Australian Health Authorities Urge Caution as Lockdowns Ease

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Australian state health authorities have urged residents to exercise caution with lockdown measures set to be relaxed across the nation on Monday.

The two most-populous states will lift several restrictions as they continue to grapple with isolated coronavirus outbreaks. New South Wales reported three new cases on Sunday, all of who were travelers in hotel quarantine; while Victoria extended its state of emergency to allow the chief health officer to keep issuing safety directives.

“Victorians will no doubt welcome the further easing of restrictions from tomorrow, but our coronavirus fight is far from over,” state Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said in a statement Sunday.

New South Wales will permit pubs, clubs, cafes and restaurants to allow entry to as many as 50 customers from June 1 as authorities try to breathe life back into the economy. Ahead of the lifting of the measures, the state’s health officials said it “remains essential” for people to maintain social distancing and regularly wash their hands, according to a statement on Sunday.

Most Australians Support State Border Closures Amid Coronavirus

In Victoria, as many as 20 people will be able to gather inside a home or outside. The roll-back in measures comes as Mikakos in a press conference on Sunday warned of possible community transmission linked to a family cluster in a Melbourne suburb, and as a separate spate of cases have been connected with a hotel that’s been used for quarantines.

Queensland will also allow travel within the state starting midday Monday. The state’s borders will remain closed and will be reviewed at the end of June, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told reporters Sunday.

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Zoom to Strengthen Encryption for Paying Customers: Reuters

Zoom Video Communications Inc. plans to strengthen encryption for paying clients and institutions, but not for users with free accounts, Reuters reported, citing the company’s security consultant Alex Stamos.

The company previewed its plans with civil liberties groups and activists against child-sex abuse on Thursday, the report said. Plans are subject to change and it is unclear which nonprofit organizations would qualify for such heightened security for video conferences, the report added.

The company is trying to improve security as well as “significantly upgrading their trust and safety,” Stamos told Reuters. “The current plan is paid customers plus enterprise accounts where the company knows who they are.”

Zoom has seen global usage of its service surge during coronavirus shutdowns, but has come under increasing pressure over vulnerabilities in the app’s software encryption. The company has been sued amid accusations it hid flaws in its app, and has seen cases of online trolls sneak in and disrupt web meetings with profanity and pornography.

In response to queries, Zoom pointed to its May 27 report that said its focus is to build the so-called end-to-end encryption for its meeting product, which may be later rolled out for its chat, phone and webinar offerings. “Only our paid users will have access to end-to-end encryption for their meetings,” it said. “However, all users will use the 256-bit GCM encryption on May 30 regardless of their license type.”

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New York City Boils Over

The pepper spray. That’s when it really started to get out of hand.

The police lined up in front of the entry to the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn fired it into the growing congregation of demonstrators in front of them in high, arching, indiscriminate streams. It looked like a fountain.

Protesters emerged from the crowd one by one, and then many at once. Stumbling. Faces grimacing and red. Hands outstretched for water or milk or whatever they could grasp. Many fell to the ground or bent at the waist to allow a better angle for fellow protesters to wash out their eyes. Before the pepper spray, the crowd had been gathered peacefully in front of the arena, holding up signs and chanting “Black Lives Matter!” and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” and “I Can’t Breathe!,” expressing their boiling anger at the hundreds of police officers stationed around the plaza, every one of which represented the system that killed George Floyd in Minneapolis on Monday.

The chemical retaliation came not long after 7 p.m. and left the crowd dotted with pockets of anguish and genuine disbelief over how quickly the situation escalated. “People were pushing up against the fence and climbing over the fence,” Molly E., a protester from Ridgewood whose face was streaked with milk from attempts to ease the burning, told me. “The cops knocked it down and started charging at people and macing people. People were throwing shit and the cops started charging. They were macing everyone.”

Every time the police charged or sprayed mace, the crowd would retreat for a furious few seconds before pressing back up against the barricade. Some opened umbrellas to guard against the next shower. Milk and water bottles were parceled out to strangers.

Among those hit were State Senator Zellnor Myrie and State Assembly Woman Diana Richardson. “Look at me right now,” she told Gothamist shortly after the incident. “I would never come out here to be in a position like this. I’m actually out here to ensure that the peace is keeping.”

