10 May 2019

Katie Stanton

10 May 2019

Good morning,
 
I cannot say with certainty that most of the general happenings of the past week are not hallucinations.
 
Did I really spend yesterday morning listening to a collection of Britain’s Archie Harrisons excitedly discussing their new namesake on the Today programme? Did Lady Gaga honestly just wear her knickers to the Met Gala? Does Greg Wallace seriously have a tray in which his wife deposits his preferred Instagram print outs? Yes, yes and yes.
 
But even though that’s all a bit weird and I can’t really remember what day of the week it is anymore, rest assured that it’s the bank holiday throwing me off and not something stronger.
 
In Denver, it seems it takes more than just a four-day work week to get them seeing things. On Tuesday, the city voted to decriminalise the use of magic mushrooms – the first US city to do so. The motion was put to a public vote and passed with a slim majority of 50.6%.
 
The progressive move comes five years after the legalisation of cannabis in the state of Colorado, and other liberal states (such as Oregon and California) are eyeing up a similar measure for the future.
 
While the mushrooms will still technically be illegal, restrictions on personal use and possession by adults will be drastically loosened. Users will be the lowest priority of police officers and adults will be able to grow mushrooms for personal use.
 
Campaigners for the decriminalisation advocate the therapeutic benefits of the hallucinogenic compound psilocybin in magic mushrooms, which shows promise for people with untreatable depression, cluster headaches, PTSD and OCD.
 
Meanwhile, just four states east (yes, I counted), Georgia is taking a drastic leap in the other direction.
 
Governor Brian Kemp has signed the state’s controversial “heartbeat” abortion ban into law, effectively banning abortion. The law is one of the most restrictive in the United States and could send women to jail for life if they terminate their pregnancies after six weeks – a drastic reduction from the current 20-week limit.
 
Shortly after the bill was signed, Planned Parenthood announced that they would be “suing the State of Georgia. We will fight this terrible bill because this is about our patients' lives.”
 
As it stands, the ban will come into effect in January 2020. And it’s part of a growing trend: in the first months of this year, nearly 30 states introduced some form of an abortion ban in their legislature.
 
Now I know moderation is not oft associated with America, but I was thinking the “go big or go home” attitude applied more to burgers and milkshakes, rather than hallucinogens and abortion.
 
How can a country in the same week vote to decriminalise magic mushrooms in one state, and in another to effectively deny women autonomy over their own bodies? It seems the vast rift between US voters truly is as deep as it is wide. Polarisation is not an alien concept in politics across the western world; but none do it better than the USA.
 
Whether candidates in next year’s presidential elections will seek to bridge that gap or capitalise on it, is yet to be seen.

News

The Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health have today accused Britain’s ministers of ignoring medical advice and doing the “minimum possible” on air pollution. The government has focused on a “series of distractions” such as wood-burning stoves to avoid the real problem of traffic fumes, despite dirty air which means every person in Britain is suffering effects equivalent to smoking at least a cigarette a day. In London the figure jumps to as much as 23 cigarettes. (£)
 
Police have been deployed to an east London mosque after reports that gunfire was heard during Ramadan prayers. The Metropolitan police said it had sent officers to the Mosque in Seven Kings after a “firearm discharge” late last night. No injuries or damage was caused during the incident, which is not being treated as terrorism-related.
 
Shamed comedian Freddie Starr has been found dead at his Costa del Sol home. The 76-year-old entertainer had recently thanked fans for their support with regards to his long-term health problems. An autopsy is expected to take place tomorrow. Starr had previously fled to Spain in 2015 after a libel case loss against a woman who accused him of groping her when she was 15.

Business & Economy

The US has more than doubled tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese products in a sharp escalation of the countries’ trade dispute. Tariffs on affected Chinese goods have risen to 25 per cent from 10 per cent; Beijing has vowed to retaliate.
 
Uber has priced its shares at $45 a piece, at the low end of its indicated $44-to-$50 range, after paring expectations following the bumpy debut of its US rival Lyft and a broader US markets sell-off. The deal values Uber at $82 billion, in what is the biggest stock market flotation for a US-based technology company since Facebook. The stock will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange today. (£)
 
Metro Brank could substantially increase the amount of capital it raises in a planned rights issue, as part of efforts to stabilise the high street lender following an accounting blunder. Shares slumped another eight per cent yesterday to a new record low on speculation that the bank will seek to tap investors for even more than the £350 million it said it planned to raise in February. Banking sources also expect that the bank will have a change in senior management. (£)

Markets

What happened yesterday?
Trading on the FTSE 100 closed lower yesterday, down 0.87% at 7,207.41 as part of a wider global reaction to the escalation of the US-China trade dispute. Donald Trump raised levies and increased tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports from 10 per cent to 25 per cent. China “deeply regrets” the move and will now take “necessary counter measures”. Only recently, the US and China appeared to be close to ending months of hostilities, so the measure marks a big step backwards.
 
Figures released yesterday show the US’s goods trade deficit with China narrowed to a five-year low in March, as exports jumped to 23.6% and imports fell 6.1%.
 
The developments signalled a tricky day for Wall Street, with all three major US indices sinking. Likewise, the German DAX was down 206 points and the French CAC 40 closed 104 points lower.
 
On the currency markets, the pound was up 0.17% against the dollar at $1.30, but down against the euro at €1.16.

AGMs
Alpha Fx Group, Schroder Asian Total Return Investment Company, BBA Aviation, Clarke (T.), Eurocell, Man Group, FBD Holdings, X5 Retail Group NV GDR (Reg S), GLI Finance Limited, Morgan Advanced Materials, Mobeus Income & Growth 4 Vct, Millennium & Copthorne Hotels, Rightmove, RSA Insurance Group, Transgloble Energy Corporation NPV (DI)

UK Economic Announcements
(09:30) Balance of Trade
(09:30) GDP (Preliminary)
(09:30) Gross Domestic Product
(09:30) Index of Services
(09:30) Industrial Production
(09:30) Manufacturing Production
 
Int. Economic Announcements
(07:00) Balance of Trade (GER)
(07:00) Current Account (GER)
(13:30) Consumer Price Index

Columns of Note

In today’s Times, Sathnam Sanghera argues that we shouldn’t take criticism personally. He looks at Britain’s most popular personalities and summarises their most negative feedback, concluding: “you can never please everyone, even when you are David Attenborough.” Judge yourself not by what strangers think of you but by what your loved ones think. If they’re complaining, then you need to worry. (£)
 
Writing in this week’s Spectator, Rob Liddle weighs up Gavin Esler, the former BBC presenter now standing for election as a member of the Change UK party. Esler has called for us all to cease in giving attention to the “village idiots” of Brexit – the “dubious right-wing thinktanks and pseudo-experts” who simply haven’t a clue. But these idiots are just people who support Brexit. Liddle argues: “that’s a lot more idiots than there are villages, Gavin.” Divorcing ourselves from the reality – that a majority of people actually voted for Brexit – only serves to further widen the growing schism in British society. (£)

Did you know?

In 2016, it was revealed that a Filipino fisherman kept a pearl weighing 34kg and worth more than $100m under his bed for ten years as a good luck charm, unaware of its value.

Parliamentary highlights

TODAY

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