Dystopian-like footage of typhoon warning broadcast in Japan (VIDEO)

As Typhoon Lan approached Tokyo on Monday, authorities broadcast an audio warning throughout the city, one resident caught the eerie Blade Runner-like footage on camera.

Lan, left at least two people dead when it made landfall on Honshu, the largest and most populous island of Japan, on Monday. The storm, with an eye 50 nautical miles wide, lashed parts of Japan with heavy rains and wind speeds reaching 216 kilometers per hour.

As it approached Tokyo, authorities broadcast a warning, alerting residents to the danger of the approaching storm.

“This is a warning,” the female announcer says, as her booming eerie voice echoes throughout the city in a scene reminiscent of 1980’s dystopian sci-fi classic Blade Runner. She then tells people to pay attention to weather reports before the message ends.

In the areas affected by the typhoon, several small landslides occurred and rivers came close to bursting their banks. More than 70,000 households across Japan were advised to evacuate and more than 5,000 were ordered to do so.

The typhoon also led to cancellation of as many as 350 flights across Japan.

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Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta targeted in ‘Trump-Russia’ probe

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly begun looking at Tony Podesta, a Democratic lobbyist and brother of HIllary Clinton’s campaign chairman, as part of his probe into “Russian meddling” in the 2016 US presidential election.

The probe into Podesta and his lobbying firm, the Podesta Group, grew out of an inquiry into the finances of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s finances, NBC News reported Monday.

Manafort served as chairman of President Donald Trump’s electoral campaign between March and August 2016, and resigned shortly after media reports about his lobbying efforts in Ukraine.

Between 2012 and 2014, Manafort organized a PR campaign for a nonprofit called the European Center for a Modern Ukraine (ECMU), said to have been backed by the country’s government. The ECMU campaign was designed to sway public opinion and included attempts to solicit favorable press coverage in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Manafort is alleged to have made $ 12.7 million for those efforts, according to the New York Times.

The Podesta Group was co-founded by Tony and his brother, John Podesta, a longtime Clinton aide who served as chairman of her 2016 presidential campaign. The lobbying firm worked with Manafort on the Ukraine campaign. Mueller’s team is now pursuing a criminal inquiry into whether the Podesta Group violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) by doing so, according to NBC.

Under FARA, people in the US who lobby on behalf of foreign entities must register through the Justice Department as a foreign agent and disclose their work. At issue is whether the Podesta Group filed the disclosures at the time, or only after their work in Ukraine attracted media attention.

In a statement Monday, the Podesta Group said that it was in compliance and “has fully cooperated with the Special Counsel’s office.”

“The Podesta Group fully disclosed its representation of the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECFMU), and complied with FARA by filing under the lobbying disclosure act over five years ago and within weeks of starting our work,” the group’s spokesperson said. “Any insinuation to the contrary is false.”

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Paul Manafort © Rick Wilking

Mueller’s inquiry into the lobbying campaign appears to be part of a larger investigation into Manafort’s work for the Party of Regions, his offshore banking transactions, his tax compliance and his real estate dealings, NBC reported.

The new focus on the Podesta Group could indicate that the Muller probe may be expanding beyond the original focus on alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election and potential collusion with Trump, ensnaring Democratic operatives in the process.

Several US intelligence agencies have claimed that the Russian government interfered in the election by hacking the computer servers of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) as well as the personal email account of campaign chair John Podesta, and forwarding the contents to WikiLeaks. 

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WADA launches investigation into claims of ‘systematic doping’ in China

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has announced an investigation into claims of widespread doping in Chinese sports, following the airing of a documentary on a German TV channel.

The statement regarding the probe was published on the organization’s website, and involves claims that large-scale doping practices were prevalent in China in the 1980s and 90s.

“The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has seen the 21 October documentary by German broadcaster ARD alleging systematic doping in China during the 1980s and 1990s; and, questioning whether such a system may have prevailed beyond these decades. The allegations were brought forward by former Chinese physician, Xue Yinxian, who is said to have looked after several national teams in China during the decades in question,” it reads.

WADA’s statement refers to the recently released documentary by German journalist Hajo Seppelt, titled ‘China’s doped ascent to sports superpower.’

