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To start off, we're looking into:
Netflix snags WWE “Raw”
The backstory: Netflix is known for sticking to things like movies, standup comedy specials, scripted dramas and binge-worthy series. But last year, there was a shift; the streaming giant started experimenting with live streaming, with Chris Rock's stand-up special "Selective Outrage" being the first ever live event to stream on the platform. It also found success with sports-related shows like the Formula 1 series "Drive to Survive" and the golf series "Full Swing." In November, Netflix streamed its first live sports event, "The Netflix Cup," featuring athletes from its sports documentaries.
Netflix has recently had its eyes on World Wrestling Entertainment, aka WWE. "Raw," WWE's weekly live wrestling show, has been on since 1993, with 1,600 episodes to date. Known for its intense rivalries and storylines, it draws in 17.5 million viewers annually, making it USA Network’s (the channel that currently airs the show) flagship.
The development: Netflix just sealed a US$5 billion deal, jumping further into live events. Starting January 2025, the platform will become the exclusive home for WWE's “Raw” in the US, Canada, Britain, Latin America and other regions. Click the link here for more.
The backstory: Australian company Appen has played an important role in training artificial intelligence (AI) models for industry giants like Microsoft, Apple and Google. Particularly, it’s helped train Google’s chatbot, Bard, Google Search results and other AI products. The company has a big team of over 1 million freelancers worldwide, working on projects for companies like Adobe and Salesforce. But things started to sour for the AI data firm when advanced language models like OpenAI's ChatGPT and Google's Bard came into play. Companies started spending more on Nvidia processors to stay ahead in the race, leaving Appen out in the cold.
More recently: Appen has been going through a tough time. Last year, its revenue dropped by almost 30%, following a 13% decline the year before, all because of what it called “challenging external operating and macro conditions.” In 2023, Appen relied heavily on its partnership with Alphabet, which made up over US$80 million out of the company’s total sales of US$273 million for the year.
The development: Alphabet just pulled the plug on its contract with Appen. This decision, effective from March 19, caught Appen off guard, with Appen saying it had no prior knowledge. Click the link here for more.
Turkey approves Sweden’s NATO membership
The backstory: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in early 2022 sparked security concerns among the Nordic countries of Sweden and Finland, as Finland, in particular, shares a 1,300-kilometer border with Russia. This led both countries to make a bid to enter NATO, with an immediate warning from Russian President Vladimir Putin that their membership would have repercussions.
More recently: Sweden has faced some opposition from Hungary, but primarily Turkey regarding its NATO bid. Turkey’s issue is that it sees Sweden as harboring members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (KWP), a group Turkey (and some other countries) views as a terrorist organization.
In mid-2023, Sweden introduced new anti-terrorism legislation to boost its chances with Turkey, but this also raised concerns among the Swedish people about whether it would infringe on freedom of speech. But, after introducing this legislation and signing an agreement addressing Turkey’s concerns, Sweden gained the support it needed.
The development: On Tuesday, the Turkish Parliament voted to approve Sweden’s NATO bid after a 20-month delay, and the Nordic country is now one step closer to its overall goal of joining the Western military alliance. Click the link here for more.
To end, we'll look into:
Chinese zodiac predictions
The results are in – will the Year of the Dragon bring you luck or challenges? Before every Lunar New Year celebration, many turn to Chinese zodiac predictions to see what the year ahead holds for them and whether their luck could be helped by the presence of lucky stars or hurt by cursed stars. These predictions are also influenced by the guardian deities (tai sui), as there are always a handful of signs that offend them, which can create more challenges for some signs.
Feng shui master, author and TV host Tong Pik-ha gave SCMP her predictions for all 12 Chinese zodiac signs earlier this month, and we’ve summarized them for you. So click the link here to see what’s in store for your sign this year.
In other news ...
📉Market snapshot and key quotes:
- In the US: US stocks mostly closed higher on Wednesday, led by tech players like Netflix, pushing the overall market to new highs. But the Dow Jones slipped 0.26%.
- In Hong Kong: Hong Kong stocks climbed for a second day, driven by Alibaba's co-founders snapping up more than US$200 million worth of the company’s shares. Beijing also announced measures that would boost lending.
📊Top gainers/losers and company news:
- In the US: Netflix soared over 10%, reaching a record 260.8 million subscribers. Revenue and current-quarter earnings outperformed expectations.
- SAP jumped 7% after revealing plans for voluntary buyouts.
- In Hong Kong: Alibaba rose over 1%, fueled by Jack Ma's reported purchase of HK$50 million in Alibaba shares listed in Hong Kong.
