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Pompeo calls attack on Saudi oil 'act of war' by Iran
Denying involvement, Tehran says it will retaliate if targeted; Trump moves to increase sanctions


RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday called the attack on Saudi Arabia's oil installations an "act of war" against the kingdom by Iran.

Iran, which has denied involvement in the attack, warned the U.S. that it will retaliate immediately if it is targeted.

President Donald Trump said he is moving to increase financial sanctions on Tehran over the attack. He was noncommittal on whether he would order military retaliation.

Meanwhile, the Saudis displayed missile and drone wreckage and cited other evidence they said shows that the raid was "unquestionably sponsored by Iran." Saudi military spokesman Col. Turki al-Malki said the attack Saturday, which did heavy damage to the heart of the Saudi oil industry, was "launched from the north and was unquestionably sponsored by Iran."

Al-Malki stopped short of accusing Iran of actually firing the weapons itself or launching them from Iranian territory.

Yemen lies south of Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq to the north. Yemen's Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in response to the Saudi-led war in Yemen that has killed tens of thousands of people.

Eighteen drones and seven cruise missiles were launched in the assault, Al-Malki said, with three missiles failing to make their targets. He said the cruise missiles had a range of 435 miles, meaning they could not have been fired from inside Yemen.

"This is the kind of weapon the Iranian regime and the Iranian IRGC are using against the civilian object and facilities infrastructure," Al-Malki said, using an acronym for Iran's Revolutionary Guard. He added: "This attack did not originate from Yemen, despite Iran's best effort to make it appear so."

Pompeo, who landed in Saudi Arabia shortly after the Saudi press conference, took a harder line, saying: "The Saudis were the nation that was attacked. It was on their soil. It was an act of war against them directly."

The attack came after a summer of heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S. over Trump's withdrawal from the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.

Iran sent a note to the U.S. via Swiss diplomats in Tehran on Monday, reiterating that Tehran denies involvement in the aerial attack, the country's state-run IRNA news agency reported.

"If any action takes place against Iran, the action will be faced by Iran's answer immediately," IRNA quoted the note as saying. It added that Iran's response wouldn't be limited to the source of the threat, suggesting that it would inflict damage beyond what it had suffered.

Trump said Wednesday: "I have just instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to substantially increase Sanctions on the country of Iran!" He and officials did not elaborate. U.S. sanctions have already cut deeply into Iran's oil market.

IRNA separately reported that Iran's delegation to the annual U.N. General Assembly meeting had not left Iran because the U.S. has yet to issue the necessary visas. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was to travel to NewYork on Friday, with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani following on Monday. The U.N. meeting had been considered a chance for direct talks between Rouhani and Trump.

As the host of the U.N.'s headquarters, the U.S. is required to offer world leaders and diplomats visas to attend meetings there. But as tensions have risen, the U.S. has put more restrictions on Iranians like Zarif.

Also Wednesday, Saudi Arabia said it is joining a U.S.-led coalition to secure the Mideast's waterways. The mission also includes Australia, Bahrain and the United Kingdom. The U.S. formed the coalition after attacks on oil tankers that American officials blame on Iran, as well as Iran's seizure of tankers in the region. Iran denies being behind the tanker explosions.

"This is the kind of weapon the Iranian regime and the Iranian IRGC are using against the civilian object and facilities infrastructure. " Al-Malki, using acronym for Iran's Revolutionary Guard

Second surprise search of Nebraska State Penitentiary turns up more drugs, weapons

LINCOLN — A second, surprise search of the troubled State Penitentiary — a search officials said was “always part of a bigger plan” — found more smuggled drugs and homemade weapons Wednesday.

Corrections officials had been criticized in a state watchdog’s report earlier this week for not searching every housing unit during an unprecedented three-day lockdown and search of the State Pen two weeks ago.

But State Corrections Director Scott Frakes said, in a press release, that Wednesday’s “first-of-its-kind” operation — which included personnel from the Nebraska State Patrol and the Lincoln Police Department — was “weeks” in the planning and had always been a part of the plan to rid the state’s largest prison of contraband.

