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US Student Stuck in Limbo in Israel

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An American student detained in Israel for 10 days will have to wait a bit longer to learn her fate. A judge on Thursday delayed ruling on the case of 22-year-old Lara Alqasem, a Florida resident of Palestinian origin, per ABC News. Granted the proper visa in the US, Alqasem arrived in Tel Aviv on Oct. 2 with plans to pursue a master’s degree at Hebrew University in Jerusalem but was ordered deported. She appealed, and remains in a holding facility at Ben-Gurion Airport, reportedly with bedbugs and no internet, per Al Jazeera. Officials allege Alqasem, the former president of the University of Florida’s Students for Justice in Palestine, supported the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement and so is ineligible for entry; a relatively new law gives Israel power to turn away certain activists and anyone who “knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel.“

“We believe Miss Alqasem meets those criteria, based on her actions and the actions of the organization of which she was a senior leader over several years,“ says an assistant to Israel’s minister of strategic affairs; his boss earlier this week suggested Israel might change its tune if Alqasem denounced the BDS movement, which seeks to punish Israel for its actions against Palestinians. Lawyers for Alqasem, who hails from the Fort Lauderdale area, say she cut ties with the movement in April 2017. They also say her student group had only eight members, per the Jerusalem Post. Israel is “abusing its power in order to misapply its own rules regarding who is an activist,“ one lawyer adds. A ruling is expected in the coming days. Alqasem can return to the US at any time.

Reports: Saudi Arabia to Admit Khashoggi Killing

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As U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, several outlets are reporting the Saudi government could admit to inadvertently killing dissident journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi this month at its consulate in Istanbul.

Sources suggest an explanation that absolves the Saudi leadership — such as that Khashoggi was killed during a botched interrogation — is likely.

That would also align with President Donald Trump’s recent public speculation that “rogue killers” were to blame for the Washington Post columnist’s death.


Learn More:    Reuters    NBC    CNN

Croc Finds Wildlife Ranger Waist-Deep in Water

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A wildlife ranger was killed by a crocodile Friday in Australia’s Northern Territory while gathering mussels with her family in a waterhole, police tell the AP. The indigenous woman was attacked in a remote area 28 miles southwest of the community of Yirrkala. The employment safety watchdog NT WorkSafe says it is investigating. Her body was recovered hours later about half a mile from where she was taken by the crocodile, per Northern Territory Police Commander Tony Fuller. Local wildlife rangers killed the crocodile. “She was with the group ... and the group noticed her missing,“ says Fuller. “They heard some splashing. The bucket that she was carrying was found nearby.“

Fuller says the woman had been in waist-deep water when she was taken, and whether she was working as a wildlife ranger at the time would form part of the police investigation. The last fatal crocodile attack in Australia was October last year when a 79-year-old dementia patient was killed after wandering from a nursing home at Port Douglas in Queensland state. Crocodiles have been a protected species in Australia since the 1970s, which has led to an explosion in their population across the country’s tropical north. Because saltwater crocodiles can live up 70 years and grow throughout their lives—reaching up to 23 feet in length—the proportion of large crocodiles is also rising.

Nobel Winner Ignored Calls, Thinking They Were Spam

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One of the winners of this year’s Nobel Prize in economics says he ignored two telephone calls before learning of his honor from Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences, per the AP. “I didn’t answer either because I thought it was a spam call,“ said Paul Romer of New York University Monday. Then he checked caller ID and realized that someone from Sweden was trying to get hold of him, tweets New York Times reporter Binyamin Appelbaum. “So he called back and, after waiting on hold, learned he’d won the Nobel Prize.“

Romer teaches economics at NYU, where he founded the Stern Urbanization Project, which researches how policymakers can harness the rapid growth of cities to create economic opportunity and undertake systemic social reform. Romer also works with civic innovators as director of NYU’s Marron Institute of Urban Management. The university says he founded Aplia, an education technology application where students have submitted more than 1 billion answers to homework problems. He and William Nordhaus of Yale will split the prize of $1.01 million.

