The government in Sofia is calling for a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis, strengthening its own military
Bulgaria is a “loyal ally in NATO” and the alliance’s unity is the best response to the current crisis over Ukraine, Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said on Wednesday, amid conflicting reports on Sofia’s participation in the US military buildup in Eastern Europe.
Petkov’s government voted on Wednesday to follow the “Bulgarian strategy” of reducing tensions between NATO and Russia, including “absolutely all options for resolving this dispute by diplomatic means,” according to the state news agency BTA.
The strategy will be based on rebuilding the Bulgarian military, Petkov said. Defense Minister Stefan Yanev explained that the “top priority” will be investing in building a battalion combat team, a unit of around 1,000 soldiers.
Yanev would not comment on reports by Bulgarian National Radio that Sofia would not accept the deployment of 1,000 US soldiers on its soil, but would be fine with French troops instead. This was reported early on Wednesday by BNR correspondent in Brussels, Angelina Piskova, who quoted a “well-informed diplomatic source.”
The minister said such a thing has not been discussed on the political level, according to BNR.
Local media reported that Yanev also told lawmakers that Bulgarian soldiers won’t fight in Ukraine without parliamentary approval, which he “does not see coming.”
Earlier on Wednesday, CNN reported that Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania were in discussions with the US to accept 1,000 American troops each, as part of Washington’s effort to “reassure” NATO members in Eastern Europe and “deter” the alleged Russian invasion of Ukraine. The US intelligence has heralded such an invasion since late October, though Moscow dismissed it as “fake news.”
Speaking before the parliamentary defense committee on Tuesday, Yanev said that neither Russia nor anyone else is preparing to invade Bulgaria, and urged the lawmakers to “reduce tensions, stop reading the foreign press, and stop speculating.”
The slap-down comes amid disagreements over NATO’s response to a potential Russian incursion into Ukraine
A series of explosive claims from Croatia’s president that Zagreb would pull its soldiers out of NATO deployments in Eastern Europe in the event of a full-blown conflict with Russia are nothing but hot air, the country’s prime minister has blasted.
Taking to Twitter on Wednesday, Andrey Plenkovic poured scorn on the remarks made earlier this week by Zoran Milanovic and attempted to diffuse the situation.
“Given the fact none of our troops are in Ukraine, and the contingent stationed in Poland has already returned, I do not know what kind of military personnel the president is thinking about withdrawing,” he hit back.
Plenkovic went on, adding that his statements are not in line with the views of the government. “I apologize to Ukrainians for such nonsense,” he said.
Plenkovic’s remarks follow shortly after Milanovic insisted in a televised address that Croatian troops in NATO contingents stationed in the region would play no part if tensions snowballed into fighting in the former Soviet republic.
“Not only will we not send the military, but if there is an escalation, we will recall every last Croatian military man,” he vowed, also taking aim at US President Joe Biden.
“This has nothing to do with Ukraine or Russia, it has to do with the dynamics of American domestic politics, [US President] Joe Biden and his administration, which I supported.”
Milanovic’s remarks earned him a place on a Kiev-based ‘Peacemaker’ database for alleged “anti-Ukrainian activity,” as well as spreading “Kremlin propaganda” and justifying “Russian aggression.”
His statements also came under fire from Zagreb’s ambassador to Kiev, Anica Jamic, who said that the president “showed a disdainful and ungrateful attitude for the help that Ukraine and Ukrainians gave to Croatia during its struggle for independence, as well as in fighting the devastating fires last year.”
Milanovic’s comments come amid high tensions between Moscow and Kiev, with a number of Western leaders sounding the alarm in recent weeks over a purported buildup of Russian forces along the border with Ukraine. On Monday, the US-led military bloc announced that its members will order more fleets and fighter planes into Eastern Europe as Russia “continues its military build-up” amid the growing row.
Moscow has repeatedly rejected having any plan for a military offensive, and has called such accusations “groundless and wrong.” Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov previously said that the movement of the country’s armed forces on its own territory is an internal matter and of no concern to anyone else.
As Washington considers punitive measures in case of an invasion of Ukraine, companies are concerned about the economic impact
After US President Joe Biden threatened to hit Russia with devastating sanctions should its troops invade Ukraine, a number of major American firms have urged the White House to take the possible economic repercussions seriously.
On Wednesday, Reuters reported that the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC), which represents Chevron, General Electric, and other big US corporations that do business with Moscow, are asking the administration to consider exempting certain products from financial penalties and allowing them to meet their obligations.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the American Petroleum Institute, a major Washington lobby group, said that any embargos “should be as targeted as possible in order to limit potential harm to the competitiveness of US companies.”
A source in Congress told reporters that energy companies have directly contacted lawmakers to ensure that their assets would not be confiscated in the event they were not able to honor their deals in Russia.
Jake Colvin, the president of the NFTC, also said earlier this week that the Biden administration and lawmakers must “get the details right in case they must follow through on the threat of sanctions.”
The concerns from American enterprises come shortly after Biden threatened to hit his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin with penalties “he’s never seen before.” The US president, however, warned that potential embargoes, including eliminating the ability of Russian banks to conduct transactions in US dollars, would have a widespread impact beyond the country’s economy.
“I want to be clear with you, the serious imposition of sanctions relative to dollar transactions and other things, are things that are going to have a negative impact on the United States, as well as negative impacts on the economies of Europe as well, a devastating impact on Russia,” he explained.
In December, Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland said that America, along with its allies in Europe, is considering the possibility of completely shutting off Russia from the global financial system if it attempts to launch an offensive in Ukraine.
Her threat came in the wake of a report published by US news agency Bloomberg, which suggested that Washington could target major Russian banks and sever Moscow’s access to the SWIFT payment system.
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied having any plans for a military offensive, and has called the accusations “groundless and wrong.” Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, previously said that the movement of the country’s armed forces on its own territory is an internal matter and of no concern to anyone else, despite reports that up to 100,000 troops could have been deployed to the shared border.
Senator Tom Cotton said Joe Biden had demonstrated “appeasement and weakness” over the past year
The US should be providing as much, if not more, support in the form of weapons and diplomatic and financial backing to Taiwan as it has to Ukraine, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) told Fox News on Tuesday.
“China is a bigger threat than Russia to the United States. Taiwan is much more important to the United States than is Ukraine,” Cotton said, while admitting he believes “both Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin want to overturn the United States as the global superpower” even if neither leader feels compelled to “openly coordinate or talk about these actions.”
Cotton argued the US should be learning from what he called President Joe Biden’s “past year of appeasement and conciliation and weakness toward Ukraine” and shore up Taiwan with equal if not greater support now in order to preempt “the kind of crisis with Taiwan that we see playing out today on the borders of Ukraine.”
Democrats in the US House of Representatives are reportedly working to fast-track a bill that would bestow $500 million in military aid on Ukraine, more than doubling the amount of military aid given to the country in 2020.
The White House has been warning of an impending Russian invasion of Ukraine for weeks, citing internal troop movements within Russia as proof that a cross-border incursion is imminent.
While some of those warnings were recently walked back, NATO and the Pentagon continue to move troops and other assets closer to Russia, purportedly anticipating such an invasion.
The Republican Party is less sanguine about the prospect of war with Russia, however, instead pointing to China – with whom the previous president, Donald Trump, was engaged in an ongoing trade war – as the primary threat to American dominance, both economically and militarily. Recent tests of what appeared to be hypersonic missiles have set the US opposition further on edge regarding the possibility of Chinese aggression.
Putin has agreed on a new collaboration with Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua
Russian President Vladimir Putin has agreed with the leaders of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua to develop partnerships in a range of areas, including stepping up military collaboration, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has announced.
Speaking on Wednesday in an appearance in front of the Duma – Russia’s parliament – Lavrov reported that Putin had talked recently with the leaders of the three Central American countries, and that they had agreed to work together to strengthen their strategic cooperation.
“President Putin held recent telephone conversations with his colleagues from these three governments, with whom we are very close and friendly, and they agreed to look at further ways to deepen our strategic partnership in all areas, with no exceptions,” Lavrov stated. He noted that Russia already has close relations with these countries in many spheres, “including military and military-technical.”
