Archive for February, 2021

Syrian air defenses repel ‘Israeli aggression’ over Damascus, intercept most of the missiles – state media

Posted by RT on February 28, 2021  |   Comments Off on Syrian air defenses repel ‘Israeli aggression’ over Damascus, intercept most of the missiles – state media

Syrian air defences have shot down most of the missiles targeting the area outside Damascus from the territory of the occupied Golan Heights, the country’s state media reported, blaming Israel for the attack.

The missiles were launched towards the Syrian capital at around 10.16 pm local time, Syria’s SANA news agency reported, citing a military source. Few of the projectiles are believed to have reached the ground. The source said that the country’s missile defences took down “most of the enemy missiles.”

The agency has published several videos showing intercepts in the night skies over Damascus.

Israel routinely hits Syrian territory at the pretext of striking “Iranian targets” there. As a rule, Tel Aviv does not comment on its cross-border raids into Syria, deeming it part of its effort to deter Iran from gaining a foothold in the war-ravaged country.

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FILE PHOTO: A war jet flies above Syria near the Israeli Syrian border as it is seen from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Israel July 23, 2018. © REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
Syrian Army says Israeli jets targeted Damascus countryside after Iran warned of repercussions

The fresh bombing raid comes on the heels of the US airstrikes that purportedly demolished several facilities on the Syrian-Iraqi border that the Pentagon claimed were used by Iranian-backed militias.

The airstrikes, spun by the US military as “defensive”, became the first of its kind under the Joe Biden administration, which said the attack was in retaliation to rocket attacks on US and coalition troops in Iraq.

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A satellite image shows destroyed buildings after airstrikes in Syria, February 26, 2021 © Reuters / Maxar Technologies
Healing bombs? CNN’s love affair with airstrikes continues, as network gushes over Biden attack on Syria

The Pentagon argued that the bombing was aimed at “de-escalation” of tension in Syria and Iraq, but drew stark condemnation from both Damascus and Tehran, arguing that the raid only inflamed the volatile situation. Iran argued that the US airstrikes would come handy to terrorists, accusing Washington of seeking to “revive” the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorist group. Syria denounced the strikes as “cowardly aggression,” noting that the new US administration showed its disregard for the efforts to resolve the Syrian conflict, as the bombing coincided with the visit of the UN Special Envoy for Syria to the country.

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Bad timing: Iran rejects EU & US offer to hold direct talks on reviving 2015 nuclear deal

Posted by RT on February 28, 2021  |   Comments Off on Bad timing: Iran rejects EU & US offer to hold direct talks on reviving 2015 nuclear deal

Iran won’t take part in an informal meeting with the EU and US on ways to restore the nuclear deal, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said, citing recent US actions. It said sanctions must first be lifted before any talks can begin.

“Considering the recent actions and statements by the US and three European powers, Iran does not consider this the time to hold an informal meeting with these countries, which was proposed by the EU foreign policy chief,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said, as quoted by local media.

On Sunday, two Western diplomats told the Wall Street Journal that Iran had declined the invitation to hold direct talks in the coming days.

EU Minister for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell called last week for a concerted effort from all parties to reinvigorate the landmark accord. “This is an occasion that we cannot miss,” Borrell said, referring to the professed interest of US President Joe Biden’s administration in bringing the US back into the deal.

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FILE PHOTO.
US airstrikes ‘strengthen & expand’ terrorist activities in the region, Iran says

However, Washington insists sanctions can be lifted only after Iran returns to full compliance with the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). However, Iran insists the punitive measures former US president Donald Trump reapplied and expanded must first be removed before it will comply.

In 2018, Iran started enriching uranium again after Trump unilaterally withdrew from the JCPOA, which he dismissed as “the worst deal ever,” and reinstated restrictions on Tehran.

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At least 18 killed on bloodiest day of Myanmar protests as UN demands military stop using force

Posted by RT on February 28, 2021  |   Comments Off on At least 18 killed on bloodiest day of Myanmar protests as UN demands military stop using force

Myanmar security forces have again employed live fire against those protesting the military coup in the Southeast Asian country, killing at least 18 protesters and injuring dozens, the UN human rights office said.

Sunday became the bloodiest day of protests that have been ongoing since early February, when the army arrested the democratically elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, over claims of election fraud. 

“Police and military forces have confronted peaceful demonstrations, using lethal force and less-than-lethal force that – according to credible information… – has left at least 18 people dead and over 30 wounded,” the UN human rights office said in a statement.

