Hello from Washington, where things have gone quiet, with the US Congress in recess and the president on holiday at his New Jersey golf course. I returned to DC a few days ago after more than a week on the road. First I went to Philadelphia, where I spoke to Republicans and Democrats who are targeting suburban women voters ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Then I headed to Des Moines, where the Democratic presidential candidates have been wooing voters over corn dogs at the Iowa State Fair and a rowdy annual fundraising dinner called the Wing Ding. Meanwhile, my colleagues this week have been covering the clashes between protesters and police at Hong Kong airport, WeWork’s plans for a blockbuster initial public offering and climate activist Greta Thunberg’s transatlantic ambitions.
Without further ado, here is my pick of FT pieces I have enjoyed this week, plus a few others that you shouldn’t miss.
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High stakes in Hong Kong
With demonstrations in Hong Kong intensifying, and Carrie Lam, chief executive, warning the city is nearing the “abyss”, my colleagues Sue-Lin Wong, Hudson Lockett, Alice Woodhouse, Christian Shepherd, Joe Leahy and Primrose Riordan covered the latest developments. In an editorial, the FT warns of the far-reaching consequences any crackdown by China’s authorities would have.
Beijing should . . . reflect that the stakes are even higher than the future of Hong Kong itself. At risk is the entire system of globalisation that has facilitated China’s rise during the past 40 years.
Tenant and landlord?
The We Company, parent of the shared-office provider WeWork, has published the prospectus for its IPO. The document provides investors with a treasure trove of previously unseen information about this heavily lossmaking business, as it seeks to raise between $3bn and $4bn in a listing later this year. My colleagues Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson, Eric Platt and Judith Evans have combed through the filing and picked out the best bits, including the fact that WeWork has leased properties from its co-founder and chief executive Adam Neumann. The document also reveals that the company lent more than $30m to Mr Neumann between 2013 and 2016, cash that has since been repaid. But there are considerable risks for any would-be investor in the public offering, detailed in nearly 30 pages of the filing.
“Among the risks set out by the company are the sizeable payment obligations it has under its leasing deals, an issue that goes to the heart of its business model.”
‘The new icon of climate change’
With 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg setting sail for the US — she gave up flying years ago for environmental reasons — Leslie Hook, Victor Mallet and Yasemin Craggs Mersinoglu profile the Nobel Peace Prize nominee, who has divided public opinion, attracting huge numbers of supporters as well as some vociferous opponents. Mike Hulme, a Cambridge university professor, marvels at her popularity:
“You can think of Greta as the new icon of climate change. Over the past 12 months I suspect she has got a lot more air time than the polar bear.”
‘You can’t opt out of walking around London’
I lived in London for the better part of the past six years before moving to Washington, and no matter where you went in the city, you couldn’t help but notice the presence of CCTV cameras. So Madhumita Murgia’s story that property developers in the UK capital are taking surveillance one step further resonated with me. The company behind the redevelopment of King’s Cross, an area of London that includes Google’s UK headquarters and the Central Saint Martins art college, is using facial recognition technology for purposes of detection and tracking — raising red flags among privacy experts. Canary Wharf, a centre for international banks, is considering following the lead taken by King’s Cross and rolling out similar tools in an area traversed by 140,000 people each day. Stephanie Hare, an independent researcher of facial recognition technologies in the UK, is alarmed:
“You can’t opt out of walking around London, or working there. How do they defend it when this technology is the subject of legal action and MPs are calling for a moratorium on it?”
Will ‘Malory Towers’ revival provide a boost for girls’ schools?
As a graduate of a Catholic high school for girls, I read Miranda Green’s take on the theatrical revival of Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers series of books with great interest. Miranda, a former education correspondent at the FT, questions whether a stage musical and BBC drama based on the books set at a girls’ boarding school in the 1940s, will spark a renewed interest in single-sex education — which studies show may help young women reach their full academic potential. Miranda cites research by the UCL Institute of Education, which found girls are more likely to choose maths, science and technology when they learn apart from boys:
“In later life, these girls tend to earn more than their female peers but are no less likely to marry, despite suggestions by heads at other types of school that they might be unable to “meaningfully converse with male colleagues” in the workplace, placing them at “a huge disadvantage”.
Other FT stories that have caught my eye this week
- CBS and Viacom agreed to reunite in an all-stock merger that valued Viacom at around $20bn, bringing together the most-watched US broadcast channel and the owner of Paramount Pictures film studio.
- The markets may have tumbled this week, but one star fund manager had a worse week than most. Bond funds run by Michael Hasenstab, one of the world’s biggest buyers of Argentine debt, lost nearly $1.8bn in a single day amid concerns that Argentina’s president, Mauricio Macri, will not be re-elected in October.
- Apple has made its first big foray into personal finance with Apple Card, a minimalist white titanium bank card. But the tech giant would prefer its users leave the physical card at home and instead pay for goods using Apple Pay on an iPhone or Apple watch.
- As the UK gets closer to leaving the EU on October 31 without securing a withdrawal deal, the consultancy EY has warned that British workers travelling to the EU could be barred from carrying out even basic business tasks unless they obtain work permits that could take weeks or even months to secure.
- Japanese tech giant SoftBank is about to raise money for a second tech fund. The first one, launched in 2017, raised $100bn. But Masayoshi Son, the company’s billionaire founder, would like to go further and create an “ecosystem” of companies that can work together to accelerate growth, and drive the parent company’s own returns.
Best of the rest
What I’ve been reading elsewhere
- ‘Loud, obsessive, tribal’: the radicalisation of remain. This is a fascinating read on the increasingly disaffected “Follow Back Pro EU” Remainists who want to stop Brexit at all costs, and are adopting tactics that academics say are reminiscent of the radical right. (The Guardian)
- Stacey Abrams’ fight for a fair vote. Stacey Abrams has been seen as a possible Democratic vice-presidential pick — or even presidential candidate — since she narrowly lost the 2018 governor’s race in Georgia to Republican Brian Kemp. Ms Abrams alleged her opponent had been working to suppress voters during the campaign, and has launched a new project called Fair Fight 2020 to support voter protection initiatives. (The New Yorker)
- My wife had our baby, then I lost her to autoimmune liver disease. Robert Colvile, a former journalist who now runs the Centre for Policy Studies think-tank in London, lost his wife, Andrea, last month to autoimmune disease. The disease, which mostly affects women, often after giving birth — Andrea had the couple’s second child last year — is poorly understood and lacking in funding for research. Robert wrote a beautiful, heart-wrenching piece about their relationship and her illness, and has set up a Just Giving page to raise money so other families do not have to suffer the same fate. (The Times)
Before you go
Culture Call, a brilliant new FT podcast featuring interviews with the people shifting culture around the world, launched this week. In the first episode, Lilah Raptopoulos (pictured bottom right) interviews New York Times staff writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner in her New Jersey home. Her new novel Fleishman Is in Trouble is at the top of my summer reading list. In the next episode, available on August 27, Griselda Murray Brown (pictured top centre) speaks to award-winning London rapper and podcaster George the Poet. Subscribe to the podcast here.
We always want to hear your thoughts and feedback, so drop me a line @LaurenFedor or email us at — and have a lovely weekend.
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