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Saturday, Nov 01st

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US detainees in North Korea plead for help

N. Korean detaineesNorth Korea gave foreign media access on Monday to three detained Americans who said they have been able to contact their families and – watched by officials as they spoke – called for Washington to send a high-ranking representative to negotiate for their freedom.

Jeffrey Fowle and Mathew Miller said they expect to face trial within a month. But they said they do not know what punishment they could face or what the specific charges against them are. Kenneth Bae, who already is serving a 15-year term, said his health has deteriorated at the labor camp where he works eight hours a day.

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Nato to create high-readiness force to counter Russian threat

NATONato is to create a 4,000-strong "spearhead" high-readiness force that can be deployed rapidly in eastern Europe and the Baltic states to help protect member nations against potential Russian aggression, according to Nato officials.

Leaders from the 28 Nato countries are expected to approve the plan at the alliance's summit in Wales when the Ukraine crisis tops the agenda on Friday.

The Nato secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said the force, drawn on rotational basis from Nato allies, could be in action at "very, very short notice".

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Huge new Israeli settlement in West Bank condemned by US and UK

Israeli land grab The UK and US governments have criticised, in unusually strong language, Israel's decision to approve one of the largest appropriations of Palestinian land for settlement in recent decades.

The UK foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, said he deplored the move as "particularly ill-judged".

However, Israel's economics minister, Naftali Bennett, who visited the Gush Etzion settlement in the occupied West Bank on Monday, applauded Sunday's decision as an "appropriate Zionist response to murder". Bennett said: "What we did yesterday was a display of Zionism. Building is our answer to murder."

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Israel confiscates nearly 1,000 acres of Palestinian land in the West Bank

Israel grabs more landThe Israeli authorities have announced the confiscation of 4,000 dunam of land near the Jewish settlement of Gush Etzion in Hebron province, southern West Bank, the Israeli radio reported.

The confiscation order was taken by the Israeli authorities as a response to the kidnapping and subsequent killing of three Jewish settlers two months ago in Hebron, according to the Israeli radio.

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Kurdish oil tanker 'vanishes' with $100M cargo off Texas

Kurdish oil tankerThe U.S. Coast Guard has lost track of a Kurdish tanker carrying $100 million in disputed oil off the coast of Texas, the Independent reports.

Headed for Galveston, the United Kalavyrvta was anchored at least 60 miles off-shore when it vanished from radar screens. The ship's haul fell under legal dispute when Iraq filed a lawsuit in U.S. courts, urging American officials to grab the ship's oil in Galveston because it belongs to Iraq, not the Kurdish National Government.

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Islamic State siege of Amerli, Iraq, broken

Iraqi soldierAfter a two-month siege by Islamic State militants, the town of Amerli, Iraq, received some relief as the Iraqi military entered the town and the United States carried out airstrikes nearby.

IS fighters had surrounded the town of about 17,000 ethnic Turkmen Shiites, leaving the residents without power, food, water and other supplies.

The Sunni militants, also known as ISIS or ISIL, had taken control of strategic locations throughout Iraq and Syria, including several villages surrounding Amerli.

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Syrian refugees top 3 million, half of all Syrians displaced: U.N.

Syrian refugeesThree million Syrian refugees will have registered in neighboring countries as of Friday, but many remain trapped by the advance of Islamist militants or are having difficulty in reaching open border crossings, the United Nations said.

Syrians desperate to leave their war-engulfed homeland are forced to pay hefty bribes at armed checkpoints proliferating along Syria's borders, or to smugglers, the U.N. refugee agency said.

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