From the Ukraine-Russia war possibly lasting years to a disappointing “Lightyear" box office debut – Here’s your June 20 news briefing

From the Ukraine-Russia war possibly lasting years to a disappointing “Lightyear" box office debut – Here’s your June 20 news briefing
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a news conference following a NATO defence ministers meeting at the Alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium June 16, 2022. REUTERS/Yves Herman

To start off, we’re looking into:

The Ukraine-Russia war could last for years

On Sunday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a local German outlet that we need to prepare for the possibility that the war in Ukraine could continue for several years and that even if the costs are high, we should not “let up in supporting Ukraine.” UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Kyiv on Friday after several other European leaders and said that it was important to show Ukraine that “we are with them for the long haul” and stressed the importance of avoiding “Ukraine-fatigue.”

This comes after the European Commission recommended Ukraine be granted candidate status into the EU bloc. The EU member nations will debate the issue at a summit later this month on June 23 and 24, but membership could take years.

Inflation is “locked in” for the rest of this year

FILE PHOTO: People drive their cars near Exxon and BP gas stations at the exit of the Holland Tunnel during the start of the Memorial Day weekend, under rising gas prices and record inflation, in Newport, New Jersey, U.S., May 27, 2022. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, speaking to ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, said that “unacceptably high” inflation is “locked in” for the rest of the year, especially after it accelerated to a four-decade high of 8.6% in May. According to Yellen, the reason for this high inflation is a combination of disrupted energy supply because of the war in Ukraine and a lack of goods coming from China, which has been dealing with COVID lockdowns. Yellen also added that “these factors are unlikely to diminish immediately.”

But, Yellen also said that while she expects the economy to slow, she doesn’t believe a recession is “inevitable.” She pointed out that the US labor market is at its strongest in the post-war period and that inflation should slow down over the next few months.

Biden speaks on US tariffs on China

Biden China tariffs
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to the media as he arrives in Newcastle, Delaware, U.S., March 26, 2021. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/Files

With inflation running at a four-decade high, triggering a 75 basis point rate hike last week, the US is in the midst of reconfiguring some of the US tariffs on China that were imposed by the Trump administration on around US$300 billion of imported goods. Talking to reporters on Saturday, Biden said he’s still making up his mind on whether to lift any of the tariffs and that he would be speaking to China’s President Xi Jinping “soon.” Lifting the tariffs would help companies that use these goods lower their production cost, hopefully bringing down retail prices and ultimately helping reduce the soaring prices from inflation seen right now.

Biden didn’t mention any concrete timeline for speaking with President Xi, but chatter surrounding the talks suggests a phone call could come as early as July, but any in-person talks wouldn’t be until later this year after the CCP’s congress. Their last phone call was on March 18, where Biden warned Xi of “consequences” should China directly aid Russia in its invasion of Ukraine, and Xi warned Biden about the US mishandling the “Taiwan question.”

To end, we’ll look into:

Do nutrition labels really work?

When you walk into a McDonald’s pretty much anywhere in the world, you’ll typically see three different things for each item on the menu – the name, the price and the nutrition label, which tells you how many calories that item (or combo) has.

This stems from American law trying to help tackle obesity in the States. The intention was that if people could see the calorie count of the things they were eating, they might choose healthier options. Similar legislation has since passed in the UK and other countries, and calorie counts are becoming a more common addition to global menus.

But do they actually work?

The US passed legislation requiring nutrition labels for food served in restaurants with more than 20 stores in 2018. However, research shows that the addition of nutrition labels hasn’t dramatically changed what people order, although it has affected new menu items restaurants are choosing to serve.

Some people say they appreciate the additional information provided by nutrition labels when dining out and that it can help them balance their overall daily diet. But, obesity campaigners say that these kinds of regulations don’t have the intended effect and can cause more harm than good.

One reason the naysayers point out is that calories don’t necessarily equate to food being good or bad – a chocolate bar might have just as many calories as a bowl of chicken and rice, but they don’t have the same nutritional value.

“We need to really understand how people are going to engage with this,” said Stuart Flint, an associate professor of the psychology of obesity at Leeds University in the UK. “Is it going to mean that people only look at calories? A chocolate bar is less than a balanced meal, but we don’t want people to be having a chocolate bar and skipping the meal. It’s not always about reducing the amount we eat.”

Another issue is that calorie counts might encourage people to swap out what they really want from a restaurant for something they don’t want as much, which can increase cravings and lead to binge eating later.

A study of more than 5,500 people between 2015-2017 showed that diners who received menus with calorie counts ordered, on average, about 45 fewer calories – only a 3% difference.

“So with a 3 percent reduction in calories, this isn’t in and of itself a silver bullet that’s going to solve the obesity epidemic,” said study author John Cawley, a professor of public policy at Cornell University. “But it’s also a very cheap intervention, and it’s a simple thing that we can do.”

In other news …

💲Hong Kong’s Paul Chan remains: As Hong Kong’s incoming leader John Lee starts putting together his new cabinet, a statement has revealed that current Financial Secretary Paul Chan will remain in his position.

💰Bitcoin’s weekend low: Bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency, dropped under US$20,000 over the weekend, at one point, hitting US$17,599 on Saturday.

🇫🇷Macron’s loss in Parliament: France’s President Macron is set to lose the absolute majority in Parliament after a surge in far-right support in Sunday’s election. This means he’ll have a tough time passing laws, putting his second-term presidential plans at risk.

🇺🇦Russian music in Ukraine: Ukraine’s Parliament has voted to ban Russian music created or performed by Russian citizens after 1991 in media and public spaces. Artists who have condemned the war can apply for an exemption. The legislation also prohibits importing books from Russia or Belarus.

🇨🇴Colombia’s new president: After three attempts and two failed presidential bids over three decades, leftist Gustavo Petro has been elected as Colombia’s next president. He wants to increase tariffs, tax the rich, phase out dirty energy and eliminate corruption.

🏊‍♀️Fina’s transgender ruling: Fina, the global governing body for swimming, will not allow transgender athletes to compete in women’s elite races if they’ve gone through any part of male puberty. It will also aim to establish an ‘open’ category at competitions for swimmers whose gender identity is different from their birth sex.

🎬Buzz not-so-Lightyear: While the “Jurassic World" and “Top Gun" films are performing above expectations at the box office, Disney and Pixar’s “Lightyear" has missed them, bringing in US$51 million in the US and Canada. Estimates were between US$76 million and US$105 million.

🤐Mute on WhatsApp: Enjoy the mute feature during Zoom calls? Well, you can now do the same thing during WhatsApp group calls since the company rolled out a series of new platform features.

📨That Musk letter: Last week, Elon Musk was the focus of an open letter created by some of his team that criticized his behavior. In less than a day and a half, that letter received the signatures of over 400 SpaceX workers. Since then, the landing page of the letter was taken down, and a group of employees involved in crafting and sharing the letter were fired, with the SpaceX president calling it “overreaching activism.”

👗Snazzy outfits for your avatar: If you want your avatar on Facebook, Messenger and Instagram to wear designer clothes, today is your lucky day. Meta is launching an online store where you can buy new clothes for your avatar. Think the likes of Prada, Balenciaga – they’re some of the first brands signed and stocked up to dress you online.

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