Tag: governments

U.K. Arts Groups Welcome Government’s COVID Cash Injection

Recipients of the government funding include major organizations such as the London Symphony Orchestra, which received 846,000 pounds, and tiny venues such as London’s 50-seat Finborough Theatre, which got just under 60,000 pounds. Liverpool’s Cavern Club, where The Beatles shot to fame, received a grant of 525,000 pounds.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said in a statement that the money was “a vital boost for the theaters, music venues, museums and cultural organizations that form the soul of our nation.”

Julian Bird, chief executive of umbrella body U.K. Theatre, said the news was “warmly welcomed, and will help create work and retain jobs.”

Britain’s museums, galleries, theaters and music venues all closed when the country went into lockdown in March. Some have managed to reopen, with reduced capacity and at a financial loss, but coronavirus restrictions make most live performances impossible.

Thousands of arts workers also have not been supported by government job-retention programs because they are freelancers.

Many felt slighted when Treasury chief Rishi Sunak said the government would protect jobs that were “viable,” though Sunak denied he was suggesting jobs in the arts were unviable.

Some in the arts world expressed further outrage on Monday about a government-backed ad showing a young dancer lacing up her ballet pumps alongside the words “Fatima’s next job could be in cyber. (She just doesn’t know it yet).”

The government said the ad was part of a long-running campaign encouraging young people from a variety of backgrounds to consider careers in cybersecurity. But Dowden acknowledged it appeared “crass.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, James Slack, said “this particular piece of content was not appropriate and has been removed from the campaign.”

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U.K. Arts Groups Welcome Government’s COVID Cash Injection

The British government on Monday announced grants of 257 million pounds ($335 million) to help almost 1,400 arts and cultural organizations survive the coronavirus pandemic.

The money — the first chunk to be spent from a 1.57-billion-pound Culture Recovery Fund — was welcomed by arts organizations that have accused the government of neglecting them while supporting other businesses.

But just after the announcement, the government was forced to withdraw an advertisement that appeared to suggest ballet dancers should retrain for jobs in cybersecurity.

Recipients of the government funding include major organizations such as the London Symphony Orchestra, which received 846,000 pounds, and tiny venues such as London’s 50-seat Finborough Theatre, which got just under 60,000 pounds. Liverpool’s Cavern Club, where The Beatles shot to fame, received a grant of 525,000 pounds.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said in a statement that the money was “a vital boost for the theaters, music venues, museums and cultural organizations that form the soul of our nation.”

Julian Bird, chief executive of umbrella body U.K. Theatre, said the news was “warmly welcomed, and will help create work and retain jobs.”

Britain’s museums, galleries, theaters and music venues all closed when the country went into lockdown in March. Some have managed to reopen, with reduced capacity and at a financial loss, but coronavirus restrictions make most live performances impossible.

Thousands of arts workers also have not been supported by government job-retention programs because they are freelancers.

Many felt slighted when Treasury chief Rishi Sunak said the government would protect jobs that were “viable,” though Sunak denied he was suggesting jobs in the arts were unviable.

Some in the arts world expressed further outrage on Monday about a government-backed ad showing a young dancer lacing up her ballet pumps alongside the words “Fatima’s next job could be in cyber. (She just doesn’t know it yet).”

The government said the ad was part of a long-running campaign encouraging young people from a variety of backgrounds to consider careers in cybersecurity. But Dowden acknowledged it appeared “crass.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, James Slack, said “this particular piece of content was not appropriate and has been removed from the campaign.”

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As SkyWater expansion shows, government’s role in U.S. chip industry is rising

The U.S. semiconductor industry may need to rely more heavily on government investment to build new plants in coming years, executives and officials said Monday at an event marking the expansion of Minnesota’s largest chip factory.

The growing cost of new chip factories — the most advanced of which exceed $10 billion — and the need to keep up with chipmakers in countries where government help is common are pushing the U.S. chip industry and government together in a way not seen since the 1980s.

The U.S. Department of Defense paid $170 million to fund SkyWater Technology Inc.’s third clean room at its factory near the Mall of America in Bloomington.

The company will use the room, which is bigger than the size of a football field and about four stories in height, in part to build radiation-hardened chips. Such chips, known as rad-hard and a relatively small portion of the chip business, are used in weapons, medical devices and in space.

