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To start off, we're looking into:
North Korea announces satellite launch
The backstory: North Korea is no stranger to sending satellites up into space. But the country also has nuclear weapons, and sometimes these launches are suspected to really be missile tests. When launching satellites, it has to use long-range missile tech banned by the UN. So, when it plans space launches, there’s always some international panic.
More recently: Lately, tensions have gotten worse between North and South Korea and Japan. Since 2022, North Korea has conducted over 100 missile-launch tests, and some of those were nuclear-capable and within range of the US, South Korea and Japan. The country says it’s been doing these tests to counter joint military drills between the US and South Korea. The Japanese military has also joined in some of these exercises.
The development: On Monday, North Korea told Japan it would be launching a satellite between May 31 and June 11. Click the link here for more on this.
Social media smackdown
The backstory: China has an agency called the Cyberspace Administration of China that's been around since 2014. Basically, it's like the big boss when it comes to the internet in the country. CAC's job is to regulate online content and businesses that report news online. In March, the CAC made it clear that it's dead serious about tackling harmful stuff on social media that can ruin businesses and entrepreneurs. And just a few weeks ago, the country took action against fake news and went after more than 100,000 accounts pretending to be news anchors and media agencies.
The development: The CAC just announced that it’s wiped out around 1.4 million social media posts. The regulator went on a mission for two whole months to tackle some big issues like misinformation, illegal profiteering, and even people pretending to be government officials. And guess who they targeted? Those "self-media" accounts on popular Chinese platforms like WeChat, Douyin and Weibo. You know, the ones that share news and info independently. Click the link here for more on the investigation.
US debt ceiling deal
The backstory: So, you know how we have a credit limit on our cards? Well, the US government has something similar called the debt ceiling. It's like a cap on how much money it can borrow. Now, when the government spends more than it makes, it needs to borrow money to cover the gap. But if it hits that debt ceiling, bam, it's like hitting a financial roadblock.
More recently: In January, the US slammed right into that debt ceiling. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen sounded the alarm, basically saying, "Hey, if we don't raise that spending limit by June 5, it's gonna be a cash apocalypse." Essentially, if the government can’t agree to either raise or suspend the debt ceiling to keep paying its bills, it will lead to a default.
The development: Now, President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy have struck an agreement to hit the brakes on the debt ceiling until January 2025. They're dead set on preventing a federal default and a potential global economic meltdown. It still needs to be voted on by Congress. Click the link here to read more on the deal.
To end, we'll look into:
The airship revival
In 2021, Google co-founder Sergey Brin (who’s worth over US$100 billion, according to Bloomberg) made headlines for running a secretive airship project. Since 2016, he’d been building an airship startup with the idea of bringing in zero-emission air travel. The company is known as LTA Research and Exploration, with the LTA standing for “Lighter Than Air.” It started in NASA's Ames Research Center, with Brin being inspired to build his own airship after visiting the center in 2014.
Light is now being shed on the startup. LTA is almost ready to unveil its first functional aircraft, the Pathfinder 1. It’s 122 meters long (400 feet) and 20 meters (67 feet) in diameter at its widest part. And it looks a lot like an old-timey airship from, like, the 1920s. Think Hindenburg (but hopefully less explosive). Inside, it’s lined with carbon-fiber tubing and titanium joints to give it structure and strength, plus 13 helium bladders to get it off the ground without catching fire.
According to LTA’s mission statement: “When we look up and ahead, we see a future where zero-emission airships can support and even speed up disaster response and relief efforts. If runways, roads, and ports are damaged, LTA’s airships can still deliver what communities need. If cell phone towers are knocked out, airships can hover and provide service.”
Eventually, LTA aircraft could carry 200 tons, about 10 times the cargo of a Boeing 737. Brin has plans for the airships to run on green technology, like fuel cells. At the moment, a pair of diesel generators energize the lithium-ion batteries that run the propellers. But, there are solar panels on top of the airship for extra energy. The Pathfinder I has a steering and controls system that’s electronic, unlike the manual ones on older airships.
This could even become a new luxury mode of travel for jet setters. Because of the way that airships float in the air, passengers onboard can actually open the windows as they fly. Right now, the elite often travel using private jets, which have emitted 5.3 million metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere in the past three years alone. So, airships could be a clean alternative to traditional flights in the future.
In other news ...
- The US stock market was closed in observance of Memorial Day.
- The Hang Seng Index lost 1.04% to 18,551.11.
- The 10-year treasury yield is at 3.81%
- At the time of writing, bitcoin is down 1.39% at US$27,684.10.
- US crude rose 0.3% to US$72.92 per barrel, and Brent was up 0.2% to US$77.07 per barrel.
📉Market snapshot and key quotes:
- In the US: The US stock market was closed in observance of Memorial Day.
- In Hong Kong: Hong Kong saw a fourth day of losses with news that China’s industrial profits slumped in the first four months of this year, creating some doubt on the country’s economic recovery prospects. Investors were cautiously optimistic about the US debt ceiling deal, as it still has to be passed by Congress.
📊Top gainers/losers and company news:
- In the US: The US stock market was closed in observance of Memorial Day.
