Washington wants to keep Iran nuclear deal, just make it more ‘enduring,’ US official insists

By ethan / April 25, 2018

Washington is not planning to renegotiate the Iran nuclear deal, but simply wants to expand its scope, a top US official has said. Tehran has blasted US efforts to alter the accord, warning that it’s “either all or nothing.”

The uncertain future of the 2015 nuclear deal has made headlines this week, as French President Emmanuel Macron lobbied US President Donald Trump not to abandon the agreement during his visit to Washington.

Asked whether the French president’s efforts had been successful, Assistant Secretary for International Security Christopher Ford told Reuters: “I hope the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action; colloquially known as the ‘Iran nuclear deal’] has been saved in the context of the challenge that President Trump set for us, of trying to remain within the deal but in the context of moving forward with our partners on an approach that stands a pretty good chance of turning what was in effect a temporary postponement … into a more enduring answer.”

READ MORE: ‘Building constructor’ Trump lacks qualifications to judge nuclear deal, Iran’s president says

Ford’s comments come just a day after Macron said that the deal should be kept but expanded upon in order to guarantee that Tehran will not have a nuclear program “in the long run.”

It’s not clear whether Macron was persuasive, however. On the same day, Trump called the nuclear deal “insane” and said it should have never been agreed upon in the first place.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned on Monday that any attempts to alter the deal would likely open a “Pandora’s box” that would tarnish Washington’s credibility in future international negotiations.

“President Macron is correct in saying there’s no ‘Plan B’ on JCPOA,” Zarif tweeted on Monday. “It’s either all or nothing. European leaders should encourage President Trump not just to stay in the nuclear deal, but more importantly to begin implementing his part of the bargain in good faith.”

The deal is up for review on May 12, with Trump having repeatedly threatened to scrap it if Tehran does not make concessions regarding its ballistic missile program – which was never part of the original agreement. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran has so far been in full compliance with the deal.

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Russian hockey star Kovalchuk donates his Olympic bonus BMW to cancer charity

By ethan / April 25, 2018

Former NHL player and 2018 Olympic gold medalist Ilya Kovalchuk donated the money he made after selling his Olympic gold medal bonus BMW to a boy who was diagnosed with cancer.

Last month, the Russian star forward auctioned his new BMW X5, which had been presented by the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) as a bonus for winning gold at the 2018 PyeongChang Games. The car was sold at the symbolic price of 7.1 million rubles, which reflected Kovalchuk’s signature jersey number of 71.

The winner of the auction turned out to be another star Russian player, Columbus Blue Jackets left winger and Kovalchuk’s good friend Artemi Panarin, who had long dreamed of helping children with health problems.

“I had saved up money to help children, but I didn’t know where should I spend it,” Panarin explained.

“I didn’t want to give it to unknown and unreliable organizations. I trust Ilya and I’m sure that the money will be spent on good causes. They have already picked a person who we will help. So everything is great.”

The money donated by the hockey player will be granted to a 13-year-old boy named Yakov from Moscow, who is bravely fighting a sarcoma. Yasha, as he is known to his friends and loved ones, urgently needs a joint-replacement surgery that will help save his life. The cost of the surgery and rehabilitation was estimated at 2.7 million rubles, which is an impossible amount of money for Yasha’s grandmother, who has raised him since early childhood.

This week Kovalchuk, accompanied by famous Russian video blogger Amiran Sardarov and Russian TV hosts Garik Kharlamov and Timur Batrudinov, visited the “Spasi Zhizn” charity fund, where they met with kids, including Yasha, who need financial aid to overcome health problems.

Yasha’s grandmother couldn’t control her emotions and burst into tears when Kovalchuk entered the room with the others. She thanked the men for their efforts to help her save her grandson, who now has a chance to recover from the deadly disease.

