‘Knighted for services to hypocrisy’: F1 ace Lewis Hamilton gets New Year’s honor but row lingers over tax status

Seven-time Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton has been knighted in UK’s New Year’s honors list but Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been accused of chicanery by adding the star to the ‘Diplomatic and Overseas List’ for the title.

Mercedes ace Hamilton drew level with Michael Schumacher when he picked up his seventh world title this year, in the process also surpassing the German legend’s previous record tally of 91 Grand Prix victories to become the most successful driver the sport has ever seen.

After Hamilton wrapped up his latest F1 title the clamor grew for the Stevenage-born racer to be knighted to recognize his astounding achievements on the track, as well as his campaigning for the Black Lives Matter movement and more diversity in motorsport.

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However, critics down the years have consistently pointed to Hamilton’s tax status as the star – who is said to have a net worth of $285 million – spends much of his time in Monaco.

To avoid any controversy, UK leader Johnson is said to have intervened personally to ensure Hamilton was knighted, placing F1 ace on the ‘Diplomatic and Overseas’ section to swerve doubts over his payments to the tax coffers in his homeland.

The news that the 35-year-old speed king would be rewarded for his sensational career and services to motorsport was met with widespread praise online, including from his Mercedes team and the official F1 account.

The new CEO of F1, Stefano Domenicali, hailed the star as a “true giant of our sport.”

“His influence is huge both in and out of a car,” Domenicali added. “What he has achieved is phenomenal with still more to come. All of us at Formula 1 congratulate him on this well-deserved recognition of his achievements and look forward to seeing more of his brilliance in 2021.”

Unsurprisingly though, there was some lingering dissent as fans continued to accuse the country of bending the rules amid Hamilton’s tax controversy.   

One Twitter user even accused Hamilton of being “knighted for services to hypocrisy.”

In Hamilton’s defense, fans asserted that the star was still among the top 5,000 taxpayers in the UK despite his home in the millionaires’ playground on the Mediterranean coast.

Hamilton is the fourth F1 driver to be knighted and follows fellow Brits Sir Stirling Moss and Sir Jackie Stewart, and Australia’s Sir Jack Brabham.  

Earlier in December, Hamilton scooped the prestigious BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award.  

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Crime in the world’s largest country: From Baltic Sea to remote Far Eastern Asia, Russia’s top-10 most dangerous cities revealed

While tourists are drawn by its gleaming cathedral domes and breathtaking nature, like everywhere, Russia has some dodgy neighborhoods. Now, they’ve been compiled into a new list of the country’s supposed crime hotspots.

In a video posted on his channel this week, popular YouTuber ‘Varlamov’ counts down the top-10 places with the highest rates of wrongdoing to decide which is ‘Russia’s most dangerous city’.

Major urban centers such as Moscow and St. Petersburg are unsurprisingly on the list, with comparable crime rates to other big cities. Also making the top 10 are some destinations you may never have heard of.

10. Moscow

Russia’s capital is well-known for its expansive Red Square, imposing Kremlin, and Cold War-era intrigue, thanks to places such as Gorky Park.

Moscow © Pixabay

Prior to the pandemic, the city was drawing between 17 and 21 million tourists each year. While the overwhelming majority of them encounter nothing more dangerous than lethally large piles of dumplings, Europe’s largest metropolis also apparently has a darker side.

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According to Varlamov, in this city that’s home to 12 million, more than 140,000 crimes were reported last year, including 285 murders and attempted murders. But don’t scratch Moscow off your bucket list just yet – despite having four million fewer residents, New York racked up 318 over the same time period.

Last week, a manhunt was launched in the Russian capital after a dance teacher was shot and killed in broad daylight. While her boyfriend was initially suspected, the focus soon turned to identifying a migrant construction worker he claimed had been stalking her for several weeks.

9. St. Petersburg

Arguably the country’s cultural capital, the continent’s fourth-largest city has been called Russia’s “window to Europe” because of its vital Baltic Sea port. Constructed from scratch in the 18th century, complete with classical architecture and scenic waterways, St. Petersburg served briefly as the country’s capital.

