'Start Here': Trump announces sanctions on Iran and Trudeau says brownface photo is 'racist'

PHOTO: President Donald Trump speaks with reporters before departing on Marine One from the South Lawn of the White House, Sept. 16, 2019. PlayPatrick Semansky/AP
WATCH Tensions with Iran escalate amid new sanctions

It's Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. Let's start here.

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1. Stiff sanctions

As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accuses Iran of carrying out the massive attack on Saudi oil facilites, calling it an "act of war," President Donald Trump has ordered more sanctions against the regime.

"There’s plenty of time to do some dastardly things," he said on Wednesday. "It’s very easy to start. And we’ll see what happens."

The president may not be ruling out a military strike, but compared to Pompeo's language placing the blame directly on Iran, Trump has so far taken a more restrained approach, according to ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Cecilia Vega on "Start Here."

"I think right now what they're doing is casting this net far and wide and waiting to see how Iran responds to these sanctions," she says.

Iran has continued to deny any involvement and warned that any retaliatory attack would be met with a "rapid and crushing" response.

2. Trouble for Trudeau

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has apologized after a photo surfaced of him dressed in a turban and wearing "brownface" makeup at an "Arabian Nights" theme party in 2001.

“It was something I should not have done," he told reporters on Wednesday night. "I didn’t think it was racist at the time, but now I see, it was a racist thing to do.”

Trudeau also noted he wore racially-insensitive makeup on a separate occasion: "When I was in high school I dressed up at a talent show and sang 'Day-o' in makeup."

The prime minister's image has taken a hit from the photo first published by Time magazine as he tries to court votes from Canadians for his re-election bid, says Shama Rangwala, a faculty lecturer at the University of Alberta who specializes in race and gender.

"I think a lot of people who experience racism in Canada are maybe not surprised, but I think that Canadian Liberals who have this mythologized idealized version of Canada are really feeling their world shaken by this," she tells the podcast.

PHOTO: Canadas Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigns at federal liberal candidate Lenore Zanns office for the upcoming election in Truro, Nova Scotia, Sept. 18, 2019. John Morris/Reuters
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigns at federal liberal candidate Lenore Zann's office for the upcoming election in Truro, Nova Scotia, Sept. 18, 2019.

3. Back-to-school safety

"It's back to school time. You know what that means."

A new public service announcement from Sandy Hook Promise, a gun violence prevention group, begins with students showing off backpacks, binders and headphones, but takes a chilling turn as gunshots are heard and the kids begin to flee.

The video depicts a harsh reality for millions of students, from kindergartners to high schoolers, who are learning how to respond to an active shooter as lawmakers continue to debate gun control legislation, says Nicole Hockley, the organization's media director whose 6-year-old son Dylan was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre.

"Many parents really don't understand the experience that their kids are having in schools today with active shooter drills, with the ideas of bulletproof backpacks with this constant fear of threat and violence," she says. "We really wanted to bring this home to parents so that they know that it's not about the reactionary measures that we do. We shouldn't be just teaching kids what to do when violence occurs. We should be teaching them how to prevent it from happening in the first place."

4. Suspected sabotage

Federal prosecutors have accused an American Airlines maintenance worker of sabotaging an airplane at Miami International Airport by disabling the 737 passenger jet's navigational system.

Officials said Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani, a longtime employee with the airline, has insisted that he created the maintenance issue to get overtime pay, but federal authorities believe he could have ties to ISIS after they allegedly found ISIS propaganda on Alani's cell phone.

"There was another bit of evidence that they released in which they describe him sending out a message or receiving a message that involved Allah taking action against the captors or those who were nonbelievers," ABC News Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas. "Also, apparently he was looking at information about previous plane crashes involving the very kind of system that he was accused of tampering with."

In a statement to ABC News, American Airlines said the company is cooperating with federal authorities in the investigation, adding, "The safety of our customers and team members remains our top priority."

PHOTO: An American Airlines plane takes off in this stock photo. STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images
An American Airlines plane takes off in this stock photo.

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Elsewhere:

'Give the economy a little more gas': The U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point on Wednesday, which will directly affect people's mortgages, car payments and the economy in general.

'The child is in good spirits': A toddler was found sleeping on a porch of a home in New York nearly 1,200 miles away from his home near Orlando, Florida, according to police.

'Tragedy of dying': A babysitter was arrested after allegedly leaving a 2-year-old girl in a hot car in New Mexico for hours, resulting in her death, according to authorities.

'A kind, unselfish thing for an officer to do': A homeless man was struggling over a puddle on the street, trying to rinse off his razor and give himself a shave, when a Detroit police officer stepped in to lend a hand.

From our friends at FiveThirtyEight:

'Godless party': A few weeks ago, the Democratic National Committee formally acknowledged what has been evident for quite some time: Nonreligious voters are a critical part of the party’s base.

Doff your cap:

Phil Hartman is known by generations of Americans for his comedic genius, from his roles on “Saturday Night Live,” "NewsRadio" and “The Simpsons.”

Hartman, it seemed, had achieved the American dream; in about two decades, he had perfected his craft and built a family. But in 1998, he was violently killed at the hands of his wife.

VIDEO: Family friend recalls what Phil and Brynn Hartman’s kids said after parents’ deaths Play
Family friend recalls what Phil and Brynn Hartman’s kids said after parents’ deaths

“I think in my old age, I've come to realize just how precious everything is and I try to value the many blessings that have been bestowed upon me,” Hartman reflected in a 1998 interview. “But there's also this sense of vulnerability if fortune took a turn for the worse, and that you live with the awareness that anything could happen in this world.”

"The Last Days of Phil Hartman" airs TONIGHT at 9 p.m. ET on ABC