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Forging cooperation in Halal sector

2020.09.05 06:10 Bruneians Forging cooperation in Halal sector

A recent webinar on Halal trade and investment opportunities discussed areas in the Halal value chain, with great potential for joint ventures between Brunei Darussalam and the Philippines.
The event presented the positive implications of cooperation between the two countries in this sector on the economic development of the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).
Organised by the Philippines Embassy in Brunei Darussalam and the Department of Trade and Industry of the Philippines, with the full support of the Ministry of Finance and Economy (MoFE), the event featured presentations by four speakers from the Zamboanga City Special Economic Zone (ZAMBOECOZONE), the Brunei Darussalam BIMP-EAGA Business Council (BDBEBC), Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA), and the Department of Agriculture of the Philippines.
Ambassador of the Philippines to Brunei Darussalam Christopher B Montero stated that forging stronger cooperation in the Halal sector represents a significant pillar of trade, business and investment interaction between the Philippines and Brunei Darussalam.
He said, “The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Halal Industry and Export Development and Promotion during the State Visit of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam to the Philippines in April 2017, is a manifestation of the importance of Halal cooperation for both countries.”
“The robust connections on Halal that result from the implementation of the MoU do not only benefit the Philippines and Brunei, but also impacts profoundly on the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area, an area with huge promise yet hampered by the challenges posed by connectivity.”
Spurring Syariah-compliant production and the provision of business services would result in more regional manufacturing and logistics hubs, similar to the special economic zones in the Philippines, which in turn would indirectly address the connectivity issues of the BIMP-EAGA in the medium- and long-term by serving as the basis for larger passenger and cargo volumes.
Highlighting the role of the Halal industry development in the promotion of peace in the BIMP-EAGA, Montero said, “From a strategic standpoint, our intensified engagement in the Halal sector would significantly impact on the economic development of our communities in southern Philippines, particularly the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
“This is a critical component towards sustaining the gains of the peace process in Mindanao, for which the Government of His Majesty has been a vital partner of the Philippines through its long and active participation in the International Monitoring Team (IMT) and the International Decommissioning Body (IDB) Board.”
Permanent Secretary (Industry) at the Ministry of Finance and Economy Pengiran Hajah Zety Sufina binti Pengiran Dato Paduka Haji Sani expressed that economic collaboration is crucial today, more than ever, in assisting the recovery of societies, businesses and communities from the adverse impacts of COVID-19.
She encouraged both Brunei and the Philippines “to take advantage of the vast opportunities available in the global Halal market, especially with the increasing demand for Halal products and services.”
Citing the Halal sector as being one of the global economic drivers, Pengiran Hajah Zety Sufina recognised the potential of bilateral cooperation to turn both countries into leaders of the global Halal industry and a joint Halal hub.
“It is in the interest of the Philippines and Brunei to look into the potential value chains which can be utilised for bringing positive progress, not only in each economy but also for the larger BIMP-EAGA,” she added.
Undersecretary Abdulgani M Macatoman from the Department of Trade and Industry of the Philippines reported that progress on the implementation of the MoU on Halal cooperation between the two countries is moving in the areas of mutual recognition of Halal standards, science and technology, Islamic banking and finance, and Syariah-compliant governance.
Four speakers from the Philippines and Brunei served as resource persons during the webinar.
The potential of ZAMBOECOZONE to become an important production hub for Halal products in BIMP-EAGA was discussed by its Chairman and Administrator Raul Regondola.
In addition to the existing infrastructure of its Asian Halal Centre, Regondola presented the incentives offered to international locators in ZAMBOECOZONE, such as tax holidays and tax ceilings.
Being the only Philippine Freeport in the Visayas and Mindanao, ZAMBOECOZONE has been targetting investments in poultry farms, meat processing, and Halal feeds manufacturing.
Deputy Chairman of BDBEBC Captain (Rtd) Zailan bin Pehin Datu Kerma Setia Major (Rtd) Dato Seri Laila Jasa Mohd Don made a presentation focussing on private sector initiatives in establishing production, distribution and trading hubs for Halal products and services in BIMP-EAGA.
He said that BDBEBC has identified supply, manufacturing and consumer bases in the BIMP-EAGA in its strategic platform which, when realised, would ensure the economic development of BIMP-EAGA and turn it into a main Halal hub that would have a significant role in the global Halal market.
Captain (Rtd) Zailan also disclosed that in working towards the realisation of their vision, BDBEBC has signed a strategic alliance agreement with Reefer Express Line of the Philippines to develop linkages among ports in BIMP-EAGA and improve logistics services in the region.
The value of Halal authentication technologies was the main discussion topic of Dr Nur Thaqifah Salihah binti Haji Mohd Salleh from UNISSA, who presented various ways of preserving the integrity of Halal products as they go through the five stages in the Halal value chain, from product development to distribution and sales.
Dr Nur Thaqifah Salihah presented the latest technologies available for evaluating the safety and quality of Halal products, such as the Mimica Touch and the Sentinel Wrap. She concluded that the best technologies for use in detection are those that are highly sensitive, specific and fast.
Undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture of the Philippines Zamzam L Ampatuan expounded on the 10-Year Halal Food Production Programme by presenting the priorities of each phase of the programme focussing on poultry, livestock and aquaculture, as well as future initiatives to supply the demand of the ASEAN market.
The webinar concluded with testimonials from the Philippines exporters of Halal goods who participated in the Brunei Halal Showcase in 2018.
The Bruneian owner of Bay 91 Café in Manila Ardy bin Haji Abdul Momin also shared his experiences in operating a Halal restaurant in the Philippines.
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2019.01.25 18:01 daprice82 Wrestling Observer Rewind ★ Nov. 27, 2000

Going through old issues of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and posting highlights in my own words. For anyone interested, I highly recommend signing up for the actual site at f4wonline and checking out the full archives.
1-3-2000 1-10-2000 1-17-2000 1-24-2000
1-31-2000 2-7-2000 2-14-2000 2-21-2000
2-28-2000 3-6-2000 3-13-2000 3-20-2000
3-27-2000 4-3-2000 4-10-2000 4-17-2000
4-24-2000 5-1-2000 5-8-2000 5-15-2000
5-22-2000 5-29-2000 6-5-2000 6-12-2000
6-19-2000 6-26-2000 7-3-2000 7-10-2000
7-17-2000 7-24-2000 7-31-2000 8-7-2000
8-14-2000 8-21-2000 8-28-2000 9-4-2000
9-11-2000 9-18-2000 9-25-2000 10-01-2000
10-09-2000 10-15-2000 10-23-2000 10-30-2000
11-6-2000 11-13-2000 11-20-2000
  • Survivor Series is in the books and ended with a Wile E. Coyote finish of Austin dropping a car with Triple H in it from a forklift, in a spot that basically looked like Austin murdered him. The angle was done to give Triple H time off to rest his back and hip injuries. The Angle/Undertaker WWF title match also had a wacky finish, with Angle's brother Eric getting involved and doing the whole Twin Magic Bella twins gimmick. Dave is pretty "ehhh..." about screwjob finishes in main event matches on a PPV and he heard a lot of complaints from fans live who paid a lot of money for tickets and were upset that half of Triple H/Austin happened backstage and they had to watch it on the video screens.
