From the anti-war protests in Russia to new, snazzy pics of Neptune – Here’s your September 23 news briefing

From the anti-war protests in Russia to new, snazzy pics of Neptune – Here’s your September 23 news briefing
Russian police officers detain a person during an unsanctioned rally, after opposition activists called for street protests against the mobilisation of reservists ordered by President Vladimir Putin, in Moscow, Russia September 21, 2022. REUTERS/REUTERS PHOTOGRAPHER

To start off, we’re looking into:

Anti-war protests have erupted across Russia

Although Russia invaded Ukraine in February, not all Russians support the conflict. And, back in March, Russia enacted two laws to pipe down any dissent over the war. These laws criminalize independent war reporting and anti-war protests. With Putin’s recent order to mobilize as many as 300,000 reservists to Ukraine, these laws are being tested amid simmering unrest in the country.

On Wednesday, Putin announced the order, and nationwide demonstrations immediately erupted, with protestors chanting “No mobilization!” According to an independent human rights group, more than 1,336 people from about 38 cities have already been detained by police. That includes hundreds of protestors from the capital, Moscow, and the country’s second-most populated city, St. Petersburg. According to AFP journalists in Moscow, the police are wearing riot gear to detain protesters one by one.

Meta and Google are trimming their workforces

Meta Google
FILE PHOTO: A 3D printed Facebook’s new rebrand logo Meta is seen in front of displayed Google logo in this illustration taken on November 2, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

Mass layoffs are bad for PR, and Silicon Valley knows it. But, last week, Google told employees it plans to cut its Area 120 research division’s projects in half. And, Meta has announced it would defer extending full-time job offers to this year’s summer interns to take more time to assess its “hiring needs." With escalating competition, slowing growth and stock prices slumping, how are these massive companies going to avoid a plague of layoffs?

Well, it doesn’t look like either plans to keep all their employees on. But, both Google and Meta are using an interesting strategy. Rather than lay off a huge chunk of employees, they’re offering time for them to apply for other internal jobs. Then, if they fail to secure a new role, it’s time to go. For Meta, some workers are given 30 days to job hunt, while Google gives its employees 60 to 90 days. While these campaigns will result in employment cuts, they seem a bit less disruptive than just carving up a block of the workforce.

Japan is reopening

Japan reopening
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida looks around before speaking ahead of U.S. President Joe Biden at the Global Fund’s Seventh Replenishment Conference in New York, U.S., September 21, 2022. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Japan has been pretty strict with its COVID guidelines since the start of the pandemic. And after the first couple of waves of the pandemic had passed, it was a country that still resisted reopening despite pushes from its business sector to reopen for economic reasons. You might even remember that back when it held the Olympics that the rules were really strict for everyone who went to the Games to lower the chance of transmission in the country.

But now, two and a half years after the start of the pandemic, Japan is returning to some sense of normal by reopening its borders. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Thursday in New York that the islands would be getting rid of most of their border controls starting October 11, including visa restrictions.

Though the hesitation to reopen was guided by COVID fears, the decision to reopen seems to be at least in part a response to the fact that the yen has lost a lot of weight in its world position, sliding about 20% so far this year. In theory, reopening will help that. So will, hopefully, the nationwide travel discount the government is rolling out.

To end, we’ll look into:

How does inflation affect climate change?

We all know that the decisions we make at the grocery store affect our carbon footprint. But we’ve also all been a little tight on cash at times and had to decide if we actually needed the all-natural, plant-based, biodegradable, carbon-neutral, green-to-the-max shower loofah – and opted for the boring (but fluorescent!) blue one instead for the sake of our wallets.

Now, with record-smashing global inflation and rising prices, many people are going with the cheaper options, and they’re not necessarily thinking about the climate impact.

In a survey across 24 countries, including the US, the UK and France, the number of people who said they try to cut down their waste when it comes to shopping dropped to 18%, down from 22% this time last year. The number of shoppers who said they don’t think about the climate and aren’t worried about it went up to 44% over the past year. And the middle-of-the-road group concerned about the climate but not doing anything about it has dropped slightly, down 3% from last year.

Analysts say this research shows that while budgets are tight, people are less concerned about a product’s climate impact and more concerned about its price. And especially for respondents in Europe, concerns about climate change took the backburner as worries about the war in Ukraine grew.

Still, some business leaders argue that purpose-driven brands, like the ones that are focused on making sustainable products for the sake of a lower climate impact, actually grow faster initially.

