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KeithBinns/iStock(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- An American and Australian professor who were kidnapped in Afghanistan and held hostage for more than three years have been released by the Taliban in a prisoner swap aimed at restarting peace negotiations between the United States and the Afghan militant organization.

American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks were both professors at the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul when they were ambushed and abducted by gunmen while leaving the campus in August 2016. They had appeared in a proof-of-life video looking gaunt and disheveled in January 2017 requesting then-President-elect Donald Trump secure their release by agreeing to a deal.

"We are so happy to hear that my brother has been freed and is on his way home to us," King's sister, Stephanie Miller, said in a statement to ABC News. "This has been a long and painful ordeal for our entire family, and his safe return has been our highest priority. We appreciate the support we have received and ask for privacy as we await Kevin's safe return."

Three senior members of the Taliban were released from Afghan government custody in exchange for the two men.

The three Taliban prisoners released were named as Anas Haqqani, Haji Mali Khan and Hafiz Rashid. Haqqani is a leader of the Haqqani group, a network that has been blamed for several attacks and the deaths of hundreds of U.S. troops since 2001. Haqqani's imprisonment by the Afghan government is said to have prompted the kidnapping of King and Weeks.

The hand-off of King and Weeks in eastern Afghanistan was facilitated by a U.S. special mission unit from Joint Special Operations Command, according to a counterterrorism official. In 2015, when prisoner of war Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was freed in a similar swap, Alpha Squadron from the Army's elite Delta Force handled the pickup, which the Taliban videotaped and released afterward.

Just last week, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani said the decision was "a tough, but important" one and one he had to make in the interest of the Afghan people.

With King's freedom after three years in captivity with the Afghan Taliban's Haqqani Network, there remain a total of three Americans still held hostage by terrorists overseas, counterterrorism officials have told ABC News. They include Paul Overby, who is believed held by the Taliban in Afghanistan, Jeffery Woodke, a missionary taken hostage in Niger by ISIS, and a third U.S. citizen whose name and circumstances are not public.

The American and Australian professors were kidnapped after word got out that Haqqani -- brother of Afghan Taliban leader Siraj Haqqani and son of legendary mujahideen commander Jalaluddin Haqqani -- had been tried and sentenced to death in Kabul. That "ticked off the Taliban," a western intelligence official said at the time, and they kidnapped professors off the street in retaliation.

Weeks after the two professors were abducted, a video was released by the Taliban featuring Caitlan Coleman, a Pennsylvanian held hostage by the Haqqani Network for five years in North Waziristan with her Canadian husband and three children. Coleman said that she and her family would be killed if any harm came to Taliban prisoners, which officials interpreted as Anas Haqqani.

Two years ago, however, Coleman and her family were freed in Pakistan. On Tuesday, Coleman sent her best wishes to King, Weeks and their families.

"Welcome home, Kevin and Tim. Though we be strangers, the news of your safety at last has lifted my heart and causes me great relief. I am grateful also to the governments that worked to secure their safe return from the hands of the terrorists," Coleman said in a statement to ABC News.

Paul Overby’s wife, Jane Larson, said in a statement to ABC News Tuesday that she is glad King and Weeks are finally free.

"I am relieved that at last the professors are free and will soon be home with their families," Larson said. "Paul has been missing since May 2014. During the last five and a half years, I have not received any definitive information regarding his status or location. I remain eager for information from his captors or the governments of Afghanistan or Pakistan, where he was traveling at the time of his disappearance."

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DNY59/iStock(STOCKHOLM) -- Sweden has dropped a rape investigation involving WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, prosecutors announced Tuesday.

Officials said the evidence against Assange has weakened due to the long period of time that has elapsed since the alleged incident.

"I would like to emphasise that the injured party has submitted a credible and reliable version of events. Her statements have been coherent, extensive and detailed; however, my overall assessment is that the evidential situation has been weakened to such an extent that that there is no longer any reason to continue the investigation," said Eva-Marie Persson, deputy director of Public Prosecution.

Assange has always denied the August 2010 sexual assault accusations and fought extradition for years, hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy from June 2012 to April 2019 when he was arrested for jumping bail in connection with charges related to the rape case in Sweden. While the rape charges were later dropped, the bail jumping charges remained.

Assange is currently serving a 50-week jail sentence in the U.K. on the bail jumping charge.

This is far from the end of Assange's legal troubles.

He is also wanted in the U.S. in connection with one of the largest thefts of classified government information in American history. The U.K. has an extradition treaty with the U.S., depending on an assurance that wanted persons do not face the death penalty, which is outlawed in the U.K.

Hours after he was arrested by British authorities in April, U.S. prosecutors announced charges against him for allegedly conspiring with former intelligence officer Chelsea Manning to gain unlawful access to a government computer.

The indictment, which was filed in March 2018, claims Assange helped Manning crack a password on a Pentagon computer.

In 2013, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for the offense, but her sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama as one of his final acts in office.

