10 women killed in Saudi airstrike targeting wedding procession in Yemen – report

The Saudi-led coalition has conducted an airstrike on a wedding procession in Yemen, killing at least 10 women, witnesses and health officials told AP. Riyadh has been much criticized for the conflict’s high civilian death toll.

The incident took place on Sunday as the procession made its way to a village in Marib province, some 170 km from the capital of Sanaa. The bride was among them, though it is not clear whether she was wounded, the Associated Press reports. According to Yemeni rural traditions, a bride and her female friends and relatives march to the wedding ceremony where the groom awaits.

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FILE PHOTO: People walk past a building destroyed during recent fighting in Yemen's southwestern city of Taiz © Anes Mahyoub

The grieving father of two women killed in the raid told Yemeni Almasirah TV channel that it was a “heinous crime”. 

The Saudi-led coalition has been waging a military campaign against Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen since March 2015, in an attempt to put the ousted Yemeni president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi back in power. Since the start of the campaign, the coalition has been accused of killing scores of civilians but it has rarely accepted responsibility.

The casualties in the fighting exceeded 10,000 dead and 40,000 injured in January 2017, according to UN estimates, with civilians making up a large proportion of the victims. Weddings, hotels, schools and residential buildings have repeatedly become targets of the airstrikes.

Earlier in December Human Rights Watch accused Riyadh of plunging Yemen into a humanitarian catastrophe. According to the rights group’s estimates, some 2 million children are acutely malnourished, while nearly 16 million people don’t have access to clean water. 

Also in December, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for an EU-wide embargo on arms sales to Saudi Arabia over the alleged war crimes it has committed in Yemen. The resolution also criticized members selling arms to the Gulf kingdom.

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Pinpoint knockout lays MMA fighter out cold (VIDEO)

This is the moment a right-hand uppercut from Alexandr Shabliy knocks out his opponent, Miroslav Strbak, at the Fight Night Global 82 event in Moscow.

The 24-year-old Shabliy, who recently switched between two Russian MMA promotors, ACB and Fight Nights Global, was making his debut with his new organization on Saturday night.

READ MORE: Perfect knee shot wins KO of the night bonus at ACB 67 in Chechnya (VIDEO)

The talented lightweight from the city of Rostov-on-Don, who has already made a name for himself in Russian MMA, was facing 28-year-old Miroslav Strbak from Slovakia.

After a dominant first round, Shabliy continued to pressure his opponent in the second part of the fight. A right hook sent Strbak to the canvas in the very first minute of the second round, although the Slovak managed to get away from the Russian’s attempt to finish him off.

But when Shabliy unleashed another right hand two minutes later, this time with an uppercut, he caught Strbak square on the chin, sending him into unconsciousness.

Here are few more angles of this moment, including one filmed cageside by his new manager, Rizvan Magomedov of MMA Dominance. Khabib Nurmagomedov, the most famous Russian fighter in the UFC, is also among the others managed by Magomedov.

Shabliy has three more fights on his contract with Fight Nights Global, and is aiming for a shot at their championship belt.

It is not yet known whether Shabliy is planning to continue his career in the UFC after his current contract expires, but considering the fact that he has finished nine of his last ten opponents and lost only one bout by decision, he might become a very good addition to their lightweight division.

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Bitcoin soars above $20,000 mark

The value of bitcoin has shot up to 20,000 US dollars, double the historic 10k mark it hit in late November.

The cryptocurrency has surged in value once again, having doubled its value over the past three weeks and reached over twenty times its worth a year ago.  This is despite a number of crashes along the way, from which it has bounced back dramatically. Bitcoin’s seemingly unstoppable growth has excited investors, all the while some financial experts have continued to warn of a bubble that will inevitably burst.

DETAILS TO FOLLOW

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Journalist reveals how illicit US supplies got busted in Iraq after ending up with ISIS

An EU-funded group of arms experts went to Iraq and Syria to explore Islamic State’s well-oiled manufacturing machine and found out that the US routinely violated arms control clauses, a story published by Wired reveals.

This week the Conflict Armament Research (CAR), a London-based organization partly funded by the European Union, has published a 200-page report that summarizes three years of work done by its field teams in Iraq. CAR experts were documenting what weapons Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group used on battlefields and how exactly it acquired them. In a story published by Wired, writer Brian Castner, a former Explosive Ordnance Disposal officer and veteran of the Iraq War, reports his experience following CAR field expert, Damien Spleeters, as he gathered evidence in the Iraqi city of Tal Afar.

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Islamic State militants © Global Look Press

CAR field research is about finding weapons and weapon components, documenting markings and tell-tale signs like particular shades of paint indicating country of origin and tracing the weapons back to their origin. Serial numbers allowed the group to confirm numerous cases, in which weapons produced by EU members like Romania and Bulgaria and purchased by the US and Saudi Arabia ended up in the hands of IS.

