‘White powder’ sent to US & Israeli embassies in Berlin, police investigating

Two letters containing white powder were sent to the American and Israeli embassies in Berlin last month, German authorities say. Police are investigating the incidents.

The Israeli embassy received the first letter on July 24, while a second letter was sent to the US embassy two days later, a police spokesperson told AP. Neither embassy has commented on the incidents, but German police have already identified at least one suspect.

READ MORE: ‘This is a lie’: Israeli spokesman uses angry Twitter diplomacy to directly accuse BBC of bias

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India’s gold imports surge as rupee plummets to record low against US dollar

Imports of gold to India surged for the first time in seven months after jewelers refilled stocks, taking advantage of sliding gold prices and rising demand with an upcoming jewelry exhibition.

According to provisional data from metals consultancy GFMS, India’s gold purchases in July soared by 44.2 percent to 75 tons against the same period a year ago. The upsurge may bolster global prices, which plunged to a 17-month low earlier this week.

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© Anthony Bradshaw

However, growing gold imports by the world’s second-biggest buyer of the precious metal might increase India’s trade deficit and turn up the heat on the country’s weakening national currency. On Monday, the rupee declined to a record low of 69.89 against the US dollar.

“The recent rise in imports was due to stock building due to lower prices ahead of the jewelry show and in anticipation that the rupee may continue to weaken until [it reaches] 71 rupees,” GFMS analyst Cameron Alexander told Reuters.

The India International Jewelry Show, which that opened last week in the Mumbai-based Bombay Exhibition Centre – reportedly attracted 1,300 exhibitors along with 40,000 visitors from more than 80 countries. The exhibition helps jewelers to showcase their designs to international and domestic buyers.

“Jewelers were not buying in June [as they were] expecting a big drop. In July, the correction attracted jewelers, who were on the sidelines,” said a Mumbai-based dealer with a private bullion importing bank, as quoted by the agency.

In July, Indian gold prices fell to their lowest level in six months.The data from GFMS shows that the country’s gold imports for the first seven months of the current year dropped 28 percent to 406.2 tons compared to the same period a year ago.

According to data released by the World Gold Council earlier this month, Indian gold demand will improve in the second half of 2018 after falling six percent in the January-to-June period. The changes will reportedly come amid government reforms that are aimed at boosting farmers’ incomes and increasing rural buying power.

In August, imports are expected to remain robust due to the upcoming peak of the festival season, according to Mukesh Kothari, director at Mumbai-based bullion dealer RiddiSiddhi Bullions. The fourth quarter of the year usually sees strong demand for gold because of the wedding season and festivals such as Diwali and Dussehra.

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US and allies violating INF Treaty, says senior Russian diplomat

Russia’s deputy foreign minister has said that the United States and some of its allies were knowingly violating the 1988 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty by deploying launching systems capable of firing cruise missiles.

As far as the INF Treaty is concerned, the situation is evident in which the United States and some of its allies are knowingly violating it, in particular by deploying on their territories the Mk-41 launching systems capable of firing the ground-based cruise missiles,” Sergey Ryabkov was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti.

The comment came soon after US President Donald Trump signed the US National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2019, the document that contains, among other things, allegations that Moscow violated several important international agreements on weapons control, including the INF treaty.

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Tu-95 airplane during the I Choose the Sky! air show in Kazan © Maxim Tumanov

Ryabkov also added that Russia saw the US defense act as an attempt to artificially attract public attention to the topic of new weapons and weapons control, but also noted that Moscow did not consider this document as an attempt to control the newest types of weapons, like those described by President Putin in his latest address to parliament in March.

But we note the US drive aiming to politically heat up this topic, make it an irritant in our bilateral relations and we cannot share this approach and don’t welcome it,” the Russian diplomat stated.

Also on Tuesday, President Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said US attempts to describe Russia as a threat to the world peace in the new defense act are unfounded and dangerous.

