Visual artists demand ‘fair’ share of sales

When Canadian Inuit artist Kenojuak Ashevak sold her print “Enchanted Owl” in 1960, she pocketed $24, but when the piece was resold at auction in 2001 for nearly $59,000, she received nothing.That is because Canada does not recognise a resale right for…

When Canadian Inuit artist Kenojuak Ashevak sold her print "Enchanted Owl" in 1960, she pocketed $24, but when the piece was resold at auction in 2001 for nearly $59,000, she received nothing.

That is because Canada does not recognise a resale right for visual artists, which in some other countries guarantees them a small percentage of proceeds from secondary sales.

Unlike musicians, writers and filmmakers, who receive royalties each time their works are sold, used or downloaded, painters and other visual artists in many countries are paid just once.

Like Ashevak, who died in 2013, they receive no proceeds from later sales, even when the value of their work balloons.

The United Nations World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is this week debating a proposal from Senegal and Congo-Brazzaville to push for an agreement guaranteeing the resale right globally.

More than 80 countries worldwide currently recognise the resale right, providing visual artists between one and five percent of secondary sales proceeds, with a cap of roughly $15,000 (13,800 euros).

But some of the world's biggest art markets, namely the United States, China and Japan, do not.

"As artists, we make the value of our artwork increase through continuing to work and expanding our reputations," Canadian artist Grant McConnell told AFP.

"Others are benefitting from that, so why the hell don't we?"

He recalled selling his work "We Live on Barren Ground" in 1988 for around Can$5,500 and then seeing it snapped up by a public collection in 2014 for four times that amount.

If Canada recognised a resale right of five percent, as McConnell and others are advocating,, he would have received a check for around Can$1,000, he said.

- 'No-brainer' -

WIPO chief Francis Gurry insists it is only fair for artists to benefit from a booming global art market, which raked in sales of more than $63 billion in 2015.

"This should really be a no-brainer," he told AFP.

According to the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC), only two percent of royalties collected globally for creators in different fields goes to visual artists.

"Compare that with the 87 percent that goes to music, composers and lyricists, and you understand the huge difference," CISAC chief Gadi Oron told AFP.

Visual artists are clearly losing out, he said, pointing out that even with many of the main art markets not providing resale rights, they generate around $50 million annually for artists in the countries that do.

"When you hear about auction houses selling artworks for tens of millions, I think it is only fair that a small percentage should go to the creator," Oron said.

While top-tier artists would certainly benefit from the resale right, McConnell said the incremental income it could provide was most important to the average artist.

- 'Bread and butter' -

"In Canada the average artist makes about Can$18,000 a year, so the occasional Can$50 check in the mail may seem like a paltry sum to many in the art world, but for working artists this is our bread and butter," McConnell said.

French artist Herve di Rosa agreed.

"Artists need to be able to make a decent living to go on producing art," he said.

Since France, like all European Union countries, recognises the resale right, di Rosa said that over three decades he had received small payments a dozen times for a single work, as it was sold and resold.

The resale right also helps artists track their work and can be useful in uncovering forgeries, observers say.

There has been opposition from some countries and auction houses in particular to granting the resale right over fears it could negatively impact the art market.

But Gurry said those fears were proven baseless after Britain finally folded to EU pressure and granted the right in 2006.

"Sotheby's and Christie's didn't collapse overnight. They are still there, they are still doing well," he said.

"All of the available evidence suggests that this is not disruptive to the art market," he said, voicing hope an international deal could be achieved within three years.

Cuba stages last May Day parade under Castro

Millions of Cubans rallied in a May Day parade Monday, the last to be overseen by President Raul Castro — and the first without his late brother and revolutionary predecessor Fidel.The May 1 rally filled Havana’s Revolution Square and other spots acro…

Millions of Cubans rallied in a May Day parade Monday, the last to be overseen by President Raul Castro -- and the first without his late brother and revolutionary predecessor Fidel.

The May 1 rally filled Havana's Revolution Square and other spots across the country in a sea of red, white and blue national flags and giant portraits of Fidel Castro.

Traditionally a day of protest and defense of workers' rights worldwide, the May Day rally in communist Cuba is unusual in being a march in support of the authorities.

The government still employs 70 percent of the five million workers on the island of 11 million people.

Fidel Castro died in November and Raul, 85, has said that he will step aside in February 2018 after 12 years in power.

- After Castro -

Raul Castro has been cautiously opening up Cuba's state-run economy and strengthening its foreign relations -- notably by re-establishing diplomatic ties with the United States.

But Monday's parade had the feel of the end of an era.

Raul Castro attended in his trademark green military cap and uniform, but did not make a speech.

It is not clear who will take his place next year as president.

Most rumors suggest it will be Miguel Diaz-Canel, 56, vice-president of the State Council.

Castro's supporters on Monday were hopeful that the transfer of power will be smooth.

He is expected to retain considerable influence since he will remain leader of the governing Communist Party.

"The conditions for continuity are there," said retiree Elier Dominguez, 68.

"There is only one party."

Despite ministerial experience and party credentials, Diaz-Canel is seen as lacking a support base in the military.

"There is very high uncertainty about 2018," said Pavel Vidal, a former official of Cuba's central bank and an academic at Colombia's Javeriana University.

"One could expect a process of continuity" of Raul Castro's reforms, he added, "but not at the same speed."

- Venezuela factor -

Cuba's economic fortunes depend largely on another country that will see May Day marches on Monday: Venezuela.

Monday's parade in Havana voiced support for Venezuela's leftist government which is facing violent opposition protests.

Venezuela sells cut-price oil to its leftist allies in Havana. Cuba is currently in recession, dragged down by its ally's economic crisis.

Analyst Andrew Otazo of Washington-based Cuba Study Group told AFP that Cuba has started looking to other oil exporters in case the Venezuelan government collapses.

France’s Marine Le Pen uses May Day rally to attack ‘Hollande clone’ Macron

Far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen on Monday used a May Day campaign rally to attack her centrist rival Emmanuel Macron as a clone of the deeply unpopular President François Hollande and a puppet of the world of finance.

Far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen on Monday used a May Day campaign rally to attack her centrist rival Emmanuel Macron as a clone of the deeply unpopular President François Hollande and a puppet of the world of finance.

Twitter, Bloomberg team up for streaming news channel

Twitter is launching a 24-hour streaming news channel in partnership with the Bloomberg news agency, in a major expansion of its video operations.Bloomberg Media chief executive Justin Smith confirmed the partnership late Sunday, retweeting a Wall Stre…

Twitter is launching a 24-hour streaming news channel in partnership with the Bloomberg news agency, in a major expansion of its video operations.

Bloomberg Media chief executive Justin Smith confirmed the partnership late Sunday, retweeting a Wall Street Journal article referring to the tie-up.

"We'll have a lot more to say about this exciting new partnership at Bloomberg Media's NewFronts on Monday," Smith tweeted, referring to a conference being held this week.

The Journal, which first reported the partnership, said Bloomberg will produce news exclusively for the online channel, separate from content produced for Bloomberg's own television channel.

Bloomberg and Twitter declined to offer details on the deal pending an announcement later Monday.

The service, set to launch later this year, could help Twitter expand its user base, which has been growing at a slower pace than its social media rivals.

Twitter has been seeking to broaden its appeal beyond its core user base of celebrities, politicians and journalists, ramping up efforts in video and live sports, notably.

But in its quarterly results last week, Twitter reported a drop in revenue, despite boosting its monthly user base to 328 million, up 14 percent from a year ago.

Twitter, which has never reported a profit, said its net loss narrowed to $62 million from $80 million a year earlier.

Twitter already offers some live video news through a partnership with the streaming application Cheddar. It had rights last year to stream some National Football League games, but lost that for the upcoming season to Amazon.

Top Democrat trolls Trump via Spotify

The US Senate’s top Democrat has needled Donald Trump through a playlist on Spotify, selecting songs that pointedly question the president.Marking Trump’s first 100 days in the White House, Senator Chuck Schumer over the weekend released his list of so…

The US Senate's top Democrat has needled Donald Trump through a playlist on Spotify, selecting songs that pointedly question the president.

Marking Trump's first 100 days in the White House, Senator Chuck Schumer over the weekend released his list of song choices over the world's largest streaming service.

The Senate minority leader shows a taste for classic pop artists but, even more, a delight in song titles that deliver a political punch.

His picks include The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" and two tracks by Stevie Wonder, "You Haven't Done Nothin'" and "He's Misstra Know-It-All."

Several songs allude to Trump's relationship with truthfulness -- "Lies" by Thompson Twins, "Lyin' Eyes" by the Eagles and Beyonce and Shakira's collaboration "Beautiful Liar."

