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Tuesday morning news: December 19, 2023

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WORLD Radio - Tuesday morning news: December 19, 2023

News of the day, including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visits Israel to show U.S. support and criticizes Iran-backed Houthi rebels for attacking American ships


U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin after a meeting in Tel Aviv, Israel Associated Press/Photo by Maya Alleruzzo

AUSTIN: It’s good to be back in Israel, even in these difficult days — especially in these difficult days.

Austin in Israel » Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin heard there in a joint news conference with his Israeli counterpart on Monday.

Austin again reaffirmed what he called America’s “ironclad” support for Israel’s mission to eradicate Hamas and prevent another terrorist attack by the group.

But he also said talks have centered on how to reduce harm to civilians in Gaza.

AUSTIN: We also have some great thoughts about how to transition from high-intensity operations to lower intensity and more surgical operations.

Israel » Meantime, the head of the CIA jetted to Europe for talks with leaders from Israel and Qatar Monday in an effort to broker a new cease-fire and free more of the hostages still held by Hamas.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby:

KIRBY: I can’t say we’re at a point where another deal is imminent. But we are working literally every day on this, on the ground and back here in Washington.

Pressure is growing, as France, the U.K. and Germany — some of Israel’s closest allies — joined global calls for a cease-fire over the weekend.

Iran-backed terror in Red Sea » In Washington, some lawmakers are calling for tougher action against Iran after a series of attacks on commercial vessels in the Middle East. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell:

MCCONNELL: Iran’s network of terrorists is making an artery that carries nearly 12 percent of global trade essentially inoperable. In recent days, four of the world’s five largest shipping companies have suspended operations in the Red Sea.

On Monday, the USS Carney responded to a distress signal from a shipping vessel saying it was under attack from several projectiles.

For weeks, Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels have been attacking ships in the area.

The United States has responded with limited attacks against Iranian proxy forces in the region.

Navalny concerns » Russian courts have halted all cases against Vladimir Putin’s most high-profile critic, Alexei Nalvany after he disappeared. WORLD’s Anna Johansen Brown has that story.

ANNA JOHANSEN BROWN: Attorneys for the opposition leader say they haven’t heard from him in nearly two weeks.

He’s been in the Russian prison system since January 2021 on what Western governments believe were trumped up charges.

That came after Navalny survived a nerve agent poisoning which U.S. intelligence says was likely a Kremlin-ordered assassination attempt.

Navalny’s supporters fear he is being hidden ahead of Russia’s presidential election in March with Putin seeking to remain in power for at least six more years.

For WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen Brown.

Texas immigration » Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has signed several bills into law designed to address the border crisis in his state.

One of those bills devotes $1.5 billion dollars for continued construction of the border wall in Texas.

ABBOTT: It includes also $40 million dollars for the Texas Dept of Public Safety for border security operations and increased law enforcement presence.

A new law also gives police powers to arrest migrants on illegal entry, and empower local judges to order them to leave the country, though that has been expected to face swift legal challenges.

Tennessee sues BlackRock » The state of Tennessee is suing the world’s largest asset management company, BlackRock, in a groundbreaking case over what critics call “woke capitalism.” WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has more.

KRISTEN FLAVIN: BlackRock is one of the most powerful organizations on the planet as it manages nearly 10 Trillion dollars globally.

But critics say it’s been using that power to push left-of-center social and political agendas.

In the first-of-its-kind civil suit Tennessee accuses BlackRock of misleading its clients by prioritizing so-called ESG investments over actual returns for its investors.

“ESG” stands for, environmental, social, and governance.

And many experts say companies increasingly feel pressure to support things like race-based hiring and LGBT activism. That is, assuming they want to remain in the good graces of mammoth asset management firms like BlackRock that control so much of the world’s capital.

The lawsuit seeks legal costs and restitution for consumers.

BlackRock denies that it places political aims above fiduciary duties.

For WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.

I'm Kent Covington.

Straight ahead: what the Vatican says about same-sex couples in the church. Plus, raising reindeer.

This is The World and Everything in It.


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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