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UK mourns Queen Elizabeth II as world watches; U.S. contractor freed by Taliban | Hot off the Wire podcast

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Britain and the world said farewell to Queen Elizabeth II with pomp and pageantry. Crowds massed in the streets of London and at Windsor Castle to honor a monarch whose 70-year reign defined an era.

The first state funeral since Winston Churchill’s drew world leaders and other royalty. Before the service, a bell tolled 96 times for each year of Elizabeth’s life. Royal Navy sailors pulled a gun carriage carrying her flag-draped coffin to Westminster Abbey before pallbearers bore it inside.

Atop the coffin sat a handwritten note from King Charles III. After a committal service at a chapel in Windsor Castle, the coffin was lowered into the royal vault.

In movie theatres and pubs, on giant screens and smartphones, people watched and pundits droned on as the funeral in London flooded the airwaves live across time zones and continents.

An American contractor held hostage in Afghanistan for more than two years by the Taliban has been released. The White House and family members of Mark Frerichs said Monday his release came in an exchange for a convicted Taliban drug lord jailed in the United States.

A Northern California woman has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for faking her own kidnapping so she could go back to a former boyfriend, which led to an three-week, multi-state search. Forty-year-old Sherri Papini pleaded guilty last spring under a plea bargain.

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The number of people killed on U.S. roadways fell slightly from April through June. But the government says traffic fatalities are still at a crisis level. Estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that 20,175 people died in crashes from January through June, an increase of 0.5% over the same period last year.

The United Arab Emirates will launch its first lunar rover in November. The rover would be launched from the Kennedy Space Center aboard a Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket and deposited on the moon by a Japanese ispace lander sometime in March.

A Russian missile has blasted a crater close to a nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, damaging nearby industrial equipment but not hitting its three reactors. Ukrainian authorities denounced Monday's attack as an act of “nuclear terrorism."

In this week's religion roundup, pastors offer a mixed response to Republican transports of migrants to Democratic-run jurisdictions, while a faith-led group seeks missing migrants in the US-Mexico desert. And Pope Francis calls for peace in Ukraine.

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Denmark believes “deliberate actions” caused big leaks in two natural gas pipelines that run under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany, and seismologists said powerful explosions preceded the leaks. European leaders and experts pointed to possible sabotage amid the energy standoff with Russia provoked by the war in Ukraine. Although filled with gas, neither pipeline is currently supplying it to Europe. Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said Tuesday that “it is the authorities’ clear assessment that these are deliberate actions -– not accidents." The incident overshadowed the inauguration of a long-awaited pipeline that will bring Norwegian gas to Poland to bolster the continent’s energy independence from Moscow.

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