From an English museum returning pillaged art to Africa to Apple helping you focus – Here’s your August 9 news briefing

From an English museum returning pillaged art to Africa to Apple helping you focus – Here’s your August 9 news briefing
Source: Horniman Museum and Gardens

To start off, we’re looking into:

An English museum is returning some looted Nigerian art

At the height of their colonial reign, the British invaded Nigeria. During a violent military campaign in 1897, British forces looted the famous brass plaques known as Benin Bronzes from Benin City in southern Nigeria. Currently, the British Museum has the largest collection of Benin Bronzes in the world. Nigeria has been trying to get the Bronzes returned from Europe for decades now, and Nigeria asked the Horniman Museum and Gardens in London in January for the return of the Bronzes.

Yesterday, the Horniman announced plans to hand over 72 artifacts, including 12 Benin Bronzes, to the Nigerian government. Nigeria may also loan some of the objects back to the Horniman for display. With this move, the Horniman joins Germany, Aberdeen University and others in giving back Nigerian artifacts stolen during colonialism. But what about the British Museum? It’s still defending its hold on similar objects, referencing the British Museum Act of 1963, which mostly prevents it from permanently removing objects from its collections, and the National Heritage Act of 1983.

Hong Kong cuts down arrival quarantine

Hong Kong quarantine
FILE PHOTO: Travellers queue up for shuttle bus to quarantine hotels at the Hong Kong International Airport, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Hong Kong, China, August 1, 2022. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Along with mainland China, Hong Kong is one of the few places still requiring a COVID quarantine for new arrivals. At one point, Hong Kong had a 21-day quarantine period. But, the strict rules really hurt the city’s economy, leading to an exodus of expats and rising pressure from the business community.

Yesterday, authorities announced the mandatory hotel quarantine for travelers would be cut down from seven days to three days starting August 12. After three days, the individual’s health will be monitored for another four days. During these four days, travelers will have loosely restricted movement based on the health code system, only unable to enter high-risk places. They’ll also have to regularly test for COVID and must stay in isolation if positive. This is the shortest quarantine that Hong Kong has had since the beginning of the pandemic. While this move is welcomed by Hong Kong’s business owners and economic analysts, some think authorities should go even further and that Hong Kong won’t financially recover until there’s no travel quarantine at all.

Nuclear plant caught in Russo-Ukrainian crossfire

Russia nuclear
FILE PHOTO: A view shows the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict outside the Russian-controlled city of Enerhodar in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine August 4, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

Back in March, pretty early into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russia took control of a city called Zaporizhzhya, which is also home to a nuclear power plant. At the time, the plant was struck, but luckily there was no damage to the nuclear reactor. Russia also raised global nuclear war fears at the time by putting its nuclear forces on high alert at the start of the invasion. This was particularly worrying considering Russia’s policy on using nuclear weapons if the state is “under threat.”

Now, Ukraine is trying to take back some of that territory, and it’s accusing Russia of turning the nuclear plant into a military base. This is a volatile situation because any attack on the plant could result in a nuclear accident. Ukraine already has a history of that kind of thing, being the home of the Chernobyl disaster that happened in the 80s.

Ukraine also accused Russia of causing problems at the plant, saying there was a recent incident that took two workers to the hospital with shrapnel injuries and that three radiation sensors had been damaged, adding, “timely detection and response in case of aggravation of the radiation situation or leakage of radiation from spent nuclear fuel casks are currently impossible.”

So far, after several shelling incidents near the plant in the last week, both countries are pinning responsibility for the attacks on each other. On Monday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Ukraine was making the situation more dangerous every day, accusing it of “taking Europe hostage.”

To end, we’ll look into:

Apple’s Focus mode will be a win, eventually

Source: Apple

When iOS 15 came out, Apple released a new mode called Focus, designed so you can customize your phone setup for different contexts. For example, you’d be able to set a time so that you don’t get work calls after the workday is done or receive any email alerts during your quiet morning time.

