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Trump says he has ‘high confidence’ Covid-19 originated in Wuhan lab

Thu, 2020-04-30 23:04

US President Donald Trump told reporters he believes Covid-19 originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China, declining to elaborate why, after US intelligence said it believes the virus was natural in origin.

Asked on Thursday if he had a “high degree of confidence” that the coronavirus originated from the laboratory, Trump replied “Yes, I have.”

“I can't tell you that. I'm not allowed to tell you that,” was his response to reporters who asked on what basis he was making that judgment.

President Trump is asked about the origins of the Coronavirus.

Q: “Have you seen anything at this point that gives you a high degree of confidence that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was the origin of this Virus?”

TRUMP: “Yes, I have.”

— Benny (@bennyjohnson) April 30, 2020

Earlier in the day, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released a statement saying that the US intelligence community “concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the Covid-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified.”

US spies “will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan,” the ODNI added.

Trump scoffed at the statement when asked about it at the press event, but the ODNI is currently run by his confidant Ambassador Rick Grenell, pending the Senate confirmation of another ally, Congressman John Ratcliffe.

Also on US intelligence says Covid-19 ‘not man-made’ but will still investigate Wuhan lab-origins theory

The US president has repeatedly blamed China for the Covid-19 pandemic, arguing that while Beijing locked down Wuhan and the surrounding province, it allowed Chinese nationals to travel abroad, spreading the virus. 

The first recorded US cases were among the nationals evacuated from Wuhan in January, but the virus rapidly spread despite a national emergency declaration and draconian lockdowns. More than a million Americans have been infected as of this week, with more than 61,000 fatalities attributed to the virus.

Trump’s finger-pointing at China follows criticism from the Democrats, who have embraced the lockdowns but blame the president for both the deaths and the economic destruction the virus has wrought on the US, with more than 30 million Americans filing for unemployment so far.

Also on ‘What’s the US hiding?’ Beijing slams Washington’s Covid-19 response & ‘desperate’ attempts to pin blame on China

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Categories: Media

‘Israeli helicopters’ fire missiles at Syrian military sites – state media

Thu, 2020-04-30 22:45

Israeli helicopters attacked a number of military positions in southern Syria with missiles, Syrian state media reported, noting the strikes inflicted “limited material damage."

The aircraft bombed sites in the Quneitra and Daraa provinces early on Friday morning after approaching from the occupied Golan Heights, firing some five missiles, according to the Jerusalem Post. A number of unconfirmed reports said the targets included militias allied to Damascus, such as Hezbollah, in addition to the Syrian military.

Initial information indicates that #IDF helicopters have targeted a number of military sites of the Assad regime and Lebanese #Hezbollah militias in Quneitra Governorate and western #Daraa countryside.#Israel #IAF #Iran #IRGC #Syria

— Eva J. Koulouriotis - إيفا كولوريوتي (@evacool_) April 30, 2020

Known to carry out frequent cross-border bombing raids in Syria, the IDF’s last such attack came on Monday, killing up to three civilians and wounding several more, according to the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA). The strikes, launched from Lebanese airspace, triggered Syria’s air defense systems, which intercepted a number of missiles.

Armed groups with ties to Iran – which for years have aided Damascus in its fight against jihadist rebel factions – have been a frequent target for the IDF throughout the Syrian war. While the military rarely discusses the operations on record, Israeli officials insist they are purely ‘defensive’ – over repeated objections from the Syrian government, which has condemned the attacks as blatant violations of its sovereignty.

Also on Syrian air defenses respond to missile attack over Palmyra - SANA

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Categories: Media

Remdesivir is getting everybody’s hopes up, but is it too early to fall prey to the hype?

Thu, 2020-04-30 21:51

Remdesivir is Big Pharma’s new bet against Covid-19, and it’s being promoted just as vigorously as the Trump-touted hydroxychloroquine was ‘debunked.’ It’s currently unproven too, but it’s already getting hopes – and shares – up.

As you read this, there are scores, if not hundreds of trials under way worldwide for new treatments for Covid-19. Remdesivir is made by Gilead Sciences, an American firm headquartered in Foster City, California. Although the drug was originally developed as a treatment for Ebola, it was found to be less effective than some alternatives, and ended up not being used. Nevertheless, it’s thought it may have some general effects against MERS, SARS and other coronaviruses.
In a press release put out on Wednesday, Gilead’s chief medical officer, Merdad Parsey, said: “Multiple concurrent studies are helping inform whether Remdesivir is a safe and effective treatment for Covid-19 and how to best utilize the drug” One of these studies is a clinical trial at the US’ National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which will compare patients treated with the drug to those that are not. The outcome of that trial is eagerly anticipated, but not expected until mid-May.

A fast-acting drug?

On Wednesday, Gilead announced promising initial results from a phase-three randomized trial, in which 397 patients were dosed with Remdesivir over either five or 10 days. The patients chosen for the study had reduced oxygen levels and signs of pneumonia, but were not on a ventilator.

The key finding from this study was that the drug was just as effective after five days at it was after 10, meaning that Gilead would, in theory, be able to treat twice as many patients in the same amount of time with Remdesivir. The company says that full data is awaited, and it plans to publish the results in a peer-reviewed journal in the coming weeks.

Nonetheless, the trial had a major weakness, in that it did not feature a placebo control. Without a placebo, other factors relating to the patient’s care responsible for the positive effects cannot be ruled out. Therefore, it remains unclear to what extent the drug itself was central to their recovery.

Also on NHS hospitals try treating Covid-19 with Hydroxychloroquine, anti-malaria drug hotly debated following Trump support

Nausea, acute respiratory failure and liver enzyme elevations were the most common “adverse events” that patients experienced during the trial, although these only occurred in around 10 percent or fewer of the patients. And a broader study involving an additional 5,600 patients, and including patients on ventilators, is now under way at 180 sites worldwide – in the US, the UK, China, Sweden, Italy, Taiwan and others.

Until recently, the greatest hope for a Covid-19 treatment was a drug called hydroxychloroquine. Like Remdesivir, it’s an antiviral drug that was originally developed to treat a different viral disease – on this occasion, malaria. Trials have taken place globally to determine whether it would also be effective against the novel coronavirus. However, after 11 patients given chloroquine in a clinical trial in Brazil died, the trial was halted early, and the drug began to look like anything but a miracle cure.

