В Одесі вкотре горів будинок-пам’ятник національного значення

В центрі Одеси сталася пожежа в будинку Русова, який було побудовано в ХІХ столітті як прибутковий будинок і який нині входить до переліку пам‘яток історії та архітектури національного значення.

За даними регіонального управління ДСНС, полум’я охопило підвальне приміщення, перший та другий поверхи лівого крила чотириповерхової будівлі.

«Складність гасіння полягала у відсутності стаціонарних маршових сходин, швидкому розповсюдженні вогню по дерев’яних конструкціях, сильному задимленні», – мовиться в повідомленні Державної служби з надзвичайних ситуацій в Одеській області. До ліквідації пожежі були залучені 12 одиниць техніки. Причина загоряння наразі встановлюється, повідомляє відомство.

Будинок Русова вважається одним із найкрасивіших в Одесі. З 2009 року він пережив щонайменше три масштабні пожежі, взимку минулого року горів двічі. Історичну й архітектурну пам’ятку мали законсервувати, але ці роботи було призупинено.

Інвестором реконструкції історичної будівлі виступала фірма, підконтрольна одеському бізнесмену Руслану Тарпану, якому належить будинок Русова. Нещодавно міська влада Одеси заявила вирішити питання про вилучення будинку Русова у власника в судовому порядку.

Turkey Opens Largest Foreign Military Base in Mogadishu

Turkey’s largest foreign military base in the world opened Saturday in Mogadishu, in a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Somali leaders, top Turkish military officials and diplomats.

Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire and the head of the Turkish military, General Hulusi Akar have jointly inaugurated the 4 square kilometer (1.54 square mile) facility, which holds three military residential complexes, training venues, and sports courts. It had been under construction for the last two years.

General Akar said the base is the biggest sign of how Turkey wants to help Somalia.

“We are committed to help [the] Somali government, and this base will cover the need for building strong Somali National Army. And it is biggest sign showing our relationship.”

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, Prime Minister Khaire highlighted the significance of the training base for his country.

“Today our country goes to the right direction toward development and the re-establishment of Somali Army, capable and ready for the defense of their nations,” said Khaire “This base is part of that on ongoing effort.”

More than 200 Turkish military personnel will train some 1,500 Somali troops at a time, according to Somalia’s defense Ministry. The Somali prime minister said it will manufacture an inclusive united Somali Army.

“This training base has a unique significance for us because it is a concrete step taken toward building an inclusive and integrated Somali National Army,” said Khaire. “My government and our Somali people will not forget this huge help by our Turkish brothers. This academy will help us train more troops.”

The inauguration ceremony was held amid tight security around the base located in the Jaziira coastal area in southern tip of the capital.

Hulusi Akar, the Turkish Army chief said, “the Turkish government would continue to support our Somali brothers until their country becomes militarily stronger.”

Other diplomats who attended the event said the training is part of an international effort to strengthen the Somali National Army to a point where it can take over security responsibilities from African Union troops currently fighting al-Shabab militants. The African Union has said it wants to begin withdrawing troops from Somalia next year.

Prime Minister Khaire said the base also will help to defeat the extremism and the ideology that drives young Somali men into violence and terrorism.

“To defeat terrorism and fight against the poverty, we have keep in mind that building our national security and eliminating corruption is the key,” he said.

Somalia has a significant number of military personal, but they are ill-trained and poorly equipped. Last week, the government repeated its plea for world leaders to lift an international arms embargo.

The U.S. already had deployed dozens of American soldiers to Mogadishu, and their presence marked the first American military forces in Somalia, except for a small unit of counterterrorism advisers, since March 1994.

The United Arab Emirates also has a military facility where they train the Somali Army, which many politicians condemn for taking orders directly from UAE commanders.

“The good news is not only the opening of this training base but also …that when Turkey trains our troops it will also equip them,” said Somali Military Chief, Ahmed Mohamed Jimale.

Al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab is attempting to overthrow the Somali government and install a strict form of Islamic law throughout the country. On Friday, 30 people were killed when al-Shabab militants stormed a Somali military army base in the town of Barire, 47 kilometers southwest of Mogadishu.


Spaniards Divided Over Catalonian Independence Vote

Thousands of demonstrators have gathered in Barcelona to oppose Sunday’s referendum on Catalonian independence from Spain.

Waving Spanish flags, the protesters filled the square in front of Barcelona’s regional government buildings Saturday.

Madrid has declared the vote illegal, and authorities in Spain began sealing off polling stations and confiscating ballots. While the Spanish national government said there would be no Catalonian independence vote, Catalonia’s regional government continued preparations for it.

Hundreds of people supporting the referendum camped out in schools in an attempt to keep them open for Sunday’s vote.

Enric Millo, the highest-ranking Spanish security official in the northeastern region, said Saturday that police had already blockaded half of the more than 2,300 polling stations designated for the referendum vote.

He said Spanish authorities also had dismantled the technology Catalan officials planned on using for voting and counting ballots, which he said would make the referendum “absolutely impossible.”

The president of the Catalan National Assembly appealed directly to the “conscience” of police officers deployed to the polling stations while speaking to reporters Saturday.

“I am aware they have a job to do, that they have their orders and have to carry them out. We are aware of that. But we also know that they have feelings, conscience,” he said.

“So tomorrow, when they carry out their orders they will undoubtedly receive, I hope they keep in mind — during the situations they find themselves in — that these could be their children, their mothers or their nephews, members of their family who just want to be able to  express themselves in freedom.”

Spanish Culture Minister Inigo Mendez de Vigo said Friday that the independence vote would violate Spanish law and that the government would not accept the results.

