From Sri Lanka’s new president to the challenges of being multilingual – Here’s your July 21 news briefing
To start off, we’re looking into:
Sri Lanka’s new president
Sri Lanka’s economy has been in major trouble for quite some time, with the country’s residents unable to afford fuel, medicine and other basic necessities. Its inflation rate is also reaching staggering levels of over 50%, and its foreign currency reserves are low. With the economic turmoil, frustration spread across the country, leading to protests demanding ex-president Gotabaya Rajapaksa resign. Last week, he did and appointed Ranil Wickremesinghe as acting president.
The thing is, though, Wickremesinghe is also deeply unpopular among the protestors, with many seeing him as leftovers from the previous administration and complicit in the mismanagement of the nation’s economy. In fact, protestors burned down his home and stormed his office last week. The 73-year-old has spent four and a half decades in politics and is a six-time prime minister.
On Wednesday, 134 Sri Lankan lawmakers chose Wickremesinghe to serve the remainder of Rajapaksa’s term, which ends in 2024. On Monday, Wickremesinghe declared his achievements since being appointed as the country’s head, which included getting close to a deal with the IMF for a bailout agreement and making headway with foreign countries for help. After extending a state of emergency order this week, a question many are wondering is whether Wickremesinghe will crack down on the protests.
China’s property woes deepen
There was a period of time when all anyone could talk about was Evergrande and how much trouble China’s real estate sector was in. Since then, the noise has died down. But, even though that’s the case, the industry’s problems haven’t gone away. In late June, a mortgage boycott kicked off with home project buyers refusing to pay mortgages until developers resume projects (many property developers often pre-sell homes before project completion). And since then, that protest has spread to over 300 projects by at least 80 property developers across 90 cities around China.
Now, according to Caixin, hundreds of contractors have joined in on the boycott, saying that they can’t and therefore won’t pay their own loans now because property developers, like Evergrande, still owe them money. Evergrande hasn’t yet commented.
Tesla sells 75% of its crypto
Crypto isn’t doing so hot right now. This year, Bitcoin has lost around half of its value; Celsius Network, a crypto lender, just went bankrupt; and Zipmex, a crypto exchange, just recently halted all withdrawals. We’re officially in what has been dubbed a “crypto winter.”
With that, Tesla, the brainchild car company of the richest rocket man out there (no, not Elton John), sold off around three-quarters of its crypto holdings in the second quarter of 2022. The selloff added nearly a billion dollars in cash to Tesla’s balance sheet, with its second-quarter report saying that the company still had a little over US$200 million in “digital assets” on hand.
Tesla only bought the cryptocurrency last year after announcing that it would take Bitcoin as payment. But after that rolled out in March, the company changed course in May, and despite Elon Musk’s promises that he’s a pumper and not a dumper, the company has sold lots of it.
To end, we’ll look into:
How our brains deal with multilingualism
If you speak more than one language, you probably already know that juggling a whole different set of vocabulary, grammar and social cues isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Slip-ups happen all the time for multilingual people, it turns out, since it takes different parts of the brain to work out different parts of the language.
According to Mathieu Declerck, a senior research fellow in Brussels at the Vrije Universiteit, when you’re dealing in one language, the other ones aren’t completely shut off. “For example, when you want to say ‘dog’ as a French-English bilingual, not just ‘dog’ is activated but also its translation equivalent, so ‘chien’ is also activated,” he said.
This means that bilingual and multilingual people have to develop a sort of control system in their brains to be able to speak in only one language. Most of the time, that control system works, meaning people get the language right. But when they’re not thinking about it – or when they get caught off guard – that control system can fail, and a different language can pop out.
That system can also get messed up when you have to switch back and forth between languages very rapidly. One study showed that Spanish-English speakers occasionally accidentally read English words written out on a paper in Spanish. For example, they would occasionally see the English word “but,” but say the Spanish word “pero.” This almost exclusively happened when reading a text using both languages, necessitating quick switches between the two. Interestingly, these participants were looking at the right word, but their brains could translate it faster than they could handle switching languages.
All in all, multilinguals have it hard. If you are one, you know the struggle – if not, give us a break!
In other news …
📈Stocks, oil and Bitcoin: MSCI’s gauge of global stocks rose for the fourth consecutive day, with optimism over the season’s corporate earnings so far. Sixty companies in the S&P 500 have reported earnings, with over 78% of them performing better than analysts expected, according to Refinitiv data. European shares ended lower with worries that gas supplies would be cut off by Russia and uncertainty over Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s future.
Last week, the market expected the ECB to increase rates by 25 basis points and the Fed by 100 basis points. Now that figure has changed to 50 and 75, respectively.
🛢US crude lowered 1.88% to US$102.26 per barrel, and Brent decreased 0.4% to US$106.92.
👛Bitcoin is around US$23,590.
⬅Russia may move further west: Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has implied during an interview with state media that since the West supplied Ukraine with longer-range weapons, Russia would no longer just focus on the eastern part of Ukraine.
🏳🌈LGBTQ+ pushback at Tsinghua: At Tsinghua University, China’s most prestigious university, an anonymous source has said that two students were issued warnings for distributing LGBTQ+ rainbow flags and encouraging people to take them.
😠Taiwanese official’s Prague visit: The Czechs have hosted official delegations from Tibet and Taiwan, drawing anger from China, which says that the invites undermine the One China policy. Now, Taiwanese Speaker You Si-kun is visiting Prague for three days, prompting China to warn the Czechs to stop “sending the wrong signals to Taiwanese forces whose mission is Taiwan’s independence."
⛽Russian gas: The Nord Stream 1 pipeline, owned by Moscow-based and government-owned Gazprom, has been switched off for 10 days for maintenance and is due to be turned on again this Thursday. With the EU worried that Russia won’t actually turn the pipe back on, the European Commission has told countries to try to cut down their gas use by 15% from August to March.
😷Disease in pork floss: Australia’s agricultural department has found traces of foot and mouth disease and African swine fever in a sample of pork floss for sale in Melbourne. The products were imported from China. Authorities have seized all the products from linked supermarkets and warehouses, and they currently do not pose a risk to human health.
😎“Hasta la vista, baby" to BoJo: British Prime Minister Johnson wrapped up his final questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday with a few parting words of wisdom to his successor, which included to “stay close to the Americans, stick up for the Ukrainians" as well as a line from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Terminator" character.
Written and put together by Jake Shropshire, Christine Dulion and Krystal Lai