Gates’s inner circle

Gilead Science is part of a collective of 15 large pharmaceutical companies brought together by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to find a treatment for Covid-19, dubbed the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator. There is a lot of attention focused on Gilead and remdesivir these days, as any potential treatment for Covid-19 that emerges could make a fortune for the company that develops it.

The company’s share price has been up-and-down as information has leaked out about the trials’ progress. Last week, the WHO accidentally released preliminary data from China saying that the trial was terminated early due to the drug having no significant effect, but Gilead said the trial had been inconclusive. Gilead’s stock prices rose by 2.4 percent on Wednesday, in response to the latest positive announcement. But later on Wednesday evening, the WHO refused to comment on Gilead’s trials, saying that further data is needed.

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It is clear that not everyone is convinced yet. Earlier this month, Brian Skorney, an analyst at Robert W. Baird, who covers Gilead Sciences, appeared on CNBC to express his skepticism of remdesivir, mainly stemming from the fact that it was not developed specifically for the new coronavirus. He described hopes that the drug could be used as a therapy for Covid-19 as “wishful thinking.”

The crucial metric for remdesivir’s success will be how much the drug itself is combatting the virus, versus the ordinary standard of care the patient is receiving in hospital. The drug’s effect has yet to be delineated from this, as well as from the effects of the body’s own immune system on the virus. Until the results from the NIAID trial come in in a few weeks, remdesivir’s prospects will remain in major doubt.

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Categories: Media

‘Don’t close RAZOR’: Court docs show disgraced FBI agent insisted on pushing Flynn case DESPITE lack of evidence

Thu, 2020-04-30 21:15

New DOJ documents pertaining to General Michael Flynn’s case show that the FBI wanted to close a probe of him after finding nothing, only to be overruled by Peter Strzok and the ‘insurance policy’ cabal within the Bureau.

The heavily-redacted documents handed over by the Department of Justice to Flynn’s legal counsel on Wednesday were made public on Thursday as part of a motion to dismiss the case against President Donald Trump’s first national security adviser, on grounds of egregious government misconduct.

On the same day the FBI field office declared that it had found “no derogatory information” about Flynn – designated CROSSFIRE RAZOR – and Russia and that he was “no longer a viable candidate as part of the larger Crossfire Hurricane umbrella case” (the FBI probe into alleged Trump campaign “collusion” that became ‘Russiagate’), agent Strzok messaged the case manager urging him not to close the case.

This is slam dunk evidence that the FBI’s own field office investigative team knew they had no basis to continue to investigate Flynn about Russia, and wanted to close the case on Jan 4, 2017. Strzok/HQ stopped them, to jam him up about the Kislyak call

— Undercover Huber (@JohnWHuber) April 30, 2020

“Don’t close RAZOR,” Strzok urges the official, whose name is redacted, as shown in the transcript of his message logs dated January 4, 2017.

He then texts Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer he was having an affair with, that the case is still open and thanks the FBI’s “utter incompetence” for the delay in closing it. Minutes later, messaging with another FBI official, Strzok mentions the “7th floor” – meaning FBI leadership – is involved with the RAZOR case, and references “DD”, as in Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

Peter Strzok texts to the FBI Case Manager handling the Crossfire Razor (Flynn) case.

Strzok: "If you haven't closed RAZOR, don't do so yet"

Strzok: "7th floor involved" (FBI Leadership)

(Possible use of Logan Act "violations" to keep investigation open)

— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) April 30, 2020

McCabe is the “Andy” in whose office Strzok and Page discussed the “insurance policy” in the summer of 2016, in the unlikely case Trump – whom they despised, as evidenced by numerous other texts that have emerged – gets elected. That discussion took place on August 15, and the FBI opened a probe of Flynn the very next day.

Another previously disclosed exchange between Strzok and Page, discussing Flynn and Logan Act violations, was also dated January 4, 2017. This suggests that they used the pretext of the law dating to the late 1700s – under which no American has ever been prosecuted, which might be unconstitutional, and didn’t apply to Flynn anyway – to justify their “ambush” interview.

Documents revealed on Wednesday show correspondence between Strzok, Page and another FBI official, Bill Priestap, about Flynn – along with a handwritten note suggesting that the goal of the interview may have been “to get him to lie so we can prosecute him or get him fired.”

Also on ‘Get him to lie so we can prosecute him’: New docs reveal FBI plan to set up General Flynn in perjury trap

Thursday’s release contains emails from Strzok to Priestap about a pretext of a “defensive briefing” to Flynn, and a response from someone (whose name is redacted) to Strzok and Page, saying “I think [redacted] would get to him regardless so we should try to frame them in a way we want.”

What ended up happening is that then-FBI Director James Comey – by his own admission – sent Strzok and another agent to the White House to interview Flynn, who talked to them without an attorney present. They wrote up a memo of the interview (“302”), the first draft of which concluded that he did not lie to them about his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. 

The Washington Post, however, reported otherwise – and Flynn was fired for allegedly lying to Vice President Mike Pence. Then he was indicted for lying to the FBI by special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, and pleaded guilty when the prosecutors threatened to go after his son.

Also on ‘Dirty cop Comey got caught!’: Trump unloads on FBI after documents reveal effort to set up General Flynn

Trump took the new evidence as a full vindication of Flynn and proof that Strzok, Page, McCabe and Comey were “dirty” cops who sought to illegally spy on his campaign and presidency. All four have since left the Bureau or been fired. Comey’s firing in May 2017 triggered the appointment of Mueller, who after nearly two years could find nothing to substantiate ‘Russiagate’ claims. 

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Categories: Media

ONE IN SEVEN Americans would avoid Covid-19 treatment for fear of cost, even as pricey new pill shows promise against virus

Thu, 2020-04-30 20:07

Some 14 percent of US adults would forgo medical care for Covid-19 symptoms because they couldn’t pay for it, a new poll has found – yet oblivious health authorities act as if the epidemic will be solved by drugs alone.

One in seven American adults would avoid seeking healthcare if they or a family member experienced symptoms of Covid-19, out of concern they would be unable to afford treatment, according to a Gallup poll published on Tuesday. Even if they specifically believed themselves to be infected with the coronavirus, nine percent would forgo care for financial reasons, the poll found.

Also on The Covid-19 pandemic exposes deep flaws in America’s broken healthcare system

Their fears are well-founded – the average cost of coronavirus treatment in an intensive care unit runs over $30,000, according to a study released earlier this month by insurance industry group America’s Health Insurance Plans. Even for those who avoid the ICU, American healthcare is the most expensive in the world, and stories of coronavirus patients being whacked with gargantuan medical bills are a dime a dozen two months into the pandemic.

