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Sharapova on the verge of retirement? Russian tennis star says she doesn't know what's next after Au

RT

Former world number one player Maria Sharapova says she is unsure of her plans for the remainder of the tennis season after a disappointing first-round loss at the 2020 Australian Open.

The 32-year-old – who was given a wild card by the tournament’s organizers – failed to overcome the first-round barrier, losing to Croatia’s Donna Vekic in straight sets 6-3, 6-4.

READ MORE: Australian Open 2020: Svetlana Kuznetsova knocks out French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova

I don’t know,” Sharapova said after her insulting defeat. “I don’t know… It’s tough for me to tell what’s going to happen in 12 months’ time.”

I just don’t know,” she went on to say. “I haven’t thought of my schedule moving forward from here yet,” she said, prompting speculation on her possible retirement.

Sharapova’s splendid tennis career, which saw her winning five Grand Slam titles, nosedived after she was slapped with a 15-month doping ban for taking meldonium.

The Russian said she had been taking the drug for 10 years on the advice of a family doctor and had overlooked the fact it had been added to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) list of banned substances.

The most curious thing about Sharapova’s suspension was WADA’s decision to hold a so-called “meldonium amnesty” for those who stopped taking the drug after it was banned by the body, but still had traces of the drug in doping probes.

The decision was based on medical research claiming that meldonium has a long elimination period.

The announcement meant that Sharapova could have avoided the severe punishment if she hadn’t willingly admitted to taking the drug after it was declared illegal.

Having sat out the enforced hiatus, Sharapova returned to action in April 2017, with the French Open quarter-final in 2018 being her best achievement at a Grand Slam so far.

Given the modest results on her recent record – a far cry from her previous glory – Sharapova, who has dropped to 366th place in the rankings, might consider retirement from professional sport.

January 21st 2020, 7:28 am

Intense floods and major snowfall: At least 4 killed as Storm Gloria batters Spain with nature’s fur

RT

Storm Gloria has claimed at least four lives since Sunday, after ravaging much of eastern Spain with strong winds, colossal waves and heavy snowfall.

Alicante Airport was shut down for a time, disrupting over 200 flights as Spain's Mediterranean coast and Balearic Islands bore the brunt of the storm, which is now headed north towards southern France.

Eight-meter-high waves crashed into ports in Valencia on Monday. On the Majorcan islet of Dragonera, waves reportedly reached up to 14 meters.

Two people died from hypothermia near Valencia on Monday, while a man in Avila was killed by falling roof tiles torn out by strong winds. In Asturias, a man was struck and killed by a vehicle as he was fixing his snow tires during blizzard-like conditions.

The Catalan government temporarily banned outdoor activities in Girona and Barcelona in the interests of public safety. Wind speeds reached 115 kph in parts for a time on Monday, and schools and public services were suspended.

Parts of Aragon, Catalonia, Murcia and Valencia have been blanketed by between 20 and 40cm of snow, amid warnings of "very strong" wind gusts in excess of 100kph. Spain's civil protection agency has received some 5,056 emergency calls regarding Storm Gloria-related incidents as of Tuesday morning.

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January 21st 2020, 7:10 am

Australian Open 2020: Svetlana Kuznetsova knocks out French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova

RT

Russian tennis star Svetlana Kuznetsova created one of the biggest sensations on the second competitive day of the Australian Open, knocking out French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova from the tournament.

The Czech player was sent packing, losing her first round match in three sets, 2-6, 6-4, 4-6.

READ MORE: 'The drunker they are, the better!' John Millman wants Australian Open fans to get the beers in for his next match

The unseeded Russian, considered the underdog in the clash, produced a stunning performance on Tuesday, proving she is still able to compete against top-ranked players.

The two-time Grand Slam winner shocked her Czech counterpart in the first set, winning it 6-2.

The number 15 seed Czech made up for the slow start in the second set, recording a 6-4 win and stretching the game into a nail-biting third set.

The 32-year-old Russian immediately took the initiative to take a 3-1 lead right from the start, before Vondrousova replied with a solid 2-0 run to tie the set at 3-3.

The players both held serve before Kuznetsova managed to break her opponent to win the nerve-wracking third set 6-4, and book a spot in the second round of the Australian Open.

January 21st 2020, 6:58 am

Trump rejects environmental ‘prophets of doom’ and their ‘apocalyptic predictions’ in Davos speech

RT

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January 21st 2020, 6:38 am

'Please tell me you got hacked': Fans split after Conor McGregor tweets 'Phenomenal President' Trump

RT

UFC superstar Conor McGregor has always been a divisive figure within the sport of MMA, but his latest tweet has caused even more controversy, after he tweeted his praise for U.S. President Donald Trump on Martin Luther King Day.

Trump tweeted to mark the occasion of Martin Luther King Day, saying: "It was exactly three years ago today, January 20, 2017,  that I was sworn into office. So appropriate that today is also MLK jr DAY. African-American Unemployment is the LOWEST in the history of our Country, by far. Also, best Poverty, Youth, and Employment numbers, ever. Great!"

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Surprisingly, McGregor replied, tweeting: "Phenomenal President. Quite possibly the USA GOAT (signified by a goat emoji). Most certainly one of them anyway, as he sits atop the shoulders of many amazing giants that came before him. No easy feet (sic). Early stages of term also. Incredible. Congrats and Happy Martin Luther King Jr day America."

McGregor's tweet prompted a string of replies, with a slew of right-leaning tweeters hailing his choice to publicly praise Trump. But there were also a host of tweets from fans who were less than impressed with McGregor's message.

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"Please tell me you got f****n hacked," tweeted one fan.

"You just lost a large number of fans," posted another.

Another suggested he was inheriting a direction taken by another controversial UFC star, Colby Covington.

"He's ripping off @ColbyCovMMA schtick cause ripping off Floyd's backfired. There's no low this guy won't sink to."

McGregor blitzed Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone in just 40 seconds to mark his successful return to action, and has been linked with a rematch with Russia's UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, who submitted the Irishman back in October 2018 at UFC 229.

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January 21st 2020, 6:38 am

In contention for 1st Grand Slam title: Russia’s Medvedev advances to second round of Australian Ope

RT

Russian tennis ace Daniil Medvedev has opened his Australian Open campaign in style beating US player Frances Tiafoe in four sets 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 to make it into the second round of the season-opening major.

The fourth-seed Medvedev got off to a brilliant start showing solid tennis in the match-opener which he won 6-3.

READ MORE: 'The drunker they are, the better!' John Millman wants Australian Open fans to get the beers in for his next match

In the beginning of the second set both players confidently held their serve until Frances Tiafoe made a crucial break to take a 5-4 lead.

Medvedev’s efforts to save the set fell short as the American player nailed a 6-4 win to level the score in the match.

Despite stumbling in the second set, Medvedev pulled himself together, demonstrating solid tennis in the next sets with powerful and precise shots which stunned his lower-ranked opponent.

The 2019 US Open finalist immediately broke Tiafoe to make it 2-0. The highest ranked Russian had troubles on his own serve, but his deadly first serve helped him to save several break points and extend the lead having a 3-0 advantage.

The seemingly solid lead was quickly squandered after Tiafoe returned the break to tie the game at 3-3.

However, the 23-year-old Russian continued reversing the course of the game with a dominant performance at the end of the set when he left his American counterpart without any chance of breaking him.

Medvedev extended his winning streak in the next set effortlessly winning it by the score line of 6-2 to book a spot in the second round of the Australian Open.

January 21st 2020, 6:08 am

WATCH Monstrous dust storms blocking out the Sun as Australia’s weather woes continue

RT

As if sprawling bushfires and violent hailstorms weren’t enough, to add insult to injury, vast dust storms engulfed large swathes of New South Wales in Australia to close out a weekend of intense weather.

Eyewitness video shows the huge dirt wall bearing down on poor Aussies who could only watch mouth agape (at least until the storm hit) before the entire area was blanketed in dust. Residents in the towns of Narromine, Parkes and Dubbo in New South Wales state could only look on in awe as the ominous cloud grew ever larger before it consumed them all.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology had issued severe thunderstorm and wind warnings over the weekend, as weather conditions aligned to generate massive walls of dust hundreds of feet high. Gusts reached up to 107kph in the town of Dubbo and 94kph in Parkes.

NASA’s MODIS satellites clocked the vast dust clouds gathering across the middle of the country since around January 11, owing to a prolonged period of drought, exacerbated by the recent bushfires which ravaged the country. 

“The dust storms affecting central western New South Wales are a direct consequence of two years of drought and greatly diminished vegetative cover on the soil surface,” said Stephen Cattle, a soil scientist at the University of Sydney.

Elsewhere, rain and hail lashed other parts of Australia, with dozens of cars left riddled with holes after a monstrous hailstorm.

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January 21st 2020, 5:23 am

China finds oil in Asia’s deepest onshore well, nearly 9,000 meters underground

RT

China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) has found crude oil and natural gas in the deepest well drilled in Asia’s onshore, striking hydrocarbons in a pre-salt layer for the first time in China.

The discovery was made in the Tarim oilfield in China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang in a well deep 8,882 meters (29,140 feet), which was first drilled in July last year.

Production from the now spudded well in the pre-salt area is expected at 133.46 cubic meters of oil per day, while daily gas production is seen at 48,700 cubic meters, according to a CNPC statement carried by Reuters.

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It is rare for new wells to be so deep, as the oil and gas wells in China typically range from 200 meters (656 feet) to 5,000 meters (16,404 feet), a petroleum engineer told the Global Times, commenting on the deepest onshore well in Asia.

CNPC and China are touting the deepest well in Asia as a success in enhanced oil recovery and risk exploration, but the world’s largest oil importer could face geological challenges in replacing oil and gas reserves from maturing oil and gas fields, analysts say.

China has made increasing its oil and gas production a matter of energy security and a priority for its oil and gas companies as its oil and gas demand continues to grow while domestic production is not nearly enough to cover that demand.

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China opens up oil & gas exploration to foreign firms

The biggest energy producers in China are tapping more tight oil and gas wells, aiming to increase domestic oil and natural gas production at the world’s largest crude oil importer.

China’s efforts to boost oil and gas exploration in harsh-environment areas and challenging geological conditions could get a shot in the arm later this year when Beijing will open oil and gas exploration to foreign companies. As of May 1 this year, foreign companies will be able to explore and develop oil and gas fields in China without setting up a joint venture with a Chinese company – a rule until now.

This article was originally published on Oilprice.com

January 21st 2020, 5:23 am

S. Korea to send vessel, 300 troops to Strait of Hormuz after US pressure

RT

South Korea will send a naval destroyer and 300 troops to the Strait of Hormuz, the Defense Ministry in seoul said on Tuesday. The move follows pressure from the US amid tensions between Washington and Tehran, AFP said.

Iran has been blamed for a series of attacks on shipping vessels in the strait, a strategic point for the world’s oil trade where the US has deployed a naval mission. Seoul has had diplomatic relations with Tehran since the early 1960s and until last year Iran was one of the resource-poor South’s key oil suppliers.

The Defense Ministry said that Seoul had decided to “temporarily expand” the deployment area of its anti-piracy military unit operating off the coast of Somalia to include the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, which are linked by the Strait of Hormuz.

It will not be part of the US naval mission, although two liaison officers will be sent to the US headquarters for “information sharing.”

January 21st 2020, 5:10 am

2 Indian personnel killed in clash in Kashmir – report

RT

An Indian officer and a policeman were killed during a fight with militants in the Indian-controlled part of disputed Kashmir on Tuesday, local media said.

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January 21st 2020, 5:10 am

'The drunker they are, the better!' John Millman wants Australian Open fans to get the beers in for

RT

Australian player John Millman says he wants his second-round match against Stefanos Tsitsipas to be played in front of as rowdy a crowd as possible at the Australian Open.

Tsitsipas enjoyed vociferous support from Melbourne's strong Greek contingent when eased his way through his first-round match, and he will be a huge favorite to progress again when he takes on Aussie hopeful Millman.

And even though Tsitsipas has called on his fans to show more respect to his opponents, Millman said he actually wants to play the match in a more raucous atmosphere.

Millman received plenty of local support from the stands as he defeated Frenchman Ugo Humbert in four sets to book his place in the second round.

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And the Australian world No. 47 says he loves nothing better than an on-court slugfest in front of a lively crowd.

"Yeah, look, I love a vocal crowd," the 30-year-old told reporters.

"I like feeding off the crowd's energy. I try to bring that physicality, and sometimes you need that little bit of motivation on the sidelines.

"I love playing on that court, actually, in Show Court Three. I have had some really good moments there. And, you know, the more rowdy they are, the drunker they are, the better!"

Millman even went as far as to suggest that the tournament organizers should ply the crowd with Luzhou Laojiao, a particularly potent Chinese liquor that also serves as one of the tournament's sponsors.

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Unlike the main courts, which feature allocated seating, matches on the outside courts in Melbourne are non-ticketed affairs, where fans with admission passes can roam as they please and attend whichever matches they like.

It also tends to attract that more everyday Aussies, rather than those more affluent members, who stick to the show courts, and often makes the atmosphere on the outside courts less uptight and more vociferous, as the crowd gets more involved in the action as it unfolds.

"We are an entertainment business and we've got to get people from all walks of life through the gates and appreciating tennis and all the other things," said Millman.

"I love it. I use the crowd. I love the support that I get here in Melbourne. It makes the matches really memorable and worthwhile."

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Australian Open 2020: Rafael Nadal makes storming start, then hails fans for Australian bushfire fundraiser (VIDEO)

January 21st 2020, 5:10 am

BRICS open to new member states joining the club, says Russia’s deputy FM

RT

The BRICS group of emerging economies, which is comprised of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, is open to welcoming new member countries, according to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.

Russia is focused on activities on the BRICS+ platform, which “makes it possible for interested countries to find ways to cooperate with the group’s members,” said Ryabkov, adding: “This is why it is possible to talk about the expansion of BRICS as a goal for the future.”

According to Ryabkov, the Russian Sherpa in the five-nation trade bloc, “BRICS’ existence is important in terms of creating new positive elements in the economic, social and scientific development of our countries, as well as for other areas of development.”

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BRICS countries will soon account for more than half of the global economy

The group which was originally called BRIC was established in 2006 by Brazil, Russia, India and China, before South Africa joined in 2010, adding the “S” to the acronym.

READ MORE: Phasing out the dollar: BRICS countries setting up own payment network to cut dependence on Western financial system

The group of five countries represents more than 40 percent of the world’s population. In line with efforts to boost trade, members are working on the integration of payment systems, increasing payments in national currencies, as well as the establishment of an independent channel on information exchange. It was earlier reported that BRICS states are set to create a new joint payment system called BRICS Pay that will be similar to existing Apple Pay and Samsung Pay services.

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

January 21st 2020, 4:53 am

Australian Open 2020: Rafael Nadal makes storming start, then hails fans for Australian bushfire fun

RT

Rafael Nadal kicked off his Australian Open campaign in dominant fashion as he thrashed unseeded Bolivian Hugo Dellien in straight sets, then thanked the fans for their fundraising efforts to help fight the Australian bushfires.

The Spanish star and No. 1 seed is bidding to capture his 20th Grand Slam title to draw level with Roger Federer's record, but said that equalling the Swiss ace's record isn't a target he's specifically pursuing.

Instead, he says, all he is interested in is playing at his very best. If he does that, the titles will take care of themselves.

"If I am able to reach my highest level, that's the thing that I have to worry about," said Nadal after his victory.

"If I am able to play at my highest level, normally I am able to produce some good chances. If not, impossible.

"So, I don't care about 20 or 15 or 16 (Grand Slam titles). I just care about trying to keep going, keep enjoying my tennis career.

"It's not like 20 is the number that I need to reach. If I reach 20, fantastic. If I reach 21, better. If I reach 19, super happy about all the things that I did in my tennis career, no?

"I don't think in the future ... achieving 21 Grand Slams, for example, I'm going to be happier than if I (have) 19 in 10 years."

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Nadal is strongly tipped to add to his Grand Slam record when the tour reaches Roland Garros for the French Open - he has won there in 12 of the last 15 years. But he hasn't had the same luck Down Under.

He holds the French Open title, as well as that of the U.S. Open which, like Australian Open, is played on a hard court. But for some reason Nadal has found life easier in New York than in Melbourne.

"I went through a couple of things, more than in New York honestly," he explained.

"But I don't know. Maybe the conditions are better for me in New York than here. That's the only reason that I can find."

Following his win, Nadal also thanked the fans for their support of the Rally For Relief fundraising effort, which has raised in excess of $5 million to help fight the Australian bushfires and the catastrophic damage caused.

"All that matters is just help," he said.

"All the world of tennis is together to try to help the disaster that we are going through here in Australia this last couple of months.

"So just super-happy that we raised a lot of money for it. I know money's not everything, but in some way I think that can help to recover the distaster that we are going through a little bit faster.

"So I'm happy for that. Thank you for the support of all the crowd, because of all of them, we raised a lot of money."

Nadal moves on to take on either Federico Delbonis or Joao Sousa in the next round.

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January 21st 2020, 4:53 am

Spanish PM Sanchez to meet head of Catalan govt Torra, independence referendum ‘off the table’

RT

Spain’s prime minister has said he will meet the head of Catalonia’s regional government in early February, but discussion on any independence referendum will be off the table.

The meeting will come ahead of negotiations between Quim Torra’s regional government and PM Pedro Sanchez aimed at finding a way out of the political crisis that has rocked Spain since 2017 after a disputed referendum in the northeastern region.

Catalonia’s oldest and largest pro-independence party, the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), demanded the talks about the region’s place within Spain in exchange for its abstention in a confidence vote earlier this month that saw Sanchez sworn in for another term, AFP said.

“What we want is that they end with a vote on the part of the Catalan population on an agreement,” the socialist leader said Monday of the negotiations. It was not clear if this deal could be on a new form of autonomy. However, Sanchez excluded any referendum on Catalan independence, saying that any vote would be a “vote on agreement, not on division.”

January 21st 2020, 4:39 am

Hong Kong shares slip after Moody’s downgrade over ongoing protests

RT

Stocks on the Hong Kong exchange fell most among major Asian markets after Moody’s rating agency cut the financial hub’s rating from Aa2 to Aa3. The city’s government says it “strongly” disagrees with the decision.

The Hang Seng Index lost more than 2.6 percent as it closed on Tuesday. Meanwhile, other regional markets slid, with mainland China’s Shanghai Composite and Shenzhen component down more than one percent and Japan’s Nikkei falling 0.9 percent.

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The plunge came less than 24 hours after Moody’s Investors Service said the reason for Hong Kong’s downgrade was the ineffective response by the local authorities to the protests that have been ongoing in the city for months and have resulted in chaos and violence. However, the agency also changed its credit outlook for Hong Kong to stable from negative.

“The downgrade principally reflects Moody’s view that Hong Kong’s Institutions and Governance Strength is lower than previously estimated,” the US-based rating agency said in a statement.

Unhappy with the decision, the Hong Kong government said that it “strongly” disagrees with the assessment, arguing there are no sufficient grounds for Moody’s to question its ability to handle the situation.

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“Our fiscal performance and external positions have long been amongst those of the top-rated economies and serve as a strong buffer for Hong Kong to withstand shock,” a government spokesman said, as cited by Xinhua.

Last year, China’s self-governing territory recognized that months of chaos plunged it into recession after two successive quarters of contraction. The local government expects the situation to worsen in the fourth quarter, with Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po warning that “negative growth is unavoidable.”

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

January 21st 2020, 4:39 am

New countries may join BRICS in future, says Russian Deputy FM

RT

The group of five emerging economies known as BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) needs to cooperate more, according to Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.

Ryabkov, who serves as Russia’s BRICS sherpa, said: "As for expansion plans, I think we need to continue pursuing the current path, first and foremost, seeking to boost practical cooperation, increase gains from it and specifying activities in many areas, so that our countries and our people can feel… that BRICS’ existence is important in terms of creating new positive elements in the economic, social and scientific development of our countries, as well as for other areas of development."

"This is why it is possible to talk about the expansion of BRICS as a goal for the future," he pointed out.

