Thursday morning news: July 19, 2018

White House issues another Russia clarification » The White House has clarified another remark by President Trump regarding Russian election meddling.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday morning, the president answered “no” when asked whether Russia is still targeting the U.S. But Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said that was not the question he was answering. 

SANDERS: The president said thank you very much and was saying no to answering questions. 

Sanders said the Trump administration believes Russia still poses a threat and is taking steps to guard against future election meddling.

Butina appears in court » Meanwhile, new details are emerging about the 29-year-old Russian citizen arrested this week, accused of spying for Russia. WORLD Radio’s Sarah Schweinsberg reports. 

SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: Maria Butina presented herself as a grad student and gun rights activist living in Washington DC.

But the Justice Department says Butina worked to create back-channel lines of communication for the Kremlin and updated Russian intelligence as she infiltrated U.S. political organizations—including the National Rifle Association.

In new court filings, prosecutors also allege she had a personal relationship with an American political operative and once offered sex to another person in exchange for a position with an unnamed special interest group.

Court documents say the FBI observed her meeting with a Russian diplomat. Authorities arrested her last weekend after she showed signs of preparing to leave the U.S.  

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg.

California Supreme Court blocks plan to split state » The California Supreme Court says a measure that would split California into three separate states will not go before voters in November.  

The justices on Wednesday ordered the secretary of state to leave it off the ballot, saying significant questions have been raised about its validity. The court will now consider the merits of a challenge brought by an environmental group.

But the long shot bid to divide the state could still appear on future ballots if the court ultimately rules in its favor. 

American pastor to remain jailed in Turkey » An American pastor jailed in Turkey on what the U.S. government calls trumped up charges will remain behind bars. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin has more. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: A Turkish court on Wednesday again rejected a request to release Andrew Brunson as his trial on terrorism and espionage charges continues. The Turkish government claims he participated in a failed coup attempt in 2016.  

He faces up to 35 years in prison if found guilty. The case was adjourned until October. Turkish judges previously denied two other requests to release him.

The 50-year-old North Carolina native has pastored a church in Turkey for the past 23 years.

Brunson said—quote—“The disciples of Jesus suffered in his name, now it is my turn,” adding “I am an innocent man on all these charges.”

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin.

Migrant drownings » Nineteen people drowned Wednesday when a boat capsized off the coast of Cyprus. The Turkish Coast Guard rescued about 100 passengers, but 25 remain missing.

A passing cargo ship spotted the overturned vessel. Officials say they don’t know where the boat began its journey or where it intended to land, but it most likely carried migrants seeking asylum. Cyprus and Greece have the highest number of asylum seekers per capita in the European Union.

Almost 1,500 migrants have died this year crossing the Mediterranean.

Thai rescuees meet the press » The 12 members of a boys soccer team and their coach rescued from a cave in Thailand last week spoke to reporters Wednesday. They entered the room to cheers… 

AUDIO: (Cheers)

…before talking about what they experienced in their more than two weeks trapped underground.

One boy, speaking through a translator, recalled his first interaction with rescuers.

AUDIO (translated): It’s just a miracle that happened, but I did not know how to answer when he talked, it took me a long time to answer.

One of the boys said the experience taught him “not to live life carelessly.” Another said he ordeal taught him “more patience, endurance,” and “tolerance.”

The doctors who treated them also spoke to reporters. One physician speaking through a translator said the boys are physically healthy.

AUDIO (translated): They’ve also have been assessed for their emotional state, and everything seems to be in good order and they are ready to go home. 

Doctors added that the boys have gained about seven pounds each after losing an average of nine pounds during their time in the cave.

EU fines Google » The European Union is hitting Google with its largest antitrust fine ever.

The company must pay $5 billion for stifling competition in the mobile app market. Officials say that, among other things, the tech giant forced mobile phone producers to pre-install Google’s search and browser apps as a condition for licensing Google’s app store.

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said the companies infringement is “serious” and it’s “been going on since 2011.” 

VESTAGER: Google has engaged in illegal practices to cement its dominant market position in internet search. 

Google argued the company helps mobile phone competition because it allows other device manufacturers to use its Android operating system.

I’m Kent Covington. Up next, Maria Baer reports on efforts to clamp down on payday lending. This is The World and Everything in It.

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media as he meets with members of Congress in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Tuesday, July 17, 2018, in Washington. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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