‘No fair trial’: Teen Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi denied public hearing in Israel

An Israeli court has rejected an appeal for an open hearing by iconic Palestinian teen activist Ahed Tamimi, who was arrested for striking IDF soldiers. Her lawyer claims the decision will deprive her of a fair trial.

“The Military Court of Appeals rejected the defense’s appeal and upheld the decision to hold Ahed Tamimi’s trial behind closed doors,” Gaby Lasky, attorney representing the 17-year old, wrote on Twitter. “Public scrutiny is Ahed’s only defense, and it is clear that without it, in secret proceedings, she cannot get a fair trial.”

Although military prosecution didn’t object to an open trial for Tamimi, the court decided on Monday to hold the legal proceedings behind closed doors. It said that the decision would benefit Tamimi.

Citing “the accumulated experience” of past years, Col. Netanel Benishu explained that “a basic component of conducting fair and just proceedings” is when minors and their families can deliver their arguments in “an intimate framework.”  Closed trials, he added, “expresses the best interests” of minor defendants.

However, Lasky argued that this is not always the case, given that her parents had requested Tamimi’s trial to be held in public. 

“The military court has realized that their policy of detaining children is causing international embarrassment,” Fadi Quran, senior campaigner at civic organization Avaaz and coordinator of the Free The Tamimis campaign, told Mondoweiss. “It is hypocritical now to claim they want to protect her privacy when they have already violated it hundreds of times,” he said. “By having diplomats and media witness this kangaroo trial, it would help ensure that they wouldn’t punish Ahed too severely,” Quran added.

Arrested four months ago, the teenager was indicted with aggravated assault after a video emerged of Ahed, along with her cousin and mother, confronting the IDF soldiers. The footage shows women pushing and kicking the soldiers in the village of Nabi Saleh in the West Bank. Two years prior to the incident, Tamimi was also filmed biting and slapping an Israeli soldier.

While critics accuse her family of using Ahed as a pawn in staged anti-Israeli activities, Palestinians and supporters praise the teen as a symbol of resistance to the illegal occupation of the West Bank, comparing her to a modern Joan of Arc.

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‘We admire you’: Putin gives state honors to Paralympic medalists in Kremlin

Russian President Vladimir Putin has greeted the 2018 PyeongChang Paralympic medalists in the Kremlin and presented them with state honors.

The whole country is proud of you and admires how you’re carrying out your mission to inspire the world,” Putin said while addressing the Russian Paralympians in the Kremlin.

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Russian athletes during the welcoming ceremony for the Russian 2018 Paralympic athletes at Sheremetyevo Airport © Ramil Sitdikov

Your determination, optimism and energy are radiating to other people. With your personal experience, you have proved that moral courage and self-confidence can destroy all difficulties and obstacles.”

You are great, we respect and admire you,” he added.

Putin also noted that special Paralympic events will be staged for those who were denied access to the Winter Games, adding that financial rewards for victories will be similar to those given for winning Paralympic medals.

The Paralympians attending the ceremony thanked the president for supporting the national Paralympic sport and congratulated him on a convincing victory in the presidential election.

Russian Paralympic team members were obliged to perform in South Korea under a neutral flag following the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) decision to maintain the suspension of the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) over alleged doping violations.

Those who were approved for the games competed under the name of ‘Neutral Paralympic Athletes’ without national emblems, which were banned by the IPC.

READ MORE: ‘They know who I am & who I represent’ – Russian Olympic figure skater Medvedeva to RT

Despite only 30 Russians being declared eligible for the PyeongChang Games, the reduced squad managed to win a total of 24 medals to finish second in the overall standings behind the USA, whose team in South Korea boasted double the number of the athletes.

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Burgers beat baguettes in French fast-food wars

The French are turning their backs on brasseries in favor of a quick bite at burger joints, according to Paris-based restaurant consultants Gira Conseil.

In 2017, sales of hamburgers in France outpaced those of the classic jambon-beurre sandwiches for the first time ever.

The research showed that American-style burgers were on the menu in 85 percent of restaurants in France last year, with 1.5 billion units sold.