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Detainee sat in human waste for 18 days in private prison transport van – report

By ethan / April 25, 2018

A detainee was forced to endure an almost three-week journey between Virginia and Texas in a privately-owned prisoner transport van. A lawsuit alleges he was denied medication, inadequately fed, and forced to sit in human waste.

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FILE PHOTO © John Gress

Edward Kovari was arrested in Winchester, Virginia, in 2016 on suspicion of stealing a car in Houston. While his charges were later dropped, a lawsuit filed in Virginia alleges that Kovari suffered inhumane conditions while en route to Houston, a violation of his 14th Amendment rights, reported the Washington Post.

The van, operated by Prisoner Transportation Services, stopped several times in seven states to pick up more prisoners. The normally 20-hour journey took 18 days.

Kovari was shackled tightly in chains, and denied his prescription medication for hypertension. When the van arrived in Houston, Kovari was unable to walk and his blood pressure was above 200, the lawsuit alleges.

Throughout the journey, cramped conditions meant that Kovari could not sleep for days on end. Water was rationed and detainees were occasionally fed fast food. In lieu of bathroom breaks, the prisoners were instructed to urinate in bottles or defecate in their clothes.

Kovari’s calls for medical attention were ignored, and he was threatened with tasing for causing a disturbance, the suit alleges.

Prisoner Transportation Services is America’s largest for-profit extradition company. Picking up as many prisoners in the same journey allows companies like this to maximize profits. Tens of thousands of prisoners are packed into vans every year, and multiple deaths and injuries have occured in these “mobile jails.”

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One of the world's longest gas pipelines from Russia to China almost complete

By ethan / April 25, 2018

The construction of the 3,000km Power of Siberia gas pipeline or the eastern route, which is aimed to deliver Russian gas to China, will be completed by the end of the year.

The announcement was made by Deputy Chairman of Gazprom Management Committee Vitaly Markelov, who said: “By 2019, we plan to eliminate technical gaps after testing.”

The Power of Siberia pipeline is one of the biggest projects between Russia and China. Analysts say it could help Russia become one of China’s main providers of natural gas as demand in the country increases.

At 3,000km, the pipeline is one of the longest in the world, longer than the distance between Moscow and London.

The pipeline’s first section will run some 2,200km from the Chayandinskoye field (Yakutia) to Blagoveshchensk (Chinese border). The second phase of the project will include the construction of a section stretching for about 800km from the Kovyktinskoye field (Irkutsk Region) to the Chayandinskoye field. The third stage provides for expanding gas transmission capacity between the Chayandinskoye field and Blagoveshchensk.

The deal on the eastern route took more than a decade to negotiate. Last July, Gazprom and the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) inked an agreement to start gas deliveries via the route.

In May 2014, the two companies signed a $ 400-billion 30-year framework to deliver 38 billion cubic meters of Russian gas to China annually.

Moscow and Beijing plan to build another pipeline – Power of Siberia 2 or the western route – that will deliver another 30 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas.

According to the head of Gazprom, Aleksey Miller, China’s growing gas consumption, which was more than 200 billion cubic meters in 2016, is soon expected to reach 300 billion cubic meters.

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

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Racist stereotype or PC gone mad? ‘Apu’ actor’s offer reignites Simpsons debate (POLL)

By ethan / April 25, 2018

Critics may think it’s just another case of political correctness gone mad, but now even actor Hank Azaria has lent his support to those unhappy about his voicing of ‘The Simpsons’ character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon.

The actor, who voices a number of characters on the long-running cartoon, addressed the controversy during an appearance on ‘The Late Show’ with Stephen Colbert. The show has come under fire in recent weeks after a new documentary, ‘The Problem with Apu’, claimed that the character was a stereotype of Indian immigrants to the US. Azaria now says he is willing to “step aside” if producers wanted to cast an Indian voice actor to take over the character.