WATCH: Steve Austin murders Triple H
  • Other notes from the show: Molly Holly made her PPV debut, pinning Trish Stratus in their match. K-Kwik (Ron Killings, aka R-Truth) also made his PPV debut but didn't look very good and didn't get much time. He looked green and blew a spot before getting pinned by Benoit. Lita got legit busted open over her left eye in her match with Ivory and required stitches after and had half a crimson mask for most of the match. Dave mocks Undertaker's unbelievably bad new ring gear, especially the pants (I think it came out later that Undertaker's luggage got lost or something and he was wearing Godfather's pants). And that's about it. Nothing much notable from the show.
PHOTO: Undertaker's pants
  • At the first night of the latest AJPW tour, Motoko Baba announced that Stan Hansen, the most popular foreign wrestler in the history of Japanese wrestling, will be retiring. Hansen is expected to wrestle one final match, at AJPW's Jan. 28th Tokyo Dome show (didn't happen. Unbeknownst to everyone, Hansen has already wrestled his final match by this point). At 51 years old, Hansen is banged up after years of crippling injuries and it's been obvious for awhile that it's time. Dave recaps Hansen's career as a top star in Japan, starting in the late 70s as Inoki's biggest rival before making the surprise jump to AJPW in one of the most famous angles in company history. Hansen is also famous for being the guy who broke Bruno Sammartino's neck when Bruno landed wrong on a Hansen bodyslam. He's also the only foreign wrestler to ever beat Andre The Giant in Japan. Legendary feuds and matches with Baba, Kawada, Misawa, Kobashi, and a famous match with Vader that nearly cost Vader his eye. During the 80s, he was part of one of the greatest tag teams of all time with Bruiser Brody. He's a 4-time Triple Crown champion and also held the AWA title before famously refusing to lose it to Nick Bockwinkel in a story that was huge at the time (Dave doesn't mention that Hansen literally ran over the belt with his truck before sending it back to Verne Gagne, half mangled and destroyed).
  • Observer Awards season is coming up and it's been a unique year. WWF has dominated the industry. WCW and ECW are in disarray, AJPW is clinging to survival after the NOAH split, and while still the clear #2 promotion in the world, NJPW still had a pretty bad year. Anyway, Dave breaks down all the categories, what they mean, how to vote, who's eligible, etc.
  • WWF released its quarterly financial report and yada yada numbers revenues, something something operating income, rights fees, blah blah licensing projections, so on and so forth. There actually is some interesting stuff here. Profits were down from this same quarter last year. The big reasons were due to the $7 million that WWF had to pay as their share of the Owen Hart settlement (insurance paid the other $11 million), another $6.5 million in costs associated with XFL startup expenses, and finally, they lost a bunch of money on expenses related to the WWF New York restaurant in Times Square. House show revenue increased, not because they sold more tickets, but because they increased ticket prices. PPV revenue was up 35% due to Steve Austin's return doing big numbers on the Sept. and Oct. PPVs. Hell, everything is up. TV rights fees are up 165% due to the switch over to Viacom and that number will be substantially higher next quarter. Merch revenue is up 10%. Publishing up 17% due to increasing WWF Magazine prices. Home videos up 12%. Internet revenue up 56%. But the Owen Hart lawsuit and XFL costs are huge hits and because of that, WWF is expected to fall short of their year-end projections.
  • WCW ran a PPV in Germany called Millennium Final. Dave didn't see it, but has a report from someone he knows in Germany who did. A lot of people missed the first hour of the show due to PPV technical problems. It was interesting because they also were broadcasting 2 separate feeds, one showing the main show and another feed showing the backstage area and featuring a lot of interviews. Konnan and Rey Mysterio both cut promos saying a lot of negative things about WCW and Konnan even hinted at wanting to go to WWF. This isn't new, everyone in WCW hates it and wants out, but it was strange to hear someone say it on an official WCW broadcast. Kronik beat Kidman and Mysterio and they were basically treated like jobbers. Dave says call him crazy, but he's starting to think that just maybe the Hogan feud didn't do Kidman any favors after all. They did a Royal Rumble-style battle royal with a new guy entering every 45 seconds, which was won by Mike Awesome. Alex Wright and General Rection won the tag team titles. It was supposed to be Disco Inferno instead, but he got injured and Rection took his spot. The win was mostly just to pop the German crowd since Alex Wright (German) was so hugely over during the show. They immediately lost the titles on Nitro as soon as they got back to the U.S. which pissed off a lot of German fans who saw it for the meaningless cheap pop it was. Dave thinks that'll probably hurt business whenever they return to Germany next time (spoiler: there's no next time). German boxer Axel Schulz refereed the Sting/Kevin Nash main event and at one point when Nash was in the scorpion deathlock, he tried to make a 3 count before realizing that this was a submission hold and that Nash was face down on the mat (this is one of the few WCW PPVs that isn't available on the WWE Network for whatever reason. You can find bits and pieces of it online. Here's the main event).
WATCH: Sting vs. Kevin Nash - WCW Millennium Final
  • Nitro this week did a 2.27 rating which is the lowest rating in the history of the show in its regular time slot. Thunder did a 2.32 which is higher than normal but the rating plummeted throughout the show so the extra viewers clearly didn't care much for what they saw.
  • At the latest NOAH show in Japan, Kenta Kobashi teamed up with rookie wrestler Kenta Kobayashi. Dave still thinks the new kid desperately needs a new ring name to avoid the obvious confusion (he eventually shortens it to just KENTA before changing it again to Hideo Itami).
  • Tatsumi Fujinami has decided not to step down as NJPW president, which he was considering when he was outvoted on firing Shinya Hashimoto. Instead, Fujinami met with Antonio Inoki, who talked him into staying. Dave also mentions that Inoki is trying to get more NJPW guys to work PRIDE shows.
  • The NJPW/AJPW relationship is still shaky. It was announced that a show next month will have NJPW's G1 tag team tournament winners facing an AJPW team. In the meantime, Fujinami is still saying that he wants someone from NOAH to wrestle in the Jan. 4th Tokyo Dome tournament for the IWGP title, which Motoko Baba is not happy about. She has threatened to pull out of the partnership if NOAH is involved, but to be honest, AJPW needs this relationship a lot more than NJPW does so it's kind of an empty threat.
