'A king-sized showdown': Former UFC champ Cain Velasquez returns to face Francis Ngannou in Phoenix

By ethan / February 17, 2019

Two-time UFC heavyweight champion of the world Cain Velasquez returns to the sport after a three-year hiatus as he takes on power-punching heavyweight contender Francis Ngannou at UFC Fight Night in Phoenix, Arizona.

Velasquez vs Ngannou headlines the UFC’s debut event on ESPN in the United States as the world’s biggest MMA organization looks to make a splash with a spectacular heavyweight main event.

And with both men eyeing a future world title opportunity, the bout should deliver a crowd-pleasing contest with all-action wrestler Velasquez, 36, taking on spectacular knockout artist Ngannou, 32, in a heavy-duty clash of styles at the top of an exciting card of fights on Sunday night in Arizona.

ON THE COMEBACK TRAIL

“I just know that I have what it takes to beat everybody.”

Ominous words from Velasquez, who returns from a three-year hiatus this weekend saying he’s a vastly-improved fighter. Considering how good he was before injuries took him out of the game following UFC 200, that’s a scary thought for the rest of the division.

READ MORE: Russian heavyweight Vitaly Minakov loses undefeated record with controversial loss to Cheick Kongo

Velasquez at his best is, quite simply, the best heavyweight in the world. And while he has vowed never to fight his friend and current heavyweight world champ Daniel Cormier, he also knows ‘DC’ is set to hang up his gloves later this year.

And when Cormier does, Velasquez will be ready to return to the throne once again.

“I know I can get back to that greatness of being the heavyweight champion again – and I will,” he said.

NGANNOU’S ADVICE: DON’T BLINK

“This fight won’t go longer than the first or second round.”

Ngannou’s power is just about the scariest thing in the UFC today, with his knockout threat leaving a trail of destruction in his wake, and he says that power will be the deciding factor in Sunday night’s main event.

Ngannou’s knockouts of Andrei Arlovski and Alistair Overeem showed just how devastating his punch power can be, but he was also exposed for a lack of wrestling when he was dominated over five rounds by then-UFC world champion Stipe Miocic in his world title challenge.

READ MORE: ‘Pray he has no plans for children’: Internet recoils at below-the-belt kick on Russian MMA fighter

That win over Blades – also a noted wrestler – followed as Ngannou bounced back in spectacular fashion. If he can starch Velasquez, Ngannou will be right there in the mix for a shot at the heavyweight title once again.

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Sochi Olympic champion Adelina Sotnikova performs stunning routine on frozen Lake Baikal (VIDEO)

By ethan / February 17, 2019

Sochi Olympic figure skating champion Adelina Sotnikova has wowed the internet with mesmerizing footage of her skating on a frozen Lake Baikal in Siberia.

Sotnikova captured hearts around the world when she won the ladies’ singles figure skating gold at the Winter Games on home soil in 2014.

And while she has not competed formally in recent years, the Russian star showed she’s still very much capable of some mesmeric moves.

READ MORE: ‘I’m more recognized in Japan than in Russia,’ says Olympic champ Alina Zagitova

Sotnikova, 22, shared a clip on her Instagram account where she is seen skating on the frozen expanse of Lake Baikal under sunny winter skies.

With the backdrop of a Russian dance track, a smiling Sotnikova takes to the ice as cars drive across the ice in the background.

She also posted pictures of herself leaping on the frozen ice and sitting on the lake, which lies in the southern part of Siberia, within the republics of Buryatia and Irkutsk.

The vast lake is the largest in the world in terms of freshwater volumes, and is also the deepest in the world.

It is typically frozen from around January to May, and provides a stunning natural skating rink with a crystal clear view of the lake below.

Sotnikova has struggled with injury in recent seasons, instead continuing to take to the ice for exhibition shows and television work.

But she remains one of Russia’s golden girls in a nation packed with skating talent, and clearly seems to be loving life at the moment.   

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Plane and simple: Argentina to give Bolivia a jet if it needs more natural gas

By ethan / February 17, 2019

The changes to the gas contract between Argentina and Bolivia will allow Buenos Aires to save some $ 460 million, but the deal has one curious detail on what happens if Argentina needs more supplies.