READ MORE: Robot racism: Bias extends to humanoids, study finds

“I think the most important thing is to listen to Indian people and their experience with it,” Azaria said. He also added that he wanted a more diverse writing staff working on the cartoon. “I really want to see Indian, South Asian writers in the writers room…including how [Apu] is voiced or not voiced. I’m perfectly willing to step aside. It just feels like the right thing to do to me.”

READ MORE: ‘Mollycoddled, entitled and spoilt’: Head teacher under fire over Millennial tirade

Twitter users had a mixed reaction to the news that Azaria is willing to step down as the voice of the beloved Indian convenience store owner, with some decrying and defending the PC culture that gave rise to the controversy.

READ MORE: Ladies who crunch outraged over Dorito’s women-friendly snack

The maker of the documentary, Hari Kondabolu, also took to the social media platform to register his appreciation to Azaria for addressing the issue.

But what do you think? Is Apu an outdated and racist stereotype of a south Asian convenience store owner? Or are all these bearded lefty snowflakes manufacturing another controversy as a means to signal their virtue to like-minded liberals in their social media echo chambers? Let us know…

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First paralyzed man to finish London marathon denied medal

By ethan / April 25, 2018

The first paralyzed man to complete the London marathon, Simon Kindleysides, has been denied a medal by the event organizers as he crossed the finish line more than a day after the start.

The 34-year-old Kindleysides began the race at 10am on Sunday along with thousands of other runners and completed the 26.2-mile course at 10:46pm on Monday – more than 36 hours after the start – becoming the last person to finish.

READ MORE: Egypt football fan embarks on cycle journey to 2018 World Cup

Kindleysides was diagnosed with glioma, an inoperable brain tumor, in 2013, which left him paralyzed from the waist down. He competed in the London marathon using a battery-powered exoskeleton suit which helped him to move.

“I want to be a role model to my children so they can say their daddy’s been the first paralyzed man to walk the London marathon ever,” Kindleysides told the BBC before the race.

The event organizers, however, refused to give an official medal to Kindleysides, as he failed to cross the line on Sunday. Instead, they presented him with the Spirit of London award, which the London marathon gives to competitors who “encapsulated the unique spirit” of the race.

Well-wishers impressed by the feat gave Kindleysides medals of their own in recognition of his unbending will and power to cover the distance despite all the difficulties.

Kindleysides says his main goal was to bring attention to the problem of brain tumors and raise money for the Brain Tumour Charity, which helps people to fight the dangerous disease.

“I am in a lot of pain. It has taken it out of me and I don’t know how it is going to affect me physically afterwards,” Kindleysides said after the race.

“I hadn’t walked 26 miles in my life when I was able bodied, so that is a massive achievement in itself. The support has just been overwhelming and like a dream come true. It is incredible because I didn’t expect it to be as big as it was.

“I just wanted to show that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. You can stay in bed and feel sorry for yourself or get out and enjoy your life, because you are only here once,” he added.

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Russia makes billions after US sanctions turn ruble to rubble

By ethan / April 25, 2018

The latest US sanctions, which sent the Russian currency to its steepest drop in the past three years, surprisingly helped to boost the country’s budget with an extra 232 billion rubles ($ 3.8 billion).

The decline in the value of the ruble, as well as recent purchases of hard currency by the Central Bank of Russia, brought an additional inflow of money for the Russian government.

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Moscow © Maxim Shemetov

The re-assessment of foreign-exchange reserves shows that, at the peak of the ruble crash, when the national currency fell to over 65 rubles to one dollar, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund reaped a profit of some 470 billion rubles ($ 7.6 billion). However, the subsequent strengthening of the Russian currency wiped out nearly half of the gains.

The unexpected earnings could reportedly help Russia’s Finance Ministry to register its first current budget surplus since 2011. The ministry will be able to monetize those assets at the end of the year, when the fund converts the foreign currencies into rubles for implementing budget spending.