Asked about the prospects of increased military cooperation with the three countries, Lavrov answered, “for the immediate future, we are counting on regular meetings of the corresponding committees.”
Earlier this month, Moscow’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov was asked about the possibility of sending troops to Latin America, and he refused to rule out the possibility. “It’s the American style to have several options for its foreign and military policy,” he said. “That’s the cornerstone of that country’s powerful influence in the world.”
“The president of Russia has spoken multiple times on the subject of what the measures could be, for example involving the Russian Navy, if things are set on the course of provoking Russia, and further increasing the military pressure on us by the US,” he went on. “We don’t want that. The diplomats must come to an agreement.”
United States National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan responded, noting that Russian military activity in Latin America had not been a point of discussion at recent security talks, but said that the US would act “decisively” if it did happen
Leaders from Russia and the US have been holding negotiations recently to attempt to de-escalate the situation around Ukraine, which Washington has accused Moscow of planning to invade. The Kremlin has denied that it has any aggressive intentions and has asked for written guarantees that NATO, the US-led military bloc, will not expand to Ukraine or Georgia, two countries that share borders with Russia.
Ukraine’s top diplomat’s comments contradict claims of an impending Russian offensive
Amid continuing allegations from Western leaders and media outlets that Moscow’s armed forces are beefing up their presence at the frontier with Ukraine ahead of launching an incursion, Kiev’s foreign minister has said that country does not see signs that a war could start at any minute.
Speaking to reporters in the Ukrainian capital on Wednesday, Dmitry Kuleba weighed in on tensions along the demarcation line. “The number of Russian troops amassed along the border of Ukraine and occupied territories of Ukraine is large, it poses a threat to Ukraine – a direct threat to Ukraine,” he argued.
According to the official, however, “at the moment, as we speak, this number is insufficient for a full-scale offensive against Ukraine along the entire Ukrainian border. They also lack some important military indicators and systems to conduct such a large full-scale offensive.”
“We can say 100 times a day invasion is imminent, but this doesn’t change the situation on the ground,” he remarked.
Kuleba’s remarks come shortly after the secretary of Kiev’s National Security Council, Alexey Danilov, sought to squash fears of the purported threat of a Russian invasion, describing it as “panic” whipped up for “geopolitical and domestic” reasons in the West. “The buildup of Russian troops isn’t as rapid as some claim,” he said.
Ukrainian and Western officials have sounded the alarm several times in recent months of an imminent offensive, and have pointed to Moscow’s troop movements near its border with Ukraine, where they estimate 100,000 Russian soldiers are stationed.
There have been a flurry of reports in English-language outlets in recent weeks, which have been rejected by Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov as “groundless” and “hysteria.” He has previously insisted that the movement of Moscow’s armed forces on its own territory is an internal matter and of no concern to anyone else, and that Russia “poses no threat to anyone.”
The latest claims that Moscow is planning an incursion into Ukraine come after similar alarms were raised last April.
Stephen Breyer will step down, giving President Biden a shot at appointing another liberal judge
Justice Stephen Breyer will retire at the end of the Supreme Court’s current term, it's been confirmed. Should President Joe Biden appoint a successor before November’s midterm elections, he will likely be able to replace Breyer with another liberal justice and avoid changing the balance of the court.
At 83, Breyer is the Supreme Court’s oldest justice, and has been urged by liberals for some time now to retire while Biden holds the White House and Democrats hold both houses of Congress. Citing “people familiar with his thinking,” NBC reported on Wednesday that Breyer will step down when the court’s current term ends in October, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer confirming the news shortly afterwards.
Come Breyer's retirement, Biden will be under pressure to appoint a replacement immediately, lest the balance of power in Congress change following November’s midterm elections. A Republican-held Senate would be under the control of Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, who in 2016 famously prevented Barack Obama from appointing now-Attorney General Merrick Garland to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the bench.
In a statement confirming the retirement, Schumer said Biden's nominee “will receive a prompt hearing" in the Senate and be confirmed “with all deliberate speed."
It is unclear who Biden plans on replacing Breyer with, although he did say in 2020 that he was “looking forward to making sure there’s a black woman on the Supreme Court to make sure we in fact get everyone represented."
The nation’s highest court is currently split 6-3, with conservative or conservative-leaning judges in the majority.
The international oil benchmark soared above $90 amid low output and tension in Eastern Europe
The price of a barrel of crude oil reached $90 on Wednesday, a level unseen since October 2014. It’s the second seven-year record in a week, and insiders are predicting $100 oil by the year’s end, the rise fueled by tight supply and the threat of war in Ukraine.
After closing at $88.20 on Tuesday, the Brent crude price climbed to $90.08 by late Wednesday morning, an increase of more than 2%. The US West Texas Intermediate benchmark was also up by 2.2%, sitting at $87.50 at time of writing.
The last time Brent spiked above $90 was in October 2014. Last week, the oil benchmark also hit a seven-year high, with that spike driven by hostilities in the United Arab Emirates.
The latest surge comes as the oil-producing OPEC nations slowly increase their output to pre-pandemic levels. However, these producers have not scaled up their spare capacity to buffer against future disruptions, and prices in turn have shown no sign of falling. Moreover, the US is lagging behind its record daily production by around a million barrels, per Reuters, and Russia is increasing its production at a slower rate than expected.
Further complicating matters is the simmering tension over Ukraine, with Washington refusing to drop its demand that Ukraine be allowed to join the NATO alliance and Moscow sticking by its long-held position that a NATO state on its borders would be unacceptable.
All in all, the combination of market and geopolitical factors has led Goldman Sachs to predict an oil price of more than $100 by the third quarter of this year. The all-time highest oil price ever recorded was $143, in mid-2008.
The top seed meets the rival he once angrily accused of calling him a 'bullsh*t Russian'
Daniil Medvedev's back-from-the-brink win over the impressive Felix Auger Aliassime has set up another tantalizing meeting between the Russian and Stefanos Tsitsipas, who he will meet for a place in the final of the Australian Open that they both have reasons to feel confident about reaching.
As if Medvedev has not been involved in enough entertainment already, the showdown pits him against a player with whom, professional post-match remarks this week aside, he has a relationship as frosty as the bottles players gulp from while they are sitting in their chairs during matches in Melbourne.
Uncompromising Medvedev had just taken his seat after beating Tsitsipas in a comeback win in Miami in 2018 when the most memorable incident between the duo exploded into what threatened to become fisticuffs.
A clearly irritated Medvedev returned to his feet and said something along the lines of "you'd better shut the f*ck up" to Tsitsipas, who was contemplating his defeat.
The match official felt compelled to step in as Medvedev tried to make his way towards his opponent, repeatedly telling Tsitsipas to "look at me" before insisting to the umpire several times that "he started it".
Medvedev had appeared to try to square up to Tsitsipas, he claimed as the Greek walked away with his bag over his shoulder, because Tsitsipas had called him a "bullsh*t Russian".
That accusation was all the more curious because current world number four Tsitsipas, in common with the man immediately ahead of him in the rankings, Alex Zverev, has Russian heritage through his Russian mother and half-Russian maternal grandfather.
Tsitsipas's mother, Julia Apostoli, beat Zverev's Russian mother, Irina Zvereva, in the final of a tournament in 1994 – and that is not the only good omen the 23-year-old may look to in his bid to beat Medvedev for only the third time in nine meetings.
Before Medvedev recovered from losing the first two sets and being match point down to Aliassime in Melbourne, Tsitsipas breezed past 11th seed Jannik Sinner with apparent ease, never facing a break point on his way to a second consecutive final-four date at the tournament.
Medvedev brushed off a suggestion that his long, sweat-drenched match against Aliassime would affect his physical abilities in the semifinal on Friday, although he would surely rather have rattled off a win in the mere two hours and six minutes that Tsitsipas spent on court in the Australian heat.
On the other hand, Medvedev should be able to summon any extra belief he needs by looking back at his semifinal last year, when he beat Tsitsipas in straight sets.
A noticeably crestfallen Tsitsipas was clearly upset by his underwhelming performance on that occasion, meaning he will not be short of motivation to correct that showing this year.
