From Singapore telling Branson to bring it to the Chinese Politburo’s lack of ladies – Here’s your October 25 news briefing

From Singapore telling Branson to bring it to the Chinese Politburo’s lack of ladies – Here’s your October 25 news briefing
FILE PHOTO: Sir Richard Branson stands on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) ahead of Virgin Galactic (SPCE) trading in New York, U.S., October 28, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

To start off, we’re looking into:

Singapore challenges billionaire Richard Branson

Earlier this month, UK billionaire Richard Branson wrote a blog post called “What’s the matter with Singapore?” criticizing the country’s use of the death penalty, especially for drug crimes. Describing Singapore as “on the wrong side of history,” Branson said the “rising frequency of executions” were “dark stains” on its reputation. He has also criticized Singapore’s controversial execution of Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam. The young Malaysian was found guilty of heroin trafficking in 2009 and was hanged – despite multiple appeals of his sentence over concerns about his mental capacity.

On Saturday, Singapore invited Branson – with all expenses paid – to have a televised debate on the issues with Singapore’s Home Affairs and Law Minister, K Shanmugam. The country’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said that Branson has the right to speak his opinion, but it does not believe that he or any foreigners have the right to impose their values on other countries.

China’s Politburo is a total sausage-fest, and some aren’t happy

women Politburo
FILE PHOTO: New Politburo Standing Committee members Xi Jinping, Li Qiang, Zhao Leji, Wang Huning, Cai Qi, Ding Xuexiang and Li Xi arrive to meet the media following the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China October 23, 2022. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

This past weekend, China’s CCP Congress ended with announcing the new lineup of the Party’s 205-member Central Committee, 24-member Politburo and the most powerful seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, which is basically like a presidential cabinet. These three groups are responsible for making policy decisions and essentially overseeing how China is run for the next five years.

But this year is different. Did you notice that the newest Politburo is packed with only men? Breaking with tradition, this is the first time in 25 years that no woman is serving on the second most powerful committee.

Although this is the first time there’s been no female representation since 1997, only eight women have ever made it onto China’s Politburo, and several of them were the wives of top leaders. No women have yet served on the Standing Committee.

Can Rishi Sunak save the UK?

Britain’s Conservative MP Rishi Sunak walks next to his campaign headquarters in London, Britain, October 24, 2022. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

The UK has been through a lot over the past couple of months. After all, former Prime Minister Liz Truss lasted only 45 days in office. An unrefrigerated head of lettuce literally lasted longer than she did. While Truss was head of state, the pound plummeted, Queen Elizabeth died and the UK’s cost of living and energy crises raged on. Then, after she announced her resignation, the public briefly thought that former leader (and recently resigned himself) Boris Johnson would get the post again. But, he said that although he did think he could win, he didn’t feel he could unite party members. So, he stepped back from the race.

Now, the UK Parliament has chosen a new conservative prime minister – Rishi Sunak. The first prime minister of color – as well as the youngest in 200 years – Sunak has already made history by getting the position. Campaigning on a promise to fix the British economy, Sunak may actually have the skills to follow through; he was chancellor of the exchequer (basically, the finance minister) during BoJo’s administration.

To end, we’ll look into:

What’s the truth about vaping?

Smoking cigarettes is bad for you. You straight up shouldn’t do it. It was about 220 years ago that people first began to figure out the health risks of smoking tobacco, and people started to really have concerns in the 50s and 60s. But only within the past half-decade have public campaigns against smoking started cropping up everywhere. Still, people want to satisfy that itch for nicotine. Hence, the e-cigarette and vaping craze.

First introduced as a safe alternative to smoking, e-cigarettes allowed smokers to ease off tobacco cigarettes by treating nicotine withdrawal. But now, people have their doubts. For example, vape manufacturers like Juul have come under fire for marketing to young audiences, motivating young non-smokers to develop nicotine addictions. And last spring, Hong Kong banned the sale of e-cigarettes.

Plus, research suggests vaping is bad for your heart and lungs. No matter how you get it into your body, nicotine is a toxic substance. Still, we actually don’t know the long-term health effects of vaping because it just hasn’t been around long enough for there to be relevant examples. Actually, there are a lot of unknowns when it comes to vaping, including which chemicals make up the vapor.

“Emerging data suggests links to chronic lung disease and asthma, as well as associations between dual use of e-cigarettes and smoking with cardiovascular disease,” explains the director of clinical research at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, Michael Joseph Blaha.“You’re exposing yourself to all kinds of chemicals that we don’t yet understand and that are probably not safe.”

But, a 2021 study found that those who used nicotine e-cigarettes were more likely to stop smoking for at least six months than those who used other kinds of nicotine replacement therapies like patches, gum or nicotine-free e-cigarettes. So, when it comes to smoking, Jamie Hartmann-Boyce, an associate professor of evidence-based policy and practice at the University of Oxford, says, “We need a tool kit of things people can try.”

