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To start off, we're looking into:
The backstory: Essequibo is an area along the Venezuela/Guyana border. Guyana governs it, but there’s been a longstanding dispute over the land, with Venezuela staking a claim to it.
Venezuela says that Essequibo was inside its borders when it declared independence from Spain in 1811. But, in 1899, the area was awarded to the British, who still ruled Guyana as a colony. Right before Guyana became independent in 1966, Venezuela and Britain signed an agreement to keep Essequibo in Guyana until a more permanent decision could be made. The region now makes up more than half of Guyana’s territory. In 2015, oil was found in the area, which complicated this dispute more.
The development: Earlier this year, more oil reserves were found in Essequibo, and Guyana announced it would be accepting bids to drill there. Soon after, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro called for a national referendum on whether or not to formally claim Essequibo as Venezuelan territory. The country voted on it on Sunday. Click the link here for more.
South Korea's spy satellite launch
The backstory: In the ongoing tension between North and South Korea, South Korea is working on developing its space program. The two nations are still technically at war, and space is one area of competition, especially since North Korea just recently launched its first spy satellite. These are orbiting devices designed to gather intelligence by capturing images and data. In May, South Korea launched eight satellites using its Nuri vehicle, showing that it can send satellites using its own rocket.
The development: Traditionally relying on US satellite intel, South Korea made a big move last week by launching its first domestically-made spy satellite using a SpaceX rocket. A Falcon 9 rocket, labeled "KOREA," took off from California's Vandenberg Space Force Base, marking a move toward reducing the country's reliance on US surveillance. South Korea aims to launch four more spy satellites by the end of 2025. Click the link here for more.
Hong Kong public housing wait times
The backstory: Hong Kong is one of the world's most densely populated places, with a population of around 7.5 million. But the city grapples with soaring housing prices, currently clocking a public housing wait time exceeding five years. The government initially pledged a three-year average waiting time for public housing. But by 2022, it shot up to around six years, marking the longest wait time since 1998. While the Housing Authority reported an improvement at the end of last year, the wait still averaged around 5.3 years.
The development: According to a recent government warning, the average waiting time for a public rental flat is rising again, hitting 5.6 years. This is the first increase in over a year because of a shortage of new public rental homes. While the Housing Authority says the wait time will increase in the short term, it remains optimistic about things getting better in the last half of 2024 and beyond. Click the link here for more.
To end, we'll look into:
The future of climate change tracking
Over the past few years, it's become clear that we need to be on top of climate change, tracking our emissions and getting a clearer understanding of who's responsible. All of this is dominating discussion as COP28 is ongoing this month. Cue the Climate Trace coalition. Made up of nonprofits and academics, it’s effectively become a climate watchdog since it came together in 2020.
Climate Trace, co-founded by former US Vice President Al Gore (a noted climate advocate), has created a new-age database to track global greenhouse gas emissions that can pinpoint individual polluters. It does this using cutting-edge technology, including machine learning and satellites.
"Climate Trace is filling a vacuum that is presently virtually devoid of accurate information," Gore explained at COP28. Click the link here for more.
In other news ...
📰Israel/Palestine update: The short-lived truce between Israel and Hamas broke on Friday, with both sides blaming each other for the return to fighting. Over the weekend, Israel has been sending airstrikes at “terrorist targets” in southern Gaza (specifically the city of Khan Younis), which is where many civilians from the north were forced to relocate in the past few weeks. Another ceasefire agreement is unlikely, and Israeli PM Netanyahu is saying that the conflict will probably only escalate. On Saturday, French President Emmanuel Macron told Israel that it has to “more precisely define” its goals in the conflict, saying that to destroy Hamas would take a decade of fighting. On Sunday, the White House announced that the US is pushing for Israel and Hamas to restart negotiations. The US has also said that it doesn’t support the idea of forcibly relocating Gazans to other countries or redrawing the Gaza border. On Sunday, Israel confirmed it was expanding its military campaign across all of Gaza.
🌍COP28 updates: A new report shows that last month, the UAE’s Sultan Al Jaber, the president of COP28, said there’s “no science” that we need to phase out fossil fuel use to limit global warming – comments scientists called concerning and “verging on climate denial.” At the conference, a new energy pledge has been made, with over 100 countries promising to triple world renewable energy use by 2030 and around 50 oil and gas companies pledging to stop emitting greenhouse gases by 2050. That pledge only covers production emissions, not fossil fuel burning; organizers have gathered to protest. But, COP28 organizers and the UN haven’t told anyone if it’s safe to demonstrate outside the conference in Dubai, where protest usually isn’t allowed.