“We are open to dialogue within the framework of the law. As you would understand, nobody can ask us … to engage in dialogue outside the framework of the law. It’s impossible,” he said. “No European political leader can even consider dealing with an issue that is not in [Spanish] government hands.”

Catalan authorities said they would declare independence from Spain within 48 hours of the vote if residents there chose to secede.

On Friday, Catalan farmers rode tractors through the streets of Barcelona, driving slowly and waving pro-independence flags and banners. The tractors eventually stopped, converging on the regional government building.

At the same time, European Union officials said they would not mediate the dispute between Spain and Catalonia, calling it a matter of Spanish law.

“[It is] a Spanish problem in which we can do little. It’s a problem of respecting Spanish laws that Spaniards have to resolve,” said European Parliament President Antonio Tajani.

European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans called on Europeans to respect the constitution and rule of law in their countries. He said people in the EU need to organize themselves “in accordance with the constitution of that member state.”

“That is the rule of law — you abide by the law and the constitution even if you don’t like it,” he said.

Catalan authorities previously had appealed to the EU for help, saying the Spanish government undermined their democratic values.

Russian Soldier who Killed 3 Comrades Shot Dead

Officials in far east Russia say a soldier who opened fire at other servicemen during drills has been tracked down and killed.

The military says the soldier, who killed three and wounded two other soldiers, offered resistance to arrest and was shot dead early Saturday following a massive manhunt.

During Friday’s incident, the soldier fired his Kalashnikov rifle at his comrades waiting to have target practice at a base outside the town of Belogorsk near the border with China and then fled.

The city administration in Belogorsk says the soldier came from the province of Dagestan in Russia’s North Caucasus.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has sent a commission to investigate the shooting.

China Manufacturing Expands at Fastest Pace in 5 Years

An official survey released Saturday said that China’s factory activity expanded in September at the fastest pace in five years, as the country’s vital manufacturing sector stepped up production to meet strong demand.

The official manufacturing purchasing managers’ index rose to 52.4 in September, up from 51.7 in the previous month and the highest level since April 2012.

The report by the Federation of Logistics & Purchasing said production, new export orders and overall new orders grew at a faster pace for the month.

“The manufacturing sector continues to maintain a steady development trend and the pace is accelerating,” said Zhao Qinghe, senior statistician at the National Bureau of Statistics, which released the data. Zhao noted that the report found both domestic and global demand have improved.

However, in a separate report, the private Caixin/Markit manufacturing PMI slipped to 51.0 from 51.6, as factories reported that production and new orders expanded at slower rates last month.

Both indexes are based on a 100-point scale with 50 dividing expansion from contraction. But the federation’s report is focused more on large, state-owned enterprises while the Caixin survey is weighted to smaller, private companies.

Another official index covering non-manufacturing activity rebounded after two months of contraction, rising to 55.4 last month from 53.4 in August. That indicates momentum is picking up again in China’s service sector.

The reports come ahead of the ruling Communist Party’s twice-a-decade congress set for next month, where top leaders will be reshuffled and authorities will outline economic policies.

Earlier this month, rating agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded China’s credit rating on government borrowing, citing rising debt levels that raise financial risks and could drag on economic growth.

Untangling US Tax System

Nearly all U.S. taxpayers say American tax law, which runs tens of thousands of pages, is an incredibly complicated, annoying mess. And there is no agreement on how to fix the problem. Republicans recently outlined a new effort they say will be clearer, fairer and helpful to the economy. Critics say the Republican plan would cut taxes for the rich and increase the U.S. debt. VOA’s Jim Randle looks at how the system is supposed to work, and what critics say is wrong.

In films ‘Victoria & Abdul’ and ‘American Made,’ Life is Stranger than Fiction

Two films on our radar this week are Stephen Frears’ heartwarming drama Victoria & Abdul about the deep friendship between Queen Victoria and her Indian servant Abdul Karim between 1887 and 1901, and Doug Liman’s American Made about Barry Seal, a 1970s audacious American pilot, who, during the Nicaraguan Crisis worked for the CIA, the DEA and the Colombian cartel. 

As different as these two films are, they are both based on true stories, proving yet again that often life is stranger than fiction. Both films feature intelligent plots and superb acting.

WATCH: Victoria & Abdul, American Made Based on Incredible True Stories

Victoria & Abdul

Stephen Frears’ film Victoria and Abdul, opens in 1887, with the festivities for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, celebrating her 50-year reign. 

Abdul Karim, a young Muslim clerk from Agra, India, is sent to the banquet all the way from India to present the queen with a gift from India, a ceremonial coin. To the dismay of Queen Victoria’s courtiers, the Indian servant strikes a deep friendship with the octogenarian Queen Victoria, defying class and racial boundaries.

According to the movie, Abdul Karim impressed the British sovereign with his depth of spirit and good looks. Soon the unlikely friends became inseparable, discussing philosophy, literature, even Indian cuisine. In a span of 14 years, Abdul Karm became the queen’s confidant and munshi, her teacher, in Urdu.

But the queen’s courtesans and her family, sidelined by Abdul, questioned her sanity and considered her removal.

Historian and author Shrabani Basu based her book of the same title on the queen’s journals in Urdu and on Karim’s private diary. Basu discovered Abdul Karim’s personal diary in possession of Karim’s surviving nephew Abdul Rashid in 2010, over a century after the queen’s death. 

This was the only document on the relationship between royal and servant that survived the wrath of Queen Victoria’s children. Immediately after her death in 1901, the royals evicted Queen Victoria’s munshi, burned everything he had received from the queen and swiftly shipped him and his family to India. In 1909 Abdul Karim died in Agra leaving his diary as his only testimonial of his deep friendship with the empress.

Director Frears offers captivating cinematography while Dame Judi Dench portrays a free-spirited Queen Victoria and Indian actor Ali Fazal embodies a charming and loyal Adbul Karim. 

