Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: September 30, 2022

Hurricane Ian threatens South Carolina after devastating Florida, Russia prepares to start annexing occupied Ukraine regions, and more


Hurricane Ian approaches South Carolina after devastating Florida

Hurricane Ian destroyed bridges and buildings in southwest Florida and hit central Florida with what Gov. Ron DeSantis described as "500-year" flooding before pushing east over Atlantic waters on Thursday. Ian was downgraded to a tropical storm as it crossed Florida but quickly regained hurricane strength Thursday evening as it traveled over Atlantic waters, with top winds of 85 miles per hour early Friday. It is expected to hit Charleston, South Carolina, on Friday as a Category 1 storm. About 2.7 million utility customers in Florida lost electricity. Ian was blamed for numerous deaths, although the toll remained uncertain. Crews rescued hundreds of people stranded by flooding in southwest Florida, where Ian made landfall Wednesday with 150-mph winds.


Russia to start annexing occupied Ukrainian regions

Russia announced that on Friday it will start annexing four occupied Ukrainian territories where its proxies just held referendums purporting to show overwhelming support for joining Russia. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky dismissed the referendums as a "farce," and few countries are expected to recognize Moscow's annexation. President Vladimir Putin delivered a speech during a Kremlin-organized rally and concert in support of the referendums. Ukraine says it will continue fighting to reclaim the territory, while Russia has vowed to defend its claims to the annexed areas and hinted it would use nuclear weapons, if necessary. The threat, along with Putin's order for 300,000 military reservists to enlist for active duty, fueled fears that the fighting in Ukraine could escalate and spread.


Senate approves bill to avert shutdown, sending it to House

The Senate voted 72-25 on Thursday to approve a spending bill to prevent a federal government shutdown, sending it to the House. The "no" votes all came from Republicans. The stopgap legislation will keep the government funded through mid-December. It passed after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) agreed to drop a provision he proposed to speed up energy-project permitting; some progressives and most Republicans had threatened to sink the bill if it wasn't removed. The House will take up the legislation Friday and must pass it by the end of the day to keep all federal agencies funded. The bill also includes $12 billion in military and economic aid for Ukraine, as well as $1 billion in heating and utility assistance for low-income families.


6 GOP-led states sue to block Biden student-loan forgiveness

Six Republican-led states filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking to block President Biden from canceling up to $20,000 in student-loan debt for millions of borrowers. The suit came two days after a conservative attorney in Indiana filed a separate lawsuit asking a court to overturn the policy. Biden wants to cancel up to $10,000 in federal student loans for people earning less than $125,000 per year. He plans to excuse another $10,000 in debt for recipients of federal Pell Grants. The Biden administration says he can cancel the debts under a 2003 law giving presidents authority to overhaul student loan programs. Conservatives argue Biden is overreaching.


Ginni Thomas repeats election fraud claim to Jan. 6 panel

Conservative activist Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, repeated false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump by fraud when she was interviewed Thursday by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack. Thomas answered questions for four hours as the committee asked about her contacts with the White House leading up to and during the day a mob of Trump supporters rioted in the Capitol in a bid to prevent Congress from certifying Trump's loss to President Biden. Thomas exchanged texts with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and contacted lawmakers in Arizona and Wisconsin after the election, as Trump's team tried to overturn the result.


North Korea fires missiles hours before Harris visit to DMZ

Vice President Kamala Harris visited the Demilitarized Zone between South and North Korea on Thursday during a visit to South Korea at the end of a four-day trip to Asia. Harris condemned North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over his government's firing of two ballistic missiles into the sea on the day before her visit. "It is clearly a provocation, and it is meant, we believe, to destabilize the region," Harris said. She traveled to the region for Japan's state funeral for slain former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo, but she also met with Japanese, Australian, and South Korean leaders during the trip. Harris is the highest-ranking Biden administration official to visit the DMZ.


Judge sides with Trump over special master she appointed

U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon ruled Thursday that former President Donald Trump's lawyers don't have to comply with an order by the special master she selected to review documents the FBI seized from Trump's Florida club. Last week, the special master, Judge Raymond Dearie, ordered Trump's team to affirm or challenge the FBI's inventory of items taken during their August search of Mar-a-Lago, effectively making them take an official position on Trump's public claims the FBI planted some of the evidence. Cannon, a Trump appointee, overruled that requirement and rejected Dearie's Oct. 21 deadline for Trump's lawyers to sort through the 200,000 pages of documents and flag those they argue are shielded by attorney-client or executive privilege. They now have until mid-November.


Suicide bomber kills 19 in Shiite neighborhood in Kabul

A suicide bomber on Friday attacked an education center in a minority Shiite section of Kabul, Afghanistan's capital, killing at least 19 people and wounding 27 in the latest of a series of attacks since the Taliban regained power. The victims included male and female high school graduates who were taking a practice university entrance examination at the Kaaj Higher Education Center. "First, we heard the sounds of a few gunshots at the main gate," eyewitness Shafi Akbary, a 19-year-old high school student, told The Associated Press by phone. "Everyone was worried and tried to run to a different direction. Soon after that, a huge explosion occurred inside the center." Nobody immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.


Death certificate says Queen Elizabeth died of old age

The National Records of Scotland on Thursday released part of the death certificate for Queen Elizabeth II, revealing that her official cause of death was "old age." The queen died Sept. 8 at age 96 after serving 70 years on the throne, making her Britain's longest-serving monarch. She died at her Scotland residence, Balmoral Castle, and her daughter, Princess Anne, signed the death certificate. Hours before her death, Buckingham Palace said doctors were "concerned for Her Majesty's health" and would keep her under medical supervision. After a state funeral in Westminster Abbey in London, the queen was buried at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle alongside Prince Philip, her husband, who died in April 2021.


Trevor Noah announces exit from 'The Daily Show'

Trevor Noah announced Thursday that he is stepping down as host of The Daily Show after seven years. "I found myself thinking throughout the time of everything we've gone through," Noah, a standup comedian from South Africa, told his nightly audience. "The Trump presidency, the pandemic, just the journey, more pandemic, and I realize that after the seven years, my time is up." Noah was largely unknown in the U.S. when he was picked in 2015 to take over from longtime host Jon Stewart. Noah suggested he plans to return to standup work in the U.S. and abroad. He thanked his viewers, his Daily Show colleagues, and Comedy Central, "who believed in this random comedian nobody knew on this side of the world."


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