Before the increase, the US defense budget exceeded the corresponding budget of our country by many times which is a very bright testimony to the fact that describing Russia as a threat to anyone inside the United States is completely groundless, be it European nations or nations located on the North America Continent,” Peskov told reporters.

The figures speak for themselves,” he added.

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A protester attends a rally to support EU integration as police stand guard in Kiev © Gleb Garanich

The head of the Russian Upper House Committee for International Relations, Senator Konstantin Kosachev, said that the allegations used in the US National Defense Authorization Act were undermining the very basics of Russia-US cooperation in the defense sphere.

Over the past years the United States has persistently created difficulties when it comes to the realization of practically all weapons control agreements with Russia or even completely stopped these treaties functioning. Every time they used empty-worded accusations without demonstrating any hard evidence. This is pure politics, it is destructive and undermines the very basics of international cooperation in the field of security,” Senator Kosachev said.

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London Houses of Parliament attack: What do we know so far?

Questions remain over the Houses of Parliament attack in London, which left three people injured and a suspect in custody. As Britain remains on high alert for terrorism, here’s what is known about Tuesday’s incident so far.

The attack

At around 7:40am on Tuesday, a silver Ford Fiesta rammed into a number of pedestrians and cyclists before crashing into steel barriers outside the Houses of Parliament.

According to witnesses, the car was soon surrounded by armed police. Footage posted on social media showed the suspect being taken from the vehicle before being handcuffed.

“The car drove at speed and towards the barriers. I was walking on the other side [of the road],” said eyewitness Ewalina Ochab. “I heard some noise and someone screamed.

“I turned around and I saw a silver car driving very fast close to the railings, maybe even on the pavement. The person driving did not go out of the vehicle.”

READ MORE: VIDEO of Houses of Parliament suspected terror attack released

Three people were treated at the scene, two of whom were then taken to hospital with non-serious injuries. The nearby St. Thomas’ Hospital confirmed that it was treating one patient whose injuries were not life-threatening.

The motive

In light of several previous attacks – on Westminster Bridge in March 2017 – and a number of suspected attacks that transpired to be accidents, speculation was rife as to whether the incident was an act of terrorism.

Scotland Yard’s head of counter-terrorism, Neil Basu, stated: “Given that this appears to be a deliberate attack – the method and this being an iconic site – we are treating it as a terrorist incident.”

At the time of publishing, no terrorist organization has claimed responsibility for the attack. Previous attacks on London were quickly claimed by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS).

Speculation over the motive is being fueled by questions that remain about the attacker.

The suspect

Police confirmed that they arrested a man in his late 20s. After armed police surrounded his vehicle, the suspect was removed from the scene and taken to a police station in south London.

Officers proceeded to search his vehicle, confirming in a later statement that he had acted alone and that there were no weapons found in the car.

Speaking to the press, Basu confirmed that the suspect was not known to security services. He is not currently cooperating with the investigation.

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Trump calls fired Omarosa a ‘dog’ in new furious tweet

US President Donald Trump has again lashed out at former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman on Twitter, calling the ex-White House staffer a “dog” and thanking his Chief of Staff John Kelly for firing her.

In the early morning tweet, Trump called Newman a “crazed, crying lowlife” and said he had given her a break with a job in the White House but it “just didn’t work out”.

Trump’s fury at the former Apprentice tv show contestant was unleashed after she accused him of being a racist and using the “n-word” in a tell-all memoir about her time working in the White House.

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© Carlo Allegri

When asked if he felt betrayed by Omarosa by a New York Times reporter on Saturday, Trump called his former aide a “lowlife”. He followed that comment up on Monday with a Twitter tirade of insults directed at Newman who he said “begged” him for a job with tears in her eyes. He also claimed that other White House staff “hated” her and that she was “vicious, but not smart”.

That tweet came shortly after Newman told NBC’s Today show that she believed Trump was not fit to hold office, that he was being “puppeted” and that his presidency posed a “danger” to the country.