The plaza now cleared, police were able to cordon some protesters onto the sidewalk near the subway station. Cops aligned themselves in the street in front of an NYPD bus that would soon be filled with arrested demonstrators. Protesters yelled at them from the edge of the sidewalk as a recorded warning played on a loop, over and over again, like a fire alarm: THIS ASSEMBLY IS UNLAWFUL. IF YOU DO NOT DISPENSE YOU WILL BE SUBJECT TO ARREST.

This computerized voice never died down, it never lost energy, it never wavered. Over and over again as the crowd kept chanting, kept trying to offer some counter to this tableau of oppression in front of them. New chants. George Floyd’s name. Breonna Taylor’s name. Black Lives Matter! No Justice, No Peace! Abolish the Police!

THIS ASSEMBLY IS UNLAWFUL. IF YOU DO NOT DISPENSE YOU WILL BE SUBJECT TO ARREST.

THIS ASSEMBLY IS UNLAWFUL. IF YOU DO NOT DISPENSE YOU WILL BE SUBJECT TO ARREST.

THIS ASSEMBLY IS UNLAWFUL. IF YOU DO NOT DISPENSE YOU WILL BE SUBJECT TO ARREST.

The automated police state versus raw, visceral humanity backed into a corner. It was a battle playing out in every nerve center in America on Friday night.

—————

The protest at Barclays followed a demonstration in which around 70 were arrested in Manhattan Thursday night, and another earlier on Friday that began in Foley Square, across from the New York State Supreme Court building and around a sculpture at the square’s centered titled “The Triumph of the Human Spirit.” This protest also began peacefully, with chanting and sign-holding, but when the hundreds who showed up marched north on Centre Street, the police started forcibly removing people from the street who didn’t comply with initial orders to do so. Protesters who responded physically to this force were wrestled to the ground by multiple officers.

“They just came and started grabbing people and arresting them,” recounted Myeil Duncan, a 20-year-old who came into the city from Queens to protest. “They snatched this one girl off the sidewalk as soon as she got to it, and they arrested her and pushed her against the car. It was a young black girl. This guy got basically tackled and put in a headlock by four police officers.”

The tension pooled at the Canal Street intersection, which police had barricaded with motorbikes. Dozens of officers spread out in the street facing the protesters who had gathered at the end of the sidewalk, compressing themselves against its edge to take turns yelling hysterical exhortations at the cops. Some were in tears, pleading. A man read off names into a megaphone: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmed Arbury, Eric Garner.

“Is standing silent part of the job? Say their names! SAY THEIR NAMES! SAY THEIR NAMES! SAY THEIR NAMES!” As soon as one chant ended, another would begin. The sun was up. It was hot and humid, standing crowded around this corner of a Manhattan side street. The police stood erect and emotionless.

Against the wall at the back of the sidewalk was a 60-year-old musician who asked to be identified as Drummy T. Next to him was a teenage girl with a sign. “I saw some confrontations but it’s mostly been peaceful,” he said. “People have been expressing conflicting ideas and opinions and thoughts, but for the most part it’s been peaceful and that’s all you can ask for. People have had their say.”

He came up from Bed-Stuy, in Brooklyn, to demonstrate with the teenager next to him. “I have a child and she is interested in being in the cause for human rights and so I wanted to accommodate her. When I was younger I was involved in things also. I want her to know how this world works so she can make an effort to make it a better place.”

The crowd eventually marched back to Foley Square, where chants rang out and signs and bouquets of flowers were held high for another hour before they marched south to the Brooklyn Bridge. The helicopter that had been hovering above the protest since it began continued to buzz. As the demonstrators walked, Ricardo Jordan, a 33-year-old down from Harlem, summed up the afternoon.

“We’re fed up,” he said. “We’re fed up with what’s going on.”

—————

The sky started to darken over Barclays as the demonstrators and police struggled for control of Flatbush, one of the most prominent traffic arteries in Brooklyn. Night hadn’t yet fallen, but enormous rain clouds were rolling in. The street was littered with empty milk cartons, water bottles, and firework husks leftover from earlier crowd-control efforts. The cops were still trying to push back protesters, which led to skirmishes that ended with more brutal arrests.

