Nations fail to agree on curbing asbestos trade

World nations failed Wednesday to impose tough trade restrictions on white asbestos following opposition from countries including India and Russia, defying activists who demanded action against the toxic product. Representatives from 180 countries are …

World nations failed Wednesday to impose tough trade restrictions on white asbestos following opposition from countries including India and Russia, defying activists who demanded action against the toxic product.

Representatives from 180 countries are meeting in Geneva this week to review the UN-backed Rotterdam Convention on toxic chemicals and hazardous wastes.

There had been calls to add chrysotile, or white asbestos, to a list of dangerous substances subject restrictions that prevent the export of a product without the consent of the importing country.

Asbestos has become a pariah in most of the West -- most doctors agree that its fibres lodge in the lungs often causing cancer and other diseases.

The World Health Organization says it kills more than 100,000 people annually, but it remains a widely used building product particularly in the developing world.

Russia, a leading asbestos producer, has blocked previous attempts to list the product, as has India, a major importer and exporter.

The Rotterdam Convention secretariat said in a tweet Wednesday that the meeting did "not reach consensus to list asbestos".

Efforts to list harmful chemicals are complicated by the need for unanimous backing among all Rotterdam Treaty members.

"It has become a process of the past," said Brian Kohler the head of health, safety and sustainability at IndutriALL GlobalUnion, which represents more than 50 million workers in 140 countries.

"The only substances that you can successfully get listed ... are those that no longer have commercial value", he told reporters in Geneva before the decision.

More than 50 nations, including all members of the EU, have banned all forms of asbestos, but repeated attempts to list the product through the Rotterdam convention have all come up short.

NBA Rockets Brazilian big man Nene fined for Dedmon throat grab

Houston Rockets center Nene was fined $15,000 Wednesday by the NBA for grabbing San Antonio Spurs center Dewayne Dedmon by the neck in a playoff victory.The 34-year-old Brazilian, in his 15th NBA campaign, was issued a technical foul and ejected for th…

Houston Rockets center Nene was fined $15,000 Wednesday by the NBA for grabbing San Antonio Spurs center Dewayne Dedmon by the neck in a playoff victory.

The 34-year-old Brazilian, in his 15th NBA campaign, was issued a technical foul and ejected for the incident with Dedmon at the end of the third quarter in Houston's 126-99 rout of the Spurs on Monday.

Nene, who grabbed Dedmon by the throat, was punished for "pushing" Dedmon "above the shoulders" according to an NBA statement.

Dedmon confronted Houston star James Harden after a play to close the quarter. Nene was whistled for a flagrant foul while Dedmon and Harden each received technical fouls. Dedmon was issued a second technical foul and ejected in the fourth quarter.

The victory at San Antonio gave the Rockets a 1-0 edge in their best-of-seven Western Conference second-round playoff series. The winner will face either Utah or the Golden State Warriors for a berth in next month's NBA Finals.

Brathwaite falls as West Indies scrape ahead

West Indies lost two more wickets as they worked themselves into the lead at 112 for three at lunch on the fourth day of the second Test against Pakistan at Kensington Oval in Barbados on Wednesday.Trailing on first innings by 81 runs, the home side wi…

West Indies lost two more wickets as they worked themselves into the lead at 112 for three at lunch on the fourth day of the second Test against Pakistan at Kensington Oval in Barbados on Wednesday.

Trailing on first innings by 81 runs, the home side will continue in the afternoon session ahead by 31 runs with the pair of Shai Hope and Roston Chase at the crease.

Pakistan struck an early blow after the West Indies resumed at 40 for one when Mohammad Amir bowled Shimron Hetmyer before the left-hander could add to his overnight score of 22.

However Kraigg Brathwaite continued to bat resolutely in partnership with new batsman Hope, the pair putting on 56 for the third wicket despite the varying challenges posed by the tourists? combination of pace and wrist-spin.

It was the more experienced of the two leg-spinners, Yasir Shah, who provided the breakthrough when he removed the obdurate Brathwaite for 43.

Bowling round the wicket and seeking to exploit the rough areas outside the right-hander?s leg-stump, Shah managed to get a delivery to bounce and turn sharply to take the shoulder of the bat for Younis Khan to pull in his fourth catch of the match diving to his right at slip.

Fresh from a century in the first innings, Chase started confidently alongside Hope, who reached the interval on 25 with his fellow Barbadian on 12.

With the deteriorating nature of the pitch presenting increasing challenges to the batsmen, West Indies will be banking on their middle and lower order in pursuit of a lead in excess of 175 runs as they seek a series-levelling victory ahead of the third and final Test beginning in a week?s time in Dominica.

Pakistan are yet to win a Test match at Kensington Oval in six previous attempts dating back to 1958 and victory here will also earn them a Test series triumph in the Caribbean for the first time ever.

JPMorgan set to move hundreds of staff from UK over Brexit

US bank JPMorgan will move hundreds of staff from London to Dublin, Frankfurt and Luxembourg as part of their Brexit plans, the firm’s head of investment banking said Wednesday.”We are going to use the three banks we already have in Europe as the ancho…

US bank JPMorgan will move hundreds of staff from London to Dublin, Frankfurt and Luxembourg as part of their Brexit plans, the firm's head of investment banking said Wednesday.

"We are going to use the three banks we already have in Europe as the anchors for our operations," Daniel Pinto told Bloomberg News.

"We will have to move hundreds of people in the short term to be ready for day one, when negotiations finish, and then we will look at the longer-term numbers."

UK-based banks and other financial firms face losing "passporting" rights to sell services to clients operating in the European Union once Britain definitively quits the EU in March 2019.

Talks between the two sides are not set to begin until after a UK general election slated for June 8, at which Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to be returned with an increased majority.

Many banks are now looking to cities in the eurozone to set up a European presence supervised by the European Central Bank.

JPMorgan Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon warned before last year's referendum that as many as 4,000 British jobs could be relocated.

Deutsche Bank said last week it could move up to 4,000 jobs away from Britain, while Goldman Sachs has said it expected to begin relocating positions next year.

Standard Chartered said Wednesday that it had chosen Frankfurt as its new hub.

"We have looked at a number of locations but the choice of Frankfurt was very natural," bank chairman Jose Vinals said.

Estimates for the possible number of jobs to be lost by London's key financial sector range from as few as 4,000 to as many as 232,000.

Around 700,000 people currently work in the City of London.

More than 500 sign up to buy legal cannabis in Uruguay

More than 500 people signed up to buy state-vetted cannabis in Uruguay on the first day of registration for the first such scheme in the world, authorities said Wednesday.The state launched the register on Tuesday to log users who will be able to buy 1…

More than 500 people signed up to buy state-vetted cannabis in Uruguay on the first day of registration for the first such scheme in the world, authorities said Wednesday.

The state launched the register on Tuesday to log users who will be able to buy 10 grams of the drug a week in pharmacies for recreational use from early July.

The state Cannabis Regulation and Control Institute said on its website that 568 people had signed up so far in the South American nation of 3.4 million inhabitants.

That added to more than 6,600 registered growers and 51 authorized smokers' clubs which already existed under earlier stages of a 2013 law.

The legislation is the first in the world to legalize and regulate the production, sale and consumption of marijuana for recreational use.

The weed is grown by two private companies in state-regulated farms near the capital, Montevideo.

A gram of pot will cost $1.30 to buy in a pharmacy, the secretary general of the National Drugs Council, Diego Olivera, said last month.

Some lawmakers still oppose the law to legalize marijuana, passed under the colorful leftist former president Jose Mujica.

A poll at the time indicated that nearly two thirds of Uruguayans opposed it.

The government says the law will help curb the violence and crime of the drug trade.

FBI chief ‘nauseous’ at thought he swayed US election

FBI Director James Comey said Wednesday he felt “nauseous” at the thought he swayed last year’s US election by announcing he was reopening a probe into Hillary Clinton’s emails just days before the vote.But the FBI chief told a hearing of the Senate Ju…

FBI Director James Comey said Wednesday he felt "nauseous" at the thought he swayed last year's US election by announcing he was reopening a probe into Hillary Clinton's emails just days before the vote.

But the FBI chief told a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee it would have been far worse to conceal his decision -- which the Democrat Clinton claims was a key factor in her defeat to Donald Trump.

"It makes me mildly nauseous to think we might have had impact on the election," he said. "But, honestly, it wouldn't change the decision."

Comey shocked the country when he informed Congress he was reopening the probe into Clinton's unauthorized use of a private email server as secretary of state, months after declaring the probe found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

The about-turn followed the discovery of missing Clinton emails with classified material on the laptop of a former congressman, on October 27 last year -- barely 10 days before the election.

