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26 First Class graduates bags IEF scholarship

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An NGO, Igala Education Foundation (IEF), has donated N13 million to 26 First Class graduates of Igala extraction from various higher institutions across Nigeria.

Speaking at the Cheques’ presentation ceremony on Tuesday in Lokoja, the Kogi Deputy Governor, Chief Edward Onoja, congratulated the awardees for being lucky to be recognised for the gesture.

Onoja, who influenced the donation in collaboration with his friends and associates, said the donation would go a long way to support the graduating awardees.

He extolled the founder of the foundation, late Prof. Francis Idachaba, for initiating the scholarship programme in year 2000, saying it was a right choice that had been yielding tangible results since then.

”In life, you need to sow seed to reap harvest that generations will benefit from.

“I urge us all to continue to sow good seed, because nature have a way of paying us back; there is power in seed sowing,” Onoja said.

The deputy governor, who is also a member, Board of Trustees (BoT) of the foundation, commended the awardees for their commitment to have graduated with First class, saying it was not easy.

”When you see such people with First Class Degree, we need to encourage them so that others coming behind can also be encouraged to try their best.

”I want to believe that some of you will be global players in your different fields. I encourage you to pursue your dreams,” he advised.

Onoja urged the awardees not look at the amount, but to utilise it wisely and make the foundation and people of Igala Kingdom proud.

He promised, on behalf of all the donors, to continue to improve on the scholarship so that more people would benefit and build a good legacy.

”Congratulations once again on behalf of his Excellency, Gov. Yahaya Bello, who is also a donor.

“The exercise is a proof of unity across the different tribes of Kogi,” Onoja said.

Earlier, the Executive Director of the foundation, Prof. Joseph Omada, said that the group had over the years been given scholarship to best students at basic, secondary and tertiary levels.

Omada said the scholarship, which used to be N70, 000 per awardee, was raised to N500, 000 by the deputy governor during the Igala Education Summit held in 2019.

He, therefore, commended the deputy governor for fulfilling his promise and for influencing other donors to ensure that the needed fund was raised for the scholarship.

”This is not politics; it is encouraging the students of Igala to be serious with their academics and come out with good grades,” he said.

Also, Mr Wemi Jones, the Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, lauded the foundation for the gesture, saying it worth emulation.

Jones urged the awardees to utilise the opportunity and be a good ambassador of the Igala Kingdom and the state at large.

Speaking on behalf of the awardees, Mr Dominic Iko-Ojo, thanked the foundation, the deputy governor and all other donors for encouraging and motivating them through the scholarship. (NAN)

Topless women protest Macron’s cabinet reshuffle

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Three topless women protested in front of the Elysee Palace in Paris on Tuesday, one of them bearing the slogan “RIP The Promises”, shortly before President Emmanuel Macron held his first cabinet meeting with is reshuffled government.

Another woman had the words “The Sinisters’ Council” painted on her naked upper body.

The three women, at least one of whom had the name of the feminist group Femen writen on her back, were arrested by the police.

Pay protest: Congolese health workers tone down response

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Health workers responding to the coronavirus outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital have cut their services to a minimum in protest against unpaid bonuses, they said on Tuesday.

In a letter to the prime minister, an association of health workers demanded four months of bonuses, increased pay and government support for family members of colleagues who died from COVID-19.

The partial strike, which began on Friday, is taking place in the capital Kinshasa, where the vast majority of Congo’s 7,660 confirmed cases have been recorded, and two neighbouring provinces.

“The whole operation is on strike, and there’s just minimum service,” said Dr. Cris Kacita Osako, a spokesman for the strikers.

He said that meant there were reduced teams of doctors and nurses operating in hospitals and contact tracers in communities to follow up on positive cases.

Congo’s health minister did not immediately respond to a request for comment. On Monday, he told a radio station that payments had been delayed because the list of workers owed compensation appeared to have been inflated.

Health officials have offered contradictory information in recent weeks about how much money the government has disbursed in its coronavirus response and where it has gone, drawing scrutiny from some members of parliament.

On Sunday, the technical committee in charge of the response said the protests had disrupted its work, but did not give details.

Epstein: Deutsche Bank pays $150 million fine

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Deutsche Bank AG admitted it made a “critical mistake” taking on the registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein as a client, and agreed to pay a $150 million fine to settle New York charges over its dealings with the late financier and two other banks.

