Archive for June, 2020

Pentagon says Trump greenlit ‘redeployment’ of 9,500 US troops from Germany as Congress seeks to challenge plan

Posted by RT on June 30, 2020  |   Comments Off on Pentagon says Trump greenlit ‘redeployment’ of 9,500 US troops from Germany as Congress seeks to challenge plan

US President Donald Trump’s plan to draw down the US contingent in Germany has been set in motion, with the Pentagon saying that 9,500 troops out of 34,500 stationed there will be removed pending consultations with allies.

“The Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff briefed the President yesterday on plans to redeploy 9,500 troops from Germany,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement on Tuesday, noting that the proposal had already been approved.

The plan to scale back the US military presence in Germany was made public by Trump earlier this month. He did not reveal the timeline for the withdrawal, and it was not immediately clear where they would be heading. The US contingent in Germany is expected to be slashed by 9,500 troops, meaning that Washington will still have a sizable 25,000-strong presence there.

Trump said that the pullout was in response to Berlin falling short of meeting a 2 percent GDP threshold in NATO defense spending, which was agreed back under the Obama administration. Although only eight countries so far have met the target, Trump directed his anger at Berlin, calling it “delinquent” in its payments to NATO and arguing that the country owes “billions” to the US-led military alliance.

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FILE PHOTO.
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While Trump’s critics used the looming withdrawal to pounce on the Republican president, accusing him of pandering to Russia, Trump has pointed out that while “some” of the released forces “will be coming home,” the rest will be redeployed to “other places.”

Although Hoffman did not mention where the troops would be “redeployed,” saying only that the plan “will also enhance Russian deterrence, strengthen NATO” and “reassure Allies,” the most likely destination is believed to be Poland, which has already expressed interest in hosting the US troops.

During a recent visit to Washington, Polish President Andrzej Duda said that Warsaw asked the US to not remove the troops from Europe at all, instead relocating them to Poland to fend off “Russian aggression.” Trump agreed that Poland indeed “would be one” of the places in Europe where the US troops would be heading, but that some would “come home.”

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US President Donald Trump holds a joint news conference with Poland's President Andrzej Duda in the Rose Garden at the White House, June 24, 2020.
Trump says US will ‘probably’ relocate some troops from Germany to Poland as ‘signal’ to Russia

There have been few details about the timeline and the scenario of the removal, with the Pentagon promising to provide “timely updates to potentially affected personnel, their families and communities as planning progresses.”

With uncertainty reigning over the future of the German contingent, there has been growing opposition to the plan in Congress, not just from the Democrats but from Trump’s own party. Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee,  said Tuesday that he expects an amendment to be introduced in the committee to stall the drawdown. 

In a separate move, a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) prepared an amendment that, if passed, would see the funds earmarked for the redeployment to be frozen until the secretary of defense “verifies” to Congress that the pullout would not hurt NATO, US military operations or the personnel.

Hoffman said that the Pentagon will be “briefing this plan to the congressional defense committees in the coming weeks,” before reaching out to NATO allies.

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Fired Ukrainian deputy minister puts on bikini & announces own party to fight ‘male political prostitutes’ in power (VIDEO)

Posted by RT on June 30, 2020  |   Comments Off on Fired Ukrainian deputy minister puts on bikini & announces own party to fight ‘male political prostitutes’ in power (VIDEO)

Ukraine's former deputy infrastructure minister, Aleksandra Klitina, has bounced back from her scandalous firing last year, saying she is going to return to politics to fight corrupt men, but her looks overshadowed her message.

The 37-year-old former official announced the creation of her own party, called ‘Ukraine against corruption’ in a video posted on YouTube.

In the clip, which was filmed outdoors, Klitina appeared sporting what looks like a bikini or a rather revealing dress and delivered a strong-worded address, bashing the men now ruling Ukraine.

“I decided to fight for truth myself because those pants-wearing idiots are hopeless,” she proclaimed, promising that her party will “finally deal with those male political prostitutes.”

They think that if they have something in their pants, it's enough for them to be successful and be eligible to abuse women. But women are a hundred times smarter and a hundred times more honest than you.

But online commenters were more interested in her looks than political message, confessing that they couldn't understand a word she was saying due to being fully consumed by the image on screen.

