No kneed to panic

Written by Katie Stanton, Senior Associate

Edited by Harriet Moll, Creative Director

Good morning, It’s Saturday night and I’m sitting in accident and emergency, having skied straight into the knob of a knobbly tree, knee first. Safe to say, I’m at a low ebb, shuffling my weight between my palms, grimacing wildly and generally failing not to make a scene. If not for the camaraderie – the loud whooping when some drunk girls get their hands on a packet of Mini Cheddars from a vending machine, the deep snores of a chap in the corner, the jauntiness of a mother-in-law whose daughter-in-law has been a “bit of a dare devil too” – I might have just resigned myself to the pain for a few days in favour of my bed and a big cup of tea. But now I live to tell you what you already know: the NHS is bloody awesome.  It is in stark comparison, in fact, to the American system which just this week had a near miss with the scalpel at the hands of the man himself, President Donald Trump. More butcher than surgeon, he donned his rubber apron and hairnet in an attempt to axe billions of dollars in federal support from Medicaid, food stamps and other safety net programmes for the poor. The budget calls for $844 billion in savings over 10 years from the president’s “health reform vision”, which will aim to ensure “better care at lower costs.” Missing though are the specifics, the concrete steps that will make this mammoth saving a reality for Americans who already have, in Trump’s own words, “the best healthcare options in the world”. Tell that to the state employees of Utah who get shipped off to Mexico by their insurance company to collect prescriptions. Apparently, the savings are so large that the insurance programme can “pay for each patient’s flight, give them a $500-per-trip bonus and still save tens of thousands of dollars”. Wow. On the upside, few of Trump’s cuts are expected to get past the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. Still –  although the NHS isn’t perfect – I’m feeling pretty grateful not to have to worry about the mounting bills or finding my passport every time I ski into a tree, or need to collect a prescription. So happy Wednesday, you lucky British readers.


Regulator Ofcom is set to be given the power to make tech firms responsible for protecting people from harmful content such as violence, terrorism, cyber-bullying and child abuse. The government will confirm later today that platforms will need to ensure the swift removal of illegal content and “minimise the risks” of it appearing at all. It is not yet known what penalties Ofcom will be able to impose on those firms who fail to comply. Bernie Sanders has declared a narrow victory in the New Hampshire primary overnight with Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, coming a close second. The Vermont senator and self-declared socialist won 25.9%, while Buttigieg came in at 24.4%. Meanwhile two former front-runners suffered crushing setbacks, as Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren won 9.3% and former vice-president Joe Biden took just 8.4%. The British government is in talks with the ExCel London venue about moving the COP26 climate change summit from Glasgow, amid claims over spiralling costs and chaotic preparations. Officials confirmed that the venue is a "fallback option", adding that it is "normal for an event of this magnitude to have contingency measures" and that "we are pretty committed to Scotland." (£)  Next year’s census could be the last after 180 years of the once-in-a-decade population surveys, according to the UK’s chief statistician. Professor Sir Ian Diamond, head of the Office for National Statistics (ONS), said he hoped to replace it with a cheaper, better and more effective system of counting and chronicling Britain’s population. (£)

Business and economy

Energy customers who experience delays or mistakes when switching suppliers will automatically be entitled to £30 compensation from May. Regulator Ofgem said it would offer protection to gas and electricity users and boost confidence in the switching process – helping to enable competition. Payments will be made if the switch is not completed within 15 working days. The top five executives at Ocado are to share an £88 million payday, despite the online retailer suffering a £215 million loss in its last financial year. Ocado revealed yesterday that its management team would receive the maximum possible from a five-year incentive scheme set up in 2014 because of the rise in the company’s share price. (£) Intu shares lost almost a third of their value yesterday after Link Real Estate Investment Trust said it would no longer participate in the troubled retail landlord’s £1 billion emergency cash call.

Columns of note

Writing in The Atlantic, Helen Lewis explains why extremists need therapy. Britain’s prisons are under-resourced; they struggle to deradicalize alienated young men. So, although recent public sentiment has focused on a lock-them-up-and-throw-away-the-key mantra, punishment of this nature does not unmake terrorists. If anything, it spreads extremism. Instead, they need a purpose to replace their feelings of existential struggle – this starts with mental health support, education, training and, above all, a future. In today’s Financial Times Big Read, Michael Pooler examines the surge in plastics production defying international environmental efforts. Over the past decade, the shale boom in America has gifted not just cheap natural gas, but also an abundance of raw materials for petrochemicals: the basic building blocks of plastics. And, at a time when the oil industry is quaking in its boots over the rise of electric vehicles, many hydrocarbon producers are betting on petrochemicals – in particular, plastics – to fill the gap. (£)

Source: New Yorker


What happened yesterday?

US and European stock indices hit record highs as investors calmed their nerves over the coronavirus outbreak. On Wall Street, the S&P 500 was on track for another record-setting day, with gains across most sectors. This comes after Jay Powell, Federal Reserve chairman, said in a testimony yesterday that the central bank found the “US economy in a very good place, performing well”. The bank, he said, was “closely monitoring” the coronavirus situation, but resisted the urge to speculate on the extent to which it would disrupt US markets. The rally was tempered only by news that the Federal Trade Commission is going to examine past acquisitions by large tech companies, including Facebook. Across the pond, the Stoxx 600 closed up 0.9%, while the Dax rose one per sent to a new peak. The FTSE 100 closed up 0.71%. On the currency markets, the pound was up 0.29% against the dollar and 0.18% against the euro.

What's happening today?

Finals Novolip Regs Plus500 Primary Health Interims Dunelm Oncimmune Q4 Results Novolip Regs

AGMs Inc&gwth Vct Rws Hldgs Int. Economic Announcements (10:00) Industrial Production (EU) (12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US) (15:30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)

Source: Financial Times

Did you know?

It takes, on average, 1.71 days for a Lego head to pass through your digestive system.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons Oral questions Scotland Prime Minister’s Question Time Motion The Police Grant Report (England and Wales) for 2020-21 (HC 51) to be approved – Priti Patel Local Government Finance Reports – Robert Jenrick Adjournment Marine licensing consultation – Steve Double House of Lords Oral questions Reducing the disability gap – Lord Touhig Continuing to provide funds for Bahrain through the Integrated Activity Fund – Lord Scriven Reviewing the rules for referendums – Lord Soley What ships and other vehicles will be used to strengthen the Fishery Protection Squadron and when such vehicles will be ready for active service – Lord West of Spithead Legislation Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill [HL] – Committee stage (day 2) – Baroness Vere of Norbiton Short debate Full implications of decision-making and prediction by algorithm in the public sector – Lord Clement-Jones Scottish Parliament No business scheduled.