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Motoring ahead: Russian tennis ace Daniil Medvedev secures high-profile BMW deal

RT

Daniil Medvedev's recent success on the tennis court has led to a partnership with the Russian branch of car manufacturer BMW, for whom he will appear in a series of promotional campaigns.

The world's fourth-ranked player will participate in various promotional activities in both Russia and elsewhere on behalf of the world famous brand after a contract was signed following a meeting in St. Petersburg at an ATP tournament in which Medvedev is competing. 

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From bad boy to fan favorite: Recapping Daniil Medvedev's remarkable US Open journey

The 23-year-old Medvedev has enjoyed the most successful year of his career in 2019. He reached three consecutive finals in Washington, Canada and Cincinnati, becoming just the third man to do so after Ivan Lendl and Andre Agassi.

Medvedev then finished runner-up in the US Open after a five-set epic with Rafael Nadal.

"BMW M is BMW’s fastest, most powerful and most innovative sports car. And Daniil Medvedev is the brightest and most titled Russian tennis player right now," Stefan Teuchert of BMW Russia said of the partnership.

"On the tennis court, Medvedev demonstrates qualities typical of BMW sports cars – speed, power, intelligence and a strong character. We are glad that we managed to agree on cooperation, and we look forward to future joint projects."

Medvedev will hope that his successful 2019 extends into this week where he is the top seed at the St. Petersburg Open, and says that he recent success on the court has given him extra motivation to succeed. 

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‘Medvedev is a bad boy? Look at him, he’s a charmer!’ – Russian tennis great Marat Safin

"I have become convinced: when I am in good shape, I can beat anyone, or at least give a fight. It is most important. I seemed to know this before, but was not completely sure. Now I know this for sure," he told Sport Express.

Medvedev faces fellow Russian player Evgeny Donskoy on Thursday.

September 19th 2019, 6:28 am

Whoops, my finger slipped! Hawaiians panic as police trigger false tsunami warning during training

RT

In a somewhat disturbing case of deja vu, the emergency warning sirens sounded in several parts of Hawaii early Wednesday evening, evoking memories of January’s false ballistic missile alert.

The alarm was inadvertently set off during Honolulu Police Department dispatcher training, which for some bizarre reason was being done on live equipment rather than with training software. 

“I just want to apologize [to] the public,” Police Chief Susan Ballard said in an interview with Hawaii News Now. “It was just a very [simple] mistake. We need to do better.”

In this instance, it took 12 minutes for state agencies to confirm to the public that it was a false alarm, compared with the 28-minute delay in January.

“Due to an error during a Honolulu Police Department training exercise, emergency sirens were mistakenly activated on Oahu,” Chris Sugidono, assistant communications director for Maui County, told CNN. “A siren in the Kahului area also was mistakenly activated during the exercise, according to the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency. There is no emergency at this time.”

Needless to say, residents were irate, especially after the false ballistic missile alert in January, which was sent when a member of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency sent the alert by pushing the wrong button.

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“What in the actual f**k is wrong with your guys system. This is twice now I’ve been in imminent fear for my life. You guys have some explaining to do,” wrote one understandably upset Twitter user. 

Another irate user added: "Why the hell would HPD need access to a natural disaster alarm?!?!? THEY'RE NOT EXPERTS IN ANY AREA THAT THAT ALARM IS TIED TO!"

The resounding consensus online, however, was that the Hawaiian authorities need to pay better attention to their work and not needlessly induce panic in the general population. 

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September 19th 2019, 6:12 am

The retired general who took down Bibi: Who is Benny Gantz?

RT

Benny Gantz, the ex-IDF commander who is set to end Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's 13-year tenure, is mostly an unknown entity outside of Israel. Who is he and what can we expect from a Gantz government?

A career soldier enters politics

Gantz, 60, spent 38 years in the Israel Defense Forces, serving as chief of general staff of the IDF from 2011 to 2015. He retired from the military in 2015 at the rank of Lieutenant General. He is best known for his leadership role in Israel's highly controversial assaults on Gaza in 2012 and 2014.

In 2018, he formed a new political party, Israel Resilience. A year later, his party joined forces with the moderate 'There is a Future' party to create a centrist bloc. Named after the colors of the Israeli flag, the 'Blue and White' bloc won 35 seats in the Knesset in April's election, stripping seats from Netanyahu's center-right coalition. Instead of stepping down as prime minister, Netanyahu called for new elections in September. The gamble didn't pay off, with Blue and White securing 33 seats over Likud's 31.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Defense Minister Ehud Barak (L) change the epaulets of the new Israeli Chief of Staff Benny Gantz as he replaces Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi during a handover ceremony in Jerusalem February 14, 2011. © REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Sued for war crimes

On the same day that Gantz came aheadin the polls, a Dutch court heard preliminary arguments to decide whether to move forward with a lawsuit over an IDF strike on Bureij refugee camp in Gaza on July 20, 2014. As one of the defendants, Gantz is accused by the plaintiff of killing six of his relatives.

With Gantz leading the military, Israel launched its 2014 war on Gaza, known as Operation Protective Edge, in response to rocket shelling of Israeli territories by Hamas militants. During the 51-day operation, Israeli forces reportedly killed close to 2,100 Palestinians – 1,500 of them civilians, with more than 500 children among the dead.

A collapsed minaret is seen as Palestinians leave after performing Friday prayers at the remains of a mosque, which witnesses said was hit by an Israeli air strike during a seven-week Israeli offensive in Gaza City August 29, 2014. © REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

More of the same foreign policy?

Even with his military background, Gantz has signaled that he does not support some of the more hardline policies pursued by Netanyahu, who vowed to annex Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley and Hebron if he was victorious in Tuesday's election. Gantz has even said that he would consider territorial concessions to the Palestinians – so long as they do not interfere with Israel's security interests. But he has avoided the question of Palestinian statehood, and has said that Israel will never leave the occupied Golan Heights.

His position on Iran mirrors Netanyahu's. He has vowed to never allow Tehran to become a regional power, and said he would not hesitate to use force "if and when needed."

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Liberal on social issues

Blue and White has taken a more liberal approach on social issues. They have called for enacting civil union law, so that every couple can "formalize their partnership in line with their beliefs." The political coalition has also outlined a number of social programs, including subsidies for daycare centers and increased spending on education. Special attention will be given to developing math, science, and English language programs across the country. The party also promised to develop a summer school program.

On the issue of religion, Blue and White said they would allow limited public transportation on Shabbat, in order to preserve the sanctity of the holy day while also providing for the needs of all citizens.

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No more corruption?

With the current prime minister facing three corruption indictments pending a hearing, fighting corruption has been a cornerstone of Gantz's campaign. He has promised to enact legislation that would prevent people convicted of a crime involving "moral turpitude" from serving in political office. The bloc has also called for a new law that prevents political parties from misusing funds.

Forming a new government

You need to control 61 seats in the Knesset in order to form a ruling government, meaning that Blue and White will have to join forces with other parties. It's likely that they will make peace with their longtime rival, Likud, but Gantz has said this is only possible if Netanyahu is not part of the new government.

Blue and White could also find support from more liberal elements in the Knesset, as well as the Arab-dominated Joint List, which won 13 seats on Tuesday – a record for the bloc.

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September 19th 2019, 6:12 am

‘Insurance policy for planet Earth’: Space agencies to smash spacecraft into asteroid at over 14,000

RT

NASA and the ESA are finally set to test the Earth’s planetary defenses to see whether we can successfully defend ourselves from the apparent scourge of space rocks. But the scientists are not sure what’s going to happen.

The target they have chosen is the asteroid Didymos B, roughly 160 meters in diameter, one half of a binary asteroid system. Didymos B orbits the larger asteroid Didymos A every 11.92 hours and this will help determine the ultimate success (or failure) of the mission. 

The Didymos system is classified as a Near-Earth Object (NEO), meaning it’s close but not too close that it might hit us, making it the perfect test subject to flex our anti-meteor might.

Artist's impression of the impact. © ESA

The joint asteroid impact and deflection assessment (AIDA) project launched by the ESA and NASA in 2015, and Earth’s champion selected for the mission will be NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft. 

“Today, we’re the first humans in history to have the technology to potentially deflect an asteroid from impacting the Earth,” astronomer Ian Carnelli of the ESA told Technology Review.

“The key question that remains to be answered is, are the technologies and models that we have good enough to actually work? Before you drive a car, you need to have an insurance policy. Well, AIDA is the insurance policy for planet Earth.”

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There may be some complications to the mission, however. 

When the Japanese space agency JAXA bombed the asteroid Ryugu in April, it made a far bigger crater than anticipated. Additionally, the material on the surface behaved like sand, which may impact the effectiveness of deflection. 

“If gravity is also dominant at Didymos B, even though it is much smaller, we could end up with a much bigger crater than our models and lab-based experiments to date have shown,” explained planetary scientist Patrick Michel of CNRS.

“Ultimately, very little is known about the behaviour of these small bodies during impacts and this could have big consequences for planetary defence.”

The DART will ram into Didymos B at 23,760 kilometers per hour (14,760mph). However, all that force will only translate into a change in the asteroid’s velocity of just a centimetre per second or so, which could change the orbital period from almost 12 hours to a mere matter of minutes.

© NASA/Johns Hopkins APL

The mission is set to launch in July 2021, with the impact expected in September 2022. 

A cubesat called LICIAcube will detach from the DART craft just before impact and beam photos of the impact back to Earth for analysis, so we’ll have front row seats to see whether we’re doomed or not. 

The ESA’s Hera observation spacecraft will launch in 2023 and take observations starting in 2027 to give the final appraisal of the mission.

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September 19th 2019, 5:42 am

Police evict over 200 migrants from Athens squats

RT

Police in Athens on Thursday removed over 200 migrants, including dozens of children, from two squats in the city center, AFP reported. The move is part of a clean up drive by the new conservative government.

Some 230 people, including 70 children, were removed and taken to the police headquarters for identification, according to Athens municipal radio. The police declined to give details.

The migrants were showed on state TV ERT boarding buses, some of them clutching plastic bags with their belongings.

The crackdown has been opposed by anti-establishment and rights groups who say the operations unfairly target migrant families, who would otherwise be homeless. Thousands of anti-establishment protesters marched in Athens on Saturday in a demonstration against the squat evacuations.

September 19th 2019, 5:28 am

EU Council will be ‘too late’ to negotiate Brexit deal, French diplomats say

RT

Time to agree a Brexit deal is running out and it will be too late for European leaders to iron out a deal at a European Council meeting in Brussels in mid-October, Reuters quoted a French diplomatic source as saying on Thursday.

The warning comes after President Emmanuel Macron met Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne in Paris on Wednesday. “The idea was to say that time is running out and that we won’t be negotiating directly at the European Council in mid-October,” according to the source.

Finnish media cited Rinne as saying he and Macron had agreed an end-September deadline for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to present Europe with a concrete proposal to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

The source added this had been the message already conveyed by Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel last month.

September 19th 2019, 5:12 am

‘No guts, no sense, no vision’: US Fed cuts interest rates, but Trump calls it a ‘failure’

RT

The US Federal Reserve has cut interest rates for the second time since 2008, to a range of 1.75 to 2 percent. The move was met with disdain from US President Donald Trump, who was hoping for a larger cut.

The Federal Reserve announced the measure on Wednesday, decreasing its benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points.

At a news conference following the announcement, Fed Chair Jerome Powell described the rate as designed “to provide insurance against ongoing risks,” including weak global growth and trade tensions. He also pointed to weak exports and trade uncertainty as factors behind the decision.

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“Business investment and exports have weakened amid falling manufacturing output. The main reasons appear to be slower growth abroad and trade policy developments,” Powell told the press, adding that trade policy tensions and the ongoing US-China tariff war comprise “an elevated uncertainty [which] is weighing on US investment and exports.” He noted, however, that the Fed plays no role in trade policy, which is conducted by Congress and the Trump administration, and therefore cannot influence the course it is taking.

The Fed’s move drew the ire of the president, who has campaigned for the rate to be cut to zero or lower, blasting Wednesday’s cut as a “failure.”

Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve Fail Again. No ‘guts,’ no sense, no vision! A terrible communicator!” Trump tweeted.

Powell defended the step, stating that larger rate cuts could take place in the future, depending on the economic outlook.

If the economy does turn down, then a more extensive sequence of rate cuts could be appropriate. What we think we are facing here is a situation which… should be addressed, with moderate adjustments to the federal funds rate,” he stated, noting that the Fed is “not on a pre-set course” and will be “highly data-dependent making decisions meeting by meeting.”

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Trump later elaborated on his Twitter remarks, telling reporters on a trip to California that the Fed’s decision to cut rates is “fine” but should have come sooner.

“I think it’s fine. I think that frankly they should have acted faster,” Trump said. Following Trump’s demands, the Fed cut rates for the first time in more than a decade this summer. However, Trump has since repeatedly lambasted both Powell and the Fed for refusing to implement a more “aggressive” rate-cutting policy.

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

September 19th 2019, 5:12 am

India may become winner in US-China trade war

RT

The Indian economy could benefit by $11 billion as some international manufacturers move production to the country due to trade tensions between Washington and Beijing.

That’s according to a report from Singapore’s DBS Bank. It said that ″India could increase its trade footprint in [the] midst of the US-China trade conflict, particularly under categories on which US has imposed tariffs on China.”

The bank’s economist, Radhika Rao, told CNBC: “Apart from trade, diversion in investment flows is an opportunity that India could benefit from, as manufacturers seek alternative origination destinations.”

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According to Rao, the top three sectors in India that could benefit from the trade war are pharmaceutical, chemicals, and engineering. She noted that the South Asian country is already competitive in those industries globally and will likely be well-placed to meet further demand.

A report from the India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF) showed that the nation’s pharmaceutical industry supplies over half the world’s vaccine demand, and 25 percent of medicines in the United Kingdom. The country also exports more than 60 percent of its engineering goods to the United States and Europe.

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India to become $5 trillion economy, doubters are just ‘professional pessimists’

Experts point out two key challenges that businesses face in India, such as land laws and labor regulations. Among the major hurdles for manufacturing, they mentioned lack of proper infrastructure.

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

September 19th 2019, 5:12 am

US continues to arm Kurdish forces in Syria – Pentagon official

RT

The United States continues to provide Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria with arms and vehicles, despite the creation of a buffer zone with Turkey along the border, according to a US defense official.

The US has supplied the materials to Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) units to fight Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS). “We continue to provide very tailored arms and vehicles to the SDF” for use against IS, AFP quoted Chris Maier, the director of the working group at the Department of Defense on the fight against the jihadists, as saying on Wednesday. “We’re very transparent about what those supplies are,” Maier said. “We provide monthly to Turkey a report of what those arms and vehicles are.”

The US-led coalition against IS has relied on the SDF, an alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters, to root out and prevent a resurgence of IS. Turkey considers the Kurdish portion of the SDF, called the People’s Protection Units (YPG), to be a terrorist group.

Maier, who calls the buffer area a “security mechanism,” said five joint helicopter flights by the US and Turkish militaries had already been conducted. The project’s first joint ground patrol took place September 8. Some Kurdish forces have left and been replaced by Arab fighters, but there are still YPG forces in the area.

September 19th 2019, 4:42 am

All options on the table against Iran, Saudi envoy to Germany warns

RT

Riyadh won’t rule out military action after blaming Iran for an attack on one of its oil facilities, Saudi Arabia’s envoy to Germany has hinted. The diplomat doubled down on the accusations against Iran, but offered no evidence.

Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud told Germany’s Deutschlandfunk radio that his country is considering a range of options in response to the drone attack that temporarily knocked out an Aramco oil facility.

“Of course everything is on the table but you have to discuss that well,” he said when pressed on whether a strike against Iran is in the works.

The diplomat said that Saudi Arabia is “still working on where [the drones] were launched from,” but insists that Tehran is ultimately responsible because the Iranian-made weapons could only be used with help from the Islamic Republic.

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UAE enlists in US-led naval patrols in Gulf after Saudi Arabia joins

On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia displayed remnants of what it claimed were Iranian drones and cruise missiles used in the attack. The Kingdom said the charred military hardware was “undeniable” evidence that Iran was behind the attack.

Tehran has vehemently denied any involvement in the daring precision strike. The Houthi rebels in Yemen, on the other hand, have publicly claimed responsibility for the attack, and warned that similar operations could be carried out against targets inside Saudi Arabia at any moment.

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September 19th 2019, 4:28 am

UN’s Guterres says deal reached on committee for new Syria constitution

RT

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has announced that a long-sought agreement has been reached on the composition of a committee to draft a new constitution for Syria.

The UN chief told reporters on Wednesday that UN special envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen “is doing the final work with the parties in relation to the terms of reference, and we hope that this will be very soon concluded.”

Guterres expressed hope that formation of the constitutional committee “will be a very important step in creating the conditions for a political solution for this tragic conflict,” AP said.

At a Russian-hosted Syrian peace conference in January 2018, an agreement was reached to form a 150-member committee to draft a new constitution. There was early agreement on 50-member lists from the Syrian government and the opposition. It has taken nearly 20 months to agree on the list the UN was authorized to put together representing experts, independents, tribal leaders and women.

September 19th 2019, 3:42 am

Netanyahu calls on rival Gantz to join in Israeli unity government, after losing majority

RT

DETAILS TO FOLLOW

September 19th 2019, 3:28 am

UAE enlists in US-led naval patrols in Gulf after Saudi Arabia joins

RT

The Emirati Navy will deploy warships to protect shipping routes in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, just a day after Saudi Arabia joined the US-initiated patrols amid rising tensions surrounding Iran.

The UAE is enlisting in the naval coalition called the International Maritime Security Construct, which has the stated goal of supporting “regional and international efforts to deter threats to maritime navigation and global trade,” according to WAM news agency quoting senior Foreign Ministry official Salem Mohammed Al Zaabi. 

The formal statement was light on details, only adding that Emirati warships will help “secure the flow of energy supplies to the global economy.” The maritime alliance’s area of responsibility covers the Strait of Hormuz, Bab el-Mandab, the Sea of Oman, and the Persian Gulf.

So far, it includes the US, Australia, Bahrain, the UK, and Saudi Arabia. The latter joined in on Wednesday, shortly after a massive drone attack hit the kingdom’s major oil facility in Abqaiq. Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran, claimed credit for the strikes, but the Saudis and the US promptly pointed the finger at Tehran – a claim which it vehemently denied.

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Saudi Arabia joins US-led naval patrols in Strait of Hormuz

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September 19th 2019, 3:12 am

Keeps out migrants and... cooks breakfast? Trump says border wall is so hot you can ‘fry an egg’ on

RT

US President Donald Trump has toured a section of his newly-created border wall along the US-Mexico border, hailing the barrier as a marvel of modern security that can also fry eggs with its heat-absorbent properties.

Trump signed his name on a section of the wall being built near San Diego, California on Wednesday, and used the photo op to feed the press some appetizing soundbites.

“When the wall is built, it will be virtually impossible to come over illegally, and then we’re able to take border control and put them at points of entry,” Trump said. The barrier also boasts a truly unique feature, according to the president.

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“You can fry an egg on that wall,” he said, referring to the barrier’s ability to absorb heat – a design choice aimed at making the barrier too hot for illegal migrants to climb.

Describing the project as the “Rolls-Royce version” of border walls, the barrier is 30 feet high and double-layered in heavily traveled areas.

So far, 66 miles (106 kilometers) of wall has been built, with 251 miles in various stages of construction.

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September 19th 2019, 2:55 am

Russian aggression... in a galaxy far away? NATO maritime experts seek to secure mysterious ‘Sea of

RT

NATO has such talented maritime experts that they’ve discovered a conflict hotspot, as crucial as the Persian Gulf, that no one else has heard of. The mysterious Sea of Asimov urgently needs NATO’s protection.

“Recent events in the Persian Gulf and Sea of Asimov have demonstrated the need for naval power and for NATO forces’ to be able to find and destroy mines,” declares a NATO puff piece featuring Maritime Officer Paul Beckley, who apparently has traveled to distant galaxies not accessible to non-NATO countries.

