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German abuse survivors slam Church’s ‘ridiculous’ payout

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This man, Katsch says, stripped him naked in the school music room, bent him over the piano bench and beat him in a sadistic ritual that was repeated multiple times over the next year."I thought there might be more boys like me but I always thought I was the only one with a second abuser. It was a terrible shame for me," says Katsch, now 55 and a campaigner seeking justice for victims of abuse in the Catholic Church. "But I was shocked to find out that I was not the only one. There were many victims that experienced exactly the same grooming. That's when I realized this was systematic." RELATED: Pope Francis slammed by victims over sexual abuse scandalIn 2010, Katsch went public with his story, triggering an outpouring of testimony from dozens, then hundreds of other survivors. On Tuesday, the German Bishops' Conference released the results of its own report into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church over the past seven decades.The numbers are staggering: "at least" 3,677 people have been abused at the hands of more than 1,600 priests and other members of the clergy.More than half the victims were under 14, as Katsch was at the time, and most of them were boys.Speaking during the first day of the German Bishops' Conference in Fulda, central Germany, on Tuesday, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, its chairman, described the findings as "shameful.""We are always shocked and deeply shaken that this happened inside our Church — and is still possible today — committed by priests and clergy, the people of God. Those who were given the task to watch over people. We must look at this again and again. We have addressed this before. But we must do more."But Katsch is doubtful that this report truly reveals the full scale of the crimes committed. The report covers the "absolute bare minimum" of cases voluntarily reported by individual parishes, Katsch says, adding that he believes the real number of victims may be 10 times that many."For the survivors, the urgency is we want to know the truth now. We have waited for such a long time, we want it now," Katsch says. He also believes the Church must address the issue of what the German Bishops' Conference calls "material benefits for recognition of suffering." "The average payment to a survivor is 3,000 euros ($3,500). And yet the German Church is the richest Church in the world. It's ridiculous. And they know it."RELATED: Brooklyn diocese agrees to pay $27.5 million to victims of child sex abuseMembers of the German Bishops' Conference at the opening Mass of the conference on September 25 in the city of Fulda in central Germany.While it is unclear exactly where the German Church ranks on the global Catholic rich list, it is undeniably extremely wealthy — far more so than the Vatican.Last year, Germany's Catholic Church raked in $7.5 billion thanks to its 19th-century "church tax" alone, and it's expected to surpass that number this year.In 2016, the wealthiest dioceses of Paderborn, Munich and Cologne together declared more than $13 billion in assets, from real estate to stocks, far more than the Vatican's estimated $8 billion.The silent Popes: Why Francis and Benedict won't answer the accusations dividing their churchGermany isn't the only country to impose a church tax — Austria, Denmark and Sweden do as well — but it does charge the highest rate.If you are a registered Catholic, 8% to 9% of your income goes to the Catholic Church, according to German law. The same applies to other denominations, including the Protestant Lutheran Church. In the last census, 30% of Germans were registered as Catholic — that's nearly 24 million people, far more than any other faith or denomination.The only way under the law to avoid the tax is by officially renouncing your faith, effectively barring you from receiving any religious service such as weddings or baptisms. The German's Bishops' Conference estimates that only one-third of German Catholics actually pay the tax but that still accounts for more than 80% of the Church's vast income.While the Church spends considerable sums on charitable endeavors — from education to care for the elderly — and, taken together with the Protestant Church, is the second largest employer in Germany after the government, a number of flagrant examples of overspending has shaken trust in the institution.In 2014, Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg was removed from his post after an inquiry revealed he had spent more than $40 million on a renovation of his official residence, complete with walk-in closets and designer bathtubs.Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst's official residence in Limburg was the subject of a financial inquiry.The scandal earned him the nickname "Bishop Bling Bling" and he was swiftly recalled to the Vatican by Pope Francis. Since then, the German Bishops' Conference has made a concerted effort to increase transparency, publishing annual financial statements for each diocese. But that is not enough for some critics of the Church. "It's not transparent whatsoever," says Christian Weisner, of the Catholic reform group "Wir sind Kirche" ("We are church"). "The church appears transparent because it publishes financial information online. But these figures are very general and vague. When you look closely, you can't see exactly how the money is spent."RELATED: Opinion: The Pope should probably resignCNN asked the German Bishops' Conference how it calculates how much an abuse survivor should receive in "recognition of suffering" and was referred to their website, which states that a victim of sexual abuse could receive "up to 5,000 euros" with exceptional arrangements for "particularly serious cases."Katsch is frustrated by the amount and the unrepentant language used to describe the payments. "The Church paid me a recognition fee of 5,000 euros ($5,900)," he says. "They don't call it compensation. And I don't call it compensation either." For many survivors like Katsch, what matters most is discovering the truth. He says he received a "recognition" payment of 5,000 euros from the German Catholic Church only after one of his alleged attackers confessed to abusing multiple children. "They call it a recognition fee? Well, thank you very much, but that's not what I want," Katsch says. "I want justice."

