From a new study on the dangers of nuclear war to Mariah Carey’s battle for the “Queen of Christmas" throne – Here’s your August 17 news briefing

From a new study on the dangers of nuclear war to Mariah Carey’s battle for the “Queen of Christmas" throne – Here’s your August 17 news briefing
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To start off, we’re looking into:

Nuclear conflict could kill billions

In total, about 13,000 nuclear warheads worldwide are still in use. The US, Russia and China are among the top five countries with the most nuclear weapons. So, as tensions continue rising between China and the US, and also between the US and Russia, fears of nuclear warfare are rekindling.

In a new international study led by scientists at Rutgers University, researchers calculated the potential extent of famine resulting from specific nuclear situations. According to the study, a conflict involving less than 3% of the world’s nuclear stockpiles could kill a third of the world’s population within two years. A nuclear exchange between Russia and the US would kill around three-quarters of the planet’s population in the same amount of time. This is because nuclear detonation would spark firestorms, blocking the sun and causing a cooler climate, affecting crop yield and wildlife.

Ex-Myanmar leader sentenced to 6 more years

FILE PHOTO: Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi attends the joint news conference of the Japan-Mekong Summit Meeting at the Akasaka Palace State Guest House in Tokyo, Japan October 9, 2018. Franck Robichon/Pool via Reuters

After Myanmar’s democratic government was ousted in February 2021 by a military junta, former leader Aung San Suu Kyi was immediately detained. She was charged with crimes ranging from sedition to corruption and is already serving an 11-year prison sentence. Charges against her are widely seen as a way for the current government to back up its authority and keep her out of politics.

Yesterday, Suu Kyi was sentenced to another six years in prison on top of what she’s already serving. It’s impossible to know exactly what happened during the trial because it was held behind closed doors and her lawyers are under a gag order. Brought forward for four different corruption cases, she was charged with abusing her authority to lease public lands and embezzle charity donations. But Suu Kyi has denied all the charges and will probably appeal the decision. Internationally, sanctions have been imposed on Myanmar’s military government, and Suu Kyi’s trials have been condemned.

Syrians found stranded on an island

Syrian refugees
Selfie taken by the refugees stranded on an island near Turkey | Photo Credit: Twitter/@g_christides

Thirty-eight Syrian migrants were found stranded on a tiny island along the border between Turkey and Greece. They’d been on the island for about a month, and part of why they were there for so long was because Turkey and Greece were debating who should be responsible for taking them in. Based on the initially reported coordinates, Greek authorities said they were in Turkish territory. Those coordinates were actually about 4 kilometers (2.4 miles) away from where they were eventually found.

The bigger picture here is that Europe has been dealing with an immigration crisis. Thousands of migrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa try to cross illegally into Greece from Turkey every year, seeking asylum in Europe and, hopefully, a better life. But, the EU (plus a few non-EU countries in Europe) has a law called the Dublin Regulation, which says that, typically, migrants seeking asylum should be processed in the country they land in when they enter Europe. The problem here is that this burden tends to fall the hardest on countries closer to where the migrants are coming from with disproportionate responsibility.

To end, we’ll look into:

Can you help find a better name for monkeypox?

You might have noticed that virus names are notoriously bad. For example, SARS-CoV-2 (the official name for COVID) is long and confusing and just reminds people of the totally different version of SARS that showed up in the early 2000s. COVID-19 was a little better, except that a whole bunch of people thought it was the 19th version of COVID. (Spoiler: it wasn’t.) And we’re all painfully aware of how scary all the different variants sound.

But there’s one virus name that pretty much everyone can agree is really, really bad – monkeypox.

See, there are a few problems with the term monkeypox. For one, it was named before standardized naming practices were adopted, when viruses were often named after the region or circumstances they were discovered in. But that practice has since been changed because it can encourage discrimination against people from certain regions.

Monkeypox was named in 1958 after it was initially found in monkeys used for research in Denmark. And now, the virus is often associated with central and western Africa since that’s where its human transmission was first discovered.

But, there are serious concerns about the misconceptions and stigmas the name creates. For one, monkeypox isn’t exclusively found in monkeys but rather a number of animals and most frequently in rodents. Some have also pointed out the name could potentially trigger traumatic feelings associated with “the painful and racist history" of communities of color.

