Venezuela prosecutors probe opposition leader Juan Guaido for ‘high treason’

A criminal investigation has been launched into Venezeulan opposition leader Juan Guaido and several key advisers after the government led by President Nicolas Maduro accused them of acts of treason.

Venezuelan Prosecutor general Tarek Saab announced the move on Friday. Guaido was allegedly involved in negotiating away Venezuela’s “historical claim” to the territory of Esequibo, which is formally under the administration of Guyana.

On Thursday, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez offered evidence in the form of phone records allegedly showing adviser Manuel Avendaño discussing relinquishing claims to the Esequibo region over which the two nations were at loggerheads for decades.

“The criminal organization headed by Juan Guaidó had initiated concrete actions to illegally appropriate Venezuela’s assets, financial resources, Venezuelan gold, Venezuelan debt, to enrich themselves and to serve transnational interests,” Rodriguez said.

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‘Don’t @ me’: KFC bites back at Tories after Bojo’s party uses them for Corbyn attack

The Tories have been mercilessly roasted by fried chicken fast food chain KFC, after PM Boris Johnson’s party tagged them on Twitter in a political attack on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The Conservatives tweeted on Friday: “Hey @KFC_UKI, we’ve found an even bigger chicken than you” and attached a photoshopped picture of Corbyn in a chicken costume with the words “Totally spineless chicken.”

However, the fried chicken specialists responded to give short shrift to the Tories’ attempt to include them in a political debate, as they fired back: “This is KFC not LBC don’t @ me.” LBC is a radio station that focuses on UK politics.

The antagonistic post by Johnson’s party may have been prompted after Labour and other opposition parties agreed earlier on Friday to reject government plans for a snap poll in a motion to be put before British MPs in parliament on Monday.

KFC’s brutal knockdown prompted much amusement online with many praising the restaurant chain. There were calls for the fast food giant to hand Corbyn a black [loyalty] card so that the vegetarian leader can make the most of the vegan burger they launched in June.

It would appear the UK government has a particular taste for all things chicken at the moment. In August, they launched a new strategy to curb knife crime, by putting anti-stabbing messages on takeaway boxes of fried chicken in several restaurant chains in England and Wales.

Critics denounced the initiative as racist due to an age old trope of linking black people and fried chicken.

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Home invader attacks head of Russian Election Commission with STUN BATON on eve of election

Russian Central Election Commission chief Ella Pamfilova was attacked at her home with a stun baton by an unknown assailant. The incident, believed to be a botched burglary, occurred two days before local elections.

The incident occurred early on Friday, when Pamfilova was at home in Moscow Region. Later in the day, she recounted her experience on TV. 

At first, I was frightened, then pulled myself together and began hitting him with all my might. Then I grabbed a chair, began to shout at him very loudly. I did not even know that I could do it that loudly.

According to media reports, the official was roused by her cat, which wanted to go inside. As she went downstairs to let the cat in, she ran into a masked individual who attacked her with a stun baton. However, she fought back, hitting and scratching him until he fled.

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“All in all, I somehow fended him off and he ran away under my assault,” Pamvilova said.

While the suspect did not manage to steal anything from her house, she was left with an injured hand, cuts and bruises, as well as burn marks from the stun baton. The attacker was injured in the scuffle as well, Pamfilova believes.

The incident occurred just two days before local elections scheduled for Sunday across Russia. Naturally, the timing prompted speculation that the attack could have been politically motivated, yet there’s no official word one way or the other. 

Pamfilova herself refrained from speculating on the motive behind the attack.

“I really hope it was just a coincidence. Maybe he picked the wrong house, maybe he did not know who lives there,” she said. “Still, you really have to be an idiot to do this just two days before the elections… The only thing I want to say is, I don’t wish for anyone to live through this. Thank God, my nerves are quite strong, but it’s still very hard.”

A criminal investigation into the attack has been launched. The culprit, if found and convicted, could get up to 12 years in prison for trespassing and armed robbery.

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Britain’s House of Lords approves legislation aimed at blocking possible no-deal Brexit

The British parliament’s upper chamber on Friday approved a bill which aims to block a no-deal Brexit at the end of October by forcing PM Boris Johnson to seek a delay to Britain’s EU departure. The House of Lords approved the bill without a formal vote at its final stage.

