Magnitude 5.9 earthquake strikes offshore Indonesia – USGS

An earthquake measuring 5.9 on the richter scale struck offshore Indonesia in the Moluccas sea at approximately 2:30 am local time (1930 GMT) Monday according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).

The quake struck 53 miles (85.3 km) northwest of Ternate at a depth of 22.7 miles (36.5 km) below the seabed, a relatively shallow depth, making it potentially far more dangerous. No tsunami warning has been issued thus far. The USGS initially reported it as a 6.1 magnitude earthquake before downgrading it to a 5.9 soon after.

Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country with a total of 291 million people spread across the country’s 13 islands. The country is located in a highly seismically active part of the world known as the Pacific Ring of Fire.

A 5.9 earthquake is considered moderate but would cause significant damage had it occurred on land.  

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Danger of miscalculation: Escalation over Syria could lead to major conflict – Israeli Air Force vet

Even though the continued escalation of tensions over the situation in Syria is unlikely to spiral into a full-scale world war, it can still lead to a major regional conflict, Reuven Ben-Shalom, an Israeli Air Force veteran, said.

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FILE PHOTO © U.S. Army

The conflict in Syria remains a source of a major international security concerns as “global powers are at play” there, and some regional actors, such as Israel, who also pursue their own aims in this situation, Ben-Shalom, an Israeli Lieutenant Colonel in Reserve and a columnist for the Jerusalem Post, told RT’s Oksana Boyko.

With so many interests intertwined, the possibility of a “miscalculation” in the policy of one of the players is growing, which, in turn, could make the situation quickly “deteriorate into a regional war,” he said. At the same time, he called the fears of a potentially looming global conflict exaggerated, adding that the possibility of a world war over Syria is unlikely.

The Israeli Air Force veteran also justified his county’s violation of its neighbors’ sovereignty, and particularly strikes against facilities in Syria, by saying that Israel just has no other choice. “The only reason to enter the Syrian airspace would be to take specific targets threatening us,” he said.

“With all due respect, at the end of the day, we have sometimes to go and do what needs to be done because there is an imminent threat,” Ben-Shalom said while justifying the Israeli actions. “At that time we have to act and diplomacy must be put aside,” he added.

Find the full interview here.

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Starbucks apologizes for coffee shop arrest of two black men (VIDEO)

Following accusations of racial profiling, the CEO of Starbucks has promised to personally meet two men arrested at one of the coffee giant’s stores for a “face-to-face apology.”

Kevin Johnson, who has been in the top job a year, apologized on Sunday after two men were reportedly escorted from a Starbucks café by police in Philadelphia. According to eyewitness Melissa DePino, who filmed the incident at the Spruce Street store last week, Starbucks staff called police on two black men waiting at a table for a friend without ordering.

READ MORE: Starbucks to hire thousands of refugees to serve Europeans coffee

“The police were called because these men hadn’t ordered anything. They were waiting for a friend to show up, who did as they were taken out in handcuffs for doing nothing,” she posted online. “All the other white people are wondering why it’s never happened to us when we do the same thing.”

Footage of the incident shows Philadelphia police officers arresting the two men while another man asks why such action is being taken. “What did they get called for, because there are two black guys sitting here?” he can be heard to say.

Philadelphia police commissioner Richard Ross has since defended the officers involved, saying they were responding to a 911 call from Starbucks staff regarding two men “trespassing.” He added that the pair were eventually arrested after refusing requests to leave by Starbucks staff as well as police.

The incident is said to have started after one of the men sought to use the bathroom having not ordered.

“It is important to underscore that these officers had legal standing to make this arrest,” Ross said in a statement.

“Again, they were called to the scene because employees said they were trespassing. It is important for me to say that in short, these officers did absolutely nothing wrong. They followed policy, they did what they were supposed to do, they were professional in all their dealings with these gentlemen and instead they got the opposite back,” he said.

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson has since offered his apologies for the company’s part in the arrests, promising to investigate the circumstances and “make things right.”

READ MORE: Starbucks & co ordered to serve coffee in California with cancer warning

“The video shot by customers is very hard to watch and the actions in it are not representative of our Starbucks mission and values. Regretfully, our practices and training led to a bad outcome – the basis for the call to the Philadelphia police department was wrong,” Johnson said.

He added: “Our store manager never intended for these men to be arrested and this should never have escalated as it did.”

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More sanctions against Russia to be announced on Monday – Haley

Washington plans to slap Moscow with a new batch of sanctions as early as Monday, the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley said. The new measures are said to be a response to Russia’s alleged “aggressive actions.”

Haley blamed Moscow for the tense relations between the US and Russia and accused it of continuously engaging in aggressive behavior. She added that Washington would respond with a number of aggressive steps of its own.

