Anonymous bomb threats and evacuations continue in Russia, no bombs discovered


Russian authorities said a rash of anonymous bomb threats that have prompted the evacuation of schools, shopping malls, train stations, and other buildings continued on September 18.

Moscow authorities said that some 600 people were evacuated from eight administrative buildings in the capital and that one private company was also evacuated.

In the capital of the Udmurtia region, Izhevsk, authorities evacuated people from two shopping malls and a hotel after receiving a phoned-in bomb threat.

In Cheboksary, capital of the Chuvashia region, a total of 12 buildings, including shopping malls, hotels, and a courthouse, were evacuated.

Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from schools, malls, theaters, universities, hotels, and government buildings in cities across Russia following anonymous bomb threats that began on September 10.

Bombs have not been discovered in any of the cases.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on September 14 that the threats are “telephone terrorism” and that “all necessary measures are being taken” to find the perpetrators.

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US Sanctions Continue to Backfire: China Opens $10 Billion Credit Line for Iran

[9/18/17/ SPUTNIK]  Following the ground-breaking 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between Iran and Russia, the US, China, France, the UK, as well as Germany and the EU, to end its nascent nuclear weapons program, Tehran — in honoring the terms of the unprecedented treaty — has nonetheless seen Washington implement a host of new sanctions against the Middle Eastern country, including asset freezes and limits on global financial transfers.

According to Iranian Central Bank President Valiollah Seif, Chinese state-owned CITIC investment company has opened a $10 billion credit line to several banks in Iran to be used to fund wide-ranging infrastructure projects in the country, according to a report by the Times of Israel.

The significant credit line will primarily use euros and yuan to bypass the US sanctions.

Seif indicated that the $10 billion, alongside an additional previous $15 billion of Chinese investment into other unnamed projects in the country, show “a strong will for continuation of cooperation between the two countries,” according to Pakistan’s media outlet.

China is seen to be opening trade to the region as part of a trillion-dollar “One Belt, One Road” strategy to increase ties to Africa and Europe. China is the biggest recipient of Iranian oil, and accounts for almost a third of Tehran’s overall trade.

In pledges to significantly increase trade with Iran, Beijing previously opened two credit lines equalling $4.2 billion, to build high-speed railway lines between Tehran and the cities of Mashhad and Isfahan, according to the Iran Daily, hot on the heels of an €8 billion credit agreement between Tehran and Seoul’s Exim bank signed in August.

While western banks remain cautious, particularly as Washington has imposed what many consider to be unnecessary financial blocks on Tehran, negotiations are progressing between banks in Austria, Denmark and Germany to provide a $22 billion credit line to Iran.

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Re: 48 years since the Al-Aqsa Mosque fire crimes continue

Forty-eight years ago, on 21 August 1969, Palestinians and Muslims in all parts of the world woke up to realise that a new Israeli crime had been committed against the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The burning of Al-Aqsa began when the Australian extremist, Denis Michael Rohan, broke into the mosque from the Moroccan Gate and set fire to the Al-Qibli Chapel.

The fire broke out in the eastern annex of the chapel located in the southern side of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The fire damaged the ceilings, carpets, rare decorations and all its contents including copies of the Qur’an, books and furniture. The building was dramatically damaged and it took years to reconstruct and restore it.

The fire consumed the historical pulpit of the mosque, which was brought by Salah Al-Din Al-Ayyubi from the city of Aleppo in Syria when Muslims restored the city of Jerusalem in 1187. It turned out afterwards that the highly flammable substance was dispensed both from the inside and the outside of the Al-Qibli Chapel.

While the Palestinians rushed to stop the fire Israeli authorities cut the water supply from Al-Qibli Chapel and its surroundings and was reluctant to send fire engines.

Israeli authorities claimed that the fire was caused by an electrical fault, however Arab engineers proved it was done on purpose and forced Tel Aviv to reveal that a young Australian man was responsible for the fire and say that he would be brought to trial. It was not long before the young man was arrested, labelled a “maniac,” and was then released.

