4th October 2019
Written by Aidan Reid, Associate
Edited by David Gaffney Partner
In another age, to have claimed that you could control the weather would have been the ultimate act of hubris, punishable by nature, God, the stars, or whatever higher power the culture honoured. The weather has held many a battle tactician, festival attendee, farmer, and sportsperson hostage to fortune. At the current rugby world cup, a typhoonthreatens to meddle with the chances of more than one team, literally putting the wind up four years of preparation, potentially. Governments have sought to control the seemingly uncontrollable, experimenting since the 1940s with techniques that might produce rain or snow. This included the US Government investing significant sums inOperation Popeye, which focused on “cloud seeding” and creating enough rain in South Vietnam to destroy trails dug by North Vietnamese soldiers. The technology has come a long way since then. The ability to seed clouds, create on-demand precipitation, and dissipate clouds has developed to the point that some companies now claim they can secure clear skies for a wedding. The potential for such weather changing technology to be used to more substantial ends in areas facing droughts and in cities suffering from pollution could be genuinely life changing. For the time being, though, the technology appears largely to be used by wealthier nations to facilitate flawless grandiose occasions. This includes China, whose first efforts were made during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, to create rain clouds designed to remove pollution in the atmosphere. The Chinese have now made similar efforts to secure clearer air ahead of today’s celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of the formation of the People’s Republic of China. Technology like this in the hands of any nation can develop in ways we cannot – or choose not – to predict. While full-scale weather warfare is still unlikely, the internet provides a prime example of how technology can make a slow creep towards potentially repressive uses. As Human Rights Watch reports, the Chinese people are among the most subjugated in the world in terms of internet usage, where the web has become a tool to identify and suppress critical thought, rather than the high-minded platform of expression many visualised. Weather management looks likely to become another area of human advancement within which societies must grapple with the potential for technology to be used for ill as well as good.
In a speech to the Conservative Party conference, Sajid Javid unveiled a series of popular pledges ahead of a likely general election. This included raising the minimum wage for those over the age of 21 to £10.50 in the next five years, as well as a £25 billion investment in road infrastructure. Both retail figures and representatives from the childcare sector have called for businesses to be supported in any transition to higher wages for its younger-than-average staff base. Proposals from the UK Government to “solve” the Irish backstop will be laid out to the EU within days as part of a wider blueprint to alter the current Brexit withdrawal agreement. The proposals appear to centre around customs checks on the Irish border, with custom clearance sites based 5-10 miles away from the border to handle imports and exports. In spite of members of the hardline ERG group suggesting they could back these proposals, the Irish government has already indicated it would oppose these. President Trump’s remarks calling for the whistle blower at the centre of his potential impeachment to be outed have been criticised. There are fears that the whistle blower’s safety may now be compromised, ahead of them potentially giving evidence to Congress on the Trump administration’s efforts to hide a call transcript in which the president encourages Ukraine to investigate his rival Joe Biden’s son. An iceberg nearly the size of the entire island of Skye has broken off the Amery ice shelf in the Antarctic. It represents the largest such iceberg to separate from the area in over 50 years, and will be monitored for fear that international shipping in the area is disrupted.
Business & Economy
There are fears that the office space rental firm, WeWork, may run out of money in the next six months if it does not cut costs. The warning comes as the potential cash infusion from a public listing is off the table for the time being, with the firm having officially withdrawn its plans to go public. (£) The owner of popular viral short-form video sharing app, TikTok, is expected to make profits of between $7 billion and $8.4 billion for its parent Chinese company, ByteDance. The app is used by more than one billion people, mainly to share lip-synched videos of popular songs and TV shows. (£) The investment firm, Prudential, has been fined £24 million for failing to advise customers they could potentially get better deals on their annuities if they shopped around. The Financial Conduct Authority estimated 35,000 customers had been mis-sold products as a result, with staff incentivisation schemes found to have encouraged advisers to seek personal financial gains over the interests of customers. The UK’s GDP fell by 0.2% in the second quarter of 2019 according to the ONS’s latest economic commentary. The fall was attributed to businesses being oversupplied during the quarter due to stockpiling behaviour ahead of a potential no-deal Brexit in March.
What happened yesterday?
You would think that the political uncertainty hanging over America might have diluted investor optimism. Yet the power of a good news day in the form of a US-Japan trade deal and a predicted $2 billion increase in Apple’s revenues in this month’s quarterly figures should not be underestimated. Both these announcements fed into increases across US economic barometers, with the dollar at one stage up as much as 0.4% (its highest level in nearly two-and-a-half years) and the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq seeing gains of up to 0.7%. In the UK, the pound continued to regain ground lost last month during concerns over a no-deal Brexit, gaining 0.13% on the dollar to be valued at $1.2315. This was in spite of the less than favourable GDP figures, which partly fuelled a fall in both the FTSE 100 and 250, by 2.4% and 1.74% respectively. Of interest in company terms was GlaxoSmithKline’s shares rising 1.14% on the back of a promising study into a new treatment for ovarian cancer.
Whats happening today?
