From Meta's big comeback to Elmo's birthday – Here are today's Headlines

Meta shared great financial news on Friday, revealing its first dividend and impressive financial success.

From Meta's big comeback to Elmo's birthday – Here are today's Headlines
Woman holds smartphone with Meta logo in front of a displayed Facebook's new rebrand logo Meta in this illustration picture taken October 28, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

To start off, we're looking into:

Meta's massive comeback

The backstory: Back in 2004 (it just turned 20 on February 4), Facebook (now known as Meta) kicked off in a college dorm and has since become a major social media giant, connecting over 3 billion people and reshaping how we share information. Facebook is just one product under its parent company, Meta, which also owns and operates Instagram, Threads and WhatsApp alongside other products and services.

Jumping to recent times, Meta's been juggling big investments in tech like artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) while making sure its main digital advertising business stays strong. But in 2022, Meta hit a rough patch, losing over 75% of its value. The company responded by calling 2023 the "year of efficiency" and cutting over 20,000 jobs.

The development: Meta shared great financial news on Friday, revealing its first dividend and impressive financial success, thanks to solid ad sales during the holidays. This led to a quick impact – Meta's shares jumped over 20% on Friday, closing at a record high of US$474.99. This surge added over US$196 billion to Meta's market cap, pushing its total valuation to over US$1.2 trillion. It was the biggest one-day gain in market history. Click the link here for more.

BRICS welcomes five new members

Delegates walk past the logos of the BRICS summit during the 2023 BRICS Summit at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa on August 23, 2023. GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

The backstory: BRICS, born in 2009 as an economic bloc with Brazil, Russia, India and China as its founding members (initially called BRIC), expanded in 2010 with the inclusion of South Africa, forming BRICS. The idea was to unite developing nations, challenging the dominance of North America and Western Europe. Think of it as a counter to the Group of Seven (G7) club, which includes the US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the EU. Every year, BRICS holds a summit where these countries collaborate for global influence and economic progress. The upcoming summit in October is set to take place in Kazan, Russia.

More recently: Last August, BRICS invited Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, Argentina and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to join. But Argentina declined, and later, in January, the Minister of Commerce for Saudi Arabia made it clear that the country hadn't officially joined BRICS but had just been invited. 

The development: Last week, South Africa's Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor confirmed that Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have officially joined the BRICS bloc. Click the link here for more.

Messi booed by Hong Kongers

Lionel Messi Hong Kong
Soccer Football - Friendly - Hong Kong v Inter Miami - Hong Kong Stadium, Hong Kong - February 4, 2024 Inter Miami's Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and teammates sit on the substitute bench during the match REUTERS/Lam Yik

The backstory: Post-COVID, Hong Kong has been trying to restore its reputation as a world-class center and financial hub while increasing spending to boost its economy. Hong Kong officials scored a match between Inter Miami and Hong Kong's premier league team for Sunday, February 4, at Hong Kong Stadium. Inter Miami is co-owned by British football legend David Beckham, with Argentinian football star Lionel Messi and Uruguayan player Luis Suárez on the team. People in the city were super pumped to see Messi play, with Inter Miami kits flying off the shelves of local stores and fans putting down chunks of money for tickets to the match.

The development: The high anticipation of Messi's match in Hong Kong led to more than 38,000 tickets sold in December, costing between HK$880 (US$112) and HK$4,480 (US$572) each. Hong Kongers swarmed into the stadium to see this long-awaited match against the local team, but fans were shockingly disappointed, to say the least, after Messi was benched for the entire match on medical advice. Click the link here for more.

To end, we'll look into:

Loud budgeting for the win

loud budgeting
Source: Pexels/Tirachard Kumtanom

Have you noticed your friends being more open about their financial status and voicing how they’re spending or saving their money? Well, it turns out there’s a word for it in the finance world – “loud budgeting.” 

Loud budgeting has gone viral with Gen Z, and TikTok creator Lukas Battle says he coined the term, garnering 1.4 million views on his video. Battle explains it as the “opposite of quiet luxury.” The hashtag #loudbudgeting has been trending, with 10.8 million views and counting. One TikToker said, “I pay a lot of money to stay at home, so that’s where I’ll be,” while another says in her video, “It’s about being transparent about your money and what fits and what doesn’t … not folding to peer pressure.” Click the link here for more.

In other news ...

📰Middle East update: Multiple attacks over the last few months by the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen on shipping vessels coming through a global trade route in the Red Sea have caused an increase in oil prices and costly diversions on shipping routes. There was also a drone attack in northeast Jordan by another Iran-backed militant group recently that killed three US soldiers.

In response to these attacks, the US and UK carried out further airstrikes in Yemen over the weekend, this time targeting 36 Houthi sites, including weapons storage facilities, missile systems and launchers, air defense systems and radars, according to the US Pentagon. This came after strikes on militant targets in Syria and Iraq on Friday. US national security advisor Jake Sullivan said to NBC that this was "the beginning, not the end, of our response." But, a spokesperson of the Houthis has said that the group would not be deterred by these strikes and they would "not pass without a response and consequences."