Comey says he was faced with two options: either conceal the investigation until after the November 8 vote, or inform Congress.

"Speak would be really bad. There's an election in 11 days. Lordy, that would be really bad," Comey said.

"Concealing in my view would be catastrophic."

Congress was duly informed, and the news leaked out immediately on October 28, casting a cloud over Clinton.

The FBI was sharply attacked as taking a political stance and Democrats continue to bristle over Comey's actions.

In an interview on Tuesday, Clinton claimed that had been a major factor in her loss, saying: "If the election had been on October 27, I'd be your president."

But Comey said it was the right choice and he would do it again if he had to.

"I've lived my entire career by the tradition that if you can possibly avoid it, you avoid any action in the runup to an election that might have impact, whether it's a dogcatcher election or president of the United States."

"Even in hindsight -- and this has been one of the world's most painful experiences -- I would make the same decision."

‘War will see Japan under radioactive clouds before any country’ – N. Korean state media

Preview If the Korean Peninsula standoff evolved into an armed conflict, Japan would be the first to suffer from the fallout – both political and nuclear – North Korean state media said, warning Tokyo against any hostile actions.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview If the Korean Peninsula standoff evolved into an armed conflict, Japan would be the first to suffer from the fallout – both political and nuclear – North Korean state media said, warning Tokyo against any hostile actions.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Court hears Israeli soldier’s manslaughter appeal

An Israeli soldier who shot dead a wounded Palestinian assailant was back in court on Wednesday, with his lawyers seeking to overturn his manslaughter conviction.The five-member panel of military judges is simultaneously hearing prosecutors’ appeal aga…

An Israeli soldier who shot dead a wounded Palestinian assailant was back in court on Wednesday, with his lawyers seeking to overturn his manslaughter conviction.

The five-member panel of military judges is simultaneously hearing prosecutors' appeal against Elor Azaria's 18-month jail term, which they call "excessively lenient".

Israel's Channel 10 TV posted video of him smiling broadly and shaking hands with family and friends as he entered the military courtroom in Tel Aviv.

Azaria was convicted in January and sentenced the next month, after a trial that deeply divided Israeli society.

He was due to begin his sentence on March 5, but a military appeals court agreed to postpone imprisonment until judgement of his appeal.

The French-Israeli infantry medic is currently under "open arrest" confined to his army base.

The March 2016 shooting in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron was caught on video by a rights group and spread widely online.

It showed Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, 21, lying wounded on the ground, shot along with another Palestinian after stabbing and wounding a soldier, according to the army.

Azaria then shot him in the head without any apparent provocation.

He said he feared Sharif was wearing an explosive belt and could blow himself up, a claim judges rejected.

The Palestinian government described the 18-month sentence as a "green light to the occupation army to continue its crimes".

Amnesty International said the sentence did "not reflect the gravity of the offence," while the UN human rights office said it was an "unacceptable" punishment for "an apparent extra-judicial killing".

The trial captivated Israel and highlighted deep divisions in public opinion between those who decry his actions and those who see him as a hero protecting his comrades.

A number of Israeli politicians have called for him to be pardoned, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The defence's decision to appeal was controversial, with three of Azaria's lawyers resigning from the case, saying they did not believe it served his best interests.

In a direct response, military prosecutors said they would seek a prison sentence of three to five years.

"The prosecution argues that the punishment imposed on the respondent is excessively lenient and is not consistent with the level of punishment which is acceptable and appropriate to the respondent's deeds," says their appeal.

Defence attorney Yoram Sheftel's 44-page appeal alleges the court ignored video clips that he says support Azaria's version of events while the prosecution evidence does not stand up to scrutiny.

Channel 10 quoted him as telling the court on Wednesday that while he and his assistant were two defenders, "there are millions more who believe in Azaria's innocence," an apparent reference to public support.

Facebook adding 3,000 people to screen out violent content

Facebook said Wednesday it is hiring an extra 3,000 staff to root out violent content as the social media giant faces scrutiny for a series of killings and suicides broadcast on its platform.”If we’re going to build a safe community, we need to respond…

Facebook said Wednesday it is hiring an extra 3,000 staff to root out violent content as the social media giant faces scrutiny for a series of killings and suicides broadcast on its platform.

"If we're going to build a safe community, we need to respond quickly," chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said on his Facebook page.

"We're working to make these videos easier to report so we can take the right action sooner -- whether that's responding quickly when someone needs help or taking a post down."

The 3,000 new recruits, added over the coming year, will increase by two thirds the size of Facebook's community operations team, which currently numbers 4,500.

Zuckerberg's announcement came a week after a 20-year-old Thai man broadcast live video on the world's most popular social media platform, showing him killing his baby daughter before committing suicide.

The previous week, a US man dubbed the "Facebook Killer" fatally shot himself after three days of a frantic nationwide manhunt.

"We've seen people hurting themselves and others on Facebook -- either live or in video posted later," Zuckerberg said. "It's heartbreaking, and I've been reflecting on how we can do better for our community."

The additional reviewers will "help us get better at removing things we don't allow on Facebook like hate speech and child exploitation," he said.

"And we'll keep working with local community groups and law enforcement who are in the best position to help someone if they need it -- either because they're about to harm themselves, or because they're in danger from someone else."

Critics say the social network has been too slow to react to online violence, and questioned whether Facebook Live -- a strategic area of development for the company -- should be disabled, after several cases in which it was used to broadcast rapes.

Zuckerberg said Facebook has been working on better technology that can identify violent or inappropriate content -- and that its efforts to screen for acts of violence appeared to be paying off.

"Just last week, we got a report that someone on Live was considering suicide," he said.

"We immediately reached out to law enforcement, and they were able to prevent him from hurting himself. In other cases, we weren't so fortunate."

Spate of ATM bombings forces bank to deploy guards

Rabobank in the Netherlands is hiring security personnel to stand guard at its ATMs at night to reduce the number of bombing attacks on cash machines. Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview Rabobank in the Netherlands is hiring security personnel to stand guard at its ATMs at night to reduce the number of bombing attacks on cash machines.
Read Full Article at RT.com

British PM says Brexit threats timed to affect election

Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday accused Brussels of deliberately making “threats against Britain” over the Brexit talks in order to affect the outcome of next month’s general election.In a tough statement outside Downing Street, just hours afte…

Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday accused Brussels of deliberately making "threats against Britain" over the Brexit talks in order to affect the outcome of next month's general election.

In a tough statement outside Downing Street, just hours after the European Union's negotiator set out his plans for the negotiations, May said some people in the EU did not want the negotiations to succeed.

"In the last few days, we have seen just how tough these talks are likely to be," the Conservative Party leader said, charging that Britain's negotiating position had been "misrepresented" in the European press.

"The European Commission's negotiating stance has hardened. Threats against Britain have been issued by European politicians and officials," she said.

"All of these acts have been deliberately timed to affect the result of the general election that will take place on June 8."

May added: "The events of the last few days have shown that -- whatever our wishes, and however reasonable the positions of Europe's other leaders -- there are some in Brussels who do not want these talks to succeed. Who do not want Britain to prosper."

May called the snap election last month, saying she wanted a stronger mandate from the public ahead of the Brexit talks, which are due to start in June.

"Whoever wins on 8 June will face one overriding task: to get the best possible deal for this United Kingdom from Brexit," she said.

"If we don't get the negotiation right, if we let the bureaucrats of Brussels run over us, we will lose the chance to build a fairer society."

May made her comments after she visited the head of state Queen Elizabeth II to mark the dissolution of parliament ahead of the election.

Abe plans to enforce first-ever change to Japanese post-WWII pacifist constitution by 2020

Preview Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has unveiled a plan to make a first-ever revision to the country’s pacifist constitution which has been in force since Japan’s defeat in WWII. He wants to see the revision take effect in 2020.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has unveiled a plan to make a first-ever revision to the country’s pacifist constitution which has been in force since Japan's defeat in WWII. He wants to see the revision take effect in 2020.
Read Full Article at RT.com

May says Brexit warnings ‘deliberately timed to affect’ UK elections

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday accused Brussels of deliberately making “threats” over the Brexit talks in order to affect the outcome of next month’s general election.

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday accused Brussels of deliberately making "threats" over the Brexit talks in order to affect the outcome of next month's general election.

