Swedish brewery premiers ‘crystal clear pilsner’ brewed from sewage

To the joy of environmentalists, but maybe not so much to ardent beer lovers, a Carlsberg-linked brewery has unveiled ‘Pu:rest,’ the first beer made from sewage water. The water is thoroughly purified, though.

The project, inspired by the Swedish Environmental Research Institute (IVL), saw the New Carnegie Brewery, partly owned by Carlsberg, team up with an innovative sewage treatment plant.

Having undergone “a chain of purification stages,” the treated water was thoroughly tested before it was delivered to the brewery, IVL said. It took the New Carnegie Brewery only four weeks to come up with what its head, Chris Thurgeson, touted as “an ecological and crystal clear pilsner, brewed on recycled water with organic malt and hops.”

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© Helmut Meyer zur Capellen / Global Look Press

This Friday, the brewery staged a launch party, inviting everyone daring enough to taste the environment-friendly 4.8 percent drink. While the accounts of those who worked up the courage to take a sip are unknown, the researchers argued that the main challenge they face over its distribution is not technological, but psychological, since people are generally hostile to the idea that the water contaminated with human and other waste might be safe enough to drink.

While it’s hard to foretell whether commercial success is awaiting Pu:rest, the primary purpose of the project was not to sell beer, but make more people aware of the water shortage and the need to care about the environment, Filipsson said.

“The difficulties in getting this relatively cost- and energy-efficient method to be used for the production of drinking water is not technical but primarily emotional. The recycled water is as pure and safe as normal tap water, but most people are still skeptical about actually drinking purified wastewater,” Staffan Filipsson, project manager at IVL, said.

While it’s hard to foretell whether commercial success is awaiting Pu:rest, the primary purpose of the project was not to sell beer, but make more people aware of the water shortage and the need to care about the environment, Filipsson said.

“The main purpose of the project is to highlight sustainable water management and raise awareness of the global water issues and the value of clean water.” 

The beer will be served in several restaurants and at festivals in June, the IVL said.

While the experimental pilsner is yet to make its way to the big market, it has already earned the nickname ‘crap beer’ (bajsöl).

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US national security requests to Apple more than doubled, transparency report reveals

Apple has been bombarded with requests from the US government for access to their user data, and the rate is soaring, the company revealed in its biannual report.

More than twice as many requests were filed in the second half in 2017 than the same period the previous year.

In its ‘Report on Government and Private Party Requests for Customer Information’ released on Friday, Apple Inc. said that from July 1 to December 31 last year it received up to 16,249 US government National Security Requests (NSR) that affected some 8,249 accounts.

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© Eric Thayer

The requests include both orders under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and national security letters (NSLs) issued by the FBI that are not approved by a judge. The companies are prevented by gag orders from notifying users that they provided the government any access to their data under NSLs. The controversial practice has repeatedly come under fire from tech companies, who argue that it constitutes a violation of freedom of speech and leaves law enforcement without any judicial oversight.

Digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation has long been embroiled in a legal battle with the Department of Justice over the legality of the letters, having challenged the practice in court on behalf of several US telecommunication companies. Insisting that gag orders are unconstitutional, it says that the practice not only gives the FBI “immense investigatory powers,” but also silences its critics in the telecommunications industry, of which there are many, as they are unable to speak publicly about the letters they have received.

It is unclear how many of the National Security Requests were submitted to Apple under FISA and how many were in fact NSLs since the law also prohibits companies from revealing even the approximate number of FISA requests until a six-month mandatory delay expires.

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© Nigel Marple

Amid the controversy surrounding the extensive use of the divisive investigation tool by the US intelligence community, the number of requests continues to surge. From July to December 2016, Apple reported only 5,999 such requests, which means their number more than doubled last year. Compared to the first half of 2017, when Apple registered some 13,499 requests, the increase amounts to some 20 percent.

The steady growth of the government security requests to telecommunications giants like Apple, Google and Facebook has been a prevailing trend in the last few years, with the number of requests that are accompanied by non-disclosure orders also rising. In its own transparency report covering the first half of 2017, Facebook said that the number of requests with gag orders accounted for some 57 percent of the total number of the US requests it received.

It comes as the US intelligence community report revealed that the National Security Agency has tripled the surveillance of Americans’ phone calls and text messages, collecting over 534 million records last year. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) report also noted a slight increase in the surveillance of non-US citizens, from 106,469 to 129,080 individuals. The latter also does not demand judicial authorization.