Making matters worse is the unemployment crisis, as about 55 percent of Americans receive healthcare through their jobs. Upwards of 30 million have filed for unemployment in the last five weeks, adding an unprecedented number of families to the ranks of the uninsured – which were already estimated in December to include 27.5 million people, more than the population of Australia. Even those lucky enough to have kept their jobs and insurance may face steep co-pays or other surprise costs.

After a handful of highly-publicized cases in which Americans died of the virus after being turned away by hospitals for lack of money, President Donald Trump ordered hospitals to pay for the cost of Covid-19 treatment, and several large insurers promised at the beginning of the month to waive all co-pays for coronavirus testing for 60 days. However, those coverage pledges do not include other costs associated with hospitalization, like ambulance transportation; outpatient treatment; or treatment for non-Covid-19 patients. Individuals seeking treatment have been tested and received the good news that they don’t have the virus – only to be hit shortly thereafter with the bad news that they’re on the hook for thousands of dollars in costs.

Low-income respondents were much more likely to report they would not seek care for financial reasons. Perhaps more troublingly, respondents with annual income under $40,000 were almost four times as likely as those with incomes over $100,000 to report that they or a family member had been turned away from a hospital for reasons related to overcrowding or high patient volume, the Gallup poll found.

While a study of the experimental drug remdesivir as a treatment for Covid-19 published positive preliminary results on Wednesday, such treatment is likely to remain just as far out of reach as existing coronavirus care for many patients. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, nevertheless cheered the results, declaring the trial had “proven” that “a drug can block this virus.”

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Absent from his victory dance was the fine print that Gilead, the company that owns remdesivir, has been skewered in the past for drug-profiteering, tripling the price of a pill it purchased to treat hepatitis C and charging $2,000 per month for the HIV drug Truvada, which costs $6 per pill to make. Gilead only reversed course on its mission to lock down its patent on remdesivir by securing “orphan drug” status – a coveted designation that bars competitors from developing cheaper generic versions for seven years – after the Food and Drug Administration had already granted the status, triggering tremendous public criticism.

Gilead has tried to combat the bad PR by promising to donate 1.5 million doses of the drug to clinical trials, “compassionate use,” and other programs, but it has refused to commit to making remdesivir affordable. Until it does, all the positive test results in the world may not make a difference to the poorest and most vulnerable patients in the US.

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Categories: Media

Libya’s UN-recognized govt rejects rival Haftar’s offer of Ramadan truce

Thu, 2020-04-30 19:22

The Tripoli-based government of Libya has rejected a truce offer from rival military commander Khalifa Haftar for the month of Ramadan, saying it “did not trust” the pledge made by its eastern-based adversary. 

In a statement issued Thursday, the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) insisted it would continue “legitimate self-defense” and would attack “any threat.” It also apparently referenced Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), saying it would “put an end to outlaw groups.”

The LNA, which controls swathes of eastern and southern Libya, launched an offensive to seize the capital Tripoli in April last year. On Wednesday, it announced a ceasefire for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, adding that the temporary cessation of violence came at the request of the international community and “friendly countries.” The LNA spokesperson also said that any truce violations by the GNA would be met with an “immediate and harsh response.”

Libya has suffered almost a decade of major political and military upheaval, after the US-led NATO operation in 2011, which ousted long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi, sent the country spiraling into civil war.

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Categories: Media

Ronaldo entourage 'spread information about Dybala's positive Covid-19 test to avoid returning to Italy' – reports

Thu, 2020-04-30 19:11

Sensational reports emerging from Italy suggest that Cristiano Ronaldo's entourage leaked information to Spanish television regarding a supposed fourth positive test for Juve teammate Paulo Dybala to avoid returning to Italy.

Dybala, along with Juventus teammates Daniele Rugani and Blaise Matuidi, were among the first Serie A players to be confirmed carriers of the novel coronavirus after the Argentine playmaker announced to his nearly 4 million Instagram followers on March 21 that he had contracted the potentially fatal virus. Dybala's girlfriend Oriana Sabatini also confirmed she had contracted the disease. 

However, reports emerged on Spanish television show 'El Chiringuito' in recent days which stated that Dybala has not fully recovered from Covid-19 and that he had tested positive for a FOURTH time - several weeks after his initial diagnosis.

Also on Juventus star Paulo Dybala tests positive for coronavirus for 'FOURTH TIME in six weeks'

This comes as Italian football chiefs announced that individual training for Serie A teams may resume in public spaces on May 4, although away from club training facilities, with full team training returning two weeks later on May 18, as Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte revealed the initial measures being taken to end the country's weeks-long lockdown. 

Incredibly, a report from Italian publication Corriere Dello Sport now suggests that the leak of Dybala's supposed condition came from someone close to one of his teammates, namely Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese forward is currently still believed to be in his homeland and is said to be unsure of a return to Italy while the Covid-19 pandemic continues to affect the country.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s entourage has leaked to spanish show El Chiringuito the news of Dybala’s 4th consecutive positivity to #coronavirus test, according to Corriere Dello Sport.

Report saying it is the way so to keep postponing his comeback to Italy

— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) April 30, 2020

As for Dybala, the reasoning for the continued positive tests remains unclear. There have been several reported incidents of people testing positive, then negative, and then positive again, which has led to concerns as to a person's immunity to the virus once they have recovered from it.

However, another line of thinking is that irregular results are down to faulty testing or the test detecting something in a sample which doesn't necessarily mean the virus is present. 

Dybala will likely be required to submit to an antibody test which will determine the amount of antibodies to the virus in his bloodstream, which will give doctors a clearer picture as to the status of his diagnosis.

Also on 'I could hardly breathe': Paulo Dybala details coronavirus struggle after Juve ace and girlfriend Oriana Sabatini infected

However, Sabatini further clarified her partner's condition in an interview with Canal 9 in Argentina and denied that he is continuing to test positive. "Paulo is not positive again, he just has to wait [for further testing]," she said.

"He did the latest tests and we haven’t had the results yet, so I don’t know where this news is coming from. Just as we were very open about testing positive, we will announce the negativity when we get it.

"I personally have now tested negative, but we are not 100 percent sure, so want to say something only when we are certain."

Categories: Media

US coronavirus fatalities jump as over 3,000 die in 24 hours in 2nd deadliest Covid-19 day nationwide

Fri, 2020-04-24 02:05

The US has reported over 3,100 fatalities related to the coronavirus pandemic within just 24 hours, as lethal cases leapt by more than 1,000 after a brief drop. The figures come as the nation slowly reopens.

