Turkey follows Russia in dumping US Treasury securities

By ethan / August 16, 2018

Turkey’s holding of US sovereign bonds saw a nearly 12-percent decline from May to June as Ankara seeks to diversify away from the US dollar amid an escalating diplomatic conflict with Washington.

In June, Turkey’s share of US Treasury securities dropped to $ 28.8 billion from $ 32.6 billion in the previous month, according to financial and political news aggregator Zero Hedge. Since the end of last year, the country has reportedly decreased its holdings of T-bills, bonds and notes by 52 percent.

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© Murad Sezer

Earlier this year, a US Treasury report revealed that the Central Bank of Russia had sharply slashed the country’s holdings of US sovereign debt. The regulator linked the measure to increased concerns over various risks, including financial, economic and geopolitical. In May, Russia’s share hit an 11-year low and totaled just $ 14.9 billion. However, the latest data shows that Moscow slowed down its massive sell-off of US Treasury bonds with the figure remaining unchanged in June.

The conflict between Ankara and Washington was sparked by the detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson in Turkey. Brunson has been charged with assisting the failed military coup two years ago. He is facing 35 years in a Turkish prison.

Washington has introduced sanctions against Turkish officials and slapped the country’s steel and aluminum exports with extra tariffs. Ankara retaliated by applying tariffs on a number of US products including alcohol, tobacco and cars, while President Erdogan has called for a boycott of American electronic products.

The Turkish sell-off of the US debt will reportedly continue into August as relations with the White House continue to deteriorate.

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Russia to tighten adoption rules, lower limit on adopted kids for each family – minister

By ethan / August 16, 2018

The Russian education minister has revealed plans to introduce tougher psychological tests for prospective adoptive parents, and lower the limit on adopted kids for each family with a view to preventing tragic incidents.

We are drafting into the parliament a motion that brings down the number of children that one family can adopt or take under guardianship,” Olga Vasilieva said on Thursday, according to TASS.

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© Vladimir Pesnya

The existing maximum number of minors that an adoptive family can have, including their biological children, is eight. “A family should not become a kindergarten or an orphanage,” she said.

We will introduce much tougher requirements for adoptive parents’ selection. The requirements for people who seek the honorable title of parent will get tougher. Also, we will rewrite the rules of psychological testing for people who want to become adoptive parents, also making them stricter,” the minister said.

Vasilieva also told reporters that the proposal was brought forward as a result of an increase in the number of tragic incidents involving adopted kids. “All tragic incidents in new adoptive families that took place this year bring us to a sad conclusion: the selection of future adoptive parents had been organized very recklessly,” she said.

The minister proceeded to give some gruesome examples to illustrate her point, citing an event that took place last January in Russia’s Smolensk Region, where a man who had initially been refused the right to adopt was subsequently approved, before going on to rape and murder a seven-year-old girl.

In the same interview, Vasilieva said that her ministry did not plan to lift the existing ban on adoptions for HIV-positive people.

The head of the State Duma Committee for Family Women and Children, MP Tatyana Pletneva (Communist Party), said she understood Vasilieva’s motives but warned that excessive restrictions could lead to unwanted consequences.

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RIA Novosti / Alexandr Kryazhev

She is worried and I understand this. I also think that she is perfectly right because today people adopt children only to get financial aid and children in such families do not always feel well and cozy. There are a lot of complaints,” the lawmaker told the Moscow Calling news agency on Thursday.

But on the other hand, if we tighten the requirements too much, this may force us to open new orphanages or allow adoptions to foreign nations, which I would prefer not to happen. She is right when she describes what is going on today though, and we need to change something about it,” Pletneva said.

In early 2013, Russia introduced a ban on adoptions by US citizens or by proxy of US-registered organizations. The sponsors of this law explained it by reference to several cases of Russian children being abused by their American adoptive parents, noting that the US justice system had ordered disproportionately mild punishment in such cases, while Russian diplomats were prevented from monitoring the investigation. Senior Russian officials also backed the ban, saying that it would increase the number of domestic adoptions. Indeed, this is what happened in subsequent years.

The Russian ban was later extended to all countries that allow same-sex marriages.

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Armed police deployed to Birmingham mosques after suspected catapult attack

By ethan / August 16, 2018

Armed police were deployed to two Birmingham mosques after ball bearings, thought to have been fired from a heavy duty catapult, were fired at them – smashing windows as worshippers prayed inside.

Officers arrived at the Masjid Qamarul Islam in Small Heath at 10pm on Wednesday, and at the nearby Al-Hijrah mosque 20 minutes later. Upon arrival, they recovered ball bearings that smashed the mosques’ windows.