The article discusses the importance of Beckley’s role without giving any further insight into the enigmatic body of water he’s helping to mine-sweep for NATO. Certainly, the Sea of Asimov is not found on any human maps, from this planet anyway. What else does Beckley do there? Fight off space pirates? Subdue Cthulhu and his minions? Inquiring minds want to know.

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Some killjoys might claim the writer meant to say “Sea of Azov,” the body of water encircled by Russia and eastern Ukraine. But since its publication on Wednesday, the article has remained on NATO’s site for over twelve hours with no correction, so they clearly mean Asimov – unless no one actually reads NATO press releases, or those who do are unfamiliar with the geography of the countries they spend their time fearmongering about. One lone Twitter user did catch the reference to the mysterious Sea, and placed it in the Collapsing Universe of Isaac Asimov – which would make sense, given the name.

NATO’s military superiority to Russia is “eroding,” according to Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford. China’s capabilities are creeping up quickly as well, he told reporters on Tuesday following a meeting of the alliance’s military committee. But who needs military superiority when you have access to science fiction worlds?

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September 19th 2019, 2:11 am

Confess your climate change sins! NBC’s online booth offers more proof eco-activism is becoming a re

RT

Want to save the planet, but can’t overcome your addiction to steak and air travel? NBC has put out a call for “climate confessions,” allowing viewers to unburden themselves of their first-world problems anonymously.

Anyone concerned about their failure to “do their part” in “preventing climate change” can confess their sins to NBC in one of six categories: plastics, meat, energy, transportation, paper and food waste. Previous visitors’ climate “sins” are posted anonymously, in case you need inspiration or can’t remember how you last violated the trust of Mother Nature.

© NBC

But NBC’s audience doesn’t seem to be falling for it. “I run my AC 24/7. I’m not going to sweat to appease this climate religion,” reads one confession posted on the site. “I think the climate has always been changing, and I’m not going to stop eating meat because of cult-like manipulation by the left,” reads another.

As criticism of the green movement increasingly points out its cultish aspects, NBC’s online confessional is providing some quality ammunition. But it’s not the only element of the green movement has religious underpinnings. Carbon offsets are little more than a 21st century version of the papal “indulgences” purchased by wealthy sinners to offset their evil deeds and grant them entry into heaven. The trend toward consuming flavorless sludge like Soylent and insect-based foods to save the planet by punishing one’s own tastebuds is reminiscent of those medieval religious devotees who wore hair shirts to mortify their flesh.

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Climate change cultists filling their followers with anxiety: How long before the suicides start?

With the movement’s Joan of Arc Greta Thunberg in the lead – seriously, mainstream publications are unironically calling her Joan of Arc – children worldwide are mounting what some have termed a crusade, demanding their parents fix the planet lest the world end before they have a chance to grow old.

Those parents – and everyone else in their generation – are socially forbidden to criticize Thunberg because of her age and mental disorder, and NBC’s climate confessional seems to be a peace offering, or a gateway drug: if you can’t beat them, join them. “Confessions” have a limit of 130 characters – you don’t have to tell your life story – just admit it, say you’ve been bad, and say 40 Hail Gretas.

In Sweden and other parts of Europe, Americans are told, people are already avoiding air travel, lest they be accused of hogging more than their fair share of carbon emissions. Millions of little Greta acolytes reportedly take to the streets every Friday, striking for climate – never mind that most children will seize any opportunity to take a day off school, no matter what the cause. And this phenomenon, Americans have been informed, is coming to the US, whether they like it or not.

In New York, Mayor Bill deBlasio has officially excused kids from school next Friday, so long as they participate in the climate strike. Thunberg has already chastised Congress for refusing to take “meaningful action,” as if that was something Congress did on any other issue.

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Amazon is on fire, but are we DOOMED? What’s behind the climate catastrophe headlines

Flygskam” (flying shame) could catch on among the 40-plus percent of Americans who can’t afford to take vacations, but more likely they will continue to save up for an airborne getaway. For those who can afford to fret over the recyclability of their straws, however, a promising new religion has landed on US shores in a racing yacht owned by the royal family of Monaco.

And like the medieval church, the green movement has a major sideline in getting rich. We Don’t Have Time, the tech company that made Thunberg a star, has attracted hundreds of investors by launching a “social network for climate action” that will essentially evaluate businesses based on the quality of their greenwashing PR.

By Helen Buyniski, RT

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September 18th 2019, 11:39 pm

The many faces of Justin Trudeau: Canadian PM memed mercilessly after brownface debacle

RT

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau’s brownface scandal has brought low one of the world’s premier virtue-signalers, and Twitter is celebrating the exposure of his hypocrisy with an outpouring of ridicule.

A grinning photo of Trudeau, sporting dark makeup on his face, neck, and hands and clad in a voluminous turban and white robe, recently surfaced in a 2001 yearbook from the exclusive private school where he taught before entering politics. After his Liberal Party finally admitted it was their standard-bearer in the photo, Trudeau groveled before the world in a press conference on Wednesday.

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If they could only forgive him his stupid, immature antics, he pleaded, he would never disappoint them again. The world was less than impressed, and opted to meme him instead.

His love for costumes was a popular theme.

The turban was also an inspiration.

There were even rumors Twitter was trying to clamp down on accounts reposting the incriminating photo. “Why is Twitter taking action against accounts that are exposing racism on the political Left?” one user grandstanded upon finding a popular account blocked. 

If Twitter was trying to suppress the photo of Trudeau, they didn’t do a very good job, however, as both “Justin Trudeau” and “brownface” were trending following the PM’s self-flagellating press conference.

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September 18th 2019, 9:39 pm

Justin Trudeau insists his brownface incident no reason to resign because he is really sorry & promi

RT

Canadian PM and self-proclaimed champion of diversity Justin Trudeau wore full brownface makeup for an Arabian Nights-themed party at the high-end private school where he taught in Vancouver, but he insists he’s not racist.

A photograph of a grinning 29-year-old Trudeau in a turban, brown makeup on his face, neck and hands, and billowing white robe surfaced earlier this month in a yearbook from West Point Grey Academy, the ultra-high-end private school where the PM taught. Vancouver businessman Michael Adamson reportedly gave the yearbook to Time magazine after spotting the photo in July, believing “it should be made public.”

“I have worked all my life to fight against racism and intolerance,” Trudeau protested in a groveling press conference Wednesday night, begging for Canadians’ forgiveness. “It was a dumb thing to do. I’m disappointed in myself, I’m pissed off at myself for having done it,” Trudeau repeated over and over. “I made a mistake in the past and I’m taking responsibility for it,” he self-flagellated bilingually, as reporters hinted he should resign.

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Trudeau acknowledged that it was racist to wear blackface, but through some logical gymnastics absolved himself of racism, insisting that he had fought for minorities his entire career and would continue to do so, should Canadians decide to give him (another) chance. He wouldn’t consider resigning, because nobody’s perfect, and if not him, who would be left to fight for diversity?

Trudeau’s Liberal Party finally confirmed it was him in the photo earlier on Wednesday, via media relations head Zita Astravas. “It was a photo taken while he was teaching in Vancouver, at the school’s annual dinner which had a costume theme of ‘Arabian Nights,’” she told Time. “He attended with friends and colleagues dressed as a character from Aladdin.” He was the only person at the party photographed wearing blackface.

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Bronzeface? Woke warrior Meryl Streep accused of wearing Latina ‘blackface’ in new Netflix film

The Canadian PM, who launched his reelection campaign earlier this month, has already been dogged by allegations he is insensitive to the needs of ethnic minorities, accused of performing superficial acts of virtue signaling to camouflage his real aims. Earlier this summer, he declared a national climate emergency the day before green lighting a controversial pipeline expansion that would have an outsize negative impact on the First Nations peoples living in its path, in addition to the “significant adverse environmental effects” Canada’s own National Energy Board found.

Trudeau is only the latest of many politicians to be ambushed by a blackface photo from his past. Belgium’s Didier Reynders, recently nominated EU Commissioner for Justice, sported blackface as recently as 2015, a fact which is coming back to haunt him as he prepares for his new role. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam appeared in a yearbook photo showing two men, one in blackface and one in KKK attire, but refused to acknowledge the photo was of him. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey underwent the pageantry of apology for merely being described as wearing blackface in a five-decade-old radio interview.

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September 18th 2019, 8:37 pm

School shooting fear porn? Gruesome imagery used to get people's attention (and sell clothes) inspir

RT

Violent scenes of kids running from an armed attacker are publicly applauded when released by a charity working against such tragedies, but what about a fashion show recycling such imagery? Is this fear porn or raising awareness?

Wholesome images of children touting their favorite new-school-year accessory quickly give way to kids repurposing those accessories to try to survive while under attack from a shooter in a new commercial from Sandy Hook Promise. The ad, released on Wednesday, is being alternately embraced by gun control proponents and reviled by gun rights groups – and parents distressed at the rise of sensationalist "fear porn."

Rather than the usual gun-control narratives centered on ripping guns out of the hands of Second Amendment-loving citizens or "cracking down" on the nonviolent mentally ill, Sandy Hook Promise's stated goal is educating families on the warning signs that a person might be planning a violent attack. Its website claims that "in 4 out of 5 school shootings, at least one other person had knowledge of the attacker's plan but failed to report it."

Gun control proponents on social media didn't quite grasp the nuance, however, retweeting the charity's ad alongside claims that it "should play on loop for all our politicians who are against gun control." Even some opponents of gun control found the ad "chilling and really good."

Not everyone was impressed by this "trauma porn," however. "We're ramping up fear of school shootings when we need to be talking about gun suicide, family gun violence, community gun violence," one user said. "Fear mongering is not the answer," said another. 

If showing violence for the purposes of education is acceptable, recycling school shooting imagery for a fashion show was met with significantly more opposition. New York label Bstroy showed off a line of sweatshirts emblazoned with the names of schools where mass shootings have taken place, including Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook, and some of the models walked down the runway with faux arrows protruding from their bodies.

Survivors of some of the referenced shootings were appalled by the designs. "A clothing line making hoodies featuring schools from famous school shootings with fake bullet holes punched through is peak 2019 exploitative edgy cringe culture," said Parkland shooting survivor Cameron Kasky, denouncing the show as "completely disgusting and shameful."

"It won't sell, and they might end up going bankrupt simply because they made the decision to try to capitalize off a tragedy like Sandy Hook and the other shootings that they put on their shirts," school safety advocate JT Lewis, a University of Connecticut student who lost his brother in the Sandy Hook shooting, told RT. "Gun violence affects so many people here in America, and this just adds on to the grief."

There are two different kinds of people that appear after a mass shooting: those who are seeking to help the community and those affected by the shooting, and those who are seeking to capitalize off the shooting.

"Shooting is a cash mine," Lewis continued, pointing out that no less than 80 organizations sprung up in the days following the Sandy Hook shooting, many of them fraudulent.

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Not everyone thought the sweatshirts were the crime against humanity they were being portrayed as. "Perhaps if the clothes weren't created to make a profit but to raise awareness," mused one commenter.

"The designer should design all the countries that America have [sic] bombed. And let's see if there's a backlash," commented another. 

Is there really such a difference between the fashion show and the Sandy Hook Promise ad? Both are, in their own way, raising awareness about school shootings, upsetting most people who see them, and triggering difficult conversations – and if a donation, or a purchase, comes out of it, so much the better for both groups. If one is in poor taste, the other likely is, as well – and both have clearly accomplished their mission of attracting maximum public attention.

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September 18th 2019, 8:08 pm

‘You can start it, but how do you end it?’ Actual war in Gulf would be DEVASTATING and neither Iran

RT

For all the sound and fury coming from Saudi Arabia, a shooting war in the Gulf is not something Tehran or Riyadh want. Both US and its allies know that Iran is a much tougher nut to crack than Yemen, but can’t admit so publicly.

Saudi Arabia and the US have called Saturday’s attack on oil fields and refineries an “act of war” and accused Tehran of being behind it, even though the Houthi rebels in Yemen have taken responsibility and said it was retaliation for the Saudi-led invasion of their country.

READ MORE: Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of sponsoring oil-plant attack, says it ‘couldn’t have originated in Yemen’

The missiles and drones used in the strike allegedly came from Iran and flew over Iraq and Kuwait to avoid Saudi air defenses, anonymous US officials told reporters, who published their claims uncritically. Riyadh showcased the fragments of Iranian-made weapons on Wednesday, but admitted it did not know the exact point of origin. Iran has denied having anything to do with the attack. 

That evidence is “nothing to go to war over,” former Pentagon official Michael Maloof told RT, noting that the Saudis did not present anything to show where the missiles may have originated. 

I just remind the viewers about the Iraqi WMDs, slam-dunk intelligence they had in 2003 to launch the US invasion of Iraq. How did that go?

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Riyadh gave NO PROOF Tehran launched oil-plant attack – but still ‘expects US to do its dirty work for them’

Maloof noted that Iran has clearly warned both the US and the Saudis that any military action will be met with a disproportionate response, targeting not just the US bases in the region but also the oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and its ally the United Arab Emirates. 

So nobody is going to go unscathed if things break out and that's the last thing in the world people want right now. Because you can start it, but how would you end it?

Professor Mohammed Marandi of the University of Tehran confirmed the warnings, saying that Iran has communicated them to the US twice already, via diplomatic channels. He also noted that Tehran has publicly promised to attack Saudi Arabia and the Emirates in retaliation for any US strike.

“Saudi Arabia would not survive a war with Iran, and neither would the UAE. They would collapse almost immediately,” Marandi told RT America. 

If there is a war, the US would lose its key client regimes.

Marandi also pointed out that Saudi Arabia has demonstrated all its military might – or lack thereof – in Yemen, where it has been fighting since 2015 to subjugate the Houthis, without much success. 

Maloof brought up the Yemen war as well, arguing that the Saudi military and its allies have shown they “can't work their way out of a paper bag.”

The Houthis have recently begun to strike at targets within Saudi Arabia and have threatened to keep doing so until the foreign invaders withdraw. They have sent a similar warning to the UAE. 

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Meanwhile, the Kingdom has bought billions of dollars worth of US weapons systems that utterly failed to detect or engage the incoming attack, Marandi noted. Saturday’s attack is deeply embarrassing for both Riyadh and Washington, as it demonstrated their vulnerability. The professor believes this is the reason for heated rhetoric coming from both capitals, but is convinced that war is not imminent. 

“I don't think anything is going to happen, really,” Maloof told RT. “I think they're going to have to let this one slide because to do otherwise would result in concerted military responses.”

I think it's prudent that the US stay out of this.

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September 18th 2019, 7:49 pm

‘Alexa, buy politician X’? ROBOTS could soon be meddling in 2020 election as Amazon allows users to

RT

On top of quietly recording every political argument in your home, Amazon’s Alexa will now let users put their money where their mouth is, and wirelessly donate to their favorite 2020 candidate.

Announced on Wednesday, the new feature activates when a user says, “Alexa, donate to [candidate name].” Candidates signed up to the program will be able to receive donations of up to $200, starting next month, according to Amazon’s blog.

Though Alexa users can already donate to charity through their monitoring device - sorry, “virtual assistant” - the new foray into campaign financing is slightly more controversial. Some Twitter commenters joked that the devices might strategically “mishear” requests to donate to President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign.

Likewise, some users considered the feature an astroturfer’s dream come true. By purchasing and configuring hundreds of Alexa devices with their own unique accounts and payment details, politicians could ensure that massive donations get disguised as “grassroots” contributions, a badge of honor boasted about by Democrats like Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Some also pointed out that as Alexa doesn’t distinguish between voices, a supporter of one candidate could make a sneaky donation at their friend’s house, at least until the unsuspecting friend sees the email receipt.

For those who can’t decide who to stump for, Alexa will help them make up their minds. As well as taking donations, the devices will also dispense “relevant, accurate, and timely information about elections and candidates.” 

Just how neutral the information Alexa will dispense remains to be seen. While Amazon stresses that “Alexa herself does not have opinions on politics or candidates,” and will pull its information from “nonpartisan organizations,” CEO Jeff Bezos likely does. Aside from his multiple feuds with President Trump, Bezos has been bashed by progressive candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren for his company’s use of tax loopholes and for working conditions in Amazon’s distribution centers. 

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Trump, Sanders, and Warren have all proposed breaking up the Silicon Valley tech giants, including Amazon, with antitrust legislation.

However, Amazon insists Alexa will remain apolitical, and encourages users looking to learn more on any candidate to “just ask Alexa.”

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September 18th 2019, 6:38 pm

PSG 3-0 Real Madrid: Paris hammering highlights scale of task facing Zinedine Zidane

RT

Zinedine Zidane endured a torrid return to the city in which he won a World Cup as his Real Madrid side were beaten 3-0 by an understrength Paris Saint-Germain side in Wednesday's UEFA Champions League action.

A first-half brace for Real Madrid old boy Angel Di Maria secured three points for a Paris Saint-Germain side shorn of their three-pronged attack of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani, but if Madrid were buoyed by the absence of the world-class trio, it didn't translate to the pitch as the French champions swept aside their Spanish rivals, depriving them of even a single shot on target in the process. 

AFP / Thomas Samson

Di Maria's first-half double was added to late on by Thomas Meunier to complete the rout but in truth, the game had been over as a contest long before Anthony Taylor blew his whistle for the last time into the Paris night sky.

Zidane's 'rebuild' of Real Madrid saw a string of big-money imports added to an already talent-rich squad in the summer but the most expensive of them all, Eden Hazard, existed on the periphery of the game. Luka Jovic saw 20 minutes. Paul Pogba still plays for Manchester United.

Gareth Bale, the mercurial Welshman who was nudged towards the door all summer long by Zidane, was by far Madrid's most potent threat. He had a sensational lobbed goal ruled out following a VAR check for handball, as well as coming close with a stinging left-footed drive and an arcing free-kick. 

Bale was the only Real bright spark. The French champions bolstered their midfield on the ever-industrious duo of Marco Veratti and ex-Everton man Idrissa Gueye who set a tempo which couldn't be matched, even by Madrid's typical verve. 

Paris were exceptional. Victory over Real Madrid at home in this competition represents a coup to the massively oil-rich club thirsting for success on the European stage and secretly, it wouldn't come as a surprise to many for the club to be relieved that it came without Neymar on the field, either for them or his reported suitors in the opposition dugout.

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By the game's dregs the French match director had taken quite an interest in displaying Zidane's furrowed brow in an array of slow-motion close ups on the sidelines as his side continued to stumble, as if painting a picture of the work that the three-time Champions League winning coach has to do to to guide his side back on course. 

Zidane, already the star of his own film, will be hoping any further entries into his filmography won't quite be as noir as the images beamed across the globe late on Wednesday.

September 18th 2019, 5:38 pm

Bumping into Beckham: UFC champ Khabib meets England legend at PSG-Real Champions League game

RT

Russian UFC champ Khabib Nurmagomedov added English football icon David Beckham to his list of celebrity encounters as the pair bumped into each other at the Champions League game between Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid.

Football-mad Khabib and former England skipper Beckham were both in Paris to watch the blockbuster opening group stage game between the pair.

READ MORE: Khabib ‘80% certain’ next fight will be in Russia as UFC champ eyes record-smashing home crowd

Khabib shared some live footage of the action from the stands with his nearly 17 million Instagram followers, and also showed a picture of himself with a suited Beckham.

“Legendary @davidbeckham,” the fighter captioned the pic.

Beckham played for both PSG and Real during his career, and social media users were quick to speculate that he might be in town for a scouting mission for players before he opens his new MLS franchise, Inter Miami.

Nurmagomedov has been seen at PSG games before, notably meeting Hollywood megastar Leonardo DiCaprio at the team’s Champions League match with Liverpool last season.

The unbeaten UFC champ later said the pair had gone out to dinner together, discussing tips on dealing with fame.  

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Wednesday night's game in Paris finished 3-0 to the home team, thanks to a double from Angel Di Maria and a late strike from Thomas Meunier. 

It was a comfortable win for the home team against Zidane's Real despite PSG missing the suspended Neymar and injured pair Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani. 

