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The vile and immoral smearing of Jamal Khashoggi

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On Friday morning, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough framed it best: “I guess if people want to ask how low the far right — the sleaze merchants — can go, this is a pretty good place to start. This is a pretty good case study.”

The stunned Morning Joe panel were discussing a Washington Post story about a “whisper campaign” to smear Jamal Khashoggi. You read that right. The journalist — allegedly tortured and murdered inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul this month — is now getting killed a second time.

There are no words in the English language to describe this wickedness.

As the Post reported: “In recent days, a cadre of conservative House Republicans allied with Trump has been privately exchanging articles from right-wing outlets that fuel suspicion of Khashoggi, highlighting his association with the Muslim Brotherhood in his youth and raising conspiratorial questions about his work decades ago as an embedded reporter covering Osama bin Laden.”

Right. I can only pray the sleaze merchants now engaged in this posthumous character assassination never lose a loved one the way Khashoggi was snatched from the living. According to reports based on Turkish intelligence, Khashoggi had his fingers cut off while he was alive. He was dismembered with a bone saw and sliced into pieces by a team of Saudi mercenaries who listened to music on earpods while engaged in state-sanctioned savagery right out of the Middle Ages.

This was a snuff film set inside a dreary government venue.

Khashoggi, a gentle soul who went into self-imposed exile in Virginia after calling for reform in the Kingdom, was slaughtered like an animal as his fiancée waited on the street, her dreams crushed by totalitarian malevolence.

He entered a foreign embassy to obtain paperwork for marriage.

Minutes later, he was allegedly killed by those who believed they could silence a critic by spilling his blood with diplomatic impunity.

And that’s really where this story should start and end.

You’d think a premeditated, cold-blooded murder might transcend partisan gamesmanship. You’d think a crime so universally horrific — an attack that draws a clear line between good and evil, civilization and barbarism, humanity and depravity — might unite those in the West, regardless of ideology.

Even if we disagree on immigration, health care, international trade, the deficit and Elizabeth Warren’s DNA, surely we can agree that killing someone is repugnant. In the old days, murder transcended politics. I’m happy to spar over climate change or legalized drugs. Homicide requires no debate.

But, no. Instead of seeing this for what it is, the sleaze merchants on the right are trying to turn it into something it never was. Khashoggi was not a “terrorist sympathizer” any more than The Rock is a ballerina. Khashoggi covered bin Laden years ago as a journalist. His complicated, teenage relationship with his religion was ultimately rendered null and void by a rush of Enlightenment ideals.

To slander him after he was savagely murdered is to stray so far beyond the intersection of morality and decency, it disqualifies you as human. To rationalize his killing is to reveal you have no heart, no soul and no lateral intelligence.

He was fighting for the kind of values — press freedom, social equality, separation of church and state, the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness — that once defined America. And this is where a grim irony kicks into fifth gear.

At a rally on Thursday night, Donald Trump proved, once again, why he is the greatest threat to his presidency. As the world recoiled in horror over the killing of columnist Khashoggi, the U.S. president praised Republican congressman Greg Gianforte, who assaulted a reporter last year.

This is like extolling the virtues of atomic energy seconds after Hiroshima.

”Any guy who can do a body slam,” Trump told the whooping crowd in Montana, pantomiming the wrestling move, “He’s my guy! »

Across the planet, dictators raised an eyebrow and cracked their knuckles.

To be clear, I’m not saying Trump has Khashoggi’s blood on his hands. But at the very least, his disdain for the media may well have convinced Saudi rulers they could body slam a critic into oblivion and not pay a price.

Trump’s appalling attacks on the press have emboldened far less democratic leaders. And this age of us-versus-them has spawned a craven, morally bankrupt band of sewer rats that will blindly support their chosen leader, even if that means casting false aspersions on a murder victim.

“Forget politics,” said MSNBC’s Willie Geist on Friday’s Morning Joe. “On a purely human level, if you’re a part of this smear campaign, think about what you’re saying … You’re saying that a man who went into a consulate to get a marriage license and left in pieces in a bag after he was tortured and murdered, he’s the bad guy? That’s what you’re saying … It’s pathetic.”

It is also a pretty good case study in how far the far right has fallen.

Vinay Menon is the Star’s pop culture columnist based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @vinaymenon

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Anglais

‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Anglais

Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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