‘Annoying & inappropriate’: Norwegian anti-immigrant party seeks ban on Islamic call to prayer

By ethan / April 26, 2018

Norway’s Progress Party is set to vote on banning the Islamic call to prayer, claiming it disturbs residents. But the country’s Muslim leaders say they use a phone app, not loudspeakers, to summon worshippers to prayer.

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FILE PHOTO: Oslo, Norway © Alexander Widding / Global Look Press

The anti-immigration party, part of the ruling two-party coalition, will vote on the measure when it meets for its national conference this weekend. If the proposal passes, the ban would be adopted as official party policy.

Party officials told the Local that the ‘call’, which is issued over loudspeakers, is a headache for residents within ear-reach of a mosque.

“A great many people perceive this as annoying and inappropriate. In Norway we have freedom of religion, which should also include the right not to be exposed to public calls to prayer,” the proposal, submitted by a local chapter of the Progress Party in Buskerud county, west of Oslo, said.

The ban was proposed after Progress Party officials claimed that mosques had been granted permission to issue the call to prayer over loudspeaker in “several places” in Norway.

However, Oslo’s Vart Land newspaper said it was unable to identify a single mosque in Norway that is currently – or is planning to – issue the call.

Arshad M. Jamil, chairman of the Oslo Mosque’s Islamic Cultural Center, said earlier this month that the proposal was pointless.

“When it comes to call to prayer, we use the app in 2018. We do not use the call to prayer to summon people,” he told Norway Today.

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FILE PHOTO © Lori Shepler

The party’s former leader, Carl Hagen, called for a similar ban in 2000, but Norway’s Ministry of Justice intervened, claiming that the measure would be a violation of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

But this time around, it appears that the Progress Party won’t yield. The party’s immigration policy spokesman, Jon Helgheim, told Vart Land that he had no qualms about the proposed ban allegedly infringing on rights protected by the convention.

“I don’t give a toss what human rights provisions say in this case,” he said. “What I care about is that people get peace and quiet in their neighborhoods, and that means not being disturbed by the call to prayer.”

“If there are conflicting provisions in the Convention on Human Rights, I simply don’t care, because it’s completely stupid,” he added.

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Nassar’s ex-boss allegedly paid students for nude medical exams

By ethan / April 26, 2018

The former boss of disgraced USA gymnastics team physician Larry Nassar faces new allegations of sexual misconduct, after two women claimed they were paid money for modeling nude at medical practice exams.

Dr. William Strampel, who served as dean of Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine between 2002 and 2017, was arrested in March on allegations of molesting and harassing female students.

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© Rebecca Cook

Five women had already accused Strampel of sexual assault, and two more came forward this week, claiming to have been sexually harassed by the ex-dean while serving as models during nude medical exams. The new allegations were indicated in a court motion filed Wednesday by Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office.

Strampel “acted with a sexual intent as a motive when he demeaned, degraded, propositioned and assaulted the victims,” the document states.

In their motion, the two women explained that they had taken part in nude medical exams in exchange for money.

One of alleged victims, who is indicated as Witness 1 in the court motion, claims “that while a student at Central Michigan University she was recruited by Dean William Strampel at a conference to work as a ‘clinical skills model’ in 2002 for the College of Osteopathic Medicine, in which she would be paid in cash to be the subject of practice examinations, $ 100 an hour for full examination requiring her to be naked, and $ 50 an hour for vital testing.”

The two alleged victims said they had participated in nude examinations by Strampel approximately 10 times, including the breast and anal regions, “an anal examination that included the penetration of the anus, [and] a pelvic examination that penetrated the vagina.”

Some of the medical inspections were conducted behind closed doors while some were in front of a small group of medical students. Prosecutors say they want the two women to testify against Strampel at a preliminary court hearing in June.

READ MOREl: ‘Everybody said Larry Nassar was a good guy’ – former USA Gymnastics official

“It bears the same eerie mark as the conduct of Larry Nassar, employing the cover of legitimate medical procedures, conducted for his own sexual gratification,” Chief Legal Counsel Eric Restuccia wrote in the filing, as reported by nypost.com.

