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1. US retail giant given hell for banning BLM masks15:26[−]
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Labor board prosecutors have alleged that Whole Foods Market, which is owned by Amazon, illegally prevented its workers from wearing Black Lives Matter (BLM) masks, and punished those who broke the ban.

According to Jill Coffman, the regional director of the San Francisco National Labor Relations Board, the grocery store chain laid down appearance rules at its US outlets to forbid employees from displaying Black Lives Matter mAessages by means of their clothes.

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FILE PHOTO. © AFP / Kerem Yucel
BLM’s Christmas message? ‘Boycott white businesses’

“Issues of racial harassment and discrimination are central to employees’ working conditions, and the National Labor Relations Act protects employees’ right to advocate for change,” she said in a statement seen by Bloomberg.

“Through this complaint, we seek to enforce the act and protect workers’ rights to speak up about these important issues.”

The filing also alleged Whole Foods Market sent home, fired, or implemented other punitive measures against the workers in California, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, Georgia, Washington, and Indiana during 2020 for wearing masks, pins or other apparel featuring the initials BLM.

“Our dress code policy is designed to ensure we are giving Team Members a workplace and customers a shopping experience focused entirely on excellent service and high-quality food,” Whole Foods said in a statement, commenting on the allegations.

“We do not believe we should compromise that experience by introducing any messages on uniforms, regardless of the content, that shift the focus away from our mission,” the company added.

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

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2. Russia assembling 175,000 troops to invade Ukraine, US spooks claim15:13[−]
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Russia is allegedly planing to invade Ukraine in the new year, with up to 175,000 troops taking part in the operation, the Washington Post has claimed, citing US intelligence papers and a customary unnamed official.

“The Russian plans call for a military offensive against Ukraine as soon as early 2022,” an anonymous Biden administration official, who may or may not exist, claimed.

The alleged operation is going to involve the “extensive movement of 100 battalion tactical groups with an estimated 175,000 personnel, along with armor, artillery, and equipment,” the alleged source said.

The assessments have been partially based on satellite images that “show newly arrived units at various locations along the Ukrainian border over the last month,” they added.

Intelligence papers apparently seen by the Washington Post said there were currently 50 Russian battlefield tactical groups with tanks and artillery deployed in four locations not far from the Ukrainian border. Two of Russians five military districts are on this frontier.

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President Joe Biden departs for Camp David from the White House, Washington, US, December 3, 2021. © Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
Biden dismisses Russia’s ‘red lines’

According to the official, the military operation is being preceded by a propaganda campaign, for which no evidence is offered. “Russian influence proxies and media outlets have started to increase content denigrating Ukraine and NATO,” they insisted, in order to blame the outbreak of any potential conflict on Kiev.

The US administration has been mulling the possibility of a Russian “invasion” of Eastern Ukraine since last month, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken warning Moscow there would be “serious consequences” if it made such move.

Russia has rejected the accusations, saying it had no plans to attack anybody and blaming Washington for stirring up “hysteria.”

However, Moscow has expressed grave concerns about any escalation in the ongoing internal conflict in Ukraine, saying the West had been “encouraging” Kiev to use force against the self-proclaimed republics in Donbass through NATO’s buildup in Eastern Europe.

The Washington Post’s story comes ahead of next week’s virtual meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart, Joe Biden.

Biden said on Friday that there would be “a long discussion” of the situation in Ukraine during the meeting, adding that he wouldn’t accept the imposition of any Russian “red lines.”

Earlier this week, Putin reasserted the Russian view that NATO’s further eastward expansion was unacceptable for Moscow. He said he wanted “legal guarantees” from the US-led bloc that it would stops encroaching on Russia’s borders and refrain from deploying “threatening weapons” in the region.

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3. Russian champions Zenit melt hearts with viral dog gesture (VIDEO)14:57[−]
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Russian football giants Zenit St. Petersburg have won praise for a kind-hearted gesture after players took to the pitch while carrying dogs from local animal shelters.

Facing Russian Premier League rivals Rostov at the Gazprom Arena on Friday night, Zenit stars were seen cuddling their furry friends as they lined up for kick-off.

In a particularly tender moment, Russian forward Artem Dzyuba – who stands an imposing 6ft 4in – planted a kiss on the pooch in his arms as he carried it onto the pitch.

The Zenit players took to the pitch at the Gazprom Arena this evening accompanied by dogs from local shelters looking for a new home ??pic.twitter.com/bjFTvntw3i

— FC Zenit in English? (@fczenit_en) December 3, 2021

“World Pet Day is celebrated annually on 30 November and Zenit have joined forces with the Russian Kynological Foundation to launch our new community project, Dogs are better at home!” the club explained on their website.

“The aim of the project is to highlight to the public the responsibility and care required when having a pet and to help raise funds for local dog shelters.

"Just before kick off at the Gazprom Arena the Zenit starting XI is announced on the stadium’s video screen, however this time the players will be shown alongside pictures and profiles of real dogs looking for a home,"

The happiest pics you'll see on Twitter today ???

? https://t.co/0Xrl0SttsX pic.twitter.com/eFmpZjQtHJ

— FC Zenit in English? (@fczenit_en) December 4, 2021

The touching gesture warmed the hearts of as a clip of the players and dogs was shared around the world – being viewed more than 2.5 million times.

After thanking fans for their response to the clip, Zenit’s English language account wrote “now let's find homes for these good boys and girls,” sharing a link to how people could help.

Friday's match ended 2-2 after Zenit battled back from a two-goal deficit thanks to a double from Brazilian star Claudinho.

Zenit remain top of the Premier League standings on 37 points from 17 games, and are on course for what would be a fourth consecutive RPL title.

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4. Suarez reveals why Messi is ‘suffering’ at PSG14:29[−]
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Atletico Madrid striker Luis Suarez has shared the reason why PSG superstar Lionel Messi might be struggling at his new club.

Joining as a free agent from FC Barcelona this summer, the Argentine has mustered just one goal in Ligue 1 thus far.

His exploits with his country in winning the Copa America were enough for a seventh Ballon d'Or this week, but it is thought that the 34-year-old must improve his club form to retain the gong next year.

READ MORE: ‘There were difficult moments’: Lionel Messi reacts to winning his 7th Ballon d’Or (VIDEO)

Criticizing one of his displays, L'Equipe said Messi leaves the impression "that he always plays at the same slow pace and, on occasions, seems disconnected" from the likes of his colleagues Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

Reunited with one of his best friends in football at the France Football ceremony in Paris on Monday, ex-Barca teammate Luis Suarez has offered a possible motive for the slump to TNT Sports.

"We talk every day, [but] we always try to avoid [discussing] expectations because we are players and we know how we have to act in those moments. We talk about matches, [and] about family," the Uruguayan said when asked about their friendship.

"He told me that he suffers a lot playing in the cold and the snow.

"You have to get used to what the cold weather is like there, for sure," said Suarez, who played in England for Liverpool for four seasons.

Leo Messi shares a moment with Luis Suarez after winning his 7th Ballon d'Or ? pic.twitter.com/rwfOJc3XFr

— B/R Football (@brfootball) November 29, 2021

Leaving the Catalans himself in 2020, Suarez also admitted there were "difficult feelings" for the pair when they had to face each other at the Camp Nou last season, when Atletico Madrid played the Blaugrana on their way to the La Liga title.

"On the other hand, when we play for Uruguay against Argentina it is different.

"They are always beautiful games and having Leo as a rival is difficult and complicated," Suarez admitted.

Lionel Messi showing off his Ballon d'Or collection ? pic.twitter.com/JOTDIQeJVM

— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 4, 2021

In an interview with France Football, Messi has spoken on a number of issues including comparisons with Diego Maradona and his rivalry with Cristiano Ronaldo.

"Honestly, I have never compared myself with Diego, absolutely never," Messi insisted regarding his compatriot, who passed away in November last year.

"I never paid attention to those comparisons, although some criticisms did bother me in the past.

"I had difficult times in the national team, but not for those reasons. I often get some criticism that makes me angry, but they stay in the changing room. They should stay there, in private.

"It's the intimacy that makes the group stronger, plus the fact that we can get p*ssed off and tell each other to our faces the things that can be improved. This can happen to me and to other players," he said.

? One year since this beautiful tribute from #Messi to Maradona ?? #OTD pic.twitter.com/Dx1LrX782N

— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) November 29, 2021

"I always wanted to surpass myself and not look at what others were doing," he stated on former Real Madrid rival Ronaldo, now at Manchester United.

"With Cristiano we kept our battle going within the same league for years. It has been wonderful and has helped us both to grow in our careers, but without looking at each other. I just wanted to surpass myself, to be the best I could be, and not better than any other."

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5. McGregor ‘agrees’ to fight Chechen destroyer Chimaev14:10[−]
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Conor McGregor is months from his return following his gruesome leg break last summer, but that hasn't stopped the notorious Irishman from playing matchmaker and he says he'll throw down with Khamzat Chimaev if Nate Diaz won't.

Friday night saw yet another tweet n' delete tirade from McGregor, with the Dubliner taking aim at a host of topics including his dissatisfaction with the Irish government following the rollout of yet more Covid-19 restrictions and his opposition to vaccine mandates.

READ MORE: Conor McGregor deletes anti-vaccine mandate message, but you can see it here

But the brash former UFC double champion also found time to set his crosshairs on one of his oldest rivals, as well as the new fighter on the block who has been calling out a slew of big names across several weight divisions.

McGregor recently indicated in a Twitter Q&A that he was still intent on facing Nate Diaz in the Octagon for a third time. Diaz, though, who has just one fight remaining on his UFC deal, was reportedly offered, and turned down, a fight with "rookie" Khamzat Chimaev.

Despite the relative uncertainty surrounding his next move, this hasn't stopped Diaz from playing matchmaker for both McGregor and Chimaev.

Let him fight kamrat that be a great fight to make
He needs a easy new guy to fight anyway he can taper back in and see if he can even still fight at all
Great idea Nate ?
Thanks ? pic.twitter.com/WyAj1oVsVu

— Nathan Diaz (@NateDiaz209) December 3, 2021

?????@NateDiaz209 ??

— Khamzat Chimaev (@KChimaev) December 4, 2021

Gonna be a good fight good luck to u both and stay safe out there I need both you lil bitches healthy and strong for this one ?? @ufc

— Nathan Diaz (@NateDiaz209) December 4, 2021

"Let [McGregor] fight [Khamzat]," Diaz wrote on Twitter. "That be a great fight to make. He needs a easy new guy to fight anyway. He can taper back in and see if he can even still fight at all. Great idea Nate. Thanks."

Chechen-born Chimaev responded in the affirmative, replying with emojis of two soldiers shaking hands, as well as a coffin.

"Gonna be a good fight," responded Diaz. "Good luck to u both and stay safe out there. I need both you lil b*tches healthy and strong for this one."

McGregor clearly wasn't intent on allowing either Diaz or Chimaev to have the last word, and responded to Diaz with two recently-deleted tweets.

© Twitter / @thenotoriousmma
© Twitter / @thenotoriousmma

"No problem, b*tch," wrote McGregor in response to Diaz's suggestion that he fight Chimaev, something which prompted another comeback from the Californian.

"Good job, do what [you're] told B*TCH".

"Two sugars," McGregor shot back.

Despite this, McGregor's newest Twitter spree has shed little light on what his next move might actually be. He has recently stated that he hopes to be cleared to return to sparring by April of next year ahead of a proposed summer return to the cage.

In recent weeks he has been linked to showdowns with a host of fighters like Michael Chandler, Diaz, Justin Gaethje, Dustin Poirier, Charles Oliveira and now Chimaev – but with just two fights remaining on his UFC contract, his longterm future with the company remains on unsolid ground.

190lbs of granite. @McGregorFast pic.twitter.com/k8HeRZaKRg

— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) December 4, 2021

It is possible that McGregor could fight out his UFC contract and make his move into the boxing world, a long-held desire of his, or even pursue Jake Paul and the box offices riches which would surely follow.

A fight with Chimaev, however, doesn't appear to make sense for anyone other than Chimaev and his supporters – given that the Russian-born Swede has competed as high as 185lbs in the past, some 40lbs heavier than the the featherweight category of which McGregor was once a champion.

But with McGregor recently posting pictures of his hulking new frame to social media and indicating that he is now "190lbs of granite," it seems clear that he is readying himself for something big.

And there is no doubt that Khamzat Chimaev would be a willing opponent, ready to test out his new frame – and surgically repaired left leg – if given the opportunity.

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6. Over half of Germans want lockdown for all – poll14:01[−]
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A recent poll by YouGov indicates that 53% of Germans support the idea of a sweeping lockdown all across the country, amid a surge in Covid cases.

38%, on the other hand, do not want to see the screws tightened even further, while another 8% are undecided. The pollsters surveyed 2,049 Germans online between November 30 and December 2, asking whether they would support a nationwide lockdown in December.

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Lothar Wieler (L), president of the Robert-Koch-Institute and German Health Minister Jens Spahn give a press conference on December 3, 2021 in Berlin. © AFP / Odd ANDERSEN
Real number of Covid-19 cases in Germany estimated

The study revealed a considerable divergence of opinion, depending on age and region. For instance, among the respondents over 55, the number in favor of tougher restrictions is the highest of all age groups, reaching 63%, while only 40% of those aged 25 to 34 hold the same view. As for regional differences, the two German states with the lowest support for a new lockdown are Thuringia and Saxony, which also rank among the country’s Covid hotspots, with a relatively low proportions of vaccinated citizens. At the opposite end of the spectrum are Bremen and Lower Saxony.

The poll results additionally suggest that the majority of Germans see a bleak future ahead, with 58% skeptical about the nation’s chances of getting on top of the Covid pandemic in the coming year. 28% are more optimistic, however, while another 13% found it difficult to offer any prognosis. The researchers say Germans in the west of the country tend to see things in a more positive light compared to those in the east.

The poll results come as Germany’s federal and regional authorities agreed on Thursday to introduce sweeping restrictions for the unvaccinated, barring them from all cultural and entertainment venues. Access to shops in hard-hit regions is now also contingent on a person having proof of either vaccination or of recovery. Stores selling essential goods and groceries are, however, an exception to the rule.

On Thursday, outgoing chancellor Angela Merkel announced that a nationwide Covid vaccination mandate may come into effect from February next year, telling journalists that, by the end of 2021, the country’s parliament would have voted on legislation allowing this measure. Her successor at the helm, Olaf Scholz, is reportedly also in favor of making vaccination mandatory for all. Germany has had record-breaking numbers of new Covid infections in recent weeks, with health authorities warning that hospitals in some regions are currently working at capacity.

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7. Value of US-Canada energy trade dips13:53[−]
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The pandemic-driven lower petroleum consumption and lower commodity prices resulted in a decline of over 30% in the value of energy trade between the United States and Canada in 2020.

Canada is the single largest source of US crude oil imports, accounting for over 60% of all US crude imports last year, per US Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates.

According to data from the US Census Bureau, the value of US energy imports from Canada totaled $58 billion, down by 31% on the year. The value of energy imports accounted for more than one-fifth of the value of all US imports from Canada, the EIA said.

The value of American energy exports to Canada, for its part, dropped by 34% year over year in 2020.

Read more
RT
Oil industry to lose nearly half its workers

Crude oil and petroleum products combined accounted for 89% of the value of all US energy imports from Canada last year.

Imports from Canada in 2020 stood at the lowest level since 2016, as overall US energy imports declined, the EIA said.

US crude oil imports from Canada averaged 3.6 million barrels per day (bpd) last year. This compares to crude oil imports of 3.8 million bpd in 2019.

Despite the drop in volumes, Canada’s share of total US crude imports rose to 61% in 2020, primarily due to lower US imports from OPEC producers as Canada replaced imports from Venezuela.

In 2020, US crude oil imports from OPEC hit the lowest on record in annual EIA data going back to 1973, but American purchases of Canada’s heavy crude have grown and continue to remain high. Between 2005 and 2020, US crude oil imports from Canada more than doubled to an average of 3.6 million bpd. As a result, Canada’s share of total US crude oil imports increased and reached a record-high share of 61% last year, the EIA said in April.

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

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8. Chess king Carlsen has one-word response after beating Russian rival in longest-ever epic (VIDEO)13:19[−]
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Reigning world chess champion Magnus Carlsen has issued a one-word response after finally breaking the deadlock in his title showdown with Ian Nepomniachtchi.

Beating the Russian in the sixth game of 14 following five successive draws, the Norwegian took to social media.

"YES," he wrote past 1am in Dubai, where the spectacle is being held.

YES.

— Magnus Carlsen (@MagnusCarlsen) December 3, 2021

The pair's latest encounter was described as a "grueling back-and-forth marathon," and broke records for being the longest game in 135 years of world championship matchplay history.

It took in 136 moves and 7 hours and 45 minutes, which surpassed the 124 moves executed in a title match between Nepo's compatriots Anatoly Karpov and Viktor Korchnoi in 1978.

Both players missed out on winning opportunities under the extreme pressure of the clock, but Nepo felt that "Magnus managed to capitalize on the very few chances he got".

That's it! A historical, record-breaking game ends in a victory for Magnus Carlsen. #CarlsenNepo pic.twitter.com/fSWKjrCu1x

— International Chess Federation (@FIDE_chess) December 3, 2021

"It shouldn’t be easy in a world championship match," Carlsen said himself.

"You have to try for every chance, no matter how small it is. And part of it was by design at some point.

"I thought I should make the game as long as possible so that we would both be as tired as possible when the critical moment came. That turned out to be a good strategy," he concluded.

After 136 moves...CARLSEN WINS GAME 6! ???

The first decisive game in a classical World Championship game in 5 YEARS! #CarlsenNepo pic.twitter.com/fqO38H54ls

— Chess.com (@chesscom) December 3, 2021

Going into games scheduled for Saturday and Sunday prior to a rest day on Monday, Carlsen holds a lead of 3.5 points to 2.5 in the best-of-14 series.

His breakthrough at long last was the first decisive result that a world title match has seen at the classical stage for over five years, with 2021's five consecutive draws extending a record run of 19.

These included Carlsen’s last two games against Sergey Karjakin in 2016 as well as all 12 he played against Fabiano Caruana in 2018.

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9. Russians understand the very real threat of food shortages – there's now a global risk13:15[−]
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It has been decades since the food shortages that followed the fall of the Soviet Union, and Russians are used to shop shelves fully stocked with a previously unimaginable array of products, many of them made within the country.

However, rising prices and increasingly insecure supply chains are posing a risk to people in Russia and around the world. In a recent interview, Svein Tore Holsether, the chief executive of one of the largest global fertilizer producers, Yara International, warned that rising gas prices could create a worldwide food crisis. Production of fertilizers, which farmers use to boost yields of their crops, requires large volumes of hydrocarbons as a raw material. Shortages could lead to slimmer harvests and costs could be passed on to consumers.

“It's impacting food prices all over the world and it hits the wallets of many people,” Holsether warned. “But for some people, especially in the developing world, this is not only a question about the wallet, but it’s a question of life or death.”

This is not the first alarming forecast for the situation on the world food market. Last year, in the midst of the global lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, UN World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley cautioned that famines of “biblical proportion” could be looming, and told the Security Council to “act fast”.

Read more
FILE PHOTO. © Tut.By via REUTERS
The West’s real battle

But just how likely are these apocalyptic scenarios?

The second item among the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are the world’s shared plan to end extreme poverty, reduce inequality, and protect the planet by 2030, announces that policymakers must act to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.”

Hunger is already a major global problem that has been greatly exacerbated by the pandemic. If in 2014, a year before the SDGs were adopted by 193 countries, the number of undernourished people in the world was estimated by the UN as 607 million, now it is over 800 million. There are 2.37 billion people who are unable to eat a healthy balanced diet on a regular basis, while 22% of children under the age of five are stunted as a result of the problems with nutrition.

One might ask, if the matter is so dire, why is this problem ranked second rather than first on the SDGs list? The answer is obvious: hunger is caused not by an imbalance between the amount of agricultural products and the world’s population; it has a social nature. People go hungry not because the shelves in their shops are empty, but because they have no money to buy food.

Contrary to popular misconception, this problem concerns not only the poorest countries or regions that do not produce food and are completely dependent on agriculture imports. At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March last year, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, wrote a desperate appeal in the media, warning that “more than 400,000 children and 1.5 million adults in London lived in food insecurity before this crisis, and many rely on food banks every day.” According to UNICEF, in Ukraine, which is one of the biggest agricultural exporters in the world, 9.8 million people – virtually a quarter of the country’s population – suffer from malnutrition.

A customer pushes a shopping cart at an Auchan hypermarket store in Novosibirsk, Russia © Sputnik / Alexandr Kryazhev

The UN is clearly right: hunger is a consequence of poverty, and overcoming that, unsurprisingly, is the very first SDG on the list. Achieving it is possible only with economic development in the poorest countries and more equitable distribution of global wealth denominated in financial resources. For this reason, I am a supporter of the concept of Universal Basic Income, which stipulates that everyone has the right to a certain level of income, regardless of what he does and how he is currently working. We just need to make sure that this mechanism is truly universal, applied to all the people, and not just to citizens of some states.

Together, both Beasley and Holsether paint a worrying picture about our progress. The pandemic recession, along with the energy and logistics crisis, could push the world economy into a ‘perfect storm.’ In addition, catastrophic climate change would make farming impossible in arid regions. In this case, we may face a disastrous situation when food simply will not be enough for all 7.5 billion people inhabiting the planet, no matter how much money they have in their wallets.

Therefore, agricultural production must be increased in every possible way, especially in ‘granary countries’ like Russia, which feed substantial numbers of people around the world. First, it is a kind of insurance against the collapse of the agro-industrial complex in regions with unfavorable farming climates. Secondly, it will increase the supply on the world market and make food more affordable.

However, an increase in the gross production of grain, meat, vegetables, fruits, etc. should not be accompanied by deforestation and other processes destructive to the environment that may worsen the carbon balance, because in this case nature will throw back this deadly boomerang. The SDGs must be solved in a comprehensive manner, so that success in one direction does not lead to failure in another.

Read more
FILE PHOTO. © Sputnik / Egor Komarov
World Bank explains how Russia will fare in green energy age

The key word in this sentence is ‘solved’. The results of the COP26 climate conference have sparked a wave of skepticism and disappointment. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres himself expressed those sentiments, if mildly, estimating the agreements reached an insufficient compromise. British Minister Alok Sharma, who chaired the conference, spoke much more harshly and apologized to the delegates for the compromises mentioned by Guterres.

The ‘exhaust’ in terms of commitments by states turned out to be much more modest than the actual carbon exhaust from hundreds of aircraft that brought thousands of participants to Glasgow. However, were the overestimated expectations justified? I think not. They are based on the illusion that the world leaders can get together, sign some kind of decree, and the entire world economy will immediately become carbon-neutral.

Alas, we don't live in Hogwarts, where magic spells solve problems. Having myself headed the Committee on Ecology and Natural Resources in the Russian parliament, I know from my own experience how difficult this field of activity is. Even if all the countries without exception adopt the relevant laws, there will be a big problem with their implementation. The economy must meet the daily needs of the people. And the realities are far behind the plans for the ‘green transition’.

An illustration of this is the global energy crisis. Оne of the factors behind it, along with the rapid recovery of China after the pandemic, was the lack of renewable energy capacity. This already leads to the relaunch of the most environmentally harmful coal-fired power generation in Europe and Asia.

Russia is at the forefront of restructuring its entire economic infrastructure on a ‘green track’, developing environmentally friendly nuclear energy, including unique closed-cycle technologies, and developing projects for the transition to hydrogen fuel. Moreover, our country is not only a producer of greenhouse gases, but also the largest ‘decarbonizer’ on the planet, since it has the world’s largest forest resources to soak up emissions.

This much is the outcome of the Russian government’s systemic policy drive to tackle climate change and meet economic demands at the same time. The same job is also being performed at a regional level, for example with the Mayor of Moscow Sergey Sobyanin doing an enormous amount of work. We have seen how the city’s public transport is rapidly switching to electric propulsion, where smoky diesel buses are being replaced by electric versions created by talented Russian engineers – and the Russian capital has become the world leader among metropolises in the area of city parks.

An Everest-size dump cannot be turned into the Garden of Eden only by regulatory decisions at the macro level. Changes should involve all economic actors – from international mega corporations to small catering businesses. The planet’s atmosphere will become cleaner only when everyone in every role acts within a new ‘green’ paradigm. This is called ESG (Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance) – a management concept based on the involvement of business in solving environmental and social problems.

Read more
A person crosses the Westminster Bridge, with the Palace of Westminster on the background, as snow falls in London, Britain. © REUTERS / Toby Melville
Europe’s imminent winter energy crisis could have serious political consequences

In 2012, I started an agricultural project in the Rostov region in the south of Russia, and our team has now implemented innovations that seemed like science fiction 10 years ago. A crop harvester autopilot system is slashing the operating time of equipment, and therefore fuel consumption. Artificial intelligence is managing the work of dairy farms and has made it possible to reduce not only financial and environmental costs. No-till farming, sowing seeds in soil that has not been subjected to any mechanical treatment, and the latest pharmaceutical innovations with a bio-simulator provide an eco-friendly alternative to boosting crop yields.

But what incentive do businesses have to go green? Well, my firm’s successful listing on the Singapore Exchange last year hopefully goes some way towards showing that environmentally responsible investments can be profitable as well.

My hope is that this painstaking work can be replicated in other industries, like healthcare, and will benefit not only and not so much me, but my children’s generation. After all, achieving sustainable development goals means a decent quality of life for them. If we fail, it will be a question of their physical survival.

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

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10. Unusual injury puts Ronaldo in doubt for first Rangnick game – reports12:48[−]
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Cristiano Ronaldo is a doubt for Manchester United’s Premier League meeting with Crystal Palace on Sunday after reportedly injuring his knee while performing his trademark 'Siuu' celebration in the win against Arsenal.

United will have Ralf Rangnick in the dugout for the first time when they host Palace at Old Trafford, although the German might not be able to call on the services of top-scorer Ronaldo.

The Sun cited sources as suggesting that the 36-year-old may have injured his knee while doing his iconic pirouetted ‘Siuu’ celebration after scoring the winner from the penalty spot against the Gunners on Thursday night.

Ronaldo struck from the spot to give United a 3-2 win over Arsenal. © Reuters

That goal – which was Ronaldo’s second of the game and took him to 801 strikes in his remarkable career – came in the 70th minute of match.

Ronaldo played on and even sprinted the length of the pitch for a late United break but was eventually brought off in the 88th minute.

Cristiano Ronaldo seemed to injure himself during the celebration of his second goal yesterday. Ronaldo went straight down the tunnel after being subbed.

Today would have been a rest day for the players, he is a doubt for Ralf Rangnick’s first match against Crystal Palace#MUFC pic.twitter.com/DSuG0xqhSE

— Paddy Keogh (@OddsOnFPL) December 3, 2021

Rangnick, 63, was formally unveiled to the press on Friday after receiving a work permit to begin his tenure at Old Trafford.

Specifically asked about Ronaldo, the German praised him as the fittest 36-year-old professional he had ever seen.

“Having seen Cristiano yesterday in the second half [against Arsenal], at the age of 36, amazing, top professional,” said Rangnick.

Read more
There was a contentious opening goal as Manchester United faced Arsenal on a record night for Cristiano Ronaldo. © Reuters
‘Never seen anything so extraordinary’: Bizarre goal in Man Utd-Arsenal game as Ronaldo reaches new landmark

“At his age, I’ve never seen a player who is still that physically fit. He’s still a player who can easily make the difference.

“It’s about how we can develop the whole team, it’s not only about Cristiano. We play in the most competitive league in the world, so we need all the players on board.

“What I saw from Cristiano yesterday, he’s more than willing to do that, to put his input into the team, and the other teammates will have to do the same.”

