To start off, we’re looking into:
China’s real estate sector has bottomed out
It’s been some time since we’ve spoken about the struggling Chinese real estate sector. Just a quick recap: a lot of Chinese developers expanded rapidly over the past few decades through borrowing, and this rapid expansion led to the overdevelopment of the sector. With the excess housing supply, these developers couldn’t generate the revenue they needed to pay back loans and interest payments. One major company at the forefront of these woes was Evergrande.
But according to Chairman Yu Liang of China’s second-largest real estate developer, China Vanke, while he doesn’t think we’ll see another Chinese real estate boom, he believes the real estate slump is finally over. This comes as local authorities have made it easier to acquire properties by doing things like telling banks to lend more or making it easier to buy more than one property. China Index Holdings, which monitors sales of new homes across 17 cities, saw sales rise 89% this month compared to the month earlier.
Should Spotify still host R. Kelly’s music?
Since the early 2000s, allegations of sexual abuse have swirled around R&B singer R. Kelly, alleging that he had abused both women and children. A trial in 2008 saw him acquitted of 21 abuse counts brought against him years earlier. But, last September, R. Kelly was convicted of multiple counts of sex trafficking and racketeering.
On Wednesday, the singer was sentenced to 30 years in prison for his crimes. He’s also facing an upcoming trial on additional charges in August. The reality of the conviction is harrowing, and it does force music streaming platforms to ask themselves a question – is it OK to host the music of someone convicted of these kinds of heinous crimes?
Spotify is obviously at the forefront of this dilemma, and it actually removed Kelly’s music from its playlists and algorithmic recommendations back in 2018. But just a few weeks later, Spotify put R. Kelly’s music back on the platform. At the time, Kelly faced many allegations but had not yet been convicted of any crimes.
But now, with Kelly’s conviction emerges the question of whether or not Spotify will remove his music from its algorithmic recommendations or potentially altogether. Just a few months ago, the company also dealt with a different set of political challenges when Joni Mitchell and Neil Young pulled their music from the platform to protest its decision to continue hosting Joe Rogan’s podcast.
There isn’t a clear precedent on how platforms like Spotify should behave yet. Still, it’s clear that the friction from employees and customers who expect companies to maintain certain moral standards regarding the content they promote is raising the pressure.
Hong Kong was named the most expensive city to work abroad this year
There’s this index that ranks the most expensive cities in the world to help companies and governments figure out how much to pay expats. It sorts rankings based on things like the costs of rent, transportation and food within the city, all relative to the Big Apple. With that, Hong Kong came out on top this year as the only Asian city among the top five, which was dominated by cities in Switzerland.
This is especially important because, with remote work on the rise, many companies use this index when crafting internal policies to understand the economic effect of employee relocation. The Mercer study’s partner Vince Cordova said that while much of this ranking had to do with real estate prices, it’s also related to rising costs of goods and services, with many having to spend more to live better, and political uncertainty. Following Hong Kong were the Swiss cities of Zurich, Geneva, Basel and Bern.
To end, we’ll look into:
Why people in the US are deleting – and downloading – period tracking apps
After the Supreme Court in the US overturned the constitutional right for women to get an abortion, many Americans found themselves deleting apps designed to help them keep track of their periods. Why? Because law enforcement could potentially use the data stored in these apps to prove that someone terminated a pregnancy, which in some states is now a criminal charge.
So now, people are paying more attention to the quality of data privacy these apps provide for their users. Clue, a Berlin-based app, said that it would adhere to strict GDPR laws in the EU that keep user data private and would not respond to any US subpoena requests (though this doesn’t necessarily mean that it would be immune from US prosecution, either). Flo, another period tracking app based in Belarus, doesn’t have the best track record of keeping user data private. However, it announced on Friday that it’s launching an “anonymous mode” to help keep its users’ data safer.
The recent attention has also led to some activists who don’t even have a period to download these tracking apps just to make it harder to narrow down accurate user data to any one person. “I’m a cis man who just downloaded a period tracking app because if there’s anything I love it’s causing chaos,” tweeted Santiago Mayer, the Executive Director of Voters for Tomorrow.
In other news …
💸Stocks, oil and Bitcoin: The US dollar index ended higher, and the MSCI global stocks edged lower after US Fed Chair Powell appeared at a European Central Bank Conference where he said, “The clock is kind of running on how long will you remain in a low-inflation regime … The risk is that because of the multiplicity of shocks, you start to transition into a higher inflation regime, and our job is to literally prevent that from happening, and we will prevent that from happening."
- A high inflation regime is inflation consistently above 5% when the target is around 2-3%.
- For many, this reaffirmed the Fed’s hawkish monetary policy stance.
- Powell also said that the US economy is actually in pretty good shape. The focus is to bring inflation down, and he also said that while there is a risk that the Fed will go too far, he “wouldn’t agree that it’s the biggest risk to the economy" and that the biggest mistake would be not to restore price stability.
🛢Inflation fears are also fueled by tight oil supplies, with prices increasing for their fourth consecutive day with OPEC+ exporters meeting for two days on Wednesday and big policy changes looking unlikely. US Crude rose to US$112.76, and Brent rose to US$119.19.
💹Bitcoin is at around US$20,275.
😮Heated rhetoric: The UK’s defense secretary Ben Wallace has come out to say, “I certainly think President Putin’s view of himself and the world is a small man syndrome, macho view." When speaking of the Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Wallace said, “To be fair there is that lady, the spokeswoman, in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, she’s like a comedy turn, she does her statement every week, threatening to nuke everyone or doing something or another. She’s definitely a woman… She’s a lunatic like he is, so I’ll leave it to that."
🎌NATO expansion: On Wednesday, NATO officially invited Sweden and Finland to join its military alliance. Russia called the expansion “a purely destabilizing factor."
➕Expanded US military presence: The US will expand its military presence across Europe, increasing the amount of NATO troops at high readiness next year from 40,000 to over 300,000 as the group agreed to shift its approach to the Russian invasion of Ukraine fundamentally. NATO is “needed now more than it has ever been," said Biden.
💉Monkeypox prevention: Tens of thousands of monkeypox vaccines will be sent to clinics around America for anyone who has been exposed to the virus. The vaccine is Bavarian Nordic’s JYNNEOS vaccine.
❌Philippines’ Rappler shutdown: Rappler, one of the few Filipino news outlets that were critical of President Rodrigo Duterte’s government, has been ordered to shut down days before Duterte leaves office and ally and successor Ferdinand Marcos Jr. enters office. Rappler was founded by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa.
📱USB-C: Earlier this month, the EU made USB-C chargers mandatory for many electronic goods, including phones, by the end of 2024. Now Brazil telecoms regulator Anatel has proposed something similar. Some Democrats in the US are also trying to do the same.
🚭Another vape ban: The European Commission is pushing the EU to ban vaping products, helping Europe move toward a plan of having under 5% of its people using tobacco products by 2040.