Uber reports massive losses amid legal troubles & regulatory scrutiny

By ethan / November 30, 2017

Growing litigation costs and fierce global competition have widened Uber’s net loss in the third quarter to $ 1.46 billion reports the company. This compares to a loss of $ 1.06 billion in the previous quarter.

At the same time, net revenue went up from $ 1.66 billion to $ 2.01 billion with gross bookings growing to $ 9.71 billion against the $ 8.74 billion in the second quarter.

Following a number of major difficulties, including a massive data breach and revelations about internal spying, the ride-hailing company launched a tender offer to sell its shares.

The SoftBank-led consortium that includes Dragoneer, Sequoia Capital, TPG and Tencent have offered to buy up to $ 8 billion in shares from existing Uber shareholders in a new round of financing. However, the group of potential investors is offering $ 32.96 per share, a third lower than the $ 48.77 paid to the company last year.

The Japanese company is also purchasing a billion dollars of new shares at a higher price, which created a blended valuation for Uber of $ 54 billion, down from $ 68 billion last year, according to a SoftBank spokesperson. The company confirmed that Benchmark Capital and Menlo Ventures intended to sell shares.

Despite significantly knocked down prices, the deal may reportedly become a turning point for the privately held San Francisco firm, as it is getting ready to go public as early as next year.

This year, Uber has to appoint a new chief executive. Under Dara Khosrowshahi, who replaced founder Travis Kalanick, the company’s adjusted third-quarter losses widened to $ 743 million, up 14 percent from the previous quarter.

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Moscow Patriarchate grants greater independence to Ukrainian Orthodox Church

By ethan / November 30, 2017

The Congress of Russian Orthodox Bishops has voted to dedicate a separate chapter in the Moscow Patriarchate’s Charter to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, bringing the document into line with the de facto independence of this branch of the faith.

The press service of the congress reported on Thursday that the Bishops were unanimous in their decision to fulfill the request of the head of the Ukrainian Church, Metropolitan Onufriy. The Church leader asked the Moscow Patriarchate to describe the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in a separate chapter of the Charter and thus reflect the ruling of the 1990 Bishop Congress of the Russian Orthodox Church. The decision granted it full independence and self-governance.

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Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia © Sergey Pyatakov

In his speech before the congress the Metropolitan stated that certain political forces in Ukraine had previously attempted to discredit the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the eyes of the Ukrainian society by speculating about its dependent status and pointing at the contradictions between the decision of the 1990 congress and the Charter of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Today, to prevent further speculations seeking to undermine the authority of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the eyes of millions of Ukrainians I consider it necessary to emphasize the special status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and write about it in the Charter of the Russian Orthodox Church,” Onufriy said.

The congress fulfilled the request and also voted to write in the charter that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is governed from Kiev and that the powers of the Russian Orthodox Church’s common ecclesiastical court will not extend to the Ukrainian territory.

In its statement the press service of the Bishops’ Congress emphasized that the changes “in essence, simply fixed on paper what already existed in real life.” 

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is the largest confession in the country and its representatives consider it to be an heir to the Orthodox Church of the Kievan Rus, the Ukrainian Branch of the Russian Orthodox Church launched in 1920s.

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Demolition of the Annunciation church in the Labor square, September 1929 (RIA Novosti)

The Church has conflicts with other Christian confessions popular in Ukraine, in particular with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kievan Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, whose representatives are accused of aggressive proselytism and attempts to unlawfully occupy houses of worship belonging to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has refused to officially support the new Ukrainian government installed after the 2014 violent coup in the country’s capital, Kiev, but its representatives have repeatedly explained this by the principle of non-interference into secular issues.

In his speech before the Congress of Russian Orthodox Bishops, Metropolitan Onufriy again raised the issue of internal conflict in the Ukrainian society. “Some dishonest politicians attempts to artificially light up the fire of mutual strife between orthodox believers in order to earn some political dividends. With love we remind these politicians that we have asked them not to intrude the church with their ideas, even if they see them as the most pure and noble, because the Church lives by the ideas of Crist, not the ideas of ordinary humans,” he said.

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Pumping Iron Age! Ancient women had much stronger arms than today’s female sports stars

By ethan / November 30, 2017

Women in Europe’s ancient civilizations had stronger arms than elite female sports stars do today thanks to the grind of farming life, scientists say. The research shows women were a driving force behind the socio-cultural development of agrarian communities.