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Sex not in the top 10 most pleasurable things for Russians

The top Russian pollster has conducted a survey on what Russians enjoy the most in life, and sex is not at the top of the list. Vodka and bear rodeos aren’t either.

Watching TV tops the list of activities that Russians find pleasurable, according to a multiple choice poll published by the Levada public opinion research center on Thursday. Some 34 percent like to spend their time in front of the telly. “Earning good money” comes next, with 26 percent, followed closely by “spending time with children” at 24 percent.

Russians like hanging around with kids about twice as much as they like making them – “making love” clocks in at the unimpressive 16th spot. It’s a favorite pastime for just 12 percent of the respondents – on par with hunting and fishing, “drinking in good company” and even spending some time alone.

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© Vladimir Pesnya

The number of sex-lovers (or at least those who aren’t too shy to put a tick in a box next to the word “sex”) is, predictably, much higher among the younger respondents, and stands at 24 percent among those aged 18 to 24 years.

There is also the option of “spending time with the person you love,” which has garnered 22 percent. Russians, apparently, like platonic quality time more than sex… but less than gardening (which is a favorite with 23 percent).

Traveling, listening to music, having guests, cooking and reading are all among the pastimes a Russian would, it seems, pick over a roll in the hay.

The news may upset those heading to Russia as the country gets ready to host 2018 FIFA World Cup and welcome massive flows of fans and tourists. The Argentine Football Association (AFA) has recently distributed handbooks that include advice on picking up Russian girls at the championship. So, instead of asking “stupid questions about sex” (which the manual advises to avoid) and given the poll results, it may be better to just go to the cinema.

The Levada poll surveyed 1,600 people from various parts of the country in April 2018. Respondents were given cards with possible answers and allowed to pick more than one.

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Trump says he's having 'very productive talks' with N. Korea on reinstating summit

US President Donald Trump says “very productive talks” are underway with North Korea on holding the June 12 summit in Singapore. Talks on reinstating the meeting came within 24 hours of Trump’s previously abrupt cancellation.

In a tweet, Trump confirmed that if the elusive meetup with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un does happen, it will likely remain at the earlier scheduled date and place: on June 12 in Singapore.

The potentially unprecedented meeting, a first-ever between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader, has been in the making for months. Trump had been erratic in his statements about the summit during the period, taking his time in narrowing down the time and place, and threatening to cancel or walk out of the meeting if he does not get his way. In the end, he called it off on Thursday, after the North Korean vice-minister of foreign affairs took issue with US Vice President Pence’s threats of a “Libyan scenario” for Pyongyang: what started as a description of how the US helped Libya get rid of its nuke research in 2003, ultimately also came to include the 2011 overthrow and murder of Muammar Gaddafi.

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US President Donald Trump © Kevin Lamarque

With that, Trump’s rhetoric was abruptly back to touting the US’ military readiness and comparing whose nukes are bigger, like he did back in January with his infamous “bigger nuclear button” tweet. All of that, hours after North Korea publicly destroyed its only nuclear test site in a gesture of goodwill.

Then, on Friday, Trump said the summit was on the cards again, summing it up with the phrase “everybody plays games.” If his tweets are to be believed, he was moved by the North’s statement in the wake of the cancellation. Pyongyang said it was willing to sit down“at any time, in any way” to resolve its differences with Washington for the sake of “peace and stability of the Korean peninsula and mankind.”

Earlier, the North itself had threatened to cancel the summit over joint US-South Korean military drills at its border. The exercises have been a part of Trump’s policy of “maximum pressure” on Pyongyang, which also included a slew of crippling economic sanctions and, until recently, regular barrages of belligerent rhetoric.

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President threatens to use army to clear Brazil truckers blocking roads in protest (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Some of the truckers protesting high fuel prices in Brazil have agreed to unblock the roads after the government threatened to send in the army against them. The five-day strike highlighted Brazil’s economic woes.

On Friday, President Michel Temer threatened to send the army to clear the roads, as one of the trucker unions said it would continue the strike despite an agreement struck on Thursday to lower the price of diesel.

“Just as we had the courage to dialogue, we have the courage to exercise authority,” Temer told the media on Friday. “I am putting all the federal forces to ensure free movement, and, of course, the country’s supply. I think the country was expecting this.”

Over 500 roadblocks remained across Brazil on Friday evening, Public Security Minister Raul Jungmann said at a news conference, according to Reuters. That was half the number registered on Thursday, however. Once the roads are completely cleared, normalizing fuel supplies will still take a week, Brazil’s oil regulator ANP said.