  • Japanese women's wrestler Yumi Fukawa has been forced to retire at age 24 due to brain injuries. She suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and was told one more bad shot to the head could be fatal, similar to the injury that killed Masakazu Fukuda earlier this year.
  • Laila Ali, the daughter of Muhammad Ali, will be attending an LLPW women's wrestling show with the idea she may face Shinobu Kandori in a boxer vs. wrestler match in the future (I think she does attend the show but the match never happens).
  • That show from Australia several months ago that featured Dennis Rodman vs. Curt Hennig will be airing as a PPV next month under the name iGeneration Wrestling, and they plan to run several more events in the future. On one hand, this pretty much sounds like it's gonna be a bust. But on the other hand, with WCW and ECW in worse shape than ever, this might not be the worst time to start a new promotion. WCW is cutting people left and right and ECW is behind on paying everybody, so there's a lot of free agents on the market right now, and there may be more soon if things keep getting worse. So hey, who knows? But this PPV is going to live or die on the drawing power of Dennis Rodman, and he's nowhere near the media superstar he was 2 years ago. His last appearance in WCW did fuck all for them so Dave doesn't have high hopes for this.
  • Bret Hart was scheduled to appear on Good Morning America last week, but due to "all the hoopla" surrounding the finish of the Presidential election, he was bumped from the show. An in related news, Bret's column in this week's Calgary Sun was also pulled, due to apparently being too controversial. Probably something to do with the Owen Hart lawsuit settlement/Hart family drama. Speeeeeeeaking of...
  • Martha Hart did a lengthy interview on the Vicki Gabereau Show in Canada. Martha didn't have much nice to say about the rest of the family, but said that Bret Hart is one of her best friends and that during the entire lawsuit, he supported her and all the decisions she made. She said Owen would have been proud of how Bret handled it. When asked about the rest of the family, she said there would never be any repairing the relationship. She specifically blamed Diana Hart Smith and Ellie Neidhart for looking out for their own self-interests and for trying to sabotage her case against the WWF. She said she's still on good terms with several other members of the family, but they also have contact with Diana and Ellie and it's just an awkward situation so she tries to avoid it. She also said Stu and Helen have always been good to her. She said she didn't want to sling any mud, but there's plenty of it to sling if she wanted to. She thanked wrestling fans who had already raised more than $100,000 for a Calgary children's hospital in Owen's name. She said that every morning when she wakes up with Owen not there, she feels like she's living a nightmare, but she's trying to move on with her life. She said she'd never want her children to get into wrestling and says Owen would have never wanted them to.
  • There's a lot of questions over the future of Rob Van Dam in ECW. It was initially reported (by the Observer itself, on their website) that RVD had quit. Turns out that wasn't true and Dave made sure it was corrected immediately and apologizes for the mistake. But even though RVD hasn't officially quit, there are big-time money issues between the two sides which is why RVD hasn't been working shows lately. Every wrestler in the company is owed money, at the very least one month's pay, and some are owed a lot more. Plus no one has received any PPV bonuses in ages. Fortunately for ECW right now, they're in a position where WWF isn't hiring anyone new and WCW can't afford to hire anyone due to cost cutting, so most of the ECW roster isn't leaving because they have nowhere else to go. But RVD's situation was serious enough that they didn't mention his name at all during the PPV and they're not planning any storylines for him right now, so they seem to be under the impression that he's at least not going to be around for a little while. Neither RVD or ECW would go on the record with Dave to discuss the issues, other than to say as of this week, RVD isn't booked for any upcoming ECW shows and they're still negotiating (he ends up making one final appearance at ECW's very last PPV in January, but otherwise, that's it for RVD and ECW).
  • ECW only has 2 shows left on the schedule for the rest of the year. The PPV on Dec. 3rd and an ECW Arena show on Dec. 23rd. There are 2 TV tapings scheduled for Texas next month but as of press time, they are almost certain to be cancelled. If so, they'll have to tape extra matches at the PPV in order to fill TV time for the rest of the year.
  • On ECW TV this week, they pretty much dropped the angle of the FBI cutting off Jim Mitchell's fingers after the almost universally negative response they got last week for showing the footage of Mitchell being legit treated for the injury.
  • Vampiro did an interview on Insane Clown Posse's website claiming that he is leaving WCW, due in part to concussions he suffered at Halloween Havoc and Nitro the next night. There's skepticism within WCW over the legitimacy of his injuries. Vampiro just had a new baby and a lot of people believe he's faking the concussion symptoms so he can stay home with his child, despite the fact that the WCW doctors did diagnose his concussions as legit. It's not just Vampiro though, there's people in WCW who are doubtful of Bret Hart's concussions as well. On the ICP Hotline (yes they have a hotline), Vampiro talked about having permanent speech impairment, a possible broken neck, and brain damage. He was adamant about never going back to WCW and ripped on the company as well as Terry Taylor and Vince Russo. He said the only wrestling he's going to be doing from now on is for ICP's JCW promotion and that he also plans to go on tour with ICP to play bass (indeed, he never stepped foot in WCW again).
  • Sting is dealing with an elbow injury and will miss all of December. If he ends up needing surgery, he may be out 3-6 months (Sting doesn't wrestle again until the final Nitro).
  • Notes from Nitro: Dave says the show has gotten better in the last few weeks that Russo hasn't been around because a lot of the illogical wacky shit is gone. But they're drastically overexposing the younger stars, especially Mike Sanders. Pushing new stars is great, but taking totally green Power Plant guys and making them the focus of the show is over-correcting. They brought out Alex Wright and Disco Inferno as the new tag team champions, saying they won them in Germany. They showed footage of Wright getting the win and edited it so that you didn't see that Disco wasn't in the match and that actually General Rection was the partner. Then they were booked to defend the titles, but Disco got taken out of the match (still injured) and replaced by Elix Skipper and they lost the tag titles. Dave mentions that Disco Inferno is the first wrestler "since the immortal Judy Bagwell" to hold the tag team titles while not being involved in the match to win it or lose it. Kevin Nash cut a promo saying he has 13 months and 10 days left on his contract and that he wants to have fun. Dave admits that this is actually kinda brilliant because Nash has set himself up an angle where he can possibly jump to WWF while hyping it up in WCW, or at the very least, pressure WCW into spending big money to re-sign him. Dave says you can't fault a guy for playing the game smart, but it sucks that WCW is the kind of place where a guy can go on TV and say whatever he wants with no consequence, even to the detriment of the team he's supposed to be playing for. Mike Sanders cut a promo on Nash, joking about Nash not getting first class flights and breach of contract. Apparently on the trip to Europe recently, Nash was complaining loudly about not having first class seats on the flight to Europe because that's apparently part of his contract, and was claiming it was a breach, so Sanders was busting his balls over that. DDP already feels like just another guy after returning to a huge pop just last week. Dave says that's because WCW did nothing to make it feel special. The single best thing the company (well, Nash) has promoted in the last six months is the return of Scott Hall and that's not actually happening. The crowd still chants for Hall every week, while guys like DDP get no build up at all and the crowd doesn't care that he's back.
