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New corruption cases entangle Netanyahu aides

Israeli police alleged on Tuesday that Benjamin Netanyahu’s former spokesman tried to bribe a judge to drop a fraud case against Netanyahu’s wife, the latest corruption investigation encircling the long-serving prime minister.
The new bribery case was one of two revealed on Tuesday involving the same former spokesman, a close Netanyahu confidant. 
Police also named him as someone they had arrested two days earlier in a separate case involving allegations of corruption at Israel’s biggest telecoms company.
The rightwing leader, in office for 12 years since 1996, has seen his dominance of Israeli politics threatened by corruption investigations since police recommended a week ago that he be indicted for bribery and fraud.
He has denied wrongdoing in what are now four separate investigations, including two in which he is personally a suspect. He says the allegations are a political “witch hunt”.
In the latest case, police said former Netanyahu spokesman Nir Hefetz had offered through an inter…
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Canada's PM says India trip about broader ties not just political ones

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau downplayed talk of a snub by the Indian government on his first state visit to the country this week, and cast his trip as being focused on building business and cultural ties and not just political ones.
“We are here in such large number and for so many days for a very simple reason. 
India matters to Canada,” Trudeau told a gathering in Mumbai on Tuesday, where he said his delegation had just inked significant investments in Canada, by Indian tech companies like Tech Mahindra .
“We welcomed over C$1 billion worth of commercial contracts and agreements,” said Trudeau. “This will lead to the creation of more than 5,800 good Canadian jobs.”
Trudeau’s eight-day trip got off to an awkward start after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who often greets his counterparts on their arrival, sent a junior minister from the agriculture department to meet him at the airport. 
By contrast, Modi himself was on the tarmac to greet and bear-hug Israeli Prime Minister Ben…

Syria pro-government forces enter Afrin to aid Kurds against Turkey

Pro-Syrian government forces entered Syria’s northwestern Afrin region on Tuesday to help a Kurdish militia there fend off a Turkish assault, raising the prospect of a wider escalation of the conflict.
Soon after the convoy of militia fighters - waving Syrian flags and brandishing weapons - entered Afrin, Syrian state media reported that Turkey had targeted them with shellfire.
The confrontation pits the Turkish army and allied Syrian rebel groups directly against the military alliance backing the government of President Bashar al-Assad, further scrambling northwest Syria’s already messy battlefield.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan described the convoy as being made up of “terrorists” acting independently. 
He said Turkish artillery fire had forced it to turn back, although the Kurdish militia denied this.
A commander in the pro-Assad military alliance told Reuters the forces had turned back after coming under fire, but then resumed their progress and were now in Afrin.
Syrian television h…

Lebanon ready to confront any ‘Israeli aggression at all costs’ – army

The Lebanese army has reaffirmed its readiness to confront the “Israeli aggression” by any means at its disposal if the ongoing disputes and already tense relations between the neighbors escalate into an armed confrontation.
“I reaffirm again our categorical rejection of the Israeli enemy infringing on Lebanon’s sovereignty and its sacred right to exploit all its economic resources,” General Joseph Aoun said, as quoted by the Lebanese army. 
“The army will not spare any method available to confront any Israeli aggression, whatever that costs.”
Earlier this month, Lebanon signed its first contracts to explore two offshore zones for oil and gas. 
One of the parcels included exploration rights to the so-called Block 9, a triangle off the coast that is around 860 square kilometers – which Israel claims the rights to. 
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman described the move as “very provocative,” noting that Block 9 falls under Tel Aviv’s sovereignty. 
As Israel continues to assert its rig…

US, S. Korean militaries to conduct joint drills despite detente with Pyongyang

The US and South Korea will go ahead with military drills off the Korean peninsula despite the “Peace Olympics” and the recent thaw in North-South relations, the South’s defense ministry said in a report to the National Assembly.
In the run-up to the Olympic Games in PyeongChang, Seoul was able to convince Washington to delay the start of their annual winter/springtime joint military exercises until after the games. 
The temporary halt to the annual Foal Eagle/Key Resolve US-South Korea joint military exercises allowed North and South Korea to develop a dialogue that the South hopes will ease the mounting tension in the region.
On Tuesday, a day after Pyongyang warned against the resumption of the military drills, South Korea’s defense ministry announced that the allies will still hold the Key Resolve and Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises. 
Holding the drills this year, the S. Korean military said it will enhance the so-called 4D Operational Concept amid allies which aims “to detect, disru…

Ancient elephants & Mayan shrine: Massive underwater caves reveal staggering history

Archaeologists in Mexico have been showing off discoveries unearthed during their aquatic expeditions into the world’s largest underwater cave.
Researchers from the Gran Acuifero Maya (GAM) exploration and preservation group presented ancient relics recovered from the site on Monday, including fossils of a type of ancient elephant, giant sloths and a shrine to a Mayan god. 
It’s believed that desperate animals ventured into the caves in search of water at times of severe drought, some of which then became trapped.
"It’s very unlikely that there is another site in the world with these characteristics. 
There is an impressive amount of archaeological artefacts inside, and the level of preservation is also impressive," Guillermo de Anda, an underwater archaeologist, told a press conference Monday.
Two networks of underwater caves, known as the Sac Actun and Dos Ojos, totalling 350km (217 miles) in length were discovered last month in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. 
They were found to in…

‘Mysterious’ Martian rocks captured by NASA on Red Planet

NASA’s longest-serving Mars rover has returned pictures of a mysterious rock formation similar to those found on Earth’s mountains – a discovery scientists believe could point to the presence of water on the Red Planet.
The space agency’s Opportunity rover celebrated its 5,000th Martian day on the surface of the planet by beaming back images of a series of corrugated “rock stripes” on the slopes of an area known as Perseverance Valley.
“Perseverance Valley is a special place, like having a new mission again after all these years,” said Ray Arvidson, the deputy principal investigator from Washington University in the US. 
“We already knew it was unlike any place any Mars rover has seen before, even if we don’t yet know how it formed, and now we’re seeing surfaces that look like stone stripes. It’s mysterious.”
The stripes are reminiscent of a similar feature found on Earth when there is repeated freeze and thaw cycles of wet soil. 
However, the Opportunity team have not ruled out other fact…