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. ( AP Photo/Oded Balilty) With seeming boundless energy, the 70-year-old Netanyahu has taken to the airwaves and hit the campaign trail, presenting himself to adoring audiences as a global statesman uniquely qualified to lead the country through its many complicated challenges. In recent weeks, he jetted from the White House to Moscow to bring home a young Israeli woman jailed there on drug charges, and flew to Uganda for a meeting with a leader of Sudan, a longtime enemy country. We have turned Israel into a world power, a leader in cyber technology, natural gas, water, agriculture, technology, intelligence, Netanyahu boasted at a recent campaign stop. He claims credit for a strong economy and boasts of his close relationships with world leaders, first and foremost President Donald Trump, while deriding opponent Benny Gantz as a lightweight. In a message that has drawn accusations of racism, he also accuses Gantz of plotting with Arab lawmakers to oust him. In recent days, Netanyahu and his Netanyahus Likud surrogates spread unfounded allegations claiming his opponent is corrupt, unstable and susceptible to blackmail by Iran. Benny Gantz, CITES TWO ADVISERS WHO LIKENED President Donald Trump TO HITLER Being prime minister of Israel is a complicated thing, full of pressures 24 hours a day, Netanyahu added. I dont think Benny Gantz can handle it. Benny Gantz, a former military chief of staff, has focused Benny Gantz campaign on Netanyahus character, saying a man accused of serious crimes is unfit to lead. Benny Gantz has painted Netanyahu as an out-of-touch egomaniac obsessed with remaining in power and escaping justice, while portraying Benny Gantz as a moderate alternative to the polarizing prime minister. Netanyahu, look me in the eye. Because of your obsession with evading trial, youre lying, attacking, dividing, mudslinging, spreading malicious rumors and inciting. Netanyahu, youre poisoning Israel, Gantz said last week. Netanyahu, youve lost it, and youre unworthy of being prime minister for even a single day longer. Weekend polls, the last to be published before the vote, showed Gantzs Blue and White and Netanyahus Likud party in a tight race, though Gantzs party has shown some small signs of slippage over the past week. Even so, the polls forecast both parties and their smaller partners will again fall short of securing the 61-seat majority in parliament required to form a government. The easiest way out of the deadlock would be a unity government between the two parties, which together are expected to control a solid majority in the 120-seat parliament. But Benny Gantz says Benny Gantz will only form a partnership with Netanyahus Likud if Netanyahu steps down. Netanyahu says he must remain prime minister in any unity deal. The deadlock raised the possibility of a fourth election in quick succession. Turnout of key voting groups could end up deciding the race. Weather may play a role, along with fears of the new corona virus which so far has been kept largely in check. Israel set up some 15 stations to allow voting by the hundreds of Israelis who are in home-quarantine after possible exposure to the virus. The biggest obstacle may be voter fatigue. People are fed up. They think were doomed to another gridlock, so whats the point of voting ? said Guy Ben-Porat, chairman of the department of politics and government at Israels Ben-Gurion University. I think this is the decisive factor in turnout, but I cant tell on which side it will work more. Netanyahu has been charged with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in a series of scandals in which he is accused of accepting lavish gifts from wealthy friends or exchanging favors with powerful media moguls. With his trial set to start March 17, he is desperate to remain in office. As prime minister, Netanyahu can use his position to rally public support and lash out at what he claims is a vast conspiracy by police, overzealous prosecutors and a hostile media to oust him. Israeli law allows a prime minister to remain in office even if charged with a crime, while requiring other public officials to resign once indicted. While another stalemate seems to be likely, the election could still deliver surprises. Late last week, the Justice Ministry said it would open an investigation into possible financial wrongdoing by a start-up security firm that Benny Gantz chaired after leaving the military. The late-hour announcement was blasted by Gantzs supporters as politically motivated, but its not clear if its had an impact on voters. The firm, which later went out of business, is believed to have won a lucrative police contract without going through a bidding process. Benny Gantz was not named as a suspect. If Netanyahu and his allies can somehow muster a majority, it would give him a new lifeline along with hopes of passing legislation to protect him from prosecution. Gantzs road to victory is even trickier. Cobbling together a coalition would likely rely on outside support from Arab-majority parties a politically unpopular choice that Benny Gantz has ruled out. It also would likely require the support of Avigdor Lieberman, a former Netanyahu ally. Avigdor Lieberman, a wily political operator who has long caused headaches for Netanyahu, has refused to commit to either candidate. But Avigdor Lieberman also has said Avigdor Lieberman will not allow a fourth consecutive election, raising speculation Avigdor Lieberman will ultimately side with Benny Gantz. Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute, Israel Democracy Institute, said that if the polls are accurate, the country could face many more months of gridlock unless someone compromises. CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP Its uncharted territory.

