Egypt finds no evidence of curses within black sarcophagus… so far

By ethan / July 19, 2018

A black sarcophagus in Egypt revealed neither the remains of Alexander the Great nor curses protecting it, authorities say. Folks in Russia know about great conquerors and curses – one may even have triggered the Nazi invasion.

Many powerful people in the past were obsessed with their posterity, having items and servants buried along with them to serve in the afterlife and curses put on their tombs to strike whoever dared to open them and steal the treasures. The best known case of mysterious death attributed to such magic is the curse of the pharaohs, which supposedly struck the excavation team that unsealed the burial place of Tutankhamen.

The exhumation of a black 30-ton sarcophagus in Egypt this week was surrounded by speculation. Some said it could contain the remains of Alexander the Great, arguably the greatest conqueror of the ancient world, whose untimely death sealed the fate of the empire he carved out from the Mediterranean to India. Some said opening it would bring no good.

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© Ministry of Antiquties

The unsealing of the sarcophagus on Thursday involved a heavy police cordon and an evacuation from the area, but apparently brought no sensation. Archeologists said they found some floodwater inside, and after it was pumped out, the mummified remains of three people were revealed, probably belonging to a wealthy family in Alexandria. No curses befell the team, the report stressed. So it’s all good now, right?

Russia had its brush with a tomb-sealing curse, and it turned out to be far more devastating than that of the pharaohs. In fact, it claimed millions of lives, if the legend is to be believed. It started in 1941 in Samarkand, where an archeological expedition was working on the excavation of the family crypt of Timur the Lame, the 14th-century conqueror of Mongolian origin who started an empire spanning from Persia to the Caucasus Mountains, to what is now Turkey, with Samarkand as the capital.

Ignoring warnings from the locals, scientists exhumed the bodies of Timur’s descendants and then his own. Inscribed on the tomb were reportedly the words: “When I rise from the dead, the world shall tremble,” and inside the casket the scientists read: “Whomsoever opens my tomb shall unleash an invader more terrible than I.” The entire work lasted four days, and Timur’s remains were revealed on June 20. Two days later, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union.

The legend does not stop there. It is said that the remains of Timur were reburied in November 1942, days before the Battle of Stalingrad, the bloodiest in history, was finally won by the Soviets, and the Nazi campaign started to crumble.

Of course, Hitler’s generals launched their preparations for the invasion long before the expedition in Samarkand started. It is also well-known that the Nazi leader and some of his associates were obsessed with all things mystical, hunting for ancient artifacts of power throughout the world. Just ask Indiana Jones.

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Alexey Oleynik to face veteran Mark Hunt in main event of UFC’s first Moscow show

By ethan / July 19, 2018

A classic striker versus grappler matchup has been set as the featured attraction to the first ever Russian UFC event on September 15, as Ukrainian submission expert Alexey Oleynik takes on veteran heavyweight Mark Hunt.

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Less than two months remain until the first punch is thrown at the maiden Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event to take place in Moscow’s Olimpiyskiy Stadium – and the fight card is beginning to take shape.

It was confirmed on Thursday by the promotion that Oleynik (56-11-1) and Hunt (13-12-1-1) would tangle in the main event after moves to have the Russian face fellow submission expert Fabricio Werdum in the featured bout were shelved as the Brazilian former UFC heavyweight champion failed a United States Anti-Doping Authority (USADA) drug test.

READ MORE: Oleynik Choke: Russian UFC heavyweight finishes opponent with signature move again

Oleynik comes into the bout on the back of a 6-2 run in the UFC, with notable wins against Travis Browne, Junior Albini and Anthony Hamilton. The 41-year-old is the only fighter in the promotion’s history to have even one win by the rare Ezekiel Choke submission. He has two such win the in the UFC and eleven total on his professional record.

Fellow veteran Hunt, three years Oleniyk’s elder, is one of the more beloved heavyweights in recent UFC history. One of the best kickboxers in the sport, Hunt is considered to be perhaps the biggest power-puncher in the sport, with ten of his thirteen wins coming by knockout. He is also a former champion of the K-1 Grand Prix, the premier kickboxing tournament in the world.

The rest of the card is still being assembled but it has been confirmed that neither Khabib Nurmagomedov nor Zabit Magomedsharipov, the two biggest Russian stars on the UFC roster, will compete.

