British-Iranian woman jailed in Iran

The family of a British-Iranian woman detained in Iran have spoken of their anguish after the state’s judiciary claimed she was detained for her supposed links to the opposition – not for trying to attend a volleyball match.

Ghoncheh Ghavami, a 25-year-old law graduate from London, was accused by Tehran prosecutors in a statement reported by the semi-official ISNA news agency of being involved in opposition protests.

The latest twist came as Ghavami’s family were left without legal representation after their lawyer resigned following a series of bizarre interviews to local media about the case. “It’s stressful for us,” said Ghavami’s brother, Iman, 28, from London. “Every day is a new challenge for my parents – it’s so stressful and time consuming.”

Ghavami, a graduate of SOAS, University of London, has been detained in Iran since 20 June when she was arrested at Azadi (“freedom” in Farsi) stadium in Tehran, where Iran’s national volleyball team was scheduled to play Italy. Although she was released within a few hours after the initial arrest she was rearrested days later.

Earlier this month, the family were told she had been sentenced to one year in the notorious Evin prison after being found guilty in a secret revolutionary court of spreading “propaganda against the regime”.

On Tuesday, the prosecutor’s office in Tehran told ISNA that her case was still under review and did not refer to any conviction for Ghavami.

Speaking to the Guardian from London, Iman said the family were “surprised” that she was accused of having links to opposition groups.

“She never had anything to do with the opposition really,” he said. “You could question why they are trying to take the volleyball out of the equation. They are insisting it doesn’t have anything to do with the case but she has insisted that she was arrested because of trying to attend the volleyball and her dual citizenship.


“She has said that most of the questions during interrogation were about the volleyball match. When my parents met her for the first time in prison she said the interrogation was about trying to attend the volleyball match.”

Iman said his family were looking for legal representation for Ghavami after their lawyer handed in his resignation without notice on Monday. He had given a series of “incoherent and strange” interviews to local media in Iran without Ghavami’s parents’ permission, Iman said. “It’s so stressful for us. It’s just unreal that it’s happening at all and the fact that something new happens every day is so challenging,” he added.

Ghavami has twice gone on hunger strike in protest at her detention – this month and in early October. Her arrest has drawn condemnation from the highest political level. David Cameron underlined his concerns in a meeting with Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, in September at the UN general assembly in New York.

A petition on the site started by Iman has amassed more than 725,000 signatures calling for Ghavami’s release.


Facts about Starbucks in the Middle East

Though our roots are in the United States, we are a global company with stores in 65 countries, including nearly 600 stores in 12 Middle Eastern and North African countries employing more than 10,000 partners (employees). In countries where we do business, we are proud to be a part of the fabric of the local community – working directly with local business partners who operate our stores, employing thousands of local citizens, serving millions of customers and positively impacting many others through our support of local neighborhoods and cities.

Our 300,000 partners around the globe have diverse views about a wide range of topics. Regardless of that spectrum of beliefs, Starbucks has been and remains a non-political organization. We do not support any political or religious cause. Additionally, neither Starbucks nor the company’s chairman, president and ceo Howard Schultz provide financial support to the Israeli government and/or the Israeli Army in any way.

What we do believe in, and remain focused on, is staying true to our company’s long-standing heritage – simply connecting with our partners and customers over a cup of high quality coffee and offering the best experience possible to them – regardless of geographical location.

Questions and Answers:

Is it true that Starbucks or Howard Schultz provides financial support to Israel?

No. This is absolutely untrue. Rumors that Starbucks or Howard provides financial support to the Israeli government and/or the Israeli Army are unequivocally false. Starbucks is a publicly held company and as such, is required to disclose any corporate giving each year through a proxy statement.

Has Starbucks ever sent any of its profits to the Israeli government and/or Israeli army?

No. This is absolutely untrue.

Is it true that Starbucks closed its stores in Israel for political reasons?

No. We do not make business decisions based on political issues. We decided to dissolve our partnership in Israel in 2003 due to the on-going operational challenges that we experienced in that market. After many months of discussion with our partner we came to this amicable decision. While this was a difficult decision for both companies, we believe it remains the right decision for our businesses.

Do you have plans to re-open should the opportunity arise?

We decided to dissolve our partnership in Israel in 2003 due to the on-going operational challenges that we experienced in that market.

When and where the business case makes sense and we see a fit for the Starbucks brand in a market we will work closely with a local partner to assess the feasibility of offering our brand to that community. We will therefore continue to assess all opportunities on this basis. At present, we will continue to grow our business in the Middle East as we have been very gratified by the strong reception of the brand in the region. We continue to work closely with our business partner, the Alshaya Group, in developing our plans for the region.

Do you work with a Middle East partner to operate Starbucks stores?

Through a licensing agreement with trading partner and licensee MH Alshaya WLL, a private Kuwait family business, Starbucks has operated in the Middle East since 1999. Today Alshaya Group, recognized as one of the leading and most influential retailing franchisees in the region, operates nearly 600 Starbucks stores in the Middle East and Levant region. In addition to its Starbucks stores, the Alshaya Group operates more than 2,600 retail stores in the Middle East, Russia and North Africa, providing jobs for more than 40,000 employees of more than 110 nationalities.

We are extremely fortunate and proud to have forged a successful partnership for the past fifteen years and look forward to building on this success.

In which Middle Eastern and North African countries do you operate?

