Narayana Murthy's son-in-law Rishi Sunak named new finance minister of UK

News Network
February 14,2020

London, Feb 14: Five years ago Britain’s new finance minister Rishi Sunak wasn’t even a member of parliament and now he is running the world's fifth largest economy.

The 39-year-old former Goldman Sachs banker was appointed in dramatic fashion on Thursday when incumbent Sajid Javid unexpectedly quit — in a row over advisers — during what Downing Street had cast as a routine ministerial reshuffle.

Sunak is married to the daughter of Infosys co-founder NR Narayana Murthy, and was hand-picked to take over an ultra-safe seat in northern England, previously represented by former Conservative Party leader William Hague. The Murthy family was not reachable for comment.

In July, when he was promoted chief secretary to the Treasury, Murthy had said: “Our advice to our children, including Rishi, has been to work hard, be honest, and do good for society…We wish him well.”

After Thursday’s announcement, Sunak said: “Delighted to be appointed... Lots to get on with.”

Tipped for Promotion

As Boris Johnson moves to increase control of the finance ministry, one of the youngest chancellors in history will face a prime minister who wants to increase government spending on everything from infrastructure and police to health and education.

Sunak, seen as a rising star in the ruling Conservative Party since he entered Parliament in 2015, had been tipped for promotion to a senior post in the ministerial rejig as Johnson put together his post-Brexit cabinet.

But, despite an already rapid ascent through the ranks of government, few expected the Oxford University Politics, Philosophy and Economics graduate to ascend to one of the highest offices in the land.

Sunak had been serving as Javid’s deputy in the finance ministry since Johnson promoted him upon taking office in July 2019. Prior to that he had served as a junior housing minister.

“From working in my mum’s tiny chemist shop to my experience building large businesses, I have seen first-hand how politicians should support free enterprise and innovation to ensure our future prosperity,” Sunak says on his website.

Smooth and loyal

Seen as a smooth media performer and ultra-loyal member of the Conservative Party, Sunak has been used by the government to present and defend their policies in television interviews — a sign of trust from Johnson, who has a fraught relationship with Britain’s media.

Sunak takes control at a critical juncture for Britain’s $2.7 trillion economy. He will have to steer the economy through the turbulence of leaving the European Union and the forging of new trade links that will define Britain’s new relationship with the world.

However, the power struggle that forced his predecessor Javid to quit hints at a more diminished role for what is the second most powerful position in the government — with Johnson’s office wanting to centralise control and minimise dissent.

Sunak is one of the three ministers of Indian origin in Johnson’s cabinet, the other two being Priti Patel and Alok Sharma. Patel remains the interior minister after the cabinet reshuffle while Sharma, a former minister for international development, was appointed the new minister for business. Sunak’s father was a doctor and his mother ran a chemist shop. Before entering politics he worked for Goldman Sachs and a hedge fund, then co-founded an investment firm. He also has an MBA from Stanford University.

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Global COVID-19 count surpasses 20 million mark

News Network
August 11,2020

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Moscow, Aug 11: The number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) worldwide has surpassed 20 million, according to Johns Hopkins University.

It said the global case tally stood at 20,001,019 at 23:54 GMT Monday, with 733,897 deaths and 12,200,847 recoveries.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the outbreak of the new coronavirus a pandemic on March 11.

According to the WHO, the global coronavirus death toll has surpassed 728,000 people, with the number of cases worldwide exceeding 19.7 million.

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After surge in COVID-19 cases, Spain reinstates restrictions

News Network
July 25,2020

Madrid, Jul 25: Spain is witnessing a new surge in virus" coronavirus infections with nearly a thousand cases daily, a month after lifting the pandemic lockdown.

The country is reinstating both voluntary guidelines and mandatory restrictions that it had lifted on June 21, The Washington Post reported.

Spain on Wednesday reported over 224 outbreaks and 2,622 virus" coronavirus cases. According to a report in Washington Post, the new surge is attributed primarily to seasonal farmworkers, people attending family get-togethers and nightclub partyers.

On Thursday, the health ministry reported an additional 971 cases.

"The majority are related to fruit collection and also to the spaces where measures to avoid contact are relaxed," Spain Health Minister Salvador Illa told parliament. "We have to call on citizens to not lose respect for the virus not to be afraid of it, but not to lose respect for it either."

The government of Spain lifted all restrictions put in place to combat virus" coronavirus on June 21 and declared 'a new normal'. 

The virus" coronavirus pandemic till then had killed 24,000 people and infected more than 2,70,166.

Countries around the world are witnessing the second surge of virus" coronavirus. The resurgence could threaten the economic bounce Spain was hoping to get from vacationers eager for summer fun.

The surge in cases has been greatest in the northeastern region of Catalonia with more than 7,953 new confirmed cases since July 10.

Spain's National Epidemiological Survey has predicted that the rate of increase more than doubled in the past three weeks.