Saint Petersburg © Pixabay

But does the cosmopolitan home of Pushkin, Dostoevsky, and Tchaikovsky have something to hide? Going by the number of times it has changed its name, maybe. Originally founded as Sankt-Pieter-Burch, inspired by the Dutch, it was renamed Petrograd during World War I. After the Bolshevik takeover, it was named Leningrad, after the father of the revolution himself. And, in 1991, a citizens’ vote settled on its current name.

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Given that it’s another much-loved tourist hotspot, it would be difficult to guess that the YouTuber’s analysis would find the city having registered 55,000 crimes in 2020, with 240 attempted homicides.

It made headlines last year when a distinguished history professor, Oleg Sokolov, was found in the freezing Moyka river. Rescue workers were shocked to find a pair of severed female arms in his backpack, with an investigation revealing that he killed and dismembered his 24-year-old student ex-lover. The former academic was handed a 12-year sentence last week.

8. Ekaterinburg

The capital of Russia’s Ural region, Ekaterinburg is located at the very edge of Europe. The country’s fourth-largest city is known for its restaurants, as well as the nearby scenic wilderness, and as the place where Russia’s imperial family, the Romanovs, were executed by their Communist captors in 1918.

Yekaterinburg © Pixabay

The metropolis has the dubious honor of beating Moscow in the number of murders and attempted murders that were perpetrated there this year, with 283 recorded by November, according to Varlamov.

Earlier this week, a man from the region around Ekaterinburg was convicted of murder and given nine years in prison after he handed his rifle over to an intellectually disabled teenager as part of a drunken shooting lesson. One shot hit seven-year-old Yegor Korkunov, who died after months in a comatose state in hospital.

7. Rostov-on-Don

Founded by ethnic Cossacks, Rostov-on-Don is an Azov Sea port city with a population of more than a million people. It its known for its historic Turkish-style fortress, its theatre built in the shape of a tractor, and for its sweeping views over the river Don, after which it is partially named.

Rostov-on-Don © Sputnik / Sergey Pivovarov

Rostov punches above its weight when it comes to average crimes such as theft and fraud, earning it a place on Varlamov’s list. Worryingly, he notes that around half remain unsolved.

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The city was once home to Andrei Chikatilo, known by Russians as the Butcher of Rostov. The communications engineer killed at least 52 pre-teen boys and young girls in the Soviet Union between 1978 and 1990, before eventually being arrested. He was executed by firing squad in 1994. 

6. Shakhty

Located only a stone’s throw from Rostov, crime in Shakhty is said to be worse than in the regional capital. Its name literally translates as ‘mines,’ as it grew out of a settlement built for workers extracting coal from the surrounding area.
Now, however, many of the mines have been privatized or closed, and the city has rebranded as one of the main producers and exporters of tiles in Europe. Like many former industrial areas, Shakhty is a regular feature on lists of Russia’s ropiest cities, with locals expressing concern over a number of rough neighborhoods in the vicinity.

Shakhty © Wikipedia

5. Chelyabinsk

Another city known for its industrial heritage, Chelyabinsk is a Siberian economic powerhouse, dominating sectors such as metallurgy and arms manufacturing.

Chelyabinsk © Wikipedia / Bastiat74

Despite its smaller size, Chelyabinsk recorded more crimes than bustling Moscow last year, and, while it is safe for visitors taking the Trans-Siberian railway across Russia’s vast eastern expanse, vandalism and theft are more common here than elsewhere, according to Varlamov’s ranking.

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Last year, the city authorities sounded the alarm when a man was caught posing as a doctor in a local clinic. However, his fake diploma appeared to be the least concerning part of the story, when it emerged that he had committed a chilling murder more than two decades prior. As a schoolboy, Boris Kondrashin lured a classmate back to his apartment, gave him a lethal dose of tranquillizers and dismembered his body.

4. Blagoveshchensk

Almost as hard to get to as it is to pronounce, Blagoveshchensk is a distant frontier town located on the border with China with a population of around a quarter of a million. Visitors are advised not to miss its museum, featuring exhibits on local wildlife and the historic lifestyles of the nomads that once populated the area.