READ MORE: New Man Utd boss Rangnick shares views on Ronaldo at first press conference (VIDEO)

Some have claimed Ronaldo will struggle to adapt to Rangnick’s famous high-pressing style, but the German said that as a manager “you always have to adapt your style or idea of football to the players you have available, and not vice versa.”

Ronaldo has scored 12 goals in 16 games for United this season since sealing a shock return from Juventus late in the summer transfer window.

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11. Britney was forced to do therapy ‘10 hours a day, 7 days a week’12:22[−]
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Pop icon Britney Spears has opened up about the hardships of living under conservatorship, claiming that she had been forced to go to therapy every day and was banned for partying.

For a whole decade, Spears had only limited control of her life, career and funds, including earnings from shows, after being placed under a court-appointed conservatorship due to concerns over her mental health.

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Supporters of Britney Spears in Los Angeles, California, November 12, 2021. © Kevin Winter/Getty Images/AFP
Britney Spears finally freed

The singer labeled the regime “abusive” and fought a lengthy legal battle against the team of conservators, including her dad Jamie Spears, finally regaining her freedom in November.

The performer, dubbed the ‘Princess of Pop’ in the 2000s and who has sold almost 150 million records worldwide, celebrated her 40th birthday on Thursday, marking the occasion with several Instagram posts with revelations about her life under conservatorship.

In one of them, Spears claimed that she had to do therapy “10 hours a day, 7 days a week” against her will.

“Being forced to pay and listen to women telling me how they are going to further my success... it was a joy,” she wrote sarcastically.

The text was accompanied by a video skit, in which the singer parodied her therapist and the questions that she had been asked again and again at those sessions.

Spears also said that during almost 250 shows she did in Las Vegas over the course of four years, her conservators only allowed her to go out and party twice.

“I think I will have to put on my hot little dresses on every night for the rest of my life to break even for working for my family my whole life with only old songs permitted,” she lamented.

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12. ‘Finish of the year’: Bellator champ Pettis starches rival with sensational backfist KO (VIDEO)12:18[−]
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Sergio Pettis sent MMA fans into meltdown after delivering a stunning spinning backfist finish at Bellator 272 which many considered a KO-of-the-year contender.

In his fourth fight in the promotion since leaving the UFC, Pettis defended the bantamweight title for the first time since winning the strap via a unanimous decision over Juan Archuleta in May.

This time, in the headline bout in Uncasville, the brother of ex-UFC lightweight champion Anthony was far more decisive despite losing "just about every second of the fight" as ESPN described it.

Feeling the pressure in the fourth round of his clash with Kyoji Horiguchi, Pettis turned the tables instantly with a stunning spinning backfist KO that left the Rizin bantamweight ruler, considered one of the world's best fighters outside the UFC, out cold on the canvas.

.@sergiopettis OUTTA NOWHERE! ? ? ? ?

What a way to end the 2021 Bellator MMA season LIVE on @SHOsports. #Bellator272 pic.twitter.com/g8Kstu4E3v

— BellatorMMA (@BellatorMMA) December 4, 2021

Replying to a Bellator post that said the strike came "outta nowhere", the legendary BJ Penn replied "Congrats, champ" along with a pair of clapping hands.

"Perhaps this may be 2021’s MMA KO of The Year!!!" suggested one happy fan.

"What the Hell. First time I felt Bellator is better than the UFC," said another.

Congrats champ! ?? @sergiopettis

— bjpenndotcom (@bjpenndotcom) December 4, 2021

Perhaps this may be 2021’s #MMA KO of The Year !!!

— Raul Alzaga (@RaulAlzaga) December 4, 2021

Pundit Ariel Helwani agreed and called it "without a doubt one of the best finishes of the year".

"And when you consider the stakes and how the fight was going it’s even more amazing," the Canadian added.

Similarly, Chamatkar Sandhu dubbed it "One of the OMG moments of the year!"

Incredibly, some observers claimed Pettis had got "lucky" with the strike – but were soon shouted down.

In a fight where he was losing EVERY minute, Sergio Pettis spinning backfists Kyoji Horiguchi, knocking him out in one shot.

You have got to be kidding me!!!!

— Luke Thomas (@lthomasnews) December 4, 2021

INSANE. BEST SPORT IN THE WORLD!!!!!

— Evan Vucci (@evanvucci) December 4, 2021

Definitely not luck .Pettis set the back fist up with that kick. Horiguchi never seen it coming

— DrManhattanPhD (@JUnderverse) December 4, 2021

"I came out here and got beat up for four rounds pretty much," Pettis admitted in a postfight interview.

"I was just like, 'Man, I'm losing this fight. I've gotta do something spectacular.'

"It came out at the right time," he concluded, on what was just his fourth career KO/TKO.

Underrated part is Sergio pulled this coffin nail strike back. pic.twitter.com/dxauDq4KEY

— RJ Clifford (@RJcliffordMMA) December 4, 2021

This result is difficult to accept...
But pettis is gentleman. Respect him

— ??? (@jpBushido) December 4, 2021

last attack nice stop pettis
he is gentleman

— ??????? (@samueletointer) December 4, 2021

Just as well-received, however, was Pettis' refusal to follow through with a coffin nail strike when noticing that a grounded Horiguchi had already had his lights blown out.

"This result is difficult to accept...," began a Japanese fan.

"But Pettis is a gentleman. Respect him."

Bellator announces a $1 million bantamweight grand prix in 2022.

- Magomed Magomedov
- James Gallagher
- Leandro Higo
- Patchy Mix
- Rafeon Stots
- Juan Archuleta
- Sergio Pettis
- Kyoji Horiguchi

Hot damn! #Bellator272

— Shaheen Al-Shatti (@shaunalshatti) December 4, 2021

As announced by his employers in the aftermath of their 2021 closer, Pettis will now enter an eight-man bantamweight Grand Prix next year.

With $1 million prize money up for grabs, Horiguchi might also get the chance to exact revenge on him.

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13. Bitcoin drops nearly $10,000 in an hour12:08[−]
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The world’s crypto pioneer, bitcoin, saw a sharp decline of nearly $10,000 in roughly an hour to as low as $42,000 before bouncing back to $45,000, extending the latest downtrend amid the emergence of the Omicron Covid-19 strain.

The price of bitcoin has dropped around $15,000 over the past 24 hours. It was trading at nearly $47,580 as of 08:16 GMT, down 16.14% day over day, having dropped by 31.6% from the year’s high of $69,000, which it reached on November 10.

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RT
Omicron crypto skyrockets thanks to Covid

Meanwhile, ether, the second-largest cryptocurrency by market value, has declined by about 14% to some $3,942. Both cryptocurrencies have experienced turbulence since the Omicron strain emerged. In late November, bitcoin dropped to a seven-week-low at around $54,000, entering bear-market territory.

The latest drop has also been attributed to the harsh words of US Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell. On Tuesday, Powell told a Senate panel it was appropriate for the Fed to consider speeding up the taper of asset purchases, and that it was time to retire the word “transitory” when describing inflation.

The decrease in the value of the two leading digital assets reflected a broader plunge in the crypto markets, with some cryptocurrencies dropping by 20% over the past 24 hours.

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

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14. Djokovic tells fans when to expect Australian Open decision12:00[−]
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Novak Djokovic has said fans can expect a decision from him “very soon” on whether he will feature at the Australian Open in January, where players will have to be fully vaccinated to compete.

“I understand you want answers on where and how I am going to start the new season, but we’ll see what the future holds,” Djokovic said at the Davis Cup, where Serbia were beaten in the semi-finals by Croatia on Friday.

“I can’t give you a date, but obviously the Australian Open is coming soon, so you will know very soon,” added the 34-year-old.

Djokovic has not publicly revealed his vaccine status but has consistently spoken in favor of freedom of choice.

His father recently suggested that Djokovic would skip next season’s Grand Slam in Melbourne, accusing the authorities of “blackmail” over their mandatory vaccination stance.

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Novak Djokovic (left) and his father, Srdjan © Pedja Milosavljevic / AFP
Djokovic's dad makes Russian vaccine claim, warns ‘blackmailed’ champ will skip Australia

Djokovic stands level with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal with a record 20 Grand Slams.

The Serb is the reigning champion Down Under and has claimed the Australian Open title a record nine times – including the past three years in a row.

A number of Djokovic’s main rivals including world number two Daniil Medvedev of Russia have already confirmed they will be playing in Melbourne in January.

Medvedev, who beat Djokovic to the US Open title in September, has not disclosed his vaccine status but said it would be obvious that anyone appearing in Australia would be fully jabbed.

READ MORE: ‘See you in January’: Did Daniil Medvedev just clear up Australian Open vaccine status row?

After falling to a 2-1 defeat to Croatia in Madrid, where Djokovic won his singles match but lost in the doubles alongside Filip Krajinovic, Djokovic said he would use the coming days to switch off from tennis.

“I will try to use the next few days to recover, rest and forget about tennis. I am really tired from this season and all this year,” said the world number one.

Djokovic cut a frustrated figure at times as Serbia suffered defeat, including kicking his bag as Croatian football star Luka Modric – who plays at Real Madrid – watched on from the stands.

Djokovic kicking his bag and Luka Modric laughing about it #DavisCupFinals pic.twitter.com/qteABdJIsL

— Tennis GIFs ?? (@tennis_gifs) December 3, 2021

“To win the Davis Cup, you need a doubles team, otherwise it will be very difficult, it’s a lottery. It’s like climbing Mount Everest,” Djokovic said after he and Krajinovic lost in straight sets to doubles specialists Mate Pavic and Nikola Mektic.

In the other semi-final, Russia take on Germany on Saturday for the right to face Croatia.

All class from @DjokerNole

A tremendous effort ?#DavisCupFinals #byRakuten pic.twitter.com/hPONK1SCRB

— Davis Cup (@DavisCup) December 3, 2021

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15. Prosecutor reveals who may be charged in Alec Baldwin on-set shooting incident11:23[−]
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The New Mexico district attorney has singled out ‘Rust’ crew members in charge of guns as those who may face criminal charges following the fatal on-set shooting of the movie’s cinematographer in October.

Mary Carmack-Altwies said on Friday that production staff involved “in the handling and use of firearms on the set had a duty to behave in a manner such that the safety of others was protected.” The official added that no final decision had yet been made as to whether anyone would be held criminally liable, however, as the investigation into the fatal incident was still ongoing.

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© Reuters / Kevin Mohatt
‘Disgruntled’ crew member deliberately planted live round in ‘Rust’ gun to ‘sabotage’ Alec Baldwin film – lawyer

On October 21, a prop revolver discharged a live round while in the hands of Hollywood actor Alec Baldwin, resulting in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and the injuring of director Joel Souza. The incident happened during the shooting of ‘Rust’ in New Mexico.

Baldwin said on Thursday, in what was his first interview since the tragic incident, that he felt “someone is responsible for what happened, but I know it isn’t me. I might have killed myself if I thought I was responsible, and I don’t say that lightly.” The actor told ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’ host George Stephanopoulos he believed it was “highly unlikely” he would be criminally charged, adding that it had not been his duty to check the gun. He also explained that he had not actually even pulled the trigger, and, instead, the revolver had gone off right after he cocked it.

Investigators are examining how live ammunition could have ended up on the set, with the film crew armorer insisting she had checked the weapon to make sure the rounds were not “hot” before it was handed to Baldwin.

Hutchins, a 42-year-old cinematographer and journalist of Ukrainian descent, had moved to Los Angeles to study film, and had played a part in the production of some 30 movies and miniseries. Her fatal on-set shooting sparked a debate over safety precautions in the American film industry and the use of prop firearms in particular.

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16. Conor McGregor deletes anti-vaccine mandate message – but you can see it here11:11[−]
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UFC star Conor McGregor has insisted people must have freedom of choice over Covid jabs, calling mandatory vaccination “abhorrently wrong” as he shared his thoughts online.

Lockdown in his native Ireland and Covid-related topics have been the main Twitter themes occupying the often controversial McGregor recently.

Usually reserving his outbursts for octagon rivals, the pub owner has in the past few weeks blasted the Irish government and leaders such as Michael Martin and Leo Varadkar for what he perceives to be unfair treatment for his compatriots and the hospitality industry.

At present, Ireland has suffered 5,700 Covid-related deaths with 64,650 active cases, but is subject to stringent protocols with pubs and clubs forced to close at midnight as Christmas and New Year fast approach.

This time on Twitter, the 33-year-old McGregor first posted a selfie of himself and the current president of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, then promoted freedom of choice surrounding the vaccine after previously suggesting the jabs hadn't worked.

"Forcing anyone to inject something into their body they do not wish to is abhorrently wrong," McGregor wrote.

"I am not against vaccines, I am against not having the choice. God bless those who think otherwise."

With Ireland’s 9th, and current serving President, Michael D. Higgins ?? pic.twitter.com/RAnvCeNGKg

— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) December 3, 2021
Twitter @thenotoriousmma

The post quickly sparked 2,000 replies before being deleted as many were keen to engage McGregor in debate.

"I 100% agree, and thank you for using your platform to highlight these abhorrent mandates being enforced on the Irish people. We do not live in a free country anymore I'm afraid," replied one person in support.

100% agree, and thank you for using your platform to highlight these abhorrent mandates being enforced on the Irish people. We do not live in a free country anymore I'm afraid ?

— philip (@philsull86) December 3, 2021

I got the shot and will get the booster next week, but mandates are terrible.

— Ryan Fedrau (@the_fed_23) December 3, 2021

"AGREED," said another. "I got the shot and will get the booster next week, but mandates are terrible."

"Forcing people is borderline dictatorship," concurred a separate party along similar lines.

"This is your best tweet to date. Couldn’t agree more," McGregor was also told.

Agreed man. I’m vaccinated. But forcing people is borderline dictatorship.

— Stevo MUFC (@SteveAt19750246) December 4, 2021

Those on the other side of the fence, however, made comments such as: "Don’t agree. People who aren’t vaccinated make this thing mutate and keep it existing with the risk of killing more people.

"Just get the vax... really nothing wrong will happen."

Don’t agree. People who aren’t vaccinated, make this thing mutate and keeps it on existing. With the risk of killing more people. Just get the vax... really nothing wrong will happen.

— ©?hristo (@Cb98637507) December 3, 2021

You do have the choice. Choose to be a dutiful member of society or don't. We didn't get here by letting everyone do whatever the hell they want, in what household, city, state, country, planet does that work on? A free and safe society takes sacrifice.

— A Marine (@SeanKazUSMC) December 4, 2021

Nobody is saying you must take the vaccine. Nobody is going to inject you against your will. They are saying if you want to come into an enclosed space with the rest of us a vaccine is a requirement and it would be nice if you avoided public hospitals when you get covid.

— Keith (@KBB2C) December 3, 2021

"You do have the choice," began another user.

"Choose to be a dutiful member of society or don't. We didn't get here by letting everyone do whatever the hell they want. In what household, city, state, country, planet does that work on? A free and safe society takes sacrifice."

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17. Russian sues WHO over use of Omicron for Covid variant10:52[−]
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A Siberian entrepreneur has filed a lawsuit against the Russian branch of the World Health Organization over fears the classification of the recently discovered Covid strain – named Omicron – is ruining the image of his business.

The CEO of the Omicron Network of ophthalmology clinics, Alexander Padar, lodged the claim with the Moscow Arbitration Court on November 30, but local media reported the businessman’s grievances on Friday.

The small business owner insists that the use of the word ‘omicron’ to refer to the new strain of Covid-19 as well as any other infection, should be blacklisted.

Read more
© Global Look Press / Luz Garcia
New Omicron variant could spell end for Covid-19 pandemic – top Russian scientist

“Our name is a registered trademark, primarily in the field of medicine and healthcare, since this is our core service,” Padar explained, noting that “association with some strain of coronavirus harms our reputation.”

“Think about it, if someone dies from ‘Omicron’ – your relative or friend, you are unlikely to go to the clinic with the same name,” he said.

Padar said he has invested a large amount of money into advertising his clinics. Now, because of the outbreak of the variant, search results for the Omicron variant have replaced his practices, and he says enormous financial losses are inevitable for him.

The Covid-19 variants have, so far, been named after letters of the Greek alphabet for geographical and political neutrality.

Scientists around the globe have raised panic over the Omicron strain, which has 32 spike protein mutations. Dr. Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, said that “this could be of real concern.”

Anatoly Altshtein, a Russian virologist at the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, which developed Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, cast doubts on the new variant’s severity earlier this week. According to him, its high number of spike mutations means it has an unstable genome, so it becomes “less dangerous… an overwhelming number of mutations leads to a weakening of the virus’s ability to cause disease.”

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18. Finland records first-ever case of suspected far-right terrorism10:40[−]
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Five men have been detained for allegedly having planned gun and bomb attacks in what the Finnish police believe is the first case of far-right terrorism in the country’s history.

The members of the group, which operated in the southwestern town of Kankaanpää, were arrested on Tuesday, having been under surveillance for two years. On Friday, the court ruled that they should remain in custody.

The suspects are aged “around 25,” and most of them have a previous criminal record, the police said in a statement. Weapons, ammunition, and fertilizer – which can be used to make explosives – were seized in the raid during which they were detained.

Read more
Nazi uniforms found inside the house of a man suspected of raping a 12-year-old boy at the Vargem Grande neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro. © AFP / Rio de Janeiro Civil Police
Brazilian police discover $3.5mn trove of Nazi memorabilia at home of ‘insane psychopath’ suspected of child rape

Extremist materials found among the men’s possessions, and other material unearthed in the course of the investigation “reinforce the impression that they have become radicalized and gives reason to suspect them of terrorist offences,” the statement read.

The group appears to have been motivated by “accelerationism” – a white supremacist ideology that rests on the idea that Western governments are irreparably corrupt and seeks to hasten their demise by sowing division and interracial strife. The ideology has been linked to several high-profile shootings in the US as well as to the Christchurch mosque attack in New Zealand in 2019.

The police didn’t reveal the targets the men had planned to attack, but said they had operated independently of any large far-right organization. They are currently being investigated for involvement in terrorism, the illegal possession of firearms, and aggravated theft.

The prosecutors have given the police until March 31 next year to press charges.

Detective Superintendent Toni Sjoblom described the case as “worrying” and urged the Finnish public to help his officers counter the far-right threat.

“If you see clear signs of radicalization in your loved ones, you should react as quickly as possible, for example, by telling the authorities about your concerns,” he said.

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19. China wants its casino paradise to become tech Mecca09:42[−]
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The Chinese government plans to transform its largest casino den, Macau, into a regional technology hub, the South China Morning Post reported, citing technology industry executives and officials.

This comes as the Venetian Macao Convention and Exhibition Centre this week hosted a big technology-themed trade fair, which is expected to give rise to new industries and revitalize the regional economy.

The event’s website portrayed Macau as “the new centre of international technologies” to connect the Asia Pacific tech ecosystem with the rest of the world.

“The Guangdong-Macau in-depth cooperation zone in Hengqin has created a new opportunity for technology innovation and industry transformation of Macau,” said Zhang Yuzhuo, vice chairman of the China Association for Science and Technology.

Read more
The financial Central district in Hong Kong, China
Chinese banks urged to switch from SWIFT to domestic financial network amid looming US sanctions over Hong Kong

“It will supercharge the diversification of Macau’s economy and continuous prosperity,” he added.

Gambling in the former Portuguese colony has been legal since the 1850s, with Macau being dubbed the ‘Gambling capital of the world’ and the ‘Monte Carlo of the East’.

Data shows that the gambling industry contributed over half of the city’s US$54 billion GDP before the pandemic and generated 80% of the local government’s tax revenue. Last year’s 80% plunge in gambling revenue led to a 50% decline in GDP.

“Macau may have always been known for gambling and tourism, but the pandemic has hit the city hard. Macau has to diversify,” said the main host of the tech conference, Lu Gang, who is the director of the Macao Technology General Association. “Although it’s small in size, Macau is an international platform connecting the mainland to the world and can help Chinese companies venture abroad,” he added.

Beijing has always taken a hard stance on gambling at Macau’s casinos, viewing them as illicit capital drainage channels that undermine the nation’s financial stability and capital account controls. According to its plan, Macau should be encouraged to develop integrated circuits, new energy projects, and artificial intelligence (AI), among other tech sectors, and to establish a supply chain for microchips, from design to testing.

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

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20. Twitter’s new censorship policy backfires08:51[−]
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A new policy on personal information has apparently backfired, with the platform claiming it had resulted in a large number of “malicious” and “coordinated” reports against users, some of whom were suspended by “accident.”

Twitter spokesman Trenton Kennedy said a new rule barring “the misuse of media” such as photos and videos “to harass or intimidate private individuals” had led it to suspend accounts in error, the Washington Post reported on Friday night.

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© Unsplash / Joshua Hoehne
Twitter announces more censorship for sake of ‘public interest’

The platform had been bombarded with a “significant amount,” of “malicious” reports, which had led to “a dozen erroneous suspensions,” Kennedy said.

The updated policy bans users from sharing private photos and videos of individuals who are not public figures without their explicit consent. There are several exceptions to the rule, namely when photos are shared “in the public interest or add value to public discourse,” or for the benefit of the private individuals themselves.

Kennedy stated that some of the affected accounts had been banned after posting publicly available photos of high-profile or newsworthy figures, which was at odds with the original intent of the policy, which was brought in shortly after new Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal took over the reins from Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey.

The policy drew immediate criticism for attempting to silence independent media and being open to abuse. A BBC journalist described it as “literally unenforceable.”

READ MORE: New Twitter CEO kicks off ‘major reorganization’

The error comes amid a major shake-up at Twitter, with co-founder Dorsey leaving the helm this week and being replaced by former chief technical officer Agrawal. In addition to initiating the personal information policy update, the executive axed at least three senior managers on Friday, signaling a major reorganization at the company.

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21. Biden dismisses Russia’s ‘red lines’06:19[−]
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US President Joe Biden has vowed to hold lengthy talks with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on the issue of Ukraine, but insists he will accept no warnings about “red lines” from Moscow.

“We’ve been aware of Russia’s actions [concerning Ukraine] for a long time and my expectation is we’re going to have a long discussion with Putin,” Biden said on Friday night as he left for Camp David.

“I don’t accept anybody’s red lines,” the president added in apparent reference to the position Moscow reasserted earlier this week as several Western publications suggested a military showdown in Ukraine was imminent.

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FILE PHOTO. © Getty Images / NurPhoto
Russia explains red lines on NATO expansion

On Thursday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry again claimed NATO had given assurances it would not move “an inch” further east at the end of the Cold War. Despite that pledge, it has continued to expand, encompassing new member states ever closer to Russia’s borders, with Ukraine repeatedly having expressed an interest in joining the bloc in recent years.

The ministry stressed that “the only option for resolving the current situation” would be for NATO to rule out any further such expansion and to stop its ongoing military build-up on Moscow’s doorstep.

Last month, the Biden administration warned European officials that Russia could be mulling an “invasion” of Eastern Ukraine, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken threatening “serious consequences” in the event of any “aggression.”

Moscow has rejected those predictions as groundless, but has voiced concerns about internal conflict breaking out in Ukraine’s war-torn Donbass. Russia has accused the West of “encouraging” Ukraine to start an armed conflict by moving NATO military gear closer to the border.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also claimed Ukrainian forces have been using US-made rockets as they battle separatists in the east of the country, arguing that the alleged US assistance only increases the chances of a full-blown civil war being precipitated.

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22. Hollywood star wants Trump arrested for ‘trying to kill’ Biden05:36[−]
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Bette Midler is calling for Donald Trump to be jailed for attempted murder. The actress claims the former president had aimed to see off his rival Joe Biden by trying to infect him with Covid-19 during the presidential campaign.

“He tried to infect and kill Joe Biden at the debate,” Midler told her two million Twitter followers on Friday. She added that Trump had purposely showed up at the September 2020 presidential debate too late to be tested for coronavirus, “knowing full well he was positive, then screeched, sputtered, spit and foamed at the mouth, hoping to infect Joe. He is the devil.”

#DonaldTrump should be arrested for attempted murder. He tried to infect & kill #JoeBiden at the debate; by turning up too late to be tested, knowing full well he was positive; then screeched, sputtered, spit, and foamed at the mouth, hoping to infect Joe. He IS the devil.

— bettemidler (@BetteMidler) December 3, 2021

The rant apparently stems from a claim in an upcoming book by former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows that Trump had tested positive for the virus three days before the debate. However, the then-president had taken another test that subsequently came back negative, according to an article on Wednesday by The Guardian, which cited an excerpt from the book.

Trump has denied that he tested positive for the virus before the September 29 debate. “The story of me having Covid prior to or during the first debate is fake news,” he said in response. He reportedly had another negative test the day after the debate, but the next day, October 1, he and then-First Lady Melania Trump tested positive. Trump was hospitalized on October 2 and returned to the White House on October 5. A debate that had been scheduled for October 15 was canceled.

Asked by reporters on Wednesday whether he thought Trump had put him at risk during the debate, President Biden declined to enter the fray, saying, “I don’t think about the former president.”

Midler has long been an outspoken Trump critic. She joked in June 2019 that “maybe someone in his camp can gently give him a shiv, I mean, shove.” A shiv is, of course, a slang term for a home-made knife. During a protracted online spat, Trump referred to the actress as a “washed-up psycho” and a “sick scammer,” after she shared a debunked quote in which he had supposedly insulted Republican voters.

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23. US strike may have killed Syrian civilians, Pentagon says04:52[−]
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The US military said it would open an investigation into the possibility a recent drone strike caused civilian casualties, with Pentagon officials claiming the attack had been intended to target a “senior al-Qaeda leader.”

US Central Command (CENTCOM), which oversees military operations across the Middle East, announced the upcoming probe on Friday, hours after an MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle bombed an unspecified location in Idlib province in what CENTCOM described as a precision strike.”

“We abhor the loss of innocent life and take all possible measures to prevent them. The possibility of a civilian casualty was immediately self-reported to US Central Command,” spokesman Captain Bill Urban said in a statement obtained by CNN.

We are initiating a full investigation of the allegations and will release the results when appropriate.

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A US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle descends after receiving fuel at an undisclosed location in the Gulf, August 9, 2019
US military covered up its ‘war crime’ in Syria – NYT

Friday’s drone mission follows another strike on Idlib in September, which was alleged to have killed a senior terrorist operative. The military claimed no civilians had been killed in that attack. The use of US air power in Syria has slowed in recent years – at least in terms of what the Pentagon is willing to publicly acknowledge.

Last month, a New York Times investigation suggested an air strike in March 2019 had hit “a large crowd of women and children huddled against a river bank” near the town of Baghuz, and may have resulted in the Pentagon’s largest civilian casualty incident in the country. Following the Times probe, CENTCOM reluctantly admitted it may have killed up to 80 people, including some non-combatants, though it argued the women and children may have been working on behalf of the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorist group at the time they perished.

Another high-profile American strike on the Afghan capital Kabul over the summer – among the last US combat operations in its 20-year war in the country – was later found to have killed 10 civilians, including eight children. While the Defense Department initially deemed that strike a success, it later acknowledged these deaths, following a Times investigation.

READ MORE: Pentagon names alleged ‘ISIS-K facilitator’ killed in Afghanistan drone strike, after admitting Kabul op killed 10 civilians

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24. New Twitter CEO kicks off ‘major reorganization’04:37[−]
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On taking over the reins from Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s incoming CEO, Parag Agrawal, has announced a significant corporate reshuffle, saying several high-level executives would be leaving the company at or before the end of the year.

Three senior execs – head of engineering Michael Montano, chief design officer Dantley Davis, and chief HR officer Jennifer Christie – will step down sometime before 2022, the Washington Post reported on Friday, citing company sources and an email to employees from Agrawal. The reshuffle was motivated, in part, by the new CEO’s desire for “operational excellence,” the outlet added.

