American soldier who fled to North Korea is in U.S. custody
Pvt. Travis King, the American soldier who crossed into North Korea on July 18, was released into U.S. custody yesterday after weeks of diplomacy mediated by the Swedish government, U.S. officials said.
King’s first stop after leaving North Korea was China, where American officials were waiting for him. The private was then put on a plane and flown to a U.S. military facility. King was to be reunited with his family in the U.S. and given physical and mental health support.
Officials said the U.S. learned from Sweden — which serves as the diplomatic go-between for the U.S. in North Korea — several weeks ago that the North Koreans had decided to expel King. That kicked off indirect negotiations between Washington and North Korea, and direct discussions with China, including talks between Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China during high-level discussions in Malta this month, a senior White House official said.
U.S. officials praised the Chinese government for its assistance in facilitating King’s departure from the country, but insisted that China did not participate in mediating the talks with North Korea. A senior administration official said President Biden made no concessions to North Korea.
A deadly fire at a wedding hall in Iraq
A fire swept through a wedding hall late Tuesday in Qara Khoshin Hamdaniya, a village in northern Iraq. At least 100 people were killed and more than 150 others were injured, according to Iraqi officials.
Witnesses said that the fire started while the bride and the groom began the traditional “slow dance.” As they danced, flares — much larger versions of the sparklers sometimes used on birthday cakes — were lit. Flames and sparks leaped upward and set decorations alight, igniting a blaze that spread with astonishing speed.
There was speculation that flammable building materials in the hall had contributed to the fire’s rapid spread. The Iraqi prime minister, Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, called for an investigation.
Judge rules that Trump committed fraud
A judge in New York ruled on Tuesday that Donald Trump had persistently committed fraud by inflating the value of his assets, and stripped the former president of control over some of his signature New York properties. A lawyer for Trump indicated that he was likely to appeal the decision.
The ruling granted Attorney General Letitia James one of the biggest punishments she has sought in a civil case which accuses Trump of overvaluing his holdings by as much as $2.2 billion. She is seeking a penalty of about $250 million in a trial scheduled to begin as early as Monday.
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Around the World
For decades, scientists have debated the origin of fairy circles, the strange, polka-dot-like patterns of barren earth that have been found in the Namib Desert from Angola to parts of South Africa.
New research suggests they may occur in up to 263 sites, in 15 countries, across three continents, adding to an already heated scientific debate.
ARTS AND IDEAS
The new ChatGPT can ‘see’ and ‘speak’
On Monday, OpenAI announced that ChatGPT will be able to “see, hear and speak” through two new features that will be offered first to paying customers over the next few weeks.
ChatGPT users can snap a photo of their refrigerator’s contents and receive recipe ideas, for example. Users will also be able to speak and get responses delivered in a synthetic voice. Kevin Roose, our tech columnist, found this feature to be the most intriguing.
He tested it by chatting about work-related stress and asking ChatGPT to help analyze a recent dream. Talking to Siri and Alexa, even at their best, he writes, can be wooden and flat. But after a few hours of voice conversations, he began to feel something new: warmth. Listen to the advice ChatGPT gave our columnist.