Thursday morning news: July 4, 2019

Salute to America event stirs controversy in Washington » A major celebration is planned for today in the nation’s capital. A ceremony President Trump has dubbed a “Salute to America.”

The festivities will include a parade through Washington, a concert, and the traditional fireworks display over the Potomac.

TRUMP: I’m going to be here and I’m going to say a few words, and we’re going to have planes going overhead, the best fighter jets in the world and other planes too, and we’re going to have some tanks stationed outside. 

But the expanded July 4th plans have stirred controversy. Democrats say the president is politicizing Independence Day. The president insists it is an homage to the armed forces. He said he was inspired to launch the ceremony after seeing a Bastille Day celebration in France.

Democrats also complain that it’s a big waste of taxpayer money. The Pentagon and other agencies haven’t said what they expect the event to cost. The Washington Post reported that the National Park Service is diverting $2.5 million to cover costs related to the event. 

President Trump tweeted Wednesday that—quote—“The cost of our great Salute to America tomorrow will be very little compared to what it is worth.”

Navy Seal sentenced for lesser conviction after acquitted of other crimes » A military jury sentenced Navy SEAL Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher on Wednesday to time already served and demotion. That after he was convicted of posing for a picture with the corpse of an enemy fighter. 

But he was acquitted this week of more serious charges. Prosecutors accused him of murdering an ISIS militant in U.S. custody, among other crimes during a 2017 deployment to Iraq.

GALLAGHER: We knew the truth the whole time. We knew I was innocent of these charges the whole time and I overcame it. 

The jury sentenced Gallagher to four months confinement but he’s a free man as he already spent more than 200 days behind bars.

The 40-year-old Gallagher is a Bronze Star recipient and a 19-year Navy veteran. 

DOJ not giving up on citizenship census question » The Justice Department said Wednesday it is still looking for a way to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census. 

The news came a day after an administration lawyer told parties in a lawsuit that the Commerce Department would begin printing census forms without the question. But yesterday President Trump tweeted—quote—“We are absolutely moving forward.”

A Supreme Court ruling last week blocked its inclusion, at least temporarily. But on Wednesday, Justice Department officials told a Maryland judge—quote—“There may be a legally available path.” 

A district court judge overseeing a census lawsuit has ordered the government to clarify its plans no later than Friday.

Pentagon calls Chinese missile test “truly disturbing” » The Pentagon has blasted China for recent military exercises in hotly disputed waters. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin has more. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: Pentagon Spokesman Lt. Colonel Dave Eastburn called a recent Chinese missile launch in the South China Sea “truly disturbing.” 

He said the launch was—quoting here—“in direct contradiction to President Xi’s statement in the Rose Garden in 2015 when he pledged to the U.S., the Asia-Pacific region, and the world that he would not militarize those man-made outposts.” That in a statement to NBC. 

The Chinese military reportedly tested an anti-ship ballistic missile from man-made islands in disputed territory. 

China countered by complaining about U.S. warships sailing through the area. A foreign ministry spokesman said “Who is engaged in stirring up troubles? The international community must see it clearly.”

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin. 

At least 44 dead after airstrike hits migrant detention center near Tripoli » At least 44 people are dead and more than a hundred others wounded in Libya after an airstrike hit a detention center for migrants near Tripoli. 

The airstrike hit a workshop containing weapons and vehicles. But it also hit an adjacent hangar reportedly housing mostly Sudanese and Moroccan migrants. 

It wasn’t immediately clear who was responsible for the strike, but the Tripoli-based government blamed Gen. Khalifa Hifter’s so-called Libyan National Army. 

The United Nations’ refugee agency recently called for the evacuation of that specific facility after a similar strike injured two people. 

Charlie Yaxley is a spokesman with the agency. He called this a preventable tragedy and said the UN is concerned that others housed in Libyan detention centers aren’t safe.  

YAXLEY: There were around 600 people known to be being held inside that detention center. And we are calling now on states to do everything they can to release everyone from every detention center in Libya. 

The airstrike raises concerns about the European Union’s partnership with Libyan militias to prevent migrants from crossing the Mediterranean Sea.

VA revises policy on religious displays » The Department of Veterans Affairs has updated its policy on religious symbols at VA facilities. The decision comes in the wake of a major Supreme Court decision. Sarah Schweinsberg has the details. 

SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: The VA’s revised policy says religious content can be included in displays under—quote—“appropriate circumstances.” It also states that the agency can accept donations of religious materials. And patients and guests can request religious items. 

The changes come after a string of lawsuits over religious displays at VA memorials. Last month the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of keeping the Bladensburg World War I Memorial on public grounds in Maryland.

Yesterday VA Secretary Robert Wilkie—his words—“We want to make sure that all of our veterans and their families feel welcome at VA, no matter their religious beliefs. Protecting religious liberty is a key part of how we accomplish that goal.” 

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg. 

Former Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca dies » Former Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca died Wednesday at the age of 94. 

The company was $5 billion in debt in 1978 when Iacocca took the reins. He convinced the U.S. government to approve $1.5 billion in loan guarantees to keep the automaker afloat. And then made a series of changes that turned the company around. The automaker introduced the K car and the minivan to the U.S. market. 

And he soon became the face of the brand in the 1980s, often appearing in television commercials.

IACOCCA: America, you stuck with us. And here’s the payoff: This year we’re introducing more of what America needs than any other car company. 

Earlier in his career, Iacocca worked at Ford, where he helped launch the Mustang in 1964.

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) Two Bradley Fighting Vehicles flank the stage being prepared in front of the Lincoln Memorial, Wednesday, July 3, 2019, 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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