NEWS DIGEST 11.07.2021: Branson & Bezos’ space adventures, UK’s NS&I gets it a bit wrong

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July is a frantic month for the two billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos racing to kick off space tourism, with Richard Branson’s SpaceShipTwo set to launch on Sunday with the British entrepreneur on board just days ahead of rival and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in his rocket. Branson’s extraterrestrial venture, Virgin Galactic, will send its space plane into sub-orbital flight on Sunday morning, aimed at reaching 55 miles above Earth at its peak altitude. The flight is due to occur just nine days before Bezos makes his long-awaited debut launch into space on his rocket, New Shepard – named for Alan Shepard, the first American astronaut in space – manufactured by Bezos’s company Blue Origin. Branson has sought to send a rocket into space since he founded Virgin Galactic in 2004 and aspires to create an “orbital hotel”. The company plans to launch two additional flights before commercial service begins in 2022. Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, along with fellow billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s SpaceX, are competing head-to-head in the emerging business of space tourism, though Musk has a big head start – Virgin Galactic to launch space plane with Richard Branson on board (The Guardian UK edition News Science)

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UK businessman Sir Richard Branson is about to realise a lifetime’s ambition by flying to the edge of space. “I’ve wanted to go to space since I was a kid, and I want to enable hopefully hundreds of thousands of other people over the next 100 years to be able to go to space,” Sir Richard told the BBC. “And why shouldn’t they go to space? Space is extraordinary; the Universe is magnificent. I want people to be able to look back at our beautiful Earth and come home and work very hard to try to do magic to it to look after it.” Sir Richard says he has spoken to Jeff Bezos on the phone and they have wished each other well in their space endeavours. On Friday, Mr Bezos’s Blue Origin space company issued a tweet that took a pop at Virgin Galactic’s Unity vehicle. The posting repeated a claim that anyone who flew on the rocket plane would forever have an asterisk by their name because they wouldn’t reach the “internationally recognised” altitude for where space begins – the so-called Kármán line of 100km – Sir Richard Branson: Space flight will be ‘extraordinary’ (BBC News Science & Environment)

Simon Gough, 63, thought National Savings & Investments would be the safest place to deposit £250,000 belonging to his mother, who has moved into a care home. Three months later the cheques have been cashed, but the money is nowhere to be seen. Gough, from Stafford, has power of attorney for Joyce, who is 95, allowing him to make financial decisions on her behalf. In October last year he arranged the sale of her house in Lichfield, Staffordshire, and in April opened two accounts with NS&I, the government-owned savings bank, to deposit the proceeds – ‘NS&I kept hold of mum’s £250,000 for 3 months’ (The Sunday Times)

Plans to phase out Premium Bonds prize cheques – known as prize warrants – were first announced in September 2020, but the move was put on hold months later, in December. NS&I did point out that the vast majority of Premium Bonds prizes are paid directly into customers’ bank accounts, or are automatically reinvested into more Premium Bonds. In the June 2021 Premium Bonds prize draw, nearly nine out of ten prizes were paid in either of these two ways. NS&I Chief Executive, Ian Ackerley, said last month: “We have responded to feedback from some of our customers and we have decided to retain the option for them to receive Premium Bonds prizes through the post.” “Customers who want to have their Premium Bonds prizes paid directly to their bank accounts or have their prizes reinvested, do not need to choose to manage their NS&I accounts online or over the phone, and our customer service teams will be on hand to help if they require further assistance.” Recently, following the release of the July 2021 Premium Bonds prize draw results, NS&I suggested some winners may be able to get their Premium Bonds prizes “faster”. Encouraging people to shift to either get prizes paid directly into their bank account, or be automatically reinvested into more Premium Bonds, NS&I said prize warrant recipients could opt to “get them paid more quickly, more easily and more securely” – NS&I explains how savers can ‘get Premium Bonds prizes faster’ after U-turn (Express Personal Finance)

Ministers have been urged to intervene in tobacco giant Philip Morris’s £1 billion takeover of the lung treatments specialist Vectura. The US-listed Marlboro maker last week agreed a 150p-a-share deal to buy Vectura. The company, based in Wiltshire, makes inhalers to treat asthma and respiratory diseases — conditions often exacerbated by smoking. Big tobacco’s approach has prompted outrage among politicians. Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said it was “totally wrong” that Philip Morris would seek to profit from conditions such as asthma and serious lung disease. “[It] has done absolutely nothing positive for people’s health, and instead has done everything possible to try and stop governments passing anti-smoking legislation,” he said – Philip Morris takeover of Vectura: Marlboro Man’s ‘health hypocrisy’ sparks outrage (The Sunday Times)

Summarised by SMMRY.

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