‘Ready to slaughter people’: What we know about Russian school attacker

By ethan / April 18, 2018

The teenager who attacked a school teacher and his classmates in a city in Russia’s Urals was reportedly inspired by the Columbine High School massacre. The teen was planning to slaughter his schoolmates and then commit suicide.

READ MORE: 4 injured in knife & arson attack at school in Russia’s Bashkortostan republic

The 17-year-old boy, identified by the local media as Artyom, was armed with a knife and attempted to set fire to the school after attacking several people inside a classroom in the city of Sterlitamak, in the Republic of Bashkortostan.

The teenager entered a computer science class and attacked a female student and a teacher with a knife, according to Russia’s Investigative Committee. He then poured out a flammable substance, set it on fire, and tried to commit suicide.

Swastika selfies

As more information on the attack emerged online, several local outlets reported that an armband with Nazi-style insignia was found in the class where the teen carried out the attack. Then photos purportedly showing Artyom posing with a swastika armband began circulating in the Russian media.

Some of Artyom’s friends shared shocking conversations with him on VKontakte, the most popular Russian social network, in which the teenager told his friends that he was planning to attack his “autist” classmates. “I am ready to slaughter people,” he wrote on one occasion.

The school where the incident took place was a special-needs school for children with developmental difficulties, officials confirmed.

Columbine fan

The teenager was reportedly inspired by the Columbine High School massacre, according to media reports. “He used to say he was bullied at school. He was a fan of Columbine,” his friend told RIA Novosti. The Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colorado, happened in 1999 and is considered one of the deadliest mass killings in US history. That day, two senior students, 18-year-old Eric Harris and 17-year-old Dylan Klebold, went on a rampage, killing 12 of their fellow students and a teacher before committing suicide.

The incident in Sterlitamak is not the first attack in Russian schools to be inspired by the notorious US shooting. The attacker in another school rampage in the Russian city of Perm earlier this year was also reportedly motivated by the Columbine shooting. 

List of enemies

Artyom was often bullied by fellow students and kept a list of all his “enemies,” whom he was planning to attack, local media reported, citing sources. Speaking to his friends on social media, the teenager vowed to confront all his attackers. “I am planning to kill at least 30 people,” Artyom wrote, adding that he couldn’t wait for the day of the attack. “You can consider me a follower of Eric [Harris] and Dylan [Klebold],” he wrote to one of his friends.

The teenager prepared meticulously for the crime, and managed to carry a knife and incendiary weapons into the school building, a source told Ufa1 news website. 

The boy’s social media page was said to be filled with hate posts, violent images and pictures of the Columbine attackers. 

Mentally unstable

A day before the tragedy, the boy’s father told school authorities that his son had to miss classes because his mental condition had worsened. Speaking to his friends on social media, Artyom admitted that he was mentally unstable and his parents were of no help to him. “If the attack happens, turn on the news,” he wrote.

The recent attacks raise concerns about teen ‘death groups’ on social media that promote hate and violence. “There are many such communities on social media. And there are many children registered in these communities, too,” Bashkortostan Republic head Rustem Khamitov said. Khamitov attended the hospital where the victims were treated. The injured teacher has already undergone surgery.

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Gold bullion to rally on weaker dollar, rising US inflation & deficit – analyst

By ethan / April 18, 2018

The second quarter expects to see another gold rally pushed by strong physical demand and the weaker US dollar, according to Boris Mikanikrezai, precious and base metals strategist at Metal Bulletin.

“The resilience of gold prices in spite of the substantial wave of speculative selling since mid-March (~71 tones, corresponding to a 17 percent drop in net long spec positions) is encouraging insofar as it suggests the presence of buying pressure elsewhere in the market, e.g. physical demand,” the analyst wrote in his weekly report for Seeking Alpha.

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© Lisi Niesner

According to Mikanikrezai, exchange-traded fund (ETF) buying interest for gold is at its strongest since September 2017. “Once bullish speculative sentiment toward gold resumes, I expect a strong price reaction. I have a long position in IAU (iShares Gold Trust), expecting a fresh 2018 high in Q2,” the strategist said.

The industry expert sees a weaker dollar and lower US real rates in the coming months on the back of three main drivers, with the US Federal Reserve the primary driver. Mikanikrezai expects “a dovish hiking cycle” in the next few months based on “[the] Federal Open Market Committee’s patience to see inflation moving back first toward its target of two percent.”

Inflation is seen as the second driver pushing gold higher, with an expansionary path projected to move further, boosted by strong oil and a tight labor market. The third boosting element for the yellow metal is the US deficit rising due to this year’s fiscal stimulus.

