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Signs of the Times: The World for People who Think. Featuring independent, unbiased, alternative news and commentary on world events.
  1. The US dictionary also recently added a new definition of "they", reflecting its use as a singular personal pronoun for non-binary people. Searches for "they" on Merriam-Webster's website were 313% higher this year than they were in 2018. British pop star Sam Smith came out as non-binary in March, and in September confirmed on Instagram that their pronouns were "they/them". Announcing their pronouns, Smith wrote: "I understand there will be many mistakes and misgendering, but all I ask is you please please try. I hope you can see me like I see myself now."
  2. The popular socialist leader of Britain's Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, could be on the verge of becoming prime minister of the United Kingdom. And the mere possibility is terrifying British intelligence services and the US government. Since Corbyn was elected to the head of the Labour Party in 2015, in a landslide victory after running on a staunch leftist and anti-war platform, the corporate media has waged a relentless campaign to demonize and delegitimize him. With just days remaining before UK's national election on December 12, British intelligence agencies and US government-backed organizations have escalated their attacks on Corbyn, borrowing tactics from America's Russiagate hysteria and going to great efforts to portray him — without any substantive evidence — as a supposed puppet of the dastardly Kremlin.
  3. The air quality in Sydney, Australia, continued to deteriorate severely Tuesday as about 100 bushfires burned in New South Wales and strong, north winds sent more smoke into the city. According to a report by AP, the air pollution in some parts of the city was 11 times worse than a 200 reading on the Air Quality Index, the threshold considered "hazardous," due to fine particulate matter being released by the burning fires. Fine particulate matter consists of microscopic solids and liquid droplets in the air that can be inhaled and even absorbed by the bloodstream.
  4. One officer and several civilians have been killed after shooters ambushed police before holing up in bodega and firing from behind the barricade in Jersey City, New Jersey. Dozens of schools are on lockdown with snipers on roofs. During a press briefing after the gunfight died down, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop told reporters that there are "multiple" people dead inside the store. It is believed both suspects have also been shot, but police have sent a robot in to make sure they are down. Fulop said the scene was "still active but secure" and said that all children in nearby schools are accounted for. He added that one of the injured officers was shot in the shoulder and expected to recover.
  5. The issue of class has never more prominent or salient in British politics than now. Clear evidence of this is the paroxysm into which Britain's ruling establishment, Tory in every particular, has been pitched since Jeremy Corbyn first arrived in its midst as the most unlikely leader of the Labour Party imaginable in 2015. Here he was, this slightly unkempt figure for whom socialism is a creed to live by rather than a pose to assume, having the temerity to be elected leader of Her Majesty's Opposition. Worse in the eyes of his establishment-supporting detractors was the fact that his abiding commitment to the oppressed and dispossessed at home and abroad was married to an absence of personal vanity and ego — this in an age when both had become coterminous with success in politics, the non-negotiable qualification for political leadership.
  6. Thousands of people have turned out again across France in support of ongoing strikes against proposed pension reforms by President Emmanuel Macron's government. The Ministry of the Interior estimates some 339,000 people demonstrated throughout France, with 31,000 in the capital. The CGT union claims 885,000 protesters took to the streets on Tuesday around the country, with 180,000 in Paris alone. While the numbers of protesters were massive, the turnout was almost twice as low compared to the protest held on December 5. Back then, 1.5 million took to the streets nationwide with 250,000 in Paris alone, according to the CGT figures. Comment: One must bear in mind these protests have, in one form or another, been going on for over a year now and they're still able to bring together over 1.5 million people.
  7. High in the Canadian Arctic on Baffin Island, beneath 10 meters of water and many more of mud, sits a refrigerated archive of Earth's past life. The deep sediments in a small lake called CF8 hold ancient pollen and plant fossils. But it now appears that the mud harbors something else: ancient DNA from as far back as the Eemian, a period 125,000 years ago when the Arctic was warmer than today, left by vegetation that otherwise would have vanished without a trace. "We feel confident that we are getting authentic results," says Sarah Crump, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Colorado in Boulder who is presenting the work here this week at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. She acknowledges the finding needs to be confirmed. But if it holds up, it could open a window on the ecosystems that flourished in the high Arctic at a time when temperatures were a few degrees warmer than today. It would also attest to the power of sedimentary DNA, as it's called, to show...
