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Jamal Khashoggi died in fight at Istanbul consulate, Saudi state TV claims

Jamal Khashoggi died in fight at Istanbul consulate, Saudi state TV claims

(CNN) - Saudi Arabia has confirmed the death of missing Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, claiming he died in a fist fight involving more than a dozen Saudi officials at the country's consulate in Istanbul.

After 18 days in which it insisted it had no involvement in the journalist's disappearance, Riyadh conceded that Khashoggi died as a result of the altercation after he had come to the consulate to obtain paperwork needed for his upcoming wedding.

An announcement carried on Saudi state TV said discussions between Khashoggi and officials at the consulate quickly turned violent, and ended in his death.

Five high-ranking officials have been removed from their posts, including the deputy head of the Saudi intelligence service, and 18 Saudis have been detained, state TV said.

Long silence

The statement was the first official confirmation of Khashoggi's death in Turkey 18 days ago, and the first acknowledgment by Saudi Arabia of its role in it.

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia expresses deep regret at the painful developments that have taken place in this case and affirms the commitment of the authorities in the Kingdom to bring the facts to the attention of the public and to hold accountable all those involved," the statement said.

Khashoggi disappeared after going to the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul at about 1:15 p.m. on October 2 to obtain paperwork to marry his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz. She raised the alarm just before 5 p.m, while she was still waiting outside.

According to Saudi state media, citing official sources, the public prosecutor's office investigated a number of suspects based on the information they received from Turkish authorities. Preliminary investigations showed a suspect went to Istanbul to meet with Khashoggi with the possible intention of bringing the journalist to the Kingdom.

According to the Saudis' explanation, discussions between Khashoggi and those who met him on his arrival at the consulate led to an argument and physical altercation. Those responsible then tried to cover up the death, state TV said.

The Saudis have set up a commission, led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, that will restructure the Saudi general intelligence directorate and will have one month to release a report, state TV said.

The commission will consist of national security officials, the foreign ministry and the interior ministry.

Trump: Saudi story credible

When asked if he found the Saudi explanation credible, US President Donald Trump said he did.

He called the official statement from Riyadh a "good first step" and said talks with Saudi officials would continue, including raising some questions about their account of events.

"I think we're getting close to solving a very big problem," Trump said.

He added that Saudi Arabia has been a "great ally in the Middle East," but that "what happened is unacceptable."

Trump said he would work with Congress to develop a response to Khashoggi's death, but said that he didn't want sanctions to affect US arms sales to the kingdom.

"I would prefer if there is going to be some form of sanctions -- this was a lot of people they're talking about .... I would prefer we don't use as retribution canceled $110 billion worth of work," he told reporters after a roundtable at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.

Trump said he would withhold a fuller comment until he speaks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Intense pressure

Saudi Arabia has been under intense pressure since Khashoggi's disappearance.

Turkish officials, mostly speaking privately, have released a steady stream of gory details about what happened to the journalist at the consulate. They said he was killed soon after he entered the embassy, and his body dismembered.

None of the Saudi statements give any clue as to what happened to Khashoggi's remains.

As many as 20 people who work at the Saudi Arabian consulate, including a driver, technician, accountant, and concierge personnel have given statements to Turkish investigators in their probe of Khashoggi's death, according to semi-official Turkish media outlet Anadolu.

US officials have told CNN that the operation could not have been carried out without the knowledge of Prince bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler.

Ahead of the Saudi statement, Bin Salman repeatedly denied knowledge of Khashoggi's fate.

Widespread condemnation

The apparent circumstances of Khashoggi's disappearance caused worldwide revulsion. Businesses pulled out of an investment conference due to be held in Saudi Arabia next week, and Trump came under pressure to issue an unequivocal condemnation.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement, "The United States acknowledges the announcement from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that its investigation into the fate of Jamal Khashoggi is progressing and that it has taken action against the suspects it has identified thus far."

"We will continue to closely follow the international investigations into this tragic incident and advocate for justice that is timely, transparent, and in accordance with all due process. We are saddened to hear confirmation of Mr. Khashoggi's death, and we offer our deepest condolences to his family, fiancée, and friends."