‘Biggest of its kind’: Join RT on tour of Chechnya’s huge new special ops center (VIDEO)

Preview RT has taken a look at a huge new training center for special operations forces in Chechnya, with dozens of locations recreating emergency zones – including some reminiscent of first-person shooter video games.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview RT has taken a look at a huge new training center for special operations forces in Chechnya, with dozens of locations recreating emergency zones – including some reminiscent of first-person shooter video games.
Read Full Article at RT.com

‘Love locks’ on the block in Paris charity auction

Amorous couples, here’s your chance to own a piece of the world’s most romantic city: Paris is selling off the “love locks” that lovebirds attached to the city’s bridges before officials cracked down on the practice.For years tourists inscribed their i…

Amorous couples, here's your chance to own a piece of the world's most romantic city: Paris is selling off the "love locks" that lovebirds attached to the city's bridges before officials cracked down on the practice.

For years tourists inscribed their initials on the locks and hooked them to the railings of bridges, most famously the Pont des Arts near the Louvre, throwing the key into the Seine to express their undying devotion.

But the tradition turned into a menace -- one section of the Pont des Arts collapsed under the weight of thousands of locks -- as well as an eyesore for many residents.

The city began removing the locks in 2015 and replaced the metal railings on the Pont des Arts with acrylic glass panels to ward off the public displays of affection.

But on May 13, the Credit Municipal de Paris will sell 150 bunches of the locks mounted on displays of wood or recycled paving stones, or hanging from acrylic stands.

The artworks are expected to go for 150 to 200 euros each ($165-$220).

Fifteen sections of the original Pont des Arts railings mounted on wood will also be auctioned, estimated to fetch 5,000 to 10,000 euros depending on length, with the longest stretching 3.2 metres (about 11 feet).

Proceeds will go to three associations helping to accomodate the influx of migrants into the city: Solipam, the Salvation Army and Emmaus Solidarite.

"We selected the locks that seemed the most beautiful, the ones that were colourful, full of fantasy," said Mathilde Belcour-Cordelier, the auctioneer who is overseeing the sale.

"It's a way to have a small souvenir of Paris."

Hamas leader urges Trump to seize ‘historic opportunity’

The leader of the radical Palestinian group Hamas called on US President Donald Trump Wednesday to break with past approaches to Middle East peace and find an “equitable solution” for Palestinians.Khaled Meshaal’s comments came as Trump was due to rece…

The leader of the radical Palestinian group Hamas called on US President Donald Trump Wednesday to break with past approaches to Middle East peace and find an "equitable solution" for Palestinians.

Khaled Meshaal's comments came as Trump was due to receive Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas at the White House to explore avenues for reviving the deadlocked peace process.

Interviewed by CNN in Doha, Meshaal said Trump has "greater threshold of boldness" than previous US administrations.

"This is a historic opportunity to pressure Israel ... to find an equitable solution for the Palestinian people," he said. "And it will be to the credit of the civilized world and the American administration to stop the darkness that we have been suffering from for many years."

Meshaal pointed to a policy document released Tuesday by Hamas that for the first time shows a willingness to accept the idea of a Palestinian state within borders that existed after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

"This is a plea from me to the Trump administration -- the new American administration -- break out from the wrong approaches of the past and which did not arrive at a result. And perhaps to grab the opportunity presented by Hamas' document," Meshaal told CNN.

The Hamas document stopped short of recognizing Israel, however, and Hamas for years has called for its destruction.

"Israel doesn't recognize Palestinian rights. When Palestinians have their own sovereign, free state then they can choose without outside pressure," he said in the CNN interview.

Totti to retire at end of season – Roma

Roma club icon Francesco Totti will retire at the end of the season when the 40-year-old’s contract expires, new sports director Monchi said on Wednesday.”I want him here right by my side. He is Roma. He can teach me what Roma is,” said Monchi at his u…

Roma club icon Francesco Totti will retire at the end of the season when the 40-year-old's contract expires, new sports director Monchi said on Wednesday.

"I want him here right by my side. He is Roma. He can teach me what Roma is," said Monchi at his unveiling in the role, adding the captain will remain at the club in a management position.

"There is an agreement in place. This is his last season but then he continues in management."

"I want Totti to explain to me what Roma is, to make me understand what he knows," added the Spaniard Monchi, who won credit for his sports director role at Sevilla, who won the Europa League in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

The striker Totti has played all his professional career at Roma and is a hugely popular figure, making his debut in 1993.

Roma coach Luciano Spalletti had a series of run-ins with the Roma number 10 last season.

Despite that and his advancing years Totti answered with a string of key goals and eventually got another 12-month contract last summer, although Roma said then it would be his final season.

Asked how he felt after his last derby, the weekend defeat to Lazio, Totti said: "Others see this is as my last derby, but I don't."

Monchi also said he wants to keep Spalletti at Roma, who are second in Serie A.

Worldwide #SaltwaterChallenge: Massive support for jailed Palestinians on hunger strike (VIDEO)

Scores of people have been downing glasses of salt water to support the 1,500 Israeli-held Palestinian inmates who have been on hunger strike for weeks in protest against the jail conditions they are being held in. Read Full Article at RT…

Preview Scores of people have been downing glasses of salt water to support the 1,500 Israeli-held Palestinian inmates who have been on hunger strike for weeks in protest against the jail conditions they are being held in.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Algeria parliament poll looms, but voters busy watching France

Algeria is holding legislative elections on May 4, but voters are far more curious about France’s presidential race. Algerians worry that a victory for far-right candidate Marine Le Pen could be disastrous for family members living abroad.

Algeria is holding legislative elections on May 4, but voters are far more curious about France’s presidential race. Algerians worry that a victory for far-right candidate Marine Le Pen could be disastrous for family members living abroad.

11 journalists killed in Iraq in past year: watchdog

Eleven journalists died covering conflict or were assassinated in Iraq during the past year, a Baghdad-based watchdog said in a report released Wednesday to mark World Press Freedom Day.”From May 3, 2016 to May 3 (this year), 11 journalists were killed…

Eleven journalists died covering conflict or were assassinated in Iraq during the past year, a Baghdad-based watchdog said in a report released Wednesday to mark World Press Freedom Day.

"From May 3, 2016 to May 3 (this year), 11 journalists were killed and 44 wounded across Iraq, including the Kurdistan region," said the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory.

Some were killed accidentally covering military operations against the Islamic State group, some were murdered by the jihadists and others were assassinated in yet to be elucidated circumstances.

The watchdog said it had also recorded a total of 375 violations of journalists' rights during the same period.

The group's head, Ziad al-Ajili, urged the Iraqi security forces to do their utmost to protect media workers and also called on journalists to follow security procedures.

Iraq is ranked 158 out of 180 countries in the Paris-based organisation Reporters Without Borders' 2017 press freedom index.

Ronaldo says hard work the secret to his record feats

Cristiano Ronaldo is human after all, or so he claims, despite sealing another “special” Champions League night with a hat-trick to put Real Madrid on the verge of the final once more.Ronaldo’s treble sealed a commanding 3-0 semi-final, first leg lead …

Cristiano Ronaldo is human after all, or so he claims, despite sealing another "special" Champions League night with a hat-trick to put Real Madrid on the verge of the final once more.

Ronaldo's treble sealed a commanding 3-0 semi-final, first leg lead over Atletico Madrid and extended his advantage as the top scorer of all-time between the two sides with 21 in Madrid derbies.

"With a combination of dedication and hard work, things come naturally," said Ronaldo on Wednesday.

"I am happy, lucky and human."

Ronaldo's second hat-trick of the season against Atletico took his tally a stunning eight Champions League goals in his last three outings having hit five as Real saw off Bayern Munich 6-3 in the quarter-finals.

"It was a game full of emotions. The team was phenomenal and to score three goals made it a special night," he added.

The front pages of Madrid sports dailies Marca and AS agreed.

"A colossal Cristiano KOs Atletico with three goals," said Marca.

"Real Madrid played great, but it was he who applied the finishing touch three times over," read AS' editorial.

Contrary to previous years, Ronaldo, 32, is in the best form of the campaign at the business end of the season having been consistently rested against weaker opposition by coach Zinedine Zidane to reserve his best for the big occasion.

"I don't know whether it's all down to him being rested," said Zidane.

"Goalscoring is something he has over others, that is what makes him unique."

- European pedigree -

Ronaldo has now scored three more Champions League goals than Atletico have in their history with 103.

That stat sums up the difference in European pedigree between Madrid's two major clubs.

For all the great work done to revive a sleeping giant in Atletico by Diego Simeone over the past five-and-a-half years, ending their hex against Real in the Champions League continues to allude them.

The past three seasons have seen Atletico fall by the narrowest of margins due to late goals and via a penalty shootout in last year's final.

Most worryingly for Simeone, this was not the same hard luck story.

Atletico were well beaten, failing to even register a single shot on target.

"A disappointing Atletico didn't wake up from their nightmare of the past few years," concluded Marca.

