From more crypto drama to the world of pasta shapes – Here's your February 8 news briefing

Ah, the crypto drama continues.

From more crypto drama to the world of pasta shapes – Here's your February 8 news briefing
A representation of virtual currency Bitcoin is seen in front of a stock graph in this illustration taken January 8, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

To start off, we're looking into:

Binance puts US dollar transfers on hold – for now

The backstory: Ah, the crypto drama continues. Binance, the world's largest cryptocurrency exchange, once entertained the idea of bailing out rival FTX during its liquidity crisis. But, things turned for the worse when Binance backed out after taking a closer look at the situation. FTX then filed for bankruptcy and is now under investigation for fraud. This caused shockwaves in the digital asset world and triggered similar crises and defaults for other companies in what many have called "crypto contagion."

More recently: Since the crypto fallout, some banks are looking to do less business with risky crypto firms. For example, last month, Binance announced that its US banking partner, Signature Bank, raised the minimum transaction amount for US dollars to a hefty US$100,000, meaning some users couldn't use SWIFT bank transfers for buying or selling smaller amounts of crypto. But Binance said this would only impact a tiny fraction (0.01%) of its monthly users, and it's working on finding a solution.

The development: On Monday, Binance announced it would temporarily suspend US dollar transfers starting Wednesday. But since its US arm operates separately and is regulated by the US Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, deposits and withdrawals in dollars are still a go for US customers. After the announcement, there was a short hiccup with a temporary increase in outflows from Binance's crypto wallets, but the exchange is holding strong with a positive net deposit status.

Samsung in India’s tech scene

A journalist uses a mobile phone as he works outside the Samsung Electronics smartphone manufacturing facility in Noida, India, July 9, 2018. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

The backstory: The tech scene in India is buzzing with activity. All thanks to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's effort to transform India into an export hub with the "Make in India" campaign, the government is handing out financial incentives left and right to tech companies.

More recently: Apple was ahead of the game, already producing iPhones in Tamil Nadu since 2017 and recently announcing plans to manufacture the latest iPhone 14 there. Samsung was also in India, participating for the first time in the manufacturing incentive program last year. But it has faced a bit of a bump in the road, struggling to collect the sweet financial incentives from the government, unlike other manufacturers (like the world's largest Apple manufacturer Foxconn, which has already collected its benefits).

The development: Still, Samsung doesn't want to be left behind in the booming Indian market. Now, it's assembling its top-tier smartphones there, increasing its presence in the country with more stores and ramping up sales and marketing. With competition from Chinese rivals heating up, Samsung is determined to make a comeback and manufacture its entire phone portfolio domestically in India.

How Russia survives oil sanctions

Models of oil barrels and a pump jack are displayed in front of Ukrainian and Russian flag colors in this illustration taken, February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/Files

The backstory: Ukraine’s allies in the West have been trying to figure out a way to curb Russian revenue. Russia relies heavily on its oil and gas industry for cash; it’s the third-largest oil producer in the world. So, last December, the EU put an embargo on most Russian crude oil. Around the same time, the G7 put a US$60 price cap on Russian crude. These measures were put in place to curb Russia’s oil revenue slowly and still maintain enough incentive to keep oil pouring into the market.

More recently: The EU has decided to put more energy sanctions on Russia. This past Sunday, the bloc stopped importing Russian diesel fuel and other oil products, and the G7 also capped their prices. Europe had been the largest importer of Russian oil, but now it’s had to look elsewhere for oil. As these restrictions have come into play, Russia has been pivoting its oil exports to Asia to keep the cash coming in. In 2022, Russia actually made more money from energy exports.

The development: Still, analysts are saying it could take years before we see any big hit to Russia’s oil sector. Last week, the IMF said the oil price cap probably wouldn’t affect Russian oil export volumes, and the Russian economy will most likely grow 0.3% this year, even though it shrunk by 2.2% in 2022.

To end, we'll look into:

The world of pasta shapes

Don't even try to pretend that you don't have a favorite pasta shape. We're all adults here, and we all have a special place in our hearts for one type of pasta over all of the others. Are you a macaroni fan? Perhaps you prefer the formality of bowtie pasta? Or maybe you like those artisan little snail shapes that catch all the sauce.

There are over 1300 types of pasta shapes invented by Italians. But did you know that pasta comes in different shapes to match up with different sauces? And here we've all been throwing the two together all willy-nilly.

