Our editors give us a breakdown of this week’s biggest news stories
United Kingdom: Ross Alexander Hutton
As England entered into a month-long lockdown, the Chancellor unexpectedly announced the extension of the furlough scheme, for those temporarily out of work, has been extended to the whole of the UK until the end of March. By Covering up to 80% of workers’ wages, Rishi Sunak is hoping “to give businesses security through the winter”. This is not where the government wants to be. Indeed, the furlough scheme was meant to be phased out this week under the original plan. Instead, the government insists the extension is necessary to keep the economy afloat through the autumn surge. Yet, the opposition argues that the Chancellor has hesitated for too long, created too much uncertainty and is now playing catch-up.
Acting alongside the Treasury’s somewhat reassuring fiscal measures is the coordinated monetary response from the Bank of England. The bank’s Monetary Policy Committee voted unanimously to increase the total amount of quantitative easing by £150bn over the course of 2021 in order to soften the blow of a second lockdown to the economy by providing cover for the government’s record borrowing. The Governor again insisted the Bank of England will do “everything we can ” to support an economy which is predicted to shrink by 2% in the final few months of 2020 and staying below its pre-virus size until 2022.
The Bank of England also warned that Brexit remains a major source of uncertainty for businesses. Both sides of the negotiating table made clear the differences that remain as U.K. negotiator David Frost said “wide divergences” remained in some areas, even though progress was being made. However, even if a deal can be made, the U.K.’s central bank predicts economic damage to prevail as the National Audit Office (NAO) said it was “very unlikely” traders would be ready for checks the EU is due to impose at its borders and also warned of “limited” time remaining for U.K. ports to test new IT systems.
Africa & Middle East: Camille Capelle
Fighting erupted in Ethiopia between central government forces and those in the country’s northern Tigray region. While Ethiopia has declared war its northern region, both sides of the civil war have professional, equipped, and experienced armies, bringing the level of fighting to resemble an inter-state war instead. Communications have been cut off from the area and casualties have already been inflicted on both sides. The war is an extended consequence of Tigray People’s Liberation Front’s withdrawal from the national coalition and rejection of the current government as illegal. With no will to negotiate, the conflict risks jeopardizing the stability of the country which only just achieved peace after years of war with Eritrea.
Tensions between protestors and the Iraqi state reached a highpoint on Friday when security forces fired at demonstrators in Basra, killing one and injuring several others. This is the first official death in clashes between protestors and government security since the new Prime Minister al-Kadhimi came to power this year. On Saturday, the PM condemned the action of the security agent, claiming that they will face charges and be prosecuted. This no-tolerance policy for state violence marks a change in attitude from the previous government, under which over 500 unarmed demonstrators were killed.
After days of watching the US election in anticipation, the Iranian President Rouhani gave a televised speech urging the next administration to move away from their burdening policy of economic sanctions and move back towards the terms of the nuclear deal. A willingness from both sides to return to the deal is a positive sign for future US-Iran relations. With the election of Joe Biden on Saturday, the world waits to see if he will be able to fulfill the promises that he made during his election campaign.
North America: Amelia Brown
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were named President- and Vice President-elect on Saturday, after five days of tireless vote counting across the country. Biden won a record number of total votes already, 74.5 million, plus at least 279 electoral votes after CNN called Pennsylvania in his favor. Georgia, a historically Republican state which flipped blue a few days ago, Alaska, Arizona, and North Carolina are still counting mail-in ballots, which have leaned heavily democratic. The drama is not over however, as Trump has refused to concede, and is instead taking multiple states to court over supposed ‘voting fraud,’ although there has been no evidence. Since there is little legal basis for the lawsuits, and since recounts never flip the winner of a state, Biden and Harris were confident enough in their victory to finally make a victory speech last night. Biden emphasized his goal to unite the polarized country, saying “this is a time to heal.” Vice President-elect Harris spoke first, after having made history as the first female, the first Black, and the first South Asian in that office. She said that, “while I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”
The election turmoil still isn’t finished for the nation, as the balance of power in the Senate hinges on two special elections in Georgia that will take place in January. Democrats are hoping the ‘blue wave’ that evidently swept over the state to give Biden his 10,000 vote lead there will carry to the Senate races. Despite still waiting for a few counties to report winners, the Democrats are projected to retain control of the House of Representatives, but are tied at 48 to 48 for seats in the Senate.
