‘Serena was mean, I’m not a fan of her as a person’- World boxing champ hits out at Williams meeting

By ethan / September 26, 2018

World champion boxer Claressa Shields says an “upsetting” meeting with 23-time grand slam champion Serena Williams at the 2016 Rio Olympics led her to stop idolizing the “mean” and “unfriendly” star.

READ MORE: ‘You were not coaching’: Serena Williams signals anger at coach over US Open scandal

Shields, who holds the WBA and IBF World Female middleweight belts, admitted she was left feeling as though she did “not want to be like” the tennis great when she met her former hero at the Rio 2016 Olympics, where the former won the second of her gold medals for Team USA as an amateur boxer.

The fighter, nicknamed T-Rex, told of being left disappointed by Serena, who also won an Olympic gold medal at London 2012, when asked about her childhood sporting idols on Tuesday.

“Well, one used to be Serena Williams,” Shields said, the Detroit Free Press reported. “She used to be. I was able to meet Serena at the 2016 Olympics. She was just not nice. For me to look up to her like I did when I was a kid and then meet her in person and see how she’s not fan-friendly, (that was upsetting).”

Shields, 23, became the first U.S. boxer – male or female – to win two Olympic gold medals when she defended her London 2012 title in Rio, but says she was snubbed by the tennis star when attempting to simply say hello.

“She was kind of mean to a lot of people at the Olympics and just kind of made me not want to be like her,” Shields continued. “Because I’m different. I’m a fan of her being a great athlete, just not a fan of her as a person, if that makes sense?”

The comments came as Shields talked about her upcoming middleweight unification match against WBO title holder and fellow unbeaten fighter Christina Hammer of Germany, that fight taking place at the famous Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey in November.

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Williams perhaps lost a lot more fans after her outburst at the US Open final when she accused umpire Carlos Ramos of unfair treatment, calling him a “liar” and a “thief” after he penalized the player for infractions during a straight sets loss to Naomi Osaka.

As a female world champion in her sporting field, Shields’ words may carry extra weight given that Williams, although fined $ 17,000 for her poor on-court behavior, made allegations of sexism from umpires. 

READ MORE: Where’s HER apology? Why scathing Serena Williams should say sorry to Naomi Osaka

Many were quick to point out that Williams’ shameful outburst stole the limelight from another female sportsman in 20-year-old Osaka, who was seen in tears at the award ceremony after winning her first Grand Slam.

It seems that her Arthur Ashe stadium dramatics is not the first time that Williams’ acerbic attitude has upset a fellow female sportsman.

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Washington cannot dictate who Europeans should and shouldn't trade with – Belgian PM

By ethan / September 26, 2018

The United States has no right to tell European companies who they can trade and develop economic relations with, according to the Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel.

“We cannot accept that the US decided the regions with which European companies can or cannot do business,” Michel said in an interview with Belgian French-language broadcaster RTBF shortly after meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in New York.

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© Kevin Lamarque

The Belgian PM was the first among Western leaders to hold a bilateral meeting with the Iranian President on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Belgium will get a two-year non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as soon as next year.

Michel stressed that Belgium and the EU are not naive when it comes to the issue of Iran and regional significance of the Islamic Republic.

The comments come amid Washington’s hard stance against Tehran. In May, US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal, signed between Iran and a broad alliance of world powers. Under the historic agreement, decades-long anti-Iranian sanctions were lifted, opening up the country’s market for Western corporations.

In August, the White House reimposed unilateral sanctions against the Islamic Republic, putting restrictions on the country’s car industry, carpets, metals trading and banning access to US banknotes.

Further penalties, scheduled for November, will reportedly hit Iran’s oil and shipping sectors. Washington threatened secondary sanctions on any nations or corporations that conduct transactions with Iran.

So far, the threat of US penalties has forced out a wide range of European firms, including Daimler, Peugeot, Renault, Siemens and Total, from ventures in the Islamic Republic.

Earlier, the EU’s foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said that the bloc’s signatories – Britain, Germany and France – remain committed to the nuclear deal and that the EU is working on a payment system to allow trade and business with Iran to continue.

