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Hello...Good day! 

Another week went by and here we are with the top headlines from the past week.

Dive in! 

US Capital Markets Regulator approves spot bitcoin ETFs in the US 

The US Capital Markets Regulator Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) approves 11 spot bitcoin Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) in the United States. Bitcoin ETFs are publicly traded funds through which investors can take exposure in bitcoin, without owning the cryptocurrency. While bitcoins are traded on crypto exchanges, the ETFs are traded on traditional exchanges like Nasdaq, NYSE, etc.  

Bitcoin futures ETFs had been trading on the US Exchange for quite several years. A bitcoin futures ETF invests in future contracts based on the expected future price of bitcoin, while a spot bitcoin ETF directly invests in bitcoin, correlating its value with the current market price of the cryptocurrency. The latest approval would attract more investors into crypto space. 

A spot bitcoin ETF makes it easier for retail investors to gain exposure in bitcoin without the technicalities of wallet management and private key security. On its first trading day, Jan 11th the ETFs saw a volume of $4.6 billion. Indian investors can invest in these ETFs via a domestic or international broker just like they invest in US stocks.

 South Africa takes Israel to International Court of Justice in genocide trial

South Africa filed a genocide case accusing Israel of killing 23,000 people in Gaza, including 10,000 children. In the application filed on December 29th, South Africa alleges that Israel has committed genocide, a violation of the 1948 UN Genocide Convention, to which both South Africa and Israel are signatories. Parties to the treaty possess the joint authority to prevent and halt such crimes. The lawsuit additionally includes the food blockade and the dismantling of crucial healthcare services for pregnant women and infants. Israel however denies all the allegations against the country.

Commencing on January 11, 2024, the initial phase of the legal action against Israel will center on an urgent request by South Africa to the ICJ, seeking immediate orders for the withdrawal of the Israeli military from Gaza and the cessation of indiscriminate bombing of civilians. The ICJ can issue an order if the request is approved. In the dispute between Ukraine and Russia, the ICJ addressed Kyiv's plea for an emergency injunction against Moscow's invasion in under three weeks. In the Ukraine vs Russia case, the two parties were the ones involved in the conflict too. Since Hamas is not party to the suit, it needs to be seen whether ICJ would ask Israel to cease operations. 

 Maldives Faces Backlash Over Racist Remarks

Indian tourists are boycotting the Maldives following a diplomatic spat triggered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's promotion of Lakshadweep. Maldivian officials perceived this as an attempt to divert tourism, leading to derogatory remarks on social media. Indian travel platforms EaseMyTrip, a major Indian online travel platform, announced its decision to stop accepting bookings for the Maldives. Concurrently, STIC Travel Group, among the nation's largest tourism companies, reportedly urged tour agencies and airlines to avoid travel to the Maldives, as per Bloomberg, but saw an increase in searches by 3400% for Lakshadweep since Modi’s visit.Chinese-Indian geopolitical rivalry over the Maldives is evident. Maldives' President Mohamed Muizzu, elected in September, visited China, indicating a shift from ties with India. Muizzu, running on an anti-India campaign, requested Indian troop withdrawal. The Maldives Association of Tourism Industry condemned the comments, emphasizing India's significance. Last year, Indians constituted 11% of Maldives tourists.

More news from the week ...

  • Ecuador at Drug War: Ecuador's president declared war on drug cartels, instructing security forces to neutralize criminal groups behind recent acts of extreme violence. This response follows a high-profile gang leader's prison escape and armed interference during a live TV broadcast. 

  • Controversial Win for Hasina: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina secures a fourth term in a disputed election, as her Awami League and its allies secure 225 out of 300 parliamentary seats. The BNP, the main opposition, boycotts the poll, labeling it a sham with a low voter turnout of just 40%. 

  • Indian Navy rescues cargo ship: The Indian Navy successfully rescues MV Lila Norfolk, a Liberian-flagged cargo ship, from a Somali pirate hijack attempt. The vessel traveling with 21 crew members, including 15 Indians, was swiftly aided by INS Chennai and a long-range Predator MQ9B drone deployed to prevent the hijacking off the coast of Somalia. 

  • 2024 Golden Globes Winners: At the 81st Golden Globe Awards in 2024, hosted by Jo Kay, "Oppenheimer" secured five Golden Globes, "Succession" claimed four awards, while both "Beef" and "Bear" each took home three. Additionally, the highly nominated film "Barbie" received two Golden Globes. 

Check out the awesome content from Ambrela 

Visual of the week

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The Atal Setu, named in honor of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, links Sewri in the island city to Nhava-Sheva on the mainland. This six-lane bridge, spanning 22 km, comprises a 16.5 km-long sea link and 5.5 km via ducts on land, with a total cost exceeding Rs 17,840 crore. Anticipated to significantly decrease travel time between Mumbai and Navi Mumbai from 2 hours to approximately 20 minutes, the bridge was inaugurated by PM Narendra Modi on January 12th. 

Test you knowledge !

Did you know the most preferred international holiday destinations of Indians in 2023?  

[A]   Bali 

[B]   Maldives 

[C]   Bangkok 

[D]   Dubai 

According to digital travel platform Agoda, Bangkok topped the list, followed by Dubai, Bali, Singapore and Pattaya.   

Interestingly, Maldives is not even on the top 10 destinations of the previous year, 2022.  

Approximately one-third of the Maldivian economy relies on tourism, with Russia and India being the two primary countries contributing the highest number of tourists to the nation.  

A visa-free entry, proximity to India, and celebrities and influencers promoting Maldives, there are so many reasons for Indians to tour the sandy beaches. In 2022, 14.41% of tourists in Maldives were from India compared to just 6.1% in 2018.   

Despite this phenomenal growth, the island country still doesn't rank among the top destinations for Indians. Evidently, being a relatively expensive holiday destination, it does not yet appeal to the price-sensitive Indian customer  

That’s all from us 

Until next week 👋 

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