Tuesday’s settlement with the New York State Department of Financial Services is the first regulatory enforcement action against a bank related to Epstein, who committed suicide last August in a Manhattan jail, a month after his arrest for allegedly sexually exploiting dozens of girls and women.

“For years, Mr. Epstein’s criminal, abusive behavior was widely known, yet big institutions continued to excuse that history and lend their credibility or services for financial gain,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

New York faulted Deutsche Bank’s “significant compliance failures” in its dealings with Epstein, as well as with Danske Bank’s Estonia branch, which is embroiled in a money laundering scandal, and the Federal Bank of the Middle East.

It said Deutsche Bank considered Epstein “high-risk” and knew of his history of sex trafficking and abuse, including his 2007 guilty plea to state prostitution charges, yet processed hundreds of transactions “obviously implicated” by his past.

These included payments to alleged accomplices, lawyers, victims, Russian models and women with Eastern European surnames.

Epstein was a Deutsche Bank client from August 2013 to December 2018, when the relationship ended following additional negative press about his misconduct.

The New York settlement reflected Deutsche Bank’s cooperation over several years.

“Onboarding (Epstein) as a client in 2013 was a critical mistake and should never have happened,” Deutsche Bank Chief Executive Christian Sewing told staff in a memo on Tuesday.

The bank also acknowledged deficiencies in its monitoring of Danske Estonia and FBME.

“We all have to help ensure that this kind of thing does not happen again,” Sewing said.

Ebuka maintains spot as Big Brother Naija 5 Host

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The organisers of the annual Big Brother Naija (BBN) reality TV show have retained presenter, Ebuka Obi-Uchendu, as host for the fifth season running.

Obi-Uchendu, who took to his Twitter handle to share the news to his teeming fans, announced: “Excited to be confirmed once again as the host of a brand new season of @BBNaija premiering on July 19”.

Obi-Uchendu started hosting the show in 2017.

His announcement came after potential housemates who have been selected to be part of this year’s edition of the popular reality show were quarantined ahead of the premiere of the fifth season of the show scheduled to start on July 19.

According to Channel Director, Africa Magic, Wangi Mba-Uzoukwu, the station is making sure everything works in tandem with the “new normal” reality being occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

She also added that they have enough potential housemates in the event some test positive to the virus for replacement.

Grocery delivery: Uber eyes US market

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Uber Technologies Inc on Tuesday further expanded delivery offerings, launching an app-based grocery service in several Latin American and Canadian cities, with the United States to follow later this month.

The company’s latest foray into the delivery space is in partnership with Cornerstore, a Chilean online grocery provider that Uber holds a majority stake in since October.

Customers in Canada’s Montreal and Toronto, eleven Brazilian cities, including in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, four Chilean cities, Colombia’s Bogota and Peru’s Lima will be able to order groceries from local stores and chains through the Uber Eats app.

In Canada, groceries can be ordered from large chains Walmart Inc and Metro Inc.

A launch in U.S. cities is expected later in July, beginning with regional merchants in Miami and Dallas, an Uber spokeswoman said.

Uber’s grocery delivery push comes at a time when its core ride-hailing business is under pressure around the globe with coronavirus lockdown orders keeping many passengers at home. At the same time, Uber’s restaurant delivery business Eats has seen growing demand during the pandemic, with second-quarter food delivery orders up more than 100 per cent.

Uber on Monday said it would acquire U.S. food delivery rival Postmates for $2.65 billion to significantly increase the business of supplying everyday goods, including groceries.

River pollution: Hungary calls out Ukraine, Romania

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Hungary’s president called on Ukraine and Romania on Tuesday to stop polluting two major rivers that flow across Hungary after floods in the past weeks brought in “dirty carpets” of plastic bottles from its neighbours.

In letters to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, published on President Janos Ader’s official website, Ader said Hungarian authorities could not clean up all the waste in the Tisza and Szamos rivers.

“It is disappointing that pollution of the Tisza river with waste has not been reduced … and poses a lasting threat to the fragile ecosystem of the river,” Ader said in the letter to Zelenskiy. He asked the Ukrainian president to help to resolve the problem urgently.

“Our machines are no longer able to handle the piles of garbage that come in unstoppable quantities,” Ader said.

Ader, whose role in Hungarian politics is largely ceremonial, said in the letters that since mid-June Hungarian authorities had removed 938 cubic metres of waste from the Tisza river and 846 cubic metres of waste from the Szamos river.