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Rand Paul wants to lift US travel bans on Russian lawmakers if Moscow reciprocates – report

By ethan / September 26, 2018

Republican Senator Rand Paul will introduce an amendment that would lift existing US sanctions on members of Russia’s Federal Assembly if Moscow agrees to nix its own sanctions targeting US lawmakers, according to the Daily Beast.

Paul will present the legislation during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting on Wednesday, the Daily Beast, which obtained the text of the amendment, reported.

But with Democratic members still in full Russiagate mode, it’s unlikely that the amendment will make it past committee. Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who is currently banned from traveling to Russia, told the Daily Beast that she saw no need for the amendment, claiming that it would merely be “a capitulation to Putin’s aggression.”

READ MORE: Rand Paul says ‘big mistake’ not to have dialogue with Moscow, invites Russian MPs to DC

The legislation, however, has a simple, practical purpose – to allow Russian lawmakers to visit the US and confer with their American counterparts.

Paul is one of a handful of top US lawmakers who have called for more dialogue with Moscow. The Kentucky senator made two separate visits to Moscow – the first in July, followed by a second visit the next month – to find“common ground with [Russian] leaders and help prevent further, unnecessary escalation of tensions.”

During his trip in August, he invited members of Russia’s Foreign Affairs Committee to come to the US to “meet with us in Washington.”

He said at the time that he was working with Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the foreign affairs committee, to organize a meeting between US and Russian lawmakers in a neutral, third country.

“The world is a complicated place, we are in close proximity to Russia in Syria and other places, and I think it would be a very big mistake not to have open lines of communication,” Paul said. He also called for “more cultural exchange, more exchange between our legislative bodies, more open lines of communication.”

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Russia launches legal bid to overturn athletics ban after WADA reinstatement

By ethan / September 26, 2018

Russia has begun a legal battle to overturn the ban imposed by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), taking its case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland.

Russia was recently reinstated by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), although it remains suspended by several international sports bodies, including the IAAF.

READ MORE: WADA reinstates Russian anti-doping agency, ending 3-year suspension

The IAAF’s ban – originally imposed in 2015 amid allegations of state-sponsored doping, and prolonged earlier this year – is due to be discussed in December, after a taskforce has reported back to the organization.

However, the WADA decision has prompted the Russian sports authorities to launch a challenge to overturn the ban as soon as possible.  

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© Vitaly Belousov

According to the Times, a letter from the Russian Athletics Federation (RUSAF) to the IAAF calls for the suspension to be lifted, and also announces that it has taken its case to CAS.

“Given that the outstanding criteria for RUASF’s reinstatement were essentially identical to those that the WADA Executive Committee has considered met, and that time is of the essence, we respectfully request that the IAAF decided to reinstate RUSAF as soon as possible,” the letter reads.

“In the meantime, however, RUSAF has no choice but to protect its rights and accordingly, has filed today an appeal before the Court of Arbitration for Sport against the IAAF Council’s decision to extend RUSAF’s suspension,” adds the letter from RUSAF chief Dmitry Shlyaktin.  

RUSAF confirmed on Wednesday that the letter had been submitted to the IAAF, according to TASS.  

In being reinstated by WADA, the Russian sports authorities promised to provide access to the Moscow laboratory at the center of the doping claims, and also accept the findings of the Schmid Report on wrongdoing.   

READ MORE: ‘This is a turning point in the whole story’ – Swiss sports lawyer on RUSADA reinstatement  

Russia hopes that the decision will pave the way for full rehabilitation in international sport, although the IAAF is adamant that it will follow its own roadmap, dependent on the findings of its own taskforce.

It has previously said that to have its suspension lifted, Russia would need to accept the findings of the McLaren report on alleged systematic doping – something that was not part of the WADA reinstatement agreement.   

Russian athletes cleared to compete at IAAF events currently do so as neutrals. 

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Iran tells Trump to stop ‘disruptive interference’ in Middle East if he wants cheaper oil

By ethan / September 26, 2018

US sanctions against Tehran are pushing up oil prices, according to Iran’s oil minister. If Donald Trump wants cheaper crude like he declares, America should stop interfering in Middle East affairs, he said.