In other news …

📈Stocks: MSCI’s global gauge of stocks is up 1.24% to 2,493.06.

📰Some specifics:

  • Dow Jones went up 1.34% to 31,499.62.
  • Nasdaq Composite is up 0.86% to 10,952.61.
  • S&P 500 boosted 1.19% to 3,797.34.
  • Hang Seng Index staggered 6.36% to 15,180.69.

🧠Some quick factors to bear in mind:

  • After a week of delay, China released its belated GDP and other economic reports on Monday. China’s GDP grew 3.9%, stronger than analysts expected. The economy in Q3 is significantly better than in Q2 but still below China’s target of 5.5%. Despite the decent economic data, Hong Kong and Chinese shares took a nosedive.
  • Hong Kong stocks plunged over 6% in the worst day since the financial crisis, as investor fears grew with President Xi securing a third term of power. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index also saw its worst after-Congress performance since 1994, plunging more than 7%.
  • The significant selloff and weakened yuan reflect investor uncertainty and the lack of positive economic signals from the CCP Congress. Investors expect a continuation of policies centered on zero-COVID and state-driven companies.
  • Meanwhile, stocks are up in Europe and the US. Some big tech companies report earnings this week, including Microsoft, Alphabet, Meta, Boeing, Amazon and Apple. US business activity contracted yet again, suggesting that the Fed’s rate hikes are effectively cooling inflation. US GDP data is set to come out on Thursday.

👄Some comments and chatter:

  • “For the US–China relationship, with pie-expanding economists replaced at the negotiating table with pie-protecting security hawks, the chances of having and eating pie are down, the chances of getting pied have sharply increased,” said Tom Orlik, Bloomberg Chief Economist.
  • “The market is concerned that with so many Xi supporters elected, Xi’s unfettered ability to enact policies that are not market friendly is now cemented,” said Justin Tang, head of Asian research at United First Partners.
  • “Investors are getting more confident that inflation is going to come down and that the Fed might be quick to pause,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA in New York.

🛢Oil: Oil prices were steady in choppy trade as lowered demand from China and a stronger dollar weighed on the market. US crude was down 0.6% to US$84.58, and Brent went to US$93.26 per barrel, down 0.3%.

👛Bitcoin: Bitcoin dropped 1.13% to US$19,351.60 at the time of writing.

🗨Russia’s dirty bombs: On Sunday, Russia’s defense chief claimed Ukraine is planning a “provocation” with some kind of radioactive device. The US, UK and Ukraine have rejected those claims.

😢Sudan tribal clashes: This month, fighting in the Blue Nile province bordering Ethiopia and South Sudan reignited due to a land dispute. After tensions escalated last week, the past few days of fighting have resulted in at least 220 deaths, but the figure may be much higher, according to officials.

💣Korean tensions rise with warning shots: North and South Korea exchanged warning shots off their western coast on Monday. Both accuse one another of overstepping their sea border, and North Korea’s continued weapons testing isn’t helping tensions.

💉Pfizer jacks up COVID vaccine prices: After US government supplies of COVID vaccines run out in 2023, those vaccines will enter the private health sector. And Pfizer just announced that it plans to sell the vaccine for US$110-130 per dose. That’s four times the current selling price – and 100 times the manufacturing cost.

🚫G7 condemns Russia kidnapping: On Saturday, the G7 condemned Russia’s kidnappings of Ukrainian employees at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear power plant in Russia-controlled areas of Ukraine. This kind of action poses a huge danger to the nuclear plant.

👋China’s YMTC asks US staff to leave: Trying to figure out how to deal with the US chip export ban, Chinese chip maker Yangtze Memory Technologies Co (YMTC) just asked its US employees in core tech positions to leave. It’s unclear how many will have to leave, according to insiders speaking with Financial Times.

Tesla cuts prices in China: Tesla shares fell to June 2021 levels after the company lowered product prices across China because of local competition and economic pressures.

🎆Happy Diwali: Last night, Indians celebrated Diwali, a Hindu festival of lights, with bright earthen oil lamps as dazzling, colorful lights lit up homes and streets all over the country.

🐀Rats with backpacks: In a project created of by Belgian non-profit APOPO, rats are being outfitted with mini high-tech backpacks to help search for and rescue survivors in disaster zones. Naturally adventurous, small in size and connoisseurs of smell, rats are great at finding things in tight spaces.

🐶Behold, a man! Dexter the dog was injured in a car accident and had to use a wheelchair for a while. But now, he walks on his hind legs like a human! And he wears a hat because … of course, he does.

Written and put together by Joey Fung, Vanessa Wolosz, Christine Dulion and Krystal Lai