So, if you choose the plastic loofah lately instead of that ultra-green one, you aren’t alone.

In other news …

📉Stocks: MSCI’s global gauge of stocks dropped 1.08% to 2,489.36.

📰Some specifics:

  • S&P 500 is down 0.84% to 3,757.99.
  • Nasdaq Composite dropped 1.37% to 11,066.81.
  • Dow Jones is down 0.35% to 30,076.68.
  • Hang Seng Index slipped 1.61%, hitting 18,147.95.

🧠Some quick factors to bear in mind:

  • Investors are becoming a little risk averse over fears that the Fed’s aggressive rate hikes could push the US into a recession.
  • Since the Fed’s 75-basis-point rate hike, other central banks worldwide followed suit, implementing their own big hikes overnight.
  • Global rate hikes and China’s COVID-zero stance are hammering stock exchanges, with the Hang Seng Index falling to its lowest level since December 2011. And, with tensions rising between the US and China, the threat of Western sanctions looms, adding to investor concerns.
  • Economists are revising forecasts of China’s economic strength in light of its zero-COVID policies. Goldman Sachs Group lowered its view for China’s 2023 growth to 4.5% from 5.3%.

👄Some comments and chatter:

  • “The Fed’s paved the way for much of the world to continue with aggressive rate hikes, and that’s going to lead to a global recession, and how severe it is will be determined on how long it takes inflation to come down,” said Ed Moya, a senior market analyst at Oanda.
  • “Hong Kong stocks are suffering from all these bad news from both China and the US. I’m raising my cash level in the portfolio. I think there will be more downside for Hang Seng before we see any meaningful recovery in the second half,” said Paul Pong, managing director at Pegasus Fund Managers in Hong Kong.

🛢Oil: Oil rose in price over concerns that an escalation of the war in Ukraine could limit supply. Brent crude futures went up 0.7% to US$90.46 a barrel and US crude rose 0.7% to US$83.49.

👛Bitcoin: At the time of writing, Bitcoin was up 4.93%, settling at US$19,374.80.

💬Biden and Zelenskiy address UN: At the UN General Assembly this week, both Zelenskiy and Biden have spoken. Biden denounced Russia’s attempts to “erase” Ukraine, and Zelenskiy assured that his military would drive Russia from Ukraine while also demanding Russia’s punishment.

UK ends fracking ban: Struggling with the energy crisis, the UK has lifted its ban on oil fracking, which began in 2019. A fierce debate on the issue is unraveling, as some experts say fracking is one of the key pillars of the UK’s goal for energy independence by 2040.

Khmer Rouge leader loses appeal: A UN-backed war crimes tribunal in Cambodia has reached a final decision regarding former Khmer Rouge leader Khieu Samphan. His appeal to overturn his conviction for the genocide of Cham Muslim and ethnic Vietnamese residents of Cambodia has been rejected. The regime killed around two million victims, but Khieu Samphan claimed he was unaware of these crimes.

📜Bezos and Jassy subpoenaed: Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos and its CEO Andy Jassy will have to testify in a US Federal Trade Commission investigation. The company is accused of misleading people into subscribing to Amazon Prime and other services. Amazon had tried to annul the subpoenas but failed.

🍏Apple shifts production from China: It looks like Apple is moving some of its device manufacturing out of China. By 2025, Apple plans for 25% of iPhones to be produced in India. By then, Vietnam will make 20% of all iPads and Apple Watches, 5% of MacBooks and 65% of AirPods.

👩‍⚖️Trump and fam sued for fraud: US Attorney General Letitia James announced a fraud investigation into the Trump Organization on Wednesday. His former lawyer, Michael Cohen, has predicted the probe will result in the company’s downfall.

💼Is Chinese tourism making a comeback? Yesterday, said that hotel reservations in China have surpassed pre-pandemic levels since late June. Could this mean a fresh start for tourism in the country?

👏Ukraine welcomes home soldiers: After a prisoner exchange with Russia on Wednesday, Ukraine welcomed home several hundred soldiers who are being hailed as heroes.

🌌New images of Neptune from Webb: NASA released brand new photos of Neptune and its rings taken by the James Webb Telescope. The telescope captured the best photos of Neptune, the furthest planet in our solar system, in the past 30 years. These images could reveal the size and composition of the rings, which probably consist of ice and other debris.

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