Thursday morning news: January 2, 2020

Tensions escalate with Iran following embassy attack » Tensions with Iran are once again on the rise after dozens of Iran-supported militiamen attacked the U.S. Embassy in Iraq this week.

The Trump administration says it has no doubt Iran was behind it. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo… 

POMPEO: We will continue to hold the Islamic Republic of Iran accountable wherever we find their malign activity, and we’ll make sure we have the resources to do so. 

And President Trump tweeted—quote—“Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities. They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat.”

About 750 U.S. troops are deploying to the Middle East. Defense Secretary Mark Esper called that a “precautionary action.”

Several thousand more are standing by for possible deployment in the next several days.

Fourteen thousand U.S. troops have already deployed to the Gulf region since May amid concerns about Iranian aggression. 

Trump says some vaping flavors may be pulled from market » President Trump says the federal government will soon announce a new strategy to tackle underage vaping. He said his administration is determined to protect families while also protecting the vaping industry. He suggested that part of that plan is to temporarily pull “certain flavors” of e-cigarettes off the market. 

TRUMP: Flavors will come off. They’re going to be checked. We want to make it—people have died from this. They’ve died from vaping. We think we understand why. But we’re doing a very exhaustive examination, and hopefully everything will be back on the market very, very shortly. 

The president said vaping is not all bad, noting that it’s helped many people to quit smoking.

Beginning in May, all e-cigarettes will need to undergo FDA review. Only those that can demonstrate a public health benefit will be allowed to stay on the market.

Australian military carries out relief missions amid wildfires » Australia deployed Navy ships and aircraft Wednesday to help communities ravaged by catastrophic wildfires. They’re bringing food, water, and fuel to areas like the coastal town Mallacoota, Victoria where flames have cut off roadways. 

Some 4,000 people there fled to the shore this week as flames swept across the area. Tourist Sherelle Williamson said the sky changed color almost in an instant. 

WILLIAMSON: It’s hard to explain in words just the darkness that came over so quick. Within 20 minutes it was a bit like this, and then it was pitch black and hazy. You couldn’t see in front of you.  The kids were petrified, even as older teenagers. Yeah, it was pretty terrifying.

Mallacoota resident Jann Gilbert said she found only charred remains where her home once stood. 

GILBERT: All of my possessions have been totally incinerated. Everything—There is simply nothing left except ash. 

The wildfires have killed at least 17 people nationwide while consuming nearly a thousand homes. 

Netanyahu seeks immunity from corruption charges ahead election » Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday he would seek immunity from corruption charges. That will likely delay any trial until after March elections. At that point he may have a majority coalition that will shield him from prosecution.

Israel’s attorney general indicted Netanyahu in November on multiple corruption charges. At a press conference Wednesday, the prime minister again called the charges partisan and false. He said the law is designed to—his words—“protect elected officials from tailored lawsuits.” 

NETANYAHU: [in Hebrew]

He added that immunity is always temporary and—quoting here—“It is my intention to stand before the court to shatter all the fabricated accusations against me.” 

Netanyahu failed to form a governing majority after back-to-back elections last year. The March election gives him a third shot at remaining in office.

Jack Sheldon dies » Actor, singer, and acclaimed jazz musician Jack Sheldon has died. His trumpet once graced the Grammy Award-winning song “The Shadow of Your Smile.” 

MUSIC: [The Shadow of Your Smile]

He played alongside jazz and pop greats like Benny Goodman and Frank Sinatra.

Many TV viewers will remember him as the sidekick to talk show host Merv Griffin. Others will remember his distinctive voice, which helped to teach a generation of Americans how the federal government works. 

MUSIC: I’m just a bill, yes I’m only a bill, and I’m sitting here on Capitol Hill. 

That from the animated series Schoolhouse Rock. As an actor, he reveled in playing the wise guy on stage and on screen, with TV credits including the 1960s sitcom “Run Buddy Run.” He also appeared in episodes of  “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” 

Sheldon died of natural causes. He was 88 years old. 

David Stern dies » Former NBA commissioner David Stern has also died. He was the league’s longest-serving commissioner, holding the job for 30 years. 

By the time he left his position in 2014, a league that had struggled for a foothold had grown into a more than $5 billion a year industry and made NBA basketball perhaps the world’s most popular sport after soccer.

Stern was 77 years old. He suffered a brain hemorrhage last month.

(Abir Sultan /Pool photo via AP) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, Israel, Sunday, Dec. 29, 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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