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© Anas Siddique / Getty Images

An officer stated that the ball bearings appeared to have been fired from a substantial catapult.

The incidents come after Monday’s attack on the Houses of Parliament, which saw 29-year-old Birmingham resident Salih Khater ram pedestrians and cyclists, injuring three, before crashing into a security barrier. Khater remains in custody.
Three properties in the city have so far been searched in relation to Khater.

Nassar Mahmood, a trustee of Birmingham Central Mosque, warned that Muslims are facing “unprecedented” levels of Islamophobia. He added that women are particularly affected because their style of dress makes them “quite visible.”

There has been a reported surge in violence against Muslim women since ex-foreign minister Boris Johnson likened them to letterboxes and bank robbers, sparking accusations of Islamophobia and the opening of an investigation into Johnson by the Conservative Party. Tell Mama, which records hate crimes, said there was a “direct link” between the Johnson’s comments and an uptick in incidents targeting women who wear the niqab – which covers the face and hair, apart from the eyes.

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Watch dad blast white supremacist Charlottesville organizer during live stream with neo-Nazi

By ethan / August 16, 2018

The organizer of last year’s white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which left one person dead, has been humiliated in public as a video emerged of him being scolded by his father over his extremist views.

The video, which has garnered 610,000 views since it was posted on Tuesday, is a live streamed conversation between Jason Kessler and Patrick Little. Little is a neo-Nazi who this year ran for the US Senate in California, and whose platform called for America to be “free from Jews.”

Kessler, 34, was having a discussion about Orthodox Jews with Little when his father barged into his room.

“Hey!” Kessler’s father can be heard yelling out. “You get out of my room!”

“You got a drunk roommate there?” Little asked.

“Something like that,” Kessler responded.

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A protester shouts at police officers guarding the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, US, August 12, 2018 © James Lawler Duggan / Reuters

His dad intervenes again saying: “I want this to stop in my room, Jason, this is my room.”

Kessler then tries to explain his father’s opposition saying his parents watch “American history channel and its constant anti-German propaganda.”

Kessler’s dad then seems to give up as he is no longer heard in the background when the two carry on chatting. He goes on to detail how he is forced to live under his parents’ roof as he foots the bill for legal costs associated with last year’s rally.

The Charlottesville rally saw the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer when a car rammed into a crowd of counter-protesters. A further 19 were injured.

“I’m stuck in a situation where I have to stay with my family because I’m paying for all these lawsuits and I can’t afford to do that without staying with my family,” he said.

He adds his parents are “cucked”– a derogatory term used by alt-right figures against those who don’t hold similar extremist views.

Kessler tried to stage another Charlottesville protest this past weekend in Washington, but fewer than two dozen white supremacists showed up. They were outnumbered by more than 1,000 counter-protestors.

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Turkish football team sells 18 players to buy 10 goats in bizarre revenue generator

By ethan / August 16, 2018

Turkish football team Gulspor has sold 18 youth players and bought 10 goats in a bid to earn ‘extra money from milk sales’ which will be used to serve the club’s priority needs.

The team’s president Kenan Büyüklebleb said that the step to buy goats was dictated by lack of available finance as there is no essential governmental or sponsorship investment for Turkish youth teams performing in lower leagues.

READ MORE: Tottenham Hotspur player seeks Asian Games gold to avoid military service in South Korea

We must have a constant income,” Büyüklebleb told CNN Turkey. “Funds are overloaded because there is no government or corporate group support for our clubs. We need to get more investment for the kids [competing for the club].”

The club earned 15,000 Turkish lira (almost $ 2,600) after selling 18 youth players and plans to have around 5,000 lira ($ 863) profit from milk sales to cover the club’s expenses.

We got 10 goats. It will be a source of income for the youngsters,” Büyüklebleb said, adding that he acted in the interests of the team. “We think that breeding goats is profitable. We have bought them to raise better young players.

READ MORE: American youth coach shot over pee wee football fight (VIDEO)

We expect to have 4,000-5,000 lira profit. At the same time, the number of goats will increase. At the end of six years, we are planning to have 140 goats for the club,” he added.

Based in the city of Isparta, Gülspor is one of the oldest clubs in Turkey, founded in 1954.

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Italian motorway operators’ shares plummet after deadly bridge collapse

By ethan / August 16, 2018

Italy’s Atlantia and other toll road operators faced a sharp sell-off on Thursday. Atlantia’s Autostrade per l’Italia unit manages the motorway that collapsed in the Italian city of Genoa killing at least 38 people this week.

