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Movement of Cosmos satellite didn’t violate intl law, posed no threat – Moscow

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The movement of the Cosmos-2542 satellite, a matter over which the US has expressed concern, posed no threat and did not violate international law, Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Monday. It added that the continuing propaganda campaign against Russia is aimed “at masking Washington’s destructive actions, which are provoking an arms race in outer space and transforming space into a new field of military confrontation.”

US Space Force Commander Gen. John Raymond said on February 11 that the United States had notified Russia through diplomatic channels that it was concerned by an incident in which Russian satellites had allegedly approached a US one.

The Russian ministry also said on Monday that currently, there is no alternative –nor can there be one– to the Russian-Chinese proposal to develop an international, legally binding instrument to keep space free from weapons of any kind.

February 17th 2020, 9:47 am

'Chechenophobic:' Clueless Czech PM Babis upsets Grozny with snobbish reaction to name confusion

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What do you call a prime minister who doesn't know the name of his country? Well, it appears the answer is Andrej Babis, the billionaire premier of Czechia.

He erroneously believed he was governing 'the Czech Republic,' until he discovered the truth during a Wall Street Journal interview.

In 2016, the previous Prague government agreed to make Czechia the official short name of the country, and since then, the United Nations and the European Union have officially used the new designation. Google Maps and other cartography services have also fallen into line.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Babis said: "I didn't know this. I don't like it at all. It's because then you will confuse Czechia, Chechnya, I don't know. I don't like this. We are the Czech Republic. We are Czechs. And I don't know who came up with such a stupid idea. Crazy."

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While the incident occurred last March, it's now beginning to make waves in Chechnya. The minister of national policy and external relations and information of the Muslim Republic, Dzhambulat Umarov, is especially unhappy.

He told radio station 'Moscow Talks' that Babis' comments were to "please the Russophobic and Chechenophobic public in the West." Umarov spoke about the history of the Chechen Republic during the Napoleonic War, and continued: "The language of ultimatums or threats is alien to Chechens. It makes us laugh. You don't have to be a great historian to know how such trips ended for those who called us "Czechs." He was apparently referring to Genghis Khan's Golden Horde, which appeared in the region long before it became part of Russia. 

The minister concluded: "I can reassure [Babis] with the words: let [the Czechs] not worry. They are very far from the Chechens. The Chechen people will not worry much if someone finds it distasteful to call themselves Chechens."

Babis is not the only one to note a similarity between Czechia and Chechnya. In 2016, as the change was happening, then-Czech minister of regional development Karla Slechtova tweeted: "I disagree with the name 'Czechia.' I don't want people to confuse our country with Chechnya."

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February 17th 2020, 9:32 am

New secret weapon against Parkinson’s might actually be… COUGH SYRUP?

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New research indicates that a common treatment for coughs and respiratory illnesses, discovered over 50 years ago, may prove to be the secret weapon which could halt the progression of Parkinson’s disease.

A clinical trial of Ambroxol, an active ingredient in cough medicines since the 1970s, has just concluded with some truly staggering results. Some 17 patients were given a daily dose over a six-month period and noticed a halt in the progression of symptoms of the syndrome as well as some modest improvements in their motor function.

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The drug successfully crossed the blood-brain barrier and was well-tolerated by patients living with Parkinson’s. Researchers say the breakthrough could prove to be a major development in the fight against the debilitating disease.

“The ambroxol study is important because there are no treatments available for Parkinson’s that slow, stop, or reverse [it]” explained Simon Stott, deputy director of research at the Cure Parkinson’s Trust.

All of the current medications only deal with the symptoms of the condition – they do nothing to delay the progression of Parkinson’s.

The researchers also wanted to assess whether the drug would have any negative interactions with patients who had GBA1 mutations, considered a highly important genetic risk factor which predisposes people to the earlier and more rapid onset of symptoms.  

This mutation inhibits the releases of GCase proteins which clean up our brain tissues and prevent the build-up of another protein, alpha-synuclein, which is believed to be the main culprit behind cognitive degeneration in Parkinson’s. 

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The research backs up previous human and animal studies in showing that ambroxol can increase GCase proteins in cerebrospinal fluid by about 35 percent while simultaneously reducing alpha-synuclein levels. 

Scientists will delve deeper into these neuroprotective effects in the near future as funding was just announced last week for a much larger, longer study called PD-Frontline which is already accepting applications.

While it’s early days yet, and more data from larger trials are needed, the results are already highly promising in the battle against the long-term degenerative disorder. 

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February 17th 2020, 9:17 am

Suicide bomber kills at least 10 people in southwest Pakistan

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An explosion has rocked a rally in Quetta, southwest of Pakistan, killing at least ten people and injuring many others.

The blast in the Balochistan province capital happened as demonstrators gathered outside the local Press Club on Monday. A suicide bomber set off a device near a police vehicle; two police officers are among the victims.

Medics told Reuters that they had “received ten bodies so far and 35 injured in Civil Hospital” after the incident.

Video footage from the scene shows motorcycle torn apart by the blast and damaged vehicles nearby.

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February 17th 2020, 9:17 am

First Russian citizen diagnosed with coronavirus on board cruise ship in Japan

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The Russian Embassy in Tokyo did not receive an evacuation request from the Russian national stranded on the Diamond Princess Cruise ship, diagnosed earlier with the COVID-19 coronavirus.

“There were no evacuation requests, either from the infected Russian national, or from the rest of Russian nationals aboard the ship. The infected woman is expected to be hospitalized in Japan,” the embassy said. There was no information yet on where the woman would be hospitalized, TASS reported.

This is the first confirmed coronavirus case among Russian nationals. Earlier on Monday, the Japanese medics registered 99 new coronavirus cases at the ship, while the total number of the infected aboard increased to 454.

February 17th 2020, 9:02 am

Just Free Prostitutes:’ Controversial Russian priest equates ‘common-law wives’ to unpaid sex worker

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A senior Russian clergyman has come under fire after he publicly compared unmarried women cohabiting with partners to ‘ladies of the night.’ Despite predictable outrage, Dmitry Smirnov is in no mood to back down.

“Our women do not understand what marriage is. They are reluctant to say, ‘I am a free prostitute’ so they say: ‘I have a common-law marriage,’” he said, at an event with members of the Orthodox community OrthodoxBRO.

“Hello! No, you just provide services for free – and that’s all, and no one counts you as their wife.”

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The Archpriest continued by explaining that, in Russia, there are millions more married women than married men. “How can this be?” he questioned; “it’s very simple. Those men whose women say that they are in a common-law marriage, do not consider their partner to be a wife – just a moment of temporary joy. Because if he treated her like a wife – well, is it difficult to register [the marriage officially], or what?”

The comments caused many strong reactions around Russia, with various politicians and other well-known personalities making public statements.

The Chairperson of the Russian Women’s Union Ekaterina Lakhova told news agency RIA Novosti that Smirnov's "stupid insult" was "ugly" and "wrong," and said that the focus should not be on marriage, but creating a "family."

Oksana Pushkina, deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee on Family, Women, and Children, wrote on her Telegram channel that it is "especially unpleasant" to listen to Smirnov's words, calling him the Orthodox Church's "most odious representative."

The reaction from some people within the church itself has also been negative. Episcope [Bishop] Savva, Vicar of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, called the Archpriest's words "insulting" and "unacceptable." Vladimir Legoyda, who works for the Orthodox Church as a spokesman, wrote that the Archpriest's comments were merely "unsuccessful trolling.”

It’s not the first time that Smirnov, known for his brash and insulting comments, has sparked mass ire. Most famously, in February 2019, he called abortions “mass murder” and “worse than the Holocaust.”

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February 17th 2020, 9:02 am

N. Macedonia MPs dissolve parliament after France’s veto on EU accession talks

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North Macedonia’s MPs have voted to dissolve parliament ahead of an early election. The voting on April 12 will take place eight months before the normal expiration of the parliament’s four-year term.

All major political parties agreed on Sunday to the early election proposed by then PM Zoran Zaev after France, supported by Denmark and the Netherlands, vetoed the opening of accession talks between the European Union and North Macedonia, AP reported. A caretaker government of technicians was installed in early January to ensure a free and fair vote.

Zaev had voiced “disappointment and outrage” over the EU decision. However, France insisted its aim was to overhaul the accession process and not dispute North Macedonia’s suitability. Earlier this month, the European Commission proposed an overhaul in the process of adding new members, in a bid to remove France’s objections to opening talks with Albania and North Macedonia.

The commission is hoping a breakthrough on accession talks can be achieved in March. The bloc also has a major summit in the Western Balkans planned for May.

February 17th 2020, 8:47 am

American taekwondo superstars Steven and Jean Lopez accused of sexual assault by 'dozens' of women

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Olympic taekwondo brothers Steven and Jean Lopez are facing renewed allegations of sexual assault, including from a woman who came forward to claim that she was raped by Steven and two of his friends several years ago.

Audrey-Ann LeBlanc told The Daily Beast that she was sexually assaulted by Steven Lopez, along with two of his companions, in 2010 following a regional taekwondo tournament in Dallas, Texas, and alleges that she was drugged after accepting an alcoholic beverage from the three-time Olympic medalist.

"I began to have a feeling that something very bad was going to happen," she said of the incident, recalling that she was unable to move freely because of what she believes was a spiked drink.

Steven Lopez and at least one of his companions raped her soon after, she alleges, before she woke up in a state of undress in her own hotel room.

Amber Means, a member of the junior USA Taekwondo team, also says that Lopez raped her by using a similar method two years prior. 

"It wasn’t an, 'Ooh, I feel queasy feeling,'" she said, detailing the effects of a drink she was given by Lopez. "'I was lucid and then it all went dark."

Steven and Jean Lopez pictured in 2004. © Getty Images

When she questioned Lopez the next day, she says he told her that they had consensual sex, after which he left and returned to see another man having sex with her. When Means suggested that this was gang-rape, Lopez allegedly told her that she "looked alright" to him.

Mandy Meloon, another former taekwondo participant, also claims that she was molested by Jean Lopez in 2006 when she was 16 years old. She also claims to have been raped by Steven Lopez and says that she was put off from contacting authorities for fear that she wouldn't be believed, however she says she did inform USA Taekwondo and the US Center for SafeSport.

There are several further such allegations by numerous women.

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In January 2019, an arbitration hearing ruled in favor of Jean Lopez after he had been temporarily banned from coaching after being found by SafeSport to have taken part in a "decades-long pattern of sexual misconduct" involving "younger female athletes". Steven Lopez had a similar ban expunged a month beforehand. 

"Given the number of incidents reported over a span of several years and by multiple reporting parties, most of whom have no reasonable motive to fabricate an allegation – much less multiple, distinct incidents – of misconduct, the totality of the circumstances clearly shows a recurrent pattern of behavior on the part of Jean," SafeSport wrote of Jean Lopez in their 2018 ruling.

Both Lopez brothers have denied the allegations against them.

February 17th 2020, 8:47 am

Chinese stocks reverse losses amid new government measures to lift markets

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Chinese markets have rallied after Beijing rolled out new stimulus measures to offset the economic losses caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The Shanghai Composite started the week in the green, gaining 2.28 percent, while the Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index added 0.58 percent, hitting the highest level in almost four weeks on Monday. Meanwhile, the benchmark CSI 300 Index, which reflects the performance of top 300 stocks traded on the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges, closed up 2.25 percent.

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Monday’s rally reversed the steep plunge two weeks ago, when Chinese stock markets suffered their biggest sell-offs in years. However, the main indices are still far below their highs of last year.

China’s market recovery also drove main European indices up slightly from 0.2 to 0.4 percent, with the pan-European STOXX 600 Index touching a record high of 432.48 on Monday. Automobile stocks were leading the gains as the industry is highly sensitive to the situation in the Chinese economy and the country is a vital part of the supply chain for carmakers around the globe.

As part of Beijing’s efforts to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the Chinese economy, the central bank cut the interest rate of its medium-term lending facility (MLF) loans by 10 basis points. The move paved the way for a reduction in the loan prime rate, which is expected to be announced later this week.

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Last week, China’s Ministry of Finance pledged to issue 8 billion yuan ($1.15 billion) in funds for virus prevention and control efforts. As of Friday, finance authorities at all levels had allocated 90.15 billion yuan in support.

Despite the number of new cases slowing, the novel coronavirus infected around 71,000 people globally and the death toll reached almost 1,800 people on Monday.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT's business section

February 17th 2020, 8:17 am

Russia to export beef to Brazil for first time

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Major Russian meat producer Miratorg has announced that the first delivery of 13 tons of beef will soon be supplied to Brazil. The company says the product will be distributed among the country's hotel chains and restaurants.

“The company’s strategy is aimed at increasing exports of high value-added products that are competitive in price and in demand on global markets,” said Miratorg’s President Victor Linnik, as quoted by the company’s press service. He noted that Miratorg takes into account the peculiarities of food culture in importing countries when planning future supplies.

Miratorg supplies meat to almost 30 countries, including the Persian Gulf, Southeast Asia, Africa, the Eurasian Customs Union and the CIS.

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The company says it provides “100 percent quality and safety, due to our complete ‘from the field to the fridge’ production cycle.” It offers consumers more than 3,000 different own-brand products, including marbled beef, pasture-fed beef, pork, chicken, stewed meat, burgers, frozen ready meals, vegetables, berries, mushrooms, and ready-to-eat food.

In 2019, the company produced more than 137,000 tons of beef.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT's business section

February 17th 2020, 8:17 am

Russia will support Syria's fight against terrorism in Idlib despite Trump's calls to stop it – Krem

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Moscow has vowed to continue its fight against terrorism in Syria's Idlib province alongside Damascus, even though this doesn't fit with Washington's vision for resolving the crisis.

Both the Russian Armed Forces and the country's advisers will "support the Syrian Arab Republic armed forces in their fight against terrorism," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in a briefing on February 17.

Referring to escalating terrorist attacks in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, he said that the Russian government "still regrets that these terrorists have revitalized in Idlib."

The statement follows US President Donald Trump's recent call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during which Trump "expressed concern over the violence in Idlib." He also praised "Turkey's efforts to prevent a humanitarian crisis" in the province, and hoped that Russia would stop supporting the Assad government, according to Deputy White House Press Secretary Judd Deere.

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Tensions in the Idlib de-escalation zone have been steadily rising in recent weeks. On February 3, a Turkish armed convoy came under artillery fire, leaving five dead as a result. The tragedy occurred when the Syrian Army was conducting an operation against terrorists in the area, and was not notified of the convoy's movements, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

Ankara retaliated, firing on known Syrian Army positions, and sending additional troops into the de-escalation zone 10 days later. In response to the troop surge, Damascus officially recognized the Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Empire. 

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February 17th 2020, 7:47 am

‘Blame it on Hamas’: IDF posts bathroom selfie of young woman, Twitter laughs at claims it's part of

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The IDF posted what appeared to be a bathroom selfie of a young woman on its social media accounts and, while it claimed the posts were actually part of some online 4D chess with Hamas, many on Twitter simply weren’t buying it.

According to the Israeli military, the steamy selfie was, in fact, part of Operation Rebound, a joint effort between the IDF and the Shin Bet security service to take down a sophisticated ‘catfishing’ campaign by arch nemesis Hamas.

Apparently, it was the third such cyberattack by Hamas, who tricked horny IDF servicemen into downloading spyware onto their phones by posing as young Israeli women on social media, promising to send nudes. 

The IDF does not believe Hamas gained any significant intelligence, though it admitted it will be checking the phones of all troops targeted as a precaution. The number of affected devices is reportedly in the “low hundreds.”

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However, the IDF’s attempt at edgy social media posting backfired entirely as a quick-witted Twitter user twisted it in a clever cover-up quip that has racked up over 20,000 likes.

“Have you ever just logged into the wrong account and blamed it on Hamas,” Maxi Gothling wrote.

The joke sparked a flood of replies neatly summarizing the situation and alluding to the IDF’s actions in Palestine.

The head of the IDF’s operational security department, known only as Col. “Resh,” said the IDF expects Hamas to try similar subterfuge again in the future.

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February 17th 2020, 7:16 am

US openly paves way for INF-banned missiles to be placed in Europe & Asia – Lavrov

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Just out of a milestone nuclear missile accord, the US is about to deploy short- and intermediate-range missiles in Europe and Asia, prompting Moscow to engage France and other partners to preserve security on the continent.

"In order to agree on specific solutions, we need multilateral talks and multilateral consultations involving, of course, the United States, who destroyed the treaty," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday, referring to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

This pact saw Washington and Moscow eliminate entire classes of ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and missile launchers capable of carrying nukes back in the 1980s.

Now, they are actively creating the prerequisites for the deployment of these previously banned weapons in Europe, and indeed in Asia, they don't hide it.

Japan, South Korea and some "Pacific islands" are the likeliest locations for these deployments, Lavrov noted.

DETAILS TO FOLLOW

February 17th 2020, 6:31 am

Indian court upholds death sentence for infamous ‘Nirbhaya’ rape convicts, sets execution for March

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The men convicted of the rape and murder of a young student in 2012 will be executed in early March, an Indian court has ruled, striking down efforts to have their death sentences commuted.

Four of the men found guilty of carrying out the heinous crime will hang on March 3, the court ruled. A lawyer for one of the death row convicts said his client, Vinay Kumar Sharma, suffers from mental illness and should be spared. The judge rejected the last-minute plea – a decision which reportedly elicited applause from spectators in the courtroom.

The convicts are part of a group of men convicted of raping and murdering of a young student on a bus, who later became known as Nirbhaya (“fearless” in Hindi), in 2012. The men were sentenced to death a year later, but remained in prison for some eight years before authorities finally set their execution for January 22. However, last minute appeals have dragged out their executions.

The mother of the murdered girl told local media that she was satisfied with the decision and hoped that the executions would finally take place.

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February 17th 2020, 6:31 am

'I'm used to running in paddy fieIds': Indian star 'faster than Usain Bolt' REJECTS athletics trial

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Srinivasa Gowda, who went viral last week after video emerged which appeared to show him running 100 meters in world record-breaking time, says he won't accept an invitation from the Indian government to attend athletics trials.

Gowda, 28, is a star in Kambala, a sport where competitors sprint through paddy fields with buffalo, and local reports suggested that he covered 100 meters in a time which would rival the world record set by Usain Bolt more than a decade ago.

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He is said to have finished the 140-meter race in a time of 13.42 seconds, which would translate to a time of 9.55 seconds in 100 meters. Bolt's record currently stands at 9.58 seconds. 

Gowda's star has risen in his homeland since the reports, with the Sports Authority of India inviting him to participate in national sprint trials - but it seems the hectic life led by a Kambala practitioner has ruled out any dreams he may have had of raising aloft Olympic gold in the 100 meters.

"I have injured my leg and my focus is on Kambala. I am used to running with buffalo in the paddy fields," he said to BBC Hindi. 

He also reflected on the differences between the two athletic pursuits, also referencing the elephant - or buffalo - in the room.

"In Kambala race, heels play an important role whereas it is toes in a track race. Not just jockeys, but even buffaloes have a role to play in Kambala. In track race, this is not the case," he said to TNIE.

Professor Gunapala Kambada of the Kambala Academy also indicated that it was a "great honor" for Gowda to be invited to take part in the athletics trials but the current Kambala schedule simply won't allow it.

"The problem is that he has Kambala [races] on the next three Saturdays," he said. "That is a commitment that he cannot go back on under any circumstances. So we are not rejecting the offer. Maybe he can go for trials at a later stage."

February 17th 2020, 6:31 am

The way Messi 'takes care of himself' means he’ll be playing until he’s at least 38, says Barcelona

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Lionel Messi has been giving defenders around the world sleepless nights for the past decade and that will continue for at least five more years according to his former teammate, Barcelona legend Carles Puyol.

Messi, 32, has been traumatizing defenses since bursting onto the scene with Barcelona as a teenager, and is fast approaching the 700-goal mark for club and country.

Some have seen signs of the Argentine maestro slowing down this season as he has endured a unusually lengthy drought of four games without a goal for the Catalans – although he has registered six assists in that time.

© AFLO / Global Look Press

But anyone hoping for a reduction in output from the prolific frontman will be left disappointed, according to former Barca skipper Puyol, 41, who won the Champions League title three times alongside Messi.

The Spanish World Cup winner says that the current Barcelona captain’s complete devotion to his craft means that he can continue playing until he is at least 38.

"Messi is 32 and a player who takes care of himself like Leo does can play until he's 38," Puyol said, Marca reported.

Messi and Puyol won a haul of trophies during their tiem together. © Global Look Press

Puyol also dismissed recent speculation that Messi could quit Barca – a club he has been at since age 12 – following an ugly recent social media spat with sporting director Eric Abidal.

A host of European clubs will have been licking their lips at the prospect of enticing the number 10 away from the Nou Camp for the twilight of his career, although Puyol believes that for the time being at least he will remain in Spain.

"Why are we talking about a Barcelona without Messi when he's here now? What we have to do is try to win as much as possible with him," Puyol said.

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While Messi’s goal output has waned since the turn of the year, that of his perennial rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, has shot up.

The Portuguese forward has netted 10 goals in six games since the start of the year, showing no sign of slowing down despite turning 35.

So with Puyol’s assertions that Messi will stick around until he’s 38, and Ronaldo likely to be here for a few more years yet, defenders will have to wait a little longer before sleeping more soundly.  

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February 17th 2020, 5:57 am

Macau allows casinos to resume work from February 20 after suspension over virus fear

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Macau, the world’s biggest gambling hub, will allow casinos to resume operations from February 20, after authorities imposed a two-week suspension to curb spreading of the coronavirus, authorities said on Monday, according to public broadcaster TDM.

The government has told casino operators they have 30 days to go back to full business, health officials say.

The unprecedented halt of gaming operations started on February 5 and was due to end on February 19. Macau has not reported any new cases of the virus since February 4, officials said. There have been 10 confirmed cases of the virus in total.

Government services, which had mostly been suspended since the start of February, gradually resumed operations this week but authorities cautioned that residents needed to remain vigilant, Reuters said.

February 17th 2020, 5:57 am

Gunmen in Burkina Faso kill 24 Christians, Muslims, kidnap 3 in attack near church – report

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Gunmen have killed 24 men, including a church pastor, and kidnapped three others in Burkina Faso, AP reported, citing an official. The attack on Sunday was the latest in a series  against a religious leader in the increasingly unstable West African nation.

The mayor of Boundore commune, Sihanri Osangola Brigadie, said the attack occurred in the town of Pansy in Yagha province. The roughly 20 attackers separated men from women close to a Protestant church. At least 10 other people were injured.