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk attends the Tesla Shanghai Gigafactory groundbreaking ceremony in Shanghai, China January 7, 2019
Musk takes dig at new Twitter CEO with Stalin comparison

The changes will largely affect Twitter’s tech, revenue, and consumer divisions, with Nick Caldwell, Bruce Falck, and Kayvon Beykpour set to take over each department respectively.

As design lead, Davis reportedly created some friction in the workplace, with the New York Times describing a “tough love” approach that didn’t always go over well with co-workers. A spokesperson for Twitter told TechCrunch his departure was driven by a desire to shift the firm’s model to “a structure that has one lead manager supporting a key company objective.”

Dorsey, a Twitter co-founder, announced his resignation somewhat abruptly on Monday, before passing the chief executive baton to Agrawal, who had served as the company’s chief technical officer since 2017. He noted that he would remain on the board of directors until “May-ish” to help the new CEO settle into the role, and argued that, in order to grow, the platform should not be permanently bound to its original creators.

Agrawal, like Dorsey before him, has already garnered a significant crowd of detractors, amid concerns he will push Twitter in a more censorious direction. Elon Musk, who had been among the outgoing CEO’s most high-profile critics, even shared a meme comparing his successor to Stalin, riffing on rumors that Dorsey might have been under pressure to resign. Meanwhile, American conservatives dug up some of Agrawal’s old tweets, blasting them as racist and anti-religion.

READ MORE: Twitter announces more censorship for sake of ‘public interest’

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25. ‘Crisis of astronomical proportions’ over Pearl Harbor contamination04:36[−]
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The US Navy has confirmed that the water used by military families near Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor is contaminated with “volatile petroleum products,” forcing a shutdown that may leave taps dry for over a week.

Tests on the system that supplies drinking water to homes at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam showed “pretty conclusive indications that there are volatile petroleum products in the well,” Rear Admiral Blake Converse told reporters on Thursday, referring to the Red Hill well servicing hundreds of military families. The well has been shut down since Sunday and will remain closed as the Navy purges the dangerous chemicals from the system.

On Friday, the Board of Water Supply also shut down the Halawa shaft, responsible for some 20% of the water supply to urban Honolulu, pointing out that both wells draw water from the same aquifer.

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File photo: Kailua, Hawaii © REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
Tropical paradise threatened by blizzard

Converse assured residents that the contamination was isolated and confined to the Red Hill well, claiming that tests “throughout the rest of the Navy water distribution system” had failed to find any traces of petroleum. The system’s 93,000 customers have been urged to avoid drinking the water as a precaution.

However, there are mounting concerns that the tainted water could have already leaked to other city wells. On Tuesday, a University of Hawaii lab said it had discovered traces of a petroleum product in a sample collected from Red Hill Elementary School.

Military families reportedly began complaining of a gasoline or chemical smell in their drinking water after a November 20 fuel leak. It transpired that more than 14,000 gallons of a water-fuel mixture had leaked from an underground storage facility, but the Navy said at the time that the spill had been confined to a tunnel and hadn’t affected water supplies, including an aquifer below the storage tanks that supplies Oahu.

The latest Navy statement followed comments at a congressional hearing earlier on Thursday by US Representative Kai Kahele (D-Hawaii). “The Navy is currently experiencing a crisis of astronomical proportions in Hawaii,” Kahele said. He said nearly 100,000 residents were without water because of the system shutdown, and many people and animals had been made sick by the contamination.

Right now, thousands of military personnel and their families are without water at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam. In today’s hearing with the @USNavy, I demanded answers on the future of #RedHill.

People are suffering, and Hawai?i deserves answers and transparency immediately. pic.twitter.com/IpfXzJY06p

— Congressman Kaiali‘i Kahele (@RepKahele) December 2, 2021

Kahele also brought a water sample to the hearing. “I can tell you myself that if you smell this water, you would know that there is something wrong with [it],” he said. “There’s a petroleum product in this water.”

More than 900 Navy and Army families reported strange odors in their water, or physical ailments, between the time of the fuel leak and Thursday’s announcement of testing results, the Associated Press reported.

With supplies now offline for an estimated four to 10 days, the military has offered to help families to make a temporary move into hotels or new homes. The Navy is distributing bottled water, while the Marines will provide showering and laundering facilities, and dedicated medical clinics are also being set up.

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26. Thousands of USAF personnel miss vaccine deadline03:20[−]
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More than 10,000 Air National Guard and Reserve troops had not taken up mandatory Covid-19 jabs as the deadline passed, the US Air Force (USAF) has said. Some may be banned from training or dismissed altogether as a result.

Roughly 11,000 troops were still unvaccinated by Thursday’s deadline, the USAF said on Friday. That is about 6% of the total Air National Guard (107,000) and Reserve (68,000) personnel. Around 3,500 have received medical or administrative exemptions, while another 5,800 have applied for exemptions on religious grounds, although none of these has been approved so far. Some 2,100 or so have officially refused the jab.

The actual number of the unvaccinated may be less, however, as some airmen may have received the jab at civilian pharmacies without notifying the service, the USAF said.

USAF spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told the AP news agency the holdouts would be given the opportunity to get a shot when they reported to base.

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FILE PHOTO: National Guard troops walk through a Covid-19 vaccination site.
Oklahoma sues Biden & Pentagon over vaccine mandate

“Unvaccinated Air National Guard members will report to duty for the drill weekend as usual,” Stefanek said. “Commanders will use this opportunity to educate their personnel on vaccination requirements and the consequences of not complying with the mandate.”

What those consequences may be is still unclear. Branches of the US military have until next week to publish official guidance on the matter. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a memo earlier this week that National Guard members who refused the jab would not be allowed to undertake the federally funded training required to maintain their status. They would also not get paid or gain credit towards retirement or other federal benefits.

The Air National Guard’s vaccination deadline was December 2. About 91.5% of the Guard and the Reserve had been vaccinated as of Thursday. About 97% of active-duty USAF personnel, whose deadline was a month ago, have been administered at least one dose.

In August, Austin issued an order that all active-duty military members had to be inoculated. National Guard components were given more latitude, with the army setting a deadline of June 2022, citing the much greater size and dispersion of the force.

While most states and service branches have gone along with the orders, the Oklahoma National Guard has challenged the mandate in court.

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27. Australian politician names surprise culprit for low Aboriginal vax rate02:02[−]
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The premier of Western Australia has suggested US-based “white supremacist groups” may be to blame for low Covid vaccination rates among Aboriginals, claiming the Indigenous community has been targeted with anti-vaxx propaganda.

“There’s been some misinformation provided to Aboriginal people from people who do not have their best interests at heart,” Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan told reporters on Thursday, adding that he had “heard from one Aboriginal person who said white supremacist groups are sending information to Aboriginal people that they shouldn’t get vaccinated.”

Now, the suspicion is these white supremacist groups out of America wouldn’t be unhappy if bad outcomes occurred to the health of Aboriginal people in Australia. That’s the problem we face.

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© Patrick Hamilton / AFP
Elderly man who aimed to visit son dies at closed state border

McGowan warned that “white supremacists” were seeking “to harm Aboriginal people,” and urged the Indigenous community to “listen to the experts” when it came to vaccines.

Some 75% of West Australia’s population of 2.6 million is fully vaccinated, according to local media, though rates among Aboriginals continue to lag in the 30% range.

Earlier this week, the premier doubled down on Western Australia’s strict ongoing border closures with other states, arguing that recent measures taken by the federal government over fears of the Omicron strain of coronavirus vindicate his administration’s decisions.

“It turns out that borders and measures to keep people out who might be infected work,” he said.

The state plans to drop its border restrictions when it hits a full-vaccination target of 90% – slightly more strict than the 80% goal set by the federal government – and McGowan is expected to put a hard date on a reopening plan sometime in the coming days.

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28. ‘Sir, f**k you’: Ridley Scott lashes out at Russian critic01:47[−]
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When a notable film critic complimented Sir Ridley Scott’s ‘Last Duel’ as being “more realistic” than two of his previous historical epics, the grouchy filmmaker responded with a string of expletives.

“Sir, f**k you. F**k you. Thank you very much. F**k you. Go f**k yourself. Go on, sir. Go on,” was Scott’s response to Anton Dolin, when the critic remarked that ‘The Last Duel’ looked “more realistic” than his previous medieval oeuvre, specifically the crusader epic ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ (2005) or ‘Robin Hood’ (2010).

Scott had previously explained that, in adapting the tale of a trial by combat in medieval France, he had been trying not to “let art get in the way of the story” by “smother[ing]” the narrative with good-looking imagery.

The story is told from the perspective of not only the two knights but also the lady over whom they are fighting, whose version, Scott said, was the truth. However, despite its $100-million budget, the #MeToo-tinged film failed to impress at the box office, earning just under $11 million domestically and less than $19 million worldwide.

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Lady Gaga poses for a photo at the premiere of the film 'House of Gucci.' © Reuters / Eduardo Munoz
Gucci family reveal what they don’t like about Ridley Scott’s film

The 84-year-old director blamed the poor showing on “milennians” who were “brought up on these f**king cell phones” and refused to be “taught anything.”

Since launching his film career with ‘The Duellists’ (1977), Scott has delivered a number of blockbusters, including ‘Alien’ (1979), ‘Blade Runner’ (1982), ‘Gladiator’ (2000), and ‘The Martian’ (2015). His other 2021 release, ‘House of Gucci,’ has fared better commercially, making $38 million globally in its first week, against its $75-million budget.

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29. Tropical paradise threatened by blizzard01:16[−]
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The US National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning for Hawaii, normally a reliably balmy destination for honeymooners and other tourists, saying the state could get upward of 12 inches (30cm) of snow this weekend.

The warning will remain in effect through 6am local time on Sunday, the National Weather Service (NWS) said on Friday. In addition to a foot of snow, mountains on Hawaii’s Big Island may have wind gusts of over 100 miles per hour, according to the advisory.

“Travel could be very difficult to impossible,” the NWS said. “Blowing snow will significantly reduce visibility at times, with periods of zero visibility.”

The forecaster added that travel should be restricted to emergencies. Those who must drive should carry a survival kit and, if stranded, stay in their vehicle.

Honolulu’s daily low temperatures average around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celcius) in December. But with two mountain peaks rising above 13,000 feet (3,962 meters), it’s not uncommon for the Big Island to experience snow in winter at its highest elevations.

In fact, there’s already been some snow this year on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. The summit of Mauna Loa was closed overnight earlier this week, according to the National Park Service. The state’s record-low temperature of 12 degrees Fahrenheit (-11 degrees Celsius) was recorded on the summit of Mauna Kea in 1979.

Due to high winds and winter weather conditions, the summit of Mauna Loa is temporarily closed to overnight use. Based on the weather forecast, the park will consider reopening the summit on Wednesday.

USGS webcam photo of Moku??weoweo, the summit crater of Mauna Loa. pic.twitter.com/0xgToqhqf6

— Hawaii Volcanoes NPS (@Volcanoes_NPS) November 30, 2021

Friday’s blizzard warning was the first such advisory for Hawaii since March 2018, according to data compiled by Iowa State University.

At lower elevations, Hawaii is expected to be hit with heavy rains this weekend. The NWS warned of possible flooding.

Hawaii’s blizzard would mark just the latest unusual weather event as the US winter approaches. While Hawaii and Alaska are being hit hard, snowfall has been below normal across much of the lower 48 states. Denver hasn’t had any measurable snow since last April and last month broke its all-time record for the latest-arriving snowfall. The ‘Mile High City’ hit a record temperature of 73 degrees Fahrenheit (23 degrees Celsius) on Thursday.

Also this week, new December records for high temperatures were set in four US states. Temperatures were forecast to be around 30 to 40 degrees above average levels across the central US, the NWS said.

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30. Biden to propose new US-Russia relationship to Putin00:46[−]
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US President Joe Biden will soon tell his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that Washington wants a more predictable relationship with Moscow, top American diplomat Antony Blinken has revealed in an interview.

Biden is expected to speak with Putin in the “near future,” Blinken told Reuters on Friday, and will tell the Russian leader the US will stand up to any “reckless or aggressive” actions by Russia.

However, the top US diplomat and long-time Biden foreign policy adviser said that the White House is looking for a more stable and predictable relationship with the Kremlin.

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FILE PHOTO. U.S. President Joe Biden and Russia's President Vladimir Putin arrive for the U.S.-Russia summit at Villa La Grange in Geneva, Switzerland June 16, 2021. © Reuters / Saul Loeb
Russia has date for Putin-Biden talks

“There are areas where we have overlapping interests and we should be able to work together if we can have some stability and predictability in the relationship. Russia’s actions and the threat of further aggression against Ukraine moves in exactly the opposite direction,” Blinken said.

Moscow has categorically denied US accusations of “aggression” against Ukraine.

Blinken has just returned from a trip to Europe, where he met with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. One of the topics on their agenda was the upcoming summit between Putin and Biden, which is still being arranged.

The two leaders last met in Geneva, Switzerland in June. They did not hold a joint press conference after the summit.

READ MORE: Lights go out at diplomatic meetings with Blinken & Lavrov (VIDEOS)

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31. Here's how many times Jeffrey Epstein visited the White HouseПт, 03 дек[−]
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Infamous pedophile Jeffrey Epstein visited then-President Bill Clinton’s White House a whopping 17 times during his first term, according to visitor logs obtained by the Daily Mail. On some days, he visited three times.

Epstein mostly visited the West Wing, according to visitor logs acquired through a Freedom of Information Act by the Daily Mail, implying he primarily came to see President Clinton. Their relationship dates back to at least the start of Clinton’s presidency, with logs placing Epstein and his alleged madam Ghislaine Maxwell at the White House just a month after Clinton’s inauguration in February 1993.

While the logs published by the Mail on Friday revealed 17 visits from Epstein to the White House, the reasons for each visit are not specified, forcing the reader to imagine what the deceased financier might have been doing on, say, July 28, 1994 - when he visited the White House once at 2pm and again at 6.30pm. It’s one of three dates where he is recorded as visiting twice.

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Ghislaine Maxwell attends her trial near an image of Jeffrey Epstein on a screen in a courtroom sketch. December 2, 2021. © Reuters / Jane Rosenberg
The Epstein ‘madam’ trial: What to know

However, as the visitor logs reveal, Epstein was also invited to the White House by several of Clinton’s advisers, including then-assistant for economic policy Robert Rubin, who was the first official to sign off on Epstein’s entrance into the presidential residence in February 1993. Rubin would later spend 10 years as chairman of the influential Council for Foreign Relations following a stint as Clinton’s treasury secretary. Via a spokeswoman, Rubin claimed to have no recollection of speaking with or meeting Epstein.

Subsequent visits to the White House took place under the guise of philanthropy, which became one of Epstein’s primary avenues for bending the ears - and other body parts - of powerful men. He donated money to help fix up the White House Historical Association on one occasion, and on another visited to commemorate a sizable education grant. At least one of Epstein’s White House visits coincided with a visit by former Senator George Mitchell, one of the boldface names fingered by Virginia Roberts Giuffre as a man Epstein loaned her out to for sex. Mitchell has denied any such transactions.

In addition to his many meetings with Epstein at the White House, Clinton is known to have flown on the convicted sex offender’s own ‘Lolita Express’ private jet some 26 times during and after his presidency. Despite insisting he had no idea of his friend’s underage proclivities during that time, Clinton’s first term also overlapped with the period in which Maxwell is currently under scrutiny in her criminal trial for child sex trafficking. At least 10 of Clinton’s Lolita Express trips left his Secret Service detail at home, and one post-presidency journey in 2002 included actor Kevin Spacey, who has since been disgraced for his alleged proclivity for underage boys.

Epstein and Clinton were so close, the pedophile’s lawyers claim that he helped the ex-president come up with the Clinton Global Initiative, the lucrative philanthropic venture Clinton and his wife have focused on in the aftermath of his presidency.

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32. Plumber finds 500 envelopes stuffed with money behind megachurch toiletПт, 03 дек[−]
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A plumber doing repairs at celebrity preacher Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston has reportedly found about 500 envelopes containing cash and checks in a wall behind a loose toilet.

The plumber, identified only as ‘Justin’, told Houston radio station KILT-FM on Thursday that he made the shocking discovery while working at the megachurch last month. “There was a loose toilet in the wall, and we removed the tile,” Justin said. “We went to go remove the toilet, and I moved some insulation away, and about 500 envelopes fell out of the wall, and I was like, ‘Oh wow.’”

Read more
© Joel Osteen
Millionaire pastor slammed for closing doors to Houston flood victims

The envelopes were stuffed with cash and checks – possibly donations to Lakewood. Back in 2014, the church filed a police report claiming the disappearance of $600,000 from its safe. A Lakewood spokesman confirmed that an “undisclosed amount” of cash and checks had been found at the church. Houston police were immediately notified.

Justin said he turned the envelopes in to a maintenance supervisor at Lakewood. It’s not clear whether the discovery was related to the reported 2014 theft.

Houston police offered a $25,000 reward when its investigation of the Lakewood case was announced. The plumber reportedly won’t be eligible to collect on the reward because it was offered for a tip leading to a suspect’s arrest. No arrest has been made since the money went missing, and the state’s statute of limitations on burglary and theft is five years.

Lakewood is so large that it moved into a former NBA arena – the ex-home of the Houston Rockets – in 2005. The building was converted into a 16,000-seat church. Lakewood’s multiple services draw more than 52,000 congregants weekly, making it the biggest church in the US. It reportedly reaches an additional 10 million people through its television ministry.

Osteen reportedly has a net worth of more than $50 million, compiled at least partly through his bestselling books and speaking tours. His church, which had a $90 million budget as of its 2017 fiscal year, raised controversy in 2020 by taking out a $4.4 million Covid-19 disaster loan under the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses. The church revealed in October that it will repay the loan.

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33. Apple reveals which diplomats were hacked by PegasusПт, 03 дек[−]
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Almost a dozen US diplomats working in Uganda have reportedly had their iPhones hacked by Pegasus spyware, in the first case of the malware created by Israeli company NSO being used against US government targets.

Apple has alerted eleven US diplomats either working in Uganda or on matters concerning the East African country that their phones had been penetrated by Pegasus, Reuters and the Washington Post reported on Friday, citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter.

Israeli firm’s Pegasus spyware used to attack U.S. diplomats’ phones, first confirmed use against American officials https://t.co/pSbr8zL9O1

— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) December 3, 2021

The hack took place over the “last several months,” said Reuters, adding that the phones targeted had foreign numbers. NSO, the firm behind Pegasus, has maintained its malware cannot work on iPhones with US numbers.

While the State Department and Apple did not officially comment on the report, NSO issued a statement reacting to the allegations.

“Once the inquiry was received, and before any investigation under our compliance policy, we have decided to immediately terminate relevant customers’ access to the system, due to the severity of the allegations,” said NSO spokesperson Oded Hershkovitz.

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© Reuters / Dado Ruvic
Apple sues Israeli company behind Pegasus spyware

While the company has not received “any information nor the phone numbers, nor any indication that NSO’s tools were used in this case,” at this point, they are ready to “cooperate with any relevant government authority and present the full information we will have,” Hershkovitz added.

NSO has close ties with the Israeli defense and intelligence communities, and the Israeli Defense Ministry must approve export licenses for their products. Historically, the company’s clients have included Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Mexico.

Targeting US officials would be a serious breach of the rules, the Israeli embassy in Washington said in a statement on Friday.

“Cyber products like the one mentioned are supervised and licensed to be exported to governments only for purposes related to counter-terrorism and severe crimes,” an embassy spokesperson said. “The licensing provisions are very clear and if these claims are true, it is a severe violation of these provisions.”

The United States National Security Council did not directly comment on the accusations, but issued a statement on Friday saying they have been “acutely concerned that commercial spyware like NSO Group’s software poses a serious counterintelligence and security risk to US personnel.”

This is why the “Biden-Harris Administration has placed several companies involved in the development and proliferation of these tools on the Department of Commerce’s Entity List,” the NSC added.

The US blacklisted NSO in October, citing Pegasus revelations. Apple has since sued to block NSO from accessing their devices, software, or service.

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34. Biden administration refuses to ban killer robotsПт, 03 дек[−]
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US President Joe Biden has refused to sign a binding international agreement tightly regulating the use of “killer robots.” Campaigners fear such devices will launch an unstoppable arms race toward “digital dehumanization.”

The US prefers a “non-binding code of conduct” regarding Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS, aka killer robots), State Department official Joshua Dorosin said at a meeting in Geneva on Thursday.

His insistence on leaving the Pentagon’s hands free to produce autonomous killer robots stands in line with years of US policy, which has long opposed a global moratorium on LAWS, denouncing the use of a “legally-binding instrument” to halt the development of autonomous death bots.

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The Special Purpose Unmanned Rifle, or SPUR, is seen at the annual convention for the Association of the US Army in Washington, DC.
‘Terrifying Terminator s**t’: Robotics firm equips ‘robo dog’ with night-vision SNIPER RIFLE

LAWS have already been deployed during war to track and kill without human involvement. However, other countries have indicated they are willing to renounce autonomous weapons systems. New Zealand declared on Tuesday that it would join an international coalition to ban the systems, arguing that “the prospect of a future where the decision to take a human life is delegated to machines is abhorrent.

New Zealand Minister of Disarmament and Arms Control Phil Twyford applauded his country’s decision to make the move. Meanwhile, Institute for Ethics in AI Director John Tasioulas found the Biden administration's refusal to budge from its embrace of the killer technology “sad but unsurprising.”

The emergence of autonomous weapons systems and the prospect of losing meaningful human control over the use of force are grave threats that demand urgent action,” a report by Human Rights Watch and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic released ahead of the UN meeting declared.

It would be difficult if not impossible to select and engage targets without meaningful human control on a battlefield dominated by autonomous robots, Human Rights Watch Senior Arms Researcher Bonnie Docherty warned, citing instinctive human opposition to “the idea of machines making life-or-death decisions” – particularly the inability to discern between combatants and civilians.

Fears of killer robots have intensified as countries adopt advanced robotics technology, from Boston Dynamics’ four-legged dog bots – beloved by police departments and feared by the citizens whose streets they share – to full-on artificial intelligence.

Facial recognition has also run up against public outcry, with some cities opting to ban it altogether, while companies like Amazon reach out to authorities in an effort to be the first to market the terrifying tech.

The bots have been used on the battlefield, reportedly in terrorist incidents in the Middle East and by the Australian military, among others.

While entities deploying such systems may keep them quiet to avoid spooking the populace, human rights groups like Amnesty International have sought to raise their profile with grisly public awareness campaigns such as a recent contest’ to see if a 'target’ could avoid being detected by a killer AI in 10 seconds.

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35. Hollywood actor blames failure of his show on ‘white supremacists’Пт, 03 дек[−]
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‘Santa Inc.’ star Seth Rogen is blaming “white supremacy” for the overwhelmingly negative public reaction to his new animated television series.

“We really pissed off tens of thousands of white supremacists with our new show,” Rogen said in a Twitter post on Thursday, the same day the new series debuted on the HBO Max streaming service. The actor even pre-blamed the expected reaction to his assessment on bigotry, adding, “Please read the responses to this tweet for confirmation.”

We really pissed off tens of thousands of white supremacists with our new show #SantaInc which is now available on HBOMAX! (Please read the responses to this tweet for confirmation)

— Seth Rogen (@Sethrogen) December 3, 2021

Critics pointed out that Rogen, who also is among the executive producers of ‘Santa Inc.’, might want to consider other possible reasons that the show has been poorly received. A trailer for the raunchy adult cartoon, which was released last week, was ratioed on Twitter and was given a thumbs-down by about 97% of viewers on YouTube.

“Or on the other hand, it’s just really s**t,” journalist Paul Joseph Watson tweeted on Friday. Another observer told Rogen, “There’s no audience, bro. I’m not white and do not intend to protect anyone, but your show is not that good.”

but there's no audience bro. I'm not white and do not intend to protect anyone, but your show is not that good.....

— Thiago Simoneli (@thiagosimoneli) December 3, 2021

‘Santa Inc.’ features Santa Claus, voiced by Rogen, dropping F-bombs and a storyline born out of identity politics. Co-star Sarah Silverman voices a foul-mouthed elf who is angling to become the first female to take over the role of Santa. The current Santa is an elderly white and male chauvinist who urinates in public, and Mrs. Claus is depicted dancing on a candy cane stripper pole.

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'Santa Inc.' (2021) Created by Alexandra Rushfield © HBO Max
Distasteful ‘Santa Inc.’ trailer met with equally distasteful anti-Semitic comments

Commenters on Rotten Tomatoes, where ‘Santa Inc.’ was given an audience rating of just 3%, described the show as “vulgar,” “mean-spirited,” and “utter crap.” One viewer said, “The last thing I need after a hard day of work is to come home and be told that I’m a bad person because as a child, I believed in a benevolent fairy tale about a fat man in a red suit. Hollywood is more about activism than entertainment these days. It’s insufferable.” Another called it “one of the worst things I’ve ever watched. It’s like it was written by people who hate Christmas and those who celebrate it.”

While much of the criticism of ‘Santa Inc.’ focused on the show’s comedic failings and ‘woke’ script, some of the more vicious comments on social media were anti-Semitic. Others stopped short of spewing bigotry but argued that ‘Santa Inc.’ is an anti-Christmas slap in the face to Christians, produced by non-Christians. HBO Max turned off comments for the series trailer on YouTube.

Rogen waded into controversy again just one week after a Twitter spat with YouTube star Casey Neistat, who called Los Angeles a “crime-riddled Third World s**thole” after his cars were burglarized in the city. The actor scolded Neistat, saying he had lived in Los Angeles for 20 years and found it to be “lovely.” But in his effort to defend the city, he admitted that his car had been burglarized 15 times. “Once a guy left a cool knife in my car, so if it keeps happening, you might get a little treat,” Rogen said.

Blogger Jeremy Hambly, who goes by the Twitter handle ‘TheQuartering’, managed to weave the two rants together, reacting to Rogen’s claim of white supremacy with the same language the actor used to defend Los Angeles.

I've seen garbage television shows in my life, heck at least 15 times I've seen garbage television shows but I am not going to complain, I don't really see garbage television shows as an extension of myself though, one time a garbage television show left me a cool knife!

Cope

— TheQuartering (@TheQuartering) December 3, 2021

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36. Parents of Michigan school shooting suspect chargedПт, 03 дек[−]
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Prosecutors have filed involuntary manslaughter charges against the parents of the suspect in a Michigan high school shooting that left four dead. A fugitive warrant was issued for the couple hours after charges were filed.

The charges were announced by Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald on Friday. The parents of the suspect, James and Jennifer Crumbley, have each been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter.

“While the shooter was the one who entered the high school and pulled the trigger, there are other individuals who contributed to the events on November 30 and it’s my intention to hold them accountable as well,” McDonald said during a news conference on Friday, signaling that further legal action might follow.

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Emergency personnel respond scene of shooting at high school in Oxford, Michigan
15-year-old school shooting suspect charged with terrorism

The prosecutor revealed that the suspect, Ethan Crumbley, was caught by a teacher searching online about ammunition a few days before the shooting. School officials contacted his parents, however the couple ignored the inquiry, while Jennifer texted her son “LOL I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught,” according to McDonald.

Later in the day, a fugitive warrant was issued for the couple after they failed to show up for a court arraignment.

“Their attorney had assured us that if a decision was made to charge them, she would produce them for arrest,” Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe said, as quoted by local media. “Our last conversation with the attorney was that she had been trying to reach them by phone and text, and they were not responding.”

The charges against the Crumbley family are a rare move by prosecutors, as the parents of school shooters rarely face legal trouble in the US. Moreover, unlike some other states, Michigan does not have any law that requires gun owners to keep their pieces locked away from children.

