Saudi family bids farewell for Egyptian expat who worked with them for 40 years

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Updated 26 July 2022
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Saudi family bids farewell for Egyptian expat who worked with them for 40 years

CAIRO: A video of a farewell party held by a Saudi businessman and his family to an Egyptian expat who spent 40 years working in their service has triggered a wave of emotional reactions on social media in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.  

Saudi businessman Khaled Al-Saud bid farewell for Egyptian expat Shawky Abbas Samman at his residence in Mecca in the presence of friends and family. 

The video, shot by one of Al-Saud's friends and uploaded on TikTok, showed the Saudi man kissing Shawky’s head in a gesture of appreciation, and his sons kneeling to kiss the expat’s hand as a show of gratitude to his efforts over the years.  

The Egyptian expat, 65, can be seen crying in the video feeling overwhelmed with all the love and appreciation he was receiving on the night.  

Shawky is reportedly leaving his job and returning to Egypt to spend the rest of his life with his family.


Team ‘Melodi’ woos India as Meloni-Modi video goes viral

Updated 17 June 2024
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Team ‘Melodi’ woos India as Meloni-Modi video goes viral

NEW DELHI: When Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to Italy for the G7 summit, it was not diplomatic meetings that dominated headlines back in India — but the relationship with his Italian counterpart.
“Hello from the ‘Melodi’ team,” Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said in a video posted to social media on Saturday, waving next to her fellow right-wing leader Modi, beaming a wide grin.
The duo have a close public friendship, seen during the G20 summit in India last year and the COP28 climate talks in Dubai.
Modi, who reposted Meloni’s video on X and praised ties between Rome and New Delhi in Italian, was in the resort of Borgo Egnazia on the sidelines of the G7 summit, which brings together Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.
He wrote he had meetings with Meloni to bolster ties “in areas like commerce, energy, defense, telecoms and more.”
But in India, it was the short Modi-Meloni video that grabbed attention on Sunday — fueling a flurry of memes and videos on social media dedicated to the fictional relationship between the two leaders.
In that make-believe world, the leaders have become central characters of an Internet love story that has betrayals and heartaches as well as happy moments.
AI-generated videos watched by millions show Modi crooning a love song every time Meloni appears with a political leader other than him.
But newspapers were also deeply critical and swift to cool temperatures down.
“Like other women in high offices, Meloni is being seen through a male prism — hot or not?” the Times of India’s editorial read.
“No matter how influential she is, no matter what she knows or becomes, a woman can always be subjected to such demeaning framing,” it added.
“As the Meloni discourse shows, old-fashioned misogyny dies hard.”
 


Officer removed from duty after ramming runaway cow: UK police

Updated 16 June 2024
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Officer removed from duty after ramming runaway cow: UK police

  • 10-month-old cow, christened “Beau Lucy,” was examined by a vet and reunited with its owner

LONDON: An officer who tried to intercept a fleeing cow by hitting it with a vehicle in England has been removed from duty, police said in a statement on Sunday.
The incident occurred on Friday evening after police were called to a sighting of a cow in a residential area of the small town of Staines-upon-Thames in southern England.
Surrey Police on Sunday said that the officer driving the car had been “removed from frontline duties pending the outcome of these investigations.”
Deputy Chief Constable Nev Kemp of Surrey Police said: “I fully appreciate the distress our handling of this incident has caused and will ensure that it is thoroughly and diligently investigated.”
Images published on social media and in the British press showed a police car hitting the animal twice. The cow ended up with its head and upper body trapped under the police car.
“I can think of no reasonable need for this action. I’ve asked for a full, urgent explanation for this. It appears to be unnecessarily heavy handed,” Home Secretary James Cleverly wrote on X, formally Twitter.
On Saturday, police said that after several unsuccessful attempts to recover the cow and taking public safety into account, a decision was made to intercept the cow using the police vehicle.
The 10-month-old cow, christened “Beau Lucy,” was examined by a vet and reunited with its owner who said the animal was “doing better.”


Young British royals say ‘We love you, Papa’ in Father’s Day message

Updated 16 June 2024
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Young British royals say ‘We love you, Papa’ in Father’s Day message

  • The photograph was released a day after Kate, Britain’s Princess of Wales, was seen in public for the first time

LONDON: The three young children of British heir-to-the-throne Prince William and his wife Kate released a Father’s Day message and photograph on Sunday, saying “We love you, Papa.”
The photo shows the three children, Prince George, 10, Princess Charlotte, 9, and Prince Louis, 6, hugging William on a beach, with the photograph taken from behind as they all look out to sea.