CNN's Jessica Benne contributed to this report.

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Russian activist could spend election in jail

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Navalny, the best-known political opponent of President Vladimir Putin, reported his detention in a series of tweets and said authorities had begun legal proceedings against him for organizing anti-government protests.It's not clear when he might face court, but he could be jailed for a maximum of 30 days and could possibly still be in prison for the March 18 election.His chief of staff, Leonid Volkov, tweeted that he, too, had been detained.The Kremlin appears to have made efforts to stifle the main opposition before the vote and Putin is expected to win by a landslide. Navalny is calling on Russians to boycott the election to strip Putin of his legitimacy.He has been arrested many times, including in January, when he led the anti-Kremlin rallies, in which he called for the boycott.Navalny has been barred from running because he carries a fraud conviction, which he has dismissed as a politically motivated move to keep him off the ballot.The activist said on Twitter that he was detained by seven people as he came out of a dentist's office after receiving treatment for a toothache.In 2014, Putin signed into law tough restrictions on protests and public gatherings.Navalny has risen to prominence in recent years by posting investigative stories online about the alleged corrupt practices of Russia's elite.Authorities recently shut down his website as well as several social media accounts.The Kremlin rejects allegations of widespread high-level corruption and condemns Navalny as a dangerous threat to the country's stability.

CNN's Mary Ilyushina reported from Moscow with Angela Dewan reporting in London. CNN's Carol Jordan also contributed to this report.

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How 5G could change everything

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How 5G will transform the way we learn new skills

5G is going to be a really big deal.

The lightning quick "next generation" wireless technology is expected to power self-driving cars, virtual reality, smart cities and networked robots.

But what else can it do?

Ericsson(ERIC) has joined up with researchers from King's College London to dream up futuristic applications for 5G. They're looking at everything from music to medicine.

The team is focused on using the technology to transfer physical skills across networks, creating something they call the "Internet of Skills."

One example: A surgeon with virtual reality equipment and haptic gloves, which sense motion and pressure,could operate on a patient on the other side of the world via a robot.

Remote surgery has been possible for a while, but 5G speeds should eliminate all delays and lag. That means the surgeon could get instant feedback via the gloves.

"With 5G and the new networking architecture we're building, we're hoping to get this delay down to just the speed of light," said Mischa Dohler, a professor of wireless communications at King's College.

Dohler, who moonlights as a composer and pianist, also plans to digitize his piano skills and teach people remotely to master the instrument.

Related: What is 5G?

haptic glove
Dohler wears a haptic feedback glove to track his movements.

Haptic gloves can be used to track and record the movement of Dohler's fingers, and the position of his hands. The data would be stored on the skills database, ready to be downloaded by an aspiring pianist.

"They would download that in real time on to an exoskeleton, which would start to move their fingers until the muscle memory is trained," said Dohler.

"They could actually practice their muscle memory anywhere they want," he added.

Dohler also imagines a surgeon could upload their skills to a database to train students around the world.

But he said it might take another decade for this "Internet of Skills" to be fully functional.

"We need to get security rights and the best practice of this technology right, because the moment you start moving things on the other side of the planet, you can do a lot of harm," he said.

