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The far-right 28-year-old who could be France’s next PM, bad news for Maduro in Venezuela’s polls, a͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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June 10, 2024


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The World Today

  1. France’s 28yo next PM?
  2. Maduro behind in polls
  3. Iran names candidates
  4. GPT-4 hacks websites
  5. Putin’s diplomatic push
  6. Sudan’s millions displaced
  7. China eases migrant rules
  8. LVMH succession moves
  9. Sackler Prize controversy
  10. A new tennis superstar?

PLUS: The London Review of Substacks, and Flagship recommends a novel that inspired Márquez.


The new face of France’s far right

French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to call a snap election could pave the way for Jordan Bardella, the 28-year-old leader of France’s far-right National Rally, to become the country’s next prime minister. Macron called the vote after the NR defeated his party in European Parliament elections. Bardella, who has 1.2 million TikTok followers, has won a younger crowd over to the NR and, if he wins, would be the country’s youngest-ever PM, although Politico reported that Macron is challenging the far right “to prove they can govern and not just shout from the sidelines.” The co-host of The Europeans podcast, meanwhile, noted that France’s particular electoral system and expected higher levels of turnout for a national poll may help Macron succeed.


Venezuelan opposition lead polls

Edmundo Gonzalez. Leonardo Fernandez Viloria/Reuters

Venezuela’s opposition candidate is leading President Nicolás Maduro in the polls by roughly double ahead of next month’s election. Although Edmundo González started the campaign as a virtual unknown — he was chosen after a popular opposition leader was barred from running — almost 50% of Venezuelans said they would vote for him. However, few believe Maduro would concede in an election he has repeatedly attempted, at the risk of international sanctions, to rig. Maduro’s administration is already studying options that include disqualifying González or eliminating the opposition’s voting card, Bloomberg reported. The government continuing to allow the opposition to run remains inexplicable to many, including González: “So far the government has been silent on all of this,” he said. “We still don’t know why.”


Iran readies for elections

Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf. Wikimedia Commons

Iran approved six candidates to run for president in snap elections triggered by the death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash last month. The country’s leaders have ensured this month’s election is “as predictable as possible,” The Economist reported. The pool is largely made up of hardliners, of whom Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, a former military commander and relative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is favored to win the vote. However, unlike Raisi, Qalibaf is not a cleric, meaning it is unlikely he could later rise to the post of supreme leader, laying the ground for a dynastic succession for the latter post: The favorite to succeed Khamenei is now his own son.


AI hackers find new website flaws

Dado Ruvic/Reuters

Researchers used teams of artificial-intelligence bots to hack their way into websites by discovering new vulnerabilities. Earlier research showed that OpenAI’s GPT-4 could exploit “one-day” weaknesses — flaws that are known but not yet solved. The latest analysis found that they could discover and take advantage of “zero-day” vulnerabilities, using a hierarchical system in which a main AI agent spawned new sub-bots to carry out specific tasks. They were able to hack into eight out of 15 real-world websites in the test, a far higher rate than previous efforts. The researchers note that the findings can help find vulnerabilities — either to prevent or carry out attacks: “It is unclear whether AI agents will aid cybersecurity offense or defense more.”


Putin builds alternative to West

Anton Vaganov/Reuters

Moscow is bolstering its efforts to build an alternative power structure in the face of Western pressure over its invasion of Ukraine. Russia today began talks with foreign ministers from the BRICS bloc of developing nations, on the heels of a conference during which it courted investments from countries such as India and China — a contrast to prior editions in which Western businesses featured prominently. The Kremlin’s push extends beyond economics: With its own performers and athletes barred from the Eurovision Song Contest and this summer’s Olympics, Moscow is planning a version of both events. “The message [to the West] … is simply: ‘We don’t need you anymore’,” The Wall Street Journal wrote.


Sudan displacement surges

Zohra Bensemra/Reuters

The number of people internally displaced in Sudan could soon surpass 10 million, the United Nations’ migration agency said. The year-long conflict between the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group and the Sudanese army has led to the world’s largest displacement crisis, forcing more than 2 million to flee to neighboring nations, including Chad, already one of the poorest countries in the world. Meanwhile the South Sudan humanitarian aid fund has only received 16% of the money it sought to deal with the sudden influx. “How much suffering and loss of life must the people of Sudan endure before the world takes notice?,” the head of the International Organization for Migration’s mission in Sudan told Reuters.


China’s hukou reform quickens

China’s cities are gradually loosening Mao-era residency restrictions that analysts have long said restrict the country’s economy. Shenyang and Dongguan have either dropped or eased rules on obtaining a hukou, the residency permit that allows holders to access public services such as subsidized healthcare and state education: Mao had restricted hukous to people’s place of birth to prevent starving rural workers from flocking to cities, which typically had more food and economic opportunities. The latest shifts could boost China’s economy by reducing the amount migrants need to spend on basic services, but may strain already debt-laden local governments by forcing them to cater to more people, the Beijing-based Trivium research firm said in a note to clients.


Semafor’s Ben Smith and Max Tani will be in Cannes next week to cover media and marketing’s biggest annual gathering, where many of the most powerful people in media come to make deals, rub shoulders, win awards, and sip Aperol spritzes on the Côte d’Azur.