Meanwhile, the UFC announced plans on Wednesday of a partnership with M-1 Global to help consolidate and develop mixed martial arts talent in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

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Zuckerberg warns break-up of Facebook will lead to Chinese tech dominance

By ethan / July 19, 2018

Calls to break up Facebook in order to even out the playing field for competitors would result in a Chinese tech companies filling the void, said the social network’s co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.

He pointed to the fact that the Chinese firms which will likely step in and dominate don’t have traditional American values.

“I think you have this question from a policy perspective, which is, ‘do we want American companies to be exporting across the world?’” Zuckerberg said in an interview with technology news website Recode. “I think that the alternative, frankly, is going to be the Chinese companies.”

The social media tycoon added: “I think you can bet that, if the government here is worried about — whether it’s election interference or terrorism — I don’t think Chinese companies are going to want to cooperate as much and aid the national interest there.” 

Zuckerberg, who earlier argued that Facebook isn’t a monopoly because it has a lot of competitors, also spoke out against the US constraining its own companies. 

“If we adopt a stance which is that, we’re going to, as a country, decide to clip the wings of these [American] companies and make it so it’s harder for them to operate in different places or they have to be smaller, then there are plenty of other companies out there willing and able to take the place of the work that we’re doing,” he said. 

“And they do not share the values that we have.” 

The 34-year-old Zuckerberg has recently faced congressional hearings on the data practices of Facebook, particularly the data breaches by Cambridge Analytica, and the lack of any complete competitor. 

He told Recode that as the creator of Facebook he was to blame for data being stolen.

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Russian lawmakers move to ban weapons & alcohol ads on children’s TV

By ethan / July 19, 2018

The Lower House Committee for Information Policy has backed a motion banning advertisers from promoting alcohol, pharmaceuticals, gambling and weapons on kids’ radio and TV programs.

Amendments drafted by parliamentary majority party United Russia state that children’s shows on radio and television must not contain commercials for alcohol products, medications and medical equipment, food supplements, weapons and military equipment or financial or gambling services, according to the committee’s press release.

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© Igor Zarembo

The same bill also increases the time limit of ad blocks on TV shows from nine minutes to 12 minutes per hour of broadcasting. Commercial breaks in general on any given channel must not exceed 15 percent of the overall daily broadcasting time.

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You’ll never guess where the next James Bond villain is from…

By ethan / July 19, 2018

James Bond’s nemesis in the upcoming 007 film will be (now whisper it)… Russian. In what could be a sign of the times, it’s the first time in 20 years the fictional English spy will be battling it out with a Moscow baddie.

1999’s ‘The World Is Not Enough’ was the last Bond film to star a significant Russian villain – Victor ‘Renard’ Zokas, an ex-KGB agent turned-high tech terrorist, played with a questionable accent by Scottish actor Robert Carlyle.

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© Mario Anzuoni

The movie, once again starring Daniel Craig as Bond, has the working title ‘Bond 25’. It will be directed by Danny Boyle. Filming is scheduled to commence in December, with a proposed release date of October 2019, the Mirror reports.

The makers of the 007 film franchise are said to be seeking a 30 to 60-year-old leading male, from Russia or the Balkans. Producers say he must be “charismatic, powerful, innovative, cold and vindictive.”

As if one leading role being Russian wasn’t a scary enough proposition for James Bond fans, producers have revealed they intend to also cast a female in a leading role as a Russian. They must be “very striking” with “strong physical combat skills.”

Her character is described as “intelligent, brave, fierce and charming, she’s witty and skilful, a survivor.” The two Russian principal characters are rumored to have a Maori henchman who must possess “combat skills” and be “ruthless and loyal.”

Bond has a history of trading shots with evil characters from behind the old Iron Curtain in movies such as ‘From Russia With Love’. The prospective Russian villains will be following in the footsteps of Rosa Klebb and General Orlov.

Dua Lipa, the London-born singer-songwriter, is rumored to have been chosen to perform the theme song.

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George Soros says Obama was his ‘greatest disappointment’, continues to slam Trump

By ethan / July 19, 2018

Controversial billionaire George Soros said Barack Obama was his “greatest disappointment,” who “closed the door” on him despite lavish support. He now eyes going bipartisan instead.

In a candid interview with the New York Times, Hungarian-born billionaire financier George Soros admitted that he became disillusioned with former President Barack Obama. Obama was “actually my greatest disappointment,” he told the Times’ Michael Steinberger.