In the film, a former doctor of the Chinese national teams, Xue Yinxia, who requested political asylum in Germany after she recently left China, stated that thousands of Chinese athletes were taking illegal drugs in the 1980s and 1990s. According to Xue, the system covered all sports and medals were won thanks to the doping system.

WADA is now looking to initiate an investigative process to evaluate Xue’s claims.

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Members of the Russian Paralympic team © Alexander Vilf

Previously, Seppelt filmed two documentaries on alleged doping in Russian sports – “The Doping Secret: How Russia Makes its Winners” (released in 2014), and 2015’s “Doping – Top Secret: The Shadowy World of Athletics.”

Both movies featured Russian athlete Yulia Stepanova and her husband, a former employee of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, Vitaly. According to the film, Russian track and field athletes systematically doped themselves on the instruction of their coaches.

In 2016, the New York Times published an article on an alleged state-run doping program in Russian sport, based on the evidence given by the former head of the Moscow Anti-Doping Laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov, who admitted to playing a key role in the scheme.

His claims were also used for the WADA-sanctioned investigation by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren.

The investigation, known as the McLaren Report, later led to the Russian Anti-Doping Laboratory’s license being suspended, a ban on the Russian track and field team at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Brazil, and a blanket ban on the Russian Paralympic team.

Rodchenkov and the Stepanovs have left Russia, and now reportedly live in the US.

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Germany creates myth-busting website to deter asylum seekers

Two years after the peak of the refugee crisis, Germany, which has been the most popular European destination for asylum seekers, has decided to dissuade potential new arrivals by launching a website that reveals the truth about hardships they could face.

The German Foreign Ministry launched the website, ‘Rumors about Germany – facts for migrants’, on Monday. The webpage is available in three languages – English, French and Arabic – and features small colorful posts debunking what are called myths and “big lies” about Germany, as well as providing potential migrants and asylum seekers with grim facts about their future lives in the European “dreamland.”

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© Michaela Rehle

“You may have heard life is easy, but the reality is different,” the site states, noting that those seeking a better life in Europe would most likely have to “return with no money and have to start from scratch” or “face many difficulties.”

The site particularly dampens migrants’ aspirations by informing them that Germany “does not provide a welcome payment” to those arriving on its territory. Neither would the German government provide new arrivals with an apartment or job, the site says, adding that most refugees have to live in crowded mass accommodation centers and are not allowed to work.

Being a particular nationality doesn’t guarantee the right to asylum, nor does being a child, the site warns. It then states that Germany’s “tight” new migration laws allow the authorities to “forcefully remove rejected asylum seekers more easily, especially if they have made false statements in their asylum application.”

The webpage warns that there isn’t even the guarantee that asylum seekers crossing the Mediterranean in an attempt to reach Europe would be rescued, adding that “your chances of being picked up in time are extremely small,” and that such a journey “remains very dangerous and continues to cost thousands of lives.”

At the same time, cheerful green posts promise potential refugees and migrants that they would most likely be found by border patrols while trying to enter a European country illegally, and would definitely be returned to their home countries by force, should their applications be rejected and they refuse to leave voluntary.

The site also informs would-be asylum seekers about other perils they could face on their journey to Europe, such as the risk of being kidnapped by human traffickers or random criminals, which would lead to their relatives being forced to pay a ransom for their release.

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The filming of The Missing Steps in Bern, Switzerland. (Still from Swissinfo video)

Commenting on the launch of the website, Andreas Kindl, the German Foreign Ministry’s director for strategic communication, said: “The most important aim of our Rumors about Germany campaign is to not leave the human traffickers’ myths and rumors unchallenged on the internet, but to provide correct information ourselves.”

However, the site not only paints a grim picture of a long and perilous struggle to achieve asylum in Germany, but also tells potential asylum seekers about new opportunities and an improving quality of life in their home countries, supported by Germany’s aid and development programs.

The site features such articles as “Stability returns to Iraq,” “Germany creates jobs in the Middle East,” and “Sudan: sowing the seeds of future growth” in an apparent attempt to make potential migrants take a more favorable look at life in their own countries. It also inconspicuously asks if they are “sure about leaving.”

Germany is far from being the first country to turn to the media and advertising in an attempt to stem the flow of refugees and migrants. In March 2016, Austria decided to run a large-scale advertising campaign to deter Afghan asylum seekers from coming to the country.

