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SWASTIKA in State Department elevator prompts condemnations from Blinken, Israel

RT

After what looked like a Nazi symbol was found carved into the wall of a State Department elevator in Washington, Israeli ambassador to the US denounced anti-Semitism and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called it “abhorrent.”

“Unfortunately, late yesterday a swastika was found carved in an elevator in our building here, at the State Department,” Deputy Spokesperson Jalina Porter told reporters on Tuesday.

“This graffiti has been removed and the incident will be investigated,” she added.

The crudely carved symbol was discovered inside Elevator 36 at the State Department headquarters in Foggy Bottom late on Monday, Axios reported on Tuesday with an exclusive photo. The elevator is reportedly near the office of the US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism. 

Blinken, who is Jewish, is currently on a trip to Kuwait and India. He sent an email to the State Department employees on Tuesday, calling the “hateful graffiti” a painful reminder that “anti-Semitism isn't a relic of the past.”

“It's still a force in the world, including close to home. And it's abhorrent. It has no place in the United States, at the State Department, or anywhere else. And we must be relentless in standing up and rejecting it,” Blinken wrote.

“We also know from our own history and from the histories of other nations that anti-Semitism often goes hand in hand with racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and other hatreds. None of these ideologies should have a home in our workplace or our nation,” the secretary added.

Gilad Erdan, Israeli ambassador to the US and the UN, also commented on the discovery, calling the State Department swastika “a serious incident of antisemitic vandalism, which once again shows that antisemitism does not distinguish between Jews in Israel and Jews in America, and harms not only Israel but the entire world.” 

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According to Axios, the defaced elevator “raises troubling questions about security” at the State Department. All of the elevators inside the complex are inside the secure perimeter, covered by cameras and uniformed guards. There are fewer employees on premises than usual, since many State Department staffers continue to work from home on account of the coronavirus pandemic. Any outside contractors allowed access are supposed to be vetted by the Diplomatic Security Service. All of this should make it easy to identify the culprit, though that has not happened yet.

Earlier this month, State Department officials said that President Joe Biden intends to nominate a full-time ambassador to the post of antisemitism envoy, currently handled by Kara McDonald, deputy assistant secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

Jewish groups have also lobbied the White House for a stronger response to anti-Semitic attacks in the US, which they tied to the recent violence in Israel and Gaza.

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July 27th 2021, 8:26 pm

Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene and other Republicans run out of own press conference by whistlin

RT

A press conference with Republican House members, including Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia), was dramatically cut short as protesters drowned them out and chased them down the street.

Protesters gathered behind the Republicans holding the Tuesday presser about the January 6 Capitol riot and immediately began the disruptions with whistles being blown and one demonstrator walking around with a mockup of Donald Trump on a stick. 

At one point, Greene directly addressed the protesters and promised Republicans “will not back down.” 

“We will not back down, we will not stop asking questions, we are looking for the truth. And we believe the truth can be found by reaching out and answering and asking the right questions to the right people,” she said. 

The presser ended once protesters got too close to the Republicans and essentially took over the event. Gaetz and Taylor Greene were followed by protesters, even seemingly getting confused about where they were walking as they were swarmed. One woman immediately grabbed attention on social media for running after the Florida congressman repeatedly asking: “Are you a pedophile?”

The comment was in reference to a federal investigation into allegations that Gaetz paid a 17-year-old girl for sex and to travel across state lines to meet him, which he denies. 

While conservatives pundits were quick to blast the unproductive disruption by protesters, more liberal critics took to social media to celebrate the “heroes” who caused the scene.

Criticism of Gaetz was further fueled on Tuesday after his future sister-in-law posted TikTok videos blasting him. Gaetz is engaged to the TikToker’s sister, Ginger Luckey.

In her videos, Roxanne Luckey, 20, called Gaetz “weird and creepy” and claimed he tried pressuring a relationship between her and an older man, according to the Daily Beast. She said she was “not surprised” by the accusations against him. She has since made her TikTok account private.

Held outside the Department of Justice, the event was meant to highlight the alleged mistreatment of those who have been arrested in connection with the January 6 Capitol riot. 

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Arizona), who also took part, described the rioters arrested as “nonviolent prisoners” and claimed he has heard reports that they have faced mistreatment in jail, including allegedly being kept in solitary confinement for nearly 24 hours. 

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“These are not unruly or dangerous, violent criminals, these are political prisoners who are now being persecuted during the pain of unjust suffering,” he said. 

While the press conference was held, a committee put together in the House began hearing testimony from Capitol officers about their experiences on January 6. Republicans have been highly critical of the committee, claiming it is too biased towards the Left. One of the two Republicans sitting on the committee, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming), took time during Tuesday’s proceedings to blast her colleagues over their press conference.

“The fact that so many members of our leadership, and others, the fact that they’ve gone from recognizing what happened on the 6th to protesting in front of the Justice Department on behalf of those who were part of the insurrection is something that I can’t explain,” she said, adding that it’s a “disgrace.”

Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy has dubbed Cheney a “Pelosi Republican” for her involvement in the committee and her continued criticism of her own party. 

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July 27th 2021, 8:26 pm

Biden says vaccine mandate for federal employees ‘under consideration’ as reports suggest announceme

RT

US President Joe Biden has confirmed that he is mulling vaccine requirements for federal workers. CNN reported the mandate is imminent and will likely be formally announced as early as Thursday.

Asked about a possible mandate for government personnel on Tuesday, Biden told reporters the move is “under consideration right now,” but declined to comment further. Soon after, however, CNN reported that the new rules would be announced on Thursday, citing a source with “direct knowledge of the matter.”

While the specifics remain unclear, Biden is expected to propose restrictions similar to those recently imposed in New York City and California, where public workers are now required to take the jab, the source said, adding that the president will also unveil new incentives to encourage vaccinations. They noted that the rules would not extend to the military, at least for now.

The discussions of mandatory immunizations for government employees follow a decision by the Department of Veteran Affairs on Monday to require vaccines for its health workers, becoming the first federal agency to do so. 

While the White House urged federal agencies not to require inoculations for on-site work as recently as June, saying they “should generally not be a pre-condition,” it appears to have shifted its stance in the few weeks since. Moreover, lawyers at the Justice Department concluded earlier this week that federal law does not prohibit vaccine mandates, including for private entities and regardless of whether the immunizations are fully authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), potentially laying the ground for future requirements.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) abruptly reversed its previous guidance that the vaccinated do not need to wear masks indoors, pointing to the more contagious Delta variant making the rounds across much of the world. 

Asked whether the ever-changing health guidelines could be confusing for Americans, Biden turned his sights to the unvaccinated, suggesting they are to blame for the ongoing health crisis.

“We have a pandemic because the unvaccinated and they're sowing enormous confusion. And the more we learn about this virus and the Delta variation, the more we have to be worried and concerned,” he said. “There's only one thing we know for sure, if those other hundred million people got vaccinated, we'd be in a very different world.”

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July 27th 2021, 8:26 pm

Stay home, save lives? Kuwait restricts foreign travel for unvaccinated citizens, barring most of it

RT

Kuwait has opted to allow only its vaccinated citizens to travel abroad, with children and pregnant women exempted from the new rule. The move effectively grounds a large part of the nation’s 4.2 million population.

The blanket ban on foreign travel for the unvaccinated citizens was announced by authorities of the Gulf nation on Tuesday. Starting from August 1, only vaccinated individuals will be allowed to go abroad.

Children under 16, however, are exempt from the new rule. People with medical conditions preventing vaccination, as well as pregnant women, will also be allowed to travel if they obtain proper certification from the nation’s health ministry.

The move effectively grounds a vast swath of the country’s population under a foreign travel ban. According to the latest available data, Kuwait has administered over 2.3 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, with around one million people so far – over 22% of the population – receiving two shots.

While the announcement was not exactly clear on this matter, it apparently indicated that only fully vaccinated people will be allowed to travel after the measure takes effect next month.

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Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Gulf nation has registered over 394,000 coronavirus cases, while almost 2,300 people have succumbed to the disease.

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July 27th 2021, 8:26 pm

Milica Mandic: Meet the Serbian taekwondo beauty who became a double Olympic champion with gold in T

RT

Milica Mandic is a stunning Serbian taekwondo expert who has set hearts racing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics by achieving a gold medal in the +67 kgs division of the competition, but this isn't her first rodeo at the Games.

Achieving gold in London in 2012, Mandic is now a double champion in the world's flagship tournament after beating Lee Da-Bin in the final on Tuesday afternoon.

This is all the more impressive considering that the martial art was invented in Da-Bin's country South Korea, who had won at least one gold in the discipline since it became an Olympic Sport in Sydney in 2000.

"I was ready for it," Mandic said post-victory.

"Rio was very hard for me [in 2016] - I wanted it so much but did not get the result," she revealed, in reference to her quarterfinal exit.

"This time I had years to qualify and the dream came true."

Born in Belgrade in December 1991, when the Serbian city still formed part of the former Yugoslavia, Mandic came to prominence when she won a bronze at the 2011 World Taekwondo Championships in Gyeongju, South Korea.

A silver at the 2012 European Taekwondo Championships represented further progress, but then she made history by becoming an independent Serbia's first ever gold medalist in London when beating France's Anne-Caroline Graffe 9-7 in the final.

For this, she was inducted into Taekwondo's Hall of Fame in Las Vegas in 2013 alongside her coach Dragan Jovic for their contribution to the sport in her Eastern European homeland.

As mentioned, a quarterfinal exit at the hands of Brit Bianca Walkden - who won bronze this time round in Tokyo - meant she was unable to defend her crown in Rio in 2016.

But Mandic was soon back to her best with a gold win at the 2017 World Taekwondo Championships in Muju South Korea, where she topped local combatant Oh Hye-ri.

In April last year, as the pandemic took off, she announced that this Olympics would be her last, and can now retire in perfect fashion after leaving a permanent mark on her favorite hobby-turned-profession. 

And in bad news for those already smitten with the 5ft 11 beauty, her post-competition years will probably be spent alongside the long-term partner she regularly posts pictures with for her 63,300 followers on Instagram.

July 27th 2021, 8:26 pm

50,000+ illegal migrants were released into US in 4 months and only 13% checked back in – reports

RT

Having detained more than a million people who crossed the US-Mexico border illegally this year, US Customs and Border Enforcement (ICE) has reportedly released more than 50,000 of them into the country without a court date.

People who cross the border illegally are normally held in ICE detention, or transferred to other US government agencies. Some are released on bond and given a date to appear before an immigration judge.

Since mid-March, however, more than 50,000 migrants have been released by ICE into the interior of the US, with only a sheet of contact information for ICE offices where they should check in “to get work permits,” according to Axios.

Only 6,700 of them, or about 13%, have actually checked in with ICE as of Monday, the outlet reported citing a source briefed on Homeland Security data. Some 27,000 still have time to show up, while the rest went missing and haven't checked in within the prescribed 60 days.

Axios also cited Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), who said that 7,300 migrants in just the Rio Grande Valley sector had been released during the past week, and that the total number was closer to 55,000. 

Cuellar, whose district stretches along the Rio Grande, was responsible for publication of photos showing the holding facilities for unaccompanied minors, back in March.

The surge of illegal migrants into the US continues, with more than 20,000 people apprehended in the Rio Grande Valley sector alone just last week.

Earlier this month, the US Border Patrol said apprehensions along the border had reached a 20-year record, exceeding one million people in this fiscal year – with three more months left to go. More than 178,000 people were detained in June – including 56,000 traveling as families, a 25% increase from May. 

On Tuesday, the White House announced it was seeking “expedited removal” of families and children crossing illegally. However, only 14% of such migrants were expelled in June, according to CBS News. The Biden administration said the process was being hindered by Mexico’s refusal to accept families not from Central America, CDC rules and humanitarian exceptions, among other things.

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The Axios report has drawn numerous reactions from the administration’s conservative critics. Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) called it “utterly lawless,” accusing the White House of “trying to sneak through massive amnesty” for illegal migrants.

Others pointed out that the administration was allowing this to happen while reinstating some coronavirus restrictions on Americans.

“The same people [who] want to mask you and lock you down for your ‘safety’ are facilitating an invasion of our country by tens of thousands of unknown foreign nationals,” said Newsmax host Benny Johnson, calling it “evil” and “repulsive disrespect for America from our ruling class.”

Covid-19 vaccination is so important “that we are allowing an unlimited number of unvaccinated people to enter the country illegally and releasing them, even chauffeuring them, into the interior,” tweeted Pedro Gonzalez of Chronicles magazine.

One of the first things President Joe Biden did upon taking office in January was to revoke most of his predecessor Donald Trump’s immigration policies, starting with halting construction on the border wall. Despite the record-shattering influx of migrants, some wearing “Biden let us in” shirts, the White House has refused to call the situation on the border a “crisis” and insisted the surge was seasonal and caused by climate change, violence, or poverty. 

Vice President Kamala Harris was put in charge of the border situation, and has since visited Mexico, Guatemala, and a Border Patrol office in El Paso, on the other side of Texas from the Rio Grande Sector.

On Tuesday, the White House released a document dubbed the ‘Blueprint for a Fair, Orderly and Humane Immigration System,’ in which it said the US “will always be a nation of borders, and we will enforce our immigration laws in a way that is fair and just.”

“We will continue to work to fortify an orderly immigration system,” the document added.

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July 27th 2021, 8:26 pm

US government auctions off only copy of Wu-Tang Clan album once owned by notorious ‘Pharma Bro’ Mart

RT

The federal government has sold the sole copy of the Wu-Tang Clan’s ‘Once Upon a Time in Shaolin,’ three years after seizing it from jailed pharma executive Martin Shkreli. The sale cleared Shreli’s debt to the government.

‘Once Upon a Time in Shaolin’ was sold to an anonymous buyer for an undisclosed sum, the Brooklyn US Attorney’s Office announced in a press release on Tuesday. While the sale price was undisclosed, it was enough to satisfy the remaining balance on a forfeiture judgment of approximately $7.4 million, owed by Shkreli since 2018.

The album, and Shkreli himself, have undergone a long and bizarre journey to reach this point. ‘Once Upon a Time in Shaolin’ was released by the Wu-Tang Clan in 2015, though not to rap fans worldwide. Instead, a single two-CD copy inside a jewel-encrusted silver box was held in a vault in Morocco, before it was auctioned off by Paddle8, a New York auction house.

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Shkreli bought the album that year for $2 million, and in doing so entered into an agreement that he could not commercially exploit it until the year 2103. He promised fans that he would release it for free if Donald Trump won the 2016 election, and streamed excerpts online when Trump defeated Hillary Clinton. 

At the time, Shkreli was a public enemy over his company acquiring the rights to the antiparasitic medication Daraprim and raising its price by more than 5,000 percent, though he insisted that the few Daraprim patients in the US had their bills covered by insurance, and that the price hike would fund further research into new drugs.

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However, Shkreli continued to attract attention with outlandish statements and publicity stunts. While out on bail for securities fraud in 2017, he infamously put out a bounty of $5,000 for a strand of Hillary Clinton’s hair, a move that saw his bail revoked and Shkreli jailed.

Shkreli handed over the album, along with other personal assets including a Picasso painting, to the government the following year, when he was sentenced to 84 months behind bars for misleading investors in two failed hedge fund ventures.

Whether the new owner will let anyone listen to the album is unknown. As for Shkreli, the former pharmaceutical executive will be eligible for release from prison in late 2023.

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July 27th 2021, 8:26 pm

Luxury Paris jewelry store hit in broad daylight armed raid, over $2 million worth of loot reportedl

RT

A lone armed robber has raided a branch of high-end jewelry store Chaumet near the Champs-Elysee avenue in central Paris, according to local prosecutors. The suspect escaped the scene with a lucrative haul and remains at large.

The brazen robber hit the luxury store late Tuesday afternoon. Footage from the scene shows the store cordoned-off with multiple police officers inside and outside the premises.

According to local media reports, the suspect arrived at the store on a stand-up scooter. The robber then threatened the tellers with a firearm before bagging a haul of jewelry and precious stones from the stunned staff.

While no estimates have been provided officially, initial media reports suggested the man lifted some €2 million ($2.37 million) worth of goods. No one was injured during the robbery, and the suspect fled the scene on his two-wheeled getaway vehicle. No description of the suspect has been released by French authorities, and the man remains at large.

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The Paris prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into the incident.

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July 27th 2021, 8:26 pm

Cristiano Ronaldo's sister hospitalised with pneumonia from Covid-19 after calling disease ‘the bigg

RT

Katia Aveiro, the sister of football icon and Juventus winger Cristiano Ronaldo, has been hospitalised suffering from pneumonia after contracting Covid-19, despite earlier calling the disease "the biggest fraud I’ve ever seen".

In an Instagram post published on Tuesday, Ms. Aveiro told how she tested positive on July 17 and had been recuperating at him in isolation, but then developed pneumonia and was hospitalised. 

"[It's/This is the] last type of post I would like to make, I tried not to do it in the last few days, but as news travels fast, and out of respect for those who follow me and care for me and mine, I will share the truth with you," Aveiro said.

"I was caught by the damned [virus]. Since the 17th of July that I've been positive I've been in isolation and at home very well, [with a] few symptoms but sticking to the protocol as the rules dictate, everyone at home got it except for my mother (thank God).

"The videos that I posted in the street were already made before I tested positive (a clear example that on this side they only know a few things about the real truth of the internet, or rather don't believe in everything) unfortunately since the 23rd I got worse (the only one who weakened {smiley} right away, me, the strongest and the cook [too], of all those tested at home).

Katia Aveiro (right) is the sister of Cristiano Ronaldo and had previously called Covid-19 a 'fraud' - Reuters

"I got pneumonia as a result of the damn virus, in short, I was admitted to hospital and here I am, following everything properly, recuperating thanks to God and thanks to this service from Sesaram (at Funchal Hospital) with a marvelous medical team (young mostly but craques [stars]) and with an incredible story to tell.

"I carry on with the same thoughts and the same beliefs, it's not a damn virus planted by the greed of this world that will knock me down, and the irony of fate I came to find in this little corner of heaven, which is my land."

The 43-year-old, whose full name is Liliana Cátia Pereira Santos Aveiro but performed as a singer under the stage name 'Ronalda', in a nod to her famous brother, previously called the disease the "biggest fraud" she's ever seen.

Ronaldo previously contracted the disease at the height of the pandemic in Italy while with Juventus, but remained asymptomatic and continued training at home in isolation.

Aveiro (right) accompanied her brother Cristiano Ronaldo (center) when he collected the FIFA Ballon d'Or in 2013, his second such award, along with their mother Dolores (left) - Reuters

“I believe that, today, thousands of people who have come to believe so much in this pandemic, in the tests and the measures taken will, like me, see it is the biggest fraud I’ve seen since I was born,” she had written in October.

“A phrase that I read today and that I stood up to applaud: ‘Enough fooling the entire world’. Someone, open your eyes, please.”

Now bed-ridden, Aveiro says she won't let the disease beat her, and hinted she may record a video diary of her experiences with battling the disease.

"Yes my people, it is an example that what remains in life that we have the most for certain is the love for our people, for our beliefs, and the desire to be happy with them and to do what we love. 

"Who knows [maybe] I'll keep a diary of day to day life here if my condition and patience allow it, but everything is alright in truth, I'm reacting well, I have visible improvements with each passing day and best of all I'm losing weight that I had already gained in these troubled holidays not everything is bad. And my family is always there for me.

Aveiro has since shared stories of her enjoying donuts in her hospital bed and FaceTiming her daughter, and signed off the post with well wishes and advice for her 1.2 million followers to look after their health, but stopped short of encouraging others to get vaccinated to prevent a repeat of her own misfortune.

"As for the rest, I will let you know here and only myself in the first person. I love you, take care of yourself folks, vitamins, happiness, peace and will to live, the immune system thanks you and stops/prevents so much. Believe me."

July 27th 2021, 8:26 pm

Iowa gov & others dismiss new CDC mask guidance: ‘Not grounded in reality or common sense’

RT

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, as well as others such as Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas), has made clear they have no interest in following the CDC’s new guidance that states those vaccinated against Covid-19 still need to mask up.

Reynolds joined a chorus of conservative voices in expressing opposition to the CDC’s latest masking advice. 

On Tuesday, health officials announced that even if someone is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, they should still wear masks in public and when in indoor spaces with other people if they happen to be in an area where there is evidence of “substantial or high transmission.”

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The agency also recommended children in school all be masked as well, another proposal that has been highly controversial across party lines.

In a statement responding to the new guidance, Reynolds dismissed masks as being the answer to rising cases around the country and promoted vaccines as the best way to curb upticks in infections.

“I’m concerned that this guidance will be used as a vehicle to mandate masks in states and schools across the country, something I do not support,” she said, adding that the latest guidance is “not grounded in reality or common sense.”

Multiple cities have already seen mask mandates come back despite vaccines being readily available across the country, including Los Angeles and Las Vegas. 

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky defended the new mask guidance by stating that officials believe vaccinated people infected with the delta variant could still spread it to others. 

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There are 47 counties in Iowa that have been identified by the CDC as having “high” or “substantial” transmissions. Like numerous other states, Iowa has seen hospitalizations from the coronavirus tick up in the last month. Vaccine demand has also slowed in the last month, with around 49% of the state being vaccinated.

“I trust Iowans to do the right thing,” Reynolds said of her state’s vaccination rate, making clear she has and will continue to push back against any “government mandates in our schools and government.”

Other Republican governors have begun dismissing the CDC’s new guidance, as well. Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas), one of the first to move his state out of its pandemic-era lockdown, released a statement through his office on Tuesday declaring that “the time for government mandating masks is over.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Florida) has similarly shown resistance. His press secretary, Christina Pushaw, told Fox News on Tuesday that the new guidance “isn’t based in science.”

“Mandating masks for vaccinated people erodes public trust and confidence in the effectiveness of the vaccines,” she said. 

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July 27th 2021, 8:26 pm

First Russian Olympic swimming gold in 25 YEARS as Rylov wins Tokyo title & teammate Kolesnikov scoo

RT

Evgeny Rylov became the first Russian in 25 years to win an Olympic gold medal in the pool as he powered to victory in the 100m backstroke final in Tokyo, edging out countryman Kliment Kolesnikov by just 0.02 seconds.

Rylov set a new European record on his way to winning gold with a time of 51.98 seconds at the Tokyo Aquatics Center, the first time a Russian has won an Olympic swimming event since the 1996 Games in Atlanta.

Teammate Kolesnikov – the world record holder in the 50m backstroke – finished just a fraction behind in a time of 52.00 seconds.

Their pair’s heroics mean Russians occupied the top two positions on an Olympic swimming podium for the first time since the Moscow Games in 1980.

Rylov’s victory is also the first ever for a Russian swimmer in the history of the men’s 100m backstroke at the Olympics.

America’s Ryan Murphy – Olympic champion in this event in Rio de Janeiro five years ago – had to settle for bronze with a time of 52.19 seconds.

Kolesnikov, Rylov and Murphy pose with their medals in Tokyo. © Reuters

Rylov, 24, adds to his impressive medal haul of two world championship titles and four European crowns, having also claimed bronze in the 200m backstroke in Rio in 2016.

Perhaps his only disappointment of the day in Tokyo came when organizers refused to allow him to wear his favorite cat-themed facemask for the medal ceremony, although he had emerged for the race with it on. 

"I want to cry. They didn't let me wear my cat mask. They told me, 'sorry, it's not allowed'. But I'm not going to argue with the organizers," Rylov said of the mask, which had been given to him by his girlfriend.  

The silver for  teammate Kolesnikov, 21, is a first medal at Olympic level for the youngster but he has already enjoyed a host of success at world and European level, including six European titles.

The medals added to Russia’s haul at the Tokyo Games, where the team is competing under the banner of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) due to WADA sanctions.

The Russian team is fourth in the overall medal table with five gold, seven silver and three bronze medals. The US lead the way, followed by Japan and China.

July 27th 2021, 5:25 am

Apocalyptic hailstorm batters northern Italy; traffic halted, people injured & crops destroyed (VIDE

RT

Hundreds of cars piled up on a major Italian highway on Monday after being damaged by a massive hailstorm which left several people injured, brought down trees, and caused damage in several regions.

Videos online show hail, which reached the size of a tennis ball, bombarding the ground amid strong winds and rain in a truly frightening sight.

Hundreds of cars were stuck in a traffic jam on the A1 highway not far from the city of Parma in northern Italy. Numerous windshields were smashed by the hail, forcing drivers to stop as they couldn’t see the road.
Several collisions were reported, while some people were lightly injured by broken glass. Traffic on the highway was halted for several hours due to the weather.

A 78-year-old store owner was wounded in Reggio Emilia’s commune of Luzzara after the freak weather caused the window of his shop to fall on him. The man was hospitalized with a fracture.

Three people were also injured in Modena, with two of them hurt after their van was hit by one of the many falling trees.

The hailstorm not only battered people’s homes and property, but also devastated fields, vineyards, and orchards in the area, with the damage to agriculture estimated in the millions.

But while northern Italy is being hit by hail and storms, the south of the country has been suffering from a lack of rain for around three months now.

Wildfires, which the authorities describe as unprecedented, continue to rage in Sardinia, consuming more than 20,000 hectares of forest and destroying several farms near the town of Montiferro on Monday, forcing the evacuation of around 900 people.

Europe has been hit by extreme weather this summer, with heavy rains causing unprecedented flooding in Germany, Belgium, Austria, and several other countries including Italy earlier this month, leading to at least 217 deaths, most of them in Germany.

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July 27th 2021, 5:25 am

Russia delivers HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of vaccine doses to Syria as part of massive aid package – Def

RT

The Russian military has delivered 250,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik Light vaccine to Damascus along with Covid-19 tests and tons of humanitarian goods as part of the Defense Ministry’s humanitarian aid initiative.

Doses of the one-shot vaccine and 1 million PCR Covid-19 tests were handed over to the Syrian authorities, the Russian Defense Ministry said. They were flown to Syria on the Il-76 military transport aircraft in special thermal containers ensuring all the necessary storage conditions are met.

The Defense Ministry also published a video of the medical goods being loaded onto the plane in Moscow. Russian soldiers can be seen moving special white containers inside the hull. Each container acts as a freezer and contains 10,000 vaccine doses.

The decision to send the vaccines and tests to Syria was made by President Vladimir Putin upon the initiative of Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu. A Russian interdepartmental task force arrived in Damascus along with the humanitarian aid package.

The group led by Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev, the head of the National Defense Management Center – Russia’s top command and control center – is tasked with helping the Syrian authorities streamline their efforts in facilitating the return of Syrian refugees, rebuilding the country, and modernizing outdated technology.

Russia will send similar aid packages on a regular basis, Mizintsev said. The aid also includes around 160 tons of food, drugs, equipment, and various other cargo.

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The one-shot Sputnik Light vaccine is a lighter version of Russia’s pioneering Sputnik V, which was also developed by the nation’s Gamaleya Institute. It was registered by the Russian Health Ministry in late March.

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July 27th 2021, 5:25 am

US regulator restricts flights over Afghanistan due to ‘militant activity’ as deadline for American

RT

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has barred national airlines from low-altitude flights over war-torn Afghanistan, citing the deteriorating situation on the ground.

In an emergency order effective Sunday, the FAA banned US airlines from flying below 26,000 feet (8,000km) in the Kabul Flight Information Region, which largely covers Afghanistan, unless operating in and out of Hamid Karzai International Airport in the capital.

The restrictions were made due to the “risk posed by extremist/militant activity” in the country, the regulator said. The new rules do not apply to US military aircraft.

The decision came amid growing fears that Afghanistan will be completely overrun by the Taliban and plunge into further chaos once the last American soldiers leave the country. The militants have been gaining ground in recent weeks in fierce battles with the Western-backed government forces.

Though US troops are set to withdraw by August 31, the Pentagon vowed to continue its support for the Afghan government after the deadline expires.

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Aircraft are exposed to rockets and even small arms fire when flying at low altitudes.

The militants targeted Hamid Karzai International Airport in 2017 and 2018.

