From Sotheby's art fraud trial to a super-tidy mouse – Here are today's Headlines

Sotheby's trial for fraud started in a Manhattan federal court on Monday.

From Sotheby's art fraud trial to a super-tidy mouse – Here are today's Headlines
A logo is pictured on Sotheby's in Geneva, Switzerland, June 21, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

To start off, we're looking into:

Sotheby's art fraud trial

The backstory: Besides his accomplishments in business, Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev is also recognized for his extensive art collection. He made headlines in 2017 for selling Leonardo da Vinci's “Salvator Mundi" to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) through Christie's auction house in New York for US$450.3 million, breaking the world record for any work of art sold at auction. 

But the trouble began in 2015 when Yves Bouvier, part of Rybolovlev's art dealings, was arrested after being accused by Rybolovlev of buying artworks and then selling them at overinflated prices to make huge profits. Rybolovlev chased Bouvier through courts in multiple places, like Hong Kong, New York, Singapore and Switzerland, over the next eight or so years, saying he was overcharged by about US$1 billion for various artworks by da Vinci, Rene Magritte and others.

The development: After settling the long-running dispute with Bouvier last month, Rybolovlev is now suing Sotheby's. The accusations focus on Sotheby's allegedly assisting Bouvier in inflating the values of 16 artworks. Sotheby's trial for fraud started in a Manhattan federal court on Monday. Click the link here for more on what's going on.

JBS faces UK opposition

JBS US stock exchange listing
An employee works at the assembly line of jerked beef at a plant of JBS S.A, the world's largest beef producer, in Santana de Parnaiba, Brazil December 19, 2017. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker/File Photo

The backstory: Brazilian company JBS, a big name in the global meat industry, operates worldwide from the US to New Zealand, holding the title of the world’s largest meat packer and supplier. In 2022, almost half of its earnings came from the US. When JBS made its debut on the Sao Paulo Stock Exchange in 2007, it was a big move, marking it as the first Brazilian meat packer to go public. JBS believes a US listing could bring more investors and capital, so going public in on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) has been in the plans for years. But, there have been worries about JBS' operations and its impact on the environment, especially Amazon deforestation. JBS is the biggest buyer of cattle from the Amazon, and experts say ranching is the biggest cause of deforestation there.

The development: Twelve UK lawmakers are now opposing JBS’ listing on the NYSE, saying the company has been involved in deforestation, human rights issues and taking land from Indigenous communities. This all came out in a letter that was expected to be delivered on Wednesday to US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chair Gary Gensler. Click the link here for more.

If you thought it was hot last year, buckle up

climate change record temperatures
A man walks on the cracked ground of the Baells reservoir as drinking water supplies have plunged to their lowest level since 1990 due to extreme drought in Catalonia, in the village of Cersc, in the region Bergueda, Spain March 14, 2023. REUTERS/Nacho Doce/File Photo

The backstory: To stop the worsening and potentially irreversible effects of climate change, the global average temperature shouldn’t go over the temperatures from preindustrial times by more than 1.5 C – this is a threshold agreed upon by the international community and also established in the Paris Agreement in 2015. But 2023 was hot. Very, very hot. In fact, it was the hottest year on record, and many of us aren’t surprised since there was just so much weather and climate change coverage for most of last year. But brace yourselves because there’s about to be a lot more heat and weather talk coming up. 

The development: The EU Copernicus Climate Change Service, for example, released data recently saying that it accurately predicted that 2023 would be scorchingly hot, with deadly heat waves across China, North America and Europe. But it also made a worrying forecast that Earth will soon likely pass that critical threshold set to prevent more drastic climate change. Click the link here for more.

To end, we'll look into:

It’s the human touch that AI can’t quite replace

Two months after the launch of ChatGPT, the platform had become the fastest-growing web app ever, with recent data saying that ChatGPT currently has around 180.5 million users, with 1.7 billion visits in November of last year. And, as it became all the rage in late 2022, a heap of fear around redundancies and obsolescence in jobs and skills has also, understandably, increased. 

