Mysterious disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi leads companies to boycott Saudi summit

iStock/Thinkstock(RIYADH, Saudi Arabia) --  As the international outrage grows over the disappearance and suspected murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, mounting evidence implicating Saudi Arabia is compelling companies and public figures to distance themselves from the kingdom.

The billionaire founder of the Virgin empire, Sir Richard Branson, says he is halting talks over a $1 billion investment by Saudi Arabia in Virgin’s space firms as a result over the Khashoggi case.

“What has reportedly happened in Turkey around the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, if proved true, would clearly change the ability of any of us in the West to do business with the Saudi government,” he said in a statement.

He added: “We have asked for more information from the authorities in Saudi and to clarify their position in relation to Mr Khashoggi.”

Sponsors of the Future Investment Initiative, a major Saudi investment summit to be held in Riyadh, its capital, later in October, are pulling out. Among the companies are The New York Times, CNN and the Financial Times.

“The Financial Times will not be partnering with the FII conference in Riyadh while the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi remains unexplained,” the Financial Times said in a statement.

The editor of the Economist, Zanny Minton Beddoes, Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong and Viacom CEO Bob Bakish had all been due to deliver speeches at the summit.

They have all pulled out of the conference, as has Ariana Huffington of the Huffington Post and Dara Khosrowshahi, the CEO of Uber.

“I’m very troubled by the reports to date about Jamal Khashoggi. We are following the situation closely and unless a substantially different set of facts emerges, I won’t be attending the FII conference in Riyadh,” Khosrowshahi said in a statement.

Khashoggi went missing last Tuesday after he visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, for routine paperwork. Surveillance footage released by the Turkish government shows him entering the consulate, but they say there is no evidence he left afterward.

Turkish officials believe Khashoggi -- a vocal critic of the Saudi kingdom -- was killed.

The mysterious disappearance has forced other high-profile figures to drop out of the summit.

CNBC anchor Andrew Sorkin tweeted that he was “terribly distressed” by Khashoggi’s disappearance and would no longer participate. He had been booked to moderate several sessions.

The “Davos in the Desert” conference is scheduled to take place between October 23 and 25. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and figures from banking giant JP Morgan, Blackstone Group and Uber are among the guests still expected to participate.

Representatives of Siemens said its CEO would still be attending the conference, according to CNN.

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US pastor held for two years freed by Turkish court

ABC News(ISMIR, Turkey) -- A Turkish court has freed American pastor Andrew Brunson after two years in detention, according to Turkish state media.

His case had created a deep rift in U.S.-Turkish relations, with the Trump administration heavily committed to securing his freedom and punishing its NATO ally with economic penalties for not doing so. An evangelical Christian pastor, he had also become a rallying cry for religious freedom advocates in the U.S.

President Donald Trump tweeted about his impending release Friday, saying his administration was "working very hard" on his case and adding later, "PASTOR BRUNSON JUST RELEASED. WILL BE HOME SOON!"

Brunson, who was detained in a Turkish prison until he was moved to house arrest in July, was convicted of terrorism and espionage charges, which his lawyers have denied as baseless. The court in Izmir, Turkey, sentenced him Friday to three years and one a half months, but given his time served and that it was his first arrest, his house arrest and travel ban have been lifted.

That means he could leave the country, where he worked as a pastor for two decades, as soon as Friday.

Brunson was detained in October 2016 and formally arrested that December. He was charged with ties to two groups Turkey considers terrorist organizations: A Kurdish separatist group called the PKK that the U.S. has also designated a terrorist organization, and the Gulenists, a political-religious movement led by exiled cleric Fetullah Gulen who Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused of fomenting a 2016 failed coup attempt.

Gulen, who is a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. living in Pennsylvania, has denied that allegation.

Brunson's lawyer Ismail Halavurt told ABC News they would still move to appeal his case because they reject all the charges.

The Trump administration had sanctioned two senior Turkish officials over Brunson's longtime detention – Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu – calling them "leaders of Turkish government organizations responsible for implementing Turkey’s serious human rights abuses," according to the Treasury Department.

