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To start off, we’re looking into:
No more hotel quarantine in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong has some exciting events coming up at the end of the year – events that, pre-COVID, drummed up a heap of hype within the city and around the world. One of these is Hong Kong’s flagship sporting event, the Rugby Sevens. The other is a summit for over 100 business executives organized by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and Financial Secretary. While organizers for Sevens are still waiting for approval to go ahead with the event, the summit has been scheduled for November. Now, the only thing that is a bit of a deterrent is the city’s quarantine situation for travelers.
Speaking with SCMP, Hong Kong’s new health chief Lo Chung-mau said that the government is looking at quarantine-free travel by November, with some conditions. This could be five days in hotel quarantine and two days at home or even the entire seven days at home quarantine. He added that he needs to still look at the latest data, including how many travelers are still positive on their third day of hotel quarantine, before making a call. Meanwhile, the city is still in the middle of planning a China-like local health code to track people’s movements.
Who is Rishi Sunak, the conservative frontrunner in the UK?
After Boris Johnson announced his resignation, it became the job of the UK’s conservative party to find and vote on his replacement since they hold the majority in Parliament. The first round of those leadership votes was on Wednesday, and former Chancellor Rishi Sunak won that round with 88 votes, moving him and five other candidates to the next round.
Sunak got his education first at Oxford University and then was a Fulbright Scholar at Stanford University in California, where he got his MBA. After that, he went on to work in business and finance, having worked for Goldman Sachs for a time. He won his parliamentary seat for Richmond in 2015, and it’s one of the safest conservative seats in the UK.
Sunak was actually in the Johnson administration as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which meant that he was in charge of the government treasury. But he also was one of the notable resignations earlier this month, which led to a string of other resignations, including Johnson’s.
Before that, he was in Theresa May’s government as the undersecretary of state for local government. Sunak is also extraordinarily rich, with the Sunday Times having listed him and his wife (Akshata Murty, the daughter of Indian billionaire N. R. Narayana Murthy) on their Rich List of the UK’s wealthiest 250 people, being worth around £730million (US$870 million).
Joe Biden’s trip to the Middle East
Joe Biden started a trip to the Middle East on Wednesday. The trip started in Israel, where he pledged to deepen relations between the US and Israel and with other countries in the region. He also visited the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem and received a briefing on defense systems in place there. After Israel, Biden will go to Palestinian-occupied territory in the West Bank. Then he’ll go to Saudi Arabia, where he’ll attend a summit with other regional leaders.
His plans to go to Saudi Arabia have drawn backlash. The trip’s intent seems partly to be for the US to ask the country to keep the oil flowing through the intense sanctions on Russia. But experts have been worried that it looks weak for Biden to “kiss the ring” and that it won’t end up doing much in the end. It’s worth keeping in mind that during the campaign, Biden promised to turn Saudi Arabia into an international pariah for its assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Notably, Biden won’t be dealing much with the problem of Iran, which is heavily sanctioned by the US, and also, another country where the US could theoretically find some oil to ease domestic gas prices.
To end, we’ll look into:
Musk’s tweets come back to haunt him in Twitter’s 62-page lawsuit
As kids, we get told by adults to be mindful of the things we post online for the world. Now, this caution from our mature elders exists for various reasons; one is so that a questionable post, a drunk photo or an inappropriate meme doesn’t find a way to come back and bite us in the, well, bum and sabotage us.
Well, it turns out that there is merit to this warning.
Elon Musk’s tweets have been used against him by Twitter, with the platform slapping Musk with a 62-page lawsuit that includes over 10 of his tweets – tweets that the company has screenshotted to support their argument that Musk violated the original agreement. These are the same late-night tweets that he put out into the virtual world to document his thoughts and feelings over this turbulent relationship with Twitter, their executives and this merger that, now, may or may not happen.
The tweets used in the lawsuit include memes and tags to the SEC to responding to Twitter’s CEO with the poo emoji. On top of that, it includes texts to the bigwigs of the social media company telling them to stop sniffing around about the financing status of the deal.
The bigger picture is that the merger agreement has a deadline for when it essentially expires, which is on October 24 of this year. So Twitter has separately filed a motion to expedite trial to run over the course of four days in mid-September so that it gets its side heard.
And, as you can imagine, the company culture within Twitter isn’t great, especially because before buyer’s remorse washed over Musk, he said he would be firing people. So with that, when the 60 or so paged lawsuit was filed, CEO Parag Agrawal also sent an internal memo to the company, according to The Times, asking the people of Twitter to read it, saying “We took this opportunity to tell our story and defend our company, our people, and our stockholders.”
In other news …
📉Stocks, oil and Bitcoin: Data from the US on Wednesday showed that consumer prices rose 9.1% from a year earlier, surpassing expectations. Investors worried that this report just set the scene for a more aggressive rate hike. For the first time in 20 years, the euro and USD brushed parity temporarily, but it was enough. Markets fluctuated wildly.
MSCI’s gauge of stocks worldwide fell 0.31%, with all major indexes on Wall Street closing in the red. The pan-European STOXX 600 index lost 1.01%. Meanwhile, MSCI’s APAC index (excluding Japan) closed 0.43% higher. Japan’s Nikkei was up 0.54%.
🛢US crude oil prices rose 0.06% to US$95.90 per barrel. Brent was down 0.18 to US$99.31.
💲Bitcoin is up 2.56% at around US$19,788.
⬆Rate hikes: The central banks of Korea and New Zealand jacked up their rates overnight to fight eye-watering high inflation – a pervasive problem in many major economies right now. Canada’s central bank also increased its interest rates by 100 basis points – the first G7 country to make such an aggressive move.
📝Sri Lanka update: After President Gotabaya Rajapaksa reportedly fled the country in a military jet to the Maldives, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has been appointed acting president. Protestors aren’t happy about this, though, with them also partly blaming Wickremesinghe for the country’s economic downfall. Protestors again broke into a secure government building, and this time, it was the prime minister’s office. Now, the military is involved, with the acting president saying to do “whatever is necessary to restore order."
✈Putin in the Middle East: After the US reported that Russia and Iran were in talks for drone sales earlier this week, the Kremlin has reported that Putin plans to visit Iran next week, the first known public trip outside the republics of the former Soviet Union since the Ukraine invasion. Putin will also reportedly visit Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Meanwhile, Russian state media has reported that Putin’s believed youngest daughter Katerina Tikhonova, has taken on a role in government to help with matters of the Russian state and economy.
🏠China’s real estate woes: Buyers of 35 projects across more than 20 Chinese cities are refusing to pay for mortgages because of the delay in projects and the falling real estate prices, according to Citigroup analysts.
🐌Google slows hiring: With economic uncertainty everywhere, many company heads are cautiously moving forward by curbing expansion plans and cutting costs. So with that in an email to employees on Tuesday, Google said that it will slow hiring and investments in 2023.
💸Animoca fundraise: Animoca Brands is an Australian blockchain game developer based in Hong Kong that has invested in nearly 350 companies to try and build its version of the metaverse. Now, it’s raised US$75.3 million, which gives the company a valuation of US$5.5 billion.
🥇“Squid Game" at the Emmys: The Emmy Awards is the biggest prize in TV show biz in the US, and, with that, “Squid Game," which is streaming giant Netflix’s most popular show ever, will try to win for best drama series at the awards in September. This is the first time a foreign-language show has been nominated.