Members of Congress could put pressure on the White House to act. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Twitter, "To say that I am skeptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr. Khashoggi is an understatement."

His colleague Sen. Richard Blumenthal accused the Saudis of "buying time and buying cover," calling for an investigation that included US involvement and Turkish audio and visual records of the event.

"The Saudis very clearly seem to be buying time and buying cover, but this action raises more questions than it answers, the Connecticut Democrat told CNN's Wold Blitzer on "The Situation Room" Friday night.

A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was "deeply troubled" by the news.

"The Secretary-General stresses the need for a prompt, thorough and transparent investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Khashoggi's death and full accountability for those responsible," the spokesman said.

Key ally canned

In Saudi Arabia, all eyes will be on what happens next. In dispatching Ahmed al-Assiri, the deputy intelligence chief, Prince bin Salman has lost a key ally.

Assiri is believed to have been chief architect of the war with Yemen, and was previously the Saudi-led coalition spokesman in the kingdom's war against Yemen's Houthi rebels.

The two-star general's position as spokesman made him a household name and he was soon part of the crown prince's inner circle.

According to several sources, he chose the team involved in Khashoggi's disappearance.

Also dismissed were Royal Court Consultant Saud al-Qahtani, Rashad bin Hamed Al-Mohammady, the head of the General Department for Security and Protection at the agency, along with Mohamed bin Saleh Al-Ramih and Abdullah bin Khalifa Al-Shayee, two high-ranking intelligence officers.

King Salman has arranged for a commission headed by the Crown Prince which will restructure the Saudi general intelligence directorate. The report is scheduled to be released in one month.

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Planet has only until 2030 to stem catastrophic climate change, experts warn

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(CNN) - Governments around the world must take "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society" to avoid disastrous levels of global warming, says a stark new report from the global scientific authority on climate change.

The report issued Monday by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), says the planet will reach the crucial threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by as early as 2030, precipitating the risk of extreme drought, wildfires, floods and food shortages for hundreds of millions of people.

The date, which falls well within the lifetime of many people alive today, is based on current levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

The planet is already two-thirds of the way there, with global temperatures having warmed about 1 degree C. Avoiding going even higher will require significant action in the next few years.

"This is concerning because we know there are so many more problems if we exceed 1.5 degrees C global warming, including more heatwaves and hot summers, greater sea level rise, and, for many parts of the world, worse droughts and rainfall extremes," Andrew King, a lecturer in climate science at the University of Melbourne, said in a statement.

Global net emissions of carbon dioxide would need to fall by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach "net zero" around 2050 in order to keep the warming around 1.5 degrees C.

Lowering emissions to this degree, while technically possible, would require widespread changes in energy, industry, buildings, transportation and cities, the report says.

"The window on keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees C is closing rapidly and the current emissions pledges made by signatories to the Paris Agreement do not add up to us achieving that goal," added King.

Consequences of past inaction

The report makes it clear that climate change is already happening -- and what comes next could be even worse, unless urgent international political action is taken.

"One of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1 degree C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes," said Panmao Zhai, co-chair of IPCC Working Group I.

Even if warming is kept at or just below 1.5 degrees C, the impacts will be widespread and significant.

Temperatures during summer heatwaves, such as those just experienced across Europe this summer, can be expected to increase by 3 degrees C says the report.

More frequent or intense droughts, such as the one that nearly ran the taps dry in Cape Town, South Africa, as well as more frequent extreme rainfall events such as hurricanes Harvey and Florence in the United States, are also pointed to as expectations as we reach the warming threshold.

Coral reefs will also be drastically affected, with between 70 and 90% expected to die off, including Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Countries in the southern hemisphere will be among the worse off, the report said, "projected to experience the largest impacts on economic growth due to climate change should global warming increase."

The report underlines how even the smallest increase in the base target would worsen the impact of recent natural disasters.

"Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5 degrees C or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems," said Hans-Otto Pörtner, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II.

