'I post whatever I feel like on Instagram' – UFC's Alexandra Albu (PHOTOS)

UFC strawweight Alexandra ‘Stitch’ Albu might not be the most famous name representing Russia, but that could change as she continues to work her way up the promotion and catch the eye with her revealing Instagram photos.

The 27-year-old native of the Moldovan village of Vulcănești, Albu, made her debut in the UFC octagon in April 2015, beating her opponent from Poland, Izabela Badurek, via guillotine choke.

She then took a two-year break forced by an injury. Coming back in July 2017, she scored another victory, this time via unanimous decision, when taking part on the star-stacked UFC 214 card.

But fighting alongside the stars did not distract Albu, who adopted her fighting moniker ‘Stitch’ from a popular cartoon character.

You last fought on the UFC 214 card in the summer. That was a pretty impressive card: a top fight with Jon Jones against Cormier, Chris Cyborg, Tyron Woodley. How did you find participating on that card with such outstanding fighters?

I was thinking about my performance and the weight cut before the fight, I didn’t pay attention to the other things. When you are about to take part in an event you’ve been preparing for for such a long time, you don’t pay too much attention to the other things. Although one thing that I remember was the fact that my coach couldn’t come to the States. He had some visa problems. And it was quite difficult for me to fight without him cornering me.

At the end of December Cris Cyborg defended her belt. How would you rate her performance?

I’ve always liked Cris. Plus we know each other personally. I had no doubts she was going to defend her belt.

Do you see anyone who could potentially take her belt in the near future?

Women’s MMA is gaining momentum really fast and it’s becoming more and more popular. Women’s divisions are getting bigger, and of course some sort of competition will occur.

Recently in your own weight class we witnessed a change in champion, when Rose Namajunas defeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Were you surprised with the outcome of that fight?

It didn’t surprise me. Rose is also very strong and a tough fighter, she worked very hard and now it’s her time.

Do you see yourself fighting against Joanna or Rose in the future? Who in your opinion would present the most problems for you?

Yes, I see myself fighting against both of them. We are all in the same weight category, so it’s inevitable. It’s only a matter of time. Talking about their level, I can say that all the fights are tough for me. Fighting is a pretty tough job, you know.

Do you know roughly when you’ll be back in the octagon?

I suppose it will happen this spring. For the next fight after that I can’t really predict anything.

We know that originally you come from Moldova, but at the moment you live in Moscow and represent Russia. Do have plans to obtain Russian citizenship?

Yes, I’m still a Moldavian citizen, but I’d like to get a Russian passport. That’s what I’m working on now, but unfortunately it’s not as easy as it might seem.

Could you tell us about the moment you decided to start practicing MMA? We know that you practiced karate originally.

I decided to become a professional MMA fighter after I moved to Russia. I met Andrey Tsarkov, the head coach of the MMA-KEGI fight club, which I represent now. I’d been thinking a lot about my previous martial arts experience, and I didn’t want to just waste all that time that I’d spent learning it. However, MMA is absolutely different. You can’t really compare it with karate. So it took me a few years to hard work and to learn how to fight differently, I had to change my stance, striking technique, and many other things.

Some time ago you said that you combined two training sessions per day with coaching work. Do you still work as a coach?

Yes, I have to combine my work and two training sessions a day. It’s pretty difficult, I always want to sleep. When I have my rest days I can allow myself to combine work and just one training session.

Do you think it’s partially connected with the fact that it’s difficult for a female fighter to find sponsorship in Russia?

Finding sponsorship isn’t easy indeed. Usually it doesn’t go further than talks. I don’t know whether it’s more difficult for girls, there are not so many examples. But this sport is still developing, so I hope that one day it will be become better.

Male fighters often receive financial support by joining certain teams, and then representing them. Did you get any offers of that kind?

No, I haven’t had such offers. But I’m not interested, since I have no intention of changing team. I’ve been with the MMA-KEGI team from day one, and I’m happy to be a part of it.

And what about advertising? Some female fighters get extra money from that. Have you ever received any offers?

Speaking about advertising, yes, I had several offers from commercial companies and we even came to agreements.

On your Instagram profile you have quite provocative photos and videos. Is that your strategy? Something that you do purposely?

You know, I don’t have anyone doing my social media for me. So my Instagram depends on my mood. I’m a live human being. I post whatever I feel should be on my page. I don’t see the point of checking with someone else’s opinion. I suppose that visual attractiveness has an impact on a female fighter’s popularity.

What other difficulties does a female fighter face doing MMA professionally?