The gunmen reportedly looted oil and rice from shops and forced the three youth they kidnapped to help transport it on their motorbikes.

Both Christians and Muslims were killed before the church was set on fire, according to a government security official.

February 17th 2020, 5:44 am

Head of India’s IT industry accuses US of labor rights discrimination

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The president of India’s National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom), Debjani Ghosh, has accused Donald Trump’s government of discriminating against Indian workers seeking H-1B visas to work in the US.

“We’re at a loss trying to figure out why we’re seeing the kind of discrimination when this is actually benefiting the US,” Ghosh said, as quoted by the Financial Times. He argued that Indian workers help to fill a vital skills gap.

Ghosh’s accusations come ahead of the US president’s visit to India this month. He has asked for a meeting with the Trump delegation.

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Nasscom represents nearly 3,000 companies, including leading IT firms such as Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services, and Wipro. The trade association says that most H-1B visas are actually taken by US firms such as Microsoft or Amazon, and that they enjoy higher approval ratings than the Indian companies.

Nasscom is lobbying to treat the movement of skilled Indian workers under the H-1B scheme as a trade issue, not an immigration one.

“We just have one request to [our] government, which is… talk to him, make him understand the importance of high-skilled talent mobility,” Ghosh said, referring to Trump.

“We have to ensure that he understands that this cannot be treated the same way as immigration, they’re two different things. That’s our biggest ask.”

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The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ skilled foreign workers in specialized fields such as  IT, finance, accounting, architecture, engineering, mathematics, science, and medicine. Such visas are issued for a limited number of years.

The Trump administration has been raising concerns over what it calls the abuse of the H-1B scheme by foreign IT companies; it has issued tougher requirements for obtaining work permits, such as prioritizing applicants with US degrees.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT's business section

February 17th 2020, 5:27 am

Israeli aircraft flies over Sudan for 1st time amid ‘warming ties’ – Netanyahu

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An Israeli aircraft has flown through Sudanese airspace for the first time, according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He described the development as another example of warming ties with formally hostile states.

Israel remains technically at war with Sudan, which supported hardline Islamists – including, for a period, Al-Qaeda – during the rule of president Omar al-Bashir, AFP said. Bashir was ousted by the army last April following months of mass anti-government demonstrations.

“The first Israeli airplane passed yesterday over the skies of Sudan. This is quite a change,” Netanyahu told American Jewish leaders in Jerusalem on Sunday evening. He did not offer  further details. An Israeli government official, cited by Haaretz daily, said the plane was “a private Israeli executive jet.”

Netanyahu met Sudan’s leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan two weeks ago for what the Israeli premier's office described talks aimed at normalizing ties.

February 17th 2020, 5:27 am

Moscow ready to assist Italian firms in localizing production in Russia – Foreign Ministry

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The Russian government will help Italian companies operating in the country to deal with losses resulting from Western sanctions, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said.

Sanctions targeting Moscow have hurt Russian-Italian trade; bilateral turnover has halved from $53.8 billion in 2013 to $26.9 billion in 2018, Russia’s top diplomat said in an interview with the Italian daily La Stampa. Meanwhile, Italian producers lost nearly $2 billion due to restrictions and there are still many entrepreneurs unwilling to leave the Russian market, according to Lavrov.

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“We are ready to assist your companies in the transition from predominantly deliveries of ‘made in Italy’ products to the Russian market, to production cooperation based on the principle of ‘made with Italy’ with an emphasis on the localization of production in Russia,” the foreign minister explained.

Italy is one of Russia’s major trade partners after China, Germany, the Netherlands and Belarus, and about 500 Italian companies operating in the country.

“Italy was, is, and will remain [our] strategic European partner on all fronts,” Russia’s Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov said last Friday, when he met with Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio at the Russian-Italian Council on Economic, Industrial, Currency and Financial Cooperation. 

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For more stories on economy & finance visit RT's business section

February 17th 2020, 5:15 am

Armed bog roll bandits busted in $220 Hong Kong heist amid coronavirus shortages

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With Hong Kong gripped by shortages amid the coronavirus chaos, an armed gang ambushed a supermarket delivery driver and stole 600 rolls of toilet paper at knifepoint.

As the Covid-19 crisis worsens, many residents in Hong Kong have begun stockpiling toilet paper, cleaning products and basic foods, amid fears of shortages. In particular, authorities have pleaded with the public to not stockpile toilet paper in their homes as it could grow mouldy given the high humidity in the city.

However, the prospect of rationing toilet roll proved too grim for the knife-wielding gang, who held up the delivery truck and swiped HK$1,700 (nearly $220) worth of the coveted goods. Two of the gang were later caught and arrested by police and the entire stash of toilet paper was recovered. Authorities are still hunting the third thief. 

So far, there have been at least 57 coronavirus cases confirmed in Hong Kong. In mainland China the death toll has reached over 1,700, with approximately 70,000 cases confirmed.

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February 17th 2020, 4:56 am

New Delhi summons Turkish envoy after Erdogan criticizes India's 'unilateral' action in Kashmir

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New Delhi has issued a forceful response to the Turkish ambassador in the country, following incendiary remarks by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about India's policies in the disputed Kashmir region.

India reportedly presented a "strong demarche" to Turkish Ambassador Sakir Ozkan Torunlar on Monday, and warned that Erdogan's comments during his recent visit to Pakistan will have "strong implications" for bilateral ties.

Announcing the move, a spokesman for the India's Ministry of External Affairs said that Erdogan's allegation about "unilateral steps" being taken in Kashmir reflect "neither an understanding of history nor of the conduct of diplomacy," local media reported.

Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said that the incident serves as “one more example of a pattern of Turkey interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.” He stressed that New Delhi considers the remarks “unacceptable” and accused Ankara of repeated attempts at justifying the alleged “cross-border terrorism” carried out by Pakistan.

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February 17th 2020, 4:15 am

Gangster-climate ally? Greta gets flamed for posing with crime-glamorizing rapper (PHOTO)

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Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has exposed herself to intense internet mockery after posing with a controversial Swedish rapper who purportedly spent several years in prison.

The musical artist, 1.Cuz, performed at Thunberg's recent "Fridays for Future" rally in central Stockholm. Known for always wearing a mask and keeping his real identity a secret, 1.Cuz raps about crime, drugs and his hatred of the cops.

In a recent interview with Swedish media, the rapper reportedly revealed that he had served two years in prison for a "serious" crime – but did not go into specifics. According to local media reports, the rapper was invited to perform at the rally in the hope of bolstering attendance.

Following the event, 1.Cuz shared a photo of himself with his arm around Thunberg. True to form, the rapper is wearing a gray balaclava – as an unmasked Greta smiles at the camera.

"An unexpected friendship," read the photograph's caption.
While it's unclear whether the pair are actually friends, many Swedes found the photo op to be ridiculous and inappropriate.

One Instragram user jokingly asked whether it was Greta who requested the photograph, "or if it was the grown man with a mask" who insisted on the photo op.

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Several others mockingly retooled Thunberg's famous catchphrase, "How dare you!" to show their disapproval.

A disenchanted tweet noted that the Swedish activist had posed with a “convicted rapper who is promoting the lifestyle of drugs, gangs and shootings in his music.”

Thunberg found herself in hot water in August after she posed with a group of masked “left-wing extremists” in Germany. The eco-activists reportedly have a long history with police, leaving some to question Thunberg’s association with the group.

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February 17th 2020, 4:15 am

Hiding slums ahead of Trump visit portrays him as EMPEROR & shows Indians' 'SLAVE MENTALITY' – newsp

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An Indian Hindu party has lashed out at government plans to hide slums behind a wall along the route Donald Trump's motorcade will take during his visit, likening preparations to those for British royals during colonial times.

Authorities in Ahmedabad are planning to erect a wall that would make local slums invisible for Trump and his entourage once they arrive in the city on February 24. The US president is set to attend a roadshow with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and will inaugurate a new cricket stadium.

However, the preparations have unnerved members of Shiv Sena, a Marathi Hindu nationalist party, whose mouthpiece newspaper hit out at the plans to hide poverty.

Such efforts portray the visiting US president as "badshah," or an emperor, the paper pointed out.

"Before independence, [the] British King or Queen used to visit one of their slave nations like India. The kind of preparations going on from taxpayers' money for the arrival of Trump is similar to it. This reflects the slave mentality of Indians," read an editorial in 'Saamana.'

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"We have heard Trump is going to be in Ahmedabad for only three hours but the wall construction is costing almost Rs100 crore [$1.5 million] to the state exchequer," the paper stated.

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February 17th 2020, 3:56 am

Toxic dump: First-world electronics scrapyard in Ghana puts THOUSANDS at risk of cancer

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Ghana has become one of the world's largest dumping grounds for electronic waste, creating a deadly industry that has put thousands at risk of cancer and could result in a multi-generational health crisis.

The electronics scrapyard near Ghana's capital, Accra, has left the surrounding region contaminated with hazardous toxins that have polluted the environment and created serious health problems for residents. According to one estimate, around 200,000 tons of the globe's discarded electronics find their way to one slum in Accra – the equivalent weight of more than one thousand blue whales.

The enormous dump is a primary source of income for many laborers, who pick through mountains of discarded electronics and melt them down for metals such as iron and brass. The extraction process is highly dangerous, releasing toxins into the air that have been linked to a host of serious environmental and health problems, including chronic pain, stillbirths, widespread pollution, and damage to the food chain.

Workers explained to Ruptly that they suffer from a range of ailments, noting that smoke from the fires used to burn the electronics causes chest pains – as well as debilitating headaches.
A study conducted by environmental network groups, IPEN and the Basel Action Network, found that long-term exposure to the hazardous fumes could lead to serious health problems, including cancer or harm to the immune and neurological systems.

The researchers also discovered that the deadly toxins have already entered the food chain. Chickens that forage near the highly contaminated soil around the massive dump have absorbed the waste into their systems – exposing humans who eat them, or their eggs, to serious health risks. The pollutants have also been detected in breast milk, meaning that the toxins are being passed on to the workers' children.

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Facing environmental and health problems that could easily span generations, locals told Ruptly that they are desperate for a solution. Unfortunately, there is no sign that the massive dump is going anywhere.

"The scrapyard growth and the amount of the e-waste... is increasing year-to-year; so, if nothing will be done, the problem will only be bigger and a larger population can be affected by the overall contamination of the site and its surroundings," Jindrich Petrlik, a co-author of the environmental study, told Ruptly.

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February 17th 2020, 3:45 am

My goodness! Hindu god Shiva to have 1st-ever RESERVED seat on Indian train flagged off by Modi

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Indian Railways has allocated a special berth for the almighty Shiva on its sleeper train – launched by the prime minister – that will connect three holy cities in an unorthodox attempt to boost pilgrimage tourism.

From now on, the Hindu god will have seat 64 reserved for him on Kashi Mahakal Express, which was launched on Sunday by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The train set out from the ancient holy city of Varanasi in the state of Uttar Pradesh, heading for two other major Hindu sites.

The vacant berth, heavily decorated with garlands and pictures of Lord Shiva himself, is actually a small Hindu temple set up in a sleeper coach. But its presence is intended to remind passengers that the god is somewhere nearby.

"It's the first time that a seat has been reserved and left vacant for the deity Lord Shiva," Northern Railways spokesperson Deepak Kumar told PTI. He said the company will decide on whether to keep seat 64 vacant forever.

Kashi Mahakal Express, which is India's first privately owned train, will cover 1,131km between Varanasi and Indore in Madhiya Pradesh via Lucknow in approximately 19 hours.

Intended to boost religious tourism, passengers on the express train will be offered only vegetarian cuisine, with light devotional music being played on board continually.

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February 17th 2020, 3:45 am

India considers export ban on critical drugs amid fears that coronavirus epidemic could lead to medi

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A dozen essential medicines could face export restrictions in India, as New Delhi braces itself for the possibility of drug shortages due to the deadly coronavirus outbreak in China.

An eight-member committee tasked with assessing the country’s medical preparedness in the wake of the epidemic has recommended placing an export ban on 12 drugs, mainly antibiotics, vitamins and hormones. The panel of experts also urged New Delhi to take measures to dissuade the public from creating artificial shortages through hoarding.

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India’s pharmaceutical industry previously raised concerns that the coronavirus epidemic could impact the supply of ingredients and drugs imported from China. A shortage of Chinese drugs would have an immediate effect on India’s pharmaceutical industry, as China accounted for some 68 percent of total imports for bulk drugs and ingredients in 2018-2019.

The virus has spread across the globe, infecting more than 70,000 people in mainland China alone. Around 1,700 people have died worldwide from the virus.

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February 17th 2020, 3:45 am

Huge blaze rips through Mumbai building, fears mount people may be TRAPPED inside (VIDEOS)

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A huge fire has erupted in a commercial building in downtown Mumbai. There are no reports of casualties so far but there are grave concerns that people may be trapped inside.

The city's fire department has already established a security cordon around the building and several fire tenders and crews are already on scene as first responders try to determine if people are trapped inside and how best to rescue them.

In eyewitness video from the scene, thick black smoke is spewing out of the top floors of the building after the blaze broke out around 12:42 local time. The eighth and ninth floors of the building have been gutted, but the fire has yet to spread to adjacent structures.

At least 16 fire engines and nine water tankers have been deployed to tackle the level four (major) fire.

The cause of the blaze has yet to be determined.

More as it happens

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February 17th 2020, 3:45 am

Trudeau scraps overseas trip after pipeline protesters BLOCK US-Canada bridge amid ongoing rail shut

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Canadian PM Justin Trudeau has cancelled his trip to Barbados after the protests against a gas pipeline that crosses indigenous land escalated, leading to major rail disruptions and a brief stop of traffic at the US-Canada border.

The threat of transport paralyses, that has become increasingly real after protesters against British Columbia's Coastal GasLink pipeline briefly shut down a key border crossing between the US and Canada on Sunday afternoon, forced Trudeau to called off his visit to Barbados, where he was supposed to drum up support for Canada’s UNSC bid on Monday.

The simmering conflict between the Wet’suwet’en nation’ and the central Canadian government that have since long locked horns over the gas pipeline that crosses the tribe’s territory in northern British Colombia flared up after armed police on February 10 swooped on Wet'suwet'en camp, arresting activists for blocking construction works. Nearly thirty people were nabbed in the raid, prompting widespread protests across the country, that resulted in major rail disruptions,  almost bringing the traffic to a halt.

The situation took a turn to the worse on Sunday, when dozens of activists swarmed the Canadian side of the Rainbow International Bridge in Niagara Falls, making it impassable for those wanting to enter the US via the famous tourist attraction for about an hour. In their bid to block the road, protesters formed a circle around the entrance to the passageway.

Protesters accuse the government of “invasion of the Wet’suwet’en Nation” and violating the rights of the indigenous people by preventing local reporters from accessing their lands, protest leader Sean Vanderklis told CTV News Toronto.

“We are asserting that we are sovereign and that we are capable of doing what they are capable of doing. If they are preventing people from coming in, we are going to prevent people from coming in.”

Trudeau who has been in Canada since Friday after an extended foreign tour with stops in Ethiopia, Kuwait, Senegal and Germany, is under fire for his government’s failure to resolve the conflict with indigenous chiefs over the pipeline, part of the mammoth $40-billion LNG Canada project in Kitimat.

His decision to cancel the trip comes shortly after Canada's Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller reported Saturday evening that only “modest progress” was reached in the talks, adding that “a lot more work to be done.”

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Trudeau’s office said Sunday that the PM would summon the Incident Response Group to discuss the transport crisis and to decide how to break the deadlock.

"Our priority remains the safety and security of all Canadians and the swift resolution of this issue to restore service across the rail system in accordance with the law," the statement read.

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February 16th 2020, 11:24 pm

Star City adventure: Take a sneak peek into India’s first space crew training in Russia

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Four astronauts chosen for India’s first manned space mission have started their training in Russia. The Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center has shared a few tantalizing details of the secretive program with RT.

India intends to send a crew into space in late 2021 or early 2022, aboard the vehicle called Gaganyaan ("Sky Vehicle"), as part of its push to join the elite club of space-going nations. New Delhi has taken up the issue in all seriousness and sent four carefully selected candidates to the GCTC in Star City, to learn from its vast experience in manned spaceflight. 

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The choice of venue is not surprising. The first – and so far, only – Indian astronaut in space, Rakesh Sharma, flew on board the Soviet Soyuz T-11 spaceship to the famous Salyut-7 space station in 1984. His backup, Ravish Malhotra, also trained at Star City but never went to space.

A very special training course

Details of the training program, including the identities of would-be astronauts, have been kept secret. Officials at the GCTC have been able to share only a few details with RT.

Located just outside Moscow, Star City is still humming with the spirit of early space age. Cosmonaut and astronaut trainees work under the portraits of Yuri Gagarin, the first man in orbit, and live in the same buildings where Aleksey Leonov trained to conduct a spacewalk, before becoming the first human to actually do so.

On average, Russian cosmonauts spend five years in training before they are considered ready to become a part of a space crew. The 12-month course the Indian astronauts have just embarked on is somewhat different – and not just because it is shorter. 

“This is a program specifically designed to [suit the needs of the Indian astronauts] and coordinated with the Indian side,” GCTC head Pavel Vlasov told RT, explaining that it involves an enhanced and advanced engineering course in addition to general space training and physical conditioning.

Over the year they will spend at Star City, the Indians are expected to master all the ins and outs of the Russian Soyuz spaceship that will make it much easier for them to eventually pilot the Gaganyaan. To do that, the space crew will also have to learn Russian, since all the on-board inscriptions and documentation inside the Soyuz are in Russian.

©  Roscosmos / Gagarin Research & Test Cosmonaut Training Center

The Russian specialists are doing their best to help the Indians in coping with the unenviable task of learning a new language within such a short period of time, without slowing down their training. The GCTC has professional interpreters and language tutors within its staff while most instructors have a good command of English as well, even though existing regulations say the training should be provided in Russian only.

Another challenge has been mastering the Russian cuisine. The Indian visitors – both the astronauts and the accompanying staff – have been dining at the GCTC cantina along with their Russian colleagues, and the food is quite different from what they are used to back home. They seem to have taken well to it, Vlasov says, adding that Star City cooks have also seen to the needs of their guests, including offering vegetarian meals and removing meat offerings – such as beef – that would be “unacceptable” to the Indians.

Surviving in winter: Taiga, steppe and sea

One of the most exciting parts of the training is a survival course, designed to teach the astronauts what they would need to do should their reentry vehicle land in some wilderness. Right now, the Indians are preparing to spend some time in the woods and swamps of the Moscow region, with only wild animals for company.

FILE PHOTO: Russian cosmonauts go through a winter forest survival training course - the same as Indians will have to face. ©  © Roscosmos / Gagarin Research & Test Cosmonaut Training Center

“First they go through classroom training, then practice, and only then they will be sent as part of two crews, with our instructor on a 3-day-2-night survival [marathon] under real-life conditions,” Vlasov said.

That is not to say they will be all alone in the night, though. A team of doctors will closely monitor their status. The aspiring astronauts will learn to survive with only a standard Soyuz emergency supply at their disposal, Vlasov said. 

Vlasov is quite aware that this might be a severe challenge for the Indians, who are not quite used to Russian winters – even as unusually mild as this year has been. After the survival course, the Indians will get a week off to recover.

FILE PHOTO: Russian cosmonauts go through a steppe survival training course. ©  © Roscosmos / Gagarin Research & Test Cosmonaut Training Center

The snow-covered Russian forests and swamps are only the first survival challenge. The Indians are scheduled for a stay in the steppes and even the sea. That last is not a call for panic, though: Instead of the bleak frost of the Arctic Ocean in midwinter, the astronaut candidates will go to the Black Sea resort of Sochi in the summer.

Vlasov is confident the Indians would eventually succeed in overcoming every hardship they could face during the training, since they are experienced and well-trained military specialists, after all.

“It is quite clear that all of them are test pilots with vast flight experience in good physical shape and extensive engineering knowledge. Our training loads should not be too hard for them.”

FILE PHOTO: A sea survival training is condcuted by the CTC specialists off the Sochi coast, in the Black Sea. ©  © Roscosmos / Gagarin Research & Test Cosmonaut Training Center

Sky is no limit

India’s first manned space mission is a “large-scale and high-profile” program not just for New Delhi but for Moscow as well, according to Dmitry Loskutov, director general of Glavkosmos – the Russian space agency’s subsidiary dealing with international space-related contracts, among other things.

Loskutov says that India is eager to learn from Russia’s experience and has agreed with all the training and contract recommendations the Russian side offered. Cooperation between the two nations extends beyond just the space crew training. Moscow and New Delhi are now discussing a possibility of Russia supplying some vital building blocks for the milestone mission, such as life support systems and thermal control. 

In addition to working together on the Gaganyaan mission, Russia has welcomed India’s future participation in the International Space Station program and signed a landmark deal in 2018 that includes cooperation on space projects and joint technology development.

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New Delhi is rapidly catching up with the leading space nations as it continues to develop its ambitious space program. The Indians have already achieved remarkable successes in rocket- and spaceship-building, conducting dozens of successful space launches.

India became the fourth nation to reach Mars in 2014, when it successfully sent an orbiter to the Red Planet. Its Lunar exploration program is one of the most ambitious as well. Last year, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) attempted to conduct a soft landing near the Moon’s south pole – something no one has done before. The unmanned lunar mission did not go exactly as planned, however – even though the Chandrayaan-2  orbiter arrived successfully, the Vikram lander thrusters failed and it crashed into the moon. ISRO refuses to give up, and is expected to try again in 2021.

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February 16th 2020, 10:54 pm

‘A little bit of excitement at no extra cost’: Sanders quips after TOPLESS anti-dairy protester stea

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A group of anti-dairy activists, including a topless woman, upstaged Democratic race frontrunner Bernie Sanders at his own campaign rally ahead of the Nevada primaries. The Senator kept it cool, laughing off the stunt, however.

Keen on capitalizing on his success in Iowa and New Hampshire, Sanders was holding a rally in Carson, Nevada, on Sunday. Sanders was barely a couple of minutes into his speech when a young woman, who could have been seen lurking behind the podium on live broadcast, rushed the stage and attempted to wrestle the microphone from the Vermont independent.

Sanders did not give in, taking a few steps away from the podium, which allowed the activist to grab another mic and go on chiding the progressive Democrat for his support of the local dairy industry.

“Bernie, I’m your biggest supporter. And I’m here to ask you to stop propping up the dairy industry and to stop propping up animal agriculture. I believe in you!”

