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Netanyahu demands to confront state’s witnesses in corruption probes

JERUSALEM ( ) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, contesting an April election under the shadow of possible corruption charges, demanded on Monday to confront the state’s witnesses against him.

Announcing on Twitter, three hours beforehand, that he would make a “special announcement” on Israeli TV, Netanyahu – now in his fourth term – touched off a wave of social media speculation that he might resign or even launch legal action of his own to try to stay any indictment.

Instead, he kicked off Israel’s main TV evening news programs with an anticlimactic speech in which he again professed his innocence in a series of corruption cases. He contended he was a victim of a political witchhunt and said he was being denied the chance to challenge his accusers face-to-face.

“I demand a confrontation with the state’s witnesses now. What are they afraid of? What do they have to hide? I am not afraid and I have nothing to hide…As far as I am concerned it can be broadcast live, so the public can see and hear it.”

In response, Israel’s Justice Ministry said the investigations against Netanyahu – who is now in his fourth term – have been carried out professionally and thoroughly.

Netanyahu’s calling of th,上海品茶网Pablo,e snap election, ahead of a national ballot due by November, was widely seen as a direct appeal to voters for a fresh political mandate that could help him weather a potential indictment.

Netanyahu, who heads the right-wing Likud party, said investigators had twice turned down his requests to confront the witnesses. At least three ex-Netanyahu confidants have agreed to provide evidence against him, Israeli media reports said.

Netanyahu is enmeshed in three graft cases. He has said he would not bow out of the election race if Israel’s attorney-gen,上海品茶419论坛Talon,eral announces his intention to accept police recommendations to indict him.

上海品茶微信Should he decide on an indictment, the attorney-general would, under Israeli law, then hold a hearing with Netanyahu in which the prime minister and his lawyers could make their case against filing charges in court.

There has been mounting speculation in Israel that an indictment decision will be announced in the next few weeks, before election day.

Police have alle,上海品茶群二维码Fabian,ged that Netanyahu granted regulatory favors to Israel’s leading telecommunications company, Bezeq Telecom Israel, in return for more positive coverage on a news website belonging to the firm’s owner.

In a second case, police contend that Netanyahu received expensive gifts from wealthy friends. A third investigation focuses on suspicions that Netanyahu negotiated a deal with one newspaper for better coverage in return for promises to back legislation that would have limited the circulation of a rival.

Profit-hungry tiger breeders behind push to lift China’s trading ban

HONG KONG/HARBIN, China ( ) – At the Siberia Tiger Park in the frigid Chinese city of Harbin, visitors can learn about the facility’s successful breeding programme and buy chicken carcasses to toss to around 20 tigers pacing the snow flecked ground of their enclosure.

At the park gates, a shop sells liquor soaked with tiger bones for up to $1,000 a bottle.

China has made significant strides in wildlife protection in recent years, including a total ban on ivory and plans to open one of the world’s largest reserves for wild tigers in northeast China in 2020.

But it also has formidable, profit-driven wildlife business interests that risk undermining progress on protecting the endangered big cats, conservationists say.

“The industry occupies a strategic position which concentrates in the country’s less developed regions where poverty reduction remains a top priority of the local authorities,” said Houston-based Peter Li, a China Policy Specialist at Humane Society International.

Operators of tiger breeding farms have told state media that without the ability to sell bones, skins and meat they are not be able to cover the high costs of running their parks and carry out key conservation plans endorsed by the national government.

After pressure from some breeders, China’s State Council said in October it would replace a 1993 ban on the trade of tiger bones and rhino horn, opening up exceptions under “special circumstances”, including medical research.

But in November, Beijing postponed the move following widespread protests from conservation groups who worry any resumption in the legal trade of tiger parts will b上海品茶会所e a death knell for the species by enabling the laundering of wild animal parts,上海品茶群二维码Earl, into farmed supplies.

Conservationists also argue that no captive Chinese bred tigers have been released into the wild and there is no scientific or medical need to use rhino horn and tiger bone in traditional Chinese medicine.

Still, lifting the ban is backed by China’s powerful State Forestry and Grassland Administration.

“If rhino horns and tiger bones can be used for medicinal purposes, and their use causes zero harm to the two endangered species in the wild, why should we oppose it?” Tang Xiaoping, an executive at the administration was quoted in the state-run China Daily newspaper.

The Forestry and Grasslands administration did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

PROFIT-DRIVEN BUSINESS

At the Siberia Tiger Park, tiger bone wine is sold ope,上海品茶网,上海品茶微信Idaline,Dahlia,nly and is recognized by the Forestry Bureau and Commerce Ministry, according to a sales representative in the store. However, the park is not allowed to publicly promote it due to the sensitivity of the situation, the sales rep said. Officials at the park declined to comment on the record.

The wine, which ranges in price from 280 yuan-6,888 yuan, ($40-$1,003) is displayed in large glass cabinets and also sold on China’s Twitter-like WeChat.

Park executives, officials and conservation experts say tiger parks have been accumulating stocks of animal skin and bone in freezers, with the aim of selling it for medicinal use in the future.

Conservation groups estimate there are now over 6,500 farmed tigers at some 200 facilities in China and around 40 farmed rhinos. Chinese media say tiger bone can fetch 5,000-9,000 yuan ($727-$1,308) per kg – tens of thousands of dollars per animal.

The World Wildlife Fund believes there are only around 40-50 wild tigers left in China out of around 3,900 globally.

Debate over lifting the ban on tiger trade comes as China seeks to develop its traditional medicine industry, worth some $50 billion annually, and position it as a key pillar of its ‘One Belt One Road’ strategy.

The World Health Organization is set to recognize traditional Chinese medicine for the first time next year in its global medical compendium according to Nature International Journal of Science, citing the governing body.

CASH STRAPPED

The Siberian Tiger Park has more than 1,300 tigers spread across three locations. Selling tiger bone wine is a way to subsidize the daily expenses of the park, said one of the park’s tour guides.

Currently, visitor fees are the parks’ main source of income, along with government subsidies. Ticket prices are 100 yuan and visitors can pay extra to feed the tigers. A menu of meat displays prices for a live chicken at 120 yuan while a raw cutlet is 10 yuan.

In a CCTV documentary shown in November, Liu Dan, the chief engineer of the Northeast Tiger Forest park, near China’s border with Russia, says his 1,000-plus tigers each eat around 3,000 yuan ($435) worth of chicken per month.

Liu, who has raised tigers for over 30 years and has repeatedly called for the ban on trading tiger parts to be lifted, told state media that government tax breaks are not enough for the park to be financially viable. Currently, parks make most of their money from visitors.

Liu and the park declined to comment for this article.

Chinese medicine experts say there is no need to use tiger bone and rhino horn in treatments as substitutes are readily available.

Tiger bone, for example, is often used to treat arthritis and joint pain, but there are dozens of other herbs with similar properties, said Eric Karchmer, chief medicine officer at Dao Labs.

Lixin Huang, the president of the American College of Traditional medicine, said a reversal of the ban would create a huge challenge for the Chinese medicine community.

“We stopped using it 25 years ago. We don’t understand. I don’t think the Chinese medicine community and medical professionals would understand.”

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