I can’t say anything certain about it. The hardest part is the same for everyone, actually. Just the everyday hard work at the gym.

by Denis Geyko for RT Sport

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Your guide to defying the news censors and opening your mind to thought-provoking content

The world of news is a minefield, with large corporations on a crusade to shield people from exposure to ‘poisonous’ views and opinions that diverge from the party line. But you can fight back – and here’s how.

Unless you are the type that gets all his news from Fox and Friends, you probably keep up with the news of the world online, on your mobile phone or desktop. It is also likely that the content of your news feed depends on one of the big tech companies like Google, Facebook, or Twitter.

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What you might not know is that none of them are required by law to treat all sources equally, and they are all under pressure not to. It’s called fighting “fake news.” In reality, any alternative media is a potential target, not just RT. But yeah… RT in particular.

Google openly admits to throwing monkey wrenches in the works of RT. Twitter reportedly has a practice of shadow banning accounts it does not like. Facebook has recently announced changes to its news feed, presumably to become more social, but coming from a network that apparently censors political speech and bans people on orders from Uncle Sam, there is some reason to be skeptical.

But the self-appointed ‘news gatekeepers’ do not (yet) have the power to send SWAT teams to the homes of people reading alternative news sources. And making sure you get regular updates is fairly simple and quick. This is how you can do it.

Install a mobile app. It’s a direct route to your phone from the content producers that will not be blocked or throttled (at least as long as the fight for net neutrality is not lost). Here are RT’s versions for AndroidiOS and Windows Mobile/Windows 8.

Allow browser notifications. Basically, every news website asks you to, but it’s highly doubtful that you’ll need this in order to not miss stories from CNN and MSNBC.

Subscribe and ‘prioritize’ on Facebook. This will hopefully keep the news in the feed despite whatever arcane algorithms Mark Zuckerberg deploys.

Subscribe on Twitter and be sure to turn on mobile notifications.

Subscribe on YouTube and turn on notifications. It’s basically like watching RT on TV, but with the opportunity to simultaneously rant in the comments section.

Take some less obvious routes: RT also has an Instagram account with visuals…

And a channel on Telegram as well. Hopefully, it won’t be banned in your country any time soon.

You may also be part of the majority of folks (though the number is shrinking) that still gets their news on TV. In case your cable or satellite provider drops RT – the signal is right there online – just tune in!

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Fake news media’s ‘Russia hoax’ is dead, says Trump

US President Donald Trump has said that the allegations of his campaign colluding with Russia by the “fake news media” are “dead”, as his former chief strategist Steve Bannon is set to testify before Congress and a grand jury.

Taking to his favorite social media platform, the POTUS accused the mainstream media of pushing conspiracy theories against him and his campaign.

“Do you notice the Fake News Mainstream Media never likes covering the great and record setting economic news, but rather talks about anything negative or that can be turned into the negative,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday. “The Russian Collusion Hoax is dead, except as it pertains to the Dems. Public gets it!”

The reference to the Democratic Party presumably applies to the alleged wrongdoing on the part of Hillary Clinton in approving a uranium deal with a Russian company.

Trump’s remarks come as his onetime ally Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist and recently ousted executive chairman of the conservative outlet Breitbart News, is due to appear before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday to testify on the Russia allegations. Bannon, who was considered a leading figure in Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, went on to take a place in the White House but left in August last year.  

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Since then, Bannon has fallen spectacularly out-of-favor with his former boss. In the controversial book ‘Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House’ by the journalist Michael Wolff, Bannon is quoted as calling a meeting between Trump’s son Donald Jr. and a Russian lawyer “treasonous.”

“They didn’t have any lawyers. Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad s***, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately,” Bannon is quoted as saying in the book.

After these remarks surfaced, Trump said that his former strategist had “lost his mind.” Within a week, Bannon stepped down from his role at Breitbart.

Bannon has also been issued with a subpoena by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is in charge of the criminal investigation into the alleged Russia collusion, the New York Times reported citing anonymous sources. It’s not clear whether this means the former Breitbart chief is under extra scrutiny or merely a negotiating tactic to get him to co-operate. It does mean, however, that he is likely not the target of the investigation.

The House Intelligence Committee is investigating claims that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election, which are also being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller. Although two former Trump officials, foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos and national security adviser Michael Flynn, have pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, the investigation has yet to produce any evidence of collusion.

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Bored of Brexit? Eurosceptic Tory MP nods off during crucial debate

Eurosceptic Tory MP Sir Desmond Swayne was caught nodding off during a parliamentary debate on Brexit as Ken Clarke expounded on the virtues of the EU. Swayne was seen jolting awake with a sheepish smile.

