French celebrities call for ‘fight against anti-Semitism’ before ‘it’s too late’

By ethan / April 22, 2018

Following a string of horrendous killings of Jews in France, more than 250 prominent artists and politicians have signed a manifesto denouncing the “new anti-Semitism” marked by “Islamist radicalization” in the country.

“We demand that the fight against this democratic failure that is anti-Semitism becomes a national cause before it’s too late. Before France is no longer France,” reads the manifesto published by Le Parisien and signed by politicians from the left and right, including former President Nicolas Sarkozy and film star Gerard Depardieu. 

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FILE PHOTO © Stephane de Sakutin

The letter goes on to say that anti-Semitism is a problem not only for Jews, and that each attack measures French “democratic maturity.”

France, according to the letter, “has become the theater of deadly anti-Semitism. This terror spreads along, provoking both popular condemnation and a media silence that the recent white march has helped break.”

The signatories, who lambasted what they view as a “quiet ethnic purging” driven by rising Islamist radicalism in France, accused the media of remaining silent on the matter.

“Why this silence?… Because electoral cunning calculates that the Muslim vote is ten times higher than the Jewish vote.”

“In our recent history, eleven Jews have been assassinated – and some tortured – by radical Islamists because they were Jewish,” the manifesto says. “French Jews are 25 times more at risk of being attacked than their fellow Muslim citizens.”

France’s Jewish community of 500,000 is said to be the largest in Europe. According to the declaration, 50,000 Jews have been “forced to move because they were no longer safe in certain cities and because their children could no longer go to school.”

The latest attack to shock France took place in March when an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, Mireille Knoll, was found in her burned Paris apartment with 11 stab wounds in a crime confirmed to be anti-Semitic in nature.

The woman’s death prompted 30,000 people to join a march in her memory in France, with President Emmanuel Macron pledging to fight anti-Semitism.
In April 2017, a Franco-Malian assailant beat to death a 65-year-old retired school teacher, Sarah Halimi, before throwing her from a third-story window in Paris. The man, identified as Kada Traore, shouted religious slogans while murdering the woman in her apartment.

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Nashville Police continue manhunt for naked waffle house killings suspect Travis Reinking (VIDEO)

By ethan / April 22, 2018

Tennessee police have begun issuing murder warrants for the suspected nude gunman, responsible for killing four people and injuring three others at a waffle house in Nashville in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Police have named Travis Reinking, 29, of Morton, Illinois as a “person of interest” in the case, as the gunman’s vehicle was registered in this name. A naked man matching Reinking’s description was spotted in the woods near the restaurant in the aftermath of the shooting, in which the death toll could have been far higher, were it not for an unnamed 29-year-old man who snatched the AR-15 style rifle out of the gunman’s hands.

“Murder warrants are now being drafted against Travis Reinking,” police said on Twitter.

The gunman shot and killed two people in the parking lot outside the waffle house at approximately 3:30 am local time, before entering the restaurant and opening fire, killing one person and fatally injuring another, who died from wounds at hospital. Two of those injured in the shooting are in critical condition, at the nearby Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“The shots had stopped so he decided to rush the gunman, actually wrestled that assault rifle away, tossed it over the counter and, at that point, the gunman fled,” Metropolitan Nashville Police spokesperson Don Aaron said. Police still consider Reinking armed and extremely dangerous.

Police have referred to Reinking as a “person of interest,” though Aaron added that the phrase should be considered “synonymous to suspect” in this particular case.

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German MPs want Moscow back in G8, say peace in Europe possible ‘only with Russia’

By ethan / April 22, 2018

The West should resume meaningful dialog with Moscow on all major international issues, and Russia should be invited to return to the G7, German opposition lawmakers say.

“If the West seriously intends to engage in a constructive dialog with Russia, it would be the right moment to do it now,” the head of the parliamentary faction of the Left Party, Sahra Wagenknecht, told DPA news agency. She added that the G7 group should once again become the G8.

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File photo: German Chancellor Angela Merkel receives her certificate of appointment from President Frank-Walter Steinmeier after being re-elected as chancellor, during a ceremony at Bellevue Palace in Berlin, Germany, March 14, 2018. Fabrizio Bensch

Her appeal was supported by another opposition MP, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, who is also a member of the federal executive committee of the Free Democratic Party (FDP). “It is reasonable to strengthen and to better organize a dialog with Russia,” he told DPA, adding that “a G7+1 would be the right format for that.”