Schumer may also be hitting out at Trump's fondness for flying to his Florida estate. He chose Loverboy's "Working for the Weekend" and Dolly Parton's "9 to 5."

Trump has a longstanding but inconsistent relationship with Schumer, a fellow New Yorker. Trump mocked Schumer after the senator teared up when addressing the new administration's efforts to bar travelers from a number of Muslim-majority countries.

In a likely rejoinder, Schumer's Spotify playlist features "The Tears of a Clown" by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles.

And the playlist nears its end with a possible message to Trump -- Drake's megahit "Hotline Bling" with its signature line, "You used to call me on my cellphone."

Schumer, like Trump, is not known for his technological prowess. The 66-year-old senator still uses a flip-phone, which is unlikely to offer Spotify access.

US spending deal: More military funds, none for border wall

US congressional leaders on Monday unveiled a bipartisan deal funding government through September, with a compromise that includes President Donald Trump’s call for increased military spending but ignores his demand to fund a border wall.The agreement…

US congressional leaders on Monday unveiled a bipartisan deal funding government through September, with a compromise that includes President Donald Trump's call for increased military spending but ignores his demand to fund a border wall.

The agreement was struck late Sunday after weeks of tense negotiations that saw the threat of a government shutdown emerge just as Trump was to mark his 100th day in office.

Congress is expected to vote this week on the new bill, which provides $1.163 trillion in overall federal spending, ahead of a Friday night deadline when government funding would expire absent a new agreement.

The leaders in the Republican-controlled Congress will need support from Democrats in the Senate in order to pass the legislation. The opposition party has hailed the spending bill as a victory because it includes no money for Trump's border wall.

Trump made building the wall along the southern US border with Mexico one of the primary pledges of his presidential campaign, insisting it would begin within his first 100 days, a milestone that came and went on Saturday.

But Republicans are pleased because the bill adds some $1.5 billion in funding for other security efforts along the nearly 2,000-mile (3,218-kilometer) border, and boosts military spending.

Of the trillion dollars in the bill's discretionary spending, $598.5 billion is slated for defense -- an increase of $25 billion, or 4.5 percent, above fiscal year 2016 levels.

The deal makes America "stronger and safer," House Speaker Paul Ryan said in statement, because "it acts on President Trump's commitment to rebuild our military for the 21st century and bolster our nation's border security to protect our homeland."

The measure adds $2 billion in new funding for the National Institutes of Health.

It also maintains 99 percent of federal spending for the Environmental Protection Agency. Trump had proposed slashing EPA funds by more than 30 percent, a cut that would have led to thousands of job losses and reduced critical programs like grants for public water systems.

The agreement would keep federal operations running through September 30, the end of the fiscal year.

SpaceX successfully launches ‘classified’ military satellite in all-or-nothing gamble (VIDEOS)

SpaceX successfully launched and landed its Falcon 9 rocket in the fifth of 20 scheduled launches in 2017. This was a landmark event for the company, as it was the first launch of a military satellite in its 15-year history. Read Full Ar…

Preview SpaceX successfully launched and landed its Falcon 9 rocket in the fifth of 20 scheduled launches in 2017. This was a landmark event for the company, as it was the first launch of a military satellite in its 15-year history.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Iran big winner from region’s turmoil: Arab League head

Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit warned Monday that Iran and Israel were the main beneficiaries of turmoil across the Arab world, which he described as the worst he has ever seen.”I have never seen anything worse than what we are now seeing,” Abul Gh…

Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit warned Monday that Iran and Israel were the main beneficiaries of turmoil across the Arab world, which he described as the worst he has ever seen.

"I have never seen anything worse than what we are now seeing," Abul Gheit said at the Arab Media Forum in Dubai.

"Iran is enjoying what the Arab world is going through. There are those in Iran who are watching and waiting for us to destroy ourselves."

Ties between Iran and Arab states have grown increasingly tense in recent years, with Tehran backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Yemen's Shiite Huthi rebels and armed Shiite groups in Iraq.

Arab governments largely back Syrian opposition groups.

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies have for the past two years battled the Huthis, who control the capital and strategic ports along the Red Sea coastline.

Israel also stood to benefit from conflicts across the region, Abul Gheit said.

"Israel was under enormous pressure to find a solution with the Palestinians," he said.

"If I were the prime minister ... I would have thought these were the happiest days for Israel."

Long-stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been overshadowed by global concerns over the Syrian war and Islamic State group jihadists.

Police hurt in Paris May 1 clashes with youths: police

Three officers were hurt in clashes between riot police and masked youths during a May 1 march in Paris on Monday that carried extra significance six days before the presidential election run-off.”Masked individuals threw objects and Molotov cocktails …

Three officers were hurt in clashes between riot police and masked youths during a May 1 march in Paris on Monday that carried extra significance six days before the presidential election run-off.

"Masked individuals threw objects and Molotov cocktails at police" who responded by firing teargas, authorities said.

The violence erupted near Place de la Bastille in the French capital as the march led by three unions including France's biggest, the CGT, headed for another square nearby.

At one point, a blazing shopping trolley packed with flammable material was pushed towards police lines, an AFP photographer saw.

The rivals for the presidency, centrist frontrunner Emmanuel Macron and far-right rival Marine Le Pen, faced shows of opposition to their programmes during the fractious May 1 workers' marches.

The election runoff takes place next Sunday.

Russia detains protesters against Chechnya anti-gay violence

Russian police on Monday detained young activists protesting against the persecution of gay men in Chechnya at a May Day parade in Saint Petersburg, an AFP photographer witnessed. Recent reports of a brutal crackdown on gay men in the mainly Muslim Nor…

Russian police on Monday detained young activists protesting against the persecution of gay men in Chechnya at a May Day parade in Saint Petersburg, an AFP photographer witnessed.

Recent reports of a brutal crackdown on gay men in the mainly Muslim North Caucasus region led for a decade by strongman Ramzan Kadyrov have caused an international scandal.

Riot police in helmets detained young activists -- some holding rainbow flags -- and bundled them into police vans during Monday's parade in Saint Petersburg's historic centre.

Police detained 17 activists, according to local news site Fontanka.ru and OVD-Info, a site monitoring activist detentions.

"Some people who breached public order at the parade were detained," a police source confirmed to AFP, without giving details.

Several protesters lay on the ground covered with a Chechen flag while another threw earth on top of them to symbolise killings, Fontanka reported.

Some carried rainbow flags and shouted "Kadyrov to the Hague!" Fontanka reported, referring to the international criminal tribunal.

Ruling party lawmaker Vitaly Milonov, one of the chief proponents of a controversial 2013 law that bans "gay propaganda" for minors, shouted abuse at protesters, a video posted by Life News site showed.

In March, Novaya Gazeta opposition daily reported that Chechen authorities were imprisoning and torturing gay men in the conservative region where homosexuality is taboo and can be punished by killings by relatives.

A group of Chechen men in a safe house close to Moscow later confirmed to AFP that they had fled the region in fear of their lives.

Kadyrov rejected the "provocative" reports while meeting President Vladimir Putin last month.

Russia's Prosecutor-General's office said it had opened an inquiry but had not received any official complaints from victims.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov downplayed the reports, saying there had been "no confirmation" of violence and arrests.

Rights activists protested in Berlin on Sunday ahead of a visit to Russia by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday. She is due to meet Putin in the Black Sea city of Sochi.

photo-mak-am/cw

N. Korea vows to bolster its nuclear arsenal ‘at maximum speed’

Preview North Korea has promised to bolster its nuclear arsenal “at the maximum pace,” while blaming America for bringing the region to a brink of a nuclear war with “aggressive” joint US-S. Korea drills.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview North Korea has promised to bolster its nuclear arsenal “at the maximum pace,” while blaming America for bringing the region to a brink of a nuclear war with “aggressive” joint US-S. Korea drills.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Anonymous app Yik Yak shuts down

Yik Yak, a mobile application which gained popularity for allowing users to make anonymous comments and which sparked debate on cyber bullying, has shut down.The app launched in 2013 and gained a following among high school and college students, pushin…

Yik Yak, a mobile application which gained popularity for allowing users to make anonymous comments and which sparked debate on cyber bullying, has shut down.

The app launched in 2013 and gained a following among high school and college students, pushing its valuation by investors to an estimated $400 million at one point, according to some reports.

The company, which had raised $73 million, said in a statement over the weekend that "we'll begin winding down the Yik Yak app over the coming week as we start tinkering around with what's ahead for our brand, our technology, and ourselves."

The statement offered no reason for the shutdown, but its rapid rise and fall highlights the fast-moving nature of social media applications.

In 2015, another anonymous app called Secret was shuttered after reaching an estimated $100 million value, while drawing complaints about its use for harassment.