September 18th 2019, 5:19 pm

Who is Robert C. O’Brien: Replacing John Bolton, where does Trump’s new security advisor stand on ma

RT

President Donald Trump has named Robert C. O’Brien as his new National Security Advisor. As O’Brien steps into the role vacated by the hawkish John Bolton, how different are his foreign policy positions?

Before Trump announced O’Brien’s hiring on Wednesday, the State Department diplomat was a relatively unknown figure outside the Beltway, save for his bizarre jaunt to Sweden in July to haggle for the release of jailed American rapper A$AP Rocky, at Trump’s behest.

Though that endeavor was ultimately fruitless, the president saw fit to promote O’Brien to National Security Advisor - a position occupied by infamous superhawk John Bolton. Trump fired Bolton last week after "strongly disagreeing" with his positions – reportedly because Bolton was trying to goad the president into wars in Iran, North Korea, Venezuela and Syria. But now that O'Brien has Trump's ear on matters of war and peace, will he prove a different kind of influence?

While Bolton’s appetite for conflict was well known before he joined the Trump administration, O’Brien’s philosophy is less household knowledge. However, many of his positions are set out in his 2016 book: ‘While America Slept: Restoring American Leadership to a World in Crisis’

America first?

O’Brien is no dove. In his book, he opens by lambasting the Obama administration’s military cutbacks and humility on the global stage, accusing the former president of emboldening “autocrats, tyrants, and terrorists.” Calling for military spending increases and a navy to “rule the waves,” O’Brien also makes the case for a United States that leads a global coalition of allies.

Foreign entanglements are anathema to President Trump’s “America First” brand of leadership. The president has questioned the value of alliances like NATO, and called on America’s partners to pay more for the US’ protection. Trump’s isolationism has put him at odds with senior officials like former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Whether O’Brien will temper his beliefs to suit Trump’s or attempt to sway his boss remains to be seen.

China

FILE PHOTO: A joint American-Japanese patrol in the South China Sea, 2018 © Reuters / US Navy

O’Brien is fixated on China’s rise to global power, and warned of the country’s maritime expansion as a “red storm rising.” China’s growing sea power, he said, should be countered with an even stronger American Navy.

His aggressive stance toward Beijing will fit right into the Trump administration’s. From the president’s trade wars to the Pentagon’s labeling of China as a “predatory” and “strategic competitor,” the current administration has pushed a far harder line on Beijing than its predecessor. 

Iran

O’Brien was named by Trump less than half an hour after the president announced “significant” forthcoming sanctions on Iran, in response to allegedly Iranian attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities over the weekend.

Though Bolton had advocated military action against the Islamic Republic, Trump has been more restrained. O’Brien is nevertheless a proponent of a hard line on Tehran, comparing the Obama administration’s signing of the 2015 nuclear deal with the appeasement of Nazi Germany before World War II.

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Describing Iran as “a sworn enemy of the United States,” O’Brien stopped short of calling for military action, but ruled out signing a deal with Iran without a complete end to its civilian nuclear program too.

Russia

O’Brien’s book was written in 2016, before the ‘Russiagate’ fiasco well and truly consumed American politics. Thus little space is devoted to Moscow’s role in world affairs. However, O’Brien sets aside a chapter to lavish praise on Ukraine’s pro-western activists, lauding them for “taking their country back” from the “despotism” of Vladimir Putin. 

Among the flowing tributes to the Maidan activists, O’Brien celebrated the electoral breakout of Ukraine’s Samopomich party, without mentioning its ties to ultranationalist groups.

Afghanistan

Afghan protesters burn tires and shout slogans at the site of a blast in Kabul © Reuters / Omar Sobhani

Though the US has been at war in Afghanistan for 18 years, O’Brien enters the Trump administration at a critical time. Keen to fully withdraw from the country, Trump recently scheduled a meeting at Camp David with Taliban officials, before abruptly cancelling it following a string of Taliban bombings in Kabul.

Roundly criticized for even entertaining the Taliban on US soil, Trump then boasted that “the Taliban has never been hit harder than it is being hit right now.” However, with the Taliban controlling more territory than at any point since 2001, striking a deal with the militants will be necessary to ensure a smooth withdrawal.

O’Brien has several years of experience working in Afghanistan, but will nevertheless need to walk a line between extending a hand to the Taliban and avoiding the ire of America’s lawmakers and voters, the majority of whom balk at such a compromise.

North Korea

Though written in 2016, before “fire and fury,” and long before Trump would sit down to talks with Kim Jong-un, O’Brien’s book places him firmly in the “fire and fury” camp, and recommends the US “serve notice upon North Korea that it is within reach of American naval airpower.”

Denuclearization is not mentioned, though speaking about Iran, O’Brien referred to South Africa and Libya’s complete surrender of nuclear capability as the only goal the US should pursue when dealing with adversaries. Bolton’s statement that denuclearization on the Korean peninsula could follow the “Libyan model” – a model that saw Muammar Gaddafi ousted and executed less than ten yers later – nearly scuppered talks with Pyongyang last year, so O’Brien will likely adjust his tone to avoid a similar gaffe.

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In choosing O’Brien, Trump appears to have made a ‘safer’ choice than with Bolton. Much of O’Brien’s career took place in the backrooms of Washington DC and away from the television cameras, unlike Bolton’s. Still, O’Brien will not be concealed from criticism in his new role, and will be held accountable for all of Trump’s looming foreign policy decisions, for better or worse.

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September 18th 2019, 4:49 pm

Riyadh gave NO PROOF Tehran launched oil-plant attack – but still ‘expects US to do its dirty work f

RT

Saudi Arabia wants its allies to believe Tehran launched attacks on its oil facilities, even though the one thing their evidence proves is the Iranian-made arms. Even so, Donald Trump will unlikely greenlight a war against Iran.

‘Made in Iran’ is not ‘launched by Iran’

The possibility that Iranian-made missiles were used in the attack on the Saudi oil plants isn’t a huge revelation, Viktor Murakhovsky, military analyst and editor-in-chief of Arsenal of the Fatherland magazine, told RT.

Showcasing the wreckage from the missiles and drones that struck Abqaiq and Khurais facilities might have proven this point, but those were identified as soon as first photos of the debris emerged in wake of the strikes. Iran has developed such “long-range cruise missiles” on the basis of Soviet Kh-55 missile, which it bought from Ukraine in early 2000s, Murakhovsky said.

But it doesn’t prove in any way that Tehran had anything to do with the attack and that the strikes [on Saudi petrol plants] originated from the Iranian territory.

Despite the attack being claimed by the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Riyadh on Wednesday insisted that it couldn’t have been launched from Yemeni territory and was “unquestionably sponsored by Iran.” One of the arguments made was that the Houthis were not capable of carrying out such an attack. Murakhovsky disputes this.

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Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of sponsoring oil-plant attack, says it ‘couldn’t have originated in Yemen’

“There’s no secret that Iran supplies weaponry and military hardware to the Houthis in Yemen and cruise missiles could’ve well been among those deliveries,” he said. If so, such missiles are “not difficult” to operate and the Houthi forces didn’t need any help from Iranian specialists to carry out the attack on their own, the military expert said.

‘Trump knows striking Iran is a bad idea’

What the Saudi report basicaly says is that “the weaponry could’ve been supplied, and probably was, by Iran in exactly the same way that [the UK] and others have suppled arms to Saudi Arabia, which had been used in this four-year war against Yemen,” Matthew Gordon-Banks, former British MP and senior research fellow at the UK Defense Academy, told RT.

But by coming up with accusations against their main geopolitical rivals in Tehran, Riyadh “tends to expect the US to do its dirty work for them” – meaning a retaliatory strike on Iran.

However, they are unlikely to achieve their goal as US President Donald Trump knows that “no matter what his advisors may say, a strike against Iran could have devastating consequences throughout the Gulf and internationally.”

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Iran is a “strong, self-sufficient country, with large territory and capable military,” and this means no rash moves from Washington should be expected before the 2020 election, Aitech Bizhev, former Deputy Commander of the Air Force for the CIS, said.

“The majority of those, who voted for Trump don’t want war,” Bizhev added, suggesting that the US will continue sanctioning Tehran and will only resort to cold war moves aimed at maintaining tensions in oil-rich Persian Gulf.

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September 18th 2019, 4:49 pm

Trump the peacemaker? Donald says attacking Iran would be too ‘EASY,’ calls restraint a ‘sign of str

RT

As American and Saudi Arabian officials blame Iran for attacking Saudi oil refineries, President Donald Trump has remained noncommittal about a US response, calling his prior restraint a “sign of strength.”

Speaking to reporters in Los Angeles on Wednesday, the US president said that he would outline new sanctions on Iran within 48 hours, after announcing them via Twitter earlier in the day. While it would be “very easy” to attack Iran, his reluctance to do so is “a sign of strength,” Trump added.

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That statement echoed his reply on Tuesday to Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), who called Trump’s cancelation of military strikes on Iran in June a “sign of weakness.” 

Graham, the former wingman of the hawkish Senator John McCain, has emerged as one of the loudest proponents of retaliatory strikes in recent days, declaring the oil refinery attack an “act of war,” and calling for an “unequivocal” response. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also described the attack as an “act of war,” while Vice President Mike Pence said on Tuesday that America is “locked and loaded” to defend her Saudi allies.

Trump, on the other hand, has been more ambivalent. Stopping short of outright pointing the finger at Iran the president said on Monday that it was “certainly looking” like Iran was behind the attack, adding that “we pretty much already know” Tehran is to blame. 

Regarding a response, Trump has boasted of the US military’s readiness to strike, but said that he would “certainly like to avoid” war.

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Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of sponsoring oil-plant attack, says it ‘couldn’t have originated in Yemen’

While Trump’s response may seem unduly measured, the president had signaled something of a softer attitude towards Iran in the days before the weekend’s attacks. After saying last week that he would have “no problem,” meeting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Trump even gave a “we’ll see what happens” when asked if he’d consider lifting sanctions to get Rouhani to the table. The attacks on Saudi oil facilities, however, seem to have put paid to that.

Houthi rebels in Yemen – against whom Saudi Arabia has been waging war since 2015 –  claimed responsibility for the strike, and Iran denies all connection with it. However, Saudi officials claimed at a press conference on Wednesday that it was “unquestionably sponsored by Iran,” and presented the wreckage of Iranian missiles and drones as proof.

Yet the Saudis could not pinpoint a launch site, nor prove that the Houthis did not launch the supposed Iranian projectiles of their own accord. Likewise, Hesameddin Ashena, an adviser to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, asked why the Saudis’ air defenses “failed to thwart the attack.”

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September 18th 2019, 4:34 pm

EVERYONE is on the list: Snowden says no ‘innocents’ in mass surveillance world

RT

Asked if buying his memoir would get one on a spy list, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden chillingly replied that everyone in the world is on the “list” and there are no innocents in the age of mass surveillance.

Responding to a reader who joked that buying Snowden’s book ‘Permanent Record’ might have put him on a list of people to be spied on, the exiled former intelligence contractor said in all seriousness that everyone is being spied on regardless.

“Systems of mass surveillance strive to record all people, in all places, at all times. The question is no longer ‘Am I on the list?’ it is ‘What's my rank on the list?’,” Snowden tweeted on Wednesday.

The former NSA and CIA contractor became a household name in 2013, when he revealed the extent of surveillance by the ‘Five Eyes’ network of US and its allies. He fled to Hong Kong ahead of being charged with espionage and eventually found asylum in Russia.

The US government reacted to the publication of his memoir by filing a civil lawsuit seeking to confiscate all proceeds from it, on grounds that it violates his nondisclosure agreement with the NSA and the CIA. This only helped the book become an instant best-seller.

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Snowden has repeatedly made the case that everyone is being spied on regardless of whether they were actually engaged in any wrongdoing.

“Arguing that you don't care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don't care about free speech because you have nothing to say,” he said during a discussion on Reddit in May 2015. 

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September 18th 2019, 4:34 pm

The great Brexit exodus? Polish ambassador’s plea to his UK-based citizens to come back home

RT

Poland’s ambassador to the UK, Arkady Rzegocki, wrote a letter to Poles living in Britain urging them to “seriously consider” returning to their homeland after Brexit has been completed.

The letter was posted on the ambassador’s official Twitter account. In it, Rzegocki writes that “the rapidly growing economy of our country creates more and more opportunities for citizens for development and good living conditions in the country.”

Official data shows that, as of 2016, there were 911,000 Polish-born UK residents, making them the biggest foreign-born community living in the British Isles. Many of these are working in the NHS and social care, as well as the construction and hospitality sectors.

Poles make up a large number of the estimated 60,000 seasonal employees who were working in the fields in 2017, picking fruit and vegetables. By comparison, barely one percent of that workforce was British.

Research conducted by Jonathan Portes, a professor in economics and public policy at King’s College London, showed that the average EU migrant arriving in Britain in 2016 will contribute £78,000 ($97,360) to the UK public finances over their lifetime.

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The average net fiscal contribution of an immigrant was £440 ($550) more than that of a British native.

The ambassador’s appeal followed his concern that Poles living in the UK have not applied for post-Brexit registered status in sufficient numbers. According to Rzegocki’s letter, only 27 percent of UK-based Polish citizens submitted an application, which he called “alarmingly low level.”

The reaction to Rzegocki’s proposal on social media was far from welcoming, however, with one Polish man on Twitter explaining how he left Poland back in 2005 and has since settled quite well in a “house with a garden and a well-paid job with two vacations.”

Facebook users were even more acerbic, often resorting to sarcasm. “So I should just abandon my life, my family and my home and return to nothing? Thank you, packing my bag now...” one of them commented. Another said that “he likes the ambassador’s sense of humor.”

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September 18th 2019, 3:16 pm

Erdogan says 3m refugees could be returned from Turkey to Syria ‘safe zone’

RT

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that up to three million Syrian refugees could be returned to a “safe zone” it is seeking to establish in northern Syria.

Turkey is home to more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees. Working with the US, Turkish forces are seeking to clear a swathe of northern Syria, in part to push Kurdish rebels away from its border. For Ankara, a key priority is curbing the influence of Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which it sees as an off-shoot of the Kurdish separatists in its own territory.

If successful, “we will be able to house, depending on the depth of the safe zone, between two and three million Syrian refugees that are currently in Turkey and Europe,” Erdogan said in a televised speech.

Erdogan said earlier this week that he envisions the “peace corridor” as stretching right across northern Syria all the way to Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa, AFP reported.

September 18th 2019, 3:02 pm

‘Protect your glass skyscrapers’: Yemen’s Houthis claim to have NEW ATTACK DRONE & threaten UAE with

RT

Yemen’s Houthi rebels has threatened to launch attacks on the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and its bustling financial center of Abu Dhabi using new drones, after taking credit for a recent attack on Saudi oil facilities.

On the heels of a Saudi press conference blaming Tehran for this weekend’s oil field and refinery attacks, a Houthi military spokesman insisted the militant group was behind the assault, and vowed to carry out additional strikes beyond Saudi Arabia.

“We have dozens of targets within our range in the UAE, some are in Abu Dhabi and can be attacked at any time,” said the spokesman, Yahya Saria.

The UAE should stop its participation in the aggression [on Yemen] if it wants to protect its glass skyscrapers.

FILE PHOTO: Abu Dhabi city, United Arab Emirates. ©  Reuters / Hamad I Mohammed

The Houthis have developed new drones powered by “normal and jet engines,” which will extend their range of attack, Saria added.

The armed group – known formally by its party title Ansar Allah – claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attacks on Saudi oil facilities, which led to disruptions in the global supply and spiked oil prices by nearly 20 percent. Both Riyadh and Washington insist Iran had a hand in the strikes, but the Islamic Republic has denied all involvement.

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Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of sponsoring oil-plant attack, says it ‘couldn’t have originated in Yemen’

The Houthis have been at war with a coalition of states led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE since March 2015, when the coalition invaded Yemen seeking to reinstall President Mansour Hadi who had been ousted the year prior. The conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives and produced a dire humanitarian crisis in which millions have lost access to food, clean water and healthcare.

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September 18th 2019, 2:16 pm

‘Terrorists didn’t land in Kashmir from the moon’: Polish MEP urges parliament to support India (VID

RT

Polish MEP Ryszard Czarnecki has blasted Pakistan in the European Parliament, saying that terrorists in India do not come from the Moon but from neighboring Pakistan.

Czarnecki urged his colleagues in Brussels to support India in its dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir, saying that it is “perhaps” the European Union’s only democratic ally in south Asia.

"India is the greatest democracy of the world. We need to look at terrorist acts that took place in Jammu and Kashmir. These terrorists didn't land from the Moon. They were coming from neighbouring country. We should support India,” he said.

The Polish lawmaker’s comments came during a special debate on the situation in Kashmir in the EP.

Tensions between India and Pakistan have threatened to spill over since India revoked a constitutional provision that had granted Jammu and Kashmir autonomy over its internal administration in August. The nuclear neighbors have fought three wars over the disputed territory since 1947.

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September 18th 2019, 1:31 pm

Attack on Saudi oil facilities an ‘act of war’ by Iran, Pompeo says after Riyadh blames Tehran

RT

The weekend attack on Saudi Aramco oil facilities was an “act of war” against Saudi Arabia for which Iran was responsible, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced upon his arrival in Jeddah for a working visit.

Pompeo doubled down on US accusations that the attack was carried out by Iran, even though Saturday’s drone strike was claimed by Houthi rebels in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been waging war since 2015.

DETAILS TO FOLLOW

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Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of sponsoring oil-plant attack, says it ‘couldn’t have originated in Yemen’

September 18th 2019, 1:01 pm

30-year mystery solved as South Korea’s worst serial killer likely identified

RT

South Korea’s worst serial killer looks like he has finally been identified after his violent crimes inspired a hit movie and confounded investigators for more than 30 years.

After decades of unsuccessful searching, police believe they have finally made a breakthrough in the infamous “Hwaseong murders” case, announcing that the prime suspect is a man in his 50s who is currently serving a prison sentence for another rape and murder, the Yonhap news agency reports.

The killer carried out a series of rapes and murders that shocked South Korea in the 1980s and early 1990s, when at least 10 women between the ages of 14 and 71 were raped and murdered in Hwaseong, a city southwest of the capital Seoul. 

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Officials said on Wednesday that the prime suspect was identified after the state forensic agency discovered that DNA collected from two of the victims matched with his.  

The Gyeonggi Nambu Provincial Police Agency said it will reveal more information about the killer, whose name has not yet been released, at a press conference on Thursday.

Unfortunately for the victim’s families, the killer cannot be prosecuted for the grisly murders as the statute of limitations for the crimes has elapsed.

The notorius case was the main inspiration for the hit film ‘Memories of Murder,’ which is one of the most successful films in the history of South Korean cinema.

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September 18th 2019, 12:46 pm

Italian powerboat champion dies in tragic attempt to beat offshore speed record

RT

Italian powerboat racing legend Fabio Buzzi and two crew members were tragically killed in Venice while attempting to break an offshore speed record.

The horrific incident took place on Tuesday night when a boat piloted by Buzzi, 76, crashed into an artificial reef that protects the city from flooding.

READ MORE: Ex-Mythbusters’ Jessi Combs, ‘fastest woman on 4 wheels,’ killed trying to break 512mph world record

The renowned racer and designer was attempting to set a new Monte Carlo to Venice record when his 20-meter boat was sent flying after striking the dam at a speed of 70 knots (130kph).

The boat took off and flew 30 meters through the air, landing on its stern on the other side of the causeway where the victims died on impact,” an official at Venice’s port authority said.

The tragedy claimed lives of three people and happened near the finish line of the race in Lido di Venezia.

A fourth racer, Mario Invernizzi, has been taken to a local hospital after being thrown from the boat.

September 18th 2019, 12:16 pm

Germany extends Saudi Arabia arms export embargo passed after Khashoggi murder

RT

The German government will extend a ban on weapon sales to Saudi Arabia by another six months, initially implemented following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October.

After German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday that she would like to keep the moratorium in place, the following day a government spokesperson announced the extension of the ban.

“Until March 31, 2020 no applications (for arms exports) to Saudi Arabia will be approved,” the spokesperson said.