When the activist was in the midst of her spirited tirade, the audio was cut but the broadcast kept on running, capturing the moment a topless woman with slogans scrawled on her bare breasts jumped stage. In the background, several activists were escorted away by security while carrying images of cows and other signs.

With things apparently getting too heated, the video feed was cut off as well. Sanders, who for the most part of the commotion remained on stage before eventually walking off, laughed off the incident, saying: “This is Nevada. There’s always a little bit of excitement … at no extra cost.”

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At least three topless protesters turned out at the rally, local media reported. Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong later confirmed that three women were booked on suspicion of indecent exposure, Carson Now reported.

The activists are said to be members of Direct Action Everywhere, an international animal rights network, infamous for staging disruptive, but non-violent protests to further their cause – which is to protect animals. These actions often see them attempting "rescue" of farms animals, such as chickens and pigs.

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February 16th 2020, 8:20 pm

‘No shred of evidence’: Iran demands US presents proof of Saudi oil attacks claim after UN report re

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Tehran slammed the US for using a recent UN report to peddle its Saudi oil attack claims, accusing Washington of “clutching at every straw” to back up the allegations, while the report itself is based on shaky hypotheses.

“Just hours after the attack on Saudi oil facilities on 14 September 2019, the U.S. baselessly attributed it to Iran, but has failed so far to present any shred of evidence. Now, it clutches at every straw to seemingly prove its allegation,” the Iranian mission to the UN stated on Saturday, responding to the US mission doubling down on the White House’s claim that Iran was behind the 14 September twin attacks on Saudi oil giant Aramco facilities in Abqaiq and Khureys.

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The attacks that briefly disrupted operations of Abqaiq oil plant – the largest oil processing facility in the world – were claimed by the Houthi rebels, embroiled in a 5-year-long war with the ousted President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi backed by the Saudi-led coalition. However, immediately after the attacks took place, the US pointed finger at Teheran, not waiting for any fact-finding mission to be sent to the sites.

Commenting on the recently released UN Yemen panel report, which concluded that Houthi forces were “unlikely” responsible for the bombing since the operation was too “complex” and the “estimated” range of weaponry the militants supposedly possess would not have allowed for such launches from the rebel-held territory, the US mission recycled its allegations framing the report’s findings as a foregone conclusion.

“Iran attacked Saudi Arabian oil facilities on September 14, 2019. It was an attack not only against a sovereign state but against the global economy as well,” the note bluntly states.

Firing back, Tehran pointed out that “nothing in that report validates the US allegation, which has already been rejected by Iran.”

The report does not name Iran as the culprit in the strikes. Moreover, the experts admitted that they did not have a chance to see the debris of the weapons that allegedly hit the facilities first-hand at the scenes as they had been partially cleaned up by Riyadh by the time they arrived.

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“It should be noted that the Panel did not see any debris of the weapon systems on-site in Abqaiq and Khureys, as those had already been transported to Riyadh at the time of the visits on 20 and 21 September 2019,” the report states. 

In addition to that, the experts furher acknowledged that while they believe that this particular attack was not carried out by Houthis, "other attacks using the same weapons do seem to have been launched from Yemen."

The panel did not rule out either that Houthis could have been indeed behind the twin strike, noting that “in theory, the attacks could have also been launched by Houthi forces either from within Saudi Arabia, from the territory of other countries, or even from sea or airborne launch platforms,” but called this scenario “highly unlikely.”

The Iranian mission said that the US note “represents another disinformation campaign against Iran,” arguing that it’s the US massive build-up, undertaken under the pretext of the “Iranian threat,” together with Washington’s “military adventurism” and “the unprecedented flow of sophisticated American weaponry” to the region that has become the “main source of instability and insecurity” in the Middle East.

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February 16th 2020, 6:20 pm

‘Western doctors overprescribe drugs’ – Jordan Peterson's daughter Mikhaila tells RT why he went to

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Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson chose Russia for his detox because the country's medical industry is less dependent on big pharma than North America’s, his daughter Mikhaila told RT's World Apart program.

Peterson, who rose to fame for his vocal and unapologetic opposition to extreme political correctness, has been struggling with an addiction to the drug clonazepam for over a year now. The benzodiazepine-class tranquilizer was prescribed to the University of Toronto professor and author of bestselling book ‘12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos’ in 2017, to tackle anxiety caused by his lasting autoimmune problems. But the addiction only became apparent to the family last year when the psychologist's wife was diagnosed with cancer, from which she has now recovered.

Prominent health vlogger Mikhaila Peterson, who has struggled with harsh autoimmune problems of her own – but managed to solve them by developing the so-called ‘Lion Diet’ – said that her father tried to quit the drug by going 'cold turkey’, but it led to "horrific withdrawal," putting his life at risk.

Going to Russia for treatment at the start of the year was a "terrifying decision" for the family, Mikhaila confessed to host Oksana Boyko, as it's not something people from the West usually do.

Benzodiazepine detox is a "fairly dangerous and extremely unpleasant" procedure, and the Petersons simply couldn't find a medical institution that could perform it in North America, or anywhere else in the world.

"Coming here to do the detox was our last option," Mikhaila said, explaining that the psychologist experienced a “terrible last month. He nearly died several times." But it seems the Russian move paid off, as Mikhaila revealed he is now "doing well, given the circumstances… He's better than I've seen him in at least six months."

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The vlogger also warned of the "huge misunderstanding about the dangers of physical dependence" associated with benzodiazepine-class tranquilizers. Her father had an "extremely severe reaction" to the drug, but "I've had hundreds and hundreds of people reach out telling me they've had the same experience with benzodiazepine," she said.

However, doctors keep prescribing the dangerous drug, and Peterson believes the reason for this is the overdependence of the medical industry in the US and Canada on pharmaceutical companies.

If you go to medical school, a lot of courses you take are backed by pharmaceutical companies. People, who are meaning well, go to medical school and are perhaps taught by the wrong people and then end up overprescribing.

Mikhaila said that "part of the reason we thought Russia was a good option is that the medical system here isn't as backed by pharmaceutical companies as it is in North America." When the host argued that big pharma has been trying to influence the government and medics in Russia too, she replied that "it's not nearly as bad" as in the US or Canada.

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However, the vlogger said her own story made her distrust the medical authorities altogether. She has suffered from a severe autoimmune disorder ever since childhood, which led to arthritis, hip and ankle replacements, rashes and constant depression – but doctors could do nothing about it.

Mikhaila had no choice but to look for a solution herself, and "it turned out it could be completely alleviated with very drastic dietary measures" in a matter of months.

However, when she later discussed with doctors how she recovered by only consuming meat, salt and water – the Lion Diet – she was "basically laughed at," as medical professionals just couldn't accept that there was a link between diet and autoimmune disorders, or between autoimmune disorders and mental health.

The vlogger suggested that people who have health issues they can't figure out, despite seeing doctors for years, should follow her example and "take it upon themselves to start testing things out: testing out diets, testing out exercise, and try to figure out things on their own."

The advice she had been giving to her friends and online followers saw "hundreds of people recover from illnesses, which were generally less severe than mine," Mikhaila said, proving that dietary intervention can help with weight loss, joint pain, chronic fatigue and many other issues.

She added that people need to realize one simple thing: "it's your responsibility to fix your health, not your doctor's."

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February 16th 2020, 5:20 pm

Syrian army takes control over all villages around Aleppo, eliminating threat of terrorist shelling

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The Syrian military has established full control of all areas surrounding Aleppo for the first time since 2012, putting an end to the terrorist shelling of the country’s second-largest city.

A total of 23 villages to the west and north of the city were liberated, as fighters from the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group (formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra) fled from their positions, state broadcaster SANA reported.

The news prompted large-scale celebrations in Aleppo. Residents took to the streets after dark waving Syrian national flags, and drivers honked their car horns.  

Aleppo was freed in 2016 in a joint operation by Syrian and Russian forces, but anti-government militants remained holed up in the suburbs and nearby villages. From there, they shelled the city with mortars on a regular basis, causing widespread destruction and civilian deaths.

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February 16th 2020, 5:20 pm

Can Moscow finish Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline despite US sanctions? ‘Never say never’ says Gazprom

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Russia’s $10 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline - which will pump gas more than 1,200 km to Germany - has been sanctioned by Washington, with US officials claiming Moscow can’t finish the project. “Never say never,” Gazprom replied.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, a joint project between Russian energy giant Gazprom and five European firms, was sanctioned by the US Congress in December. The State Department followed this with an ultimatum to the European firms working on the project: “immediately cease construction-related activity.”

The warning was enough to scare away Swiss pipelaying firm Allseas Group SA, and for those remaining, another sanctions bill is under consideration in Washington, German business newspaper Handelsblatt reported this month.

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With around 160km of pipeline unfinished, US Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette told Bloomberg on Saturday that “it’s going to be a very long delay, because Russia doesn’t have the technology” to finish the pipe without Allseas’ expertise.

“Never say never,” Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov responded on Sunday, speaking to Russian business news outlet RBK.

The US’ sanctions efforts may have delayed the pipeline’s completion, but Kupriyanov will likely be proven right. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak announced late last year that the remaining 160km will be finished by a Russian pipelaying vessel, currently en route to the North Sea from Russia’s east coast. Moscow now estimates the pipeline will be finished by early 2021 at the latest.

Once completed, Nord Stream 2 will supply Europe with up to 55 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas per year, on top of the 55 bcm already pumped through Nord Stream 1 every year since 2011. Its completion would transform Germany into a regional gas hub, and would see Washington pushed out of supplying Europe’s gas demand.

The Trump administration has attempted to lure European countries away from Russian gas with the promise of “molecules of freedom” - Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) shipped across the Atlantic.

However, Washington’s offer has been met with little interest in Europe, due to its higher cost compared to the Russian product. While Poland has stepped up its imports of American gas, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has criticized the American sanctions and pledged to see the Nord Stream 2 project through to completion. The only European states to side with Washington have been Ukraine and Poland, who currently charge Russia transit fees to operate underground pipelines in their territory.

The project “will be completed despite all these threats,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in December. “Europeans understand their commercial interest… [and] they are interested in ensuring long-term energy security.”  

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February 16th 2020, 5:20 pm

‘Gentlemen, start your engines!’ Trump kicks off Daytona 500 with lap in armored limo (VIDEOS)

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President Trump opened the NASCAR season in crowd-pleasing style, flying low over the Daytona International Speedway in Air Force One and lapping the oval in his limo, before delivering the iconic “start your engines” command.

Chants of “USA, USA” greeted the president as he flew in low over the Daytona International Speedway on Sunday. 

After a lap of the famous circuit in the presidential limousine, Trump delivered a speech praising the military, God, patriotism, and “the legendary display of roaring engines, soaring spirits and the American skill, speed and power that we’ve been hearing about for so many years”

The 500-mile opening race of the NASCAR season kicked off after Trump instructed the 40 drivers to “start your engines.” In doing so he became the second sitting President to start the ‘Great American Race,’ after George W. Bush in 2004.

Ronald Reagan was the first US president to open a NASCAR race, when he gave the command “Gentlemen, start your engines” from aboard Air Force One at the 1984 Firecracker 400.

Bill Clinton faced a frostier reception when he attended the Southern 500 in Darlington, South Carolina, on the campaign trail in 1992. Unlike his Republican counterparts, Clinton was heckled and booed by fans at the racetrack.

Not everyone was as happy with Trump’s pageantry as the Daytona crowd. New York Times correspondent Maggie Haberman snarked at Trump for “using the official apparatus of government for what appears to be a political event.” NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell described Trump’s appearance as “looking for NASCAR fans to support his re-election bid.”

Trump supporters were amused. “What did you want him to ride in?” conservative activist CJ Pearson tweeted at Haberman, “an Uber?”

In reality, Trump likely needs to do little to win the votes of NASCAR fans. A 2018 poll found that the president’s job approval was higher among race fans than any other demographic surveyed. Putting on a spectacle at the Daytona 500 is more a case of preaching to the choir than winning new supporters.

Still, Trump’s appearance was seen by around 100,000 fans in person and another nine million on television, making it an important stop on the 2020 campaign trail. 

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February 16th 2020, 5:20 pm

Mischievous Mourinho can’t resist cheeky dig at Manchester City over two-year European ban (VIDEO)

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Jose Mourinho has jokingly questioned whether Manchester City would still keep their 2018 Premier League title in light of the two-year ban handed to them by UEFA for breaches of Financial Fair Play (FFP).

The news of City’s two-year ban from European competition on Friday rocked the football world, as UEFA clamped down on what it says was financial foul play from City between 2012 and 2016, when they are accused of deliberately inflating sponsorship deals to keep within UEFA spending limits.

READ MORE: Manchester City’s European ban shows what happens when football clubs become petrostate tools

City have denied the accusations and will take their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland – although there is speculation that the Premier League could follow UEFA’s lead in sanctioning the club.

Mourinho, who guided Manchester United to second in the Premier League table in the 2017-18 season, 19 points adrift of Manchester City, was asked about the shock ban on Sunday, after he had seen his Tottenham Hotspur team snatch a late 3-2 win at Aston Villa.

"My view is that I didn't lose one single minute analysing what UEFA and FIFA, they have to analyse. If I go into that, I have to ask if the team that finished second in 2018 is going to be champions, yes or no?" Mourinho joked. 

"That would be interesting but joking apart, I just wait calmly. Fourth or fifth, I just think about doing the best we can."

City are currently second in the Premier League table, but should they be banned from Europe for the next two seasons, it would likely mean that the fifth-placed team would take their place in next season's Champions League.

Mourinho’s Spurs currently occupy fifth spot after their last-gasp win over relegation-threatened Villa.

Adopting a more serious tone, Mourinho said City have “the benefit of the doubt” until the full process has been concluded.  

"I don’t think it is about huge decisions or small decisions. The rule, the law, it is or it isn't. From what I got is that UEFA punish them but they have the chance to appeal.

"I think until the appeal finishes, Manchester City have the benefit of the doubt. In the end of the process we will see if they are punished or not. I have nothing more to say about that. I don't know."

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The Portuguese was in a cheery mood after he saw Son Heung-Min net an injury-time winner for Spurs at lowly Villa, even joking with the South Korean star as he was interviewed after the game.

“Are you asking him about the goals he scored of the ones he missed,” Mourinho jested.

Spurs are now fifth in the table on 40 points, one behind Chelsea but having played a game more.    

February 16th 2020, 1:43 pm

Outrage as Downing Street adviser backs EUGENICS, mandatory birth control and giving kids mind-alter

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Barely over a government-rocking reshuffle, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office has moved onto a fresh scandal, hiring an adviser who advocates eugenics, mandatory contraception, and giving children mind-altering drugs.

Andrew Sabisky was one of the hires made by 10 Downing Street after Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings made a high-profile call to stock the office with “misfits and weirdos”.

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Even the controversial Cummings might have got more than he bargained for, as it has emerged that 27-year-old Sabisky once called for a “universal contraception” program to stop the creation of a “permanent underclass,” and also said that the benefits of brain-boosting drugs were “probably worth a dead kid”.

The revelations began when the Times uncovered an interview Sabisky gave to Schools Weekly, in which he spoke in favor of giving children a dose of the cognitive-enhancement drug modafinil.

“From a societal perspective the benefits of giving everyone modafinil once a week are probably worth a dead kid once a year,” he said. The researcher, who describes himself as a “super-forecaster”, also highlighted the positives of eugenics in the controversial interview.

“Eugenics are about selecting ‘for’ good things,” he said. “Intelligence is largely inherited and it correlates with better outcomes: physical health, income, lower mental illness. There is no downside to having [a high] IQ except short-sightedness.”

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Famed biologist Richard Dawkins sparks Twitter row with ‘eugenics would work for humans’ argument

Further revelations came in the Mail on Sunday, which reported that Sabisky also posted to a website run by Cummings, saying existing vaccination laws could pave the way for mandatory birth control.

"One way to get around [the problem] of unplanned pregnancies creating a permanent underclass would be to legally enforce universal uptake of long-term contraception at the onset of puberty… Vaccination laws give it a precedent, I would argue," he wrote.

He also once tweeted that “women’s sport is more comparable to the Paralympics than it is to men’s.” 

The extraordinary comments have sparked an avalanche of reaction, with the opposition Labour party calling for the adviser to be sacked. MP David Lammy called Sabisky “sinister,” while Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Jon Trickett said “there are really no words” to describe the hiring.

The outcry follows Sajid Javid’s resignation as chancellor after Number 10 tried to dictate who his advisers were. Downing Street has yet to publicly comment on the matter, but political reporters are tweeting that Sabisky’s days working in Downing Street are numbered. Did the super-forecaster see that one coming?

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February 16th 2020, 1:31 pm

Famed biologist Richard Dawkins sparks Twitter row with ‘eugenics would work for humans’ argument

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Outspoken atheist Professor Richard Dawkins is no stranger to controversy. But a tweet arguing that eugenics – the kind of selective breeding advocated by the Nazis – would “work for humans” has landed the biologist in hot water.

“It’s one thing to deplore eugenics on ideological, political, moral grounds. It’s quite another to conclude that it wouldn’t work in practice,” the professor and author of ‘The God Delusion’ tweeted on Sunday. “Of course it would. It works for cows, horses, pigs, dogs & roses. Why on earth wouldn’t it work for humans? Facts ignore ideology.”

The modern eugenics movement was popularized in the United States in the early 20th century and taken to terrifying extremes by Nazi Germany – which sterilized, institutionalized, and mass murdered the mentally ill, homosexuals, Jews, and all those it deemed ‘degenerates’.

Though Dawkins didn’t endorse eugenics, he was savaged by commenters for even suggesting that it might ‘work’. 

Dawkins, wrote Harvard Chaplain Greg Epstein, is giving “every manner of passive and active bigot an opening to ‘consider’ persecution on steroids.” New York Times columnist Charles Blow called Dawkins’s “eugenics crap” “dangerous,” and said that its practice in the US had led to the forced sterilizations of black women in the South.

Others pointed out that selective breeding, especially in animals, often leads to deformities and genetic defects. Dawkins’s “science on eugenics is bad,” tweeted doctor and anti-Trump pundit Eugene Gu. “We turned magnificent wolves into pure breed dogs with severe genetic defects causing joint and heart problems and cancer.”

Still, there were some who supported the professor. “Every single law that makes it easier for one group of people to have children while adding friction for another group of people is eugenics,” one commenter tweeted. “Increased taxation is eugenics. UBI is eugenics. Welfare is eugenics. It's as if nobody can think.”

With the controversy raging, Dawkins followed up his tweet with an explanation. 

“For those determined to miss the point, I deplore the idea of a eugenic policy,” he wrote. “I simply said deploring it doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work. Just as we breed cows to yield more milk, we could breed humans to run faster or jump higher. But heaven forbid that we should do it.”

However, Dawkins has kicked the hornets’ nest with his comments on eugenics before. In 2014, the scientist started another Twitter row when he stated that it would be “immoral” not to abort a baby with Down’s syndrome. Four years later he slammed Pope Francis for comparing the abortion of babies with birth defects to “what the Nazis did to purify the race.”

Dawkins claimed that selective abortion “is not about eugenics, [but] the avoidance of human suffering.”

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Rising to prominence with his 1976 book ‘The Selfish Gene,’ Dawkins became one of the foremost researchers pushing the gene-centered view of evolution. This view maintains that evolution occurs through the survival of particular genes, rather than the organism as a whole. This work also introduced the concept of the ‘meme.’

In later years he became better known as an outspoken atheist, with his 2006 book ‘The God Delusion’ selling more than three million copies and provoking a flurry of debate in academia and media.

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February 16th 2020, 12:31 pm

Thought biathlon was boring? Meet Dorothea Wierer – the Italian star sending fans wild at the 2020 W

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Dorothea Wierer is an Italian ‘shooting skier’ who managed to end the dominance of German and Norwegian athletes in women’s biathlon, on Sunday winning the 10k pursuit at the World Championships to bag her second world title.

I couldn’t believe I won the race till the very finish,” the newly crowned champion said after the race in Antholz, Italy. 

READ MORE: Breaking 12-year curse: Alexander Loginov wins first gold for Russia at 2020 IBU World Championships

I was happy to race today because I had better feeling than in sprint. I was really confident in shooting. I was just trying to enjoy it,” added Wierer, who delighted the home crowd by bringing Italy its first gold.

It is the second medal for Wierer, who earlier won silver together with her teammate in the mixed relay which opened the program of the 2020 World Championships.

The 29-year-old, who was far behind the top 40 biathletes several years ago, shot to fame in 2016 when she finished second in the women’s purist at the World Championships in Germany, picking up her first every individual award.

Since then she has established herself as one of the leaders, consistently taking podium spots at World Cup stages and other international events run by the International Biathlon Union (IBU).

Last year she claimed her maiden world title in the women’s mass start, shattering the seemingly unshakable positions of Norwegian and German counterparts who had dominated women’s biathlon for years.

With just two years to go before the 2022 Olympics in China, Wierer could enter the Winter Games as one of the favorites with her sights set on adding the coveted title to her two Olympic bronzes already won in relay races.

February 16th 2020, 12:31 pm

Back off Bernie, Jewish group tells Israel lobby

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With a pro-Israel lobbying group spending vast amounts of cash on ads attacking Bernie Sanders, another Jewish group has demanded the ads be taken down, slamming the Israel lobby for “targeting progressives over Israel policy.”

With just under a week to go to the Nevada primary, Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) has aired a series of ads in the state criticizing Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ “electability.” The TV spots feature a cohort of Democratic voters questioning Sanders’ medical records and “divisive” character – but not his Israel policy.

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“DMFI in reality represents a minority of pro-Israel Democrats who seem more concerned with targeting progressives over Israel policy than with confronting the destructive agenda of Donald Trump,” J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami said on Sunday. “DMFI has every right to publicly criticize the views of any candidate or elected official,” he continued, “but it has no right to claim to speak for a ‘Democratic majority’ of pro-Israel Americans.”

“The ads themselves have nothing to do with Israel and don’t even mention Senator Sanders’ views on Israel or foreign policy,” Ben-Ami added. 

His organization is among the top five pro-Israel lobbying groups in the US. Its members donated more than $3 million to Democratic candidates in 2016, and have given more than a million dollars to candidates this year so far, in addition to the $400,000 it spent lobbying Congress last year.

Following a second-place finish in Iowa and a win in New Hampshire, Sanders’ emergence as a frontrunner in the race to the Democratic nomination has split the powerful Israel lobby in Washington. 