"From the outset of Sweden's preliminary investigation, Julian Assange’s expressed concern has been that waiting in the wings was a United States extradition request that would be unstoppable from Sweden - and result in his spending the rest of his life in a US prison," WikiLeaks said in a statement. "Now that the US does seek Mr Assange’s extradition to stand trial on unprecedented charges for journalistic work, it continues to be a matter of extreme regret that this reality has never been properly acknowledged and that the process in Sweden -- with which Mr Assange has always expressed his willingness to engage and indeed did so -- became so exceptionally politicised itself."

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Chase Scott/Big Dog Rescue(NEW YORK) --  Miracle, the puppy that was rescued in the Bahamas after surviving more than three weeks under debris from Hurricane Dorian, has a new family just in time for the holidays.

The Beaty family -- Clark, Briana and their three daughters Jayne, 8; Kate, 5; and Clare, 3 -- of Palm Beach, Florida, were formerly announced Wednesday as Miracle's new owners during a news conference at the Big Dog Ranch Rescue in Loxahatchee Groves.

"Miracle has now gained 16 pounds -- almost half his body weight [when] he came in -- and weighs almost 35 pounds," said Lauree Simmons, Big Dog Ranch Rescue's founder and president. "He's healthy and ready to go home."

In October, workers from Big Dog Ranch Rescue found Miracle in Abaco, one of the hardest-hit areas in the Bahamas, after the Category 5 hurricane devastated the islands in September. The foundation used a drone with a high-resolution, heat-seeking camera to help them spot dogs that were either hidden under rubble or only coming out at night.

Miracle was trapped underneath an air conditioning unit that had fallen on him for more than three weeks after the hurricane struck. When rescuers located him, he was emaciated, his muscles had atrophied and he was suffering from other diseases after surviving only on rainwater.

Simmons was the first to start calling the dog Miracle as he recuperated in Florida. More than 10,000 families reached out to the organization, offering to adopt him.

On Monday, Briana Beaty told ABC News that her family of five was looking forward to having the "best holiday ever" with Miracle.

"We're so grateful to Big Dog Ranch for saving him and all the love they put into him," she told ABC News on Monday.

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LewisTsePuiLung/iStock(HONG KONG) -- Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University has become the front line of a fight between protesters and authorities. Violence broke out on Sunday and turned into a tense standoff on Monday.

Since Sunday morning, Hong Kong's police have attempted to disperse protesters from the occupied roads around PolyU, the last major university that’s occupied and fortified by protesters.

This is one of the largest and most sustained battles in this protest movement, now in its sixth month.

An armored police truck was set on fire and an officer was shot through the leg with a bow and arrow. The police discharged rounds of rubber bullets and unleashed water cannons. Protesters responded with bricks and Molotov cocktails.

“If rioters keep doing what they do, police will have no choice and will fight back with tear gas and real bullets,” police warned after firing off rounds of live bullets on Sunday evening. Tear gas enshrouded the scene.

In a dramatic moment, a footbridge leading to the campus caught fire. Molotov cocktails which had been placed on the bridge also caught fire, leading to many minor explosions. The entrance to the university was left smoldering.

In a dramatic moment, a footbridge leading to the campus caught fire. Molotov cocktails which had been placed on the bridge also caught fire, leading to many minor explosions. The entrance to the university was left smoldering.

But the morale is changing among this core of committed protesters as they run out of supplies.

“The police have surrounded the whole campus, there’s absolutely no way out,” one protester told ABC News. “The situation is out of control,” he said.

“We don’t have any more supplies, so once we run out of water and food we’re going to die.”

Among the protestors inside the university are over 100 trapped high schoolers. Parents have joined a sit-in, begging police to let their children leave the university, while around 20 head teachers asked authorities to allow them to go in to escort the children out. But the requests have not led anywhere. The authorities have said they'll arrest everyone inside the college -- in some cases, protesters elsewhere are trying to draw the police away so those inside the university may have a chance to escape.

How long will the students be able to hang on is a vital question given that supply lines have been cut. “I don’t think anyone on the campus knows what they want to do, what they should do,” said the protester to ABC News. “We obviously need help from outside. But I don’t know who we’re going to get that help from.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking during a Q&A at Rice University, said that the U.S., the U.K. and "several dozen countries" have "all made clear" to China "our expectation of how China will behave" and called on General Secretary Xi to honor the commitment to "one country, two systems" -- a framework that, in theory, allows Hong Kong semi-autonomy.

“The UK is seriously concerned by the escalation in violence from both the protesters and the authorities around Hong Kong university campuses. It is vital that those who are injured are able to receive appropriate medical treatment, and that safe passage is made available for all those who wish to leave the area. We need to see an end to the violence, and for all sides to engage in meaningful political dialogue ahead of the district council elections on Sunday," read a statement from the U.K. foriegn office, condemning the violence.

Patrick Nip Tak-kuen, Hong Kong’s constitutional and mainland affairs secretary, said that the protests this weekend have reduced the chance of Hong Kong’s district council elections going ahead on Sunday, Nov. 24, according to local English-language newspaper rthk.hk.

As the siege continues into a second night, several hundred protesters have gathered with signs, hoping to pressure the police to let the protesters in the university leave.

Hardcore protesters have been joined by ordinary citizens. They are chanting “save the students,” and they are angry.

