Taking too long? Close loading screen.
Connect with us

World

Israel and Bahrain formalise relations at ceremony in Manama

Published

on

Bahrain and Israel have signed a joint communique to formalise ties during a visit by an Israeli and US delegation to Manama to broaden cooperation that Washington has promoted as an anti-Iran bulwark and potential economic boom.

Bahrain followed the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in agreeing last month to normalise ties with Israel in US-brokered deals, stunning Palestinians who had demanded statehood before any such regional rapprochement.

The UAE and Bahrain became the third and fourth Arab states to agree to normalise ties with Israel, following Egypt’s peace deal with Israel in 1979 and a 1994 pact with Jordan.

For the US allies, it is a chance to close ranks on Iran more overtly.

The Israeli delegation, which flew on an El Al Israel Airlines charter flight from Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, was accompanied by US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin.

“It was indeed an historic visit, to start opening relations between both countries,” Bahraini Minister for Foreign Affairs Abdullatif al-Zayani said after the signing ceremony with Israel’s Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat.

Al-Zayani touched elbows with Ben-Shabbat, who described the step as a “promising beginning” and said the Israeli delegation was accepted “with open arms, with warmth and cordiality”.

An Israeli delegation signs an agreement with Bahraini officials [Ronen Zvulun/Pool/Reuters]

Israel and Bahrain, host to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, inked the so-called “Abraham Accords” at a White House ceremony on September 15, a document that fell short of a formal treaty.

The accord has drawn anger among Bahrainis at home and abroad. The government of Bahrain, where a Sunni Muslim minority rules a Shia majority population, has said the deal protects its interests from Iran.

Al-Zayani said engagement and cooperation were the most effective and sustainable ways of bringing about genuine and lasting peace in the region and said his country supported resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through dialogue.

‘Beyond investments’

Mnuchin described the accord as an important step in regional stability and “just the beginning of the work that is going forward”.

“I think the opportunity is way beyond just investments,” Mnuchin earlier told reporters on the El Al flight.

“It’s in technology, building various different businesses – and in the case of Bahrain as well, really expanding the opportunities for them quite, quite, quite dramatically.”

The ceremony also saw the signing of several memorandums of understanding. They cover trade, air services, telecommunications, finance, banking and agriculture, according to a list provided by a Bahraini official.

Houda Nounoo, a Bahraini diplomat, told reporters the Gulf state planned to formally reopen Manama’s old synagogue, which has a Jewish community of 34 people, for the Purim festival on February 25.

Ben-Shabbat, speaking in Arabic at an arrival ceremony at Manama airport, said Israel looked forward to hosting a Bahraini delegation in Israel soon.

The El Al flight flew over Saudi Arabia, an accommodation by the Gulf’s powerhouse, which has so far resisted US appeals to normalise ties with Israel.

Mnuchin and the other US officials travel on Monday to the UAE, where the accord with Israel has uncorked bilateral commerce. On Tuesday, the US dignitaries will join the UAE’s first delegation to Israel.

Israel and the UAE will sign a deal on Tuesday to allow 28 weekly commercial flights between Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Israel’s Transportation Ministry said on Sunday.

The Palestinian leadership has condemned the Gulf normalisation agreements with Israel as “a stab in the back” for Palestinian aspirations to establish an independent state of their own.

The deals mark a distinct shift in a decades-old status quo where Arab countries have tried to maintain unity against Israel over its treatment of the stateless Palestinians.

Many Arab states say they remain committed to the Arab Peace Initiative – which calls for Israel’s complete withdrawal from the Palestinian territories occupied after 1967 in exchange for peace and the full normalisation of relations. But speculation has been rife that some countries in the region would soon join the bandwagon.

Israel’s right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists more states in the Middle East want ties with Israel as priorities have shifted, arguing countries now value lucrative trade opportunities above the Palestinian conflict.

But key player Saudi Arabia has said it will not follow its allies Bahrain and the UAE in establishing diplomatic relations without a resolution to the Palestinian issue.

Source

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

World

Trump’s misleading tweet about changing your vote, briefly explained

Published

on

Open Sourced logo

Searches for changing one’s vote did not trend following the recent presidential debate, and just a few states appear to have processes for changing an early vote. But that didn’t stop President Trump from wrongly saying otherwise on Tuesday.