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The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is perhaps the most well-known organization advocating for Israel in the US. However, AIPAC’s lobbying activities are usually bipartisan, and the group was recently forced to apologize on Capitol Hill for an ad campaign that branded Muslim Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) a “radical” threat “maybe more sinister” than Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS).

With AIPAC backing out of inter-party squabbling, DMFI has taken to primary politics with gusto. Staffed by a host of AIPAC alumni, the organization spent $800,000 running negative ads about Sanders in Iowa earlier this month. According to a report in the Intercept on Friday, AIPAC has endorsed this approach, and is allowing donations to DMFI to count as donations to AIPAC, buying anti-Sanders donors access to its roster of friendly congressmen.

“Like their partner organization AIPAC – which recently ran vitriolic attack ads echoing Republican smears against progressive Democrats – DMFI’s right-leaning positions on Israel and US foreign policy are completely out of touch with the vast majority of Democrats and American Jews, who are both supportive of Israel and strongly critical of the policies of the Netanyahu government and of Donald Trump,” Ben-Ami said.

The split between JStreet and DMFI illustrates a wider gulf between the various pro-Israel groups operating in Washington, most notably on how to resolve the Israel/Palestine conflict.

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The Trump administration has granted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a wishlist of policy gifts, from recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights to the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem. As such, AIPAC and DMFI have little quarrel with the president’s Israel policy. AIPAC greeted Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan – a plan weighted heavily in favor of Israel – with enthusiasm, calling it a solid basis for negotiations that would “resolve the conflict.” DMFI, though a Democratic group, called the plan “a welcome development.”

However, JStreet called it “a green light for annexation and a recipe for permanent occupation and endless conflict.”

If elected, Sanders would be the US’ first Jewish president, and would enter office with an Israel policy far closer to J Street’s than DMFI’s.

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February 16th 2020, 12:01 pm

Queen Elizabeth won’t get involved in Julian Assange case because it’s a POLITICAL matter – Buckingh

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A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman has said the Queen will not intervene to release Julian Assange, vowing to remain “non-political.” The statement seemingly confirms that Assange’s detention is a political, not criminal, matter.

With WikiLeaks founder Assange holed up in HM Prison Belmarsh awaiting extradition to the US, activist Chris Lonsdale penned a letter to Queen Elizabeth II last month, asking the monarch to “ensure that Mr. Julian Assange is freed from Belmarsh Prison unconditionally,” in the spirit of “justice, peace and fair-mindedness.”

In a reply posted by Lonsdale on Sunday, a spokeswoman for the Queen said that Her Majesty “remains strictly non-political at all times,” and Assange’s detention is therefore “not a matter in which the Queen would intervene.”

Assange’s supporters have long argued that his arrest and imprisonment are motivated by politics, not justice. Assange has languished in Belmarsh since his arrest inside London’s Ecuadorian embassy last April, ostensibly on charges of skipping bail in 2012. He is also facing extradition to the US to answer to a litany of espionage charges, related to WikiLeaks’ publication of classified US military documents detailing potential war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. If convicted, he faces 175 years in prison.

Buckingham Palace’s response seemingly admits that Assange is being persecuted on political grounds. 

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Assange’s health has been in steady decline since his incarceration. Following a visit to Assange in May, UN rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer declared that the former WikiLeaks boss showed “all the symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture.”

Melzer added that Assange could be “exposed to a real risk of serious violations of his human rights… including torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” if he were extradited to the US.

“In 20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution I have never seen a group of democratic States ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonise and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law,” Melzer said. “The collective persecution of Julian Assange must end here and now!”

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February 16th 2020, 12:01 pm

Trump’s ‘America First’ polices have hurt EU’s soft power, bloc should take action & not simply talk

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Brussels must learn to take action, especially since Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ policies are at odds with the bloc’s own interests, the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said, noting that divisions will harm the union.

“Europe has to develop an appetite for power,” Borrell told the Munich Security Conference. “We should be able to act... not everyday making comments, expressing concern,” he told world leaders, lawmakers, and senior officials gathered at the summit.

Borrell lamented that Brussels’ “soft power,” obtained largely through the bloc’s economic strength, has withered – partly as a result of US President Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ policies, which have often been at odds with Europe on trade issues.

The foreign policy chief said EU states must either get in line or get out of the way when it comes to foreign policy, stating that “When there is no unanimity [in the bloc], the remaining majority have to act.”

The bloc has remained indecisive on a number of key foreign policy issues, including Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, as well as Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – positions that Brussels has protested but done little to counter.

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The EU also has yet to lay out a clear stance on Washington’s controversial Middle East peace roadmap.

Borrell has repeatedly urged his colleagues in the newly formed European Commission to take a bolder stance on foreign policy issues. Earlier this month, he penned an opinion piece unambiguously titled ‘Embracing Europe’s Power’.

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February 16th 2020, 11:32 am

Iran will never talk to US under pressure or from ‘position of weakness’ – President Rouhani

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ruled out any likelihood of talks with the US unless Washington lifts its ‘maximum pressure’ policy, adding that peace in the Middle East and the Gulf is unimaginable without Tehran’s help.

Tehran “will never negotiate under pressure,” Rouhani reiterated in an address quoted by local media. Iran “will never yield to America’s pressure” and will not negotiate “from a position of weakness.”

The Iranian people withstood the US sanctions – re-instated in 2018 by the Trump administration following the withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear accord – “despite all the hardships of our nation,” he said.

Although the situation is tougher than last year… all the indicators show that we have overcome the issue of maximum American pressure. Surely Americans have concluded that the path they have chosen is incorrect and will not affect [the] Iranian people.

The ‘maximum pressure’ policy involved freezing Iranian assets abroad, paralyzing its banking sector, and bringing its oil trade to zero.

According to Rouhani, Iran will carry on resisting “with the same strength and power next year,” which will eventually see “the enemy” returning to the negotiating table.

Peace and stability in the “sensitive region of Middle East” would be impossible without Iran’s help, he also said.

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February 16th 2020, 11:32 am

Record-breaking floods across England as Storm Dennis lashes UK (VIDEOS)

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Storm Dennis has sparked a record number of flood warnings across England after barreling through the UK and releasing more than a month’s worth of rainfall in just 48 hours.

The storm blasted parts of northern Europe with fierce winds and torrential downpours over the weekend. With the worst of the storm finally having passed, authorities and residents across Britain have been left to pick up the pieces, as some parts of the country have been left submerged in floodwater. 

The situation in South Wales was said to be “life-threatening”, prompting the UK Met Office to issue a red warning due to heavy rainfall and risk of flooding. Photos and videos posted on social media from around the UK show the extent of the damage the powerful storm left in its wake.

The Environment Agency’s (EA) flood and coastal risk management executive director John Curtin said there were a record 594 flood warnings and alerts in place in England.

“Breaking: we now have [more] flood warnings and alerts in force (594) in England than any other day on record,” Curtin tweeted on Sunday.

Residents in some parts of the country were advised to evacuate due to the flooding, while South Wales Police declared the severe weather conditions a “major incident.”

It said emergency services were dealing with multiple floods and landslides and are evacuating people from their homes.

Numerous sporting fixtures were cancelled across the UK and Ireland over the course of the weekend, and more than 230 flights were cancelled on Saturday. 

Various government agencies are scrambling to lessen the damage caused by the storm, which arrived less than a week after Storm Ciara wreaked havoc last weekend.

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February 16th 2020, 11:32 am

UN deputy envoy to Libya at Munich conference: Ceasefire hangs by thread & arms embargo is a ‘joke’

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The fragile truce in Libya is at risk of falling apart, and efforts to stop the flood of weapons into the war-torn country have been completely ineffective, the deputy head of the UN mission to Libya warned on Sunday.

Stephanie Williams told attendees at the Munich Security Conference that the ceasefire between Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) and the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) is perilously close to collapsing. She added that an arms embargo put in place by the UN Security Council to prevent the flow of weapons into Libya “has become a joke.”

Noting that the economic situation in the country is also deteriorating, the UN official told attendees that they need to “step up,” and that there “needs to be accountability” for international parties involved in the conflict.

She was speaking after over a dozen world foreign ministers and members of international organizations held a meeting on Libya in Munich.

February 16th 2020, 11:32 am

Daredevil routine at 1,300ft almost goes DISASTROUSLY WRONG for Russian paraglider & aerial gymnast

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Russian paraglider Alexander Orlov and world champion aerial gymnast Anzhela Kulagila performed a daredevil routine in Vietnam, making jaw-dropping acrobatics moves at 400m (1,300ft) – but which almost went badly wrong.

Driven by Orlov, who controlled the flow of the parachute, the duo presented a heart-stopping routine with Kulagila executing acrobatics tricks on slings with no safety wire.

READ MORE: Spanish extreme sports YouTuber dies after parachute fails to open during insane 150ft jump

The duo were forced to defy extreme weather conditions which could have disrupted the flight and led to tragic consequences.

We had already reached 400m when the wind suddenly picked up, blowing us directly to a mountain at a high speed,” Orlov said.

When Anzhela fell down and released the slings I was still flying before landing on a tree. I started screaming ‘Anzhela, are you alive?’ And when she didn’t reply I was really terrified.

Then she said that she was ok. The rocks there are very sharp and she hit them with the back of her head. Blood was spurting out, so I was forced to make a bandage out of my shirt.”

The gymnast, who luckily avoided serious injuries, was taken to a nearby hospital where doctors put several stitches in the wound.

The couple said that due to the coronavirus outbreak it was immensely difficult to receive a flight license from the Vietnamese authorities, who denied them approval to fly in an air-balloon.

February 16th 2020, 11:32 am

CARNAGE as bloodied man wields axe while another uses fire extinguisher as weapon at England youth b

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There were terrifying scenes as a man with blood gushing from his head was seen wielding an axe at a junior boxing event in England this weekend as mass violence broke out among the crowd.

Four people were hospitalized following the clashes at the England Boxing National Youth Championships, during which chairs were launched and one man was seen setting off a fire extinguisher before hurling it.

A trail of destruction was also seen outside the Sports Connexion venue in Coventry, where police were called to the scene before the event was called off.

There are reports that the violence – which was described by local police as “terrifying” – was sparked by rival families in attendance.

Shocking footage showed chairs being hurled while one clip showed a badly-bloodied man clearly wielding an axe as the carnage unfolded.

Four people were confirmed as being admitted to hospital, although none are believed to be in serious condition.

Event organizers England Boxing issued a statement confirming that the event had been called off.

“England Boxing is now working with the police regarding these matters and has also launched its own investigation,” the statement said.

“We utterly condemn yesterday’s events and the background to them and will continue to work with the relevant authorities, including with representatives of the National Police Chiefs Council, to eradicate the impact it has on our competitions.”

British former world champion Enzo Maccarinelli was among those to condemn the violence, calling it "vile."

Local police chief Pete Hill said that the scenes had been a “terrifying ordeal” for those in attendance, although no arrests have so far been made. 

"We will not tolerate incidents of this nature and are working hard to establish the circumstances surrounding this incident,” he told The Coventry Telegraph.

"The public can expect to see a heightened police presence in and around the area while officers continue to conduct their enquiries.

"I would urge anyone who may have witnessed this incident, has video footage of the incident or has information that could help with our investigation to please to get in touch."

The championships were due to run from February 14 to 16, bringing together some of the nation’s finest young talent to fight for national titles.

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February 16th 2020, 11:32 am

Double Dutch: Netherlands star Kiki Bertens wins St. Petersburg Open for second straight year

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Dutch tennis ace Kiki Bertens has defended her title at the WTA St. Petersburg Open, defeating Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan in straight sets 6:1, 6:3.

The 28-year-old dominated the match, dispatching her less experienced opponent who managed to take just four games.

READ MORE: ‘I’m really sorry!’ Kiki Bertens apologizes for knocking out THREE Russians at home St. Petersburg Open

On her way to the final, Bertens had defeated three Russian players – Ekaterina Alexandrova, Anastasia Potapova and Veronika Kudermetova – later apologizing for leaving the tournament without home favorites.

Sorry everyone that I already knocked three players from Russia out of the tournament this week, but I can do nothing about it,” Bertens said.

Bertens was due to face Belgian tennis legend Kim Clijsters next week at the 2020 Dubai Open, but withdrew from the tournament citing tiredness.

Four-time Grand Slam winner Clijsters, who resumed her professional career after an eight-year break, will now play Australian Open finalist Garbine Muguruza in the first round.

February 16th 2020, 11:32 am

Manchester City’s European ban shows what happens when football clubs become petrostate tools

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“War is a continuation of politics by other means,” as Prussian military strategist Carl von Clausewitz famously once said – but in the modern age that adage could increasingly be applied to football.

We live in an era in which football clubs can call on the wealth of entire oil-rich states; in which geopolitical tensions are transposed onto the pitch; and in which states seek to buy cultural capital by investing in teams in foreign lands.

Example A for all of the above could be Manchester City, a club bankrolled by the bottomless pockets of Emirati royal Sheikh Mansour, and which on Friday was slapped with a two-year ban from European competition by UEFA over breaches of Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules.

The details of the case are widely reported, but in a nutshell, City have been found guilty of deliberately inflating sponsorship deals between 2012 and 2016 to ensure they complied with FFP rules.

Instead of sponsorship money coming to City from corporations – which were in any case based in Mansour’s UAE homeland – it is said to have come directly from the sheikh’s pocket.

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The details of the case – which was launched based on emails published by the Football Leaks organization back in 2018 – are strongly disputed by City.

The club claim that the emails were illegally hacked and “taken out of context” as part of an attempt to deliberately tarnish its reputation.

They will fight their case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland, and have stated spikily that UEFA's process has been "prejudicial" from start to finish.  

UEFA has slapped City with a €30 million ($32.5 million) fine for good measure – a piffling amount given the club’s riches – but has taken the nuclear option with its two-year ban, likely reasoning that it lays down a serious marker over flagrant breaches of FFP rules.

Also taken into consideration is that City are not first-time offenders, having been handed a record fine of almost £50 million (US$65 million) back in 2014 for FFP breaches (on that occasion choosing to take their medicine more quietly).  

An ugly battle will now ensue in the courts, and City will fancy their chances of least getting the ban halved to one year.

City will seek to overturn their ban from UEFA competition. © Reuters

Small solace, however, given that significant damage has already been done.

There is uncertainty over how things will play out with manager Pep Guardiola, the driving force behind the team’s back-to-back Premier League titles, as City played football feted as among best England has ever seen.

Four years into a five-year deal, Guardiola could walk away this summer, given the prospect of no Champions League football next season.

The same uncertainty could extend to several of City’s galaxy of playing stars; clubs across the continent will be licking their lips at the prospect of enticing the likes of Raheem Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne away from the Etihad with the offer of guaranteed European football.

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Win or lose their appeal – and they will throw their mammoth financial clout into defending themselves – it’s clear that City are confronted with major immediate problems.

But it’s when placed in the broader perspective that the ramifications from the Manchester City vs. UEFA showdown seem the most seismic – and pose the biggest questions over what football has, in many respects, become at its highest level.

City have been a club transformed since Sheikh Mansour rolled into town in 2008, buying them for an initial £150 million and since pumping petro-cash in to the tune of well over £1 billion (US$1.3 billion).

The transformation has been on the pitch, where City have won four Premier League titles in the past decade, as well as two FA Cups and four League Cups.

But it has also come off it, with the redevelopment of the club’s training facilities and academy, and the regeneration of their part of eastern Manchester.

Manchester City's Etihad Campus. © Action Images via Reuters

They are yet to win the ultimate prize – the Champions League – but are again among the favorites this season as they prepare to face Real Madrid in the last 16, with the first leg coming at the end of February. 

City have, simply put, been supercharged into a football powerhouse.

Spaniard Guardiola, 49, has enabled City to reach even greater heights. © Reuters

Beyond taking issue with the finances that have enabled that ascent – as UEFA clearly has – it’s worth remembering what exactly underpins the desire of City’s wealthy backers to splurge on such a project in the first place. 

A Premier League club is an attractive prospect these days, but for reasons far beyond simply being a footballing asset.

For those such as City's Abu Dhabi backers, it offers the chance to purchase a brand as cultural capital, to project a new image to the world (particularly in the face of criticism over human rights issues), and to bolster national pride – not least in the context of regional rivalries, such with as the similarly ambitious Qataris (more on them below).

It was likely opportunity, rather than affinity which brought Sheikh Mansour knocking to that particular part of Manchester in 2008.  

Most Manchester City fans would – until now at least – have cared little about all of that. Their team has played sublime football, won titles, and has one of the best set-ups in world football.   

They will also point to the fraught question of owners of various ilk all across Europe. Look no further than down the road and you will see Manchester United, a club with widely despised American owners, the Glazers, who are accused of moral bankruptcy by leveraging the club with debt to line their own pockets. 

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But in City’s case, while the oil money has always been there to muddy the waters, it has now spilled over into all-out war with UEFA.

Among City’s gripes will be that UEFA’s FFP rules are inherently unjust, and preclude “fairy-tale” stories such as theirs of a long-struggling club propelled into the elite by wealthy benefactors, only to be shunted back down by more established rivals who resent their upstart status.

Many Manchester City fans and members of the media have made exactly that point since Friday’s shock news (although with equally as many pointing out that, just because you don’t like the rules, it doesn’t mean you can flout them with impunity).   

Another source of lingering resentment for City will be the perception that UEFA is waging a vindictive campaign against their club when others have escaped sanction.

The biggest parallels will be drawn with Paris Saint-Germain, whose rise has been similarly primed by petrodollars, in their case flowing from Qatar.

PSG have been scrutinized for their own financial dealings, not least in the wake of their world-record purchase of Neymar for €222 million and €180 million acquisition of Kylian Mbappe several years ago.

PSG's mega-money duo Neymar and Mbappe. © Reuters

In PSG’s case, UEFA’s Investigatory Chamber found no FFP breaches – even to the astonishment of the organization’s own adjudicatory committee chairman, who was foiled with his efforts to launch another investigation.

The fact that PSG’S president, Qatari businessman Nasser Al-Khelaifi, is also on UEFA’s executive board has raised more than a few eyebrows – not to mention that he is also the chairman of the beIN Media Group, a lucrative payer for UEFA’s TV rights.

PSG’s rise under their Middle Eastern backers mirrors City’s in many ways; Al-Khelaifi’s Qatar Sports Investments took over the club in 2011, and has since poured in well over €1 billion to make the team Champions League contenders (although, as with City, they are yet to win the competition).

It’s unlikely that any in Qatar will shed tears that City have fallen foul of UEFA financial rules, given the enmity between the Qataris and City’s backers in the UAE – which was among the states to impose a blockade on Qatar in 2017 over accusations it supported terrorism.

PSG's Qatari moneyman Nasser Al-Khelaifi. © Reuters

Of course, PSG’s Qatari benefactors and Manchester City’s Abu Dhabi backers are far from football’s first mega-spending owners, and their rise has not occurred in a vacuum.

Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich arguably changed the sport completely when he swept into London to buy Chelsea in 2003, lavishing vast amounts on players and managers to bring unseen glory to the club.

Abramovich arguably changed the footballing landscape when he bought Chelsea. © AFP

Traditional powerhouses such as Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich have regularly splurged massive sums on players in recent years.

But while in Abramovich’s case acquiring cultural capital may have been a consideration, Chelsea was primarily a playground to indulge his passion for the game, rather than a battleground for bigger ambitions. 

Whatever the motivation for owners, UEFA’s FFP rules – however flawed – are an attempt to keep unbridled ambition within sustainable levels for the benefit of the clubs themselves; for clubs to live within their means and not face the longer-term threat of financial oblivion, should their owners abruptly pull the plug. 

It is a difficult balancing act to maintain, and one that is made all the more harder when state-linked players from nations such as Qatar and the UAE step in, infusing football with political, economic and cultural agendas.

Manchester City’s rise has shown the beauty that such vast riches can bring, but also the pitfalls when football becomes a vehicle for altogether bigger ambitions.     

By Liam Tyler

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

February 16th 2020, 9:28 am

Footage shows horrific moment Russian DJ tragically swept out to sea (VIDEO)

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Famous Russian DJ Andrey Ivanov was tragically swept out to sea and drowned by a freak wave which hit as he was strolling along Australia’s Bondi Beach with his wife. The horrific accident was caught on camera by an eyewitness.

The 47-year-old was enjoying a day at the iconic Sydney beach when tragedy struck on Saturday. Lifeguards said the DJ barely stood a chance after the monster wave swept ashore and carried him away.

Ivanov’s wife Yulia managed to swim to safety and raise the alarm, frantically appealing for help as her husband disappeared beneath the waves. “She was crying and shouting ‘My husband is inside the water’,” one witness told 7NEWS.

The news outlet broadcast chilling footage of the couple walking along the rocks before the ocean suddenly overpowered them.

WARNING: Some viewers may find the footage upsetting.

Ivanov was one of the founders of the Triplex electronic group, which produced a number of hit albums. He also created a number of popular remixes which featured in movies and TV shows. His death sparked an outpouring of tributes over the weekend.

"The big news today just killed me... we will remember you... Andrey Ivanov," dance DJ Pavel Loginov said. "He was one of the brightest people I ever met," journalist Misha Kozyrev added on Facebook.

New South Wales Ambulance duty operations manager Sally Groves said Ivanov’s death was an “absolutely horrendous outcome,” adding that “paramedics worked closely with other emergency services and did everything possible to try and save his life, but sadly he was unable to be saved.” 

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February 16th 2020, 9:28 am

‘Is the democratic system so fragile?’ Audience applauds as Pelosi’s Huawei scare session prompts re

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Nancy Pelosi, who brought a squad of US lawmakers to Munich, argued passionately that dropping Huawei technology is about keeping democracy, until an unorthodox intervention by a Chinese diplomat left her facing a tough argument.

“National security, economy and values all come together on the Huawei issue,” Pelosi proclaimed during the third day of the Munich Security Conference (MSC), devoting the bulk of her press briefing to Huawei and Beijing’s “digital autocracy.”

Adopting or not adopting Huawei solutions – particularly their 5G products – “is about choosing autocracy over democracy on the information highway,” she insisted, likening the process to “putting the state police in the pocket of every consumer in these countries.

Pelosi took aim at Huawei the day before, when she was a keynote speaker at MSC Saturday’s panel. Her passionate speech, delivered from an autocue, went awry when Fu Ying, a former Chinese envoy to the UK and a career diplomat, stole the show.

“I think my knowledge about how the world works is that technologies are tools,” Fu said, speaking in a quiet, reproving voice.