McDonald, however, appeared adamant about prosecuting the parents, as she said on Thursday their actions went “far beyond negligence.” The gun, bought by James mere days before the shooting, “seems to have been just freely available to [Ethan],” the prosecutor stated.

The mass-shooting unfolded at Oxford High School, located in a northern suburb of Detroit on Tuesday. Four students were killed in the attack, while seven others were injured. The suspect, who will be tried as an adult, has been already slapped with multiple charges, ranging from first-degree murder to terrorism.

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37. International Space Station swerves to avoid American space junk – RussiaПт, 03 дек[−]
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The International Space Station (ISS) was forced to adjust its orbit on Friday to avoid space debris left over from a US spacecraft, the head of Russia’s space program announced.

The potential hazard was identified as a fragment from an American rocket launched in 1994, Dmitry Rogozin, the general director of Roscosmos, said at an appearance at the 'Space Integration' forum of the Eurasian Economic Union.

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Elon Musk, CEO of Space Exploration Technologies Corp, speaks during a news conference at the National Press Club. © Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images
Elon Musk’s rocket debris flying towards International Space Station

“Five minutes ago, the ISS swerved away from American space junk, remains from the carrier rocket Pegasus,” he reported. He had previously announced that the space station would be executing the maneuver at 10:58am Moscow time. Roscosmos specified that it would be done using engines from Progress MS-18, a cargo spacecraft used to supply the station.

Rogozin said the thrusters fired for 161 seconds and reduced the height of the space station’s orbit by 310 meters. He also noted that the move would not affect plans for the launch of Soyuz MS-20, a Russian spaceflight scheduled for December 8, which will bring two space tourists to the ISS.

Last month, the US condemned a Russian anti-satellite test that officials said forced crew members on the ISS to scramble for safety. The anti-satellite missile, which successfully hit a Russian satellite, created a debris field in low-earth orbit that US Space Command said was likely to be a hazard. American authorities called it a “reckless and dangerous act.”

Later in November, Roscosmos announced it was tracking a fragment from a rocket launched by SpaceX, billionaire Elon Musk’s space transportation company. Russian mission controllers said the piece of debris would swing near the ISS, but that it would not be a danger to those on board.

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38. ‘What was missing, my death?’ Fury in France as judo coach cleared of assaulting female Olympic champПт, 03 дек[−]
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A French judo coach accused of domestic violence against his Olympic champion partner has been acquitted in a case which has caused shock and outrage across the nation.

Alain Schmitt allegedly attacked Tokyo 2020 mixed team gold medalist Margaux Pinot at her flat on the outskirts of Paris last weekend by wrestling her to the floor, verbally abusing her, and punching her and smashing her head on the ground before trying to strangle her.

Pinot, 27, displayed serious facial injuries and a fractured nose in a social media post and asked: "What was missing? My death at the end, perhaps?"

"It’s probably judo that saved me and my thoughts go out to other women who cannot say the same," she added.

Pinot reportedly required the help of neighbors that had come to her aid to escape Schmitt, who was also her partner and was arrested and questioned by officers that evening after Pinot filed a report.

Dans la nuit de samedi ? dimanche, j’ai ?t? victime d’une agression ? mon domicile par mon compagnon et entra?neur.
J’ai ?t? insult?e, rou?e de coups de poings,
ma t?te a ?t? frapp?e au sol ? plusieurs reprises. Et finalement ?trangl?e. pic.twitter.com/Ghbwg8NVQy

— Margaux Pinot (@MargauxPinot2) December 1, 2021

Schmitt, 38, denied the allegations "100%" and insisted the incident was a lover's quarrel.

The case was fast-tracked to a court, where the state prosecutor, which has since launched an appeal, requested a one-year suspended sentence for "very serious violence."

The judge however claimed there was not enough proof of guilt, saying: "A court is never there to tell who is telling the truth and who is lying."

Both parties have held press conferences, with Schmitt, appearing with a bruised eye at his, accusing Pinot of lying.

"Bien s?r qu'elle ment": Alain Schmitt r?fute les accusations de violences ? l'encontre de sa compagne Margaux Pinot pic.twitter.com/67q3JTvv25

— BFMTV (@BFMTV) December 2, 2021

He admitted that the pair had an argument, but said Pinot punched him and pushed him towards a door. As he tried to get away, Schmitt says, the pair bumped into a radiator and the wall as he then fell on her.

"In my life, I’ve never punched anyone," he said. "It’s not possible for me to have punched someone and they ran away and I caught up with them – it’s not possible.

"And all of that after I supposedly pushed her head into the ground? It’s a joke … She’s lying of course.

"She jumped on me and grabbed me by the collar. I moved back, she pushed me against a doorframe. I banged my head. I got up a bit dazed. She punched me and it escalated. We banged into walls, a radiator, a door."

Alain Schmitt also had a bruised eye at a press conference. © AFP

Pinot detailed the alleged attack again alongside her lawyer at her own press conference and said Schmitt was lying and making her out to be a "hysterical woman."

Telling of a relationship allegedly riddled with controlling behavior and verbal abuse, Pinot says Schmitt wanted their relationship to be kept secret and often said her career would amount to little while picking holes in her personality.

The weekend bust-up allegedly started after Schmitt began making patronizing comments, and as she laid on her bed putting her fingers in her ears to avoid hearing his verbal abuse, Schmitt, who she says had broken things in her apartment before, started delivering blows.

Pinot said she thought to herself she would otherwise "die" if she didn't leave the apartment.

She has received support from fellow judo stars Clarisse Agbegnenou and Teddy Riner, who said more should be done to support domestic abuse victims, plus the country's judo federation.

Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu has also publicly backed Pinot, who she says is "is clearly the victim in what has happened."

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39. Two Covid cases confirmed after $17,000-a-seat jet lands from Omicron-hit South AfricaПт, 03 дек[−]
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Passengers travelling on a private flight from South Africa to Moscow have tested positive for coronavirus, Russia’s health watchdog has announced, raising fears the Omicron variant may have entered the country.

On Friday, Rospotrebnadzor’s press service revealed that two passengers had traveled on the overnight flight and subsequently tested positive for Covid-19 after carrying out PCR tests.

“Biological material from passengers is being tested at two research laboratories. Information on the strain of the coronavirus infection is being established,” the service said.

The two passengers were sent into quarantine on arrival and are currently hospitalized, the health watchdog said. Everyone who was on board is to remain in isolation for 14 days.

The private journey was organized by a fitness company that runs sports camps in South Africa to take Russians out of the country due to the cancelation of regular flights, with seats going for around $17,000 a pop for people desperate to get home. A total of 25 Russians were on board, but the company’s chief refused to say how many were paying passengers.

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FILE PHOTO. © AFP / Ulises Ruiz
‘Worst-ever’ Covid variant: The data so far

Border guards greeted the arrivals in protective suits, while some members of staff at the airport appeared to be wearing plain surgical masks rather than N95 respirators when they came onboard the flight, as shown in photos shared online after the plane landed.

Omicron was first detected in southern Africa last month and has since made its way across different corners of the world. Scientists have raised the alarm over the mutant strain, which has 32 mutations of spike protein. Dr. Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, said that “this could be of real concern.”

Meanwhile Anatoly Altshtein, a Russian virologist at the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, which pioneered Russia’s Sputnik V jab, said on Monday that its high number of spike mutations means the virus has an unstable genome, meaning it becomes “less dangerous…an overwhelming number of mutations leads to a weakening of the virus’s ability to cause disease.”

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40. Russian figure skater says it’s ‘easier’ for young stars as she backs increased age limitПт, 03 дек[−]
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Russian figure skater Anastasia Guliakova has backed calls for an increase to the age limit in senior women’s competition, saying young stars find it easier on the ice.

Norway recently renewed its bid for a change to the current rules, which allow girls who are 15 to compete at senior International Skating Union (ISU) level.

Norway’s skating association has resubmitted proposals to the ISU to raise the limit to 17 for men and women in figure skating and to 16 for dance duets and sports couples.

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Kamila Valieva set a figure skating world record at 15 © Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP
Threat to Russian figure skating prodigies as Norway makes push for new limit again

Elsewhere, there has been criticism that young skating stars tend to shine intensely for brief periods before burning out before they are even out of their teens.

There were dismissive responses to the Norwegian proposal from some in Russia, including legendary figure skating coach Tatiana Tarasova.

Tarasova suggested Norway was merely attempting to derail the domination of young Russian stars.

However, one Russian in favor of the step is 19-year-old Guliakova, who made her senior debut in 2018 and won the Warsaw Cup the same year.

She has since finished third at last year’s Rostelecom Cup in Moscow and was due to compete at this month’s Winter Universiade in Switzerland before it was canceled due to the pandemic.

Guliakova is now preparing for the Russian Championships in St. Petersburg later in December, where she will face a host of young rivals.

“I think it would be correct. Even now, girls born in 2007 are skating at the stages of the Russian Cup,” Guliakova told Championat on a possible age limit change.

“I go out for the last warm-up, look at the list of the years of birth and see 2006, 2007, 2002, and 2007 again.

“You don’t feel entirely at ease. These skaters are young, they find it easier.”

Approaching the Beijing Winter Olympics in February, there is an intense battle among Russian skaters for the three spots on the team for the ladies’ singles.

That includes the prodigious 15-year-old Kamila Valieva, who has dominated in her debut season in the senior ranks, winning ISU Grand Prix events in Canada and Sochi and setting a host of world records along the way.

READ MORE: Russian teenage figure-skating phenomenon Valieva scales new heights with victory in Sochi (VIDEO)

On current form, Valieva is hotly tipped for the Russian title as well as Olympic gold in Beijing.

Valieva seems nailed on for a place in the Russian team, while 24-year-old Elizaveta Tuktamysheva considers to produce impressive displays to challenge her younger rivals.

Elsewhere, 15-year-old Maiia Khromykh and 17-year-old pair Alexandra Trusova and Anna Shcherbakova are also seen as being in strong contention.

Speaking on her own aims for the Russian Championships in St. Petersburg, the city where she is based, Guliakova said: “There’s a lot of competition now, so I set myself the goal of going out and achieving my maximum, skating cleanly and getting my points.”

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41. ‘Alternative’ Russiagate report to be publishedПт, 03 дек[−]
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The Department of Justice is seeking to publish an “alternative” report written by aides of special counsel Robert Mueller, which purportedly disagreed with his conclusions about President Donald Trump’s “collusion” with Russia.

Responding to a document request by the New York Times, the DOJ has sought out the report named in a book by Mueller assistant Andrew Weissman and is working to declassify it for publication, US Attorney Damian Williams of the Southern District of New York said in a court filing on Thursday evening.

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Robert Mueller testifies before the House Intelligence Committee about his Russiagate probe, July 24, 2019.
Russiagate RETURNS... to law school: Robert Mueller to teach special course about his probe at prestigious university

The DOJ “has located and begun processing this record and intends to release all non-exempt portions … once processing is complete,” Williams wrote. The department estimates that “primary processing” will be complete “by the end of January 2022,” at which point the document would be sent to other divisions for consultation. There was no estimate on the actual publication date.

Mueller was appointed in May 2017 to investigate Trump, both for the alleged “collusion” with Russia in the 2016 election and purported obstruction of the FBI’s investigation, for firing its director, James Comey. In congressional hearings, Comey admitted he had written memos of his meetings with Trump and leaked them to the press with the objective of having a special counsel appointed.

His final report, however, concluded there was no evidence anyone in Trump’s campaign conspired or colluded with Russia, and could not prove obstruction to press any charges. Mueller’s jumbled testimony before Congress in July 2019 led to widespread speculation that it was actually Weissman that ran the investigation and authored the report.

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FILE PHOTO. © Getty Images / Robert Alexander
How indictment of ‘Steele dossier’ source may unravel entire Trump-Russia narrative

In his 2020 book, ‘Where Law Ends’, Weissman said he had instructed members of his team to “write up an internal report memorializing everything we found, our conclusions, and the limitations on the investigation, and provided it to the other team leaders as well as had it maintained in our files.” It is this report that the Times sought, and the DOJ is now working to declassify.

The team Weissman instructed had been working on the case of Paul Manafort, who managed Trump’s campaign for several months in 2016, but resigned after media revelations of his lobbying work in Ukraine. Manafort was eventually charged and sentenced for tax evasion, money laundering and other charges, none of which were in any way related to the 2016 presidential campaign. He was pardoned by Trump in 2020.

Weissman himself was the subject of controversy during the special counsel probe. The Wall Street Journal reported he attended Hillary Clinton’s election night party, while emails obtained by the conservative watchdog Judicial Watch showed him praising acting Attorney General Sally Yates for defying Trump’s travel ban order in January 2017.

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42. Ukraine's oligarchs know no bordersПт, 03 дек[−]
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While Ukraine’s growing row with Russia has scarcely been out of headlines around the world in recent days, two news stories closer to home shed light on the battles being fought within the country, with the nation’s richest man.

Last month, President Volodymyr Zelensky used a press conference to announce a coup against him was afoot, and that billionaire rival Rinat Akhmetov was playing a leading role in it. Zelensky’s tale was rambling and muddled: it was unclear what exactly he was accusing the oligarch of, and the president’s sources remained obscure. But he sounded threatening as well as bizarre. Akhmetov rejected the president’s “lies'' and the “coup” failed to materialize on the appointed date, a little like the prophecy of a desperate doomsday cult leader.

The second story, which unfolded within days of the first, portrayed Akhmetov as suspected of stealthily angling for candidates to support in a run for the Ukrainian presidency, that is, against Zelensky. Rumors have fastened on a trip Akhmetov made to Lithuania’s capital Vilnius at the same time as half a dozen heavyweights of Ukrainian politics and media, including the former Minister of the Interior Arsen Avakov and two of Kiev’s most influential journalists and television hosts, Dmitry Gordon and Savik Shuster. They all have in common that they are bitter opponents and harsh critics of Zelensky.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. © Reuters / Stephanie Lecocq
‘Ukraine’s richest man’ faces criminal prosecution over Zelensky's claims

The details of the affair are less interesting than a persistent fact that it demonstrates. After not one but two irregular regime changes – the “Orange Revolution” of 2004 and the Maidan of 2014 – that called themselves revolutions and promised a radical reset of Ukrainian politics, one thing has not changed: namely, the outsized influence of a small group of very wealthy men. And yes, they are almost exclusively men. Concentration of what economists drily call “influential ownership” has remained extreme in Ukraine. Before the “Euromaidan,” the country’s 50 richest individuals accounted for 45 percent of its GDP.

It is true that Zelensky and his party “Servant of the People” have recently pushed through parliament a law ostentatiously aiming at “de-oligarchization.” Its essence is simple: to create a register – really a blacklist – of oligarchs and exclude those listed from specific activities, such as financing parties and participating in privatizations. In theory, oligarchs will keep their wealth but won’t be able to misuse it anymore to buy political power.

Yet Zelensky’s self-declared “de-oligarchization” will not only fail but make things worse. In reality, the law will facilitate a politicized pick-and-choose. Part of a larger campaign started in the spring, the oligarch blacklist will serve not the country but Zelensky, allowing him to target oligarchs that he fears while promoting those who cooperate. Even the habitual Kiev boosters at NATO lobby group the Atlantic Council have recognized that the new law is not what it seems.

Likewise, a recent extensive report by the EU’s European Court of Auditors has also come to sober conclusions. Not only the Ukrainian government but Brussels as well have failed to make a dent in what the report calls “grand corruption.” According to the auditors, Brussels “has long been aware of the connections between oligarchs, high-level officials, politicians, the judiciary and state-owned enterprises.” But, while failing to develop a “real strategy” to address the issue, it has been “loose” in what it has demanded from Kiev and “over-positive” in its assessments. “Grand corruption and state capture” remain “endemic in Ukraine; as well as hindering competition and growth, they also harm the democratic process.”

So much for any illusions that a special association with the EU would be enough to finally turn the tables on Ukraine’s oligarchs and their practices. EU membership, if it ever happens, is unlikely to fare any better.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. © Reuters / Ukrainian Presidential Press Service
Ukrainian President warns of imminent coup attempt in Kiev

Oligarchy, once again, is here to stay in Ukraine. That is important for two reasons – one much lamented, the other noticed too little. The obvious one is the danger to Kiev. It is not only authoritarians who threaten democracy, but also the wealthy buying influence. That is a problem the Eastern European nation has in common with the biggest oligarchy of them all, the US. In that sense, Ukraine has truly aligned with the West.

The other, less obvious danger affects other countries. Because what happens in Ukraine does not stay in Ukraine. On the contrary, the operations of its oligarchs have repeatedly affected its partners and sponsors in the West. Let’s take a quick look at three examples:

President Zelensky’s former business partner and supporter, Ihor Kolomoisky, for instance, has just featured in reports about his alleged large-scale money-laundering in the United States. Apart from his links to Zelensky, Kolomoisky is also one of Ukraine’s most powerful and controversial oligarchs. He is currently under American sanctions, while involved in complex legal battles in Ukraine over his former Privatbank (now nationalized) which, Ukrainian critics and the US Department of Justice charge, he used to embezzle billions.

Kolomoisky’s former partner, Gennady Bogolyubov, also involved with Privatbank, has long caused consternation among anti-corruption campaigners in Great Britain. They have questioned his quick acquisition of first a special investor visa and then British citizenship as well as high-end real estate.

The most well-known case of Ukrainian oligarchy blowback is that of the opaque links between the Burisma conglomerate, owned by Mykola Zlochevsky, and Hunter Biden, the son of the current American president Joe Biden. While nothing criminal has been proven, there is no doubt that these connections caused a sordid affair in US politics, especially during the last electoral campaign. While then-President Donald Trump and his fixer, disgraced lawyer Rudy Giuliani, were desperately trying to find dirt on Hunter and his father, a news story that could have damaged the Bidens was deliberately marginalized on social media.

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Members of 'No to capitulation' movement and far right groups stage anti-government protest in Kiev, Ukraine on December 01, 2021. © Talha Yavuz / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Protesters demand Ukrainian president quit on day of ‘planned coup’

If you have strong beliefs about who was right or wrong here, please forget them and take a step back for a moment. What is most important about this affair is not who was to blame (the most), but the simple yet really quite breathtaking fact that a fragment of Ukraine’s oligarch culture invaded the politics of the most powerful state on Earth, quickly and with ease. Those perennially worried about purported Russian attempts to influence American politics, should feel especially alarmed. But somehow they don’t, which is even more alarming still.

Ukraine’s large-scale corruption and oligarchy, while being closely related phenomena, are usually presented as under threat from the country’s new partners and sponsors in the West. Once the EU and the US offer a helping – and perhaps sometimes punishing – hand, this astonishingly naïve expectation goes, Ukrainian reformers will finally prevail over the dark forces of money, lobbying on steroids, and crime.

Yet, in reality, this is an open question of who-whom. Up until now, Ukraine’s oligarchs have proven one thing – their outstanding resilience. As a group and mostly individually, too, they weather regime changes with ease, they adapt and thrive at home and abroad. The West, no stranger to corruption and influence buying, has shown itself not merely weak in combating them but open to their money and influence as well. Ukraine’s oligarchy may not last forever. But rumors of its demise are very premature.

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43. Biden claims he was Israel ‘liaison’ when he was really in law schoolПт, 03 дек[−]
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US President Joe Biden claimed that he met with former Israeli PM Golda Meir during the Six-Day War – a time before she held the office and while he was still in law school.

Speaking at a menorah lighting for Hanukkah on Thursday, Biden claimed he had been a “liaison” between Israel and Egypt at the time. In fact, Biden was still a student at the Syracuse University College of Law during the brief 1967 conflict – and Meir herself would not be elected prime minister for another two years.

I have known every – every [Israeli] prime minister well since Golda Meir, including Golda Meir,” Biden declared, adding that Meir had invited him to “be the liaison between she and the Egyptians about the Suez.”

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FILE PHOTO
US & Israel launch joint cybersecurity force

It appears Biden was actually referencing a meeting with Meir he had before the 1973 Yom Kippur War, six years later.

Biden’s efforts to tout his Israel credentials left out certain details of what actually did transpire between him and Meir on his 1973 trip there as a young senator, however.

Upon arriving from Cairo, Egypt, Biden apparently told Israel to offer “unilateral withdrawals from areas with no strategic importance” in the West Bank and Gaza, according to an Israeli memo from the time.

Biden cited talks in Cairo in which Egyptian officials had accepted “Israel’s military superiority,” the Times of Israel reported.

His advice apparently did not impress Meir and Syria and Egypt attacked Israel less than six weeks later. The memo described the young Biden as being full of respect for Meir, but having “made comments that signaled his lack of diplomatic experience.”

The memo notes that Biden felt it was “impossible to have a real debate in the Senate about the Middle East as senators were fearful of saying things unpopular with Jewish voters.

Biden was also reportedly critical of the Nixon administration for being “dragged by Israel.” The president has seemingly left such hesitation in the dust in recent years, describing himself as a “Zionist” in 2007.

It’s not the first time Biden has embellished or mis-remembered his place at historically significant moments, from claiming he was arrested while trying to visit Nelson Mandela during South African apartheid to exaggerating his role in US civil rights marches during the 1960s.

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44. Berlin keeps nightclubs open, but bans dancingПт, 03 дек[−]
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No more dancing will be allowed in the German capital's nightclubs starting next Wednesday, as the city's authorities tighten the screws over the rise in Covid-19 cases.

The decision was made during a special session of the Senate of Berlin on Friday. Clubs and discos, however, will remain open, though largely due to legal technicalities that are so far preventing the powers that be from shutting such venues down completely. German regional and federal authorities, however, agreed on Thursday that in the near future clubs would have to cease operation once the seven-day infection rate exceeds 350 per 100,000 residents in a given region. Berlin currently stands at roughly 360.

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FILE PHOTO. A coffee bar in Duesseldorf, Germany. ©REUTERS / Wolfgang Rattay
No more free coffee for Berlin’s unvaxxed

Restaurants and pubs have also been allowed to keep their doors open for now, though new guidelines on social distancing have been put in place, calling for less tables, among other measures. Needless to say, all those public spaces are open only to those who have either been vaccinated or recently recovered from Covid, as per the rules introduced in mid-November.

The new regulations taking effect next week will also further limit the number of people taking part in large-scale events, with the ceiling for outdoor venues being set at 5,000 and half that number for indoor gatherings. That applies to professional football matches as well.

For private meetings, in cases where there is at least one unvaccinated person taking part, the limit will stand at one household plus two additional individuals. Commenting on the measures, Berlin’s acting mayor, Michael Müller, said that those “inoculated and recovered have clearly more freedoms.” However, even if all the participants belong to either of these two categories, they are still not allowed to gather in groups exceeding 1,000 people in the open air, and 500 indoors.

On Berlin’s public transport, on top of having to be vaccinated or recovered, a mask is also a must for all passengers, and come next week Berliners will have to be wearing one not only while on board a train but also while waiting on a platform.

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45. US on the brink of default, think tank projectsПт, 03 дек[−]
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The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) said on Friday the US federal government is likely to run out of borrowing room and breach the debt limit after December 21.

“The debt limit ‘X Date’ – when the United States will no longer be able to meet its obligations in full and on time – will most likely occur between December 21, 2021, and January 28, 2022,” the Washington, DC-based think tank warned on its website.

According to Shai Akabas, director of economic policy at BPC, “Those who believe the debt limit can safely be pushed to the back of the December legislative pileup are misinformed.” He added: “Congress would be flirting with financial disaster if it leaves for the holiday recess without addressing the debt limit.”

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RT
With economy imploding, US losing its superpower status to make room for Russia and China, says Max Keiser

The BPC noted that December 15 will be of particular importance. Its updated X Date range factors in the $118 billion transfer to the Highway Trust Fund that the Treasury Department has confirmed will be completed by that date. If the quarterly corporate tax receipts that are due that day come in particularly weak, according to the BPC, that could leave the Treasury Department with a dangerously low cash balance, hastening the X Date and increasing risks to taxpayers, financial markets, and the economy. It further added that with several large federal payments due in the following days, and particularly towards the end of the month, such a scenario would likely result in an X Date before New Year’s Day.

“Failing to extend the nation’s debt limit would be an unprecedented event in modern American history that carries grave risks to American taxpayers,” the think tank said.
“Failure to pay the nation’s bills on time could send immediate ripple effects throughout the global economy, particularly during a time of economic recovery and heightened uncertainty over a new Covid-19 variant.”

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

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46. Anti-vaxxer tries bizarre stunt to avoid Covid jabПт, 03 дек[−]
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An Italian man is facing a fine after a bizarre stunt in which he tried to avoid getting the Covid vaccine but still obtain a health pass by wearing a fake arm, after restrictions were announced for unvaccinated people.

The incident, which happened in the northern Piedmont region, saw the 50-year-old anti-vaxxer don a silicone prosthetic limb while attending his appointment, to avoid actually receiving the vaccine into his body.

However, his bizarre stunt was foiled when he lifted up his sleeve and the health worker realized that the colors of the fake arm and his skin differed. While the man attempted to convince the doctor to overlook it, they refused.

Filippa Bua, who was administering the vaccine, said she “felt offended” by the attempt to deceive her, though she conceded the prosthetic was “well made.”

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Piedmont’s president, Alberto Cirio, commended the medic’s response in a joint statement with the region’s health councilor, Luigi Icardi, saying: “The promptness and skill of the health worker ruined the plans of this person, who will now have to respond to the judiciary.”

The two Italian officials claimed the incident would “border on the ridiculous” if it was not a situation of “enormous gravity,” decrying the man’s “unacceptable” actions in the “face of the sacrifice that the pandemic is making the whole community pay.”

Having been caught, the unnamed man is now reportedly under investigation by authorities and faces a potential fine of hundreds of euros.

The attempt to deceive the health worker comes after Italy tightened its national Covid restrictions, announcing that from December 6 it will require people to be fully vaccinated to attain a “super green pass” in order to access indoor public venues.

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47. The Epstein ‘madam’ trial: What to knowПт, 03 дек[−]
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British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell’s criminal trial is underway in New York. She is accused of child trafficking, as well as grooming and recruiting underage girls for the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein to exploit.

Since her arrest in July 2020, Maxwell has continued to deny any wrongdoing, with her lawyers and family insisting she was Epstein’s puppet and is now paying “a blood price” to satisfy public desire to see somebody held accountable for the crimes. The trial is expected to last six weeks.

Who is Ghislaine Maxwell?

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© Reuters / Jane Rosenberg
Epstein’s ‘Lolita Express’ pilot testifies in Maxwell trial as flight data leaks

Maxwell, 59, is the daughter of late British media mogul Robert Maxwell, who owned a number of news tabloids, including the Daily Mirror. He died in 1991. His body was found floating near the Canary Islands after he fell off his yacht, which was named the Lady Ghislaine.

She moved to New York in the early 1990s and became romantically involved with Epstein, a multi-millionaire investor who counted elite executives and politicians among his friends.

Epstein died in 2019 in a Manhattan jail cell while awaiting trial on sex abuse charges. His death was recorded as suicide.

What is Maxwell on trial for?

Federal prosecutors have said they will prove she was an active accomplice who helped Epstein “recruit, groom and ultimately abuse” victims as young as 14.

Maxwell has plead not guilty to all charges, which include enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts; transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity; conspiracy charges related to both of those; sex trafficking of a minor and sex trafficking conspiracy.

She also faces two charges of perjury, with authorities claiming that Maxwell lied under oath when previously questioned about matters pertaining to Epstein.

While this trial will not address the perjury charges, Maxwell is up against a total of eight counts in federal court.

What has the prosecution/defense claimed?

Read more
A courtroom sketch shows Ghislaine Maxwell at the start of her trial on charges of sex trafficking, in New York City, November 29, 2021.
Ghislaine Maxwell defense invokes Adam & Eve story as her trial opens

The prosecution has told the court that Maxwell and Epstein were “partners in crime” who plied their vulnerable victims with a “playbook” of money and gifts.

