EU economies hit by collapse in investment

By ethan / May 20, 2018

Capital investment in 24 of the EU’s 28 member states has fallen dramatically over the past ten years, according to data from statistical agency Eurostat.

Investment decreased on average by 2.3 percent, falling to 20.1 percent of GDP last year. It stood at 22.4 percent from 2007 to 2017 period. Countries in Europe’s east and south, which were more vulnerable to the crisis, experienced the biggest drops in investment in the years following the crisis, Eurostat reports.

Statistics showed that only three EU countries have seen their investments increase. Those are Sweden (from 23.9 percent of GDP in 2007 to 24.9 percent), Austria by 0.6 percent and Germany by 0.2 percent.

Last year, all EU countries invested around €3 billion ($ 3.5 billion) in public and private investments. The construction industry accounted for nearly half of investments, while machinery, equipment and weapons systems accounted for 31 percent. Investments into intellectual property products were 19 percent.

The EU’s investment fund (the European Fund for Strategic Investments), which was set up in the aftermath of the financial crisis to address the investment deficit, has mobilized €284 billion ($ 335 billion) to date. It plans to raise €500 billion ($ 590 billion) by 2020.

According to the European Investment Bank’s website “it aims to mobilize private investments in projects which are strategically important for the EU.”

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Invading Russia would become ‘military nightmare,’ Swedish paper warns

By ethan / May 20, 2018

Entering Russia would become a “military nightmare” for any army, according to a rating of the hardest countries to invade compiled by Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.

Military might, the size of territory and the difficulty of terrain are among the key factors that determine the country’s defensive capability, the paper wrote.

Based on these criteria, the Swedish journalists pointed out that “whoever considers the idea of invading Russia must be prepared to handle all kinds of terrain.” The enemy would face desolate mountains, impenetrable swamps, frozen tundra, turbulent rivers, and dark forests in Russia, they said, adding that hot summers and chilling winters would also pose a challenge.

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MiG-31 jet with the Kinzhal hypersonic missile © Iliya Pitalev

“And then we have the Russians themselves, who for thousands of years, having participated in both large-scale wars and guerrilla warfare, gained a lot of experience,” the article said.

The conclusions made by Svenska Dagbladet are backed by Russian history itself, as the country has never been conquered since the creation of a centralized state in Russia in the early 15th century. The Russians have thwarted all attempts to invade their land, defeating among others the armies of French Emperor Napoleon in 1812 and Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler in 1941-45 – who were both considered unstoppable at the time.

Switzerland and New Zealand also made it into the paper’s rankings. Despite having a rather small military of just 150,000 troops, the Swiss state remains a hard nut to crack due to it being surrounded by the Alps. It also has a lot defensive facilities, as well as bridges and roads, which could be blown up to hamper the aggressor’s advance, the article read.

READ MORE: Victory Day parade in Red Square: Russian military might on display (FULL VIDEO)

Conquering New Zealand would be problematic from a logistical point of view, the authors said. The island state is located more than 2,000km from the nearest large landmass, Australia, which would make supplying the invading troops with arms and necessities “almost impossible.”

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9 dead, dozens critical & need liver transplant as 700+ get poisoned by wild mushrooms in Iran

By ethan / May 20, 2018

More than 700 people have been poisoned after eating wild mushrooms in Iran, the country’s emergency services said. At least 9 people have so far died while dozens remain in critical condition, local media report.

“The latest emergency statistics show that 721 people have been poisoned by poisonous mushrooms, of which 190 were hospitalized, 523 were cleared, and nine died,” Mojtaba Khalidi, an emergency services spokesman, told Iranian ISNA news agency.

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Transmission electron micrograph of norovirus particles in feces. © Graham Beards

At least 50 of the victims who were hospitalized across Iran’s eight provinces are in critical condition, with some requiring liver transplants to save their lives, emergency services said.

READ MORE: Magic mushrooms are ‘safest drugs’ compared to LSD, ecstasy & cocaine – study

The country’s Ministry of Health attributed the outbreak to spring rain across the mountainous regions of the country and issued a warning advising people to “avoid eating wild and unfamiliar mushrooms,” and refrain from even touching them because “skin toxicity is present in some species of fungi.”

Authorities advised the public not to buy mushrooms from street vendors. Those who experience abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, or severe dizziness, are advised to drink a lot of fluids and visit a health center immediately.

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Saudi Arabia intercepts missile fired from Yemen

By ethan / May 20, 2018

Saudi Arabia has managed to intercept a ballistic missile launched from Yemen into a “civilian area,” according to the Arab coalition. Houthi rebels meanwhile claimed they had targeted and successfully hit a Saudi military base.