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George Soros. © Andreas Gebert / Global Look Pres

Soros said he had hoped Obama – who he heavily supported during the 2008 race – would seek his advice on finance and economics, but was instead frozen out.

After securing the presidency, Obama “closed the door on me,” Soros said. “He made one phone call thanking me for my support, which was meant to last for five minutes, and I engaged him, and he had to spend another three minutes with me, so I dragged it out to eight minutes.”

The liberal philanthropist said: “He was someone who was known from the time when he was competing for the editorship of The Harvard Law Review to take his supporters for granted and to woo his opponents.”

Soros said he does not want to be a Democrat and will not side with anyone in the American political system. “My ideology is nonideological.”

Still, he continued giving financial support to the Democrats beyond Obama’s term, pouring around $ 25 million into Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign to prevent Donald Trump from getting into the Oval Office, according to the newspaper. At that stage, he did not expect Trump to show much political ambition, but now he is afraid the president will “blow up the world rather than suffer a setback to his narcissism.”

Though Trump “would like to establish a mafia state,” his days in power are numbered, Soros believes.

Soros’ life as financier and freelance politician is mired in controversy, especially due to his operations in Europe. Hungary, where he engaged in a standoff with Prime Minister Victor Orban – once Soros’ protégé – recently closed the offices of the Open Society Foundations saying the entity encouraged illegal immigration.

READ MORE: ‘Ultimate narcissist’ Trump wants to ‘destroy the world’ – George Soros

In the UK, he is known to be a backer of a second Brexit referendum, donating over £800,000 (US$ 1,062,000) to pro-EU campaigns. The billionaire came under intense scrutiny after former UKIP leader Nigel Farage warned members of the European Parliament about Soros’ “truly extraordinary” influence on Brexit. The comments were made after it emerged Soros put $ 18 billion (£12.97 billion) into the Open Society fund.

The 87-year-old Hungarian-American is one of the world’s foremost investors. He also gained notoriety for shorting Britain’s pound sterling, which forced the currency’s collapse in the 1990s.

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Female IDF soldiers banned from removing bras, smoking & wearing white due to religious soldiers

By ethan / July 19, 2018

The Israel Defense Force’s “modesty rules” which ban female soldiers from wearing white shirts, removing their bras and smoking near men to prevent “womanly temptation” for religious soldiers is infuriating its targets.

Israel’s Women’s Network has reported that female recruits are being restricted by rules that dictate their dress and behavior because of the rising number of Ultra-Orthodox religious soldiers in the army.

“The dozens of testimonies that have reached us at the hotline for female soldiers in the past year and a half attest to what we’ve known for a long time. Commanders in the field deviate from the army’s orders and enforce bizarre modesty rules on the female soldiers, and prevent them from doing their jobs,” Managing Director of the Israel Women’s Network, Michal Gera Margaliot told Haaretz.

The rule about bra-wearing appears the most extreme. Female soldiers have reported they are forbidden from taking their bras off even when they are preparing to go to bed.

“There are two minutes between the inspection at the end of the pre-sleep hour and lights out,” a female soldier said in the report. “If we tried to remove our bras even then, we were caught and given a warning.”  

Women are also banned from wearing white shirts at the Shizafon base and Base 80, as well as shorts above the knee in exercise classes to prevent men getting aroused.

A female training instructor was reportedly removed from her role after religious-Zionist commanders said they were uncomfortable with her presence. “The minute you see religious soldiers, you’re deterred.” she said. “They once told us to put pants on over our tights if there were a lot of religious guys in the unit, but few women do. They simply skip the exercise.”

The IDF has a number of ‘hesder’ companies, made up of religious men who combine their time in the army with Torah study. The religious officers complained about female officers smoking near them, even though they had already been given their own smoking area.

According to the report though, it isn’t just the religious soldiers who want these rules. Secular commanders support the measures.

The IDF has experienced a drop in enlistment over the last 30 years as Haredi and Arab citizens aren’t drafted, and their populations grow faster than the overall population. In 1990, three quarters of young Israelis were drafted and that figure is expected to drop to 64 percent by 2020, Haaretz reports.

Female recruits are increasing, however, and the number of Orthodox Jews who are choosing to enlist is also growing.  A bill to incrementally draft Yeshiva students is currently making its way through the Knesset, which could further exacerbate issues with religious soldiers and their female counterparts.