Though the film does not depict a romantic relationship between the two, it does hint to it. Dench describes the queen’s reaction to Karim: 

“She had a ready eye for somebody good-looking, which he is very, so it was easy to imagine a kind of tired, poor person suddenly looking up and seeing this wonderful good-looking young man. How lovely somebody at last beautiful to look at,” Dench said.

But, author Basu says, “At the heart of this book is a story of friendship, a friendship of two different people from two different specters of this world, one is the Empress of India, one is a clerk from Agra jail, and somewhere they have a bond they find this link and a common space.”

​American Made

American Made, by Bourne Identity filmmaker Doug Liman, offers a satirical look at the political crisis in Nicaragua. 

It shows the involvement of the United States in the revolution during the late 1970s and 1980s through the perspective of pilot Barry Seal, who, for the right price, delivers guns to Nicaragua on behalf of the CIA, and cocaine into the U.S. on behalf of the Colombian cartel. Somewhere in between, Seal also works for the DEA.

Tom Cruise offers an engaging interpretation as Barry Seal, piloting the plane and doing all the stunts throughout the film. Cruise explains what drew him to the character:

“He just couldn’t help himself,” Cruise said. “He just had to live this life. He literally when you are talking about someone living on the edge, he didn’t even realize he was on the edge. He was just living life and not really thinking of necessary ramifications and what’s going to happen.”

As in most of his action film projects, Cruise pushes his boundaries. 

“I don’t make a movie just to make a movie,” he said. “It’s not what interests me. What interests me is the passion of cinema, the passion of storytelling. That’s when it gets very exciting, not just a job. I love this too much.”

Kosovo President: US Will Be Directly Involved in Final Kosovo-Serbia Deal

Kosovo’s president, Hashim Thaci, says U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has pledged that the United States will be directly involved in reaching a final agreement to normalize relations between Kosovo and Serbia. 

Thaci told VOA’s Albanian service after meeting with Pence on Friday at the White House that “Pence will be focused and maximally involved” in reaching a deal between the two countries. 

“I believe that this willingness of the U.S. administration and personally of Vice President Pence is a guarantee for the success of this process,” Thaci said. 

He said he is confident the process will “lead Kosovo into a final agreement of normalization and reconciliation of Kosovo-Serbia relations and would open prospects for Kosovo’s integration into the United Nations.”

A White House statement Friday said Pence “expressed appreciation for Thaci’s leadership, along with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, to advance the EU-facilitated dialog to normalize relations between Kosovo and Serbia.”

The White House said Pence and Thaci “agreed on the importance of advancing reforms to strengthen the rule of law, fight corruption and boost economic growth” and said Pence reaffirmed the “United States’ support for a sovereign, democratic and prosperous Kosovo.”

The White House also encouraged Kosovo to ratify the border demarcation agreement with neighboring Montenegro “to resolve this long-standing issue.”

Thaci told VOA that Pence called on Kosovo to solve the issues as soon as possible. He said Kosovo has “good neighborly relations with Montenegro” and stressed the importance of such ties.

“No one can support you if you build bad relationships with your neighbors. We have a lot of problems with Serbia. We cannot open other problems with our neighbors that could cost us the integration processes” with the European Union, he said.

Thaci said the issue is in the hands of Kosovo’s parliament.

The border agreement was signed in 2015 but has not had sufficient support in Kosovo’s parliament for ratification.

The European Union insists Kosovo must approve the border demarcation deal before its citizens enjoy visa-free travel within Europe.

Montenegro has recognized Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia, but Serbia vehemently opposes it.

VOA’s Albanian service contributed to this report.

США заявили, що не визнають референдуму про незалежність Іракського Курдистану

Сполучені Штати Америки заявили, що не визнають результатів референдуму про незалежність автономного курдського регіону на півночі Іраку, влаштованого 25 вересня.

Як заявив державний секретар США Рекс Тіллерсон, результатам референдуму бракує легітимності. Він також висловив підтримку «єдиному, федеративному, демократичному і квітучому Іракові».

Тіллерсон також закликав усі сторони, включно з сусідами Іраку, відкинути і односторонні дії, і використання сили.

Також 29 вересня президент Франції Емманюель Макрон запропонував допомогу в посередництві між центральним урядом у Багдаді і регіональною владою Іракського Курдистану. Він теж у телефонній розмові з прем’єр-міністром Іраку Хайдаром аль-Абаді закликав усі сторони уникати подальшої ескалації напруженості.

Уряд Іраку вимагає анулювати результати референдуму про незалежність Іракського Курдистану, на якому, як твердять курди, за незалежність проголосували майже 93 відсотки учасників, а явка склала понад 72 відсотки від усіх виборців. Багдад також відкидає будь-які переговори з курдами щодо заявлених результатів цього референдуму, яких вимагає влада курдської автономії.

У своїй позиції уряд Іраку спирається й на офіційне ополчення іракських шиїтів «Сили народної мобілізації». Його загони вже стоять неподалік територій на півночі Іраку, які контролюють курди, й заявляють, що лише чекають на наказ Багдада відновити конституційну владу уряду країни на будь-якій території. При цьому шиїти кажуть, що виступають не проти курдського народу, а лише проти тих, хто «влаштував референдум і розколов Ірак».

За Конституцією Іраку 2005 року, Ірак є федеративною державою, але єдиною автономною одиницею в ній є Курдистанський регіон.

Чільні сенатори США закликали Трампа виконати закон про санкції проти Росії

Двоє чільних сенаторів США від обох провідних політичних партій попередили президента США, що Конгрес буде «енергійно наглядати» за тим, як він буде виконувати новий закон про санкції проти Росії, ухвалений попри його спротив.