In December 2020, three rockets landed near the airport, damaging a parked plane operated by Kam Air, Afghanistan’s domestic airline, which was empty at the time of the attack. 

The Western military presence has failed to bring peace and stability, as the war with the Taliban and other insurgent groups has dragged on for nearly two decades.

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July 27th 2021, 5:25 am

‘Get that vaccine in their arm’: Governor Cuomo launches $15mn campaign targeting NY’s unvaxxed with

RT

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has called for state-sponsored arm-twisting aimed at getting the state’s unvaxxed to roll up their sleeves, even as the Empire State boasts high Covid vaccination rates among high-risk age groups.

The governor announced on Monday that the state would give a total of $15 million to six New York community organizations to carry out localized information campaigns targeting zip codes where vaccination rates are the lowest. Approximately 75% of adults in New York state have received at least one Covid shot, while 68% are fully vaccinated. 

New York is facing a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” and more must be done to persuade unjabbed adults in the state – around 3.5 million people – to get the shot, Cuomo said. 

[W]e have to get in those communities, and we have to knock on those doors, and we have to convince people, and put them in a car and drive them and get that vaccine in their arm. That is the mission.

The outreach will involve “one-on-one” conversations with those who haven’t been vaccinated, Cuomo said.

The governor claimed that the more-transmissible Delta variant will endanger the lives of anyone who doesn’t get vaccinated. “We’re going to lose lives and it will be disruptive – and we cannot let that happen,” he said, predicting what would happen if the state doesn’t ramp up its vaccine uptake. 

The initiative coincides with a new policy announced by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, which will require all city employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19 or undergo weekly tests.

Despite Cuomo’s grave warnings, New York has reasons to be optimistic about its chances against Delta or any other Covid-19 strain. Covid-19 hospitalizations are at near-record lows. According to the most recent official data, the state has 546 Covid-19 hospitalizations, as well as 123 ICU patients being treated for the disease. To put these numbers in perspective, at the peak of the first Covid-19 outbreak in April 2020, New York had nearly 19,000 Covid-related hospitalizations, with more than 5,000 coronavirus patients in ICUs. 

The state’s vaccination rate is also impressive, especially among high-risk age groups. New York has recorded 43,059 deaths since the start of the health crisis, with around 69% of fatalities occurring in people aged 70 or older. Currently, 90% of New Yorkers aged 65-74 have received at least one Covid vaccine dose, while nearly 81% of those aged 75 or older have gotten at least one shot. 

The age groups that have seen the lowest vaccination rates – those between the ages of 12-44 – account for 4.5% of the state’s total Covid-related deaths. 

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Local and federal governments across the globe have begun to resort to open coercion to increase vaccination rates among their populations. The forceful health policies have often been justified by pointing to the threat posed by the Delta variant. However, there is no conclusive evidence that this strain of Covid-19 is unusually lethal. 

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead, noted last month that it would be wrong to assume Delta is more deadly. 

“We need more information to determine: is it really the variant itself or is it a combination of factors?” Van Kerkhove said. About a week earlier, the same WHO official said that “we don’t have an indication of increase in mortality from the Delta variant.”

Mandatory vaccination policies and the introduction of health passes required to carry out many daily activities have led to mass protests across Europe. In Australia, tough new lockdown restrictions sparked protests over the weekend that led to brawls with police. 

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July 27th 2021, 5:25 am

'Big step toward restoring trust': North & South Korea reopen communication hotline after year of si

RT

The two Koreas said they have agreed to reopen a cross-border communications channel shuttered more than a year ago, with Pyongyang hailing the move as a “big step” toward rebuilding bilateral ties.

The decision was first announced by South Korea’s presidential Blue House early on Tuesday morning and quickly confirmed through the North’s state-run media outlet, KCNA. 

“The South and the North agreed to restore the communication line between the South and the North that had been cut off,” the president’s office said in a statement, noting the channel was restored at 10am local time while predicting it would have a “positive effect” for the two countries.

Seoul said that the revival of the communication channel was long in the works, noting that South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have been discussing the possibility in a series of personal letters since spring.

The two leaders have exchanged personal letters several times since last April to communicate about the restoration of inter-Korean relations.

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Pyongyang, meanwhile, said it hoped the move would help to resolve the “state of frustration and stagnation” with Seoul “as soon as possible.”

“The leaders of the north and the south agreed to take a big step toward restoring mutual trust and promoting reconciliation by restoring the disconnected inter-Korean communication channels through personal letters exchanged several times recently,” the official news agency said.

The north cut the comms channel in June 2020 over complaints that the south was not doing enough to stop activists from sending anti-government leaflets over the border, also destroying an inter-Korean liaison office set up near the demilitarized zone in retaliation.

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July 27th 2021, 5:25 am

Hopes EXTINGUISHED: Home hero Naomi Osaka DUMPED OUT of Tokyo Olympics by Czech star Vondrousova

RT

Home favorite Naomi Osaka - who lit the Olympic flame at the opening ceremony - has been knocked out in the third round of the women's singles event in Tokyo, losing to Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic.

Four-time Grand Slam champion Osaka had returned to much fanfare for the Tokyo Games, having pulled out of the French Open earlier in the year and missing Wimbledon altogether due to mental health issues. 

On her return to the limelight she lit the Olympic flame at the opening ceremony in Tokyo and hopes had been high that the Japanese star could win gold in her birthplace. 

However, after sailing through the opening two rounds Osaka went down in straight sets to world number 42 Vondrousova on Tuesday, 6-1, 6-4. 

Osaka was dejected as she bowed out of her maiden Olympics. © Reuters

A hugely popular star, Osaka had been seen as one of the main faces of these Olympics.

The 23-year-old had spoken of her pride at being handed the honor of lighting the Olympic flame at Friday's opening ceremony, and on Monday had tweeted: "I'm here for a good time."

However, Osaka found her gold medal hopes extinguished by the 22-year-old Vondrousova. 

The Czech former French Open finalist hit 18 winners and converted five of her 11 break points in the match, while a struggling Osaka produced 32 unforced errors on her way to defeat.

Czech star Vondrousova pulled off a huge shock. © Reuters

"I’m disappointed in every loss, but I feel like this one sucks more than the others,” said Osaka after the match.

“I definitely feel like there was a lot of pressure for this. I think it’s maybe because I haven’t played in the Olympics before and for the first year [it] was a bit much.”

Having returned from a break of almost two months to play in Tokyo, world number two Osaka added: “I’ve taken long breaks before and I’ve managed to do well.

"I’m not saying that I did bad right now, but I do know that my expectations were a lot higher.

“I feel like my attitude wasn’t that great because I don’t really know how to cope with that pressure so that’s the best that I could have done in this situation.”

Osaka suffered a surprise early exit in Japan. © Reuters

Vondrousova will face either Spain's Paula Badosa or Nadia Podoroska of Argentina in the last eight in Tokyo. 

Following Osaka's exit, the highest seed left in the tournament is Ukraine's Elina Svitolina, who is seeded fourth.  

July 27th 2021, 5:25 am

Cuba accuses US government of inciting Molotov cocktail attack on its embassy in Paris

RT

The Cuban Embassy in Paris was firebombed early Tuesday morning. The socialist country’s foreign minister accused the US of encouraging violence against Havana.

Two assailants hurled three Molotov cocktails at the diplomatic compound, causing some damage to the building, the Cuban mission said in a statement on its website. The diplomats were not injured.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez denounced the “terrorist attack” and blamed Washington. “I hold the US government responsible for its continued campaigns against our country that encourage this behavior and for its calls for violence, with impunity, from its territory,” he tweeted.

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July 27th 2021, 5:25 am

‘DISGUSTING’: Conor McGregor appalls fans with tweet targeting UFC rival Khabib & dead father

RT

Conor McGregor has been blasted for going too far by tweeting “Covid is good and father is evil?” – which fans have taken as a reference to UFC rival Khabib Nurmagomedov and his late father Abdulmanap.

In a series of spite-filled tweets which have since been deleted, McGregor dragged up Khabib’s words from the aftermath of the Irishman’s defeat to Dustin Poirier at UFC 264 earlier this month.

At the time, the retired Russian star had tweeted “good always defeats evil” as he expressed his joy that Poirier had beaten McGregor, whose night ended in excruciating fashion when he snapped his lower left leg.

Clearly still simmering, McGregor has now flashed back with a barb that many felt crossed the line.

“Covid is good and father is evil?” asked the Notorious in a tweet which appeared to refer to Khabib’s late father and trainer Abdulmanap, who died of complications stemming from a coronavirus infection last year.

McGregor's tweet appeared to reference Khabib and his late father. © Twitter

“Wow, disgusting,” replied one fan in the comments to McGregor’s post.

“Saying sh*t like this makes me feel less bad that his leg snapped like a popsicle stick,” read another response taking aim at McGregor.

“How incredibly disappointing,” tweeted another fan.

“The champion I know is no longer there but that does not mean you can’t bring him out. I hope you get your head straight, man up and apologize. This is not trash talk and these are not the words of a champion.”

Khabib’s manager Ali Abdelaziz responded by telling McGregor “your time will come don’t worry” – to which the Dubliner goaded “not before yours.”

McGregor and Khabib's manager traded insults. © Twitter

The sickening tweet was one of a series from McGregor in which he took aim at his UFC rivals, telling them to “spit-shine” the belt for him and taunting Poirier and his wife Jolie.

Labeling his rivals "p*ss ants" and "peasants", McGregor continued to churn out the bitter statements and excuses that have trailed his latest loss in the octagon. 

McGregor goaded his rivals in his tirade. © Twitter
McGregor continued to target Poirier after the American's victory. © Twitter

But while he throws ugly barbs from the sidelines, McGregor is in no position to back them up, being ruled out of action until at least 2022 after undergoing surgery on a broken tibia and fibula.

McGregor fractured his leg is gruesome fashion after throwing a kick towards the end of the third round of his clash with Poirier at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, giving the American back-to-back wins in their trilogy series and avenging the defeat he suffered to McGregor back in 2014.

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McGregor is now 1-3 in his last four visits to the octagon – a streak which also includes his fourth-round submission defeat to former UFC lightweight king Khabib in October of 2018.

That bout was marred by a toxic build-up in which McGregor taunted the Dagestani star’s religion and family, and which culminated in Khabib vaulting out of the cage to attack McGregor’s team in the immediate aftermath of the fight.

Khabib’s father Abdulmanap later said he forgave McGregor for the insults, even inviting him to Dagestan.

McGregor initially appeared respectful on Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov’s passing last July, writing: The loss of a father, a coach, and a dedicated supporter of the sport. Condolences and rest in peace Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov.

As evidenced by McGregor's latest disturbing Twitter tirade, any goodwill now appears to have dissipated.

July 27th 2021, 5:25 am

Crypto rally deflates after Amazon denies report it will accept bitcoin as payment

RT

Bitcoin led the cryptocurrency market decline on Tuesday after Amazon dispelled rumors claiming the online retail giant was planning to accept bitcoin as payment.

Notwithstanding our interest in the space, the speculation that has ensued around our specific plans for cryptocurrencies is not true,” a spokesperson from Amazon said, as cited by Reuters. He admitted, however, that the company is “exploring what [cryptocurrencies] could look like for customers shopping on Amazon.

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Bitcoin surged 15% to over $39,000 on Monday following a report from London’s City AM newspaper stating that Amazon was planning to accept bitcoin payments by the end of the year, citing an unnamed “insider” at the company. Rumors were also fueled after the e-commerce giant recently listed a job posting for a digital currency and blockchain expert, which was seen as a sign that the company plans to work with cryptocurrencies. 

Bitcoin was down some 4% on Tuesday, trading at around $37,000 as of 7:00am GMT. Still, crypto enthusiasts see the recent rise towards $40,000 a coin as a turn towards a bullish crypto market.

Apart from Amazon, a growing number of companies have been looking at cryptocurrencies with increased interest lately. Tesla CEO Elon Musk last week said the automaker may soon start accepting bitcoin for its electric car purchases again after stopping such payments in May this year.

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

July 27th 2021, 5:25 am

EU sends help to Italy as hundreds are evacuated from island of Sardinia amid wildfires raging for d

RT

Massive wildfires have ravaged tens of thousands of hectares on the Italian island of Sardinia. Firefighters are struggling to contain the blaze as it rages for a third day straight, with Rome asking the EU for help.

More than 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres) of forest and land have been devastated on Sardinia as wildfires raged through the Montiferru region in the island’s west. The outbreaks also stretched east to the province of Ogliastra.

Videos published on social media showed walls of fire moving along the mountain slopes in Sardinia and closing in on some settlements, as plumes of black smoke blotted out the skies overhead. Firefighting aircraft water-bombed the blaze just meters away from homes, the footage showed.

Other videos showed partly burned buildings with blackened walls and caved-in roofs. Hundreds of local residents and tourists were evacuated across the island as the authorities sought to protect them from the looming catastrophe.

“It’s a disaster,” said Diego Loi, the mayor of Santu Lussurgiu town, after ordering 60 people to evacuate on Sunday. “And we fear the worst,” he added.

Sardinian shepherd Dante Casula, who managed to save his flock of 400 sheep but lost two horses and a shed as well as 180 bales of hay to the blaze, described the fires as “an ordeal, hell”. The region’s governor, Christian Solinas, called it “a disaster without precedent” as he introduced a state of emergency on Sunday.

No deaths or injuries have been reported so far but hundreds of sheep, goats, cows and pigs died in the blaze as they were trapped in barns at farms in the wildfires’ path. On Monday, the fires that raged over the weekend were still raging close to at least 13 Sardinian towns, despite the efforts of at least 11 firefighting aircraft and fire crews on the ground.

The emergency services’ efforts have been hampered by the strong and hot winds still blowing through the island.On Sunday, Italy asked European nations for help tackling the fires and particularly called on them to send specialized firefighting aircraft. In response, the EU agreed to send four Canadair planes to help Italy. Two of them were provided by France and another pair by Greece.

“During these difficult times, we stand together,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a tweet on Monday, as he announced the move.

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July 27th 2021, 12:09 am

Biden says US ‘combat mission’ in Iraq will be over by year’s end, but won’t say how many troops to

RT

President Joe Biden said the US combat mission in Iraq will end this December, when Washington’s role will shift to training local forces, but declined to say what will come of the 2,500 American troops still in the country

Speaking during a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on Monday, Biden said the US will fully transition to ‘advise and assist’ operations come year’s end, though noted that “counterterrorism cooperation” would continue.

“Our role in Iraq will be... to be available, to continue to train, to assist, to help and to deal with ISIS as it arrives. But we’re not going to be, by the end of the year, in a combat mission,” the president said.

While he was asked how many US troops he would like to see in Iraq by the end of 2021, Biden avoided the question, saying only that “things are going well” and reiterating that the combat mission would not continue beyond the end of the year.

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There are currently around 2,500 American soldiers in Iraq, down from over 5,200 after a series of small drawdowns ordered by ex-President Donald Trump. While US forces already play some advisory role for local troops, their previous emphasis on combat operations against the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) are set to end. 

Despite the shift in focus, with no troop withdrawal in store, some defense experts have argued that the announcement amounts to little more than a symbolic act, with the Economist’s Middle East correspondent Gregg Carlstrom dubbing it a “PR gesture.”

Retired Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt – who served as the deputy director for operations in Iraq under the George W. Bush administration – also said the decision is unlikely to have “a significant operational impact” so long as “the non-combat intelligence, advisory and logistic missions continue with the same troop levels.”

While US officials told the New York Times last week that the White House was likely to agree to a drawdown and would announce a deadline on Monday, no date was given following Biden’s meeting with the Iraqi PM. Moreover, the officials said the US soldiers would merely be reclassified to other roles, suggesting few would actually leave the country.

Prime Minister Kadhimi hailed the “strategic partnership” between Baghdad and Washington during his sit-down with Biden, saying that the US “[helps] Iraq” and that “together we fight, fight and defeat ISIS.”

Though he said bilateral ties are now “stronger than ever,” American combat operations in Iraqi territory have dealt blows to relations in recent weeks, with Kadhimi issuing a harsh statement condemning US airstrikes carried out in June as “a blatant and unacceptable violation of Iraqi sovereignty and Iraqi national security.” 

The sorties were launched against militia groups alleged to be backed by Iran, which Washington says are behind a string of rocket attacks on US forces. President Biden has ordered several similar strikes since taking office, continuing a policy of his predecessor, who oversaw the assassination of Iranian Quds Force head Qassem Soleimani near the Baghdad airport in January 2020. The Soleimani strike, which also killed a top Iraqi militia commander, triggered fierce protests in Iraq, with local lawmakers voting to expel US forces from the country, though the effort never came to fruition.

While it is unclear if Kadhimi broached the subject of a US troop withdrawal at any point during Monday’s meeting, earlier this month his office said he discussed the issue with a top White House envoy, and that a pullout could be part of a “new stage in strategic cooperation.” The Biden administration soon rubbished the claim, however, with a senior official telling Newsweek it “was not true.”

Following a round of meetings with Iraqi officials on Monday, the US State Department also noted that the American mission will “fully transition to a training, advising, assisting, and intelligence-sharing role” by December 2021. The Iraqi side stressed that bases housing US troops operate under local law and “are not US or Coalition bases,” adding that all foreign troops are in the country at the government’s invitation.

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July 27th 2021, 12:09 am

A woman was stabbed in Hyde Park. Media and authorities are acting as if she had it coming for weari

RT

After a woman was brutally attacked at Hyde Park’s Speaker’s Corner, reports about the incident focused on what she wore, begging the question whether free speech is no longer sacred to people who run London and the UK.

A graphic video making rounds on social media shows a man, reportedly dressed in a black robe with a hood, punching and stabbing a woman on Sunday afternoon, then being chased away by police. He somehow evaded the authorities and disappeared, leaving the knife behind.

Reports about the incident spoke of a 39-year-old woman, who suffered “a minor slash injury to her head” that was described as not life-threatening after treatment at a local hospital. The papers revealed no identifying information about the attacker and dutifully quoted the Metropolitan Police urging Londoners to come forth with evidence. 

“I would ask people not to speculate on the motive for the attack until we have established the full facts,” the police spokesperson concluded.

That did not stop the media from pointing out that the woman wore a “Charlie Hebdo top,” and reminding the public that the satirical French magazine was targeted by “Islamic extremists” in January 2015 over its cover depicting the Prophet Muhammad. The implication is clear: the woman wore a provocative shirt that offended Muslims somehow, and therefore had the stabbing coming.

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The story only gets more troubling when some of the missing details are filled in. Even a cursory glance at the video and stills from the incident shows the woman wearing a top printed with a Charlie Hebdo cover – but not the one depicting the Muslim prophet. Instead, it showed a homosexual kiss between a CH cartoonist and a Muslim preacher, captioned “Love stronger than hate.” 

While the authorities did not name the victim, bloggers and activists identified her as Hatun Tash, 39, who fled Turkey after renouncing Islam for Christianity. She now preaches in Hyde Park on behalf of Defend Christ Critique Islam Ministries. 

In countries practicing Sharia Law – such as Saudi Arabia – apostasy from Islam is a crime punishable by death. Turkey is nominally secular still. So is the UK. Which is why the British authorities ought to be alarmed by this attack, but they don’t seem to be. 

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who once infamously said terrorist attacks were “part and parcel of living in a big city,” did not even acknowledge the incident. Instead, he demanded that police investigate a speech by an “anti-vaxxer” former nurse.

According to one blogger, Tash has been a fixture at Speakers Corner, facing “intimidation, threats, sexual assaults and physical assaults” in recent years. In October 2020, she was apparently assaulted and knocked unconscious. On another occasion, the blogger said she was detained by police and held for 20 hours without an explanation.

Focusing on Tash’s choice of clothing comes perniciously close to blaming her for “provoking” the attack somehow. Her top, or her words for that matter, may have been offensive to some Muslims, but they were not in violation of the law. 

One would expect the British public to show some solidarity with a woman attacked by a knife-wielding man, in broad daylight, for speaking at a place dedicated to free speech. There have been no calls for curfew on men this time, however.

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Worse yet, violence is increasingly becoming the norm at Speakers Corner. It has reportedly seen multiple clashes in recent months, between Shia and Sunni Muslims. Indeed, in one of the videos that captured the attack on Tash, the speakers in the foreground can be heard discussing Islamic theology. 

There is nothing wrong with that as such, so long as everyone understands that the laws, customs and traditions of Speakers Corner, London and the UK take precedence over those they brought with them from abroad. Otherwise what’s next, practicing suttee in Kensington Gardens in the name of diversity and inclusion? 

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July 27th 2021, 12:09 am

Biden administration declares ‘long Covid’ a DISABILITY eligible for accommodation under civil right

RT

Using the anniversary of the adoption of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Biden administration has announced that Americans who suffer from lingering effects of Covid-19 dubbed “long Covid” can now claim disability.

Under a guidance announced Monday by the departments of Justice (DOJ) and Health and Human Services (HHS), 'long Covid' is defined as a series of symptoms, experienced by people who have been infected with the novel coronavirus, that “can last weeks or months” afterward and “worsen with physical or mental activity.”

The announcement was made on the 31st anniversary of the ADA being signed into law in 1990, which Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke – who oversees the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division – called “one of our most transformative civil rights laws.”

“As many of our neighbors find themselves with long-lasting effects from COVID-19, we are committed to making sure that people understand their rights under federal nondiscrimination laws,” Clarke said. “The Department of Justice will vigorously enforce the ADA and other federal civil rights laws to ensure that as the nation responds to, and recovers from, [Covid]-19, and that those with disabilities are full and equal partners in that recovery.” 

Some individuals “experience debilitating long-term impairments that substantially limit major life activities,” said Acting Director Robinsue Frohboese of HHS’s Office of Civil Rights. “Today’s guidance makes clear that these individuals are entitled to equal opportunities and full participation in all aspects of life. “

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Even though 'long Covid' is still being studied by scientists, the DOJ and HHS have declared that it qualifies as a disability under the ADA, as well as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

The “civil rights protections and responsibilities of these federal laws apply even during emergencies” and “cannot be waived,” the DOJ and HHS point out in their joint statement

The pandemic has been invoked by governors and federal officials across the US to curtail a long list of liberties since March 2020, resulting in many court battles over lockdowns, mask and vaccine mandates, and other restrictions.

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Americans who claim that their symptoms “substantially limit” one or more major life activities would be eligible for “reasonable modifications” under the law. For example, students who have difficulty concentrating could get additional time on tests; people waiting in lines could be allowed to sit down without losing their place; and people who get dizzy standing would be allowed to have a stabilizing service animal. 

However, an “individualized assessment” will be necessary to determine if a person’s symptoms qualify for disability status, the agencies said.

The guidance relies on the definition of 'long Covid' offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which lists “common symptoms” as fatigue, difficulty concentrating (“brain fog”), shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness, chest pains, cough, joint or muscle pain, depression or anxiety, and loss of taste or smell, among others.

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Even if the impairment caused by these symptoms comes and goes, it is still considered a disability “if it would substantially limit a major life activity when the impairment is active,” the guidance says. It only applies to 'long Covid,' and does not address whether Covid-19 itself meets the legal definition of disability.

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July 27th 2021, 12:09 am

Big Tech companies to target right-wing militias & ‘attacker manifestos’ through same database used

RT

A joint ‘counterterrorism’ organization formed by Big Tech companies like Facebook and Microsoft will begin more aggressively targeting right-wing militia groups and manifestos on their platforms.

The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) has primarily focused on videos and images released by terrorist groups identified by the United Nations, including the Taliban.

The group will be expanding the scope of material they target in the coming months, according to a report from Reuters. New material flagged will include “attacker manifestos” often linked to white supremacism, as well as right-wing and neo-Nazi militia groups allegedly posing a threat. 

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Right-wing groups that have grown in popularity in the last few years, like the Proud Boys and Three Percenters, have already been identified in the system.

Included in this Big Tech group are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and others. The sharing of information between companies allows them to see what content is being banned and, in turn, they can ban similar content on their platform. 

The GIFCT has come under scrutiny in the past and been accused of promoting censorship, an accusation that has earned renewed interest thanks to the latest announcement.

“Republicans have done nothing to prevent this from coming.They’re bought off by big tech. Are you paying attention yet?” conservative journalist Jack Posobiec tweeted.

“Over-achievement in this takes you in the direction of violating someone's rights on the internet to engage in free expression,” the group’s executive director Nicholas Rasmussen admitted to Reuters. He insisted, however, that threats of far-right extremism are “demanding attention right now.”

The GIFCT’s actions are not the only example, either, of Big Tech cracking down on user posts or lawmakers pushing them to more aggressively do so.

The ADL (Anti-Defamation League) announced on Monday they are partnering with PayPal “to fight extremism and hate” by jointly researching “how extremists leverage financial platforms to fund criminal activity.”

The Biden administration has been quick to criticize platforms like Facebook as well for not doing enough to combat ‘misinformation’ being spread about the Covid-19 vaccinations. Officials even identified 12 individuals on the platform they say are behind the alleged swath of ‘misinformation’ on vaccines. 

Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and Ben Ray Luján (D-New Mexico) have introduced legislation which could hold social media companies legally accountable for “health-related misinformation” being posted to their platforms. 

Primarily conservative pundits have pushed back against these moves, arguing the administration and Big Tech companies are censoring speech for political reasons. 

Former President Donald Trump has been one of the most vocal critics of social media companies, criticism that was heightened after he was banned across the board following the January 6 Capitol riot. 

Earlier this month, the Republican announced he has joined a lawsuit against Facebook, Twitter, and Google, which is seeking to put “an end to the shadowbanning, a stop to the silencing, and a stop to the blacklisting.”

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July 27th 2021, 12:09 am

Veterans Affairs becomes first US government agency to MANDATE Covid-19 vaccinations for some staff

RT

The Department of Veterans Affairs has made Covid-19 vaccination mandatory for some 115,000 of its medical employees – the first federal agency to do so, as medical groups put pressure on the White House for a nationwide mandate.

“Whenever a Veteran or VA employee sets foot in a VA facility, they deserve to know that we have done everything in our power to protect them from [Covid-19],″ VA Secretary Denis McDonough announced on Monday afternoon.

The order applies to healthcare workers under Title 38, meaning physicians, dentists, podiatrists, optometrists, registered nurses, physician assistants, expanded-function dental auxiliaries and chiropractors who work at Veterans Health Administration facilities, visit them, or provide direct care to veterans, McDonough explained. 

They were given eight weeks to get vaccinated, and told they would receive four hours of paid leave after presenting proof of it. While the VA announcement made no mention of penalties for those who refuse, McDonough told the New York Times that they would face “possible removal.”

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Four VA employees, all unvaccinated, have died in “recent weeks,” the secretary said, adding that three have been infected with the “increasingly prevalent” Delta variant of the virus. 

McDonough, who used to be the White House chief of staff during President Barack Obama’s second term, said his decision was supported by the US medical community – referring to Monday’s letter by 55 medical organizations urging vaccine mandates for all healthcare workers across the US.

The letter called vaccination the “logical fulfillment of the ethical commitment of all health care workers to put patients first.”

The VA is the first government agency to mandate vaccinations. The precedent for private companies doing so has already been set. Last month, a Texas hospital system fired over 150 employees who refused the vaccination mandate. Over 100 of them sued to stop the forced vaccination, arguing that the current jabs have only been approved for emergency use, and their mandate amounted to a coerced medical experiment. 

A federal judge threw out the lawsuit, saying that the doctors and nurses had a choice to freely accept a Covid-19 vaccine or “work somewhere else.”

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July 27th 2021, 12:09 am

Anti-lockdown Tennessee pastor tells mask-wearers they are not welcome: ‘I’m not playing these Democ

RT

As mask mandates continue to be debated across the US, a pastor in Tennessee, known for his opposition to lockdowns and mass vaccination, made it clear that mask-wearers will be removed from his church.

Addressing his congregation on Sunday, the controversial pastor said he was against counties reimposing mask mandates to curb a rise in coronavirus cases. If Mount Juliet, Tennessee, where the Global Vision Bible Church is located, goes through the same regression in policy, pastor Greg Locke claimed he would not be following the reinstated guidance. 

