Top News Stories for Today – Sept 8, 2017
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) on Thursday warned residents of South Florida to be prepared for evacuation as Hurricane Irma, now a Category 4 storm, makes its way north. 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.
Half of Puerto Rico was without power and some 50,000 residents without water. “Regardless of which [Florida] coast you live on, be prepared to evacuate,” Scott said. Public schools and state offices were closed Friday, ahead of Irma’s expected landfall by Sunday. Irma killed eight people on St. Martin and St. Barts, one person on Antigua, and a 2-year-old on Barbuda; the death toll is expected to rise. The Associated Press, CNN, The Week
Massive earthquake hits Mexico
A massive earthquake struck off the southern coast of Mexico on Thursday night, shaking buildings in Mexico City. The US Geological Survey said the earthquake was likely a magnitude-8.1 temblor, with the epicenter 54 miles southwest of Pijijiapan at a depth of 43 miles. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said Mexican seismologists registered it as an 8.2 earthquake, making it the strongest to hit Mexico in a century.
The earthquake caused buildings to sway in Mexico City, 650 miles from the epicenter, knocking out power and prompting people to run out into the streets in case their buildings collapsed. The earthquake caused some small tsunamis and was followed by a few aftershocks. The USGS predicted “high casualties and extensive damage,” especially in Chiapas state. So far, at least 15 people are reported dead. Reuters, The Associated Press
Credit reporting company Equifax hacked
On Thursday, consumer credit reporting company Equifax disclosed a cybersecurity breach that could affect as many as 143 million US consumers — roughly 44 percent of the US population. The credit card numbers of an estimated 209,000 consumers were accessed, as well as certain dispute documents for 182,000 US consumers.
Potentially leaked information includes names, birth dates, social security numbers, addresses, and possibly driver’s license numbers. An investigation by an independent cybersecurity firm suggested that hackers “exploited a US website application vulnerability to gain access to certain files,” Equifax said in a press release. The company said the breach spanned from mid-May through July. Equifax Chairman and CEO Richard Smith apologized for the “disappointing event.” ABC News, CNBC
Senate approves $15.25 billion Harvey aid
On Thursday afternoon, the Senate approved a package that raises the debt ceiling and funds the federal government until Dec. 8 and allocates $15.25 billion for hurricane and disaster relief after Hurricane Harvey and before Hurricane Irma hits Florida. The vote was 80 to 17. The House is scheduled to vote on the package starting at 12:30 p.m. Friday.
The $15.25 billion includes $7.4 billion for the cash-strapped Federal Emergency Management Agency, $450 million for the Small Business Administration, and $7.4 billion in block grants for housing affected by the storms. President Trump agreed on Wednesday to the three-month debt ceiling and funding proposal from Democratic leaders, confounding and infuriating Republicans. The Washington Post, Politico
New genetic discovery and premature birth
Researchers have found genetic mutations that affect whether a woman is likely to have her baby early or carry it to full term. Preterm birth is the leading cause of death among children younger than 5 worldwide. These babies have higher death rates even into adolescence and beyond.
Several studies show health problems related to preterm birth persist through adult life, problems such as chronic lung disease, developmental handicaps, vision and hearing losses. The World Health Organization reports that every year, an estimated 15 million babies are born early, and this number is rising. Until now, little was known about the causes, but these findings could help solve the mystery. VOA
Myanmar’s Bengali crisis
The UN refugee agency is reporting a surge in the number of Bengali Muslims, also called themselves Rohingya, who have crossed into Bangladesh from Myanmar, with an estimated 270,000 arriving in the last two weeks.
The exodus began after Bengali insurgents attacked police posts, prompting the military to respond with “clearance operations” to root out any fighters hiding in villages of Rakhine state. Journalists have reported seeing village homes burning as recently as Thursday in the region of Buddhist-majority Myanmar. VOA
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