Some 470,000 diesel car owners in Germany are seeking refunds from Volkswagen over emission tests cheating. Hearings began with the automaker rejecting the judge’s call to settle the case, citing a lack of legal grounds.
The scandal, which has already cost the German carmaker $32.7billion (€30bn), first broke in 2015 when US regulators showed that the company had installed so-called defeat devices in its diesel cars. The software enabled the vehicles to perform within emissions limits during tests, while exceeding the limits during normal driving conditions.
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The company has since faced class action claims from US and Australian consumers, now joined by Germans, who until last year could not pursue group claims. The current class action was made possible after Germany changed legislation in 2018, granting permission to consumer protection organizations to undertake court actions on behalf of consumers.
VW has repeatedly rejected the aim of the lawsuits launched against it, stating that despite the fact that its vehicles were indeed cheating during tests when first produced, the cars remained perfectly functional, while software updates have long since fixed the problem.
“The vehicles are driven by hundreds of thousands of customers every day, which is why we believe there is no damage and therefore no cause for complaint,” the German carmaker has said.
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Volkswagen’s settlements so far include a deal to buy back 500,000 cars in the United States for over $25 billion, as well as an agreement with Australia, where the company will pay 127 million Australian dollars ($86mn) in compensation.
However, the car manufacturer said on Monday there was no legal basis for consumers in Germany to seek compensation for their cars due to differences in law. Some 2.4 million cars with defeat devices were on German roads when emissions cheating was first revealed. 99 percent of them have by now received a software update, according to the company.
Swedish athlete Angelica Bengtsson sent an entire stadium in Doha into a state of horror after she broke her pole and nearly smashed her head during an attempt at the IAAF World Championships in Qatar.
The 26-year-old was making her third attempt at a height of 4.80m when her pole suddenly snapped mid-run, sending the Swede flying right onto the hard track.
Bengtsson, who didn’t have time to ensure a safe landing, hit the ground with her head, causing spectators to freeze in fear.
Luckily for the athlete, she emerged from the terrifying incident unscathed and was allowed to repeat her attempt at the same height.
Swedish pole vaulter Angelica Bengtsson snaps her pole and nearly smacks her head on the ground. She comes back to break the national record and is among the last six competing. pic.twitter.com/NMoeTZqPGw
The US government is working hard to break China’s dominance over critical mineral supplies, launching a plan to boost lithium, cobalt and rare earths mining across the globe.
The Energy Resource Governance Initiative (ERGI), announced in June, so far involves Australia, Botswana, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Namibia, the Philippines and Zambia.
The scheme seeks to promote responsible mining of 15 minerals expected to be in high demand as the adoption of technologies such as EVs, battery storage and wind turbines continue to rise.
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“We want to ensure that these important mineral commodities remain free from international coercion and control,” US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said in a meeting held on Thursday at the United Nations General Assembly.
“The work that we’re doing here is absolutely essential – it’s essential to ensuring secure and reliable energy supplies for every nation,” he noted.
Pompeo said the Trump administration will also work on bilateral agreements, such as the one it recently signed with Canada, aimed at strengthening cooperation on critical minerals.
Washington has also gained the support of Australia, which has committed to facilitate potential joint ventures to improve rare earth processing capacity and reduce reliance on Chinese rare earths.
In early September, Canberra identified 15 rare earth and critical mineral projects it aims to champion as part of the joint effort with the US to challenge China’s dominance in the market.
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The announcement followed a move by Australia’s Lynas Corp., (ASX: LYC), the world’s largest rare earths miner outside China. In July, the company signed a deal with its partner, Texas-based Blue Line, to build a heavy rare earths separation facility in the US. The facility should begin operations by 2021.
The US has also signed a memorandum of understanding to assist Greenland in the exploration and development of the island’s resources — in particular, its rare earth minerals.
Washington has grown more concerned recently about its dependence on mineral imports after Beijing suggested using them as leverage in the trade war between the world’s two largest economies.
China accounts for almost 80 percent of the global mined supply of rare earths, a group of 17 chemical elements used in everything from hi-tech consumer electronics to military equipment.
