BBC presenter declares ‘info war against Russia’ after ex-navy chief questions Syria ‘evidence’

During a live interview, a BBC news presenter declared “we’re in an information war with Russia” after a former Royal Navy chief questioned the “extraordinary” claims surrounding an alleged chemical attack in Syria.

Former Navy Admiral Lord West’s questioning of the mainstream narrative surrounding the alleged chemical weapons attack in the town of Douma led the BBC’s Annita McVeigh to suggest that truthfully stating his position and posing questions risked “muddying the waters” in an ongoing “information war with Russia.”

Lord West had described how in his view the claim that Bashar Assad ordered the attack “doesn’t ring true,” asking “what benefit is there for his military?” He went on to say “we know that in the past some of the Islamic groups have used chemicals, and of course there would be huge benefit in them labelling an attack as coming from Assad.”

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A child receives oxygen in Douma on April 7, 2018. © Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets

West went on to question the ‘evidence’ provided by groups like the White Helmets and the World Health Organization, both of which he described as “not neutral.”

The former First Sea Lord then described how in the past he had been put under pressure to support politically motivated narratives: “I had huge pressure put on me politically to try and say that our bombing campaign in Bosnia was achieving all sorts of things which it wasn’t. I was put under huge pressure, so I know the things that can happen.

At that point the BBC’s McVeigh appeared to question whether he should actually be expressing his opinion truthfully, asking: “Given that we’re in an information war with Russia on so many fronts, do you think perhaps it’s inadvisable to be stating this so publicly given your position and profile, isn’t there a danger that you’re muddying the waters?

West replied: “I think the answer is, if there’s a real concern, let’s face it, if [Assad] hasn’t done it then that is extremely bad news. If Assad hasn’t carried out the attack, I think it’s just worth making that clear. I think our government’s policy towards Assad has not been clever since 2013.

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German theater investigated over free ‘Mein Kampf’ tickets for swastika wearers

A theater in the southern German city of Konstanz is under investigation, following complaints it promised free tickets to patrons who wear a swastika to a provocative play named after Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

The Konstanz Theater in the state of Baden-Württemberg has been offering a controversial deal for the upcoming performance: theatergoers can either pay for their entry or get in for free if they agree to wear a swastika in the auditorium.

Patrons who opt to pay for their ticket will be asked to put on a Star of David “as a sign of solidarity with the victims of National Socialist (Nazi) barbarism,” according to the theater.

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The Texas Department of Criminal Justice men's prison in Rosharon, Texas © Adrees Latif

The play’s premiere symbolically falls on the Nazi leader’s birthday, April 20. Multiple complaints were filed against the theater over its free ticket offer, according to media citing a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office.

While publicly displaying the swastika and other Nazi symbols is banned in Germany, the prosecutors will decide whether the promotion can be considered as freedom of artistic creation, DW reports.

However, the local German-Israeli Society and the Judeo-Christian Society have described the offer as “tasteless” in a joint letter, calling on the public to boycott the play. “There is a third option: you cannot buy a ticket,” it read.

Meanwhile, the play’s director, Serdar Somoncu, and the theater’s director, Christoph Nix, defended the idea, insisting it wasn’t meant as a publicity stunt. 

According to German media, so far some 50 people have turned up for free tickets to the ironic play by a Holocaust refugee, George Tabori.

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German FA president hopes Angela Merkel will visit 2018 World Cup in Russia

German Football Association President Reinhard Grindel has expressed hope that Chancellor Angela Merkel will attend the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which kicks off in Russia on June 14.

“We’ll hail any support [for the German national football team in Russia], including from Angela Merkel,” Grindel told Nordwest Zeitung newspaper, as cited by DPA.

He also said that before the football showpiece in Russia begins, players from the national team will meet with members of the German federal government, where the question of Merkel’s possible visit to Russia could be raised.

“Quite possibly, the issue [of Merkel’s visit to Russia during the tournament] will be discussed there,” he said.

The German chancellor has yet to announce her plans regarding a possible trip to Russia for the World Cup, where defending champions Germany will be among the favorites to claim glory.

On Monday, during a dinner with the chancellor, German national team coach Joachim Low and team manager Oliver Bierhoff gave Merkel a football jersey signed by the players, with her name written on the back.

A big football fan, Merkel attended the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where Germany won the title, beating Argentina 1-0 in the final.

It remains unknown whether Merkel will visit this summer’s football showpiece, as diplomatic relations between Russia and several European countries have seriously deteriorated following the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, UK.

READ MORE: ‘It’s of little interest what Boris Johnson thinks about Russia’ – England manager Southgate

A number of European nations blame Moscow for the incident, and the UK and Iceland have announced a diplomatic boycott of the World Cup.

