Pompeo Says ‘There’s No Doubt’ Iran Attacked Two Tankers

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo closes his remarks at the State Department Thursday.

Alex Brandon/AP

hide caption

toggle caption

Alex Brandon/AP

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo doubled down Sunday on the claim that Iran was responsible for attacks on two tankers traveling in the Strait of Hormuz, despite furnishing no new evidence beyond a video distributed last week by the Pentagon.

“There’s no doubt,” Pompeo said on Fox News Sunday. “The intelligence community has lots of data, lots of evidence. The world will come to see much of it, but the American people should rest assured we have high confidence with respect to who conducted these attacks as well as half a dozen other attacks throughout the world.”

Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom have backed up the U.S. claim, which Iran has strenuously denied.

The Norwegian-owned Front Altair caught fire Thursday after what the U.S. described as an attack with mines, The Associated Press reports. Sailors on a passing ship rescued the crew as black smoke billowed off the tanker. The Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous was also struck, NPR‘s Tom Bowman reported, and early assessments suggested the ship was hit by an external explosion.

The Pentagon released a grainy video it says shows an Iranian crew removing an unexploded mine from the hull of one of the tankers.

Saudi Arabia has joined the United States in blaming Tehran.

Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, known by his initials MBS, said his country will not hesitate to deal with threats to the kingdom’s interest, NPR‘s Deborah Amos reports.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said it is “pretty obvious” Iran is to blame, adding, “we actually have video evidence that shows what the Iranians have been doing.”

Iran has dismissed the accusation. NPR‘s Peter Kenyon reports Tehran summoned the U.K. ambassador to protest London’s stance on the tanker attacks.

Other Europeans have been skeptical, including Germany’s Foreign Secretary Heiko Maas.

The U.S. military also accused the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps of trying to shoot down an American drone. The U.S. claims the drone had been observing one of the two tankers that had been attacked when Iran fired a surface to air missile but missed the drone, NPR’s Kenyon reports.

Six tankers have been attacked in the Gulf in recent weeks.

The attacks come as Iran faces renewed U.S. economic pressure. President Trump last year withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal that President Obama signed in 2015 that lifted sanctions in exchange for Iran curbing its nuclear program. Since then, the Trump administration has reimposed sanctions and and refused to renew waivers allowing other countries to import Iranian oil without incurring U.S. sanctions, NPR‘s Bill Chappell has reported.

Associate political scientist Ariane Tabatabai at RAND Corporation told NPR‘s Scott Simon that if Iran is to blame, it could be retaliating against the U.S. measures.

“This is one way for the Iranians to showcase that, if they’re going to be paying the costs of sanctions and political isolation, that they can actually begin to impose similar costs on the United States,” she said.

Senior military figures have lent their credence to the Pentagon video.

Speaking to Morning Edition‘s Rachel Martin, the former commander of USCENTCOM, Admiral William J. Fallon, said the video is “very convincing to me…this video pretty much nails it.”

Pompeo on Sunday said, “we don’t want war,” but he also said the U.S. would guarantee freedom of navigation on the Strait of Hormuz, a major thoroughfare for the global oil trade.

“This is an international challenge,” Pompeo said on Fox. “This is important to the entire globe. The United States is going to make sure that we take all the actions necessary, diplomatic and otherwise, that achieve that outcome.”

He also defended the decision to make an emergency U.S. arms sale to Saudi Arabia, bypassing Congressional approval.

“These past 40 days demonstrate the malign activity that puts Saudis at risk,” Pompeo said. “Saudi Arabia has the right to defend itself. The United States wants to support our important defense partner in the region, and I think moving forward, these arms sales made enormous sense and we’re going to continue to push forward with them.”

NPR‘s David Welna reports that both Republicans and Democrats are trying to undo the sale. Lawmakers say they are motivated by the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which lawmakers have concluded was directed from the top echelons of Riyadh’s leadership. Legislators also oppose providing military support to the Saudi campaign in Yemen, which has resulted in a humanitarian catastrophe.