Some 3,176 people died after having been infected with the coronavirus in the US in the space of a single day, Johns Hopkins University reported Thursday. The staggering number fell short of breaking the record for the most daily coronavirus deaths in the US – which still stands at 4,591 – but the lethal cases soared in comparison to the previous day, when “only” 1,738 fatalities were recorded.

It’s unclear what is behind the sudden spike in deaths, as more states poised to reopen some “non-essential” businesses. Georgia leads the charge with an ambitious plan by Governor Brian Kemp paving way for the reopening of barbershops, spa salons and gyms, among others, starting as early as this week.

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Several other states, including Oklahoma, Montana, Florida and Minnesota have been relaxing strict lockdown guidelines, allowing some of their businesses to open their doors to customers.

Minnesota golf courses, bait shops, marinas and outdoor shooting ranges have been open to the public since last week, while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis allowed some beaches to reopen around the same time.

Church services are set to resume in Montana from April 26, and retail businesses in the state would welcome customers after an extended Covid-19 break the next day, provided they implement physical distancing guidelines.

In Oklahoma, owners of hair salons, barber shops, spas, nail salons and some other businesses received the green light to service customers from April 24, although by appointment only.

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The decisions aimed at resuscitating the US economy, battered by lockdowns that have seen unemployment claims reaching 26 million, have drawn both praise and criticism.

While some argue that the reopening is premature – with Trump himself “strongly disagreeing” with Kemp’s move to phase out the state lockdown – there have also been widespread protests calling for the end of the measure. In Georgia, New York, Michigan, Minnesota, Arizona, Virginia and elsewhere, angry residents have taken to the streets to demand the containment policies be scaled back, insisting they be allowed to return to work and resume their lives after weeks under the far-reaching quarantine measures.

Nearly 50,000 Americans have succumbed to Covid-19 since the start of the US outbreak, among more than 868,000 infections nationwide. While federal health officials continue to speak optimistically about declining cases in the country’s largest hotspots, fatalities have yet to see a similar drop, with the US continuing to report some of the world’s highest daily death counts amid the pandemic.

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Categories: Media

‘Oh dear’: Ricky Gervais AGAIN roasts virtue-signaling celebs lecturing people over Covid-19

Fri, 2020-04-24 01:23

Comedian Ricky Gervais is torching attention-seeking celebrities during the Covid-19 pandemic as brutally as when he hosted the Golden Globes, saying that “people are just tired of being lectured to” in a new interview.

At this point, more than a month into the pandemic, there is a rabbit hole of celebrity videos preaching to the rest of the world about the coronavirus, and Gervais thinks he knows why.

“Now celebrities think: ‘The general public needs to see my face. They can’t get to the cinema — I need to do something’,” the comedian said in an interview published Thursday in the New York Times of all places.

“And it’s when you look into their eyes, you know that, even if they’re doing something good, they’re sort of thinking, ‘I could weep at what a good person I am.’ Oh dear,” he continued. 

Ricky Gervais talked about his darkly comic Netflix series "After Life" and about his own life since his celebrity-skewing Golden Globes appearance. (He wasn't a fan of that "Imagine" video either.)

— New York Times Arts (@nytimesarts) April 23, 2020

Gervais specifically targeted the now infamous ‘Imagine’ video put together by ‘Wonder Woman’ star Gal Gadot and other celebrities covering the classic John Lennon/Yoko Ono tune.

“You won’t hear me complain,” Gervais said of lockdown measures. “Not when, every day, I see some millionaire celebrity going, ‘I’m sad that I’m not on telly tonight.’ Or, ‘I had a swim in the pool that made me feel a little bit better’.” 

He then proceeded to sing the first line of ‘Imagine.’

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From the very beginning of Covid-19 lockdowns, celebrity messages have fallen flat with the quarantined public. There was New York Governor Andrew Cuomo deploying actors Ben Stiller and Danny DeVito to preach his order to stay indoors. 

Pop singer Madonna was skewered on social media for a video of her sitting nude in a bathtub, calling the coronavirus the great “equalizer.”

Also on Nude Madonna calls coronavirus the ‘great equalizer’ in bizarre video, inspires instant mockery

TV host Ellen DeGeneres found herself a target of similar mockery for comparing her quarantine inside of a mansion to jail.

The ‘Imagine’ video itself became little more than fodder for humorous covers mocking celebrities’ desperate attention-seeking during a pandemic. Conservative actor and filmmaker Nick Searcy parodied it with “imagine there’s no acting.”

Roasting celebrities is an increasingly common theme in Gervais’ comedy.  He made waves in January when he hosted the Golden Globes and used his opening monologue to roast celebrities for virtue-signaling and hypocrisy with barbs like, “If ISIS started a streaming service you’d call your agent, wouldn’t you?” 

Also on Hollywood can't take a joke: Golden Globes hire Fey, Poehler as new hosts and people 'miss Ricky Gervais already’

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Categories: Media

Moscow’s Covid-19 death toll passes 300 mark as mayor warns peak yet to come

Fri, 2020-04-24 00:26

The coronavirus death toll in the Russian capital surpassed the 300 mark on Thursday, when 37 more people succumbed to the disease, according to the latest official figures. Moscow remains the worst-affected place in Russia, with over half of the country's confirmed cases originating there there. Nationwide, 62,773 people have been affected by the Covid-19 with nearly 600 dying from it.

Moscow’s mayor on Thursday said the existing lockdown measures and the mandatory self-isolation mode remain “optimal” for the city.

“The majority of Moscow’s residents are behaving very responsibly, enabling us not to tighten the standing administrative measures,” Sergey Sobyanin said in a televised speech, adding that Moscow’s situation favorably compares with that in other big cities plagued by the disease, such as New York.

However, the curve of the registered infections remains far from flat, the mayor said, adding that Moscow could be less than “half way through” the outbreak.

Categories: Media

Trump’s tough talk on Iran ‘boosts’ oil prices – but demand & storage issues persist

Thu, 2020-04-23 23:45

Traders credited US President Donald Trump’s threats to sink Iranian patrol boats in the Persian Gulf for the sharp increase in oil futures, just days after lack of storage and low demand drove the US benchmark WTI below zero.