“Mr Trump is trying to seriously reduce exports of Iran’s oil and also ensure the price of oil does not go up, but these two cannot happen together,” Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency, as quoted by Reuters.

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Ankara, Turkey © Umit Bektas

“If he wants the price of oil not to go up and the market not to get destabilized, he should stop unwarranted and disruptive interference in the Middle East and not be an obstacle to the production and export of Iran’s oil.”

It is Trump and not OPEC that is to blame for the rise in oil prices, according to Iran. On Tuesday, Brent oil hit $ 82 per barrel for the first time since 2014. “Trump blames OPEC for what he has created and caused: the rise of the price of oil and disturbance in the market,” Zanganeh said.

Speaking at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Trump accused OPEC of “ripping off the rest of the world” by pushing for higher oil prices. He also accused Iran of sowing chaos and pledged to imposed further sanctions.

The US President has repeatedly blamed OPEC for high oil prices, to which the organization replied that it has no power to control crude prices.

The International Energy Agency predicts strong oil demand growth of 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd) this year and 1.5 million bpd in 2019. The growth will come at the time when OPEC’s third largest producer, Iran, has been losing clients due to US sanctions against its oil sector which come into force on November 4.

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Former Lazio & Aussie international footballer embarks on cannabis career

By ethan / September 26, 2018

Retired Lazio and Australian international Mark Bresciano has swapped the grass of the football pitch for a different kind of green, entering the cannabis industry by cultivating marijuana for medical reasons.

The 38-year-old, who spend spent most of his career in Italy’s Serie A, has said he is working on obtaining the necessary documents to legalize the production of marijuana-based medicines.

READ MORE: Scottish football club defends cannabis oil sponsorship

I’m investing in property these days, and working on cultivating cannabis,” Bresciano was quoted as saying by the Sun.

“At present I am studying with a partner who is working towards producing marijuana-based medicines within the next year,” he added.

Bresciano, who played for Lazio and Empoli during his career, said he intends to adopt experience form Canada and the US, where medicinal cannabis cultivation has become a rapidly growing industry.

The company is called Greenhope. We have identified a site and obtained the necessary licenses. There is still a long way to go before we can produce cannabis-based drugs,” he said.

READ MORE: ‘I would smoke cannabis six hours before a game’ – NBA champion Matt Barnes

For the moment we are going to Canada and the US to learn more, as well as Europe – where there are experts.”

The retired footballer, who lives in Melbourne, added that he misses playing the game, but plans to concentrate on his new business.

Bresciano scored 13 goals in 84 appearances for the Socceroos before retiring from professional football in 2015.

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Turkey will continue buying gas from Iran despite US sanctions – Erdogan

By ethan / September 26, 2018

Ankara plans to stay committed to its long-term energy-supply deal with Tehran despite Washington’s threats to punish countries that do business with Iran, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

“We need to be realistic… Am I supposed to let people freeze in winter?… Nobody should be offended. How can I heat my people’s homes if we stop purchasing Iran’s natural gas?” Erdogan said in an exclusive interview with Reuters.

He said that there were similar situations with Iranian gas imports during the presidency of Barack Obama. At the moment, Turkey is buying 50 percent of its gas from Russia, with the rest imported from Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq and Algeria.

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FILE PHOTO. An illustrated picture shows euro notes stuck into a tank opening of a car © Patrick Pleul

The Turkish president explained that, in terms of energy supplies, the country “will act in accordance with internal needs.”

Turkey gets 40 percent of its electricity from natural gas. It is dependent on imports for almost all of its energy needs and Iran is a key supplier of Ankara’s natural gas and oil purchases. According to Turkey’s Energy Minister Fatih Donmez, the country’s natural gas contract expires in 2026. Under the agreement, Ankara is set to buy 9.5 billion cubic meters of gas from Tehran.

The US has re-imposed sanctions against Iran after unilaterally withdrawing from the international agreement reached in 2015, which curtailed the country’s nuclear program. The new round of sanctions against Iran’s oil industry is expected to come into force on November 4. The White House also threatened secondary sanctions on any countries or companies that conduct transactions with Iran.

