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.
Business & Economics
- Joe Biden unveiled his $1.8 trillion American Families Plan on Wednesday this week. The proposed spending increases and tax cuts focus on expanding access to education and welfare, including measures that would finance child care, community colleges, and healthcare. This announcement follows the president’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan released in March.
- United States GDP has grown by 1.6% in the first quarter of 2021. The bounce-back has largely been fuelled by a jump in consumer spending, particularly a 5.4% increase in purchases of goods. The results have given economists cause to believe that the US may see its fastest-growing year since 1951.
- The Eurozone fell back into a recession last quarter, as GDP between the 19 countries shrank by 0.6%. The negative growth has been attributed to a slow vaccine rollout and the increase in pandemic restrictions, which have damaged economies. Germany was one of the hardest hit, seeing a 1.7% decrease in growth, whereas France’s GDP increased by 0.4%.
- Venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz is planning to launch a $1 billion cryptocurrency fund. The fund will be the company’s third that specialises in cryptocurrency, following a trend of support for cryptocurrency groups evidenced by its early investments in Coinbase and Ripple. This move comes in light of an unprecedented rise in Bitcoin, which reached a price of over $63,000 earlier this year.
- The Nationwide Building Society estimates that UK house prices have risen by 7.1% in the last year. This increase is likely to have been fuelled by the stamp duty holiday announced as a countermeasure to the pandemic, which was extended until 30 June by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his March budget.
- Berkshire Hathaway saw a $12 billion profit in the first quarter of 2021, compared to an almost $50 billion loss the same period last year. The investment conglomerate’s chairman, Warren Buffet, warned of inflation and new financial products.
- EU regulators have levelled anti-competitive charges against Apple, accusing the tech company of distorting the music streaming market. If charges are pursued, the EU could impose a fine of up to $27 billion. This announcement came two years after Swedish music streaming service Spotify complained that Apple restricted rivals via rules for its App Store.
- India has been severely affected by a second wave of the Covid-19 virus. The total case count in the country has reached over 19 million, with 7.7 million being added since the end of February. The crisis has been exacerbated by a shortage of vaccines in several states. In response, several countries including the United States and Britain have imposed travel restrictions.
- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been embroiled in a scandal surrounding a £58,000 refurbishment of the Downing Street Flat. The allegations centre on the lack of transparency in the payment for the renovation. The Electoral Commission is carrying out an investigation, which could end in criminal prosecution.
- A stampede at a religious event in Israel left 45 people dead and many more injured. The celebration of the Jewish holiday Lag B’Omer had drawn up to 100,000 believers to Mount Meron, where a combination of large crowds and faulty infrastructure led to a ‘human avalanche’.
- Arlene Foster, the Northern Ireland first minister, has announced her resignation in the midst of party conflict. A resurgence in violence due to disappointment about the UK government’s Brexit plans for an Irish Sea border has led to Democratic Unionist party representatives calling for a leadership contest. Foster will step down on May 28.
- A malaria vaccine has been shown to be 77% effective in early trials, the first to reach the World Health Organisation’s goal of at least 75%. This development is a potential breakthrough to preventing the spread of the disease, which kills more than 400,000 people every year.
- One billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered. This milestone has taken 143 days, and the current speed projects a 19-month wait until 75% of the world’s population is vaccinated.
- The Japanese foreign ministry accused China of breaching international law with its activities around a group of disputed islands. Chinese Coast Guard ships have repeatedly made incursions in the waters near the Senkaku Islands. Observers worry that other nations may be drawn into the conflict.
- Street protests over a tax reform bill in Columbia have left at least six people dead. In response, President Ivan Duque has deployed the military to assist soldiers. The demonstrations were sparked by tax reforms which would have targeted the wealthy and the middle classes, while removing some exemptions on indirect taxes.
Written by John Chang