  • All the stuff with the Battledome guys was put together by Eric Bischoff and basically none of the other writers or bookers are allowed to change any of it, only him. Dave mentions that Ed Ferrara is basically the head writer at the moment, although everyone is still under the impression that Russo will be back soon. Russo is still at home, saying he hasn't recovered from the concussions he suffered, and just like Hart and Vampiro, a lot of people backstage doubt how legit this is, especially since he's not a wrestler so it's not like they're asking him to come back and take bumps. Plus the timing made people suspicious, since it was when the WWF sale rumors were happening and Russo decided to take time off right around the time that allowed him to skip both the Australia and Europe tours. But Dave says, to be fair, Russo really did take several hard shots to the head during the couple of matches he did, so who knows.
  • Speaking of the European tour, Midajah was upset about having to go. Her father-in-law is very ill and she wanted to stay home to be near her family for that, but WCW wouldn't let her skip the tour so she had to go or lose her job.
  • Hey, we're back to ICP's website again. According to a story posted on ICP's site, several of the Nitro Girls approached ICP about forming a Spice Girls-like musical group for their Psychopathic Records label. I feel like these ladies might not quite be familiar with ICP's audience...
  • The episode of the sitcom "Nikki" which features Kevin Nash in a guest starring role will be going head-to-head with WCW's Mayhem PPV. Whoops.
  • Tickets for Starrcade went on sale last week and the first-day sales were disastrous. They only sold 926 tickets, for a building that holds around 20,000 for basketball. Dave says that's worse than scary for a building that large.
  • Dave gives notes from the latest NWA Wildside indie show in Georgia and the only thing of note is they have a rookie there who's a former NFL player named Bob Sapp. Word is he has a monster look and can move quickly and has potential (he'll be IWGP heavyweight champion in less than 4 years).
  • Only thing really notable from Raw was the main event of Austin vs. Benoit. It was by far the best match that Austin has had since returning and he looked to be completely back to his old self. He was wrestling pretty fearlessly, taking german suplexes and back suplexes and everything in between in a pretty great match. Speaking of, Benoit and Rock had a great match on Smackdown the next night. I think this Benoit kid might be a pretty decent 'rassler.
  • WWF signed a new deal to have Smackdown and the XFL broadcast on The Score network in Canada. Smackdown didn't previously air in Canada until now. Score is in a similar situation as UPN was when they first got Smackdown. It's a struggling network that is hoping WWF will give it a much-needed boost.
  • Speaking of the XFL, they made huge news this week by announcing Governor Jesse Ventura has been hired as an an announcer for the Saturday night NBC games. Once again, it's led to controversy over whether a sitting governor should be getting paid all this money to do these outside gigs and whether he's using the power and celebrity of his office for private gain. For what it's worth, Ventura does have experience broadcasting football games, as he has done radio announcing for both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Minnesota Vikings.
  • Vince McMahon himself also made waves with an interview in ESPN Magazine where he spoke about some of his XFL plans. McMahon said the cheerleaders may have some announcing duties and that they would be encouraged to date the players. "When the quarterback fumbles or the wide out drops a pass, and we know who he's dating, I want our reporters right back in her face on the sidelines demanding to know what they were doing the previous night." The quote led to a ton of criticism, forcing McMahon to actually walk it back and say he was just joking. But c'mon, we all know Vince McMahon...
  • Christopher Daniels has had talks with WWF about a developmental deal but nothing signed yet. In the meantime, he's planning to return back to Michinoku Pro and bring back his goofy Curry Man gimmick which made him a cult favorite in Japan.
  • Triple H did an interview with the Observer website and talked about a lot of things. In regards to his injuries, he said a powerslam fucked up his spine and coccyx bone and screwed up a bunch of hip ligaments and back discs and whatnot, leading to spasms. In regards to being heel or face, he said he loves being a heel more than anything else and added, "The hardest thing in this business is to stay one way or the other. If you're a babyface, if you're not creative enough, people start to dislike you." When asked about rarely doing clean jobs, he argued that none of the top guys do (Dave disputes that with plenty of examples). He said the famous Kliq curtain call back in 1996 was approved by Vince and if he knew he was going to get in trouble, he wouldn't have done it and blamed the backlash on old agents backstage who found it disrespectful but that Vince didn't have a problem with it until those people got into his ear. When asked about Scott Hall potentially coming to WWF, he said it basically depends on Hall proving that he's staying on the right path with his personal problems.
  • Kid Rock's sidekick Joe C passed away in his sleep at age 26. Joe C had celiac disease and lived a very difficult life, taking 60 pills a day and being monitored by machines when he slept at night. He had made several WWF appearances over the years and had hoped to do more with wrestling. He really wanted to work with ECW and was friends with RVD and Sabu. He was also an avid wrestling tape collector. Dave reveals he was also a long-time subscriber to the Observer until his death and offers his condolences.
  • Now that WWF's move to Viacom has passed the 8 week mark, Dave decides to compare ratings from before and after the move. Raw on USA was averaging a 5.94 and is averaging a 5.21 now, which is a pretty significant 12.3% drop, although some of that can be attributed to Monday Night Football starting back at around the same time that they switched to TNN so that was kind of a double-whammy. Smackdown ratings are up and PPV buyrates are also up, so it's not like interest in WWF has declined recently, so the blame is pretty obviously due to the TNN move and the NFL starting back. Livewire and Superstars (which also moved to TNN) suffered similar ratings drops, while Sunday Night Heat, which moved to MTV, suffered a 17% drop.
  • Kurt Angle's brother Eric Angle has appeared on PPV and Smackdown in the last week but isn't signed. But there's said to be interest in maybe giving him a developmental deal.
  • Ticket sales for Wrestlemania 17 are now at more than 52,000 sold and still climbing. The first day sales (where they moved almost 49,000) shattered virtually every company ticket sales record there is. (Has there ever been a more appropriate side-by-side example of how far ahead WWF was at the end? WCW's biggest PPV of the year sold 926 tickets on the first day while WWF's biggest PPV of the year sold 49,000 on the first day).
  • The promo posters for the Royal Rumble say "30 men....1 will become champion" which would seem to indicate that the WWF title will be vacated at some point before then. But Dave says that the marketing side of the company usually doesn't consult with the creative side and often they just come up with phrases and taglines like that which don't have anything to do with what's going to happen. Plus, the way plans change and the way everything is booked on the fly these days, this could mean nothing (yeah, this meant nothing).
