Convicted Killer Turned Tech Whiz Confronts His Sordid Past

When he was 20 years old, Harel Hershtik planned and executed a murder, a crime that a quarter of a century later is still widely remembered for its grisly details. Today, he is the brains behind an Israeli health-tech startup, poised to make millions of dollars with the backing of prominent public figures and deep-pocket investors. With his company set to go public, Hershtik’s past is coming under new scrutiny, raising questions about whether someone who took a person’s life deserves to rehabilitate his own to such an extent. “When I was young, I would say that I was stupid and arrogant,” said Hershtik, now 46. “You can be a genius and yet still be very stupid and the two don’t contradict each other.” Today, Hershtik is the vice president of strategy and technology at Scentech Medical, a company he founded in 2018, while behind bars, which says its product can detect certain diseases through a breath test. In a three-hour interview with The Associated Press, he repeatedly expressed remorse for his crime. Hershtik was convicted of murdering Yaakov Sela, a charismatic snake trapper he met when he was 14. The two had a bumpy relationship. Sela was known for having numerous girlfriends at once, one being Hershtik’s mother. Hershtik said he felt uneasy with how Sela treated some of the women, including his mother. In early 1996, Sela discovered that Hershtik had stolen 49,000 shekels (about $15,000 at the time) from him, and the two agreed that instead of …

IBM: 6 Black Colleges Getting Cybersecurity Centers

Six historically Black universities in five Southern states will be getting the first IBM cybersecurity centers aimed at training underrepresented communities, the company said. The schools are Xavier University of Louisiana, that state’s Southern University System, North Carolina A&T, South Carolina State, Clark Atlanta and Morgan State universities, according to a news release Tuesday. “Technology-related services are in constant demand, and cybersecurity is paramount,” said Dr. Ray L. Belton, president of the Southern University System based in Baton Rouge. The centers will give students, staff, and faculty access to modern technology, resources, and skills development, said Dr. Nikunja Swain, chair and professor of the Computer Science and Mathematics Department at South Carolina State, in Orangeburg. “It will further enhance our ongoing activities on several key areas, including cybersecurity, data science analytics, cloud computing, IOT, blockchain, design thinking, quantum computing, and artificial intelligence,” he said. IBM said it plans more than 20 such centers at historically Black colleges and universities nationwide. The company said each school will get customized courses and access to company academic programs. They also will be able to experience simulated but realistic cyberattacks through IBM Security’s Command Center. The company said it also will provide faculty and students free access to multiple SaaS IBM Cloud environments. Xavier is in New Orleans, North Carolina A&T in Greensboro and Morgan State in Baltimore. …

US Abortion Rights Activists Start ‘Summer of Rage’ With Saturday Protests

Abortion rights supporters will protest in cities across the United States on Saturday, kicking off what organizers said would be “a summer of rage” if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide. Planned Parenthood, Women’s March and other abortion rights groups organized more than 300 “Bans Off Our Bodies” marches for Saturday, with the largest turnouts expected in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Chicago. The demonstrations are in response to the May 2 leak of a draft opinion showing the court’s conservative majority ready to reverse the 1973 landmark decision that established a federal constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy. The court’s final ruling, which could give states the power to ban abortion, is expected in June. About half of U.S. states could ban or severely restrict abortion soon after a ruling vacating Roe.   Organizers said they anticipated hundreds of thousands of people to participate in Saturday’s events, which they said would be the first of many coordinated protests around the Supreme Court’s decision. “For the women of this country, this will be a summer of rage,” said Rachel Carmona, president of Women’s March. “We will be ungovernable until this government starts working for us, until the attacks on our bodies let up, until the right to an abortion is codified into law.” Democrats, who currently hold the White House and both chambers of Congress, hope that backlash to the Supreme Court decision will carry their party’s candidates to victory …

New Zealand Prime Minister Tests Positive for COVID-19   

New Zealand’s prime minister has tested positive for COVID. Jacinda Ardern’s office said in a statement Saturday that she has mild symptoms and has been in isolation since Sunday, when her partner, Clarke Gayford, tested positive. Ardern is required to be in isolation until May 21, preventing her from being in Parliament for the release of the Government’s Emissions Reduction Plan on Monday and the country’s budget on Thursday. “This is a milestone week for the government, and I’m gutted I can’t be there for it,” Ardern said. Meanwhile, an Associated Press report says that four U.S. Air Force Academy cadets may not graduate or receive a military commission because they have refused COVID-19 vaccinations. AP reports that Air Force officials say the cadets may also have to “pay back thousands of dollars in tuition costs.” The Asian Football Confederation announced Saturday that the Chinese Football Association will not be able to host the 2023 AFC Asian Cup. The confederation said in a statement that it “acknowledges the exceptional circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the relinquishment by China PR of its hosting rights.” China maintains a zero-COVID policy that has forced thousands of people to go into quarantine for long periods of time. The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported more than 520 million COVID-19 cases early Saturday and over 6 million deaths. …

