Oops: Belarus police almost load arrested protester into CITY BUS by mistake

A pair of police officers in Minsk were caught on camera mistaking a yellow city bus for a riot wagon while making an arrest. Belarus is witnessing mass protests against the results of the presidential election.

The short video posted on social media Monday shows two riot police officers holding a demonstrator and attempting to load him up into a bus through the back door, before realizing their mistake. 

Protests first erupted on Sunday evening, after President Alexander Lukashenko announced he had been reelected with almost 80 percent of the vote. Opposition candidates accused him of election fraud.

Demonstrators took to the streets of Minsk and other cities in Belarus again on Monday, where they were met with rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades and tear gas.

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Belarus: Images of troops in camouflage uniform confronting protesters emerge amid brutal arrests

Heavily armed troops in military uniforms were filmed shooting rubber bullets and flashbang grenades at a crowd of protesters blocking traffic in Minsk, as demonstrations against the presidential election continued across Belarus.

Protesters blocked Kalvariyskaya street in western Minsk, a major thoroughfare near the First Ring road, on Monday. Riot police sent to disperse them were reinforced by troops in camouflage-pattern uniforms and armed with automatic weapons, who “opened fire” at demonstrators. 

As it turned out, the bullets were plastic riot rounds and the explosions were of flashbangs and smoke flares. Several people were injured, including journalist Natalia Lubnevskaya of Nasha Niva magazine, who was struck in the leg by a rubber bullet.

Pro-demonstrator social media accounts were quick to condemn “unidentified people in army uniforms without identification” who were “shooting at people.”

The uniformed men were quickly identified on social media, however, as members of the special anti-terrorist unit of the Belarusian Interior Ministry, known as ‘Almaz’ (Diamond). 

 

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Minsk and other cities in Belarus on Monday, protesting against the outcome of Sunday’s presidential election. The incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko officially won with almost 80 percent of the vote, but the united opposition led by Svetlana Tikhanovskaya called for the election to be annulled, alleging widespread fraud and irregularities.

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Belarusian law enforcement officers detain men during a rally of opposition supporters following the presidential election in Minsk, Belarus August 10, 2020.  © REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko
Police shoot grenades and tear-gas at protesters against presidential election results in Belarus

Police have cracked down on Monday’s protests, using rubber bullets, flashbang grenades and tear gas in Minsk and elsewhere, according to local media reports. More than 3,000 people were arrested following the clashes between police and pro-opposition protesters on Sunday.

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Nikki Haley hit with avalanche of Twitter mockery and vitriol for daring to complain about tardy popcorn deliveries

Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley might have thought she was taking a break from her usual opining on political issues to tweet about a personal concern – two birthday orders for popcorn that weren’t delivered on time.

Little did Haley know that, in a US political discourse that can never seem to get its fill of strife, even popcorn is a fighting word. As an ally of President Donald Trump, the former US ambassador to the United Nations was apparently deemed fair game for attack.

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So, what was the fuss about? “OK Popcorn Factory, two messed-up birthday orders missed delivery dates with no explanation,” Haley posted to Twitter on Monday. “First time I gave you the benefit of the doubt. Second one tells me not to buy from you again.” She tagged the message #DisappointedNephew.

In response, Twitter users dropped F-bombs, called Haley a Nazi and noted that “Americans are dying.” Others were at least successful in politicizing the issue, arguing that the deliveries were probably late because Trump is “sabotaging” the US Postal Service. Haley didn’t mention whether she requested FedEx or USPS shipping, both of which are used by the Popcorn Factory.

One Twitter poster criticized Haley for trying to shame a company and said: “So sorry for your First World issues. By the way, $30, $50 or even $100 on popcorn is a crappy gift for your nephew.”

Other tweeters managed to mock Haley with a sense of humor. “Every morning I check out the #DisappointedNephew hashtag to catch up on the latest shattered boys, and today did not disappoint,” quipped writer and comedian Daniel Kibblesmith.

Adam Blickstein, who worked in public affairs at the US Department of Defense under former President Barack Obama, said: “Nikki Haley, tougher on Popcorn Factory than she was on North Korea or Russia.”

Haley even inspired some entrepreneurship, as online T-shirt seller The Pirate Print Shop quickly created a special top based on her complaint. Under the account name ‘Nikki Haley’s Joyful Nephew’, the shop owner tweeted: “We are with you Nikki Haley! Fight the good fight! This shirt will cheer you and your nephew up.” 

