Twitter says Conservative Party misled the public by rebranding as ‘factcheck account’ during election debate

The Conservative Party has been accused of misleading the British public by changing its Twitter to resemble an independent fact-checking organization during a televised election debate between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn.

Twitter said the Conservative Campaign Headquarters press office account, which has over 75,000 followers, misled the public with a last-minute rebranding of their social media account to ‘FactCheckUK’. The face swap came complete with a white tick avatar against a purple background, and it took place as the televised election debate between Tory leader Boris Johnson and rival Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn began. 

Only users who clicked through the account itself would see the disclaimer: “fact checking Labour from CCHQ”

© Twitter / GCHQPress

“Twitter is committed to facilitating healthy debate throughout the UK general election,” a Twitter spokesperson said.

“We have global rules in place that prohibit behavior that can mislead people, including those with verified accounts. Any further attempts to mislead people by editing verified profile information – in a manner seen during the UK Election Debate – will result in decisive corrective action.”

The account reverted to the original branding once the debate had concluded. 

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Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) and Britain's Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn on the set of
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The Tories are facing a deluge of criticism for the stunt. Google-funded fact-checking agency Full Fact labelled the rebrand “inappropriate and misleading,” while the Labour Party tweeted: “The Conservatives’ laughable attempt to dupe those watching the #ITVDebate by renaming their twitter account shows you can’t trust a word they say.”

© Twitter / @CharltonBrooker

Black Mirror writer Charlie Brooker decided to mock the egregious and blatantly obvious trickery by changing his own Twitter profile, to the same Fact Check UK Branding, adding the tagline, “Fact checking and shit,” while also tweeting a reference to George Orwell’s 1984.

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Serbia must keep buying gold to brace for crisis, President Vucic advises central bank

The National Bank of Serbia has been instructed by President Aleksandar Vucic to continue boosting gold reserves in order to create an economic bulwark for the country.

“I think we’ll continue doing that because of what we see in which direction the crisis in the world is moving,” Vucic told reporters in Belgrade, citing slowing growth in the euro area which is Serbia’s top trading partner and main source of investment.

Vucic’s advice comes as the country added nine tons of the precious metal last month to increase its bullion reserves to more than 30 tons. Serbia’s gold holdings now make up ten percent of the country’s total reserves.

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Central bank Governor Jorgovanka Tabakovic said the country paid about $434 million for the gold it bought last month, or $1,503 an ounce. Tabakovic said the acquisition is the latest in a series of moves to shore up financial stability by changing the structure of foreign debt and increasing the share of dinars and euros.Serbia’s gold buying follows the lead of central banks across the world, including top buyers Russia, China, and Turkey.

Global purchases of the precious metal totaled 547.5 tons in the third quarter of 2019. Analysts say the trend is likely to continue in the coming years due to heightened global tensions, currency wars, and the course of de-dollarization.

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

Put on your anti-smog mask first: AirAsia India gives passengers flying to Delhi pollution protection

One of India’s no-frills airlines has expanded the range of masks available on board; in addition to one for oxygen, it will now give passengers masks to help cope with smog in the capital which recently hit toxic levels.

AirAsia India has started to hand out the anti-smog masks, free of charge, to those traveling to Delhi from large cities like Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai, and Kolkata. The air in the Indian capital is so toxic that deadly particles – known as PM 2.5 – can reach deep into the lungs, causing cancer.

Now, masks will help passengers to protect themselves from pollution even after the flight, the airline told the Times of India, saying the innovation is about giving passengers “the best in-flight experience.”

The campaign, however, is limited in scope as it is set to run until the end of November.

The low-cost airline isn’t the first company to seize on Delhi’s deteriorating air. Recently, “oxygen bars” have been spotted popping up across the city to help locals breathe more easily.

Customers pay between 299 and 499 rupees (around $4 to $7) for a 15-minute oxygen session, which features several fragrances such as orange, lavender, cinnamon, eucalyptus, lemongrass or peppermint.

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A customer inhales oxygen mixed with aromatherapy at an oxygen bar in New Delhi, India, November 15, 2019.
Pay to breathe? ‘Oxygen bars’ hit New Delhi as India chokes under pollution & declares health emergency

The city’s staggering smog levels are blamed on an increase in road vehicles, construction, and industrial activity as well as the burning of rubbish and crops outside the capital.