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BRICS countries will soon account for more than half of the global economy

According to Ryabkov, Russia is currently focused on activities on the BRICS+ platform, which "makes it possible for interested countries to find ways to cooperate with the group’s members."

The group, originally called BRIC, was established in 2006 by Brazil, Russia, India and China, before South Africa joined in 2010, adding the ‘S’ to the acronym. The group of five countries represents more than 40 percent of the world’s population.

READ MORE: Phasing out the dollar: BRICS countries setting up own payment network to cut dependence on Western financial system

In line with efforts to boost trade, members are working on the integration of payment systems, increasing transactions in national currencies, and establishing an independent channel for information exchange. It was earlier reported that BRICS states are set to create a new joint payment system called BRICS Pay, that will be similar to existing Apple Pay and Samsung Pay services.

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

January 21st 2020, 4:09 am

980-pound strongman nicknamed ‘Pakistani Hulk’ is looking for a ‘heavyweight’ bride

RT

A colossal Pakistani weightlifter, known for pulling tractors with a rope and lifting cars with one hand, says he has rejected scores of would-be brides because they did not match his physique.

Hailing from Mardan in northern Pakistan, Arbab Khizer Hayat is 6ft 6in (197cm) tall and weighs around 980lb (444kg). He has been on a desperate quest for love in recent years, since his parents want him to get married, the 27-year-old strongman told the Daily Mail.

“I need a heavyweight wife so I do not hurt her. All the women who have wanted to marry me so far have been too skinny,” Hayat said, explaining why “an average woman” would be a bad match for him.

“I want to meet a woman who weighs at least 220lb [100kg], and she has to be above 6ft 4in [192cm] tall, so we look right together,” he noted, adding that he has already rejected “200-300 girls” because they did not fit the desired parameters.

A celebrity in his hometown, Hayat performs various stunts to showcase his strength. Videos circulating online show him pulling tractors, buses, and cars with a rope, as well as lifting cars with one hand.

To maintain his shape, Hayat consumes fours chickens, 36 eggs, 7lb (3kg) of meat and 5 liters of milks a day. The man told local media that he plans to enter world weightlifting competitions and become a star with the WWE.

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January 21st 2020, 3:53 am

China court sentences former Interpol chief Meng Hongwei to 13 years in prison for bribery

RT

Former Interpol chief Meng Hongwei, who was detained on a visit to China in 2018, was sentenced Tuesday to more than 13 years in prison for bribery. The case shook the international police organization.

Meng – a former vice minister of public security – is among a growing group of Communist Party cadres caught in China’s anti-graft campaign. He vanished during a visit to China from France, where Interpol is based, and was later accused of accepting bribes and expelled from the Communist Party. His wife was granted political asylum in France last year.

Meng was sentenced to 13 years and six months in prison and fined $290,000, the Tianjin First Intermediate People’s Court said.

At his trial last June, he reportedly pleaded guilty to accepting $2.1 million in bribes. The court statement on Tuesday also said Meng had “truthfully confessed to all the criminal facts” and would not appeal the decision, AFP reports.

January 21st 2020, 3:53 am

Iran’s civil aviation authority confirms 2 missiles fired at Ukraine airliner

RT

The civil aviation authority in Iran has confirmed two missiles were fired at a Ukrainian airliner that was brought down earlier this month. Investigators discovered that “two Tor-M1 missiles… were fired at the aircraft,” the authority said in a preliminary report posted on its website late on Monday.

An investigation is ongoing to assess the bearing their impact had on the accident. The statement confirms a report in The New York Times which included video footage appearing to show two projectiles being fired at the airliner.

The Kiev-bound Ukraine International Airlines plane was shot down in an error shortly after takeoff from Tehran on January 8, killing all 176 people on board. Iran had for days denied claims that the plane had been shot down.

The Revolutionary Guards’ aerospace commander Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh accepted full responsibility, but said the missile operator who opened fire had been acting independently, AFP reported.

January 21st 2020, 3:33 am

#VictoryPages: Young Russian designers create ‘Infinite Letter’ using Instagram Stories

RT

RT’s historical tribute to the 75-year anniversary of victory over fascism, #VictoryPages, launches ‘Infinite Letter’ on Instagram. Starting this January the project will run until May.

The Instagram account @Pobeda.Page will post several stories daily that will eventually add up to hours of art, quotes and music combined.

“Today we live, but tomorrow or in an hour, a minute you are gone,” “Mom! Don’t make a mistake, don’t join the army, stay at home,” “The city is destroyed... Sorry for Rostov” – simple and sincere words of letters from the front shine light on a different, human perspective in the history of the Great Patriotic War.

On the eve of the anniversary of the victory over fascism, #VictoryLetters unites young artists and personal archives on Instagram.

“Our project is less about the ‘feat of the people’ or the ‘victorious nation,’ it’s more about human fate. The big picture only becomes visible through detail. Through personal stories. And there is nothing more personal than letters,” said the author of the idea, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of RT Kirill Karnovich-Valua.

#VictoryLetters shows daily life during war, what Soviet soldiers saw while moving through territories they liberated from fascist occupation, and what they discovered when they crossed the border with Europe. Letters from home speak of what happened to families during evacuation or occupation, how they lived and worked at the rear, where people lived by the slogan ‘Everything for the front!’

Most of the letters were handed over to the project by Tatyana Vasilevskaya, who, since 2014, has published four volumes of correspondences from the Second World War in her publishing house ‘Kniga’. These testimonies of living history came from personal archives and museums, from families and local historians, from Russia and from abroad.

“Front-line letters are a unique, sincere historical document of the Great Patriotic War. Addressing loved ones, children, mothers, censored yet devoid of false arrogance, these laconic lines create such a magnificent image of a soldier, of people. In my opinion, no scientific treatises are able to answer the question to the same extent as to why it was us who won the worst war in the history of mankind,” said Tatyana Vasilevskaya.

Young artists from the RANEPA School of Design, as well as international graphic artists Mikhail Sorkin and Peter Bankov, were invited to work on the visual part of the projects. Quotes from letters, interspersed with illustrations, create a kind of ‘Infinite Letter’ in Instagram Stories. Composer Maxim Makarychev (Sirotkin, On-The-Go) wrote a continuous musical score to complete this ‘letter from the past’.

“Illustrations by young designers and the story format are an emotional bridge from the terrible times of war to the peace we know today, where despite all the horrors, people also loved, worried, dreamed, believed. ‘Infinite Letter’ is a generational link that our team will try to recreate using narrative and visual means – with the hope that the youth of today and future generations will understand why this should never be repeated,” said Kirill Karnovich-Valua.

“For students of the RANEPA School of Design, the #VictoryLetters project became not only a professional, but also a deeply human experience,” said Sergey Serov, Ph.D., professor at RANEPA.

“Creative pedagogy, cultivated at the RANEPA School of Design, requires students to develop not only a designer mindset, but also design perception, to take each project to heart, let it pass not only through your mind, but also through your soul. This is exactly what happened with the project #VictoryLetters, in which it turned out to be extremely important to go through a personal experience, where each author was personally involved in the topic. Participation in the project has become important for students not only professionally, but also as a human experience, deeply affecting their emotions, feelings of empathy and compassion.”

The illustrations are made in completely different styles and techniques: from watercolor to etching to collage – some are deeply psychological, some lean towards a more naive style. The works reflect not only personal experiences, but also personal stories.

“It was as if I was living the story of my grandmother, who lost her father at the age of two [and] did not remember him. As a child, she wrote letters to her father addressed nowhere,” said Maria Afonchikova, a project participant.

“When thinking about war, a storm of emotions washes over. Most of them are colored with horror and sorrow, another part is of faith and love. A small piece, but of such incredible strength that it helped cope with evil. And so now, while working on the illustrations, my mind was torn apart from the realization of loss, while my heart was filled with love, with which these letters were written to relatives and friends,” adds another participant, Ksenia Posternyak.

#VictoryPages was launched by RT on January 13 in honor of the approaching 75th anniversary of the end of World War II and will last until May 9, 2020. Join us on YouTube, Facebook, VK and Twitter, and follow the ‘Endless Letter’ on Instagram.

January 21st 2020, 3:33 am

‘Together is better’: Local food delivery giant Zomato buys Uber Eats’ business in India

RT

Uber has sold its food delivery service in India to local rival Zomato in hopes of cutting losses amid stiff competition for the South Asian market.

Uber will now own 9.99 percent of Zomato, while users of the Uber Eats apps and delivery partners will be redirected to Zomato’s platform, the companies announced on Tuesday.

Local media, citing sources, says the deal is valued from $300 to 350 million. The San Francisco-based company launched its food delivery service in India in 2017 but has been making losses in stiff competition with Zomato and its rival Swiggy.

Founded as a start-up in 2008, Zomato currently operates in more than 500 cities in India and serves over 70 million customers per month.

“This acquisition significantly strengthens our position in the [food delivery] category,” Zomato founder and CEO Deepinder Goyal said, as he tweeted the slogan of the purchase: “Together is better.”

“India remains an exceptionally important market to Uber and we will continue to invest in growing our local rides business, which is already the clear category leader,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said.

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January 21st 2020, 2:36 am

‘Fake news is a menace’: India’s president urges journalists to pursue truth over ratings at annual

RT

If the press is to remain relevant, it must reassert its commitment to truth and reject the spectre of ‘fake news,’ Indian President Ram Nath Kovind told an audience at the yearly Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards.

“Fake news has emerged a new menace, whose purveyors proclaim themselves as journalists and taint this noble profession,” Kovind said at the event in New Delhi on Monday, calling on the industry to “reclaim its values of honesty and fairness.”

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The president also slammed those on a quest for “eyeballs and ratings,” arguing that stories covering social injustices and inequalities are often ignored in favor of “trivia” amid a chaotic “din of breaking news.”

A section of the media has then taken recourse to entertainment in the name of news … But, I am confident that, quality journalism will prevail in the long run – the kind of journalism we have gathered to celebrate today.

Recalling the founder of the Indian Express Group, Ramnath Goenka – the award’s namesake, who had a profound influence on India’s journalism industry – Kovind mused about how the veteran journalist would have dealt with fake news.

“He would never have allowed the situation to go adrift and initiated measures for course correction for the whole media fraternity,” the president said.

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The Excellence in Journalism Awards, also known as the RNG, were established in 2006 to recognize exemplary reporting in India. This year, the RNG jury considered some 922 story entries for awards, according to the Express Group’s current chairman, Viveck Goenka.

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January 21st 2020, 12:03 am

WHO calls for emergency meeting as China confirms 4th death & person-to-person spread of new coronav

RT

The World Health Organization will convene an emergency expert panel to determine whether a new virus sweeping China should be declared a global threat, after Chinese health officials confirmed the lethal pathogen is contagious.

The upcoming WHO meeting, set for Wednesday, was announced on the heels of the fourth confirmed death from the novel coronavirus, which first broke out in the Chinese city of Wuhan but has since spread beyond, taking hold in Beijing and Shanghai. There are now some 217 known infections, according to Chinese authorities, with 198 of them in Wuhan and another four cases reported in Japan, South Korea and Thailand.

“The recent outbreak of novel coronavirus pneumonia in Wuhan and other places must be taken seriously,” Chinese President Xi Jingping said on national TV, addressing the issue publicly for the first time.

While the global health body has yet to recommend travel or trade restrictions over the virus, its panel of experts could suggest such measures on Wednesday in order to limit its spread. Other health authorities around the world have began screening for the illness at airports, including in the US, Australia, India and a number of other Asuain countries.

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Zhong Nanshan, the Chinese scientist credited with discovering SARS – a related coronavirus – in 2003, told Chinese media the newest pathogen is capable of spreading from person-to-person, but said the virus was still in an early stage and that he did not expect it to rise to the level of the 2003 SARS outbreak, which killed nearly 800 people worldwide.

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January 20th 2020, 11:33 pm

2 killed, 1 critically injured in chaotic stabbing, robbery & arson spree in Barcelona (VIDEOS)

RT

Police in Barcelona have connected the dots between a series of apparently random attacks across the city, tying one suspect to two murders, a stabbing and an attempt at arson in the span of a single afternoon.

It all started around 3pm local time, when Barcelona’s fire brigade responded to calls about an apartment blaze near the city’s Ciutadella Park. Inside the flat they stumbled upon far more than a fire, finding not only evidence of arson, but the body of a man with “signs of violence,” and apparently strangled. Police were called to investigate, strongly suspecting foul play.

A video later emerged on social media showing an unidentified man descending the facade of the apartment building as smoke billowed from one of its windows, dressed in beige pants, a dark jacket and a black motorcycle helmet.

Before authorities could wrap their heads around the first apparent murder, another call came in moments later. Locals had discovered the body of an elderly woman in the lobby of a building about 600 meters down the road from the scene of the fire. She appeared to have sustained a head injury, but unable to immediately link her death with the first incident, police kept their options open, refusing to rule out causes other than homicide.

About an hour after the fire, however, yet another encounter would bring the mystery to a close. An attempted robbery in Saint James Square, less than a mile from Ciutadella Park, left one man with a critical stab wound to the abdomen, but this time the assailant wasn’t so lucky. Finally nabbed by police after a street scuffle, which was captured on video, the man was brought into custody.

Answers about the fate of the elderly woman were soon forthcoming, with police finding some of her belongings – among them an ID card – in a search of the suspect, who was described in media reports as a person of ‘foreign nationality’, about 30 years of age. He was arrested wearing the same clothing witnesses had earlier reported, including the black helmet.

The suspect, who has yet to be named, was detained by Barcelona’s municipal police force, the Guardia Urbana, and handed over to the Criminal Investigation Division for further questioning, where officers will attempt to clarify what motivated the violent crime spree.

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January 20th 2020, 11:03 pm

‘Complete turnaround’: OPCW whistleblower slams chemical watchdog’s Douma report in UN Security Coun

RT

A former inspector with the OPCW has accused the chemical weapons watchdog of issuing a sanitized report on the alleged 2018 attack in Douma, Syria, arguing it ignored serious reservations of its own fact-finding team.

The OPCW’s final report on the Douma incident, released last March, omitted key findings of its own inspections team which would have cast serious doubt on whether a chemical attack took place at all, a now former OPCW specialist, Ian Henderson, told members of the United Nations Security Council in a recorded video address – after his visa application to attend the meeting in person was rejected.

“The findings in the final [Fact Finding Mission] report were contradictory, were a complete turnaround with what the team had understood collectively during and after the Douma deployments,” Henderson said.

Even though several members of the fact finding team “had serious misgivings that a chemical attack had occurred” as early as July 2018, the organization’s final report – compiled by another group that never even visited the incident site – nonetheless concluded there were “reasonable grounds” to all but pin the blame for the attack on Damascus.

Sanitized of any dissenting opinion, the report ignored “findings, facts, information, data or analysis” gathered by the team in the areas of witness testimony, toxicology studies, chemical analysis, as well as ballistics, the retired inspector said.

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Washington and its allies blamed the Syrian government for the Douma incident, with the US, France and the UK launching joint strikes against Syria a week later, well before any official investigation could even start, and even delaying it. Western politicians and media claimed at the time – based purely on visual materials and witness accounts provided by the notorious White Helmets and other militant-linked sources – that the Syrian government forces had ‘highly likely’ dropped two poisonous gas cylinders, killing scores of civilians.

For his part, Henderson carried out a closer analysis of that pair of cylinders mysteriously found in a residential area of Douma. His ‘Engineering Assessment’ was initially leaked last May, laying out a number of hypotheses for how the cylinders wound up at the site in Douma. Most significantly, it noted a “higher probability” that they were “manually placed” instead of being “delivered from aircraft,” suggesting a party other than the Syrian government may have planted them there.

In my case, I had followed up with a further six months of engineering and ballistics studies into the cylinders, the result of which had provided further support for the view that there had not been a chemical attack.

Subsequent WikiLeaks publications would reveal that a senior OPCW official ordered “all traces” of Henderson’s assessment to be scrubbed from its archives. Yet despite the internal battle undermining OPCW’s credibility, Henderson insisted the dispute should not be a matter of “political debate,” urging for any discrepancies to be “properly resolved … through the rigors of science and engineering.”

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January 20th 2020, 9:46 pm

Biden campaign warns media not to spread ‘debunked’ claims about his activities in Ukraine or else

RT

Joe Biden’s presidential campaign has issued a warning to the media cautioning journalists against spreading what he called “debunked” theories about his controversial role in having a Ukrainian prosecutor removed from office.

In the memo first reported by NBC News, Biden’s campaign accuses President Donald Trump of "spreading a malicious and conclusively debunked conspiracy theory" that the former VP engaged in wrongdoing when he pressured Ukraine to fire former Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin.

Biden has previously bragged about his role in having Shokin fired, even admitting on camera that he presented an ultimatum to Ukrainian authorities, threatening to withhold a billion-dollar loan guarantee unless the prosecutor was given the boot. It emerged later that Biden’s own son Hunter sat on the board of the Burisma energy company which Shokin had been investigating for corruption.

The memo, described as “unusual” by NBC News, demands that "any media organization referencing, reporting on, or repeating” claims that Biden engaged in wrongdoing "must state clearly and unambiguously that they have been discredited and debunked by authoritative sources."

The memo instructs journalists that it is “not sufficient” to say allegations against the Democratic candidate are “unsubstantiated.” They must tell readers there is a mountain of evidence which debunks them, it says. Any journalists or media organizations failing to adhere to Biden’s standards in their reporting on his and his families’ activities in Ukraine are accused of “malpractice.”

The memo comes as Republicans call for Hunter Biden to testify during Donald Trump's impending Senate impeachment trial. Trump was impeached last month by the US House Representatives for “abuse of power” and “obstruction of Congress” relating to the alleged claim that he withheld aid from Ukraine in an effort to force an investigation into Biden’s involvement with Burisma and his role in Shokin’s firing.

However, even if Biden’s claim that he was not motivated by his son’s position on Burisma’s board when he insisted on Shokin’s sacking is true, he has already publicly admitted to threatening to withhold money from Ukraine unless authorities did his bidding — which, somewhat ironically, is exactly what Democrats impeached Trump for last month.

One campaign that did not get Biden's memo is that of Bernie Sanders, which has earned criticism from the left for calling Biden "corrupt" in an attack ad. Among the critics was liberal economist Paul Krugman. 

Trump's trial in the Senate is set to kick off this week and has been dismissed by his legal team as a "highly partisan and reckless obsession" engineered by Democrats who want him thrown out of office.

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January 20th 2020, 5:45 pm

Media, Hollywood paint Virginia rally as ‘extremist’ & violent despite its uneventful nature

RT

Talking heads in the media and Hollywood tried to paint the pro-Second Amendment supporters in Richmond, Virginia as racist or potentially violent, creating a much gloomier image than the one that transpired in reality.

Folks walking around the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond with semi-automatic weapons strapped over their shoulders had anti-gun activists up in arms and concerned, but the pro-Second Amendment protest — which was against new anti-gun measures proposed by Governor Ralph Northam — ended up being quite peaceful.

‘Westworld’ actor Jeffrey Wright was similarly bothered by the gun-wielding protesters. He tweeted that the protest was “gun circle jerk” and said it had a “Klan-like rally smell” to it. This is despite the fact that plenty of videos and pictures showed minorities protesting for gun rights too.

“This is what’s happening in Virginia right now. Trump’s America,” Democrat activist and ‘Charmed’ actress Alyssa Milano tweeted in response to a video of protesters showing up, sporting rifles and tactical gear.

“This is NOT what the founders had in mind when writing the 2nd [Amendment]. THIS IS NOT MY AMERICA!” filmmaker Morgan J. Freeman wrote about the same video.

Mainstream media outlets got serious pushback from supporters of the rally and rally attendees for their coverage of the day’s events. 

MSNBC correspondent Gabe Gutierrez found himself in hot water when he tweeted a video of a large group of protesters saying the pledge of allegiance and captioned the video with: “Chants of ‘we will not comply’ from gun rights protesters in Richmond.”

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Since the audio in the video did not match what Gutierrez was saying, commentators like Ben Shapiro and Dana Loesch immediately descended on the man.

“We all have ears, dude. That's not what they're chanting,” Shapiro tweeted.

Hours after his original post, Gutierrez posted the actual video of protesters chanting, “we will not comply.” This video was of a much smaller group and its delayed posting led to more criticism.

