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Facebook/Sarah Papenheim(ROTTERDAM, Netherlands) -- The friend of an American student killed in the Netherlands said she had texted him about her roommate's desire to kill people less than a week before she was murdered.

Sarah Papenheim, 21, was stabbed to death on Wednesday in her apartment in Rotterdam. Authorities arrested a 23-year-old man, identified to ABC News by a source close to the investigation as Joel Schelling, at a train station just hours later.

He was Papenheim's roommate as she studied at Erasmus University.

Adam Pryor met Papenheim in Minneapolis' music scene and the two quickly became friends. Papenheim was a talented jazz and blues drummer, while he played the organ. The two would regularly join in jam sessions at local clubs in the city. They continued to be close friends after she decided to move to the Netherlands in 2016 to live with her boyfriend and study music.

Pryor shared with ABC News a series of text messages Papenheim sent him on Dec. 6 in which she claimed, "My roommate told me he's gonna kill 3 people. So I'm gonna have to go to the police."

It's unclear if Papenheim ever went to the police, but she was found dead in her apartment six days later.

"I could tell she wasn't doing right because she was just being weird over text and then I asked her what's wrong and she said she never talks to anyone anymore," Pryor told Good Morning America. Pryor said Papenheim said, "'I work full time and I have school full time and everything is just so f----d up right now. My roommate told me is going to kill three people so I'm gonna have to go to the police.'"

Pryor said she never made any indication that she was in danger, or that her roommate was threatening her.

"After she told me that I thought he got mad at some people. I didn't feel like she was in any danger," he said. "I never could've guessed it was her. Just the way she made it seem like, it was some other people he was mad at or something happened. I had trust in her. She was very responsible, that she would go to the police and take care of everything. I didn't ever think something like this was going to happen."

Papenheim told her mother that she spoke to Schelling about music -- he was a talented cello player -- but he had a tendency to get mad and she was the only one who could calm him down.

Her mother, Donee Odegard, said she told her daughter to "not be around him," but as relayed by her mother, Papenheim said, "Mom, he is my friend. I am his only friend. He would get angry, but I can always talk him down and change his mind."

Pryor said he is in shock about his friend's murder, calling her "the best friend anyone could ask for."

"I'm just feeling empty -- the loss of my best friend, shared connections through music, through life," Pryor said. "I've just never been that close with anyone that loved blues as much as I did and also got along with everything personality-wise.

"It's so unbelievable what happened, it's just so terrible," he said.

Pryor last spoke to Papenheim on Monday and talked about concerts she was planning to go see in Europe, saying she "was just so excited." Like her mother, and others, Pryor raved about Papenheim's music talents.

"I saw her playing drums and I just came to jam with her and play organ and I just never heard someone that young, my age, be able to play that hard and play that well and just lay down a groove," Pryor said of how he developed a friendship with her. "It was just incredible. We talked just all the time over there, through text and whatnot, in and out of school for both of us. It's just -- she's one of a kind."

Schelling made his first court appearance on Friday, when the judge ordered him held for another 14 days as the investigation continues.

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Photo by Gustavo Muñoz/Getty Images(BRUSSELS) -- French President Emmanuel Macron urged for calm on Friday, as his country prepares for another day of expected protests this weekend.

While Macron announced an increase to the minimum wage next year and cancelled a tax hike for the poorest pensioners, many remain unsatisfied. That in response to the so-called Yellow Jackets movement -- named after the neon yellow security vests demonstrators have been wearing.

"Out country needs calm," Macron said from Brussels, where he was attending a European Union summit. "It needs order. It needs to function normally again."

French authorities, meanwhile, are prepared to deploy various measures, including armored vehicles and thousands of security forces. It would be the fifth straight weekend of protests, which have become violent, in Paris.

Many demonstrators over the last four weekends were seen wearing gas masks or ski goggles, and some threw rocks or other projectiles at police. There were also reports of cars set on fire, barricades built and store windows broken.

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gorodenkoff/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A former U.S. Army Green Beret has been charged with the 2010 murder of a man he suspected of being a Taliban bombmaker.

