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Apple announces an OpenAI partnership, Narendra Modi unveils a newish cabinet, and elephants give e͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
thunderstorms Ho Chi Minh City
sunny New Delhi
sunny Brussels
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June 11, 2024


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The World Today

  1. EU elections and China
  2. Apple, OpenAI team up
  3. Modi names cabinet
  4. Vietnam builds islands
  5. Japanese arcades expand
  6. India’s longest heatwave
  7. SpaceX’s daily dreams
  8. Elephants have names
  9. Rise of tradefluencers
  10. People are printing less

Goth gardens are having a moment, thanks to Netflix.


What EU elections mean for China

Zhai Jianlan/Xinhua via Getty Images

The far-right surge in the European Parliament elections is unlikely to dramatically shift the bloc’s increasingly assertive economic approach to China, analysts said. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who is the favorite to hold onto the post, has vowed to continue her effort to “de-risk” from China. While hard-right populists are seen as more favorable to Beijing, fissures within that bloc reflect the divided posture toward China in Europe’s capitals. Analysts say the right’s increased clout will likely center the EU’s relationship with China more around trade protection, rather than human rights and values concerns.


Apple announces OpenAI partnership

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Apple is integrating ChatGPT into iPhones, its first foray into the AI arms race. The company on Monday announced a long-anticipated partnership with OpenAI that will see its virtual assistant Siri using GPT-4o; users will be able to communicate with Siri via text, among other features. Apple hopes to reverse the narrative that it is lagging other tech giants in putting AI into its products. But Apple’s style is to “perfect, rather than pioneer,” the Financial Times writes, and it shouldn’t be counted out of the AI race. “To use a sports analogy, I think we are in the first minute of the first half,” an executive at chipmaker AMD said.


Modi makes few cabinet tweaks

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 3.0 government saw several ministers retain their top cabinet positions, while non-central posts went to his coalition partners. The appointments suggest that Modi’s allies were unable to “extract their pound of flesh” that could have substantially impacted his economic agenda, The Economic Times wrote. Modi’s first term saw an emphasis on economic policy, and his second term focused on a cultural agenda. His third term, with a coalition government, could shepherd stronger reforms, including to land and labor laws and plans for exports-led growth, Indian economist Raghuram Rajan wrote in the Financial Times. If the “chastened government” focuses on making growth more job-intensive, Rajan argued, then “economic growth could become more inclusive even in the short run.”


Vietnam builds islands in disputed sea


Vietnam is on track to build a record number of islands this year. Hanoi has added nearly 700 acres in the South China Sea since November, a report found. The landfill operations threaten to heighten tensions with China, which also claims those waters. China engaged in massive “land reclamation” efforts in the sea between 2013 and 2015; it has since added infrastructure, including harbors and military airstrips, to the new islands. A Beijing-based think tank warned that Vietnam is “complicating and escalating” the situation. Despite the construction, Hanoi has taken a relatively reserved diplomatic approach to Beijing’s actions, analysts say, unlike the Philippines, which has vowed to “not yield” after several maritime run-ins with China in recent weeks.


Japanese arcade firms make US push

Wikimedia Commons

Japanese arcade and game operators are making a major push into the US. Tokyo-based Genda is set to acquire an American company that operates game kiosks inside 8,000 businesses, and plans to replace the prizes in claw machines with Japanese items, including some based on anime characters, Nikkei reported. And a popular Japanese arcade brand is aiming to open 200 US locations by 2032. The moves reflect the growing popularity of anime and manga in the US, and the declining Japanese birth rate is forcing companies to expand overseas. Some experts say the Japanese games could help revive the declining American shopping mall.


India’s longest heatwave is still going

India’s ongoing heat wave is its longest ever, and is unlikely to end soon. Northern India has been gripped by extreme heat since mid-May with temperatures regularly breaching 113°F — and in New Delhi, a record-equalling 120.5°F. Even though the monsoon rains moving north this month could provide some relief, Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, the head of the Indian Meteorological Department, warned in The Indian Express that “heatwaves will be more frequent, durable and intense, if precautionary or preventive measures are not taken.” India is the third largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, heavily reliant on coal for energy generation, and Mohapatra cautioned, “We are endangering not only ourselves, but also our future generations.”


