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The News That Shaped the Month – May

WannaCry Cyberattack – Yana Chernysh

On the 12th of May, a wave of a cyberattacks hit many countries worldwide. The targets of the hackers were not only personal laptops and computers, but also the municipality, hospitals, and other socially important infrastructures. The four most affected countries were Russia, Ukraine, India, and Taiwan.

The attack worked as follows: one receives a message on the laptop saying that all the files were encrypted. In order to recover the files, one needs to send a certain payment (around 300$), which is accepted only in Bitcoin. For this, the hackers give a certain amount of time, after which the price doubles. And lastly, if payment is not received, all the data will be deleted.

This does not seem of such a big problem for average users. Most of the information does not have crucial value. Moreover, a lot of people use online storage systems nowadays. However, for hospitals or government systems, the data stored in the system has much more value. A lot of technology companies along with the government of some countries started working to find a way of decryption without paying.

The attackers have already received more than 300 payments with a total value around 115 thousand dollars. Unfortunately, people who did pay the money found out that the data was still encrypted.

It is said that the attack did not have that much negative impact as it could have had and that it was mainly focused on critical infrastructure.

Terror attacks in Manchester- Atma Jyoti Mahapatra

On the 22nd of May, explosions went off at a concert by American pop singer Ariana Grande, in Manchester. Almost 23 people were killed and about 116 got injured in these attacks. England is under high terror alert following these attacks.

Initially hesitant to be termed as an attack by ISIS, there is growing evidence to support this notion. Salman Abedi, a 22 year old person of Libyan descent, has been identified as the suicide bomber responsible for these attacks.

The police has found out more about the terror ring behind the attacks, and has arrested 12 people so far in connection with these attacks. A day after the horrific incident, the people of Manchester and people around the world showed solidarity with the victims’ families, taking to the streets and laying flowers for the deceased.


General Economics  – Hải Đăng Vũ

The snap election in the UK for the upcoming June also prompts the candidates to release their upcoming economic plans. The proposals, as anticipated, are vastly different among the two parties: while Theresa May insisted on her plan to proceed on austerity measures that focuses on a tax increase to individuals and corporations, the Labour Party wanted to raise its expenditures on public programs including medium-term education plans and the NHS.

In Europe, the outcome of the French election might have reignited interests of investors into Europe. With the earlier WannaCry Ransomware attack mid-May (also see below), the Stoxx Europe 600 Index could only improve modestly, with the CAC40 also performing positively.

Prior to his expedition in Europe this month, US President Donald Trump officially submitted his provisional tax policies for the future, which has faced backlashes from Congress. His target of raising $2 trillion in tax revenues was brought into question whether the money would then be used to finance tax cuts or paying down deficits. Also being challenged on how the administration would raise the money, one of the complementary plans to help with raising tax revenues is the border adjustment tax. In short, import prices are going to increase by 20 percent. With the tax in place, it is promised that the overall effect is to also bring jobs back to the United States. Despite the unfavorable support of the tax coming from retailers, Republicans are determined to make their voices heard by launching an advertising campaign to promote its merits.

China’s Belt and Road summit – Tsz-Tian Lu

On 14th of May, some 29 countries’ leaders gathered in Beijing to attend what’s quoted as “China’s most important diplomatic event of the year”: a summit to honour China’s President Xi Jinping’s belt and road initiative (or sometimes you see the title being translated as “one belt one road”). You might wonder, why does it matter and what is this project with a confusing name entitled? Well, this project could turn out to be the most significant international infrastructure project of the 21st century with hundred billions dollars being invested across the globe.

The primary reason for this initiative is that as China’s economic growth rate is gradually slowing down, the government is trying to create new markets for its exporting goods. Also, this is a geopolitical gambit for China to pursue its dream to constantly be the dominated country in Asia. The reactions from other countries are mixed, there is excitement as well as some suspicion on the project, such as it is just a smokescreen China is using to achieve something else.