The charges follow multiple investigations of Major Matthew Golsteyn's role in the man's death that he once admitted to Fox News during a 2016 interview.

"Major Matthew Golsteyn's immediate commander has determined that sufficient evidence exists to warrant the preferral of charges against him," said Lt. Col. Loren Bymer, a spokesman for U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

"Major Golsteyn has been charged with the murder of an Afghan male during his 2010 deployment to Afghanistan," he continued.

On Thursday, Golsteyn’s attorney Philip Stackhouse tweeted that he had been charged with "premeditated murder, a death penalty offense for allegedly killing a Taliban bomb-maker during combat operations in Marjah, Afghanistan."

The announcement of the murder charge against Golsteyn are the result of multiple Army investigations of his deployment to Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan as part of a Special Forces unit.

It was during that deployment that Golsteyn is alleged to have killed a man suspected of having been a Taliban bomb maker responsible for the deaths of two Marines.

Army Criminal Investigation Command's initial investigation of Golsteyn began after he admitted in a 2011 CIA job interview that he had killed the man he suspected as being the bomb maker.

That investigation did not determine conclusively that Golsteyn had killed the man, but it resulted in his losing a Silver Star for heroism he had earned during the deployment.

A later review resulted in his leaving the Army in 2015 with a general discharge.

A new Army investigation was trggered following Golsteyn's October, 2016 appearance on Fox News where acknowledged that he had killed the man during his deployment.

Golsteyn was recalled to active duty by the Army to await the results of the new investigation.

Stackhouse, Golsteyn's attorney, said he would be "relentless in defending him."

"MAJ Golsteyn is a humble servant-leader who saved countless lives, both American and Afghan, and has been recognized repeatedly for his valorous actions," Stackhouse tweeted. "We will be relentless in defending him.

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Credit: US Department of State(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the detention of two Canadians in China "unlawful" and said "they ought to be returned."

Speaking alongside Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, as well as U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis and Canadian Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan, Pompeo said the U.S. is working to help get them returned, but did not provide details.

"We ask all nations of the world to treat other citizens properly and the detention of these two Canadian citizens in China ought to end," he added.

China's detention of the two Canadians -- a diplomat and a businessman -- comes after Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, on an arrest warrant in the U.S. A Canadian judge is deciding whether to extradite her to the U.S.

But Pompeo denied that Meng's arrest was related to the U.S.-Chinese trade tensions, saying the U.S. was engaged in a legal process and seeking a "just outcome."



Citing the various issues in U.S.-Chinese relations, Pompeo added, "We work on each of those to get good outcomes for the people of the United States of America and respecting the rule of law each step along the way. We'll do that here as well."

This is a developing story. Please check back in for updates.

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OWEN HUMPHREYS/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis and a never-before-seen photo of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at their wedding reception are all featured on the royals’ Christmas cards this year.

Kensington Palace on Friday released the photos featured on the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Christmas cards.

Prince William and Kate Middleton’s photo is a casual shot of them with their three children posing on a tree on the grounds of Anmer Hall, their country home in Norfolk.

William and Kate are both in jeans, while George, the third in line to the throne, is wearing rain boots. Charlotte is smiling in between her parents and a growing Louis, who was born in April, is in the arms of his mom.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are pleased to share a new photograph of their family.

The photograph, taken by Matt Porteous, shows The Duke and Duchess with their three children at Anmer Hall, and features on Their Royal Highnesses’ Christmas card this year. pic.twitter.com/6XqCMlhLi8

— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) December 14, 2018

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Christmas card photo is a shot of the newlyweds watching fireworks at their wedding reception in May at Frogmore House, on the grounds of Windsor Castle.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are delighted to share a new photograph from their Wedding Reception at Frogmore House on 19th May.

The photograph, which features on Their Royal Highnesses’ Christmas card, was taken by photographer Chris Allerton. pic.twitter.com/PQPUuRwnIj

— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) December 14, 2018

Previously, the only public photos of Meghan and Harry's wedding reception, hosted by Prince Charles, were shots of the couple glamorously driving off to the reception in a Jaguar.

This Christmas will mark Meghan's second with the royal family but her first as a full-fledged member of it.

