JERUSALEM – Benjamin Netanyahu seems poised for re-election as Israel’s prime minister in today’s voting, the result of the failure of his opponents to unite behind a viable candidate against him – and the fact that most Israelis no longer seem to believe it’s possible to reach a peace settlement with the Palestinians.
The widely held assumption of a victory by Netanyahu comes despite his grim record: there is no peace process, there is growing diplomatic isolation and a slowing economy, and his main ally has been forced to step down as foreign minister because of corruption allegations.
Even so, Netanyahu has managed to convince many Israelis that he offers a respectable choice by projecting experience, toughness and great powers of communication in both native Hebrew and flawless American English.
Russia evacuating people from Syria
Russia is sending two planes to Lebanon to evacuate Russians from Syria, the government said Monday, a move that suggests Moscow is growing doubtful that Syrian President Bashar Assad can cling to power in the face of an armed uprising.
The Emergency Situations Ministry said two of its planes were scheduled to fly to Beirut today to carry more than 100 Russians from Syria.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has said that it has contingency plans in place to evacuate thousands of Russians from Syria. Russian officials said both planes and sea vessels could be used in the effort.
Family accused in embezzling scheme
A Montana family and their accountant are accused of tacking $70 million in bogus charges onto customer phone bills nationwide, then funneling some of that money through a religious organization to buy land and pay for the husband’s legal bills.
Steven Sann, his wife Terry, son Nathan and accountant Robert Braach run a maze of nine companies engaged in cramming, or adding unauthorized charges to a customer’s phone bill, according to a civil complaint filed this month by the Federal Trade Commission.
When customers complained or phone companies grew suspicious about one of the Sanns’ companies charging phone bills, they would switch over to another company, the complaint says.
Some of the money went to buy 94 acres in western Montana where Steven Sann runs a youth camp, the FTC alleges. Some went to pay for Sann’s defense in an unrelated medical marijuana case. In those instances, the money first was deposited in the bank account of Bibliologic, a religious organization set up by Sann and Braach.