Scientology defectors protest against new Birmingham HQ for ‘money-making cult’

Protesters rallied outside the Church of Scientology’s new UK base in Birmingham on Monday to oppose its grand opening. The Church has established its headquarters in the £4.2-million Pitmaston House, which it acquired back in 2007.

After undergoing a 10-year refurbishment, the development in Moseley was opened to the public adorned with a huge blue rosette and ribbons. Featuring speeches by senior Church figures, the inaugural event was guarded by heavy security, with the premises open to members only.

Protesters, who were mostly former members of the Church, demonstrated against the opening. One protester said the Church’s establishment in the UK’s second largest city is “frightening.”

“People don’t understand what’s going on in their local area and that’s very frightening,” William Drummond, a former long-time member, told the Birmingham Mail.

The Church of Scientology seeks to liberate its followers of detrimental mental images through Dianetics counselling, known as auditing. A string of defectors, however, have accused it of being a dangerous cult which is physically and emotionally abusive.

Another former Scientologist taking part in the protest, Adrian Bailey, told the newspaper: “The main motivation for them is money, property and expansion – and that’s evident here.”

“What annoyed me the most was that they always asked for money. And with all the secrecy, it’s not surprising people think it’s a cult.”

READ MORE: ‘Scientology knock-off’: Whistleblower exposes ‘cult’ that thinks ‘children are sexy’ (EXCLUSIVE)

The organization’s leader, David Miscavige, gave a speech during the event saying: “When that inaugural ribbon falls, so a curtain rises… and so it becomes every Scientologist’s responsibility to uplift England’s Salt of the Earth, thereby turning an industrial revolution into a spiritual revolution,” he said, according to the Church’s website.

Roger Godsiff, Labour MP for Hall Green, had previously said he was “not a fan of the Church of Scientology, which is essentially a money-making cult.”

Graeme Wilson, the Church of Scientology’s UK-based public affairs director, previously claimed the churches help educate communities on drugs and human rights, and provide them with literacy programs and crime reduction schemes.

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China drives natural gas demand boom

For much of the past two decades, China has been the main driver of global oil demand growth. In the coming two to three decades, China is expected to become the leading determinant in global natural gas demand as well, outpacing the US as the biggest natural gas consumer at some point between 2040 and 2050.

Economic and industrial production growth, coupled with efforts to reduce stifling pollution levels, will lead China’s surging natural gas demand over the next couple of decades, according to analysts and international projections.

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Power of Siberia gas pipeline © gazprom.com

The latest forecast for China’s upcoming leading role in the world’s natural gas market comes from Sanford C. Bernstein & Co, whose analyst Neil Beveridge said in a research note earlier this week:

“China’s gas market has entered a new golden age.”

“Growth in 2017 has shown significant improvement over 2016, as government policies to stimulate gas demand growth are starting to pay dividends,” Beveridge says in the report, as carried by Bloomberg.

China’s gas consumption is expected to rise to 300 billion cubic meters (bcm) in 2020 from 206 bcm in 2016, and surge to 600 bcm by 2040. After that, China is seen outstripping the US in natural gas consumption to become the biggest user of the fuel in the world, according to Bernstein.   

The biggest risk to the expected natural gas demand surge is renewables rising more than currently projected and therefore narrowing the timeframe in which gas will serve as the ‘bridge fuel’ between coal and clean energy.

Other analysts are bullish on China’s natural gas prospects, too.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) sees global gas demand growing 1.6 percent annually until 2022, with China making up 40 percent of this growth. Consumption in China is expected to increase to almost 340 bcm by 2022, of which imports will account for 140 bcm, up from 70 bcm last year, according to IEA’s Gas 2017 report. In addition, China’s domestic production is seen growing by around 65 bcm to 200 bcm by 2022, with annual growth of 6.6 percent, which would make the country the world’s fourth-largest natural gas producer by 2022.

Read more on Oilprice.com: A New Oil Crisis Is Developing In The Middle East

China is already setting the stage for a natural gas import boom, with imports running at record rates as Beijing pushes on with its cleaner energy agenda that should see the country satisfy 10 percent of its energy needs with gas in 2020, from 5.9 percent in 2015.

