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Invasion: China to invest $15bn in Ukraine housing and infrastructure

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© RIA Novosti / Alexandr Kryazhev
China is going to provide Ukraine with $15 billion in loans over 15 years to support construction of affordable housing, said Ukraine's Ministry of Regional Development. The interest rate will be minimal and the loan could be extended.

"The Chinese CITIC Construction Co., Ltd is ready to invest $15 billion in Ukraine's construction market, which will help solve the problem of affordable housing in the country..." the ministry said Thursday in a statement.

The project is aimed at meeting the country's public housing policy, of forming a social housing fund and building affordable homes and improving the infrastructure.

Ukraine will implement a pilot $1 billion project to build affordable housing where CITIC will act as the general contractor.

Comment: Uh oh, China invading Ukraine.


Airplane

Germanwings co-pilot had 'medical excuse' on day of crash

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© Reuters / Wolfgang Rattay
Candles and flowers are placed outside the Germanwings headquarters in Cologne Bonn airport March 27, 2015.
Police have found a torn sick leave note for the date of the crashed Germanwings flight in the home of Andreas Lubitz, suspected of voluntarily bringing the plane down, Dusseldorf prosecutors say.

Prosecutors believe Lubitz could have been concealing his illness from the company.

"Documents with medical contents were confiscated that point towards an existing illness and corresponding treatment by doctors," said the Prosecutors' Office in Dusseldorf, Reuters reports.

"The fact there are sick notes saying he was unable to work, among other things, that were found torn up, which were recent and even from the day of the crime, support the assumption based on the preliminary examination that the deceased hid his illness from his employer and his professional colleagues," it said.

It was not specified what medical condition exactly prompted Lubutz's doctor to issue him a medical certificate.

Attention

Netherlands suffers major power outage

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© Reuters / Susana Vera
Large areas of the Netherlands have been left without electricity. The north of the country has been mainly affected, with the Dutch electricity network operator saying the outage has been caused by a power grid overload.

The capital Amsterdam has been hit, along with the area around Schiphol Airport. Twitter has reported that some hospitals in Amsterdam have been left without power, while the tram and metro networks are also not running in the capital. Thousands of people have been stuck on public transport because the doors will not open as they are controlled electronically.

Stop

What's going on? Amsterdam major power outage cancels flights at Schiphol Airport

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All flights to and from Amsterdam's Schiphol airport were cancelled on Friday following a major power outage in the Dutch capital and surrounding region, an airport spokeswoman said.

She said all incoming flights to Europe's fourth largest airport were being diverted to other regional airports. "We are experiencing a lot of problems due to the outage," she said.


Frankfurt airport operator Fraport said two flights due to depart for Amsterdam were delayed until further notice. A spokesman said the operator had not yet had any requests to take diversions from Schiphol.

The power cut hit the Dutch capital Amsterdam and surrounding areas on Friday, as Dutch grid operator TenneT reported an overload on its power lines.

The ANP news agency said the outage, which covered large parts of the province of North Holland including the nearby broadcasting centre of Hilversum, was caused by a fault at a high-voltage electricity substation in the Amsterdam suburb of Diemen.

Comment: This major power outage brings up several possible causes:


Ambulance

Explosion rocks Manhattan - people trapped in collapsed and burning building

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© Scott Westerfeld
As many as 30 people are injured in Manhattan's East Village after an explosion and partial building collapse.

Flames are shooting high into the sky from two buildings as the New York Fire Department attempts to prevent the fire from spreading to other structures.

So far, up to 30 people were hurt in the collapse, law enforcement officials told the New York Post.

The raging fire has been upgraded to a four-alarm call at the mixed-occupancy building that the fire department called "a major building collapse" in a tweet. There are 25 units in the building, according to the New York Times, and 100 firefighters were immediately dispatched to the scene.

At least one person was removed from the area on a stretcher, WABC reported, noting that the building appeared to be a total loss.

The "smoke is overwhelming" at the scene, Allie Yang tweeted. In a follow-up tweet, she said that the fire department is closing of the area around 7th St and 2nd Avenue.


Eye 1

Human rights organization worried about French surveillance that would give state NSA-like powers

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© Reuters / Pascal Rossignol
Leading human rights organizations have expressed alarm at a bill going to the French parliament on Friday that grants expansive new powers to the country's surveillance agencies.

The new law would give French spy agencies the power to hack into computers and spy on anyone linked to a "terrorist" inquiry - without having to obtain a judicial warrant first.

The bill allows the government to authorize all forms of surveillance without having to get the approval of a court first. This increases the risk of abuse and represents a serious threat to the privacy of ordinary citizens, as well as to professionals such as journalists and human rights organizations who rely on confidential sources.

