‘We’re always told to prove ourselves as Americans’: Muslim blogger grilled on US TV, tells RT

By ethan / February 17, 2018

After an Iranian-American fashion blogger was grilled on live TV about her heritage, she fired back with a biting critique of the US. She told RT what her interview reveals about attitudes towards Muslims in the West.

Hoda Katebi, 23, was originally asked to come onto Chicago’s WGN News live morning show to talk about her book, ‘Tehran Streetstyle.’ But when she was suddenly asked for her views on Iran’s nuclear program, she responded that the US could not be trusted either, due to its history of meddling all across the world, including the Middle East.

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© hodakatebi

One of the co-hosts of the show then suggested her remarks sounded un-American, to which she responded that, aside from foreign intervention, the US must also face up to its treatment of black people and Native Americans, and accused the host of pushing stereotypes.

“It definitely caught me off-guard,” she told RT. “Unfortunately I guess I wasn’t too surprised because Muslims and people of color in this country and across the West are constantly put in positions where we are seen as both the token [minority] but also supposed to talk about everything related to our identity, even if its not exactly related to the work we’re doing at hand. 

We’re having to respond to our government’s policies abroad, but then having to blindly, unquestionably pray allegiance to this country who may be involved in violence in our country.”

Katebi said that being told by one of the TV hosts – the award-winning Robin Baumgarten – that she doesn’t “sound like an American,” puts into perspective the kind of discrimination Muslims and other minorities face in many Western countries.

“It goes back to the place that Muslims in America are constantly put in, in that we constantly have to prove we’re American enough to deserve respect, to deserve not being bond or banned,” she explained. “The second we criticize the state for what they’ve actually done we’re deemed un-American.”

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“Once you say something you’re going to get a bunch of death threats, you’re gonna get hate and the state might put a little microscope over you as well,” she added.

Then again, Katebi noted, maybe being called “un-American” was actually kind of a compliment, as she does not “want to sound like someone who would vote Trump into office.”

While the fashion blogger is used to publicity, she was a little taken aback by how quickly the clip of her talking back on TV spread over the Internet. Although she felt “blessed” to receive so much coverage, she also felt the interview exposed the attitudes many in America have about Muslims.

“This is not just me this has happened to, I was just lucky enough to record it and share it online, but this happens constantly, every single day, all the time,” she said. “One thing I appreciate about the virality of this is that people are standing up now and saying ‘this is not normal, this is not OK, we should not allow this.’”

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S. Korea all smiles at Olympics, but troops stay ready in massive SE Asia drills (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)

By ethan / February 17, 2018

South Korea has deployed hundreds of troops to Thailand to participate in the annual Asia-Pacific Cobra Gold military exercises, taking place between February 13 and 23, organized by the US and Thai militaries.

Exercise Cobra Gold was launched in 1981, with South Korea formally joining the drills in 2010. This year, a combat unit of over 430 South Korean sailors and marines participated, while the US deployed its largest ever force of 6,800 service personnel, reports ABC News.

“The Navy and the Marine Corps have teamed up with each other so far to take part in the Cobra Gold exercise,” said Lee Kwang Ho, commander of a South Korean amphibious unit, as cited by The Straits Times. “On the basis of the tradition, we will contribute to regional stability and international peace by strengthening combined operation capabilities.”

South Korea, the US, Thailand, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, China, and India all participated in Cobra Gold. A total of six warships, 34 amphibious assault vehicles, and 86 aircraft were used in the drills, including the US amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard and the South Korean landing ship Cheon Ja Bong.

Cobra Gold, which takes place at the Sattahip Royal Thai Marine Corps Base in the eastern province of Chonburi, is divided into three main parts: the command post exercise, the humanitarian civil assistance exercise, and the field training exercise. The week-long event culminated in a massive simulated beach landing Saturday.

The exercises are taking place during a time of heightened tensions in the region, as both North and South Korea attempt to reach some form of detente while the two countries participate in several Winter Olympics events as a unified team. 

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Twitter reacts to 4.4-magnitude earthquake shake in UK

By ethan / February 17, 2018

A magnitude 4.4 earthquake has struck in south Wales, with tremors reportedly felt more than 300 kilometers away in London.

The quake was recorded by the British Geological Survey (BGS) in Cwmllynfell, approximately 18 kilometers outside the Welsh city of Swansea. According to seismologists, the earthquake had a depth of 7.4 kilometers and a magnitude of 4.4. They described the event as the biggest onshore earthquake in 10 years.

