Thursday morning news: January 17, 2019

Four Americans killed in suicide attack in Syria » A suicide bombing in Syria killed as many as 16 people on Wednesday, including two U.S. service members and two American civilian contractors. The Pentagon said the attack occurred as the Americans and others were conducting routine patrols.

Multiple fighters with the allied Syrian Democratic Forces are also among the dead.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, which came less than a month after President Trump declared ISIS defeated, and announced U.S. troops would soon leave Syria.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the Trump administration is fully aware that the threat has not been entirely eradicated.

SHANAHAN: Our fight against terrorism is ongoing, and we will remain vigilant and committed to its destruction.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said the attack should give President Trump pause … with regard to withdrawing troops from Syria. But speaking at the State Department, Vice President Mike Pence once again defended the decision.

PENCE: We will protect the gains that our soldiers and our coalition partners have secured. But this president has often spoken about his desire to bring an end to endless wars in America and the the ability to bring our troops home. 

Pence said troops will be withdrawn “in an orderly and effective way.” He said troops will remain in the region to ensure ISIS does not regroup.

Confirmation hearing begins for EPA administrator nominee » President Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency faced lawmakers in the Senate Wednesday at the start of his confirmation hearing.

Andrew Wheeler is the acting administrator. Democrats yesterday decried the continued rollbacks of Obama-era regulations and voiced concerns that the EPA under the Trump administration is not serious about addressing climate change.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders told Wheeler…

SANDERS: You are the nominee to be head of the Environmental Protection agency and just, in your opening statement, did not mention the word climate change. 

Asked if he considers climate change to be the greatest crisis facing the world today, Wheeler responded…

WHEELER: I would not call it the greatest crisis, no sir. I consider it a huge issue that has to be addressed globally.

Democrats also pressed Wheeler about his lobbying before joining the EPA, saying his work for coal companies should disqualify him from leading the agency.

Republicans said Wheeler has displayed a responsible balance protecting the environment while not unduly hurting industry.

If confirmed, Wheeler will officially replace former administrator Scott Pruitt, who resigned last year amid multiple controversies.

At least 21 dead after terror attack in Kenya » Officials now say at least 21 people are dead and nearly 30 others wounded after a terror attack in Kenya.

Gunmen with the al-Shabaab terror group attacked in and around a luxury hotel in Nairobi on Tuesday.

AUDIO: [Sound of Kenya attack]

The coordinated assault began with an explosion that targeted three vehicles outside a bank and a suicide bombing in the hotel lobby.

President Uhuru Kenyatta addressed the nation on Wednesday.

KENYATTA: We are grieving as a country, and my heart and that of every Kenyan goes out to the innocent men and women violated by senseless violence. 

Kenyatta vowed to “seek out every person that was involved in the funding, planning, and execution” of the attack.

British prime minister survives no-confidence challenge » British Prime Minister Theresa May has once again survived a no-confidence challenge to her government. She narrowly survived Wednesday’s vote…

AUDIO: They ayes to the right, 306. The nos to the left, 325, so the nos have it. The nos have it. 

The latest challenge came a day after lawmakers overwhelmingly rejected May’s Brexit deal with the European Union.

Had the government lost, Britain would have faced an election within weeks while preparing to leave the EU on March 29th.

Megachurch past to take “indefinite sabbatical” amid controversy » The elders of Chicago megachurch Harvest Bible Chapel announced Wednesday that Pastor James MacDonald would take an “indefinite sabbatical” from preaching and leadership while it works to reconcile with past critics. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin reports.

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: The announcement follows recent criticism of the way Harvest Bible Chapel managed its finances.

The elders said MacDonald has permission to continue preaching at the Harvest location in Naples, Florida this winter. But he’s recused himself from any leadership role in the reconciliation process.

MacDonald said in a statement, “I have carried great shame about this pattern in certain relationships that can only be called sin.”

Earlier in the month MacDonald pulled his Walk in the Word program from radio and television while keeping it as a podcast, citing costs and changing demographics.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin.

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Andrew Wheeler departs after testifying at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing to be the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019. 

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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