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ABC News(SEOUL, South Korea) -- Pyongyang hit back hard in response to President Donald Trump's recent tweet suggesting another summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

North Korea is no longer interested in holding a "fruitless" summit with the United States, according to a statement Foreign Ministry Adviser Kim Kye-gwan released to the state media outlet, Korean Central News Agency.

"We will not give the U.S. president anything to boast of without getting anything in return," Kim said in the statement. "We need to get the fair price for what President Trump has boasted as his achievements."

The message came along less than a day after Trump tweeted "see you soon" towards the North Korean leader, pushing him to "act quickly."

"Since June last year, three summit meetings and talks have taken place but no progress had been made between the United States and the DPRK," the statement said. "Even now, the United States is pretending to have progress regarding the Korean peninsula issue and gaining time for their benefit."

The foreign ministry adviser, who was formerly the communist regime's envoy, explained in the statement that he interpreted Trump's words on Twitter as implying a new U.S.-DPRK summit talk.

In the statement, the foreign adviser also urged Washington to drop hostile policies against Pyongyang in order to continue dialogue.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Trump sat down for summit talks first in Singapore in June last year, and again in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February. A third encounter was staged inside the joint security area of the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea during Trump's Seoul visit.

None of these three meetings resulted in a denuclearization solution to satisfy either countries.

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Courtesy Adrianne Machina(SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic) -- Authorities in the Dominican Republic have arrested six people in connection with the death of an American teacher who was found dead in her home there last week, authorities said Sunday.

Patricia Anton, a U.S. citizen who lived in the Dominican Republic for the last several years, was found strangled to death last Tuesday in her apartment in Cabarete, a town on the northern coast of the island nation, the National Police said in a statement on Sunday.

The 63-year-old woman was found with her hands and feet bound together and several items were missing from her home, including a cellphone, laptop and television, police said.

The suspects were identified as Michael Marinez Rosario, Heuri Flores Hernandez, Junior Alexis Suarez, Juan Jose Andujar Mella, Oroniel Canario Montero and Alexis Maquey.

Police are searching for a seventh suspect who goes by the nickname "Eiden" and/or "The Venezuelan." Police said all seven suspects traveled to Puerto Plata with the intention of committing crimes before they fled.

Investigators did not say how they connected the suspects to the woman's death.

Police said four of the men have prior criminal records.

Anton moved to the island around 2013 and began teaching at 3 Mariposas Montessori six years ago, the school confirmed to ABC News.

"Patty was not only a colleague of mine, but she was also my mentor and one of my best friends," Sarah Ludwig-Ross, the founder and head of the school, told ABC News in a statement last week. "She was one of the most caring people I have ever met, always putting everyone else first."

"She shared our belief that peace in the world can only come from getting close to and understanding people who are different from ourselves. ... Patty loved each and every one of our children just as if they were her own," she added.

Anton's family described her as a loving woman who "was all about kindness and sweetness."

"Her life was so much bigger than her death," her cousin, Adrianne Machina, told ABC News on Thursday. "The Dominican Republic was her happy place. I think her dream was to retire down there. … The Dominican Republic really gave her purpose and peace."

The family said it was working with officials at 3 Mariposas Montessori to erect a "peace park" in Anton's honor.

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iStock(HONG KONG) -- Protests in Hong Kong have intensified with live bullets and explosions as police seek to end the standoff at Polytechnic University.

The police have surrounded the university in what is the one of the largest and most sustained battles in a protest movement that is now in it's sixth month.

An officer was shot through the leg with a bow and arrow and an armored police vehicle was set on fire as protesters fight back police tear gas and rubber bullets with Molotov cocktails.

Police have been trying to disperse the protesters from the roads around Polytechnic, which is the last major university that is occupied by protesters.

Live bullets have been fired towards protesters, but it is unclear how many have been injured in the conflict.

Hundreds of protesters who refused to leave the university are making a last stand inside, anticipating mass arrests.

The demonstrations began in early June when hundreds of thousands of mostly-young people marched against a proposed extradition bill that would have allowed suspected criminals in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese territory, to be sent to mainland China for trial.

Hong Kong's embattled leader, Carrie Lam, has since withdrawn the bill, but widespread unrest has continued as demonstrators broaden their demands to include a call for direct elections for the city's leaders, amnesty for protesters and an independent investigation into alleged police brutality.

Protesters have four additional demands, calling for: the authorities stop calling the protests ‘riots’; amnesty for arrested protesters; an independent inquiry into police brutality; universal suffrage; the withdrawal of the extradition bill.

Lam, the Hong Kong Chief Executive since 2017, has doubled down, saying that they will not give in to protesters' demands.

There have been lulls in the violence and intensity of the protest movement. But the death of a university student from a fall last week has reignited rage.

The protesters blame police for the student's injury because he fell off a parking garage in the vicinity of a police clearance operation.

The escalation at Polytechnic University began earlier in the week, following a pitched struggle on Monday between police and protesters who had attacked toll booths and blocked the Cross Harbour Tunnel, one of three underwater tunnels in Hong Kong, which emerges on the island right beside the university. Police retaliated with tear gas.