The four-time Grand Slam semifinalist has already earned revenge, beating Medvedev in straight sets in the final eight at the 2021 French Open, when he cheekily described the underhand serve with which Medvedev unsuccessfully finished the match as a "very millennial shot".
As part of the 'next-gen' of players expected to succeed Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer as consistent major winners, Medvedev and Tsitsipas both fit the millennial tag.
Medvedev wants to reinforce his champion credentials after earning his first Grand Slam title by cruising past Djokovic at the 2021 US Open. Tsitsipas is desperate to go beyond a major final for the first time, having lost to Djokovic at the last hurdle in Paris.
Tsitsipas has called the experience of playing Medvedev "boring", echoing the words Medvedev used to describe his "unbelievably lucky" fourth-round opponent, Maxime Cressy, in Australia.
On the evidence of their fast-paced, high-quality French Open quarterfinal, viewers who watch their latest clash are unlikely to think of the word boring.
With pre-tournament favorite Djokovic absent following his visa cancelation because he was not vaccinated against Covid, both men will look back with regret if they do not take what is a golden chance to win the title in 2022.
Since Medvedev is playing Tsitsipas in the #AusOpen semifinal, I might as well bring you the video of this stunning shot from the Russian in their match at the same stage last year. One of the best shots I've seen in a tennis match. pic.twitter.com/zTGnAhdG67— Oluwajoba (@olumcjobson) January 26, 2022
#Tsitsipas: "Well, my relationship with #Medvedev it's fine. It kind of got better after Laver Cup. We haven't really spoken in the last couple of months, but our relationship is competitors on the court and kind of fighting for the same dream".#AO2022 pic.twitter.com/H0Zq1QIUR4— Lorenzo Ercoli (@Ladal17) January 26, 2022
Rafael Nadal is an obvious huge threat in the final, although he has only won the trophy once, and that was 13 years ago.
Nadal's opponent, world number seven Matteo Berrettini, has gone beyond the fourth round at the tournament for the first time and would be an underdog against Medvedev or Tsitsipas.
Then there is the potential sideshow of more flashpoints between players whose previous encounters give them added incentive to beat each other.
Medvedev on Tsitsipas:— Oleg S. (@AnnaK_4ever) October 15, 2019
"He said my game is boring? For real? Well, I'm not going to argue with him. Everybody has their own style. If someone thinks it's boring—Ok, not a big deal."
"We are defintely not friends, nor are we enemies. We are colleagues, that's it."
Tsitsipas on Medvedev.— José Morgado (@josemorgado) February 17, 2021
"Might have said in the past that he plays boring, but I don't really think he plays boring. He just plays extremely smart and outplays you. He's somebody I really need to be careful with and just take my chances and press. That would be very important"
Two of Tsitsipas's wins against Medvedev have come in their three most recent matches, and he seemed in a zen-like mood after beating Berrettini, suggesting that he shares no animosity with Medvedev.
Tsitsipas did say that the pair have not spoken for two months, which will have been no surprise to anyone suspecting that they may not have exchanged Christmas cards.
Medvedev has previously said he does not have "any sort of relationship at all" with Tsitsipas, although he has spoken of an on-court respect for him that has not always been evident.
Each of the last four matches between them has ended in a straight-sets victory. Starting off well – and using their lingering grudges to positive effect – could be crucial in giving one of these contrasting contenders the momentum to carry them through to the final.
Newly released emails seemingly contradict Boris Johnson's claim that he did not intervene in the evacuation of animals from Kabul
Emails released Wednesday by the UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Select Committee, which is investigating the hurried British evacuation from Kabul, Afghanistan in August 2021, suggest Prime Minister Boris Johnson did authorize the evacuation of staff and animals. He has previously denied involvement in the matter.
In one communication dating from August 2021, a UK Foreign Office official discussing an evacuation request from an animal charity wrote that Johnson had approved the evacuation of an “equivalent charity” called Nowzad.
Referring to Nowzad, the official said that “the PM has just authorized their staff and animals to be evacuated.”
Last year, whistleblower Raphael Marshall, a desk officer at the Foreign Office, had claimed the department “received an instruction from the prime minister" to use "considerable capacity" to help evacuate animals cared for by the Nowzad charity, run by Briton Paul Farthing.
“There was a direct trade-off between transporting Nowzad's animals and evacuating British nationals and Afghan evacuees, including Afghans who had served with British soldiers,” Marshall claimed at the time.
As the Taliban approached Kabul, Farthing appealed to the UK government for help in evacuating his staff and the animals under their care. Ultimately, the charity chartered its own plane and was given flight clearance by the British government to leave Afghanistan. However, while some 170 dogs and cats were on board, local staff had to stay behind.
The charity’s eventual evacuation drew controversy amid suggestions that people who had worked for the British government in Afghanistan and were at risk of Taliban reprisal had been unable to get out of the country. Farthing has repeatedly denied any suggestions that the UK government prioritized his animals over humans or diverted crucial limited resources to evacuate cats and dogs.
Finally @BWallaceMP confirms the time line I have been saying all along 🙏🏼We never denied any other evacuation flights the ability to land & leave as #operationark left after the @DefenceHQ flights. Any doubters still? https://t.co/vxiMNGiKY5— Pen Farthing (@PenFarthing) January 25, 2022
In December, Johnson dismissed the suggestion that he had personally intervened to help animal charities ahead of the Taliban takeover of the Afghan capital, calling the reports “complete nonsense.”
Following the publication of the emails on Wednesday, Downing Street reiterated Johnson’s previous denials, with a spokesperson saying: “It remains the case that the PM didn't instruct officials to take any particular course of action.” They added that "the PM had no role in authorizing individual evacuations from Afghanistan, including Nowzad staff and animals."
Markus Anfang stepped down in November over the scandal
Ex-Werder Bremen manager Markus Anfang has received a one-year ban from football coaching for his use of a falsified Covid vaccination certificate.
The Sports Court of the German Football Federation, known as the DFB, handed down the ruling, which is counted as starting from November 20 2021.
Anfang's probation is set for June 10, while he also has to pay a fine of €20,000 ($22,560). His former assistant, Florian Junge, will be sidelined for 10 months and must pay a smaller amount of €3,000 ($3,380).
"Markus Anfang and Florian Junge have significantly violated the role model function as trainers through their actions," claimed the chairman of the DFB Sports Court, Hans E Lorenz.
"However, with regard to their confessions made, it is justified to suspend part of the ban on probation in order to give them the opportunity to make a new commitment for the 2022/2023 season."
Anfang stepped down on November 20 as Werder Bremen revealed he had denied using fake evidence to show he received a Covid vaccination.
Thiat came after the manager previously released a statement in which he insisted that he had received both required jabs at an official vaccination center.
"The reason for the decision is the public prosecutors' investigations into the two coaches and the ensuing unrest surrounding the club," the second division club announced at the time.
NEW: A 1-year coaching ban issued by the DFB to ex-Bremen coach Markus Anfang for using a falsified vaccination certificate. 10 month ban for his assistant Florian Junge & both bans retroactive to 20 Nov, 2021. Fines issued are 20,000 & 3,000 Euro respectively.— Derek Rae (@RaeComm) January 26, 2022
"Because of the extreme stress caused to the club, the team, my family and myself, I have decided to immediately step down from my role as head coach of Werder Bremen," explained Anfang, who had only led the team for 13 matches before leaving.
"I requested that the club management dissolve my contract, a request they have granted.
"I wish Werder all the success in the world, both for [Saturday's] game against Schalke and for the future."
Werder Bremen appointed Ole Werner to succeed Anfang and are currently fighting for a return to the Bundesliga, sitting two points behind FC Saint Pauli, who currently occupy the last automatic qualifying spot of third place, and four behind second-tier leaders Darmstadt.
Football stadiums in Germany have repeatedly been subject to capacity restrictions under local lockdown rules. Bundesliga matches are currently limited to half of venue capacities, allowing for a maximum of 15,000 fans due to attend.