“This was a completely strategic operation and well thought out,” Frakes said. “The inspector general (for corrections) has been critical over the last few days, implying that the search of the penitentiary on Sept. 4th was incomplete. Today’s larger operation was always part of a bigger plan.”

The exact amount of contraband seized was not detailed. About 100 extra personnel, including about 40 state troopers and Lincoln police and specially trained K-9 dogs from an outside organization, participated, entering the prison about 6 a.m.

“I said we would be taking a no-holds-barred approach, and I was serious,” Frakes said.

On Monday, the State Legislature’s inspector general for corrections, Doug Koebernick, released his annual report on the state of state prisons. A portion of the 270-page report was critical of corrections for locking down the State Penitentiary for three days to search for contraband, and then failing to search every housing unit. It was a concern that was raised by prison staff, according to Koebernick.

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On Wednesday, Frakes again declined to say whether the entire State Pen had been searched. Last week, officials said they would not discuss the extent of the searches for security reasons.

“Revealing information about how the searches were conducted or the technology used would be counterintuitive,” Frakes said Wednesday. “I want to be able to rely on these resources again.”

The State Penitentiary holds about 1,300 inmates, roughly double its design capacity, and has been described by Koebernick as the state’s most troubled prison.

It has seen an increase in the number of assaults on staff and the amount of contraband cellphones, weapons and drugs — including the synthetic marijuana K2 — in recent weeks, which prompted the lockdown and search operation Sept. 4-6. Staff shortages at the State Pen have forced the cancellation of visitation hours, and forced the facility to shut down the gym and law library on occasion, which has prompted complaints from inmates.

The inspector general’s report said that the State Pen required the most overtime hours of any state prison in order to fill vacant posts there, and had the most vacancies among security staff.

Notable crime news of 2019

Chief Standing Bear, who 'changed the course of history,' is honored with statue in U.S. Capitol

WASHINGTON — American history books have often overlooked Standing Bear, but for millions of U.S. Capitol visitors, the Ponca chief will now be impossible to miss.

A towering bronze statue of the chief, his hand held out before him, stands prominently in Statuary Hall.

“It’s an honor to be here today to recognize a Nebraska hero and one of the most important civil rights leaders in our country that almost nobody knows about,” Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said at the statue’s dedication Wednesday. “And we hope to be able to correct that today and tell his story.”


Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts speaks at the dedication of a Chief Standing Bear statue at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. The chief’s eloquent “I am a Man” speech at his trial resulted in the recognition of Native Americans as people under the law. His statue takes the place of William Jennings Bryan's.

That story is one of how the peaceful Ponca were forced to leave Nebraska and how Chief Standing Bear later pledged to his dying son that he would return to bury his body in their homeland.

Standing Bear was arrested while fulfilling that deathbed promise and was called upon to prove in court that he should be considered a person under the law.

The chief argued that while his hand might be a different color, it still bled when pierced. His next words are inscribed on the black granite of the statue’s base.

“The blood that will flow from mine will be the same color as yours. The same God made us both. I am a man.”

That speech resulted in a landmark court decision recognizing equal rights for Native Americans.

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Dignitaries on the stage Wednesday included top Nebraska and national officials. One after another, they invoked the chief’s words.

“Chief Standing Bear didn’t seek to be a civil rights leader,” said Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb. “He simply wanted to bury his dead son on their ancestral homeland, and in doing so he called forth the essence of human dignity and he changed the course of history in that transcendent moment when he raised his hand and he said, ‘I am a man. God made us both.’”

Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., noted that Statuary Hall was previously the meeting place for the House of Representatives when lawmakers approved the shameful injustice known as the Indian Removal Act.

Fischer referred to a statue representing Clio, the muse of history, that stood witness that day and still watches from above the chamber’s doorway.

“Today she turns a new page as Chief Standing Bear is welcomed into this cathedral of democracy and joins those who have shaped America’s history,” Fischer said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke about inviting each state to send two statues to the Capitol — a practice that started as a unity gesture after the Civil War.

“More than 150 years later Statuary Hall is our pantheon of patriots, where our nation’s heroes are memorialized in marble and bronze,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi noted that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson now stand alongside figures such as Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass, leaders of the women’s suffrage movement — and Standing Bear.