  8. Roger Scruton and Jordan Peterson have captured the attention of the Christian imagination in a way few, if any, explicitly Christian writers, thinkers, or movements in recent years can claim to have done. Intellectually serious Christians who come across them cannot help but be fascinated by the way in which these public intellectuals have been able to reach down into our secular culture and extract an unmistakably Christian message, without putting off readers or listeners who do not have any concrete religious convictions to speak of, let alone any experience of institutional Christianity. Both have tapped into a growing sentiment in our otherwise disenchanted culture that Christian civilization in the West may be worth preserving after all, even at this late hour. Scruton and Peterson intrigue us because they have both reach and staying power — the very things Christians in missionary mode hope for most. Scruton's staying power is beyond dispute. He has built up a richly...
  9. The US House Judiciary Committee has released the formal written articles of impeachment against Donald Trump for "high crimes and misdemeanors." Under the first article for "abuse of power," Trump is accused of having "solicited the interference of a foreign government" in the 2020 presidential election when he allegedly asked Ukraine's government to announce investigations that would "benefit his reelection" and harm the election prospects of political opponent Joe Biden.
  10. The 300-page Trump-Ukraine impeachment inquiry report finally identifies the argument that Democrats will use to impeach President Trump. It should be no surprise that the document is full of false narratives about the facts of the case and Trump's intentions. But the report also tries to spin the relevant law — the Impoundment Control Act of 1974, which governs situations in which the executive fails to spend authorized and appropriated funds. Buried in the House Intelligence Committee's report is a cherry-picked, blurred, and poorly cited description of this law, which twists it as somehow cutting against the president. As I have argued previously, however, the actual text of the act casts doubt on this entire impeachment inquiry. Democrats have long sought whatever excuse was available to impeach, but the law prescribes a much less drastic remedy for when a president withholds appropriated funds. First, the committee's report falsely characterizes what the law says about the...
  11. After two weeks of generally dry weather it has been snowing hard again over large parts of the Alps. Ski areas in Switzerland have reported up to 70cm of new snow in 24 hours to start the week. In Austria the biggest dump was in the Arlberg region where Lech (pictured below today) reported a 50cm accumulation and in France up to 30cm (a foot) of snow was reported in the same period in the Chamonix Valley.
  12. Russian FM Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are briefing the media after talks in Washington, DC, the first such meeting since 2017. Speaking at the press conference on Tuesday, Pompeo said the US was seeking a "better relationship" with Russia and that the two countries have been working on improving relations since his visit to Sochi in May. He said lines of communication between Moscow and Washington were open and relations were candid. Lavrov echoed that, saying the two met regularly and also spoke frequently by phone. "It is useful to talk to each other," he said. "Always better than not talking to each other."
  13. The Republican chairmen of three Senate committees are seeking records from and interviews with a former DNC contractor and a former Ukrainian diplomatic official to determine whether there was any coordination between the Ukrainian government and Democrats in the 2016 election, an allegation Democrats have dismissed as a conspiracy theory. Sens. Chuck Grassley, Ron Johnson and Lindsey Graham said Friday that they are requesting the records from Alexandra Chalupa, the former DNC contractor, and Andrii Telizkhenko, a former political officer who worked in the Ukrainian embassy. The senators said the request is a continuation of Grassley's inquiry in 2017 about possible coordination between the DNC and Ukrainian embassy to dig up dirt on the Trump campaign and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Chalupa met throughout 2016 with Ukrainian embassy officials, and sought to trade information related to Manafort, who worked through 2014 for former Ukrainian President Viktor...
