Israel purchases @Israel Twitter handle from porn site owner

Countries as diverse as the United States and North Korea have all struggled at the nexus of statehood and social media. Until now, none have had to purchase the Twitter handle of their country's name from the owner of a porn site. That dubious honor goes to Israel, which recently purchased the user name @israel from Israel Meléndez, a Spanish man living in Miami, who registered the name back in 2007, early in the microblogging website's history.

According to the New York Times, Meléndez struggled with his account because every tweet posted provoked anti-Semitic and anti-Israel comments. "My account was basically unused because I was getting dozens of replies every day from people who thought the account belonged to the state of Israel," Meléndez said.

The Spanish newspaper Público first reported on the transaction, noting that Twitter helped facilitate, even though the company has a policy against username squatting (although CNN did the same last year). Meléndez said that the payoff was a six-figure sum. Israel refuted that number. According to Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, the sum was actually $3,000. "I won't go into the details of our negotiations but originally he asked for a five digit sum and all we paid him was $3,000, period," Palmor told The Jerusalem Post.

On August 31, the old official address of the Foreign Ministry (@israelMFA) broadcast the tweet: "The IsraelMFA twitter account name has been changed to @Israel. Look for us here:"

Israel has been trying to increase its social media presence, with recently opened accounts on Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube.

This appears to be more a case of mistaken identity and not internet-era extortion, such as the case of In 1997, that particular domain name was created as an adult and political entertainment site, whose existence sparked a letter of objection from the real White House.


The Mafia goes green

The Italian mafia doesn't exactly have the best environmental record. This is an organization, after all, whose idea of "waste management" involves dumping hundreds of barrels of toxic waste into the Mediterranean. But now, it seems, even the wise guys are going green.

In the largest Mafia seizure of all time, Italian authorities have confiscated $1.9 billion dollars in assets and revealed that they plan to launder assets through alternative energy projects like wind and solar: 

At the center of the investigation was Sicilian businessman Vito Nicastri, 54, a man known as the "Lord of the Wind" because of his vast holdings in alternative energy concerns, mostly wind farms.

General Antonio Girone, head of the national anti-Mafia agency DIA, said Nicastri was linked to Matteo Messina Denaro, believed to be Mafia's current "boss of bosses." Investigators said Nicastri's companies ran numerous wind farms as well as factories that produced solar energy panels.

"It's no surprise that the Sicilian Mafia was infiltrating profitable areas like wind and solar energy," Palermo magistrate Francesco Messineo told a news conference.

Officials said the operation was based on a 2,400-page investigative report and followed the arrest of Nicastri last year. Senator Costantino Garraffa, a member of the parliamentary anti-Mafia committee, said the Mafia was trying to break into the "new economy," of alternative energy as it sought out virgin ventures to launder money from drugs and other rackets.

Lord of the Wind?

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