According to the analyst, the three listed factors will continue to affect the greenback and boost gold prices. Gold bulls shouldn’t be depressed by the commodity’s temporary inability to break above its current trading range, he says, stressing that investors are commonly wary due to geopolitical risks, such as the recent tension between the US and China over trade and conflicts in the Middle East.

“Should the situation continue to deteriorate, investors could be forced to price more accurately this geopolitical risk. This would exert even more downward pressure on the dollar and US real rates,” Mikanikrezai says.

Spot gold dropped 0.04 percent to $ 1,348 an ounce by 09:54 GMT on Wednesday, while US gold futures gained 0.1 percent to $ 1,351.

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Oxygen mask backlash: Image from Southwest flight sparks social media frenzy

By ethan / April 18, 2018

A photo showing passengers from Southwest Airlines flight 1380 apparently wearing their oxygen masks incorrectly has sparked a social media furore. One passenger died after an engine explosion blew out a window mid-flight.

The image posted by passenger Marty Martinez on Facebook shows three passengers, including Martinez, only covering their mouths with the mask. Safety demonstrations typically performed by crew at the start of flights state that passengers should “place the mask over your mouth and nose, secure the elastic band and breath normally.”

READ MORE: 1 killed, passenger nearly sucked out of plane after engine explosion on Southwest flight

The flight was en route from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to Dallas with 149 passengers on board when one engine apparently exploded mid-air. A woman was killed when she was almost sucked out of a shattered window and seven other people were injured. The plane went on to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia.

Social media users sharply criticized passengers seen in the photo posted by Martinez, suggesting they did not pay attention to the attendants’ safety briefing.

It’s not clear though at what point the photo was taken, with some Facebook users suggesting it could have been taken when the plane was brought down to a safer altitude. Meanwhile, others argued that the face masks would not possibly cover both the mouth and nose due to its apparently small size.

This argument was quickly dismissed by other Facebook users who pointed out that the mask is made of flexible rubber or silicone material and can be adapted to fit all passengers.

Martinez was himself chastised for posting a Facebook Live video while he was putting on his own oxygen mask. In his video, Martinez can be seen holding the oxygen mask just over his mouth, attracting criticism from Facebook users.

The Southwest Boeing 373 blew an engine at about 30,000ft. According to the Federal Aviation Administration“phase-sequential continuous-flow” masks can be safely used at emergency altitudes up to 40,000ft.

The National Transport Safety Board is investigating the engine failure and says it could take up to 15 months to complete. Part of the engine’s covering, called a cowling, was found in Bernville, Pennsylvania, about 70 miles (112km) from the Philadelphia International Airport. NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said: “It is very unusual so we are taking this event extremely seriously.”

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The Peter Schmeichel Show: Legendary goalkeeper explores World Cup host cities (Samara)

By ethan / April 18, 2018

The goalkeeping great continues to explore local culture in 2018 FIFA World Cup host cities. This time it’s Samara, a city that is set to host four group-stage matches and two matches in the elimination rounds.

Playing the accordion and taking a part in the preparations for space travel sounds very Russian, doesn’t it? That is what Samara, which is situated around 1,000km east of Moscow, can offer its visitors.

Fancy for a cold one after that? Samara’s Zhigulevskiy beer factory, which is famous all over Russia for its signature cold drink of the same name, has got you covered. Although, Russians usually simply call it Zhiguli, using the name of the local range of wooded mountains, located just across the Volga river from Samara.

READ MORE: World Cup host city explored: Peter Schmeichel samples local customs in Kazan

The ‘Great Dane’ will tell you more about it in the latest installment of the Peter Schmeichel Show.

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Russia threatens to block Facebook

By ethan / April 18, 2018

Facebook has until the end of 2018 to comply with Russia’s data storage law, or be banned like messenger service Telegram or professional networking website LinkedIn.

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© Kirill Kallinikov

The law requires all social networks to move data on Russian users to Russia. Facebook is also obliged to remove all prohibited information, according to the head of Russian internet watchdog Roskomnadzor, Aleksandr Zharov.

“If none of [the steps are taken by Facebook] or some of this is not fulfilled, or the Russian state is not informed of the intention to do so, then obviously there will be a question of blocking,” Zharov told Izvestia daily.

The professional network website LinkedIn has already been banned in Russia for refusing to comply. The popular messenger Telegram was blocked in Russia after refusing to provide Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) with keys to decrypt its messages.

The FSB has said that Telegram is widely used by terrorists. The work of Amazon and Google in Russia is also in question, said Zharov. The watchdog has faced trouble in blocking Telegram, since it is using Amazon and Google’s cloud servers.