Two ballistic missiles were fired on Saturday evening from Yemen into Saudi Arabia, allegedly targeting Khamis Mushait, a city in the south-west of the country, the coalition forces announced. One of the projectiles was reportedly destroyed by the Saudi air defense systems, while the other fell short of its intended target in the desert.

“No casualties were reported,” a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, Col. Turki Al-Malki, said in a statement, carried by the country’s official SPA news agency. “Launching ballistic missiles at densely populated civilian areas is a direct breach of the principles of the international humanitarian law.”

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FILE PHOTO : Saudi Air Force advanced F-15SA fighter jets ©  Fayez Nureldine / AFP

Houthi forces in Yemen meanwhile confirmed firing a single ‘Bader-1’ solid fuel ballistic missile, claiming they were targeting a Saudi military and radar base in Khamis Mushait. “The missile hit the target precisely,” the Houthi military officials said in a statement, according to Yemen’s Saba news agency.

This is not the first time that the Houthis have targeted their northern neighbor which has waged a brutal military campaign in Yemen since March 2015, trying to restore former president Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi to power. All of the previous ballistic missile attacks, including Saturday’s incident, have been blamed on Iran, which according to Riyadh is responsible for supplying weapons to its ‘proxy’. Tehran continues to deny any involvement in the attacks.

“This hostile act carried out by the Iranian Houthi militia proves that the Iranian regime is still providing the terrorist Houthi armed militia with qualitative capabilities…with the main objective of threatening the Saudi Arabian, regional and international security,” Al-Malki stressed in the statement.

The three years of Saudi-led bombardment and blockade of Yemen has led to a near-collapse of the country. Some 22 million people in Yemen, or 80 percent of the population, are in need of humanitarian aid, while more than half of the country is left without basic medical services.

READ MORE: US Green Berets covertly helping Saudi Arabia in Yemen – report

The UN officially documented 15,467 civilian casualties, with 5,974 killed and 9,493 injured, according to February figures. The Yemeni Ministry of Human Rights, however, places the number drastically higher, claiming that the Saudi-led campaign left around 600,000 civilians dead and injured. Human right groups have repeatedly accused the coalition of indiscriminate airstrikes, while criticizing the US and UK for supplying arms to Riyadh.

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Spend on schools or bow to US demands? German politicians debate NATO strategy

By ethan / May 19, 2018

US President Donald Trump has accused Germany of not contributing enough to the NATO budget – but will German Chancellor Angela Merkel dance to Washington’s tune?

Politicians on both sides of Germany’s political spectrum shared their views with RT.

On Thursday, Trump warned NATO members that they will be “dealt with” if they fail to fulfill their financial obligations to the US-led military alliance. Germany was singled out as one of those said to be delinquent on their obligations.

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© Jim Young

Speaking to RT, Martin Dolzer of Die Linke (Left Party) said that buying into Trump’s ideas may send the world order “into chaos,” citing US policy in the Middle East as evidence. Dolzer stressed that Germans do not want war, and said that more vital issues should be on agenda instead of boosting military spending.

“The German population does not want any more military expenses, the German population needs money for kindergartens, for education, for the growth of civil society organizations and the social sector,” Dolzer said. “There has to be a change. And the people in Germany, I think most of them want this change, but the government does not follow it.”

Though Merkel has shown no interest to raising defense spending, Alternative for Germany (AfD) chief whip Hansjorg Mueller believes she is poised to “bend down before the wish of the big brother” – a reference to Trump and the US.

“Our government is the government of a vassal state and governments of vassal states always obey to the wish of the big brother,” Mueller said.

Mueller believes a rise in defense spending would only further split German society, which is already divided over the chancellor’s immigration policy, and significantly weaken Merkel’s position. “We are viewing the doom of her leadership over Germany,” he told RT.

Apart from its reluctance in meeting Washington’s demands, Berlin is also at odds with its ally over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany. The US is opposed to the project and signaled that it might be targeted by sanctions. The measures could also affect German companies.

The situation with the project is “pure blackmail,” said Mueller, adding that he hopes Merkel does not give in the “dead-end game.”

Meanwhile, Dolzer believes the pipeline is necessary for stability. “If we want to have stable organization of the industry this is very, very necessary to build this Nord Stream pipeline and to not follow the sanctions,” Dolzer said, adding that the US government must be reminded that it cannot act like “a monopoly power” around the globe.

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China to buy more US goods – outcome of talks amid trade tensions

By ethan / May 19, 2018

China will purchase more American goods and services in order to reduce the US trade deficit, the two nations, which are on the brink of a trade war, agreed during high-level consultations in Washington.

READ MORE: US examines ‘China threat’ – but how would the nation of ‘Eastern Pacifica’ view the US threat?