The campaign featured banner ads on more than 1,000 popular Afghan websites, as well as giant billboards and posters plastered on the sides of buses running in the five biggest Afghan cities. At that time, the Austrian authorities spent as much as €10,000 ($ 10,867) on the campaign, which featured slogans such as “No asylum in Austria for economic reasons!” and “Smugglers lie! Inform yourself!”

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A migrant takes a selfie with German Chancellor Angela Merkel outside a refugee camp near the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees after registration at Berlin's Spandau district, Germany. © Fabrizio Bensch

About a year later, Switzerland decided to go even further when it spent $ 450,000 on filming a TV series with African actors showing the perils of living in Europe illegally. The series was expected to be shown on Nigerian television.

Out of 1.3 million asylum seekers who came to Europe at the height of the refugee crisis in 2015, some 900,000 filed their applications in Germany, which has been perceived as a particularly welcoming location partly due to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ‘open door’ policy.

The mass influx of refugees and migrants put a strain on the German social welfare system, aggravated the security situation and sparked a rise in anti-migrant sentiment. At the September parliamentary elections, the far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party enjoyed historic success, while Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian allies – the Christian Social Union – suffered their worst results in more than half a century.

Establishment parties are now struggling to win back voters from the far-right populists. On October 9, the CDU and its Bavarian sister party agreed to cap Germany’s intake of asylum seekers at 200,000 a year.

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‘Racist’ cotton-picking song sparks outrage at Ohio middle school

An eighth-grade choir’s song about picking cotton sparked cries of racism and at least one walk out at an Ohio middle school.

‘Cotton Needs Pickin’ was performed at the Springfield Middle School in Lucas County on Thursday. Nicole Maulsby posted a video of the song performance on Facebook, but has since made her page private. Her husband, Alonzo, who is black, walked out during the song.

Maulsby’s post was met with anger from other parents, who felt the song wasn’t suitable given the country’s past with slavery. The song was from a book of American folk music.

The song includes the lyrics, “Cotton needs pickin’ so bad, we’re going to pick all over this field.”

“I know that timing can sound bad, but it’s a historical component for what the choir department had to use for their curriculum,” Springfield Schools Superintendent Matt Geha said. He said he hadn’t received any calls on Friday.

The controversy comes as students from the same school district, Springfield Local Schools, filmed themselves with a Confederate flag and made racial slurs. The group were believed to be part of a Christian youth organization called Young Life.

Maulsby told local outlet, The Toledo Blade, that the song was “a little bit too close” to the racial slur that was “being used across the street in a parking lot.”

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Stunning KO sees champion Gassiev remain on track to unify division, emulate stablemate Golovkin

Russian world champion boxer Murat Gassiev remained on track to unify the cruiserweight division with a devastating second-round KO of Polish fighter Krzysztof Wlodarczyk on Saturday.

A spectacular left hook to the body set up by a left uppercut felled former champion Wlodarczyk 1 minute and 57 seconds into the second round at Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey, to hand Gassiev victory in the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) quarter-final.

The fight was also Gassiev’s first defense of the IBF cruiserweight title he won last time out against Denis Lebedev in Moscow.

“Thanks to all the fans, boxing fans who support and watch boxing. Without your support there would not be beautiful boxing shows and beautiful battles,” Gassiev write on Instagram after the bout.

“I also want to thank Krzysztof Wlodarczyk. He is a great champion, a real fighter and I don’t have nothing but respect for him.

“We have another difficult fight ahead of us, another test, so after a couple of weeks of rest, I will return to the training camp and do my best to show an even more spectacular battle!”

Gassiev will now face colossal Cuban puncher Yunier Dorticos in the semi-finals of the WBSS tournament, which pits eight of the elite cruiserweights in a one-off knockout tournament.

Dorticos, who is unbeaten in his 22 fights with 21 KO wins, conquered Russian fighter Dmitry Kudryashov in his quarter-final matchup on September 23.

Taking part in the other semi-final are Latvian WBC champion Mairis Briedis and Ukrainian WBO belt holder Oleksandr Usyk, who will contest their own unification fight.

Fighting the winner of that fight in the WBSS final would present Gassiev the opportunity to achieve his goal of unifying the division, should he make it past Dorticos.

Before the fight with Wlodarczyk, Gassiev had told RT Sport he plans to unify the division, a feat achieved by his stablemate Gennady ‘Triple G’ Golovkin, the unified middleweight champion.

