In a brief escape from his legal and political struggles in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu enjoyed a leisurely excursion in Portugal, keeping a relatively light schedule and finding time to tour the capital and reminisce with reporters about his late father, who was an influential historian.
It could turn out to be a last respite as he returns to Israel to fight for his survival after a damning corruption indictment and two inconclusive elections that have left him clinging to power.
Netanyahu, accompanied by his wife Sara, tried his best to project business as usual, holding a lengthy meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that he called "critical to Israeli security." He also met with Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa to discuss joint projects and to thank him for taking a tough stance against anti-Semitism.
But with plenty of downtime on the two-day sojourn he also managed to find diversions from some of the drama in Israel, where he faces calls to resign and a brewing rebellion in his Likud party ahead of a likely third election within a year.
On a sunny, pleasant day, Netanyahu stopped by a lookout point on Thursday to take in a picturesque vista of Lisbon, greeting tourists along the way, and made a pilgrimage to a memorial for Jews who were massacred in the 16th century after the Spanish Inquisition. Before departing for home, he enjoyed a late-evening dinner with his wife at a fancy Lisbon restaurant.
Speaking to reporters earlier in the day, he refused to delve into his personal fortunes after Israel's attorney general indicted him for fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three separate cases. But he vowed to carry on and denied his precarious status was taking a toll or that foreign leaders were treating him any differently because of it.
"I'm a little different from what people think of me," he said, in response to a question from The Associated Press. "I have struggles, but I'm different. It's not because I am a robot. I am different in my ability to focus."
Netanyahu appeared relaxed when reporters accompanying his trip stumbled upon him in central Lisbon as he was making an unannounced visit to the outdoor memorial for the nearly 2,000 Jews who were massacred on Apr. 19, 1506, in a pogrom that preceded the Portuguese Inquisition in which tens of thousands were killed or forced to flee.
Most of the victims had fled years earlier from the more infamous Spanish Inquisition, of which his father — historian Ben-Zion Netanyahu — was a renowned expert.
Wearing jeans and loafers, his hands stuffed into the pockets of an overcoat, Netanyahu asked about the memorial site outside the Sao Domingos church near Rossio Square before sharing his knowledge about the rich and tragic history of Portugal's Jews. He said he'd been there before, 23 years earlier during his first term as prime minister, but never with his father, who passed away in 2012 at age 102.
"My father isn't available right now," he said with a shrug, when asked what Ben-Zion Netanyahu could have shared.
But he did disclose how he once accompanied his father to an award ceremony in Spain — where he was honored in an inquisition torture room, no less — and where the Israeli prime minister was referred to merely as "Netanyahu's son."
But even on foreign soil, there were reminders of his scandals back home, where he has lashed out angrily at detractors and accused police, prosecutors and a biased media of orchestrating a "coup" to remove him from office.
When an Israeli reporter jokingly asked which inquisition was worse, that against the Jews of Portugal or his own travails, he looked away and tried to change the subject. But his wife eagerly responded.
"There's something to that. I don't reject the question, I'm glad you understand that this is an inquisition for us," Sara Netanyahu said. "We'll find time to talk about this."
The off-the-cuff comment drew swift condemnation in Israel from descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jewish communities who said it showed contempt for Jewish suffering.
Barring a last-minute reversal, new elections will be triggered in the coming week, and the gaffe offered yet another headache as Netanyahu returned home to face the toughest challenge of his lengthy career.
Uber said it received almost 6,000 reports of sexual assault in the United States in 2017 and 2018, reports BBC.
While the number of cases rose in 2018, the rate of incidents dropped by 16%, as the number of journeys was higher.
The data was published in a report which Uber said showed its commitment to "improving safety for Uber and the entire industry".
Uber is facing growing scrutiny around the world, and recently lost its licence to operate in London.
The report showed 5,981 sexual assault incidents were reported out of the 2.3bn US trips over the two-year period.
Some 99.9% of the total journeys were concluded without safety issues, it said.
Passengers - as opposed to drivers - accounted for nearly half of those accused of sexual assault, the report added.
Uber: Will it get its London licence back?
'Uber genuinely was a lifeline'
What do drivers think of Uber?
Uber said the report was the first comprehensive safety review of its ride-hailing business.
"Voluntarily publishing a report that discusses these difficult safety issues is not easy," said Tony West, chief legal officer at Uber.
"Most companies don't talk about issues like sexual violence because doing so risks inviting negative headlines and public criticism. But we feel it's time for a new approach."
The company told the BBC there were currently no concrete plans to release safety reports for any non-US markets.
Uber said 3,045 sexual assault reports were made in 2018 compared with 2,936 in 2017.
Last year, 1.3 billion trips were completed in the US, up from one billion in 2017.