Harry and Meghan, who are expecting their first child, are expected to spend Christmas in Norfolk with the royal family, including William and Kate and their three children.

The royal family gathers on Christmas Eve to exchange gifts, following the German tradition. Meghan will not have to worry about buying expensive gifts for her new relatives, as members of the royal family will often swap funny gifts.

On Christmas Day, they join the congregation for the morning service at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham. After the service, the royal family greets well-wishers outside the church before heading back to Sandringham for Christmas lunch.

After lunch, the entire family sits down to watch the queen's annual televised Christmas message.

In the evening, the royal family gathers again for a Christmas buffet dinner with 15 to 20 different delicacies prepared by Queen Elizabeth’s chef. A toast is part of the meal, which ranges from roast beef to turkey and ham.

The day after Christmas, known as Boxing Day in the U.K., finds the royals partaking in the traditional Boxing Day pheasant shoot on the grounds of Sandringham.

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Facebook/Sarah Papenheim(ROTTERDAM, Netherlands) -- Donee Odegard knew what happened the minute two sheriffs showed up at her door. She'd been through it before.

The authorities asked her a few questions about her daughter, Sarah Papenheim, before delivering the news: Her daughter had been stabbed to death while studying abroad in the Netherlands.

"He was sad to inform me that my beautiful daughter had passed. I kind of knew it was coming when you have done this before," said Odegard, whose son had committed suicide at 21 three years ago, in an interview with ABC News' Good Morning America.

"When he started answering me questions, there is no way sheriffs come to your door unless you committed a crime," she continued. "You kind of know what they are going to say."

Papenheim, a Minnesotan native, died Wednesday afternoon after she was attacked at her apartment in Rotterdam, according to Rotterdam police and Minneapolis ABC affiliate KSTP-TV.

The suspect, a 23-year-old Dutch man, lived in the same building as Papenheim, and the two were believed to be acquaintances, Rotterdam police said.

The suspect was arrested about an hour after officers found her body, police said. He was located at a train station about 60 miles from Rotterdam.

Odegard said the man, whose name has not been released, was a cello player and her daughter was a talented jazz drummer. Both were studying music.

"They loved talking about music," Odegard said. "There was times he would have highs and lows."

"Nothing concerned me until the last time I talked to her when she told me this story," Odegard added. "She said, 'Mommy he did this. He is acting strange.'" Odegard said she told her daughter to "not be around him," but as relayed by her mother, Papenheim said, "Mom, he is my friend. I am his only friend. He would get angry, but I can always talk him down and change his mind."

No motive has been established, police said.

Papenheim attended Erasmus University in the Netherlands, Rotterdam police said.

"The university is shocked by this terrible incident and is taking care of upset students and employees and will act towards relatives according to our protocols," a university spokeswoman said in a statement. "We encourage our students and staff not to let each other alone in this difficult time and to get in touch with student-advisors and psychologists if they want to."

She was living in the Netherlands after meeting someone playing a game online who lived in the country, her mother said. She traveled to the country to meet him, and after they began dating she decided to move to the country for school. Her mother praised her boyfriend, Nico, for the support he's provided, both emotionally and as a native Dutch speaker.

"He has been a rock for her," Odegard said. "He was there when my son committed suicide; he has been there for her so much. I don’t know what would have happened for both of us if he wasn’t there. He helped us so much."

Papenheim was a talented drummer and a fixture in the music scene in Minnesota. Her mother said she was returning home for Christmas and had already booked a performance. Now, her friends will be performing to raise money for her burial.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson confirmed Papenheim's death and said the department extends its "deepest condolences to her family and friends."

"We are providing all appropriate consular services," the spokesperson said.

Odegard said she is getting finances in order to bring her daughter back from the Netherlands, she said.

"I know that everyone says that their daughter or son is the sunshine in everybody’s life, but my daughter lights up the world," she said.

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CIL868/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate voted Thursday to withdraw U.S. military assistance for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen in a 56-41 vote, a sharp rebuke to President Donald Trump for his steadfast defense of the kingdom despite bipartisan outrage over the alleged Saudi role in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

It’s the first time the Senate has voted to withdraw forces from a war Congress didn't approve.