  • Letters section: someone writes in about the story of Chris Candido collapsing backstage at an indie show a couple weeks ago and says it's true, Candido had a seizure and was taken away in an ambulance. Tammy Sytch was with him and the letter writer asks how many more near-tragedies is it going to take for these 2 to address their obvious drug problems?
MONDAY: ECW in complete turmoil, RVD files breach of contract, Scott Hall arrested, WCW Mayhem PPV fallout, and more...
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2016.10.07 01:42 ShaunaDorothy How the White Helmets Became International Heroes While Pushing U.S. Military Intervention and Regime Change in Syria

On September 30, demonstrators gathered in city squares across the West for a "weekend of action” to “stop the bombs” raining down from Syrian government and Russian warplanes on rebel-held eastern Aleppo. Thousands joined the protests, holding signs that read "Topple Assad" and declaring, "Enough With Assad." Few participants likely knew that the actions were organized under the auspices of an opposition-funded public relations company called the Syria Campaign.
By partnering with local groups like the Syrian civil defense workers popularly known as the White Helmets, and through a vast network of connections in media and centers of political influence, The Syria Campaign has played a crucial role in disseminating images and stories of the horrors visited this month on eastern Aleppo. The group is able to operate within the halls of power in Washington and has the power to mobilize thousands of demonstrators into the streets. Despite its outsized role in shaping how the West sees Syria’s civil war, which is now in its sixth year and entering one of its grisliest phases, this outfit remains virtually unknown to the general public.
The Syria Campaign presents itself as an impartial, non-political voice for ordinary Syrian citizens that is dedicated to civilian protection. “We see ourselves as a solidarity organization,” The Syria Campaign strategy director James Sadri told me. “We’re not being paid by anybody to pursue a particular line. We feel like we’ve done a really good job about finding out who the frontline activists, doctors, humanitarians are and trying to get their word out to the international community.”
Yet behind the lofty rhetoric about solidarity and the images of heroic rescuers rushing in to save lives is an agenda that aligns closely with the forces from Riyadh to Washington clamoring for regime change. Indeed, The Syria Campaign has been pushing for a no-fly zone in Syria that would require at least “70,000 American servicemen” to enforce, according to a Pentagon assessment, along with the destruction of government infrastructure and military installations. There is no record of a no-fly zone being imposed without regime change following —which seems to be exactly what The Syria Campaign and its partners want.
“For us to control all the airspace in Syria would require us to go to war against Syria and Russia. That’s a pretty fundamental decision that certainly I’m not going to make,” said Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee this month.
While the military brass in Washington seems reluctant to apply the full force of its airpower to enforce a NFZ, The Syria Campaign is capitalizing on the outrage inspired by the bombardment of rebel-held eastern Aleppo this year to intensify the drumbeat for greater U.S. military involvement.
The Syria Campaign has been careful to cloak interventionism in the liberal-friendly language of human rights, casting Western military action as “the best way to support Syrian refugees,” and packaging a no-fly zone — along with so-called safe zones and no bombing zones, which would also require Western military enforcement — as a “way to protect civilians and defeat ISIS.”
Among The Syria Campaign’s most prominent vehicles for promoting military intervention is a self-proclaimed "unarmed and impartial" civil defense group known as the White Helmets. Footage of the White Helmets saving civilians trapped in the rubble of buildings bombed by the Syrian government and its Russian ally has become ubiquitous in coverage of the crisis. Having claimed to have saved tens of thousands of lives, the group has become a leading resource for journalists and human rights groups seeking information inside the war theater, from casualty figures to details on the kind of bombs that are falling.
But like The Syria Campaign, the White Helmets are anything but impartial. Indeed, the group was founded in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Office of Transitional Initiatives, an explicitly political wing of the agency that has funded efforts at political subversion in Cuba and Venezuela. USAID is the White Helmets’ principal funder, committing at least $23 million to the group since 2013. This money was part of $339.6 million budgeted by USAID for “supporting activities that pursue a peaceful transition to a democratic and stable Syria" -- or establishing a parallel governing structure that could fill the power vacuum once Bashar Al-Assad was removed.
Thanks to an aggressive public relations push by The Syria Campaign, the White Helmets have been nominated for the Nobel Prize, and have already been awarded the “alternative Nobel” known as the Right Livelihood Award. (Previous winners include Amy Goodman, Edward Snowden and Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu.) At the same time, the White Helmets are pushing for a NFZ in public appearances and on a website created by The Syria Campaign.
The Syria Campaign has garnered endorsements for the White Helmets from a host of Hollywood celebrities including Ben Affleck, Alicia Keyes and Justin Timberlake. And with fundraising and “outreach” performed by The Syria Campaign, the White Helmets have become the stars of a slickly produced Netflix documentary vehicle that has received hype from media outlets across the West.
But making the White Helmets into an international sensation is just one of a series of successes The Syria Campaign has achieved in its drive to oust Syria's government.
Targeting the UN in Damascus
When an aid convoy organized by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs came under attack on its way to the rebel-held countryside of West Aleppo in Syria this September 18, the White Helmets pinned blame squarely on the Syrian and Russian governments. In fact, a White Helmets member was among the first civilians to appear on camera at the scene of the attack, declaring in English that “the regime helicopters targeted this place with four barrel [bombs].” The White Helmets also produced one of the major pieces of evidence Western journalists have relied on to implicate Russia and the Syrian government in the attack: a photograph supposedly depicting the tail fragment of a Russian-made OFAB 250-270 fragmentation bomb. (This account remains unconfirmed by both the UN and SARC, and no evidence of barrel bombs has been produced).
Ironically, the White Helmets figured prominently in The Syria Campaign’s push to undermine the UN’s humanitarian work inside Syria. For months, The Syria Campaign has painted the UN as a stooge of Bashar Al-Assad for coordinating its aid deliveries with the Syrian government, as it has done with governments in conflict zones around the world. The Guardian's Kareem Shaheen praised a 50-page report by The Syria Campaign attacking the UN’s work in Syria as "damning." A subsequent Guardian' article cited the report as part of the inspiration for its own “exclusive” investigation slamming the UN’s coordination with the Syrian government.
At a website created by The Syria Campaign to host the report, visitors are greeted by a UN logo drenched in blood.
The Syria Campaign has even taken credit for forcing former UN Resident Coordinator Yacoub El-Hillo out of his job in Damascus, a false claim it was later forced to retract. Among the opposition groups that promoted The Syria Campaign’s anti-UN report was Ahrar Al-Sham, a jihadist rebel faction that has allied with Al Qaeda in a mission to establish an exclusively Islamic state across Syria.
