×
February 7, 2019

During a September 2017 conversation with an aide, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said if he could not get journalist Jamal Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia, either on his own accord or by force, he would go after him "with a bullet," current and former U.S. and foreign officials told The New York Times.

This intercepted conversation between the crown prince and Turki Aldakhil was included in a December intelligence report that has been circulated around spy agencies and the White House, the Times reports. The National Security Agency and other U.S. spy agencies have been going through years of the crown prince's text and voice communications, the Times reports, and analysts have determined that he may not have literally meant he would shoot him, but would have him killed another way.

Khashoggi was critical of the Saudi government, and after going into self-exile in the U.S, he began writing columns for The Washington Post in 2017. In another intercepted conversation, the crown prince reportedly complained to aide Saud al-Qahtani that Khashoggi held too much sway over people and was ruining his reputation as a reformer.

Khashoggi was killed in October 2018, with Saudi operatives strangling and dismembering him inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The CIA has reportedly concluded that the crown prince ordered the killing, something Saudi Arabia has denied. In a statement, a Saudi official told the Times that the kingdom is "focused on uncovering the full truth" about Khashoggi's murder and "ensuring complete accountability." Catherine Garcia

10:17 p.m.

A federal judge in Washington on Thursday granted a nationwide injunction blocking the Trump administration's new rules prohibiting federally-funded health care providers from referring patients for abortions.

The Department of Health and Human Services announced the policy earlier this year. Already, groups receiving money under the Title X program are not allowed to perform abortions with that funding. The new rules would have hit low-income Americans who use Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of reproductive health services in the U.S., especially hard.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Stanley Bastian wrote the restrictions reverse "long-standing positions of the Department without proper consideration of sound medical opinions and the economic and non-economic consequences," and the Department of Health and Human Services offered "no reasoned analysis" for changing the rules. He also said the challengers, including the state of Washington and the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, demonstrated the rule "likely violates the central purpose of Title X, which is to equalize access to comprehensive, evidence-based, and voluntary family planning." Catherine Garcia

9:30 p.m.

Amazon is working to get Prime members their deodorant, lightbulbs, and Echos faster than ever.

During the company's first quarter 2019 earnings call on Thursday, CFO Brian Olsavsky said Amazon is "currently working on evolving our Prime free two-day shipping program to be a free one-day shipping program." To make this happen, Amazon will spend $800 million to improve delivery infrastructures and warehouses.

The company has already expanded the number of ZIP codes eligible for one-day shipping, Olsavsky said, and will continue to partner with the U.S. Postal Service and UPS to deliver packages. The new shipping program will first roll out in North America, but will go global eventually. Catherine Garcia

8:23 p.m.

Cyclone Kenneth, the strongest storm to ever hit Mozambique, made landfall Thursday in the northern part of the country, with wind speeds of up to 140 mph.

The cyclone formed off the coast of Madagascar earlier this week, and comes just five weeks after Cyclone Idai caused widespread destruction; Idai left more than 1,000 people in Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe dead and thousands more homeless. "It's really an anomaly in the history of cyclones in this region," meteorologist Eric Holthaus told The Guardian. "There's never been two storms this strong hit in the same year, let alone within five weeks of each other in Mozambique."

The storm is expected to stay stalled north of the port town Pemba, dumping at least three feet of rain over the next several days. Holthaus said a "blocking pattern" in the upper atmosphere is likely behind the stall, adding that there is evidence climate change is making blocking patterns stronger. Catherine Garcia

7:08 p.m.

Anita Hill feels that former Vice President Joe Biden still owes her a true apology for the way he handled Justice Clarence Thomas' Senate confirmation hearings, and until she receives one, Hill won't be able to support his 2020 presidential bid.

"I cannot be satisfied by simply saying I'm sorry for what happened to you," she told The New York Times during an interview published Thursday. "I will be satisfied when I know there is real change and real accountability and real purpose."