Atletico do have one final, unlikely shot at redemption in next Wednesday's second leg (May 10).

Despite their disappointment and despair, a special atmosphere is assured as it will be their final European game after 50 years at the Vicente Calderon.

"It seems impossible, but it is football and football has these unexpected things that make it marvellous," said Simeone.

"Until the last drip of hope is gone, we will give it everything we have.

"Being Atletico Madrid we might just be capable of it."

It is more likely being Atletico will mean missing out to Real once more.

Anything but a miracle will leave Atletico headed for what could be a turbulent summer on and off the field.

Doubts remain over whether their new 67,000 Wanda Metropolitano stadium will be ready in time for the start of next season as planned.

As things stand, Simeone can't strengthen his squad due to one-year transfer ban.

And they risk losing their prized asset with a host of clubs, including Real and Manchester United willing to meet Antoine Griezmann's 100 million euro ($109 million) buyout clause.

Not that Ronaldo or Real will care. Their quest for history looks set for a Cardiff final on June 3 where they could become the first side to retain the trophy in the Champions League era.

"We have a small advantage, we are a step away from Cardiff and hopefully we can finish it off," added Ronaldo.

Facebook to add 3,000 workers to monitor violent streaming videos

Facebook says it will hire another 3,000 people to review videos of crime and suicides following murders shown live, the company’s co-founder Mark Zuckerberg announced Wednesday.

Facebook says it will hire another 3,000 people to review videos of crime and suicides following murders shown live, the company's co-founder Mark Zuckerberg announced Wednesday.

Giro scraps downhill prizes after outcry

Giro d’Italia has scrapped controversial “best downhiller” prizes after fears it could lead to fatal accidents during the three-week race.Race organisers RCS faced criticism from riders and officials after announcing cash prizes for the best times on s…

Giro d'Italia has scrapped controversial "best downhiller" prizes after fears it could lead to fatal accidents during the three-week race.

Race organisers RCS faced criticism from riders and officials after announcing cash prizes for the best times on some downhill sections of several stages during the May 5-28 race.

Two days before the 100th edition of the event starts in Sardinia, RCS said Wednesday: "Race organisers have decided to eliminate all such classifications and prize money as per the race regulations, leaving the timekeeping of the descents purely as statistical data for the fans."

The last fatality on the Giro, which begins Friday with a 206km opening stage from Alghero to Olbia, was in 2011 when Wouter Weylandt crashed on the descent of the Passo del Bocco.

The dangers facing cyclists came into sharp focus last month with the death while out training on the road of popular Italian Michele Scarponi.

And only days ago American Chad Young, 21, died from head injuries following a smash on a descent of the Tour of the Gila in New Mexico.

International Cycling Union (UCI) senior official Tom van Damme said the idea of prizes for speeding downhill was "unacceptable" and called for it to be binned.

Riders participating in Italy were also against the initiative, Trek rider Jasper Stuyven saying on Twitter: "Seriously?! If this (is) true you should be ashamed, aren't there already enough crashes? Clearly you only care about sensation."

Confirming their U-turn, organisers added: "Comments have been made suggesting that this initiative could be potentially misunderstood and generate behaviour not in line with the principles of safety.

"The race organisers have taken these comments on board and changed an initiative that could be misinterpreted."

Czech PM to tender resignation Thursday

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka will tender his resignation Thursday, the president’s office said, a day after the premier announced he was quitting following a high-stakes row with his finance minister.The leftist Sobotka said Tuesday he was sta…

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka will tender his resignation Thursday, the president's office said, a day after the premier announced he was quitting following a high-stakes row with his finance minister.

The leftist Sobotka said Tuesday he was standing down after the dispute with billionaire minister Andrej Babis, a popular centrist rival tipped to win elections later this year.

"Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka will present his resignation to the president on May 4, 2017 at 1515 (1315 GMT)," Jiri Ovcacek, spokesman for President Milos Zeman, said in a tweet.

Sobotka's resignation, which will bring down his entire cabinet, surprised both politicians and pundits who had rather expected the prime minister to sack Babis.

Head of the centrist ANO party and the second wealthiest Czech national, Babis has found himself under fire over his purchase of tax-free bonds issued by his mammoth Agrofert conglomerate.

Sobotka has cast doubt on the way Babis had raised money to buy the bonds and insisted that as a finance minister fighting tax evasion, Babis should not benefit from tax loopholes.

Babis, the most popular politician in the EU member of 10.6 million people and most likely the winner of the next election scheduled for October 20-21, is due to meet Zeman on Wednesday afternoon.

The Czech political scene has been gripped by debate for weeks over the fate of the three-party governing coalition comprising Sobotka's leftwing CSSD party, Babis's ANO and the small centrist Christian Democrats, and which took office in 2014.

Analysts in Prague were caught off guard by Sobotka's resignation but said an early election was unlikely to be called during the summer.

Experts suggest that President Zeman could allow the outgoing cabinet to govern in a caretaker capacity until the October election -- an option preferred by ANO and Christian Democrats leaders.

England duo Farrell and Daly on rugby award shortlist

England internationals Owen Farrell and Elliot Daly were named on a five-man shortlist for the Rugby Players’ Association Players’ Player of the Year award revealed on Wednesday.Farrell and Daly, both due to tour New Zealand with the British and Irish …

England internationals Owen Farrell and Elliot Daly were named on a five-man shortlist for the Rugby Players' Association Players' Player of the Year award revealed on Wednesday.

Farrell and Daly, both due to tour New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions, were joined by Daly's Wasps team-mates Christian Wade and Jimmy Gopperth and Northampton's France number eight Louis Picamoles.

The award is voted for by all English Premiership players, with the winner to be announced at the RPA awards dinner in London next Wednesday.

"It's very pleasing to be nominated for such a prestigious and well-respected award," said Saracens fly-half Farrell, nominated for the second year running, in a press release.

"The Premiership is such a competitive league, so to be nominated as one of the five best players is an incredible feeling and one which I am very proud of."

Wasps flanker George Smith won last year's award.

Assange brands Clinton ‘butcher of Libya’ & requests Sweden scrap detention order

Preview Julian Assange has fired back at Hillary Clinton, branding her the “butcher of Libya” in a scathing response to the former presidential candidate’s labeling of WikiLeaks as “Russian WikiLeaks”.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview Julian Assange has fired back at Hillary Clinton, branding her the “butcher of Libya” in a scathing response to the former presidential candidate's labeling of WikiLeaks as “Russian WikiLeaks”.
Read Full Article at RT.com

NY Times swings to profit on digital gains

The New York Times said Wednesday it added more than 300,000 digital subscribers in the first quarter, helping the media group swing to profit.Net profit for the prestigious US newspaper group was $13.2 million, compared with a loss of $8.3 million in …

The New York Times said Wednesday it added more than 300,000 digital subscribers in the first quarter, helping the media group swing to profit.

Net profit for the prestigious US newspaper group was $13.2 million, compared with a loss of $8.3 million in the same period a year ago.

Total revenues rose 5.1 percent to $399 million, led by gains in digital subscriptions and online advertising.

"These results show the current strength and future potential of our digital strategy not just to reach a large audience, but also to deliver substantial revenue," said Mark Thompson, president and chief executive officer of the New York Times Company.

"We added an astonishing 308,000 net digital news subscriptions, making the first quarter the single best quarter for subscriber growth in our history."

Overall circulation revenue rose 11 percent from a year ago to $242 million. Of that $76 million came from digital-only subscriptions, amounting to a 40 percent jump from a year ago.

The number of digital-only subscriptions topped 2.2 million at the end of the quarter, a 62 percent jump from a year ago.

The Times -- which has been a target of President Donald Trump, who frequently calls it a "failing" newspaper -- has attributed some of its readership gains to renewed interest in its aggressive coverage of the new administration.

Digital advertising revenue was $49.7 million, a rise of 19 percent from a year ago, and accounted for 38.2 percent of total ad revenues.

But the gains failed to fully offset declines in print advertising.

Thompson said the latest revenue figures were "a vindication of our decision to pivot towards mobile, branded content and a broader suite of marketing services, and to focus on innovation."

The New York daily has been facing the familiar problems of major newspapers -- shifting to the less profitable online format as print readership declines.

The Times earlier this year unveiled a new strategic plan that will likely reduce its newsroom staff of around 1,300, while making investments in key areas including "visual journalism" and boosting coverage of the Trump administration.

The Times has moved to get more readers globally with a Spanish-language edition and an expanded office in Australia, and has launched a daily edition for the Snapchat Discover platform.