Kim Jong Un to Pope: Come Visit Me in North Korea

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Moon Jae-in will visit the Vatican next week, and the South Korean leader will go bearing a special invite for Pope Francis. The New York Times reports Moon will serve as the messenger for Kim Jong Un, who’s requesting that the pontiff pay him a visit in North Korea. “If the pope visits Pyongyang, we will give him a rousing welcome,“ Kim told Moon when the latter met with him in Pyongyang in September, per Moon’s spokesman. Although the Times considers an RSVP of “yes” as “highly unlikely”—no pope has ever visited North Korea—Moon, a Roman Catholic, is said to desire the get-together as a chance to recruit the pope to help ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The Times notes that North Korea was ranked No. 1 on a list of the worst nations for Christians by the Christian group Open Doors.

US Terminates 1955 Treaty With Iran

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In response to a UN court order that the US lift sanctions on Iran, the Trump administration said Wednesday it was terminating a decades-old treaty affirming friendly relations between the two countries. The move is a largely symbolic gesture that highlights deteriorating relations between Washington and Tehran, the AP reports. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said withdrawing from the 1955 Treaty of Amity was long overdue and followed Iran “groundlessly” bringing a complaint with the International Court of Justice challenging US sanctions on the basis that they were a violation of the pact. Meanwhile, national security adviser John Bolton said the administration also was pulling out of an amendment to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations that Iran or others, notably the Palestinians, could use to sue the US at The Hague-based tribunal. Bolton told reporters at the White House that the provision violates US sovereignty.

“The United States will not sit idly by as baseless politicized claims are brought against us,“ Bolton said. He cited a case brought to the court by the “so-called state of Palestine” challenging the move of the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as the main reason for withdrawing. Bolton, who last month unleashed a torrent of criticism against the International Criminal Court, noted that previous Republican administrations had pulled out of various international agreements and bodies over “politicized cases.“ He said the administration would review all accords that might subject the US to prosecution by international courts or panels. Earlier, Pompeo denounced the Iranian case before the UN court as “meritless” and said the Treaty of Amity was meaningless and absurd. “The Iranians have been ignoring it for an awfully long time, we ought to have pulled out of it decades ago,“ he told reporters at the State Department.

He Had $31M but Didn’t Know It. It’s Made His Life Awful

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Would your life be any different if someone told you $31 million once sat in your bank account (but wasn’t yours) and isn’t there anymore? For a Pakistani man, the answer is a resounding yes: He says his life had gotten worse. The Guardian and Dawn have the story of Muhammad Abdul Qadir, who says he was twice questioned by law enforcement in September about an account in his name at the State Bank of Pakistan; it was opened in 2014 using his identification, saw $31 million (in today’s dollars) pass through it, and was closed in 2015. Qadir says he told officials the truth: He’s an impoverished ice-cream seller living in a slum in Karachi who is unable to write and therefore couldn’t have signed the paperwork tied to the account.

Law enforcement believed his story, but the 52-year-old’s life has been upended all the same, he says. Neighbors have taken to taunting him, reportedly crying out, “Look a billionaire is selling” ice cream; his mother fears someone might misunderstand the story and kidnap him for ransom. And so he’s stopped working. “I am the most unlucky man in the world,“ he says. The account in his name may be one of the 77 that officials are investigating and believe may be linked to a nearly half-billion-dollar money-laundering scheme that could ultimately touch former president Asif Ali Zardari, who Time notes was referred to as “Mr. Ten Percent” in a nod to the allegations of bribery that surrounded him.

Turkish media: Video shows team of alleged Saudi assassins

Two Gulfstream jets carrying 15 Saudis landed at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport before dawn on the day last week that journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi Consulate and vanished. The men checked into hotels and left Turkey later that night.

Turkish media, which released surveillance camera video of the men on Wednesday, said they were members of an elite Saudi “assassination squad,” sent to kill Khashoggi, a Saudi critic.

Saudi Arabia remained silent at the accusation as the images were seen around the world, raising pressure on the kingdom to explain what happened to the writer, a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Adding to the macabre mystery, a Turkish official told The Associated Press that one member of the team was an “autopsy expert.”


Saudi Arabia has dismissed allegations it played a role in Khashoggi’s disappearance as “baseless,” but it has offered no evidence to support its contention he left the consulate unharmed last week and vanished into Istanbul while his fiancée waited outside.