Newman also said that Kelly fired her without Trump’s knowledge and has released audio recordings of conversations from inside the White House which appeared to back up that claim. She also said she was offered hush money not to talk about her time at the White House.

The Trump administration has denied claims made by Newman. In a statement at the weekend, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Newman’s book was “riddled with lies and false accusations” and that Newman was a “disgruntled” former employee who was simply trying to profit off attacks against the administration.

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Turkey to boycott iPhones & other US electronic products – Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced a boycott of American electronic products in response to Washington’s economic pressure against Ankara after the detention of a US pastor in Turkey.

“There is an economic attack against Turkey. Earlier such things were done in secret, and now they are open to us. We can react in two ways: economically and politically,” Erdogan said in Ankara Tuesday.

“Our Ministry of Finance and the Treasury are working day and night…we will boycott electronic goods from the United States. They have iPhones, but on the other hand there are Samsungs. We have our local brand Venus Vestel, we will use it,” the Turkish president added.

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© Stephane Mahe

Share prices in Turkish electronics manufacturer Vestel rose sharply on Erdogan’s comments.

This is the latest chapter in a growing diplomatic rift between Turkey and the United States. The two countries have been at odds over the detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson in Turkey. Brunson is accused of aiding the failed military coup in 2016. He is facing 35 years in a Turkish prison.

The US imposed sanctions against Turkey and President Trump has doubled steel and aluminium tariffs on Turkish imports. US pressure has created a currency crisis in Turkey with the lira plummeting to a record low of 7.20 against the dollar on Monday before strengthening to 6.61 on Tuesday.

In addition, Turkish Airlines has announced it will stop advertising American products on its flights, authorities in Ankara said.

“What is this you’re doing?” Erdogan asked, referring to the US. “What is it that you are trying to accomplish? What do you want to do? You should know that the character of this nation is not one that wavers.”

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VIDEO of deadly Genoa bridge collapse aftermath shows destroyed cars, building damaged

Footage from the site of this morning’s bridge collapse in Genoa, Italy, shows cars and trucks destroyed, with up to 20 vehicles believed to be involved in the disaster. Dozens are believed to have been killed.

The Italian government has branded the accident “an immense tragedy.” When part of the bridge collapsed debris crashed into apartment buildings located immediately below.

The Genoa ambulance service says there are dozens dead following the incident.

READ MORE: ‘Dozens dead’ as motorway bridge collapses near Genoa, Italy (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

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Gross misuse of dollar by US will lead to its weakness and switch to national currencies – Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said that the role of the US dollar as a global reserve currency may be diminished as more countries switch to national currencies in trade.

“Abuse, gross abuse of the role of the US dollar as a world reserve currency will cause its role to be weakened,” Lavrov said, speaking at a press conference in Ankara with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

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© Murad Sezer

“It will make more and more countries that are not even affected by US sanctions go away from the dollar and rely on more reliable, contractual partners in terms of currency use,” the Russian foreign minister said.

Lavrov noted that US sanctions, including those against Turkey, undermine all principles of global trade.

“I have already said this about sanctions: they are illegal, they undermine all principles of global trade and principles approved by UN decisions, under which unilateral measures of economic duress are unlawful,” said the foreign minister.

By imposing sanctions, the US is also punishing its allies, according to Lavrov. “This policy cannot be the basis for a normal dialogue. It seems to me that it cannot continue for a long time,” said the Russian diplomat.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned that US sanctions could be imposed against any country at any time. “Today, sanctions are imposed on Turkey, and tomorrow they can be used against any other European state. If the United States wants to maintain respect in the international arena, then it is necessary for it to be respectful of the interests of other countries,” he said.

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VIDEO of Houses of Parliament suspected terror attack released

A video of the moment a suspected terrorist drove his car into pedestrians outside the Houses of Parliament has been published by the BBC. A number of people were injured in the attack, none with serious injuries.

Metropolitan Police say that several pedestrians were injured when a silver Ford Fiesta hit barriers outside the Houses of Parliament around 8am local time on Monday. One woman is being treated in hospital for serious but not life-threatening injuries, while two others were also injured. 