Shortly afterward, the U.S. also imposed steel and aluminum tariffs on Turkey, citing national security. The economic penalties sparked trouble in the markets, leading to Turkey's currency to plunge.

It was unclear Friday if the U.S. would now lift those sanctions, as the two NATO allies seek to repair ties.

"Brunson's release is a big deal for U.S.-Turkey relationship: It clears the air in [bilateral] ties, resets ties between two powerful presidents, lets off steam against Turkey in U.S. Congress, and allows Turkey and the U.S. to tackle [bilateral] issues without the emotional dimension of the pastor's arrest," according to Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Among those thorny issues that remain are Turkey's purchase of a Russian missile system, U.S. support for Kurdish groups in Syria, and Erdogan's sweeping crackdown on political opposition.

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Russian investigators 'clear' on what caused failed launched of Soyuz spacecraft

@Rogozin/Twitter(BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan) -- Officials investigating the failed launch of a Russian Soyuz spacecraft believe they are "clear" on what caused the accident.

The rocket lifted off from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan early Thursday on what was scheduled to be a six-hour flight to the International Space Station.

But roughly two minutes into the flight a booster rocket failed.

The launch was aborted and the two-man crew, Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin and NASA astronaut, Nick Hague, were blasted free of the rocket inside their capsule and hurtled back to Earth, falling from almost 40 miles. The capsule’s parachutes deployed and they landed in central Kazakhstan safely, where rescue teams recovered them.

On Friday, the executive director of Russia’s space agency, Roscomos, said the immediate cause of the booster failure was “clear.” Sergey Krikalev told reporters that part of the first stage of the rocket had struck the second stage after separating, damaging the booster.

“There was a collision with one of the side sections, which is part of the first stage. During the separation, the first and second stages came into contact,” Krikalev told reporters.

It was not clear, however, why the two stages had collided, Kirkalev said. He said one version was that the first stage had not separated correctly.

Investigators needed a lot more information before they could provide a detailed cause, such as whether a part had malfunctioned, he added.

Russia has said it will suspend all its manned flights to the International Space Station until the cause of the accident has been investigated. A state commission has been established to investigate the incident.

Krikalev said it would present its first findings around October 20, and before the end of the month.

The accident throws off the launch schedule for the ISS, as Russia’s Soyuz is the only route up to the station for astronauts. There are currently three astronauts aboard the ISS: Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency; Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA; and Sergey Prokopyev of Russia.

But the delay represents no danger to them, experts have said. The station is currently stocked with sufficient supplies for six months and can be re-supplied by unmanned cargo ships.

Krikalev said the launch of the next supply craft, a Russian Progress rocket, may be delayed.

Roscomos would try to speed up the launch of the next Soyuz, but the crew already aboard the ISS had been planned to remain there working with Hague and Ovchinin, Krikalev added.

Hague and Ovchinin have now returned to Moscow to the Russian space center, known as Star City. Photos released by Roscomos showed them walking down a staircase from a Roscosmos plane.

Medical staff overseeing them said the two would not need to spend more than two days in the hospital for checks.

The head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, on Twitter pledged that the two men would still make it to the ISS.

“The guys will definitely fly. We are planning their flight for the spring next year,” Rogozin wrote, posting a photograph of himself with his arms around the two men aboard a plane.

The accident is the first failed launch of a manned mission to the ISS and the first time a Russian rocket with a crew aboard has failed since 1983.

Russia’s space industry, however, has been going through a troubled period, hit by corruption cases and problems with its newer rockets, according to Yahoo! News. In 2016, Roscomos suspended launches of its Proton-M rockets after it had to return 70 engines to production lines over concerns about faulty parts.

A Progress rocket was lost in the atmosphere in December 2016.

Rogozin, who was brought in to oversee the transformation of Roscomos into a state company, in 2015 accused one of Russia’s main suppliers of launch systems of embezzling $128 million.

Other failures have been blamed on corruption within the manufacturing process of the rockets. On Thursday, Russia’s Investigative Committee, the equivalent of the FBI, said it had opened a criminal probe to examine whether there had been any violations in the construction of the failed Soyuz rocket.