The mobile payments startup Square, led by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, indicated in a regulatory filing that it would pay $1 million for "certain intellectual property of Yik Yak."

Yik Yak said that as part of its shutdown "a few members of the Yik Yak team will be joining the Square family here in Atlanta."

Yik Yak and similar apps gained momentum as young users became attracted to the notion of anonymous comments about teachers and students.

Yik Yak allowed smartphone users to see posts in a radius up to five miles (eight kilometers), part of a flurry of apps that offer novel ways to interact on social networks without revealing one's identity.

Yik Yak co-founders Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington said the app was created "because we wanted to help you connect with the people right around you on campus, whether you knew them or not."

But some schools sought to block the apps because of pranks, rumor-mongering and even bomb threats.

Seven killed in raid on bank van in Indian Kashmir: police

Seven people including five policemen were killed Monday when suspected militants attacked a bank van carrying cash in Indian-administered Kashmir, police said.”All the seven in the van, five policemen and two bank employees, were killed,” director gen…

Seven people including five policemen were killed Monday when suspected militants attacked a bank van carrying cash in Indian-administered Kashmir, police said.

"All the seven in the van, five policemen and two bank employees, were killed," director general of police S. P. Vaid told AFP.

The van was returning to a bank in the village of Pumbai in Kulgam district, around 70 kilometres (43 miles) south of the main city of Srinagar, when it came under fire, Vaid said.

Another police officer told AFP on condition of anonymity that the attackers made off with cash and weapons.

Suspected militants in recent months have targeted banks across the restive Kashmir valley, where several armed groups have been fighting against Indian rule for decades.

Last week police said they foiled a bank raid in the southern district of Anantnag by two men who opened fire on paramilitary guards.

One of the attackers was arrested while another managed to escape.

Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir, where most people favour independence or a merger with mainly Muslim Pakistan.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British rule in 1947 but both claim the territory in its entirety.

Norway migrant integration goes into reverse after 5- to 10-year stay – study author to RT

Preview Although refugees who come to Norway rapidly integrate into the labor market, the gap between their and locals’ employment will increase again after just five to10 years, a study says. RT spoke to one of its authors to discuss the surprising results.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview Although refugees who come to Norway rapidly integrate into the labor market, the gap between their and locals’ employment will increase again after just five to10 years, a study says. RT spoke to one of its authors to discuss the surprising results.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Key US inflation measure sees first drop in 16 years

The US Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation measure fell in March, and a key component dropped for the first time in nearly 16 years, the Commerce Department reported Monday.It was another sign of soft prices as several measures of inflation have retr…

The US Federal Reserve's preferred inflation measure fell in March, and a key component dropped for the first time in nearly 16 years, the Commerce Department reported Monday.

It was another sign of soft prices as several measures of inflation have retreated in recent months, removing some of the pressure on central bankers to raise the benchmark interest rate more rapidly.

Economists say tight labor markets, falling unemployment and strong job creation likely will persuade the Fed to persist in raising rates twice more this year, for a total of three hikes.

The central bank is due to consider monetary policy Tuesday and Wednesday and is not expected to adjust interest rates.

The Personal Consumption Expenditures price index, which tracks the value of goods and services purchased by individuals, fell 0.2 percent in March in its first drop since February 2016 and its biggest decline since January 2015.

But the core PCE, which excludes the volatile food and energy categories, dropped by a tenth, the first decline since September 2001.

Analysts had been expecting the core measure to remain unchanged for the month.

The longer-term trends also showed a slowdown. The 12-month measure for the PCE price index slowed to 1.8 percent, below the Fed's two percent target and down from 2.1 percent in March.

The core 12-month measure also slowed, falling to 1.6 percent from 1.8 percent.

Another closely watched measure of inflation, the Consumer Price Index, also fell in March.

Meanwhile, personal incomes were up 0.2 percent in March, an increase of $40 billion, while spending rose less than 0.1 percent, an increase of $5.7 billion.

Philippines’ Duterte hesitant on US visit, warm on China

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday he may turn down an invitation by Donald Trump to visit the United States, as he welcomed three Chinese warships to his home town.Duterte, who has loosened the Philippines’ long alliance with the United …

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday he may turn down an invitation by Donald Trump to visit the United States, as he welcomed three Chinese warships to his home town.

Duterte, who has loosened the Philippines' long alliance with the United States while strengthening ties with China and Russia, said he could not commit to the American president because of a busy schedule that included a trip to Moscow.

"I am tied up. I cannot make any definite promise. I am supposed to go to Russia, I am supposed to go to Israel," he told reporters when asked about Trump's invitation made in a telephone call on Saturday.

Duterte expressed concerns about not being able to fit in a visit to Trump even though no firm date has yet been proposed for it.

Nevertheless, Duterte said relations with the United States were improving now that Trump had taken over from Barack Obama, who criticised the Philippine president for his anti-drug war that has claimed thousands of lives.

Rights groups have warned Duterte may be orchestrating a crime against humanity, with police and vigilantes committing mass murder. But Duterte insists his security forces are not breaking any laws.

Duterte last year branded Obama a "son of a whore" in response to the criticism. He also declared while in Beijing last year that the Philippines had "separated" from the United States.

The United States is the Philippines' former colonial ruler and the nations are bound by a mutual defence treaty.

Duterte said Monday that his efforts to loosen the alliance were only a response to the drug war criticism.

"It was not a distancing (of relations) but it was rather a rift between me and the (US) State Department and Mr Obama, who spoke openly against me," he said.

"Things have changed, there is a new leadership. He wants to make friends, he says we are friends so why should we pick a fight?"

- 'Confidence building' -

Duterte's comments came shortly after he visited three Chinese warships visiting his home town, the southern city of Davao on Mindanao island.

"This is part of confidence-building and goodwill and to show we are friends and that is why I welcome them," he said.

Duterte has pursued closer relations with the Chinese government even though Beijing has taken control of a fishing shoal and built artificial islands in parts of the South China Sea that are within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

China claims nearly all of the strategically vital waterway, even waters approaching the coasts of its neighbours.

Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan also have claims in the sea.

China's expansionism in the waters have triggered concern regionally and in the West, with its new artificial islands capable of serving as military bases.

But on Sunday Duterte issued a chairman's statement, after hosting a 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, which took a soft stance towards Chinese actions in the sea.

The statement merely took note of "concerns expressed by some leaders over recent developments in the area".

It ignored an international tribunal ruling last year which said China's claims to most of the sea were unlawful.

It also did not carry wording from previous ASEAN statements calling for a "respect for legal and diplomatic processes" in resolving the dispute.

Duterte has repeatedly said the Philippines and other nations are helpless to stop the island-building, so there is no point challenging China in diplomatic and legal circles.

He has instead promoted what he says will be billions of dollars' worth of investments from China that he expects will result from the improvement in bilateral relations.

Duterte on Monday also repeated that he was open to joint military exercises between the Philippines and China.

"I said I agree. There can be joint exercises," said Duterte, who has scaled back regular war games with the United States.

‘It’s very important we hear what Putin has to say’ – Oliver Stone

Preview The man behind three films about American presidents, Oliver Stone, says his upcoming feature about Russian President Vladimir Putin “opens up a whole viewpoint that we as Americans haven’t heard,” and could help prevent “a dangerous situation – on the brink of war.”
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview The man behind three films about American presidents, Oliver Stone, says his upcoming feature about Russian President Vladimir Putin “opens up a whole viewpoint that we as Americans haven't heard,” and could help prevent “a dangerous situation – on the brink of war.”
Read Full Article at RT.com

Clashes erupt between police & demonstrators during Paris protest (WATCH LIVE)

Clashes have erupted in central Paris between police and demonstrators protesting against both candidates who qualified for the second round of the French presidential elections. Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview Clashes have erupted in central Paris between police and demonstrators protesting against both candidates who qualified for the second round of the French presidential elections.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Italy’s Renzi bounces back with primary win

Former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi has bounced back to the forefront of national politics with a resounding primary election win to regain leadership of the ruling Democratic Party (PD).Renzi won 70.01 percent of votes in a internal party ballo…

Former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi has bounced back to the forefront of national politics with a resounding primary election win to regain leadership of the ruling Democratic Party (PD).

Renzi won 70.01 percent of votes in a internal party ballot of 1.85 million people, according to final tallies Monday.

This represented an emphatic victory for the 42-year-old, although turnout was well down on the 2.8 million who voted in his successful campaign of 2013 and also below the three million of previous primary contests.

Renzi's rivals -- Justice Minister Andrea Orlando and Michele Emiliano, governor of the southern region of Puglia, both from the party's left wing, garnered 19.5 percent and 10.4 percent respectively.

"It is a huge responsibility. I thank from the bottom of my heart those men and women who believe in Italy," tweeted Renzi after it became clear he had won handsomely.