Spleeters was the one who discovered in Tal Afar a batch of dismantled Romanian PG-9 73mm rocket-propelled grenades. The batch was sold to the US in 2014 and later apparently sent to Syria to arm a group called Jaysh Suriyah al-Jadid in violation of clauses forbidding re-export of the weapons. The Romanian government has provided CAR with documents confirming the delivery and the fact that the US signed an end-use certificate. This case along with several others is detailed in the CAR report.

The CAR investigation has also uncovered the scale and ingenuity of IS arms manufacturers, who managed to organize production of “a nation-state’s worth of weapons”, according to Castner. The terrorist group did not simply grab whatever weapons they could, but spurred a complex production network, which repurposed components of weapons made in other countries and complemented them with domestically-produced components to create a range of arms tailored for IS own needs.

“Iraq’s oil fields provided the industrial base–tool-and-die sets, high-end saws, injection-­molding machines–and skilled workers who knew how to quickly fashion intricate parts to spec. Raw materials came from cannibalizing steel pipe and melting down scrap. ISIS engineers forged new fuzes, new rockets and launchers, and new bomblets to be dropped by drones, all assembled using instruction plans drawn up by ISIS officials,” Castner writes.

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© David Mdzinarishvili

The military defeat of IS does not mean the loss of all the know-how – weapon designs, solved engineering problems, industrial processes, blueprints and schematics – which the self-proclaimed caliphate generated over three years. The effort needed to mass-produce arms will only become smaller as technologies like metal 3D-printing are becoming more accessible, he warned.

CAR’s field expert Spleeters has become fascinated with tracing supply chains in modern conflicts started in 2011 in his native Belgium. Working as a reporter, he wanted to understand and report to the public how Belgian-made weapons came into possession of Libyan rebels fighting to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi. He discovered that the only way to get to the bottom of the story was to travel to Libya, which he did in his spare time. Spleeters became a freelance journalist after returning, reporting on arms trafficking for newspapers and think-tanks specializing in tracing arms and joined CAR as a fulltime investigator in 2014.

The expert says field trips are the only way to properly collect evidence necessary to establish the truth. The data collected this way cannot be replicated by analyzing online videos, a method favored by some investigative groups like Bellingcat.

“With all the social media things, when you see ordnance or small arms from afar, you might think, ‘Oh, that’s an M16.’ But if you see it close up, you figure out it’s a CQ-556 rifle from China, a copy of the M16. But you need to be close by to see it,” Castner cites him as saying. Spleeters believes that the camera conceals more than it reveals.

He said the situation in Iraq and Syria was a mess. “Nobody knows what’s going on, and there’s all these conspiracy theories. We live in a post-truth era, where facts don’t matter anymore. And with this work, it’s like you can finally grab onto something that’s true.”

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Milo Yiannopoulos on Net Neutrality: ‘Soros-funded groups are pushing lies’

Controversial right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos has weighed in on the Net Neutrality debate. Yiannopoulos claims that George Soros-funded organizations are telling lies to bring about government control of the internet.

“The Soros-funded organizations that are pushing Net Neutrality and advocating for more government control of the internet have told you two big lies,” Yiannopoulos told an audience in a video posted on his Facebook page.

READ MORE: Net neutrality repeal: ‘Good day for the internet’ or ‘step in the wrong direction’?

The first ‘lie,’ according to Yiannopoulos, is the idea that the internet should be regulated by the government rather than the free market. “It is much better in my view to have customers and private companies negotiate their own relationship and the market decide what it can bear.”

It was revealed in October that Soros has donated $ 18 billion to his Open Society Foundations over the past few years. The organisation has a budget of $ 940.7 million for 2017; $ 14 million of this is designated for Information and Digital Rights.

READ MORE: Soros sheltering $ 18bn that American tax authorities can never touch

Yiannopoulos dismissed the argument that Net Neutrality is about ensuring equality on the internet.

“That has never been the case. Every service provider already shapes traffic, all of the stuff that Net Neutrality is designed to eradicate it never will,” he said, suggesting that internet service providers will always send some data faster than others.

“Net Neutrality is a cosmetic announcement on the one hand but really what it represents is a license for the FCC to wade in and interfere in the relationship between private people and their providers.”

The former Breitbart journalist and self-proclaimed “free speech champion” contended that Net Neutrality is tantamount to government control and bad for the consumer.

“I want the government completely out of that relationship, just leave us to deal with the service providers and if they screw up we’ll sign up with someone else.”

READ MORE: Far-right ‘peasant’ Milo Yiannopoulos called ‘brainwashed sheep’ by Muslim radio caller

The Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal the Obama-era Net Neutrality rules earlier this week amid protests and heavy criticism.

