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Business this week

There was some confusion about a tentative deal that will allow TikTok, a video-sharing app, to stay in business in the United States. Donald Trump gave his “blessing” to an agreement that would see Oracle and Walmart take a 20% stake in a newly formed TikTok Global, which would then rely on Oracle to provide it with cloud services. But Oracle and ByteDance, TikTok’s Chinese parent company, issued contradictory statements about the ownership of the new business, with ByteDance describing it as a “subsidiary”. China’s state media raged against the deal, describing it as “bullying and extortion”. TikTok asked a court to block an impending order that will in effect shut its operations in America over security concerns. See article.
A judge in California issued a last-minute temporary injunction against the Trump administration’s ban on WeChat, another Chinese tech firm that has fallen foul of the government. The plaintiffs argued that prohibiting the social-media app in America would curtail free speech and was aimed at Chinese-Americans. The administration can appeal against the decision.

Microsoft, which had been in the running to buy TikTok before Mr Trump threw his weight behind Oracle’s bid, consoled itself by buying ZeniMax, which owns several gaming firms, publishing hits such as “The Elder Scrolls” and “Wolfenstein”. At $7.5bn, it is one of Microsoft’s bigger acquisitions.
Following weeks of courting, CaixaBank made it official and agreed to take over Bankia, creating Spain’s biggest lender with €650bn ($760bn) in assets. “Getting married in difficult times makes it even more important that you choose the right partner,” said CaixaBank’s chief executive.
In Russia, Yandex, a tech firm that operates one of the country’s most popular internet search engines, struck a $5.5bn deal to buy Tinkoff, an online bank that was founded by Oleg Tinkov and is listed in London.
Deutsche Bank is preparing to close a fifth of its branches in Germany, according to reports, leaving it with 400 branches. The German lender thinks the pandemic has shifted many customers permanently towards digital banking.

Electric dream machine
Investors were unimpressed by Tesla’s much hyped “Battery Day”, even though Elon Musk tried to dampen expectations. The company did announce an ambition to move all levels of car-battery production in house (rather than just battery packs) and increase the range of its batteries. But there were no specifics about a “million-mile” battery, nor a target, in terms of dollars per kilowatt-hour, to bring down the cost of its electric cars to match petrol-powered ones. 
California’s governor signed an order that bans the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035. It is the first American state to adopt such a measure.
Unilever secured the overwhelming support of shareholders in the Netherlands for its proposal to end its Anglo-Dutch dual structure and base the entire group in London. British investors will vote on the measure next month. Unilever wants to unify its structure by late November, but would reconsider its move if the Dutch parliament passes a law before then that would levy huge taxes on any multinational leaving the country.

The income of workers across the world will have fallen by an average 10.7% in the first nine months of this year compared with the same period last year, according to the International Labour Organisation. That amounts to $3.5trn. The percentage of working hours lost because of covid-19 is most acute in Latin America, followed by South Asia. The ILO’s outlook for the last three months of 2020 has “worsened significantly”.
Nike reported an 82% jump in online sales for the three months ending August 31st, year on year. Sales at its stores, most of which were open during the quarter, remained tepid because of social- distancing measures.

The end of the line
The British government scrapped the system of franchising train companies that has underpinned the rail industry since privatisation in the 1990s. A new mix of performance targets and management fees moves operators towards a contracts-based system. With passenger numbers still well below normal because of covid-19, the taxpayer will continue to underwrite the industry’s losses. See article. 
In the latest corporate response to the race protests that have swept America, Mars changed the name of its Uncle Ben’s brand of rice to Ben’s Original and removed the face of an elderly black man from the packaging “to create more equitable iconography”. The image first appeared in 1946. Mars also struck a partnership with the National Urban League, a civil-rights group, to support aspiring black chefs through a scholarship fund.
This article appeared in the The world this week section of the print edition under the headline “Business this week”
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Politics this week

Donald Trump marshalled enough Republican votes in the Senate to consider a replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg before the election on November 3rd. Ms Ginsburg’s death gives the party a window to fill her seat on the Supreme Court with a conservative, further tipping its ideological balance to the right. Ms Ginsburg, appointed by Bill Clinton in 1993, was accorded the honour of lying in state in the Capitol building, the first woman to do so. See article.
A grand jury found no evidence to bring charges against three policemen for the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor, a black woman, in Kentucky. Around midnight on March 13th police burst into Taylor’s flat without knocking to search for drugs. Her boyfriend, who later said he feared it was her ex-boyfriend breaking in, opened fire. The officers shot back, killing Taylor. No drugs were found. One officer, who fired through blinds, was charged with wantonly endangering the neighbours. After the decision, protests erupted and two officers were shot.

