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Morning national news briefs: oil tankers, Facebook and Epstein

Your morning national news briefs:

US Moves to Take Control of Iranian Tanker Seized by British Last Month

The United States does not want Britain to swap an Iranian oil tanker for a British tanker that Iran seized last month. The United States applied on Thursday to seize an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar, halting its expected release at the last minute and preventing a possible swap for British-flagged tanker held by Iran.

The tanker was seized by British Royal Marine commandos in a landing in darkness off the coast of the British overseas territory on July 4.

Gibraltar said the tanker was suspected of selling oil to Syria in breach of European Union sanctions. Two weeks later, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized the British-flagged Stena Impero in the Gulf on July 19.

Gibraltar was widely expected to release the Grace 1 on Thursday, but just hours before, the U.S. Department of Justice sought to seize it.

“The U.S. Department of Justice has applied to seize the tanker on a number of allegations which are now being considered,” the government of Gibraltar said, adding the matter would return to the supreme court of Gibraltar at Thursday afternoon..

Jeffrey Epstein Autopsy Shows Broken Neck: Report

The autopsy into financier Jeffrey Epstein, who reportedly died in a suspicious suicide while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, found his neck had been broken in several places, the Washington Post reports.

Such injuries can occur to people who are strangled or who hang themselves, the newspaper said. It cited unidentified sources familiar with the autopsy’s results.

Epstein, a multi-millionaire and convicted sexual offender, was found dead in his jail cell in New York City on Saturday. The circumstances of his death are under investigation.

Trump Seeks out Personal Meeting With Xi Jinping to Resolve Hong Kong Crisis

U.S. President Donald Trump is seeking out Chinese leader Xi Jinping for a personal meeting to resolve the ongoing crisis in Hong Kong. Pro-Democracy protesters have virtually shut down Hong Kong with the Chinese military amassing on the border.

“I know President Xi of China very well. He is a great leader who very much has the respect of his people. He is also a good man in a ‘tough business,’” Trump wrote on on Aug. 14 evening.

Trump tweeted: “I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it. Personal meeting?”

The Hong Kong crisis centers around a suspended but not withdrawn bill that would allow any government, including the Communist government of China, to request the extradition of anyone passing through Hong Kong.

Hongkongers fear that the bill threatens the city’s judicial independence, leaving everyone vulnerable to be trialed in China’s courts, which are notorious for the absence of rule of law.

Philadelphia Shooting Suspect Identified as Convicted Felon Maurice Hill, Who Illegally Had a Gun

The man who allegedly shot six Philadelphia police officers during a standoff on Aug. 14 was identified as Maurice Hill, a convicted felon.

Convicted felons are not legally allowed to possess firearms. Statistics show that the majority of crimes committed with a gun in the United States are done so not with legally procured guns but with illegally obtained guns.

Hill, 36, was first arrested when he was 18 for illegally possessing a gun with an altered serial number, according to public records (pdf). He has since been arrested about 12 more times, including six arrests that involved more illegal possession of guns.

Hill has been in and out of prison over the last 18 years, including a 55-month stint in 2010.

Current discussion about gun control in Congress centers around background checks of purchasers who are least likely to commit crimes with guns.

Facebook Has Been Paying Contractors to Transcribe Users’ Facebook Messenger Voice Chats

Facebook Inc. has been paying outside contractors to transcribe audio clips from users of its services, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday, Aug. 13, citing people familiar with the matter.

The company confirmed that it had been transcribing users’ audio and said it was no longer doing so, Bloomberg reported.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Bloomberg, citing the company, reported that the users who were affected chose the option in the Messenger app to have their voice chats transcribed. The contractors were checking whether Facebook’s artificial intelligence correctly interpreted the messages.

Shares of Facebook pared gains after the report and were up 1.66% at $188.44.

The social media company has been facing broad criticism from lawmakers and regulators over its privacy practices.

Last week, a federal appeals court rejected Facebook’s effort to undo a class-action lawsuit claiming that it illegally collected and stored biometric data for millions of users without their consent.

–Metro Voice from wire services