Juncker calls May ‘tough lady’ in Brexit talks

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said Wednesday that British Prime Minister Theresa May was a “tough lady”, after reports of a disastrous Brexit dinner between the pair.Juncker also warned Britain against threatening to walk out of the tal…

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said Wednesday that British Prime Minister Theresa May was a "tough lady", after reports of a disastrous Brexit dinner between the pair.

Juncker also warned Britain against threatening to walk out of the talks on its exit from the European Union over a row about the bill it must pay.

May had boasted on Tuesday that she would be a "bloody difficult woman" in the negotiations -- a description once used by a former colleague.

"I deeply respect the British PM, I like her as a person," Juncker said at a press conference in Brussels.

"I have noted that she is a tough lady so this is not for the future, this is real-time description," he said alongside Estonia's prime minister, whose country will soon take over the EU's rotating presidency.

The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said at the weekend that Juncker left last Wednesday's dinner meeting "10 times more sceptical" about the prospect of a Brexit deal and told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that May was in a "different galaxy".

At the press conference, Juncker also hit out at Brexit minister David Davis for the way he dismissed a report in The Financial Times suggesting that Britain's exit bill had soared to 100 billion euros ($109 billion, 85 billion pounds) from 60 billion euros.

According to Davis, "In the walk-away circumstance there is nothing to be paid," in an echo of a previous warning by May that no deal with the EU was better than a bad deal.

"I don't think that David was right when he was threatening the he would be ready to go out," Juncker said.

"My experience in politics always was that those who are going out have to come back."

Wimbledon ramps up prize money

Wimbledon singles champions will cash cheques for £2.2 million ($2.8 million, 2.6 million euros) this year, the All England Club said on Wednesday.

Andy Murray and Serena Williams earned £2 million for taking home the silverware in the men’s and women’s events at the grass-court Grand Slam last year.

That figure has now been surpassed by a 10 percent hike as Wimbledon prepares for this year’s tournament, which gets under way on July 3 in its latest start date since 1895.

In the last six years, the cash pot for the Wimbledon winners has doubled from £1.1 million.

Wimbledon’s total prize money for 2017 is up by 12.5 percent to £31.6 million, reflecting the huge revenue streams of the world’s most famous tennis tournament.

“We are proud of the important leadership role that Wimbledon plays locally, nationally and internationally, and are committed to continuing to secure the future of the Championships, and of our sport, for years to come,” said All England Club chairman Philip Brook.

However, the Wimbledon champions still earn less than last year’s singles winners at the US Open, who banked £2.7 million.

Wimbledon singles champions will cash cheques for £2.2 million ($2.8 million, 2.6 million euros) this year, the All England Club said on Wednesday.

Andy Murray and Serena Williams earned £2 million for taking home the silverware in the men's and women's events at the grass-court Grand Slam last year.

That figure has now been surpassed by a 10 percent hike as Wimbledon prepares for this year's tournament, which gets under way on July 3 in its latest start date since 1895.

In the last six years, the cash pot for the Wimbledon winners has doubled from £1.1 million.

Wimbledon's total prize money for 2017 is up by 12.5 percent to £31.6 million, reflecting the huge revenue streams of the world's most famous tennis tournament.

"We are proud of the important leadership role that Wimbledon plays locally, nationally and internationally, and are committed to continuing to secure the future of the Championships, and of our sport, for years to come," said All England Club chairman Philip Brook.

However, the Wimbledon champions still earn less than last year's singles winners at the US Open, who banked £2.7 million.

Tough cookies to brave the heights at Hong Kong bun festival

Tens of thousands gathered in Hong Kong Wednesday for one of its most colourful festivals, a whirlwind of music and costume culminating in a dramatic climb up a precipitous “bun tower”.Pipers, drummers and lion dancers accompanied by a cacophony of cym…

Tens of thousands gathered in Hong Kong Wednesday for one of its most colourful festivals, a whirlwind of music and costume culminating in a dramatic climb up a precipitous "bun tower".

Pipers, drummers and lion dancers accompanied by a cacophony of cymbals filled the streets of the normally sleepy island of Cheung Chau, as part of the annual "bun festival" parade.

Young children in intricate outfits -- posing as deities, local sporting heroes and even politicians -- gave the impression of floating above the crowds as they were wheeled around on high pedestals.

Along the parade route shoppers bought bags of the sweet buns at the heart of the celebrations.

A late-night scramble by agile competitors up an 18-metre (60-foot) tower made from imitation buns was scheduled to top off the festivities.

The whole event harks back to the 19th century, when Cheung Chau was struggling to combat a plague and pirate raids.

The story goes that local fishermen paraded a statue of Taoist sea deity Pak Tai as part of a carnival to drive away the plague and evil spirits.

It worked -- and Pak Tai has been a spiritual hero ever since.

The festivities today revolve around Cheung Chau's Pak Tai temple and attract visitors from all over Hong Kong and abroad.

Kwok Yu-chuen runs one of the bakeries that pumps out the famous festival buns and has been working there for 40 years.

Made from rice flour and filled with sweet pastes including lotus seed, red bean and sesame, they are embossed with Chinese characters meaning "peace" and "safe" and symbolise health and prosperity.

"Many people hope for peace, safety and good health by eating the buns from Cheung Chau," said Kwok, 53.

"That's why they like to come here to join the celebrations."

Real buns are no longer used to create the bun tower.

Instead, plastic buns lined a steel frame as part of safety measures brought in after an old-style structure -- made from bamboo and real buns -- collapsed in 1978 and caused injuries.

But competitors each year still scale heady heights, stuffing buns into sacks they are carrying as they climb.

Buns from the top of the tower carry the most points and the highest scorer is the winner.

US private sector hiring slows in April: payroll firm

Private US companies hired at a slightly slower pace in April, with new employment nearly entirely in the services sector, payroll firm ADP reported Wednesday.Nonfarm private employment rose 177,000, below the 255,000 increase in March, and the lowest …

Private US companies hired at a slightly slower pace in April, with new employment nearly entirely in the services sector, payroll firm ADP reported Wednesday.

Nonfarm private employment rose 177,000, below the 255,000 increase in March, and the lowest increase since October, although the result was slightly better than the consensus forecast.

The report, which covers 411,000 firms and 24 million workers, comes before Friday's closely-watched US employment data, although the two reports can diverge widely.

In March, the Labor Department reported an increase of just 98,000 nonfarm payrolls, far below the ADP figure. Analysts are expecting Friday's report to show a gain of 180,000 for April.

Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody?s Analytics, said job growth slowed in April due to a pullback in construction and retail jobs, which continue their retreat.

"The softness in construction is continued payback from outsized growth during the mild winter," he said in a statement. "Brick-and-mortar retailers cut jobs in response to withering competition from online merchants."

Of the total, 165,000 new jobs were in services, while construction saw a decline of 2,000, and manufacturing jobs increased by 11,000.

Ahu Yildirmaz, vice president of the ADP Research Institute, said despite the slower pace of hiring in the first quarter, "the growth is more than strong enough to accommodate the growing population as the labor market nears full employment."

Broken down by company size, medium sized businesses hired 78,000 new employees last month, and have "showed persistent growth for the past six months," he said.

Small businesses added 61,000, while large firms hired 38,000, the report showed.

Scientists to identify Nazi disabled victim remains

A German network of leading science institutes will begin identifying thousands of brain specimens belonging to people killed by the Nazis because they suffered from a disability or were ill.The three-year-long research project into the specimens in th…

A German network of leading science institutes will begin identifying thousands of brain specimens belonging to people killed by the Nazis because they suffered from a disability or were ill.

The three-year-long research project into the specimens in the Max Planck institutes' possession will begin in June, and aims to build a database listing the names of all "euthanasia" victims.

"It will include basic biographical data on the victims, their institutional treatment, and the criteria used to select the victims," the Munich-based, non-profit Max Planck Society said in a statement.

"The manner of their death will also be documented along with data on the removal of the brain... and the research carried out on (it)."

Adolf Hitler's so-called "euthanasia" programme, in which doctors and scientists actively participated, sought to exterminate the sick, the physically and mentally disabled, those with learning disabilities and those considered social "misfits".

Between January 1940 and August 1941, doctors systematically gassed more than 70,000 people at six sites in German-controlled territory, until public outrage forced them to end the overt killing.

But tens of thousands more died across Europe until the Nazis were defeated in 1945, through starvation, neglect or deliberate overdoses administered by caregivers.

Many also underwent bizarre medical experiments and forced sterilisations because of their supposed genetic inferiority.

After the war, Max Planck had sought to inter all human remains belonging to victims of the Nazis in its possession.

But it later emerged that institutes within the grouping dealt with the issue in different ways.

