Nord Stream 2 Route Under 3rd Danish Request Exceeds Original by 15 Miles

Nord Stream 2 Route Under 3rd Danish Request Exceeds Original by 15 Miles

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – The length of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline route in Danish waters under the third construction permit application in Denmark exceeds the original route by 25 kilometres (15.5 miles), Nord Stream 2 AG, the operator of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline construction project, told Sputnik on Monday.

Nord Stream 2 AG filed a request for another permit from Denmark earlier in the day — this time for construction of the pipeline along the third route, which runs in the exclusive economic zone of the country south of Bornholm Island.According to the company, the length of the original route is 139 kilometres while the length of the route under the 3rd application could be up to 164 km.

Meanwhile, public consultations on this application, which Denmark intends to initiate in the near future, may require the participation of several neighbouring countries, including Poland, a company official said.

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Russian priest banished to rural village after wife wins beauty pageant

Russian priest banished to rural village after wife wins beauty pageant

Oksana Zotova’s triumph at the “You’re Unique” pageant has ended badly for husband Father Sergii ( Instagram kosmetolog.magnitogorsk )

An Orthodox priest from the city of Magnitogorsk in central Russia has been banished to a village after it emerged that his wife had taken part in a flamboyant beauty pageant.

Following a disciplinary hearing, Father Sergii Zotov will now be forced to serve the tiny rural congregation of Fershampenuaz, about 35 miles north-east of his usual parish.

His wife, Oksana Zotova, a professional beautician, had won the “Miss Sensuality” prize in Magnitogorsk’s “You’re Unique” pageant. It was a triumph that may well have stayed local had it not been for a social media post that outed her as the wife of a priest.

The post, written by an anonymous internet user, claiming to be a cleric from the local diocese, attached some of the most scandalous pictures from the show and Mrs Zotova’s since deleted Instagram profile.

They show the professional beautician heavily made up, in stark red and pink lipstick, and with occasionally scanty clothing.

Church authorities reacted angrily to the revelations, and made it clear that Father Sergii wouldn’t be allowed back until his wife “repents.”

“It’s a major sin when the wife of a priest puts herself on show like this,” said Archpriest Feodor Saprykin, the chair of the local diocese court.

“What kind of a priest is he if can’t even manage his family?”

The anonymous social media post appeared to be a personal attack on Father Sergii from within the church structures, with the writer claiming to be shocked by the priest’s previous moral conduct.

“They were already under a warning … but life never teaches them,” the post read.

Speaking to local media Znak.com, Father Sergii suggested the man behind the post was motivated by less than honourable aims.

“We see everything, we understand that someone is after us,” he said. “Who it could be, I don’t know.”

But he said he accepted the punishment: “Oksana has made her conclusions, understood her mistakes, and understood that she did the wrong thing … What she won’t be doing is giving up her job.”

Indonesia’s election: the people, issues and preparations

Indonesia's election: the people, issues and preparations

JAKARTA (Reuters) – More than 192 million Indonesians are eligible to vote in presidential and parliamentary elections on Wednesday after campaigns focused on the economy, but with political Islam looming large over the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation.

FILE PHOTO: Supporters throw balloons as they attend a campaign rally of Indonesia’s presidential candidate for the next general election Joko Widodo at a stadium in Serang, Banten province, Indonesia, March 24, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan/File Photo

President Joko Widodo, a former furniture salesman who launched his political career as a small-city mayor, is standing for re-election in a contest with ex-general Prabowo Subianto, whom he narrowly defeated in 2014.

As conservative Islam gains traction, politicians including Widodo have taken pains to appear more Islamic. The worry for investors is that the appeal for conservative votes will translate into populist policy.

Most opinion polls give Widodo a double-digit lead but the opposition has disputed survey findings. Some recent surveys have shown Prabowo catching up.

The opposition has also said it has uncovered data irregularities affecting millions on the electoral rolls and has vowed to take legal action or use “people power” if its complaints are not resolved.

(Graphic: Indonesia election by the numbers – tmsnrt.rs/2V4DCqq)

The election is a huge logistical operation in the world’s third-largest democracy with 245,000 candidates vying for votes in what is described as the world’s biggest single-day election.