But the measure is purely symbolic because the House of Representatives has refused to take it up before the end of the legislative year, assuring the measure will expire before making it to the president’s desk this year.

President Trump has been reluctant to pin any blame on the kingdom or Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. The CIA reportedly has assessed he directed the killing.

“This Yemen thing is not over. This is just the opening argument as to where we’re going with this," Sen. Jim Risch, the incoming GOP chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told ABC News.

Mere moments after the Senate voted to restrict U.S. involvement in the Saudi-Yemen war, the upper chamber also passed a measure authored by retiring Foreign Relations chairman, Republican Sen. Bob Corker, to condemn the crown prince for his alleged role in Khashoggi’s murder.

Saudi Arabia has denied the crown prince directed the murder.

Ahead of the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged senators to vote for Corker’s measure, which he said “does a good job capturing bipartisan concerns about both the war in Yemen and the behavior of our Saudi partners more broadly.”

The vote came just hours after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo begged members of the House during a closed-door briefing to continue supporting Saudi Arabia in its war with Yemen.

House Republicans, unlike their Senate counterparts, appeared unwilling to challenge the administration on publicly denouncing Saudi Arabia and the crown prince following the briefing.

“If the administration brings forward something that would sanction to an extent, or make clear that we don’t believe in murdering journalists I’m all for it, but if you want to talk about realigning our interests in the Middle East … in essence turning away from Saudi Arabia and turning towards Iran, because that’s your only option, I would be opposed to it,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., told reporters Thursday.

Even Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wouldn't commit to the House addressing possible sanctions or other punishment on Saudi Arabia next year, saying the investigation into Khashoggi's murder is still ongoing.

But if the evidence shows that the Saudi crown prince was involved in Khashoggi's murder, Pelosi said, "we would have to be consistent in applying the same sanctions to him as we did to the other 19 people we decided." "They have to have an investigation. Contrary to what happens at the White House, our decisions are evidence-based," Pelosi said.

But the incoming Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Eliot L. Engel of New York, has vowed an investigation.

"They have to be held responsible,” Engel told reporters after emerging from the closed-door briefing.

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Ben185/iStock(PARIS) -- The suspect in a deadly shooting in France has been "neutralized" after a standoff with police, French officials said.

Cherif Chekatt, 29, is the suspected gunman who killed 3 and injured another 13 during a shooting in Strasbourg on Tuesday, the prosecutor's office told ABC News.

Chekatt, who was born in Strasbourg, allegedly shouted "God is great" in Arabic as he opened fire at the market, French prosecutor Rémy Heitz said during a press conference on Wednesday.

He was on France's security watch list and had more than two dozen previous convictions for petty crimes in France, Germany and Switzerland, Heitz said.

Five people had been arrested in connection with the investigation into the shooting, near the Christmas market in the center of the city, a spokesperson for the Paris prosecutor's office told ABC News on Thursday.

The fifth detainee, arrested Thursday morning, was allegedly part of Chekatt's "entourage," according to the prosecutor's office. The other four arrested were Chekatt's's parents and two of his brothers, the spokesperson said.

The shooting, considered a terror attack by officials, sparked a massive manhunt for Chekatt and prompted government officials to establish more security around France's borders.

Members of the French military confronted Chekatt after he carried out the rampage, but he was able to flee the scene by jumping into a taxi.


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omersukrugoksu/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- National security adviser John Bolton unveiled the Trump administration's new strategy for Africa as it works to counter Russia and China, as they expand their financial, political and military investments across the continent.

"Africa is incredibly important to the United States," Bolton told the audience at the Heritage Foundation on Thursday. "If we didn't understand it before, the competition posed by China and Russia and others should highlight it for us, which is why I do think this is a potential turning point in American understanding of what's at stake for us -- not just for Africa -- but for the United States in African affairs."

Bolton outlined a three-pronged approach to the region, which includes advancing U.S. trade and commercial ties, countering extremist organizations and violent conflict and ensuring U.S. aid is used efficiently and effectively. The approach also includes the reevaluation of U.S. support for United Nations peacekeeping missions.