June contracts for West Texas Intermediate crude went for $16.87 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Thursday, rising 19 percent for the second straight day. Brent crude, the international benchmark, was also up by almost five percent to $21.33 a barrel. This comes after May WTI contracts traded for -$37.63 a barrel on Monday.

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International analysts and oil brokers alike attributed the rise in part to Trump’s aggressive rhetoric towards Tehran. 

“Threats of war have always been an important factor in increasing the oil prices,” Hamidreza Azizi, visiting fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), told RT earlier.

Trump’s revelation that he had ordered the US Navy to sink Iranian patrol boats if threatened “boosted the possibility of renewed tension in the Middle East, a major oil producing region, which traders always translate to reductions in the region’s production and exports if things escalate,” said Bjornar Tonhaugen, head of oil markets at Rystad Energy, in a daily research note quoted by MarketWatch.

However, most were convinced that the threat of actual war between the US and Iran remained relatively low.

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While the price of WTI futures was driven mostly by a glut of oil in warehouses and depressed demand due to coronavirus lockdowns across the US, the global index had taken a beating from a price war initiated by Saudi Arabia ostensibly against Russia, with US shale producers catching the brunt of the fallout.

The war ended in a tentative truce last week, as OPEC, Russia and other oil producers agreed on cutting production by 10 million barrels a day, starting in May. With no end in sight to Covid-19 shutdowns from the US and Europe to India, however, the demand is likely to stay low.

“The storm for oil isn’t over but at least for the time being it is less volatile than the headline-grabbing moves of the last few days,” noted Carlo Alberto De Casa, chief analyst at ActivTrades, but added that in the long-term he sees the need for further production cuts from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and others.

Also on Will Trump go to war with Iran to save America’s oil industry?

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT's business section

Categories: Media

Facebook quietly stops letting advertisers target PSEUDOSCIENCE fans after years of boasting ‘misinformation fighting’ role

Thu, 2020-04-23 23:15

Having claimed to be a crusader against misinformation during the coronavirus pandemic, Facebook has only just removed the ability for advertisers to target users “interested in pseudoscience,” journalists have discovered.

The social media behemoth finally removed the “pseudoscience” category from its advertising platform on Wednesday, several days after investigators at The Markup first confronted it. They questioned the inconsistency between Facebook declaring war on misinformation and offering advertisers the ability to target 78 million people apparently interested in it.

This gulf between Facebook’s stated mission and its actual business model was especially glaring in light of a recent post by CEO Mark Zuckerberg boasting of how his platform had slapped warnings on upwards of 40 million Covid-19-related posts, deterring some 95 percent of would-be viewers from clicking through to the original content. 

Through this crisis, one of my top priorities is making sure that you see accurate and authoritative information across all of our apps,” Zuckerberg wrote in the post. Oops?

It’s not clear what Facebook categorizes as “pseudoscience,” or what a user had to do to end up with that particular scarlet letter of gullibility on their advertising profile.

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An ad for a radiation-blocking knit beanie, which one might consider the 21st-century stylish equivalent of the conspiracy-pejorative “tinfoil hat,” was shown to the Markup journalist based on his (Facebook-determined) interest in “pseudoscience.” But when the outlet contacted the advertiser, it insisted they hadn’t selected the category.

Amazing: "The reason I saw that ad: 'Lambs is trying to reach people Facebook thinks are interested in Pseudoscience.'

— Eric Hananoki (@ehananoki) April 23, 2020

If true, that would imply Facebook actually made the connection between the product and the audience independently, rendering them even more complicit in spreading the same misinformation they claim to be fighting.

Facebook has wandered in over its head with targeted advertising in the past. Last year, the platform was discovered to be offering advertisers the ability to target users interested in Josef Goebbels, Josef Mengele, and other Nazis and Nazi-adjacent entities – even after a previous scandal had elicited Facebook’s reassurance that humans signed off on all ad-targeting categories.

The platform had removed 5,000 categories the previous year after ProPublica found phrases like “Jew hater” and “Hitler did nothing wrong” among the many innocuous hobbies and celebrity interests.

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At the same time Facebook was allowing advertisers to hunt for misinformation-susceptible types, Zuckerberg was bragging about removing anti-lockdown protests from the platform, sliming those trying to organize demonstrations to reopen their states or countries as purveyors of “harmful misinformation.”

The platform has also adopted a new policy of confronting users who share articles it deems to be misinformation with an information box on their News Feed, encouraging them to visit the website of the World Health Organization.

The wrongthink-shaming move came on the heels of an attack by online activist group Avaaz, which called Facebook an “epicenter of coronavirus misinformation,” claiming over 100 “fake news” items about coronavirus had been shared over 1.7 million times.

Also on Facebook’s Zuckerberg touts users’ data as ‘superpower’ as Covid-19 symptom survey set to roll out worldwide

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Public health emergency declared at US military base in Horn of Africa over Covid-19

Thu, 2020-04-23 22:51

A public health emergency is in effect at a US military base in the East African nation of Djibouti over coronavirus concerns. The 30-day health emergency concerns US personnel, whether contracted civilians or soldiers, working at the Camp Lemonnier Djibouti, Chabelley Airfield and the Port of Djibouti. 

US Army Maj. Gen. Michael D. Turello, commander of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, said combating Covid-19 is a “top priority” in a statement, adding the order will keep “our forces, and those of our host national partner, as healthy and safe as possible.”

The Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, established in 2002, has the official goal of “countering violent extremist organizations in East Africa.” The emergency declaration will be reviewed in 30 days to determine whether it should be extended.

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House passes $484bn coronavirus relief bill for small businesses in bipartisan vote as Dems launch PROBE into Trump’s response

Thu, 2020-04-23 22:50

The US Congress has passed a Covid-19 aid package worth almost $500 billion, as House Democrats voted to set up a panel to look into the administration's handling of the outbreak – a move blasted as “purely political” by the GOP.

The relief bill passed overwhelmingly by 388-5 after hours of debate on Thursday, securing the needed two-thirds majority and seeing only four Republicans and one Democrat vote in opposition. The aid package will immediately infuse $321 billion into the Paycheck Protection Program to ensure companies can pay their workers, while providing another $75 billion to hospitals, $60 billion in emergency loans for small businesses and $25 billion set aside for coronavirus testing.

Four Republican lawmakers – Representatives Thomas Massie (Kentucky), Andy Biggs (Arizona), Ken Buck (Colorado), Jody Hice (Georgia) – and Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York) voted against the bill, while Justin Amash, an independent, voted present.

