From Russia’s next moves in Ukraine to a Beyond Meat exec’s taste for … human flesh? – Here’s your September 21 news briefing

From Russia’s next moves in Ukraine to a Beyond Meat exec’s taste for … human flesh? – Here’s your September 21 news briefing
Vehicles drive past advertising boards, including panels displaying pro-Russian slogans, in a street in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict in Luhansk, Ukraine September 20, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

To start off, we’re looking into:

Russia plans to annex parts of Ukraine

The war in Ukraine has turned tides recently, with Ukraine taking back major territory in the Kharkiv region from Russian forces. And, with Russia seeming to run out of wartime supplies like weapons, hopes were rising that the seven-month war could be moving toward an end.

But it looks like Russia has a new strategy – annexing parts of Ukraine. Russian-backed officials across 15% of Ukrainian territory have requested referendums to join Russia within the same 24 hours. So, this seems like a planned campaign, as well as a direct challenge to the West.

When will these referendums take place? Well, in just a few days, from September 23-27. There are concerns that Russia will stage sham votes in these elections. Ukraine has denounced the elections as illegal, and it’s unlikely that they’ll be recognized by most of the international community. The move could potentially give Putin cause to use nuclear weapons to defend the areas once they are considered Russian territory.

Protests erupt in Iran after woman dies

FILE PHOTO: An undated picture obtained from social media shows Mahsa Amini. IranWire/via REUTERS/File Photo

In Iran last week, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died after being arrested. Stopped by authorities for having “unsuitable attire," Amini was taken to the station by Iran’s morality police for “re-education." In an interview, Amini’s brother said he was told she’d suffered a random heart attack or a stroke, falling into a coma. Now, she’s dead. Iranian police claim that her death was an “unfortunate incident" and denied that she was harmed in custody.

Now, Amini’s death has sparked international concern. On Monday, an aide to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei visited Amini’s family to offer condolences in an attempt at damage control. But yesterday, a UN official demanded an independent probe into the death of Amini.

And, all over Iran, demonstrations have erupted in opposition to authorities. Demonstrators have been burning headscarves and shouting slogans against the government. In the Kurdish region, three people were allegedly killed on Monday after forces opened fire, but Iran hasn’t yet confirmed any deaths.

Beyond Meat exec bites a guy’s nose

You’ve probably heard about Beyond Meat, a company that specializes in creating plant-based imitation meat products.

And you can be sure the company isn’t too pushy about being plant-based since, on Saturday, its COO Douglas Ramsey was arrested because he literally bit another dude’s nose.

To be clear, it doesn’t sound like Ramsey had a cannibalistic craving he needed to satisfy. Rather, he got into a fight with someone after an American football game in Arkansas. He reportedly got mad after a Subaru bumped the front tire of his SUV, so he punched through the person’s back window and bit into his nose, ripping into the flesh. Geez.

Ramsey was let out on bail on Sunday but is being charged with third-degree battery and making terroristic threats. It isn’t clear yet if Beyond Meat is cutting ties with him, but the company has said he is suspended effective immediately. Some reports say the company is getting ready to launch a new kind of meat called “Sports Fan Sniffer.” (That last part is a joke, don’t come for us.)

To end, we’ll look into:

Is going off the grid the way of the future?

Puerto Rico just got hit by a huge hurricane, which knocked power out across the island and left most of its more than 3 million residents in a blackout. But for a select few buildings, which were outfitted with either solar panels or an emergency generator, the blackout meant needing to change energy sources temporarily rather than deal without it altogether.

This kind of thing is called a microgrid, and it can be as small as a single house or unit or as big as a campus or complex of buildings. But the idea is that it can be separated from the larger power grid at will and can operate independently if needed.

Puerto Rico isn’t the only place where this is a thing. Last year, when Texas went through a winter storm, the University of Texas Austin campus was able to keep the lights on because of its microgrid despite blackouts throughout the city. In the UK, there are some places where these island-like microgrids have popped up (although there are some regulatory hoops they need to jump through, too, which is a different convo). And individuals are even doing it with their own homes, like Katie Erickson and Greg Mooney, who are documenting their journey of building a home that’s totally off the grid on YouTube.

The idea isn’t just for the tinfoil-hat folks. See, because climate change is causing both the frequency and intensity of natural disasters to increase, people are worried about what they will do if the power goes out. People who go off the grid with their own microgrid don’t have to worry about it.