He declined to provide specifics regarding the funding for the new strategy, despite President Donald Trump's guidance for government-wide budget cuts.

The new strategy comes less than a month after the Pentagon announced it was reducing its footprint in Africa by 10 percent over the next several years, to prioritize its resources toward countering China and Russia globally.

The military draw down would largely focus on counterterrorism forces in the Sahel region where the Pentagon has provided assistance to nations fighting extremist organizations, but U.S. forces operating in Somalia, Djibouti, and Libya would "largely remain the same," according to a Pentagon statement.

Asked whether the troop reduction was at odds with the new Africa strategy, Bolton said the administration wants to see African nations less reliant on the U.S. military -- which currently has about 7,200 troops on the continent -- but that the change doesn't reflect a lack of prioritization for the region.

In November, the Pentagon said it would "preserve a majority of our U.S. security cooperation, partnerships and programs in Africa that strengthen our partner networks and enhance partner capability and ongoing programs."

Bolton acknowledged that Beijing has taken a longer-term, strategic approach to Africa with its “One Belt, One Road" initiative announced by President Xi Jinping in 2013, but he called their approach "predatory" with investment ventures "riddled with corruption."

Many African nations that were eager to accept Chinese loans now find themselves saddled with debt. Bolton pointed to Zambia as an example of a nation that owes China as much as $10 billion -- with Beijing now poised to take over its power and utility company in order to collect on the nation's financial obligations.

"Within the U.S. government it is fair to say whether it's Republican or Democratic administrations alike, it's often been difficult to get people to focus on [Africa]. There are always competing priorities," Bolton said.

"But now I think precisely because of the very well thought out, very comprehensive intervention of China in the continent of Africa and other places around the world too, with a program that is very systematically designed to tilt whole regions of the world ... in China's direction, that this is a very important point for the United States and the West as a whole to wake up."

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AlexLMX/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- After threatening to shut down the government if Congress does not allot $5 billion for a wall across the southern border, President Trump now says Mexico will be paying for the wall using money the U.S. would "save" from the new United States Mexico Canada Agreement.

The president tweeted, “I often stated, “One way or the other, Mexico is going to pay for the Wall.” This has never changed. Our new deal with Mexico (and Canada), the USMCA, is so much better than the old, very costly & anti-USA NAFTA deal, that just by the money we save, MEXICO IS PAYING FOR THE WALL!"

“Who’s going to pay for the wall?” Trump often asked supporters as a rallying cry on the campaign trail. “Mexico!” Supporters would say in response.

But Mexican leaders have been adamant Mexico would not foot the bill, and discussion of the border wall, and how it gets paid for, has not been a part of their trade negotiations.

ABC News asked the White House for an explanation of the president’s tweet but did not receive a response.

According to the White House on Thursday, Trump and the President of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, often called AMLO, spoke on the phone Wednesday about illegal immigration and economic development. But neither the White House nor the Mexicans mentioned any discussion of the border wall in readouts of the call.

The United States, Mexico, and Canada came to an agreement on the USMCA which is essentially a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Congress still needs to approve the trade deal, which has provisions including requirements that 75 percent of auto content be made in North America and 40-45 percent of auto workers earn at least $16 per hour. It is unclear what funds, if any, would be available to pay for the wall.

Earlier this week, the president met with House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to discuss government funding and the president’s request for a significant increase in border security funding. In the heated Oval Office meeting, the president brought up his idea of using USMCA funds from Mexico to pay for the wall, according to the Washington Post. Pelosi reportedly balked at the idea.

It’s not the first time the president has tied trade to border wall funding. This past year during NAFTA renegotiations, the president said that “Mexico will pay -- in some form -- Mexico will pay for the wall.”

At the USMCA signing two weeks ago in Buenos Aires, ABC News asked U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer directly whether anything in the deal could be construed as Mexico paying for the wall. He would only say he doesn't know about walls and would not say whether discussion of wall payment was even raised in the negotiations.

Michael Matera, an economist and diplomatic analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says nothing in the USMCA (which is largely a continuation of NAFTA) indicates Mexico is picking up the $25 billion price tag for U.S. taxpayers -- directly or indirectly.

