Thursday morning news: February 21, 2019

Russia threatens to aim more missiles at U.S. » Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday threatened to aim more missiles at the United States if the U.S. stations new intermediate range missiles in Europe.

PUTIN (translator): We are not interested in confrontation, and we do not want it, let alone confrontation with such a global power like the United States of America. But it looks like our partners do not see how and at what pace it is changing and in which direction it is going. 

In his state-of-the-nation speech, Putin blasted the U.S. for what he called destructive and obviously wrong politics, placing all the blame on Washington for worsening relations between the two countries.

Putin said the U.S. pulled out of a Cold War-era nuclear arms treaty with Russia so it could be free to build new missiles. The U.S. and its allies in Europe say Russia routinely violated that treaty.  

Putin claimed his government is prepared to engage in nuclear talks whenever the U.S. is ready.

Oversight Committee: Trump advisers pushed for nuclear exports to Saudi Arabia » Democrats on the House Oversight Committee have released a report that says senior Trump administration officials pushed a potentially illegal plan to build nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin has more.

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: The report claimed that top officials wanted to develop “dozens of nuclear power plants” in the region. It named former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, among others.

It accused them of ignoring the advice of White House lawyers, who warned the effort could violate a law that requires Congress to approve exports of nuclear technology.

The committee also alleges Flynn had conflicts of interest due to his relationship with an outside group.

Flynn’s successor, H.R. McMaster, canceled the plan but the report warned some iteration of it may still be under consideration.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin.

Trump admin pulling funding for California bullet train » The Trump administration is pulling the plug on nearly a billion dollars in grant money for California’s high-speed train project. And the U.S. Department of Transportation wants the state to pay back $2.5 billion in federal funds it’s already spent.

Last week, California’s Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom said the current plans for the project are too slow and costly and he would focus instead on building a line through the Central Valley. Cost estimates for the San Francisco to LA bullet train have more than doubled since the original proposal. They now stand at $77 billion.

The Department of Transportation says it’s pulling the funds because California has mismanaged the project. But Governor Newsom says it’s merely political payback for the state’s lawsuit against President Trump’s emergency declaration to build a border wall.

MS moving forward with abortion law » Mississippi is moving forward with what would be one of the strongest abortion laws in the country. GOP Governor Phil Bryant said Wednesday…

BRYANT: It would say that when that child begins to live through the detection of that heartbeat, sometime between six and nine weeks, you can’t destroy that life. You can’t take that life in the womb. 

While the law would protect the lives of unborn children after a heartbeat is detected, it does make some exceptions. The bill allows abortions to prevent death or serious injury to a pregnant woman.  

The law is sure to draw legal challenges. Courts have struck similar laws in other states.

A judge stuck down a separate Mississippi law last year banning abortions after 15 weeks. The state has appealed that ruling.

Meantime, Arkansas this week became to fifth state to pass a so-called “triggered” ban on almost all abortions. It would take effect in the event the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

Family of Covington student sues Washington Post » The parents of a Covington Catholic High School student at the center of a viral video controversy last month are suing The Washington Post for defamation. WORLD Radio’s Sarah Schweinsberg has that story.

SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: The internet exploded last month when a video surfaced showing Nicholas Sandmann smiling as he stood face to face with a Native American protester near the March for Life in Washington.

The video appeared to show the students in red “Make America Great Again” caps mocking Native American activist Nathan Phillips. But additional footage revealed the students were waiting for buses to take them home, and tried to avoid a confrontation. They were actually responding to protesters with a separate group, who were verbally accosting people at the event.

Sandmann’s family is now suing the Washington Post for $250 million, the same amount Amazon founder Jeff Bezos paid to buy the paper in 2013.

The suit claims The Post misrepresented the teen’s actions for political purposes. The paper says it will fight the lawsuit.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg.

(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko) Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a state-of-the-nation address in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 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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