Bolivia agreed to export less gas to its South American neighbor during a low demand period, the country’s summer, relieving Argentina from paying any penalties that an earlier version of the deal included. According to the renewed agreement signed on Thursday, Argentina will import 11 million cubic meters of gas per day from January through April.

Also on rt.com Cheap ticket trick? Lufthansa airline sues passenger for missing flight

During the higher consumption period the country’s import will rise to 16 million in May and October and to 18 million from June until August.

However, if Buenos Aires needs more energy during the highest demand period, it offered to throw in an airplane with the deal to pay off the costs, according to Argentina’s Ministry of the Treasury.

The country will deliver a Pampa 3 advanced jet trainer aircraft to Bolivia if its gas imports exceed the agreed threshold by 45 million cubic meters during winter months from May to September.

Also on rt.com Two to tango: Russia & Argentina may dump dollar in favor of local currencies in mutual trade

Argentina’s Secretary of Energy Gustavo Lopetegui explained that thanks to the recent discovery and development of the country’s own resources of natural gas, domestic production has significantly increased, and the country had oversupplies during the summer period.

The introduction of such seasonal supplies allows Argentina to save $ 460 million in 2019-2020, according to the official.

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Trolling Russia, or mocking British paranoia? HUGE Russian flag flies from Salisbury Cathedral

By ethan / February 17, 2019

The English city synonymous with the poisoning of a Russian double-agent woke to a peculiar sight this morning – an enormous Russian flag waving down from Salisbury’s cathedral, famed for its 123-meter spire.

The flag, which appeared overnight or early Sunday, was unfurled atop scaffolding encasing part of the famous site as it undergoes maintenance repairs. It’s not clear whether the banner was an act of supreme trolling against Russia, or a peculiar indication of support for Russia.

READ MORE: Give us FIVE! UK ‘security sources’ identify two more Skripal suspects

The flag was quickly pulled down, and some locals were in no doubt about their interpretation of the bizarre incident, taking to Twitter to denounce the Russian tricolor as an act of extreme disrespect to Salisbury.

A local Tory MP was also swift to dismiss it as “mocking” the events of last spring, in which former double agent Sergei Skripal, his daughter and two other people were poisoned by what British authorities say was a “military-grade poison.”

While London was quick to pin the blame on Russia and two alleged assassins, Moscow has denied the allegations that it carried out a bizarre botched attack targeting Skripal. The two men accused of the attack told RT that they were simply in town to see the famous cathedral spire and had nothing to do with the entire bizarre episode.

READ MORE: Parents of woman killed by ‘poison used on Skripal’ blame… UK govt, British media, but not Russia

Of the four people poisoned, one woman, Dawn Sturgess, died after exposure to a substance from a counterfeit perfume bottle, which the British authorities claim was discarded by assassins. Sturgess fell ill some four months after the Skripals, and her family recently accused the British authorities and media of slandering their daughter to make her death fit a narrative that they wanted.

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Thousands support petition to sell ‘useless’ state of Montana to Canada

By ethan / February 17, 2019

Around 6,000 people have signed a petition to sell the “useless” state of Montana to Canada for a whopping $ 1 trillion to “eliminate the national debt” – which is actually well over $ 22 trillion.

We have too much debt and Montana is useless. Just tell them it has beavers or something,” reads the Change.org petition. Additional reasons provided by supportive petitioners include the state’s “insignificant population” and their “aesthetic” which some claim isn’t in keeping with the rest of the US.

Also on rt.com Free spirits: Mysterious iceberg water heist from Canadian vodka company baffles firm

While the accusation of being “useless” may offend some Americans, it seems Montanans know when they’re not wanted, and are actively supporting the sale by expressing their joy at joining Canada with none of the moving expenses.

Honestly most Montanas are totally OK with this let’s do it I’m fine with being out of this hellhole,” wrote one petitioner. “Montana will get legal weed, health care and decent hockey. It’s a win-win,” added another optimistic supporter.

I’ve been a resident of Montana my entire life, and quite frankly I’m sick of the US’s complete and utter disregard for human life. I’ll take Canada’s health care, education, and freedom over the US’s money grubbing system. Also, Canada gets all of Glacier Park and some of Yellowstone,” lobbied another petitioner.

In what might be the most surprising love match of 2019 so far, it appears Canada is also happy to adopt the state.