The report cites specific examples of how impacts of global warming would be lessened with the 1.5 degrees C increase, compared to the 2 degrees C increase:

Global sea levels would rise 10 cm lower by 2100.

The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century, instead of at least once per decade.

Coral reefs would decline by 70% to 90% instead of being almost completely wiped out.

'Possible with the laws of chemistry and physics'

Monday's report is three years in the making and is a direct result of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. In the Paris accord, 197 countries agreed to the goal of holding global temperatures "well below" 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees C.

The United States was initially in the agreement, but President Donald Trump pulled the country out a year and half later, claiming it was unfair to the country.

To limit global warming to 1.5 degree C is "possible within the laws of chemistry and physics," said Jim Skea, co-chair of IPCC Working Group III. "But doing so would require unprecedented changes."

"International cooperation is absolutely imperative to limit emissions and therefore global warming and its impacts, as well as coordinating effective and widespread adaptation and mitigation," said Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, a fellow at the Climate Change Research Center at the University of New South Wales. "The next few years will be critical in the evolution of these efforts."

One key issue will be negative emissions, large scale carbon-scrubbing technologies that can reduce the amount in the atmosphere and act to counter continued pollution.

According to the report, there are two main ways of removing carbon from the atmosphere: increasing natural processes that already do this, and experimental carbon storage or removal technologies.

However, all methods "are at different stages of development and some are more conceptual than others, as they have not been tested at scale," the report warned.

They will also require considerable political engagement globally, as will reducing the amount of carbon being emitted. Despite the report's dire warnings, there is no indication such cooperation will be doable, particularly given the Trump administration's stance on this issue.

"Today the world's leading scientific experts collectively reinforced what mother nature has made clear -- that we need to undergo an urgent and rapid transformation to a global clean energy economy," former US Vice President Al Gore said.

"Unfortunately, the Trump administration has become a rogue outlier in its shortsighted attempt to prop up the dirty fossil fuel industries of the past. The administration is in direct conflict with American businesses, states, cities and citizens leading the transformation."

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(CNN) - The Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to a woman for the first time in 55 years, and for only the third time in its history.

Donna Strickland, a Canadian physicist, was awarded the 2018 prize jointly with Gérard Mourou, from France, for their work on generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses. They share the award with an American, Arthur Ashkin, who at 96 becomes the oldest Nobel Laureate, for developing "optical tweezers."

Both inventions had "revolutionized laser physics," the Royal Swedish Academy said.

The announcement comes a day after a senior scientist at CERN, the Geneva-based nuclear research center that is home to a number of Nobel winners, was suspended for saying that physics was invented and built by men.

Strickland said the achievements of women scientists deserved recognition. "We need to celebrate women physicists because we're out there. I'm honored to be one of those women," Strickland said by video link at a news conference following the announcement in Stockholm.

Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903, recognized for her co-discovery of radiation, followed by Maria Goeppert-Mayer in 1963 for discoveries about nuclear structure.

Strickland she said she thought there might have been more than three physics laureates, adding: "Hopefully, in time, it will start to move forward at a faster rate."

Strickland and Mourou's development of very short and intense laser pulses, known as "chirped pulse amplification," have made it possible to cut or drill holes in materials and living matter incredibly precisely. The technology they pioneered has led to corrective eye operations for millions of people.

While Ashkin's optical tweezers may sound stranger than science fiction, they make it possible for scientists to hold, observe and move tiny objects with "laser beam fingers." That means laboratories can examine and manipulate viruses, bacteria and other living cells without damaging them.

"Advanced precision instruments are opening up unexplored areas of research and a multitude of industrial and medical applications," the Nobel organizers wrote on prize's Twitter feed.

Each of the six Nobel prizes come with an award of 9 million Swedish kronor (roughly $1 million), which can be shared by as many as three recipients. Strickland and Mourou will take half of the 2018 award, and Ashkin the other half.

According to the academy, Ashkin was so busy with his latest scientific paper that he might not be available for interviews.

Alfred Nobel created five prizes in his 1895 will for medicine, physics, chemistry, literature and peace. A sixth prize in economics was created, in Nobel's memory, by Sweden's central bank in 1968.

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