For SkyWater, a contract manufacturer for other chipmakers and design firms, the clean room expansion will allow it to enter the rad-hard market.

“We’re all standing here today because of a very successful private-public partnership,” Tom Sonderman, SkyWater’s chief executive, said at an opening ceremony. “When done right, these partnerships represent a tremendous opportunity to help domestic manufacturing take a leap forward.”

The expansion was announced last October and construction proceeded even after the coronavirus outbreak. After equipment installation and testing, production will begin a year from now. SkyWater will continue to produce chips in its two existing clean rooms, built in the 1980s and 1990s.

While the U.S. is producing more chips from more factories than ever, it has been far outpaced by the growth of chip production in Asian countries, particularly in South Korea and Taiwan.

But it is China, where chip factories are rising after it came to dominate the making of finished electronics goods, that has alarmed U.S. officials like nothing since Japan’s rise in the chip business in the 1980s.

The U.S. now accounts for 12% of global chip manufacturing, down from 37% in 1990.

“Our manufacturing has continued to rise. The rest of the world has exploded,” John Neuffer, chief executive of the Semiconductor Industry Association, said after the SkyWater event. “We’re not talking about bringing all the supply back. We’re talking about rebalancing.”

He said the trade group would like Congress to back an effort to stop the declining U.S. role in global chip manufacturing, in part through more partnerships like the one between the Pentagon and SkyWater and in part by boosting funding for chip-related research and development.

“If we stay on the trajectory we’re on right now, in the next 10 years we’ll go from 12% to 10%,” Neuffer said. “At a minimum, we want to arrest the fall and then build back.”

Jeb Nadaner, deputy assistant secretary of defense for industrial policy, said the coronavirus pandemic has revealed the risk to the U.S. of relying too heavily on

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Disney executive defends Mulan filming in China despite government’s human rights abuses

Disney’s president of film production, Sean Bailey, addressed the recent controversy over the studio’s live-action Mulan remake in a letter to a British politician this week. In the letter, which member of parliament Iain Duncan Smith posted online Thursday, Bailey defended the choice to film portions of Mulan in an area of China that has been the site of extensive human rights abuses.



a group of people walking down a dirt road: Jasin Boland/Disney


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After Mulan debuted on Disney+ last month, controversy arose when viewers noticed the end credits included “special thanks” to several government entities in Xinjiang, a region in northwest China. The region has been the site of what experts have called a “cultural genocide,” with the Chinese government detaining and torturing Uighur Muslims in mass “re-education” camps.

Some of the entities thanked in Mulan‘s credits have been directly linked to this campaign, including the Turpan Bureau of Public Security, which was sanctioned by the U.S. Commerce Department last year. The news raised questions from U.S. lawmakers and other observers about the degree to which Disney cooperated with the Chinese government. Duncan Smith, a prominent politician of the British Conservative Party and co-chair of the U.K.’s Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, sent a letter to Bailey inquiring about the film.

In his reply, dated Oct. 7, Bailey noted that the footage filmed in China, which consisted entirely of landscape shots, “comprises 78 seconds” of the 115-minute film, and was shot “over a brief four-day period — compared to 143 days of filming in New Zealand.”

“Although Mulan was filmed almost entirely in New Zealand, in order to accurately depict the unique geography and landscape of China for this period drama, the producers chose to film some scenery in 20 locations throughout the country, including the Kumtag Desert in Xinjiang Province, home to an important passageway along the historic Silk Road,” Bailey wrote. “The decision to film in each of these locations was made by the film’s producers in the interest of authenticity, and was in no way dictated or influenced by state or local Chinese officials.”



a group of people in costumes: In a letter, a Disney executive defended the decision to film portions of 'Mulan' in China despite the government's reported human rights violations.


© Jasin Boland/Disney
In a letter, a Disney executive defended the decision to film portions of ‘Mulan’ in China despite the government’s reported human rights violations.

He added that the studio was required to cooperate with the government in order to film in China, writing, “There are regulations that must be followed by all foreign film production companies wanting to operate in China. These companies are not allowed to operate independently and must partner with a Chinese production company which is responsible for securing all film permits.” The thanks in the credits were simply standard industry practice, he continued, saying the production company provided a list of entities to thank for granting permission

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Northern England mayors slam UK government’s support package

LONDON (AP) — Mayors representing big cities in northern England have slammed the British government’s latest wage support package for employees in businesses that may be ordered to close as part of efforts to suppress local coronavirus outbreaks.

