From Russia possibly pulling out of the ISS to Joe Biden’s sweet Zoom setup – Here’s your July 27 news briefing

From Russia possibly pulling out of the ISS to Joe Biden’s sweet Zoom setup – Here’s your July 27 news briefing
Source: Twitter

To start off, we’re looking into:

Japan’s first death sentence this year

Japan death penalty

Japan is one of the few developed nations left that still have the death penalty in place. Last year, the country hanged three people, and there are currently a little over 100 people on death row. Now, this all matters because in 2008, Tomohiro Kato, who was 25 years old at the time, drove a truck into a lunchtime crowd in the bustling Tokyo district of Akihabara and killed three people, an act that he documented online. He then went on to stab pedestrians, killing four people and injuring eight others. He was arrested at the scene.

During his trial, Kato admitted to the murders, saying that online bullying motivated him. He also reportedly expressed remorse while awaiting trial. Even though Kato was born into a wealthy family and graduated from a top high school, he failed his university entrance exams and found it difficult to keep a job. Prosecutors on his case also said that Kato’s confidence was pretty hurt after a woman he met online stopped contacting him. Now, eight years after Kato was sentenced to death, the Japanese government confirmed that he had been hanged, but they clarified it had nothing to do with Shinzo Abe’s recent shooting.

EU agrees on gas-cut target

Russia gas EU
FILE PHOTO: Pipes at the landfall facilities of the ‘Nord Stream 1’ gas pipeline are pictured in Lubmin, Germany, March 8, 2022. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke//File Photo

Last year, Russia supplied 40% of the EU’s total gas, but with the war raging on between Russia and Ukraine, Ukraine is now saying that Russia is waging a “gas war” against the EU. This is because on Monday, the state-owned Russian energy firm Gazprom, which owns key gas pipelines that supply gas into the EU region, is reducing gas flows into Germany by half, just days after resuming gas flow to the country. This comes after a maintenance period where the supply was already reduced.

Gazprom has already cut gas flow completely to Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands and Poland for not paying the Kremlin for gas in rubles. As winter approaches in Europe, artificial gas shortages from Russia would threaten power generation.

Now, the EU has approved a plan to curb its gas demand to prepare for future gas supply reductions from Russia. EU energy ministers agreed for all member states to voluntarily cut gas consumption by 15% from August of this year through March of 2023, and how these countries do this is up to them. But if member states fail to reach the target of this cut by mid-September, then the EU could make it mandatory. The only country opposed to the deal was Hungary. This cut would provide the energy needed for an average winter, but if it becomes unusually harsh, more measures may need to be taken.

Russia may leave the ISS

Russia ISS
FILE PHOTO: The International Space Station (ISS) photographed by Expedition 56 crew members from a Soyuz spacecraft after undocking, October 4, 2018. NASA/Roscosmos/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

Once upon a time, having the tech to be in space was a competition between Russia and the US. But in the 70s, as the race to the moon was getting smaller in the rearview mirror, American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts began to work together. By the 90s, the two countries built the International Space Station (ISS) together.

But that cooperation may be coming to an end, as the new head of Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, said that Russia would stop putting astronauts up in the ISS after its commitment ends in 2024. After that point, Roscosmos head Yuri Borisov said that the organization would turn toward an independent station.

The move is likely in response to escalating tensions between Russia and the US after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but it also means that it throws a wrench in the final years of the space station’s usage, as NASA plans to operate it through 2030. US officials said they’d seen the public statements, but they haven’t yet formally received notice from Russia that this was its course of action.

To end, we’ll look into:

What’s Joe Biden’s Zoom setup like?

What does your video-call setup look like right now? Maybe it’s just your laptop, propped up by a couple of books. Maybe you splurged at some point and bought a webcam, a microphone or both. If you’re really fancy, you might even have a ring light or some sound dampening in your room.

Now imagine what that setup would look like if you were the leader of the free world. It kind of blows yours out of the water.

If you didn’t hear, President Biden recently got COVID, so he’s been doing more telework than usual lately. And in some photos, you can see his remote work setup, and it’s pretty awesome. He’s got something called a Neat Board, which is kind of like a big touchscreen TV with a whiteboard function, a built-in camera and microphone, and it’s perfect for video conferencing from, well, the Oval Office.

