From Spain’s soaring high temperatures to Airbnb winding down its local business in China – Here is your May 24 news briefing

From Spain’s soaring high temperatures to Airbnb winding down its local business in China – Here is your May 24 news briefing
FILE PHOTO: Taiwan flags can be seen at a square ahead of the national day celebration in Taoyuan, Taiwan, October 8, 2021. REUTERS/Ann Wang

To start off, we’re looking into:

Biden’s Taiwan comments

President Joe Biden said that the US would respond militarily if China tried to take Taiwan by force, a statement that seemed to go against Washington’s decades-long strategic ambiguity regarding the situation. Biden made the comment Monday at a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo during his second stop on his Asia tour.

This doesn’t mean a change in US policy, though, according to The White House. The US stance is that the country abides by the “One China” policy – meaning it recognizes, though does not endorse, China’s stance that Taiwan is part of China. The current policy under the Taiwan Relations Act asserts that the US is not required to get involved directly but would provide means for Taiwan to defend itself in the case of an attack.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Japan holds a similar view, and both sides have “asserted the importance of peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait which is fundamental to international order.” Within a few hours, China had responded to the comments with “strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition.”

Monkeypox is “containable," says WHO

Test tubes labelled “Monkeypox virus positive" are seen in this illustration taken May 22, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

More than 100 cases of monkeypox have been reported in the Americas, Europe and Australia, but the WHO says that the situation is containable.

The number of people infected with monkeypox is still expected to rise in non-endemic countries (which is a fancy way of saying places where the virus isn’t common), but experts say that the risk to the broader population, as a whole, is low. The virus is also more common in parts of Central and West Africa.

A WHO official also said that there’s no evidence that monkeypox has mutated, pushing back against speculation that it was a mutation that caused the outbreak.

Spain’s heat wave

Spain heat
People cool off in a water fountain during an episode of exceptionally high temperatures for the time of year in Madrid, Spain, May 21, 2022. REUTERS/Susana Vera

Spain is facing a record-high heat wave in May, soaring up to 16 C degrees above average temperatures, according to the national weather agency AEMET. For instance, the Southern city of Jaén in Andalucía recorded 40.3 degrees Celsius last Friday.

In the morning, temperatures in many areas did not drop below 25 degrees Celsius, which the agency finds “practically unheard of in the peninsula in May.” Then, at night, the city of Segovia experienced its first “tropical night” in May, a term for when temperatures don’t fall below 20 degrees Celsius.

Spain isn’t the only country dealing with high temperatures this early – India, Pakistan and even some parts of the US are dealing with what scientists believe to be climate change-induced heat waves.

Airbnb travels away from China

Airbnb China
FILE PHOTO: Airbnb logo is seen displayed in this illustration taken, May 3, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Airbnb is closing domestic operations in China, saying that the company will shift its focus to outbound travelers rather than those visiting China. It will still keep an office in Beijing to help facilitate that outbound travel market. The company also added that it’s planning to tell employees as early as Tuesday morning in Beijing.

The company launched its business in mainland China in 2016, but since rentals in China make up only about 1% of its revenue, it sees more opportunities for tourists traveling from China – specifically in the Asia-Pacific region. Some people have also cited domestic competition and high operating costs as reasons for the shift.

To end, we’ll look into:

The ball is in your court, employees

Some of us are obsessed with the grind. But some of us want to come into work – maybe a bit hungover – not get judged by our colleagues, remain undetected by our bosses, get little-to-nothing done, but, of course … still get paid?

Well, it turns out, now’s probably the best time to do just that.

See, because the labor market is so tight right now and it’s so hard to find qualified candidates for many jobs, employers are saying they’ll keep pretty much anyone around so long as they have a pulse. Because, realistically, there’s no way for employers to be confident that they can find someone better anytime soon.

According to the Labor Department in the US, less than 1% of workers there are getting laid off or discharged, which is about half of the usual rate, with jobs in the public sector, education, finance and healthcare being the most stable.

And according to a survey done by HR software company UKG, 16% of managers said they’d be willing to rehire any former employees regardless of skill, and roughly two-thirds said they’d be willing to rehire former employees who were just OK at their job.

Basically, the things that would get you fired in a looser market are more likely to slide right now. So relax a little, do today’s Wordle or scroll through Instagram on company time, and don’t stress too much about being a slacker because there’s not much your boss can do about it.

In other news …

🚗Didi: It’s official – shareholders have voted to delist Didi from the NYSE.

🇺🇦Ukraine: A Ukrainian court has sentenced a Russian soldier to life imprisonment for war crimes. This is the first sort of sentencing since the war began.

💉Pox: Repeating what the WHO has said, Biden said that the monkeypox outbreak isn’t as worrisome as COVID, downplaying his comments from a day earlier when he said that people should be “concerned.” He also pointed to the smallpox vaccine, which is effective against monkeypox.

🇭🇰FWD IPO: According to an anonymous source, insurer FWD Group Holdings, which is backed by Hong Kong billionaire Richard Li, has gotten approval to list in Hong Kong. But the company hasn’t yet decided when to go public.

🇺🇸A shooting on a New York subway over the weekend killed Daniel Enriquez, who worked at Goldman Sachs for nine years. Goldman CEO David Solomon has called it a “senseless tragedy.”

😷COVID: The official Shanghai Securities News reported that financial companies in the city’s Pudong district will now be able to return to the office. The Pudong financial authority has issued some rules to do it in a phased way, signaling the worst of the outbreak is over.

Lithium: The world is scrambling for metals required for the clean energy push, one of which is lithium. With that, an auction to buy the controlling stake of a Chinese lithium mine ended up being bid and sold for 600 times higher than the original starting price.

🦘Kangaroos in India: There has been a rise in demand for exotic animals in the country, and with it, anti-smuggling operations are ongoing. In a likely smuggling-gone-wrong situation, some confused kangaroos were rescued from the side of an Indian road.

💰If you hate on the rich, here might be some comforting news: a handful of billionaires at the World Economic Forum in Davos is asking to be taxed more, saying …

“While the rest of the world is collapsing under the weight of an economic crisis, billionaires and world leaders meet in this private compound to discuss turning points in history.

It’s outrageous that our political leaders listen to those who have the most, know the least about the economic impact of this crisis, and many of whom pay infamously little in taxes. The only credible outcome from this conference is to tax the richest and tax us now."

UK millionaire Phil White

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