She pointed out that China had used all kinds of Western technologies – including those of Microsoft, IBM, and Amazon – but had “maintained its political system, the system led by the Communist Party; it’s not threatened by the technologies.”

How come if Huawei technologies, with 5G, are introduced into Western countries, [they] will threaten the political system? Do you really think the democratic system is so fragile that it could be threatened by this single hi-tech company, Huawei?

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February 16th 2020, 7:11 am

Revved up: Donald Trump could take lap in armored presidential limo at NASCAR Daytona 500

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US President Donald Trump could take a spin at the fabled Daytona 500 in Florida when he visits the season-opening NASCAR event, according to reports.

Trump is expected to ride the Daytona International Speedway track in his heavily-armored presidential limousine – known as the “Beast” – prior to the race, Fox Business reports.

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The US leader was named the grand marshal of Daytona 500 by NASCAR, becoming the first president to take up the role.

Daytona International Speedway has been privileged to have hosted several sitting Presidents of the United States over our history,” Daytona International Speedway President Chip Wile said. “We’re honored that the President of the United States has chosen to experience the pageantry and excitement of ‘The Great American Race’ by attending Sunday’s 62nd annual Daytona 500.”

Trump will become the second sitting US president to attend the event after George W. Bush visited the Daytona 500 in 2004.

Trump has a close relationship with Roger Penske, a businessman, former racer and founder of one of the world's most successful motorsports teams.

Trump awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom last year, which is the country's highest civilian award.

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February 16th 2020, 6:11 am

‘Manslaughter via the press’: UK tabloids under fire for Caroline Flack reporting following TV prese

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The death of TV presenter Caroline Flack has unleashed a furious backlash against the UK’s tabloid media, with many accusing the newspapers of contributing to the 40-year-old star’s tragic death.

The former Love Island presenter was found dead at her home in east London on Saturday after taking her own life.

The shock news prompted a flood of tributes but also a ferocious outburst of anger, chiefly directed at the Sun, the Mirror, and the Daily Mail. 

Flack was the focus of a barrage of tabloid stories after she allegedly assaulted her boyfriend in December, prompting her to step down from her high-profile gig on the hugely popular reality show.

The Sun newspaper was blasted for deleting a story about a Valentine’s Day card featuring a drawing of the presenter with a message saying “I’ll f**king lamp you.” The story was published the day before Flack’s death but has been removed from the website and replaced with a legal warning.

The hashtags #Don’tBuyTheSun and #CarolinesLaw trended on Twitter as people expressed their outrage at the newspaper and called for stricter regulations. A message carrying the hashtag from actor Hugh Grant racked up more than 60,000 likes.

Author Matt Haig described it as “manslaughter via the press.” 

“The media love ticking boxes and doing their mental health campaigns but fail to take any accountability when they impact people’s health,” he wrote.

Popstar Niall Horan also waded into the debate, tweeting: “Tabloids will never hold themselves accountable in any shape or form for any death. I feel very sad for those who write these terrible articles simply for clickbait and a wage at the end of the year.”

Labour MP Ian Byrne for Liverpool West Derby added: “A despicable rag which continues to spread a daily message of vindictiveness and hate in its pages. If this country did what my city did 31 years ago, the world we live in would be a far better place for so many. #DontBuyTheSun.”

The paper has been subject to a long-running boycott in Liverpool due to its coverage of the Hillsborough Stadium disaster which saw 96 Liverpool FC fans die in a crush in 1989.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was also criticized for pressing ahead with a case against Flack for allegedly assaulting her boyfriend, Lewis Burton.

Flack entered a not guilty plea to the assault charge and was released on bail ahead of a trial in March. In a statement released on Saturday night, her management company criticized the CPS for pursuing the “show trial” even after Burton said he did not support it.

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February 16th 2020, 5:41 am

‘Absolutely robbed!’ Fans fume as Aaron Gordon controversially denied NBA slam dunk title despite IN

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Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon signaled he was “done” with participating in the slam dunk contest at the NBA’s showpiece All-Star Weekend after controversially losing out to Miami Heat star Derrick Jones Jr.

Gordon and Jones Jr. put on a slam dunk spectacular for fans in Chicago on Saturday, with a tight contest going to two tiebreaker slams to decide the winner.

Each had recorded perfect scores of 50 in the final and the first dunk-off, before Jones Jr. edged the second tiebreaker with a score of 48 from the panel of five judges for a massive left-handed windmill dunk.    

Gordon attempted to better that with his effort – in which he took the ball from 7ft 5in Boston Celtics player Tacko Fall’s hands while leaping over him and netting it – but was only given a score of 47 from the judges.

However, that was met with anger by many – including from members of the panel – who felt that the second tiebreaker should have been awarded a tie, with another dunk-off to determine the winner.  

NBA rules do not allow co-champions, although LA Lakers star LeBron James felt both men were worthy winners.

It was a bitter pill for Gordon to swallow, after he suffered a similar fate as runner up back in 2016.

He signaled he was finished with the competition after the latest drama at United Center.

"I did four straight 50s, five straight 50s. That's over. It's a wrap. Let's go home. Four 50s in a row in an NBA dunk contest, it's over. But I don't know. Who's running the show?" Gordon said, ESPN reported. "I feel like I should have two trophies."

Many online agreed, claiming the Miami Heat star had been “robbed.” 

Others, though, defended Jones Jr. as a deserving winner.

Elsewhere on the night, the skills contest was won by Jones Jr’s Miami Heat teammate Bam Adebayo, who edged out Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis.

The three-point contest was won by Sacramento Kings' star Buddy Hield.

February 16th 2020, 5:23 am

Houthis say Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Yemen killed at least 30 people, including women & chi

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Strikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen on Saturday left at least 30 dead, according to the health ministry in the Houthi-controlled Al-Jawf province. Women and children were among the casualties, the ministry told a local TV channel according to Reuters. The alleged attack came shortly after the Houthis claimed to have downed a coalition warplane on Friday. Meanwhile, according to Saudi state news agency SPA, a spokesman for the coalition said that a Tornado jet had “crashed.” He added that a rescue operation had been launched but declined to go into detail about what may have caused the crash, noting only that there was a possibility of “damages” to the craft.

Riyadh and its Gulf allies intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthi rebels took control of the capital Sanaa and ousted the US-backed President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. The conflict has been described as a major humanitarian catastrophe.

February 16th 2020, 5:11 am

‘Lights-out power’: UFC light heavyweight Blachowicz flatlines Corey Anderson with brutal KO – befor

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Polish powerhouse Jan Blachowicz trained his sights on UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones after securing a savage first-round knock-out victory over Corey Anderson at UFC Fight Night 167 on Saturday.

Blachowicz avenged a 2015 loss to Anderson in spectacular fashion in their main event bout in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, starching the American with a huge right hand three minutes into the first round.

After felling Anderson, the Pole immediately turned to UFC lightweight ruler Jones, seated cageside at the Santa Ana Star Center.

Blachowicz stretched out his arms as he sought out Jones, then pointing to him.

‘Bones’ – who defended his 205lbs title with a controversial decision victory over Dominick Reyes last weekend – responded in similar fashion, with outstretched arms and a smile on his face.

Jones had a prime view of what was an explosive KO from Blachowicz, with the number six-ranked Pole demanding that he now have a shot at the title owned by the American.

“I believe I’m the next contender for the title shot, and I don’t want a different fight,” Blachowicz said, MMA Junkiereported.

“Only a title shot. I will wait. I have a lot of things to do, so I will not be boring, I can wait. … I do this all my life, and I wait for this so long. I am ready. I proved that I deserve the title shot, and I will do this, and I will take the belt to Poland.”

The Pole’s power certainly had social media buzzing, with women’s UFC star and pundit Megan Anderson hailing his “legit lights out power.”

Jones himself praised the Pole’s performance, admitting he had been impressed.

“I thought Jan Blachowicz did a hell of a job. His boxing looked great,” said the Rochester-born fighter.   

Blachowicz improved to 26-8 with the win and secured a third victory on the spin and seventh in his last eight fights – but will be mindful that he may have to wait for a shot at Jones despite his momentum, given the widespread calls for the light heavyweight champ to run things back with Reyes.     

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Anderson, meanwhile, suffered his fifth defeat in 18 pro outings – denting his hopes of setting up a title shot at Jones any time soon.

Jones was less than complimentary about a man he has traded barbs with in recent months.

“Honestly, I think [Anderson] was more worried about fighting me than fighting Jan Blachowicz.

“It showed a valuable lesson of what happens when you look past opponents. I think Corey Anderson tasted humble pie tonight.”

That humble pie came in the form of Blachowicz’s crunching right hand.

February 16th 2020, 4:19 am

Overpowering crosswind makes airliner HOVER above runway during landing at London’s Heathrow (VIDEO)

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A passenger jet landing in London pulled off a stunning landing as it reportedly battled Storm Dennis’ powerful winds. The aircraft made an almost vertical landing, at times hovering over the runway as it attempted to touch down.

Incredible footage shows the airplane, identified as an Etihad-operated Airbus A380, approaching Heathrow Airport. But instead of a standard, smooth landing, the aircraft struggles to reach the runway due to incredibly powerful crosswinds. The video emerged as the UK is hit by Storm Dennis.

The plane approaches the runway nearly vertically, hovering meters above the ground as it tries to safely land. At one point, the intense winds push the floating airliner away from the runway, but the aircraft’s skillful pilots quickly make the necessary corrections once they hit the ground.

A similarly impressive landing was caught on camera earlier this month, when an aircraft approaching Heathrow successfully battled crosswinds from Storm Ciara.

The UK has been hit by powerful back-to-back storms, paralyzing much of the country’s transportation. Some jets arriving at Heathrow have been forced to abort their landings due to strong winds.

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February 16th 2020, 4:07 am

WATCH Portugal’s president performing his power greeting again, this time with Indian PM Modi

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The Portuguese leader has added to his repertoire of unorthodox handshakes, this time putting to the test the prime minister of India, who greeted him in New Delhi.

A vigorous and sustained (to say the least) handshake from Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa stole the spotlight during his meeting with Indian PM Narendra Modi this week. The two leaders appeared before the press, but their greeting extended well beyond formal diplomatic protocol.

In videos that surfaced online, de Sousa is seen grabbing Modi’s hand, which he resolutely shakes in a series of quick, sharp movements. The Indian prime minister appears to be a bit puzzled, but up to the task at hand.

The Portuguese president’s handshaking style has earned him a worldwide reputation. A couple of years ago, he even outperformed US President Donald Trump, who is well-known for his own alpha male greeting which he uses to establish dominance.

De Sousa’s handshake almost knocked him off balance right on the White House’s doorstep.

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The Portuguese leader’s unconventional greetings don’t stop there. Last year, a viral video showed a gathering in which a group of students were kissed one by one, only to then be hastily pushed aside by de Sousa.

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February 16th 2020, 3:04 am

From clothes to condoms: Coronavirus is threatening global consumption in ways you never knew were p

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China’s status as the world’s manufacturing powerhouse means the coronavirus epidemic’s effects are being felt in some odd places. We’ve come to terms with no new iPhones, but weirder shortages could upend people’s daily lives.

Plummeting iPhone production and a lack of new cars rolling off the assembly line dominated early discussion of coronavirus-induced shortages. But the epidemic currently sweeping China and making determined inroads into over two dozen other countries has forced hundreds of factories to close, affecting dozens of industries. If nothing else, coronavirus has made the world realize that globalization has its downsides. 

Panic buying

It’s not just the virus itself that’s causing shortages, of course – rumors about the virus can be equally as devastating. Hong Kong, which is heavily dependent on China for many staples, has seen store aisles stripped of necessities like toilet paper, rice, and pasta in recent weeks as panic-buying ramps up while some factories struggle to reopen. Mere rumors of a toilet paper shortage earlier this month were enough to send thousands of locals pouring into stores to denude the shelves, triggering a rebuke from the government to those people “with evil intentions” spreading falsehoods “leading to panic buying and even chaos.”

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No food

At the same time the virus disrupts its exports, China is having a difficult time getting meat into the country, its own pork supply decimated by a recent outbreak of African swine fever. The US, Europe, and Brazil are still shipping meat to China, but the refrigerated containers have to be handled carefully, plugged in as soon as they’re unloaded to keep the meat cold and moved out quickly to make way for other containers.

Customers are seen at the counter for pork and poultry inside a supermarket in Wuhan, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak © REUTERS/Stringer

Citywide quarantines have limited the supply of workers to move meat in Shanghai and Xingang, meaning much never makes it off the ship. 

No clothes

If anyone was hoping to break the monotony of quarantine with a little gym time, they’re out of luck unless they already have the duds. Athletic-wear behemoth UnderArmour revealed that coronavirus-related delays were causing shortages of fabric, packaging and raw materials, potentially reducing first-quarter revenues by up to $60 million.

They’re far from the only clothing brand hit hard by the outbreak – London-based designer Xuzhi Chen lamented that his clothes are manufactured in Shanghai, and he doesn’t know when production will be back online. He’s not alone in his plight - plenty of western brands have clothes made in China.

FILE PHOTO © Global Look Press / Chen Yu / Source: Keystone Press Agency

At the same time, Chinese buyers have stayed home from fashion shows in Milan and London, hitting even those Italian, and British brands that do their manufacturing at home hard. 

No sex?! 

Selling a niche product doesn’t guarantee safety from the ravages of virus-related factory closures, either. The the owner of a chain of Russian sex shops revealed he was feeling the coronavirus squeeze in an interview with Gazeta, lamenting that many of the products he sells are either made in China or have major components sourced from China.

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Condom shortages in Singapore and Hong Kong would at first seem to suggest that people are using their quarantine time to get hot and heavy, but photos circulating on social media indicate the prophylactics are flying off the shelves for other reasons – to cover for shortages of gloves and masks, to start. About a quarter of the world’s condoms are made in China. 

No sports 

Even sports stars have had to deal with coronavirus-induced shortages, a problem they might have expected their celebrity to insulate them from. Bauer Hockey, which makes custom hockey sticks for elite customers including many NHL players, saw its factory in Tongxiang City in Zhejiang province shut down last month and delay reopening twice.  

The issue has apparently caused ripples in the league, leading to players being restricted to a “one-stick limit for practice and maybe two for games.” A player might typically go through several sticks in a single game, so while the shortage is very much a “first world problem,” it has caused much consternation in the hockey world. 

FILE PHOTO © Global Look Press / Peter Schatz / Source: imago sportfotodienst

No business

Coronavirus’ economic impact is likely to be felt far into the future. A handful of major trade shows have either been put on hold or canceled altogether, most notably the Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest smartphone trade show. Scheduled for later this month in Barcelona, the conference – which typically hosts 100,000 attendees – has been completely called off. Smaller events for brands like Swatch and Cisco have also gotten the axe. Even gatherings still on the calendar, like this week’s Singapore Airshow, will see attendance severely curtailed as over 70 exhibitors have pulled out. Multi-million-dollar deals that might have been sealed at these temples of commerce will fall by the wayside or be postponed until the return of a favorable business climate – and no one knows quite when that will be. 

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The virus has disrupted next week’s Berlin Film Festival, with over 50 Chinese delegates and several other international execs pulling out because they couldn’t get travel visas. The festival is supposed to include three Chinese features and one short, which presumably will be screened anyway – even if their directors are stuck home in quarantine. But with China an ever larger international market for films, the absence of the executives will be felt.

No communion

And the virus has caused behaviors to change even where it hasn’t reached epidemic levels. People are thinking twice before having unnecessary contact with others, and redefining what contact might be “necessary.” Our Lady’s Acomb Church in York has pressed pause on its Communion ritual, which involves drinking wine out of a communal chalice, “until further notice” – lest an infected parishioner sicken others.

Such symbolic attempts to stave off an uncertain, invisible threat exemplify the global response to an epidemic that is still not well understood: a combination of panic and prayer.

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February 16th 2020, 2:22 am

Africa’s largest oil nation could see production drop 35%

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Africa’s largest oil producer could see oil production fall by 35 percent as low oil prices and regulatory uncertainty threaten to prompt oil majors to postpone final investment decisions.

OPEC member Nigeria is the largest oil producer in Africa and it pumped 1.776 million barrels of oil per day (bpd) in January 2020, according to OPEC’s secondary sources in its monthly report published this week. Adding condensate production, Nigeria’s total oil output exceeds 2 million bpd.

However, three deepwater projects offshore Nigeria, operated by oil majors Exxon, Shell, and Total, could see their start-up dates delayed by two to four years to the late 2020s, according to the research WoodMac shared with Reuters ahead of publishing it on Friday.

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The regulatory changes in Nigeria’s oil industry and the still pending final approval of a petroleum bill - after two decades of delays and wrangling - act as deterrents to the oil majors’ investment decisions, according to Wood Mackenzie.

Moreover, the three deepwater projects - which could add a combined 300,000 bpd to Nigeria’s production - are not profitable at current oil prices with Brent Crude below $60 a barrel, the consultancy noted.

Just this week, Nigeria assured foreign oil investors that the country is open to business and can guarantee high returns on investment, the country’s President Muhammadu Buhari told an energy conference on Monday.

Nigeria is set to finally pass a new bill regulating the petroleum industry by the middle of this year, after nearly two decades of delays, the country’s Minister of Petroleum Timipre Sylva said at the same event.

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Africa to become ‘land of opportunity’ if US & China strike trade deal – Bank of America

Mele Kyari, Group Managing Director at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), said at the conference that “We are, more than ever before, committed to working with stakeholders to increase our crude oil production from 2.3 million bbl per day to 3 million bbl per day.”

The recent amendment to the Deep Offshore Act will improve financial stability and investor confidence, NNPC’s head said.

This article was originally published on Oilprice.com

February 16th 2020, 1:53 am

Desperate much? Biden takes a dig at Sanders for not distancing ENOUGH from ‘supporters’ attacking a

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Hoping to bounce back from dismal early election results, former VP Joe Biden chastised Senator Bernie Sanders for not disowning supporters that harassed members of a Nevada’s Latino-majority union – except he did.

In an interview to NBC’s “Meet The Press,” to be aired in full on Monday, Biden has unleashed a scathing attack on Sanders, who is currently riding high in the polls in Nevada, which holds the next Democratic nominating contest.

Referring to the instances when supposed Sanders supporters hurled online abuse at the members of the Nevada Culinary Workers Union (NCWU) after it distributed leaflets voicing concerns about Sander’s Medicare for All plan, Biden said that the Vermont independent should do more to distance himself from “vicious, malicious, misogynistic” attacks.

[Sanders needs] to find out who the hell they are, if any of them work for [him]. Fire them…I’m hoping he’s looking. But I tell you what: so far I don’t think it’s sufficient just to say, ‘I disassociate myself’

“You know me well enough to know if any of my supporters did that, I’d disown them. Flat disown them,” the former VP doubled down.

While Biden implied that Sanders all but embraced his aggrieved fans who took out their anger on the NCWU, that is not exactly true. As recently as on Thursday Sanders set the record straight, telling PBS NewsHour that “anyone making personal attacks against anybody else in my name is not part of our movement.”

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With Sanders surging in the polls, Israel lobby spends big bucks to sink his chances in Nevada

Sanders, who won popular vote at the Iowa caucuses and emerged victorious from the New Hampshire primaries this week, cast doubt that the online “harassers” were a part of his support base at all.

We don't want them. And I'm not so sure, to be honest with you, that they are necessarily part of our movement.

In addition to that, Sanders released a statement, calling on “supporters of all campaigns” to stay clear of online bullying. “Harassment of all forms is unacceptable to me, and we urge supporters of all campaigns not to engage in bullying or ugly personal attacks,” the statement read.

Biden, who has failed to live up to the expectations of being an early frontrunner in the race, was slated to become the likeliest endorsement choice for Culinary, but with him not delivering, the union decided not to take risks, Politico reported, citing sources. The powerful union, that represents over 60,000 workers, ultimately refused to endorse any of the hopefuls.

Biden’s swipe at Sanders did not sit well with pro-Sanders netizens, who wasted no time in reminding the establishment darling about his own faux pas, while accusing him of double standards. 

Several commenters asked why Biden has not “disowned” his supporter who referred to Bernie Sanders activists as “gypsies” in a since-deleted tweet

Some pointed out that was virtually impossible to “disown” online trolls roaming Twitter.

Others argued that self-confessed “gaffe machine” Biden, who has recently called a woman at his rally “a lying, dog-faced pony soldier” is not the one to lecture Sanders on the issue.

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February 15th 2020, 10:48 pm

Reports of ‘multiple’ rockets fired at US embassy in Baghdad, sounds of explosions

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A US embassy in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, reportedly came under rocket fire, and several blasts have been heard at the Green Zone, hosting diplomatic compounds, according to reports on Arab media.

DETAILS TO FOLLOW

February 15th 2020, 7:59 pm

Klobuchar flip-flops on immigration ahead of Nevada primary, says English SHOULDN’T be official lang

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Senator Amy Klobuchar has declared that English shouldn’t be the official language of the US, ahead of next week’s primary in Latino-populated Nevada. However, Klobuchar sang a different tune a decade ago.

Speaking at a campaign rally in Las Vegas on Friday, the three-term Minnesota senator said that she has “taken a strong position against” any legislation that would enshrine English as the US’ official language. 

“I think that when you look at a state like this state, and a country like ours that is so diverse, you don’t want to have that provision in law,” Klobuchar told the crowd.

Klobuchar’s statement is typical of her Democratic competitors, who have all promised an about-turn from Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policies. Every Democratic candidate pledged in September to grant government healthcare to illegal immigrants and return to accepting at least 110,000 refugees per year, while frontrunners Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have vowed to decriminalize illegal border crossing entirely.

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However, while a statement like Klobuchar’s may play well in Nevada, where around a third of residents are of Hispanic or Latino descent, it is a dramatic reversal of her own position a decade ago.

Klobuchar was one of 17 Democrats to support a Republican-sponsored 2007 amendment that would have reversed President Bill Clinton’s executive order requiring federal agencies to provide materials in languages other than English. Though the amendment passed, the bill it was attached to later died, and the US currently has no official language.

“I embrace immigrants,” Klobuchar told reporters on Friday. However, during a campaign debate in 2006, the Minnesota lawmaker called for “order at the border,” and threatened to prosecute employers who hire illegal immigrants. A year later, she voted in favor of a bill that called for the construction of nearly 400 miles of “triple-layered” border fencing, and a doubling of Border Patrol agents.