Clarke, a committed Europhile, was speaking during a debate on the government’s flagship Brexit legislation which seeks to transfer EU law onto domestic statute books.

Swayne could be seen leaning comfortably with an elbow on the bench before he gradually falling asleep. His head dropped further and further down until he was stretched out motionless for about a minute.

The footage shows Swayne waking up suddenly when Clarke cries “The Charter of Fundamental Rights.” Swayne then smirks while Clarke carries on, oblivious of what was going on behind him.

MPs are due to vote Wednesday on whether the bill should pass on to the House of Lords later this year.

Swayne later claimed he was exhausted from an early morning swim, and that debating the bill yet again had taken its toll on him. Many have taken to Twitter to mock the MP, with some labelling his nap “disgraceful.”

Another user mocked him saying:

Some called on him to go home.

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Russians increasingly believe in afterlife – report

The number of Russians believing in the afterlife has significantly increased in recent years, according to a fresh opinion poll. Now, four in 10 Russians hold the view that life does not end with death.

The percentage of Russians believing in the hereafter has grown by almost 10 percent over nine years, a survey conducted by independent pollster the Levada Center has shown. In 2008, only about a third of respondents supported this belief, while in late 2017 the figure was 42 percent.

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Russians are also increasingly developing the conviction that their deceased relatives are able to influence the lives of the living. According to the Levada Center, the number of people believing in the hidden influence of their diseased kin on their lives has risen by 10 percent since 2008, growing from 28 to 38 percent.

The survey showed that religious people are generally more inclined to believe in the afterlife. However, even nonbelievers appear to be inclined to such feelings. According to Levada, 10 percent of those who define themselves as atheists or say they do not follow any religion also believe in the existence of heaven and hell as well as in religious miracles.

Russians’ attitudes to other forms of the supernatural remained largely unchanged, the pollster said. Still, superstitious beliefs seem to be fairly common among Russians. Some 45 percent of respondents that took part in the survey said they believe that lucky charms indeed bring luck, at least sometimes. More than half also believe that fortune tellers have the ability to predict the future and that spiritual healers can help them resolve their health problems.

However, significantly fewer people seem to be ready to test their beliefs in practice. According to the poll, only 10 percent of respondents have resorted to the services of spiritual healers while 14 percent have appealed to fortune tellers or astrologists.
The poll was conducted by the Levada Center in mid-December and involved 1,600 people from 48 Russian regions. Similar surveys were conducted by the pollster in 2008 and 1998.

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3D space tour: NASA ‘flies’ viewers through blazing Orion Nebula (VIDEO)

Dramatic imagery from the Hubble telescope has helped NASA create a 3D ‘fly-through’ tour of the Orion Nebula.

Situated around 1,350 light years away from Earth, the Orion Nebula’s blazing cluster of stars lights up clouds of dust and gas, giving it a glorious glow.

One of the brightest features of the Milky Way, it’s regarded as a “star nursery” where new celestial formations are born.

Images of the 2-million year-old star plateau have been captured by both the Hubble and Spitzer space telescope. They have now been used by experts in NASA and the Caltech/Infrared Processing and Analysis Center to construct an incredible 3D tour of the region.

Infrared light imagery used in the production gives viewers a glimpse of nebula features otherwise invisible to the naked eye. The video also sees the camera plunge into a 3D model of the Trapezium star cluster.

READ MORE: NASA to explore wonders of the universe with telescope 100 times bigger than Hubble (VIDEO)

“Being able to fly through the nebula’s tapestry in three dimensions gives people a much better sense of what the universe is really like,” said Frank Summers, a Space Telescope Science Institute scientist, who helped create the 3D intergalactic excursion.

READ MORE: NASA to test ‘space lasers’ with latest launch (VIDEO)

“By adding depth and structure to the amazing images, this fly-through helps elucidate the universe for the public, both educating and inspiring.”

Summers added that the creation gives people a better understanding of images that are snapped by a network of space telescopes.

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Guy Verhofstadt asks if EU official put something in ‘disorientated’ Nigel Farage’s tea

European Parliament Brexit chief Guy Verhofstadt has mocked “disorientated” Nigel Farage and asked whether Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, had slipped something into the ardent Brexiteer’s tea.

Verhofstadt pointed out that Farage had called for a second referendum after he met with Barnier at the European Commission in Brussels recently. Former UKIP leader Farage surprised the public when he called for a second EU vote last week, saying it would strengthen support for the Leave campaign and quash dissenting voices once and for all.

