International News in Brief

Court rules Australia's same-sex marriage vote may proceed

MELBOURNE — Australia's High Court ruled that conducting a nationwide postal vote regarding same-sex marriage is legal and may proceed. The voluntary survey, run by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, will be unique in Australia's history since lawmakers are not bound by its results, and legally, it doesn't have to take place before Parliament may act.

The decision to conduct the survey has been deeply unpopular, with advocates of same-sex marriage pushing for Parliament to vote on the issue directly and those against it describing it as a referendum on freedoms and “radical” sex education.

Australia’s Attorney General, George Brandis, dismissed this characterization of the vote, stating, “It is a survey to determine the opinion of the Australian people on the question that is asked, and that question is, ‘Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?’ That is the only question to which the Australian people are being asked their advice.”

The ballots are expected to be mailed out next week.

Source: The New York Times

Wife of Israeli Prime Minister to face fraud charges

JERUSALEM — Avichai Mandelblit, Israel’s attorney general, said that he intends to bring fraud charges against Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for misusing $100,000 in public funds for her and her husband's home. She is also being accused of using state funds for paying for outdoor furniture and electrical work, hiring employees to take care of her father, and hiring a chef.

Mandelblit said he would seek an indictment of Mrs. Netanyahu on charges of aggravated acquisition through fraudulent means, fraud, and breach of trust which can land her in prison for up to five years.

Mrs. Netanyahu is also involved in other cases focusing on her husband, such as one in which he is accused of offering favors to officials in return for gifts for him and his family.

“As bad as it seems, it doesn’t change the entire picture,” said Nachman Shai, a legislator from the opposition Zionist Union. “He’s the prime minister. That’s his wife, with all respect. The other cases now have to be investigated."

Source: The New York Times

Hurricane Irma closes in on Florida

FORT MYERS — After wreaking havoc on Cuba’s northern coast, Hurricane Irma has set its sight on Florida, leading many Americans to scramble for safety.

Irma, described as one of the most powerful Atlantic storms in a century, is expected to travel through South Florida as a Category 4 storm. After killing at least 22 people in the Caribbean, Irma is considered a life-threatening danger to Florida and may also likely inflict billions of dollars in damage in the state.

Irma has consistently weakened and regained strength during its rampage. While in Cuba, it was ranked as a Category 5 storm though it gradually weakened to a Category 3 storm as it moved along the island’s northern coastline. According to the National Hurricane Center, maximum sustained winds stayed around 125 mph. Irma is expected to regain strength as it travels through the waters of Florida.

"It could rival any storm in Florida’s history," said Governor Rick Scott.

Source: Reuters