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Hunter Biden is convicted on gun charges, Germany tries to avoid a trade war with Beijing, and AI st͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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thunderstorms Manila
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June 12, 2024


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The World Today

  1. Hunter Biden convicted
  2. US fuels global growth
  3. Germany’s last-ditch EV bid
  4. HK’s foreign judges quit
  5. Relocating Chinese AI staff
  6. Controversial US AI bill
  7. India’s Twitter rival struggles
  8. Outsourcing drug sourcing
  9. Far right’s climate impact
  10. Influencer chef’s politics

A new book explores the ancient world from women’s perspectives, including their views on sex and sexuality.


Hunter Biden guilty on gun charges

Hannah Beier/REUTERS

US President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, was found guilty Tuesday on all charges in his federal gun trial. Hunter, 54, was accused of lying about his drug use on an application to buy a gun in 2018. The trial was a “raw — at times excruciating — glimpse into the turmoil of the Biden family,” the Financial Times wrote, and despite the unflattering evidence, their closeness could “remind voters of Biden’s virtues as a father.” Republicans have long sought to tie the president to his son’s misdeeds, but one Biden adviser dismissed the comparisons between Hunter’s case and former president Donald Trump’s legal woes, arguing that voters know the difference between “a private citizen and a person who is going to be the Republican nominee.”

Scroll down for One Good Text with Semafor politics reporter David Weigel on how the conviction could affect the presidential race. →


US boosts global economic growth

The global economy is expanding faster than expected this year thanks to unexpectedly strong US growth, the World Bank said Tuesday. While the 2024 growth forecast was raised from 2.4% to 2.6% — in line with last year’s rate — the Washington-based lender said poorer countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and North Africa were growing slower than projected. South Asia, meanwhile, is set to be the fastest-growing region, fueled by India’s economic growth. The global economy has stabilized, but it’s not growing as fast as it was before the pandemic: A new era of protectionism and a lack of international cooperation among the wealthiest countries is holding back growth, the World Bank’s chief economist said.


EU set to announce Chinese EV tariffs

REUTERS/Annegret Hilse

Germany is battling France in a last-minute attempt to avoid an all-out trade war with China over electric vehicles. The European Commission is expected to announce fresh tariffs on Chinese EV imports Wednesday, following a probe into unfair state subsidies, but Berlin has ramped up its lobbying to keep the duties as low as possible, Politico EU reported. The dynamics between the European Union’s two biggest powers are fraught: France is in support of punitive measures, while Berlin is worried that retaliation from Beijing could hurt big German automakers. Chinese EV makers, meanwhile, are confident they will retain business in Europe and are making long-term production investments. Shenzhen-based BYD is boosting its visibility by sponsoring this summer’s UEFA Euro soccer tournament — which Germany is hosting.


Hong Kong’s foreign judges quit

REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Hong Kong’s foreign judges are quitting its top court in the wake of the city’s stringent security crackdown. A British judge, who resigned along with two other overseas judges in the past week, delivered a scathing critique of Hong Kong’s slow descent into a “totalitarian state,” arguing in a Financial Times op-ed that the city’s judges “have to operate in an impossible political environment created by China.” Hong Kong, which has touted its overseas judges as proof of the judiciary’s independence after the city’s return to Chinese rule in 1997, now has its fewest foreign justices since 1999, Bloomberg reported — “a low that comes as Hong Kong seeks to repair a global image damaged by pandemic self-isolation and years of political unrest.”


AI startups relocating China staff


US artificial intelligence startups with Chinese founders are relocating their China-based engineers. American tech companies facing increased scrutiny from lawmakers over their ties to China are looking to combat the perception that “the Chinese government might be able to influence their products or infiltrate their customers,” The Information reported. In recent years, Chinese venture capital investment has been a key source of funding for China-born entrepreneurs, but geopolitical tensions are now also prompting some startups like HeyGen to distance themselves from those early investors, including removing them from their boards. The shifts go beyond small startups: Microsoft recently asked hundreds of its China-based employees to consider relocating as the global battle for top AI talent heats up.


