From ESPRIT making a comeback to brain-computer implants – Here’s your July 19 news briefing

From ESPRIT making a comeback to brain-computer implants – Here’s your July 19 news briefing
Source: Shutterstock

To start off, we’re looking into:

ESPRIT is roaring back

You may remember the once popular household fashion brand ESPRIT. It was started in the 1960s by couple Susie and Doug Tompkins (also founders of The North Face). While the company was successful, going global in the 70s and becoming quite the household name in the 80s and 90s, its growth eventually started waning in the US. But its sales in its Asian unit grew, and a Hong Kong firm eventually bought it.

Now, after suffering years of losses and closing all 56 of its stores in the Asia region at the start of the COVID pandemic, the company has shared its plans to roar back. Speaking to Bloomberg, ESPRIT’s CEO William Pak has said that the company is now going to focus on sustainability, with better-quality clothes that are more expensive than fast fashion. It will now have four fashion cycles instead of the previous 12, coupled with limited-edition collections. For the sake of operation ease, the company is moving its headquarters back to Hong Kong. While it will focus mainly on e-commerce, ESPRIT will have a physical presence in key Asian markets, like Seoul and Hong Kong. With this pivot, the company turned a profit last year, the first in five years, reporting a profit of US$48.5 million.

The UK may see record-high temperatures this week

UK temperatures
A man cools off in a fountain during the hot weather in London, Britain, July 18, 2022. REUTERS/John Sibley

We’re all painfully aware of the devastating effects of climate change and the increase in natural disasters as a consequence. Right now, China is fighting some deadly floods, and France, Spain and Portugal are fighting heat waves that have led to deaths and evacuations from wildfires.

Now, much of England could be seeing its hottest day on record this week at temperatures forecast to reach up to 41 degrees Celsius. Right now, the highest temperature ever recorded in the UK was 38.7 Celsius two years ago in Cambridge. This has led to the UK issuing the country’s first red extreme heat warning emergency from Monday through Tuesday. People are being urged to stay inside, while train companies have asked people not to use their services on Monday and Tuesday and some schools have closed during these periods.

A recession caused by chatter?

U.S. Dollar and Euro banknotes are seen in this illustration taken July 17, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

For months now, experts have been predicting that there will be an economic recession, particularly in the US. JP Morgan Chase has said there’s a decent chance of a recession, Goldman Sachs has said there’s close to a 50% chance of one, and Wells Fargo said a recession “is more likely than not.”

But Mark Zandi, Moody’s Analytics chief economist, says that the US is at risk of a recession – not because of the numbers but rather because of all the talk about a recession on the brink. Zandi joined Bloomberg’s “What Goes Up” podcast to say he doesn’t think a recession is inevitable, even though risks are high. But he does think that all the talk about an imminent recession could affect behavior enough to push the economy over the edge.

See, when there’s a lot of talk about something – in this instance, a looming recession – people start to behave differently. For example, maybe they take fewer risks, stash money away instead of investing it or businesses halt hiring and investments. And it’s that kind of conservative behavior, which isn’t influenced by data, statistics or economic changes, that can cause something like a recession through lower aggregate demand.

To end, we’ll look into:

Would you put a computer in your brain?

brain computer
Source: Synchron

You’ve probably heard about Neuralink – Elon Musk’s venture to basically link people’s brains to computers so that we can talk with machines more efficiently. But Neuralink isn’t alone in the brain-computer interface (BCI) field. Just earlier this month, a Brooklyn startup called Synchron was able to put an implant into the blood vessel of an ALS patient’s brain to hopefully help them communicate with computers.

Don’t get your hopes up yet. This is still a new and experimental technology, but so far, it’s looking pretty promising. ALS causes the patient to be unable to move or speak, and this implant is supposed to let them do things like send WhatsApp messages and communicate by email or do online shopping through a connected computer – simply by thinking. Talk about hands-free technology.

So far, four patients in Australia have also gotten this implant, and it’s helped them do those exact things without side effects. This is the first implant of the kind in a US patient, beating out Musk’s Neuralink, which hasn’t been approved for a similar trial yet by the FDA.

This is a big deal in part because of how noninvasive it is. For one, the procedure isn’t much different than installing a pacemaker. This means that, down the road, doctors all over the world could learn how to do this sort of operation without a bunch of specialized training. The other great thing is that it’s usable at home in a way other BCIs haven’t been.

So, we’re not quite at Musk’s “control computers with your brain” dream, but we’re getting a little bit closer, and the hope is that tech like this will give people with severe disabilities a bit more autonomy in their daily lives.

“I feel like we are at the beginning of a renaissance around brain decoding,” said Synchron’s co-founder and CEO Dr. Tom Oxley.

In other news …

📈Stocks, oil and Bitcoin: MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe increased 0.06% after expectations for a 100 basis points Fed rate hike stood at about 29%, according to CME’s FedWatch Tool. Last week, this figure stood as high as 80% after the US recorded record-high inflation, with many worried that this would trigger an aggressive monetary policy stance that would lead to a recession.

🛢Meanwhile, even though oil prices edged lower last week, with recessionary fears as well as possible China lockdowns leading to decreased forecasted demand, oil prices jumped on Monday. This came with more concerns over gas supply from Russia and the lower dollar. US crude is at US$102.60 per barrel, and Brent is at US$106.27.

🤑Bitcoin settled at US$21,546.

💣US arms sale to Taiwan: On Friday, the US Pentagon said it had approved a potential US$108 million sale of military-technical assistance to Taiwan. China has demanded that the US immediately cancel this.

👩‍⚖️Treason in Ukraine: President Zelenskiy has said that over 60 former employees are now working against Ukraine in Russian-occupied areas. This comes as the president suspended the head of the country’s security agency and prosecutor general pending an investigation.

😷Marburg virus: Remember the Ebola virus? Ghana has confirmed two cases of the Marburg virus, a highly infectious and deadly disease from the same virus family as Ebola. West Africa now has 98 people in quarantine suspected of close contact with the virus believed to be transmitted from fruit bats and passed between humans through bodily fluids.

Cathay picks up again: Cathay Pacific Airways expects its passenger capacity to reach up to 25% of pre-COVID times and is now targeting a positive cash flow position. Last month, the airline operated at 11% of pre-pandemic capacity.

🍏Apple slows down hiring: Like many other companies feeling the economic downturn and anticipating dark economic times ahead, people familiar with the situation have told Bloomberg that Apple plans to slow hiring and spending.

🛒Buy in DMs: Instagram is looking for a way to let you buy the stuff you want through your Instagram DMs. Customers will need to message the business, add any order specifications and place the order all through the DM. Users will also be able to track the order through that chat thread.

💲Google fined in Russia: Alphabet’s Google was fined US$373 million on Monday by a Moscow court for failing to remove content Russia sees as illegal. This includes information that the state sees as fake news about the Ukraine war.

👰🤵#Bennifer is official: 17 years after calling off their first engagement, Hollywood sweethearts Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck confirmed on Lopez’s website that they got married in Las Vegas. “We did it. Love is beautiful. Love is kind. And it turns out love is patient. Twenty years patient," she wrote.

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