From social media in the hot seat to a royal Range Rover – Here are today's Headlines

Social media platforms have been under scrutiny for years over growing accusations that they’re responsible for not protecting children on their platforms.

From social media in the hot seat to a royal Range Rover – Here are today's Headlines
Meta's CEO Mark Zuckerberg looks on during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on online child sexual exploitation at the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, U.S., January 31, 2024. REUTERS/Nathan Howard

To start off, we're looking into:

Social media and child safety

The backstory: Social media platforms have been under scrutiny for years over growing accusations that they’re responsible for not protecting children on their platforms. This includes Instagram and Facebook under the umbrella of Meta, X (formerly known as Twitter) and ByteDance’s TikTok. Some of these accusations include knowingly allowing underage users on their platforms, not protecting children from predators and not preventing the spread of child sexual abuse material online. Many people have also been concerned about the effect social media has on young people’s mental health. 

The US has been under a lot of pressure to take action on these issues. But, on the other hand, tech and digital rights groups have lobbied against a lot of proposals brought to the table to regulate social media platforms. 

The development: On Wednesday, the CEOs of Meta, X, Snap, Discord and TikTok were called to a US Senate hearing where they were grilled by senators about child safety online for about four hours. Click the link here for highlights from the hearing.

Ukraine's aid holdup

Ukraine aid Russia war
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy welcomes Commander in Chief of the Ukrainian armed Forces Valerii Zaluzhnyi during a celebration ceremony of the Independence Day of Ukraine, amid Russia's invasion of the country, in central Kyiv, Ukraine August 24, 2023. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich/File Photo

The backstory: As the Russia-Ukraine conflict is approaching its third year, Ukraine has been facing two major problems – a decline in support from allies and internal disagreements on its military strategy. On the support front, financial and military aid to Ukraine is not coming through the way it did at the start of the war. The EU had promised to send 1 million shells over to Ukraine by March 1, but now it's looking like it will miss that target by about 400,000 shells. On the other hand, Russia is set to get about 4.5 million shells from its own production lines and help from North Korea, according to Estonian estimates.

More recently: The EU is struggling to provide €50 billion (US$54 billion) in crucial aid to Ukraine. The aid package was supposed to be passed by the bloc in December, but Hungary vetoed it. On top of that, Washington's US$60 billion aid is facing opposition in Congress, delaying the support coming through.

The development: With US aid stuck because of arguments in Congress and the EU's aid package also delayed, there are growing worries about Ukraine's ability to continue fighting Russia. Even though there are reports that Russia's frontline is wearing down, it will be more likely to make a recovery if Ukraine doesn't have the supplies it needs to defend itself. Click the link here for more.

Byron Allen's Paramount bid

Paramount Byron Allen
Source: REUTERS/David Swanson

The backstory: Paramount Global, known for blockbuster franchises like "Transformers" and "Mission Impossible," operates under the broader control of the Redstone family's global media empire. But it's currently dealing with challenges, as its operating income took a 30% hit last year, dropping to US$1.87 billion across nine months, and sales plateaued at US$22 billion.

Byron Allen, once a stand-up comedian and now media mogul of Allen Media Group, is eyeing some entertainment giants, including Paramount. Allen's company owns a handful of TV stations, including The Weather Channel. Last year, he made a US$10 billion offer to Disney to buy its ABC TV network and cable networks FX and National Geographic, which Disney CEO Bob Iger turned down. He also offered to buy Paramount's BET media group for US$3.5 billion. 

More recently: In December, there were talks about Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount Global merging. If that happens, it will combine Warner Bros. Discovery's HBO and CNN with Paramount's franchises, CBS News network and other channels. This would unite two of the "Big Five" Hollywood studios, making them worth around US$38 billion together.

The development: Allen has now reportedly offered US$14.3 billion to buy all shares of Paramount Global. Click the link here for more.

To end, we'll look into:

 Do you have climate anxiety?

Climate change activists of Letzte Generation (Last Generation) block a road holding placards reading "we are allowed to do that, we have a tractor", the same time as German farmers protest all over the country against the cut of the farm vehicle tax subsidies in Berlin, Germany, January 10, 2024. REUTERS/Liesa Johannssen

What is eco-anxiety? The term has become commonly used among young people today to describe their “heightened emotional, mental or somatic distress in response to dangerous changes in the climate system,” according to the Climate Psychology Alliance. But what is the solution to having climate anxiety – should we see a therapist, or do we channel this into action? 

A recent global study published in The Lancet, based on a survey of 10,000 young people from 10 different countries, showed that nearly 60% of them were extremely worried about the future state of our planet, with some even experiencing distress daily. The study also showed that 40% of respondents in Australia, Brazil, India and the Philippines said they’re hesitant to have children because of climate change. 

This, and many other studies, show us that the current state and future of the environment is not just a threat to our planet but also our emotional well-being. Click the link here for more.

In other news ...


📉Market snapshot and key quotes:

  • In the US: US stocks closed lower on Wednesday after the Fed’s Jerome Powell said rate cuts were not likely to happen in March.
  • In Hong Kong: Hong Kong stocks fell on Wednesday due to concerns about the Evergrande crisis and China's economic outlook.