Municipal authorities, struggling with tackling pollution, introduced the use of cleaner fuel, restricted traffic during certain hours, and closed some of the dirtiest power plants, but they seem to be losing the fight as the air quality keeps worsening.

Men walk in front of the iconic India Gate shrouded in smog in New Delhi © REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Earlier in November, Delhi was flagged as the most polluted major city in the world with an air quality index (AQI) of 527, according to an Air Visual ranking. This year, the air quality has been described as exceptionally bad, soaring to levels more than 20 times what the UN-run World Health Organization considers safe.

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French police use ‘weapons of war’ against protesters: Journalist tells RT how tear gas grenade exploded in his face

A French journalist recalled the terrifying moment when an explosive tears-gas grenade hit him at the Yellow Vest protest, telling RT that there was no justification for police employing combat tools.

The weekend marked one year since the Yellow Vest protests picked up in France, with independent journalist Julien being among the many reporters, covering the anniversary rallies in Paris.

It started peacefully, but things quickly got out of hand as the protest apparently got hijacked by a group of demonstrators in black outfits. “It was a real riot. Some scenes resembled urban guerilla warfare,” Julien later recalled.

© Ruptly

The rioters were blocking roads, building barricades and throwing bricks and Molotov cocktails at police. Julien remained in the crowd, filming the mayhem around him with a GoPro camera.

At some point, the reporter realized riot police have been whipped into a state of “panic.” They responded with a barrage of tear gas grenades and sting-ball ammunition, fired at the people almost indiscriminately.

© Ruptly

What happened next felt like a slow-mo scene from a war movie. One gas grenade landed near Julien, than another went off some three to five meters away from him, releasing thick white smoke into the air.

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© Reuters / Charles Platiau
Tear gas & bonfires: Scuffles with police as Yellow Vests block roads in Paris ahead of 1st anniversary of protests (VIDEOS)

“Then, apparently I was hit in the face [with a grenade]. It exploded right in my gasmask and smashed through its protective plexiglass visor. It felt like a strong punch in the nose. And after that I heard the grenade exploding.”

The shock, the pain and the burning were almost unbearable. The reporter instinctively removed his camera and tried running away. But he couldn’t make it more than five meters, helplessly collapsing on the pavement.

© Ruptly

Julien’s nose and upper lip were smashed by what he identified as a French-made GLI-F4 explosive tear gas grenade. “I watched this moment frame by frame later. There really was an explosion. The flash is clearly visible in my footage,” he recalled, confessing that the image of that flash is now haunting him and often reappears in front of his eyes.

The protesters around him rushed to Julien’s help as soon as they saw him fall down. “I’m really thankful for that,” he said. The reporter was carried into a safe place and emergency workers were called in.

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©  AFP / Martin Bureau
‘Morons, bullies & thugs’: French interior minister hits back at ‘ultras’ at Yellow Vests after Saturday mayhem in Paris

The man was diagnosed with a broken nose and taken to hospital together with other wounded demonstrators. “If I wasn’t wearing a gasmask I wouldn’t have gotten off so lightly,” he said. He was stitched up, with the doctor saying the blood tumor on his face will heal in a week.

But not everybody was that lucky. There was one man at the hospital who had huge problems with his eye after an injury similar to Julien’s. “I don’t know what his condition is now, but it’s a nine of ten chance that he had lost his eye.”

© Ruptly

The journalist said he was going to file a complaint with the police over what was done to him. However, he says has no high hopes that justice he deserves will be served. “I think that even with all the evidence I have, the probe will be terminated – like it happened in so many other cases.”

But Julien is eager to keep fighting until GLI-F4 grenade is removed from police arsenal. “Those munitions can seriously hurt the demonstrators and I’m not sure their use is justified, as actually it’s a combat tool,” he explained.

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‘Needs improvement’ vs ‘beyond reproach’: Corbyn and BoJo weigh in on monarchy in wake of Prince Andrew scandal

There are still unanswered questions in the wake of a shocking sex scandal that purportedly involved Prince Andrew, Jeremy Corbyn has said, following a disastrous interview in which the Duke of York denied the serious allegations.

The Labour Party leader was pressed about his thoughts on the royal family, and Prince Andrew in particular, during a televised election debate with Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday.

Asked if Andrew was “fit for purpose,” Corbyn argued that focus should be put on helping Jeffrey Epstein’s victims, adding that there are “very, very serious questions that must be answered and nobody should be above the law.”

