Which country is the world’s largest oil producer? Saudi Arabia? Russia? Nope. It’s the good old USA. Here’s what else you need to know to Get Up to Speed and Out the Door. (You can also get “5 Things You Need to Know Today” delivered to your inbox daily. Sign up here.)
1. Senate runoffs
After days of waiting, it’s here. Devastating winds and rain from Florence hit the Carolinas today. The Category 2 hurricane now has maximum sustained winds of 110 mph and is about 200 miles southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina. At this point, it looks like Florence’s center will be somewhere over the Carolina coasts late tonight or tomorrow. And as it moves inland, people in Georgia, Virginia and Maryland need to stay alert. The big concern remains that Florence will stall, pounding the region with nonstop rain, catastrophic winds and potentially deadly flooding for days. One of five huge threats is storm surge, possibly as high as 13 feet. And there are six nuclear power plants in Florence’s projected path – but not everyone thinks they can withstand it.
2. Electoral College count
There are some new movements in the Russia investigation, but they’re a little complex, so buckle up: The Justice Department, via Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, apparently told special counsel Robert Mueller in August that he should investigate claims that President Trump’s ex-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was “colluding with Russian government officials” to interfere in the 2016 election. Prosecutors revealed the tidbit last night. Why is it significant? It shows the extent to which Rosenstein has backed the investigation (Trump has criticized him for it). Manafort has also wants the case dismissed, and this new development will definitely be a factor.
Elsewhere in RussiaInvestigationLand, Roger Stone’s potential ties to WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, reportedly are being investigated by Mueller. Stone, who served as an adviser on Trump’s presidential campaign, denies having ever met Assange. His emails, however, suggest otherwise.
President Trump signed an executive order that intends to punish foreign entities for meddling in US elections. The order lets the director of national intelligence identify groups responsible for election interference and direct the Treasury Department to apply sanctions. This order aims to hit more than just the Russians. But Democrats and Republicans criticized it as insufficient and want to see mandatory sanctions instead.
Snowfall at the bottom of the world has been increasing. Researchers analyzing ice cores on the continent say snowfall increased 10% over the past 200 years. But, wait a minute. Isn’t global warming melting Antarctic sea ice at a rapid clip? Yes, but researchers think that’s actually contributing to the higher snowfall rates because more melted sea ice means more moisture to feed snowfall. The bottom line is that the ice melt is raising the sea level, but it’s reduced somewhat by the snow falling back onto the continent.
Dancing with the ‘stars’
If you’re counting, that’s two championships in three years.
Winnie Mandela has died
The South African anti-apartheid crusader was 81.
Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan Tatum are separating
Their sweet joint announcement includes a winky-face emoticon and a circa-2002 PowerPoint background, so it’s not a total loss.
A painting hidden away in a closet turns out to be a Dutch masterwork worth millions
And this, folks, is why you do spring cleaning.
A look at why nice people become mean online
Um, because social media is a lawless wasteland and anonymity is a false power that emboldens our worst inclinations? Just a guess.
Spotify is going public today
It looks like nobody’s really sure what to expect from the music streaming service’s IPO.
My reaction any time someone offers me food
This video is only 15 seconds long, but I assure you, you will watch it five times. (Click to view.)