- In Hong Kong: It was not a rosy day for some major Chinese companies. Chinese food-delivery giant Meituan took an 8.1% nosedive, hitting its lowest point since March 2022. Meanwhile, Tencent suffered a 2.9% blow, and JD.com saw a drop of 1.7%.
- On the flip side, gaming giant NetEase stole the spotlight with a 7.2% surge after it announced stellar earnings. Also, China’s biggest chipmaker SMIC rose 2.8%, and computer company Lenovo rose 3.9%.
👀The numbers everyone is watching:
- In the US: This week in the US, the labor market is on stage, with the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) report for April, ADP’s National Employment Report and the nonfarm payrolls report for May.
- In Hong Kong: Chinese industrial firms continue to feel the blues as profits shrink for the fourth straight month, highlighting a worrisome combination of weakening demand and worsening factory-gate deflation. The data for January-April profits show a 20.6% plunge, even though it's slightly better than Q1's 21.4% drop, but it’s still a cause for concern.
📅To check out our economic calendar for this week, click here.
💣Airstrikes on Ukraine: Russia’s airstrikes on Ukraine have been in full force lately. Early Monday, it attacked a military facility in western Ukraine and hit a Black Sea port in Odesa, causing a fire. For the second night in a row, Kyiv also saw airstrikes, with most of the drones and missiles being shot down but residents still hunkering down in shelters. More missile attacks followed in the morning, sending citizens rushing into shelters.
📩New president in Nigeria: Nigeria, Africa's largest democracy, held its presidential election back in February, which led to disputed results. Bola Tinubu won with 37% of the vote, but that result is now being challenged in court. Still, he was inaugurated on Sunday and used his speech to announce that he’s ending a long-holding petroleum subsidy in the country.
💣Nuclear weapons for everyone?: Last week, Russia moved some of its nuclear weapons to its ally and neighbor, Belarus, which also neighbors Ukraine. Now, Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko is trying to woo other countries to join them by offering them nuclear weapons. In a TV interview, he said, “Join the Union State of Belarus and Russia. That’s all: there will be nuclear weapons for everyone.”
👀Kishida’s son fired: Japanese PM Fumio Kishida has fired his son as his political secretary after a scandal. In late 2022, Kishida’s son had a party at his official residence, where he and guests took photos that were kind of mocking the political process. He was apparently reprimanded for it by his dad. It looks like that wasn’t enough because a few polls showed the general public found his actions to be a problem. Over 75% of the voters agreed, and Kishida dropped down to 47% in a favorability poll. After these numbers were revealed, Kishida fired his son as his secretary, and he will be replaced by June 1.
🔥Canada wildfire emergency: For weeks now, Canada has been battling an outbreak of intense wildfires in its eastern regions. On Sunday, a wildfire started affecting the city of Halifax, leading to evacuations and power outages. The city called a state of emergency and shut down schools in the area.
🌞Japan to beam solar power from space: The next step for solar power is to collect it from outer space and then transfer it to Earth’s surface for us to use. The whole concept is to collect it with solar panels in space, then convert that energy into microwaves to be beamed down to ground-level receiving stations, which would convert those into electricity. A Japanese public-private partnership just announced that it would be attempting to do this by 2025.
⭐Could stars disappear? Light pollution from nearby cities or even just streetlights and lights from inside homes is threatening our view of the night sky. With the widespread use of external lighting, street illumination, advertising and illuminated sporting venues, we see fewer and fewer stars with the naked eye every day. Now, scientists are estimating that most of the major constellations won’t really be visible in 20 years.
💊Major AI antibiotic breakthrough: Some bacteria don't really respond well to the antibiotics we’ve created. But, with the help of AI, scientists have reached a breakthrough in working against an antibiotic-resistant superbug. AI helped researchers discover a new antibiotic that works against 41 different strains of Acinetobacter baumannii, which are usually resistant to antibiotics.
👨🚀Citizens in space: Prepare for launch! The Shenzhou 16 is looking to launch today, and for the first time in China’s history, a citizen will be making their journey out of this world. Typically, only members of the army are allowed to join space missions. A 36-year-old payload specialist from Beihang University in Beijing named Gui Haichao will be fulfilling a lifelong dream on his mission to space.
🤑Hong Kong consumption voucher: Consumer spending in Hong Kong is about to get a HK$13 billion (US$1.6 billion) boost. To consolidate the city’s economic recovery, a second installment of this year’s consumption vouchers will be dropping soon. All we know is the vouchers will be for HK$2,000 (US$255) for permanent residents and new arrivals aged 18 and above on July 16.
🥵Hot, Hot, Hot: Welp, bad news, it's about to get hot in Hong Kong, and we mean REALLY hot. Over the next few days, temps are expected to get to 34 degrees Celsius and as high as 38 degrees in some areas. This is mainly due to the effects of Super Typhoon Mawar. Meanwhile, over in China, Shanghai on Monday recorded its highest May temperature in more than a century, hitting a record 36.1 degrees Celsius (nearly 97 degrees Fahrenheit). So, try and stay cool today and tomorrow!
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