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A ruling that religious students must face conscription weakens Netanyahu’s coalition, Ukraine begin͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
sunny Capitol Hill
sunny Ulanqab
sunny Port-au-Prince
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June 25, 2024


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The World Today

  1. Israel conscript decision
  2. Gallant meets Blinken
  3. Sudan famine fear
  4. Ukraine begins EU talks
  5. Assange freed
  6. Moon rocks returned
  7. Haiti mission begins
  8. World gets happier
  9. Music labels sue AI firms
  10. The death of web forums

Mining crystals for wellness pseudoscience, and Flagship recommends a book about the origins of reality TV.


Conscription ruling is blow to Netanyahu

Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that ultra-Orthodox Jewish students must immediately be conscripted into the military, a decision that could lead to the collapse of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition. Students in religious seminaries have been exempt from conscription: Ultra-Orthodox groups in Israel have argued that joining the military would expose them to wider social contacts that might challenge their conservative beliefs. Netanyahu relies on two religious conservative parties for his political majority. He “sold his soul” to the religious right to avoid prison on corruption charges, Thomas Friedman wrote in The New York Times last week, and those extremists were already “eyeing their next moves for power” before this latest rupture.


Blinken warns over Lebanon escalation

Antony Blinken and Yoav Gallant. Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Israel against escalating its conflict with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. He made the comments during a meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in Washington, against a backdrop of growing tensions on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon. Blinken also told Gallant that Israel needs a practical post-war plan for Gaza, especially now that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the “intense phase” of Israel’s war with Hamas is nearly over: The UN said that the territory remains at high risk of famine despite a recent influx of aid, and that almost 500,000 people, 20% of the population, face “starvation.”


Millions of Sudan children face hunger

Sudanese families receive food from a charity kitchen. El Tayeb Siddig/Reuters.

Nearly four million children in Sudan face acute malnutrition as the conflict between the country’s army and the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary is preventing the delivery of aid. According to Catherine Russell, the head of the United Nations children’s agency, as many as nine million children in Sudan don’t eat regularly, adding that it may already be too late to save some of them. The ongoing conflict — which experts say has led to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity — has limited aid organizations’ capabilities in the country. So has a lack of funding: Earlier this year, the UN appealed for $4.1 billion in aid for Sudan, only half of which was raised from donors. “We’re long past time where we need to act,” Russell told the BBC.


Ukraine’s EU accession talks begin

Yves Herman/Reuters

Ukraine will begin European Union accession talks today. Kyiv said the course towards membership was “irreversible” and that the move was the “utmost will of the Ukrainian people.” Moldova will also start the process toward joining. Representatives of the two countries and the EU will meet in Luxembourg, two weeks after the EU said both nations have met the necessary requirements for membership — diplomats wanted to begin before Hungary, the bloc’s most pro-Russian member, takes the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU on July 1. Nonetheless the process will likely take years, Politico reported. Accession for the two countries has been accelerated thanks to Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and its alleged attempt to unseat Moldova’s pro-Western government.


Assange freed, avoids extradition

Wikileaks via X/via Reuters

Julian Assange is free and will not be extradited to the US after the WikiLeaks founder agreed a plea deal with American authorities. Prosecutors alleged that Assange had risked US lives by leaking diplomatic cables and military files in 2010. From 2012 to 2019 Assange claimed asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid extradition, before entering a British prison in 2019, where he has remained ever since. But on Monday he pled guilty to one charge, for which he was sentenced to 62 months — time he has already served. He is now flying to the island of Saipan, a US overseas territory, where he will sign his agreement. After that, he will return to Australia, his home country, and be reunited with his wife and children.


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Chang’e returns with moon rocks

Tingshu Wang/Reuters

A Chinese space probe returned to Earth with the first-ever samples of rocks from the far side of the moon. Chang’e-6 landed in the desert in Inner Mongolia Tuesday local time after reaching the lunar surface last month. The moon rotates exactly once for each time it orbits the Earth, meaning it always shows the same side, and the far side therefore has a different history and different materials to the near side: A European Space Agency scientist told Reuters that the samples are “of fundamental scientific importance,” and that despite Europe and China being at loggerheads on several geopolitical issues, they will work closely on the data and samples Chang’e provides.