All in all, there’s so much consensus about how much the name sucks that the WHO is working on renaming it, and they want your help. The organization is allowing people to submit ideas for a new name for the virus going forward and is inviting anyone to submit an idea.

So, if you want to give monkeypox-naming a shot, click the link to the story for the online portal to submit your idea!

In other news …

📈Stocks: MSCI’s global gauge of stocks rose by 0.08% to 2,844.42.

📰Some specifics:

  • S&P 500 is up 0.19% at 4,305.20 .
  • Nasdaq dropped 0.19% to 13,102.55.
  • The Dow Jones rose to 34,152.01, up 0.71%.
  • Hang Seng Index fell 1.05% to 19,830.52.

🧠Some quick factors to bear in mind:

  • Recession worries are lingering. Later today, the Fed’s July minutes will be released, giving investors a better idea of future interest rates.
  • Recent earnings reports from retailers Walmart and Home Depot have risen 8% and 6.5%, respectively, topping analyst expectations and showing that consumer spending in the US is still strong.
  • As China continues to fight COVID, its post-pandemic economic growth remains weak. Leaders in China have also begun to downplay the GDP growth target because of disappointing retail, output and investment numbers, the persisting housing slump and strict zero-COVID policies. Policymakers have not mentioned the nation’s 5.5% GDP target at recent meetings, and analysts suggest this means the government may expect to fall short of its goals.
  • Chinese food delivery giant Meituan’s stocks dropped after Reuters published a report saying Tencent was cutting its stake in the platform to adhere to regulator demands, suggesting the regulatory crackdown is still brewing in the backdrop.

👄Some comments and chatter:

“The equity market drawdown has been primarily rates led, earnings weakness is next. A near-term bear market rally is possible as Fed rate expectations settle and inflation peaks. However, with margin pressures growing and demand weakening, earnings concerns are mounting so a sustained rebound is unlikely," says Seema Shah, chief global strategist at Principal Global Investors.

“China’s post-pandemic economic recovery still leads the world, but this advantage could diminish if the country persists with the zero-COVID strategy," said Preston Caldwell, chairman of the China economics committee at Morningstar in Chicago.

🛢Oil: Brent crude futures fell 2.9% to US$92.84 a barrel, and West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI) decreased 3.2%, settling at US$86.53 a barrel. Oil prices are dropping in trading over the uncertainty over global crude demand.

👛Bitcoin: Bitcoin is down 0.94%, currently at US$23,870.10.

🚫Israel rejects hunger strike: Monday, an Israel military court denied an appeal for the release of a Palestinian prisoner, Khalil Awawdeh. Awawdeh has been on a hunger strike for over 165 days, protesting being held without charge or trial, and his health is deteriorating.

😤Odinga opposes Ruto’s win in Kenya: After nearly a week of counting ballots, Kenya announced William Ruto was the winner of its recent presidential election. Now, running opponent Raila Odinga is denying those results are valid, saying they go against the constitution. This may need to be settled in court…

🛳Chinese military ship docks in Sri Lanka: After a delay caused by India’s protests against it, the Chinese military research ship Yuan Wang 5 has docked in Sri Lanka. India fears the port it’s docked at could be used as a Chinese military base.

Estonia’s monument removal: Estonia regained its independence after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Now, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the country’s government has decided to remove Soviet-era monuments from public areas to avoid “mobilizing more hostility in society.”

🐅Tasmanian tiger back from the dead: A Dallas-based genetics company called Colossal Biosciences has announced it’s been working on bringing the Australian Tasmanian tiger back from extinction. It disappeared about 2,000 years ago, and while people here and there have claimed they’ve spotted them around, there has been no concrete evidence.

🆓Free tampons in Scotland: As part of a campaign on ending period poverty (when you can’t access sanitary products because of your financial situation), Scotland is now offering free period products to people who need them. They can be found in public spaces like community centers, pharmacies and youth clubs.

🎄The Queen of Christmas is … not the Queen of Christmas? So, Mariah Carey is trying to file a trademark, declaring herself the “Queen of Christmas.” But, a couple of artists have come out to say that she can’t take the title and that they have a claim to it or were the Queen before Carey.

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