But there were too many people. They stood in the street, facing south with their arms in the air, determined not to let traffic through. “WE’RE NOT GOING ANYWHERE!” one woman yelled minutes after another was dragged away by police, who were now leading detainees to a line leading into an NYPD bus. So many were placed under arrest that a B41 public city bus stuck on Flatbush was commandeered. It was soon filled with police and detainees.

After a while the driver stood up and put on his backpack. He appeared to be refusing to drive the prisoners, which was confirmed by VICE as the official position of the NYC Bus Drivers Union. The crowd of demonstrators corralled on the sidewalk erupted in applause.

Mayor Bill de Blasio made his way into the borough. “We have a long night ahead of us in Brooklyn,” he wrote on Twitter just before 11 p.m. “Our sole focus is deescalating this situation and getting people home safe. There will be a full review of what happened tonight. We don’t ever want to see another night like this.”

Earlier on Friday, de Blasio held a press conference to address an incident in which a cop punched a man in the East Village earlier in May. The mayor announced the officer will face discipline. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again,” he tweeted. “You cannot have a safe city if there’s no trust between police and community and the NYPD is working to earn and keep that trust.”

Despite a declining crime rate, New York City’s police budget has ballooned throughout De Blasio’s time in office. Though the nominally progressive mayor may be able to issue a heartfelt statement about George Floyd’s death, he epitomizes the political leadership tacitly condoning the police. It’s not a Democratic or Republican issue. It’s an America issue, and it’s going to take more than electing new leaders to correct it.

“We have to change the system,” Karina Garcia, a 27-year-old protester from Harlem, told me in Foley Square earlier on Friday. “The system is working just fine, we just have to break it and rebuild it.”

As I was walking home from the protest I passed the intersection where I remembered hours earlier seeing two other Foley Square demonstrators, Drummy T. and his daughter, as they arrived at Barclays, when it was still peaceful, before the pepper spray and before the arrests. During a press conference on Saturday de Blasio blamed the protesters for escalating the situation. “Any protester that tries to take the humanity away from a police officer and devalue them just because they are a public servant is no better than the racists who devalue people of color and particularly black men in America,” he said.

It’s impossible to trace any precise point where the demonstration tipped into violence, but it’s not at all surprising that it did. Hundreds of baton-wielding police were crowded into a plaza containing hundreds of protesters spewing vitriol at them. Conflict felt inevitable. But the state has the high ground, and it’s the state’s responsibility to prevent the chaos that erupted through Brooklyn on Friday night, and certainly not to actively indulge in it.

Regardless of where that blurry line of demarcation between peace and violence lies, there is no shortage of video evidence that the police were exacerbating the tension rather than quelling it. They were crowded and called a bunch of names, and they snapped. De Blasio feels sorry for them, but if cops can’t stomach being “devalued” by citizens protesting a murder by an unjust system without whipping the people they’re supposed to be protecting into submission, or assaulting them with a car door, or calling them a bitch and shoving them to the ground, then they shouldn’t have that responsibility in the first place.

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Can I see the SpaceX rocket in the UK tonight?

NASA and SpaceX's groundbreaking manned rocket launch from Florida has been rescheduled for tonight.

The historic SpaceX launch was supposed to liftoff on Wednesday but was aborted with minutes to spare due to safety concerns.

It was set to be the first crewed mission to launch with a US craft from American soil in nearly a decade – ending Nasa's reliance on Russia.

When is the SpaceX launch?

The mission, dubbed Demo-2, is set for liftoff from the Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 8:23pm BST (3:23 pm ET) on May 30.

A Falcon 9 rocket will blast into space from Launch Complex 39a – the same launchpad used during the historic Apollo 11 Moon landings.

The original launch window was May 27 at 9:33pm BST (4:33pm ET).

As with Wednesday's attempt, the Air Force's 45th Weather Squadron will analyse the forecast and give either a red or green light.

Space fans can also watch the launch via the SpaceX website and the firm's official YouTube channel.

Can I see the SpaceX rocket in the UK tonight?

The SpaceX rocket is expected to be visible over the UK 15 to 20 minutes after the launch – meaning Brits will be able to see the spaceship at around 8.40pm.

It will head over the country from west to east.