“I’m usually on the other side of this issue,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. “I’ve been very supportive of arms sales to our partners throughout the world, including Saudi Arabia. But MBS behavior is a game changer.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Notre Dame Holds First Mass Since Fire Devastated The Historic Paris Cathedral

A small group in hard hats gathered on Saturday for Mass in Paris’ Notre Dame cathedral. It was the first Mass since a fire devastated the church in April.

Karine Perret/AFP/Getty Images

hide caption

toggle caption

Karine Perret/AFP/Getty Images

Exactly two months to the day after a fire blazed through the roof and spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, the church held its first Mass on Saturday.

Instead of his traditional miter hat, the archbishop of Paris wore a white hard hat, along with about 30 others in attendance.

The Mass was closed to the public for security reasons, and those there were mostly clergy and people who work on the site.

France’s Culture Minister Franck Riester told French TV on Friday that the structure is still “in a fragile state,” and that the partially damaged vault is not secure and could collapse.

Workers won’t be able to secure the vault until debris from the fire is completely cleared from the cathedral floor. Research teams are using robots to slowly gather and sort the debris.

Thierry Zimmer, deputy director at the Research Laboratory of Historic Monuments, who is working on the cathedral, said it’s “miraculous” that none of the art or objects in the cathedral were damaged by the fire or falling wreckage.

The group attending Mass early Saturday evening gathered in the Chapel of the Virgin next to the choir. It was also a symbolic service in that the cathedral celebrates the consecration of its altar each year on June 16.

The service was broadcast on YouTube by KTO, the French Catholic TV network. Sweeping views of the burned out rooftop and a pile of charred wood and rubble contrasted with the group singing hymns.

In his homily, Archbishop Michel Aupetit described the more than 850-year-old Notre Dame as “the fruit of human genius, a masterpiece of man,” appreciated by everyone, not just Christians.

“This cathedral is a religious place. That’s its sole purpose,” Aupetit said.

He said there are no tourists at the cathedral.

“All who enter here do not come as tourists,” he said. “Many come maybe out of curiosity without knowing why, but they are not the same when they leave because there is a presence here.”

Leaving the service, Monsignor Patrick Gollnisch said it was a “shock” to see the destruction as well as how much was still in tact. He works with Christians in the Near and Middle East and gifted a cross carved from the stone of an Aleppo church he said was destroyed by a missile.

“I think it’s a beautiful spiritual link between Notre Dame and all the churches in the Near East that have been damaged or destroyed,” Gollnisch said. “Notre Dame was an accident, but it’s the same shock to see our cathedral in this state.”

The plaza in front of the cathedral remains closed to the public, but people still gather at the barriers to get a limited view of the damaged church and to take selfies.

Clergy eventually want to install a temporary chapel on the plaza with a replica of the cathedral’s statue of the Virgin Mary so that pilgrims can visit during reconstruction.

French President Emmanuel Macron has set an ambitious deadline of five years to reconstruct and reopen Notre Dame in time for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris. That plan and his suggestion to replace Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc’s 19th-century spire with a modern incarnation have drawn criticism from the public and experts.

Nearly $1 billion in donations have been pledged from around the world for reconstruction, but the French Ministry of Culture said less than 10 percent of that has actually been received.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Boeing CEO Admits Mistake In 737 MAX Communication

Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg speaks during a press conference after the annual shareholders meeting in Chicago on April 29.

Jim Young-Pool/Getty Images

hide caption

toggle caption

Jim Young-Pool/Getty Images

Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg says the company should have been more transparent with regulators and the public when Boeing discovered a safety light was not operating as designed.

Muilenburg made the comments to reporters ahead of the Paris Air Show, Boeing spokesman Gordon Johndroe told NPR.

“We clearly fell short in the implementation of the AOA disagree alert and we clearly should have communicated better with our regulators and the airlines,” Johndroe said in an interview by phone from Paris.

Boeing’s 737 MAX plane has been grounded worldwide since the second of two crashes that together killed 346 people. In both the Lion Air flight in October 2018 and the Ethiopian Airlines flight in March 2019, pilots struggled to overcome a software program known as MCAS that drove the noses of the planes down. Now Boeing is working on a software update that will enable pilots to more easily control their aircraft.

