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Britain's finance ministry pledges funding to triple number of UK traineeships

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain will offer its largest ever expansion of traineeships, its finance ministry said on Sunday, ahead of a highly-anticipated update due later in the week on the government’s support for the economy through the coronavirus crisis.

Finance minister Rishi Sunak has rushed out emergency measures worth an estimated 133 billion pounds ($163.7 billion) since the start of the crisis, mostly to keep people in jobs after many businesses were forced to close due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

The economy shrank 25% in March and April as entire sectors were shuttered.

With the economy beginning to re-open, Sunak will give an economic update on Wednesday where he is expected to outline further measures of support for workers and businesses.

On Tuesday Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to shake Britain’s economy out of its coronavirus-induced crisis by fast-tracking infrastructure investment and slashing property planning rules.

But with most of Johnson’s headline spending previously announced, attention has turned to Sunak for more details on fresh plans to support the recovery.

He will announce a 111 million pound investment to triple the number of traineeships, the finance ministry said, adding that businesses would get a 1,000-pound bonus for everyone they offer a work experience placement.

As finance minister since February, Sunak has been widely credited for acting decisively with a job-retention scheme which has seen the government pay 80% of the wages of furloughed workers, and an emergency loan programme for businesses.

Johnson has cautioned that the furlough cannot go on forever. The scheme is due to end in October and employers will have to make contributions from August.

Sunak is also mulling plans to hand out 500 pounds in vouchers to adults, and 250 pounds to children, to spend in sectors of the economy hit hardest by the coronavirus crisis, the Guardian said on Sunday.

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Business

Samsung's second-quarter chip sales unlikely made up for smartphone weakness

SEOUL (Reuters) – At Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS), demand for its chips from data centres bulking up to meet a surge in work-from-home traffic was not likely enough to offset muted sales of its smartphones in the second quarter, analysts said.

The world’s biggest supplier of DRAM and NAND memory chips on Tuesday will announce preliminary April-June revenue as well as operating profit, which it previously expected to show a decline.

Profit likely fell 4.5% to 6.3 trillion won ($5.25 billion) from the same period year earlier, according to Refinitiv SmartEstimate, which is weighted towards the more consistently accurate analysts.

Work-from-home orders and growth in online learning is underpinning chip demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting U.S. DRAM supplier Micron Technology Inc (MU.O) to forecast strong quarterly revenue last month.

Chips bring in roughly half of Samsung’s profit. The rest is mainly smartphones, of which the South Korean firm is the world’s largest maker.

“With improved demand, a spike in DRAM prices helped Samsung continue with a solid performance in the second quarter,” said analyst Park Sung-soon at Cape Investment & Securities.

Those price increases were likely driven by data centres stockpiling chips and so are unlikely to continue, analysts said. Though DRAM prices jumped 14% in the quarter, they were flat in June versus May, showed data from DRAMeXchange.

“Until uncertainty stemming from the pandemic goes away, the sector’s outlook isn’t too positive,” said CW Chung, Nomura head of research in Korea.

In smartphones, Hyundai Motor Securities estimated Samsung’s operating profit fell 16% in April-June.

Gadget sales have fallen along with discretionary spending during the pandemic. Samsung’s smartphone shipments hit a low in April and is likely to take time to recover, analysts said.

Samsung’s display business – whose customers include Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Huawei Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL] – is likely to post a second consecutive quarter of loss, analysts said.

The firm will likely release detailed earnings figures later this month.

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World News

Don’t mess up! Boris gives China strict instructions to follow to prevent 5G ban

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This was according to Britain’s health minister, who spoke about the matter on Sunday after a report came out saying the firm would be banned from the project. Officials are drawing up proposals to stop installing Huawei Technologies equipment in as little as six months. This came from a report in the Sunday Telegraph who noted it was a reversal of a decision earlier this year.

Asked about the report, health minister Matt Hancock declined to comment on it specifically but said the initial recommendation had always been conditional.

“I wouldn’t comment on leaks of that kind.”

“What I can say is that when we came out with an interim report on this earlier in the year, there are a number of conditions that needed to be met,” he said.

“I’m sure that the National Security Council will look at those conditions, and make the right decision on this, to make sure that we have both a very strong telecoms infrastructure…

“but also that it is secure.”

It was back in January that Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, had allowed Huawei a minor role in Britain’s 5G network.

However, since making the decision he faced increasing pressure from the United States to ban the telecommunications equipment maker.

Some British lawmakers also backed the US’ call saying their reasoning was on a cause for concern surrounding security.

On Tuesday he toughened his rhetoric on Huawei, warning China he would protect critical infrastructure from “hostile state vendors”.