On the Senate floor on Thursday, Schumer pushed back on the notion Mexico could be held responsible for funding border security.

"Just this morning, the president tweeted that Mexico will pay for the wall through savings from the new NAFTA. Well, Mr. President, if you say Mexico is going to pay for the wall through NAFTA, which it certainly won't, then I guess we don't have to," Schumer said.

"If the president really believed what he tweeted this morning, that his new NAFTA would pay for the wall, he wouldn't be threatening to shut down the government unless American taxpayers can fund his wall."

"You can't have it both ways," Schumer concluded. "The president's position on the wall is totally contradictory, ill-informed, and frankly irresponsible."

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Dan Kitwood/Getty Images(BRUSSELS) -- Theresa May, Britain’s embattled prime minister, is pressing on with fraught Brexit negotiations after surviving an attempt to oust her from power Wednesday night.

May is currently in Brussels for an EU summit, an engagement it was unclear whether she would keep Wednesday as news emerged that she was facing a vote of no confidence by her own party. But May survived the vote, despite a third of her party voting against her.

She called Wednesday "a difficult day" in her opening statement in Brussels.

"I’m grateful for the significant support I had from colleagues. But I have also heard loud and clear the concerns of those who didn’t feel able to support me," May said.

Leaders of all 27 EU states are in attendance, and May will have an opportunity to raise issues with the Brexit deal and appeal for help. The EU member states will then debate on what compromises the bloc is or is not willing to make for the British -- but only after May leaves the room.

While May has faced threats to her leadership with several cabinet ministers' resignations since the summer, the most serious challenge came as she published her agreement with the EU on the terms of the U.K.'s withdrawal.

After it became clear that other members of Parliament wouldn’t vote for her agreement, she postponed a critical vote on Tuesday, to the fury not just of opposition parties but her own colleagues.

The move was prompted dozens of members of Parliament to write letters stating they had no confidence in the prime minister, and Wednesday morning, May announced she was facing a vote on her leadership.

Under Conservative party rules, the leadership is put to a vote if 15 percent of members of Parliament write letters to the 1922 Committee chairman, a group of MPs that handle the leadership process.

Last night, the Conservative party declared that she had survived by 200 votes to 117. Under party rules, there cannot be another contest for a whole year.

The episode has further weakened May. But crucially, in a desperate bid to survive the vote, she made an 11th-hour appeal to her colleagues to support her, vowing she would not lead the Conservatives in the next general election. May said she will resign as party leader and prime minister before the country next goes to the polls in 2022.

While May's position as party leader -- and prime minister, as long as there is no snap election -- is safe for another year, her struggle is far from over.

Earlier this week, she raced across Europe to try and persuade EU leaders to give further concessions on the Brexit deal in the hopes she could get it passed by the British parliament.

On Tuesday, she traveled to the Hague, Berlin and Brussels. She met with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to raise issues on key sticking points in the Brexit deal that British politicians are refusing to accept.

The response from EU leaders was unequivocal: there was no room for negotiation.

However, some leaders have indicated there may be room for "clarification" on the interpretation of some terms, and it is this nuance that May is hoping will help to make the deal more palatable to the British.

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Alexandria Sheriff's Office via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Maria Butina, a 30-year-old Russian gun rights activist, has signed onto a plea agreement with the U.S. government, officially pivoting away from her months-long campaign to prove her innocence after standing accused of developing a covert influence operation in the United States.

As part of her plea deal, the details of which ABC News reported earlier this week, Butina agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy and cooperate with federal, state and local authorities in any ongoing investigations.

As Butina prepared to change her plea before a federal judge in Washington, D.C., Thursday morning, the judge confronted directly questions raised about the stark conditions of her confinement—which this week has brought a rebuke from the Russian government. Butina’s lawyer had complained she was held alone in her cell for long stretches and had little personal our sensory contact.

The judge asked Butina and her attorney if conditions had impaired her psychologically to the point she had agreed to plead guilty.

“Is your mind clear?” the judge asked.

“Absolutely clear,” Butina replied in a firm voice.