👀The numbers everyone is watching:
- In Hong Kong: No major events are anticipated in China this week.
- In the US: US manufacturing hit a 15-month high in January and the services sector also performed well, according to S&P Global.
📅To check out our economic calendar for this week, click here.
More headlines ...
📰Russia/Ukraine update: On Wednesday, Russia accused Ukraine of shooting down a military plane in the Belgorod region, killing all 74 on board, saying that 65 were Ukrainian prisoners being transported for a scheduled exchange. But, Ukraine’s military commander said that a Russian military aircraft approaching the Belgorod region is considered a legitimate target, without confirming it had taken the plane down. A Ukrainian agency for prisoners of war said it’s investigating claims that Ukrainian service members were on board.
🚒Jiangxi fire kills 39 people: A fire broke out on Wednesday in the basement of a shop in the Xinyu city in the Jiangxi province of China, where at least 39 people died and nine others were injured. Over 100 firefighters, police and local government officials were sent to the site. The cause of the fire is under investigation, and Chinese President Xi Jinping noted that it was a safety tragedy.
📩Trump wins New Hampshire: Former US President Donald Trump is one step closer to gaining the US presidential nomination for the Republican party after his Tuesday victory from voters in New Hampshire, with his last remaining opponent, Nikki Haley, vowing to fight Trump next in her home state of South Carolina.
👩✈️Cathay raises school fee cap for pilots: Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific has raised its allowance for pilots to cover their children’s school fees by 50% to HK$150,000 (US$19,180), according to Bloomberg. It’s also set pay benchmarks for the next two years in an effort to tackle a shortage of aircrew, like captains, first officers and pilots, that has recently led to mass flight cancellations.
✈️Boeing delivered a 737 Max to China: Boeing has delivered a 737 Max aircraft to a Chinese airline for the first time since its grounding in early 2019. This gives the company some much-needed support after the recent events of the Alaska Airlines incident in early January. Meanwhile, a Boeing 757 operated by Delta Air Lines lost its nose wheel while preparing to take off in Atlanta, according to the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Boeing just can’t get a break…
📢The UN is critical of UK crackdown on protesters: Michael Forst, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Environmental Defenders, said in a new report that he was “alarmed,” “distressed” and “seriously concerned” by the treatment of climate activists in the UK. This comes after new legislation from the UK government last year gave police more power to stop protestors due to the disruption they caused by blocking roads and using slow walking tactics.
🍷Saudi Arabia’s liquor shop: After decades, Saudi Arabia is opening its first licensed liquor shop in Riyadh, where only non-Muslim diplomats will be allowed to buy booze, according to foreign officials in the Saudi capital. This is another small step taken by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who has already eased some social restrictions, like reversing a ban on women driving and permitting public entertainment, music and the mixing of genders.
⚽Palestine beats Hong Kong: Hong Kong lost 3-0 in the AFC Asian Cup against Palestine in Doha on Tuesday, with Norwegian football manager Jorn Andersen having boosted the profile and interest of Hong Kong football with his management of the team.
🐶Chinese woman leaves assets to her pets: An elderly Chinese woman in Shanghai surnamed Liu changed her will to exclude her adult children because they did not visit or care for her when she was ill, and instead left her fortune of 20 million yuan (US$2.8 million) to her cats and dogs. She said that only her pet cats and dogs are there for her, according to a report from Zonglan News. Although Chinese laws don’t allow her to leave the money to her furry friends directly, she appointed a local vet clinic as the administrator of her inheritance to take care of the animals.
⛵A Ferrari yacht: Italian supercar maker Ferrari has made plans to build its first competitive yacht for sailing, with the potential to compete in major ocean races. It will be captained by one of the world’s top sailors, Giovanni Soldini, according to a statement seen by Bloomberg. Ferrari sees this as an opportunity for innovation through sustainable solutions and automotive development, according to the statement.
💡Light Up Macau: The annual Light Up Macau event has returned this year with the theme of “The Dazzling Wonderland,” and it can be seen in 34 locations across seven districts in Macau. It features 36 light installations, 20 interactive installations and three projection-mapping shows developed by local and international talents.
🎤Hong Kong to attract more stars: With the completion of a large performance venue in Kai Tak at the end of this year, Hong Kong Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism Kevin Yeung Yun-hung has pledged to take steps to attract more international music artists to perform in Hong Kong but stressed that this depends on the market. This comes after lawmakers wondered why the city had missed out on performances by big names like Taylor Swift and Beyoncé.
What country’s bid to enter NATO was just approved by Turkey?
- The Czech Republic
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