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

Shabtai Shavit. (Photo/Wikipedia)
Short Url
Updated 06 September 2023
Follow

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

  • 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.

 


New Zealand opens first ‘kiwi hospital’ for injured birds

Updated 27 sec ago
Follow

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

Updated 22 February 2024
Follow

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.
 


Private US spacecraft enters orbit around the moon ahead of landing attempt

Updated 22 February 2024
Follow

Private US spacecraft enters orbit around the moon ahead of landing attempt

  • Intuitive Machines confirmed its lander, nicknamed Odysseus, was circling the moon with experiments from NASA and other clients
  • Controllers will lower the orbit from just under 92 km to 10 km on Thursday before aiming for a touchdown near the moon’s south pole

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: A private US lunar lander reached the moon and eased into a low orbit Wednesday, a day before it will attempt an even greater feat — landing on the gray, dusty surface.

A smooth touchdown would put the US back in business on the moon for the first time since NASA astronauts closed out the Apollo program in 1972. The company, if successful, also would become the first private outfit to ace a moon landing.
Launched last week, Intuitive Machines’ lander fired its engine on the back side of the moon while out of contact with Earth. Flight controllers at the company’s Houston headquarters had to wait until the spacecraft emerged to learn whether the lander was in orbit or hurtling aimlessly away.
Intuitive Machines confirmed its lander, nicknamed Odysseus, was circling the moon with experiments from NASA and other clients. The lander is part of a NASA program to kickstart the lunar economy; the space agency is paying $118 million to get its experiments on the moon on this mission.

On Thursday, controllers will lower the orbit from just under 60 miles (92 kilometers) to 6 miles (10 kilometers) — a crucial maneuver occurring again on the moon’s far side — before aiming for a touchdown near the moon’s south pole. It’s a dicey place to land with all the craters and cliffs, but deemed prime real estate for astronauts since the permanently shadowed craters are believed to hold frozen water.
The moon is littered with wreckage from failed landings. Some missions never even got that far. Another US company — Astrobotic Technology — tried to send a lander to the moon last month, but it didn’t get there because of a fuel leak. The crippled lander came crashing back through the atmosphere, burning up over the Pacific.

Flight controllers monitor the progress of the moon landing at Intuitive Machines’ headquarters in Houston, Texas, on Feb. 21, 2024. (X: @Int_Machines)

A rundown on the moon’s winners and losers:
First victories
The Soviet Union’s Luna 9 successfully touches down on the moon in 1966, after its predecessors crash or miss the moon altogether. The US follows four months later with Surveyor 1. Both countries achieve more robotic landings, as the race heats up to land men.
Apollo rules
NASA clinches the space race with the Soviets in 1969 with a moon landing by Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Twelve astronauts explore the surface over six missions, before the program ends with Apollo 17 in 1972. Still the only country to send humans to the moon, the US hopes to return crews to the surface by the end of 2026 or so, a year after a lunar fly-around by astronauts.
China emerges
China, in 2013, becomes the third country to successfully land on the moon, delivering a rover named Yutu, Chinese for jade rabbit. China follows with the Yutu-2 rover in 2019, this time touching down on the moon’s unexplored far side — an impressive first. A sample return mission on the moon’s near side in 2020 yields nearly 4 pounds (1.7 kilograms) of lunar rocks and dirt. Another sample return mission should be launching soon, but this time to the far side. Seen as NASA’s biggest moon rival, China aims to put its astronauts on the moon by 2030.
Russia stumbles
In 2023, Russia tries for its first mooc landing in nearly a half-century, but the Luna 25 spacecraft smashes into the moon. The country’s previous lander — 1976’s Luna 24 — not only landed, but returned moon rocks to Earth.
India triumphs on take 2
After its first lander slams into the moon in 2019, India regroups and launches Chandrayaan-3 (Hindi for moon craft) in 2023. The craft successfully touches down, making India the fourth country to score a lunar landing. The win comes just four days after Russia’s crash-landing.
Japan lands sideways
Japan becomes the fifth country to land successfully on the moon, with its spacecraft touching down in January. The craft lands on the wrong side, compromising its ability to generate solar power, but manages to crank out pictures and science before falling silent when the long lunar night sets in.
Private tries

A privately funded lander from Israel, named Beresheet, Hebrew for “in the beginning,” crashes into the moon in 2019. A Japanese entrepreneur’s company, ispace, launches a lunar lander in 2023, but it, too, wrecks. Astrobotic Technology, a Pittsburgh company, launches its lander in January, but a fuel leak prevents a landing and dooms the craft. Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines plan more moon deliveries.

