Prosecutors seek UK’s help in probe into mysterious death of late Russian oligarch’s ally

By ethan / April 25, 2018

The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office has requested legal assistance from British agencies in the investigation of the violent death of Nikolay Glushkov, a convicted criminal and a close associate of oligarch Boris Beresovsky.

In accordance with the 1959 European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, we have forwarded a request for legal assistance in an investigation launched into the murder of Nikolay Glushkov in Great Britain,” read a statement posted on the website of the Russian embassy in the United Kingdom.

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A police officer stands on duty outside the home of Nikolai Glushkov in New Malden, on the outskirts of London, Britain, March 17, 2018. © Simon Dawson

The Russian diplomats added in their message that, so far, all attempts to secure cooperation from British agencies in the investigation of Glushkov’s death have failed. Russian authorities have not received comprehensive answers to their questions from Scotland Yard or the Foreign Office.

The diplomats noted that the British side is investigating the case in complete secrecy and refuses to contact with Moscow, which is a violation of generally accepted norms in international conventions.

Nikolay Glushkov died at his home in London on March 13 at the age of 68. British police said that they are treating the death as “unexplained,” adding that a counter-terrorism department is investigating the incident because of the “associations” of the deceased man. In later statements, police described the cause of death as “compression to the neck” and said that it was being investigated as a murder.

The Russian Investigative Committee (the federal agency that deals with serious crime) has started its own probe into Glushkov’s death.

Glushkov was one of the closest allies of Boris Berezovsky, a former Russian oligarch and Kremlin insider who has turned into Vladimir Putin’s arch-enemy and moved to Britain, where he received political asylum. In 1996, Glushkov became deputy director of the state-run airline company Aeroflot, and in 2000 he was convicted of abuse of office that led to the embezzlement of about $ 250 million and sentenced to three years in prison. After his release, Glushkov also moved to the UK, where he received a political asylum.

Boris Berezovsky died in London in March 2013. The police initially recognized his death as suicide by hanging, but later a coroner passed an open verdict on the issue because a lot of circumstances in the case remained unclear.

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Demand for Russian wheat drives export prices to three-year high

By ethan / April 25, 2018

Average prices for wheat produced by Russian farmers have increased to $ 215 per ton, according to Moscow-based agricultural markets research firm SovEcon. The figure marks the highest level since the 2014-2015 agricultural season.

According to analysts’ estimates, Russia exported 1.6 million tons of grains, including 1.2 million tons of wheat, as of April 18. As a comparison, during the previous week, Russian farmers sold 800,000 tons of grain abroad, including 600,000 tons of wheat.

The growth of the quoted price is reportedly triggered by effective demand from importers. Another driver is a decrease in domestic market supply in the southern exporting regions.

According to Andrey Sizov, the managing director of the research firm, the sharp hike in shipping might be boosted by increased seasonal river traffic. The analyst also said that the decline in supply was triggered by the weakening of the ruble against the US dollar earlier this month.

The weak national currency reportedly forced many farmers to suspend sales of grain and even abandon previously sealed contracts. Sizov stressed that some farmers resumed sales due to the recent strengthening demonstrated of the ruble.

Earlier this week, the country’s Ministry of Agriculture reported that Russian wheat exports grew by 43 percent from last year to 32.96 million tons. The farmers shipped a total of 1.19 million tons of wheat as of April 23.

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Russia ready to build another pipeline & provide Europe with as much gas as it needs

By ethan / April 25, 2018

Gazprom, Russia’s leading natural gas producer, says it’s ready to supply as much blue fuel as Europe wants. The company is ready to build the Nord Stream 3 pipeline, if necessary.

“We have proven reserves, we have transport, we are building new transport routes. If Europe is ready… I do not rule out new gas transportation projects – Nord Stream 3, for example,” said Gazprom Deputy Chairman of the Management Committee Aleksandr Medvedev in an interview with the Rossiya 24 TV channel.