“This should have been first with the proper context. I see no problem with law-abiding Americans peacefully assembling, as is their right, stating that they will not comply with unlawful orders that rob them of constitutionally protected rights,” Loesch wrote in response to the new video.

Gutierrez later found himself heckled while he was reporting on camera from the rally. One person interrupted his broadcast by saying, “Piece of s**t … F**k you!”

MSNBC, Huffington Post and other outlets promoted the idea that thousands of “extremists” and “white nationalists” would descend on Virginia in support of gun rights, the coverage ended up being a far cry from the predicted doom.

MSNBC reporter Ben Collins deleted a tweet where he called the rally a “white nationalist rally.”

CNN said ahead of the rally that the FBI was working with law enforcement to prepare for “threats of violence.” They later had to report that the event ended “peacefully.”

One video even showed protesters cleaning up after themselves as the rally came to a close.

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January 20th 2020, 4:42 pm

Multiple rockets hit Baghdad’s Green Zone, trigger sirens at US embassy – reports

RT

A number of rockets have exploded near Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses the US Embassy and other foreign diplomatic facilities.

At least two explosions went off in the vicinity of the Green Zone on Monday, AFP reported, citing security sources, though it remains unclear whether the blasts resulted in any casualties.

Video footage circulating on social media appeared to show an area near the complex, where emergency sirens could be heard blaring.

DETAILS TO FOLLOW

January 20th 2020, 4:42 pm

Trump’s legal team releases impeachment trial memo, calls process a ‘charade’

RT

Donald Trump’s legal team has released an official response to the charges of impeachment against the president, calling the process a “charade” and an “affront to the Constitution.”

Trump has been charged with abuse of office and obstruction of Congress, with his impeachment trial slated to begin in the Senate on Tuesday. Though Trump has lambasted the impeachment drive against him since an inquiry was initially opened by Democrats in September, his legal team released a 110-page rebuttal of the charges on Monday.

“The Articles of Impeachment now before the Senate are an affront to the Constitution and to our democratic institutions,” the memo begins. “The Articles themselves — and the rigged process that brought them here — are a brazenly political act by House Democrats that must be rejected.”

Trial Memorandum of Preside... by RT America on Scribd

The memo goes on to claim that the charges against Trump fall short of the “high crimes and misdemeanors” the Constitution requires to trigger impeachment, and warn that a trial leading to Trump’s removal from the White House would “permanently weaken the presidency and forever alter the balance of the branches of government.”

Trump’s legal team will rehash the arguments in the memo when the Senate trial begins on Tuesday.

Earlier on Monday, House Democrats refuted the White House’s claim on Saturday that the articles of impeachment are “constitutionally invalid,” calling the assertion “dead wrong” and “chilling.”

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‘Rigging election again’: Trump says impeachment all a ploy to... shaft Bernie Sanders

The impeachment drive against Trump centers on allegations that he pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into opening a corruption investigation into Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, using military aid to Kiev as leverage. The impeachment inquiry began after an intelligence community whistleblower drew attention to a July phone call between Trump and Zelensky, in which the president supposedly arranged a “quid pro quo” deal with his Ukrainian counterpart.

Trump and Zelensky deny any pressure campaign, and Trump released a transcript that he said shows the call was “perfect.”

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January 20th 2020, 4:12 pm

Political pawn or guilty as charged? Extradition trial of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou gets underway in V

RT

A Canadian court is set to hear a much-anticipated case at the centre of the tech and trade war between the US and China, as Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou will fight a US extradition request based on charges her team say have no merit.

Meng was arrested at Vancouver International Airport in December 2018 at the bidding of the United States, just as tensions were mounting between Washington and Beijing over trade tariffs imposed by the Trump administration. US authorities accused her of defrauding financial institutions and lying in an attempt to circumvent US sanctions impeding other countries’ abilities to do business with Iran.

The Huawei executive — who was forced to surrender her passports, abide by a curfew and wear a GPS tracker — has been living under house arrest in Vancouver since she was released on a $10-million bail. Formal hearings begin on Monday and are expected to continue until Thursday, though this is only phase one in what is expected to be a long and drawn out extradition trial. With so many moving parts to the case and potential for multiple appeals, it could still take months or even years for it to really come to an end.

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Decisions this week will hang on the Canadian law principle, necessary for extradition, of ‘double criminality’. That essentially means the crime the person is accused of by the country requesting extradition must also be a crime in Canada. 

Meng's team has argued that, since the sanctions she is accused of violating are not Canadian sanctions, the 'double criminality' standard does not apply. The prosecution insists, however, that the case is primarily about the alleged fraud, not sanctions. Meng has accused US and Canadian authorities of unlawful detainment, searches and interrogations. If her attorneys can convince the court that the standard for 'double criminality' is not met, she could be released from house arrest.

Critics of Canada’s handling of the case — including the father of jailed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange — have framed it as just another example of the US abusing the legal systems of foreign countries to target their geopolitical enemies. 

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Indeed, Meng’s case would seem to fit that profile. While US authorities have framed her arrest and charges as being simply about Iran sanctions and fraud, to consider this case as purely about business with Tehran would be to ignore the US government’s massive pressure campaign against Huawei itself, which has been playing out in tandem to the wider US-China tariff and trade war. Washington has urged the rest of the world to shun Huawei and its 5G technology, which it claims is a threat to national security and will be used for spying — accusations China has denied.

Meng’s case also places Canada in a tricky position. While it will not want to irk its powerful next-door neighbor, Ottawa will also be concerned for Canadian citizens who were arrested in China on spy charges — seen by many as a tit-for-tat retaliation by Beijing following Meng's detainment.

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Beijing calls on Canada to ‘correct mistake’, release Huawei executive Meng

Canada is now faced with two unappealing options: anger China by caving to Washington’s demands and extradite Meng over charges which look suspiciously political; or anger the US by keeping her in Canada and trying to work out an exchange deal with Beijing that would see its own citizens brought home.

Multiple former Canadian government officials have come out in support of the prisoner swap option in recent weeks. In an article for the Globe and Mail, Eddie Goldenberg — a chief of staff to former PM Jean Chrétien — accused the US of painting Canada into a corner. He argued that Trudeau's government must understand that China regards Meng as "a hostage that Canada is holding" for Donald Trump, and that Beijing will never release the Canadian prisoners unless Meng is returned. Former deputy PM John Manley has also advocated a prisoner exchange.

Adding weight to the argument that Meng is being used as a political pawn is the fact that Donald Trump himself publicly suggested he would intervene in the case if it helped him secure a good trade deal with China.

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January 20th 2020, 2:59 pm

A classic double KO! Thai fighters sent to floor after landing the same punch at the same time (VIDE

RT

From Tyson Fury uppercutting himself in the face to Conor McGregor finishing off his opponents within seconds, few novelties are as unique to ringcraft as the double knockdowns that occasionally send both fighters to the canvas.

A pair of Muay Thai mavericks caught each other with concurrent hooks as they marched to the center of the ring at a contest in Thailand over the weekend.

The fighters had grappled briefly before each advanced with menace and successfully sent their opponent to the floor.

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Neither knockdown artist was beaten by the blow they received, although it is unclear whether they lasted the required ten count to renew hostilities.

After a brief breather, the fighters returned to their feet and made their way back toward different corners of the ring.

An orange-shirted referee in tracksuit trousers stepped in between them while they recovered and then appeared to deem the rivals ready to return to action.

Wearing red shorts in front of an amazed crowd, one of the combatants can be seen stumbling groggily back toward the ropes, having used them to climb off the deck.

The comedic clip was taken by a tourist and has entertained viewers worldwide after spreading quickly across social media.

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'Double KO!' Boxers simultaneously exchange punches, hit canvas at the same time (VIDEO)

January 20th 2020, 2:27 pm

US-bound migrants cross into Mexico through river, hurl stones at military as soldiers block road (V

RT

Hundreds of men, women and children crossed from Guatemala into Mexico through a river on Monday as a migrant caravan continues its journey onwards toward the US border, only to be met by a wall of soldiers on the other side.

Live footage from the scene showed migrants wading right into the shallow waters of the Suchiate river after Mexican National Guards had blocked their path into Guatemala via a nearby bridge over the weekend.

Initially, people crossed into Mexico, walking right passed Mexican soldiers as they watched on, but the military soon blocked off the route and appeared to prevent further passage using riot shields. Some of the migrants hurled rocks at the soldiers and tried to flee past them.

The group, mostly originating in Honduras and El Salvador, intends to travel onwards to the US, and Mexico is under increasing pressure from US President Donald Trump to stop them. Mexican authorities recently deployed an additional 200 National Guards to the Guatemalan border area in a bid to block the caravan’s movement north, while President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador offered 4,000 jobs to the migrants if they agreed to stay in Mexico instead of continuing north to the US.

Migrants entering the country without registering with Mexican immigration authorities will not be allowed through, the government said earlier, but offered entry to people seeking asylum or other protections. The bridge border crossing was closed on Saturday.

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January 20th 2020, 2:27 pm

'Hot mess': New York Times eviscerated for dual endorsement of Warren/Klobuchar

RT

New York Times editor Mara Gay said the paper’s Sunday night dual endorsement of Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar is meant to point out that there’s two ways forward for anti-Trump voters, but neither side is buying it.

“This is really our way of narrowing that field, and also just pointing out to voters there is more than one pathway forward here,” Gay told Morning Joe on Monday, saying Warren and Klobuchar present the best “two paths” to beat US President Donald Trump.

Conservatives have mocked the dual endorsement for being motivated by identity politics — Warren and Klobuchar are two of the last three women running for the nomination from the Democrat Party — while potential Democrat voters have slammed the New York Times for being incapable of picking one candidate.

“BREAKING: The New York Times picks both the Chiefs and the 49ers to win the Super Bowl,” conservative commentator and podcaster Ben Shapiro tweeted in response to its dual 2020 endorsement. The mocking tone was echoed by many in reaction to the paper’s editorial board not only being unable to make a clear endorsement.

“The @nytimes now with twice the wokeness,” joked ‘Justified’ actor and ‘Gosnell’ director Nick Searcy.

Conservative podcaster and Townhall columnist Derek Hunter theorized the addition of Klobuchar in the Times’ endorsement decision was simply a reluctance to throw their full weight behind the controversial Warren. 

“Their heart is with Warren, but they want to continue pretending to not be a left-wing rag, so they tossed in Klobuchar knowing she doesn't stand a chance,” Hunter tweeted.

One of the most surprising aspects of a dual endorsement of Klobuchar/Warren is that the two candidates are quite different policy-wise. Klobuchar has attempted to sell herself as more of a moderate liberal, while Warren has embraced drastic policies like Medicare for All and higher tax rates on top earners. 

“On one hand, the hot mess of the #nytimesendorsement is trivial as this may not change a single vote. On the other hand, we may look at this as THE moment it was clear the opposition to Trump lost its mind and couldn't get its act together,” Philadelphia Inquirer opinion columnist Will Bunch tweeted.

“That Warren and Klobuchar have little in common policy wise tells you the #nytimesendorsement wasn’t at all about issues and only about identity politics,” added user @CacccioppoliMike. 

In a viral clip from the interview of the Times’ editorial board with candidate Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator suggested “maybe” the New York Times, along with the “political establishment” has failed millions of Americans who now call themselves Trump supporters.

“Maybe this ‘fresh out of f**ks’ answer explains why Bernie didn't win the #nytimesendorsement,” YouTuber and commentator Tim Black tweeted.

Actor Adam Baldwin suggested “it’s over” for Sanders after his spat with the Times.

This is the first time in the history of the New York Times that they have endorsed two candidates at the same time. 

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January 20th 2020, 2:27 pm

‘Charges will be brought’: Lazio demand fans pay for racist behavior

RT

Lazio have issued a three-game ban and letters demanding a total of €50,000 ($55,000) in damages from fans found to have made fascist salutes which earned the club a partial stadium ban in the Europa League this season.

UEFA closed a section of the Stadio Olimpico when Lazio hosted Celtic in the Europa League and fined the club €20,000 ($22,000) after supporters were seen making far right gestures during the 2-1 win over French side Rennes on October 3.

Lazio refused to condemn racist chanting when they were handed a suspended stadium ban for racist behavior during a Coppa Italia match last season, but club president Claudio Lotito has taken a harder line by pinpointing the culprits and seeking payback this time.

READ MORE: Raul Bravo says reports of order to kill Darko Kovacevic are ‘like a movie on Netflix or Amazon Prime’

Accusing the recipients of inflicting “serious economic damage,” Lotito wrote: “As only the fans identified are responsible for the damage to the club, we invite you to contact us so that you can agree a method of payment to reimburse Lazio.

“From the footage taken by UEFA and the consequent police investigation, it emerged that you are responsible for the sanctionable behavior and charges will be brought against you. In the meantime, we inform you that the club has suspended your access to the Stadio Olimpico for the next three games.”

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Lotito added that the actions violated the code fans agree to when they buy a ticket and explained that the compensation sum had been calculated based on lost ticket sales and revenue.

While some online critics have applauded the move, others have questioned whether a three-match suspension represents sufficient punishment and suggested that Lotito could pursue legal action should the fans refuse to pay.

Racist incidents have blighted matches across Europe this season, including at Lazio’s rivals, Inter Milan, where striker Romelu Lukaku was among those to speak out after receiving abuse during matches.

READ MORE: 'How did he manage that!?' Man United star Sergio Romero miraculously unhurt after car smash on way to training

In the Premier League, play was stopped at Tottenham following an alleged incident of racist abuse directed at Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger on December 22.

Lazio lost 2-1 to Celtic while observing the closure and failed to qualify for the knockout stages of the competition after finishing third in their group.

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'It was inappropriate': Serie A chiefs apologize for anti-racism monkey artwork campaign

January 20th 2020, 2:27 pm

Astronomer snapped ‘potentially hazardous’ asteroid headed for Earth in incredible PHOTO

RT

Astrophysicist and astronomer Dr Gianluca Masi of the Virtual Telescope Project in Italy was gazing at the stars on January 17 when he managed to capture an incredible image – an inbound asteroid.

As Masi was surveying the sky in the early morning hours of Friday, asteroid 2020 AN3 came into view. The scientist managed to capture this incredible photo of the asteroid – just one of thousands of Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) that could one day strike Earth – as it was approximately 1.9 million miles (3.1 million km) from our planet.

While appearing as a mere dot in the image, the asteroid is actually estimated to measure between 754.6ft and 1,673ft in diameter. The single, 180-second exposure captures the space rock as it moves toward Earth, with the length of the exposure causing all the stars in the background to appear as streaks across the sky. 

“The telescope tracked the apparent motion of the asteroid,” Masi said of his incredible image.

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The space rock was tracked by NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) and features on the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Risk List, but was only discovered a few days before its close Earth approach by the Catalina Sky Survey.

It’s one of a whopping 88 new NEOs which have been spotted so far this year.

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January 20th 2020, 2:27 pm

EU’s $998mn budget to help countries hit by humanitarian crises

RT

The European Union has set up a €900 million ($998 million) budget to help countries hit by humanitarian crises, with Africa getting the largest share of the money. “Europe has a responsibility to show solidarity and support for those in need,” said Janez Lenarcic, the EU commissioner for crisis management.

The EU Commission said on Monday that people in more than 80 countries will benefit from the funds in 2020. Some €400 million ($444 million) will go to programs developed in Africa, while €345 million ($383 million) has been awarded to address crises in the Middle East.

A further €111 million ($123 million) will be dedicated to programs in Asia and Latin America, the bloc’s executive arm said.

In the Middle East, the funding will “address the crisis in Syria and its refugees in neighboring countries, as well as the extremely critical situation in Yemen,” AP reports.

January 20th 2020, 12:56 pm

‘Come and take it’: Gun activists march in Virginia (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)

RT

Thousands of gun-rights supporters and militia members have gathered at the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, in an armed show of defiance against a slew of gun laws proposed by Governor Ralph Northam.

Northam – who shot to international infamy last year when a yearbook picture of him in blackface surfaced – has proposed a bevy of new gun laws in the wake of a mass shooting at Virginia Beach last May. Democrats took control of the state’s House of Representatives and Senate in November, giving Northam the political path to passing these laws. The proposed measures include universal background checks, ‘red flag’ laws, and a restriction on handgun purchases. A highly controversial ban on AR-style semi-automatic rifles was struck out by the State Senate last week.

Thousands of gun rights activists descended on the State Capitol in Richmond on Monday to protest these laws. Bearing placards reading “Come and take it,” and chanting “Northam out,” hordes of demonstrators poured through security checkpoints and onto Capitol grounds. Northam had declared a state of emergency on Friday and banned weapons from the grounds, citing a threat of “extremist” violence.

Away from the Capitol, however, groups of armed protesters took to the streets, open-carrying rifles, shotguns, and pistols. Some clad themselves in the tactical gear beloved of militias, and communicated with each other by walkie-talkie. At least one organized militia group, the Oath Keepers, turned up to the rally.

Right-wing rallies in US cities have regularly drawn ‘Antifa’ counter-protesters in the past, with some descending into brawls, or deadly violence, as was the case with the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville in 2017. However, local leftist groups declined to protest Monday’s rally. Right-wing bloggers and activists still warned of ploys to infiltrate the rally and provoke violence, and some ‘Antifa’ groups publicized a list of “fascists, racists, and their sympathizers” expected to show up.

With rumors of infiltration and sabotage confined to online discussion, a number of influential right-wing pundits traveled to Richmond to show their support for the demonstrators. Infowars’ Alex Jones and Owen Shroyer appeared on the streets, while speakers inside the Capitol included Antonia Okafor, who trains female college students in firearms use, and Stephen Wilford, who stopped a massacre at a Texas church last month by shooting the gunman dead.

Opposition to Northam’s Second Amendment crackdown has not been limited to right-wing rallies and posts by conservative pundits: 91 out of 95 Virginia counties and 33 towns have declared themselves ‘Second Amendment Sanctuaries’, with officials refusing to enforce gun laws they see as unconstitutional.

President Donald Trump has lent his support to the gun activists, warning Virginians: “The Democrat Party in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia are working hard to take away your 2nd Amendment rights. This is just the beginning. Don’t let it happen, VOTE REPUBLICAN in 2020.”

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January 20th 2020, 12:23 pm

China’s new killer virus is mutated SARS & may be one more mutation away from infecting millions. Wi

RT

The deadly Chinese virus is turning up in more and more places, and the number of cases tripled over the weekend. But how bad could things get, and is there anything that could stop it before it’s too late?

It seems a bit like the beginning of a Hollywood thriller. An ordinary winter’s day at Wuhan’s seafood and wildlife market. Market traders, stalls packed with meat and fish, trying to flog their wares. The shoppers, handling the produce and trying to find the best deals. But Wuhan is hundreds of miles from the ocean, meaning any ‘fresh’ fish and shellfish for sale was probably anything but.

Police outside the Wuhan fish market where the SARS-like virus epidemic began to spread through Wuhan. ©  NOEL CELIS / AFP

We know that something at the market, perhaps a batch of dodgy crabs or some squawking chickens packed together in cages, was carrying a deadly microscopic threat. Little could punters know that hundreds, if not thousands of them, were being infected…

What is it?

The virus, 2019-nCoV, targets the respiratory system and causes coughing, fever and breathing difficulties. Fluid can be drained from the lungs, the airways cleared and expanded and oxygen delivered by mask but these are all just ways of alleviating the symptoms.

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Antibiotics are useless against viruses — when you get one, the doctor tells you to get plenty of rest and gives you a lollipop. Against a virus, your body’s immune system is your only line of defense. The only real external protection against viruses are vaccines — but these can take a long time to develop, and are not always effective. Moreover, if and when the virus mutates, vaccination becomes useless — this happens almost every winter with influenza, when the doctors play a guessing game about which strains of flu will spread that year.

An old enemy comes back… different

Some have speculated that 2019-nCoV is in fact severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which killed almost 800 people across Asia in 2002. DNA analysis of 2019-nCoV revealed that it is very similar to SARS — essentially a modified form. But Chinese officials are anxious to distance this new bug from SARS; perhaps they are worried that the name would panic the public. So far, their ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ message seems to have been holding — commuters in Beijing were not overly concerned about 2019-nCoV, despite five confirmed cases there.