“If they go through round two and you start showing up (with) all these masks and all this nonsense, I will ask you to leave,” Locke said to a round of cheers from his congregation. “I will ask you to leave. I am not playing these Democrat games up in this church. If you want social distance, go to the First Baptist Church, but don’t go to this one,” the pastor added, as the congregation gathered in a giant tent erupted in applause.

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In a service that was broadcast live on Facebook, Locke went on to criticize fellow pastors for refusing to do services like baptisms out of fear of the virus and its quickly spreading Delta variant.

“I ain’t playing these stupid games,” he said. “A bunch of pastors talking about how much they want to see people heal and they’re afraid to baptize people because of a Delta variant – I’m sick of it.”

Locke said he has no plans on closing even if ordered to.

“They will be serving Frosty’s in hell before we shut this place down,” he promised. 

Locke gained national attention last year during Tennessee’s lockdown when he continued holding in-person services while most other churches turned to remote alternatives. 

His anti-mask mandate has predictably caused a stir with liberal-leaning users on social media. Some predicted that Locke and his supporters would inevitably catch Covid-19, with one commentator going as far as suggesting that the pastor would die from the virus.

The current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that fully vaccinated individuals do not need to social distance or wear masks in most public spaces. With growing concern among health officials about rising cases and slowing vaccination rates, however, the mask guidance could change. White House medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci revealed on Sunday that there are active discussions taking place at the CDC about reverting back to a universal masking recommendation.

Locke has also been a critic of Covid-19 vaccinations, urging his followers not to trust them, even claiming “political elites” are lying about getting inoculated.

“If you think for one minute that those political elites actually got the vaccination, you are smoking meth in your mamma’s basement,” Locke said in May. “Bunch of fake liars is what they are. They didn’t shoot nothing in their arm but a bunch of sugar water.”

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July 27th 2021, 12:09 am

Countdown to Great Deplatforming part 2? PayPal partners with ADL against ‘extremism & hate’

RT

Pro-censorship anti-bigotry group the Anti-Defamation League has partnered with PayPal to “fight hate” by cutting off its financing. But its definition of “hate,” criticized as expansive and fungible, has prompted concerns.

The ADL and PayPal have banded together to “fight extremism and hate” by limiting users’ ability to donate money using the popular online payment processor, the advocacy group said on Monday.

“PayPal and ADL will focus on further uncovering and disrupting the financial pipelines that support extremist and hate movements,” the group said, adding that they would also go after “actors and networks spreading and profiting from all forms of hate and bigotry against any community.”

The pair also “launched a research effort” to figure out how “extremist and hate movements throughout the US are attempting to leverage financial platforms to fund criminal activity.” Such valuable information, they said, will be shared with law enforcement, the banking industry and policymakers.

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However, the ADL has faced criticism in the past for finding hate virtually everywhere. One of the most recent examples of such fervor came in response to an article published in Canada’s National Post, which was denounced by the ADL because its author mentioned that one of the 32 US lawmakers supporting a tax reform belonged to a Jewish fraternity. The group also argued that the GameStop stock trading bonanza helped to fan conspiracy theories about Jews.

The group partnered with social-justice organizations at the height of the George Floyd riots to pressure big-dollar Facebook advertisers to suspend their ads on the platform as part of ‘Stop Hate for Profit’ campaign.

The social media behemoth had a tearful reunion with some its advertisers shortly after it promised to submit to an “independent, third-party audit” alongside a chunk of speech-straining new rules, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has admitted in congressional testimony that his platform suppresses nearly all so-called “hate speech” before it’s seen by a single human eyeball. That means algorithms not known for their affinity for humor and the subtleties of language are actually doing the job of determining what is allowed on the site, which for many people constitutes a gateway to the internet.

That, presumably, is why PayPal users to the right and left of the mainstream are concerned. Some of them took to social media to warn that its anti-hate drive could become tantamount to a “social credit score.” 

Conservative journalist Jack Posobiec noted the general trend towards more Big Tech censorship, adding that both the Democratic and the Republican Parties seem to be on board, as the latter had “done nothing to prevent this from coming.” Another commenter observed that nobody ever voted to hand the ADL such power.

Some claimed that they had already lost their PayPal accounts for having the “wrong” ideology, arguing that ADL’s censorship is about marginalizing certain political views.

Caught between a rock and a hard place – or a censor-happy “anti-hate” group and an overzealous algorithm – many fear they fell victim to “financial censorship.” In typical Big Tech fashion, PayPal has made itself the only game in town in terms of online payment processors, aside from Patreon, which has also been knocking off big names for what the victims insist are spurious accusations of terms of service violations.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki has suggested that an acceleration of such deplatforming could be in the cards, pointing to the harms supposedly caused by anti-vaccine misinformation while demanding that users banned from Facebook should also be removed from Twitter and other tech platforms. 

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July 27th 2021, 12:09 am

As Chicagoans keep getting shot, mayor Lightfoot doubles down on racist media policy of talking only

RT

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is “unapologetic” about giving interviews only to non-white reporters, saying she would do it again. Meanwhile, almost 30 people were shot in the city over the weekend, seven of them fatally.

Lightfoot caused a stir in May, when she offered one-on-one interviews “only to Black or Brown journalists.” The decision has drawn criticism even from her fellow Democrats, while a reporter from the conservative-leaning Daily Caller filed a lawsuit, which the mayor has called “completely frivolous.”

“I would absolutely do it again. I'm unapologetic about it because it spurred a very important conversation, a conversation that needed to happen, that should have happened a long time ago,” Lightfoot said while appearing on a New York Times podcast, released on Monday.

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“When I look across the podium, whether I’m in a formal press conference or I’m out in the neighborhood, the reporters who show up are invariably, overwhelmingly white,” she added. 

Back in May, she argued that the media must change to better reflect diversity and inclusion, which are “imperative across all institutions,” and “build teams that reflect the make-up of our city.”

Lightfoot is Chicago’s first black female and openly gay mayor. She was elected in April 2019, with more than 73% of the vote across all 50 wards. Since then, however, she has been criticized for failure to stop a rising wave of violent crime, gun violence in particular. 

At least 29 people have been shot in the city over the weekend, seven of whom have died, according to a round-up by the conservative outlet Breitbart, citing local media. That’s on top of 13 people shot on Thursday and another 30 last Wednesday.

Lightfoot has blamed the violence on firearms illegally brought to Chicago – which, like the rest of Illinois, has stringent gun control laws – from neighboring Indiana. Meanwhile, she has focused on racism as the “public health crisis” that threatens the city, directing nearly $10 million in federal Covid-19 relief to “equity zones” administered by nonprofit activists.

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Announcing a tentative deal with the police union on Monday – to replace the old one that expired in 2017 – Lightfoot focused on the provision ending the ban on investigating anonymous complaints about police misconduct. She also deflected questions about her re-election efforts, saying now was “not the time” to focus on that. Meanwhile, her campaign has tweeted about taking steps to “build a local and national supporter base for our reelection fund” that they intend to work “aggressively” to fundraise ahead of the election.

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July 27th 2021, 12:09 am

Brazilian lawmaker sparks backlash after calling to revise child labor laws, citing 13yo skateboarde

RT

A Brazilian politician landed in hot water after calling to loosen the country’s child labor laws, pointing to the Olympic silver medal brought home by 13-year-old skateboarder Rayssa Leal. Critics roundly condemned the idea.

Sostenes Cavalcante, a Democratas Party deputy for Rio de Janeiro, took to Twitter on Monday to propose a revision to Brazil’s child labor statute – which bars anyone under the age of 14 from holding a job – suggesting Leal’s silver medal showed that younger kids are capable of being employed.

“Brazilian children aged 13 cannot work, but skater Rayssa Leal won the silver medal at the Olympics,” he said, adding “Hey! It's just a thought… Congratulations to our Olympic medalist!” while urging for a “revision of the Statute of Children and Adolescents now!” 

In another tweet later on Monday, Cavalcante cited an excerpt of the labor law that sets 14 as the minimum working age, saying he would like to see that particular article changed.

The proposal did not go over well with many observers online, with Brazil-based journalist Glenn Greenwald noting Cavalcante’s tweet was flooded with criticism.

Brazilian Senator Paulo Rocha joined the detractors, calling the idea “absurd” while saying Cavalcante “took advantage of a 13-year-old athlete's victory to ask for a review of [the law] and defend CHILD LABOR.”

There is no comparison between child labor and the Rayssa Medal. Children must study, play, play sports. Working means not having time for any of this.

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, a Brazilian diplomat and longtime human rights activist, also panned the suggestion, sharing a photo of a smiling Leal alongside a young Brazilian girl washing a car’s windshield while asking Cavalcante to compare their situations.

“What distorted view of reality is it to think that a child playing sports is the same thing as a child working? Do you think both girls in the photo are playing the same 'role' in society? This false symmetry is absurd!” he said.

One critic argued the 13-year-old shredder likely would not have seen Olympic success had she “worked cutting cane” rather than practicing her sport, while another asked whether Cavalcante had “ever heard of a supermarket shopping bagger Olympiad? Cement Loader World Championship? Cane Crop Cup?” adding mockingly, “It’s just a thought.”

The deputy’s party later issued a statement on the controversy, saying Cavalcante was voicing his personal opinion and that the Democratas Party supports the “full protections” of existing child labor laws.

Reached by a local outlet, Brazilian lawyer Henrique Soares Melo explained that Leal’s participation in the Tokyo games does not qualify as ‘work’ under the country’s laws.

“The Olympic medalist is not working, she is competing and for that she receives a specific authorization to compete through a concession from her parents,” he said. “Even though they have awards, she doesn't work. It's totally different from taking a child and allowing him to do any kind of work within a company.”

According to data compiled by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), around 2.5 million children and adolescents aged between 5 and 17 currently work in the country, most doing domestic labor, agriculture, construction and even taking part in drug trafficking. 

Despite the wave of outrage, however, some came to the politician’s defense, with several commenters arguing that working at an early age had been beneficial for them, while another said the decision ought to be “between the person, their parents and their employer.”

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July 27th 2021, 12:09 am

Twitter wars: US Army general mocked after accusing critic of being ‘shill for Putin’ in ‘embarrassi

RT

A US Army major general is facing backlash after accusing one of his fellow countrymen of being a “shill” for Russian President Vladimir Putin upon being asked on social media how many wars he had won.

Major General Patrick Donahoe found himself embroiled in a Twitter argument on Friday after warning young people that their “youth” would not protect them from Covid-19 in an attempt to convince young people to get vaccinated “right now.”

Conservative writer Josiah Lippincott pointed out to Donahoe that there have only been 26 Covid-19 deaths in the US Department of Defense overall – far less than the number of DoD suicides in just the fourth quarter of 2020 – and suggested lockdown and “liberty restrictions” were doing more damage than the virus.

At that point the major general began to lash out at critics on Twitter.

Asked by one such critic “how many wars” he had “won” – a question which received over 1,600 likes – Donahoe bizarrely snapped, “Don’t be a shill for Putin.”

Donahoe’s tweet shocked some other high-profile Twitter users, some questioning why an active US Army general would speak to a civilian in such a way – and others wondering why he was wasting time on Twitter at all.

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“General, with respect, these types of public remarks should not be made by an active duty officer without clearance from public affairs,” commented national security lawyer and writer Bradley P. Moss. “You know better, and the officers and soldiers under your command have been reminded not to do this very thing.”

Former Army Infantry Colonel Kurt Schlichter accused Donahoe of “embarrassing Army vets,” while retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Nerove told Donahoe to “remember who you work for.”

“You protect & defend the Constitution & the right of all citizens to speak freely without fear of abuse from our own military,” she pointed out.

Donahoe – who served in Iraq and Afghanistan – did not directly respond to the backlash and instead posted another tweet which read, “Public Service Announcement. Block and report the trolls and the disinformation tinfoil hat team.”

That post was similarly criticized and ridiculed.

Many conservatives have been questioning whether the US Army is suddenly becoming “woke” after Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and US Army General Mark Milley defended the controversial Critical Race Theory and blamed the January 6 storming of the Capitol on “white rage” last month.

“Do you notice the woke generals we have? This was a real general,” declared former President Donald Trump in June following Milley’s remarks. “Our generals and our admirals are now focused more on this nonsense than they are on our enemies.”

Trump argued that if military generals continue to become more politically charged, they “will be incapable of fighting and taking orders.”

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July 26th 2021, 1:39 pm

England and Manchester United football legend Wayne Rooney alerts police to photos – reports

RT

Former England and Manchester United legend Wayne Rooney has reported a string of photos taken of him – shared on social media and allegedly showing him in the company of unknown women – to police, his lawyers have said.

It is unclear when and where the images were taken, and there are no suggestions that married Derby County manager Rooney behaved in any way inappropriately. 

One of them appears to depict the 35-year-old asleep in a chair with his hands in his pockets, while the unidentified females pose behind him and another lays on a bed scantily clad.

Underneath the chair, two wine glasses and a series of empty bottles can be seen.

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In a video clip which has been seen more than 175,000 times, another girl seemingly breaks wind near Rooney. In another picture, captioned "no words no papz", Rooney is gesticulating with one hand while nursing a glass of wine with the other.

Asleep on the wooden chair in every other picture, another image captioned "Sleepy wayne [sic]" sees a blonde woman posing beside Rooney sticking her tongue out while making a peace sign with two fingers.

In a second selfie appearing to involve a woman making a peace sign, Rooney is captioned asleep with the phrase "X for looks off me n Rooney".

Aother, titled "Mooney Rooney", shows a woman wearing a thong with her skirt around the knees posing near Rooney's face.

While one of the snaps shows a time mark of "8.30", it still unclear whether these pictures were taken in morning or evening and at a hotel or a private address.

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In all of them, though, father of four Rooney dons the same black hoodie and black jeans.

There is no suggestion Rooney did anything untoward or behaved inappropriately.

The women are believed to hail from Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, which Rooney has links to because his 30-year-old brother, John, played at local team Barrow AFC for two seasons between 2018 and 2020.

On Monday, representatives of the all-time top scorer for Euro 2020 finalists England confirmed that the matter had been reported to Great Manchester Police, who have been pressed by the BBC for comment.

Like Rooney’s lawyers, his agent, Paul Stretford, has refused to comment to the Mirror on the photos, with the outlet directed to PR guru Ian Monk, who is said to be well-known for providing crisis management to scandal-hit celebrities.

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July 26th 2021, 1:39 pm

Equatorial Guinea shuts UK embassy after London imposes sanctions in violation of ‘principle of inte

RT

The African nation of Equatorial Guinea slammed the UK for interfering in its domestic affairs, as it announced the “total closure” of its embassy in London in response to UK sanctions on the son of the country’s president.

The move, announced by the country’s foreign minister, Simeon Oyon Esono, followed the UK’s decision on Thursday to slap the president’s son, who serves as Vice president, with sanctions.

The UK Foreign Office claims that Teodoro Obiang Mangue reportedly spent $500 million on properties, cars and other items, as part of a jet-setting lifestyle fuelled by corrupt behavior and the soliciting of bribes.

In response, Equatorial Guinea called the sanctions “unilateral and illegal,” aimed at “fomenting against the good image” of the country.

Calling Britain’s actions a breach of “the principle of international law,” the country’s FM declared that Equatorial Guinea would be shutting its embassy in London as it will not accept “interference into the country's internal affairs.”

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Simeon Oyon Esono did not specify a timeframe for the closure of the embassy, that he called the “first decision” that’s being taken in retaliation. 

In a separate case, a French court handed Obiang a three-year suspended sentence in February 2020, ordering the confiscation of his assets in the country and giving him a €30 million ($25.64 million) fine following a corruption investigation. A final ruling on the case by the Court of Cassation is expected on Wednesday.

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July 26th 2021, 1:39 pm

Dozens of US health care groups call for mandatory vaccines for medical workers as part of ‘ethical

RT

Dozens of groups representing health care workers in the US have released a joint statement calling for mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations for their industry, amid a surge in the Delta variant.

The statement, put out by the American Medical Association and over 50 other groups, urged health care and long-term care facility workers to fulfill their “ethical commitment” to their patients by getting vaccinated. 

“[Getting vaccinated] is the logical fulfillment of the ethical commitment of all health care workers to put patients first.”

The groups acknowledge that vaccination rates among nursing home and long care facility workers have been lagging. Recent data has shown that around 59% of these employees have received at least one dose of a vaccine. Analysis in May from WebMD and Medscape Medical News also estimated a quarter of hospital employees who have come into contact with patients have not been vaccinated.

“Unfortunately, many health care and long-term care personnel remain unvaccinated,” the statement reads. “As we move towards full FDA [Food and Drug Administration] approval of the currently available vaccines, all health care workers should get vaccinated for their own health, and to protect their colleagues, families, residents of long-term care facilities and patients.”

They went on to call for employers to “implement effective policies to encourage vaccination.”

While the Biden administration has not signaled that a potential federal vaccination mandate could be coming, they have stepped up their efforts to encourage people to get inoculated as cases have spiked across the country, with some cities such as Los Angeles even reverting to public mask mandates to curb the spread.

Some US employers have already begun offering financial incentives to workers to get vaccinated, and others have already said new hires will be required to be vaccinated, like Delta Airlines. 

Ezekiel Emanuel, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, organized Monday’s statement and claimed that healthcare workers making vaccinations a priority will help the public better trust the vaccine, as inoculation rates have been slipping despite them now being readily available to most. 

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“Despite everything – cajoling, making access readily available at any pharmacy, making it free, having the president plead – all of this hasn’t really moved the needle very much in the nation,” he told the Washington Post, adding that the “medical community” needs to lead. 

Tracking from the American Hospital Association, which supports vaccine mandates, shows that very few hospitals have actually required vaccinations. With the available vaccines not yet fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), such mandates are a murky proposition and could lead to potential litigation from dissenters. 

Outside the US, France has already taken the dive and now legally requires health care workers to get vaccinated. The mandate has seen swift and vocal protests in response. Protesters have been taking to the streets for weeks now to demonstrate against pandemic-era government measures pushing vaccines on citizens – including a “health pass” that will get vaccinated people access to certain venues, such as restaurants and bars. 

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July 26th 2021, 1:39 pm

US education watchdog warns of ‘shadow justice system’ if Biden reverses Trump-era due process rules

RT

A Biden nominee to the education department would signal the rolling back of Trump-era protections to students accused of sexual misconduct on campuses, an education watchdog has warned.

In 2020, former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos enacted new regulations that “bolstered due process at colleges” under Title IX – a 1972 law that prohibits educational discrimination on the basis of sex. The new rules direct colleges to presume an accused student’s innocence until proven guilty.

Now, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is cautioning that these protections would be undone if Catherine Lhamon, President Joe Biden’s nominee as the department’s assistant secretary for civil rights, is confirmed to the role by Congress.

“We were finally seeing student rights moving in the right direction, but Catherine Lhamon’s nomination just shows how threatened the progress we’ve made is,” FIRE Executive Director Robert Shibley said in a statement.

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Shibley added that Lhamon’s “history and rhetoric” indicate she would encourage a “patently unfair shadow justice system” which deprives students of the right to due process.

Reacting to the regulations brought in by DeVos last year, Lhamon tweeted at the time that the rules would take “us back to the bad old days... when it was permissible to rape and sexually harass students with impunity.”

During her Senate confirmation hearing earlier this month, she doubled down on that criticism and said the “regulation had weakened the intent of Title IX that Congress wrote.” But Lhamon claimed that she would enforce the law despite her opinion of it.

In a recent report, titled ‘Spotlight on Due Process 2020-2021,’ FIRE conducted a review of some 53 of the country’s top colleges to see how many adhered to “fundamental procedural safeguards” required by the DeVos regulations – such as the presumption of innocence, the right to a meaningful hearing with the ability to cross-examine one’s accuser and the right to impartial fact-finding.

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The results revealed that 85% of schools included in the report “scored noticeably higher” in Title IX sexual misconduct policies than other policies, “demonstrating the positive effect of the regulations on due process” in these cases.

Nearly two-thirds of schools (64%) now have a Title IX policy that guarantees a “meaningful hearing,” in which “each party may see and hear the evidence being presented to fact-finders by the opposing party, before a finding of responsibility.”

However, in her now-rescinded 2014 guidance to universities, Lhamon had said that because a “Title IX investigation will never result in incarceration of an individual,” these cases were “not required” to have “the same procedural protections and legal standards” that govern criminal proceedings.

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The 2014 directive “strongly discouraged” schools from “allowing the parties to personally question or cross-examine each other during a hearing on alleged sexual violence” on the grounds that “allowing an alleged perpetrator to question a complainant directly may be traumatic or intimidating, and may perpetuate a hostile environment” for the victim.

In March, Biden – who has previously said the rules “shame and silence survivors”signed an executive order that called for a 100-day review to “consider suspending, revising, or rescinding” any Trump-era rules that are “inconsistent” with the policies of his administration.

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July 26th 2021, 1:39 pm

Global mission led by Interpol sees over 280 human smuggling suspects arrested, 430 victims freed

RT

Crime agency Interpol has released details of ‘Operation Liberterra’, a mission coordinated by authorities in dozens of states which led to the rescue of 430 human trafficking victims and the arrest of 286 suspects.

Law enforcement agencies across 47 countries participated in the mission, under which some 500,000 inspections were carried out at checkpoints and airports following local intelligence and tip-offs, Interpol said in a statement on Monday. 

As well as the overarching mission to combat migrant smuggling, the agency said that a further 60 transnational investigations have been launched to focus on forged identification, after an influx of fake or stolen identity documents were seized during the assignment.

Operation Liberterra ran from July 5 to 9, and on the first day of the mission authorities in Tanzania arrested a Ugandan bus driver carrying a box of 169 forged passports from Kampala to Dar es Salaam, according to Interpol.

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Among the arrests made during the operation, authorities in Brazil, Colombia, Curacao, and Panama detained fugitives wanted for crimes such as drug trafficking, rape, and money laundering. Six people were arrested in the UK who were sought by authorities over sex-trafficking charges.

Interpol Secretary-General Jurgen Stock said the operation underscored “how multinational, highly organized criminal networks only focus on one thing – profit.”

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“With 22 criminal groups dismantled, it also shows what coordinated, global law enforcement action can achieve,” Stock added.

The results of Operation Liberterra also highlighted a concerning level of human trafficking from Africa and the Middle East into Europe. In Spain, one organized crime group which reportedly smuggled migrants by sea from Algeria to the Spanish coast was brought down. Authorities in North Macedonia arrested six gang members who, Interpol said, liaised with partners in the Middle East to smuggle migrants to Greece from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Syria.

Many of the trafficking victims located as part of the mission were rescued in Sudan, Interpol said, with authorities there freeing 253. They also arrested 32 suspects as part of the joint operation.

The law enforcement body also noted that some of the 430 trafficking victims found via Operation Liberterra were underage girls, some of whom had been “coerced into sexual exploitation through death threats from human traffickers.”

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July 26th 2021, 1:39 pm

NYC Mayor de Blasio demands full vaccination for all city workers by September & threatens ‘tough co

RT

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is requiring all city employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19 or face weekly tests, adding to a growing pool of workers he’s mandating get the jab as he prepares to leave office.

The mandate, announced on Monday, will affect 340,000 municipal employees, including teachers and police officers – two groups that have historically had their differences with the mayor. 

It’s not clear how long the testing mandate would remain in place for those who opt not to get vaccinated, and the tone of the mayor’s public announcements has been strongly in favor of mandating the jab. Unvaccinated staff, city health commissioner Dave Chokshi made clear, would not be permitted inside city property without masks.

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‘Reached the limits’ of voluntary system: New York Mayor de Blasio urges businesses to force vaccines on employees

While 71% of adult New Yorkers have reportedly had at least one dose of the vaccine, certain groups of city workers lag far behind that figure, including de Blasio’s bete noire, the New York Police Department. Just 43% of them had gotten the shot as of last week, the department acknowledged.

The mayor also came forward on Friday to urge the city’s private businesses to require vaccinations, hinting then that he would do the same for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers in the city’s employ. Already, public health employees have been ordered to get vaccinated or undergo weekly testing, and he urged the city’s private hospitals to “move immediately to some sort of mandate, whatever the maximum you feel you can do.

We have reached the limits of purely voluntary,” he continued, demanding “more mandates” as he complained that the city’s efforts to lure New Yorkers to the needle with prizes like cash, theater tickets, free MetroCards and at-home vaccination have not moved the numbers up. Some 65% of adult New Yorkers are fully vaccinated.

The reported deadline for most employees to get their shots would be September 13, the start date for a million children in city schools. Many parents are still resentful over last year’s tug-of-war regarding remote learning and the transition back to classrooms – a battle marked by repeated rescheduling by the mayor. Other employees working in “residential and congregate” settings – about 45,000 of them – will face an August 16 deadline.

Attempting to force vaccine mandates through has not always ended well, with many public unions opposing vaccination as a condition of employment even while encouraging their members to get the jab. The absence of full FDA approval for the shots, which are still only available under emergency use authorization in the US, has contributed to some healthcare providers’ reluctance to be inoculated.

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The mayor’s recent suggestion that he would “seriously consider” a policy like France’s, in which proof of vaccination or a negative test is required to enter some public spaces, has also sparked enormous protests in that country and it’s questionable whether New Yorkers would accept it.

In a bid to make it easier to tell the vaccinated apart from the unvaccinated, de Blasio announced the city would be rolling out an ‘NYC CovidSafe’ app on August 2. He also issued a dramatic call to Facebook and Twitter to deplatform the "Disinformation Dozen,” referring to 12 social media users who've been blamed for spreading false information about Covid-19 vaccines.

But the mayor, who was widely panned for his initial performance during the coronavirus epidemic, perceived as at odds with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo over restrictions and reopening, won’t be around for much longer no matter how the push to vaccinate goes. 

Come election day, former NYPD officer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, winner of the Democratic primary, will face off against Guardian Angels founder and conservative radio host Curtis Sliwa, the Republicans’ pick, to replace de Blasio as the city’s leader.

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July 26th 2021, 1:39 pm

‘Good on ya, ladies’: Feminist icon Pink offers to pay women’s beach handball team’s fines for swapp

RT

Pop superstar Pink has publicly praised the Norwegian female beach handball team for "protesting sexist rules about their uniform", offering to pay the fines given to them by the European Handball Federation over their kit choice.

Norway's rebels were fined 1,500 euros (around $1,800) for "improper clothing" at the European Beach Handball Championships in Bulgaria last week, having chosen to wear shorts similar to those donned by their male counterparts rather than traditional bikini bottoms.

Bosses explained that their sartorial selection against Spain did not comply "according to the athlete uniform regulations", leading to a row over equality and inclusivity among some.

Now chart-topping multi-millionaire Pink has emphatically offered her moral and financial support to the team in front of her huge global following on social media.

"I'm very proud of the Norwegian female beach handball team for protesting sexist rules about their uniform," said the singer, who has been known to wear eye-catching outfits in her music videos during her long career behind the microphone.

"The European Handball Federation should be fined for sexism. Good on ya, ladies. I'll be happy to pay your fines for you. Keep it up."

Pink then retweeted an outraged post that argued: "When the men play a sport wearing long shorts and tank tops but the women are required to wear bikini tops and bottoms, that is sexism. So either let the women wear the same as the men, or make the men play in Speedos."

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The American has formed an unlikely alliance with the Norwegian Handball Federation in offering to fork out for the fine.

"Of course we would pay any fine," the federation's president, Kare Geir Lio, told AFP.

"We are all in the same boat. The most important thing is to have equipment that athletes are comfortable with."

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Norway's minister for culture and sport, Abid Raja, described the sanction as "completely ridiculous".

Tennis great Billie Jean King was also among those moved to have their say on the issue on Twitter. "The Norwegian Women’s Beach Handball team is facing fines for wanting to wear shorts instead of bikini bottoms," she observed.

"The bottoms are not to cover 'more than 10cm on any sides.' The men’s team wears shorts. The sexualization of women athletes must stop."

