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October 10, 2018

Hurricane Michael is now a Category 1 storm, after making landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, midday Wednesday as an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 with winds of 155 mph.

At least one death has been reported: The Gadsden County Sheriff's Office says a man was killed when a tree fell on his house. Michael is the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S. in nearly five decades, and the strongest on record to hit the Florida Panhandle. The hurricane was boosted by unseasonably warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico. Michael caused extensive damage in Mexico Beach and Panama City, destroying homes, uprooting trees, and downing power lines. It entered Georgia as a Category 3 storm, and it's expected to be downgraded soon to a tropical storm as it makes its way through the southeast.

In Panama City, the streets are littered with street signs, metal, plywood, and other debris. Local resident Vance Beu told The Associated Press a pine tree fell on the roof of his mother's apartment, and the storm was so loud it sounded like a jet engine. "It was terrifying, honestly," he said. "There as a lot of noise. We though the windows were going to break at any time. We had the inside windows kind of barricaded in with mattresses." Catherine Garcia

6:56 a.m.

With about a quarter of the federal government set to shut down at midnight on Friday and Congress and the White House still at an impasse over President Trump's demands for money for a border wall, the Senate Appropriations Committee is drafting a continuing resolution to finance the nine unfunded Cabinet-level departments at current levels through early February, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said late Tuesday. Lawmakers appear resigned to this short-term fix, eager to avoid a third partial shutdown this year, though Republicans are not sure what Trump would be willing to sign.

Trump isn't saying much, either. Earlier Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders softened the administration's opposition to any legislation that doesn't give Trump $5 billion for his wall. Instead, Sanders said Trump would accept $1.6 billion and find the remaining $3.4 billion from other agencies. There are "other ways" to fund the wall, she said, and Trump "has asked every agency to look and see if they have money that can be used." Trump has previous suggested he would raid the Pentagon budget for the money.

A $5 billion down payment on Trump's wall would be only 0.1 percent of the federal budget, The Washington Post notes, "but even moving around that amount of money could be considered illegal without congressional approval." On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) proposed giving Trump $1.6 billion for border fencing and repairs plus another $1 billion from previously approved funding that Trump could use on the border wall, but Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said no. "We cannot support the offer they made of a billion-dollar slush fund for the president to implement his very wrong immigration policies," Pelosi said. "So, that won't happen."

McConnell said he feels comfortable predicting that the government won't shut down before Christmas. Peter Weber

5:16 a.m.

Stephen Colbert had incoming House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on Tuesday's Late Show, and he wasted little time with niceties. "Is there something you know that you can't tell me, that would just blow my brains out?" he asked. "Yes," Schiff said, but he appeared to be joking. Still, in the public domain, "when you think about what we've seen in the last few weeks, it's really quite shocking," he added. He started with ex-Trump fixer Michael Cohen's revelations about Trump's business negotiating with Russia for a Moscow building well into the 2016 campaign.

The presumptive GOP nominee for president was "misleading the country and privately seeking the Kremlin's help to make a deal — and what we've seen subsequently is that not only was he hiding this from the country, the Kremlin was helping in the cover-up," Schiff said. "Wait, are you saying the Russians lied to us?" Colbert asked in mock outrage. Schiff laughed, briefly. "We expect the Russians to lie," he said. "We expect a president of the United States to be telling the truth, and therein lies the problem."

"For two years, we've had this deeply unethical man running the country, and for two years, the Republican Congress has done nothing to oversee any of the allegations of malfeasance — and that stops now," Schiff said. "One of the most basic rules of doing investigation is you follow the money. We were not allowed to follow the money," but it's now incumbent to find out what leverage Russia and Saudi Arabia have over the president. "Is foreign funding influencing U.S. policy in a way that's not in our national interest?" Schiff asked. "I think it would be negligent for us not to find out."

Colbert and Schiff discussed other areas of inquiry, and Colbert ended with a final observation: "I've interviewed you several times before. I've never seen you look this happy." Watch below. Peter Weber

4:10 a.m.

On Tuesday, Nevada boldly went where no man-minority state legislature has gone before. With Las Vegas county officials appointing two women to fill vacancies in the state Assembly — Rochelle Thuy Nguyen and Beatrice "Bea" Angela Duran, both Democrats — Nevada officially became the first state with an overall female majority in the state legislature. The Assembly will now be 55 percent female, with women holding 23 of 42 seats — enough to overcome the slight male majority in the state Senate, where women hold nine of 21 seats.

Nevada and Colorado both elected female-majority lower houses in November, following the lead of New Hampshire's 2009-10 state Senate. But "it is unprecedented at this point to see a majority female legislature overall," says Kelly Dittmar, an assistant professor at Rutgers, whose Center for American Women and Politics tracks female political representation. When lawmakers are sworn in next year, women will hold 28.6 percent of state legislative seats in the U.S., up from 24.3 percent a decade ago.