  14. While there is little hope that relations between Washington and Moscow will warm up, the fact that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is meeting with his US counterpart Mike Pompeo suggests they haven't frozen over quite yet. If unnamed diplomatic sources sharing insider information with news agencies are to be believed, Lavrov and Pompeo will discuss Ukraine, Syria, arms control and "other issues" between the US and Russia when they meet on Tuesday. The last time Lavrov visited Washington, in May 2017, Pompeo was head of the CIA and US President Donald Trump had just fired FBI Director James Comey, setting off an avalanche of criticism among the media and Democrats that it was all related to the 'Russiagate' conspiracy theory - which was eventually debunked by special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation this spring. To deal with 'Russiagate,' however, Trump has pursued a hard-line policy towards Moscow, expelling Russian diplomats, closing consulates, approving sanctions,...
  15. To understand just how shoddy the FBI's work was in securing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant targeting the Trump campaign, you only need to read an obscure attachment to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz's report. Appendix 1 identifies the total violations by the FBI of the so-called Woods Procedures, the process by which the bureau verifies information and assures the FISA court its evidence is true. The Appendix identifies a total of 51 Woods procedure violations from the FISA application the FBI submitted to the court authorizing surveillance of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page starting in October 2016. A whopping nine of those violations fell into the category called: "Supporting document shows that the factual assertion is inaccurate." For those who don't speak IG parlance, it means the FBI made nine false assertions to the FISA court. In short, what the bureau said was contradicted by the evidence in its official file.
  16. The Ukrainian prosecutor Joe Biden got fired by threatening to withhold vital US financial aid says that the former Vice President was outraged after Ukrainian authorities seized the assets of Burisma - a natural gas firm owned by a notoriously corrupt oligarch who hired Hunter Biden to sit on its board. The fired prosecutor, Victor Shokin, sat down with OAN News and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani to explain what happened when former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko told him to stop investigating Burisma: "Yes, that's what he told me. He came to me and said, 'you are a patriot of Ukraine, we need this billion dollars. We are at war, and if you are a patriot you will close this case'. My conversation with Poroshenko was in a phone call. It was after we started seizing Burisma assets in Ukraine when Poroshenko called me and said 'listen, this all has to stop already. Joe Biden's temper is overflowing. This seizing of Burisma assets was the last straw.'"
  17. Almost a year on from the Trump administration's failed bid to oust Venezuela's socialist leader, the media is scrambling to make sense of where it all went wrong - and finally admitting that Nicolas Maduro is going nowhere. When the "virtually unknown" US-backed opposition figure Juan Guaido declared himself "interim president" in January, he won instant support from Washington's global allies as the "legitimate" leader of Venezuela. Western media was soon consumed with a sense of hopeful anticipation that Washington was on the verge of overthrowing another 'bad actor' and preparing to pat itself on the back for supporting the cause of "democracy" and "human rights." Change of tune Now, nearly a year later, the sense is one of reluctant resignation and an admission that, despite best efforts, another attempt at 'regime change' has failed - and that Guaido's opposition was not all it was cracked up to be. In a recent lament for the failed coup, the Wall Street Journal admits that...
  18. US President Donald Trump acts as an "impatient old man" who cannot hide his nervousness, a senior North Korean diplomat said, amid a lack of progress in bilateral negotiations over Pyongyang's nuclear arsenal. "Trump doesn't know much about our country," said Kim Yong Chol, a senior diplomat involved in organizing the second summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. He also said if Trump's style of talking to his country continues, then "the time when we cannot but call him a 'dotard' again may come." The somewhat archaic insult was used by Pyongyang at the height of tensions between the two countries in 2017, when Trump was calling Kim "Rocket Man."
  19. The Turks counted on the high combat qualities of the Russian s-400 anti-aircraft missile system and the complexes exceeded their expectations, despite the fact that their flyby program in its saturation and intensity exceeded similar Russian drills. After the delivery of the first regimental set of anti-aircraft missile systems S-400 Triumph to Turkey, they have already been tested and showed results that exceeded the expectations of the buyer, according to the source of the Gazeta.ru familiar with the situation. During the testing, as a rule, it is specified at what ranges, altitudes and courses the detection of air objects is carried out, their stable support in certain modes and compliance of data obtained with the previously stated tactical and technical characteristics. Turkey's military carried out the so-called flyby of the regular and attached radar assets of the S-400 anti-aircraft missile system-the 91N6E radar complex as part of the system's command post, the 92N6E...
