, RNA, and protein sequences, Science reported, allowing scientists to rapidly find if, say, a virus they have detected has been seen before. The same method could index the remaining 90%. The growing digitization of bioscience is “shift[ing] biotech into high gear,” a chemistry professor wrote in The Conversation. As more genes and proteins are sequenced, and artificial intelligence tools improve at designing new sequences, scientists will soon be able to “modify bacteria to act as mini factories producing new proteins that can reduce greenhouse gases, digest plastics or act as species-specific pesticides.”


US’ Cricket World Cup shock

The US beat Pakistan in the T20 Cricket World Cup, in what the BBC described as “one of the biggest shocks in cricket history.” The shortened version of the game takes hours rather than days. Previous World Cup winners Pakistan were huge favorites, but in Dallas posted an unremarkable score of 159 that the US matched: The underdogs won in a thrilling playoff, led by a bowler whose day job is with the American tech giant Oracle. A growing South Asian population in the US has made cricket more commercially viable: The tournament is being held in the US for the first time, and the second season of the new Major League Cricket tournament will begin in July.

  • Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif meets with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
  • The annual COMPUTEX tech exhibition closes in Taiwan.
  • The European Athletics Championships begin in Rome.

Shakespeare and Company in Paris recommends Yukio Mishima’s The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea. Bookseller Sam describes the 1963 novel as “beautifully written and … kind of weird at the end.” Buy it from Shakespeare and Company, or your local bookstore.

Mass Studies/Instagram

South Korean architect Minsuk Cho is the creator of this year’s Serpentine Pavilion in London. His design features five “islands” set around a circular open-roofed space similar to the courtyards found in traditional Korean houses. It has been dubbed “Archipelagic Void,” the Architects’ Journal reported. The structure marks the 23rd annual commission of the Serpentine Gallery, which invites an international architect to install a structure in its Hyde Park setting each year.

Hot on Semafor
  • Congress’s No. 1 crypto fan is feeling good about 2024.
  • World’s largest solar farm brings China’s Uyghurs into the spotlight.
  • Nvidia receives a watchful antitrust eye from the US government.