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Saudi’s Dented Image Faces Rejection from Italian Opera House

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La Scala

Last updated on March 24th, 2019

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which seems unscathed from the consequences of its radical orthodoxies, is actually facing the repercussions it probably wouldn’t have expected. The diversification plan opted by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is certainly not progressing at a pace he envisioned.

Recently, an evidently diverse area touched by the Kingdom, refused to welcome its proposal. One of the most significant opera houses in the world, the Teatro alla Scala in Milan announced to return the Saudi investment of over three million euros, citing the past records of the Arab nation.

Adverse criticism crept in, since the announcement of the concord between Italy’s premier temple of music and the Saudi government. Over the time period of five years, the Kingdom would have invested a total of €15 million for obtaining the position on the board for its culture minister.

On Monday, the board of La Scala voted to return €3.1 million, which was provided by Riyadh as the first share of the funding. The Centre-Left Mayor of Milan Giuseppe Sala highlighted that the funds had been placed in an escrow account, but would now be returned.

According to his statement, the board of directors at the theatre “unanimously decided to return the money” after deliberating over the issue. Sala also stated that it didn’t meant a rebuff to the Saudis. “There is no black list,” he said, adding that the decision was taken because the business was “handled badly”.

On the other hand, the Italian critics argued that the country with a terrifying human rights record shouldn’t be allowed to obtain any position in the opera house. They believe that Saudi’s past violations are uncongenial to the values of a democratic country incorporated by La Scala.

Businesses and institutions across the world have been refraining from accepting Saudi funds, since the Arab nation’s role was proved in the killing and dismemberment of The Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.

For Saudi, La Scala’s rejection is the second this month, which is a result of its oppressive principles and the reported human rights abuses. A talent agency, Endeavor also announced to return a $400 million investment of Saudi Arabia, on March 8.

The Kingdom, which is on the trail of diversifying its economy, is being tremendously dented by its own repressive and extremist theory. A columnist for Corriere della Sera, Giangiacomo Schiavi believes that its “a country that instead of respecting human rights, treads on them”.

While the global institutions are turning down the Arab nation’s substantial investments, Saudi’s plans of diversifying its economy are going in vain. The reputation that the country doesn’t seem to care about, is gradually affecting it at a much deeper level.

The oil-rich Gulf country is also striving to mend the impact of self-inflicted wounds. The Financial Times recently reported that the country has recently signed a $120,000-a-month contract with New York-base Karv Communications, in order to enhance its image and repair the diplomatic damage followed by the Khashoggi killing.

Saudi Arabia is already tussling to save itself from extensive dependency on oil, but its deteriorating repute is becoming a massive obstruction in undertaking the objective. While the circumstances are turning unfavourable, the country is trying to wipe off the traces of its jarring actions. But, could the brutal killing of Khashoggi and other barbarous acts of Saudi be ever forgotten?

World

Notre Dame Cathedral fire extinguished after overnight struggle

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Notre Dame Cathedral overnight fire struggle

The bystanders in Paris captured the fall of the iconic spire from top of the Notre Dame Cathedral, which was under the fire on Monday evening. After an overnight struggle, the Paris fire service snuffed out the blazes on Tuesday morning.

Head of the sappers brigade, Gabriel Plus confirmed that the fire was completely extinguished, and that the emergency services are now mapping the movement of the structures and putting out smoldering residues.

Once the fire is entirely out, the experts will start planning on how to strengthen the remaining part of the Cathedral. It was indeed a bad day for Paris and rest of the world. The firefighters somehow saved the cathedral’s landmark rectangular towers from fire, but Paris deputy mayor, Emmanuel Gregoire, stated that the building was subjected to colossal damages.

France President Emmanuel Macron, expressing grief over the incident, pledged to restore the landmark.

The Parisian authorities, for now, are counting out arson and terror-related motives behind the massive fire, treating it as an accidental blaze, the Associated Press reported.

Great Organ, Crown of Christ undamaged

On Tuesday, Gregoire also confirmed that the illustrious “Great Organ” from Notre Dame Cathedral, did not suffer any damage, following the destructive fire in the cathedral. The Great Organ, which has over 8,000 pipes, was built by Francois Thierry in the 18th century.

Authorities are yet to release the actual cause of fire after the investigations are concluded. It is speculated that the fire could possibly involve restoration work happening at the site. The cathedral’s roof was covered with an extensive scaffolding as part of the $6.8 million renovation project.

Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti wrote on Twitter that Pope Francis was “close to France,” and that he was praying for each one who is trying to cope with this dramatic situation.

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Middle East Peace Plan: A Biased Plan Hindering Palestine’s Development

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Middle East Peace Plan

On Monday, former European ministers in a letter to The Guardian, asked Europe to reject the US Middle East peace plan if it is not fair to the Palestinians.

The letter was signed by 25 former foreign ministers, six former Prime Ministers of the European countries, and two former Nato secretary generals – Willy Claes and Javier Solana.