Lawmakers who voted NO:

Rep. Andy Biggs (R)
Rep. Ken Buck (R)
Rep. Jody Hice (R)
Rep. Thomas Massie (R)
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D)

— Alex Salvi (@alexsalvinews) April 23, 2020

Progressive stalwart Ocasio-Cortez broke ranks with her party over concerns that the aid package would not be enough, stating lawmakers were “abdicating [their] responsibility” to Americans. “Every time we pass one of these bills, we are hearing that the real solution is coming in the next bill and the next bill,” she told MSNBC ahead of the vote, adding that “two months of rent are going to pass by before we are actually entertaining a real bill.”

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Observing strict safety protocols, the representatives cast their votes in groups of about 60 at a time, with lawmakers waiting in their offices to be called in alphabetical order to avoid potentially spreading the lethal virus around the chamber.

House members today will come into the chamber in staggered groups to vote on emergency legislation to provide funding for small businesses and hospitals.

— Mitchell Miller (@mmillerwtop) April 23, 2020

Though lawmakers agreed to stand six feet apart to follow social distancing guidelines, a sergeant-at-arms officer was seen asking several lawmakers to create extra space between them, none of whom wore masks.

A Sergeant at Arms employee just asked McCarthy, Scalise, Jordan and a couple other lawmakers not wearing face masks to stop standing so close to each other on the floor.

— Jennifer Shutt (@JenniferShutt) April 23, 2020

Taking a hard swipe at Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after the vote, the National Republican Congressional Committee sent out a tweet dubbing her “Nancy Antoinette” in a play off of a recent Trump campaign ad, which criticized the speaker for being out of touch with the desperate circumstances many Americans have now found themselves in after she showcased a freezer full of expensive ice-cream as part of her lockdown prep.

We’re happy Nancy Antoinette was able to finish her $13 pint of ice cream and stop killing American jobs.

— NRCC (@NRCC) April 23, 2020

Before passing the aid package, House Democrats moved to launch a new investigative panel to probe the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, voting 212-182 along party lines to create the new mechanism with Republicans arguing that the panel is an attempt by the Democratic Party to politicize the fight against the epidemic, pointing to several House committees with far-reaching oversight powers already in existence.

The newly-established panel will have sweeping authority to investigate how federal funds are being used on relief efforts, including the ability to issue subpoenas. The move came one day after a federal whistleblower – Rick Bright, director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) – came forward with allegations that he was demoted from his position for rejecting the administration’s stance on certain treatments and drugs which Bright deemed “unproven.”

Republicans tore into the new panel, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (California) insisting it had nothing to do with oversight. “It sounds like pure politics,” he told Fox, adding: “Let’s take care of the crisis at hand right now. We have five different oversights already looking at this.”

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McCarthy and other GOP opponents pointed to House committees that already have jurisdiction over the coronavirus response, including the Oversight, Ways and Means, Energy, Financial Services, Education and Labor committees, arguing there was sufficient oversight as it is. The original $2.2 trillion relief package also included a number of oversight measures, they said. US President Donald Trump also slammed the move, insisting it was no time for “endless partisan investigations” or “witch hunts.”

It's witch hunt after witch hunt after witch hunt.

“And in the end it's people doing the witch hunt who are losing – and they've been losing by a lot. And it's not any time for witch hunts," the US president added.

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TWICE as powerful: Russia to build new monster nuclear icebreaker for Arctic sea route

Thu, 2020-04-23 22:27

The world's most powerful nuclear icebreaker is set to be built in Russia – again. The new vessel, to be delivered in the late 2020s, will dwarf the power of existing icebreakers, with its new 120-Megawatt powerplant.

Dubbed 'Leader,' the new Project 10510 icebreaker got the green light on Thursday, when Russia's Far East Zvezda shipyard and the Rosatomflot company signed the contract for its construction. Due to the coronavirus restrictions in place, the contract was signed via video link.

The 'Leader,' conceived back in 2016, dwarfs any existing nuclear-powered icebreaker, including Russia's –and the world's– most powerful Project 22220 icebreakers, currently under construction. The maiden vessel of that project, Arktika, is currently undergoing trials and is expected to join the fleet later this year, while two other ships of this type are set to be launched in the next two years.

While the Arktika is capable of breaking three-meter-thick ice, the new Leader icebreakers will be able to cut through a 4.3 meter-thick ice sheet, as well as to stay at sea for eight months without entering a port. The new icebreakers will pack twice as much punch, boasting a 120-MWatt powerplant, compared to the 60-MWatt output of the Arktika.

READ MORE: Russia floats third in class of nuclear icebreakers set to guide ships through Arctic (VIDEO)

The dimensions of the new Leader are impressive as well: the ship will be over 200 meters long – slightly less than two football pitches, and some 40 meters tall, equal to a 13-story residential building.

A model of the 'Leader' icebreaker. ©

Both vessel families will be tasked with making way for softer vessels through the ice of Russia's Northern Sea Route. They will accompany fossil fuel-carrying ships that are heading to the Asia-Pacific from Russia's Arctic deposits.

The estimated cost of the maiden Leader vessel amounts to an eye-watering sum of around 127 billion rubles (some $1.7 billion). Russia aims to build at least three vessels of the type, which are expected to join its icebreaker fleet by 2033.

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Russia is the only country in the world that operates a large fleet of nuclear icebreakers. Such vessels are significantly bigger and more powerful than their conventionally-powered counterparts, thus being able to operate in the thick ice sheets of the Arctic. The nuclear engines allow the vessels operate autonomously for long periods without the need for frequent refueling.

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'Scandalous': Liverpool's mayor calls for investigation as coronavirus cases linked to Champions League tie with Atletico Madrid

Thu, 2020-04-23 19:57

Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, has called for an investigation into how 3,000 fans were granted permission to travel to the city for a crunch UEFA Champions League tie in March amid a partial Spanish lockdown.

Liverpool's match with Atletico Madrid took place on March 11 in a packed stadium of more than 52,000 supporters, several thousand of whom had traveled from Madrid.

Spain had reported around 500 confirmed COVID-19 cases at that time, though those numbers surged soon after. Madrid has since tallied more than 7,600 deaths.

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The UK government defended its stance on not canceling public events in early March, but reversed their decision 10 days later. No football has taken place in England since.

Rotheram has called for an independent investigation into how the decision was made to allow thousands of Madrid-based supporters into England, causing a potential explosion in the city's confirmed coronavirus cases.