A senior IDF source told Haaretz, “There’s no prohibition against wearing a white shirt and there’s no obligation to wear pants over tights. The same dress code applies to women and men. If there are other instructions, they are exceptions.”

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Croatian FA sends national team jerseys to Thai cave rescue boys

By ethan / July 19, 2018

The Croatian football federation (HNS) has sent team jerseys to each of the 12 Thai youngsters who were recently rescued from a cave after being trapped for more than two weeks.

The youngsters, aged 11 to 16 and all from the same football team, were rescued last week along with their coach after spending more than two weeks stranded in flooded caves in the Thai province of Chiang Rai.

READ MORE: Incredible operation in pictures: All 12 boys, coach rescued from Thailand cave

They appeared at a press conference on Wednesday in which they described their ordeal, as well as posing in their ‘Wild Boars’ team kit.

The youngsters will now have more kit to train in after the Croatian football federation sent the boys 12 jerseys in the distinctive red and white checkered pattern of the type worn by the World Cup finalists.

The youngsters’ plight came to the attention of the world after they went missing on June 23, eventually being found by divers on July 2. A complex rescue mission was launched during which one former Thai Navy Seal, Saman Kunan, died.   

The efforts to save the boys were praised during the World Cup by figures such as Manchester united manager Jose Mourinho, who called the rescuers “real heroes.”

READ MORE: ‘Real heroes are in Thailand, not at World Cup’: Mourinho pays tribute to cave rescuers (VIDEO)

French star Paul Pogba dedicated his team’s semi-final win against Belgium to the youngsters, after it emerged on the day of the game that they had been safely rescued.  

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Venezuela will refine gold in Turkey to protect reserves from US sanctions

By ethan / July 19, 2018

The Central Bank of Venezuela will start refining gold in Turkey to avoid US sanctions –  penalties that deter the country from carrying out banking operations in Switzerland, according to the Venezuelan mining minister.

“This is an agreement established with Turkey and the Venezuelan central bank,” Victor Cano told journalists. “It’s being done by allied countries because imagine what would happen if we sent gold to Switzerland and we are told that it has to stay there because of sanctions.”

Venezuela’s central bank has been purchasing gold from small miners in the south of the country and then refining the precious metal to use as monetary gold. So far Caracas has been seeking to shore up its international reserves which have plunged as Venezuela struggles with the country’s worst-ever economic crisis.

Cano didn’t specify which Turkish firms are participating and how much gold would be refined by them. However, the minister said that Venezuela had bought 9.1 tons of gold from small miners in 2018.  After being refined in Turkey the gold is taken back to Venezuela to become part of the central bank’s portfolio of assets.

Venezuela is currently the subject to numerous sanctions imposed by Washington, which accuses the Venezuelan government of violating human rights and undermining democracy. US citizens are currently banned from buying newly-issued debt from Venezuela and its state-owned companies. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called the penalties “economic war” against Caracas.

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Identification of Skripal suspects is 'wild speculation' – UK security minister

By ethan / July 19, 2018

UK Security Minister Ben Wallace has dismissed claims police identified the suspects in the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury as “wild speculation.”

The Tory minister Tweeted, in response to the Press Association post, that the report “belongs in the ill informed and wild speculation folder.”

It comes after the Press Association reported on Thursday morning that police had identified the suspects behind the nerve agent attacks against former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. The pair were found on March 4 slumped on a bench after being exposed to the substance in the Wiltshire town of Salisbury.

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FILE PHOTO: Police officers near Sergei Skripal's home in Salisbury © Toby Melville

It was reported that a source with knowledge of the investigation said: “Investigators believe they have identified the suspected perpetrators of the Novichok attack through CCTV and have cross-checked this with records of people who entered the country around that time. They [the investigators] are sure they [the suspects] are Russian”

The UK has accused Russia of both attacks, a claim which the Kremlin has consistently denied.

Asked about the latest developments, Russian Ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko said he is still awaiting official confirmation from Britain.

“These are media reports, unfortunately there are no official statements from the British side. I want to hear from Scotland Yard, from the Foreign Office. Many versions [published] in the newspapers are not confirmed at official level,” Yakovenko told journalists in Moscow.

The Russian envoy added that as London has produced no evidence that Moscow is responsible, the attack and its possible perpetrators was not discussed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Donald Trump at their meeting in Helsinki.

Yakovenko added he will raise the issue with the new UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt when they meet.

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