House of Commons
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Justice for George
Written by Scarlett Regan, researcher
Edited by Harriet Moll , partner
28 May 2020
As Covid-19 and its associated political distractions continue to hog the headlines here in the UK, a news story from across the pond has slipped largely under the radar.
On Monday evening in the US city of Minneapolis, George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was stopped in his car by police following reports suggesting he had used counterfeit money. As they restrained him, one of four police officers proceeded to kneel on his neck, inflicting visible pain. “I can’t breathe”, he said, several times. Floyd died in custody shortly thereafter. Disturbing video footage of the incident soon emerged, provoking outrage and the resurgence of #BlackLivesMatter.
Protests commenced on Tuesday, with hundreds of people chanting for justice and calling for the police officers involved to be arrested. Protesters threw stones at police buildings and vehicles while police retaliated with tear gas and smoke grenades.
The protests had some effect. Yesterday, four police officers were sacked, a demand that is hardly ever met. Mayor Jacob Frey has said he believes the video shows clearly that Floyd was killed by the arresting officer, adding that “being black in America should not be a death sentence”. The FBI is now investigating the incident.
Floyd’s death raises the issue of systemic racism in America’s national consciousness once again. It comes just days after a white woman walking her dog in New York’s Central Park called the police after a black man asked her to put her dog on a leash. “He’s African-American”, she said, as she pleaded for them to send an officer.
The tragic case of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man killed by two white men while out jogging, is also still fresh in the memory.
Many, many more acts of racism will be occurring every day, of course, going largely unnoticed and unreported.
For a world that is so forward-thinking in so many ways, talking honestly about systemic racism still seems to be difficult for many, but it is an injustice that must be aired repeatedly and acted upon for there to be any hope of its eradication. In the words of political activist Angela Davis: “in a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist”.
Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon is expected to confirm today that the country’s lockdown restrictions are to be eased slightly. This announcement will come during her daily news briefing at lunchtime and will likely focus on relaxing the rules pertaining to certain outdoor activities. Sturgeon will also launch the government’s “test and protect” strategy, which mirrors the UK government’s test and trace plan to break the chain of transmission of the virus.
The US has passed 100,000 deaths in the coronavirus outbreak, more fatalities than any country worldwide. Its 1.69 million confirmed cases account for about 30% of the global total. However, on a per capita basis, the US ranks ninth, behind Belgium, the UK, France and Ireland, according to John Hopkins University in Maryland.
UK prime minister Boris Johnson has ruled out an official inquiry into his chief adviser Dominic Cummings’ actions. Appearing by video link before the House of Commons liaison committee last night, he insisted numerous times that people wanted to “move on” from this, and that it would an inquiry would not be a “very good use of official time”. (£)
Business and economy
More than 70 travel bosses have written to the home secretary Priti Patel to argue that the UK should scrap plans to quarantine on arrival. To quarantine visitors from abroad on arrival in the country. They express their fear that a 14-day quarantine period would be bad for businesses already on their knees, reducing visitor numbers and making it difficult for Brits to travel abroad. The travel sector contributed £200bn to the UK economy last year. “It is time to switch the emphasis from protection to economic recovery before it is too late”, the letter concludes.
An independent group of economists has predicted that the UK economy faces an annual deficit of 5% of national income by 2024. This Treasury survey of independent economists differs from forecasts by the Office for Budget Responsibility, the independent fiscal watchdog, and the Bank of England, which have predicted much more rapid recoveries from the current crisis. (£)
Aerospace giant Boeing is to cut 6,770 jobs this week, with several thousand more expected in coming months. The pandemic has forced Boeing to cut production on a number of its models, and it came as the company was already reeling from two fatal crashes last year. Boeing’s chief executive Dave Calhoun warned that it will take “some years for our industry to return to what it was just two months ago”.
Columns of note
In the Financial Times, David Pilling examines how Ethiopia, with no lockdown and few ventilators, is beating Covid-19. The east African country of 110 million people has recorded just 731 cases and six deaths. Ethiopia’s response, built around public messaging and pouring money into basic healthcare, has so far been successful. “For the moment, at least, Ethiopia seems to be winning,” Pilling concludes.
In The Atlantic, Graeme Wood questions what is behind the Covid-19 racial disparity. Black people die of the coronavirus at a higher rate than white people, despite the fact that on average black people are younger than white people. French-speaking Swiss are 1.6 times more likely to die than German speakers. This racial disparity is worrying, and may well be down to socioeconomic status, Wood suggests. At the end of the day, he says, “we have no idea what is going on”.
What happened yesterday?
Concerns about the relationship between the US and China over Hong Kong is shaking hopes of a fast economic recovery. China’s currency fell by its largest margin in three weeks, as it released plans to impose a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong.
There were more governmental efforts to prop up economies badly affected by the pandemic. Brussels announced plans to seek the power to borrow up to $750bn to pump money into the worst-hit economies, whilst Japan approved a $1.1tn fiscal stimulus plan.
Shares in European banks jumped significantly, with Société Generale and BNP Paribas up by eight per cent and. Royal Bank of Scotland also climbing 8.5%.
Travel and leisure stocks posted big gains, with shares in Tui up more than 77% this week, and Cineworld reporting a climb of 40%.
What’s happening today?
Int. economic announcements
(13:30) Initial Jobless Claims (US)
(13:30) GDP (Preliminary) (US)
(13:30) Continuing Claims (US)
(15:00) Pending Home Sales (US)
(16:00) Crude Oil Inventories (US)
A Paris company has set up a horticultural “hospital” to help bring people’s dying office pot plants back to life.
House of Commons
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First Minister’s Statement
COVID-19 (Lockdown: Next Steps)
Education and Skills
Health and Sport
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