Stephen Hicks, Earth Scientist at the University of Southampton, said such activity can be expected in the region at least once every eight years. “On average, the UK typically experiences one similar-sized earthquake every 2-8 years,” he said.

Tremors were felt from Swansea to cities closer to the east coast of the United Kingdom. A number of people took to social media to recount their experience of the quake. Parts of Swansea University campus were evacuated as a precaution.

Meanwhile, police in Wales have urged residents to only call the emergency services if they are reporting damage to a building or injuries.

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‘Democrats & MSM wreaked far more havoc than Russians’ – White House spokesman

By ethan / February 17, 2018

In light of recent indictments, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley has accused the Democrats and mainstream media of pushing lies on the American public about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

“There are two groups that have created chaos more than the Russians and that’s the Democrats and the mainstream media,” Gidley told the show Fox and Friends on Saturday. Gidley said the two groups spread false stories and narratives about supposed collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.

“[They] continued to push this lie on the American people for more than a year, and frankly Americans should be outraged by that.”

Gidley’s statements come amid news that Mueller’s investigation led to the indictment of 13 Russians and three Russian entities on Friday for allegedly meddling in the 2016 US presidential election. The Russians supposedly bought ads, staged rallies and worked with grassroots campaigns. However, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in a press conference that “there is no allegation in the indictment that it had any effect on the outcome of the election.”

READ MORE: US indicts 13 Russians for 2016 election meddling, but ‘no allegations’ they influenced outcome

For his part, President Donald Trump has claimed that the indictment, which accuses the Russians of having started their campaign as early as 2014, vindicates him and his staff of any wrongdoing.

“Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for president,” he tweeted. “The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong — no collusion!”

Russia has repeatedly denied any allegations of wrongdoing, meddling and collusion in relation to the 2016 election. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Saturday that until facts are presented by Washington, “everything else will be just blather.”

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Old Town Tripoli: Can snapshots save Libya’s ancient sites? (VIDEO)

By ethan / February 17, 2018

As Libya continues to be pulled apart by a long-running civil war, one photographer is attempting to protect the historic identity of its once-vibrant capital, Tripoli.

Established by the Phoenician civilisation in the 7th century, Tripoli is home to ancient architecture including city streets that reveal the influence of past empires. Amid seemingly endless political instability, it’s easy to forget Tripoli’s rich history as a Roman province, a major artery of Ottoman trade, and one of Africa’s most prosperous countries for much of the 20th Century.

However, as multiple factions vie for power following the demise of former leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the future of some of Libya’s most important cities is uncertain, tarnished by political infighting and the threat of ISIS-linked groups. With a civil war that shows no signs of stopping, it has fallen to local residents to protect the country’s rich history.

Now photographer Hiba Shalabi is documenting how lawlessness has resulted in Old Town Tripoli being eyed by developers, while also falling into disrepair. Shalabi has launched a social media campaign, #SaveTheOldCityTripoli, in order to promote the city’s cultural heritage.

Shalabi cites new and unregulated building projects and inadequate protective measures by the authorities as major threats to the city’s historic center. Documenting the pearls of Tripoli’s historical past, Shalabi hopes to point out how certain developers have been given almost free reign to tear down buildings regardless of their historical significance.

“People shouldn’t ruin their past and history for the future generations,” she said. “[There is] no restoration and preservation of ancient buildings, [there is] neglect, ruining buildings, [and] demolishing ancient buildings.”

Speaking about how the Dawood Mosque has been surrounded by more modern-looking steel and concrete structures, Shalabi said little thought has been given to Tripoli’s past. “It does not fit in the overall style of the old city. It stands out between the ancient buildings, from historical to this modern style. This is one of the violations that was not punished.”

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Russian men’s hockey squad trounces US 4-0 in Pyeongchang

By ethan / February 17, 2018

The Russian men’s hockey team, which is competing under a neutral flag at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, delivered a crushing 4-0 defeat to Team USA.

The Olympic Athletes from Russia took the lead in the middle of the opening period at the Gangneung Hockey Centre, with Nikolay Prokhorkin beating US goalie Ryan Zapolski. Prokhorkin then struck again to make it 2-0 for the Red Machine early in the second 20 minutes.

Former NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk dashed any American hopes for a comeback, netting his team’s third goal in the last second of the period. And it was Kovalchuk who settled the final 4-0 score less than 30 seconds into the third period.

The win allowed the Russian team to climb to first place in Group B of the tournament, and guarantees a spot in the playoffs. Oleg Znarok’s men have 6 points with one game remaining in the group stages, while Slovenia, the US, and Slovakia are all tied with 4 points.