Driscoll told the court that while he remains concerned about the overuse of solitary confinement, he did not consider that a factor in her change of plea.

“As of today, I believe she is doing well mentally,” Driscoll said.

ABC News reported earlier this week that, as part of her deal, Butina admitted that she and an unnamed “U.S. Person 1,” which sources have identified as longtime Republican operative Paul Erickson, with whom she had a multiyear romantic relationship, “agreed and conspired, with a Russian government official (“Russian Official”) and at least one other person, for Butina to act in the United States under the direction of Russian Official without prior notification to the Attorney General.”

Based on the description, the “Russian Official” appears to be Alexander Torshin, deputy governor of the Russian Central Bank and a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Under his Torshin direction, the agreement said, she “sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over U.S. politics.”

Ahead of Thursday’s hearing, a spokeswoman with the Russian Foreign Ministry told reporters in Moscow again called for Butina’s “soonest release from custody” and said the Russian government “will support any decision she might take aimed at her liberation."

"Once again, we demand that Washington observe her lawful rights and ensure her soonest release from custody,” the spokeswoman said, adding that whatever decision Butina makes with her lawyers, "she would take them in order to be freed, considering that she is a political prisoner.”

Butina was arrested in Washington, D.C., in July on charges of conspiracy and failure to register as a foreign agent. Her indictment attracted headlines at the time for salacious claims made by the government that she used sex as part of an alleged effort to infiltrate powerful conservative groups and build relationships with prominent Americans, drawing comparisons to the recent Hollywood film, Red Sparrow, which focused on the seductive aspects of spycraft.

But the government was later forced to back away from some of those allegations, conceding that they were based on a misreading of a series of text messages. Prosecutors wrote that “the government’s understanding of this particular text conversation was mistaken,” according to court filings.

Butina has been held in jail since her arrest and indictment, with a federal judge claiming in September that she “cannot imagine a scenario where it is not possible” that Butina would flee the country if allowed out on bail.

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Metropolitan Police(LONDON) -- A controversial tactic in which police in London use specially-trained drivers to ram criminals on scooters has triggered two separate investigations after the criminals had suffered “serious” injuries.

The Metropolitan Police released footage last month of the policy, known as “contact tactics,” in action. The aggressive tactic is used in the hope that "potential offenders will think twice about their actions," the department said in a statement.

Police are legally obligated to make a referral to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) if an individual is “seriously injured” during a police operation. This automatically triggers an independent investigation. The findings of an IOPC investigation are then sent to the police force -- which is then required to act on the recommendations.

The first investigation was launched after a “contact tactic” incident in November 2017 left the driver of a scooter with a head injury and a broken foot. Then, in March, another scooter operator involved in an incident ended up with a broken leg. Both injuries were deemed significant enough to be “serious,” an IOPC spokesperson told ABC News.

The IOPC said the officer involved in the November incident breached professional standards. The investigation could now result in criminal charges against the officer.

“Ultimately no police tactic can ever be used with impunity in a country where we police by consent – be that tactical contact, the use of firearms or the use of restraint,” an IOPC spokesperson told ABC News.

“It is always a matter of whether it’s reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances. Independent scrutiny is a vital part of public confidence in the way policing is done.”

The duel investigations are likely to bolster the argument of those opposed to the controversial policy.

Diane Abbott, a Member of Parliament and critic of the policy, tweeted in November that “contact tactics” were “potentially very dangerous” and “police are not above the law.”

Police, however, say that such tactics are necessary and play a part in reducing crimes committed on motorbikes.

“We are pleased to see a reduction in moped-related offenses and we will continue to work tirelessly across London to maintain this downward trend,” a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police told ABC News.

“Tactical contact has long been available to officers, however it is now being used more frequently in the Met’s fight against power two-wheeled crime. The proportionate use of force is essential in circumstances where officers have to protect the public and often themselves."

"All policing actions and tactics that result in either a serious injury or death to the rider, pillion passenger or a member of the public, will fall under the Police Reform Act and be subject to an open transparent investigation.”

A pillion passenger is a term mostly used in the United Kingdom to describe a second passenger on a motorbike.