Nearly 350,000 police and military personnel, in addition to 1.6 million paramilitary officers, will fan out across the archipelago of 17,000 islands to safeguard the vote.

Polling stations will open at 7 a.m. (2200 GMT on Tuesday) in the east and close at 1 p.m. (0600 GMT) in the west.

Unofficial “quick counts” will be released hours after polling ends and the winning presidential candidate is expected to be apparent by late Wednesday.

The General Election Commission is expected to announce an official result in May.

THE “NEW FACE” IN POLITICS, WIDODO SEEKS A SECOND TERM

When Widodo was elected five years ago he offered a break from the military and political elite that had clung to power since the fall of strongman ruler Suharto in 1998.

Now, Widodo, 57, is running on his own record for a second term.

With his easy smile and signature “blusukan”, or impromptu walkabouts, he came to power on a wave of support for a clean, can-do image he cultivated as a small-city mayor, and then as governor of the capital, Jakarta.

Still, during his political rise, Widodo, a moderate Muslim from the city of Solo in Java island, has had to fend off smear campaigns suggesting he was anti-Islam, a communist or in debt to China. On Sunday, he made a pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest site, Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

As president, Widodo was saddled with expectations he could fix a host of problems, from human rights abuses to pervasive graft. Jokowi, as he is popularly known, also inherited an economy coming off a commodities boom, and faced an obstructive parliament.

He stitched together a majority in parliament and while unable to hit an economic growth target of 7 percent, led a push to build ports, roads and airports.

THE CHALLENGER – FORMER SPECIAL FORCES COMMANDER

Challenger Prabowo Subianto, 67, has long harbored ambitions for the top job and has cultivated a strongman image and ties with hardline Islamist groups in the hope of boosting his chances.

In the last election, in 2014, Prabowo, the head of the Great Indonesia Movement party, came within 6 percentage points of beating Widodo.

A former special forces commander, Prabowo comes from an elite political family. His father was one of Indonesia’s most prominent economists, serving in the cabinets of both presidents Sukarno and Suharto. The latter was his father-in-law.

Prabowo has fired up his rallies with warnings the country is at the mercy of unspecified foreign powers and on the verge of fragmentation.

CLAWING BACK VOTER SUPPORT IN MUSLIM HEARTLAND

Since taking office, Widodo has made efforts to bring religious parties into his coalition, and to secure the backing of the conservative voters he failed to win over in 2014.

His decision to pick Islamic cleric Ma’ruf Amin, 76, as his running mate was part of a strategy to enhance his ticket’s appeal among conservatives but it disappointed some of his moderate and progressive supporters, who say the president is pandering to conservatives and fear the erosion of Indonesia’s reputation for religious tolerance and pluralism.

Widodo’s aides say the mobilization of grassroots support and canvassing of thousands of Islamic schools in conservative provinces is crucial to prevent a repeat of 2014, when the opposition attacks cost him votes.

(Graphic: Widodo’s achievements – tmsnrt.rs/2CRgHYC)

DISGRUNTLED RURAL VOTERS WEIGH OPTIONS

Economic growth has hovered at about 5 percent over Widodo’s first term, but there has been a drop in real income for its nearly 40 million farmers, who account for a third of the labor force.

Widodo has sought to tame inflation with a cap on prices of staples such as rice and shallots, and to import more food. He remains popular in many rural areas though some farmers are considering the opposition even though Widodo has led an infrastructure drive that has improved access to markets.

Prabowo has said some of Widodo’s infrastructure projects have failed to help ordinary people.

THE FRONT LINE OF THE SOCIAL MEDIA ELECTION BATTLE

This election has been fought out over social media as never before. So-called buzzer teams have proliferated, named for the buzz they aim to create, to spread propaganda on behalf of both Widodo and Prabowo, sometimes with fake accounts.

Under Indonesia’s broad internet defamation law, creating and spreading fake news is illegal, but holding social media accounts in false names is not, unless a real person is being impersonated. Both campaign teams deny using buzzers or spreading fake news.

Misinformation is rampant on Facebook, which counts Indonesia as its third-largest market globally with an estimated 130 million accounts, as well as on its Instagram and WhatsApp affiliates and rival service Twitter.