Thousands of students and protesters blocked entrances, torn up brick sidewalks for ammunition, and lined every vantage point with Molotov cocktails. The university's swimming pool, emptied of water, has become a practice firing range. Some walked around with bows and arrows, many blunt training arrows, others sharpened or wrapped in gauze, ready to be lit on fire.

Protesters withdrew to Polytechnic University, a Zaha Hadid-designed building, which normally serves 27,000 students, and started fortifying it.

Polytechnic is one of five major universities being fortified by protesters. Masked protesters with makeshift weapons barricaded themselves inside the Chinese University of Hong Kong on Wednesday after violent clashes with riot police overnight.

Students from mainland China have been evacuated with police help and the university has been closed for the rest of the year.

Hong Kong lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-fung, who is a member of the Democratic Party, warned the movement won't stop until the government fulfills protesters' demands.
    
"This will not end," he told ABC News in a brief interview on the street Wednesday. "This will go on forever. That's my view."

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iStock(LONDON) -- Prince Andrew, the third child of Queen Elizabeth, in a high-stakes interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. categorically denied allegations he had sex on multiple occasions with an American teenager who's claimed she was trafficked to the prince at the direction of Jeffrey Epstein.

"I've said consistently and frequently that we never had any sort of sexual contact whatever," the prince said, responding to a question about allegations from Virginia Roberts Giuffre.

Giuffre has claimed in court records and deposition testimony she had sex with the prince on two occasions when she was 17, in London and in New York, and a third time when she was 18, at Epstein's private island estate in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Epstein, a convicted sex offender, died in prison in August.

Asked by BBC presenter Emily Maitlis about those allegations, the prince replied, "No. All of it. Absolutely no to all of it."

While denying the allegations against him personally, the prince stopped short of saying he regretted his long friendship with Epstein.

"Now, still not," the prince said. "And the reason being is that the people that I met, and the opportunities that I was given to learn, either by him or because of him, were actually very useful."

The prince added: "We weren't that close."

The rare interview, broadcast in prime time Saturday in Britain, was the result of a months-long negotiation that ultimately had to be approved by the queen herself before it was recorded earlier in the week, Maitlis said.

For nearly a decade, the prince has been under scrutiny for his association with Epstein, a multi-millionaire financier and the subject of state and federal investigations since the mid-2000s for allegedly recruiting underage girls for illicit massages and sex.

Epstein ultimately avoided federal charges involving allegations of abuse against nearly three dozen girls by agreeing to plead guilty two comparatively minor charges in Florida state court. He served just 13 months of an 18-month term in a county jail.

He was charged again, in July of this year, in a two-count federal indictment for child sex-trafficking and conspiracy for alleged crimes in New York and Florida between 2002 and 2005. He died in prison on Aug. 10 from an apparent suicide.

Prince Andrew, who said he'd met Epstein in 1999, first became embroiled in the controversy in late 2010 when he was photographed walking with the convicted sex offender through New York's Central Park shortly after Epstein's sentence ended in Florida.

The prince claimed in the BBC interview that the purpose of that visit was to inform Epstein he could no longer be associated with him due to his criminal conduct.

"I felt that doing it over the telephone was the chicken's way of doing it," the prince added. "I had to go and see him and talk to him."

Pressed by Maitlis on why he chose to stay at Epstein's mansion if he was ending the relationship, the prince said he did it out of convenience.

"I mean, I've gone through this in my mind so many times," the prince added. "At the end of the day, with a benefit of all the hindsight that one can have, it was definitely the wrong thing to do. But at the time I felt it was the honorable and right thing to do, and I admit fully that my judgment was probably colored by my tendency to be too honorable. But that's just the way it is."

In December 2014, Giuffre alleged in court filings she had been recruited as a teenager by Epstein's longtime companion, the British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, for a job as a traveling masseuse. She further claimed she'd been directed by Epstein and Maxwell to have sex with Prince Andrew on three occasions. Those allegations were later stricken from the court record by a U.S. federal judge.

Giuffre, now a 35-year-old mother of three living in Australia, subsequently filed a defamation suit against Maxwell, which settled for undisclosed terms in 2017. Her allegations against Prince Andrew eventually resurfaced in the court records of that case. Included in her filings, many of which remained under seal until this summer, was a photograph of Prince Andrew with his arm around Giuffre's waist, while Maxwell smiled in the background. Giuffre contends she was 17 when the photo was taken in 2001, on the second-floor landing of Maxwell's London home, and that she had sex with the prince shortly after the photo was snapped.

In his interview with "Newsnight," however, Prince Andrew said couldn't remember ever meeting Giuffre, and that he had doubts as to the picture's authenticity.

"I don't believe that photograph was taken in the way that has been suggested," he said. "I think it's, from the investigations that we've done, you can't prove whether or not that photograph is faked or not, because it is a photograph of a photograph of a photograph. So it's very difficult to be able to prove it, but I don't remember that photograph ever being taken."

The prince also contended that he had an alibi for the date of the alleged encounter, claiming he was home with his daughter, Beatrice.