A study of bones belonging to women who lived in central Europe between 5300 BC to around 100 AD reveals manual agricultural work had a profound effect on their bodies. Their strong arms reveal women engaged in hard work like harvesting, tilling the soil and grinding grain using their hands.

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© University of Leicester

“We think a lot of what we are seeing is the bone’s response to women grinding grain, which is pretty much seated but using your arms really repetitively many hours a day,” Dr Alison Macintosh, co-author of the research from the University of Cambridge, told the Guardian.

The research scanned the shinbones and upper arm bones of 94 women who lived from the time of the early Neolithic farmers around 5300 BC to the 9th century from countries including Germany, Austria and northern Serbia. In addition, scientists looked at scans from bones of 83 living women who fell into four groups: runners, rowers, footballers and those with a sedentary lifestyle.

The results, published in the journal Science Advances, reveal that while the arm bones of women from the Neolithic to the late Iron Age showed variations in strength, they were stronger than those of rowers, football players, and non-athletic women.

It found that Neolithic women who lived about 7,000 years ago had arms stronger by 11 to 16 percent compared to modern rowers. As for women who lived in the Bronze Age, from about 4,000 years back, their arms were found to have been stronger by 9 to 13 percent in comparison with present-day rowers.

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© Jan Frolik

“We really saw them standing out through that first 5,500 years of farming, just really consistently stronger arm bones than the majority of the living women, including the rowers,” Macintosh said. “Medieval women had much weaker arm bones than those previous prehistoric women; they looked a lot more like modern, recreationally active women.”

The study also reveals that the strength of women’s arm bones dropped over time, probably as technology was developed to ease manual labor. By medieval times, the strength of women’s arm bones was on a par with that of the average woman today.

The findings reveal much about the role of women in society. Women used to work long hours and were a significant “driving force” between the socio-cultural development of agrarian communities for over 6,000 years, it says.

“Women have been doing rigorous labor over thousands of years [and] that’s really been underestimated so far because we haven’t been comparing them to living women,” Macintosh said. “It’s highlighting those hours of work that women have been doing that have been hidden in the archaeological record until now.”

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Unexplained loud 'booms' rattling houses puzzle southern Arizona

By ethan / November 30, 2017

Residents of southern Arizona are baffled by mysterious booms being felt and heard across the southern part of the state, which have caused the ground to shake and pets to tremble. No one seems to have an explanation for the weird occurrences.

The spooky events happened two nights in a row – on Tuesday between 8pm and 8:30pm, and on Wednesday just after 3pm, according to Tucson News Now. It’s not just one or two people who have reported the strange booms, as the media outlet says it has been “inundated” with calls, emails and Facebook messages from witnesses.

Describing one of the booms, a resident by the name of Jim Hughson said it “sounded like someone throwing boulders in a huge dumpster. Crazy.” He said he heard the boom on the northeastern side of Tucson.

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The skyline of San Diego © Mike Blake

Another resident named Pamela Sutherland said one of the booms “was loud and it shook the house, rattled windows, and everything hanging on the walls. It was enough to make the ground shake and frighten our dog.”

The Tuesday incident was strong enough to be registered by the seismic monitoring station at the University of Arizona Geosciences Department, with Assistant Professor Eric Kiser saying it happened between 8:11pm and 8:12pm. Although he and his colleagues examined the waveforms, he said it is “difficult to determine what the source is, using one seismic station.”

Kiser did, however, note that it likely wasn’t a sonic boom, because they typically aren’t so “impulsive.” He said a mine blast could be the cause, but said it would be unusual for such events to be taking place so late.

Tuscon News Now reached out to military installations to see if the incidents could be from sonic booms. However, no aircraft has reported conducting one. David-Monthan Air Force Base, located in Tucson, also told local NBC affiliate KVOA that it has no aircraft operations or explosive demolitions that would have caused the booms. The 162nd fighter wing of the Arizona National Guard is currently checking into the reports.

Meanwhile, Arizona isn’t the only place to experience mysterious booms this year. More than 60 similar incidents have been reported around the globe in 2017, from Australia to the UK. Among the most recent reports were unexplained booms in the US states of Michigan, Idaho, and Alabama.

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Prehistoric Russian camel painting could be 38,000 years old

By ethan / November 30, 2017

A prehistoric cave painting depicting a striking two-humped camel has been uncovered in a Russian cavern famous for its ancient murals. The discovery raises questions about the migration patterns of prehistoric humans.