Nasa SpaceX launch – what is it and why is it important?

Nasa currently sends astronauts into space by piggybacking on launches of Russian Soyuz rockets from an air base in Kazakhstan.

The US space agency last fired one of its own astronauts into space in 2011.

Nasa retired its astronaut-carrying space shuttles that year to make way for a new space exploration program aimed at sending man to asteroids and other deep-space targets.

However, multiple delays to its development schedule have left the space agency without a way to carry out manned space flights for years.

Nasa hopes to fill the gap with rockets launched by private companies such as SpaceX, owned by Musk, and Blue Origin, run by Amazon boss Jeff Bezos.

Nasa astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will make their way to a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at the Kennedy Space Centre on May 30.

The ultimate aim of the mission is to dock a SpaceX craft containing the astronauts on the International Space Station.

They will be ferried to the spacecraft on its launchpad in Florida inside a Tesla Model X electric car sporting the Nasa logo.

That's because billionaire SpaceX boss Elon Musk is also CEO of Tesla.

Hurley and Behnken will then take a special elevator up 230ft to a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule atop the awaiting rocket.

The rocket will blast into space when the countdown hits zero – carrying astronauts into orbit from US soil for the first time since 2011.

Once in orbit, the Crew Dragon capsule carrying Hurley and Behnken will separated from the rocket's boosters.

As is customary for SpaceX flights, the booster will turn around and return to Earth so it can be refurbished and used on a future mission.

"Crew Dragon will accelerate its two passengers to approximately 17,000 mph and put it on an intercept course with the International Space Station," Nasa said.

"Once in orbit, the crew and SpaceX mission control will verify the spacecraft is performing as intended by testing the environmental control system, the displays and control system and the maneuvering thrusters, among other things."

About 24 hours after launch, Crew Dragon will be in position to dock with the space station.

It can do this automatically but astronauts have the option to take control themselves if something goes wrong.

"After successfully docking, Behnken and Hurley will be welcomed aboard station and will become members of the Expedition 63 crew," Nasa continued.

"They will perform tests on Crew Dragon in addition to conducting research and other tasks with the space station crew."

The Crew Dragon capsule will remain docked on the ISS until it's needed to take astronauts back to Earth.

Nasa had not yet selected a date for the return flight.

Why did Nasa cancel Wednesday's launch?

SpaceX crew mission chief Benji Reed warned the mission could be cancelled at the last minute.

And sadly this turned out to be the case, with the launch binned due to bad weather and a high chance of lightning.

Just two hours ahead of launch a tornado warning was issued a stone's throw away from where the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was scheduled to leave.

"I would expect there to be a very high chance of scrub due to the weather," Reed told Click Orlando last week.

"And given the time of year, it wouldn't surprise me as well."

Human spaceflights are far riskier than cargo-only trips, so weather conditions need to be perfect.

Clear skies and low winds are optimal for a successful launch – and even an emergency "mission abort" requires good weather for a safe splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.

Nasa keeps track of more than 50 locations across the ocean to ensure a splashdown can be safely performed.

SpaceX said on Tuesday that the weather forecast for launch was "60 per cent favourable."

Following Wednesday's cancellation, Nasa boss Jim Bridenstine said the rocket could have triggered lightning if it had lifted off.

He said that there was "too much electricity in the atmosphere".

"There wasn't really a lightning storm or anything like that," Bridenstine explained.

"But there was concern that if we did launch, it could actually trigger lightning."

In other news, a tropical storm grounded a key SpaceX launch twice last week.

Nasa recently unveiled the Tesla car that will ferry astronauts to Saturday's historic launch.

And, incredible photos of eerie Martian landscapes have been released online by scientists.

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Furlough and redundancy: Concerns rise after Rishi Sunak’s update on government scheme

Furlough has, so far, provided employees with 80 percent of their salary up to £2,500 per month, alongside National Insurance and minimum pension contributions. However, a recent statement by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak, which has outlined changes to the scheme has created unease. Mr Sunak announced yesterday evening that the Treasury would be tapering the furlough scheme in the future, which will be gradually withdrawn over time. 

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From August, businesses will be required to pay National Insurance and pension contributions, then meeting 10 percent of pay from September.