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© Kim Hong-Ji

The American side played rough on the night, and there were a lot of scuffles during the match. “There were moments when we tried to calm the guys down,” Russian coach Oleg Znarok said. “We didn’t fall for provocations. Our opponents were, probably, tasked with attacking our leaders when they hit [Pavel] Datsyuk and Kovalchuk.”

All eyes were on Saturday’s encounter on the South Korean ice due to the current tensions in Russian-American relations.Last October, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow was in possession of information that the US was pressuring the International Olympic Committee (IOC) through its sponsors to see Russia excluded from the Pyeongchang Games. “We aren’t simply guessing about this, we know about it,” Putin said.

The Americans were among the most vocal critics of Russia as soon as allegations of a state-sponsored doping program emerged. The US also currently harbors World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) informant Grigory Rodchenkov, who is the key witness in the case against Russia.

Following several investigations by WADA and the IOC, a number of Russian athletes were disqualified and deprived of their medals. The “clean” athletes, who were allowed to take part in the 2018 Olympics as neutral competitors, are forbidden from displaying the Russian flag and other national symbols at the Olympics.

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Easing of Russian sanctions could follow UN peacekeeper deployment in Ukraine – acting German FM

By ethan / February 17, 2018

The gradual lifting of sanctions against Russia may start if the Moscow-backed plan to deploy UN peacekeepers in the conflict area of eastern Ukraine is implemented, interim German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said.

“We must achieve a ceasefire in Ukraine,” Gabriel said at a meeting, also attended by his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, on the sidelines of a Security Conference in Munich on Saturday. “I consider the Russian president’s idea about the ‘blue helmets’ (UN peacekeepers) to be correct. If this is done, we shall begin gradually lifting the sanctions,” the minister said, as cited by Tass.

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FILE PHOTO © Міністерство оборони України

According to Gabriel, deploying a UN force was “one of the few realistic options” to end the violence, which has caused around 10,000 deaths since spring 2014, when Kiev deployed troops in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions over their refusal to accept a violent coup in the Ukrainian capital. The German FM pointed out that there were fundamental differences over the peacekeeping plan, but added that “we need progress urgently because the world is becoming more dangerous.”

Late last year, Vladimir Putin said that Moscow would have no objections to bringing Donbas in eastern Ukraine under the control of UN peacekeepers if Kiev begins direct talks with the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.

It is “not particularly realistic” to insist on the full implementation of the Minsk peace deal before offering some sort of sanctions relief to Moscow, he said, without specifying what restrictions might be lifted, according to Reuters. “When progress is made, both sides should feel that progress,” he said.

Gabriel added that he was aware his stance differed from the official EU position, which calls for the full implementation of the accords reached in the Belarus capital, but said that breaking the current deadlock in eastern Ukraine was in the interests of the whole international community. Moscow has repeatedly drawn attention to the fact that it is not a party to the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

READ MORE: Kiev & Donbass hold E. Ukraine conflict’s largest prisoner exchange

The 2015 Minsk peace deal, brokered by Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine, saw a halt to largescale fighting in eastern Ukraine as it envisaged a ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weaponry, and a prisoner exchange. However, violations of the agreements occur almost on a daily basis in the area, as the death toll continues to rise. Moscow has been insisting that a full implementation of the accord is hampered by the stance of the Kiev government, which has been working to undermine them and prolong the conflict.

Several waves of sanctions targeting individuals, businesses and whole sectors of economy have been imposed against Russia after its reunion with Crimea in March 2014, and the beginning of fighting in eastern Ukraine. The West has been blaming Russia for supporting the self-defense forces in Donetsk and Lugansk with funds, weapons and manpower, despite failing to provide any convincing proof to the claims, which were repeatedly denied by Moscow.

Gabriel also defended the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which will connect Germany and Russia via the Baltic Sea, adding that Berlin was eager to continue using the existing transit route through Ukraine. The Nord Stream 2 project is vigorously opposed by Ukraine, Poland, the Baltic States and the US, which are concerned that it could make Europe even more dependent on Russian gas and eliminate Ukraine’s status as a transit country.

READ MORE: ‘Accomplice in igniting war’: Moscow says US crosses a line with lethal arms supplies to Ukraine

The Russian and German FMs said that there were plans to expand bilateral trade between Berlin and Moscow, which already increased by 20 percent in 2017. Gabriel stressed that cooperation with Russia is “indispensable” for maintaining international security and stability. “We have a joint responsibility,” he said, referring to Russia and Western countries.

