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Netanyahu’s ice cream budget causes political stir

JERUSALEM — His foreign minister had to resign after being accused of fraud. He was sharply criticized for his government’s handling of Prisoner X, who committed suicide in prison. And now this, which made front-page news in Israel this weekend: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands accused of dipping into state coffers for an ice cream budget of $2,700 a year.

Pistachio, it was revealed by the proprietors of a gourmet ice cream parlor a couple of blocks from the prime minister’s official residence, is his favorite (presumably not made with the Iranian kind of nut). Mrs. Netanyahu, they said, appears to prefer French vanilla.

In a country facing severe cuts in government spending after an election that focused largely on the struggling middle class, and with the Netanyahus’ supposed taste for the high life already under scrutiny, news of the prime minister’s weakness for artisanal pistachio ice cream raised a national outcry.

Shelly Yachimovich, the leader of the center-left Labor Party, summed it up as a Marie Antoinette moment and noted that Netanyahu was the one who always spoke of cutting the fat.

“If there’s no bread, eat ice cream,” she wrote on her Facebook page, adding, “Shall we laugh or cry?”

—Isabel Kershner, The New York Times

Russians wade into the snow to seek treasure from the sky

DEPUTATSKOYE, Russia — Ever since the meteor exploded somewhere over this impoverished Siberian town, Larisa V. Briyukova wondered what to do with the fist-size stone she found under a hole in the roof tiles of her woodshed.

On Monday, a stranger knocked on her door, offering about $60, Briyukova said. After some haggling, they settled on a price of $230.

A few hours later, another man pulled up, looked at the hole in the roof and offered $1,300.

“Now I regret selling it,” said Briyukova, a 43-year-old homemaker. “But then, who knows? The police might have come and taken it away anyway.”

On Friday, terror rained from the skies, blowing out windows and scaring people over an enormous swath of Siberia. But by Monday, for many people what fell from the sky had turned to pure gold, and it touched off a rush to retrieve the fragments, many buried in deep February snows.

—Andrew E. Kramer, The New York Times

Leak in fuel line cause of cruise ship’s trouble

A U.S. Coast Guard official said Monday that the fire that disabled the Carnival Triumph cruise ship began when a fuel line connected to one of the vessel’s engines sprang a leak.

“It sprayed oil onto a hot surface and caught on fire,” the official, Lt. Cmdr. Teresa Hatfield, said at a news conference. The leak occurred in a flexible part of a return line, she said, rather than a line that was feeding fuel to the engine.

Hatfield, who is leading the Coast Guard’s investigation into the episode, said that interviews with members of the vessel’s crew indicated that they had responded appropriately to the fire. She also said the Triumph’s fire suppression system had worked properly.

However, the fire destroyed the vessel’s generators, apparently because intense heat forced the crew to abandon the engine room. As a result, the ship lost power and electricity, leaving it stranded in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Any time you have a fire, you are going to have damage because you have to close the room and leave the room closed for a period of time to allow the engine room to cool,” Hatfield said.

—Barry Meier, The New York Times