"I was at home," the prince said. "I was with the children, and I'd taken Beatrice to a Pizza Express in Woking for a party at, I suppose, sort of 4 or 5 in the afternoon. And then, because the Duchess was away, we have a simple rule in the family that when one is away the other one is there. I was on terminal leave at the time from the Royal Navy so therefore I was at home."

As Maitlis recounted Giuffre's allegations of the night of the alleged sexual encounter in London, in which Giuffre claims she dined, drank and danced with the prince at Tramps nightclub, and that he sweated profusely on the dance floor, the prince seemed to let out a small snicker and said, "It didn't happen."

"I'm convinced that I was never in Tramps with her. There are a number of things that are wrong with that story, one of which is that I don't know where the bar is in Tramps. I don't drink, I don't think I've ever bought a drink in Tramps whenever I was there," he said.

The prince went on to say that, at the time, he had a medical condition that prevented him from sweating.

"There's a slight problem with the sweating because I have a peculiar medical condition which is that I don't sweat, or I didn't sweat at the time," he added. "I didn't sweat at the time because I had suffered what I would describe as an overdose of adrenaline in the Falklands War when I was shot at, and I simply -- it was almost impossible for me to sweat."

Asked by Maitlis if he thought Giuffre, who's also alleged she was trafficked by Epstein and Maxwell to other prominent men, was lying about their alleged sexual encounters, the prince avoided a direct answer.

"That's a very difficult thing to answer," he said, "because I'm not in a position to know what she's trying to achieve. But I can tell you categorically I don't remember meeting her at all."

All of those accused by Giuffre have denied the allegations.

Before the BBC interview this week, the prince had long avoided being questioned about his relationship with Epstein and the allegations of Giuffre, instead relying on a series of denials issued by Buckingham Palace.

"It is emphatically denied that the Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with her," read a statement from early 2015.

In the interview, the prince acknowledged, over the years, that he'd visited several of Epstein's homes -- in New York, in Palm Beach, Florida, and in the U.S. Virgin Islands -- but contended he'd never observed any behavior by Epstein that alarmed him.

The prince said he was first introduced to Epstein in 1999 by Maxwell, Epstein's girlfriend at the time, whom the prince said he'd known since her days at university. He contended that his friendship with Epstein was never particularly close, but was an inevitable by-product of his relationship with Maxwell.

On one occasion in 2000, he said, Epstein and Maxwell visited Sandringham, the Queen's estate in the British countryside, for what the prince described as "a shooting weekend."

As the interview neared a close, the prince was asked once more by Maitlis if he had any guilt, shame or regret about his friendship with Epstein.

"As far as Mr. Epstein was concerned, it was the wrong decision to go and see him in 2010," the prince replied. "As far as my association with him was concerned, it had some seriously beneficial outcomes in areas that have nothing to do with what I would describe as what we're talking about today. On balance, could I have avoided ever meeting him? Probably not, and that's because of my friendship with Ghislaine.

"Do I regret the fact that he has quite obviously conducted himself in a manner unbecoming? Yes."

"Unbecoming?" Maitlis interjected. "He was a sex offender."

"Yeah," the prince said. "I'm sorry, I'm being polite."

After Giuffre first filed her claims in 2014, her attorneys wrote to the prince, seeking to question him about his relationship with Epstein, to no avail. After Epstein's death earlier this year, Brad Edwards and David Boies, her attorneys, renewed their request in another letter, asking Prince Andrew to respond to their questions "in a dignified manner and appropriate setting that would, we believe, clarify the record for everyone's benefit, including your own." It's unknown whether the prince responded to that letter.

"Would you be willing to testify or give a statement under oath, if you were asked?" Maitlis asked the prince.

"Well, I'm like everybody else," he replied. "And I will have to take all the legal advice that there was before I was to do that sort of thing. But if push came to shove, and the legal advice was to do so, then I would be duty-bound to do so."

Outside the final court hearing in Epstein's criminal case in late August, Giuffre vowed to continue to demand answers from the prince, Maxwell and others she claims aided Epstein in facilitating or participating in her alleged abuse.

"I will never be silenced until these people are brought to justice," Giuffre said.

As for the prince's denials, she said, "He knows exactly what he's done, and I hope he comes clean about it."

Asked by Maitlis to respond to Giuffre's claim that he knows what he's done, the prince said, "And the answer is, nothing."

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omersukrugoksu/iStock(PARIS) -- French police fired water cannons and tear gas in Paris on Saturday to drive back protesters marking the first anniversary of the anti-government yellow vest demonstrations.

Demonstrators, many clad in black and hiding their faces, vandalized an HSBC bank at the Place d'Italie. They set trash cans on fire and hurled cobblestones and bottles at riot police while building barricades.

Several cars were also set ablaze.

Clashes broke out between demonstrators and police near the Porte de Champerret, close to the Arc de Triomphe, as protesters were preparing to march across the city towards Gare d'Austerlitz. Police also intervened to prevent a few hundred demonstrators from occupying the Paris ring road.