Whether it’s a developer, a lawyer or an *ahem* journalist, many of us are pretty tense about being replaced by a machine in the coming years. In fact, Goldman Sachs had a report that said generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools would likely impact 300 million full-time jobs. Executive coaches and HR execs are trying to tell the worried to just control the controllable, but many remain unsettled, with PwC publishing a survey that showed a third of participants worried about being replaced by tech in the coming years. 

But, despite the fear of being replaced by AI, which hasn’t been helped by all the coverage and talk on the issue, some remain optimistic that their jobs are safe because they’re human, not in spite of it. At least for now. Click the link here for more.

In other news ...


📉Market snapshot and key quotes:

  • In the US: US stocks rose on Wednesday as investors waited for new US inflation data and earnings reports. The market stayed cautious.
  • In Hong Kong: Hong Kong stocks dropped on Wednesday due to worries about China's economy. 

📊Top gainers/losers and company news:

  • In the US: TG Therapeutics took a dive of over 15% despite revealing good news about its multiple sclerosis treatment.
  • PriceSmart went up by 5% after strong Q1 results, beating expectations.
  • In Hong Kong: EV maker Li Auto slipped by 4.4%, and its rival BYD dropped by 1.4%.

👀The numbers everyone is watching:

  • In the US: This week featured key data releases, such as US CPI, wholesale inventories and PPI.
  • In Hong Kong: China is set to release important economic indicators, including China CPI, PPI and trade data on Friday.

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

More headlines ...

📰Israel/Palestine update: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is on his fourth trip to the Middle East since the Israel/Hamas conflict began. At a Tel Aviv news conference, he said, "The daily toll on civilians in Gaza, particularly on children, is far too high." This comes as The International Court of Justice, the highest UN judicial body, is hearing a case this week filed by South Africa accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza. Meanwhile, Yemen's Houthis, an Iran-backed militant rebel group that has been attacking commercial ships in the Red Sea in protest of the conflict, launched the biggest missile and drone attack so far on Tuesday. This is while the US has said it's considering military strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen.

✈️Boeing CEO speaks on safety: With an ongoing investigation and controversy over the recent Alaska Airlines fuselage blowout, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun fought back tears during an all-hands meeting with employees at the 737 aircraft factory as he emphasized the need for the company to own up to its shortcomings and approach the situation with complete transparency. "I've got kids, I've got grandkids and so do you. This stuff matters. Every detail matters," he said.

🪙SEC approves spot bitcoin ETFs: For the first time, US regulators have given the green light for exchange-traded funds (ETFs) tracking bitcoin. It's a major milestone for the US$1.7 trillion digital asset sector, bringing the crypto industry closer to the more mainstream finance world. The SEC approved 11 funds on Wednesday to start trading. This comes only a day after a post on the SEC's X account wrongly said these ETFs had been approved. Even though the SEC said its X account had been compromised (and the FBI is now looking into it), you can only imagine what was happening to bitcoin prices during this whole thing. 

⚽Chinese football coach's bribery confession: When it comes to football, Chinese President Xi is a self-proclaimed fan and has shared his dream of China one day hosting and winning a World Cup. But these dreams haven't yet come true. In a documentary aired on state TV, China's government said that corruption is the reason for its national football team's poor performance. The doc featured confessions of bribe-taking by figures in Chinese football, including former national team coach Li Tie. Li confessed to paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to secure the top job and being involved in match-fixing. 

🪙India's crypto app crackdown: India's government, like many, previously took a hard stance against crypto. But since then, it's gone from opposition to regulation, putting in strict anti-laundering measures and harsh taxes on transactions and gains. In December, nine exchanges were suspected of misconduct, causing their websites to be blocked, and they were asked to show that they were complying with local laws. The country has stepped up its crackdown by asking Apple to take down exchanges that don't have local registrations off its Indian App Store. This includes Binance, Bitfinex, HTX and Kucoin. Google has also reportedly been asked to remove these apps. 

👨‍💻Ex-Twitter CEO is back with an AI startup: After a very public parting with X, formerly Twitter, when Elon Musk acquired the social media platform, Parag Agrawal has reportedly raised about US$30 million in funding for his artificial intelligence (AI) startup, according to The Information. The company is developing software for developers working with large language models (LLMs), the basis of generative AI tools such as ChatGPT. 