The Tisza, one of the main rivers in eastern Europe, starts in Ukraine and flows across Hungary to join the Danube in Serbia. The Szamos flows from Romania to Hungary and joins the Tisza there. Massive pollution on the two rivers has been a problem for years.

The Ukrainian and Romanian presidents’ offices were not immediately available for comment.

The environmental issues in Hungary, including climate change and endangered species, affect these large waters and are also affected by them. Soil pollution, air pollution, and water pollution are the three biggest and pressing issues currently receiving the most attention by Hungarian officials in the European Union (EU) (land, resources, and environmental issues).

In Hungary’s history, rapid industrialisation beginning in the late 1800’s and into the turn of the century is what scholars believe to be one of the main attributes to these environmental threats. Unfortunately, factors such as poor industrial practices, poor agricultural practices, and lack of an affective waste management system are said by environmentalists to be adding to these serious issues, threatening the livelihood of the Hungarian people and those surrounding them. Acid rain, run-off, soil erosion and desertification are but some consequences of the growing concerns for the EU.

Currently, the main contributors to Hungary’s air pollution are car emissions and electric power plants. They emit dangerous amounts of sulfur-dioxide into the air by burning high-sulfur coals, diesel, and other sulfur-containing fuels. Sulfur-dioxide is especially toxic to people with asthma and to small children (cars, trucks, & air pollution). Emissions from power plants and cars tend to rise very high into the atmosphere and dissolve easily into the water in it, forming acid rain. Sulfur-dioxide is also very light and can travel in the air, as it does in Hungary and to as well as from its neighbouring countries.

Additionally, soil pollution is also a major issue. One contributor is hypothesized to be poor agricultural techniques practiced by many farmers along with the obvious contributor, namely industrial waste. In reference to agricultural practices, four specific pesticides are commonly used and contribute most to run-off and soil pollution: Atrazine, Acetolchlor, Propizochlor, and Chlopyrifos. These chemicals which are applied to pure and otherwise fertile soils seep into the earth and into the groundwater, also affecting the water pollution. Run-off occurs as a result of acid rain and deforestation eroding the soils, affecting the lands around the bodies of water the most. The polluted soil then runs into the various water sources. The connection between air and soil pollution then contributes to the very dangerous water pollution issue.

Perhaps the most important environmental issue addressed by Hungarian officials and felt across the country is water pollution. The causes and effects of the other two issues relates to the problem with water. Water pollution is more difficult to fix because it requires more time and proper care. Moreover, it cannot be fixed unless the soil is cleansed and the air is detoxified. The Balatan Lake is the largest lake in the Eastern European region and is a very popular tourist destination. But Lake Balatan is also very heavily polluted. Because it is indirectly drained by the Danube River, which not only crosses through Hungary but many other countries, the river flow brings in polluted soil run-off and polluted water from those surrounding countries as well. Run-off is only a minor cause of soil and water pollution as a result of agricultural pesticides and is a bit more prominent in careless industrial waste disposal but as simulated in the experiment documented by Judit Ferenczi, simulating farm run-off, a heavy amount of rain water can cause commonly used pesticides to seep into one of Hungary’s most crucial water supply, the Balatan lake.

Furthermore, industrial plants are continually releasing toxic chemicals into the air, polluting the moisture in the atmosphere. Acid rain then falls onto and destroys the forests and soil. The rivers running through Hungary’s lands carry these polluted soils and waters, spreading the pollution across the country (Land, Resources, and Environmental Issues).

This makes the water unusable and threatens the water supply presently sustaining the population. Currently, sewage treatment is not optimal and is another major cause of pollution in the water. The Hungarian government has implemented treatises to try to improve sewage treatment specific to the pollutants infecting their major water sources.

NATO: Tension between France, Turkey rise

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For France, it was the final straw. For Turkey, it was a misunderstanding. For NATO, it could be a turning point.

The incident unfolded quickly in the eastern Mediterranean on June 10, when a French frigate under NATO command tried to inspect a Tanzanian-flagged cargo ship suspected of smuggling arms to Libya in violation of a U.N. embargo.

The French armed forces ministry, speaking on behalf of the government, said the frigate was harassed by three Turkish navy vessels escorting the cargo ship. A Turkish ship flashed its radar lights and its crew put on bulletproof vests and stood behind their light weapons, it said.

Turkey disputes this. It denies trafficking arms to Libya and says the cargo ship, the Cirkin, was carrying humanitarian aid. It has accused the French navy of aggression.