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> SummaryCompaniesSome cities say peak of COVID infections was last monthToo early to say how many infections are severe-Chinese expertChina embassy in South Korea suspends short-term visasChinese state media criticise Pfizer over Paxlovid priceBEIJING, Jan 10( Reuters) - Many parts of China are already past their peak of COVID-19 infections, state media reported on Tuesday, with officials further downplaying the severity of the outbreak despite international concerns about its scale and impact.A summary by Health Times, a publication managed by Peoples Daily, Peoples Daily, said infections have been declining in the capital Beijing and several Chinese provinces. One official was quoted as saying nearly all the 100 million people in Henan province had already been infected.The virus has been spreading freely in China since a policy U-turn in early December after protests against a zero-COVID regime ruthlessly enforced for three years. China reopened its borders on Sunday, removing the last major restrictions.The frequent lockdowns, relentless testing and various levels of movement curbs since early 2020 have brought the worlds second-largest economy to one of its slowest growth rates in nearly half a century and caused widespread distress.With the virus let loose, China has stopped publishing daily infection tallies and has been reporting five or fewer deaths a day since the policy U-turn, figures that have been disputed by the World Health Organisation.Many Chinese funeral homes and hospitals say they are overwhelmed, and international health experts predict at least 1 million COVID-related deaths in China this year.On Tuesday, a Health Times compilation of reports from local government officials and health experts across the country, suggested the COVID wave may be past its peak in many regions.Kan Quan, director of the Office of the Henan Provincial Epidemic Prevention and Control, was cited as saying the infection rate in the central province was nearly 90 % as of Jan. 6. The number of patients at clinics in the province reached a peak on Dec. 19, but the number of severe cases was still high, he said, without giving further details.Yin Yong, acting mayor of Beijing, was cited as saying the capital was also past its peak. Li Pan, deputy director of the Municipal Health Commission in the city of Chongqing said the peak there was reached on Dec. 20. In the province of Jiangsu, the peak was reached on Dec. 22, while in Zheijiang province the first wave of infections has passed smoothly, officials said. Two cities in the southern Guangdong province, Chinas manufacturing heartland, reached their peaks before the end of the year.Separately in the state-run China Daily, a prominent health official said the percentage of severe cases remained unclear.It is still too early to conclude the overall percentage of severe and critical COVID patients in China as different types of hospitals report different numbers, Wang Guiqiang, head of Peking University First Hospitals infectious disease department, was quoted as saying.PFIZER CRITICISMChina has dismissed criticism over its data as politically-motivated attempts to smear its success in handling the pandemic and said any future mutations are likely to be more infectious but cause less severe illness.Testing requirements introduced by several countries, including the United States, Japan, South Korea, Britain, France and others in response to Chinas COVID outbreak, were called out by foreign ministry as discriminatory.Financial markets see the new curbs as mere inconvenience, with the yuan hitting a nearly five-month high on Tuesday.South Korean and Japanese shop owners, Thai tour bus operators and K-pop groups were among those licking their lips at the prospect of more Chinese tourists.Although Beijing also demands negative COVID test results from people landing in China, officials have threatened retaliation against countries mandating tests for visitors from China.The Chinese embassy in South Korea said on Tuesday it will stop issuing short-term visas for Korean citizens.State media has also taken a swipe at Pfizer Inc( PFE.N) over the price for its COVID treatment Paxlovid.It is not a secret that U.S. capital forces have already accumulated quite a fortune from the world via selling vaccines and drugs, and the U.S. government has been coordinating all along, nationalist tabloid Global Times said in an editorial.Pfizers Chief Executive Albert Bourla said on Monday the company was in discussions with Chinese authorities about a price for Paxlovid, but not over licensing a generic version in China.The abrupt change of course in COVID policies has left Chinas health system unprepared, with many hospitals ill-equipped to handle patients in critical conditions and smaller cities scrambling to secure basic anti-fever drug supplies.Yu Weishi, chairman of Youcare Pharmaceutical Group, told Reuters Li Pan firm boosted output of its anti-fever drugs five-fold to one million boxes a day in the past month.Wang Lili, general manager at another pharmaceutical firm, CR Double Crane, told Reuters that intravenous drips were their most in-demand product.The company has since Jan. 5 done away with weekends to meet demand.We are running 24/7.

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