The Taliban banned women from universities in Afghanistan, sparking international condemnation and despair among young people in the country. The higher education minister announced the regression on Tuesday (Dec. 20), saying it would take immediate effect. The ban further restricts women's education - girls have already been excluded from secondary schools since the Taliban returned last year. Some women staged protests in the capital Kabul on Wednesday.

"Today we come out on the streets of Kabul to raise our voices against the closure of the girls' universities," the Afghanistan Women's Unity and Solidarity group said. The small demonstrations were quickly shut down by Taliban officials, and guards stopped hundreds of women from entering universities just a day after the ban was announced. Five women were arrested on Thursday, for taking part in a protest in Kabul. The Education Ministry said its scholars had evaluated the university curriculum and environment, and attendance for girls would be suspended until "a suitable environment" was provided.

Israel's designated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he has successfully formed a new coalition, setting the stage for him to return to power as head of the most right-wing Israeli government ever to hold office. Netanyahu made the announcement in a phone call to President Isaac Herzog moments before a midnight deadline on Wednesday (Dec. 21). His Likud Party released a brief video clip of the smiling Netanyahu and a recording of the conversation.

"I wanted to announce to you that thanks to the amazing public support we received in the elections, I have succeeded in forming a government that will take care of all the citizens of Israel," Netanyahu said. The move came after weeks of surprisingly difficult negotiations with his partners - who still need to finalise their power-sharing deals with Likud. Nonetheless, Netanyahu said he intends to complete the process "as soon as possible next week". There was still no date announced for its swearing-in.

Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced cryptocurrency entrepreneur, was expected to make his initial U.S. court appearance on charges that he swindled investors and looted customer deposits on his FTX trading platform. Bankman-Fried, arrested in the Bahamas last week, was flown to New York late Wednesday, after he decided not to challenge his extradition. While he was in the air, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan announced that two of Bankman-Fried's closest business associates had also been charged and had secretly pleaded guilty.

Carolyn Ellison, 28, the former chief executive of Bankman-Fried's trading firm, Alameda Research, and Gary Wang, 29, who co-founded FTX, pleaded guilty to charges including wire fraud, securities fraud and commodities fraud. U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a video statement that both were cooperating with investigators and had agreed to assist in any prosecution. He warned others who enabled the alleged fraud to come forward.

Asia's most-wanted alleged drug kingpin was extradited to Australia, where he faces potential life imprisonment. Tse Chi Lop, known as the Asian El Chapo, is accused of heading up a multibillion-dollar drug operation spanning several countries in the Asia Pacific, from Japan to New Zealand. A notorious figure whose status in Asia has long drawn comparisons to the Mexican drug lord, he was arrested at a Dutch airport last year by Interpol. Following a near two-year battle, he was finally extradited this week.

Australian police released pictures of armed officers escorting him off the plane at Melbourne airport in handcuffs. He was due to face a local court on Thursday. The 59-year-old is alleged to be the head of one of the world's biggest multibillion-dollar drug syndicates. The Company, also known as the Sam Gor Syndicate, dominates the illegal drugs market across Asia. Australian police estimate it's responsible for up to 70 percent of the drugs - particularly methamphetamine, but also heroin and ketamine - coming into Australia alone.

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