‘Left to count their dead’: Striking report breaks MSM silence on plight of ‘liberated’ Raqqa

By ethan / November 11, 2018

Entire families perished in US-led strikes on Raqqa that may have claimed more civilian lives than those of ISIS, NPR said in a shocking report tilting the Western media narrative on what has become of the “liberated” city.

The retaking of Raqqa, Islamic State’s (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) stronghold in Syria, was hailed as a major victory for the Western coalition one year ago – even despite harrowing reports of civilian casualties and unhinged destruction caused by the offensive. One year later, the Syrian city, where people are living side-by-side with rubble and human remains, barely makes a blip in Western media. RT has extensivelyreported about the plight of the city.

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But now a new NPR report, supplied with a warning it “contains descriptions of dead bodies,” is bringing harrowing testimonies of people, working tirelessly to recover corpses from under the ruins, to the Western readers. Those may be surprised to discover that US-led airstrikes apparently left more civilian casualties than publicly acknowledged.

The story opens up with a chilling description of “delicate skeletons of two children” being retrieved from a collapsed home. More bodies are then unearthed from a mass grave in what was once Raqqa’s public park.

While the US coalition says 104 civilians were killed in airstrikes and shelling, emergency teams working on the ground recovered more than 2,600 bodies since January of this year alone. Citing local workers, the report states that most of them “were civilians killed in coalition airstrikes during the battle for Raqqa between June and October 2017.”

“The rescue workers’ findings, which they document in meticulous notes shown to NPR, point to an offensive that killed many more civilians than it did ISIS members, and where the majority of those civilians likely died in American airstrikes.”

When verifying the claim that the real tally could be “likely in the ‘thousands’,” the outlet then went to study the data provided by Airwars, an independent website monitoring conflicts in Iraq and Syria. It estimates that the Western coalition had used as many as 21,000 munitions against targets in Raqqa.

“We expected a significantly higher portion of civilian harm reports to be determined as credible, since in Raqqa really the only player causing the destruction was the coalition,” Chris Woods, the director of Airwars, told NPR. According to Woods, the coalition only partially admitted casualty reports from Raqqa, which “suggests a political dimension to the decision-making process.”

In turn, Donatella Rovera, an adviser for Amnesty International, who gathered testimonies from journalists embedded with Western-backed Syrian militias, said the airstrikes sometimes came “within minutes” of a local commander choosing a target. No precautions had been made to ensure there were no civilians “in those buildings.”

“For now, Raqqa’s people are left to count their dead largely alone, while the US and other powers strike elsewhere in Syria.”

RT crews filmed scenes of destruction and despair in Raqqa since it was cleared of Islamic State militants. A shadow of its former self, the ruined city still smells of decomposing bodies and is strewn with IS landmines that hamper reconstruction efforts.

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Sole brothers? Ex-Houthi minister shoed like George W. Bush at Saudi defection presser

By ethan / November 11, 2018

Echoing the infamous shoeing attempt of George W. Bush in 2008, an ex-Houthi minister was stuck by the footwear of an angry Yemeni journalist during his first media outing since his defection to Saudi Arabia.

The shoe went flying at Abdul-Salam Ali Gaber, who had served as the Houthi’s information minister since civil war broke out in Yemen in 2014, as he spoke to gathered media in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Sunday.

In Arab culture, the throwing of a shoe at someone is seen as a mark of deep contempt – and an insult – for the intended target. The practice came to the attention of those outside the Arab world in 2008, after Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi hurled both of his shoes at former US President George W. Bush during a press conference in Baghdad.

Luckily for Bush – not so much for Gaber – Zaidi’s aim wasn’t as good as his Yemeni counterpart’s.

Footage capturing the latest shoeing incident shows Gaber answering media questions while sitting behind a table of microphones. A commotion is heard off screen followed by Gaber moving his hands towards his face to deflect the incoming shoe.

Several men then grabbed the journalist who continued to shout and hurl insults at Gaber as he was ejected from the room.

Gaber’s defection comes as Saudi-backed forces continue its offensive to oust Houthi rebels from the port city of Hodeida, controlled by the Houthis since their uprising against the government started in 2014. A Saudi-led coalition of mostly Arab states entered the conflict on the side of the government the following year, conducting an aerial bombing campaign which has devastated vast swathes of the country and its infrastructure.