The fatal crashes and the ongoing grounding of its fastest-selling plane have cast a shadow over Boeing’s appearance at the Paris Air Show, which runs June 17-23.

“The company’s presence and activities at the show will demonstrate its commitment to innovation, industry partnerships and safety,” Boeing announced.

Both American Airlines and Southwest Airlines have extended 737 MAX flight cancellations through early September. Previously, both airlines had planned to resume flights in August. American says about 115 flights will be canceled daily, and Southwest says about 100 flights will be removed from its daily schedule.

In his comments, Muilenburg referred to a safety feature connected to the sensors that feed into the MCAS software. The software would trigger when the plane was flying at an angle that might make a stall likely. Boeing designed a warning light to alert pilots when the two “angle of attack” sensors disagreed, which could mean MCAS would be triggered incorrectly. The light was supposed to be standard on all versions of the MAX; however, in practice, it only worked on planes with other safety features that airlines bought for extra cost.

NPR’s Laurel Wamsley has reported that Boeing knew the AOA disagree alert malfunctioned before the Lion Air crash.

Muilenburg conceded that engineers learned in 2017 that the alert light did not work as intended, and he said he was “disappointed” Boeing did not work to make the information more public, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Lynn Lunsford told NPR his office is working with Boeing throughout the testing of the software enhancement.

“We have not set a date for the certification flight,” Lunsford wrote in an email.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

U.S. Continues Dominance In Women’s World Cup With 3-0 Win Over Chile

U.S. players celebrate after teammate Julie Ertz scored their side’s second goal during the Women’s World Cup Group F soccer match between United States and Chile at Parc des Princes in Paris, France on Sunday.

Alessandra Tarantino/AP

hide caption

toggle caption

Alessandra Tarantino/AP

The United States Women’s National Team continued to show why it’s the best team in the world with another stellar performance in the Women’s World Cup. The U.S. defeated Chile 3-0 before a sell-out crowd in Paris.

This is the first time the U.S. has ever played in the French capital. And the crowd that showed up was decidedly pro-USA. It was a gem of a game for the U.S. which controlled play from the beginning with crisp and precise passes that had Chile on the defensive from the first whistle.

It was a different look for the U.S. as there were seven lineup changes to the starting 11 from the last game. Several veterans sat out the game including Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath. It shows the depth of the American squad and the switch-ups didn’t seem to bother the team. The U.S. played most of the first half attacking Chile and continuing to show its dominance this World Cup as the defending champions. Coach Jill Ellis is looking to squeeze the best out of her players as she tests different lineups as critical games of the tournament loom.

There was a lot to like against Chile. Carli Lloyd got the scoring started early with a beautiful left-footed strike from the top of the penalty area in the 11th minute. It was a record goal for the team captain. She becomes the first person to score in six consecutive Women’s World Cup games. The U.S. never let up after that. In the 26th minute, Julie Ertz slammed a spinning header into the back of the net off a corner kick. Carli Lloyd scored again in the 35th minute with a powerful header of her own.

It was a statement game for Lloyd (despite missing a penalty kick in the 81st minute) who came in off the bench in the record-setting 13-0 win against Thailand. Lloyd is playing in her fourth World Cup and now has 10 World Cup goals and moves into third all-time for the USA (Abby Wambach has 14 and Michelle Akers 12). Lloyd is the oldest U.S. player who turns 37 next month.

The U.S. had 25 shots on goal compared to just one by Chile. The Chilean goalkeeper, Christiane Endler, had several sparkling saves to keep the U.S. tally lower. As noted by my colleague Laurel Wamsley who attended the game in Paris’s Parc des Princes stadium: “There were so many shots on the Chile goal, but they were stopped by Endler who had an incredible game. After each shot she stopped, the stadium filled with exasperated cries from U.S. fans.”

If there are any questions in this tournament, it’s about the U.S. goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher. She’s been untested so far and has only had to defend a total of three shots in the first two games.