The caption says the photo was taken by Kate and reads: “We love you, Papa. Happy Father’s Day,” followed by two red hearts and G, C & L.
The photograph was released a day after Kate, Britain’s Princess of Wales, was seen in public for the first time since she revealed she was undergoing treatment for cancer.
Kate, William and the children joined King Charles and other members of the royal family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after watching a military parade to celebrate the monarch’s official birthday.
The princess, 42, spent two weeks in hospital in January after she underwent major abdominal surgery. Two months later she announced in a video message that tests had revealed the presence of cancer and she was receiving preventative chemotherapy.
She is still undergoing treatment, but she said in a statement on Friday that she was able to attend the “Trooping the Color” event because she was making good progress, although she noted that she was “not out of the woods” yet.
In a separate post on Sunday, the couple shared a photograph of William as a child playing football with his father, Charles.

 


Divers find remains of Finnish WWII plane that was shot down by Moscow with a US diplomat aboard

Updated 15 June 2024
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Divers find remains of Finnish WWII plane that was shot down by Moscow with a US diplomat aboard

  • A diving and salvage team in Estonia said this week that it had located well-preserved parts and debris from the Junkers Ju 52 plane operated by Finnish airline Aero
  • The downing of the civilian plane, named Kaleva, en route from Tallinn to Helsinki happened on June 14, 1940