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Stunning textiles dyed with bacteria

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Written by CNN Staff

This story is part of "Smart Creativity," a series exploring the intersection between high-concept design and advanced technology. Fashion has a water problem. A 2017 report found that the industry consumed almost 79 billion cubic meters of water in 2015, enough to fill 32 million Olympic-sized swimming pools. And according to the World Bank, 17-20% of all industrial water pollution is caused by the dyeing or treatment of garments. But design researcher Natsai Audrey Chieza, who presented a TED talk on pollution and fashion in 2017, is looking to change that.

"When you take a designer and place them in a biological, scientific environment, that's when you get a new way of thinking that can catalyze this kind of innovation," she says.

The future of fashion? Stunning textiles dyed with bacteria

Chieza would know. For eight years, she have been at the forefront of the burgeoning biodesign field, finding natural alternatives to unsustainable industrial processes.

Most recently, as a designer-in-residence at the University College London's Department of Biochemical Engineering, she's been developing dyes from Streptomyces coelicolor, a bacteria typically found in the roots of plants.

"Bacteria produce pigment. They either seep it out of their cell walls or they hold it within their cell walls," she explains. "I became very interested with microbes that seep it out because that seemed like a very low-tech way of actually accessing that color."

Courtesy Faber Futures

To apply these natural dyes, textiles are placed in a petri dish with live Streptomyces coelicolor. After an incubation period, the textiles take on the rich blue, purple and red tones, depending on the pH of the environment where the bacteria are grown.

Because these pigments are derived through the natural excretion process, Chieza says, they can dye textiles with about 500 times less water than traditional dyeing, while cutting the use of harmful synthetic chemicals.

Courtesy Faber Futures

"There have always been artifacts that are sort of beyond 'This material that might look nice.' They tell us about where we are with our technology," Chieza says. "There are new spaces opening up for designers to invite this interdisciplinary sharing of ideas. I think that's where creativity has an amazing space to expand."

Watch the video above to find out more about Natsai Audrey Chieza's bacterial dyes, and how technology informs her practice.

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Europe despairs as UK Brexit strategy goes off the rails

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I've used similar phrases on my EU travels a fair bit since the UK voted to leave the EU almost three years ago. Each time, I get a similar response: a wry but friendly smile.Fellow Europeans seem ready to accept that some British citizens feel a shared remorse about Brexit. As we race to the deadline, smiles are still warmly given and genuine despite growing tensions between leaders — even in Ireland, which stands to be the most traumatized of all the EU nations by Brexit.European citizens feel sorry for us soon-to-be ex-EU folk. One man on his way to work in Dublin a few weeks ago told me he felt pity for the British. "They don't know what they are doing," he lamented. "They've been lied to." It is a benevolence we might not deserve, given the generations of jokes that have made the Irish the butt of British humour.But while we, as a people, still have the sympathy of so many of the EU's half-billion citizens, the British state is not faring so favourably. Prime Minister Theresa May in particular has become the focus of many of her EU partners' frustrations.

Theresa May under scrutiny

Ireland's Prime Minister and his deputy have for several months now been politely offering May advice to drop some red lines and reach across the political divide. But in her own way, May has ignored what seems obvious from the outside: When your back is to the wall and the fate of the nation lies in your hands, try compromising outside the confines of party interest.If there were ever any doubt that May intends to hold her own Conservative party together at the expense of national interest, it was stripped away this week. She teed her intentions up in a speech to the nation Wednesday, and Thursday put it in full inescapable view in Brussels.Britain's had three years to do Brexit. Another three weeks won't help.For 90 minutes, EU leaders questioned May about her Brexit plans. They asked her what would happen if she doesn't get her deal through Parliament, and — not for the first time — they came away disappointed.One EU diplomat told CNN that May had failed to articulate what she wants. She was "very evasive. No answers, no clarity, no way forward." It is a side of the Prime Minister that is becoming all too familiar in London.During her carefully planned TV address on Wednesday, May panned members of Parliament for failing to deliver the British people's Brexit wishes. But she didn't question her own role in creating the high-wire daily drama that has turned from national spectacle to spectacular international car crash.Parliamentarians were outraged, claiming that her blame put them in danger. Security officials advised them to share cab rides home.While May is a focus of anger at home, opinion abroad is also worsening. From a distance, Britain's long-esteemed political establishment appears to be crumbling, one of the original architects of modern democracy floundering in archaic and arcane process. Much as the British empire eroded publicly with nowhere to hide, the nation's humiliation over Brexit has staggered center stage.