Opponents of the decision say only internet service providers will benefit from the rollback. Tech giants, including Amazon, Facebook and Netflix, are among the most vocal critics of the decision to repeal the rules.

The FCC said the rules would take effect once the White House Office of Management and Budget approved the new transparency rules, which could take several months.

Meanwhile a number of US State Attorney Generals have already expressed their intention to file a lawsuit aimed at blocking the change. Top Democrat Chuck Schumer said Friday that he intends to force a vote on a bill that would preserve existing rules.

A reversal of the FCC vote would need the approval of the House, the Senate and President Donald Trump.

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Milo Yiannopoulos on Net Neutrality: ‘Soros-funded groups are pushing lies’

Controversial right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos has weighed in on the Net Neutrality debate. Yiannopoulos claims that George Soros-funded organizations are telling lies to bring about government control of the internet.

“The Soros-funded organizations that are pushing Net Neutrality and advocating for more government control of the internet have told you two big lies,” Yiannopoulos told an audience in a video posted on his Facebook page.

READ MORE: Net neutrality repeal: ‘Good day for the internet’ or ‘step in the wrong direction’?

The first ‘lie,’ according to Yiannopoulos, is the idea that the internet should be regulated by the government rather than the free market. “It is much better in my view to have customers and private companies negotiate their own relationship and the market decide what it can bear.”

It was revealed in October that Soros has donated $ 18 billion to his Open Society Foundations over the past few years. The organisation has a budget of $ 940.7 million for 2017; $ 14 million of this is designated for Information and Digital Rights.

READ MORE: Soros sheltering $ 18bn that American tax authorities can never touch

Yiannopoulos dismissed the argument that Net Neutrality is about ensuring equality on the internet.

“That has never been the case. Every service provider already shapes traffic, all of the stuff that Net Neutrality is designed to eradicate it never will,” he said, suggesting that internet service providers will always send some data faster than others.

“Net Neutrality is a cosmetic announcement on the one hand but really what it represents is a license for the FCC to wade in and interfere in the relationship between private people and their providers.”

The former Breitbart journalist and self-proclaimed “free speech champion” contended that Net Neutrality is tantamount to government control and bad for the consumer.

“I want the government completely out of that relationship, just leave us to deal with the service providers and if they screw up we’ll sign up with someone else.”

READ MORE: Far-right ‘peasant’ Milo Yiannopoulos called ‘brainwashed sheep’ by Muslim radio caller

The Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal the Obama-era Net Neutrality rules earlier this week amid protests and heavy criticism.

Opponents of the decision say only internet service providers will benefit from the rollback. Tech giants, including Amazon, Facebook and Netflix, are among the most vocal critics of the decision to repeal the rules.

The FCC said the rules would take effect once the White House Office of Management and Budget approved the new transparency rules, which could take several months.

Meanwhile a number of US State Attorney Generals have already expressed their intention to file a lawsuit aimed at blocking the change. Top Democrat Chuck Schumer said Friday that he intends to force a vote on a bill that would preserve existing rules.

A reversal of the FCC vote would need the approval of the House, the Senate and President Donald Trump.

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Thou shalt not report fakes: Pope Francis says bias & disinformation ‘a grave sin’

Sensationalism is a grave sin, Pope Francis has warned. News should encourage a healthy critical sense, the pontiff said, in an attack on media bias which implied that tittle-tattle is as deadly as lust, sloth and gluttony.

“We must not fall prey to the ‘sins of communication’: disinformation – that is, giving just one side of the argument – slander, which is sensationalistic, or defamation, looking for outdated and old things, and bringing them to light today,” the pontiff said, addressing members of the Italian Periodical Press Union on Saturday. 

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Pope Francis © Stefano Rellandini

So doing constitutes a “grave sin” which damages “the heart of the journalist” and harms people, the Pope said, adding that journalists have a very important mission which is to inform correctly and to offer everyone “a version of the facts conforming as closely as possible to reality.” And now media is often dominated “by the drive for sensationalism” and “overheating of emotion” rather than “thoughtful reflection.”

The world needs “reliable information, with verified data and news, which does not aim to amaze and excite, but rather to make readers develop a healthy critical sense, enabling them to ask themselves appropriate questions and reach justified conclusions.”

Well, in other words that means – question more, doesn’t it?

Pope Francis has become extremely popular for his open-minded speeches and unconventional deeds, which sometimes border on revolutionary. Earlier in December he called upon the Roman Catholic Church to adjust the translation of the phrase on temptation in the most famous Christian prayer, ‘Our Father’, also known as ‘The Lord’s Prayer’.