How far has it spread?

Wuhan, where the virus originated, is right in the center of China. By the time the first reports started coming in it had probably already spread to other Chinese cities, and now there are confirmed cases in Japan, Thailand and South Korea; all of whom are people who had traveled from Wuhan.

Thousands of people fly from Wuhan to other countries every day, and throughout the epidemic flights from Wuhan have been landing in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City. Passengers on those flights, as well as those to Singapore, Tokyo and Hong Kong, are now being screened for 2019-nCoV, but who’s to say how long the virus and symptoms can remain dormant before they are easily detected?

Warnings in Tokoyo's Narita airport for passengers traveling from China. ©  Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

It hardly matters anyway, as it is likely too late for quarantine. Experts in London believe that the Chinese officials have been playing down the extent of the epidemic, and that the true number of infected people is over ten times their figures. They estimated 1,700 last week, and it must have risen further since then. There are 11 million people in Wuhan, which makes a big target for a newly mutated virus.

How bad could things get?

Chinese scientists have been testing people close to the infected, and as it stands, they have yet to find a case of human-to-human transmission. If 2019-nCoV can only jump from its animal origin to humans then this should run its course pretty quickly—only those who contracted the disease at the market will get sick.

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But if the virus is actually contagious, or it mutates to be, things could get very dire, very quickly. It would spread by the inhalation of respiratory droplets in the air, such as those sprayed around by coughs and sneezes. In developed countries, this could cause it to spread even faster than Ebola does, which can only be transmitted via bodily fluids. The recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa killed over 10,000 people, but that was with a mortality rate of 40 percent.

Since there have only been three reported deaths from 2019-nCoV so far, two of whom were elderly men, this virus is much less lethal than Ebola. But if it is even more contagious (especially as it has already reached several massive population centers) the eventual death toll could rival that of SARS, and who knows, maybe even creep into the thousands. In reality, humans are only ever one superbug away from decimation.

Happy New Year!

One small silver lining is the fact that many Chinese already wear face masks as a matter of course, to protect against air pollution. That said, this outbreak could not have come at a worse time. China will celebrate the Chinese New Year later this week, a time when everyone gets holidays from work and travels to visit faraway relatives. As a result, hundreds of millions of Chinese are on the move, on planes, trains and automobiles, in the world’s biggest annual travel rush. The dream scenario for a little virus whose only aim in life is to propagate itself by infecting as many host organisms as possible.

The World Health Organization is not currently recommending any restrictions to travel or trade—everything is under control, according to them. But in the Chinese zodiac, after January 25 we will be entering the Year of the Rat. Let’s hope that this Rat doesn’t carry a new Black Death to ravage half the world.

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January 20th 2020, 12:23 pm

‘Look Harry, I’m like DiCaprio in Titanic’: Social media mocks awkward Prince Harry & BoJo summit pi

RT

Boris Johnson has been pictured playing a one-sided game of “aeroplanes” or “Leo DiCaprio from Titanic” – depending on your level of imagination – with Prince Harry, in a surprise meeting between the pair at a summit in London.

The Duke of Sussex was seen engaging in what appeared to be light-hearted conversation with Johnson at the UK-Africa Investment Summit in London on Monday – which only occurred after the prince had borne witness to the prime minister performing some rather odd actions.

It momentarily left His Royal Highness (HRH) seemingly unimpressed and the UK PM embarrassed.

© AFP / Pool / Stefan Rousseau
© AFP / Pool / Stefan Rousseau

The widely circulated image of the pair drew laughter and mockery on social media, with many taking pity on the young prince. One person on Twitter came up with a possible explanation for Johnson’s antics, suggesting that the PM may have been attempting to evoke a famous scene from the film ‘Titanic’.

Boris: “Look, Harry, I’m just like Leo DiCaprio in ‘Titanic’. I’m king of the world!”
Harry: “No, Boris. Just... no.”

Mirror journalist Pippa Crerar thought Johnson may have been trying to convince the prince about his post-Brexit trade plans, tweeting: “Boris: ‘My Canada-style free trade agreement is going to be *this* big.’”

Their meeting came just hours after Prince Harry gave a speech claiming he had "no other option" but to quit the country for Canada.

Speaking at a charity event in the renowned Ivy Chelsea Club on Sunday night, Prince Harry said: "Our hope was to continue serving the Queen, the Commonwealth, and my military associations, but without public funding. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible."

The Duke and his wife Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, are to lose their HRH titles and public funding as they opt for “a more independent life,” Buckingham Palace revealed on Saturday – adding that they are no longer “working members of the Royal Family.”

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January 20th 2020, 12:12 pm

Raul Bravo: Reports of order to kill Darko Kovacevic are ‘like a movie on Netflix or Amazon Prime’

RT

Former Spain defender Raul Bravo has denied that he was involved in an attempt to fatally shoot ex-teammate Darko Kovacevic earlier this month, claiming the Serbian called him two days after dodging a bullet from gunmen in Athens.

Bravo, who played alongside Kovacevic at Greek side Olympiacos more than a decade ago and was part of last year's Operation Oikos investigation into match-fixing in Spain, laughed off a report linking him with the attempt on Kovacevic’s life on January 8.

Two men allegedly approached Kovacevic and aimed a weapon at the former Juventus and Lazio striker as he parked his car in the Greek capital. The 46-year-old reportedly suffered wrist and knee injuries while attempting to escape and later required hospital treatment.

Bravo, talking to Radio Marca’s A Diario, described being baffled by “a crazy story” and “nonsense.” 

A magazine in Serbia reported it and I was stunned that it said I ordered the murder,” he said.  

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It is a mockery to read in some media that Raul Bravo has sent [people] to kill Darko Kovacevic. It seems like a Netflix or Amazon Prime movie. I’m fine but it affects my family. I knew that Darko was going to laugh when he saw the news. It took him two days to call me. I’ll say it again, the relationship is great,” added Bravo.

Both players made their name in La Liga, where Bravo spent six years with Real Madrid, while Kovacevic was prolific for Real Sociedad across two spells spanning almost ten years.

They also briefly played in the Premier League, where Bravo turned out for Leeds United on loan and Kovacevic had a brief spell with Sheffield Wednesday.

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Bravo spent the last two years of his career in Greece before retiring in 2016 but insisted any connection with the crime was “a complete invention.”

He’s earned a lot of money from football and I've told him to be calm,” the 38-year-old said of Kovacevic, slamming the story as one with “neither heads nor legs.

The ‘assailants’ fled the scene in a Smart car which was later found burned out in a nearby neighborhood.

January 20th 2020, 12:12 pm

More states back European-led naval mission in Hormuz – France

RT

A European-led naval mission in the Strait of Hormuz has won more political support from several countries, the French government said on Monday.

The vital shipping route for world transport has been impacted recently by military tensions in the Middle East.

The Foreign Ministry in Paris said the mission now has the political support of Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and Portugal, besides France itself, Reuters reports.

Previously, the Netherlands, Denmark, Greece and France had expressed support for the European-led naval mission.

January 20th 2020, 12:12 pm

Norwegian populists quit government over ISIS bride repatriation

RT

Norway’s Progress Party has quit the country’s coalition government after a jihadist bride and her children were allowed to return from Syria. The move leaves the remaining coalition partners ruling in a minority.

Finance Minister Siv Jensen announced the resignation of her Progress Party on Monday, after a woman suspected of marrying two Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) jihadists in Syria was given assistance to return to Norway over the weekend. The Norwegian government aided the woman’s return out of concern for the welfare of her children, but Jensen’s party had vehemently opposed any repatriation for Islamist fighters or their spouses.

“I brought us into government, and now I’m bringing the party out,” Jensen told reporters on Monday, adding that her Conservative, Liberal, and Christian Democratic coalition partners had forced her to make “too many compromises” to her platform of tax cuts and immigration restrictions.

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Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg said that she will remain in office as head of a minority coalition, and will fill the seven cabinet posts left vacant after the Progress Party’s departure. Early elections are not allowed by Norway’s constitution, and voters will decide the next government in September 2021.

The alleged IS bride is of Pakistani origin, and left Norway for Syria in 2013. She is believed to have married a Norwegian-Chilean IS fighter that year. The fighter, Bastian Vasquez, threatened the Norwegian government in a video he posted to YouTube. Another IS propaganda video shows Vasquez admitting to multiple murders and blowing up a police station, supposedly with Iraqi soldiers inside.

The woman remarried after Vasquez’s death in 2015. She has been held in a refugee camp in northern Syria since last March, along with her five-year-old son and three-year-old daughter. The eldest child has a long-term illness, believed to be cystic fibrosis.

The decision to bring the woman and her children back to Norway was made last week on “humanitarian grounds,” Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide said. 

Progress Party members greeted that announcement with derision. “The government negotiated with a terrorist,” lawmaker Roy Steffensen tweeted last week. “Terrorists won.”

Norway is not the only country to welcome back its IS spouses. Former Irish soldier Lisa Smith, who married an IS jihadist and moved to Syria in 2015, was returned to Dublin last month from Istanbul, where she had been living since her capture by Turkish forces. Smith was arrested upon arrival.

Other European countries have been more reluctant to repatriate jihadists and their families – to the consternation of American and Turkish authorities, who are holding many of the captured fighters in Middle-Eastern prison camps. 

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly chastised European leaders for not taking back the captured jihadis. “Would you like some nice ISIS fighters?” he asked at a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron last month. "I can give them to you. You can take everyone you want.”

The Norwegian woman was arrested upon her return, and faces up to six years in prison if found guilty of participating in a terrorist organization.

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January 20th 2020, 11:26 am

‘Beyond outrageous’: Ukraine furious after UK adds its coat of arms to list of ‘extremist’ symbols i

RT

Ukraine’s embassy in the UK has demanded an official apology after the Trident — its national coat of arms — was included among a group of “right-wing signs & symbols” in a guide by Britain’s national anti-terrorist authority.

The Trident — or Tryzub as it’s known in Ukraine — was featured in an Extremism Guide for UK teachers and medical staff produced by the National Counter Terrorism Policing Network – a collaboration of law enforcement entities tasked with preventing and combating terrorism. 

A tattoo of the Trident is shown in a section on right-wing "signs & symbols" and is described simply as "nationalist." It appears alongside well-known extremist symbols including the Nazi swastika, the ‘SS Runes,’ the iron eagle, the iron cross and various white pride emblems.

In a livid post on Twitter, the Ukrainian diplomatic mission slammed the symbol’s inclusion in the extremism guide as “beyond outrageous” and demanded that it be removed immediately “with official apologies.”

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The ‘Tryzub’ is indeed Ukraine's official coat of arms. It was adopted as such in 1992 when the nation gained its independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The symbol is believed to date back to the times of the Kievan Rus’ — and specifically to Prince Vladimir the Great, a tenth-century ruler of the state that later gave rise to Ukraine as well as Russia and Belarus. 

The symbol has also grown increasingly popular among Ukrainian ultranationalists, however, whose influence over the country’s politics grew following the West-backed 2014 Maidan coup, which led to armed conflict in the eastern regions of the country. The Trident is now a regular feature of marches organized by Ukraine’s far-right groups, including the notorious neo-Nazi Azov Battalion.

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Western officials and media for a long time ignored and outright dismissed the rise of the far-right in Ukraine following the Maidan coup — even as Ukraine’s ultranationalists seemed to enjoy de-facto immunity and actively collaborated with right-wing extremists in the US and Europe. It is only in more recent years that questions have been raised about the ultranationalist movement and its clout within mainstream Ukrainian politics.

The Trident wasn’t the only symbol whose inclusion on the list sparked uproar, however. The anti-terror document also included logos for environmental groups including Greenpeace, Extinction Rebellion and Earth First Worldwide. Greenpeace executive director John Sauven complained to the Guardian that tarring environmental groups with the same brush as extremist groups is "not going to help fight terrorism."

Police have dismissed the notion that non-violent groups were smeared by the inclusion in the document, describing it simply as a "guide" to help its forces “identify and understand the range of organisations they might come across.”

As for Ukraine’s Trident, authorities have not officially responded to the embassy’s demand for the symbol to be removed, despite the stern complaint.

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January 20th 2020, 11:09 am

Tutberidze v Tutberidze: Who will win 2020 European figure skating championship?

RT

With the 2020 European figure skating championship just around the corner, pundits and fans have already started making predictions for the women’s singles event.

While the name of the future champion remains unknown, one thing is almost predetermined – the gold medalist will more than likely represent Eteri Tutberidze’s team.

READ MORE: Conveyor belt of champions: Why is Russian coach Tutberidze being criticized for the incredible success of her teen skating stars?

The competition will kick off on Wednesday in Graz, Austria, where four sets of medals will be up for grabs for all the competitors representing four different events: pairs, ice-dancing, and men’s and ladies’ singles.

Out of all the events scheduled to take place during the one-week tournament, one competition stands out, in which all of the gold-medal contenders have been trained by the same coach.

Alexandra Trusova, Alena Kostornaia, and Anna Shcherbakova, who went through the selection process to earn spots on the national team, will soon be in action, charming the crowd with their technical content and stunning choreography.

It is widely believed the trio will sweep the podium at the European tournament, where they won't have to face the stiff competition from Japan, South Korea, and the USA.

The girls, who have mastered extremely complicated elements including triple axels and multiple quad jumps, will lose only if they falter in their trademark elements and allow their rivals with simpler but cleaner jumps to climb the podium.

However, the recent national tournament showed that Tutberidze’s quad-jumping army is in excellent shape and ready to conquer international heights.

So, who out of the three immensely-gifted teen sensations has the best chance of taking the European crown in Graz?

The 15-year-old Trusova, who wants to redeem herself for a third-place finish at the nationals, will have the most technically complicated program, including a whopping five quad jumps in her free routine. She will also attempt to land a triple axel in the women’s short program.

Having sensational jumping skills, Trusova’s weak point is stability, as she often falls on her staggering quads, receiving huge deductions which deny her victory at major competitions.

Kostornaia, on the contrary, is solid but lacks difficulty in terms of technical content, with no quadruple jumps in her arsenal.

However, her insane triple axel, which she has been immaculately performing throughout the season, makes her a contender to win gold at her first senior appearance on the European stage.

First-year-senior Shcherbakova, who will also make her debut at the European championship, has perhaps the best chance of winning, with her perfect balance between artistry and difficult jumping.

The skater, who chose Igor Stravinsky’s ‘Firebird’ ballet music for her free program, will attempt to land two quad lutz jumps along with a quad flip and a breath-taking triple lutz-triple loop combo which will be placed in the second part of her routine.

Having three top-class skaters at her disposal, it’s probably safe to say the winner of the 2020 ISU European championship in the women’s event will be none other than Russia’s renowned coach, Tutberidze.

By Elena Dilber

January 20th 2020, 10:55 am

Lebanon moving toward unknown, needs new govt to avoid collapse, caretaker PM Hariri warns

RT

Lebanon needs to quickly form a new government to stop a collapse and worsening economic and security conditions, caretaker prime minister Saad al-Hariri tweeted on Monday. Politicians have failed to agree on a government or an economic rescue plan since protests pushed Hariri to quit as prime minister in October.

Beirut has been rocked in recent days by some of the worst violence since the unrest began, with 370 injured in clashes between protesters and security forces on Saturday, Reuters said.

“Our government resigned in order to transition to a new government dealing with popular changes but obstruction has continued for 90 days and the country is moving toward the unknown,” Hariri said.

Last month, little-known former minister Hassan Diab was designated PM with the backing of the Hezbollah movement and its allies, but a deal on a cabinet has yet to be announced.

January 20th 2020, 10:25 am

Iran ‘ups the ante’ rather than seeks nukes, as it threatens quitting Non-Proliferation Treaty

RT

By threatening to leave the landmark Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Iran wants to renew pressure on Europe rather than get a nuclear weapon, because that would invite US raids and alienate Russia and China, analysts told RT.

On Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned that the country will leave the NPT if European states file a complaint with the UN Security Council over Iran not following the 2015 nuclear deal. Under the NPT, states that don’t have nuclear weapons can’t get them in the future.

“Iran’s warning is real. But it doesn’t mean that Iran is going to get nuclear weapons,” Hamidreza Azizi, an assistant professor of regional studies at the Tehran-based Shahid Beheshti University, told RT.

“Based on the logic that has prevailed in the Iranian domestic discourse, it’s a move to show Iran’s ability to act independently, and to take steps in continuing our nuclear program independently.”

Britain, France and Germany formally lodged a dispute procedure against Iran last week. This can eventually trigger a UN Security Council vote to reimpose international sanctions on Tehran.

Meanwhile, more politicians in Iran, including the “moderates,” have been calling for the country to leave the NPT, Azizi noted. “The logic is that Iran has actually gained nothing from the Europeans in the nuclear deal. Although Iran has adopted a step-by-step approach [to scale back its compliance with the agreement], the EU has still failed to abide by its commitments. Iran now has to take a stronger position.”

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The Islamic Republic began reducing its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) after the US abandoned the deal altogether in 2018 and reimposed sweeping sanctions on the country. Tehran has since tried to convince the Europeans to provide it with some sort of sanctions relief, but no effective help was offered.

Azizi said, however, that in the end Iran may stop the implementation of the Additional Protocol to the NPT, which allows for International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) inspections of its nuclear program, instead of abandoning the treaty itself. “Otherwise, Iran will lose the support of Russia and China,” he stressed.

The former head of the IAEA’s Verification and Security Policy Coordination Office, Tariq Rauf, agreed that Iranians “will put themselves in a worse position than before” if they leave the NPT.

“It will make it very difficult for China and Russia to continue supporting Iran,” he agreed. “Russia would then stop sending nuclear fuel for the Bushehr nuclear reactor. So Iran is just upping the ante and putting pressure on the Europeans.”

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Moreover, departure from the Non-Proliferation Treaty will expose the country to military attacks from the US and Israel. “If Iran starts producing highly-enriched uranium, it’s very likely that their facilities will be bombed by the US,” Rauf said, explaining that developing just one nuclear weapon is insufficient for deterrence.

“Leaving the NPT is not a feasible or viable option for Iran,” he said, adding that Tehran just wishes to “alert” everyone that it is continuing to seek sanctions relief.

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January 20th 2020, 10:25 am

NASA asteroid warning: Not one but TWO huge space rocks to hurtle past Earth today

RT

The new year brings with it new asteroid threats, with NASA warning of two close cosmic flybys in a single day following a busy festive period of Near Earth Object (NEO) approaches to our planet.

The first NEO to buzz the Earth today is identified as 2020 AQ1 – and was only first spotted on January 11. Happily, the 755ft-diameter space rock screamed safely by us at roughly 2:54am EST, passing a mere 0.026 AU from Earth – 2.5 million miles from the planet’s core – at a speed of 61,500 miles per hour. 

The asteroid will head out into the Milky Way, but it is expected to make another loop around and come back this way on August 23, 2104. Were an object of that size and velocity to hit the Earth, it could level an entire city in seconds.

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Next up on Monday is 2013 DU, estimated to be up to 308 feet in diameter, travelling at a (relatively) paltry 14,226 mph, much slower than its earlier cosmic counterpart. It’s expected to pass the Earth at 9:19pm EST, at a safe distance of 0.083 AU or 3.5 million miles.

The ESA has identified 21,655 NEO asteroids and 109 NEO comets, all of which pose a potential threat to our planet. However, as shown by space rocks like 2020 AQ1, which was only discovered less than two weeks ago, there are many more potential dangers lurking out there in space.

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January 20th 2020, 10:09 am

PM Modi’s associate Nadda elected president of India’s ruling party

RT

India’s Hindu ruling party on Monday elected a veteran lawmaker and long-time associate of PM Narendra Modi as its president ahead of a string of state elections.

Jagat Prakash Nadda will become the new president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), replacing Amit Shah, currently India’s Home Minister, Reuters reports.

Led by Modi and Shah, the BJP returned to power, winning in a general election in 2019 by a landslide majority. However, the party has failed to keep its hold on a number of key Indian states amid growing criticism over some of its recent moves.

Since late 2018, the BJP has lost control of the western states of Rajasthan and Maharashtra, Jharkhand in the east and Chhattisgarh in central India, even though Modi’s popularity seems largely undiminished.