Hodeida is one of the only sources of aid and supplies for much of Yemen’s civilian population, and since a Saudi blockade of the port has been in effect since 2017, concerns of people starving en masse have been repeatedly raised by the UN and humanitarian groups.

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Make police states hip again? Google offered STASI HQ for new Berlin office

By ethan / November 11, 2018

Google is searching Berlin for some trendy real estate to call home – a place that reflects the company’s unofficial, recently scrapped motto, “Don’t Be Evil.” Hey, what about the ex-headquarters of East Germany’s secret police?

Our story begins innocently enough. The tech giant had originally planned to open its Google Campus startup hub in Berlin’s uber hipster district of Kreuzberg – shocking, we know – but disaster soon struck. Party-pooping locals organized against the move, citing the threat of rising rents and a general distaste for data-gobbling Silicon Valley behemoths.

Luckily, the Berlin district of Lichtenberg has a long, proud tradition of hosting data lovers: District officials have generously offered Google the former headquarters of the East German Stasi.

The plan has been endorsed by Danny Freymark, who sits in Berlin’s state parliament and is a member of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU). According to Freymark, Google would be an ideal investor to bring “democracy” to the old secret police stomping grounds. The plan has reportedly also received support from other local officials, with one correctly noting that the area was perfect for Google because there is no risk of “gentrification.”

District Mayor Michael Grunst is reportedly already in talks with Google about the company putting down roots in Lichtenberg – although it’s not clear if he’s brought up the plan to “reinvent” the old Stasi HQ.

The Germans – who are vaguely acquainted with the potential dangers of unaccountable organizations compiling cradle-to-grave dossiers on all living things – thought that the real estate deal was a swell idea. 

“Google in the old Stasi building – would say that fits!” noted civil rights activist and writer Katharina Nocun.

Google has not yet commented on the proposal, according to German media reports.

The Staatssicherheit, or Stasi, was the intelligence, espionage and counterintelligence service of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). The organization was infamous for its obsessive and meticulous surveillance of East Germans.

In other words: Tear up the tacky 80s carpets and add a few bean-bag chairs to the isolation cells, and bam! Good as new.

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‘Embarrassing to women’: Armistice tribute song hit with volley of vitriol (VIDEO)

By ethan / November 11, 2018

A song commissioned to honor women in Australia’s armed forces in time for Armistice Day is being pilloried online, with listeners labeling the tune “cringeworthy” and “embarrassing.”

The song ‘On The Left’ by Sisters In Arms, a musical trio made up of women from the Air Force, Navy, and Army, was released as part of a compilation album remembering personnel who fought in battles from Gallipoli to modern day Afghanistan.

The album was the brainchild of the Australian War Memorial, which says it aims to “commemorate and honor” the men and women who have served the nation. However, instead of leaving people with a feeling of pride, ‘On The Left’ has hit a bum note among serving military personnel and civilians alike.

The song, which is about women wearing medals on the left side of their uniform, has been panned by online critics who say the track is a disservice to Australia’s past and present military.

“This is not a positive message,” said one commenter on the Australian War Memorial’s Facebook page. “As a woman, I’m so embarrassed by this song I am almost lost for words. How are women ever meant to fit in and be taken seriously in their role in Defence when this is how you promote them. The lyrics are weak and so corny.”

Soldier Ally North described the music as “cringeworthy”. “I’m sure the sentiment is good but this is terribly cringeworthy and guaranteed to be a big joke amongst the troops. As a female soldier I am embarrassed,” she said.

Another critic said the song has inspired mirth among military people around the world: “Congrats! This is now a joke on international military pages, I’m guessing that was the idea, no sane person would hear a song like this and actually think it should ever – ever see the light of day.”

Others labeled the song “disrespectful” and accused the Australian War Memorial of “playing the gender politics game.”

While the ditty has been roundly ridiculed, there were pockets of resistance, with a few people seeing the positive side.

“Finally a song that can replace that one about getting down on Friday, cause you gotta down on Fridays,” Ian Carter quipped. While a genuine fan added: “Thank you for keeping Australia safe and free. Well done done [sic] where can we buy CD.”

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Principal fired for running secret cryptocurrency mining scheme at school

By ethan / November 11, 2018

A get rich quick scheme has spectacularly backfired on a headmaster and vice-principal as the pair have both been fired for racking up outrageous energy bills by using their school to run a secret cryptocurrency mining workshop.

Principal Lei Hua is said to have used eight school computers to run a clandestine Ethereum mining network in the Hunan province for close to a year, according to The South China Morning Post.