A Westerner who operates a politically neutral humanitarian NGO in Damascus offered me a withering assessment of The Syria Campaign’s attacks on the UN. Speaking on condition of anonymity because NGO workers like them are generally forbidden from speaking to the media, and often face repercussions if they do, the source accused The Syria Campaign of “dividing and polarizing the humanitarian community” along political lines while forcing humanitarian entities to “make decisions based on potential media repercussions instead of focusing on actual needs on the ground.”
The NGO executive went on to accuse The Syria Campaign and its partners in the opposition of “progressively identifying the humanitarian workers operating from Damascus with one party to the conflict,” limiting their ability to negotiate access to rebel-held territory. “As a humanitarian worker myself,” they explained, “I know that this puts me and my teams in great danger since it legitimizes warring factions treating you as an extension of one party in the conflict.
“The thousands of Syrians that signed up with the UN or humanitarian organizations are civilians,” they continued. “They not only joined to get a salary but in hopes of doing something good for other Syrians. This campaign [by The Syria Campaign] is humiliating all of them, labelling them as supporters of one side and making them lose hope in becoming agents of positive change in their own society.”
This September, days before the aid convoy attack prompted the UN to suspend much of its work inside Syria, The Syria Campaign spurred 73 aid organizations operating in rebel-held territory, including the White Helmets, to suspend their cooperation with the UN aid program. As the Guardian noted in its coverage, “The decision to withdraw from the Whole of Syria programme, in which organisations share information to help the delivery of aid, means in practice the UN will lose sight of what is happening throughout the north of Syria and in opposition-held areas of the country, where the NGOs do most of their work.”
Despite The Syria Campaign’s influence on the international media stage, details on the outfit’s inner workings are difficult to come by. The Syria Campaign is registered in England as a private company called the Voices Project at an address shared by 91 other companies. Aside from Asfari, most of The Syria Campaign’s donors are anonymous.
Looming over this opaque operation are questions about its connections to Avaaz, a global public relations outfit that played an instrumental role in generating support for a no-fly zone in Libya, and The Syria Campaign’s founding by Purpose, another PR firm spun out of Avaaz. James Sadri bristled when I asked about the issue, dismissing it as a “crank conspiracy” ginned up by Russian state media and hardcore Assadist elements.
However, a careful look at the origins and operation of The Syria Campaign raises doubts about the outfit’s image as an authentic voice for Syrian civilians, and should invite serious questions about the agenda of its partner organizations as well.
A creation of international PR firms
Best known for its work on liberal social issues with well-funded progressive clients like the ACLU and the police reform group, Campaign Zero, the New York- and London-based public relations firm Purpose promises to deliver creatively executed campaigns that produce either a “behavior change,” “perception change,” “policy change” or “infrastructure change.” As the Syrian conflict entered its third year, this company was ready to effect a regime change.
On Feb. 3, 2014, Anna Nolan, the senior strategist at Purpose, posted a job listing. According to Nolan’s listing, her firm was seeking “two interns to join the team at Purpose to help launch a new movement for Syria.”
At around the same time, another Purpose staffer named Ali Weiner posted a job listing seeking a paid intern for the PR firm’s new Syrian Voices project. “Together with Syrians in the diaspora and NGO partners,” Weiner wrote, “Purpose is building a movement that will amplify the voices of moderate, non-violent Syrians and mobilize people in the Middle East and around the world to call for specific changes in the political and humanitarian situation in the region.” She explained that the staffer would report “to a Strategist based primarily in London, but will work closely with the Purpose teams in both London and New York.”
On June 16, 2014, Purpose founder Jeremy Heimans drafted articles of association for The Syria Campaign’s parent company. Called the Voices Project, Heimans registered the company at 3 Bull Lane, St. Ives Cambridgeshire, England. It was one of 91 private limited companies listed at the address. Sadri would not explain why The Syria Campaign had chosen this location or why it was registered as a private company.
Along with Heimans, Purpose Europe director Tim Dixon was appointed to The Syria Campaign’s board of directors. So was John Jackson, a Purpose strategist who previously co-directed the Burma Campaign U.K. that lobbied the EU for sanctions against that country’s ruling regime. (Jackson claimed credit for The Syria Campaign’s successful push to remove Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad’s re-election campaign ads from Facebook.) Anna Nolan became The Syria Campaign’s project director, even as she remained listed as the strategy director at Purpose.
“Purpose is not involved in what we do,” The Syria Campaign’s Sadri told me. When pressed about the presence of several Purpose strategists on The Syria Campaign’s board of directors and staff, Sadri insisted, “We’re not part of Purpose. There’s no financial relationship and we’re independent.”
Sadri dismissed allegations about The Syria Campaign’s origins in Avaaz. “We have no connection to Avaaz,” he stated, blaming conspiratorial “Russia Today stuff” for linking the two public relations groups.
However, Purpose’s original job listing for its Syrian Voices project boasted that “Purpose grew out of some of the most impactful new models for social change” including “the now 30 million strong action network” In fact, The Syria Campaign’s founder, Purpose co-founder Jeremy Heimans, was also one of the original founders of Avaaz. As he told Forbes, “I co-founded Avaaz and [the Australian activist group] Get Up, which inspired the creation of Purpose.”
New and improved no-fly zone
The Syria Campaign’s defensiveness about ties to Avaaz is understandable.
Back in 2011, Avaaz introduced a public campaign for a no-fly zone in Libya and delivered a petition with 1,202,940 signatures to the UN supporting Western intervention. John Hilary, the executive director of War On Want, the U.K.’s leading anti-poverty and anti-war charity, warned at the time, "Little do most of these generally well-meaning activists know, they are strengthening the hands of those western governments desperate to reassert their interests in north Africa… Clearly a no-fly zone makes foreign intervention sound rather humanitarian—putting the emphasis on stopping bombing, even though it could well lead to an escalation of violence.”
John Hilary’s dire warning was fulfilled after the NATO-enforced no-fly zone prompted the ouster of former President Moamar Qaddafi. Months later, Qaddafi was sexually assaulted and beaten to death in the road by a mob of fanatics. The Islamic State and an assortment of militias filled the void left in the Jamahiriya government’s wake. The political catastrophe should have been serious enough to call future interventions of this nature into question. Yet Libya’s legacy failed to deter Avaaz from introducing a new campaign for another no-fly zone; this time in Syria.
“To some a no-fly zone could conjure up images of George W. Bush’s foreign policy and illegal Western interventions. This is a different thing,” Avaaz insisted in a communique defending its support for a new no-fly zone in Syria. Sadri portrayed The Syria Campaign’s support for a no-fly zone as the product of a “deep listening process” involving the polling of Syrian civilians in rebel-held territories and refugees outside the country. He claimed his outfit was a “solidarity organization,” not a public relations firm, and was adamant that if and when a no-fly zone is imposed over Syrian skies, it would be different than those seen in past conflicts.