The image, said to date back between 14,500 to 37,700 years, was found in the Kapova Cave, part of the Southern Urals mountain range, by renowned restoration scientist Eudald Guillamet. Located in Russia’s Bashkir Ural territory, the limestone grotto is almost a natural museum to Paleolithic art with more than 150 examples of ancient depictions.

Perhaps the most famous of the etchings in red ochre are of wooly mammoths, horses and rhinoceroses. But the exotic Bactrian-like camel could now become the cave’s pièce de résistance, according to Vladislav Zhitenev, archaeologist at Moscow State University.

READ MORE: Last supper? Metal cauldrons from 400BC found in England could reveal ancient food (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

“It becomes an important image of the Upper Paleolithic bestiary of the South Urals,”Zhitenev said.

“The age of the drawings on this panel cannot yet be accurately established, but the results of the uranium-thorium analysis of calcite deposits on which the pattern is made show unambiguously the drawing was made no earlier than 37,700 years ago.”

He indicated the camel image is unlike any of the paintings found in ancient caves in Europe, although it does bear similarities to a daubing previously discovered in Russia’s Ignatievka Cave.

It’s conceivable the unknown Kapova Cave artist could have encountered the pack animal, since two-humped camels are believed to have evolved approximately 11 million years ago from two species that lived during the Eocene period.

READ MORE: Extinct giant sea cow discovered on Russian beach (PHOTOS)

However, the painting raises startling questions over migration patterns of the time, since a vast journey would have to be undertaken for a person to witness the animal or for one to turn up in the region.

Archaeologists from Moscow State University will continue analyzing the artwork next month to figure out if it holds any more clues to the past.

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ECB orders banks to embrace instant payments to beat bitcoin

By ethan / November 30, 2017

Banks should speed up the introduction of immediate payments, whereby money is received immediately and around the clock, to counter the allure of digital currencies such as bitcoin, said the European Central Bank (ECB).

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Swedish kronor notes in various denominations are seen in this photo illustration taken in Stockholm © Bob Strong

“Banks need to implement instant payments as soon as possible and provide an alternative narrative to the ongoing public debate on the alleged innovation brought by virtual currency schemes,” said a member of the ECB’s executive board Yves Mersch as cited by Reuters.

Central banks are worried private digital currencies are threatening their control of the banking system and money supply. The regulators fear this could undermine the monetary policies they use to manage inflation.

At the same time, some central banks such as Sweden’s Riksbank and the Bank of England are considering introducing their own digital currency. The Riksbank may introduce the so-called e-krona soon to solve the problem of a dramatic drop in the domestic use of cash. The world’s oldest central bank was the first to issue paper banknotes in the 1660s.

According to Mersch, the ECB will experiment but does not see scope for “adventurous applications” of such technology.

“We shall also experiment with cash on different digital technologies,” Mersch said, adding “other adventurous applications of a more disruptive nature are simply not robust enough.”

Meanwhile, Bundesbank board member Carl-Ludwig Thiele said a digital currency such as Sweden’s proposed e-krona could not be introduced in Germany, where cash payments are still prevalent.

“The issue of digital central bank money is in our view not a realistic option for the foreseeable future,” said Thiele.

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Cold War documents reveal forgotten radical Zionist attempt to attack UK government

By ethan / November 30, 2017

In and amongst the trove of Cold War-era archives released by MI5 this week, between documents on John Profumo and Kingsley Amis, was a file on two radical Zionists and their thwarted attempt to carry out a letter-bombing campaign targeting the British government.

Ms Gilberte Elizabeth Lazarus, also known as Betty Knout, and Mr Yaacov Levstein were two members of the Stern Group, also known as the Lehi, militant Zionists intent on the violent removal of the British from Palestine.

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A Palestinian man salvages gas canisters from the ruins of buildings destroyed by what police said were Israeli air strikes and shelling in Khuzaa, east of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip August 3, 2014. (Reuters)

The Letter-bomb plot

The released documents detail how, on June 2, 1947, the pair were arrested on the French-Belgian border carrying envelopes addressed to leading British officials; Sir Alan Cunningham, the Palestine high commissioner, and General G. H. A. MacMillan, commander of the British troops in Palestine, among others. Inside the envelopes, and behind the false bottom of Lazarus’ suitcase, was gelignite, detonators, batteries and timed-fuses. Lazarus was sentenced to a year in prison, Levstein to eight months.