Hua’s cryptocurrency plot was undertaken with help of a vice-principal, reported HK01 news. The coin mining occurred at Puman Middle School and it was foiled thanks to a plucky school manager who had been keeping an eye on bizarre energy increases at the property.

Bitcoin mining requires a large amount of electricity to run the requisite hardware, something which the mining duo appear to have been unable to conceal. No longer is a simple central processing unit enough and now miners are more likely to deploy large networks of computers to take on the potentially lucrative task. This increased energy demand explains why Hua’s attempt to gather Ethereum involved, unbeknownst to his employers, a bank of school computers.

READ MORE: Cryptocurrency ethereum steps closer to institutional trading

“In July 2017, the electricity consumption was 4575 units,” said general manager Lei Mou. “In September, the electricity consumption was 5640 units; in November, the electricity consumption was 8130 units,” Mou added, describing the runaway bill increases.

READ MORE: 3 doomsday scenarios for bitcoin

Hua is said to have spent around 10,000 yuan ($ 1,437) gathering the mining hardware, like graphics cards and multiple processors. Meanwhile, his former school was left with an energy bill in excess of $ 2,000.

The two educators may have picked exactly the wrong time to gamble their careers on a cryptocurrency mining scheme. Reflecting the wider market, Ethereum prices have dropped by more than 70 percent from their peak in February.

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Insta-famous Russian fisherman returns with fresh haul of ghastly alien creatures from the deep

By ethan / November 11, 2018

The Russian fisherman who has built a zealous fanbase with horrifying photographs of the terrifying monsters that get caught in his net is back on dry land with a fresh haul of bizarre creatures from the deep.

Roman Fedortsov, who works on a trawler based out of Murmansk in northwest Russia, has racked up hundreds of thousands of social media followers with his enlightening posts featuring some of the most peculiar beings on the planet.

This week, he delighted his legions of fans by revealing that he is back on dry land and has more fantastic freaks to share.

Once again, the photos have the power to shock viewers as the otherworldly fish have completely alien appearances. 

Some of the terrifying creatures look like they got caught in Fedortsov’s net while on their way back from the set of the latest instalment of the Alien film franchise.

His photos have even inspired fan art, with admirers sending him their dramatic interpretations of his astonishing catches.

Fedortsov is from Murmansk Oblast in the northwest of Russia. Thanks to the Gulf Stream, the city boasts the only ice-free port in the Arctic. He routinely spends long periods of the year fishing around the world.

His photos have once more sparked huge reaction online with many curious about why the creatures have such unusual features. “What the heck is that thing on the end of its tentacle?” one person asked, while another simply said: “Alien.”

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Egypt mummified cats beetlesMummified cats, scarabs, and a 4,500-year-old ‘untouched’ tomb unearthed

By ethan / November 11, 2018

When archaeologists made their way through a 4,500-year-old necropolis and found an extraordinarily rare collection of mummified cats and beetles, they could hardly imagine their exploration would lead on to something even bigger.

On Saturday, a team of explorers crept through walls dating back to about 2,500 BC and unearthed a collection of cat mummies and scarab beetles as they scavenged through the Sarraq necropolis on the edge of the King Userkaf pyramid complex.

Two scarab beetles were found in a limestone sarcophagus with a vaulted, decorated lid, the antiquities minister said in a statement.

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© File Photo / Reuters

“The [mummified] scarab is something really unique. It is something really a bit rare,” said Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Another collection of the large beetles – black insects considered sacred in ancient Egypt – was found inside a smaller sarcophagus.

Besides the sacred beetles, the archeologists also found dozens of mummified cats, animals that were revered in ancient Egypt for killing snakes and protecting pharaohs.

Gilded statues, including a bronze one dedicated to the cat goddess Bastet, were also among the buried treasures dug up at the complex.

However, the ancient complex had even more in store for the explorers.

As they prepared the site to exhibit the new discoveries, they ended up stumbling across the door of another tomb which appears to have never been touched before. According to Waziri, the fact that the tomb’s facade and doors are intact suggests its contents may still be in the condition in which they were originally preserved.

The team intend to explore inside in the coming weeks.

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Fruitful thaw: S. Korean planes carry 200 tons of tangerines north in return for pricy mushrooms

By ethan / November 11, 2018

Seoul has returned the favor after receiving a gift of pine mushrooms from Pyongyang, sending 20,000 boxes of rare tangerines north in the biggest cross-border shipment of goods in almost a decade.