Renzi resigned as prime minister in December after Italians overwhelmingly rejected a constitutional referendum aimed at streamlining the parliamentary system.

In February he quit the leadership of the centre-left PD and sought a new mandate in the teeth of internal opposition.

Armed with his new mandate, he will now go much strengthened into parliamentary elections due by early next year at the latest, insisting his win "is the beginning of a completely new story."

Italian media predicted Renzi would push for an earlier election, in October, seeking to surf on what he hopes will be pro-EU wave both in France this weekend and then in Germany.

However, an early vote first requires MPs to agree on electoral reforms.

In office, Renzi managed to deliver significant labour market reforms and modest growth, while legally recognising gay relationships for the first time.

But the recovery was not strong enough to pay any real political dividends and he alienated many on his party's far-left, who broke away in February to form the Progressive and Democratic Movement (DP).

In a solitary television debate with his rivals before the vote, Renzi vowed to "bring back energy, momentum and vigour to the country", railing against "stagnation that seems to be blocking political and institutional life" since the referendum.

The debate highlighted key differences over national politics, including on a wealth tax which he opposes.

- In Macron's footsteps -

Renzi, who has often cited the "Yes we can" slogan of former US president Barack Obama, is also a supporter of French centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron, who quit the Socialist Party to found his own centrist movement "En Marche" (On the Move).

Macron on Monday tweeted congratulations to the Italian.

"Bravo to Matteo Renzi, likewise on the move. Let's change Europe together with all progressives," wrote the French presidential favourite.

"Thank you dear Emmanuel! We are with you. Vive la France, vive l'Europe (which we are going to change together)," Renzi replied in French.

Should the upcoming legislative election require the formation of a coalition, Orlando and Emiliano say they would seek to govern with left-wing defectors or other parties on the left.

Renzi, meanwhile, has not ruled out forming an alliance with centre-right leader and former premier Silvio Berlusconi.

Arsenal’s Cech ‘angry’ after derby defeat

Arsenal ‘keeper Petr Cech made no attempt to hide how “angry and disappointed” he felt after a 2-0 defeat by Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday dealt a huge blow to the Gunners’ bid to qualify for the Champions League.Goals from Dele Alli and Harry Kane saw S…

Arsenal 'keeper Petr Cech made no attempt to hide how "angry and disappointed" he felt after a 2-0 defeat by Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday dealt a huge blow to the Gunners' bid to qualify for the Champions League.

Goals from Dele Alli and Harry Kane saw Spurs, second in the Premier League, move a huge 17 points clear of Arsenal and ensure they would finish above their local rivals in the table for the first time since 1995.

Tottenham are still very much in the title race, with Mauricio Pochettino's side just four points behind leaders Chelsea, with both the top two having four league games left this season.

By contrast, Arsenal are sixth and six points adrift of fourth-placed Manchester City, who occupy the last Champions League place on offer to English clubs, although the Gunners do have a game in hand.

Arsenal next match is at home to Manchester United, who are fifth and are five points ahead of Arsene Wenger's side, this weekend.

"I feel angry and disappointed because obviously this is not a game we wanted to lose and this is a very big disappointment for us," Cech told Arsenal's website.

"It hurts because it was a huge game for both teams. They needed to win to keep their title chances alive. We needed to win to keep our Champions League finishing position [hopes] alive.

"Obviously we are very disappointed because it's a north London derby, it means a lot to the fans and it meant a lot to the club, to us. We needed three points and in the end we have none."

As for finishing below Tottenham, Cech said that was the least of Arsenal's concerns.

"Our target is to play for titles, so we are disappointed with our season because we aren't playing for a (league) title," he explained.

"We have five games to play and we are out of the title race. It was not the objective (to finish below Tottenham), so we are disappointed with that," the former Chelsea star added.

"But Tottenham finishing above us or doing better is one thing, but I think the most important thing for the club, for the players, for everybody is to reach your own targets, not to worry about what the others are doing."

Sunday's match was the last derby ever to be staged at White Hart Lane after Tottenham confirmed earlier last week they would play all their home games at Wembley next season while a new stadium, close to their home for more than a hundred years, was being built.

"It was a very good game from everyone, from start to finish," said Tottenham's Jan Vertonghen.

"It was the perfect day to put on a performance and I'm very proud of it. We knew we had to focus. It was the last north London derby at the Lane and that's so special for so many people.

"I know what it means. It was a very big day and we've one more to come. Let's hope we can make that one special too."

New Syria war crimes panel to launch soon: UN

A new UN body tasked with identifying individuals guilty of atrocities in Syria should start work shortly, a key step towards holding war crimes suspects to account, the UN rights chief said Monday. A prominent judge or international lawyer to head the…

A new UN body tasked with identifying individuals guilty of atrocities in Syria should start work shortly, a key step towards holding war crimes suspects to account, the UN rights chief said Monday.

A prominent judge or international lawyer to head the panel will be named "soon", after funding for the post and a deputy was secured, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein told reporters in Geneva.

An initial budget of $13 million (11.9 million euros) has been nearly half funded but there is optimism about achieving the full amount after "quite a lot of countries" began contributing, Zeid added.

The panel approved by the UN General Assembly in December has been denounced by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government as unacceptable interference in the country's affairs.

But proponents said it became necessary after veto-wielding UN Security Council powers China and main Assad ally Russia blocked repeated attempts to refer the Syrian conflict to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The new panel, based in Geneva, will work with evidence already compiled by a UN-backed Commission of Inquiry for Syria as well as testimony and documents compiled by civil society groups.

It will aim to go further than merely condemn the war crimes committed in Syria -- something UN officials have done repeatedly through the conflict.

It will instead strive to name specific individuals responsible for those crimes and, ideally, assign their cases to courts that may have standing to prosecute.

Over 2.5mn people celebrate International Workers’ Day across Russia (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Preview Around 2.6 million people showed up for May Day rallies in 1,300 cities across Russia, the country’s Interior Ministry reported. This year’s celebrations are being held under the slogan “Decent work, wages and life.”
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview Around 2.6 million people showed up for May Day rallies in 1,300 cities across Russia, the country’s Interior Ministry reported. This year’s celebrations are being held under the slogan “Decent work, wages and life.”
Read Full Article at RT.com

130,000 gather to celebrate International Workers’ Day in Moscow

Preview Nearly 130,000 people have showed up in central Moscow to march on International Workers’ Day, or Labor Day, the Interior Ministry has reported. This year’s demonstrations are being held under the slogan ‘Decent work, wages, and life’.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview Nearly 130,000 people have showed up in central Moscow to march on International Workers’ Day, or Labor Day, the Interior Ministry has reported. This year's demonstrations are being held under the slogan ‘Decent work, wages, and life’.
Read Full Article at RT.com

In Iraq’s Mosul, mobile clinics deliver precious medical care

Men, women and children stand in separate lines in the scorching sun baking west Mosul’s Baghdad Square for a turn in one of the two white mobile clinics.For these Iraqis, displaced by fierce fighting as government forces close in on the Old City where…

Men, women and children stand in separate lines in the scorching sun baking west Mosul's Baghdad Square for a turn in one of the two white mobile clinics.

For these Iraqis, displaced by fierce fighting as government forces close in on the Old City where Islamic State group jihadists are still entrenched, free medical care is a godsend.

Advancing Iraqi forces have retaken several neighbourhoods in west Mosul, imposing a ban on driving in the areas they recapture amid fears of possible car bomb attacks by the jihadists.

The ban means many Iraqis, most of whom suffer from malnutrition or chronic illnesses, have to walk miles to reach a hospital and see a doctor.

Medics from the Dary Humanitarian Organisation, backed by funds from the World Health Organization and the oil-rich Gulf state of Kuwait, have stepped in to help deliver medical care in west Mosul.

In the Mosul area, Dary has a clinic at Hammam al-Alil, a half-hour drive south of the frontline and is now providing medical assistance to those who cannot reach the health centre from six mobile clinics.

"One of the mobile clinics is for women only, run by a female doctor and equipped with ultrasound machines for pregnant women," said Ihab Amer, a Dary staff member.

Ten Iraqi doctors work out of the mobile clinics and are assisted by 10 nurses, with dedicated drivers to take the converted vans around recently liberated neighbourhoods.

"We work from 8:00 am until 2:00 pm. The mobile clinics drive to the areas that have been liberated and those that have taken in people displaced by the fighting," said Amer.

"The doctors see daily 1,250 patients," in areas such as Mosul al-Jadida, Wadi Hajjar and Al-Mansur, he said.

- 'Malnutrition' -

"Malnutrition among women and children is the main issue the doctors have to deal with, in addition to patients with chronic illnesses," he added.

