Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: September 21, 2017

Mexicans frantically search for earthquake survivors, Hurricane Maria cuts power to all of Puerto Rico, and more


Mexicans rush to rescue earthquake survivors

Mexicans on Wednesday rushed to rescue survivors buried under rubble from dozens of buildings that collapsed in Tuesday's 7.1-magnitude earthquake, which struck near Mexico City. The quake left at least 225 people dead, including 30 children killed when their school fell. Thousands of government and rescue workers dug through the rubble of the school and other buildings, and residents of devastated areas helped clear pieces of the crumbled structures. "We are starting from the assumption that we can find people who are alive," Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera of Mexico City said. "The rescue will continue like this, practically by hand, and we won't use heavy machinery until we are 100 percent sure."


Hurricane Maria cuts power to all of Puerto Rico

Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico with 155-mph winds on Wednesday, apparently knocking out power to the entire island of 3.4 million people. "When we can get outside, we will find our island destroyed," Abner Gómez of the emergency management agency said at a news conference Wednesday. Maria was the most powerful storm to hit the U.S. commonwealth since 1932. Before hitting Puerto Rico, Maria's eye passed over St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands when its top sustained winds were a devastating 175 mph. The storm had knocked down trees, ripped roofs off of buildings, and caused widespread flooding in St. Croix. It is now heading toward the Bahamas, but is not expected to threaten the U.S. mainland.


Senate plans to vote on Graham-Cassidy health-care bill next week

The Senate plans to vote on the latest iteration of the Republican health-care bill next week, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Wednesday. The bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), would convert ObamaCare subsidies and Medicaid payments into block grants to states, allowing each state ample leeway to decide coverage rules and patient protections, plus cut Medicaid sharply. Republicans have a Sept. 30 deadline for passing a health-care bill with only 50 votes. Three GOP defections would kill the bill. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) are believed to be opposed to the bill; Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) remain undeclared swing votes.


Mueller requests White House records

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has requested extensive records and email correspondence from the White House for his investigation into Russia's 2016 election meddling, and possible collusion by associates of President Trump. The material Mueller's team has asked for includes Trump's private discussions about firing James Comey as FBI director, The Washington Post reported, citing two people briefed on the requests. Mueller's agents also are focusing on Paul Manafort, a former chairman of the Trump campaign, and Michael Flynn, who briefly served as Trump's national security adviser. White House lawyer Ty Cobb said the Trump administration is "committed to cooperating fully. Beyond that I can't comment."


Spanish police raid Catalan government offices to block referendum

Spanish police raided Catalan regional government offices on Wednesday, arresting a dozen officials in a bid to block a banned Oct. 1 referendum on independence. Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the offices, which are in the heart of Barcelona's tourist district, and angrily criticized Madrid for the move, chanting "Occupying forces out!" "The Spanish state has by all rights intervened in Catalonia's government and has established emergency rule," Catalan President Carles Puigdemont said in a televised address. "We condemn and reject the anti-democratic and totalitarian actions of the Spanish state." Courts have ruled the referendum would violate the country's constitution.


Iran's president calls Trump's U.N. speech 'ignorant' and 'hateful'

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani harshly criticized President Trump at the United Nations on Wednesday, calling Trump's address to the U.N. General Assembly a day earlier "ignorant, absurd, and hateful." In his speech, Trump called Iran a "murderous regime" and said the 2015 nuclear deal under which sanctions against Tehran were lifted was an "embarrassment" to the U.S. Rouhani said Iran would not be the one to walk away from the deal first, and added that it would be a shame if "rogue newcomers to the world of politics" — without mentioning Trump by name — unraveled the landmark agreement. Trump says he has decided what to do about the Iran deal, although he won't say what his plans are.


Fed decides to start reducing its balance sheet in October

The Federal Reserve said Tuesday that it would start next month to slowly reduce the trillions of dollars in bonds it bought to stimulate economic growth after the 2008 financial crisis. The move was seen as a sign that Fed policy makers have confidence in the strength of the economy as the employment picture brightens. The U.S. central bank now projects growth of 2.4 percent this year, up from a forecast of 2.1 percent earlier this year. The Fed said a slowdown in inflation remained a concern, but that it expected a rebound. The Fed also left its benchmark interest rate unchanged at the close of its two-day meeting, as expected, but signaled it could hike rates again by the end of the year.


Report: Manafort offered Kremlin ally 2016 private briefings on election

While he was still Donald Trump's campaign chairman, Paul Manafort offered to provide briefings on last year's presidential race to a Russian billionaire closely aligned with the Kremlin, The Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing people familiar with the discussions. "If he needs private briefings we can accommodate," Manafort wrote in a July 7, 2016, email. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team has the emails. No exact name is ever used, but investigators believe the emails refer to Oleg Deripaska, an aluminum magnate and one of the richest men in Russia. The emails could suggest that Manafort was trying to use his access to Trump for his own benefit.


SEC says its data was hacked in 2016

The Securities and Exchange Commission said Wednesday night that someone hacked its computer database on company filings last year, accessing private information that could have been used to trade stocks and make profits. The announcement from the SEC, the top U.S. securities regulator, came following the disclosure of a breach at Equifax, a major credit reporting firm, that exposed the personal information of 143 million people. Together, the breaches have intensified concerns about the computer vulnerabilities of key financial institutions.


Raging Bull Jake LaMotta dies at 95

Jake LaMotta, a former middleweight boxing champion immortalized in Martin Scorsese's film Raging Bull, has died at an Aventura, Florida, nursing home. He was 95. LaMotta turned pro in 1941 after learning to box at an upstate New York reformatory, where he was sent for attempted burglary. The tenacious fighter was best known for his six bouts with Sugar Ray Robinson — one of which he won, dealing Robinson the first loss of his career in 1943. "When he was in the ring, it was like he was in a cage fighting for his life," said Ray Arcel, one of boxing's most renowned trainers. Robert De Niro won an Oscar for his portrayal of LaMotta in Raging Bull, based on LaMotta's 1970 memoir.


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