"It's important to pair the correct type of noodle with a particular type of sauce so that the sauce can bind to the pasta or allow the pasta to absorb the sauce dependent on its style," explains Chef Barry Tonkinson, Director of Culinary Research and Development at the Institute of Culinary Education. "Different pasta shapes and styles add a good contrast in texture to the sauce you're using."

As a general rule: a "big, thick, hearty noodle can stand up to big, thick, hearty sauces, whereas thinner and lighter noodles need to be treated with lighter style sauces and more finesse," says Hari Cameron, owner and chef at grandpa (MAC) and a 2016 James Beard Best Chefs in America semifinalist.

Many of the different shape names have meanings, too. You know campanelle? The rolled-up flower-like pasta shape? Well, in Italian, "campanelle" means "bell flowers" or "little bells." And cavatappi, which is a ridged, curled-up noodle, gets its name from the Italian word for "corkscrews." A single shape can have a couple of different names, too.

Surprisingly enough, some pasta shapes are also patented. Specifically, pasta shapes that are supposed to look like a specific cartoon character, animal or object. The people who design these shapes can even get design patents for them.

In 1991, the US Patent and Trademark Office granted Edward Meyers, Jr. three design patents for three cosmic pasta shapes: an astronaut, a spaceship and the planet Saturn. He previously worked for CPC Foods, which is now part of Unilever, making those Knorr "Pasta Sides" and other dishes that kids love, hence Meyers also creating pasta in lots of animal shapes like elephants, lions and giraffes.

In other news ...

📈Stocks: MSCI’s global gauge of stocks is up 0.96% at 2820.49 at the time of writing.

  • Dow Jones gained 0.78% to 34,156.69.
  • Nasdaq Composite climbed 1.90% to 12,113.79.
  • S&P 500 rose 1.29% to 4,164.00.
  • Hang Seng Index was up 0.36% to 21,298.70.

🧠Some quick factors to bear in mind:

  • US stocks rallied on Tuesday as US Fed Chair Powell's remarks eased worries that the central bank wasn't seeing enough progress in battling inflation. He said it should cool throughout the year, which supports his dovish comments from last week's policy meeting that the "disinflationary" process has started.
  • But Powell did say the process wouldn't be painless, and it could take until 2024 to get inflation back to the 2% range.
  • The S&P 500 ended its two-day dip, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq had a solid 2% rise, with big names like Microsoft and Alphabet leading the pack.
  • Investors are looking to US President Biden's speech to Congress later today, especially with heightened tensions with China and drama on raising the US debt ceiling brewing.
  • China stocks were having a good day after a three-day slip as investors saw the dip as an opportunity and jumped in. The market sentiment was fueled by signs of economic recovery in China and a positive report on the US economy from Goldman Sachs, which lowered its odds of a recession.

👄Some comments and chatter:

  • “We expect 2023 to be a year of significant declines in inflation. It’s actually our job to make sure that that’s the case. My guess is it will take certainly into not just this year, but next year to get down close to 2%,” said Fed chair Jerome Powell on Tuesday.
  • “The important takeaway is that Powell had a chance to signal a shift to a more aggressive posture and he didn’t take it. In the near-term, the Fed will likely continue to make one (or perhaps two) more hike(s) before going on hold,” said Bill Adams, chief economist for Comerica Bank.

🛢Oil: On Tuesday, oil bumped up by around 3% thanks to Fed Chair Powell's remarks easing worries about possible interest rate hikes. Oil prices were also boosted because of China's pick-up in demand. With this, US crude climbed 4.1% to US$77.14, and Brent rose 3.3% to US$83.69 per barrel.

👛Bitcoin: At the time of writing, Bitcoin is up 1.87% at US$23,189.40.

💔Earthquake casualties continue rising: On Monday, Turkey and Syria experienced two devastating earthquakes. As rescue teams try to help people, the estimated death toll keeps rising. At the time of writing, it’s over 7,700 casualties. Estimates say 23 million people have been affected in Turkey and Syria by the quakes.

🔫Militant group recruitment boosts in sub-Saharan Africa: Extremist militant groups continue to grow in sub-Saharan African countries. But, according to a report by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the hope of getting a job drives people more to join these groups than religious reasons. A lot of them also had a catalyst, like the killing or arrest of family by state security forces.