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Russian watchdog says Apple abused dominance of mobile app market, orders US tech giant to stop restricting competition

Apple has been found guilty of exploiting its app market dominance by Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS). The investigation began after leading anti-virus software developer Kaspersky Lab lodged a complaint last year.

The Russian company insisted that Apple’s policy in the parental control applications market for mobile devices with its iOS operating system was unfair.

Monday’s ruling follows criticism from Telegram founder Pavel Durov over the predatory practices of Silicon Valley’s kingpins. “Apple and Google impose an insane 30 percent sales tax on all digital goods sold on every mobile phone in the world,” the Saint Petersburg-born developer tweeted. “The result – users pay higher prices, start-ups and entire industries get destroyed or never appear. Regulators have been ignoring this absurdity for 10 years.”

Kaspersky Lab said that Apple had started to use its dominant position to create a competitive advantage for its own Screen Time application. This is reflected in its demand that all iOS developers have to remove configuration profiles from their applications.

“The FAS Commission found that Apple abused its dominant position in relation to developers of parental control mobile applications and limited competition in the distribution market for applications for mobile devices running on the iOS operating system,” the anti-monopoly regulator explained, as quoted by news agency TASS.

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The violation also resulted in Apple having established the right to reject and exclude any third-party application from the App Store, even if it meets all the requirements. The company will be ordered to discontinue this practice in Russia.

According to Kaspersky Lab, Apple demanded that, in order to have its Kaspersky Safe Kids application certified for release via the App Store, it should disable its two main functions – Application Blocking and Safari Browser Blocking. Prior to that, the application had been available on the App Store for three years without any objections by Apple Inc.

In late April, it was reported that Apple explained the removal from the App Store of parental control applications made by a number of third-party developers via an official statement, claiming that they did not meet the requirements of the corporation’s policy regarding user safety and privacy. The corporation emphasized that removing third-party parental control apps from the App Store was not a matter of competition, but a matter of security.

The investigation established that Apple occupied a dominant position with a 100 percent share of the market for mobile applications on the iOS operating system, since it is only possible to legally install such an application via the App Store, which it controls.

A spokesperson for the Kaspersky Lab told TASS that they are satisfied with the outcome of the case. “Primarily because the abuse by large corporations and their attempts to transfer their market power, which has negative effects on competition in adjacent markets, must be prevented. Healthy competition fosters progress and as a result users benefit from that,” they explained.

“We hope that Apple will correct the policy and attitude towards competitors in the markets adjacent to the iOS platform and, when releasing its applications, Apple will not place them in a more privileged position and will not create all sorts of obstacles and barriers to other companies,” the statement continued.

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Beirut protesters tell RT they won’t leave streets until ENTIRE PARLIAMENT steps down after PM’s resignation

The resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab along with his cabinet hasn’t quelled public anger in Beirut. Protesters told RT they’ll continue pushing for a “revolution” until the entire parliament steps down.

Diab announced his resignation on Monday, nearly a week after a devastating explosion ripped through Beirut, killing more than 160 people, wounding 6,000, and reducing large swathes of the Lebanese capital to rubble. Since the explosion, protesters had clamored for Diab’s resignation, after it emerged that 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in unsafe conditions by officials triggered the blast.

“People here are calling this a revolution,” RT correspondent Paula Slier said in her report on Monday night, as protesters again poured into the streets to demand change. She said protesters told her that “they’re not going to stop taking to the streets until the whole parliament itself resigns.”

Nine members of Lebanon’s 128-seat parliament have resigned since the explosion, yet the vast majority remain in office, as does President Michel Aoun. The president has the power to dissolve parliament, but needs the backing of two thirds of the cabinet to do so. Aoun accepted the government’s resignation but has asked Diab to stay in power in a caretaker capacity — and has thus far given no word on whether he’ll ask for a dissolution of parliament.

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Lebanon's PM Hassan Diab submits his resignation toPresident Michel Aoun at the presidential palace in Baabda, August 10, 2020 © Reuters / Aziz Taher
Lebanese PM Hassan Diab announces resignation of entire government amid protests triggered by Beirut explosion

In the meantime, tear gas once again choked the streets of Beirut on Monday night. Mobs of protesters continued to throw rocks at police, who have in recent days responded with rubber bullets as well as live ammunition. “Beirut really hasn’t witnessed scenes like these in many many years,” Slier said. “[There’s] a lot of anger, a lot of frustration,” she added.

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Belarus on the brink? Unloved in Moscow, a pariah again in the West & facing protests at home, Lukashenko is running out of road

Alexander Lukashenko will likely ride out the gathering storm across Belarus. However, he cannot remain the president forever. Which means Russia needs to work out a realistic long term strategy toward its closest ally.