"If people have contracted coronavirus as a direct result of a sporting event that we believe shouldn't have taken place, well that is scandalous," he said to the BBC.

"That's put not just those people in danger, but those frontline staff in the NHS and others in their own families that may have contracted it."

A recent study has shown that 246 people have died in Liverpool's NHS hospitals since, while Spain has become the second most-affected region in the world behind the United States.

"We've seen an increase in the infection curve, and that's resulted in 1,200 people [in Liverpool] contracting COVID-19," said Rotheram.

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"That needs to be investigated to find out whether some of those infections are due directly to the Atletico fans. There were coronavirus hot cities, and Madrid was one of those.

"They weren't allowed to congregate in their own country, but 3,000 of those fans came over to ours, and potentially may well have spread coronavirus. So it does need looking at, and it does need the government to take some responsibility for not locking down sooner."

Both the mayor of Madrid and Liverpool city council's director of public health Matthew Ashton have both since labelled the decision to allow the match to go ahead as planned as a "mistake".

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EU leaders agree to work on establishing joint coronavirus recovery fund

Thu, 2020-04-23 19:51

In a rare show of unity, EU leaders have agreed to ask the bloc’s Commission to create plan for a joint coronavirus recovery fund. While details of the mechanism are still to be ironed out, the move was hailed as a major step forward.

“We have expressed strong will to move forward together,” President of the European Council Charles Michel said on Thursday. He added that EU leaders had also agreed to coordinate on a gradual easing of current Covid-19 lockdown measures.

The recovery fund is expected to be linked to the EU’s next long-term budget, for the 2021-2027 period.

Establishing a joint coronavirus relief mechanism has been a major source of discord in the EU lately, as member states have been unable to agree on it - even in principle. While the worst coronavirus-affected nations have been calling for weeks for the issuance of joint Eurobonds, the more affluent nations, such as the Netherlands and Germany, have been very reluctant to share debt with those worst-affected by the pandemic.

Now, however, Germany’s leader Angela Merkel said that it “was clear to everyone that we need such a recovery fund,” and the joint solution serves her country’s interests too. “Things can only go well for Germany if they go well for Europe,” Merkel stated.

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'It’s a real longing for football!' Neymar admits to experiencing 'anxiety' during enforced absence due to COVID-19

Thu, 2020-04-23 19:45

He may be one of the world's best paid athletes, but Neymar's bank balance doesn't make him immune to the current uncertainty we are experiencing through the global coronavirus pandemic.

Ligue 1 has been suspended since mid-March due to the COVID-19 crisis which has ground most major sports across the world to a halt. And, despite the first inroads being made globally to calculate when sport may potentially return, Neymar says that not knowing when he will play football again has affected his mental health.

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The 28-year-old Paris Saint-Germain star has been put through his paces by a daily workout regimen under the supervision of his longtime personal trainer Ricardo Rosa. But, with no definitive end in sight to the suspension of the sport in France, Neymar says that he has begun experiencing anxiety.

"Not knowing when we will play again is causing anxiety. I miss playing, competing, the atmosphere of the club and my PSG team mates. It’s a real longing for football!" he told his official website.

"I'm sure that the fans want to see everyone back on the pitch, the earlier the better. I hope the decision is made as quickly as possible."

France's coronavirus cases appear to have peaked at the end of March and have since been diminishing - but there appears to still be a long way to go to get the virus under control, with more than 1,800 new cases reported across the country on Wednesday.

For his part, Rosa says that the primary function of his role is to keep Neymar in peak physical condition but also to ensure he is not adding to the stresses that the player is currently experiencing.

"You need to understand the environment that this player lives in,” he said.

"I try to relieve this by controlling the training load and nutrition. Everything is done so his performance improves and evolves all the time.

"I try to do vary the methods, volume and intensity of work, dividing them between general exercises and specific training with the ball."

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And, as Rosa suggests, the hard work has paid off throughout Neymar's fruitful career.

"In all those years of working with him, what I would highlight, in the physical part, is that he’s a privileged athlete, always at or above the average for football players," he said.

"Besides being an agile and quick athlete, he has a lot of stamina. It’s very difficult to find an athlete with these three skills together, but in Neymar’s case he’s outside the curve because he has all three."

Categories: Media

US woos Greenland with financial aid package & first consulate in 50 years – because Russia

Thu, 2020-04-23 19:40

The US has gifted a $12.1 million aid package to Greenland and will build a consulate there for the first time in over 50 years - an admitted move against Russian and Chinese Arctic supremacy that has angered Denmark.

The Trump administration’s offer to buy the Danish-administered territory may have been laughed off last year, but Washington has put its money where its mouth is and offered up an economic development package to the massive island, a State Department official revealed on Thursday. The official stressed that the money was for “sustainable” economic development rather than a down payment.

There is no plan or interagency process underway involving the purchase of Greenland,” they reassured reporters.

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However, the money - coming from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) - will be accompanied by the establishment of a US consulate in the territory’s capital city of Nuuk, which the anonymous official called the “rebirth of our engagement in Greenland.” The US has not had a diplomatic presence on the island since 1953.

While plans are underway for a permanent facility, the temporary consulate will be hosted by a Danish military base, the official revealed. One US diplomat currently located in Copenhagen is expected to move to Nuuk in late May or early June to take up the leading role, to be joined later this year by another American. Five locals will be employed as staff. 

The official insisted the move was nothing more than “good old-fashioned diplomatic tradecraft,” but acknowledged it was a response to what they called “the desire of Russia and the People’s Republic of China to challenge the United States and the West” in the Arctic region, waxing poetic about Washington’s own desire for a “secure and stable Arctic.

They did not seem to have an answer as to why the US hadn’t simply given the funds to the government of Denmark, instead insisting the $12.1 million would be administered under USAID with assistance from the Departments of State, Interior and Commerce.

Denmark was not amused. “They have clearly crossed the line,” Karsten Honge, a member of the Socialist People’s Party’s foreign affairs committee told Reuters after the official’s words were made public.

It’s completely unheard of that a close ally tries to create division between Greenland and Denmark this way.

Opposition party member Soeren Espersen concurred, pointing out in an interview with Danish broadcaster DR that financial aid was “something you say about third-world countries when you provide development aid. But Greenland is not a developing country. It is a Western democracy. I think it’s reprehensible.

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Greenland’s government said the funding would go to civilian projects - including tourism, education, and the mineral industry - in a statement on Thursday, revealing it would be implemented “primarily as consultancy and advisory assistance from US experts.”