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© Lex Van Lieshout

Groningen, the largest gas field in Europe, which is located in the Netherlands, has seen a significant output slowdown, which has resulted in declining European gas production. Gazprom has said it is ready to compensate for the decline with Russian gas.

Gazprom’s exports to Europe amounted to a record high 194.4 billion cubic meters in 2017, an increase of 8.4 percent. The share of Russian gas in the European Union last year increased to 34.7 percent from 33.1 percent in 2016.

Russia has been implementing the Nord Stream 2 project, which intends to double the existing capacity of the Nord Stream pipeline from Russia to Germany. Despite the opposition of the Baltic states, some Eastern European countries and the United States, Gazprom has received permission to build the pipeline.

Brussels has repeatedly said it wants to cut its dependence on Russian gas by building liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals. However, cheaper Russian gas has shelved most LNG projects.

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All eyes on Arizona: GOP holds on to seat in special House election

By ethan / April 25, 2018

Republicans held on to a congressional seat in the Arizona special election, despite Democrats’ hopes that a third upset in a row would boost momentum for a ‘Blue Wave’ in the November midterms.

Republican Debbie Lesko faced off against Democrat Hiral Tipirneni in a special election to replace Trent Franks, who served in the House of Representatives for 14 years until his resignation in December. Franks resigned, citing the “current cultural and media climate,” after the House Ethics Committee opened a probe into claims that he offered a female staffer money to be a surrogate mother to his child.

Arizona’s 8th congressional district, in the northwest suburbs of Phoenix, has traditionally leaned Republican. In 2016, Franks won with more than 68 percent of the total vote, and President Donald Trump carried the district by 21 points. Trump tweeted out his support for Lesko, a former state senator, on Tuesday morning.

Most of the votes have already been cast in advance of Tuesday’s in-person voting, the Maricopa County Recorder’s office told NPR. Lesko was not taking anything for granted, however.

“The entire nation is looking at Arizona, because it’s the only game in town right now,” she told her supporters on Saturday, adding that Franks won easily “because nobody really challenged him.”

Tipirneni, a physician whose family immigrated from India when she was three, told Newsweek that she was motivated to run for political office by Trump’s victory in 2016. She received support from Emerge America, an organization that trains women on how to run for office as Democrats.

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A covered confederate monument in Linn Park, Birmingham, Alabama. © Hal Yeager / Getty Images

“One of the big reasons I decided to run is I’m so frustrated by the lack of forward progress, divisiveness and standing solely on a partisan [ground],” Tipirneni told Fox News.

Following the defeats in three special elections in 2017, Democrats scored a major upset victory in Alabama in December, with Doug Jones narrowly defeating Judge Roy Moore in a special election for the Senate seat formerly held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Last month, in the special election for Pennsylvania’s 18th district, Democrat Conor Lamb edged out Republican Rick Saccone by less than 700 votes.

There are currently six vacant seats in the 435-member House of Representatives. The most recently vacated seat is Oklahoma’s 1st district, whose Rep. Jim Bridenstine was sworn in as the new NASA administrator on Monday.

Voters in New York’s 25th district have filed a lawsuit demanding a special election by June 26 and accusing Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) of “unnecessarily” delaying, denying or refusing the vote after the March 16 death of Rep. Louise Slaughter.

The governor of Texas has yet to decide whether to hold a special election to replace Rep. Blake Farenthold in the 27th district. The earliest such an election could take place is in September, just two months prior to the regular November midterms. Farenthold resigned earlier this month after it was revealed he used $ 84,000 of taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment complaint.

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‘Beautiful friendship’? Trump and Macron’s awkward body language (VIDEO)

By ethan / April 25, 2018

During his state visit to the US, French President Emmanuel Macron has been very ‘handsy’ with President Donald Trump. Do the hugs, kisses, back-pats and arm-wrestling exchanged suggest friendship or tension?

