Sochi 2014 Olympic ring failure featured on IOC’s ‘404 error’ page

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has designed its ‘404 error’ page template to feature the Olympic rings failure from the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

Sometimes things don’t go as planned,” the caption under the picture reads, in a reference to when one of the Olympic rings failed to open at Sochi’s lavish opening ceremony, becoming the subject of much ridicule.

READ MORE: Sochi closing ceremony pokes fun at Olympic ring malfunction (PHOTOS)

During the ceremony at Fisht Olympic Stadium four years ago, five giant snowflakes coming together at the top of the arena should have transformed into the famous Olympic rings. However, due to a technical fault, one snowflake failed to open.

The episode, which immediately became a meme, was one of the most discussed moments of the Sochi Games. Organizers poked fun at the ring-opening glitch, ridiculing the awkward incident during the closing ceremony.

At the beginning of the closing ceremony a group of dancers which should have formed the five Olympic rings purposefully did not complete the opening of the fifth ring in a nod to the curtain-raiser mishap.

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Saudi women no longer need male permission to start business

A major step of granting women in Saudi Arabia the right start their own businesses without the approval of a male relative has been announced by the kingdom’s Ministry of Commerce and Investment.

“No need for a guardian’s permission. Saudi women are free to start their own business freely,” the ministry’s spokesperson Abdul Rahman Al-Hussein tweeted. He also used a hashtag which translates from Arabic as “No Need.”

Women in Saudi Arabia have traditionally been banned from working outside the home but rules have been relaxed in recent years. To start their own businesses, travel or enroll in classes, they had to ask permission from a male “guardian” – a husband, father or brother.

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© Faisal Nasser

Hiring women is now a key part of Saudi Arabia’s plan to overhaul the oil-dependent economy, known as Vision 2030. The reform also aims to raise the proportion of Saudi women that are active in the workforce from 22 percent to 30 percent. Female unemployment in the kingdom stands at around 33 percent, compared to an overall rate of 12 percent.

“I believe this new approach will open the door to [women] in our homeland to highlight their talents and ideas and translate them into a realistic business with a worthy financial return,” Saudi law consultant Dima Al-Shareef told the Arab News.

“We are witnessing a new era in the empowerment of Saudi women, in the commercial sphere in particular,” she added.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia’s passport office announced 140 jobs for women at airports and border crossings. It received 107,000 applications within a week while the job posting has been viewed more than 600,000 times.

Last year, the Saudi king issued a royal decree allowing women to drive cars and attend sports events. The move has been strongly opposed by some of the kingdom’s prominent clerics.

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The RED carpet: Politically-charged BAFTAs as celebrities turn to activism

Awards season is upon us, so that means glitz, glamour and — increasingly — politics. The red carpet now channels Speaker’s Corner as celebs engage in a bit of soapboxing: Here are this year’s most politically-charged moments.

Kate Middleton’s sash 

In a case of would she or wouldn’t she, all eyes were on the Duchess of Cambridge when she stepped out of her limo on Sunday. While that may usually be the case anyway, this time the focus was on the pregnant royal’s dress.

RT had previously reached out to Kensington Palace (to no avail) to find out whether Kate would be flouting the royal family’s usual rule of staying out of politics, or joining the ranks of black-dressed stars showing their support for Time’s Up.

Instead of standing out from the crowd in a bright color, Middleton sat firmly on the fence. Wearing a dark green dress and a black sash to the London event, she managed to keep her outfit muted without wholly committing to a political cause. One must wonder, however, if the black sash wasn’t a small sign of allegiance.

Anyway, the Duchess has since been derided on Twitter for failing to conform to the informal, black dress code.

Though support did come from others, “Apparently, she’s not allowed to exercise her feminist right to wear whatever colour dress she chooses,” Piers Morgan observed on Twitter.

Frances McDormand’s speech 

While most of the star-studded audience stood as one, sporting robes of black to demonstrate their allegiance to the campaign, Best Actress winner McDormand chose to wear a bright red-black-and-pink dress.

“Thank you, British film people,” she said on stage.

“As Martin [McDonagh] said, I have a little trouble with compliance,” she said, pointing to her dress.

