‘Let’s make things clear’: EU bites back at Salvini’s claim that it’s responsible for Genoa tragedy

The EU has hit back at claims by Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini that the bloc is to blame for the Genoa motorway bridge collapse that killed 39 people on Tuesday, plunging the country into a state of emergency.

Some 24 hours after the tragic event in the northern city, Salvini, leader of the Euroskeptic Northern League, said the EU’s spending restrictions had limited Italy’s ability to invest in its infrastructure.

In his latest sting at the EU, Salvini said the collapse of the 100-meter-long stretch of concrete on the A10 motorway brought into question whether it “makes sense” to follow the 27-member bloc’s rules, saying the safety of Italians is not a “trade-off.”

READ MORE: Salvini says EU budget rules risk safety of Italians after Genoa bridge collapse

However, the EU’s budget commissioner said the bloc had actually encouraged the Mediterranean country to invest in infrastructure, handing billions to Italy in development funds.

“It is very human to look for somebody to blame when a terrible accident like Genoa happens. Still, it’s good to look at the facts,” Gunther Oettinger said on his Twitter account.

He pointed out that €2.5 billion ($ 2.8 billion) had been provided for “roads and trains in Italy” since 2011, while in April the Commission approved an investment plan for Italian motorways valued at €8.5 billion ($ 9.7 billion), which covered the Genoa area where the bridge collapsed.

Meanwhile, Italy’s Ministry for Transport said late on Thursday that it would give road operator Autostrade per l’Italia – responsible for maintaining the motorway – 15 days to prove it had taken all necessary steps to ensure the safety of the bridge. It has also called on the company to take full responsibility and foot the bill for the rebuilding of the bridge, which should be carried out within a limited time frame. 

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CEO compensation surges dramatically while average workers get no significant pay raise – report

A recent report by the Economic Policy Institute shows that top managers are getting higher compensation every year, while their employees’ salaries barely change.

“In 2017 the average CEO of the 350 largest firms in the US received $ 18.9 million in compensation, a 17.6 percent increase over 2016. The typical worker’s compensation remained flat, rising a mere 0.3 percent,” the report said.

“The 2017 CEO-to-worker compensation ratio of 312-to-1 was far greater than the 20-to-1 ratio in 1965 and more than five times greater than the 58-to-1 ratio in 1989.”

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Jacob Rothschild © Ronen Zvulun

The difference between the compensations of CEOs and other very-high-wage earners is also growing, with CEOs of large companies earning 5.5 times more than the average earner in the top 0.1 percent.

The key reason for the surging gap is the stock price evaluation of firms. Many CEOs’ compensation is tied to the stock performance of a company, not by changes in salaries or cash bonuses.

At the same time, CEO compensation is rising higher than stock indices, the reports shows. CEO compensation rose up to 1,070 percent between 1978 and 2017, while the stock market index (S&P) rose only 637 percent.

The report notes that it is important to notice this gap, because “higher CEO pay does not reflect correspondingly higher output or better firm performance, exorbitant CEO pay therefore means that the fruits of economic growth are not going to ordinary workers.”

The Economic Policy Institute suggests solving the problem by reinstating higher marginal income tax rates for top management, setting corporate tax rates higher for firms that have higher ratios of CEO-to-worker compensation, setting a compensation cap and approving measures to allow company shareholders to vote on top executives’ compensation.

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‘Feels like censorship’: Facebook removes pro-Palestinian Occupy London page

A Facebook page containing pro-Palestinian posts has been taken down by the social media giant. The latest in a string of pages removed by Facebook, it has renewed claims of “censorship” against the company.

The closure of the Occupy London page, which has garnered more than 150k followers since its opening in 2011, follows the “continual removal of posts related to Palestine”, an Occupy London spokesperson told The Canary.

They added that it is not the first time the social network attempted to “censor” its content. 

“It feels like censorship. For months, we faced removal of posts related to Palestine. Perhaps once every few weeks or so, a post would be taken down and admins for the page were frozen out of their personal accounts. Then, today, Facebook unpublished the entire page.