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Despite being reluctant to enter into the Yemeni fray, earlier this week Merkel reached a deal with her French counterpart Emmanuel Macron to allow for the sale of French weapons that use German components, according to a report in the Times. The weapons were previously included in the German export ban. United Kingdom has also pressured Berlin to ease the embargo, arguing that it hurts the bottom line of European arms manufacturers.

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September 18th 2019, 11:42 am

'I admit I'm an Instagram addict': Russian world swimming champion opens up on social media life (PH

RT

Russian synchronized swimmer Varvara Subbotina says her social media addiction is so strong she “gets shaky” when she’s without her mobile phone – adding that one coach urged her to be “more modest” with the images she shares.

The four-time world champion said she gets stressed whenever she spends too much time without her phone, unable to check the latest social media updates.

READ MORE: ‘Sorry for the intimate details, but we don’t shave’ – Russian synchronized swimmer on team success

I can honestly admit that I’m an Instagram addict,” Subbotina said.

If I don’t have a mobile phone in my hands and can’t scroll through social media posts it gets me shaky. Tatyana Nikolaevna (Pokrovskaya, Russia’s synchronized swimming head coach) doesn’t use social networks, but she has been constantly informed of what we are sharing there.”

The 18-year-old, who is widely considered one of the most talented young swimmers in Russia, stressed that she was even banned from using Instagram as the “unhealthy addiction” impacted her training.

Last year, my coach (Tatyana Danchenko) told me that I needed an Instagram break, because I had an unhealthy addiction which took so much energy from me. I was prohibited from sharing pictures. Later, we agreed that it will depend on my results: if I perform well – I can make an Instagram post,” Subbotina revealed.

The swimmer also noted that duet coach Danchenko told her to be “more modest” while sharing pictures, some of which she found to be too revealing.

September 18th 2019, 11:42 am

Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of sponsoring oil-plant attack, says it ‘couldn’t have originated in Yemen

RT

Saudi Arabia has claimed that Iran was behind attacks on its oil treatment facilities, presenting wreckage of drones and missiles as ‘definitive proof’ of Tehran’s involvement.

Speaking to the press on Wednesday, a spokesman for the Saudi Ministry of Defense displayed what he said was wreckage from the projectiles used in the strikes on petrol plants in Abqaiq and Khurais last weekend.

The type of weapons used proved that the assault “could not have originated in Yemen,” Colonel Turki al-Malki claimed. He said the capabilities of the drones and the cruise missiles have been known to Riyadh from previous attacks.

Accusing Iran of sponsoring the attack, the spokesman called on other countries to “acknowledge Iran's malign activities in the region.”

The attack was launched from the north and unquestionably sponsored by Iran.

He also presented surveillance footage from one of the oil facilities, claiming it depicted a drone in flight, though the UAV was difficult to make out in the video.

DETAILS TO FOLLOW

September 18th 2019, 11:42 am

Trump to ‘substantially increase’ sanctions on Iran, amid calls for war

RT

Donald Trump has instructed the Treasury Department to “substantially increase,” sanctions on Iran. The move comes in response to Iran’s alleged attacks on Saudi oil fields, and as the president’s confidants advocate war.

The president announced the planned sanctions on Wednesday, two days after saying “it is certainly looking” like Iran carried out drone strikes on two Saudi Arabian oil facilities over the weekend, although he did not name the entities to be sanctioned. The attacks knocked out around half of the country’s oil production, or five percent of the world’s supply.

Tehran denies having a hand in the attack, which was immediately claimed by Houthi rebels in Yemen, who have been engaged in a four-year military conflict with Saudi forces.

Further sanctions are far from the ‘thaw’ some cautiously expected after Trump sacked hawkish National Security Advisor John Bolton – a longtime proponent of military strikes on Iran – and declared his willingness to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. But neither are they the ‘fire and fury’ response some of the president’s confidants have been calling for.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo immediately blamed Iran for the “unprecedented attack,” while Republican Senator Lindsey Graham called for a strike on Iranian facilities in response, to “break the regime’s back.”

Trump, however, has signaled his aversion to war at several points in recent weeks.

Graham took to Twitter on Tuesday to call Trump’s prior restraint on Iran “a sign of weakness.” Trump shot back, calling his decision to call off an attack on the country earlier this summer “a sign of strength that some people just don’t understand!”

The Saudis, meanwhile, have promised to show “material evidence” linking Iran to the attack later on Wednesday, and have called for an international probe involving the United Nations.

Iran has been heavily sanctioned by the US since the Trump administration unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, or Iran Deal) last year. The deal promised sanctions relief in exchange for a curb on its nuclear program. Since the withdrawal, Washington has sanctioned the military, businesses, and the oil sector which is vital to Iran’s economy.

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September 18th 2019, 11:42 am

Fed has ‘no stomach’ for doing the right thing of raising rates as crisis ‘worse than 2008’ looms –

RT

With the US Federal Reserve expected to cut interest rates for the second time on Wednesday, Euro Pacific Capital CEO Peter Schiff has discussed with RT’s Boom Bust what the move will bring to US economy.

“The Federal Reserve has been artificially suppressing interest rates particularly since the 2008 financial crisis. By keeping interest rates artificially low, they’ve created a bubble much bigger than they popped in 2008,” the analyst said.

Earlier this week, the Fed made an emergency injection into the banking system to prevent interest rates from rising, which amounted to between $50 billion and $70 billion, according to various estimates. According to Schiff, this signals that the situation is spiraling out of control.

“They created $50 billion or $70 billion out of thin air to supply the credit that the market needed. But what happens next time? What happens if we need $100 billion? What happens if we need a trillion?” he asked.

Schiff believes that what the market really needs is to go through “painful” times of recession and eventually increase the rates, as this is what the market needs. However, this is unlikely to happen.

“The Federal Reserve has no stomach for doing what’s right, so they will cut interest rates because that’s what the addicts on Wall Street demand. So we’re not gonna have a real recovery, we’ll try maintain this bubble,” the analyst told the Boom Bust host.

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

September 18th 2019, 11:42 am

Court releases Moscow protester accused of throwing plastic bottle at police

RT

A young man, who was accused of attempted violence against a police officer during unauthorized protests in Moscow on July 27, has been released from custody after the prosecutor said the case required additional investigation.

A district court in Moscow has ruled that Aidar Gubaydulin should be freed but made subject to travel restrictions. The judge pointed out “inconsistency between the qualification of the crime with the actual circumstances of the case” as he explained his decision.

Gubaydulin, who tossed a plastic bottle in the direction of a police officer but missed, was charged with “applying violence against a representative of authority that is not dangerous to life or health.” The 26-year-old programmer denied the accusations.

The violation carries a punishment of up to five years in prison. Several participants of unauthorized rallies in the capital have already received jail time on similar charges.

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The young man said that he threw a bottle because he couldn’t contain his emotions after witnessing the violent arrest of protesters by the police. Gubaydulin’s defense insisted that the bottle was empty and therefore couldn’t harm the law enforcer.

The prosecutors claimed that it contained water and posed a danger to the policeman, who was also traumatized by the attempted assault. According to the lawyer, the bottle is question was never retrieved and could not be included in evidence.

After Wednesday’s hearing, Gubaydulin’s lawyer told the media that he was surprised by the ruling. He linked the release of his client to the massive public outcry over the conviction of up-and-coming actor, Pavel Ustinov.

On Monday, Ustinov was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for dislocating a police officer’s shoulder during his arrest at an unauthorized protest on August 3.

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September 18th 2019, 11:42 am

Master v Apprentice: Ronaldo and Joao Felix go head-to-head in Champions League showdown

RT

Cristiano Ronaldo goes head-to-head with his potential successor in Wednesday's Champions League action as Joao Felix and Atletico Madrid welcome Juventus to the Spanish capital.

Such has been Ronaldo's dominance over European football in the last decade or so, only Lionel Messi has proved himself capable of outshining his rival.

The pair have sparred in practically every competition in football and have gathered five Ballon d'Or awards each - but as the two elder statesmen of the football elite begin to reach the end of their careers, a host of young and up-and-coming players are putting their hands up to take their place.

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One such candidate is Atletico Madrid's Portuguese teenager, Joao Felix. A new recruit to Diego Simeone's side this season, Felix made the switch to La Liga after a single season in the Benfica first team saw him score 20 goals in all competitions. It was evidence enough for Atletico Madrid to write a check for an eye-watering £113 million ($141 million) to secure his services.

AFLO / Mutsu Kawamori

On Wednesday evening Ronaldo will share a pitch with the youngster who has been ordained as his footballing heir, but can Felix emulate the Portuguese legend in just his second top-level season in the sport?

Joao Felix's rise has mirrored the same trajectory taken by Ronaldo early in his career. Back in 2003 and buoyed by a pre-season friendly in which Ronaldo tormented John O'Shea down Manchester United's right flank, Sir Alex Ferguson invested millions from the club's coffers to secure the then-18-year-old's signature. 

It proved to be one of the defining signings of Ferguson's historic reign at Old Trafford. Ronaldo rose to become the player we all know him as today in his six years in Manchester before enhancing his reputation further at Real Madrid. Nowadays, with Juventus as his home, Ronaldo's talents show no sign of fading even as he approaches his 35th birthday.

Sixteen years later, Felix appears to be at the early stage of a similar journey having been plucked from the Portuguese league as a teenager and thrust into the role of Champions League box office star - something of an inevitability given the riches Atletico Madrid parted with to sign him.

Ronaldo was summoned to Juventus (at great expense too) to secure a Champions League trophy for Italy's most dominant side, but their elimination last season came at the hands of Dutch masters Ajax in the quarterfinals, after seeing off Atletico in the last 16.

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As for their play styles, it could be argued that Felix is superior to Ronaldo when he was 19-years-old. In Ronaldo's formative years he relied heavily on his pace to flummox defenders but that particular attribute is largely absent from Felix's game. Instead, Felix's style is modelled on technical superiority and his goalscoring appears at an advanced rate compared to teenage Ronaldo.

Should Felix's trajectory continue at the same rate that Ronaldo's did, we should be looking at a future superstar of world football and Ronaldo might feel like he is looking in a mirror. We will know late Wednesday evening if he likes what he sees.

September 18th 2019, 11:42 am

Area 51 has ‘secrets that deserve to be protected,’ US Air Force top brass warns ‘stormers’

RT

Chief of Staff General David Goldfein has ominously insisted that the Air Force is taking the viral ‘Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All Of Us’ event “very seriously” as the US has “secrets [that] deserve to be protected.”

“All joking aside, we’re taking it very seriously,” Goldfein told reporters during the Air Force Association’s annual Air, Space, and Cyber Conference. “Our nation has secrets, and those secrets deserve to be protected. The people deserve to have our nation’s secrets protected.”

Goldfein’s comments will likely fan the flames of conspiracy theories already raging online, particularly in the wake of an explosive admission by a US Navy official that videos show encounters between US Navy aircraft and UFOs are real.

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Over two million indicated they were taking part in the “Storm Area 51” event planned to take place on Friday. 

Although the event page itself has been scrubbed from Facebook, and the Air Force has already issued multiple warnings and even closed off the surrounding air space, thousands of people are still expected to descend upon the top-secret desert facility, or at least its perimeter defenses (which are actually several miles from the base itself).

Matt Donovan, acting secretary of the US Air Force, added that security at the base has been beefed up ahead of the viral event. 

“[T]here’s still a lot of media attention out in Las Vegas, so they expect that some folks that are going to show up there. We’re prepared. We have provided them with additional security personnel as well as additional barricades and that sort of thing, because, as the chief said: We’re taking it very seriously,” Donovan said. 

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Two Dutch YouTubers were arrested just last week, proving the allure of ‘them aliens’ is still strong, regardless of the danger of taking on the US armed forces. 

The base is located in the middle of the Nevada desert, some 83 miles north of Las Vegas, and has been the focal point of many conspiracy theories over the years with the CIA only officially acknowledging its existence in 2013. 

While it was used to test top-secret aircraft in the past, such as the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft and the B2 stealth bomber, its current function remains a mystery, leading many to speculate that it houses the remains of alien spacecraft. 

General Goldfein was asked directly whether the secrets included aliens, which he merely responded to with a wry film reference. “I’m actually looking for the very small airman I can put in the ET uniform,” he quipped.

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September 18th 2019, 11:42 am

Khabib ‘80% certain’ next fight will be in Russia as UFC champ eyes record-smashing home crowd

RT

UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov says he is “80 percent” sure that his next title defense will take place in his Russian homeland, with two venues in mind that would potentially smash crowd records for the promotion.

Nurmagomedov submitted interim champ Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi earlier this month to improve his perfect record to 28-0.

READ MORE: Poirier UFC shirt worn by Khabib raises $100K for charity

Speaking to Russia’s Channel 1, the Dagestani fighter said that talks were already underway with UFC bosses about his next bout.   

“Negotiations are continuing with the UFC. I really want to fight in Russia,” the 30-year-old said.  

“In St. Petersburg there’s a closed arena [Gazprom Arena].

"In Moscow, Luzhniki Stadium is open… I was there at the [football] World Cup final when it rained, if that kind of rain happened it would ruin an [MMA] event.

“In St. Petersburg the stadium seats 75,000 people, I could fight there. In a small arena it wouldn’t work.

“I really want to fight here, talks are continuing, I’m about 80 percent sure my next fight will be in Russia,” he added. 

Gazprom Arena, the 67,000-seater home of Russian football club Zenit St. Petersburg. The stadium has a rectractable roof. © AFP / Mladen Antonov
Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium hosted the FIFA World Cup Final last year, and seats around 80,000 fans. © dap / Christian Charisius

The current UFC crowd record is just over 56,000, set in 2015 in Melbourne, Australia, when Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm headlined UFC 193.

When asked whether he could influence UFC chief Dana White about where he next takes to the octagon, Nurmagomedov said he could merely offer advice while pointing to his huge popularity in his homeland.    

“I don’t want to put pressure on [Dana White]. I can only give him advice.

“He sees the ratings himself, on Channel 1 [in Russia], from UFC 242, not only in Russia but around the world. I want to fight in front of the fans here.”   

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Nurmagomedov has not graced the cage in his home country since joining the UFC in 2012, while his fight in Abu Dhabi was only his third outside the US with the organization.

The indications are that the Dagestani grappler will next face long-term rival Tony Ferguson, who himself is on a 12-fight winning streak.

The pair have been scheduled to face each other on no fewer than four previous occasions, with illness or injury to one or other of the fighters conspiring to scupper the bout each time.

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Nurmagomedov has said that fights with Ferguson and Canadian MMA legend Georges St-Pierre would be crucial to securing his “legacy” in the sport, while his manager Ali Abdelaziz said recently that the latter of the pair would be next up for ‘The Eagle’.

Commenting on whether he would be content with retiring at the 30-0 mark – something his father and trainer Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov recently alluded to, Khabib said that the number would be “good as a minimum.”

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‘For Khabib 30-0 is enough, he wants his last fight in Moscow’ – Nurmagomedov Sr.

September 18th 2019, 9:54 am

India to boost crude imports from Russia after Saudi oil attacks

RT

The world’s third-largest oil consumer, India, is seeking to increase oil imports from Russia following drone attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities.The kingdom is the second biggest supplier of crude to India after Iraq.

India’s Minister of Petroleum Dharmendra Pradhan told reporters he had met with the Russian oil producer Rosneft’s CEO, Igor Sechin, to discuss the possibility of oil imports.

Four Indian companies have plans to increase their investment in Russian oilfields, said Pradhan.

Rosneft and India have also discussed the development of Nayara Еnergy, a company in which the Russian oil producer holds a majority stake.

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The consortium is reviewing the option of a two-fold increase in refining throughput at the Vadinar Refinery, said Rosneft, as cited by Reuters.

In the first stage, the consortium has committed to invest $850 million towards the building of a petrochemical unit within two years.

“The consortium is also planning to expand Nayara Energy’s retail presence, which is currently the fastest growing pan-India fuel retail network with over 5,300 retail outlets,” Rosneft said.

READ MORE: Ditching the dollar: National currency payments key to boosting Russia-India trade, says Putin

It added that joint projects, specifically Sakhalin-1 (oil and gas project), Taas-Yuryakh and Vankor (oilfields in Russia), were being reviewed.

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

September 18th 2019, 9:54 am

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

RT

The combined economies of the BRICS member states – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – are set to expand by about 20 percent in roughly a decade, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov has announced.

“The BRICS countries’ economy today accounts for a third of the global economy. According to our conservative estimates, by 2030 our economies will make up more than half of the entire world economy,” Siluanov said at the BRICS International Competition Conference in Moscow on Wednesday.

Members of the alliance continue to work on eliminating trade barriers between them and can set an example for other counties, the minister added.

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BRIC was established in 2006 by Brazil, Russia, India and China, before South Africa joined the bloc in 2010, adding the “S” to the acronym. As of 2018, combined nominal GDP of these five emerging economies amounted to $18.6 trillion.

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.

“Cooperation in terms of developing the use of our national currencies in international settlements seems very promising,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in June as he met BRICS leaders ahead of the G20 summit.

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

September 18th 2019, 9:42 am

Man has extremely rare ‘devil’s horn’ surgically removed in India (PHOTOS)

RT

Surgeons have finally removed a four-inch ‘devil’s horn’ from a 74-year-old Indian farmer who had been asking a local barber and his brother to trim the growth for years.

Shyam Lal Yadav, from Rahli village in Madhya Pradesh, sustained a head injury in 2014 after which he was left with a lump on the crown of his head which steadily grew over the next five years to a length of roughly four inches (10cm).

The rare cutaneous horn was made out of keratin, a substance found in toenails and human hair, which can be overproduced by the elderly.

“Initially, he ignored it as it did not cause any discomfort. Also, he got the growth cut by the local barber,” surgeon Vishal Gajbhiye said.

Gajbhiye performed the operation at Bhagyoday Tirth Hospital in Sagar City after a CT scan determined it was safe to do so. Yadav spent 10 days in hospital recovering and underwent a skin graft to cover the wound.

“As the horn is composed of keratin, the horn can usually be removed with a sterile razor. However, the underlying condition will still need to be treated.”

A biopsy confirmed the growth itself was harmless but Yadav may yet need to undergo further surgery or even radiation therapy, and chemotherapy depending on future test results.

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The underlying cause of the horn is still largely unknown but it is suspected that exposure to radiation or sunlight may have triggered accelerated growth. 

There is also a sebaceous gland inside the scalp which secretes a fluid to keep the hair and skin lubricated. 

“Perhaps the secretion would have stopped so the fluid kept getting stored and turned into a horn,” Gajbhiye said.

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September 18th 2019, 9:42 am

Trump names Robert C. O’Brien as new national security advisor

RT

President Donald Trump has named Robert C. O’Brien - a hostage affairs envoy he sent to Sweden to try and negotiate the release of jailed rapper A$AP Rocky this summer - as his new National Security Advisor

Trump announced O’Brien’s nomination on Wednesday, saying that he has “worked long and hard with Robert.”

O’Brien replaces John Bolton, the hawkish interventionist sacked last week. Bolton was a proponent of military intervention in Iran, Venezuela, Syria, and North Korea, and Trump had reportedly complained that Bolton was actively trying to drag him into conflict. Announcing his dismissal, Trump said that he “strongly disagreed” with many of Bolton’s positions.

O’Brien is a lesser known name in foreign policy circles, and is currently serving as the special envoy for hostage affairs at the State Department. Though more used to overseeing the release of hostages from conflict zones, O’Brien was sent by Trump to Sweden in July, to try and secure the release of rapper A$AP Rocky, who was jailed for an alleged assault in Stockholm.

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DETAILS TO FOLLOW

September 18th 2019, 9:42 am

‘Insult to British people’: Ex-UK PM Cameron’s claim that Britain needed ‘more’ austerity, blasted b

RT

Former Tory PM David Cameron’s claim that his government should have inflicted a harder and faster form of austerity on British people is an “insult,” according to George Galloway, who insists harsh policies resulted in Brexit.

Former Labour MP Galloway was responding to Cameron who has released his memoirs in his new book, For the Record, in which he contends that it would have “been better if we did a little bit more [cuts] a bit earlier.”

