From the US hosting Pacific Island countries to NASA making oxygen on Mars – Here’s your September 5 news briefing

From the US hosting Pacific Island countries to NASA making oxygen on Mars – Here’s your September 5 news briefing
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden walks from the Oval Office to Marine One for a trip to Pennsylvania, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., August 30, 2022. REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger/File Photo

To start off, we’re looking into:

Biden will host a Pacific Island Summit

The South Pacific region isn’t usually on the radar of Western leaders. But as China has grown closer to the region, signing a security deal with the Solomon Islands back in April, worry started to loom in the West. In fact, the US and Australia sent officials to the region to try to convince the Islands to scrap the deal, but they failed. For the West, the concern is that China can use the deal to increase its military influence in the region, something that the tiny country’s leader denies and says he finds “very insulting.”

So since then, the US has tried to strengthen its ties in the region. In July, Vice President Kamala Harris announced new embassies in Tonga, Kiribati and the Solomon Islands, plus US$900,000 in funding. And Biden announced that it would host its first-ever US- Pacific Island Country Summit in Washington later this month, where leaders from the Pacific Islands will talk about topics like climate change and economy and recovery.

Meet the new Starbucks CEO

Starbucks CEO

The coffee chain Starbucks is getting a new CEO. Laxman Narasimhan is stepping in this October to take over for the company’s interim CEO, Howard Schultz, by next April. This is Schultz’s third time on as CEO; every time he’s left the company in the past, the Starbucks stock has suffered by double-digits. Schultz will continue advising the company and stay on the board.

But, Starbucks could be in good hands. And it seems investors are confident, as Starbucks stock fell less than 1% in extended trading following the announcement. As former CEO of consumer goods company Reckitt Benckiser, Narasimhan inherited a bit of a mess. He set about restructuring the company to save it, selling off its Chinese baby formula business for US$2.2 billion and oversaw growth in the bulk of its portfolio and company expansion.

Plus, he could be a great public face for the company, helping sponsor the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow and publicly pushing for social equality.

Qatar will allow beer at the World Cup

Qatar World Cup
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football – FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Stadium Preview – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan, Qatar – September 1, 2022 General view inside the stadium ahead of the World Cup REUTERS/Mohammed Dabbous

If you’re a big football fan, you probably already know that the FIFA World Cup is in Qatar this November. Until recently, though, there’s been a question about whether or not spectators will be allowed to enjoy the typical ice-cold alcoholic beverages (namely, beer) they usually drink during the World Cup.

This is because Qatar is a majority Muslim country, and since alcohol is prohibited by the majority of Muslims, the country has strict rules about what kinds of alcohol can be consumed and where. But the organizers of the event just came out and said that they were going to allow beer sales.

This kind of decision is part of the deal when a country bids to host something like the World Cup. See, FIFA has a bunch of sponsors, one of the biggest being Budweiser. So on its end, its sponsors must get the sales they expect from this kind of event. Qatar isn’t the first country to change its rules for the World Cup, though – back when Brazil hosted the Cup, it changed its rules to allow alcohol sales at sports venues, which isn’t typically allowed at football games in the country.

To end, we’ll look into:

Why NASA making oxygen on Mars is a huge deal

Us humans have been dreaming about making it to the planet Mars for pretty much as long as we’ve been able to see the thing. But now, we’re getting pretty close to actually being able to do that, and depending on who you listen to, it might even happen in the next 15 years.

But deciding what to pack for your trip to Mars is no easy task. Sure, you might bring along all nine seasons of “The Office” and a stuffed animal to watch it with, but far more critical than Mr. Snugglekins is, well, the oxygen you’ll need to stay alive.

Fortunately, the good folks at NASA and MIT have been working on a solution so that astronauts won’t have to bring too much oxygen to the planet with them, which could be really expensive. How does that work? Well, keeping in mind that Mars’ atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide, the basic idea is you separate the carbon atom from the oxygen atoms, and voila, you have the stuff we breathe.

And a recent study published by researchers at MIT showed that the project they worked on with NASA, called the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (aka MOXIE), actually works. The version they tested out was about the size of a toaster, and it went along to Mars with the Perseverance rover that landed on the red planet last year.

The little machine produced about six grams of oxygen an hour, which is the same output as a small tree. If you’re doing the math, that’s not enough to sustain a human, but the idea was really a proof of concept and will be scaled up going forward.

This is a huge deal, though. It means that space agencies can save a bunch of weight by not carrying all that equipment and oxygen over. And keep in mind that while oxygen is good for breathing, it’s also used in rocket fuel, so this also means saving weight from the gas we won’t have to send over.

Basically, they won’t have to kick Mr. Snugglekins off the rocket because there’s no space, and that’s what matters.

In other news …

😢Venezuela’s refugee crisis: More than 6 million refugees have fled Venezuela because of bad conditions, matching the number of those displaced in Ukraine and surpassing Syrian refugees, says the UN. But, the international response isn’t the same, with support for Ukraine being nearly five times the amount of response the Venezuelan crisis has gotten.

🛢Russian oil concerns: New issues with the European oil supply have sprung up as Russia said that its main gas pipeline to Europe wouldn’t reopen as planned. On Friday, it announced that the Nord Stream 1 pipeline might be closed indefinitely when it was initially only expected to be closed for three days. Russia also says it won’t export oil to countries participating in the G7’s proposed price cap.

🚌Israelis wounded in bus attack: Yesterday, a bus of Israeli soldiers was shot up in the West Bank. At least six soldiers and the bus driver were wounded by two suspected Palestinian gunmen. This was only days after the Israeli army killed two Palestinians in raids in the West Bank.

💸Pakistan’s climate reparations proposal: Pakistan is still suffering from insane flooding, which has killed around 1300 of its residents due to freak monsoons. Now, Pakistan’s climate minister is accusing rich polluting countries of being mostly to blame for climate change and calling them out for breaking promises related to the climate crisis. She says reparations are long overdue and necessary to help vulnerable countries adapt to the consequences of climate change.

💼Chinese legislator to visit Russia: China’s top legislator Li Zhanshu is set to attend the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia this week. He’ll be the most senior Chinese official to visit Russia since the invasion of Ukraine this past February.

📱What’s coming in the iPhone 14 launch: Apple is hosting a major launch for its iPhone 14, Apple Watch Pro and new AirPods in just three days. Based on trademark filings, we can look forward to seeing bigger devices (no mini version of the iPhone 14) and perks with the Pro models like camera hardware changes, a faster A16 chip, an always-on display and a 48-megapixel rear wide-angle camera system.

😷Hong Kong is united in the COVID fight: This weekend, Hong Kong’s Health Secretary Lo Chung-mau said that officials are united in the city’s fight against COVID. He dismissed rumors that there is internal debate over the current hotel quarantine.

🏦Three arrested for London skyscraper climbing: Three people were arrested yesterday morning when two scaled the Shard, the UK’s tallest building. Police, firefighters and onlookers watched on from the base of the building, eventually arresting one man for trespassing and the other two for causing a public nuisance. But it seems like most people were rooting for the climbers.

🐩Doggy Parton: Dolly Parton has launched a pet apparel line complete with wigs … for dogs. And part of the proceeds is going to support Willa B. Farms, a rescue organization for animals in need of homes.