The companies say they are working with the government and fighting false content.

PUSHING THE ENVELOPE IN INDONESIA’S MONEY POLITICS

Indonesia has some of the worst money politics in Southeast Asia, according to researchers. Handouts of cash and gifts, anti-graft advocates and politicians say, lead to rampant corruption as successful candidates recoup election expenses, and more, once elected.

Envelopes, usually stuffed with cash ranging from 20,000 to 100,000 rupiah ($1.42 to $7.08), are commonly doled out to voters. Though small amounts, the overall cost can be huge over a six-month campaign.

The going rate for a serious run for one of 560 seats in the national legislature is about 10 billion rupiah, or $708,000, according to the former deputy chief of the Corruption Eradication Commission.

Slideshow (4 Images)

Those aged between 17-35 account for over one third of Indonesia’s 193 million voters. Both Widodo and Prabowo ramped up efforts to appeal to them, deploying everything from holograms, campaign messaging in comic strips, and breakdancing.

PALM OIL CENTRAL TO ENERGY SELF-SUFFICIENCY PLEDGES

Both candidates have pledged to achieve energy self-sufficiency by boosting the use of bioenergy, particularly from palm oil. Indonesia opposes a European Union plan to curb the use of palm oil over deforestation concerns.

African Union Threatens to Suspend Sudan After Coup

African Union Threatens to Suspend Sudan After Coup

CAIRO (Sputnik) – The Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU) has threatened to suspend Sudan in the wake of last week’s coup, calling on the military to hand over power to a transitional civilian-led political authority.

The council demanded that the Sudanese military “step aside and hand over power to a transitional civilian-led political authority, in accordance with the will of the people and constitutional order, within a maximum period of fifteen days from the date of the adoption of the present communique [Monday],” according to the text.The council warned that the failure to fulfill this request would lead to the automatic application of the Article 7 of its protocol, “in particular the suspension of the participation of Sudan in all AU’s activities until the restoration of constitutional order.”

Last December, protests over a hike in bread prices erupted in Sudan and later escalated into nationwide demonstrations calling on President Omar Bashir to resign and end his 30-year rule.

On April 11, Sudanese Defence Minister Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf announced that Bashir had been detained and a transitional military council had been established to govern the country for the next two years.

Three Indian Teams Win Awards at NASA Annual Rover Challenge

Three Indian Teams Win Awards at NASA Annual Rover Challenge

NASA has awarded three teams from India as part of the US space agency’s annual Human Exploration Rover Challenge which invites high school and college students to build and test roving vehicles for future missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

The team from KIET Group of Institutions in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, won the “AIAA Neil Armstrong Best Design Award”, which recognises systems best designed to meet the Rover Challenge performance requirements, NASA said in a statement.

The Mukesh Patel School of Technology Management and Engineering from Mumbai, Maharashtra, won the “Frank Joe Sexton Memorial Pit Crew Award” – for ingenuity and persistence in overcoming problems during the race – as well as the “System Safety Challenge Award”.

A team from Lovely Professional University in Phagwara, Punjab, won the “STEM Engagement Award”, presented to the team that best informed others about rocketry and other space-related topics.

Nearly 100 teams took part in the competition, hailing from a record number of countries, including the US, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Ethiopia, Germany, Mexico, Morocco and Peru.

Indian-American NASA astronaut and two-time spaceflight veteran Sunita Williams attended the second day of the event, interacting with teams and participating in the day’s activities.

The International Space Education Institute of Leipzig, Germany, won first place in the high school division with 91 points; and a team from University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez won the college/university division with 101 points.

Teams were awarded points based on the successful navigation of obstacles and completion of tasks.

The competition, hosted by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and held at the US Space & Rocket Center, this year marked 25 years since the inaugural event, the statement said.

“We are so proud to congratulate this year’s winners, and every team that competed,” said Bob Musgrove, Acting Manager of the Office of STEM Engagement at Marshall.

“The creativity, skill and resourcefulness demonstrated each year on the rover course are the very traits that paved our path to the Moon in 1969, and the ones that will continue to carry NASA forward to the Moon again in 2024,” said Musgrove.

Rover Challenge provides learning opportunities to students who, someday, may be responsible for planning future space missions, including crewed missions to other worlds.