He also said that the British monarchy “needs a bit of improvement.” His Conservative opponent insisted that “the institution of the monarchy is beyond reproach,” but stressed that “all his sympathies” were with the girls and women abused by Epstein and his cohorts. “The law must certainly take its course,” Johnson noted.

Some commentators on social media expressed bafflement at Johnson’s unwillingness to criticize the royal family, while others said Corbyn had been too soft on Andrew.

The Duke of York made a widely-derided appearance on BBC, in which he “categorically” denied allegations of sex abuse against a minor. One of Epstein’s victims, Virginia Giuffre, claims she was forced into sex with Andrew between 1999 and 2002.

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Former Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho appointed new Tottenham Hotspur head coach

The Portuguese boss succeeded Argentine Mauricio Pochettino, who was sacked on Tuesday, and has singed a contract until the end of the 2022-23 season.

He is taking over Tottenham Hotspur, as they rank 14th in the Premier League and haven’t won in their last five games. The north London club’s chairman praised Mourinho as one of the most successful managers in football.

“The quality in both the squad and the academy excites me,” Mourinho said. “Working with these players is what has attracted me.”

The 56-year-old has not been attached to any team since being sacked by Manchester United in December 2018. He has turned down a number of jobs in China, Spain and Portugal since then.

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Helicopter crash kills 2 US troops in Afghanistan – military

Two American service members have died after a helicopter crashed in Afghanistan, the US military has reported, adding that enemy fire was not to blame.

The incident happened on Wednesday at an undisclosed location in the war-ravaged country, according to a statement from the US-led Resolute Support operation’s command. The names of those killed have been withheld until their relatives are notified, it added.

Preliminary reports “do not indicate it was caused by enemy fire,” the military said. However, the incident happened just a week after a US convoy was hit by a suicide bomb while driving on the Kabul-Paktia highway. No casualties were reported, and no group claimed credit for the attack.

Currently, there are around 13,000 US troops deployed in Afghanistan. Earlier in November, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said the deployment will likely last “several more years.”

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FILE PHOTO: U.S. troops keep watch at the site of a suicide attack on the outskirts of Jalalabad, January 5, 2015. © REUTERS/ Parwiz
US convoy hit by suicide attack in Afghanistan – report

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‘He died in my hands’: 3 pro-Morales demonstrators killed in clashes with Bolivia’s police & soldiers near barricaded fuel plant

Three people have died during protests in Bolivia against the self-declared “interim” government that ousted Evo Morales, after violent clashes erupted between the socialist leader’s supporters and security forces.

In addition to the three fatalities at a fuel plant on Tuesday, Bolivia’s public defender’s office said another 30 people had been injured in the skirmishes, but added the exact circumstances of the deaths and injuries remained unclear.

Public Ombudsman Nadia Cruz’s office said the deaths were caused by gunshot wounds and called on the “interim” government to withdraw military units from all policing operations in order to reduce the violence.

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Bolivians mourn the death of a protester killed by security forces © Reuters / Marco Bello
Journalists & politicians from Morales’ party threatened with sedition arrests as Bolivia purges socialist elements

An Associated Press journalist in the area also reported hearing gunfire near the fuel facility in Senkata, which protesters have tried to block over the last five days in an attempt to shut down operations, as well as seeing a military helicopter flying over the plant.

A doctor on the scene told Ruptly that he tried to save one of the wounded demonstrators, but failed to do so.

“It’s a shame to see a comrade die in this way, because he died in my hands. Seeing it was a shot in the heart, how sad to see something like that,” the doctor said.

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Wrong narrative? AFP & Reuters scrub story about 100,000 detained migrant children after UN says it happened on Obama’s watch

Several news agencies have opted to delete a story stating that 100,000 migrant children were detained in US border facilities after the United Nations clarified that the number is years old – long predating the age of Trump.

After media outlets published stories trumpeting the 100,000 figure earlier this week, based on the word of UN refugee specialist Manfred Nowak, the expert was forced to correct his initial statement on Tuesday. As it turns out, the figure Nowak cited to reporters dates to 2015, meaning the dramatic number of detentions he revealed occurred under the watch of President Barack Obama, rather than Donald Trump, who is often assailed by progressive critics over his border policies.

Instead of issuing corrections, however, Nowak’s clarification prompted several outlets to withdraw their stories altogether, including Reuters and AFP, who both said no replacement story would be forthcoming.

At the time of publishing, AFP’s version of the story containing the outdated figure was still live on its website.