The video, shown on the state-run broadcaster TRT and others, did not offer definitive proof about Khashoggi’s fate. Turkish officials have said that they fear the team killed Khashoggi.

President Donald Trump said the U.S. is “demanding” answers from Saudi Arabia about Khashoggi and wants to bring his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, to the White House. He added that he spoke with the Saudis about what he called a “bad situation,” but he did not disclose details.

Earlier, U.S. officials warned that any harm done to the 59-year-old Washington Post contributor will jeopardize its relations with the kingdom, its close ally and the world’s largest oil exporter.

The Turkish security camera video was reminiscent of the surveillance video sleuthing done by officials investigating the assassination of a Hamas operative in Dubai in 2010 or the slaying of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half brother in Malaysia in 2017.

The silent video showed one of two private Gulfstream jets that Turkish media said carried the Saudi group, who flew in and out of Istanbul on Oct. 2.

The Sabah newspaper, which is close to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, published images of what it referred to as the “assassination squad,” apparently taken at passport control at the airport. The state-run Anadola news agency published the names and birth dates of all 15 Saudis.

The footage shows some of the Saudis leaving a hotel and Khashoggi entering the consulate, walking past a black Mercedes van with diplomatic plates parked adjacent to the entrance. An hour and 54 minutes later, according to the time stamp, a black Mercedes van drives about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) to the consul’s home, where it was parked in a garage.

The footage all seemed to come from surveillance cameras, which would have been located throughout the neighborhood housing the Saudi Consulate and other diplomatic missions. No footage has emerged of Khashoggi leaving the consulate.

Two Turkish officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to the AP because the investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance was still ongoing, confirmed the authenticity of the images in the Turkish media. One of the officials describes a member of the Saudi team as an “autopsy expert” amid earlier allegations that Khashoggi had been killed and dismembered.

The Hurriyet newspaper and other media alleged that the Saudi Consulate’s 28 local staff were given the day off Oct. 2 because a “diplomats’ meeting” would be held there on that day. The reports did not cite a source and there was no official confirmation. Turkey’s private NTV news channel identified one of the 15 Saudis who arrived as the head of a Saudi forensic science agency. It alleged that he may have been responsible for cleaning up any incriminating evidence. The station did not cite a source for its report.

Khashoggi had written a series of columns for the Post that were critical of Saudi Arabia’s assertive Prince Mohammed, who has led a widely publicized drive to reform the conservative Sunni monarchy but has also presided over the arrests of activists and businessmen.

Erdogan has not accused Saudi Arabia of being responsible for Khashoggi’s disappearance but has said that if the Saudis have video footage of him leaving the consulate, they should release it. Saudi Arabia is a major investor in Turkey, despite Ankara’s support for the Gulf nation of Qatar, which is under a blockade led by Saudi Arabia and three other Arab nations.

Police and investigators in Turkey typically release video and information through state-run or otherwise government-friendly media outlets, as opposed to holding briefings like those common in Western nations.

On Wednesday, the Post published a column by Cengiz, who said her fiance first visited the consulate on Sept. 28 “despite being somewhat concerned that he could be in danger.” He returned there Oct. 2 after being promised the necessary paperwork so the two could be married.

“At this time, I implore President Trump and first lady Melania Trump to help shed light on Jamal’s disappearance,” Cengiz wrote. “I also urge Saudi Arabia, especially King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to show the same level of sensitivity and release CCTV footage from the consulate.”

She added: “Although this incident could potentially fuel a political crisis between the two nations, let us not lose sight of the human aspect of what happened.”

Khashoggi had sought to become a U.S. citizen after living in self-imposed exile since last year, fearing repercussions for his criticism of the prince, Cengiz wrote.

Trump, whose first overseas trip as U.S. president was to the kingdom and whose son-in-law Jared Kushner has close ties to Prince Mohammed, said Tuesday he had not yet talked to the Saudis about Khashoggi, “but I will be at some point.”

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said Tuesday that Saudi authorities have notified Ankara that they were “open to cooperation” and would allow the consulate building to be searched. It’s unclear when such a search would take place.

