We’ve summarised the top 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
- On Wednesday, the Office for National Statistics released figures for business investment for the first quarter of 2021. Total investment fell by 11.9% and is 18.4% lower compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019. The most substantial decrease was in transport equipment (-51.8%). Intellectual property products fell by 5.4%, the largest quarterly fall on record.
- Tesla announced that it will no longer accept bitcoin as payment for its cars, owing to environmental concerns. Each year, bitcoin mining alone consumes more energy than the countries of Sweden, Malaysia, or Argentina. Following the announcement, the total market capitalization (the current share price multiplied by the number of shares currently held by shareholders) averaged over all cryptocurrencies fell by 10%. Bitcoin and Ethereum fell by 12% in 24 hours and Dogecoin fell by 20%.
- On Saturday, fuel shortages on the east coast of the USA began to ease as Colonial Pipeline’s operations were restored. The six-day shutdown was caused by a cyberattack and was resolved with the payment of $5 million in 75 bitcoins to the hacker group DarkSide. The shutdown caused the average national price for unleaded petrol to rise from $2.96 to $3.04 per gallon.
- Despite policies supporting the UK catering industry during the pandemic (such as the Eat Out to Help Out scheme), a recent report reveals that there are fewer eating venues in the UK than before the pandemic, by 9.7%. There 19.7% fewer casual dining venues, 9.6% fewer bar-restaurants, and 10.2% fewer restaurants.
- The Indian engineering firm Larsen & Toubro announced that it has been awarded a large (between $133 million and $333 million) design and build contract by the Oilfields Supply Centre, to create one of the largest oil and gas supply bases in the world. The Mumbai-based firm has also won another Saudi Arabian contract to build a 1.5 gigawatt solar farm and a 300 megawatt solar farm.
- On Tuesday, Toyota announced its purchase of the ride-hailing app Lyft’s self-driving unit for $500 million. The purchase was made through a subsidiary named Woven Planet, which also signed deals with Lyft to use Lyft’s system and fleet data to speed up commercialisation. The move comes as Toyota rebrands itself as a “mobility company”.
- The investment firm Soros Fund Management has bought shares held by Archegos (a collapsed company that managed the personal assets of Bill Hwang, a wealthy New York-based investor). This includes $77 million in Baidu (a Chinese search engine), $45 million in Vishop Holdings Ltd (a Chinese eCommerce website), and $34 million in Tencent Music Entertainment Group (which supplies Chinese music streaming services).
- Violence continues in Israel. The latest Israeli airstrikes have left 26 dead in Gaza, bringing the estimate for Palestinian deaths to over 150. On Saturday night, some 130 rockets were fired from Gaza targeting the Israeli cities of Ashdod and Beersheba, many of which were intercepted by Israel’s “Iron Dome” defence system. The UN Security Council has convened to discuss the conflict.
- A new variant of SARS‑CoV‑2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) originating from India threatens to pose “serious disruption” to lockdown easing on 21 June. Cases of this variant have more than tripled in the past week, prompting the government to reduce the wait time between vaccine doses from 12 to 8 weeks. Prime Minister Boris Johnson claims that if this variant is “significantly” more transmissible, some “hard choices” would have to be made.
- UK PM Boris Johnson and Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin met last Friday at Chequers (the PM’s country house) to discuss UK-Irish relations and trade. Both leaders are said to have discussed their commitment to upholding the Good Friday Agreement, as well as the results of the Ballymurphy inquest (which found that the 10 victims of the Ballymurphy massacre were innocent civilians).
- Former Prime Minister David Cameron has faced questions from both the Treasury Committee and the Public Accounts Committee over his lobbying on behalf of Greensill Capital. Cameron has been accused of trying to exploit private contracts for personal gain, after it emerged that he had sent 45 emails, texts, and WhatsApp messages while attempting to persuade ministers to back Greensill through a government support scheme.
- The Eritrean military has blocked critical aid to the war-torn Tigray region of Ethiopia. The war, fought between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, has already resulted in an estimated 2500 deaths and now threatens to kill more. Despite international condemnation, Eritrea refuses to remove its troops, threatening the 5.2 million people in need of food assistance in the region.
- Last Tuesday, protests broke out across Myanmar as the country marked 100 days of Junta rule. Since a military coup on 1 February, the country has been under a harsh military dictatorship. Demonstrators took part in motorcycle convoys and flash demonstrations to protest against the violence and suppression of the regime.
- US President Joe Biden has revoked former President Trump’s order to punish statue vandals. In June 2020 last year, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, Trump had issued an executive order that instructed the federal government to “prosecute to the fullest extent” anyone who vandalised national monuments. Biden revoked this order, as well as 3 others, last Friday.
Written by Felipe Dreesmann and Faris Lovejoy