The woman also addressed her firing from the post of deputy infrastructure minister in November last year, insisting that her boss Vladislav Krikliy moved against her only because she was preventing thievery in the ministry.

Her sacking was preceded by two online leaks, which made headlines in the Ukrainian media. First, the MPs for the ruling party of President Volodymyr Zelensky were taped saying that Klitina got to her high position through the bedroom. Then she became the victim of a prankster who she told that her boss was corrupt and that she would make a much better infrastructure minister than him.

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The new party apparently doesn't have too many members at the moment. At least, there was nobody to film and edit her address as the clip starts with the woman switching on the camera on her phone and ends with it being switched off.

Wide-spread corruption has been a major stumbling block in Ukraine's development in recent decades. Every president, including Zelensky, vowed to eradicate it, but so far haven't achieved any significant results.

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‘Russian bounty’ story shifts: New York Times now claims Afghan CRIMINALS & not Taliban were paid, cites anonymous sources again

Posted by RT on June 30, 2020  |   Comments Off on ‘Russian bounty’ story shifts: New York Times now claims Afghan CRIMINALS & not Taliban were paid, cites anonymous sources again

The New York Times is doubling down on claims that Russia offered bounties for the killing of US troops in Afghanistan, but now says local criminals and not the Taliban were the recipients, again offering no actual evidence.

The new article, published Tuesday, says that “electronic data showing large financial transfers from a bank account controlled by Russia’s military intelligence agency to a Taliban-linked account” was intercepted by US spies and “bolsters suspicions” that Russia offered bounties to militants – as claimed by the Times last week.

Once again, the Times quotes anonymous sources – “three officials familiar with the intelligence” – so the claim is impossible to verify. No evidence of the alleged electronic transfer is provided, only a third-hand hearsay that “analysts concluded from other intelligence that the transfers were most likely part of a bounty program.”

The article eventually gets around to quoting several local officials from Afghanistan, who say that several people who transfer money through an Islamic banking system are suspected of being part of a ring of middlemen” between Russia and “Taliban-linked militants.”

The 'hawala' banking system does not actually use electronic transfers. Moreover, the article says the Afghan security forces found “a half-million dollars” – presumably in cash – in one Kabul home about six months ago. Safiullah Amiry, described as “the deputy provincial council chief” in Kunduz, “said the Afghan intelligence agency had told him the raids were related to Russian money being dispersed [sic] to militants.”

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A poster of current Russian President Vladimir Putin depicted as a secret agent in Moscow (July 13, 2011 file photo)
There they go again: NYT serves up spy fantasy about Russian ‘bounties’ on US troops in Afghanistan

In the original article, the Times claimed President Donald Trump had been briefed on this alleged plot sometime in March. The White House, the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence have since denied this. 

So the narrative has now shifted, with the Times citing “two officials” who say the information was included in Trump’s written presidential daily brief (PDB) “in late February,” accompanied by the – likewise unverified – claim that Trump typically doesn’t read those. The article also claims the CIA mentioned the intelligence in its World Intelligence Review newsletter, also known as The Wire, dated May 4. 

The identity of the suspected recipients of the “Russian bounties” has shifted as well, from the Taliban to “criminals closely associated with the Taliban” – according to yet another anonymous US official.

Most mainstream US media outlets and the Democrats have taken the original New York Times reporting at face value, denouncing Trump as “Putin’s puppet” and a traitor for allegedly not doing anything to “punish Russia” based on the purported intelligence assessments, rather than demanding to see evidence there was anything to it.

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Google brings dinosaurs back to life… through new augmented reality feature

Posted by RT on June 30, 2020  |   Comments Off on Google brings dinosaurs back to life… through new augmented reality feature

If the world wasn’t already scary enough, Google has decided to bring dinosaurs into the mix. The tech giant’s latest search update includes augmented reality prehistoric monsters, but where are the feathers?

Google is expanding the augmented reality (AR) roster of creatures available in Google Search, allowing users to now bring dinosaurs directly into their homes via their mobile phones.

From Tuesday onward, 10 of the world’s most-loved dinosaurs can be brought (back) to life, so to speak.

The list of dinos which made the cut include the king of all dinosaurs, Tyrannosaurus rex, as well as firm favorites such as the velociraptor, triceratops, spinosaurus, and the prickly stegosaurus.