🚒Wildfires in Chile: What are believed to be the deadliest forest fires in Chile's history have killed at least 99 people and damaged thousands of houses in the Valparaiso region. Hundreds of people are still missing, according to authorities. Over a thousand firefighters, military personnel and emergency services were deployed on Sunday, and the cause of the fire is being investigated. The El Nino weather system has caused droughts and unusually high temperatures in South America this year, increasing the risk of forest fires.

📩Biden wins South Carolina: Many are expecting another showdown between former US President Donald Trump and current US President Joe Biden for the presidential election in November, and the two are currently campaigning for their party nominations. Biden won the Democratic primary election in South Carolina over the weekend despite a low turnout, with only around 132,000 South Carolinians voting, compared to 536, 949 in 2020. But this win means Biden is on track for the election in November. 

🥼Syphilis on the rise in the US: For the first time in 70 years, the sexually transmitted disease syphilis is on the rise in the US, with over 200,000 cases reported in 2022. That's a 17% increase from 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate of infection has increased for multiple reasons, like funding cuts to local public health agencies and transmission through more drug use and unprotected sex. This has all coincided with a shortage of penicillin, one of the medicines used to treat syphilis. 

🤝Russia and China ties strengthen: Amid rising tensions with the US, Russia and China agreed in a meeting in Beijing on Thursday to work together on the military use of artificial intelligence (AI), said a Russian foreign ministry statement. The statement also said, "The meeting confirmed the closeness of the Russian and Chinese approaches to this issue." A Chinese statement on the meeting didn't mention AI in the military, but it did say the two spoke about "outer space security, biosecurity and artificial intelligence."

🗨️Political feud in the Philippines: A threat from the former president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, to separate his native Filipino island, Mindanao, from the rest of the nation has been met with the government saying it won't hesitate to use its "authority and forces" to put a stop to this. This comes after Duterte warned his successor last week about amending the constitution through a "People's Initiative," which some say is a method facing allegations of corruption. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Dutere have also been accusing each other of drug use.  

🕵️‍♀️Suspected "spy" pigeon released: Eight months ago, a pigeon was caught and kept in custody under suspicion of espionage by the police in Mumbai, India's finance capital. The bird had "messages written in a Chinese-like script" on its wings, said the Times of India newspaper, but the bird has now been released, and the charges were dropped. This is just one of several pigeons that have been held by Indian authorities for alleged spying activities.

💊Musk's illegal drug use with colleagues: On Saturday, The Wall Street Journal reported that it was common knowledge that Elon Musk's illegal drug use was a concern among several current and former Tesla and SpaceX directors, but they didn't document or investigate the matter. The report also said that some of his board members and directors used drugs with him, with some saying they felt pressured so they didn't upset Musk. In response, Musk posted on his platform X, "Whatever I'm doing, I should obviously keep doing it!," referring to his role in leading Tesla and SpaceX to become such valuable companies.

🐖Consumption of pork at a low in China: One of the most crucial ingredients in many Chinese dishes is pork, and during the Lunar New Year, pork is associated with prosperity and abundance. But the demand in China for pork has been slow for months, with prices falling about a fifth from a year ago. China makes up about half of the world's pork consumption, but last year, consumption fell by 1 million tons to roughly 54 million, according to consultancy Shanghai JCI.

⚽New York/New Jersey win World Cup bid: In a bid to host the world's most-watched sporting event, the FIFA World Cup final, New York and New Jersey have beat out fellow contenders Dallas and Los Angeles for hosting the event in 2026. FIFA said on Sunday the match would happen at New Jersey's MetLife Stadium. New York and New Jersey also said they'll set up FIFA Fan Fest sites alongside the matches at MetLife.

👨‍🚀New space record: Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko has been in space for a long time. On Sunday, he set a new record for the total time spent in space, beating his colleague Gennady Padalka, who spent more than 878 days in orbit. And he's not done yet. Kononenko is expected to reach 1,000 days in space on June 5.

🪷Lunar New Year fair: Now that the pandemic days are behind us, Hong Kong's Lunar New Year fairs are making a comeback in the city. On Sunday, 15 fairs opened up across the city, with merch everywhere and food stalls serving up holiday favorites like dragon beard candy, sugar-laced flatbreads and tanghulu. The largest fair, at Victoria Park, has 377 stalls – more than twice as many as last year. The fairs will be running until February 10.

🎂Happy birthday, Elmo: Elmo had a birthday over the weekend, turning 3-and-a-half again on February 3. That's the same age he's been since joining Sesame Street in 1980. This came a few days after Elmo "checked in" with the internet, and netizens took to social media to trauma dump on the poor guy, saying things like, "Elmo each day the abyss we stare into grows a unique horror." Yikes. Elmo responded in typical, sweet Elmo fashion – saying it's important to check in on people. Elmo's friends joined in, too, with Cookie Monster tweeting, "Me here to talk it out whenever you want. Me will also supply cookies. 💙🍪 #EmotionalWellBeing.” Check out some of the viral tweets below.

Quiz Time!

What football player are Hong Kong fans pretty mad at right now?

  1. Lionel Messi
  2. Cristiano Ronaldo
  3. Neymar
  4. Zlatan Ibrahimović

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

**The answer to the quiz is [1]