HELSINKI: The World War II mystery of what happened to a Finnish passenger plane after it was shot down over the Baltic Sea by Soviet bombers appears to finally be solved more than eight decades later.
The plane was carrying American and French diplomatic couriers in June 1940 when it was downed just days before Moscow annexed the Baltic states. All nine people on board the plane were killed, including the two-member Finnish crew and the seven passengers — an American diplomat, two French, two Germans, a Swede and a dual Estonian-Finnish national.
A diving and salvage team in Estonia said this week that it had located well-preserved parts and debris from the Junkers Ju 52 plane operated by Finnish airline Aero, which is now Finnair. It was found off the tiny island of Keri near Estonia’s capital, Tallinn, at a depth of around 70 meters (230 feet).
“Basically, we started from scratch. We took a whole different approach to the search,” said Kaido Peremees, spokesman for the Estonian diving and underwater survey company Tuukritoode OU, explained the group’s success in finding the plane’s remains.
The downing of the civilian plane, named Kaleva, en route from Tallinn to Helsinki happened on June 14, 1940 — just three months after Finland had signed a peace treaty with Moscow following the 1939-40 Winter War.
The news about the fate of the plane was met with disbelief and anger by authorities in Helsinki who were informed that it was shot down by two Soviet DB-3 bombers 10 minutes after taking off from Tallinn’s Ulemiste airport.
“It was unique that a passenger plane was shot down during peacetime on a normal scheduled flight,” said Finnish aviation historian Carl-Fredrik Geust, who has investigated Kaleva’s case since the 1980s.
Finland officially kept silent for years about the details of the aircraft’s destruction, saying publicly only that a “mysterious crash” had taken place over the Baltic Sea, because it didn’t want to provoke Moscow.
Though well documented by books, research and television documentaries, the 84-year-old mystery has intrigued Finns. The case is an essential part of the Nordic country’s complex World War II history and sheds light into its troubled ties with Moscow.
But perhaps more importantly, the downing of the plane happened at a critical time just days before Josef Stalin’s Soviet Union was preparing to annex the three Baltic states, sealing the fate of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania for the next half-century before they eventually regained independence in 1991.
Moscow occupied Estonia on June 17, 1940 and Kaleva’s doomed journey was the last flight out of Tallinn, though Soviets had already started enforcing a tight transport embargo around the Estonian capital.
American diplomat Henry W. Antheil Jr., who is now considered one of the first US casualties of World War II, was aboard the plane when it went down.
The 27-year-old Antheil, the younger brother of the acclaimed composer and pianist George Antheil, was on a rushed government mission evacuating sensitive diplomatic pouches from US missions in Tallinn and Riga, Latvia. as it had become clear that Moscow was preparing to annex the small Baltic nations.
An Associated Press wire item dated June 15, 1940 noted that “Henry W. Antheil Jr. of Trenton, N. J., attached to the United States Legation in Helsinki, was killed in the mysterious explosion of a Finnish airliner yesterday.” In the US media, Antheil’s death was overshadowed by much bigger news from Europe at the time: the Nazi occupation of Paris.
The US Embassy in Tallinn has thoroughly documented and researched the case over the years.
Embassy spokesman Mike Snyder told the AP that “news of the possible location of the wreck of the Kaleva passenger plane is of great interest to the United States, especially since one of the first US casualties of the Second World War, Diplomat Henry Antheil, occurred as a result of the plane being downed.”
Earlier this month, the US ambassador in Estonia, George P. Kent, shared a post on X that included photos of Antheil, Kaleva and a memorial plaque by the American Foreign Service Association in Washington with Antheil’s name engraved in it.
Kaleva was carrying 227 kilograms (500 pounds) of diplomatic post, including Antheil’s pouches and material from two French diplomatic couriers — identified as Paul Longuet and Frederic Marty.
Estonian fishermen and the lighthouse operator on Keri told Finnish media decades after the downing of the plane that a Soviet submarine surfaced close to Kaleva’s crash site and retrieved floating debris, including document pouches, that had been collected by fishermen from the site.
This has led to conspiracy theories regarding the contents of the pouches and Moscow’s decision to shoot down the plane. It still remains unclear why precisely the Soviet Union decided to down a civilian Finnish passenger plane during peacetime.
“Lots of speculation on the plane’s cargo has been heard over the years,” Geust said. “What was the plane transporting? Many suggest Moscow wanted to prevent sensitive material and documents from exiting Estonia.”
But he said that it could have simply been “a mistake” by the Soviet bomber pilots.
Various attempts to find Kaleva have been recorded since Estonia regained independence more than three decades ago. However, none of them have been successful.
Not even the US Navy’s oceanographic survey vessel Pathfinder could locate remains of the plane in a 2008 search around the Keri island in a venture commissioned by the Estonian government from the Pentagon.
“The wreckage is in pieces and the seabed is quite challenging with rock formations, valleys and hills. It’s very easy to miss” small parts and debris from the aircraft,” Peremees said. “Techniques have, of course, evolved a lot over the time. As always, you can have good technology but be out of luck.”
New video taken by underwater robots from Peremees’ company show clear images of the three-engine Junkers’ landing gear, one of the motors and parts of the wings.
Peremees and his group are “absolutely” convinced the parts belong to Kaleva because of the distinctive and recognizable design of the German-made Junkers Ju 52, one of the most popular European passenger and wartime transport planes in the 1930s and early 1940s.
The plane was operated by the predecessor of the Finnish national airline Finnair.
Jaakko Schildt, chief operations officer of Finnair, described Kaleva’s downing as “a tragic and profoundly sad event for the young airline” that Finnair, then named Aero, was in 1940.
“Finding the wreckage of Kaleva in a way brings closure to this, even though it does not bring back the lives of our customers and crew that were lost,” Schildt said. “The interest toward locating Kaleva in the Baltic Sea speaks of the importance this tragic event has in the aviation history of our region.”
Peremees said his company would now focus on creating 3D images of Kaleva’s debris and discuss with Estonian authorities about the possibility of raising some of the items and, if found, the plane’s cargo and human remains.
Snyder from the US Embassy in Tallinn said that Washington is closely monitoring the diving group’s efforts.
“We are following the investigation of the site and will be happy to discuss with our Finnish and Estonian (NATO) allies any developments resulting from recovery efforts,” Snyder said.
A stone memorial set up in the early 1990s to the victims of the Kaleva crash is located on Keri, and Helsinki’s old preserved Malmi airport terminal building, where Kaleva was supposed to arrive, has a memorial plaque set up in 2020 with the names of the victims.


Alex Jones’ personal assets to be sold to pay $1.5B Sandy Hook debt. Company bankruptcy is dismissed

Updated 15 June 2024
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Alex Jones’ personal assets to be sold to pay $1.5B Sandy Hook debt. Company bankruptcy is dismissed