Speaking at the EU Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday, Verhofstadt said: “I should have asked them what happened in their meeting. I have to tell you that since that Nigel Farage went in this meeting with Michel Barnier he is apparently completely disorientated.

“I don’t know what he put in the coffee or the tea of Nigel Farage because he comes out of this meeting and he backs a second referendum.”

Verhofstadt then took aim at British politics beyond UKIP – calling into question UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s priorities for her nation and the British government’s apparent forgetfulness over EU directives on issues such as plastic bag taxes and credit card charges.

“It’s not confusion only in UKIP, but I see the confusion is a little bit widespread in Britain at the moment,” Verhofstadt continued.“Michael Gove, for example, doesn’t seem to remember that the ban on plastic bags is an EU regulation. The prime minister, Mrs May, does not seem to know that the abolition of the charges on credit cards is a consequence of a directive of the EU.

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“And then, as Manfred Weber already called it, a whole hilarious thing about passports.
“I’m a liberal so I like blue more than red. So if we can do 27 passports in blue with 12 stars on it, for me ok – but it was certainly not a reason to organize a referendum on it,” said the Belgian MEP.

Verhofstadt then warned the UK government that it will not be able to “cherry pick” benefits after leaving the EU. In a press conference on Tuesday morning he said: “The European Parliament won’t allow cherry-picking in the Brexit transition. All EU legislation, all EU policies will continue to apply. The only exception is that the UK will no longer be represented in the institutions that decide on legislation and policies.”

He added that citizens’ rights and the Irish border issues were still not settled. He called for the withdrawal agreement, which was agreed in principle in December, to be “formalized” as soon as possible.

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Chinese credit agency puts US sovereign rating on par with Turkmenistan

One of the largest ratings firms in China, Dagong Global Credit Rating, has cut the US sovereign rating from A- to BBB+. That puts the American economy on par with Peru, Colombia and Turkmenistan.

“Deficiencies in the current US political ecology make it difficult for the efficient administration of the federal government, so the national economic development derails from the right track,” Dagong said, as quoted by Reuters.

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“Massive tax cuts directly reduce the federal government’s sources of debt repayment, therefore further weakens the base of government’s debt repayment.”

In December, US President Donald Trump signed a law on tax cuts that will add $ 1.4 trillion to the $ 20 trillion national debt.

Washington will only raise the debt ceiling in the future, said Dagong. “The virtual solvency of the federal government would be likely to become the detonator of the next financial crisis.”

BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – have complained that US-based credit agencies such as Fitch, Moody’s and S&P Global are artificially downgrading the ratings of emerging economies and turn a blind eye on economic setback in the US and other Western countries.

“Actually credit ratings are largely politically-biased. Dagong is only considering the debt repayment capacity of the central government,” Dagong’s Chairman Guan Jianzhong said in July 2016 at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum in Russia.

“In the Western countries, they use the credit rating as a tool to protect their own profits, their own interests,” Guan said, adding that the 2008 financial crisis was partly due to the wrong assessment of the US economy.

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

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Williams confirms signing of F1’s only Russian driver

Formula One constructors Williams have confirmed rookie Sergey Sirotkin will join their racing team for the upcoming season, making him the solitary current Russian F1 driver and only the third in the sport’s history.

Moscow-born Sirotkin will partner with 19-year-old Lance Stroll in the youngest line-up in the sport, completing the 20-man driver roster. The 22-year-old Sirotkin is thought to bring considerable sponsorship money to the team.

“I’m happy to announce that this year I will be racing for Williams Martini Racing! For me it’s a great honor to debut in F1 for this legendary team. Big thanks to the team and SMP Racing for the trust! Can’t wait to get behind the wheel of #FW41! See you in Barcelona on Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya!” Sirotkin posted on his Instagram account.

Sirotkin is the third Russian driver in F1, after Vitaly Petrov and later Daniil Kvyat, the latter being to date the only Russian to have achieved a podium finish in the motorsport.

The appointment may have shocked many F1 fans, especially as the youngster was in direct competition for a racing seat with Pole Robert Kubica, who is making a comeback in the sport after a seven-year layoff due to injuries sustained in a horrific rally accident.

However, after he and Sirotkin raced in Abu Dhabi, the Russian emerged as the favorite for the place, and Kubica subsequently settled for a reserve role.

Sirotkin nearly made his breakthrough four years ago as the result of an investment deal between racing team Sauber and a trio of Russian companies in summer 2013. Sauber intended to hand Sirotkin a race seat for 2014 and planned an intensive development program for the then-17-year-old, although the move never materialized.