👋Mali ejects UN human rights team: In Mali, authorities have been accused of human rights violations and abuses carried out by the military working with the Russian private contractor Wagner Group. At the end of January, the UN called for an investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity by both. Now, the interim government is expelling the UN peacekeeping mission’s human rights division head from the country.

💸South Korea must compensate Vietnam War survivor: During the Vietnam War, South Korea sent 320,000 troops to Vietnam to join the US in a fight against the country’s communist government. But, South Korea has never officially taken responsibility for any civilian massacres linked to its soldiers in Vietnam. On Tuesday, a South Korean court ruled that the government must pay 30 million won (US$24,000) to a Vietnamese woman who was shot and lost several relatives when South Korean marines destroyed her village in 1968.

🥙Food issues in North Korea?: North Korea keeps its information under wraps and is becoming more and more isolated with its nuclear program testing. Government leaders agreed to hold a plenary meeting later in February to review agriculture strategies and set new goals, according to state media. It’s rare for North Korea to call a meeting over a single topic like this, so this could mean the food supply is in pretty bad shape.

⛈Deadly mudslides in Peru: Every year around this time, Peru experiences heavy rainfall. On Monday, landslides triggered by the rain flooded debris into several villages in southern Peru, leading to at least 36 deaths.

🚫Pakistan blocks Wikipedia: Pakistan has some pretty strict blasphemy laws, and anyone who insults Islam or its figures can receive a death sentence (although no one’s actually been executed for this yet). On Monday, Pakistan’s media regulator announced a block on Wikipedia nationwide. Regulators say Wikipedia doesn’t remove allegedly blasphemous content, which is grounds for a ban.

🤝Upcoming EU Brussels summit: Ukrainian President Zelenskiy has only left Ukraine once in the past year, partly because of security concerns. But the EU is having a summit in Brussels this week and has reportedly invited Zelenskiy to come. He’s expected to address a special session of the European Parliament.

📄Zoom layoffs: In more tech layoff news, video-call software maker Zoom will be laying off 15% of its total workforce, amounting to about 1,300 jobs cut.

💻More chatbots: China’s search engine giant Baidu had a great stock day after announcing its ChatGPT-like service is on track to come out in March. The new AI feature will be called “Wenxin Yiyan,” or “Ernie Bot” in English.

🔪Organ trafficking: A Nigerian senator named Ike Ekweremadu agreed to bring a Lagos-based street trader to the UK – for a price. Ekweremadu, his wife and his daughter all allegedly brought the man over to harvest a kidney from him on behalf of the sick daughter. The street trader was supposed to receive US$8,418 and a job in the UK, but London doctors busted the arrangement.

🧠Boy genius: A 9-year-old from Pennsylvania has become one of the youngest to graduate high school. David Balogun graduated from the Reach Cyber Charter School in the US and said he wants to be an astrophysicist. Of course, he does.

🤖Robot army: South Korea’s version of Amazon, Coupang, has had bank books in the red since opening, having lost billions of dollars. It’s trying to turn the ship around toward profitability by rolling out an army of robots to replace its human workforce. These autonomously guided vehicles, or AGVs, collect and organize goods, racing around the fullfillment centers floors to help out the remaining human staff.

👰🤵In sickness and in health: Marriage may be good for your health. According to a recent study published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care, people who live with a spouse may have lower blood sugar levels, no matter how good or bad the relationship is.

🔥Cavemen cookout: At a cave site in Portugal, researchers found charred remnants of shells and claws from crabs, which points to Neanderthals cooking and eating crabs 90,000 years ago. The cave also had multiple rooms and an open “porch” living area. Fancy.

💄Lusty lipstick: If you were looking for a lipstick AND conversation piece, look no further than Isamaya Ffrench’s new penis-shaped lipstick. Yes, this phallic tube of lip color is meant to turn heads and pay tribute to the sexual innuendoes so often found in fashion and makeup. Ffrench said the idea came to her in a dream. Oh, really? Do tell.

Help the earthquake victims in Turkey and Syria

As the death toll is rising and search and rescue teams continue to rescue people from the rubble in Turkey and Syria following two devastating earthquakes, people all over the world are reaching out with donations and aid. Check out the resources below to see how you can help.

The Turkish Red Crescent


Action for Humanity

Doctors Without Borders

Islamic Relief

People in Need

Union of Medical Relief and Care Organizations

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