HOUSTON: A federal judge on Friday ordered the liquidation of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones′ personal assets but dismissed his company’s separate bankruptcy case, leaving the immediate future of his Infowars media platform uncertain as he owes $1.5 billion for his false claims that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax.
Judge Christopher Lopez approved converting Jones’ proposed personal bankruptcy reorganization to a liquidation. But Lopez threw out the case of his company, Austin, Texas-based Free Speech Systems, after failed attempts by Jones to reach an agreement with Sandy Hook families on his proposals to reorganize and keep operating the company while paying them millions of dollars.
It wasn’t immediately clear what will happen in the coming weeks to Free Speech Systems, Infowars’ parent company, which Jones built into a multimillion-dollar moneymaker over the past 25 years by selling dietary supplements and other products. But both Jones and lawyers for the Sandy Hook families said they expect Infowars to cease operating at some point because of the huge debt.
A trustee appointed Friday in Jones’ personal bankruptcy case to oversee the liquidation now has control over his assets, including Infowars, according to lawyers for Sandy Hook families.
Dismissal of Free Speech Systems’ case means the families can now move immediately to collect on the $1.5 billion in state courts in Texas and Connecticut where they won defamation lawsuits against Jones and the company. It’s possible Infowars will continue operating during the collection efforts, which could include selling off the company’s assets.
Jones, who smiled as the judge dismissed the company’s case, called in to Infowars after the court hearing and predicted more battles in the state courts. “The bizarre political attempts to hijack the operation have failed,” he said, and added that he would find another way to broadcast his shows if he loses Infowars.
Outside the courthouse, he railed about the families not accepting his reorganization proposals and alleged that they were being used by political groups in a conspiracy to silence him. He said he would try to maximize revenues at Infowars to make money for creditors and then wind down the business in a way that takes care of its 44 employees.
“This is about taking me off the air,” Jones said. “Understand that what you’ve seen in the corporate media about me, or what I said about Sandy Hook or any of this, has no bearing on reality.”
Chris Mattei, a lawyer for the Sandy Hook families, called Infowars “soon-to-be defunct” as his clients move to collect on the debt in state courts. He said the families will also pursue Jones’ future earnings.
“Today is a good day,” Mattei said in a text message after the hearing. “Alex Jones has lost ownership of Infowars, the corrupt business he has used for years to attack the Connecticut families and so many others. ... Alex Jones is neither a martyr nor a victim. He is the perpetrator of the worst defamation in American history.”
Lopez had been asked to either convert Free Speech Systems’ bankruptcy reorganization to a liquidation or dismiss the case. He said his sole focus was what would be best for the company and its creditors. He also said Free Speech Systems’ case appeared to be one of the longest running of its kind in the country, and it was approaching a deadline to resolve it.
“I was never asked today to make a decision to shut down a show or not. That was never going to happen today one way or another,” Lopez said. “This case is one of the more difficult cases I’ve had. When you look at it, I think creditors are better served in pursuing their state court rights.”
Many of Jones’ personal assets will be sold off, but his primary home in the Austin area and some other belongings are exempt from bankruptcy liquidation. He already has moved to sell his Texas ranch worth about $2.8 million, a gun collection and other assets to pay debts.
In the lead-up to Friday’s hearing, Jones had been telling his web viewers and radio listeners that Free Speech Systems was on the verge of being shut down because of the bankruptcy. He urged them to download videos from his online archive to preserve them and pointed them to a new website of his father’s company if they want to continue buying the dietary supplements he sells on his show.
Jones has about $9 million in personal assets, according to the most recent financial filings in court. Free Speech Systems has about $6 million in cash on hand and about $1.2 million worth of inventory, according to J. Patrick Magill, the chief restructuring officer appointed by the court to run the company during the bankruptcy.
During Friday’s hearing, lawyers for the Sandy Hook families repeated claims that Jones illegally diverted millions of dollars both before and during the bankruptcies, and questioned his sending his audience to his father’s website. The families have a pending lawsuit in Texas accusing Jones of illegally diverting money, which he denies, and said they will continue efforts to claw it back.
Jones and Free Speech Systems filed for bankruptcy protection in 2022, when relatives of many victims of the 2012 school shooting that killed 20 first graders and six educators in Newtown, Connecticut, won lawsuit judgments of more than $1.4 billion in Connecticut and $49 million in Texas.
The relatives said they were traumatized by Jones’ comments and his followers’ actions. They have testified about being harassed and threatened by Jones’ believers, some of whom confronted the grieving families in person saying the shooting never happened and their children never existed. One parent said someone threatened to dig up his dead son’s grave.
Jones is appealing the judgments in the state courts.
The families in the Connecticut lawsuit, including relatives of eight dead children and adults, had asked that Free Speech Systems’ bankruptcy case also be converted to a liquidation. But the parents in the Texas suit — whose child, 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, died — wanted the company’s case dismissed, saying it would speed up collection of Jones’ debt to them.
Lawyers for the company filed documents indicating it supported liquidation, but attorneys for Jones’ personal bankruptcy case wanted the judge to dismiss the company’s case.