In March, UK Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed that no British ministers or members of the royal family would travel to Russia, including the president of the English FA, Prince William.

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Schwarzenegger’s head on caterpillar tracks drags down UK lender

Shares in British lender CYBG dropped 7 percent after the bank pledged to increase provisions by $ 498 million for repaying customers mis-sold payment protection insurance (PPI).

According to CYBG, a mid-sized bank that owns Clydesdale Bank, Yorkshire Bank and the app-based bank B in the UK, an awareness campaign launched by British financial regulatory body the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) triggered an “elevated level of complaints” in the six months to the end of March. The lender reportedly does not expect the situation to change for some time, partially because of the awareness campaign, which stars Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The FCA started its regulatory campaign earlier this month. The video features a disembodied model of the ‘Terminator’ star’s head, which is calling for people to file claims for mis-sold PPI before the August 2019 deadline. The head, which is moving on caterpillar tracks, urges supermarket customers to “make a decision” and to “do it now.”

CYBG said that the media coverage evoked the profile of Britain’s costliest ever consumer scandal with people urged to buy often worthless insurance that would allegedly help them repay debts in the event of sickness or unemployment.

British lenders have reportedly put aside more than £44 billion (US$ 62.5 billion) to cover those claims. Most of the banks may also be forced to disclose increased provisions as they prepare to publish first quarter reports in the next two weeks. Most of the PPIs were sold to bank clientele between 1990 and 2010.

“Aggressive FCA ad campaigning and scaremongering on the part of claims management companies could mean claim volumes remain high,” analyst John Cronin at Irish broker Goodbody told Reuters.

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Protesters rally against Modi during May visit, as rape cases rock India

Hundreds of protesters rallied as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in London, demonstrating over an increase in sexual violence currently blighting India.

Demonstrators waved placards adorned with the faces of victims and rallied outside parliament and Downing Street, where Modi is set to meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May. Protesters held signs reading “Modi go home” and “We stand against Modi’s agenda of hate and greed.”

The protest was instigated after two particularly brutal rapes were reported in India. In the unconnected cases, police officers and a politician are respectively under investigation. The incidents have led to widespread protests across India.

An eight-year-old Muslim girl from the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir was kidnapped, drugged and raped repeatedly at a Hindu temple, during an ordeal that lasted several days and culminated in her murder.

Six men – two of whom are police officers – have appeared in court over the attack. Another two officers are facing charges of attempting to destroy evidence. A violent protest in defense of the accused, organized by the right-wing group the ‘Hindu Ekta Manch’ broke out. The demonstrations involved several of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ministers.

The other case saw a state lawmaker from BJP accused of raping a teenager. No action had been taken against the politician until the female victim threatened to set herself of fire earlier this month. The victim’s father died soon afterwards as a result of injuries he sustained while he was in police custody.

India has seen a huge increase in the number of recorded rapes, with 2016’s figures marking a 60 percent increase from the level in 2012. Some 40 percent of India’s rape victims are children.

Following the outrage, Modi has vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice, regardless of who they are.

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Man in Berlin attacked with belt as suspect shouts 'Jew' in Arabic (VIDEO)

Footage has emerged showing the moment that a Jewish man was attacked by a suspect with a belt in Berlin. The attacker called the victim “Yahudi,” an Arabic word for “Jew.”

The person in the video was one of three suspects that insulted two Jewish men in Berlin’s affluent Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood on Monday evening, according to German media. One of the trio was filmed attacking one of the Jewish men with his belt. The attacker can be heard shouting “Yahudi” in the video, an Arabic word for “Jew.”

The Jewish man who was being attacked was accompanied by his friend. Both of them were wearing yarmulkes, also known as kippahs or skull caps.

The suspect is then pulled away by another member of his group. This happens as one of the victims shouts “Jewish or not, you need to deal with it” in German.

Adam Armush, the victim who filmed the incident, told Israel’s Kan public broadcaster that he and his friend weren’t doing anything to provoke the attack, which happened after the men left his house in the direction of a nearby train station. “We weren’t talking with anyone else. Three people came from over there… and started cursing us from over there. We didn’t talk to anyone, didn’t answer them. So when they kept cursing us, my friend asked them to stop cursing, and that got them angry. So one of them ran at me,” he said, adding that he felt it was important to film the incident to assist police inquiries.

The video was first published by Germany’s Jewish Forum for Democracy and against Anti-Semitism (JFDA). Levi Salomon, a representative from the organization, said in a statement that it is “unbearable to see that a young Jewish man is attacked on a public street… because he is showing himself to be a Jew.

