10 things you need to know today: September 9, 2017
Authorities urge evacuation as Irma nears Florida, Trump signs $15.25 billion Harvey aid and debt package, and more
Authorities urge evacuation as Irma nears Florida
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) on Friday warned all Florida residents "should be prepared to evacuate" ahead of Hurricane Irma. The storm, downgraded to Category 4, will bring devastatingly strong winds to the state when it makes its expected landfall Sunday. Florida has 21 million residents, and those in the state's southern peninsula and Keys are most at risk. Irma pummeled the Turks and Caicos Islands Thursday night and early Friday with sustained winds of up to 155 miles per hour after raking the Dominican Republic and Haiti and leaving half of Puerto Rico without power. Current forecasts see the storm moving along Florida's Gulf Coast after striking Cuba and Miami, then weakening as it heads toward Atlanta.
Trump signs $15.25 billion Harvey aid and debt package
President Trump on Friday signed a $15.25 billion aid package providing relief funds for Hurricane Harvey. The bill, which also includes a deal to raise the debt ceiling until Dec. 8, was passed by the House earlier Friday after the Senate approved it Thursday afternoon. The $15.25 billion includes $7.4 billion for the cash-strapped Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), $450 million for the Small Business Administration, and $7.4 billion in block grants for housing affected by the storm. President Trump agreed Wednesday to the three-month debt ceiling and funding proposal from Democratic leaders, infuriating congressional Republicans.
Decimated by Irma, Caribbean islands brace for Jose
Caribbean islands already razed by Hurricane Irma, which tore through the region as a Category 5 storm starting on Wednesday, are now bracing for another direct hit by Hurricane Jose, which is expected to make landfall beginning Saturday as a Category 4 storm. Particularly vulnerable is the tiny island of Barbuda, which sustained an estimated 95 percent destruction by Irma. All remaining residents are being evacuated in advance of Jose. Residents of Saint Martin, an island split between Dutch and French sovereignty, also report 95 percent destruction, like a "lawn mower from the sky has gone over the island." President Trump extended condolences for the damage to French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday.
U.S. calls for new U.N. sanctions vote against North Korea
The United States has asked the United Nations Security Council to hold a vote Monday to approve a new round of sanctions against North Korea in retaliation for Pyongyang's recent claim to have successfully tested a hydrogen bomb. The new sanctions would cut off oil imports into North Korea, ban North Korean textile and labor exports, and impose a travel ban and asset freeze on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. North Korean ally China, which has a permanent seat on the council, could veto the sanctions, but it supported major export sanctions the U.N. levied against Pyongyang in August.
Trump tweets support for FEMA church reimbursement
President Trump sent out a tweet Friday evening advocating Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reimbursement for religious institutions. "Churches in Texas should be entitled to reimbursement from FEMA Relief Funds for helping victims of Hurricane Harvey (just like others)," Trump wrote. While FEMA did reimburse some churches for disaster relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, it is agency policy to only provide reimbursement if less than half of the organization's facilities are used for religious purposes. Three churches are suing FEMA for relief aid to repair structural damage from Hurricane Harvey; all three provided hurricane relief.
Syrian regime, U.S.-backed fighters race to retake ISIS-held city
Syrian government troops and U.S.-backed fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are racing to retake Deir el-Zour, one of the last Islamic State strongholds in Syria. Government forces ousted ISIS from an oilfield near the city on Saturday and also took control of a highway some ISIS members have used as a path of retreat. Secretary of Defense James Mattis says "ISIS is now caught in between converging forces." Deir el-Zour has strategic importance for the regional balance of power between Syria, Russia, and Iran, on the one hand, and the United States and her regional allies, on the other.
At least 61 killed by Mexico earthquake
The massive earthquake that struck off the southern coast of Mexico Thursday night killed at least 61 people, local authorities report, and injured 200 more. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said the earthquake was a magnitude-8.1 temblor, with the epicenter 54 miles southwest of Pijijiapan, a town of 50,000. The quake was the strongest to hit Mexico in a century, and the strongest worldwide in the past two years. It knocked out power and caused buildings to sway in Mexico City, 650 miles from the epicenter, and also led to some small tsunamis. The USGS predicted "high casualties and extensive damage," especially in Chiapas state.
Mueller looks to interview Spicer, Priebus in Russia investigation
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has informed the White House he may interview six of President Trump's closest current and former advisers in connection to the ongoing Russia investigation, The Washington Post reported Friday. The six are former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer; former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus; communications official Hope Hicks; White House counsel Don McGahn; McGahn's deputy, James Burnham; and White House spokesman Josh Raffel. These advisers were witnesses to events of interest including Trump's firing of former FBI Director James Comey and the White House response to warnings about former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
FBI to investigate viral video arrest of Utah nurse
The FBI announced Friday it is investigating whether Salt Lake City Detective Jeff Payne violated federal law when he violently arrested nurse Alex Wubbels because she refused to comply with his order to illegally draw blood from an unconscious patient. State authorities opened a criminal probe into the incident after video of Wubbels' arrest went viral, and Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill reached out to the FBI for help because "there continue to be issues that go beyond merely a criminal investigation." Payne is currently on paid leave.
Fox News parts ways with host Eric Bolling
Fox News confirmed in a statement Friday the network has "agreed to part ways amicably" with host Eric Bolling. The announcement was made after HuffPost reported last month Bolling sent inappropriate text messages, including photos of male genitalia, to "at least three" female colleagues. The story led to Bolling's suspension at the network, and Bolling filed a lawsuit against the HuffPost reporter seeking at least $50 million in damages. Fox will also cancel Fox News Specialists, the program Bolling co-hosted. "We thank Eric for his 10 years of service to our loyal viewers and wish him the best of luck," Fox News said in a statement.