💼Amazon layoffs: Since 2022, Amazon has laid off around 27,000 workers, and after aggressively expanding during COVID and changing CEOs, it's going through hundreds more layoffs in its Prime Video and studios business. It's part of the company's efforts to optimize operations and move towards "improving our ability to deliver even more breakthrough movies, TV shows, and live sports in a personalized, easy-to-use entertainment experience for our global customers," Mike Hopkins, the head of the streaming division, wrote in an internal memo. 

📈Abercrombie & Fitch turnaround?: You may remember Abercrombie & Fitch, the popular mall fashion brand known for its exclusive, preppy style – especially in the early aughts. It's faced many challenges in recent years, like the #MeToo movement, the shift to e-commerce, bad publicity and controversy and the rise of fast fashion. With all of this in the backdrop, you may be surprised that A&F is now a … Wall Street fav? The company saw its best annual stock performance ever last year, climbing 300%. Several days ago, it also said its fourth quarter last year went better than expected. It had a pretty big rebrand and is targeting Gen Z in its revival, so it seems that plan is making headway.

🎹SoundCloud eyeing a sale?: Last year, music streaming platform SoundCloud said it would cut its workforce by 8% to aim to become profitable, according to CEO Eliah Seton. According to SkyNews, the platform aims to sell this year, and it's been preparing for this for quite some time. Word has it that main shareholders Raine Group and Temasek Holdings, the Singaporean state investment fund, have started interviewing banks about a potential auction of the company.

🎻Apple Music Classical app: China is the world's largest smartphone market, and even though Apple has seen sales in the mainland drop 30% year on year in the first week of 2024, according to Jefferies analysts, it's expected to face even more pressure as Huawei and Xiaomi dominate more of the market share. Now, in an attempt to lift this number, the tech giant will launch its classical music app in the mainland on January 24. It'll have the world's largest classical music catalog with over five million tracks and can already be pre-ordered on the China iPhone App Store. On the same day, Apple Music Classical will also become available in five other Asian markets, including Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea.

🤖CES highlights: We mentioned yesterday that the yearly global tech event CES has kicked off in Vegas. It draws industry leaders and startups to showcase their newest innovations, and we've got a rundown of some of the highlights so far. Asus introduced a dual-screen laptop for us productivity lovers that will go on sale in the coming months. For US$100, you can buy Satechi's SM1 Slim, a mechanical Bluetooth keyboard that can connect to four devices. Maxi Cosi's new See Pro 360° Baby Monitor with CryAssist AI will translate a baby's cries into five categories – sleepy, hungry, fussy, gassy or agitated. And, lastly, our favorite, the Kahe Nautic's Pod 600 is a versatile electric outboard motor that's also an undersea scooter. You can use it for kayaking, snorkeling and more, and it weighs just 4.5 kilograms.

🕷️Giant spider: The biggest male found of the world’s most venomous spider species has popped up in, you guessed it, Australia. The Sydney funnel-web spider has fangs anywhere from 1-5 centimeters long that can pierce through a human fingernail. The largest male specimen of the spider was discovered on the Central Coast, and it’s found a home at the Australian Reptile Park. That’s a big NOPE for us – but the spider, named Hercules, will be helping save lives by contributing to the park’s antivenom program.

Sydney funnel-web spider
Source: Facebook/Australian Reptile Park

🐁Tidy mouse: Retired wildlife photographer Rodney Holbrook started noticing some odd things in his shed – each morning, things he’d left out on his workbench had been mysteriously tidied up by some unknown helpful housekeeper. So, he set up a camera to see what was going on. Holbrook discovered a mouse to be the culprit. The tiny creature would show up each night, taking scattered items like clothespins, corks, nuts, and bolts, then neatly placing them back in a box. Holbrook named his new friend Welsh Tidy Mouse. Check out the video below.

Quiz Time!

On which stock exchange has the meat supplier JBS been trying to publicly list for years?

  1. New York Stock Exchange
  2. Hong Kong Stock Exchange
  3. Colombia Stock Exchange (Bolsa de Valores de Colombia)
  4. Shanghai Stock Exchange

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Written and put together by Joey Fung, Krystal Lai and Christine Dulion

**The answer to the quiz is [1]