The decision requires Johnson to ask for a three-month extension to Britain’s EU membership if parliament has not approved either a deal or consented to leaving without agreement by October 19, Reuters said. The legislation is expected to be signed into law by Queen Elizabeth on Monday.

Johnson has dubbed it the “surrender bill” and said it has scuppered his Brexit negotiations with the EU by removing the threat of leaving without a deal.

He kicked 21 lawmakers out of his Conservative Party’s parliamentary group earlier this week for working with opposition parties in the House of Commons to pass the legislation against the government’s wishes.

‘We’re gonna knock the sh*t out of each other!’ The ‘Irish Dragon’ supporting Khabib at UFC 242

Given the history between UFC champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor, there may not be many Irish fighters willing to support the Russian. But Paul ‘The Irish Dragon’ Felder will be an exception on Saturday night.

READ MORE: UFC 242: Khabib strips naked to make weight as title showdown with Poirier becomes official (VIDEO)

At UFC 242, the Philadelphia fighter will take on Brazilian UFC veteran Edson Barboza in the co-main event bout of the night in Abu Dhabi, the chief support to Khabib’s lightweight unification fight against interim champion Dustin Poirier, and is hungry to reverse a 2015 unanimous decision loss to ‘Junior’.

The fiery-haired Felder only fell into MMA after taking an amateur fight upon graduating from The University of the Arts in his native Philadelphia. He is now number 10 in the official UFC lightweight rankings, having had 12 fights in the division since joining in 2014.

Although Felder is not Irish-born, he acquired his fight name by virtue of studying martial arts and growing up a small Irish-Catholic neighbourhood in South Philadelphia – which led to the moniker ‘the Irish Dragon.’

On Saturday, Felder will take into the Octagon a hunger to avenge his defeat against Barboza, one of only four in his 20 professional MMA contest thus far, but he insists there is no “bad blood” between the two, although there will be no love lost either.

“There’s no bad blood between me and Barboza,” Felder told the UFC’s official website. “We’re gonna try to knock the living s**t out of each other, I can tell you that, but it’s purely for who’s gonna move up the ladder and who’s gonna get closer to that title shot. 


“That’s it. And I feel like it’s my time to get that one back. At this point, he’s the number seven guy, so with a win over him I put myself in the position of being to call out the guys above that number seven spot. And that’s all I want.”

Aged 34, victory over Barboza would be a certain way to prolong Felder’s career, and the Philly native may be catching a 33-year-old Barboza at the right time. Despite having shared the ring with some of the biggest names in the sport, Barboza has lost three of his last four fights, including one to Khabib. 

“They all want me to retire at this point. But I’m still young. I’m only 35 and I’ve still got quite a few more years of fighting if I needed to fight or wanted to fight. I still love it and it’s what I do. I’m a martial artist,” Felder said.

“There’s some things left for me to conquer in this sport and there are some dudes I can beat that are at the top right now, this guy being one of them.”

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US Open: Russian Medvedev can continue ‘villain to hero’ transformation as he faces revived Dimitrov

Daniil Medvedev and Grigor Dimitrov are both on paths to redemption at the US Open, but only one can seal a spot in the final when they meet in New York on Friday.

Russia’s Medvedev, 23, has broken new ground on the hard courts of Flushing Meadows, going deeper than he has ever done before at a Grand Slam.

He entered the tournament in red-hot form, reaching successive finals in August before picking up the Cincinnati Masters title on the eve of the US Open – propelling him to a career-high number five in the world.

If there was anyone to break the stranglehold at Grand Slams of the ‘Big Three’ of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, it felt like Medvedev was the man.

READ MORE: Russia’s Medvedev can be the man to break Big Three’s Grand Slam dominance

His form in New York so far has borne that out, progressing as he has done to a maiden Grand Slam semifinal.

But it has not been plain sailing, as the 6ft 6in Russian has battled his rivals, injury and the crowd.

His running battle with the notoriously feisty New York crowd began in his third-round match with Feliciano Lopez, during which he snapped at a ball boy before giving the crowd the middle-finger.

He lapped up the jeers in his post-match interview – thanking the crowd for giving him “the energy to win” – and again played the troll card after beating Germany’s Dominik Koepfer in the next round.