“In the face of thugs who target them, firefighters and police intervene to contain the excesses, put an end to abuses and proceed to arrests,” French National Police said in a translated message. “Peaceful protesters, we guarantee the public peace to allow you to freely express your opinions. Help us: disassociate yourself from violent groups.”

The yellow vest protests, named for the high-visibility jackets worn by demonstrators, erupted in November 2018 over fuel price hikes and the high cost of living. The demonstrations spiraled into a broader movement against French President Emmanuel Macron and his economic reforms.

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Juanmonino/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Kim Eunju escaped North Korea in 2005, disillusioned with the communist regime. She still vividly remembers that night when uniformed officers raided her home in Chongjin, Hamgyeongbuk-do, searching for petroleum that she had been smuggling from China to sell in the local market. It was the family’s lifeline bringing just enough bread to the table to survive.

The country had entered into a severe economic hardship and the communist party had begun to confiscate whatever household goods to support the state. Kim, then 25-years old, also worked as a train stewardess.

“They taught us to sing our socialist nation is the happiest world. But how could we live when they even take away our empty kimchi pot (that is used as family refrigerator)?” Kim told ABC News.

That’s when Kim decided it was time for a challenge. Early next morning, she called a broker to join a group of others crossing the border into China, hoping to find work.

The escape was long and arduous. A border guard, bribed by the brokers, guided the group to cross the Tumen River after midnight. “The current was strong. We held hands supporting each other to cross the river. It took about two to three hours to the Chinese side,” she recalled.

Soaked and dripping, they rode a taxi, stopped at two different locations, then split up. Kim and another woman were ushered into a bus. They rode three full days, then arrived in a rural town in Liaoning, Northeastern China. “I had been sold to a Chinese man,” Kim recalled, her voice still trembling with emotion.

She was forced into an unwanted marriage and gave birth to a daughter in 2006. Kim does not want to recall those days describing them as “so disgraceful.” “Life in China was a nightmare, locked up in the house under threat of deportation,” said Kim.

Two years later she came across another broker sending North Korean refugees to South Korea. “I decided to risk my life for another run with my baby daughter, with a faint hope that life would be better in South Korea.”

Kim successfully defected to the capitalist South in 2009. She had multiple part-time jobs, attended job training programs, and struggled to make ends meet while raising her daughter alone. But life in Seoul, she said, is “still tough” especially as a North Korean defector and a single mother. Defectors see themselves as lower class citizens of South Korea

A total of 33,022 North Koreans have defected to the South as of 2019, according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry. They defect to gain freedom of choice disdained by the harsh surveillance and control by the communist regime, as well as to escape starvation. But settling into new lifestyles in the capitalist South is tougher than they had imagined.

Defectors find it hard to get a well-paying job, due to the barrier of culture and language. Average monthly wage for North Korean defectors working in the South is $1,636, some 25% below the minimum wage of $2,203 per month. As a result, almost half of the defectors see themselves as part of the lowest socioeconomic status in South Korea, according to a 2018 survey by the Unification Ministry.

Their hardships in adapting to a capitalist economy faced a reality check last July when a North Korean defector mother and her 7-year-old son were found dead in their small, rented apartment. Autopsy results showed both had not eaten for days. Support groups, alarmed, took to the streets calling for immediate need to improve policies that could help and support these vulnerable defectors.

"The mother and son died of starvation in the flourishing democratic Korea. This is nonsensical and heartbreaking," said defector Heo Kwang-il, who led a group of people to organize a public funeral for the unfortunate mother and son in September.

Buried in debt

North Korean defectors inevitably find themselves in challenging economic situations upon their entry into South Korea. There’s also underlying discrimination, lack of knowledge of English and almost all of them have never used the internet before escaping the North. As a result, a huge cultural and economic gap exists between North and South Koreans.

“Upon their entry into South Korea, they become citizens of the most competitive, materialistic, capitalist driven neoliberal society in the entire world,” Dr. Do Jean at Konkuk university who studies trauma care for defectors, told ABC News. “Those Koreans are basically forced to enter a race to adapt and succeed at settling down in South Korea.”

All North Korean defectors are required to go through a 12-week-long social settlement education program in Hanawon, a reeducation center run by the Unification Ministry. There, defectors are prepared to overcome cultural differences, cure their trauma, and discuss which occupation they could take.

Once out in the real world, defectors are given financial aid during the first year, starting from about $6,000 dollars depending on age, health and the city they choose to settle down in. But defectors say, most of that money goes to the brokers who helped them cross the border.



“North Korean defectors begin life in South indebted to brokers,” defector Jeong Youngnam who arrived in Seoul five years ago, told ABC News. “We have to start from scratch once the debt is cleared off, and it’s difficult as a defector to find a well paid job in Seoul.”

Kim, too, took a six-month long job training hoping to work at a hair salon but failed to find work. Instead, she ended up washing dishes at a restaurant. She had much debt to pay back to her broker. “I dreamt of earning big money to buy my daughter food and toys… but no matter how hard I try working around clock, sometimes I can’t even afford to feed my daughter,” she said in disappointment.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- After a campaign ad for Former Vice President Joe Biden implied Kim Jong Un was a "tyrant," North Korean state media responded on Thursday by blasting the 2020 Democratic candidate.