The U.S. has been using Russian rockets to reach the ISS since the American space shuttle was retired seven years ago. NASA is planning to replace it with commercial partners, including SpaceX, but that remains in the works.

SpaceX and Boeing are both due to hold their first test flights for the ISS route in December and January and hope to make their first NASA flights next summer.

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German far-right party launches website encouraging kids to spy on teachers

iStock/Thinkstock(BERLIN) -- Politicians have harsely condemned a new online portal launched by Germany's far-right populist party, Alternative for Deutschland, or AfD, encouraging students to report on teachers who share political views.

The site, launched for the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg on Thursday, encourages students to speak up against teachers who criticiae AfD, according to a justification from the AfD parliamentarian who launched it, Stefan Raepple.

It follows a website created to encourage reporting on educators in Hamburg that was launched in September and called "Neutral Schools Online." The project has drawn outrage from educators and politicians, and led to comparisons of Germany under the Nazis when citizens were encouraged to report on one another.

German Justice minister Katarina Barley called the portal a "method of dictators" and cited it as an attempt to limit democracy.

"Anyone who incites students to spy on teachers brings Stasi methods back to Germany," she said in a statement on Twitter, referring to the East German secret police during a time where citizens were encouraged to report on one another. Similar tactics to promote suspicion among fellow citizens were used during the Nazi era.

Citing the "darkest chapter of German history" -- the period between 1933 and 1945 -- "what the AfD is supporting here, that children become informers and blacken their teachers, is absolutely a no-go," Helmut Holter, the president of the Culture Ministry, told German newspaper FAZ.

The portal in Baden-Wuerttemberg encourages going a step further than its Hamburg counterpart by encouraging users to publish teacher's names.

"For years, there have been left-wing ideological programs at Hamburg schools," Hamburg AfD politician Alexander Wolf said in a statement on the party's website.

His party aims to target teachers who allegedly violate the laws of educational neutrality, which were created after the Nazi era to avoid indoctrination.

The Hamburg school board harshly condemned the initiative.

"Students would be made into informers and unilaterally be instrumentalized for AfD’s concerns," the board's spokesperson, Peter Albrecht, told German news wire DPA. He added that it has long been possible to report neutrality breaches directly to the school system.

Yet, while the AfD lauded the platform as a success, it was also flooded with satirical contributions, including pizza orders and complaints about teachers using squeaky chalk, as reported the Hamburg Morning Post.

The AfD has plans to launch similar portals in eight other German states, including Berlin and Bavaria, according to German media reports.  

Paraphrasing Hitler?

Amid the unrest over the AfD's websites, new Nazi-era parallels are being drawn.

The party's co-founder, Alexander Gauland, who has previously come under fire for minimizing the Holocaust, may have paraphrased Adolf Hitler in a newspaper article in the Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung, or FAZ, published last Saturday.

Writing an ode to populism, Gauland decried a "globalized class" that moves from one city to the next, holding positions in mainstream organizations, including academia and the media. Such statements drew parallels to a speech Hitler gave in Berlin in 1933, where he spoke of a "small, rootless, international clique" that moved from one city to the next.

Antisemitism researcher and historian Wolfgang Benz wrote about the similarities between the two speeches in the German paper Tagesspiegel. According to Benz, it seemed "as if the AfD head had the 1933 speech of the leader on his desk when he wrote his contribution for the 'FAZ.'"

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Princess Eugenie weds Jack Brooksbank in same chapel where Prince Harry, Meghan Markle tied the knot

@RoyalFamily/Twitter(LONDON) -- Britain’s royal family gathered Friday for another wedding, this one the wedding of Princess Eugenie to Jack Brooksbank.

Eugenie, 28, and Brooksbank, 32, wed less than six months after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's high-profile wedding, and in the same chapel, St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, where the Duke and Duchess of Sussex wed.

Eugenie, a cousin of Prince Harry, is the younger daughter of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, the Duke and Duchess of York.

Prince Andrew escorted his daughter to St. George's Chapel in a 1977 Rolls Royce Phantom VI.

Ferguson wore a green dress designed by local Windsor company Emma Louise Design, a green hat with gold accents and a vintage Manolo Blahnik bag for her role as mother of the bride.