Starting next Monday, they’ll deliver news, scoops, and insights on the year ahead in media — with all its deal-making, gossip, and pretentious grandeur, from one of the industry’s true epicenters.

Subscribe to our pop-up newsletter, Semafor Cannes.


All change at fashion giant LVMH

LVMH, the parent company of Louis Vuitton, lined up a successor to its longtime CFO amid ongoing interest in the luxury group’s wider succession plans. Cécile Cabanis will work as the current finance chief’s deputy before taking over. LVMH is making a flurry of changes: Bernard Arnault, the world’s third-richest person and the company’s primary shareholder, is also moving his children into more senior roles. Four of his five children now have seats on the board. Arnault himself, now 75, is unlikely to step back soon, having raised the age limit for his role to 80. Cabanis, currently deputy CEO of an investment fund, previously spent 17 years at the dairy giant Danone.


Winners call for prize renaming

Brian Snyder/Reuters

The winners of the Sackler Prize in Biophysics, the field’s most prestigious award, want to change its name after they realized it is sponsored by the family behind OxyContin. The three Swiss scientists were elated to be informed by Tel Aviv University that they had won the prize. But it was then pointed out that it was named for the Sacklers, owners of Purdue Pharma, which has admitted criminal wrongdoing in its marketing of painkillers and played a central role in the opioid crisis. Tufts, Oxford, and Leiden universities, as well as the Louvre and Tate, have removed the Sackler name from galleries and programs. The researchers say they will still accept the prize, which comes with a $50,000 bursary, even if it is not renamed.


Alcaraz win signals end of Big Three

Carlos Alcaraz won the French Open men’s singles title, becoming the youngest man ever to win a tennis Grand Slam on all three surfaces. The 21-year-old defeated German Alex Zverev in five sets. His success may finally signal an end to the era of dominance by the Big Three — Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Novak Djokovic: Since 2006, only two other men — Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka — have won three slams, and none have won more than that, while Djokovic has won 24, Nadal 22, and Federer 20. But Federer has retired, Nadal expects to this year, and Djokovic is 37. Perhaps Alcaraz can go on to have a similarly dominant career, or perhaps men’s tennis will never see an era of such superstars again.

  • New Zealand’s foreign minister meets the Philippine president in Manila.
  • South Korea and the US hold a third round of nuclear consultation talks.
  • Hong Kong holds its annual Dragon Boat Festival.
London Review of Substacks

Plane sailing

In 1939, when Germany invaded Poland and Great Britain and France entered World War II, the US produced 2,141 military aircraft, barely a quarter of the German or British output. In 1944, American factories churned out 96,318, far outstripping rivals and friends alike. The Mustangs, Flying Fortresses, Corsairs, and others that this vast upsurge in industrial capacity produced helped tip the balance in favor of the Allies.

Brian Potter, in Construction Physics, discusses how this monumental retooling of the US economy happened, and its effects. One unexpected, crucial aspect: With the US mobilized for war, women ended up accounting for 40% of factory staff. This led to a complete redesign of the production process: Equipment was redesigned to require less physical strength, processes were broken down into smaller steps for the newly recruited, inexperienced staff. Doing so “simplified and streamlined the production process” as well as helping female workers.

Double dutch

The old joke has it that the US and Britain are two nations separated by a common language, but Dutch is the tongue truly cursed by its proximity to English. Recently, a tweet by the Dutch politician Geert Wilders attracted attention: “We hebben een serieus probleem,” it began. Ed West notes that this is not a one-off: At the end of World War II, a headline in closely related Afrikaans read “HITLER DOOD: WAT NOU?”, and a Dutch speaker recently tweeted that “Ironie is dood.”

Thanks to geographic isolation and the influence of French, “English is no longer mutually intelligible with any other Germanic language,” West writes on The Wrong Side of History. But Dutch occupies “an uncanny valley that leads some people to describe it as ‘drunk English’.” It’s a shame, because Dutch is a proud language with a proud history, and was once — when the Netherlands was the world’s predominant trading nation — a lingua franca: When Japan began to open up to the world, its ambassadors would learn Dutch as their first foreign language.

Polls apart

How come pollsters got the Indian election so wrong? Exit polls suggested a landslide for Prime Minister Narendra Modi; when the actual results came in, he fell short of a majority and was left scrabbling to form a coalition. What was it that led to the discrepancy? Some psephologists have suggested that it was media bias — Modi’s party has friends in the media, which suppressed unfavorable results — or “preference falsification” by voters: People pretending they backed Modi for fear of harassment or censure.

But Shruti Rajagopalan argued in her newsletter Get Down and Shruti that the reason was simpler: Polling in India isn’t very good. The country is huge, with widely varying constituencies. India has not had a population census since 2011, and its population has changed enormously since then — not least because it has grown by a quarter of a billion people. Any attempts by polling firms to weight their results will have been hamstrung by the shortage of good population data.

Flagship Recommends

Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo is a classic of Latin-American literature that inspired generations of writers, from Gabriel García Márquez to Susan Sontag. First published in 1955 and recently re-translated into English, the short, haunting novel tells the story of Juan Preciado, a young man who sets off on a journey in the Mexican countryside to look for the father he’s never met. What he finds is a ghost town, filled with spirits that will help him uncover the legacy his father left during the years of the Mexican Revolution. Buy it from your local bookstore.

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