North Korea frees three Americans » Amid thawing relations with the United States, North Korea has freed three American prisoners. President Trump on Wednesday announced that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on his way back from North Korea, bringing those three Americans with him.
TRUMP: We call them fine people, really fine people. They seem to be healthy. They’ll be landing at 2 o’clock in the morning at Andrew’s Air Force Base, and I’ll be there to greet them.
Pompeo made the surprise visit to Pyongyang on Tuesday to finalize the details of a summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Trump said the time and date are set but won’t be announced until later.
Kim denied his sudden interest in better relations with the U-S and South Korea had anything to do with sanctions, but said he wanted to “concentrate all efforts into economic progress.”
Iran deal latest » Also on Wednesday, one day after announcing a U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, President Trump issued a warning:
TRUMP: I would advise Iran not to start their nuclear program. I would advise them very strongly. If they do, there will be very severe consequence.
Iran’s government now says it will negotiate with the five other countries remaining in the deal, though it refused Trump’s calls to re-negotiate prior to the U.S. withdrawal. British Prime Minister Theresa May said her administration will work to keep a deal in place.
MAY: We continue to believe that the Iran nuclear deal was an important step forward in helping to keep the world safe. And as I say, there are other issues that need to be worked on, and both I and the foreign secretary will be continuing to work on those with our European and other allies.
So what’s next for the United States with regard to Iran? Victoria Coates of the National Security Council said Wednesday the U.S. will re-impose sanctions, using the same “maximum pressure” approach it has applied with North Korea.
CIA director hearing » Gina Haspel, the President Trump’s pick to lead the CIA was on Capitol Hill Wednesday for a confirmation hearing before Senate Intelligence Committee. It was an easy sell for committee Chairman Richard Burr.
BURR: I believe your intellectual rigor, your honorable service and outstanding judgement make you a natural fit to lead the CIA.
But many Democrats, including Vice Chairman Mark Warner, weren’t so sure, voicing concern about her history with enhanced interrogation. Haspel, who is a 33-year veteran of the agency, ran a covert detention site in Thailand where terror suspects were waterboarded. But she assured Senator Warner that as CIA director, she would not allow those tactics to be used used on her watch.
HASPEL: My moral compass is strong. I would not allow CIA to undertake activity that I felt was immoral, even if it was technically legal. I would absolutely not permit it.
Haspel admitted the agency learned what she called “tough lessons” after 9/11.
Protesters interrupted the hearing several times…
SOUND: Capitol Police, please remove her.
They shouted “Prosecute the torturers!” as they were forced from the chamber.
SOUND: You are a torturer! Bloody Gina!
If confirmed, Haspel would be the first woman to lead the CIA.
House Judiciary Committee Approves Prison Reform Bill » Lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved a bipartisan bill aimed at reforming the federal prison system. WORLD Radio’s Sarah Schweinsberg has more.
SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: Committee members voted 25 to 5 to send a bill known as the FIRST STEP Act to the House floor. It’s sponsored by Republican Doug Collins of Georgia and Democrat Hakeem Jeffries of New York.
Supporters say the FIRST STEP Act will help to reform the prison system and gives convicts a second chance. It would, among other things, set aside $50 million each year for vocational and educational programs for prisoners.
The bill has a good chance of passing in the full House, but it could stall in upper chamber. The top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee say the bill doesn’t go far enough, since it does not include sentencing reform. Without that, Senators Chuck Grassley and Dick Durbin say they won’t sign on to the House legislation.
Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg.
New Ebola outbreak » The World Health Organization has dispatched a team to the Democratic Republic of Congo to try and contain a new outbreak of the Ebola virus. That, after multiple new cases were confirmed in the country’s rural northwest. The Congo health ministry said samples sent for testing came back positive for the Zaire strain of Ebola.
This is the ninth Ebola outbreak in the country since 1976, when the deadly disease was first identified. The most recent outbreak was in May of last year, killing four of the eight people infected. That outbreak was quickly contained.
New volcano vents in HI » In Hawaii, new volcanic vents have opened on the Big Island, spewing toxic gas and pouring lava into a neighborhood where more than 30 buildings have already burned down.
A total of 14 vents have opened since the volcano began erupting a week ago. And Janet Babb, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, says it’s hard to predict what it will do.
BABB: Things are changing quickly, and this has been the concern all along about this type of eruption because, just because there’s a pause it doesn’t mean the eruption’s over, and things can change quickly.
More than 100 acres are now covered in lava and some 1,800 people have been forced to evacuate. Authorities have allowed some residents to check on their properties during daylight hours.
I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: Mindy Belz reports on the second trial of Pastor Andrew Brunson in Turkey. This is The World and Everything in It.