10 things you need to know today: May 10, 2018
Trump welcomes home three Americans released by North Korea, Israel strikes Iranian targets in Syria as tensions rise, and more
Trump welcomes home 3 Americans freed by North Korea
President Trump gave a hero's welcome to three Americans freed by North Korea when they arrived at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C., early Thursday. North Korea released the men, Kim Dong Chul, Tony Kim, and Kim Hak Song, during a visit by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in preparation for a summit with Trump to discuss Pyongyang's denuclearization. The White House praised the release as a "gesture of goodwill." "We want to thank Kim Jong Un, who was really excellent," Trump said. "The fact we were able to get them out so soon was a tribute to a lot of things including a certain process that is taking place right now."
Israel strikes Iranian targets in Syria
Israel launched massive strikes against Iranian weapons depots, intelligence centers, and logistics facilities in Syria overnight in retaliation for what it described as an unsuccessful Iranian rocket attack against its forces in the Golan Heights. "If it rains in Israel, it will pour in Iran," Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said. The clash was the latest sign of rising tensions in the Middle East since President Trump this week announced he was withdrawing the U.S. from the multinational Obama-era nuclear deal with Tehran. Israel has hit Iranian forces in Syria with airstrikes before, but the attack on the Golan Heights marked a rare counterpunch by Iran, which has built extensive military infrastructure in Syria.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to close due to threat of explosive eruption
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park announced Wednesday that it would temporarily shut down on Friday due to the danger that the Kilauea volcano could soon send boulders and ash shooting from its summit crater in an explosive eruption. The last such event occurred nearly a century ago. Scientists said Wednesday the risks of an explosive summit eruption will rise in coming weeks as magma drains down the volcano's side toward a residential area where lava already has seeped out of fissures in the earth, destroying 36 structures, including 26 homes. "It seems pretty safe to me right now but they'd know best," said one park visitor from Canada. "We don't know what's going on underground."
Saudi minister says his country will build nukes if Iran does
Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Adel Al-Jubeir, told CNN on Wednesday that his country would develop atomic weapons if Iran tries to now that the U.S. has scrapped the Iran nuclear deal. "We will do whatever it takes to protect our people," he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "We have made it very clear that if Iran acquires a nuclear capability we will do everything we can to do the same." Al-Jubeir also praised Trump for withdrawing from the 2015 agreement under which Iran pledged to stop enriching uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. "We believe the nuclear deal was flawed," he said, saying it should curb both Iran's ballistic missile program and its support for terrorism.
CIA nominee Haspel grilled about interrogations in confirmation hearing
President Trump's nominee to lead the CIA, Gina Haspel, faced a divided Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday. Many lawmakers praised Haspel's decades of service, while others expressed concern about her work in 2002 at a "black site" in Thailand where detainees were waterboarded. Haspel stressed that "on my watch, CIA will not restart such a detention and interrogation program," although she dodged direct questions about whether she viewed the agency's decisions as immoral or ineffective. Haspel praised the "extraordinary work" the CIA did to keep the U.S. safe after 9/11. Democratic Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), the committee's vice chairman, said in his opening remarks that Haspel's stated commitment to not restarting controversial interrogation techniques "is not enough."
McCain urges Senate colleagues not to confirm Haspel as CIA chief
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Wednesday urged his fellow senators to reject the nomination of Gina Haspel as CIA director. Haspel, a more than 30-year CIA veteran, oversaw a "black site" in Thailand where terrorism suspects were waterboarded in 2002. McCain was a POW in the Vietnam era and has been absent during the debate on Haspel's nomination as he is treated for brain cancer. After Haspel's Wednesday confirmation hearing, McCain said in a statement that he believed Haspel was a "patriot who loves our country," but that her "role in overseeing the use of torture by Americans is disturbing. Her refusal to acknowledge torture's immorality is disqualifying."
Cohen got $1.2 million from Novartis after promising White House access
President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, signed a $1.2 million contract with drugmaker Novartis in February 2017 on the promise that he could help the company gain access to the president and administration insiders, Stat reports. "He reached out to us," a Novartis employee told Stat. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team has spoken to the Swiss pharmaceutical giant about the payments. On Tuesday, The New York Times initially reported that Cohen's Essential Consultants LLC had at least $4.4 million pass through it, including $500,000 from Columbus Nova, a New York investment firm with deep ties to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. Cohen is under federal investigation for financial crimes.
28 more fall ill in E. coli outbreak from romaine lettuce
Twenty-eight more people in four states have been sickened in a multi-state E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce, the Centers for Disease Control said Wednesday. A total of 149 people ranging in age from 1 to 88 now have fallen ill in 29 states, and one has died. Sixty-four of the victims have been hospitalized, 17 of them with kidney failure. Investigators have traced the problem to lettuce tainted with bacteria that was grown in the Yuma, Arizona, area. Officials said last month that "dozens" of farms were possible sources. "You're looking at more of a web," Dr. Stic Harris, director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation Network, said at the time.
Opposition wins surprise victory in Malaysia elections
An opposition alliance led by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad won 113 of the 222 seats in Malaysia's parliament, setting him up to return to power at age 92 and ending 60 years of one-party rule. He will be the oldest elected leader in the world. Mahathir and his allies upset the coalition that has controlled the Southeast Asian nation since it gained independence from Britain more than 60 years ago. Mahathir, who served in the office for 22 years, came out of retirement to oppose his former protégé, scandal-plagued Prime Minister Najib Razak. "We are not seeking revenge, we want to restore the rule of law," Mahathir said.
Mormon Church ends relationship with Boy Scouts
The Mormon Church is severing its ties with the Boy Scouts of America after 105 years as it develops its own youth programs. The church said it made the decision jointly with the Boy Scouts, adding that the change would go into effect at the end of the year. A year ago, Mormon leaders announced that they would break off from the Boy Scouts in programs for 14- to 18-year-olds, but continue participating in programs for younger boys. Mormons account for 19 percent of the Boy Scouts' 2.3 million members. The church's decision came after a period of change in which the Boy Scouts reversed a century-old policy by announcing it would admit transgender boys, and, more recently, said it would start letting girls join.