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Galloway hit out at the former Etonian who lost the 2016 EU referendum, having failed to convince people that remaining in the bloc was the best option for Britain.

The reason that he lost, was not just because of the intense dislike of the European Union amongst millions of British people, but… because of the rejection of austerity, neoliberal economics.

The Scottish firebrand says Cameron “more than anyone else” came to represent that failed “status quo” politics. He insists the feelings expressed by the British people, in terms of how they saw society going, was demonstrated in their “verdict on the European Union in the Brexit referendum.”

Galloway claimed that it was an “insult to the British people” to see Cameron back on the public stage as he publicized his book during an ITV interview on Monday. He joked that the Tory Party probably wishes he had stayed in his “very expensive garden shed or perhaps tended to his herd of pigs.”

Cameron and his chancellor, George Osborne, embarked on a brutal program of cuts to public services between 2010 and 2016 after the 2008/09 global economic crash. The former PM has defended the severity of those cuts, insisting “the strategy did work.”

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The Guardian apologizes for claim ex-PM Cameron experienced ‘privileged pain’ over death of son

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September 18th 2019, 9:42 am

NASA’s Juno probe captures stunning eclipse on Jupiter (PHOTOS)

RT

NASA’s Juno spacecraft captured a truly awe-inspiring shot of a partial solar eclipse on Jupiter, capping off its 22nd close flyby of the enormous planet in sensational style.

Io, the closest of Jupiter’s four moons, casts a surprisingly sharp shadow across the surface of the gas giant in the amazing photos. The images come to us courtesy of NASA software engineer and citizen scientist, Kevin Gill, who shared his rendering of the craft’s image on his Twitter feed.

© NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill © CC BY

NASA encourages the public to process the images transmitted back to Earth by the probe, and Gill’s efforts are the latest interesting result. 

Io’s shadow on Jupiter appears so sharp because it is much bigger and much closer to Jupiter than our Moon is to Earth. It appears roughly four times as big as the Sun does from Jupiter’s perspective.

The moon takes 1.77 days to orbit the giant planet, while Juno makes a close flyby every 53 days. 

Gill also shared an amazing 360-degree horizon-to-horizon view over Jupiter, showcasing the probe’s powerful cameras and his immense skill at image processing.

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September 18th 2019, 9:42 am

Over 160 N. Korean crewmembers from poaching vessels detained in Sea of Japan – FSB

RT

Russian border guards have detained over 160 North Korean crewmembers from two poaching vessels in the Sea of Japan, the public relations center of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) said on Wednesday. Some of the detained are injured, TASS reported.

The coordinated action by the coastguard, aviation and special purpose units, the border guards have detained 161 North Korean citizens, along with 2 schooners, 11 motorboats, the center said. It added that several injured foreigners have been provided with the required medical aid.

“Prohibited fishing gear as well as illegally obtained marine resources” have been seized, according to the statement. “The offenders are being delivered to the port of Nakhodka for further action and procedural decision,” it added.

The FSB said earlier that two North Korean schooners and 11 motorboats were poaching in the Russian exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan. One of the ships reportedly attacked the patrol group, and four officers were injured, including one with a gunshot wound.

September 18th 2019, 8:38 am

Home comforts: Octagon return for rising Russian UFC star Zabit switched to Moscow

RT

Zabit Magomedsharipov, one of the most highly-touted prospects in the UFC's 145lb division, will now meet Calvin Kattar in Moscow after their initial bout was delayed due to an injury suffered by the Russian.

The two featherweight prospects were initially set to meet on October 18 in Boston in what would have been a hometown encounter for Massachusetts native Kattar, but that advantage has swung the other way as an injury to Magomedsharipov has mandated the fight be moved close to his own backyard in the Russian capital.

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‘I love his style, we’ll put on a great show’ – Zabit on Kattar UFC Boston fight

Magomedsharipov is considered by many to be a future champion in the UFC's featherweight fold. He is undefeated through his first five fights with the organization to take his professional record to an impressive 17-1, but in Kattar he will face the sternest test yet of his championship mettle. 

Kattar, who is 20-3 in his professional career, has tasted defeat once in his five-fight spell in the UFC - a split decision loss to Renato Moicano, but his victories against Chris Fishgold, Andre Fili and, most recently, against Ricardo Lamas have signposted the American as a one to watch.

Magomedsharipov, meanwhile, has been imperious in his UFC tenure. He last fought in March when he outpointed veteran slugger Jeremy Stephens but Kattar is touted to represent the toughest single test of the Russian fighter's career to date - even if home field advantage no longer applies for Kattar.

"Unfortunately, my opponent is unable to compete for 10/18 but has agreed to fight me on his turf Russia on 11/9," Kattar wrote on Instagram.

"Everyone who did already purchase tickets is still in for a great show, as many of the best that New England MMA has to offer will be competing. Then tune in on 11/9 when I go to Russia to give you the fight you already paid to see."

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'They didn't believe I was an athlete': Zabit talks MMA debut, Dagestan & popularity

The November card represents the UFC's second trip to Moscow and the third card to be held in Russia after their promotional debut in St. Petersburg in April. It will take place in the CSKA Arena on November 9 and is currently scheduled to be headlined by a heavyweight bout between former UFC champion Junior Dos Santos and Russian heavyweight Alexander Volkov.

September 18th 2019, 8:38 am

‘Flagrant injustice’: Prominent Russians stand up for jailed actor Pavel Ustinov

RT

Russian celebrities, media bosses, Orthodox priests and a ruling party figure have demanded justice for actor Pavel Ustinov, who was jailed for allegedly attacking a cop during Moscow rallies last month.

By Wednesday afternoon, protesters had begun amassing outside the presidential administration’s building, holding pickets in defense of Pavel Ustinov. Photos and videos shared online showed dozens of people waiting in a long line to pose with a blue banner that reads ‘Free Ustinov.’

Ustinov was sentenced to three years and six months on Monday for dislocating a riot police officer’s shoulder during the massive unsanctioned anti-government demonstration on August 3, according to investigators. The 23-year-old novice actor insisted that he was a bystander at the rally, and his defense appealed the sentence to a higher-level court.

The case resonated widely among fellow actors who demanded his immediate release on social media, with more people from all walks of life joining in.

READ MORE: Young actor gets 3.5 years for injuring police officer during Moscow protests

Earlier on Wednesday, Andrey Turchak, a top MP from the ruling United Russia party, threw his weight behind the actor, calling the prison term “a flagrant injustice” that “shall not be ignored or silenced.”

Referring to several videos that suggested Ustinov’s innocence, he wrote on Instagram: “Each of them shows that the guy was just standing outside the metro. He didn’t touch anyone, didn’t disrupt public order and, of course, wasn’t expecting arrest.”

Aside from that, dozens of Orthodox priests from 11 countries, including Austria, Belgium, Germany, Spain and Russia itself, made a rare intervention by defending opposition activists held on charges relating to massive protests that rocked the Russian capital in July and August.

At the time, numerous Russians took to the streets to demand free elections after several independent candidates were barred from running for Moscow city council.

An open letter they signed didn’t mentioned Ustinov but said that “the punishment should be relevant to the offense,” and that “courts cannot serve as a means of suppressing dissent.” The Russian Orthodox Church disavowed the letter, suggesting that the priests should raise money for “a competent lawyer that could help.”

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Top Russian public figures demand release of actor jailed for assaulting cop during protest

Meanwhile, the editors-in-chief of three liberal media outlets – ‘Echo of Moscow’ radio station, TV Rain and ‘Novaya Gazeta’ newspaper – have appealed to Russia’s Prosecutor General, urging him to reverse Ustinov’s ruling.

Their action comes on the heels of the coordinated online protest, with both established opposition figures and mainstream TV personalities voicing unease over the prosecution of the actor.

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September 18th 2019, 8:38 am

Sudan’s new PM Hamdok in Egypt to meet with Sisi

RT

Sudan’s newly appointed prime minister has arrived in Egypt for the first leg of his tour that will take him to France before heading to the UN General Assembly.

Abdalla Hamdok was received on Wednesday by Egyptian Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly. Hamdok will also meet with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

He will discuss bilateral relations after years of sporadic tensions during the rule of former President Omar al-Bashir. The military ousted al-Bashir in April amid months of protests against his three-decade rule.

Ties between the two states were for years frayed by repeated failures to reach a deal over an upstream Nile dam being built by Ethiopia, and the revival of a longstanding dispute over a border territory held by Cairo and claimed by Khartoum, AP said.

September 18th 2019, 8:27 am

Ronaldo aiming for as many as EIGHT Ballon d’Or titles to end Messi debate once and for all

RT

Cristiano Ronaldo has set his sights on winning as many as three more Ballon d’Or accolades to prove that he is better than longtime rival Lionel Messi.

Ronaldo and Messi both have five Ballon d’Or titles to their name, testament to the pair’s brilliance stretching back more than a decade.

But Ronaldo, 34, revealed in an interview with Piers Morgan that he is far from done with that tally, and was seeking to edge ahead of the Barcelona captain to help settle the never-ending debate over which of the pair is better.

“I would love it, and I think I deserve it,” Ronaldo told Morgan when asked about winning the accolade again.  

“Messi is a fantastic guy, a fantastic player. He’s in the history of football – but I think I have to have six or seven or eight [Ballon d’Or titles] to be above him.”

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The Juventus forward said that while he was “not friends” with Messi, he had big respect for him as the pair have spurred each other on to achieve even greater things.  

© Getty Images

“My relationship with him is, we are not friends, but we have shared this stage for 15 years.

“I have a good relationship with him and I know that he has pushed me to be a better player and I have pushed him to be a better player as well.”

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Cristiano Ronaldo says greatest goal he's ever scored doesn't beat sex with girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez

Ronaldo is in the final three for the FIFA Best Men’s Player award this year – a similar accolade to the Ballon d’Or – along with Messi and Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk.

READ MORE: Take it as Red! Liverpool's van Dijk beats Ronaldo & Messi to UEFA Men's Player of the Year award

Dutchman van Dijk recently pipped the pair to the UEFA Player of the Year in what could be an indication as to where the FIFA Best and Ballon d’Or prizes will end up.

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Best of The Best: Ronaldo, Messi & Van Dijk to battle it out for top FIFA men’s player award

But even if he fails to add to his incredible individual trophy haul, Ronaldo said his place among the game’s all-time greats was already assured.

“I’m sure I’m in the history of football for what I have done and what I’m continuing to do, but one of the best players in history,” he said.

“For me, the number one in history, but for some fans, if the number one is another one and I’m second, it doesn’t matter."

He also said that he had an “obsession to win,” but that he did not chase specific individual landmarks, but rather “the records follow me.”

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Ronaldo breaks down as he discusses pain over his father not living to see his achievements (VIDEO)

Ronaldo’s wide-ranging interview with Morgan also focused on aspects of his fame and family life – including his regret that his father, who died in 2005 following a battle with alcoholism, had not lived to see many of his achievements.  

Ronaldo is in action tonight as Juventus open their Champions League campaign at Atletico Madrid. 

September 18th 2019, 7:26 am

WATCH: Biker plunges off 70ft cliff in horror crash… but somehow survives

RT

Texas man Rick Hogge miraculously survived a terrifying crash after plummeting from a 70ft cliff while riding his motorcycle along a rocky road in Colorado.

Hogge was taking a bike ride with friends when the scary incident happened. As he made his way across the narrow path his bike suddenly hit a rock which sent him flying 60-70ft down the verge before crashing into a river.

READ MORE: WATCH: Terrifying moment rally fan falls onto track in front of oncoming car

The horrific plunge was captured on a camera attached to the rider’s helmet, and the footage shows how Hogge lost his balance while trying to avoid rocks.

The man was found by his friends who helped him to climb back up the cliff.

I thought about my kids on the way down,” he said, recalling the life-threatening incident.

So, so many things just went absolutely perfect to allow me to survive that and I really feel like the grace of God is why I am here now,” he added.

September 18th 2019, 7:08 am

Russia’s largest social media platform VKontakte takes on Tinder with new ‘video speed dating’ app

RT

Russia’s most popular social media network has unveiled a new dating app, invading Tinder’s turf. Finding that special (or not-so-special) someone is now just a quick video chat away.

VKontakte’s Lovina app lets users participate in what is essentially video chat speed dating, allowing people to quickly assess a large number of potential partners in real-time. The app has been billed as more personal and true-to-life than the callous ‘swipe’ system used by Tinder. Users will also be able to communicate via text messages.

Lovina will be free, relying on premium memberships as opposed to advertising, to generate revenue. One feature, marketed as “love potion,” will show a comprehensive list of all users who ‘liked’ your profile.

In order to protect love-seekers from unwanted encounters, the app is able to detect and block explicit content – meaning you won’t have to worry about creepy men livestreaming footage of their genitalia.

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The app’s release comes just months after Tinder was placed on a special list which obliges the company to disclose the personal data of users at the request of Russian law enforcement agencies.

Russia’s internet dating market is worth an estimated 1.5 billion-two billion rubles ($23.3 million-$31 million), according to analysts from the company Finam.

Vkontakte – which is owned by Mail.ru Group Ltd – seems to be aiming for a sizable chunk of this growing market, but it remains to be seen if Russians will swap the famous ‘swipe’ for a more intimate method of matchmaking.

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September 18th 2019, 7:08 am

Former Rangers & Zenit star Fernando Ricksen dies aged 43 after battle with motor neurone disease

RT

Former Glasgow Rangers and Zenit St. Petersburg player Fernando Ricksen has died at the age of 43 following a battle with motor neurone disease, the Scottish club has announced.

Ex-Dutch international Ricksen was diagnosed with the disease around six years ago, and died in a hospice near Glasgow.

In a statement announcing his death, Rangers said they were “deeply saddened to announce that former player Fernando Ricksen passed away this morning following his battle with motor neuron disease.”

Ricksen spent six years at Rangers before moving to Russia’s Zenit St. Petersburg, initially on loan and then permanently. He stayed at the club for three years, becoming a popular figure due to his typically hard-working, committed approach.

In June of this year, Ricksen held a surprise birthday party for his daughter, 7, from hospice where he was being comforted.

Footage showed Ricksen’s hospice room adorned with decorations, gifts and balloons for his daughter in the heartwarming moment which was captured on video and uploaded to Instagram by his wife Veronika.

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Heartbreaking surprise: Footballer Ricksen throws birthday party for daughter from hospice bed

The caption accompanying the clip read: "Best daddy ever, best surprise for our little girl thank you so much for making her happy."

Ricksen, who played as a full-back and midfielder, revealed his MND diagnosis in October 2013, coinciding with the end of a career which saw him make more than 450 combined appearances for AZ Alkmaar, Rangers and Zenit, among others. He also won 12 caps for his country. 

Zenit paid tribute to their former player, saying their thoughts were with his family at their time of bereavement.  

September 18th 2019, 6:56 am

Up in smoke: India to ban e-cigarettes but not tobacco

RT

The Indian Parliament has passed legislation to ban both the production and import of e-cigarettes in the country, though an executive order will be required to bring the prohibition into effect.

The ban is an effort to curb the consumption of tobacco products and their alternatives amid growing public health concerns. Executive orders are used as an emergency measure for when parliament is not in session, and MPs will not retake their seats until November.

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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman claimed that e-cigarettes are being used more for stylistic reasons than to actually wean people of smoking altogether. More than 900,000 people die from tobacco-related illnesses in India each year, from an adult smoker population of over 100 million. 

While the vaping liquid used in e-cigarettes does not contain the vast majority of the more harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke, it does contain a number of other substances which could be harmful to humans. 

Several Indian states have already banned e-cigarettes, though local legislation has largely failed to curb importation through online orders. The move comes just days after US President Donald Trump announced his own plans to ban the sale of vaping products.

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Chewing tobacco is more prevalent than smoking in India but critics of e-cigarettes have raised concerns that vaping is getting children hooked on nicotine from a younger age and acting as a gateway to tobacco smoking. 

India is the world’s second-largest consumer of tobacco products behind China, and is also the world’s third-largest producer of tobacco. 

An estimated 45.7 million people in India depend on the tobacco industry for their livelihood according to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry, so the tobacco farmers’ lobby holds sway among the political class, which may explain why the sale and production of tobacco itself will not be impacted when the executive order comes into force.

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September 18th 2019, 6:56 am

Huawei to invest $1.5bn in its developer program

RT

The Chinese tech company Huawei said on Wednesday that it will offer more than $1 billion in investment over the next five years to attract global developers.

The offer is part of the company’s broader computing strategy, which includes investing in basic research around its products to support new technology such as artificial intelligence. The firm also said it will make its hardware and software more readily available to its customers and partners.

Huawei announced its developer program four years ago. The company says it has supported more than 1.3 million developers since then, as well as 14,000 independent software vendors around the world.

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Huawei ready to sell its 5G technology to Western buyer to create global competition

According to Huawei’s Deputy Chairman Ken Hu, the company wants to expand that program to another five million developers. It also wants to help partners “develop the next generation of intelligent applications and solutions.”

Ken Hu said: “The future of computing is a massive market worth more than $2 trillion,” adding: “We’ll keep investing.”

Huawei is currently caught in the crossfire of the US-China trade war. In May, the US placed Huawei on its so-called “Entity List,” effectively barring American companies from doing business with the Chinese tech giant. Washington accused the Huawei of being a threat to its national security and foreign policy interests.

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Huawei’s smartphones will not have Google apps

Despite the challenges, the Shenzhen-based company reported that its global share of telecoms equipment expanded to 28.1 percent in the first half of this year. It also remains ahead of global rivals in the 5G market, having announced 50 commercial 5G mobile network deals.

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

September 18th 2019, 6:38 am

RT IN THE FINALS OF AIB AWARDS WITH SYRIA, YELLOW VESTS COVERAGE

RT

MOSCOW, SEPTEMBER 18An RT France sociopolitical talk show and two RTDoc documentaries made it to the shortlist of the prestigious AIB awards established by the Association for International Broadcasting (AIB). 

RT France’s Interdit dInterdire (“Forbidden to Forbid”) hosted by prominent French journalist Frédéric Taddeï is one of the finalists in the Politics and Business category, competing against Al Jazeera and the Financial Times, among other entries. In 2018, an Interdit dInterdire episode on Yellow Vests protest movement in France was named among the top five talk show debates of the year according to LCI news channel and Le Figaro. 

RTDoc’s Syrian Tango was nominated in the Arts and Culture category, where it will compete for the win with a number of entries, including Al Jazeera’s. The documentary is about artists who didn’t leave their home country and remained in Syria despite the war. 

RTDoc’s My Forever Family documentary about the Road to Life charity foundation that helps Russian orphanages made it to the shortlist in the Domestic Affairs category. 

In 2015, legendary broadcast journalist Larry King, the host of Larry King Now and Politicking on RT America, was presented with the AIB Lifetime Achievement Award. 

This is the fifteenth year of the AIBs. The awards ceremony will be held on the 6th of November in London where winners will be chosen from 18 categories. 

The Association for International Broadcasting is the trade association for TV, radio, and online broadcasting, established in 1993. Its membership boasts leading international television and radio broadcasters, and major professional associations, with a total of more than 25,000 media organizations as members. Besides the headquarters in the UK, the AIB has regional offices in European countries, South and Southeast Asia, as well as the Middle East.

September 18th 2019, 6:38 am

Iran sends note to US via Swiss embassy, says response to any attack ‘won't be limited to its source

RT

Iran’s retaliation to any military attack will not be “limited to its source,” Tehran said in an official note to Washington, semi-official ISNA news agency reported on Wednesday.

The note was sent to the United States via Swiss embassy.

Iran has reiterated that it was not behind attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities. Tehran has also warned that any move by the US against Iran “will get immediate reaction,” the report said.

Iran’s defense minister, Brigadier General Amir Hatami, said Tehran had no involvement in the attacks on Saudi Arabia’s Aramco oil installations, the Tasnim news agency reported on Wednesday.