Як заявили республіканець Джон МакКейн і демократ Бен Кардін у відкритому листі, Дональд Трамп зобов’язаний засвідчити на найвищому рівні, що будь-які намагання підірвати санкції США Вашингтон не потерпить.

Трамп, який постійно закликає до поліпшення відносин із Росією, критикував законопроект про санкції проти Москви, але неохоче підписав ухвалений Конгресом закон. Цей акт також передбачає законодавче врегулювання санкцій проти Ірану і Північної Кореї, які Трамп підтримує.

При цьому Трамп, підписавши закон, заявив, що Конгрес втрутився в повноваження президента, вимагаючи від нього дотримуватися санкцій і не знімати й не послаблювати їх без згоди Конгресу. Він також дав знати, що може виконувати закон не в повному обсязі.

Серед іншого, закон накладає обмеження на компанії, пов’язані з енергетичними проектами в Росії, і на банки, що фінансують такі проекти. Закон також вимагає від президента повідомляти Конгрес про намір змінювати санкції і залишає за законодавцями право блокувати такі пропоновані зміни.

І МакКейн, і Кардін давно відомі як гучні критики президента Росії Володимира Путіна і політики Кремля, і зовнішньої, і внутрішньої. МакКейн очолює впливовий комітет Сенату у справах силових структур, Кардін є чільним демократом у комітеті Сенату з закордонних відносин.

Russia Charges Opposition Leader for Unsanctioned Protests

Russian police released opposition leader and would-be presidential candidate Alexei Navalny on Friday after several hours in detention.

Police charged Navalny with repeatedly organizing unauthorized rallies, an administrative offense punishable with a fine of up to a 300,000 rubles ($5,200) and compulsory work for up to 200 hours.

“We were finally presented with a charge and released, and the trial will be on October 2 at the Simonovsky Court of Moscow at 15:00 Moscow time,” Navalny’s lawyer, Olga Mikhailova, told Interfax.

Police had stopped Navalny early Friday as he was headed to a campaign rally in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, where at least one other rally leader was also detained — Navalny’s campaign chief, Leonid Volkov. 

“I’m in a police station now and they’re going to accuse me of repeated violation of the procedure for holding a mass event,” Navalny told VOA’s Russian service reporter Danila Galperovich earlier Friday. “It means almost for sure they will arrest me after the court will hear my case. I don’t know when.”

Police in Nizhny Novgorod, about 260 miles (417 kilometers) east of Moscow, had cordoned off the campaign rally site hours before the event was to begin and removed a Navalny campaign tent.

Despite the police actions, hundreds of Navalny’s supporters rallied Friday in the provincial city in protest. Images from social media showed protesters walking on a central street while loud music from an officially sanctioned concert blared nearby. 

Call for reform

Navalny’s detention came as the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights issued a memorandum saying Russian authorities should revise the country’s freedom of assembly law, which, he says, has become more restrictive in recent years.

“As a result, the authorities have rejected a high number of requests to hold public assemblies,” said Commissioner Nils Muiznieks in the published memorandum. “Over the past year, there have been many arrests of people participating in protests, even if they did not behave unlawfully, as well as a growing intolerance toward ‘unauthorized’ events involving small numbers of participants and even of single-person demonstrations. 

“This runs counter to Russia’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and it weakens the guarantees contained in its own Constitution concerning the right to freedom of assembly,” Muiznieks said.

Russia is one of 47 member countries in the Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights organization, but routinely dismisses its criticism.

‘Trend toward deterioration’

Navalny and his anti-corruption campaign team have been harassed and attacked numerous times by police and Kremlin supporters. In April, a man threw a chemical sanitizer in the Russian opposition leader’s face, causing a chemical burn that required eye surgery and left him partially blind.

Navalny supporter Nikolai Lyaskin was reportedly attacked in Moscow this month with an iron pipe.

In an exclusive interview with VOA reporter Galperovich on September 26, Navalny expressed dismay at the repressive trend.  

“We currently see a trend toward deterioration: At first it was fines, then administrative arrests, and now it is fabrication of criminal charges [and] house arrest,” he said.

Navalny said the trend is reminiscent of how Soviet leader Josef Stalin’s Great Purge began in 1937.

“The capabilities of propaganda are mostly exhausted: You turn on the TV, which from morning until night is talking about beautiful North Korea, awful Ukraine, ‘gay’ Europe, et cetera. It is already impossible there [on TV] to fan the flames higher. Therefore, they are using repression to take people off the streets, to intimidate them,” Navalny said.

Challenging Putin

Navalny plans to challenge Vladimir Putin in Russia’s March presidential election, though Putin has made no official announcement to run in a bid to continue his 17 years as leader.

The Russian opposition leader has been campaigning in cities across the country despite the central election commission declaring him ineligible because of a suspended prison sentence. Navalny’s supporters and numerous independent analysts back up his view that the sentence was politically motivated.

The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers on September 21 demanded that Navalny be allowed to take part in the elections and that the fraud case against him and opposition politician Pyotr Ofitserov be re-examined.

In the interview Tuesday with Galperovich, Navalny expressed doubt that Russian authorities would act on the European ministers’ demand.

“I do not think that international structures can affect that much; at least, we have not in recent years seen international structures somehow straightforwardly affecting the internal political situation in Russia,” Navalny said.

But he said the resolution was satisfying nonetheless. “It is probably the best of all possible rulings we could hope for,” he said. “It quite clearly and distinctly shows that, first of all, the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights was not implemented and, secondly, that there is a demand there for my admission to the elections.”

The European Court of Human Rights had demanded Navalny’s 2013 fraud case be retried because it violated the defendant’s right to a fair trial. Russia’s Supreme Court ordered a retrial in July that resulted in the same verdict and a suspended sentence.