It’s a tricky balance to strike, though – it’s a lot better to have on hand all the emails or messages you don’t want than to miss out on the one you really need. If there’s some kind of emergency, for example, Focus may filter that out, which isn’t exactly ideal.

The flip side of this is that Focus doesn’t let you restrict things quite as much as you may want. And honestly, it can just be a hassle to set up.

The good news is that Apple is working on it, and a new and improved version of Focus is expected to be in the iOS 16 update coming out this fall. The hope is that one day we can have different Focus modes for work and home but also for things like driving or vacation days. Ideally, these different modes could automatically change statuses in apps, display things differently on your phone according to the situation and even block access to those addictive apps you don’t want to be distracted with while you’re relaxing. And the hope is that day comes sooner rather than later.

In other news …

📈Stocks: MSCI’s gauge of stocks worldwide gained 0.24%.

📰Some specifics:

  • Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.09% to 32,832.54.
  • S&P 500 dropped 0.12% to 4,140.06.
  • Nasdaq Composite fell 0.10% to 12,644.46.
  • Hang Seng Index dropped to 20,045.77, a loss of 0.77%.

🧠Some quick factors to bear in mind:

  • Recently, the US Fed announced an interest hike of 0.75% to help fight soaring inflation rates. Investors are bracing for another potential hike coming in September.
  • Last week, the US published reports showing a strong job market, making many anxious about the consumer prices report due on Wednesday.
  • In response, oil prices and treasury yields rose. This is about to be a big week for technology earnings reports, which could explain the draggy shape of the Nasdaq.
  • Hong Kong’s stocks took a hit over fresh COVID curbs in China and US-China relations growing more tense over Taiwan.

👄Some comments and chatter:

“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," Michael O’Rourke, chief market strategist at JonesTrading in Stamford, Connecticut, told Reuters.

“There are certainly things that have improved after the past month that would justify, in our view, a move higher, which we have certainly seen … However, a lot has to go right to be able to say that the coast is clear," said Angelo Kourkafas, investment strategist at Edward Jones.

🛢Oil: US crude was up almost 2% at US$90.76 a barrel, and Brent crude settled up around 1.8% at US$96.65 a barrel.

👛Bitcoin: Bitcoin was up 2.55% at US$23,767.70.

💣Russia taking hits in Ukraine: The Pentagon reported that Russia has seen as many as 80,000 casualties since its invasion of Ukraine began. And today, the US has announced another US$1 billion in security aid for Ukraine.

😲Softbank sombre: Softbank’s head Masayoshi Son, or just Masa, delivered some dark results, reporting a US$17.3 billion loss in its Vision Fund with companies it invested in, like DoorDash, marked down. Softbank also reported a US$6.1 billion foreign exchange loss because of the weaker yen.

😠China and Taiwan tensions: After Pelosi’s visit, China started doing military drills around the island. These were meant to conclude on Sunday, but since then, state media has vaguely said that the drills have been extended. The Taiwanese defense ministry has said it detected warships and planes around the island, and the Chinese army has also said that it’s doing some military training in the “space near Taiwan Island." On Monday, Biden said that he was “concerned" but added, “I don’t think they’re going to do anything more."

🎮Netflix’s not-so-exciting games: Did you know Netflix had games? Neither did we. But it turns out that 99% of Netflix users don’t gravitate toward that section of the streaming platform. The games section averages 1.7 million daily users, while Netflix has a whopping 221 million subscribers globally.

Iran nuclear deal in sight: The EU has a final draft of a nuclear deal ready to go as soon as Iran and the US agree on it. The final draft determines steps the countries must make to return to the original 2015 deal, which rolled back the US and European sanctions against Iran if Iran limits its nuclear program and allows inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

💔RIP Olivia Newton-John: Best known for her role as Sandy in “Grease,” Olivia Newton-John “passed away peacefully” from cancer at her ranch in California, according to her husband and her manager.

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