Shots were fired by security forces at several locations in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, after tear gas and stun grenades didn't make the crowd disperse.

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Riot police officers stand guard during a rally against the military coup at the University of Yangon, in Yangon, Myanmar, February 25, 2021.
Facebook bans Myanmar military accounts with immediate effect over coup

Photos and videos that claim to show the dead and wounded in the city were uploaded to social media. 

One of those killed in Yangon was an educator who took part in a teachers’ protest that was broken up with the use of stun grenades. 

Police also cracked down on a rally outside a local medical school, sending doctors and students in white lab coats fleeing. At least 50 medical workers were arrested at the site, a local doctor’s association claimed. 

Reports of fatalities came from Mandalay,the country’s second-largest city, and Dawei in the south. Protests in several other towns were also dispersed with the use of violence by the army and police. 

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Police advance towards protesters demonstrating against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar © Ye Aung Thu / AFP
Myanmar riot police fire at crowd to disperse protesters, as military tries to reimpose rule after coup (VIDEO)

“We strongly condemn the escalating violence against protests in Myanmar and call on the military to immediately halt the use of force against peaceful protestors,” the UN body said.

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‘It’s not about geopolitics, but human health’: Czech PM signals country could use Russian Sputnik V vaccine without EU approval

Posted by RT on February 28, 2021  |   Comments Off on ‘It’s not about geopolitics, but human health’: Czech PM signals country could use Russian Sputnik V vaccine without EU approval

Local approval of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine would be enough for the Czech Republic to begin using it, PM Andrej Babis has said, signaling that the country would not wait for a green light from EU health regulators.

Speaking to CNN Prima News on Saturday, Babis confirmed that Prague will not wait for the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to approve Sputnik V and that an approval from the country’s State Institute for Drug Control (SUKL) would be enough to begin the vaccine’s rollout.

“We cannot wait for EMA, when Russia has not applied [for approval],” Babis stated. “SUKL must examine the documentation and if they approve it, the Health Ministry has to issue an exemption... and then, whoever is interested can get inoculated.”

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FILE PHOTO: A member of the medical staff enters a hospital to transfer a patient suffering from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from the fully occupied Cheb hospital in the town of Cheb, Czech Republic, February 22, 2021. © REUTERS/David W Cerny
Czech president Zeman reveals Prague has asked Putin to supply Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine without EU drug watchdog certification

Earlier in the day, the PM talked about the option to use Sputnik V without the EMA’s approval with the iDNES.cz outlet reporting a similar statement.

It is not a question of geopolitics, but of human health and our efforts to protect our nation as much as possible.

The remarks follow revelations made by President Milos Zeman, who said he sent a letter to his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin, asking for a Sputnik V vaccine shipment. Zeman said he expected Putin to approve the request shortly.

“If I am properly informed, this request will be granted,” he stated.

The remarks by top Czech officials apparently constitute Prague’s change of heart on how the Russian-made vaccine may be used in the country. Earlier this month, Babis said it would be only possible when the EU regulators approve it.

Now, the Czech Republic may become the second EU nation to embrace Sputnik V. Earlier this month, Hungary began to vaccinate its citizens with the Russian-made vaccine, dismissing the need for the bloc’s approval as being purely political.

“The pandemic must be fought with as much vaccine as possible – that we can acquire as quickly as possible,” Hungarian PM Viktor Orban told Berlin-based Focus earlier this week. “There is no Eastern or Western vaccine – there are only the good ones and bad ones. The Hungarian health authorities have run their tests and guarantee the effectiveness of the vaccine.”

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FILE PHOTO.
Czech Republic scraps plans to reopen shops, mandates DOUBLE masking in public

The Czech Republic has been heavily hit by the pandemic, showing one of the worst infection and death rates in the world. Around one tenth of its population of some 10.7 million has been infected, with more than 1.2 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus reported, while more than 20,000 have succumbed to the disease.

Restrictive measures, including the closure of most public places, and even such extremes as mandatory double masking on public transport seem to have failed to slow down the spread, and the country’s officials have repeatedly warned about a potentially impending collapse of its entire healthcare system.

The authorities now are expected to tighten curbs on the freedom of movement, including the imposition of bans on non-essential travel to other countries. Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said the sweeping travel ban will be enforced by the military and the police.

The restrictions will also see nurseries and schools for disabled children shut their doors, and people will be banned from leaving their municipalities other than for essential purposes.