In a virtual press briefing Saturday, the opposition Labour leaders of the metropolitan areas around Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield sounded the alarm about the economic hardship their cities are likely to face.

The four leaders vented their frustration at what they consider to be the Conservative government’s secretive and top-down approach to decision making and criticized a failure to provide the scientific reasoning behind anticipated changes to lockdown restrictions.


“The north of England is staring the most dangerous winter for years right in the face,” said Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, a region with a population of more than 2.5 million. “We will not surrender our constituents to hardship nor our businesses to failure.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is on Monday expected to back a new three-tier local lockdown system, which could see hospitality venues in coronavirus hotspots in England being temporarily closed. Though new coronavirus infections are rising throughout England, cities in the north have seen the most acute increases. Pubs in Scotland’s biggest cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh, have already had to close for 16 days.

Ahead of that announcement, Treasury chief Rishi Sunak revealed on Friday details of a new financial support package that will see the government pay two thirds of the salaries of workers in companies that have to shut up shop.

Under the terms of the package, the government will from Nov. 1 pay 67% of the salaries of workers who won’t be able to work, up to a maximum of 2,100 pounds ($2,730) a month. Sunak also said cash grants for businesses required to close will be increased to up to 3,000 pounds a month.

A more generous nationwide program will expire at the end of October, having already cost the government nearly 40 billion pounds. At the height of that program, the government paid 80% of the salaries of furloughed workers, keeping a lid on unemployment.

Jamie Driscoll, the mayor of the metropolitan area in and around the northeastern city of Newcastle, said the new package was “unacceptable,” not least because it doesn’t include workers in firms that aren’t closed but would still be directly impacted by any government-sanctioned closures. He noted that an order for pubs to close will hit everyone from drinks suppliers to stand-up comedians unable to ply their trade.

Steve Rotherham, the mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said he expected his area to face the highest level of restrictions from next week.

As elsewhere in Europe, the pandemic in the U.K. is at a crucial point, with infection levels — and deaths — rising at their fastest rate in months. Without action, there are fears that hospitals will be overwhelmed in coming weeks at a time of year when they are already busy with winter-related afflictions.

The

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Madrid court annuls central government’s COVID-19 curbs on city

By Emma Pinedo and Inti Landauro

MADRID (Reuters) – A Madrid court on Thursday struck down a government order imposing a partial coronavirus lockdown on the Spanish capital, ruling in favour of the Madrid region in a standoff with national authorities just before a long holiday weekend.

Under the Health Ministry’s order, Madrid regional authorities on Friday barred residents from leaving the area, including nine satellite towns, without a valid reason, and imposed other measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 in one of Europe’s worst virus hotspots.

Regional government chief Isabel Diaz Ayuso had opposed the order, saying it would ravage the region’s economy, also arguing the ministry had no power to impose such curbs on a region.

The Madrid regional court sided with her in its ruling, calling the restrictions “interference by public authorities in citizens’ fundamental rights without the legal mandate to support it”.

The restrictions imposed in Madrid, with its usually bustling restaurants and bars, had not yet been fully enforced as no fines could be levied on people violating the restrictions until the court had issued its decision. The government can appeal.

Welcoming the court’s decision, Ayuso nevertheless urged Madrilenos to stay home over the upcoming Hispanic Day weekend that usually sparks mass holiday travel across Spain.

She promised to release a set of “sensible, fair and balanced” rules on Friday, meaning capital residents may still face more restrictions in a country where the government forecasts GDP will fall 11.2% in 2020.

“Madrid’s businesses can’t carry on like this … Nobody understands the rules, nobody knows what is going on,” she said during a televised address.

Under the law, the Spanish government can limit fundamental rights by imposing a state of emergency, as it did nationwide for three months starting in March, but it is up to the regions, which control health policy, to request such measures on a more local scale outside of an emergency.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who described the situation in Madrid as “concerning”, told reporters in Algeria his government would study the court ruling and decide how to proceed after a meeting with the Madrid authorities.

The region had 741 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in the two weeks to Oct. 7, according to the World Health Organization, making it Europe’s second densest COVID-19 cluster after Andorra.

Spain reported 12,423 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, bringing the national tally up to 848,324 – the highest in Western Europe. Deaths rose by 126 to 32,688.

