Special guest Vladimir Putin arrived at the Austrian foreign minister’s wedding with a beautiful bouquet of flowers for the bride. Karin Kneissl is tying the knot with multi-millionaire entrepreneur Wolfgang Meilinger.
The Russian leader didn’t arrive empty-handed. Not only did he give the bride a beautiful bouquet of yellow and white flowers, he also brought along the Kuban Cossack Choir to entertain the newlyweds and the guests. Putin also had a dance with the bride.
Putin was invited to attend the wedding en route to his upcoming visit to Germany. The ceremony is taking place at a vineyard in the village of Gamlitz, in Austria’s Styria region.
The bride and groom chose traditional attire for their special day. Kneissl donned a white dirndl, a traditional Alpine dress, while Meilinger was dressed in a green vest and black trousers.
The VIP guest list also includes Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, and Transport and Technology Minister Norbert Hofer.
A Georgian teen solved six Rubik’s cubes underwater in a single breath, setting a new Guinness World Record. Vako Marchilashvili was submerged in a glass tank for 1 minute and 44 seconds.
The feat took place on Friday, in front of a crowd at the Gino Paradise aqua park in Tbilisi. The 18-year-old student solved each Rubik’s cube, sending them one by one up to the top of the tank as he completed them. After he finished the sixth puzzle, he arose from the tank to loud cheers.
The previous underwater record was held by Anthony Brooks who solved five rubix cubes in New Jersey in 2014.
Marchilashvili, who spent six months preparing for the challenge, said he believed that his new record would stand for a long time.
“I trained a lot, planning to break a record, and to ensure my safety because, even a small mistake could be dangerous and life-altering.”
His result was confirmed by the Georgian Records Federation and will be sent to the Guinness World Records for official verification.
Pastor Andrew Brunson’s fate is important to evangelical voters in the looming midterm elections in November, so Washington may impose more sanctions on allied Ankara, a former Turkish envoy to the US says.
“There will be additional sanctions, not just rhetorical threats,” Osman Faruk Logoglu told RT. “They have invested a lot of pressure into the release of Brunson, given the importance of the midterm elections in the US. President Donald Trump wants to control Congress.”
Brunson, an evangelical Christian cleric from North Carolina, was detained by Turkish officials in 2016 over terrorism and espionage charges. On Friday, the court rejected his third appeal to be released from house arrest. This happened several weeks after Washington imposed sanctions on two high-ranking Turkish officials, and promised more restrictions if Brunson isn’t freed.
Osman Faruk Logoglu, who now leads an Ankara-based think tank, the Center for Eurasian Strategic Studies, argues that Brunson’s fate can rally the religious base at home. “Many key figures, like Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, are evangelical Christians. They represent at least 25 million votes,” the former diplomat says. “So the Brunson case is important not just as a US-Turkey issue but also in terms of its impact on US domestic politics.”
Brunson’s detention is one aspect of a broader, multi-pronged diplomatic spat between the US and Turkey. Lawmakers in Washington passed a bill effectively delaying the shipping of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey. Trump signed it into law on Tuesday. One of the chief reasons was Turkey’s willingness to buy Russian S-400 air defense missile systems.
Other points of contention between the two nations include the Turkish military operation against the Kurds in northern Syria, and Ankara’s refusal to back Washington’s plan to target Iranian oil exports.
Turkey has been pushing back against US pressure, insisting that it will determine its own economic policies and choose its own trade partners.
Evgeny Bakhrevsky, director of the Moscow-based Heritage Institute and Middle East researcher, believes the US approach to Turkey is similar to its usual stance on nations it comes into conflict with – working towards regime change. “Washington wants to show that it’s not against Turkey as a nation, Turkey remains its ally in NATO, and they just don’t like Erdogan. The US wishes to tell the Turkish society that its leader has to be removed.”
Bakhrevsky noted that the US pressure on Turkey serves as an additional incentive for Ankara to seek closer ties with other nations, like China, Russia, and European states. “The Europeans will maintain the existing objections to certain Erdogan policies and continue to voice their concerns, but that won’t stop them from developing pragmatic cooperation with Turkey,” he said.
Kofi Annan passed away from a “short illness” on Saturday, his family and the Kofi Annan Foundation announced in a statement. Annan, a former diplomat from Ghana, led the United Nations from 1997 to 2006.
In 2001, Annan and the UN were co-recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize.
After his tenure as secretary general, he served as the UN-Arab League special envoy for Syria in 2012, until he became frustrated with the lack of progress.
