Canberra, June 20 (Xinhua/UNB) -- Seven Australian universities have been ranked in the global top 100, among which five are in the top 50.
According to the latest annual QS World University Rankings released on Wednesday, Australian National University (ANU) has fallen five places from the 2018 rankings, but remains the top-ranked Australian institution at number 29.
It was joined by the University of Melbourne (38), University of Sydney (42), University of New South Wales (43) and the University of Queensland (47) in the top 50.
Monash University and the University of Western Australia (UWA) also made the top 100 at 59 and 91 respectively.
The list ranks universities on academic reputation, graduate employability, international student ratio, research performance and staff to student ratio.
Australian universities ranked particularly well for their international student ratios, with ANU, Monash and Melbourne and Sydney Universities all ranked in the top 30 globally.
Ben Sowter, QS's director of research, said it was unsurprising that "students wishing to study in an Anglophone nation have turned towards Australia."
"It is imperative that Australia endeavors to continue expanding its teaching capacity to meet demand that is likely to continue increasing," he told News Corp Australia.
"Results from our academic survey, the world's largest of its kind, suggest that the global academic community currently rates the Australian system very highly."
Of the 35 Australian universities in the rankings, 31 received worse ratings in the staff to student ratio measure than they did in 2018.
Beijing, June 20 (AP/UNB) — Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived Thursday morning for a two-day state visit to North Korea, where he’s expected to talk with leader Kim Jong Un about the stalled negotiations with Washington over North Korea’s nuclear weapons.
China’s official Xinhua news agency reported that Xi was accompanied by his wife, Peng Liyuan, and several Communist Party officials. He is the first Chinese president to visit North Korea in 14 years.
The summit comes as both Xi and Kim are locked in separate disputes with the United States — Xi over trade and Kim over his nuclear weapons.
A Xinhua commentary said China could play a unique and constructive role in breaking the cycle of mistrust between North Korea and the U.S. so they can work out a roadmap to achieve denuclearization.
The U.S. is demanding that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons development before international sanctions are lifted. North Korea is seeking a step-by-step approach in which a step toward its denuclearization would be matched by a concession from the U.S., notably a relaxation of economic sanctions.
China backs what it calls a “suspension for suspension” proposal. The Xinhua said both sides “need to have reasonable expectations and refrain from imposing unilateral and unrealistic demands.”
Experts say Xi will likely endorse North Korea’s calls for an incremental disarmament process.
Chinese and North Korea media have said Xi would stay in Pyongyang for two days. His meeting with Kim would their fifth summit since Kim entered nuclear diplomacy with the United States and South Korea early last year.
In an essay published in both countries’ official media before his trip, Xi praised North Korea for moving in the “right direction” by politically resolving issues on the peninsula. He did not mention Kim’s nuclear diplomacy with the U.S. in the article, much of which focused on lauding the neighbors’ seven-decade relationship. Xi said his visit will “strengthen strategic communication and exchange” between the traditional, though sometimes strained, allies.
The nations fought together in the 1950-53 Korean War against the United States, South Korea and their allies, but there has been friction in recent years, especially over the North’s relentless push for nuclear weapons.
Geneva, June 20 (AP/UNB) — The gathering on the second floor of the Saudi consulate featured an unlikely collection: a forensic doctor, intelligence and security officers, agents of the crown prince's office. As they waited for their target to arrive, one asked how they would carry out the body.
Not to worry, the doctor said: "Joints will be separated. It is not a problem," he assured. "If we take plastic bags and cut it into pieces, it will be finished. We will wrap each of them."
Their prey, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, would not leave the consulate in Istanbul alive. And on Wednesday, more than eight months after his death, a U.N. special rapporteur revealed new details of the slaying — part of a report that insisted there was "credible evidence" to warrant further investigation and financial sanctions against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The report brought the grisly case back into the spotlight just as the prince and his country appeared to be emerging from the stain of the scandal. But it contained no smoking gun likely to cause President Donald Trump to abandon one of his closest allies — and none likely to send the crown prince before a tribunal.
And yet the details of the Oct. 2 killing were so chilling, and now so public, that it's hard to fathom that there won't be repercussions.
On the recording, apparently picked up by Turkish listening devices, intelligence officer Maher Mutreb is heard asking whether "the sacrificial animal" had entered the consulate, and a voice responds: "He has arrived." (Khashoggi is never mentioned by name in the audio.)
Two minutes later, Khashoggi enters the consulate, hoping to collect a Saudi document that would let him wed his Turkish fiancee. He is led into the consul general's office and told he has to return to Saudi Arabia.