September 18th 2019, 6:25 am

Risk of no-deal Brexit ‘very real’ but would be UK government’s ‘choice’ – EU’s Juncker

RT

European Commission (EC) President Jean-Claude Juncker has warned that there is a “palpable” risk of Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal and if that were to happen, it would be the UK government’s choice, not Brussels’.

Speaking at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday, Juncker revealed that he had told UK PM Boris Johnson that he had “no emotional attachment” to the contentious Irish ‘backstop,’ but that time was running out to secure alternative arrangements.

There is very little time left… The risk of a no-deal is very real.

Juncker and Johnson met in Luxembourg on Monday for discussions on Brexit, talks that were described by the EC president as “friendly, constructive and in part positive.”

However, Juncker told MEPs that he had urged the UK prime minister to come up with legally “operational proposals, in writing,” that have not, as yet, been forthcoming.

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‘Luxembourg laughs in Johnson’s face’: UK papers react to BoJo’s ‘gone missing’ press conference

The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, also speaking in the European Parliament, accused Johnson of “pretending” to negotiate with Brussels. It comes amid reports that UK negotiators have put forward the old agreement, with the section on the backstop simply crossed out in the text.

Almost three years after the UK referendum, I don’t think we should be spending time pretending to negotiate.

Johnson recently suffered the humiliation of being “empty chaired” at a joint news conference he was scheduled to take part in with Luxembourg’s PM Xavier Bettel on Monday. The UK prime minister failed to turn up after he became the target of boisterous demonstrators, upset with his handling of Brexit.

Commenting on events, Johnson gave a somewhat tongue-in-cheek response, saying that he had been given a “lively” reception. He added that he thought the UK and EU had “just the right amount of time” to secure a deal by the end of October.

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Less Hulk, more Mrs Doubtfire: Verhofstadt blasts BoJo over Brexit strategy

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September 18th 2019, 6:25 am

Less Hulk, more Mrs Doubtfire: Verhofstadt blasts BoJo over Brexit strategy

RT

A beleaguered and Brexit-weary Guy Verhofstadt is apparently at his wit’s end negotiating with the UK, suggesting that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson forget the ‘Hulk’ persona and be more like Mrs Doubtfire.

In Wednesday’s European Parliament session in Strasbourg, Verhofstadt pleaded for EU citizens’ rights to be respected in a post-Brexit UK, while invoking a much beloved character played by the late comedian and actor Robin Williams. 

“We need automatic registration for all EU citizens in the UK… instead of playing the angry Hulk, when it comes to citizens rights, Boris Johnson should be the caring nanny, Mrs Doubtfire,” the European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator said.

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‘Un-credible Sulk?’ Boris Johnson’s Hulk comparison mocked online

Meanwhile, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has confirmed that no new proposals had been been proffered to resolve the intractable Northern Ireland backstop issue, stoking fears that Johnson will fulfil his ‘deal or no deal’ vow that the UK will leave the EU on October 31. 

Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s representative in the Brexit negotiations, mocked the Brexit Party and decried comparisons made between the EU and the Soviet Union, suggesting it would be more apt in relation to Westminster than Brussels. 

“They like saying the European Union is undemocratic and he [Nigel Farage] is going to repeat that,” Verhofstadt ranted. 

“If the Euroskeptics in the coming hours now want to use this again for a ridiculous comparison with the Soviet Union they can point the finger to Westminster instead of to Strasbourg or Brussels.”

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He then reiterated his longstanding position, in no uncertain terms: “There’s no discussion about this – Brexit is bad. It’s a bad idea.”

He did, however, claim that Brexit has helped unite Europeans and to improve overall public perception of the European project. 

“The message of the people during the elections was very clear, reform Europe; don’t destroy Europe. Don’t leave Europe,” he said.

Verhofstadt did express some modicum of optimism that a deal could be reached before it was too late, but that would require the British prime minister to make some concessions.

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September 18th 2019, 6:08 am

Russia refuses to play musical chairs with America’s debt, continues to dump US Treasuries

RT

Moscow has continued to sell off US Treasury securities, cutting its stockpile by $2.35 billion in July, according to the latest US Department of the Treasury data released on Tuesday.

Russia’s holdings of US state debt amounted to $8.5 billion in July, with long-term US Treasury securities standing at $6.2 billion and short-term at $2.2 billion. In June, Russian investment in Treasury bills was around $10.8 billion.

Japan remains the biggest holder of US Treasury securities for the second month in a row. In June, Tokyo held Treasury bills worth of $1.13 trillion, around 8 billion more than it had a month earlier. Japan is followed by China with $1.11 trillion.

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Golden rule: Russia brings bullion & foreign currency reserves to new highs

Russia used to be one of the major holders of US Treasuries, but since last year it has been steadily cutting the investment in US debt in line with the nation’s de-dollarization policy. Russia is now on par with countries like Oman and New Zealand, which are at the bottom of the list of US Treasury holders.

As a matter of state policy, Moscow has also been diversifying its reserves, increasing bullion purchases to record levels and earning the title of the world’s most committed purchaser of gold. As of September, Russia held the fourth largest gold reserves in the world worth $109.5 billion, according to the country’s central bank.

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

September 18th 2019, 6:08 am

French police eject 800 migrants from Dunkirk makeshift camp

RT

French police have cleared more than 800 migrants from a makeshift camp that sprung up outside a gymnasium near the northern port of Dunkirk last spring. The move on Tuesday followed a court ruling that the camp had become a health and security hazard, AFP said.

The mayor of Grande-Synthe opened the gym to migrants last December to keep families out of the cold, and had planned to close it with the return of warmer weather. Hundreds of others, mainly young Iraqi Kurd men, soon began pitching tents around the site while they waited for a chance to try to reach Britain.

Police put the migrants on buses to bring them to shelters elsewhere where they can apply for asylum.

A total of 811 people, including 506 young men and 58 unaccompanied minors, were cleared from the gym and makeshift camp, regional officials say.

September 18th 2019, 5:25 am

Online shoplifters beware! Russian lawyers consider penalties for stealing game accounts & items Hac

RT

Hackers and online scammers should think twice before stealing ‘World of Tanks’ armor or ‘Dota 2’ characters from careless gamers – Russian lawyers are readying a heavy-handed crackdown on the practice.

The Moscow branch of Russia’s Bar Association has suggested making the theft of paid accounts and digital goods a criminal offence, local media reported. A game character or a rare item sometimes takes many months and hundreds of dollars to develop, and the loss of what the group calls “a virtual asset” often turns into a little tragedy for avid gamers.

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Grand Theft Auto no longer a game, as Russian MP proposes stricter laws

The news comes as billions of people are spending money on gameplaying, making in-game purchases. In Russia alone, gamers spent a whopping $736 million last year, according to a Superdata survey. 

Many in-game items are being developed and then sold, like in 2013 when a Dota player made history by paying $38,000 for a super-character called ‘Ethereal Flames Pink War Dog.’ But sometimes they are stolen by using basic hacking skills against a user’s gaming account.

Russia’s IT-related media are full of stories about gamers desperately trying to get their stolen accounts or online purchases back with the help of police – but all too often, these appeals are left unanswered or aren’t prosecuted because there are no relevant laws in place.

On one rare occasion, police officers in Nizhny Novgorod made history three years ago, finding a culprit who hacked a ‘World of Tanks’ player and tried to sell his $1,000-worth Panzer on an online forum.  

Now, the Bar Association insists that “virtual assets” be protected by a bill covering digital transactions and cryptocurrencies. If adopted, the legislation would represent a small ray of hope for theft-prone online dwellers in Russia and beyond.

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Majority of Russians think video games do more harm than good – poll

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September 18th 2019, 4:55 am

Saudi oil outage impact following attacks on refineries not as bad as predicted

RT

The attacks on Saudi oil facilities that led to the largest ever disruption in oil markets might not last for several months, and therefore, additional supply from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve isn’t necessary.

The outage at Abqaiq is not just a problem because of the immediate impact on production, but also because it takes much of the world’s spare capacity offline. According to Bloomberg, the most optimistic assessment puts global spare capacity at 3.9 million barrels per day (mb/d), but that includes half a million barrels of daily capacity from idled Neutral Zone oil fields, plus some optimistic assumptions about the usability of spare capacity elsewhere.

In reality, spare capacity would be incredibly thin if Abqaiq remains offline for an extended period of time. Bloomberg notes that Saudi Arabia has about 1.67 mb/d of surplus capacity, but some of that would likely need to be processed at Abqaiq, leaving it temporarily unusable. Those details are kept secret.

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Oil prices skyrocket 20% after attacks on Saudi plants disrupt global supply

While a half dozen or so other countries have some additional ability to add production in a pinch (mainly Saudi Arabia’s Gulf State allies), much of the world’s spare capacity is concentrated in Saudi Arabia.

Aside from idled production, strategic petroleum reserves (SPR) could also be thrown onto the market to cover for an outage. The US has the world’s largest SPR, and it has been the linchpin of American energy security strategy for several decades. President Trump said that he authorized the use of the SPR in the event that supply was needed to cover for Abqaiq.

“The Secretary has been briefed on today’s drone attack in Saudi Arabia and stands ready to deploy resources from the Strategic Petroleum Oil Reserves (SPRO) if necessary to offset any disruptions to oil markets as a result of this act of aggression,” DOE Press Secretary, Shaylyn Hynes said in a statement on Saturday.

However, there are problems with the SPR. As Bloomberg reports, the state of the storage facilities that comprise America’s SPR is troubling. A 2016 report from the Department of Energy detailed the decrepit condition at some sites. “A large portion of the SPR’s surface infrastructure has exceeded its design life and is in need of life extension,” DOE said in the report. “This need for infrastructure life extension, coupled with increasing deferments of major maintenance projects, has resulted in an increasing number of significant equipment failures that have adversely impacted the Reserve’s operational readiness capability.”

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“Investing in a second Life Extension project is essential to ensure the long-term integrity of SPR assets and the ability of the program to carry out its mission,” DOE concluded.

Also, the SPR might not be able to withdraw as much oil as it says it can, due to the rerouting of pipelines along the Gulf Coast in recent years, Jason Bordoff of Columbia University told Bloomberg.

Despite those warnings, little has been done. Instead, feeling confident (perhaps overly confident) due to the surge of oil production from shale, the US Congress has deprioritized the SPR over the past half-decade or so. The crash in prices in 2014, and the rapidly growing supply from Texas and North Dakota, greatly influenced the decision to sell off oil stocks from the SPR.

Congress has authorized multiple sales of oil from the reserve, and not for some security concern, as the SPR was intended, but rather for budgetary reasons. Congress decided to liquidate parts of the SPR to raise cash.

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The US SPR used to hold nearly 700 million barrels of oil, but now holds 630 million barrels. The agency recently sold 10 million barrels from the reserve as part of the previously authorized sale schedule.

It all might be a moot point. Saudi Arabia’s energy minister held a highly-anticipated press conference on Tuesday, updating the world on the damage at Abqaiq. He struck a confident tone, stating that half of the disrupted output is already back online and that repair work would be completed by the end of the month. In the meantime, the country would use inventories to keep export flows continuing as usual.

If this bears out, the US SPR might not be needed after all. Oil prices fell sharply on Tuesday.

However, a lot of uncertainty remains. The US Defense Department plans to release details that allegedly prove that Iran was behind the attack. President Trump said on Monday that he didn’t want war with Iran, but retaliation is not off the table. This story is not over.

This article was originally published on Oilprice.com

September 18th 2019, 4:25 am

No Apple Store nearby? Computer hardware STOLEN from India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier

RT

When it comes to computer heists, you might expect criminals to target their local electronics store. But in India, an enterprising thief (or group of crooks) managed to swipe hardware from… an aircraft carrier.

Police are currently probing the theft of a hard disk, random access memory (RAM) and processor from four computers recently installed in an Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC). The warship, the first of its kind, is currently under construction at a shipyard in Kochi, India.

There are CCTV cameras outside the ship construction area, but none inside the ship – which may make finding the culprits a difficult task, according to police officials who spoke to local media.

Authorities learned of the theft over the weekend, after initial trials of the ship’s electronics failed. It was initially presumed that there were problems with the wiring, when in fact the vessel’s computers had been rendered inoperable by the heist.

The Indian Navy has downplayed the incident, saying that the stolen hardware was of no military significance. Even if no military secrets were stolen, the theft could delay the carrier’s completion. The warship is expected to enter service sometime between 2020 and 2022.

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September 18th 2019, 4:05 am

Saudi Arabia joins US-led naval patrols in Strait of Hormuz

RT

Riyadh has enlisted in a US-led coalition aimed at protecting merchant ships as they travel through the Strait of Hormuz. The waterway has become a hotspot amid rising tensions with Iran.

A source inside Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Defense confirmed on Wednesday that the kingdom had joined the International Maritime Security Construct, state media reported.

Saudi Arabia’s accession to the naval alliance comes days after a drone attack targeted a major oil facility in the country. Houthi rebels in Yemen have claimed responsibility for the precision strikes, but Washington insists the real culprit is Iran.

Spearheaded by the United States, the coalition’s other members are Australia, Bahrain, and the United Kingdom. Together, the countries patrol the Strait of Hormuz, Bab el-Mandab, the Sea of Oman and the Persian Gulf, purportedly in an effort to protect merchant vessels from attack.

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The group was formed following a number of maritime incidents in the region, beginning with mysterious attacks against two oil tankers off the coast of Oman in June. Washington blamed Iran for the attack, but never provided evidence to back its claim. Then, in early July, an Iranian oil tanker allegedly bound for Syria was boarded by British marines off the coast of Gibraltar.

Iran denounced the act of “state piracy” and retaliated by seizing a UK-flagged vessel as it entered the Strait of Hormuz.

The Iranian tanker was released in late August, while the British-flagged ‘Stena Impero’ is still in Iranian custody. Tehran says that the vessel will be released soon.

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September 18th 2019, 3:07 am

WATCH NATO jets shadowing Russian nuke-capable bomber over Baltic Sea

RT

Russian airmen have filmed a swarm of Belgian, Danish, Polish and Swedish fighter jets flanking a Tu-160 Blackjack bomber and its escort while on routine patrol over the Baltic Sea.

Released by the Defense Ministry on Wednesday, the spectacular footage shows the supersonic Tupolev Tu-160 bomber taking off from an undisclosed airfield and heading for the Baltic airspace.

READ MORE: Russian Su-27 fighter jets intercept US nuclear-capable B-52 bombers above Baltic & Black Seas – MoD

The bomber and an escort of two Russian fighters were met by a Finnish F-18 and a Swedish JAS-39 Gripen somewhere over neutral waters. Later, several F-16s from the Belgian, Danish and Polish air forces joined in, replacing the Nordic jets.

© Russian Ministry of Defense

At several points, the NATO jets went so close that the Russian crews could easily recognize the distinctive roundels and signs painted on them. The Tu-160 safely returned to base with no in-flight accidents reported during the seven-hour mission.

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September 18th 2019, 2:21 am

Big Brother is watching you (from afar): US spies seek long-range facial recognition capabilities

RT

US intelligence agencies are looking to enhance their facial recognition capabilities with technology that can identify people from hundreds of meters away, potentially transforming drones into biometrically accurate spy cameras.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) wants any and all information that could help current biometric surveillance tech overcome the inaccuracy that comes with distance, according to a request for information posted by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (IARPA) – the intelligence community’s even-more-secretive-than-usual research arm.

The agency is hungry for anything that could be “useful in planning a program focused on advancing the state-of-the-art biometric recognition and identification at altitude and range (BRIAR)” – from “biometric research datasets” captured using drones, to datasets captured from long distances or unusual angles, to research on fusing multiple types of biometric identification to overcome faults in one mode or another.

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Get out of my face! Facial recognition technology could enslave mankind like never before

IARPA appears particularly interested in long-distance facial recognition that factors in other biometric identifiers such as gait, allowing for accurate matching even when a subject’s face is partially obscured so long as their walk matched an existing profile – a major boon to a technology that can be thwarted by sudden movement or “atmospheric turbulence,” especially at a distance. The information request laments that “there remains challenges in diverse face detection, verification and identification when dealing with low-resolution or noisy imagery” or images shot from aerial view, thanks to “a lack of authorized and sharable research data.”

Further research in the area of biometric recognition and identification at altitude and range may support protection of critical infrastructure and transportation facilities, military force protection, and border security,” IARPA reassures any contractor who might be worried about high-powered surveillance turned against innocent citizens, though contractors are (one hopes) aware that surplus military technology frequently ends up in the hands of domestic police forces, and the legal definition of the “border” includes any area within 100 miles of the US’ “external boundaries” – leaving two thirds of Americans living in what the ACLU and civil liberties groups have termed “Constitution-free zones.”

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Amazon ‘smart’ doorbell company partnered with 400+ police departments to surveil your neighborhood

IARPA has previously deployed machine learning to assist facial-recognition surveillance, augmenting captured images with three-dimensional and contextual data using a program called JANUS. The agency also hopes to train algorithms to track its prey across multiple surveillance cameras, potentially allowing it to pursue a target through an entire city.

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September 18th 2019, 1:21 am

Cristiano Ronaldo says greatest goal he's ever scored doesn't top sex with girlfriend Georgina Rodri

RT

Even a man as obsessed with goals as Cristiano Ronaldo says the best one he has ever scored still can't beat sex with girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez.

In an in-depth interview with UK TV personality Piers Morgan, Ronaldo opened up on his huge fame, success and family life.

One of the questions football fan Morgan asked was for Ronaldo to name the pick of his more than 700 senior goals for club and country.

The prolific Portugal ace chose the overhead kick he scored while playing for Real Madrid against current club Juventus in the Champions League quarterfinal first leg in 2018.

“I tried to score this goal for many, many years. I had scored 700-odd goals but I hadn’t done this. I thought ‘finally I had scored a bicycle, the beautiful jumping,’" Ronaldo told Morgan.

AFP / Alberto Pizzoli

“The way I had done against Buffon, against Juventus, in the Champions League. It was a beautiful goal,” he added.

When Morgan probed as to whether it was better than sex, Ronaldo replied with a laugh: No, not with my Geo, no.”

Ronaldo, 34, described Spanish model Rodriguez as "the love of his life" and also said he plans to marry the 25-year-old, with whom he has a young daughter. The footballer also has three other children from surrogate mothers.

In other parts of the interview, broadcast on ITV, Ronaldo discussed his immense wealth, said by some estimates to be in the region of half a billion dollars.

When Morgan asked the footballer whether that was right, Ronaldo replied: “I think so, I hope so. I think that might be too much.

“I am not 100 percent but what I can say is I have good money in the bank.”

Ronaldo discussed the rape allegations against him, which he said had caused him "embarrassment" and which he has always denied. 

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Ronaldo breaks down as he discusses pain over his father not living to see his achievements (VIDEO)

He also broke down in tears when shown a clip of his late father praising him, with Ronaldo expressing regret that he had not lived to see many of his achievements, after dying of liver failure aged 52 more than a decade ago, following a battle with alcoholism.   

 

September 18th 2019, 1:21 am

US lawsuit against Snowden is a warning to other whistleblowers to keep their mouths shut, says fell

RT

The US government is suing NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden for his memoir profits not just to punish him, but also to intimidate others into staying silent, CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou tells RT.

​“The CIA takes every opportunity to threaten whistleblowers and to warn whistleblowers to just keep their mouths shut,” Kiriakou said, explaining how no ex-intelligence agent trying to speak out publicly has ever prevailed against the government in cases where they did not get their books “cleared” with the agency before publication since a precedent-setting case in the 1970s. “They lost every single time.”

In this case, Snowden has already been paid – and both he and his money are safe from Washington’s clutches in Moscow – leaving the whistleblower’s unfortunate publisher to pick up the tab. Macmillan Publishing was named as a co-defendant in the civil lawsuit filed on Tuesday, which accused Snowden of violating his non-disclosure agreements with the CIA and NSA by failing to submit his book, “Permanent Record,” for pre-publication review.

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But the government’s determination to “punish” Snowden is actually helping him (and his publisher) by creating a public controversy, Kiriakou pointed out.

The CIA is saying you shouldn’t read this book because it has secrets in it. That’s going to make everybody go out and buy the book so that they can read the secrets!