The head of the US National Sexual Violence Resource Center, Karen Baker, welcomed the report, saying it "provides an opportunity to shed light on how this information-sharing emboldens our work for a safer future".
Passenger safety, in particular sexual violence, have been major challenges for Uber and its US rival Lyft, as well as China's Didi.
In November, London's transport regulator announced that Uber would not be granted a new licence to operate after repeated safety issues.
The firm has appealed against the ruling and continues to operate during the process.
It was the odd-looking locker handles that caught their eye.
Investigators spent hours poring over graphic images of little boys changing in and out of their swimsuits at what looked like a YMCA. They were hunting for any clue to help them identify the location — and ultimately, the victims and the person who exploited them.
Then they noticed that the locker handles had unusual plastic hooks. They scrubbed the photos to remove the images of children, then sent the pictures to locker manufacturers. One of them recognized the lockers and said they had been installed at YMCAs. Eventually, investigators matched the photos to a YMCA in Sandusky, Ohio. That led to the suspect, a former Boy Scout leader.
These weren't FBI or local police, but investigators from the agency that's the poster child for President Donald Trump's polarizing immigration policies: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE's Homeland Security Investigations section has a little-known Child Exploitation Investigations lab where agents scour disturbing photos and videos of child sexual abuse.
They look for unlikely clues that help them identify the children and bring their abusers to justice. In one case, it was the loud, persistent chirping of a bird. Another time, it was unusual playground equipment.
"We are looking at the hidden details, the things people aren't looking at," said Special Agent Erin Burke, the section chief.
The work of Homeland Security Investigations agents has led to thousands of child exploitation-related arrests. But being part of ICE has taken a toll. Funding for HSI has fallen as a greater share of ICE's budget is devoted to removing immigrants. And the association with ICE has created friction.
Some cities and police departments refuse to comply with ICE on immigration matters, like alerting them to criminal suspects wanted for crossing the border illegally. Sometimes that bleeds into the HSI investigators' work, too. Just having the email end in "ice.dhs.gov" can cause problems.
"Ninety-nine percent of what we do here has no immigration nexus," Burke said. "But people have a hard time understanding this."
ICE's involvement in child pornography investigations dates back to when hard-copy images were traded over borders. Now it's all online. The internet has made it so investigators around the globe can't keep pace with the tens of millions of graphic materials available today. It's exploded in part thanks to cheaper online storage and easier encryption tools. The dark web gives additional cover to perpetrators. It has made them bolder, their abuse more graphic and disturbing, the work of the investigators more difficult.
The lab was created in 2011 to look for clues within images to help find child victims. It has three analysts and one special agent. They work in a small windowless room in a nondescript office building in the Virginia suburbs outside Washington. A sign on the door says in red bold letters: "Examination of graphic material in progress."
Inside, new technology meets old: Fluorescent office lights are turned down and specialized blue lights glow. Giant, state-of-the-art computers with high-definition screens are set up alongside old police sketches of faces.
The cases come to them from local police, or international investigators who notice American victims. It can take two weeks, two days, two years to identify the children. Some they can't find. Those children haunt them.
In many cases, graphic images are accompanied by everyday shots of the child.
"They want to show they have access to a child," Burke said. "So the 'before' images become a part of the story for them almost as much as the graphic images."
In one case, an analyst examined images he received from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a clearinghouse and reporting center for issues on the prevention of child victimization.
One photo showed, a girl, maybe 4 years old, from the back. She was scrambling atop a rock, her curly blonde hair in pig tails. The analyst photoshopped the victim out and sent the photo of the rock and the surrounding foliage to a horticulture expert at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, who narrowed the location down to the southern U.S.
Next, the analyst looked at playground equipment in another "clean" image. He sent the photo to playground manufacturing companies and safety experts who could pinpoint where the equipment was installed, smack in the middle of a Houston neighborhood.
They sent their research to Texas field agents, who went door-to-door, asking schools, neighbors, businesses, anyone, if they'd seen the little girl, and eventually found the victim — and the suspect.
The girl's father pleaded guilty last June and was sentenced to 35 years for exploitation. But by then, images of the girl had been widely circulated. They were found in at least 222 collections, officials said.
In another case, analysts heard strange bird chirping in an abuse video. They isolated the sound and send it to an ornithologist who identified the bird and its migratory patterns. That led them to three suspects, the last of whom pleaded guilty last month. They are expected to be sentenced to a minimum of 15 years.
In the locker room case, a 39-year-old man pleaded guilty last month to sexual exploitation of a children and will be sentenced in January.
"The bad guys will always be smarter," Burke said. "But that doesn't mean we don't have the tools, the expertise and the boots-on-the-ground hard work to make a dent."
The lab is a small part part of HSI, which has 7,000 agents tasked with workplace enforcement, human trafficking investigations, child exploitation investigations, plus drugs and financial crime.