The Met’s Counter Terrorism Command is now leading the probe into the incident. The driver, reportedly a man in his late 20s, was arrested at the scene on suspicion of terrorist offences. He has been taken to a station in south London, police say.

Neil Basu, Scotland Yard’s head of counter terrorism, said there was “no intelligence at this time of further danger” to London or the rest of the UK. 

“Given that this appears to be a deliberate attack, the method and this being an iconic site, we are treating it as a terrorist incident,” said Basu.

No arms have been found in the car and no one, except for the arrested driver, was inside. Police are still searching the vehicle and officers remain at the scene and cordons are in place to assist the investigation.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said her thoughts were with those injured in the incident. “My thoughts are with those injured in the incident in Westminster and my thanks to the emergency services for their immediate and courageous response,” the PM’s office tweeted

The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said: “My thoughts are with those hurt and injured outside parliament this morning in what is being treated as a terrorist incident. Our thanks go to our emergency services who responded immediately. Their bravery keeps us safe day in, day out.”

Since the Westminster Bridge attack last year, the Houses of Parliament have been surrounded by steel security barriers. In March 2017 Khalid Masood rammed crowds along Westminster Bridge, killing four people. The attacker then abandoned his car outside parliament, where he stabbed and killed PC Keith Palmer before being shot by armed police. 

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‘Dismantling global security’: Russian lawmakers dismiss US claims of Open Skies violations

High-ranking members of the Russian parliament have stated that Washington’s refusal to cooperate with Moscow on the Open Skies Treaty is based on unfounded charges as Russia has always stuck to its obligations.

The United States’ accusations in our address are completely unfounded. Russia is acting strictly in accordance with the existing agreements and their terms – the same applies to the treaty on destruction of chemical weapons,” Senator Yevgeniy Serebrennikov said in comments to RIA Novosti.

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Georgian servicemen stand at attention during an opening ceremony of the NATO-led military exercises

The senator reacted to the recent news that the US National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2019, signed by President Donald Trump on Monday, contained a ban on using any funds appropriated by it “to modify any United States aircraft for purposes of implementing the Open Skies Treaty” in response to alleged previous violations of this treaty by Russia.

The head of the Russian Upper House Committee for International Relations, Senator Konstantin Kosachev, said that the US move to freeze its participation in the Open Skies Treaty must be scrutinized by the treaty’s consultative commission. He added that the treaty allowed any of its signatories to deny other participants a particular inspection and also to exit it completely, but had no provisions for a freeze of cooperation between any two of its members.

Therefore, in my opinion, the US decision contradicts its obligations fixed in the treaty and this must be considered by the Consultative Commission,” Kosachev was quoted as saying by TASS.

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Flag of the United States of America © Maksim Blinov

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said that Washington’s move to freeze cooperation with Russia on the Open Skies Treaty was an example of unilateral actions that were inacceptable for civilized dialogue between nations.

Apart from the extremely high military budget, de-facto the record high $ 719 billion, the new act contains a number of provisions that boil down to an attempt to impose on other nations the decisions of some well-known problems in the sphere of arms control. They should be regulated by talks and a common search for an acceptable solution at the negotiations table,” the diplomat was quoted as saying by Interfax on Tuesday.

We are constantly urging the US side to act like this, but unfortunately instead of some constructive replies we only witness new manifestations of the course aimed at dismantling the global security architecture and the existing system of agreements in the field of arms control,” he added.

The Open Skies Treaty was signed in 1992 and became one of the measures to build confidence in post-Cold War Europe. The parties to the treaty regularly conduct reconnaissance flights over each other’s territory to openly collect information on each other’s military forces and activities.

Previously, the United States has accused Russia of violating the terms of the Open Skies Treaty by placing restrictions on overflights of its westernmost exclave of Kaliningrad. Russia’s Foreign Ministry argued that Moscow had complied with all its obligations under all international agreements including the Open Skies Treaty.

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