For those of us who aren’t daily meditators on the present moment, and even for those who are, there is something irresistible in pondering the what ifs. Hypothesising about the future, predicting world events, counting down the days until the end of the world…
A generation ago, we imagined the future was all about flying cars, robot servants, spaceflight and futuristic skyscrapers. Today, the optimism brought by technological breakthroughs is often overshadowed by grim news about the impact of the climate crisis on our planet, political polarisation and a vast array of dystopian predictions in which (spoiler alert) robots aren’t our servants; they actually take over many of our jobs.
Of all dystopian fictions being told on television, few have impacted me as heavily as Russell T Davies’ Years and Years (BBC One). Some of its near-future predictions feel more real and imminent than others, including one of the least central to the plot but most distressing to me – that of antimicrobial resistance.
Superbugs (aka antibiotic-resistant bacteria) are indeed monsters that we’ve created through years of antibiotic misuse and overuse that threaten to render medicines against bacterial infections ineffective. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 480,000 people developed multi-drug resistant tuberculosis in 105 countries in 2014, with only about a quarter of these cases having been detected and reported. This shows that antimicrobial resistance is not a distant worry with local or individual effects but a present day threat.
Last year in the UK, Public Health England found that the number of patients with life-threatening diseases that didn’t respond to antibiotics each year had risen a third since 2013 to 16,500. A new report from the United Nations provides even more daunting figures, revealing that at least 700,000 deaths a year are caused by drug-resistant diseases globally, with up to ten million people expected to die annually by 2030.
From bacteria-hunting viruses – known as phages – to medical translators that can ‘listen to bacteria’ before they attack, solutions are already being developed together with new protocols for dispensing antibiotics and more information about the risk of buying them without prescription being passed to the public. But it’s global coordination that we need, with national action plans and greater innovation and investment being the top priorities to prevent superbugs from spreading. The alternative is to wait and see how resistance to pandemic influenza brings us right back to 1918.
It seems as though the future looks more akin to the past than to a sky full of flying cars. Not such an irresistible what if that one. Nothing for it but to join the meditators, seize the present moment and make it count.
United States President Donald Trump tweeted yesterday that he will no longer deal with the UK’s ambassador in Washington, Sir Kim Darroch, after leaked emails in which he described Mr Trump’s administration as inept and dysfunctional. The US President also slammed UK Prime Minister Theresa May and her representatives for making a ‘mess’ of Brexit, celebrating the appointment of a new British head of government and stating that the Queen was the person he had been impressed with during his state visit.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said that he would fund Theresa May’s legacy plans in return for her allowing Conservative MPs free votes on efforts to stop a withdrawal from the EU without a deal. Mr Hammond would be close to signing off an agreement with the prime minister to push through £5 billion of funding for education before Mrs May steps down, although his support as chancellor is conditional on enabling a cross-party attempt to stop a no-deal Brexit on October 31. (£)
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said that the extradition bill that prompted millions to protest in the city’s streets is ‘dead’ but didn’t confirm whether the proposed law would be completely withdrawn, as protesters demand. Mrs Lam described the legislation as a ‘total failure’ and said she felt ‘heartbroken’ over the conflict, offering her strongest statement yet since the government suspended progress on the bill. Others, however, said she insisted on her previous position only referring to the bill suspension.
Business & Economy
British Airways is facing a fine of £183.4m after a data breach compromised personal information of 500,000 people. The Information Commissioner’s Office’s (ICO) sanction is equivalent to 1.5% of BA’s worldwide turnover for 2017, setting a new record as the first penalty imposed under the Data Protection Act, which entered into force in 2018. BA’s chairman and CEO Alex Cruz said the company was ‘surprised and disappointed’, with owner International Airlines Group (IAG)’s chief executive Willie Walsh adding that they could appeal the fine.
Transport for London announced on Monday its plans to track the data of London Underground’s passengers through WiFi transmitters in order to send targeted information and ease overcrowding based on commuters’ journeys. TfL had previously been limited to using data from Oyster and payment cards, but now aims at collecting information through the WiFi beacons on passengers’ devices, which could also allow it to price advertising. The announcement led to calls by commuters to turn off the WiFi on their phones when using the Tube. (£)
Primark’s founder and chairman Arthur Ryan has died at the age of 83 after battling a short illness. Described as a ‘gifted retailer and a visionary leader’, Mr Ryan opened the first shop as Penneys in 1969 in Dublin. Since then, the retailer has expanded to more than 350 stores in 11 countries across Europe and the US, with a turnover of £7.4 billion last year. The chain, still known as Penneys in Ireland, has weathered the high street downturn despite not having an online shop, reporting a 4.4% increase in like-like sales in the six months to March.
What happened yesterday?