© Global Look Press / Imago-images / Li Muzi

Medvedev himself hinted that it was more stagecraft than genuine sourness toward the crowd, and waged peace rather than war with New Yorkers after his four-set quarterfinal win against Stan Wawrinka, saying: “ Sorry guys, and thank you.”

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Of more concern to the big-serving Moscow-born player will be the injuries he has contended with throughout his two weeks at Flushing Meadows.

He was forced to require heavy strapping to his left thigh for part of the Wawrinka match, and has admitted to taking pain killers to numb the various ailments that have inevitably caught up with him after playing so much tennis in recent months.

© Global Look Press via ZUMA Press

Still, the big Russian’s serve has been a major weapon thus far, firing down 78 aces – the second-highest tally of the tournament – as well as hitting 52 forehand winners.

His double-fault tally has admittedly been high (38), but that indicates Medvedev’s willingness to go all-out on his serve. 

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Across the net on Friday at Arthur Ashe Stadium will be Dimitrov, the Bulgarian enjoying a resurgence in New York that not many would have foreseen heading into the tournament.

The unseeded 28-year-old has always had talent, but has so often failed to achieve his undeniable potential.

© Global Look Press via ZUMA Press

He appeared set to be a serious Grand Slam contender when reaching the world’s top three in 2017, but then saw a fall almost as rapid as his rise, plunging out of the top 10 to as low as world number 78 heading onto the US Open this year.

But he has found his rhythm, and spectacularly so, reaching the last four in New York by beating Swiss great Roger Federer in a five-set quarterfinal thriller. 

READ MORE: Bulgaria’s Dimitrov knocks out Federer in US Open shocker, will face Russian Medvedev in semis

Friday night will also be his third experience of a Grand Slam semifinal, after losing outings in the Australian Open in 2017 and Wimbledon in 2014.

So often the Bulgarian has made the headlines for his off-court courtship, with high-profile former relationships with Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova several years ago, as well as with pop star Nicole Scherzinger.

Dimitrov and Scherzinger pictured in 2016. © Getty Images / Contributor

The man himself admitted after his win over Federer that “the past six, seven months have been pretty rough for me…”

“There were so many things I had to adjust in such a small but big period of time. Next thing you know, you’re almost end of the year, you have a result like that. It’s pretty special to me.”

Dimitrov’s form at the US Open indicates a man free from distraction – and one who is on a potential path to redemption.

Medvedev, in his own way, is seeking to complete a reversal of fortunes on Friday night, from villain to hero in the space of less than a fortnight.

Two intriguing stories, but only one spot in the final.      

Head-to-head record

Medvedev and Dimitrov have met twice before, earning one win apiece. The Russian beat his rival in straight sets in the round of 16 at the Washington Open in 2017. In the same year, Dimitrov bested the younger man on the grass of The Queen’s Club in London, winning in three sets in the quarterfinal.

Friday’s action is set to get underway at Arthur Ashe Stadium at 4pm local time.

The winner of the match will play either second seed Rafael Nadal or Italian 24th seed Matteo Berrettini in the final.   

Bank of Russia slashes key rate for third time this year

The Central Bank of Russia has cut the interest rate for the third consecutive time this year to seven percent, marking another step towards decelerating inflation.

The benchmark rate was cut by 25 basis points to seven percent, its lowest point since 2014, according to a statement published by the regulator on Friday. It also promised more monetary easing to come as inflation dropped closer to the bank’s four percent target, although it’s been decelerating faster than expected this year due to an early harvest and weak consumer demand.

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The central bank also cut its year-end inflation outlook to 4-4.5 percent from a June forecast of 4.2-4.7 percent, while Russia’s Ministry of economic development and trade has put it even lower – at 3.6-3.8 percent.

“Inflation slowdown is continuing. At the same time, inflation expectations remain elevated. The Russian economy’s growth rate is still coming in lower than the Bank of Russia’s expectations. Risks of a global economic slowdown have increased,” the regulator stated, noting that the risk of inflation either accelerating or slowing down by the year-end are balanced. The bank’s next board meeting on the key rate is scheduled for October 25, with another rate-cut anticipated.