Eugenie's older sister, Princess Beatrice, wearing a blue dress by Ralph and Russo and a hat by Sarah Cant, served as her maid of honor and delivered a reading at the wedding. Brooksbank's brother, Thomas Brooksbank, served as best man.

Famed tenor Andrea Bocelli was among the musicians providing music for the service, including a performance of "Ava Marie."
The wedding gown

Eugenie chose U.K. designers Peter Pilotto and Christopher De Vos to design her wedding dress.

Pilotto and De Vos founded the British-based label Peter Pilotto in London in 2007. Eugenie met the designers when she was co-hosting an event in support of women artists, according to Buckingham Palace.

The fabric designed for Eugenie's dress -- complete with a fitted bodice and full pleated skirt -- includes a number of symbols.

A thistle for Scotland represents the couple's fondness for Balmoral, the royal family's Scotland estate. A shamrock for Ireland is a nod to Eugenie's mother's family and york rose and ivy represent the couple's home, Buckingham Palace said in a statement.

Eugenie's stunning tiara, the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara, was lent to her by her grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II.

The bride's diamond and emerald drop earrings are a wedding gift from Brooksbank.
Kate wears pink, Meghan wears blue

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrived together for Eugenie and Brooksbank's wedding.

Duchess Meghan arrived at St. George's Chapel in a coat dress by Givenchy, the same label as her wedding gown, and a hat by the London-based Noel Stewart, according to royal contributor and commentator Omid Scobie.

Princess Kate wore a pink Alexander McQueen dress, Philip Treacy hat and Jimmy Choo heels, Scobie reported.

Queen Elizabeth, wearing a light blue coat and matching blue hat, and Prince Philip were escorted right to the chapel door.
George and Charlotte lead the wedding party

Prince William's two oldest children -- Prince George, 5, and Princess Charlotte, 3 -- are serving as page boy and bridesmaid, respectively.

George and Charlotte waved as they made their way up the steps of St. George's Chapel, the same steps they walked as page boy and bridesmaid in Harry and Meghan's wedding in May.

In addition to George and Charlotte, the bridesmaids and page boys include Savannah Philips, 7, and Isla Philips, 6 -- the daughters of Autumn and Peter Phillips; Mia Tindall, 4 -- the daughter of Zara and Mike Tindall; Maud Windsor, 5 -- Eugenie’s goddaughter and the daughter of Lady Frederick Windsor and Lord Frederick Windsor; Theodora Williams, 6 -- the daughter of Ayda Field and pop star Robbie Williams, and Louis de Givenchy, 6 -- the son of Zoe and Louis de Givenchy.
Fans line up for the carriage ride

More than 1,000 invited members of the public are also joining the celebration on the grounds of Windsor Castle, in addition to representatives of charities supported by Eugenie and Brooksbank, children from two U.K. schools Eugenie attended, Windsor locals and members of the Royal Household staff.

Once Eugenie and Jack are married at St. George's Chapel, they will take a carriage ride out of Windsor Castle, on a path accessible to the public.
Time to celebrate

After the carriage procession, Eugenie and Jack's wedding guests will go to Windsor Castle for a reception hosted by Eugenie's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II.

The couple will have a second day of festivities to celebrate their nuptials at Royal Lodge, Prince Andrew's royal residence on the grounds of Windsor Castle.

In a departure from royal tradition, the couple chose a red velvet and chocolate wedding cake.

The cake designer, Sophie Cabot, came to the attention of Princess Eugenie through her involvement with The Duke of York’s Pitch@Palace program, which recognizes and highlights new business innovation and entrepreneurs.

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Africa's youngest billionaire kidnapped in Tanzania

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Police have mobilized across Tanzania to search for a man described as Africa's youngest billionaire after he was kidnapped by gunmen Thursday morning in the nation's capital, Dar es Salaam.

Mohammed Dewji, the 43-year-old owner and president of Mohammed Enterprises Tanzania Ltd. (METL) and a former member of Tanzania's parliament, was entering a gym in an upscale hotel for his regular morning workout when he was grabbed off the street, according to police reports.