“There also seems to be a critique of a no-fly zone which is slapping on templates from other conflicts and saying this is what will happen in Syria,” Sadri commented. He added, “I’m just trying to encourage us away from a simplistic debate. There’s a kneejerk reaction to Syria to say, ’It’s Iraq or it’s Libya,’ but it’s not. It’s an entirely different conflict.”
Funding a "credible transition"
For the petroleum mogul who provided the funding that launched the Syria Project, the means of military intervention justified an end in which he could return to the country of his birth and participate in its economic life on his own terms.
Though The Syria Campaign claims to “refuse funding from any party to the conflict in Syria,” it was founded and is sustained with generous financial assistance from one of the most influential exile figures of the opposition, Ayman Asfari, the U.K.-based CEO of the British oil and gas supply company Petrofac Limited. Asfari is worth $1.2 billion and owns about one-fifth of the shares of his company, which boasts 18,000 employees and close to $7 billion in annual revenues.
Through his Asfari Foundation, he has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to The Syria Campaign and has secured a seat for his wife, Sawsan, on its board of directors. He has also been a top financial and political supporter of the Syrian National Coalition, the largest government-in-exile group set up after the Syrian revolt began. The group is dead-set on removing Assad and replacing him with one of its own. Asfari’s support for opposition forces was so pronounced the Syrian government filed a warrant for his arrest, accusing him of supporting “terrorism.”
In London, Asfari has been a major donor to former British Prime Minister David Cameron and his Conservative Party. This May, Cameron keynoted a fundraiser for the Hands Up for Syria Appeal, a charity heavily supported by Asfari that sponsors education for Syrian children living in refugee camps. The Prime Minister might have seemed like an unusual choice for the event given his staunch resistance to accepting unaccompanied Syrian children who have fled to Europe. However, Asfari has generally supported Cameron’s exclusionary policy.
Grilled about his position during an episode of BBC’s Hardtalk, Asfari explained, “I do not want the country to be emptied. I still have a dream that those guys [refugees] will be able to go back to their homes and they will be able to play a constructive role in putting Syria back together.”
In Washington, Asfari is regarded as an important liaison to the Syrian opposition. He has visited the White House eight times since 2014, meeting with officials like Philip Gordon, the former Middle East coordinator who was an early advocate for arming the insurgency in Syria. Since leaving the administration, however, Gordon has expressed regret over having embraced a policy of regime change. In a lengthy September 2015 editorial for Politico, Gordon slammed the Obama administration's pursuit of regime change, writing, “There is now virtually no chance that an opposition military ‘victory’ will lead to stable or peaceful governance in Syria in the foreseeable future and near certainty that pursuing one will only lead to many more years of vicious civil war.”
Asfari publicly chastised Gordon days later on Hardtalk. “I have written to [Gordon] an email after I saw that article in Politico and I told him I respectfully disagree,” Asfari remarked. “I think the idea that we are going to have a transition in Syria with Assad in it for an indefinite period is fanciful. Because at the end of the day, what the people want is a credible transition.”
For Asfari, a “credible” post-war transition would require much more than refugee repatriation and the integration of opposition forces into the army: “Will you get the Syrian diaspora, including people like myself, to go back and invest in the country?” he asked on Hardtalk. “…If we do not achieve any of these objectives, what’s the point of having a free Syria?”
The Independent has described Asfari as one among of a pantheon of "super rich" exiles poised to rebuild a post-Assad Syria — and to reap handsome contracts in the process. To reach his goal of returning to Syria in triumph after the downfall of Assad’s government, Asfari not only provided the seed money for The Syria Campaign, he has helped sustain the group with hefty donations.
Just this year, the Asfari Foundation donated $180,000 to the outfit, according to The Syria Campaign’s media lead Laila Kiki. Asfari is not The Syria Campaign’s only donor, however. According to Kiki, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund also contributed $120,000 to the outfit’s $800,000 budget this year. “The rest of the funds come from donors who wish to remain anonymous,” she explained.
Shaping the message
Among The Syria Campaign’s main priorities, for which it has apparently budgeted a substantial amount of resources, is moving Western media in a more interventionist direction.
When The Syria Campaign placed an ad on its website seeking a senior press officer upon its launch in 2014, it emphasized its need for “someone who can land pieces in the U.S., U.K. and European [media] markets in the same week.” The company’s ideal candidate would be able to “maintain strong relationships with print, broadcast, online journalists, editors in order to encourage them to see TSC as a leading voice on Syria.” Prioritizing PR experience over political familiarity, The Syria Campaign reassured applicants, “You don’t need to be an expert on Syria or speak Arabic.” After all, the person would be working in close coordination with an unnamed “Syrian communications officer who will support on story gathering and relationships inside Syria.”
Sadri acknowledged that The Syria Campaign has been involved in shopping editorials to major publications. “There have been op-eds in the past that we’ve helped get published, written by people on the ground. There’s a lot of op-eds going out from people inside Syria,” he told me. But he would not say which ones, who the authors were, or if his company played any role in their authorship.
One recent incident highlighted The Syria Campaign’s skillful handling of press relationships from Aleppo to media markets across the West. It was August 17, and a Syrian or Russian warplane had just hit an apartment building in rebel-held eastern Aleppo. Sophie McNeill, a Middle East correspondent for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, received a photo from the Syrian American Medical Society, which maintains a WhatsApp group networking doctors inside rebel territory with international media.
The photo showed a five-year-old boy, Omran Daqneesh, who had been extracted from the building by members of the White Helmets and hoisted into an ambulance, where he was filmed by members of the Aleppo Media Center. The chilling image depicts a dazed little boy, seated upright and staring at nothing, his pudgy cheeks caked in ash and blood. “Video then emerged of Omran as he sat blinking in the back of that ambulance,” McNeill wrote without explaining who provided her with the video. She immediately posted the footage on Twitter.
“Watch this video from Aleppo tonight. And watch it again. And remind yourself that with #Syria #wecantsaywedidntknow,” McNeill declared. Her post was retweeted over 17,000 times and the hashtag she originated, which implied international inaction against the Syrian government made such horrors possible, became a viral sensation as well. (McNeill did not respond to questions sent to her publicly listed email.)
Hours later, the image of Omran appeared on the front page of dozens of international newspapers, from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal to the Times of London. CNN’s Kate Bolduan, who had suggested during Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip in 2014 that civilian casualties were, in fact, human shields, broke down in tears during an extended segment detailing the rescue of Omran.