  20. A Chilean military transport aircraft carrying 38 passengers and crew has gone missing, losing radio contact on its way to a base in Antarctica. The military lost contact with the plane, a C-130 Hercules transport craft, on Monday evening while it was traveling to the Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva air base in Antarctica. The whereabouts and condition of those on board - of which 17 were crew members and the rest of them passengers - is not known. The Chilean Air Force said it had assembled a "multidisciplinary search and rescue team" to locate the missing craft that had departed from Chabunco Air Base in the city of Punta Arenas on a routine support and maintenance mission.
  21. A rare tornado touched down near the El Alto International Airport in Bolivia on Sunday, tossing debris into the air and possibly swirling its way into record books as one of the highest-altitude tornadoes ever observed. The tornado descended Sunday afternoon, causing minor damage as it passed along the northern periphery of the airport and into nearby neighborhoods. El Alto International Airport is the highest international airport in the world at 13,313 feet, serving the city of La Paz. The whirlwind reportedly came without warning from El Servicio Nacional de Meteorología e Hidrología, Bolivia's equivalent to the National Weather Service. The main weather hazard highlighted before the tornado had been river flooding well to the east amid recent heavy rainfall.
  22. Around 6,000 people have been affected by flooding from the overflowing Telembí River in the municipality of Barbacoas, Nariño Department in Colombia. Flooding began around 06 December 2019, according to Colombia's National Unit for Disaster Risk Management (UNGRD). No fatalities have been reported. UNGRD have distributed relief supplies to affected families.
  23. Six people have been killed in a hospital shooting in Ostrava, Czech Republic. The police are on the hunt for the suspected perpetrator and have ramped up security in other places. The shooting happened on Tuesday morning at University Hospital Ostrava in the northeastern part of the country. The Czech police initially said four people were killed and two others were seriously injured. Those two succumbed to their wounds, Prime Minister Andrej Babis confirmed. The shooting reportedly happened in the traumatology ward of the hospital. Ostrava Technical University, which hosts the hospital, said the perpetrator was wearing a red jacket. The police released a photo of the suspected gunman on Twitter, requesting public assistance in finding him, and warning that he poses a threat. The university campus was put on lockdown. Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said the rapid response unit and police helicopters have been deployed in response to the emergency.
  24. The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a convicted murderer's appeal to receive gender reassignment surgery, leaving in place a lower court's ruling in favor of the Texas prison officials who refused the inmate the procedure. The court rejected the appeal of a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling by transgender inmate Vanessa Lynn Gibson, formerly known as Scott Gibson, who claimed the prison's refusal to grant the surgery violates the Constitution's Eighth Amendment, which bans cruel and unusual punishment.
  25. Normally, we talk about how much snow we get in a given winter, which spans across the calendar year from generally October through April. Thus, we define the "winter year" as starting on July 1 and ending June 30 the next year. This allows us to calculate how much snow falls in any continuous winter. Last winter set the record for snowiest "winter year" with 98.8" snow. Most of that snow fell after January 1, more specifically in February. Due to that fact, it shouldn't come as a surprise that with the slightly above average snow we've received to start this winter, Eau Claire has surpassed 100" snowfall in the 2019 calendar year for the first time in recorded history. Snow measurement data for Eau Claire goes back to 1892. We were pushed over the 100" mark with the afternoon snow measurement of 2.4 inches taken at 3 p.m. on December 12, 2019.
  26. Despite the European Union attempts to save the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which saw Iran reduce its low-enriched uranium by 98% and eliminate its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium in return for economic relief, JCPOA is hanging by a thread because of Washington's withdrawal from the deal in October 2017. The European Statistical Office revealed that from January to September trade between the EU and Iran was at €3.86 billion, a massive 74.92% drop compared to the same period in 2018. The report revealed that Germany (€1.23 billion), Italy (€734.78 million) and the Netherlands (€376.73 million) were Iran's top three trading partners in EU while trade with Greece (€32.08 million), Luxembourg (€506,316), Spain (€207.36 million), France (€296.5 million) and Austria (€102.11 million) had plunged by 97.13%, 91.38%, 91.17%, 86.79% and 82.38% respectively.
