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Biden pledges Ukraine support in a ‘forceful’ speech at NATO, Russia issues an arrest warrant for Na͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
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July 10, 2024


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The World Today

  1. Biden ‘forceful’ at NATO
  2. Yulia Navalnaya charged
  3. Russian bot farm disrupted
  4. US nuclear bill signed
  5. Microsoft’s carbon deal
  6. Chile aims for lithium
  7. Iran hardliners fall out
  8. Kenya witchcraft murders
  9. China expat police scam
  10. How blue whales live

The first known picture of a US first lady, and Flagship recommends a podcast analyzing Robert Caro’s The Power Broker.


Biden backs Kyiv in NATO speech

US President Joe Biden pledged to provide Ukraine with new air defense systems to counter Russia’s invasion during a speech at the NATO summit in Washington. In what both Reuters and the BBC described as a “forceful” address, Biden said “Ukraine can and will stop [Russian President Vladimir] Putin.” It was Biden’s most high-profile appearance since his disastrous debate performance last month, pitched at domestic as well as international audiences: He spoke in a “confident voice,” Reuters reported, and stressed that NATO was “stronger than it’s ever been,” pointing to the fact that many more countries now meet their commitment to spend 2% of their GDP on defense. But some diplomats remained unconvinced about the president’s fitness for office.

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Arrest warrant for Navalny’s widow

Annegret Hilse/File Photo/Reuters

A Moscow court issued an arrest warrant for Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, on charges of extremism. Navalny died in a remote Russian prison in February after he was jailed on charges widely viewed as politically motivated: The Kremlin said he died of natural causes but many including his widow say he was murdered. The warrant means Navalnaya would be arrested should she return to Russia. She wrote on social media, “When you write about this, please do not forget to write the main thing: Vladimir Putin is a murderer and a war criminal,” saying Putin is the one who should be jailed, in “the same two-by-three-metre cell in which he killed Alexei.”


FBI breaks up Russian bot farm

Kacper Pempel/File Photo/Reuters

US officials said they disrupted an artificial intelligence-powered Russian disinformation system running nearly 1,000 accounts on the social media platform X. The “bot farm” was created by an editor at Russian propaganda outlet RT, and funded by the Russian security service, court documents said. The accounts often claimed to be ordinary US citizens — one was apparently based in Minneapolis, another Oregon, Bloomberg reported — and posted Russian claims such as, Ukraine is part of Russia. X suspended the accounts. The FBI said the bot farm was intended to “undermine our partners in Ukraine.” The use of AI propaganda is growing: The New York Times reported that an Israeli-backed influence campaign last year used ChatGPT to generate many of its X posts.


Nuclear bill to speed reactor building

US President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan bill aimed at speeding up nuclear power development. The package would cut licensing regulations and fees, and require regulators to issue a report finding ways of simplifying environmental review processes. The first new nuclear reactors in 30 years came online in the state of Georgia last year and this year, far behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget, which critics blamed on over-regulation. No new plants are under construction. One of the bill’s Senate backers said the law would “strengthen our energy and national security, lower greenhouse gas emissions and create thousands of new jobs,” although others worried it would undermine nuclear safety.


Microsoft signs carbon capture deal

Microsoft agreed to pay an oil company hundreds of millions of dollars to remove carbon from the atmosphere, to offset its increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Occidental Petroleum agreed to sell the tech giant 500,000 carbon credits over six years, each representing a metric tonne of carbon that will be captured from the air and stored underground. Several tech firms including Microsoft have pledged to go carbon-neutral, but the growth of data centers and artificial intelligence has boosted their energy use: Google recently announced a 48% jump in emissions between 2019 and 2023. Occidental has expanded its carbon management program recently, betting that it will become more important as emissions targets bite. It signed a similar agreement with Amazon last year, for 250,000 credits.


Chile eyes new lithium mines

A lithium mine in the Atacama Desert. Ivan Alvarado/File Photo/Reuters

Chile is considering 81 new lithium-mining projects. The South American country’s extensive salt flats contain a large fraction of the world’s reserves of lithium — a metal used in batteries and vital to the green energy transition — and it is currently the second-largest producer in the world. The announcement puts it on track to surpass a goal of starting four new projects by the end of 2026. The Chilean president said last year that he would nationalize much of the lithium industry, and new projects would be private-public partnerships. Chile sits on the so-called “lithium triangle,” along with Bolivia and Argentina, who are also keen to exploit their reserves: A Chinese mining giant began operations in north Argentina last week.