In Canada, the pandemic takes center stage again percentage of tests that come back positive reach 4.7 percent, up from 1.4 percent two months ago when Prime Minister Trudeau said the country was at ‘a crossroads.’ Ontario recorded their highest single day number of cases this week, while 2,000 protests also took to the streets there, protesting against mask wearing and social distancing measures.
Mexicans and others in Latin America had to celebrate Día de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, differently this year because of the pandemic. Mexico is nearing one million cases of the virus, and has over 91,000 deaths already, so the big public gatherings and celebrations were cancelled. President López Obrador made remarks at the traditional alter at the National Palace, calling for three days of national mourning for the victims of the coronavirus pandemic. Families continued to honor the dead in more private ceremonies.
South America: Annie Smith
Over 150 people are either missing or dead in Guatemala after torrential rains from tropical depression Eta triggered mudslides in mountainous villages. Eta was first a Category 4 hurricane when it hit Nicaragua, then moving to a tropical storm when it hit Honduras and Guatemala. It is estimated that Eta has damaged thousands of homes and over 4,000 people in Honduras have been rescued.
Several major world leaders have not yet congratulated President-elect Joe Biden over his victory against Donald Trump this week, including Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. President Obrador has said he would not congratulate Biden on his victory until all the legal challenges were resolved, which could take until January. Meanwhile, President Bolsonaro, who has maintained positive relations with Trump during his time in office, has not yet congratulated President-elect Biden. The two clashed during the election when Biden said in the first presidential debate that the United States needed to push Brazil to better protect the Amazon rainforest, which Bolsonaro called ‘disastrous’.
New data released on Friday has indicated that Brazil’s carbon emissions increased by 9.6 percent in 2019, largely due to higher deforestation in the Amazon by President Bolsonaro’s government. The new findings mean that Brazil will not meet its carbon emissions targets for 2020 and may be in danger of failing to reach its 2025 target and commitments to the Paris climate accord. Despite reducing emissions from 2004 to 2012, Brazil has increased the amount of greenhouse gases it discharges into the air annually by 28 percent since the regulation of the national climate law in 2010, instead of reducing it, according to climate expert Tasso Azevedo.
Business: Tom Woods
The renowned UK shoe chain Clark’s has been saved from financial peril by a £100 million investment from the Hong Kong-based PE firm LionRock Capital. The investment comes as a relief for Clark’s, as LionRock has promised that no shops would be permanently closed, and no jobs lost. However, it will also mean that the firm will enter a form of administration called company voluntary agreement, meaning that landlords will have to accept a percentage of the shop’s revenue for rent in lieu of a fixed lease. Should the CVA be successful, LionRock will purchase a majority share in Clark’s, meaning that the Clarks family will lose control of the company for the first time in its almost-200-year history.
Shares in Uber and Lyft have soared after voters in California backed Proposition 22 in the recent election. The measure controversially overturns a labour law passed last year that “gig economy” workers should have employee status and protections, such as the minimum wage and healthcare coverage, that come with it. The campaign supporting the proposition was firmly supported by both Uber and Lyft, and ultimately cost $205 million, making it the most expensive campaign in California’s history. Opposing the transport behemoths were labour unions such as the California Labour Federation, whose $20 million campaign was dwarfed by the efforts of their opponents. The vote has thus opened questions about money in American politics and the power of large corporations. However, the proposition has come with some concessions for the tech giants. For instance, they must now offer their workers healthcare and accident coverage.