США різко обмежили дипперсонал на Кубі після таємничих хвороб дипломатів

Сполучені Штати Америки різко скоротили чисельність дипломатичних працівників у своєму посольстві на Кубі після хвилі таємничих інцидентів зі здоров’ям американців, від яких потерпів 21 працівник.

Як повідомили в Державному департаменті США, посольство в Гавані залишається відкритим і надаватиме термінові послуги, але розгляд візових прохань і видача віз припиняються. Чисельність працівників скоротять приблизно на 60 відсотків, також вказано виїхати з Куби дипломатам, без яких посольство зможе працювати, і членам родин дипломатів.

Також буде видано попередження громадянам США уникати подорожей на Кубу.

За даними посадовців США, проблеми зі здоров’ям американських працівників посольства почалися приблизно рік тому, останній наразі випадок був наприкінці серпня. Нині в посольстві працюють слідчі зі США, зокрема й із Федерального бюро розслідувань, намагаючись встановити, що могло викликати шкоду здоров’ю – втрати слуху, запамороки, шум у вухах, біль у голові, втома чи й проблеми зі сприйняттям.

При цьому про такі труднощі не повідомляв жоден кубинський працівник посольства, хоча на схожі симптоми скаржився один канадський дипломат.

У Вашингтоні не висували Кубі публічних звинувачень у цьому, і те, що Куба допустила для вивчення ситуації працівників ФБР, вважають за ознаку, що уряд країни охочий допомогти.

США також не видворяли кубинських дипломатів, що вважають іще однією вказівкою, що Вашингтон, найімовірніше, не вважає Гавану відповідальною за створення інцидентів.

Але американські посадовці заявляють, що Куба таки відповідальна за захист іноземних дипломатів на своїй землі.

Як заявив державний секретар США Рекс Тіллерсон, чисельність працівників посольства США на Кубі буде скорочена доти, «доки уряд Куби не зможе забезпечити безпеку» американських дипломатів.

На Кубі ж у Міністерстві закордонних справ рішення США назвали поспішливим і заявили, що воно вплине на двосторонні відносини.

США і Куба відновили дипломатичні зв’язки 2015 року після понад п’яти десятиліть розриву. Відтоді на Кубі почало швидко зростати число туристів зі США.

Analysts: Russia May Be Helping Catalonia Secessionists

Catalonia’s secessionists, who are trying to organize an independence vote from Spain on Sunday, may be getting aid from Russia as part of the Kremlin’s ongoing strategy to destabilize the European Union, according to European Union analysts.

Spain’s central government has deployed thousands of police to contain expected disorder. They have threatened local officials who support the referendum with stiff fines and jail. Spain’s constitutional court has declared the pending vote illegal.

Despite what some see as a heavy-handed response by Madrid, the United States and most EU governments have backed Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in his efforts to keep Spain united.

Russian state media have disseminated reports consistently favorable to Catalan independence in a move some analysts consider to be Moscow’s latest attempt to interfere in Western electoral processes.

The Kremlin has taken no public position on the referendum, calling it an “internal” matter for Spain.

Russia’s use of hacked information and dissemination of “fake news,” however, has been detected in recent Western electoral events,  including the 2016 U.S. elections, Britain’s decision to leave the EU, or Brexit, and the just-concluded German elections.

“It’s not that Russia necessarily wants the independence of Catalonia. What it’s principally seeking is to foment divisions to gradually undermine Europe’s democracy and institutions,” said Brett Schaffer, an analyst of the Alliance to Safeguard Democracy, a project supported by the German Marshall Fund, which monitors pro-Kremlin information networks.

The Russian social media outlet Voice of Europe (@V_of_Europe) has run such headlines as “The EU refuses to intervene in Catalonia even as Spain violates basic human rights,” calling Catalonia’s referendum “a time bomb that threatens to destroy the EU.”

The internationally broadcast Russian Television, or RT, alleged on September 20 that a “state of siege” has been imposed on Catalonia and dubbed cruise liners chartered to house additional police agents being deployed to the Catalonia as “Ships of Repression.”

The Russian digital newspaper Vzglyad borrowed a page from the Western media’s treatment of uprisings against Soviet domination in Eastern Europe during the Cold War, with the September 20 headline “Spain brutally suppresses the Catalan Spring.”

Some editorials and Kremlin-sponsored academics took note of how the U.S. and EU neglected to recognize a Russian-sponsored Crimean referendum approving reunification with Russia and compared that with their current indifference toward the Catalan vote.

Catalan secessionist politician Enric Folch, who is international secretary of the Catalan Solidarity Party for Independence, has said on Russian media that a Catalan state would support Moscow in world forums and recognize the independence of territories of Abkhasia and South Ossetia, which separated from Georgia with Russian support.

Folch was a star participant at a Kremlin-sponsored conference of independence movements in Moscow last year.

David Alendete, an investigative reporter with the newspaper El Pais, said the conference was organized by a Russian lawyer who is defending Russian computer hackers arrested in Spain and is wanted by the FBI in connection with the hacking of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential election campaign in the U.S.

Top 5 Songs for Week Ending Sept. 30

We’re liberating the five most popular songs in the Billboard Hot 100 Pop Singles chart, for the week ending September 30, 2017.

Last week featured a rare treat: a Hot Shot Debut single in the Top Five. We’re happy to announce that this week, history repeats itself.

Number 5: Sam Smith “Too Good At Goodbyes”

It happens in fifth place, where Sam Smith re-surfaces.

Sam tallies his sixth Top 20 – and his third Top Five – hit, “Too Good At Goodbyes”. Back home in the U.K., the news is even better, where it becomes Sam’s sixth number one. This is the opening single from his upcoming second album. It’s been three years since he dropped “In The Lonely Hour.” Sam says he wants the album to update us on his love life… which according to him is still terrible.

