From Indonesia's new sex laws to Wordle stealing our hearts – Here's your December 9 news briefing

From Indonesia's new sex laws to Wordle stealing our hearts – Here's your December 9 news briefing.

From Indonesia's new sex laws to Wordle stealing our hearts – Here's your December 9 news briefing
A child wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) has his swab sample taken for nucleic acid test at the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Hong Kong Port, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Hong Kong, China, March 22, 2022. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

To start off, we're looking into:

Hong Kong further eases COVID restrictions

According to Hong Kong health officials, with the number of daily infections stabilized, public hospitals returning to full service, among other reasons, the city can ease its COVID curbs back even more.

On Thursday morning, rumors circulated, with local media reporting that the city might drop its outdoor mask rule and shift to rapid testing for inbound travelers. Later in the afternoon, the government announced that the quarantine isolation period for those with COVID and close contacts would be cut to five days from seven days. On top of this, arrivals to the city will only need daily rapid tests for five days.

As for indoor mask-wearing and using the Leave Home Safe tracking app, the city said that those measures will remain firmly in place until December 28.

Indonesia's new sex laws

An activist shouts slogans during a protest, as Indonesia is set to pass a new criminal code that will ban sex outside marriage, cohabitation between unmarried couples, insulting the president, and expressing views counter to the national ideology, outside the Indonesian Parliament buildings in Jakarta, Indonesia, December 5, 2022. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

The island of Bali, the popular tourist hotspot with over 6.2 million international arrivals in 2019, was hugely hit during COVID. So much so that in 2021, it had only 45 visitors … you read that right. But after Indonesia reopened this year, the glory days of the Island of the Gods, a place hugely reliant on tourism revenues, have returned. So why is this relevant? Well, there has been a lot of curiosity and confusion over a new law that criminalizes sex outside of marriage.

On Tuesday, Indonesia's parliament announced its plans to criminalize sex outside marriage. While it will take three years for the law to happen, it applies to both locals and foreigners. The punishment for adultery or premarital relations could face up to one year in jail or fines. Critics say that it could put foreigners off visiting the country, as well as the primarily Hindu island of Bali.

Harry and Meghan tell all

Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend the European premiere of "The Lion King" in London, Britain July 14, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

The British monarchy has developed the reputation of being a super messy family. And Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, have been a major focus when it comes to recent royal drama. The two got married in 2018, and it’s been a bumpy ride ever since. It’s no secret that British tabloids and media were hard on Meghan, with racism being a common theme. Back in 2020, the couple announced they’d be taking a step away from royal duties and becoming financially independent.

On Thursday, Harry and Meghan’s new docuseries about their experience was partly released on Netflix, and it’s already controversial. In the first episode of “Harry and Meghan,” we get mostly background info about their dating life. But already, we find out that the Windsors weren’t totally on board with the relationship – they didn’t like that she was an American actress. We expect to see more about the couple’s relationship with the media and how their breakup with the monarchy went down.

To end, we'll look into:

Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park

Source: Gorongosa National Park

At the ongoing COP15 conference, UN Secretary-General António Guterres told attendees: "We are out of harmony with nature. In fact, we are playing an entirely different song. Around the world, for hundreds of years, we have conducted a cacophony of chaos, played with instruments of destruction. Deforestation and desertification are creating wastelands of once-thriving ecosystems."

In Mozambique, this was definitely the case. From the 60s to the 90s, the country experienced 28 years of devastating civil war, which killed about a million people. Apart from that tragedy, the war also led to the killing of 95% of the animals in Gorongosa National Park, which is in the middle of the country within the Great African Rift Valley. Before the war, Gorongosa had been thriving, attracting visitors with animals like lions, elephants and crocodiles. Afterward, it was a wasteland.

But, in 2022, the park is totally impressive once again. The restoration process has been long and complicated, but it's paying off. Back in 2004, a philanthropist named Greg Carr, who'd made his money in voicemail technology, was approached by Mozambique's President Joaquim Chissano. Chissano asked Carr, who was already working with human rights initiatives, for help restoring the national park. So, in 2008, the nonprofit Carr Foundation created the Gorongosa Restoration Project with Mozambique's government.

It's been 14 years since then, and we've seen boosted ranger capacity curb poaching and the reintroduction of certain animals help wildlife populations naturally recover. When it comes to bringing in animals from elsewhere to reintroduce them, Carr explained: "First bring in the herbivores. So, we bring in 200 buffalo. We bring in 200 wildebeest. We bring in some zebra. And then when you got enough herbivores, then you're gonna want the carnivores back. So, we reintroduced leopards. We reintroduced hyenas. The lions, all by themselves, their numbers just took off. So, from five or six lions when we started, we now have probably 200."