They say Maxwell “helped normalize abusive sexual conduct” by gaining the teens’ trust and making them feel safe, while creating a “culture of silence” around the illicit activities. The abuse is alleged to have occurred under the guise of giving “erotic massages.”

Meanwhile, the defense attorneys have called Epstein the “proverbial elephant in the room” during the trial and urged jurors not to make Maxwell a scapegoat for his crimes. They have even referenced the biblical tale of Adam and Eve to signify how women have been “villainized and punished” for the “bad behavior of men.”

Who has testified so far?

Four of the alleged victims are expected to testify, as are their relatives and Epstein’s former employees, along with expert witnesses. The first day of the trial saw Epstein’s long-time pilot Larry Visoski take the stand, describing the pedophile financier’s so-called “Lolita Express” flights.

While Visoski said he never saw “any sexual activity,” he testified that former US president Bill Clinton, British royal Prince Andrew, and Donald Trump, among others, flew on Epstein’s private planes.

The prosecutors have said the abuse occurred at a number of Epstein’s homes, including his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, his posh Manhattan townhouse, a ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a Paris apartment, and a luxury estate in the Virgin Islands.

During his testimony, Visoski said it was “not unusual” for Maxwell to sit with him in the cockpit. He also recalled flying Virginia Roberts (now Virginia Roberts Giuffre) who has accused both Epstein and Prince Andrew of abuse.

The first of the four accusers, identified only by the pseudonym “Jane,” provided graphic testimony about being forced to have sex with Epstein when she was 14, 15, and 16.

She noted that Maxwell and others were involved at times, adding that Maxwell would instruct her in how Epstein liked to be massaged. “Jane” said she traveled with Maxwell and Epstein about 10 times between Florida, Manhattan, and New Mexico.

Epstein’s driver and butler, Juan Alessi, has also testified to Maxwell instructing him to bring both “Jane” and Roberts to Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion.

Who else is expected to testify?

Read more
Jeffrey Epstein’s residence in Palm Beach, Florida, in March 2014. © REUTERS / Joe Skipper
‘Be deaf & dumb’: Epstein’s ex-housekeeper recalls what he saw

Besides “Jane,” three other alleged underage victims are expected to take the stand during the trial. While two will do so under anonymity, going by the pseudonyms “Kate” and “Carolyn,” accuser Annie Farmer has already publicly identified herself and said Epstein abused her at his New Mexico ranch in 1996.

According to the indictment against Maxwell, she is alleged to have encouraged Farmer – known as ‘Minor Victim-2’ – to give Epstein foot rubs and massages.

There are also a number of expert witnesses who could prove key to Maxwell’s defense – namely, that her accusers have “memories that are untrustworthy, uncorroborated, and unreliable.”

The defense team reportedly intends to call Elizabeth Loftus to the stand. Loftus is a psychology professor at the University of California Irvine, who argues that people can be manipulated into having “false memories.” Loftus has testified in several high-profile trials, including those of O.J. Simpson and Harvey Weinstein.

Meanwhile, the prosecution has already fielded its expert witness, psychologist Lisa Rocchio, who told the jury about “delayed disclosure” to show how underage sexual abuse victims who have been 'groomed’ may not immediately recognize their experiences as abuse and sometimes do not come forward until years later.

What’s the deal with the perjury charges?

During a deposition in a civil lawsuit against her brought on by Roberts in April 2016, Maxwell was asked under oath if she knew whether Epstein had a “scheme to recruit underage girls for sexual massages,” to which she replied, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

She also denied knowing about whether there were “sex toys” in the Palm Beach estate. Prosecutors have characterized these statements as “false material declarations” that violate a federal statute making it a crime to lie under oath, but Maxwell’s lawyers have countered that the questions were ambiguous and that she gave truthful responses.

The trial judge presiding over Maxwell’s current case said prosecutors would have to address these charges in a separate trial to avoid complicating this one.

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48. Soviet plan to beat back Nazis declassifiedПт, 03 дек[−]
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A trove of newly declassified documents has revealed how the Red Army war machine turned the tide on Adolf Hitler’s fascist forces in a counteroffensive, even as the Nazi German Army closed in on Moscow in 1941.

On Friday, the Russian Ministry of Defense released a new archive on its website, entitled “the great turn at Moscow” and dedicated “to the immortal deeds of the defenders of the capital.” The release marks the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Moscow, when, in the winter of 1941, the Soviet Army repelled the Third Reich’s attack, putting an end to the Axis’ hopes for a swift victory over the USSR.

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© RIA
Imperial Japan tested biological weapons & new poisons on Soviet prisoners, treasure trove of WWII declassified documents reveals

Alongside the documents, the ministry wrote that “the Soviet forces’ victory in the Battle of Moscow shattered the myth that fascist Germany was invincible, strengthened the anti-Hitler coalition, and forced Turkey and Japan to refrain from entering the war. At Moscow, Hitler’s army lost more than 500,000 soldiers and officers to death or injury; around 1,300 tanks; 2,500 pieces of artillery; and over 15,000 vehicles and other instruments of war.”

Nazi forces had been approaching Moscow for months, but by early December, the Soviet defenses had stalled them dozens of kilometers from the city. It was the coldest European winter of the century. Using forces brought from Siberia and the Russian Far East, Soviet General Georgy Zhukov launched a counteroffensive beginning December 5, as a result of which the Germans were forced to retreat hundreds of kilometers further from the capital.

Although the Moscow front was not fully secured until 1943, Hitler’s forces never came as close to capturing the capital, and the defense of the city became a symbol of Soviet resistance to the Axis invasion.

The archive includes the operational map of the Red Army’s General Staff, published for the first time, with a plan for the counteroffensive. It also contains journals from the armies stationed on the front, and documents outlining engineering projects for defenses to forestall a German advance from the north.

The ministry noted that the documents’ publication was intended to “preserve and defend historical truth, and to counteract the falsification of history.”

In August, Russia’s FSB security agency published a separate tranche of historical communiques revealing the ordeals of Soviet citizens who had been captured and experimented on by the Japanese Army during World War II. The documents showed that prisoners who had refused to work for Imperial Japan were used as test subjects for poisons and bacteriological agents, including anthrax and bubonic plague.

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49. Chinese govt summons Evergrande boss as firm’s debts mountПт, 03 дек[−]
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Chinese authorities have summoned the founder of Evergrande, once China's top-selling developer which is now on brink of default, after the firm announced earlier on Friday it may be unable to repay its debt.

The real estate developer received a demand under a $260 million guarantee obligation, which it may be unable to repay due to insufficient funds, the company announced in a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange.

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Unfinished residential building at Evergrande Cultural Tourism City, a China Evergrande Group project whose construction has halted, in Suzhou's Taicang, China, October 22, 2021.
China Evergrande step closer to default

It added that repayment dates under other agreements may also have to be postponed.

Evergrande has already missed one deadline to pay up on liabilities totalling $82.5 million due on November 6, as it struggles to make ends meet under more than $300 billion in debt.

Following Friday’s statement, the government of southern China’s Guangdong province, where Evergrande is headquartered, summoned Evergrande chairman Hui Ka Yan. The details of their meeting have not yet been revealed.

Prior to that, Evergrande requested that authorities send a working group to the company to help with risk management and to supervise its operations. The developer also pledged it would continue working with creditors to decide how to pay off its debts.

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

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50. NATO member says American troops won’t be sent to Russian borderПт, 03 дек[−]
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The new government of Norway, a NATO member state, has said that it is planning to phase out the US-led military bloc’s forces stationed near the border with neighboring Russia, instead replacing them with its own soldiers.

“It’s very important for Norway to have a military presence in nearby regions,” Anniken Huitfeldt, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, told local outlet VG on Friday. “But in our opinion, directly next to the Russian border it’s better for us to handle it ourselves – with the help of Norwegian planes and ships.”

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The Los Angeles-class submarine USS Annapolis rests on the Arctic Ocean. © Tiffini M. Jones / US Navy via Getty Images
America’s battle lines against Russia are being drawn in the icy Arctic. Stuck in the middle, Norway is now NATO’s nuclear shield

Huitfeldt said that she planned to discuss this question with fellow NATO countries the United Kingdom and United States, and emphasized that she was acting in the interests of her country. She also noted that there were no more American forces near the border with Russia than at previous times in the “post-war period.”

In May, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused Oslo of militarizing the Arctic after an American atomic submarine stopped at a civilian port in Troms, in northern Norway. Top diplomatic spokeswoman Maria Zakharova blasted the country for purportedly seeking to exacerbate tensions in the region in order to please the US. She alleged that the port had been “specially modernized for such visits on Washington’s dime” and that it was “another outpost of NATO.”

Norway’s new cabinet, led by Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere of the center-left Labor party, took office in October. Labor is the largest party in Norway, having won the election with 26.3% of the vote, and Stoere presented a minority government including the leader of the eurosceptic Center Party, Trygve Slagsvold Vedum, who became finance minister.

Relations between Moscow and the West have hit historic lows in recent months, with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov saying “I wouldn’t call the relations between Russia and NATO catastrophic because to be catastrophic you have to have at least something.”

However, he said, the country was working bilaterally with some member states outside of the bloc’s framework. “We have relations with Norway, including in the security sphere. And, in addition to regular security consultations, we would like to start them at a high level between the defense ministries,” he explained.

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51. Real number of Covid-19 cases in Germany estimatedПт, 03 дек[−]
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The head of Germany’s disease control and prevention authority, the Robert Koch Institute, has warned the real number of Germans infected with Covid could in fact be even higher than the current record-breaking figures.

Speaking at a press conference along with Germany’s acting health minister on Friday, Lothar Wieler said that the plateau in the number of Covid cases seen in recent days could be down to mere underreporting in several regions. He added that there could be no talk of improvement in the situation at this point, cautioning that the current estimation, which puts the number of Germans infected with Covid at over 1% of the country’s population, is likely two to three times lower than the real number. That would mean that as many as 2,770,000 could be infected by the virus at this point.

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FILE PHOTO: Syringes for a weekend Covid vaccination shift in Hohenschoenhausen, Berlin, Germany on November 27, 2021. © REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke
Germany’s next head wants MPs to decide on mandatory vaccination by year’s end

The Robert Koch Institute’s president named the “intensified measures” aimed at reducing personal contacts between people as one possible reason for the slight decrease in the number of Covid cases recorded over the past three days. He pointed out, however, that the relative lull could just as likely be the result of an overload at contact tracing and testing facilities at a regional level. Among other things, Wieler spoke of “exhausted laboratory capacities.

Wieler went on to warn that the “Omicron strain could lead to even more cases than Delta - and that at a time when the healthcare system is already overloaded,” adding that Germany “has no time to lose” and “will not overcome the pandemic until every single resident has immunity.

The country’s acting health minister, Jens Spahn, in turn, emphasized that Covid infection rates have not yet reached their peak.

The stark warnings come hard on the heels of reports that incoming Chancellor Olaf Scholz is in favor of following in Austria’s footsteps and making vaccination against Covid compulsory come February 2022.

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52. ‘I’m better than you’: Kyrgios reveals frustration at playing with Serena WilliamsПт, 03 дек[−]
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Tennis motor mouth Nick Kyrgios has spoken on playing with Serena Williams, branding it an "uncomfortable experience" and saying he is better than the women's GOAT candidate.

The Aussie made his comments on his No Boundaries podcast, where he recalled playing doubles alongside the 23-time women's Grand Slam winner in 2014 at the International Premier Tennis League.

"I’ve hit with Serena before," Kyrgios began.

"I played mixed doubles with her at IPTL and it was the most uncomfortable experience for me because she was trying to do everything.

"And I was like ‘I’m better than you’," he said, to wild laughter from his three stooges.

"There are some sports where the levels [between men and women] are quite similar.

"But deep down I was like ‘Serena you have to get me involved here, we’re getting snipped, give me the ball!’" Kyrgios continued.

The outspoken bad boy previously had kinder things to say about Serena's sister Venus, however, who he teamed up with at Wimbledon in the summer.

Dubbing her a "legend", he described playing alongside the 41-year-old as "a dream come true for me" which unfortunately came to an end after just one match when Kyrgios picked up an injury in the men's singles of the SW19 tournament.

Popping up in the comments of his Instagram post that shared some of the podcast's content, some onlookers accused Kyrgios of being disrespectful, "considering how both Venus and Serena have said nice things about you in the past".

"Could have been a bit classier," he was told.

"It’s a bit of banter…," Kyrgios replied. "I have nothing but respect for the Williams sisters. They are some of the best players to ever wield a racket."

Also on the same episode, Kyrgios spoke of how he is happy with his lot despite being widely viewed as an underachiever.

"Every single day of my life I deal with people telling me how to be or how to train or how to hit a forehand," he began.

"I feel that as a 26-year-old I am in a pretty good spot, I help a lot of people, I have a lot of options, I’m healthy, I’ve got great friends and those are my goals right now.

"When I was young I wasn’t thinking about winning Grand Slams, I just wanted to have fun."

"I love the game but I'm not passionate or driven as they are," Kyrgios admitted, in comparison to some of his contemporaries.

"They're like once in a generation, once in a decade athletes."

"There's no chance that [Roger] Federer or [Rafael] Nadal or Novak or [Andy] Murray doesn't love it. If you watch Murray's documentary, he's having phone calls in the middle of the night at 3am to his team saying, 'I'm scared to not play, like I don't know what I'm going to do without the sport.' That's not me.

"You have to pick what you want. Do you want fun or more titles? You can have a little balance but I have picked my poison. I am happy," he insisted.

"I just say it’s my life," Kyrgios explained, when others push him on why he hasn't achieved more.

"It’s so easy to tell people what to do… you can’t tell people how to live their life."

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53. Vatican lashes out at EU in ‘Christmas’ rowПт, 03 дек[−]
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A now-revoked EU document proposing to substitute the word ‘Christmas’ with ‘holiday’, and to avoid mentioning certain Christian names for the sake of inclusivity, has been slammed by the Vatican as out of touch with reality.

The controversial paper containing internal guidelines for the European Commission has faced a huge backlash, including from the Vatican. The proposal does “not [know] how to respect even the rightful differences,” the secretary of state from the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church said in an interview. The tendency “to homologate everything” poses “a risk of destroying the person,” he warned.

READ MORE: Royal College of Midwives apologizes for woke guidance to ‘postnatal people’

Cardinal Pietro Parolin acknowledged that it’s right to try to “erase all discrimination,” but he criticized the suggested way of achieving that goal. The document promoted “the cancelation of our roots” and demonstrated “forgetfulness of what is a reality,” he said.

We must rediscover the capacity to integrate all these realities without ignoring them, without fighting them, without eliminating and marginalizing them.

The draft, aimed at illustrating “the diversity of European culture,” according to EU Equality Commissioner Helena Dalli, contained a number of inclusivity provisions. Namely, it recommended that the expression “Christmas period” be replaced with “festive period,” and advised against using names such as Mary and John as examples in publications.

This week, the draft was retracted as being “not a mature document,” with Dalli saying it will be reworked and promising her commission will revisit the issue with an updated version.

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54. Homeless man gets jail time for breaching ‘stay at home’ orderПт, 03 дек[−]
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In a “cruel twist of irony,” a man was sentenced to seven weeks in jail by a Singapore court on Thursday for breaching a Covid-19 “stay at home” order despite being homeless.

Singapore national Rozman Abdul Rahman, 40, returned from Indonesia on March 20, 2020. After an immigration officer insisted he sign a stay-home notice (SHN), he listed his estranged stepsister’s house as a place for him to quarantine – but he was actually homeless.

During the period when he was supposed to self-isolate, he lived on the streets, sleeping in a car park, and later moved to a homeless shelter. He also kept working as a security guard at a grocery logistics company. His manager claimed he was not aware that Rahman was on an SHN.

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Evander Kane has been banned for 21 games © Neville E Guard / USA Today Sports via Reuters
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After being unable to locate him, law enforcement officers eventually found Rahman via his employer and arrested him. He was sentenced to seven weeks imprisonment on Thursday after pleading guilty earlier this year.

In the midst of a worldwide crisis, Rozman was left with a personal crisis of his own – homelessness. He had no place of residence. He was left to fend on the streets,” his lawyer, Azri Imran Tan, said, adding that his punishment was a “cruel twist of irony.”

He argued there “should be a distinction between those who frivolously go out and breach SHN versus those with no choice.”

While his defense asked for a short detention and fine, prosecutors accused Rahman of deliberately exposing others to the risk of Covid-19, something which could have seen him jailed for up to six months.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Lai Yan called the 13-day breach of rules “almost unprecedented.” Rahman is expected to appeal the decision.

Singapore has had one of the tightest Covid-19 measures in the world with hundreds of people fined and imprisoned for breaching self-isolation rules.

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55. US produces first upgraded nuclear gravity bombПт, 03 дек[−]
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The US has completed the “first production unit” of its modernized B61-12 nuclear gravity bomb, set to replace the current aging models of the iconic B61, which has remained in service for more than 50 years.

The completion of the upgraded variable-yield nuclear bomb was announced by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) on Thursday. The “first production unit” (FPU) was put together on November 23, paving the way for mass-production of the modernized bomb, expected to begin in May 2022.

“With this program, we’re delivering a system to the Department of Defense that improves accuracy and reduces yield with no change in military characteristics, while also improving safety, security and reliability,” Department of Energy Under Secretary and NNSA Administrator Jill Hruby stated.

Last week, #NNSA successfully completed the B61-12 First Production Unit @PantexPlant. This is a huge milestone for stockpile modernization and demonstrates our Nation’s commitment to #nuclear deterrence. pic.twitter.com/90ojHPw6cH

— NNSA Administrator (@NNSAHruby) December 2, 2021

The modernization effectively turns the free-fall bomb into an adjustable munition, as the new B61-12s come with a guided tail kit supplied by Boeing. The kit gives the bomb some capability to maneuver mid-air instead of simply falling to the ground.

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The arrival of the first B61-12 is over a year late, as the modernization program, with an estimated cost of some $12 billion, ran into issues with capacitor components in late 2019. Back then, the NNSA discovered that the capacitors, used in both the B61-12 and the Navy’s W88 Alteration 370 warhead for submarine-launched missiles, could not meet the military’s specifications.

The new version of the iconic bomb is set to replace the B61-3, 4, and 7 models currently in the US nuclear stockpile. The only variant to remain in use alongside the B61-12 is the B61-11, a relatively modern bunker-buster modification of the bomb.

The US is expected to manufacture some 480 B61-12 bombs, according to estimates by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), a Washington-based non-profit. The bomb is believed to have a variable yield ranging from 0.3 to 50 kilotons, making it a flexible weapon that can be used both for tactical and strategic purposes.

In comparison, the first nuclear bomb ever used by the US, which was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, had a yield of some 15 kilotons.

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56. Ukraine announces when it expects Russian invasionПт, 03 дек[−]
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Russia may stage a large-scale military intervention in the Ukrainian region of Donbass at the end of January, and it could involve around 94,300 troops, Ukrainian Defense Minister Aleksey Reznikov claimed on Friday.

Speaking to parliament in Kiev, Reznikov said that his estimation of the time Russian forces could “reach escalation readiness” is the first month of next year and dubbed a military intervention a “likely scenario.”

The defense minister’s comments come amid increasing fears over an alleged military buildup on the Russia-Ukraine border. Suggestions of a possible armed conflict have been pushed by a number of Western media outlets, including America’s CBS News, which reported that a military incursion is increasing in likelihood “as the weather gets colder.”

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FILE PHOTO. © Scott Peterson / Getty Images
Russia says military action in Ukraine highly likely

“There are now 41 battalion-tactical groups around Ukraine and in the temporarily occupied Crimea,” Reznikov told parliament. “The total number of troops that can be used for escalation on the territory of Russia, as well as in the temporarily occupied territories, is currently estimated at 94,300.”

The Kremlin has consistently denied that it is planning to invade Ukraine. However, on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov described “the probability of hostilities” as “still high.”

“This is a matter of particular concern and worry for us,” he said.

On the same day, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland warned that Moscow would see unprecedented sanctions if it used its military against Ukraine.

“We are resolute in sending the message to Moscow, that if it moves again to internally destabilize Ukraine or use these forces to enter the country, that it will be met with high-impact economic measures, the likes of which we have not used before, from all of [NATO],” she said.

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57. Russian MPs schooled on fighting anti-vaxxer claimsПт, 03 дек[−]
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Parliamentarians from Russia's governing party have been told how to fight the most common anti-vaccine rhetoric, ranging from claims the pandemic is being used to control people to suggestions Covid-19 jabs are experimental.

Responding to a document seen by Moscow business daily RBK on Friday, United Russia’s press service said the party often “prepares reference materials for deputies on key initiatives, bills, and topical issues,” and that measures to combat coronavirus are no exception.

The guide on vaccination issues outlines how politicians can bust popular vaccine-skeptic misconceptions that crop up in conversations with voters, and narratives circulating in the media. The authenticity of the document has since been confirmed by two of the party’s members.

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FILE PHOTO. Moscow, Russia. © RIA
Roll up, roll up: Russia set to organize Covid-19 lottery with cash prizes of around $1,300 to encourage vaccination against virus

Lawmakers were told that one myth, which claims that the implementation of QR codes marks “the beginning of a digital concentration camp,” can be dismissed by the fact that Russians’ tax identification numbers were denounced by skeptics when introduced in the early 2000s as a “Satanic codification of people,” but they are now widely accepted.

Likewise, the claim that those who sign up for vaccines are injected with a microchip and then monitored via QR codes was recommended to be rebuffed by questioning why officials would want to control them or be interested in their mundane daily affairs.

The belief that “coronavirus jabs have not been properly studied and their effectiveness has not been proven” can be challenged with the rebuttal that the vaccines were developed from scratch and had been in the pipeline before the pandemic, the document declares.

Despite Russia registering the world’s first Covid jab well over a year ago, and making doses freely accessible, the world’s largest country has seen its national immunization program hindered by high levels of skepticism and reluctance. On Friday, Sergey Netesov, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and a professor at Novosibirsk State University, said that fewer than 40% of Russians are fully vaccinated, while around 45% have had their first jab – one of the lowest totals globally.

The Russian government approved the launch of a cash lottery scheme earlier this year to boost the incentive for its citizens to get jabbed. Russians aged 18 or over who had been inoculated against Covid were in with a chance to receive 100,000 rubles (around $1,360).

However, the EU has previously accused Moscow of being behind a campaign to discredit Western vaccines and stir up skepticism about the pandemic. In particular, one report from Brussels’ diplomatic service in April said that the Russian developers of the Sputnik V jab had undermined faith in the bloc’s central regulator, the EMEA, after complaining about long-standing delays in its approval. "By sowing distrust in the European Medicines Agency, pro-Kremlin disinformation actors aim to undermine and fragment the common European approach of securing vaccine supplies," it said.

The makers of the formula hit back, saying that if officials believe “that any specific information is not accurate, we would appreciate an official letter outlining what specific statements seem to be factually incorrect.” The EMEA has still not approved Sputnik V for use, despite its adoption in 71 countries and peer-reviewed data showing it to be among the most effective jabs available.

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58. Robot shocks with how human-like it is (VIDEO)Пт, 03 дек[−]
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A new humanoid robot has made a huge step towards crossing the ‘uncanny valley,’ with the machine filmed displaying a whole range of almost realistic human facial expressions.

‘Ameca’ has been described by its British developers at Engineered Arts as “the perfect humanoid robot platform for human-robot interaction.”

The footage, which captured the terrifyingly real robot in action, proves that the company’s bold statement isn’t much of a stretch.

The grey-colored machine, which vaguely resembles the characters from the 2004 movie ‘I, Robot,’ offers a whole range of human emotions, coupled with realistic eye movement.

In what appears to be a pre-programmed demonstration, Ameca first wakes up, then checks out her arms with curiosity, before making a surprised face after ‘noticing’ that ‘she’ is being filmed.

READ MORE: Will AI turn humans into 'waste product'?

The emotional robot is already available for purchase and rental. Right now, it’s only a stationary model, but the developers plan to further upgrade it, promising that “one day Ameca will walk.”

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59. Fans wonder why F1 king Hamilton doesn’t pull out of Saudi GPПт, 03 дек[−]
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Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton says he feels “uncomfortable” competing in Saudi Arabia this weekend because of the kingdom’s human rights record, but some fans have wondered why the Brit doesn’t just boycott the race.

With this season’s title set to go to the wire between reigning king Hamilton and challenger Max Verstappen, the F1 caravan rolls on to Saudi Arabia for an inaugural race on a new street track in Jeddah.

The Grand Prix is the penultimate one of the season and Red Bull racer Verstappen leads the way in the overall standings by just eight points from Mercedes star Hamilton.

But away from the racing, attention has been drawn to F1’s decision to stage a first-ever Grand Prix in Saudi Arabia, where there are stringent laws against homosexuality.

Seven-time world champion Hamilton has previously used his platform to speak out on causes such as Black Lives Matter, and wore a rainbow-themed helmet for the last Grand Prix in Qatar.

“Do I feel comfortable here? I wouldn’t say that I do,” the 36-year-old said when asked about racing in Saudi Arabia this weekend.

“But it’s not my choice to be here. The sport has taken the choice to be here.”

Hamilton described Saudi laws on homosexuality as “pretty terrifying” and said improvements were needed in areas such as women’s rights.

“There’s changes that need to be made. For example women’s rights of being able to drive [legally] in 2018, it’s how they are policed. Some of the women are still in prison from driving many, many years ago,” said the Mercedes hero.

“So there’s a lot of changes that need to happen and I think our sport needs to do more.”

Hamilton’s gestures in recent days have included posting a social media message of himself wearing his rainbow helmet, along with the message “equality for all.”

Equality for all. pic.twitter.com/LklC5SZ4lB

— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) December 1, 2021

Many of his legion of fans have praised him for the move – but others have pondered why he doesn’t just pull out of the Saudi Grand Prix altogether if he feels so strongly.

“Don’t race then if you feel that strongly about it,” read one comment on Twitter.

“I’m sure he’ll get over it when he checks his bank balance,” added another sarcastically.

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Lewis Hamilton was disqualified from qualifying at F1's Brazilian Grand Prix © Amanda Perobelli / Reuters
‘F*ck them all’: F1 boss fumes as champ Hamilton is bizarrely disqualified from Grand Prix qualifying

One fan added: “Is he being forced to drive against his will? How about just sit this one out?”

“Yeah if he’s so uncomfortable he should just stay home. It’s just a race,” agreed another fan.

“I’m sure wearing a rainbow helmet will mitigate betraying your principles,” read another scathing comment.

But elsewhere Hamilton earned applause, with fans claiming that his appearance in Saudi Arabia would at least draw attention to rights issues.

“He can refuse to drive and let the reserve driver race his car, but of course, he would lose the championship doing that, which he won’t risk,” came one reply.

Meanwhile, Hamilton’s stance has been supported by the likes of Haas driver Mick Schumacher – son of racing legend Michael.

He shared an image of himself in a rainbow-themed shirt with his social media following.

??????? pic.twitter.com/b8tqv7SvCZ

— Mick Schumacher (@SchumacherMick) December 2, 2021

Fellow German driver Sebastian Vettel organized a karting event for women in Jeddah on Thursday.

The four-time world champion, who currently drives for Aston Martin, said: “It’s true obviously if we look through a western-European lens there are lot of things that should be improved and have to be addressed.

"But it’s also true some things are changing and for those people it makes a big difference.

“It’s clear some things aren’t going the way they should but that’s our point of view. It’s also probably true that things take time and it's progress.”

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60. Heart inflammation risk in Pfizer and Moderna jabs evaluatedПт, 03 дек[−]
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The European Medicines Agency's safety committee has confirmed a “very rare” risk of myocarditis and pericarditis in individuals who've had the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna Covid vaccines, having conducted large Europe-wide studies.