Read: Israel’s worthless price tag for the Aqsa uprising

Since the mosque was set on fire human rights activists and organisations have confirmed that crimes against Al-Aqsa are still being carried out and that the event was just one episode among many others in a war that the Israeli authorities have declared against the mosque. Their aim is to isolate it both geographically and historically so that they can construct their so-called “temple” in its place.

Rights groups stress that setting fire to the mosque “cannot be compared to the magnitude of the silent crimes that daily target the reality of Jerusalem today and the degree of change the occupation has imposed upon Al-Aqsa Mosque since then”.

Violations continue in the form of raids, digging tunnels, attacks, arrests and confiscation of rights from rightful owners, and even hampering the renovation works at the Dome of the Rock.

Seventy-four-year-old Mahmoud Abu Ghazaleh, an eyewitness, said that the residents of Jerusalem had rushed to put out the fire after calls were made through the minarets of the city.

He said in an interview with Quds Press yesterday that he performed the dawn prayer at the mosque and had as usual stayed there until late in the morning but then returned after hearing the people inside shouting to find that the fire had already made significant damage.


He pointed out that the occupation implemented measures that significantly hampered the firefighting operations and the expansion of the fire damages, “with highly inflammable substances that facilitated its rapid spread”.

He pointed out that the occupation closed the areas around Al-Aqsa Mosque and hindered the entry of fire engines which rushed from all over Palestine.

He said that what happened 48 years ago “is still repeated in one way or another in the city of Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque”.

Abu Ghazaleh called on the Arab people to wake up and unite against threats to the city of Jerusalem and its holy sites.

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Re: Turkey will continue to work with Jordan to prevent attacks in Jerusalem, says Erdogan

Turkey’s President said on Monday that his country will continue to work with Jordan to prevent the recurrence of attacks and violations of the kind that took place at the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa in occupied in Jerusalem recently, Anadolu has reported. Recep Tayyip Erdogan made his comments during a meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah at the Husseiniya Palace in Amman.

“I am well aware of the sensitivity shown by my dear brother [King Abdullah], specifically regarding Palestine,” explained Erdogan, “and we will continue to support the Jordanian role in protecting the Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem.”

The Turkish leader noted that the Islamic world is going through “difficult days”, and that solidarity must be maintained with greater precision in this sensitive period in which the future is being shaped. “The only way to do that is to increase consultations and strengthen our cooperation mechanisms, and I am confident that today’s meetings will be very useful.”

Read: What is required of Turkey in the latest fight for Al-Aqsa

President Erdogan expressed his happiness at visiting Jordan after 9 years. He extended his thanks for the interest that he and the delegation accompanying him had received.

Thanking King Abdullah on behalf of the Turkish people for his invitation, Erdogan added that the two countries are this year celebrating the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. His hosts’ solidarity with Turkey during last year’s attempted coup is much appreciated, the President added. “Turkey and its people will always stand with the Jordanians,” he insisted.


The Turkish President was in Amman for a one-day visit. He was accompanied by Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Berat Albayrak and Transport, Maritime and Communication Minister Ahmet Arslan.

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Climate scientists continue to sound the alarm: Global warming fueled record temperatures in 2016

The evidence behind global climate change continues to mount, and scientists keep speaking out. Now they hope the world will listen.

The latest international climate report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirms that 2016 was the third consecutive year of record global heat.

On Thursday afternoon the American Meteorological Society published the 27th annual “State of the Climate” report, which verifies last year surpassed 2015 as the hottest since record keeping began in 1880.

Based on preliminary data, NASA and NOOA had made the same assessment back in January, but this week’s report is considered definitive.

“We’re scientists, and we’re providing objective information,” Jessica Blunden, a climate scientist at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., told Yahoo News. “We don’t go into policy, but we provide the information for people who want to go further with that.”

According to the report, the effect of long-term global warming and a powerful El Niño early on pushed 2016 into record-setting warmth. The global average sea level reached a new record high last year as well, to 3.25 inches above the average level in 1993, which marks the beginning of the satellite altimeter record.