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‘No good reason’: Norway beach handball stars vent frustrations after being slapped with fines for not wearing bikini bottoms

The team ended their tournament with a hashtag of "let them wear shorts", adding that they were happy to have qualified for next year's World Championship despite not winning a medal this time around.

"We are also very proud about making a statement in the bronze final by playing in shorts instead of the required bikini bottoms," they said.

"We are overwhelmed by the attention and support from all over the world. Thank you so much to all the people who support us and help to spread the message. We really hope this will result in a change of this nonsense rule."

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July 26th 2021, 1:39 pm

Lebanese billionaire Mikati appointed PM with backing of Hezbollah & Amal after months of stalemate

RT

Lebanon’s new prime minister designate, Najib Mikati, has secured enough votes to form a government and implement a French-devised plan aimed at saving the country from its financial crisis after months of political deadlock.

On Monday, businessman Mikati, a two-time former PM, received the support of the Lebanese groups Hezbollah and Amal among others, securing enough votes to form a government following parliamentary consultation.

Mikati, who does not hail from a political bloc, was appointed PM by President Michel Aoun after securing a majority of 72 votes from the 118 members of parliament.

“I don’t have a magic wand and can’t perform miracles... but I have studied the situation for a while and have international guarantees,” Mikati said after the vote.

The new PM has vowed to implement a French plan which involves putting together a government of specialists to push through enough reforms to attract foreign aid and ease the country’s economic plight. Mikati will now need to form a cabinet from the country’s squabbling political factions. 

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The billionaire businessman previously served as PM for a brief period in 2005, and again from 2011 to 2013.

In 2019, corruption charges were filed against him, alleging illicit gains from a subsidised housing loan scheme. Mikati denied any wrongdoing and said the charges were politically motivated. The charges were dropped in May 2021 when the public prosecutor overseeing the charges was removed from office, which the International Commission of Jurists labeled an “attack” on the judiciary.

Monday’s news comes amid several months of terse political deadlock in Lebanon. Last week, Saad Hariri gave up trying to form a government after eight months of negotiating. The country is suffering from its worst economic woes since the 1975-1990 civil war with crippling economic conditions, public distrust in political leaders and a run on the Lebanese pound.

Hariri himself had been tasked with forming a government on October 22, 2020, after predecessor Hassan Diab’s August 10 resignation following the devastating explosion in the Port of Beirut. Many in Lebanon have blamed the blast on government negligence.

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July 26th 2021, 1:39 pm

Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine antibodies begin to fade 6 months after 2nd dose – study

RT

The antibody protection generated in recipients of the Sinovac Biotech Covid-19 vaccine begins to fall 6 months after the second dose has been administered, according to a new study from China-based researchers.

A research paper published on Sunday found that only 16.9% of people who had received two doses of the Chinese vaccine two weeks apart, and 35.2% of those who had both jabs four weeks apart, still had antibodies above the neutralizing threshold six months after that second vaccine.

While the paper has not yet been peer-reviewed, researchers at the disease control authority in China’s Jiangsu province examined blood samples of healthy adults aged between 18 and 59 to see the lasting impact of having two doses of the Sinovac jab.

As well as exploring the effect of two doses, scientists investigated the benefits of a third booster shot, finding it had a strong positive impact on increasing the level of antibodies within recipients if given six months after the second jab. When people had that booster jab, researchers saw a three- to five-fold increase in their level of neutralizing antibodies, indicating the additional shot could help to maintain protection against the virus.

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While the study provides an insight into the effect of the Sinovac Covid jab, scientists were clear that they had not examined the impact of highly transmissible variants on the level of protection provided, cautioning that more research is required.

The latest research follows a similar study by the faculty of medicine at Thailand’s Thammasat University and the country’s National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. That research, released at the start of July, showed that the level of antibodies in double-jabbed people who had the Sinovac vaccine halved every 40 days. The study of 500 participants also did not provide insight into the protection the vaccine doses offered against the Alpha or Delta variants of Covid-19.

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July 26th 2021, 1:39 pm

UK looks to ban Chinese nuclear firm from country’s energy projects – reports

RT

The British government is probing ways to block China’s state-owned nuclear energy company from future power projects in the UK, according to media reports citing government sources.

The move could see China General Nuclear (CGN) kicked out of a French-Chinese consortium which is planning to build the £20 billion ($27.6 billion) Sizewell C nuclear power plant on the Suffolk coast and another one in Bradwell-on-Sea in Essex.

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According to both Bloomberg and the Independent, unnamed sources have confirmed a recent report by the Financial Times that first brought to light the UK government’s stance on China’s participation in the projects.

There isn’t a chance in hell that CGN builds [Sizewell C],” a source cited by the Financial Times claimed, noting that “given the approach we’ve seen to Huawei, [UK authorities] aren’t going to be letting a Chinese company build a new nuclear power station.” The source also revealed that UK authorities were already in talks with the main developer of Sizewell C, the French state-backed company Électricité de France S.A. (EDF), regarding chances to find new partners for the project. CGN didn’t respond to requests for comment on the report, while EDF declined to give any.

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The UK and China have been cooperating on nuclear power projects since a deal reached by former Prime Minister David Cameron and Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2015. CGN is an investor with a 33% share in the Hinkley Point C nuclear facility in Somerset, one of the largest infrastructure projects in the UK, currently under construction.

Meanwhile, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian called China and the UK “important trade and investment partners” at a briefing on Monday, noting that as it is in everyone's interests to cooperate “in the spirit of mutual benefit” the UK should “provide an open, fair and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies.

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The British government has been increasingly critical of China’s policies of late, namely with regard to its stance on Hong Kong, the alleged mistreatment of the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang, and the handling of the initial Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan province. Boris Johnson’s administration recently blocked China’s Huawei Technologies from taking part in the set up of the UK's 5G wireless network, while Britain’s national security adviser ordered an investigation into the takeover of the UK’s major chip producer by the Chinese firm Nexperia NV.

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

July 26th 2021, 9:40 am

Russia building high-tech replacement for secretive nuclear ‘doomsday plane’ with boosted range & im

RT

Russia has begun working on a brand new version of its famed, soviet-era ‘doomsday plane’, an aircraft designed to house the country’s top leadership and keep them out of harm's way in case of all-out nuclear war on the ground.

That’s according to RIA Novosti, citing a source in the military-industrial industry, which revealed that the new plane will be based on a wide-body Il-96-400M, made by the country’s well-established Ilyushin aircraft manufacturer.

It is reported that the Russian government will receive two planes.

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As well as keeping the country’s top brass safe, the aircraft also acts as a remote command post, allowing the leadership to send orders from the sky. These new jets will eventually replace the existing Ilyushin Il-80 ‘doomsday planes’. With the latest technology, the newly built aircraft will have a much longer range, have the ability to refuel mid-air and be even able to communicate with submarines within a 6,000km radius.

As things stand, the Russian Aerospace Forces currently have four Il-80 air command posts. Made originally during the Soviet period, the planes are based on the Il-86 passenger aircraft, flown for many years by the likes of Aeroflot.

However, despite the secrecy that surrounds the high-security planes, one of them was robbed last year. Two unknown assailants stole 39 units of electronic equipment and 5 radio station boards installed on board the plane while it was undergoing scheduled modernization work, in Taganrog, in the south of the country. However, according to the state-owned United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), none of the stolen equipment was essential for the purpose of the aircraft.

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An analogue also exists in the US, called the Boeing E-4 Advanced Airborne Command Post. This plane is designed to be a survivable mobile command post for the president and other senior members of the command structure.

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July 26th 2021, 9:40 am

'SPOT THE FED’: DEF CON hacker event roasted on social media after inviting top US Homeland Security

RT

High-profile hacker conference DEF CON has been accused of “selling out” by longtime attendees on social media after organizers announced that US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas will be a keynote speaker this year.

The annual convention, which typically sees several thousand people in attendance, is one of the world’s largest hacker events. The 29th edition of the conference is scheduled to be held in Las Vegas early next month.

In recent years, DEF CON has opened its doors to tech experts from US government agencies and the corporate sector. However, the inclusion of Mayorkas – a trained lawyer and career public servant – prompted a flurry of angry reactions from other speakers, conference veterans and other members of the hacker community.

Over the weekend, the organizers put out a tweet to welcome Mayorkas, lauding his “wealth of experience” and “leadership on #cyber” and other “insights.” Several social media users questioned their choice of keynote speaker, wondering what exactly his tech credentials were.

One person commented that perhaps he could be asked about “the amount of data processed” to allow Mayorkas “to deport 2.1 million Mexicans when he was deputy secretary [of the Homeland Security Department]” during the second Obama administration.

Another individual suggested that Mayorkas could be asked for his thoughts on “recycling server cabinets as cages” to house illegal immigrants and whether that would be a “sustainability goal” to support.

Meanwhile, one of the main speakers at the event, Ian Coldwater, said he was “disappointed” with the organizers and wondered whether “we really need to be hearing from the guy in charge of baby cage operations right now, at this particular historical juncture?”

Some users pointed to a “major inconsistency” in the choice of keynote speaker and DEF CON’s “broader content selection process,” with one person wondering whether it was a “hacker conference, except when it’s a keynote.”

According to the event’s ‘Call for Papers’ page, all content at the event should “support the hacker mindset” instead of submissions better suited for “cybersecurity industry conferences” that do not align with the “culture, spirit and subject matter” appropriate to a “hacking con.”

Others wondered if the tweet was sent “under duress,” with one person citing the “abnormal” choice of keynote speaker, the use of “stock corporate terms” and the “unironic use of #cyber.” Another asked why DEF CON was “tweeting like a medium-sized corporation that no one cares about?”

The organizers also announced that Mayorkas would participate in a “between two servers style interview” with DEF CON founder Jeff Moss, who goes by the hacker name ‘Dark Tangent’. Several users termed it “disgraceful” on the organizers’ part to “entertain this embarrassment.”

In response to the criticism, Moss tweeted, “DHS is civilian, not military, and with all the new authorities CISA [Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency] has, they are going to be increasingly involved. The current administration is not the previous one.”

He later added that “policy comes from the top down, so to understand CISA priorities it would help to know the Secretaries – or the Presidents.”

Some users said this was nothing new for DEF CON while others pointed out that the event’s annual ‘Spot the Fed’ game was not “supposed to be this easy.” In a long-running joke at the conference that plays on the open secret about federal agencies infiltrating the event, attendees are given prizes for identifying agents.

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July 26th 2021, 9:40 am

Former Australian Liberal National Party leader blasts colleagues for abandoning ‘fundamental Austra

RT

Campbell Newman, the former premier of Queensland and ex-leader of the Liberal National Party, has accused his colleagues of abandoning Australian values during the Covid-19 pandemic after publicly resigning from the party.

Newman resigned on Monday, accusing the party – which he led between April 2011 and February 2015 – of failing “to stand up for our core values” during the Covid-19 pandemic, such as “fiscal responsibility, smaller government, support for small business,” and “the defence of free speech and liberty.”

“The last straw for me has been the destruction of people’s livelihoods, jobs and freedoms under governments’ heavy-handed response to COVID-19 across the nation,” he declared in a statement, adding that though it “is important to keep Australians safe,” it is “equally important to keep us free.”

“Our federal and state governments have failed to honour the spirit of individual freedom that is at the heart of not only Liberal Party values, but wider Australian values,” Newman said.

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During an appearance on Sky News on Monday, Newman also accused Prime Minister Scott Morrison and other “politicians and bureaucrats” of having “felt no pain” during the pandemic and called on the government to commit to a date for reopening borders and lifting restrictions.

Newman argued that Morrison should provide Australians with a date where everyone who wants a vaccine will have been offered one and that from that date the border should reopen, lockdowns should end, and things can “get back to normal.”

On his decision to leave the Liberal National Party of Queensland – a state coalition of the ruling Liberal and National parties – Newman claimed the party and the government were no longer “actually standing up for what I consider to be fundamental Australian values.”

“When you get to that point, to continue any longer would be false,” he explained.

Due to Covid-19, Australia has implemented strict border controls, leaving at least 36,000 citizens and residents stranded abroad. Though citizens and permanent residents are technically permitted to enter Australia, strict entry caps, a huge rise in flight costs and other issues have left many unable to return.

Furthermore, Australians are currently unable to leave the country unless given an official exemption, meaning many people have been separated from their loved ones and sick relatives, and been unable to attend important events like funerals for the duration of the pandemic.

On top of border restrictions, Sydney has experienced some of the longest and most strict lockdowns in the world, resulting in a mass “freedom” protest of thousands on Saturday. Within 24 hours of the march, over 500 penalty notices were issued to protesters.

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July 26th 2021, 9:40 am

America's billion-dollar gas game: Nord Stream 2 threatens US energy exports to Europe. No wonder Wa

RT

The US and Germany came to a historic agreement last week over the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, as a compromise between the hawks who have sought to sink the project and those who want to do business with Russia.

However, efforts to draw a line under the debate over the almost-finished energy link have clear-ly not pacified Ukraine’s foreign minister. Dmytro Kuleba was quick to reply to the news on Wednesday, saying in a joint statement with Poland’s foreign minister that the proposals put forward to alleviate the “security deficit” caused by Nord Stream 2 “cannot be considered suffi-cient.”

The pipeline, which stretches through the Baltic Sea and connects the gas fields of Siberia direct-ly to Germany, is already 98% complete, with the final stretches set to be laid in August. Though US President Joe Biden’s White House has sought to portray the new settlement with Berlin as the final word on the matter, some American lawmakers are still pushing to see the US impose sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 project.

US self-interest in European energy

The ‘Joint Statement of the United States and Germany on Support for Ukraine, European Ener-gy Security, and our Climate Goals’ states that “the US and Germany are united in their belief that it is in Ukraine’s and Europe’s interest for gas transit via Ukraine to continue beyond 2024.” Kiev has consistently claimed, despite Russian denials, that Moscow will seek to cut off the sup-plies flowing through the Soviet-built overground gas network once the underwater link is com-plete.

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It goes further, saying that “Germany commits to utilize all available leverage to facilitate an ex-tension of up to 10 years to Ukraine’s gas transit agreement with Russia.” This wording amounts to little more than a promise on the part of Germany to try to persuade Russia into continuing to use Ukraine as a gas transit hub and pay for the privilege.

Be that as it may, American and German establishment officials likely envision two primary out-comes from forcing Russia to route its gas supply through Ukraine. For one, Ukraine would con-tinue to benefit from revenues accrued by charging transit fees on the flow of Russian natural gas through its territory. In 2020, Russia’s Gazprom paid $2.11 billion to Naftogaz, Ukraine’s state-owned oil and gas company, for gas transit services. Kiev is eager to maintain this lucrative stream of revenue, and Washington is more than willing to help as it continues to pull the country into its sphere of influence.

Secondly, it would be fair to expect the cost incurred from these fees to be passed on to the con-sumer through an inflation of Russian gas prices, relative to what the price would otherwise be if delivered solely through Nord Stream 2. This, in turn, would make American-exported liquefied natural gas (LNG) more competitive compared to the Russian alternative.

Since 2016, the EU has been importing ever-larger quantities of US-produced LNG, shipped across the Atlantic, as part of a long-term policy to diversify its supply. Such measures are sup-ported by American lawmakers like Senator Ted Cruz (R-Teas), who has called for sanctions against Nord Stream 2 and promotes greater exports of American LNG. The new pipeline, how-ever, has the capacity to transport significantly more natural gas to adequately satisfy European energy needs.

The climate change angle

A large portion of the joint statement deals with US-German bilateral action on climate change. This involves “supporting the energy transitions in emerging economies… including a focus on supporting Ukraine and other countries in Central and Eastern Europe.” To that end, the US and Germany will “endeavor to promote and support investments of at least $1 billion in the Green Fund for Ukraine,” with the goal being “to reform Ukraine’s energy sector, and assist with iden-tifying options to modernize Ukraine’s gas transmission systems.” 

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Irrespective of the science underlying climate change, the response falls squarely into the realm of politics. On the pretext of “modernizing” Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and bringing about a transition to more renewable sources, the US-German Nord Stream 2 agreement is intent on forc-ing Russia into a raw deal that will expire if and when green energy self-sufficiency is realized. Some in the EU and US fear that the pipeline will deepen Europe’s reliance on Russian natural gas, and so green energy represents the ultimate trump card.

However, as Europe transitions away from coal and fossil fuels, in the immediate future it will become all the more dependent on natural gas, at least until more distant, greener goals are achieved. Given that the EU’s domestic natural gas production is set to drop 43% in the next 12 years, Russia will likely remain a key player in the European energy market.

A lesson in business negotiation

As a result of rising demand in the energy sector, compounded by political pressure that stands in the way of completing Nord Stream 2, Gazprom recently hiked the price of Russian natural gas, which reached $10.30 per 1,000 cubic feet (MCF) in June 2021. According to S&P Global, this tightening has translated into 13-year high energy bills as storage facilities run out of supply, with little restock coming their way.

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In any negotiation, all sides have to be acutely aware of the strengths and weaknesses inherent to their starting position. Germany needs natural gas to stay heated in the winter. Through Nord Stream 2, Russia is willing to provide for this demand at a low price, and yet, Germany in tan-dem with the US is trying to force Russia to trade on their terms. Unsurprisingly, Moscow hasn’t wanted to play ball so far and, with work nearing completion, it is unclear whether it will in the future.

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

July 26th 2021, 9:40 am

Russian shaman who attempted SEVEN THOUSAND KILOMETER walk to ‘exorcise’ Putin sent to mental health

RT

A shaman who made worldwide headlines after making plans to walk almost the entire length of Russia to “banish” President Vladimir Putin has been forced into a medical facility after concerns were raised about his mental health.

A court in Yakutsk declared Alexander Gabyshev insane earlier this year after he allegedly stabbed a member of Russia’s Federal Protective Service with a homemade weapon. Now, he will be sent indefinitely to a special institution, where he will remain under intense observation.

Gabyshev is from Yakutia, an area in Siberia known for its intense winters with bone-chilling temperatures. Shamans have served in the area for centuries and played the role of healers or mystics in society.

In 2019, he became known after announcing plans that he would walk from his home region to Moscow, a journey of around 7,500km, to perform the rite of “banishing” Putin, a man he called a “demon.” In the time since, he has made multiple attempts, each time being stopped by law enforcement.

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His original plan was to light a bonfire on Red Square, fueling it with kumis – a fermented dairy product – and horsehair. Following a shamanic prayer, Putin would then calmly resign, he said.

Earlier this year, Gabyshev again announced that he would make the same journey, but this time on a horse.

According to his lawyer, Alexey Pryanishnikov, the shaman is being mistreated and will be put into a facility with “those who have committed grave crimes,” such as murderers and rapists. He also noted that workers at these institutions administer increased doses of neuroleptics designed to limit motor abilities.

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July 26th 2021, 9:40 am

UK on alert for new versions of highly contagious Delta variant, says Covid-19 coding expert after c

RT

Britain’s chief Covid-19 genome sequencing expert has said surveillance for new variants and international co-ordination must be a priority going forward, adding that the UK is on alert for any mutations of the Delta variant.

Speaking to Reuters on Monday, Sharon Peacock, chair of the Covid-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium, said that the path back to “business as usual” will be a long one, especially as new variants of the deadly virus emerge. Peacock noted that the uneven deployment of vaccines around the world was likely to prolong the return to pre-pandemic norms. 

“I see that as quite a long journey. So it’s not going to be one day that we wake up and say right, we’re going to live with Covid-19 and everything’s okay. I think there’s still a lot of groundwork to be done,” she noted.

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The virus chief said that the Delta variant, which is sweeping across the UK, is the most concerning to date, describing it as the “fittest and fastest variant yet.” She warned that it could become even more troublesome.

“We have to continue to watch for a particular sort of variant of a variant if you like, that is associated with, for example, even more spread... That’s under constant monitoring at the moment.”

In May, Public Health England launched a New Variant Assessment Platform Programme to share its genomics expertise globally and monitor the development of new strains. 

While more than 70% of British adults have been double jabbed against Covid-19, scientists have registered their concern that restriction-free Britain is the perfect place for new variants to emerge. 

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“The UK is in a prone position. Whether it will happen, we don’t know, but it’s more likely to happen here, now, than ever before,” said Professor Aris Katzourakis, who studies viral evolution at the University of Oxford. 

Infection rates have skyrocketed in recent weeks, but deaths have remained lower than previous waves, reinforcing the hugely positive impact of the vaccination campaign. Just under 30,000 cases were reported on Sunday. 

Boris Johnson’s government scrapped the last remaining restrictions on July 19, dubbed ‘Freedom Day’, allowing clubs to reopen and removing mask mandates for certain public places.

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July 26th 2021, 9:40 am

Gold rush: Russian men edge out Japan & China in Olympic thriller to scoop men’s all-round artistic

RT

The Russian men’s artistic gymnastics team picked up their country’s third gold medal of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, winning Monday’s tightly-contested final ahead of Japan and China.

The 2019 world champions, the Russian team of Denis Ablyazin, David Belyavskiy, Artur Dalaloyan and Nikita Nagornyy ended with a score of 262.500 points – a fraction in front of the Japanese team, who finished with 262.397.

China claimed bronze with a total of 261.894 at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre.   

The result means the Russian men's team go one better than their silver medal last time round at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

It's also the first time since the 1996 Games in Atlanta that Russia have won the event. 

Competing under the banner of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), Russian athletes have now won three golds in Tokyo and 11 medals in total.

The pressure had been on Dalaloyan and Nagornyy on Monday as they completed their floor routines, knowing that the slightest misstep could hand the title to Japan or China. 

Somehow returning from tearing his Achilles tendon just three months ago, Dalaloyan continued his remarkable Olympics by producing a solid routine to keep Russia in contention. The 24-year-old Nagornyy then nailed a score of 14.666 to put Russia top of the leaderboard.

On hearing that they had been crowned Olympic champions, the Russian team were overcome with emotion as members collapsed to the floor, hugged and shed tears of joy.  

The Russian team were ecstatic at claiming Olympic gold. © Reuters

Earlier on Monday, Russian fencer Sofia Pozdniakova had defeated countrywoman Sofya Velikaya in their individual sabre final, sparking a gold rush for the nation.    

Not long after the men's gymnastic success, Russian taekwondo competitor Maksim Khramtsov won his 80kg final, bringing further gold to the medal count. 

At the time of writing, Russia have four gold, five silver, and three bronze medals, enough to put them third in the overall table behind the USA and China.  

July 26th 2021, 9:40 am

‘We have not taken this step lightly’: New Zealand announces decision to allow suspected ISIS-linked

RT

The New Zealand government announced on Monday that it has agreed to repatriate a suspected ISIS member and her kids from Turkey, after the Australian government stood by its decision to strip them of their citizenship.

The woman, named in the media as Suhayra Aden, and her two children were detained by Turkish authorities in February 2021 after they attempted to illegally cross over into the country from Syria. However, as dual Australian-New Zealand citizens, with the mother having grown up in the former country, there has been an ongoing debate over where she will be repatriated.

Alongside 16 other individuals, she had her citizenship stripped by the Australian government for travelling to Syria to join Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS). The Australia Department of Home Affairs has the ability to revoke the citizenship of any individual over the age of 14 who is suspected of involvement in terror activity, as long as it will not leave them stateless.

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The move was condemned by New Zealand at the time, which accused Australia of failing to appropriately deal with its own citizens. “New Zealand is not able to remove citizenship from a person and leave them stateless, and as New Zealand citizens this country is the only place where they can currently legally reside,” New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said.

“Agreeing to a managed return was the right step in this case,” Ardern added, seemingly in a criticism of the Australian government. Due to security concerns, New Zealand government agencies did not confirm the specific arrangements of her return or whether she will be subject to investigation by regional police once she arrives in the country.

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July 26th 2021, 9:40 am

Iran surpasses 30,000 coronavirus cases as record number of new infections reported amid Tehran lock

RT

Iran has broken another sad record in daily Covid-19 infections, just days after its capital, Tehran, tightened lockdown measures. The country is one of the hardest hit in the Middle East.

The Iranian health ministry released its daily coronavirus report on Monday, with 31,814 infections recorded in under 24 hours. The figure is the highest recorded in the Islamic Republic to date.

On July 20, Iran reported 27,444 infections, the highest level the country had seen since mid-April.

The government announced the rollout of Covid-19 curbs in Tehran and neighboring Alborz province last Tuesday. Government offices, as well as non-essential businesses, such as retail and cinemas, were forced to close as part of a week-long lockdown. Iran has been reluctant to impose nation-wide lockdowns though, instead opting for localized restrictions.

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Iran unveils strict Covid restrictions and Tehran lockdown, as officials warn of FIFTH wave

President Hassan Rouhani warned earlier in July that Iran would see its fifth wave of coronavirus infections, as the highly contagious Delta variant was spreading rapidly around the country.

Iran’s battle with coronavirus is exacerbated by the country’s slow vaccination rollout, with under 3% of its 83 million population fully inoculated, according to Johns Hopkins University. The government has previously blamed US sanctions for delaying the vaccination campaign, slamming the imposed economic restrictions allegedly blocking the purchase of doses as “medical terrorism.”

Since the pandemic began, Iran has recorded over 89,000 deaths and around 3.7 million cases.

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July 26th 2021, 9:40 am

‘More freedom’ for vaccinated? Merkel aide warns of restrictions for unvaccinated Germans, if Covid-

RT

Unvaccinated Germans could be barred from entering restaurants and cinemas if Germany is hit with a new Covid-19 wave, a top aide to Chancellor Angela Merkel said, adding that those vaccinated will “definitely” get more freedom.

Germany might be in for yet another wave of Covid-19 cases, Helge Braun, Merkel’s chief of staff, told Germany’s tabloid Bild on Sunday. “The number of new infections is increasing even faster than in the previous waves. That worries me very much,” Braun, who is also a medic himself, warned.

The official said that the nation could reach some 100,000 daily infections in just nine weeks and that would likely prompt the government to take some drastic measures to tackle the spread of the virus.

“If we have a high rate of infection despite our testing procedures then the unvaccinated will have to reduce their contacts,” Braun said. That would mean that those unvaccinated would not be allowed to go to a restaurant, a cinema or a stadium even if they have been tested simply because “the risk to everyone else is too high.”

Those who have been vaccinated will definitely have more freedom than those who have not been vaccinated.

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The head of the chancellery also warned that a fourth Covid-19 wave would put tremendous pressure on the economy, with sick leaves potentially reaching “historic highs,” since many unvaccinated people would have to be quarantined anyway if they come into contact with an infected person.

The official also named vaccination as the best remedy against a looming fourth wave. He encouraged municipalities to offer people “easier” ways to get a jab, and urged employers to “promote vaccination” – for their own sake.

“Vaccination protects me [to] 90% from a serious corona disease,” Braun said, adding that anyone who gets a jab and does not fall ill when the disease strikes “would be urgently needed at their workplace.”

Merkel’s chief of staff also blamed pretty much any seasonal epidemic on those unwilling to take a jab. Germany does not get high infection rates from vaccinated people even if some laboratory tests do detect the virus in their bodies, he argued. High infection rates are a result of “serious infections in the unvaccinated population if the vaccination rate is not high enough,” he added.

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When asked whether slapping a certain part of the population with targeted restrictions is legally permissible, Braun said that the state “has a duty to protect the health of its citizens.” He also claimed that Germany might avoid another total lockdown if the vaccination rate is high enough.

Some German politicians, however, clearly believed that Berlin would overstep its boundaries if it introduced such restrictions.

The deputy head of the Free Democratic Party Wolfgang Kubicki blasted the proposed as a de facto “introduction of compulsory vaccination through the back door.”

Such a categorization of fundamental rights into a first and second class is clearly unconstitutional. 

Merkel earlier limited herself to saying that “the more [there are of those] who are vaccinated, the freer we will be again.” She did not mention any of the measures proposed by Braun.

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Armin Laschet, Merkel’s potential successor and her party’s chancellor candidate at the September general elections, also distanced himself from what he called “compulsory vaccination” and attempts to “indirectly put pressure on people to get vaccinated.” 

In a free country, there are civil liberties not only for certain groups. 