The data, released following the latest meeting of the European regulator’s Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC), backed up previous concerns about the potential risk posed by the Covid vaccines.

Both myocarditis and pericarditis are deemed “very rare” in recipients of the Comirnaty jab, produced by Pfizer-BioNTech, and Spikevax, previously known as the Moderna vaccine.

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© AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara
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The two conditions were previously added to the side-effects list of the vaccines.

While the research showed there was an increased risk of myocarditis in young males, overall it was assessed that cases are likely to only affect up to one in 10,000 vaccinated individuals.

The two conditions that can develop are both inflammatory conditions of the heart and can result in a range of symptoms, such as breathlessness, irregular heartbeat and chest pain.

Despite this confirmation of the low risk posed by taking the vaccine, the EMA remained confident that the benefits of all approved Covid vaccines outweigh the risks, including potential jab-related illnesses or complications. Regardless of the health concerns, officials were clear that the evidence shows taking the jab can reduce the risk of hospitalization or death from the virus.

The agency stated in a press release that it will continue to monitor the situation and will update citizens if there is a change in the risk assessment.

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61. Russia’s Medvedev weighs in on WTA’s China decisionПт, 03 дек[−]
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Reigning US Open champion Daniil Medvedev has spoken in support of the WTA after it suspended all competitions in China amid the row surrounding former women's doubles world number one Peng Shuai.

The move by the Women's Tennis Association was made in solidarity with Chinese star Peng, who made sexual assault accusations against former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli before disappearing from the public eye last month.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has since spoken with the star twice and public clips of Peng have been shared by Chinese state media.

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Peng Shuai has been at the center of an international row. © Reuters
WTA suspends tournaments in China over Peng Shuai

However, the WTA remains dissatisfied and has demanded assurances that the assault claims seemingly made by Peng are fully investigated.

To that end, WTA boss Steve Simon announced this week that tournaments in China would be suspended.

Asked for his thoughts by Eurosport while playing at the Davis Cup for Russia, Medvedev commended the WTA's action as "strong".

"If a tournament was held in China next week, probably no one would be comfortable," he said.

"However, the next ATP tournament [in China] is in the autumn, let’s see how things go," said the world number two.

"There are problems in a lot of countries, and yet we play tennis tournaments in most of them," Medvedev highlighted.

"What we all want is to see that Peng is fine, which we do not know 100%. The WTA made a strong decision, but I don’t want to blame anyone who doesn’t make the same decision.

"Maybe Andrea [Gaudenzi, the president of ATP] has another vision, I do not want to say who did well or bad," he finished.

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There are continuing concerns over the well-being of Peng Shuai. © AFP
WTA versus China: Who will back down over Peng Shuai?

Medvedev's remarks come after world number 1 rival Novak Djokovic also spoke on the matter.

"I support fully the WTA's stance because we don't have enough information about Peng Shuai and her well-being," said the Serb, also from the Davis Cup.

"I think the position of the WTA is very bold and very courageous. Her health was of the utmost importance to the world of tennis."

Medvedev helped Russia ease past Sweden and into the semi-finals of the tournament in Madrid, where they will meet Germany on Saturday.

The other semi-final will be contested by Serbia and Croatia.

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62. Brits look to kitchen waste to power jetsПт, 03 дек[−]
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British Airways has struck a deal with a UK refinery for aircraft fuel made from used cooking oils to help power the carrier’s flights by early 2022.

According to BA’s announcement late on Thursday, it had reached an agreement with Phillips 66 Humber refinery in north Lincolnshire to become the first airline in the world to use sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) produced in the UK.

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Under the deal, BA will purchase enough SAF, made from recycled cooking oils and other household waste, to power 700 transatlantic flights on a Boeing 787 with nearly zero carbon dioxide emissions.

BA plans to power 10% of all its flights with SAF by 2030, and, in order to achieve this, recently inked deals with US SAF suppliers and invested in a Velocys flagship waste-to-fuel plant, which is to be constructed in the northeast of England.

Commenting on the new deal, BA’s chief executive Sean Doyle said it was “another important step on our journey to net zero carbon emissions,” noting that “the UK has the resources and capabilities to be a global leader in the development of SAF.” Humber’s general manager Darren Cunningham said the Lincolnshire refinery would be the first in the UK to produce SAFs on a commercial scale.

The Humber Refinery was the first in the UK to co-process waste oils to produce renewable fuels and now we will be the first to produce SAF at scale. We’re currently refining almost half a million litres of sustainable waste feedstocks a day... Markets for lower-carbon products are growing, and this agreement [with BA] demonstrates our ability to supply them,” Cunningham stated.

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Major Asian airline cancels flights after quarantine snub

SAF is not fully emissions-free fuel, but recycling lowers “lifecycle CO2 emissions” by some 80% compared with traditional jet fuel, according to the International Air Transport Association. Airlines see SAF as the only current solution to cut jet emissions, at least until electric passenger planes come into play, which is expected no sooner than around 2035.

Meanwhile, US-based United Airlines made aviation history on Wednesday, operating the first-ever passenger flight using 100% SAF on one of the plane’s two engines. The plane flew nearly 1,000 kilometers, and the engine that used SAF gave off roughly 75% less carbon dioxide than the one that used traditional jet fuel, United said in a statement.

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

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63. Russia has date for Putin-Biden talksПт, 03 дек[−]
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Russia and the US have arranged a conditional time and date for a fresh summit between President Vladimir Putin and his American counterpart Joe Biden, over the coming days, the Kremlin revealed on Friday afternoon.

Moscow is now waiting for the American side to confirm, Putin aide Yuri Ushakov revealed. The discussion will be held by video-link, and will focus on Russia's proposal for new security guarantees that it hopes will end the expansion of NATO eastward and concerns about Western weapons deployments to Ukraine.

"We are looking at the possibility of such communication in the next few days," Ushakov said. "We have a specific date and time for the video conference. But it is better to wait for all the parameters to be finally agreed upon with the American side, and then we can make it official."

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden  during a meeting in Geneva at the Villa La Grange, June 16, 2021.
America explains when Putin & Biden will talk

The plan for an online summit between the two presidents comes five months after they met in Geneva, in what was described by both sides as a productive meeting. Despite its apparent success, hopes for improvements in Russian-American relations appear to have been unfounded, and have significantly deteriorated since.

In recent weeks, rhetoric has worsened as the US-led NATO bloc has criticized Moscow for an apparent buildup of troops near the Ukrainian border, suggesting that an invasion is imminent. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied these allegations.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Stockholm on the sidelines of an OSCE ministerial meeting. The talks were the highest-profile face-to-face Russian-American negotiations since Geneva, and ended after just 40 minutes, indicating that little progress was made.

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64. WHO comments on lethality of OmicronПт, 03 дек[−]
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World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson Christian Lindmeier announced on Friday that the agency has “not seen reports of Omicron-related deaths yet,” as he laid out its verdict on the response to the new strain.

Speaking at a UN briefing, Lindmeier provided an update on the spread of the new Covid-19 strain, after it was listed as a “variant of concern” by the WHO. Despite the introduction of various curbs aimed at reducing the spread of the virus, he warned that vaccine manufacturers might need to prepare for a change in their existing jabs to combat new mutations.

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© Facebook / Louise Restaurant & Bar
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Addressing fears about the latest variant, Lindmeier said the WHO has “not seen reports of Omicron-related deaths,” even though it is feared that it is more contagious than the widespread Delta strain.

Still, the agency’s Western Pacific director, Takeshi Kasai, urged governments to rethink their approach to combating the strain. “Border controls can buy time but every country and every community must prepare for new surges in cases,” he told reporters, warning that governments “should not only rely on border measures” to halt Omicron’s spread.

Instead, Kasai called for officials to turn their focus to fully vaccinating vulnerable individuals and returning to preventative measures, including mask wearing and social distancing, to reduce transmission risk.

The WHO’s statement on Omicron comes after South African health officials raised concerns that it is reinfecting people at three times the rate of other strains, evading immunity provided by previous infections.

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65. Twitter labels American Heart Association link as ‘unsafe’ over Covid vaccinesПт, 03 дек[−]
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Twitter is flagging an American Heart Association website link as ‘unsafe’ after the organization published an abstract of research linking Covid-19 vaccines to heart disease.

The abstract of the study looking into a possible correlation between mRNA Covid shots and heart inflammation was published in one of the Association’s journals, Circulation, on November 16. The research points to a 14-point rise in the risk of acute coronary syndrome within five years in those who have been injected with this type of vaccine, concluding that the “mRNA vacs dramatically increase inflammation on the endothelium and T cell infiltration of cardiac muscle and may account for the observations of increased thrombosis, cardiomyopathy, and other vascular events following vaccination.

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FILE PHOTO:
EMA calls for review of Moderna jab

It is worth noting, however, that while the American Heart Association did publish the abstract, it later attached an “expression of concern” to the study over “potential errors” in it. Among other things, it cites the author's reliance on anecdotal data and a lack of statistical analyses. The Association warned the “abstract in its current version may not be reliable.” On top of that, the study has yet to be peer-reviewed.

Twitter’s ‘unsafe’ label was up until recently reserved for webpages thought to contain viruses and malware; its use has, however, now been extended to also cover cases where ‘misleading content’ is suspected.

Among the vaccines that employ the mRNA technology mentioned in the study are Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Vaccines of this type use a genetically engineered copy of a molecule known as a messenger RNA (mRNA) to elicit an immune response, whereby antibodies are created that will fight Covid should the vaccine recipient contract it.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced on Friday that a review of mRNA-type vaccines had revealed an increase in the risk of myocarditis in younger males, mentioning in particular Pfizer–BioNTech’s shot and the one developed by Moderna. It comes after last month the agency commissioned a thorough review of all data related to heart inflammation disorders in individuals inoculated with Moderna’s Covid jab.

In November, Germany’s vaccine advisory committee recommended the use of Pfizer-BioNTech’s Comirnaty shot over Moderna’s Spikevax, citing similar concerns. A number of Nordic nations have also restricted the use of Moderna’s vaccine.

Meanwhile authorities stateside have also flagged Moderna’s shot as potentially unsafe for young men. Back in June, the US Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices revealed a total of 323 cases had been recorded in Americans under 29 that fell under the definition of myocarditis or pericarditis, following the administration of the vaccine. A total of 309 cases had to be treated in hospital.

European and American authorities, however, hastened to qualify these findings by emphasizing that the pros of taking the shot still far outweigh the possible risks.

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66. Meta asks users to send nudesПт, 03 дек[−]
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Meta, the new name for Facebook Inc., has co-developed a platform that asks people to submit their intimate photos and videos in order to prevent them from being used as ‘revenge porn’ on Facebook or Instagram.

The tool is for “adults over 18 years old who think an intimate image of them may be shared, or has already been shared, without their consent,” Meta said in a blogpost on Thursday.

Read more
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Mayor charged with multiple counts of posting revenge porn

The new platform, which Meta developed together with the UK Revenge Porn Helpline and 50 other NGOs, aims to prevent the publication of ‘revenge porn’, rather than just removing the delicate files after they’ve already appeared online.

Concerned users are being asked to submit photos or videos of themselves naked or having sex to a hash-tagging database through the StopNCII.org (Stop Non-Consensual Intimate Images) website.

The special hashtags, or “digital fingerprints,” are then assigned to those materials by the tool, and can be used to instantly detect and curb attempts to upload them online by the perpetrators.

Meta said that the system had been developed “with privacy and security at every step.” Only the hashtags are being shared with StopNCII.org and the tech platforms participating in the project, while the explicit images and clips never leave the user’s device and remain “securely in the possession of the owner,” it assured.

The new tool represents “a sea-change in the way those affected by intimate image abuse can protect themselves,” Revenge Porn Helpline manager Sophie Mortimer insisted.

But the question remains whether people will actually be willing to use it, considering Meta’s bad rap for mishandling user data.

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67. ‘Pure luck no one killed’: Football ace smashes $240K Lamborghini into school fence (PHOTOS)Пт, 03 дек[−]
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A Premier League bad boy is in hot water again for crashing his $238,000 Lamborghini into a kids' school.

Aston Villa defender Kortney Hause caused outrage in early November for an elbow smash on Pablo Fornals as his side lost 4-1 to West Ham.

In the aftermath of the incident on Halloween, a number of clubs reportedly rang the Premier League questioning why the ex-England U21 wasn't red-carded after a VAR review.

Approaching the weekend, however, with Villa set to host Leicester City on Sunday, the 26-year-old is in trouble once more – but this time off the pitch.

The incident took place on Wednesday, just hours before Steven Gerrard's men took on Manchester City.

Hause was an unused substitute in the 2-1 defeat to the reigning champions, and it comes as little surprise why given what he had been reportedly up to in his new $238,000 4-liter Urus V8 Lamborghini.

??? | NEW: Aston Villa defender Kortney Hause crashed his ?200k Lamborghini into the fence of a nursery school pic.twitter.com/65REBbgwol

— Football For All (@FootballlForAll) December 3, 2021

With photo evidence backing the claims, it is said that Hause smashed the luxury car into the twin Pioneer and Wisdom Islamic junior and secondary schools, not far from Villa Park.

After he headed through the institution's metal fence, Hause's airbag inflated and his vehicle sustained damage to its front and side.

To the Daily Mail, a witness explained how onlookers "heard this almighty bang, and everyone came rushing to see what had happened".

"We saw that this flash car had spun out of control and gone straight though the fence. It must have hit it with some force," they added.

"We all realized it was probably a footballer when we saw it was a 2021 Lamborghini, and then we recognized it was Hause. He didn't look injured, but he did seem to be a bit blown away – he looked shocked."

Another bystander said the crash "could have been a lot worse because the accident was close to the main gate, where it can get quite busy".

"When it happened, the kids were all in the school for prayer time, so no one was too near the crash site," it was conceded.

In far more of a panic, however, one dad, Sabbir Ahmed, said: "My daughter and hordes of children stand on the corner in front of the gates before and after school.

"It was a staggering slice of luck that no one was killed. The black Lamborghini lost control in wet conditions. Everyone is shaking at what could have happened. When I saw the wreckage I thought there must be bodies."

Hause's club and agent have been approached for comment by the Daily Mail but are still yet to respond.

After he scored an 88th-minute winner over Cristiano Ronaldo's Manchester United in late September, however, the debacle is another fall from grace for the center-back.

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68. US to pay Bezos to colonize spaceПт, 03 дек[−]
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American space agency NASA has allocated over $415 million to three US companies, including Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, to design private space stations and other commercial destinations in orbit.

Bezos’ company will receive $130 million, Nanoracks – a provider of commercial access to space – will get $160 million, and multinational aerospace and defense technology company Northrop Grumman will be given $125.6 million.

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FILE PHOTO: Jeff Bezos addresses the media about the New Shepard. ©REUTERS / Isaiah J. Downing
Amazon’s Bezos predicts only limited number of people will get to remain on Earth

In a statement on its website, NASA says it seeks to maintain a US presence in orbit by transitioning to other platforms, as the International Space Station is set to cease operations by the end of the decade.

The statement goes on to explain that the awards will stimulate the development of commercial space stations by the private sector that will be available to both government and private sector customers.

“We are partnering with US companies to develop the space destinations where people can visit, live, and work, enabling NASA to continue forging a path in space for the benefit of humanity while fostering commercial activity in space,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

NASA has already partnered with the private industry. Elon Musk’s space company SpaceX puts satellites into orbit, delivers cargo and, more recently, launched a crew to the ISS. In April, NASA awarded a contract to SpaceX for $2.9 billion to use a rocket named Starship to take astronauts to the moon.

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

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69. Scientists develop drug to treat Covid-19 anxietyПт, 03 дек[−]
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A team of Russian scientists has pioneered a new anti-anxiety drug designed to calm the nerves of worried coronavirus patients and minimize the risk of potentially dangerous interactions with medicines used to treat the virus.

“We’ve developed an innovative new molecule that acts highly selectively on adrenoceptors and serotonin receptors, and provides anxiolytic, anti-depressive, and procognitive effects,” Elena Yakubova, Russia’s National Technological Initiative’s medical director, told RIA Novosti on Friday. “In the second phase of pre-clinical and clinical trials, the medication proved highly effective, tolerable, and safe.”

According to her, those given the new therapy, named Aviandr, saw their scores on anxiety tests fall by more than half after eight weeks of taking the treatment. In addition to reducing anxiety, the medication also demonstrated a noticeable anti-depressive effect.

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© AFP / Andrej ISAKOVIC
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“We are currently in the third phase of clinical trials for two cases: generalized anxiety disorder and neurological disorders associated with cases of extended coronavirus infection,” the director continued.

Generalized anxiety disorder is a condition characterized by constant, excessive, and unrealistic worry over everyday things. Over 300 million people suffer from it, according to the World Health Organization, and there have been warnings that the pandemic has sparked a global mental health crisis and strained support services. In addition, there are fears recovering coronavirus patients could be at greater risk of developing symptoms.

The National Technological Initiative added that the market for medications to treat the condition is at least $7 billion. Many of the available drugs, however, can result in serious side effects including headaches, weakness, and insomnia. In addition, the boffins said, anti-anxiety medications have been shown to result in dependency, leading to withdrawal after the course of treatment.

Worse still, in July last year, a team of Italian scientists published an analysis that suggested a range of drugs used to treat mental health conditions “showed potentially relevant safety risks for people with Covid-19.” According to the research, those on the medicines “may frequently require treatment with psychotropic medications, but are at the same time at higher risk for safety issues because of the complex underlying medical condition and the potential interaction with medical treatments.”

According to Andrey Ivashchenko, another scientist at the NTI, if the results are confirmed in a third round of clinical trials, “the Ministry of Health can decide to speed up the approval of Aviandr, which will help millions of Russian patients get effective, modern therapy for post-Covid central nervous system disorders,” he said, adding that the medication also has great export potential.

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70. Elderly man who aimed to visit son dies at closed state borderПт, 03 дек[−]
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A man has died at a caravan park in New South Wales, Australia. He is believed to have been a full-time carer for his wife and daughter, and had applied to travel with the family to reunite with his son in neighboring Queensland.

The 78-year-old man got stranded with the two women, aged 71 and 55 respectively, at a camp site in New South Wales (NSW) close to the Queensland state border. They were waiting for permission to travel and live with the man’s son, who resides just 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the camp, the Courier Mail reported on Thursday.

Having been stuck there for around 14 weeks, the father suddenly died. Police have confirmed an elderly man’s death at the site, and say an investigation has been launched.

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© Tanaonte / Getty Images
Unvaccinated will have ‘miserable, very lonely life,’ top Australian doc warns

The man had apparently applied for a border exemption, needed for cross-border travel under Queensland’s tough Covid-19 rules, in November. People from NSW are only allowed to enter for limited reasons, and must complete a mandatory quarantine upon arrival.

Queensland health officials confirmed to the media that such an application had been received, and claimed that the “exemptions team communicated with the applicant multiple times.”

A Queensland resident at the border, also waiting to cross into the state after visiting her dying mother in Victoria, said the man had been “waiting a while and was very stressed out, as we all are.”

It’s just somebody who needed to get across the border to be with his family,” she commented, adding that many have found themselves in a similar situation, all waiting “for that magic day” when the state lines reopen.

Anti-coronavirus measures applied by local governments in Australia are often criticized as being too harsh. The Queensland government’s handling of the situation in particular has been condemned by the state’s human rights commissioner. “Blanket approaches … have not properly considered the rights of those affected by restrictions and may not have been proportionate to the risk,” Scott McDougall said in his statement on the border exemption process, as quoted by Australian media.

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71. Zagitova reveals why seductive bikini dance disappeared after sparking fan row (VIDEO)Пт, 03 дек[−]
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Russian Olympic figure skating champion Alina Zagitova has cleared up the mystery surrounding why a video was removed from her TikTok account after her moves split opinion among some of her fans.

A bikini-clad Zagitova posted the clip to her 183,000 followers on the popular platform this week, showing herself swaying her hips to the rap song remix ‘Rich Boy x World Is Spinning’ while soaking up the sun in Dubai.

Raising her hands from her thighs to above her waist, the 2018 Olympic queen finishes by smiling slightly into the camera and stroking a black beach shawl which is draped across her shoulders.

Алина + Дубай= ???????

? тикток Загитовой pic.twitter.com/tXCXEThGdC

— Матч ТВ (@MatchTV) December 2, 2021

The clip from the 19-year-old delighted some of her fans, who complimented Zagitova on her figure and claimed she was “ready to melt the ice.”

Others, though, took aim at the star, suggesting that she was becoming an “Instagram model” and possibly even offending Muslims back in the Tatarstan homeland of her father.

READ MORE: Figure skating icon defends Zagitova after bikini video backlash

The clip disappeared amid the row, prompting speculation as to why it had been deleted.

Zagitova herself cleared that up in a new message to fans, showing a screenshot of her TikTok page with the words “violation of community guidelines” written across the clip.

“TikTok, you what?” added Zagitova along with a laughing emoji.

Despite the criticism from some quarters, one person to defend Zagitova was legendary figure skating trainer Tatiana Tarasova.

“Criticism towards Zagitova? Why, because you can't film yourself in a swimsuit?” said the 74-year-old when asked about some of the comments directed at the star.

“I don't want to pay attention to s**t like that, people have nothing better to do.”

Zagitova has not competed since the end of 2019, when she announced a suspension of her career.

She has not officially retired, but has devoted her time to her studies and has also appeared on Russian TV presenting the popular ‘Ice Age’ show alongside fellow Olympic champion Alexei Yagudin.

Zagitova is in Dubai to appear in the ice show version of ‘Sleeping Beauty’, which is presented by former Olympic ice dance star Tatiana Navka, the wife of Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

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72. Mossad tricks Iranian scientists into helping blow up nuclear site – mediaПт, 03 дек[−]
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Israeli intelligence agency Mossad masterminded the destruction of a major Iranian nuclear facility and recruited a team of local scientists, the Jewish Chronicle has reported.

Up to 10 scientists were approached by Israeli agents and agreed to destroy the underground A1000 centrifuge hall at Natanz in April,” the newspaper claimed on Thursday, adding that the Iranians thought they were working for “international dissident groups."

The alleged Mossad operation involved smuggling some explosives into the nuclear compound in food boxes and dropping others in by drone, with scientists collecting them.

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A technician checks valves at the uranium conversian facility in Isfahan, Tehran. © Reuters / Caren Firouz
Iran issues nuclear deal demands

The destruction of the plant on April 11, according to the Jewish Chronicle, “caused chaos in the highest echelons of the Iranian leadership,” delayed “progress towards a bomb” and disabled the complex for up to nine months.

The outlet claims this was one of three “connected Mossad operations that took place over an 11-month period of sabotage in Iran.

The first took place in July 2020 and targeted the Natanz complex and the third in June 2021 involved “a quadcopter assault on the Iran Centrifuge Technology Company.”

The three operations were planned together over an 18-month period by a team of 1,000 technicians, analysts and spies, as well as scores of agents on the ground,” reads the article.

The report comes a day after the Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in his conversation with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for “immediate cessation of negotiations” with Iran on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal. He claimed Tehran was using “nuclear blackmail” as a negotiation tactic. Iran has consistently denied having nuclear weapons ambitions, insisting its uranium enrichment serves purely civil purposes.

Iran earlier blamed Israel for the Natanz plant explosion and named Reza Karimi as a suspect, saying he had fled the country ‘hours before’ the incident. There has been no comment from Iranian authorities on the Jewish Chronicle’s report.

After former US president Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement and reimposed crippling sanctions, Iran began to enrich uranium beyond the limits agreed in the deal, raising concern in the West. The country says it will not agree to revive the agreement unless all the sanctions against it are lifted.

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73. Americans say life's too short to waste on workПт, 03 дек[−]
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New surveys published this week show that American workers who lost or quit jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic may not rejoin the workforce anytime soon, if at all.

The US Chamber of Commerce recently polled 529 Americans who became unemployed during the pandemic and have yet to return to work.

Read more
RT
Why Brits may have no booze this Christmas

Over half of the respondents (53%) said they are somewhat active or “not very active at all” in their current job search, while 65% said they don't expect to return to work before 2022. Many cited lingering Covid-19 concerns as a barrier keeping them from returning to work, especially women. Almost half said they have been using pandemic incentives or stimulus payments, as well as draining savings or investments, to support themselves since becoming unemployed.

Only 8% said they “never plan to return to work.” Still, the findings show that workers may not be coming back anytime soon, unless they see it as worth their efforts.

According to the survey, nearly half (46%) see a hiring bonus of $1,000 as the main reason to return to work. The poll also showed that flexible work hours, the ability to work from home, and a positive work environment are very attractive to respondents. This means businesses will have to upgrade their employment policies if they want to attract staff.

Moreover, a separate survey from US job searching website Indeed, published on Thursday, showed that people are reluctant to go back to work, having realized during the pandemic that “life is too short to stay in a job they weren’t passionate about.

Read more
RT
Oil industry to lose nearly half its workers

Around 92% of the 1,000 people polled shared the sentiment. According to the survey, Americans actually see their current unemployment and the entire labor shortage crisis as a positive thing, which “offered new career opportunities that they would not have had otherwise.” 85% of job seekers are now said to be looking for work outside their former industry, and 97% of those say the pandemic gave them a push to change careers.

There are currently 10.4 million unfilled jobs in the US, with 7.6 million Americans unemployed. A recent note from S&P global economists seen by Business Insider predicts that it will “likely remain tough” to find workers next year, and employees will cost businesses more money and effort. Goldman Sachs recently estimated that 3.4 million people left jobs over the past year and a half, and the majority of them were retirees, which means that many are not coming back to work at all. According to S&P, half of these exits are temporary, yet it is still unclear when they will start working again due to renewed pandemic-related fears driven by the new coronavirus variant, Omicron.

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

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74. Record-breaking trans swimmer causes wave of outrageПт, 03 дек[−]
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A trans female college swimmer who once competed as a man has smashed records in women's college competitions in the US, causing a backlash online.

Lia Thomas attends the University of Pennsylvania and during a November 20 swim meet with Cornell and Princeton smashed the 200-yard freestyle time while notching the second-fastest national time in the 500 freestyle.

Breaking Penn's program records in both events, she topped freestyle individual races in the 100, 200, and 500-yard events and helped her team finish first in the 400-yard freestyle relay.

Putting up a time of 1:43.47 in the 200-yard freestyle, the Austin, Texas, native could have secured a silver medal at the NCAA's Women's Championships, and her 4:35.06 showing in the 500-yard freestyle would have been good enough to clinch bronze.

Before the pandemic, however, Lia – who will have had to complete one year of testosterone suppression treatment before making her switch – was known as Will and competed on Penn's men's swimming team for a full three seasons.

Competing as a man in the 2018-2019 campaign, Thomas was second-team All-Ivy League in events such as the 500-yard freestyle, 1,000 freestyle and 1,650 freestyle.

Well of course women’s records are being smashed! https://t.co/tMBrgCLkXX

Lia competed as male for first three years in #NCAA.

This is not right!

We need to return to #SexBasedSports!

#SexNotGender to preserve fairness for female athletes. pic.twitter.com/AcDvx7MTIB

— Linda Blade (@coachblade) November 30, 2021

Will “Lia” Thomas pic.twitter.com/eiTTHuQ6IX

— Large Marge (@largemarge777) November 30, 2021

"Being trans has not affected my ability to do this sport and being able to continue is very rewarding," she explained to Penn's student newspaper in the summer.

But as news of her current form has become more widespread, some social media onlookers have reacted with anger.

"My two daughters swim competitively," began one response.

"They practice 3-4 times a week almost year-round. My girls and many others work their asses off for years and even decades. This kind of sh*t angers me to no end. This is not progress."

My two daughters swim competitively. They practice 3-4 times a week almost year round. My girls and many others work their ass off for years and even decades. This kind of shit angers me to no end. This is not progress.

