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In a campaign to improve its image abroad, the Israeli government plans to provide scholarships to hundreds of students at its seven universities in exchange for their making pro-Israel Facebook posts and tweets to foreign audiences.
The students making the posts will not reveal online that they are funded by the Israeli government, according to correspondence about the plan revealed in the Haaretz newspaper.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, which will oversee the programme, confirmed its launch and wrote that its aim was to “strengthen Israeli public diplomacy and make it fit the changes in the means of information consumption”.
The government’s hand is to be invisible to the foreign audiences. Daniel Seaman, the official who has been planning the effort, wrote in a letter on 5 August to a body authorising government projects that “the idea requires not making the role of the state stand out and therefore it is necessary to adhere to great involvement of the students themselves, without political linkage or affiliation”.
According to the plan, students are to be organised into units at each university, with a chief co-ordinator who receives a full scholarship, three desk co-ordinators for language, graphics and research who receive lesser scholarships and students termed “activists” who will receive a “minimal scholarship”.
Mr Netanyahu’s aides said the main topics the units would address related to political and security issues, combating calls to boycott Israel and combating efforts to question Israel’s legitimacy. The officials said the students would stress Israeli democratic values, freedom of religion and pluralism.
But Alon Liel, the doveish former director-general of the Israeli foreign ministry, criticised the plan as “quite disgusting”. “University students should be educated to think freely. When you buy the mind of a student, he becomes a puppet of the Israeli government grant,” he said. “You can give a grant to do social work or teach but not to do propaganda on controversial issues for the government.”
Blair sees no conflict in his role as Middle East peace envoy and support for the Sisi regime, which is estimated to have killed more than 2,500 protesters and jailed more than 20,000.
Tony Blair has agreed to advise the Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who came to power in a military coup last year, as part of a programme funded by the United Arab Emirates that has promised to deliver huge “business opportunities” to those involved, the Guardian has learned.
The former prime minister and Middle East peace envoy, who supported the coup against Egypt’s elected president Mohamed Morsi, is to give Sisi advice on “economic reform” in collaboration with a UAE-financed taskforce in Cairo – a decision that has been criticised by one former ally.
The UAE taskforce is being run by the management consultancy Strategy&, formerly Booz and Co, now part of PricewaterhouseCoopers, to attract investment to Egypt’s crisis-ridden economy at a forthcoming Egypt donors’ conference sponsored by oil-rich UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
But Blair’s decision to become involved in Gulf-financed support of the Sisi regime, which is estimated to have killed more than 2,500 protesters and jailed more than 20,000 over the past year, has been attacked.
A former close political associate argued that the ex-prime minister’s role in advising the Egyptian regime would cause “terrible damage to him, the rest of us and New Labour’s legacy”.
Blair’s spokeswoman told the Guardian that his backing for “Egypt accessing support in the international community” was not being done “for any personal gain whatsoever”. He would make no money out of Egypt and neither would any of his organisations.
“He is giving advice, he will have meetings, that’s all,” she said. Blair believed that the Sisi government in Egypt “should be supported in its reform agenda and he will help in any way he can, but not as part of a team”. However, he regarded Strategy&’s Egyptian work as important.
But it is understood that correspondence from Blair’s office in support of Egypt’s economic reform and investment programme confirms that lucrative “business opportunities”, in both Egypt and the Gulf, are expected for those taking part. Blair’s spokeswoman said: “We are not looking at any business opportunities in Egypt.”
The former political associate said that a bargain had been struck and added: “Tony Blair has become Sisi’s éminence grise and is working on the economic plan that the UAE is paying for. For him, it combines both an existential battle against Islamism and mouth-watering business opportunities in return for the kind of persuasive advocacy he provided George Bush over Iraq.
“It’s a very lucrative business model,” the associate added, “but he shouldn’t be doing it. He’s putting himself in hock to a regime that imprisons journalists. He’s digging a deeper and deeper hole for himself and everyone associated with him.”
