Morning News Break Trump again defends Saudi rulers against allegations they had a role in a journalist's disappearance. The federal deficit jumped 17 percent over a year ago. Ebola infections surge in Congo.
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Morning News Break

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Morning News Break

Morning News Break

Morning News Break

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Trump again defends Saudi rulers against allegations they had a role in a journalist's disappearance. The federal deficit jumped 17 percent over a year ago. Ebola infections surge in Congo.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

What's the real purpose of a diplomatic mission by Mike Pompeo?

NOEL KING, HOST:

President Trump sent the secretary of state to look into a murder. But at least in public, Pompeo has offered many smiles while not asking very many questions. Saudi Arabia is suspected of having a writer killed, so Pompeo flew to Riyadh for an apparently friendly meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CROWN PRINCE MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN: I hope you don't have jet lag.

MIKE POMPEO: (Laughter) In a little while. But yeah - so far, so good.

SALMAN: That's good.

POMPEO: Yes.

SALMAN: (Unintelligible).

POMPEO: And thank you for hosting me at such short notice, the two of you.

SALMAN: Of course.

KING: Today Pompeo has moved on to Turkey, where the writer Jamal Khashoggi was last seen walking into a Saudi Consulate. And this murder is complicating relations with a country that the Trump administration depends on.

INSKEEP: NPR's Michele Kelemen is traveling with the secretary of state. And she joins us from the airport, I believe, in Ankara, Turkey.

Hi there, Michele.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Hi there, Steve.

INSKEEP: OK. So Mike Pompeo is in Turkey. He has been talking with reporters about this quick trip through Saudi Arabia. Let's hear what he told reporters a little bit earlier.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

POMPEO: They told me they were going to conduct a thorough, complete, transparent investigation. They made a commitment, too, to hold anyone connected to any wrongdoing that may be found accountable for that. Whether they are a senior officer or official, they promised accountability.

INSKEEP: OK. So they're going to hold people responsible accountable. And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the room in Riyadh with people who allegedly know everything. Did he learn anything?

KELEMEN: Well, it's not very clear. I mean, he said - and I found this pretty astounding. We asked him directly, did the Saudis tell you that they killed Khashoggi? And he said he didn't want to discuss the facts in the case, and he said the Saudis didn't either. He said that was reasonable to give them time to investigate. And he also called this trip incredibly successful because, he said, they agreed to fully investigate this - which, by the way, is something they've said before. And of course you know, early on, they said that Khashoggi left the consulate. And their story seems to be changing. But we didn't really hear Pompeo weigh in on any of that directly.

INSKEEP: OK. So he hasn't actually learned anything, although he says he got a promise of an investigation from the people who are suspected of being behind the killing. I want to ask about something else, Michele, because now you're in Turkey, which is where Khashoggi was last seen. He was walking into this consulate. There is a Saudi consul general, a top official, who's now been allowed to leave Turkey, which does raise the question, how much cooperation are the Saudis giving the Turkish investigators?

KELEMEN: Well, the Turks say they want full cooperation. They were able to search the consulate. But they've yet to be able to search the consul general's residence, as you mentioned, as they wanted to. So it looks like there's going to be some bumps in the road. That's clearly something that Pompeo's been talking about here.

INSKEEP: I guess we should just remember this man, Khashoggi, was not a U.S. citizen - or maybe we should say he is; we don't have confirmation of his death - but was a U.S. resident - correct? - As well as a writer for an American newspaper. This is someone with connections to the United States.

KELEMEN: He was, yes, a contributor to The Washington Post - so definitely had that connection to the United States.

INSKEEP: OK. We'll see if we learn more facts there.

There's also something else going on. Turkey has been under sanction by the United States because of a detention of an American pastor who has now been released. Does Turkey gain any benefit for that?

KELEMEN: Well, it's not clear that the U.S. is ready to ease any sanctions related to Pastor Brunson's case. There are some other concerns that the U.S. has. There are several Turkish Americans who have been jailed here, also swept up in that crackdown following a coup attempt. And there are three locally employed State Department employees who are in jail. And Pompeo met here at the embassy with the families of those local employees.

INSKEEP: OK. Thanks for the update. That's NPR's Michele Kelemen in Ankara, Turkey.

KELEMEN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: Let's get an update on the U.S. economy.

KING: Yeah. If you don't like the stock market, think of it like that old joke about the weather. Wait five minutes. The stock market took a dive last week, but it came roaring back yesterday, climbing more than 500 points to recover most investor losses.

INSKEEP: What is going on? NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley is a good person to try to answer that.

Hi there, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Steve.

INSKEEP: What is affecting the stock market? What pushed it down? What pushed it up?

HORSLEY: Well, yesterday there was some solid economic news from the federal government showing the labor market still in good shape with a lot of job openings. We also got some better-than-expected earnings reports from big companies like Johnson & Johnson and Goldman Sachs. And perhaps there was also just a feeling that last week's slide had been something of an overreaction.