The State Council would decide what measures the intelligence agencies could use and would also allow the prime minister to order the interception of communications outside France.

Comment: You'd think the French would have learned a thing or two from seeing the U.S. descend into a paranoid surveillance state, but apparently not. It remains to be seen how willing the French people are to give their freedoms like Americans have.


Cult

Church puts up sign linking equal rights with Satan

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© Facebook
Tennessee pastor said this week that his church was "not trying to offend anyone" when it put up a sign linking "equal rights" to Satan.

Members of the community expressed outrage over the weekend after photos of marquee outside the Knoxville Baptist Tabernacle Church were circulated online. The sign read, "Remember, Satan was the first to demand equal rights."

"Who was your target audience? Who were you speaking to when you put it up there?" Knoxville resident Rick Staples, asked, according to WBIR. "And when you say you're asking for your equal rights, who's asking for their equal rights and who are you comparing to Satan? That was very strong language."

Andy Henry said that the church was trying to make a statement about gay rights.

"It's clearly a sign that was meant to offend a particular community - the LGBT community. Because of (the church's) lack of foresight, they ended up offending everybody who had ever fought for equality or civil rights in general," Henry observed.

Handcuffs

National Guardsman indicted for child pornography

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© Dakota County Sheriff's Office
A Minnesota National Guardsman allegedly used multiple digital devices and social media accounts to repeatedly seek out teenage girls, engage them in sex chats and solicit them for sexually explicit photographs, the Justice Department said Wednesday.

The Guardsman, Andrew Schiller, 28, was indicted on one count of Production of Child Pornography by the Justice Department last week, the agency said in a statement. The investigation began when the mother of a teenage girl reported that she had found inappropriate comments between her 14-year-old daughter and Schiller on Facebook. Further investigation found Schiller had tried repeatedly to engage in "sexually explicit conduct online," and sometimes succeeded with multiple female minors, including the unidentified 14-year-old girl.

According to the allegations in the indictment, "between September 23 2013 and January 12, 2014, Schiller contacted a 14 year old girl from Minnesota via Skype," and "during repeated communications with the girl" he asked her to send him sexually explicit images of herself. The victim "sent several images...including at least one sexually explicit image." The indictment found Schiller "spent much of his time during his National Guard duty engaged in the sexual solicitation of minors."

Pistol

Attorney and ex-Philadelphia police officer reveals barbaric police state tactics - 'to neutralize, they shoot suspect 10 times'

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© Reuters/Brad Larrison
Fear, anger, hate, and sometimes a lack of proper training drive police officers to fatally shoot criminal suspects - even if they're armed with a screwdriver or a knife, human rights activist and former Philadelphia officer Grigory Krasovsky told RT.

Krasovsky pointed out that there are "problems in approach of police in encounters with African-American suspects" in the wake of the Department of Justice report that focused on police shootings and the reforms that need to be brought to officer training and the way cases are handled.

Based on police officers' primary training, which involves cases of encounters with violent suspects, "you have to respond to the force that's being used against you by the suspect with commensurate force," lawyer and ex-police officer told RT.

However, what happens is that "police officers are disproportionately using lethal force by discharging their firearms against African-American suspects, who perhaps do not present a lethal threat to them."

He added that police shoot suspects who are armed with only a screwdriver or a knife or a stick, which is wrong because "police could have resolved and disabled the suspect without shooting him, in most cases."

But officer training is not the only issue at stake - so is accountability.

"What the last 20 or 30 years have shown is that any time a police officer uses lethal force and shoots or kills a suspect, even if he's wrong, chances are nothing will happen to him, and he will receive what we call "a slap on the wrist," he said.

Comment: Conclusion: The police serve no public interest and are a far greater danger to the general public than criminals. Left unchecked, they will become more bold, more violent and continue unconstrained.


Stock Up

Russian ruble hits 2015 high as oil prices climb

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© RIA Novosti / Ramil Sitdikov
The Russian currency is seemingly making a comeback, improving more than 3.6 percent in 2 days to bring the ruble to a 3-month high. The climb is attributed to a slight increase in oil prices as well as the approaching tax season.

At 5:05pm in Moscow, the ruble had gained 1.8 percent against the dollar at 56.78, and 1.35 percent stronger at 62.24 versus the euro. On Tuesday the ruble gained 2 percent against the dollar, closing at 57.70.The last time that the ruble strengthened to 57 against the dollar was December 30 of last year. In 2015, it has gained 5.2 percent against the dollar.

Russian companies are likely converting foreign currency into rubles to pay corporate taxes, the largest of which fell due on March 25. The next date to watch is March 30, when companies will have to pay corporate profit tax. Another factor driving up the ruble's value is the fact that the peak debt payment deadlines have passed.

Comment: Crude oil is rising in part by the Yemen offensive being conducted.