Turkey’s ambassador to France, Ismail Hakkı Musa, said on July 1 the three Turkish warships were helping NATO enforce the U.N. arms embargo.

NATO ordered an investigation, but its contents are classified and NATO has not commented on its outcome. Two European diplomats told Reuters that France sent a letter to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in early July saying the report did not “correctly establish the facts.”

The U.S. Pentagon declined to comment on the incident.

For France, the incident highlights what many NATO allies see as President Tayyip Erdogan’s tendency to act against the Western alliance’s interests and values.

After a series of disagreements, from Turkey’s purchase of weapons from Russia to gas drilling operations near Cyprus, France concluded that suspicions of Turkish arms smuggling to Libya were too serious to ignore, four NATO diplomats and officials told Reuters.

France has suspended its participation in NATO’s Mediterranean mission, Sea Guardian, instead offering its assets to a European Union mission that is upholding the U.N. arms embargo but does not involve Turkish ships, diplomats said.

“What do you do when you have a NATO surveillance mission … and one of those in the alliance is the one doing the trafficking, while saying it is implementing the (U.N.)embargo?” said an official from France’s armed forces ministry, requesting anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The United States, frustrated by Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 missiles and its military operations in Syria, has been seeking to calm the tensions in NATO, the diplomats said.

Last October, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Turkey was “going in the wrong direction”. While U.S. President Donald Trump enjoys a close relationship with Erdogan, he urged Turkey in May to help de-escalate the Libyan conflict.

The Pentagon “strives to preserve our relationship with Turkey while encouraging the Turkish government to pursue more constructive policies regarding the S-400 and other areas of disagreement,” said U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Campbell, a Pentagon spokesman.

French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly told the European Parliament on July 2 that NATO must make Ankara realise it cannot “violate” NATO rules. But French diplomats also say Paris is not looking to expel Turkey, and NATO has no formal mechanism to punish or expel members.

Still, NATO could threaten to remove assets from Turkey, such as a radar, Patriot missiles or NATO AWACS aircraft.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian wants EU foreign ministers to consider new sanctions on Ankara during a video meeting on July 13.

“The main problem for Europe is Russia. The ambivalence of Turkey, with one foot in each camp, is the troubling factor,” said Marc Pierini, a former EU ambassador to Turkey with the Carnegie Europe think tank.

Turkey has the second-largest military in NATO and gives the alliance a strategic presence, notably on the Black and Mediterranean seas.

“Imagine NATO without Turkey! You would have no NATO,” ambassador Musa said.

France made four concrete demands of NATO in its July letter to Stoltenberg, the contents of which were laid out to Reuters.

It wants all 30 allies to reaffirm commitment to respecting the U.N. arms embargo on Libya, to ensure NATO signals are not used during national missions, to improve coordination between the NATO and EU missions in the Mediterranean, and to avoid similar incidents in the future.

At the last NATO defence ministers’ meeting in late June, via video link, eight countries including Germany, Italy and Spain backed seeking a more cooperative approach from Turkey.

French diplomats cite Turkey signing off on a NATO defence plan for the Baltics and Poland late last month, after holding it up for months, as a first sign of success.

Yet there is a risk of a long-term rift at NATO if Erdogan does not change course, analysts say.

“Turkey considers itself big enough now to be independent from all sides,” Pierini said.

MTN sponsors Freestyle UNLOCKED

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Feet ‘N’ Tricks International, the organisers of the Freestyle UNLOCKED Africa 2020 has announced MTN as the headline sponsor for the fourth annual games kicked off on Monday, July 1, 2020.

Chairman of Feet ‘N’ Tricks International Valentine Ozigbo, in a press statement on Monday, July 6, 2020, revealed that the telecommunications giant will be the headline sponsor of the freestyle football championship whose finale will hold on July 19, 2020.

“We are excited to welcome our returning sponsor, MTN, in this year’s championship which we are hosting in unusual and difficult times for many around the world,” said Ozigbo, who is also the immediate past President and Group CEO of Transcorp Plc.

Commenting on the sponsorship, Chief Marketing Officer, MTN Nigeria Rahul De said: “As a youth-focused company, Freestyle Football’s brand essence reflects what the MTN brand stands for – excellence and excitement wrapped into one solid platform.”

“Freestyle UNLOCKED Africa 2020 is a worthy platform for MTN to touch the lives of the future freestyle football stars on the continent of Africa. The sport embodies the beauty, diversity and fluidity of the African people and we are proud to partner with Feet ‘N’ Tricks International on this adventure,” De added.