Ministers have also cited U.S. sanctions as being likely to have an impact on the viability of Huawei as a 5G provider.

The Sunday Telegraph report said that the National Cyber Security Centre had changed its recommendations on Huawei as the sanctions would force the company to use untrusted technology.

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A report by GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre has concluded that sanctions, which bar Huawei from using technology relying on American intellectual property have had a “severe” impact on the firm that significantly changes their calculations.

This had led to officials drawing up new proposals on how to stop installing new Huawei equipment in the 5G network.

The course of which should be around six months.

And will also look to speed up the removal of technology that is already in place.

Whitehall figures are now also examining the “ramifications” for existing Huawei equipment in other infrastructure outside 5G.

This is being viewed as a fairly dramatic reversal by the Prime Minister.

Tory MP’s on the backbenches have already started rising up against Mr Johnson and threatening a parliamentary “insurgency” if he fails to take a tougher approach on Huawei and China.

Debate on the National Security and Investment Bill, which Tories had been preparing to amend to force Mr Johnson’s hand on Huawei, is now believed to have been postponed until after the summer.

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World News

Rishi’s coronavirus plan: Ministers terrified of double hit amid Winter Flu flare up

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Mr Sunak has agreed in principle to a cash injection and will sign off the money once NHS leaders produce detailed records showing what they need and how much it will cost. The documents have not yet been submitted but talks are already under way with the Treasury. Sources said the government stands by its commitment at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis to give the NHS whatever it takes.

Health service leaders are believed to have told the Treasury they need an extra £10 billion.

NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens said there could be “very significant” extra costs later this year as the services prepares to deliver its “biggest ever” flu vaccination campaign, spend more on personal protective equipment (PPE) and sustain extra hospital beds.

He added: “The signs are that we will get the support we need.”

Sir Simon said he wanted to see frontline health service staff “properly rewarded” for their work but pay rises would have to be decided by the government.

The chief executive also called for plans to overhaul social care within a year.

He said the pandemic had shone a “very harsh spotlight” on the “resilience” of the system and long-term funding is needed.

“If any good is to come from this,” Sir Simon said, “in my opinion, we must use this to resolve once and for all to actually properly resource and reform the way in which social care works in this country.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to find a cross-party solution to funding social care after previous Labour and Conservative governments failed to resolve the issue.

Proposals to ease the strains on the service will be produced by the government, officials said.

Sir Simon said: “The reality is that after at least two decades of talking about it, we do not have a fair and properly resourced adult social care system with a proper set of workforce supports.”

He added: “I would hope by the time we are sitting down this time next year on the 73rd birthday of the NHS that we have actually, as a country, been able to decisively answer the question of how are we going to fund and provide high-quality social care for my parents’ generation.”

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World News

UK arts funding: Rishi Sunak unveils ‘world-beating’ programme – Who can claim grants?

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UK arts funding from Chancellor Rishi Sunak could save millions of jobs in the arts industry, as industry leaders fear long-lasting damage from COVID-19. Mr Sunak unveiled the new £1.57 billion support package via Twitter today, which unleashes both emergency grants and loans for struggling arts venues. People across the industry can claim them for their business if their jobs have suffered due to the UK lockdown.

Which arts venues can claim emergency grants?

Performers, artists and heritage sites across the UK were deprived of income this year as the country went into lockdown.

New social distancing measures meant packed venues were no longer an option, and the arts industry has suffered immeasurable damage from the necessary policy.

Although some aspects of the country have reopened – including the hospitality industry on Saturday – arts venues remain closed due to the remaining coronavirus measures.

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Rishi Sunak’s rescue package allows the following venues and more to claim an emergency grant to keep them afloat:

  • Theatres
  • Galleries
  • Museums
  • Cinemas
  • Heritage sites
  • Music venues
  • Other cultural venues

The latest announcement was welcomed by arts leaders and ministers alike, amongst them Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary who has long received pleas for vital arts funding.

However, there is much to extract from the new announcement, with further detail needed about how the Government will distribute the funds.

Analysing the new policy for the BBC, the broadcaster’s arts editor Will Gompertz said there would be “winners and losers”.

He wrote: “The Government has not specified how the money will be divided between competing art forms or regions, nor how the application process will work. There will be winners and losers.”

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While the latest grant will come as a vital lifeline for the arts, many industry leaders will desperately hope for a return to their jobs.

The latest changes to the coronavirus advisory mean museums and galleries could open at their discretion from July 4, but there is no indication as to when other venues will follow.

So far, the National Gallery is among those poised to reopen following the date, while others expect to remain closed for longer.