“But I want you to know I stand in full solidarity with my sisters tonight in black. I also want to say that I appreciate a well-organized act of civil disobedience.”

She then took the chance to bring up how political campaigners had used her (now award-winning) film to inspire acts to further their own causes; like the three billboards demanding justice following the Grenfell Tower fire driven through London on Thursday.

“I’m thrilled that activists all over the world have been inspired by the set decoration of Three Billboards in Martin’s film and have taken to the streets and let it be a part of the positive public discourse that’s happening,” she said.

Sisters Uncut 

Feminist protest group Sisters Uncut stormed the BAFTA red carpet to protest Theresa May’s Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill, which is still under consultation in parliament. Sisters Uncut says the bill will criminalize survivors while distracting from devastating funding cuts to domestic violence services across the UK.

The Sisters Uncut activists were seen jumping onto the carpet as celebrities were arriving, wearing t-shirts declaring “Time’s Up Theresa.” While lying on the red carpet, they chanted “the DV Bill’s a cover-up, Theresa May your time is up.”

Activists ahoy! 

Awards ceremonies tend to get tongues wagging — sometimes it’s about the dress, and sometimes it’s about the date on your arm. The 2018 BAFTAs were no exception, but for a slightly different reason: celebrities were choosing to bring political activists as their plus one.

Birdman actress Andrea Riseborough walked into the awards ceremony with trade unionist and co-founder of UK Black Pride Phyll Opoku-Gyimah.

Gemma Arterton, who played one of the leading female activists in the West End musical ‘Made in Dagenham’ — the story of the 1968 Ford sewing machinists’ strike — decided to take a few of her muses along with her. Arterton was joined by former sewing machine operators Eileen Pullen and Gwen Davis, two of the 187 women who staged a three-week walk-out from Ford’s Dagenham plant in 1968. The women walked out after learning they were to be classified as unskilled workers, paid 15% less than their male coworkers.

Actresses Naomie Harris, Gemma Chan and Tessa Thompson were all also joined on the red carpet by activists. 

Afua Hirsch came as a guest of British actress Naomie Harris. The Guardian journalist made headlines in 2017 when she suggested Admiral Nelson’s statue in Trafalgar Square should be taken down because he was a ‘white supremacist’ and that he spoke out in favor of slavery.

In turn, Laura Bates came as Chan’s guest. Bates launched the Everyday Sexism project in 2012, and has received death and rape threats because of her campaign work.

‘Thor: Ragnarok’ star Thompson was joined on the red carpet by Marai Larasi, executive director of Imkaan, a British black feminist organization. The group campaigns against violence towards black, minority ethnic and refugee women and girls.

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Americans ‘obsessed,’ act out of short-sighted self-interest in Syria – Iranian FM

US actions in Syria appear to be driven by “obsession” and overt “profiteering,” Iran’s foreign minister said, warning that Washington could cause long-term damage to the region.

The criticism of Washington came from Javad Zarif on Monday at a discussion on Middle East issues and Russia’s role in the region, which was hosted by Moscow’s Valdai Club. The Iranian official expressed grave concerns at the ongoing escalation of tension in Syria.

“We see a new wave of foreign intervention and occupation, particularly by the United States, driven by – I don’t know how to call it, obsession?” he said, adding that Washington’s goal was “profiteering, [and] short-sighted geo-economic interest to capture territory.”

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FILE PHOTO. © AFP

Zarif blamed Washington’s arming of Kurdish militias for provoking Turkey into launching a military operation in Syria, which, he said, was a bad move itself.

“The use of proxies by the United States is dangerous for the proxies, for the United States and for the region. It is creating momentum in our region, which will be long-lasting and which will have consequences for years to come.

“The anxieties of our Turkish neighbors, particularly about US designs in the region, are understandable, but that is no way to address those anxieties,” the Iranian official said. “We believed that those anxieties can best be addressed legitimately and lawfully through the Syrian government. And we believe incursions into other peoples’ territories will not help resolve the problem.”

Iran’s position was backed by Russia, which sees the US as a major factor of destabilization in Syria, taking into account its apparent attempts to partition the country.