Germany's most high-profile Covid-related controversy has concerned Bayern Munich and national team star Joshua Kimmich, who had to go into quarantine amid speculation that he would be docked pay because he chose not to be vaccinated.
Club legend Uli Hoeness was among those who were highly critical of Kimmich's stance. The midfielder said in December 2021 that he regretted not getting vaccinated after he suffered a lung problem as a consequence of contracting Covid.
Russian viewers accuse ‘And Just Like That’ of “hypocrisy and selective inclusivity”
Russian users have flooded to the ‘And Just Like That’ Instagram page, leaving messages with the hashtag #metoorussian and accusing the show of hypocrisy and intolerance over an offensive joke about Russian prostitutes featured in the eighth episode of the series.
In the latest episode Carrie Bradshaw (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) discusses a new neighbor that has moved into the building, commenting that she seems too young to be able to afford a fancy apartment in an upscale New York City neighborhood. Bradshaw’s friend then suggests that the woman is probably a “Russian prostitute” and that it’s a common occurance among luxurious property owners.
Russian fans were left outraged and took to social media to voice their disapproval of the worn-out stereotype being perpetuated by the show. Users left the hashtag #metoorussian under several Instagram posts by the show, saying the showrunners have “forgotten about tolerance,” and demanding an apology from HBO, which streams the show.
However, no apology has been issued thus far, and instead HBO seems to be deleting some of the comments that feature the hashtag and complaints. Disappointed fans are now calling for a boycott of the show and criticizing the network’s apparent empty posturing regarding inclusivity and tolerance.
“Stop hiding comments about your failure! Better apologize for calling Russian women prostitutes. Trying to be a tolerant show … nonsense. Just trying to make a fuss about tolerance and nothing else. Disgusting,” wrote user ali_gash.
In late December 2021 the Netflix show ‘Emily in Paris’ faced similar accusations after it introduced a near-caricature-like Ukrainian woman, who was depicted as having a dreadful fashion sense and was eager to shoplift. Netflix responded to those criticisms by promising they will be more mindful of such depictions in future projects.
Envoy delivers American and NATO reactions to Russian offer
Moscow has been handed the American response to its earlier proposals concerning collective security in Europe, the Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed on Wednesday evening.
US ambassador John Sullivan delivered the feedback from both Washington and NATO on the Russian draft bilateral treaty made public in mid-December. Moscow proposed eight points in the draft, and expected a detailed reply to each one.
The US was asked to stop any further NATO expansion to the east, halt military programs in non-member countries that were formerly part of the Soviet Union – and pledge Ukraine and Georgia would “never” join the bloc – remove its nuclear weapons from Europe, and not deploy any offensive weapons capable of targeting Russia along its borders. Moscow demanded legally binding guarantees on all of those matters.
The State Department has reportedly asked Russia not to make its response public. Speaking at the Russian parliament earlier on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the ministry would communicate the “essence of their reaction” to the Russian public.
Lavrov explained that once the American response was received, the Foreign Ministry would work with other departments to give President Vladimir Putin a proposal of further steps concerning Russia’s security.
Bitcoin’s sharp sell-off is reminiscent of the great crypto crash of 2018
The dramatic sell-off of digital coins that saw Bitcoin drop below $34,000 and erased more than $1.4 trillion of the entire crypto market’s value since November has raised investor concerns that the worst is yet to come. They are now talking about the possibility of a “crypto winter,” referring to historic bear markets in the digital currency space.
The most recent such occurrence happened in late 2017 and early 2018 when, after an unprecedented boom, Bitcoin crashed by more than 80% to as low as $3,100, and didn’t reach a new high until December 2020. That so-called ‘Great crypto crash’ was worse than the Dot-com bubble's 78% collapse in March 2000.
“It’s during crypto winters that the best entrepreneurs build the better companies. This is the time again to focus on solving real problems vs. pumping tokens,” the former head of crypto at Facebook-parent Meta, David Marcus, tweeted on Monday.
The crypto collapse raised concerns that the pain may persist for many months, according to UBS. “There’s this question of how do we characterize that and the nearest analogy is probably 2018, which is this idea of a crypto winter,” James Malcolm, head of foreign exchange research at UBS, told Fortune. “It looks likely to be a fairly difficult and potentially prolonged period and therefore, the crypto winter analogy is quite good,” he said, adding, “Remember, the crypto winter in 2018 wasn’t just over the Northern Hemisphere winter months. It basically extended for a whole year—so it was a crypto winter that lasted effectively a year.”
Analysts point out that the digital assets’ slump seems to be tracking broader market developments, in particular, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq indexes’ slide into correction territory last week. Cryptocurrencies are becoming more intertwined with traditional markets due to involvement from large institutional funds, they say. The crypto market has been plummeting since the Federal Reserve announced that it would reduce its stimulus to the financial markets.
The largest cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, sunk to its lowest price in six months at the start of this week to near $33,000 after it went into a nosedive on Friday with cryptos across the board plummeting in value. Ether has more than halved in value since reaching its peak in November, while Solana has suffered an even steeper decline, falling 65%. They have bounced back since then, with Bitcoin up by more than 4% to around $38,000 a token on Wednesday.
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The shadowy facility in Lithuania was used to detain terrorism suspects
A large steel barn once used by the CIA to host suspected terrorists outside of US jurisdiction as part of its “extraordinary rendition” program is up for sale by the government of Lithuania.
The Baltic state’s national real-estate fund, which handles assets that have gone out of use, announced this week that the facility will go on the market at an as-yet-undecided price. The 10-room building, which is located in a forest outside Vilnius, the capital, was used by America’s top spy agency from 2005 to 2006, when it was known as ‘Project No. 2’ or ‘Detention Site Violet’.
The building contains a long corridor and windowless rooms with carpets and soundproof doors. Arvydas Anusauskas, who led a Lithuanian parliamentary investigation into the site in 2010, told Reuters that it was a heavily guarded facility “where one could do whatever you want. What exactly was going on there, we did not determine.”
The European Court of Human Rights determined in 2018 that inmates had been held there in solitary confinement with constant light and high-intensity noise, shackled and continually blindfolded or hooded. The court ordered Lithuania to pay 100,000 euros ($113,000) to Abu Zubaydah, a high-ranking Al-Qaeda figure who the court said was subjected to human rights violations while jailed there.
The site closed in 2006. Zubaydah and other former prisoners – including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who has been named as “the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks” – are currently held by the US at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba.
Lithuania previously turned a former Russian KGB jail, where hundreds were murdered and thousands tortured in the 1940s, into a popular museum. The state has no such plans for the former CIA facility, however, which has stood empty since the real estate fund took it over from the Lithuanian intelligence service, which used it as a training site from 2007 to 2018.
The EU’s dependence on a Washington in decline is looking increasingly precarious
The president of France, Emmanuel Macron, has started off his country’s presidency of the EU with a bold provocation. Speaking to the European Parliament in Strasbourg he has put his head above the growing anti-Moscow rhetoric and called for a dialogue about a continent-wide, “indivisible” security strategy that includes Russia, rather than existing to oppose it.
In reality, this is no surprise: as Macron pointed out, he has proposed a similar approach “for years” already. It is also an idea that is so obviously reasonable that it is almost boring. Why would the EU not engage in such an exchange with its militarily most powerful neighbor, on which it also depends for much of its energy? In fact, a historian looking back on this moment might well rub her eyes one day, wondering how something so simple wasn’t in place already.
What really makes Macron’s act of pointing out the obvious interesting is the almost comically hyperactive response it has triggered. The French president, the Financial Times hastened to alarm us in military jargon, “broke ranks.” Brussels bureaucrats have scrambled to distance themselves, accusing Macron of going it alone without forewarnings. An especially courageous, if anonymous, EU official – potentially from the Baltics or Poland – has called his whole idea “crazy.”
Josep Borrell, the EU's top diplomat, has been in an almost indecent rush to make sure Washington knows that Macron was not speaking for him. NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken have both called for “unity” between the US and the EU with a fervor reminiscent of a Soviet party congress. And, as if on cue, a small brigade of Western publicists has stampeded all over social media to decry the French enfant terrible’s rude breach of etiquette as a “really unfortunate” assault on “Western,” again, “unity.”