Inside one the mobile clinics an elderly woman draped in black sits still on a chair as a doctor uses a stethoscope to listen to her heartbeat.

After a few seconds he takes a pen and paper and jots down a few words, handing over the prescription to his orderly who dispenses medicine to the woman free of charge.

Outside the queue is long and growing.

A young woman cradles her newborn baby girl and tries in vain to stop her crying with a pacifier.

"I have no milk to give her," said the mother.

Iraq's elite Counter-Terrorism Service has been spearheading a massive offensive launched in mid-October 2016 to retake Mosul, the country's second city and last major jihadist bastion.

- 'Not water, no jobs' -

They recaptured the eastern side of the city in January and a push on west Mosul begun in mid-February has made steady progress despite fierce resistance.

According to the United Nations, a total of more than half a million civilians have been forced to flee their homes since the offensive on Mosul was launched.

The Iraqi immigration ministry has said more than 400,000 people have been displaced from west Mosul alone.

Authorities have been struggling to ease the hardships of displaced Mosul residents.

The lack of water is a major hurdle and Iraqis are complaining that even with supplies provided by the government there is never enough.

"We have had no water for two months. Not a drop. The taps are dry and our supplies have run out," said Rai Mohamed Saleh, 21.

According to him, many families have to buy jerrycans from private suppliers, with a 17-litre plastic container costing them a steep 2,500 dinars (two US dollars).

"I am tiler by trade and Rai repairs air conditioners. But we are both unemployed. We've run out of money," said Rai's friend Omar.

The young man said that before the offensive on west Mosul he had work and earned the equivalent of $800 a month.

On the street nearby, west Mosul residents no longer ruled by the brutal regime of the Islamic State group try to get by as best as they could.

With the ban on cars in place, carts now rule the streets and used to transport goods as well as the elderly who cannot walk, while the lucky few ride bicycles or have donkey-drawn carts.

SpaceX launches classified payload for US government

SpaceX on Monday blasted off a secretive US government payload, known only as NROL-76, marking the first military launch for the California-based aerospace company headed by billionaire tycoon Elon Musk.The payload for the National Reconnaissance Offic…

SpaceX on Monday blasted off a secretive US government payload, known only as NROL-76, marking the first military launch for the California-based aerospace company headed by billionaire tycoon Elon Musk.

The payload for the National Reconnaissance Office, which makes and operates spy satellites for the United States, soared into the sky atop a Falcon 9 rocket at 7:15 am (1115 GMT).

The launch was initially planned for Sunday, but was postponed in the last seconds before liftoff due to a sensor issue with the rocket, SpaceX said.

The sensor in question was replaced ahead of Monday's attempt.

Little was known about the payload due to its classified nature.

"As a matter of policy and because of classification, NRO does not provide information about our contracts," a spokeswoman told AFP.

Until now, the US military has spent billions per year exclusively with United Launch Alliance, a joint operation of aerospace giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin, to launch government satellites.

SpaceX in 2014 protested the US Air Force's practice of using only ULA, saying it unfairly awarded billions of dollars to a single company for national security launches.

SpaceX to was selected to launch NROL-76 "after a competition," said the NRO spokeswoman.

She said she did not know when the contract was awarded. The contract was first announced last year.

SpaceX regularly launches unmanned cargo ships to the International Space Station, and is working on a crew capsule that could carry humans into orbit as early as next year.

Fierce F1 contests ahead as Spain GP beckons

After four evenly-contested opening ‘flyaway’ contests, Formula One returns to its European homeland with Ferrari revived and a fiercely-competitive season in prospect as champions Mercedes battle to retain their crown.This much became clear after a ro…

After four evenly-contested opening 'flyaway' contests, Formula One returns to its European homeland with Ferrari revived and a fiercely-competitive season in prospect as champions Mercedes battle to retain their crown.

This much became clear after a roller-coaster weekend at the Sochi Autodrom where the popular Valtteri Bottas secured his maiden victory for Mercedes to lay down a personal marker while his puzzled team-mate Lewis Hamilton struggled to fourth.

The Mercedes pairing were separated by the two Ferraris of championship leader Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen on a day of little overtaking, but much tension.

"It's going to be extremely close," said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff. "More than very close.

"Ferrari has a good car. They have come back from the winter with a very good car and it seems to suit Sebastian very well ? so we just need to stretch ourselves to perform as good as we can."

Finn Bottas' win rescued Mercedes after Ferrari dominated qualifying, four-time champion Vettel taking pole with Finn Raikkonen alongside him ? their first front row lockout for nine years.

The unflappable Bottas has proved already that he is not only very different to retired 2016 champion Nico Rosberg, but likely to be just as formidable a team-mate to three-time champion Hamilton.

"For me, it is just the start, the beginning of the year," he said. "It's too early to talk about the championship in any detail.

"We are just focusing on making the car better and that will give us more wins for both cars.

"Getting the first win is something special, for sure, even though you always believe in yourself. If you think you are not able to win you should stay home, but to get confirmation and get a good result, that matters in this world.

"How many races you can win and get on the podium is the name of the game. Getting the first win gives me a lot of confidence even though I always knew I had the ability. It is not that simple this year. It's going to always be a massive fight."

- Mercedes scrap -

After reigning supreme for three years, Mercedes face a scrap. Last year, they won 19 of the 21 races, failing only twice and already, in four outings this year, they are two apiece with Ferrari.

As a result, although Mercedes hold a one-point lead in the constructors' championship, Vettel leads Hamilton by 13 in the drivers' title race as the teams prepare for the introduction of major upgrade packages at the Spanish Grand Prix on May 14.

Bottas's win, however, may make life awkward for Mercedes and Hamilton if Ferrari show favour for Vettel, who has 86 points ahead of Hamilton on 73 and Bottas on 63, with Raikkonen fourth on 49.

Wolff explained last week that he prefers to see Mercedes drivers racing each other, without team orders, because it pushed the team development and overall pace, but such a scenario is less likely at Ferrari.

Vettel expects a close contest between the major teams, but believes also that Red Bull will force their way into the picture when they introduce their updated car at Barcelona.

"There are so many rumours going around now and I know they can build a quick car so, for me, it is a question of when, rather than if. It is going to be exciting," said the German.

The emergence of Bottas adds to the mix for the championship in many ways. His relationship with fellow-Finn Raikkonen is not close and has often created intense on-track rivalry.

He is also showing, with his pole position in Bahrain and victory in Sochi, that he has the pace to beat team-mate Hamilton.

For now, however, he said he is content to take it one race at a time and enjoy his successes.

"I have to say that I am not normally that emotional, but when I heard the Finnish national anthem it was something quite special for me. It felt very good!"

Raikkonen's emotions, after finishing third, may also have been stirred, but in a very different way. The 2007 champion is 10 years older than Bottas and may feel he has something to prove.

Police suspect arson as Sweden’s largest Shia mosque badly damaged by fire

Preview Sweden’s largest Shia mosque, which has thousands of members, has been badly damaged by a raging fire in the northern Stockholm suburb of Jakobsberg, in what police suspect was an arson attack.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview Sweden’s largest Shia mosque, which has thousands of members, has been badly damaged by a raging fire in the northern Stockholm suburb of Jakobsberg, in what police suspect was an arson attack.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Israel silent to remember fallen troops, slain civilians

Israelis stood silent for two minutes while sirens wailed across the country on Monday marking an annual day of remembrance for fallen troops and slain civilians.Speaking at a ceremony at Mount Herzl national cemetery in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benja…

Israelis stood silent for two minutes while sirens wailed across the country on Monday marking an annual day of remembrance for fallen troops and slain civilians.

Speaking at a ceremony at Mount Herzl national cemetery in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to return the remains of two soldiers believed to have been killed in the 2014 Gaza war.

Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, is believed to be holding the remains of the soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul.

Over the past year, 60 Israeli civilians and security force personnel were killed, according to the defence ministry.

In total, Israel remembers 23,544 servicemen and civilians killed since 1860, the year it considers to be the start of the conflict with the Palestinians, when Jews founded the first neighbourhood outside the walls of Jerusalem's Old City.

Remembrance ceremonies began at sunset Sunday and continue until nightfall Monday, when the sombre mood gives way to raucous celebrations for Independence Day.

It will mark 69 years since the declaration of the Israeli state in 1948 as the national home of the Jewish people.

"Tonight, when the flag returns to the top of the mast, we'll know that the state of Israel is true consolation, the fulfilment of a dream of many generations," Netanyahu said.

New statistics figures released ahead of Independence Day showed Israel's population now stands at 8.68 million.

Of that number, 6,484,000, or 74.7 percent, are Jews. Another 1,808,000, or 20.8 percent, are Arabs.

