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Following years of negotiations, jihadists in Mali have released several high-profile international hostages, including the last French citizen held anywhere in the world and a top Malian politician, in a major prisoner swap.

Four hostages, including an elderly French aid worker, two Italians and a high-profile Malian opposition leader and former minister, were released by Jihadi militants in Mali, the government announced on Thursday night. 

This comes after some 180 suspected extremists were reportedly freed by Malian authorities last weekend, prompting rumors that a prisoner swap was underway. Neither the African country’s government or the French authorities officially confirmed or denied these reports until the hostages were released.  

French aid worker Sophie Pétronin, 75, who was abducted by gunmen on 24 December 2016 in the northern city of Gao, was among the four hostages freed. She was the last French citizen held by jihadists.

French President Emmanuel Macron took to Twitter to express his joy. “Sophie Pétronin is free. Held hostage for nearly four years in Mali, her release is a great relief,” he wrote

70-year-old Soumaïla Cissé, Mali’s former finance minister, leading opposition politician and three-time presidential candidate, who was kidnapped in March in his home region in central Mali, was also released. 

“I spent six months in…very difficult living conditions, in almost permanent isolation, but I must confess that I was not subjected to any violence, neither physical nor verbal,” Cissé told ORTM, Mali’s state broadcaster.

Two Italian captives, missionary priest Pierluigi Maccalli and tourist Nicola Chiacchio, were also released. 

Hostage negotiations between the French and Malian government and the jihadists were jeopardized in August, when a military junta overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. However, the interim government, set to be in power in Mali for 18 months until elections can be held, managed to seal the deal with the al-Qaeda-affiliated insurgents.




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Cissé’s kidnapping was one of myriad factors that prompted the overthrow of the government, as people ex

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Closest to Earth ‘black hole’ turns out to be rare kind of star, after all

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A growing body of research posits that the star system HR 6819 does not contain a black hole, contrary to earlier findings. It may instead boast a unique pair of stars.

The object located some 1,120 light-years from Earth has been preliminarily demoted from a bewildering black hole to a binary star system with a rather unusual orbit. 

The system consists of a very hot Be spectral type star which spins at approximately 200km per second, shooting out a disc of hydrogen gas which surrounds it.

Previously, it was found to be accompanied by a B3 III star, measuring approximately six solar masses, with a roughly 40-day orbit. The Be star, also measuring in at about six solar masses, seemed to be spinning on the spot, which made no sense as two objects of similar mass should spin about a mutual center of gravity. 

Following a serious amount of number crunching, researchers earlier this year concluded that the pair must be orbiting a third, massive object that wasn’t visible which would explain why the spinning top star was essentially locked in place – a black hole.




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However, as is often the case in science, there was a competing theory: that the B3 III star was actually a low mass star that had been worn down by its companion, and that the initial calculations were off.

If this were the case, the almost imperceptible movement of the larger Be star would be visible via wobbles and shifts in the hydrogen gas disc emanating from it. 

Sure enough, astronomers Douglas Gies and Luqian Wang of Georgia State University discovered variations in the disc which aligned with the B3 III star’s orbit. 

“This indicates,” they wrote, “that HR 6819 is a binary system consisting of a massive Be star and a low-mass companion that is the stripped down remnant of a former mass donor star in a mass transfer binary.”

In other words, the Be star took a huge chunk out of its companion and, according to the recalculations, the B3 III star would be between 0.4 and 0.8 solar masses.

By coincidence, a second paper, produced by researchers at KU Leuven in Belgium, conducted an independent analysis of the hydrogen disc emitted by the star and reached almost exactly the same conclusion as Gies and Wang. 

In their analysis, they found the pair to have solar masses of 0.4 and 6 respectively. 

“This indicates that the primary might be a stripped star rather than a B-type giant,” they wrote. “In the framework of this interpretation, HR 6819 does not contain a BH.”




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By yet more happenstance, a third paper, currently in preprint, produced by astronomers Kareem El-Badry and Eliot Quataert of UC Berkeley also found 0.47 and 6.7 solar masses for the B3 III and Be stars respectively, providing yet more evidence of an unusual bi

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Danish inventor who murdered & dismembered journalist captured after attempted PRISON BREAK with ‘bomb’

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A Danish man who murdered and dismembered a female journalist touring his homemade submarine in 2017 was recaptured after attempting to break out of prison while allegedly armed with a bomb.

Peter Madsen escaped from Herstedvester prison, located in a suburb of Copenhagen, after threatening guards with an explosive device, and also possibly a “pistol-like object,” local media reported. Security forces cornered him after he fled several hundred meters from the prison. A photograph shows the convicted murderer leaning against a fence as two security personnel, wearing helmets and body armor, lie on the ground as they point their weapons at him. Snipers, a bomb squad and police dogs arrived on site, according to reports. 

Police confirmed that they were responding to an attempted prison break and had cordoned off the area.

After a standoff, law enforcement personnel arrested Madsen, who was reportedly wearing a suspicious belt-like object be

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Sweden bans use of Huawei, ZTE equipment in 5G networks

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A Swedish regulator on Tuesday banned the use of telecom equipment from Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE in its 5G networks. The move comes ahead of the spectrum auctions scheduled to start on 10 November.

The Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS) has examined applications and approved four companies for participation in the 3.5 GHz and 2.3 GHz auctions. New legislation that came into force in January demanded the regulator consult the Swedish armed forces and the security service to ensure that the use of radio equipment in these bands will not “cause harm” to the country’s security.

And according to PTS, new installations for radio use in those frequency bands “must not be carried out with products from the suppliers Huawei or ZTE.” If existing infrastructure for central functions is to be used, “products from Huawei and ZTE must be phased out [by] 1 January 2025 at the latest.”

Central functions are equipment used to build the radio access network, the transmission network, and the core network, as well as their service and maintenance.

Participants in the auctions were also warned that dependencies on foreign states must be phased out or be replaced by functions or staff based in Sweden.




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The move may benefit rival firms Ericsson and Nokia, and it comes amid pressure on European states from Washington to review the role of Chinese companies. The US says that

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