January 20th 2020, 10:09 am

Not to become the world’s garbage dump: Malaysia sends back thousands of tons of trash

RT

Malaysia has returned 150 shipping containers loaded with plastic waste, with the country’s environment minister saying it won’t become the “garbage dump of the world.”

Environment Minister Yeo Bee Yin announced the return of the containers, which had been imported illegally, on Monday. The containers held more than 3,700 tons of plastic waste, and originated from 13 countries. Forty-three came from France, 42 from the UK, 17 from the US, and 11 from Canada.

The cost of returning the containers was paid by the exporting countries and shipping lines, Yeo said, declaring “we don’t want to pay a single cent.”

“People dump the rubbish into your country, we are not supposed to pay them to send it back,” she added.

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Another 110 containers will be sent back in the near future, she said, 60 of them to the United States.

“[We] will take the necessary steps to ensure that Malaysia does not become the garbage dump of the world,” Yeo stated.

Western nations shipped their plastic waste to China for processing and recycling for years, but were forced to look for new destinations in 2018 when the Chinese government banned foreign waste imports.

The burden has since fallen heavily on southeast Asia, though countries in the region are also growing tired of cleaning up the West’s messes. Indonesia, the Philippines and Cambodia have all returned shipments of plastic waste to the West in recent months, with Indonesia claiming it was receiving “contaminated” trash. 

Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte threatened last May to personally sail across the Pacific with 69 containers worth of Canadian waste and dump it in Canadian waters. The same month, Malaysia announced it was returning 450 tons of imported waste to its source countries.

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January 20th 2020, 9:55 am

Turkey has not yet sent troops to Libya, only ‘advisers’ – Erdogan

RT

Ankara has not yet deployed its military forces to Libya, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, adding that a group of advisers and trainers arrived in the war-torn country to aid the UN-backed Government of National Accord.

Last week, ahead of the Berlin summit, Erdogan said that his country would send troops to ensure the stability of the UN-backed government in addition to the training team, but now that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Turkey did not send any troops to Libya, Erdogan told journalists aboard the presidential plane on his way back from the Berlin peace conference. He further explained that a team of Turkish military specialists came to the war-ravaged country plagued by the years-long civil war only to work as advisers and train forces loyal to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).

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The president did not clarify the apparent contradiction and said that Turkey’s actions on the ground helped establish a balance of power in the civil war and created the grounds for a ceasefire between the GNA and the forces of General Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Libyan National Army.

“Turkey’s presence in Libya increased hopes for peace,” he said.

He also lauded the results of the Berlin conference by saying that the participants managed to agree on a roadmap for peace. The president noted that the most important thing now is to maintain the ceasefire agreed between the two major Libyan warring parties upon the initiative of Moscow and Ankara.

“If the ceasefire that we called for together with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is held, political process will be opened,” Erdogan told journalists.

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Still, the president made it clear that he does not see Turkey’s role as that of a mediator in Libya. Instead, Ankara would lend its support to the UN-backed government against Haftar, whom Erdogan described as an “illegitimate leader.”

The Turkish president also warned that Ankara would not hesitate to “do what is necessary” should Haftar’s forces violate the truce. Earlier, Erdogan vowed to teach the general he denounced as a “putschist” a “lesson” if he does not stop his offensive on Tripoli.

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January 20th 2020, 9:39 am

Pakistan cracks down on wheat hoarders in response to soaring flour prices

RT

A “grand operation” has been ordered by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan against wheat hoarders and profiteers to relieve a shortage of flour supplies.

Prices of flour and bread shot up last week as the grain disappeared from shops and wholesale markets. The cost of wheat flour has surged from PKR43 ($0.27) per kilogram to PKR75 ($0.48) per kilo in different parts of the country.

“As per the prime minister’s instructions, we have been working closely with provincial administrations to resolve the crisis as quickly as possible,” Javed Humayun, senior joint-secretary at the Ministry of National Food Security and Research, told Arab News.

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He said the federal government had also started releasing additional wheat stocks to provinces to meet demand. “Provincial governments have also been directed to launch a crackdown against hoarders and profiteers to overcome this artificial crisis,” said the official.

A committee has been set up to take measures to control the commodity’s price. Islamabad also approved the import of 300,000 tons of wheat on Monday, with the first shipment expected to arrive by February 15.

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Pakistan exported more than 600,000 metric tons of wheat from late 2018 to June 2019, according to its statistics bureau. Although the government banned exports in July last year after poor crop yields in the last harvest, some 48,000 metric tons were still sent overseas before October 2019.

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

January 20th 2020, 9:39 am

WATCH: Car windows SMASHED by epic hailstones as storms lash eastern Australia

RT

Eastern Australia, still struggling with the bushfires crisis, was hit by intense weather on Monday which left two people injured in a lightning strike and saw scores of cars damaged by enormous hailstones.

The hail storm rained chunks of ice so huge and heavy that they killed and injured birds, and left vehicles with smashed and pock-marked windows.

People unlucky enough to be caught out during the intense downpour quickly sought cover to shield themselves from the hail, and many shared footage of the aftermath in Canberra showing damaged and dented cars.

In the Sydney suburb of Miranda, some drivers were trapped inside their cars after heavy winds brought down trees – right on top of their vehicles. 

Meanwhile, two tourists visiting New South Wales’ Blue Mountains were injured by a lightning strike, according to local reports. Both are in stable condition in hospital.

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January 20th 2020, 9:09 am

Libyan UN-backed PM says he will respect Berlin summit's call for ceasefire, but won't sit down agai

RT

The head of the UN-backed Government of National Accord, Fayez al-Sarraj has said he would stick to the truce supported at the Berlin peace conference but would still not engage in direct talks with General Khalifa Haftar.

DETAILS TO FOLLOW

January 20th 2020, 8:55 am

Hacker leaks 500k passwords for servers, routers and IoT devices on Dark Web

RT

A hacker has dumped a massive list of Telnet credentials and passwords for over 500,000 servers, routers, and so-called smart devices on the Dark Web, exposing the persistent vulnerability of cloud service providers.

The list, published on a popular hacking forum, includes IP addresses, usernames and passwords for the Telnet remote service, which is used on numerous Internet of Things (IoT) devices around the world. 

The hacker in question reportedly trawled the internet for users who were exposing their Telnet ports. They then tried to gain access to these devices using factory default usernames and passwords, as well as custom (but generic) password combinations.

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The hacker reportedly runs a DDoS-for-hire service, but has now expanded their operation to include renting out hijacked high-output servers from cloud service providers like Telnet. 

This latest incident is the largest known leak of Telnet passwords to date. 

It is unclear how many of the credentials published remain valid, as the lists are all dated between October and November 2019. However, experts warn that, even if IP addresses and passwords have been updated or changed, skilled hackers can still exploit similar vulnerabilities on other devices clustered on the same ISP, due to employee error when configuring the routers or IoT devices.

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January 20th 2020, 8:39 am

Iran will leave pact barring it from getting nukes if complaint over 2015 deal filed with UN – Zarif

RT

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned that the country will ditch the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) if EU states file a complaint over its nuclear commitments with the UN Security Council.

"If the Europeans continue their improper behavior or send Iran's file to the Security Council, we will withdraw from the NPT," Zarif said on Monday, as quoted by IRNA.

Last week, France, Germany and Britain formally lodged a complaint that Tehran is violating the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran's nuclear program. The countries now have up to 60 days to resolve the dispute. Otherwise, the issue can be brought before the UN Security Council, which would vote whether to re-impose international sanctions on Iran.

Zarif called the decision to launch the complaint a "political game." The diplomat explained that the country has been scaling down its commitments under the JCPOA in accordance with the mechanisms laid out in the agreement, and had only done so after the US abandoned the deal in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions on Iran.

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US President Donald Trump labelled the deal "defective at its core" and accused Iran of secretly violating it. Iran denied this, and multiple reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at the time confirmed that the Islamic Republic was complying with the agreement.

Iran began gradually decreasing its commitments under the JCPOA a year later, and repeatedly said that it will return to full compliance once the EU provides some relief from the US sanctions. The country stopped following the deal altogether earlier this month, shortly after a US drone strike in Iraq killed senior Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani.

Under the NPT, states that do not have nuclear weapons are banned from acquiring or developing them in the future.

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January 20th 2020, 8:09 am

‘He’s picking up his teeth’: NHL player Paul Stastny drips blood after taking puck to mouth in grues

RT

Vegas Golden Knights center Paul Stastny was smashed in the face with a puck and picked his teeth off the blood-stained ice at Montreal’s Bell Center as his team lost to the Canadians.

The 34-year-old was battered by an accidental high stick and a shot from Canadiens forward Joel Armia that left him sprawled on the ice with blood gushing from his mouth.

Stastny had been racing back towards his own goal in a bid to stop Armia, whose attempt came off Stastny’s shoulder and left his face a gory mess.

Armia tried to comfort his combatant as he left the ice, but the veteran bravely shrugged off the horrific injury and accepted a towel from his team's staff to help stem the flow as he headed to the bench with some of his teeth in his glove.

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The shocked Sportsnet commentary, which covers the NHL in Canada, told fans: “Stastny is down and he is bleeding.

“That hit him hard... he’s picking up his teeth. That caught him right in the mouth.”

Despite going on to score for Vegas, the brutal nature of the night continued for Stastny as his team lost one of the games of the year so far by the tightest of margins.

Canadiens goaltender Carey Price was so frustrated by the Knights’ late comeback to make the game 4-4 that he broke his stick on a post, but Tomas Tatar scored the winning shootout goal to earn the Habs a 5-4 victory.

Speaking after the game, new Knights coach Peter DeBoer said he did not have an update on Stastny's recovery.

“I’m hopeful it’s just a bad cut,” he said. “It looks like that so I don’t think it’s anything more.”

DeBoer, who was appointed in controversial circumstances following the axing of Gerard Gallant last week, praised the resilience of Stastny and his teammates.

“I thought our guys battled hard,” he added. “We showed a lot of character. It’s clear there’s a lot of character in that room.”

January 20th 2020, 8:09 am

Breathing new life into colonizing the Moon? ESA to begin producing oxygen from LUNAR DUST

RT

The European Space Agency (ESA) has fired up its prototype oxygen plant to begin producing the element out of simulated moondust, with a view to creating a sustainable breathable air production facility on the Moon.

“Being able to acquire oxygen from resources found on the Moon would obviously be hugely useful for future lunar settlers, both for breathing and in the local production of rocket fuel,” says Beth Lomax of the University of Glasgow, a researcher working on the prototype at the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC).

The current prototype is set up in a lab in Noordwijk in the Netherlands, but the next step is to begin fine-tuning, reducing the operating temperature and streamlining the design to create a portable version of the system that could one day be flown to the Moon. 

Based on samples brought back from the Moon over the years, it turns out that lunar regolith (moon rock) is made up of 40 to 45 percent oxygen by weight, making it the satellite’s single most abundant element, which is incredibly fortunate for future human colonization plans.

© ESA - P. Carril

However, the oxygen is bound up as oxides which take the form of minerals or glass, not the ideal form for taking a big lungful of air. In the prototype, oxygen extraction is done using molten salt electrolysis, where the lunar rocks are placed in a metal basket with calcium chloride salt which is heated to a whopping 950 degrees Celsius. 

The regolith somehow remains solid at this temperature, however, but by passing a current through the heated moon rock it releases the oxygen contained within. Somewhat miraculously, the regolith then becomes usable metal alloys.

Researchers are now also exploring potential future uses for these metal alloys, including in lunar-based 3D printers to construct parts for lunar bases or potentially even spacecraft. 

For now though, the main goal is to get a functional lunar prototype ready for testing by the mid 2020s. Such projects form an integral part of NASA and the ESA’s joint future in space, as the agencies work towards “a sustained human presence on the Moon and maybe one day Mars.”

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January 20th 2020, 8:09 am

From ‘melted ice cream’ to ‘dancing queen’: Internet reacts to Serena Williams’ Australian Open outf

RT

Serena Williams’ Grand Slam fashion statements have caught the public’s attention in recent years. The 2020 Australian Open was no exception with her lavender dress being one of the most discussed topics.

The 38-year-old American opened her Grand Slam campaign in style dispatching a less-experienced opponent from Russia, Anastasia Potapova, in straight sets 6-0, 6-3, needing just 58 minutes to secure the first-round win.

READ MORE: After taking aim at Federer, who's next for Greta's climate shame brigade?

The US tennis icon appeared at the Rod Laver Arena wearing a black-spotted purple dress along with high-top lavender shoes and a series of necklaces.

Serena Williams © AFP / William WEST

The player’s on-court style was met with mixed reactions ranging from love and praise to total disappointment. While some users found William’s kit very stylish others considered her fashion choice outdated and awkward.

“Serena’s dress looks like an ice cream that melted,” one user wrote.

Some tennis fans compared Williams’ Australian Open to “yogurt with chocolate bits.

Others found parallels between William’s dress and a fictional characters in the Flintstones cartoon.

“Serena’s outfit looks like a Pebbles Flintstone outfit, she also needs to lose some of those necklaces!” a person wrote.

Serena’s dress looks like my grandma’s pajamas,” read another tweet.

Others found the player’s outfit on point, praising Williams for her impeccable fashion choice.

I love Serena’s 101 dalmatian flurry dress tbh. And that was a convincing second set,” one person tweeted.

Just turned on the #AO and I’m LOVING Serena’s dress!” another comment reads.

The Roland Garros organizers called the 23-time Grand Slam winner a “dancing queen” in their specially-dedicated Instagram post.

The player’s koala-themed manicure also didn’t go unnoticed by fans who thanked the US star for her apparent nod to Australia which has been hit by devastating bushfires.

The eighth seed Williams who seemingly effortlessly opened her quest for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam will face  Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek in the second round.

January 20th 2020, 8:09 am

'How did he manage that!?' Man United star Sergio Romero miraculously unhurt after car smash on way

RT

Goalkeeper Sergio Romero almost gave Manchester United another injury scare by escaping the wreckage of his Lamborghini after a spectacular-looking crash near the club’s Carrington complex before training this morning.

The Argentine stopper was unhurt despite ploughing his Lamborghini into a motorway barrier as police and rescue specialists attended the scene.

Romero was pictured checking his phone by the side of the road after the collision but still trained with the rest of the depleted United squad, which has been hit by injuries to a string of internationals this season.

Solskjaer, who revealed yesterday that top scorer Marcus Rashford could be out for up to three months with a back injury, will be relieved that Romero returned unscathed.

Speaking after the 2-0 defeat at Premier League leaders Liverpool, rookie manager Solskjaer called Rashford’s broken back “unfortunate” and admitted he could look to make signings in the absence of the 19-goal England striker.

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France star Paul Pogba has endured a long-term layoff following an ankle operation but was pictured back in England on crutches last week, while fellow midfielder Scott McTominay is unlikely to play this month because of a knee injury.

Romero, whose car is reportedly worth £170,000 ($221,000), missed Argentina’s 2018 World Cup campaign and the opening weeks of the Premier League season with a knee problem.

The 32-year-old has made nine cup appearances for United this season. He is yet to play in the current league campaign and was an unused substitute at Anfield.

January 20th 2020, 8:09 am

Novak Djokovic defeats German rival to take first step towards defending Australian Open title

RT

Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic has successfully launched his Australian Open title defense, beating Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany 7-6, 6-2, 2-6, 6-1.

The second-seeded Serb faced fierce resistance from his lower-ranked rival in the match opener, where a tie break was needed to determine the winner.

READ MORE: From ‘melted ice cream’ to ‘dancing queen’: Internet reacts to Serena Williams’ Australian Open outfit

The more experienced Djokovic took the upper hand in a nail-biting ending to the first set, taking the lead in the first-round match at the season-opening major.

The second set was a walk in the park for the 16-time Grand Slam winner, who got full control of the game and broke his opponent twice to take the second set 6-2.

Despite a relatively easy win in the previous set, Djokovic stumbled in the beginning of the third, allowing Struff to make an early break to take a confident 2-0 lead.

The 32-year-old evened the score, before twice allowing Struff to take his serve again and create a surprising four-game lead, enough for the German player to win the third set 6-2.

After that relative on-court failure Djokovic made a stunning comeback, dispatching his 29-year-old opponent in the fourth set 6-1 to earn a place in the second round of the major tournament.

January 20th 2020, 8:09 am

Khan ‘losing control of our streets’: 3 killed in London stabbing frenzy, prompting calls for new ma

RT

The knife crime epidemic in London continues after three men, believed to be from the Sikh community, were stabbed to death, prompting calls for a change of mayor amid claims Sadiq Khan has “lost control of our streets.”

The Metropolitan Police launched a murder inquiry after the victims, thought to be in their 20s and 30s, died on Sunday evening following the incident in Seven Kings, Ilford. Two men, aged 29 and 39 from Redbridge, east London, have been arrested on suspicion of murder, police confirmed.

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In a statement, Detective Chief Superintendent Stephen Clayman branded the triple killings “shocking.” He revealed that officers believe a clash occurred between members of the Sikh community, who were “known to each other.”

A fight has taken place which has escalated, resulting in three people being fatally attacked.

The grisly incident, the latest in a long line of knife-related deaths in England’s capital, has provoked anger online from those wanting an end to the violence. London’s Conservative mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey tweeted that Khan had “lost control of our streets,” insisting that a tough new approach and “new leadership” was urgently required.

Someone who claimed to be a resident in the area where the attacks took place called for the issue of knife crime to “be fought on [a] war footing with stop & search everywhere.”

PM Boris Johnson pledged in November to “come down hard on the scourge of knife crime” and implement a “tough new approach” to fight both it and other serious violence, with plans for new powers to stop and search known knife carriers, and arrest them for illegally carrying the weapons.

Fatal stabbings in London have surged in the last five years, with the number almost doubling from 55 in 2014 to a staggering 90 in 2019, according to Met figures.

The scourge of knife crime is not confined to the English capital; it affects the UK as a whole. Data published by the Ministry of Justice on Thursday shows that 26,364 knife crime offences were recorded in the year to September 2019, up 3 percent on the previous year, and the highest figure since 2009.

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January 20th 2020, 8:09 am

Could renewables overtake coal in China?

RT

As China continues its long and painful move away from coal, solar and wind energy are becoming increasingly competitive.

In September of last year Oilprice reported an incredible milestone for renewable energy when solar and wind power became cheaper than coal in most of the world. Now, a new report released this week by Wood Mackenzie Power and Renewables has heralded another milestone: China will soon be added to that list of countries in which coal is no longer more economical than renewable energy. 

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This is a massive and massively important development because of the jaw-dropping scale at which China produces and burns coal. Alone, they consume as much coal as the rest of the world combined, and any claims that China has transitioned to “clean coal” should be taken with a hefty grain of salt. While the fact that coal is being priced out in much of the world marks great progress for the fight against climate change, especially at a moment that the UN is reminding the world with urgency that renewables are the path forward, true progress simply isn’t possible without China on board. And now it seems the winds of change have reached Beijing.

The Wood Mackenzie report, titled China provincial renewables competitiveness report 2019, reveals that the average levelized cost of electricity (LOCE) of solar and wind power in China is already cheaper than that of natural gas-fired power and will also overtake coal by just 2026. Wood Mackenzie Power and Renewables research director Alex Whitworth was quoted: “Across most of China’s provinces and regions, renewables cost premium remains over coal power, averaging 26 percent in 2019 for wind and solar, down from over 100 percent in 2010. Twenty-eight of 30 regions examined in our latest report see premiums of up to 70 percent, and only Shanghai and Qinghai have cost-competitive renewables today.”

While China is making great progress toward renewable energy’s economic viability on the whole, some provinces will take a lot longer than other to wean themselves off coal, reports Power Engineering International. “Renewables competitiveness is achievable in the next few years for some of China’s regions, but for others, the journey will not be a sprint but a marathon – taking a decade or more,” they write. Wood Mackenzie’s Whitworth also commented that “wealthier demand centres on the coast and in parts of central and northeast China will be first to see competitive renewables costs. But renewables investment in some areas of northern China, such as Xinjiang, will not be competitive with coal-fired generation, even by 2040.” While progress will be uneven and the amount of renewable energy in China’s overall energy mix remains low, the projections are still hopeful.