Ferguson James Halstead JHD Scs Group
UK Economic Announcements
(07:00) Nationwide House Price Index (09:30) PMI Manufacturing
International Economic Announcements
(08:55) PMI Manufacturing (EU) (08:55) PMI Manufacturing (GER) (14:45) PMI Manufacturing (US) (15:00) Construction Spending (US) (15:00) ISM Prices Paid (US) (15:00) ISM Manufacturing (US) (20:30) Auto Sales (US)
Columns of Note
Ahead of the 70th anniversary of the formation of the modern Chinese state, Lily Lee and Ben Westcott have produced a long-form piece for CNN featuring people born in 1949, the year the communist party took power. It details the lives of individuals from very contrasting initial backgrounds under the regime, and the transformation they have witnessed in the intervening period. This includes the suffering inflicted during the famine of the 1960s, created by the policies of the ‘Great Leap Forward’, through to the market reforms and increasing economic prosperity seen from the 1980s onwards. In response to Sajid Javid’s announcement of wage increases for those over 21 years old, Stephen Bush of the New Stateman argues that the announcement, while good in a policy sense, may have negative electoral implications for the Conservatives. While the economic benefits from the additional spending of young people receiving a wage increase are praised, he also highlights that an upcoming election will come too soon for these and any other spending pledges to be implemented. This he argues, means that an election debate will see Labour able to criticise the perceived reality of current policies affecting people now, while the Conservatives can only focus on what they may hypothetically do in future.
Did you know?
Of the 100 highest selling artists of all time, a study found that Eminem had the largest vocabulary. The rapper used 8,818 words in his lyrics, nearly double that of Bob Dylan at 4,883.
House of Commons
Oral questions HM Treasury (including Topical Questions) Motion To approve a statutory instrument relating to the draft common organisation of the markets in agricultural products (Transitional arrangements etc.) (Amendment) (EU exit) Regulations 2019 - Theresa Villiers To approve a statutory instrument relating to the draft common agricultural policy and the common organisation of the markets in agricultural products (Miscellaneous amendments) (EU exit) Regulations 2019 - Theresa Villiers To approve a statutory instrument relating to the draft import and export licences (Amendment) (EU exit) Regulations 2019 - Theresa Villiers To approve a statutory instrument relating to the draft pesticides (Amendment) (EU exit) Regulations 2019 - Theresa Villiers Adjournment Performance of South Western Railway - Caroline Nokes House of Lords Oral questions Taking into account the interests of future generations at every level of government policy-making - Lord Bird Reducing the consumption levels of single use plastics - Lord Robathan Ensuring clinicians prioritise patients at most risk from the particularly virulent strain of the seasonal flu virus - Baroness Hollins Russell Group universities accepting T-Levels as entry qualifications for undergraduate degrees - Baroness Garden of Frognal Orders and regulations Draft Newcastle Upon Tyne, North Tyneside and Northumberland Combined Authority (Adult Education Functions) Order 2019 - Lord Agnew of Oulton Draft Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 2019 - Baroness Williams of Trafford Draft Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Legal Aid for Separated Children) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Order 2019 - Lord Keen of Elie Draft Over the Counter Derivatives, Central Counterparties and Trade Repositories (Amendment, etc., and Transitional Provision) (EU Exit) (No. 2) Regulations 2019 - Lord Bethell Draft Financial Services (Miscellaneous) (Amendment) (EU Exit) (No. 3) Regulations 2019 - Lord Bethell Scottish Parliament Topical questions (if selected) Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee Debate Post-legislative Scrutiny: Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010
Committee Announcements Social Security Committee – Inquiry into benefit take-up
Member’s Business Anas Sarwar: 80th Year of Scotland’s Citizens Advice Service
TOMORROW House of Commons Oral questions International Development (including Topical Questions) Prime Minister's Question Time Ten Minute Rule Motion Public Expenditure and Taxation (Advisory Body) - Jonathan Edwards Legislation Domestic Abuse Bill: 2nd Reading Adjournment Welsh language - Glyn Davies Westminster Hall debate Role of community pharmacies - Holly Lynch Proposed changes to free movement of EU nationals - Christine Jardine Trophy hunting imports - Mrs Pauline Latham Progress on leasehold and commonhold reform - Sir Peter Bottomley Performance of child maintenance service in recovering payments from absent parents - Peter Grant House of Lords Oral questions Ensuring the UK’s development aid supports the most vulnerable minorities, particularly in Pakistan - Lord Harries of Pentregarth Procedures followed in the dismissal of Sonia Khan as a special adviser - Lord Young of Cookham Regulating the use of facial recognition technology - Lord Clement-Jones Safeguarding the supply of medicines and medical devices in the event of a no deal Brexit - Baroness Thornton Debate UK’s withdrawal from the EU - Lord Callanan Scottish Parliament Portfolio Questions Rural Economy; Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Scottish Labour Party Debate Give Them Time Campaign Scottish Labour Party Debate Don't Extend the ScotRail Franchise Members' Business debate Emma Harper: Scottish Women and Girls in Sport Week