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Thu, 13 Aug 2020
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Providing for the future: Despite Covid-19 crisis & falling oil prices, Russia's gold & foreign exchange reserves reach all-time high

gold bar ruble bank notes
© Getty Images / Diy13
In gold and rubles we trust.
The value of Russia's gold and foreign currency holdings has risen by almost $9 billion in a week. This means it's sitting on $600 billion in forex reserves - an all-time record beating August 2008's previous high of $598 billion.

That was just before the global financial crisis, or 'Great Recession', which wreaked havoc worldwide towards the end of the 2000s. Back then, the slush fund started to dwindle rapidly, due to the economic crisis, and lost over $100 billion in value in the following three months.

Comment: Putin is positioning Russia's finances to weather the inevitable economic crunch coming from a world monetary system awash in unpayable debt. It "pays" to pay attention to reality.


Atheists for Trump? David Silverman reacts to Biden naming Harris with 'Are You Serious?' face, saying he might vote red

Silverman meme/K. Harris
© Reuters/Carlos Barria
David Silverman, immortalized meme ‘Are You Serious?’ • Joe Biden's VP pick, Kamala Harris
David Silverman, one of America's most prominent atheists, says he's so troubled by the Democratic Party's radical shift to the left and the mowing down of libertarian principles that he may do the unthinkable: vote Trump.

Silverman's face became a popular online meme after his 2011 stand-off with Bill O'Reilly on Fox News, in which he reacted with a particularly perplexed face to the host's "tide goes in, tide goes out" argument supposedly proving the existence of God. It now appears that Joe Biden's Tuesday pick of the Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) as his running mate has triggered a new major "Are You Serious?" moment for David.

"I'm literally thinking of voting red right now," Silverman tweeted Tuesday, after the news about Harris broke. "I used to say 'I'm so blue I make the sky look red.' I haven't changed. The left has."

Comment: Have the Democrats 'left the left? Some of their true-blue followers are coming to that conclusion. The outrageous mockery and momentum of US politics will determine its hand and the public shall succumb to the consequences no matter the party, ethics or circumstance.


Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai freed on bail as activist Agnes Chow calls her arrest 'political persecution, suppression'

Arrest Jimmy Lai
© Handout
Jimmy Lai was released on bail shortly after midnight on Tuesday following his arrest under the national security law on Monday morning.
Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai Chee-ying was released on police bail shortly after midnight on Tuesday, more than 40 hours after he was arrested for foreign collusion under the new sweeping national security law and had spent part of the day taken in handcuffs to his moored yacht for a search.

He appeared outside Mong Kok Police Station to loud chants of "Support Apple! Support till the end!" from dozens of supporters who jostled with the hordes of waiting media.

He waved and got into his car, which had to move slowly as it was swiftly surrounded by journalists and well-wishers. Lai's bail was set at HK$300,000 (US$38,461), plus a HK$200,000 surety.

Comment: See also:

Hong Kong tycoon Jimmy Lai arrested, accused of 'collusion with foreign forces' under new security law


Epstein's suspected 'madam' claims her conversations with lawyers are illegally recorded

sketch Maxwell
© Reuters/Jane Rosenberg
Courtroom sketch of Ghislaine Maxwell
The British socialite and Jeffrey Epstein's friend and ex-partner faces a mid-2021 trial on six federal charges, which she has pleaded not guilty to. If found guilty, she faces up to 35 years behind bars.

Ghislaine Maxwell's attorneys have claimed that her private Brooklyn jailhouse calls with them are being unlawfully recorded, in violation of New York State laws, according to a newly unveiled filing handed over to a federal judge.

Although her initial jail conditions were even stricter, as she was put on suicide watch following her long-sought arrest in early July, she remains in solitary confinement, in "uniquely onerous conditions", the lawyers claim. "[Maxwell] continues to be surveilled 24 hours a day by security cameras and by multiple prison guards, many of whom do not appear to be regular MDC personnel", the filing released by the media reads.


Music professor threatens to sue university for investigating him over defense of 'racist' composer

Heinrich Schenker

Heinrich Schenker
The University of Northern Texas denies that its investigation into an academic journal accused of racism will chill the academic freedom of faculty.

