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Netanyahu’s wife admits criminal wrongdoing in meals catering case

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Monday, June 17th, 2019

Sara Netanyahu | Courtesy : Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, appeared in court on Sunday (June 16) to admit criminal wrongdoing over the misuse of state funds to order catered meals, in a plea bargain carrying no jail time.

“Mrs. Netanyahu was convicted today after pleading guilty in a criminal offense using 175,000 shekels (48,570 USD) of public money for private expenses, and all this happened in the prime minister’s house. This result was achieved through a plea bargain in which she admits and pays a fine of 55,000 shekels (15,265 USD),” said prosecutor Erez Padan.

Under the agreement, a fraud charge was reduced to a lesser offense and she will pay the state 45,000 shekels ($12,490) in reimbursement and a 10,000 shekel ($2,775) fine.

According to the original indictment, Sara Netanyahu, along with a government employee, fraudulently obtained from the state more than $100,000 for hundreds of meals supplied by restaurants, bypassing regulations that prohibit the practice if a cook is employed at home.

Smiling broadly, Netanyahu faced a phalanx of cameras in the courthouse before the session got underway.

At the hearing, a judge ratified the plea deal, convicting her of the criminal charge of intentionally exploiting another person’s mishandling of state money for her own benefit, after prosecutors dropped the more serious offense of fraud.

“The verdict means that a person with access to the public funds, regardless of how senior they are, cannot treat them as its own. Taking public funds in significant amounts, throughout several years, against the rules and instructions, is a criminal offense that carries conviction and concrete financial punishment,” said prosecutor Jenny Avni. (REUTERS)

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Pentagon removing Turkey from F-35 program after its purchase of Russian missile defense

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, July 19th, 2019

F-35 Fighter Jet | Courtesy: Lockheed Martin / Reuters

The United States said on Wednesday (July 17) that it was removing Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet program, a move that had been long threatened and expected after Ankara began accepting delivery of an advanced Russian missile defense system last week.

The first parts of the S-400 air defense system were flown to the Murted military airbase northwest of Ankara on Friday, sealing Turkey’s deal with Russia, which Washington had struggled for months to prevent.

“The U.S. and other F-35 partners are aligned in this decision to suspend Turkey from the program and initiate the process to formally remove Turkey from the program,” said Ellen Lord, the Undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment.

Used by NATO and other U.S. allies, the F-35 stealth fighter jet is the world’s most advanced jet fighter. Washington is concerned that deploying the S-400 with the F-35 would allow Russia to gain too much inside information of the stealth system.

“The F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence-collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities,” the White House said in a statement earlier on Wednesday.

Washington has long said the acquisition may lead to Turkey’s expulsion from the F-35 program.

The Pentagon had already laid out a plan to remove Turkey from the program, including halting any new training for Turkish pilots on the advanced aircraft. (REUTERS)

(Production: Labib Nasir)

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Over 21,000 evacuated after torrential rain in Guangxi, China

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, July 19th, 2019

Rescuers evacuate residents @Daxu Town, Lingchuan County, Guilin City, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, south China | Courtesy: Reuters

Over 21,000 people have been evacuated Wednesday following continuous torrential rain in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, according to the provincial emergency management department.

In the region, a total of 47 counties and districts in nine cities, including Nanning, Liuzhou, Guilin, and Baise, suffered floods which affected 65,000 hectares of crops and destroyed 1,250 houses.

The local government activated contingency plans for rescue and relief work.

Both rescue and relief efforts are still currently underway. (REUTERS)

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Chip allowing brain-computer communication to come ‘before the end of next year’ — Elon Musk

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Thursday, July 18th, 2019

Graphics showing implantation of threads and chips | Courtesy: Neuralink/ Reuters

Elon Musk’s start-up Neuralink is aiming to connect the human brain with a machine interface “before the end of next year,” the CEO announced on Tuesday (July 16).

Speaking at a conference in San Francisco, Musk presented ‘version one” of his neuron-sized threads and microprocessor chips that he claims will help people with severe brain injuries and eventually grow to allow humans to connect with advancing artificial intelligence (A.I.) technology.

The implantation of the threads, which Musk said are a tenth the size of a human hair, require the use of a special robot, but a minimally invasive surgery.

Once the threads are implanted into the brain, their connecting chip would wirelessly connect with a device worn outside the body.

Neuralink is seeking U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval and while Musk said his preliminary task is to help people with disabilities interface with computers using their minds, the end goal is to keep up with A.I.

Tuesday’s conference was designed as a marketing tool – Musk told the crowd gathered at the California Academy of Sciences that Neuralink was actively seeking out potential employees to join their team. (REUTERS)

(Production: Bob Mezan)

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