Secret Service catches 'Pikachu' trying to jump White House fence

By ethan / October 19, 2017

A man dressed as the Pokemon character Pikachu was arrested after trying to get onto the White House grounds, the US Secret Service has said.

Curtis Combs, 36, of Somerset, Kentucky, jumped over the concrete barrier on the southern side of the president’s residence while wearing a Pikachu costume Tuesday morning. He was quickly arrested by uniformed Secret Service officers.

According to a police report released Wednesday night, Combs told officers that he was unarmed, then attempted to climb the fence. He is said to have ignored multiple orders to stop.

Combs, who pleaded not guilty to a charge of unlawful entry and has a court date set for November 9, told the Secret Service that he hoped to become famous by posting footage of the stunt on YouTube.

Unfortunately for the viral hit wannabe, the officers’ quick response meant he could not complete the recording. His backpack, which he dropped before jumping the barrier, was later investigated and cleared by bomb disposal officers.

Earlier this month, CNN claimed that Russia allegedly used the popular augmented-reality game Pokemon Go to inflame racial tensions among Americans during the 2016 US presidential election.

The report claimed that a Tumblr page “linked” to a supposed Russian hacking group promoted a contest encouraging people involved in the Black Lives Matter movement to play Pokemon Go at sites known for being scenes of police brutality.

READ MORE: ‘Idea that interfering with Pokemon Go could change US presidential vote result is hilarious’

A yellow rodent with a lightning-shaped tail, Pikachu is the most visible face of Pokemon, a Japanese franchise extending to movies and animation shows, comic books, video and trading-card games.

This is not the first time Pikachu has had a brush with White House security. In September 2014, a man named Jeffrey Grossman was stopped on the North Lawn after jumping the White House fence while wearing a Pokemon hat and holding a yellow Pikachu doll.  

Grossman’s mother, Cathy, said her son had gone to an out-of-state hospital to admit himself for mental health treatment, but he was unable to do so based on his healthcare coverage. After asking why he could not get help, he was told that he should complain to the president.

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Orionids meteor shower: All you need to know about this dazzling sky show

By ethan / October 19, 2017

The Orionids are set to peak this weekend, lighting up night skies with a dazzling display of streaking meteors, which – happily for space enthusiasts – can be viewed from anywhere on Earth.

In advance of the impressive show, here’s RT’s primer on the annual meteor shower and how to view it.

What are the Orionids?

The Orionids are made up of remnants from Haley’s Comet – considered the universe’s most famous comet. It last visited Earth in 1986 and is projected to return in 2061. However, every year between October and November Earth’s orbit around the sun crosses paths, with debris from the comet creating the Orionids.

These meteors are known as some of the brightest and fastest of all showers due to the almost-head-on collision between our planet and the comet particles. The name comes from the constellation Orion from where the meteors appear to radiate.

READ MORE: Perseids meteor shower: What you need to know

When will they peak?

The Orionids are generally visible between October 2 and November 7, reaching peak visibility between October 20 and October 22. This year the peak is expected on October 20 – a dark moonless night, according to NASA.

While the number of meteors per hour can reach up to 80, this year’s events are expected to be at the lower scale of between 20 and 30, NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke told Rates have been low during the first half of the 2010s, according to the International Meteor Organization.

AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist and astronomy blogger Dave Samuhel said the shower is likely to produce between 10 and 20 meteors per hour in the period before dawn. He predicted the best viewing for the Northern Hemisphere will be after midnight Friday.

Keen observers are advised to start watching the skies ahead of the peak, however, to catch an early glimpse of the stunning meteors.

How can I best view the show?

The meteors will be visible anywhere across the sky from anywhere on Earth – provided you have cloudless skies overhead. It’s not necessary to stare directly towards Orion to see the meteors.

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From Premier League to prison: Russian footballers play jail match with inmates

By ethan / October 19, 2017

Russian football team FK Ural swapped their Premier League opposition for prisoners recently, when they played a game with inmates at a local jail.

Eight first-team players from the Russian Premier League (RPL) outfit played in the game at Correctional Facility No. 2 Ekaterinburg, the city from which the team hails.

Ural’s Dmitry Arapov, Denis Kulakov, Yuri Bavin, Petrus Boumal, Artem Fidler, Nikolay Dimitrov, Roman Emelyanov and Vladimir Ilyin all took part in the five-a-side friendly.