Sunset over the Amur river. Blagoveshchensk. © Wikipedia / Dina Rogatnykh

Almost 20,000 crimes have been committed in the city which, given its small population, is enough to earn it a spot on the list.

3. Ulan-Ude

Another jumping-off spot on the Trans-Siberian railway, Ulan-Ude is one of Russia’s most interesting cultural melting pots, as a center of Tibetan Buddhism in Russia. Ethnic Buryats, a nomadic group related to the Mongols, make up around a third of its residents, and it’s famous for its traditional temples and easy access to stunning Lake Baikal.
However, tourist attractions aside, the city ranks in the top three on the list for reportedly attracting 22,000 crimes – around three times higher than the national average.

A bird eye’s view of Ulan-Ude. © Sputnik / Sergey Mamontov

2. Magadan

Going some way to prove that criminals are happy to work whatever the weather, Magadan is located on the icy Sea of Okhotsk and known for its sub-zero temperatures, which have dropped as low as -30 degrees.

Magadan city in the Russian Far East. © Sputnik / Alexander Krylov

Despite local wages being high, due to a thriving industrial sector, it earns a place on the list due to the 34 murders that were committed there in 2019 – five times higher, pro rata, than the average.

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While Magadan has had few high-profile killings in recent years, the local area is famous for tragic deaths. The highway leading to the city from Yakutsk is known as the Road of Bones, with the thousands who died constructing the Soviet Era thoroughfare, having reportedly been interned within the concrete, rather than buried in permafrost.

1. Kyzyl

The capital of the Tuva region, Kyzyl is relatively unknown by tourists, despite its claim to be at the exact point of the ‘Center of Asia’. Its monuments and colorful Buddhist prayer wheels make it worth a visit in its own right, but its ranking as “Russia’s most dangerous city” might attract an entirely new set of adventurous travelers.

The “Center of Asia” monument in Kyzyl © Wikipedia / Ada Tulush

While violent crimes have tailed off over the course of 2020, with new alcohol licensing laws and travel restrictions having been imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Varlamov, the region leads in murders by a huge margin, with 35 killings per 100,000 residents.

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Bye-bye 2020: New Year celebrations kick off around the globe (VIDEOS)

New Year celebrations have kicked off across the globe with the Pacific Island nations and New Zealand becoming the first to wave goodbye to the turbulent 2020.

This year’s celebrations, however, are expected to be just shadows of the usual festivities in many locations due to enduring anti-coronavirus restrictions.

Island nations, located immediately west of the International Date Line in the Pacific Ocean, have become the first to enter 2021. All in all, the new year is celebrated nearly 40 times across the globe as it reaches different time zones.

The Pacific Island nation of Samoa marked the occasion with a fireworks display.

A massive fireworks and laser show has been held in Auckland, New Zealand. As is tradition, the display revolved largely around the city’s most prominent landmark – the 328-meter-tall (1,076 feet) Sky Tower.

The New Year celebrations were continued by Australia, with the largest fireworks display held in the city of Sydney. This year, however, the celebrations turned out to be quite muted, as large gatherings remain off-limits in the country which has rolled out one of the toughest anti-coronavirus restrictions in the world.

While the fireworks went off above the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, as usual, the streets of the city remained largely empty, with domestic – let alone foreign – travel remaining heavily restricted in Australia.

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Moscow stock exchange trading volumes to set new historical record amid pandemic

Total trading volume across markets on the Moscow Exchange could reach 924 trillion rubles ($12.34 trillion) in 2020, setting an all-time high, according to the Chairman of the Executive Board and CEO Yury Denisov.

While the official results of the year have not been announced so far, the head of the Moscow Exchange is confident that 2020 is on track to become record-breaking for the platform. Speaking to journalists earlier this month, Denisov said that trading volumes have risen as much as 18 percent over the past 12 months. 

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The explosive growth was mostly driven by the equity market, which skyrocketed 93 percent, according to the official. At the same time, turnover of the derivatives market jumped 57 percent, while trading volumes on the forex and precious metals markets rose by 43 percent and 50 percent respectively. 

The previous record on the Moscow Exchange was set in 2017, when annual total trading volumes reached 887.6 trillion rubles. 