This will then rise to 20 percent in October, however, those who wish to allow their workers to return part-time for July will be required to meet 100 percent of wages.

While the extension of the furlough scheme has pleased many Britons, there is widespread concern of redundancies, as companies may struggle to meet the costs required of them by the government. 

Employers have warned the changes to the scheme at the end of July could lead to thousands of redundancies.

The Institute of Directors (IoD) said a quarter of members using the government’s Job Retention Scheme could go bust if forced to make any contribution at all to furlough wages.

Jonathan Geldart, the director-general of the IoD commented on the group’s findings.

He said: “Business leaders know that the government’s support can’t be infinite.

“But the ugly truth is that if there’s no money coming in the door, many firms will be forced to make difficult decisions come August.

“The government must soften the blow by introducing as much flexibility as possible into the furlough system. The more flexible the scheme is, the better firms can recover, and the fewer jobs will rely on state subsidy. 

“Being able to bring people back part-time will help a lot of companies, but there are other changes business leaders would like to see, such as reducing the minimum furlough period.”

A recent survey undertaken by People Management revealed nearly half of employers still anticipate having to make redundancies when the scheme comes to an end. 

Out of the 500 people surveyed, 42 percent said they would make limited redundancies when the furlough scheme was terminated.

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A further eight percent expected to make large scale redundancies.

However, 59 percent said that without the scheme they may have made up to a quarter of their currently furloughed staff redundant. 

Citizens Advice has stated people can still be made redundant while furloughed.

Those who are entitled to redundancy pay will have this sum calculated using the amount they earned before furlough.

HMRC has stated one million employers have claimed £15billion in furlough wage subsidies between April 20 and May 24. 

And it has been recorded that 8.4 million workers have been furloughed within this period. 

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Another Trump Trip To The Cape, At Least $1.1 Million More In Costs For Taxpayers

WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump is heading back to Florida on Saturday to watch a space launch, a trip that will cost taxpayers at least another $1.1 million and may potentially add pressure on NASA officials to lift off in marginal conditions ― but it will almost certainly give Trump some cool video footage for campaign ads.

Trump already attended Wednesday’s initial launch attempt for SpaceX’s very first flight of its Crew Dragon capsule intended to carry two astronauts to the International Space Station. He had been scheduled to deliver a speech after liftoff but left immediately to fly back to Washington after the launch was called off because of bad weather.

He vowed a return on the flight back to Joint Base Andrews: “Thank you to @NASA and @SpaceX for their hard work and leadership. Look forward to being back with you on Saturday!”

The forecast for Saturday afternoon’s launch time again includes a chance of poor weather, including rain and thunderclouds in the area.

On Wednesday, Trump’s presence did not prevent launch managers from scrubbing the launch. However, NASA has historically been aware that the attendance of top-level political officials can add subtle pressure to launch even when conditions are not optimal. There has also been an awareness through the years that the presence of the president can complicate matters if there is an emergency or accident.

In almost six decades of human spaceflight, presidents have attended launches only twice: In 1998, when Bill Clinton was on hand for a space shuttle launch that included former Mercury astronaut John Glenn, and in 1969, when Richard Nixon attended the launch of Apollo 12 (that flight nearly ended in disaster when the Saturn 5 rocket was struck by lightning triggered by its own ionized exhaust).

No president has ever attended the inaugural flight of any crewed vehicle ― not John F. Kennedy for Mercury-Redstone 3, not Lyndon Johnson for Gemini 3 or Apollo 7, not Ronald Reagan for the first space shuttle flight in 1981, although Reagan was convalescing after having been shot two weeks earlier. Reagan did not attend the shuttle’s “return to flight” launch in 1988 following the 1986 Challenger disaster, and George W. Bush did not attend a second return to flight in 2005 following the 2003 breakup of Columbia during reentry.

NASA headquarters spokesperson Allard Beutel said the fact that launch officials called off Wednesday’s attempt despite Trump’s presence speaks for itself. “Having both the president and vice president come to witness in person this NASA SpaceX launch of American astronauts on an American rocket and spacecraft from American soil to the International Space Station shows what a historic moment in spaceflight history it really is,” he said.

John Logsdon, the founder of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, said he doubted Trump’s attendance would hamper sound decision-making, even if it meant a second scrubbed launch.