“There was a consensus on taking effective measures to substantially reduce the United States trade deficit in goods with China,” the joint US-Chinese statement, issues after the talks, read. “To meet the growing consumption needs of the Chinese people and the need for high-quality economic development, China will significantly increase purchases of United States goods and services. This will help support growth and employment in the United States.”

The announcement came as a surprise as Washington and Beijing seemed to be heading towards a massive trade war over Donald Trump’s desire to cut the widening trade surplus between the US and China.

In order to reduce deficit with Beijing, which stood at $ 375 billion last year, the White House proposed harsh import tariffs on a number of Chinese goods, which provoked a tit-for-tat response from China.

In April, the world’s two leading economies imposed 25-percent tariffs on $ 50 billion of each other’s imports. Washington also forbid American firms from dealing with Chinese tech company ZTE Corp for seven years, with Beijing  slapping a 179-percent tax on American sorghum imports in response.

Before his meeting with the Chinese vice premier Liu He on Thursday, Trump expressed doubts that the trade war can be avoided as Beijing seemed reluctant to cave in to Washington’s pressure.

But, according to the statemet on Saturday, US and China agreed “meaningful increases” in American agriculture and energy exports, with expansion of trade in manufactured goods and services also discussed.

Beijing said it will amend its laws and regulations regarding intellectual property, including the Patent Law, in order to encourage more US purchases.

The statement, however, didn’t mention the exact amount of the trade surplus reduction by China. Trump earlier announced the target of $ 200 million, which was called impossible to achieve by many experts.

At the consultations, which took place on Thursday and Friday, the US was represented by Secretary of the Treasury, Steven T. Mnuchin, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur L. Ross, and Trade Representative, Robert E. Lighthizer. The Chinese delegation was headed by  Liu He, who is also a Special Envoy of Chinese President, Xi Jinping.

The US will send a team to China to work out the details of the agreement as the sides vowed to “seek to resolve their economic and trade concerns in a proactive manner.”

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2 officers, 1 worshiper killed in attack on Orthodox church in Chechnya

By ethan / May 19, 2018

Two officers and a worshiper were killed as armed militants attempted to storm an Orthodox church in Russia’s Chechnya. The attack was thwarted by law enforcers, who shot dead four militants.

The Church of Michael the Archangel in Grozny, the capital of Russia’s Republic of Chechnya, was attacked on Saturday by a group of gunmen, who attempted to take parishioners hostage.

A female worshiper told RIA-Novosti that the shooting outside the church began during the evening service, which was attended by around 15 people.

“One of the men rushed to block the door with a chair… we were holding the door,” the woman said, adding that shots from what she thought were pistols and machine guns were fired.

She also said that the priest’s children were playing outside when the attack began, and his wife had to rush from the church to lead them to safety.

Russia’s Investigative Committee said that two officers were killed at the church, while one worshiper also lost his life. Knives and a sawn-off shotgun were recovered from the militants after they were eliminated.

“The professionalism of the police officers guarding the church prevented more serious consequences of the attack and avoided a large number of casualties,” the Investigative Committee said on its website.

The head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, also confirmed the elimination of the militants as a result of a “swift security operation.” Three of the killed militants were residents of Chechnya, while the leader of the gang was from “one of the neighboring regions,” he added. 

Kadyrov also said that “there is intelligence data that the militants received the order [to carry out the attack] from one of the Western countries.”

Mufti Ismail Berdiyev, chairman of the Coordination Center of North Caucasus Muslims, has condemned the attack, which he said was aimed at destabilizing the situation in Chechnya.

“It was deliberately done during the holy month in order to destabilize the situation. It’s the month of Ramadan now. It’s the time when not only wars are forbidden, but even foul language is outlawed,” Berdiyev told TASS.

The attack was “yet another attempt by pseudo-Islamic extremists to pit Orthodox Christians and Muslims against each other,” said Vladimir Legoyda, head of the Synodal Information Department of the Russian Orthodox Church.

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Cheap shot? BBC takes aim at Trump with royal wedding crowd-size tweet

By ethan / May 19, 2018

Amid the royal wedding brouhaha, the BBC couldn’t help but celebrate the marriage of the UK’s most popular prince by trolling one of the world’s most divisive politicians – US President Donald Trump.

READ MORE: Royal wedding: Forget the dysfunctional Markle family, it’s the Windsors Meghan needs to worry about

The BBC Three Twitter account satirized the president by posting side-by-side images of his inauguration – falsely referred to at the time as the largest crowd to ever witness an inauguration – and the crowds lining the long walk to Windsor Castle, the venue for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s nuptials.  

The claim over the crowd size was made in January 2017 by then-White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. The Trump aide accused the press of “deliberately false reporting” over attendance figures at the president’s inauguration and said the media outlets had intentionally framed their photographs to minimize its size.