Sirotkin has never raced in F1 but drove in four Friday Practice sessions for Renault in 2017, which made him their official reserve driver for 2017.

READ MORE: F1 star Hamilton apologizes for ‘boys don’t wear princess dresses’ comment

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‘Stalemate & controlled chaos in Afghanistan’… so should US stay?

There is controlled chaos in Afghanistan. If the US leaves, there will be complete chaos, but the US has no regional country to rely on, Middle East military analyst Kamal Alam told RT.

With many people in Afghanistan demanding that US troops stationed there withdraw, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has warned that the country could collapse within six months without Washington’s support.

He also told CBS News on Sunday that 21 terrorist organizations were operating in his country.

RT: Has the American16-year campaign improved the situation in Afghanistan? Would it have been better or worse without the US intervention?

Kamal Alam: I think it has improved and gone the other way at the same time. If you look at the big cities, the situation in Afghanistan is definitely better. But in the majority of the country, it is far worse than it was when the US and NATO came in. So one could say, 70 percent of the country, which is rural, it has definitely been a negative for them, not a positive.

I think one of the biggest problems is just a failure. I don’t think anybody would say that the US military is weak in any sense. That is not the case at all.  We have a very good military in the US, the problem is that the US lacks in its foreign policy understanding, its knowledge of foreign affairs, its knowledge of foreign states’ terrorist regimes and why these regimes are able to flourish. I think that has been the biggest fault is that there is a real disconnect between the military forces that are sent to occupy and help the forces in these other countries and the foreign policy experts within the US… Because then you’re just really sending the military guys to help [them fight the battle that they have no idea what the crux is and how it is being funded. – Jennifer Breedon, attorney specializing in foreign policy, international law, and religious terrorism. 

RT: Can Washington still help turn the tide in this war? The Afghan president seems to think so…

KA: I think it is next to impossible because NATO at their peak had 150,000 soldiers about five years ago and they couldn’t turn the tide. So, militarily the US forces and NATO are far less now on the ground and they are up against it. The Taliban are taking more territory, they are more non-state actors like [Islamic State or IS, formerly] ISIS involved, as well, and Al-Qaeda. So it is very difficult. The Afghan forces cannot cope with it themselves, as the president said. I think for the US it would be very difficult to turn the tide.    

If the Americans stay, I think the stalemate will continue. Because even if President Trump sends in more troops, he has already sent enough to actually swamp the opposition and to control the whole country. Because he hasn’t enough local forces in the way they had in Iraq. Secondly, if we contrast with the Soviet occupation, after all the Najibullah Ahmadzai regime survived only three years after the Red Army withdrew, because it had a support base and it received money and ammunition from the Soviet Union till the collapse in the end of 1991. – Mark Almond, director of the Crisis Research Institute in the UK

RT: Many Afghans are pushing for the US to leave. But if Washington pulls out its troops, the situation could get worse. Is this sort of stalemate going to continue like this for the foreseeable future?

KA: If the US leaves, there will be complete chaos. At least, at the moment, it is controlled chaos. Kabul and a few major cities are under control. The big solution lies in working regionally. At the moment, the US is not working too closely with China or Russia, Iran or Pakistan. Afghanistan needs a regional solution. At the moment the US and NATO don’t have any answers to it. But the Central Asian states with the backing of Russia, Iran and Pakistan, those are the countries that can solve this war, because those are the ones with the immediate threat as well.

The problem is, we hear it from President Ghani himself, he is saying that if the Americans   withdraw, there really isn’t a solid enough base to have any kind of local part to fight back against Taliban. The Taliban would probably overrun his territory very quickly… Even if Americans want to reinforce their position in Afghanistan, they face the problem – can they bring reinforcement and supply through Pakistan? It is quite possible that route will be closed in the near future or will become very hazardous… – Mark Almond, director of the Crisis Research Institute in the UK

RT: Are there any other options on the table that could help solve this crisis?

KA: I think it is the best of the worst solutions. At the moment the US is accusing Pakistan of being responsible for all the ills of Afghanistan. Similarly, Iran is not an ally of the US. That means the US has no regional country to [fall] back on. China has its own Afghan policy which is closer to that of Iran and Pakistan. So the US is isolated as far as the region goes. The Afghan forces, as the president said, they can’t fight on their own. At the same time, the National Unity Government of Afghanistan has not unity there. You’ve got the different ethnicities of Afghanistan at each other’s throats. It looks pretty grim…

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