According to Denisov, coronavirus restrictions could have driven increased activity on the financial markets. As the virus started rapidly spreading across the globe, Russia imposed weeks-long quarantine in April, with authorities ordering most of the population to stay at home. 

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“People had more time and opportunities to develop digital technologies at home and get experience how to open a brokerage account without leaving home,” Denisov said. 

Russia saw retail investment boom this year, as a record number of people rushed to pile into stocks. According to the Moscow Exchange CEO, some 4.7 million retail investors came to the market, which is more than three times higher than the year before. 

Russian regulators earlier voiced concerns over the massive inflow of inexperienced investors, fearing that people lacking investment background might lose their money. Earlier this year, the country’s central bank supported the idea to introduce a special exam to prevent unqualified investors from acquiring risky assets.

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Lenin saved… by capitalism! Remote Russian region won’t tear down statue to Bolshevik icon because it’s too popular with tourists

In life, he wasn’t known for worrying about profits, but in death Vladimir Lenin has become a surprise moneymaker for Russian officials. Now, his popularity among paying tourists is saving the Father of the Revolution’s legacy.

Speaking to local media on Wednesday, Vasily Orlov, Governor of the Amur Region in Russia’s Far East, told journalists that a monument to the Soviet icon in the city of Blagoveshchensk had become a surprise hit with visitors. The frontier town is set on the banks of the Amur river, which divides Russia from China.

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According to him, the statue of Lenin had been “preserved” during an overhaul of the city’s central square, because “it is very important for Chinese tourists — they like to be photographed against the background of [Vladimir] Ilyich.”

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While tens of thousands of statues of the man who led the 1917 Revolution were erected during the Soviet era, many across Russia and the former republics have since been dismantled or fallen into disrepair. However, some local authorities have pushed back against that trend, with plans to take down a 42-tonne bust of the leader’s head shelved after a campaign in the Siberian Republic of Buryatia.

In 2018, a fistfight broke out between members of Russia’s Communist Party and Moscow politicians over plans to move a statue of Lenin in the capital. One leftist leader accused officials of “attempting to insult the entire Soviet past.” Andrei Morev, the head of the Yakimanka council where the brawl took place, defended the gathering, however, attempted to sum up the feelings of residents, saying “Lenin is a leader for some and a butcher for others… That’s why we need to hear the opinions of locals.”

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McConnell's home address or guillotine: Twitter has ideas about what Bernie should have shown during Senate plea for $2,000 checks

Those $2,000 paychecks may not materialize, but they may be good for a few bitter laughs. The internet had plenty of creative ideas about what Bernie Sanders should have used as a prop instead of Trump tweets during Senate speech.

The Vermont senator is one of the most vocal advocates for raising the $600 direct stimulus checks to $2,000, a proposal that seems on its way to be buried in a non-vote on the Senate floor. On Wednesday, he delivered an impassioned speech before fellow legislators, using tweets from Donald Trump backing the raise in a bid to sway the Republican majority.

“We have a very unlikely ally in President Trump,” Sanders said as an aide put a sign on display. “So on this issue, amazingly enough, the president of the United States is right.”

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was unfazed by this and other arguments. He said the Senate will not be “bullied” into action and simply refused to take a vote on the bill which was previously passed by the Democrat-controlled House.

The unsurprising outcome may be a disappointment for many Americans, but some found a silver lining – at least the hearing produced a new easily memeable image of Bernie.

McConnell naturally became the target of some crude and at times incendiary jokes.

Others foreshadowed a bad end to US politicians detached from their voters – in the spirit of head-rolling experiences brought about to French nobles courtesy of Madame Guillotine.

A few creators took potshots at Sanders himself.

And many others fantasized what unexpected arguments the Republicans could find convincing: cute or culinary.

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US tariffs ‘counterproductive in every way’ and Europe should respond — Airbus

The newly introduced US tariffs targeting aircraft parts could backfire on American workers, European aerospace giant Airbus has warned, calling on Brussels to issue an “appropriate” response.

