Israeli authorities have inspected the offices of NSO Group, a surveillance outfit, in response to the Pegasus project investigation into abuses of the company’s spyware by several government clients, as per The Guardian report.
Officials from the Defence Ministry visited the company’s offices near Tel Aviv on Wednesday, at the same time when Defence Minister Benny Gantz arrived in Paris for a pre-arranged visit. Gantz discussed the Pegasus revelations with his French counterpart.
French President Emmanuel Macron is one of the high-profile figures whose phone numbers appeared on a leaked database of 50,000 numbers that are believed to have been selected as candidates for possible surveillance by the clients of NSO, as per the report. Macron spoke to Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett last week to stress the importance of “properly investigating” the project’s findings.
According to early media reports, the moves on NSO’s offices were described as a raid but the company stated that the authorities had only “visited” and not “raided” its premises.
The NSO clarified that it had been informed in advance that Defence Ministry officials, responsible for overseeing commercial exports of sensitive cyber-exports, would be doing an inspection. “The company is working in full transparency with the Israeli authorities,” the report added.
The Defence Ministry tweeted that the visit conducted by several state bodies was related to disclosures stemming from the Pegasus project — a consortium of 17 media outlets, including The Guardian, which revealed last week that government clients around the world have used the hacking software sold by NSO to target human rights activists, journalists, and lawyers.
As the scale of the disclosures has become clearer, diplomatic pressure has mounted on Israel to explain the nature of the relationship between NSO and the state under the tenure of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the report stated.
The wider Pegasus project investigation found that the Israeli government gave the NSO explicit permission in 2017 to try to sell the hacking tools to Saudi Arabia in a deal reportedly worth at least $55 million, the report added.
Gantz told French Defence Minister Florence Parly, on Wednesday, that Israel is investigating the matter “with the utmost seriousness”, as per a statement from the Israeli Defence Ministry.
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Australia: Sydney marks wettest year since 1858 as more floods predict
Authorities prepared for severe floods in Australia’s east on Thursday as Sydney marked its wettest year in 164 years. More torrential rain is predicted to fall over the next three days.
Australia’s largest metropolis has experienced 2,200 mm of rain in a year for the first time since records began in 1858, and there are still almost three months left in 2022.
Approximately 2,213 mm (87 inches) of rain has fallen on Sydney by Thursday afternoon, breaking the previous record of 2,194 mm recorded in 1950.
In the five hours since 9 a.m. local time (2200 GMT, Wednesday), more than 58 mm have fallen, according to Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) live data.
As Australia’s east coast continues to experience the exceptional La Nina weather pattern for a third straight year, further downpours are predicted for the rest of 2022.
Heading into late spring and summer, we’re still in this active La Nina period so we can expect more and more rainfall and that does increase the risk of flooding,” BoM forecaster Jonathan How told ABC television.
Three times in the past two years, flooding has affected Sydney’s suburbs, displacing tens of thousands of people.
Authorities in Sydney cautioned citizens to be on the lookout for flash floods and to avoid driving on flooded roads as a wild weather system was anticipated to drop torrential rains through the weekend across a large area of Australia’s east.
The capacity of many dams and rivers has already been reached. In order to help avert future floods, the state of New South Wales has committed to increasing the height of the wall at Sydney’s Warragamba Dam, which provides 80% of the city’s water.
South Africa seeks cabinet approval for a $8.5 billion climate plan to reduce coal use
In order to secure funding from some of the world’s wealthiest nations, South Africa’s government will seek cabinet approval for a $8.5 billion plan to transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity.
According to Vincent Magwenya, a spokesman for South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, a second draught of the investment plan has been completed and is being shared with “key stakeholders” before being submitted to cabinet.
The development is a significant step toward completing the pact with the funding partners – the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, France, and the European Union – that was first announced at the COP26 international climate summit in Glasgow last year.
The plan “outlines the investments required to achieve South Africa’s ambitious climate targets,” Magwenya said in a response to a query. “The objective remains to complete this process by COP27,” which will take place in Egypt in November, he said.
South Africa’s landmark climate finance agreement has been hailed as a model for assisting other coal-dependent developing countries in transitioning to cleaner energy, with Indonesia and Vietnam among the nations set to sign similar agreements. Its fate could have repercussions at COP27, which is expected to focus on the needs of poorer countries adapting to global warming.
The plan outlines how the funds will be spent, with the investment partners focusing on converting coal-fired power plants owned by state utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. to produce renewable energy. South Africa is also advocating for funding to support the development of green hydrogen and electric vehicle industries.
People familiar with the discussions previously told Bloomberg News that the plan had been submitted but declined to say what was in it because no public announcement had been made.
The funding talks have stalled in recent weeks, with US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry urging President Ramaphosa to move forward with the agreement and South African Environment Minister Barbara Creecy bemoaning its complexity.
South Africa is the world’s 13th largest source of climate-warming greenhouse gases, relying on coal for more than 80% of its electricity.
Twitter confirms Elon Musk’s buyout offer
Twitter on Tuesday (local time) confirmed that Tesla CEO Elon Musk sent a letter saying he will go through the deal he signed early this year to buy the platform for USD 44 billion.
“Twitter issued this statement about today’s news: We received the letter from the Musk parties which they have filed with the SEC. The intention of the Company is to close the transaction at $54.20 per share,” the official account of Twitter Investor Relations wrote. After the news broke, that the billionaire is proposing to continue with USD 54.20 per share to buy social media platforms, Twitter’s share price increased to 12.7 per cent before trading was stopped for the second time. On the contrary, Tesla’s shares dropped by about 3 per cent. Musk has been locked in a bitter legal battle with Twitter since announcing in July this year that he was pulling the plug on his USD 44 billion purchase of the company following a complex, and months-long courtship.