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© Kacper Pempel

“We want to see our page back up with immediate effect,” he added.

It follows renowned journalist Glenn Greenwald claiming Facebook had bowed to pressure from the Israeli government to silence Palestinian activists. According to an Intercept report, of some 158 requests made by Tel Aviv to Facebook (over just four months) for the removal of Palestinian content, 95 percent were granted. 

Facebook has apparently intensified its crackdown on alternative outlets since it joined Apple and video platform YouTube in banning the conspiracy-oriented outlet Infowars.

An event page for a counter-protest against the Unite the Right 2.0 rally in Washington last weekend was also removed because one of the six administrators allegedly showed disingenuous activity.

Venezuelan news outlet, teleSur, which tends to report on affairs which go against the US government position and mainstream media perspective, was removed from Facebook in May. Facebook also removed pages belonging to leftist independent grassroots Venezuela Analysis and Haiti Analysis. They too are highly critical of US foreign policy in Latin America and the Caribbean region.

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More than a quarter of Russians supportive of Prague Spring suppression by Soviets

About a quarter of Russians believe the Soviet authorities were right to order the suppression of the 1968 Prague Spring uprising with military force – while 13 percent feel the actions were a mistake, a recent poll has shown.

According to the results of the research conducted by the Public Opinion endowment, 34 percent of Russians understand the history of the Prague Spring fairly well. Some 29 percent said they had heard something about these events and 35 percent claimed that they only learned about them from people who were conducting the poll. Just 2 percent of respondents could not give a direct answer to this question.

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© Bolot Botchkarev

Of those who knew about the 1968 developments in Czechoslovakia, 26 percent told researchers that Soviet authorities acted in the right manner. Just 13 percent described the actions of the Soviet authorities as wrong and 25 percent said the situation was nuanced and it was too simplistic to label the military actions either ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’

On August 21, 1968, the Soviet military, with the support of several Warsaw Pact nations, deployed troops to Czechoslovakia to halt the Prague Spring – a series of reforms taking place in the country. The move was broadly denounced across the world and also caused a split between young Communist regimes in Eastern Europe.

Despite being initially launched by pro-Soviet and Communist authorities, the Prague Spring still remains a major symbol of anti-Communist resistance across the world.

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Corbyn’s wreath row crusade: Labour leader files complaint with regulator against right-wing media

Jeremy Corbyn is set to face off with all of Britain’s right-wing press after Labour filed a complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) over coverage of the Tunis wreath row in six publications.

The party argues that stories published in the Daily Mail, Daily Express, Daily Telegraph, Metro, Times and Sun were both misleading and factually inaccurate. The stories have misrepresented the 2014 event at a Tunis cemetery, those buried there and the role of mainstream Palestinian leaders, Labour argues.

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© Rob Pinney

Labour’s complaint states that Corbyn laid only one wreath in commemoration of the almost-50 people that were killed by an Israeli airstrike outside of Tunis in 1985, and was not involved in any other laying of wreaths, as reported in the publications in question.

The complaint argues that the coverage of the event was misleading as the terrorists who carried out the Munich massacre are actually buried in Libya not Tunisia.

Photographs, taken in 2014 and published by the Daily Mail on August 11, show Corbyn holding a wreath at a service in the Tunis cemetery. The original story, headlined ‘Corbyn’s wreath at Munich terrorists’ graves,’ accuses the Labour leader of attending a “tribute event for Palestine ‘martyrs’ including plotters behind the 1972 slaughter of Israeli Olympic athletes.” That is a claim which was repeated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The original story, and its follow-ups, refers to the graves of four Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) leaders, including the resting place of Atef Bseiso, the PLO’s intelligence chief who had been accused by Israel of planning the Munich attacks, an allegation he and the PLO consistently denied. The PLO is a UN and Israeli-recognized representative of the Palestinian people, crucial to the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords.