  27. A psychedelic drug with the potential to cure addiction is set to undergo human trials in America next year. Psychedelics have long been known to inhibit cravings and help fight addiction, but a litany of ethical, health and legal issues have made them unsuitable as a treatment. 18-MC is made from an intense African shrub called ibogaine which can induce intense trips - including hallucinations and visions - lasting several days. But the version being used in labs has been adapted to not produce hallucinations or comedowns, offering the tantalising possibility of a treatment without side-effects. Micro-dosing is a growing phenomenon that sees people use tiny amounts of drugs such as LSD to keep their addictions at bay during day-to-day life. This is illegal and can often lead to inadvertent trips. But the developers of 18-MC claim the modified drug has the ability to manipulate a person's brain into hitting the reset button and turning off the sections responsible for cravings...
  28. Polls suggest that Americans tend to differentiate between our "good war" in Iraq — "Operation Desert Storm," launched by George HW Bush in 1990 — and the "mistake" his son made in 2003. Across the ideological spectrum, there's broad agreement that the first Gulf War was "worth fighting." The opposite is true of the 2003 invasion, and a big reason for those divergent views was captured in a 2013 CNN poll that found that "a majority of Americans (54%) say that prior to the start of the war the administration of George W. Bush deliberately misled the U.S. public about whether Baghdad had weapons of mass destruction." But as the usual suspects come out of the woodwork to urge the US to once again commit troops to Iraq, it's important to recall that the first Gulf War was sold to the public on a pack of lies that were just as egregious as those told by the second Bush administration 12 years later. The Lie of an Expansionist Iraq Most countries condemned Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait....
  29. Last year, TFTP reported that another Texas school cop had been arrested and charged with rape. Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District police officer Jorge Luis Bastida, 22, was arrested and charged with aggravated sexual assault on a 12-year-old girl he stalked online. This week, unlike so many cops who get away with similar crimes, Bastida was sentenced to 10 years in prison. "He swore an oath to protect children," Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said this week. "He promised to protect and serve one of our most vulnerable populations and instead, he exploited and violated a young girl. He stole her childhood." Prosecutors said Bastida met the young girl on a smartphone app called "Meet Me" where she reportedly sent the police officer nude photos. After a few days of online flirting, the police officer sent an Uber to pick up the girl on Monday night before he brought her to a nearby hotel where the girl says the officer raped her. The girl says Bastida held her...
  30. Storm Recap: We saw lingering snow showers Sunday morning, mainly northwest of the lake along the crest. That dropped a final 2-4 inches of snow for those mountains, with little to no snow for the rest of the area as the storm cleared out. The sun came out and the soft snow became thicker through the afternoon. Storm totals ended up at 16-27 inches for the ski areas around the lake, a little less to the south down near Bear Valley and Dodge Ridge with higher snow levels down there. The final forecast on Friday for the storm was 14-27 inches, so the storm performed as expected. 8 out of 14 ski resorts are now over 100 inches for the season. That didn't happen until the end of the first week of January last season, so we are pacing about a month ahead of last season so far. Here are the current stats summarized for all of the ski areas.
  31. Amnesty International condemned as "outrageous" the continued detention of prominent Saudi human rights lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair and his ill-treatment, as a crackdown led by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman against Muslim preachers, members of the press and intellectuals widens in the conservative oil-rich kingdom. The London-based organization said in a statement that it had received credible reports that authorities at Dhahban Central Prison near the Red Sea port city of Jeddah had in late November arbitrarily placed Abu al-Khair in solitary confinement under tightened security, PressTV reported. He has been on hunger strike since November 29 in a show of protest against his ill-treatment.
