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Is MbS Tactfully using Sports to Rebrand Saudi’s Stained Image?



MbS dominated region Saudi Arabia can get boycotted by Rafael Nadal & Novak Djokovic

Last updated on November 19th, 2018

Vowing to make the world believe in their decision making power, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are still evaluating whether or not to play in MbS dominated Saudi Arabia. Besides, another bombshell to this series of shocks is the January event in which, Juventus and AC Milan will contest in Italy’s Supercup, Riyadh. A move condemned by the Amnesty international.

While sports must always do-away from all the political matters, it is vital to understand that it cannot overlook the suffering of humanity, because even it conceptualizes to promote equality at all the levels.

The recent development comes amidst Nadal’s and Djokovic’s decision to play in Saudi Arabia, post the brutal murder of Saudi critic and journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, inside the Saudi Consulate, Istanbul. Both athletes are witnessing outrage over ignoring humanity and choosing the nation, which has often protected its image by holding such events.

As a result, as Nadal and Djokovic landed to play at the Paris Masters, last week, they were asked to explain about their respective stands on playing in Jeddah. Nadal explained, “When this type of thing happens, it’s catastrophic, it’s terrible. A journalist lost his life. And I know that horrible things have happened inside this consulate. So, we are evaluating the situation and we hope that things will clear up as quickly as possible. “

Novak’s took a diplomatic approach and said, “Unfortunately, we were both drawn to this situation, adding that the commitment was made over a year ago to prepare the season. It was a tennis decision, professional at the time. Now, I am aware of what is happening with Saudi Arabia. When you see something like that, of course, you have a feeling. But I cannot tell you more.”

Further, remaining professional and respecting the people to whom committed, Djokovic also known as the Joker, asked for “more information about what is happening, in order to make a rational decision to know whether to go or not. “

Rational or Irrational
Not looking too far, Roger Federer recently turned down the offer to play in Saudi and said, he didn’t want to go out and play there (Saudi) at that time, adding that it was a quick-decision. Arguing, if a 20-time Grand Slam champion can do that with utter ease, why can’t Rafa and Joker?

Besides, American sports columnist Bill Simmons wrote an open letter to Novak Djokovic and explained, he fears Joker would face a deeply damaging backlash if he plays in Saudi Arabia. He also highlighted that Saudi Arabia – conspirator behind killing Jamal Khashoggi – is now waging a fierce war of starvation in Yemen, has carried out 18,000 airstrikes, which has pushed 5.2 million children at the brink of starvation.

Tennis has a rich history, and people who take the right decision at the right time, can really define greatness. This long list includes, John McEnroe’s recent refusal of $1 million to play an exhibition match in apartheid-ridden South Africa. Besides, Venus Williams, Andy Roddick and Billie Jean King are a few others who have used their success to counter such situations and have always put humanity above everything else.

Ironically, with Nadal who runs Rafa Nadal Foundation, solely to help socially-disadvantaged youngsters from being excluded out by society, him thinking twice, draws a parallel.

Correspondingly, athletes from other arenas include WWE’s 16-time World Champion, John Cena and the leader of Yes Movement, Daniel Bryan, turned down from participating in Crown Jewel, a pay-per-view event hosted in Saudi Arabia.

Switching Sports
Football isn’t looking much different right now with Juventus and AC Milan contesting in Riyadh considered highly debatable. Playing in different countries might be a usual practice in European Leagues, but for FIFA and all the other bodies, who say no to racism and have an eye for personal growth and development, choosing the Kingdom gives out a pretty bad impression.

According to the Italian media, the agreement between Saudi Arabia and National League Professional Series A, will bring back several million euros to be distributed amongst both clubs and the league. A comprehensive strategy used by Crown prince, MbS to lure big leagues and personalities to his kingdom.

Amnesty International has also urged the clubs to uphold their decision from playing in Saudi Arabia.

‘Sugar-coated’ Plans of Modernization
MbS, has often called on his modernization plans as the new face of Saudi Arabia, an ode conveying the progressive side to the nation. While he has certainly allowed women to drive from June, Saudi Arabia continues to detain at least 12 women rights activists from May. This includes “right to drive” campaigner, Loujain al-Hathloul. All facing detention without any charges. Yet, another sugar-coated move involves letting the women enter sports stadiums for the first time.

Contrarily, the kingdom has a problem with freedom of expression, especially when used by those who speak against it. In a span of past several months, people have been detained over expressing what they do not like. The big names include reformist cleric Sheikh Salman al-Awda and women’s right activist Israa al-Ghomgham.

From torture inside prisons, to raging a continuous war against humanity, and supporting bids to suppress people – what MbS and his plans for modernization really offer to Saudi Arabia?

Using Sports as an Outright Agenda

MbS and Saudi Arabia know how using sports can subtly get their job done, and are therefore, using it to rebrand their country’s image. The main aim however, is to internationally pass on a message of Saudi influence and the greatness of their Crown Prince, MbS.