The figures include around 300,000 Palestinian residents of east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed in a move not recognised by the international community.

The remaining 388,000 listed as "other" comprise non-Arab Christians, members of other religions and those unclassified in the population register.

France’s Le Pen, Macron face opposition on fractious May 1

France’s rivals for the presidency, centrist frontrunner Emmanuel Macron and far-right rival Marine Le Pen, braced for major shows of opposition to their programmes Monday on a fractious May 1 holiday.Both candidates will hold rallies just six days bef…

France's rivals for the presidency, centrist frontrunner Emmanuel Macron and far-right rival Marine Le Pen, braced for major shows of opposition to their programmes Monday on a fractious May 1 holiday.

Both candidates will hold rallies just six days before the decisive second round.

France's powerful unions will also stage traditional May Day marches but the demonstrations will underscore the conspicuous absence of the united front they showed in 2002 when Le Pen's father Jean-Marie shocked the country by reaching the run-off.

On this day 15 years ago, some 1.3 million people took to the streets of France in union-led demonstrations to protest against the founder of the National Front (FN), including 400,000 in Paris.

That show of force, coupled with a political closing of ranks, helped centre-right Jacques Chirac inflict a crushing defeat on Le Pen senior.

This time, unions are divided over the choice between his 48-year-old daughter and 39-year-old Macron.

Two, the CFDT and Unsa, have called for their members to back Macron on Sunday.

But while three other more left-wing unions including the biggest, the CGT, have called for a demonstration against Marine Le Pen's vision of French identity and opposition to immigration, they have stopped short of backing Macron.

For many on the left, the former banker's outlook is too economically liberal.

Le Pen has tried to capitalise on their fears, saying last week that Macron would turn France into "a space, a wasteland, a trading room where there are only consumers and producers."

- 'Not the same thing' -

Some militants have formed a movement they have called "Social Front" to block both candidates and will march Monday under a banner saying: "Rock and a hard place: Social Front, it will be won in the streets."

CGT leader Philippe Martinez said he "deeply disagreed" with that approach, arguing that Le Pen and Macron "are not the same thing".

"The National Front is a racist, xenophobic party that is anti-women and anti-workers because it is also an economically liberal party," he said.

Le Pen hit back that the unions "are not defending workers' interests, they are looking after their own interests".

"To see the CGT call on its members to vote for Macron, who is going to weaken the workers' lot... is just astonishing," she said.

Macron is currently favourite to become France's youngest ever president, leading Le Pen by 19 points in the polls, but she has shown she is a canny campaigner.

She took her campaign Monday to the working-class Paris suburb of Villepinte where the first key speaker was Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, a eurosceptic from outside the FN who Le Pen has said will be her prime minister if wins on Sunday.

She is hoping to capture some of the 1.7 million votes he won in the first round, although his support for Le Pen has divided his own party.

Macron was to speak later at a modern convention centre near the La Villette science park in northeastern Paris as he seeks to highlight his appeal as a future-oriented innovator.

In Paris, Le Pen's 88-year-old father Jean-Marie -- whom she kicked out of the FN in 2015 -- led a march from a gilded statue of Joan of Arc, the FN's nationalist icon, to Paris' Opera Garnier.

His presence in the campaign is an irritation for his daughter, after he repeatedly called the Nazi gas chambers a "detail" of history.

Marine Le Pen, who has worked to rebrand the FN to shed its associations with her anti-Semitic father, on Sunday laid a wreath at a World War II monument in the port of Marseille as France marked a day of remembrance for the victims of the mass deportation of Jews to Nazi Germany during World War II.

Macron paid his respects at Paris's Holocaust memorial.

The deportation of French Jews to Nazi Germany holds a highly sensitive place in the national psyche.

"What happened is unforgettable and unforgivable," Macron said at the memorial after pausing before a wall bearing the names of 76,000 Jews who were deported, of whom just 2,500 survived.

"It should never happen again."

US-led strikes against IS have killed 352 civilians: Pentagon

US-led strikes aimed against the Islamic State group have “unintentionally” killed 352 civilians since the offensive began in 2014, according to the US military.The tally from the Combined Joint Task Force did not include findings from an investigation…

US-led strikes aimed against the Islamic State group have "unintentionally" killed 352 civilians since the offensive began in 2014, according to the US military.

The tally from the Combined Joint Task Force did not include findings from an investigation the coalition said it had launched into one allegedly particularly deadly strike on March 17 in west Mosul.

US General Stephen Townsend had said coalition forces "probably had a role in those casualties."

The statement released Sunday by Operation Inherent Resolve -- the coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria -- said 42 reports of civilian fatalities were still under review.

From November 2016 to March 9, 2017, coalition strikes killed 45 civilians, the statement said.

Three separate strikes near Mosul in early March of this year left 26 civilians dead.

The statement said the coalition had in February and March finished an audit of its civilian casualty report tracking.

The Pentagon said 80 civilian casualties caused by US-led strikes in Iraq and Syria from August 2014 to date had not previously been publicly announced.

Two civilian deaths that had previously been reported were found not to be attributable to the coalition, the statement said.

Critics, including monitoring groups, say the real total number of civilian casualties is much higher than the official tally reported by the US military.

The coalition insists the IS group has targeted civilians and used them as human shields, making it difficult to avoid civilian casualties despite its state-of-the-art technology.

Greeks mark May Day with strike, demos against fresh cuts

Greek trade unions marked May Day on Monday with a 24-hour nationwide strike and protests against looming new cuts demanded by the country’s creditors in return for bailout cash.Some 10,000 people demonstrated in Athens while another 3,500 marched in T…

Greek trade unions marked May Day on Monday with a 24-hour nationwide strike and protests against looming new cuts demanded by the country's creditors in return for bailout cash.

Some 10,000 people demonstrated in Athens while another 3,500 marched in Thessaloniki, police said.

The strike, on a public holiday in Greece, saw businesses shuttered, ferries and trains suspended, and a state services shutdown.

"We must take back all that was stolen from us during the crisis," said Communist party leader Dimitris Koutsoumbas.

"We must scrap all anti-labour laws...and unilaterally erase the (Greek public) debt," he said.

A general strike will be held against the cuts on May 17.

"Bailout government and the creditors have been squeezing the people and workers for seven years," said civil servants' union Adedy.

Under pressure from its creditors -- the European Union, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund -- the government agreed earlier this month to adopt another 3.6 billion euros ($3.8 billion) in cuts in 2019 and 2020.

Athens conceded fresh pension and tax break cuts in return for permission to spend an equivalent sum on poverty relief measures.

The measures are to be approved by parliament by mid-May, with the governmen hoping to reach an overall deal at a May 22 meeting of eurozone finance ministers.

A compromise is required to unblock a tranche of loans Greece needs for debt repayments of seven billion euros in July.

A government source early Monday said Athens and the creditors were inching towards a preliminary agreement.

"There are four dossiers with important issues, and four or five dossiers with lesser issues (remaining)," the official said, according to state agency ANA.

In an interview Sunday, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said a May 22 deal was feasible "if the (Greek) government respects all the agreements."

"Greece has made progress, the last figures are positive. But the government has not yet fulfilled all the agreements," he said.

Greece and its creditors agreed a third, 86-billion-euro ($94-billion) bailout deal in July 2015.

But the IMF has so far refused to take part after two prior programmes on the grounds that the targets were unrealistic and Athens' debt mountain unsustainable.

Additional debt relief for Greece has proved a contentious point for many of its European creditors including Germany, where additional concessions are unpopular with a general election looming in September.

US-backed fighters corner IS in Syria’s Tabqa

US-backed fighters cornered the Islamic State group in a last part of Tabqa on Monday, after tearing down a huge jihadist flag that had fluttered over the northern Syrian city. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighter…

US-backed fighters cornered the Islamic State group in a last part of Tabqa on Monday, after tearing down a huge jihadist flag that had fluttered over the northern Syrian city.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, were in control of all but a fifth of Tabqa as of early Monday, a monitor said.

The city sits on a strategic supply route about 55 kilometres (35 miles) west of IS's main Syrian stronghold Raqa and served as a key IS command base.

The SDF broke into Tabqa from the south a week ago and have steadily advanced north, squeezing IS in three contiguous neighbourhoods on the bank of the Euphrates River.

At dawn on Monday, IS fighters withdrew from the western-most district towards the other two neighbourhoods, said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

"The SDF now controls more than 80 percent of Tabqa," Abdel Rahman said, with IS only holding the two northern neighbourhoods of Hurriyah and Wahdah.

Clashes and bombing raids by the US-led coalition rocked the city on Monday, the Observatory said.

In the aptly named Flag Roundabout in Tabqa's west, an AFP correspondent on Sunday saw an SDF fighter climb a ladder propped on a huge flagpole.