Working with local communities, the Gorongosa Restoration project has made the park a model for biodiversity conservation and human development.

In other news ...

📈Stocks: MSCI’s global gauge of stocks is up 0.03% at 2671.00 at the time of writing.

📰Some specifics:

  • Dow Jones is up 0.55% to 33,781.48.
  • Nasdaq Composite increased 1.13% to 11,082.00.
  • S&P 500 gained 0.75% to 3,963.51.
  • Hang Seng Index rose 3.38% to 19,450.23.

🧠Some quick factors to bear in mind:

  • Thursday's US jobless claims data showed a rise last week back to 230,000, which was in line with the Dow Jones estimate. This suggests that the labor market is cooling.
  • Friday's producer price index for November is the last key inflation report before the Fed's policy announcements on December 13 and 14.
  • Meanwhile, Mainland China stocks remained flat.
  • Hong Kong stocks rose after a fall in the previous session after local news outlets reported the city would ease COVID restrictions.

👄Some comments and chatter:

  • “Presumably if the Fed is pivoting this time around, it’s not for a good reason. It’s a deteriorating fundamental picture … I mean, is that really a reason to be buying risk? I think it’s premature to say that there is a Fed pivot,” said Joyce Chang, chair of global research at JPMorgan, speaking on the Fed monetary policy.
  • “We had a strong selloff over the last few days and it doesn’t take much to create even the underpinnings for a modest rally,” said Quincy Krosby, chief global strategist at LPL Financial, referring to Thursday’s jobless claims.
  • “Combined with the robust November jobs report, the latest claims data reinforce that it’ll be a slow process to restore the balance between supply and demand in the labor market, ” said Eliza Winger, an economist on Thursday’s jobless claims.

🛢Oil: US crude settled down 0.8% to US$71.46, and Brent fell 1.3% to US$76.15 per barrel.

💸Bitcoin: At the time of writing, Bitcoin is up 2.39% at US$17,240.00

🇷🇺A long war: On Wednesday, Russian President Putin publicly acknowledged that the war in Ukraine could be a long, complex one. It's toasting longer than he expected, but he claims that Russia's nuclear weapons are keeping things from escalating, but that Russia wouldn't just recklessly use these weapons either.

🇮🇷Iran executes protester: On Thursday, Iran announced that it had executed the first person arrested during the ongoing protests. This person allegedly committed a crime during a protest. Other people have been arrested for involvement in protests and could face the same fate.

🇸🇦Xi in Saudi Arabia: Chinese President Xi Jinping has arrived in Saudi Arabia. It's his first time there in seven years, and he's expected to sign tons of deals and meet leaders from all over the Middle East. This visit shows China is strengthening its ties with the Gulf area, especially when it comes to the economy. China is already Saudi Arabia's biggest trading partner and the world's biggest oil buyer.

🇮🇩Bali bomber released: Indonesia just released Umar Patek, who had a role in the Bali bombings back in 2002, on parole. The bombings killed over 200 people, but Patek only completed about half of his sentence. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison back in 2012 for mixing the bombs that were used.

🇳🇬Nigeria limits cash withdrawal: On Tuesday, Nigeria announced it would impose limits on daily and weekly cash withdrawals as it tries to stop counterfeiting and ransom payments to kidnappers.

🇦🇷Argentina VP convicted: On Tuesday, Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was sentenced to six years in prison and can no longer hold public office. She was convicted of a fraud scheme that embezzled US$1 billion via public works projects when she was the president.

🇺🇸Brittney Griner swap: Last Thursday, US officials reached a deal with the Russian government on a 1-for-1 prison swap to bring WNBA star Brittney Griner back home. She's been held in Russian prisons for months on drug charges because she was carrying marijuana in the country. The prisoner swap was done with international arms dealer Viktor Bout being returned to Russia.

🧑‍⚖️Theranos' Balwani convicted: On Wednesday, former Theranos President Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani was sentenced to 12 years and 11 months in prison after being convicted of defrauding investors and patients of Elizabeth Holmes's blood-testing startup.

🇪🇺EU travel zone development: Croatia will officially join Europe's open travel zone known as the Schengen region, but Bulgaria and Romania are still out. Opposition toward these two countries in the EU came from worries about unauthorized immigration. Starting in 2023, people can travel freely between Croatia and the rest of Schengen without border checks.

🌳EU deforestation law: The EU is adopting a new law banning the import of products with connections to deforestation. Different goods will now be shaken down to make sure that forests weren't damaged to produce them. These new rules cover products from palm oil to cattle, from coffee to cocoa and rubber.

👀Most-searched Googled term 2022: Globally, the most searched Google term of 2022 is "Wordle." This word game really took over the hearts of everyone in the earlier half of the year.

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