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Police suspect Netanyahu associate of trying to bribe judge

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Israeli police on Tuesday said they suspect a close confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of offering a sitting judge a top posting in exchange for dropping a corruption case against Netanyahu’s wife.

The development marks the latest scandal to engulf the beleaguered Israeli leader’s inner circle. Netanyahu already stands accused of bribery in two other cases.

Nir Hefetz, a former spokesman of the Netanyahu family, is suspected of suggesting to Judge Hila Gerstel that she could be appointed attorney general if she killed a pending case against Sara Netanyahu’s excessive household spending.

The offer never materialized.

Earlier, police named Hefetz as one of two Netanyahu associates under arrest for their suspected role in a separate wide-ranging corruption probe.

Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing and says the latest charges against him were merely a continuation of a wider media orchestrated witch hunt against him and his family.

“Nir Hefetz never presented this ludicrous offer to the prime minister and his wife, he was never asked by them to make such an offer and we can’t imagine that Hefetz would even imagine such a thing,” Netanyahu said.

Earlier Tuesday, with an initial gag order lifted, police identified Hefetz and Shlomo Filber, the former director of the communications ministry under Netanyahu, as the two suspects in promoting regulation worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Israel’s Bezeq telecom company, in return for favorable coverage of Netanyahu in a highly popular subsidiary news site.

Netanyahu, who held the communications portfolio until last year, has not yet been named as a suspect in the case but is expected to be questioned.

Bezeq’s controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch is also in custody, along with his wife, son and other top Bezeq executives. Former journalists at the Walla news site have attested to being pressured to refrain from negative reporting of Netanyahu.

The new probe comes days after police announced there was sufficient evidence to indict Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two separate cases.

Netanyahu is accused of receiving lavish gifts from Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer. In return, police say Netanyahu had operated on Milchan’s behalf on U.S. visa matters, legislated a tax break and connected him with an Indian businessman.

In the second case, Netanyahu is accused of offering a newspaper publisher legislation that would weaken his paper’s main rival in return for more favorable coverage.

Netanyahu has long accused the Israeli press corps of being biased against him and has taken steps to counter it by promoting more sympathetic outlets to him.

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The G-7 heads to Cornwall, home of the Eden Project

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This June, leaders from countries including the U.S., U.K., Germany and Japan will congregate in Cornwall, a picturesque county in the southwest of England, to take part in the G-7 summit.

The small coastal resort of Carbis Bay will be the epicenter of the talks, with larger towns including St Ives and Falmouth set to play a supporting role.

While Cornwall is rightly famed for its natural beauty, fishing communities and pristine beaches, it’s also home to one of the most interesting developments in Britain: the Eden Project.

A popular tourist attraction located near the town of St Austell — around an hour’s drive from Carbis Bay — the Eden Project was officially opened in 2001.

The site is instantly recognizable thanks to its “Biomes,” which are bubble-like structures housing vast indoor gardens packed with plants from across the world.

Below, CNBC looks at some of the other design features and technologies which have helped the Eden Project stand out from the crowd and attract millions of visitors over the years.

Monitoring tech

In a bid to cut its energy consumption, the Eden Project — which is temporarily closed to visitors because of the coronavirus pandemic — makes use of a building management system, or BMS.

Its official site describes this as resembling “a giant TV remote” which enables “very tight control of our heating and electrical systems.”

The BMS monitors usage within the Biomes, offices and other buildings at the complex and ensures the site never uses more than it needs.

Energy efficiency and insulation

In addition to the BMS, a range of on-the-ground technologies are being deployed to boost the energy efficiency of the Eden Project.

These include the installation of LED lighting and use of high-efficiency boilers.

Buildings at the site have also been designed to make the most of natural light and ventilation, while an emphasis has also been placed on the use of “super insulation.”

Hexagonal cushions on the Biomes’ steel structure are used to capture air between two layers of a material called ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, creating a “thermal blanket.”

Elsewhere, insulation comes in the form of recycled newspapers, while a green roof located on a building used by staff attracts wildlife and helps keep things cool during the summer and warm in winter months.

Renewables

While the site has placed a great deal of focus on energy efficiency, it’s also embracing renewable energy technologies.