Just over 49% of Germans were fully vaccinated as of July 23, according to the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s government agency responsible for disease control and prevention. More than 60% of Germans have received at least one vaccine dose. Still, the German media reported that the vaccination rates in the country have been gradually going down.

If Germany does introduce restrictions for those unvaccinated, it would not be the first European country to do so. In neighboring France, President Emmanuel Macron’s government already introduced the so-called “health passes” that are required for people to attend certain public venues. The passes can also be obtained if a person recovered from Covid-19 in the last six months or has a recent negative PCR test.

The measure – introduced together with a vaccination mandate for medics – sparked massive public uproar and prompted tens of thousands of people to take to the streets of French cities for two weekends in a row to voice their discontent.

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July 25th 2021, 11:40 pm

London hit with FLASH FLOODS as torrential rain turns roads into rivers in UK capital (VIDEOS)

RT

Londoners have seen streets flooded by torrential streams and a tube station being submerged under water as a heatwave in the UK capital was replaced by heavy rains. Some people even had to abandon cars stranded in flooded roads.

Earlier this week, the British capital saw some of the hottest days of the year as the temperatures rose over 30 degrees Celsius. Now, the heat seems to be the least of the Londoners’ problems as some parts of the city were submerged in water and resembled the alarming images from the massive flooding which hit Germany and Belgium earlier this month.

Photos and videos posted to social media on Sunday showed cars ploughing through flooded streets while some roads looked more like turbulent rivers. Some car owners had to abandon their vehicles that were caught in the streams and almost fully submerged.

Others were stuck in their cars and emergency services used boats to rescue them as happened to one unfortunate motorist, who got stranded under a bridge in Worcester Park, Sutton.

Some witnesses reported seeing improvised “geysers” as the storm water systems apparently got overwhelmed with the torrential floods. 

Clapham and Camberwell, as well as Kingston in southwest London, were among the areas hit by the floods. The UK capital’s eastern parts, including Leyton and Walthamstow, were also affected. The London Fire Brigade said they had received over 300 flooding-related calls. 

Eight London tube stations were closed because of the foul weather, including Covent Garden, Edgware Road’s Circle line station and Pudding Mill Lane.

A shocking video posted on Twitter shows the Pudding Mill station of the Docklands Light Railway in Stratford coming fully under water.

In Hackney a burst manhole sent sewage flooding out onto the streets.

Another video showed a person rowing a kayak through flooded gardens.

Some Londoners shared their accounts of what they described as the worst flooding they have seen in the UK capital. 

Amber warnings for thunderstorms were issued by the Met Office. Meteorologists said that heavy rains and thunderstorms would continue in the UK’s southeast, adding that the amber warning would stay in place until at least Sunday evening.

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July 25th 2021, 11:40 pm

Split the difference: Russian champion boxer Svetlana Soluyanova edged out by US star Virginia Fuchs

RT

Blonde bombshell Svetlana Soluyanova, who made little secret of her taste for making music during quarantine and qualification for the Games, was edged out by high-profile American Virginia Fuchs in Tokyo.

European flyweight champion in 2018, Soluyanova faced Fuchs, a former USA Boxing Nationals champion who took bronze at the World Championships in 2018, in the round of 32.

Fuchs had battled OCD to travel to the spectacle, and she won on three of the five cards, with the other two giving Dimitrovgrad-born Soluyanova a one-point victory.

Fuchs was warned for pushing her 5ft 9in opponent in the secound round, and Soluyanova repeatedly hit the canvas in the third round.

Speaking ahead of her bow at the tournament, Fuchs described her attendance at the strictly limited opening ceremony as an "amazing experience".

"Fight time now," she added. "My Olympic debut Sunday... against Russia. My cannons are loaded."

The 33-year-old Fuchs faces Stoyka Krasteva next, a Bulgarian who earned a split decision win of her own by edging past Thi Tam Nguyen.

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July 25th 2021, 11:40 pm

Arizona Republican who voted with Dems on elections bill BOOED off stage at rally ahead of Trump spe

RT

At a conservative Turning Point Action rally in Phoenix, Arizona, state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita was loudly booed off stage ahead of Donald Trump’s speech and clashed with the press.

The Saturday event, dubbed ‘Rally to Protect Our Elections’, included speeches from candidates running for various positions, such as state senate seats or secretary of state, a position Ugenti-Rita is currently vying for. 

The state senator was booed before she even began her speech. After several false starts, Ugenti-Rita gave up and said, “I’m running to be your next secretary of state. I’m going to win the primary,” before she exited the stage. 

Ugenti-Rita has been a target of Republicans recently, mainly thanks to her shooting down an elections bill from fellow state Senator Kelly Townsend. She joined Democrats in voting against the bill. 

Ugenti-Rita’s frosty reception at the TPUSA event was not the end of her controversy. She has since been accused by conservative outlet the Gateway Pundit of having one of their reporters kicked out of the event and later arrested. 

According to the Pundit’s report, their journalist, Jordan Conradson, confronted the state senator after her disastrous speech and asked her if her vote against Townsend’s election integrity bill was why she was booed. She would only say it was because the bill was “bad,” and when continuing to be questioned, event staff removed Conradson from the event for “harassing” the lawmaker.

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At the alleged request of Townsend herself, the reporter returned to the event, but was detained by police and could be facing a $900 fine over the incident. 

Townsend has accused Ugenti-Rita of getting the reporter arrested because she was asked a question that “angered” her, but Ugenti-Rita gave a different version of events.

“A so-called reporter was removed by police & event security from an event yesterday after repeatedly harassing me. Then @AZKellyT encouraged him to break the law by committing trespassing by re-entering the building to continue to harass me,” she wrote of the incident. 

In a lengthy Twitter thread, the lawmaker also defended herself from conservatives accusing her of not fighting for “election integrity.”

Trump also took the stage in Arizona on Saturday and continued pushing his belief that the 2020 presidential election outcome was the result of fraud, something there has been no official proof of. 

“There is no way they win elections without cheating,” he said of the Democrats. 

Trump was a supporter of Townsend’s bill and called out Republican state Sen. Paul Boyer by name in an email blast to supporters. He did not, however, name Ugenti-Rita in the statement despite her same vote.  

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July 25th 2021, 11:40 pm

US vows to continue airstrikes in Afghanistan, as general insists ‘Taliban victory is not inevitable

RT

The head of the US Central Command has promised that despite the withdrawal, the US military will continue supporting Afghan government with airstrikes against the advancing Taliban militants, at least “in the coming weeks.”

“The Taliban are attempting to create a sense of inevitability about their campaign. They are wrong,” General Kenneth McKenzie told reporters in Kabul over the weekend. 

Since the US began its withdrawal in May, the advance by the Taliban has intensified, with militants now claiming to have gained control of more than 80% of Afghanistan. In response, the US military has supported the Kabul government’s efforts against the Taliban through air strikes.

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“The United States has increased air strikes in support of Afghan forces over the last several days, and we are prepared to continue this heightened level of support in the coming weeks if the Taliban continue their attacks,” the general said. 

US President Joe Biden has said a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years could be done by the end of August. He had originally set a goal of leaving by September 11, symbolically marking the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks which had been used as a pretext to invade the country.

McKenzie would not say whether air raids would continue once US forces have left the region, but admitted that Afghanistan will be facing a “stern test” in the coming weeks.

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July 25th 2021, 11:40 pm

Syrian air defense units intercept Israeli missiles near Damascus, thwarting THIRD raid in a week –

RT

The Syrian military has intercepted another two missiles fired by Israeli fighter jets at Damascus suburb of Set Zaynab over the weekend, thwarting the third airstrike in just a week, using Russian-made air defense systems.

The airstrike was carried out from outside the Syrian airspace, around 5:40am Sunday morning, when two Israeli F-16 jets fired two guided missiles, targeting unspecified facilities in the town of Set (Sayyidah) Zaynab some 10km south of Damascus.

Syrian air defense units – equipped with Russian-made Buk-M2E systems – successfully intercepted both of them, the head of the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria, Rear Admiral Vadim Kulit, said in a daily briefing.

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On Wednesday night, two Israeli F-16 jets fired four guided missiles from Lebanese airspace at Syria’s Homs province. All of them were shot down, also using Russian-made Buk-M2Es.

On Monday night, four Israeli jets penetrated Syrian airspace through the area of At-Tanf on the Jordanian border, controlled by the US military, and fired eight missiles into Aleppo province. Seven of them were reportedly shot down by Buk-M2 and Pantsir-S systems, but the remaining one struck a scientific research facility in the town of Safira.

While Israeli officials rarely acknowledge such raids, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) warplanes routinely rained down missiles on Syrian territory over the past years, under the pretext of self-defense against the “Iranian threat.”

Damascus has always protested the repeated attacks as blatant acts of aggression, while Russia, Turkey and Iran recently jointly condemned Israeli raids as violations of sovereignty and international humanitarian laws.

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July 25th 2021, 11:40 pm

Tunisian president OUSTS government, warns that army ‘will respond with bullets’ if opponents try to

RT

Tunisia's president has dismissed the government and froze parliament, amid unrest over the “dysfunctional” political system and crumbling healthcare. His opponents decried the move as a “coup” and called for street protests.

Following an emergency meeting at his palace on Sunday night, President Kais Saied announced his decision to sack prime minister Hichem Mechichi and suspend parliament, promising to ‘save’ the country with the help of a new PM.

“We have taken these decisions... until social peace returns to Tunisia and until we save the state,” Saied said in a televised address.

Hundreds of people celebrated the drastic move, cheering, honking and singing, as military vehicles surrounded the parliament building and the state television HQ, according to witnesses and videos shared on social media.

The parliament speaker and leader of the Muslim Brotherhood-inspired ‘moderate’ Islamist Ennahda party, Rached Ghannouchi, has defied the order but was blocked from entering the parliament. Ghannouchi denounced Saied's move as “a coup against the revolution and constitution,” in a phone call to Reuters, and called for street protests in a video message to supporters.

We consider the institutions still standing, and the supporters of the Ennahda and the Tunisian people will defend the revolution.

Saied, however, warned his opponents against unleashing street violence, saying that the military won’t hesitate to use guns to quell the unrest if it turns deadly.

I warn any who think of resorting to weapons... and whoever shoots a bullet, the armed forces will respond with bullets.

Under the constitution, Tunisian president is only directly responsible for military affairs and foreign relations, but last week he put the army in charge of the Covid-19 pandemic response – after PM Mechichi sacked the health minister, blaming him for the collapse of the country’s healthcare system.

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Praised as the cradle of the Arab Spring, Tunisia adopted a new constitution in 2014, but it still has no constitutional court to settle disputes, and consistently fails to form a stable government. President Saied and the parliament were both elected by popular votes in 2019, while Mechichi took office last year. Ghannouchi’s Ennahda, banned before the revolution, has since become the dominant force in parliament, locked in a constant political rivalry with the president and the PM.

Angered by the ‘dysfunctional’ political system, thousands of protesters, not openly backed by any of the major political parties, once again rallied in Tunis and other cities on Sunday. Some of the protest erupted in clashes, while the mob tried to storm the Ennahda party offices, forcing police to deploy tear gas – and apparently prompting Saied to take his radical step.

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July 25th 2021, 11:40 pm

‘They are ours’: Russian women’s team celebrate silver as South Korea extend archery reign with domi

RT

South Korea swept to a ninth straight gold in the women's archery at the Olympic Games – but there was plenty to be proud of for their Russian opponents in the final, who secured silver after three superb performances.

An San, Jang Min-hee and Kang Chae-young extended South Korea's remarkable streak of finishing first in each edition of the event since its introduction in Seoul in 1988, winning 6-0 following a 5-1 victory over Belarus in the semi-finals and a whitewash of Italy in the final eight.

The result ensures that South Korea are tied for the longest gold medal streak in all sports at the Games, equaling the US in the 4x100m medley relay in swimming and Kenya in the men's 3000m steeplechase.

Svetlana Gomboeva, the Russian star who unwittingly earned headlines after collapsing in the intense heat earlier in the games, was part of the trio under the ROC banner to have reached the final with an impressive run.

"I love you," she told her thousands of followers on social media, accompanying her celebration with a photo of the three medals received by the team. "They are ours."

Gomboeva and her team-mates beat Ukraine 6-2, Team USA 6-0 and Germany 5-1 en route to the final.

"Here they are, earned through hard work," said Elena Osipova, sharing a snap of the medals.

"Thanks to my family, coaches, friends and people who supported us and cheered us."

Germany beat Belarus to win bronze.

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July 25th 2021, 11:40 pm

Mask flip-flop? CDC ‘actively’ considering face cover advisory for vaccinated Americans, according t

RT

White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci has revealed that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) could soon reconsider its guidelines, recommending vaccinated Americans to mask up again.

Top health officials have reportedly been having preliminary talks about revising mask recommendations for vaccinated Americans due to a rise in cases and concerns over the more infectious Delta variant of Covid-19. According to current guidance, those vaccinated against the virus do not need to wear masks in most public spaces.

The revision of the mask guidance is indeed “under active consideration,” Fauci confirmed to CNN on Sunday. The infectious disease expert did not give a timeframe for when the federal guidance could change, but he praised those state officials who had already rushed ahead to reinstate local mask mandates in response to rising coronavirus cases. 

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“If you look at what’s going on locally in the trenches, in places like L.A. County,” Fauci said, “the local officials have the discretion, and the CDC agrees with that ability and discretion capability to say, you know, you’re in a situation where we’re having a lot of dynamics of infection, so even if you are vaccinated, you should wear a mask.”

Fauci and other White House officials have used the uptick in cases to continue pushing unvaccinated Americans to get inoculated. Recent polling, however, has signified that those who have refused getting vaccinated thus far have little to no interest in changing their minds.

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“This is an issue predominantly among the unvaccinated, which is the reason why we’re out there, practically pleading with the unvaccinated people to go out and get vaccinated,” Fauci said of the rise in cases around the country, adding that the US is currently moving “in the wrong direction.”

Fauci has been portrayed as a hero of the pandemic by Democrat politicians and mainstream media outlets, despite flip-flopping on mask-wearing guidelines, vaccination targets and other recommendations. His suggestion that vaccinated Americans should mask up again sparked a fresh round of criticism from conservatives.

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July 25th 2021, 11:40 pm

Wannabe Mayweather: Boxing star Haney blasted for throwing money in air while claiming it ‘took him

RT

American boxing braggart Devin Haney has been blasted for a "bad look" during a pandemic after tastelessly portraying himself throwing money into the air, boasting and lying on a couch as the notes fall on top of him.

In a cash-crazed scene reminiscent of boxing great Floyd Mayweather's tendency to picture himself surrounded by money, WBC lightweight champion Haney, who once caused controversy by claiming he would "never lose to a white boy in my life", started the clip with his shirt off inside a house.

The film then cut to stylized, glossy shots of 22-year-old Haney showing off various possessions including a luxury car and watch, trainers and what appeared to be a gun before cutting back to him falling backwards onto a couch strewn with the falling money.

The self-obsessive sequence was set to the rap song 'Having our Way' by Juicy MF Juice, Migos and Drake, which includes lyrics about being an "assassin" and "snipin' the b*tch", makes references to "lil n****s maggots" and boasts about how the protagonist "piped the b*tch up for some action".

Haney's apparent attempt to emulate the peculiarly charmless persona of one of the best boxers of all time received as predominantly poor a reception as it routinely has done under Mayweather's watch.

"This shit is just tired as f*ck now," blasted well-followed boxing writer Michael Woods. "OK, so he doesn’t get it’s a bad look as a global pandemic plays out.

"But come on, [Haney], you beat a way-past-prime [Yuriorkis] Gamboa and [Jorge] Linares. At least Floyd started the [wrestler known for his money obsession] Ted Dibiase stuff at 40-0."

Linares was 35 and had lost two of his previous five fights when Haney beat the Venezuelan in his most recent fight, in May, and Gamboa was 38 and coming off a defeat when Haney defeated him in November.

All five of the senior regional and international titles Haney has won have been vacant, and 'The Dream' has scored one knockout victory in eight fights since November 2017.

Haney's 26-fight unbeaten record, though, is impressive – and his posturing divided fans.

"They want to be Money May without being Pretty Boy Floyd," observed one, while another suggested: "The boy wants to be Floyd so bad. It's pretty sad, actually."

A critic responded: "The whole money thing has played out – we’ve seen it. No-one cares for it anymore, it’s the reason everyone’s switched to the UFC. People just want to see the best fighting the best."

Another asked: "This whole super rich theme is so played out. Can't anybody be themselves anymore?"

Apologists for Haney pointed out that his Instagram post may have been aimed at and viewed more favorably by his own generation. "Oh pipe down, clown," fired back one. "Let the young man enjoy himself."

"It’s not for you or me – I'm 46," added another. "He's trying to appeal to his age and demographic, just like Floyd did and most older guys, including his promoter, didn’t understand at the time."

A viewer in agreement nodded to the colossal count of almost 62,000 likes the clip amassed during a day. "Just look at all the young people who are liking the post," they said. "Do you think he is doing that for older people's approval?"

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July 25th 2021, 11:40 pm

WATCH: Russian warships & nuclear submarines on show in St. Petersburg parade as Putin hails country

RT

The newest additions to Russia’s naval forces have been showcased during the annual Navy Day parade in Saint Petersburg.

President Vladimir Putin kicked off the event on Sunday by praising the fleet’s long history and hailing Russia as “one the world’s leading naval powers.”

“Today, Russia’s naval fleet has everything it needs for the guaranteed defense of the country, of our national interests,” Putin said.

We can detect any [type of] enemy and, if necessary, carry out an unavoidable strike.

More than 50 warships, ranging from large attack vessels to smaller patrol boats, sailed down the Neva River and the Gulf of Finland as naval aircraft buzzed in the air.

Commissioned just last year, the multi-purpose ‘Admiral Kasatonov’ frigate was among the vessels featured. The ship is designed to operate in the high seas and is armed with Kalibr cruise missiles, torpedoes and anti-aircraft weaponry.

Russian frigate Admiral Kasatonov in St. Petersburg, Russia, July 25, 2021. © Alexei Danichev/Sputnik

The parade’s largest surface vessel, the cruiser ‘Marshal Ustinov’, is equipped with Vulkan anti-ship missiles that can destroy targets from up to 550km (342 miles) away.

The nuclear-powered submarine ‘Knyaz Vladimir’, which officially joined the fleet in 2020, took part in the parade for the first time. Named after a 10th-century Russian prince, the vessel is fitted with stealth technology and carries 16 Bulava ballistic missiles. In March, it completed an expedition into the Arctic.

© Aleksey Nikolskyi/Sputnik

Other submarines featured in the parade included the Krasnodar, which carried out cruise missile strikes against militants during Russia’s campaign in Syria.

The Russian ships were joined by the Indian frigate INS Tabar, which was built by a Russian shipyard and is equipped with Russian-Indian BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles.

They were followed by the Iranian frigate Sahand and support ship Makran, the largest vessel in the country’s navy, as well as the Pakistani frigate Zulfiquar.

Iranian frigate Sahand in Kronstadt, Russia, July 25, 2021. © Alexander Galperin/Sputnik

A Ka-52K attack helicopter, the Alligator, flew over St. Petersburg along with a pair of Ka-29TB choppers. Other aircraft included Tu-142 reconnaissance and anti-submarine planes and Su-30SM jet fighters.

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July 25th 2021, 9:39 am

‘I hadn’t fired’: Freak judging howler almost lost Russian shooting star crucial points on her way t

RT

Vitalina Batsarashkina, the air pistol hotshot who is the first Russian to win gold at the Tokyo Olympics, has revealed that a bungle by bosses almost cost her – and her mom has revealed how she has been a hunter from childhood.

Omsk-born Batsarashkina set an Olympic record as she stormed to the first gold medal for her country at the Games, scoring 240.3 points to beat Bulgarian rival Antoaneta Kostadinova by 0.7 points, having been 0.9 behind ahead of the final session.

Batsarashkina's family have revealed that they feared the star would lose the shooting nerve that has been nurtured in her since she was a child, although the 24-year-old was more worried about an electronics error that failed to register one of her shots.

“The judges didn’t notice that I hadn’t fired a shot when I still had time for it – I could continue to shoot for 27 seconds," Batsarashkina explained to Tass of the incredible oversight.

"And they gave me 50 seconds again to shoot. I think it gave me time to breathe. That does not happen very often – once in two, three or five finals, an electronics failure may occur."

Judges would not have given Batsarashkina a point had the mishap not been pointed out to them.

“We called each other in the morning and she complained a little that the shooting did not work out at the beginning," said one of Batsarashkina's coaches, Natalya Kudrinabut.

"But the middle was good. There was a delay in shooting, she had enough self-control and she set an Olympic record."

Batsarashkina's mother, Irina, revealed that both of the heroine's grandfathers had inspired her from a young age.

"We have two grandfathers — my father and my husband’s father — who are both avid hunters,” she said.

“Vitalina went hunting from the age of six. She was introduced to this life, her grandfathers gave her pneumatics early. She was a kid – there were never any dolls, she was nimble and active.

“I knew that she was capable of this as it was not her first time in international competitions. But we were afraid that she might lose her nerve. I hoped there would be a medal but, honestly, I didn’t think it would be gold."

That gold capped a fine opening to the Games for Russia – under the ROC banner – that has included silver  for Anastasia Galashina in the 10m air rifle shooting and bronze for Mikhail Artamonov in taekwondo.

“I didn’t set myself the task of winning and getting into the top three or even the final, but simply shooting as best I can and showing what I can," said Batsarashkina, whose next ambitions including the 25m shooting competition that begins on Thursday and, outside of the sport, marrying her partner.

"The main thing is that you have completed the task. I hope [to have a wedding] this year, because we have been planning it for a long time."

Another of Batsarashkina's ecstatic coaches, Valentin Kudrin, spoke about the tense build-up to her victory.

"We were in a very positive mood," he claimed to Tass. "We always hope for the best – we were afraid and very worried. To be honest, the result is unexpected.

"Vitalina is one of the elite of the world's shooters, but everyone there is very strong. When [it happened], I felt an explosion of joy and I was on the ceiling. The neighbors probably thought that someone had gone crazy.

"Her grandfather was a hunter, he brought her to us. She shot everything from slingshot to pneumatics. Thank god, there was then a sponsor who gave her a pistol. It was a former shooter. She was presented with a pistol with a huge handle, and everything went from there.

"I then persuaded my wife, who was already the coach of the youth team, to take Vitalina to the training camp."

Asked whether Batsarashkina would now be one of the most popular figures in her home city, Kudrin replied: "Yes. After all, she has an Olympic medal."

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July 25th 2021, 9:39 am

Football manager and ex-England midfielder Joey Barton charged with assault by beating over attack t

RT

Ex-Man City and Newcastle star Joey Barton will appear in court over an alleged assault that left his wife with a head injury days before their wedding anniversary, with police confirming an incident at a London house last month.

The 38-year-old, who also played for Burnley and Queens Park Rangers during his 269 Premier League appearances, was arrested over the alleged offense at a home in Kew, south-west London on June 2.

Metropolitan Police confirmed the charges in a statement, adding that Barton, of Cheshire in the north-west of the UK, will appear at a magistrates' court on Monday after being charged with assault by beating.

"The charge relates to an incident which took place at a residential property... in which a woman received a head injury," the statement added. "London Ambulance Service did not attend.

"A 38-year-old man was arrested on June 2, bailed pending further enquiries, and subsequently charged," it finished.

The couple have been together for more than a decade and have two children, Cassius and Pieta.

They were due to celebrate their second wedding anniversary days before Barton's alleged attack.

Georgia took to Instagram in the weeks that followed to post a commemorative message in her husband's honor.

"Happy Father’s Day –the kids absolutely adore you," she wrote alongside a black-and-white photo of the one-cap England international with his offspring. "Thank you for everything you do to them."

UK outlet The Sun has said that the country's League Managers’ Association refused to comment on the development.

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July 25th 2021, 9:39 am

Chelsea target Erling Haaland makes young fan’s dream come true by signing autograph on pitch during

RT

A youngster achieved a dream many football fans would love to achieve during an audacious pre-season friendly coup, reaching the pitch without interference and acquiring the signature of Borussia Dortmund wonderkid Erling Haaland.

The incident took place at the Bundesliga giants' Signal Iduna Park on Saturday, where the locals were hosting Spanish side Athletic Bilbao.

During the first half, the young enthusiast couldn't contain his excitement any longer and went for broke.

Spotting his opportunity as Haaland lingered in the penalty area in the hope of latching on to an incoming corner, the youngster made for the six-yard box, where the Leeds-born prodigy was happy to indulge him.

Signing the chest of the young boy's shirt, Haaland then kindly escorted him off the field out of harm's way, before the striker was hooked at half time in the eventual 2-0 defeat.

Walking sheepishly behind the goal, the youngster appeared to expect the worst as a serious-looking member of security personnel headed towards him.

But in keeping with the harmonious tone of the afternoon, the boy merely received a warm hand over the shoulder and was taken on his merry way.

The incident carried shades of the starstruck linesman who drew ire from the social media masses by asking for Haaland's autograph during a Champions League match last season.

It was later revealed that the official was raising money for an autism charity. 

Following the friendly, the generational talent, who celebrated his 21st birthday on Wednesday, took to social media to mark his return to action.

"Great to be back out on the pitch again," he captioned a photo for his millions of followers.

Elsewhere, he added: "It’s good to be back and to play my first game of pre-season. The result obviously wasn’t good, but that’s not what it’s about.

"It goes without saying that we want to win, but getting to run and play with the team and work on certain situations is good. The season starts in two weeks and we’re going to be well prepared for it."

With Jadon Sancho having left for Manchester United in a $100 million transfer, reports are now spreading that Haaland will stay put in the North Rhine-Westphalia region.

Dortmund are keen not to lose two young stars in the same window as they bid to wrest the German top flight title from Bayern Munich's grasp.

Meanwhile, UK outlets such as the Evening Standard have claimed that Chelsea are readying a $178 million raid to test Dortmund's resolve.

Whether it's supporters or top clubs vying for his attention, Haaland's hallmark clearly remains one of the game's most sought-after signatures.

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July 25th 2021, 9:39 am

US Shale Sees Light At The End Of The Tunnel

RT

The US oil and gas sector was torn apart during last year’s COVID-19 fueled market mayhem, but it appears that America’s shale patch is back on track, looking as healthy as ever.

The US oil and gas sector is recovering from last year’s market slump. But unlike the previous boom-and-bust cycles, the industry has held off on boosting production and has focused on strengthening balance sheets, repaying loans, and rewarding shareholders. As a result of the rallying commodity prices this year, and most of all, the discipline in capital spending, the US shale patch is now financially stronger. Bankruptcies have been fewer and far apart in recent months, and the energy loan default rate has dropped to the lowest level since the oil market crashed in March and April last year.

In addition, low interest rates have prompted many US oil and gas firms to raise new debt, most of which goes to repaying existing liabilities, not to drilling more wells.

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After years of massive losses, US shale eyes a $60-billion year

US Energy Defaults Drop Significantly

One indicator shows that the credit quality of the loans and bonds in the US oil and gas sector has significantly improved in recent months.

The energy sector’s trailing twelve-month (TTM) default rate stood at 9.1% in July, Fitch Ratings said in a report on Wednesday. The energy default rate has fallen below the double-digit percentage for the first time since April 2020. The default rate is also considerably down from the 20.3-percent peak in March, Fitch Ratings noted.

Smaller defaults and higher oil prices are set to further push the energy default rate down to 5% by the end of this year, the rating agency says. This year will see smaller defaults compared with as many as four defaults of $1.5 billion-plus size issuers in 2020, according to Fitch Ratings. 

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To compare, at this time last year, Fitch Ratings was estimating the energy default rate to finish the year 2020 at 18%. In the second quarter of 2020 alone, energy generated $5 billion of defaults.

This year, Fitch Ratings does not expect “many bankruptcies coming in the next few months. Only 2% of our Top Market Concern Loans relates to energy,” Eric Rosenthal, Senior Director of Leveraged Finance at Fitch Ratings, told Forbes’ Senior Contributor Mayra Rodriguez Valladares.