Storm Chasers Face Host of Dangers Beyond Severe Weather

The deaths of four storm chasers in car crashes over the last two weeks have underscored the dangers of pursuing severe weather events as more people clog back roads and highways searching for a glimpse of a lightning bolt or tornado, meteorologists and chasers say. Martha Llanos Rodriguez of Mexico City died Wednesday when a semitrailer plowed into her vehicle from behind on Interstate 90 in southwestern Minnesota. The car’s driver, Diego Campos, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he and Rodriguez and two other weather experts had been chasing violent weather and were hit after he stopped for downed power lines on the road. More people are hopping into their cars and racing off after storms, jamming up roads, running stop signs and paying more attention to the sky than traffic, said Marshall Shepherd, director of the atmospheric sciences program at the University of Georgia. “There is such a volume of chasers out there on some storms sometimes that it creates potential traffic and other hazards,” Shepherd said. “Seeing storms within their natural context has scientific and broader value so I am not anti-chasing, however, there are elements that have become a little wild, wild West-ish.” Popularized in the 1996 movie “Twister,” storm chasing involves pursuing severe weather events such as electrical storms and tornadoes, often in cars or on foot. Some are researchers looking to gather data, such as verifying computer models predicting storm behavior. Some are looking to get in touch with nature. Others are photographers. And …

Interfaith Group Asks Starbucks to Drop Vegan Milk Surcharge

A group of Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and Jewish leaders is asking Starbucks to stop charging extra for vegan milk alternatives, saying the practice amounts to a tax on people who have embraced plant-based lifestyles. In a statement issued Friday, an interfaith coalition led by Nevada-based Hindu activist Rajan Zed pressed the coffee chain to end the surcharges it called “unethical and unfair.” “A coffee company should not be in the business of taxing individuals who had chosen the plant-based lifestyle,” said Zed’s statement, which was also signed by Thomas W. Blake, an Episcopal priest; Greek Orthodox clergyman Stephen R. Karcher; Buddhist priest Matthew Fisher; and Jewish rabbi ElizaBeth Webb Beyer. The religious leaders cited numerous reasons why some Starbucks customers prefer alternatives to dairy, including dietary restrictions, ethical issues, environmental concerns, lactose intolerance, milk allergies and animal welfare. Those who want plant-based milk should not have to pay more, they said, calling on the Seattle-based company’s CEO, Howard Schultz, and board chair Mellody Hobson to immediately drop the surcharge. Starbucks outlets in the United States typically charge 50 cents to a dollar more for drinks made with plant-based milks. …

Canada Blazes Path in Space Law

The Canadian government is amending its criminal law to include any crimes committed by citizens who one day go to the moon. While the move seems far-fetched, experts say that because of the growing interest in and feasibility of space tourism, countries should begin thinking about how crimes committed in space will be adjudicated, and they suggest the coming Canadian legislation could become a model for other countries. Legal procedures are already in place to deal with crimes committed aboard the International Space Station, which is divided into different sections controlled by individual countries. If two Americans were involved in a crime in the American part of the station, it would be prosecutable under U.S. law. If an astronaut of one nationality was accused of a crime against a one of a different nationality, the two countries would have to negotiate which would prosecute or possibly extradite the suspect. Now Canada is looking beyond the laws governing low Earth orbit and considering legal scenarios on another celestial object — in this case, the moon. Language buried deep within the 443 pages of this year’s budget implementation bill stipulates that any Canadian crew member who commits an offense in space is deemed to have committed it in Canada. Steven Freeland, a professor emeritus of international law at Western Sydney University in Australia, says current laws on the space station will not work for something more complex, such as a lunar settlement. Freeland, who has been involved extensively with space law for …

Baby Formula Shortage in the US Challenges Families 

One of the three companies that make baby formula in the U.S. has halted production, adding to what was already a baby formula shortage due to supply chain issues and other factors. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it is doing everything in its power to ensure that an adequate supply of the product is available. And even the White House says it’s taking steps to alleviate the crisis. VOA’s Laurel Bowman has more.  …

Moon Goes Blood Red This Weekend: ‘Eclipse for the Americas’

A total lunar eclipse will grace the night skies this weekend, providing longer than usual thrills for stargazers across North and South America.  The celestial action unfolds Sunday night into early Monday morning, with the moon bathed in the reflected red and orange hues of Earth’s sunsets and sunrises for about one-and-a-half hours, one of the longest totalities of the decade. It will be the first so-called blood moon in a year.  Observers in the eastern half of North America and all of Central and South America will have prime seats for the whole show, weather permitting. Partial stages of the eclipse will be visible across Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Left out: Alaska, Asia and Australia.   “This is really an eclipse for the Americas,” said NASA’s Noah Petro, a planetary geologist who specializes in the moon. “It’s going to be a treat.”  All you need, he noted, are “patience and eyeballs.”  A total eclipse occurs when Earth passes directly between the moon and the sun and casts a shadow on our constant, cosmic companion. The moon will be 362,000 kilometers (225,000 miles) away at the peak of the eclipse — around midnight on the U.S. East Coast.  “This is this gradual, slow, wonderful event that as long as it’s clear where you are, you get to see it,” Petro said.  If not, NASA will provide a livestream of the eclipse from various locations; so will the Slooh network of observatories.  There’ll be another lengthy total lunar eclipse …

April 2022 Tied for Earth’s 5th Warmest Ever, NOAA Reports

Scientists with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Friday that April 2022 tied April 2010 as the fifth warmest April on record.  In a release, NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information said the average global temps in April were 0.85 of a degree Celsius above the 20th century average of 13.7 C.  NOAA said the global temperature for the year through April 2022 was 0.87 of a degree C above average, making it the fifth warmest such year through April on record.  They report Asia recorded its warmest April ever this year, with temperatures running 2.62 degrees above average. The agency says unusually high temperatures in India and Pakistan during the month contributed to the region’s record heat.  The agency’s Global Annual Temperature Rankings Outlook reports there is a virtual certainty — greater than 99% — that 2022 will rank among the 10 warmest years on record.  NOAA reports that the 10 warmest Aprils globally have all occurred since 2010, with 2014-2022 all ranking among the 10 warmest Aprils on record.    …