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Israel’s Supreme Court hears petitions against Netanyahu rule

JERUSALEM – Israel’s Supreme Court heard petitions Sunday that seek to block Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from forming a government because he has been charged with serious crimes.

An exceptionally large panel of 11 justices participated in the highly anticipated session, broadcast live, that was being portrayed by some as a watershed moment for Israeli democracy.

Much is at stake. If the high court voids Netanyahu’s ability to serve as prime minister, Israel could be plunged into political chaos, and it would likely trigger the country’s fourth consecutive election in just over 12 months.

The justices are being asked to decide whether a prime minister can form a government while under indictment – something the Israeli legal code does not explicitly prohibit.

Netanyahu was indicted earlier this year on charges of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust. He has denied any wrongdoing.

His trial was postponed due to restrictions his hand-picked interim justice minister placed on the courts after the coronavirus crisis erupted and is scheduled to commence later this month.

DHS: China hid severity of virus

WASHINGTON – U.S. officials believe China covered up the extent of the coronavirus outbreak – and how contagious the disease is – to stock up on medical supplies, intelligence documents show.

Chinese leaders “intentionally concealed the severity” of the pandemic from the world in early January, according to a four-page Department of Homeland Security intelligence report dated May 1 and obtained by the Associated Press. The revelation comes as the Trump administration has intensified its criticism of China, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying Sunday that country was responsible for the spread of disease and must be held accountable.

The analysis states that, while downplaying the severity, China increased imports and decreased exports of medical supplies. It attempted to cover up doing so by “denying there were export restrictions and obfuscating and delaying provision of its trade data.”

The report also says China held off informing the World Health Organization that the coronavirus “was a contagion” for much of January so it could order medical supplies from abroad – and that its imports of face masks and surgical gowns and gloves increased sharply.

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