Goals from Emelyanov, Fidler, Bavin and a brace from striker Ilyin ensured that Aleksandr Tarkhanov’s team came away with a 5-2 win, after which Ural club president Grigory Ivanov praised the concept of the game.

“The guys approached it in a positive way because they know these people here have gotten themselves into a difficult life situation,” Ivanov told reporters.

“There are people here who love football and play football, so the guys gladly came to today’s game to hopefully give them something to cheer about. They are serving their punishment here. I think it will be easier to get out when they play football.”

The scenario of a football match taking place within prison boundaries – usually with prisoners taking on prison guards – has already inspired a number of films, including ‘The Longest Yard’, its English equivalent ‘Mean Machine’, starring former footballer Vinnie Jones, and the classic wartime movie ‘Escape to Victory,’ starring Brazilian legend Pelé.

This time in Ekaterinburg, the guards watched from the sidelines as the inmates and the RPL stars played against each other, with nothing but pride at stake.

“We created a good relationship with the prison leaders. They and the staff of this facility will come to our matches. Our guys treated this event positively. We should help people to return to a normal life,” said Ural midfielder, Artem Fidler.

READ MORE: Man City coach dedicates Champions League win to jailed Catalan separatists

“I want to thank the management at the prison. They have done something major to popularize sport. They have good facilities for football. I think for them today it was a big event, because our town’s team came here. I think this match will live with them for a long time,” he added.

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Crude far from dead says Rosneft head

By ethan / October 19, 2017

The CEO of Russia’s largest oil company Rosneft Igor Sechin has said that oil will remain the principal fuel for many years to come although some forecasts say otherwise.

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© Leonhard Foeger

“I can assure you the rumors of the death of oil are greatly exaggerated. Oil will remain the foundation of world fuel and energy for the future 20-30 years, and more to come,” Sechin said at the X Eurasian Forum in Verona, Italy.

According to the Rosneft chief, any fall in oil consumption will be replaced by gas.

“Some decrease in the share of oil in the overall balance of energy resources will be almost entirely be offset by an increase in the share of gas… A decrease in the share of coal will be offset by an increase in the share of more environmentally friendly energy sources, including gas generation, nuclear energy,” Sechin added.

However, oil prices are unlikely to return to the 2014 highs.

“The balance is still fragile and unstable, shale mining in the US, which has accumulated large reserves of drilled but incomplete wells, can, given an appropriate price level, give a significant increase in production in 2018, and again destabilize the market. Therefore, I think we should not expect a spike in oil prices in the near future,” he said.

On Thursday, major oil benchmarks were down almost a dollar, with Brent trading at $ 57.24 per barrel, and the US West Texas Intermediate sliding to $ 51.27.

Last week, OPEC predicted oil demand will increase an average 1.2 million barrels a day until 2022 and slow to 300,000 barrels a day in 2035 to 2040.By 2040, the share of fossil fuels will drop to about 75 percent, the cartel said.

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Communists in talks with ‘patriotic forces’ to propose single candidate for 2018 presidential race

By ethan / October 19, 2017

A senior figure in Russia’s largest opposition party – the Communists – has taken part in a conference of ‘national-patriotic forces’ seeking to find new allies and possibly agree on a single presidential candidate for next year’s election.

The conference was attended by representatives from a broad group of parties and movements that share a leftist-nationalist agenda. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) was represented by Deputy Chair of its Central Committee Yuri Afonin.

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Gennady Zyuganov, chairman of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party © Mikhail Klementiev

We are interested in forming a broad, patriotic coalition around the KPRF. We are working with a variety of ideologies,” he told the daily newspaper, Kommersant.

There were some of our ‘antipodes’ at this conference, such as monarchists, but we build our relations on the basis of a common economic program.”

Regardless of the outcome of talks, the KPRF will be selecting a presidential candidate at its party convention in late December, Afonin told reporters.

Last February, representatives of the leftist-nationalist coalition Council of the Popular Patriotic Forces asked KPRF leader Gennadiy Zyuganov to run for the presidency in 2018, and to take personal responsibility if his performance in the race was poor.

Zyuganov rejected the proposal, asking his colleagues “not to predetermine” who the party would select to contest the election.

On this occasion, some of the Communists’ allies bluntly rejected the idea of Zyuganov running on behalf of their parties and movements. Head of the Novorossiya movement Igor Strelkov told Kommersant that he and his comrades would refuse to support the Communists if they nominated Zyuganov as a candidate.