The humiliating stumble toward Brexit

Britain — though I emphasize, not the British people — has become an embarrassing full stop to many conversations, if not yet a laughingstock, on the international diplomatic circuit. Discrete shakes of the head became eye rolls, which in turn became voluble despair.Initially, diplomats and other government officials both inside and outside the EU could not comprehend why the UK wants to leave the EU. Now they are struggling even more to grasp how and why British politicians are making such a hash of it.Read More – Source

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UK government loses key Brexit vote

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The House of Lords voted 348 to 225 to amend the government's EU Withdrawal Bill, which will now return to the House of Commons where the defeat is likely to spur renewed opposition.The amendment requires the government to report to Parliament by October 31 on what steps it has taken to remain in the customs union, which allows goods to flow freely across the European Union.The government opposed the amendment. Prime Minister May had previously said Britain will not remain in the customs union after Brexit takes effect.The House of Lords is now considering other amendments to the proposed legislation.

What is the customs union?

The customs union enables the 28 EU member states, and other countries such as Turkey that have signed up to its rules, to function as a single trading area.In practice, it means that cars made in France can be sent to Italy without facing tariffs or a customs check at the border. Goods made outside the union are allowed to circulate freely once they've gained initial entry.Related: Why does the custom union matter?However, membership prevents a country from negotiating its own bilateral trade deals with other nations.The ability to agree new trade deals — with the United States or China, for example — is central to Prime Minister Theresa May's vision for Britain after Brexit. In a speech in September, she ruled out staying in the customs union.The government said it regretted the defeat. "The fundamental purpose of this bill is to prepare our statute book for exit day, it is not about the terms of our exit," a spokeswoman for the Department for Exiting the European Union said in a statement."This amendment does not commit the UK to remaining in a customs union with the EU, it requires us to make a statement in parliament explaining the steps we've taken."Our policy on this subject is very clear. We are leaving the customs union and will establish a new and ambitious customs arrangement with the EU while forging new trade relationships with our partners around the world."However, Andrew Adonis, who sits in the House of Lords on the opposition Labout benches, said: "At long last, a voice of common sense on Brexit has made itself heard in parliament. It is simply impossible to do Brexit without a customs union so the House of Lords has spoken up for good and responsible government."However, even with a customs union Britain will still be worse off if we leave. That is why we need a people's vote on the final deal."

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Meet the world’s most life-like robot

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Written by Stephy Chung, CNNHong Kong

This story is part of "Smart Creativity," a series exploring the intersection between high-concept design and advanced technology.The field of robotics is fast-growing. Robots can now perform complicated movements with elegance — back-flipping, practicing parkour moves, even "carving" classical sculptures.

Then there's Sophia, a robot whose widespread appeal lies not in big, dramatic actions (her torso is often fixed to a rolling base), but rather an unsettling human-like appearance, compounded with the complex ability to express emotions.

"We're not fully there yet, but Sophia can represent a number of emotional states, and she can also see emotional expressions on a human face as well," explains David Hanson, the founder of Hanson Robotics.

The firm has developed a number of Sophias at their small research and design laboratory in Hong Kong, where parts and pieces of Sophia 20, 21 and 22 remain strewn across the facility.

Meet Sophia: The robot who smiles and frowns just like us

According to Hanson, Sophia now has simulations of every major muscle in the human face, allowing her to generate expressions of joy, grief, curiosity, confusion, contemplation, sorrow, frustration, among other feelings.

"In some of the work we're doing, she will see your expressions and sort of match a little bit and also try to understand in her own way, what it is you might be feeling," says Hanson.