The company failed to start trading on Thursday after falling 20 percent in pre-market trading. Shares in rivals SIAS plunged eight percent, ASTM lost seven percent. When Atlantia shares re-opened after an hour’s delay on Thursday, they were down 24.4 percent.

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© Stefano Rellandini

Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Wednesday that the tragedy “could have been avoided” if Autostrade per l’Italia had maintained the road properly. The Italian government will fine the firm €150 million and cancel its concession. “We’ll let the investigators do their job, but we can’t wait for criminal justice,” said Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

“Our obligation is to ensure that everyone can travel safely. So, we will revoke the licence because there is no doubt… that Autostrade had the duty, the obligation and the commitment to ensure the maintenance of this viaduct and the safety of all those who travelled on it,” he said.

Atlantia has questioned the cancellation of its concession. “The announcement was publicly communicated, lacking a specific default notice and without any verification of the material causes of the accident,” the company stated.

The bridge, known as the Ponte Morandi, was built in the late 1960s and has undergone various redevelopment works over the years. The director of motorway operator Autostrade said the collapse of the bridge was impossible to predict, but its design has come in for criticism in the past.

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Surgeon, crippled by rare illness, marched off easyJet flight by armed guards after legroom row

By ethan / August 16, 2018

An ill ex-surgeon was marched off an easyJet flight by armed guards after a row over a seat turned sour. Dr Sam Ramsay Smith booked a seat with extra legroom due to a painful medical condition that has left him crippled.

The 72-year old suffers from erythromelalgia, a multiple-sclerosis-like disease that has left him badly debilitated and in need of a walking stick. The former NHS surgeon was traveling from Amsterdam to Gatwick Airport in the UK after treatment for his illness, when he found seat 1E – for which he had forked out an additional £27 ($ 34) – occupied by another passenger.

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 © Emmanuele Contini/Global Look Press

When he boarded the plane at Schipol, he complained after staff placed him in a seat with normal legroom. The former physician told UK tabloid the Sun that after complaining, the captain said: “I don’t like your attitude. You have to get off the plane.”

“Three policemen – I think they were from the anti-terrorist branch – came on with Heckler and Koch machine guns,” he said. “One said to me: ‘Are you going to resist?’ I replied: ‘Do I look as though I am capable?’”

Airline staff claim the father-of-three was violent and abusive. EasyJet claims that the doctor lost his front seat as he made a last-minute flight change, and seat 1E had already been booked.

“After changing Dr Ramsay Smith’s flight at his request, we were unable to assign him the same seat he had selected on his original flight,” the easyJet spokesman said.

“During boarding, he was verbally abusive to crew over being unable to sit in this seat. The captain tried to resolve the issue by offering two other alternative seats, which he rejected. At this point, he physically assaulted the cabin manager and police were called to escort him off the aircraft.”

After flying back the following day, Dr Ramsey Smith added: “I missed a doctor’s appointment because of this. The treatment I received from easyJet was despicable.”

He defended his actions, and insisted that he had booked the front-row seat in question. “I only pushed the flight attendant when she stood on my foot, I was in agony,” he said. “I told the captain his mother would not be proud of him… but I don’t think I was abusive.

“I missed a doctor’s appointment because of this. The treatment I received from easyJet was despicable.”

The former doctor, who spent a chunk of his career working in war-ravaged Africa for Medicines Sans Frontiers, had been in Amsterdam to see ex-colleagues to plead for help with his rare and excruciating medical condition.

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Is this sultry sister of ‘Hot Felon’ Meeks? Woman’s mugshot sparks theory (POLL)

By ethan / August 16, 2018

A woman reportedly arrested for driving without holding a valid licence could soon become the next criminal to strike it rich after seeing her mugshot go viral.

The unidentified blonde’s picture was posted on the Mugshot Baes Twitter account, immediately provoking a reaction from commentators. Some were so taken by the woman’s good looks that they were quick to absolve her of any blame for reportedly getting behind the wheel with a suspended driving licence.

READ MORE: Model prisoner: ‘Hot felon’ eyes acting career now that he’s released

Some saw a likeness with convict Jeremy Meeks, the ‘Hot Felon’ and former gang member who became an American fashion model after his mugshot went viral in 2014. At the time, he was being held on federal charges for possession of a firearm and grand theft.

Some international outlets reported that Meeks is the woman’s brother, an unlikely prospect that seems entirely based on the very slight resemblance between the sultry-looking pair.