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Why Iowa and New Hampshire no longer matter, and who REALLY decides the nominee

Despite her own history of signing tough border legislation, Klobuchar said on Friday that she disagrees “vehemently” with Trump’s border policies, including his signature and uncompleted “wall.”

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February 15th 2020, 6:27 pm

Two in a row! Kulizhnikov & Voronina smash records to clinch 1000m and 5000m gold at speed skating w

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Team Russia continues taking the ISU Speed Skating World Championship in Salt Lake City, US, by storm with Natalia Voronina setting word record to win the women’s 5000m gold and Pavel Kulizhnikov following suit at the men's 1000m.

Russian speed skating ace Kulizhnikov clocked a time of 1.05,69 seconds to set a new mark at the 1000m distance on Saturday, his second triumph in as many days after he claimed gold on the shortest speed skating distance of 500m on Friday.

Olympic champion from the Netherlands, Kjeld Nuis, finished second, while Canada’s Laurent Dubreuil came in third.

While it was a fifth world title at separate distances for the 25-year-old speed skating star, for Russia’s Natalia Voronina, who hit the ice shortly before her titled teammate, it was her first world championship glory.

Moreover, Voronina, who clocked a world record time of 6.39,02 seconds, became the first woman to run out of 6.40,00 seconds at that distance, a milestone in itself, and the first Russian to ever claim the women’s 5000m gold at world championship.

Natalia Voronina set a world record to win gold at the women’s 5000m

With her stellar performance, she beat veteran Martina Sablikova in what became the Czech's first loss at the distance since 2007.

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Sablikova had to contend with silver, while Esmee Visser from the Netherlands, rounded out the top three.

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February 15th 2020, 6:14 pm

Russian shock artist arrested in France days after leaking sex tapes of Macron party ex-candidate fo

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Self-exiled Russian shock artist, Pyotr Pavlensky, has been detained in France over a knife attack. The arrest came shortly after sex tapes he released forced a Paris mayor candidate to withdraw from the race.

Pavlensky was arrested by police after he left his hotel in Paris on Saturday, Le Parisien reported. BFM TV said that the artist had been wanted over “banditry with the use of dangerous means” since an incident at a party on January 1.

At the time, the Russian reportedly had a heated argument with a group of people and grabbed a knife to add weight to his stance. He ended up injuring two partygoers, but was himself hit in the head with a bottle.

The artist insisted that he had to face off against around a dozen adversaries and used the knife only to scare them off. He said he then dropped the weapon on the floor without wounding anybody.

He’s already serving a three-year suspended sentence for setting the entrance to the Bank of France on fire to decry “tyranny” and encourage a new revolution in the country back in 2017.

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Artist to arsonist: Scrotum-nailing anti-Putin stuntman sentenced for setting French bank on fire

French law enforcement had a month-and-a-half to apprehend Pavlensky, but they decided to move against him at a really curious moment. 

The man was making headlines in the country due to his role in the sex scandal involving Paris mayor candidate Benjamin Griveaux from President Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche party.

On Valentine’s Day, Griveaux announced that he was withdrawing his candidacy a month before the election in order to shield his family, who had been the subject of “defamatory statements, lies, anonymous attacks, exposure of secret private conversations, as well as death threats,” from further harassment.

The politician said the final straw was the publication of sex tapes by Pavlensky’s website, Pornopolitique. However, he neither denied nor confirmed the authenticity of the materials leaked by the shock artist.

Pavlensky accused Griveaux of being a hypocrite, saying that the father of three ran on a platform of family values while actually leading a completely different lifestyle.

He backed those claims by releasing what he said was the politician’s correspondence with a young woman. It included Griveaux allegedly confessing that he considered marriage a “prison” as well as some of the intimate photos and videos he sent to the female. 

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Le Kompromat? Macron’s candidate for Paris mayor ends race amid sexting scandal as controversial Russian shock artist leaks tapes

To add to Pavlensky’s problems, Griveaux filed a complaint over “invasion of privacy” after the leak and prosecutors have opened an investigation into the matter.

Before his arrest, Pavlensky wrote on Facebook that the Pornopolitique website was blocked by the French authorities after being online for less than three days.

But the artist vowed to keep publishing compromising data on other French politicians, saying that this was what “freedom of speech” looks like.

“I won’t allow any power to destroy what I put so much effort and time into. And I promise to all viewers and readers that the Pornopolitique portal will be restored,” he wrote.

Pavlensky was propelled to international notoriety by a series of politically-charged stunts with the involvement of self-harm in Russia over the last decade. In 2012, he sewed his mouth shut in support of the members of the Pussy Riot punk band, who were charged with hooliganism after an unsanctioned gig at Moscow’s main cathedral. His other notable performance saw him undressing and nailing his scrotum to the pavement of Red Square.

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Shock artist nails his genitals to Red Square cobblestone in protest

In 2017, the artist was accused of sexually assaulting a woman and asked for political asylum in France, arguing that he was being persecuted by the Russian government over his activism.

France took him in but apparently quickly regretted that decision as Pavlensky’s over-the-top performances continued there and now target the French authorities.

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February 15th 2020, 4:44 pm

With Sanders surging in the polls, Israel lobby spends big bucks to sink his chances in Nevada

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After emerging as the Democratic frontrunner in wake of Iowa and New Hampshire primaries, Bernie Sanders heads to Nevada leading in polls but facing new opposition: the Israel lobby and its vast cash reserves.

Despite being pipped at the post in Iowa by Pete Buttigieg (with the help of a malfunctioning voting app, his supporters claim), Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders came out victorious in last week’s New Hampshire primary. With the Nevada primary just a week away, a Morning Consult poll published this week put the progressive senator ten points ahead of Joe Biden, the former vice president and until now, the supposed frontrunner for the 2020 nomination.

While the news has energized Sanders’ supporters, it’s also motivated mainstream Democrats and establishment talking heads, who’ve taken to slamming Sanders as a communist,” and a “left-wing version of Trump.”

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'Communist,' 'left-wing version of Trump': Liberals freak out as Bernie makes major gains in Nevada, Texas polls

These are familiar talking points to Sanders, who has spent his entire political life an avowed socialist. Yet Sanders now faces fresh attacks from the powerful Israel lobby.

Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) is a super PAC headed by Democratic pollster Mark Mellman. With a week to go until the Nevada showdown, the group has been airing ads criticizing Sanders’ “electability” — a nebulous concept that nobody but political strategists seem to understand. The ads begin airing on Saturday.

For Mellman’s organization, the strategy is not a new one. DMFI spent $800,000 on anti-Sanders ads in Iowa, prompting Sanders himself to slate the “big-money interests” for attempting to derail his campaign with “negative ads.” The exact amount spent in Nevada is still unknown.

The Iowa ads did not directly attack Sanders on his Israel policy — which is considerably softer than any recent administration’s, and would restrict aid to the Jewish state unless its settlement policy is reversed. Instead they trashed him for his “socialist” views and highlighted his recent heart attack as proof of his lack of “electability.”

Israeli lobbying in Washington is usually the domain of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), an organization that spent more than $3.2 million on federal lobbying in 2016. Notably, AIPAC was forced to apologize to House Democrats this week for an ad campaign that called Muslim congresswomen Rashida Tlaib (Michigan) and Ilhan Omar (Minnesota) — outspoken opponents of Israeli policy — a "radical" threat “maybe more sinister” than Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS). 

AIPAC denied that its upper management had anything to do with the ad campaign.

AIPAC has always lobbied politicians from both sides of the aisle. However, President Trump has already granted Israel a veritable policy wishlist — supporting Israel’s claim to the Golan Heights, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and presenting a peace plan heavily weighted in Israel’s favor. With Trump on one side and Sanders, Tlaib, and Omar on the other, the organization cannot therefore pretend to favor no party in Washington.

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US media tries another ‘Bernie blackout’ after New Hampshire win, but their game is not working

That partisan work is left to organizations like DMFI, whose ads AIPAC claims to have no involvement with. However, the Intercept reported that AIPAC is allowing donations to DMFI to count as donations to AIPAC, with big money contributions buying donors access to AIPAC’s list of friendly congressmen, all without implicating AIPAC in the Sanders smear campaign. The investigative site also reported that DMFI is staffed by a host of AIPAC alumni, who switched over to focus their lobbying efforts exclusively on the Democratic Party, following the GOP’s rightward drift on Israel in recent years.

As with the Tlaib/Omar ad campaign, AIPAC denied the Intercept’s claim.

For Sanders, who is Jewish, DMFI’s ad spend and AIPAC’s alleged support for the campaign will present an obstacle to winning in Nevada. However, if the DMFI’s experience in Iowa is anything to go by, not even mountains of cash can halt the Vermont senator’s momentum. Sanders’ campaign raised $1.3 million after the progressive candidate warned supporters of an “outside spending group” attempting to quash his efforts in the Hawkeye State.

Sanders’ team too seems unfazed by the coming ads. “Hard to think of a better measure of electability than winning the first two states,” communications director Mike Casca told Mediaite on Wednesday.

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February 15th 2020, 4:14 pm

Hillary for VP is ‘speculation’? Bloomberg campaign brushes aside, but stops short of denying, Clint

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A spokesman for Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg has brushed off a report he’s considering taking on Hillary Clinton as a running mate without denying the rumor, and reaction on Twitter was unstoppable.

Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report claimed on Saturday that Bloomberg’s campaign considers the idea of a Mike/Hillary ticket a “formidable force.” Citing sources “close to” the campaign, Drudge said that Bloomberg would go as far as changing his official residence from New York to one of his properties in Colorado or Florida, “since the electoral college makes it hard for a POTUS and VPOTUS from the same state.”

©  Twitter / @DRUDGE

However, Clinton has spent much of the last three years disputing the results of the 2016 election, blaming Russia, the FBI, Bernie Sanders, sexism, and more for her loss to Donald Trump. As such, rumors of her planned entry into the 2020 race have repeatedly surfaced, only to be shot down by her communications team.

Bloomberg’s campaign downplayed the latest report, with Bloomberg communication director Jason Schechter apparently calling it “speculation” in a statement.

We are focused on the primary and the debate, not VP speculation.

Taking Clinton on board would not be completely out of the blue for Bloomberg though. A former Republican, Bloomberg endorsed Clinton for president in 2016, and according to Donald Trump, was offered a position in Clinton’s administration in return. Emails released by WikiLeaks in 2016 seemed to confirm this, with Bloomberg and Clinton aides brainstorming an array of positions for the former mayor, from ambassador to China, to Secretary of State.

Whatever their history, Clinton’s team likely aren’t receptive to the idea, former aide Zerlina Maxwell told MSNBC. Maxwell said she was “highly skeptical” of the report, and called Bloomberg a “deeply flawed” candidate and a “defective” product, whose position in the crowd of Democratic hopefuls has been bolstered by his multi-million dollar advertising spend.

As commentators groaned at the thought of a Clinton/Trump rematch by proxy, the right used the report to drum up support. “Both Bloomberg and Clinton will confiscate our guns,” the National Rifle Association (NRA) declared. “There has never been a more critical time to stand and fight.”

With Bloomberg already having pumped some $300 million into advertising since announcing his candidacy in November, some commentators saw the report as yet another of the wily billionaire's publicity stunts. "It worked like a charm," conservative pundit Mark Dice wrote, "he's a sly devil."

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February 15th 2020, 2:54 pm

Barcelona hit by HACK ATTACK from cyber group OurMine as Catalan giants suffer SECOND online securit

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Football giants Barcelona have been hit by hackers OurMine for a second time, with the cyber group taking over the club’s Twitter accounts and sending messages to their millions of followers on Saturday.

Shortly after Barcelona claimed a hard-fought 2-1 home win against La Liga rivals Getafe at the Nou Camp, the club’s Spanish and English language Twitter pages posted messages distinctly unrelated to what Lionel Messi and Co. had just done on the pitch.

Instead, cyber group OurMine hijacked the accounts to post messages to advertise their security services.

“Hi, we are OurMine. Well, this is the second time, the security level is better but still not the best to improve your accounts security,” the group wrote, before providing its details.

It is the second time that the club have been hit by the group, following a similar hack attack in August of 2017.

Twitter

Barca are the latest sporting target for OurMine, a group which frequently uses cyber vandalism to advertise its services.

Numerous NFL teams also fell prey to the group in January, as did the Twitter and Instagram accounts for leading MMA promotion the UFC.    

February 15th 2020, 1:24 pm

‘I’m really sorry!’ Kiki Bertens apologizes for knocking out THREE Russians at home St. Petersburg O

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Dutch tennis star Kiki Bertens has jokingly apologized in front of the Russian crowd for knocking out three home favorites from the 2020 WTA St. Petersburg Open.

The 28-year-old defending champion advanced to the final of the St. Petersburg-based tournament by beating Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova in three sets on Saturday, 6-1, 4-6, 6-1.

READ MORE: 'They've pointed the finger at me': Margaret Court slams Tennis Australia over muted 50th anniversary celebrations

On her way to the final, Bertens also defeated two more Russian players, Anastasia Potapova and Veronika Kudermetova.

“I’m really satisfied with my performance and with the result I have showed this week. I’m happy to play in the final tomorrow,” Bertens said after Saturday’s match.

I was pleased to see that half of the stands were colored in orange today. Sorry everyone that I already knocked three players from Russia out of the tournament this week, but I can do nothing about it. I will try to show my best in the final,” she added.

In the tournament’s deciding match Bertens will face off against Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina, who beat Maria Sakkari of Greece in their semi-final.

February 15th 2020, 1:13 pm

Breaking 12-year curse: Alexander Loginov wins first gold for Russia at 2020 IBU World Championships

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Russian biathlete Alexander Loginov has taken the first gold for his team at the 2020 IBU World Championships in Italy, finishing first in the men’s sprint on Saturday.

The 28-year-old displayed flawless shooting and completed the 10km race in 22 minutes 48.1 seconds to claim his maiden world title. France’s Quentin Fillon Maillet and Martin Fourcade earned silver and bronze respectively.

READ MORE: ‘Dodgy decision’: Russian biathlon official questions controversial doping bans for former stars

Clean shooting was a key factor in today’s win,” Loginov said after the race.

With that win, Loginov ended a 12-year losing streak for Russian male biathletes whose previous World Championships win dated back to 2008 when Maxim Chudov was unrivalled in the men’s sprint.

This was the first medal for team Russia at the 2020 IBU World Championships, which will conclude next week.

On Sunday, Loginov will open the men’s pursuit where the starting positions are based on the results of sprint, having a six-second advantage over Maillet.

February 15th 2020, 1:13 pm

‘Change course before it's too late’: Lavrov calls on Europe to reject false notion of ‘Russian thre

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NATO’s eastward expansion and large-scale drills near Russian borders may lead to unpredictable consequences and it's time for Europe to change course, Russia's FM Sergey Lavrov told the Munich Security Conference.

Europe is where the "crisis of confidence" in international relations is felt the most, Foreign Minister Lavrov said as he took to the stage, explaining that "the structure of the Cold War rivalry is being recreated" on the continent.

"Escalating tensions, NATO's military infrastructure advancing to the East, exercises of unprecedented scope near the Russian borders, the pumping of defense budgets beyond measure – all this generates unpredictability," he added.

He then called on Europe to focus on security cooperation and helping to uphold international treaties, instead of following a policy of confrontation.

Give up on promoting the phantom of the 'Russian threat' or any other threat – before it's too late – and remember what unites us all.

Lavrov noted that "breakthrough technologies" must not be used to disrupt international stability further, stressing the importance of efforts aimed at "preventing an arms race in space and not allowing the militarization of cyberspace."

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He also relayed Moscow's proposal for the permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, the UK and the US) to hold a standalone summit in order to have "a frank and honest exchange of opinions on how to preserve peace for future generations."

Lavrov answered several questions from the media, which mainly revolved around the state of Russia's relations with Turkey over the flare-up in Syria's Idlib, the last terrorist enclave in country's north. Moscow and Ankara have been working to settle the military escalation in the area, but both parties made accusations that agreements had not been fulfilled after the Syrian and the Turkish troops clashed.

"We have very good relations with Turkey. But it doesn't mean that we must agree on everything," Lavrov said.

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However, victory against the terrorists in Idlib is "inevitable," he stressed, adding that separating the militants from "normal opposition" remains a pressing issue. According to the top Russian diplomat, that's something Ankara must do, due to its influence with the anti-government fighters.

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February 15th 2020, 1:13 pm

British celeb world shaken after ex-Love Island host found dead at 40

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Former Love Island presenter Caroline Flack has been found dead in her London flat, aged 40. Flack was due to appear in court in March, after she was charged with assaulting her boyfriend.

Flack’s body was found on Saturday, and the cause of her death has yet to be confirmed. 

Famed for hosting reality show ‘Love Island’ on ITV between 2015 and 2019, Flack’s personal life was a turbulent one. The presenter was due to appear in court next month to stand trial for allegedly assaulting her boyfriend, Lewis Burton, outside her home in December.

Flack was barred from contacting Burton since the incident, though the pair shared photos of each other on Instagram the day before Flack was found dead. 

British celebrities and fans took to Twitter on Saturday to send their condolences. Some blamed the tabloid press for “hounding” the former Love Islander following her arrest last year.

DETAILS TO FOLLOW

February 15th 2020, 1:13 pm

‘I can without!’ Ukraine’s Zelensky left with no microphone at Munich Security Conference (VIDEO)

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s speech at the Munich Security Conference started off with a slip-up as the organizers somehow forgot to provide him with a microphone.

Zelensky’s speech took place in a small room outside the main conference hall. When the Ukrainian president approached the podium, he was surprised to find that there was no microphone. “Can I have microphone?” he asked in English. “I can without,” he said, causing the audience to laugh.

It turned out that there was no microphone, not because the organizers weren’t interested in what Zelensky had to say, or thought he wouldn’t need one due to his background as a comedian and actor. It was merely an oversight, which is always possible at big events like this.

“I thought they miked you up,” the moderator said, explaining the slip-up, and gave Zelensky his own handheld mic. The president was then given a lapel mic. “Two is much,” he said, again drawing a laugh from the audience.

Once that was all sorted out, Zelensky delivered his speech, switching from English back to Ukrainian.

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February 15th 2020, 10:25 am

London's Euston station evacuated by armed police amid reports of a stabbing attack

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Armed police have descended on London’s Euston station following reports of a stabbing and mass fistfight. Bystanders fled the station amid what Transport for London called a “police incident.”

The incident took place on Saturday afternoon, sending travelers fleeing in panic from the city’s fourth-busiest train station. Eyewitnesses described “police with guns everywhere,” and “people running up escalators.”

A map view of London's Euston station © Google Maps

Neither London’s Metropolitan Police or the British Transport Police have confirmed the stabbing or released any details of the incident.

The supposed stabbing comes two weeks after a convicted terrorist stabbed two people in the London suburb of Streatham, seriously injuring one. The attacker was shot dead by police following his “Islamist-related” knife rampage.

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February 15th 2020, 10:25 am

‘I just prayed he got up’: Rising star Garcia OBLITERATES opponent with KO of the year contender (WA

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Rising American star Ryan Garcia needed just 80 seconds to lay waste to Nicaragua’s Francisco Fonseca in their lightweight bout in California, scoring a savage early contender for knockout of the year.

Garcia, 21, detonated a lighting left hook on Fonseca inside the first round at the Honda Center in Anaheim, crumpling the Nicaraguan before his head bounced off the canvas.

Fonseca initially lay prone, eyes open but oblivious to his surroundings although then stirring as the referee waved off the fight.

The brutal shot was one for the highlights reel – and was later shared by Garcia with the caption: “I just prayed he got up.”

It was a destructive night’s work for the unbeaten young American, who improved to 20 wins from 20 fights, 17 coming by way of knockout.

WBC Silver champion Garcia later said he had learned the blistering left hook from studying videos of American all-time great Sugar Ray Robinson.

“It was good. It didn’t last that long, but I watched a video of Sugar Ray Robinson and he did this fake. I threw the perfect left hook. I saw it and went for the left hook,” Garcia said.

After obliterating the 26-year-old Fonseca, Garcia trained his sights on a host of lightweight rivals – including veteran Venezuelan former multiple world champion Jorge Linares, fellow US youngster Devlin Haney, American WBA lightweight king Gervonta Davis, and British former title challenger Luke Campbell.

Linares was in action earlier in the night in Anaheim, beating Carlos Morales with a fourth-round knockout, while Garcia was joined in the ring after his victory by Haney, the WBC lightweight champion in recess who has been sidelined with a shoulder injury.

"I had a plan for 2020 that was to shock the world. I am about to shock the world, I will beat Linares, beat Luke Campbell, beat Gervonta Davis and then go after Devin,” said Garcia, who is promoted by Oscar de la Hoya.  

February 15th 2020, 10:25 am

‘Dodgy decision’: Russian biathlon official questions controversial doping bans for former stars

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Vice president of the Russian Biathlon Union (RBU) Sergey Chepikov says two-year bans imposed on Russian athletes Evgeny Ustyugov and Svetlana Sleptsova over alleged doping violations are “dodgy” and “incorrect.”

On Saturday, two former biathletes Evgeny Ustyugov and Svetlana Sleptsova were slapped with the doping bans over alleged doping violations which were based on the retrieved database from the Moscow Anti-doping Laboratory.

READ MORE: Russian Olympic Committee head Stanislav Pozdnyakov: 'Our main goal is to protect athletes'

The accusations were brought against the pair in respect of samples collected from them in 2013, one year before the Sochi Olympics where Ustyugov won gold in the men’s team relay race.

This is not right to talk about a positive doping test six years after the competition,” Chepikov said.

You can’t even imagine what a huge blow it is to an athlete. We need to introduce a certain time limit for doping checks otherwise violations can be found even 20 years after sporting events.

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It’s not clear who kept those samples and where they were stored. Someone who had access to the laboratory could have tampered the samples.

All these actions regarding the ban are beyond understanding. We need to change the rules to avoid similar situations in the future. We should apply efforts on hiring professional lawyers to overturn the verdict,” he added.

At the start of December, the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Executive Committee voted to hand a four-year ban to Russia, prohibiting the country from taking part in and hosting international sporting events over alleged manipulations of Moscow laboratory data.

Russian officials said that the data was accessed from abroad by former laboratory chief Grigory Rodchenkov, whose accusations ignited a huge doping row over Russian sport.

February 15th 2020, 10:25 am

But would anyone notice? CNN breaks ‘report’ of Syrian airstrikes… from 2018

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CNN readers anxious to get updates on the Syrian war have been treated with a fresh report on the “regime’s atrocities” citing the usual suspects… or it would only seem so, as the network reran a two-year-old story instead.