“If the government really was threatened by the information, if the information really was so secret that it needed to be protected, they would have gotten a court order to pulp the book,” the former CIA agent continued. “They didn’t do that, so in reality they’re not threatened by the information in this book.”

The information is already out there – Snowden is just repeating it – but they’re just trying to punish him and punish the publisher for not following the rules. It’s very petty, actually.

“The system is clearly broken,” Kiriakou lamented, pointing out that existing channels for whistleblowers to disclose information the legal way are blocked or dysfunctional and the “dangerous precedent” set by the Obama administration’s Espionage Act whistleblower prosecutions has snowballed under Trump.

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September 18th 2019, 12:21 am

Cycle of panic & death: Humankind totally not ready for global pandemic, emergency preparedness grou

RT

A sudden lethal pandemic could wipe out tens of millions of people, destroy the world’s economies, and leave humanity in chaos, according to a new report from an emergency preparedness body that isn’t alarmist in the slightest.

Citing a reactionary “cycle of panic and neglect” in which health emergencies are dealt with as they arise, rather than before they start, the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board – an entity formed last year by the World Bank and the World Health Organization – has called for immediate and massive investment in emergency preparedness systems in its first-ever report, titled “A World At Risk.”

The world is not prepared for a fast-moving, virulent respiratory pathogen pandemic,” the report, posted on Tuesday, warns, claiming that such a crisis would kill off 50 to 80 million people – 2.8 percent of the population – ravage the global economy and trade, and “destabilize national security.” Countries must “be prepared for the worst,” if they want to avoid getting crushed by the next pandemic.

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The other six “urgent actions” governments are advised to take mostly consist of throwing money at the problem, according to the report. “Heads of government must commit and invest,” “countries and regional organizations must lead by example” (so that reluctant and/or poor countries are persuaded to commit and invest), “all countries must build strong systems” with those investments, “financial institutions must link preparedness with financial risk planning” i.e. budget for spending lots of money on preparedness, “development assistance funders must create incentives and increase funding for preparedness,” and “the UN must strengthen coordination mechanisms” so the money gets to the right place.

The report repeatedly reminds countries that they’ve adopted the International Health Regulations, a binding 2005 agreement that already requires them to report any “public health emergency of international concern” to the WHO and step up their domestic preparedness infrastructure, and lambastes them for not implementing those regulations to satisfaction. Epidemics, it reminds these wayward nations, have a nasty tendency to exceed national borders – especially when “countries, terrorist groups, or scientifically advanced individuals create or obtain and then use biological weapons that have the characteristics of a novel, high-impact respiratory pathogen.”

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Smallpox bioterrorist attack could devastate planet for 10 years

Amid all this fearmongering, the report still finds time to lament that “trust in institutions is eroding,” thanks to “misinformation that can hinder disease control communicated quickly and widely via social media.”

On the bright side, “preparedness is not a very costly investment,” Dr. Alexander Ross, director of the GPMB secretariat, told the Telegraph, adding that such an investment “is immediate and has additional benefits of increasing trust.”

The GPMB was devised following the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic in West Africa, the deadliest outbreak of that disease in history and one in which sluggish action by the WHO played a major part in the high death toll. In the midst of another such epidemic, Ross has called for a “shift in paradigm in how we think about preparedness,” pointing out that even with a vaccine and new drugs to treat Ebola, the outbreak is not under control.

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Anti-vax movement among TOP THREATS to global health, with HIV & Ebola, WHO says

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September 17th 2019, 11:20 pm

Man plows car into lobby of Trump building in upstate New York, then sits quietly on couch (VIDEOS)

RT

A man drove his car into the lobby of Trump Plaza in New Rochelle, New York, injuring several people, then got out and sat on a couch amidst the shattered glass as if nothing had happened.

The driver plowed a black sedan through the front of the 40-story luxury residence about a half hour drive north of New York City on Tuesday night, causing major damage to the building and several injuries, according to initial reports.

He remained at the scene, sitting on the couch silently, until police arrived to interview him. The crash is believed to be accidental, according to CBS, though police are still investigating.

Video taken at the scene shows several firemen swarming the destroyed lobby, while the car - apparently totaled - is fully indoors, its hood and trunk both open.

In another video, taken a few minutes later, the scene has calmed down a bit. “That’s one way to make an entrance,” a man can be heard saying. “You guys couldn’t show him where the garage was?”

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September 17th 2019, 10:33 pm

Facebook will bankroll an ‘independent supreme court’ to moderate your content & set censorship prec

RT

Facebook has unveiled the charter for its ‘supreme court,’ a supposedly independent content moderation board that will take money from, and be appointed by, Facebook itself – while making binding decisions. What could go wrong?

Facebook has released preliminary plans for an “Oversight Board” tasked with reviewing content disputes. The 40-member body, referred to previously as Facebook’s “supreme court,” will have the authority to make binding decisions regarding cases brought to it by users or by the social media behemoth itself, according to a white paper released Tuesday, which stresses that the new board will be completely independent of Facebook, by popular request.

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The company has clearly taken pains to make this new construct look independent, the sort of place a user might be able to go to get justice after being deplatformed by an algorithm incapable of understanding sarcasm or context. But board members will be paid out of a trust funded by Facebook and managed by trustees appointed by Facebook, while the initial board members will also be appointed by Facebook.

We agreed with feedback that Facebook alone should not name the entire board,” the release states, proceeding to outline how Facebook will select “a small group of initial members,” who will then fill out the rest of the board. The trustees – also appointed by Facebook – will make the formal appointments of members, who will serve three-year terms.

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Facebook insists it is “committed to selecting a diverse and qualified group” – no current or former Facebook employees or spouses thereof, current government officials or lobbyists (former ones are apparently OK), high-ranking officials within political parties (low-ranking is apparently cool), or significant shareholders of Facebook need apply. A law firm will be employed to vet candidates for conflicts of interest, but given Facebook’s apparent inability to recognize the conflict of interest inherent in paying “independent” board members to make binding content decisions, it’s hard to tell what would qualify as a conflict.

How will Facebook decide which cases get the democracy treatment? Cases with significant real-world impact – meaning they affect a large number of people, threaten “someone else’s voice, safety, privacy, or dignity,” or have sparked public debate – and are difficult to parse with regard to existing policy will be heard first. “For now,” only Facebook-initiated cases will be heard by the board – Facebook users will be able to launch their own appeals by mid-2020. Is the company merely reaching for an “independent” rubber-stamp to justify some of its more controversial decisions as the antitrust sharks start circling? Decisions will not only be binding, but also applicable to other cases not being heard, if they’re deemed similar enough – potentially opening a Pandora’s box of far-reaching censorship.

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In a letter accompanying the white paper, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg claims the company’s moderators take into account “authenticity, safety, privacy, and dignity – guided by international human rights standards” when they make a decision to take down content. Given that the company’s own lawyers have questioned the very existence of users’ privacy, what does this bode for the other “values,” let alone international human rights standards?

Perhaps most ominously, Zuckerberg seems to have bigger things in mind for his Oversight Board than merely weighing in on Facebook content moderation decisions. “We expect the board will only hear a small number of cases at first, but over time we hope it will expand its scope and potentially include more companies across the industry as well” (emphasis added). Not exactly a throwaway line from the man who said he wanted Facebook to become an internet driver’s license. The private-sector social credit score may be closer than we think – and Zuckerberg would very much like to be the scorekeeper.

By Helen Buyniski, RT

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September 17th 2019, 9:47 pm

‘Israel at historic juncture’: Netanyahu refuses to concede as Gantz claims ‘mission accomplished’

RT

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to fight on even as exit polls showing him tied or lagging behind his main opposition rival, with a slim chance of assembling a coalition needed for a fifth term.

Netanyahu’s chief rival for the premiership, retired General Benjamin ‘Benny’ Gantz, gave his followers a cheerful “mission accomplished” speech in the early hours of Wednesday, encouraged by the exit polls.

“We will wait for the actual results, but the way things stand, we've fulfilled our mission," he said at the Blue and White HQ in Tel Aviv, adding that Netanyahu “did not succeed in his mission.”

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Narrow exit poll results hold Israel in suspense: Even if Netanyahu beats Gantz, forming coalition would be challenging

Negotiations to form a national unity government are under way, Gantz said. Blue and White has previously said they were open to such a government with Likud, but only without Netanyahu anywhere in the picture.

September 17th 2019, 8:33 pm

US Sanctions Venezuelan businessmen for alleged food aid scam

RT

The US Treasury Department has sanctioned three Venezuelan businessmen and 16 companies, whom it says were involved in a scheme to help President Nicolas Maduro profit from foreign food aid.

According to the Treasury, Amir Luis Saab, Luis Alberto Saab and David Nicolas Rubio were awarded overvalued government contracts to acquire food abroad for Venezuela’s CLAP food assistance program. The Saab’s brother Alex was already sanctioned in July for participating in the same scheme.

The US accuses the men of helping Maduro use food distribution as a means of political control, an accusation Maduro has waved away before.

The Treasury Department has hit Venezuela with multiple rounds of sanctions since President Trump recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s interim president in January. Some of these sanctions have targeted Maduro and his inner circle, while others target the country’s already-crippled economy, and have been criticized by UN officials for contributing to the Venezuelan people’s suffering. 

September 17th 2019, 6:46 pm

US Navy confirms leaked ‘UFO videos’ are real & never should have been released to the public

RT

Three videos appearing to show encounters between US Navy aircraft and UFOs are real, the service has admitted, while insisting the clips merely show so far “unexplained aerial phenomena” and were never cleared for public release.

Three widely-circulated clips depicting military aircraft interacting with UFOs – mysterious objects performing maneuvers not possible using existing aviation technology – were never supposed to be released to the public, the Navy’s Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare spokesman Joseph Gradisher told the Black Vault earlier this month, but the videos are genuine – and their contents can’t be explained.

The Navy designates the objects contained in these videos as unidentified aerial phenomena” (UAP), Gradisher said, explaining that UAP is used instead of UFO as the “basic descriptor for the sightings/observations of unauthorized/unidentified aircraft/objects that have been observed entering/operating in the airspace of various military-controlled training ranges.”

Translated into English: we don’t know what they are, but there’s no evidence they’re alien in origin.

One clip (“FLIR1”) shows a dark, pill-shaped object hovering for several seconds before scooting sideways extremely fast. Another (“GoFast”) shows the observing aircraft’s sensor lock onto a fast-moving target as the pilots are heard in the background excitedly wondering what exactly they’ve stumbled across. The third (“Gimbal”) shows an oblong object moving steadily before stopping and rotating as the pilots observing it exclaim in surprise.

The videos were released to Luis Elizondo – a former military intelligence officer who claims to have directed the Pentagon’s UFO research arm, Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program – in 2017, for use in a database about aerial threats. While declassified, they were not cleared for general public use.

Since then, the videos have made their way to the New York Times and To The Stars Academy of Arts & Science, a consortium of former intelligence officers, scientists, and celebrities promoting the investigation of UFOs and other “scientific mysteries.” The Pentagon complained, stating earlier this year that the videos “should still be withheld” as they were “never officially released to the general public,” but it’s a bit too late to put the unidentified flying cat back in the bag.

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US Navy setting up guidelines for reporting UFO sightings

The Navy set up guidelines earlier this year for reporting “unidentified aircraft” entering US airspace, ensuring no encounter would go undocumented in response to a plethora of reports, and lawmakers have reportedly requested briefings on the issue as the Pentagon’s history of chasing UFOs under secretive programs like AATIP has become public knowledge.

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September 17th 2019, 6:46 pm

‘Not a House party’: Ex-Trump aide Lewandowski hearing turns into impeachment circus

RT

Seeking to impeach President Donald Trump, the House Judiciary Committee summoned his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski for a hearing that devolved into a trolling and shouting match. Here are some of the craziest moments.

Appearing before the committee on Tuesday, Lewandowski accused the Democrats of “petty and personal politics,” described the hearing as “going down a rabbit hole” and vowed to be “as sincere in my answers as this committee is in its questions.” The video of his opening statement was approvingly tweeted by Trump.

From the very start the hearing turned into an inkblot test for the audience, with every sound bite being interpreted strictly through the prism of partisan politics. One prominent example was Lewandowski’s exchange with Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) which a liberal reporter described as “trolling” and “complete disrespect”:

Some Trump supporters, however, agreed with Lewandowski’s characterization of Jackson-Lee’s comments as a “rant” that contained no questions he could answer.

“This is the House Judiciary, not a house party,” Jackson-Lee said at one point.

“So if you ask me a question, give me the opportunity to answer your question,” Lewandowski replied.

Lewandowski at one point addressed Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-California) as “President Swalwell,” alluding to his failed bid for the party’s presidential nomination.

During a pause in the hearing, Lewandowski announced his new website, set up to facilitate a potential Senate run in New Hampshire.

He later joked with a Republican lawmaker that he had not read the report by special counsel Robert Mueller, and neither had anyone else.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York) tried to paint Lewandowski as a mobster, asking him whether he was a “hitman, bagman, lookout, or all three.”

“I think I'm the good looking man, actually,” Lewandowski retorted.

By the end of the hearing, infuriated Democrats were demanding that Lewandowski be held in contempt. 

Meanwhile, proponents of the ‘Russiagate’ conspiracy theory saw evidence in Lewandowski’s answers, or the committee’s questions – or both – that they were right all along.

So what was the point of the hearing? To set up impeachment of Trump, as one prominent ‘Russiagater’ explained.

Never mind that every single attempt so far has ended in abject failure. 

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September 17th 2019, 6:46 pm

‘Very high probability’ Iran behind Saudi attack, say anonymous US officials

RT

While Saudi Arabia is holding off on assigning blame for the attack on its oil facilities, the US media are pointing the finger at Iran, citing anonymous government officials allegedly familiar with the ongoing investigation.

US and Saudi investigators have determined “with very high probability” that Saturday’s strike was launched from an Iranian base close to the border with Iraq, CNN reported, based on these anonymous sources. 

Both drones and cruise missiles were used to attack the refinery at Abqaiq and the Khurais oil field, flying over southern Iraq and Kuwait to avoid Saudi air defenses, according to CNN’s source. This information was also quoted by AFP, but it was unclear whether their source was the same official or a different one.

CBS News quoted a “senior US official” who said the Saudi air defenses did not stop the drones and missiles because they were pointed south, to detect and prevent attacks from Yemen.

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Oil supply is back to what it was before the attack, but we don't know yet who is responsible - Saudi energy minister

The attack caused widespread damage to Aramco’s oil facilities and crippled Saudi Arabia’s oil output. Most of the production has been restored and things ought to be back to normal by the end of September, the Kingdom’s officials said on Tuesday. 

While Washington immediately blamed Iran for the attack, the Saudi authorities have been more circumspect, with Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman saying they “don’t know” who was behind it just yet.

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US defense failure… Why Washington has to blame Iran over Saudi attacks

France was likewise skeptical, with Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian telling reporters he had seen no evidence indicating the origin of the attack just yet. 

“Up to now, France does not have any proof that would allow us to say where the drones came from,” Le Drian, who is on a working visit to Egypt, told reporters on Tuesday.

Speaking at a news conference with his Egyptian colleague, Le Drian urged a “strategy of de-escalation” and seconded Saudi calls to involve the UN in the investigation.

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‘Maximum lies’: Iran rejects US’ claim it attacked Saudi oil facilities, warns it’s ready for war

Tehran has angrily rejected US accusations of its involvement, with Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Seyyed Abbas Mousavi calling it a campaign of “maximum lies” to justify a military intervention. 

The Houthi rebels in Yemen have claimed responsibility for the strike, saying it was carried out with 10 armed drones, in retaliation for the Saudi bombing and invasion of their country.

Anonymous officials talking to the media said the US is still gathering evidence and intends to present it to the international community next week, at the UN General Assembly. 

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September 17th 2019, 4:57 pm

Erling Haaland: Teen ace bags first-half hat-trick on Champions League debut for Salzburg

RT

Norwegian teenager Erling Haaland scored a first-half hat-trick on his UEFA Champions League debut as Red Bull Salzburg opened up a big first-half lead against Genk.

Haaland, 19, opened the scoring in the second minute at Red Bull Arena before adding to his tally twice in the last 15 minutes of the half.

Salzburg took a 5-1 lead into the break against their Belgian opponents as they made a near-perfect start to their Group E campaign.

Dominik Szoboszlai scored Salzburg's other goal, while Jhon Lucumí pulled one back for Genk.  

For highly-rated teen forward Haaland – son of former Leeds and Manchester City player Alf-Inge Haaland – it continued an incredible start to the season which has seen him net 11 goals in just seven Austrian league games.

September 17th 2019, 4:47 pm

Narrow exit poll results hold Israel in suspense: Even if Netanyahu beats Gantz, forming coalition w

RT

Former military chief and Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz leads exit polls by a narrow margin over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a close result sure to leave the country in suspense.

After voting ended on Tuesday night, two out of three exit polls give Gantz the edge, with Channel 12’s poll showing the Blue and White Party leading with 34 Knesset seats, over Likud’s 33, while Channel 13’s exit survey put Blue and White at 33 seats and Likud at 31, and Kan’s put the two parties at a dead tie.

Based on the early exit polling, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, even if victorious, will be forced again to secure a governing coalition, having failed to earn a clear majority in the vote.

“Only time will tell whether the polls are correct, but certainly what we’re hearing at this stage is that there's been no outright winner, this was a close contest,” said RT Middle East bureau chief Paula Slier.

“Neither of them has won an outright majority, and more importantly, neither of them – looking at these initial exit polls – is able to form a majority coalition government.”

“So what this means essentially is that the country finds itself right now in the same position it was in six months ago,” Slier added.

The election itself is a result of a failure to form a government following the vote in April, in which Netanyahu’s Likud Party and Blue and White were tied at 35 Knesset seats each, with smaller parties dividing the remaining 50. Neither managed to attract enough smaller parties to reach the bare minimum of 61 seats needed for a government.

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Polls close in Israel: Historic snap election a referendum on Netanyahu & settlement annexations

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September 17th 2019, 4:47 pm

‘Tremendous concern’: Jordan’s King Abdullah says Israel annexing settlements would be ‘disaster’

RT

The King of Jordan has come out harshly against any Israeli plans to annex new territory in the West Bank, predicting a “disaster” for what remains of the peace process with the Palestinians, and for a two-state solution.

Speaking at a press conference in Berlin on Tuesday following a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Jordan’s King Abdullah II denounced recent Israeli threats to annex all existing settlements in the West Bank, among other provocative proposals from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“So these types of statements, I think, are a disaster to any attempt to move forward to the two-state solution,” the King said, adding that Jordan looked at the situation with “tremendous concern” because “it does not bode well for trying to get Israelis and Palestinians together.”

Chancellor Merkel also weighed in on the issue, knocking the Israeli PM’s threats as “unhelpful.”

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Polls close in Israel: Historic snap election a referendum on Netanyahu & settlement annexations

Netanyahu’s rhetoric on settlements, annexation and Palestinians in general has soared to the heights of bluster as Israel approaches its second general election this year, with the PM having failed to form a government after the first contest, held in April. While Netanyahu has been known to leverage hawkish promises and threats around election time, the PM appears to be upping the ante this time around, vowing not only to annex new territory if he wins, but to launch a war in Gaza and beyond as well.

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Netanyahu’s West Bank annexation plan is vile attempt to win votes at expense of peace – Turkey

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September 17th 2019, 4:47 pm

UNSC overcomes China’s veto threat to renew Afghanistan political mission

RT

The United Nations Security Council unanimously agreed on Tuesday to extend a UN political mission in Afghanistan. Last-minute talks overcame a Chinese threat to use its veto if there was no reference to Beijing’s global Belt and Road infrastructure project, Reuters reports.

The final language – drafted by Germany and Indonesia – adopted by the 15-member council does not mention the project.

“To our regret a few countries refused to keep the text of consensus previously agreed,” said China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun, describing the adopted resolution as a technical rollover.

The resolutions mandating the mission in 2016, 2017 and 2018 all included references welcoming and urging efforts like China’s Belt and Road initiative to facilitate trade and transit. In March, the US and some other council members said they could no longer accept that language.