With the win, the United States is guaranteed to move on to the knockout round of the Women’s World Cup. The U.S. will play its final game of group play against Sweden (which also advanced today) on Thursday. It’s an important match because it will determine whether the U.S. has an easier or more difficult path forward.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Phoenix Mayor Apologies After Video Of Police Drawing Gun On Family Over Stolen Doll

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego pictured here in September 2018. On Saturday, Gallego apologized to the city following an outcry over footage showing police officers pointing a gun and yelling at a family as part of an investigation into a claim that a doll was shoplifted from a Family Dollar store in Phoenix.

Ross D. Franklin/AP

hide caption

toggle caption

Ross D. Franklin/AP

The mayor of Phoenix is apologizing to the city following recently released video showing police officers pointing their guns and threatening to shoot a 22-year-old father who was with his pregnant fiancée and two young daughters. Police say they were investigating allegations that one of the children had shoplifted a doll from a Family Dollar store.

Viral footage of the incident captured by bystanders has already prompted an internal police probe, a $10 million civil rights claim and a chorus of fury on social media. Now, Phoenix Kate Gallego says the police officers’ actions were “completely inappropriate and clearly unprofessional,” calling the recordings “beyond upsetting.”

“I am deeply sorry for what this family went through, and I apologize to our community,” Gallego said on Twitter Saturday evening. “This is not who we are, and I refuse to allow this type of behavior to go unchallenged.”

The episode happened last month when Dravon Ames, 22, his fiancée, Iesha Harper, 24, along with their two young daughters, London Drake, 1, and Island Drake, who is 4, visited a Family Dollar store. Unbeknownst to the parents, one of their daughters had swiped a doll from the store without paying for it.

Police say they were tipped off about the alleged shoplifting by a store employee just as the family’s car was leaving the parking lot, and police followed the car. Police eventually cornered the vehicle in the apartment complex of the family’s babysitter.

A heated standoff ensued.

Cell phone videos taken by witnesses show officers shouting profanities at the family as officers order that they put their hands up. If they did not comply, an officer can be heard saying, “You’re gonna f***ing get shot. Get your f***ing hands up!”

Police wrote in an incident report that they feared the mother was “hiding something,” or was reaching for a gun (No weapons were recovered from the family).

In the parents’ civil rights claim, they say when Harper exited the vehicle, officers injured her 1-year-old daughter by pulling on one of her arms when Harper would not follow an officer’s order to hand over her baby.

The filing from the family alleges that Ames was thrown against a vehicle and kicked so hard that he collapsed before a police officer “kept his knee between the father’s legs. He punched the father very hard in the back for no reason,” the parents’ lawyer, Thomas Horne, wrote in the claim.

Harper passed off her baby to a bystander before police handcuffed her and her fiancé and they were placed in police patrol car.

“I could have shot you in front of your f***ing kids,” an officer said to her, according to the family’s claim.

Horne alleges that the incident violated the family’s civil rights by committing battery, unlawfully imprisoning them and causing the parents and their kids emotional distress. The claim is seeking $10 million in damages.

Since the it happened, the family’s 4-year-old has been experiencing nightmares and wetting the bed out of distress, according to the filing.

Phoenix Police Department Chief Jeri Williams told the public an internal investigation is being conducted over the incident.

“I, like you, am disturbed by the language and the actions of our officer,” Williams said in a video the police department posted to Facebook. “I assure you that this incident is not representative of the majority of Phoenix police officers who serve this city.”

The doll was returned to Family Dollar, officials said. And though nobody faced charges stemming from the alleged shoplifting, authorities issued Ames a traffic ticket for driving on a suspended license and impounded his car.

His lawyer says he is limping from having been roughed up by police, and he now has no way to drive to his job as a warehouse worker.

Gallego, the Phoenix mayor, said in response to the incident, the city will be speeding up its implementation of police body-worn cameras across the entire police department. She has also scheduled a public meeting with the police chief for the community to air its thoughts about the troubling footage of the police interaction.