There is little that Russia’s leaders like less than political instability. The 2016 Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation uses the word ‘stability’ no fewer than 24 times, and the term has appeared regularly in the speeches of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin throughout the 21 years he has been either president or prime minister. Given a choice between revolution and the status quo, the preference of most Russians runs firmly in favor of the latter.

This may explain Putin’s response to Sunday’s presidential election in Belarus. According to official figures (which many disbelieve), incumbent President Lukashenko won nearly 80 percent of the vote. Following the announcement of this result, violent protests broke out in cities across Belarus, with opposition activists complaining that the results had been falsified. 

On Monday, Putin, however, chose to ignore the demonstrations and instead congratulated his Belarusian counterpart on his re-election. “I hope that your governance will facilitate further development of mutually beneficial Russian-Belarusian relations in all areas,” said Putin.

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FILE PHOTO: Russian President, Vladimir Putin, meets with Belarusian President, Alexander Lukashenko, in Sochi. © Reuters / Mikhail Klimentyev
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Lukashenko is not in Moscow’s good books at present. The Belarusian president has proven adept at playing the West and Russia off against each other, plotting a middle path for his country between the two sides. This has precluded Belarus from advancing too far along the road of integration with Russia. Since the Kremlin favors such integration, his stance has led to a certain degree of frustration in Moscow.

Given Belarus’ reluctance to do Russia’s bidding, Russia has been increasingly unwilling to subsidise the Belarusian economy by, for instance, supplying it with cheap oil and gas. This in turn has led Lukashenko to look to America, furthering suspicions of him in Moscow. The last couple of years have seen relations between Belarus and Russia spiralling slowly downwards.

Matters then took a serious turn for the worse during the recent election campaign, when the Belarusian authorities arrested 33 Russian ‘mercenaries’ who were passing through Minsk. Their destination was Turkey, at least at first.

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The Russians were accused of plotting to organize mass disorder. The preposterous nature of the charges, and the insinuation that the Russian state was behind the alleged plot, have seriously raised tensions between Moscow and Minsk.

That said, it seems that Russia would still prefer Lukashenko to the alternative, especially if it takes the form of revolution. While there is no reason to believe that Lukashenko’s main opponent, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, is ill-disposed to Russia, and thus few grounds for fearing that a revolution in Belarus will pull that country out of Russia’s orbit and into that of NATO or the European Union, it seems that the Kremlin would rather not take the chance. Russian, indeed broader East European, history demonstrates that revolutions have a habit of getting out of hand. Violent protests against alleged falsifications of elections are something Moscow most definitely does not wish to encourage. It’s better to leave things as they are.

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Belarusian law enforcement officers detain men during a rally of opposition supporters following the presidential election in Minsk, Belarus August 10, 2020.  © REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko
Police shoot grenades and tear-gas at protesters against presidential election results in Belarus

It’s also better not to jump to support a revolutionary movement which is likely to fail. The demonstrations in Belarus have led some Western pundits to leap to the conclusion that Lukashenko’s end is nigh. He is, as one article put it on Monday, ‘a dead man walking’. It seems that Putin sees things rather differently. In rushing to congratulate Lukashenko, Putin is gambling that the protests will run out of steam and that Belarus’ president will be able to ride out the current storm.

Putin may be right, but there are some risks to this strategy. In 2004, Putin similarly congratulated Viktor Yanukovich on his victory in Ukraine’s presidential election, only to see that result annulled a few weeks later following the so-called Orange Revolution. Should Lukashenko fall, Russia will find itself in a similarly embarrassing situation. Thus, there are advantages to be had in keeping options open and in maintaining good relations with Belarus’ opposition.

On the other hand, it is not unreasonable to suppose that Lukashenko will come out on top of the current crisis. In that case, Putin may be able to reap some dividends. 

In the past two years, Western states have been promoting better relations with Belarus. They may now change direction. Already, demands are being heard for the EU to impose additional sanctions on Belarus. Should the EU and the United States choose to take such a line, Lukashenko might be forced to shift in a more pro-Russian direction. 

Even if he does, however, Moscow still needs to consider what it will do once Lukashenko leaves office, as he eventually must. The short term advantage of standing by his side must be measured against the long term advantages of fostering good relations with the Belarusian people, as well as against the need to protect Russia’s commercial and strategic interests. For now, the preference for stability is winning out. It remains to be seen whether events will justify that choice.