Oh, and about the weird name of this initiative; the belt is referred as the ‘silk road economic belt’, and the road is not really a road but rather it is a sea route that links China’s southern coast to Africa and Mediterranean. It is obviously a pretty ambitious project, but whether it will realise as expected is plausible.


Netflix and Chill – Mostafa Al Shikh

After the credit crunch in 2008 many financial institutions went bankrupt or had to implement a cost saving strategies in order to survive. This was almost 10 years ago, but after following the news the last couple of months, we can conclude that there are still cost cuts at many firms in the financial industry. An example of a company whose strategy consists of heavy downsizing is ABN Amro.

After former CEO Gerrit Zalm presented its strategy a year ago, and said he saw a future for the bank that was heavily dependent on technological progress, human capital was suddenly less important in order to reach both its long as short term goals. The bank decided to fire thousands of older, less educated employees that had a client facing role and hire youngsters who followed a tech-related education. After receiving a lot of negative reactions everyone thought that ABN Amro would relax some of its retrenchments.

Instead of this, ABN Amro decided to hit its employees in the worst way: prohibiting Netflix and Spotify on business laptops. The newest season of The House Of Cards will instead have to be streamed on their private laptops. The reason of this new rule is because of the network capacity, that is also used by the customers of ABN Amro, was overloaded by the many users of Netflix and Spotify. According to the IT department: ’15 percent of the network capacity is used on the consumption of the new Album of Kendrick Lamar and The House of Cards.’ The bank apologizes for the inconvenience and states that, in the first place, the network capacity is for the customers.

General Business – Nando Slijkerman

Chinese industrial profits rose 14 percent in April from a year earlier as global trade increased. Industrial profits climbed to 572.8 billion yuan ($83.6 billion) last month, the National Bureau of Statistics said Saturday, 27th of May. That compares with a jump of 23.8 percent in March, and an 8.5 percent increase last year.

The U.K. elections are getting tighter, which could mean a nervy couple of weeks for pound traders. Sterling dropped Friday, May 26th, rounding off the worst week this year, as a poll showed Theresa May’s Conservative Party leading the main opposition Labour Party by just five points, a gap that even this month had been as high as 24 points in some surveys. That left investors questioning whether the Prime Minister would achieve the increased majority that had been baked into the pound for the past few weeks.

If the result of the poll is uniformly spread nationwide, it could mean the Tories end up with a smaller majority than in 2015, according to the Times, a result which analysts say could spell more losses for a currency that was buffeted by the Brexit vote in 2016.

Let’s have a look at the numbers. Markets were following each other very closely this month. Almost no diversification in the growth levels. Growth continues for Europe in March; AEX rose with 1.32% this month, and our German neighbors (DAX) did exactly the same by also increasing 1.32%. S&P increased 1.33%, and the Dow Jones increased by 0.67 %.

Let’s monitor the developments with respect to the elections of Great-Britain closely, and see you on the markets next month!


J’amuse! – Raffaele Di Carlo

On May 7th, Europe witnessed the second round of the French Presidential Elections, aimed at finding a suitable successor to former President François Hollande of the Socialist Party. The first round, which was held on April 23rd, saw a multitude of parties running, most notably the Socialist Party, the Republicans and the Front National among the vieille Garde of French politics, but also a significant amount of new movements, such as En Marche!, led by Emmanuel Macron and la France insoumise, led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

After a scandal involving François Fillon’s family led the Republicans down the polls, and the Socialist candidate Benoît Hamon failed to gather enough consensus, the first round ended up with a ballot between Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche! and Marine Le Pen’s Front National. Monsieur Macron’s party might be considered of a liberal center, advocating for a more evolved European Union and free market. Mrs. Le Pen’s Front National may instead resemble many of the identitarian and nationalist movements that have risen to the spotlight all over Europe in the wake of the latest wave of terrorist attacks, with the only peculiarity of being much older: Le Pen’s father already faced (and lost to) Jacques Chirac in 2002, and the party itself was founded in 1972. The Front National is substantially protectionist, in the style of the far right, and opposes European politics, free immigration and trade.