He triumphantly pulled down an enormous black IS flag, dropping it to the rubble-littered street as fellow fighters cheered and took pictures.

"We've brought down Daesh's flag and we'll hang our own -- the flag of the Syrian Democratic Forces," SDF fighter Zaghros Kobane told AFP, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

Other IS propaganda could still be seen around the city, including a billboard of a balaclava-wearing jihadist with three warplanes behind him.

"We will be victorious despite the global coalition," the billboard read.

- 'Toughest battle' -

The city is home to an estimated 85,000 people, including IS fighters from other areas, and is also adjacent to the strategic Tabqa dam, which remains under IS control.

To circumvent the dam, SDF fighters have been using a makeshift ferry to run supplies across Lake Assad, an enormous reservoir created by the barrier.

The SDF said their hard-fought advance had seen jihadists surrendering in large numbers.

"Tabqa is the toughest battle we've ever waged," said SDF commander Jako Zerkeh, nicknamed "The Wolf".

Zerkeh said the SDF had used new tactics -- including the waterway supply line and an airlift behind enemy lines in late March -- to kickstart the offensive.

"These were a huge surprise to them (IS) and shattered their morale... Dozens of Daesh fighters have surrendered. There were more surrenders here than any other town," he told AFP.

The AFP correspondent in Tabqa on Sunday saw SDF fighters guarding a group of blindfolded, bearded men that a security official said were suspected IS fighters.

They were waiting to transport them across Lake Assad and into SDF-controlled territory on the northern bank of the reservoir.

The makeshift ferry is made out of a piece of floating bridge that has been lashed to two small boats, and is also used to take civilians fleeing Tabqa into safety.

- 'Wrath of the Euphrates' -

The assault on Tabqa began in late March when SDF forces and their US-led coalition allies were airlifted behind IS lines.

The SDF surrounded Tabqa in early April before pushing into the city on April 24, as part of their flagship offensive for Raqa further east.

That assault, dubbed "Wrath of the Euphrates", was launched in November and has seen SDF fighters capture swathes of countryside around the city.

More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since the country's war began with anti-government protests in March 2011.

The US-led coalition bombing IS in Syria and Iraq said on Sunday that its strikes had unintentionally killed 352 civilians since the intervention began in 2014.

From November to early March, coalition strikes killed 45 civilians, the coalition said in a statement.

Critics say the real total number of civilian casualties is much higher than the tally reported by the US military.

The coalition insists IS has targeted civilians and used them as human shields, making it difficult to avoid civilian casualties despite its state-of-the-art technology.

Hidden damage: RT talks to Syrian children suffering from severe psychological trauma

Preview Besides the insane destruction and endless violence, the war in Syria has inflicted widespread psychological damage on Syrians, leaving scars in the form of ‘toxic stress’ and post-war trauma that have led to a full-scale national mental health crisis.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview Besides the insane destruction and endless violence, the war in Syria has inflicted widespread psychological damage on Syrians, leaving scars in the form of ‘toxic stress’ and post-war trauma that have led to a full-scale national mental health crisis.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Macron a shot in the arm for jaded France, say campaigners

Many French voters opted for Emmanuel Macron, the 39-year-old centrist now favourite to become the next president, just to block his far-right rival Marine Le Pen.A poll published last week showed that 41 percent of the voters who backed him in the Apr…

Many French voters opted for Emmanuel Macron, the 39-year-old centrist now favourite to become the next president, just to block his far-right rival Marine Le Pen.

A poll published last week showed that 41 percent of the voters who backed him in the April 23 first round did so out of tactical considerations rather than real conviction, believing he has the best chance of defeating 48-year-old Le Pen in Sunday's run-off.

But the boyish-looking ex-banker also attracts true followers, who see his youth, pragmatism and optimism as the best remedy for a country mired in economic decline and crippling self-doubt.

"A strong turnaround, that's what I'm hoping for from Macron," said Isabelle Babin, a 55-year-old executive who joined dozens of campaigners from the candidate's "En Marche" (On The Move) movement for a symbolic march on Saturday in the city of Lyon.

The former banker aiming to become France's youngest ever president may be "smooth, preppy and a little bit of a teacher's pet", she admits.

But for Babin, his private sector experience is a breath of fresh air in a jaded political system, whose two main parties crashed out of the election in the first round.

"They cannot understand society because they are outside of it," she said of his rivals.

- 'Only one choice' -

Macron's meteoric rise from presidential advisor in 2012 to economy minister in Francois Hollande's Socialist government from 2014 to 2016 to presidential frontrunner has been attributed to a mix of talent, opportunism and sheer good luck.

His top spot in the first round triggered rejoicing among members of his year-old "En Marche" movement, which he has positioned as "neither of the left nor the right."

And yet while he still enjoys a double-digit lead over Le Pen in second-round polls, the gap is narrowing, forcing his troops to re-mobilise.

On Saturday, around 300 En Marche campaigners fanned out along the banks of the River Saone in Lyon to try to woo voters tempted to abstain in the run-off.

"There is only one choice, that of the republic and Emmanuel Macron," France's deputy sports minister Thierry Braillard said as he led the supporters.

In the first round, Macron polled 30.31 percent in the bourgeois southeastern city -- six points above his national average.

- 'Trust younger generation' -

Campaigners there are confident of victory over the anti-immigration, anti-EU Le Pen, who has cast her rival as a puppet of the "oligarchy".

But they admit that their champion's mix of pro-business reforms and measures to boost take-home pay and integrate minorities has failed to garner much enthusiasm.

"He's too capitalist for people on the left and too tainted by Hollande's presidency for people on the right," said Emmanuelle Vignaud, a 43-year-old employee of a multi-national company.

Vignaud admitted that Macron had "messed up" the start of his second-round campaign, appearing "quite arrogant at a time when, given he is facing Le Pen, he needs to show gravitas."

"But he will be a very good president," she said, praising the intellect of the high-flying former philosophy student who attended France's top school for public servants.

Jean Visconte, a 64-year-old salesman, said he was seduced by Macron's youth.

"If we don't trust the younger generation, we're old fools who are beyond redemption!" he declared.

- Going fishing -

Others praised his attempt to transcend France's entrenched left-right divide, which has seen some accuse him of trying to be all things to all voters.

"Macron chose the only possible alternative in taking the best of both sides," said Alain Jacquard, a 75-year-old doctor, accusing the Socialists and right-wing Republicans whose candidates were eliminated in the first round of "spending their time demolishing what the other side did."

"Macron is a politician who believes in redistributing wealth on condition that we can generate the wealth," he said, summarising the candidate's programme.

That pragmatism has proven a hard sell among the 19.6 percent of voters who backed hard left radical Jean-Luc Melenchon in the first round, many of whom have announced plans to "go fishing" -- French slang for abstentionism -- on Sunday.

But on the centre-left, it has found fertile ground.

For Pierre, a 26-year-old civil servant and Socialist Party member who was among the campaigners in Lyon, Macron is the choice of the "realistic left".

"He can unite society," said the farmer's son.

Tear gas, over 200 arrests at May Day clashes in Istanbul (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)

Preview May Day rallies in Tukey’s most populous city descended into clashes with the police, as several activist groups tried to get into cordoned-off areas of the city. Over 200 people have been detained, and at least one man was reportedly killed.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview May Day rallies in Tukey’s most populous city descended into clashes with the police, as several activist groups tried to get into cordoned-off areas of the city. Over 200 people have been detained, and at least one man was reportedly killed.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Dozens injured as Moscow-Bangkok plane hits turbulence (VIDEO)

Preview Turbulence “out of nowhere,” as passengers put it, injured 27 people – most Russians – on a plane en route from Moscow to Bangkok, just 40 minutes before the aircraft landed.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview Turbulence “out of nowhere,” as passengers put it, injured 27 people – most Russians – on a plane en route from Moscow to Bangkok, just 40 minutes before the aircraft landed.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Mothers of missing in Argentina march in remembrance

The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo marked four decades Sunday of marching for accountability in the abductions of their kin by Argentina’s last dictatorship.

The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo marked four decades Sunday of marching for accountability in the abductions of their kin by Argentina’s last dictatorship.

Police use tear gas to disperse May Day protests in Istanbul: AFP 

Turkish police on Monday used tear gas to disperse a group of protesters as they sought to defy a ban and march to Istanbul’s Taksim square to celebrate May Day, an AFP journalist reported.Police tried to stop around 200 protesters in the Gayrettepe di…

Turkish police on Monday used tear gas to disperse a group of protesters as they sought to defy a ban and march to Istanbul's Taksim square to celebrate May Day, an AFP journalist reported.