Timothy Jackson, a distinguished university research professor, is under investigation with other editors at the Journal of Schenkerian Studies. Students and faculty publicly condemned both the editors and the journal for a recent volume that debated the namesake of the journal, the 19th century composer Heinrich Schenker (above).

Jackson is considering legal action against the university, his attorney Michael Allen told The College Fix via email. "Please understand that Professor Jackson," who is currently ill, "is fighting for his life's work right now," and the investigation has had an "immediate and detrimental effect on" the professor's health, Allen said.

He said "at least one individual" has "indicat[ed] they were coerced into signing the petitions that now swirl around the internet denouncing" Jackson and his journal. The lawyer was not more specific about this individual or Jackson's illness.

The controversial volume was a response to a 2019 paper, and later a plenary address, by Hunter College Prof. Philip Ewell in the Society for Music Theory's journal Music Theory Online. Ewell's paper sought to explain the "white racial frame" that is "structural and institutionalized" in the field of music theory.

The black professor argued that Schenker was "an ardent racist and German nationalist" whose ideas exist "to benefit members of the dominant white race of music theory."


Mother of arrested Key West boy suing city, police officers, teacher and school district

florida police arrest child school
© Key West Police Department
Screen shot from Key West Police body cam footage
Lawyers for the mother of a now 10-year-old boy who Key West police officers tried to handcuff in 2018 at his elementary school after he was accused of punching a teacher filed a civil rights lawsuit Tuesday in federal court against the school district, the city, the individual officers involved as well as the teacher and two school officials.

The video of the incident at Gerald Adams Elementary School in Key West received national attention this week after the attorney for the mother, civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump, posted it on his Twitter account Monday morning.

It outraged police critics already angry over the killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old emergency room technician shot and killed in March in her Louisville, Kentucky, home by police serving a no-knock warrant, looking for drugs. No drugs were found in the home.

The video also stoked concerns over how police handled cases involving minors, including the handcuffing of a 6-year-old girl in Orlando at her school in September 2019.


Hong Kong court acquits district councillor of police assault charge; magistrate says officers 'told lie after lie'

Jocelyn Chau.
© Jocelyn Chau, via Facebook
Jocelyn Chau.
A Hong Kong court found Eastern District Councillor Jocelyn Chau and her assistant not guilty of assaulting police on Wednesday, after ruling the officers concerned were "unreliable" witnesses" who "told lie after lie."

Chau, 23, and her 23-year-old male assistant Lao Chak-hin were accused of attacking Constable Hui King-yiu outside North Point's Kiu Kwan Mansion on August 11, 2019. On that day, protests broke out across multiple districts in opposition to a now-axed extradition law. Chau and Lao were reportedly broadcasting live on Facebook near to where some men had assaulted passerby and journalists nearby.

According to local media, Eastern Court Magistrate Stanley Ho said the case was mainly based on testimonies by officer Hui and Senior Inspector Lam King-nin, as the alleged attack was not recorded in the footage submitted to court.

Both Hui and Lam told the court that people were shouting profanities at Chau and Lao, so they decided to stop the duo out of concern for their safety and urged them to leave. But magistrate Ho said the footage showed there was no conflict at the scene, questioning the description given by the officers: "It was like describing another parallel universe," Ho said.

Ho went on to say that the officers were "frivolous" and had appeared to attempt to block Chau's camera. He raised doubts over why the police asked Chau and Lao to leave the scene, rather than intervening in the party that started the conflict.


Metro Nashville council member wants people not wearing a mask to be charged with murder or attempted murder

Sharon Hurt
Metro Nashville At-Large Council Member Sharon Hurt said Wednesday during a virtual meeting of the Joint Public Safety and Health Committee that there should be stronger legislation for those not wearing masks and suggested they be charged with murder or attempted murder.

Hurt said that she works for an organization that, "If they pass the virus, then they are tried for murder or attempted murder."

Hurt thinks the same standard should apply to the general public.

"This person who may very well pass this virus that's out in the air because they're not wearing a mask is basically doing the same thing to someone who contracts it and dies from it," she said.

"Maybe there needs to be stronger legislation to say that if you do not wear a mask, and you subject exposure of this virus to someone else then there will be some stronger penalty as it is in other viruses that are exposed," the council member added.

