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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Can Merey and Shabtai Gold, McClatchy Tribune News Service

ISTANBUL — Thousands of people took to the streets of Istanbul Wednesday, demanding the resignation of the Turkish government as the number of dead rose to 274 in what is likely to become the country’s worst mining disaster.

The initially peaceful demonstrations turned ugly when police set loose water cannon and tear gas as protesters marched closer to central Istanbul’s Taksim Square. The demonstrators accused the government of murder in its handling of Tuesday’s tragedy at the Soma coal mine.

In Ankara, police used tear gas and water cannon against several hundred students who had gathered at the Energy Ministry. Protesters threw stones and Molotov cocktails at the security forces. There were smaller demonstrations in Soma led by family and friends of the victims.

A number of funerals were held, but the majority of the bodies had not been identified. Relatives and loved-ones waited into the late evening Wednesday outside a regional hospital that was serving as a morgue.

Funeral vehicles with empty coffins inside waited near the hospital for bodies.

The Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions called for workers to strike Thursday in honor of the victims.

Questions were being raised about the mine’s safety record, with local media reporting that the ruling Justice and Development Party had rejected a call by the opposition in parliament last month to review safety at the mine.

Mine operator Soma Holding said a safety test had been carried out two months ago.

In Soma, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said hopes that rescue teams would find further survivors were fading. “It is worse than initially expected,” he said.

About 120 miners were believed to still be trapped underground, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

However, according to numbers given by the Energy Minister, the toll could exceed 400. More than 350 miners were estimated to have been rescued in the wake of the blast and subsequent fire at the coal mine, but it said 787 workers were inside at the time of the accident.

“We are moving toward the worst mining disaster in Turkey,” Yildiz was quoted as saying by the Hurriyet newspaper.

Erdogan tried to downplay the poor safety record of Turkish coal mines by comparing it to the 19th century.

“Such accidents occur regularly,” he said after visiting Soma. “If you look back into the past in England, in 1862, 204 people died in a mine. In 1866, 361 people died, and in a 1894 explosion, 290 died.”

Authorities reportedly believe the fire was caused by an electrical malfunction. Smoke continued to rise from the mine shaft late Wednesday.

Most of the deaths were the result of carbon monoxide poisoning after the fire burned off much of the oxygen in the mine.

Of those who survived, Erdogan said, 80 were being treated for injuries.

Fresh oxygen continued to be pumped into the mine shafts for any survivors, but rescue efforts were hampered by the remote location. The miners were 1 mile below the surface and 2 1/2 miles from an exit when the blast occurred.

Turkey has a history of deadly mining accidents. In 1992, one such accident near the Black Sea killed 263 people.

AFP Photo/ Bulent Kilic

Actor as Donald Trump in Russia Today video ad

Screenshot from RT's 'Trump is here to make RT Great Again'

Russia Today, the network known in this country as RT, has produced a new "deep fake" video that portrays Donald Trump in post-presidential mode as an anchor for the Kremlin outlet. Using snippets of Trump's own voice and an actor in an outlandish blond wig, the ad suggests broadly that the US president is indeed a wholly owned puppet of Vladimir Putin– as he has so often given us reason to suspect.

"They're very nice. I make a lot of money with them," says the actor in Trump's own voice. "They pay me millions and hundreds of millions."

But when American journalists described the video as "disturbing," RT retorted that their aim wasn't to mock Trump, but his critics and every American who objects to the Russian manipulations that helped bring him to power.

As an ad for RT the video is amusing, but the network's description of it is just another lie. Putin's propagandists are again trolling Trump and America, as they've done many times over the past few years –- and this should be taken as a warning of what they're doing as Election Day approaches.

The Lincoln Project aptly observed that the Russians "said the quiet part out loud" this time, (Which is a bad habit they share with Trump.)