The two train at Big Bear Lake, California, under the tutelage of Mexican-American trainer Abel Sanchez, who has already made comparisons between the two.

READ MORE: ‘The new Triple G!’ – trainer Sanchez on Russian IBF world champion Gassiev

“I say the new Golovkin in time he will be,” Sanchez told RT Sport in the lead-up to the fight.

“I feel that in time, he will become the next Golovkin. I think he will be a ruler in the cruiserweight division and maybe even the heavyweight division.”

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China building massive voice database of citizens – HRW

The Chinese government is collecting thousands of “voice pattern” samples from unsuspecting citizens for a national biometric voice database, adding to an already-indepth biometric profile of many individuals.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Monday that to create the database, Chinese authorities have collaborated with indigenous speech recognition technology company iFlytek, which is responsible for producing 80 percent of all such technology in the country, to create a system which can automatically detect specific voices.

HRW said the government has “stepped up” the use of biometric technology in recent years, to “bolster its existing mass surveillance and social control efforts.”

“The Chinese government has been collecting the voice patterns of tens of thousands of people with little transparency about the program or laws regulating who can be targeted or how that information is going to be used,” said Sophie Richardson, HRW’s China director. “Authorities can easily misuse that data in a country with a long history of unchecked surveillance and retaliation against critics.”

China already has an overarching biometric database, accessible by authorities, which includes DNA profiles of some 40 million people and the collection of faces of more than 1 billion.

In comparison, the voice identification log is still in its infancy, with China’s Ministry of Public Security piloting the database back in 2012 before scaling up the program in 2014.

Authorities can subject anyone suspected of “violating the law or committing crimes,” including misdemeanors, to voice data gathering, though government reports in the media claim that the tech has so far been used in cases involving “telecommunications fraud, drug trafficking, kidnapping, and blackmail.”

Other areas in which the technology will be applied, according to the government, include “counterterrorism” and “stability maintenance” purposes, terms HRW says “authorities sometimes use to justify the suppression of peaceful dissent.”

“Chinese authorities’ arsenal of surveillance tools just keeps getting bigger while privacy rights lag far behind,” Richardson said. “The Chinese authorities should immediately stop gathering highly sensitive biometric data until legal protections are clear — and clearly reliable.”

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Report listing RT guests ‘illustrates new McCarthyism in US’ – Colin Powell’s ex-chief of staff

A recent report targeting RT’s on-air guests reveals the new McCarthyism in the US, which is dangerous due to the lack of strong leadership in Washington, Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to US Secretary of State Colin Powell, told RT.

Wilkerson was among the 2,300 experts stigmatized in a report last week by the ‘European Values Think-Tank’ for sharing their views on RT.

The Czech institute, funded from the US and other Western governments, called RT’s guests “useful idiots” – a term Russian Communist leader Vladimir Lenin is credited with coining.

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© Evgeny Biyatov

“Such actions as this illustrate a new McCarthyism in America,” Wilkerson said in an email to RT, referring to US Senator Joseph McCarthy, who headed the ‘witch hunt’ against alleged Soviet spies and sympathizers between 1947 and 1956.

Those who ordered and compiled the report also employed “the Karl Rove strategic technique,” he added.

“Very simply stated, that technique is to accuse your opponents of doing what you are doing in order to get the spotlight removed from what you are doing. You do it loudly, constantly, and repeatedly, until you have overwhelmed your opponents, dulled the minds of the ignorant and apathetic, and generally made your points – the points people accept and believe,” Wilkerson explained.

“Karl Rove was very successful at it – as was Joseph McCarthy for a time and, for that matter, Joseph Goebbels [Nazi propaganda minister] for a time,” he added.

Rove was an influential figure in the George W. Bush administration, occupying the positions of senior adviser and deputy chief of staff.

Wilkerson expressed hope that the actions of those behind the report “eventually are seen for what they are, as were McCarthy’s.”

READ MORE: ‘Report listing RT’s guests is designed to intimidate’

“However, in McCarthy’s time there were Eisenhowers and Achesons and others of high character and ability. Today, there are very few such men and women. So, it is very much more dangerous today,” he warned.