New technologies have enabled Sophia, a robot developed by Hanson Robotics, to generate an astounding number of human-like facial expressions. Credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Besides deep learning and a pre-programmed set of expressions, Sophia's face is constructed using the latest developments in material technology, meaning it appears softer, more supple and therefore, more realistic. The lab also studies the neurobiology and biology of human facial expressions to help inform how mechanical ones can behave.

"She is a tool for science in studying human to human interaction, and she's now a platform for allowing AI to express natural-like human emotional state(s), which is something we're developing. True emotive AI," says Hanson.

Universal appeal

When Hanson first began sculpting Sophia, he wanted her form to resonate with people from around the world. To that end, he looked to old statues of Nefertiti, ancient Chinese paintings, Audrey Hepburn and even his wife as inspiration. But he also wanted to maintain something of a robot sensibility, too.

"It was very important that she represent this intersection of humanity and technology, with the intuitive idea that technology can enhance humanity, help us actualize to higher states of being," says Hanson.

"At the same time, (technology can) provoke these questions: What does it mean to be human? What is real, what isn't real? What is the reality of our future which does not yet exist?"

Sophia on stage at the RISE Technology conference in Hong Kong.

Sophia on stage at the RISE Technology conference in Hong Kong. Credit: ISAAC LAWRENCE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Since her activation in 2016, Sophia has since graced the covers of fashion publications and starred in a recent Moncler campaign. During an event at Shanghai Fashion Weekend, Sophia wore 3-D copper arm cuffs and sculptural garments designed by British artist Sadie Clayton.

"The reason I was interested in working with Sophia is because being an artist, it fuses fashion, art and technology. This was the most natural, organic way of me developing my process," says Clayton.

"I think she is so stunning in her right. And the expressions that she gives, it's a really beautiful, warm feeling."

Sophia, a robot created by Hanson Robotics, was named by United Nations Development Programme as its first non-human Innovation Champion in November 2017.

Sophia, a robot created by Hanson Robotics, was named by United Nations Development Programme as its first non-human Innovation Champion in November 2017. Credit: PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Besides modeling, she has made appeared on talk shows and spoken at conferences about issues ranging from artificial intelligence to the role of robots. Controversially, she was even granted Saudi Arabian citizenship, becoming the first robot to have a nationality.

"She's the one robot of the dozens of robots I have designed, that has become really internationally famous," says Hanson.

"I don't know what it is about Sophia, that speaks to people, but I hope that we can develop our AI and robots in a way that makes a deep emotional connection."

Watch the video above to find out more about Hanson Robotics.

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Irish PM aspires to ‘united Ireland’