In early morning posts, the president falsely claimed on Twitter and Facebook that many people had Googled “Can I change my vote?” after the second presidential debate and said those searching wanted to change their vote over to him. Trump also wrongly claimed that most states have a mechanism for changing one’s vote. Actually, just a few states appear to have the ability, and it’s rarely used.

Twitter did not attach a label to Trump’s recent tweet.
Twitter

Trump’s claim about what was trending on Google after the debate doesn’t hold up. Searches for changing one’s vote were not among Google’s top trending searches for the day of the debate (October 22) or the day after. Searches for “Can I change my vote?” did increase slightly around the time of the debate, but there is no way to know whether the bump was related to the debate or whether the people searching were doing so in support of Trump.

It was only after Trump’s posts that searches about changing your vote spiked significantly. It’s worth noting that people were also searching for “Can I change my vote?” during a similar period before the 2016 presidential election.

Google declined to comment on the accuracy of Trump’s post.

Trump also claimed that these results indicate that most of the people who were searching for how to change their vote support him. But the Google Trends tool for the searches he mentioned does not provide that specific information.

Perhaps the most egregiously false claim in Trump’s recent posts is about “most states” having processes for changing your early vote. In fact, only a few states have such processes, and they can come with certain conditions. For instance, in Michigan, voters who vote absentee can ask for a new ballot by mail or in person until the day before the election.

The Center for Election Innovation’s David Becker told the Associated Press that changing one’s vote is “extremely rare.” Becker explained, “It’s hard enough to get people to vote once — it’s highly unlikely anybody will go through this process twice.”

Trump’s post on Facebook was accompanied by a link to Facebook’s Voting Information Center.
Facebook

At the time of publication, Trump’s false claims had drawn about 84,000 and 187,000 “Likes” on Twitter and Facebook, respectively. Trump’s posts accelerated searches about changing your vote in places like the swing state of Florida, where changing one’s vote after casting it is not possible. Those numbers are a reminder of the president’s capacity to spread misinformation quickly.

On Facebook, the president’s post came with a label directing people to Facebook’s Voting Information Center, but no fact-checking label. Twitter had no annotation on the president’s post. Neither company responded to a request for comment.

That Trump is willing to spread misinformation to benefit himself and his campaign isn’t a surprise. He does that a lot. Still, just days before a presidential election in which millions have already voted, this latest episode demonstrates that the president has no qualms about using false claims about voting to cause confusion and sow doubt in the electoral process.

Open Sourced is made possible by Omidyar Network. All Open Sourced content is editorially independent and produced by our journalists.


Will you help keep Vox free for all?

The United States is in the middle of one of the most consequential presidential elections of our lifetimes. It’s essential that all Americans are able to access clear, concise information on what the outcome of the election could mean for their lives, and the lives of their families and communities. That is our mission at Vox. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you haven’t, please consider helping everyone understand this presidential election: Contribute today from as little as $3.

Source

Continue Reading

World

Nearly 6,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan so far this year

Published

on

From January to September, 5,939 civilians – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded – were casualties of the fighting, the UN says.

Nearly 6,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first nine months of the year as heavy fighting between government forces and Taliban fighters rages on despite efforts to find peace, the United Nations has said.

From January to September, there were 5,939 civilian casualties in the fighting – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a quarterly report on Tuesday.

“High levels of violence continue with a devastating impact on civilians, with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian,” the report said.

Civilian casualties were 30 percent lower than in the same period last year but UNAMA said violence has failed to slow since the beginning of talks between government negotiators and the Taliban that began in Qatar’s capital, Doha, last month.

An injured girl receives treatment at a hospital after an attack in Khost province [Anwarullah/Reuters]

The Taliban was responsible for 45 percent of civilian casualties while government troops caused 23 percent, it said. United States-led international forces were responsible for two percent.

Most of the remainder occurred in crossfire, or were caused by ISIL (ISIS) or “undetermined” anti-government or pro-government elements, according to the report.

Ground fighting caused the most casualties followed by suicide and roadside bomb attacks, targeted killings by the Taliban and air raids by Afghan troops, the UN mission said.

Fighting has sharply increased in several parts of the country in recent weeks as government negotiators and the Taliban have failed to make progress in the peace talks.