This is all very strange, even rather absurd. Because it makes no sense at all as a reaction to what Macron has actually said, as you can easily find out for yourself by listening to a recording.
In fact, the panicked response can only be understood as really about something else. We’ll get to that. But first, let’s take a closer look at the French president’s real statements.
The dialogue between the EU and Russia, according to Macron should be “frank” – that is, in easily decipherable code, clear about differences as well as possible points of agreement. Security challenges should be anticipated instead of only reacted-to. Western Europe needs not only “strategic rethinking” but also “strategic rearmament,” the president said, while explicitly calling for a decisive stance against “manipulation” and “interference.” Given recent accusations flying between the West and Russia, this was a clear barb against Moscow. No less than the most stalwart US hawks or Green “value” moralists from Germany, Macron insisted on “principles” and “rules,” on inviolable borders and the “rejection of spheres of influence.” And so on. The examples could be multiplied, but you get the gist: “Appeasement” of Russia, this was clearly not. On the contrary, it was really quite a tough speech.
Moreover, France has been clear that no one is to be cut out of the loop. Defining Western Europe’s positions should proceed in stages, so the idea goes, first with a general and comprehensive consultation within the EU to define common positions, then – nota bene – coordinating with NATO, and only finally taking whatever has survived that process to the table to talk to Russia.
There you have it. a speech that was, actually, quite hawkish on Russia and a policy proposal that paid due respect to both all other EU members and to NATO, which of course is dominated by Washington. So what is it really that is so irritating about Macron’s initiative to so many in the West?
In short, it isn’t really about the EU’s relationship with Russia at all. In reality, he’s run into trouble (if probably deliberately) because he has implicitly but clearly challenged the bloc’s relationship to the USA.
His insistence that Western Europe must not only have reliable security but be able to provide it on its own is certain to have rubbed 'Atlanticists,’ those still stubbornly believing in voluntary dependence on the USA, the wrong way. In theory, Macron’s long-standing demand for “strategic autonomy” is not that contentious. But in practice it is one of those policies that is not supposed to have real consequences.
A Europe “independent in a violent world… of the whim of others,” in the French president’s words, does not exist, of course. Macron’s pretending it does and, in effect, calling for this fiction to become reality is an affront to the astonishingly large number of European politicians, think-tankers, and publicists who still invest an increasingly blind faith in a declining, unstable, and increasingly unpredictable America as their guardian.
It is this desperate faith – which clearly comes with much repressed doubt – that Macron implicitly questions when spelling out what strategic autonomy would mean if the EU actually meant it: “a proper defense industry” of its own, a definition of a “doctrine of its own security,” and as a result a “Europe that is independent and has the power decide its own future for itself and not to depend on the choices of the other major powers.”
Again, make no mistake: none of the above contradicts cooperation, even close cooperation with the USA. All it means is that the EU should transform its current security model as a dependent client of America (a dysfunctional leftover from the Cold War that ended more than thirty years ago) into a new one as an independent partner.
And that is the crux. Because what the silly brouhaha about Macron’s eminently sensible approach really reveals has nothing to do with him or even with France or Russia. The core of “Atlanticism” is not a belief in the need for cooperation with Washington, even if many priests and practitioners of that belief may say so.
Atlanticism’s real core is a belief in the need to be vitally dependent on the US. And that position – unlike one based on cooperation between equals – is indefensible: It makes no sense that a bloc of the EU’s capacities should continue risking its security by relying on Washington instead of itself.
Macron’s pointing to the only reasonable way forward, namely genuine Western European independence from America. And since it cannot be named honestly without admitting the rot at the core of “Atlanticism,” namely voluntary dependence on a clearly undependable power, the French president will be attacked dishonestly: by pretending he is against Western “unity,” as if we were witnessing the persecution of a heretic in the medieval church. When the witch burning starts, one thing is certain: arguments have run out.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) took full control of the al-Sina’a prison on Wednesday
The Kurdish-led SDF have beaten off Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorists at the al-Sina’a prison in the northeastern Syrian city of Hasaka.
In a tweet on Wednesday, spokesman Farhad Shami confirmed the victory, stating that all IS militants had surrendered just hours after 500 handed themselves over following earlier clashes.
“Game Over Daesh,” he wrote in a subsequent tweet.
Shami shared photos from the prison in the aftermath of the battle.
Update - The Peoples' Hammer Operation has culminated with our entire control of the al-Sina'a prison in al-Hasaka and the surrendering of all Daesh terrorists.— Farhad Shami (@farhad_shami) January 26, 2022
تتويج حملة "مطرقة الشعوب" العسكرية بالسيطرة الكاملة على سجن الصناعة بالحسكة من قبل قواتنا واستسلام جميع عناصر داعش. pic.twitter.com/qReBv255UF
The final dance of the venom snakes in al-Sina'a prison- Game Over Daesh pic.twitter.com/D6DYlfUnsO— Farhad Shami (@farhad_shami) January 26, 2022
His tweets made no reference to the 850 children and minors the UN children’s agency believes to have been caught in clashes at the prison complex.
UNICEF has registered its concern for the fate of the children who had been living alongside some 5,000 prisoners since it was seized by militants last Thursday.
“Every day counts. It’s very hard to even imagine what atrocities these children are witnessing,” UNICEF’s Middle East and North Africa regional advocacy and communications head, Juliette Touma, said on Tuesday.
The children, who had reportedly been detained for suspected links to IS during the US-backed campaign in 2019, were being held in a dormitory at the facility. The SDF said IS militants had been holed up in the building.
The Kurdish-led forces claimed the children were being used as a “human shield.”
Sina’a prison is the largest facility operated by the SDF.
More than 50,000 trucks are heading to Ottawa to express their discontent with Canada’s measures
US crowdfunding platform GoFundMe has suspended access to more than Can$5 million (about $4 million) raised by ‘Freedom Convoy 2022’ – a trucker convoy heading to Ottawa to protest the vaccine mandate.
About 50,000 trucks aim to take part in a massive demonstration against rules recently imposed by the government, requiring truck drivers to be vaccinated to avoid a 14-day quarantine after crossing the border from the US.
Commenting on its decision to temporarily freeze the funds raised by the campaign, GoFundMe said the money “will be safely held” until the Freedom Convoy provides the documents “about how funds will be properly distributed.”
“We require that fundraisers be transparent about the flow of funds and have a clear plan for how those funds will be spent. In this case, we are in touch with the organizer to verify that information,” the platform’s spokeswoman, Rachel Hollis, told CTV News in an email.
According to the campaign’s page on GoFundMe, the funds were supposed to cover “the costs of fuel first, and hopefully food and lodgings” for the haulers to “ease the pressures” of their “arduous task.”
In a video on the campaign’s Facebook page, campaign organizer Tamara Lich told supporters not to panic.
“I am working with GoFundMe, trust me, we got this covered,” she said, adding that when the authorities “are scared the first thing they are going to try to do is come after your money.”
“And when that doesn’t work, they’re going to try and shut us down,” Lich said.
Explaining Freedom Convoy’s mission earlier, Lich said Canada is “a peaceful country that has helped protect nations across the globe from tyrannical governments who oppressed their people, and now it seems it is happening here,” so people have the duty now “to put an end to these mandates.”
Ahead of the demonstration planned in Ottawa on January 29, the Canadian Trucking Alliance, which does not support the campaign, issued a statement along with the government, saying that “vaccination, used in combination with preventative public health measures, is the most effective tool to reduce the risk of COVID-19 for Canadians, and to protect public health.”
The optional rule will be added to the medieval historical strategy following accusations of homophobia
Paradox Development Studio, the company behind the widely acclaimed historical grand strategy game ‘Crusader Kings 3’, has announced that a same-sex marriage option will be included in the next free update, following backlash and accusations of homophobia over game mechanics that prevented players from forming official homosexual relationships.
‘Crusader Kings 3’ is intended as a historical simulation set in the Middle Ages and has been praised for its true-to-life representation of the historical period. However, that historical accuracy has also landed the developers in some hot waters with the LGBTQ gaming community, as many of the cultures and faiths represented in the game hold negative views on homosexuality, and the game’s mechanics – which revolve around building dynasties and developing influence through strategic marriages – leave players unable to form official same-sex relationships within the narrative.