  32. A military court in St. Petersburg has sentenced a man to life in prison for financing a deadly 2017 subway blast, while 10 other defendants in the case received prison terms of between 19 and 28 years. The court in Russia's second-largest city sentenced Abror Azimov to life in prison on December 10 after finding him guilty of financing the attack, which killed 15 people and injured 67 others. The only woman among the defendants, Shokhista Karimova, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison, broke down after the Judge Andrei Morozov announced her punishment. Lawyers of the convicted defendants said they would appeal the verdicts. All had denied the charges, and some of them claimed they were tortured while in detention, including Kyrgyz-born Abror Azimov and his brother, Akram, who was also among those convicted in the case. Investigators have said that on April 3, 2017, 22-year-old suicide bomber Akbarjon Jalilov, an ethnic-Uzbek Russian citizen born in Kyrgyzstan, detonated a bomb...
  33. The Queensland Government has today declared the majority of the state's south-east is in drought. Eight shires and councils including the Fraser Coast, Moreton Bay, Sunshine Coast, Noosa, Gympie, Redlands, Gold Coast and Logan have joined 37 other drought-declared local government areas. More than two-thirds of Queensland is now officially in drought, with only northern parts of the state and Brisbane drought-free. The declaration came ahead of a meeting of state and territory agriculture ministers today in regional New South Wales.
  34. It began, unlike most epic love stories featuring two cosmically intertwined souls rediscovering their connection from some past life, in the printer room of the University of New Mexico's Anderson School of Management. It ended with a graduate student attempting to blackmail a professor into continuing their flirtatious banter, a sexual harassment investigation that treated the blackmailer as a victim, and, ultimately, a one-year unpaid suspension for the professor. The professor made serious mistakes. He shouldn't have let the conversation become romantic and sexual — an exchange he actively participated in. He shouldn't have floated the possibility of hiring the student for a low-paid research position — an opportunity she initially expressed interest in taking, then turned down, and then used against him when he rebuffed her, according to documents obtained by Reason. But the professor and the student never slept together. She never worked for him, and she never took one of his...
  35. In his 2011 book The Myth of Junk DNA, Jonathan Wells called the notion of junk DNA a science-stopper. Noting discoveries already made by 2011, he said these are "exciting times," predicting that ongoing research would continue to discover functions that were not yet imagined. As the following papers show, he was right. Cistromes In PNAS, Dongyin Guan and Mitchell A. Lazar commented on work by Fei et al., concluding that "noncoding mutations in enhancers and other, less well-characterized, TF [transcription factor] binding regions also have large effects on cell survival and proliferation." Their review, "Shining light on dark matter in the genome," begins, The complexity of multicellular organisms requires the genome to be transcribed in a cell-type-dependent manner that is responsive to signals, such as hormones, from the internal environment. This is mediated by the epigenome, which decorates and organizes the genome in a web of modified histone proteins functioning in...
  36. It looks like what Virginia gun owners needed was a wake up call. Or more accurately, a wake up slap in the face. Ever since Bloomberg bought himself a blue Virginia and stacked it with eager anti-gun legislators, we've told you how the state is on fire with pro-gun rights sentiment. County after county has joined the Second Amendment Sanctuary list, totaling 42 counties in less than six weeks. Add one more sheriff to the list of Second Amendment heroes. Sheriff Scott Jenkins of Culpepper County, VA made a post on his official county Facebook page pledging to support the Second Amendment. In the post made on December 4th, Jenkins went so far as to say that he has a strategy if gun control comes knocking: "I plan to properly screen and deputize thousands of our law-abiding citizens to protect their constitutional right to own firearms."
  37. Former Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl was left impressed with Russian President Vladimir Putin's gallant behavior after the two waltzed at Kneissl's headline-grabbing wedding last year. "President Putin is an old-school gentleman. He has a special kind of manners that we don't see enough today, including in Central Europe," the diplomat told TASS on Monday. She came to Moscow to present the Russian edition of her book about Prince Eugene of Savoy, a German 18th-century statesman and military commander.