AFP’s article citing an outdated figure provided by independent UN expert Manfred Nowak, who later corrected the year the data represents.

©  AFP screenshot

Once responsibility for the vast number of detentions was passed from Trump to Obama, however, Nowak decided to clarify further that the 100,000 figure referred to the cumulative number of migrant children detained at any point in 2015, rather than all at one time, another caveat he apparently forgot to explain to reporters previously.

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Despite frequent and vocal criticisms of President Trump’s border policies, his predecessor’s approach to immigration was not entirely different, even earning Obama the moniker of “Deporter in Chief.” During his first term, President Obama deported some 400,000 migrants each year, setting a record for himself in 2012 at over 409,000. President Trump, meanwhile, has deported fewer than 300,000 each year since taking office in 2017.

A widely-circulated photo showing migrant children locked in a cage is also often attributed to President Trump’s policies, but just like the figure presented by Nowak, it, too, dates to the Obama years.

A handful of netizens took notice of the abrupt reversal by the news agencies, some critical of the move to outright scrub the offending articles, rather than simply correcting them to reflect the facts.

“The appropriate action would be to correct the story and issue a retraction, not delete it,” one user suggested. “The fact that this self proclaimed ‘news agency’ is going to bury news because it didn’t fit the narrative they’ve been tasked with dispensing encapsulates everything wrong with the press.”

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Beijing slams ‘hidden agenda’ behind HK ‘human rights act’ as US Senate votes unanimously in favor

The Senate has approved a Hong Kong “human rights” bill by unified vote which would empower the State Department to grade the territory’s “autonomy” and levy sanctions on foreign officials if Washington deems it insufficient.

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act passed through the Senate on Tuesday after a unanimous voice vote, following a similar unchallenged approval of a companion bill in the House in October. Both chambers of Congress are now set to reconcile the two different versions of the law before it goes to President Trump’s desk for a final sign-off, however the full support of both houses makes a veto unlikely.

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Riot police stand guard behind a burning barricade as they disperse anti-government protesters after a march in Tuen Mun, Hong Kong, China September 21, 2019.  ©  REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
‘Emboldening radicals’: China fumes after US lawmakers approve Hong Kong ‘human rights act’

While the law has been hailed by Hong Kong’s protest movement, with activists flying to Washington in September to lobby Congress to vote in its favor, Beijing eviscerated the bill, calling it a “serious violation of international law.” In a statement on Tuesday the Chinese foreign ministry reiterated its staunch opposition to the bill, arguing that its aim is not to underpin democracy, but deter China by fanning extremist sentiment inside the country.

The aim is to bolster anti-China, extremist and violent radicals who attempt to disrupt Hong Kong, damage Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, so that they can contain China by making a fuss out of the Hong Kong issue, which is exactly the malicious intention of certain people.

The ministry said the bill seeks to misrepresent violent actions as in pursuit of human rights and democracy, and is driven by a “hidden political agenda.”

Sponsored by a bipartisan group of Senators including Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), the bill, if passed, would require the Secretary of State to issue an annual “certification” affirming that Hong Kong enjoys the proper amount of autonomy from Mainland China in a number of areas, though exactly how Washington will quantify such a thing remains a mystery. President Trump would also be asked to submit a report to Congress under the law outlining “each foreign person” he determines to be “responsible for … gross violations of internationally recognized human rights in Hong Kong,” who will then be considered for sanctions.

A major backer of the bill, Senator Menendez celebrated its approval in a somewhat messianic tweet, calling it a “shot in the arm for the millions who have been patiently waiting for the US to once again serve as a beacon of light & solidarity in their push to defend their basic rights & autonomy.”

On the heels of the vote on the human rights law, the Senate passed a second bill on Tuesday, also unanimously, seeking to ban the export of certain riot control munitions to Hong Kong’s police force, including tear gas, pepper spray, stun guns and rubber bullets.

Hong Kong has been gripped by chaotic protests since March, initially over a now-withdrawn extradition bill which critics said would give too much power to the Mainland. The demonstrations have been marked by escalating violence, culminating this weekend in a massive police standoff at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, where hundreds of protesters were arrested after barricading themselves inside the school.

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An anti-government demonstrator carries a Molotov cocktail during clashes in Hong Kong. © Reuters / Athit Perawongmetha
UN decries ‘extreme violence’ by Hong Kong protesters amid fears of further escalation

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