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1 dead, 1 missing after explosion at factory in Dieppe, France (PHOTOS)

By ethan / February 17, 2018

At least one person has been killed and another is missing following an explosion at a factory near the port in Dieppe, France on Saturday afternoon.

The explosion reportedly occurred at a facility owned by Saipol, which specializes in producing cooking oils. Local residents have been evacuated from the vicinity, and the authorities have set up a security cordon at 300 meters around the blast site. Emergency responders, including a helicopter, have been deployed to the scene.

Local politician and former mayor of Dieppe Sebastien Jumel confirmed the death of one person, adding that another is missing and several people are in shock, as cited by France Bleu.

The blast took place around 10:30 am local time during routine maintenance at one of the factory’s silos, Paris-Normandie reports. The two workers are reportedly subcontractors employed by Saipol. The main six-storey building in the complex was engulfed in flames but the blaze has been brought under control.

The plant reportedly refines crude oil for use in the manufacture of biodiesel, and employs a total of 40 people. The cause of the explosion is still unknown.

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‘This is my fourth World Cup, I hope it will be my best’ – Mexico captain Andres Guardado

By ethan / February 17, 2018

This summer, Mexico captain Andres Guardado will lead Mexico’s El Tri in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which will be his fourth as a player.

Despite already being a World Cup veteran, Real Betis left back Guardado, who has already amassed a whopping 142 international appearances, says the desire to lead and represent his country on the biggest stage in the world still burns within him.

“The next World Cup will feel exactly like the first one for me. I feel driven, it’s like I will be playing in this major championship for the first time. We have a very good team. We can change the course of football history in our country. This is what motivates me the most,” Guardado said, talking to RT’s Stan Collymore.

The Mexico skipper says that playing in the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia last summer – where the team lost in the semifinals to Germany – helped him and his teammates become acquainted with the stadiums, cities, and atmosphere in Russia.

“Playing in the Confederations Cup helped us to understand what to expect. It is an important factor, and judging by our experience, the World Cup will be great,” he said. 

Taking part in his fourth World Cup gives him “an incredible sense of accomplishment,” he says.

“Every footballer wants to go to the World Cup. We all dream about it. And now I am about to participate in one for the fourth time in my career. I have no words to describe how I feel.

“There is only a handful of footballers in the whole world who have in four World Cups over their lives. So, this is a matter of pride, indeed, this is my fourth World Cup, and I hope it will be my best.”

Russia will host its first ever FIFA World Cup from June 14 to July 15 on twelve stadiums across eleven cities. Mexico has been drawn with Sweden, South Korea and current champions Germany in group F.

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‘Worst case scenario’: Underwater magma chamber ‘could kill 100 million people’

By ethan / February 17, 2018

A magma reservoir potentially hidden behind an underwater volcanic crater could have civilization-ending results if it ever erupts, according to Japanese scientists.

Experts from the Kobe University Ocean Bottom Exploration Center (KOBEC) have confirmed that a giant caldera or large crater exists in the Japanese Archipelago. The crater, measuring 32 cubic kilometers, is said to be the largest of its kind and the result of an explosive underwater eruption 7,300 years ago, according to their latest study.

Sitting between the Pacific and Philippine Sea Oceanic plates, Japan is a hotbed for seismic activity, which is why scientists are keen on updating methods of predicting natural disasters. The KOBEC team has been carrying out detailed surveys of the area and published their findings in Scientific Reports.  

READ MORE: ‘This is crazy’: Antarctic supervolcano melting ice sheet from within

Located to the south of Kyushu, the Kikai caldera has very small chance of erupting over the next 100 years, reports KOBEC. However, the lead scientist studying the volcanic formation has given an ominous warning about the bubbling caldera’s destructive potential.

“Although the probability of a gigantic caldera eruption hitting the Japanese archipelago is 1 percent in the next 100 years, it is estimated that the death toll could rise to approximately 100 million in the worst case scenario,” professor Yoshiyuki Tatsumi, head of KOBEC, told The Mainichi.

Super eruptions are rare, with Yellowstone Volcano Observatory scientist Michael Poland telling RT.com that the odds of civilization-ending explosion is “astronomically small.” However, scientists researching the Kikai caldera believe that a giant magma reservoir may lay hidden below the crust – and an eruption could be deadly.

“An eruption like this would see over 40 cubic kilometers of magma released in one burst, causing enormous damage,” a KOBEC statement reads. “The mechanism behind this and how to predict this event are urgent questions.”

A team of scientists armed with underwater robots plan to return to the crater in March to determine whether the magma build up exists. It’s hoped that KOBEC and the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology will be able to use the research to pioneer a way to predict caldera eruptions.

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