“I believe all the assurances of our American colleagues that their only goal in Syria was to fight ISIS [Islamic State/IS] and preserve Syria’s territorial integrity need to be proven by concrete actions,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at the same meeting.

He said the US was “playing with fire” in pursuit of its self-serving goals and was damaging the wellbeing of the various groups living in the region, including the Kurds.

“We support the just aspiration of the Kurdish people to live in accordance with their traditions and centuries-long history,” the Russian diplomat said. “But we believe it is wrong when someone uses this aspiration to reach selfish political goals that have nothing to do with the interests of the Kurds.”

Speaking to RT after the event, Zarif criticized the reported proposal by Turkey for a joint deployment of troops with the US in the Syrian Kurdish city of Manbij. The proposal was suggested by the Turks during the visit of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Ankara last week, according to a Reuters report.

“I believe only the Syrian people should decide about Syria, external powers should not decide,” the Iranian diplomat said. “We believe that the establishment of foreign military bases on Syrian territory without the authorization by the Syrian government are inherently destabilizing and dangerous.”

Kurdish militias supported by American air forces and special operations units were instrumental in defeating IS in northern Syria. But Washington’s plan to arm and train those militias angered Ankara, which perceives them as an extension of Kurdish militant groups in Turkey. The Turkish military last month launched a military operation across the border, targeting the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in the northwest of the country.

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Seeing red: Brazilian brawl sees 10 red cards and match abandoned (VIDEO)

A bad-tempered Brazilian football match between Vitoria and Bahia was abandoned when 10 players were sent off after the match descended into chaos and an on-pitch brawl.

A total of 10 players – five from each side – received their marching orders in the second half after the first 45 minutes saw hosts Vitoria go 1-0 up through Denilson in the Bahia State Championship (Campeonato Baiano) game on Sunday.

Tempers became frayed when Bahia’s Vinicius netted an equalizer for the visitors from the penalty spot on 50 minutes. After leveling the score, the striker wheeled away to celebrate behind the goal, where he suggestively thrust his hips towards the crowd.

Opposition players rushed to confront him, sparking a mass brawl. Punches were thrown, strong words were exchanged, and after a 16-minute delay, eight players were dismissed, including Vinicius and three Bahia substitutes.

Play did eventually restart, but when Vitoria had a further two players sent off, reducing the match to a six-a-side format, the referee was forced to abandon the fixture. Bahia will most likely be awarded a 3-0 forfeit victory.

Aside from the flurry of reds, a further six players received yellow cards during the match.

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Bill Gates urges super wealthy to pay ‘significantly higher' taxes

One of the world’s richest men, Bill Gates, says he should pay more in taxes and urged the US authorities to require other billionaires to contribute “significantly higher” amounts.

“I need to pay higher taxes. I’ve paid more taxes – over $ 10 billion – than anyone else, but the government should require the people in my position to pay significantly higher taxes,” Microsoft founder said in an interview with CNN.

Gates, whose fortune is estimated at $ 86 billion, also sharply criticized the GOP tax law, which slashed tax rates for big businesses.

“It was not a progressive tax bill. It was a regressive tax bill. People who are wealthier tended to get dramatically more benefits than the middle class or those who are poor, and so it runs counter to the general trend you’d like to see, where the safety net is getting stronger and those at the top are paying higher taxes,” the billionaire said.

The tax reform, launched this year, has been severely criticized by analysts, who said that the measure would widen the gap between the rich and the poor. According to the latest report compiled by the Institute for Policy Studies, some 80 percent of the tax relief would benefit only the wealthiest 1 percent of US households.

“You still have about a sixth of the population living in conditions that should be very disappointing to us, and government policies need to really think, ‘Why aren’t we doing a better job for those people?’” Gates said, commenting on rising inequality in the US.

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Russian society divided over ‘Death of Stalin’ film ban, poll shows

The people of Russia seem ambivalent about the recent banning of the dark British comedy “The Death of Stalin,” with about a third of respondents supporting the move, about another third opposing and the rest having no opinion.

According to the results of a research conducted by the state-run All-Russian Center for Public Opinion Research (VTSIOM), 35 percent of Russians disapproved of the Culture Ministry’s decision to pull the Death of Stalin film off the screens. 30 percent of respondents said they supported the ban and 35 percent said that they had no fixed opinion on the issue.