  38. Russian military forces have delivered food and provided medical assistance to the residents of Raqqa in the first such humanitarian mission aimed at helping civilians who are struggling to survive in the city scarred by war. The first column of Russian military trucks loaded with food and medical supplies entered the capital of Syria's northern province on Monday. Once designated as the unofficial capital of the notorious Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), the city was recaptured by the US-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in 2017 after spending three years under extremist rule. However, what was hailed as "liberation" in the West turned into misery for the locals, as two-thirds of Raqqa was virtually destroyed in a massive bombing campaign launched by the US-led coalition during a four-month battle for the city, with corpses left rotting in the streets. "In 2017, the social and economic infrastructure of Raqqa was totally destroyed in a US-led coalition's operation...
  39. The first thing we need to do is the remember what each participant wanted from this summit. Here is a summary of what I think (not how they officially stated it) each starting position was: Zelenskii: key notion "a flexible approach" to the Minsk Agreements No direct negotiations with the LDNR No special status Ukrainian control of the border with Russia Disarmament of the LDNR "militias" Removal of all foreign forces (he means Russian forces, never mind that they don't exist!) Creation of a "municipal police" Elections under Ukrainian control
  40. The price of gas for Ukraine may be lower if Moscow and Kiev manage to reach a new transit agreement, Russian President Vladimir Putin told at a press conference after the Normandy Four summit in Paris. Gas for Ukraine "could be cheaper by 25 percent, as compared to what the end consumer currently gets, primarily the industrial consumer, because the price of gas for the domestic consumer, for citizens [of Ukraine], is subsidized, we can't calculate the price from the subsidized price," Putin said. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said in return that there is a good chance that the contract on gas transit from Russia to Europe via Ukraine would be extended after January 1. Agreement for Russian gas supplies to Ukraine and those transiting to Europe expires at the end of this year. In November, Russia's Gazprom offered Ukraine to extend the transit contract or enter into a new one for one year.
  41. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has thrown yet another jab at the European Union, saying that the bloc is experiencing a shortage of political role models, something which he described as a "leadership void." Top European politicians are apparently not respected that much by Erdogan; he struggled to name at least one single leader whom he deems to be an "example" for others to follow. "Europe is experiencing a serious leadership crisis, there's leadership void. I can't find the courage to say [about anyone]: 'This leader is an example for Europe,'" Erdogan said on Tuesday. While Erdogan's evaluation is not very complimentary for the present-day European politicians, at least some of the past EU leaders earned his praise.
  42. The long-awaited report on the origins of Russiagate shows the intelligence community played fast and loose with the truth to build its case against candidate Donald Trump and inflate the specter of Russian election interference. The report by the Department of Justice's Inspector General (DOJ IG) "makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a US presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken," Attorney General William Barr said in a statement following the report's publication on Monday. Despite the clear efforts by a handful of malicious FBI officials to mislead the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court, he continued, the "evidence produced by the investigation was consistently exculpatory." While praising IG Michael Horowitz's work, Barr made it clear he disagrees with its essential conclusion - that all the prerequisites were properly met in order to launch July 2016's...
  43. Russia's ban from global sports is a punishment rife with politics, analysts told RT. Worse still, political decisions can punish clean athletes, who will be denied the honor of competing for their country. The World Anti-Doping Agency handed down the ban on Monday, after Russia was alleged to have manipulated data in a Moscow anti-doping laboratory. WADA voted to suspend Russia from all major sporting events for four years in response, meaning the Russian flag will not fly at the next two Olympic Games as well as the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, should Russia qualify. Clean athletes, however, will be able to compete, albeit under a neutral flag and with no national anthem. In the runup to the ban, US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) head Travis Tygart had called for even harsher penalties, including a blanket ban on all athletes, even those found to be clean.
  44. Although social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter have taken heat for spreading misinformation, it turns out that we — all of us — may be our own worst enemies in the battle against the scourge of fake news. A new study found that people given accurate statistics on controversial topics tend to misremember those numbers in order to fit their own commonly held beliefs. In the study, when people were shown that the number of Mexican immigrants in the United States declined recently — which is true but has gone against most people's beliefs — they tended to recall the opposite.