It is with immense sadness that the Annan family and the Kofi Annan Foundation announce that Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Laureate, passed away peacefully on Saturday 18th August after a short illness… pic.twitter.com/42nGOxmcPZ
French fishermen reeled in a big catch off the Normandy coast, but it turned out a bit more explosive than they anticipated. The trawler netted a WWII bomb with nearly a ton of explosives – and one movement could trigger a blast!
The trawler Le Retour was fishing two nautical miles (4km) off the coast of Grandcamp-Maisy commune in the English Channel on Friday morning, when it picked up an unusual ‘fish’. The haul was a German WWII bomb which contained 860 kilos of explosives, the region’s maritime authorities said.
The fishermen immediately alerted the officials about the dangerous discovery. A marine helicopter and five mine clearance divers were deployed within two hours. The Le Retour crew was promptly evacuated.
Despite being on the seabed for over 70 years, the bomb still “poses danger,” as “any simple movement, especially aboard the trawler,” can lead to an explosion, the authorities said. The divers used straps and managed to free the device from the net. They successfully returned the bomb to the seabed, noting its geolocation. It will be defused by experts next week.
The incident happened in the area where Operation Neptune, a series of landing operations of the Allied invasion of Normandy, took place back in June 1944. The campaign led to the liberation of Nazi-occupied northwestern Europe.
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The world will inevitably dip into crisis, with gold and silver again emerging as real money, Claudio Grass, an independent precious metals adviser and Mises ambassador told RT.
“People today, especially in the West, have forgotten that paper money used to be a mere property title for a certain amount of gold or silver. Today, paper money is nothing more than a debt security. It is nothing more but collateral: the promise of the former generation that the future generation will pay off the debt via taxes and inflation,” said Grass.
The analyst gives examples of Iran, Venezuela and Turkey, whose currencies crashed against the US dollar, and people rushed to buy gold and other precious metals instead.
“A rising gold price is the barometer that shows that there is something wrong with the system. When the price of gold is rising, the last person on the street understands that there is something wrong with the economy,” he said.
“And I also have no doubt that the next crisis will be not regional, but global. All markets are manipulated, from the bond, to the stock and real estate market, into bubble territory. What can be said with certainty of gold and silver, is that even if the price might come down in the short term with a strengthening USD, this will only lay the ground for the next great bull market,” Grass added.
Grass notes that as paper money loses its purchasing power when governments print more, this creates a few winners, but many more losers. It will only create a larger discontent among people, adding more pressure on fiat money.
“Fiat currencies are only supported by trust and belief in institutions, which are now facing a historic crisis, across the board. As more and more citizens, especially in the West, begin to question more, to do their own homework instead of accepting things at face value, and to look for alternative solutions, I believe that fiat money, and perhaps the current monetary system at large, will eventually succumb under this pressure,” said Grass.
Russia and Germany are both set to benefit from the proposed gas pipeline to be discussed at Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel’s meeting on Saturday. But the pair will be wary of a backlash from an erratic and irate Washington.
The Kremlin and the Federal Government office have both confirmed that the €9.5 billion ($ 10.8 billion) project will be a key talking point – along with Syria and Ukraine – when the chancellor hosts the Russian leader at the Schloss Meseberg palace outside Berlin, during a surprise visit announced earlier this week. And while trench-lines are unlikely to shift on the status of Crimea or Bashar Assad’s future, the Nord Stream 2 issue is a live one.
On paper, there shouldn’t be much to talk about at all. The first part of the joint project between Gazprom and Western European energy giants has functioned without a hitch since 2011. The two new 1,200km-long underwater lines, doubling previous capacity, have been issued with permits by every country en-route from northern Russia to the German coast, apart from Denmark, whose parliamentary dithering over abstract “security concerns” is unlikely to delay completion beyond its scheduled date in 2020. In fact, dredging in preparation for laying the pipes already began back in May.
‘What about Ukraine?’ EU asks
For all this, that the project is alive at all in the current political climate is a miracle of slick personal diplomacy and cool-headed self-interest.
Its enemies are legion, powerful and growing louder.
The European Union tried to wean itself off Russian energy even before the two Ukraine-related supply disputes in 2005/06 and 2008/09 that left parts of the continent freezing, and has been successful through a combination of its own structural market reforms, emergence of alternative energy sources and falling prices. Nonetheless, in 2017, more than a third of all energy to the EU still came from Russia.