Meanwhile, the Catalan government reverted to pre-June 21 confinement rules in Barcelona and a dozen other municipalities in the metropolitan area, as well as in Figueras, Vilafant, La Noguera and Lleida.

Authorities have ordered bars and restaurants to limit indoor occupancy to 50 per cent, reduced sports to fewer than 10 people, closed night clubs and gyms and blocked some cultural activities.

The epidemiologist in charge of the region's biggest hospital warned in an interview last week with the Spanish daily El Pais that the situation in the agricultural hub of Lleida, located about 100 miles west of Barcelona, "had clearly gotten out of hand."

"Nobody foresaw that there would be a number of people coming from abroad to pick fruit in unfavourable conditions and that they might be infected," said epidemiologist Magda Campins of Vall d'Hebron in Barcelona. "And when the infections began to be detected, it was hard to keep tabs on the cases and their contacts because some of them, although they should have been in isolation, got away because they needed to earn money."

Catalonia's Department of Labour, Social Affairs and Family is using a hotel in Lleida to quarantine fruit workers who test positive for COVID-19 but are unable to isolate at home.

In the capital of Madrid, which was the epicentre during the pandemic's first wave in the spring, authorities reported 710 new cases in the past week. The use of face masks is widespread, but the region has shied away from making them mandatory in public.

Madrid's regional health secretary, Enrique Ruiz Escudero, defended that position while citing an uptick in infections in the under-40 age group. He told young people not to let down their guard.

"We can't take even one step backwards. Young people have to be aware of the responsibility they have," Ruiz Escudero said in a news conference Thursday. "I ask them to use the face mask and to maintain a safe distance."

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TikTok "Out Of Business" In US If Not Sold By Mid-September: Donald Trump

Agencies
August 4,2020

Washington, Aug 4: US President Donald Trump gave popular Chinese-owned video app TikTok six weeks to sell its US operations to an American company, saying Monday it would be "out of business" otherwise, and that the government wanted a financial benefit from the deal.

"It's got to be an American company... it's got to be owned here," Trump said. "We don't want to have any problem with security."

Trump said that Microsoft was in talks to buy TikTok, which has as many as one billion worldwide users who make quirky 60-second videos with its smartphone app.

But US officials say the app constitutes a national security risk because it could share millions of Americans' personal data with Chinese intelligence.

Trump gave the company's Chinese parent ByteDance until mid-September to strike a deal.

"I set a date of around September 15, at which point it's going to be out of business in the United States," he said.

Whatever the price is, he said, "the United States should get a very large percentage of that price because we're making it possible."

Trump compared the demand for a piece of the pie to a landlord demanding under-the-table "key money" from a new tenant, a practice widely illegal including in New York, where the billionaire president built his real estate empire.

"TikTok is a big success, but a big portion of it is in the country," he said. "I think it's very fair."

But Trump also threw a surprise new condition in any deal, saying the sale of TikTok's US business would have to result in a significant payout to the US Treasury for initiating it.

"A very substantial portion of that price is going to have to come into the Treasury of the United States, because we're making it possible for this deal to happen," Trump told reporters.

"They don't have any rights unless we give it to them," he said.

Sell or shut down

The pressure for a sale of TikTok's US and international business, based in Los Angeles, left the company and ByteDance facing tough decisions.

Trump has made TikTok the latest front in the ongoing political and trade battles between Washington and Beijing.

The app has been under formal investigation on US national security grounds because it collects large amounts of personal data on all its users and is legally bound to share that with authorities in Beijing if they demand it.

Both its huge user base and its algorithm for collecting data make it hugely valuable.

But being forced by the US government to sell at least its US business or be shut down -- and to then split the sale price with the US Treasury as Trump is demanding -- was an almost unheard-of tactic.

Shutting down could force users to switch to competitors, and many content creators are already encouraging followers to follow them on other social media platforms.

"The most obvious beneficiaries are Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter, with Snapchat likely being the biggest beneficiary," said investment analysts at Lightshed Partners.

Earlier Monday, ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming acknowledged the hefty pressure and said in a letter to staff, reported by Chinese media, that they were working around-the-clock "for the best outcome."

"We have always been committed to ensuring user data security, as well as the platform neutrality and transparency," Zhang said.

However, he said, the company faces "mounting complexities across the geopolitical landscape and significant external pressure."

He said the company must confront the challenge from the United States, though "without giving up exploring any possibilities."

According to Britain's The Sun newspaper Monday, as a possible consequence of the pressure, ByteDance is planning to relocate TikTok's global operations to Britain.

Pushing back

China's foreign ministry pushed back Monday, calling Washington hypocritical for demanding TikTok be sold.

"The US is using an abused concept of national security and, without providing any evidence, is making presumptions of guilt and issuing threats to relevant companies," said spokesman Wang Wenbin.

"This goes against the principle of market economy and exposes the hypocrisy and typical double standards of the US in upholding so-called fairness and freedom," he added.

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