Upon the arrests, a released memo notes that Lazarus “is believed to be identical with the woman who planted the bomb in Dover House last April” – a bombing of the British Colonial Office in Whitehall that severely damaged the building. While further reports note that a year previous, French police stopped the group’s ambitious plot to cross the Channel in a plane to drop a bomb on the Houses of Parliament, though this was denied by French Sternists.  

Author of ‘Stern: The Man and His Gang’ and one of the world’s foremost Nazi-hunters, Zev Golan, notes that British intelligence “was good but not perfect,” telling RT: “Bombs planted in England were actually sent and placed by the Paris branch… They tried to place one in the Ministry of War, apparently they also placed a non-working bomb in Parliament, which was never discovered. They prepared dozens of letter bombs – the documents released yesterday underestimate the number considerably – to be sent to British politicians.”

The Most Dangerous

MI5 had been monitoring the pair and their fellow Sternists for years. Written during their imprisonment on a partially torn memo marked “Top Secret,” a British intelligence officer describes Levstein, a seasoned bank-robber, as “one of the most dangerous and active members of the Jewish terrorist organizations in Palestine.” The memo appeals to the recipient: “It is imperative that Levstein is not allowed freedom after disposal by the Belgian authorities.”

Upon her release, Lazarus was quoted in the Daily Express as saying: “Belgian experts said they [the letters] were deadly. I’m sorry none of them were delivered.” She was subsequently monitored by British intelligence as soon made her way, via-Paris, to the new state of Israel that had been formed while she resided in jail.

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German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler and Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Mohammad Amin Al-Husseini meet in Berlin, 30 November 1941 © HO

Golan states: “The Stern Group was the first and maybe only Jewish entity to say that British interests in the Middle East were colonial, imperialistic, and so necessarily contradicted Zionist interests, as well as the interests of the Arabs. The Sternists said a conflict was not an option – it was inevitable.”

The Stern Group declared an all-out war of independence from Britain. This was in 1940. It took up arms, shot British soldiers and police, and bombed British government offices. So, one can argue that they started the underground war that culminated with the British withdrawal from Palestine in 1948.”

The Russian connection

The documents also show British intelligence’s fear of Soviet infiltration of the Stern Group. A memo written by then director general of MI5, Sir Percy Sillitoe, called for the estimation of the “extent to which Jewish underground organizations have been penetrated by the Russians.”

In the file’s opening pages, there is a correspondence between two British officials discussing Lazarus’ connections to the Soviet Union, reading: “It may or may not be relevant that Elisabeth LAZARUS is the grand-daughter of Scriabin and a relation of Molotov!” While Golan notes the relation to renowned Russian composer Alexander Scriabin, he casts doubts on her relation to Stalin’s right-hand man, Vyacheslav Molotov.

The author notes that the “Soviets were penetrating” the radical Zionist organizations, adding: “It is rumored, apparently with good reason that a Lehi member – he has not been named – was working for the Soviets, and this resulted in one killing which was done for Soviet interests.

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This is what the quiet settlement built where the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin once stood looks like (Photo by Nadezhda Kevorkova)

But the charge of Soviet penetration regarding the Stern Group is a diversion. For the Stern leadership on its own sought Soviet support. The Sternists were anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist and wanted the British and Americans out of the Middle East. They believed that they were natural allies.”

The End of the Gang

The Stern Group carried out attacks across Europe and Palestine fighting rival Zionist groups, Arabs and the British administration, among others. In 1944, the group became infamous when they assassinated Lord Moyne, British minister resident in the Middle East. During the Civil War that preceded the end of British rule in Palestine, the group became a paramilitary organization, reaching new levels of violence. On April 9, 1948, Sternists, along with the Irgun, killed 107 Palestinian Arab villagers in the massacre of Deir Yassin.

Israel was founded on May 14 of that year. Two weeks later, the Stern Group was incorporated into the Israeli Defense Force. Remnants of the organization continued to operate, killing UN mediator Count Folke Bernadotte – a crime that Lazarus was arrested for, though not charged with. Israel declared the group a terrorist organization. A general amnesty followed, though Golan notes that “When Israel was born, the Sternists were anathema to the government and media. Its members couldn’t get jobs, were not allowed to be teachers, or rise too high in the army.”

Levstein and Lazarus had ultimately achieved their goal. The two former terrorists now drifted into wider Israeli society, their old lives largely forgotten. Lazarus opened a nightclub, passing away from a heart attack in 1965. While Levstein, the former thief and terrorist, took his know-how and set up an armored-car company, providing security to banks.