— Joe Hatfield (@Hatfield75) December 1, 2021

There are none. Stop the capitulation

— Egg Man (@BoiledEglon) December 1, 2021

"There are some sports where biological women can compete evenly with biological men.

"Swimming is not one of them," concluded another.

"There are none. Stop the capitulation," someone replied.

Why don't all the women simply refuse to compete? That would end this nonsense quite quickly, wouldn't it?

— Aylmer Johnson (@Aylmer51) December 2, 2021

"Why don't all the women simply refuse to compete?" it was posed.

"That would end this nonsense quite quickly, wouldn't it?"

"Why aren’t male athletes supporting females athletes and also not competing in protest?" a separate party snapped back.

"This is not just women’s problem to solve!"

I am genuinely curious if this person would feel guilty at all. He was a great swimmer on the mens team just two years ago… now she is the best swimmer on the women’s team.

— Harris Richard (@XxiLiKeEggs69xX) December 1, 2021

"I am genuinely curious if this person would feel guilty at all. He was a great swimmer on the men's team just two years ago…now she is the best swimmer on the women’s team," one more user pondered.

Read more
Transgender athlete Laurel Hubbard of New Zealand competed at the Tokyo Olympics. © Reuters
Trans athletes can compete with females without reducing testosterone - IOC

With the International Olympic Committee (IOC) revising its 2015 guidelines it no longer finds fit for purpose, it was claimed that Thomas could one day challenge the legacy of seven-time gold medal winner Katie Ledecky.

The new guidelines set to be brought in after February's Winter Olympics in Beijing suggest trans women no longer need to reduce testosterone levels in order to compete.

Furthermore, the organization's new stance is that there should now be no automatic presumptions that trans women have advantages over other women.

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75. Freedom of Information Act slammed as ‘truly malign’Пт, 03 дек[−]
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A UK minister has insisted that transparency laws are “malign” legislation, claiming that they change the nature of official communications, as the government attempts to shield its new research agency from public requests.

Speaking in the House of Lords last week, Lord Martin Callanan, a minister at the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, said he supported the idea of charging the public for requesting government information, as he lashed out at transparency laws.

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Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis. © Facebook / Andrej Babi?
Czech PM reveals assassination attempt

“I fail to see how the processology of government benefits at all from FOI disclosures. I find that people just modify their behavior and communication to take account of the fact that private conversations may be released in the future,” Callanan told fellow lawmakers.

The minister claimed that such laws were “malign” and that they do not achieve anything. He was speaking in support of the government decision that transparency laws should not apply to a new scientific defense research agency, operated by Whitehall.

From my point of view, it is a truly malign piece of legislation.

Government institutions and public authorities are normally subject to laws on freedom of information, meaning members of the public can request to see information and data relating to such topics.

The government has insisted that the Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA) must not have “the burden of processing” questions from the public.

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76. Russia gives opinion on why Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine not recognized by WHOПт, 03 дек[−]
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The World Health Organization (WHO) has not approved the Russian Covid-19 vaccine Sputnik V for “bureaucratic reasons,” and it is not linked to the jab’s quality, Russian Direct Investment Fund head Kirill Dmitriev has claimed.

In an interview with the Argentine newspaper La Nacion, Dmitriev, who heads the organization that funded the development of the jab, explained that the vaccine has already been approved in 71 countries but by no international organizations, including the WHO.

“We see no reason for the WHO to delay approval of the vaccine. The Russian Ministry of Health has very good relations with the WHO, and we understand that the obstacles that still exist on this path are minor and of a purely bureaucratic nature,” Dmitriev said.

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© Sputnik / Semyon Antonov; (inset) ©  Harold Cunningham/Getty Images
WHO reports issues at plant involved in Russian Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine production, Moscow says issues fixed & jab unaffected

Earlier this year, the WHO approval process was suspended after a group of inspectors identified irregularities in the production of the vaccine at a plant in Ufa. The factory, which does not make the vaccine, was found to not be following best practices regarding the filling of vials.

The report published by the UN’s health body identified multiple concerns at the plant, including issues with the integrity of data and test results, as well as problems related to potential cross-contamination and sterility levels.

Sputnik V is also yet to be approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the EU body responsible for approving drugs. In October, news agency Reuters reported that it is now “absolutely impossible” for the vaccine to be registered in 2021, noting that regulators may decide to approve it “in the first quarter of next year.” The body’s formal review of the Russian vaccine began in March.

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77. ‘Hazardous’ asteroid to enter Earth’s orbit next weekПт, 03 дек[−]
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A large asteroid, listed by NASA as “potentially hazardous,” is going to fly by Earth next week, the agency warns.

Asteroid 4660 Nereus is expected to enter Earth’s orbit on December 11, coming closer to our planet than ever before.

But there is no reason for panic, Boris Shustov, who heads the Institute of Astronomy at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said.

Read more
Credit: NASA TV
WATCH: SpaceX & NASA launch ‘planetary defense’ asteroid-smasher

“The asteroid will pass some 4.6 million miles away from Earth, which is about 10 times the distance between the Moon and Earth, so there’s no risk to talk about,” Shustov told RIA Novosti.

What makes it special isn’t its larger-than-usual size (equal to three football pitches), but its unique 1.82-year orbit around the Sun. Nereus approaches Earth at a safe distance roughly every 10 years because of this.

According to the scientists, the asteroid’s regular passing makes it a perfect candidate for a future robotic mission, and even a mining operation – it is believed to be rich in nickel, iron, and cobalt.

Despite currently posing no threat, Nereus is closely monitored by space agencies to make sure it does not deviate from its path.

As part of the work to protect the planet from a catastrophic encounter with a large space object, NASA last week launched a mission called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART). The mission will attempt to ram two asteroids into each other in order to change their course, with the actual impact scheduled for next September.

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78. Voters don’t care about corporations’ woke efforts – studyПт, 03 дек[−]
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Most Americans, across political lines, do not want companies speaking out on wider social issues, according to a recent survey that found “out of step” corporate executives “vastly overestimate” the importance of taking a stand.

The poll results, released on Monday in a study titled ‘The Talking Trap’, indicated that a bipartisan majority of voters from the 2020 election believe companies need to spend less time on unrelated social justice activism and focus on developing and selling their products.

The study, conducted by data analytics firm Brunswick Group between September and October, surveyed around 300 corporate leaders and 800 people who voted in the 2020 presidential election. Only 36% of voters believed “unequivocally” that companies needed to talk about social issues, while 63% of the executives thought it was important to do so.

Noting that the business elites were “out of step” with broader public sentiment by a factor of two to one, the report highlighted how corporate social engagement efforts are “all-too-often disbelieved as authentic... by people across every part of the political and socio-economic spectrum.”

Read more
Let life happen - John Lewis Home Insurance © YouTube / John Lewis
Cross-dressing ad fiasco shows that advertisers should spare us the tiresome woke sermonising

While acknowledging that there was “enormous pressure” on organizations to “respond to everything that is happening,” the study warned that the “impulse to weigh in on any and every social issue” can hurt firms’ corporate reputations if they are “disregarded by audiences” and “disconnected from what people want.”

Meanwhile, the divide between corporate-think and public sentiment is just as pronounced when it comes to the perceived effectiveness of campaigns. The study noted a “highly inflated” sense of effectiveness among the nearly three-quarters of executives polled who “vastly overestimate” the success of such communications efforts, compared with just 39% of voters.

In addition, more than 60% of voters thought “companies only speak out on social issues to look better to consumers and are not being sincere,” whereas the majority of executives believed their actions are based on a desire to “achieve real change.”

Both sets of respondents were mostly divided on their prioritization of issues as well. While both groups ranked healthcare as the top concern, executives ranked climate change, data privacy, racism, and gun violence (in that order) as their next-most important issues, in order. Whereas the general public rated homelessness as their second area of concern, followed by mental health, unemployment, and crime prevention.

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79. ‘Ukraine’s richest man’ faces criminal prosecution over Zelensky's claimsПт, 03 дек[−]
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Hundreds of criminal cases will soon be launched against companies linked to one of Kiev's most high-profile businessmen, Rinat Akhmetov, after he was accused of being behind a failed bid to oust the Ukrainian government.

Writing in a Facebook post on Thursday, the country’s Prosecutor General Irina Venediktova said that “an unusual show” had been playing out in recent weeks, with President Volodymyr Zelensky accusing Akhmetov of plotting to stage a Russian-backed coup attempt. “I don’t think that in a public and political storm, the office of the Attorney General should sit aside,” she went on.

“I will repeat and emphasize,” Venediktova wrote, “I am not calling anyone an assailant, an oligarch or an offender, but I do have the right at such a pivotal moment for the country to activate the investigation of a whole number of criminal proceedings…regarding entities from the orbit of the owner of several famous TV channels, coal enterprises, and energy companies.”

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. © Reuters / Ukrainian Presidential Press Service
Ukrainian President warns of imminent coup attempt in Kiev

“We have conducted a preliminary analysis of the whole array of criminal proceedings and now it turns out that we are talking about more than 200 cases. This figure is just a superficial estimate, I am convinced that there are more,” she added.

Akhmetov oversees a steel and coal empire worth a purported $7.6 billion, as well as owning Shakhtar Donetsk Football Club and several TV channels that backed opponents of Zelensky in the last presidential election. The business tycoon has been one of the most high-profile critics of the government in recent years.

The remarks from the top prosecutor come shortly after Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky accused Akhmetov of backing a bid to oust his government. The power-grab, however, did not materialize in early December, which is when the head of state had claimed it would take place.

Last month, Zelensky held a marathon press conference in Kiev to tell reporters that his country’s officials had “received information that a coup d’état will take place in our country on December 1-2. We have audio recordings in which representatives of Russia and Rinat Akhmetov discuss the coup.”

While the purported power-grab failed to materialize, large crowds descended on the streets of the capital on the day Zelensky had identified to demand the impeachment of the president. The rallies are understood to have included members of Ukrainian nationalist parties, supporters of former President Petro Poroshenko, and activists representing small business owners.

Zelensky has come under fire from several international observers for his crackdown on critical media and opposition in recent months. Earlier this year, Viktor Medvedchuk, the leader of the largest opposition party in the country’s parliament, was detained on charges of high treason. Although the details of the allegations have not been publicly disclosed, they are believed to relate to business interests in Crimea. Medvedchuk, however, insists that his prosecution is politically motivated and accused Zelensky of attempting to establish a “dictatorship.”

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80. Gaddafi’s son back in Libyan presidential raceПт, 03 дек[−]
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Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of Libya’s former leader, has been reinstated as a presidential candidate by a court in Sebha.

Gaddafi’s lawyer Khaled al-Zaydi confirmed on Thursday that his client’s appeal had been accepted and called the court’s decision “a victory for justice and the people's will.”

A photo of the smiling candidate was posted on Gaddafi’s campaign page on Twitter, along with words of gratitude to God.

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(L) Khalifa Haftar © REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori; (R) Seif al-Islam Kadhafi © IMED LAMLOUM / AFP
Libyan warlord Haftar to challenge Gaddafi’s son in presidential race

This was followed by a video showing Gaddafi’s supporters. “Liberals celebrate the return of Dr. Saif Al-Islam to the elections,” reads the accompanying text.

Gaddafi was disqualified by the country’s election commission because of his 2015 conviction in absentia for war crimes. Sentenced to death by a Tripoli court, he maintains his innocence. He also has a pending arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The lodging of his appeal was met with obstacles, including an attack on the court by gunmen, later described by the government in Tripoli as “a group of outlaws.

The election in Libya is set to take place on December 24, with the full list of candidates due to be released in the coming days.

Gaddafi has pledged to “restore the lost unity” of the country, which was plunged into a civil war after the overthrowing and brutal murder of Muammar Gaddafi by NATO-backed rebels in 2011.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi faces tough competition in his presidential bid, in the form of military commander Khalifa Haftar, the de facto leader of Eastern Libya.

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81. ‘Be deaf & dumb’: Epstein’s ex-housekeeper recalls what he sawПт, 03 дек[−]
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A man who worked for late financier, convicted sex abuser and pedophiliac Jeffrey Epstein said alleged Epstein accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell often stayed at his Florida mansion and gave “degrading” obedience instructions.

Juan Alessi, 71, looked after one of Epstein’s homes, having worked for him in Palm Beach for around a decade in the 1990s. On Thursday, he spoke about who and what he witnessed at the luxurious mansion during testimony in Maxwell’s sex-trafficking trial.

The now 59-year-old socialite accompanied Epstein at his Florida residence “95% of the time,” the man told the jury in Manhattan federal court. Having described her as a “pretty girl, a tall brunette,” he said “Ms. Maxwell was the girlfriend of Mr. Epstein, I understand she was the lady of the house.”

From the day she came to the house, she right away took over,” he said, adding that while before her arrival he enjoyed a more relaxed and “cordial” relationship with his boss, the new hostess instructed him otherwise.

I was supposed to be blind, deaf and dumb,

Alessi said. The former home manager said he was only allowed to speak to his employer after being addressed by the boss first, with such orders coming not from Epstein, but his partner. She allegedly warned, “You should never look at his eyes. Just look at another part of the room and answer to him.”

Read more
Witness
Epstein accuser explains how she was groomed by Maxwell

Alessi also recalled similar instructions printed in a lengthy employee handbook apparently given to him by the woman. When asked by prosecutors to look through its pages and say if there are any passages he recognizes, the man read out loud:

Remember that you see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing, except to answer a question directed at you. Respect their privacy.” He added that he found it “very degrading” at the time.

In his testimony, the man who had looked after the Palm Beach estate said his boss regularly enjoyed the company of “many, many, many” female guests there. He said most of them were supposedly in their twenties, but at least two girls appeared to be minors, namely Jane, and Virginia Roberts, now known as Virginia Giuffre, a longtime Epstein and Maxwell accuser.

Tasked with cleaning Epstein’s massage room, Alessi found sex toys, including an item that “looked like a huge men’s penis with two heads” and a “black vinyl or leather costume.”

The Maxwell trial is ongoing in New York, with the daughter of the former British MP and media magnate accused of being Epstein’s accomplice in sex-trafficking and sexual abuse of underage girls. After the American financier killed himself in jail, she was arrested in July 2020, but pleaded not guilty, with Maxwell’s lawyers saying prosecutors are scapegoating their client because Epstein is no longer alive.

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82. Czech PM reveals assassination attemptПт, 03 дек[−]
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The outgoing prime minister of the Czech Republic has said that an armed man who was vehemently opposed to Covid-19 restrictions attempted to kill him, but was intercepted by security forces at the government office.

In a video posting on his Facebook page on Thursday, Andrej Babis said that police had thwarted an assassination attempt on him. “Yesterday, Wednesday, an opponent of the strict epidemiological security came to the government building and wanted to attack me, as he was carrying a dagger and a pistol. The police stopped him at the entrance to the building,” he stated.

The prime minister then lifted up a photo showing the alleged belongings of the man who he claimed had arrived at the government building with the intention of assassinating him.

Read more
Karl Nehammer. © AFP / GEORG HOCHMUTH
Austria’s chancellor chosen as predecessor quits after 2 months

Babis, who had been posting videos on his Facebook page, responding to questions and remarks from members of the public, made the comments in reaction to a man, David, who asked, “when are you going to stop murdering people?”

The acting PM said that David wasn’t the only person threatening him, and gave the story of the assassination attempt, but questioned why people were unable to face facts. Babis said that the authorities were doing everything they could to save lives. “We all do this for the people. Or do you not believe that this virus kills people? Do you not believe that the vaccine protects?” he asked.

A spokesman for the police said that an investigation had been opened. “The security service detained a man with some weapons. So far, I have no further information on whether it was a model or a real weapon,” the spokesman noted.

It is not the first time Babis has faced threats – in February, he told CNN Prima News that a man wanted to shoot him and his family. It was later revealed that the would-be murderer had written an apology letter.

Babis will soon be leaving office, with President Milos Zeman naming Petr Fiala as the prime minister of the Czech Republic on Sunday following October’s election. Babis has served as prime minister since 2017.

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83. US billionaire predicts civil war in the countryПт, 03 дек[−]
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There is a “dangerously high risk” that the United States could slide into civil war within the next 10 years due to the “exceptional amount of polarization” currently seen in the country, says billionaire Ray Dalio.

In his new book, which was published on November 30, the founder of the world’s largest hedge-fund firm wrote that there’s a 30% chance of such an outcome because the rules of governance are being ignored.

Pointing to the six stages of the internal order/disorder cycle, which ends in civil war, Dalio claims that the US is currently in stage five: bad financial conditions and intense conflict.

Read more
RT
Biden’s oil gamble: How US tapping its reserves will influence energy crisis

“For example, when close elections are adjudicated and the losers respect the decisions, it is clear that the order is respected. When power is fought over and grabbed, that clearly signals the significant risk of a revolutionary change with all its attendant disorder,” Dalio wrote.

He noted that people, including high-ranking officials, have openly doubted the validity of recent elections and expressed their willingness to fight for their beliefs.

Dalio also cited several studies showing the growing emotionally charged divide between the two political parties. Thus, according to him, a recent survey showed that 15% of Republicans and 20% of Democrats thought the country would be better off if a majority of the opposing political party “just died.”

He also said that the Constitution is the “longest-lasting and most widely admired internal order,” which “makes it less likely that it will be abandoned, but more traumatic if it is.”

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

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84. China’s football dreams: From boom to bust?Пт, 03 дек[−]
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With the Chinese Super League finally set to return in less than a fortnight, the top flight in the world's most populous country is in crisis and far from the expectations that were once held.

Four months since being paused, the CSL, founded in 2004, kicks off again on December 12 with a whimper.

Across a 24-day period, 64 matches of rounds 15 to 22 will be played.

As with most delays and postponements in modern life, the pandemic has played its part. But the pause also came so that the China men's team could host World Cup qualifiers abroad amid strict Covid-19 protocols that prohibited them from leaving the country or receiving opponents on home soil.

China are facing an uphill battle to reach the 2022 World Cup. © Reuters

Time and again, though, damaging tweaks have been made to the league with the well-being of the underachieving national team the main focus.

Yet in 2021, with a first participation at the FIFA World Cup since a maiden outing in 2002 highly unlikely as they sit second from bottom in Group B, neither the best squad of homegrown players across a population of 1.4 billion people nor its domestic championship are in good shape.

GRAND PLANS

The years 2011 and 2016 are pivotal in telling the story of how things went awry.

Guangzhou won their first of seven consecutive titles in 2011, but these days its property developing magnate backers Evergrande are on the brink of collapse while mired in over $300 billion worth of debt.

READ MORE: China Evergrande step closer to default

Guangzhou celebrate their CSL title in 2017. © AFP

There have been reports that the state has already taken over the stadium, and the club, who also won the title in 2019, seems set to follow the path of reigning 2020 champions Jiangsu FC.

Jiangsu folded when Inter Milan owners Suning, a retail group, pulled out without them being able to defend their first title.

Learning of such figures automatically triggers accusations of ridiculous overspending on transfers and salaries, which are accurate.

Yet just five years ago, the CSL was in boom times.

On December 23 of 2016, Shanghai SIPG shocked the football world when they shelled out over €60 million ($68 million) for Brazil midfielder Oscar – a regular international and Premier League starter aged 25 – with his former Chelsea coach Antonio Conte warning that the rise of the Chinese posed a "danger for all teams in the world."

"[Chinese clubs] seem to have the financial power to lure every player from Europe," added then-Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger from across London.

"There is a very strong political desire in China to become a big player and we have to be worried."

Former Chelsea midfielder Oscar has arrived in China after agreeing a ?52m move to Shanghai SIPG. pic.twitter.com/xCFfRbDrgV

— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) January 2, 2017

In that winter transfer window of 2016-2017, Chinese outfits blew a whopping collective sum of €388 million ($440 million), and it seemed like someone of the magnitude nearing Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo might soon make the Far East country his home.

Indeed, the Portuguese's superagent Jorge Mendes once revealed that there was an offer of €100 million a year ($113 million) to his biggest client.

In any event, six days after Oscar joined Shanghai SIPG, Argentine star Carlos Tevez rocked up across town at Shanghai Shenhua and reportedly became the highest-paid player in the world on eye-watering wages of $41 million.

While the South Americans were at least established players with Champions League and World Cup pedigree, deals for relative nobodies made before that in early 2016 were even more reckless and bizarre.

Guangzhou paid €42 million ($47.5 million) for Jackson Martinez and Jiangsu handing over €50 million ($56.5 million) to acquire Alex Teixeira from Shakhtar Donetsk.

Most expensive signings by clubs outside the?5? leagues:

1 ?? Oscar ?? Shanghai Port FC ?? (€60m)
2 ?? Hulk ?? Shanghai SIPG ?? (€55.8m)
3 ?? Alex Teixeira ?? Jiangsu FC ?? (€50m)
4 ?? Paulinho ?? Guangzhou FC ?? (€42m)
5 ?? Jackson Mart?nez ?? Guangzhou FC ?? (€42m) pic.twitter.com/SXpvsjwTet

— The Sweeper (@SweeperPod) March 16, 2021

Perhaps excluding Paulinho, a Guangzhou legend who impressed so much in his first spell that FC Barcelona took him for a single La Liga-winning campaign before he returned, most of the names on astronomical salaries failed to make an impact, nor appeared to take their task particularly seriously.

Tevez, more bothered about playing golf and engineering a return to childhood outfit Boca Juniors, which he did in 2018, referred to his spell there as a "holiday"; even Oscar revealed plans to stick around for just a couple of years before working his way back to Europe.

It has often been thought by those around championships such as the American MLS that having good foreign players will automatically bolster quality across the board, but in the CLS' case, this has not proved a quick fix solution despite standards admittedly improving somewhat.

POLITICAL FOOTBALL

As is often the case, politics and tinkering behind the scenes played just as big a part in the crumbling of Xanadu than a mere lack of control over the purse strings.

Boca Juniors' Carlos Tevez calls stay in Shanghai a 'seven-month holiday' pic.twitter.com/imwxvzUl9a

— Argentine League (@ArgentineLeague) April 24, 2018

Also in 2016, the Chinese Football Association (CFA) announced its plans to transform China into a footballing superpower in Asia by 2030 and a world leader by 2050, as president Xi Jinping made the sport part of the national school curriculum in 2014.

Yet with China 74th in the FIFA rankings, lower than they were a decade ago after world-class coaches such as 2006 World Cup winner Marcello Lippi were unable to improve their lot, there have been several changes in the meantime that only served to the CLS' detriment.

In Oscar's debut season, there was an announcement that only three foreign players could star in one game, and that in every 18-man matchday list, at least two local u-23s should feature with one starting from the offset.

The next season, the goalposts were shifted again with only four foreign players, not five, allowed in the squad and those under contract reduced from seven to six.

Also now, the total number of overseas players could not exceed the total number of Chinese U23 domestic players.

Furthermore, two U23 players must be in the 18-man squad.

One U23 player must start. #CSL

— China football news (@china_football) January 15, 2017

While these points alone may bear little relevance to the balance sheet, more harmful and related alterations weren't far behind.

To combat the growing perception that money was being squandered on foreign players doing little to justify their lofty pay packets or develop local players, a tax was brought in to guarantee that if any club spent over $7 million on a player from overseas, an equal payment of the transfer fee's amount would have to be paid to the CFA.

In essence, this resulted in double transfer fees, making big-name signings less frequent and therefore drawing a lower caliber of player to the CSL that is a turn off for fans.

Lots of articles and tweets on the foreign exodus from the Chinese Super League after salary cap. I’d be shocked if the new rule wasn’t another opportunity for the CSL’s trademark creative accountancy.

— Jonathan White (@jmawhite) December 30, 2019

It would be remiss to deny the impact Covid has had too, and not just on luring good players who are now leaving China in droves as a salary cap of $3.3 million remains fixed.

With no games for four months, financial problems have been heightened. In a recent report, a coach told German outlet DW that staff and players had not been paid in four months with the revenue having dried up.

Like Guangzhou, a number of CSL outfits are or were owned by property developers once willing to spend big due to having the funds in a golden era that has ended in their industry, and to earn favor with the government by investing in football.

Jiangsu Suning FC, Mubarak Wakaso's club in China has been dissolved. The Suning Group announce all their football clubs in China, including Jiangsu, their Women's Teams & teams at all youth levels 'cease operation from today'. Jiangsu won the Chinese ?? League only 3 months ago pic.twitter.com/K81MPcpwZG

— Saddick Adams (@SaddickAdams) February 28, 2021

Ahead of this season, however, the authorities finally enforced a "de-corporatization" of the names of clubs that had been threatened since 2015, which has, along with the pandemic, quelled ambition to invest more in their outfits amid less visibility.

This was no better communicated than in February when Suning said it would "cut down" any businesses "irrelevant" to retail ahead of folding Jiangsu a fortnight later.

In what is perhaps a football first, a championship-winning team will not defend its crown due to ceasing to exist the following term.

On a wider scale, supporters of others clubs could be discouraged by what the debt-ridden future holds for them amid dwindling quality in the CSL.

By Tom Sanderson

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

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85. Austria’s chancellor chosen as predecessor quits after 2 monthsПт, 03 дек[−]
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Karl Nehammer, Austria’s minister of the interior, has been unanimously supported by the ruling conservative party to become the country’s next chancellor.

The unanimous vote was confirmed to Austria’s public service broadcaster, the ORF, by a top official in the People’s Party on Friday. Apart from being Austria’s chancellor, Nehammer will also double as the chairman of the conservatives.

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Former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz gives a press conference in Vienna, on December 2, 2021. © JOE KLAMAR / AFP
Austrian ex-chancellor Kurz quits politics

It all comes after Alexander Schallenberg, who was sworn in as Austria’s chancellor only seven weeks ago, stepped down on Thursday, just hours after his predecessor in the country’s top office, Sebastian Kurz, announced that same day that he would be quitting all political posts he held.

The 49-year old politician is Austria’s sixth chancellor in just five years, with the ruling People’s Party being beset by allegations of corruption, most prominently levelled at ex-chancellor Sebastian Kurz and the party’s former coalition partners from the right-wing Freedom Party. Back in 2019, Germany’s Der Spiegel and the Süddeutsche Zeitung published secretly filmed footage at a villa in Ibiza in 2017. The video captured a conversation between the Freedom Party’s leadership and a woman posing as a niece of a Russian oligarch. In the video, the Austrian politicians appeared to agree to the woman’s offers of financial and media support in exchange for government contracts. The so-called Ibiza scandal led to the collapse of the then-coalition between the conservatives and the Freedom Party, whose leadership, though, insisted all along they had been set up, with the released video being selectively cut.

And in October this year, the Austrian prosecutor’s office for economic crimes and corruption announced that an investigation into the then-Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, was underway over alleged opinion poll manipulation several years prior.

Karl Nehammer is a veteran of Austria’s People’s Party and is known, among other things, for his tough stance on illegal immigration and the threat of Islamization.

Nehammer’s predecessor in the country’s top office, Alexander Schallenberg, is going to become Austria’s foreign minister. Although at the helm for less than two months, Schallenberg may go down in history as the first European leader to have announced mandatory vaccination against Covid, which is to take effect on February 1, 2022.

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86. Covid fraudsters steal billions from UK governmentПт, 03 дек[−]
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The UK’s National Audit Office (NAO) has found that the government’s failure to implement anti-fraud measures allowed fraudsters to steal ?4.9 billion ($6.51 billion) of taxpayers’ money from the Covid Bounce Back Loan scheme.

Established during the pandemic, the scheme offered loans of up to £50,000 ($66,378) to small and medium-sized businesses to help them cope with and recover from the pandemic. Having now closed, it handed out 1.5 million loans to a quarter of UK businesses, totaling around £47 billion ($62.39 billion).

An investigation by the NAO has discovered that “high levels of estimated fraud” was carried out by criminals after anti-fraud measures were “implemented too slowly.”