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Recriminations after Iran hardliners lose

Masoud Pezeshkian. Majid Asgaripour/File Photo/Reuters

Iran’s hardline factions fell to infighting after their defeat in last week’s presidential election. Masoud Pezeshkian, a reformist candidate, defeated two conservatives, Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf and Saeed Jalili, to become the new president-elect. The two hardliners accused each other of fraud and corruption during the campaign, and afterward, Jalili’s supporters accused Ghalibaf of “treachery” by splitting the vote. Iran’s supreme leader backed Jalili, but conservative factions’ mishandling of the economy and brutal crackdown on protests have fueled discontent. Despite his victory, Pezeshkian, a regime loyalist, is unlikely to profoundly change Iran, although he has promised to reduce tensions with the US by resolving the nuclear standoff, and ease the enforcement of hijab rules on women.


Kenya’s elderly murdered as witches

Elderly people in Africa are being accused of witchcraft and murdered, in an apparent effort to steal their land. One 74-year-old Kenyan lost an eye and was nearly killed: His family believe a land dispute with a neighbor was the real motive. On average one elderly person is killed over witchcraft a week on Kenya’s Kilifi coast. Ownership deeds are rare, so when land is passed down through generations, “the only document… is the narrative from these elderly people,” one campaigner told the BBC. Another man whose hands were severed with machetes after he was accused of causing the death of a child said his six acres of land were the real reason. The campaigner said very few people are charged with the attacks.


Police scam targets China diaspora

Victoria Police/YouTube

Chinese expatriates are being targeted by scammers pretending to be Chinese police. One British-Chinese woman, Helen, handed over her £29,000 ($37,000) life savings to uniformed men on a video call who told her she was under investigation for fraud and needed to pay bail to avoid deportation. She is not the only one: China’s embassies have warned people in several countries of similar scams, run by organized crime networks. An elderly woman in the US apparently lost $3 million, and Australian police have launched a campaign to warn the public. The scams start with a phone call but spiral rapidly into accusations of fraud. Helen got her money back, but said “we were taught obedience” in China and would very rarely say no to authority figures.


Insight into social lives of blue whales

A pygmy blue whale off Dili, supplied by Dr Karen Edyvane. Charles Darwin University

Rare footage of blue whales in family groups gave a first glimpse into the social lives of the world’s largest ever animal. The videos, of whales off Timor-Leste in Southeast Asia, were gathered over a decade, revealing mating behavior, mothers nursing newborns, young whales playing, and more. The whales’ family lives were largely unknown: One scientist involved said: “Until now, it has been a mystery when, where and how blue whales reproduce.” Timor-Leste has deep waters just off its coast, and is an important migration corridor for pygmy blue whales. The country is now attempting to develop a whale tourism industry.

  • Workers at Samsung Electronics in South Korea launch an “indefinite general strike.”
  • Thailand’s Constitutional Court holds a hearing on a case seeking the removal of Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin.
  • Brazil’s annual Campus Party Tech Fair gets under way in São Paulo.
Semafor Stat

The price the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery paid for the earliest known portrait of a US first lady. The daguerreotype — an early form of photograph — depicts Dolley Madison, wife of James Madison, who was president from 1809 to 1817. Its likely creator, the early photographer John Plumbe Jr, also took the first known photograph of the Capitol building in Washington. Madison was 78 when the photo was taken in 1846: She was the first woman to be granted an honorary seat in the House of Representatives, allowing her to attend when she chose, Artnet reported, and Samuel Morse chose her as the first person to send a message using the electric telegraph in 1844.

Semafor Recommends

The 99% Invisible Breakdown: The Power Broker. This podcast series aims to analyze Robert Caro’s seminal book The Power Broker, a 1,200-page-long Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of New York City urban planner Robert Moses, who changed the landscape of the city between the 1920s and the 1960s. The podcast celebrates “the genius of its author,” and features a number of guest appearances, including Caro himself. “It’s a book club for a certain Venn-diagram overlap that unites urban planning, architecture, podcast, public policy, and politics nerds,” Vulture wrote.

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