On the surface of it, the two presidents have a “beautiful friendship” straight out of that closing scene of ‘Casablanca.’ Yet Macron’s insistence on touching Trump has raised some eyebrows in Washington. Some of it could be an American lack of familiarity with French customs, or Macron’s mannerisms in particular.

For his part, Trump has been giving Macron the “upper hand” in their handshakes, foregoing his trademark tug-and-pull.

During a White House photo-op on Tuesday, Macron patted Trump’s knee. Earlier, Trump had brushed a spot of dandruff of Macron’s collar, proclaiming, “We have to make him perfect.”

At the start of a joint press conference, Macron arm-wrestled Trump into an awkward hug and a kiss on the cheek, prompting Trump to laugh and quip, “I like him a lot.”

As the two presidents left the room, Macron put a hand around Trump’s shoulders, looking like he was shepherding his elder (Trump is 71, Macron is 40) down the stairs.

Earlier on Tuesday, after their joint appearance outside the White House, Macron reached out to hold Trump’s hand as the two presidents walked back inside, inspiring many a meme on social media.

Since his election in May 2017, the youngest president in French history has behaved as if he had something to prove. He became famous for a long push-and-pull handshake with Trump during the US president’s visit to France last year.

“My handshake with him, it wasn’t innocent,” Macron later said. “One must show that you won’t make small concessions, even symbolic ones.”

Just last week, after sharing a drink with some French journalists, Macron proclaimed himself“an equal” of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and argued that the missile strikes by the US, the UK and France were “a decision that will lead to peace in Syria.”

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Problems piling up for Apple as demand for iPhone X declines

By ethan / April 24, 2018

Shares in Austrian-based producer AMS, whose sensor technology helps power Apple’s iPhone X facial-recognition feature, plunged 14 percent as analysts warn about weakening demand.

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© Toru Hanai

The reason for the sell-off of AMS shares is lower iPhone X volumes, Baader Helvea AG analyst Guenther Hollfelder said in a note, Bloomberg reports.

The AMS second-quarter sales guidance “corresponds with about 20-25 million less iPhone X units based on our calculations,” Hollfelder said.

Sales of iPhone X peaked at the end of last year after the smartphone was released in November, but have slowed since then, according to Apple’s top five assemblers.

Apple is set to post quarterly results on May 1, and shares in the company have fallen almost eight percent since last Wednesday.

Last week, Mirabaud analyst Neil Campling warned that the iPhone X smartphone is ‘dead’ because of the oversupply of chips and high prices. The device, the cost of which starts at $ 999, is too expensive for consumers, he said.

In late March, Goldman Sachs predicted Apple would sell fewer iPhone Xs than expected in the first half of this year. AppleInsider, citing Taiwan’s Economic Daily News, has reported that Apple is preparing to launch a 5.8-inch iPhone X2 and a 6.5-inch iPhone X Plus this fall and has made an order with Samsung to make the screens.

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‘Intimately involved in torture’: 109 ex-US generals against Gina Haspel’s CIA bid

By ethan / April 24, 2018

As many as 109 retired US generals and admirals urged lawmakers to reject Gina Haspel’s nomination as CIA director for being “intimately involved in torture,” and to declassify her role in the notorious interrogation program.

Haspel, a career intelligence officer nicknamed the ‘queen of torture’ in some US media, should not be appointed as director of the CIA, the retired US military leaders argued in a letter addressed to lawmakers. Generals and admirals who signed the petition said there were troubled by the prospect “of someone who appears to have been intimately involved in torture” being elevated to a top position in the US intelligence community.

The letter was published on the Human Rights First website on Monday. Among the notable signatories are chief of US Transportation Command Walter Kross, former commander of US Army Europe David Maddox, former Marine Corps Commandant Charles Krulak, and Lee Gunn, former Inspector General of the Department of the Navy.