Former European politicians have asked for a solution beneficial to both Israel and Palestine which includes Jerusalem as the common capital of both the countries. They have also asked to reject any other US Middle East Peace Plan that does not include the above mentioned points. The politicians in their letter also condemned US President Trump’s acknowledgment of “only one side’s claims to Jerusalem”.

The letter also said that the US has shown a biased attitude towards Israeli settlements on the west of the Jordan River and deducted hundreds of millions of dollars for the help of Palestinians was, “gambling with the security and stability of various countries located at Europe’s doorstep”.

From the time in between Trump becoming the US president and in receiving praise from the government of Israel, the policies of Trump can be seen as a punishment for Palestinians. The policies implemented are also curbing the success of Palestine and its effort with any other government from development.

Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner and the US ambassador to Israel David Friedman are the brains behind the US Middle East peace plan. Friedman is a bankruptcy lawyer, who has always been outspoken about supporting Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories.

Friedman while addressing to the Israel supporting advocacy group, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, last month in Washington, said that Trump was, “Israel’s greatest ally ever to reside in the White House.” At this juncture, they should impose the policies as the Trump Administration has finally realised that Israel can continue to have military control over the territories of Palestine.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime minister, prior to election polls said, if he wins the elections his prime objective will be to seize the settlements in the West Bank. This move will shatter all the hopes of rebuilding Palestine. When asked if his “friends” in the Trump administration knew about his plan, during an interview with domestic Israel National News website, Netanyahu replied “Sure”.

When inquired about the Netanyahu’s plans to occupy settlements, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said they would not harm the unrevealed peace plan, implying that the US scheme did not imagine Palestinian Settlement.

Pompeo said, “I think that the vision that we’ll lay out is going to represent a significant change from the model that’s been used.” The letter also said that Europe must “be vigilant and act strategically” when Trump introduces, the latest US Middle East peace plan.

The letter read, “[We] are convinced that a plan that reduces Palestinian statehood to an entity devoid of sovereignty, territorial contiguity and economic viability would severely compound the failure of previous peacemaking efforts, accelerate the demise of the two-state option and fatally damage the cause of a durable peace for Palestinians and Israelis alike.”

The letter also said, If not possible, “Europe must pursue its own course of action.”

The Middle East peace plan which is supposed to bring peace between Palestine and Israel should not be biased towards one country. It should be made considering the development of both countries.

While the former European higher authorities have asked the EU to remain alert and act accordingly as per the plan introduced, any disagreement between the EU and the US over the Middle East peace plan could further delay it, causing inconvenience to the people of Israel and Palestine.

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UK Reveals New Facts after Death of Shamima Begum’s Baby

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Shamima Begum

Following the death of IS bride Shamima Begum’s third-born baby boy last month, the government officials have confirmed since last year a small number of British children, who were living in Syria, have returned to the UK via third countries.

The revelation came in the wake of Home Secretary Sajid Javid facing pressure over the country’s policy of bringing children from war-torn countries to one’s own nation. He claimed that 900 people travelled from the UK to join the Syrian conflict and around 40 percent of them have returned.

Questions were raised at the government’s policy on repatriating the children of British IS fighters after Begum’s three-weeks-old baby died.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt defended the government’s decision arguing that it would have been too dangerous to send British officials to rescue Begum’s baby from the Syrian camp. He commented, “The mother chose to leave a free country to join a terrorist organization.”

Begum left to join the Islamic State in 2015. In an interview from the Syrian refugee camp, she expressed her desire to return home. However, the home secretary stripped her of her British citizenship in an effort to stop her from returning to the UK. He claimed that those who left the country to join IS were “full of hate for our country”.

Other than Shamima Begum, two more women living in the Syrian refugee camps with their young children were stripped of their British citizenship.

While commenting on the urgency of saving the British children living in Syrian camps, Home Office minister Baroness Williams of Trafford said that UK does not have any embassy in Syria and thereby no British officials would be sent to save the people who wilfully leave the country to join any terrorist organization.

“If a British child who has been in Syria is able to seek consular assistance outside of Syria, then we would work with local and UK authorities to facilitate their return if requested,” she added.

There has been a huge controversy following the death of Begum’s baby. Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott claimed that the child died because of callous and inhumane decision to strip Shamima Begum of her citizenship.

The Tory MPs criticized the government for their acts. The Home office thereby, promised to provide all the support for the welfare of each individual child who has returned to the country by minimizing the threat they could face within schools and their local community, and by protecting their rights so that they are not subjected to human violence.

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Football

Saudi and Infantino Caught Smearing FIFA World Cup Red Handed

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Saudi Arabia and FIFA president Gianni Infantino

The FIFA World Cup 2022 began as a peace prospect to bring closer the Gulf nations, but is now witnessing ambush of unexpected events, as internal feuds continue to multiply. With less than 4 years before the penultimate bonanza in footballing history kicks off, the efforts to denounce its host have multiplied to an unexplainable event.

