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To start off, we're looking into:
The backstory: Last week, we reported on a conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region (previously claimed by both countries), which is in Azerbaijan but now run by ethnic-Armenian separatists. It took place over about a day when the Azerbaijani military came in, demanding the separatist forces step down. They agreed to a ceasefire pretty quickly. But, Armenia reports that over 200 people were killed and 400 were wounded in the operation.
The development: With Azerbaijan taking control of Nagorno-Karabakh, the 120,000 ethnic Armenian residents there are trying to evacuate, reportedly afraid of possible future ethnic cleansing as the area changes hands. Russia, the US and the EU – along with international experts – have also shown concern about the risk of ethnic cleansing.
Azerbaijan agreed to open the Lachin corridor that links the territory to Armenia, and Armenia is welcoming these refugees. Click the link here for more.
Hong Kong's JPEX chaos
The backstory: As we've talked about before, Hong Kong wants to be a major player in the crypto world and has been making moves to achieve that. In June, the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) decided to allow crypto exchanges to serve not just pros but everyday investors, provided they understood the risks involved.
The development: Now, JPEX, a crypto trading platform, is in hot water in Hong Kong and faces allegations of fraud. This scandal has escalated into one of the biggest fraud investigations ever in the city.
Last week, the SFC revealed that JPEX, based in Dubai, was operating in Hong Kong without the required license for virtual asset trading. Authorities have taken action, arresting eleven people, including some well-known figures and social media personalities. This came after over 2,000 investors filed complaints about the exchange. Click the link here for the latest on this case.
Asian Games 2023 kick off
The backstory: The Asian Games, often called the "Asian Olympics," have quite a history, dating back to 1951. It's a major showdown where athletes from all across Asia gather to compete, like the Olympics, but specifically for Asia. Over the years, it's become the second-largest multi-sporting event globally, right behind the Olympics. This year marks the 19th edition, hosted in Hangzhou, China.
The development: On Saturday, Chinese President Xi Jinping officially marked the commencement of the Games. This grand event, hosted in front of a crowd of 80,000, featured prominent figures like International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
This year's Asian Games are making headlines as the largest edition ever, with around 12,000 athletes from 45 nations and territories competing across 40 sports. Click the link here for more.
To end, we'll look into:
AI and forest fires
Wildfires have been breaking records in 2023. Canada broke the record for wildfire smoke emissions released in a single year back in June. These wildfires are estimated to have released around 410 megatonnes of carbon emissions. The previous record? – 138 megatonnes. Apart from Canada, wildfires became a devastating force in Russia, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Hawaii this summer.
But, with climate change creating better conditions for wildfires to thrive globally, what can we do to curb our losses? It turns out artificial intelligence (AI) could be the answer.
AI can be used to detect wildfires early enough to get them under control before they cause massive devastation. And it can be adopted in a few different ways.
Click the link here for more on how AI can prevent forest fires.
In other news ...
💣Deadly truck bombing in Somalia: East Africa's al-Qaeda-related group, al-Shabab, has been known to carry out attacks at government checkpoints in Somalia. On Saturday, there was a truck bombing at a government checkpoint in the central part of the country. At the time of reporting, the death toll stands at 21, and no one has taken responsibility for the attack yet.
🚒Taiwan factory fire: On Friday, an explosion caused a fire at a golf equipment factory in southern Taiwan. Almost 100 people were injured, and several were missing following the fire. The last of the missing were found on Sunday, bringing the death toll to 10. Four of the victims were firefighters.
💣Ukraine targets Crimea in counteroffensive: As Ukraine's counteroffensive continues, it's been trying to reclaim Russian-occupied territory, including Crimea. Russia's strongest navy fleet is based in the Crimean city of Sevastopol. On Friday, Ukraine staged a missile strike on the headquarters of the fleet, which it timed to happen at the same time as a meeting of naval officials.
🚢Complications in the South China Sea: Tensions over South China Sea territory claims have become more intense lately after China released a new map of the area that most Southeast Asian countries rejected earlier this month. On Sunday, the Philippines accused China of putting up a "floating barrier" in one of the more controversial areas of the Sea, the Scarborough Shoal. The Philippines says that the barrier keeps Filipinos from entering and fishing there.
👋France leaving Niger: In July, a military junta overthrew the government in Niger, a former French colony, and tensions between the two countries have heightened. On Sunday, President Emmanuel Macron said France would pull the remaining troops, around 1,500, from the country, the French ambassador and other diplomats.