This is the second time that MTN has sponsored the sporting event. The first was in 2018. Other sponsors of the championship are Valentine Chineto Ozigbo Foundation and Eko Disco.

Freestyle UNLOCKED Africa 2020 is the virtual version of the African Freestyle Championships organised by the sports promoter. The competition began in 2017 as the Nigerian Freestyle Football Championship. The following year, it became a continental sports event with over 18 countries participating in the finals in Lagos, Nigeria.

Feet ‘N’ Tricks International, which is hosting this competition in partnership with the World Freestyle Football Association (WFFA) also announced the judges for Freestyle Unlocked Africa 2020.

Daniel Wood, the co-founder of WFFA, informed that the judges are a panel of legendary freestyle footballers selected based on their expertise and vast experience in the sport spanning, cumulatively, several decades.

According to him, the panel of judges demonstrates that “freestyle football is an important sport touching the future of Africa”.

“We are particularly delighted to welcome, for the first time, two legends of freestyle football in Africa. Chris Njokwana, 2008 South African Freestyle champion who has performed in front of 70,000 people and featured in countless TV adverts and Kamal ‘Kamilio’ Ranchod, who won South African’s Freestyle Streetstyle championship in 2010 and went on to place 2nd in the World Championship later that year.

“Ranchod has served as a judge of international championships such as Super Ball World Open and Sal Beach Games,” Wood announced.

The other judges are the head judge Lukasz Chwieduk, 27, a Polish freestyle footballer and two-time European freestyle football champion; Caitlyn Schrepfer, an American freestyle footballer and two-time USA female champion, and Yo Katsuyama, 23, a Japanese freestyle football champion who finished 2nd at the 2019 Super Ball World Open Championship.

Ozigbo, a respected business leader and philanthropist, said he was driven to start the championship with his friends owing to his keen love for the game of football and the expressiveness of the freestyle genre.

Feet ‘N’ Tricks International is Africa’s largest promoter of freestyle football and Freestyle UNLOCKED Africa 2020 will open for entries on July 1, 2020, and the finale will be on July 19, 2020.

While explaining that sustaining the championship will guarantee the growth and continuity of the freestyle football genre, Ozigbo went on to use the opportunity to call on well-meaning sponsors and sports-lovers alike to seize this chance to push forward a culture that can rally people and foster unity and oneness.

Ozigbo reiterated his assertion that he doesn’t plan on dropping momentum with freestyle football until Nigeria hosts the World Football Freestyle Championship.

Free ambulances saving women, babies in Kenya

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As soon as Kenya introduced a coronavirus curfew, Dr. Jemimah Kariuki, an obstetrician-gynaecologist at Nairobi’s Kenyatta Hospital, started seeing more death and complications.

“Every time I went to the hospital it was fewer numbers but more complications…and when women died alone in childbirth, I was like ‘in 2020?’ You are dying? Alone?,” she said.

Mothers in labour and their babies die more frequently during disease outbreaks in Africa. Women are either too afraid of infection to give birth in hospitals, or drivers are too afraid to take them if police are enforcing movement restrictions.

That means disruptions to health systems caused by COVID-19 could result in an additional 1.1 million additional child deaths and 56,700 maternal deaths in low and middle-income countries, a study by Johns Hopkins researchers showed.

In 2014, amid Sierra Leone’s Ebola outbreak, the number of women delivering babies at health facilities plunged by 30%, a study by the United Nations Population Fund found. That year, Sierra Leone’s maternal mortality ratio rose 3.5%, World Health Organisation data shows.

In the first 10 days of neighbouring Uganda’s coronavirus lockdown, the lack of transportation killed seven women and two babies, a rights group said.

Kariuki was determined not to let that happen. Police had already beaten a motor-bike driver to death after he transported a woman in labour to hospital after curfew and she knew Kenya, like most African nations, had no public ambulance services.

So she started Wheels for Life, a free ambulance service for mothers in labour after dark. The program has received more than 5,000 calls and delivered around 600 babies.

Patients call ‘1196.’ A worker at a call center checks if it is an emergency. If not, they send a taxi with an overnight movement pass. If it is, the call goes to Rescue.co, a subscription-based Uber service for ambulances that runs a dispatch center.

One such call was from Christine Wanjiru, whose waters broke at midnight. She was stunned when an ambulance appeared within five minutes.

“I didn’t expect that,” Wanjiru said. “I was so happy.”