Montana and its people would be a beautiful addition to our beautiful country. Welcome!” wrote one enthusiastic Canadian. “Dear Montana, we love you but we can’t afford that. Ditch the USA and join us for free. You don’t need that much debt,” wrote another.

Also on rt.com Canada between rock & hard place over Huawei ban decision, as Boom Bust explains

Several other states were suggested as possible sweeteners for the Canadian deal, including Wyoming and Idaho, because “nobody cares about them either.” Minnesota was also mentioned, along with California – which is allegedly pushing up the national debt with “all those wildfires… let the queen deal with it,” commenters said.

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WATCH: Diallo incredibly dunks over Shaq to win NBA All-Star contest

By ethan / February 17, 2019

Oklahoma City Thunder rookie Hamidou Diallo literally took NBA All-Star Saturday Night to new heights when he leapt over the giant frame of Shaquille O’Neal on his way to victory in the Slam Dunk contest.

NBA legend Shaq stands 7ft 1in (2.16m) tall, but that mattered little to Diallo as he soared over him before sinking a gravity-defying elbow dunk.

Shaq had his head lowered slightly, but it was still an incredible feat by the 20-year-old, who followed it up by hanging from the rim and fittingly revealing a Superman logo underneath his Thunder jersey.

It was the highlight of the night and helped Diallo seal the Slam Dunk title, ahead of the New York Knicks’ Dennis Smith Jr.    

Diallo also sensationally scaled rapper Quavo on his way to the title.

In the highly-anticipated 3-point showdown, Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry was edged out by the Brooklyn Nets’ Joe Harris.

After Curry led the way in the first round with some incredible shots, Harris took over in the decisive round, ending with 26 points to Curry’s 24.

Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics claimed the Skills Challenge title, seeing off Atlanta rookie Trae Young in the final. Tatum incredibly sank his contest-winning shot from midcourt.     

The attention at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, will now turn to Sunday’s All-Star Game. 

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Believe all victims? Cops now think Jussie Smollett faked 'MAGA attack' despite desperate denials

By ethan / February 17, 2019

Police sources say Jussie Smollett likely hired two acquaintances to fake a Chicago “hate crime” assault, while conservatives are accusing liberal media outlets of accepting the actor’s story with little initial evidence.

Two Nigerian brothers were arrested and then released this week in connection with the incident on January 29. Citing law enforcement sources, CNN reported on Saturday night that they are now “cooperating fully” with the investigation, in which Smollett has become the chief suspect.

Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo are two recurring extras on the set of the TV show ‘Empire,’ in which Smollett stars, and know him personally.

In the hours after the story was published, Smollett released a fresh statement, not just reiterating that he was a genuine casualty, but insisting that he is now being re-traumatized.

“As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with,” said his legal team.

“He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.”

The lawyers added that the involvement of an unspecified Osundairo brother who Smollett had hired as a personal trainer to “ready him physically for a music video” was “impossible.” They added that their client has “no inclination to respond to ‘unnamed’ sources.”

Persistent doubts

According to Smollett, last month’s attack took place as he was returning home from a Subway sandwich shop at 2am. The actor, who is black and gay, was purportedly accosted by two white men, who called him “Empire fa**ot” and “Empire ni***r”. The men allegedly tied a noose around his neck and poured bleach on his head, as one of them shouted “This is MAGA country!” in reference to Donald Trump’s political slogan.

Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris called the incident “outrageous,” while another potential 2020 nominee Cory Booker immediately branded the incident a “modern-day lynching,” as part of a wave of sympathy and support for Smollett, who has a history of progressive activism.

However, his account of the incident aroused almost immediate skepticism from some quarters, both official and general. Did two Empire-watching Donald Trump supporters happen to be randomly wandering through a deserted Chicago neighborhood when it was -14C outside, carrying a noose and chemicals, and then stumble upon Smollett? Or were they perhaps master stalkers, who could have predicted that the actor would have gone for a tuna sandwich and a salad – both of which remained intact after the attack – at this late hour?

Police also said that they didn’t manage to locate anyone matching the description provided by Smollett, despite studying hundreds of hours of footage from one of the most advanced CCTV systems in the world. Nor could they document the moment of the attack. Two silhouetted figures were identified in the vicinity, but their role remained unclear.