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McDonald’s sues ex-CEO over CONSENSUAL flings: A virtue-signalling distraction for firm plagued with sex harassment probes?

McDonald’s is suing ex-CEO Stephen Easterbrook for allegedly concealing relationships with employees. Axed for a consensual fling last year, he’s an ideal distraction from the fast food giant’s larger sexual harassment problem.

The megachain has claimed that while Easterbrook admitted to one (consensual, non-physical) relationship with an employee when he was fired in November, he concealed three others — and destroyed evidence to cover his tracks, according to the lawsuit, revealed Monday in an SEC filing. He is accused of deleting sexually explicit photos and videos sent from corporate email accounts from his cell phone in order to keep them from investigators.

McDonald’s is using the latest accusations to attempt to claw back $670,000 the former exec received as part of his “without cause” separation agreement — the equivalent of 26 weeks salary — as well as compensatory damages. The company also wants to block him from exercising some $42 million in stock options, complaining he wouldn’t have been allowed to keep them had McDonald’s known about the other relationships prior to his firing and charging he “breached his fiduciary duties” as an officer of the corporation.

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When he was terminated for the text- and video-based hookup last year, Easterbrook attested that there were no similar “instances.” Relationships between employees of different ranks are forbidden under McDonald’s company policy, though they are reportedly common.

However, the lawsuit alleges that after being tipped off that Easterbrook had had a sexual relationship with another employee, McDonald’s discovered he’d had not one but three such relationships in the year preceding his firing, even rewarding one of the employees he’d trysted with by giving her a restricted stock grant worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Current CEO Chris Kempczinski condemned his predecessor’s alleged attempt to conceal his dalliances. “McDonald’s does not tolerate behavior from employees that does not reflect our values,” he said in a message to employees on Monday.

But this moral posturing over the ex-CEO’s indiscretions offers McDonald’s a welcome chance to grandstand, distracting from what is reportedly a widespread issue within the company. Just last week, the Nation ran an exhaustive cover story detailing sexual harassment allegations at McDonald’s restaurants in the US, and in May, the International Union of Food Workers (IUF) charged that sexual harassment was “systematic” and “rampant” throughout the company’s global fast food empire in a complaint filed with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. 

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Additionally, the Time’s Up legal defense fund filed 24 separate harassment complaints against McDonald’s last year, on the same day Brazilian authorities began probing the restaurant’s locations in that country over allegations of sexual assaults, racism, and promotions offered in exchange for sexual favors. Time’s Up also assisted in a $500 million class action lawsuit against McDonald’s in April for “systemic sexual harassment.” 

Because McDonald’s is a franchise, it has argued the company is not responsible for what happens at individual locations. 

But attacking the former CEO for consensual relationships while washing its hands of what the IUF called a “sexual harassment crisis” that is very much non-consensual comes off as tone-deaf and — given the hefty value of the stock options that could potentially end up back in McDonald’s hands — money-grubbing.

Already under fire for underpaying workers and continuing to serve up highly-processed, unhealthy food in a nation facing an unprecedented obesity crisis, McDonald’s certainly didn’t need another scandal. But attempting to reframe itself as a paragon of #MeToo virtue by suing its former CEO will not silence those demanding accountability for the fast food giant.

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KGB of Belarus says it stopped ‘assassination’ plot against opposition candidate Tikhanovskaya

Belarusian security services said that opposition politician Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who called for annulling the presidential election, was targeted in an assassination plot. The opposition denied asking for police protection.

Tikhanovskaya has contested the results of Sunday’s election, which officially saw her getting 10 percent of the vote to the incumbent Alexander Lukashenko’s almost 80 percent. Protests that erupted after the results were announced saw 3,000 people detained by police.

KGB chairman Valery Vakulchik told reporters on Monday that the security service intercepted a phone call talking about the need for a “sacred sacrifice,” and said the sender has been identified. The KGB then sent 120 police personnel to provide protection to the opposition headquarters in Minsk, Vakulchik said.

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Belarusian law enforcement officers detain men during a rally of opposition supporters following the presidential election in Minsk, Belarus August 10, 2020.  © REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko
Police shoot grenades and tear-gas at protesters against presidential election results in Belarus

Tikhanovskaya’s headquarters said they did not request protection from the authorities, however.

The opposition claims that Sunday’s election was plagued by fraud and irregularities and has called for its annulment. Lukashenko has responded by saying he will not allow a Maidan-style coup – referring to the 2014 events in neighboring Ukraine – and accusing Poland, the Czech Republic and the UK of backing violent protesters. Warsaw and Prague have denied the allegation.

