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Tony Blair: A peace envoy or an avid businessman?

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Tony Blair institute

While most people would prefer to retire after reigning a country for several years, Tony Blair thought it was too old school. The former Prime Minister of United Kingdom did not waste even a single hour to multiply his wealth, turning it into a multi-million dollar empire.

The Blairs, including his wife and children, have invested heavily in the property market, with the alleged dirty money coming from the sands of the Gulf.

Tony Blair, after all, has been serving as a peace envoy in the Middle East, but to avoid conflict of interest or to accomplish his business interests, who knows?

Of course, it goes without saying that his role as a Quartet envoy make him share tables with world leaders, with excellent business brains.

In the last 10 years, the Blair couple has established a jaw-dropping property portfolio, which consists of 39 homes and flats worth £35million.

The Blair family investments, both with and without mortgages, broadly includes student digs in Manchester and the couple’s principal homes in London and Buckinghamshire, with estimated worth more than £20million.

Their 35-year-old eldest son Euan, lives in a townhouse, which is worth a whopping £4.6million, and in 2018, his younger brother Nicky, bought a £2.75million property in London.

Their daughter Kathryn, 30, is an owner of two houses in London. The worth of first house, purchased in 2015, is £1.4million. A year later, she purchased a second house worth £2.4million.

Moreover, the youngest Blair, Leo joined the league as soon as he turned 18, after he was made the co-owner of a house near to the Blairs’ country seat. It is worth £800,000.

Apart from the real estate, the former UK PM also owns the Tony Blair Institute, a non-profit organisation that received funding from Saudi Arabia, as the Kingdom introduced its modernisation programme.

The Tony Blair Institute was given donations by the Saudi group, Media Investment Limited (MIL), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group.

The oil-rich nations have stuffed Tony Blair’s pockets in order to seek their own geopolitical and business objectives, whereas, they should have helped him with his job as a peace envoy.

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Harry and Meghan’s Future Time in Canada Stuck at Royalty Costs

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Harry and Meghan’s Future Time in Canada Stuck at Royalty Costs

Removing the royal batches from their pockets, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepped back as the senior members of the royal families, and decided to spend part of their time in Canada. However, their relocation to North America is carrying uncertainties, where the Canadians are having hard time assessing the potential costs of giving space to royalty amongst them.

The obsession of royal family is not much relevant amongst the Canadians, as it is in the United States. But, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have a strong connection with the country. While Markle spent six years in Canada while filming for TV show Suits, Prince Harry has too paid several visits throughout his life.

Once the couple steps back from public life in the UK, they would “spend time in Canada”, according to the Buckingham Palace. “There’s a lot of excitement about it,” said a North Saanich resident Sue Rogers. “But people here also understand [the couple] wanting to have some of the peace and quiet we have here. It makes perfect sense.”

For Canadians, the current focus point is the potential cost required for extensive security of the couples, which has been estimated to be ranging from C$1.3m (US$1m) to more than C$10m (US$7.7m) annually.

“Canadians do not have an appetite to pick up that bill,” said Shachi Kurl, executive director at the Angus Reid Institute. A public opinion poll by the institute revealed that three-quarters of the Canadian citizens, 73 per cent, turned down the idea of funding royal security and other relocation expenditures through tax dollars.

Besides, 19 per cent of respondents were fine with paying a portion of the bill and only 3 per cent said that the country should pick up the tab for security. The government of Canada foots the bill generally during the royal visits. However, it is uncertain if Prince Harry and Meghan Markle would qualify for official protection or not.

Last week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Global News that “there’s still a lot of decisions to be taken by the Royal Family, by the Sussexes themselves as to what level of engagement they choose to have”. He said that the issue of security costs is “part of the reflection that needs to be had and there are discussions going on”.

Both Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have not yet spoken on the matter. Besides, the federal officials are also not sure of how the costs would be divided. Although Queen Elizabeth II has also agreed to the couple’s wish of becoming financially independent, the transition details are still being worked out. It was recently learned that the Megxit deal has come to an halt, where the Queen’s aides were finalizing the details.

The decision of the royal couple to leave royalty is certainly huge, as is their desire to spend time in Canada. As it is in nature, the twin announcements have created slight distress and conflicts in both the UK and Canada.