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Gina Haspel © CIA

The document cites “uncontested reports” that Haspel ran a CIA “black site” prison, and mentions her role in the oversight of the CIA’s controversial interrogation program “that was rife with mismanagement and abuse.”

While understanding that some top-tier intelligence officials “have spoken highly” of Haspel’s professional experience, there is still no excuse for her involvement in torture and rendition practices, the high-ranked retirees said. They resolutely rejected an idea that Haspel was simply obeying orders from her superiors.

“We did not accept the ‘just following orders’ justification after World War II, and we should not accept it now,” the letter said. This was an apparent reference to the post-war trials in which the defenders of many Nazi war criminals tried to claim they were merely following instructions from their superior commanders.

“Waterboarding and other forms of torture or cruel and inhuman treatment are – and always have been – clearly unlawful,” the document reads. “Individuals in the service of our country, even at the lowest levels, have a duty to refuse to carry out such actions.”

Praising “fidelity to our most cherished ideals,” the former military leaders warned that torture and cruel treatment of prisoners alienates populations of the countries with US troop presence, provides “a propaganda tool” for extremists and hinders cooperation with America’s allies.

“It would send a terrible signal to confirm as the next Director of the CIA someone who was so intimately involved in this dark chapter of our nation’s history,” the letter reiterates, demanded that all files regarding Haspel’s role in the rendition, detention and interrogation program be declassified.

The generals’ appeal comes almost a month after a group of US intelligence veterans wrote a similar memo to President Donald Trump.

Besides opposing Haspel’s nomination, the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) insisted that torture “brutalizes the brutalizer” and puts US troops “in serious jeopardy when captured.” Moreover, the memo said that “there is no more effective recruitment tool than torture to attract more terrorists.”

Haspel’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee is scheduled for May 9.

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‘Fedor’s been a d*ck with media, and that’s hurt his career’ – Frank Mir (VIDEO)

By ethan / April 24, 2018

Heavyweight MMA veteran Frank Mir says that snubbing the media has played a damaging role in the career of Fedor Emelianenko, who will face the American in the Bellator cage this weekend.

Two-time UFC heavyweight champion Mir, who signed with Bellator this summer, is preparing to make his professional comeback this Friday against Russian legend Emelianenko. Ahead of the fight, he spoke about the importance for athletes of interacting with the media.

“Doing the interviews, and talking about yourself four times a day. No, it’s not my favorite thing,” Mir said, talking on the Face To Face YouTube channel.

“But there are fans and they want to hear it. You can either be a d*ck about it, like Fedor, when you just don’t want to do interviews. It is what it is.”

He then then explained why, in his view, limited media activity negatively affected Emelianenko’s relationship with the UFC, when in the past there was talk of the Russian potentially signing with the world’s biggest MMA promotion.

“But it’s also why Fedor has a hard time selling pay-per-views. That’s why he has hard times filling up arenas. He is a great fighter, he is an admirable person. I like his personality. He is respectful, he is quiet. Not a trashtalker. But even with that being said, he doesn’t let people in. He doesn’t let you know who he is. People have hard time relating to him because of that.

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“That’s why the UFC never paid him what he wanted to get paid. Because they looked at when he fought over in the US, in Affliction. I think they did 110,000 pay-per-view buys. That would be the worst card I’ve ever heard of. When Demetrious Johnson did 250,000 pay-per-view buys, and they (the UFC) were screaming ‘Bloody murder! That was the worst card of all time!’ But that was still 2.5 times more than what Fedor sold in the US. That is just an example of why we have to do media.”

Mir and Emelianenko are set to face off at the Allstate Arena, in Rosemont, Illinois, US, this Saturday. Mir is making his professional MMA comeback, following a two-year doping ban imposed by USADA, which dates from April 2016 – a month after his fight with Mark Hunt.