With a reputation as one of East Africa's leading forces in regional trade and business development, Dewji served in parliament from 2005 until 2015.

Dewji, also known as "Mo," is Tanzania's only billionaire, with a net worth of $1.5 billion, according to Forbes.

Dewji heads up the METL Group, which was established in the 1970s by his father and calls itself Tanzania's "largest home-grown company," according to its website.

METL is worth more than $1 billion and "employs 24,000 people in industries including agriculture, manufacturing, energy and petroleum, financial services, mobile telephony, infrastructure and real estate," according to the company's website.

Dewji is also the first Tanzanian to join the Giving Pledge, a commitment by billionaires to help address society's most pressing problems by promising to give more than half their wealth to charity.

"Our role as citizens of this world is to truly support the betterment of our society so that our future generations and their offspring grow up to live even better lives and strive for even more than they think is possible for them today", Dewji was quoted as saying on the charity's website.

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US military grounds entire fleet of F-35s in wake of crash

Chandler Harrell/U.S. Navy(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. military has grounded its entire fleet of F-35s in the wake of one of the planes crashing in South Carolina two weeks ago.

As a result of an initial investigation, the 245 F-35s being used in the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps will be grounded in an operational pause so inspections can identify which planes have a type of fuel tube suspected as the cause of the crash so it can then be replaced.

"The US Services and international partners have temporarily suspended F-35 flight operations while the enterprise conducts a fleet-wide inspection of a fuel tube within the engine on all F-35 aircraft," according to a statement issued by the Department of Defense's Joint Program Office that oversees the F-35. "If suspect fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced."

A U.S. official says only half the current fleet of aircraft have the fuel tube, but inspections will be carried out on the entire U.S. fleet.

The temporary suspension of flight operations will also impact international partners, such as Israel and the United Kingdom, that have the F-35. There are 75 F-35s in the international fleet.

The Israeli Defense Ministry tweeted that the "Israeli Air Force halted all F-35I flights until all aircraft are tested" for "a technical malfunction in the engine’s fuel tube."

The British Defence Ministry also tweeted a clarification that it was not grounding its F-35 aircraft, but "paused some F-35 flying as a precautionary measure while we consider the findings of an ongoing enquiry."

The wide-ranging grounding of the entire fleet comes after a Marine F-35B joint strike fighter went down in Beaufort, South Carolina, on Sept. 28. The Marine pilot safely ejected from the plane in what was the first crash for the F-35 aircraft that will become the main fighter for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

"The primary goal following any mishap is the prevention of future incidents," according to the statement. "We will take every measure to ensure safe operations while we deliver, sustain and modernize the F-35 for the warfighter and our defense partners."

The DOD said in the statement that if "good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status."

"We are actively partnering with the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office, our global customers and Pratt & Whitney to support the resolution of this issue and limit disruption to the fleet," said a statement issued by Lockheed Martin, the airplane manufacturer that makes the F-35. Pratt & Whitney makes the engine used in the F-35.

Inspections are expected to last a day or two, the department said.

“From the ongoing investigation, I am glad that the Department of Defense took swift and decisive action to keep the F-35 fleet and its pilots safe," Representative Mike Turner of Ohio who chairs the House Armed Services subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces.

"As Congress returns in the coming weeks, I will continue to hold hearings and briefings to keep our pilots safe and keep improving the F-35, which remains unparalleled in its capability as a fighter jet,” Turner added.

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American student remains in Israeli detention as judge considers deportation case

iStock/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) -- An Israeli judge said Thursday that he would rule in the coming days on whether an American student, who allegedly supported a boycott on Israeli goods and has been detained for more than a week, could enter Israel.

Lara Alqasem, 22, appeared in Tel Aviv District Court this morning to appeal an order to deport her. After an hour of deliberations, Judge Kobi Vardi announced he would make his ruling public in the coming days.

Alqasem smiled as she entered the courtroom, but did not speak to the many journalists present.

Alqasem, who is of Palestinian origin, was refused entry to Israel when she landed at Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion Airport on Oct. 2.

Officials cited her alleged support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, known as BDS, that advocates for boycotts as a political tool to protest Israeli policies related to the Palestinian territories.

