Shabtai Shavit, Israeli spymaster who led Mossad in 1990s, dies at 84

Shabtai Shavit. (Photo/Wikipedia)
Shabtai Shavit. (Photo/Wikipedia)
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Updated 06 September 2023
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Shabtai Shavit, Israeli spymaster who led Mossad in 1990s, dies at 84

Shabtai Shavit. (Photo/Wikipedia)
  • The Mossad has a history of targeting and killing scientists developing weaponry seen as a threat to Israel, which apparently continued under Shavit’s watch

JERUSALEM: Shabtai Shavit, the Israeli spymaster who was credited with advancing Israel’s historic peace treaty with Jordan during his term as director of the Mossad intelligence agency, died Tuesday in Italy. He was 84.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said Shavit died while on vacation in Italy, without specifying a cause of death. The statement quoted Mossad chief, David Barnea, praising Shavit as “a pillar of the world of operations, intelligence, security and strategy of the state of Israel.”
Shavit led the Mossad from 1989 to 1996, guiding the agency through a critical juncture in Middle East history. He oversaw Israeli operations on foreign soil during the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War and the first Gulf War in 1991. Over more than three decades in the service, he spent some two years in an intelligence post in Iran, before the Islamic Revolution that transformed Iran from an Israeli ally to its strongest foe.
During his time at the helm, Shavit played an important role in establishing full diplomatic relations with Jordan in 1994 — ending a state of war that had prevailed between the neighbors for nearly a half-century.
The Mossad has a history of targeting and killing scientists developing weaponry seen as a threat to Israel, which apparently continued under Shavit’s watch. In 1990, two Mossad agents in Brussels were widely suspected to have killed Gerald Bull, a Canadian missile engineer who had promised to build a “supergun” for Iraq that could fire huge shells at Tel Aviv. More recently, the Mossad’s hand has been discerned in attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists and installations as Israel seeks to disrupt its nuclear program.
Other operations on foreign soil widely believed to have been carried out by the Mossad during Shavit’s tenure include the mysterious killing of Atef Bseiso, a top intelligence aide to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, in Paris in 1992 and a shooting that killed the leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group, Fathi Shiqaqi, in Malta in 1995.
Soon after he retired as Mossad chief, Shavit served as CEO of Maccabi Healthcare Services, one of the country’s main health maintenance organizations. In its condolence announcement, the Mossad said Shavit crucially contributed to preserving knowledge of the intelligence agency and its commanders for future generations.
As turmoil over the push by Netanyahu’s government to overhaul the judiciary engulfed the Israeli security establishment earlier this year, Shavit joined several hundred former Mossad employees, including four other former chiefs, in signing a statement in March opposing the government’s plan to weaken the Supreme Court.
He and the other officials said they held Netanyahu “directly responsible for the serious harm” that the overhaul proposal could inflict on Israel’s national security.

 


Israel to revise Eurovision entries said to allude to Hamas attack

Israel to revise Eurovision entries said to allude to Hamas attack
Updated 03 March 2024
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Israel to revise Eurovision entries said to allude to Hamas attack

Israel to revise Eurovision entries said to allude to Hamas attack
  • The selected song will be revealed on March 10