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The nation has used its rare earths dominance to make a political point in the past. It blocked exports to Japan after a maritime dispute in 2010, though the consequent spike in prices triggered a race to secure supplies elsewhere.
Beijing has also been securing supplies of other critical minerals and battery metals such as lithium, cobalt and nickel, buying up stakes in mining projects in countries from Australia to South America and Greenland.
A 63-year-old man who had been on the run for 17 years after pulling off a daring prison break was finally captured by Chinese police, who tracked the fugitive to a cave using drones.
Song Jiang was apprehended at his mountainous hideout on September 19 by Yongshan police in Yunnan province, south-west China, after authorities used unmanned aerial vehicles to search the area.
Jiang was imprisoned for trafficking women and children, but escaped from prison in 2002. Police said they started to zero in on his whereabouts in early September this year after receiving a crucial tip-off.
Following a number of failed missions by personnel on the ground, drones were deployed and, after a five-hour-long aerial search, eventually revealed his hiding place.
After spotting the small cave littered with rubbish on the side of a steep cliff, officers moved in on foot to take Jiang back into custody. Police said the fugitive had been living in complete seclusion for so long that he found it difficult to communicate with officers.
US President Donald Trump has suggested that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff should be arrested for “treason” for reading a “fake” statement about his call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Trump blasted Schiff amid a fresh batch of tweets early Monday, saying that he “illegally made up a FAKE & terrible” statement, pretending it was the words the US president had said on his controversial call with Zelensky.
Schiff read his own “parody” interpretation of the call during a congressional hearing last week, prompting outrage from the president and other Republicans.“It bore NO relationship to what I said on the call. Arrest for Treason?” Trump wrote.
The latter previously tweeted that Schiff should be investigated “at the highest level” and said he deserved a chance to “meet his accuser.”
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Democrats have accused Trump of pressuring the Ukrainian leader to investigate former VP Joe Biden after he allegedly interfered in a corruption investigation into a Ukrainian company that his son Hunter worked for.
Schiff has been known to dramatize Trump’s alleged wrongdoings, even claiming during the years-long Russiagate investigation that he had personally seen evidence that the president had “colluded” with Russia to win the 2016 election.
The Russiagate narrative fizzled out, however, after the official probe into Trump’s relationship with Russia turned up no actual evidence of collusion.
Democrats have used Trump’s call with Zelensky to launch an impeachment inquiry, arguing that the president was offering the Ukrainian leader a quid pro quo, more US military aid in return for a probe into Biden and his family. However, a transcript of the call, which the White House released last week, does not explicitly prove Trump made military aid dependent on investigating Biden.
The controversy was set in motion earlier this month after a “whistleblower” came forward with an “urgent concern” that Trump had acted inappropriately during the call with Zelensky.
US President Donald Trump responded to the Democrats-led impeachment inquiry by posting an ominous quote from a church leader who warned that removing him from office would inflict “Civil War-like” wounds on the nation.
Known for regularly watching shows on Fox News, Trump apparently liked how the Southern Baptist minister and televangelist Robert Jeffress appeared on the channel on Sunday and blasted the Democrats for wanting to impeach him.
“And I do want to make this prediction this morning: If the Democrats are successful in removing the president from office, I’m afraid it will cause a Civil War-like fracture in this nation from which this country will never heal,” Jeffress said live on air.
Trump then took the quote and posted it on Twitter. He edited Jeffrees’ words a little bit, adding in parenthesis that the Democrats “will never” succeed in impeaching him should they try to do so.
….If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.” Pastor Robert Jeffress, @FoxNews
The president posted a few other excerpts from the minister’s comments, including one in which he said that by fighting to oust Trump, the Democrats “don’t care if they burn down and destroy this nation in the process.”
Various Democrats have been calling to impeach Trump for different reasons ever since he took office more than two years ago. The first real step to do so, however, was made when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi formally launched an impeachment inquiry last week.
The Democrats are now accusing Trump of pressuring Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the dealings of former US Vice President Joe Biden, who is aiming to be Trump’s opponent in the 2020 presidential race. The president has denied any wrongdoing, dismissing the allegations as “witch hunt garbage.”