Embassies and consulates under the Vienna Convention are technically foreign soil and must be protected by host nations. Saudi Arabia may have agreed to the search in order to reassure its Western allies and the international community.

World’s Most Famous Fish Market Closes This Week

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After years of delays, Tokyo’s 80-year-old Tsukiji fish market is closing on Saturday to move to a more modern facility on reclaimed industrial land in Tokyo Bay. The new $5 billion facility at Toyosu will open on Oct. 11, over the objections of many working in Tsukiji who contend the new site is contaminated, inconvenient, and unsafe, the AP reports. “What’s wrong with Tsukiji? Tsukiji for another hundred years!“ hundreds of workers chanted during a recent protest. Much of the angst over the move has to do with closing down a beloved local institution. A labyrinth of quaint sushi stalls and shops selling everything from knives to ice cream encircle the huge wholesale market famous for its predawn haggling over deep-frozen tuna and other harvests from the sea.

Tsukiji has been supplying Tokyo’s fancy restaurants and everyday supermarkets since 1935. Its origins date back nearly a century. Around 40,000 people visit the market each day, and opponents of the move fear tourists will be less likely to visit out-of-the-way Toyosu, which resembles a huge, modern factory. Makoto Nakazawa, 54, who has worked in Tsukiji for more than 30 years, said he dislikes the new space and is angry over the closure of a market that has “fed Tokyo for years.“ Tsukiji is special, a place of unusual diversity in conformist Japan where misfits like avant-garde theater actors and convicts are accepted, Nakazawa says. “People who want us out want to redevelop this place. I can’t imagine any other reason,“ he says. “There’s obviously money to be made.“

Man’s Unusual Death in Australia: by Sea Snake

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A freak accident that claimed the life of a British man in Australia may be the first of its kind on record. The 23-year-old working on a fishing trawler off the Northern Territory was lifting a net onto the boat when he was bitten by a sea snake on Thursday. The BBC reports the snakes are extremely venomous but CNN reports most typically don’t transmit a lethal dose of the venom with their bites. (The New York Times previously explained they’re designed to deliver enough to paralyze smaller prey, not creatures of our size.) Further, the snakes rarely come into contact with humans, and when they do, one Australian professor describes them as peaceful.

“People go scuba diving with them all the time,“ he says. The key difference here is that the snake was tangled in the net and potentially injured, and “perhaps looking to lash out.“ There are 70 known species of sea snake, nearly half of which are found in Australian waters; officials didn’t say which species bit the man.

Irish Utterly Lose Their Minds Over ... Krispy Kreme

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Honking horns, bumper-to-bumper traffic, and tempers converged upon the Irish capital of Dublin over the past seven days—and it was all due to tasty fried dough. Mashable reports that the Sept. 26 grand opening of the city’s first 24-hour Krispy Kreme drive-thru quickly resulted in long lines of sugar-seeking Irish (the Irish Post has video). Per the Irish Independent, the commotion went on deep into the night, irritating nearby residents. “Since the grand opening, we haven’t had proper sleep at night,“ one local says. “We have jobs, kids, schools, and so many elderly people living here as well.“

It was so chaotic, per Global News, that one man videotaped cars that he says mistakenly waited for an hour in a second line that led straight to ... a fence. And so the doughnut chain—which the Irish Times notes had 300 people lined up outside when the doors opened on its first day in Dublin—has been forced to tweak things. “We’ve listened to our neighbors and we’re making changes,“ Krispy Kreme UK CEO Richard Cheshire said in a statement, per the Independent. The main adjustment: shutting down the drive-thru each night at 11:30 and reopening at 6am. The store itself will remain open for walk-ins around the clock, with the wait time inside estimated to run around 10 minutes.

Russia’s Secretive GRU Accused of Worldwide Hacks

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The Justice Department on Thursday charged seven Russian intelligence officers with hacking anti-doping agencies and other organizations hours after Western officials leveled new accusations against Moscow’s secretive GRU military spy agency, per the AP. Before the US indictment was announced, Western nations accused the GRU of new cybercrimes, with Dutch and British officials labeling the intelligence agency “brazen” for allegedly targeting the international chemical weapons watchdog and the investigation into the 2014 downing of a Malaysian Airlines flight over eastern Ukraine. The US indictment said that the GRU targeted its victims because they had publicly supported a ban on Russian athletes in international sports competitions and because they had condemned Russia’s state-sponsored athlete doping program.