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Tony Blair has just the trick to fix Brexit woes… another referendum

Tony Blair just can’t butt out of the Brexit debate, whether anybody wants to hear it or not. The ex-PM has come up with an ingenious plan to make absolutely sure Britons are happy with their decision to leave the EU – by holding a second referendum.

The suggestion, raised by the Liberal Democrats months ago, has been recycled by Blair. He wants to see a separate ballot on the Brexit deal.

“What’s important is that we don’t have a vote on the divorce until we see the terms of the new relationship,” he told the National.

“It could be an election, it could be a referendum… you have to have a final say.”

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Britain’s former Prime Minister Tony Blair © Clodagh Kilcoyne

Once the terms of the UK’s future relationship with the European Union are known, Blair argued, those terms should be debated nationally and voted on.

The will of the people can shift and should be consulted again after two years of exhausting negotiations just in case the country has changed its mind, he said.

The Government has kept its Brexit cards close to its chest, much to the disgust of bitter Remainers. Blair claims the handling of Brexit has already reduced Britain’s influence on the world stage and has called for a rethink.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has also called for another vote, despite the millions of pounds forked out for the first one.

“If Parliament was to reject any deal done by our Government then that opens up clearly what happens then,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today program on Monday.

“Either our Parliament is sovereign or it is not. If Parliament rejects the deal done by our Government then of course that raises a whole host of questions.”

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Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair © Toby Melville

The London Mayor joined the ranks of politicians now asking what is the point of having a legislature if the executive intends to disregard their views.

Blair also raised the threat Brexit poses to peace and the UK’s territorial integrity.

“Brexit is the determining issue of our time for the UK,” he said.

“With Northern Ireland, Brexit imposes a strain on the UK.”

The Good Friday Agreement, which was brokered in 1998 when Blair was in Downing Street, is potentially threatened by Brexit. At the same time, the UK Government could be leaving the European Union without a trade deal in place with its biggest market.

The effects are said to be potentially disastrous, yet the Government will not release its impact assessments.

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Big money remains wary of bitcoin due to high risk

Despite all the hype surrounding the rapid growth of digital currencies, mainstream institutional investors still opt to stay away from the newly-emerging market.

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Jordan Belfort © Jason Reed

Since 2011, the world’s most popular digital currency, bitcoin, outpaced all the world’s currencies, except for 2014. The combined value of the world’s cryptocurrencies has increased tenfold this year to more than $ 170 billion.

However, extreme volatility, weak regulation along with high liquidity keeps big money managers away from bitcoin and other digital currencies, unwilling to risk other people’s cash.

According to the financial technology research house Autonomous NEXT, 84 crypto hedge funds have opened up in 2017, bringing the total to 110 with combined assets of about $ 2.2 billion.

Apart from a few most of the funds remain small with a limited track record. That shows that bigger institutions, such as pension funds, insurance companies, and large mutual funds are still avoiding cryptocurrencies.

“While cryptocurrencies are probably here to stay, they are difficult to analyze, wildly volatile and some may be prone to fraud. Diversification is a good thing, but that doesn’t mean investing in everything just because it’s there. We favor assets with a long track record in producing returns or reducing risks,” said Trevor Greetham, the head of the multi-asset team at Royal London Asset Management, which is part of the Royal London life insurance company.

A few crypto funds are worth hundreds of millions of dollars with most in the $ 5 million to $ 20 million range, according to Autonomous NEXT partner Lex Sokolin. The range is way below the threshold most institutional investors would deal with.

“For many institutional, discretionary fund managers, those funds wouldn’t get cleared because the big question would be around liquidity,” said James Butterfill, head of investment strategy at ETF Securities in London, as quoted by the media.

To invest in a basket of hedge funds that includes a crypto fund is seen as one way to mitigate risk for mainstream investors. However, the portfolio of a major European bank, which invests in more than 100 hedge funds, reportedly doesn’t include crypto funds.

“It’s a very controversial proposition. It’s unlikely that most established hedge funds will make big bets on this because you could put your core business at risk,” a banker, who declined to be named, told Reuters.

Asset managers say committees at institutional investment firms will rule out digital currencies due to the relative risks of these asset classes.

“Your risk-budgeting committee will say: you can’t hold a lot of that because of the amount it increases risk in your portfolio. I do expect volatility to decrease over time, but risk budget teams tend to look historically,” said Butterfill.

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