Tate director Maria Balshaw spoke to Art Newspaper about the challenges facing her galleries.

She said: “We are working from a visitor safety perspective and planning for 30 percent of normal visitor numbers.

“We have come to that from two directions. That represents the number of visitors we can safely accommodate, with two-metre social distancing.

“We also think that this is a reasonable estimate of likely demand.

“But I feel that demand might be higher because during the closure through social media and digital content we have seen an incredible enthusiasm and love for our museums and what we show inside them.”

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World News

Brussels Panic: EU economy moments from DISASTER as companies prepare for major recession

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Mikael Ericson, the CEO of debt collection company Intrum has revealed, following data collected in their survey, most companies in Europe are preparing for a recession. In light of the coronavirus crisis, Intrum published a special edition report based on data from 4,800 consumers in 24 European countries. Italy and Germany ranked as the countries with the strongest belief that a recession was imminent, followed by Spain, Belgium, France, Sweden, Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland and Ireland.

The survey was conducted in May 2020 and was published alongside their annual European Consumer Payment report.

These reports help indicate citizens and companies’ ability to manage their household finances on a monthly basis.

While on CNBC Mr Ericson said: “It is clear now and maybe it is what we all expected.

“But companies all around Europe are now clearly preparing for a recession. They are preparing for the remainder of 2020.

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“Two out of three corporations that responded to COVID-19 during the crisis are saying they are now expecting a clear recession.”

Mr Ericson explained the quick changes businesses in Europe are having to make to adjust to this expected recession.

He said: “Almost three out of four respondents are saying they are now accepting longer payment periods from their clients to mitigate their customer relationships.

“That is also a very high number and we also have to be mindful that liquidity and cash are maybe the most important aspect of running a business today, especially in a situation like this.”

CNBC host Steve Sedgwick also questioned how businesses with many assets are going to have to operate going forward.

He said: “What does this mean for businesses like yours, you have a huge stock of assets or credit with a lot of debtors as well?

“Clearly there has been a big hit and concerns mounting on everything you just said.

“But in terms of growing your business going forward are there opportunities that can be taken advantage of?

“Or is it you just want to hunker down and ride out the storm at the moment?”

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Mr Ericson explained that his debt collection company Intrum will continue to help and support businesses across Europe with late payments as they realise the severity of the economic downturn that is about to hit Europe.

He said: “As a company, we work with 80 to 85,000 clients throughout Europe, who we help and support with late payments.

“When late payments are growing it means the demand for our business is also increasing.

“Of course, we prepare ourselves to support our clients to basically collect on the late payments.”

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World News

Bentley worth £167,000 towed by police as it 'had no insurance'

A Bentley supercar worth £167,000 was towed away after the driver refused to give his keys to police.

Officers came across the luxury vehicle outside the Peaky Blinders-themed bar in Manchester city centre, left in what appeared to be a suspended parking bay.

Checks showed that the Bentley Continental GT appeared to have no insurance.

The driver was tracked down by the officers in a nearby bar.

But he told police he would not hand over the keys to the car.

The motorist apparently believed officers from Greater Manchester Police (GMP) would not tow away his vehicle.

A recovery vehicle was summoned and the car was taken away to the police compound.

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Dog suffered 'jolting tremors' and nearly died after eating cannabis

A dog started convulsing and needed life-saving treatment after eating cannabis plants which her owner says she found during a walk.

Zara, a three-year-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier, started to blink and tremble uncontrollably before gradually losing control of her limbs.

Her owner had taken her for a walk on farmlands in Salford and believes the cannabis had been dumped there.

Louise Fields, 34, adopted Zara while working at Dogs4Rescue. She told Manchester Evening News: ‘I walked into the kitchen and knew something was wrong.

‘Her eyes were flickering, she had jolting tremors and couldn’t co-ordinate her limbs properly.

‘I knew it was potentially life threatening and drove her straight to the emergency vets.’

She took her to a vet in Leigh who said the likely cause was cannabis poisoning.

They induced vomiting to flush the plant out of the dog’s system, and she has since recovered.

Louise later told The Sun: ‘Zara is only small and all she needed was a little dose for the drug to have serious side-effects.’

‘The thought of losing her is unimaginable. I’m over the moon that she’s back to her former self.

‘If we had waited any longer, it could have been too late.’

She urged dog owners to be careful around Irlam Moss in Greater Manchester and to immediately call a vet if their pet exhibits ‘weird’ behaviour.

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Ghislaine Maxwell posed for photo on Queen's throne with Kevin Spacey

A photo has emerged showing Ghislaine Maxwell sat on the Queen’s throne during a private tour of Buckingham Palace organised by Prince Andrew.