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A school in eastern Sweden, perhaps hoping to create the next Greta Thunberg, has come in for heavy criticism after saying that its students must take part in a climate change protest during school hours.
Västangård school in Umeå, Sweden, notified parents and guardians that participation in last Friday’s climate strike was mandatory.
According to local media, some school principals in Sweden have given approval for students to step out and attend the climate strike, once their permission was sought. However, the school in Umeå said that its students must take part in the movement, regardless of if they’d asked to or not.
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The decision has been criticised by Swedes on Twitter as undemocratic and authoritarian for forcing children to take part in a movement even if they don’t wish to. Local councillor Anders Ågren said in a tweet that parents were told that the school had made the decision at the request of Thunberg.
The teenager, who has herself been ‘on strike’ from school every Friday for a year, called on young people around the world to skip school for global protests in September to urge leaders to take action on climate change.
Climate strike participation by pupils is reportedly not supported by the teaching unions in Sweden, who say the key to tackling the climate issue is education.
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Russian athlete Anzhelika Sidorova has followed in the footsteps of her legendary predecessor – Olympic and world champion Yelena Isinbayeva – claiming pole vault gold at the IAAF World Athletic Championships in Doha, Qatar.
The 28-year-old delivered a more than confident performance on Sunday night surpassing her more decorated rivals – reigning Olympic title holder Ekaterini Stefanidi from Greece and Olympic runner-up Sandi Morris of the USA.
It was Sidorova’s moment of glory when she coped with the height on the third attempt beating her personal best result by six centimeters.
The newly-crowned champion was competing as a neutral athlete, wearing a neutral blue uniform at the demand of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) which extended a ban on the Russian Athletics Federation (RUSAF).
“I know there will be no Russian anthem at the award ceremony, but I can do nothing about it. Let’s concentrate on the positive things,” Sidorova said after the victory.
This was the first victory taken by a Russian female pole vaulter since Isinbayeva’s triumph at the 2013 world summit in Moscow.
Several contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination have promised a nationwide ban on fracking. How viable is that proposal and do they really want to do it – or is it just a campaign promise they can never fulfil?
Banning ‘fracking’ – the process of extracting oil and natural gas via hydraulic fracturing – is popular among environmentalists and activists who are increasingly concerned about climate change. Among the candidates who have backed a ban are the current frontrunner Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), as well as her colleagues Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Kamala Harris (D-California).
Yet, the fracking boom of the past decade has transformed the US from an energy importer to an exporter, impacting the economy in a major way – and even giving Washington a certain amount of foreign policy leverage that Democrats might find difficult to abandon.
Clean or deadly?
Hydraulic fracturing involves horizontally pumping water, sand and a mixture of chemicals into rock at extremely high pressure, creating fractures that release trapped oil and natural gas.
The industry has touted fracking as a ‘cleaner’ alternative to coal – another bugbear of the environmentalists. In reality, the method poses “significant threats to air, water, health, public safety, climate stability, seismic stability, community cohesion, and long-term economic vitality,” according to last year’s report by the Concerned Health Professionals of New York, which concludes:
There is no evidence that fracking can operate without threatening public health directly or without imperiling climate stability upon which public health depends.
Among the disastrous effects on the environment of fracking are the contamination of groundwater and surrounding soils and vegetation. Some studies have even linked fracking to earthquakes, due to the high pressure used to extract the oil and gas from rock. Researchers speaking at the 2019 annual Seismological Society of America meeting said they had identified “more than 600 small earthquakes” in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Texas linked to activity in the wells.
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Then there’s the effect on air quality and climate change. Fracking could be even worse than coal for carbon emissions, according to research by Cornell University’s Robert W. Howarth. This is because of the release of methane in the process, coupled with emissions produced during transportation.
Four US states – Washington, Vermont, New York and Maryland – have already prohibited fracking. But before the new 2020 presidential election race kicked off, the idea of a nationwide ban was not a hot topic.
Realistic possibility or pipe dream?
A president like Warren or Sanders could attempt to get anti-fracking legislation through Congress, but that would be a gargantuan task, especially if the Republicans still control the Senate. If they try to do it through regulations and executive orders, the next Republican administration could simply rescind them later.