The efficiency gains in Chinese solar and wind are occurring in the larger context that China is moving toward ending subsidies for new wind and solar projects starting next year. This doesn’t mean that Beijing is not supporting renewable energies and that the move toward cheaper green energy by 2026 will be derailed, however. In fact, it means just the opposite: the subsidies worked. 

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Much like in the United States and Western Europe, solar and wind have become economically viable without governmental support and have therefore outgrown their subsidy programs. Last year Bloomberg reported that “on sun-drenched fields across Spain and Italy, developers are building solar farms without subsidies or tax-breaks, betting they can profit without them. In China, the government plans to stop financially supporting new wind farms. And in the US, developers are signing shorter sales contracts, opting to depend on competitive markets for revenue once the agreements expire.”

The Bloomberg article, published last September, highlights the huge importance of these green energy milestones, pointing out that this new era of economic self-sufficiency in wind and solar energy has “profound implications for the push to phase out fossil fuels and slow the onset of climate change” and that “electricity generation and heating account for 25 percent of global greenhouse gases. As wind and solar demonstrate they can compete on their own against coal- and natural gas-fired plants, the economic and political arguments in favor of carbon-free power become harder and harder to refute.”

This article was originally published on Oilprice.com

January 20th 2020, 8:09 am

‘That's not in the referee's rulebook’: Play stops for wasp sting at London Masters

RT

A referee winced in pain and was consoled by world number eight Kyren Wilson before needing medical treatment after being attacked by a wasp he caught on the table during a match at the London Masters snooker tournament.

Top snooker referee Ben Williams bravely grabbed the insect after spotting it over a pocket during the fifth frame of the first round match between Kyren Wilson and Jack Lisowski at Alexandra Palace.

He flinched his arm and grimaced in pain after taking a sting to the hand for his troubles, confessing: “It got me.”

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World number eight Wilson, who was reported to have had the wasp on his collar before it encroached on play, noticed Williams had removed his glove and embraced the official.

Williams told Wilson that the sting had “gone right through me” before a medic applied treatment to his hand and a pair of concerned tournament organizers watched him agree to take a tablet in order to stop the swelling.

The Bolton official, who has refereed at the Crucible and oversaw his first final at the 2017 Riga Masters, took the pain in good humor.

READ MORE: From ‘melted ice cream’ to ‘dancing queen’ Internet reacts to Serena Williams’ Australian Open outfit

As the doctor rubbed cream into his palm, Williams revealed: “I’ll tell you what it is - it’s when I stretch. It’s when I stretch my hand.”

Commentators for Eurosport called Williams “very valiant,” telling fans: “It’s not necessarily in the referee’s rulebook that he has to do this but he stepped in. It got him – nasty.”

Wilson won the match but was knocked out in the next round by Stuart Bingham, who went on to win the £250,000 prize.

January 20th 2020, 8:09 am

First squadron of Su-30MKI fighter jets inducted in South India, set to watch over Indian Ocean

RT

India has supplied Thanjavur air base on its strategic southern coast with Su-30MKI air superiority fighter jets as part of an ongoing effort to boost the defenses of the Indian Ocean region.

On Monday, the jets were officially inducted at Thanjavur Air Force Station in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, which is set to be home to the No. 222 Squadron, known as ‘Tiger Sharks’. 

Chief of Defense Staff General Bipin Rawat and Chief of the Air Staff Air Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria were present at the ceremony.

The squadron will have five to six planes, with the number expected to rise to 18 in the future, according to local media. The new aircraft are being equipped with BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles, which were jointly developed by India and Russia and have a range of 300km (186 miles).

The Sukhoi-30 MKI was developed on the basis of Russia’s Sukhoi-30 especially for India (‘MKI’ means Modernised Commercial Indian by its first Russian letters). The planes are highly-maneuverable, equally capable of striking ground targets during a raid and conducting dogfights. In Thanjavur, they will be tasked with defending India's southern coasts and patrolling maritime areas.

Several days before the ceremony, Air Marshal Amit Tiwari, who leads the Southern Air Command, said that the IAF are ready to “extend the reach into the vast Indian Ocean region.” The strategic region has “an important role to play in regional peace, security and prosperity,” he said.

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January 20th 2020, 8:09 am

Russian president submits candidacy of Investigative Committee’s deputy head for post of general pro

RT

President Vladimir Putin has submitted for consideration by the Federation Council the candidacy of deputy head of the Investigative Committee, Igor Krasnov, for the post of the Russian Prosecutor General.

A proposal “to dismiss Yury Chaika from this position due to his transfer to other work” was also submitted to the upper house of parliament, the Kremlin’s press service said on Monday.

Chaika has served since June 2006 and was reappointed to the post in June 2016. His tenure was formally set to expire in 2021.

Krasnov was appointed to the post of deputy chief of the Russian Investigative Committee in 2016.

January 20th 2020, 6:22 am

Russian mining giant Nornickel shares hit record high on soaring palladium prices

RT

Shares of Russian metals company Nornickel (Norilsk Nickel) surged 2.25 percent on Monday during trading on the Moscow Exchange, hitting an all-time high.

The value of the stock rose to 22,100 rubles (US$359) per share on the back of the rallying palladium prices. The metal, which was trading at about $2,500 an ounce on Monday, is now more expensive than gold. It has jumped by more than 25 percent in the last two weeks alone, and almost doubled in value over the last year.

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Aluminum producer Rusal shares followed Nornickel’s lead, skyrocketing 14.2 percent on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange to 4.92 Hong Kong dollars (US$0.63). Rusal is Nornickel’s second biggest shareholder.

READ MORE: Gold losing its luster as palladium prices soar; so why is Russia smiling?

One of the world’s largest producers of nickel and palladium, Nornickel accounts for about 40 percent of global palladium production. It operates mines in Russia, Botswana, Australia, South Africa, and Finland. The company’s revenue was more than $6 billion last year.

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

January 20th 2020, 6:22 am

‘Like living with a gun pointed at you’: Taal Volcano island to be declared ‘no man’s land’

RT

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has approved a plan to declare Luzon island, home to Taal Volcano, a ‘no man’s land’, effectively ending the possibility of its former residents ever returning to their lives there.

Duterte has yet to issue a formal decree in this regard, and the Philippines volcano agency had long declared Luzon a “permanent danger zone,” yet villagers have lived and worked there for decades. Officials are now calling for regulations to be both tightened and more strictly enforced in the future. 

Drone footage filmed on Saturday shows the entire island and practically everything on it, from abandoned homes and vehicles to vegetation, all coated in a thick blanket of ash.

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Meanwhile, Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano has tasked local officials with drafting relocation plans for displaced residents. He requested a three-hectare site to rehouse roughly 6,000 families that were evacuated from the island. The site must be a minimum of 17 kilometers (10 miles) away from the volcano for the residents’ safety. 

“They lived on the volcano itself with 47 craters. That’s really dangerous. It’s like having a gun pointed at you,” Renato Solidum, the head of the volcanology institute, said.

Taal Volcano remains at the second-highest threat level, since it began erupting on January 12, indicating an imminent danger, continuous earthquakes, and a variety of signs that magma is still rising in the volcanic chamber.

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Insurers warn of volcano apocalypse, as investors make bank on ‘catastrophe bonds’

No deaths have been directly attributed to the eruption, though hundreds of people have been treated for ash-related breathing difficulties. 

Phivolcs, the Philippines monitoring agency for earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunami, registered at least 12 minor earthquakes in 12 hours on Monday.

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January 20th 2020, 5:53 am

Iranian FM Zarif won’t attend Davos forum as organizers ‘changed agenda’

RT

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will not attend the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos this week. The forum’s organizers had “abruptly changed its agenda,” the Foreign Ministry spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, explained on Monday.

The minister “was scheduled to attend… but they abruptly changed the schedule and it was not the schedule that we agreed upon,” Mousavi told reporters. “So he will not attend Davos.”

Last week, Reuters reported that Zarif was no longer on the list of nearly 3,000 people due at the event. The forum is being held under the banner “Stakeholders for a Sustainable and Cohesive World.”

January 20th 2020, 5:23 am

‘Horrifying to imagine what was inside’: 5 people killed as hot water pipe bursts in Russian hostel

RT

Five people have died and three have been hospitalized with severe burns after a hot water pipe burst at a hostel in Russia.

The incident happened in Perm, some 1,155km (718 miles) east of Moscow. The pipe burst around 2am local time on Monday, sending steam and boiling-hot water throughout the small hostel, located on the basement floor of an apartment complex.

“There was steam, and water has reached the hostel’s entrance. I’m afraid to imagine what was going on inside the building,” one witness told local media.

A video from the scene shows clouds of thick white steam coming from the hostel’s doors and a window.

A resident from apartment told reporters that the building’s staircase had partially filled with steam. “Our lights immediately went off and the heating shut down. Then the ambulances arrived. I could only hear them shouting ‘go-go, faster-faster,’” the woman said.

Five guests were killed inside the hostel, according to emergency services. Three more victims in their late 20s and 30s were hospitalized with burns to their feet and backs. Two rescuers also sustained burn injuries to their feet as well.

Local media reported that the pipe in question was constructed nearly 60 years ago. According to documents cited by the press, the building’s management company had planned to “completely” replace the heating system last year, however, it is unclear whether any work was actually done. In reviews, hostel guests had complained that rooms had no windows.

A criminal investigation has been launched following the tragedy.

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Railway station filmed COLLAPSING on crowd in eastern India, fears of people trapped under rubble (VIDEOS)

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January 20th 2020, 4:54 am

Indian jewelers say dropping import duties on Russian diamonds will boost bilateral trade

RT

New Delhi is considering signing a bilateral agreement with Russia to reduce import duties on processed diamonds and jewelry, the chairman of the country’s Gem & Jewelry Export Promotion Council (GJEPC), Sanjay Shah, said.

According to Shah, India sees the Russian market as a “very promising.”

“We import rough diamonds from Russia worth around $3.5 billion,” he said, adding that reduction in duties will increase bilateral trade by $2-3 billion. “If the duties are reduced or zeroed, trade between India and Russia will flourish,” the chairman said.

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The two countries have been developing cooperation in the diamond industry in recent years, with Russia’s Alrosa and India’s GJEPC considering preferential tax treatment for diamond trading.

The world’s largest diamond cutting and polishing center in India is one of Alrosa’s key trade partners, according to the Russian company’s president, Sergey Ivanov.

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

January 20th 2020, 3:38 am

At least 2 killed and 15 injured in a shooting outside a nightclub in Kansas City, Missouri

RT

Shots were fired outside a nightclub in Kansas City, Missouri, leaving two dead and up to 15 wounded, local media reported, citing police.

DETAILS TO FOLLOW

January 20th 2020, 3:38 am

India successfully tests 3,500km range nuclear-capable missile from underwater platform – reports

RT

India has tested its K-4 submarine-launched ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead off its southeastern coast. The launch reportedly went smoothly, and saw the missile being fired off a submerged platform.

The missile, which is set to equip India’s first indigenously built nuclear-powered submarine, the INS Arihant, reportedly flew 2,200km after it blasted off from a “submerged pontoon” in the Bay of Bengal off the coast of Visakhapatnam on Sunday afternoon. Local media, citing unnamed official sources, said the launch from a platform simulates the situation of a launch from a submarine.

The state-of-the-art weapon, which is set to boost India’s nuclear deterrent once the trials are over, has already gone through several tests, but it was the first time the missile covered such a long distance, a source said, as cited by the Times of India.
“Though K-4 has been tested a few times before, this was the first time it was fired for a long range,” they said.

Although New Delhi for the moment remains tight-lipped about the launch, official sources told the Hindu that the Sunday test apparently went off without a hitch and “met all desired parameters.”

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‘Credible deterrence’: How India’s new ballistic missile sub changes regional power balance

Currently, the INS Arihant is armed with 12 nuclear capable K-15 ballistic missiles, but once the K-4 becomes operational, the submarine will be able to carry four of India’s most potent home-made ballistic missiles.

“The Arihant provides India a guaranteed second-strike capability in the case of a nuclear attack scenario,” Dr. Shishir Upadhyaya, a former Indian Naval Intelligence officer, told RT in December. The existence of this capability raises the stakes in a potential nuclear conflict, making it less likely and the overall security situation more stable.

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January 20th 2020, 3:08 am

Heavy fire breaks out inside Delhi Transport Department (VIDEO)

RT

Multiple teams of firefighters were dispatched to combat a raging fire inside a transport department office in Delhi, which broke out on Monday morning.

The blaze started at around 8:38am local time on Monday, NDTV reported, citing Delhi Fire Service Chief Atul Garg.

A video from the scene shows the building’s ground floor engulfed in flames, with plumes of grey smoke billowing up to the sky.

Multiple fire trucks were deployed to put out the blaze. There were no reports of casualties, and for now, the firefighters have not expressed suspicions that anyone could have been trapped in the building.

Last month, 43 people died in a massive fire in a factory building in Delhi.

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Massive fire & series of explosions after Indian gas truck hits SCHOOL BUS in head-on collision (VIDEOS)

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January 20th 2020, 1:49 am

2 killed, 5 injured in shooting at music club in San Antonio, Texas

RT

DETAILS TO FOLLOW

January 19th 2020, 10:48 pm

Richest 1% own more than TWICE as much wealth as 6.9 billion people - Oxfam

RT

A super-rich one percent of the world’s population has accumulated twice as much wealth as the remaining 90 percent, global charity Oxfam said in a newly-released report.

The gap between the obscenely rich and the rest of humanity has reached grotesque proportions, according to the annual report by Oxfam, published on Monday on the eve of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The new report, ‘Time to Care’, which focuses on the largely unpaid care work many women and girls take upon themselves, says that the world’s top 22 richest men have now more wealth than all the women in Africa.

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There are only 2,153 billionaires in the world, according to the report, but their wealth matches that of more than 4.6 billion people, or about 62 percent of the world’s population, estimated to stand at 7.7 billion. The gap between the wealthy and all those who fare less well looks even more prominent if to compare the combined income of the richest of the rich – the top one percent – to that of some 6.9 billion people. According to the report, the one-percenters boast more twice as much wealth as nearly 90 percent of the global population.

The charity, which has consistently been arguing that the only way to tackle inequality is to raise taxes, said that taxing additional 0.5 percent of wealth of the top 1 percent over the next decade will provide governments with enough funds to create 117 million of jobs in health, education, elderly care and other sectors.

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French luxury giant LVMH buys iconic American jeweler Tiffany for over $16 BILLION

While Oxfam did not call any names in its report, it appeared to have taken a thinly-veiled jab at Amazon CEO and founder of Blue Origin space company Jeff Bezos, the on-and-off planet’s richest man, who, however, slipped to the second place this week, behind the chairman and CEO of French luxury giant LVMH Bernard Arnault.

“If everyone were to sit on their wealth piled up in $100 bills, most of humanity would be sitting on the floor. A middle-class person in a rich country would be sitting at the height of a chair. The world’s two richest men would be sitting in outer space.”

Commenting on the findings, Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar said that while unpaid or poorly paid care work mostly done by women serves as the “hidden engine” that fuels the global economy, “broken economies are lining the pockets of billionaires and big businesses at the expense of ordinary men and women.”

“No wonder people are starting to question whether billionaires should even exist"

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January 19th 2020, 10:18 pm

'Berlin conference showed Moscow & Ankara have a huge role to play in solving Libya’s crisis'

RT

Berlin peace summit has shown that Russia and Turkey still have an important role to play as they are among very few countries that can really influence the situation in Libya, Yusuf Erim, a Turkish foreign policy expert said.

A peace conference on Libya convened in Berlin has definitely succeeded in bringing together a host of world leaders to try and find a way out of a civil war plaguing the war-ravaged land for years, Erim told RT. Yet, it also clearly showed that very few nations can really move the Libyan peace process forward as most are lacking a strategy and will to translate words into action.

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‘Detailed proposals for Libyans to take up’: Roadmap for settling every field of Libya war agreed in Berlin – Lavrov

“We saw a lot of good intentions but a lack of ability to implement them on the ground, so a big role is still left for Turkey and Russia,” the editor-at-large at the Turkish state international news broadcaster TRT World, said.  The conference showed that European leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel or French President Emmanuel Macron have no “clear roadmap” they could use to break the deadlock, he argued.

The conference only made the role of Russia and Turkey that already acted as “major brokers” on the ground even before the talks in Berlin even more “evident,” Erim believes.

“The will [of Russia and Turkey] to bring about a political solution will be a key for today’s conference to have any meaning in the future.”

Even though the Berlin conference participants agreed on a set of “detailed proposals” on virtually every aspect of the future crisis resolution, there is still a long way ahead to a lasting peace in Libya, partly because the two major warring parties are still struggling to reconcile the differences that prevent them from even sitting down together at the negotiations table.

“[Fayez] al-Sarraj [PM of the UN-backed Government of National Accord] and [Khalifa] Haftar [commander of the Libyan National Army] were not in the same room [in Berlin], so we see that they are still very distant from each other,” Erim said.

French President Emmanuel Macron meets Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar before the start of the Libya summit in Berlin, Germany, January 19, 2020. © Reuters / Libyan National Army

The fact that Haftar and al-Sarraj are still not ready to meet face-to-face is not exactly surprising, but it does not instill optimism either, Ayo Johnson, Founder of Viewpoint Africa, told RT, noting that it’s too much at stake for both to leave things to chance.

They are bitter enemies, there is a lot at stake – the world’s largest oil and gas reserves on the African continent besides Libya being a pivotal junction for many migrants to reach Europe.  

That mutual animosity could spell trouble to the shaky ceasefire the two sides joined in the night on January 12, that already has been marred by reports of repeated violations. 

Mark Almond, Director of Crisis Research Institute, told RT that he believes the main problem with the ceasfire is that there is no enforcement mechanism to make the rival forces, who don’t trust each other in the least, hold their end of the bargain. In addition to that, while the ceasefire that holds “could possibly be in the interest of both sides,” it would be quite a challenge to get “various cohorts” embroiled in the civil on war to jump on board, he noted.

Arguing that a peacekeeping force might be necessary to guarantee the truce, Almond said that hardly any country seems to be willing to take such a risk.

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‘Arms embargo & commitment to ceasefire’: Libya peace talks end on positive note in Berlin despite enduring disagreements

 “I don’t see anybody wanting to send troops to Libya, wanting to put their soldiers at risk of being shot at on the ground.”

Deploying a peacekeeping force to Libya might be indeed a solution, according to Erim, who said that such a contingent “would definitely” be required to make sure a “a buffer zone between the two sides,” is maintained.

Yet, deploying troops to Libya is an option that the European nations are most likely to forgo, the Erim believes.

It does not look like the EU has enough risk appetite to send troops on the ground

Here, it once again falls to Moscow and Ankara to convince the warring parties to uphold the ceasfire, Erim said, noting that Italy, for its part, expressed its desire to “maintain a military presence on the ground.”

Moscow and Ankara already have a positive experience of taking effective de-confliction measures in a situation when all previous talks failed. That is what happened in Syria when Russia, Turkey and Iran  “got together to form the Astana group” and then “took some very meaningful decisions on the ground,” Erim explained, suggesting the trio of Russia, Turkey and Italy can replicate this success.

I see no reason why the same successful formula cannot be implemented for Libya with Turkey, Russia and Italy.

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January 19th 2020, 8:29 pm

SpaceX simulated failure test: Elon Musk checks if Crew Dragon astronauts are as safe as Soyuz crews

RT

SpaceX has simulated a rocket failure to find out if its abort system designed to save astronauts’ lives in case of an accident could match that of the Russian Soyuz spacecraft’s – which saved a Russian-American ISS crew in 2018.

On Sunday, SpaceX conducted an in-flight abort test – a necessary prerequisite for it to be eventually certified to fly American astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). The company launched one of its Falcon 9 rockets with a Crew Dragon spacecraft on top of it from Cape Canaveral, Florida, to see if the vehicle – and its crew – would survive a potentially deadly launch failure.

At 84 seconds after launch, the rocket cut off its engines while flying 19 kilometers above the ocean to mimic an accident while a capsule with two test dummies inside disengaged from the rocket and eventually splashed down somewhere off Florida’s coast. 