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© Julius Csotonyi/Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology
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Available since last year, the AR feature has grown to encompass all manner of educational items from animals to cells to NASA models. 

The depiction of dinosaurs in popular culture has been frequently met with ire from the scientific community. Upon the release of Jurassic World in 2015, paleontologists announced their disappointment in how the protagonists of their field were depicted on screen. Featherless and scaled, some commentators stated that the film was a “major step backward for accuracy.”

With Google’s AR dinos, the reason why the models are reminiscent of those popularized by the Jurassic Park series — and not covered in feathers as they are believed to have been — is because they are the result of a partnership with Universal, the studio behind the Jurassic franchise.

Also involved in the partnership is games developer Ludia, which is behind the Jurassic World Alive AR game — the source of the 10 dinosaur renderings.

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To resurrect the classic dinos, all users need to do is search with their phone’s browser for one of the named species on Google, scroll down and tap on the ‘view in 3D’ option. 

This will bring the dinosaur into your surroundings, where it can be placed within a photo or even within a video recording. Although stationary, the dinosaur is animated to act like the real deal, acting like the living breathing, roaring monsters seen in the film series.

This isn’t the only recent example of dinosaur-related AR news. In June, the UK’s Royal Mint released the Dinosauria Collection, a selection of 50p coins dedicated to dinosaurs that have the added feature of augmented reality — the first time AR has been used on a coin.

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‘Crisis of information’: George Galloway says Latvian ban on RT proves Western viewers are ‘looking elsewhere’ for news

Posted by RT on June 30, 2020  |   Comments Off on ‘Crisis of information’: George Galloway says Latvian ban on RT proves Western viewers are ‘looking elsewhere’ for news

George Galloway has said Latvia’s decision to ban RT channels could be seen as a “compliment,” indicating that Western viewers are sick of watching and reading mainstream media and seeking out alternatives.

Latvia’s National Electronic Media Council (NEPLP) announced on Tuesday that it would prohibit seven RT channels from broadcasting in the country.

Galloway told RT that there is “no question” that the country’s authorities have been blinded by Russophobia in making the decision. Indeed, perhaps that blindness is so severe that it prevented the Latvian regulator from doing some fact-checking before announcing the move.

The NEPLP rationalized the ban by falsely claiming that RT is “controlled” by Dmitry Kiselyov, who is under EU sanctions. Kiselyov is actually the head of another news organization, Rossiya Segodnya — and has nothing to do with RT.

Galloway, a former British MP, said the move to prohibit RT broadcasting is a sign that Western people are “looking elsewhere” for news and that authorities in those countries want to shut down different perspectives, despite claiming to be committed to the ideals of free speech and media. It’s a “crisis of information,” he said.

The West has “coasted for the best part of a hundred years” on the myth that it stands for freedom of the press and that this distinguishes it from authoritarian societies.

Galloway, who hosts the show ‘Sputnik’ on RT, said authorities around the world are now all “dancing to the same tune” in an effort to stamp out competing voices because “nobody believes mainstream media” anymore.

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Shambles: Latvia bans RT, saying it’s ‘controlled’ by EU-sanctioned journalist… who heads DIFFERENT outlet with similar name

In that sense, banning RT could be seen as a “compliment,” he said.

Galloway also suggested that some other EU countries might try to follow suit and “mimic” Latvia’s move, though such a scenario would require others to also disregard basic facts.

The International Federation of Journalists condemned Latvia’s decision on Tuesday, saying it “violates freedom of the press” and calling it a “clear act of censorship.”

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Huge explosion rocks Iranian capital Tehran (VIDEOS)

Posted by RT on June 30, 2020  |   Comments Off on Huge explosion rocks Iranian capital Tehran (VIDEOS)

A huge blast has been reported in the northern part of Tehran, with locals posting footage of an explosion and images of thick, black smoke rising into the sky over the city.

Iran’s ISNA news agency published footage of the scene but did not provide further information about the possible cause. Other online videos, which purport to have captured the incident, also showed a descending whirl of sparks and a major fire at the scene. 

Twitter users said that the explosion happened at a building not far from Tajrish Square, one of the busiest areas of the capital.