📈Massive earthquake in the Philippines: On Saturday, a giant earthquake hit the southern part of the Philippines with a magnitude of at least 7.5. Evacuations from the area began soon after, with aftershocks coming and worries over the possibility of a tsunami there and in Japan. The threat of a tsunami has likely passed now.
🗞️Russia boosts war efforts: With the war in Ukraine continuing, NATO has expanded (and is about to bring on Sweden as a new member). In response, Russia is building up its troops for the second time in the past 15 months. And, southwest of Russian-occupied Donetsk, the already-devastated town of Maryinka is in limbo when it comes to who controls it, but there are some reports that Russian forces are gaining power there.
🛳️US warship attack investigated: Iran-backed Yemeni Houthi rebels have been staging attacks against Israel over the past couple of months as conflict continues in Israel and Palestine. The Houthis have been especially targeting commercial ships associated with Israel in the Red Sea. Now, the US Department of Defense is investigating reports that a US warship and some commercial ships in the Red Sea were attacked by a drone off the Yemen coast, likely launched by Houthis.
🚓Cops raid gay clubs in Moscow: Last week, Russia’s Supreme Court banned the “international LGBTQ movement,” calling it “extremist.” On Friday night, cops in Moscow reportedly raided gay clubs and bars, saying it was a drug raid. Witnesses said that attendees’ documents were checked and photographed by the cops.
❌More companies pull ads from X: Over the past couple of weeks, major companies have been pulling ads from X (formerly Twitter) after Musk was accused of antisemitism and a report found that advertisers’ content was being shown alongside offensive content. Last Wednesday, X owner Elon Musk commented about the advertisers who left X, saying they’re blackmailing him and telling them to “go f—” themselves. Now, Walmart has also pulled its ads from the platform, joining giants like Disney, IBM and Sony.
💊Pfizer cancels weight loss pill: Weight loss medications have gotten a huge boost in popularity over the last year with Ozempic and Wegovy semaglutides becoming all the rage for suppressing appetite and fueling weight loss. Pfizer has been trying to break into the weight loss market with a twice-daily experimental pill, but its reported side effects of nausea and diarrhea, along with vomiting occurring at high rates, have caused the company to discontinue clinical trials.
🌧️Hong Kong wet and cold: The Hong Kong Observatory has said that people in the city can expect several days of rain and cooler weather later this week, with temps going down to 15 C (59 F) or even lower in some areas. The current monsoon in the northeast should moderate over the next few days, but another surge is expected to reach southern China on Wednesday, bringing more rain. Temperatures during the day in Hong Kong should hang around 20-24 C (68-75 F).
📡Amazon hits up SpaceX for satellite launch: Amazon is trying to get in on satellite internet constellations, an area currently dominated by SpaceX with its Starlink system. Amazon is now turning to its competitor to launch some of its new internet satellites into orbit. Even though Jeff Bezos has his own rocket company called Blue Origin, some of Amazon’s satellites are now scheduled to ride on SpaceX rockets as soon as 2025.
🌈Billie Eilish comes out: In November, musician Billie Eilish was on the cover of Variety magazine, and in the cover story, she mentioned that she’s attracted to other women. People weren’t really sure if that was her coming out, but Eilish said on Saturday that the story was her coming out and that she does have a romantic attraction to women. She did say she didn’t intend on making a grand gesture of it, as she thought it was “obvious,” but she’s glad that her fans know.
💓The Weeknd sends aid to Gaza: The Weeknd, aka Abel Tesfaye, has an organization called XO Humanitarian Fund, and he’s directed US$2.5 million from this fund to Gaza to help pay for more than four million emergency meals for civilians affected by the war. The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) has said that the money can provide 820 metric tons of food, which could feed more than 173,000 Palestinians for two weeks.
🎮GTA VI trailer release date: Last month, Rockstar Games teased us with the news that the much-anticipated trailer for the next installation of its popular Grand Theft Auto game series would be released in December. Now, we’ve got a date. Rockstar announced on social media that fans can look for the trailer’s release on December 5.
🎙️Clockenflap slaps: Since its launch in 2008, Clockenflap has grown from a smaller event into Hong Kong's biggest annual music and arts celebration. The festival showcases both world-famous musical performances and artists from Hong Kong and Asia. Friday’s show was a hit and completely sold out, with headline performances by J-pop super duo Yoasobi, Brit post-punk band IDLES and China’s own Wang Wen. Other big acts included Britpop icons PULP, hip-hop legends De La Soul, Australian singer Tones and I, British electro legend Darren Emerson and more. Scroll for some pics from the weekend.
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