 


Astronomers find what may be the universe’s brightest object with a black hole devouring a sun a day

Updated 21 February 2024
Follow

Astronomers find what may be the universe’s brightest object with a black hole devouring a sun a day

  • The rotating disk around the quasar’s black hole — the luminous swirling gas and other matter from gobbled-up stars — is like a cosmic hurricane
  • “The exciting thing about this quasar is that it was hiding in plain sight and was misclassified as a star previously,” Yale University’s Priyamvada Natarajan, who was not involved in the study, said in an email

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: Astronomers have discovered what may be the brightest object in the universe, a quasar with a black hole at its heart growing so fast that it swallows the equivalent of a sun a day.
The record-breaking quasar shines 500 trillion times brighter than our sun. The black hole powering this distant quasar is more than 17 billion times more immense than our sun, an Australian-led team reported Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy.
While the quasar resembles a mere dot in images, scientists envision a ferocious place.
The rotating disk around the quasar’s black hole — the luminous swirling gas and other matter from gobbled-up stars — is like a cosmic hurricane.
“This quasar is the most violent place that we know in the universe,” lead author Christian Wolf of Australian National University said in an email.
The European Southern Observatory spotted the object, J0529-4351, during a 1980 sky survey, but it was thought to be a star. It was not identified as a quasar — the extremely active and luminous core of a galaxy — until last year. Observations by telescopes in Australia and Chile’s Atacama Desert clinched it.
“The exciting thing about this quasar is that it was hiding in plain sight and was misclassified as a star previously,” Yale University’s Priyamvada Natarajan, who was not involved in the study, said in an email.
These later observations and computer modeling have determined that the quasar is gobbling up the equivalent of 370 suns a year — roughly one a day. Further analysis shows the mass of the black hole to be 17 to 19 billion times that of our sun, according to the team. More observations are needed to understand its growth rate.
The quasar is 12 billion light-years away and has been around since the early days of the universe. A light-year is 5.8 trillion miles.
 

 


Kuwaiti ‘death ship’ carrying cattle causes stench in Cape Town

Updated 21 February 2024
Follow

Kuwaiti ‘death ship’ carrying cattle causes stench in Cape Town

  • The ship, en route from Brazil and carrying an estimated 19,000 cattle, docked in Cape Town on Sunday

CAPE TOWN: A “death ship” carrying thousands of cattle whose foul smell caused a stink in top tourist city Cape Town is expected to continue its voyage to Iraq later on Tuesday, port officials said.
The ship, en route from Brazil and carrying an estimated 19,000 cattle, docked in Cape Town on Sunday, bringing with it a nauseating odour that permeated the city center. Some residents thought a large nearby sewerage works had conked out or their nostrils were being assailed by domestic plumbing problems, a Reuters witness said.
A local city councillor, however, confirmed on Monday that the smell was indeed from the “Al Kuwait” vessel, which was immediately boarded by inspectors from the National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) on Sunday evening.
“According to the latest update from the vessel agent and the terminal operator, the estimated departure of the vessel remains 20 February 2024,” port operator Transnet said in a statement on Tuesday.
Transnet said the vessel docked for animal feed, vessel stores, bunkers and medical assessments on the bovines.
The NSPCA, which campaigns against the live transport of animals, dubbed the vessel a “Kuwaiti death ship” and attributed the smell to the awful conditions animals endured, having spent two and a half weeks on board, with a build-up of faeces and ammonia.
“The faeces that the cattle were standing is already basically up to the top of their hooves in some pens,” Grace le Grange, a senior inspector who boarded the vessel, told Reuters.
“In general the cattle themselves were not in a physically bad condition in terms of weight-wise, but our concern is what happens when they get back onto the ocean,” she said.
Le Grange said several animals had to be euthanized due to injuries.