By 2035, Chinese gas demand will be treble the 2016 levels, according to Wood Mackenzie.

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© Jason Lee

Last year, China’s gas demand accounted for just 6 percent of its fuel mix, but the government aims to increase this to around 15 percent by 2030, WoodMac’s Kerry-Anne Shanks, Vice President, Gas & Power Asia-Pacific, said in the five takeaways from a recent Gas and LNG Summit.

“While it is unclear if this fuel mix goal will be reached, even minor gains in share translate into big numbers. Presenters showed forecasts for China’s gas demand increasing to 450–600 bcm by 2030,” Shanks noted.

According to industry observers, China needs further gas market reforms in order to reach the full gas potential and make gas for industrial use cheaper—and thus more competitive—than coal and oil. In addition, the more flexible and lower-priced LNG market is bound to benefit Chinese gas importers, WoodMac says.

The BP Energy Outlook 2017 sees China’s energy mix evolving through 2035, with coal’s dominance dropping from 64 percent in 2015 to 42 percent in 2035, and natural gas nearly doubling to 11 percent.

Read more on Oilprice.com: Are Combustion Engines Reaching Peak Demand?

BP sees Chinese demand for oil surging 61 percent, and gas demand soaring 186 percent by 2035. The UK supermajor also expects China to become the world’s second-biggest shale gas producer after the US in two decades’ time.

Almost everyone expects China to become for the natural gas market what it is for the oil market now—the leading consumer with the largest demand growth. Whether these projections will materialize will depend on Chinese economic growth, urbanization, energy policies, global gas supply, and last but not least—the pace of renewable energy and storage solution technology and adoption.

This article was originally published on Oilprice.com

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Goalkeeper celebrates penalty hitting crossbar, only for ball to bounce into empty goal! (VIDEO)

A Thai football match was decided in bizarre fashion when the goalkeeper celebrated a missed penalty shootout kick – only for the ball to freakishly spin off the crossbar and into the empty net.

With the two teams were still level at 2-2 after 90 minutes, the cup semi-final game between Thailand’s Bangkok Sports and Satri Angthong went to extra time and penalties to decide a winner.

READ MORE: 3 people seriously injured, 120 detained in Belgium football hooligan riot (VIDEO)

The penalty shootout was deadlocked 19-19 and into the sudden death stage when Bangkok’s goalkeeper, the last available penalty taker, stepped up to take his kick.

When his effort clattered against the crossbar, the Angthong keeper raced from his goal in celebration at what he thought was a long and hard-fought victory for his team, while the penalty taker hung his head in abject disappointment.

But the celebrations turned out to be premature when the ball returned from the air to smash down onto the ground and bounce towards the empty goal.

The keeper, realizing his mistake, dashed back to try and save an unlikely goal, but his efforts were not enough to stop the ball from bouncing agonizingly into the net.

It was then the penalty-taking goalie’s turn to celebrate, sinking to his knees and being hugged by a teammate.

To make matters worse, Satri Angthong then missed their next penalty to book their place in the final.

“The penalty shootout was going on for a long time,” Phakawat Kunpatee, who uploaded the bizarre footage, said. “Both teams scored their penalties. They were good quality. Then it looked like the other team had lost because they missed.

READ MORE: Footballer swigs beer thrown at goal-scoring teammate, then scores stunning equalizer (VIDEO)

“Everybody thought it was over and the crowd was cheering. The ball bounced and then started going backwards. The crowd saw it but the goalkeeper didn’t.

“It went back into the goal then the other team missed. It was funny, but the goalkeeper felt like a bit silly after. He looked like he was going to cry.”

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Tiger shark stalks stranded diver in stomach-churning game of cat & mouse

A British man diving off the coast of Western Australian has spoken of the moment he was chased by a tiger shark during his marathon 7.5km swim back to shore.

John Craig, 34, had been spearfishing in the aptly-named ‘Shark Bay’ – about 800km (500 miles) north of state capital Perth – when he lost sight of his boat and began splashing the water and screaming for help.