Jeanine Áñez, Bolivia’s interim president, dropped out as a candidate in the presidential election due to be held on October 18th. She said she hoped her withdrawal would boost the prospects of candidates running against Luis Arce, a leftist.
Peru’s president, Martín Vizcarra, survived a congressional vote to impeach him. Opposition politicians sought his ouster because, they claimed, leaked recordings proved that he had tried to cover up ties with a folk singer, known as “Richard Swing”, who had supported him and then received government contracts. See article.
Alexei Navalny, the main opposition leader in Russia, was discharged from the hospital in Germany where he had been treated since being poisoned with Novichok, a nerve agent, in Russia.
Italians voted in a referendum to cut the size of their parliament by more than a third. See article.

As cases of covid-19 continued to soar in Spain, the government appealed to residents of Madrid to stay at home. But it stopped short of declaring a state of emergency.
Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, announced new restrictions, as the number of daily covid-19 cases has trebled since the start of September. Last month he was prodding workers to return to offices. Now he says they are to work from home again. Mr Johnson urged people to act responsibly: “your mild cough can be someone else’s death knell”. The government announced a new scheme to safeguard jobs. See article.
Wildlife officials said that toxic algal blooms in drinking holes caused the previously unexplained deaths of more than 300 elephants in Botswana in recent months. Botswana is home to one-third of Africa’s declining elephant population. 
The leader of a coup in Mali appointed Bah Ndaw, a former defence minister, as transitional president. The EU and America have suspended military aid to the country, which is fighting jihadists.
America announced new sanctions on people and entities linked to Iran’s nuclear programme. America also said it was unilaterally reimposing a UN arms embargo on Iran, a move the UN Security Council has refused to recognise.
Protesters in Thailand marched to the royal palace to demand reforms to the monarchy. Many wore crop tops and temporary tattoos to mock King Vajiralongkorn, who did not respond. He was in Germany, where he spends most of his time. See article.
Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of Malaysia’s opposition, announced that he had the support of enough MPs to bring the coalition that ran the country until seven months ago back to power. But the king, to whom he must present his claim to power, is in hospital. See article.
Police in Hong Kong arrested Joshua Wong, a pro-democracy activist. He was accused of attending an illegal assembly last year and of violating a ban on protesters wearing masks.
China sent military aircraft across the mid-point of the Taiwan Strait, which had served as a makeshift boundary between Chinese and Taiwanese airspace. The incursions may have been a retaliation for the announcement of new American arms sales to Taiwan. A Chinese government spokesman said it did not accept the mid-point as a demarcation line.
China’s leader, Xi Jinping, said his country would be carbon-neutral by 2060, though he didn’t elaborate on how it would achieve that. Speaking to the UN by video-link, he reiterated a pledge that China’s carbon emissions will peak before 2030. See article.
A Chinese court sentenced Ren Zhiqiang, a former boss of a state-owned property firm, to 18 years in prison for corruption. Mr Ren had been an outspoken critic of Mr Xi. See article.
The area of the Arctic covered by sea ice shrank to 3.74m sq km in mid-September, the second-lowest figure in 40 years of record-keeping. The decline was most rapid in early September, caused in part by a heatwave in Siberia. Falling temperatures are helping the ice to return, but the 14 lowest extents of the ice have all been recorded over the past 14 years.

Coronavirus briefs

The WHO said that the global number of new infections had reached a weekly high of 2m. In the Netherlands the number of new cases hit a weekly record of nearly 13,500, up by 60% from the previous week. See article.
The number of daily coronavirus infections reached a new high in Israel. Officials say hospitals are approaching their capacity. The government tightened a nationwide lockdown. Iran reported its most cases in a day. Its official cumulative total is now 433,000, though the true figure is much higher.
UEFA, Europe’s football governing body, was criticised for allowing 20,000 fans to attend a match in Budapest between Bayern Munich and Sevilla.
America’s Centres for Disease Control issued advice for Halloween. Trick-or-treating, costume masks and parties are discouraged; carving pumpkins with your family is okay.
This article appeared in the The world this week section of the print edition under the headline “Politics this week”
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Nobel winners to get $110,000 raise as prize money increased

Winners of the prestigious Nobel prizes this year will receive an extra 1 million crowns ($110,000), the head of the foundation said. Prize money will increase to 10 million crowns this year. “The decision has been made due to the fact that our costs and capital are in a stable relation in a completely different way than previously,” the head of the Nobel Foundation said.

World News
HK activist Joshua arrested for 2019 illegal assembly

Hong Kong police arrested prominent democracy activist Joshua Wong on Thursday for participating in an unauthorised assembly in October 2019 and violating the city’s anti-mask law, according to a post on his official Twitter account. The arrest of Wong, aged 23, comes around 6 weeks after media tycoon Jimmy Lai was detained on suspicion of colluding with foreign forces.

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