 

DETAILS TO FOLLOW

Turkish FM lambastes France’s ‘dishonesty’ in Libya, claims it strives to increase Russia’s influence there

Posted by RT on June 30, 2020  |   Comments Off on Turkish FM lambastes France’s ‘dishonesty’ in Libya, claims it strives to increase Russia’s influence there

Turkey has slammed France’s “dishonest approach” to the Libyan conflict and accused it of seeking to increase Russia’s role there, after Macron claimed Ankara’s actions posed a “threat to Africa and Europe.”

Turkey’s harsh words come in response to the French president accusing it of “criminal responsibility” over its involvement in the conflict. 

Many EU member states are “uncomfortable” with France’s actions, but they don’t speak up since they are afraid of losing European funding after the Covid-19 pandemic, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu claimed on Tuesday. 

“Does France act honestly? No,” he said. “NATO sees Russia as a threat. But France is trying to increase Russia’s influence.” 

He clarified that Ankara is “working with the Russians for a ceasefire,” while France led by Macron uses a “colonialist approach” in Libya, just like it did back in 2011, when Paris “bombed and left.” 

“Who does France support? It supports the putschist and the pirates. France does not act honestly, saying that it did not give Hafter a gun,” Cavusoglu added. 

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FILE PHOTO © AFP / DOMINIQUE FAGET
France, not Turkey, plays ‘dangerous game’ in Libya by sending it into chaos – Ankara

Russia has been accused multiple times of backing Libyan National Army commander General Khalifa Haftar as well. Russian FM Sergey Lavrov clarified last year that Moscow supports “all Libyan political forces so that they agree among themselves and so that no one imposes anything on them.”

Lavrov stressed in February that Russia and other external players are trying to help “Libyans rebuild what has been destroyed through the most blatant breach of UN Charter principles.” He added that Russia doesn’t see Haftar’s forces as a symbol of separatism, since Haftar heads one of the parties of the conflict, and that was recognized by the UN.

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Shambles: Latvia bans RT, saying it’s ‘controlled’ by EU-sanctioned journalist… who heads DIFFERENT outlet with similar name

Posted by RT on June 30, 2020  |   Comments Off on Shambles: Latvia bans RT, saying it’s ‘controlled’ by EU-sanctioned journalist… who heads DIFFERENT outlet with similar name

Latvia’s media council has announced a complete ban on seven RT channels, declaring falsely that they are “under the effective control” of a person subject to sanctions imposed by the European Union.

The person in question is well-known Russian broadcaster Dmitry Kiselyov, who in fact heads a completely different news organization called Rossiya Segodnya — a basic fact-check that the bright sparks at Latvia’s National Electronic Media Council (NEPLP) seemingly failed to conduct.

Kiselyov has indeed been under EU sanctions since Crimea voted for reunification with Russia in 2014, but he has nothing to do with RT or its broadcasting.

Of course, the knee-jerk move to banish RT based on false information could have been avoided had the council taken even a cursory glance at either RT or Rossiya Segodnya’s Wikipedia pages.

Entirely unaware that it had banned the wrong news organization, the NEPLP wrote in a dramatic statement that the “evidence” it had obtained against RT and Kiselyov is “very strong.”

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©  Sputnik / Ilya Pitalev
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RT’s main channel, as well as its Arabic, Spanish and Documentary channels, fall under the new ban.

The NEPLP also announced its intention to “inform media regulators in other EU countries” of the decision it has taken and considers that a “similar ban” on distribution of RT would be “acceptable” across the EU.

It is probably safe to assume for now, however, that a blanket ban on RT across the EU is not imminent.

Responding to the move, RT’s Press Service offered congratulations to the NEPLP, given that it will now “finally will be able to protect the Arab- and Spanish-speaking” demographics in Latvia from the “most influential Russian propaganda channel” in the West.

RT’s (real) editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan (who is not under EU sanctions), also responded to Riga’s blunder, noting a trend of sensational and often outlandish claims made by Western intelligence agencies.

“Latvian intelligence believes that RT is headed by Dmitry Kiselyov. American intelligence believes that a program I hosted in 2011 [on] a local Russian channel influenced the US election. British intelligence believes that the Skripals were poisoned by Boshirov and Petrov. So that’s good news,” Simonyan said, adding that with such intelligence services, Russia has little to be worried about.