Police tried to stop around 200 protesters in the Gayrettepe district on the European side of Istanbul who wanted to walk to the famous square in spite of the ban by city authorities.

The protesters -- made up of left-wing groups -- unfurled anti-government banners as May Day comes after the April 16 referendum brought President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a narrow win to expand his powers.

"Long Live May Day, No to dictator!" the banners read. At least one protester was detained, according to the AFP journalist.

Turkish authorities imposed a ban on any demonstration at Taksim square, with police sealing off the avenue with barricades.

Several thousand people attended celebrations in an officially designated area in Bakirkoy district near the international airport on the city's western side.

Without reform, EU is headed for Frexit – Macron

Preview The “dysfunctional” European Union requires some in depth reform, or France could head for the door, French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron said a week before the second election round.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview The “dysfunctional” European Union requires some in depth reform, or France could head for the door, French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron said a week before the second election round.
Read Full Article at RT.com

N. Korea warns of nuclear test ‘at any time’

North Korea warned Monday that it will carry out a nuclear test “at any time and at any location” set by its leadership, in the latest rhetoric to fuel jitters in the region.Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been running high for weeks, with signs …

North Korea warned Monday that it will carry out a nuclear test "at any time and at any location" set by its leadership, in the latest rhetoric to fuel jitters in the region.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been running high for weeks, with signs that the North might be preparing a long-range missile launch or a sixth nuclear test -- and with Washington refusing to rule out a military strike in response.

A spokesman for the North's foreign ministry said Pyongyang was "fully ready to respond to any option taken by the US".

The regime will continue bolstering its "preemptive nuclear attack" capabilities unless Washington scrapped its hostile policies, he said in a statement carried by the state-run KCNA news agency.

"The DPRK's measures for bolstering the nuclear force to the maximum will be taken in a consecutive and successive way at any moment and any place decided by its supreme leadership," the spokesman added, apparently referring to a sixth nuclear test and using the North's official name, the Democratic Republic of Korea.

The North has carried out five nuclear tests in the last 11 years and is widely believed to be making progress towards its dream of building a missile capable of delivering a warhead to the continental United States.

It raises the tone of its warnings every spring, when Washington and Seoul carry out joint exercises it condemns as rehearsals for invasion, but this time fears of conflict have been fuelled by a cycle of threats from both sides.

The joint drills have just ended, but naval exercises are continuing in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) with a US strike group led by the aircraft carrier US Carl Vinson.

The Pyongyang foreign ministry spokesman said if the North was not armed with "the powerful nuclear force", Washington would have "committed without hesitation the same brigandish aggression act in Korea as what it committed against other countries".

The statement reasserts the North's long-running rhetoric on its military capabilities.

Seoul also regularly warns that Pyongyang can carry out a test whenever it decides to do so.

Pyongyang's latest attempted show of force was a failed missile test on Saturday that came just hours after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pressed the UN Security Council to do more to push the North into abandoning its weapons programme.

Tillerson warned the UN Security Council last week of "catastrophic consequences" if the world does not act and said that military options for dealing with the North were still "on the table".

In an interview that aired Sunday on CBS television network's "Face the Nation" programme, Trump said that if North Korea carries out another nuclear test "I would not be happy".

Asked if "not happy" signified "military action", Trump answered: "I don't know. I mean, we'll see."

US-backed forces seize 80% of Syria’s Tabqa from IS: monitor

US-backed fighters have captured 80 percent of Syria’s Tabqa from the Islamic State group, a monitor said on Monday, a week after they first entered the town.The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) broke into Tabqa from the south last week and have steadily…

US-backed fighters have captured 80 percent of Syria's Tabqa from the Islamic State group, a monitor said on Monday, a week after they first entered the town.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) broke into Tabqa from the south last week and have steadily advanced north, cornering IS in three contiguous neighbourhoods on the bank of the Euphrates River.

The strategic town of Tabqa sits on a supply route about 55 kilometres (35 miles) west of Raqa city, the de facto capital of IS territory in Syria.

At dawn, IS fighters withdrew from the western-most district towards the other two quarters, said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"The SDF now controls more than 80 percent of Tabqa," Abdel Rahman said.

"In the whole town, IS only holds those two neighbourhoods, known locally as the first and second quarters," he told AFP.

Clashes and bombing raids by the US-led coalition were rocking the town on Monday morning, the Observatory reported.

The assault on Tabqa began in late March when SDF forces and their US-led coalition allies were airlifted behind IS lines.

The SDF -- composed of Arab and Kurdish fighters -- then surrounded Tabqa in early April before pushing into the town on April 24.

The assault on Raqa, dubbed "Wrath of the Euphrates", was launched in November and has seen SDF fighters capture large swathes of countryside around the city.

More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since the country's war began with anti-government protests in March 2011.

LIVE: Political rallies, demonstrations and marches seize France in run-up to presidential election

As France celebrates May Day, people and politicians will take to the streets to make their voices heard. To keep up with the day’s many events as they unfold in Paris and throughout France, follow our live blog.

As France celebrates May Day, people and politicians will take to the streets to make their voices heard. To keep up with the day's many events as they unfold in Paris and throughout France, follow our live blog.

Cuba hosts all-star International Jazz Day concert

Cuba Sunday hosted the world’s annual International Jazz Day concert, with Hollywood star Will Smith presenting the event and musicians Herbie Hancock and Chucho Valdes among the performers.Havana was chosen as the 2017 global host city of the concert,…

Cuba Sunday hosted the world's annual International Jazz Day concert, with Hollywood star Will Smith presenting the event and musicians Herbie Hancock and Chucho Valdes among the performers.

Havana was chosen as the 2017 global host city of the concert, which was launched in 2012 with support from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz.

More than 50 artists from some 10 countries performed in the show, which opened with "Manteca" -- a foundational song of Afro-Cuban jazz co-written by Cuban percussionist Chano Pozo and American trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.

"Afro-Cuban jazz and its rich history have played a pivotal role in the evolution and enrichment of the entire jazz genre," said Hancock, an UNESCO goodwill ambassador for intercultural dialogue.

Since Cuba's historic rapprochement with the United States began some two years ago US visitors have flocked to the island and American stars have become a more regular presence.

Among the audience was Miguel Diaz-Canel, Cuba's vice president of the State Council. He is rumored to be among the possible successors to President Raul Castro, who will step aside in February 2018.

The show -- which has been held in past years in New York, Istanbul, Osaka, Paris and Washington -- lasted more than two hours and closed with John Lennon's "Imagine."

"This year's focus on Cuba is testament to the power of jazz to build bridges and join women and men together around shared values and aspirations," said UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova.

"The story of jazz is written into the quest for human dignity, democracy and civil rights. Its rhythms and variety have given strength to the struggle against all forms of discrimination and racism -- this is the message we must take across the world today."

For last year's concert Barack Obama dubbed the White House the "Blues House," with stars including Hancock, Dee Bridgewater, Aretha Franklin and Hugh Masekela joining the then-president on the South Lawn.

Cuba faces last May Day parade under Castro

The Cuban government’s traditional May Day parade Monday is the last to be overseen by President Raul Castro — and the first without his late brother and revolutionary predecessor Fidel.The May 1 rally draws hundreds of thousands of Cubans into Havana…

The Cuban government's traditional May Day parade Monday is the last to be overseen by President Raul Castro -- and the first without his late brother and revolutionary predecessor Fidel.

The May 1 rally draws hundreds of thousands of Cubans into Havana's Revolution Square in a sea of red, white and blue national flags and portraits of Fidel Castro.

But he died in November and Raul Castro, after just over a decade in power, has said he will step aside in February 2018.

Raul Castro has been cautiously opening up Cuba's state-run economy and strengthening its foreign relations -- notably by re-establishing diplomatic ties with the United States.

But Monday's parade has the feel of the end of an era. It is not clear who will take Castro's place next year.

Most rumors suggest it will be Miguel Diaz-Canel, 56, vice-president of the State Council. Despite ministerial experience and party credentials, he is seen as lacking a support base in the military.

"There is very high uncertainty about 2018," said Pavel Vidal, a former official of Cuba's central bank and an academic at Colombia's Javeriana University.

"One could expect a process of continuity" of Raul Castro's reforms, he added, "but not at the same speed."

Cuba's economic fortunes depend largely on another country that will see May Day marches on Monday: Venezuela.

Monday's parade in Havana will make a show of support for Venezuela's leftist government which is facing violent opposition protests, top Cuban labor union leader Ulises Guilarte said.

Venezuela sells cut-price oil to its leftist allies in Havana. Cuba is currently in recession, dragged down by its ally's economic crisis.

Analyst Andrew Otazo of Washington-based Cuba Study Group told AFP that Cuba has started looking to other oil exporters in case the Venezuelan government collapses.