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Reuters / Maxim Shemetov

Gira Conseil said there was a gradual demise of junk food; with good-quality, fresh alternatives on the rise. Fast-food joints sold just 30 percent of burgers in France, with the majority sold at restaurants with full table service.

“We’ve been talking about burger frenzy for three years. This year, we don’t know how to describe the phenomenon. It’s just crazy,” Gira Conseil Director Bernard Boutboul told AFP.

She said there was a nine-percent jump in burger sales last year, adding: “That’s phenomenal growth.”

Statistics showed that in 2016, hamburger sales were on a par with the jambon-beurre, or ham-and-butter baguette, which is the most popular sandwich in France.

“But in 2017, for the first time, [burgers] overtook [the French classic] by a long way,” Boutboul said. Jambon-beurre sales stood at 1.2 billion units.

“One wonders whether the burger might even overtake our famous steak frites in France,” he said.

According to the market consultancy firm, fast-food restaurant sales were “beating record upon record,” making €51 billion ($ 63 billion) in 2017.

France is McDonald’s most profitable market outside the US, with more than 1,400 restaurants.

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‘Captain Haddock’: Jacob Rees-Mogg urges government to seize British fish from EU

Tory backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg has slammed Theresa May for yet again bowing to the EU over fishing rights during a Brexit transition period. It comes amid rumors Tory rebels are planning to throw fish in the Thames in protest.

The old Etonian, who leads a group of around 60 Eurosceptic Conservative MPs, said in an interview on LBC that it is “regrettable” the Tory leader “conceded” to the EU maintaining access to British territorial waters during a 21-month transition period. He advised the government to “rethink” its policy.

“As a unionist I greatly welcome the opportunity for Scottish fishing, particularly. The majority of fish in British waters are actually in Scottish waters. So it will be particularly helpful to the Scottish economy to have a regrowth of its fishing industry. 

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© imagebroker/Nicholas and Sherry

“And to delay that by 21 months is regrettable, I happen to think an error, and I don’t think the government should have conceded on fish.” He added: “I think, on the fishing issue, the government should rethink.”

Moray MP Douglas Ross said, according to the Telegraph: “It would be easier to get someone to drink a pint of cold sick than to sell this as a success.”

Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson joined the dissenting voices as she told the PM the 13 Tory MPs north of the border will oppose any Brexit settlement that “fails to deliver full control over fish stocks and vessel access.”

It comes amid speculation that Tory Brexiteers are planning to fling fish from a trawler into the Thames in protest.

MPs reportedly intend to board a fishing boat on Wednesday and throw a full box of haddock, skate, and bass to oppose what they say is May’s “abject betrayal,” namely over the Brexit pledge that the UK would gain back control of its waters once it quit the bloc.

Rees-Mogg, however, dismissed the rumors that he would be spearheading the vessel protest, saying: “I am not a fish thrower.”

“Am I going to change my name to Captain Haddock?” he told LBC.

“No, I’m not throwing fish anywhere. I’m not a fish thrower. I think this has got slightly out of hand.

“There was a suggestion that a fishing boat should go up the Thames in a protest against the delay in leaving the Common Fisheries Policy.

“But I won’t be throwing fish. Anyway, I have a nasty feeling that if I started throwing fish, they would be brought back in the wind and hit me in the face.

“No, I’m not a fish thrower.”

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Best in social: RT nominated for 11 Shorty Awards, #1917LIVE up for 9 prizes

#1917LIVE scored 9 finalist spots in the Shorty Awards, one of the most prestigious annual award competitions for excellence in social media. Active support from the audience was among the factors helping RT make the shortlist.

#1917LIVE used Twitter as a platform allowing anyone to join by creating an avatar and posting on their behalf, as long as their character existed in 1917 and was historically accurate. Along the way, prominent authors and historians joined the 250,000 cross-platform users, including writers Paulo Coelho and Helen Rappaport.

