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Israeli PM Bennett on historic visit to UAE



Israel’s Naftali Bennett arrived in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday (Dec 12) for the first official visit by a prime minister of the Jewish state, after the countries established diplomatic ties last year.

The trip announced by Bennett’s office comes with Israel making a renewed diplomatic push against international talks which global powers resumed with its arch foe Iran over the Islamic republic’s nuclear programme.

Bennett on Monday meets Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan to discuss “deepening the ties between Israel and the UAE, especially economic and regional issues,” the prime minister’s office said.

There was no immediate comment from the UAE on the visit which Bennett called “historic”.

He was received in Abu Dhabi by UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and an honour guard, according to his office.

The prime minister said he appreciated the “very warm hospitality”.

“I’m very excited to be here … as the first official visit of an Israeli leader here. We are looking forward to strengthening the relationship.”

Bennett’s Abu Dhabi visit follows a trip to Washington by Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz, who has repeatedly stressed that military options must be ready if negotiations with Iran collapse.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid was in London and Paris last month, where he called for tighter sanctions against Tehran.

Since the Abraham Accords were signed, Israel and the UAE have inked a series of deals on economic and trade cooperation.

Palestinians strongly condemned the Abraham Accords as they broke with decades of Arab League consensus against recognising Israel until it signs a peace establishing a Palestinian state with a capital in east Jerusalem.

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Bitcoin rises 2.1% to reach $50,000




Bitcoin rose on Sunday to reclaim levels above $50,000.

The world’s biggest and best-known cryptocurrency gained 2.11% to $50,445.34 at 1803 GMT on Sunday, adding $1,044.80 to its previous close.

Bitcoin is up 81.9% from the year’s low of $27,734 on Jan. 4

Ether , the coin linked to the ethereum blockchain network, rose 0.26% to $4,100 on Sunday, adding $10.78 to its previous close.

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Narendra Modi’s twitter account briefly hacked




Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s personal Twitter account has been “very briefly compromised,” the prime minister’s office has said.

A swiftly deleted tweet from his main @narendramodi handle declared India had adopted Bitcoin as legal tender and was distributing the cryptocurrency to citizens.

It said the Indian government had officially bought 500 Bitcoins and was “distributing them to all residents of the country”, along with a scam link.

The matter was escalated to Twitter and the prime minister’s personal Twitter handle was immediately secured, Modi’s office wrote in a tweet late on Saturday.

Any tweet shared during the brief period when the account was compromised must be ignored, it said.

It was not immediately known how long the personal Twitter handle of Modi, which has more than 73 million followers, was compromised.

Twitter users grabbed screenshots of the since-deleted tweet.

A Twitter spokesperson said in an emailed statement to Reuters news agency that the company took all necessary steps to secure the compromised account as soon as it became aware of the activity. An investigation revealed no signs of any other affected accounts, the spokesperson added.

Modi’s account was previously briefly compromised in September 2020, when hackers asked followers in a series of tweets to donate to India’s National Relief Fund through cryptocurrency.

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New Zealand to ban cigarette sales for future generations




New Zealand plans to ban young people from ever buying cigarettes in their lifetime in one of the world’s toughest crackdowns on the tobacco industry, arguing that other efforts to extinguish smoking were taking too long.

People aged 14 and under in 2027 will never be allowed to purchase cigarettes in the Pacific country of five million, part of proposals unveiled on Thursday that will also curb the number of retailers authorised to sell tobacco and cut nicotine levels in all products.

“We want to make sure young people never start smoking so we will make it an offence to sell or supply smoked tobacco products to new cohorts of youth,” New Zealand Associate Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall said in a statement.

“If nothing changes, it would be decades till Māori smoking rates fall below 5%, and this government is not prepared to leave people behind.”

Currently, 11.6% of all New Zealanders aged over 15 smoke, a proportion that rises to 29% among indigenous Maori adults, according to government figures.

The government will consult with a Maori health task force in the coming months before introducing legislation into parliament in June next year, with the aim of making it law by the end of 2022.

The restrictions would then be rolled out in stages from 2024, beginning with a sharp reduction in the number of authorised sellers, followed by reduced nicotine requirements in 2025 and the creation of the “smoke-free” generation from 2027.

The package of measures will make New Zealand’s retail tobacco industry one of the most restricted in the world, just behind Bhutan where cigarette sales are banned outright. New Zealand’s neighbour Australia was the first country in the world to mandate plain packaging of cigarettes in 2012.

The New Zealand government said while existing measures like plain packaging and levies on sales had slowed tobacco consumption, the tougher steps were necessary to achieve its goal of fewer than 5% of the population smoking daily by 2025.

The new rules would halve the country’s smoking rates in as few as 10 years from when they take effect, the government said.

Smoking kills about 5,000 people a year in New Zealand, making it one of the country’s top causes of preventable death. Four in five smokers started before age 18, the country’s government said.


Health authorities welcomed the crackdown, while retailers expressed concern about the impact on their businesses and warned of the emergence of a black market.

The government did not give specifics about how the new rules would be policed or whether and how they would apply to visitors to the country.

“Cigarette smoking kills 14 New Zealanders every day and two out of three smokers will die as a result of smoking,” said New Zealand Medical Association chair Alistair Humphrey in a statement.

“This action plan offers some hope of realising our 2025 Smokefree Aotearoa goal, and keeping our tamariki (Maori children) smokefree.”

However, the Dairy and Business Owners Group, a lobby group for local convenience stores, known in New Zealand as dairies, said while it supported a smoke-free country, the government’s plan would destroy many businesses.

“This is all 100 per cent theory and zero per cent substance,” the group’s chairman, Sunny Kaushal, told “There’s going to be a crime wave. Gangs and criminals will fill the gap with ciggie houses alongside tinnie houses.”

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