Wheels for Life is free. Public partners and corporate donors are covering costs.

Now Dr. Kariuki is hoping it might become permanent.

“We’re getting calls from all over the country…we’re even getting calls during the day,” Kariuki said. “Women don’t need to stress about how they are going to get to the hospital.”

A permanent ambulance service could save more lives. About 362 Kenyan women per 100,000 die in childbirth even when there is no pandemic, according to the health ministry.

“Curfew is only part of the problem,” she said.

Kuwait disburses $780 million to 700 citizens

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The finance ministry approved the disbursal this week following a June 1 request from the manpower authority, which said the payments were “to preserve the national employment gains in the private sector and enhance job security for this segment”.

Kuwait’s finances have been squeezed by the twin shock of the coronavirus pandemic and low oil prices.

Despite its vast wealth, the country could see its deficit widen to more than 11% of gross domestic product (GDP) this year from a 4.8% surplus last year, the International Monetary Fund has estimated.

Kuwait will disburse some 240.5 million dinars ($780 million) to support Kuwaiti citizens employed in the private sector as part of efforts to soften the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the finance ministry said.

The Public Authority for Manpower will transfer sums to Kuwaiti business owners and private sector employees for six months effective from last month.

Only around 70,000 Kuwaiti citizens work in the private sector, where most employees are foreigners. As companies have laid off large numbers of foreign workers, the government has sought to retain Kuwaitis.

Most Kuwaitis work in the state sector, which has not experienced mass layoffs during the coronavirus crisis. Kuwait, like other oil-dependent Gulf monarchies, has long tried to encourage more of its citizens to accept private sector jobs, and gives such workers extra government benefits.

A government official said last month Kuwait is considering making an annual 10% transfer of state revenue to its wealth fund conditional on budget surpluses as it seeks to bolster its finances.

The country is unable to tap the international debt markets due to parliamentary opposition to a debt law proposed by the government.

Kuwait recently reported 915 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths, raising the tally of infections to 43,703 and the death toll to 341, the Kuwaiti Health Ministry said in a statement.

The new cases included 492 Kuwaiti nationals and 423 residents of other nationalities, the statement said.

Currently, 9,393 patients are receiving treatment, including 162 in ICU, according to the statement.

The ministry also announced the recovery of 602 more patients, raising the total recoveries in the country to 33,969.

Recently, the nation decided to start the second phase of restoring normal life. The second phase will began on June 30 and will last for three weeks.

In the second phase, public and private sectors will resume work with less than 30 percent capacity, in addition to the resumption of operation in shopping malls, financial sector, construction sector, retail shops, parks, and pick-ups from restaurants and cafes.

Kuwait and China have been supporting each other and cooperating closely in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kuwait donated medical supplies worth $3 million to China at the early stage of the COVID-19 outbreak, while China has been facilitating the procurement of medical supplies by Kuwait.

On April 27, a team of Chinese medical experts visited Kuwait to assist the Gulf country’s anti-coronavirus fight, through sharing with Kuwaiti counterparts their experience and expertise in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19.

Chinese container train berths in Kiev

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The first direct container train, which left the central Chinese city of Wuhan on June 16, arrived in Kiev Monday, opening up new opportunities for China-Ukraine cooperation, said Ukrainian officials.

“Today’s event has important symbolic significance for Sino-Ukrainian relations.

“It means that future cooperation between China and Ukraine within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative will become even closer,’’ said Chinese Ambassador to Ukraine, Fan Xianrong, during a ceremony to mark the train arrival here.

“Ukraine will show its advantages as a logistics centre connecting Europe and Asia, and Sino-Ukrainian economic and trade cooperation will become even faster and more convenient.

“All these will bring even more benefits to the peoples of the two countries,’’ he said.

Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister, Vladyslav Kryklii, who also attended the ceremony said this is the first step of regular container transportation from China to Ukraine.

“This is the first time that Ukraine has not just been used as a transit platform for container transportation from China to Europe, but acted as the final destination,’’ said Kryklii.

Ivan Yuryk, acting Head of Ukrainian Railways, told Xinhua that his country plans to expand the route of the container train.

“We have big expectations as to this container route.

“We can receive (trains) not only in Kiev but also in Kharkiv, Odessa and other cities,’’ said Yuryk.

“For now, we’ve made plans with our partners about one train per week.

“It’s a reasonable volume for a start,’’ said Oleksandr Polishchuk, First Deputy Head of Liski, a branch company of Ukrainian Railways that specialises in intermodal transportation.