Plus, with the rising energy prices because of the war in Ukraine, most people aren’t opposed to putting solar panels on their roofs for some much-needed savings.

So ultimately, while going off the power grid sounds a little crazy at first, it might just be the way of the future.

In other news …

📉Stocks: MSCI’s global gauge of stocks is down 1.03% to 2554.02.

📰Some specifics:

  • S&P 500 fell 1.13% to 3,855.93.
  • Nasdaq Composite slipped 0.95% to 11,425.05.
  • Dow Jones is down 1.01% to 30,706.23.
  • Hang Seng Index went up 1.16% to 18,781.42.

🧠Some quick factors to bear in mind:

  • Yesterday, the Fed began its two-day policy meeting, with investors bracing for a 0.75 percentage point rate hike on Wednesday. Everyone is keeping an eye on this meeting to see how much higher the rates could get after this hike.
  • For example, the yield on the 2-year Treasury note jumped up to 3.99%, its highest level since 2007, as investors weigh the Fed’s next moves.
  • But, the US Commerce Department’s August housing market data was unexpectedly high, even though building permits dropped by the most since April 2020 as supply chain bottlenecks and aggressive rate hikes weakened the market.
  • Meanwhile, in China, the central bank’s benchmark lending rates stayed unchanged, as expected. But, next month’s CCP congress may not lend a hand to equity markets, with COVID restrictions and a struggling property market adding to pressure on the economy, according to Goldman Sachs.

👄Some comments and chatter:

  • “Investors have pretty well digested the 75-basis-point hike tomorrow but perhaps there’s some concern that the rhetoric at the press conference could be still extremely hawkish,” Cresset Capital’s CIO Jack Ablin said.
  • “The potential policy status quo continues to suggest that sectors and stocks that are more favorably exposed to policy accommodation” should outperform in China, Goldman Sachs strategists said.

🛢Oil: Oil prices eased as the dollar stayed strong, and investors prepared for more Fed rate hikes to fight inflation. Brent crude futures settled down 1.5% to US$90.62 a barrel, while US West Texas Intermediate crude ended at US$84.45.

👛Bitcoin: At the time of writing, Bitcoin was down 3.47%, settling at US$18,906.60.

🌎7.6 magnitude earthquake hits Mexico: On Monday, a magnitude 7.6 earthquake tore through Mexico’s central Pacific coast, resulting in at least one casualty. It hit on the anniversary of two earlier devastating earthquakes.

📜China’s anti-secession law: The Chinese ministry says that it may use an anti-secession law to reunify with Taiwan. If tensions keep escalating between the two, the law could be invoked.

🌀Hurricane Fiona continues rampage: After devastating Puerto Rico, Hurricane Fiona has traveled over to Turks and Caicos. The storm has killed five people in the Caribbean so far and caused flooding, blackouts and destruction in its wake.

🔍Investigation launched over US migrant flights: A Texas official has launched a criminal investigation over flights chartered for Florida Gov. Ron Desantis. Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar and his colleagues are investigating the flights that brought dozens of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. Salazar says it seems evident that asylum-seekers were “lured under false pretenses.”

China’s record spending on Russian energy: In August, China’s spending on Russian energy hit US$8.3 billion, reaching a new record. China is the top importer of energy products and is increasing its reliance on Russia. Since Russia invaded Ukraine, China has brought in nearly US$44 billion worth of these products.

Jack Dorsey deposed in Twitter suit: Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s co-founder and former CEO, has been deposed for questioning in the current conflict between Twitter and Elon Musk. Dorsey was already subpoenaed by Musk’s legal team this summer.

💼Hong Kong to cut hotel quarantine: Hong Kong is seeking to cut mandatory hotel quarantines altogether. Mainland officials have signaled approval, so Hong Kong will enforce seven days of home health monitoring for those entering the city instead of hotel quarantines.

👩‍⚖️Adnan Syed’s murder conviction overturned: Fans of the first season of the acclaimed podcast “Serial” are rejoicing because Adnan Syed, who was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his ex-girlfriend back in 1999, has officially had his conviction overturned. He was released from prison on Monday.

🐜Scientists estimate the global number of ants … for some reason: A new study estimates that there are about 20 quadrillion ants on the planet at any given time. This is the highest viable estimate ever made. Okay, thanks, Science.