Corruption survey ranking rankles Israel


Israel’s ranking on an annual corruption index should “turn on a warning light,” said an Israeli board member of the watchdog group that issued the survey.

Israel finished 36th among 182 countries in the corruption ranking issued Thursday by Transparency International, while the United States came in 24th. Most other Middle Eastern countries trailed Israel, with the exception of Qatar and United Arab Emirates, which ranked 22nd and 28th, respectively.

The Transparency International index rates countries according to domestic polls reflecting opinions on how corrupt their public sectors are. Under the previous government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Israel was rocked by a succession of graft scandals, but these have largely ebbed under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with the exception of the rape verdict against former President Moshe Katsav.

Israel was ranked 30th in last year’s Transparency International index, and the drop in standing was received locally with alarm.

“Israel’s disappointing grade should turn on a warning light among politicians, decision-makers and the entire public,” Amnon Dick, a member of Transparency International-Israel’s board of directors, told Yediot Achronot. “We are perceived around the world as more corrupt than we were the past, and this could have economic repercussions in the future.”

New Zealand topped the list, followed by Europe’s Scandinavian countries Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway. Somalia was deemed the most corrupt nation.

Madoff’s eldest son, Mark, found dead in suicide


From NYTimes.com:

Mark Madoff, the older of Bernard L. Madoff’s two sons, was found dead in his Manhattan apartment on Saturday, the second anniversary of the day his father was arrested for running a gigantic Ponzi scheme that shattered thousands of lives around the world.

“Mark Madoff took his own life today,” Martin Flumenbaum, Mark Madoff’s lawyer, said in a statement on Saturday. “This is a terrible and unnecessary tragedy.”

One city official said that the first notification, via 911, was at 7:27.18, on Saturday morning, and the call was for a, “possible suicide.” The call came from a fourth-floor, private house at 158 Mercer Street, a 13-story building on the edge of Soho.

Read more at NYTimes.com.

British lawmakers: Israel ‘buying’ political influence


Two British lawmakers accused supporters of Israel of “buying” influence in the Conservative Party.

Both used anti-Semitic stereotypes in their statements, reportedly made last week, which drew criticism from the body that monitors anti-Semitism in Britain.

Addressing a meeting at the House of Commons of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Friends of Al Aksa, Labor Party lawmaker Martin Linton, who chairs the parliamentary group Labor Friends of Palestine, said that “There are long tentacles of Israel in this country who are funding election campaigns and putting money into the British political system for their own ends,” the Jewish Chronicle reported on March 25.

However, Linton told the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday that he did not recognize the “tentacles” comment, but admitted he had said that Israelis with dual nationalities were funding British parties.

Another Labor lawmaker, Sir Gerald Kaufman, who is Jewish, claimed that “right-wing Jewish millionaires own” part of the Conservative Party.

Mark Gardner, spokesman for the Community Security Trust, the organization that monitors anti-Semitism in Britain, said that “Anybody who understands anti-Semitism will recognize just how ugly and objectionable these quotes are, with their imagery of Jewish control and money power. Ask the average voter who had made these comments, and they would most likely answer that it was the BNP [the far-right British National Party], not a pair of Labor lawmakers.”