In February, Nassar, who had worked for more than 20 years as the US gymnastics team physician, was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison after pleading guilty to molesting young gymnasts seeking medical treatment from him.

High-profile American gymnasts, including Olympic champions Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, Mckayla Maroney, Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber, were among those to say they were abused by Nassar during their time on the US national team.

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Ukraine threatens Russia with ‘full-scale conflict’ if gas transit stops

By ethan / April 26, 2018

Kiev has warned Moscow of ‘geopolitical consequences’ if Gazprom ceases gas transits through the territory of Ukraine.

“If there is no transit through the territory of Ukraine, then the likelihood of a full-scale conflict between Russia and Ukraine is also increasing. European politicians need to understand not only the economic consequences for Ukraine, but also geopolitical consequences for the whole world,” the commercial director at Ukraine’s main gas company Naftogaz Yuri Vitrenko told the 112 Ukraine TV channel.

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© Gleb Garanich

The gas-transit contract between Kiev and Moscow expires in 2019. Gazprom said on Tuesday that the contract will not be extended under any circumstances. The company added that the gas transit may remain, but only if Ukraine provides the necessary conditions for it.

“Now the ball is on the Ukrainian side. It should justify the economic attractiveness and the possibility of transit through Ukraine,” said Gazprom Deputy Chairman of the Management Committee Aleksandr Medvedev.

Russia wants to significantly cut its gas transit through Ukraine and re-direct it through the extension of the existing Nord Stream pipeline from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea. Moscow says Kiev has proved itself an unreliable partner in gas transits over the years. Some of the gas to Europe could also come through the Turkish Stream pipeline, currently under construction.

When the two pipelines are completed, transit through Ukraine is expected to fall by more than 80 percent, according to Gazprom CEO Aleksey Miller. He added that Gazprom does not intend to help neighboring countries restore their economies at its own expense.

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Union chief accuses ‘Corbyn-hating’ Labour MPs of anti-Semitism smear campaign

By ethan / April 26, 2018

Powerful union boss Len McCluskey has launched a scathing attack on a group of Labour MPs, accusing them of smearing their leader Jeremy Corbyn with their claims of anti-Semitism.

Speaking to the New Statesman, the Unite leader took aim at MPs Chris Leslie, Neil Coyle, John Woodcock, Wes Streeting and Ian Austin among others in a heated defense of his ally.

He claims the group are “working overtime trying to present the Labour Party as a morass of misogyny, anti-Semitism and bullying.

Their determination to divide the party into pro- and anti-Corbyn factions, despite the huge increase in Labour’s vote secured last year, ultimately pollutes everything it touches. That includes the work against anti-Semitism,” he said.

McCluskey’s comments come after a number of Labour MPs used a Commons debate to urge Corbyn to stamp out anti-Semitism in the party. Jewish MPs Luciana Berger and Ruth Smeeth were given standing ovations after speaking passionately about their own experience of anti-Semitic threats.

READ MORE: Corbyn set for showdown with Jewish groups that led protests against him

Corbyn has acknowledged that it was ‘an uncomfortable fact’ that some Labour Party members and supporters held anti-Semitic views.

McCluskey derided the actions of the MPs as an attempt to undermine the Labour leader. “To watch as these so-called social democrats tried to demean and attack, in front of our enemy, a decent and honorable man who has fought racism and anti-Semitism all his life, and who has breathed life and hope back into the hearts of millions, especially the young, made my stomach churn. To see Tory MPs cheer and applaud them was shameful,” he said.

I have fought anti-Semitism and anti-Semites all my life, including physically on the streets on occasion, and I need no lectures from anyone else on the subject. I am not sure that some of the voluble backbench critics of Jeremy Corbyn can say as much.

Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer rejected McCluskey’s comments on Thursday, stating that denial of anti-Semitism in the party was part of the problem. “I disagree with Len McCluskey. Jeremy Corbyn has made it clear, and it is obvious, that we have got a problem with anti-Semitism. We have got to deal with it robustly and effectively,” he told Today.

Part of that is the disciplinary procedure, which needs to be much quicker and much more effective, but there is also a cultural question. Part of that cultural question is to stop those denying that there is even a problem. That is part of the problem. So I am afraid I disagree with Len on this.

McCluskey, 67, has served as the head of Unite since 2011. The union endorsed Corbyn during the 2015 leadership election and was crucial to his survival during the 2016 coup attempt.

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Defying death? Pigs’ brains ‘revived’ after decapitation, claims Yale neuroscientist

By ethan / April 26, 2018

A scientist claims to have restored circulation to the brains of decapitated pigs in what is literally a death-defying feat – and a potential boon for those hopeful the human brain could one day be kept alive outside the body.

READ MORE: Scientists create human-sheep chimera with hopes of affordable organ transplants

Yale University neuroscientist Nenad Sestan conducted experiments on up to 200 pig brains obtained from a slaughterhouse. He revealed the results of his research during an address to the National Institute of Health, saying he used a system of pumps, heaters and bags of artificial blood known as ‘BrainEX’ to restore circulation to the organs for up to 36 hours.

While there was no evidence that the pig brains regained consciousness, Sestan said that billions of individual cells were found to be capable of normal activity. The work is yet to be published but has been submitted for publication in a scholarly journal, he told reporters from Technology Review, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology magazine. He also said he had not planned on his comments being made public.

“That animal brain is not aware of anything, I am very confident of that,” Sestan told the NIH audience, according to the MIT report. RT has contacted Sestan for comment.

There is hope that the research could one day lead to brain transplants as a means to avoid death. According to Steve Hyman, director of psychiatric research at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, such hopes would be mistaken. “It may come to the point that instead of people saying ‘Freeze my brain,’ they say ‘Hook me up and find me a body,’” Hyman told the MIT magazine.

READ MORE: Zero-carbon fuel ‘out of thin air’? Nanotube membrane start-up thinks big

The research does present some curious ethical questions, however, with some critics wondering if reanimating a brain outside the body, without ears, eyes, or a way of communicating, is an extreme form of sensory deprivation.

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Switzerland v Soviet Union: Secret files reveal neutral nation’s covert resistance plan

By ethan / April 26, 2018

The release of a long-delayed report into an anti-communist paramilitary group that operated in Switzerland during the Cold War has revealed secret plans to combat a Soviet invasion of western Europe.

READ MORE: Swiss fly-tippers plague French towns to escape waste charges

The ‘Cornu’ report into Projekt-26, a stay-behind army charged with countering a possible invasion of Switzerland, had been due for release in 1991 but was shelved over fears its contents were too sensitive for public consumption. A 17-page summary of the report was later released instead.

Now a heavily redacted version of the full report was released by the Swiss government Wednesday and sheds new light on the group’s operations, in particular its relationship with British intelligence, while preparing for a Soviet invasion.

Cornu found that Projekt-26 had “a special relationship of trust” with the British secret service. From 1967 onwards, members of the Swiss secret army traveled to the UK using false papers to learn guerrilla warfare tactics, including how to destroy vital infrastructure such as oil refineries. The paramilitary group reportedly operated outside of government control, with the Swiss parliament apparently unaware of its existence.

Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger reported that the judge in charge of compiling the 126-page document refuted the accusation that Switzerland had been part of a secret committee of stay-behind armies comprised of NATO members. The report did say that while such a committee did exist, Switzerland had not been a member.

READ MORE: Switzerland ready to be mediator in North Korea crisis – Swiss president

The updated version of the report also reveals how the organization planned to use the UK and Ireland as a base in exile, even going so far as stashing supplies in both countries. A stay-behind operation is when a military places secret operatives in its own territory so that they may form a resistance movement in the event of an invasion.

Switzerland has a self-imposed and permanent neutrality. It has not fought a foreign war since its neutrality was established by the Treaty of Paris in 1815.