Doubts were compounded when Smollett refused to hand over his phone in the aftermath, and instead presented investigators with a PDF file purportedly showing a record of his calls, which detectives could not consider tamper-proof.

‘MSM uncritically accepted his lies’

Reports over the last week that cited inside sources have put together a radically different account of events.

Smollett purportedly paid $ 3,500 to the black LGBT-supporting Osundairo brothers to buy a noose and bleach, and play-act the attack, inflicting superficial injuries. Police have found evidence of them buying the rope, while bleach was located during a search of one of their houses.

Also on rt.com MAGA teen gearing up to sue dozens of media outlets, celebrities in ‘landmark’ libel case

The Osundairos, who appear to be the shadowy figures in the surveillance footage, departed on a flight to Nigeria hours after the alleged incident, before being arrested the moment they touched down back in the US.

The details have resulted in much gloating online, not least from those claiming that because the story fitted a convenient political narrative, all attempts at critical analysis were abandoned.

However, the story could result in more than just humiliation and career damage for Smollett, who may face up to three years in jail if he is found to have filed a false police report. It also brings attention to an earlier incident, in which police investigated a potential terrorist attack when the actor received an envelope containing white powder at his work address last month. The substance turned out to be ground-up aspirin.

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India to continue buying Venezuelan oil despite US warning

By ethan / February 17, 2019

India will look into commercial considerations and related factors to determine the value of oil imports from any country, an Indian official said, after a top US official warned countries against buying oil from Venezuela.

Earlier this week, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton warned countries and companies against buying crude oil from Venezuela, after the Latin American country’s Oil Minister Manuel Quevedo said during a surprise visit to India that Venezuela wants to sell more oil to the fast-growing Indian market.

Also on rt.com Russia vows to defend its Venezuelan oil assets

In a tweet with a Bloomberg article on Venezuelan-Indian oil relations attached, Bolton wrote: “Nations and firms that support Maduro’s theft of Venezuelan resources will not be forgotten. The United States will continue to use all of its powers to preserve the Venezuelan people’s assets and we encourage all nations to work together to do the same.”

Read more

Bulgaria freezes accounts of Venezuelan state oil firm after Washington ‘tip-off’

Raveesh Kumar, the spokesman of India’s Ministry of External Affairs, said at a press briefing on Thursday, as carried by Sputnik:

“Venezuela is the chair of OPEC and GECF. We don’t have any barter system with Venezuela; commercial considerations and related factors will determine the value of trade which we have with any country.”

At the start of the Venezuelan political crisis last month, Indian media reported that the Asian country continues to be one of the main buyers of Venezuelan crude oil. Indian refiners are still buying more than 400,000 bpd of oil from the troubled Latin American country, which is sitting on the world’s largest crude oil resources.

While the US and many European nations have recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the interim president of Venezuela, India has only limited itself to issuing a statement that “We are of the view that it is for the people of Venezuela to find political solution to resolve their differences through constructive dialogue and discussion without resorting to violence.”  

“We believe democracy, peace and security in Venezuela are of paramount importance for the progress and prosperity of the people of Venezuela. India and Venezuela enjoy close and cordial relations,” is the official position of India, which the spokesman of India’s Ministry of External Affairs, Kumar, repeated at the briefing today.

This article was originally published on Oilprice.com

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Russian heavyweight Vitaly Minakov loses undefeated record with controversial loss to Cheick Kongo

By ethan / February 17, 2019

French contender Cheick Kongo handed Vitaly Minakov the first defeat of his MMA career with a controversial unanimous decision in their heavyweight title eliminator at Bellator 216.

The two European heavyweights went toe-to-toe in a slow-paced rematch on the main card at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. The pair previously met inside the Bellator cage back in April 2014, when Minakov claimed a unanimous decision victory.

READ MORE: Low blow! Mitrione takes out Kharitonov with agonizing below-the-belt kick at Bellator 215 (VIDEO)

However, Kongo turned the tables by claiming the win after a grueling three-round battle that saw all three judges award the contest to the Frenchman.

Minakov suffered a painful low blow mid-way through the opening round, but recovered after a brief injury timeout, and proceeded to force Kongo onto the back foot.