INSKEEP: So you have a little less anxiety on the market this week but some considerable anxiety from the president of the United States, who has been complaining about the Federal Reserve. He appoints the chairman of the Fed, but it is an independent agency. They've been raising interest rates. Their job is to balance inflation and employment as well as they can. He doesn't like what they're doing. Here he is speaking to Fox Business News (ph) last night.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOX BUSINESS BROADCAST)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: My biggest threat is the Fed because the Fed is raising rates too fast. And it's independent, so I don't speak to them. But I'm not happy with what he's doing because it's going too fast because you look at the last inflation numbers - they're very low.

INSKEEP: Not happy with what he's doing - that's Jerome Powell, his own man at the Fed. It's interesting, Scott. He says my biggest threat. I suppose if you're a president and thinking about your eventual re-election, you wouldn't want the Fed to push the country into recession.

HORSLEY: And interesting here, Steve, the president's obviously an equal opportunity Fed critic. He calls the Federal Reserve loco and out of control when stocks are falling, as they were last week. And he's just as vocal in his criticism about rising interest rates when stocks rebound, as they did yesterday. You did hear him nod there to the Fed's independence, saying he hasn't taken his criticism to Jay Powell directly. But some observers, including Powell's predecessor Janet Yellen, say the president's outspokenness on this could make the Fed's job harder. Certainly, the Fed has been very transparent in telegraphing its plan to raise interest rates. But that does raise costs for debtors, including the federal government, whose deficit ballooned in the last 12 months by 17 percent and is on pace to hit a trillion dollars in the coming year.

INSKEEP: Oh. Well, let's talk about that because Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader - Senate Republican leader - has been discussing that he is suddenly concerned about the deficit. Let's listen to him talking to Bloomberg.

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MITCH MCCONNELL: It's very disturbing. And it's driven by the three big entitlement programs that are very popular - Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.

INSKEEP: Excuse me. Are those the things that have increased the deficit recently, Scott Horsley?

HORSLEY: No. Those are certainly big parts of the federal budget. But the immediate cause of the spike in the deficit is the GOP tax - corporate tax receipts last year plunged by 31 percent - and a boost in both military and domestic spending, including interest on the debt.

INSKEEP: Is there something familiar here? Democrats have said this is the essential Republican playbook. You cut taxes. That increases the deficit. And then you say - oh, my goodness - I'm worried about the deficit; time to cut entitlement programs.

HORSLEY: Yes. And Democrats were very critical, saying that McConnell was playing by that playbook in his comments yesterday. Worth noting that President Trump campaigned saying he would protect Social Security and Medicare, though he has worked to rein in Medicaid, the health care plan for the poor.

INSKEEP: Scott, thanks for the analysis. Really appreciate it.

HORSLEY: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: NPR's Scott Horsley.

(SOUNBDITE OF SZA SONG, "20 SOMETHING")

HORSLEY: A surge of Ebola infections has come to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

KING: That's right. This latest outbreak of Ebola has killed at least two dozen people in the last week and is now threatening to spread to Congo's neighbors Rwanda and Uganda. The World Health Organization plans to meet today to determine whether this current outbreak rises to a public health emergency of international concern.

INSKEEP: OK. Those are just words. But they could mean a lot, especially since health officials are trying to find out how to fight this disease in a war-torn country. NPR's Nurith Aizenman is covering this story.

Good morning.

NURITH AIZENMAN, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: So suppose they go ahead and declare a public health emergency. What does that mean in practical terms?

AIZENMAN: Well, it's mostly a symbolic sounding of the alarm. But it's a particularly effective way of galvanizing public awareness. It's a way to rally international support and focus and even action on things like funding, for example. And it's worth noting that the WHO has only declared this kind of emergency four times since the start of this alert system - most recently in 2016 when Zika erupted in Latin America and then before that, during the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak in West Africa that infected 28,000 people.

INSKEEP: OK. That was an appalling outbreak. Is something happening in the Democratic Republic of Congo that risks rising to that level?

AIZENMAN: Well, one of the key issues is that this particular outbreak is taking place in a part of the country where there has been fierce fighting between rebel groups and the government. And there's been an uptick in attacks by rebel groups on government forces, on peacekeepers and also on civilians. And what's happened is that people who, for years, had felt abandoned by their government and international community because of these attacks started to turn against the health workers, sort of seeing them as, you know, an arm of the government that is not protecting them from the violence.

INSKEEP: Wow. So it is not just that it's difficult for health workers to get into a chaotic place or a generally unsafe place. They themselves have been targets in recent months.

AIZENMAN: So it's not so much - yeah, health workers have been targets by the rebel groups - but it's that the population has started to distrust the health workers. So - and I should say - it's, you know, a small group of people. I mean, overwhelmingly, the population is cooperating. We've had 17,000 people - more than that - who have taken this experimental vaccine. But you know, there are these pockets of resistance where you have people who - you know, there are rumors that the vaccinators are actually part of a plot to spread the disease. Or you'll have safe burial teams come in. And you know, one or two times a week, there'll be an attack on the safe burial team.

And then, you know, when there's an attack on the civilian population by the rebel group, they'll sometimes - neighborhoods or entire cities will declare a day of mourning and protest where everything is shut down, and there's protests. And the health workers just can't get around.

INSKEEP: Nurith, thanks very much. Really appreciate it.

AIZENMAN: Good to do it.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Nurith Aizenman reporting today on the possibility of the World Health Organization declaring a public health emergency in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRAMPIQUE'S "EARTH")

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