The European Council president, Donald Tusk, has campaigned endlessly for the destruction of Nord Stream 2, ever since it was announced three years ago. Last month, he described it, yet again, as a “geopolitical project” of “no economic importance” that threatens the energy security of Europe by giving Moscow excessive political leverage (though in actual fact Nord Stream was conceived exactly to counter politically motivated disruptions that were costly to the export state both in lost reputation and essential foreign currency.)
A principal preoccupation of Tusk and other EU officials remains, with the €2.5 billion (€10.8 billion) in annual transit fees that Ukraine receives from the current pipeline. While there is no doubt that Kiev is closer to Brussels than Moscow, it remains an odd moral and political expectation that Russia should in perpetuity bolster the coffers of its principal regional adversary. And if Europe is so worried about Ukraine, it could always make up the shortfall itself.
An alliance of individual states has coalesced in opposition to the project. Predictably, the weightiest and most vocal objector has been Poland, with the Baltic states emitting a more plaintive sigh of powerlessness.
‘Buy our LNG instead,’ says US
While all the above are reprises, however, the biggest game-changer has undoubtedly been the US.
Specifically, Donald Trump. As frequently mentioned about the current US president, once an issue is lodged in his mind, he rarely lets go – and opposition to Nord Stream has become a favorite.
In July, he deployed a double combo, using this pet topic to push another perennial fixation – Berlin failing to fulfill its NATO obligations – when he argued that Germany has become unworthy of US military protection, as it is “totally controlled” by Russia, turning into its “captive” after agreeing to the “inappropriate” Nord Stream project.
But where Trump leads with rhetorical devices and negotiating tactics, others follow with deadly serious intent.
The EU already pushed for a grandfather clause that allowed Nord Stream 2 to avoid the previous round of US sanctions last year, but in July the catchily-acronymed ESCAPE Act was submitted to the Senate by two Republicans, specifically targeting corporations involved in the project with new sanctions.
Most notably, while most anti-Russia legislation dresses itself up in terms of moral punishment, this particular document makes it explicit that the United States plans to replace the Nord Stream volumes with its own liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Trump himself has made no secret of American ambitions either, promising during his last whirlwind tour of Europe that the locals would be buying “vast amounts” of US-produced LNG (alongside soybeans from America’s “great farmers”).
But if necessary, a more respectable – if less plausible – line of attack can be found. Back in May, Sandra Oudkirk, a senior State Department official, claimed that the pipeline should be blocked because Russia would place sophisticated spying devices along its length that would pose a “threat” to NATO security. She also staunchly denied that Washington was driven by commercial interests.
Merkel’s compromise for Moscow
For long enough, Angela Merkel was able to elide any international objections to Nord Stream 2, by portraying it as a purely “commercial project,” something that also suited Moscow and Berlin, allowing them to divorce the straightforward energy discussions from the tangle of their own sanctions and counter-sanctions.
But that has become more difficult, and not just due to external pressure – the pipeline became an issue during last year’s domestic election campaign, the results of which left the chancellor in her most precarious position since assuming office in 2005. Not to say that Merkel is swimming against the tide: while some inside her party have criticized cooperating with the Kremlin; politicians and businesses, already battered by the country’s misadventures in alternative energy and nuclear reluctance, have stepped up – not least because they resent having their policy dictated by the White House.
Nonetheless, by April, Merkel had to concede that Nord Stream was both a “strategic” and a “political” endeavor. In an epitome of her governing style, the chancellor then suggested a compromise, whereby Russia would guarantee that some of its gas would continue to flow through Ukrainian pipelines.
What form these assurances take is likely to be the crux of the two leaders’ negotiations this week, and it will not be surprising if specific numbers start to emerge following the Berlin talks. As this is not a unilateral concession, nor does Russia lose face by simply continuing to export some of its gas through Ukraine, Putin may be amenable to a deal.
Will Nord Stream 2 be built?
Whatever is discussed behind closed doors, observers should not expect any dramatic, definitive or specific statements when the two leaders emerge again before the media. Merkel will likely remain diplomatically platitudinous, while Putin will assure journalists that the project is on course, and keep his cards close to his chest.
So the bigger question is bound to remain: will Nord Stream 2 actually be constructed?