Alastair Campbell, Blair’s former press secretary who resigned in 2003 over the Iraq war “dodgy dossier” scandal, is also advising the Sisi government on its public image and being paid for it – though on Wednesday he refused to say if he had been working with Strategy&.
Like the former prime minister, he visited Cairo earlier this year as part of the Gulf-funded programme to bolster the regime. Darren Murphy, who worked for Blair in No 10 when he was prime minister, has also been working on the programme.
Blair’s spokeswoman said the former prime minister would be prepared to introduce people in Cairo if that was “helpful”. Some observers argue that the UAE-funded Egyptian taskforce in Cairo is now said to form a shadow government within the government.
Since standing down as prime minister in 2007, Blair and his companies have been awarded a string of multimillion consultancy contracts with private corporations, dictatorships and repressive regimes, including Kazakhstan, Kuwait, the UAE and Colombia. They include a contract worth more than £1m a year to advise the UAE’s Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund Mubadala.
But his involvement with the Egyptian dictatorship is likely to be his most controversial, both because of its overthrow of a democratic government and the scale of bloodletting it has unleashed – and because of Egypt’s central role in the Middle East where he has been the peace envoy of the Quartet of the US, EU, UN and Russia since 2007.
Last week a group of former British ambassadors and political figures joined a campaign to call for Blair to be sacked as Middle East envoy, citing his “negligible” achievements in the role, his defence of military intervention in Iraq and Syria and the “blurring the lines between his public position as envoy” and his private business dealings in the Middle East. Chris Doyle, of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, said his business interests and peace envoy roles were “incompatible and create a huge conflict of interest”.
Sisi seized power last July as army commander-in-chief and was confirmed as president this month with 96% of the vote in a dictatorial-style election after Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood had been banned as a terrorist organisation. Blair congratulated him on winning the support of the people and said he deserved the support of the whole international community. But he criticised the recent jailing of al-Jazeera journalists as unjustified.
In April, Blair singled out the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists as the enemy that the west and east should unite against and hailed Morsi’s overthrow as “the absolutely necessary rescue of a nation”.
That is also the view of the autocratic governments in the UAE and Saudi Arabia that are now funding the Sisi regime in Egypt and see themselves as the spearhead of a life-and-death regional struggle against political Islam.
Pressure from the UAE and Saudi Arabia led David Cameron to launch an inquiry into the Muslim Brotherhood and its alleged links to extremism earlier this year. Blair has also commissioned his own report into the Brotherhood, reportedly on behalf of the UAE.
Aides to Blair confirmed last week that he is planning to open an office in Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE – where he is reported to be especially close to the crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan – to strengthen his links with the Gulf autocracies.
His business dealings and consultancies are obscured by a network of companies and partnerships that allow him to avoid publishing full accounts. But his earnings were reported last year to be more than £20m a year.
Source: The Guardian
Largest fraud case since 1979 Islamic Revolution sends four scammers to the gallows, including tycoon Mahafarid Amir Khosravi.
Mahafarid Amir Khosravi, aka Amir Mansour Aria, the billionaire at the heart of a $2.6 billion state bank scam, was executed recently state television reported. Khosravi was said to have been the mastermind of the largest fraud case since the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The report said the execution at Evin prison came not long after Iran’s Supreme Court upheld his death sentence.
Khosravi’s lawyer, Gholam Ali Riahi, was quoted by news website khabaronline.ir as saying that his client was put to death without any notice.
The fraud included forged documents to get credit at one of Iran’s top financial institutions, Bank Saderat, to purchase assets including state-owned companies like major steel producer Khuzestan Steel Co.
Khosravi’s business empire included more than 35 companies from a football club to meat imports from Brazil. According to Iranian media reports, the bank fraud began in 2007.
A total of 39 defendants were convicted in the case. Four received death sentences, two got life sentences and the rest received sentences of up to 25 years in prison.
