From North Korea’s COVID spike to Google Russia declaring bankruptcy – Here is your May 19 news briefing

From North Korea’s COVID spike to Google Russia declaring bankruptcy – Here is your May 19 news briefing
A South Korean soldier walks past a TV broadcasting a news report on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in North Korea, at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea, May 17, 2022. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

To start off, we’re looking into:

North Korea’s COVID outbreak

So far, North Korea had appeared outwardly to have prevented COVID from entering its borders. That is, until May 12, when the country had its first publicly recorded case.

Now everyone is under lockdown. Since the first report of the outbreak, North Korea has seen 1.72 million patients with symptoms of “fever” and 62 deaths. It turns out it might’ve been the huge Pyongyang military parade held on April 25, at which crowds were seen unmasked and not socially distanced, that may have caused a fast-spreading virus outbreak. Timing-wise, it makes sense, seeing as multiple guards stationed in the border city of Sinuiju, which is just across the Yalu River from China, reportedly started showing tell-tale COVID symptoms earlier this month.

While North Korea assures that all is under control – saying a million people have already recovered – foreign experts (like the WHO) believe otherwise. South Korea has offered to send aid in the form of medical supplies, vaccines, masks and test kits, but North Korea has not yet responded.

The SEC is going through Wall Street’s phones

SEC Wall Street
FILE PHOTO: The seal of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is seen at their headquarters in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 12, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the US is looking into over 100 personal cell phones used by top traders and bankers on Wall Street to find out if they were using illicit and unapproved messaging apps, like WhatsApp, to make under-the-radar business decisions, according to a report by Bloomberg.

This whole search was sparked when JP Morgan was fined US$200 million for failing to monitor business-related messages on these kinds of messaging platforms. Now, the SEC is trying to figure out who else is doing the same thing and how much they should be fined for it.

Naturally, Wall Streeters are freaking out a bit. Still, there is one small comfort that may make them feel better – ugly texts about bosses or coworkers likely won’t be considered “business-related.” The whole search is being done through third party lawyers who will only make illegal messages public.

Finland and Sweden officially ask to join NATO

Finland Sweden NATO
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Sweden’s Ambassador to NATO Axel Wernhoff shake hands during a ceremony to mark Sweden’s and Finland’s application for membership in Brussels, Belgium, May 18, 2022. REUTERS/Johanna Geron/Pool

Finland and Sweden officially applied to join NATO on Wednesday morning amid security concerns posed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

While both Nordic nations have remained non-aligned for more than 75 years, the ongoing war seems to have changed their minds – a historic policy shift that will redraw Europe’s security map. According to multiple reports citing diplomatic sources, Turkey blocked a vote to fast-track the process just hours after the countries applied.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly warned them against this NATO membership, saying that such a move would result in repercussions. Yet, when Finland called to inform its Russian counterpart about this on Saturday, Putin seemed surprisingly “calm and cool,” according to President Sauli Niinistö.

Google Russia will declare bankruptcy

Google Russia
FILE PHOTO: The logo for Google LLC is seen at the Google Store Chelsea in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., November 17, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

A Google spokesperson said on Wednesday that the company’s branch in Russia will file for bankruptcy since the Russian government seized its bank account, making it impossible to, well, run a business.

This isn’t the first time Google has been under attack in Russia, though. The company has been facing pressure because it refuses to delete content that is considered illegal in the country and because it’s blocked some state accounts on platforms like YouTube.

So far, Google is the first major tech company to declare bankruptcy like this, although many others have suspended their operations.

To end, we’ll look into:

Unhappy customers vs. the Golden Arches

We’ve all been there … rolling up to the Golden Arches, ordering fries, a burger and a cup of liquid sugar, which is then handed to us in a brown paper bag by dissatisfied-looking staff. You proceed to unravel the bag and box of goodness excitedly, only to scowl upon discovering that the burger is about five-bites-or-less big.

Well, one New Yorker not only scowled but compiled all the complaints on social media about how burgers looked deceptively bigger in ads than in real life. Then, he launched a class-action lawsuit against McDonald’s and Wendy’s.

But legal experts are saying that the complaints of unhappy YouTubers at the drive-thru are probably not sufficient to win a case and that these fast-food chains will likely just argue that some exaggeration is to be expected in marketing material. And, some are guessing that this dissatisfied bunch may really just be after a settlement rather than arguing it out with the bigwigs behind their favorite midnight meal in the courthouse.

In other news

🇱🇰Sri Lanka is struggling to pay for even one ship of petrol, with the government asking citizens to not line up for fuel as the nation nears bankruptcy. According to the energy minister, the country “hopes” to release the petrol ship in its waters “today or tomorrow.” The country also owes the same supplier US$53 million for an earlier shipment of fuel.

💼Chinese government officials met with tech heads to promise support for the sector after a massive crackdown. Tencent’s president has come out to say that, while this is a positive development, it will take time to change.

📉Goldman’s CEO was on a call with Bloomberg where he mentioned that there’s at least a 30% chance of a recession in the next 12-24 months, according to his firm’s analyses.

🇨🇳With China’s lockdown, parts of its economy have been completely obliterated. But Premier Li Keqiang, according to state media, has said that all is well and the country has enough policy room to deal with economic curveballs.

🚨China said that its former head of monetary policy department is under disciplinary investigation. Since the crackdown on the sector in October, at least 40 financial sector workers have been under investigation or charged.

🍼The US is very low on baby formula, with Nestle having to air freight some from the EU to compensate for the shortage. With that, Google searches for how to make formula at home have increased by 2400% in the last month, but experts have been telling mothers to not DIY it.

🇵🇼If you go to the Palau islands and you’re not an annoying tourist that damages the land, the government will reward you with exclusive experiences based on how you behave toward the environment and culture rather than the cash you splurge. The new program, called Ol’au Palau, is the world’s first shot at “gamifying” responsible tourism.

US Soccer has reached a landmark agreement where the men’s and women’s teams will receive equal pay.

Written and put together by Jake Shropshire, Christine Dulion, Julianna Barcela and Krystal Lai