After constructing their own rovers, teams attempt to traverse a nearly three-quarter-mile course with gruelling obstacles that simulate terrain found on Mars, as well as other planets, moons and asteroids throughout the solar system. In addition, they have to complete tasks, such as sample collection and instrument deployment.

Teams had a six-minute window to navigate the course, gathering points and trying to complete 14 obstacles.

11 militants arrested in Pakistan’s Karachi

11 militants arrested in Pakistan's Karachi

Image used for representational purposes only for IS

KARACHI: Eleven militants, including five ISIS terrorists, were arrested on Monday in Karachi, the capital of Pakistan’s southern Sindh province, officials said.

Police conducted a raid on a compound in Karachi’s Taiser Town on the basis of intelligence reports and arrested five ISIS terrorists, a senior police official said.

The suspects were identified as Abdullah, alias Hamza, Waqar, Waseem, Naveed and Mudassir, he added.

The official said that jihadi literature, weapons, hand grenades and bullets were recovered from their hideout.

The suspects would indoctrinate people over social media and give them various offers to join the group, he added.

The ISIS Saturday claimed responsibility for a suicide attack that killed 21 people and wounded more than 50 others in Quetta, the provincial capital of restive Balochistan province, in an attack believed to be targeting the minority Hazara Shia community.

The Pakistani officials have repeatedly denied the presence of the ISIS in the country, but the Middle Eastern terror group has claimed a number of attacks in the past.

In a separate operation, the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) arrested six militants, including a serving policeman, who were affiliated with a banned sectarian outfit, officials said.

“All six suspects are affiliated with Sipah-e-Muhammad and have received their training abroad and were paid through a network which mainly targeted members of their supposed rival sect,” CTD Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Abdullah Shaikh said.

Some of the arrested suspects’ names were included in the ‘Red Book’ of the most wanted suspects, he said.

Shaikh said the initial investigations had revealed that the suspects were paid around Rs 60,000 per month through a network from abroad.

The suspects had been involved in the killings of 50 people between 2003 and 2019 in Karachi on sectarian grounds and mainly targeted members of their supposed rival sect, he added.

US officially designates Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group

US officially designates Iran's Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group

Iranians pretend to hit a man wearing a mask of US President Donal Trump during an anti-US rally following Friday prayers in Tehran on April 12, 2019. – AFP photo

WASHINGTON, April 15

The United States officially designated Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organisation, according to a notice published in the US Federal Register on Monday.

US President Donald Trump said last week he would make the symbolic but unprecedented move, which immediately was condemned by Iran and created concerns about reprisal attacks on US forces.

The IRGC is in charge of Iran’s ballistic missile and nuclear programmes. It also is involved with the country’s banking and shipping industries. The new designation makes it easier to prosecute companies or people in the European Union that do business with Iran.

US law already punishes US persons who deal with the IRGC with up to 20 years in prison because of the group’s designation under the US Specially Designated Global Terrorist list, a different US sanctions programme. Reuters

Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner drops major spoiler for upcoming episode; HBO on damage control spree?

Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner drops major spoiler for upcoming episode; HBO on damage control spree?

Sophie Turner may have done it again. The Game of Thrones star posted a picture of herself sleeping on the sets of the show and fans are going crazy. Reportedly the 23-year-old actress, who plays the character Sansa Stark on the iconic drama, took to Instagram to post a picture of herself laying down with her eyes closed during the final season Winterfell.

And right on cue, fans are going insane trying to figure out if the actress is foreshadowing the fate of her character. The actress posted a message next to the picture stating ‘In honour of the final season of Thrones premiering tonight …. Here’s a picture of me asleep on set.’

Even though the message seems straightforward with no undertones of spoilers or foreshadowing, the message gathered over 1.7 million views. This isn’t the first time Sophie Turner has gotten fans worked up about spoilers from Game of Thrones. Sophie confessed earlier that she had revealed the ending to the final season of the show to her friends. The confession did not go down well with fans who attacked her on social media saying she was not taking her job seriously.

The actress had to come out and clarify that she was indeed taking her job seriously. So, it seems unlikely that she would try to tease fans again. It isn’t clear whether HBO reprimanded Sophie for her previous slip up but it seems that as far as the photo goes, HBO won’t be losing any sleep over it.