A 30 kilowatt (kW) solar power system has been installed on the rooftop of the Eden Project’s Core building — which is used for education purposes — while a 5 kW wind turbine is located near the site’s car park.

These technologies are supplemented by a deal with Good Energy, which supplies the Eden Project with 100% renewable energy.

5G connectivity

Just last week, it was announced a consortium headed up by the Eden Project was one of nine picked to take part in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s “5G Testbeds and Trials Programme.”

Called Eden Universe, the Eden Project consortium will benefit from a grant of £1.6 million ($2.18 million), with a 5G network and 360-degree video technology set to be installed on-site.

Among other things, the tech will allow teams at the Eden Project to create and test a range of augmented and virtual reality programs and “experiences” for visitors.

Sustainable transport

In addition to the tech which has been integrated into the fabric of the Eden Project’s buildings, efforts are also being made to encourage the use of sustainable transport.

To this end, discounts are available for visitors who cycle, walk or use combined coach, bus and train tickets.

Staff at the Eden Project can also make use of an 18-strong fleet of zero-emission electric vehicles from French carmaker Renault.

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IEA cuts 2021 demand outlook on renewed Covid lockdown measures

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A worker holds a fuel pump nozzle at a gas station in Shah Alam, Malaysia, on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021.

Samsul Said | Bloomberg | Getty Images

LONDON — The International Energy Agency on Tuesday cut its 2021 global oil demand forecast, citing soaring Covid-19 cases and renewed lockdown measures that will further limit mobility.

The IEA said it now expects world oil demand to recover by 5.5 million barrels per day to 96.6 million this year. That reflects a downward revision of 0.3 million barrels from last month’s assessment and follows an unprecedented collapse of 8.8 million barrels per day last year as the coronavirus pandemic battered global oil markets.

The IEA’s latest oil market report comes as countries continue to implement strict public health measures in an attempt to curb virus spread, with lockdowns imposed in Europe and parts of China.

The Paris-based energy agency said oil demand growth was projected to fall slightly during the first three months of the year in the wake of tougher government plans that call for additional travel restrictions.

This is expected to curb worldwide mobility once again, prompting the IEA to trim its first-quarter forecast for oil demand growth to 94.1 million barrels per day. That would see oil demand return to near year-ago levels and reflects a downward revision of 0.6 million barrels from December’s oil market report.

“The global vaccine roll-out is putting fundamentals on a stronger trajectory for the year, with both supply and demand shifting back into growth mode following 2020’s unprecedented collapse,” the IEA said in its closely-watched report.

“But it will take more time for oil demand to recover fully as renewed lockdowns in a number of countries weigh on fuel sales,” it added.

Oil prices

Oil prices have rallied in recent weeks, supported by optimism over Covid vaccine rollouts and a surprise oil production cut from OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia.

However, the relatively slow pace of inoculations has raised doubts over how soon economies can recover.

International benchmark Brent crude futures traded at $55.26 a barrel on Tuesday morning, up more than 0.9%, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate futures stood at $52.51, around 0.3% higher.

Both benchmarks fell more than 2.2% in the previous session, notching their worst daily performance since Dec. 21.

Oil pumping jacks, also known as “nodding donkeys,” in a Rosneft Oil Co. oilfield near Sokolovka village, in the Udmurt Republic, Russia, on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020.

Andrey Rudakov | Bloomberg | Getty Images

OPEC and its non-OPEC allies, an alliance sometimes referred to as OPEC+, cut oil production by a record amount in 2020 in an effort to support crude prices, as strict public health measures worldwide coincided with a fuel demand shock.

OPEC+ initially agreed to cut output by 9.7 million barrels per day, before easing cuts to 7.7 million and eventually scaling back further to 7.2 million from January. OPEC’s de facto leader Saudi Arabia has since said it plans to cut output by an extra 1 million barrels per day in February and March to stop inventories from building up.

Last week, OPEC kept its 2021 forecast for worldwide oil demand unchanged. The 13-member group anticipated demand growth to increase by 5.9 million barrels per day year on year to average 95.9 million.

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How to stay motivated during a cold, winter Covid lockdown

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