The MPs also said that major international issues cannot be resolved without cooperation with Moscow, and urged Western leaders to invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to take part in the upcoming G7 summit in Canada.

“Russia should again be at the table during the [June] summit at the latest,” Wagenknecht said, adding that “peace in Europe as well as in the Middle East” is “possible” only if the West cooperates with Russia. The summit is expected to be held in the Canadian region of Charlevoix June 8 and 9.

The G7 is a forum of major industrialized nations – including the US, UK, France, Germany, Canada, Italy, and Japan – which meet annually to discuss pressing international issues. The EU is also represented at the meetings. Russia was part of the group for 12 years, during which it was called the G8. It became the G7 again in 2014, when Western nations accused Russia of meddling in the Ukrainian conflict and refused to visit the group’s summit in Sochi.

The calls to bring Moscow back into the group came as G7 foreign ministers gathered in Toronto, Canada for a two-day meeting. The officials plan to discuss the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, as well as North Korea’s nuclear program and tensions surrounding the Iranian nuclear deal.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who also took part in the Toronto meeting, faces criticism at home over his plans to pursue a more hardline policy in relations with Russia. The minister’s plans were particularly questioned by leading members of his own Social Democratic Party (SPD).

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Russian President Vladimir Putin (2nd R) and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (2nd L) attend a news conference after the talks at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia February 28, 2018. © Grigory Dukor

Interest in dialog with the Kremlin has not been expressed clearly enough by the new government, Manuela Schwesig, the prime minister of the German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, said. Stephan Weil, the prime minister of Lower Saxony, echoed the statement during a meeting of the SPD Federal Executive Committee on Sunday.

The Social Democrats have always believed that Germany should seek mutual “understanding” with Russia, and regularly send relevant “signals” to Moscow, according to Weil. The policy pursued by Maas only provokes “widespread irritation” within the party. The SPD politicians also warned that the political course chosen by the new foreign minister puts the party’s foreign policy traditions at risk.

Weil particularly criticized an interview that Maas gave to Spiegel on April 16. In the interview, the foreign minister accused Moscow of becoming “an extremely difficult partner,” adding that it “has increasingly defined itself in distinction to, and partly in opposition to, the West.”

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier recently warned against the demonization of Russia and its people. “Regardless of [President Vladimir] Putin, we cannot declare Russia as a whole, the country and its people, to be an enemy,” he said. “There is too much at stake.”

More than 90 percent of Germans want better relations with Russia, according to a recent poll conducted by the Forsa Institute on behalf of the Wiese Consult group. More than three-quarters of them also named US President Donald Trump as a greater threat to world peace than the Russian leader.

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At least 55% of French ‘dissatisfied’ with President Macron – poll

By ethan / April 22, 2018

Over half of the French people broadly disapprove of President Emmanuel Macron’s job performance, according to a new poll that took place around the time Paris joined US-led airstrikes on Syria, and amid protests over reforms.

As many as 55 percent of the respondents said they are “dissatisfied” with the president’s performance, says Ifop poll, published by Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

The study was conducted online and by telephone, from April 12 to 21, with a sample of nearly 2,000 people polled. 

People were asked: “Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with Emmanuel Macron as President of the Republic?” Only 44 percent of those polled said they were, with five percent of those “very satisfied” and 39 percent “rather satisfied.” Around 23 percent said they were “very dissatisfied,” and 32 percent “rather dissatisfied.” One percent did not answer. 

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Police use water cannons and tear gas to clear protesters during a demonstration in support of the Notre-Dame-des-Landes ZAD anti-airport camp on April 14, 2018 © Damien Meyer

A previous Ifop poll released on Wednesday showed that only 42 percent approve of Macron as the leader. Less than one-third of those polled (30 percent) said that Macron was “in touch with people’s concerns.” The survey was conducted between April 12 and 16 and included 1,200 people. 

The past three months have seen thousands protesting Macron’s decision to adopt wide-ranging reforms. Earlier this week, riot police in the French capital fired tear gas and used water cannons to disperse protesters angry at Macron’s decision to pursue job cuts and salary freezes across the public sector, including education, transport, and the courts. 

Students and staff at Paris, Toulouse, Montpellier, Bordeaux, Strasbourg, and Rennes universities have also voiced their outrage with the new reforms. Macron’s initiative to rebuild the education system was resisted by students who occupied universities across the country and had them shut down.