In the budget year that ended Sept. 30, HSI agents and investigators initiated 4,224 child exploitation cases that resulted in 3,771 arrests and identification of 1,066 victims from. Some of those cases came from information gleaned through the victim identification lab.
The previous two budget years each saw about 4,000 investigations but lower arrests and fewer victims identified, according to the data.
The president's budget requests for HSI have declined over the past few years while requests for ICE's for immigration enforcement and removal operations money has increased, a reflection of Trump's intense focus on reducing immigration. For the new 2020 budget year, it's up about to around $1.7 billion — but in 2018 it was $2.1 billion. Meanwhile, ICE's removal operations requests have increased from $4 billion to $5.1 billion for this budget year.
Burke notes that working in the lab is "not for everyone." Coping can be tough. Some of the team members have children and have become wary of babysitters. They don't want to leave their kids with anyone in a room, especially men.
But they all feel a sense of duty, drawn to the job for the simple fact of saving a child from harm.
"If I don't do it, who will? If not me, who will find these children?" said the analyst who uncovered the locker room link. He didn't want his name publicized out of concern for his investigative work.
The agency has therapists available to help lab staff. Analysts tell each other to step away if something is particularly horrifying. There's no maximum amount of time someone can work in the lab, but when someone suddenly realizes they've had enough, they can transfer quickly to another department.
"It takes a special kind of person to do this work, Burke said. "But when you save a child, when you get the call that a victim has been rescued, it makes everything worth it."
General Motors and Korea's LG Chem have formed a joint venture to build an electric vehicle battery cell factory near Lordstown, Ohio, east of Cleveland.
The companies also will work together on battery technology to bring down the cost for future GM electric vehicles.
The new plant will create more than 1,100 jobs in the area around Youngstown, Ohio, and the joint venture plans to invest $2.3 billion in the plant and for battery development. GM says it will be among the largest battery factories in the world.
They'll break ground on the new plant sometime next year, but the exact location wasn't disclosed.
The new battery plant comes after GM closed a sprawling small-car assembly plant in Lordstown earlier this year. The battery plant was announced last fall during contract talks with the United Auto Workers union, but it won't make up for the lost jobs at the small-car plant.
The Lordstown factory stopped making cars in March. Just two years ago it employed 4,500 workers on two shifts who made the Chevrolet Cruze compact car. Most of those employees either retired or transferred to other GM factories.
GM has been working with LG Chem on electric vehicle batteries since 2009, shortly before the Chevrolet Volt rechargeable gas-electric hybrid went on sale. LG Chem now supplies battery cells for the Chevrolet Bolt fully electric vehicle.
Hak-Cheol Shin, LG Chem CEO, said the joint venture will reduce electric vehicle costs to the point where they can replace those powered by internal combustion engines.
"We believe by working together we'll accelerate and get to industry-leading cost levels," GM CEO Mary Barra said.
Workers at the new plant will decide whether they want to be represented by the UAW, the companies said.
The joint venture likely will pay less than the roughly $30 per hour that GM pays unionized assembly plant workers. Barra said the plant will follow GM's component manufacturing strategy, where workers are paid less than at assembly plants. She said it will have to be cost-competitive.
Cells from the factory will go into the next generation of GM electric vehicles, including a new battery-electric pickup truck scheduled to go on sale in 2021.
Battery cells from the plant likely will be shipped to factories where the electric vehicles are made, where they will be assembled into battery packs, GM said.
GM has promised that it would have 20 battery-powered vehicles on sale globally by 2023.
The company says the battery cell plant, along with the recent sale of the closed Lordstown assembly plant to a commercial electric vehicle company, positions northeast Ohio to become a major hub for electric vehicle technology and manufacturing.
GM is gambling big that the public will someday accept electric vehicles instead of those run by internal combustion engines. Barra says GM believes that climate change is real and is looking toward an all-electric future.
But fully electric vehicles currently make up about 1.5% of U.S. new vehicle sales, and LMC Automotive forecasts it will rise to only 7.5% by 2030. The forecasting firm doesn't see EV sales hitting 50% of the market until at least 2049. Globally it's a different story. Navigant Research sees growth from just over 1 million sales last year to 6.5 million by 2025. The surge is expected because of government incentives and fuel economy regulations in China.
Barra said the next generation of GM electric vehicles will be desirable and affordable to consumers as well as profitable for the company.
The tie-up with LG Chem will help GM get its electric vehicle range to about 300 miles (480 kilometers) per charge, which is what research shows consumers are looking for, Barra said. Batteries from the joint venture will give GM the "right energy density to meet customer demand and have some variety in what best suits customer needs."
The state of Ohio is working with the joint venture on an incentive package for the new factory, but Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said the terms won't be disclosed until the details are finshed.