We partner with Alshaya Group to operate Starbucks stores in Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and United Arab Emirates in the Middle East and North Africa region. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to work with so many communities, and we are committed to providing the Starbucks Experience while respecting the local customs and cultures of each country we are a part of. We are also committed to hiring locally, providing jobs to thousands of local citizens in the countries where we operate.



Nokia revives the brand with launch of iPad lookalike

(Reuters) – Finland’s Nokia (NOK1V.HE) launched a new brand-licensed tablet computer on Tuesday which is designed to rival Apple’s(AAPL.O) iPad Mini, just six months after the company sold its ailing phones and devices business to Microsoft (MSFT.O) for over $7 billion.

Nokia, a name which was once synonymous with mobile phones until first Apple and then Samsung Electronics (005930.KS) eclipsed the Finnish company with the advent of smart phones, said the manufacturing, distribution and sales of the new N1 tablet, will be handled under license by Taiwan’s Foxconn (2354.TW).

The aluminum-cased N1, which runs on Google’s (GOOGL.O) Android Lollipop operating software but features Nokia’s new Z Launcher intelligent home screen interface, is due to be in stores in China in the first quarter of next year for an estimated price of $249 before taxes, with sales to other markets to follow.

Sebastian Nystrom, the head of products at Nokia’s Technologies unit, said the company was looking to follow up with more devices and will also look into eventually returning to the smartphones business by brand-licensing.

“With the agreement with Microsoft, as is customary, we have this transition and we can’t do smartphones … We have a time limit. In 2016 we can again enter that business,” Nystrom told Reuters.

“It would be crazy not to look at that opportunity. Of course we will look at it.”

Microsoft last week dropped the Nokia name on its latest Lumia 535 smartphone, which runs on its Windows Phone 8 operating system, but still uses the brand for more basic phones.

After the Microsoft sale Nokia was left with its core network equipment and services business plus its smaller HERE mapping and navigation unit and Nokia Technologies, which manages the licensing of its portfolio of patents and develops new products such as the N1 and the Z Launcher.

Asked about rumors that Nokia was looking to re-enter the handset market, Chief Executive Rajeev Suri said last week he was looking into ways to bring the brand back into the consumer market through licensing deals.


Thousands mourn U.S. & Isreal

(Reuters) – Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews swayed in prayer at the funeral of U.S.-Israeli rabbi Moshe Twersky, a descendant of two rabbinical dynasties who was killed on Tuesday alongside three other rabbis in a Palestinian attack on a synagogue.

Family, friends and admirers of Twersky, whose father was a pre-eminent Jewish scholar, expressed disbelief as they addressed the crowd of mourners through loudspeakers at a seminary in West Jerusalem were the funeral was held.

“We are so shocked. He was one of the world’s most amazing people,” said Esther Greenwald, a friend of Twersky’s widow, Miriam, who was immersed in prayer for much of the service.

Two Palestinian men armed with meat cleavers and a gun entered the synagogue in a quiet ultra-Orthodox neighborhood during morning prayers and attacked around 25 worshippers, killing four and wounding eight, several seriously.

The assailants, from predominantly Palestinian East Jerusalem, were shot dead by police.

The attack was the latest in weeks of escalating violence in Jerusalem that has raised fears of a religious conflict.

At the funeral, two of Twersky’s young granddaughters wiped away tears, bowing their heads as they stood next to his widow.

Twersky, 59, had five children. He immigrated to Israel in 1990 from Boston, where his late father, Isadore, was a founding director of a Jewish studies center at Harvard University and a renowned scholar.

He was also a grandson of Joseph Soloveitchik, a renowned Boston rabbi who died in 1993.

Followers described Twersky as a rare rabbi in that he managed to bridge two worlds, being a descendant of a Hasidic dynasty that traces its roots to 18th century Ukraine while being an heir to a modern Orthodox Jewish leader in the United States, an advocate of a different form of Judaism.

“It’s an unbelievable loss for us,” said a student at one of two religious seminaries where Twersky played a leading role.

Meshulam Twersky, the rabbi’s eldest son, hailed him as someone “you could always pour your heart out to”, adding that his only solace was that his father had died in prayer.

A separate funeral service was held for the other victims — Avraham Goldberg, 68, a British-Israeli who immigrated from London in 1993, Kalman Levine, 55, who was born in the United States and Aryeh Kupinsky, 43, who also U.S.-born.

President Barack Obama condemned the synagogue attack and urged all Israelis and Palestinians to work to lower tensions after weeks of violence. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation said it would help Israeli authorities investigate the attack as three of the victims held U.S. nationality.


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Mashable editor Jim Roberts on how he approaches the news


Really like reading Jim Roberts on Mashable.

Originally posted on Gigaom:

When Mashable editor-in-chief Jim Roberts joined the site a year ago after a couple of decades working for the New York Times, some were surprised that the veteran journalist would go to a new-media upstart, especially one that wasn’t known for its high-quality journalism. But Roberts told a group of Canadian journalists Monday night that he has no regrets about his decision, and that the way Mashable approaches the news — as a social activity — is the way that content works now.

While media outlets like the New York Times spend hours thinking about what stories should go on the front page, and where to put them, the front page of Mashable is almost entirely automated, Roberts said: stories that are being shared heavily — based on the company’s proprietary Velocity ranking — show up highest, although editors can pin specific stories to the page if necessary.

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