“…Now it’s up to politicians and civil society. We don’t need any more sermons, something needs to be done,” Salomon said.

One of the Jewish men reportedly tried to follow the attacker after the incident, but stopped after the group threw a glass bottle in his direction. Police say they are investigating the attack.

The incident comes amid numerous cases of anti-Semitism in the German capital and across the country. In March, a report emerged of a Jewish girl who was reportedly told by a Muslim classmate that she deserved to be beaten and killed because of her religion. Another Jewish student in Berlin was recently forced to change schools after violent bullying by classmates who threatened him with a fake gun.

In January, it was reported by German media that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and its sister party, the CSU, are aiming to adopt measures to deport migrants who express anti-Semitic views in Germany. Three months later, the head of Germany’s second-largest police union stated that authorities should be allowed to take children away from parents who express anti-Semitic views. 

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Gold bullion to rally on weaker dollar, rising US inflation & deficit – analyst

The second quarter expects to see another gold rally pushed by strong physical demand and the weaker US dollar, according to Boris Mikanikrezai, precious and base metals strategist at Metal Bulletin.

“The resilience of gold prices in spite of the substantial wave of speculative selling since mid-March (~71 tones, corresponding to a 17 percent drop in net long spec positions) is encouraging insofar as it suggests the presence of buying pressure elsewhere in the market, e.g. physical demand,” the analyst wrote in his weekly report for Seeking Alpha.

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© Lisi Niesner

According to Mikanikrezai, exchange-traded fund (ETF) buying interest for gold is at its strongest since September 2017. “Once bullish speculative sentiment toward gold resumes, I expect a strong price reaction. I have a long position in IAU (iShares Gold Trust), expecting a fresh 2018 high in Q2,” the strategist said.

The industry expert sees a weaker dollar and lower US real rates in the coming months on the back of three main drivers, with the US Federal Reserve the primary driver. Mikanikrezai expects “a dovish hiking cycle” in the next few months based on “[the] Federal Open Market Committee’s patience to see inflation moving back first toward its target of two percent.”

Inflation is seen as the second driver pushing gold higher, with an expansionary path projected to move further, boosted by strong oil and a tight labor market. The third boosting element for the yellow metal is the US deficit rising due to this year’s fiscal stimulus.

According to the analyst, the three listed factors will continue to affect the greenback and boost gold prices. Gold bulls shouldn’t be depressed by the commodity’s temporary inability to break above its current trading range, he says, stressing that investors are commonly wary due to geopolitical risks, such as the recent tension between the US and China over trade and conflicts in the Middle East.

“Should the situation continue to deteriorate, investors could be forced to price more accurately this geopolitical risk. This would exert even more downward pressure on the dollar and US real rates,” Mikanikrezai says.

Spot gold dropped 0.04 percent to $ 1,348 an ounce by 09:54 GMT on Wednesday, while US gold futures gained 0.1 percent to $ 1,351.

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‘Salisbury attack hasn’t changed editorial approach,’ RT says amid new Ofcom probes

RT has responded to the launch of seven new “impartiality” investigations by UK broadcasting watchdog Ofcom by insisting “our editorial approach has not changed since the events in Salisbury.”

In a statement released by RT, the news channel highlighted its compliance record which has, according to Ofcom, historically been on par with other UK broadcasters. “We are pleased to see that Ofcom has acknowledged RT’s compliance record has been in line with other broadcasters – putting to bed any of the salacious political statements and challenges made against our channel,” the statement read. “Our editorial approach has not changed since the events in Salisbury, and we will be directly addressing this matter with the regulator.”

Ofcom said the new investigations were announced after the poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury.

READ MORE: As calls to ban RT resound, we asked Londoners: Is freedom of speech at risk? (VIDEO)

“On 12 March 2018, following the use of a nerve agent in Salisbury, Ofcom said that we would consider the implications of these events for the broadcast licenses for RT and RT Europe and this document provides an update to that statement including setting out our approach in this case,” the watchdog said in a report issued on Wednesday.

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The Alex Salmond show is aired on RT - but will be under threat if Ofcom acts against Russia  © RT

The Ofcom regulator said they had noticed a “significant increase” in programs that warrant investigation following the chemical attack against the Skripals. Ofcom’s investigation is looking into two news broadcasts, two episodes of Sputnik, two episodes of Crosstalk and one from Worlds Apart with Oksana Boyko. The broadcast regulator vowed to make “the outcome of these investigations public as soon as possible.”