The commentary called Biden a "rabid dog" and advocated that rabid dogs "can hurt lots of people" and "must be beaten to death with a stick."

"Anyone who dare slanders the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK can never spare the DPRK's merciless punishment," said the commentary, which was translated by North Korea's news agency. Biden "will be made to see even in a grave what horrible consequences will be brought about by his thoughtless utterances. Rabid dogs like Biden can hurt lots of people if they are allowed to run about. They must be beaten to death with a stick before it is too late."

The ad for Biden said, in part: "We live in the most dangerous moment in a generation. Our world, set on edge by an erratic, unstable president. Dictators and tyrants are praised -- our allies, pushed aside." Kim's photo appears at the mention of the word "tyrants."

The Biden campaign hit back, calling Kim a "repugnant dictator," arguing that sharp words from North Korea highlight the strength of their candidate.

Biden's team also took a thinly veiled shot at President Donald Trump, who's suggested that he and Kim "fell in love" after exchanging written letters.

"It's becoming more and more obvious that repugnant dictators, as well as those who admire and 'love' them, find Joe Biden threatening. That's because he'd restore American leadership in the world on day one by putting our security, interests, and values at the heart of our foreign policy," Andrew Bates, a Biden spokesperson, told ABC News in a statement.

On the trail, Biden often discusses the North Korean leader while criticizing Trump for doing harm to perceptions of the U.S. on the world stage.

"We don't have a foreign policy. We are embracing thugs like Putin and Kim Jong Un. This president's talking about love letters with a butcher," Biden said on Monday, adding, in a clear reference to Kim, "This guy had his uncle's brains blown out sitting across the table, his brother assassinated in an airport. This is a guy who has virtually no social redeeming value."

The former vice president in recent weeks has intensified his messaging of experience on the trail, arguing his four-plus decades of foreign policy credentials set him apart from a growing, rather than shrinking, 2020 Democratic primary field.

"There's going to be no opportunity for on-the-job training," Biden told a crowd in California on Thursday.

Biden's team is pushing the former vice president's foreign policy message against Trump -- especially as the president faces an impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives.

An aide to the Biden campaign told ABC News that effort will include rolling out 133 endorsements for Biden from former national security officials who served across seven administrations.

This is not the first war of words between Biden and North Korea's state media, which has previously called him a "low IQ idiot" and warned that his "candidacy should not carry high expectations." Those remarks came after Biden criticized Kim at a rally in Philadelphia in May.

"No wonder, even the Americans call him '1% Biden' with low I.Q., 'mad Biden,' and 'Biden not awakened from a sleep,'" the news agency said Thursday.

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mammuth/iStock(ROME) -- Italy's government declared a state of emergency on Thursday after floodwaters ravaged Venice, causing inestimable damage to the centuries-old city.

Twenty million euros (approximately $22 million, U.S.) is being set aside in response, reported Italian press agency ANSA.

Venice saw its worst flood in 50 years on Tuesday, close to midnight, after floodwaters reached over 73 inches.

As tourists posted selfies on social media with the flooded streets as backdrop, locals were left to deal with incalculable water damage to their businesses, homes and their city’s world-famous monuments.

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte arrived in Venice on Wednesday evening to assess the flooding damage.

Those affected by the flood can apply for 5,000 euros (about $5,500 U.S. dollars) in initial compensation, while business can get up to 20,000 euros (approximately $22,000 in U.S. dollars), the prime minster announced via a Facebook post on Thursday.

Yet angry Venetian residents are demanding to know why such severe flooding even happened.

In 2018, damage to the nearly 1,000-year-old St. Mark’s Basilica, was estimated to cost 2.2 million euros (about $2.4 million, U.S.) to repair.

“The government is sympathetic and [at] present, no one will be alone,” the prime minister said on Twitter.

"Venice is on its knees. The Basilica of Saint Mark has suffered grave damage as has the whole city and the islands," he tweeted.

Flooding in Venice is far from unusual, with parts of the city regularly underwater, especially between fall and spring when bad weather exacerbates the threat already posed by high tides.

The frequency, however, has increased in recent years. In Venice, flooding has increased from about 10 cases in the first half of the 20th century, to over 40 cases in the second half and up to almost 60 cases in the last five years, according to the Mose website, Venice’s flood defense program under the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport.

“Extreme events are no longer remote probabilities, but mathematical certainties,” Mose wrote on its website. The cause: a combination of Venice sinking due to soil erosion and depletion of ground water as well as a rise in sea level.

In 1966, following Venice’s worst flood in history, the Italian government asked engineers to draw up flood defense plans. The project began in 2003 and was due to be finished by 2011, but costs and corruption delayed the project.

According to a Facebook post by Italian politican Andrea Zanoni, flooding occured minutes after several officials rejected "amendments to counter climate change."

Meanwhile, the schools in Venice have been closed, and locals have begun cleanup.

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NataliaCatalina/iStock(LONDON) -- Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, had a chance to thank Hillary Clinton for the supportive comments she's made about her recently.