“Having Trump present will be a distraction for senior NASA folks, but the launch team operates on its own and are unlikely to allow their bosses into the go-no-go loop,” he said.

Neither the White House nor the Trump campaign would return HuffPost queries about whether footage from a successful launch would make its way into a campaign ad.

His campaign, however, has not been shy about turning around video from purportedly “official” events ― those paid for entirely by taxpayers and, in theory, done on behalf of all Americans ― into reelection videos. Trump’s multimillion-dollar July 4th extravaganza on the National Mall last year later appeared in his videos. And Trump’s March 28 visit to Norfolk, Virginia, for the sailing of the hospital ship Comfort made it into a Trump campaign ad released May 4.

Jordan Libowitz, with the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington watchdog group, said Trump is not the first president to use footage from official events in campaign ads, and it does not appear to be illegal. “The presence of top campaign surrogates and quick turnaround for an ad certainly could make people question whether the trip was done for the purpose of the ad, which is not what official business is for,” he said.

Each hour that the modified 747 jetliner that Trump normally uses as Air Force One is in the air costs $273,063, according to a General Accountability Office analysis, meaning a round trip to Kennedy Space Center runs $1.1 million. That figure does not include the $58,000 that his helicopter trip from the White House to Joint Base Andrews and back costs, nor the several hundreds of thousands of dollars that ferrying his motorcade aboard C-17 cargo planes costs. That amount varies with the starting location of the planes and the cars and vans, which differs with each trip.

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Expert explains how Britons can claim from HMRC in tax relief

HMRC has been under pressure recently as a result of the coronavirus crisis, but is still processing its usual claims alongside the variety of schemes made available by the government to help during this time. However, particularly for those who are experiencing financial difficulty, there is one source of additional income which can be derived from the government. Tax repayments are available to many Britons who are employed under a PAYE scheme.

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This sort of relief is available from a wide range of expenses, and may in fact be more likely with many people working from home during lockdown.

Express.co.uk spoke exclusively to Joseph Ivory, Personal Tax Manager at Dyer and Co, who explained many workers can approach HMRC directly to claim tax relief.

He said: “PAYE employees can claim tax relief on any business related expenses that they incur which are not reimbursed by employers.

“If expense is incurred wholly for their duties, and it isn’t reimbursed by their employer, an employee can claim tax relief on that. 

“This has the effect of reducing their taxable income on paper, which means they have effectively overpaid on their PAYE income.

“Examples of this can include uniform costs, professional fees and subscriptions, and working from home, for example, claiming a proportion of household bills – such as gas and electricity.

“Employees can claim 45p per business mile from the government. Some employers would reimburse this at 45 percent meaning they cannot claim more, however a lot of employers would do this at their own approved rate.

“If there is a difference between the 45 percent and what the actual employer reimburses then tax relief is available.”

Mr Ivory explained it was important for Britons to get in touch with their employer to understand their rate. 

Over the course of the year, he added, small costs could add up to make a significant return.

He stressed workers should check if they are incurring expenses that they are not reimbursed for. 

In this case, HMRC can be contacted directly, and a tax refund claimed. 

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While tax refunds are usually calculated and can be reimbursed at the end of a tax year, the earlier a claim is submitted the better.

This could also provide Britons with additional income they may need to assist them during the coronavirus crisis. 

Similar tax refunds are also available for those who fall into the higher rate taxpayer bracket.

People can claim tax relief on charity donations if they are a higher rate taxpayer, and pension contributions for this group may also be subject to tax relief.

The government states some types of tax relief can be received automatically, however, others must be applied for.

Tax relief also applies to maintenance payments to a former partner or spouse, and also for time spent working at sea outside of the UK.

To claim tax relief, Britons must have paid tax within the year, and will receive tax relief based on what is spent, and their personal tax rate.

Claimants must submit a claim within four years of the end of the tax year where the money was spent. 

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Coronavirus causes dramatic rise in Americans’ savings rate

Saving money during coronavirus is a ‘good lesson’: Dave Ramsey

Personal finance expert Dave Ramsey discusses how people are saving money amid the coronavirus crisis.