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UK plans to expose 'filthy money' allegedly sheltered by Russians in British offshores

By ethan / April 26, 2018

The British parliament is set to approve legislation forcing the country’s offshore territories, such as the Virgin and the Cayman Islands, to disclose the identities of those benefiting from assets kept in their jurisdictions.

Parliament will vote on the draft, proposed by Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge, as early as next week, reports The Times. UK tax havens have up to now been exempt from the current law, which requires the names of those holding such assets to be made public The proposal, strongly supported by the Labour Party’s frontbench, is supposedly aimed at tackling money laundering and, by extension, criminality, corruption and oppression, including in Russia.

The move comes more than a month after the alleged poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury. London immediately accused Russia of being behind the attack, but has refused to provide evidence.

“Mrs May has so far led the world in taking a stand against Russia’s challenge to international norms,” said the former International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell, as quoted by the media. “But if she is to deliver on her promises she must ensure that filthy money fueling the worst abuses isn’t sheltering under a British flag anywhere in the world.”

UK tax haven reforms were launched in 2013. Back then, the government headed by Prime Minister David Cameron launched a public register of beneficial ownership that publicly revealed the owners of assets held in complex webs of shell companies. However, authorities failed to persuade British overseas territories to follow suit.

Earlier this week, Russia’s Federal Financial Monitoring Service discovered thousands of offshore companies through which Russians laundered billions of rubles. The agency revealed financial transactions worth billions of rubles, involving thousands of Russian individuals, including high-ranking officials.

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Russian senator blasts dangers of modern pharma, advocates return to traditional treatments

By ethan / April 26, 2018

Senator Sergey Lisovsky has warned against using expensive and powerful drugs advertised on TV, and advised Russians to rely on simple, cheap remedies that were traditionally used in the past.

I have never seen television advertisements for potassium permanganate, which was used to treat me when I was young, or ascorbic acid that worked just fine,” Lisovsky was quoted as saying by the Ura.news web portal.

Potassium permanganate is an antiseptic, while ascorbic acid is another name for vitamin C.

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© Thom Baur

The senator suggested that expensive brands owned by international pharmaceutical companies are mostly used by poor people, who cannot afford proper consultations with a doctor. He said that blindly following the advice of pharma advertisements can aggravate conditions and ultimately cost the state more money for healthcare treatments.

Sergey Lisovsky started his business career in mid-1990s by founding event-management and music-production companies. His success in these areas led to additional ventures in the advertising sector, specializing in TV ads and, later, political promotion and consulting. However, in the mid-2000s he sold his advertising and consulting companies, switching to the agricultural sector by purchasing a major poultry complex.

Earlier this month, Deputy Speaker of the State Duma Pyotr Tolstoy suggested that Russians should take oak bark and hawthorn instead of expensive, branded medicines. His words caused a storm of angry comments in mass media and on the internet. The lawmaker subsequently played down his statement as a joke. “When people cannot understand a joke, we can only regret their loss of the sense of humor. In my opinion, the people who discuss this on social networks could really use some,” he told Moscow Calling radio.

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Banned tomatoes confiscated at the Russia-Belarus border are destroyed at the landfill near Gusino, Smolensk Region © Sputnik

Interest in the situation regarding imported medical products has surged in Russia in recent weeks as, in mid-April, the State Duma drafted a bill on reciprocal sanctions against the United States that contained, among other things, a ban on imports of US-made medicines. It also applied to medicines made by international companies with at least a 25-percent stake owned by citizens or firms from the United States or other nations that participate in the ongoing anti-Russian campaign.

The mass media and people on social networks reacted to the news with agitation, pointing out that the ban on imported medicines could hurt Russian patients much more than foreign companies. Lawmakers responded by saying the ban will not be applied to drugs that have no equivalents produced in Russia or nations that have not imposed sanctions on Russia.

