In our news wrap Thursday, the Justice Department announced indictments of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his top allies on charges of narco-terrorism. Attorney General William Barr said they conspired to flood the U.S. with cocaine. Also, Israel’s year-long political deadlock may be ending, as lawmakers elected opposition figure Benny Gantz to be the new speaker of parliament.
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In the day's other news: The U.S. Justice Department announced indictments of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro and his top allies on charges of narco-terrorism.
Attorney General William Barr said they conspired to flood the U.S. with cocaine and to loot their own country of billions of dollars.
Attorney General William Barr:
Maduro and his other defendants have betrayed the Venezuelan people and corrupted Venezuela's institutions. While the Venezuelan people suffer, this cabal lines their pockets with drug money and the proceeds of their corruption. And this has to come to an end.
The Trump administration has been trying to oust Maduro since his disputed reelection in 2018.
Israel's year-long political deadlock may be ending after a key vote in Parliament today. Lawmakers elected opposition figure Benny Gantz to be the new speaker. He won the support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's followers, signaling a possible deal for a unity government. Gantz defended his decision, saying the coronavirus crisis overrides everything else.
Benny Gantz (through translator):
These are not normal days, and they call for special decisions. Therefore, as I have said, I intend to examine and advance, in any possible way, the creation of a national emergency government.
Netanyahu is under criminal indictment, and, up until now, Gantz had ruled out serving with him in any coalition.
In Iran today, officials again denied any knowledge of Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who disappeared there in 2007. The Foreign Ministry said he had left the country years ago. Levinson's family said Wednesday that U.S. officials have told them that he died in Iranian custody in recent years.
A U.S. Navy veteran held in Iran says he that has COVID-19 symptoms and wants to be sent home. Michael White was released from an Iranian prison on medical furlough last week, but wasn't permitted to leave the country. He has been held since 2018 on charges of insulting Iran's supreme leader.
Chinese officials fired back at U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today over the coronavirus pandemic. Pompeo had urged leading industrial nations to label COVID-19 as the Wuhan virus, after the Chinese city where it first appeared.
Geng Shuang (through translator):
We urge this U.S. politician not to go further on the wrong road. Otherwise, it could only further expose his hypocrisy and ill intentions, which will arouse more indignation and opposition of the Chinese people and people around the world.
The World Health Organization opposes giving the virus a geographical name, since it has spread globally. Others say it foments discrimination against Asians.
Back in this country, the pandemic has led to the postponement of another major sporting event, the Indianapolis 500. The famed auto race will run on August 23, instead of Memorial Day weekend. That hasn't happened since 1946.
Also tonight, two passings of note.
Author and journalist Richard Reeves has died of a heart attack at his home in Los Angeles. He was known for his books on presidents, from John F. Kennedy to Bill Clinton. He also had a long-running syndicated column, and he appeared on PBS public affairs programs.
Richard Reeves was 83 years old.
And Fred "Curly" Neal of the Harlem Globetrotters fame died today at his home near Houston. There was no word on the cause of the death. Over two decades, he dazzled millions of Globetrotters fans with his dribbling magic, before retiring in 1985.
Curly Neal was 77 years old.