- Box of brain samples -

While the institute for brain research decided to part with all specimens dating from between 1933 and 1945, the institute of psychiatry only removed items "which were unambiguously documented as victim-derived or whose origins were uncertain -- around 30 percent of the overall inventory".

In 2014, a new employee at the archives in Berlin stumbled across a shoebox-sized wooden box containing slides with brain sections.

The find led to further investigations which turned up "additional brain sections and preserved specimens", said Max Planck.

The psychiatry institute then commissioned an external specialist to draw up a rough inventory outlining the historical documents and brain sections in its storage facilities.

Completed in February 2017, the inventory lists 24,500 specimens from the 1920s through to the 1980s and serves as preparation for the identification project.

Underlining the Herculean task ahead, the project's researchers acknowledged that "it will not be possible in the course of this project to undertake a more extensive reconstruction of every victim's biography in view of the large numbers of victims -- of whom there may potentially be several thousand".

"It would appear realistic at best to recreate the life stories of just a few by way of example," they added.

The non-governmental Max Planck Society, with an annual budget of 1.8 billion euros ($2.0 billion), operates more than 80 research institutes.

Hundreds of prison workers storm Brazilian Justice Ministry (VIDEO)

Preview Nearly 500 Brazilian prison system workers took over the Ministry of Justice building in the capital, Brasilia, to protest the inclusion of correctional workers in the government’s pension reforms, slated to raise the retirement age and reduce benefits.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview Nearly 500 Brazilian prison system workers took over the Ministry of Justice building in the capital, Brasilia, to protest the inclusion of correctional workers in the government’s pension reforms, slated to raise the retirement age and reduce benefits.
Read Full Article at RT.com

US moves to ban ‘lunch shaming’ kids for unpaid meals

In some schools, children are forced to mop cafeteria floors. In others, their hot meal is taken away and thrown in the trash. In extreme cases, students are sent home with a stamp on their arm that reads “I owe lunch money.”Such scenes, worthy of a Ch…

In some schools, children are forced to mop cafeteria floors. In others, their hot meal is taken away and thrown in the trash. In extreme cases, students are sent home with a stamp on their arm that reads "I owe lunch money."

Such scenes, worthy of a Charles Dickens novel, have played out in schools across the United States as students whose parents fall behind in meal payments endure what is called "lunch shaming."

The practice gained national attention at the start of the school year when a cafeteria worker in Pennsylvania quit in outrage after having to take away a child's hot meal. More recently, the issue resurfaced after the state of New Mexico passed the first-of-its-kind legislation banning lunch shaming.

Several other states, including California and Texas, are considering similar legislation, hoping to shield needy children from becoming pawns in a quarrel not of their making.

"The practice is everywhere," said Jennifer Ramo, executive director of New Mexico Appleseed, an anti-poverty group that spearheaded the new law in the western state that has some of the highest child hunger rates in the country.

"We have heard of kids in some states standing in line with their tray of hot food and then they reach the cashier and find out they don't have enough money on their account," Ramo added. "So the food is literally thrown away and the child is given a cheese sandwich or nothing."

By "shaming" the kids, she said, school officials believe parents will be spurred to pay the outstanding lunch bill.

Michael Padilla, a New Mexico state senator who sponsored the Hunger-Free Students' Bill of Rights adopted last month, said he was driven to act given his own background growing up in poverty.

- 'Mop floors, clean tables' -

"When I was a kid, I had to mop the school cafeteria floors and put the tables and chairs down and up again and work in the kitchen," he told AFP.

"But then fast-forward 30 years later, I come to find out that in Alabama they are stamping on a child's arm 'I don't have lunch money' and making the child go through their school day with that."

While two cafeteria workers -- "Miss Ortiz and Miss Jackson" -- looked out for him as a child and made sure he never went hungry, he says others aren't as fortunate and have to suffer through the stigma associated with their social status.

"The legislation we passed takes the responsibility of the school lunch debt and places it squarely on the parents," Padilla said.

"It does not allow the school to punish the child by shaming them, putting a stamp on their arm, having them do menial work or giving them a lunch that isn't the same as everyone else."

According to a 2016 survey by the School Nutrition Association, a non-profit group, about three quarters of school districts in the United States had unpaid student meal debt at the end of the last school year. The amount of money owed ranged from a few thousand dollars in some districts to millions in larger ones, according to the association.

Schools differ in their response to the problem but typically they provide a child whose parents fall behind in payments a cheese sandwich instead of a hot meal.

- 'I can't do this' -

In many cases, teachers, cafeteria workers and community donors step up to pay the fees and spare a child from being ostracized.

Stacy Koltiska, a mother of three who worked in a cafeteria at an elementary school in Pennsylvania for three years, quit her job in September after being forced to deny a hot meal to a first grader during the first week of school.

"I made him cry because I literally took away the chicken I had just served him and threw it in the trash since he owed a balance and I gave him a cheese sandwich," she told AFP. "His little eyes welled up with tears and I'm like, 'I can't do this. This is ridiculous.'"

In her resignation letter, which made headlines, Koltiska said she could no longer "work for an institution that would withhold food and humiliate a child over $2.05."

"I mean how do you expect kids to go all day, focus, concentrate, do well in school for eight hours without being fed?" she told AFP. "We feed prisoners three times a day and we can't feed our children."

At least 70 miners trapped after Iran blast: media

At least 70 coal miners were trapped after an explosion in northern Iran on Wednesday, Iranian media said.The mine in Golestan province collapsed when trapped methane gas exploded as workers tried to jump-start a locomotive engine, according to reports…

At least 70 coal miners were trapped after an explosion in northern Iran on Wednesday, Iranian media said.

The mine in Golestan province collapsed when trapped methane gas exploded as workers tried to jump-start a locomotive engine, according to reports.

"Forty workers are trapped in one part of the mine and another 30 to 40 are trapped in another part," the Fars and ISNA news agencies quoted the head of Iran's emergency services, Pir Hossein Kolivand, as saying.

Twelve injured miners were pulled out alive, he said.

A local official said the tunnels were filled with gas, making rescue work difficult.

"Work to remove the rubble and drilling for a side tunnel has begun to access the trapped workers in the Zemestan Yort mine," the official said.

Another official who did not want to be named told state news agency IRNA that several workers probably died in the blast, but there was no official casualty toll.

The mine has 500 workers and the explosion happened during a change of shift, state media said.

Emergency teams and sniffer dogs have been dispatched to the mine and work to remove the rubble has begun.

Fresh Syria talks hit hurdles as safe zones mooted

Syrian rebels said Wednesday they were suspending participation in a latest round of peace talks aimed at pushing a Russian plan for “de-escalation zones” in the war-torn country.Syrian government and opposition delegations gathered in the Kazakh capit…

Syrian rebels said Wednesday they were suspending participation in a latest round of peace talks aimed at pushing a Russian plan for "de-escalation zones" in the war-torn country.

Syrian government and opposition delegations gathered in the Kazakh capital Astana for the start of the fourth round of talks sponsored by regime backers Russia and Iran and rebel supporter Turkey to try and end the six-year war, but the rebels soon said they were temporarily pulling out.

"The rebel delegation is suspending the meetings because of the violent air strikes on civilians. The suspension will continue until shelling stops across all Syria," a rebel source in Astana told AFP.

The negotiations began with a series of bilateral meetings and were expected to focus on a Russian plan to establish "de-escalation zones" around the country.

A source close to the opposition provided AFP with an Arabic-language version of the proposal drafted by Russia, which an opposition official confirmed was being discussed on Wednesday.

It calls for the creation of "de-escalation zones" in rebel-held territory in the northwestern province of Idlib, in parts of Homs province in the centre, in the south, and in the opposition enclave of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus.

The aim is to "put an immediate end to the violence" and "provide the conditions for the safe, voluntary return of refugees" as well as the the immediate delivery of relief supplies and medical aid, the document said.

According to the draft, "security zones" would be created around these areas with checkpoints and monitoring centres manned by government troops and rebel fighters.

Military units from unspecified "observer countries" could also be deployed, the document said, naming Turkey, Iran and Russia as guarantors of the agreement.

It said a "joint working group" would be created within five days of the document being signed by the warring parties.

- Putin, Trump, Erdogan -

The start of the two-day meeting in Astana came as Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

The two leaders have supported opposing sides in the Syrian conflict but their positions have drawn closer as they have patched up differences over Ankara's downing of a Russian jet in 2015 at a string of meetings.

"It is very good that we have the chance to meet and talk about the key issues of bilateral cooperation and the main international problems including ones as serious as the Syrian crisis," Putin said.

Putin also discussed Syria with US President Donald Trump in a phone call on Tuesday.