READ MORE: Russia, Turkey & Iran speeding up efforts to drop US dollar from trade – official

So far, the tough measures have reportedly forced Japanese refiners to stop buying Iranian crude. China’s oil imports from Iran reportedly plunged by around 250,000 barrels per day (bpd) in August compared to a month earlier, though Beijing signaled its intent to keep buying. At the same time, India’s imports dropped by 400,000 bpd.

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Got your popcorn? Trump's Security Council performance could be more than just Iran bashing

By ethan / September 26, 2018

Donald Trump is expected to push the international community to embrace Washington’s hardline approach towards Tehran during a rare address at the UN Security Council – but the open-ended agenda leaves room for surprises.

The US president will chair a meeting of the 15-member council, which focuses on global security issues, a day after speaking before the United Nations General Assembly, where he accused Iran of spreading “chaos, death and destruction” throughout the Middle East. The United States this month holds the presidency of the Security Council, giving Trump unfettered access to the esteemed international body – and another chance to rail against Iran.

READ MORE: America is the best, Iran is the worst, globalism is bad: 5 things we learned from Trump’s UN speech

Usually the chair speaks last at council meetings, but the US leader, apparently not a believer in saving the best for last, has chosen to be the first to speak before the chamber. His remarks will be followed by addresses from French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Trump’s address will mark only the third time in history that a US president has chaired a Security Council meeting – but it’s likely the first time that a former reality television star has held the gavel.

An ambiguous agenda

Trump tweeted last week that he would “chair the United Nations Security Council meeting on Iran,” but the agenda circulated to Security Council members does not single out Iran or any other country.

“The purpose of this meeting is to discuss ways the Security Council can better enforce the resolutions it has adopted… to counter the spread and use of the world’s most dangerous weapons,” it reads.

Trump may use the opportunity to drum up support for US sanctions imposed on Tehran after Washington unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal. The accord’s remaining signatories are currently developing a payment system that would allow trade and business ventures with Iran to continue. Four of the five remaining signatories to the deal – Britain, China, France and Russia – are permanent members of the Security Council.

READ MORE: Rouhani slams US for ‘authoritarian’ foreign policy, calls on Trump to return to talks

However, the expanded scope of the meeting has led to speculation that Trump may also touch upon alleged chemical weapon attacks in Syria. The United States has been warning for weeks that it would hold Damascus responsible for any chemical attacks carried out in Idlib province, the last stronghold of Al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadists in Syria, and that such an attack would prompt a military response.

Media reports have mused that North Korea and the Salisbury poisoning saga could also be agenda items.

Whatever topics are brought up, it’s unclear how much Trump will be able to achieve as guest chair. Commentators have argued that his performance is unlikely to result in anything concrete. US envoy to the UN Nikki Haley has stated that there are currently no plans to adopt a resolution at Wednesday’s meeting.

Most-watched Security Council?

Trump’s General Assembly speech made headlines – and inspired viral videos – after the diplomat-filled audience was heard laughing at the US president’s boast-filled address. But should we expect the same kind of bravado and theatrics during the Security Council meeting?

Haley seems to think so, telling reporters that she was “sure” that Trump’s presence will make the session the “most-watched Security Council meeting ever.”

Not everyone is expecting fireworks, however. “I don’t think we will see any major intrigue in what he will say,” Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told Reuters.

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India’s crude-oil demand to reach 500 million tons in 2040 – biggest refiner

By ethan / September 26, 2018

Crude-oil demand in India is expected to rise to some 10 million barrels per day (bpd) or 500 million tons by 2040 from around 4.7 million bpd in 2017, according to the country’s biggest refiner, Indian Oil Corporation.

Total global oil demand is forecast to rise by another 15.8 million bpd by 2040, Reuters quoted Partha Ghosh, executive director for optimization at the company, as saying on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Petroleum Conference (APPEC) in Singapore.

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© Nick Oxford

Of this expected global demand growth, India’s demand growth would be around 24 percent, Ghosh said. 
India’s economic growth is driving energy demand growth, but the rate of that growth is expected to slow by 2024-2025.

