News

News Briefing – 14/12/20

We’ve summarised the 15 key stories of the last week into an easily digestible briefing so that you can stay up to date on what’s happening around the world. You can subscribe to receive the briefing in your inbox each week.

Politics

  1. Brexit talks are to continue as the end of the transition period draws closer. Both sides are still refusing to give ground on several key issues, but after a phone call between Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen on Sunday, the self-imposed deadline, talks are set to continue.
  2. The US Supreme Court has unanimously rejected a lawsuit brought by Texas that aimed to throw out the vote counts in Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. It is the most significant blow yet to Trump in his efforts to overturn the results of the election. On Monday, the Electoral College will formally confirm Biden as President-Elect.
  3. London is edging closer to Tier 3 restrictions this week after Covid cases in the capital continue to climb. On Wednesday, ministers will decide whether London should move into Tier 3, a move that critics claim would severely damage businesses in the capital.
  4. The first person in the world to be injected with Pfizer’s Covid-19 Vaccine was Margaret Keenan, a UK citizen. Meanwhile, the FDA has given Pfizer’s vaccine emergency authorization in the US, allowing its distribution to start there.
  5. Joe Biden’s pick for Defence Secretary has sparked controversy after he chose the retired Four-star General Lloyd Austin. Some lawmakers in Congress prefer a civilian chief, while progressive groups take issue with his position as a director of the defence company Raytheon. He would become the first African American to lead the Pentagon.
  6. The US House of Representatives passed a defence bill, supported by 140 Republicans, that would remove the names of Confederate Generals from military bases. Trump said he would oppose the bill, but as it has received a majority of more than two-thirds, a presidential veto may be bypassed.
  7. China and Nepal have finally reached an agreement over the height of Everest, which sits in both countries. The official height is now 8848.86 metres above sea level, which is 86cm higher than the previous height and almost 4 metres higher than China’s estimate since 2005.
  8. Covid-19 deaths in the US have passed another grim milestone as more than 3000 people died in a single day, greater than the death toll on 9/11. The country has reached almost 15 million confirmed cases according to the WHO and the pandemic shows little sign of abating.

Business & Economics

  1. The UK has continued to sign trade deals and continuity agreements with a number of nations, including Vietnam, Singapore and Kenya. Liz Truss has also promised to remove tariffs on Boeing, sparking anger in the EU who support Airbus in the Airbus-Boeing dispute.
  2. AstraZeneca has announced that it will purchase Alexion, a US biotechnology company, for $39 billion. Alexion specialises in rare diseases, with a strong pipeline of experimental drugs that complement AstraZeneca’s specialties.
  3. The Federal Trust Commission and almost all US states have filed lawsuits against Facebook, focusing on Facebook’s strategy of “buy or bury”. In particular, Facebook’s acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram will face scrutiny and the company may be forced to sell them.
  4. Airbnb’s IPO was spectacularly successful, with shares more than doubling. The company is now valued at over $100 billion, making the IPO the largest in the US in 2020. As a result, Sequoia Capital, a venture capital firm, generated one of the largest returns ever in venture capitalism, making almost $12 billion in profit off an investment of only $260 million.
  5. Uber is to sell its self-driving car unit to the start-up Aurora Technologies, as the company aims to push for profitability. Uber will invest $400 million back into the company in return for a 26% stake and Uber’s CEO serving on the board of Aurora.
  6. The ECB has announced a further round of stimulus, promising to buy €500 billion more bonds, with the possibility of even more in the future. The ECB also extended its offer to banks to borrow at interest rates as low as -1% until June 2022, as the Eurozone continues to contract, and inflation remains low.
  7. The 737 Max has flown its first commercial flight since it was pulled from service in March 2019 after two fatal crashes. The flight was run by Gol, a Brazilian airline. Ryanair have ordered 75 more of the aircraft, worth £6.7 billion in total.

Written by Milo Dennison and Ed Hilditch

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