After a second round that lacked any real action, Minakov turned to his grappling in the third and final frame, taking the towering Frenchman to the canvas, where he briefly looked to lock up a choke, but the Russian heavyweight was unable to force the tap.

Kongo rallied in the final seconds with a final flurry of strikes that stunned Minakov in what proved to be the most decisive action of the contest.

Many believed it was too little, too late for the Frenchman, but the judges saw it otherwise.

One judge gave Kongo all three rounds for a 30-27 score, with the other two scoring it 29-28. But the verdict produced surprised reactions from Bellator commentators Mauro Ranallo and John McCarthy, and prompted fight analyst and Bellator star Chael Sonnen to state that he believed Minakov to have won the fight by two rounds to one.

It also drew a message of support from UFC heavyweight Alexey Oleynik, who tweeted: “Minakov was not in the best condition, made many mistakes and was tired. But he definitely didn’t lose the f…cking fight.”

Minakov was bidding to recapture the Bellator heavyweight title that he had never lost inside the cage, after being stripped of the title following his switch from Bellator MMA to Russian-based organization Fight Nights Global in 2015.

Minakov added seven more wins to his undefeated record – all by stoppage – before rejoining Bellator ahead of Saturday night’s title eliminator.

However, his decision loss to Kongo saw him lose his undefeated record, and his chance at an immediate shot at current Bellator heavyweight champion Ryan Bader.

That opportunity now passes to Kongo, who will face Bader inside the Bellator cage later this year.

Also on rt.com ‘Pray he has no plans for children’: Internet recoils at below-the-belt kick on Russian MMA fighter

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Fashion collusion: CNN journalist picks jacket for Dem candidate Harris & sparks ethics debate

By ethan / February 17, 2019

A CNN reporter covering Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign has posted a video of herself helping Harris do shopping – drawing anger from some of her media counterparts and reigniting a debate on impartiality.

CNN National Political Reporter Maeve Reston posted a video of Harris trying on a patchy jacked that made the Senator look like a human disco ball at a local store in South Caroline, where the 2020 Democratic hopeful was touring small businesses as part of her campaign activities on Saturday.

READ MORE: ‘I did inhale!’ Kamala Harris pulls a giggly U-turn on pot legalization

In a caption to the video, Reston wrote: “We kind of forced @kamalaharris to try on this awesome oversized rainbow sequin jacket…She snapped it up.”

While Reston was playing Harris’s personal stylist, she was accompanied by a motley crew of liberal media journalists documenting the Senator’s shopping trip. CBS News’ Caitlin Huey-Burns also posted footage from the store with the hashtag #campaignfashionreport.

The scoop on Harris’ bold fashion statement did not go unnoticed on Twitter. Some contended themselves with simply poking fun at the gaudy garment’s ‘Mardi Gras’ aesthetic, comparing it to Rubik’s Cube and ridiculing Reston’s fashion sense.

Many, however, took the issue far more seriously, accusing the CNN and CBS reporters of failing to abide by basic journalist standards with this “hard-hitting news.”

“Embarrassing – journalists use to hide their love of the Democrats, now you just do it for the whole world to see.  And you wonder why we don’t trust your reporting?” one commentator wrote.

Others accused the reporters of fangirling and essentially volunteering as spin doctors instead of doing their actual job of vetting the candidates. The rhetoric echoed that of US President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly denounced CNN and the liberal media as a whole as “fake news.”

Fox News Senior Political Analyst Brit Hume also took aim at the report, calling it “embarrassing.”

Responding to the avalanche of criticism, Reston stood by both her fashion and political choices. Huey-Burns said that the shopping trip was only a small part of Harris’ tour, which also included “ two gaggles with reporters” where she got grilled on immigration, the green new deal and other issues.

Huey-Burns argued that the trip was not merely a shopping spree but was intended as an encouragement to women “who faced serious hardships growing up and see entrepreneurship as a way out and up.”

She noted that the shop they visited provides clothes for “disadvantaged people” on their road to success.

Fellow liberal journalists came to the CNN and CBS reporters’ defense. NBCNews’ Kasie Hunt argued that nobody had seemed to object to covering former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney riding jet skis or Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham’s shooting exploits, and everybody’s beef with Harris was a case of sexism.

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