Wednesday morning news, January 8, 2020

Nearly 60 killed in stampede at Soleimani funeral » President Trump is expected to address the nation today after Iran fired a series of ballistic missiles at two Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops.

The missiles struck the Ain al-Asad air base west of Baghdad and another base in Erbil in Iraq’s Kurdish region.

AUDIO: [Sound of missile]

There were no immediate reports of American casualties. 

President Trump tweeted last night that—quote—“Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good! We have the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world, by far! I will be making a statement tomorrow morning.”

Iranian state TV said the pre-dawn missile strikes were in revenge for a U.S. airstrike that killed the leader of Iran’s proxy wars, Quds force commander Qassem Soleimani. 

The attack came hours after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif again accused America of a terrorist act, vowing revenge. 

ZARIF: [Speaking in Farsi]

Iran has claimed the U.S. drone strike killed Soleimani while he was in Baghdad on a diplomatic peace mission. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responded on Tuesday. 

POMPEO: Anybody in here believe that? Is there any history that would indicate that it is remotely possible that this kind gentleman, this diplomat of great order, Qassem Soleimani, had traveled to Baghdad for the idea of conducting a peace mission? I made you reporters laugh this morning, that’s fantastic. We know that wasn’t true. 

The White House says on the contrary—the United States caught him red handed as he prepared to coordinate more attacks against Americans and U.S. interests. 

A commercial airliner crashed in Tehran early this morning, killing at least 170 people.

That according to Iran’s state news agency. It said the Boeing 737 crashed shortly after takeoff from Imam Khomeini Airport and that mechanical problems caused the crash. 

The plane was operated by Ukraine International Airlines. Flight-tracking service FlightRadar 24 reported that downed jetliner had only been in service for a little over three years. 

The 737 did not not operate with the same troubled flight system believed to be at the heart of Boeing’s now-grounded Max jetliners. 

France, Europe threaten retaliation in trade war » France is threatening to retaliate if the United States moves forward with proposed tariffs. And French officials say they have the full backing of the European Union. European trade commissioner Phil Hogan warned on Tuesday…

HOGAN: We will look at all possibilities if any tariffs and measures are imposed by the United States. 

The Trump administration is considering tariffs on more than $2 billion worth of French products—including Champagne, cheese, and handbags. That in response to France’s decision to tax the local digital business of major tech companies. U.S. officials say that unfairly targets American tech giants like Google and Facebook. 

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said “sanctions against the French digital tax” would be “unfriendly, inappropriate, and illegitimate.”

But he said U.S. and French negotiators had agreed “to intensify efforts in the coming days” to find a compromise.

Another powerful earthquake rattles Puerto Rico » Another earthquake rocked Puerto Rico on Tuesday. The 6.4 magnitude quake struck off the island’s southwest coast, killing at least one person and injuring eight others. 

Hotel guest Paul Schott said he was jolted from his sleep. 

SCHOTT: Just surveying the surroundings. The power in my room here in Old San Juan is out. 

The predawn quake cut power to the entire U.S. territory. And a large swath of smaller quakes shook southern Puerto Rico throughout the day. 

Governor Wanda Vásquez, declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard. She said some 300,000 households remained without running water late Tuesday, and hundreds had fled to shelters.

Tuesday’s earthquake followed a 10-day string of tremblers, including a 5.8 magnitude quake on Monday. And John Geiger with the U.S. Geological Survey said Puerto Rico still isn’t out of the woods. He said significant aftershocks may follow.

GEIGER: Usually the aftershocks are smaller, but that’s not always the case. There’s always a potential for a larger aftershock. 

He said the odds of another trembler that’s actually larger than Tuesday’s are only about 3 percent. But there’s a 1-in-5 chance of another quake almost as strong—right around magnitude 6.

Venezuela opposition rejects disputed vote, swears in Guaidó » In Venezuela, opposition lawmakers on Tuesday swore in Juan Guaidó for another term as leader of the National Assembly after allies of disputed president Nicolas Maduro moved to replace him. 

Guaidó was expected to easily win reelection in a weekend vote. But as Guaidó and top opposition lawmakers tried to enter the National Assembly building on Sunday, a line of Maduro-controlled security forces in riot gear physically blocked them. 

Meantime, inside the building, a chaotic scene… 

AUDIO: [Sound from Venezuela] 

As lawmakers loyal to Maduro organized a vote for the next leader of the assembly, and claimed that on a show of hands, Luis Parra had defeated Guaidó.

Parra was previously expelled by his party over alleged corruption. 

On Tuesday, Guaidó and other opposition lawmakers finally pushed their way into the building singing the country’s national anthem. 

AUDIO: [Venezuela anthem]

Hours later, 100 of the assembly’s 167 members held a separate vote, reelecting Guaidó.

The United States and more than 50 other nations recognize Guaidó as Venezuela’s rightful leader.

(AP Photo/Matias Delacroix) Opposition leader Juan Guaido argues for National Guards to let him and all opposition lawmakers into the National Assembly, outside the legislature in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020.  

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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