October 23, 2018

In a speech to his ruling Justice and Development Party on Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Saudi Arabia's acknowledgment that Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed Oct. 2 inside its Istanbul consulate a good first step, but he forcefully disputed the Saudi story that Khashoggi died in a spontaneous fistfight. Saudi officials began planning Khashoggi's "savage murder" in late September, Erdogan said, and a team of three Saudis arrived Oct. 1 to scout a forest, possibly for a place to bury Khashoggi's dismembered remains. He also confirmed that the Saudis used a body double to try and make it seem like Khashoggi left the consulate alive.

Erdogan said the 18 people Saudi Arabia says it has arrested for the murder include the 15 Saudi agents identified by Turkish intelligence plus three consular officials, and he requested that Saudi Arabia let them be tried for their crimes in Istanbul. He also said a Saudi official told him a Turkish co-conspirator may have helped dispose of the body. Erdogan questioned who ordered the assassination, asked what happened to Khashoggi's body, and said he expects all perpetrators to be brought to justice, "from the highest level to the lowest level."

“I do not doubt the sincerity of King Salman," Erdogan said. "That being said, an independent investigation needs to be carried out. This is a political killing." He did not mention Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the king's son. But the speech carried a strong implication that Erdogan did not believe the crown prince is innocent, says Bethan McKernan, Middle East correspondent for The Guardian. Peter Weber

12:22 p.m.

Could the voting system used to determine the Oscars' Best Picture winner make all the difference this year?

The Academy uses a preferential ballot to select Best Picture, which means voters don't simply check off one movie to win. Instead, they rank all of the nominees. When ballots are collected, a film wins if it was ranked first by more than 50 percent of the Academy.

But that's a difficult feat considering there can be as many as 10 choices. If no film captures a majority, whichever receives the fewest votes is eliminated, and those who ranked that eliminated film first have their second pick moved up to first. For example, let's say someone ranked Vice first, followed by Roma. If Vice receives the fewest votes during the first round, this person's Best Picture pick is now Roma. The elimination and movement goes on until one film earns more than 50 percent of the votes.

A common theory among Oscars pundits is that when the Best Picture race is fairly open, many voters' second or third favorite takes the prize. Or, as the Los Angeles Times puts it, the movie that is "least disliked" will win.

So what's the least disliked this year? Many have argued it's Black Panther, while others think it could be The Favourite, which tied with Roma for the most nominations. The system may not help Green Book, though, seeing as controversy around the film has divided viewers, much like last year's losing Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Bohemian Rhapsody could be set back for similar reasons, although the Academy has shown a surprising amount of love for that film.

It may be, however, that the system simply benefits the existing frontrunner, Roma. The technical accomplishments of Alfonso Cuarón's film can't be denied, even if it's not every Oscar voters' very favorite, and that may be enough to push it over the top. Brendan Morrow

12:03 p.m.

Police in Jupiter, Florida, have charged New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft with soliciting of a prostitute, Miami's CBS4 News reported Friday. Kraft was apparently one of 25 people charged in the prostitution ring bust, which revolved around a Palm Beach County massage parlor.

While details are still being announced, TMZ reports that the 77-year-old billionaire "is accused of soliciting a prostitute on at least two separate occasions." Additionally, police claim they have "video of Robert Kraft involved in acts with a prostitute as part of their investigation," NBC News reports.

Kraft bought the Patriots in 1994, and has seen the team win six championships during his tenure. The prostitution ring investigation reportedly took more than eight months to complete, and involved Homeland Security and the IRS, in addition to local police. Jeva Lange

11:30 a.m.

Fox is removing Jussie Smollett from Empire — at least for a little bit.

After police accused the actor of falsifying his report of a hate crime, Fox spent weeks insisting he wasn't being written off the show. Empire producers continued to stand by Smollett in a Friday statement, saying they were "placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out." Still, they had decided to "remove" Smollett's "role of 'Jamal' from the final two episodes of the season."

Last month, Smollett filed a police report saying he was the victim of a hate crime and that two men attacked him in Chicago. After inconsistencies emerged in Smollett's account, police arrested him Wednesday night on charges of filing a false police report. Chicago police then alleged on Thursday that the purported crime was a staged "publicity stunt" to "promote his career" and perhaps secure a raise.

