Friday morning news: May 31, 2019

Rising rivers continue to flood several states » Floodwaters continue to swamp several states, as rivers overflow.

In Arkansas, some communities are already under water. And Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. warned residents the worst is yet to come.

SCOTT: We are in unprecedented times here in Arkansas. And the Arkansas River will reach a historic level. We’ve just received information that it’s now going to be 29 feet within the crest next week on Wednesday, June the 5th. 

And the Arkansas Emergency Management Department says its worried about the state’s levees. Officials say they’ve never been tested quite like this and they may not hold.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said his state will ask the federal government for help. But he said relief won’t come overnight.  

HUTCHISON: It’s not going to happen tomorrow of the next day. It takes its time to be able to make the damage assessments and put them in place so that we can ask for the appropriate level of federal assistance. 

Officials have declared emergencies in several states. And Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has activated the National Guard amid record-breaking floods along the Mississippi River in his state.

Louisiana passes heartbeat bill » Louisiana approved a new law on Thursday to protect unborn  babies from abortion after they have a detectable heartbeat. That as some Democrats in the state are splitting with their party on the issue.

Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards signed the heartbeat bill into law yesterday.

And the man who wrote the bill, Democratic state Senator John Milkovich, declared…

MILKOVICH: We choose to confront the culture of death.

Republicans control both the state House and Senate in Louisiana, and the bill enjoyed plenty of GOP support—passing overwhelmingly in both chambers.

The law includes exceptions to protect the life of the mother but does not include exceptions for pregnancies stemming from rape or incest. Abortionists in violation of the law would face a prison sentence of up to two years and lose their medical license.

Trump hits Mexico with 5 percent tariff » Imports from Mexico are about to get a little more expensive.

President Trump slapped a new tariff on all Mexican goods Thursday in a bid to pressure Mexico to stop the flow of migrants across the southern border. The president announced the 5 percent tax on Twitter.

He said the tariff will go into effect June 10th and will continue to increase until, quote— “the illegal immigration problem is remedied.” The tax will grow by 5 percent each month if the president is not satisfied with Mexico’s response.

It will top out at 25 percent on October 1st.

The economic pressure campaign could torpedo the new joint trade agreement between the two countries and Canada. It’s supposed to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.

During a visit to Canada earlier Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence said he expected Congress to approve the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement this summer.

Officials search for 21 missing after tour boat capsizes in Budapest » Officials in Budapest, Hungary, on Thursday resumed searching for 21 people still missing after a sightseeing boat capsized in the Danube River. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin has that story.

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: The tour boat was cruising near the Hungarian parliament building Wednesday when it collided with a larger cruise ship during a heavy downpour. The boat flipped and sank.

More than 30 people were on board. At least 7 are confirmed dead. Officials rushed seven others to an area hospital. They’re listed in stable condition.

Those still missing include 19 South Korean tourists and two Hungarian crew members.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry says the tourists were not wearing life jackets at the time.

The accident is under criminal investigation. On Thursday, police arrested the captain of the larger ship that collided with the tour boat.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin.

DNC announces new criteria for presidential debates » The Democratic National Committee this week announced new criteria for presidential candidates hoping to take the stage in the party’s second round of debates.

With two-dozen White House hopefuls battling for the party’s nomination, the DNC’s new parameters will likely help sift the crop of candidates.

To take part in its September debate, candidates must reach two percent in four approved polls. They must also pull in contributions from a minimum of 130,000 unique donors before August 28th.

That donor list must include a minimum of 400 individuals in at least 20 states.

Right now about a half-dozen candidates would likely hit the new marks with relative ease. Several others are on the fence.

Former U.S. Senator Thad Cochran dies » Former Republican U.S. Senator Thad Cochran has died. The Mississippi lawmaker served 45 years in Washington.

COCHRAN: The committee on appropriations convenes a hearing to review the president’s supplemental budget request.

Cohran heard there in 2006. He chaired that committee on two occasions, among others.  

Known for working across party lines, Cochran traveled the globe with Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont. Leahy said “I have never had a closer friend in the Senate.”

Cochran was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1978, after six years in the House. He won reelection in 2014, but announced last year he would retire due to his health.

His final chief of staff, Brad White, said Cochran died Thursday at a veterans’ nursing home in Oxford, Mississippi. Thad Cochran was 81 years old.

(AP Photo/Michael Woods) Local residents watch as the Arkansas River floods Harry E. Kelley River Park Thursday, May 30, 2019, in Fort Smith, Ark. 

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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