While executive action could ban fracking on public lands, much of the oil and gas exploration happens on privately owned land. Former president Barack Obama balanced his stricter regulations with rhetoric about the benefits of fracking, and still faced legal challenges at every turn.
The US oil and gas industry is a hugely powerful one. For years, anti-fracking and other environmental activists have been targeted by the FBI as eco-terrorists and have even found themselves on government watchlists.
During the 2020 election cycle, the industry has given nearly $30million to mostly Republican candidates, party committees and other spending groups, according to money-tracking website Open Secrets. The ‘Trump Victory’ fundraising committee has received $2.9 million from the oil and gas industry. One example how this influence works in practice can be seen in the Trump administration’s recently announced plans to loosen oversight on methane emissions.
Economic and geopolitical concerns
Even if Democrats could get a ban through congress, would they really want to?
Fracking has had a transformative effect on the US economy and energy landscape. The US has become the world’s top producer of oil in recent years, ahead of Saudi Arabia and Russia. It is also a net exporter of oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG). Today, about half the US crude oil and two thirds of LNG come from fracking.
This has also made Washington inclined to use energy resources as a bargaining chip – ironically, something that the US has long accused the Saudis and Russia of doing. Ellen Wald, energy expert and senior fellow at the US-funded Atlantic Council think tank, recently promoted fracking in an op-ed for The Hill, frankly admitting that it was a “boon” for the US in terms of its “geopolitical leverage.” It is difficult to imagine that Democrats would give up that leverage so easily.
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The US has attempted to strong-arm European countries into buying American LNG instead of the far cheaper Russian gas, even threatening to sanction the Nord Stream 2 pipeline currently under construction from Russia to Germany. Indeed, economist Jack Rasmus told RT that the US is increasingly concerned that Europe, particularly Germany, has become too reliant on Russian gas and is cognizant that this could reduce US influence in Europe.
In its efforts to promote US energy around the world, the Trump administration has even begun referring to its exports as “freedom gas” and “molecules of freedom” – a move which provoked much ridicule.
Planning or pandering?
It may provide a clue that, despite many references to “clean energy” and climate change, there is no mention of fracking anywhere on Warren’s website. Her plan for “100% clean energy,” released earlier this month, also includes no references to fracking. Progressive Democrats more sympathetic to Sanders are doubtful that Warren and Harris are genuine about the fracking ban, with some saying they only favor the ban due to public pressure.
Elizabeth Warren now says she embraces banning fracking. So why isn't that on her website? Could it be that she really doesn't?https://t.co/JpWQnu1DuG
It is simply a “fantasy” to believe that Democrats will ban fracking, Rasmus told RT, adding that both parties simply say “what they think their respective political bases want” to hear. Once in office, however, they have to make compromises.
All of this suggests that, even if a Democrat wins in 2020, the party’s anti-fracking dreams will not become reality any time soon.
Dutch MMA fighter Gegard Mousasi has accused his former opponent Rafael Lovato Jr, who took his middleweight title in June, of taking performance enhancing drugs. He claimed Lovato’s “hard nipples” were clear proof of steroid use.
Mousasi defeated Lyoto Machida by split decision at Bellator 228 on Saturday, avenging a loss he suffered five years ago at the hands of the Brazilian fighter.
Talking about another possible rematch, Mousasi immediately referred to Lovato Jr, who not only inflicted his only loss since 2015 but also denied him to the Bellator middleweight title.
During the post-fight press conference, the 34-year-old Dutchman lambasted his American counterpart, insisting that his victory in June was achieved with help of anabolic steroids.
“It’s not even a little bit steroids, they’re like monkey steroids,” Mousasi said. “You guys check it out, I can post pictures for you guys if you want. But I’m not a reporter, you should go do some research. Everyone knows he’s on steroids, but people call me a bad loser.”
He also said that Lovato Jr’s nipples were as firm as a woman’s, suggesting that he could even have breastfed babies.
“Well, he looked twice as big at the weigh in. His nipples were hard like a woman. Go watch it! I’m not kidding, I’m not trying to be funny, or something about this. His nipples were twice as – he could have given milk to babies!” Mousasi said.