Number 4: Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee Featuring Justin Bieber “Despacito”

Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, and Justin Bieber aren’t suffering too terribly with “Despacito”: the former 16-week champ weakens a slot in fourth place.

Fans of Daddy Yankee are helping him aid victims of natural disasters. Last week, he went on social media to elicit donations for those devastated by Hurricane Maria in the Caribbean, and the massive earthquake in Mexico. Working with several charities, he collected donations of diapers, batteries, bottled water and other essentials. Daddy Yankee also joined forces with Feeding America, which will bring food donations to 78 municipalities in Puerto Rico.

Number 3: Logic Featuring Alessia Cara & Khalid  “1-800-273-8255”

Logic bumps it up two slots to third place with “1-800-273-8255” featuring Alessia Cara and Khalid.

This is now the highest-charting single in Hot 100 history with a telephone number as its title. Back in 1982, the rock band Tommy Tutone peaked at number four with “867-5309/Jenny.” Actually, no fewer than seven songs bearing phone number titles have made it into the Hot 100.

Number 2: Cardi B “Bodak Yellow (Money Moves)”

Cardi B remains a strong contender at number two with “Bodak Yellow (Money Moves).” 

Cardi recently said she was going to push back her album, originally slated for an October release. Posting on Twitter, rapper J Cole advised her not to pressure herself to release an album…just keep dropping strong singles.

Number 1: Taylor Swift “Look What You Made Me Do”

Taylor Swift stays strong atop the Hot 100 for a third week with “Look What You Made Me Do.”

Did you know Taylor threw a Halloween party last year? Naturally, it drew top celebs: model Gigi Hadid was there along with Camila Cabello, who dressed as a “Grandma Who Couldn’t Find Her Cat Because She Sat On It.”

We’ll find our way to number one next week and we hope you’ll join us.


IMF Chief tells Central Bankers to not Dismiss Bitcoin

Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, has a message for the world’s central bankers: Don’t be Luddites.

Addressing a conference in London on Friday, Lagarde said virtual currencies, which are created and exchanged without the involvement of banks or government, could in time be embraced by countries with unstable currencies or weak domestic institutions.

“In many ways, virtual currencies might just give existing currencies and monetary policy a run for their money,” she said. “The best response by central bankers is to continue running effective monetary policy, while being open to fresh ideas and new demands, as economies evolve.”

The most high-profile of these digital currencies is bitcoin, which like others can be converted to cash when deposited into accounts at prices set in online trading. Its price has been volatile, soaring over recent years but falling sharply earlier this month on reports that China will order all bitcoin exchanges to close and one of the world’s most high-profile investment bankers said bitcoin was a fraud.

For now, Lagarde said, digital currencies are unlikely to replace traditional ones, as they are “too volatile, too risky, too energy intensive and because the underlying technologies are not yet scalable.”

High-profile hacks have also not helped, she noted. One notable failure was that of the Mt. Gox exchange in Japan in February 2014, in which about 850,000 bitcoins were lost, possibly to hackers. Following that, Japan enacted new laws to regulate bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies.

But in time, she argued, technological innovations could address some of the issues that have kept a lid on the appeal of digital currencies.

“Not so long ago, some experts argued that personal computers would never be adopted, and that tablets would only be used as expensive coffee trays, so I think it may not be wise to dismiss virtual currencies,” Lagarde said.

Lagarde’s comments appear at odds with the views of JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who this month described bitcoin as a fraud and said he’d fire any of his traders if they caught dealing in the digital currency.

In a speech laying out the potential changes wrought by financial innovations, Lagarde also said that over the next generation, “machines will almost certainly play a larger role” in helping policymakers, offering real-time forecasts, spotting bubbles, and uncovering complex financial linkages.

“As one of your fellow Londoners – Mary Poppins – might have said: bring along a pinch of imagination!”

Actress Louis-Dreyfus Says She’s Battling Breast Cancer

Emmy-winning comedic actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus said Thursday that she was battling breast cancer, and she highlighted the case for universal health care in the United States.

Louis-Dreyfus, 56, who plays foul-mouthed fictitious former U.S. President Selina Meyer on HBO’s Veep, said, “1 in 8 women get breast cancer. Today, I’m the one,” in a short post on her social media platforms.

“The good news is that I have the most glorious group of supportive and caring family and friends, and fantastic insurance through my union. The bad news is that not all women are so lucky, so let’s fight all cancers and make universal health care a reality,” she wrote.

She did not give any further details of her health status.

Time Warner’s HBO network said Louis-Dreyfus received the diagnosis a day after the Emmy Awards this month, where she won a record sixth consecutive Emmy for comedy actress for her role as Meyer. The Emmys are U.S. television’s highest honor.

HBO added that her diagnosis played no part in its decision to end Veep after next season, and that writers would keep working on the final season while production would be adjusted around the actress’ schedule.

“Our love and support go out to Julia and her family at this time. We have every confidence she will get through this with her usual tenacity and undaunted spirit, and look forward to her return to health and to HBO for the final season of Veep,” HBO said in a statement.

Louis-Dreyfus achieved fame in the 1990s for her role as Elaine Benes on NBC’s Seinfeld, which also won her an Emmy.

Turkey and Russia Agree on Need for De-escalation Zone in Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday agreed to push for the creation of a “de-escalation” zone in Syria’s key northern province of Idlib to help end the civil war.

Erdogan said after talks in Ankara the pair agreed to “pursue more intensely” the implementation of a de-escalation zone in Idlib, which currently is under jihadist control.

The agreement is seen as a key step toward ending the civil war and ushering in the start of a peace process.

“All conditions are now created to stop the war in the Syria,” Putin declared at the joint press conference.