Beside her sits actor Kevin Spacey and the pair appear to imitate the royal wave while on the visit in 2002.

According to The Telegraph, which unearthed the picture, the pair joined a private tour organised for US President Bill Clinton.

They may have snuck out of the Duke of York’s eyeshot to pose for the mischievous shot, which is believed to be in breach of royal protocol.

Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s ex-girlfriend, was arrested in the US on Thursday on sex trafficking charges.

She allegedly helped the disgraced late billionaire to ‘identify, befriend and groom’ a number of teenage girls, including one as young as 14, and has been accused of participating in the sexual abuse ‘in some cases’.

Spacey was ostracised after allegations of sexual harassment by Anthony Rapp when he was 14 years old, as well as by a number of adult men in the film industry.

The charges against him have since been dropped.

A source told The Telegraph: ‘They were larking about on the thrones, doing regal waves.

‘Ghislaine sat on the Queen’s throne with Spacey pretending to be the Duke of Edinburgh.

‘No one can recall if Andrew was in the throne room at the time but he was in charge of the visit.’

There is no indication Epstein joined them for the tour.

Meanwhile Prince Andrew is being urged to provide information relating to the investigation into Maxwell, who has known him since university and introduced him to Epstein.

Audrey Strauss, acting US attorney for the southern district of New York, said officials would ‘welcome’ a statement from the duke.

Sources close to Andrew have claimed in reports that the duke’s team have contacted the US Department of Justice twice in the last month but have received no response.

Spencer Coogan, a lawyer for some of Epstein’s alleged victims, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I certainly think Prince Andrew has a story to tell. On behalf of the victims we have continuously asked him to step forward, step up, be a man and tell us what he knows.’

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Iran admits extensive fire damage at nuclear site

A fire that broke out on Thursday at a key Iranian nuclear facility has caused “significant damage”, a spokesman for Iran’s nuclear energy body has said.

He said the cause of the blaze at the Natanz enrichment site had been determined, but gave no details.

The spokesman added that the destroyed machinery would eventually be replaced by more advanced equipment.

The fire hit a centrifuge assembly workshop. Some Iranian officials have blamed possible cyber-sabotage.

Centrifuges are needed to produce enriched uranium, which can be used to make reactor fuel but also nuclear weapons.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, said on Sunday that security officials were not talking about what caused the Natanz fire “because of security reasons”.

The incident, he said, had “caused significant damage, but there were no casualties”.

Other fires and explosions have also occurred in the past week in Iran.

Mr Kamalvandi added: “The incident could slow down the development and production of advanced centrifuges in the medium term… Iran will replace the damaged building with a bigger one that has more advanced equipment.”

What happened on Thursday?

The fire occurred at “one of the industrial sheds under construction” at Natanz, Mr Kamalvandi said at the time.

The AEOI later published a photo showing a partly burned building, which US-based analysts identified as a new centrifuge assembly workshop.

Reuters news agency quoted unnamed Iranian officials as saying they believed the fire was the result of a cyber attack, but did not cite any evidence.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which monitors Iran’s compliance with a 2015 nuclear deal struck with world powers, said it anticipated no impact on its verification activities.

What other incidents have occurred?

The Natanz fire comes six days after an explosion near the Parchin military complex.

Iranian authorities said the blast was caused by “leaking gas tanks” at the site, but analysts said satellite photographs showed it happened at a nearby missile production facility.

Parchin, near Tehran, is where Western powers suspect Iran carried out tests related to nuclear warhead detonations more than a decade ago.

Iran insists its nuclear programme is peaceful and denies that it sought to develop nuclear weapons.

On Sunday officials said there had been a fire at a power plant near the south-western city of Ahvaz. They said the blaze had been put out and electricity restored.

Why is Natanz significant?

Natanz, about 250km (150 miles) south of the capital Tehran, is Iran’s largest uranium enrichment facility.

The 2015 nuclear deal saw Iran agree only to produce low-enriched uranium, which has a 3-4% concentration of U-235 and can be used to produce fuel for nuclear power plants. Weapons-grade uranium is 90% enriched or more.

Iran also agreed to install no more than 5,060 of the oldest and least efficient centrifuges at Natanz until 2026, and not to carry out any enrichment at its other underground facility, Fordo, until 2031.

Last year, Iran began rolling back these commitments in retaliation for US President Donald Trump’s decision to abandon the nuclear accord and reinstate crippling economic sanctions.

In November, Iran said it had doubled the number of advanced centrifuges being operated at Natanz and had begun injecting uranium hexafluoride gas into centrifuges at Fordo.

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