From Apple's smartwatch troubles to a really vintage Christmas tree – Here are today's Headlines

In the world of wearable tech, the Apple Watch isn't just a fashion statement but also a handy health tool.

From Apple's smartwatch troubles to a really vintage Christmas tree – Here are today's Headlines
Apple logo is seen on the Apple store at The Marche Saint Germain in Paris, France July 15, 2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/File Photo/File Photo/File Photo

To start off, we're looking into:

Apple to halt smartwatch sales

The backstory: In the world of wearable tech, the Apple Watch isn't just a fashion statement but also a handy health tool. Its health features, like ECG and blood oxygen readings, are key to its global success. In 2022, Apple sold around 49 million smartwatches. And for the first nine months of 2023, the company had already sold nearly 27 million of them. 

But Apple hit a roadblock with health tech giant Masimo back in 2021. Masimo said Apple's 2020 Series 6 Watch violated its patent rights with tech used for its blood-oxygen monitoring feature. Earlier this year, a US judge sided with Masimo, confirming Apple's infringement on its pulse oximeter patents.

More recently: Two months ago, things heated up when the US International Trade Commission (ITC) issued an order that could ban Apple from importing its watches. But it was still up in the air pending appeal and a presidential review. US President Biden's team had 60 days to review the order and decide whether to veto it or not. If the ruling stands, Apple will be able to appeal that decision on the Federal level.

The development: With the holiday season on the horizon, Apple is in a bit of a tight spot in this tussle. In response to this looming ban, Apple has decided to stop selling some versions of its Apple Watch in order to preemptively comply if it’s upheld. Click the link here for more.

Japan's Nippon buys US Steel

Nippon Steel
The logo of Nippon Steel Corporation is displayed at the company headquarters in Tokyo, Japan in this photo taken by Kyodo May 1, 2019. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

The backstory: In 1901, financier heavyweights JP Morgan and Charles Schwab bought Andrew Carnegie’s steel company and merged it with their own company, giving birth to US Steel, a powerhouse riding America's industrial boom. At its peak, it stood tall among the world's giants. But as time went on, the entire US steel sector faced tougher competition from cheaper global rivals. Once pivotal to American economic strength, US Steel even had a hand in shaping antitrust laws. Fast forward to today, the company has over 22,000 employees globally, including over 14,000 in the US. 

In recent years, while still turning a profit, US Steel has slipped in its steel output and market value, falling behind other American steel firms. Despite still making money, US Steel found itself in a bidding war over the past several months, facing potential acquisition.

The development: Nippon Steel, a Japanese steelmaker, has closed a deal to buy US Steel for US$14.1 billion in an all-cash offer. The transaction is worth about $14.9 billion including the assumption of debt. Click the link here for more.

TomTom and Microsoft bring AI to cars

TomTom and Microsoft
A Microsoft sign at the U.S. tech giant's offices in Issy-les-Moulineaux, near Paris, France, January 25, 2023. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/File Photo

The backstory: Voice controls in cars are not a new concept. They’ve been around for years but tend to be somewhat buggy or inconvenient for users. For example, CarPlay is a common voice control tool, and Android Auto is another. While they work for some people, other times they end up not working right, leading drivers to take their eyes off the road to figure out what’s going on. That totally defeats the purpose of car voice controls altogether.

The development: On Tuesday, digital mapping tech company TomTom and Microsoft announced a generative AI voice control assistant for cars. It’ll be built on a foundation of Microsoft’s Azure, and TomTom’s Digital Cockpit. It’s supposed to be more conversational and intuitive to use, allowing drivers to focus more on the road. Click the link here for more.

To end, we'll look into:

Cat video beamed through space

Who doesn’t love a good cat video? Not even an alien could say no to watching one. And NASA is putting that to the test.

This month, the space agency sent a video of Taters the cat back down to Earth via laser from deep space. This is the first time NASA has used a laser to cast a video from this far away. This 15-second ultra high-def video clip traveled around 30 million kilometers (19 million miles) from NASA’s Psyche spacecraft. That’s about 80 times the distance between Earth and the moon.

On December 11, the video was sent down to Earth, taking 101 seconds to reach its destination, transmitting at a speed of 267 megabits per second. That’s faster than most broadband travels in Earth’s orbit. A tool called a flight laser transceiver was used to transmit the video as an encoded laser from Psyche to the Hale Telescope at Caltech's Palomar Observatory in California.

The video was sent up on Psyche when it was launched in October, but Taters the cat remained safely on Earth. The video shows Taters chasing a laser, of course. Taters is an orange tabby cat owned by a NASA employee at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California. Click the link here for more.

In other news ...


📉Market snapshot and key quotes:

  • In the US: US stocks rose Tuesday, fueled by the Fed's market-friendly stance, pushing the broader index toward a record high.
  • In Hong Kong: Hong Kong stocks fell on Tuesday due to profit-taking after last week's rally, alongside some pushback from the Fed about people expecting multiple rate cuts next year.

📊Top gainers/losers and company news:

  • In the US: Affirm soared by 15.5% following an expanded partnership with Walmart for its buy-now-pay-later services.
  • UBS gained over 5% after an activist investor invested in the Swiss bank. 
  • In Hong Kong: Country Garden Services dropped over 11%, and Longfor Group fell over 5%.
  • Nio, the Chinese electric vehicle maker, rose over 5% after getting a big US$2.2 billion investment from a fund associated with the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.