Civilian deaths concern Erdogan

According to reports, Erdogan raised concerns with Putin over the numbers of civilians being killed by the Russian bombing in Syria. Ankara and Moscow back rival sides in the Syrian civil war. Relations were plunged into a deep freeze following the 2015 downing of a Russian bomber by a Turkish jets. However, relations have recovered since rapprochement efforts began last year.

But analysts warns these ties are not binding.

“There will be always be a limit as to how significant and how convergent that relationship can be,” warned Sinan Ulgen, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Institute in Brussels. “There is history, there are differences how the two countries look at regional developments. So there will always be a limit.”

After several hours of talks over dinner, the two leaders underlined the importance of the deepening relationship between the two countries.

“The bilateral relations is getting stronger and stronger, and it’s very pleasing to both parties. We hope they prove to be much better in the future,” Erdogan said at the press conference, describing Putin as a “valuable friend.”

“The meeting was a good opportunity to exchange ideas,” Putin added. Both leaders described the talks as “fruitful.”

Missile system discussed

Putin stressed the importance of increasing bilateral trade. Ankara’s purchase of Russia’s sophisticated S400 missile system reportedly featured prominently in talks. The deal has irked Ankara’s NATO allies adding to fears over Turkey’s possible drift toward Russia

The rising tensions over Iraqi Kurds’ independence referendum vote also were featured in deliberations. Erdogan is taking a tough stance over the vote, fearing it could fuel secessionist demands among its own Kurdish minority.  

No change on PKK​​

Moscow continues to resist Ankara’s calls to designate as a terrorist group the Kurdish rebel group the PKK which is fighting the Turkish state. Moscow supports the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG in its fight against Islamic State, despite Ankara accusing the group of being linked to the PKK.

“Turkish policymakers are well aware of the ambiguities of the Russia position that is the case in Russia’s relationship with the PKK. That has been the case of Russia’s backing of the YPG. There is no romantic expectation with Russia. It’s about hard politics,” according to analyst Ulgen.

But with Ankara currently continuing to have strained ties with some of its traditional western partners, in particular Washington, Erdogan appears ready to continue deepening ties with Moscow, with the implicit message to its NATO partners that Turkey always has alternatives.

Tree-trimming Company Hit With Record Fine for Hiring Undocumented Workers

The government has fined U.S. tree-trimming company a record $95 million for knowingly hiring undocumented immigrants.

U.S. prosecutors said the fine against Philadelphia-based Asplundh Tree Expert Co. was the largest criminal penalty ever imposed in an immigration case.

Prosecutors said company managers deliberately looked the other way while supervisors knowingly hired thousands of undocumented workers between 2010 and 2014.

The prosecutors said this gave Asplundh a large workforce ready to take on emergency weather-related jobs across the country, putting its competitors at an unfair disadvantage.

A federal investigation into Asplundh was opened in 2015 and the company said it had since taken a number of steps to end “the practices of the past.”

“We accept responsibility for the charges as outlined, and we apologize to our customers, associates and all other stakeholders,” company Chairman Scott Asplundh said.

Was Hefner Oppressor or Liberator? Women Debate His Legacy

Oppressor or liberator? Feminist in a silk robe, or pipe-smoking exploiter? Opinions were flying a day after Hugh Hefner’s death over just what he did — and didn’t do — for women.

On one side, there were those who saw Hefner’s dressing women in bunny costumes with cottontails on their rears, or displaying them nude in his magazine with a staple in their navels, as simple subjugation of females, no matter how slick and smooth the packaging. On the other were those who felt the Playboy founder was actually at the forefront of the sexual revolution, bringing sexuality into the mainstream and advancing the cause of feminism with his stand on social issues, especially abortion rights.

“I think it’s disgusting,” said feminist author Susan Brownmiller, of the praise she’d been seeing on social media since Hefner’s death Wednesday at age 91. “Even some of my Facebook friends are hewing to the notion that, gee whiz, he supported abortion, he supported civil rights. … Yes he was for abortion, [because] if you convince your girlfriend to get an abortion because she got pregnant, you don’t have to think about marrying her! I mean, that was his point.”

Most offensive to Brownmiller was what she called Hefner’s equating the word “feminist” with “anti-sex.”

“It wasn’t that we were opposed to a liberation of sexual morality,” she said, “but the idea that he would make women into little bunnies, rabbits, with those ears. … That was the horror of it.”

It was Brownmiller, in fact, who confronted Hefner nearly a half-century ago on Dick Cavett’s talk show, saying to his face, “Hugh Hefner is my enemy.” As a startled Hefner fiddled with his pipe, she added: “The day that you are willing to come out here with a cottontail attached to YOUR rear end …” The audience roared.

Brownmiller attributed some of the glowing tributes to Hefner in part to “an American tradition of saying nice things about the departed.”

For Kathy Spillar, executive editor of Ms. Magazine, the accolades were a result of something deeper: a decades-long public relations strategy of Playboy to sanitize what she called an empire devoted to the subjugation of women.

“From the beginning, they tried to sell it as women’s liberation,” said Spillar, who also directs the Feminist Majority Foundation. “And so they made huge outreach efforts over the years to women’s rights groups.” But there was nothing liberating about it, Spillar said: “Those photographs of women certainly aren’t empowering of those women. They’re there for the pleasure of men.”

“He was right about one thing,” Spillar added. “Sex sells. But it sells to men. And to put women in those horrible costumes that Gloria Steinem wrote about! Talk about sexual harassment, talk a hostile work environment.” She was referring to the famous magazine expose that a young Steinem went undercover to write, training as a Playboy bunny in a New York club — bunny suit and all.