There was even some backlash against the game after an error message was interpreted as homophobic by some players. It read: “Error: make_concubine effect [Illegal concubinage: <Character> is the same gender as their concubinist, so they can't become a concubine].” The developer responded to the backlash by saying, “In no way was this implemented in order to deliberately bar players from including same-sex relationships in the game.”
Currently, players have the option of making same-sex relationships be accepted by all faiths; however, those relationships can only be made official through the use of third-party mods. The upcoming 1.5 update will make that option available without any additional modding, as players will be able to add a custom rule allowing homosexual marriages before the start of the game.
“The CK3 team and Paradox as a whole are very conscious of representation in our games, and same-sex lovers have been included in C3K since launch,” developer Paradox stated. “But we know this is not the same thing as a formal relationship. This is something we support, since allowing everyone to tell their story is a big part of our values.”
The Court of Appeal has ruled that it’s unlawful for the UK to remove a person's British nationality without prior notice
The UK government has lost its latest legal bid to strip a woman of her British citizenship for allegedly deciding to join Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) in Syria, after the Court of Appeal agreed she must be given prior notice before its removal.
The woman, who has only been identified as ‘D4’, is thought to be currently detained within the same Syrian camp as Shamima Begum, who was stripped of her British citizenship in 2019 and told she will never be allowed to return to the UK.
In its ruling, the Court of Appeal stated that, while there may be “good policy reasons” to give the home secretary the power to strip people of citizenship without notice, it is currently “not lawful.”
As such, the judge upheld an earlier High Court ruling that the attempt to strip D4 of her citizenship was “void and of no effect” because she was not notified and was unaware it had happened for 10 months.
The UK government is currently seeking to pass legislation through parliament that would give the home secretary the legal authority to deprive people of citizenship without notice. If passed, she would be able to do so in cases where it would “not be reasonably practicable” or “in the interests of the relationship between the UK and another country.”
Alleged IS members are believed to make up the majority of the 150 individuals whose British citizenship was revoked since 2014 under legislation that allows removal when it is “conducive to the public good.” However, the figures available only cover up to the end of 2019, as the government hasn’t published an annual report on the matter in two years.
An analysis by Free Movement, a group that seeks to provide information to individuals affected by immigration control, believes that, at least, 464 people have lost their British citizenship over the past 15 years. Since 2006, 175 lost their nationality on national security grounds, while 289 saw it stripped away for fraud.
General Motors intends to boost spending on EV production to topple Elon Musk’s company
American automotive giant General Motors said on Tuesday it will pour $6.6 billion into boosting its electric pickup truck production and building a new electronic vehicle (EV) battery cell plant in its home state of Michigan.
The carmaker wants to overtake Tesla as the world’s biggest producer of electric vehicles.
“We will have the products, the battery cell capacity and the vehicle-assembly capacity to be the EV leader by mid-decade,” GM CEO Mary Barra said in a statement, as cited by CNBC.
The investment will include $2.6 billion for the construction of a new battery plant in partnership with LG Energy Solution and $4 billion for converting GM’s existing Orion Assembly plant in Detroit to produce electric trucks, like the recently announced and highly anticipated Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, scheduled for launch in 2024.
The announced funds also represent a part of GM’s $35 billion agenda to increase its North American production capacity to 1 million electric vehicles by 2025. The carmaker forecasts it may beat rival EV producer Tesla as the top US-based seller of electric vehicles by that time.
The company also pledged to invest an additional $510 million to upgrade two of its non-electric vehicle assembly plants in Michigan.
“Michigan will be the recognized hub and leader of innovation in the US for EV R&D and manufacturing,” the company’s president, Mark Reuss, said during a media briefing.
GM is also converting its plants in Tennessee, Canada, and Mexico to assemble EVs, projecting that by 2030 half of its North American plants will be focused solely on EV production.
The car company has a long and bumpy road ahead, however, if it plans to topple Tesla as the top EV producer. Elon Musk’s EV giant delivered 936,172 electric vehicles globally last year. According to some estimations, Tesla’s 2021 US deliveries were well over 300,000 EVs, while GM sold less than 25,000 units, ranking third after Ford with 27,140 Mustang Mach-E EVs sold.
For more stories on economy & finance visit RT's business section
The $14 billion software upgrade has led to “critical warfighting deficiencies” in the jets, but is still being deployed
The Pentagon is continuing to install a fresh software upgrade on its F-35 fighter jets, even though the programming turned out to be riddled with flaws, Bloomberg reports, citing a military testing report soon to be published.
The fighter jet operators discovered deficiencies “in weapons, fusion, communications and navigation, cybersecurity and targeting processes,” following the upgrade, the 13-page assessment viewed by the media says.
It adds that the software required further “modification and additional time and resources, which caused delays.”
The Lockheed Martin jet is heavily reliant on onboard software that includes more than eight million lines of code. The upgrade “does not adhere to the published best practices” and had “consistently failed to deliver the capabilities contained in their master schedule,” the assessment notes.
The upgrade was designed to provide the jets with new capabilities and increase their computing power and memory. It should have also allowed the fighters to carry new munition types, such as AIM-9X Block II air-to-air missiles, all-weather Small Diameter Bomb II munitions or radar-killing AARGM-ER missiles, and even the B-61 nuclear bomb.
However, the new processes “often introduced stability problems and/or adversely affected” other functions, as discovered by active-duty military units that frequently reported “critical warfighting deficiencies,” the document said.
The report blamed the slew of issues on inadequate funding, which resulted in testing that was not comprehensive enough to ensure “unintentional deficiencies [were] not embedded in the software prior to delivery.”
The cost of the upgrade has already amounted to $14 billion, according to Bloomberg.
The US Defense Department’s F-35 program office has so far refused to comment on this information, saying it would issue comments once the report was officially published.
The F-35s, which were touted by arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin as one of the most advanced fighter jets ever developed, have been plagued by a string of technical issues and a series of developmental delays, cost overruns, and malfunctions.
Most recently, an F-35C Lightning II suffered a “landing mishap” during drills in the South China Sea. The incident saw seven US Navy personnel injured. In early January, South Korea grounded all the F-35 jets it bought from the US after a landing gear glitch forced a pilot to perform a risky crash landing near a military base in the country’s west.
Washington will be forced to react if Ukraine is invaded from Belarusian soil, says the US State Department
Belarus will face a “swift and decisive response” from Washington if it allows Moscow to use its territory to invade Ukraine, the US State Department threatened on Tuesday, amid growing fears that a Russian military incursion is imminent.
Speaking to the press, State Department spokesman Ned Price called Russia’s “surging of troops into Belarus” a “cause for deep concern.” Moscow and Minsk are currently preparing for the Union Resolve 2022 joint exercises, due to begin on February 10.
As a result, troops from around Russia are currently redeploying westward, with many now near the Ukrainian border. Washington believes the exercises could be a pretense for an invasion.
“We’ve also made clear to Belarus that if it allows its territory to be used for an attack on Ukraine, it would face a swift and decisive response from the United States and our allies and partners,” Price said. “If an invasion were to proceed from Belarus, if Russian troops were to permanently station on their territory, NATO could well have to reassess our own force posture in the countries that border Belarus.”
The State Department spokesman also called the decision by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to allow a large number of troops onto his territory as an “affront to Belarus’s sovereignty.”
In response, a senior Belarusian official said that he found the suggestion of a US response “humorous.”
“There has never been any threat from the territory of Belarus and Russia,” Oleg Gaidukevich, deputy chairman of the Belarusian Parliament’s Committee on International Affairs, said on Wednesday. “Lukashenko has said more than once that we can come with tractors and combine harvesters and sow wheat to Ukraine’s fields so they can have a good harvest. No more than that.”
“And all these sanctions packages are imposed just for the fact that we exist. For the fact that Belarus and Russia are on the world map,” he said.