Trump had previously mooted the idea of safe zones and the White House said his call with Putin included "discussion of safe, or de-escalation, zones...to achieve lasting peace for humanitarian and many other reasons."

It was the first time the two leaders spoke since Trump infuriated the Kremlin by launching a missile strike against the forces of Russia's ally Bashar al-Assad over an alleged chemical attack last month.

Washington also dispatched a higher ranking state department official to monitor the latest Astana talks than at previous rounds.

- Rebel demands -

The Astana talks are portrayed as a compliment to broader UN-backed peace efforts in Switzerland that have so far failed to bridge major rifts between the warring sides.

Before they began, the rebel side laid out a list of demands including a regime withdrawal from areas taken after the start of a tattered ceasefire at the end of last year that the opposition accuses Damascus of frequently violating.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor meanwhile said a car bomb on Wednesday killed at least five people in the rebel-held town of Azaz near the Turkish border.

The blast followed a bloody jihadist assault Tuesday by the Islamic State group against a camp for displaced people on the border with Iraq that left at least 46 people dead.

burs-del/gtf/ach

Nastase given Wimbledon Royal Box snub after rants

Ilie Nastase will be barred from Wimbledon’s Royal Box this year following the former world number one’s behaviour at last month’s Fed Cup tie against Great Britain.Romania team captain Nastase was ejected from his team’s match in Constanta after a ser…

Ilie Nastase will be barred from Wimbledon's Royal Box this year following the former world number one's behaviour at last month's Fed Cup tie against Great Britain.

Romania team captain Nastase was ejected from his team's match in Constanta after a series of foul-mouthed rants.

The 70-year-old was overheard making an apparently racist comment about Serena Williams' unborn baby when he said: "Let's see what colour it has. Chocolate with milk?''

Nastase also asked British captain Anne Keothavong for her hotel room number, verbally abused umpire Jaume Campistol and referee Andreas Egli before swearing at Keothavong and the British player Johanna Konta as he was sent from the court.

The two-time Grand Slam champion was escorted from the venue by security staff and banned for the rest of the tie.

He defied that by briefly returning the following day, however, and had pointedly refused to apologise in the immediate aftermath, saying he had no regrets.

Nastase, who twice finished as runner-up at Wimbledon in the 1970s, is awaiting sanction by the International Tennis Federation after being hit with a provisional suspension.

Although the eccentric Nastase has been a regular alongside celebrities and sporting greats in the prestigious Royal Box in previous years, the All England Club indicated last week that it wouldn't invite him this year and their chairman Philip Brook has now made that official.

"What he did, we have to say his actions were not very good. We condemn them," Brook told reporters at Wimbledon on Wednesday.

"In terms of an invitation to the Royal Box he is not going to receive one. I can confirm that."

Although the ITF ban doesn't cover Grand Slams, Wimbledon officials said he could be "turned away" if he tried to buy a ticket while still under investigation.

"At the moment he is under a temporary suspension by the ITF. We would support that," All England Club chief executive Richard Lewis said.

"He is under investigation. We will see what their conclusions are. We will wait for the outcome."

Mounted police & helicopters: Massive op evicts makeshift migrant camp in Milan (VIDEO)

A massive operation, involving helicopters, mounted officers, sniffer dogs, and riot squads, resulted in the successful eviction of dozens of migrants from a makeshift camp near a train station in central Milan. Read Full Article at RT.co…

Preview A massive operation, involving helicopters, mounted officers, sniffer dogs, and riot squads, resulted in the successful eviction of dozens of migrants from a makeshift camp near a train station in central Milan.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Sharapova made to wait over Wimbledon wildcard

Wimbledon chiefs will wait until June 20, just days ahead of the qualifying event, before deciding whether to give a wildcard to former champion Maria Sharapova as she steps up her return from a doping ban. The Russian, who won Wimbledon in 2004, made …

Wimbledon chiefs will wait until June 20, just days ahead of the qualifying event, before deciding whether to give a wildcard to former champion Maria Sharapova as she steps up her return from a doping ban.

The Russian, who won Wimbledon in 2004, made her return to competitive tennis at the Stuttgart Open last week following a positive test for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.

She admitted taking the drug, but said her only mistake was not realising the substance had been added to the banned list at the start of 2016.

Sharapova was handed a two-year suspension, which was reduced to 15 months on appeal, and she was a wildcard entry in Stuttgart, an event backed by one of her major sponsors Porsche.

The 30-year-old won three matches in Stuttgart before losing in the semi-finals and this week re-entered the WTA rankings at a lowly 262.

As a result, the five-time Grand Slam champion has to rely on wildcards from tournaments to enter leading WTA tournaments.

The cut-off ranking for Wimbledon qualifying entry will be around 200.

With Sharapova due to compete in the Madrid and Italian Opens, All England Club officials will wait to see if she makes that target, or even qualifies for the main draw by climbing into the top 100, before worrying about the wildcard issue.

"We have a long established process for awarding wildcards. We consider requests for wildcards two weeks before the tournament," All England Club chief executive Richard Lewis told reporters at Wimbledon on Wednesday.

"There will be a meeting on June 20 at which point it will be clear who has been accepted into the main draw based on rankings.

"No decision will be made until June 20. We will wait until all the facts are known."

The committee that looks into the wildcards will include former British star Tim Henman, three Wimbledon club members including All England Club chairman Philip Brook, two members of the Lawn Tennis Association and a tournament referee.

- Number of factors -

Brook suggested Sharapova's Wimbledon pedigree -- she also finished runner-up in 2011 -- would be taken into consideration if she asks for a wildcard but would not be a deciding factor.

"We have a tried and tested process. There is a meeting of the tennis sub-committee in the week before the tournament. This year is no different," Brook said.

"We will wait to see if Maria applies for a wildcard and take into consideration her case. The group will discuss it and make a decision.

"There are a number of factors taken into account. We look at who has done well in the lead up tournaments. We will also consider what might add interest to the tournament.

"If someone has a strong record at Wimbledon that would be taken into consideration."

The French Tennis Federation will announce whether the two-time Roland Garros champion has been awarded a wildcard into the qualifying event or the main draw on May 16.

Brook admitted if Sharapova is given a wildcard in Paris and makes it through qualifying into the main draw it would be strange for her to be snubbed by Wimbledon.

"It might (look odd if she qualified for the French Open and wasn't here)," he said.

"We are keeping an eye on what the French Open are doing but we are not discussing it."

Mysterious Ebola-like illness kills 12 in Africa, WHO says

Preview A mysterious illness with Ebola-like symptoms which appeared in southeast Liberia is now in the country’s capital, local authorities say. Both the government and the World Health Organization (WHO) put the revised death toll from the illness at 12.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview A mysterious illness with Ebola-like symptoms which appeared in southeast Liberia is now in the country’s capital, local authorities say. Both the government and the World Health Organization (WHO) put the revised death toll from the illness at 12.
Read Full Article at RT.com

French presidential debate: ‘Both candidates are aiming for a knockout’

The two remaining candidates in France’s presidential election, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, face off in a potentially decisive TV debate on Wednesday. Historian Christian Delporte explains what is at stake in the campaign’s last major event.

The two remaining candidates in France’s presidential election, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, face off in a potentially decisive TV debate on Wednesday. Historian Christian Delporte explains what is at stake in the campaign’s last major event.

Food imports to war-torn Yemen at all-time low: NGO

Yemen’s commercial food imports are at a record low, driving up the cost of staples in what is now the world’s largest food security crisis, the Norwegian Refugee Council said Wednesday.International concern for the lives of tens of millions of Yemenis…

Yemen's commercial food imports are at a record low, driving up the cost of staples in what is now the world's largest food security crisis, the Norwegian Refugee Council said Wednesday.

International concern for the lives of tens of millions of Yemenis is rising amid fears of a military attack on Hodeida, a vital Red Sea port that is the main entry point for aid and imports.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), a non-governmental organisation, said commercial food imports were at an "all-time low, driving the price of basic commodities to rise on average by a third".

"This makes Yemen the largest food security crisis in the world," said NRC secretary general Jan Egeland at a press conference in the capital Sanaa.

"Nowhere on earth are as many lives at risk," he said.

"This is a gigantic failure of international diplomacy."

The NRC chief appealed to "men with guns and power" in Yemen and around the world to broker a ceasefire and return to the negotiating table to find a solution to the war.

A Saudi-led military coalition for two years has fought Shiite Huthi rebels allied with Iran for control of Yemen.

More than 7,700 people have since been killed and around three million displaced, according to the United Nations.

The Huthis control a string of strategic ports on the Red Sea coastline along with Sanaa and much of the northern highlands.