Leora Bechor, one of Alqasem's attorneys, said after the hearing, "This case is not about a BDS activist, it’s about the state abusing its power in order to misapply its own rules regarding who is an activist and who is not an activist."

She added that there was nothing on the record that showed that Alqasem was the kind of activist that Israeli legislation prohibits.

A recently passed Israeli law allows authorities to ban entry to anyone it deems to have held a senior position in an organization publicly calling to boycott the State of Israel.

An assistant to Gilad Erdan, Israel's minister of strategic affairs who ordered border control officers to place Alqasem in detention, was present at the hearing this morning and told journalists that the student's alleged "actions" disqualified her from entering Israel.

"It's not a question of opinions," Asher Friedman said. "We're not looking to decide on prevention of entry based on opinions. We're looking at actions of certain criteria and we believe Miss Alqasem meets those criteria, based on her actions and the actions of the organization of which she was a senior leader over several years."

Alqasem appealed the deportation order issued last week when she tried to enter Israel and has remained in custody at a Ben-Gurion Airport holding facility for foreigners denied entry.

She was accepted to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and had been granted an Israeli student visa when she was in the United States. Hebrew University has joined her appeal.

Without a verdict on Thursday, Alqasem will continue to be detained at the facility until the court announces a decision. Officials have said she can return to the U.S. at any time.

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American, Russian cosmonaut bound for ISS make emergency landing after rocket malfunction

Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images(BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan) -- A Russian cosmonaut and an American astronaut are in "good condition" after a booster rocket on their spacecraft failed and forced them to make an emergency landing Thursday.

The Soyuz MS-10 rocket took off at 4:40 a.m. local time on what was supposed to be a six-hour journey to the International Space Station. Instead, the rocket suffered a malfunction shortly after taking off from Russia's spaceport in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

The spacecraft's two-man crew, NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin, made an emergency landing in the craft's capsule in Kazakhstan. Rescue teams reached the landing site and confirmed that both men are alive and in "good condition," NASA wrote on Twitter.

"[Nick Hague] and Alexey Ovchinin are on helicopters, making their way back to Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Search & rescue teams report that they remain in good condition after a safe landing following an issue with their launch on a Soyuz earlier," NASA tweeted.

Russian state news agencies reported that the two men would be flown to the town of Zhezkazgan in central Kazakhstan to undergo medical examinations.

The head of Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, Dmitry Rogozin, said that it was creating a state commission to investigate the cause of the crash, and deputy prime minister Yuri Borisov announced that Russia would be suspending manned flights until the incident could be reviewed.

The moment the boost rocket failed was captured on the live-feed of the launch carried on NASA and Roscomos’ websites. In the video, a burst of light was seen around the rocket, which was still visible in the distance.

NASA has paid for places on Russia’s Soyuz rockets for its astronauts to travel to the International Space Station since the American shuttle retired seven years ago.

Recently, the U.S. has been seeking to replace the route with contracts with commercial space companies, such as SpaceX, but the Soyuz currently remains the only way to reach the station.

SpaceX and Boeing are both scheduled to have unmanned test flights with their own spacecraft in January and NASA astronauts are training for flights aboard the two companies' crafts in June and August.

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Trump spoke to Saudis about journalist's disappearance: 'We'll get to the bottom of it' -- More than a week after a prominent Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist went missing, President Donald Trump has spoken to Saudi officials "at the highest level" to press them on his disappearance, he said Wednesday.

Trump declined to comment on whether he would hold the Saudis responsible, saying, "I have to find out who did it." But he said the U.S. is demanding answers: "We're demanding everything, we want to see what's going on here."

Critics have accused the White House of being slow to react to Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance and hesitant to criticize the Saudi government, a close partner of the Trump administration, amid reports that U.S. intelligence reportedly knew ahead of time of a plot to capture him.

While the Trump administration's response has been muted -- said to be waiting for more details -- Congress has been expressing outrage for a week now, with Republicans and Democrats warning this could be a breaking point for the U.S.-Saudi relationship and triggering an investigation that could lead to sanctions on Saudi Arabia, an unprecedented move.