“One time per week allows us to improve the technology, work out necessary procedures with customs and controlling authorities, as well as with our clients,’’ Polishchuk said.

The official added that one train can transport up to 40-45 containers, which adds up to a total of 160 containers per month.

Thus Ukraine will receive up to 1,000 containers till the end of this year.

“In 2019, China became Ukraine’s most important trading partner,’’ said Ukrainian Economist, Olga Drobotyuk, in a recent interview with Xinhua.

“The launch of such trains can help to further expand and strengthen trade, economic, political and cultural cooperation between the two countries.’’

TikTok exits Hong Kong market

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TikTok will exit the Hong Kong market within days, a spokesman told Reuters late on Monday, as other technology companies including Facebook Inc suspend processing government requests for user data in the region.

The short form video app owned by China-based ByteDance has made the decision to exit the region following China’s establishment of a sweeping new national security law for the semi-autonomous city.

“In light of recent events, we’ve decided to stop operations of the TikTok app in Hong Kong,” a TikTok spokesman said in response to a Reuters question about its commitment to the market.

The company, now run by former Walt Disney Co executive Kevin Mayer, has said in the past that the app’s user data is not stored in China.

TikTok has also said previously that it would not comply with any requests made by the Chinese government to censor content or for access to TikTok’s user data, nor has it ever been asked to do so.

The Hong Kong region is a small, loss-making market for the company, one source familiar with the matter said. Last August, TikTok reported it had attracted 150,000 users in Hong Kong.

Globally, TikTok has been downloaded more than 2 billion times through the Apple and Google app stores after the first quarter this year, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower.

The source said the move was made because it was not clear if Hong Kong would now fall entirely under Beijing’s jurisdiction in light of the new law.

TikTok was designed so it could not be accessed by mainland China. That was part of a strategy to appeal to a more global audience. Its equivalent on the mainland is called Douyin.

There are no plans currently to introduce Douyin to the Hong Kong market, a ByteDance spokesman said.

Although Douyin is not available on overseas app stores, it has gathered more users than TikTok in Hong Kong, according to a second source familiar with the situation. Mainland Chinese users can download the app while in the mainland or by switching accounts.

“Douyin has lots of users in Hong Kong and will continue to serve the users there,” ByteDance China CEO Zhang Nan said in a statement.

Fang Kecheng, an assistant professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said TikTok’s move highlighted the dilemma faced by Chinese companies trying to internationalise, adding that it was “inevitable”.

“You have to follow local policies and try not to offend the Chinese government and the public. ByteDance’s separation of TikTok (from Douyin) was the same strategy.”

UK newspaper publisher Reach prunes 550 jobs

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British newspaper publisher Reach said on Tuesday it would cut about 550 jobs – 12 per cent of its workforce – after the COVID-19 pandemic hit circulation and advertising.

Reach, whose titles include the Daily Mirror and Daily Express, said second-quarter revenue declined 27.5 per cent, with print revenue down 29.5 per cent and digital revenue down 14.8 per cent.

Chief Executive Jim Mullen said the company had seen increased adoption of its digital products, with customer registrations passing the 2.5 million mark during the pandemic.

“However, due to reduced advertising demand, we have not seen commensurate increases in digital revenue,” he said.

Shares in Reach, which were at a five-year high of 187 pence in February, were down 8% at 82 pence in early deals on Tuesday.

Jobs will be cut across both national and regional operations, Mullen said, in a plan that will deliver £35 million ($44 million) in annualised savings at an estimated one-off cost of £20 million.

Reach said it will look to bring together its national and regional editorial teams across its titles in a more centralised structure, while also reducing its local commercial and finance sites and simplifying management. But it will end the recent temporary pay cuts for all staff, except senior executives and board members, and invest more heavily in its digital operations amid an increasing shift towards online news. The group did not give details of where the job cuts would fall, though it confirmed plans for “more focused” editorial, advertising and central operations.

“Structural change in the media sector has accelerated during the pandemic and this has resulted in increased adoption of our digital products,” Reach chief executive Jim Mullen said. “However, due to reduced advertising demand, we have not seen commensurate increases in digital revenue. To meet these challenges and to accelerate our customer value strategy, we have completed plans to transform the business and are ready to begin the process of implementation.

“Regrettably, these plans involve a reduction in our workforce and we will ensure all impacted colleagues are treated with fairness and respect throughout the forthcoming consultation process.”