Musk had cancelled the deal, claiming that he was misled by Twitter concerning the number of bot accounts on its platform. These allegations were forthrightly rejected by the company. The latest report on the Twitter buyout deal comes ahead of the Delaware Court hearing on 17 October, where the two sides are expected to clash over the multi-billion dollar buyout deal. Earlier, Twitter had sought an order directing Tesla CEO to complete deal at $54.20 per share.
Carolyn Bertozzi, Morten Meldal, Barry Sharpless awarded Nobel Prize in Chemistry
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on Wednesday awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2022 to Carolyn R. Bertozzi, Morten Meldal and K. Barry Sharpless.
Bertozzi from Stanford University, US; Meldal from University of Copenhagen, Denmark and Sharpless from Scripps Research, US have been awarded “for the development of click chemistry and bio orthogonal chemistry”.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the 2022 #NobelPrize in Chemistry to Carolyn R. Bertozzi, Morten Meldal, and K. Barry Sharpless for the development of click chemistry and bioorthogonal chemistry,” the official Twitter feed of the Nobel Prize said in a tweet.
Barry Sharpless became the fifth individual to receive the Nobel Prize for the second time. He follows in the footsteps of John Bardeen, Marie Sklodowska Curie, Linus Pauling, and Frederick Sanger, all of whom received two Nobel Prizes.Prior to this, Sharpless was awarded the chemistry prize in 2001. Barry Sharpless and Morten Meldal have laid the foundation for a functional form of chemistry—click chemistryin which molecular building blocks snap together quickly and efficiently. Carolyn Bertozzi has taken click chemistry to a new dimension and started utilising it in living organisms.
Danish Queen Margrethe apologises for stripping grandchildren of royal titles
Danish Queen Margrethe II apologized for stripping four of her eight grandchildren of their royal titles.
The queen said that she was ‘sorry’ for stripping her grandchildren of royal titles. However, she is not changing her mind about the move. The 82-year-old monarch announced in late September that the children of her younger son, Prince Joachim, would no longer be known as prince and princess from next year.
Instead, they will only be able to use their titles of count and countess of Monpezat and will be addressed as excellencies, as their HRH titles will be “discontinued,” according to the royal household. Helle von Wildenrath Lovgreen, press secretary to Countess Alexandra, the former wife of Prince Joachim, said that Joachim and his children were “sad” and “shocked” by the decision, which Queen Margrethe views “as a necessary future-proofing of the monarchy,” according to a statement from the Queen.
“In recent days, there have been strong reactions to my decision about the future use of titles for Prince Joachim’s four children.
“That affects me, of course,” the monarch said in the statement. “My decision has been a long time coming. With my 50 years on the throne, it is natural both to look back and to look ahead. It is my duty and my desire as Queen to ensure that the monarchy always shapes itself in keeping with the times. Sometimes, this means that difficult decisions must be made, and it will always be difficult to find the right moment,” she added.
The Queen said that she made the “adjustment” to allow the junior royals to lead more normal lives, while following a similar decision by other royal families to slim down the monarchy.
“Holding a royal title involves a number of commitments and duties that, in the future, will lie with fewer members of the royal family,” she said.
Crown Prince Frederik, the Queen’s older son, is first in line to the throne. His oldest child, Prince Christian, is second in line.
All four of Frederik’s children retain their titles.
His younger brother, Joachim, lives in Paris with his wife Princess Marie, and has two children, Henrik, 13, and Athena, 10.
The prince also has two older sons, Nikolai, 23, and Felix, 20, from his first marriage to Alexandra, the Countess of Frederiksborg.
While Joachim’s children will lose their royal titles, they will maintain their places in the order of succession.
The monarch said, “I have made my decision as Queen, mother, and grandmother, but, as a mother and grandmother, I have underestimated the extent to which much my younger son and his family feel affected.
That makes a big impression, and for that I am sorry.”
She added, “No one should be in doubt that my children, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren are my great joy and pride. I now hope that we as a family can find the peace to find our way through this situation.”
Pakistan defence sector continues to enjoy grants, subsidies despite economic crisis
As Pakistan always cries for funding in the name of development and disaster management, the so-called defence sector of the country continues to enjoy grants, subsidies and loans despite the financial crunches.
A Canada-based think tank International Forum for Rights and Security (IFFRAS), has highlighted the freebies to the elite military of the country. According to it, defence and debt servicing make up about 58 per cent of the budget for 2022-23, which is an increase of 24.3 per cent over the previous year.
While the funds for development expenditure have been cut in Pakistan and subsidies withdrawn for items like petroleum products and electricity, the defence sector continues to enjoy grants, subsidies and loan write-offs to the tune of PKR116 million in the current fiscal year.
The Pakistani Armed Forces also generate additional sources of income through their public sector enterprises and their business welfare models. These have been traditionally exempted from excise and taxation, as per the think tank.
Report says that in 2021-22 alone, PKR26 billion (USO 110 million) worth of tax exemptions were given to military-managed business entities. Apart from these direct expenditures, a large number of military related requirements are cross subsidized and met through funds allocated to other ministries.
IFFRAS reported that Pakistan which has been continuously plunging from one economic crisis to another, the deliberate opaqueness built into the defence expenditure needs to be addressed holistically to ensure economic security.
At present, Pakistan has been witnessing the devastating floods which impacted the country’s economic situation.
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