The UN mission, which was established in 2002, is helping Afghanistan prepare for September 28 elections and is pushing for peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

September 17th 2019, 3:57 pm

Spain to hold repeat parliamentary election on November 10 – acting PM Sanchez

RT

Spain will hold a repeat parliamentary election on November 10, acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Tuesday after failing to secure enough support to be confirmed as premier.

“It has been impossible to complete the mandate given to us by the Spanish people on April 28. They have made it impossible for us,” Sanchez said, referring to opposition parties.

“There is no majority in Congress that guarantees the formation of a government, which pushes us to a repeat election on November 10,” Reuters quoted Sanchez as saying.

The country held a previous election on April 28.

September 17th 2019, 3:57 pm

Fire & EXPLOSION reported at Pemex oil refinery in southern Mexico

RT

An oil refinery in Mexico has caught fire, according to videos that have emerged on social media. An explosion at the same facility was also reported, but the extent of the damage remains unclear.

Parts of the Antonio Dovali Jaime refinery in Selina Cruz, Mexico could be seen emitting thick clouds of black smoke in video footage posted online. It is not clear what caused the incident, and so far no injuries have been reported.

Emergency responders have reportedly contained the fire in hopes of preventing another explosion; other workers at the refinery have been evacuated from the facility.

DETAILS TO FOLLOW

September 17th 2019, 3:46 pm

‘Crazy’ for Polish PM to suggest Nord Stream 2 pipeline is a ‘threat’ to European energy security

RT

It is “rubbish” for Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki to claim that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will deliver a supply of cheap gas from Russia to the EU, is a “threat” to European energy security, analyst John Laughland told RT.

Morawiecki said at a press conference on Tuesday that the pipeline, currently under construction, posed a “threat to energy security” in the Baltic region. Poland and the Baltic states have consistently complained that the project affords Russia too much leverage over Europe’s energy supply, despite the fact that EU heavyweight Germany has backed the project, touting its economic benefit.

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Pipeline to bring Russian gas to Europe is three-quarters complete

“The opening of a new pipeline does not threaten energy security,” international commenter John Laughland told RT, explaining that Russia was not going to prevent Europe from going elsewhere for gas if it wanted to.

“Russia provides gas in a market – and Europe is welcome to open other sources of gas through the Black Sea or Turkey or wherever, if it wants to.”

“The idea that this is a threat to energy security is crazy. There are many other sources of energy apart from gas and the sources of gas are themselves numerous,” he added.

Europe is, of course, interested in diversifying its energy sources and Moscow would not have stopped it, for example, from building the failed Nabucco Pipeline through the Black Sea, he said. Nabucco would have run from the Turkish-Bulgarian border to Austria, but never succeeded due to lack of investment as Iran, Turkmenistan, Egypt and Iraq all pulled out of the project, with Azerbaijan finally rejecting the idea.

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Europe’s full-blown Stockholm Syndrome in face of US bullying

Speaking at the same news conference, Lithuanian PM Saulius Skvernelis described Nord Stream 2 as a “geopolitical project with no economic justification.” That was an ironic comment, Laughland said, because “the truth is that Mr. Skvernelis’s own statements are geopolitical and make no economic sense.”

It is “crazy” for Skvernelis to suggest that Germany supports the Nord Stream 2 project for geopolitical reasons, when in fact it is “precisely for economic reasons” that Berlin wants it to continue.

“Germany wants a supply of cheap gas and this paranoia about Russia using gas as a geopolitical instrument is dangerous fantasy and it discredits those who make such claims."

Berlin is, therefore, likely to “ignore” Poland and Lithuania’s latest complaints and continue to campaign for the pipeline to go ahead, Laughland said, noting that Chancellor Angela Merkel had repeatedly reminded her European neighbors that Germany and Europe bought gas from Russia even at the height of the Cold War.

The Balts are heavily influenced by US policy on the Nord Stream 2 project and the latest comments are all part of the “battle” for the European market, Laughland said. Countries like Poland and Lithuania are now campaigning on behalf of Washington for Europe to purchase “expensive American [Liquefied Natural Gas] instead of cheap Russian gas.” The US has even considered imposing sanctions on the pipeline in an attempt to strongarm Europe into buying American gas. Poland has already signed a deal with Washington agreeing to buy millions of tons of US LNG starting in 2022 or 2023.

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Russian gas supply via Nord Stream 2 pipeline to start by end of year at latest – Austria’s OMV

But efforts to “sabotage” Nord Stream 2 have not been successful so far, Laughland said, noting that construction is still going ahead on the pipeline. It is currently about three-quarters complete, the latest objections are “nothing new” and Germany has indicated that it won’t give into pressure. 

Ultimately, Laughland said, comments from Morawiecki and Skvernelis are just another example of “using security arguments to advance political goals.”

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September 17th 2019, 3:46 pm

WATCH Indian Air Force test-fire homegrown Astra missile from a Russian jet

RT

The Indian Air Force has carried out a successful test of the Astra, its first homegrown air-to-air missile system. The trial launch from a Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jet was captured in impressive video footage.

In the clip, the IAF’s Su-30MKI can be seen firing off its rocket-propelled payload, which quickly travels out of view. The Indian Ministry of Defense said the test demonstrated the “capacity” of the munition and confirmed the missile had accurately hit its target.

The Astra is New Delhi’s first indigenously developed air-to-air missile, integrated with the Russian-designed fighter produced specifically for the IAF. It has a range of around 50 miles (80km) and is equipped with a 33-pound (15kg) pre-fragmented warhead.

The missile has been under development for decades, with the first limited series production green-lighted in 2017.

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Moscow & New Delhi in talks over moving part of S-400 production to India

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September 17th 2019, 3:46 pm

‘Pray for CNN’: Network crucified for bashing ‘thoughts and prayers’ tradition

RT

‘Thoughts and prayers’ is a phrase bandied about by well-wishers after almost every national tragedy but, according to a new study reported by CNN, atheists would actually pay not to receive them.

Sending thoughts and prayers to the afflicted in the wake of a disaster is often criticized as a self-serving and ultimately pointless endeavor. After all, no amount of thoughts and prayers is going to rebuild homes flattened by Hurricane Dorian or cover funeral costs for the families of mass-shooting victims.

A team of researchers at the University of Wyoming set out to assign an actual monetary value to these thoughts and prayers. Enlisting 400 North Carolinans affected by the recent Hurricane Dorian, the researchers split them into two groups –Christians and atheists or agnostics– and asked them how much they’d pay for a thought or a prayer.

The Christians were willing to pay an average of $4.36 for a prayer from a Christian stranger, or the princely sum of $7.17 for a prayer from a priest. The atheists, however, were willing to hand over about $1.66 to avoid a prayer from a priest and $3.54 to dodge the blessing of a Christian stranger.

“One might expect that atheists/agnostics would be indifferent to people praying for them – why care, if you don’t believe in the gesture?” one of the researchers wrote. “But that is not what we find – atheists and agnostics are averse to prayers, to the extent that they are willing to abstain money in order to ensure not to get a prayer from a Christian stranger.”

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The article’s conclusion, that “it is important to think about who the target person is when sending thoughts and prayers in the wake of hardship,” and CNN’s reminder on Twitter that “not everyone wants them” had some commenters rolling their eyes.

“Yeah,” wrote one, “when a kind-hearted soul wishes me well, I find it to be a normal reaction to have a meltdown about it.” “Lighten the hell (might not be real) up” snapped another.

“Please pray for CNN” quipped Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who has previously responded to several mass shootings in his home state and acts of international terrorism with the ubiquitous phrase. 

To be fair, CNN could have gone deeper. Some social-justice types have lobbied to list “thoughts and prayers” as “microaggressions against atheists.” One such activist said that the trite phrase evoked “the same feeling as equating sexually lewd comments with compliments.” 

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September 17th 2019, 2:30 pm

Zenit star Sardar Azmoun scores first goal of Champions League season

RT

The honor of scoring the first goal of the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League season went to Russia’s Zenit St. Petersburg and their Iranian striker Sardar Azmoun.

Azmoun handed his team the lead at Lyon in the 41st minute of their Group G clash, playing a lovely one-two with strike partner Artem Dzyuba on the edge of the box before slotting past Anthony Lopes with the outside of his boot.

The goal from the 24-year-old Iranian international meant Russian champions Zenit headed in 1-0 to the good at half-time at Parc Olympique Lyonnais.

Zenit are back in Europe’s premier club competition after a three-year break, and face a group also containing Portuguese side Benfica and Germany’s RB Leipzig.   

September 17th 2019, 2:12 pm

Oil supply is back to what it was before the attack - Saudi energy minister

RT

DETAILS TO FOLLOW

September 17th 2019, 2:00 pm

Oh deer: Brexit losing PM Cameron ‘shoots stags and names them after Boris Johnson’

RT

Ex-Prime Minister David Cameron appears to be struggling to get over losing the 2016 Brexit referendum, with reports suggesting that he now spends his time shooting stags and naming them after his former political rivals.

Cameron’s tenure as PM was officially declared dead when he resigned on the morning after the shock referendum result. Three years later the ex-Tory leader apparently still has a bone to pick with some of his Conservative party colleagues who broke ranks and backed Brexit, notably Boris Johnson and Michael Gove. 

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‘Luxembourg laughs in Johnson’s face’: UK papers react to BoJo’s ‘gone missing’ press conference

Now that he has more time on his hands, newspaper reports on Tuesday revealed that Cameron has enjoyed a spot of hunting, naming his kills after former friend Gove and current Prime Minister Johnson.

Cameron is said to have taken part in an organised hunt on a remote Scottish island last month where he named a slain deer after his eventual successor in Downing Street.

“This was the sequel to a stalking expedition last summer during which a similarly stricken deer was given the name Gove,” columnist Alex Massie writes in The Times.

The Sun provides more detail on Cameron’s re-found hobby, reporting that he told attendees at the Davos summit in Switzerland last year that he finds hunting relaxing.  

“I have used the extra time to take up shooting again,” he reportedly said. “I find that when I shoot a few Borises and Michaels I feel a whole lot better.”

The former prime minister has frequently been in the headlines this week as he has been doing the rounds promoting his new political memoir.

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With Boris Johnson steering Brexit towards disaster capitalism, Scottish indy is a lifeboat

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September 17th 2019, 1:42 pm

Snowden book 'violates CIA & NSA non-disclosure agreements' - US lawsuit

RT

The US government has filed a lawsuit against National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, alleging that his newly-published memoir 'Permanent Record' violates nondisclosure agreements he signed with the CIA and NSA.

DETAILS TO FOLLOW

September 17th 2019, 1:30 pm

Top Russian public figures demand release of actor jailed for assaulting cop during protest

RT

Russia’s most prominent journalists, pop stars, and actors claim actor Pavel Ustinov has suffered a miscarriage of justice. He was convicted of injuring a cop at an anti-government protest, despite videos suggesting his innocence.

“It is impossible to stay silent. You cannot put an innocent man in jail,” actress Julia Snigir wrote on Facebook.

“The cynicism with which this was carried out could touch any of us,” actor and director Danila Kozlovsky posted on Instagram.

Russian film star Danila Kozlovsky - one of the celebrities who voices support for Ustinov. © Sputnik

“Injustice brings down governments,” wrote RT's editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan on Twitter.

Many simply shared an identical visual message made in support of Ustinov, 23, on their social media accounts with personal message of support.

The coordinated online protest is particularly notable as it has united both traditional opposition figures, with mostly online followings, and mainstream TV personalities and media figures traditionally loyal to the government. The collective following of those who posted on social media about the case numbers in the tens of millions.

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Young actor gets 3.5 years for injuring police officer during Moscow protests

On Monday, a Moscow court sentenced Ustinov to three and a half years in a corrective colony for causing physical and moral injuries to Aleksandr Lyagin, a riot police officer who helped detain him during the unsanctioned protests in the Russian capital on August 3.

Sergeant Lyagin told the judge that he spent 20 days in a Moscow hospital with a dislocated shoulder, and had written statements confirming his injuries from doctors and other law enforcement officials present during the demonstration, at which 600 people were detained.

Ustinov pleaded not guilty, saying that he had merely been a bystander during the protests, which had been organized in response to the disqualification of scores of opposition candidates from city assembly elections. He insisted that he neither swore at security officials, nor attempted to resist arrest.

Videos shot by multiple cameras present at the demonstration appear to corroborate his story.

Footage shows a four-man armed police patrol moving purposefully through an apparently peaceful crowd in the vicinity of the Kremlin, before abruptly targeting a stationary Ustinov, dragging him across the ground as he attempts to escape, and repeatedly beating him with truncheons, all in view of tens of yellow-vested journalists.

That charges were brought against him despite the existence of video clips, widely viewed on YouTube, created a wave of outrage even prior to the two-day hearing, at which prosecutors demanded a six-year term for Ustinov. Judges refused to accept the video as evidence.

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Moscow police fires 4 officers involved in drug arrest of journalist Golunov

A precedent of effective public protest against miscarriages of justice was also set in June, when a wave of celebrity and online condemnations led to the dropping of the charges against opposition journalist Ivan Golunov. He was arrested for drug possession and distribution, but insisted that the drugs had been planted by law enforcement officials. The officers involved have since been sacked.

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September 17th 2019, 1:00 pm

Oil prices falling in wake of report that Saudi output could bounce back in weeks after attack

RT

Crude oil prices have begun to stabilize following a report that Saudi Aramco would restore full output in a matter of weeks, reversing a dramatic spike in oil markets caused by drone strikes on Saudi petrol infrastructure.

Falling precipitously since Monday’s high of $71.95 per barrel, Brent crude is now trading at $65.44, recouping about four percent of a nearly 20-point spike after the drone attacks. The drop in prices comes on the heels of an optimistic report in Reuters that Saudi Aramco would carry out repairs faster than expected and resume full production in “two to three weeks.”

While Washington has cast blame on Tehran, Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for this weekend’s strikes, which devastated a pair of Saudi oil treatment facilities and disrupted nearly five percent of the global oil market, or 5.7 million barrels per day.

September 17th 2019, 12:42 pm

‘No written plan’: Ireland yet to see Britain’s Brexit proposals, FM says

RT

Ireland wants a deal on an orderly British exit from the European Union but Britain has so far failed to come up with a written plan, according to Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney.

“We in the EU… are open to a deal but it must achieve the aims of the backstop through a legally operable solution,” Coveney told reporters on Tuesday.

“We await written proposals from the UK side. We simply haven’t seen any written proposals to date,” Reuters quoted the minister as saying.

September 17th 2019, 12:12 pm

‘Public disorder and violence’: 100 Lille fans detained in Amsterdam ahead of Champions League clash

RT

Over 100 fans of French football club Lille have been detained by Dutch police in Amsterdam ahead of the Champions League game against Ajax.

Amsterdam police said that the fans had disrupted public order which included “lighting off fireworks and violence."

READ MORE: WATCH: Juve star Higuain LOSES IT in training as he lashes out at coach and destroys advertising board

According to local reports, large-scale disorder took place at Strandvliet metro station just over 200 meters from the Johan Cruijff Arena, which will host Tuesday’s match.

Lille supporters reportedly blocked metro traffic by jumping on railway tracks.

"As a result, we had to stop the metro traffic earlier this afternoon," said a spokesperson for the GVB transport company.

At least one fan has reportedly been injured.

Ajax will play the first Group H match of the Champions League against Lille on Tuesday evening.

September 17th 2019, 12:12 pm

Schools in Russia’s Sevastopol begin teaching Ukrainian language

RT

Ukrainian language has been added to the list of subjects taught at schools in Crimea’s largest city, Sevastopol. The classes were introduced in response to requests from parents.

Crimea, which reunited with Russia in 2014, has a majority Russian population, but the local authorities are working to make life more comfortable for Ukrainians and other national minorities.

“As part of native language classes, Ukrainian was added to Russian and Crimean-Tatar languages” in Sevastopol from the start of the new school year on September 1, a local education department official said.

The Ukrainian language lessons are optional, and students are required to have an application from their parents in order to attend the classes.

Around 13 percent of the city’s population of 443,000 are Ukrainian, and Ukrainian language classes are currently attended by 180 kids. Roughly the same number of children are learning Crimean-Tatar.

As for the Russian language, it’s studied by 41,000 school students in Sevastopol, a major port city in southern part of the Crimean Peninsula and the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

There have also been several requests for Armenian and Azerbaijani language classes, and the authorities are looking for qualified educators to teach them.

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Ukraine passes controversial language law, isolating Russian-speakers

The situation in Crimea stands in contrast to the ongoing crackdown on Russian and other languages in neighboring Ukraine, where a significant part of the population speaks the language.

Education in Russian will only remain available to primary school students in the country in 2019 and 2020. After that, all schools teaching in any other language than Ukrainian are to be shut down.

The decision by Kiev caused a major outcry not only in Russia, but also in Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, which also have large diaspora in Ukraine.

A new law supporting Ukrainian as the only state language came into force in the country this July. It made the use of Ukrainian obligatory in education, medicine, culture, media and other areas, abolishing the status of Russian as the language of inter-ethnic communication.

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Ukrainian region bans Russian language songs, films, books… and more

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September 17th 2019, 12:00 pm

Is Arsene Wenger on his way to Russia? Shock reports link former Arsenal boss with Spartak Moscow jo

RT

Spartak Moscow are set to sound out former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger over potentially taking over at the club, according to reports in Russia.

Wenger, 69, has been out of management since leaving Arsenal in the summer of 2018, calling time on 22 years at the London club.

According to claims in Russia, the Frenchman will be offered a route back into coaching at struggling Spartak Moscow, where he would take over from embattled boss Oleg Kononov.

© Global Look Press / imago sportfotodienst

Sport Express claims that Spartak’s German CEO Tomas Zorn has already left for London, where he will put out feelers to assess whether Wenger would be willing to take the reins at the Moscow club.

CEO Zorn with club owner Leonid Fedun. © Global Look Press / Dmitry Golubovich

Current Spartak boss Kononov is under fire after an uninspiring start to the season which has left the club sixth in the table and six points off the leaders.

Spartak failed to reach the Europa League group stage after being dumped out by Portuguese side Braga in qualifying, and lost their most recent game 2-1 at home to Ural in another insipid performance that left fans demanding Kononov’s exit.

Under-fire current coach Kononov. © Global Look Press / Maksim Konstantinov

Kononov stepped in following the sacking of popular Italian manager Massimo Carrera in 2018, but now appears to be on borrowed time.

Fans in attendance at Saturday’s defeat against Ural were heard chanting Carrera’s name, and the Italian – who previously served as assistant to Antonio Conte at Juventus – has said he is willing to return to the club he guided to the league title in 2017, ending a 16-year drought.

Spartak's charismatic former boss Carrera. © Global Look Press / Dmitry Golubovich

But reports suggest that Wenger would be the prime target for Spartak, should Kononov be given his marching orders.

The Frenchman has largely restricted himself to media work since stepping away from Arsenal, and despite the disappointment of the latter part of his time at the Gunners he is not likely to be short of potential suitors.

© GES-Sportfoto / Global Look Press / Markus Gilliar

Given his reputation and standing in the game it would seem a stretch for Wenger to step in at a club languishing in the middle of the Russian table, although Spartak boast impressive infrastructure with their 45,000-seater Otkritie Arena home, which hosted matches during last year's World Cup.

© Sputnik / Anton Denisov

They are historically the biggest and most successful club in Russia, with 22 Soviet/Russian league titles to their name.

During the summer they saw the departure of key players such as Cape Verdean striker Ze Luis – who left for Porto – and Brazilian midfielder Fernando, who headed to China to play for Beijing Guoan.  

They have brought in young faces such as Jordan Larsson – son of Celtic legend Henrik – Guus Til from Alkmaar, and most recently Alex Kral from Slavia Prague, as well as German World Cup winner Andre Schurrle on loan from Borussia Dortmund.

Former Chelsea and Fulham man Schurrle is in the Spartak ranks. © Global Look Press / Dmitry Golubovich

But results and performances continue to be disappointing, leading to Zorn’s supposed mission to London to test the waters with Wenger.

September 17th 2019, 12:00 pm
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