North Koreans will soon have an opportunity to enjoy the taste of tangerines as four cargo planes took off from South Korea on Sunday. The fruit was chosen as a gift because it is not a common delicacy in the North.

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FILE PHOTO: Kim Jong-un at a mushroom farm © AFP/ KCNA via KNS

“Tangerines were chosen because they are in season at the moment, and it is a kind of fruit that is rare in North Korea,” presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said, as quoted by Yonhap. 

The 200-ton present was sent in response to Kim Jong-un’s gesture of good will after the third high-level summit between the leadership of South and North Korea. Back then, Kim gifted some two tons of expensive pine mushrooms to the South. However, the gift had only recently been declared clear of radiation and safe to eat.

The latest present from the South became the biggest shipment of its goods to North Korea in eight years. In 2010, inter-Korean relations suffered a major setback, when the two countries’ militaries exchanged artillery fire on Yeonpyeong Island. Later, tensions further escalated on the Korean Peninsula when Pyongyang continued its nuclear and missile tests.

The situation eased at the beginning of this year, after the two countries agreed to have a united women’s hockey team at the Winter Olympics. The leaders held a summit for the first time in decades in April and have met twice more since then. During the last visit of South Korean President Moon Jae-in to Pyongyang in September, it was agreed to remove landmines along the heavily defended North-South Korean border, and Kim announced that he would dismantle the nation’s missile and rocket engine test site.

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No Louvre lost: Insta model claims revealing outfit got her barred from art gallery (PHOTOS)

By ethan / November 11, 2018

An Instagram model has accused the Louvre of cramping her style after a guard at the world-famous art gallery reportedly refused her entry over a skimpy outfit.

Social media model Newsha Syeh, who has 243,000 followers on Instagram, claimed that while people at the Louvre may appreciate art, one guard was not best pleased with her sightseeing attire when she turned up in a revealing dress.

“Yesterday at the Louvre, I was stopped at the entrance by a guard for my outfit,” the model told her followers online. “He made the most disgusted and horrible gestures and facial expressions, swore at me to cover up, with hate filled eyes stopped me entering.”

Syeh, who hails from Australia, later posted an image of her outside the world-renowned art gallery in the offending dress. It shows the model in a black mesh dress with a plunging neckline.

READ MORE: ‘Kim Kardashian or girl next door’: Sex doll company makes models of women without their consent

 “Picasso would have loved my outfit,” Syeh captioned the image, perhaps poking fun at her earlier claims.

The Louvre has yet to comment on Syeh’s claims. The gallery, which houses artworks such as Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ and Caravaggio’s ‘Death of a Virgin’, does not have a dress code according to its regulations handbook.

However, people wearing bikinis or those going bare-chested or barefoot are prohibited from entry, according to the gallery.

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China’s oil imports surge to record high

By ethan / November 11, 2018

China’s crude oil imports averaged 9.61 million barrels a day last month, customs data cited by Reuters has revealed, with the agency noting the amount is the highest on record.

Once again, it was the independent refiners, or teapots, that drove the increase as they seek to fulfill their import quotas before they expire.

The total October volume of imports hit 40.80 million tons, of which teapots imported 8.22 million tons. Yet this was lower than the teapots’ intake as forecast by S&P Platts last month, which was nine million tons. It was, however, substantially higher than the 7.26 million tons independent Chinese refiners imported in September.

Last month, Beijing announced it will raise by 42 percent the oil import quota for its non-state refiners—most of which are the independent refiners—for 2019 as new refinery capacity is planned to enter into operation next year. This served to dampen worries about a possible decline in demand, but only temporarily: now OPEC and Russia are once again talking about cutting production because of expectations of excessive supply.

What’s more, China is changing its sources of crude. The country sharply reduced its intake of US crude, for example, as the trade war between Washington and Beijing escalated this summer. A few months ago, Chinese refiners stopped buying US oil completely in anticipation of tariffs on it. Beijing did not impose tariffs and in October, CNBC reported recently, refiners resumed purchases of US oil. However, the volume of these imports remains unclear and may be much lower than earlier imports, before the start of the trade war.

Chinese refiners have also been importing a lot of Canadian oil relative to their usual intake of this particular oil. With the discount of Western Canadian Select to West Texas Intermediate at historic lows making the Canadian blends particularly attractive for Chinese bargain hunters, chances are this trend will continue for the time being unless the price environment changes radically.

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