Craig said he believes that his splashing around caught the shark’s attention, who then began to check him out to see if he could be “on the menu.” After spending about two minutes fending the shark off with his speargun, Craig decided his best bet was to swim for it and so began his epic journey to the shore.

“It was easily the biggest tiger shark I’ve been in the water with and that’s saying something having worked as a dive instructor for over 10 years,” Craig said on Facebook. “I quickly turned and saw another large sandbar whaler circling behind me and it was at that point I decided to give up on getting to the boat and save myself.”

Once he began swimming the shark followed, and Craig believed he wouldn’t make it to shore alive.

“I have to admit that at this point I thought I was gone – 4 nautical miles out to sea with a huge tiger shark following me – I thought this was it, this is how I’m going to die.”

Eventually the “curious” shark tired of the pursuit and disappeared out of Craig’s sight as if to say “you’re ok now I’ll leave you alone.” Although now at the shore, Craig’s ordeal was not quite over.

With his legs aching from the epic swim, Craig had to walk for a further 30 minutes before he was spotted by a plane flying overhead. Afterwards, Craig said he felt “extremely lucky to be alive” and was “blown away by the Shark Bay community’s efforts” to save him.

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McCain blasts draft-dodging Trump for Vietnam ‘bone spur’ excuse

Arizona Senator John McCain appears to have taken a swipe at President Donald Trump for avoiding the army draft during the Vietnam War.

In an interview aired on C-Span on Sunday, McCain criticized those who were able to avoid serving in the military by citing medical conditions in comments about draft deferment.

“One aspect of the conflict by the way that I will never ever countenance is that we drafted the lowest income level of America and the highest income level found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur,” McCain said. “That is wrong. That is wrong. If we are going to ask every American to serve, every American should serve.”

McCain was speaking about the Vietnam War and its effects on American society. He said the “gradual escalation” of the conflict strengthened the enemy’s resolve and led to repercussions like, “the New Age, the use of drugs [and] demonstrations,” that split society in the US.

“It was a tumultuous time, and most of it was bred by the conflict,” McCain said, before going on to make the bone spur comment.

Trump received five separate deferments from the military draft during the almost-20-year war in Vietnam. The first four were education deferments and the fifth was for bone spurs, bone protrusions caused by a buildup of calcium.

Bone spurs can be treated through stretching, and sometimes surgery. Trump has been hazy on the details of his medical exemption when asked about it, and claimed to have forgotten which heel was affected by the bone spurs. He said his healed up over time.

He was granted a one-year medical deferment and then kept that status from 1968 to 1972. He was then granted 4-F status, meaning he was permanently disqualified from service.

“For years and years it was the lowest income Americans, which means a lot of minorities, that were forced to go and fight. To me, that’s a black mark on the history of our country, asking those with lowest income level to go and do the fighting for us while the wealthiest stay home,” McCain said.

Bill Clinton was saved from the draft by enrolling in a military officer training program that he didn’t join. Former Vice President Dick Cheney got five deferments, while George W Bush got a position in the National Guard, meaning he didn’t have to serve overseas.

McCain is a Vietnam war veteran who was held by the Viet Cong as a prisoner of war for five years. McCain is a vocal supporter of US interventions overseas, so much so that the neo-conservative think-tank the Cato Institute said he is a militant hawk, describing him as being “even worse than Bush.”

Trump and McCain have exchanged insults throughout Trump’s presidential run, with the president claiming McCain was not a war hero because he had been captured.

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Friend or foe? Boris Johnson’s bipolar relationship with Russia in quotes

Blundering Boris Johnson has spent a decade struggling with whether or not he is actually Russian, likes Russia, or can even stomach a visit to Moscow. Even his views on RT threaten to cause a rift around the Johnson family dinner table.

The foreign secretary has swung from heaping praise on Russian President Vladimir Putin to condemning everything that comes out of the country. Confused? We sure are. Every move Boris makes is a political power play. But his comments on Russia range so widely from complementary to contradictory even he doesn’t seem sure what he makes of Moscow.