Hurt's suggestion comes as the Nashville-Davidson County COVID-19 dashboard indicates a recent decline in new daily cases of COVID-19 and a fatality rate of 0.9 percent.


Photos show Ghislaine Maxwell, Jean-Luc Brunel on Epstein's 'Pedo Island'

Ghislaine Maxwell  Jean-Luc Brunel
Ghislaine Maxwell and modeling-agency pal Jean-Luc Brunel are seen together on Epstein's "Pedophile Island."
Bombshell new photos obtained by The Post show Jeffrey Epstein's alleged sex-victim recruiters — Ghislaine Maxwell and modeling-agency pal Jean-Luc Brunel — romping together on the hedge-funder's "Pedophile Island.''

The stunning snaps offer an inside look at the pair's this-close relationship — and a slice of life on Epstein's disturbing paradise-turned-orgy isle.

The cozy pair was caught playfully nuzzling on camera, with Brunel grabbing Maxwell and appearing to jokingly try to kiss her as she covers herself.

In another photo, Maxwell wraps her arms around the laughing talent-agency honcho's waist and buries her head in his stomach.


Yellow Vest

The Belarusian protests are not a 'color revolution' - they're the result of Lukashenko repeating Soviet mistakes

© REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina
Placard depicting Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko outside the Belarusian in Moscow, Russia August 12, 2020
Protests following Sunday's presidential election in Belarus have entered the fourth day. Videos of police brutality spread online and foreign ministries across the world are condemning the actions of the Belarusian police.

While temping to default to the knee-jerk reaction that what's going on in the country is a 'color revolution', claims by President Alexander Lukashenko that the protests are foreign-organized are bunk and should not be taken seriously. The political actions of Belarusians now are legitimate and deserve our attention.

Hundreds of thousands of Belarusians - including what I would categorize as an entire generation of young talent - who are IT workers, engineers, data analysts and others in in-demand fields are regrettably fleeing the country not due to war or conflict, but because of an endemic lack of opportunity that is plaguing the country. No matter where you are in the world, no matter what political system a state has, no matter the level of democratic freedoms, this translates to general frustration and is the source of much of the animosity surrounding this election and its aftershock.

Comment: RT reports on the continued unrest:
Tensions soar in post-election Belarus amid reports of police firing at apartment windows & officers being run over

Four days after its presidential election, Belarus continues to be plagued by clashes between demonstrators and law enforcement, with the latter facing a mounting backlash over the crackdown.

The unrest showed little sign of abating on Wednesday, amid days of protests following incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko's landslide victory in Sunday's election, which the opposition insists was rigged.

In the capital of Minsk and other cities, demonstrators formed so-called 'human solidarity chains' to voice support for the opposition and those who have fallen victim to hamfisted police tactics. Many of those lining up were women.

Protesters in Minsk also attempted to block roads and lit flares.

Despite peaceful protests highlighting the fourth day of post-election turmoil, violence has hardly subsided. A video has emerged purporting to show riot police in Minsk opening fire on an apartment block as they chased protesters on the ground. Witnesses report that officers aimed their weapons at the building's windows after residents sought to help the demonstrators to dodge arrest.

As night approached, clashes erupted with sounds of loud bangs, reportedly from concussion grenades, roaring through the city.

As tensions across the country soared, the authorities said on Wednesday that two traffic police officers were run over in Minsk and Baranovichy, a city of some 180,000 people in western Belarus.

A video of the Minsk incident has been released by the Belarusian Ministry of Internal Affairs. It shows a traffic officer hopping on one foot due his limp before being led away by his companion to receive first aid on the spot. The perpetrator, whose motives are unclear, fled the scene and was arrested later in the day. The officer was taken to hospital.

In a similar incident in Baranovichy, a driver attempted to flee, sparking a frantic car chase after he ran over an officer. Police shot one of the fleeing car's tires after the driver refused to pull over. However, when the traffic police arrived, the suspect had already fled on foot, leaving his vehicle behind. The hunt for the man is currently ongoing.

Two protesters have died and 6,000 have been detained since angry crowds took to the streets across Belarus after the results of Sunday's election showed Lukashenko, who has led the country since 1994, winning 80 percent of the vote. Demonstrators have cried foul play, believing that his main rival and united opposition candidate, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, was robbed of victory.
For more analysis on the situation in Belarus, see: