Netanyahu strengthened by late Likud surge

With most results counted in Israel’s election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears in the best position to form a new government, which would give him a fourth term in office. Raw vote totals showed his Likud party with about 23 per cent of the votes, against the main opposition group Zionist Union with 19 per cent.

This would give Likud at least 29 seats against around 24 for Zionist Union.

israelbbc(image: AFP/BBC – Likud supporters celebrate)

The outcome, if confirmed, represents a dramatic shift from the virtual dead heat indicated by exit polls, and Netanyahu declared an early triumph, USA Today reports.

“Against all odds: a great victory for the Likud, a major victory for the national camp led by the Likud, a major victory for the people of Israel,” he tweeted in Hebrew.

Zionist Union’s leader Isaac Herzog – who had been ahead in opinion polls as election day approached – did not concede. The close result will now prompt efforts to build a governing coalition and could result in a national unity government.

Haaretz writes:

President Reuven Rivlin has already called for a national unity government in which both Likud and Zionist Union will serve. Netanyahu repeatedly ruled out such a coalition throughout the campaign, but that was before the election. He knows what awaits him in Washington and Brussels and at the United Nations – Herzog and Tzipi Livni as ministers in his government could serve as useful flak-jackets.

Final, confirmed results are expected on Wednesday. Turnout was about 72 per cent.


* WORLD * The Secret Service (more of which later) said the White House had received a letter this week which had tested positive for Cyanide, The Intercept reported.

The envelope listed a return address for a man who the alert says has a record with the Secret Service dating back to 1995, which includes sending a package covered in urine and feces.

That person has sent multiple packages over the years, the most recent was received on June 12, 2012, which contained mini alcoholic beverages.

The Pentagon said an unmanned drone had been lost over Syria, whose government claimed it had been shot down. That claim is “being investigated” the Pentagon said. If confirmed, it would be the first time Syrian forces had attacked a US aircraft since coalition strikes against ISIS began last September.

A severe geomagnetic storm has caused dramatic light shows in both the northern and southern hemispheres. In the US, locations further south than usual – like Michigan – were able to see vivid auroras.

(YouTube/Ian Griffin)

Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared in public for the first time in 10 days when he met the Kyrgyz President in St. Petersburg, putting an end to the recent torrent of memes of varying quality.

Following Tony Blair’s resignation from his role as a Mideast peace envoy for the “Quartet powers”, Murtaza Hussain writes at The Intercept how the former British Prime Minister is “terrible at promoting human rights, great at enriching himself.”

..although he failed to broker peace, Blair did manage during his time as special envoy to transform himself into a well-paid and outspoken apologist for some of the most brutal autocracies in the world.


* POLITICS * In a remarkable political rise and fall story, Illinois Republican Congressman Aaron Schock resigned abruptly amid an ethics investigation and new questions about allegedly false mileage reimbursements.

In a statement, the 33-year-old Men’s Health cover model Schock said he was stepping down “with a heavy heart… But the constant questions over the last six weeks have proven a great distraction that has made it too difficult for me to serve the people of the 18th District with the high standards that they deserve and which I have set for myself.”

John Kass at the Chicago Tribune said the resignation “should come as no surprise” and suggested that maybe the Congressman should have kept his shirt on.

[Schock’s predecessor] The Republican Ray LaHood, who served for years as the congressman from Peoria before serving as U.S. transportation secretary, didn’t display his abs that way. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen Ray LaHood’s abs. I wouldn’t think of asking to see LaHood’s abs. And I don’t think any voters in that district wondered about them either.

Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy testified before Congress on Tuesday about the recent incident where agents allegedly drove into a White House barrier following a party. He said there was “an element” within the service that may have a drinking problem.

Oh, and he also asked for $8m to build a fake White House to provide a more effective training environment.


* BUSINESS * Wednesday sees key economic events both sides of the Atlantic. The Federal Reserve may “hint” at an interest rate rise for the first time in almost a decade. Watch for the word “patient” in Chair Janet Yellen’s remarks. If we don’t hear it, the Fed could raise its benchmark within a few months.

In the UK, Chancellor George Osborne delivers what could be his final Budget.

You can follow The Guardian‘s live-blog here.

budget(image: BBC) And live coverage and analysis from the BBC here.


* MEDIA * A study by the American Press Institute on millennials’ news consumption shows the extent of the demand for news content on social media – with Facebook leading the way – but perhaps unsurprisingly, somewhat less enthusiasm for paying for it.


* SPORTS * San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland, one of the game’s leading rookies, announced he was retiring because of concerns over possible brain injuries, he told ESPN’s Outside The Lines. The news prompted reaction from many other players, as the significance for the game at the professional, college and junior levels becomes the subject of debate.

Thomas Boswell writes at the Washington Post about the “cascading progression, a toppling of dominoes” and how football’s future is under scrutiny.

Change often arrives at a modest speed that allows us to analyze, adapt, accept and usually embrace our inevitable future. But sometimes, even in sports, the shift is so fast and violent that we hardly grasp its arrival before a radically different reality suddenly has become our new norm.

That’s where football sits now, its billions in wealth built on decades of human wreckage.

In England’s Premier League, Sunderland appointed former Dutch national team coach Dick Advocaat to replace the sacked Gus Poyet for the rest of the season. Advocaat, who has not previously coached in England, has nine games to secure Sunderland’s top-flight status. They currently sit one point above the relegation zone.


* CULTURE *  As the “Jinx” murder case continues to play itself out in New Orleans, Los Angeles and now Houston, Jim Romenesko draws attention to this remarkable correction.



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