JERUSALEM: Israel on Sunday said it had asked lyricists to revise its proposed Eurovision Song Contest entries, potentially heading off a dispute with organizers over political content.
Authorities last week said Israel would not be able to participate in this year’s edition of the popular competition if organizers rejected the song choice, which reportedly referenced victims of Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel that triggered the ongoing war in Gaza.
Eurovision rules ban political content.
In a statement on Sunday, Israeli public broadcaster Kan said President Isaac Herzog had called for “necessary adjustments” that would ensure Israel’s inclusion in the event, which it has won four times.
This year’s competition is set to be held in Sweden in May.
The Israeli broadcaster “contacted the lyricists of the two selected songs, ‘October Rain’ which was chosen in first place, and ‘Dance Forever’ which came in second place, and asked them to readapt the texts, while preserving their artistic freedom,” the statement said.
“Among the new texts that will be proposed, Kan will choose the song that will be sent to the Eurovision supervisory committee, so that it approves Israel’s participation in the competition.”
The selected song, to be performed by 20-year-old Russian-Israeli singer Eden Golan, will be revealed on March 10, the statement said.
One line from the original lyrics of “October Rain” read: “They were all good children, every one of them.”
“There is no air left to breathe, There is no place for me,” the song ends, according to Kan, which has published the lyrics in full on its website.
Israel in 1973 became the first non-European country to enter Eurovision, and its participation and hosting of the event have regularly run into controversy.
In 2019, Icelandic band Hatari, who previously challenged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a Nordic folk wrestling match, made pro-Palestinian statements during the vote count in Tel Aviv.
Organizers also gave US pop icon Madonna a ticking off after her dancers flouted political neutrality rules by wearing Israeli and Palestinian flags on their costumes.
This year’s competition comes against the backdrop of the war, sparked by the Hamas attack which resulted in the deaths of around 1,160 people in Israel, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.
Militants also took about 250 hostages, with 130 still held in Gaza although 31 are believed to be dead, Israeli officials said.
Israel’s military response has killed at least 30,410 people in Gaza, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.
Kan late last month said it had “no intention to replace the song,” threatening to withdraw unless the European Broadcasting Union which oversees the song contest approves its entry.
But Herzog “emphasized that it is precisely at a time when those who hate us are seeking to repress and boycott the State of Israel” that the country “must raise its voice... loud and clear in every world forum,” Sunday’s Kan statement said.


Heinz Arabia insures ketchup fans against spills and splotches

Heinz Arabia insures ketchup fans against spills and splotches
Updated 28 February 2024
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Heinz Arabia insures ketchup fans against spills and splotches

Heinz Arabia insures ketchup fans against spills and splotches
  • With almost 48 percent of Heinz customers facing ketchup accidents regularly, Heinz Arabia has partnered with employee benefits app to introduce the world's first ketchup insurance policy

DUBAI: A barrage of social media posts about ketchup-related accidents has prompted Heinz Arabia to “right the wrongs” by offering a solution to those who get a little carried away with their favorite condiment.

On Wednesday, the food manufacturer announced a new insurance policy covering 57 different types of ketchup incident, from stains on carpets to spills on clothing and splatters on pets, ceilings or sofas.

Currently, the quirky policy only covers the UAE, but Heinz Arabia told Arab News it would be launched in Saudia Arabia later in the week.

The company has promised to provide swift, hassle-free compensation to those who need it. Customers can claim through the MyBenefits app, with rewards including home cleaning services, laundry assistance, handyman services and spa treatments.

“Here at Heinz, we know our fans’ love for our ketchup can sometimes be — well, a bit over the top,” said Passant El Ghannam, head of marketing at Kraft Heinz MEA. “Our research tells us that 48 percent of them have ketchup accidents all the time, but 91 percent swear their love for Heinz makes it worth it.

“That’s why we’re rolling out ketchup insurance — to turn messy moments into joy and convenience for our die-hard fans, letting them enjoy their ketchup incidents worry-free.”

Urging ketchup consumers to “know their rights,” Heinz is encouraging individuals who experience ketchup-related incidents matching any of the 57 claims to share them on social media using the hashtag #HeinzKetchupInsurance.


Spaceship Odysseus lying sideways after dramatic moon touchdown

Spaceship Odysseus lying sideways after dramatic moon touchdown
Updated 24 February 2024
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Spaceship Odysseus lying sideways after dramatic moon touchdown

Spaceship Odysseus lying sideways after dramatic moon touchdown
  • Shares of stocks of Intuitive Machines, maker of the lunar lander, descend fast after CEO's revelation
  • Odysseus is still considered the first success for a new fleet of NASA-funded lunar landers

WASHINGTON: The first American spaceship to the Moon since the Apollo era is probably lying sideways following its dramatic landing, the company that built it said Friday, even as ground controllers work to download data and surface photos from the uncrewed robot.
The Odysseus spacecraft landed near the lunar south pole Thursday at 6:23 p.m. Eastern Time (2323 GMT), after a nail-biting final descent when ground teams had to switch to a backup guidance system and took several minutes to establish radio contact after the lander came to rest.
Intuitive Machines, the company behind this first-ever lunar landing by a private company, initially posted on social media that its hexagonal spaceship was upright, but CEO Steve Altemus told reporters on Friday that statement was based on misinterpreted data.
Instead, it appears that it caught a foot on the surface and tipped over, coming to rest horizontally with its top perched on a small rock — taking some shine off an accomplishment widely hailed as a historic achievement.