The single biggest hindrance for India’s oil demand growth will not be alternative energy or energy efficiency, it will be higher oil prices, Ghosh told Reuters, noting that India’s economy is highly sensitive to oil prices. Estimates have it that a $ 10 a barrel rise in oil prices reduces India’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 0.2-0.3 percent, the manager said.

India—which imports around 80 percent of the oil it consumes—will see its energy consumption growing at the fastest rate among all major economies by 2040, according to the BP Energy Outlook 2018. Oil imports will rise by 175 percent and account for 65 percent of the increase in energy imports, BP says, estimating India’s oil consumption at 10 million bpd in 2040.

According to OPEC’s just released 2018 World Oil Outlook, India is projected to be the country with the largest additional oil demand and the fastest growth in the period to 2040. India will see the largest additional demand of 5.8 million bpd, likely passing the 10-million-bpd mark sometime towards the end of the forecast period, OPEC said.

Read more on Oilprice.com: Schlumberger To Buy Russia’s Leading Drilling Company

While India is expected to continue to be a key driver of global oil demand growth, its vulnerability to oil prices could act as a demand destroyer in periods of higher oil prices.

Over the past few months, rising oil prices and the weakening Indian currency, the rupee, have already created a perfect storm for India, and refiners and the government are said to be considering various measures to reduce their spending on oil imports, including hedging or using stockpiles.

This article was originally published on Oilprice.com

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Duma unanimously passes Putin’s amendments to pension reform bill

By ethan / September 26, 2018

The Russian parliament has approved amendments by Vladimir Putin to the bill providing for a gradual rise in the age of retirement. The changes are expected to soften the impact of the unpopular measure for ordinary citizens.

The nine amendments drafted by President Putin reduce the proposed increase in the retirement age for women, guarantee that pensioners keep all current tax benefits until the reform is fully completed, and offer additional payments to several categories of citizens, such as pensioners living in remote rural areas and representatives of indigenous peoples in northern Russia.

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Women are consulted by an expert of the Russian Pension Fund in the Russian Pension Fund's client hall in Tambov © Alexey Suhorukov

The amended bill will see the retirement age for men raised from 60 to 65 years by 2028. The increase for women will be from 55 to 60 years by 2034.

Putin’s initiative also includes the introduction of a pre-retirement age, which will be five years before retirement age. Citizens who reach this age would get higher unemployment benefits and enjoy additional guarantees of employment, as companies will be punished for sacking or not hiring them without valid reasons. On Tuesday, the State Duma approved changes to the Criminal Code providing for these penalties.

Along with the presidential amendments, the lower house also passed several alterations to the pension reform bill drafted by the parliamentary majority party United Russia. These were mostly technical and concerned such issues as indexing of pensions for inflation, and interaction between the state and private pension funds.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin hosts a session of the National Council for Physical Culture and Sports in Kaliningrad © Valery Melnikov

The State Duma approved the bill ordering an increase in the age of retirement in mid-June this year. The bill has been greeted with public discontent, as expected, and opposition politicians have been fast to capitalize on these sentiments. The motion was criticized in the media and on the internet, while large Russian cities saw several protest rallies, some attended by thousands of participants, mostly organized by Russia’s largest opposition party – the Communists.

Vladimir Putin personally addressed the situation in a special televised address to the nation on August 29. He asked ordinary people to understand the necessity of the reform and also promised to make some changes to the proposals that would soften the impact on the most vulnerable groups of citizens.

As State Duma MPs were discussing the presidential amendments on Wednesday, another protest rally took place near the parliament’s headquarters in Moscow. The event, organized by leftist opposition parties, started as a series of single-person pickets (the only protest format that does not require a license from municipal authorities), but quickly developed in an impromptu demonstration with the estimated number of participants ranging from 30 to 500.

Two Communist Party MPs have also expressed their opposition to the measures by wearing t-shirts depicting the numbers 63 and 65 crossed out. However, State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin mocked them, saying that a lawmaker’s salary was much higher than those of ordinary voters and, in his opinion, his colleagues could afford a jacket and a tie.

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