Scientists also said that the average Arctic land surface temperature continued to warm and global ice and snow cover continued to decline. Sea ice extents in the Antarctic hit record daily and monthly lows in August and November.

The “State of the Climate” report is based on contributions from nearly 500 scientists from more than 60 countries, using tens of thousands of measurements from several independent data sets. This summary of the global climate confirms data released on Jan. 18 based on analyses from scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York.

Blunden said the use of additional independent data sets distinguishes this report from what came before.

“The big difference in this report is we don’t just look at NOAA data. There are about four different independent data sets we looked at to come to this conclusion,” Blunden told Yahoo News. “It’s not just NOAA who is agreeing with it. NASA, the U.K. Met Office and the Japan Meteorological Agency are agreeing.”

Since the previous data was released mere days before President Trump’s inauguration, this peer-reviewed report is the most thorough assessment of climate change officially released during the Trump era.

Deke Arndt, chief of the climate-monitoring branch at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, described the report as diagnostic when asked if anyone from the White House had weighed in on it or questioned its findings.

“This report is a diagnostic report. It basically diagnoses what is happening in the climate system,” Arndt said on a conference call. “It’s intended to provide intelligence to those sort of decision makers that you’re talking about.”

Concentrations of major greenhouse gases in the atmosphere also reached to new highs in 2016. For instance, the global average concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary driver of anthropogenic climate change, in the atmosphere reached 402.9 parts per million (ppm). This was the first time on record that CO2 concentration exceeded 400 ppm. The consensus of climate scientists is that the maximum safe level is 350.

Read more from Yahoo News:

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Wildfires Continue to Destroy Land, Force Evacuations in Western U.S.

A dangerous combination of wildfires and heat are fanning flames across a region already in a critical state. More than a dozen fires are burning in California alone.

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Protests Against Police Brutality Continue In US


Protests continue against police brutality in the United States, two days after a white police officer was acquitted of killing an African-American man in Saint Paul, Minnesota, last year.

Hundreds of people gathered in New York City on Saturday to demand justice for Philando Castile who was killed by Officer Jeronimo Yanez inside his car as he tried to reach for his driver’s license during a traffic stop near St. Paul in July 2016.

The protest rally started in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan and continued to Trump Tower. The protesters condemned police brutality against African-Americans and other minorities and chanted “Black Lives Matter.”

On Friday, a jury said after five days of deliberation that Yanez had acted reasonably and was not guilty. He was also cleared of two lesser charges regarding the case.

Prosecutors argued that the cop had overreacted and was guilty of second-degree manslaughter, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Yanez defended his actions, arguing that he shot Castile because he had a gun and that he only reacted after the suspect reached for his gun in his pocket despite being warned not to do so. He also accused Castile of being influenced by drugs.

Yanez was cleared of all charges relating to the death of the 32-year-old Castile on Friday.

A similar rally was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Saturday, for a second consecutive day to protest against the court verdict. Police clashed with the peaceful protesters and arrested several of them.

US Senator Al Franken of Minnesota on Saturday said Castile did not deserve to die.

“Whatever one’s opinion of the outcome of this case, we must come together and take concrete action to reckon with and dismantle the systemic racial inequalities that lead to far too many of these deaths,” Franken wrote on Facebook.

Protesters shut down highway 94 on June 16, 2017 in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by AFP)
US police have been under harsh criticism over fatal shootings of and brutality against several African Americans in recent years.

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Israeli Invasions Into Al-Aqsa Mosque Continue, Resulting In Injuries And Abductions

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Filmmaker Rob Stewart fought to protect sharks, and now we must continue his work

Lush Cosmetics and Humane Society International support the important ocean conservation work pioneered by the 37-year-old creator of ‘Sharkwater’ who died earlier this year.