(Reporting by Inti Landauro and Emma Pinedo; Additional reporting by Nathan Allen; Editing by Andrei Khalip, Alison Williams and Alex Richardson)

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The government’s low-tech reputation hurts future innovators

The U.S. government has an image problem.

The idea that the government is a low-tech place where projects move slowly has chilled the willingness of lawmakers to fund ambitious, tech-driven projects within the government. And it’s stifled the movement of talented people into government service roles.

In a conversation at Fast Company‘s Innovation Festival Thursday, ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo, and Booz Allen Hamilton chief innovation officer Susan Penfield argued that the government needs to embark on a charm offensive to prove that big-time, game-changing innovation isn’t strictly confined to the private sector.

According to Penfield of Booz Allen Hamilton, the government doesn’t entirely deserve its low-tech reputation.

“There’s amazing work going on every day, and it really takes leadership . . . from the federal sector to really tout the things they’re doing,” Booz Allens’s Penfield said. “If you think about the government, they’re a research institute, they’re an insurance company, they’re protecting us here and abroad, and our national intelligence apparatus I can’t talk a lot about, but the things they’re doing today are amazing and absolutely innovative.”

Part of the problem is that the government undersells its own projects and people. “Michelle Obama said there’s no marketing in government—it’s true,” Penfield said. “So we need our government sector leaders to get out there and talk about the things they’re doing.”

Raimondo believes it may be more about showing than telling. “I think we have to continue to show people how their lives are better,” the governor said. “People will regain their faith in government over time if they see that things are improving.” On Raimondo’s watch, Rhode Island has aggressively funded and peopled tech projects that have retrofitted government systems.

The Trump Administration isn’t necessarily anti-tech, but some parts of the government still run on very old technology, a fact that’s apparent in the slowness with which the Treasury has distributed stimulus checks during the pandemic.

Schmidt believes that the government’s image problem may be hurting Silicon Valley in an indirect way. That’s because there’s a lack of support for government partnerships with universities and research facilities, and it’s in these places that the Googles and Amazons of tomorrow incubate. “Science funding as a percentage of GDP is below what it was in Sputnik times,” Schmidt said.

(To encourage young people to pursue careers in service, Schmidt and his wife, Wendi, have launched Rise, an initiative of Schmidt Futures and the Rhodes Trust. Applications for the program, aimed at students between the ages of 15 to 17 with a focus on those students in need of the resources and support, open this fall.)

Many of the technology advancements that people assume are the work of big private companies are really built on top of research that was funded by the government, he pointed out. Schmidt said the government needs to make the public aware of that fact.

“You like the GPS? That goes back to the university system that was originally funded

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UK Government’s Department For Education Broke GDPR Data Protection Laws

The UK’s Department for Eduction (DfE) breaches GDPR in the way it handles pupil data, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has found.

The ICO first began probing the DfE last year after it became the subject of numerous complaints. Human rights groups Liberty and DefendDigitalMe raised complaints about the department for failing to allow parents to see their child’s record in the National Pupil Data, its refusal to correct inaccurate date, and for “secretly” sharing information belonging to minors with the UK Home Office.

At the time, the ICO said: “DFE is failing to comply fully with its data protection obligations, primarily in the areas of transparency and accountability, where there are far-reaching issues, impacting a huge number of individuals in a variety of ways.”

The ICO released the findings of its months-long audit this week and has concluded that there are widespread data protection failings at the DfE. Of its 139 recommendations for improvement, 60% are classed as urgent or high priority.

It found, for example, that the DfE is not providing “sufficient privacy information to data subjects”, that no data protection impact assessments (DPIAs) are being carried out at the correct and early stages of cases, and that no experts are involved in the creation of data storage or retention record system.

The ICO also found that there is a lack of awareness among staff of data protection, “potentially upping the risk of data breaches”.

“There is no formal proactive oversight of any function of information governance, including data protection, records management, risk management, data sharing and information security within the DfE, which along with a lack of formal documentation, means the DfE cannot demonstrate accountability to the GDPR,” the ICO’s report noted.

“Limited reporting lines, monitoring activity and reporting means there is no central oversight of data processing activities. As a result, there are no controls in place to provide assurance that all personal data processing activities are carried out in line with legislative requirements.”

In a statement, the DfE said it treats the handling of personal data “extremely seriously” and “thanks the ICO for its report which will help us further improve in this area.”