In March, Izvestia quoted unnamed sources in the Russian presidential administration when it reported that Zyuganov did not want to run in 2018 because he would prefer to be remembered as a relatively successful politician, rather than finishing second again, as he did in 2012.

Zyuganov has not commented on the report, but the Secretary of the Communist Party’s Central Committee, Sergey Obukhov, called the rumors “a form of external pressure on the party.”

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© Ksenia Sobchak

Few major figures have announced their intention to run for the presidency in 2018 to date. The most prominent of those who have are Liberal-Democratic Party leader, Vladimir Zhirinovsky; Yabloko Party founder, Grigory Yavlinsky; and anti-corruption blogger-turned opposition politician, Aleksey Navalny.

Under Russian law, Navalny technically cannot run because he is currently serving a five-year sentence that will not expire before the next election, but the activist has vowed to contest this rule in the Constitutional Court.

Earlier this week, Russian journalist and celebrity, Kseniya Sobchak, announced that she planned to contest the presidential election but said that her purpose would not be to win, but to replace the ‘none of the above’ line on ballots, which she personally favors.

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No more safe spaces! Universities failing to protect freedom of speech on campus to be fined

By ethan / October 19, 2017

Universities adopting a ‘no-platforming’ policy could be fined as part of the government’s clampdown on the restriction of freedom of speech in higher education. A newly-created external body would check whether institutions are complying.

Jo Johnson, the universities minister and brother of fellow Tory minister Boris Johnson, outlined plans to tackle the so-called ‘safe spaces’ in academic environments.

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Balliol College © Jochen Tack / Global Look Press

The proposed framework would allow for the newly designated Office of Students (OfS) to fine, suspend or deregister universities that fail to protect freedom of speech on campuses.

The proposals come as part of a consultation on how English universities will be regulated by the OfS, which will assume legal powers in April.

In an interview, Johnson told the Times: “No-platforming and safe spaces shouldn’t be used to shut down legitimate free speech.

“Our young people and students need to accept the legitimacy of healthy, vigorous debate in which people can disagree with one another.

“That’s how ideas get tested, prejudices exposed and society advances [sic].

“Universities mustn’t be places in which free speech is stifled.”

A survey last year found that 63 percent of universities would support the National Union of Students (NUS) having a “no platforming” policy.

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© David Oxberry

It also follows findings by Spiked magazine, backed by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, that more than nine in 10 UK universities are restrictive of free speech.

Johnson launched the consultation saying freedom of speech is a principle underscoring higher education and British democracy.

He added: “I know there is good practice out there, and am proud that some of our university leaders and academics have publicly defended free speech.

“But there are still examples of censorship where groups have sought to stifle those who do not agree with them.

“This is why I want the OfS to work with universities to encourage a culture of openness and debate and ensure that those with different backgrounds or perspectives can flourish in a higher education environment.”

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‘Foul-mouthed’ Trump suffers from ‘retardation’ – Iran’s supreme leader

By ethan / October 19, 2017

Iran’s supreme leader has pilloried Donald Trump with degrading epithets in his latest speech following the US President’s refusal to recertify the nuclear deal. Trump is, according to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, “foul-mouthed”, uttering “nonsense,” and “suffering from retardation”.

“The President of the United States displays nonsense; however, this should not lead us to ignore the mischief of the US regime,” Khamenei told a group of students and academic elites on Wednesday, according to his website.

Khamenei declined to comment on Trump’s “irrational behaviour towards Iran,”  saying that it would be “a waste of time to respond to such blatherings and nonsensical remarks by the foul-mouthed US President.”

The supreme leader claimed that the US President and his team were “suffering from retardation because they do not understand the developments in Iran and the region.”

Last week, the US President proceeded with his disavowal of the Iran deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and refused to recertify Tehran’s compliance with the agreement. Later, Trump added that there was “a very real possibility” that the deal would be terminated altogether.

READ MORE: Trump: Total termination of Iran nuclear deal is a ‘very real possibility’

Khamenei said that the pact “serves its interests.”

“We will not tear up the deal before the other party does: if they tear up JCPOA, we shred it,” he cautioned.

The supreme leader went on to urge the European nations that are also signatories to the agreement “to stand up against the US measures” such as sanctions, which “they anticipate to emerge from Congress.”

Trump referred the matter to American lawmakers, who have 60 days to decide whether to re-impose sanctions on Tehran, which were lifted in exchange for capping its nuclear program under the deal.