📊Top gainers/losers and company news:

  • In the US: Alphabet lost over 7% after its disappointing Q4 advertising revenue. 
  • Boeing saw a more than 5% jump as losses from the end of last year were lower than expected.
  • Paramount Global rose over 6% after news of a takeover offer by Byron Allen for all outstanding shares.
  • In Hong Kong: Meituan dropped over 4%, lost 3.1%, Alibaba sank over 2%, and Tencent fell over 1%.

👀The numbers everyone is watching:

  • In Hong Kong: China's factory activity shrank for the fourth straight month in January, with the  official purchasing managers' index rebounding to 49.2 from December's low of 49.
  • In the US: Apple, Meta, Amazon, plus Dow players Merck, are set to unveil quarterly updates.

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

More headlines ...

📄Russia/Ukraine prisoner swap: After a plane Russia says was carrying 65 Ukrainian prisoners for an exchange was shot down last week, an exchange has now happened between Russia and Ukraine. The Russian military said 195 soldiers from each side were released on Wednesday, with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky saying 207 Ukrainian soldiers and civilians were returned.

👩‍⚖️Ukraine's ICJ case against Russia: In 2017, Ukraine brought a case against Russia in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), saying that it was a "terrorist state" supporting pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine. On Wednesday, the ICJ tossed out most of the claims, only finding that Moscow had failed to investigate alleged breaches. This case came about before the 2022 invasion, and on Friday, the court will rule on whether it has jurisdiction to rule in a separate case over the war.

💊Fentanyl crisis: The US is experiencing the worst drug crisis in its history, as people keep dying from overdosing on fentanyl, a strong and addictive painkiller. The US has labeled China a "primary source" of ingredients used to make fentanyl, and it's turned to the country for help in fighting the drug crisis. After a two-day meeting in Beijing with a delegation led by US deputy homeland security advisor Jen Daskal and their Chinese counterparts, the two countries agreed to form a counternarcotics group to work together on the issue. They plan to increase cooperation on law enforcement efforts to interrupt the flow of fentanyl and its ingredients, address illegal transnational financing and share more information. 

👑Billionaire sultan turned king: Malaysia's monarchy works under a rotating system of the heads of the nine royal families interchanging as king every five years. Billionaire and Sultan of Johor Ibrahim Iskandar was crowned the country's 17th king on Wednesday in Kuala Lumpur. While his position is mostly ceremonial, the king intends to be attentive and active in his role.  

🪙US$1.7 billion bitcoin fraud: Zhimin Qian, aka Yadi Zhang, is wanted for an investment fraud in China that took place from 2014 to 2017, where she allegedly swindled around 130,000 investors out of US$6 billion. A 2018 raid at her UK home found laptops, pen drives and notebooks with passwords and crypto wallets containing bitcoin worth hundreds of millions of dollars each, according to prosecutors. Zhimin's employee, Jian Wen (a UK citizen), has been accused of laundering money in this fraud scheme. On Tuesday, prosecutors at her trial said police had found US$1.7 billion in bitcoin linked to Jian, which is one of the biggest police bitcoin seizures ever. Zhimin is still on the run.

✈️China's big airlines loss: Since the end of the pandemic, China's largest airline carriers have been operating at a loss, and analysts predict that a four-year streak is likely. Due to China's economic uncertainty, less demand from business travelers, strict visa policies and fewer direct flights to the US amid geopolitical tensions, the country's post-COVID recovery has been slower and impacted the growth of these airlines. 

💰India reduces import taxes: India's PM Narendra Modi wants to make the country a key player in electronics manufacturing, hoping to attract tech giants like Apple away from China. On Tuesday, Modi's government announced a reduction in import taxes on mobile components like plastic and metal mechanical parts, SIM sockets and screws to make the manufacturing process more cost-efficient. 

🎵No more Tay Tay on TikTok?: On Tuesday, Universal Music said that TikTok has been bullying it and wants to pay a "fraction" of the price other social media platforms pay for access to its music catalog. This and other concerns, like online safety for users and artist protection from artificial intelligence (AI) were brought up in a letter it published called "Why We Must Call Time Out on TikTok," where it said it would stop licensing with the platform on January 31. This would mean that TikTok will no longer have access to songs from artists like Drake, Billie Eilish, Taylor Swift and countless others. TikTok responded that Universal Music is being greedy and has presented a "false narrative and rhetoric."

👟You can still get Yeezy sneaks: Adidas broke off its partnership with Kanye West, aka Ye, for the popular Yeezy sneaker lineup a while back after the rapper/designer made some controversial comments. But the sportswear giant is staring down the barrel of disappointing profits this year. The company has said it will continue to sell the remaining Yeezy inventory it's sitting on at cost, hoping to generate €250 million (US$270 million) instead of writing it off.

🚗Royal Range Rover: If you want to drive like a royal, the 2004 Loire Blue Range Rover that Queen Elizabeth II used is going up for sale for £224,850 (US$285,000) by the UK's Bramley Motor Cars. A new one of these starts at just under £100,000 (US$126,773). The dark blue car has ivory leather interiors and only 18,206 miles (29,299 kilometers).

Quiz Time!

Who just offered US$14.3 billion to buy out Paramount Global?

  1. Elon Musk
  2. Byron Allen
  3. Rupert Murdoch
  4. Taylor Swift

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Written and put together by Joey Fung, Alisha Khan and Christine Dulion

**The answer to the quiz is [2]