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"In terms of a united Ireland, our constitution is clear on this," he said. "Our constitution aspires to there being a united Ireland. I share that aspiration."But Varadkar made clear that unity between Ireland and Northern Ireland — which is part of the United Kingdom — could come about only "by consent.""When it does come about I would like to see it command a degree of cross-community support," he added.The remarks, which are likely to provoke criticism from unionist Northern Irish politicians, come just a few weeks after a deal was reached during Brexit negotiations between the UK government and the European Union on the historically sensitive issue of the Irish border. The question had threatened to derail the talks and brought the controversial issue of a united Ireland to the fore.The demilitarization of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland was a key element of the Good Friday Agreement, the 1998 deal that ended years of sectarian conflict.The UK's planned departure from the European Union raised the prospect of a return to a "hard" border, as Northern Ireland would leave the EU while the Republic of Ireland remained in the bloc. But in an agreement reached in December, the UK and EU pledged that there would be no hard border.Even after the border deal was struck, concerns remained in Dublin over the UK government's handling of the issue. There is also unease that the commitments made by British Prime Minister Theresa May regarding the border may not be as solid as the initial wording suggested, which could strengthen support for Irish nationalism.Jennifer Todd, professor in the School of Politics and International Relations at University College Dublin, said Varadkar's remarks were a direct response to the British government's approach to Brexit negotiations.Todd said the British government — under pressure from pro-Brexit lawmakers — is "asserting an unreformed traditionalist concept of sovereignty over Northern Ireland" and has not listened when the Irish government "tried to say this diplomatically."But Paul Bew, emeritus professor of politics at Queen's University Belfast and cross-bench peer in the British House of Lords, said that Varadkar's insistence on the need for consent and cross-community support had brought a new, more conciliatory tone to the debate."It's not actually provocative, it's meant to be the opposite," Bew said. "What he's doing here is trying to pull back from the irritation he has caused in the unionist community by the stance he took over the past several weeks … this is an attempt to conciliate."Building support for Irish unity across both Catholic and Protestant communities in Northern Ireland is "a 50-year project," Bew said. Varadkar's remarks are "a way of saying … we don't want unity any time soon."Whatever his motivation, Varadkar is likely to come under renewed fire from pro-unionist parties in Northern Ireland.In the days before the border deal was brokered, Varadkar and his government were accused of exploiting the negotiations to forward their ambitions for a united Ireland. Varadkar was insisting that talks should not progress until London committed to preventing a "hard" border.Members of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) — a Northern Irishle party fiercely loyal to the British monarch — were particularly outspoken, with the party's leader, Arlene Foster, accusing the Irish government of hijacking the talks.READ MORE: Who are the DUP?In an interview with the BBC Radio 4 Today program in November, Foster was particularly critical of Simon Coveney, Ireland's Foreign Minister, who had previously said he "would like to see a united Ireland in my lifetime. If possible, in my political Iifetime.""He's of course entitled to have that aspiration but he should not be using European Union negotiations to talk about those issues," Foster said. Ten days later in the UK Parliament, DUP politician Nigel Dodds described the Irish government's approach as "aggressive" and "disgraceful."Varadkar rejected the claims at the time, insisting: "There is no question of us trying to exploit Brexit … we want to build bridges, not borders."

CNN's Nic Robertson and James Masters contributed to this piece.

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Poisoned spy’s daughter ‘improving rapidly’

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Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, 33, were poisoned on March 4 after being exposed to what the British government says was a military-grade nerve agent. They had been hospitalized in a critical condition since the attack."I'm pleased to be able to report an improvement in the condition of Yulia Skripal. She has responded well to treatment but continues to receive expert clinical care 24 hours a day," Dr. Christine Blanshard, Medical Director for Salisbury District Hospital, said in a statement. Sergei Skripal, 66, remains in a critical but stable condition but Yulia is "improving rapidly," the statement said. The Skripals were found slumped on a bench in an outdoor shopping complex in Salisbury, England. They had no visible injuries, according to police.The update on Yulia's condition comes a day after police said they believed the Skripals first came into contact with the nerve agent at Sergei Skripal's home in Salisbury.

Front door pinpointed

Police have identified the highest concentration of the nerve agent to date as being on the property's front door, London's Metropolitan Police said."Traces of the nerve agent have been found at some of the other scenes detectives have been working at over the past few weeks, but at lower concentrations to that found at the home address," the police statement said.Police believe the Skripals first came into contact with the nerve agent at Sergei Skripal's home in Salisbury, pictured on March 6.Detectives plan to focus their investigation around Sergei Skripal's Salisbury home for the coming weeks and possibly months, the statement said. Yulia was visiting her father at the time they were poisoned.Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday again demanded the UK give Russian diplomats access to Yulia as he announced that the country will shut down the US consulate in St Petersburg and expel 60 US diplomats.The tit-for-tat move came after more than 20 countries, including Canada and 18 EU member states, joined the United States in expelling more than 100 Russian diplomats over the nerve agent attack. The UK has expelled 23 Russian diplomats over the attack, which it blames on Moscow. Russia denies it was involved and has suggested the UK could be behind it.UK Prime Minister Theresa May called the worldwide backlash the "the largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in history."Russian Foreign Minister spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters in Moscow that Britain is breaking the international law by refusing to provide information on the case."We are witnessing obvious prevention of access for Russian representatives to Russian victims," she said.

