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South Korean ex-President Park sentenced to 8 more years in jail

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Seoul, July 20 : A court here on Friday sentenced former President Park Geun-hye to eight more years in prison for illegally taking off-book funds from the state spy agency and interfering in elections during her term in office.

Televised live, the Seoul Central District Court meted out the guilty verdict to the 66-year-old, who’s already serving a 24-year jail term on a string of corruption charges in a nation-rocking scandal that led to her ousting in 2017, Yonhap news reported.

The court also ordered her to forfeit 3.3 billion won ($2.91 million). Prosecutors demanded a 15-year imprisonment for Park.

She was not present at Friday’s trial as she has been boycotting all her trials, which she said “were politically motivated”. She accused the judiciary and prosecution of being unfair.

In early January, prosecutors indicted Park on additional charges that include bribery, embezzlement and loss of state funds for illegally accepting 3.5 billion won from the National Intelligence Service (NIS) between May 2013 and September 2016.

She’s also been indicted for interfering in the then-ruling Saenuri Party’s candidate nominations for the 2016 general elections.

But the court acquitted her of the bribery charges, ruling that the NIS provisions of its funds to Park’s office were not paid in return for any favours.

The court acknowledged that it has been customary for the spy agency to provide funds to the presidential office from its own state coffers, known as the untraceable special activities fund.

The fact that the then spy chiefs had delivered the funds to Park’s presidential office in a fixed amount and on a regular basis, is far from the conventional way of paying someone a bribe, which usually comes in a lump sum payment at one time, the report said.

Park is accused of spending some of the money for private use, such as on bills for secret phones she used to contact Choi, maintenance costs for her private residence in southern Seoul and medical treatment. The funds were also used for incentives and bonuses for Park’s close aides.

The court ruling is in line with last week’s verdict in a separate trial on her three former aides, who were indicted alongside her for their involvement in the NIS bribery case.

The court cleared them of bribery charges, ruling the NIS provisions to Park’s office were not bribes.

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Global Covid-19 cases top 31mn mark: Johns Hopkins

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The overall number of global coronavirus cases on Monday surpassed the 31 million mark, while the deaths have increased to more than 960,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

The total number of cases stood at 31,044,033 and the fatalities rose to 960,826, the University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed in its latest update.

The US is the worst-hit country with the world’s highest number of cases and deaths at 6,805,629 and 199,512, respectively, according to the CSSE.

India comes in the second place in terms of cases at 5,487,580, while the country’s death toll soared to 87,882.

The other top 15 countries with the maximum amount of cases are Brazil (4,544,629), Russia (1,105,048), Peru (768,895), Colombia (765,076), Mexico (697,663), South Africa (661,211), Spain (640,040), Argentina (631,365), France (467,614), Chile (446,274), Iran (422,140), the UK (396,744), Bangladesh (348,918), Saudi Arabia (329,754) and Iraq (319,035), the CSSE figures showed.

Brazil currently accounts for the second highest number of fatalities at 136,895.

The countries with a death toll above 10,000 are Mexico (73,493), the UK (41,866), Italy (35,668), Peru (31,369), France (31,257), Spain (30,495), Iran (24,301), Colombia (23,665), Russia (19,420), South Africa (15,953), Argentina (13,053), Chile (12,286) and Ecuador (11,090).

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UK PM to address nation over ‘winter lockdown plans

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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to address the nation to brace citizens for “winter lockdown plans” in preparation for a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country, media reports said.

The Prime Minister could make the TV address as early as Tuesday, said The Sun newspaper.

The Prime Minister could make the TV address as early as Tuesday, said The Sun newspaper.

He is looking at making pubs and restaurants close early and banning households from meeting up, it added.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Officer Patrick Vallance will reportedly make an address ahead of the Prime Minister, the Metro newspaper said in a report.

The scientists will outline the consequences of taking no action to curb the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, a government adviser, Professor Susan Michie, told The Telegraph on Sunday that every day of delay could have dire health outcomes.

“We need a stitch in time. We need to learn the lessons of the spring. Every day’s delay to a step change in measures to restrict transmission when it is increasing exponentially will be expensive in terms of health and lives in the short term and the economy in the long term,” she added.

Johnson has previously admitted that second national lockdown would be “nothing short of disastrous”‘ for the UK, the Metro newspaper reported.

The development comes as more than 10 million across the UK are placed in some form of local lockdown.As of Monday, the UK has reported a total of 396,744 coron mm mm u huhavirus cases, with 41,866 deaths.

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4 new Covid-19 cases reported in NZ

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Wellington, Sep 20 (IANS) New Zealand reported four new coronavirus cases on Sunday, taking the nationwide tally to 1,464, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

Of the four new cases, two were community cases and two were at managed isolation facilities, Xinhua news agency reported citing the Ministry statement.

The current number of active cases in New Zealand has reduced to 71, including three patients in Auckland hospitals.

Laboratories across New Zealand have conducted 5,417 tests, increasing the total number till date to 910,853, according to the Ministry.

New Zealand is now at COVID-19 Alert Level 2 with additional restrictions on gatherings for its biggest city Auckland.

–IANS

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COVID-19 affects different people in different ways. Most infected people will develop mild to moderate illness and recover without hospitalization.