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bedo/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Even as Turkish leaders call for an international inquiry into Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder, the Committee to Project Journalists found the Turkish government to be the world's biggest jailer of journalists for the third consecutive year, according to a newly released report.

According to the global press freedom watchdog's Annual Prison Census, 251 journalists are currently in jails around the world as of Dec. 1 for charges related to their work -- 68 in Turkey, 47 in China and 25 in Egypt, collectively responsible for more than half of the journalists behind bars.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been one of the harshest critics of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for his alleged role in Khassogi's killing, but following a failed coup against his government in 2016, experts said, Erdogan has engaged in a country-wide crackdown on criticism.

"Turkey has really cracked down on the independent press by equating journalism with terrorism," Courtney Radsch, advocacy director for the Committee to Protect Journalists, told ABC News. "And we see this as part of a pattern that's been in place for many years."

Criticism of Saudi Arabia's record on press freedom is often warranted. Khashoggi's murder, which provoked outrage around the world and even spurred Time magazine to name him and other persecuted journalists the magazine's "Person of the Year," comes amid a spike in the country's own repression of journalists.

Whereas CPJ found at least seven journalists in jail in December 2017, that number has risen to 16 just a year later, including four female journalists who covered women's rights in the country.

And with President Donald Trump's popularization of the pejorative term "fake news" to describe and denounce critical coverage of his administration, the CPJ recorded a significant uptick in the number of journalists facing "false news" charges around the world since his election.

In 2016, only nine journalists around the world were held for that charge. After Trump's election, that number rose to 21 in 2017. And it rose again to 28 in 2018.

"We see countries are using the same terminology and pointing to the United States and pointing to Trump's labeling of journalists as fake news," Radsch said. "It basically serves to inoculate those in power [because] it creates distrust."

Steven Cook, senior fellow for the Middle East and Africa studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, told ABC News that leaders in countries without enshrined press freedom protections take their cues from the United States.

"We used to think that when journalists were under attack, at least you would have the largest pulpit of them all, the U.S. president. But it's the opposite," Cook said. "The press has been labeled the enemy of the people and that's been heard around the world by people who think likewise."

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allanswart/iStock(HONG KONG) -- The Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed Thursday that a second Canadian citizen has been detained in China in addition to the former Canadian diplomat who was reported missing earlier this week.

Both men are being detained by China's Ministry for State Security for allegedly "endangering national security."

At a press conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang revealed that entrepreneur Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig were both taken into custody separately on Monday. Kovrig is being held in Beijing and Spavor is being held in the northeastern Chinese city of Dandong, across the river from North Korea.

The sudden detention of the two Canadian citizens comes in the wake of the high profile arrest of Chinese tech-giant Huawei's CFO Meng Wanzhou in Canada at the behest of the United States, which wants her extradited for alleged bank fraud and violation of U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Beijing had earlier vowed "grave consequences" for Canada if the Huawei executive was not released. Meng has since been released on bail, but is required to remain in Vancouver, living in her family’s six-bedroom mansion while awaiting an extradition hearing in February.

Spavor, who runs a nongovernmental organization (NGO) called Paektu Cultural Exchange, out of Dandong, is a longtime prominent consultant on North Korea, facilitating business and sports delegations in the reclusive state. He is among just a handful of foreigners who have met with Kim Jong Un inside the country.

Spavor famously organized many of former NBA star Dennis Rodman’s trips into North Korea, including one when Rodman claimed he went jet-skiing with the North Korean leader in 2013. Spavor acted as Rodman’s translator on those trips.

Lu said earlier in the week that former diplomat Kovrig's current employer, The International Crisis Group, was not officially registered in China, making any of their work illegal in the country, violating a new foreign NGO law China put in place just over a year ago.

The law stipulates that in addition to registering with the government, the NGO “must not endanger China’s national unity, security, or ethnic unity.”

According to the Ministry of Public Security, which maintains a list of registered NGOs in China, Spavor’s organization was not included.

Lu said on Thursday that Canada has been informed of the detentions, but would not say if the men have access to lawyers.

When asked if the detentions were in any way related to Meng’s arrest in Canada, Lu would only say it was all being handled according to Chinese law.

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