It’s probable that we will lower the rate [further] at one of the upcoming meetings, meaning one of the next three,” the head of the Central Bank of Russia Elvira Nabiullina said at a press conference in Moscow.Yury Tulinov, head of research at Rosbank, also pointed to the suppositions of a further rate-cut.

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If there are no shocks to the currency from US-China, sanctions and Brexit before the end of the year, they are ready to cut again,” he stated.

Following news of the rate cut, the ruble slightly strengthened against both major currencies. The dollar dropped by 0.11 percent to 65.91 rubles, and the euro lost 0.07 percent and now stands at 72.68 rubles.

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Alibaba plans to launch online sales of Russian goods in China

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is considering starting an online platform for selling goods from Russia to China in 2020, sources told TASS at the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF).

“All Russian goods which are currently sold in China are imported through the B2B (business-to-business) service. That is not export through an e-commerce platform,” said the source, adding that Alibaba plans to launch the first such platform next year.

The company still has to figure out how to build reverse logistics, according to the source.

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In terms of e-commerce, there are some issues related to the delivery of goods from Russia to China.

Goods from Russia are currently exported only via eBay and Ozon, said the source, noting that those products are mainly sold to the United States.

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German tourist sued for hotel review about ‘Nazi grandpa’ portrait

An Austrian hotel is suing a German tourist for slamming its photograph of a “Nazi grandpa” in online reviews. The hotel denied their relatives were Nazis, but the tourist has since proven otherwise.

The German visitor complained about the photographs of two men wearing uniforms with eagle and swastika badges that were on prominent display in the Gerlos hotel in online reviews on and Tripadvisor after he visited last August. 

“This made us wonder what the hotel owners are trying to tell us with this image,” the man, named as Thomas K in court documents, wrote in the since-deleted review. “This incident speaks volumes about the current state of affairs in this region of Austria.” 

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The hotel owners asked and Tripadvisor to remove the posts, and both complied, although Tripadvisor initially declined. 

The owners of the four-star hotel denied that their grandfather and uncle were members of the Nazi party, saying that they were part of the Wehrmacht uniformed armed forces of Nazi Germany during the time of the Nazi occupation of Austria. However, the tourist was able to prove that both men did join the Nazi party, in 1941 and 1943, by combing through the German National Archives. 

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The owners’ lawyer said that they have decided to remove the portraits from display. Despite the removal of both the reviews and the portraits, one potential user has since written on Tripadvisor, “Is this the hotel where the ‘Nazi grandpa’ was displayed?”

The defamation trial is expected to continue until later this year in a regional court in Innsbruck.

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Definitely not a giant eel: Boris Johnson ‘yearns to believe’ in Loch Ness Monster

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson joked that “there is a part of my soul that still yearns to believe” in the existence of the Loch Ness Monster, after a scientific study found the elusive creature may simply be a giant eel.

During a visit to Darnford Farm in Aberdeenshire in Scotland on Friday, Johnson spoke to voice his cynicism at new research from New Zealand scientists. The researchers say the mysterious animal sightings in Loch Ness are less likely to be “Nessie” and more likely to be huge eels, after finding large concentration levels of the sea creatures’ DNA in the water.

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Johnson, rather amusingly remains unconvinced, explaining that “When I was a kid, I yearned to believe in it. I yearned to believe in it. Part of me still does.” He stressed that the high concentration of eel DNA in the water was not “conclusive proof of the non-existence of the Loch Ness monster.”

Perhaps like so many other “believers,” the prime minister is ostensibly struggling to deal with the prospect that “Nessie” may not exist after all.

Professor Neil Gemmell from Otago University, who led the study, revealed at a press conference at the Loch Ness Centre at Drumnadrochit on Thursday that eel DNA was found at “pretty much every location sampled” at Loch Ness.

“… we can’t discount the possibility that there may be giant eels in Loch Ness … what people see and believe is the Loch Ness Monster might be a giant eel,” Professor Gemmell added.

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Loch Ness, mythical home of the Loch Ness Monster - sometimes called 'Nessie' in the Scottish highlands. ©
Which ‘Nessie’ picture is the best? Loch Ness Monster papped twice in 1 day

The Loch Ness Monster, affectionately called “Nessie” by crypto-zoologists, is a long-necked creature that supposedly calls the Loch home and first surfaced in folklore in the 19th century.

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