In recent months, Western news publications and leaders have accused Russia of placing 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border, with some claiming that the Kremlin is planning an attack in the near future. Moscow has repeatedly denied all suggestions of a possible invasion.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino made his remarks at a Council of Europe parliamentary assembly
FIFA head Gianni Infantino has raised eyebrows with an address to European politicians in which he appeared to suggest that hosting the World Cup every two years could reduce death rates for African migrants attempting to find a 'better life'.
Infantino was discussing his 'Future of Football' strategy which concentrates on doubling the frequency of the flagship international tournament currently held every four years while attending a Council of Europe parliamentary assembly session.
The group is dedicated to supporting human rights, and Infantino suggested that countries outside of Europe require greater access to football competitions as a means of preventing grave consequences.
"I understand that in Europe the World Cup [effectively] takes place twice a week," Infantino began.
"Because the best players are playing in Europe. So in Europe, there is no need for additional possibilities and events.
"But if we think about the rest of the world, and the vast majority of Europe that doesn’t see the best players or participate in the top competitions, then we have to think about what football brings, which goes beyond the sport.
"This topic is not about whether we want a World Cup every two years, but about what do we want to do for the future of football," Infantino claimed.
"If we think about the rest of world, and the vast majority of Europe, then we have to think about what football brings," he added.
"Football is about opportunity, about hope, about the national teams. We cannot say to the rest of world: 'Give us your money, but watch us on TV'. We need to include them.
Gianni Infantino— Moses Wakhisi (@moseswakhisi) January 26, 2022
"We have to give the Africans hope that they don't have to cross the Mediterranean to perhaps be able to have a better life here. We have to give them opportunities and dignity."
Did I get this wrong? pic.twitter.com/6rihFpsuPt
"We need to find ways to include the whole world to give hope to Africans so that they don’t need to cross the Mediterranean in order to find maybe a better life but, more probably, death in the sea," Infantino boldly stated.
"We need to give opportunities, to give dignity. Not by charity but by allowing the rest of the world to participate.
"Maybe the World Cup every two years is not the answer," he admitted.
"We will discuss what the best way is to be more inclusive, not just to speak about saying no to discrimination, but to actually act in exactly that direction.
"By being more inclusive. By bringing everybody on board. By trying to give opportunities, hope, and dignity to the entire world."
My colleagues at Human Rights Watch interview refugees around the world pretty much every day.— Andrew Stroehlein (@astroehlein) January 26, 2022
We write reports about the reasons - the abuses, the hardships - that forced them to leave their homes.
They never mention the timing of World Cup tournaments. https://t.co/HpsHvBLX40
After Infantino highlighted "significant progress achieved by Qatar” in human rights amid allegations of 6,500 deaths of migrant workers building infrastructure, claiming that this came as a result of the country being awarded this year's World Cup, his remarks caused outrage.
"How low can Infantino go?" tweeted the chief executive of Football Supporters Europe, Ronan Evain
"Instrumentalising death in the Mediterranean to sell his megalomaniac plan is beyond words."
"My colleagues at Human Rights Watch interview refugees around the world pretty much every day," said the group's European media director, Andrew Stroehlein, on the same platform.
"We write reports about the reasons – the abuses, the hardships – that forced them to leave their homes. They never mention the timing of World Cup tournaments."
With former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger spearheading the Future for Football project, proposals for a biennial World Cup have thus far been rejected by players such as Kylian Mbappe and fans alike.
"I'm nobody to say if it's a good thing or a bad thing," the Paris Saint Germain forward said recently at the Global Soccer Awards while collecting the Best Men’s Player of The Year gong.
"But I [can] give my opinion and my opinion is that the World Cup is the World Cup. It's a special thing because it's something [that takes place] every four years.
"If you want to keep that [specialness]... you saw that I talk about it, [that] people talk about it like the best competition in the world. If you have it every two years, it can start to be normal to play a World Cup.
"And I want to say that that's not normal. It's something amazing that maybe you play one time in your life," the Russia 2018 winner with France pointed out, while also agreeing with Robert Lewandowski's concerns over player safety.
A derelict rocket booster from a 2015 mission will likely create the first-ever accidental lunar impact in early March
An out-of-control SpaceX rocket is on a collision course with the Moon after spending nearly seven years tumbling in a “chaotic” orbit through space, meteorologists have warned. Thought to be the first-ever “unintended lunar impact,” the derelict rocket is expected to crash in early March.
The booster rocket, which was part of the company’s Falcon 9 spacecraft, had been launched from Florida in February 2015. It formed the second stage of SpaceX’s mission to send up the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s ‘Deep Space Climate Observatory’ satellite.
However, it lost control after completing a long burn of its engines to launch the satellite – and the rocket had neither enough fuel to return to the Earth’s atmosphere, nor the energy to “escape the gravity of the Earth-Moon system,” meteorologist Eric Berger explained in an Ars Technica post.
Space watchers are of the opinion that the rocket – which apparently contains about four metric tons of “space junk” – will smash into the far side of the moon near its equator at a velocity of about 2.58 kilometers per second. The collision could take place as early as March 4, according to Bill Gray, the creator of Project Pluto, which tracks near-Earth objects, asteroids, and comets.
In a recent blog post, Gray noted that the rocket “made a close lunar flyby on January 5” but said the exact location of impact on the Moon was a “little tricky,” due to unpredictable effects such as sunlight “pushing” the object away from the Sun. However, it will likely create a sizeable impact crater that may be studied and imaged by satellites in a lunar orbit.
“We already know what happens when junk hits the Earth; there’s not much to learn from that,” Gray wrote, adding that he was “rooting for a lunar impact.”
The collision will not be observable from Earth since “the bulk of the Moon is in the way” and because the impact is set to take place a “couple of days after New Moon” – the time of the lunar cycle when the Moon is not visible from Earth.
The US President says his Russian counterpart could be directly targeted if Ukraine is invaded
US President Joe Biden has revealed that he cannot rule out imposing direct personal sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin if Moscow decides to invade Ukraine.
Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, Biden said he “could see” targeted, personal measures against the Russian leader being a possibility. His comments come as Western leaders begin to make preparations to impose a wide range of sanctions against Moscow, with the aim of deterring Russia from attacking Ukraine. Thus far, suggested ideas include banning the import of certain goods and imposing severe restrictions against Russian banks.
The idea of personally targeting Putin was initially proposed earlier this month by a group of US senators from Biden’s Democratic Party, led by Robert Menendez. The bill pushed by politicians also targeted other senior Russian officials, like Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, as well as measures aimed at crippling the economy. This is the first time, however, that Biden himself has admitted that Putin is a possible target.
At the same time, the US president also noted that 8,500 American troops had been put on high alert, noting that there could be some American military movement in Eastern Europe in the “nearer term” to protect the country’s NATO allies in case of spillover effects from the Ukraine crisis.
Western news publications and leaders have accused Russia of placing 100,000 troops on the border, with some claiming that the Kremlin is planning an attack in the near future. Moscow has repeatedly denied all suggestions of a possible invasion.
Despite Russian reassurances that it poses no threat, the US, the EU, and the UK have all stepped up military preparations, with some countries sending hardware and manpower to Ukraine.
The former US president appears keen to run for office again
Former President Donald Trump was filmed telling golfing buddies that he will be the “45th and 47th” president of the United States. Trump, who maintains Joe Biden beat him by fraud in 2020, hasn’t yet formally announced his candidacy for 2024.
A video doing the rounds on social media on Wednesday shows Trump preparing to tee off at one of his golf clubs, dressed in his trademark red ‘Make America Great Again’ hat.
“First on the tee, the 45th president of the United States,” one of his partners says, to which Trump replies “45th and 47th,” to cheers from the group.
Since leaving the White House last January, Trump has insisted that the 2020 presidential election, which he lost to Democrat Joe Biden, was “rigged.” Although he has been banned from every major social media platform, Trump has continued to comment on American politics via press releases and media interviews, and has held several campaign-style rallies in recent months, during which he repeatedly dropped hints of a planned comeback in 2024.
However, he has not definitively stated publicly whether he’ll run or not, saying in late 2021 that he’ll “probably” make an announcement after the midterm elections this November.