With all the obstacles around it, there is actually one fundamental reason why it likely will, and it is not just a question of how well Putin and Merkel can talk to each other in German. While it has been branded a geopolitical project from the start – and there is no denying Moscow’s strategic interests – ironically, it is the alternatives that now all look politically motivated. Continuing to insist that Ukrainian pipelines must be used above all others is geopolitics, as is constructing an underused LNG terminal in Poland, as is insisting that Europe purchase America’s gas, paying 25 percent more for it than for the Russian alternative. Nord Stream 2 might not be the most profit-driven enterprise in the world, but it certainly makes more sense than any of those.
Yet what if the US tries to derail it with more sanctions? These are likely, at least in some nominal form. But if Washington tries to go against Berlin’s will on the issue, it will likely achieve not acquiescence, but resistance, and further destabilize a tottering relationship. Is it really in US interests to push Merkel towards Putin, and see Russia still build the pipeline, while smugly watching Europe and America engage in another spat. More likely Trump will back down, and make new exemptions for the project, particularly as it is so close to a fait accompli.
So, the odds are that by the start of the next decade, Europeans will still be grumbling about Russia as they turn on the heat in their homes, while Nord Stream 2 will continue to pump more gas to the continent, oblivious to all the fuss.
Panoramic footage from the ruined old city of Mosul, Iraq lets you take a walk through the husk of what was once a bustling economic center, and later a stronghold for ISIS terrorists. Now, what it resembles most is a cemetery.
Former Old Town resident Mohammed Qadir walks through the decrepit shell of his former home, detailing the horrors witnessed there to a Ruptly news crew. Holding nothing back, Qadir launches into his sad tale: “If you want to know, this is the story of how my family and I lived under ISIS occupation. This is the house, the home we used to live in… I lost a child, a daughter aged 17 years old.”
His home is located only a stone’s throw from the al-Nuri mosque where head of the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), Abu Bakr al Baghdadi preached his only public sermon in July 2014.
Standing among the ruins and scattered household items that used to make his home, Qadir recounts the day that home was destroyed – and his daughter Zubaida killed in a shelling. He now lives in a different place with his remaining family, but in the room where Zubaida used to sleep, they placed a shaggy teddy bear to commemorate her.
On camera, Qadir recalls how he watched his daughter Zubaida perish and – gesturing to marks on the walls where her flesh had splattered them – details the gruesome circumstances of her death.
“She was hit by a mortar shell that struck her legs,” he explains. “Her flesh was on the wall, where the black spots are, and the rest is shrapnel… She was immediately thrown from this area and into the yard.” The family administered first aid, but ultimately had to take the 17-year-old girl to hospital which was run by Islamic State terrorists.
Qadir was too distressed to take Zubaida himself, so his son took over – but the hospital refused to treat her, saying “they do not admit such cases.” Qadir’s son was given two options: take Zubaida home to die, or “we give her a shot to end her life.” Proper care was reserved for IS fighters.
According to UNESCO, 20,000 buildings were destroyed in the fighting. UNESCO described Mosul’s destruction as “unmatched since the Second World War.”
A 2017 Amnesty International report details how the group calling itself the Islamic State (IS) moved civilians and trapped them in danger zones during the battle in Mosul. Amnesty International also found that Iraqi and coalition forces failed to take reasonable steps to protect civilian lives, and used live gunfire in densely populated areas.
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Washington’s creation of the Iran Action Group is a repeat of Mike Pompeo’s tired tactics, Foad Izdi, professor of political communication at the University of Tehran told RT, adding that the US likely won’t achieve regime change.
“When Pompeo was head of the CIA, he established a similar group called the ‘Iran Mission Center.’ Its aim was to follow the hawkish anti-Iran foreign policy…now he’s secretary of state and he’s repeating the same thing…” Izdi said.
He went on to state that it’s telling that Brian Hook has been chosen to lead the group, as “he’s a protege of John Bolton, [who] thinks his mission in life is to overthrow the Iranian government.”
But despite any efforts to do so, Izdi said he doesn’t believe the US will be successful in achieving regime change in Tehran.
“This is the anniversary of the 1953 coup…it seems they [US] have not learned anything in 65 years. They’re trying the same old policies. Iran has learned a lot, and is careful not to allow the US to follow the same policies.”
As for the 12 demands that the US has laid out for Tehran, Izdi said they are “designed in a way that Iran cannot comply with any of them or accept any of them.”
He went on to explain that the very fact the US is interfering in the another country’s affairs is “against international law, against the UN charter.” More specifically, he explained, “the US signed an agreement in Algiers with Iran in the early 1980s… the first article of the agreement was that the US would promise not to interfere [in Iran’s affairs].”