Tens of thousands of truckers had parked their rigs on the roads across Brazil on Monday, protesting the rising prices of diesel. On Thursday, union leaders said they would accept the government’s offer to lower the fuel prices by 10 percent for a month and abandon the tax that had contributed to the long-term price hike. The government-run oil company Petrobras has a monopoly on fuel in Brazil.

The blockade has caused the cost of food and other products across the country to skyrocket, as supermarket shelves were stripped bare. Many schools canceled classes and hospitals reported running out of supplies. There were reports of shortages in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Brasília, Recife, Porto Alegre, and Congonhas. Highways were also choked by the blockading drivers in Curitiba, the largest city in the Brazilian state of Paraná.

One of the trucker unions, Abcam, initially refused to accept the negotiated agreement and issued a statement on Friday saying the union “will not betray the truck drivers.”

Abcam has reportedly changed its mind after Temer threatened to deploy the troops. However, the union urged its members to continue protesting by delaying deliveries until the fuel tax cut is guaranteed by law.

Fuel prices in Brazil have nearly doubled since President Dilma Rousseff was impeached by a faction led by Temer, her vice-president, in August 2016. Rousseff was targeted by an anti-corruption probe concerning corruption at Petrobras; she sat on the board of the company between 2003 and 2010. Though no evidence of her personal involvement in any corruption was found, Rousseff was removed by the legislators.

“In Brazil, the poor and the dark-skinned were the enemy… They were tortured, they were arrested, they were turned into a lower class, stripped of all rights. We began to change this situation,” Rousseff told RT in the last month of her time in power. “There is still a lot to be done: we need to distribute the wealth in the country, implement tax reform [and] end the oligopoly of the media and banks that control different aspects of the country’s life.”

Rousseff was trying to continue the policies of her predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who ruled from 2003 to 2011. Lula was accused of taking a bribe from a construction company and favoring them in contracts with Petrobras, and was sentenced to 12 years in prison. He turned himself in to begin serving his sentence. This will most likely disqualify him from running for president under Brazilian law.

Lula believes the US and Europe have never forgiven him from seeking to make Brazil independent of their economic and political domination.

“Before, Brazil was looking at the US and the EU with its back towards South American countries and Africa. I decided to change that,”Lula told RT in March, noting that Brazilian elites have never come to terms with his choice.

“It’s becoming more and more clear each day that the US doesn’t want Latin America to be strong and independent, much less does it want such a big country as Brazil to influence the decisions made by Latin America,” he added.

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Management purge, US oversight & $1.3bn fine: Trump’s terms to reopen ZTE

China’s telecom giant ZTE will be allowed to buy from US suppliers again if it changes its management team, installs US compliance officers and pays a $ 1.3 billion fine, according to a Trump administration proposal.

The US Commerce Department communicated the terms of the deal to Congress on Friday, Reuters reported, citing an unnamed congressional aide. If ZTE agrees to implement the administration’s demands, the Commerce Department will lift the ban on purchasing US products.

Headquartered in Shenzhen, China, ZTE was handed a seven-year ban on buying US technology components in mid-April. The Trump administration accused the company of violating the 2017 settlement after ZTE was caught shipping US components to North Korea and Iran and ordered to pay a $ 900 million penalty.

President Trump tweeted about the proposed deal on Friday, criticizing the Obama administration for letting ZTE “flourish with no security checks” and adding that Democrats “do nothing but complain and obstruct.”

Trump told Fox News on Thursday that he personally negotiated the $ 1.3 billion fine with Chinese President Xi Jinping in a phone call.

The president’s efforts to negotiate a deal with ZTE have been met with opposition from Democrats, as well as some Republicans. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) have said Congress should stop Trump from letting ZTE do business in the US. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) has likewise criticized the Chinese company as a security hazard.

ZTE is one of China’s leading manufacturers of telecom equipment. It is publicly traded, but the largest shareholder is a Chinese government-run company. US companies provide up to 30 percent of components used in ZTE’s equipment. The ban has reportedly cost the company $ 3 billion so far.

The Trump administration has taken a hard line on renegotiating trade deals with China. Earlier this week, the Pentagon “disinvited” China from participating in the 2018 RIMPAC naval exercises, as Congress launched a series of hearings about the “pre-eminent threat to American security and values” posed by Beijing.