👀The numbers everyone is watching:

  • In the US: This week, attention is on US GDP data and Nike's earnings report.
  • In Hong Kong: China is releasing its loan prime rates on Wednesday.

📅To check out our economic calendar for this week, click here.

More headlines ...

📰Israel/Palestine update: On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that the northern Gazan Kamal Adwan hospital, which was raided by Israel a couple of days ago, isn't functional anymore. Monday night, Israeli troops raided one of the last functioning hospitals in northern Gaza, Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City, which left 28 Palestinians dead. Over the past few days, there have been reports that negotiations might start up again between Israel and Hamas. On Tuesday, Israeli President Isaac Herzog suggested that Israel might be ready for mediated talks on another temporary Gaza truce to trade captives and allow more aid into the strip. Meanwhile, settler violence is still surging in the West Bank. 

🌋Iceland volcano finally erupts: A few weeks ago, Iceland began experiencing earthquakes, and authorities predicted that one of its volcanoes could erupt soon. A nearby town was evacuated, but the volcano didn't erupt within days, as scientists had warned. Well, the volcano on the Reykjanes Peninsula finally erupted on Monday, but the explosion was thankfully not as bad as volcanologists had been dreading. The eruption was the largest that the volcano had seen in a while, but there's no risk to people as the nearby town is still empty.

Iceland volcano
A volcano spews lava and smoke as it erupts in Grindavik, Iceland, December 18, 2023. Civil Protection of Iceland/Handout via REUTERS

🌏Deadly earthquake hits China: Northwestern China experienced a 6.2 magnitude earthquake on Monday night that destroyed buildings and killed at least 127 people. It resulted in more than 700 people injured and left many outside in the cold, with their homes in ruins. This is the region's deadliest earthquake in almost a decade. 

China earthquake
Rescue workers carry an injured person on a stretcher at Dahejia town following the earthquake in Jishishan county, Gansu province, China December 19, 2023. cnsphoto via REUTERS

🚢US launches Red Sea mission: With some companies suspending shipping routes through the Red Sea, the Yemen-based Houthi militant group's attacks on Western and Israel-linked vessels are starting to impact the global supply chain. Now, the US has decided to lead a multi-nation mission to protect ships moving through the Red Sea, which it announced on Tuesday.

📰Sudan crisis forces thousands to flee: Fighting between two rival security forces within Sudan has been going on for months. Recently, the conflict spread to Wad Madani, the capital city of the central el-Gezira state. Now, an estimated 250,000 - 300,000 people have fled the city in search of safety.

🐘Elephants die in Zimbabwe park: Zimbabwe has been experiencing an unusually bad drought brought on by the El Nino weather pattern and climate change. This has affected the country's elephant population, with at least 100 elephants in its biggest national park dying within the past few weeks. Wildlife authorities and conservation groups are worried this number will only multiply.

Zimbabwe elephants
Officials inspect the carcass of an elephant in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe December 7, 2023 REUTERS/Nyasha Chingono

👩‍⚕️New COVID strain noted by WHO: Current estimates say that about 21% of current COVID cases in the US are caused by the newer JN.1 virus strain. Now, the World Health Organization (WHO) has categorized this JN.1 as a "variant of interest." But, it also said that there's it doesn't pose any additional risk to the public, and existing treatments and vaccines should still be effective against it. 

💵Google to pay app store settlement: Google has been accused in the US of using monopoly strategies to illegally choke out the competition when it comes to its app store. To settle this antitrust issue, Google will pay US$700 million and make a few adjustments to the app store to allow for more competition. It had already struck this deal earlier, but the exact figure didn't come out until Monday.

📉Toshiba to be delisted: Toshiba has been listed on the Tokyo stock exchange for almost 75 years now. But, over the past few years, this tech company has taken hit after hit, like a long-running accounting scandal. On Wednesday, Toshiba will be officially delisted from the Tokyo exchange. It's being taken private by a group of investors led by private equity firm Japan Industrial Partners.

🎬Disney's new Zootopia attraction: "Zootopia," which came out in China in 2016, is one of the nation's highest-grossing imported animated films ever released. Shanghai Disney Resort has been building an immersive land based on the film for the past few years. And on Wednesday, this park section will open to the public! It's Disney's first "Zootopia"-themed site. 

🎄Super vintage tree sells at auction: Over a hundred years ago, one of the first mass-produced fake Christmas trees sold for just a few pence in the UK. From these humble beginnings, this Charlie Brown-esque tree was resold last week at auction for £3,400 (roughly US$4,300). The tree was originally owned by a little girl named Dorothy Grant, who treasured it so much that she held on to it her whole life until she passed away at the age of 101. Hansons Auctioneers explained the high value the tree fetched because of its charming backstory and the magic of Christmas.

Source: Hansons Auctioneers

Quiz Time!

What steel corporation just cinched a deal to purchase US Steel?

  1. Tata Steel
  2. Nippon Steel
  3. Shougang Group
  4. HBIS Group

Scroll wayyy down for the answer if we stumped you ...


















And the answer is ... [2]

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