The bitter EU-US trade row over aerospace subsidies to plane makers Airbus and Boeing is set to further escalate in 2021, as the US Trade Representative’s office (USTR) unveiled plans to raise duties on French and German wines as well as “aircraft-related parts.” It is not clear when the new tariffs will be introduced, while the rate of the levies has not been revealed so far. 

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“USTR’s expansion of tariffs to include components for aircraft manufactured in the US – by American workers – is counterproductive in every way,” a spokesman told Reuters in an emailed statement. 

The company added that it is confident that Europe “will respond appropriately to defend its interests and the interests of all European companies and sectors, including Airbus, targeted by these unwarranted and counterproductive tariffs.” 

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Similar warnings were earlier voiced by the US Wine Trade Alliance, with its president calling new tariff hikes “a body blow for American companies” that can destroy more jobs in the service sector struggling to survive amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Washington justified the latest move with what it sees as unfair calculation of duties against US goods, approved by the World Trade Organization (WTO) earlier this year. The global trade arbiter ruled that the US failed to comply with international rules when providing subsidies to Boeing, allowing the EU to target American imports worth $4 billion with tariffs in November.

The transatlantic legal battle has been ongoing for 16 years, with tit-for-tat duties on various goods already affecting $11.5 billion in trade. Last year, the WTO sided with the US over illegal subsidies to Airbus, paving way for US’ levies on $7.5 billion worth of European goods.

The European Commission said on Thursday that the recent US move “unilaterally” disrupted ongoing attempts to settle the long-running dispute. However, it still hopes to find common ground with the new US administration, it said in a statement to Reuters.

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‘My brother’s f*cked!’: Jake Paul SLAMS sibling Logan over Floyd Mayweather fight (VIDEO)

YouTuber and celebrity boxer Jake Paul has taken aim at his older brother Logan over his upcoming bout with Floyd Mayweather, saying that the exhibition match is “bad for the sport” and “just for clout.”

Logan is all set to take on Mayweather on February 20 in a pay-per-view exhibition bout that has been ridiculed as a cynical cash grab by both men, and not a legitimate sporting contest.

It seems that number includes Logan’s brother Jake, who took aim at the matchup and claimed that it had nothing to do with the sport of boxing.

Jake, who has been calling out MMA fighters and other celebrities for fights following his knockout of former NBA star Nate Robinson on the Tyson-Jones Jr undercard earlier this year, said that he’s no fan of his brother’s exhibition bout with 50-0 boxing legend Mayweather, and claimed that it’s not going to end well for his sibling.

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“My brother’s f*cked!” Jake told US gossip outlet TMZ.

“It’s bad for the sport. I think it’s just for clout.”

Jake also took the opportunity to score some brotherly bragging rights over Logan, by comparing their respective boxing records.

Jake has won all three of his contests to date, while Logan has one draw and one defeat, both against English YouTuber KSI, to his name.

“I wish him the best of luck,” shrugged Jake.

“I just like, don’t get in there with a guy who’s never even been knocked out. He’s been knocked down once and it was by accident!”

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British Armed Forces prepared to deliver 100,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine every day, says UK defence secretary

The British defence secretary has vowed the UK’s armed forces will be utilised to deliver hundreds of thousands of Covid-19 vaccines every week, allowing the government to immunise millions of vulnerable people over the winter.

Speaking to Times Radio on Thursday, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said that there were more than 200 teams of combat medics ready and prepared to go out into the country and deliver jabs to the population. 

“I’ve got plans for up to 250 teams of mobile medically trained personnel who could go out and administer the vaccine around the country – that would be over 100,000 a day they could potentially deliver if that is requested by the NHS,” he said. 

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Wallace, a former captain in the Scots Guards, said the combat medics could immunise 750,000 people a week, but he added that figure could be increased if needed. 

The defence secretary’s comments come after the UK approved its second vaccine, produced by British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, for use on Wednesday.

Rollout of the new vaccine is expected to start on January 4, but research groups have warned that the UK will need to hit a target of two million vaccinations a week if it is to avoid a “catastrophic” start to 2021. 

On Wednesday the UK also announced a radical change to its vaccination strategy, moving to favour giving one dose to as many people as possible before spring, resultantly delaying the administration of the vaccine’s second dose by up to 12 weeks.

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