Russia: 'Absurd position'

Russia again denied any involvement in the poisoning on Thursday. Zakharova accused the UK government of seeking to "bring about a totally absurd situation."How Vladimir Putin's arrogance handed Theresa May a diplomatic coupZakharova said the countries which had ordered expulsions had been subject to intense pressure to show "solidarity" with Britain despite there being no evidence implicating Russia.Zakharova also repeated a Russian complaint that its requests for information in the Skripal case have been ignored. "London is not giving us information and they cannot prove their innocence," she said.UK officials believe the Skripals were exposed to a Soviet-era nerve agent known as Novichok.But Zakharova said nerve agents have been produced in countries outside of Russia and pointed towards the United Kingdom, United States and the Czech Republic as countries which have invested in this type of research.Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday that Russia welcomed reports that Austria — which has not ordered the expulsion of Russian diplomats — had offered to mediate between Russia and the United Kingdom in the Skripal case. "In the situation with the UK any role, any voice that will spur the British vis-a-vis to, let's say, adequacy in this matter, is in demand, of course," Peskov said, when asked about Austria's reported offer to mediate.Thomas Schnoll, spokesman for Austria Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl, told CNN that Austria condemned the Skripal poisoning but wanted to keep channels of communication with Russia open. "We see Austria as a bridge builder between the West and the East," he said.

CNN's Zahra Ullah, Carol Jordan, Darya Tarasova and Lorenzo D'Agostino contributed to this report.

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Greek Brothels Suffer from COVID-19 Crisis

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ATHENS, GREECE – Businesses across Greece have been slowly reopening, scrambling to make up for lost work after a shutdown of more than two months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The relaunch isn’t easy, especially for those in marginalized professions, such as sex workers, who say they are among the hardest hit.

In the small city of Larisa, north of the Greek capital, Soula Alevridou operates one of the region’s top brothels.

For years, she said, business was booming. Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

Now, times are tough.

“There is very little work,” Alevridou said. “Almost nothing. This industry has been hurt badly, and it feels as if its workers are coming out of a war, all of them injured. Those who manage to recover will survive, but it is tough.”

Under a new set of government health and safety regulations, brothels must now implement new protective measures to prevent coronavirus infections.

They require sex workers to wear masks, keep their heads a distance from customers and take on appointments of no more than 15 minutes, all measures the industry has agreed to.

Names and contact numbers

However, orders to register clients names and contact numbers, as well as to keep them in orderly lines outside brothels, have prostitutes balking, saying the measures strike at the very foundation of their service: anonymity.

“Keeping records of clients, their names and contacts may be right,” Alevridou said. “It assists health authorities in tracking and tracing potential cases.” Sex workers, though, she said, cannot play the role of police officers. The sex trade is a different business altogether, she said.

Cashless payments, now required, are also proving a problem.

A married man, Alevridou said, cannot go to a brothel and pay with his cash or credit card. His family probably shares the same card and he’s bound to have problems once his wife or son or daughter get a whiff of the bordello charges, she said.

Critics say the measures will be impossible to impose.

“It’s highly unlikely that these measures will be observed,” said Thanos Askitis, a leading sex therapist in Greece. Ultimately, he said, they will add no further protection to the industry. It will all boil down to luck or lack of it in containing the crisis on this front, he said.

So far, no cases have been recorded nationwide involving Greek sex workers.

However, the financial beating the industry has suffered in recent months, plus the new measures imposed, have many sex workers returning to the streets, branching out online or just going underground to eke out a living.

800 brothels

The crisis is much more prevalent in big cities, such as Athens, where most sex workers are already operating illegally. Authorities said they count about 800 brothels, but only a third of them are legally listed.

While the Greek government has offered financial assistance to those who have lost their income because of the COVID-19 crisis, no adequate provisions have been made for the sex industry.

To qualify for the aid payments, workers must show they are operating legally and have been paying taxes. That is impossible, though, for the uncounted numbers of unregistered sex workers here, mainly migrants, who cannot do so because they lack legal status.

Unlike other countries across Europe and beyond, sex workers here have received little, if any, support from local charity groups.

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