Smollett has since been released on bail and returned to the Empire set Friday, reportedly telling cast and crew there he's innocent. Various reports suggested Fox would cut Smollett's scenes from Empire or even fire him, but the network didn't take official action until Friday. In its statement, Fox only said it was cutting Smollett's scenes "to avoid further disruption on set," and reiterated that showrunners "care about him deeply." Read the whole statement from Fox on Twitter. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:12 a.m.

The possible title of the next James Bond movie is leaving some of the franchise's fans shaken, not stirred.

The Guardian reported Friday that the working title being used during production of the upcoming 25th Bond film is Shatterhand. Working titles don't always reflect what a movie's final name will be — the Star Wars franchise, for instance, famously shoots under purposely ridiculous or obtuse titles, such as Space Bear for The Last Jedi.

But in this case, seeing Shatterhand show up as the working title for the next Bond movie is notable since it had already been rumored as one of the names that was being considered.

Though the title is undeniably ridiculous, especially when viewed next to names like Spectre and Skyfall, it does have some significance to fans: Shatterhand is the alias used by Ernst Blofeld in the Bond book You Only Live Twice. Whether this ends up being the final title, then, the fact that it's reportedly being used during production seems to indicate that Christoph Waltz's villain from Spectre may return.

The film, which will see Daniel Craig returning in the lead role after previously saying he would rather "slash my wrists" than play the character again, will open on April 8, 2020. Brendan Morrow

10:06 a.m.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's fight against foreign aid has turned even more deadly.

U.S.-backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó has welcomed humanitarian aid for the impoverished country, but Maduro announced the closure of the country's border with Brazil on Thursday in an attempt to keep it out. Civilians still tried to keep border traffic flowing on Friday, but soldiers fired back against the operation, leaving at least one dead and 12 injured, The Washington Post reports.

Maduro claimed victory last year in an election widely seen to be fraudulent, while Guaidó declared himself the legitimate interim leader as he and the U.S. continue to call for new elections. Since then, Maduro has maintained that any aid is an attempt to undermine his presidency and set up a blockade at the Colombian border last week. Guaidó said some aid did make it into the country.

Still, Maduro moved again to block aid by shutting down the Brazilian border, and said he was considering a "total closure" on the border with Colombia as well, per Al Jazeera. An indigenous community kept a checkpoint open on the border for aid to flow through, but a military convoy confronted the group Friday morning. Community members "sought to block the military vehicles by standing in front of them" and the military opened fire, "wounding at least 12 people, four of them seriously," the Post writes. At least one woman has died so far. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:49 a.m.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who was removed from his committee assignments last month after comments about white supremacy, says he will seek re-election in 2020 and will do so with a clean conscience.

King in an interview with Iowa Public Television on Thursday said that he has "nothing to apologize for," immediately going after the news media and citing President Trump as saying The New York Times is "a dishonest entity." King in January had been quoted in a Times interview as saying, "White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?" The congressman also faced criticism in October after meeting with a group with Nazi ties and endorsing a white nationalist candidate for Toronto mayor, reports The Washington Post.

But King on Thursday blamed the outrage he has faced in recent months on "formerly credible" news organizations, which create a "phenomenon that America is not ready for, and that's this cyberbullying that unleashes." He insisted that there is "no story whatsoever" and that these reports from the Times and the Post were false.

In particular, King claimed he had been misquoted by the Times and that his question of "how did that language become offensive?" was only referring to the term "Western civilization," not the terms white nationalist and white supremacist. The Times interview, however, was far from the first time King came under fire for using white supremacist language. He had also said in 2017, "We can't restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies," later defending this comment by saying "it's not about race." Additionally, he said of the term "white nationalist" in 2018, "It is a derogatory term today. I wouldn't have thought so maybe a year or two or three ago." Brendan Morrow

9:09 a.m.

Duke said Thursday that freshman basketball superstar Zion Williamson suffered a mild knee sprain when his Nike PG 2.5 shoe burst apart at the start of the Blue Devils' prime-time televised game against North Carolina, suggesting he could return soon to the currently No. 1-ranked team, The Washington Post reported. Nike shares dropped by 1 percent on Thursday as the athletic apparel maker scrambled to figure out why the shoe disintegrated, per CNN.

Former President Barack Obama was courtside, and was shown in a widely seen video reacting by pointing toward Williamson and saying, "His shoe broke!"

Duke struggled after Williamson's injury, losing to No. 8 UNC in a stunning upset. The incident renewed debate over whether playing college ball is worth the risk for players who stand to make millions as pros. Harold Maass

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