This April, during the 10th annual Shorty Awards, #1917LIVE will compete in 7 categories: ‘Best in Education,’ ‘Best Overall Twitter Presence,’ ‘Best Use of Twitter,’ ‘Best Use of Twitter Video,’ ‘Best in Non-profit,’ ‘Best Use of a Hashtag,’ and ‘Best Use of Storytelling.’ Mata Hari Tweets by Paolo Coelho is a finalist in Twitter Partnership: Best Influencer & Celebrity Twitter Campaign.

In the 2017 Shorty Social Good Awards, #1917LIVE won ‘Best In Education’ and took Gold for ‘Twitter presence.’ RT’s project competed alongside Google and Verizon programs that “seek to address education inside and outside of the classroom.”

READ MORE: Best in Education: RT’s #1917Live project grabs prestigious social media ‘Shortys’ award

RT’s unique 8-episode historical panoramic video series Revolution 360 is among the finalists in the ‘Best Use of 360 Video’ category. Each video immerses viewers in the atmosphere of the dramatic events that took place 100 years ago during the Russian Revolution.

SPACEWALK 360, the first-ever panoramic video shot in space, is a finalist in ‘Best Use of Virtual Reality.’ The RT360 mobile app for panoramic videos, which won a Shorty Award in 2017, is now among the finalists for ‘Best in Photo & Video Sites and Apps.’
Meanwhile, the team behind #1917LIVE is about to launch their next project – #Romanovs100, a photo-story about the last reigning Romanovs told through the family’s personal photos. The big release is planned for April 8, exactly 100 days ahead of the date marking 100 years from the family’s execution by the Bolsheviks.

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Hundreds of fans greet Russian Paralympians at Moscow airport

Hundreds of fans gathered at Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport on Tuesday to welcome Russian Paralympians returning from the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics, where they took second place overall.

During a specially arranged greeting ceremony, hundreds of fans, relatives, and friends of the athletes bearing Russian flags sang the national anthem which had been banned in PyeongChang due to the International Paralympic Committee’s decision to keep in force the suspension of the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC).

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© Carl Recine

During such a tough time when the world speaks to Russia using the language of sanctions, you have proved with your results that the best doping for Russia is moral courage,” said the head of the State Duma committee on sports, tourism and youth matters, Mikhail Degtyaryov, TASS reported.

Russian Paralympians were forced to compete in PyeongChang under a neutral flag and, despite only 30 Russians being declared eligible, the reduced squad managed to win a total of eight gold, 10 silver, and six bronze medals.

The total of 24 medals placed them second in the overall standings, behind the USA, whose Olympic team in South Korea comprised double the number of athletes.

On behalf of the Russian State Duma I want to congratulate you on that amazing success. You have proved that it’s possible to achieve high goals despite all the difficulties. Your results showed that our victories in Torino, Vancouver and Sochi were not a fluke,” said RPC Vice President Oleg Smolin.

Just imagine that one football team consists of 11 players, and the opposed team has just five or six members, but they compete equally against their opponent. This is exactly what you did,” he added. 

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Russian petrochemicals giant Sibur strengthens China partnership

Sibur, the largest petrochemicals firm in Russia, will construct a new plant in Russia’s Far East that will target the Chinese market.

“The Russian petrochemical industry is moving east and Russian energy is moving east. It is moving close to the Chinese border. This is where the energy goes and we follow it,” Dmitry Konov, chairman of the company’s board, told the FT.

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Container terminal at the Port of Qingdao, China © Yu Fangping / Global Look Press

Business relations between Russia and China had been stagnating for decades up until recently. However, the penalties imposed on Russia by Western countries over alleged involvement in the Ukrainian crisis and reunification with Crimea have given a boost to Russia-China ties.

Last year, the nations expanded mutual trade up to $ 84.07 billion with imports of Russian goods to China increasing by nearly 30 percent to $ 40 billion. At the same time, China boosted exports to Russia by nearly 15 percent, to $ 43 billion.

Sibur’s main partner is Chinese petrochemicals firm Sinopec, which paid $ 1.3 billion for a 10 percent stake in the Russian company three years ago. According to Konov, the demand from the company’s Chinese partner was the main factor behind the plans to erect the Amur Gas Chemical Complex near the Russian-Chinese border.