Tortoise Media presents: The Gas Man. It’s the late 1980s and US Special Agent Dennis Bass is warned about a shipment of suspicious chemicals headed to a secret destination. He follows the lead and ends up stumbling into a global plot helping fuel a war. The main suspect? The Gas Man.

You can listen to The Gas Man from Tortoise wherever you get your podcasts.


SpaceX wants to build a megarocket a day

SpaceX/Handout via REUTERS

Elon Musk’s SpaceX wants to build a new Starship rocket every day. The world’s most powerful rocket successfully re-entered the atmosphere on its fourth test launch last week, a huge milestone in the company’s efforts to begin using it to take Starlink satellites into low-earth orbit, and eventually to carry humans to Mars. SpaceX said several new ships were already built, and its new manufacturing facility, Starfactory, which is under construction at its base in Texas, will provide 100,000 square feet of factory space. The latest version of Starship is intended to be easier to mass produce, Space.com reported, to realize the company’s goal of churning out one a day.


Elephants give each other names

REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi

African elephants call out and respond to unique names, a new study suggests. Inspired by prior research showing that bottlenose dolphins have signature whistles, scientists focused not on high-pitched elephant trumpeting, but on their low rumbles. They analyzed recordings of hundreds of rumblings from 1986 to 2022, and used machine learning to associate the calls with specific elephants. After playing the recordings for elephants in the field, they found that the animals responded more strongly to recordings of their own “names.” It’s still unclear which features in a rumbling equate to a name: “Now, are they nicknames? Are they names? Where do they come from?” wondered a bird call researcher not involved with the elephant study.


Young Americans make trade work trend

Blue collar work is trending. Young tradespeople in the US are becoming TikTok influencers; the hashtag #bluecollar had 500,000 posts in the first four months of 2024, a 64% jump year-on-year, The Wall Street Journal reported. One 27-year-old electrician with 2.2 million social media followers said she earns $200,000 a year through brand deals and clout; another, who records herself welding in makeup, said she wants to show it’s OK to be feminine in a male-dominated workplace. Young people are increasingly wary of taking on student debt to pursue a four-year degree. Older tradespeople told the Journal that social media influencers are boosting the growth of trades: “They’re getting to know it on social media, giving them the idea that this is a legit possibility.”


People are printing less

People are printing fewer pages since the pandemic. The CEO of HP, Enrique Lores, told a business conference that its printing division is facing challenges because the number of printed pages has dropped by 20%, driven by hybrid working. Previous research showed that 450 billion fewer pages were printed at home in 2020 than the year before. Lores added: “What happens with pages, happens eventually with devices,” and perhaps it already has: HP’s revenue from printer hardware sales has dropped for nine consecutive quarters. The likeliest explanation is that when people started working from home, with no access to the office LaserJet, they noticed just how expensive printer toner actually is.


June 11:

  • Germany hosts a two-day Ukraine Recovery Conference.
  • NATO’s secretary general and other European leaders attend the B9 Summit in Latvia.
  • NPR’s music critic Ann Powers releases Traveling, a new biography on singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell.
Screenshot from rareseeds.com

Darkly romantic goth gardens are blooming in popularity. Google searches for “goth garden” have more than doubled in the last five years, NPR reported, helped significantly by the popularity of Netflix’s Wednesday that featured a goth-inspired eponymous character. Sales for darker flowers such as the Chocolate Cherry sunflower, as well as red and black vegetable varieties of tomatoes and carrots have spiked, one seed seller said. While cultivating your moody, Victorianesque garden, experts recommended using pops of color for contrast, while one expert warned against spraying too much poison: “Butterflies are a good thing.”

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