Emelianenko, who also took a lengthy career break following his announced retirement in 2012, has since returned to take part in three fights in three different organizations: Japanese Rizin, Russian Fight Nights Global and, most recently, in Bellator. In his Bellator debut, in June 2017, Emelianenko suffered a first-round TKO defeat against American Matt Mitrione.

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MSNBC Russiagater Joy Reid says ‘hackers’ made her blog look homophobic

By ethan / April 24, 2018

MSNBC host Joy-Ann Reid claims her old blog has been hacked and updated to include anti-gay content to make her look bad.

The weekend host apologized last year for a number of homophobic blog posts she wrote from 2007 to 2009 about Florida Governor Charlie Crist, who was married to a woman at the time. Among other homophobic comments, Reid called Crist “Miss Charlie” and suggested he was “ogling male waiters” on his honeymoon.

But this week the story became more sinister. The Twitter user who initially discovered Reid’s homophobic postings has now unearthed some articles which also appear to have come from her old blog, and sound far worse.

Jamie Maz found the old articles through the Wayback Machine — an online archive that stores old content even after it has been deleted — of Reid’s blog as it had been.

Mediaite has reported some of the highlights, including comments about how “most straight people cringe at the sight of two men kissing” and about how finding gay sex “gross” is just “intrinsic” to being straight.

The author of the posts also suggested that anti-gay attitudes were rooted in “concerns” that adult gay men “tend to be attracted to very young, post-pubescent types.”

There has been no apology from Reid this time, however. Instead, she claims her now-deleted blog was somehow hacked through the Wayback Machine, supposedly by people who want to ruin her stellar reputation.

Anumber of experts consulted by the Intercept website said that, although it is not impossible, they were unaware of any instances of the Wayback Machine being hacked and altered before — and that to do something like that would require quite a sophisticated effort.

“That’s an awful lot of work for a hacker to do, and for what end? To make a homophobic person appear MORE homophobic?” cyber-security expert Jeffrey Carr said.

The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald has chastised the liberal media for failing to cover the story, given the important issues at hand – including LGBT equality, the security of online information and the dangers posed by hackers.

“One would think that [the liberal media] would be quite interested in this story and the critical questions it raises,” he wrote. Instead, he added, liberal outlets have “steadfastly ignored the story almost completely.”

One of the few liberal journalists who has commented on the story defended Reid by suggesting that “Russians” hacked her old blog to make her look bad.

Come on, you knew it was going to be the Russians.

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New Zealand rugby teams reveal rainbow jerseys as part of ‘diversity’ campaign (VIDEO)

By ethan / April 24, 2018

New Zealand’s famous All Blacks rugby team released a video featuring stars from the men’s team alongside their female counterparts, showing the players wearing specially designed ‘rainbow’ jerseys.

The two-minute video was filmed last year but was published on Monday, and shows members of New Zealand’s men’s and women’s squads, known as the All Blacks and Black Ferns respectively, at a stadium in Japan with fans waving rainbow flags in the stands.

“The next battle is different. The next enemy is truly formidable and deeply devious,” says the voice on the video.

“It is discrimination – an enemy that cannot be fought alone and must be defeated together. It will take more than 15 – it will take thousands, millions.”

At the end of the clip, rugby players also reveal the rainbow colors on their black kits, after they stretched the fabric, which then turns from black into a number of different colors.

The video was released several weeks after Australian rugby star Israel Folau sparked heated debates on social media after saying that gay people would go to hell if they did not repent.

READ MORE: Australian rugby star says gay people will go to hell

Folau’s comments provoked public outcry, with many people accusing the player of intolerance and homophobia.

The All Blacks’ TJ Perenara condemned Folau for his stance on the gay community, adding that “there is no justification for such harmful comments.”

Perenara and some of his Waikato Chiefs teammates wore rainbow laces in Saturday’s Super Rugby game against the Queensland Reds in support of people in same-sex relationships.

Next year’s men’s rugby world cup will be held in Japan for the first time.

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