KAJX

Amy Held

"Somewhere in Iraq, a United States citizen has been in the custody of the U.S. armed forces for over three months."

That is how a federal Judge on Saturday begins her ruling, describing the situation of a never-charged American classified as an enemy combatant, as she ordered the Pentagon provide the prisoner with "immediate" access to a lawyer.

An iridescent streak lit up the sky over Southern California on Friday night, stopping traffic and leading some residents to marvel and others to worry about a UFO or even a nuclear bomb attack. In reality, it was a SpaceX rocket lifting off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, north of Santa Barbara, Calif., carrying 10 satellites for the Iridium constellation. They will be used in mobile voice and data communications.

That white lie about snow on Christmas, "just like the ones I used to know," is probably going to remain a nostalgic lyric for most of the country. But for millions of people along the projected path of a system forming Saturday in the Great Plains that is forecast to become a nor'easter in New England by Monday, a white Christmas is looking more like a reality.

"We are going to have a decent swath of snow," meteorologist Marc Chenard with the National Weather Service tells NPR.

Beginning Saturday, a couple of inches are expected in Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska.

When a fire broke out around 6 a.m. local time Saturday at the ZSL London Zoo, keepers living on-site moved quickly to evacuate the animals' enclosures, moving them to safety before firefighters' arrival, according to the zoo.

Despite their efforts, a 9-year-old aardvark named Misha died in the blaze and four meerkats were missing as of early Saturday afternoon local time.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the eighth episode in the widely popular intergalactic series, ascended to first place among American and Canadian movie-goers in its debut weekend.

From Friday through Sunday, it brought in an estimated $220 million domestically, making it the No. 1 debut of the year, according to Disney. Its weekend haul also earns it the title of the second biggest domestic debut of all time, behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens, its predecessor released in 2015.

Police have launched an investigation after a woman working at the British Embassy was found strangled on a roadside outside the capitol city of Beirut on Saturday, Lebanese officials said.

NPR's Ruth Sherlock has confirmed with the embassy that the victim is Rebecca Dykes, a British national.

"We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Rebecca," her family said in a statement, released by the Foreign Office. "We are doing all we can to understand what happened. We request that the media respect our privacy."

As was her habit, 22-year-old Bethany Stephens took her dogs for a walk in the woods near her childhood home in Goochland, Va., about 30 miles outside Richmond. But when she did not return home by Thursday night, her father grew concerned and called police, who made a terrible discovery. Stephens had been attacked and killed by her own dogs, police say.

As the year winds down, three new crew members are set to begin a mission aboard the International Space Station. Early Sunday, an American, a Russian and a Japanese astronaut blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in a Soyuz spacecraft.

Tens of thousands of people have been forced from their homes, thousands of acres scorched and hundreds of buildings reduced to ash. It hasn't even been one week since the latest string of wildfires broke out in Southern California, but the toll is staggering.

Even so, by Saturday, some bright spots began to emerge in the fire-ravaged region.

Iraq declared victory over the Islamic State Saturday after its forces drove out the group from its final area of control along the Syrian border, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told a conference in Baghdad.

"Our heroic armed forces have now secured the entire length of the Iraq-Syria border," Abadi later tweeted. "We defeated Daesh through our unity and sacrifice for the nation. Long live Iraq and its people."

A bankruptcy judge has granted struggling retailer Toys R Us permission to pay millions of dollars in bonuses to executives after the company argued it was necessary to motivate its top brass during the critical holiday shopping season.

David Ermold once again stepped inside the Rowan County, Ky., courthouse on Wednesday, except this time he wasn't asking for a marriage license — he was asking for Kim Davis' job. She is the Rowan County clerk who refused Ermold and his partner, among other couples, a marriage license on the basis of her religious beliefs against same-sex marriage.

After a night of drinking, South Carolina man Alex Bowen couldn't sleep and decided to get something to eat early Thursday. The Waffle House in West Columbia, S.C., fit the bill, so he stepped inside and waited 10 minutes at the register, but nobody attended to him, he tells local news station WIS-TV.

That was when he realized there was an employee there, the worker just happened to be fast asleep in a corner booth. And Bowen didn't waffle.

Updated at noon ET Monday

The time-honored tradition is as steeped in lore as Father Christmas himself: child nestles on Santa's knee, rattles off the coveted goodies, then a snap of the camera preserves the memory in all of its seasonal glory.

Or, this:

Interminable lines, artificial pine and a whiskered stranger decked in red. It's more than some kids and, yes, even parents, can take.

The U.S. Navy has named the three sailors lost in Wednesday's C-2A aircraft crash southeast of Okinawa, Japan in the Philippine Sea.

In a statement, the Navy identified Lt. Steven Combs, of Florida; Matthew Chialastri, an aviation boatswain's mate airman from Louisiana and Bryan Grosso, an aviation ordnanceman airman apprentice, also from Florida.

Kenya's opposition leader is asking for "international intervention" as violence is escalating in the country's post-election crisis. Overnight into Sunday at least four people were killed in an "area that's opposition heavy," reports NPR's Eyder Peralta from Nairobi.

"The country's just really tense," Eyder says.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga said those who died overnight were his own supporters and called their deaths "state-sponsored thuggery," reports The Associated Press.

Updated at 5:15 a.m. ET on Monday

A noon Monday deadline for President Robert Mugabe to voluntarily step down has come and gone with no word whether the longtime strongman of Zimbabwe will comply. Parliament has promised to initiate impeachment proceedings to remove him.

Editor's note: This post contains language that some may find offensive.

In her onetime role as a Dallas County assistant district attorney, Jody Warner was accustomed to prosecuting others, but she found herself on the defensive after an Uber driver released audio, recorded Friday, in which she can be heard hurling insults and curse words at him. By Monday, Warner had lost her job.

It began when Shaun Platt was driving Warner, 32, home from a bar and she disagreed with the route he was taking.

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