The overall share of Russians who have heard of the film and also the fact that the Culture Ministry had revoked its screening license is 65 percent.

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© Sputnik

VTSIOM also said in its release that the share of supporters of the screening ban was higher among the older generation while young people were more likely to disapprove of it. 

In the same poll, 58 percent of Russians said they would be prepared to watch the movie if the ban were lifted and cinemas started showing it. Researchers also asked respondents to name the topics about which jokes are absolutely inappropriate. In their answers 82 percent of Russians mentioned the church, 70 percent said it was the history of their nation, 65 said it was wrong to make fun of traits peculiar to various ethnic groups and 64 said comics should not use historical figures unable to respond as targets of their jokes. Only 37 percent of Russians hold that it is wrong to make jokes about the country’s authorities, while 54 percent are OK with it.

In late January this year, the Russian Culture Ministry revoked the screening license of the film, a French-British production directed by Scottish satirist Armando Iannucci, who is known for his TV satires ‘Veep’ and ‘The Thick of It.’ The film was pulled from cinema schedules in Russia just days before it was scheduled for release, after several Russian MPs said they suspected that it contained “elements of extremism.”

A member of the Lower House Culture Committee, MP Elena Drapeko, said that the film was “purposefully inflaming strife within the society” and that everything in it is distorted, “from the anthem to the characters.”

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Witchcraft & possession linked to UK child abuse as experts fear cases will skyrocket

Faith-related killings of children could rise if the UK does not address child abuse linked to beliefs in witchcraft and spirit possession in a number of communities, according to the authorities.

Government statistics have shown 1,500 potential abuse cases had links to belief in possession and witchcraft.

“These beliefs are very real and on occasion people are going to take this to extremes where a child can be murdered,” Inspector Allen Davis, who leads the Metropolitan Police’s response to the issue, told the Independent.

“There are a number of ways that an adult will try to rid the child of the evil they believe is within them. They might try to burn it out, cut it out, strangle it out, drowning can be involved, or starving and beating.”

Within Britain there are a number of communities with a “genuine belief” in possession and witchcraft. High-profile cases have emerged in recent years, including the killing of Kristy Bamu and Ayesha Ali.

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© Christian Hartmann

Bamu, 15, was found dead in 2010 after staying with his sister Magalie Bamu and her partner Eric Bikubi, who were obsessed with witchcraft. He was starved for days and beaten with hammers, floor tiles and bottles for wetting his pants and “spelling” his siblings. He drowned in the bath on Christmas Day during a “cleansing” ritual.

Polly Chowdhury and lesbian lover Kiki Muddar killed Ayesha Ali, eight, in August 2013. The pair believed she was possessed by the devil and forced her to endure beatings and abuse. She was found dead in her room in Chadwell Heath, east London, after a fatal blow to the head but evidence of bite marks and other abuse were found on her body.

Dr Lisa Oakley, chair of the National Working Group for Child Abuse Linked to Faith or Belief, told the Independent: “We know these practices are occurring so we want to be acting now so we don’t have another high-profile case.

“You’ve then got a child who is severely damaged or not here anymore, and that’s a high price to pay. We’re saying we don’t want to get to a point where there is another high-profile case.”

Inspector Davis stated that “this is not a black African problem,” stressing that the issue “is far broader.”

“The beliefs in witchcraft and spirit possession are very broad and go across a far larger swath of the world than you would expect,” he said. “These beliefs are common within both Christianity and Islam and we get victims from both.”

Evidence suggests that areas of Africa are affected by it but 1,460 potential cases found in the 2017/2018 Children in Need Census were branded an “underestimate” by some experts, who said the practices and signs are simply not identified by neighbors and people in authority positions.

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‘Wicked practice’: EU pushes Balkans to choose either West or Russia, says Lavrov

EU’s demands for the Balkan states to choose between the West or Russia are counterproductive and only increase tensions on the European continent, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Serbia’s Beta news agency.

Ukraine was presented with same dilemma, Lavrov said, which “eventually led to a fracture in the Ukrainian society and state; caused an unconstitutional coup (in 2014) and the rise of radicals, including Neo-Nazis, in the internal political affairs of the country.”

