Netanyahu to form coalition
President Shimon Peres asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday to form the next government, and Netanyahu pledged that his new administration would be committed to advancing peace talks with the Palestinians. Peres formally requested Netanyahu to build a governing coalition after conducting consultations with all 12 parties that won seats in last week’s election. A majority of newly elected lawmakers recommended Netanyahu as prime minister-designate. Netanyahu now has six weeks to form a coalition government, with an extension of 14 days if needed. Netanyahu said the government’s top priority should be to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon.
Banker had US$70m check
The newspaper Bild am Sonntag reports that a man caught last month trying to enter the country with a check worth about US$70 million was Iran’s former central bank chief. The weekly reports that customs officials at Duesseldorf Airport found the check in former Central Bank of Iran governor Tahmasb Mazaheri’s luggage on Jan. 21 upon his arrival from Turkey. Customs had issued a statement on Friday saying a check for 300 million Venezuelan Bolivars (US$69.86 million) issued by the Bank of Venezuela was found on an unnamed 59-year-old man. Bild am Sonntag said police and customs are investigating possible money laundering.
Space monkey fraud alleged
Tehran’s announcement that it had successfully sent a monkey into space stirred questions on the Internet on Saturday, with people pointing to differences between official images of the primate before takeoff and after landing. On Monday last week, official media published pictures of a monkey named Pishgam (“Pioneer”) prior to the launch. The animal had light gray fur and a red mole above its right eye. However, later, the ISNA news agency released photographs taken while presenting the monkey to the press after its landing, which showed darker fur and no mole. These differences have been pointed out by Western media, which have questioned the success of the monkey space mission. A previous attempt to send a primate into space failed in 2011. On Facebook, a comment underneath the monkey’s pictures reads: the monkey “went into space and met a doctor who removed its mole.” Authorities did not directly responded to these questions on Saturday night.
Missing US woman dead
A New York City woman who went missing while vacationing alone in Istanbul was found dead on Saturday, and police detained nine people for questioning in connection with the case, state-run Anadolu Agency said. Sarai Sierra, a 33-year-old mother of two, was last heard from on Jan. 21, the day she was to fly home. Her disappearance attracted a lot of interest in the country, where the disappearance of tourists is rare, and Istanbul police had set up a special unit to find her. Anadolu said the body of a woman was discovered on Saturday evening near the remnants of ancient city walls and that police later identified it as Sierra’s. The agency did not say what caused her death, but the private NTV television reported that she was stabbed to death, while a private news agency, Dogan, said she had a head wound, suggesting she may have been hit with an object. Police refused to comment on the case.
US defense exercises started
The armed forces on Saturday began holding military exercises aimed at preparing the nation to defend itself against any possible attack from the US, media reported. Military units across the island “began this weekend to prepare for Cuba’s defense ... which would combine the participation of the armed forces and the people,” the government-run Prensa Latina reported. It wrote that taking part in the exercises are military units from Camaguey in the east of the coutnry, the central city of Matanzas and the town of Artemisa outside Havana. Reports said officials believe the military maneuvers are needed to respond to “constant harassment and aggression” from the US, which broke relations with Havana in 1961 and imposed a trade embargo the following year.
Disco fire victims treated
About 140 medical kits flown in from the US arrived in the country on Saturday to treat survivors of the deadly disco fire who were exposed to dangerous fumes, authorities said. The medication, called Cyanokit, was requested by the Ministry of Health to treat victims of a fire on Jan. 27 who inhaled cyanide poison after the fire ignited acoustic foam insulation inside the Kiss nightclub. The blaze left 236 people dead in the college town of Santa Maria in Rio Grande do Sul State. About 20 people have been hospitalized with symptoms of chemical pneumonitis. Another 123 people were hospitalized for other injuries sustained during the fire, which was ignited by a cheap flare lit by musicians as part of an illegal pyrotechnics display. The US Southern Command said it coordinated the transport of the medication, valued at US$97,000.
Five survive plane crash
A small plane crashed into the sea off the coastal city of Cumana on Saturday, leaving one person dead and five survivors, who were rescued and brought to shore. The twin-engine Beechcraft BE-58 went down in the Gulf of Cariaco on its way to Isla Margarita, Minister of the Interior Nestor Reverol said. He said the pilot had declared an emergency due to the failure of both engines and put the plane down in the water. After the crash, rescue workers and fishermen helped the survivors to shore, Reverol said on state television. A 62-year-old woman died in the accident, the National Civil Aviation Institute said in a statement. The five survivors, including a boy and the pilot, are being treated at a hospital, institute head General Francisco Paz Fleitas said.
Ocean will not sue Brown
Singer Frank Ocean says he will not pursue criminal charges against fellow singer Chris Brown, who is alleged to have punched Ocean in a recent fight. “As a child I thought if someone jumped me it would result in me murdering or mutilating a man, but as a man I am not a killer. I’m an artist and a modern person. I’ll choose sanity. No criminal charges. No civil lawsuit,” Ocean wrote on his Tumblr page on Saturday. Brown remained under investigation for his role in a fight outside a West Hollywood recording studio on Jan. 27, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said. Witnesses told deputies that Brown punched Ocean during an argument over a parking space. Ocean later tweeted that he “got jumped by Chris and a couple guys” and suffered a finger cut. Brown, 23, remains on probation for attacking pop star Rihanna on the eve of the 2009 Grammy Awards and is due back in court on Wednesday to report on his progress.