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Australian student feared detained by North Korea

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Australia on Thursday said it was “urgently seeking clarification” on the fate of a citizen feared detained in North Korea.

The department of foreign affairs said it was in contact with the family of a man “who has been reported as being detained in North Korea”.

Korean-language media named him as Alek Sigley, one of only a handful of Western students at Kim Il Sung University, where he studies Korean literature.

He also runs a company specialising in tours of North Korea and has written articles about Pyongyang’s dining scene and other issues for NK News and other outlets.

His last social media posts came three days ago.

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“The Department is urgently seeking clarification,” a statement from Canberra read. “Owing to our privacy obligations we will not provide further comment.”

Australia has no diplomatic mission of its own in Pyongyang and is represented in North Korea by the Swedish embassy.

Canberra advises against non-essential travel to North Korea — where several foreigners have been detained in the past.

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Consular advice recommends Australians “stay as short a time as possible, eliminate unnecessary activities, and review your security arrangements”.

In 2016, Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia student, was imprisoned during a tour of the authoritarian state after being accused of taking down a propaganda poster.

Doctors said he suffered severe brain damage while in detention, fell into a coma and died days after arriving back in the United States in June 2017. He was 22.

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– ‘One on one’ –

Sigley is one of only a handful of Western students at Kim Il Sung University, the North’s top educational establishment.

The vast majority of foreign students are Chinese, for whom studying at the university is significantly cheaper than at home.

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The foreigners have separate classes to domestic students and fees are in the range of $3,000 a year.

They also have their own dormitory so that — aside from a few North Koreans assigned to the same facility — they have limited contact with local students.

In a post in January this year, Sigley described a strong interest in east Asia and “socialism” and recounted his first trip to North Korea in 2012.

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The son of an anglo-Australian man and Chinese mother, he previously studied at Fudan University in Shanghai and in South Korea before moving to Pyongyang, according to his post.

“I’m enrolled in a master’s degree in Korean literature in the university’s postgraduate school. Because I am the only foreign student in this particular program, my courses are all conducted one-on-one with the teacher,” he wrote.

Steering clear of politics, Sigley described a life chatting with Chinese exchange students, drinking with Russian students and playing video games and going to restaurants with students from Canada and Sweden.

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In an article for the Guardian newspaper published in late March, Sigley said he had “nearly unprecedented access” to Pyongyang as a long-term foreign resident.

“I’m free to wander around the city, without anyone accompanying me. Interaction with locals can be limited at times, but I can shop and dine almost anywhere I want,” he wrote.


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AIDS deaths down a third since 2010: UN

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HIV-related deaths last year fell to around 770,000 -- some 33 percent lower than in 2010 -- the United Nations said Tuesday, but warned that global efforts to eradicate the disease were stalling as funding dries up.

An estimated 37.9 million people now live with HIV -- a record 23.3 million of those have access to some antiretroviral therapy (ART), UNAIDS said in its annual report.

Highlighting the enormous progress made since the height of the AIDS epidemic in the mid-1990s, the report showed that the number people dying from the disease fell from 800,000 in 2017 to 770,000 last year.

The figure was down by more than a third from 2010, when there were 1.2 million AIDS-related deaths.

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Describing ‘future we want to live in’ scores of groups unveil new blueprint for reproductive rights

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"The last two years," says new agenda, "have seen increasingly hostile attacks on reproductive autonomy and rights"

Nearly 80 organizations on Monday unveiled a sweeping policy agenda intended to improve sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights.

"We can do more than fight back—it's time to move forward," women's rights group UltraViolet said in a tweet about the plan.

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Former Fox & Friends co-host Clayton Morris flees the US as he faces two dozen lawsuits

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Facing more than two-dozen lawsuits alleging he committed real estate fraud, former "Fox & Friends Weekend" co-host Clayton Morris has reportedly fled the United States, according to the Indianapolis Star.

Morris, who previously resided in a $1.4 million home in New Jersey, moved his family to a coastal resort town in Portugal, the newspaper reported, citing a Facebook post from his wife.

Morris's wife and business partner, former MSNBC anchor Natali Morris, told the IndyStar that she and her husband plan to continue fighting the lawsuits from abroad.

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