Rights groups fear the Saudi-led coalition is planning to attack Hodeida, which would likely destroy the port and cut supplies to millions of hungry civilians.

A spokesman for the coalition has denied the alliance plans to launch an offensive on Hodeida.

The United Nations warns 17 million Yemenis -- 62 percent of the population -- are unable to access food.

A third of the country's provinces are on the brink of famine.

Far-right plot, abuse scandals rock German military

The bizarre case of a racist soldier allegedly plotting an attack while posing as a Syrian refugee and several abuse scandals have sparked a war of words between Germany’s defence minister and the military.It is a dangerous political battle for Ursula …

The bizarre case of a racist soldier allegedly plotting an attack while posing as a Syrian refugee and several abuse scandals have sparked a war of words between Germany's defence minister and the military.

It is a dangerous political battle for Ursula von der Leyen, the first woman in charge of the Bundeswehr, who is often mentioned as a potential successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The mother-of-seven has sternly criticised military "attitude and leadership problems", highlighted by the case of the soldier and by recent sexual abuse and hazing scandals.

This in turn has made her a target of chastened rank-and-file soldiers who charge she is tarring them all while dodging personal responsibility after more than three years on the job.

The escalating conflict started with the arrest last week of a soldier identified only as 28-year-old army lieutenant Franco A., stationed at a Franco-German base near Strasbourg.

He came to the notice of the authorities after Austrian police caught him with a loaded handgun at Vienna airport in February.

The subsequent investigation found that, amid Germany's 2015 mass influx of refugees, he had created a fake identity as a Damascus fruit seller called "David Benjamin".

Incredibly, the light-haired German who speaks no Arabic managed to gain political asylum, a spot in a refugee shelter, and monthly state payments for his fictitious alter ego.

- 'Dark places' -

Prosecutors charge that A. harboured far-right views and, with at least one co-conspirator, plotted an attack with the apparent aim of discrediting foreigners.

Media reports say he kept "death lists" with the names of top politicians, including former president Joachim Gauck, some cabinet ministers and left-leaning, anti-fascist MPs.

It has since emerged that the lieutenant had expressed right-wing extremist views back in a master's study he submitted in 2014, in which he theorised about the end of Western civilisation through immigration.

However, the offensive paper was buried, without disciplinary action -- something the minister blamed on a "misunderstood esprit de corps" and superior officers who "looked the other way".

On Wednesday, the minister -- who has cancelled a scheduled US trip to deal with the widening scandal -- was travelling to A.'s base, where an initial probe has found a rifle with a swastika carved into it.

Von der Leyen has also pointed to other recent scandals -- about humiliating and sadistic initiation rituals, and female soldiers being forced to pole-dance.

Indicating she means business, the minister last month sacked the chief training officer, Major General Walter Spindler, for failing to deal with the problems quickly enough.

On Thursday she was set to hold a crisis meeting with 100 leading military personnel, after vowing to "shine a light in the dark places" and predicting that "it'll be difficult, it'll be painful, it won't be pretty".

There could indeed be more nasty surprises -- the military intelligence service is investigating around 280 cases of suspected far-right sympathisers in the forces.

- 'Danger zone' -

Von der Leyen has weathered several scandals in what is considered a tricky cabinet post, most centred on military equipment problems like ageing transport planes and assault rifles that don't shoot straight.

Spiegel Online said that, while earlier problems started before she took the post, she is now "facing criticism like she rarely has before".

Her comments offended many soldiers who already feel they get insufficient appreciation for missions from Afghanistan to Mali in a country which, with its guilt over the Nazi era, still shows little love for the military.

Having drawn heavy fire, the minister stressed that the vast majority of soldiers perform "impeccable, outstanding service".

Business daily Handelsblatt noted the seriousness of the affair by pointing out that "ministers usually only cancel foreign trips if they face the threat of a putsch at home".

It said von der Leyen had entered "the danger zone", adding: "This doesn't bring her any closer to her big goal of one day succeeding Merkel."

Nigeria’s Buhari absent again from cabinet meeting

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari failed to show up for a weekly cabinet meeting on Wednesday, despite assurances from his wife that his health was not a cause for concern.Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo chaired the meeting in the absence of the 74-year…

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari failed to show up for a weekly cabinet meeting on Wednesday, despite assurances from his wife that his health was not a cause for concern.

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo chaired the meeting in the absence of the 74-year-old Buhari, who has now missed the last three gatherings of senior ministers and advisors.

The devout Muslim was also absent from Friday prayers last week and failed to attend his grandson's wedding on Saturday.

His spokesman said he had undergone "a long period of treatment" for an undisclosed illness in London earlier this year and needed rest. He was working from his private residence.

Buhari has been under growing pressure to disclose his state of health since he returned from the British capital in early March after nearly two months away.

On Tuesday, prominent Nigerians and civil society activists advised him to take medical leave.

Local media reported on Wednesday that former president Olusegun Obasanjo met other ex-military rulers Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar to discuss the situation.

Buhari's wife, Aisha, however said her husband's health was "not as bad as it's being perceived", without specifying the nature of his illness.

"He continues to carry out his responsibilities during this period," she wrote on her Twitter account on Tuesday evening.

The health of Nigeria's president has been a sensitive issue since the death in office in 2010 of Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, which sparked months of political turmoil and uncertainty.

During the 2015 election campaign, Buhari rejected opposition claims that he was seriously ill with prostate cancer and said they were a smear to show him as unfit for office.

Saudi prince accuses Iran of ‘extremist ideology,’ ambition to ‘control Islamic world’

Preview It’s impossible to build bridges between Saudi Arabia and Iran due to Tehran’s “extremist ideology” and ambitions to “control the Islamic world,” Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud, the kingdom’s defense minister.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview It’s impossible to build bridges between Saudi Arabia and Iran due to Tehran’s “extremist ideology” and ambitions to “control the Islamic world,” Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud, the kingdom’s defense minister.
Read Full Article at RT.com

Russian court upholds sentence that could bar Navalny from vote

A Russian court on Wednesday upheld a five-year suspended sentence for opposition leader Alexei Navalny for embezzlement that could block his bid to stand for president in 2018.The regional court in the city of Kirov threw out an appeal and upheld susp…

A Russian court on Wednesday upheld a five-year suspended sentence for opposition leader Alexei Navalny for embezzlement that could block his bid to stand for president in 2018.

The regional court in the city of Kirov threw out an appeal and upheld suspended sentences for Navalny and his co-defendant in a case over a timber deal, RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Navalny in December announced his plan to stand for the Kremlin in 2018 as Vladimir Putin is expected to run for a fourth term.

Navalny's profile has since grown as a report by his team into alleged corruption by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev sparked street protests after being viewed more than 20 million times on YouTube.

In March, Navalny's supporters held the largest unauthorised demonstration in Moscow in recent years with police detaining around 1,000 people.

The internet-savvy 40-year-old lawyer first became popular speaking at mass protests against Putin's return to the Kremlin in 2012.

He has since faced a number of legal challenges that he describes as politically motivated including the Kirov case over a 2009 deal when he was an advisor to the region's governor.

Navalny is already opening campaign offices across Russia and needs to gather 300,000 signatures to register as a candidate.

A conviction for a serious crime could prevent him from standing, however.

But his campaign chief Leonid Volkov insisted the ruling would not stop Navalny's presidential bid.

"We are holding a campaign to get Alexei Navalny registered as a presidential campaign and we will achieve that," he wrote on Twitter.

"Navalny has the right to stand for election," he wrote, but acknowledged: "It won't be easy to fulfil that right."

Navalny himself confirmed on Twitter he believes he has a constitutional right to stand.

He has argued he is eligible because he is not imprisoned. But some legal experts have questioned this.

Last month attackers threw green dye at Navalny causing a chemical burn to his eye. He said Tuesday he currently has only 20 percent vision in the eye and risks losing the use of it. He did not attend court on Wednesday.

Navalny's Kirov case underwent a retrial this year after the European Court of Human Rights threw out the original verdict saying the trial was not fair, only for the court to issue exactly the same verdict again.

Navalny's lawyer Vadim Kobzev told Interfax news agency that the defence team would submit a fresh complaint to Strasbourg. He told the Kirov court the trial had ignored the "political nature of (Navalny's) prosecution."

7 states abstained from voting Saudi Arabia into UN women’s rights commission

Preview Seven countries abstained from voting to appoint Saudi Arabia to the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), with the absence of a ‘no’ option, the Swedish Foreign Ministry has revealed.

Read Full Article at RT.com

Preview Seven countries abstained from voting to appoint Saudi Arabia to the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), with the absence of a ‘no’ option, the Swedish Foreign Ministry has revealed.
Read Full Article at RT.com