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‘Without parallel in democratic world’: Watchdog slams Israel’s ‘extreme’ entry ban imposed to stem Covid-19

Posted by RT on February 28, 2021  |   Comments Off on ‘Without parallel in democratic world’: Watchdog slams Israel’s ‘extreme’ entry ban imposed to stem Covid-19

Israel is the only democracy in the world to prohibit its citizens from returning home during the pandemic, the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) said, urging authorities to relax an entry ban that, it says, violates human rights.

All entry points into Israel by land, sea and air remain shut tight since January 25 as part of the Benjamin Netanyahu government’s measures to prevent the new coronavirus variants from getting into the country. No one may come or go, except the few who have received a special permission from the Exceptions Committee. 

The harsh restrictions that resulted in thousands of Israelis being stranded abroad are “extremely problematic from a constitutional perspective and are without parallel in the democratic world,” IDI experts said, in a paper submitted to Israel’s Deputy Attorney General, Raz Nizri, on Sunday.

Australia, France, Germany, UK, Russia, the US and other nations have tried different approaches in tackling the virus, but all of them have allowed their citizens to return, the institute pointed out.

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FILE PHOTO: A French nun living in Israel receives a dose of COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Centre February 9, 2021.
50% of Israel’s population has had at least one Covid-19 shot – health minister

Addressing the Israeli restrictions, the independent body, which works to strengthen democracy in Israel, said that there is “a concern that the erosion of the rights affected is not proportionate, but rather extreme, even in view of the current health challenge.”

The extreme changes in policy – from one of a fully open airport, to a complete closure without warning, catching unawares citizens who traveled abroad lawfully, with the full expectation that they would be able to return, and without giving them a chance to prepare accordingly – creates intolerable human situations.

The paper also pointed out that the entry ban infringed on the people’s voting rights ahead of the national election on March 23. According to Israeli law, citizens can only cast their votes inside the country. The fourth election in two years was called after the coalition between PM Netanyahu’s Likud and the Blue and White party of his main rival, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, crumbled late last year, over budget disagreements.

The opposition recently blamed Netanyahu for exploiting the Exceptions Committee in his own interests by only allowing citizens holding right-wing views into Israel ahead of the election. A report by Channel 12 claimed that 90 percent of those approved to return were Orthodox Jews that are believed to be more likely to give their vote to the prime minister, who has remained in the job since 2009.

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Israeli infantry troops training during a combined forces exercise ©️ AFP / TAL NAVEH; (inset) © Facebook / Yonatan Granot
IDF soldier killed in training accident ‘saves’ Covid-stricken Israeli man with lung transplant

However, some media outlets blasted the report as “baseless.” They insisted that figures provided by Channel 12 couldn’t be verified, as passengers on emergency flights weren’t categorized as “Haredi” or “secular.” Orthodox representatives also denied that Haredi were getting any preference from the authorities. 

“The State must find an answer [to the pandemic] that is epidemiologically sound and constitutionally proportionate and must permit citizens to return home without delay,” the IDI experts concluded.

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NASA deliberately created artificial glowing clouds in unusual weather control experiment

Posted by RT on February 28, 2021  |   Comments Off on NASA deliberately created artificial glowing clouds in unusual weather control experiment

NASA recently unveiled a rather mesmerizing experiment, the Super Soaker mission, in which they fired a small rocket into the upper atmosphere which the agency then detonated to create artificial, glowing clouds… for science.

High-flying clouds that shine in the darkness above the polar caps are known as polar mesospheric clouds, or PMCs. They are essentially swarms of ice crystals high in the atmosphere that catch sunlight in an unusual way. 

Research into these glowing clouds could yield important insights into the conditions of our atmosphere, a key component to maintaining life on Earth, as space traffic continues to gather pace. 

The members of the Super Soaker mission set out to create their own PMC at the worst possible time: January in the Arctic. This time of year is typically not conducive to PMC formation, meaning there wouldn’t be any interference from naturally occuring glowing clouds.

© NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility

The team launched a small, suborbital rocket from Alaska to an altitude of some 53 miles, at which point an explosion was triggered, releasing the payload of 485 pounds of water. 

Sure enough, a ground-based laser detected the glow of a PMC some 18 seconds after the explosion, yielding important insights into the microphysics of the process and more specifically how it cools the atmosphere. 