“Since the ICO completed its audit, we’ve taken a number of steps to address the findings and recommendations, including a review of all processes for the use of personal data and significantly increasing the number of staff dedicated to the effective management of it,” a DfE spokesperson said.

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Former ministers to hold ‘rapid’ inquiry into government’s Covid-19 response

Video: Boris Johnson warns of further measures if coronavirus advice ignored (The Independent)

Boris Johnson warns of further measures if coronavirus advice ignored

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A pair of Conservative former ministers have announced they are to lead a rapid, cross-party investigation into the UK’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, amid worries a government inquiry will take too long for lessons to be learned in time.



Jeremy Hunt wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera: Photograph: House of Commons/PA


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Photograph: House of Commons/PA

In a rare set of joint hearings, the Commons health committee, led by ex-health secretary Jeremy Hunt, and the science committee, chaired by Greg Clark, who was business secretary, are to hear from witnesses in the hope of producing a report by the spring.

Announcing the plan, Hunt and Clark said the inquiry would aim to produce interim recommendations along the way. It will hold weekly joint sessions, with early witnesses set to include Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, and Patrick Vallance, the government’s top scientific adviser.



Jeremy Hunt wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera: The inquiry will cover the need for regular, large-scale coronavirus testing, according to Jeremy Hunt.


© Photograph: House of Commons/PA
The inquiry will cover the need for regular, large-scale coronavirus testing, according to Jeremy Hunt.

While the pair stressed the aim will be constructive, and they do not want to pre-empt any future official inquiry, the testimony and findings could nonetheless be uncomfortable at times for Boris Johnson and his ministers.

Clark and Hunt have been among the most assiduous questioners of Matt Hancock, the health secretary, during his recent Commons appearances.

Hunt said he would expect the inquiry to cover the need for regular, large-scale coronavirus testing, an issue he has repeatedly raised in parliament, and whether this could help people visit loved ones in care homes.

The hearings begin next Tuesday with a session on social care. Other promised areas of examination include the efficacy of lockdown measures; how well modelling and statistics have been used; the efficacy of government messaging; wider preparedness for a pandemic; and the impact on BAME communities.

Hunt said while Johnson had not yet set out what sort of official inquiry he would like to set up, the expectation was that this would not be quick.

“If it is a public inquiry, it will take several years before it’s ready to report,” Hunt said. “Whereas this will be an inquiry that I think will be in a position to report by spring of next year, so a much shorter timescale.”

Clark said the aim was “to uncover and describe lessons that should be learned, but have application during the weeks and months ahead, before any further inquiries that the prime minister might commission”. While the final report was unlikely to arrive before spring, he added, there would be “staging posts on the way” to highlight any lessons.

The inquiry will hear from witnesses in person, with Clark and Hunt alternating who chairs each weekly session, and will accept written evidence. Hunt said the assumption was that ministers would attend if requested: “We would expect excellent cooperation to continue, as we’ve have

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Madrid court annuls central government’s COVID curbs on city

MADRID (Reuters) – A Madrid court on Thursday struck down a government order imposing a partial lockdown on the city and nine satellite towns, ruling in favour of the Madrid region in a standoff with national authorities.

Under the health ministry’s order, Madrid regional authorities on Friday barred residents from leaving the area without a valid reason, and imposed other restrictive measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 contagion in one of Europe’s worst virus hotspots.

But regional government chief Isabel Diaz Ayuso had opposed the order, saying it would ravage the region’s economy, also arguing the ministry had no power to impose such curbs on a region.

The Madrid regional court sided with her in its ruling, calling the restrictions “interference by public authorities in citizens’ fundamental rights without the legal mandate to support it.”

In an initial reaction from the government – which can appeal the ruling – Health Minister Salvador Illa said he had not yet had time to study it.

“We will take the legal decisions that best protect health. We are sure that the Community of Madrid will agree with this approach. We do not care much about anything but citizens’ health,” he told a parliamentary committee without specifying further.

The restrictions imposed in Madrid had not yet been fully enforced as no fines could be levied on people violating the restrictions until the court had issued its decision.

The Madrid region had 741 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in the two weeks to Oct. 7, according to the World Health Organization, making it Europe’s second densest COVID-19 cluster after Andorra.

(Reporting by Inti Landauro and Emma Pinedo, editing by Andrei Khalip and John Stonestreet)

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