Biden's campaign announced on Thursday that he called Hill earlier this month, to share "his regret for what she endured and his admiration for everything she has done to change the culture around sexual harassment in this country." Biden was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991, when Hill accused Thomas, then a Supreme Court nominee, of sexual harassment. Biden has been criticized for allowing Republicans to attack Hill, and not calling more witnesses to support her.

Hill told the Times that this is about more than just expressing regret, and that Biden "needs to give an apology to the other women and to the American public because we know now how deeply disappointed Americans around the country were about what they saw. And not just women. There are women and men now who have just really lost confidence in our government to respond to the problem of gender violence." Catherine Garcia

5:01 p.m.

Watch out influencers, the CIA is officially on their Instagram game.

As promised, the agency launched their newest social media account on Thursday — and who would have thought intelligence agents would be such good content-curators? For its first post, the agency shared a staged photo of CIA Director Gina Haspel's desk space in the form of a clever "I spy" game with Easter eggs hidden all over the scene.

With quite the Pinterest aesthetic, Haspel's desk is filled with books, plants, stationery, illustrations and other adorable objects that also seem fit for a college student's dorm room — travel-themed coin bank included. Getting playful, the picture also features a Top Secret Pulp bag, maps of Russia and Iran spread on the desk, a notebook with the words "We share what we can and protect what we must" and even Haspel's first-ever CIA badge.

CIA spokesperson Chelsea Robinson told The Verge that the account's main goal is to spark curiosity on the CIA's mission and that "joining Instagram is another way we're sharing stories and recruiting talented Americans to serve." Robinson guaranteed the account "will give a peek into Agency life, but can't promise any selfies from secret locations."

For their official bio, the agency kept it traditional with their mission statement: "We are the Nation's first line of defense. We accomplish what others cannot accomplish and go where others cannot go." The account only has about 2,000 followers right now, but if they keep up with the quality content, the CIA could score some lucrative deals with detox tea brands or teeth whitening companies. Marina Pedrosa

4:26 p.m.

Sri Lankan officials on Thursday lowered the death toll from Sunday's attacks from 359 to 253, CNN reports.

Coordinated suicide bombings targeted several churches and hotels on Sunday, and the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks, though the bombers were reportedly a part of a lesser-known militant group.

The death toll was initially estimated above 300, but the Sri Lankan Health Ministry revised the estimate after further investigation. "Some of the bodies get severely damaged in these kinds of explosions and it's possible for some bodies to get completely destroyed or break into parts, making the identification of full bodies difficult," said the ministry statement. "Hence, counting an exact death toll is challenging." Read more at CNN. The Week Staff

3:50 p.m.

Twitter seems to have a not-so-public answer to why white supremacist content is permeating its site.

Over the past few years, Twitter has found success in algorithmically banning content and accounts linked to ISIS and other terrorist groups. It sometimes leads to "innocent accounts" such as Arabic language broadcasters being caught up in anti-ISIS sweeps, Vice News' Motherboard reports a Twitter executive saying at a recent all-staff meeting. But "society, in general, accepts" that sacrifice, the executive reportedly continued.

That apparently isn't the case when it comes to white supremacist content, though. "In separate discussions" beyond the meeting, one Twitter employee says the site "hasn’t taken the same aggressive approach to white supremacist content because the collateral accounts that are impacted can, in some instances, be Republican politicians," Vice News writes. Vice News then explained further:

The employee argued that, on a technical level, content from Republican politicians could get swept up by algorithms aggressively removing white supremacist material. Banning politicians wouldn't be accepted by society as a trade-off for flagging all of the white supremacist propaganda, he argued.

A Twitter spokesperson said that this “is not [an] accurate characterization of our policies or enforcement — on any level." Still, it raises questions about why Twitter doesn't have a public explanation for why white supremacist posts persist, and how "societal norms" could be stopping Twitter from banning that content altogether, Vice News writes. Read more from Vice News here. Kathryn Krawczyk

See More Speed Reads