IPSO has acknowledged Labour’s complaint and will now consider the case. The publications in question have been informed. Depending on the results of their own internal investigations, corrections and/or apologies could be issued to resolve the matter.

If Labour rejects any of the potential offers from the publications, a full ISPO inquiry will take place and the regulator will be tasked with taking the steps needed to resolve the matter.

IPSO has been increasingly willing to make bold rulings, ordering the Daily Mail and the Mirror to make front-page corrections in recent months.

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'Surprise guest' Putin ruffles feathers with plan to attend Euroskeptic Austrian FM's wedding

From security arrangements to choice of present to geopolitical implications, Western media is fascinated (and alarmed) by Vladimir Putin’s decision to call in on the wedding of Karin Kneissl – and some have demanded she resign.

Before all else, it appears that in almost two decades as an international political figure, this is the first time the Russian president has publicized intentions to go to a wedding party, much less one abroad. His long-term press secretary Dmitry Peskov insisted that Putin has visited foreign private events previously, but when pressed by reporters, struggled to recall a specific occasion.

READ MORE: Putin set to attend Austrian foreign minister’s wedding

Other Russian officials are also downplaying the significance of Putin’s Saturday morning detour en-route to talks with Angela Merkel later the same day. The president’s aide Yuri Ushakov said that Putin would “drop in to offer his congratulations,” while Peskov presented the whole affair as a matter of common courtesy: Kneissl invited the Russian leader during his official visit in June, and Putin simply accepted.

But for the German-language press, the announcement of the “surprise guest” has been a bombshell.

Political scientist Gerhard Mangott told Austria’s national broadcaster ORF that the very invitation of a higher-ranked foreign official, which was only made public on Wednesday’s was a “bold” violation of accepted diplomatic protocol by Kneissl. Others have noted that there appears to be no personal connection between the Russian president and the respected technocrat, who has been in her post for less than a year.

Elite sniper security for the mystery vineyard

Details of what would have been a mostly-private affair – Vladimir Putin is expected to be the only senior foreign dignitary in attendance – have become subject of intense public scrutiny.

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FILE PHOTO © Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters

So far, the location has not been revealed, though it is expected that 53-year-old Kneissl, and multi-millionaire entrepreneur Wolfgang Meilinger, 54, will tie the knot at a scenic vineyard in the Styrian highlands.

Putin is expected to arrive in Graz on his plane, travel to the location by helicopter, and there have also been reports of a planned carriage ride, though it is unclear if the Russian president will join the happy couple for that part of the ceremony. The local tourist board has complained at being inundated with calls demanding to know the exact route the wedding procession will take.

Styrian police have said that the security operation, one of the biggest in its recent history, is a “great challenge” and scores of cops have been called out for patrol duty, with roadblocks erected at various undisclosed locations. The elite Cobra unit will provide snipers, according to Kronen Zeitung, a Vienna daily. The Austrian foreign ministry has assured the media that while Putin will be afforded the usual security arrangements for a foreign visitor of his stature, the Russian delegation is paying for its own security arrangements, while a private company will ensure the safety of the wedding party guests.

Finally, what is Putin is going to gift the new couple?

“I can’t tell you this at the moment. You will know when the time comes,” teased Peskov.

‘Austria is Putin’s Trojan horse’

In the day following the announcement, light-hearted surprise has already been replaced with rancorous and shadowy theories about Putin’s motivations for filling in his RSVP.

For Mangott, since the formation of the right-wing coalition following last October’s election, Austria has become a “Trojan horse” with which the Kremlin can hope to rebuild tattered relations with the European Union.

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© Hristo Rusev

Indeed, Putin chose Vienna as his first EU capital to visit following his re-election for the fourth term in March, while Austria has publicly offered to play the role of a go-between, and notably abstained from the diplomat expulsions connected to the Skripal case, undertaken by most of the European Union.

Meanwhile, Kneissl is unaffiliated to any political faction, but she is a principled Euroskeptic, and was handpicked by the Freedom Party, which enjoys official links with Putin’s United Russia.