  45. On November 15, a wave of protests engulfed over 100 Iranian cities as the government resorted to an extremely unpopular measure: a fuel tax hike of as much as 300%, without a semblance of a PR campaign to explain the reasons. Iranians, after all, have reflexively condemned subsidy removals for years now - especially related to cheap gasoline. If you are unemployed or underemployed in Iran, especially in big cities and towns, Plan A is always to pursue a second career as a taxi driver. Protests started as overwhelmingly peaceful. But in some cases, especially in Tehran, Shiraz, Sirjan and Shahriar, a suburb of Tehran, they quickly degenerated into weaponized riots - complete with vandalizing public property, attacks on the police and torching of at least 700 bank outlets. Much like the confrontations in Hong Kong since June. President Rouhani, aware of the social backlash, tactfully insisted that unarmed and innocent civilians arrested during the protests should be released. There...
  46. The Paris talks on Ukraine have enabled Putin and Zelensky to meet for the first time. But they have agreed only to kick the can down the road, to agree to disagree, while seeking progress on issues other than the war in Donbass. It would be difficult to exaggerate the weakness of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's position. He is a political novice facing perhaps the most experienced and formidable statesman in the world. Although an intelligent man, the former TV comedian says he likes to do things quickly. Russian President Vladimir Putin, by contrast, is known for his extreme attention to detail and for his propensity to play a very long game. Putin is not in a rush. Zelensky is, because time is not on Ukraine's side. The country has avoided default by a whisker only by negotiating a new IMF loan to pay off the old one taken out five years ago and due for repayment this year.
  47. Moscow is concerned that if Kiev troops take control of the border between Russia and eastern Ukraine without ironclad guarantees to anti-government militias, a massacre not unlike the one in ex-Yugoslav Srebrenica may occur. Speaking of Kiev's demands on Tuesday, Putin said there needs to be absolute certainty that people in eastern Ukraine would be safe once control of the border changes hands, considering that there is not even an amnesty in place. "We agreed [on the roadmap] in 2015. They have an amnesty law, some decisions have been taken, but nothing has been put into force," Putin told the presidential human rights council. Without guarantees, "I can imagine what would happen next. There will be a Srebrenica." The warning from the Russian president comes a day after his first-ever meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky in Paris.
  48. Before House Democrats move forward with articles of impeachment against President Trump - which may come later in the week, they're going to hold a 'trial' on Monday in which the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees will present evidence to support their case, according to CNN. On Saturday night, the House Judiciary Committee released a 52-page report, an update to previous Judiciary Committee reports issued in 1974 and 1998 during the Nixon and Clinton impeachments. While it does not accuse Trump of committing any impeachable offenses, it it lays out what Congressional Democrats consider constitutional grounds for impeachment.
  49. Gold prices will climb to $1,600 per ounce over the next year, Wall Street bank Goldman Sachs projects. It says that central banks are consuming a fifth of the global supply of the yellow metal. "De-dollarization in central banks - demand from central banks for gold is biggest since the Nixon era, eating up 20 percent of global supply," the head of global commodities research at Goldman, Jeff Currie, told Bloomberg. "I am going to like gold better than bonds because the bonds won't reflect that de-dollarization." Citing "fear-driven demand" for the precious metal, Goldman analysts said last week that investors should diversify their long-term bond holdings with gold.
  50. House Democrats laid out their case for impeachment in a report that takes great liberties with US as well as European history. The end result comes off as a lame attempt to hide a lack of evidence behind pomp and verbosity. Imagine my confusion when I sat down with a hard copy of the 'Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment' - the Democrats' legal case for impeachment against Trump - and randomly flipped open to page 32, which began with not only a blast from the past, but from an altogether different country: "Many officials were impeached for non-criminal wrongs against the British system of government," the line began, before naming "the Duke of Buckingham (1626), the Earl of Strafford (1640), the Lord Mayor of London (1642), the Earl of Orford and... Governor General Warren Hastings (1787)." In case the reader missed the true essence of that quote, allow me to repeat it: "Many officials were impeached for non-criminal wrongs..." In other words, it appears that the...