As it turns out, water vapor that high in the upper atmosphere can significantly lower the surrounding temperature, generating these haunting, icy-hued clouds in the process. 

© NASA’s Johnson Space Center/International Space Station

Water vapor is a common byproduct of satellites and rocket launches, meaning that as the space race heats up, the atmosphere may cool down and these glowing clouds may become a much more common sight in the night skies over certain parts of the globe.

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© British Antarctic Survey
Gigantic iceberg 20 times the size of Manhattan breaks off from Antarctica (VIDEO)

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Ancient Roman ‘Lamborghini’ chariot discovered at Pompeii in immaculate condition (PHOTOS)

Posted by RT on February 28, 2021  |   Comments Off on Ancient Roman ‘Lamborghini’ chariot discovered at Pompeii in immaculate condition (PHOTOS)

Archaeologists are gushing after “an extraordinary find” of a perfectly preserved chariot with “no parallel in Italy thus far” was made at Pompeii.

The “exceptional discovery” has already been described by one expert in the ancient world as the equivalent of discovering a Roman-era sports car. 

“Many of the vehicles I’d written about before ... are your standard station wagon or vehicle for taking the kids to soccer. This is a Lamborghini. This is an outright fancy, fancy car,” said Eric Poehler, a classics professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

© POMPEI ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK / AFP

The chariot boasts four iron wheels, with luxurious metal arm and backrests, and a comfortable seat for two people, all adorned with iron components, and beautiful bronze and tin decorations featuring satyrs, nymphs, and cupids. 

© POMPEI ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK / AFP

The chariot managed to survive in such pristine condition as it was stored in a portico that shielded it from both the eruption of Mount Vesuvius that buried Pompeii nearly 2,000 years ago, and those of subsequent centuries. During that initial eruption, the portico’s walls and ceiling collapsed and packed the site with volcanic ash.

© POMPEI ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK / AFP

Over the centuries, looters and grave robbers had tunneled through the area, located some 23km (14 miles) to the southeast of Naples, but had somehow managed to avoid digging through the exact point where the ‘sports car’ chariot was stored. 

Since it was discovered on January 7, archaeologists have undertaken weeks of painstaking work at the Unesco World Heritage Site to unveil the long-lost Lambo’. The Pompeii team used specialized techniques to remove it without damaging it or its surroundings because, given how many treasures the lost city is still throwing up to this day, this may well not be the last.

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© Parco Archeologico Di Pompei / Cesare Abbate
Stunning ‘erotic’ fresco unearthed in Pompeii bedroom (PHOTOS)

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At least two reported dead, multiple injured as Myanmar continues crackdown on anti-coup protests (VIDEOS)

Posted by RT on February 28, 2021  |   Comments Off on At least two reported dead, multiple injured as Myanmar continues crackdown on anti-coup protests (VIDEOS)

Myanmar riot police repeatedly opened fire and used stun grenades against anti-coup protesters on Sunday as part of a continuing crackdown. At least two people were reportedly killed and several more injured.

Law enforcers shot at protesters in Myanmar’s largest city of Yangon on Sunday, according to local media reports backed up by multiple videos circulating online. One man was brought to a hospital after the shootings, where he succumbed to a bullet wound to his chest, an unnamed doctor told Reuters.

Footage from the scene shows police aiming and firing various weaponry at protesters, as well as hurling stun grenades at them.

Multiple shootings were also reported in the southern town of Dawei, where at least one person was killed and several were injured, local politician Kyaw Min Htike told Reuters.

The unrest across Myanmar continues after the country’s military seized power and detained elected government leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as many top members of her party, on February 1. The military alleges that the politician’s comfortable win in November’s election was fraudulent. The coup prompted mass protests across the country, with thousands demanding the release of detained politicians and a return to democratic rule.

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Police advance towards protesters demonstrating against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar © Ye Aung Thu / AFP
Myanmar riot police fire at crowd to disperse protesters, as military tries to reimpose rule after coup (VIDEO)

The move by the military ended a nine-year period of civilian rule in the country. The military previously controlled Myanmar for decades from early 1960s until 2011. The army has imposed a state of emergency that it says will remain in place for one year.

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Czech leader Zeman reveals he has asked Putin to supply Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine without EU drug watchdog certification

Posted by RT on February 28, 2021  |   Comments Off on Czech leader Zeman reveals he has asked Putin to supply Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine without EU drug watchdog certification

Czech President Milos Zeman says he has sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, asking for a Sputnik V vaccine shipment. Zeman said that Prague won’t insist on EU agency approval for use of the jab.