READ MORE: Sean Spicer’s 100-day rollercoaster: From ‘Russian dressing’ to ‘Holocaust denial’

Seeing as he was not tagged in the post, it’s doubtful Trump will ever see the comparison. But the notoriously thin-skinned man in the Oval Office is unlikely to see the funny side if he does spot the tweet.

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‘Peace is beyond the reach of ordinary people’ – 97yo Palestinian recalls the conflict (VIDEO)

By ethan / May 19, 2018

With the bloody Israeli-Palestinian conflict raging for decades, Mohammad Mahmoud Jadallah recalls how the tensions between the two nations over land and holy sites spiraled into wars, forced displacement and evictions.

Born in 1921 amidst the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Mohammad grew up in Palestine when it was controlled by the British after World War I. In 1946, he was waiting tables in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, when the Zionist militant group Irgun blew it up, killing 90 people. He vividly remembers the turbulent times of the creation of Israel in 1948 – the event is celebrated by the Jews as the triumph of their statehood, and lamented by the Palestinian Arabs as hundreds of thousands of them were forced to flee or were expelled.

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© Mohamad Torokman

The 1948 UN partition plan for Palestine was accepted by the Jews, but rejected by the Palestinians, so war ensued. Mohammad joined the Arab fighters in Jerusalem. “The Jews were superior in numbers and had more capabilities, they managed to win control over the country,” recalls Mohammad today. “It was the reason for the forced eviction of the Palestinians from their homeland.” 

Around 750,000 Palestinians had become refugees by 1950, according to the UN, and more than a million people live in refugee camps today – many of them in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Many of the protesters in Gaza are the descendants of people originally expelled from Jaffa, Haifa, Nazareth and other towns, says Mohammad, reminiscing about the 1948 Palestinian exodus or ‘Nakba’ – the ‘Catastrophe.’

The ongoing protests stay deadly, with at least 60 Palestinian fatalities just this week. The IDF claims that the majority of the killed related to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. However, Mohammad insists that this is not true. “All of the killed were peaceful, ordinary people. They had no relationship to the militants,” he says. “The protesters simply wanted the world to know that they demand justice, they want to return home, return to their homeland. They had no ill intentions.” He adds that the protesters were unarmed and, if the army had shown restraint, it is possible that they would have already reached some sort of agreement and left.

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Palestinian demonstrators burn representations of US flags and a poster of Donald Trump in the southern Gaza Strip May 15, 2018. © Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Mohammad is convinced that Trump made a mistake by relocating the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “America had completely sided with Israel. It’s wrong from a diplomatic standpoint.”

He believes that the only way to stop the bloodshed is for Israel to comply with the international law and the UN resolutions. That will end the hostilities, he hopes. “If everyone wants to live in peace, there will be peace. If all parties affirm their determination to achieve peace, the situation will be resolved. People here want to live a normal life, that’s all,” says Mohammad, although he admits that there is little that ordinary Palestinians like him can do. “These issues are beyond our reach. This is a problem at the international level. We can’t solve it by ourselves.”

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Bitcoin miners are using as much energy as Ireland – study

By ethan / May 19, 2018

The process of mining new bitcoin is now so intensive that computers carrying out the process are using nearly as much electricity as the entire country of Ireland.

A new study by economist Alex de Vries estimates that bitcoin mining consumes at least 2.55 gigawatts of electricity and, by the end of the year, that will have risen to 7.67 gigawatts – as much as Austria consumes in the same period.

Mining the cryptocurrency involves computers solving complex mathematical problems. As the amount of bitcoin left to mine grows smaller and smaller, the problems become increasingly complex, meaning they require an even greater amount of computing power.

‘Half a million PlayStations’

Due to the secretive nature of mining, the research is based on speculative figures. The cryptocurrency’s network is estimated to have around 10,000 connected nodes, but a single node in the network can represent either one or many machines.

“A hashrate of 14 terahashes per second can either come from a single Antminer S9 running on just 1,372 watts, or more than half a million PlayStation 3 devices running on 40 megawatts,” the research says.

The study is the first time that estimates of bitcoin’s energy consumption have been peer reviewed and it has sparked calls to address the environmental impact of mining the digital asset. De Vries also runs the Digiconomist blog, which hosts the Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index.

Some experts have queried the study’s findings, claiming it is the latest example of overblown concerns about the strain that computers put on the electricity network.

“The worry is that those are two numbers that are picked out of the air,” Stanford researcher Jonathan Koomey said. “There may be some basis for them, but it’s a very unreliable way to do these kinds of calculations, and nobody who does this for a living would do it like that. It’s odd that someone would.

“For two decades, people have been eager to overestimate electricity use by computing,” he added. “My concern is that we simply don’t have adequate data to come to the strong conclusions that he’s coming to.”

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