Should he launch a new bid for the presidency, Trump is the standout favorite to clinch the Republican Party’s nomination. A Harvard/Harris poll published on Monday found Trump the preferred candidate of 57% of Republican voters, with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence coming in a distant second and third place, with 12% and 11% support respectively.
The WBC heavyweight champion referred to the pair as 'wet lettuces'
Tyson Fury has taken to social media to upload a string of videos where he dubbed heavyweight rivals Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk a 'coward' and a 'p*ssy' respectively.
The WBC and The Ring ruler is currently waiting to book his next opponent. While Dillian Whyte is his mandatory foe, that potential fight has little appeal outside of the UK where interest has also waned in a meeting with Anthony Joshua.
This is due to the Londoner's loss to Usyk in September, which saw the Ukrainian take the WBA, IBF, WBO, and IBO straps that Fury once possessed back to his homeland.
And while there are reports that Joshua will be paid up to $20 million to step aside from a rematch so that Fury and Usyk can face off in a unification match for the ages, the 'Gypsy King' has fired barbs at the trio while claiming that he is the "best man that’s ever lived".
Joshua is a coward.— TYSON FURY (@Tyson_Fury) January 25, 2022
Usyk is a pussy.
Whyte don’t want to fight.
Pack of wet lettuces. pic.twitter.com/joXSRCEmLT
"I'm being asked this question over and over again," he began in a strong-worded video from his home in Morecambe. "I do not know the answers to it."
"I’m ready to fight this weekend." Fury claimed. "I’ve been training for three weeks – how long does a man need to train?
"Joshua’s a coward, Usyk’s a p***y and Dillian Whyte don’t wanna fight, so if you can prove me wrong, get to f**king fighting you pair of cowards."
"You’re all cowards, you’re all bum dossers. Either fight or do one you pack of wet lettuces," Fury signed off.
All cowards shithouse bums.— TYSON FURY (@Tyson_Fury) January 25, 2022
I’ll fight any of them, I’m the best man that’s ever lived!!!!! pic.twitter.com/ThUZF7wgc8
Fury later took to Twitter again to post another clip captioned: "All cowards s**thouse bums. I’ll fight any of them, I’m the best man that’s ever lived!!!!!"
"I’m just gonna keep videoing until one of these cowards decides to fight," he threatened.
"You’re all cowards, s**thouse bums. I don’t care who I fight: AJ, Usyk, Dillian Whyte, or any of them.
"Fight me, I’m the best man that’s ever lived. I’ll annihilate the lot of you and destroy you, submit you, tap you b*****s out. Come and fight."
Pack of cowards. pic.twitter.com/J5ALUcihND— TYSON FURY (@Tyson_Fury) January 26, 2022
On Wednesday while appearing to get a massage, Fury uploaded one last short outburst entitled: "Pack of cowards".
"I tell you what boys," he said. "[There's] some pack of cowards out there. Some pack of bulls**t talkers. I tell you that now.
"Making all the demands in the world, you cowards. Come and fight!" he insisted.
Fury's impatience could be related to reports that the WBC has set a three-times delayed 6pm deadline in the UK for the Mancunian and Whyte to negotiate their fight prior to purse bids being called.
"Tick, tick, effing, tick, tock – is the subject of today," he said in a first video published on Tuesday, hinting at this.
"Is Dillian Whyte gonna fight me? Is Anthony Joshua gonna step aside?" Fury asked.
"Let me know because I am sick of looking at these bums, sick of listening to their excuses. Tick, tick tock. The time has run out of the bottle.
"You’re all getting a good hiding, cowards," he said.
Posting a video of his own in response to the drama, Whyte tagged Fury, Joshua and the latter's promotor Eddie Hearn and wrote: "I just want f**king war, that's all I want is to go to war with the best. F**k all this he said she said bulls**t."
"Good man, let the wars begin," Fury fired back.
Meanwhile, Joshua has insisted that he hasn't signed or even seen a contract to step aside from the Usyk rematch.
"So as it stands, stop listening until it comes from me," he seethed.
"I'm the man in control of my destiny, I'm the man that handles my business, I'm a smart individual and I make calculated decisions every step of the way.
"Don't listen to other sources. If I tell you something then you know it's real," he concluded.
The move comes shortly after the notorious Kremlin critic was added to Russia’s ‘terrorist and extremist’ list
The brother of jailed opposition figure Alexey Navalny has been placed on a wanted list, facing criminal charges, by Russian authorities shortly after the country’s Federal Penitentiary Service asked a Moscow court to replace his suspended sentence with a jail term.
On Wednesday, Oleg Navalny’s photo and personal details appeared on the Russian Interior Ministry’s database. According to the request, he is wanted “under an article of the Criminal Code.” However, no details of which specific crimes he stands accused of have been made available.
His lawyer, Nikos Paraskevov, told RIA Novosti that the arrest warrant was related to his absence from his place of residence and failure to turn up for inspection for over a month.
On Tuesday, the Federal Penitentiary Service appealed to judges in the Russian capital to change the younger Navalny brother’s suspended sentence into jail time. A hearing will be held on February 18.
According to them, Oleg “does not properly comply with court-imposed restrictions” in the so-called “sanitary case.”
A probe was launched by investigators last January against the opposition figure’s brother and eight other people, who are accused of inciting breaches of Covid-19 pandemic restrictions linked to a pro-Navalny rally in Moscow on January 23.
The younger Navalny was handed a one-year suspended sentence in August after being found guilty of the charges. He insists that the sentence is politically motivated.
The decision to place the 38-year-old on a wanted list comes just one day after Navalny and a number of his most notable associates were added to an official government list of “terrorists and extremists.”
Among the eight others deemed “terrorists and extremists” were some individuals who had worked at the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), an organization founded by the opposition figure in 2011 to investigate and expose corruption among high-ranking Russian officials. The FBK was designated as a “foreign agent” by the Ministry of Justice in 2019, and in June 2021, it was labeled an extremist organization and liquidated.
Navalny is currently behind bars serving a two-year and eight-month jail term for violating the conditions of a suspended sentence handed down to him in 2014 for fraud. He was found guilty of embezzling $400,000 from two companies. The opposition figure was arrested in January 2021, when he returned to Russia from Germany, where he had been brought after falling ill on a flight traveling from Siberia to Moscow.
He and his German doctors allege that he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok, in what he claims was a state-sponsored assassination attempt. However, Moscow insists that its requests for samples as evidence have been ignored.
Su-35 planes have been dispatched to participate in readiness checks
Russia is sending advanced Su-35 fighter planes to neighboring Belarus to participate in scheduled military exercises amid rising tensions with NATO, Moscow’s Ministry of Defense has said.
Military chiefs announced the redeployment in a statement on Wednesday, writing, “the crews of the multipurpose Su-35S fighters of the eastern military region… continue to rebase to Belarusian airfields. During their flights, the crews are making intermittent stops at the airfields of the central and western military regions, to rest and prepare for the next takeoff.”
After they arrive in Belarus, the planes will take part in exercises designed to test the readiness of the combined anti-air defense system of Russia and Belarus, who are close military partners. The large-scale drills will also involve ground troops and are scheduled to last until February 20.
The Sukhoi Su-35 is a single-seat, twin-engine air-defense fighter of a type first developed in the Soviet Union, when it was known as the Su-27M. It was renamed the Su-35 after the dissolution of the USSR, and in 2008, a modernized version with a redesigned cockpit and weapons-control systems made its first flight. The aircraft has been exported to several other nations, including China and Egypt.
On Friday, the Ministry of Defense announced that it was moving two divisions of its S-400 Triumph air-defense systems, designed to take down enemy warplanes, into Belarus for the exercises.
Last week, the US State Department warned that the upcoming drills could be a sign that Russia is planning an invasion of Ukraine, with one official saying, “we are very alert to everything that Russia is doing. The fact that we’re seeing this movement of forces into Belarus clearly gives the Russians another approach should they decide to take further military action against Ukraine.”
The Kremlin has denied that it has any intention to attack its neighbor. Oleg Voinov, a senior Belarusian defense official, said that one goal of the drills is to practice “reinforcing the state border.”