On Tuesday evening, just ahead of World Oceans Day, an interesting mix of animal rights activists, green beauty fans, and saddened friends gathered at the Lush Cosmetics store on Queen Street in Toronto. It was an event to honor the life and work of Canadian filmmaker Rob Stewart, who tragically died this past January at the age of 37 while making his third documentary about sharks.

Stewart’s initial award-winning film, Sharkwater, launched a global shark protection movement in 2007. It challenged the assumption that sharks are dangerous and urged viewers to see them as vital and vulnerable. Outside Online described it in an article earlier this year:

Sharkwater explains how the ocean’s apex predator has driven the evolution of marine species for over 400 million years and plays a pivotal role in climate stabilization (by feeding on species that eat plankton, which transform carbon dioxide into oxygen). It was a visually striking portrayal: early on in the film, Stewart kneels on the sea floor, petting sharks swirling around and nuzzling him.

Sharkwater, and the ‘fin-free’ campaign that grew out of it, was a main driver behind shark fin soup bans, China’s decision not to serve shark fin soup at state dinners, and various companies’ (Air Canada, UPS, DHL, etc.) policies against transporting shark fins. Seventeen municipalities in Canada and numerous U.S. states have banned shark fin trading, but it continues to be a huge problem. In 2016 alone, Canada imported 140,000 kg / 309,000 lbs of shark fins. From the Humane Society website:

“Shark finning, which is the act of cutting fins from sharks and throwing the animals back into the water to die slowly, continues to occur at an alarming rate, affecting tens of millions of sharks per year.”

When Stewart learned of more illegal shark-trading happening in Cape Verde last fall, he embarked on another film, Sharkwater: Extinction. He was halfway through filming when he died.

Lush has worked closely with Stewart for years, helping to promote his ocean conservation message through the sale of its ‘shark fin soap.’ In 2014-15, the company raised nearly $500,000 for environmental groups working on shark protection. Today, on World Oceans Day, Lush will re-launch the product in all North American stores and donate 100% of proceeds to a foundation created by Stewart’s parents in his memory. Lush will continue to sell the soap until it has raised $250,000.

Lush shark fin soap© K Martinko

At the event hosted by Lush, Gabriel Wildgen of Humane Society International (HSI) spoke movingly of Stewart’s legacy:

“He taught us that these animals are not monsters, and that they have far more to fear from us than we do from them… Over 10 years ago, virtually no one knew what shark finning was. Sharkwater put that issue on the map. [HSI] has shown it to politicians, to students, to members of the public, to journalists, getting the word out. Now you’d be hard-pressed to find a politician anywhere who isn’t fully aware of the problems of sharkfinning and that something needs to be done about it.”

Wildgen urged people to take action to protect sharks. In Canada, you can support Bill S-238, put forward by Conservative senator Michael McDonald, which would ban the importation of shark fins. In the U.S., there is similar bipartisan legislation in the Senate right now.

But, as Wildgen pointed out, we don’t need to wait for Senator McDonald’s bill. The federal government has the power to pass regulations that could end the trade of shark fin products immediately, but it needs to know that Canadians still care about this issue.

Stewart's parents© K Martinko — Brian and Sandy Stewart, Rob’s parents, have pledged to finish his film and continue working to protect sharks.

The rousing message from Lush, the Humane Society, and Rob Stewart’s parents and film team is, get involved. Watch the film, sign this petition asking Prime Minister Trudeau to act now, and spread the word. Support shark protection organizations either directly or through the purchase of Lush’s shark fin soap.

Meanwhile, Stewart’s friends and family are determined to move forward. As his dive partner Brock Cahill told me emotionally, “Rob is directing from afar. Amazing things have happened since he died. The things we’ve seen in front of the camera…” He shook his head incredulously.

Brock Cahill, Sharkwater© K Martinko — Stewart’s dive partner, Brock Cahill of Los Angeles, speaks to the audience at Lush.

Rob’s mother Sandy hopes that Sharkwater: Extinction will be finished in time for the Cannes film festival next spring, but if not, it will be released at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2018.

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