Hefner himself, obviously, saw it very differently.  “The truth of the matter is the bunnies were the pre-feminist feminists,” Hefner told the Associated Press in 2011. “They were the beginning, really, of independent women. The bunnies were earning more money than, in many cases, their fathers and their husbands. That was a revolution.”

To Kathryn Leigh Scott, a former bunny at the New York club, much of what Hefner said then rings true. Scott trained at the club in January 1963, at age 19, she says, with six other bunnies, one of them Steinem. She said she had fun, and made good money. She later wrote a book, The Bunny Years, to counter the view that Steinem portrayed in her article.

“I did not feel exploited,” Scott says now. “As a matter of fact, I felt that I was exploiting Playboy — because I was earning very good money in a very safe environment, certainly safer than that many of my friends were working in at the time.”

Did Hefner advance or exploit women? Scott says she can see both sides. “But when you think of what he did to support Roe v. Wade for example, and civil rights, and what I know from his treatment of me, he did a lot to help women,” she said.

In the wake of Hefner’s death, many celebrities tweeted affectionate messages. “Thank you for being a revolutionary and changing so many people’s lives, especially mine,” wrote television personality and former Playboy model Jenny McCarthy. “We’ve lost a true explorer, a man who had a keen sense of the future,” wrote writer-producer Norman Lear. “We learned a lot from you Mr. Hefner.”

For feminist author and blogger Andi Zeisler, the main question was why Hefner was getting so much credit.

“He’s getting a disproportionate amount of credit for the sexual revolution,” said Zeisler, founder of the nonprofit Bitch Media. “It was a confluence of factors. He had nothing to do with the development of oral contraception, which I could argue was really the main driver of the sexual revolution where women were concerned.

“I think it’s safe to say that anything progressive that Hugh Hefner was for, he was for because it also benefited white men,” Zeisler said.

As for Steinem, who briefly wore that bunny suit in the early `60s, she preferred not to comment so close to Hefner’s death.

“Obit time,” she wrote in an email, “is not the time for truth-telling. People will now be free to tell it, but later.”

«Ісламська держава» оприлюднила новий аудіозапис свого лідера

Екстремістське угруповання «Ісламська держава» оприлюднило, як стверджується, новий аудіозапис виступу свого лідера Абу Бакра аль-Багдаді. Дата, коли був зроблений 46-хвилинний запис, який оприлюднило пов’язане з екстремістами агентство «Аль-Фуркан», невідома.

На запису чоловічий голос, схожий на голос аль-Багдаді, згадує, як можна зрозуміти, про нещодавні погрози Північної Кореї на адресу Японії і США і про битви за головні опорні пункти угруповання, такі, як місто Мосул в Іраці, що було остаточно визволене від екстремістів у липні.

Дотепер останній аудіозапис від аль-Багдаді оприлюднювали в листопаді 2016 року.

Військові Росії, яка бере участь у війні в Сирії на боці режиму президента Башара аль-Асада, ще в червні заявляли, що, найімовірніше, знищили Абу Бакра аль-Багдаді внаслідок свого повітряного удару наприкінці травня по околицях сирійського міста Ракки, що було для екстремістів за «столицю», але ще перевіряють ці повідомлення. Очолювана США коаліція, яка протистоїть угрупованню «Ісламська держава», у відповідь заявила тоді, що не може підтвердити даних про загибель аль-Багдаді. У липні сирійські активісти і один із телеканалів Іраку з посиланням на джерела в угрупованні заявили, що смерть аль-Багдаді підтверджена. У США й після цього повторили, що, за даними своєї розвідки, вважають аль-Багдаді, найімовірніше, й далі живим.

Це було вже не перше повідомлення про загибель ватажка угруповання «Ісламська держава», такі чутки вже неодноразово з’являлися в засобах інформації і щоразу виявлялися хибними. Однак раніше не надходило таких заяв від військових відомств країн, які протистоять екстремістському угрупованню.

Аль-Багдаді очолив угруповання «Ісламська держава» в червні 2014 року. Джигадисти захопили значні території в Сирії та Іраку. США, інші країни, міжнародні організації звинувачують це угруповання в численних злочинах проти цивільного населення, в тому числі геноциді.

Проти угруповання «Ісламська держава» бореться міжнародна коаліція на чолі зі США. У вересні 2015 року Росія почала власну воєнну операцію в Сирії, яка, як стверджують в Кремлі, також спрямована на боротьбу з екстремістами.

Футбол, Ліга Європи: «Динамо» (Київ) переміг сербський «Партизан» 3-2

У другому турі групового етапу футбольного турніру «Ліга Європи» клуб «Динамо» з Києва переміг сербський «Партизан» із Белграда з рахунком 3-2.

У матчі, що відбувся на виїзді, в Белграді, перший тайм кияни програвали з відставанням у два м’ячі, але у другому забили три.

На 34-й хвилині гол у ворота киян забив сербський нападник Оґнєн Ожеґович, на 42-й іще один додав інший нападник «Партизана» Леандре Тавамба.

У другому таймі пенальті сербам забив на 54-й хвилині нападник киян Жуніор Мораес, на 68-й рахунок зрівняв півзахисник Віталій Буяльський. Переможний гол, свій другий за цю гру, додав Мораес на 84-й хвилині.

Таким чином, наразі після двох зіграних матчів «Динамо» у своїй групі B перебуває на першому місці з шістьма очками. Наступний матч киян – домашній проти швейцарського клубу «Янґ бойз» із Берна – відбудеться в Києві 19 жовтня.

Раніше 28 вересня ще один український клуб, що бере участь у груповому етапі Ліги Європи, луганська «Зоря», переміг іспанський «Атлетик» із Більбао з рахунком 1-0 і наразі після двох зіграних матчів у своїй групі J перебуває на другому місці з трьома очками.