Defaults on bonds have also significantly dropped this year, according to Fitch Ratings.

“Energy makes up only 10% of our Top Market Concern Bonds list, down from 57% as of one year ago. There has been only $3.2 billion of YTD high yield energy defaults compared with $14.4 billion for the same period in 2020,” Rosenthal told Rodriguez Valladares.

Energy Bankruptcies Slow Down

This year, the default rate is considerably down, as companies with unsustainable liabilities have already filed for bankruptcy over the past year, while the others are using record cash flows to pay down debts.

The number of North American producers that filed for bankruptcy protection in the first quarter of 2021 reached the highest number for a first-quarter since 2016, yet the wave of bankruptcies has significantly slowed since the peaks in the second and third quarter of 2020, law firm Haynes and Boone said in its latest tally to March 31. Even though the number of first-quarter 2021 bankruptcies was the highest for a Q1 since 2016, it showed the trend of slowing filings after 18 oil and gas producers filed in the second quarter of 2020 and another 17 in the third quarter, the two quarters in which the oil price crash and the crisis were most severely felt by indebted producers.

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The US Shale Patch Is Borrowing Again

US oil and gas firms are taking advantage of the high oil prices and historically low-interest rates to seek financing.

Higher oil prices and low-interest rates have prompted listed independent US oil producers to raise in March the most financing via debt and equity issues since August last year, the EIA said in April.

This time around, the borrowed money is being used for repayment of previously drawn credit facilities or bonds, not for relentless drilling of new wells and chasing record production growth.

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“Since crude oil prices began increasing, US crude oil producers have been raising debt and equity to refinance debts, resume drilling activities, or purchase acreage,” the EIA said.

Low corporate bond yields have also contributed to lower interest rates on new bonds and reduce the cost of issuing debt, the EIA noted.

Historically low interest rates give additional incentives to US shale drillers to raise new debt and refinance existing liabilities. Currently, it’s as cheap for the US energy sector to raise new debt as it was seven years ago, when oil was $100 per barrel, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.

How Long Will Discipline Hold?

So far this year, US oil and gas firms have been sticking with promises of capital discipline and prefer to show investors the money to drilling themselves “into oblivion,” as Harold Hamm warned back in 2017.

Higher oil prices and expected record cash flows could heal the balance sheets of many shale producers this year.

Even if US shale wanted to significantly raise production in response to $70 oil, it would take at least nine months to see a meaningful jump in output, Rystad Energy said in an analysis earlier this month.  

One executive at an E&P firm may have summed up this year’s motto of the US shale patch in the following comment in the Dallas Fed Energy Survey Q2 published at the end of June:

“Don’t take the bait, drillers: Stay capital disciplined and enjoy the higher prices for your product.”   

This article was originally published on Oilprice.com

July 25th 2021, 9:39 am

‘I sincerely apologise’: UK health secretary deletes tweet telling Brits not to ‘cower’ from Covid-1

RT

UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid has apologised for writing a controversial tweet in which he boasted about fully recovering from Covid-19 and advised Brits not to “cower” from the virus.

Javid – who tested positive for Covid-19 one week ago on July 17 – took to social media on Saturday to announce his “full recovery” and promote vaccination.

“Symptoms were very mild, thanks to amazing vaccines. Please – if you haven’t yet – get your jab, as we learn to live with, rather than cower from, this virus,” he declared, angering many who considered his advice to lack empathy.

On Sunday, however, Javid apologised for the now-deleted tweet, saying “it was a poor choice of words” and claiming he was just trying to express “gratitude that the vaccines help us fight back as a society.”

“I sincerely apologise,” he wrote, adding, “Like many, I have lost loved ones to this awful virus and would never minimise its impact.”

Javid’s initial tweet sparked uproar among Brits on social media, who accused him of insulting people who had lost loved ones to the virus.

Actress Lorelei King posted a photo of her husband’s grave, noting that he “‘cowered’ from nothing in life,” but Covid-19 still “killed him.”

Another woman shared a photo of her mother, who she said had “paid the ultimate price” after being infected with the virus.

“Turns out she was just not as strong as big bad Sajid!” she wrote, while a disabled man tweeted, “Due to the gov’s appalling handling of covid, 60% of the UK’s Covid deaths are disabled people like me. We’ve been fighting for our lives, ‘not cowering’.”

Angela Rayner, the Labour Party's deputy leader – and many others – had called on Javid to apologise on Saturday, arguing that “Many lost their lives because the government failed to keep them safe.”

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Javid – a former home secretary and chancellor of the exchequer who was made health secretary by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in June following the resignation of Matt Hancock – is no stranger to controversy and his positive Covid-19 test last week led to Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak becoming engulfed in their own scandal after the two revealed they would not self-isolate despite their contact with the infectious Javid.

Johnson and Sunak soon backtracked following heavy public backlash and accusations of hypocrisy and ultimately decided to self-isolate like other Brits who have had recent contact with a Covid-19 positive person.

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July 25th 2021, 9:39 am

Champions League winner mocked for spurning certain goal with incredible miss – as boss claims he wa

RT

Champions League winner Joshua Zirkzee has been widely mocked for missing an absolute sitter for Bayern Munich, failing to score in a pre-season friendly against Ajax at the weekend that could determine his future.

The 20-year-old Dutchman joined the Bavarians' youth setup from Feyenoord in 2017.

Despite progressing to the seniors two years later and being part of the squad to have won the Champions League in 2020, he has only made 12 appearances for Bayern and was loaned out to Parma in the last transfer window. 

In this preseason, then, Zirkzee is singing for his supper – not only to stay on at the Allianz Stadium, but also, perhaps, to attract a potential buyer that won't be a massive step down in his career.

On Saturday, against visitors from his homeland, he did little to entice current or future employers with a horror miss.

Approaching half-time, with Bayern level at 1-1 against Ajax, Zirkzee produced some good work to force an error from Jurrien Timber after a bad backpass.

With one touch, he left goalkeeper Remko Pasveer in his wake as he approached an open net.

But instead of chasing after the loose ball to smash it home, Zirkzee jogged at a snail's pace and seemed happy to watch it roll in.

Perr Schurrs wasn't ready to give up, however, and beat Zirkzee to the ball to stop a potential goal and clear to safety. 

As footage of the incident went viral, fans the world over waded in on the Netherlands youth international.

"Do not fall asleep in front of the goal," he was advised, alongside a facepalm emoji.

"Sunday League. I mean come on, man," remarked another.

"Same energy" one viewer quipped, accompanied by a meme of football badboy Mario Balotelli in his heyday.

The Euro 2012 finalist with Italy was rightly hooked by then-coach and countryman Roberto Mancini at Manchester City after attempting a ridiculous flick when he was through on goal that went horribly wide during a pre-season match.

"Hopefully he'll be a little more serious in a Bundesliga game," Zikzee's manager Julian Nagelsmann told Abendzeitung after the match. "But I don't have to talk to him – he'll know that himself.

"We were a bit too deep in the first half, weren’t really so forceful in the first line of attack. Still, we had the chance to take the lead just before half-time," the new Bayern shot-caller also added after the 2-2 draw.

"We had to score that. We then changed things a bit during the break and were really good in the first quarter of an hour after half-time. We applied a lot of pressure and had some good spells of possession. Then we substituted ten players.

"The boys also did very well. They were brave and played well with the ball. Given the squad available to us, it was absolutely fine on the whole.

"We’re very pleased there were spectators today and they supported us. That was a nice experience."

Next up for the Bundesliga kings are meetings with Monchengladbach on Wednesday and Napoli next Saturday.

With Bayern's season starting on August 6 in the DFB-Pokal, Zirkzee's auditions are running out.

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July 25th 2021, 9:39 am

Bloodied Russian MMA star Lobov set to retire after brutal bare-knuckle loss to Ukrainian in scrap s

RT

Conor McGregor training partner and ex-UFC star Artem Lobov admitted that he does not have "fire in the heart" after losing his latest bare-knuckle bout, falling to Denys Berinchyk in a scrap caged by sandbags on a card in Kiev.

Notoriously durable Lobov survived two standing counts in the Mahatch FC brawl, when he bravely took on unbeaten professional boxer, 2012 Olympic Games light-heavyweight silver medalist and former World University Boxing Championships king Berinchyk, ending with his face covered in blood.

Following a third successive defeat of his two-and-a-half year UFC spell in 2018, Lobov had earned wins over Paulie Malignaggi and Jason Knight in a bare-knuckle career that was as entertaining as his 30-fight MMA career.

The 34-year-old yet again showed his willingness to take on the toughest of opponents in Berinchyk, and had been backed by McGregor ahead of the showdown.

"I knew that Denys is a high-class fighter," 'The Russian Hammer' acknowledged after the scrap was called off between the fourth and fifth rounds.

"So I wanted to fight him. Why go out [against who] knows who? If I go out, then I try against the strongest and aim for the stars. If it doesn’t work out, you’ll be close to the moon.

"Congratulations, Denys – it was a great honor for me to perform here. Most likely, I will [retire]. There is no fire in the heart that there used to be.

"I just went out here to see how and what [I was capable of]. Thanks to everyone – and, especially, to my team. "

WBO International lightweight title holder Berinchyk praised Lobov and said his first fight in the discipline had been positive. "Thank you for agreeing to fight an undefeated boxer," he said.

"Respect to my opponent. My debut was a success. I liked to fight with [bare] fists. I think this is not the end, but only the beginning."

Berinchyk was not Lobov's only admirer in what may have been his final fight. "Artem, you made a lot of fans proud as always," said one supporter on social media.

"Even in times of a loss, Artem never disappoints the fans. There's not one boring Artem Lobov fight – they don't exist.

"You made your fans proud last night and you're never afraid of a good fight, no matter the opponent."

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July 25th 2021, 9:39 am

VC firms are pouring billions of dollars into green tech

RT

Green technology is quickly emerging as the hottest investment sector for venture capitalists, with private firms completing $7.7 billion in deals this year.

ESG (environmental, social, and governance) investing: it's in every media outlet and on every bank's business plan. A rush to what many call alignment of values with investment goals has led to a flourishing new industry with funds popping up like mushrooms after the rain. Green-tech startups are the new dotcoms, it seems, and the danger of a bubble seems distant—for now.

Interestingly enough, things were very different just a few years ago, as the Wall Street Journal's Scott Patterson noted in a recent article. The past decade, he wrote, saw a pullout of investors from the green energy technology field after a couple of notable demises—one of solar company Solyndra back in 2011 and one of battery maker A123 Systems a year later.

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From today's standpoint, this is ancient history. Now, hardly a week goes by without a breakthrough of some sort in batteries, solar power tech, or, say, hydrogen. Most of these breakthroughs have to do with cost and efficiency, which are the two things that can guarantee a product a long life. Yet, most of these breakthroughs never make it to the consumer. They never make the leap across the so-called valley of death between the lab and the market. Especially if funding is scarce and hard to come by.

Venture capital funds are changing this, the WSJ's Patterson writes, citing data from PitchBook, a private capital market research provider. According to PitchBook, venture capital funds are seen completing $7.7 billion worth of green tech deals this year, which would be up from $1 billion ten years ago.

It's not just venture capitalists, either. JP Morgan earlier this month launched not one but three new sustainability investment funds. This was only the latest move in a rush to set up clean energy investment funds to take advantage of growing investor appetite for environmental, social, and governance, commonly known as ESG, investing.

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Demand for new investment opportunities by a new generation of investors is one driver of this trend. Another, more important driver is government support for low-carbon technology. The European Union has tied its post-pandemic recovery funding program to commitments by national governments to invest a solid portion of the funds in low-carbon energy. This is effectively an open invitation to anyone doing anything in green tech. The Biden administration has also opened up the US federal purse for green tech startups.

Now, the EU and the US are discussing something they are calling a green technology alliance. In a joint statement, the two said, "We intend to lead by example through becoming net-zero greenhouse gases (GHG) economies no later than 2050 and implementing our respective enhanced 2030 targets."

With such solid support, investment in green tech has become a lot less risky for investors... except in the part where a technology simply has no chances of survival as happens to an awful lot of breakthroughs that sound so groundbreaking in the lab but never cross the valley of death. However, this is a risk inherent in any startup investment.

We've seen some instances of this risk materializing in the EV space recently. First, EV and hydrogen vehicle startup Nikola suffered a major share price drop when a report from a short-seller revealed that the company's CEO had overstated the company's progress on its flagship model. The revelation cost Nikola a huge deal with GM, too. Another EV maker, Lordstown, recently teetered on the brink of collapse as the company ran out of money before it started commercial production of its Endurance truck.

Many more startups, not just in the EV space but also in other green tech fields, will go under if their products don't live up to the hype. But at least now they have access to abundant funding, unlike a few years ago. Then, it was a buyers' market. Now, it's a sellers' market, and buyers are lining up, eager to take part in the energy transition. How long before the situation escalates into a bubble? That would depend on how many more Solyndras and A123 Systems there are out there.

This article was originally published on Oilprice.com

July 25th 2021, 9:39 am

‘This is not freedom’: Macron denounces ‘irresponsibility and egoism’ of those who refuse Covid jab

RT

French President Emmanuel Macron argued on Sunday that refusing to be vaccinated against Covid-19 is not “freedom” because anti-vaxxers infect and kill others through their “irresponsibility” and “egoism.”

Macron said during a visit to French Polynesia that though “everyone is free to express themselves,” there is “no such thing as freedom where I owe nothing to anyone.”

What is your freedom worth if you say to me ‘I don’t want to be vaccinated,’ but tomorrow you infect your father, your mother or myself?

The French president argued that freedom “rests on a sense of reciprocal duty,” not selfishness. Macron also floated the possibility of a patient in hospital getting less medical attention as a result of medical professionals helping another person who refused the vaccine.

“This is not freedom, it is called irresponsibility, egoism,” Macron declared, issuing a “very strong message” for “everyone to get vaccinated.”

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Tens of thousands of people in France protested the government’s decision to introduce a vaccine passport and mandatory vaccination for certain professions this weekend. France’s vaccine passport will prohibit people from entering restaurants, bars, museums, and more if they cannot provide evidence of vaccination or a recent negative test.

Similar massive protests against vaccine passports and lockdown restrictions have also been held in the UK, Italy, and Australia.

London protesters held signs that read “No to forced testing” and “No to forced vaccination” during a “Freedom Rally” of thousands on Saturday after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced last Monday that proof of vaccination would soon be required to enter nightclubs and other establishments.

Following the news that Italy planned to introduce a similar vaccine passport system, thousands of Italian protesters marched across the country, including Rome and Turin, with some comparing Prime Minister Mario Draghi to Adolf Hitler.

Though a vaccine passport system has not yet been introduced in Australia, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Sydney on Saturday to campaign against the city's strict lockdown restrictions.

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July 25th 2021, 9:39 am

Staying putt: More Covid despair for Rahm as positive tests rule world number 1 & contender DeChambe

RT

Top golf stars Jon Rahm and Bryson DeChambeau will not play at the Tokyo Olympics after both tested positive for Covid-19, ruling the world number one out again after he caught the virus for the second time in two months.

Heavy hitter DeChambeau, who had been due to represent the USA, voiced his frustration after becoming the latest athlete to see their ambitions of taking part in the showpiece curtailed by Covid, while Rahm has endured a repeat of the test result that meant he was forced to withdraw from the Memorial in June.

The Spanish sensation was well on the way to winning that tournament when cameras captured him being told on the course that he would not be able to continue his campaign because he had contracted the coronavirus.

"I am deeply disappointed not to be able to compete in the Olympics for Team USA," said 2020 PGA Championship and US Open champion DeChambeau, the world number six.

"Representing my country means the world to me and it is was a tremendous honour to make this team. I wish Team USA the best of luck next week in Tokyo.

"I will now focus on getting healthy, and I look forward to returning to competition once I am cleared to do so."

Rahm tied for third at The Open in the UK last week, where DeChambeau also played.

The 26-year-old was fully vaccinated and was the bookmakers' favorite ahead of the start of play at Tokyo's Kasumigaseki Country Club on Thursday.

Open champion Collin Morikawa and former world number one Rory McIlroy are set to take part in the tournament, with Patrick Reed replacing DeChambeau in what will be his second Olympics appearance.

"I wish Bryson nothing but the best," said Reed, the current world number 13.

"I know how disappointed he is to not be able to compete, and I will do my best to play my best and represent our country."

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July 25th 2021, 5:53 am

‘I was wrong’: Dutch cyclist van Vleuten thinks she’s won Olympic gold… only to discover Austrian ri

RT

Dutch cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten thought she had scooped her country’s first gold medal of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics only to be told that Austria’s Anna Kiesenhofer had already crossed the line more than one minute earlier.

In a stunning upset, the 30-year-old Kiesenhofer became the first person to win an Olympic road race medal from her homeland.

The Austrian – who is unsigned by a professional team – was part of an early breakaway group in Tokyo before hitting the front on her own with around 40km to go.

Kiesenhofer never looked back, blitzing the field to finish the 137km course in a time of 3 hours, 52 minutes and 45 seconds.

Trailing her by 75 seconds was van Vleuten, who in confusing scenes was unaware that her rival had broken away to open up a major gap.

Instead, the Dutchwoman thought she had stolen a march on Italy’s Elisa Longo Borghini to clinch gold, with van Vleuten stretching out her arms in celebration on crossing the finish line at the Fuji International Speedway.

However, after embracing her team with joy the 2019 world champion then appeared confused after being told of the result.

“I didn’t know. I was wrong. I didn’t know,” said the 38-year-old veteran, who had dusted herself off from a crash earlier during the race. 

The confusion was put down to the fact that riders in the Olympic road race cannot contact their teams via radios during, meaning van Vleuten and her fellow Dutch riders – who were among the strong favorites for the title – were unaware that Kiesenhofer had surged ahead.

Summing up the chaos, Team GB rider Lizzie Deignan, who finished 11th, also thought van Vleuten had won.

“The best person won the bike race here today. Annemiek was clearly the strongest so, you know, shout out to her,” she told the BBC. 

The reality was more disappointment for van Vleuten, who was leading five years ago at the Rio Games before a horror crash left her with a concussion and three fractured bones in her lower back.

Meanwhile the shock triumph for Kiesenhofer, who is a mathematician and a graduate of Vienna and Cambridge universities, brought the first medal for Austria at this year's Tokyo Games. 

Van Vleuten (L) appeared to have recovered from the disappointment by the time the medals were handed out. © Reuters

July 25th 2021, 5:53 am

Do sanctions really work? Russia has faced restrictions for years, but all they've done is push Mosc

RT

Sanctions are the US’ weapon of choice in less than clear-cut international conflicts. Put in place on the pretext of protecting international peace and national interests, history shows their effect is more usually the opposite.

Worse still, it’s the American people themselves who often become the unwilling and inadvertent targets of excessive economic restrictions.

The failure of American sanctions

Whether sanctions work – or not – is no great secret. Time and time again, the US has clung to sanctions as its de facto power of tough diplomacy. Yet Washington is failing to recognize the obvious reality: they simply do not work, other than perhaps as a tool to bully or with which to play to the crowds.

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In fact, tough-sounding economic policies have been shown to almost never have the desired effect against America’s adversaries. Instead, all too often, sanctions bolster those in power, who use the threat of Washington’s overreaching in their domestic affairs as a way to influence national opinion and shore up their support.

The US’s effort to throttle the economy of any country or government that stands against Congress’ vision for how the world should work has brought it into conflict with a number of nations. This has been seen in Iran, where the sanctions put in place after the 1979 revolution fueled the Shia-majority country’s aggressive policies in the Middle East. Likewise, in Cuba, where sanctions have existed for over 60 years, and yet the nation is still dominated by an authoritarian regime.

While such extremes have not been the result in Russia, anti-American sentiment has sharply risen due to Washington’s economic crusade against Moscow, its companies, and officials, since the 2014 reabsorption of Crimea. But the campaign against Russia did not start with the post-Kiev Maidan period. There still exist several sets of restrictions against the country and its companies that date back decades to the Yeltsin era.

Sanctions over Crimea are not only a continuation of the United States’ proven-to-fail way of dealing with complex international events, especially against Russia, but are a tool of destruction against the most innocent parties involved: citizens of these two nations.

The impact on Russians is easy to see. The resulting collapse of the ruble in 2014 made headlines around the world, and many industries had to quickly change and develop domestically in order to support Russians without European or American assistance. However, many Americans fail to realize the extent to which sanctions hurt their own country or to acknowledge who is often most at risk from US sanctions: Americans themselves.

Hitting hard back home

Sanctions are a double-edged sword. Not only do they hurt the economy of the sanctioned, but they also hurt the markets of the sanctioner. In 2015, for example, trade with Russia was $23 billion – a drop of $11 million from a year prior. Additionally, the glut of sanctions against not just Russia but multiple other countries may create unintended consequences and hurt American economic interests – without even succeeding in changing the target’s behavior.

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As the United States further strengthens its reliance on sanctions and aims to tighten its economic hold on its targets, other countries – both sanctioned and unsanctioned – will have to adapt their own policies to protect themselves and their people. For example, it would not be all too surprising if countries and firms created business structures and contingencies so as to prevent or minimize risk when involved with American businesses.

Visa and Mastercard have already fallen victim to such problems, having had to back out of transactions with sanctioned banks and re-route transactions through an entirely different system, only to be challenged by a Russian credit card competitor.

In the end, however, it is the common man who loses – and who loses big.

The cost for Americans

Businesspeople will point to the fact that the effects of sanctions can go beyond the targeted sector and the individual, hurting Americans well outside the original sanctioned sphere. While the United States may have aimed to restrict business and trade with a particular company or individual, all too often the effects of the sanction seep into other facets of the economy and diplomacy as the targeted country modifies its policies and approaches so as to keep itself afloat.

For Americans, this means reduced revenues for US companies and those who work for them, as well as forfeited opportunities that statistics alone cannot measure. It also puts unnecessary pressure on Americans living abroad, as well as tourists and exchange students, who then have to jump through hoops to complete even the most basic tasks related to banking, finance, and visas.

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And for Americans hoping to follow the American dream, starting or expanding businesses, or working abroad, sanctions become a barrier to that dream. The moment a business account has a connection to Russia or another sanctioned country, banks stop wanting to have anything to do with it. When this pinnacle of American entrepreneurism is put under strain due to policies proven to be ineffective at best, there is a glaring problem.

The history of failure, coupled with the factual and potential harm of sanctions to American citizens makes one thing clear: it is disingenuous to say that sanctions are done in the best interest of US national security and the international community. In truth, all they do is set up further barriers to democracy and economic prosperity. Even for Americans.

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

July 25th 2021, 5:53 am

Move over, Eton! Russia’s exclusive schools are taking on the world’s most elite institutions… if yo

RT

While schools around the world have struggled with how to give their kids a good education despite the disruption of the pandemic, one state-of-the-art private institution on the outskirts of Moscow had a bumper year for grades.

Letovo is no ordinary school. It is one of the very few in Russia that offers both a national diploma as well as a certificate from the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IB DP), opening doors to its students for overseas work and study. Elite schools such as this began to spring up following the 2013 –2015 Ukraine and Syria crises, which alienated Moscow from its former partners in the West. With a collapse in oil prices compounded by sanctions, the ruble crashed. In response, Russia’s wealthiest began to search for homegrown alternatives to the likes of Eton and Harrow, which had educated many of a generation of rich Russian children.

This year, Letovo’s graduates finished with one of the highest mean IB DP scores in the world. Their final-year students scored an average of 43 points, which is a head above the global standard of 33 points. Following these outstanding results, every single graduating student was admitted into their university of choice – including some of the West’s most prestigious higher-education institutions, such as Brown, Cornell, Duke, Chicago, Yale and Berkeley, Oxford, and Cambridge.

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The academy sees itself as a kind of ‘start-up’ educational project. It was founded by the Russian billionaire, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Vadim Moshkovich, who made his fortune in agriculture. In an interview in 2018, the farming mogul stated, “I’m not building a school for children of officials or sanctioned businessmen or oligarchs from Rublyovka,” referring to Moscow’s most coveted and elite district. “Education is the key driver in the modern world and I want Russia to be competitive. This is for soul and country.”

Such a premium education comes at a premium price, however. Letovo’s base tuition fees are about $20,000 a year. While this is still around only half of what the top British public schools charge, such expenses are far above what the average Russian family can afford. Prospective students undergo a name-blinded exam and are means-tested, meaning that those who can’t afford the fees have a shot at receiving grants and scholarships to supplement the costs.

Within a broader analysis of Russia’s education system, this attempt to improve the education of the wealthy few who would otherwise have been sent abroad, or the worthy few who happen to be extremely intelligent, seems rather shallow.

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For decades, some of Russia’s ultra-wealthy have been sending their kids to the US and UK for their education – Moshkovich’s own two eldest children were sent to Stanford. And even if admission hinges upon a blindly graded entrance exam, it doesn’t stop the rich from private-tutoring their way into Letovo. Although it’s classified as a not-for-profit project, the school remains, in essence, an elite attempt to emulate top foreign institutions. It aims to become a feeder into the best of the West, and still, ultimately, sends Russian children abroad to complete their further education.

The problem with ‘normal’ education in general today is often pinned to overworked, under-motivated teachers and chronic underfunding. In Russia, even the best teachers are underpaid compared to what those of similar educational attainment could earn in the private sector, and in many ‘free’ schools, teaching is more a matter of crowd control rather than effective learning. Critics such as Moshkovich have complained that “state primary and secondary schools still rely too much on memorization and standardized testing, and don’t do enough to encourage critical and creative thinking.” Given that Russia spends only about 3.7% of its GDP on education, it’s not surprising that state schools struggle to find the time and space to focus on creativity and critical thinking.

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In an interview with Russian business daily RBC, Moshkovich claims, “Our goal is to provide a world-class education to any child in Russia, regardless of place of residence and material status. The current education system in most Russian schools is still focused primarily on knowledge, rather than skills and competencies. We want to unite all these areas to harmonize learning.” This is all well and good for those who can make it into his ‘superschool,’ but what about the ‘normal’ students in normal schools all around the country? Don’t they also deserve the chance at receiving a “world-class” education?

As Letovo shows, money really does make all the difference. The 36 graduates from this year’s class will go on to the world’s top universities with full support from Letovo’s educational fund, provided they return home on graduation and work in Russia for at least three years afterwards. The kind of opportunities that open up for young people when funds aren’t an issue are immense, and when they’re surrounded by a positive attitude towards learning and by decently paid, enthusiastic teachers, the sky's the limit. It’s just a shame that not every child will get that chance.

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

July 25th 2021, 5:53 am

‘Draghi Like Hitler’: Protesters slam Italian PM for introducing Covid health pass, call it discrimi

RT

Protests against the Italian government’s plan to introduce health passes were held in more than 80 locations on Saturday, where people denounced the measure as discriminatory.

Around 3,000 rallied in Rome and 5,000 in Turin, the capital of the northwestern Piedmont region, while smaller protests were held elsewhere across the country, Italian media said. Overall, demonstrations were reported in more than 80 cities and towns.

People took to the streets to denounce the plan of the government led by Prime Minister Mario Draghi to introduce a health pass, known as the ‘Green Pass’. The document serves as proof that a person has received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, has tested negative for Covid-19 in the last 48 hours, or has recovered from the virus.

Starting from August 6, only Green Pass holders will be allowed into cafes, restaurants, gyms, and open-air shows.

Protesters view the measure as discriminatory. Some marched with signs that read, ‘Draghi Like Hitler’ and ‘Freedom, No More Dictatorship’, while others carried Italian flags and lit flares.

“We say no to the Green Pass because it creates A-class and B-class citizens – those who have rights and those who have no rights,” a protester in Rome told RT's Ruptly video agency. “This is against Italy's constitution.”

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La Stampa newspaper reported that some business owners took part in the protest, fearing that the introduction of the pass will lead to a drop in clientele and endanger their livelihood.

Draghi said the Green Pass is necessary to stop the spread of the disease and restart the economy. Some politicians criticized Saturday’s protests.

“Hearing words like ‘slavery’ and ‘Covid scam’ makes me shudder. According to these irresponsible [people], 130,000 deaths were perhaps only imaginary,” Senator Licia Ronzulli from the center-right Forza Italia party said, as quoted by La Stampa.

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July 25th 2021, 4:39 am

Russian fleet & aircraft showcase military might in Navy Day parade in St. Petersburg (WATCH LIVE)

RT

Russia is holding its annual Navy Day parade in St. Petersburg on Sunday, which involves dozens of warships and aircraft.

A total of 54 vessels of different types and more than 4,000 servicemen are slated to participate in the main event. For the first time, the parade in St. Petersburg will features three nuclear-powered submarines.

A naval parade was held earlier in Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East, while similar events are planned in Sevastopol, Crimea, and Baltiysk, a city in the Russian enclave between Poland and Lithuania.

WATCH LIVE:

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July 25th 2021, 4:39 am

India in talks with Russia over investments in Russian oil and gas assets – sources

RT

India is negotiating investments of between two and three billion dollars in Russian oil and gas exploration and production projects with the Russian government, the Business Standard newspaper reports, citing unnamed officials.

According to the paper, the Russian government has offered several oil and gas fields to India’s natural resources exploration firm ONGC Videsh and to any potential consortium it may form for the project.

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This will be for exploring and producing oil and gas in Russia. While the project and scope have not been finalized, talks have begun,” one of the sources told the newspaper.

Sources say the countries are also in talks over India's investment in oil and gas exploration projects in the Arctic, namely in the development of the Vostok Oil project. The project’s annual crude production could be up to 100 million tons, according to preliminary estimates.

The cited sources stated that three Russian Far Eastern regions, namely Yakutia, Sakhalin Oblast and Amur Oblast, have so far shown interest in investment by India in their oil and gas sectors.

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India sees oil and gas-related interaction with Russia as a "flagship sector of commercial cooperation between the two nations,” India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said earlier. The country has also been looking at extending economic ties with Russia in areas such as coking coal, timber and liquefied natural gas (LNG), as it sees great potential there.

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

July 25th 2021, 4:39 am

‘Filthy, disgusting & selfish’: Australian leaders blast anti-lockdown protesters, unleash ‘strike f

RT

Australian police have already issued hundreds of fines in the wake of mass anti-lockdown rallies, and are looking for more info about the violators, as state leaders condemned the protesters for endangering other people’s lives.

In just 24 hours after Saturday’s mass protest, police in Australia’s New South Wales issued some 510 penalty infringement notices, Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. He vowed that authorities will continue to investigate those acts of “violent, filthy, risky” behavior

A strike force is set up right at this moment that continues to ask for people to bring forward any video files or telephone footage that they have of that sort of behaviour.

NSW Police Minister David Elliott earlier announced that at least 22 veteran detectives will be working as part of a special unit to identify and track down people who attended the rallies.

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State premier Gladys Berejiklian echoed these sentiments, saying she was “absolutely disgusted” by the mass gatherings, and urging anyone who recognized any of the activists to contact police immediately. 

I’m just so utterly disgusted, disappointed and heartbroken that people don’t consider the safety and wellbeing of their fellow citizens.

NSW reported two deaths and 141 new cases of Covid-19 on Sunday, which is slightly lower than the day before. Authorities however already hinted that as the protest risks turning into a superspreader event, the month-long lockdown in Sydney might be extended even further.

“We don’t want a setback, and yesterday could have been a setback – time will tell,” Berejiklian said. The state’s current lockdown rules bar residents from leaving home except to obtain food and other “essential” goods and services, for medical care, including vaccinations, and for outdoor exercise and “essential” work.

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The state of Victoria in the meantime recorded only 11 new cases, but premier Daniel Andrews already blasted the protesters for putting “many other people in real danger,” and said that he could not rule out that the state’s own lockdown will also be extended.

We can’t vaccinate against selfishness, and these people should be ashamed, absolutely ashamed, it’s just wrong.

Since the pandemic began, Australia has repeatedly staved off the spread of Covid-19 with some of the world’s most draconian lockdown measures, in pursuit of driving new cases down to zero even at the expense of civil liberties. Over the course of the pandemic, the country recorded just over 32,700 cases and 916 total deaths.

On Saturday, thousands of people sickened by perpetual restrictions and confinement marched through major Australian cities, chanting “Freedom!” and clashing with police who were deployed to disperse these “illegal gatherings.”

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July 25th 2021, 12:53 am

Vitalina Batsarashkina wins 1st gold for Russia, setting Olympic RECORD in women's 10m pistol event

RT

Russian shooter Vitalina Batsarashkina has won the women's 10-meter air pistol event, setting a new Olympic record in Tokyo. Bulgaria’s Antoaneta Kostadinova won the silver, while China’s Jiang Ranxin bagged the bronze.

Batsarashkina set a record of 240.3 points, with a 0.9 lead over Kostadinova, winning her first Olympic gold in Tokyo – five years after taking silver at the Rio Games.

While China's Jiang bested the qualifying rounds (with an Olympic record of her own of 587 points), she was eventually eliminated with a bronze.

On Saturday, another Russian shooter, Anastasiia Galashina, claimed silver in a tense women’s 10-meter air rifle event.

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Tokyo Olympics entered its second day on Sunday, with multiple medal events in archery, cycling, diving, fencing, judo, skateboarding, weightlifting and swimming.

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July 25th 2021, 12:08 am

‘Freedom rally’: Thousands protest ‘Covid passports’ in London… as anti-vax speaker threatens doctor

RT

Anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination activists have rallied in multiple British cities against the ‘vaccine passport’ initiative. In London, one of the speakers triggered a major controversy by likening NHS staff to Nazi doctors.

Thousands of people have gathered at the Trafalgar square in London on Saturday for the so-called ‘Freedom Rally’ to protest the restrictive measures introduced amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The demonstrators flooded almost the entire square, holding placards and banners that read: “No to forced testing” and “No to forced vaccination.” 

Many activists went as far as to accuse the government of “crimes against humanity,” while banners seen in the crowd ranged from 5G conspiracy theories to flags reading “Trump for 2024”.

Even though minor scuffles erupted on the sidelines of the event, resulting in several arrests, the rally was otherwise peaceful. The gathering was attended by the controversial media personality, Katie Hopkins, who just returned from Australia that cancelled her visa over a quarantine breach. Former TV presenter turned conspiracy theorist David Icke was also present, as well as Piers Corbyn, the brother of the former Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

But one of the speakers, Kate Shemirani, a former nurse-turned-anti-vaxxer and a conspiracy theorist, triggered a particularly major controversy. She took the stage to declare vaccines “Satanic” and describe them as a part of a great surveillance scheme – while urging the rally participants to send her names of doctors and nurses involved in the vaccination campaign.

At the Nuremberg trial the doctors and nurses stood trial, and they hung.

“If you are a doctor or a nurse, now is the time to get off that bus... and stand with us, the people,” she added, claiming that a “group of lawyers” are helping her to collect the info.

The video of her fierce speech quickly spread on social media, prompting an angry response from the London mayor, Sadiq Khan. “I have raised it directly with the Met Police,” he said, while praising the health care specialists as “heroes of this pandemic.”

“This is what NHS staff woke up to this morning. A rally talking about hanging doctors and nurses,” the ‘NHS million campaign said on Twitter, also calling on police to respond to the “hatred and violence towards our hard working NHS staff.”

Elsewhere in the UK, protesters went beyond chanting provocative slogans. In Manchester, a group of anti-vaccination activists sought to storm a local Covid-19 testing center, forcing police to deploy additional guards to the facility. 

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In Leeds, the protesting crowds blocked traffic as they swarmed the streets. The disruption resulted in several local bus companies halting services on some lanes. 

The protests come in response to the government plans to introduce the so-called “vaccination passports.” On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that a proof of vaccination will soon be needed to enter nightclubs and other venues that have just reopened this week. The announcement was met with widespread resentment and even angered some MPs, who vowed to vote against the measure. 

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July 25th 2021, 12:08 am

Barbed welcome: As migrant crossings surge, Estonia to gift Lithuania 100km of sharp RAZOR WIRE for

RT

Tallinn says it will help Vilnius build military-grade obstacles on the Lithuanian-Belarusian border by sending drones and razor wire to its neighbor. It comes amid a surge of Middle Eastern migrants trying to cross into the EU.

Some hundred kilometers (60 miles) of concertina wire will immediately be sent to Lithuania for free, Estonia’s defense ministry announced on Saturday. It has also promised drones for better border surveillance. The move comes as Vilnius is desperate to lock its borders to illegal migrants from the Middle East and Central Asia attempting to cross through Belarus.

Lithuania has previously said it’s facing a full-blown crisis as the number of illegal migrants has multiplied by 30 compared to last year, with almost 2,500 people detained. Having declared a state of emergency earlier this month, it started building a fence, but soon ran out of the military-grade wire.

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Having blamed Minsk for the migrant crisis, the Baltic country appealed to its western neighbours for help. Poland has responded by sending tents and heating facilities. The EU said it won’t be helping with the border wall, but promised to help deal with the influx of migrants financially.

“The European Commission does not fund fences. Our funding is aimed at inclusive solutions to control borders which guarantee that illegal crossings will not remain unnoticed,” its spokesperson has told RIA Novosti news agency. The money should also be used to help shelter migrants, the EU official added.

According to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, his country has been a “barrier” for illegal migration and drugs trafficking from the east. However, after Minsk’s relations with the West deteriorated dramatically and Lukashenko’s government came under a barrage of sanctions, he said Belarus would no longer stem the migrant tides, as it had “neither money nor strength” due to the sanction-inflicted losses. Vilnius has, meanwhile, accused Minsk of using migration flows as a “political tool” and called on the EU to impose even more sanctions on its neighbor.

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July 24th 2021, 6:40 pm

Non-binary women’s footballer who is first openly trans athlete at Olympic Games says they feel ‘pro

RT

A non-binary footballer who uses them and they pronouns has spoken of their feelings after helping Canada to a strong position in their group at the Tokyo Olympics, warning that the "fight" for trans rights "isn't close to over".

Hugely experienced international Quinn came out as transgender in a move they described as "hard and kind of bullsh*t" last September, going on to become the first openly transgender athlete to compete in the Games as Canada drew 1-1 with hosts Japan and beat Chile 2-1.

The 25-year-old, who is said to have been born Rebecca but is now known simply as Quinn, said they were "optimistic" for change and wanted change in legislature, "rules, structures and mindsets".

“I feel proud seeing ‘Quinn’ on the lineup and on my accreditation," said the versatile star for National Women's Soccer League OL Reign in the US.

"I feel sad knowing there were Olympians before me unable to live their truth because of the world.

"Mostly, I feel aware of the realities. Trans girls being banned from sports. Trans women facing discrimination and bias while trying to pursue their Olympic dreams. The fight isn’t close to over… and I’ll celebrate when we’re all here.”

Issues around transgender participants in sport have been a feature of the build-up to the Games, with persistent debate and attempts to pass laws in the US about the rights of trans athletes to take part in female sports.

Transitioned weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, who is expected to compete at super-heavyweight in the Games, has been the most high-profile athlete to earn headlines, with some believing that the New Zealander should not be allowed to take part and others celebrating her inclusion. 

"I know, for me, it’s something I’ll be doing over again for the rest of my life," Quinn said when they made their initial announcement.

"I want to be visible to queer folks who don’t see people like them... I know it saved my life years ago.

"I want to challenge cis[gender] folks to be better allies. It’s a process and I know it won’t be perfect, but if I can encourage you to start then it’s something."

Among Quinn's suggestions for her audience, the former Paris and Washington Spirit player voiced their desire to see people add their pronouns to their social media profile, vote and "practice using gender neutral pronouns with friends or in a mirror."

They also urged people to "start to catch yourself making assumptions about people in public, bathrooms or any space."

Canada are three points and two goals better off than third-placed Japan ahead of their match against Team GB on Tuesday, when victory would guarantee finishing top of Group A.

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July 24th 2021, 6:40 pm

Tyson Fury takes shot at Lewis Hamilton for ‘not paying taxes in the UK’ as boxing champ moans about

RT

Tyson Fury has lobbed a few verbal jabs towards Formula 1 ace Lewis Hamilton by accusing the Mercedes driver of 'not paying taxes' – and the champ has bemoaned his lack of honors in his homeland for his boxing exploits.

Fury, the undefeated WBC heavyweight champion of the world, has won every major title available to a fighter in the sport's most high-profile weight class, but says that he is yet to receive the type of recognition he feels his efforts in the ring have deserved in the UK.

The Briton has yet to feature on the Queen's end of year honors list, despite arch-rival Anthony Joshua having been awarded an OBE by Buckingham Palace in the past.

However, Fury's run through boxing's heaviest weight class has received far more fanfare in the US. His win earlier this year against Deontay Wilder was enough for him to be awarded his second 'Fighter of the Year' award from The Ring Magazine, and he was recently named 'Boxer of the Year' at ABC's ESPY awards.

Seeing his peers earn plaudits from the press seems to have rubbed Fury the wrong way, after he told the Daily Mail that "unlike Lewis Hamilton, I live and pay taxes [in the UK] which went up to £9 million [$12.4 million] last year."

Hamilton, meanwhile, has addressed tax-related rumors in the past by saying that he does pay tax in the UK – as well as the various other countries in which he races.

Fury has been hailed in some section of the media for championing mental health awareness after admitting in recent years that he struggled with depression, and has been informed by charities that his work to raise awareness for the issue has likely saved lives.

Fury has said that he believes fellow Brit boxer Amir Khan has also not received the recognition he deserves, despite crediting him with "reviving British boxing and doing fantastic charity work in both Britain and Pakistan."

But does this bother him? "No," he said. "Just disappointed. The way you are when someone close to you lets you down."

This isn't to say that Fury has been entirely ignored by the UK's awards establishment. 'The Gypsy King' asked to be removed from the nominations list last year for the BBC 'Sports Personality of the Year' award after his nomination for the same prize in 2015 led to accusations of homophobia and sexism owing to some of his past comments. 

The winner in 2020 in Fury's stead? Lewis Hamilton. 

Fury had been expected to rematch Deontary Wilder for a second time in Las Vegas on Saturday night before the fight was postponed until October 9 following an outbreak of Covid-19 in Fury's camp – and he refused to apportion any blame for the cancelation.

"I'm the last person to blame," said Fury of the outbreak. "I don't have a large entourage, unlike most world champions with all their ass-licking hangers on. Since coming back into full time camp, I hadn't been anywhere other than my new house here and the Top Rank gym. Nor had my team. 

"The only people whose movements I couldn't completely control were my sparring partners, who change. They came in and out of the bubble and everyone knows this town is full of Covid. I suspect we caught it from one of them."

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July 24th 2021, 6:40 pm

As thousands of inmates sent home over pandemic could be told to return to prison, activists urge Bi

RT

Activists are urging Congress and President Joe Biden to act before low-level criminals, sent to serve their sentences under house arrest at the height of Covid-19 pandemic, are forced to return to prison to finish their time.

A report this week from The New York Times about prisoners potentially being taken back into custody has had criminal justice reform activists up in arms, including groups such as the NAACP and ACLU.

On Saturday, activists vented their frustrations on social media, led by figures such as lawyer Emily Galvin-Almanza, using the hashtag #KeepThemHome to urge action from the administration. 

The controversy over these prisoners’ future stems from a memo issued by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which stated that inmates whose sentences extend beyond the “pandemic emergency period” would need to return to jail to complete their terms. According to the Times report, Biden officials have agreed with the legal opinion, meaning thousands of inmates who were released at the height of the pandemic to help slow the spread of the virus could be on their way back. 

Critics have argued, however, that those who have remained in compliance while being monitored at home deserve to be allowed to continue to serve their sentences at home. 

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‘We can’t coddle violent criminals!’ DC police chief shreds media & ‘dysfunctional’ justice system after upscale district shooting

With the official state of emergency likely continuing through the end of the year, activists have argued that either Congress could step in and expand federal authority to keep inmates at home beyond the pandemic, or Biden himself could use his clemency powers to commute sentences. 

“Imagine being sent home from prison.....doing the hard work of re-integrating and finding work and support ONLY TO BE SENT BACK TO PRISON 16 MONTHS LATER FOR NO GOOD REASON,” podcaster and consultant Joshua B. Hoe tweeted on Saturday. 

“Biden-Harris ran on criminal justice reform. Granting clemency to these inmates would be just that,” reporter Victoria Brownworth added

The White House has not officially indicated what it will do about the inmates in question, with an official statement provided to the Times only generically doubling down on Biden’s past promises to lower incarceration levels and focus on criminal justice reform. 

Rescinding the Trump-era legal opinion has mainly been urged by Democrat lawmakers, but some Republicans have joined the call too, including Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who argued in April that very few inmates in home confinement have broken the guidelines for their limited release or gotten into further legal trouble. 

“It’s like waiting to be sentenced all over again,” Wendy Hechtman, who was serving a 15 year sentence for conspiracy to distribute a form of fentanyl, told the Times.

Others had been sentenced for similar crimes, as numerous reports and calls to action have highlighted. Kendrick Fulton, 47, for instance, was serving a 17 year sentence for selling crack cocaine when he was let out of prison 11 years earlier than he was supposed to. He has already served 17 years and is working in Round Rock, Texas.

“I served over 17 years already. What more do you want? I should go back for another 11 years to literally just do nothing?” he told Reuters in April, about the potential of being rounded up by the FBI and taken back to prison. 

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July 24th 2021, 6:40 pm

‘This is the roughest I’ve felt’: Controversial UK mouthpiece Piers Morgan reveals he caught Covid d

RT

UK presenter Piers Morgan, who is one of the more vocal critics of prime minister Boris Johnson's Covid-19 measures, says he caught the virus during the chaos at Wembley during the Euro 2020 final between Italy and England.

Morgan, who says he has received two jabs of the AstraZeneca vaccine, attended this month's European Championships showpiece game in London at which hundreds of supporters, later described by a figure inside The FA as "drunken yobs", stormed the stadium in violation of Covid-19 protocols – with Morgan suspecting he caught the virus while surrounded by fellow supporters.

In a column to be released this weekend, Morgan has written that the diagnosis of Covid-19 brought with it a series of symptoms including a high fever, chills and severe fits of coughing which left him pondering the "killer virus inside me".

He added that his symptoms also included "strange aches" and "alarming" pains in his chest.

"My confidence that the event would be 'covid safe' had disintegrated," wrote Morgan of his thoughts when he observed the rowdy fans gaining entry to the stadium. 

It had previously been announced that only supporters who had received full vaccinations or provided negative PCR tests would be admitted entry to the ground, but Morgan maintains the situation descended into a "an unregulated free-for-all."

"As I'm sure everyone who gets it feels, it's a strange, disquieting moment to know I have this killer virus inside me," he added.

"And my voice now sounds like Barry White, though I couldn't feel less like a Walrus of Love.

"This is definitely the roughest I've felt from any illness in my adult life as I slowly come out the other side, coughing and spluttering.

"I'm still here – unlike so many millions around the world who've lost their lives to Covid in this pandemic.

"For that, I owe a heartfelt debt of thanks to the brilliant scientists up in Oxford who created the AstraZeneca vaccine with such astonishing speed."

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July 24th 2021, 6:40 pm

Algerian athlete who withdrew from Tokyo Olympics to avoid clash with Israeli faces action from judo

RT

An Algerian judoka who withdrew from the Olympics because his political support for Palestine meant he did not want the prospect of facing an Israeli has been suspended, with judo chiefs citing discrimination and "principles".

Judo star Fethi Nourine pulled out of the men's 73kg event to dodge a potential meeting with Tohar Butbul, of Israel, in the round of 32, calling the draw a "shock" and "thunder".

The Tokyo hopeful claimed he did not want to "get his hands dirty", while his coach, Amar Ben Yaklif, described a possible match-up with Butbul as "unlucky".

International Judo Federation (IJF) bosses have now temporarily suspended Nourine and Ben Yaklif, explaining in a statement that “no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas".

The federation's Disciplinary Commission and the National Olympic Committee of Algeria could now impose further sanctions on the pair, according to reports.

"Judo sport is based on a strong moral code including respect and friendship, to foster solidarity," continued the statement.

"We will not tolerate any discrimination, as it goes against the core values and principles of our sport."

Nourine had been due to take on Sudan's Mohamed Abdalrasool in the first round on Monday, when a victory would have earned him an encounter with Butbul courtesy of a first-round bye for the Israeli.

Ben Yaklif insisted that he had "made the right decision" with his athlete, but the Algerian Olympic Committee now intends to send Nourine home.

Politically-motivated conflicts involving Israeli athletes are not entirely uncommon at the Olympics. Egypt's Islam El Shehaby quit the sport at the 2016 edition in Rio after shunning the opportunity to shake hands with his victorious Israeli rival.

The IJF handed Iran a four-year suspension earlier this year after ex-world champion Saeid Mollaei claimed he was ordered to lose a semi-final match at the 2019 World Championships in order to ensure he did not face an Israeli in the final.

Nourine chose to withdraw from the same tournament rather than meet Butbul.

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Algerian judo athlete withdraws from Olympics to avoid possible match with Israeli, says he won’t ‘get his hands dirty’

July 24th 2021, 6:40 pm

‘Unacceptable’: Fox News blasts NSA after report reveals they ‘unmasked’ host Tucker Carlson in comm

RT

After the National Security Agency (NSA) denied targeting journalist Tucker Carlson, a new report has revealed the agency “unmasked” the Fox News host’s name while monitoring third-party communications.

Numerous lawmakers have called for an official investigation into Carlson’s recent claims that the NSA has been spying on his communications with the intention of taking him off the air. The agency pushed back against the claim last month, though critics noted the statement released about the accusations wasn’t exactly a clear ‘denial.’

According to a report from The Record, citing multiple people familiar with the situation, the NSA has completed a review of Carlson’s allegations and found that his name was “unmasked” in third-party communications being monitored. “Unmasking” is a process through which officials can request a redacted name of a US citizen in a final intelligence report being revealed to better understand the messages being looked at. 

There is no further information about the specific communications, but Carlson had mentioned, before making his NSA accusations, that he was attempting to get an interview with Russian president Vladimir Putin. 

The report claims that though Carlson’s name was revealed, his own communications were never gathered through “incidental collection,” which allows officials to obtain data from a citizen that is in contact with a foreign person already being monitored.

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Fox News has defended their popular-but-controversial host and said it is “entirely unacceptable” for the NSA to “unmask” Carlson’s name while he is attempting to do his job. 

“For the NSA to unmask Tucker Carlson or any journalist attempting to secure a newsworthy interview is entirely unacceptable and raises serious questions about their activities as well as their original denial, which was wildly misleading,” the network said in a statement read off on Friday by ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight’ guest host Mark Steyn. 

Neither the NSA nor Carlson have directly commented on the latest development, though Carlson has stuck by his claims. The Fox News host did become a hot topic of conversation on social media over the weekend, though not due to his spying accusations or the “unmasking” revelation about the NSA, but rather from a tiff with Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-California) that ended with the Democrat lawmaker stating, “I’m just not that into you.”

Swalwell posted alleged screenshots of a conversation between him and Carlson where the Fox News host told the lawmaker to call him, and Swalwell refused, citing Carlson’s criticism of his wife earlier in the week – according to the segment, Carlson claimed Swalwell’s campaign had spent $20,000 at a hotel where his wife used to work. 

Swalwell refused to talk to Carlson – for which the host branded him a “coward” – and instead launched the #TuckerTantrum hashtag, which became popular among Democrats. Swalwell has not commented on the report about the NSA “unmasking” a reporter’s name.

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July 24th 2021, 6:40 pm

FIERCE CLASHES between protesters & police in Paris as tens of thousands rally against Covid certs,

RT

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets of French cities for the second weekend in a row to protest against health passes and mandatory vaccination for medics. In Paris, rallies ended up in scuffles with police.

Law enforcement officers in the French capital used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the crowds as the situation on the streets spiraled out of control during the massive demonstrations provoked by the government’s plans to extend health passes for public places and enforce mandatory vaccination for certain jobs, including health workers.

Videos published on social media showed a crowd of angry young people forcing police officers to retreat from the Champs-Elysees by blocking the road, pelting officers with various objects and even attacking police vans. Law enforcement responded by deploying water cannon to disperse the crowd.

Elsewhere in Paris, a tense standoff between officers in riot gear and demonstrators ended up in a brief but fierce scuffle that prompted the police to use tear gas. In another incident, a crowd attacked a police motorbike by pelting it with bottles, forcing law enforcement officers to intervene.

Thousands of people took to the streets of the French capital to join at least three major rallies. One of them, attended by people wearing yellow vests – a sign of another major anti-government movement – was organized near the Place de la Bastille.

Another one – organized by the Eurosceptic ‘Patriots’ party – was organized at Trocadero, just across the river from the Eiffel Tower. Another group of protesters planned their march through central Paris.

At least nine people were detained in Paris following the clashes, according to the French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin.

Massive rallies were also held in other French cities such as Marseille. In the city of Lille, 2,000 protesters took to the streets while demonstrations in Strasbourg were joined by 4,000 people. Most of the rallies were peaceful but Paris was not the only city to see some violent actions.

In the western city of Poitiers, a group of protesters stormed a local town hall. A video published on social media showed some of them allegedly throwing a portrait of President Emmanuel Macron as well as some documents out of the town-hall window as crowds cheer.

A total of 161,000 people took part in 168 protest actions across France, Le Parisien reported, citing the interior ministry’s data. Some 11,000 demonstrated in Paris alone.

The protests that gripped the French capital and other cities throughout the country for the second weekend in a row were sparked by the government’s decision to extend a special certificate requirement for people visiting various public areas as well as to prolong a compulsory vaccination mandate for certain jobs, including medics.

Earlier this week, the authorities announced that a special certificate, proving that a person is either vaccinated or has recovered from Covid-19 in the last six months or has a recent negative Covid-19 test, would be required to enter museums, cinemas or swimming pools.

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The ‘pass sanitaire,’ which is being introduced gradually, will also be required from the start of August to enter restaurants and bars and for long-distance train and plane journeys. Previously, the pass had only been required for people attending large-scale festivals or clubbing.

Over the weekend French lawmakers are expected to vote on the extension. On Saturday, the issue was debated in the state Senate.

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July 24th 2021, 6:40 pm

Gay rights activist Tatchell leads ‘Reclaim Pride’ march in London to protest ‘too corporate’ Pride

RT

A ‘Reclaim Pride march – led by British politician and LGBT rights activist Peter Tatchell – took place in London on Saturday to support gay rights in Africa and protest larger Pride events, which he says are more “corporate.”

The march went from Parliament Square to Downing Street and to the Uganda High Commission, where the participants protested against British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for not enacting enough pro-LGBT policies, and the Ugandan government – which has been criticized by Amnesty International for persecuting LGBT people through anti-homosexuality laws.

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Reclaim Pride’s “liberation demands” for the event included calls for a UK ban on gay conversion therapy, the development of a “safe haven” for LGBT refugees, the decriminalisation of LGBT people across the entire world, and solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

In an interview with GB News on Saturday, Tatchell said that he and many other LGBT activists “were not happy with the way in which Pride in London is run” and that Pride London is “too corporate, too commercial, and it isn’t profiling LGBT+ human rights.”

“So, this is very much reclaiming Pride for the community,” he explained, adding that there are “no corporate sponsors” involved with the “grassroots” event.

Though Tatchell received praise from many Brits in the LGBT community who also consider Pride events to have become too commercial, not everyone on social media was enthusiastic about the event.

“What rights do LGBT+ people not have in this country?” questioned one person. “What do the L’s and the G’s have in common with the T’s? What rights do bisexuals think they are missing?”

Another user declared, “As a gay man I have never taken part in pride… I have never been able to understand how men minceing around in hot pants will give me anymore equal rights [than] what I already have.”

Tatchell – who unsuccessfully ran for MP as both a Labour and a Green Party candidate over the past few decades – has repeatedly made headlines for his loud LGBT activism over the years, which include trying to perform a citizen’s arrest on former Zimbabwean Prime Minister Robert Mugabe during that leader’s visits to London in both 1999 and 2001.

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July 24th 2021, 6:40 pm

Bilingual orders & no more gas: Police slapped with new RESTRICTIONS after George Floyd protest sett

RT

Civil rights groups are celebrating a settlement with the city of Charlotte, North Carolina imposing new bans on police dispersing protests, stemming from a 2020 George Floyd demonstration where CS tear gas was used.

The lawsuit brought forth by the groups alleged that police orchestrated an attack on hundreds of protesters who gathered on June 2, 2020 to protest the death of George Floyd the previous month in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

Footage from the protest appeared to show protesters being surrounded and chemical weapons being deployed by police, a tactic activists were quick to denounce and claim it was excessive force. 

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Part of the settlement reached with the city includes new restrictions on how police in the city can handle dispersing protesting crowds. The use of CS tear gas, for instance, will be prohibited. Other revisions to police directives include allotted time being given for protesters to disperse after an order is given, and for that order to be given in both English and Spanish. At least two exits for protesters to disperse also need to be clearly communicated. Other measures include prohibiting pepper balls being aimed at the heads and necks of protesters. 

The revisions will be in place for four years and include “a mechanism to enforce violations,” according to a press release announcing the settlement. 

Groups behind the lawsuit include the ACLU of North Carolina, the Charlotte Chapter of the NAACP, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

“This agreement is a step in the right direction, but it’s insufficient to reckon with the violence and trauma protesters endured at the hands of police across the state last year,” Kristie Puckett-Williams, statewide manager of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina’s Campaign for Smart Justice, said. 

CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings responded to the settlement by saying some policies had already been changed in light of the controversial protest response and he was open to the new changes. 

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“We are a learning agency and always looking for ways to improve as we owe that to the City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and all of those we serve because it is the right thing to do,” he said. 

Jennings has been promoting police reform in his position. He even recently announced what has been described as a ‘customer training’ program for police officers, helping to repair the relationship between police and the public. The program, announced last month, is using a consultant who previously worked for companies such as Chick Fil-A and Starbucks. 

“That encounter, although it’s a negative incident, does not have to be a negative encounter with that officer,” Jennings said. “When we can leave a positive impression with that interaction … [we] don’t let that person to go away feeling CMPD officers are bad people or are jerks or whatever name you want to come up with.”

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July 24th 2021, 6:40 pm

As US finally drops it's opposition to Nord Stream 2, it’s clear plans to block the pipeline were al

RT

America has come back down to Earth. After years trying to sabotage the almost-complete, $11 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline that will link the gas fields of Siberia to consumers in Germany, Washington is dropping its objections.

Signing a new agreement with Berlin, the US has put itself behind Germany as its key ally in Europe. Not Ukraine, which has thrown up no end of objections and appeals over the project. As would be expected, there has been a furious reaction in some quarters.

Some are hysterical in a comical register: The Kyiv Post, for instance, mouthpiece of the North American-Ukrainian “diaspora,” cries “Betrayal!” in best British-yellow press style and declares Chancellor Angela Merkel to be “Ukraine’s foe of the week.”

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Others are lewd. US Senator and Republican demagogue Ted Cruz has reached for obscene language about the American president “being in bed with Putin” and “spooning.”

Democrats, sadly, only have themselves to blame. Such juvenile trashiness is now bipartisan in the USA, where “Russiagate” hysteria came with a wave of homophobic sex jokes from liberals.

And some reactions are over the top and out of touch with reality, such as the joint Polish-Ukrainian foreign ministers’ declaration, which warns of “a political, military and energy threat for Ukraine and Central Europe” and of “Russia's potential to destabilize” European security as well as to create “divisions among NATO and European Union member states.”

You might feel that divisions between NATO allies were deepened not by Russia, finishing what was a six-year project already, but the USA (and its “Atlanticist” cheerleaders) when they tried to intervene with blunt last-minute sanctions, effectively targeting a central ally and a leading member of the military bloc.

When it comes to “Russia’s potential to destabilize” European security, again, such concerns would look more serious if Poland had also objected to the USA’s recent abandoning of the INF Treaty, for instance. Or, in fact, to its general addiction to wars in the Middle East, which is far from the USA but has had direct repercussions in Europe.

Yet Poland publicly supported the American withdrawal from the treaty and has been a fairly enthusiastic auxiliary in the USA’s Middle Eastern invasions and occupations. And no, this is not a case of “whataboutism.” Because, if European security is the order of the day, then it needs to be considered in the round.

But let’s take a step back. Very much has already been said about Nord Stream 2. There’s nothing surprising about the fact that such a colossal, long-term project has produced intensive public scrutiny and debate.

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Moreover, with important commercial and state interests involved, it’s only natural that that debate has often been fierce and that it may end with de facto decisions but not with some great reconciliation.

But between entrenched positions and rapid reactions, it has become hard to see the forest for the trees. Let’s try to regain a sense of perspective by focusing on its key aspects: economics, environment, and – last but not least – politics.

Economics

If other, important, aspects are set aside for a moment, assessing the economic impact of Nord Stream 2 involves long-term projections, regarding, for instance, demographics, energy transitions, and, of course, general economic development. Without overly dredging through the complex detail of such analyses, Nord Stream 2 clearly has the potential to make economic sense, or in the words of a careful, and often critical, recent study from Germany’s Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik:

“On a strictly economic basis, Nord Stream 2 doubles the transport capacity through the Baltic Sea … and connects the newly developed deposits on the Yamal Peninsula with the major gas markets in Europe via a route that is approximately 1,000 km shorter, more modern, and more efficient than the one through Ukraine.”

Given a number of further plausible assumptions, for instance regarding Gazprom’s contract and pricing policies and the development of alternative energy sources in and outside Europe, Nord Stream 2 is as good a project as many others, and probably better than some.

As a minimum – and no matter what the analysts at NATO lobby group The Atlantic Council may claim – there is no convincing commercial case against it.

Environment

Building a pipeline of a length of roughly 1,200 kilometers (in twin strands) on the Baltic seabed to take natural gas from Siberia to Europe raises obvious environmental questions.

Aside from the rhetoric, there are serious issues about the environmental effects of Nord Stream 2’s construction, of its future operation, and regarding the impact it will have at the source, in Siberia. These concerns – which cut across national borders and are shared by some Russians as well – are genuine, even if courts have dismissed them. On the other side of the ledger is that Nord Stream 2 could contribute to European energy transition, which is a claim advanced as well as contested.

The upshot may very well be that Nord Stream 2 is simply not special in this regard – no worse and no better than similar projects.

Politics

The politics and especially geopolitics of Nord Stream 2 – real, potential, and suspected – have been the single most prominent matter of debate.

On one side, depicting the project as purely or mostly a commercial enterprise has served its defense: something that has no or little politics, cannot be attacked for it. This has been, on the whole, the unconvincing default position of Berlin as well as Moscow.

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On the other side, opponents of Nord Stream 2 have insisted on the project’s geopolitical potential to, as they claim, serve Russia’s interests and harm those of Ukraine, various eastern European EU members, or even the EU and NATO as a whole.

Pursuing this line of argument, however, Nord Stream critics have tended to overlook or deny two important facts. First, Ukraine’s (or Poland’s, for that matter) insistence on stopping Nord Stream 2 has, of course, also been through-and-through political. Namely, an outcome of how Ukraine’s leadership sees the country’s interests, rightly or wrongly.

To be clear, Ukraine, as a sovereign state, has every right to adopt such a policy – whether it is correct or mistaken. But some of the rhetoric of Nord Stream’s opponents implies that it also has a sort of natural right to demand that Germany and others follow its lead to protect what it defines as its interest, including billions in transit fees. That is nonsense, and friends of Ukraine would do Kiev a favor by being clear about that fact.

Second, Nord Stream 2 is so challenging because it has both genuine commercial aspects and geopolitical ones. Some of its opponents, again, have never been honest enough to acknowledge its economic side and end up caricaturing it as a purely political project.

In this respect, Russia stands accused of using energy as a weapon. In particular, opponents of the pipeline point to what they see as earlier cases of Russia using gas cut-offs to exert pressure. But the fact is that Nord Stream 2 is, if anything, likely to lessen such tendencies precisely because it circumvents land-based eastern European pipelines.

The case against it is based on the idea western Europe should tie its energy supply to, for instance, Ukraine’s interests. But, let’s be honest, the key concern, then, is not EU energy security but, quite on the contrary, entangling it with Ukraine’s policies – far from a safe proposition.

If Russia has used the “gas weapon” dozens of times already – as an observer at the Atlantic Council report – then it seems to be quite ineffective. Put differently, if Russia’s leverage by pipeline is so powerful, why is Ukraine more anti-Russian and linked into the West than ever before?

The real question about Nord Stream 2 has never been if it is political or not, in the sense of having political aspects, but what these effects are and could be. And, of course, how they can be managed best.

This brings us back to the current situation. Bitter Nord Stream 2 opponents may engage in the kind of excessive rhetoric that is now so fashionable. Yet, in reality, the actual conditions of the project’s completion are now as propitious as they can be. You may still disagree with this pragmatic outcome, but to caricature it as some kind of appeasement or “betrayal” only makes you look less than serious.

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

July 24th 2021, 11:09 am

Russia sends food & masks to Cuba amid shortages that sparked mass protests

RT

Russia’s Defense Ministry has sent two planes loaded with aid to its long-time partner Cuba, which has been reeling from the Covid-19 pandemic coupled with food and medicine shortages.

Two Cuba-bound An-124 large cargo planes carrying food, protective gear, and more than a million masks have taken off from Chkalovsky Air Base, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Saturday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has spoken with his Cuban counterpart, Miguel Diaz-Canel, several times by phone in recent months. The leaders agreed to strengthen cooperation against Covid-19. 

Cuba, a nation of 11.3 million that is living under US economic sanctions, has the highest Covid-19 infection rate per capita in Latin America, according to Reuters. The country’s Health Ministry registered 7,784 new cases on Friday, raising the total to 316,383.

Overall, 2,203 people have died from the virus in Cuba since the start of the pandemic.

This month, food and medicine shortages sparked the biggest protests Cuba has seen in decades, with attendees denouncing the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis and the current political system. There have been pro-government rallies as well.

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July 24th 2021, 11:09 am

WATCH Russia’s Swifts aerobatic team amaze the crowds with a dazzling display in NINE MIGS at MAKS-2

RT

The Swifts (Strizhi) – the iconic Russian aerobatic team flying MiG aircraft – took to the skies of Moscow on Saturday at the MAKS-2021 air show to perform amazing aerial stunts, with nine fighter jets flying in tight formation.

The nine MiG-29UB fighters of the Swifts team performed stunts while locked in a “diamond formation” above the Zhukovsky airfield near Moscow, where the air show is being held until July 25.

The aircraft, an upgraded version of the legendary Soviet workhorse, with blue swifts depicted on their underside, flew just meters away from each other while performing aerobatic maneuvers, including a complete loop and an aileron roll. The fighter jets were so close, they seemed to be glued together, and their ace pilots held the formation flawlessly.

Just like their fellow aerobatic team, the Russian Knights, which performed at MAKS-2021 on Saturday, the Swifts were flying regular war machines that haven’t undergone any specific modifications for aerobatics. They use a training version of the time-tested Soviet and Russian MiG-29 fighters.

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And the team is about to get a long-awaited upgrade. On Friday, the group’s commander, Colonel Sergey Osyaikin confirmed it would receive its first multipurpose MiG-35 fighter jet later this year, and it’s expected that it’ll take delivery of nine new jets in total. The state-of-the-art fighter, which boasts vastly improved avionics in comparison to the original MiG-29, was showcased at MAKS-2021 in a solo flight.

MiG-35 flies at the MAKS-2021 air show in Moscow, on July 24, 2021. ©  Sputnik / Evgeny Odinokov

The Swifts are world renowned and frequently perform at air shows and army expos in Russia as well as at various events abroad, including in France, Sweden, Germany, and the US. They marked their 30th anniversary earlier this year.

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July 24th 2021, 11:09 am

UK police ABANDONED investigations into over 1,000 crimes daily in 2020 with one in seven probes dum

RT

Police forces across the UK reportedly wrote off over 1,000 crimes a day last year. Investigations into serious crimes like threats to murder, rapes, assaults and arson were apparently closed within 24 hours during the pandemic.

Despite lower crime levels in the country during the Covid lockdowns, some forces doubled the number of crime investigations they "screened out". One in seven crimes reported last year were allegedly abandoned within a day of police opening investigations into them.

The shocking figures, revealed in freedom of information requests by the Daily Mail, showed that police probes into some 432,634 crimes were ditched within a day – or about 1,185 crimes per day last year. The paper noted that the true figure was likely at least twice that amount since less than half of the UK's police forces shared their data.

According to information provided by 17 police forces across the country, 15% of cases were closed on average without an officer meeting the victim. The worst offenders were the Police Service of Northern Ireland which screened out 38% of cases while the UK's largest force, Scotland Yard, dumped 31% of new cases inside a day.

Although crimes judged as 'lower harm' or with poor evidence are typically more likely to be dropped, the reported figures show that during the pandemic there was a spike in the numbers of serious offences going uninvestigated.

About 42,073 reported violent incidents were ditched last year – a 6% jump from 2019 and there was a 4% rise in arson cases being abandoned, with the police shelving 6,753 reports in 2020 compared to 6,483 the year before.

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Meanwhile, in a revelation that is expected to add to public outcry over police handling of women's safety, forces reported that 71 rapes and OVER 420 other sexual offences were screened out within a day last year even though there was a 7% overall drop in sex offences in England and Wales.

In its 'End-to-End Rape Review' report last month, the UK government had ordered the police to reverse the downward trend in the volume of rape cases being referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) since 2016.

Among other recommendations, it called for the police to "ensure decision-making is based on evidence, rather than subjective judgements of victim credibility" and mandated a "change of practice and longer-term cultural change in the police and CPS".

The government report also stated that the data collected by the police needed to be "more consistent". The Bedfordshire police force had admitted to the Daily Mail that its data collection was "unreliable". The force had reportedly dropped as many as 6% of rapes and 13% of sex offences last year.

"It is still the case that too many victims do not have confidence in the response they will receive if they report to the police and so do not come forward," a new government policy paper on tackling violence against women notes.

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Other crimes written off by police forces include 6,350 robberies, 1,137 muggings, 423 drugs possession cases and 171 weapons possession cases. In addition, some 29,730 residential burglaries were screened out with some forces in England and Wales failing to investigate over half of such cases.

In April, a HM Inspectorate of Constabulary report had warned that some forces had "increased the number of crimes they decided not to investigate because they were unlikely to be solved" and were offering a "reduced service in some areas of police work" as a result of Covid precautions.

"If the public knew this was happening on this scale, they would be shocked and outraged. Anyone who reports a crime deserves a proper response from the police," Vera Baird, Victims' Commissioner for England and Wales, told the paper.

But a National Police Chiefs' Council spokesman responded, "In some cases, there may not be enough intelligence or data for police to act on. This does not mean that a crime is closed indefinitely or that intelligence or information is ignored."

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July 24th 2021, 11:09 am

Ole’s staying at the wheel! Manchester United boss Solskjaer inks new deal to tie him to Old Traffor

RT

Manchester United have shown their faith in boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer by rewarding the Norwegian with a new contract which will keep him at the club until at least 2024.

Solskjaer has been in the United hot seat since he was appointed as interim manager following Jose Mourinho's sacking in December 2018 – later being handed a permanent deal after impressing in his first few months in the role, winning 14 of his first 19 games in charge.

He was credited with steadying the ship at Old Trafford following the unimpressive regimes of Mourinho, Louis Van Gaal and David Moyes, and guided the club to a third-placed finish in his first full Premier League season.

He finished second in the league last season, a full 15 points behind runaway winners Manchester City, and also led the Red Devils to the Europa League Final, where they were defeated on penalties by LaLiga outfit Villarreal. 

"Everyone knows the feeling I have for this club and I am delighted to have signed this new contract," said Solskjaer after finalizing his new deal.

"It is an exciting time for Manchester United; we have built a squad with a good balance of youth and experienced players that are hungry for success.

"I have a fantastic coaching team around me and we are all ready to take that next step on our journey.

Manchester United wants to be winning the biggest and best trophies and that's what we are all striving for. We have improved, both on and off the pitch, and that will continue over the coming seasons.

"I can't wait to get out in front of a packed Old Trafford and get this campaign started."

Solskajer's enthusiasm was matched by United's outgoing executive chairman Ed Woodward, who credited the club's boss with being instrumental in establishing a new culture within the famous club.

"Ole and his staff have worked tirelessly putting the foundations in place for long-term success on the pitch," he said.

"The results of that have become increasingly visible over the past two seasons and we are all looking forward to seeing this exciting team develop further in the years ahead.

"What is especially pleasing is the way this progress has been achieved with a blend of young, homegrown talent and top-class recruits, playing attacking football in the best traditions of Manchester United. We are more confident than ever that, under Ole's leadership, we are heading in the right direction."

Woodward's endorsement of Solskjaer's reign doesn't appear to be hollow. The club, who are the biggest spenders in European football across the past three seasons, are again preparing for a massive summer outlay to finance new signings – with the $100 million deal for England star Jadon Sancho already confirmed.

The club also appear close to the capture of Real Madrid's French international defender Raphael Varane and have also been linked in the press with an ambitious move for Bayern Munich's Leon Goretzka.

One player who appears detined to leave, however, is the club's record signing, Paul Pogba. Reports suggest that United are braced for an offer for the France midfielder from Paris Saint-Germain – with any agreement likely to be a cut-price one, given that his contract is due to expire in a year's time.

That move might well be complicated by protests outside the club's Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, though, where some fans have made clear their objection to the potential transfer after comments made by Pogba about PSG in the past, declaring his support for rivals Marseilles. 

"Pogba, you should listen to your mother –she doesn’t want you here. Neither do we!" read one banner visible this week outside of the stadium.

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July 24th 2021, 11:09 am

Meet Su-57’s younger brother: RT takes closer look at Checkmate, Russia's fifth-gen fighter jet (VID

RT

Russia's fifth-generation single-engine supersonic stealth fighter, dubbed Checkmate, is a smaller and lighter version of the Su-57 that can be customized to the needs of different overseas buyers.

The new aircraft has become the star attraction at Moscow's MAKS 2021 Air Show. Set for mass production in 2026, the multirole fighter can strike aerial, naval and ground targets, and has excellent maneuverability.

"The Checkmate is the younger brother of the Sukhoi Su-57. But it is smaller, lighter and cheaper, in terms of production and maintenance," RT's Yulia Shapovalova reported. She noted that the plane is poised to earn a top spot in Russia's array of arms exports. 

Designers described it as a plane with open architecture that allows clients to order versions in accordance with their needs.

"All this is much more fitted for the customer, who often does not need the functionality that the unique Su-57 has," Yuri Slusar, the head of the majority state-owned United Aircraft Corporation told RT.

READ MORE: Hundreds queue to catch a glimpse of Russia’s brand new ‘Checkmate’ fifth-gen stealth fighter at MAKS 2021 Air Show (VIDEO)

"Many air forces of countries – especially small countries – have a rather limited range of tasks and a limited budget," Slusar said, adding that foreign buyers can choose a version of the jet tailored for their specific needs.

The Sukhoi Su-57 is a fifth-generation multirole fighter capable of destroying all types of targets. The jet is equipped with stealth technology, can develop supersonic cruising speed and has advanced onboard radio-electronic equipment, including a powerful computer, a radar system spread across its frame, and an armament placed within the fuselage.

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July 24th 2021, 11:09 am

UK government plans to launch surveillance of Brits’ shopping & exercise habits through app in fight

RT

A pilot scheme that will track people’s routines, such as shopping and running errands, might soon be rolled out in the UK, to award those who make healthier choices, according to reports in the British press.

The government-backed programme, which will be incentivising those who opt for a less fattening diet and walk more is set to be launched in the next six months, The Telegraph reports. A special app is in the works and companies are being signed up to participate, suggesting it might be introduced nationwide in time for the new-year new resolutions boom.

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Those who choose fruit and vegetables in the supermarket will reportedly be given “free treats,” as will those who increase their daily exercise by walking and running or taking part in special activities. The points received through the tracking app will then be able to be exchanged for event tickets, discounts, and other bonuses.

The pilot project will reportedly cost the government £6 million ($8.25 million). Business entrepreneur Sir Keith Mills — the man behind the widely used Air Miles and Nectar customer loyalty programmes, is said to have been involved in its rollout.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is believed to have greenlighted the “radical” new scheme because he is desperate to manage obesity levels in Britain, which has one of the worst records in this regard in Western Europe. The majority of UK’s adult population is overweight, and more than a million people were hospitalised last year due to obesity-related illnesses.

There is a whole team in Downing Street working on this, and the prime minister thinks that we simply cannot go on as before and that we must now tackle it head-on,” The Telegraph quoted an unnamed Whitehall source as having said. According to the official, Johnson takes the matter rather personally and is currently on a “very rigorous diet” himself.

Johnson, who suffered a severe case of Covid last year, reportedly believes the obesity issue is especially troubling amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Overweight people are considered to be more seriously affected by the virus, with a recent controversial report by the World Obesity Federation suggesting there was a correlation between being overweight and a high risk of dying from Covid that was second only to the risk posed by old age.

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In an effort to slim down the nation, a number of plans have already been put forward this year. A tax on sugar and salt was suggested in a recent expert report, which recommended a tax per kilo on those products when sold wholesale, but Johnson has reportedly said he wasn’t “attracted” to the proposal.

Another plan, aimed mainly at tackling the childhood-obesity issue and junk-food consumption, has been announced by the UK government, however. TV adverts for foods high in fat, salt or sugar will be banned before 9pm, with the measure due to come into force at the end of 2022.

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July 24th 2021, 11:09 am

German cops identify over 1,600 suspects in sting op on online chat groups where child porn & zoophi

RT

Police in Germany have identified more than 1,600 potential child sex-abuse suspects who participated in online chat groups on which child pornography and zoophilia material was shared. Many of the suspects are reportedly minors.

While most of the suspects came from across the country, digital forensic experts had picked out people from the US, Austria, Switzerland and France on suspicion of possessing or sharing images of child sex abuse in the chat groups.

According to a press statement from Bavarian police, the suspects were being evaluated as part of “two large-scale trials” being prepared by police and prosecutors. If convicted, all suspects, including the minors, would be looking at a prison term of "not less than a year.”

Police officers in the Bavarian town of Amberg had been on to the online chats after coming across an advertisement earlier in March. The chats contained graphic videos and images of sex acts with children, adolescents and animals.

Hinting at the scale of the five-month investigation, Amberg police said that they had "several hundred thousand" pages of information on the suspects – enough to fit in “21 large moving boxes.”

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“The distribution of child and adolescent pornography has increased markedly in recent years and is an area of focus for us in many investigations,” Peter Krämer, deputy head of criminal police investigations in Amberg, said.

“As well as people with pedophile tendencies, it is often children and adolescents who share material like this in group chats without thinking, and who therefore regularly open themselves up to criminal prosecution," he added.

The investigators also warned that even membership in such group chats would be enough grounds for prosecution in Germany – since it pointed to the possibility of an individual either having access to, or possessing copies of, the photos and videos on their devices.

"That is why our appeal is particularly aimed at parents to sensitize their children to this issue," Krämer said.

The statement noted that the early use of smartphones by young children had opened up the possibility of them being exposed to such illegal content.

Earlier in the year, German authorities arrested four people after a raid on a dark-web club that had some 400,000 users.

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July 24th 2021, 11:09 am

UFC’s McGregor sups whiskey with pop star Bieber in the sun as he backs Russian training partner Art

RT

UFC loser Conor McGregor has called himself 'Big Foot' while propping up his broken leg on a sun lounger in Beverly Hills alongside pop superstar Justin Bieber, promoting whiskey and sending a message to fighter pal Artem Lobov.

With his leg in a cast following his harrowing defeat to Justin Poirier at UFC 264 earlier this month, former champion McGregor had clearly traded punching for back-slapping as he congratulated Bieber on his fashion endorsements while sharing a series of photos of the famous pair.

Chart-topper Bieber was among the 20,000 crowd attending McGregor's excruciating end to his trilogy fight with Poirier at Las Vegas' T-Mobile Arena, joining the likes of former US president Donald Trump to watch him slip to a second defeat of the year to the man he once beat comfortably.

One of the few people in the world with more social media followers than McGregor, Bieber told his Instagram fanbase of more than 185 million that he was indulging in a "breakfast of champions" with the MMA megastar.

"It's about how you get back up," added the Canadian, while his father, Jeremy, chimed in with the words "Irish laugh".

McGregor voiced his excitement to watch Bieber play at huge California arena the SoFi Stadium this weekend, which will be the host venue for next year's Super Bowl.

"JB and Big Foot," he said, showing off his tattoos while wearing only a pair of small yellow shorts.

"We rule Beverly Hills. God bless, my brother. Backed by the highest power."

MMA fan Bieber performed at YouTuber and boxer Jake Paul's win over ex-UFC fighter Ben Askren in April and has also challenged Hollywood icon Tom Cruise to a fight.

McGregor reiterated his "love" for Bieber and hailed him in the week before the Poirier bout.

"I'll tell you what, mate, I appreciate the message from the last fight. That meant a hell of a lot to me – it really, truly did," he told Bieber at the time, thanking him for his show of support after he was knocked out by Poirier in January.

"So I've been busy putting in the work, full focused, fully immersed in Mixed Martial Arts. There's been nothing but Mixed Martial Arts – I'm ready to put on a show."

'The Notorious' is unlikely to be putting on any kind of show in the octagon for quite some time following an outing that ended with him leaving on a stretcher, although he has signaled that he will be watching one of his long-term training partners this weekend.

"'The Russian Hammer' is fighting live on pay-per-view," he said, encouraging his fans to watch Artem Lobov, who has backed him since his loss and warned that he should not have been interviewed immediately afterwards, ahead of his latest fight.

Revered Lobov takes on Denys Berinchyk, a silver medalist for Ukraine at the 2012 Olympic Games, in a bare-knuckle bout for Mahatch FC in Kiev on Saturday.

The former UFC fighter's opponent is unbeaten in 15 professional boxing matches.

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July 24th 2021, 11:09 am

‘Take a bow, son!’: Irish player scores dramatic 60-yard WONDERGOAL to level scores with the last ki

RT

We've all seen our fair share of late drama on the football pitch but this might be the best yet: Irish player Glen McAuley scores from inside his own half to tie a game at 4-4 with the last kick of the game after extra time.

McAuley, formerly on the books of Liverpool, had already written his name onto the scoresheet twice as his club, Athlone Town, chased a late equalizer in an FAI Cup game against rivals Waterford FC – and with the clock ticking towards four minutes of injury time at the end of extra time in the trilling cup encounter, the 21-year-old decided to go to throw caution to the wind.

Moments after kick-off following a late Waterford goal, McAuley and Athlone were in last-chance saloon as the club's nine other outfield players surged forward in expectation of a floated long ball being delivered by McAuley.

Instead, though, he took everyone on the pitch by surprise by driving a thunderous shot from inside his own half towards the Waterford goal – and it lofted over the backtracking goalkeeper into the net to complete McAuley's hat-trick and send players, coaches and fans alike into raptures.

The script wasn't quite the Hollywood affair it might have promised, as McAuley and Athlone Town lost the ensuing penalty shootout and were eliminated from the cup competition.

Still, McAuley will surely never score a better goal in his career – and as they say in Ireland, he won't have to pay for a pint in Athlone for as long as he lives.

Despite Town's cup journey ending on Friday night, something tells us that McAuley's mood will be lifted by the Puskas Award nomination which is surely heading his way later this year.

"Now that's drama," one fan wrote of the goal on Twitter. "Concede to go 4-3 down with seconds to go, #holdmybeer."

"That's one for the ages. Great stuff, Glen," agreed another, while a third said that the strike was even more impressive than similar goals scored by some of football's biggest names.

"Rooney, Beckham sit down," they wrote.

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July 24th 2021, 11:09 am
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