Both SpaceX and NASA have lauded the test as a major success, and if the data analyzed by both backs it up, SpaceX is expected to conduct one with real people on board. It is, however, not the first safety test conducted by Elon Musk’s company in a bid to replace Russia as a major NASA contractor when it comes to manned space missions, and those weren’t always successful.

SpaceX’s previous safety test apparently failed as its Crew Dragon capsule reportedly exploded right on the test stand last April in what the company described as an “anomaly.”

NASA has had rely on Russia’s Roscosmos to ferry its astronauts to the ISS while paying $80 million a seat ever since the Space Shuttle program was scrapped in 2011. Yet, a contract between the two space agencies is about to run out, and NASA wants either SpaceX or Boeing to hurry up and deliver a domestic alternative to the Russian spacecraft. 

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‘Time to deliver’ Elon Musk? NASA nervous as spaceship delays threaten to cut off astronauts from ISS

Both American companies appear to be years behind schedule as it was initially expected that they would be both certified to launch manned space mission by 2017. Both SpaceX and Boeing have run into “chronic delays” with their vehicles, as the Government Accountability Office put it in its report in June 2019.

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Crewed flight setback? Leaked video suggests SpaceX capsule is ANNIHILATED in safety test ‘anomaly’

For now, Russia’s Soyuz rockets are indisputably the most reliable crafts for ferrying manned missions into orbit. Their safety system has been tried and tested by decades of operation, and this has recently been proven during an aborted launch.

In October 2018, Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin and US astronaut Nick Hague were forced to make an emergency landing in Kazakhstan after their flight to the ISS was cut short by an engine booster failure. The emergency system called SAS pulled away the capsule moments before the entire craft would have been fully destroyed, and it landed with both crew members unharmed.

The capsule in which the Russian-American duo safely returned to earth has recently been turned into a monument. 

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January 19th 2020, 6:12 pm

Rapidly spreading: Chinese authorities confirm 136 NEW cases of deadly virus in 2 days

RT

Health officials in Wuhan, China have revealed that 136 new cases of a mysterious new strain of the coronavirus have been diagnosed over just two days, bringing the total in the city to 198.

In a statement detailing the latest escalation in figures for the major viral outbreak, Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said a third person has died from the illness, while two more are in critical condition. A further 33 cases among the newly diagnosed patients are classified as “severe.” All of the patients are being kept in isolation.

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Passengers at 3 major US airports to be screened for deadly Chinese VIRUS

“The first symptoms were mostly fever, cough or chest tightness, and shortness of breath,” the agency said, advising anyone coughing or sneezing to wear a face mask to prevent the spread of germs.

“Pay close attention to symptoms such as fever and cough,” they added. “Seek immediate medical attention when such symptoms occur.”

Health officials said they’ve been carrying out medical observations on hundreds of people who came into close contact with those diagnosed to date, and no human-to-human transmission has been found. So far, the outbreak appears to be centered on Wuhan, but a small number of cases have been reported outside of China – two in Thailand and one in Japan. 

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Infectious disease experts at Imperial College London have calculated that the number of cases in Wuhan alone is approaching 1,700.

On Saturday, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention denied claims that the new outbreak is actually Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome), an outbreak of which killed more than 700 people around the world in 2002 and 2003, after cases were first reported in southern China.

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January 19th 2020, 3:56 pm

Two police officers killed, multiple homes set on fire in Hawaiian capital shooting

RT

Two police officers have reportedly been shot dead in a major incident in the Diamond Head area of Honolulu, Hawaii. A huge fire has also broken out in the neighborhood.

The officers were responding to a report of assault when they were confronted by a man wielding a firearm, according to local news outlets. The suspect then opened fire and struck both officers.

A home the suspect was reportedly inside later caught on fire, with the blaze then quickly spreading to a number of neighboring houses.

Police are appealing to the public to avoid the area and some roads have been closed as the investigation continues.

DETAILS TO FOLLOW

January 19th 2020, 3:56 pm

From Bond to ‘Top Gun’: How PC Hollywood will mess with your fave franchises in 2020

RT

Everyone from James Bond to Maverick appears to be going woke in 2020, proving again that Hollywood studios are willing to lose money and alienate audiences as long as they get to shove political messages down our throats.

2019 offered us plenty of examples of Hollywood studios investing big-time in agenda-driven content that pushed politically correct social agendas, but inspired few ticket sales (‘Late Night,’ ‘Bombshell,’ ‘Charlie’s Angels,’ ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’). 

Despite the failures, though, 2020 has plenty more ‘woke’ content to offer us, including in some of our favorite movie franchises. 

Birds of Prey - DCEU (DC Extended Universe):

A still from 'Birds of Prey' Dir. Cathy Yan (2020) ©  Warner Bros.

‘Birds of Prey’ is Margot Robbie’s chance to take center-stage as the DC comics villain Harley Quinn – she first appeared as the character in 2016’s ‘Suicide Squad’ – and the trailers look suitably fun, but actor Ewan McGregor, who plays the antagonist in the movie, has already been trying to make the movie political by explaining how his villain is a play on Donald Trump.

In an interview with Men’s Journal, McGregor said his character Black Mask, a controlling misogynist facing off against Quinn and a group of other women, is just like Trump because he’s a “narcissist.” 

“[Black Mask is] spoiled in his upbringing to the point of having no contact with what life or people are about, who has a skin this thin and wants nothing more than to be the center of attention,” the actor said.

Yet another movie taking inspiration from Hollywood’s biases about Trump? Yawn.

The Invisible Man – Universal Monsters … here we go again: 

A still from 'The Invisible Man' Dir. Leigh Whannell (2020) ©  Universal Pictures

After attempting to reboot their stable of movie monsters with 2017’s ‘The Mummy’ starring Tom Cruise, Universal have now set their sights a little lower with the upcoming ‘The Invisible Man.’ With a smaller budget and a lead actress known more for television, Elisabeth Moss, the flick has also already been described as a horror film for the #MeToo era.

Following a woman who is seemingly being haunted by her deceased abusive boyfriend, 'The Invisible Man' is yet another woke Hollywood movie taking on that big, bad patriarchy they supposedly hate so much.

“We live in a patriarchy. If you’re telling a story about a woman, part of it will be about living in that patriarchy,” Moss said about the film, in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar

She also describes the film’s “invisible” angle as a play on “not having a voice.” Huh. Doesn’t sound like much of a horror movie, does it? Makes you kinda even miss Tom Cruise and that epic scream. 

No Time to Die – James Bond: 

A still from 'No Time to Die' Dir. Cary Joji Fukunaga ©  United Artists Releasing/Universal Pictures

Hold on to your memories because this franchise is flying its politically correct wings straight into the sun. ‘No Time to Die’ was already a bit iffy considering the fact that Daniel Craig seems to be the Bond actor least interested in actually playing Bond, but things went from bad to worse when reports leaked that the movie will contain a passing of the torch scene that will introduce a female agent to possibly take over for Craig’s Bond, something woke crowds have been begging for years to get. 

Not only will we get a female agent, but apparently the scene will also include this new character giving Bond a proper ribbing for his supposed misogyny. What a great way to send off a character people love...

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Fortunately, after extreme backlash, the producers of the franchise have at least acknowledged publicly at this point that the actual character of Bond will remain male in the future. 

Legally Blonde 3 – the franchise you forgot existed! 

Reese Witherspoon at the 77th Golden Globe Awards ©  REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

While the ‘Legally Blonde’ franchise has never been anything more than fun fluff, that will likely change when the third instalment drops in 2020. 

Actress Reese Witherspoon has actually said that failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is partly the inspiration for bringing her ‘Blonde’ character back. She told ‘Fashionably Late with Rachel Zoe’ in 2015 that her admiration for Clinton and the politician’s work had inspired her to revisit the character of Elle Woods, the bubbly lawyer who defied expectations through the first two comedies.

“I think it’d be kind of a cool thing to have her be a Supreme Court Justice, or someone who runs for office … president, I mean,” Witherspoon said of her character.

Top Gun: Maverick – just leave well-enough alone: 

A still from 'Top Gun: Maverick' Dir. Joseph Kosinski (2020) ©  Paramount Pictures

It was hard not to get excited over the trailer for the long-awaited sequel to 1986’s ‘Top Gun.’ Tom Cruise is doing his usual age-defying stunts and the two-minute video teased a level of patriotism almost never seen in modern movies. A closer look, though, showed that even Maverick can fall victim to the politically correct rules of modern Hollywood. 

Attentive fans spotted a subtle appeasement to China, the second largest film market in the world, on Maverick’s leather jacket, which was first seen in the original movie. The jacket in the trailer appears to be missing the Japanese and Taiwanese flags that were originally on it. Many have theorized this is to appease Beijing in an attempt to get the film accepted to screen in the country, which has been known for turning films down in the past.

The jacket is enough to raise concern about what else the Hollywood overlords demanded of the sequel. Could we get a bland, politically correct ‘Top Gun’ this summer? Could be. 

Purge 5 – stop beating a dead horse, please: 

A still from 'The First Purge' Dir. Gerard McMurray (2018) ©  Universal Pictures

While ‘Purge’ began with an intriguing concept back in 2013 – all crime is legal for one day out of the year and this brings out the absolute worst in people – the sequels began leaning more heavily into agenda-driven politics. Nuance and layered characters were gone by the fourth movie – ‘The First Purge,’ released in 2018 – where it is revealed that the purge is really just an act by an ultra-right wing government to wipe out the poor and keep minority neighborhoods struggling.

The third film even introduced a slogan ripped straight from Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign – ‘Keep America Great’ instead of ‘Make America Great Again’ – and the television show, which just recently finished airing its second season, has simply doubled down on the left-wing preaching.

Franchise creator James DeMonaco has promised more of the same for the fifth and supposedly final sequel in the franchise, which he will write but not direct, and considering it’s an election year, this is bound to be one of the most insufferable movies to be dropped on us in 2020.

Eternals – Marvel Cinematic Universe: 

A still from 'Avengers: Infinity War' Dir. Anthony Russo, Joe Russo (2018) ©  Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Marvel has thus far been an unstoppable machine at the box office. Last year’s ‘Avengers: Endgame’ even became the highest grossing film of all time.

‘Eternals,’ however, is at the moment sounding a bit more like a film solely created for hashtagging social justice warriors than actual fans. Producer Kevin Feige has already promised that the film will include gay and deaf characters, and he recently implied that it may also be the Marvel movie to introduce a transgender character.

All of that is fine and dandy, but what’s concerning is these are the selling points for the movie so far. Instead of compelling characters and story, the flick is trying to sell us on labels which, as we know from the new ‘Star Wars’ saga, is not a great way to tell a story.

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January 19th 2020, 3:08 pm

Lavrov: Detailed docs agreed-on in Berlin for resolving Libya crisis include ceasefire, political pr

RT

Russia’s top diplomat Sergey Lavrov has briefed the press after the Libyan peace and reconciliation talks in Berlin, convened in an attempt to end the years-long civil war in the country.

Read more
Merkel & Guterres announce results of Libya peace talks in Berlin (WATCH LIVE)

The conference in Berlin was tasked with reaching a lasting ceasefire between Prime Minister of the UN-backed Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), Fayez al-Sarraj, and his rival Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, whose forces have been closing in on Tripoli in recent months.

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January 19th 2020, 2:07 pm

Water cannon, tear gas & injuries as Lebanese protesters clash with police (VIDEOS)

RT

Police in Lebanon tackled protesters with water cannons and tear gas, while demonstrators hurled stones and debris back at law enforcement, as unrest on the streets of Beirut escalated into violence on Sunday.

Footage from the scene shows protesters and police clashing with each other on smoke-filled streets in downtown Beirut. Some of the protesters reportedly tried to force their way into the parliament, with police attempting to force them to disperse by using water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets.

Graphic images purportedly showing injuries from rubber bullets have been shared online. The Lebanese Red Cross tweeted that a dozen of its teams were responding to the protests, adding that “30 people have been transported, until now, to nearby hospitals and 40 have been treated at the scene.”

Sunday’s unrest comes a day after President Michel Aoun called on the military to intervene as fierce clashes broke out between protesters and police.

Over 370 people were injured in Saturday’s riots, according to figures compiled by the Lebanese Red Cross and Civil Defense, with the Internal Security Forces (ISF) saying some 142 police were among the wounded. 

"We're not scared. This is all for our future and our children," shoemaker Bassam Taleb told Reuters at the protest. "The country is frozen. The state is not doing a thing, they're a bunch of thieves. And if you have money in the bank, you can't even get a hundred dollars out."

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Lebanese president calls on ARMY to intervene as massive protests turn violent in Beirut (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Demonstrations broke out in Beirut and other Lebanese cities in October amid rising discontent with the country’s failing economy, state corruption and the political leadership, prompting Saad al-Hariri to resign as prime minister. 

This weekend’s clashes come as Lebanese politicians continue to struggle to agree a new government. The protesters also smashed bank windows, and there were reports on social media of stores being looted.

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January 19th 2020, 1:56 pm

Merkel & Guterres announce results of Libya peace talks in Berlin (WATCH LIVE)

RT

The results of the much-anticipated Libya peace conference in Berlin, which was convened in the hope of ending the years-long civil war and chaos in the country, are being announced.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres are presenting the results of the intensive talks at a final press conference on Sunday evening.

The conference in Berlin was tasked with reaching a lasting ceasefire between Prime Minister of the UN-backed Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), Fayez al-Sarraj, and his rival Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, whose forces have been closing in on Tripoli in recent months.

READ MORE: Putin & Erdogan set stage for Libya peace talks at Berlin meeting (VIDEO)

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January 19th 2020, 1:37 pm

Cusack, Bernie’s prophet of doom: Only 10-12 years to stop climate change & ‘predatory capitalism’

RT

It appears actor John Cusack took the climate change messages in his film ‘2012’ really, really seriously, because he says Earth only has a handful of years left — unless Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is elected US President.

Introducing Sanders in Exeter, New Hampshire, on Saturday, the 53-year-old actor threw out a doomsday scenario where the world only has a “10 to 12 year window” to reverse the effects of climate change and combat the “predatory capitalism” that is supposedly fueling it.

“The billionaires are getting nervous and all the corporate media is — they hate us, they don’t hate us, they’re confused. And it seems like every conceivable power structure on Earth is trying to kill or derail our movement, but we’re still here,” Cusack announced to the assembled Sanders supporters.

“We know this form of capitalism takes and takes; it takes whatever, whenever, however it wants. It’ll take our lives, it’ll take our labor, our spirit, our air and water, even our earth.”

Cusack’s climate change fear-mongering may have played to the crowd of Bernie supporters, but he isn’t flipping many votes, judging by the wider reaction on social media. 

“The self-awareness of @johncusack is undetectable with an electron microscope,” actor and director Nick Searcy tweeted in response to Cusack’s speech.

‘Full Metal Jacket’ actor Adam Baldwin questioned whether Cusack is suggesting war with China with his doomsday prediction, considering the country leads the United States in CO2 emissions.

Others criticized Cusack, who endorsed Sanders for president in February of last year, for his focus on criticizing capitalism and the “one percent of the one percent,” when he has himself become wealthy from his work in capitalist Hollywood.

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January 19th 2020, 1:26 pm

Putin meets Johnson in Berlin, but UK PM says ‘no normalization of relations’

RT

Russian President Vladimir Putin has met with the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the sidelines of the Libya peace conference in Berlin. Johnson used the opportunity to state it outright to Putin that there will be “no normalization” of bilateral relations between Moscow and London.

The UK PM then demanded Russia end what he called “destabilizing activity” that supposedly threatens the UK, its citizens and allies, though he did not elaborate what exactly he meant by that. Instead, Johnson once again referred to the Salisbury poisoning case, which London has been blaming on Moscow without providing it with irrefutable proof of guilt.

Kremlin said Putin, Johnson and European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, discussed both bilateral and international problems, including the Libyan peace process.

January 19th 2020, 12:37 pm

‘OK, Boomer’: Gold trader bemoans ‘lost’ bitcoin over forgotten password, Twitter can’t resist roast

RT

A gold trader and noted cryptocurrency critic took to Twitter to complain he “just lost all the #bitcoin I have ever owned” after his wallet ‘forgot’ the password, drawing derision and cries of ‘OK, Boomer’ on social media.

“My wallet got corrupted somehow and my password is no longer valid,” Peter Schiff tweeted, along with a screenshot of the error message. He continued: “I knew owning bitcoin was a bad idea, I just never realized it was this bad!”

However, if Schiff thought he’d find some sympathetic ears on Twitter, he was sorely mistaken, as social media users piled in to make fun of him for complaining about a key security feature of cryptocurrencies – the fact that the password can’t simply be reset makes it much harder for someone to hack into your account. 

“Not understanding... how a system works is not a good excuse to call it worthless,” one person tweeted, while another said: “You didn’t lose anything if you backed up your seed phrase/ private keys. You can port them to a better wallet.”

A number of people pointed out that it’s pretty well known you need to keep your passwords for digital products and services safe, and you losing your password isn’t a reflection on the actual product or service itself.

Others were quick to joke about what kind of password Schiff may have had to begin with, or if he’d forgotten to check if caps lock was off before entering it, while at least one suggested he should lose his Twitter password too, while he’s at it.

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January 19th 2020, 12:26 pm

Pep talk: PSG poised to make MASSIVE OFFER for Manchester City boss Guardiola – reports

RT

Pep Guardiola's spell in the blue half of Manchester could come to a premature end after reports in the English press say that oil-rich French champions Paris Saint-Germain are preparing an audacious swoop for the Spanish coach.

Guardiola has a year remaining on his current deal with the reigning Premier League winners and has recently intimated that he "100 percent" intends to stay on as boss at the Etihad Stadium, but this assertion doesn't appear to be dissuading PSG from considering a massive contract to tempt him towards the French capital, according to reports.

PSG’s owners Qatar Sports Investments are understood to be preparing a massive contract package for Guardiola, per a report in The Express, and hope that he can be encouraged to leave the English game after what will almost certainly be his least successful season in English football.

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Guardiola's family returned to Barcelona last summer where his wife operates a fashion business and while this could conceivably be an obstacle to him extending his contract in Manchester, he says that he remains "100 per cent committed" to the club. 

"It's not because we have won the last two games," Guardiola said recently. "Even if it was going bad, I'm not going anywhere.

"No manager wins all the time. I enjoy working with these players. We've lost some games so it is simple, we need to work out what we can do better."

PSG are in a commanding position at the summit of Ligue 1, eight points clear of second-placed Marseille, but continued failure to reach the latter stages of the Champions League has led to something of a managerial merry-go-round at the club.

Current boss Thomas Tuchel has won more than 75 percent of his games in charge of the club so far but it is thought that another season of drought in the Europe's most prestigious competition could signal the beginning of the end for the German - as it did previous managers Unai Emery, Laurent Blanc and Carlo Ancelotti. 

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The club's hierarchy believe that Guardiola, a two-time winner of the Champions League as a coach, could be the man to take the French giants to the next level of European football.

Tuchel will face his former side, Borussia Dortmund, in a two-legged tie in the first knockout stage of the Champions League, with the first tie taking place on February 18. Guardiola's Manchester City, meanwhile, are a whopping 13 points behind Liverpool in the race for the Premier League title and have played two games more.

January 19th 2020, 12:26 pm

‘They’re coming closer and closer’: Novak Djokovic wary of threat from young guns at Australian Open

RT

Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic says the threat from young ‘Next Gen’ tennis stars is getting more and more dangerous to the established top three, as the Serb prepares to defend his title in Melbourne.

Djokovic, seeded second this year, kicks off his campaign for a record-extending eighth Australian Open title against Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff at Rod Laver Arena on Monday.

The 'Big Three' of Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have won each of the last 12 Grand Slams between them, and have shared 14 of the past 16 titles in Melbourne.

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But Djokovic has said it is “inevitable” that younger stars will taste Grand Slam success soon, naming Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, 23, Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas, 21, and 26-year-old Austrian Dominic Thiem as among the likely contenders to break the Federer-Nadal-Djokovic stranglehold.  

“They're coming closer and closer. It's obvious. Medvedev had a great fight with Rafa in the last Grand Slam in US Open of last season,” Djokovic said, the ATP website reported.   