It’s worth noting that the last time the US had a strong presence on Greenland, they left behind upwards of 30 abandoned military bases - some of which have been leaking toxic waste into the land and ocean ever since. As the ice sheets melt, researchers have warned that a significant amount of toxic waste stored at those bases could be released into the environment.

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Hitting pretty - Russian boxer chooses country's HOTTEST female boxing & MMA fighters (PICTURES)

Thu, 2020-04-23 19:12

Russian boxer Svetlana Soluyanova has chosen her top knockouts outside in and outside the ring by compiling a list of boxers she considers not just the most beautiful but who could go on to become world champions in the ring.

The famous line in the legendary fight film Rocky reads: “Why do you wanna fight? Cos I can’t sing or dance”, but that doesn’t read true for Svetlana Soluyanova. The women’s European flyweight champion provided relief from quarantine boredom with her guitar solos and humorous self-penned songs.

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Now the bombshell boxer is passing the time by listing her top boxing “beauties”, hot female fighters with the potential to set the world alight in pro boxing.

“These are my top beauties. I’ve always wanted to place on my page and show women boxers with huge professional attention and the most beautiful appearances in my personal opinion,” Soluyanova said on Instagram.

“Actually there are many more of them and all will not fit on the list. These are the people who personally for me bring about aesthetic pleasure. The song ‘You can’t be so beautiful on this earth’ plays in my head.”

So, in no particular order, here are the top hottest female fighter's in boxing today - according to Soluyanova.

Fatima Dudieva 

Natives of the North Ossetia-Alanian village of Beslan are rarely anything less than tough and Fatima Dudieva is certainly no exception. But the boxer has taken her hereditary fighting spirit to a new level. 

The 26-year-old bantamweight recently published a video of a training session in her native North Caucasus mountains attempting to literally fight coronavirus.

“Enough of sitting at home in quarantine. I am taking out coronavirus,” she said. “No one was hurt in this video, I didn’t come into contact with anyone, apart from my sister. Health to everyone and a healthy way of life! Not a day without sport!”

Hailing from the same Russian region as former cruiserweight world champion Murat Gassiev, Dudieva has continued her region’s proud fighting history and posted a perfect 6-0 record with an impressive three knockouts as a professional since entering the paid ranks in 2018.

Dudieva also has a good fighting pedigree outside the ring. Before switching to concentrate solely on boxing the fighter began in professional MMA we're she was also unbeaten, recording 2 wins and a draw from her three outings as a member of the Team Strela Brazilian JiuJitsu and grappling school in Moscow.

She has since boxed on the undercard of fighters such as ex-world champ Eduard Troyanovsky and is currently rated number 14 in the world by website Boxrec. Big things are expected of her ring return.

Viktoria Kuleshova

Kulsheova is one of Team Russia’s more experienced boxers and has been part of the national team set up since 2016, and holds the prestigious rank of International Master of Sport.

That same year she clinched a bronze medal in the 54kg bantamweight division at the European Championship in Sofia, Bulgaria, helping her nation to top the medal table with a haul of 4 gold and 4 bronze.

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Kuleshova, who also represented Russia at the 2019 AIBA World Amateur Championships but failed to medal, is head of a production company YF Productions and her astuteness in front of the camera is evident on her Instagram page.

Ornella Heteyeva 

Junior world champion Heteyeva only came to boxing after 10 years of practicing ballet, and won bronze at her first ever senior European Championships in 2019 in the 64kg weight class, but complained of poor judging that stopped her from claiming top spot at the tournament.

From Ossetia, Heteyeva trains in the capital Vladikavkaz, and had been planning on boxing at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics this year before their cancellation due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Liudmila Vorontsova

Aged 13, Liudmila Vorontsova decided she’d had enough of being bullied by classmates and gave up ballet for boxing. Eight years later and the now-21-year-old featherweight is one of Russia’s most decorated female amateurs.

Hailing from the Far Eastern Siberian Republic of Buryatia, which shares a border with Mongolia, Vorontsova became junior European and Russian champion before moving into senior boxing last year.

Since then Vorontsova gas claimed a silver medal at the female world championships 2019 in the 57 kg weight class, the same year she became Russian senior champion int he same category.

“I started boxing because my classmates teased me. They laughed at me because I was a geek,” she says. Looks like Vorontsova is set to have the last laugh.

Alua Balkibekova 

Perhaps one of the least experienced fighters on the list, Balkibekova represents Kazakhstan and has been a member of the Central Asian country’s famed Olympic boxing setup.

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The 23-year-old also represented the country at the AIBA world championships and hones her fleeting footwork as a hip hop dancer when not training for fights.

Ekaterina Paltseva

Russian team member Paltseva’s childhood hero is perhaps the greatest ‘Russian’ boxer of all-time - former undisputed light heavyweight and pound for pound king Roy Jones Jr., who not long ago received a Russian passport from Vladimir Putin.

The 22-year-old from Krasnodar has her sights set on becoming another Russian great, and has begun on her journey to emulate the great Jones Jr by becoming 2018 European champion and 2019 AIBA Women's World Boxing Championships gold medalist in the light flyweight (48kg) division.

Anastasiia Artamonova 

Artamanova built a career as one of the most experienced junior amateur boxers on the international circuit by amassing an impressive record of over 100 bouts before turning over to senior level.

The Team Russia representative has a mix of braun beauty and brains that has seen her become a three-time European champion all while studying law at Voronezh State University, as well as having the distinction of entering  Soluyanova’s list.

One of her major recent accomplishments was a win at the under-22 EUBC European Boxing Championships in Vladikavkaz, Ossetia, in March last year, we're she was chosen as captain of the female team for the first time.

Zarina Tsoloyeva

It’s not everyday boxers are compared to Hollywood sex symbols but then Kazakh-born amateur boxer Zarina Tsoloyeva is not your everyday boxer; the welterweight scrapper happens to share an uncanny resemblance to Oscar-winner Angelina Jolie. 

You would imagine such a likeness would be taken as a welcome compliment, but on the contrary, Tsoloyeva thinks it’s more of a curse and doesn’t see a resemblance herself.

“I won’t lie, I love this actress and am amazed by her beauty,” Tsoloeva said. “The whole world tries to imitate her looks, but I do not think we look similar. Maybe some features are more or less like hers, but we definitely look different.”

Tsoloyeva has also garnered attention in the ring, where her best result at an AIBA World Championships came in 2016 when she finished in fifth place in her home country in the 64kg light welterweight division.

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