London stocks closed in the red on Monday following the US nonfarm payroll report presented last Friday and as investors look ahead to key events later this week. The FTSE 100 was down 0.05% at 7,549, while the pound was weaker against the dollar by 0.10% at $1.2508 and stable versus the euro at €1.1158.
June saw a better-than-expected increase in job numbers in the US, jumping by a net 224,000 according to the Department of Labor. The new data boosted expectations for a 25-point reduction in interest rates by the Federal Reserve later this month.
In equity markets, tobacco company Imperial Brands (up 2.20%) rose after announcing a £200m share buyback, as well as a progressive dividend policy review. British American Tobacco (up 1.54%) closed in the green as well. Risers also included Acacia Mining (up 4.51%), as it said gold production for Q2 rose 19% year-on-year, and Cineworld (up 0.31%).
Among the losers, IAG’s shares (down 1.36%) fell following the £183.4m fine by ICO on British Airways over last year’s breach of its security systems. By close of trading, shares in Woodford Patient Capital Trust (down 1.57%), Schroders (down 2.64%) and Hiscox (down 0.51%) were lower, too.
Across the pond, all eyes are on the Fed, with investors awaiting Chairman Jay Powell’s testimony on Capitol Hill tomorrow and on Thursday. Wall Street edged lower yesterday, with the S&P 500 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite down 0.5% and 0.8%, respectively.
What's happening today?
K3 Business Technology Group
Keystone Law G.
Marks & Spencer
Worldwide Healthcare Trust
Young & Co 'A'
UK Economic Announcements
(00:01) BRC Shop Price Index
Columns of Note
Writing in The Guardian, David Adler argues that the demise of Syriza in Greece is better explained by the transformation of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s government into a right-wing force after having promised to put an end to Greek oligarchy and to oppose the diktat of the troika of lenders. According to him, not only did Tsipras abide by the EU’s rules or promote a new generation of oligarchs, but he was also responsible for austerity and neoliberal measures seen as a betrayal by many Syriza supporters. Adler concludes with three lessons to learn from the downfall of Tsipras’ party: not to indulge the opposition, not to invest the hopes of a movement in the figure of a political leader, and to keep the spirit of rebellion alive.
Rachel Sylvester writes in The Times about the interference in anti-Semitism cases by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his team after the request of Labour deputy leader, Tom Watson, and the shadow Brexit secretary, Sir Keir Starmer, to see the party’s submission to the Equality and Human Rights Commission inquiry, was refused. Sylvester argues that Mr Corbyn and his allies are trying to cover up and silence whistle-blowers in an attempt to keep the independent inquiry ‘in the family.’ She concludes that the ‘bunker mentality’ of the Labour leadership is alienating party members over issues beyond anti-Semitism cases, such as sexual harassment and Brexit. (£)
Did you know?
All the flags on Disney World’s Main Street are fake. They have fewer stars and stripes, so Disney doesn’t have to follow the flag code and lower them or light them every night.
House of Commons
Justice (including Topical Questions)
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Tin Mining Subsidence – George Eustice
Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill: 2nd reading
Intentional unauthorised development and the planning system – Sir Oliver Heald
House of Lords
Construction of the memorial to the Normandy landings in Ver-sur-Mer – Lord Selkirk of Douglas
Ensuring rural post offices are able to continue and extend the services they provide – Baroness Redfern
Diabetes UK’s Food Upfront campaign and petition – Baroness Thornton
Children’s Society report: 'Counting Lives: responding to children who are criminally exploited' – Lord Kennedy of Southwark
Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill [HL] – Committee stage – Lord Ashton of Hyde
Project 17’s report Not Seen, 'Not Heard: Children’s experiences of the hostile environment' – The Lord Bishop of Durham
On recess until 1 September 2019
House of Commons
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office (including Topical Questions)
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Public Advocate - Maria Eagle
Draft Environment (Legislative Functions from Directives) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 - Michael Gove
Draft Town and Country Planning (Fees for Applications, Deemed Applications, Requests and Site Visits) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2019
Tackling Climate Change, Protecting the Environment and Securing Global Development
Child and adolescent mental health services in the North East - Mrs Sharon Hodgson
House of Lords
Government consultation on requiring transparency in publishing parental leave practices for companies with over 250 employees - Baroness Burt of Solihull
Financial arrangements and auditing of multi-academy trusts - Lord Storey
Newly designated UNs Day for commemorating the victims of acts of violence based on religion or belief - Baroness Berridge
National Insurance Contributions (Termination Awards and Sporting Testimonials) Bill - Committee stage - Lord Young of Cookham
Non-Domestic Rating (Public Lavatories) Bill [HL] - Second reading - Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill – Second reading - Lord Duncan of Springbank
Sustainable Development Goals - Baroness Sugg
On recess until 1 September 2019