There are also mounting concerns about France’s involvement in coalition strikes against the Syrian government. Dozens of protesters gathered in Paris on Saturday to denounce “the false pretext” of this intervention and show their support for the government of Bashar Assad. 

Macron confirmed last week that jets from the Armée de L’Air were part of an operation to strike military targets and suspected stockpiles of chemical weapons in Syria. The aerial bombardments, also involving the US and UK, were in response to reports of a chemical attack in Douma, allegedly carried out by Assad’s forces – an allegation that has been denied by both Damascus and Moscow.

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Yuan becoming safe haven for investors amid Russia-US standoff

By ethan / April 22, 2018

Chinese assets have recently seen a significant inflow of investments after relations between Russia and the US took a turn for the worse, making investors search for a safe place for their cash.

The Chinese yuan is becoming a safe haven for global investors, Larry Brainard, TS Lombard chief emerging markets economist, told Bloomberg earlier this week. The analyst said that Chinese assets received a boost amid the sharp deterioration in Russia-US relations.

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Uma Thurman as Beatrix Kiddo aka Black Mamba aka The Bride in ‘Kill Bill: Volume 1.’ © Global Look Press

The yuan becomes a protecting asset when geopolitical risks intensify, as the Chinese government commonly remains neutral towards such conflicts, the head of analytics department at Grand Capita, Sergey Kozlovsky, told RT.

“The dynamics of the Chinese market this week has really confirmed the idea of safe haven,” the analyst said. “After a decrease in tensions, investors began to partially fix positions on Chinese securities, returning, for example, to Russian assets, which are more promising after the recent collapse of the ruble and the Russian stock market.”

The Chinese currency is currently one of the most attractive assets among foreign-exchange holdings, according to the head of AMarkets Analysys Department, Artem Deev, who also expects the yuan to become a safe haven.

“After all, the People’s Bank of China has managed to obtain for yuan a status of a reserve asset. Skeptics said that it is not enough to launch the currency into the orbit, it’s vital to support it,” he told RT. “And just several weeks ago, China made another breakthrough, launching national yuan-denominated crude futures and gold futures contracts denominated in yuan.”

The step will reportedly encourage investors to gradually replace dollar reserves with yuan reserves, inevitably bolstering the Chinese currency. According to Deev, this factor is one of the major drivers for the yuan gaining safe haven status.

In 2016, The International Monetary Fund included the Chinese yuan in the Special Drawing Right (SDR) alongside the US dollar, the Japanese yen, the euro, and the British pound. SDR is supplementary foreign-exchange reserve assets that is defined and maintained by the Washington-based organization. The inclusion of the yuan was considered an important step in the integration of the Chinese economy into the global financial system. The yuan is currently number three in the IMF basket, after the dollar and the euro.

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Trump mulls pardon of KO boxing legend Jack Johnson – but who was he?

By ethan / April 22, 2018

US President Donald Trump may overturn a century-old conviction which saw the first African American heavyweight boxing champion of the world locked up on a racially-motivated charge.

At 6ft (1.82 meters) in height and weighing over 200 pounds (91 kg), Jack Johnson, known as the Galveston Giant, pummeled his way past Jim Crow-era barriers to win the heavyweight boxing title in 1908. The champion later spent one year in prison for transporting a white woman across state lines, in a case that was largely seen to be racially motivated.

Trump has now said that after a call by Hollywood actor Sylvester Stallone, he is considering pardoning Johnson, convicted of breaking a law that was amended more than 50 years later for being too vague.

The Galveston Giant

The Texas brawler, who typically picked off opponents as they tired, claimed a resounding victory in the “Fight of the Century,” a bout against former champion James Jeffries, amid huge racial tensions.

Seen by many at the time as the “Great White Hope,” Jeffries threw in the towel in round 15 of 45 as Johnson toyed with him in front of 15,000 boxing fans in Reno, Nevada. The 1910 victory made Johnson the undisputed champion, but also prompted race riots and run-ins with the law that would eventually see him put behind bars.

READ MORE: ‘The Greatest’: Muhammad Ali remembered on anniversary of boxer’s birthday

Chastised for his relationships – each of his three wives were white – Johnson was found guilty in 1913 of violating the Mann Act, a law which prevented the transport of women across state lines for an “immoral purpose.” Johnson’s case was one of many brought against consensual adult relationships under morality laws, and came about due to his relationship with known prostitute Belle Schreiber.