Details of the job cuts came as Reach revealed that group revenues slumped 27.5 per cent in its second quarter to June 28th — dropping as much as 30.5 per cent in April — as sales of newspapers fell sharply amid the coronavirus lockdown, while even digital revenues fell 14.8 per cent despite readers switching online for their news. It said circulation still remains “significantly” below levels seen before the pandemic, although it has seen a “modest but encouraging” improvement in June, with group revenue declines last month narrowing slightly to 23.9 per cent. Digital sales falls pared back to 4.9 per cent in June, while print revenues were down 26.7 per cent.

Samsung Electronics profits jump in Q2

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Samsung Electronics Co Ltd flagged a 23 per cent rise in second-quarter operating profit on Tuesday, beating analysts’ estimates on solid chip sales to data centres catering for a work-from-home economy during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The sales offset weak demand for smartphones and televisions, while one-off gains from its display business, which counts Apple Inc. as a customer, also boosted profits, the company said. It gave no further details.

The world’s top memory-chip and smartphone maker said operating profit was likely 8.1 trillion won ($6.8 billion) in the quarter that ended in June, far above the 6.4 trillion won analyst forecast by Refinitiv SmartEstimate. It would be the highest quarterly profit since the fourth quarter of 2018.

Revenue likely fell 7% to 52 trillion won from a year earlier, Samsung added, giving only limited data in a regulatory filing ahead of its full earnings figures later this month.

Work-from-home orders and growth in online learning are underpinning chip demand amid the coronavirus pandemic and pushing up DRAM memory chip prices. U.S. DRAM supplier Micron Technology Inc. forecast strong quarterly revenue last month.

“Chip demand was stronger than expected due to the COVID-19,” said Park Sung-soon, an analyst at Cape Investment & Securities.

Analysts said the one-off display boost reflected a payment from Apple, with the U.S. smartphone maker struggling to meet agreed shipment targets as iPhone sales take a hit from the pandemic.

The payment was estimated at 1 trillion won, bigger than a similar 800 billion won payment a year ago, they said.

The handset and TV business may have also fared better than expected due to lower marketing costs and as stores and factories resumed operations worldwide as countries lifted lockdowns aimed at stopping the virus, analysts said.

“The damage from the pandemic was less severe than the market had expected,” said CW Chung, Nomura head of research in Korea.

Analysts, however, warned that increases in memory chip prices may not continue in the second half of the year as data centre customers are likely to be conservative in stockpiling chips given the resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the United States and other countries

While prices jumped 14 per cent on average in the quarter, they were flat in June versus May, data from DRAMeXchange showed.

Shares of Samsung Electronics fell 1.8%, versus a 0.4 per cent fall in the wider market as of 0206 GMT.

The South Korean tech giant’s resilient earnings, despite the pandemic, came even as its leader, Jay Y. Lee, faces fresh legal troubles.

State prosecutors are investigating Lee on suspicion of resorting to accounting fraud and stock price manipulation to win control of Samsung Group, Korea’s largest conglomerate. Lee’s attorneys have denied such allegations.

LG Electronics, Samsung’s crosstown rival in TVs, phones and home appliances, meanwhile, said its second-quarter operating profit likely fell 24% to 493 billion won, ahead of a 374 billion won forecast by SmartEstimate.

Analysts said easing of lockdown measures had helped demand for consumer electronics recover slightly.

EFCC: Nigeria suspends Ibrahim Magu

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The Acting EFCC chairman, Ibrahim Magu has been suspended with immediate effect

More details later….

Spain extends aid to tenants, homeowners

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Spain’s cabinet will on Tuesday approve the extension of measures aimed at easing the financial burden on rental tenants and homeowners hit by the coronavirus, government sources told Reuters.

With the new measures, tenants will be able to renew their existing contracts for six months under the same conditions, while a ban on utility companies cutting gas, electricity and water supplies will remain in place until Sept. 30, the sources said.

For qualifying homeowners, the deadline to apply for a holiday on mortgage payments will be pushed back until the end of September from July 20.

Battered by the pandemic lockdown and travel restrictions, Spain’s economic output is likely to have shrunk 20 per cent in the second quarter, according to the central bank.

In March, the government approved a 700-million euro aid package to help vulnerable households and later introduced a minimum income programme to reach around 2.3 million people.

But a U.N. report published on Monday criticised Spain’s social protection net as insufficient and said the COVID-19 crisis had exacerbated the situation for its poorest citizens.

 

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