Roskomnadzor has banned 16 million IP addresses used by Telegram, including those provided by Google and Amazon. The watchdog’s actions have led to serious disruptions in the Russian internet, and various websites using Amazon hosting have been accidentally blocked. Zharov has denied this information, saying that 99.9 percent of innocent sites remain untouched by the regulator. Telegram continues to work as usual.

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Communists seek probe into alleged violations of Russia’s ‘mobile voter’ system

By ethan / April 18, 2018

The head of Russia’s Communist Party has asked the Prosecutor General to investigate a polling system that reportedly allowed someone to vote twice in March’s presidential election.

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Votes counted at Russian presidential elections © Maxim Bogodvid

In his letter, quoted by the RBC news site in a Wednesday report, Gennadiy Zyuganov alleged that the “Mobile Voter” system had allowed for “mass double voting.” He described previous assessments of the issue by the Central Election Commission “inadequate.”

He proceeded to explain that the system allowed people to vote at ballot stations in their place of residence, and then vote again at any ballot station of their choice. This was reportedly made possible by the system allowing changes to data provided by users during registration.

As the Central Election Commission has given an obviously inadequate appraisal of this problem, I think that only law enforcement agencies coordinated by the Prosecutor General’s Office can reveal the possible criminal conspiracy seeking mass double voting, as well as single incidents in which citizens repeatedly expressed their political will,” Zyuganov wrote in his letter.

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Russian presidential candidate Pavel Grudinin meets with voters at the Lenin Palace of Culture in Kazan © Maksim Bogodvid

The Communist leader then asked the Prosecutor General to launch a “complete and all-round probe” that would uncover all incidents of double voting in the course of the March 18 presidential election. The poll ended in victory for incumbent President Vladimir Putin, and the swearing-in ceremony is scheduled for May 7.

Soon after the voting ended, Head of the Central Election Commission Ella Pamfilova told reporters that the number of violations had halved compared to previous elections. Pamfilova noted that this had been achieved largely because about 80 percent of polling stations had been equipped with CCTV systems that were broadcasting the voting and ballot count on the internet. Still, some stations had results of the voting annulled because of violations that were uncovered.

Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin came second in the race with 11.7 percent of votes. In a subsequent speech before the Communist Party leadership, Grudinin blamed his poor performance on a deliberate media campaign allegedly launched by the authorities.

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UK broadcast watchdog opens 7 new investigations into RT News Channel

By ethan / April 18, 2018

Britain’s broadcast watchdog OFCOM has announced it has opened seven investigations into the ‘due impartiality’ of the RT news channel over its reporting on the Salisbury poisoning.

Since the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal last month, the British broadcast watchdog claimed to have seen an increase in the number of programs on RT that “warrant investigation.” 

OFCOM announced in a press release, published on its website, that “the investigations form part of an Ofcom update, published today, into the licences held by TV Novosti, the company that broadcasts RT.

Until recently, TV Novosti’s overall compliance record has not been materially out of line with other broadcasters.

READ MORE: As calls to ban RT resound, we asked Londoners: Is freedom of speech at risk? (VIDEO)

“However, since the events in Salisbury, we have observed a significant increase in the number of programmes on the RT service that warrant investigation as potential breaches of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code.

OFCOM’s investigation is looking into two news broadcasts, two episodes of Sputnik, two episodes of Crosstalk and one from ‘Worlds Apart with Oksana Boyko.’

The watchdog declared it would announce the “outcome of these investigations as soon as possible.

Following a March parliamentary debate in which Theresa May announced sanctions against Russia, during which a number of MPs called for the channel to be taken off air, RT said it was “regrettable” that it risked being “sacrificed as a political pawn, in one fell swoop doing away with any concept of press freedom in the UK“.

We disagree with the position taken by Ofcom; our broadcasting has in no way changed this week, from any other week and continues to adhere to all standards,” RT said in a statement.

By linking RT to unrelated matters, Ofcom is conflating its role as a broadcasting regulator with matters of state. RT remains a valuable voice in the UK news landscape, covering vital yet neglected stories and voices, including those of the many MPs and other UK public figures who have been shut out of public discourse by the mainstream media.”

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‘The city won’t give us land, so we’re taking it’: Police & protesters clash in Cape Town (VIDEO)

By ethan / April 18, 2018

Violence erupted at an informal settlement outside Cape Town, South Africa as authorities evicted locals illegally occupying land. Police opened fire as protesters looted stores and set nearby vegetation on fire.

Protesters, who say they are fed up with overcrowding and a lack of housing in Vrygrond, have earmarked a piece of land they want to move to and erected shacks in the area.

READ MORE: South Africa’s white farmers at risk of genocide – Australian senator

However, violence broke out as authorities destroyed these structures Monday night, with residents smashing a local liquor store and setting fire to tires and nearby vegetation. Footage from the scene shows gunfire ringing out as police confront protesters.