The International Federation of Journalists also reacted to the ban, with its general secretary, Anthony Bellanger, saying that it “violates freedom of the press, the right of citizens to media pluralism and is a clear act of censorship.” The press freedom organization demanded the lifting of the ban “immediately.”

The NEPLP said the Latvian ban will remain in force “until Kiselyov is removed” from the EU sanctions list — or, presumably, until the country’s regulator realizes its mistake... and finds another pretext.

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So pigs don’t fly… but snakes do, and now scientists know how

Posted by RT on June 30, 2020  |   Comments Off on So pigs don’t fly… but snakes do, and now scientists know how

The purpose behind tree snakes’ rhythmic slithering as they glide through the air has been explained, offering up a new blueprint for dynamic flying robots.

Research released on Monday examined why snakes use aerial undulation, with the goal of determining if it is a flight control strategy or “a non-functional behavioural vestige of lateral undulation.”

What they mean by this is whether or not the fact that the snake mimics its on the ground movement whilst in the air is a hangover of past behavior or a developed strategy for gliding.

To find out, the researchers used high-speed motion capture and created a new dynamic model of gliding that mapped out the snake’s aerodynamics.

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From this data, they found that the undulating movements greatly contributed to glide performance. The snakes in the simulation that did not wriggle graciously in the air failed to glide as successfully as those that did.

This has added to a new understanding of the function of undulation in animals: flying.

In the past, it has been noted that tree snakes flatten their bodies as they leap in order to generate lift. With the new findings, scientists now know how thought-out the entirety of the snake’s flight is.

Such research is vital in the development of robots. In this instance, these findings can be extrapolated onto similar mechanical contraptions where appropriate, and bring these evolutionary traits and abilities into the robot’s design.

Today, you can find robots inspired by all manner of animals, from cheetahs, to ostriches to cockroaches, these robots are built on data sourced from the wild.

This approach makes sense, with evolutionary processes a millennia in the making, living beings across the world have become uniquely qualified for survival in their environments.

By adopting these nuances into technology, science is emulating nature.

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What to do with old monuments? RT visits German museum where removed statues go to rest (VIDEO)

Posted by RT on June 30, 2020  |   Comments Off on What to do with old monuments? RT visits German museum where removed statues go to rest (VIDEO)

As the trend of statue-toppling gains traction worldwide, RT takes a look at a special German museum where outdated sculptures go to rest in peace – even though many hark back to war.

From the 19th-century colonial conquests in Africa to Prussian militarism and Nazism, German history is full of troubles and tragedies. But Germany’s way of handling its uneasy past might provide an example for others to follow, an RT crew discovered in Berlin’s Spandau Citadel.

The fortress, where chemical weapons were stockpiled before World War II, now houses a museum where controversial sculptures are stored.

On display are statues of Prussian generals and strongmen who fought numerous wars in Europe, as well as a bronze decathlete which Adolf Hitler once called “irreplaceable.”

READ MORE: ‘We won’t erase names from our history’: As France opens borders, Macron vows war on racism but rules out toppling statues

Visitors can also gaze at a gigantic granite head of Vladimir Lenin, whose bust was erected in East Germany and later removed following the 1989 reunification and toppling of the Berlin wall.  

“In the United States and also in Great Britain, there are discussions at the moment about what to do with dismantled memorials,” said museum director Urte Evert. She said her entity has "already found a possible solution for memorials that are, so to speak, toxic.”

If we put them in a museum, that doesn’t mean it’s over. We put them here so that people can continue to pay attention to them but in a different context.

Like many other Western nations, Germany has seen some of its historical monuments defaced as anti-racism protests rage across the world in recent weeks.

One of the targeted statues was of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck – dubbed a driving force of colonialism and an anti-Semite by critics. The monument was splattered with red paint in the port city of Hamburg earlier this month.

Similar acts have also taken place across the country, but nowhere near the scale of demolition seen in the US or the UK.

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(L) A statue of Robert Milligan in London, Britain, June 9, 2020; (R) Graffiti on a statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square, London, Britain, June 7, 2020 © Reuters / John Sibley; Dylan Martinez
Destroy EVERYTHING! Will culture police keen to purge historical racism turn to museums, galleries and libraries next?

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