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UK envoy Karen Pierce, French envoy Francois Delattre and US envoy Nikki Haley before the UN Security Council meeting on Syria, April 13, 2018. © Eduardo Munoz

“The sanctions [are] continuing to happen, which you will see again on Monday,” Haley told Fox News Sunday. “This lets them [Russia] know that this [is] not good behavior.”

The new restrictive measures would be announced by the head of the US Treasury Department, Steven Mnuchin, on Monday, Haley told the CBS’s “Face the Nation.” She also added that the sanction “will have to do with chemical equipment used by [the Syrian President Bashar] Assad.”

Speaking to Fox News, Haley accused Russia of de-facto facilitating the alleged chemical attack in the city of Douma in the Damascus suburbs by supporting the Syrian government. “Assad knew that Russia had its back, Assad knew that Russia would cover for them at the United Nations, and Assad got reckless,” she said, adding that the US has to be “conscious of the fact that we can’t allow even the smallest use of chemical weapons.”

Despite numerous accusations that she threw at Moscow, Haley told Fox News that the US “hopes” it can “get a better relationship with Russia.”“It is in our best national interests to do that,” she added.

Washington and its allies launched a massive missile strike targeting the Syrian military and civilian facilities in retaliation for the alleged “chemical attack” that was reported by rebel-linked groups. They ignored evidence showing that the incident might not have happened, and chose to strike hours before the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was to start an investigation.

Haley also accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons in Douma during a UN Security Council (UNSC) meeting that was convened following the strikes launched by the US, UK, and France. She did not provide any specific evidence to substantiate her claims. Instead, she referred to the US actions as “justified, legitimate and proportionate.”

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FILE PHOTO © Evgeny Biyatov

During a previous UNSC meeting, the US envoy to the UN also accused Russia of “stopping at nothing to defend the Syrian regime’s multiple uses of chemical weapons,” also without providing any evidence.

Washington has repeatedly imposed sanctions on Moscow under various pretexts. In early April, the US Treasury imposed its latest set of measures against Russia, which involved restrictions against some major Russian energy companies, such as En+ and EuroSibEnergo, as well as diversified industrial groups. State company Rosoboronexport, which controls most of Russia’s arms exports, was also subjected to sanctions.

In total, 24 Russians and 14 entities were targeted by the latest sanctions, including prominent Russian businessmen, such as Oleg Deripaska – the former president of United Company Rusal, the second largest aluminum company in the world, and Aleksey Miller – the CEO of Russian energy giant Gazprom.

In response, Russian MPs drafted a bill to suspend cooperation with the US in the nuclear, missile, and aircraft-building fields, as well as restrictions on imports of alcohol and tobacco from the US.

Russian state tech corporation Rostec, which controls Rosoboronexport, denounced the latest sanctions as “unfair competition.” All of Washington’s accusations against Moscow are “just an excuse for pushing Russia out of the global arms market,” a Rostec spokesperson told Russian media.

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‘We have our own red line’: Russian deputy FM on Western-sponsored UNSC draft resolution on Syria

Russia has its own ‘red lines’ regarding a UN Security Council resolution on Syria, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said, adding that Moscow is going to study the draft by the US, UK, and France with a critical eye.

It is going to be “very difficult” for the Security Council member states to find a compromise on the Syrian resolution, Ryabkov warned. “I don’t want to make assumptions on how the work will go on, but one has to understand that we have obvious ‘red lines.’ Probably, there are some kind of important ‘red lines’ for the Western group as well.”

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UK envoy Karen Pierce, French envoy Francois Delattre and US envoy Nikki Haley before the UN Security Council meeting on Syria, April 13, 2018. © Eduardo Munoz

“We’re going to evaluate the proposal of the Western troika with a critical eye. We don’t decide anything for ourselves in advance – if there are reasonable elements there, we’re going to work on them,” he said.

The deputy foreign minister added that Moscow will use all possible means to pull relations with the West out of a dangerous “political nosedive.” The channels of communication between Moscow and Washington are still open, he said.

The US, UK, and France have prepared their own resolution after the Russian draft was rejected by the Security Council during an emergency session on Saturday.

The draft, which urged Washington and its allies to “immediately and without delay cease the aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic and refrain from further aggressive acts in violation of the international law and the UN Charter,” failed to receive enough votes to pass. It was rejected by eight countries, including the US, UK, and France.

Early Saturday morning, Washington and its allies unleashed scores of missiles on civilian and military facilities in Syria in response to an alleged gas attack in Douma on April 7, which the West blamed on Bashar Assad’s government. Damascus and Moscow previously rejected the chemical attack accusations, saying the whole thing may have been fabricated.

READ MORE: Russia’s UNSC resolution calling to stop aggression against Syria does not receive enough votes

Russia and Syria have also called on the international community for an independent investigation. The missile strikes occurred on the same day that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) arrived in Damascus to investigate the claims.