A vocal critic of the kingdom's rulers, Khashoggi went missing last Tuesday after he visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, for routine paperwork. Surveillance footage released by the Turkish government shows him entering the consulate, but they say there is no evidence he left afterward, leading Turkish officials to say they believe he was killed.

The head of the Turkish-Arab Media Association alleges that Khashoggi was killed and dismembered, his body parts then being removed from the consulate.

ABC News has not verified any of those startling claims. The Saudi government has fiercely denied any involvement in his disappearance, saying he left the compound and went missing afterward.

In his first extensive remarks about Khashoggi's case, Trump took a tougher line on the Saudis, calling it "a very sad situation. It's a very bad situation. And we want to get to the bottom of it ... I'm not happy about this."

"We cannot let this happen -- to reporters, to anybody," he added during an Oval Office meeting with the Secretary of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator.

In addition to Trump's call, National Security Adviser John Bolton and Senior Adviser Jared Kushner spoke to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the real power behind his father King Salman, on Tuesday, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo following up in a separate call "to reiterate the United States request for information," according to White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.

All three officials pressed MBS, as the Crown Prince is known, for more details and urged his government to support a transparent investigation, Sanders added.

Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday the U.S. is "ready to assist in every way," but the State Department wouldn't say if an actual offer of assistance was made to the Turkish government as it investigates.

In addition to the Saudis, State Department officials have also been in touch with Turkish authorities, but the agency's deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino wouldn't say whether Turkey has shared any of its findings with the U.S. -- declining to get ahead of their investigation, even as Turkish officials have leaked details of it to the press.

That's because Turkey wants U.S. support before it accuses Saudi Arabia, an important trading partner, of a murder plot, according to analysts who spoke with ABC News, and the Turks are nervous that the U.S. will not come to their support because of its close ties to MBS. It has vouched for the Saudis on their bombing campaign in Yemen and refused to pick a side between Canada and Saudi Arabia in their diplomatic row over human rights.

But to many on Capitol Hill, this could mark a turning point. Twenty-two senators, including every member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but two, signed a letter to Trump Wednesday that requires him to now conduct an investigation within 120 days to determine if someone violated Khashoggi's human rights and, if so, sanction anyone found responsible. Those violations include torture, prolonged detention without charges, abduction, or killing.

"If Saudi Arabia took a U.S. resident, lured him into a consulate and killed him, it's time for the United States to rethink our military, political, and economic relationship with Saudi Arabia," said Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat.

Several Republicans agreed, even those who've had closer ties or warmer words for the Saudis and the young Crown Prince who many have painted as a reformer.

"If it plays out that the Saudi Arabian government has mistreated this man because of his dissident voice in Istanbul, it will be a game changer for me," Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said, with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., telling reporters if the allegations are true, "It'll have a dramatic and negative impact on our bilateral relationship.

Some called for the president to do more: "What we need now is for the president to get serious about questioning Saudi Arabia and letting them know what information is out there and asking them to explain. I've heard no good explanation so far," said Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.

It's unclear what the U.S. knows about Khashoggi's disappearance, but Trump did cast some doubt on the reports that Khashoggi was murdered.

"Nobody knows what happened yet. They don't know over there," he said, although it's unclear if he meant the Saudis did not know or if Turkish authorities who are investigating still do not know.

But U.S. intelligence reportedly intercepted communications between Saudi officials discussing a plan to capture him, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.

"Although I cannot comment on intelligence matters, I can say definitively the United States had no advance knowledge of Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance," Palladino said in response during a department press briefing -- notably not commenting on any capture operation.

Given the elaborate details of the reported plot, the U.S. must have known something, according to Ned Price, a former special assistant to President Obama on the National Security Council staff and someone who also worked at the CIA.

"It seems rather implausible that no one knew something like this was coming, and the question then becomes what was done about it," he told ABC News. "Did they perform their duty to warn function, or was that duty to warn overridden in this case because of this administration's close and cozy relationship with the Saudis?"

After Khashoggi's fiance wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post, pleading for Trump and his wife Melania's help, the president said that the first lady's office was working on inviting her to the White House.

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