Thursday morning news: September 19, 2019

Trump names new national security adviser » President Trump on Wednesday named his next national security adviser. 

Chief hostage negotiator Robert O’Brien will take the job.  

O’BRIEN: It’s a privilege to serve with the president, and we look forward to another year and a half of peace through strength. We’ve had tremendous foreign policy successes under the president’s leadership. I expect those to continue. 

O’Brien replaces John Bolton, who clashed with the president on a range of issues. President Trump fired Bolton last week. O’Brien will be the fourth person in two years to hold the job. 

In his role at the State Department, O’Brien worked closely with the families of American hostages and advised officials on hostage issues.

Saudi Arabia says evidence in drone attack points to Iran » One of O’Brien’s first challenges will be to address rising tensions with Iran.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for Saudi Arabia’s military pointed a finger at Iran for drone attacks on the country’s oil facilities. 

Colonel Turki al-Malki spoke against a backdrop of broken and burnt drones and pieces of a cruise missile. It’s evidence, he said, from last weekend’s attacks. And he said the evidence leads to the IRGC, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. 

AL-MALKI: We do have a lot of evidence against the IRGC and we will provide it to the United Nations.

Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack. But Yemen is south of Saudi Arabia and the colonel said— “the attack was launched from the north and was unquestionably sponsored by Iran.”

But he stopped short of directly accusing Tehran of launching the assault. 

AL-MALKI: Right now we are working to know exactly the launch point. 

But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking in flight during a trip to Saudi Arabia, said if Iran ordered the hit, it doesn’t matter whose finger was on the trigger. 

POMPEO: It’s not the case that you can subcontract out the devastation of 5 percent of the world’s global energy supply and think that you can absolve yourself from responsibility. 

Pompeo also said U.S. intelligence has “high confidence” that some of the weapons used in the attack are not in the Houthi rebels’ arsenal.

President Trump announced Wednesday that he “instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to substantially increase sanctions” on Iran.

Fed cuts key interest rate again » The Federal Reserve cut its benchmark interest rate Wednesday for a second time this year. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin reports. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: The benchmark rate influences many consumer and business loans. The Fed’s move will reduce that rate by another quarter-point to a range of 1.75 to 2 percent. 

The board approved the cut on a vote of 7-to-3. Two officials wanted to keep rates unchanged, while one argued for a bigger cut. 

Right now, economic expansion looks pretty durable. The job market is still solid and consumer spending is steady. But the Fed is trying to guard against potential problems—including uncertainties caused by the trade war with China, slower global growth, and a slump in U.S. manufacturing. 

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin. 

Report shows abortions fell in 2017 to lowest level in four decades » A new report reveals that in 2017, the number of babies who died from abortion hit its lowest point since the practice became legal in 1973. 

But while the abortion rate dropped, the total still reached more than 860,000. That’s according to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute.

The number of abortion facilities also dropped between 2011 and 2017, from 839 to 808.

Total abortions in the United States peaked in 1990 at 1.6 million.

Trump admin revoking CA’s right to set fuel econ standards » The Trump administration is taking away California’s long standing authority to set tighter fuel efficiency standards than the rest of the country. WORLD Radio’s Anna Johansen has more. 

ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER: The Clean Air Act of 1970 allowed the Environmental Protection Agency to grant waivers to California to set its own air pollution standards. And for decades, it has. 

Other states are allowed to piggyback on California’s emission rules and choose those over the national standards. Right now a dozen states and the District of Columbia do exactly that.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said this week that it doesn’t make sense to have two sets of fuel efficiency standards in the country. He said—quote—”We embrace federalism and the role of the states, but federalism does not mean that one state can dictate standards for the nation.” 

President Trump argued Wednesday that the move will make vehicles safer and cheaper. And he argued that will help the environment by encouraging more people to buy newer, more efficient cars. 

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra disagrees. He said the move is bad for the environment and vowed to fight it in court. 

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Anna Johansen. 

Israeli election yields no clear winner » Election officials in Israel have counted more than 90 percent of the votes from Tuesday’s election. And the path forward for Israel’s government and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is just as cloudy as it was on Monday. 

Israel’s parliament consists of 120 seats. As of Wednesday night, challenger Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party had captured 33 of them—while Netanyahu’s Likud party had 32 seats.

Gantz celebrated, telling supporters they had thwarted Netanyahu’s bid to regain a majority. 

AUDIO: [Sound of Gantz rally]

But neither party is now in a position to control a majority coalition with their smaller allies. And that leaves maverick politician Avigdor Lieberman as the key power broker.

He heads the Yisrael Beitenu party. It won at least eight seats. Lieberman has called for a broad unity government with the two major parties.

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci) President Donald Trump and Robert O’Brien, just named as the new national security adviser, board Air Force One at Los Angeles International Airport, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, in Los Angeles. 

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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