From Russia with love? 

In a bid to win favor with those of us who did not attend Eton, Oxford, or move in elite social circles, bizarre Boris said in 2008 he was, well, a little bit Russian.

“I am the proud offspring of Turkish immigrants. I want you to know that my great-great-grandmother was a slave … She was a Circassian slave [from a region in southern Russia], and she was sold: my great-great-grandfather literally purchased her.”

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Britain's Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson © Global Look Press

Putin: House elf or hero? 

“Despite looking a bit like Dobby the House Elf he (Putin) is a ruthless and manipulative tyrant,” Johnson wrote in his Telegraph column in 2015.

Comparing President Putin to a Harry Potter character was a bold move by Boris, whose morning jogs in Bermuda shorts are enough to leave even the strongest-stomached Londoners in urgent need of magic memory-erasing potion.

Yet months later, Johnson heaped praised on the Russian leader over the liberation of Palmyra in Syria.

“If Putin’s troops have helped winkle the maniacs from Palmyra, then – it pains me to admit – that is very much to the credit of the Russians. It is alas very hard to claim that the success of the Assad forces is a result of any particular British or indeed western policy.

“It has been Putin who with a ruthless clarity has come to the defence of his client, and helped to turn the tide. If reports are to be believed, the Russians have not only been engaged in airstrikes against Assad’s opponents, but have been seen on the ground as well.”

Can’t make your mind up, Boris?

Moscow mule 

“We deplore Russia’s continued defence of the Assad regime even after the chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians,” Johnson wrote in April.

“We call on Russia to do everything possible to bring about a political settlement in Syria and work with the rest of the international community to ensure that the shocking events of the last week are never repeated.”

After the US accused the Bashar Assad government of dropping chemical weapons on families in Syria, US President Donald Trump reacted with fury.

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© Toby Melville

And Boris? Apparently awakened by the North Korean threat, Boris has decided to make the trip to his alleged ancestral home.

“Our relationship with Russia is not straightforward,” he declared last week.

“That is all the more reason to be talking to Russia – to manage our differences and cooperate where possible for the security of both our nations and the international community.”

RT 

The foreign secretary has lashed out at Jeremy Corbyn and Labour ministers for appearing on RT.

“If we study the output of Russia Today and consider the state of the press in Russia at present, we see that it is an absolute … scandal that Labour members should be continuing to validate and legitimate that kind of propaganda by going on those programs,” he told Parliament.

Clearly relations in the Johnson household are more akin to a Cold War than between Britain and Russia. Boris made the comments around a month after his own father spoke on the channel.

Boris has a colorful history in journalism, which began memorably with him being sacked for making up quotes.

What is it they say about glass houses, Boris?

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‘Stick with Iran deal,’ Russian senators urge US colleagues

The upper house of Russia’s parliament has prepared a statement urging the US Congress, as well as parliaments of other Western nations, to apply maximum effort for the nuclear deal with Iran to remain in force.

The Federation Council [the official name of chamber] addresses the US Congress members with an urgent request to use all available resources and prevent the extremely dangerous situation. The parliaments must use the influence on political leaders of their countries in order to keep in force the historical deal concerning the Iranian nuclear program,” reads the text of the draft statement, as quoted by RIA Novosti.

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© Mandel Ngan

The Russian senators also note that the agreement on the Iranian nuclear program is important because it greatly contributed to the global regime of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. It also established and tested an algorithm that could be used in similar scenarios, such as, for example, the situation with North Korean nuclear research.

At present time the implementation of this agreement is under threat of complete failure because of US President’s Donald Trump’s declared strategy concerning Iran that stipulates Washington’s unilateral actions that violate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) up to full cancelation of US participation in it,” the senators wrote in the draft statement.

They also noted that the US withdrawal from the action plan would very likely prompt some reciprocal action from Iran, undermine this state’s trust in Western powers’ ability to honor their agreements and throw the situation the Iranian nuclear program back decades.