Out of the loans handed out, 11% have been deemed to be fraudulent, as of March, costing the UK government nearly £4.9 billion.

“The true level of fraud will become clearer over time,” Gareth Davies, the head of the NAO, stated, adding “it is clear government needs to improve on its identification, quantification and recovery of fraudulent loans within the scheme.”

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FILE PHOTO.
EU health watchdog gives prediction on Omicron spread

The NAO’s assessment warns the UK government that more than a third of the loans, valued at £17 billion ($22.57 billion), might never be repaid due to both a combination of criminals fraudulently claiming money and businesses defaulting on their debt.

Among the criticisms levelled at the scheme, the NAO accused the government of establishing it with “limited verification and no credit checks on borrowers,” making it “vulnerable to fraud and losses.”

The report confirmed a warning issued shortly after the scheme began. In May 2020, the British Business Bank claimed the loan scheme was susceptible to a “very high risk of fraud.” Similarly, a BBC investigation found that criminals had established fake firms to steal tens of thousands of pounds.

Responding to the report’s findings, a UK government spokesperson said that officials will “not tolerate” any attempts to defraud taxpayers by falsely claiming money from Covid support schemes, arguing that it has robust anti-fraud measures in place.

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87. Didi exits Wall Street under Beijing pressureПт, 03 дек[−]
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Chinese ride-hailing firm Didi said on Friday it would “immediately” start delisting from the New York Stock Exchange and turn to Hong Kong instead, following a months-long struggle with Chinese authorities.

After a careful study, the company will start delisting from the New York Stock Exchange immediately, and start preparations for listing in Hong Kong,” Didi wrote on its verified account on Chinese social media platform Weibo.

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FILE PHOTO.
China facilitates business travel with US

In a separate English-language statement, Didi announced its board of directors had authorized the move and stressed that its shares “will be convertible into freely tradable shares of the company on another internationally recognized stock exchange.

Didi held its ill-fated $4.4 billion initial public offering (IPO) in the US a mere five months ago, despite Beijing’s insistent demands to halt the listing amid a review of the company's data practices at home.

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) then forced mobile app stores to remove Didi's apps and ordered the company to stop registering new users, citing national security and public interest concerns. The company is still under investigation, but Reuters sources say it is preparing to relaunch its apps in China by year’s end, anticipating CAC’s investigation will be over by then.

Sources also claim that Didi plans to go through with its Hong Kong IPO in the next three months, and only then delist from New York – by June 2022. Didi shares dropped 0.13% during early trading on Friday, following the delisting news.

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

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88. Russia explains red lines on NATO expansionПт, 03 дек[−]
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The expansion of NATO further eastwards is a red line for Moscow, and Ukraine’s possible accession to the US-led bloc is simply unacceptable, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.

In a statement, spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned of “serious negative consequences” if the situation on the border between Russia and Ukraine deteriorates. In recent weeks, there have been constant reports of a troop build-up, with some Western publications suggesting a military conflict is imminent.

“Since the end of the Cold War, Russia has been repeatedly assured that NATO’s jurisdiction and military forces will not move an inch eastwards,” Zakharova said. “All these promises have been forgotten and not fulfilled. The result is the current sad state of European security.”

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Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a news conference after the first day of a meeting of the Alliance's foreign ministers in Riga, Latvia November 30, 2021
NATO provides guarantees to allies & not partners like Ukraine – Stoltenberg

“We are convinced that the only option for resolving the current situation is the joint development of long-term agreements that rule out any further NATO advances eastward and the deployment of weapons systems threatening us in the immediate vicinity of Russian territory,” she continued.

According to Zakharova, the US is dragging Kiev into the military orbit of the alliance and turning it into a ”bridgehead” of confrontation with Russia. This could destabilize Europe, she said.

The spokeswoman’s comments follow a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Riga, Latvia earlier this week, where the topic of Ukraine and the present circumstances on the frontier with Russia was front and center. While the bloc spoke about potential sanctions against Moscow, it also refused to guarantee that it would defend Kiev in case of armed conflict. However, Zakharova believes the alliance is focused on “fighting imaginary threats.”

“One of the pivotal topics – not for the first time – was Russia and its ‘possible aggression’ against Ukraine,” she said. “However, if we look at things realistically, it is NATO that has approached us.”

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89. New Man Utd boss Rangnick shares views on Ronaldo at first press conference (VIDEO)Пт, 03 дек[−]
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Ralf Rangnick has given his first press conference since formally taking over as Manchester United manager, using the occasion to praise Cristiano Ronaldo as a “top professional.”

Rangnick is finally set to begin his reign at Old Trafford after receiving a work permit and will be in the dugout for the first time when United host Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Sunday.

The German, 63, was in the stands on Thursday night at the Theatre of Dreams to watch United beat Arsenal in a 3-2 thriller thanks to a double from Ronaldo, which took the Portuguese icon past the 800-goal mark in his incredible career.

READ MORE: Bizarre goal in Man Utd-Arsenal game as Ronaldo reaches new landmark

Cristiano Ronaldo was on target against Arsenal. © Reuters

Given Rangnick’s reputation for demanding a high-intensity, heavy-pressing approach from his teams, some observers have doubted whether Ronaldo will fit into the German veteran’s plans.

However, Rangnick gave a glowing endorsement of Ronaldo when asked about the 36-year-old at a Friday press conference.

? "At his age I've never seen a player who is still that physically fit."

Ralf Rangnick on adapting players like Cristiano Ronaldo in to the new system that he plans to play pic.twitter.com/hdz1o6NLHC

— Football Daily (@footballdaily) December 3, 2021

“You always have to adapt your style or idea of football to the players you have available, and not vice versa,” said Rangnick at his unveiling.

“Having seen Cristiano yesterday in the second half, at the age of 36, amazing, top professional. At his age, I’ve never seen a player who is still that physically fit. He’s still a player who can easily make the difference.

“It’s about how we can develop the whole team, it’s not only about Cristiano. We play in the most competitive league in the world, so we need all the players on board.

“What I saw from Cristiano yesterday, he’s more than willing to do that, to put his input into the team, and the other teammates will have to do the same.”

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Ralf Rangnick is set to be named Manchester United interim manager. © AFP
From Russia without much love: Rangnick swaps Moscow for Manchester leaving anger in his wake

Rangnick is taking over at United having left his role as head of sports and development at Russian club Lokomotiv Moscow.

The German – who is considered the ‘godfather’ of his nation's modern school of coaching – has previously managed at clubs including RB Leipzig and Schalke 04.

He has signed a six-month deal to be United’s interim manager until the end of the current season and will remain at the club for a further two years in a consultancy role.

One man who will not be part of Rangnick’s coaching team is Michael Carrick, who had presided over the past three games as caretaker manager following the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Carrick, 40, announced after Thursday’s win over Arsenal that he would be leaving the club, having spent the past 15 years at Old Trafford as either a player or coach.

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90. Royal College of Midwives apologizes for woke guidance to ‘postnatal people’Пт, 03 дек[−]
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The Royal College of Midwives has issued an apology after calling mothers “postnatal people” in a new ‘safer sleep’ guidance for those sharing a bed with their newborns. The document has since been removed.

On Wednesday evening, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) – a British midwifery organization – published its later guidance for “postnatal people” who wished to sleep safely with their newborns. The document also provided help for getting newborns to sleep.

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European Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli delivers a speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. October 20, 2021. © AFP / Frederick Florin
Outcry forces EU to ditch plan for ‘inclusive’ language

However, the guidance made no reference to ‘women’ or ‘mothers’, only mentioning ‘postnatal people’, prompting a huge backlash on social media. The criticism resulted in the RCM removing the publication from its own website on Thursday morning.

“Postnatal people in hospital should have easy access to the call bell system, be shown how to use it and ensure it is working – they should be provided with a bed-side cot for the baby to use while in hospital,” a section of the document, referring to sleeping arrangements, read.

On Thursday, the RCM issued an apology to all those impacted by the wording in the guidance – which had been referred to as ‘woke’ by some on social media.

“We would like to apologise that women are not mentioned in our recent safer sleeping guidance,” the organization wrote in a tweet, adding: “This was a huge oversight on our part, especially as we are committed as an organisation to ensure that women are never erased from the narrative around pregnancy & birth.”

The group tagged Milli Hill, a self-described “outspoken feminist,” who had led the backlash against the RCM, in their apology.

According to The Telegraph, Gill Walton, the chief executive of the RCM, is a member of the Stonewall Diversity Champion program. The scheme aims to help firms “become more inclusive of LGBT people.”

In November, the BBC withdrew from Stonewall’s diversity scheme, citing concerns about impartiality on issues that the LGBTQ group was campaigning about. Stonewall claimed the public broadcaster had been pressured to withdraw its backing.

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91. Musk keeps dumping Tesla sharesПт, 03 дек[−]
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Tesla CEO Elon Musk has sold another bulk of the company’s shares worth $1.01 billion to pay his taxes, Thursday’s regulatory filings show.

In his latest exercise of options, the world’s richest person unloaded another 934,091 shares, bringing the total to 10.7 million, roughly half of the Tesla stock options he promised to sell.

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© shop.tesla.com
Tesla’s quad bike goes on sale, if you’re small enough

In early November, Musk tweeted that he would sell 10% of his Tesla stock if his Twitter followers voted ‘yes’, which they did – and the selling spree began.

However, Musk faces a $15 billion tax bill, and since he doesn’t receive a salary or cash bonuses from his company, he can only pay up by selling stocks.

Musk still has about 10 million Tesla stock options to sell before they expire in August next year, so more selling is likely to come.

Tesla shares slipped 1% on news of the sale, trading at around $1,085 per share in pre-market on Friday. They have lost around 11% since Musk started unloading stocks last month.

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

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92. Drunkest country in the world revealedПт, 03 дек[−]
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Australians have been pegged the heaviest drinkers in the world after consuming alcohol to the point of insobriety nearly twice as much as people elsewhere during 2020, an annual international survey of drug use has found.

More than 32,000 people from 22 countries reported their drug and alcohol consumption to the Global Drug Survey 2021. The report, released on Thursday, found Australian respondents got drunk more than twice a month (about 27 times a year) while the global average was around 14 times, or a little more than once a month.

Denmark and Finland were tied in second place, with respondents from each country reporting getting drunk nearly twice a month last year. The survey defined being drunk as situations where physical and mental faculties were impaired to the point that balance, focus, and speech were affected. Mexican drinkers were found to be the least likely to experience this state.

Read more
RT
Why Brits may have no booze this Christmas

Almost a quarter of Australian respondents felt regret about their drinking habits, with nearly three-quarters of participants from Down Under reporting being unhappy that they “drank too much too quickly.” However, Irish drinkers felt the worst about becoming inebriated, with more than a quarter “wishing [they] had drunk less or not drunk at all.”

Australian drinkers also tied with Finnish respondents at the top of the list when it came to seeking emergency medical treatment for “serious” alcohol-related situations. Rates of seeking medical attention in both countries were almost triple the global average, putting added pressure on Covid-hit public healthcare systems.

Survey lead researcher Monica Barratt told Australian news outlet The Latch that people in the country “got on the beers” during the Covid-19 pandemic since most regions avoided the extended lockdowns seen in other countries over the past year. Other than Victoria, most states and territories only went through short and sharp lockdowns, which allowed hospitality venues to remain open and more events to take place.

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93. 101-year-old accused of working as Nazi death camp guard takes the standПт, 03 дек[−]
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A German man on trial over his alleged stint as a Nazi death camp guard has told a court he never wore an SS uniform but worked at a farm all through WWII.

Germany’s prosecutor’s office believes Josef S. served as a watchman at the infamous Sachsenhausen concentration camp between 1941 and 1945. He spoke on Thursday through his lawyer, pleading not guilty to his alleged complicity in the murder of 3,518 prisoners from October 1941 through late February 1945. The defendant claimed that after moving from Lithuania he worked in the forestry and agriculture sector in Germany, “clearing and planting trees” for the duration of the second world war.

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John McCloy © Getty Images / ullstein bild Dtl.
The pro-Nazi US official who helped shape post-war Germany

The prosecutors are, however, not convinced by the elderly man’s story, dismissing it as an attempt to “escape into a fantasy world” and a “denial of his life.” They are relying on historical documents that indicate that a man with the same name and birthplace as the defendant served as a guard at Sachsenhausen. Among the evidence cited by the judge is Josef S.’ application for a pension that he filed with East Germany’s social service back in 1985. On the back of one of the pages are handwritten notes that appear to trace the main stages of the man’s life until then, with the period between 1940 and 1945 marked as “military and war service,” which, if true, runs counter to the defendant’s claims of never having worn a military uniform.

Court sessions in the trial, which began in the town of Brandenburg an der Havel in October this year, have been limited to no more than two and a half hours a day, in light of the defendant’s old age. He turned 101 in mid-November.

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94. China accuses MI6 chief of pushing ‘fake news’Пт, 03 дек[−]
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The Chinese embassy in London has hit back at the head of Britain’s secret intelligence service, accusing Richard Moore of “peddling fake news” after the MI6 boss claimed China targets poor countries with “debt” and “data” traps.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Chinese Embassy in the UK dismissed allegations levied against Beijing that China actively seeks to snare poorer nations in “debt traps” and steals valuable strategic data from these countries.

The embassy claimed that Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) chief Richard Moore, who made the comments, was guilty of “peddling fake news and false intelligence” about China.

In a statement attributed to a spokesperson, the embassy wrote: “The truth is there is not a single country that has fallen into the so-called ‘debt trap’ as a result of borrowing from China.”

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FILE PHOTO.
China facilitates business travel with US

They added that China does not seek to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, “nor does it impose its own will on others or seek any political benefits.”

The embassy urged Britain to correct its mistakes and “cease its unfounded attacks against China.”

In his first public speech on Tuesday, the British intelligence boss accused China’s intelligence services of “large-scale espionage operations” against the UK and urged other nations to be wary of the perceived Chinese threat.

Moore warned that by accepting Chinese technological solutions, nations may provide Beijing with a backdoor through which to steal data. He claimed that Beijing “harvests data from around the world” and over time, China’s access to other countries’ information will erode their sovereignty.

Moore – known as “C” – told BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ program that China is also using economic policy to enhance its own influence. He claimed Beijing is using loans and debt to “acquire significant ports that have the potential to become naval facilities.” An example is the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka, which handed it over to China after saying it couldn’t afford the debt on loans taken out with Beijing to build it.

Moore was referencing that many poorer nations have fallen into considerable debt with China. Ugandan media claims China has built the world’s most expensive road in their country, linking the cities of Entebbe with Kampala. The road, financed by Chinese loans, reportedly cost $9.2 million per kilometer. Much of the work is undertaken by Chinese firms and labor, reflecting Beijing’s two-decade-old ‘Go Out’ policy.

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95. America explains when Putin & Biden will talkПт, 03 дек[−]
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Russian President Vladimir Putin and his American counterpart Joe Biden will hold talks soon, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken revealed on Thursday, in what would be the first major talks between the two since meeting in June.

Blinken was speaking after a discussion with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Stockholm, on the sidelines of an OSCE ministerial meeting. The talks, which are the highest-profile negotiations since Putin and Biden met in Geneva earlier this year, ended after just 40 minutes, indicating that little progress had been made.

“We had a very direct, very candid, non-polemical exchange of views,” Blinken said, following the discussion. “It was serious; it was sober. I believe that the foreign minister will take the conversation back to President Putin.”

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© REUTERS / Kevin Lamarque
Moscow says Putin & Biden need to talk

“I’m going to do the same, of course, with President Biden. And I think it’s likely the presidents will speak directly in the near future,” he continued.

The Russian side also put out a statement, calling the meeting a “substantive exchange of opinions on the broad international agenda.”

The high-level meeting comes as tensions between Russia and the US remain high. Although the two presidents had a productive discussion in June, hopes for improvements in Russian-American relations appear to have been unfounded. In recent weeks, rhetoric has worsened as NATO has repeatedly criticized Moscow for an apparent buildup of troops near the Ukrainian border. Some Western media outlets have claimed Russia will imminently invade.

According to Lavrov, US and NATO involvement in Ukraine will have “the most serious consequences,” noting that Moscow wants to see “long-term security guarantees” on its Western borders.

While no official date for a future discussion between the two presidents has been released, Moscow daily Kommersant reported that it may happen “early next week,” without citing a source.

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96. ‘Never seen anything so extraordinary’: Bizarre goal in Man Utd-Arsenal game as Ronaldo reaches new landmarkПт, 03 дек[−]
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Cristiano Ronaldo breached the 800-goal mark in his career as the Portugal star netted a double for Manchester United against Arsenal in a game which also saw an extraordinary VAR incident when the Gunners opened the scoring.

On an incident-packed night at Old Trafford, Ronaldo won the game for the hosts when he drove in a penalty in the 70th minute.

That was his second of the game, after the Portugal star had earlier given United a 2-1 the lead in the 52nd minute only to see it canceled out by Martin Odegaard two minutes later.

It was the Gunners who had opened the scoring through Emile Smith Rowe in the 13th minute before United struck back through Bruno Fernandes just before half time.

Ronaldo’s double took him to 801 goals in his remarkable career – which according to records makes him the first player to surpass the 800 mark in top-level football.

8??0??0?? ??

? @Cristiano #MUFC | #MUNARS pic.twitter.com/ao9mLoY637

— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 3, 2021

The calmest man inside Old Trafford.

? @Cristiano #MUFC | #MUNARS

— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 3, 2021

The tally includes five goals at boyhood club Sporting Lisbon, 130 across his two spells for United, a record 450 at Real Madrid, 101 for Juventus, and 115 for Portugal – which is a record in men’s international football.

The all-time leading scorer in men’s football history is a source of contention due to sketchy records from past years, but Ronaldo is believed to head the charts in official top-level matches, even if the likes of Brazil legend Pele apparently scored more than 1,000 goals during his playing days.

Our minds are already set on the next game, there’s no time to celebrate! Today’s win was very important to get back on track, but there’s still a long road to go until we reach our destination… Congrats to all my teammates, great spirit tonight! ???? pic.twitter.com/XUFsOOGlws

— Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano) December 2, 2021

Thursday’s landmark for Ronaldo was just one aspect of a remarkable game.

The opening goal from Arsenal’s Smith Rowe came in contentious circumstances after the midfielder sent the ball into the United net while goalkeeper David de Gea was down injured.

The Spaniard’s teammate Fred had trodden on his foot as they prepared to defend a corner, sending De Gea to the ground. The ball was cleared from the box but came back to Smith Rowe, who fired home his effort from just outside the box.

Smith Rowe struck while De Gea was down. © Reuters

Referee Atkinson did not blow his whistle during the incident and was possibly unaware that De Gea was grounded. He did blow after the ball had gone in, suggesting he originally intended to rule out the goal but after a VAR review of just over three minutes it was allowed to stand because it was Fred who had accidentally injured his teammate rather than an opposition player.

For those that need to see it. Here's Fred stomping on De Gea's foot before the ESR volley in the Manchester United vs Arsenal game: pic.twitter.com/DRYC1wIEcZ

— Has the Referee or VAR made a poor decision? (@PoorEPLreferees) December 2, 2021

the difference between de gea and deano #notmyno1 pic.twitter.com/9FZgd91OPA

— suits enthusiast (@dylan______1) December 2, 2021

Fans and TV pundits described the scenes as bizarre, with former Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg saying he had never witnessed anything like it.

“I've never seen anything quite as extraordinary as this,” Clattenburg said. “Martin Atkinson was powerless. His feeling would have been that there was a foul but you can't blow your whistle until the ball goes in the goal.

“He didn’t see De Gea down. Martin isn’t looking at the keeper and it’s only when Smith Rowe is striking the ball that he looks and thinks ‘why is De Gea down?’ Then he will have thought there was a foul.”

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta also said it was an unusual goal.

“I've never seen anything like that, but that is the decision from the referee and VAR checked it and it was a goal,” said the Gunners boss.

Arsenal score after De Gea goes down by himself after being stepped on by Fred ?

One of the strangest goals we've ever seen. pic.twitter.com/2E0yulACxP

— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 2, 2021

Thierry Henry on Smith Rowe scoring in an empty net: "The last time I saw that was when I was 11-years old & my goalkeeper had gone for a sandwich & left his goal. We all turned & we were 1-0 down." [@primevideosport] #afc pic.twitter.com/0lI5JPvAP5

— afcstuff (@afcstuff) December 2, 2021

Adding to the drama after the final whistle, caretaker Manchester United manager Michael Carrick announced that he was leaving the club.

Incoming interim manager Ralf Rangnick, formerly head of sports and development at Lokomotiv Moscow, was in the stands on Thursday and is set to take to over for the Premier League game against Crystal Palace on Sunday after receiving a work permit.

“After a lot of thought and deliberation, I have decided that now is the right time for me to leave,” said Carrick, 40, who took charge temporarily after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked last month.

? Michael Carrick spoke to #MUTV after our 3-2 win and explains why he's decided to bid farewell to United...#MUFC | #MUNARS

— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 3, 2021

Previously a member of the coaching staff, Carrick presided over three games as caretaker boss – a 2-0 Champions League win at Villarreal which booked United’s place in the knockout stages, a 1-1 Premier League draw with Chelsea, and Thursday’s win against Arsenal.

Carrick was a longtime servant for United, spending 12 years at the club as a player before joining the coaching staff.

Ragnick, 63, is widely respected in football circles for the work he did in Germany and has been handed a six-month deal until the end of the season as well as a two-year advisory role beyond that.

READ MORE: From Russia without much love: Rangnick swaps Moscow for Manchester leaving anger in his wake

Thursday’s victory lifted United to seventh in the Premier League table, three points off the top four.

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97. Spy agency stops tracking Omicron carriersПт, 03 дек[−]
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The Israeli government said it won’t seek to extend the controversial surveillance program in which its security agency, Shin Bet, tracked people infected with the Omicron Covid-19 variant through their phones.

“It has been decided not to continue using it [surveillance] at this time,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said in a joint statement on Thursday.

The move was made in line with government policy which calls for tracking to be “used sparingly and examined on a daily basis,” the statement read.

The surveillance program, which was first implemented during the peak of the pandemic in Israel last year, was brought back on Sunday, with cabinet members expressing unease that it had to be done. The measure came as part of the Jewish state’s response to the Omicron strain, which also included the closing of Israel’s aerial borders for foreigners, and designating most of Africa (rather than just the southern part of the continent, where the new variant was discovered) as a ‘red zone’.

Read more
Israeli PM Naftali Bennett with his wife Gilat. © AFP / Gil Cohen-Magen
PM flip-flops on Omicron travel after vacation uproar

The extension of the program beyond midnight on Thursday required the government to seek approval from the parliament (the Knesset), but there has been little support among MPs.

The public has also expressed outrage over the program, with four human rights groups filing a petition to the Supreme Court for the measure to be scrapped. It was rejected just hours before the statement from the PM and health minister came out.

However, Bennett and Horowitz insisted that phone tracking “contributed in the past week to the effort of cutting off the chain of infection.”

The surveillance, however, can still be reintroduced in the future if the “morbidity circumstances” deteriorate, they said.

Horowitz later took to Twitter, explaining that the government decided not to continue with phone tracking because, “alongside protecting health, we need to also safeguard privacy and human rights, even at a time of emergency.”

The surveillance tech used by Shin Bet matches the location of the infected person against other nearby phones to determine who may have come into contact with the person.

So far, Israel has registered three cases of Omicron, with several dozen other people suspected to have been infected.

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98. Harris team at White House to implode further – mediaПт, 03 дек[−]
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The exodus from Kamala Harris’ administration is poised to continue with two more senior advisers, who reportedly told their colleagues they are on their way out. The news comes a day after the VP’s spokesperson quit.

Peter Velz, the director of Harris’ press operations, and Vince Evans, the deputy director of the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, are reportedly set to resign in the near future, the Washington Post reported, citing administration officials.

Read more
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris © REUTERS/Sarahbeth Maney
Top Kamala Harris aide to leave White House

While Both Velz and Evans are expected to quit as Harris’ aides, they might not stay unemployed for long, with the Post reporting that they are likely to land jobs “in or close to the administration.”

The report comes on the heels of the departure of Harris’ adviser and chief spokesperson, Symone Sanders. Commenting on Sanders’ exit on Thursday, Harris said she “can’t wait to see” what her former spokesperson will do next, while dodging questions about whether it was part of an impending large-scale reshuffle in her communications team.

“Well, I’ve told you how I feel about Symone. Next question,” Harris said.

Sanders’ departure came shortly after Harris’ communication director, Ashley Etienne, announced she would be leaving before the end of the year to “pursue other opportunities.”

The exodus comes amid reports of dysfunction in Harris’ team, and internal strife between her staff and Biden’s at the White House. There have reportedly been growing concerns that Harris is not well positioned to become Biden’s successor should he not run for a second term.

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99. China facilitates business travel with USПт, 03 дек[−]
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China is set to relax its travel rules for American business executives, Beijing’s envoy to the US said, vowing to put “more positive energy” into bilateral ties and “fast track” flights in order to meet concerns from US firms.

Speaking at a dinner hosted by the US-China Business Council on Thursday, the Chinese ambassador to the United States, Qin Gang, said Beijing will cut the time needed to approve travel for American execs to a week and a half, also pledging to be more “attentive” to complaints from business leaders over the current travel regime.

“With the upgraded arrangement, the time needed for travel approval will be shorter, no more than 10 working days,” he said, as quoted by Reuters, adding that China would send over a working plan to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “very soon.”

Read more
The Chinese and Olympic flags flutter at the headquarters of the Beijing Organising Committee for the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing. © Reuters / Thomas Suen
Biden puzzles journalists with comment on Olympics in China

Citing an amenable virtual summit between US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping last month, Qin said the two leaders also discussed how to “fast track” flights to China, and that Beijing would like to insert “more positive energy into our relations.”

The meeting and new assurances from Beijing come in contrast to earlier ties with the Biden White House, with the president repeatedly declaring China a major “competitor” while US warships regularly transit the Taiwan Strait and other waters claimed as Beijing’s territory. Despite the renewed efforts at diplomacy, Biden has also continued to discuss the possibility that Washington will boycott the Winter Olympic games, set for China in February, sending mixed signals for where relations are headed in the coming months.

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100. Alec Baldwin says he feels no responsibility over ‘Rust’ shootingПт, 03 дек[−]
Автор(?)

Hollywood actor Alec Baldwin has denied feeling any “guilt” over the on-set shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, saying that while the incident may affect his career, he does not see himself as responsible.

Speaking to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos for an interview aired in full on Thursday night, the ‘Rust’ star said he would “go to any lengths to undo what happened” on the film set in late October, though denied that he was at fault.

“I feel that someone is responsible for what happened, and I can’t say who that is, but I know it isn't me. I might have killed myself if I thought I was responsible, and I don't say that lightly,” he said, also answering in the negative when asked whether he felt “guilt.”

.@GStephanopoulos: "Do you feel guilt?"

Alec Baldwin: “No. Someone is responsible for what happened and I can’t say who that is, but I know it’s not me.”

READ MORE: https://t.co/zYugqKhIVW #BaldwinABC pic.twitter.com/97F9wOYYTT

— ABC News (@ABC) December 3, 2021

In previously aired clips, Baldwin argued that he did not pull the trigger on the gun, instead stating that it went off in his hand as he cocked back its hammer. He maintained that he has “no idea” how a live round ended up in what was supposed to be a ‘cold’ weapon, adding that an unknown “someone” must have put it there.

READ MORE: Alec Baldwin says he didn't pull the trigger

While the actor said he thinks it is “highly unlikely” that he will face criminal charges over the incident, which is still under investigation by authorities, he noted that it could have an impact on his future in the film business. “I couldn’t give a s**t about my career anymore,” he said, calling Hutchins’ death “the worst thing” that has ever happened to him.

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