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Americans saved a record amount of their income in April, as the coronavirus pandemic caused businesses across the country to shut down and individuals were encouraged to stay in their homes.

According to data released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis on Friday, the personal savings rate as a percentage of personal income jumped to 33 percent in April, from 12.7 percent in March. At about one-third of personal income, 33 percent, is the highest savings rate since the BEA began recording and reporting the data in the late 1950s.

For comparison, the personal savings rate has largely remained in the single digits throughout the past three decades.

The statistic accounts for what people have left after they pay taxes and spend money.

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April also saw a 10.5 percent month-over-month increase in personal income, which the agency largely attributed to the fact that individuals were receiving their economic impact payments from the federal government.

During the same month, however, personal consumption expenditures declined by 13.6 percent – or $1.6 trillion – indicating people were less willing to part with their cash.

Specifically, there was a $943 billion decrease in spending on services, in addition to a $758 billion decline in spending on goods. The latter drop was heavily driven by less spending on food and beverages, according to the BEA.

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The uptick in savings, and decline in spending, came as millions of Americans lost their jobs. As of Thursday, about 40 million individuals had filed for initial jobless claims since mid-March. In April, the unemployment rate jumped to 14.7 percent – a level not seen since the Great Depression.

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Consumer spending patterns may change as state economies begin to reopen and consumers have greater access to the goods and services they are accustomed to. Spending, which accounts for a majority of GDP, is expected to play an important part of the U.S. economic recovery.

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Biden Condemns Racism, Trump’s Response After Minnesota Protests

Joe Biden denounced the unjust treatment of African Americans and called Friday on Americans to take an active role in combating racism, as he assailed President Donald Trump’s leadership after a black man was killed in police custody in Minnesota.

Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, delivered brief remarks in a speech streamed live on his website, as he sought to draw a clear contrast with a series of inflammatory tweets from Trump suggesting that protesters in Minneapolis would be shot.

“We need to stand up as a nation with the black community, with all minority communities, and come together as one America,” Biden said. “The very soul of America is at stake. We must commit as a nation to pursue justice with every ounce of our being.”

On Monday, George Floyd, a black man, was killed in Minneapolis after a white police officer kneeled on his neck. On Friday, after days of sometimes violent protests, police officer Derek Chauvin was arrested and charged with murder.

Trump inserted himself into the protests with a series of early morning tweets in which he criticized the mayor’s handling of the protests and threatened to send in the National Guard, which is a state function, not federal. He then used a phrase coined by a Miami police chief in the 1960s about shooting looters.

“These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”

Trump tried to walk back the remark after widespread criticism, tweeting that he was not seeking to stoke violence but rather stating that looting can lead to violence, which he wanted to avoid. He later said he had spoken to Floyd’s family and asked for an expedited federal investigation into the death.

“We all saw what we saw, and it’s very hard to even conceive of anything other than what we did see. Should never happen, should never be allowed to happen, a thing like that. But we’re determined that justice be served,” he told reporters.

But he also spoke out against violent protests.

“We can’t allow a situation like happened in Minneapolis to descend further into lawless anarchy and chaos. And we understand that very well. It’s very important, I believe, to the family, to everybody that memory of George Floyd be a perfect memory. Let it be a perfect memory. The looters should not be allowed to drown out the voices of so many peaceful protesters,” he said.

Although Biden didn’t mention Trump directly in his speech, he had harsh words for the president on CNN a few hours later.

“He is totally thoroughly wrong the way he is handling this,” Biden said. “It is not presidential.”

Biden also said that he had spoken with Floyd’s family and promised that he would work to seek justice for them. But the former vice president also drew a line from Floyd’s death to the recent killings of unarmed African-Americans in Georgia and Kentucky as well as other incidents of harassment and discrimination against blacks.

“We are a country with an open wound,” he said. “None of us can turn away. None of us can be silent.”

Race Jibes in Campaign

Biden’s appeal for racial healing comes a week after he was facing jibes from Trump on race. Biden had appeared on a radio show geared toward a black audience and said, “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump then you ain’t black.”

The Trump campaign and its allies immediately seized on the comments, saying the comment was evidence Democrats take black voters for granted. It also launched a $1 million digital ad blitz to capitalize on the remark. Biden has apologized.

