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Curated top stories
- In a dramatic twist to an already complex week in Saudi Arabia and Middle Eastern politics, French President Emmanuel Macron said he’s heading to Riyadh on an unscheduled visit. He had been in the region for the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Macron’s move coincided with claims by Lebanon that its prime minister, who announced his resignation in Riyadh earlier this week, was being held against his will in the Saudi capital.
- Syria’s military said it has “liberated” the town of Abu Kamal from ISIS, according to the BBC. It reported that Syrian commanders called the achievement proof of ISIS’s “fall” in the region.
- The U.S. Treasury Department will impose additional sanctions on top officials of the Venezuelan government, according to the Wall Street Journal. This would be the second wave of U.S. sanctions on President Nicolas Maduro’s government since President Donald J. Trump took office.
- A U.N. watchdog says Australia needs to change its migration laws to align with international standards. Australia has been criticized by human-rights groups for its treatment of asylum seekers, as well as its offshore detention centers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Last week, Manus Island center in PNG closed despite 600 asylum seekers refusing to leave.
- U.S. President Donald Trump welcomed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s promise to be more open to foreign business but urged him to do more about North Korea. Trump said in Beijing that China can “fix” the North Korea nuclear issue “quickly and easily.” While Trump had criticized Chinese trade policies when running for office, he struck a warmer tone on Thursday – blaming Xi’s predecessors for any imbalance and calling Xi a “special man.”
- Reuters is citing an unnamed Lebanese government official as saying the Lebanese government believes Saad Hariri – who abruptly resigned as prime minister on November 4 – is being “held” by the Saudi government. Saudi Arabia has denied that Hariri, who read his resignation statement from Riyadh, is under house arrest.
What we’re reading
- As American interest in searching for extraterrestrial life wanes, this Atlantic article takes us through the potential implications of China making first contact with aliens – Linh Nguyen
- Germany will become the first European country to have a third gender option on its birth certificates, after its highest court ordered the move. The New York Times looks at the history behind this, and the progress of such acceptance across the world – Angela Long
- Author Sy Montgomery has often been mesmerized by an aquarium tank, wondering, as she stared into the horizontal pupils of an octopus’s large, prominent eyes, if she was staring back at her — and if so, what was the octopus thinking? This piece for Orion Magazine explores the difficult task of measuring the impressive mind of an eight armed mollusk. — Charles Anderson