Nevada will also be represented nationally in January by two female U.S. senators and a House delegation with two women and two men; voters elected three female Nevada Supreme Court justices as well, giving women a 4-3 majority on the court. According to the last census, Nevada is 49.8 percent female, the Los Angeles Times notes. Gov.-elect Steve Sisolak (D), whose final meeting as Clark County Commission chairman involved voting to appoint Duran and Nguyen, called the female-majority legislature "a great milestone!" Peter Weber

3:24 a.m.

The Satanic Temple of Chicago wanted to install a holiday-themed "Snaketivity" sculpture in the Illinois capitol building in Springfield, and state allowed them to "because of that pesky First Amendment," Jimmy Kimmel said on Tuesday's Kimmel Live. "Religious leaders are understandably upset that something from the Church of Satan is in the building, and of course when things like this happen, I go directly to the top — I don't mess around. And in this case, that is God. So, God are you there?"

Not only was God (Billy Crystal) there, but so was Satan (Dave Grohl). "Me and Satan, we're cool," Crystal said, explaining why he doesn't support removing the sculpture. "We made up. Hey listen, folks, if Taylor Swift and Katy Perry can make up, why can't we?" You can watch God and Satan banter, hear about their brunch and Fortnite reunions, and see them play rock-scissors-paper over Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) below. Peter Weber

2:47 a.m.

The Trump administration is still holding more than 14,600 migrant children at 137 government-funded shelters around the U.S., but that number could soon drop by hundreds of detainees under a policy shift at the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS's Office of Refugee Resettlement is in charge of sheltering minors traveling by themselves or, especially under President Trump's officially defunct family separation policy, removed from their parents at the border. Going forward, that office will no longer fingerprint and run full background checks on all adults in a household that wants to sponsor a separated minor, only the sponsors themselves and any other adult who is flagged in a public-records check.

Most sponsors are a parent or relative of the detained child. "The children should be home with their parents," Lynn Johnson, assistant secretary at HHS's Administration for Children and Families, told NPR on Tuesday. "The government makes lousy parents." The extra screening "is not adding anything to the protection or the safety of the children," she added. "I don't want to cause any additional harm by keeping kids in care any longer than they need to when they have a thoroughly vetted parent waiting for them." Johnson said about 2,000 children are ready to be released to vetted parents before Christmas.

The policy shift was driven in part by pragmatic concerns: The ACLU and other groups sued HHS last month over the extra background checks, and the 137 federal facilities are 91 percent full, most notoriously the massive Tornillo tent city in West Texas. Migrant advocates cheered the change — with caveats. For example, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has arrested 170 immigrants who applied to sponsor a migrant child, and HHS isn't ending its information-sharing agreement with ICE. "Rather than prioritizing the well-being and safety of children, the Trump administration continues to use them as bait to round up and deport their family members," said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) in a statement. Peter Weber

2:03 a.m.

Who said shipwrecks can't be festive?

Wearing Santa hats, a group of divers recently decided to spread some holiday cheer 137 feet underwater, making their way to the MS Zenobia shipwreck off the coast of Cyprus. A Swedish cargo ship, the Zenobia capsized in 1980 on its maiden voyage. No one was hurt in the incident, but more than 100 tractor trailers on board went down with the vessel.

The divers chose a white tree for the shipwreck, and decorated it with nontoxic ornaments that will not disintegrate in the ocean. It's likely that many people will celebrate Christmas under the sea, as the Zenobia attracts thousands of divers every year. Catherine Garcia

1:40 a.m.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson is predictable, in that every night he uses his platform to "demonize immigrants," "spread false information," and "spread the president's lies," CNN's Don Lemon said Tuesday night.

Last Thursday, Carlson said migrants make "our own country poorer and dirtier and more divided." Since then, more than a dozen companies have pulled their ads from his show. While discussing the matter with Lemon, CNN's Chris Cuomo was incredulous that Carlson would be "talking about human beings that way." While he ordinarily wouldn't air "hateful speech," Cuomo said, it's "important for people to see what someone's trying to pass off as news."

Lemon was careful to say that he normally doesn't like to criticize colleagues, even though "if you turn on Fox any night, it's the CNN, MSNBC criticism channel," likely because "we're actually talking about real news." Carlson is an opinion journalist who is exploiting the immigration issue for ratings, Lemon said, and the facts are that "studies show immigration has and continues to make this country a better, stronger, more productive and vibrant country."

The hosts both derided Carlson for using his platform to sow division, but said what he's doing is nothing new. When such blatant hate speech is on display, Cuomo said, "we need to call it out because it needs to stop." Watch the video below. Catherine Garcia

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