⛪Pope weighs in on European migrant crisis: Europe has been struggling with an increase in asylum seekers, and the EU is working on creating a new migrant management plan. A couple of weeks ago, Italy's Lampedusa island made news when thousands of migrants came ashore within 24 hours, triggering leaders from different countries to try to block more migrant entries. During a speech in France over the weekend, Pope Francis called on Europe to welcome asylum seekers and to "not become closed in indifference."
💣Iran reports defusing terrorist bombs: The ISIS/ISIL militant group has a history of staging attacks in Iran, like 2017's notorious twin bombings of Iran's Parliament and the tomb of its founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. On Sunday, Iranian authorities said that they neutralized 30 bombs that were supposed to explode at the same time in Tehran. Officials also say they've arrested 28 people linked to ISIS/ISIL.
🏆Poland and Ukraine tensions: Poland and Ukraine's relationship has been on the rocks lately, stemming from complications with the grain trade. On top of that, Poland said last week it wouldn't supply Ukraine with any new weapons for the war. Now, Ukrainian President Zelenskiy is working to smooth things over. On his trip back to Ukraine from the US and Canada, he stopped in Warsaw to give awards to two Polish humanitarian volunteers and thanked "all of Poland" for its support.
💵Singapore takes freest economy title: Since the Fraser Institute's Economic Freedom of the World Index was first released in 1970, Hong Kong has consistently been at the top of the list. But this year's index report was just put out, and Hong Kong fell to second place after Singapore. This is the first time Hong Kong has fallen from the top spot. Some factors the index uses to decide economic freedom include how easy international trade is, the freedom to enter and compete in markets and business regulations, among other details.
🏠China's vacant homes: Over the past couple of years, China's property sector has been struggling, and homes and apartments have been left empty all over the country. According to estimations from Reuters, the space of about 7.2 million average-sized homes stands empty. On Saturday, a former Chinese government official said that even China's population of 1.4 billion probably wouldn't be able to fill all the currently empty housing.
📄FTX's former legal team denies knowledge of fraud: The law firm Fenwick & West had, at one point, represented disgraced crypto exchange FTX. In August, a class-action lawsuit came up against the firm. But Fenwick & West are looking to dismiss the suit, according to a Friday filing, arguing that it only acted within the scope of representing FTX and didn't know about or participate in the company's fraud.
✈HK airport named the best: The Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) was voted "Asia's Leading Airport 2023" for the third time and "China's Leading Airport 2023" for the second year in a row in the 30th World Travel Awards. "We have introduced an array of new facilities, services and technologies to give passengers a brand new airport experience," said the airport COO, Vivian Cheung, in response to the win.
🔉Amazon's Alexa gets a makeover: Launched in 2014, Amazon's voice-activated assistant technology, called "Alexa," has a voice that's made it a cultural icon. But Amazon announced at its big product event last week that Alexa will soon be looking at some changes, with its interactions being redesigned using a purpose-built large language model (LLM) in new Echo devices. So, Alexa is supposed to sound more conversational and human-like in the future.
🏆Hong Kong medals: The Asian Games in Hangzhou kicked off this weekend, and Hong Kong is off to a good start, coming away from the first day with two golds and five bronzes. Hong Kong rowing duo Lam San-tung and Wong Wai-chun won the city's first gold in the 2,000-meter rowing event. Fencer Edgar Cheung also snagged gold in the men's foil event.
🚀NASA's asteroid sample lands on Earth: Seven years ago, NASA launched the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to collect samples from the nearby Bennu asteroid. Bennu has a chance of colliding with Earth in the future, and it can also offer insight into the beginning of our solar system. On Sunday, OSIRIS flew past Earth again to successfully drop off the asteroid sample containing rocks and soil. This is the largest asteroid sample ever received on Earth.
👮♂️Mexico arrests Chucky doll: You know those cheesy-yet-creepy "Child's Play" movies about a killer, knife-wielding doll with red hair named Chucky? Apparently, a man in Mexico had been using one of those dolls to scare people and get money out of them, saying it was a "demon doll." Mexican police arrested the man … and Chucky … for disturbing the peace and putting others' integrity at risk. Mexican media said the officer who cuffed Chucky was later reprimanded for not taking her job seriously.
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