“We owe it to our residents,” she said. “To give them an open forum to discuss their concerns with us and to propose solutions.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Millions In Argentina And Uruguay Without Electricity After Power Failure

A woman prepares milk bottles Sunday using candles at her home in Montevideo during a power cut.


hide caption

toggle caption


Argentina and Uruguay woke up in darkness Sunday after an unprecedented power failure cascaded across their shared electrical grid, affecting millions of people.

The Edesur electric utility tweeted that “a massive failure” left Argentina and Uruguay without power. The BBC reported that parts of Paraguay were also affected.

Edesur’s spokesperson Alejandra Martinez told Argentinian media “something like this never happened,” according to the BBC.

By about 12 noon local time, Edesur tweeted that it had restored service to 450,000 customers, with hospitals and health centers a priority.

In Buenos Aires, the Constitucion railway station was empty, with trains halted, Bloomberg reported.

MORE: Here is Constitucion railway station during today’s massive energy blackout in Buenos Aires, Argentina #SinLuz #CorteDeLuz pic.twitter.com/LshLNMpnsO

— TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) June 16, 2019

Traffic lights failed across the city, and some shopkeepers ran generators to keep the lights on.

The Argentinian news site Infobae reported that the power cut stopped trains and subway service; however, two airports in Buenos Aires continued to run on generators.

Uruguay’s state energy department wrote that “a flaw in the Argentine network” left Uruguay without light, according to Infobae.

The power outage fell on a day of provincial elections in some of Argentina’s provinces.

The cause of the failure is not clear.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Women’s World Cup: Team USA To Bring All They Have Against Chile

United States’ Alex Morgan, second right, celebrates after scoring her side’s 12th goal during the Women’s World Cup Group F soccer match between United States and Thailand at the Stade Auguste-Delaune in Reims, France on Tuesday.

Alessandra Tarantino/AP

hide caption

toggle caption

Alessandra Tarantino/AP

When the U.S. plays Chile on Sunday at the Parc des Princes in their second match of the Women’s World Cup, it will be the first time the U.S. women’s team has ever played in Paris. But the squad is certainly not unknown.

In their record-setting 13-0 blowout of Thailand last Tuesday night, the Americans made clear that they are here with one mission: to win the Cup. They offered strong evidence that they will play every game with all they have.

If the next few matches go as expected, the U.S. is headed straight to a quarterfinal match against host country France – a squad that has looked fearsome in its first two games. In a press conference on Saturday, U.S. Coach Jill Ellis was asked: Would she ever tell her team to play less than 100% to avoid encountering France so early in the tournament?

That’d be a no, Ellis indicated.

“I struggle to tell my team not to tackle each other in training the day before [matches],” she said. “At this point your focus is on yourself. You put yourself in the best position to advance in this tournament.”

Chile lost in its opening match against Sweden, 0-2. But the match was closer than the scoreline suggests. Chile held Sweden scoreless most of the game – then a rain delay was called with 18 minutes left on the clock. Sweden figured some things out during the delay, and they scored twice before the final whistle.

Chile is going to be hungry for a win – they need an upset if they are to continue to the next round. One player to watch is the team’s goalkeeper Christiane Endler. Her father is German and her mother is Chilean; she played soccer at University of South Florida and now plays for top-tier French club PSG.

La Roja, as Chile’s team is known, finished second to Brazil in qualifying for the Cup. They pulled off a 4-0 win over Argentina to clinch their berth in the tournament. The U.S. and Chile played twice in the fall of 2018 – until then, they had never met. Those friendlies, played in California, saw the U.S. win 3-0 and 4-0.

The U.S. offense, with its skilled attackers and deep bench, will be hard for most teams here to stop. Its defense, though, is yet untested. Sunday’s match could offer more clues, if Chile is able to gain enough possession to make a run at the U.S. goal.

The teams will take the pitch in front of a sellout of crowd of some 45,000 people.

“The first game had so many fans it almost felt like a home game,” U.S. midfielder Lindsey Horan said Saturday at the stadium. “For us to be here, in Paris, kind of the heart of it all … is absolutely incredible. We’re just all excited for this next game.”

The Yanks will have at least one fan looking down at them from above: Astronaut Anne McClain tweeted a view of the stadium as seen from the International Space Station. She says the crew will be watching.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)