For some, the wedding is the final straw. The foreign policy chief of the Ukrainian parliament, Hanna Hopko, has said that this very step proves that Austria can no longer be “neutral mediator” between Moscow and Kiev.

Meanwhile, Austria’s Green MEP Michel Reimon has declared that Kneissl must resign for the sheer act of inviting the Russian president. That’s one man not on the guest list.

With a whole day to go before Vladimir Putin steps on Austrian soil, expect more dire warnings of what the Russian leader may discuss over canapés and champagne – but the more important encounter will be the one that begins several hours later at a palace north of Berlin.

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Handicapped kid removes prosthetic legs to win street fight (VIDEO)

A video shared by UFC Heavyweight Derrick Lewis shows a handicapped boy remove both of his prosthetic legs, before unleashing the mother of all MMA beatdowns on his opponent in a street brawl.

In the video, the handicapped boy appears to have the measure of his tall but cagey opponent. Halfway through the fight he turns things up a notch, sitting down to remove both of his artificial legs.

Somehow, the handicapped heavy-hitter manages to move even quicker on his hands, feinting, dodging, and taunting his able-bodied adversary. Tired of striking from the ground, he eventually lands a takedown, and ground-and-pounds his opponent before the fight is broken up by a passing motorist.

Despite his disadvantage, the boy’s fight sense is on point. Quick head movement, artful dodging, and knowing when to strike mean that if the contest were in the UFC octagon, the disabled kid would probably grab a comfortable win.

In a longer version of the video, the boy shows off more of his stand-and-bang boxing skills.

Successful handicapped fighters are not unknown in the professional MMA scene – one example is congenital amputee Nick Newell, with his impressive record of 14 wins and two losses in the lightweight division, despite fighting with one arm.

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Fake bomb threats force several Chilean planes to make emergency landings

At least four planes from two Chilean airlines have been forced to make emergency landings over bomb threats, Chile’s Civil Aviation Authority said.

Peruvian officials confirmed that a Latam Airlines flight 2369 from Lima, Peru, to Santiago, Chile, was forced to land at a regional airport in Pisco, Peru early Thursday afternoon. Peruvian authorities had received a tip-off about the supposed bomb on board from their Chilean counterparts.

A plane traveling from Buenos Aires bound for Chile was forced to land in the central Argentinian city of Mendoza just before 7am on Thursday. The airport was evacuated and closed, and emergency services investigated the incident.

Latam flight 433 from Mendoza to Santiago was evacuated on the runway due to a bomb threat.

Another bomb threat held up Sky Airlines flight 543 at the Rosario airport in Argentina. That, too, proved to be a false alarm.

Another airplane was undergoing inspection at Santiago’s Arturo Benitez international airport, the Chilean General Directorate of Civil Aeronautics (DGAC) said on Thursday afternoon.

No information was provided on who made the bomb threats, or if there was any connection between them.

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Colombians told to avoid sex to survive heatwave

With temperatures soaring in Colombia, locals in one city may soon need cold showers for more than one reason. They are being told to stay cool by avoiding sex.

Santa Marta is a picturesque coastal city. With summer temperatures rising above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), it might seem like the perfect time for some sweaty summer loving, but the city’s health secretary has warned loved-up locals to abstain.

Secretary Julio Salas said that avoiding sex in the midday heat was “logical,” just like people would avoid strenuous exercise in such conditions. “Therefore, it is better to do it at night when the ambient temperature is lower,” he said.

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A couple visiting the Zaryadye park in central Moscow. © Vladimir Sergeev

Those with air conditioners, however, have Salas’ blessing to get in as much afternoon delight as they please.

While summer temperatures are usually high in Santa Marta, the city has been in the grip of an intense heatwave in recent weeks. Local medical facilities have been overwhelmed with patients suffering from nausea, vomiting, and headaches – the symptoms of heatstroke.

Temperatures in the coastal city are expected to remain above 30 degrees (86F) for the foreseeable future.

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