Khashoggi protests: "I notified some people outside. They are waiting for me. A driver is waiting for me."
"Let's make it short," the official tells him, adding: "Send a message to your son."
"Which son? What should I say to my son?" Khashoggi asks.
"You will type a message. Let's rehearse; show us," the official says, prodding: "Type it, Mr. Jamal. Hurry up."
Within minutes, the official loses patience and, the rapporteur said, apparently pulls out a syringe.
"Are you going to give me drugs?" Khashoggi asks.
"We will anesthetize you," he is told.
Then came the sounds of struggle, "movement and heavy panting," and finally — according to Turkish intelligence relayed in the report — the sounds of a saw.
He is believed to have been dismembered inside the consulate. His remains have never been found.
The nearly minute-by-minute narrative is part of a 101-page report from the U.N. special rapporteur for extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions. Agnes Callamard, who is not a United Nations staffer, launched her inquiry in January under her mandate from the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council.
Her report is to be presented at a council session that opens Monday. The 47-nation Geneva body has already supported more scrutiny of a Saudi-led military campaign in neighboring Yemen that has been blamed for the deaths of thousands of civilians.
The Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, dismissed the report in a tweet, saying that it contained "nothing new" and was riddled with "clear contradictions and baseless allegations which challenge its credibility."
"The Saudi judiciary is the sole party qualified to deal with the Khashoggi case and works with full independence," he added.
The report comes as damage to the crown prince's reputation had begun to fade, with countries and companies resuming business with the uber-wealthy kingdom. In recent weeks, the Trump administration has tried to ram through a sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia over objections in Congress. A British petrochemicals company laid out a $2 billion investment to build three plants in the kingdom.
Callamard said responsibility for Khashoggi's killing falls on Saudi Arabia, even if she can't attribute guilt. But the focus has lingered over the man who is next in line to become its king. There is, she said, "sufficient credible evidence regarding the responsibility of the Crown Prince demanding further investigation."
She said people directly implicated in the murder reported to him. And she flagged Saudi Arabia's track record with human rights violations in the past, saying "there was no way the leaders of that state including the crown prince were not aware of those violations."
Callamard listed dozens of recommendations, and urged U.N. bodies or Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to demand a follow-up criminal investigation. She insisted that the U.N. chief should be able to establish one "without any trigger by a state." But U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Guterres could only do so with a mandate from "a competent intergovernmental body."
Callamard called for sanctions specifically against the crown prince, even before his guilt or innocence is determined.
An investigation should look into how much the crown prince knew, whether he had a direct or indirect role, and whether he could have stopped the killing, she said.
The 33-year-old prince, who continues to have the support of his father, King Salman, denies any involvement. Trump has defended U.S.-Saudi ties in the face of international outcry over the slaying. Many U.S. lawmakers have criticized Trump for not condemning Saudi Arabia over the journalist's killing.
In an interview with the Arabic newspaper Asharq al-Awsat published Sunday, the prince was quoted as saying Khashoggi's murder is a "very painful crime" and that the state "will seek to achieve full justice" against the perpetrators.
The report includes the names of 11 men on trial in Saudi Arabia for the killing; authorities there have never named them. It confirms that Saud al-Qahtani, a former top adviser to the crown prince who has been sanctioned by the U.S. in connection with Khashoggi's killing, has not been charged.
Callamard said Saudi Arabia should call off the trial and let the international community investigate, arguing that the case can hardly be considered a domestic issue now.
Saudi Arabia initially offered multiple shifting accounts about Khashoggi's disappearance. As international pressure mounted, the kingdom eventually settled on the explanation that he was killed by rogue officials in a brawl inside their consulate.
But the U.N. probe said it is hard to accept the theory that the leader of the 15-man Saudi team sent to the consulate at the time of Khashoggi's visit had planned the murder without any authorization from superiors in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia has blamed the operation on Saudi agents who exceeded their authority. Saudi Arabia's own investigation said the agents were only given orders by two senior officials to forcibly bring Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia, but not to kill him.
Before his death, Khashoggi wrote columns in The Washington Post criticizing the crown prince's crackdown on freedom of thought and expression, though he also commended the prince's social reforms. He wrote his columns after leaving Saudi Arabia to avoid being swept up in the crackdown.
In a statement, the U.S. State Department said it supported Callamard's "global mission to investigate extra-judicial, summary, or arbitrary executions. State Department officials met with her, at her request, to discuss several matters, including Jamal Khashoggi's killing. We are determined to press for accountability for every person who was responsible."