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‘We are coming for you’: Chicago mayor promises CRACKDOWN after night of ‘straight-up felony’

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who was criticized for her handling of riots during ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests, has now promised to get tough on crime after a night of “brazen and excessive criminal looting” in the city.

Hordes of looters swarmed into Chicago’s downtown on Sunday night, ransacking stores along the Magnificent Mile shopping street and brawling with police officers. Two people were shot during the night by unknown assailants and 150 people were arrested, Chicago Police Department Superintendent David Brown told reporters on Monday morning.

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot promised on Monday to crack down hard on the “abject, criminal behavior” of the looters.

To those who engaged in this criminal behavior, let’s be clear: we are coming for you. We are already at work in finding you and we intend to hold you accountable for your actions.

Lightfoot is not known as a ‘law and order’ politician, yet the mayhem of Sunday has led to a dramatic change in rhetoric from the mayor. Previously, as her aldermen complained about violence in their districts during riots in June, Lightfoot said that the aldermen were “full of s**t.”

When President Donald Trump announced plans last month to send federal agents into the city to quell its ongoing crime wave, Lightfoot accused the president of “terrorizing” her city, and rebuffed the offer. A month earlier, she accused Trump of trying to “inflame racist urges” by threatening to crack down on lawlessness.

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With her rhetoric hardened, Lightfoot drew a line between her policy toward the BLM riots and toward Sunday night’s looting. Referring to the looting spree, she declared that “this had nothing to do with legitimate, protected, First Amendment expression.”

The wave of riots and looting began after police shot and injured an armed suspect on the city’s south side on Sunday evening. The suspect – a 20-year-old man with four previous convictions – opened fire on the officers first. Brown said that “misinformation” about the shooting soon spread, with some social media posts encouraging looters to target downtown businesses in retaliation.

Chicago Police Department is currently reviewing CCTV footage in the hope of identifying more looters, and Superintendent Brown appealed to the public to hand over any more video footage they may have. Lightfoot told reporters that the police presence in downtown Chicago would remain beefed up and access to the area would be restricted at night “until we know that our neighborhoods are safe.”

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German basketball player urged to take legal action after being fired over coronavirus protest with athlete girlfriend

Basketball player Joshiko Saibou has been advised to take legal action against his former club Telekom Baskets Bonn after he was fired for attending a protest against ongoing coronavirus guidelines while not wearing a mask.

Saibou and his girlfriend, long jumper Alexandra Wester, took part in an August 2 demonstration where they were pictured not wearing face coverings or observing social distancing regulations, after which his contract with the team was terminated for “violations of the provisions of his current employment contract as a professional athlete.”

The player’s situation has since captured the attention of Athleten Deutschland (Athletes Germany), a group who oversee the rights of athletes in the country, who have said they are in touch with Saibou and his legal counsel with regard whether or not Telekom Baskets Bonn had the legal right to cancel the player’s contract over the matter.

Given what we currently know, it is doubtful whether the reasoning given by the Telekom Baskets fulfils the requirements for dismissal without notice,” they said in a statement, DW reported. “It would be logical were Joshiko to make use of his rights and take legal action.”

However, Athleten Deutschland have also distanced themselves from the specifics of Saibou’s protest, saying that a player’s right to free speech and expression should be protected – so long as it falls under constitutional parameters.

Defending their position Wolfgang Wiedlich, Telekom Baskets team president, said that that Saibou’s actions directly contravened health and safety guidelines being implemented to protect the health of players and fans. 

Therefore, we cannot be held responsible for a permanent risk of infection, such as that posed by Saibou, either to his colleagues in our team or to other BBL teams in competition,” Wiedlich stated.

Saibou, along with his girlfriend, remain unrepentant, calling his punishment a “slap in the face for free speech,” while Wester likened the guidelines which require her to wear as mask as being akin to slavery.

You should understand that we athletes are not the slaves of modern times, but you are making us into them,” she said, while also suggesting earlier this year that lawyers and doctors who campaign for human rights should be locked away in an “insane asylum.

Saibou has also been an outspoken critic of the guidelines going back several months, publishing a critique on social media in May in which he lambasted the public for ‘blindly’ following the guidelines.

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Wester’s position on the issue, meanwhile, could threaten her representation in next summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, with the German Athletics Association outlining the athletes who represent their country must watch what they say in the public forum.

Every DLV athlete has to be a role model when it comes to politically motivated statements on controversial issues,” they said.