From rumors of Hong Kong cutting hotel quarantine to more Musk drama – Here’s your July 26 news briefing

From rumors of Hong Kong cutting hotel quarantine to more Musk drama – Here’s your July 26 news briefing
FILE PHOTO: A police officer keeps watch at the Soho nightlife area to remind people of social distancing amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, May 20, 2022. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo

To start off, we’re looking into:

Is Hong Kong cutting hotel quarantine?

Hong Kong is currently seeing around 4,000 new COVID cases daily, with nearly 200 of them being imported as the city tries to stamp out any trace of the virus in line with its zero-COVID policy. The thing is, though, in trying to achieve that zero-COVID status, the region has become virtually isolated, leading to an exodus of residents, especially expats. With a new government in place and the fifth wave over, there has been a push to ease some COVID rules, such as the seven-day mandatory hotel quarantine, to make traveling to the city easier.

With that, citing an anonymous source, Sing Tao said the government is considering cutting the requirements to either five or four days of hotel quarantine followed by two or three days whereby that person can’t go to high-risk places where masks may be removed. SCMP said that authorities might even shorten the mandatory hotel quarantine to three days. Sing Tao said that the government is expected to announce its decision in the next two weeks and is also working on fine-tuning the China-style health code across the city. Chances are, once the health code has been finalized, hotel quarantine will also ease.

Myanmar executes democracy activists

Myanmar executions
People protest in the wake of executions, in Yangon, Myanmar, July 25, 2022 this screen grab obtained from a social media video. Lu Nge Khit/via REUTERS

In February 2021, General Min Aung Hlaing and his junta, or group of military leaders, ousted the democratically elected government in Myanmar. Since then, General Hlaing has been condemned by the international community and received sanctions for the new government’s suppression of human rights and attacks involving ethnic minorities. He also declared a state of emergency, although he promised “free and fair” elections in the future. Human rights group Assistance Association of Political Prisoners says the regime has killed more than 2,100 people since taking power.

On Monday, Myanmar announced its first executions since 1988. This act, condemned as “depraved” by the UN, is the latest in the government’s actions to suppress its opposition. The four individuals executed were pro-democracy activists. The state news outlet said the four “gave directives, made arrangements and committed conspiracies for brutal and inhumane terror acts,” and they were sentenced to death in a closed-door trial. It is unclear when these executions took place exactly. Among the executed were activist Ko Jimmy and former lawmaker Phyo Zeya Thaw. When the sentences were announced in June, the UN, Cambodia and human rights groups pleaded for clemency on the prisoners’ behalf.

The families of those executed say they were not notified that these executions had been carried out. Human rights leaders – like the acting Asia director of Human Rights Watch, Elaine Pearson – have claimed a lack of justice and political motivations behind the imprisonment and executions. Since the military seized control, Amnesty International has recorded an “alarming” increase in the number of death sentences in the country.

The Pope apologizes in Canada

Pope Canada
Pope Francis gives a speech as he meets with First Nations, Metis and Inuit indigenous communities in Maskwacis, Alberta, Canada July 25, 2022. REUTERS/Amber Bracken

For more than a century and running to the late 20th century, Canada separated more than 150,000 Indigenous children from their parents and forced them to go to residential schools, many of which were run by the Catholic church, where they were emotionally, physically and sexually abused and punished for things like speaking their mother languages. A government survey in the 1920s showed that half the kids who were forced to attend these schools contracted tuberculosis, according to the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre.

Before now, the Vatican has resisted calls to apologize for the horrifying actions. But on Monday, Pope Francis visited the site of one of the former schools and begged for forgiveness from the survivors of the abuses. The apology came during a trip to Canada where the Pope will be interacting with different Indigenous groups, including a parish where Indigenous language is incorporated into its sermons.

To end, we’ll look into:

The fight between Musk and Brin

Musk affair
FILE PHOTO: Tesla CEO Elon Musk arrives at Manhattan federal court for a hearing on his fraud settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in New York City, U.S. April 4, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Shocker: there’s new drama surrounding Elon Musk.

See, it just came out that he reportedly had an affair with Nicole Shanahan, the wife of Google co-founder Sergey Brin. According to the Wall Street Journal, people familiar with their relationship said the Tesla CEO’s friendship with Brin frayed after the affair. It’s also thought that this was the reason Brin filed for divorce earlier this year, and he reportedly sold off all of his stock in Musk’s companies.