“The process of destruction [of Syrian chemical weapons in 2013-14] was carried out in close cooperation of the involved countries, including the US, and under strict international supervision,” Ryabkov said. “Therefore, I don’t understand the endless, primitive and unsubstantiated bogus stories, which are made up – sometimes by high-ranking US officials, that Russia didn’t fulfill its obligations.”

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‘It’s where the World Cup starts for me’: Goalkeeping legend Schmeichel tours Saransk, Russia

With just two months to go until the 2018 World Cup, Peter Schmeichel is touring Russia’s host cities. This time, he visited Saransk to open the World Cup Park and challenge a goalkeeping robot.

Saransk – a one-hour flight east from Moscow – is the fourth city visited by Danish goalkeeping great Peter Schmeichel on his tour. The city “is the one I was looking forward [to visiting], because this is where Denmark plays,” Schmeichel said while opening a football park in Saransk on Saturday.

“I am from Denmark, if you don’t know, and my son plays for [the] Denmark team, so this is where the World Cup starts for me emotionally,” the football legend said.

READ MORE: ‘It’s safe to go to Russia,’ FIFA President Infantino tells Peter Schmeichel Show on RT

Schmeichel told reporters about his experiences in touring the 2018 World Cup host cities. “I am really looking forward to the party that… football will bring to these stadiums, and it adds to the library of all experiences I’ve ever had.”

A sports mood is always there, as is the anticipation of the tournament, “so you can feel that now it’s coming,” the ‘Great Dane’ said.

Saransk is the smallest of the World Cup host cities, and its Mordovia Arena is located upon the Insar River. The stadium’s design is based on the theme of a red sun, which is also featured on the flag of the Republic of Mordovia, the capital of which is Saransk. The arena will host group stage games.

At the end of the event, Schmeichel was invited to takes some kicks against a robot goalkeeper and did well. He said he figured out how the robot works and decided to aim at the upper right corner of the goal, which is the weak spot.

Earlier, Schmeichel explored Nizhny Novgorod, where he test-drove Russian four-wheel trucks, as well as Kazan, another host city where he made a traditional dessert and attended a wedding.

Denmark goalkeeping great Peter Schmeichel, who has embarked on RT’s World Cup 2018 special coverage, previously said Russia’s stadiums are top-notch and urged people to “relax a little bit” about criticism by Western media.

“Even though I played at the World Cup myself, this is going to be much more exciting to me,” Schmeichel told RT in March.
Schmeichel, who made 129 appearances for his country, said “I wish football stadiums [had been] like these when I played.”
“They’re brilliant, you get an idea about how the atmosphere will be.”

“Once [the tournament] starts, you know, [I feel] all the emotions of having my country there, and my son playing there, so [it is] really special for me,” he said, referring to his son Kasper, who will be in goal for Denmark in Russia this summer. 

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The only right way is his way? RT scrutinizes the legality of Trump’s Syria missile strike (VIDEO)

What happens when the UN is brushed aside, congressional approval is missing, and your closest allies try to stay away? A missile strike. RT takes a closer look at the (il)legality of Trump’s bombing of Syria.

RT correspondent Igor Zhdanov scrutinized the inconvenient details surrounding the latest missile strike on Syria, which took place early on Saturday. His report will touch upon how the Trump administration used questionable “open sources” while preparing the air invasion, and why most of America’s closest allies preferred to distance themselves from the military action while formally supporting it.

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India’s rape crisis: New assault case emerges amid sex assault protests and hunger strike

With pressure mounting on India’s government over investigations into the gang rape of an 8-year-old girl, another brutal sexual assault and murder case is highlighting violence against minors and women in the country.

Last week, protesters took to the streets of Jammu and New Delhi over the death of Asifa Bano, an 8-year-old girl reportedly gang raped and murdered in the Kathua district last January. The killing has caused outrage in parts of the country, with eight men including a former revenue official and a police officer arrested over the brutal assault and murder.

READ MORE: Indian government holds back on ‘fake news’ crackdown

The length of the investigation as well as reports that ministers from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party attended a Hindu Ekta Manch rally supporting the suspects has inflamed tensions.

The president of the Delhi Commission for Women, Swati Maliwal, has gone on hunger strike in an effort to bring about stricter punishments and death sentences for those who commit rape and murder.

“I will not break my fast till the PM ensures better safety for the women in this country,” she said, the Indian Express reported.

Now police in the western city of Gujarat say they have begun another investigation into a rape of a child that occurred on April 5. The case involves an 11-year-old girl, who was found dead at the side of a highway on April 6, Reuters reported.