In Istanbul, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the report had determined Saudi Arabia's responsibility over the killing, adding that the kingdom would have to account for the killing.
"They have declared that the Saudis are guilty and had knowledge," Erdogan said. "They will account for this, they will pay a price."
Callamard, an academic and rights advocate, said she never received a response from the Saudis on her request to travel to the kingdom, and said she only had access to a total of 45 minutes of tapes recorded within the consulate around the time of the killing. Turkish intelligence had referenced some seven hours of recordings.
Callamard was not allowed by Turkish authorities to take notes while listening to portions of the tapes. Her account was based on her memory of the Arabic audio.
Pittsburgh, June 20 (AP/UNB) — A Syrian refugee who came to the U.S. three years ago plotted to bomb a church this spring to inspire followers of the Islamic State of Iraq, federal authorities said in announcing the man's arrest Wednesday.
A criminal complaint alleges Mustafa Mousab Alowemer planned to bomb an unidentified church on Pittsburgh's north side, and purchased materials he thought were necessary to build a bomb. He also allegedly provided plans and a map to an undercover FBI agent he thought was a fellow Islamic State supporter.
"Targeting places of worship is beyond the pale, no matter what the motivation," Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers said in a statement. "The defendant is alleged to have plotted just such an attack of a church in Pittsburgh in the name of ISIS.
The 21-year-old Alowemer, a Pittsburgh resident, is charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and two counts of distributing information relating to an explosive device or weapon of mass destruction.
Alowemer was born in Daraa, Syria and came to the U.S. as a refugee in 2016, according to the FBI. The federal court docket didn't list an attorney for Alowemer and the Department of Justice didn't return a message seeking whether he had an attorney who could comment on the charges announced Wednesday.
According to the criminal complaint, Alowemer met several times between April and June with the undercover FBI agent and an FBI source. During one of the meetings, Alowemer allegedly provided plot details, bomb materials he'd purchased and printed copies of Google satellite maps with markings showing the location of the church plus arrival and escape routes.
Alowemer planned to carry out the bombing next month by delivering the explosives in a backpack, according to the complaint.
Iran, June 20 (AP/UNB) — Iran's Revolutionary Guard said Thursday it shot down a U.S. drone amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington over its collapsing nuclear deal. The U.S. military declined to immediately comment.
The reported shootdown of the RQ-4 Global Hawk comes after the U.S. military previously alleged Iran fired a missile at another drone last week that responded to the attack on two oil tankers near the Gulf of Oman. The U.S. blames Iran for the attack on the ships, which Tehran denies.
The attacks come against the backdrop of heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran following President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers a year ago. The White House separately said it was aware of reports of a missile strike on Saudi Arabia amid a campaign targeting the kingdom by Yemen's Iranian-allied Houthi rebels.
Iran recently has quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium and threatened to boost its enrichment closer to weapons-grade levels, trying to pressure Europe for new terms to the 2015 deal.
In recent weeks, the U.S. has sped an aircraft carrier to the Mideast and deployed additional troops to the tens of thousands already in the region. Mysterious attacks also have targeted oil tankers as Iranian-allied Houthi rebels launched bomb-laden drones into Saudi Arabia.
All this has raised fears that a miscalculation or further rise in tensions could push the U.S. and Iran into an open conflict, some 40 years after Tehran's Islamic Revolution.
Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said it shot down the drone Thursday morning when it entered Iranian airspace near the Kouhmobarak district in southern Iran's Hormozgan province. Kouhmobarak is some 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) southeast of Tehran and is close to the Strait of Hormuz.
Iran's state-run IRNA news agency, citing the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, identified the drone as an RQ-4 Global Hawk.
Capt. Bill Urban, a U.S. Central Command spokesman, declined to comment when asked if an American drone was shot down.
However, he told The Associated Press: "There was no drone over Iranian territory."
Meanwhile, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Trump had been "briefed on the reports of a missile strike in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."
"We are closely monitoring the situation and continuing to consult with our partners and allies," Sanders said.
The Houthi's Al-Masirah satellite news channel claimed the rebels targeted a power plant in Jizan, near the kingdom's border with Yemen, with a cruise missile. Saudi state media and officials did not immediately report a missile strike Thursday.
A Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Houthis since March 2015 in Yemen, the Arab world's poorest nation now pushed to the brink of famine by the conflict. In recent weeks, the Houthis have launched a new campaign sending missiles and bomb-laden drones into Saudi Arabia.