Brin and Shanahan were married for three years before they announced their pending divorce in June. Shanahan is an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, having worked for nonprofits that target reproductive longevity, meaning tech and medicine that allows people to have kids at later stages in their lives.

Musk denied that this affair happened or that anything changed his relationship with Brin. Other than that, lawyers from all the parties declined to comment.

Obviously, Musk is a notable businessman, but there’s also been some attention paid to his personal life in recent months because of how much of a mess it seems to be. He’s been accused of exposing himself to a flight attendant, which he denied; he reportedly had two children last year with a senior executive from another of his companies, Neuralink; and his daughter, one of his 10 children, publicly disavowed him and changed her name.

So at the end of the day, the world’s richest man (worth more than US$200 billion) seems unable to buy happiness. But hey, it looks like he might have to buy Twitter, so that’s something.

In other news …

📈Stocks, oil and Bitcoin: MSCI’s gauge of global stocks settled up 0.01% as equities waivered.

📄Some specifics:

  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 90.75 points to 31,990.04
  • The S&P 500 gained 5.21 points to 3,966.84
  • The Nasdaq Composite settled down 51.45 points to 11,782.67.
  • The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong fell 0.22% to close at 20,562.94.

🧠Factors to bear in mind:

  • The Fed is meeting later this week with an expected 75 basis point hike.
  • US GDP data is also being released later this week, which many expect to show a second quarter of decline – the unofficial signal of recession. This comes after US Treasury Secretary Yellen said a recession isn’t inevitable on Sunday.
  • Almost a third of the S&P 500 are set to report quarterly earnings this week; this includes Apple.
  • The Financial Times reported that China plans to sort US-listed Chinese companies into three categories depending on how sensitive the data the companies hold is. The really sensitive ones will be made to delist. China has denied this.

👄Some chatter:

“Right now we’re just in a holding pattern waiting for all those developments to play out. People are probably just taking some risk off ahead of the earnings. We’ve seen interest rates rise a little too, so that’s helping some of the value names like banks," said Michael O’Rourke, chief market strategist at JonesTrading in Stamford, Connecticut.

“Investors likely believe Thursday’s GDP report will show a second quarter of decline, which is the unofficial signal of recession. While the Fed will probably announce a 75-basis-point rate hike on Wednesday, they will offer a more moderate tone towards further rate increases. We see this counter-trend rally continuing in the near term," said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research.

🛢Oil prices rose as investors yo-yo-ed between worrying about supply fears as well as an economic slowdown. US crude settled up 2.11% at US$96.70 per barrel, and Brent finished at US$105.15, up 1.9% on the day.

👛Bitcoin last fell 2.16% to $22,108.16.

💔British Columbia shooting: A gunman east of Vancouver killed two people and injured two more during the early hours of the morning. The suspect has not been identified and was shot dead at the scene. He’s believed to have been targeting homeless people.

😷Singapore’s monkeypox: The WHO declared monkeypox a health emergency over the weekend. But Singapore has since come out to say that it won’t recommend mass vaccination because of how “self-limiting" the disease is. Four imported and four local cases have been detected.

🌋Japan’s very active Sakurajima: Japan’s Sakurajima volcano has erupted for three straight days. Nearby residents were told to evacuate on Sunday, but no injuries or fatalities have been reported. Sakurajima is a regularly active volcano.

💊China’s antiviral pill: China’s government medication agency has just green-lit its first homegrown COVID antiviral. The drug is called Azvudine and is from a Henan-based drug company. It’s designed for emergency use. In February, China approved Pfizer’s Paxloid. Both could help China transition to life after COVID.

🤑Discounts at Apple China: To try to rebound from the lockdowns across China, Apple announced that it would be offering four days of discounts on its topline iPhones and a number of other accessories. The discount suggests that the company has a bit of excess inventory, considering how rare promotions are.

🕺Instagram’s controversial new design: Think Instagram’s starting to resemble TikTok too much and hate it? Some of the most followed people on the social media platform couldn’t agree more. Both Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian have either posted or shared a post saying, “Make Instagram Instagram again. (stop trying to be tiktok i just want to see cute photos of my friends). Sincerely, everyone." Kim’s post has over 1.1 million likes, and there’s also now an attention-worthy petition you can sign to express your distaste of the TikTok wannabe.

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