Speaking to CNN Prima News on Saturday, Zeman revealed that the letter to the Russian leader was penned in agreement with the country’s PM Andrej Babis. The Czech leader said that he expects Putin to approve the request.

“If I am properly informed, this request will be granted,” he told the channel.

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A man wearing a face mask walks across the Old Town Square amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Prague, Czech Republic, January 31, 2021.
Czech govt expected to put Covid-19 lockdown measures ON HOLD after parliament refuses to extend state of emergency

Zeman noted that the jab will need to be certified by the local regulator, the State Institute for Drug Control (SUKL), before the Russian vaccine can be rolled out. He added that its seal of approval will be “enough” to launch the vaccination campaign.

Zeman’s statement appears to run contrary to that of his top health official, Jan Blatny, who has been health minister since October, representing Babis’ pro-EU Action of Dissatisfied Citizens (ANO) populist party.

Earlier this month, Blatny ruled out the possibility of the Czech Republic importing Sputnik V on his watch unless it is first greenlighted by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

Amid a spike in coronavirus infections, believed to be driven by a new, highly contagious variant, the Czech government extended a state of emergency on Friday, which will now run until March 28. Under the newly extended emergency, the authorities are expected to tighten curbs on the freedom of movement, including the imposition of bans on non-essential travel to other countries.

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FILE PHOTO.
Czech Republic scraps plans to reopen shops, mandates DOUBLE masking in public

Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said the sweeping travel ban will be enforced by the military and the police.

The restrictions will also see nurseries and schools for disabled children shut their doors, and people will be banned from leaving their municipalities other than for essential purposes.

“We have to do it to prevent a total collapse of our hospitals,” Babis said on Friday, warning that if the lockdown is not properly enforced, “the whole world will watch Bergamo in the Czech Republic.”

The country, with a population of 10.7 million, has reported some 1.2 million confirmed cases of Covid-19, including 20,000 fatalities from the virus. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, its death rate per 100,000 people is currently the worst in the world.

Some 644,300 Czechs have already been vaccinated with Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca jabs.

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At least 13 arrested as rioting resumes in Barcelona over jailing of rapper who praised terrorists, insulted monarchy (VIDEOS)

Posted by RT on February 28, 2021  |   Comments Off on At least 13 arrested as rioting resumes in Barcelona over jailing of rapper who praised terrorists, insulted monarchy (VIDEOS)

Violent protests over the jailing of rapper Pablo Hasel resumed in Barcelona, reportedly leading to more than a dozen arrests as rioters torched a police van, threw objects at officers and damaged banks and other businesses.

Video footage posted Saturday on Twitter shows men in dark hoodies dousing a police van with flammable liquid to stoke a larger fire. El Mundo newspaper reported that a driver was inside the van as the rioters caused the fire to spread.

Video shot from another angle near the same scene shows people throwing bottles, flares and other objects at a group of police vehicles and spray-painting the vehicles with anarchist symbols.

The larger fire is then sparked as a person throws flammable liquid on the van.

A demonstrator sets fire to a police van © REUTERS/Albert Gea

A still photo by the Associated Press shows a hooded man spraying flammable liquid through the broken window of a bank to cause a fire inside to expand.

The moment demonstrators shattered the window of a Zara clothing store was captured on video as well.

© REUTERS/Nacho Doce

The rioters have also ignited fire at the entrance of a posh hotel, after smashing the huge glass doors of the building. 

Footage from another scene shows police moving quickly together to arrest a woman demonstrator in the street as she yells for help. The clip doesn't show what led up to her arrest.

Saturday's violence followed two relatively quiet nights in Barcelona, as the city got a break from the demonstrations. Protests began in Barcelona and Madrid after Hasel was arrested on February 16. The rapper, whose real name is Pablo Rivadulla, was jailed over a 2018 conviction. A court found that his social media posts and lyrics praised Spanish terrorist groups and mocked Spain's royalty, in violation of the country's so-called "gag law."

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FILE PHOT: Police vehicles line up amid protests by supporters of arrested Catalan rapper Pablo Hasel in Barcelona, Spain, on February 22, 2021 © REUTERS/Nacho Doce
Police pelted with stones, garbage dumpsters set alight in Catalonia’s 9th night of riots over jailed rapper Pablo Hasel (VIDEOS)

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