Firms’ backlash against Calif. AI bill

California is considering a bill that would require artificial intelligence companies to include a “kill switch” on powerful AI models. The bill, which passed the state Senate in May and faces an August vote in the general assembly, also requires firms to guarantee they will not develop models with a “hazardous capability” such as creating biological or nuclear weapons. Some Silicon Valley firms argued the bill will force AI firms to leave the state: Meta AI researchers said it would “stifle innovation” to avoid “science-fiction risks,” and would “end open source” AI development in California. The Democratic state senator behind the legislation called it a “light touch bill,” and said the tech sector’s pushback was unsurprising as it “doesn’t like to have any regulation.”


India’s Koo struggling to survive

Avishek Das / SOPA Images/Sipa U via Reuters Connect

Koo, a once-thriving Indian social media platform seen as the country’s answer to Twitter, is now struggling to stay afloat. The microblogging site founded in 2020 quickly took off, in part by operating in 10 languages and fostering hyperlocal communities through specific groups. It’s since faced a tougher funding environment, and its popularity among ruling politicians, coupled with a failure to remove hateful posts, gave the site a “right-leaning” reputation, Rest of World wrote. It has cut its workforce by four-fifths and is reportedly in talks for an acquisition. If Koo had leaned into “voice- or video-based communication, or group-based communication, it may also have had a niche appeal, which sadly it does not,” a social media researcher said.

Live Journalism

Join us on June 18 in Washington, D.C., for newsmaking conversations with Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology Anne Neuberger, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden (D), and Google Cloud’s Director of Risk and Compliance Jeannette Manfra. Semafor’s editors will lead crucial conversations on underlying security issues, explore innovative cyber resilience solutions, navigate the complex regulatory landscape governing cybersecurity, discuss trends across threat vectors, and highlight the education necessary to equip individuals with effective defense tools.

RSVP for in-person attendance or livestream access here


Service outsources finding medication

Meghan McIntyre/Flickr

Philippines-based workers are helping Americans locate US pharmacies that stock Adderall and popular weight-loss drugs that are hard to find. A new service, called Insito Medfinder, charges $50 to find one medicine or $120 for three, and has helped several thousand people find drugs that are in short supply, its CEO told 404 Media’s Emanuel Maiberg. It uses freelancing platform Upwork to find cheaper overseas workers who call pharmacies in the US. The business isn’t doing anything inherently evil, Maiberg wrote, but it’s “a reflection of fundamental problems with our healthcare system and drug supply chain which can wreck the lives of people who can’t get the medicines they need.” Insito’s CEO said: “It’s unfortunate that a business like ours even has to exist.”


Far-right shift won’t stop climate goals

Right-wing gains and the Green parties’ losses in the European Parliament elections will slow — but not halt — the bloc’s progress in fighting climate change. Climate change has fallen down the list of voters’ priorities, Nature reported, behind the cost-of-living crisis, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and immigration. But one analyst suggested there was no “appetite to completely ditch the Green Deal,” which aims to cut European Union emissions 55% below 1990 levels by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. Polling shows that “there’s not much climate skepticism left in Europe,” one researcher said, but voters are less tolerant of environmental measures that eat into their standard of living.


Syrian influencer chef’s ties questioned

Chef Omar/YouTube

An influencer chef is dividing the Syrian diaspora. Omar Abu Lebda, known as Chef Omar, rose to fame during the pandemic with videos that resonated with fellow displaced Syrians by showing them how to make traditional dishes with different ingredients. He gained millions of followers and has opened a restaurant in Istanbul, but has been accused of downplaying Syria’s humanitarian crisis and being friendly with President Bashar al-Assad, whose regime has allegedly used celebrities and influencers to whitewash his rule, Foreign Policy reported. The debate is evidence that “even food — so revered in Syrian culture — is no longer immune to the deep political divisions that have permeated through the country.”


June 12:

  • The US Federal Reserve meets to discuss interest rate policies and is expected to hold rates steady.
  • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg visits Budapest to meet with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
  • Netflix’s Bridgerton holds a premiere event in London for part two of its third season.
One Good Text

Semafor’s David Weigel is covering the 2024 US presidential election. His stories and insights on the race are in our twice-weekly Americana newsletter.

Subscribe to Semafor Americana. →

Penguin Random House

A new book examines the ancient world through women’s views, including those on sex and sexuality. Many male accounts of women in ancient Greece and Rome were full of stereotypes, and exaggerated “women’s sexual habits in one direction or the other,” author Daisy Dunn wrote in the BBC. For her new book, The Missing Thread, Dunn said it wasn’t easy to uncover what women truly thought about sex, but ultimately found that female writers and poets understood the “irrepressibility of infatuation.”

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