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Pablo Escobar’s hitman Popeye arrested in Colombia

Pablo Escobar’s former hitman, Jhon Jairo Velasquez Vasquez, AKA Popeye, was captured on Friday after he appeared at the prosecutor’s office in La Alpujarra, Medellín, Colombia.

Vasquez was wanted for aggravated conspiracy and extortion. The investigation is being carried out by the Prosecutor General and the Metropolitan Police of Medellín.

“He intended to recover property, money that he left years ago in the hands of drug traffickers which was most likely inherited by their relatives,” police sources said, El Tiempo reports.

Vasquez was released on parole in 2014 after he confessed to hundreds of murders and served 22 years in jail. He has since written books and appeared in YouTube videos.

Authorities have been trying to seize assets from Popeye and his family since he was released from prison.

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Trump, Musk, and now de Blasio? NYC mayor attacks Big Apple news media

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is standing by his criticism of the media, calling the New York Post “divisive” and “dog-whistling,” while saying that he prefers the UK-based Guardian over the New York Times.

“The news media is pitiful and it’s sad for our city and our nation,” reads an email Hizzoner sent to his consultants at BerlinRosen in 2015, commenting on the negative coverage of his behavior during a Staten Island standoff in which a firefighter was shot.

That email was among the 4,200 pages made public by City Hall on Thursday, due to a lawsuit by NY1 and the New York Post. Reacting to the release on Friday, de Blasio denied he was at war with the press, but stood by his claims that New York would be better off if some local outlets perished.

“I will not shed a tear if that newspaper is no longer here,” he said of the New York Post, describing the paper as right-wing, distorting facts, using coded language (“dog whistles”) and divisive.

“The Post is not like everyone else,” the mayor said. “Their presence in our society unfortunately is harmful.”

Reporters from all over the political spectrum took issue with the mayor’s claim that coverage is influenced by who owns the media outlet.

“In theory of course it can, and yes, editorial boards ultimately answer to their publishers,” tweeted Josh Greenman of the New York Daily News, “But he vastly overstates ownership meddling in news coverage or editorial stances, which right now, in our case, is nil.” The Daily News was bought in 2017 by the Chicago-based Tronc.

De Blasio’s emails reveal that he was not particularly enamored of the Daily News, even before the sale, when it was considered more liberal. Judging by the paper’s recent cover, the feeling is mutual.

A New York Times reporter noted that de Blasio expressed a preference for the Guardian, a liberal UK-based newspaper, over all the New York press.

Even as he maintained his criticism of the media, de Blasio insisted that the line from the 2015 email about how “they will never defeat us” was not referring to the press, but to the “power of the status quo” in New York, whatever that may be.

De Blasio’s criticism of the press has already been compared to that of President Donald Trump, a fellow New Yorker who has not hesitated to call out hostile coverage “fake news” (often correctly so). Yet in the case of Hizzoner, CNN’s laments over the threat to democracy and civilization, routinely trotted out against Trump, were notably absent. Could it be because Trump is a Republican, and de Blasio is a Democrat?

Discontent with the state of the media in the US clearly crosses party lines, and reaches into the realm of business as well. Silicon Valley magnate Elon Musk recently announced he would be setting up a website ranking the credibility of publications, after complaining about biased and negative press coverage. He suggested naming it Pravda, in a sarcastic nod to the Soviet Communist Party broadsheet.

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Macron's St. Petersburg mission: Keep Russia in the European family

The question of whether Russia is a European or Asian country, or both, has perplexed its leaders and citizens for centuries. However, French President Emmanuel Macron believes he knows the answer.

SAINT PETERSBURG – The top table at the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) hosted leaders responsible for around 30 percent of global GDP. And quite a line-up it was: Macron and Vladimir Putin, alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan and IMF supremo Christine Lagarde.

Indeed, there was so much collective power gathered at Friday event that Bloomberg’s John Micklethwait, who was serving as moderator, quipped how it was the result of Donald Trump’s unique ability to bring people together. However, while humorous, this was an America-centric take that missed the bigger picture.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin © POOL New

What was really happening in St. Petersburg was a sort of tug of war, where Russians flirted with East and West as they continue to ponder on which side their bread will be buttered in the future. While Washington and its sidekicks in London don’t seem overly perturbed by Russia’s drift to Asia, France and Germany are alarmed, and representatives from both countries continuously referenced the issue at the SPIEF.