Following a March parliamentary debate in which Theresa May announced sanctions against Russia, during which a number of MPs called for the channel to be taken off air, RT said it was “regrettable” that it risked being “sacrificed as a political pawn, in one fell swoop doing away with any concept of press freedom in the UK.”

“We disagree with the position taken by Ofcom; our broadcasting has in no way changed this week from any other week, and continues to adhere to all standards,” RT said in a statement.

“By linking RT to unrelated matters, Ofcom is conflating its role as a broadcasting regulator with matters of state. RT remains a valuable voice in the UK news landscape, covering vital yet neglected stories and voices, including those of the many MPs and other UK public figures who have been shut out of public discourse by the mainstream media.”

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‘Ready to slaughter people’: What we know about Russian school attacker

The teenager who attacked a school teacher and his classmates in a city in Russia’s Urals was reportedly inspired by the Columbine High School massacre. The teen was planning to slaughter his schoolmates and then commit suicide.

READ MORE: 4 injured in knife & arson attack at school in Russia’s Bashkortostan republic

The 17-year-old boy, identified by the local media as Artyom, was armed with a knife and attempted to set fire to the school after attacking several people inside a classroom in the city of Sterlitamak, in the Republic of Bashkortostan.

The teenager entered a computer science class and attacked a female student and a teacher with a knife, according to Russia’s Investigative Committee. He then poured out a flammable substance, set it on fire, and tried to commit suicide.

Swastika selfies

As more information on the attack emerged online, several local outlets reported that an armband with Nazi-style insignia was found in the class where the teen carried out the attack. Then photos purportedly showing Artyom posing with a swastika armband began circulating in the Russian media.

Some of Artyom’s friends shared shocking conversations with him on VKontakte, the most popular Russian social network, in which the teenager told his friends that he was planning to attack his “autist” classmates. “I am ready to slaughter people,” he wrote on one occasion.

The school where the incident took place was a special-needs school for children with developmental difficulties, officials confirmed.

Columbine fan

The teenager was reportedly inspired by the Columbine High School massacre, according to media reports. “He used to say he was bullied at school. He was a fan of Columbine,” his friend told RIA Novosti. The Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colorado, happened in 1999 and is considered one of the deadliest mass killings in US history. That day, two senior students, 18-year-old Eric Harris and 17-year-old Dylan Klebold, went on a rampage, killing 12 of their fellow students and a teacher before committing suicide.

The incident in Sterlitamak is not the first attack in Russian schools to be inspired by the notorious US shooting. The attacker in another school rampage in the Russian city of Perm earlier this year was also reportedly motivated by the Columbine shooting. 

List of enemies

Artyom was often bullied by fellow students and kept a list of all his “enemies,” whom he was planning to attack, local media reported, citing sources. Speaking to his friends on social media, the teenager vowed to confront all his attackers. “I am planning to kill at least 30 people,” Artyom wrote, adding that he couldn’t wait for the day of the attack. “You can consider me a follower of Eric [Harris] and Dylan [Klebold],” he wrote to one of his friends.

The teenager prepared meticulously for the crime, and managed to carry a knife and incendiary weapons into the school building, a source told Ufa1 news website. 

The boy’s social media page was said to be filled with hate posts, violent images and pictures of the Columbine attackers. 

Mentally unstable

A day before the tragedy, the boy’s father told school authorities that his son had to miss classes because his mental condition had worsened. Speaking to his friends on social media, Artyom admitted that he was mentally unstable and his parents were of no help to him. “If the attack happens, turn on the news,” he wrote.

The recent attacks raise concerns about teen ‘death groups’ on social media that promote hate and violence. “There are many such communities on social media. And there are many children registered in these communities, too,” Bashkortostan Republic head Rustem Khamitov said. Khamitov attended the hospital where the victims were treated. The injured teacher has already undergone surgery.

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The Peter Schmeichel Show: Legendary goalkeeper explores World Cup host cities (Samara)

The goalkeeping great continues to explore local culture in 2018 FIFA World Cup host cities. This time it’s Samara, a city that is set to host four group-stage matches and two matches in the elimination rounds.

Playing the accordion and taking a part in the preparations for space travel sounds very Russian, doesn’t it? That is what Samara, which is situated around 1,000km east of Moscow, can offer its visitors.

Fancy for a cold one after that? Samara’s Zhigulevskiy beer factory, which is famous all over Russia for its signature cold drink of the same name, has got you covered. Although, Russians usually simply call it Zhiguli, using the name of the local range of wooded mountains, located just across the Volga river from Samara.

READ MORE: World Cup host city explored: Peter Schmeichel samples local customs in Kazan

The ‘Great Dane’ will tell you more about it in the latest installment of the Peter Schmeichel Show.

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