“Sinopec was looking for a Russian producer which was reasonably close to the Chinese market that can grow production of polymers that are structurally short in China,” Konov said, as quoted by the FT. The chairman stressed that the plastic resin produced would be sold both in East Asian and Chinese markets.

The Amur Gas Chemical Complex, which is scheduled to become operational in 2024, will produce 1.5 million tons of polyethylene annually. The estimated investment may reach $ 7 billion. The new complex along with a nearby gas processing plant operated by state-owned Gazprom will be fueled by the 3,000km-long Power of Siberia gas pipeline.

The pipeline is aimed at simplifying deliveries of Russian natural gas to the eastern regions of the country and to China, which is currently the world’s biggest gas buyer after Japan. The project is also one of the biggest involving Russia and China.

Sibur, which is reportedly one of Russia’s most profitable companies, is also cooperating with the Chinese state-owned Silk Road Fund. The fund reportedly bought a 10 percent stake in the corporation in 2016. The step was seen as a move towards a longer-term strategic partnership.

“The countries under the Belt and Road Initiative mandate is a good place for the petrochemicals industry and this may for us, in years to come, be another expansion area,” Konov said.

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Russia’s Supreme Court orders Telegram messenger to hand over encryption keys to security services

Russia’s Supreme Court has ordered popular internet messenger service Telegram to hand over encryption keys to its clients’ traffic to the Federal Security Service (FSB) without court warrants.

In the lawsuit, which bears some resemblance to the famous 2016 Apple-FBI encryption case, the London-registered company Telegram Messenger LLP demanded that the FSB order be recognized as unlawful and cancelled.

In July 2016, the FSB demanded that Telegram sign a document to hand over encryption keys that would give security agents access to data exchanges on six telephones that used the messenger service.

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© Vadim Zhernov

Telegram managers refused to sign the paper and the FSB took the case to court, which ordered Telegram to be fined 800,000 roubles (about $ 14,000).

Telegram replied with a counter-suit against the FSB in which it said that the order to give up the encryption keys was signed one day before the Law on Information that gives the FSB such powers came into force. The FSB argued that the order came into effect one month after the signing date and therefore cannot be considered unlawful.

FSB representatives also noted the earlier case in which the Supreme Court ruled that the constitutional right for secrecy of correspondence should not be extended to internet messages as there was no way to ensure that the staff of internet companies had no access to user data.  At the same time, the agency’s lawyers said it would demand access only to the messages of particular suspects, not to big data allowing the analysis of user groups.

On Tuesday, the judge of the Russian Supreme Court Collegium for Civil Cases took the FSB’s side in the argument and ordered the Telegram lawsuit to be rejected. The internet messenger promised to contest the ruling.

Also on Tuesday, Russian internet watchdog Roskomnadzor officially warned Telegram that unless it complies with the FSB and the court’s orders, its work on Russian territory could be blocked.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Irina Yarovaya, Chairperson of the State Duma Committee on Security and Countering Corruption © Michael Klimentyev

The package of bills that regulates the data exchange between the Russian security services and internet companies was signed by President Vladimir Putin in early July 2016. The authors of the draft described it as a response to the 2015 bombing of a Russian passenger jet in Egypt and the terrorist attacks in Paris.

The new law obliges communication companies, including internet providers, to keep information about their clients’ data traffic for three years (one year for messengers and social networks) and also to keep actual records of phone calls, messages and transferred files for six months.

The bill also requires communications companies to hand over encryption keys to state security agencies on demand, allowing them to read encrypted data. Non-compliance could cost companies between 800,000 and 1 million roubles ($ 14,000 – $ 17,500) in fines.

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Italian city suspends opening of memorial to WWII soldiers – including Nazis – after outcry

An unveiling ceremony of a memorial honoring soldiers of all nations who died during the World War II was canceled after public opposition. Critics said the monument would commemorate both Allied and Nazi paratroopers.