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Police Released Counter-Terror List Shoves Extinction Rebellion as Neo-Nazi

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Recently released by the UK Police, a “Counter-terror list” has received negative waves from several environmental, animal rights and pacifist groups. Sources have reported that the list places the signs of these groups along with several Neo-Nazi groups.

Several organisations, otherwise involved in peaceful protests, like Greenpeace, Extinction Rebellion and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) are enraged to find their logos beside the glossary of icons in the counter-terror list, which is essentially a record of the extremist groups. Speaking in defence of the protestors accusations, the police officers said that they do not consider the environmental groups to be extremist.

Police claims that the document is meant “to help police and close partners identify and understand signs and symbols they may encounter in their day-to-day working lives”.

By shoving the counter-terror list to the category of “Prevent programme”, the police are in one way trying to calm the otherwise enraged environmental groups.

Seen as one of the four “Ps” of the government’s counter-terrorism strategy (other three being Pursue, Prepare and Protect), the “Prevent Programme” is meant to train teachers, youth workers and other people who work with young vulnerable people for spotting signs of radicalisation.

The counter-terror list has been released several days after rumours claimed the inclusion of Extinction Rebellion in a list of extremist organisations in a regional counter-terrorism report. The document was later withdrawn by the Counter-Terrorism Policing South East.

Exasperated at the inclusion, Extinction Rebellion posted on it’s website, “This is nothing short of pointing a finger at anyone that thinks differently to ‘business as usual’ – which is taking humanity to its grave – and lumping them all together.”

An active protestor and a part of Campaign Against Arms Trade, Andrew Smith said, “The message that this appalling list sends is that if you care about social justice or oppose war, arms sales, discrimination or conflict then you can be included alongside white nationalists and neo-Nazi hate groups.”

As per the Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon, senior national co-ordinator for the UK’s counter-terror police, “not all of the symbols within this document are of counter-terrorism interest, and should be viewed in context”.

He added, “We need our officers, front-line police colleagues and partners to be able to understand what organisations people may be affiliated with, and what their aims and activities – lawful or otherwise – are.” As per him, the counter-terror list clearly states that the membership of these environmental groups is in no way inclined to crime of any kind and to “suggest anything else is both unhelpful and misleading.”

According to the General Secretary of the CND, the group’s inclusion in the list is “massive state overreach and threatens our right to political engagement and peaceful protest”.

Previous records validate the stained relationship between several environmental campaign groups and the UK Police. In recent times, women protestors have complained that police officials lead a double life by forming illegitimate relations with them. The inclusion in a way is against the right to peaceful protest that every citizen is entitled to!

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Brexit Might Misfire as Doubts Emerge Over UK’s Future with EU

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Post winning vote to leave the European Union (EU) via majority of 330-231 in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will finally guide his nation out of the EU, come 31 January 2020.

However, even with the Withdrawal Agreement in hand, the doubts have emerged over whether Northern Ireland part of the deal can be implemented by the end of 2020.

Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland border has remained disputed since Withdrawal Agreement was first presented by the former prime minister, Theresa May. She proposed the Irish backstop plan, which was later substituted by Johnson with an all-island regulatory zone, an effort that seeks to avoid hard border between EU’s member state, Republic of Ireland and the UK’s Northern Ireland.

After the UK leaves the EU on January 31, it will enter an 11-month transition period, where it will follow the rules devised by the EU, but will not have any representation in the bloc. The period will come to an end on 31 December, which Johnson has ruled out extending, if a deal is not reached between the both sides.

As this period ends and the UK has its sole identity, Northern Ireland will still continue to follow the EU rules on agricultural and manufactured goods. Additionally, whole of the UK will also leave the EU’s customs union, while Northern Ireland will continue to apply the EU’s custom’s code at its ports.

The happening that means there would be checks on the border in order to process movement of goods from Northern Ireland to rest of the UK.

Meanwhile, even if Johnson wants the hard border not to return and has an alternative plan, it will for sure need more time than 11 months. As informed, the negotiations will take place through a body called the Joint Committee, which has not yet been set up, and thus, time up the UK’s sleeve is even lesser than inscribed on papers.

The responsibility for implementing the provisions fall entirely upon the UK, and the failure would imply that European Commission can begin levying penalty and impose fines through European Court of Justice. Such moves would not only put pressure on the UK, but also mark failure for Johnson, even after leaving with a deal in hand.

