To start off, we’re looking into:
Xi in Hong Kong?
There is now more chatter about President Xi potentially visiting Hong Kong for the region’s July 1 handover anniversary. SCMP reported Wednesday that unidentified sources have said around 1,000 people involved in the celebrations, including security and police, will be entering a COVID-free bubble to protect a “very, very important person.”
While the specifics haven’t been revealed, in order to create this COVID-free zone, something being considered is sending everyone involved, including both current and incoming chief executives Lam and Lee, respectively, into hotel quarantine for seven days. This may even extend eventually to everyone attending the ceremony. And according to local media, the two hotels booked for Xi five years ago, including the Grand Hyatt, haven’t taken public bookings for any dates between June 28 and July 1.
Meanwhile, Lam has said that Hong Kong won’t reopen with the mainland anytime soon. This is while 2.7 million people go into lockdown in Shanghai in an attempt to contain an outbreak, and Hong Kong sees over 600 cases as sub-variants continue to spread around the city.
Megachurch head pleads guilty to sex abuse
La Luz del Mundo, which is Spanish for “The Light of the World,” is a fundamentalist Christian church started in Mexico in the mid-1920s by Eusebio Joaquín González. And in recent years, the church’s influence has spread to California, where there’s a large Hispanic population. The church claims around 5 million followers worldwide.
On Wednesday, González’s grandson, Naasón Joaquín García, the current leader of the organization, was sentenced to prison for 16 years and eight months after pleading guilty last week to three sexual abuse counts of girls in his church.
His guilty plea came just three days before his trial was set to begin. It was also unexpected. This means that Naasón won’t face the other charges against him, and his trial will be dropped. His trial had initially been scheduled for Monday, where he faced a total of 19 felony counts of sex crimes against children, including multiple charges of rape, conspiracy to engage in human trafficking and child pornography, which he denied.
García’s father, Samuel Joaquín Flores, the previous head of the church, was also accused of child sex abuse in 1997, but the authorities in Mexico never filed criminal charges.
While some have said that this plea deal sent a message, others say it marks a dangerous precedent.
Twitter gets salty
Elon Musk and Twitter are back at it again with the salty responses. See, Musk has said that if he couldn’t independently verify the number of bots and fake accounts on Twitter, he wasn’t going to go through with buying the company. So now, instead of holding back, Twitter is reportedly going to be shooting a “firehose” of raw data at Musk on around 500 million tweets daily. So be careful what you ask for, Elon, because you might just get it – and a lot of it.
In other Musk and Twitter news, it turns out that one of the major funders of the acquisition is associated with a company called Vy Capital, which is a relatively secretive Dubai-based investment firm founded by Alexander Tamas, who also happens to be closely linked with a Russian-Israeli billionaire named Yuri Milner. Not much is publicly known about the company’s funding or investments, though, because the company is, well, secretive. Seriously, we checked – Vy Capital’s website consists of one page with few details and links to a secondary page for Vy Global Growth, a “blank check company” with an address in the Cayman Islands.
To end, we’ll look into:
NASA commissions UFO study team
In 2021, the US military released a report revealing there had been around 143 sightings of UFOs, or as they’re now referred to, unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP). Then, in May, the military increased that number of sightings to more than 400 “incidents.”
So, NASA has decided that enough is enough, and it’s time to figure out what these things are. After all, if you can manage to identify them, they suddenly stop being unidentifiable. So, it’s putting together an independent team of researchers this fall to try and figure out what’s behind these UAP sightings.
The team is set to try and identify what data is out there on UAPs, and figure out the best ways of collecting data going forward.
NASA, and for that matter, the US military, has stressed that they don’t believe these UAPs to be extraterrestrial in origin. In layman’s terms, they probably aren’t aliens. But, two Pentagon officials have said they are beyond the government’s ability to explain.
But hey, you never know. And nor does NASA administrator Bill Nelson, who said in a livestream chat, “I’ve talked to these pilots and they know they saw something, and their radars locked onto it. And they don’t know what it is, and we don’t know what it is. We hope it’s not an adversary here on Earth that has that kind of technology. But it’s something.”
So while the odds aren’t exactly on your side, if the NASA administrator can at least jokingly say it might be aliens, then so can you.
In other news …
📉Stocks, oil and Bitcoin: European stocks slid on Thursday as the ECB ended a stimulus program it’s been running for some time and announced an interest rate hike next month for the first time since 2011. This was mostly expected, but there is the worry that there will be a more aggressive move by the ECB in September. US stocks also fell as investors anxiously await the Friday report for May’s consumer price index and sentiment. The worry binding everyone together, though, is that the increase in rates will lead to an economic slowdown and a possible recession.
🛢Oil prices slid with 2.7 million people in Shanghai going into lockdown.
💲Bitcoin last fell 0.18% to US$30,121.20.
🇺🇦Ukraine in the EU bloc: It’s expected that an EU executive arm will recommend candidate status next week for Ukraine to be accepted into the bloc. This is one crucial step toward membership, but it would still need to be run by member states. The bloc member leaders are expected to meet in Brussels to talk about it on June 23-24. It requires everyone’s approval, and some countries have pushed back against giving Ukraine preference in the typically decade-long application process.
🌾The global food crisis: In Geneva, Switzerland, next week, world trade ministers will be meeting to speak about a proposal backed by over 50 countries aiming to help avoid a global food crisis. The Ukraine-Russia war disrupted exports of quite a few staples, namely wheat. India has also recently imposed a wheat export ban. And so, ahead of the meeting next week and talking about India’s move, EU’s Union Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said to Bloomberg, “At the end of the day, they are making matters worse. Worse for the most vulnerable countries – exactly those who need support during this food security crisis."
🇷🇺Three foreigners sentenced to death by proxy in Ukraine: Two Britons (Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner) and one Moroccan (Saaudun Brahim) have been sentenced to death by Moscow-backed leadership in the Donetsk region after being caught fighting for Ukraine. The court that issued this sentence isn’t internationally recognized and is run by pro-Russian rebels, and the men’s lawyers are going to appeal. The UK has called it a “sham judgement with absolutely no legitimacy," while Ukraine has called it a “violation and mockery" of international humanitarian law.
🥵Hot sauce lovers, assemble: Hot sauce fans are losing their minds because there is now a Sriracha shortage, with Huy Fong Foods saying it’s been forced to suspend production due to a shortage of chili peppers. An Instagram user commented, “hot topic." Another, “Not good. Calls for an emergency meeting."
🇨🇳Tesla workers in Shanghai go home: According to anonymous sources, Tesla workers in the closed-loop system at the Shanghai factory will be allowed to go home for the first time in weeks today as there is freer movement in some parts of the city deemed low-risk.
💼Ant IPO? Adding to the flurry of good news for Chinese tech companies this week, some anonymous sources have said that Chinese financial regulators are now talking about resurrecting Ant’s IPO. But, The China Securities Regulatory Commission said in a statement on Thursday in response to the Bloomberg report, saying that that wasn’t happening. Just a refresher, this was going to be the world’s biggest IPO two years ago, and Alibaba founder Jack Ma is often used as the poster boy for the CCP’s tech crackdown.