The second round ended with the victory of Emmanuel Macron by a substantial margin: 66.1% of votes against 33.9% obtained by the opponent, Marine Le Pen. Mr. Macron nominated Edouard Philippe, a Republican, as new Prime Minister, which might hint at a possible future coalition between the two parties.

Don’t Mention the I-Word – Alma Rottem

It was a parade of bad news for US President Donald Trump and a couple of bad weeks at the White House. A series of blows that raises some serious questions about the future of his term, here as follows:

On May 9, Trump fired the director of the FBI, James Comey, who learned of his dismissal from the news. In a letter to Comey, Trump wrote: “…I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation“. What followed was a week of implicit presidential threats against Comey and memos recording Trump asking the FBI to drop its investigation regarding Michael Flynn and his Russian contacts. On May 17, deputy attorney-general Rod Rosenstein dropped a bomb and appointed former head of the FBI Robert Mueller to independently investigate links between the Trump administration and Russia. While all of this was happening, Trump has reportedly leaked a sensitive piece of intelligence in the presence of the foreign minister of Russia. Not a good couple of weeks for President Trump.

While more and more Democrats and much fewer Republicans started to whisper quietly the word “impeachment”, Trump was off to his first foreign trip as president. First, he visited Saudi Arabia with a royal welcome, and then Israel, where he met with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Further stops include Rome, Brussels (where he made waves at the NATO summit) and Sicily; perhaps Trump’s meeting with Pope Francis on Wednesday provided a bit of consolation while news stories keep breaking back home.

The Long Road to the Dutch Coalition – Leonie Ernst

It has been 75 days since the Dutch voted for their House of Representatives. After the elections, which were won by demissionair Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s party, a new coalition has to be formed. As expected, this process is rather difficult. The results of the elections show that the Dutch differ from opinion on how to rule the country best. 14 parties were installed in the House of Representatives and putting together a majority for the cabinet takes at least four of them.

The problem that arose during the past weeks is that the ideals of relatively bigger parties differ a lot. This demands compromises from all parties involved. The first option to be investigated was a coalition of the VVD (liberals), CDA (conservative), D66 (democrats), and GroenLinks (progressive). On the 15th of May, the informant – Edith Schippers, demissionair minister of public health – declared that the negotiations between these four parties had come to an end. Due to substantitive differences on migration, the parties did not see a bright future with a stable coalition existing of these four.

Last Friday, Schippers talked to all party leaders to discuss the possibilities again. What makes the forming of the coalition even harder is that almost all parties have excluded one or two others. Therefore a minority coalition is going to be more and more likely.


Student council elections and NSE survey – Evrim Öztamur

From Wednesday 10th of May until Tuesday 16th of May, the students of the University of Amsterdam voted on both the new Central Student Council, and the new Faculty Student Council. Both of these bodies work directly with the Rector Magnificus, as the representative of the Executive Board, and the faculty deans respectively to discuss policy changes, and also have the legally-binding right to approve these policy changes.

Results for the CSR show that De Decentralen got three, UvASociaal two, and De Vrije Student two seats; with Ons kritisch alternatief receiving none. For the FEB’s FSR, List Sefa got seven, and UvASociaal three seats.

In addition to the student council elections, the National Student Survey (NSE) has also concluded. UvA’s overall score has gone up to 4.03, from 4.01 last year, on a scale of 1-5. The average rating of other Dutch universities is 4.09 this year, which means that UvA is still below the average by a small margin. Most significant increases have been in the areas of career  guidance and preparation, study guidance, and information provision; all of which are areas that are very close to 3.5, or a ‘satisfactory’ score. Three new areas were added to the survey this year for group size, internationalisation and perceived difficulty for programmes.


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