Community leader Linamandla Deliwe told Ground Up that tensions escalated in Vrygrond when an eviction squad accompanied by metro police demolished shacks. On the nearby M5 highway, a car was torched and a vehicle was stoned during the demonstrations, EWN reports.

The land occupation started on April 14. Residents have vowed to continue protesting if authorities evict them from the land next to their community, saying they have nowhere else to go and are tired of paying huge amounts of rent when most of them are unemployed.

“The City has failed to give us this land‚ we are now taking it‚” one resident said.

Three people were arrested following Monday night’s protests, according to Western Cape Police. Meanwhile, local mayor Patricia de Lille has agreed to meet with the community leader on condition that people stop their occupation.

“The mayor is clear that the meeting cannot go ahead while people continue to illegally occupy land and affect the lives of other residents by blocking roads,” a spokesperson for the mayor told EWN.

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Australia’s Northern Territory scraps fracking ban

By ethan / April 18, 2018

Australia’s Northern Territory has removed a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing introduced two years ago while the state’s government assessed the potential impacts of fracking on the environment.

Now, the assessment has been completed and the conclusion is that the Northern Territory can avoid the worst of the environmental effects of fracking by strictly regulating the activity.

The Northern Territory, which spans more than half a million square miles from central Australia to the northern coast of the country, is the poorest and most scarcely populated state. It sits on a lot of oil and gas-bearing rocks, however, according to government information, and only a small part of these resources is being exploited.

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© Brandon Malone

For now, gas production is better developed than oil production. There are a couple of LNG and onshore gas projects, including the offshore Ichthys LNG project due to start producing later this year, and the Darwin LNG project operated by ConocoPhillips that has been producing since 2006.

Now the state is seeking to expand its hydrocarbons industry by tapping the potential reserves locked underground by fracking. “The risks from fracking can be reduced to acceptable levels,” the state’s Chief Minister Michael Gunner said, commenting on the conclusions of the study.

“The moratorium on fracking in the Northern Territory will be lifted, with strict new laws to be in place before exploration or production can occur,” he added, noting that not all of the Northern Territory will be open to frackers: almost half of the land will remain outside their reach, including nature reserves and national parks.

The initiative is part of national efforts to tackle what has turned into a gas crisis as Australia becomes a major exporter of the commodity. Because of a substantial growth in exports, the local market has suffered shortages of the fuel, prompting politicians to step in.

Read more on Oilprice.com: Is OPEC’s mission “accomplished”?

Local gas prices are rising and so are electricity rates, which is hurting both households and industries, Reuters notes. Fracking is one way of dealing with the problem—expanding renewable power generation capacity is another.

This article was originally published on Oilprice.com

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Britain stokes tensions with Russia & Syria… while armed forces ‘woefully’ understaffed

By ethan / April 18, 2018

As tensions between the UK, their allies, and Russia continue to mount; the British armed forces is nearly in its worse state since the Napoleonic Wars, with a manpower deficit of some 8,200 military personnel.

According to a report to be published on Wednesday by the National Audit Office (NAO), Britain’s military is experiencing the largest deficit in 10 years in some of the most critical areas. These include gaps of up to 26 percent against the standard requirement in the intelligence, engineering and piloting fields. Some 2,400 more staff are needed – mostly engineers in the Royal Navy, 700 intelligence analysts and 800 pilots, especially in the RAF.

READ MORE: ‘Horrifying’ defence cuts could see British Army smaller than before Napoleonic wars

Amid reports of ongoing slashes to defense cuts, it is understood that the shortage of personnel is due to issues with recruitment and retention, although the Ministry of Defense (MoD) claims it has spent £664 million ($ 942 million) on this since 2013. It comes after news of Britain being forced to play second fiddle in last weekend’s airstrikes on three suspected chemical weapons sites in Syria. Its involvement was massively dwarfed by that of the US and France, with the former responsible for 76 of the 108 missiles fired, while Britain only launched eight from its four RAF Tornado jets.

Meg Hillier, the Labour chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee, said tensions have never been so bad with Russia, and it is therefore critical that the armed forces are fully staffed. “But the NAO report shows that the armed forces are woefully below complement,” she said, according to Sky. “The Ministry of Defense needs to take a long hard look at its current approach.”

Hillier continued: “Without more innovative methods to attract and retain staff, the UK risks continuing with big gaps in capability and overstretching already hard working and crucial service personnel.”

An MoD spokesman said recruiting and retaining talent was a “top priority” and there were many schemes to attract and keep skilled personnel. “The military has enough personnel to meet all its operational requirements, including being active on 25 operations in 30 countries throughout the world,” he said. “In the past year we have recruited over 13,000 people into the armed forces.”

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