Earlier this month, Trump allowed for the possibility of total termination of the Iran nuclear deal. Trump said in a cabinet meeting while talking about the Iran nuclear agreement, “We’ll see what phase two is.”

It might be a total termination. That’s a very real possibility.”

Trump also opted to not certify the 2015 nuclear deal, which does not formally terminate it, but also prevents its fully-fledged execution. The move drew sharp criticism from other signatories.

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U.S. President Donald Trump © Joshua Roberts

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has warned that Trump’s disavowal of the deal would only harm Washington’s credibility, adding that Tehran wouldn’t walk away from the deal, and nor would the other parties. Speaking on behalf of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), the German chancellor, British prime minister and French president, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters that he hoped “that Congress does not put this accord in jeopardy.”

On Friday last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said breaking up the Iranian deal would jeopardize global security.

Restoring the UN Security Council sanctions [on Iran] is out of the question,” he added.

The upper house’s Committee for International relations approved the text of the statement on Monday and the vote on it is scheduled for Wednesday.

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Singapore to limit number of cars on its roads from 2018

As one of the world’s most expensive places to own a vehicle, Singapore is to cap the number of vehicles on its streets next year due to lack of space. The move is in conjunction with efforts to improve the nation’s public transport system.

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Former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.(Reuters / Tim Chong)

According to the Land Transport Authority (LTA), no more extra vehicles will be allowed in the city-state cutting the current 0.25 percent annual increase in the number of cars and motorcycles to zero. The rate will be reviewed in 2020.

The increase in the number of goods vehicles and buses will be kept at 0.25 percent per annum until the first quarter of 2021 to provide businesses with time to improve the efficiency of their logistical operations. Firms will also have to reduce the number of commercial vehicles they need.

Singapore tightly controls vehicle numbers by setting an annual growth rate and through a system of bidding for the right to own and use a vehicle for a limited number of years.

“Today, 12 percent of Singapore’s total land area is taken up by roads. In view of land constraints and competing needs, there is limited scope for further expansion of the road network,” said the LTA.

Singapore’s population has risen nearly 40 percent since 2000 to about 5.6 million people. They account for more than 600,000 private and rental cars as of last year, including cars used by ride-hailing services such as Grab and Uber.

To own a mid-range car in Singapore could typically cost four times the price in the United States.

Singapore has an extensive public transport system. The city-state has expanded its rail network by 30 percent and added new routes and capacity to its bus network.

According to the LTA, the government will continue investing in new rail infrastructure, with $ 14.7 billion allocated for that purpose.

Around $ 734 million will be for the renewal, upgrade and expansion of rail operating assets, with another $ 734 million for bus contracting subsidies over the next five years.

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3 people seriously injured, 120 detained in Belgium football hooligan riot (VIDEO)

Three people were seriously injured and 120 detained when Belgian football fans clashed after Club Brugge’s game against Antwerp on Sunday.

Fans from the Netherlands reportedly joined locals in the clashes after the game, which Club Brugge won 1-0 thanks to a first-half goal from Saulo Decarli.   

Local police chief Dirk Van Nuffel said one officer was seriously injured in the unrest, the Guardian reports.  

An investigation has been launched into the clashes, which are described as the worst football-related violence in Belgium for years.

Elsewhere on Sunday, there were ugly scenes in France during the 2-2 draw between Marseilles and Paris Saint-Germain at the former’s Stade Velodrome home.

Brazilian star Neymar was pelted with objects from the crowd while taking a corner, before being sent-off on 87 minutes for receiving two yellow cards.

The Brazilian had earlier cancelled out Luiz Gustavo’s opener for the home team. Florian Thauvin gave Marseille a 78th-minute lead, but Edison Cavani’s spectacular free-kick deep into injury time rescued a point for PSG after Neymar had been dismissed.   

In Turkey, the Istanbul derby between Galatasaray and Fenerbahce was marred by fans launching missiles at assistant referee Tark Ongun.

Fans vented their anger after home player Younes Belhanda was booked for diving, earning him a second yellow card and a dismissal. The game finished 0-0.   

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