The duchess and the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate had a private meeting Tuesday at Frogmore Cottage, Meghan and Prince Harry's home in Windsor, according to a Buckingham Palace spokesperson.

Although Prince Harry was not at the meeting, Clinton, a grandmother of three, did get to meet Archie, Harry and Meghan's 6-month-old son.

Sara Latham, the Sussexes' press secretary, who previously worked for Clinton, was also at what was described by Buckingham Palace as a "friendly, informal meeting."

Meghan's meeting with the former secretary of state was the first time the two had met. Clinton is currently on a book tour for The Book of Gutsy Women, a book she wrote with her daughter, Chelsea.

Earlier in the day Tuesday, Clinton appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live and spoke to host Emma Barnett about Meghan's self-described struggle to live in the spotlight and deal with what she has described as "unfair" treatment by some parts of the British press.

"I feel as a mother I just want to put my arms around her. Oh my God, I want to hug her," said the former first lady and U.S. senator. "I want to tell her to hang in there. Don't let those bad guys get you down. Keep going. Do what you think is right."

"I have a great feeling toward and about her because it's one thing to be told what it will be like when you step onto the biggest stage with the brightest spotlight ... and yet it still is really hard to imagine," Clinton said. "It takes some getting used to, to have your every move scrutinized and analyzed and frankly things made up about."

"And I really wish her and her husband the very best because they are struggling to have a life of meaning and integrity on their own terms," she continued. "And that's hard enough if you're just walking around in today's world, but if you're on that big a platform, it's really difficult."

Clinton said she doesn't think "there's any doubt" Meghan's race and gender have played a role in how she has been treated by the media and the public. She also described the union of Harry and Meghan, who wed last year, as a "true love story."

"You know, people don't choose who they fall in love with, they fall in love. She is an amazing young woman. She has an incredible life story. She has stood up for herself. She has made her own way in the world," Clinton said. "And then she falls in love and he falls in love with her and everybody should be celebrating that because it is a true love story. You can just look at them and see that."

Meghan, who has also met privately with former first lady Michelle Obama, publicly spoke about her difficulties with parts of the British press in the recent documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey.

"The biggest thing that I know is that I never thought that this would be easy but I thought it would be fair," she said. "And that’s the part that’s really hard to reconcile but, I don’t know, just take each day as it comes."

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Erika Parfenova/iStock(PARIS) -- The debate over the reconstruction of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris continues.

Since the April fire that burnt down the roof of Paris' most beloved cathedral, causing the collapse of the 800 year-old spire, debates on its reconstruction have opposed France's conservatives and modernists.

Emotions ran high Wednesday when Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin, who was chosen by President Emmanuel Macron to lead the restoration, asked the chief architect of the project, Philippe Villeneuve, to "shut his trap" during a session of the National Assembly Committee.

Villeneuve is in favor of building a spire identical to the one that was lost, which would also help keep to a tight deadline, he said, but Georgelin advocates for a consultation on the spire's fate.

Two days after the fire at Notre Dame, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced the organization of an international architectural contest for the spire's reconstruction. Several projects for modern spires have already been conceived and published by artists and architects from all over the world.

But for some, reconstructing Notre Dame is not up to competition but ought to be an enterprise faithful to the spire's original look. Villeneuve, who has been the chief architect of the cathedral's restoration since 2013, expressed this wish in the local newspaper Le Figaro.

Georgelin, who was in front of French lawmakers to discuss progress of the operations, asked the architect that he "let us advance in wisdom so that we can calmly make the best choice for Notre Dame, for Paris, for the world." The final decision should be made by "mid-2021," Georgelin announced.

The general expressed worries for the winter season, a "critical moment" for the scaffolding over Notre Dame's roof, which is still in danger of collapsing under a strong wind. A team of steeplejacks has been working on taking down the scaffolding piece by piece, which should be achieved by early summer 2020.

He also confirms to lawmakers the goal of five years set by Macron for the reconstruction, saying that "if there is no rigorous demonstration that it can be achieved in five years, there is however nothing to say that we cannot achieve it."

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nattanan726/iStock(MELBOURNE, Australia) -- The first koala to be born at Australia’s Melbourne Zoo in more than eight years has just started to peek out from its mother's pouch -- and the footage captured by zookeepers is every bit as adorable as you’d expect.

In video released by the wildlife park, the as-yet-unnamed 5-month-old joey is seen tucked inside its mom’s pouch, occasionally peeping out to approach the camera.

Maddy Jamieson, Melbourne Zoo's Australian Bush Keeper, said that first-time koala mother Karri and her offspring are doing well at this "very exciting" time.

"It's our first joey in about eight years with mom Karri being the last joey that we had here," she said. "We've started to the baby pop its head out of the pouch, which is really, really cool. And we've started to see it get its little arms out and also have a little bit if a sniff of the gum."

The baby, whose gender is not yet known, has recently started taking an interest in the world outside of its mom’s pouch, where joeys often stay safely inside for the majority of their first year of life.

The marsupials have been listed as a vulnerable species in parts of Australia, and conservationists fear that hundreds have recently perished in wildfires that have razed prime habitat on the country’s east coast.

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