Regardless, the Upper House committee for social policy recommended on Tuesday to exclude the ban on medicinal imports from the anti-sanctions bill, saying that such a move would require a thorough analysis of the market and medical statistics in the country.

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Trump to visit UK in July: Sadiq Khan, Twitterati fire up, promise ‘loud’ protests

By ethan / April 26, 2018

Donald Trump is slated to visit the UK in July, much to the horror of many across the country. The news of the US leader’s trip has sparked a Twitterstorm, and London Mayor Sadiq Khan is fanning the flames of discord.

Trump has previously cancelled a trip to the UK, refusing to open the new US embassy in London, which relocated from Mayfair to Nine Elms. Trump blamed the Obama administration for a “bad deal” on the embassy, despite the fact the move was agreed under George W. Bush.

Speaking at a St George’s Day event in Trafalgar Square earlier in the week, London Mayor Khan warned Trump to expect “loud” protests if he visits Britain this summer. He slammed the Republican leader for “amplifying far-right messages.”

“I hope if he does come, he reflects on the difference good leadership can make. We have got a great history in our city of protests… we have got a great history in our city of bringing about change by protest, the key thing is for it to be lawful, for it to be peaceful.

“I have no doubt that if he does come, there will be some people who want to express their views loudly and peacefully to the president.”

Khan has previously found himself a target of Trump. The president launched a scathing attack on the mayor following the terrorist attacks in Borough Market and on London Bridge in July.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has jumped on the anti-Trump bandwagon, vowing in an online video to ensure mass protests will take place in the event of the American president’s visit.

Trump has a checkered past with the people of Scotland, boasting both family heritage and a string of business investments including hotels and a golf course. Many of Scots, however, seem to want little to do with the outspoken president. In 2016, 50 left-wing activists forced their way into two of Trump’s hotel resorts in Scotland, to protest a man they called “one of the world’s most prominent racists.” In 2017, a Scottish woman sued one of Trump’s golf courses after staffers photographed her weeing without her knowledge or consent.

News of Trump’s latest planned visit has sparked a storm on Twitter, with UK Trump fans taking to the platform to welcome the president and to celebrate his impending visit.

Others have used Twitter to express an outpouring of fury, as well as pledges to protest the embattled American leader. UK police expect hundreds of thousands of people to turn in any planned demonstration against Trump. 

Khan has also copped a beating at the hands of the Twitterati. Condemned by Trump supporters for his stance against the US leader, UKIP London Assembly Member David Kurten took to Twitter to slam London’s mayor in a string of tweets for encouraging protests.

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‘Cover you with kisses, my Angel’: #Romanovs100 intimate love letters

By ethan / April 26, 2018

RT’s multi-platform history photo project about the Romanov family is well underway, focusing on the family’s daily affairs and shining light on some of the more intimate moments between Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna.

A love story lies at the heart of the #Romanovs100 project. Private correspondence between Tsar Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, born Alix of Hesse and by Rhine, reveals a relationship that survived extraordinary tumult.

The royal couple spent almost all of their time together and the only reason for such an extensive correspondence was the need for Nicholas II to spend more time in the army HQ during World War I. He would sometimes exchange several telegrams a day with Alexandra in addition to lengthy letters.

They first met in 1884 – Nicholas was 16, Alix was 12. Five years later they met again, but marriage prospects were bleak so their romantic correspondence began in secret. The Russian heir had to wait till 1894 to officially become engaged to the Darmstadt princess, and this was only made possible by the sudden and grave illness of his father, Alexander III.

Nicholas and Alexandra wrote to each other in English, using sweet nicknames for themselves and their children. The Empress would address her husband as “My very own Treasure,” “My own Sweetheart” and “Sunshine,” while he mostly called her “Sunny.” They both called their son, Alexei, “Sunbeam” and “Sun Ray” when they didn’t refer to him as “little one” or “baby.”

#Romanovs100 is a 100-day social media history project carried out on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Choose your preferred platform, or follow them all.

READ MORE: #Romanovs100 go live: Here’s how to find the project on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram & Twitter

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