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After CIA, UK Prison Authorities Violate Julian Assange’s Rights

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Julian Assange

Gareth Pierce, lawyer of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, has complained at the Westminster Magistrates Court that the prison officers have stopped her from spending adequate time with her client to discuss the US extradition case.

She added that the absence of adequate time is delaying the case, ultimately leading to more prison time for Assange. She also complained about the journey in the prison van from the high-security-prison HMP Belmarsh to the court and termed the commute as “uncomfortable” during the hearing.

The 48-year-old WikiLeaks founder is fighting the case to avoid extradition to the US for leaking military secrets with the aid of army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. He is facing 18 charges that include conspiring to hack government computers and violating an espionage law.

This is not the first time when Julian Assange has endured the ordeal of having his basic rights breached in the UK.

Earlier in late December, Assange via video link gave witness testimony to a judge in Spain and said that the Spanish security company, UC Global SL recorded his conversations illegally and transferred them to the CIA. 

As per credible sources, Assange said that UC Global SL, which was responsible for the security of Ecuadorian embassy in London, recorded his conversation with his lawyer Pierce when he was in Ecuador “by placing microphones inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London” and violated his attorney-client privilege.

Sources also claimed that Julian Assange will file a complaint to the UK court for the violation of his rights (mainly attorney-client privilege) at the end of February.

Furthermore, US violating the rights of a UK prisoner, who is held in a foreign embassy, points to the fact that in reality the US wants to extradite Assange only for political reasons and retaliate against the disclosure of documents like Iraq War logs, which shed light on its human rights violations and war crimes.

To some, it even raises the question if the Ecuadorian government and the administration at the embassy also colluded with the UC Global SL and CIA and targeted Assange knowingly.

Considering all the scenario, uncertainty looms if Julian Assange, based on his prison time at the HMS Belmarsh and Ecuadorian embassy and considering his violation of rights as a prisoner and a client (defendant), will be set free or not.

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Britain Caught in Middle Eastern Chaos as Iran Detains UK Ambassador

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Britain Caught in Middle Eastern Chaos as Iran Detains UK Ambassador

Endeavouring to avoid the rising tensions of the Persian Gulf, Britain recently got involved in the expanding chaos. The UK ambassador to Iran was arrested on Saturday, during the anti-government demonstrations in Tehran.

Ambassador Rob Macaire was reportedly attending a vigil for the victims of Ukraine Boeing aircraft crash at the Amir Kabir University. The event quickly turned into protests, and he left after five minutes for the UK embassy. However, he was stopped and detained for more than an hour before being released.

According to Iran’s Tasnim news agency, Macaire was one of the individuals, who were held on suspicion of provoking, organizing and directing the anti-government protests and radical actions in Iran.

The UK ambassador said that wishing to “pay respects” is normal, adding that some of the 176 victims of Ukraine plane crash were British. “Arresting diplomats is of course illegal, in all countries,” he wrote on twitter.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab condemned the arrest as “flagrant violation of international law”. He also warned Iran that it risks becoming a global “pariah”.

“The arrest of our Ambassador in Tehran without grounds or explanation is a flagrant violation of international law,” Dominic Raab stated. “The Iranian government is at a cross-roads moment. It can continue its march towards pariah status with all the political and economic isolation that entails, or take steps to deescalate tensions and engage in a diplomatic path forwards.”

However, several hours after being taken into custody and a number of urgent calls to the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the UK ambassador was released. He was reported to be “safe and well” in the British embassy.

The protests Rob Macaire was accused of inciting came after Tehran’s confession of accidentally shooting down the Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752. Iran’s military blamed human error for the Wednesday jetliner crash, which killed all the passengers, including three Britons and 82 Iranians.

People grew outrageous and from “Death to America”, the Iran protests soon shifted to “Death to the dictator”. Iranians found another reason to doubt Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other officials. Demonstrators kept shouting “Khamenei is a murderer!”, while anti-riot police in Iran was tear-gassing violent protesters.

Moments after the admission, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani wrote on Twitter, “The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake.”

Suspicion over Iran’s involvement in the crash came up, when Iran denied to hand over the two flight recorders to both the United States and Boeing. However, the military confession has left Iran under internal protests, while it still is raging over taking revenge against America.

The arrest of UK ambassador also brought in another dent to the country’s image, which is already facing grave isolation from majority of other nations and severe sanctions from the US.

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