Trump’s campaign had been making a public push for support from black voters, forming “Black Voices for Trump,” last fall. Trump has also courted police unions as part of his base, suggesting a return to a time where harsher police tactics were legal.

“And when you see these towns, and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough. I said, ‘Please, don’t be too nice,’” Trump said in remarks to law enforcement in Brentwood, New York, in July 2017. “Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put the hand over like, ‘Don’t hit their head!’ and they’ve just killed somebody — ‘Don’t hit their head!’ I said, ‘You can take the hand away, OK?’”

Biden, whose candidacy was revived by black voters in South Carolina and remains extremely popular among older black Americans, said when he entered the presidential race last year that he did so in part because of Trump’s reaction to the white supremacists’ rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, when the president said there were “very fine people on both sides.”

On Friday, Biden tweeted that the president was “calling for violence against American citizens during a moment of pain.”

“This is no time for incendiary tweets,” Biden said in his remarks. “This is no time to encourage violence. This is a national crisis, and we need real leadership right now.”

The president’s campaign said the media and Democrats were mischaracterizing the president’s words.

“We have witnessed again the media’s relentless twisting of President Trump’s words, and the Democrats seizing on that, to take the entire nation down the worst road imaginable,” campaign manager Brad Parscale said. “A man has died, a police officer is charged with murder, an American city is in chaos, and Democrats and the media see only a political opportunity and a chance to make money. Their behavior is reprehensible and should be roundly condemned by all Americans.”

Trump’s original tweet, which was also reposted by the official White House account, was flagged by Twitter for violating its policies on “glorifying violence.” Twitter added a warning, but the company did not remove the tweets “given its relevance to ongoing matters of public importance.”

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Ted Cruz calls for probe of Twitter over alleged violation of sanctions on Iran

Ted Cruz: Calling on DOJ to open investigation into Twitter

Sen. Ted Cruz argues Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is trying to silence genuine political speech by Americans while facilitating terroristic threats by Iran.

Sen. Ted Cruz on Friday called for a criminal investigation into Twitter, accusing the company of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

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TRUMP DROPS HAMMER ON SOCIAL MEDIA COMPANIES' ALLEGED BIAS BY TAREGTTING CRITICAL PROTECTION

In a letter to the Justice and Treasury departments, Cruz, R-Texas, asked both agencies to investigate the social media platform after it did not shut down the accounts of Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, and Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif. Cruz had sent a letter to the social media giant in February requesting that it comply with U.S. law and stop providing services to the accounts.

"Twitter sent a letter back saying their company policy was to allow as much discussion as possible, and they apparently believe they are exempt from the criminal laws of this country," Cruz told “Varney & Co.” on Friday. “So today, I asked the Department of Justice to open an investigation. Those sanction laws are designed to stop U.S. companies from facilitating Iranian terror."

FACEBOOK'S MARK ZUCKERBERG: GOVERNMENT CENSORSHIP OF SOCIAL MEDIA 'NOT THE RIGHT REFLEX'

“Big Tech, the Silicon Valley billionaires, have an arrogance that they don’t believe the laws apply to them. They believe that they are the new kings of the universe,” Cruz added.

When reached by FOX Business, Twitter declined to comment on the matter.

The senator’s letter comes as the company began flagging President Trump's tweets, including one on Friday about the violent protests in Minneapolis that the company said violated its rules about “glorifying violence.” Twitter also put a fact-check label on a tweet from the president earlier this week regarding mail-in ballots. The labels have sparked debate about how much power social media should have over what their users post.

A tweet from President Trump about Minneapolis that was flagged by Twitter/ FOX Business

"The irony of this, is at the same time that Twitter – that [Twitter CEO] Jack Dorsey – is publishing worldwide the anti-Semitic threats of violence from the Ayatollah Khamenei, Jack Dorsey is also trying to censor the president of the United States," he said.

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Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Friday tweeted screenshots of tweets from Khamenei that threatened Israel and went unflagged by Twitter.

Cruz, who retweeted Pai’s post, told Varney that Twitter should be a neutral public forum.

“I think Big Tech needs to get the hell out of the censorship business, in terms of Americans,” the senator said. “The First Amendment protects American speech, and Twitter has no business deciding which politicians they like and which they don’t.”

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