According to the US National Archives, the boxer was indicted for simply providing money to Schreiber “to purchase a train ticket from Pittsburgh to Chicago.” But the case has since been highlighted as an example of the government bringing down a man who had risen above the Jim Crow laws. Johnson eventually fled the country to Canada and also spent time in France before returning to see out his one-year prison sentence in 1920.

Prison prize fighter

Two months into his sentence, in an open-air ring at Leavenworth Penitentiary, Johnson took part in his first bout for seven years, knocking out two fellow inmates in quick succession. According to a contemporary report in The Dallas Express, Johnson’s fights were the showpiece of a Thanksgiving Day event organized by the prison’s warden.

“Johnson knocked out Frank Owens… in the last round of a six round bout, and after a few minutes intermission took on a fresh opponent,” the newspaper said. “In the first bout Frank Owens, who weighed around 230 pounds, was knocked down twelve times, his ox-like bulk hitting the canvas seven times in the sixth round, the final punch, a terrific left hook to the jaw, sending him down and out.”

After his release, Johnson reportedly continued fighting well into his sixties but was killed in a car crash in 1946 at the age of 68.

Republican Senator John McCain has previously lobbied for Johnson’s conviction to be overturned, saying that the greatest heavyweight fighter of his generation should have his legacy restored.

“Jack Johnson is a boxing and pioneer whose reputation was wrongly tarnished by a racially motivated conviction more than a century ago,”McCain said last year. “I hope President Trump will seize the opportunity before him to right this historical wrong and restore a great athlete’s legacy.

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‘There’s a price to be paid for threatening Israel’ – defense minister warns Iran as tensions flare

By ethan / April 22, 2018

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman cautioned Iran that “there is a price to be paid” for jeopardizing Israeli security. In April, Tehran slammed Israel for hitting a Syrian base, reportedly killing seven Iranians.

“Those who threaten [Israel] need to understand there is a price to be paid,” Lieberman said on Sunday, speaking to Kan, Israeli public radio. “The State of Israel is acting out of a lack of choice and in today’s situation we have no other choice.”

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© Ronen Zvulun

Tensions between Iran and Israel flared following an airstrike on Syria’s T-4 airbase in Homs province on April 8. Iran and the Russian military accused Israel of being behind the attack, which, according to Iranian news agencies, claimed the lives of seven of its military personnel.

“The attack was a blatant violation of international law which would strengthen terrorists,” Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said at the time. “The Israeli regime’s aggression against Syria is a breach of that country’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity and contradicts all international regulations and principles.”

Israel did not initially comment on the attack. Later, however, a senior Israeli official told a New York Times columnist that Tel Aviv was behind the strike. 

The attack was the first reported incident of the kind since February, when the IDF struck the same military site after it claimed that an Iranian drone had crossed into Israeli airspace from Syria. 

In line with Israel’s narrative that Iran is trying to establish a serious military presence in Syria, the Israeli defense minister said that “We will not allow for Syria to become a military base [for Iran].” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also warned on Friday that the IDF “will not shy away from action against those who threaten our security.” 

Hossein Salami, the second-in-command of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, responded that Israel should “not trust” its air bases, as they are “within range of our fire.”

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Palestinian Hamas supporters  © Abed Omar Qusini

The latest escalation in rhetoric follows the statement by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday that Iran’s atomic agency was ready with “expected and unexpected” reactions if Washington ditches the 2015 nuclear deal, as US President Donald Trump has threatened to do. The deadline for the US leader to sign a waiver to extend the deal is May 12.

The 2015 landmark nuclear accord was signed by the US, Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia, lifting economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for limitations on its nuclear program. While Trump has slammed the nuclear agreement on numerous occasions, describing it as “the worst deal ever negotiated,” the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has repeatedly stated that all nuclear-related commitments undertaken by Iran under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) have been implemented.

Tehran has developed a range of “options” if the US decides to scrap the deal, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told CBS’ Face the Nation in an interview.

“We have put a number of options for ourselves, and those options are ready,” Zarif said, adding that the options include “resuming at a much greater speed our nuclear activities.” 

“Obviously the rest of the world cannot ask us to unilaterally and one-sidedly implement a deal that has already been broken,” he said.