Prosecutors said that the Russians also targeted a Pennsylvania-based nuclear energy company and an international organization that was investigating chemical weapons in Syria and the poisoning of a former GRU officer. The indictment says the hacking was often conducted remotely. If that wasn’t successful, the hackers would conduct “on-site” or “close access” hacking operations with trained GRU members traveling with sophisticated equipment to target their victims through Wi-Fi networks. Moscow has issued the latest in a series of denials, but the allegations leveled by Western intelligence agencies, supported by a wealth of surveillance footage and overwhelmingly confirmed by independent reporting, paint a picture of the GRU as an agency that routinely crosses red lines—and is increasingly being caught red-handed.

Iran Took Its US Gripes to UN Court, Scored Victory

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The United Nations’ highest court on Wednesday ordered the United States to lift specific sanctions on Iran. The ruling by the International Court of Justice is legally binding, but it remains to be seen if the Trump administration will comply. President Trump moved to restore tough US sanctions in May after withdrawing from Tehran’s nuclear accord with world powers. Iran challenged the sanctions in a case filed in July at the International Court of Justice. In a preliminary ruling, the court said that Washington must “remove, by means of its choosing, any impediments arising from” the re-imposition of sanctions to the export to Iran of medicine and medical devices, food and agricultural commodities, and spare parts and equipment necessary to ensure the safety of civil aviation, reports the AP.

In its decision, the court said that the US sanctions “have the potential to endanger civil aviation safety” in Iran and that sanctions limiting sales of goods required for humanitarian needs such as food, medicines, and medical devices “may have a serious detrimental impact on the health and lives of individuals on the territory of Iran.“ While imposing the so-called “provisional measures,“ the court’s president, Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, stressed that the case will continue and the United States could still challenge the court’s jurisdiction, which it is expected to do in a future hearing. US lawyers in August argued the sanctions are a legal and justified national security measure that cannot be challenged by Tehran at the world court.

Tense International Encounter Unfolds in South China Sea

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A tense encounter unfolded Sunday between US and Chinese vessels in the South China Sea. Per CNN, the American destroyer USS Decatur was aggressively approached by a Chinese warship while conducting what are called freedom of navigation operations in the Spratly Islands. in a statement, Capt. Charles Brown with the US Pacific Fleet said a Chinese Luyang destroyer approached the US vessel in an “unsafe and unprofessional” maneuver. According to CBS News, the Chinese vessel came with 45 yards of the Decatur, a dangerous proximity that forced the Decatur to maneuver away in order to prevent a collision.

The encounter is an extreme example of the recent tense US-China relations in the region. Just last week, China refused a request for the US Navy’s amphibious assault ship, the USS Wasp, to dock in Hong Kong next month. In spite of these and other setbacks, including his own canceled state visit to Beijing, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Monday that US-China relations are not worsening, per the AP. “There’s tension points in the relationship, but based on discussions coming out of New York last week and other things that we have coming up, we do not see it getting worse,“ Mattis told reporters in Paris. “We’ll sort this out.“ Back in the Pacific, Capt. Brown affirmed that US forces will continue to operate “anywhere international law allows.“

Saudis Sent 15-Man ‘Murder’ Team to Kill Journalist

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Missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey by a 15-member team dispatched by Riyadh specifically to murder him, two Turkish officials tell the Washington Post. “It was a preplanned murder,“ one says. A third backs up that account. “The initial assessment of the Turkish police is that Mr. Khashoggi has been killed at the consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul,“ the official tells the AP. “We believe that the murder was premeditated and the body was subsequently moved out of the consulate.“ Khashoggi, who wrote for the Post and often critically of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was at the consulate to complete paperwork so that he could marry his Turkish fiance.

Saudi Arabia, which contends that Khashoggi left the consulate without incident, pushed back on the report, saying that an official at the consulate “expressed doubt that they came from Turkish officials that are informed of the investigation or are authorized to comment on the issue.“

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