READ MORE: Missile program will ‘expand & continue’ despite US pressure – Iran’s Revolutionary Guards

“They want to take back young, faithful and developed Iran to 50 years ago,” Khamenei added, saying that this was not possible.

“Due to backwardness, they are incapable of understanding this reality, and for this reason they have made a miscalculation and suffered, and will suffer successive defeats at the hands of the Iranian nation,” the supreme leader continued, noting that Washington was “furious” at Iran for thwarting its “plots” in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, according to Press TV.

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Monk & disorderly: Thai Buddhists get strict on adherents after sex, financial scandals

By ethan / October 19, 2017

Thailand’s Buddhist monks have reportedly been told to adhere to tighter discipline, and been banned from collecting donations or selling holy objects at temples. The crackdown comes amid temple scandals over sex and money laundering.

The monks have been instructed to follow new rules, designed to make temples’ financial records more transparent, according to Reuters, which saw the written orders.

READ MORE: ‘Buddhist monk’ watching x-rated film on bus goes viral

Senior monks will also watch out for “inappropriate use of social media” by monks. Adherents in a group of temples in the northeast region were also instructed to report misbehaving fellows.

“Please take care of any monks who are not practicing discipline,” Reuters cited the rule, issued in September.

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Buddhist monk Wiraphon Sukphon speaking to DSI officials in Bangkok. © Department of Special Investigation

Although these regulations have existed before, “their implementation may have been lax,” according to Phra Phrom Moli, a member of the Sangha Supreme Council, the governing body of the Buddhist clergy.

“We must examine ourselves, listen to the people and see what is and is not appropriate for the sake of the public’s faith in the religion,” Phra Phrom Moli said.

The strict measures were introduced starting from September, according to Reuters. These are apparently aimed at cleaning up the tainted image of Thailand’s dominant religion, which has more than 300,000 monks and around 40,000 temples.

The clergy has been tarnished by a series of high-profile scandals over rape, drugs and embezzlement allegations, with the ruling junta trying to reorganize Thai Buddhism. In summer, the government came up with the idea of smart ID cards for monks – which would allow the verification of their background and tracking of any drug or criminal offences – instead of paper documents. 

The news comes as Thailand is set for the funeral ceremony of the revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej next week, as well as the coronation of his son, King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

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'I thought I was going to die' – US Olympic champion gymnast on doctor's 'systematic sexual abuse'

By ethan / October 19, 2017

US gymnast McKayla Maroney, a part of the London 2012 winning squad, has claimed she suffered ‘systematic sexual abuse’ at the hands of disgraced former US team doctor Larry Nassar.

Inspired by the #MeToo movement, a campaign encouraging women to speak up to share their experiences of sexual harassment, Maroney decided to reveal her own story of abuse, which she claims began when she was 13.

In a Twitter post published on Wednesday, the former vaulter claimed Nassar sexually abused her for 7 years, from the Texas training camp when she was just 13 up to her retirement from professional sport in 2016.

“It seemed whenever and wherever this man could find the chance, I was ‘treated,’” Maroney wrote. “It happened in London before my team and I won the gold medal, and it happened before I won my silver.”

The former gymnast said the “scariest” abuse took place in the lead-up to the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo, where she won two golds – in the team and vault finals.

“For me, the scariest night of my life happened when I was 15 years old. I had flown all day and night with the team to get to Tokyo,” Maroney wrote.

“He’d given me a sleeping pill for the flight, and the next thing I know, I was all alone with him in his hotel room getting a ‘treatment.’”

“I thought I was going to die that night.”

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Former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar © Jeff Kowalsky

Maroney helped the US women’s squad to take their maiden Olympic team gold in London by vaulting an immaculate Amanar in the team final.

She had been the favorite to clinch an individual apparatus title, but fell on her second vault and finished second to Romania’s Sandra Izbasa.

Nassar, who worked for nearly 30 years as the US gymnastics team doctor, is now in prison awaiting trial in Michigan after admitting possessing child abuse images.

He signed an agreement to plead guilty to child pornography charges on condition he will not be prosecuted for alleged sexual abuse cases.

The scandal came to light when Jamie Dantzscher, a member of the US 2000 Olympic squad, filed a lawsuit against USA Gymnastics and Nassar last fall in which she claimed the former team doctor systematically harassed the gymnasts.

Testimony on Nassar’s crimes led to the resignation of USA Gymnastics head Steve Penny in March, following an investigation by the Indianapolis Star that uncovered 368 cases of alleged sexual abuse over the past 20 years.

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