Nebraska State Sen. Tom Brewer pushed the amendment that authorized replacing the state’s statue of William Jennings Bryan with Standing Bear.

Brewer delivered a benediction that touched on loving neighbors and showing mercy.

Among others at the event: the entire Nebraska congressional delegation; Judi gaiashkibos, who is executive director of the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs; and the artist, Ben Victor — the only living artist with three statues now on permanent display in the Capitol.

A few of the chief’s direct descendants attended, including Steve Laravie of Lincoln and his son Steve Laravie Jr., who performed the “Chief Standing Bear Honor Song” during the dedication.

Ponca Tribe of Nebraska Chairman Larry Wright Jr. delivered the invocation and said afterward that it was overwhelming to think of all the people who would pass by the statue.

“To know that this is going to be one of the things that they see and probably won’t forget,” Wright said. “Today is a good day for the Ponca nation.”

Photos: National landmarks of Nebraska


STANFORD DEF. NEBRASKA 25-21, 22-25, 25-17, 25-16

Nationwide abortion rate at lowest point since Roe v. Wade decision in 1973; Nebraska's drop was 24.2%

WASHINGTON — The abortion rate in the United States hit a 44-year low in 2017, according to a report released Wednesday by a research group that supports abortion rights.

The decline was experienced in both conservative-led states that have restricted the procedure and liberal-led states that have expanded access.

The number of abortions fell by 19% to 862,000 between 2011 and 2017 alone, according to data analyzed by the Guttmacher Institute, which conducts a survey of abortion providers that is widely used by both sides of the debate.

One reason for the decline is that fewer women are becoming pregnant. The institute noted that the birthrate, as well as the abortion rate, declined during the years covered by the new report.

A likely factor, the report said, is increased accessibility of contraception since 2011, as the Affordable Care Act required most private health insurance plans to cover contraceptives without out-of-pocket costs.

The nationwide rate dropped to 13.5 abortions per 1,000 girls and women ages 15 through 44 in 2017, from 16.9 abortions per 1,000 women in 2011, a decline of 20%, the institute said. That’s the lowest rate since the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

In Nebraska, the rate declined by 24.2% over that same period. It fell to 5.5 abortions per 1,000 girls and women in 2017, down from 7.2 abortions per 1,000 in 2011, according to the Guttmacher report. The numbers include abortions performed on women who come from other states to Nebraska clinics.

Nebraska laws passed since 2011 require parental consent, rather than just notification, for minors to have abortions and ban private insurance coverage of the procedure. A law that took effect this year requires that women getting medication abortions be told they may be able to continue their pregnancy if they do not take the second medication.

The abortion rate fell dramatically in several states that enacted strong anti-abortion legislation in recent years, suggesting that some of the anti-abortion movement’s efforts in state legislatures are limiting access.

Four states that enacted laws requiring clinics to have building and safety standards comparable to hospitals experienced some of the most significant declines in their abortion rates. Between 2011 and 2017, the abortion rate fell by 27% in Arizona and Ohio, by 30% in Texas and by 42% in Virginia. The number of clinics that provide abortion similarly fell in those states.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that those requirements were illegal, the laws led to the closure of clinics that did not reopen.

One significant trend documented in the report: Women who have abortions are increasingly relying on medication rather than surgery. Medication abortion, making use of the so-called abortion pill, accounted for 39% of all abortions in 2017, up from 29% in 2014.

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Abortion opponents hailed the drop in the overall number of abortions in the United States and the effect of the laws.

Guttmacher’s chief executive and president, Dr. Herminia Palacio, said the focus should not be on the rate.

“Lowering the abortion rate is not the goal here. The abortion rate is just a number,” she said. “Policy should focus on patients’ health and rights, regardless of how it might affect the abortion rate.”

The report comes amid upheaval in the federal family planning program, known as Title X. About one in five family planning clinics have left the program, objecting to a Trump administration regulation that bars them from referring women for abortions. Title X clinics provide birth control and basic health services for low-income women.

“If your priority is to reduce abortions, one of the best things you can do is make sure that women have access to high-quality, affordable and effective methods of birth control,” said Alina Salganicoff, director of women’s health policy for the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

World-Herald staff writer Martha Stoddard contributed to this report, which also includes material from the Associated Press.

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