Kenya police on way to Haiti

William Samoei Ruto via X/Handout via Reuters

The first batch of Kenyan police officers assigned to tackle spiraling gang violence in Haiti left Nairobi for the island nation. The US-backed deployment was beset by delays and court challenges for almost a year. Meanwhile Kenyans have protested over the safety of the officers, who must face Haiti’s heavily armed gangs while security challenges at home — including ongoing mass protests over a proposed tax hike — go unaddressed. Haiti has spiraled into mayhem since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021, with gangs filling the vacuum to control swaths of the territory. That in turn has led to a collapse of the country’s economy, with almost half the population facing food insecurity, according to the World Food Programme.


Global positivity rebounds

Despite several armed conflicts around the world, the global share of people reporting positive moods returned to its pre-pandemic high, new data by Gallup showed. According to the latest Gallup Global Emotions Report, 73% of respondents said they experienced a lot of enjoyment in their lives. Latin American nations topped the positive experiences index chart, with six of the top 10 coming from the region and Paraguay leading all countries. Afghanistan scored the lowest again, with less than 40% of respondents saying they found joy in their lives, far below the score of war-torn Ukraine.


Music labels sue AI tunemakers


Music industry giants are suing two artificial intelligence music firms over alleged copyright infringement. Udio and Suno generate songs based on text (eg “A bluegrass song about getting a peanut butter sandwich stuck in your VCR”). Universal, Sony, and Warner claim illegal use of material in training data, and seek $150,000 per song used: They say specific samples contain elements of well-known songs. Ars Technica argued that licensing AI training data could price out startups, allowing “large corporations with deep pockets to control generative music tools.” Human musicians are also sued, sometimes spuriously, for copying: Marvin Gaye’s estate sued Ed Sheeran unsuccessfully last year, alleging he had plagiarized Let’s Get it On. Sheeran countered that “Most pop songs can fit over most pop songs.”


The death of internet spaces

Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

Internet forums are dying out, replaced by Reddit, Facebook, and Discord. Web users of a certain age will have grown up with message boards and blog comment sections, where readers talked and debated online. But now almost all the internet’s conversations happen on the mega-sites, the Spanish-language tech outlet Xataka noted. And unlike forums, neither Facebook nor Discord are indexed by Google, so conversations are hard to search and join, meaning internet history is often lost. Reddit is searchable, but over-reliance on it leaves the internet fragile: “A service goes down and everyone suffers,” one Hacker News commenter said. Reddit’s visibility means it is benefiting from the growth of artificial intelligence: Google searches now return AI-led results, often based on Reddit posts, meaning the site’s traffic has jumped 39%.

Live Journalism
Kris Tripplaar: Semafor World Economy Summit 2024

Semafor has appointed PBS News Hour co-anchor, Amna Nawaz, former Wall Street Journal writer, Jon Hilsenrath, former Wall Street Journal and Washington Post editor, Marcus Brauchli, and former New York Magazine journalist and Mixed Signals co-host, Nayeema Raza, as contributors. The contributors will work alongside Semafor’s editorial and events teams in Washington D.C. to produce and moderate compelling news-driven events, and we’ll bring their voices into our newsletters when we can. In addition, Semafor has promoted Meera Pattni, its head of communications, to oversee its global live journalism business, working closely with senior editor Gina Chon. Pattni, a founding member of the Semafor leadership team, will be responsible for expanding and enhancing the company’s global events portfolio. Maggie Soergel, formerly the head of events, has been promoted to general manager of live journalism.

  • Japan’s Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako begin a three-day state visit to the UK.
  • Ecuador begins a trial into the murder of a presidential candidate last year.
  • The novel Sleep Like Death, a retelling of Snow White by author Kalynn Bayron, is published.
Semafor Stat

The daily salary for workers in South Africa who mine for quartz and other “healing crystals.” Hundreds of informal miners dig in the country’s hillsides for cactus quartz and other crystals — which can sell for as much as $40,000 — that some Western wellness practitioners think have special healing properties, despite there being no evidence to support these claims. Besides the low pay, miners face dangerous working conditions without proper safety equipment. “It’s hard work, back breaking. My back, hands and shoulders are always in pain by the end of the day,” a 50-year-old mother of two told The Wall Street Journal.

Semafor Recommends
Random House

Cue the Sun!: The Invention of Reality TV. Out today, this non-fiction work by Pulitzer Prize-winning New Yorker writer Emily Nussbaum documents the origin story of reality television, using more than 300 interviews with inventors of the genre and exploring themes like prank shows, game shows, and reality soap operas. Critic Bruce Handy described it in Air Mail as a “smart, thorough, often skeptical” work that does not veer into “fan service for Bachelor Nation or the kinds of viewers who can tell you off the top of their heads how many Real Housewives have been arrested.”

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