He said the Lordstown area has plenty of land for the new factory, but would not say if a site had been picked.
"The people in that part of the state will be very eager to make accommodations to make sure this facility is successful," Husted said.
The companies made the announcement Thursday morning at GM's technical center in Warren, Michigan, north of Detroit.
Iran accused France, Germany and the United Kingdom on Thursday of "a desperate falsehood" for saying its missile program goes against a U.N. resolution calling on Tehran not to undertake any activity related to nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.
Iranian officials said none of its missiles are designed to be nuclear-capable, and Iran "is determined to resolutely continue its activities related to ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles, both of which are within its inherent rights under international law."
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and U.N. Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi responded separately to a letter from the three European countries to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres circulated Wednesday.
France, Germany and the UK said they had firmly concluded that "Iran's developments of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles" are "inconsistent" with the missile provision in the Security Council resolution endorsing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
That provision calls on Iran "not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons." But it does not require Tehran to halt such activity, and the Iranian government reiterated Thursday that none of its missile activities are nuclear-related and therefore legal.
U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear agreement in May 2018. But the agreement, known as the JCPOA, is still supported by the five other parties — France, Britain, Russia and China, which are all veto-wielding Security Council members, and Germany, which is currently serving a two-year term on the council.
Zarif, Iran's top diplomat, tweeted Thursday that the letter from the three European countries — the E3 — "is a desperate falsehood to cover up their miserable incompetence in fulfilling bare minimum of their own #JCPOA obligations."
This was an apparent reference to the Europeans' inability to get around U.S. sanctions, re-imposed by Trump, that have largely stopped Iran from selling its crude oil abroad, cutting into a crucial source of government income.
"If E3 want a modicum of global credibility, they can begin by exerting sovereignty rather than bowing to US bullying," Zarif added.
Ravanchi, the Iranian ambassador, offered a point-by-point rebuttal to the Europeans in a letter to Guterres and U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft, who is this month's president of the Security Council.
By contrast, Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon welcomed the Europeans' letter, saying that "in order to thwart Tehran's objectives, significant sanctions have to be imposed on the regime."
The Europeans' letter said they used the Missile Technology Control Regime "performance characteristics" that a rocket system would need to be capable of delivering at least a 500-kilogram payload to a range of at least 300 kilometers (185 miles) to be nuclear capable.
Ravanchi countered that this definition is "not legally binding even for its 35 members, let alone being accepted universally."
The European letter cited footage released on social media April 22, 2019, of a previously unseen flight test of a new Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile variant "equipped with a maneuverable re-entry vehicle." It said: "The Shahab-3 booster used in the test is a Missile Technology Control Regime category-1 system and as such is technically capable of delivering a nuclear weapon."
It noted that a 2015 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency on possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program concluded "that extensive evidence indicated detailed Iranian research in 2002-2003 on arming the Shahab-3 with a nuclear warhead."
Ravanchi called social media an "unreliable" source and said the IAEA "has no technical competence regarding missiles."
"None of Iran's missiles are `designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons,'" the ambassador said.
In addition to the April 23 flight test of the new Shahab-3 missile variant, the Europeans cited three other examples of "Iranian activity inconsistent" with the 2015 resolution:
—The launch of the Borkan-3, "a new liquid-propelled medium-range ballistic missile, traveling approximately 1,300 kilometers," which was announced by Iranian-backed Houthi forces in Yemen on Aug. 2, 2019, and is an advancement of Iran's Qiam-1 missile.
—The July 24, 2019, launch of a ballistic missile that flew over 1,000 kilometers (620 miles), which media reports indicated was a test launch of a Shahab-3 medium-range missile.
—The Aug. 29, 2019, attempted launch, reported by Iranian media, of a Safir satellite launch vehicle, which was unsuccessful. U.N. experts have said such launch vehicles share "a great deal of similar materials and technology" with ballistic missiles.
Aiming clearly at Yemen, Ravanchi dismissed the reference to missile capabilities of regional countries as "irrelevant and yet politically motivated," and said space launch vehicles "do not even fall into the category of ballistic missiles."
He said the U.S. and other unnamed industrialized countries, "under such absurd pretexts as proliferation concerns, attempt to demonize benign technologies such as space technology" and prevent the inherent right of all countries to explore and use outer space.
France, Germany and the UK asked Guterres to inform the Security Council in his next report that Iran's ballistic missile activity is "inconsistent" with the 2015 resolution endorsing the nuclear deal.
Ravanchi said that "since Iran's activities related to space launch vehicles and ballistic missiles fall outside" the resolution, "the secretary-general is therefore expected to avoid reporting on such irrelevant activities in his reports on the implementation of that resolution."
Guterres' report is due Wednesday, and the Security Council has scheduled a Dec. 19 meeting to discuss implementation of the 2015 resolution.