“Tsitsipas played semis here last year. Dominic Thiem twice finals in French Open. They're very, very close. They're literally one set away.

“On a given day, in the very near future, I think that can happen. It's going to happen. It's inevitable.”

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Medvedev, who is seeded fourth in Melbourne, pushed Nadal all the way in their epic five-set US Open final in September, before succumbing to the 33-year-old Spanish legend.

Tsitsipas, seeded sixth Down Under, made a run to the last four in Australia a year ago, beating Federer along the way, while he also won the prestigious ATP Finals in London at the end of 2019.

However, tennis finds itself in familiar territory heading into Melbourne, with Nadal the top seed, followed by Djokovic and then Federer.

When asked about the key to the trio’s longevity at the top, the 32-year-old Serb said: “Roger has talked about this as well, Rafa as well, that age is just a number.

“It's not just a cliché, but it's really something that I feel like the three of us have in common. It's really the way we approach career and our everyday life.

“I think we found a way, a formula, to balance private-professional life so we are able to kind of excel in tennis and still be able to compete at the highest level after many years, still be motivated, still be mentally fresh and, of course, physically prepared and fit to compete in best-of-five sets with young players that are coming up.

“They're obviously very hungry to reach the great heights and fight for the biggest trophies in sport.”

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The draw in Melbourne has placed Djokovic in the same half as Federer, meaning the pair could meet in the semi-finals.

The Serb said the Big Three rivalry continued to be a source of motivation for him as he chases a 17th Grand Slam overall, which would edge him closer to Nadal’s 19 and Federer’s record haul of 20.

“[My rivalry] with Roger and Rafa… is one of the motivations for me to still keep going at this age,” Djokovic said.

“The three of us have inspired each other throughout our rivalries and careers to be better, to understand how we can overcome obstacles in the matchups.

“I am more grateful today to be in the same era with these two guys than I was probably 10, 15 years ago. I think that definitely rivalries with them made me very, very strong, very resilient, and also very motivated that I am still today.”

January 19th 2020, 12:26 pm

Gremlin in the sky: Pentagon contractor shows maiden flight of its new ‘swarm’ drone

RT

Swarms of unmanned aerial vehicles overwhelming enemies' defenses with sheer numbers might soon be part of the US combat strategy. Footage of the first flight of one such drone has just been showcased by a Pentagon contractor.

A video published on YouTube by an applied science and IT company, Dynetics, shows a drone, which looks roughly like a large air-to-surface missile, being drop-launched from under the wing of a US transport Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft.

The drone designated X-61A then releases small wings and ignites its rocket engine, setting off for an autonomous flight. Media reports suggested that the UAV stayed in air for an hour and a half while the video shows it performing some simple maneuvers during its first test flight, which took place in November 2019.

X-61A is part of Pentagon's Gremlins program launched the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) back in 2016. It aims at providing the US military with swarms of relatively cheap and recoverable unmanned aerial vehicles, which are expected to have coordinated distributed capabilities.

According to DARPA, such drones should be launched from bombers, transport aircraft, or even fighter jets while they are still out of range of a potential adversary's defenses, and then perform the usual tasks assigned to drones and ranging from reconnaissance to air strikes, while overcoming enemy's defenses due to their quantity alone.

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Those drones that live through their mission are expected to be retrieved mid-air by the likes of C-130 Hercules via a special mechanism. Although, the video showcased by Dynetics does not demonstrate anything of the sort so far.

Dynetics is, however, not the only one working on the Gremlins project. According to DARPA, other contracts were awarded to Composite Engineering, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, and Lockheed Martin Corporation.

Apart from that, Pentagon's own Strategic Capabilities Office has also been working on a similar technology for quite some time. Its swarms of Perdix micro drones drop launched from F/A-18 Super Hornet fighters were tested as early as in 2016.

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January 19th 2020, 12:26 pm

‘Where’s Putin?’ World leaders can’t start Berlin conference photo-op without Russian president (VID

RT

Leaders gathering for Libya peace talks in Berlin attempted to take a group photo as the summit got underway, but the photo-op was momentarily delayed as no one could seem to find Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The awkward ‘Where’s Putin?’ moment was captured on video as other leaders shuffled around trying to locate the Russian president.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel looked particularly perturbed by Putin’s absence, turning around to look for him multiple times and pointing toward the empty spot where he should have been standing.

French President Emmanuel Macron then joined the search, looking off to the sidelines before beckoning toward the Russian leader who had finally emerged on the scene. Putin wasn’t the only one to show up late, however, as Italian PM Giuseppe Conte walked in with him.

The Berlin talks are aimed at securing a lasting ceasefire in Libya’s civil war, which has been raging between the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) headed by PM Fayez al-Sarraj, and a rival government led by General Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army.

The Sunday summit is a continuation of talks that began last week in Moscow hosted by the Russian and Turkish governments, which managed to bring the warring sides to the table.

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Putin & Erdogan set stage for Libya peace talks at Berlin meeting (VIDEO)

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January 19th 2020, 10:34 am

No bum rap: Louisiana police announce charges dropped against Odell Beckham following cop butt-slap

RT

Cleveland Browns star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has escaped hot water in his native Louisiana after simple battery charges were dropped by authorities stemming from an incident captured on camera at an NFL game.

Beckham Jr. was celebrating with the victorious LSU Tigers, the team he represented before being drafted into the NFL, following their College Football National Championship win against Clemson on Monday but was potentially facing a misdemeanor charge after he was captured on camera appearing to playfully slap the buttocks of a nearby security guard.

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However the officer involved has "has decided to drop the charge," as announced by the New Orleans police department. An arrest warrant which had been issued for the the NFL star has also been withdrawn. 

The video, which was apparently recorded without the knowledge of Beckham or the security guard, shows the player lightly strike the officers rear after he had reportedly been admonishing an LSU player for smoking a victory cigar in the locker room after the game.

"We are aware of the incident and have been in touch with Odell and his representatives on the matter," the Browns announced in a statement this week. "They are cooperating with the proper authorities to appropriately address the situation."

Beckham also landed himself in hot water after allegedly handing money to LSU players after the victory. NCAA rules expressly prohibit college athletes from earning money from their participation in college sports.

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LSU's athletic department says that it is "aware" of the video and has communicated with the NCAA and the Southeastern Conference regarding the matter.

Beckham Jr. is one of the NFL's most well-known superstars. He joined the Cleveland Browns from the New York Giants prior to the kickoff of the 2019 season but the Browns struggled to a 6-10 overall record in the AFC North.

January 19th 2020, 10:20 am

‘Already had a useless female PM’: Twitter groans as MP tells men to ‘pass the mic’ to female Labour

RT

Twitter has not taken kindly to a suggestion by Labour leadership candidate Jess Phillips that men should “pass the mic” and elect a woman to the party’s top job, with Piers Morgan among many who slammed her “sexist claptrap.”

Phillips made the comments in a Sunday interview with Sky News. Asked if men needed to “step aside sometimes” in order to further women’s representation in politics, the leadership challenger said that “sometimes passing the mic is the greatest way to show that you truly believe in something.”

She added that if Labour failed to put a woman in the top job it would “look bad”  and “embarrassing” – and even hand “ammunition” to political opponents who she said were “laughing at” the party. While other UK political parties, including the Conservatives, have had female leaders, Labour has never elected a woman.

On Twitter, Good Morning Britain host Piers Morgan was quick to remind Phillips that the UK had been led for the previous three years by a female “who was useless” – referring to former PM Theresa May. “The best candidate (in any profession) should get the top job – not ‘the best woman,’” Morgan wrote.

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It seemed that many in Britain agree with the prolific Twitter provocateur, as the MP for Birmingham Yardley was slammed for her suggestion.

One tweeter called out her “ridiculous statement,” saying that what would genuinely look bad would be if Labour failed to elect “the person most competent… regardless of sex.”

Others also suggested that selecting a candidate that meets a “diversity target” probably was not the best way for Labour to select its new leader.

“Margaret Thatcher never had to ask anyone to pass the mic. How utterly embarrassing for you,” one commenter quipped.

Not everyone was in disagreement with Phillips, however, as some agreed that it would be “hugely damning” for the party to fail to elect a woman again.

Phillips did acknowledge, however, that it’s a “very difficult argument” to make that a man should stand back for a woman if he truly believes he is “the best person for the job.”

Four of the five candidates running to succeed Jeremy Corbyn as Labour’s next leader are women, but male MP and shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer is currently leading the pack in polls of Labour Party members.

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January 19th 2020, 10:20 am

May’s spell? Boris Johnson trapped in car as he meets Merkel in Berlin (VIDEO)

RT

In what could be seen as a karmic response to Brexit, UK PM Boris Johnson found himself struggling to join an EU counterpart after being momentarily trapped in his car after arriving in Berlin on Sunday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel looked on from the red carpet as a member of security attempted to wrench the car door open, eventually succeeding after several tries. All the while, Johnson sat inside as a perhaps fitting metaphor of the years of difficulties in the Britain-EU relationship.

Johnson is among the world leaders visiting Berlin for the Libya peace talks.

Not so long ago, his predecessor Theresa May suffered similar trouble when meeting with Merkel in the German capital. The then-prime minister was in Berlin for Brexit talks when she became trapped in her vehicle.

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January 19th 2020, 10:04 am

'Khabib made him humble': Fans of UFC champ Nurmagomedov claim he forged respectful new version of M

RT

Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov seem almost certain to clash once again following the Irishman's win at UFC 246, but is the Russian champion responsible for the new humble version of McGregor we saw on Saturday night?

If the UFC 229 encounter between McGregor and Khabib was a burden on the Irishman before, during and after the fight, Saturday's quick destruction of Donald Cerrone in Las Vegas was anything but.

The build-up to the fight was marked by a new respectful tone employed by McGregor, as he paid tribute to Cerrone and his team - words which were echoed once McGregor ultimately had his hand raised following his 40-second win.

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It was a far cry from the bad blood which encapsulated McGregor's first meeting with Nurmagomedov, and some of the Dagestani's fans say that the fourth-round submission win that their man scored on that October night is responsible for McGregor's apparent change of focus in his fight career.

After the fight, the Russian left the cage to attack several members of McGregor's training staff, while some of his teammates initiated a confrontation with McGregor inside the cage.

The incident was met with fury by UFC president Dana White, while the Nevada State Athletic Commission slapped prohibitive punishments on all involved. 

UFC president Dana White indicated after the fight that McGregor is likely to receive a second opportunity with Khabib following his effortless win on Saturday - and several of the Russian champion's fans have taken to sending out a series of pevious social media salvos in which they suggest that their fighter is the impetus for Conor McGregor 2.0.

New leaf, mind games, or PR ploy? Questions abound as Conor McGregor ditches the trash talk ahead of UFC 246

"I can believe we're going to fight because I really want this guy," Nurmagomedov said last year. "Make him humble, a little bit teach him. Not only smash but, like, change his face. I want to change his face."

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January 19th 2020, 9:04 am

All about the footwork: Watch Conor McGregor hit the dancefloor as he lets loose after comeback win

RT

Conor McGregor said he had endured a spartan training camp ahead of his comeback at UFC 246 on Saturday night, but the Irishman kicked back in style after getting the job done against Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone.

McGregor returned to the octagon for the first time in 15 months, and wasted little time in leaving Cerrone in a crumpled heap on the mat.

In fact, 40 seconds was all it took for ‘The Notorious’ at T-Mobile Arena, after he busted Cerrone’s nose with a series of unorthodox shoulder shots during an early clinch before landing a brutal head kick and then launching a barrage of punches to finish the fight.

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In contrast to his previous fight, where McGregor revealed he had been “drinking all bleeding week” before being beaten by UFC lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov, the Irishman said this time around he had not touched a drop of alcohol for several months leading into the bout.

But McGregor vowed that would change after the bout, saying in his post-fight interview that he would “celebrate tonight” before spending time with his two young children the next day, contemplating his next steps in the octagon.

The evidence was that McGregor was certainly enjoying himself as he hit Encore Beach Club in ‘Sin City’ for his official afterparty, getting behind the DJ decks, saluting fans and signing various items. He also busted some moves of his own on the dancefloor.

McGregor cautioned though that he would soon be back in the gym, saying after his quick-fire defeat of Cerrone:

“Before a fight you taper off for the final two weeks, so if you get a quick win and then you go off, all of a sudden it can be four weeks without training and then you slip behind.

“So I’m going to make sure not to do that.”   

January 19th 2020, 8:20 am

Putin & Erdogan set stage for Libya peace talks at Berlin meeting (VIDEO)

RT

The Libyan peace talks in Berlin are yet to begin, but Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan have voiced their positions on the conflict, Erdogan speaking against Haftar and Putin calling for dialogue.

As the two presidents met ahead of the Sunday conference, Erdogan was direct in showing his animosity towards Libya’s Khalifa Haftar, whose forces have been closing in on the UN-backed government in Tripoli.

“Haftar has proven himself to be in favor of a military solution [to the conflict]. Here in Berlin, the ceasefire must be confirmed. Haftar’s aggressive behavior must be stopped so the political process and settlement can happen,” Erdogan said.

Putin in turn recalled how, during their Istanbul meeting on January 8, the two had “taken a very good step by calling on the warring parties in Libya to end hostilities.”

Despite several violations of the ceasefire, “both sides have listened to our call and have ended large-scale military actions,” Putin said.

We don’t lose hope that the dialogue will continue, as we seek to resolve the conflict [in Libya].

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January 19th 2020, 8:20 am

German FM blasts US policy on Iran, says Europe wants to prevent ‘firestorm’ in Middle East without

RT

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that, instead of following the US’ maximum pressure campaign against Iran, the EU will stick to diplomacy in order to avoid further escalation of tensions in the region.  

The US and Europe have a “different approach” to Iran and the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) for its nuclear program, Maas told Bild am Sonntag newspaper, in an interview published on Saturday.

“While the US unilaterally abandoned the nuclear agreement and imposed maximum pressure [on Tehran], we want to achieve progress through negotiations. France, Britain and Germany want to keep the deal to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons," Maas stated.

The minister added that “pure threats” and military action have done “nothing” to change Iran’s behavior.

We should not pretend that an externally-induced regime change in Tehran will automatically improve the situation. That has gone badly elsewhere, like in Iraq.

“We want to prevent a firestorm in the Middle East. The EU relies on diplomacy, not escalation,” Maas stressed.

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The JCPOA took a dent in 2018, after US had left the agreement, while accusing Iran of secretly violating it. Iran insisted that it was complying with the deal, and the global watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in its reports at the time had confirmed it. Washington, nevertheless, re-imposed several rounds of sweeping sanctions on Iran, and urged the EU to follow suit.

A year after the US abandoned the JCPOA, Iran began scaling down its commitment under the deal. Officials in Tehran said that the nation will return to full compliance if the EU provides relief for the US sanctions. Iran finally left the agreement on January 5, two days after a US drone strike in Iraq had killed the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, whom Washington accused of plotting terrorist acts.

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January 19th 2020, 7:20 am

'I don't know what was going on there': Conor McGregor rips into for Jorge Masvidal for wearing Vers

RT

UFC star Conor McGregor has slammed rival Jorge Masvidal for sporting the same Versace robe donned by the Irishman in the lead-in to his boxing match with Floyd Mayweather.

In addition to being one of the world's best fighters, Conor McGregor also considers himself to be something of a style icon, as evidenced by the string of luxurious rigouts the Irishman can be often be seen wearing outside of the Octagon.

However, the brash Dubliner didn't quite appreciate the robe worn by UFC 'BMF' Jorge Masvidal when he took his seat at cageside to witness McGregor's 40-second demolition of Donald Cerrone inside the T-Mobile Arena at UFC 246 in Las Vegas.

READ MORE: Conor McGregor crushes Donald Cerrone in just 40 seconds at UFC 246

Masvidal, who most consider to be 2019's Fighter of the Year, wore the dark Versace garment without any undershirt to the cage. It was the exact same robe which was worn by McGregor during the lead-in to his August 2017 fight with Mayweather. Interestingly, Masvidal had also braided his hair into the same style that he often does before one of his fights.

A sign, perhaps, that he is positioning himself to be next on the list for McGregor's three-fight 'season' in 2020. Nevertheless, McGregor didn't quite appreciate his rival's gesture.

"Talk about blowing it," McGregor said of Masvidal's apparel at the post-fight press conference. "If you ask me, that was ridiculous. I didn't know what was going on there. The old ladies in Ireland, they were housecoats watching the soap operas.

"I don't know. It was a bit weird. Whatever. All the best."

McGregor's win on Saturday opens up a slew of options for the Dubliner. Masvidal, of course, is a possibility but there also remains a string of potential opponents for him including Kamaru Usman, Justin Gaethje and, perhaps most interesting of all, a rematch with Khabib Nurmagomedov.

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If Masvidal does indeed end up being the next man up, McGregor says he awaits that bout with great anticipation.

"Of course, of course," McGregor said when asked if he was interesting in fighting Masvidal. "We'll see what happens. I'd like to scoop up that... well, it's not a great belt is it? But I'll still take it and add it to the list.

"So, it wasn't a good night for Jorge but all the best to him. God loves a trier."

January 19th 2020, 7:20 am

UFC champion Kamaru Usman's hacked Twitter account posts X-rated threats to McGregor & his partner

RT

UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman appears to have been the victim of cyber crime after his Twitter account was apparently hacked to display vulgar messages towards Conor McGregor, as well as posting his own bank details.

Hours before McGregor took to the cage in Las Vegas where he would defeat Donald Cerrone in just 40 seconds of the first round of their UFC 246 main event, Usman caused shockwaves online when the series of offensive messages were displayed on the fighter's official Twitter page.

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"Let's be real, my man [Conor McGregor] is a f****** Irish punk who won't be winning today," read one of the messages, with further messages directed at McGregor's long-term girlfriend. 

Even another of McGregor's former opponents, Floyd Mayweather, was targeted in the tirade.

"Furthermore Floyd Mayweather is a f****** pussy. I'll knock the n***** out of him," one of the messages read.

The messages, which also included a screengrab of Usman's banking information, have since been deleted.

Speaking in the post-fight press conference McGregor sensationally claimed that Usman's manager, Ali Abdelaziz, may have been responsible for the messages.

Abdelaziz, who counts Khabib Nurmagomedov and Frankie Edgar among his clients, is known to occasionally handle the social media output of his fighters.

"I'd be sceptical of that because one came through early," McGregor said. "It had all the hallmarks of that little f*cking weasel Ali. 

"They give him control of accounts. He had Frankie's account, he had Henry's (Cejudo) account. This has been going on a while.

"The way the first one was written, I knew exactly where it came from and then all of a sudden it became little bit heavier ones and it became a hack job.

"Whatever. I don't know what's going on. It's a bit of a weird night, isn't it? The two boys doing mad stuff."

There are no suggestions elsewhere that Ali was behind the hacking, however, and the manager himself said: "Guys, Kamaru Usman’s Twitter has been hacked UFC is working on getting it back."

Khabib camp name terms for McGregor rematch after 'The Notorious' makes spectacular UFC comeback

Usman is among McGregor's targets for what he has called a 'season' in 2020 as he targets what would be an historic third UFC title in three different weight categories.

'The Nigerian Nightmare' dethroned Tyron Woodley for the championship in early 2019 and has defended it once to date, earning a late stoppage victory against Colby Covington in December.

Usman has indicated that he would be interested in a bout with McGregor, but doesn't see it going well for the Irishman.

"It is a mismatch. More power to him, anything is possible. A fight is a fight, anything can happen. But just being real, that’s a tremendous mismatch. I think I would hurt him really, really bad," Usman said in a recent press engagement.

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However, a potential fight with Conor McGregor would far outweigh any of the other welterweight contenders when it comes to potential earnings.

McGregor's win late on Saturday, which was his third knockout in three different UFC weight classes, will likely mean that the Dubliner can decide which path to take next - but whether it is Kamaru Usman or Jorge Masvidal, it seems likely that it will be taking place at 170lbs.

January 19th 2020, 6:14 am

Iran examines downed Boeing black boxes, no decision on sending them anywhere yet - reports

RT

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January 19th 2020, 6:14 am
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