Putting light on big sporting personalities and their time of visit shows how each event hides the reality behind closed doors. The recent and the ongoing controversy around Jamal Khashoggi’s killing on October 2, saw leaders across the world condemning such an act, yet during this phase it hosted an international friendly between Brazil and Argentina, last month. A plausible move made with an aim to protect its degrading image.

For Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic as the deadline draws closer, theory of even them getting lured for a million dollars, would start to spread like a wild fire. Also, even if the contract was signed by both the players last year, the situation wasn’t any different, with constant violation of human rights happening in and across the Saudi borders, anyway.

Will sports’ named and famed contest in Saudi Arabia or not, time will unveil next. Howbeit, if they do so, ironically, humanity would drop a notch down to MbS’ strategy of getting the job done on the bases of his ancestral wealth and repressive streak.


Google will pay almost €1bn to conclude French tax probe



Google will pay almost €1bn to conclude French tax probe

Google has agreed to pay over 1 billion euros ($1.10 billion) to the French authorities in order to conclude a fiscal fraud investigation that was launched four years ago.

French investigators are probing to find out whether Google’s European headquarters in Dublin, avoided paying its dues to the state by eluding to affirm a portion of its operations in the country.

According to Google, both the sides have reached to a settlement wherein a fine of 500 million euros will be paid by Google, along with additional taxes of 465 million euros.

Google gives out a small amount of tax in most European countries, reason being it documents majority of sales in Ireland. Such a framework exists due to a loophole in international tax law but it depends on Dublin staff who concludes all sales agreements.

During a hearing in the Paris court, Google’s lawyer Antonin Levy said, “(The agreement allows) to settle once for all these past disputes.”

The total amount of tax payment is not more than 1.6 billion euros sought by the finance ministry after Google’s offices in Paris were raided in 2016. Back then, the ministry strongly refused to come in terms with the company.

Budget Minister Gerald Darmanin said the settlement with Google will put a legal precedent in place. Darmanin further added that discussions were already going on with a number of other companies, both big and small. However, he did not name any of those companies.

So far, the European countries have found it difficult to tax the profits of global tech companies derived in their judiciary.

France has always laid emphasis on a digital tax to entail European Union member states, but has faced opposition from Ireland, Denmark, Sweden and Finland.

“We remain convinced that a coordinated reform of the international tax system is the best way to provide a clear framework for companies operating worldwide,” Google said.

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Freight accident in Congo kills at least 50 stowaways



Freight accident in Congo kills at least 50

Over 50 people lost their lives after a cargo train derailed in southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on September 12.

The train got off the track at 3am in Tanganyika (province) near Mayibaridi. The authorities confirmed a provisional toll of 50 dead and several others wounded,” minister for humanitarian action, Steve Mbikayi, said in a tweet.

However, according to the scene witnesses and local media, more than a hundred people are feared killed in the Congo train accident.

Victor Umba, the union head of the national rail company SNCC, said the cargo train was slated to cover its route from the town of Nyunzu to the town of Niemba when two coaches fell off the tracks.

“Those who died in this derailment were stowaways. It is impossible for the SNCC to provide any kind of toll,” Umba said.

He further added that the SNCC’s chief had reached the provincial capital of Kalemie for figuring out a way to lift the coaches. “It seems that many stowaways are trapped under the derailed carriages”.

DRC railways has been struggling through a bad record for safety, accidents often due to derelict tracks and decrepit locomotives, which are majorly outdated and operating since 1960s.

In March, over 24 people were killed and 31 were wounded after a cargo train loaded with illegal passengers met an accident in the central province of Kasai.

In November 2018, at least 10 stowaways were killed along with 24 wounded close to the eastern town of Samba. The accident was a result of failed brakes.

In November 2017, over 35 people lost their lives when a cargo train with 13 oil tankers dropped into a valley in southern Lualaba region.

Similar to several state companies in DR Congo, the SNCC is falling into bankruptcy and its erstwhile chief Sylvestre Ilunga is the country’s current prime minister.

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Ashura panic-rush kills 31 in Iraq, death toll expected to rise




At least 31 people were killed during Ashura in a tragic stampede in Iraq’s holy city of Karbala after a footbridge suddenly plummeted. Over 100 people were wounded, and according to the Iraqi Health Ministry, the death toll was expected to increase as a couple of wounded were in critical condition.

The incident took place while the Ashura festival procession was nearing end, as the pilgrims marked Shi’ite Muslim holy rituals at the shrine of Imam Hussein. Shrine officials said the Iraq stampede started at the main entry of the ornate building.

The annual pilgrimage marking the death of the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson in battle in 680 draws hundreds of thousands of Shi’ite Muslims to Karbala from around the world.

On this day Shi’ite Muslims commemorate the killing of Hussein in A.D. 680. He was a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, and was killed by a rival Muslim faction, which is believed to cause rift between Shiite and Sunni Islam. For Shiites, Hussein and his line of descent are the heirs of the prophet by right.

