Highlights of the Week (30/12/2019)

Image Source: Chris Toward/@christoward10

Our editors give us the breakdown of this week’s biggest news stories

Scotland: Ryan Morrice

Rail fares in Scotland increased by 2.4% on average on the 2nd of January. Meanwhile Abellio ScotRail has reported losses of £10 million over a 15 month period. This comes after news that they will be stripped of the ScotRail franchise three years early in 2022. They have previously faced criticism over cancellations and other performance issues.

UK: Ali Drabu

The Labour Party has seen two new faces enter the race to become the party’s next leader. Alongside Emily Thornberry, Yvette Cooper, Clive Lewis, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy, both Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer and Birmingham MP Jess Phillips announced their entrance into the leadership contest to take over from Jeremy Corbyn, with Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee set to meet next Monday to decide upon the timeline for the upcoming leadership contest. A recent YouGov poll of Labour party members found Starmer to be the current and clear favourite, with 36% of the membership listing him as their top preference, followed by Rebecca Long-Bailey on 23%.

Following a disastrous year of delays, cancelled trains and commuter chaos, Northern rail is set to be stripped of its franchise. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that he was “not prepared” to tolerate the operator’s poor performance, and the Department for Transport has confirmed that Mr Shapps has commenced the process which could see the franchise for Northern revoked. This also comes as rail fares across the UK have risen by 2.7%, with some commuters now facing an increase of more than £100 in their annual cost of getting to work.

Economics: Lucy Wright 

The tradition of making New Year’s Resolutions provides economists with many examples of the discrepancies between the “theoretical predictions and actual realisations” of a rational agent’s decision making process. Researchers from Harvard Business School, analysing annual consumer orders from an online grocer, revealed that customers tend to order a higher percentage of healthy and nutritious foods the further in advance they placed their order. Perhaps a behavioural nudge to those resolving to adopt a healthier lifestyle in 2020. 

Europe: Charlie Whiteley

Turkey’s parliament has voted to allow troops to be deployed in Libya, in the midst of Libyan Civil War. This decision builds upon Turkey’s deployment of troops in Syria, reflecting its recently aggressive foreign policy in the Middle East.

French public sector workers are now participating in a 30th straight day of industrial action, making this the longest strike in France since 1986.  The longevity of these strikes will further test President Emmanuel Macron, as he aims to reform France’a pension system.

Germany has announced plans to cut train fares, citing the fight against climate change as the decision’s main influence.

Asia: Max Dowden

This week was particularly eventful for Asia on multiple fronts. Regarding the ongoing US-China trade war, President Trump announced that Chinese negotiators had agreed to a January 15th signing date for a ‘phase one’ trade deal between the two countries.

Meanwhile, Japan was rocked by the shocking, highly orchestrated escape to Lebanon of Carlos Ghosn, the disgraced former Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi Alliance Chairman who was being held under house arrest by Japanese authorities in connection with his prosecution for corruption and tax fraud.

Finally, enormous wildfires continued to ravage huge (read: ‘Belgium sized’) swaths of Australia, causing enormous human and economic damage. 

Americas: Alex Watt

There has been little delay in big news for the Americas with the start of the new decade. In terms of Foreign Policy, the US revealed that Qassem Soleimani – Iran’s most powerful military commander – has been killed in an airstrike ordered by President Trump on Friday at Baghdad airport, along with other Iran-backed militia figures. The attack has affirmed tensions between Tehran and Washington, with Iran vowing “severe revenge” in response to the attack.

Domestically, the US announced it is banning some e-cigarette flavours, over concerns of vaping related deaths and injuries and its popularity among teens. According to US health regulators, Fifty-five people have died and over 2,500 have been hospitalised due to injuries related to vaping.

In South America, Uruguayan officials have seized a record haul of Six tonnes of cocaine from drug traffickers. Three quarters of the haul was seized by Naval and customs officers, and one quarter found at a local ranch. The shipment, bound for Lome – the Togolese capital in West Africa – is said to be a major setback for drug traffickers.

Africa: Beatrice Omotosho

This week, thanks to continued hyperinflation, the price of basic commodities have continued to soar , leaving many less and less able to provide for themselves and their families. The risk of starvation continues to increase going into 2020, as the effects of a recent and severe drought linger and the UN world food programme estimates food supplies will run out by February 2020.

Meanwhile a new Nigeria startup “MIPAD” will be officially launching an initiate form February 2020 that aims to use geotagging and blockchain to fight the high rates of deforestation across Africa in a bid to help mitigate climate change and promote climate action, and also jointly use it as a means to connect the global African diaspora with their roots and reducing their barrier to entry into Africa. This program hopes to connect diasporans to Africa through the sentimental and emotional connection of creating “roots” in Africa through tree planting with a personalised geo tagged touch. They are working with city parks and forestry departments across many major African cities already.

Middle East: Luca Delpippo

This week saw the death of Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s most powerful general, in a US airstrike in Baghdad, markets have already shown concern with a $2 increase in Brent Crude Oil prices at almost 4% higher than market open.  Iran is already vowing revenge for the airstrike, in an escalation of tensions unprecedented in recent years; events that follow are likely to have significant effects on Oil and Middle Eastern market performance. 

The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to seek parliamentary immunity from corruption charges going through to prosecution. This is within the context of a third national election upcoming in March.

There are growing concerns over Lebanon’s ability to pay its debt, with ratings agencies casting doubt and recent protests sparking fear over the country’s financial system

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