An association of hotel owners from the town of Cassino was poised to unveil the stone monument on Sunday in the Foltin cave at the foot of Monte Cassino, where German troops sheltered during air assaults by the Allied forces.

“In memory and recognition of the soldiers of all nations who fell in the bloody Battle of Cassino and all the civilian victims of the terrible war,” the text on the memorial should have read in Italian, German and English.

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Members of the SS-Sonderregiment Dirlewanger fighting in Warsaw, pictured in window of a townhouse at Focha Street, August 1944 © Wikipedia

However, the National Association of Italian Partisans (ANPI) lashed out at the initiative, calling it a “disfigurement.” 

“In all likelihood, [the memorial] equates the fighters for the liberation of Italy from occupation and slavery to Hitler’s totalitarian atrocities with those who committed those atrocities to the detriment of Italians,” read the ANPI statement, according to DW. 

The president of the Lazio region, which encompasses the area, Nicola Zingaretti, also intervened, calling for “respect for history and memory.” 

“A serious gesture, a wound to the memory of the war of liberation and an insult to the understanding of history,” he tweeted. Senator Maria Spilabotte decried the plans as it would be “a violent slap to the dignity of the martyr city.”

However, Robert Molle of the Battle of Cassino association explained that the memorial was supposed to be one of the first descriptive signs to give tourists information on the fight’s key sites, as well as to highlight the historical heritage of the area. “There were no political goals,” he stressed. Town Mayor Carlo Maria D’Alessandro eventually advised against “any initiative that may disturb the memory and sensitivity of our city,” prompting the Sunday inauguration to be suspended.

One of the longest engagements of the Italian campaign during the World War II, the 1944 Battle of Cassino claimed the lives of more than 50,000 Allied forces and 20,000 German soldiers.

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Russian footballers are the cleanest in the world – team doctor Bezuglov

Russia’s national football team doctor, Eduard Bezuglov, says Russian players are the “cleanest in the world” due to rigorous drug-testing measures implemented by the country’s football association.

Russian internationals have previously been the subject of doping speculation. In 2017, FIFA launched an investigation into allegations of drug cheating by Russian players at the 2014 Brazil World Cup.

However, last summer, FIFA boss Gianni Infantino confirmed that each doping test from the 23 Russian players taking part in the tournament had come back negative. Infantino was keen to stress that the players were tested “by people in [FIFA’s] laboratory in Lausanne.”

Team Russia doctor Bezuglov says that unprecedented testing techniques from the Russian Football Union (RFU) and the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) make Russian players less likely than any others worldwide to be found guilty of doping.

These measures include “mandatory online courses” and publishing medical guidelines for teams in each of the country’s football leagues.

“There is no such thing anywhere else in the world,” Bezuglov told RIA Novosti. “In other words, I do not know of any other sport that does not have a problem with banned drugs. But Russian football does not have this problem.”

Russian track and field athletes suffered a blanket ban at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games amid allegations of state-sponsored doping. In February 2018, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) upheld a ban on the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), which prevented Russian national symbols from being displayed at the PyeongChang Winter Games, including the country’s anthem.

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Bezuglov is sure there will be no repeat at this summer’s World Cup. The doctor claims there has not been a single positive drug test from over 1,500 Russian-player samples taken since the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) suspended RUSADA’s license in November 2015.

“In this entire time, there has not been a single positive test. I think that a lot of the credit for this should go to [RFU president] Vitaly Mutko, no matter what people may think of him now,” Bezuglov said.

“He constantly told us: ‘Have meetings, explain things, educate and scare them, do whatever you want, but make sure there is no doping in football.’ The beautiful game is not among the sports closely associated with doping and past Russian problems should have no impact on the World Cup.”

Russia take on five-time world champions Brazil in a friendly match this Friday at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, before meeting France in St. Petersburg on March 27. The games serve as preparation for the World Cup, which takes place from June 14 to July 15 in 12 stadiums across 11 Russian host cities.

READ MORE: Spartak Moscow fans vote for manager Carrera in Russian presidential election

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