At least 24 people , mostly teens, were killed in a suicide bomb attack at an education centre in Kabul [Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]

The Taliban has been fighting the Afghan government since it was toppled from power in a US-led invasion in 2001.

Washington blamed the then-Taliban rulers for harbouring al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda was accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks.

Calls for urgent reduction of violence

Meanwhile, the US envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Tuesday that the level of violence in the country was still too high and the Kabul government and Taliban fighters must work harder towards forging a ceasefire at the Doha talks.

Khalilzad made the comments before heading to the Qatari capital to hold meetings with the two sides.

“I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever,” he said in a tweet.

There needs to be “an agreement on a reduction of violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”, added Khalilzad.

A deal in February between the US and the Taliban paved the way for foreign forces to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which agreed to sit with the Afghan government to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula.

But progress at the intra-Afghan talks has been slow since their start in mid-September and diplomats and officials have warned that rising violence back home is sapping trust.

Source

Continue Reading

World

Classic toy tie-up: Etch A Sketch maker to acquire Rubik’s Cube

Published

on

Spin Master Corp., the company behind the Etch A Sketch and Paw Patrol brands, has agreed to acquire Rubik’s Brand Ltd. for about $50 million, tying together two of the world’s most iconic toy brands.

The merger comes at a boom time for classic toymakers, as parents turn to familiar products to entertain kids stuck in lockdown. Like sales of Uno, Monopoly and Barbie dolls, Rubik’s Cube purchases have spiked during the pandemic, according to the puzzle maker’s chief executive officer, Christoph Bettin. He expects sales to jump 15% to 20% in 2020, compared with a normal year, when people purchase between 5 million and 10 million cubes.

By acquiring Rubik’s, Toronto-based Spin Master can better compete with its larger rivals, Hasbro Inc. and Mattel Inc. All three companies have pivoted to become less reliant on actual product sales, diversifying into television shows, films and broader entertainment properties based on their toys. Spin Master CEO Anton Rabie said he wouldn’t rule out films or TV shows based on Rubik’s Cubes, but he was focused for now on creating more cube-solving competitions and crossmarketing it with the company’s other products, like the Perplexus.

“Whoever you are, it really has a broad appeal from a consumer standpoint,” Rabie said in an interview. “It’s actually going to become the crown jewel; it will be the most important part of our portfolio worldwide.”

Hungarian inventor Erno Rubik created the Rubik’s Cube in 1974, a solid block featuring squares with colored stickers that users could twist and turn without it falling apart. It gained popularity in the 1980s and has remained one of the best-selling toys of all time, spawning spinoff versions, international competitions of puzzle solvers, books and documentaries.

The toy has been particularly well-suited to pandemic conditions. During lockdowns, parents have sought to give kids puzzles that boost problem-solving skills useful in math and science careers. Normally, toys tied to major film franchises are among the most popular products headed into the holidays, but studios have delayed the release of major new movies because of coronavirus. So classic products are experiencing a mini-renaissance.

“The whole pandemic has really increased games and puzzles,” Rabie said. “But whether the pandemic existed or didn’t exist, we’d still buy Rubik’s. It’s had such steady sales for decades.”

Rubik’s CEO Bettin said it was the right time to sell the company, with the founding families behind it ready to move on. London-based Rubik’s Brand was formed out of a partnership between Erno Rubik and the late entrepreneur Tom Kremer, while private equity firm Bancroft Investment holds a minority stake in the company.

Early on, Bettin felt Spin Master was the right home for the puzzle toy, he said. Spin Master, which was started by a group of three friends in 1994, has expanded through the purchase of well-known brands, including Erector sets and Etch A Sketch. Rabie says he works to honor the “legacy” of those products, which Bettin cited as a key reason to sell the brand to Spin Master over larger companies that were interested.

“It was important for us to not be lost in the crowd, and to be sufficiently important and cared for,” Bettin said. “And there’s a balance between being with someone large enough to invest, and agile enough to ensure you are key part of their plans.”

Spin Master won’t own Rubik’s Cubes in time for the holiday season – the transaction is expected to close on Jan. 4. At that time, the company will move Rubik’s operations from a small office in London’s Notting Hill neighborhood to Spin Master’s new games operations center in Long Island.

Some of Rubik’s Brand’s 10 employees will be part of the transition, but they won’t stay permanently, Bettin said.

Source

Continue Reading

Trending