Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: September 1, 2017

Harvey recovery efforts ramp up, Trump administration orders Russia to cut its diplomatic staff, and more


Harvey recovery effort ramps up as storm fades

Soldiers and police used helicopters and trucks capable of driving through high water to rescue thousands of people stranded by floods caused by former Hurricane Harvey. The storm, which left at least 37 people dead or feared dead, headed northeast and began dissipating, but left the energy hub of Houston paralyzed and caused explosions releasing noxious fumes at a chemical plant. Firefighters searched house to house on Thursday to rescue stranded survivors and find bodies. About 779,000 Texans were ordered to evacuate and nearly a million more left voluntarily as authorities warned overflowing rivers and reservoirs could cause more flooding. The White House and lawmakers are discussing $6 billion in emergency recovery spending, and President Trump could make a formal request as soon as Friday.


Trump administration orders Russia to cut diplomatic staff

The Trump administration on Thursday ordered Russia to vacate three diplomatic compounds by Saturday and slash its diplomatic staff by more than 750 people in retribution for the Kremlin's order that the U.S. make similar reductions in Russia. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the U.S. had complied with Moscow's order and issued a similar demand "in the spirit of parity invoked by the Russians." U.S. officials said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson informed his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, of the move in a phone call earlier in the day.


Another major hurricane, Irma, develops in Atlantic

As Harvey weakened into a tropical depression, another storm strengthened quickly into a powerful hurricane in the central Atlantic Ocean. Hurricane Irma developed into a Category 3 hurricane with top sustained winds of 115 miles per hour. It was expected to continue strengthening over the next few days into a Category 4 storm with top sustained winds of at least 140 mph. Irma was 1,780 miles east of the Caribbean's Leeward Islands moving west-northwest at 12 mph, with a broad range of possible landfalls, from the Caribbean to the Carolinas to Bermuda, but not for a week or so.


Controversial Wisconsin Sheriff David Clarke resigns

Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr., an outspoken supporter of President Trump who spoke at last year's Republican convention, abruptly resigned Thursday, effective at midnight. "As far as his rationale," County Clerk George L. Christenson told The Washington Post, "I don't believe I can comment on that ... I was not given any advance notice." Clarke, who has faced criticism over conditions in his jails, announced earlier this year that he was likely to be appointed as an assistant secretary of Homeland Security, then withdrew his name from consideration.


Mattis orders more troops to Afghanistan

Defense Secretary James Mattis said on Thursday that he had signed orders to send more troops to Afghanistan, although he did not specify how many. The U.S. currently has 11,000 troops in the country to train and support Afghan forces who are contending with mounting attacks by a resurgent Taliban and the Islamic State. "It is more advisers, it is more enablers, fire support, for example," Mattis said, adding that getting the additional forces there could take "a couple of days." Mattis' orders marked the first concrete step taken under President Trump's recently announced plan to step up U.S. involvement in the fight against the Taliban and ISIS in Afghanistan.


Fearing gasoline shortage, Texas drivers line up at pumps

Texas motorists lined up to fill up at gas stations on Thursday as prices shot higher and potentially weeks-long shortages loomed due to Hurricane Harvey. The storm's record rains caused devastating flooding across the Gulf Coast in Texas and southwestern Louisiana, forcing the temporary closure of 30 of the nation's 114 oil refineries and a major pipeline to the East Coast. Some gas stations in north Texas ran out of gas, and those that still had it pushed prices above $3 per gallon. Gasoline futures shot up by another 10 percent on Thursday. "This is going to go on for a couple of weeks," said Allison Mac, a petroleum analyst for GasBuddy, a gas price tracking service. "Once the refineries do dry out and get back up and functioning, we do see prices going back down."


Federal judge temporarily blocks Texas abortion restrictions

A federal judge on Thursday temporarily blocked Texas from enforcing a new anti-abortion law adopted after the Supreme Court struck down tougher abortion restrictions. U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel said "it is in the public interest to preserve the status quo" until the question of whether the law is unconstitutional because it could place women undergoing abortion at greater risk by banning an abortion procedure known as dilation and evacuation, which Yeakel referred to as "the most commonly used and safest previability-second-trimester-abortion procedure." Texas Right to Life said "Pro-Lifers" should not despair, because the ruling was just "the first step in a longer and consequential legal battle" over the state's right to decide what abortion procedures it prohibits.


26 Rohingya die when boat sinks fleeing Myanmar

At least 26 Rohingya women and children fleeing violence in western Myanmar drowned when their boats sank in the Bay of Bengal, officials in Bangladesh said Thursday. The Rohingya, a predominantly Muslim group, faces oppression in Myanmar, which denies them citizenship rights. Last week Rohingya militants attacked police posts and a military base in western Myanmar, near the border with Bangladesh, leaving 80 militants and at least 12 police and soldiers dead. Since the violence broke out, at least 18,500 Rohingya have fled the region, where 300,000 Rohingya live in refugee camps, seeking shelter in Bangladesh.


Georgia officer who said 'we only kill black people' will lose job

A Cobb County, Georgia, police lieutenant seen on dash-cam video telling a passenger who was scared to move her hands, "Remember, we only kill black people," has said he will retire. Lt. Greg Abbott made the announcement after his superiors said he would be fired. Abbott's lawyer, Lance LoRusso, said the comments, made during a DUI stop, were meant to "de-escalate a situation involving an uncooperative passenger." Police Chief Mike Register said "no matter what the context," Abbott's words were inexcusable and inappropriate. "I have worked hard since becoming chief to strengthen the relationship between the department and the community," Register said. "It is sad to think that several seconds of video has the potential of tearing that apart."


Kenya's top court declares election invalid, orders new vote

Kenya's Supreme Court on Friday nullified President Uhuru Kenyatta's victory in last month's election and ordered a new vote within 60 days. Kenyatta's main challenger, Raila Odinga, had challenged the result, saying the election was tainted by irregularities, and the opposition said as many as seven million votes had been stolen, more than enough to hand Kenyatta re-election. Domestic observers did a parallel tally that supported the official results. Many Kenyans and outside observers said they were worried about how both sides would react to the court's decision. Clashes after disputed elections in 2007 and 2013 left hundreds dead.


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