The revelation by Altemus caused shares of Intuitive Machines to tumble 30 percent in extended trade, wiping out a Friday rally after the dramatic touchdown.

On Feb. 22, 2024, Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus lunar lander captured a wide field of view image of Schomberger crater on the Moon approximately 200 km uprange from the intended landing site. (X: @Int_Machines)

The stock of the first private company to successfully land on the moon nearly doubled from $4.98 before the Feb. 15 launch to $9.59 as of Friday’s close. Friday’s late-day sell-off left it below $7.
Still, the company said the spacecraft is “alive and well” and engineers were sending commands to the vehicle, and NASA officials at a news conference praised the effort.
The first touchdown on the lunar surface by a US spacecraft in more than half a century enthused investors of fellow space startups, sending up shares of companies such as Astra Space and Satellogic. They slipped between 0.5 percent and 2.8 percent in after-hours trading.
Stephen Altemus, CEO of Houston-based Intuitive Machines, which built and flew the lander, said the vehicle is believed to have caught one of its six landing feet on the lunar surface during its final descent and tipped over, coming to rest on its side propped up on a rock.

The Texas-based company’s lunar lander touched down at the Malapert A crater, about 300 kilometers (190 miles) from the moon’s south pole on February 22.
It was sent to the moon on Feb. 15 using a Falcon 9 rocket launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The company, co-founded in 2013 by serial space industry investor Kam Ghaffarian and NASA veterans Altemus and Tim Crain, is awaiting first images from the lunar surface.
The landing could open the doors to investments and government contracts, helping space companies ride out what has been a tough period of funding due to an uncertain economy.

A NASA probe called the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter should be able to photograph Odysseus over the weekend, helping pinpoint its exact location.
Altemus said that while solar arrays were on the top-facing side, the team’s ability to download data from the science experiments on board was being hampered because of antennas facing downward that “are unusable for transmission back to Earth — and so that really is a limiter in our ability to communicate and get the right data down so we get everything we need for the mission.”
Because of complications associated with the landing, a decision was taken not to shoot out an external camera to capture the descent as it happened, according to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which built the “EagleCam” device.
But the team will still attempt to deploy it from the ground to try to obtain an outside image of Odysseus.

Odysseus is still considered the first success for a new fleet of NASA-funded lunar landers designed to carry out science experiments that will pave the way for the return of American astronauts to the Moon later this decade, under the Artemis program.
A moonshot by another American company last month ended in failure, raising the stakes to demonstrate that private industry has what it takes to repeat a feat last achieved by US space agency NASA during its manned Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

Underlining the technical challenges, Intuitive Machines’ own navigation technology failed and ground engineers were forced to jury-rig a solution, hastily writing a software patch to switch to an experimental NASA laser guidance system that was intended to run only as a technology demonstration.
Altemus later revealed Odysseus’ own laser system failed to turn on because someone had forgotten to flip a safety switch before takeoff, which he described as “an oversight on our part.”
Confirmation of landing was supposed to come seconds after the milestone, but instead around 15 minutes passed before a faint signal was detected, enough to declare the spaceship was in one piece and had met its goal.

NASA paid Intuitive Machines $118 million to ship six experiments under an initiative which delegates cargo services to the private sector in a bid to achieve savings and stimulate a wider lunar economy.
Odysseus also carries cargo for private customers, including a reflective heat wrapping developed by Columbia Sportswear and used to protect the spaceship’s cryogenic propulsion tank.
The United States, along with international partners, want to develop long-term habitats on the south pole, harvesting ice there for drinking water — and for rocket fuel for eventual onward voyages to Mars.
The first crewed landing under NASA’s Artemis program is set to take place no sooner than 2026. China, meanwhile, plans to put its first crew on the Moon in 2030, opening a new era of space competition.
The mission was the fourth attempt at soft lunar touchdown by the private sector. Intuitive Machines joins the national space agencies of the Soviet Union, United States, China, India and Japan in an exclusive club of landing on the Moon.