And then Macron made it clear where he stood. “Russia is an inalienable part of Europe… mistakes have been made in the past… we must work to remove our divisions on many issues,” he said.

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder had earlier warmed up to the same theme: highlighting how an energy partnership with Russia was in Europe’s vital interest. He also mocked US attempts to kibosh the proposed Nord Stream 2 pipeline, saying he wouldn’t currently look to Washington for “examples of high governance.”

Russian analysts present this week echoed Schroeder’s assertion that the Americans are wielding sanctions for business advantage. And Putin himself warned how protectionist measures could eventually lead to a devastating global crisis.

“The system of multilateral cooperation, which took years to build, is no longer allowed to evolve. It is being broken in a very crude way. Breaking the rules is becoming the new rule,” the Russian president remarked.

READ MORE: Putin: Reviewing international deals with each new US election will create ‘mistrust’

Also fascinating was how discourse at the SPIEF differed from the isolationist rhetoric prevalent in London and Washington these days. Putin expressed support for free trade and investment, as well as openness to Chinese companies operating in Russia and their people moving here in tandem. Indeed, one Italian delegate remarked how the world had been turned on its head: “Thatcher and Reagan used to be the ones pushing these agendas, who would have imagined 30 years ago, Moscow and Beijing standing up for capitalist globalization?”

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, and French President Emmanuel Macron with his wife Brigitte © Mikhael Klimentyev

While Wang and Abe spoke of mutually respectful relations honed over many years, Macron was in a thoroughly different position. But the young French leader was keen to play the humble guest: beginning his speech with tributes to those in St. Petersburg who had died in the Second World War, before making a lengthy reference to Leo Tolstoy’s War & Peace.

Nevertheless, politics caught up to Macron when he praised French business for staying in Russia despite “tough times.” Because Russians present were quick to note how Paris was one of the primary drivers behind the Western sanctions that have hurt the Russian economy.

On the ground, the atmosphere was friendly. And the French descended in numbers, with leading companies from Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy to oil major Total investing in lavish stands.

“You look at Russian culture and it’s all European: from Pushkin to Tolstoy and Rachmaninoff to Tchaikovsky. Despite the geography, this is not an Asian country, in any way,” an exhibitor from Lyon noted.

Yet the Russians are keeping their options open. Putin pointed out that, beyond the bluster, French engagement in Russia isn’t as substantial as many might believe.

“Finland’s Fortum invested €6 billion in Russia, while the whole of France invested €15 billion,” he pointedly told Macron, who had earlier said that France desired to become the largest direct investor in Russia.

Putin outlined why this target was ambitious: “trade with Europe was worth $ 450 billion once, now it has fallen by half. With China, trade is going to reach $ 100 billion soon.” That said, despite these occasional reality checks, “Vladimir” and “Emmanuel” seemed to be hitting it off.

READ MORE: Yulia Skripal looks so well everything Britain said about poisoning is in doubt – Putin

Russian business delegates wanted their officials to play all sides.

“Russia should be friends with everyone. Why should we choose?” Alina Ustinova from Rostov Oblast noted. “We are mostly European, but a bit Asian too and we must trade with all comers. Even the Americans are welcome, when they finally see sense.”

“I don’t see anything wrong with dancing with the French on Friday night and the Chinese on Saturday; perhaps we could even manage a Wednesday for Trump,” she teased.

Bryan MacDonald for RT

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Hillary Clinton wants to be CEO of Facebook

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg better watch out, as Hillary Clinton said she would like to be the company’s CEO because of its power as a media outlet.

Clinton was speaking at Harvard University, where she was awarded the Radcliffe Medal on Friday. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey asked Clinton if she could be CEO of any company, what would she choose.

“Facebook,” Clinton quickly said. “I mean, I just want to add, it’s the biggest news platform in the world.”

“Most people in our country get their news, true or not, through Facebook,” she added.

“Now, Facebook is trying to take on some of the unexpected consequences of their business model and I for one hope they get it right, because it really is critical to our democracy that people get accurate information on which to make decisions.”

READ MORE: Happy GDPR day! US news sites blocked, FB sued as EU privacy rules come into force

Clinton was likely alluding to claims by her supporters that Facebook contributed to her loss in the 2016 election through “fake news” and advertisements.

Clinton was chosen for the Radcliffe medal due to her “accomplishments in the public sphere as a champion for human rights, as a skilled legislator, and as an advocate for global American leadership,” Radcliffe Institute Dean Lizabeth Cohen explained.

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