Amazon’s Jeff Bezos commits $2 bln to help homeless, pre-schools

Jeff Bezos made a $2 billion commitment to helping homeless families. (Reuters)
Updated 14 September 2018
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Amazon’s Jeff Bezos commits $2 bln to help homeless, pre-schools

  • The announcement marks a deeper foray into philanthropy for Bezos
  • Bezos solicited ideas on Twitter last year for ways to donate some of his wealth

Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com Inc’s founder and the world’s richest person, said on Thursday he will commit $2 billion to helping homeless families and starting pre-schools for low-income communities.
The announcement marks a deeper foray into philanthropy for Bezos, whose fortune has soared to more than $160 billion thanks to his stake in Amazon. Dominance in e-commerce and the nascent field of cloud computing has made Amazon the world’s second-most valuable public company.
Bezos solicited ideas on Twitter last year for ways to donate some of his wealth. While he has financially supported cancer research and scholarships for immigrants, among other causes, Bezos has primarily devoted his fortune to his Blue Origin rocket company, which he described on Thursday as an “investment in the future of our planet through the development of foundational space infrastructure.”
His private ownership of The Washington Post, which has published articles critical of the White House, has also put him at odds with US President Donald Trump.
The new philanthropic effort is called the Bezos Day One Fund, a nod to the executive’s management philosophy that organizations must view every day with the fervor of a new start, or face stagnation and decline.
Within this, the “Day 1 Families Fund” will support existing non-profit organizations that offer shelter and food to young homeless families.
The “Day 1 Academies Fund” will start an organization to operate a new network of full-scholarship pre-schools for low-income communities. Citing the Amazon mantra of customer obsession, Bezos said in a tweet : “The child will be the customer.”
Bezos said in remarks to the Economic Club of Washington that it is “really really hard” for a child to catch up if they fall behind in their early years. The money will pay “gigantic dividends for decades.”
He said he did not know how much money he would eventually give away.
Bezos has yet to join “The Giving Pledge” created by fellow billionaires Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett, whose more than 180 signatories have promised to give more than half of their fortunes to philanthropy.
The Amazon chief’s wealth has become problematic for some.
Earlier this month, US Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, proposed a bill in Congress called the “Stop BEZOS” Act, which would make large corporations pay workers more or pay for public assistance programs like Medicaid. Amazon has said Sanders’ statements about the company were “inaccurate and misleading.” 


Russia pioneering return of ‘Daesh children’

Updated 35 min 35 sec ago
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Russia pioneering return of ‘Daesh children’

  • Earlier this month, 27 children, from four to 13 years old, were flown from Iraq to the Moscow region
  • The children themselves face a difficult reintegration process into life in Russia, a country they barely know

MOSCOW: As the end nears for the Daesh enclave in Syria and the fate of militants’ family members becomes a prescient issue, Russia can be seen as a pioneer in systematically returning children of extremist fighters home.
A potential homecoming of the many foreign women who have gone to live in the Daesh “caliphate” and their children, many of whom were born there, has been a subject of debate in Russia, with some security chiefs seeing them as potential threats.
Earlier this month, 27 children, from four to 13 years old, were flown from Iraq to the Moscow region.
Clutching stuffed toys and bundled in winter jackets, the children were carried off the cargo plane to face the Russian winter after years in the desert.
After health exams, they would be given into the care of their uncles, aunts, and grandparents in the Russian North Caucasus, the majority-Muslim territory in the south of Russia that is home to most of the Russians that had joined the Daesh group.
Another 30 children were brought back in late December.
“They attend school and kindergarten. Volunteers work with them and talk to them about what they have been through, explaining how they have been indoctrinated,” said Kheda Saratova, an adviser to Chechnya leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who has assumed a central role in the process of repatriating extremists’ relatives.
Russian authorities have given sometimes conflicting figures of returnees. Saratova said that about 200 children have been brought to Russia, but nearly 1,400 are still stuck in Iraq and Syria.
Kadyrov, a longtime Kremlin protege with vast resources, began efforts to bring back fighters’ children in 2017. Diplomatic negotiations are often led by Aleppo-born Chechnya senator Ziyad Sabsabi.
Endorsing Kadyrov’s efforts, President Vladimir Putin in late 2017 called the drive to return the children “a very honorable and correct deed” and promised to help.
“It’s very good for the image of Kadyrov. He seems somebody who doesn’t just use violence against terrorists but who builds mosques and hands out humanitarian aid,” said Grigory Shvedov, who edits a Caucasus-focused news website Caucasian Knot.
When he began Russia’s intervention in Syria in 2015, Putin justified it by the need to kill extremists before they come to Russia.
Although some regions have tried rehabilitation programs for extremists, these have failed to catch on at the national level. Young men who returned from Syria or Iraq and turned themselves in have faced harsh punishment.
This month Russia’s Supreme Court confirmed a 16-year-term for a young man who went to Syria as a 19-year-old student and worked as a cook and driver on Daesh-controlled territory for six months.
Returning the wives of jihadists is also complicated by the absence of an extradition agreement between Russia and Iraq, where many have been sentenced, sometimes to life, in prison.
But there is also reluctance by Russia’s powerful security services to bring home adult civilians.
FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov in November noted that many women with children exiting conflict zones have been used by militants as suicide bombers or recruiters.
“The FSB sees them as dangerous, even though many of these wives purchase their freedom from the Kurds and will eventually return one way or another,” said Saratova.
Any affiliation with Daesh terrorists is a crime, since the group is banned under Russian law.
“Some sort of amnesty has been promised to many, but it doesn’t actually happen,” said Shvedov. “They are put on trial, (charges) sometimes trumped up and sometimes real.”
Last year, two women returned from Syria to their native Dagestan and were swiftly convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison. The court eventually ruled to delay their time in prison until their children are older.
The children themselves face a difficult reintegration process into life in Russia, a country they barely know, after spending formative years in the “caliphate.”
Russian authorities hope that bringing them back into their extended families can minimize risks of radicalization once they reach adulthood in the Caucasus, a region with a history of extremism.