Laying ground on the basis of what transpired in June 2017, the charges against the host nation of sponsoring terrorism are still in place. However, the roots of such claim still remain unclear.

Besides, what was first billed as an event to host 32 teams, is now widely rumored to become a 48-team event.

Having said that, hosting more teams than expected challenges Qatar, which is pretty much on time with the deadline with a precondition to entertain 32 teams. With the ongoing facade across boundaries, the sensitivity of the decision questions what could be the real motive behind the move.

As FIFA’s President Gianni Infantino would state, the concept of expanding the tournament is directly linked to building the peace from the scratch in the Middle East. His notion of peace in the East is a plan with a great outlook. However, if seen logically, the decision made demands sharing the tournament with Kuwait and Oman.

Under the plan being considered currently, Qatar will host the majority of matches while the remaining ones will be played in Kuwait and Oman. The reason for it is beyond explanation because diplomatic tensions won’t heal in such a process.

Saudi Behind the Scenes

Now, while Infantino and his bid of stability is spread as a great initiative, the reality appears to be otherwise. His bid for expansion is allegedly linked to the money he was offered in the process. According to the account published by the ‘New York Times’, the President told his top board that a fund of investors from Middle East and Asia wanted to pay about $25 billion to buy an expanded version of FIFA’s Club World Cup.

Further, without revealing the identity of investors, Infantino tried hard to convince them and said that they do not have much time up their sleeve. However, the technique did not work as the council rejected the proposal saying that ‘it need more information’.

Nonetheless, Infantino’s bid for accepting such a proposal illustrates how the current state of flux in international soccer has added money to the equation.

At first, only a few details came forward about the deal that was struck by the FIFA President. However, as per the people briefed in the matter, the money offered was a covert way of expanding the tournament to China and Saudi Arabia.

Surprisingly, as soon as complete details emerged it became evident that the Saudis by using their Japanese conglomerate Soft Bank Group, tried to hollow FIFA. The gulf nation aimed at creating its committee using the $25 billion bid. The sole reason for it – to create international tournaments for the governing body of football, FIFA.

The influence of such a move would have directly hampered Qatar’s image, especially in the West. A region where the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) has already been exposed for hoaxing his modernization agendas; also a region he tries to influence the most.

The fight for 2022 FIFA World Cup has been mired in controversies since Qatar won the hosting rights. Now, as consideration from Saudi and UAE reaches Kuwait and Oman, the extent of lobbying to hamper the interest of FIFA for personal use continues to raise eyebrows. Moreover, the additional income estimated at $400.1 million if the tournament is expanded, is only justifiable to state how Infantino is lured into spearheading Saudi’s bid for expanding the tournament to 48 teams.

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Israeli Elections: Main Contenders of Leading Parties Claim Victory

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Israeli elections

The exit polls for Israeli elections show that any of the two leading parties’ candidates, Benjamin Netanyahu, or his rival Benny Gantz could win the next term. The 97 percent votes that were counted showed that both the challengers are even, as each party won 35 seats in the elections that took place on April 9.

Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White party in Israel, is tied with Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party in most of the regions within Israel. Even though, the Blue and White party is lagging behind Netanyahu’s Likud party in Rosh HaAyin, a city in the Central District of Israel, yet it is ahead of Likud Party in Caesarea, a town on Israel’s Mediterranean coast.  

Israel follows a parliamentary form of government where the voters choose their candidates from the lists who would then serve in the 120-seat Knesset. Knesset is the unicameral national legislature of Israel, which has the authority to pass the laws and to elect the President and approve the cabinet. The president then ceremonially appoints the Prime Minister. Nearly six million people in the country were eligible to vote in the 2019 Israeli elections.

As of now, no party has won a majority in Israeli elections since 1949. The current Prime Minister of the country, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been serving the term since 2009. He too has formed his government through coalition with ultranationalist and Jewish Orthodox parties and there is a high probability that if he wins the next term, he might form the government with the same coalition. His challenger Benny Gantz is expected to have the support of the left-wing parties.

The results of the elections will be declared by Friday. The president will then nominate the candidate for prime minister along with the discussion with the leaders of every party who won seats in the elections. The nominee will be given 42 days to form a government along with the coalition. If not by then, his candidature will be cancelled and another politician will get a chance.

In the past, there have been numerous corruption charges against Prime Minister Netanyahu, put forward by Israel’s Attorney General, whose decision will be out by the end of 2019. If Netanyahu faces corruption charges, he might lose the support of his political allies. So far, Netanyahu has denied all the charges.

Another political barrier for Netanyahu in 2019 elections is that if the US President asks Israel to make concessions with the Palestinians over Gaza, then the former’s allies would be enraged. This might affect his negotiations for support with other parties.

Both the leaders, Gantz and Netanyahu have claimed their victory in Israeli elections, but the ending results are still awaited. If Netanyahu wins, then he would become the longest-serving prime minister as he has already served four terms in Israel’s office.

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