The trials raised questions about corruption at senior levels in Iran’s tightly controlled economy during the administration of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Mahmoud Reza Khavari, a former head of Bank Melli, another major Iranian bank, escaped to Canada in 2011 before he could be arrested. He faces charges over the case in Iran and remains on the Islamic Republic’s wanted list. Khavari previously admitted that his bank partially was involved in the fraud, but has maintained his innocence.
How many bankers and politicians are guilty of similar crimes in America? How many have been prosecuted? How many have seen even one day in jail?
It is no wonder that in the US so many businessmen and public servants are tempted into crooked deals and scams, when they have little to fear in the form of punishment.
I bet the corruption both in Washington and on Wall Street would abruptly decline if we executed a couple of the bankers responsible for the 2008 bank failures.
But no, in the United States, instead of hanging the bastards we bail them out!
We really do deserve the economic collapse we’re going to get. We could have turned this country around.
We have only our apathy to blame for the horror that’s headed our way.
By Tom Retterbush
Yeh Right Think Mudhaf*cks…
WTF… 2,300 a Day
Reports of missing persons have increased sixfold in the past 25 years, from roughly 150,000 in 1980 to about 900,000 this year. The increase was driven in part by the country’s growing population. But the numbers also indicate that law enforcement treats the cases more seriously now, including those of marginalized citizens.
An astounding 2,300 Americans are reported missing every day, including both adults and children.
But only a tiny fraction of those are stereotypical abductions or kidnappings by a stranger.
For example, the federal government counted 840,279 missing persons cases in 2001. All but about 50,000 were juveniles, classified as anyone younger than 18.
The National Center for Missing Adults, based in Phoenix, consistently tracks about 48,000 “active cases,” says president Kym Pasqualini, although that number has been bumped up by nearly 11,000 reports of persons missing after this year’s hurricanes.
In a phone interview, Pasqualini said a breakdown of the 48,000 cases reveals the democratic nature of America’s missing persons.
Slightly more than half—about 25,500—of the missing are men. About four out of 10 missing adults are white, three of 10 black and two of 10 Latino.
Among missing adults, about one-sixth have psychiatric problems. Young men, people with drug or alcohol addictions and elderly citizens suffering from dementia make up other significant subgroups of missing adults.
About half of the roughly 800,000 missing juvenile cases in 2001 involved runaways, and another 200,000 were classified as family abductions related to domestic or custody disputes.
Only about 100 missing-child reports each year fit the profile of a stereotypical abduction by a stranger or vague acquaintance.
Two-thirds of those victims are ages 12 to 17, and among those eight out of 10 are white females, according to a Justice Department study. Nearly 90 percent of the abductors are men, and they sexually assault their victims in half of the cases.
To further complicate categorization of cases, the FBI designates some missing-person incidents—both adult and juvenile—that seem most dire as “endangered” or “involuntary.”
For example, the agency deemed Taylor Behl, the 17-year-old college student missing in Richmond, Va., to be endangered. More than 100,000 missing persons, the vast majority of them children, are designated as endangered each year. About 30,000 are deemed involuntary.
1. To the Perpetrators:
If you think you act for Islam know that your actions are far removed from Islam. If you have demands related to your rights know your actions are an obliteration of what rights are. And if you perpetrated these actions to demonstrate your strength then know that your actions – aggressing upon innocent women and girls – show absolute weakness.
2. To the Nigerian Government:
If you have political issues or interests at stake in this issue it is amoral and not humane that you should enroach upon the lives, rights, freedom and honour of the kidnapped girls to pursue them. Amnesty International has revealed that Nigerian security forces received multiple advanced warnings about Boko Haram’s armed raid but failed to act.
3. To Religious Scholars and Leaders:
It does not befit us to react and respond to problems only when they reach us through western or eastern news outlets. We must be resolute in addressing this particular issue. We should not suffice ourselves with knowing that Islam prohibits such a thing and think that is enough. No. We should have a clear role in shedding light on the danger of such crimes – not to defend our religion but to fulfil the duty that God has enjoined upon us in such circumstances.
(Habib Ali Aljifri From the “Momken” Programme, CBC Egypt TV , 9 May 2014)
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