Abu Sulaiman Al-Muhajir, the Australian citizen serving as a top leader and spokesman for Al Qaeda’s Syrian offshoot, Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham, took a special interest in the boy. "I cannot get conditioned to seeing injured/murdered children," Al-Muhajir wrote on Facebook. "Their innocent faces should serve as a reminder of our responsibility."
Seizing on the opportunity, The Syria Campaign gathered quotes from the photographer who captured the iconic image, Mahmoud Raslan, and furnished them to an array of media organizations. While many outlets published Raslan’s statements, Public Radio International was among the few that noted The Syria Campaign’s role in serving them up, referring to the outfit as “a pro-opposition advocacy group with a network of contacts in Syria.”
On August 20, McNeill took to Facebook with a call to action: “Were you horrified by the footage of little Omran?” she asked her readers. “Can't stop thinking about him? Well don't just retweet, be outraged for 24 hours and move on. Hear what two great humanitarians for Syria, Zaher Sahloul & James Sadri, want you to do now.”
Sadri happened to be the director of The Syria Campaign and Sahloul was the Syrian American Medical Society director who partnered with The Syria Campaign. In the article McNeill wrote about Omran's photo, which was linked in her Facebook post, both Sahloul and Sadri urged Westerners to join their call for a no-fly zone— a policy McNeill tacitly endorsed. (Sahloul was recently promoted by the neoconservative columnist Eli Lake for accusing Obama of having "allowed a genocide in Syria." This September, Sahloul joined up with the Jewish United Federation of Chicago, a leading opponent of Palestine solidarity organizing, to promote his efforts.)
As the outrage inspired by the image of Omran spread, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof (a friend and publisher of Syria Campaign board member Lina Sergie Attar) called for “fir[ing] missiles from outside Syria to crater [Syrian] military runways to make them unusable.” Meanwhile, on MSNBC's Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough waved around the photo of Omran and indignantly declared, "The world will look back. Save your hand-wringing…you can still do something right now. But nothing’s been done.”
As breathless editorials and cable news tirades denounced the Obama administration's supposed “inaction,” public pressure for a larger-scale Western military campaign was approaching an unprecedented level.
Damage control for opposition extremists
The day after Omran made headlines, the left-wing British news site the Canary publicized another photograph that exposed a grim reality behind the iconic image.
Culled from the Facebook page of Mahmoud Raslan, the activist from the American-operated Aleppo Media Center who took the initial video of Omran, it showed Raslan posing for a triumphant selfie with a group of rebel fighters. The armed men hailed from the Nour Al-Din Al-Zenki faction. At least two of the commanders who appeared in the photo with Raslan had recently beheaded a boy they captured, referring to him in video footage as “child” while they taunted and abused him. The boy has been reported to be a 12-year-old named Abdullah Issa and may have been a member of the Liwa Al-Quds pro-government Palestinian militia.
This was not the only time Raslan had appeared with Al-Zenki fighters or expressed his sympathy. On August 2, he posted a selfie to Facebook depicting himself surrounded by mostly adolescent Al-Zenki fighters dressed in battle fatigues. “With the suicide fighters, from the land of battles and butchery, from Aleppo of the martyrs, we bring you tidings of impending joy, with God's permission,” Raslan wrote. He sported a headband matching those worn by the “suicide fighters.”
Despite its unsavory tendencies and extremist ideological leanings, Al-Zenki was until 2015 a recipient of extensive American funding, with at least 1000 of its fighters on the CIA payroll. Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute who has said his research on the Syrian opposition was “100% funded by Western govts,” has branded Al-Zenki as “moderate opposition fighters.”
This August, after the video of Al-Zenki members beheading the adolescent boy appeared online, Sam Heller, a fellow for the Washington-based Century Foundation, argued for restoring the rebel group’s CIA funding. Describing Al-Zenki as “a natural, if unpalatable, partner,” Heller contended that “if Washington insists on keeping its hands perfectly clean, there’s probably no Syrian faction—in the opposition, or on any side of the war—that merits support.”
This September 24, Al-Zenki formally joined forces with the jihadist Army of Conquest led by Al Qaeda-established jihadist group, Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham. For its part, The Syria Campaign coordinated the release of a statement with Raslan explaining away his obvious affinity with Al-Zenki. Sophie McNeill, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reporter who was among the first to publish the famous Omran photo, dutifully published Raslan’s statement on Twitter, acknowledging The Syria Campaign as its source.
Curiously describing the beheading victim as a 19-year-old and not the “child” his beheaders claimed he was, Raslan pleaded ignorance about the Al-Zenki fighters’ backgrounds: “It was a busy day with lots of different people and groups on the streets. As a war photographer I take lots of photos with civilians and fighters.”
Mahmoud Raslan may not have been the most effective local partner, but The Syria Campaign could still count on the White Helmets.
In Part II: How the U.S.-funded White Helmets rescue civilians from Syrian and Russian bombs while lobbying for the U.S. military to step up its own bombing campaign.
Part Two
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Laila's Exclusive Appearance on The Insider July 12, 2016 Laila Ali & Maks - Rumba (Full Clip) - YouTube Laila & Maks - 'SuperMan' HANNAH RANKIN ON SHIELDS VS LAILA ALI: 'ONCE A FIGHTER ALWAYS A FIGHTER! BallasHoughSkiy Fans - YouTube Laila Ali Plays 'Hang Out, Make Out, or Knock Out?'

Laila Ali Dancing with the Stars Wiki Fandom

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50+ videos Play all Mix - Laila & Maks - 'SuperMan' YouTube Harmony Bailey Talks With Boxing Greats Laila Ali & Evander Holyfield About Olympic Hopefuls - Duration: 2:21. Harmony Bailey 13,239 views Featuring Partners: Laila Ali, Mel B, Denise Richards, Erin Andrews, Brandy, Kirstie Alley (Seasons 12 & 15), Hope Solo, Melissa Gilbert,... BallasHoughSkiy Fans uploaded a video 1 year ago Laila and Maksim Chmerkovskiy perform the Rumba on DWtS. Includes the rehearsal footage, judges comments, and backstage interview. Find out in which camp Laila puts her old 'Dancing with the Stars' partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy! Loading... Autoplay When autoplay is enabled, a suggested video will automatically play next. Recently Laila sat down with 'The Insider' to discuss the 2016 ESPN Sports Humanitarian Awards, her father Muhammad Ali and her upcoming appearance on the new season of 'Celebrity Apprentice'. Hannah Rankin talks on her sparring partner and former opponent, Claressa Shields taking on Laila Ali, discusses Katie Taylor vs Amanda Serrano and talks in depth about women's boxing. #Boxing # ... Nice Tribute to female Boxing Legend Ann Wolfe !