AP Top News at 11:53 p.m. EDT
FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Rescue crews piloted boats and waded through inundated streets Thursday to save thousands of Floridians trapped amid flooded homes and shattered buildings left by Hurricane Ian, which crossed into the Atlantic Ocean and churned toward South Carolina. Hours after weakening to a tropical storm while crossing the Florida peninsula, Ian regained hurricane strength Thursday evening over the Atlantic. The National Hurricane Center predicted it would hit South Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane Friday, with winds picking up to 80 mph (129 kph) near midnight Thursday. The devastation inflicted on Florida came into focus a day after Ian struck as a monstrous Category 4 hurricane, one of the strongest storms ever to hit the U.S.
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia planned to annex more of Ukraine on Friday in an escalation of the seven-month war that was expected to isolate the Kremlin further, draw more international punishment and bring Ukraine extra military, political and economic support. The annexation — and planned celebratory concerts and rallies in Moscow and the occupied territories — would come just days after voters supposedly approved Moscow-managed “referendums” that Ukrainian and Western officials have denounced as illegal, forced and rigged. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Thursday that four regions of Ukraine — Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia — would be folded into Russia during a Kremlin ceremony attended by President Vladimir Putin, who is expected to give a major speech.
Russian authorities are opening more military enlistment offices near Russia’s borders in an apparent effort to intercept some of the Russian men of fighting age who are trying to flee the country by land to avoid getting called up to fight in Ukraine. A new draft office opened at the Ozinki checkpoint in the Saratov region on Russia’s border with Kazakhstan, regional officials said Thursday. Another enlistment center was set to open at a crossing in the Astrakhan region, also on the border with Kazakhstan. Earlier this week, makeshift Russian draft offices were set up near the Verkhny Lars border crossing into Georgia in southern Russia and near the Torfyanka checkpoint on Russia’s border with Finland.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, stood by the false claim that the 2020 election was fraudulent during an interview Thursday with the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, the panel’s chairman said. “It’s a work in progress,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told reporters after the more than four-hour interview ended. “At this point, we’re glad she came.” The committee — comprised of seven Democrats and two Republicans — has for months sought an interview with Thomas in an effort to know more about her role in trying to help former President Donald Trump overturn his election defeat.
FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. (AP) — On the road into Fort Myers Beach, cars are left abandoned in the roadway, where they stalled when Hurricane Ian’s storm surge flooded their engines and their drivers couldn’t continue. Broken trees, boat trailers and other debris litter the road. It’s even worse in the seaside tourist town, much of which was flattened by the fierce winds and powerful storm surge generated by the Category 4 hurricane. The barrier islands along the southwest Florida coast, famed for their seashells, fishing and laid-back lifestyle, took major hits from Ian when it came ashore Wednesday. Sanibel and Captiva are both cut off from vehicle traffic because the only bridge to the mainland partially collapsed.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The parallel special master process spawned by the FBI search of Donald Trump’s Florida estate has slowed the Justice Department’s criminal investigation and exposed simmering tensions between department prosecutors and lawyers for the former president. As the probe into the presence of top-secret information at Mar-a-Lago continues, barbed comments in recent court filings have laid bare deep disagreements related to the special master’s work — not just among lawyers but judges, too. And the filings have made clear that a process the Trump team initially asked for has not consistently played to the ex-president’s advantage. A look at where things stand: WHO IS THE SPECIAL MASTER AND WHAT IS HIS ROLE?
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea, U.S. and Japanese warships launched their first trilateral anti-submarine drills in five years on Friday, after North Korea renewed missile tests this week in an apparent response to bilateral training by South Korean and U.S. forces. The North’s recent five missiles launches, the first such tests in a month, also came before and after U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris visited South Korea on Thursday and reaffirmed the “ironclad” U.S. commitment to the security of its Asian allies. The one-day three-nation training off the Korean Peninsula’s east coast is meant to cope with a North Korean push to advance its ability to fire missile from submarines, according to a South Korean navy statement.
CINCINNATI (AP) — Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa sustained neck and head injuries after being slammed to the ground Thursday night against the Cincinnati Bengals and was stretchered from the field. The Dolphins said Tagovailoa was conscious, had movement in all his extremities and was taken to University of Cincinnati Medical Center for further evaluation. The Dolphins said after their 27-15 loss to the Bengals that Tagovailoa was expected to be released from the hospital and fly home with the team. Tagovailoa was chased down and sacked by 6-foot-3, 340-pound Josh Tupou with about six minutes left in the first half.
Climate change added at least 10% more rain to Hurricane Ian, a study prepared immediately after the storm shows. Thursday’s research, which is not peer-reviewed, compared peak rainfall rates during the real storm to about 20 different computer scenarios of a model with Hurricane Ian’s characteristics slamming into the Sunshine State in a world with no human-caused climate change. “The real storm was 10% wetter than the storm that might have been,” said Lawrence Berkeley National Lab climate scientist Michael Wehner, study co-author. Forecasters predicted Ian will have dropped up to two feet (61 centimeters) of rain in parts of Florida by the time it stopped.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Thursday told visiting leaders from more than a dozen Pacific Island countries that the U.S. was committed to bolstering its presence in their region and becoming a more collaborative partner as they face the “existential threat” of climate change. The president addressed the leaders who gathered in Washington for a summit as the White House looks to improve relations in the Pacific amid growing U.S. concern about China’s growing military and economic influence. “A great deal of history of our world is going to be written in the Indo-Pacific over the coming years and decades,” Biden said at the start of a meeting with island leaders at the State Department.