The final season of Game of Thrones aired its first episode on 14th April. The second episode of the HBO hit will air on the 21st of April. Season 8 of Game of Thrones will have six episodes. You can check out the pic here:

In Memoriam: RT Announces Second Khaled Alkhateb International Memorial Awards

In Memoriam: RT Announces Second Khaled Alkhateb International Memorial Awards

The competition is expected to feature three main categories: best video journalism from a conflict zone, long form; best video journalism from a conflict zone, short form; and best written report from a conflict zone.

RT has announced that it is now accepting entries for the international contest for reports and videos from conflict zones for the Khaled Alkhateb International Memorial Awards.

According to a statement made by the media outlet, the award was instituted “in memory of a journalist named Khaled Alkhateb who was working with RT Arabic”, and “in 2019 it will be held for the second time”.

Khaled Alkhateb, a 25-year-old journalist who was covering the fighting between Syrian government troops and terrorists, was killed during shelling carried out by militants in the Syrian province of Homs.

Jacinda Ardern and Red Cross lock horns over publication of nurse’s kidnap in Syria

Jacinda Ardern and Red Cross lock horns over publication of nurse's kidnap in Syria

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern fends off questions from the media about New Zealand Red Cross nurse Louisa Akavi Photograph: Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images

The revelation that a New Zealand nurse has been detained in Syria for five years has prompted tensions between the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the New Zealand government, with the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, criticising the aid agency for releasing details of the woman’s abduction.

On Monday the New York Times, in conjunction with the ICRC, revealed that New Zealander Louisa Akavi, 63, had been abducted along with two Syrian colleagues on 13 October 2013.

The trio have now been held hostage for longer than anyone in the 156-year history of the group.

New Zealand nurse Louisa Akavi, kidnapped in Syria, may be alive, Red Cross says

New Zealand’s domestic media learned of the abduction in 2013 but were asked by the government not to publish any stories relating to the kidnapping in case it put the group’s safety at risk.

After the story broke on Monday senior figures from the ICRC and New Zealand Red Cross released a series of videos pleading for information about Akavi. Her Red Cross colleagues and family also spoke.

But the publicity was not welcomed by the government. At her weekly press conference, Ardern repeatedly refused to comment on the missing New Zealander and said the government remained of the opinion that the nurse’s name and situation should not have been made public.

“Our view was that it should remain out of the public … we’ve taken a different view, we’ve disagreed with them [ICRC],” Ardern later told RNZ in a weekly interview.

“Our position didn’t change, we did know the International Red Cross had a different view, we were aware of their plan, it just didn’t mean that we agreed with them.

“It won’t change our relationship [with the ICRC], it just happens to be that we’ve taken different perspectives at this point.”

The foreign minister, Winston Peters, said efforts to locate Akavi were “ongoing” and the government would not comment on operational and intelligence matters, although he did reveal that members of the New Zealand SAS had at one point been deployed to Syria as part of a multi-agency effort to rescue her.

“We advised the ICRC at the highest level that NZ’s preference was not to publish,” he said in a statement.

“The New Zealand view then, and continues to be, that the release of her story now increased the risks to her life. If there was any acknowledgement of their media plan, it was not an endorsement of their approach.”

ICRC director of operations Dominik Stillhart said he was “surprised” that the New Zealand government had criticised the ICRC decision, as he believed it had the government’s support. He said a government representative was in his office on Friday and they were “fully aligned” on the next move.

“I think it’s important to understand that every decision since 13 October 2013 was to maximise the chance of Louisa’s freedom, and every decision was co-ordinated with the New Zealand government … and that included the difficult decision to go public,” said Stillhart.

“I am confident the decision was made in full transparency and co-ordination with the New Zealand government”

“We would not have made that decision without the support of the New Zealand Government.”

The decision to publish Akavi’s story also drew criticism from some New Zealand media outlets.

TV3’s national correspondent Patrick Gower called the Red Cross decision to go public “reckless in the extreme” and said the spat between the government and the aid agency was “a disgrace”.

The last confirmed sighting of Akavi was in late 2018 near the Euphrates river at the Syrian-Iraqi border.