It also retails for a hefty chunk of change – nearly US$6,000. Oh, and that rollable stand Biden uses with the board? That’s another almost US$1,500, according to prices listed on the company’s website.

At the end of the day, though, Biden’s best move may have little to do with his fancy tech – it’s the fact that he turns his self-view off. This is probably something we can all learn from since there’s pretty much no way that staring at yourself eight hours a day is good for our mental health.

In other news …

📉Stocks: MSCI’s gauge of stocks around the world shed 0.92%.

📃Some specifics:

  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 228.50 points, or 0.71%, to 31,761.54.
  • The S&P 500 retreated by 1.15% to 3,921.05.
  • The Nasdaq Composite declined about 1.87% to 11,562.57.
  • Hang Seng was up 1.67% to close at 20,905.88.

🧠Quick factors to bear in mind:

  • Walmart, which is sort of seen as a litmus test for the health of US consumers, cut its profit estimates because of inflation and reduced consumer spending, which added to current economic worries.
  • Shopify announced it was laying off 10% of its global workforce.
  • Microsoft and Alphabet’s shares were both up. While Microsoft didn’t meet expectations, it posted a rosy forecast for the next quarter. Although Alphabet didn’t meet expectations, it did much better than many thought it would after rival Snap posted disappointing results.
  • On Tuesday, the Fed started its two-day policy meeting. Investors and analysts are expecting a 75 basis point hike.
  • After heavyweight Alibaba said it would apply for a primary listing in Hong Kong, shares jumped 4.82%. We’ll go more into this later.

👄Some chatter:

“The most important thing from the Walmart announcement is how inflation is changing what people buy. Food now makes up a bigger share of individuals’ budgets, but overall spending still generally remains intact,” said Robert Cantwell, portfolio manager at Upholdings. “

On Alibaba: “The timing may be right for investor interest as it aligns with the fading of the tech regulatory crackdown. More broadly, Alibaba is paving a path for US ADRs to move away from US exchanges, introduce domestic capital, and to be less reliant on global foreign investors,” said Marvin Chen, a strategist at Bloomberg Intelligence.

🛢Oil: Prices were up earlier after news broke that Russia was limiting gas supply to Europe. But with investors worried about consumer confidence and the US releasing another 20 million barrels from their oil stockpile, US crude was down 1.78% at US$94.98 per barrel, and Brent down 0.71% at US$104.40.

👛Bitcoin: Bitcoin fell 1.86% to US$20,910.08.

💔Gang violence in Haiti: Since the assassination of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse, gang violence has shot up. Now, UN reports say over 200 people have been killed across 10 days as two gang groups called G9 and G-Pèp try and occupy the Cité Soleil neighbourhood.

📊Alibaba in Hong Kong: The US and China have been butting heads for two decades about the US wanting to access and inspect Chinese companies’ audited work papers and reports. If the two don’t reach a deal by 2024, it could lead to many US-listed Chinese companies being kicked out of US stock exchanges. On Tuesday, Alibaba announced that it aimed to add a primary listing in Hong Kong to its New York presence to target mainland investors. This could pave the way for fellow US-listed Chinese companies to follow suit, making Hong Kong an alternative location if they get delisted in the US.

📜National security law learning: The University of Hong Kong will require students to study the national security law in order to graduate. This online course won’t offer any credits and will be implemented from the coming school year onward.

Ronaldo’s future: Cristiano Ronaldo has flown back to Manchester and is due to meet with Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag to talk about his future at the club. He wants the club to let him leave this summer and has missed the pre-season tour for personal reasons. However, ten Hag has previously said that Ronaldo is “not for sale.”

🤖“This is of course bad”: According to Russian state media outlets, during the Moscow Open, a chess-playing robot was a bit taken aback by the fast responses and reactions of a 7-year-old kid and grabbed the kid’s hand and broke his finger. When the president of the nation’s chess club reported this, he goes, “The robot broke the child’s finger. This is of course bad.”

🤐Elon Musk will keep his head down: After reports of having an affair with Google’s Sergey Brin’s now ex-wife – Elon has said he’ll keep his head down to focus on the betterment of humanity.

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