Citing the UK-based and rebel-linked Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the story claims that forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad killed at least 71 people and injured 325 others in a series of airstrikes on rebel-held Eastern Ghouta. Published this week, the report is featured on CNN website’s ‘World’ and ‘Middle East’ sections. 

A screenshot from CNN's 'World' page, February 15, 2020

The only problem is that Ghouta has been under the control of Assad’s government for nearly two years. Homes in the region are being rebuilt, not leveled by bombs.

In fact, CNN ran the same story, word for word, back in February 2018. The same paragraphs detailing the horrendous bombing appeared, along with a handy get-out-clause: “CNN could not independently verify the claim.”

So why tell old news again? Did the network feel the need to remind its readers again which side they should take in Syria’s eight-year civil war? Did its editors slip in an old story under the radar to bulk up its weekend coverage?

Whatever the reason, Saturday is often a slow news day, and clicks are clicks. After all, if it weren’t for the ad revenue generated by stories like this, CNN couldn’t send its reporters into the field to cover the stories that really matter, like when it revealed how President Trump eats “chicken with a fork.” Nor could it afford to pay its journalists to doxx pro-Trump meme makers and mock Trump supporters’ ‘yokel’ accents.

Perhaps CNN listened to its audience, one of whom complained on Sunday “how there’s still nothing about Syria on the CNN front page.” Perhaps in the rush to pump out Syria-related content for this one viewer, its editors figured anything was better than nothing.

CNN is sometimes accused of peddling ‘fake news,’ but the real reason for the Syria rerun was probably less sinister. The article’s URL features the same 2018 date as the original, meaning some overworked editor likely pressed the wrong button in the website’s backend. 

Though its publication was likely a slip of the mouse, the article conveniently bolstered the pro-rebel coverage of Syria’s venerable conflict.

“Sure, CNN will claim there was a minor edit,” journalist Eva Bartlett wrote on Facebook. “But as a ‘professional news organization,’ if that were the strange case, they should remove the fake news article from the rest of their current fake news.”

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February 15th 2020, 10:25 am

Chinese FM after Pompeo & Esper speeches: Replace ‘China’ with ‘US’, and maybe lies become facts?

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Beijing has issued a scathing rebuke of Mike Pompeo’s claim that China is involved in covert activities as part of its desire to obtain greater power, noting that the allegation might be true – if he were referring to Washington.

“All these accusations against China are lies, not based on facts,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the Munich Security Conference on Saturday. “But if we replace the subject of the lie from China to America, maybe those lies become facts?”

Earlier during the conference, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused China of using tech firms such as Huawei in order to pursue its desire for dominance. He also claimed that companies that receive assistance from Beijing are “Trojan horses” in the service of Chinese intelligence.

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His comments were echoed by Pentagon chief Mark Esper, who alleged that Huawei’s 5G technology serves Beijing’s “nefarious strategy” of compromising Western infrastructure.

Washington has repeatedly claimed that Huawei poses an existential security threat to its allies. However, these allegations have been largely dismissed by Europe. The UK has already decided to allow Huawei limited participation in its 5G network, and countries such as Germany, Portugal and Italy have been vocal critics of US pressure to cut all ties with the Chinese firm.

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February 15th 2020, 9:37 am

Usain Bolt’s buffalo-racing rival: Humble Indian worker ‘completes 100m course FASTER than world rec

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Indian buffalo racer Srinivas Gowda has drawn comparisons with sprint legend Usain Bolt after delivering a record-breaking run at a Kambala racing event in Karnataka.

Gowda, who is a part-time construction worker, completed the 142m race in an amazing 13.42 seconds, setting a new record in the traditional Indian sport where farmers sprint with a pair of buffaloes on slush tracks.

READ MORE:Alica Schmidt - German track star & ‘World’s Sexiest Athlete’ chasing Tokyo 2020 dreams

After a video of Gowda’s sensational run was shared on social media, users quickly calculated that he had covered 100m in 9.55 seconds – which is 0.03 seconds faster than Jamaican sprint legend Usain Bolt's 100m world record.

The runner captured the attention of Minister of State of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Kiren Rijiju, who invited him to meet top Sports Authority of India (SAI) coaches after his record-setting race went viral.

"I will call Srinivasa Gowda for trials by top SAI Coaches. There's a lack of knowledge in the masses about standards of Olympics, especially in athletics where ultimate human strength and endurance are surpassed. I'll ensure that no talents in India are left out untested," he said.

The 28-year-old sensation played down comparisons with retired Jamaican sprint star Bolt, humbly stating: "People are comparing me to Usain Bolt. He is a world champion, I am only running in a slushy paddy field."

February 15th 2020, 8:22 am

‘Winning’ or ‘weakening’? Pompeo and Macron divided over what the future holds for the West

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As the US secretary of state bragged about the successes of the West at the Munich Security Conference, the French president seemed rather skeptical, saying the Western world is no longer dominant.

“I’m happy to report that the death of the Transatlantic alliance is grossly exaggerated. The West is winning, we are collectively winning and we’re doing it together,” Mike Pompeo said at the Munich Security Conference this Saturday, making a veiled swipe at French President Emmanuel Macron’s famous “brain death” of NATO remarks.

“Free” nations “are simply more successful than any other model that’s been tried in the history of civilizations,” he said, noting that migrants flee to Europe, not Cuba, and that people go to study “in Cambridge and not Caracas” while businesses are opened in Silicon Valley and not in St. Petersburg. 

READ MORE: ‘We’re going to work towards that end’: Pompeo on inviting Russia back into G7

Speaking shortly after Pompeo, Macron used his time to shred the glossy picture of the world painted by the American diplomat.

Europe is “becoming a continent that doesn’t believe in its future,” he maintained, before offering a much less optimistic vision of the Western world.

There is indeed a weakening of the West. 15 years ago, we thought our values were universal values, they will always rule the world, and we are dominant in terms of military technology and so on.

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Existential angst over ‘Westlessness’ at Munich conference leaves out the West’s responsibility for its own decline

February 15th 2020, 7:52 am

Turkey warns it will take action over Idlib flare-up if diplomacy fails

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Ankara seeks a diplomatic resolution to an uptick in fighting in Idlib, Syria, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said, but it is prepared to take other steps if talks with Russia fall through.

A Turkish delegation will arrive in Moscow on Monday to hold talks over the crisis in Idlib, Cavusoglu told reporters during the Munich Security Conference on Saturday. The senior Turkish diplomat said he will also meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Ankara is “working to maintain diplomacy” regarding the situation in Idlib, Cavusoglu claimed, while warning that necessary steps will be taken if negotiations in Moscow fail to produce results. Idlib remains the last terrorist enclave in Syria. The area has been declared a ‘de-escalation zone’ under an agreement between Russia and Turkey.

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In recent weeks the region has seen a rise in hostilities. Earlier this month, several Turkish personnel in Idlib were killed by Syrian shelling; Ankara responded with retaliatory attacks.

Moscow has insisted that the strikes occurred as Turkish troops were moved without prior warning, and has accused Ankara of failing to clear the ‘de-escalation zone’ of jihadist groups.

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February 15th 2020, 7:52 am

UEFA has gone nuclear on Manchester City – and the fallout for European football will be massive

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European football governing body UEFA has taken the nuclear option by slapping Manchester City with a two-year ban – and the ramifications are likely to spread far and wide for clubs, players and managers.

UEFA announced on Friday that City had been banned from all European competition for the next two seasons and handed a €30 million ($32.5 million) fine for breaches of Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules.

READ MORE: Manchester City BANNED from UEFA Champions League for TWO YEARS for breaking financial fair play rules

The case centers on leaked emails which outline that City deceived UEFA by claiming sponsorship deals between 2012 and 2016 had come from outside investment, rather than directly from City’s mega-rich Abu Dhabi owner, Sheikh Mansour.

Man City owner Mansour. © Action Images

It did not take long for City to fire back on Friday, stating they will appeal the decision with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland, blasting the case against them as “prejudicial.”  

“Simply put, this is a case initiated by UEFA, prosecuted by UEFA and judged by UEFA," read a spiky statement from the club.

"With this prejudicial process now over, the Club will pursue an impartial judgment as quickly as possible and will therefore, in the first instance, commence proceedings with the Court of Arbitration for Sport at the earliest opportunity,” 

But however that appeal pans out, the shockwaves for football are massive, and will reverberate on many levels.

GUARDIOLA TO GO?

The most urgent question for many at Manchester City will be how the UEFA ruling affects the future of manager Pep Guardiola.

Guardiola is in his fourth year at City. © Reuters

So much at City has been based on the foundation of getting the Spaniard in at the club and providing him with the platform for the success that brought consecutive Premier League titles as well as two League Cups and an FA Cup.  

Long coveted by City, the groundwork was laid to bring in Guardiola even before his appointment in 2016, from the appointment of former Barcelona allies Txiki Begiristain as director of football and Ferran Soriano as CEO, to opening the purse strings generously whenever Guardiola has signaled the need to spend.

Guardiola has won back-to-back Premier League titles with City. © Reuters

But despite the domestic success, the higher goal for Guardiola and the City hierarchy has always been Champions League glory.

That has eluded them so far, although they have another crack this season, starting again when they meet Real Madrid in the last 16 first leg in Spain next week.

Guardiola is in his fourth year of a five-year deal at City, with reports that he has a break clause which would allow him to walk away this summer.

READ MORE: Klopp’s new deal gives Liverpool the certainty that Man City so desperately crave with Guardiola

Speculation was already rife that he could do so, especially given that City have fallen off dramatically in the Premier League – where they are 22 points behind a rampant Liverpool – and that Guardiola is known for putting himself at risk of burning out due to his all-consuming intensity.

With the prospect of the Etihad club now being banned from Europe for the next two season, it would seemingly diminish the appeal of sticking around for Guardiola, however much he professes to be committed to the club.

Looking for a new challenge? It's unclear how the ban will affect Guardiola's future at City. © Reuters

The lack of European football would also reduce Guardiola’s ability to bring in big-name players in a projected summer rebuild which, on current league form, is badly needed if City are to mount any sort of challenge to Liverpool next season.

Guardiola has publically asserted that he has full confidence in the City hierarchy, and that he believes their protestations that they have done nothing wrong with their financial dealings under scrutiny (which in any case came before his time at the club).

Indeed, after UEFA dropped its bombshell on Friday, a clip from 2018 quickly resurfaced on social media in which Guardiola confidently asserted that City would never face Champions League sanction.

But now that they are staring that scenario in the face – with all the accompanying uncertainty and potential financial and player losses – Guardiola will surely be less inclined to carry out his planned Man City rebuild.

MANAGERIAL MERRY-GO-ROUND

All of the uncertainty surrounding Guardiola will put a number of European giants on red alert at the prospect of securing his managerial services.

One such club would seem to be Juventus, who are mid-way into their first season under new boss Maurizio Sarri, but with the signs that not all is well as their total domestic dominance comes under serious threat from Lazio and an Inter Milan team marshalled by the relentless force of Antonio Conte.

Sarri and Juve are locked in a tight Serie A battle. © Global Look Press via ZUMA Press

Should Juve – with their star-studded squad containing the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo – fail to make it nine Scudettos in a row, then the pressure to ditch the nascent Sarri project would be strong.

Even if they do scrape home domestically, Sarri will also be judged on his bid to end the Turin giants’ two-decade Champions League drought. Fail there, and the door might open for Guardiola. 

Having played in Italy with Brescia and Roma, Guardiola may well fancy a stint in Italy to add to his big-league spells with Barcelona in Spain, Bayern Munich in Germany and Man City in England.

But rather than a switch to Italy, a return to Barcelona would also seem an increasingly appealing option to the Catalan manager.

It’s eight years since Guardiola left the club, having guided them to an astounding 14 titles in four seasons. While Barcelona have claimed a Champions League title in the ensuing period, the sense is that they have lost their way badly in recent years and would welcome a return to the principles Guardiola laid down.

Catalonia calling? Guardiola would be welcomed back by Barca. © Reuters

Even though the Catalans have only just appointed Quique Setien in place of the sacked Ernesto Valverde, Setien is believed to effectively be on trial until the end of the season; if Guardiola then becoems available, Barca would welcome him back with open arms.

Beyond that, cash-rich French giants Paris Saint-Germain could also be keen on snapping up Guardiola should he ditch City.

The Qatar-owned club would likely have few qualms with taking Guardiola on, even if directly from a club run by bitter political rivals in the UAE.

The litmus test for current PSG boss Thomas Tuchel will be their success in this season’s Champions League; fall short again and pressure would mount on the German, especially if Guardiola seems gettable given City’s current woes.

PSG boss Tuchel is under pressure to win the Champions League. © Global Look Press Keystone Press Agency

PLAYER EXODUS

Guardiola is arguably the greatest driving force behind City’s playing success in the past two seasons, but the galaxy of stars at the manager’s disposal is also at threat of diminishing with the prospect of no European football for the next two years.

In particular, Raheem Sterling, 25, and Kevin de Bruyne, 28, are two players at the peak of their powers who deserve to showcase that on Europe’s biggest stage.

Sterling (L) and De Bruyne (R) are two City players at the peak of their powers. © AFP

Will they want to stick around at City, kicking their heels mid-week while the rest of the European elite slug it out? 

Likewise, a Man City team without European football would seem a much less attractive prospect for potential big-name signings.

City will also be shorn of their Champions League income – estimated to be around $73 million last season alone – and while they will hardly be paupers, the reduced cash flow will put further pressure on keeping within FFP limits.

City are now faced with the threat of losing a host of playing stars, both present and potential.  

UEFA LAYS DOWN THE LAW

City are adamant that they have been wronged, and will now throw their considerable financial clout at taking on UEFA in court.

Their case rests on their argument that emails used in the case – which were first reported as part of the Football Leaks scandal – were stolen and effectively taken “out of context.”

City already have previous with UEFA, having been fined a record £50 million by the governing body for financial irregularities back in 2014 – on that occasion accepting their sanction.

This time round they will fight tooth and nail, seeing the case as a vindictive campaign to scapegoat them amid the selective and unjust application of FFP rules.

There are also reports that City’s Abu Dhabi owners suspect Qatari forces as being behind the whole thing in an orchestrated bid to tarnish their geopolitical rivals.

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In reality, City stand a good chance of at least reducing the sanction to a one-year ban, which may well be why UEFA went with the harsher two-year option in the first place, in the knowledge it would be lessened. 

But whatever the outcome it will rankle with City, who feel they have been unfairly targeted while the likes of fellow mega-rich clubs such as the Qatari-owned PSG have so far escaped similar sanction.

Figures at the Etihad will also feel there is inherent injustice in FFP rules, which have been accused of protecting an long-established elite of wealthy clubs such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United and Juventus from the threat of upstart rivals like City who find themselves increasingly powerful after big-money takeovers.

Win or lose their case, the resentment from City will linger, while others may remain fearful that UEFA is setting out its stall to crack down hard on FFP breaches.  

So from the training ground to the pitch to the boardroom, UEFA has nuked the European football landscape with its Manchester City decision, and the fallout will be with us for a long time to come.

February 15th 2020, 7:37 am

Zero-emission champion Tesla allowed to keep building Europe’s 1st Gigafactory by... sweeping out wo

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While Elon Musk advances his sustainability agenda, his ‘environmentally-friendly’ venture Tesla wages – and wins – a legal battle with locals who oppose leveling a pine forest to erect the company’s giant factory. 

Defying protests among locals and an appeal by environmentalist groups, a local court gave the green light to Elon Musk’s Gigafactory 4 construction in the middle of a serene forest in the Gruenheide municipality – a place that ironically has the word ‘Green’ in its name if translated from German.

The ruling in favor of Tesla sank a lawsuit by two local environmentalist groups claiming that chopping trees occupying almost 92 hectares (227 acres) would lead to deforestation and an exodus of wildlife. Explaining the verdict, the court said the government’s environment agency didn’t find any reason to stop the factory construction.

Musk repeatedly insisted that electric cars are the future of fossil-fuel free transportation, once telling the public that Tesla’s “fundamental good” is advancing “the advent of sustainable transport and energy production.”

READ MORE: Norway’s electric car miracle is a smug national fraud built on subsidizing rich people with Teslas

But leveling woods in Gruenheide for the sake of a green future didn’t sit particularly well with locals. Last month, almost 200 people staged a protest, demanding that the construction plans be reversed. Their main concern was that making room for the Gigafactory would turn the idyllic neighborhood into a roaring, dirty industrial zone.

Others welcomed the news, meaning more jobs for the local youth – and also top-notch technology coming into the area. German environmentalists, on their part, say the factory could create problems with drinking water supply and waste water disposal.

Protest poster against the gigafactory planned by Tesla in Grünheide © Global Look Press / Travel-Stock-Image via www.imago

Called Giga Berlin, or Gigafactory 4, it is poised to become the carmaker’s first plant in Europe. A number of European countries – including Finland, the Netherlands, Poland and Lithuania – competed to host it, but Germany was selected, according to Musk, because of its engineering prowess.

The plant will assemble Tesla Model 3 and Model Y, also manufacturing batteries, powertrains, seats and battery packs, effectively becoming a full-cycle enterprise. Now, Giga Berlin is expected to go online in 2021, with the aim of producing 150,000 cars per year.

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February 15th 2020, 7:07 am

China beats US in key patents to secure technological dominance – report

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Chinese companies have outpaced their US rivals in the tech patents race, filing more applications in 9 of 10 categories, including artificial intelligence and blockchain, a recent Nikkei study shows.

China became the leader in 2017, accounting for 49 percent of total applications. Apart from AI and blockchain, it enjoyed advantages in patent applications for drones, cyber security, virtual reality, autonomous driving, lithium-ion batteries, and regenerative medicine.

© Nikkei study

The only sphere in which China is still trying to catch up to the US is the strategically important quantum computing. However, the report analyzed patents filed from 2000 to 2017, and China has already launched what it calls a “megaproject” for quantum research, aiming to achieve significant breakthroughs by 2030.

The driving force behind China’s push for global hegemony in advanced technology are four companies known as ‘BATH’ – Baidu, Alibaba Group, Tencent, and Huawei. Chinese tech major Huawei has been targeted and banned by the US, which is pushing its allies to ban the firm over spying allegations.

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The report says US companies still dominate in terms of quality – among the 100 innovators that made it into the top 10 of all categories, 64 are American and only one is Chinese.

However, the situation could change dramatically over the next decade. China has the world’s second-largest science and technology budget, amounting to $460 billion in 2017. If it continues to boost expenditures at the same pace, it could eventually dethrone the US, which poured more than $500 billion into the field in 2017, according to the study.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT's business section

February 15th 2020, 6:46 am

On the fast track: Russian speed skater Pavel Kulizhnikov earns World Championship sprint gold

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The leader of the Russian speed skating team Pavel Kulizhnikov has proved again he is one of the world’s fastest sprinters by winning the men’s 500m gold at the World Championships in Salt Lake City in the US.

The 25-year-old clocked a time of 33.72 seconds, which was enough to claim gold on the shortest speed skating distance.

READ MORE: Shot down: Russia set to lose top spot in Sochi Olympics medals table AGAIN after biathlete Ustyugov accused of doping

Fellow Russian Ruslan Murashov finished second, while Japan’s Tatsuya Sinema completed the podium.

This was the fourth world title at separate distances for Russian champion Kulizhnikov, who also dominated the World Sprint Speed Skating Championships on three occasions.

Kulizhnikov is also a five-time European champion and holds the world record in the men’s 500m distance of 33.61 seconds.

In the women’s 500m event, victory was taken by Japan’s Nao Kodaira while Russia’s Angelina Golikova and Olga Fatkulina finished second and third respectively, posting personal bests.

February 15th 2020, 5:49 am

Chinese tourist dies in France, becomes first coronavirus fatality in Europe - French health ministe

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Marking the first fatality on European soil, an 80-year-old Chinese tourist succumbed to the coronavirus at a Paris hospital, Health Minister Agnes Buzin reported as the death toll of the epidemic has surpassed 1,500.

DETAILS TO FOLLOW

February 15th 2020, 5:19 am

‘Happy Valentine’s Day my babies’: MMA stunner Valerie Loureda leaves little to the imagination in l

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Rising Bellator MMA sensation Valeria Loureda proved yet again that she’s a knockout in and out of the cage with a special lingerie snap posted in honor of Valentine’s Day.

Loureda, 21, made her professional MMA bow with Bellator last year and has gone undefeated in her two fights with the promotion thus far.

And while the taekwondo expert’s prowess in the cage has caught the eye, she’s also become a firm fan favorite for her social media output.

The Miami-based fighter cranked that up a notch with a Valentine’s Day treat for fans as she posed in lingerie adorned with hearts.

"Happy Valentine’s Day my babies I love y’all so much," the MMA stunner wrote.  

Loureda suffered a setback in her fledgling MMA career after she was forced to withdraw from Bellator 228 in January, in what was due to be her return to action following a hiatus to take part in a reality TV show.

But based on her current social media output the photogenic Floridian – who counts UFC 'BMF' Jorge Masvidal among her fans – looks in fine shape as she trains at American Top Team gym with the likes of UFC star Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

Fans will hope there’s plenty of fighting – and much more besides – to come from Loureda in 2020.

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February 15th 2020, 5:02 am

Huawei & other Chinese tech companies are 'Trojan horses' for Beijing's intelligence operations – Po

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Tech firms that receive support from Beijing serve as instruments of Chinese intelligence, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has alleged, in the latest verbal volley aimed at Huawei and other Chinese companies.

“Huawei and other Chinese state-backed tech companies are Trojan horses for Chinese intelligence,” Pompeo said in a speech at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday. The US secretary of state took on the Chinese tech giant while speaking about what he believes are the biggest threats to modern security.

Huawei has acknowledged that it receives “some policy support from the Chinese government,” but insists that it does not receive any “additional or special treatment” from Beijing.

Washington has lobbied its European allies to ban Huawei from helping to develop their 5G networks, claiming that the tech firm poses a serious security threat. The warnings, however, have been largely waved away by countries such as Germany and the UK, among others.

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February 15th 2020, 4:49 am

Russia set to lose top spot in Sochi Olympics medals table AGAIN after biathlete Ustyugov accused of

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In a well-worn story with more ups and downs that a playground seesaw, Russia could again lose top spot in the 2014 Sochi Olympics medals table after biathlete Evgeny Ustyugov was reportedly found guilty of doping violations.

The International Biathlon Union (IBU) confirmed earlier in the week that Ustyugov, who won gold at the Sochi Games as part of the men’s relay, had been charged with doping violations based on results from the period 2010 to February 2014.