 


New Zealand opens first ‘kiwi hospital’ for injured birds

New Zealand opens first ‘kiwi hospital’ for injured birds
Updated 24 February 2024
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New Zealand opens first ‘kiwi hospital’ for injured birds

New Zealand opens first ‘kiwi hospital’ for injured birds
  • Roughly 26,000 brown kiwi live in the wild across New Zealand — a thousand more than in 2008, when conservationists classed them “Nationally Vulnerable”

WELLINGTON: New Zealand on Friday opened its first hospital exclusively treating kiwi birds, and vets have already nursed the first patient back to health — a chick nicknamed “Splash” that tumbled into a swimming pool.
Rising numbers of the once-threatened national bird have led to the construction of a purpose-built facility in Kerikeri, a three-hour drive north of Auckland.
The Department of Conservation told AFP the new kiwi hospital is the first of its kind in New Zealand.
The rehabilitation center, built by local conservation group Kiwi Coast, is in the heart of the Northland region, which has a brown kiwi population of nearly 10,000.
Roughly 26,000 brown kiwi live in the wild across New Zealand — a thousand more than in 2008, when conservationists classed them “Nationally Vulnerable.”
The species is now listed as “Not Threatened.”

The population growth is mostly due to conservation groups culling predators like stoats and ferrets, while dog owners have been offered special courses to teach pets not to attack the flightless bird.

With numbers climbing, Kiwi Coast co-ordinator Ngaire Sullivan said a specialist hospital was needed for sick or injured birds.

“Some will be struck by cars — the more kiwi we have, the more likely that there’s going to be the odd one that needs help,” she told AFP.

“We wanted to make sure stressed kiwi get the care they need.”

The center treated its first patient even before Friday’s official opening, when a young kiwi managed to squeeze through a fence and fall into a swimming pool filter.

“He was discovered, near death, the following morning by a builder working at a nearby site,” said Sullivan.

The kiwi, which spent a few days being treated, was named “Splash” by staff before being released.

“He got his nickname as that is how he was discovered — splashing about in the filter box,” said Sullivan.

“Kiwi cannot swim very well or climb out of vertical slippery-sided areas.”

Before the hospital opened, injured or ill birds had to be driven at least an hour to get treatment.

“There were incidents where kiwi didn’t survive the journey, which is one of the main reasons we started the center,” Sullivan added.

The hospital, run by volunteers, has veterinary facilities and isolation pens, “so we don’t spread diseases,” Sullivan explained.

Kiwi patients will be treated for up to three months before being returned to the wild.

Sullivan says the hospital is important to keep the kiwi population healthy.

“The tide has turned for the brown kiwi,” Emily King, a kiwi expert, told AFP.

The Department of Conservation technical adviser said the population growth is a result of successful predator management, “but without sustained effort, brown kiwi could easily slide back into a threatened status.”

 


US police shoot and kill man holding a plastic fork

US police shoot and kill man holding a plastic fork
Updated 22 February 2024
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US police shoot and kill man holding a plastic fork

US police shoot and kill man holding a plastic fork

LOS ANGELES: Police in Los Angeles have released body-cam footage of an incident in which officers shot and killed a man holding a plastic fork.

One of the police involved in the February 3 shooting in a warehouse in downtown Los Angeles is under investigation to determine if the officer complied with rules on use of deadly force, authorities said Tuesday.
The man who was shot has been identified as Jason Lee Maccani, age 36.
The footage released Tuesday shows a man being confronted by half a dozen police officers in the corridor of a building.
They tell the man to approach them with his arms raised, and at first he seems to comply.
But he fails to stop moving and keeps walking with his hands clenched in fists, holding an object that the officers said they thought was a screwdriver.
Officers tried to subdue him but failed, police said in a statement.
In the video, the man is seen approaching the police when shots are heard.
“The suspect grabbed one of the officers and the Beanbag Shotgun she was holding, resulting in an Officer-Involved Shooting,” it said.
Police went to the building after someone called an emergency number to report an “assault with a deadly weapon” in a warehouse.
The caller said this person was under the influence of drugs or alcohol and threatening employers with a stick.
Maccani died in a nearby hospital.
None of the warehouse employees or police were hurt.