“Now they want to drag the Balkans into this same game, making them choose whether they are with the West or with Russia,” he warned.

The EU’s Balkan expansion plan foresees the inclusion of both Serbia and Montenegro into the bloc by 2025 if the countries meet certain conditions. Among other things, Belgrade is required to normalize relations with Kosovo, which unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, and bring its foreign policy into line with those of the EU.

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European Union flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels © Francois Lenoir

The European Union’s demands for Serbia to accept the anti-Russian component of the bloc’s foreign policy are “sad and upsetting,” Lavrov said ahead of his visit to Belgrade. This approach by Brussels “contradicts all our joint statements made after the Cold War ended… that one shouldn’t strengthen one’s own security at the expense of others. This is what they are trying to do, as I have said, by working to integrate the Balkans into the policy of dividing lines; the policy of surrounding Russia with the military infrastructure of NATO.”

“This is a manifestation of the same philosophy and mentality that contributes to the tensions in Europe; that guided those who were expanding NATO and made Ukraine and European countries choose whether they are with the West or with Russia. It is a wicked practice,” the FM said.

Countries like Russia, China and Turkey want to work in the region on an “open, constructive basis, but we see attempts by the US and the EU to introduce anti-Russian elements in its Balkan policy,” he said. According to the minister, Russian diplomats never tell their counterparts that they shouldn’t make friends with the West. “But Washington and some European capitals send their emissaries to the Balkans with a specific message: ‘Do not be friends with Russia; refuse cooperation with it in all possible areas.’”

READ MORE: EU mulls growth into Western Balkans in 2025 but regional disputes threaten ‘ambitious’ timeline

At the same time, Lavrov pointed out that Russia does not “see any risks in the desire of the nations of the Balkan region and other countries on the European continent to develop relations with the EU, including joining it. They are presented with the terms of entry and they themselves must decide how satisfactory those conditions are and how they match their national interests.”

Serbian aspirations to join the EU have been discussed with the country’s President, Aleksandar Vucic, and “he never said that it would be done at the expense of Russia. On the contrary, he stressed that the Russian vector of the foreign policy and cooperation would remain very important for Serbia. I am sure that this is in the interest of the Serbian people,” Russia’s top diplomat said.

READ MORE: Balkans trap: As Serbian president goes to Russia, US plots to ‘finish the job’

Lavrov went on to praise the “pragmatic approach” of the Serbian authorities, which is aimed at taking advantage of connections “both in the West and the East.”

“One shouldn’t think about creating closed alliances, be it in military, political or economic spheres. We need to look at things beyond the four-year horizon until the next election in this or that European country, and see perspective. That perspective, I think, is a very positive one, if we are all guided by interest in joint work, for the benefit of our own citizens in each individual country and on the European continent as a whole. It seems to me that this is what the Serbian leadership’s approach comes from,” he said.

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Flash dance: Costume malfunction leaves French Olympic figure skaters red-faced (PHOTOS)

Olympic ice dancing medal contenders Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France suffered an embarrassing mishap during their routine on Monday, when Papadakis’ top came unhooked, exposing her left breast.

The clasp at the neckline of the skater’s dress came off just several seconds into the pair’s short dance performance, meaning the couple spent the rest of the time concentrating on keeping the top from falling down, rather than pulling off the technical elements of their routine.

Despite Papadakis’ efforts to prevent further embarrassment, her left breast was exposed at the end of the program with millions of people watching the incident as the competition was broadcast live on TV.

“It was pretty distracting, kind of my worst nightmare happening at the Olympics,” Papadakis said.

“I told myself, ‘I don’t have a choice. I have to keep going,’ and that’s what we did. I think we can be proud of ourselves being able to deliver a great performance with that happening.”

The French couple managed to complete their short dance and remarkably received the second best score from the judges, who placed them two points behind the reigning world champions and current leaders Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada.

Papadakis and Cizeron, who claimed their fourth straight European title a month ago, are making their Olympic debut in PyeongChang with hopes to win the first ice dance medal for France since 2002, when Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat took gold at the Salt Lake City Olympics.

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