Russian outlet TASS has now reported that Ustyugov has been found guilty of using the banned substance oxandrolone, and that his results will be annulled from the end of August 2013 to the close of the 2013-14 season.

That would include stripping the now-retired Ustyugov and Russian teammates Alexey Volkov, Dmitry Malyshko and Anton Shipulin of the gold medals they won in the relay at the 2014 Winter Games.

Ustyugov (second left) and the mes relay team celebrate gold in Sochi. © Sputnik / Iliya Pitalev

Ustyugov, 34, has the right to appeal the decision with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland, but must submit his case within 21 days of the decision.

Should he lose any appeal against the latest IBU claims, it would mean Russia relinquishes top spot in the Sochi Olympics medals table, which it currently leads ahead of Norway.

The two countries both have 11 golds to their name, with Russia ahead on the overall medals count by 29 to 26.

If Russia is stripped of relay gold, it would fall to second, level on 10 golds with Canada but ahead on overall medals.   

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The accusations against Ustyugov, who also won 2010 Olympic gold in Vancouver in the mass start, are the latest in the long-running doping claims against Russia which have seen its Sochi medals tally wax and wane.

Russia won 13 golds at the games, but dropped down the table after four were stripped over doping allegations.

However, it returned to top spot after several were later reinstated on appeal to CAS.

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Earlier on Saturday, it emerged that Russian 2010 Olympic biathlon champion Svetlana Sleptsova had also been found guilty of doping violations and would be banned for two years. 

Sleptsova tested positive based on samples taken between March of 2013 and the end of 2013/2014, with her results for that period being annulled, the Russian Biathlon Union told TASS.

Sleptsova, 33, won relay gold at the 2010 Games in Vancouver, but retired back in 2017.

February 15th 2020, 4:33 am

Art of the deal? Trump boasts Facebook supremacy over Modi ahead of India visit to ink trade & weapo

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US President Donald Trump has claimed he is more popular than PM Narendra Modi on Facebook, ahead of his upcoming trip to India. A coy political maneuver or standard social media banter from the US leader?

The president announced on Twitter that it was a “great honor” to be “number one” on Facebook – a title allegedly bestowed upon him by the platform’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. Stating that Modi was “number two,” Trump added that he was “looking forward” to his upcoming trip to India.

There’s just one small problem: The numbers don’t appear to back up Trump’s claim (and Facebook has previously declined to comment on Trump’s ‘number one’ boasting). The US president currently has around 27.5 million followers on his main Facebook account. An impressive figure, but it doesn’t come close to Modi’s 44.3 million followers.

Trump made the same seemingly erroneous claim last month. Not only did he claim that Zuckerberg had told him he was “number one,” but he also noted that Modi “has 1.5 billion people. I have 350 [million]” – apparently making his dubious first place title even more impressive.

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The boast is even more puzzling considering Trump’s flattering remarks about the Indian prime minister. In September, the two leaders exchanged warm words during a pro-Modi rally held in Texas. Trump told the gathering of 50,000 people that Modi is “one of America’s greatest, most devoted and most loyal friends.”

His peculiar insistence that he is top dog on Facebook could likely be political posturing ahead of his upcoming visit to India.

Scheduled at the end of February, the trip will mark his first official visit to the country – and there’s a lot at stake for Washington. India is in the final stages of clearing a $2.6 billion purchase of 24 MH-60R Seahawk helicopters – and Trump is expected to roll out his fabled salesmanship to seal the deal. New Delhi is also reportedly considering acquiring US drones at a cost of about $2.5 billion.

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The US and India are also working on a trade agreement that could potentially be agreed upon during Trump’s visit. Washington and New Delhi imposed tit-for-tat tariffs on each other’s imports, as part of Trump’s aggressive trade policy.

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February 15th 2020, 3:18 am

Scuffles between police & protesters break out as Munich Security Conference takes place (VIDEO)

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German riot police used brute force to push back against a throng of protesters who gathered in Munich where the high-profile security conference is taking place. The overnight stand-off was caught on film.

Numerous protesters, among them members of the German Antifa movement, scuffled with police on Friday night. Some of them aggressively pushed the officers away, while others held firecrackers and waved flags.

Protesters say the conference is “a meeting of war strategists” where weapon manufacturers negotiate deals, local media reports.

This year’s Munich Security Conference will gather more than 35 heads of state or government, as well as over 100 foreign and defense ministers. French President Emmanuel Macron, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif are among those expected to speak at the event.

It takes place following a rather bumpy start to the year, plagued by the spiraling US-Iran confrontation and Brexit among other things. The previous year was also rough at times for the Transatlantic community, with President Macron openly speaking about the “brain death” of NATO, whose mutual defense clause was called into question.

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Existential angst over ‘Westlessness’ at Munich conference leaves out the West’s responsibility for its own decline

Ahead of the conference, the organizers published a report saying the West is “becoming less Western,” as countries across Europe and beyond are uncertain about their values and political course.

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February 15th 2020, 3:18 am

Skyrocketing Tesla stock may soon make Elon Musk the richest person in the world

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk may finally get his huge paycheck by mid-spring if shares of the electric carmaker stay stable and the company manages to keep its average market cap above $100 billion.

Tesla stock has rocketed nearly 250 percent in six months and hit a benchmark $100 billion market capitalization for the first time in its history in January. The stock rally even allowed the company to break the $150 billion threshold earlier in February, before the prices settled to around $800 per share on Friday.

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If Tesla manages to keep the position for the next several months, CEO Elon Musk, who doesn't get salary or bonuses, will finally be eligible to get his paycheck in April under the terms of his 2018 compensation package. Apart from several financial targets the company has already met, Tesla needs to stay above the $100 billion market value on both a 30-day and six-month trailing average.

This will allow Musk to buy 1.7 million of Tesla shares, with the stock option expected to add $346 million to the billionaire’s impressive fortune.

Musk currently has a stake in Tesla worth about $12 billion. If he can reach his goal of turning Tesla into a $650 billion company, he will become the richest person on the planet and dethrone Amazon's CEO Jeff Bezos.

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February 15th 2020, 2:32 am

The self-hating West too often renounces its history due to being oh so very woke

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Rewriting or removing bits of history that don’t align with modern PC standards is a recurring theme in the West, as these days religious leaders proclaim “shame” in their country and SJWs fight to remove monuments to the past.

Even the most glorious history has its dark spots – but our histories are what makes us what we are. But working toward a better future while acknowledging both the good and the bad bits of the past is no longer the only option. Why bother, when you instead can fall in line with trendy social movements to attack or blackout anything and everything in the past that triggers your modern morality? These cases have been springing up all over the Western world.

Nothing is Scandinavian

Nordic airline SAS is currently in the midst of controversy after releasing a questionable ad campaign that pushes the message: “Nothing is Scandinavian.” 

The woke ad attempts to shame citizens for having a national identity and tries tearing apart the things closely tied to the nation as cultural appropriation in the spirit of “our Viking ancestors.” The ad is supposed to encourage travel and the mixing of cultures, but it’s elicited quite a harsh response. 

SAS claims the negative comments that came in were just an “attack” that “hijacked” the campaign. This was after they took down the video and then republished it, but disabled comments.

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Confederates never existed!

Those too uncomfortable with the Civil War figured the best way to fix their issue with history was to tear down statues of Confederate generals and blast them as racist.

After years of vandalism and protests at statues of Confederate generals, things reached a boiling point in 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Opposition to the calls for the removal of statues of Confederate soldiers resulted in a right-wing ‘Unite the Right’ rally in August. Counter-protesters showed up in support of taking the monuments down and things turned violent, with 30 people being injured.

And remember, this is all over statues.

The New Orleans City Council officially called confederate statues in their city “nuisances” just before the Charlottesville events.

Baltimore, meanwhile, took down four Confederate statues in the cover of darkness only days after the violent protest.

As for Virginia, the state Senate and House voted just this week to give local governments the right to take down Confederate statues if they feel it is right. The bill says local governments have the right to memorialize history “how they want.”

Publishers throw blackface on classic literature

Even classic literature is troublesome for the politically correct. Classic books like ‘The Three Musketeers’ and ‘Frankenstein’ are apparently too white, so publisher Penguin Random House and retailer Barnes and Noble teamed up for this year’s Black History Month to literally slap blackface on the books in some sort of desperate attempt to facelift history.

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A total of 12 novels were given new covers in the promotional event. Some soundly asked why the publisher and retailer needed to look into the past to push diversity instead of simply looking to the future and promoting new authors.

‘Ashamed’ of England’s history

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, slammed not only England, but the Church of England as well in a fiery speech on Tuesday.

Welby said he is “sorry and ashamed” of “our history” and “failure.” He said the church has not been a welcoming place for minorities and it has recently become susceptible to influence from the government’s “hostile environment.”

“We will still be having this conversation in 20 years' time and still doing injustice — the few of us that remain, deservedly,” he promised.

The speech came after the church’s General Synod voted in favor of a motion to “lament” and apologize for past racism against ethnic minorities, both conscious and unconscious. 

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Forget the Alamo!

The Texas State Board of Education took issue in 2018 with several aspects to historical textbooks taught in classrooms, including a line referring to the soldiers who fought at the Alamo as “heroic defenders.”

The Battle of the Alamo occurred during the Texas Revolution in the 1830s and it is one of the most talked-about and studied military events in the States. A few hundred men held the fort and fought for hours against a Mexican army of 2000. 

It was recommended by an advisory group of educators that describing the men who fought as “heroic” was a “value-charged word” and should be removed from seventh-grade curriculum. They also took issue with a letter written by Alamo commander William B. Travis. The letter was a call for Texas independence and a celebration of the bravery of the men fighting against impossible odds. 

Prominent Texas politicians came forward to call the letter a “core” part of the state’s history and to blast the attempt to rewrite the past as “political correctness” gone too far.

Down with Christopher Columbus!

Christopher Columbus may have discovered America, but the more sensitive among us find him too controversial to even be acknowledged.

Protests blasting the man as a racist who doesn’t fit modern moral standards eventually led New York City to create an advisory board in 2017 examining potentially “offensive” monuments around the city.  

Though many pushed for the removal of the monument of Columbus, a counter-push, especially from Italian Americans, led Mayor Bill de Blasio to a compromise after months of public hearings. The statue remained up, but the mayor promised to add “detail and nuance” to it about Columbus and to erect another monument honoring indigenous people. 

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Britain makes nothing

A comedy special that aired on January 31 titled, ‘Horrible Histories Brexit Day’ received hundreds of complaints for using its time to simply bash the UK.

The special, hosted by comedian Nish Kumar, claimed through what were supposed to be comedic bits that England relies heavily on imports and is responsible for making nothing.

In an attempt to protest Brexit, the makers insulted their own country’s history and even fibbed in a few parts to better make their point.

At one point Queen Victoria is shown as an airheaded queen who is learning how many products get imported into the UK. A song then commences explaining to the Queen that sugar, tea and cotton only come to the country thanks to slavery. Yet, slavery was abolished four years before Queen Victoria took power.

The song later calls goods imported into Britain “stolen.”

Journalist Piers Morgan blasted the special as an “outrageous and shameful abuse of public money,” while BBC commentator Andrew Neil described it as “anti-British drivel of the highest order.”

Anything to take down Brexit, right? Even if it means rewriting history and taking public funds from a country you then turn around and smear. 

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George Washington is suddenly offensive

Even when history is shown warts and all, someone somewhere will still be offended.

The San Francisco school board decided last August to preserve, but cover a 1936 George Washington mural at a local high school that had drawn complaints from parents uncomfortable with the depictions of slavery.

The 13-panel ‘Life of Washington’ mural was partly covered by panels showing “the heroism of people of color in America.”

What’s ironic about the move is that the original artist Victor Arnautoff actually did the mural in protest of the violence in the United States’ history. He didn’t like the way other murals had whitewashed the country’s brutal past, so he depicted both the good and the bad in his work.

And how much did it cost to please those triggered by the artwork? Only a whopping $600,000. 

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February 15th 2020, 2:32 am

‘One democracy will settle it & you know which one’: Indian FM tells US senator after he suggests Ka

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India’s external affairs minister made a pointed correction to US Senator Lindsey Graham after the latter suggested the Kashmir issue should be resolved between “two democracies.” The minister argued it’s only up to one.

Commenting on international conflicts and whether they could be resolved by way of democracy at the Munich Security Conference on Friday, Graham expressed hope that “two democracies” would bring the situation in Kashmir to a peaceful resolution, apparently referring to India and its rival neighbor Pakistan. Both lay territorial claims to the whole of the Kashmir region.

“When it comes to Kashmir, I don’t know how it ends, but let’s make sure that two democracies will end it differently,” Graham said, prompting an instant rebuttal from External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar:

Do not worry, senator. One democracy will settle it, and you know which one.

With New Delhi revoking Kashmir’s autonomy status last summer – stating the move was necessary to propel economic development in the area and to combat terrorism and local corruption – Islamabad has slammed the decision, insisting India is oppressing citizens in the part of Kashmir under its control. The nuclear-armed neighbors have fought two wars over the disputed territory.

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Trump’s Middle East ‘deal of the century’ is ‘occupation plan’, Turkey’s Erdogan tells Pakistani parliament

While the tensions between the two regional arch-rivals have somewhat subsided since the flare-up last February that saw Indian and Pakistani warplanes engaging in open aerial combat, the war of words continues at full tilt.

On Saturday, the ministry offered a stark rebuke to Turkey over its stance on the Kashmir issue after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated his support for Islamabad.

“We have never forgotten and will never forget the help which the Pakistani people extended by sharing their own bread during our War of Independence. And now, Kashmir is and will be the same for us,” Erdogan said in an address to Pakistani lawmakers on Friday, while blasting India for taking “unilateral steps” in the conflict.

It is Ankara’s “duty” to help “Kashmiri brothers and sisters have suffered from inconveniences for decades,” he added.

This triggered a rejoinder from Jaishankar, who implored Turkey to mind its own business and better educate itself on the issue, while referring to Kashmir in its entirety as an “inalienable part of India.”

“We call upon the Turkish leadership to not interfere in India's internal affairs and develop proper understanding of the facts, including the grave threat posed by terrorism emanating from Pakistan to India and the region,” he said.

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February 15th 2020, 1:31 am

Mistrial declared in case of anti-coup activists arrested in DC police raid on Venezuelan Embassy

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Jurors who heard the case of the four activists who were invited by Caracas to protect the Venezuelan Embassy in the US capital – only to be nabbed in a police raid on the compound – failed to reach a verdict due to a hung jury.

Four members of the ‘Embassy Protection Collective’ – Adrienne Pine, Kevin Zeese, Margaret Flowers and David Paul – are each facing a year in prison and a $100,000 fine if found guilty of interfering with the US State Department’s attempt to seize the compound and hand it over to the “ambassador” of Venezuela, “appointed” by opposition leader Juan Guaido.

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However, the jurors selected to hear the case apparently were not convinced by the regime-change narrative on Venezuela championed by the Trump administration and adopted by the prosecution team, and as the time came to deliver a verdict on Friday, they failed to do so.

Journalist Max Blumenthal, who reported from the courtroom, said that the prosecution put forward a series of dubious arguments – such as that the Guaido-appointed “ambassador” was seeking a “return” of the embassy, despite the fact it had never been controlled by the US-backed opposition in the first place.

According to Blumenthal, Judge Beryl Howell, who presided over the case, argued that since Trump was president, it was his right to recognize or un-recognize foreign heads of state at will. Ironically telling the courtroom that “elections matter,” she appeared to ignore the fact that incumbent Venezuela leader Nicolas Maduro was reelected for a second six-year term in May 2018, while Guaido – who declared himself ‘interim president’ one year ago – was ousted as the head of the opposition-led National Assembly last month in a vote by fellow MPs.

With the jury unable to come to a consensus, a new trial date will be decided on February 28. It’s so far unclear whether the case will proceed at all, however.

The activists themselves, meanwhile, welcomed the news: “Needless to say, we are quite pleased with this outcome. #HandsOffVenezuela,” Adrienne Pine tweeted.

The development drew praise from 2020 Green Party presidential nominee Howie Hawkins, who commended jurors for standing up to the Trump administration push for the regime change in the Latin American country.

“It shows that the overreach in foreign policy of the Trump Administration is not popular among the American public,” Hawkins said

Two of the activists, Zeese and Flowers, are prominent Green Party members.

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‘Violation of Vienna Convention’: Code Pink co-founder denounces police raid on Venezuela embassy

The showdown at the embassy last May saw DC police armed with battering rams break into the compound with the last four activists holed up inside. In the run up to the SWAT-style raid, US authorities cut water and electricity in the building in a bid to make the anti-coup activists surrender after spending over a month in the embassy. The activists insist they were there at the invitation of Venezuela’s legitimate government and have denounced the US takeover as a breach of the 1961 Vienna convention on diplomatic relations.

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February 14th 2020, 11:12 pm

Freeway for Harleys? India floats tariff cut for iconic US motorcycle on heels of Trump visit & poss

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India has offered to slash trade levies on Harley-Davidson motorcycles ahead of a state visit from US President Donald Trump later this month, who has hinted at signing a trade deal with his Indian counterpart during the trip.

While New Delhi previously slapped a 100 percent tariff on Harleys as part of an ongoing trade spat with Washington, they were cut by half last year. Trump, however, still deemed that “unacceptable,” insisting they come down further. With a major trade deal now hanging in the balance, India appears ready to fulfill that request – at least partially.

“The issue of Harley-Davidson is already resolved. We will reduce the duty on the bikes above 1,600 cc to a single digit,” an official familiar with the proposal told the Economic Times, though did not provide any further details about where the levies would ultimately land.

India classifies motorbikes by their engine capacity, measured in cubic centimeters (cc), currently broken into four categories – 75, 250, 500, and 800cc and above. With the new proposal, India will create a new category of 1,600cc and above, and will only lower tariffs for that class of bikes. That could still mean a significant drop in trade duties, with India importing some $20.6 million in bikes 800cc and above between April and December of last year, according to the Economic Times.

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With President Trump slated to visit India on February 24 and stay overnight, officials in the city of Ahmedabad – located in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat – are making big preparations for the drop-in. Tens of thousands of people are expected to line a 22-kilometer stretch of road to greet the US president, in what the city’s mayor said could be the longest “roadshow” ever put on for a visiting head of state.

“As per our estimate, over 50,000 people, including BJP workers, would greet the leaders on the entire route,” the mayor said. “Volunteers from 300 organisations and NGOs would also take part in the roadshow.”

Trump and Modi will address an expected crowd of 100,000 people at a newly christened cricket stadium in Ahmedabad, which will become the world’s largest facility of its type once opened.

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February 14th 2020, 10:12 pm

Shifting rationales: White House memo says Soleimani strike was ‘response’ to past attacks instead o

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The US drone strike that killed a top Iranian general was ordered in retaliation for previous attacks, the White House said in a memo, contradicting earlier claims that an “imminent” threat justified the assassination.

Now over a month removed from the targeted killing of Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, the White House on Friday has offered yet another rationale for the operation, the latest in a series of alternating arguments offered by the president and Pentagon officials.

“The president directed this action in response to an escalating series of attacks in preceding months by Iran and Iran-backed militias on United States forces and interests in the Middle East,” the memo said.

While the document notes that the assassination was meant to “protect” American troops and “deter Iran” from future attacks, US President Donald Trump previously maintained Soleimani was killed specifically “because they were looking to blow up our embassy” – later expanding the alleged Iranian plot to four American Embassies. Defense Secretary Mark Esper initially questioned that assertion, telling CBS “I didn’t see [a threat] to four embassies,” but eventually came around to “the president’s view,” all the while providing no evidence for any of the conflicting accounts.

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After a Senate briefing on the drone strike in January – where officials from the State Department, the CIA and the Pentagon made a case for the operation – Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah said it was the “worst” military briefing he had ever witnessed, arguing lawmakers were left “under-informed as to the legal and factual basis for the attack on Soleimani.”

Extremely popular among Iranians due to his role in beating back the Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria while leading the Quds Force, Solemani’s death was publicly mourned by thousands across the country. The US strike also sent tensions soaring between Washington and Tehran – culminating in an Iranian missile strike on two American bases in Iraq – and drove a wedge between the US and the Baghdad government. Killed while visiting Iraq for a meeting with then-Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, Soleimani’s execution was not cleared with Iraqi officials, prompting a parliament vote to expel US forces from the country, though Baghdad has yet to follow through on the move.

With the narrative around the killing continuing to shift and evolve, it remains unclear which version of events the White House will ultimately land on, or whether lawmakers or citizens alike will ever get a straight explanation for why the operation was necessary.

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February 14th 2020, 9:57 pm

Soaring US ‘defense’ budget helped drive world military spending to 10-year high in 2019

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Global military expenditures in 2019 saw their largest increase in 10 years, propelled in no small part by skyrocketing US “defense” budgets, which continue to dwarf some of the world’s next largest spenders combined.

Military spending among 170 countries jumped by 4 percent in 2019 compared to the prior year, sending the total to its highest level in a decade, according to an annual assessment released on Friday by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

While the new report attributes the soaring pay-outs to an “unstable international security environment,” Washington’s massive $53.4 billion “defense” hike – roughly equal to the UK’s entire military budget – played an outsized role in driving the numbers to their current 10-year record high.

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China placed second on the list, spending around $181 billion last year as Beijing continues to modernize and expand its armed forces. Compared to 2018, both Washington and Beijing’s military budgets grew by some 6.6 percent, but while growth was similar between the two countries, the trends are “diverging” and the US is widening the gap, according to IISS research fellow Lucie Béraud-Sudreau.

“The budget increase in the US was the largest in 10 years, and spending has increased year-on-year since US President Donald Trump took office,” Béraud-Sudreau wrote in a blog post. “While spending is still rising in China, the pace of growth is decelerating.”

With total US military expenditures hitting nearly $685 billion in 2019, Washington continues to out-spend 11 countries combined – China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, India, the UK, France, Japan, Germany, South Korea, Brazil, and Italy. Though euphemistically termed “defense spending,” much of the US outlays finance a vast network of overseas bases and foreign troop deployments, some of them – such as in Iraq and Afghanistan – ongoing for the better part of two decades.

Military budgets in Europe have seen marked increases as Washington demanded its NATO partners contribute more to their own defense. However, US allies “still have some way to go before they would be able to act effectively without US military assistance,” the report notes, as it is unclear that the spending increases in 2019 “will significantly improve military capabilities in the near term.”

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February 14th 2020, 7:25 pm
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