14th October 2019
Written by Sabina Kadić-Mackenzie, Senior Associate
Edited by Laura Hamilton, Managing Partner
When I was 20, I was lucky enough to be selected by my university to study abroad as one of a handful of students. My destination? Upstate New York with its -20 Celsius temperatures, but with Buffalo wings and salt potatoes to warm the soul.
In my excitement to pack the essentials (including high top trainers, which it turns out are not suitable for thigh-deep snow) there was one thing I forgot.
My vaccination records.
Fast forward two weeks into my trip and whilst my housemates were well into their studies, I all but wasted away in our apartment because I couldn’t prove I had been vaccinated against the likes of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).
This was 15 years ago in a state which recently made the controversial decision to ban religious exemptions from the requirement that all students in its education system be vaccinated against childhood diseases such as MMR.
The response comes following the longest measles outbreak since the disease was officially eliminated in the United States in 2000. Outbreaks such as this one, in the US at least, are often blamed on the Trump-era of ‘fake news’ and vaccine scepticism. But can the president, for all his other ills, be a one-person scapegoat for a global trend which saw a 300% year-on-year increase in reported measles cases in 2019?
In the first three months of this year alone over 110,000 measles cases were reported worldwide, many in previously measles-free countries including Greece, the Czech Republic, Albania and the UK. The latter, according to the World Health Organisation, has seen a spike in cases with 489 in the first six months of 2019 alone.
Trust in vaccines appears still to be key in the debate, but with a rich-poor divide. Parents in poorer countries report trusting vaccinations more than their counterparts in wealthier nations, who thanks to the anti-vax movement with its celebrity backers, view them with increasing scepticism.
It seems nonsensical that in a world of information, misinformation is still ruling the day on an issue that is literally about life and death.
With that in mind, it sadly comes as little surprise that this weekend health officials again urged people in the UK to get vaccinated after three new cases of measles were confirmed, this time in Essex, with many more cases under investigation.
This at the same time as warnings from NHS England’s chief executive that misinformation is being spread by parents at the school gates, impacting vaccination uptake and as a consequence disease outbreak. According to Simon Stevens, schools - the very place we send our youngsters to learn about facts instead of fake news - are becoming breeding grounds for harmful myths about vaccinations. If only there was a cure for that.
According to a briefing on UK-EU Brexit talks over the weekend, a “big gap” remains over customs arrangements, despite progress being made on plans for the Northern Ireland border. The government’s agenda is due to be set out in the Queen’s address later today, which is expected to outline plans for life after Brexit, crime prevention and ending rail franchises.
The UK will hold its next budget on 6 November 2019, a number of days after its planned exit date from the EU, according to Sajid Javid, the chancellor of the exchequer. He commented: “I will be setting out our plan to shape the economy for the future and triggering the start of our infrastructure revolution.”
A report commissioned by the Committee on Climate Change has advised that air miles schemes should be axed as they encourage passengers to take extra flights in a bid to maintain “privileged traveller status”. An “escalating Air Miles Levy” should also be introduced to rein in the number of trips taken by frequent flyers, without penalising those taking an annual holiday.
Kurdish-led fighters in Syria announced last night that they had agreed to a Russian-brokered deal to allow the Assad regime into their territory in a bid to spare their cities from a Turkish assault, after they were abandoned by Donald Trump. “If we have to choose between compromises and the genocide of our people, we will surely choose life for our people,” said Mazloum Kobani Abdi, the commander of the SDF. (£)
Business & Economy
Facebook’s plans for a digital currency are coming under further scrutiny as global regulators step up their pressure on the struggling Libra project. In a letter to G20 finance ministers yesterday, the global Financial Stability Board said that, “possible regulatory gaps should be assessed and addressed as a matter of priority”. This comes days after five companies — Mastercard, Visa, Stripe, eBay and Mercado Pago — confirmed they would withdraw from the scheme. (£)
According to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Labour’s nationalisation plans would cost at least £196 billion. The up-front cost of taking control of water and energy utilities, train firms and Royal Mail was equivalent to all income tax paid by UK citizens in a year. A Labour Party spokesman said it was "incoherent scaremongering" by the CBI.
Business leaders are more worried about weak demand than at any other point in the past five years, amid fears of falling revenues and dwindling profit margins. The quarterly Deloitte survey of chief financial officers has revealed that businesses are responding to the impacts of Brexit and domestic economic conditions by stepping up the pace of cost cuts. (£)
The week ahead
This week will be a vital one for Brexit. Boris Johnson will need to ask Brussels for an extension to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU under the terms of the Benn Act if parliament has not approved either a deal or no-deal exit by Saturday. The House of Commons will hold a special “Super Saturday”– the first such session since 1982, when the Falklands crisis was debated.
The Queen will open parliament today with a speech outlining Johnson’s legislative agenda. On Thursday and Friday, the European Council meets in Brussels, where any deal reached will need to be signed off. Jacob Rees-Mogg, a leading anti-EU figure, sought to soften up Conservative Eurosceptics, urging MPs to accept that “compromise will inevitably be needed” in the run-up to Thursday’s summit.
Meanwhile, US banks will take the lead this week when third-quarter reporting season begins. The third successive quarter of falling earnings is forecast. The mining sector will also feature midweek, with operational updates from BHP and Rio Tinto.
Investors are awaiting a deluge of Chinese economic data, which is expected to shine a light on the impact of the trade war with the US.
And finally, government ministers, central bankers and chief executives will gather this week for the annual meetings of the IMF and the World Bank Group, which begin in Washington on Thursday.
Whats happening today?
Intl. Economic Announcements
(10:00) Industrial Production (EU)
Columns of Note
Katy Balls outlines the purpose of Boris Johnson’s Queen’s speech in this week’s Spectator. As it stands, the government boasts a working majority in the region of -40, and few ministers expect Johnson to be able to even pass his first Queen’s speech – let alone the individual bills. Instead then, Johnson and ministers hope Monday’s event will provide a platform to set out the “optimistic and ambitious” things the government would do were they to win a majority in a forthcoming election. (£)
In this week’s New Yorker, Daniel Alarcón highlights the tragedy of Diego Maradona. Asif Kapadia’s remarkable documentary about the Argentine football phenom offers a revealing look at the emotional cost of fame, and at how disposable talent can be, no matter how otherworldly the gift. (£)
Did you know?
The average American hasn't made a new friend in five years.
House of Commons State Opening of Parliament Speaker’s Statement Duties and responsibilities of Members Debate on the Address 1st day of debate on the Queen’s speech Adjournment 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem – Dan Jarvis House of Lords State Opening of Parliament Motion for Humble Address Scottish Parliament No business scheduled. TOMORROW House of Commons Debate on the Address 2nd day of debate on the Queen’s speech Adjournment 16-17 year olds in unregulated accommodation – Andrew Selous House of Lords Debate on the Address Exiting the EU, trade, foreign affairs and defence – Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Lord Callanan Scottish Parliament No business scheduled.