READ MORE: India plans to tax millionaires leaving the country permanently

“The body was recovered was on April 6… and according to a post mortem report, the girl was sexually assaulted and murdered on April 5,” Gujarat Police Commissioner Satish Sharma told Reuters.

“We have put our best teams in place with all senior police officials. To nab the criminals we first need to identify the body,” he added.

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Mapping international buyers of Russian agricultural equipment

Exports of Russian-made agricultural machinery and equipment have been growing slowly but steadily in recent years. Russia’s farming machinery has reportedly managed to win 47 international markets so far.

The latest data from the country’s Trade Ministry shows that exports of agricultural machinery and equipment from Russia increased by 3.5 percent within the first quarter of the current year against the same period a year ago.

In 2017, exports grew by 16 percent compared to the previous year, which saw massive growth of 36 percent against 2015, according to the estimates published by the industry journal Agrobusiness.

The data shows that last year exports of farming machinery and equipment to Mongolia grew more than six-fold, while Armenia imported six-and-a-half times more from Russia compared to the previous year. Exports to Canada and Bulgaria have nearly tripled. Hungary imported 2.7 times more agricultural equipment, while exports to the Netherlands have doubled. Poland and Slovakia boosted imports by 78 percent and 73 percent, respectively, with imports to Uzbekistan and Moldavia increasing by 68 and 58 percent.

Among the key agricultural products are tractors, the exports of which reportedly surged by 63 percent, and equipment for post-harvest care that saw a 50 percent increase. At the same time, exports of cultivating machines and sowing equipment grew by 30 percent and 24 percent respectively.

The growth was reportedly triggered by significant quality improvement of farming equipment and extending production range. Russian manufacturers also started selling farming machinery to South American, southern African and Middle East countries.

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‘Attorney-client privilege a thing of the past’ – Trump blasts FBI in latest Twitter tirade

US President Donald Trump has taken a break from this weekend’s bombing of Syria to once again decry the federal investigation into one of his many, many lawyers, whose offices were raided earlier this week.

Trump made the remarks in reference to the FBI raids on the offices of attorney Michael Cohen on Tuesday. Many of Cohen’s private business records and correspondences were seized in the raid, ostensibly launched under the guise of a bank fraud investigation.

“Attorney Client privilege is now a thing of the past. I have many (too many!) lawyers and they are probably wondering when their offices, and even homes, are going to be raided with everything, including their phones and computers, taken. All lawyers are deflated and concerned!” Trump wrote.

Earlier in the week, Cohen’s own attorney, Todd Harrison, tried and failed to obtain a temporary restraining order to prevent investigators from sifting through the potentially “thousands of privileged communications.” Harrison was accused by prosecutors of employing delaying tactics, but US District Judge Kimba Wood ordered Cohen to appear in court Monday after three separate hearings on Friday.

In the aftermath of the US-led coalition strikes against Syria in the early hours of Saturday morning, many of Trump’s supporters expressed their sense of betrayal online, while many of his most vocal critics decried the military intervention as a simple case of ‘smoke and mirrors’ to detract from the multitude of domestic scandals, including the Mueller investigation, the FBI raids on Cohen’s offices, and the legal battle over the non-disclosure agreement with Stormy Daniels.

Just as the news cycle was returning to domestic affairs in the US, Trump returned to a few of his recent favorite targets including Hillary Clinton and James Comey, whom he described as a “slimeball” over the course of the past few days, employing his scattershot, stream-of-consciousness approach to social media management.

“Unbelievably, James Comey states that Polls, where Crooked Hillary was leading, were a factor in the handling (stupidly) of the Clinton Email probe. In other words, he was making decisions based on the fact that he thought she was going to win, and he wanted a job. Slimeball!”

Trump’s initial use of the word “slimeball” to describe Comey in a tweet on April 13 triggered a 60,000 percent increase in online queries for the word according to Merriam-Webster, who define the word as meaning, “a morally repulsive or odious person.”

Former FBi Director Comey is due to give his first interview since being unceremoniously fired in May 2017 on Sunday evening. The interview is scheduled to take place just days before Comey’s memoirs are due to be published, which could well add to Trump’s growing list of woes. The full extent of Trump’s ire at Comey’s perceived betrayal was expressed by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders at a press conference held Friday.

“The American people see right through the blatant lies of a self-admitted leaker. This is nothing more than a poorly-executed PR stunt by Comey to desperately rehabilitate his tattered reputation and enrich his own bank account pedalling a book that belongs in the bargain bin of the fiction section,” Sanders told the press pool.

“Instead of being remembered as a dedicated servant in the pursuit of justice like so many of his other colleagues at the FBI, Comey will forever be known as a disgraced partisan hack that broke his sacred trust with the President of the United States, the dedicated agents of the FBI, and the American people he vowed to faithfully serve. One of the president’s greatest achievements will go down as firing director James Comey,” she concluded.

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