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Investors won't dump gold for bitcoin – Goldman Sachs

Gold and bitcoin buyers are different groups of people, according to Jeffrey Currie, the global head of commodities research at Goldman Sachs.

“In our view, bitcoin is attracting more speculative inflows relative to gold,” Currie said in an interview with the Financial Times.

According to the analyst, gold ETF holdings are at their highest level for over four years, and there is “no evidence of a mass exodus from gold.”

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© Dado Ruvic

While bitcoin’s lack of liquidity and high volatility is a good investment for day traders, the same characteristics do not attract the long-term investors, who enjoy the stability of gold, Currie said.

Currie’s comment comes as Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein said he can see a world in which bitcoin is a form of currency.

“I read a lot of history, and I know that once upon a time, a coin was worth $ 5 if it had $ 5 worth of gold in it. Now we have paper that is just backed by fiat…Maybe in the new world, something gets backed by consensus,” he told Bloomberg.

Despite JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon’s remarks that he would fire any trader selling bitcoin, Goldman’s chief is less critical.

“I don’t have an investment in it, but I’m not willing to pooh-pooh it, and that’s why I say I’m open to it,” said Blankfein.

Another major bank – Credit Suisse – has called bitcoin a speculative bubble. 

“From what we can identify, the only reason today to buy or sell bitcoin is to make money, which is the very definition of speculation and the very definition of a bubble,” said Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam.

Such speculation “rarely led to a happy end” throughout history, he added.

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‘Crime Minister’: Thousands rally in Tel Aviv demanding Netanyahu quit over corruption scandal

Thousands of Israelis marched in Tel Aviv, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following corruption allegations. Protesters chanted “Bibi is an embarrassment” and held signs reading “Crime Minister.”

Some 10,000 anti-corruption protesters joined the so-called ‘March of Shame’ on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard for a third consecutive week, Ynet news reported. People were heard chanting “Bibi is an embarrassment” using Netanyahu’s nickname. Many held signs bearing slogans like “Corrupted, we’re fed up with you,” or “Corrupted, go home” or “Sweeping out the corrupted.”

“We love this country,” Amos Levy, a Tel Aviv resident who attended the protest with his 6-year-old son, told Jerusalem Post. “That is why we can’t let corruption continue and why we can’t let our leaders continue to lie to us.” 

Similar protests against Netanyahu and corruption took place in several cities across the country including Jerusalem, Haifa, Modiin, Ashkelon and Ashdod.

Netanyahu is embroiled into two separate corruption investigations. The first centers on him allegedly accepting gifts worth tens of thousands of dollars from billionaire Arnon Milchan. While Netanyahu firmly denies any wrongdoing, he reportedly acknowledged having done Milchan’s bidding to then-US Secretary of State John Kerry. The second probe revolves around his alleged attempt to strike a deal with the influential Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper for better coverage. 

At the same time the PM’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, faces fraud charges over allegedly wasting $ 100,000 of public funds.

On Friday, Netanyahu was questioned for the seventh time over the corruption scandal. He later took to social media to say that all accusations against him were groundless.  “There is nothing new under the sun. This time, too, I answered all the questions, and again I say with absolute certainty: There will be nothing, because there was nothing,” he wrote. 

Meanwhile, violent clashes continue to rock East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza in the wake of Trump’s announcement earlier in December that the US will move its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem. The decision caused outrage throughout the world and all other members of the UN Security Council have condemned the move for undermining the ongoing peace process.

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Dutch company of 'the 17th-century bitcoin' era would be worth $8tn in today's money

Some analysts say bitcoin is now bigger than the Dutch Tulip Mania. New figures show the Dutch East India Company, which flourished during the first economic bubble, was bigger than all 20 of the world’s biggest companies today.

At the peak of the Tulip Mania in 1636–1637, the Dutch East India Company (VOC in Dutch) was worth 78 million Dutch guilders, or astounding $ 7.9 trillion in modern dollars, according to Visual Capitalist.

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© Fayaz Kabli

Its value can be compared to the cumulative market capitalization of 20 of the world’s largest companies, such as Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, ExxonMobil, Berkshire Hathaway, Tencent, and Wells Fargo.

It also equals the combined gross domestic products of modern-day Japan ($ 4.8 trillion) and Germany ($ 3.4 trillion).

The VOC was founded in 1602 and dissolved in the aftermath of the Fourth Anglo-Dutch war in 1799.

The list of the most valuable companies of all time also includes the Mississippi Company, whose value soared to $ 6.5 trillion in today’s dollar in 1720. The same year, the South Seas company was worth $ 4.3 trillion.

The largest company in the 21st century is Saudi Aramco at $ 4.1 trillion, based on calculations by University of Texas finance professor Sheridan Titman in 2010, and adjusted for inflation.

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