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‘No impact:’ Trump slams China for inability to exert influence on Pyongyang

By ethan / November 30, 2017

China’s efforts to influence North Korea’s policy through negotiations have apparently failed, the US President Donald Trump said. He particularly said that the Chinese envoy’s visit to Pyongyang yielded no results.

“The Chinese Envoy, who just returned from North Korea, seems to have had no impact on Little Rocket Man,” Trump tweeted, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Beijing sent a special envoy, Director of the Communist Party’s International Liaison Department Song Tao, to Pyongyang for the first time since late 2016 in mid-November.

Earlier, Trump hailed the Chinese decision as a “big move,” adding that he would see “what happens.” He also urged President Xi Jinping to act fast to rein in North Korea, warning that “time is quickly running out.”


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800+ civilians killed in US-led coalition strikes in Iraq & Syria – report

By ethan / November 30, 2017

At least 800 civilians have been killed by US-led coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria since 2014, a coalition report says. It adds that the group holds itself accountable for “unintentional injury or death to civilians.”

To date, based on information available, [the coalition] assesses at least 801 civilians have been unintentionally killed by Coalition strikes since the start of Operation Inherent Resolve [in 2014],” Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF–OIR) said in statement on Thursday.

The coalition said that despite “significant successes” against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), “combat has taken a toll on populations suffering under the militant extremists.”

We continue to hold ourselves accountable for actions that may have caused unintentional injury or death to civilians,” the report said.

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Goalkeeping great Peter Schmeichel signs with RT for World Cup special show

By ethan / November 30, 2017

Manchester United and Denmark goalkeeping legend Peter Schmeichel will co-host RT’s special coverage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Final Draw at the State Kremlin Palace on December 1.

Schmeichel, nicknamed the ‘Great Dane’ during his playing days, will also host a new RT sports show covering major events in the world of football ahead of the World Cup, which will be held in Russia for the first time from June 14 to July 15 next summer.

Known for his imposing presence and freakishly quick reflexes that helped him win five Premier League titles during an eight-year career between the sticks at United, Schmeichel has also become a respected pundit since hanging up his gloves and will now team up with RT to provide his opinion on all things football.

“I joined RT because together we will not only explore the host country of the 2018 World Cup as I see it, but will also show you football as no other network would – a combination of joy, anguish, comedy, drama, politics and real-life stories,” Schmeichel said.

“I’m excited to undertake such a challenging yet interesting project with RT, and deliver my reports from Russia and across the world to the network’s global audience.”

Schmeichel and RT’s Neil Harvey will co-host the final draw coverage from a special RT studio set up from the State Kremlin Palace. The draw will be hosted by former England ace Gary Lineker and RT’s very own Maria Komandnaya, together with eight FIFA draw assistants, including Argentina legend Diego Maradona. An array of other football stars and officials will also be in attendance.

In preparation for the tournament, RT will launch a special multimedia project to cover the 2018 World Cup: a website complete with the match schedule, player info and current standings, as well as news and exclusive interviews with football stars. In keeping with RT’s global reach and appeal, the site will be available in Russian, English, Spanish and Arabic. During the World Cup, the site will provide live text commentary of the games and stories from RT reporters.

Schmeichel will also be hosting a new football commentary show on RT, sharing his thoughts on World Cup matches and events, as well as visiting each of the tournament’s host cities and stadiums to provide in-depth coverage from the Russia 2018 frontline.

Keeper Schmeichel amassed 129 appearances for Denmark in an international career which spanned three decades from 1987 to 2001, playing in every game of their Euro 92 triumph in neighboring Scandinavian country Sweden.

He also captained Manchester United in their 1999 Champions League final success over Bayern Munich, which helped the team complete an historic treble of Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup trophies that season.

At Old Trafford, he became a cult favorite for his conspicuously red nose in cold weather and also for his ‘starfish’ save he perfected while playing handball in Denmark. His son, Kasper Schmeichel, is goalkeeper for Leicester City, with whom he also won the Premier League, and will be playing at Russia 2018 as Denmark’s first-choice ‘keeper.

Denmark will be in Pot 3 when the Final Draw is made in Moscow on Friday, and Schmeichel Sr. has already said he would like to see his country drawn with Poland, Peru and Panama.

Join RT and the man himself to find out if he gets his wish.

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