Thursday morning news: November 7, 2019

House panels plan first public impeachment hearings » House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said three diplomats will testify publicly on Capitol Hill next week … as House panels begin open hearings in the impeachment inquiry. 

SCHIFF: We will be beginning with the testimony of Ambassador Taylor and Ambassador Kent on Wednesday. And we will have Ambassador Yovanovich testify on Friday. 

Marie Yovanovitch is former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. George Kent is deputy assistant secretary. And William Taylor is a top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine.

On Wednesday, House panels published hundreds of pages of Taylor’s earlier private testimony. Taylor told lawmakers last month that it was his clear understanding … that President Trump had been holding back military aid for Ukraine … until the country agreed to investigate Democrats and a company linked to the Biden family.

GOP Congressman Jim Jordan complained that Democrats are conveniently leaving one witness out of their first public hearing: Kurt Volker.

JORDAN: The professional here, the guy who has been focused on this, who is the special envoy to Ukraine, backed all that up in his testimony, but no, no one wants to talk about that. Democrats don’t want to call him as the first witness, even though he was the first witness to be deposed. 

Volker previously testified that he saw no quid pro quo in dealings with Ukraine. 

Former Attorney Gen. Sessions expected to bid for Senate return » Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions will announce today that he’s running for his old U-S Senate seat in Alabama. That according to the Associated Press, citing two unnamed Republicans. 

The 72-year-old will return to the political stage a year after stepping down as attorney general amid a rocky relationship with the White House. 

Federal judge strikes down conscience rights of clinicians » A federal judge in New York shot down a Trump administration regulation that protected the rights of pro-life healthcare workers. WORLD Radio’s Anna Johansen has more. 

ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER: U-S District Judge Paul Engelmayer ruled Wednesday that the Department of Health and Human Services exceeded its authority … in crafting a rule to protect First Amendment conscience rights. 

The rule would have allowed medical workers to opt out of participating in abortions or other procedures that violate their moral or religous beliefs. 

Engelmayer based his ruling on the way H-H-S structured and planned to implement the regulation. But he denied a broader argument by plaintiffs. They claimed that allowing people to opt out of taking part in abortions on religious grounds … amounted to a state establishment of religion. The judge’s denial of that argument leaves the door open for redrafting the rule to survive a court challenge.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Anna Johansen.

Twitter workers accused of spying for Saudis » The Saudi government recruited two Twitter employees to spy on users. That according to federal prosecutors on Wednesday. 

A complaint unsealed in U-S District Court in San Francisco detailed the scheme. It said the Saudi government paid Twitter employees to get the personal account information of its critics.

It alleged that the Saudis paid the Twitter workers with a designer watch and tens of thousands of dollars … funneled into secret bank accounts. 

One of the suspects, Ahmad Abouammo, is in custody in Seattle. The other suspect, Ali Alzabarah flew to Saudi Arabia before authorities had enough evidence to arrest him. Both face multiple charges. 

Turkey captures wife of slain ISIS leader » Turkey has captured a wife of slain ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made that announcement on Wednesday. 

ERDOGAN (in Turkish): [up from 3.5 to 6.5 sec]

He did not say when or how the woman was captured or identify her by name. Al-Baghdadi was known to have four wives. 

Erdogan also criticized the United States for leading what he called a “communications campaign” about Baghdadi’s slaying.

Erdogan’s announcement comes just days after Turkish forces captured al-Baghdadi’s elder sister, identified as Rasmiya Awad, in northwestern Syria.

U.S. doctors try CRISPR gene editing for cancer » The first attempt in the United States to use a gene editing tool called CRISPR against cancer … appears safe in the three patients who have had it so far. But doctors say it’s still too soon to know how effective it will be. WORLD Radio’s Leigh Jones has that story. 

LEIGH JONES, REPORTER: The doctors were able to take immune system cells from the patients’ blood and alter them genetically to help them recognize and fight cancer. And they were able to do it with minimal and manageable side effects.

The treatment deletes three genes that might have been hindering these cells’ ability to attack the disease, and adds a new, fourth feature to help them do the job.

This study is not aimed at changing DNA within a person’s body. Instead it seeks to remove, alter, and give back to the patient cells that are super-powered to fight their cancer — a form of immunotherapy.

After two to three months, one patient’s cancer continued to worsen and another was stable. The third patient was treated too recently to know how she’ll fare. The plan is to treat 15 more patients and assess safety and how well the treatment works.

Some cancer specialists say while it’s still very early, they’re incredibly encouraged by the tests so far. 

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Leigh Jones. 

T-Mobile, Sprint set to merge after FCC approval »

SOUND (T-Mobile commercial): Here are even more reasons to join T-Mobile. 

It appears Sprint will soon be joining T-Mobile. 

The Federal Communications Commission approved the merger of the two companies … on one condition: 

T-Mobile and Sprint have to follow through on a promise to expand 5G mobile phone coverage to rural areas once they’ve combined their assets. 

Democratic members of the FCC opposed the merger. They say consolidation and the shrinking number of cellphone providers … means fewer jobs and higher prices for consumers. 

The Federal Trade Commission just announced that another major cellphone provider, AT&T … has to pay customers back $60 million dollars. That’s for slowing data speeds on supposedly unlimited high-speed plans.

I’m Kent Covington.

Straight ahead: the effort to revamp the TV rating system.

Plus, a theater troop in Chicago with very small cast members.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., talks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

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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