The Shiites pilgrims observe the day with mourning and hitting themselves and some wounding their heads with sharp blades.

In the past, radical Sunni militants have targeted Ashura processions, however, this year was quite peaceful up to the breaking of the walkway. The officials told that the bridge collapsed in the mid of the so-called Tweireej run, when thousands of pilgrims were running toward the Imam Hussein shrine.

That run signifies the time when maternal cousins of Hussein’s half brother came running across a mile fromTweireej village to save him, but found that he was killed.

As the people saw other pilgrims rushing in panic, stampede got instigated near the gold-domed Imam Hussein shrine, which crushed many people to death.

According to the Associated Press, yesterday’s stampede was the most hazardous in a long time during Ashura commemorations in Karbala, which is located over 50 miles south of Baghdad.

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Iranian Oil Tanker Adrian Darya 1 in Criticism from British Officials



Adrian Darya 1

Recently, the 1997 built Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya 1 is in criticism from the British officials. On Tuesday, Britain’s foreign minister Dominic Raab accused the Iranian tanker to have sold its crude oil to Assad regime led by the Syrian politician Bashar Hafez al-Assad, who became the president of Syria in 2000.  

“Iran has shown complete disregard for its own assurances over Adrian Darya 1”, said Dominic Raab.

As known from the previous data, the Iranian officials assured that they would not sell crude to any other country, but the Iranian’s act of disregarding their own assurances aggravated the British officials amid continued provoking indifferences with the oil-rich country.  

The conflicts between both the UK and Iran seems to be growing from a long time. Not only that, the Iranian officials are also having a hard time dealing with the US as the latter unilaterally pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal. Furthermore, the US also imposed various sanctions on Iran, that hindered Iran’s exports to the other Middle-Eastern countries.

In regards to Britain’s accuses, the US State Department on Tuesday said that the Iranian officials have deceived the international community by going back from their words, stressing on the fact that they did sell illicit oil to Assad’s regime.

Previously, Iran seized a British-flagged tanker in the strait of Hormuz in July. The move came two weeks later when the British officials detained an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar. The Iranian oil tanker Grace 1, which is now named as Adrian Darya 1, was seized for illegally transporting oil to Syria in July, with the claims that the shipping breached the EU sanctions.

The British Royal Marines, however released the Iranian vessel on August 15, with assurances from Tehran that the ship would not discharge its 2.1 million barrels of oil in Syria. But the recent accusations are a clear contradiction to Iran’s previous statements. The British officials made it clear that Iran breached the made promises, transferring oil to Syria through Adrian Darya 1.

Dissatisfied with Iranian’s move, Dominic Raab said, “This sale of oil to (Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s) brutal regime is part of a pattern of behavior by the Government of Iran designed to disrupt regional security.”

As the situation appears, the government might raise the entire issue of illicit transport of oil through Adrian Darya 1 in the UN meeting ahead this month.

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China Threatened Over UK Warships Deployment in South China Sea



UK Warships

The UK-China feud in the international waters has been in continuation from a long time. Recently, the Chinese officials warned the government against sailing of the UK warships through the disputed waters in the South China Sea.

Against China’s continuous warnings, the Naval Chiefs claimed that they have every right to sail to the vast South China Sea that provides free navigation of shipping. The rumours that the British officials would be sending an aircraft carrier to the disputed Spratly Islands that has been often claimed by a number of nations in the region including China, Vietnam and the Philippines, along with US jets on board gave way to more insecurities in the South China Sea.

The Chinese officials have warned that in accordance to such hostility, Beijing would respond with military perspective. The US’ involvement with the UK was seen as a major threat by China, which believed that the duo’s joining hands would challenge or violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China.

The US often conducts a freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea to challenge China’s territorial claim. They have even accused China of illegally building military facilities on certain islands, which the latter has called an alleged assumption by the US officials. The Chinese Ambassador to the UK Liu Xiaoming said “Britain should not do this dirty job for somebody else.”

Xiaoming clearly rejected the arguments, which stated that the Royal Navy would be upholding international rules concerning Freedom of Navigation. He further expressed his discontent and objected on the UK warships’ entering into the Chinese territorial waters.

It is not the first time that the situations have been difficult for both the UK and China. Earlier, the relations between both the nations severed in the wake of the ongoing Hong Kong protests that affected China’s authority in the territory. With Britain’s interference, supporting the protestors, Xiaoming reiterated on the fact that Hong Kong is a part of China and the foreign countries shouldn’t interfere in the territory’s affairs.

Despite the warnings from China, the British officials would deploy their new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth to the South China Sea in 2021. One of the major aims of the government behind the entire UK warships scenario is to protect the international law, providing freedom of navigation at sea and in the air. Through this the government largely aims to oppose “militarization” of the South China Sea, maintaining regional security in the region.

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