A weak ruble may bring the Russian government even more profit. A slight growth of the US dollar, by just one ruble, could bring an extra 85 billion rubles ($ 1.4 billion) to the Russian budget – even with stable prices for crude, according to Central Bank estimates, published in December. Thus, the latest devaluation of the national currency may bring up to 255 billion rubles ($ 4.1 billion) by the end of 2018.

Last week, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said that the current state financial standing, bolstered by growing prices for crude, may create a budget surplus of 0.5 percent of the country’s GDP for the first time in seven years.

“Expensive oil and cheap ruble is the dream for the Finance Ministry,” said Alexander Razuvaev, director of the Analytical Department at Alpari Research and Analysis.

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

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‘Incitement to crime’: Russian senator blasts Saudi advice to send Qatari troops to Syria

By ethan / April 25, 2018

A member of the Russian upper house security committee has described a recent Saudi statement urging Qatar to send troops to Syria as blackmail, and warned that any such step would bring only chaos and casualties to the region.

The statement made by the head of Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry is a very real blackmail. Saudi Arabia is inciting Yemen into knowingly unlawful action,” Senator Frants Klintsevich told reporters on Wednesday.

Klintsevich referred to comments by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir, who earlier in the day stated that Qatar must “send its military forces (to Syria), before the US president cancels US protection of Qatar, which consists of the presence of a US military base on its territory.” The minister also hinted that Qatari forces could replace US servicemen in case the latter are ordered to withdraw from the region.

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© U.S. Air Force

The Russian senator told the press that he personally had great doubts about the US’ intention to leave Syria, despite all contrary statements made by President Donald Trump. “Saudi Arabia must be talking about Qatar’s participation in the Syrian campaign alongside the US forces, not instead of them. This is even stranger as Riyadh cannot fail to understand that this would bring nothing but additional chaos and new senseless casualties,” he said, adding that he suspected Saudi authorities had their own goals in the conflict, which they preferred to keep quiet.

The Al-Udeid airbase located near the Qatari capital Doha is currently the largest US military base in the Middle East, with around 11,000 servicemen stationed there. Qatar’s own army is one of the smallest in the region, with some 12,000 active military personnel.

In January, the Qatari defense minister outlined a far-reaching expansion of US military presence in the country and a potential US Navy deployment after it completes renovations of its naval ports. He also expressed hope that the base will one day become permanent.

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Will robots replace humans in investing? RT's Boom Bust investigates

By ethan / April 25, 2018

Artificial intelligence (AI) could soon replace brokers and investors in picking the best stocks to buy or sell. RT show Boom Bust talks to an expert on the matter and questions more.

Could AI have saved Greece from crisis? Will robots take into account Donald Trump’s tweeting? Alexander Fleiss from Rebellion Research, a firm developing and using AI to pick investments, answers the questions.

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2 Italian fans arrested on suspicion of attempted murder of Liverpool fan after pre-game clashes

By ethan / April 25, 2018

Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League semi-final match between Italy’s Roma and England’s Liverpool was marred by violent clashes between fans near Anfield football stadium just before kick-off.

The clashes resulted in the hospitalization of at least one man, a 53-year-old Liverpool fan believed to be from Ireland, who remains in a critical condition with head injuries. Nine men, aged between 20 and 43, were arrested for various offences, including attempted murder.

Two men from Rome, aged 25 and 26, were arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, Merseyside Police reports.

Video footage of the clashes shows a group of football hooligans, apparently Roma fans, attacking a man in a blue jacket, using swinging belts; while another man, visibly unconscious, lay on the ground nearby. 

Photos taken on the spot also show a hammer in the hand of one of the hooligans.

UEFA has since released a statement on the incident.

“UEFA is deeply shocked by the vile attack that occurred ahead of Liverpool FC v AS Roma and our thoughts are with the victim and his family,” it read.

“The perpetrators of this ignominious attack have no place in football and we trust they will be dealt with utmost severity by the authorities. UEFA is waiting to receive full reports before deciding on potential disciplinary charges.”

The match itself finished in favor of the host team 5-2.

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