READ MORE: If looks could kill: Criminal earns #Prisonbae title for ‘hot’ mugshot

After being released from jail, Meeks became a model and began a relationship with Chloe Green, the daughter of British billionaire Philip Green. The pair had a son earlier this year.

What do you think, do the woman and Meeks could be brother and sister, or is this just a little bit of wishful thinking?

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US driving Turkey to quit NATO, boost business with Russia & China – investment guru Marc Faber

By ethan / August 16, 2018

Mounting US pressure on Turkey is hardly a good diplomatic strategy for Washington and its allies, says veteran investor Marc Faber. Ankara has other countries to make alliances with.

“[US President Donald] Trump doesn’t pursue foreign diplomacy. He is just like an elephant in a porcelain shop. He picks on this, picks on that, but there is no diplomacy at all,” Faber told Turkey’s Anadolu news agency.

Turkey has some leverage regarding the recent tension between Washington and Ankara, he said. “This is the Trump card that Turkey have – NATO. NATO has significant bases in Turkey. In the long run basically Turkey has two options; it can be closer to Europe and stay in NATO, or it could join the Shanghai cooperation.”

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Whirling dervishes  at the Galata Mevlevihane, Istanbul, 2013 © Gurcan Ozturk

“That would imply that Turkey abandoned or have less relationships with the West and more relationships with Russia and China. This is a possibility that [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan has. I think Trump doesn’t realize that this option is very realistic.”

Faber noted that after the harsh sell-off that hit the Turkish markets, now is a good time to invest in the country. “People always say they would like to buy low and sell high. Turkish stocks are valued in US dollars. Now it’s in buying range. I think I will buy some Turkish stocks, ETF’s [Exchange Traded Funds]. I own some [Turkish] bonds. It’s not the huge portion of my portfolio but yes I own some Turkish debts. I think it’s the time to buy Turkish assets,” Faber said.

The Turkish economy has recently been hit by a record depreciation of the national currency –  the lira. On Friday, Trump doubled tariffs on aluminum and steel from Turkey in response to the detention of a US citizen. American pastor Andrew Brunson is being held on terrorism charges in Turkey, facing up to 35 years in prison for his alleged role in a failed coup in 2016.

In response, Erdogan announced a boycott of US electronic devices, including Apple iPhones. Turkey has also hiked tariffs on US goods such as tobacco, alcohol, cars, cosmetics and others.

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Russia opposes blanket ban on AI weapons, supports international political declaration

By ethan / August 16, 2018

Russia opposes a complete ban on weapons using artificial intelligence (AI) because such systems do not exist, but will sign an declaration on the issue if it does not contradict its interests, according to a newspaper report.

The business-oriented Russian paper Kommersant Daily reported on Thursday that its journalists had learned that Moscow was ready to support the proposal to start developing a political declaration regulating the development and use of weapons equipped with AI.

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A robot statue at the Oriental Science Fiction Valley theme park in Guiyang, China. © Joseph Campbell

The proposal, backed by France, Germany and several other nations, will be discussed at the forthcoming meeting of the 2018 Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) in Geneva, Switzerland. The future declaration is expected to declare the importance of maintaining human control over autonomous weapons systems.

Kommersant’s unnamed sources also said that Russia opposed the possible blanket ban on weapons systems with AI, supported by 26 nations, such as Austria, Brazil and Argentina. The Russian side will also not support “legally binding” restrictions in the field – a diplomatic term that means installing mutual monitoring missions that would control how the parties in the treaty follow their obligations.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has confirmed that Moscow prefers a cautious approach to the issue.

This is caused by a whole number of circumstances. First of all, it is necessary to take into consideration the fact that we are discussing some technical inventions that have not yet been implemented as working samples.

The understanding of these systems is very shallow and theoretical. We observe serious troubles even in developing a working definition of LAWS,” the ministry’s representatives said.

The second thing is the difficulties in distinguishing between the military and civilian artificial intelligence systems,” they added.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin © Alexei Druzhinin

In our opinion, the international law, including its part that covers the humanitarian sphere, can be applied to LAWS as it is and does not require any modernization or adaptation to nonexistent weapons systems,” the Russian diplomats said.

The Russian laws already have provisions that prevent the deployment of weapons that do not meet the requirements of international agreements of which Russia is a member,” they added.

Russia already has several non-lethal military systems which use elements of AI, like the Galtel underwater reconnaissance robot or the Bylina electronic warfare system.

In September 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin emphasized the importance of AI research in a speech delivered during an “Open Lesson” event.

Artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia but for humanity as a whole. There are tremendous possibilities and barely forecastable threats in this field. The future leader in it will rule the world,” Putin said.

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