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iPhone X is dead as consumers turn their backs on pricey smartphones – analyst

By ethan / April 22, 2018

Apple is likely to stop producing iPhone X smartphones, according to Mirabaud analyst Neil Campling. The oversupply of chips and high prices are the reason, he says.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, or TSMC, the world’s largest semiconductor foundry company, is facing a problem with an oversupply of chips, and the company’s stock was down 6.3 percent on Friday.

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A woman takes a picture of herself using Apple's iPhone 4 in Seoul, South Korea © Jo Yong-Hak

This “has never been higher,” Campling says, as quoted by CNBC. His company has tracked inventory data at TSMC for more than 10 years. The problems at TSMC will raise concerns about AMS, Apple’s key supplier for the iPhone X’s Face ID feature which unlocks the smartphone when you look at it.

The record inventories at TSMC show that Apple will not be producing more iPhone X models next year, the analyst said. “With the declines in iPhone X orders and the inventory issue at TSMC at record highs, which basically reflect a need to burn off inventory. Why? Because the iPhone X is dead,” Campling wrote, as quoted by the media.

“The simple problem with X is that it is too expensive. Consumers are turning their backs on high-priced smartphones,” he said. The device typically costs $ 999.

The analyst expects that Apple would produce cheaper models on new iPhones, which would cost around $ 500. The iPhone X received mixed reviews after being released in November last year. Face ID has sparked a debate about security and privacy. Apple Stock was significantly down on Friday, losing almost 3 percent, falling to $ 167.73 per share, the worst result in two weeks.

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‘Maybe things will work out, maybe not’: Trump hedges bets on N. Korea

By ethan / April 22, 2018

Ahead of sit-down talks with North Korea’s leader, US President Donald Trump defended his tough-talking stance against the nation, remarking that efforts to resolve tensions between the two could still amount to nought.

Trump is expected to meet with Kim Jong Un in the coming months. Over the past year, diplomatic relations between the two leaders at one stage declined to the point where the US president threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea.

READ MORE: Trump: US may have no choice but to ‘totally destroy’ North Korea

The meeting will provide the US with an opportunity to propose dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program, which in 2017 was held up by Jong Un’s administration as a means to attack the US territory, Guam.

On Sunday, the US president acknowledged the possibility that talks between the two countries will not be successful. In a series of tweets, which opened with the president making fun of NBC’s Chuck Todd, Trump said “maybe things will work out, maybe they won’t.”

The tweets echo recent comments Trump made in relation to the US relationship with Iran and Russia. Speaking after the US participated in airstrikes against Syria, Trump said: “Hopefully someday we’ll get along with Russia, and maybe even Iran, but maybe not.”

North Korea’s stance towards nuclear arms has eased in recent days, with Pyongyang announcing its intention to freeze missile production and scrap a major test site. US Vice President Mike Pence said the news showed that pressure being applied by Washington and its allies is working.

READ MORE: ‘US will say they saved the world’ while peaceful Russian approach on N. Korea won – Moscow

Head of Russia’s Foreign Affairs Committee of the Federation Council, Konstantin Kosachev, believes China and Russia have also played a significant role without resorting to threats.

“Keeping the channels of the dialogue with Pyongyang by Beijing and Moscow was not a less important instrument than public threats to ‘wipe off the map’ from Washington,” he said.

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Qatari fighter jets endanger Emirati passenger plane – UAE officials

By ethan / April 22, 2018

UAE aviation officials have accused Qatari military jets of endangering a civilian passenger plane with 86 on board, according to Emirates news agency WAM.

The civilian jet was crossing airspace run by Bahrain when it was shadowed by fighter planes on Sunday. The approaching military aircraft came so close that the passenger plane was forced to take evasive action, according to Emirati civil aviation authorities cited by the UAE state news agency.

Bahrain’s aviation authority also issued a statement Sunday criticizing the actions of the Qatari military jets, stating that the passenger plane was over international waters when it came under threat.

“[T]his incident constitutes a clear violation of international regulations, threatens the safety and integrity of international air traffic, poses serious risk… and threatens the lives of passengers and property,” the authority’s statement read

In 2017, several Arab nations – including Bahrain and the UAE – hit Qatar with sanctions, including banning Emirati aircraft from entering their airspace. At the time, the countries said the sanctions were in relation to Qatar’s alleged ties to terrorist organizations, which Qatar denied. In August, Saudi Arabia threatened to shoot down any commercial Qatari plane that violated its airspace. has reached out to the government of Qatar for comment.

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