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Morning Update: Hurricane Florence Makes Landfall

Trump disputes the number of Hurricane Maria deaths, explosions near Boston, and weekend longreads. Your BuzzFeed News newsletter, September 14.

Posted on September 14, 2018, at 8:08 a.m. ET

Hurricane-force winds are battering the Carolinas coast as Florence makes landfall

Right now, millions of people have been evacuated in North and South Carolina ahead of what the National Weather Service is calling “the storm of a lifetime,” with the “potential for unbelievable damage.”

Hurricane Florence, now a Category 1 storm with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph, is lashing the coast with life-threatening rainfall and storm surge.

The thing about this hurricane is it’s expected to bring potentially catastrophic rain to the region. Florence, already a giant hurricane, will slow to a crawl.

More than 100,000 people are already without power in the Carolinas. Meanwhile, at least two South Carolina detention centers in evacuation zones won’t relocate inmates. We are already compiling all the hoaxes and scams about Hurricane Florence.

And a novel new study says climate change “supercharged” the storm.

This story is obviously developing — check here for live updates.

Trump says he doesn’t believe that Hurricane Maria killed nearly 3,000 in Puerto Rico

This is unprecedented territory, to say the least.

President Donald Trump has spent the week ahead of the hurricane focused on looking out for himself and his reputation. One way that he’s doing that: engaging in conspiracy theories and using political enemies as scapegoats.

The Puerto Rican government finally acknowledged last month that 2,975 people in the US territory were killed in Hurricane Maria. It had previously said the death toll was only 64.

Trump — without citing any evidence — said he thinks the updated figure is a lie. He proclaimed that 3,000 people “did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico.”

The president went a step further, claiming that the new figure is a conspiracy by the Democrats to make him look bad.

One person was killed as fires and explosions destroyed dozens of homes near Boston

Buildings were engulfed in flames in the towns of Lawrence, North Andover, and surrounding communities about 30 miles north of central Boston.

Authorities say there were 70 different incidents in the area.

Leonel Rondon, 18, from Lawrence, was killed when an explosion caused a chimney to collapse on his car.

Though the cause of the fires is still under investigation, Andover Town Manager Andrew Flanagan told CNN that “it's our understanding that it has to do with gas pressure.”

As many as 33,000 people in the town were urged to evacuate, and Flanagan said he had never seen any comparable situation. A local fire chief said, “It looked like Armageddon.”


Andrew Cuomo just beat Cynthia Nixon in New York’s intense primary for governor. Nixon, a longtime education activist and actor, has been at the center of a contentious primary season that’s seen progressives present strong challenges to establishment Democrats across the US. Cuomo was able to pull through in a climate that has been difficult for entrenched incumbents in progressive states.

Senate Democrats have referred a secret letter about Brett Kavanaugh to the FBI. The contents of the letter have been closely guarded by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, as well as California Rep. Anna Eshoo, who originally received the letter and shared it with Feinstein. The FBI says it added “the information” to the Supreme Court nominee's background file and sent it to the Senate Judiciary Committee. BuzzFeed News contacted the woman believed to be the subject of the letter at her home last week. She declined to comment. We have not been able to confirm the contents of the letter.

Twitter allowed a “pro-FGM” account to sponsor a tweet. The social media platform has come under fire for permitting a tweet that activists have said supports female genital mutilation to be promoted on its site, meaning that it showed up on the timelines of users who didn't follow the poster's account.

Half of transgender teen boys have attempted suicide, according to a new study. Researchers examined suicidal behavior among young transgender people and, in what may be a first, broke down the data to see how rates differed between gender identities. Trans boys and young men between the ages of 11 and 19 were the group that reported the most attempts.

An observatory in New Mexico mysteriously closed, the FBI isn’t talking, and people are freaking out. The National Solar Observatory’s Sunspot facility was shut Sept. 6 due to what authorities said was a security issue, and its employees were relocated without any explanation. According to the Otero County Sheriff’s Office, which was called to help monitor the evacuation, the FBI was involved, but the agency isn’t commenting. The mystery has whipped the internet into a froth of theories that span everything from aliens to Chinese spies.

Google employees are quitting over the company’s secretive China search project

Last month, I told you about Google’s work on something called Project Dragonfly, a censored search app just for the China market, and how employees were protesting the project.

Now, a list that names seven ex-employees who say they quit their jobs at Google is circulating within the company’s ranks. Those people are said to have left over a lack of corporate transparency.

Three sources confirmed the existence of the list, which is made up largely of software engineers whose experience at Google ranges between one and 11 years.

We spoke to one of the people on the list, Google senior scientist Jack Poulson, who resigned in August. He told us that after the news of Dragonfly came out, “If it was true, I was pretty sure immediately I couldn’t continue working there.”

Longreads worthy of your weekend

We recently launched Be More OK, a project we’re hoping will be a way to have necessary and difficult conversations about mental health and suicide. From the introductory post: “BuzzFeed want to commit to supporting the effort of suicide prevention… In order to do that, we can’t just talk about and acknowledge the risk of suicide when it’s timely, like when a beloved celebrity kills themselves or when there is a new report out about alarming statistics. We have to talk about suicide, and how to prevent it, in our everyday coverage.”

The series covers a range of important topics, from things that people who deal with suicidal thoughts want you to know, to the definitive guide to self-care. Have a look at the posts we’ve done under the Be More OK project.

One striking essay from Arianna Rebolini really stayed with me — it’s on memory and its relationship to depression and healing. Rebolini writes about a time when a close family member was hospitalized for clinical depression, and she “tried desperately to help him remember being happy — even though that never worked for me.” It’s an unflinchingly honest piece on how “we rely on memory … to recognize and avoid the bad, as if experiencing it once and recording it faithfully is enough to banish it for good.”

Have you heard Bloom, the new Troye Sivan album? I haven’t had a chance to listen, but will definitely make time after reading Pier Dominguez’s excellent piece on the Australian pop singer and the moment that he’s having. Dominguez places Sivan’s career in the context of “a newer wave of unabashedly queer musical artists like Hayley Kiyoko, Kehlani, and King Princess, many of whom have refused, for instance, to change the pronouns of their love songs.” Sivan’s trajectory is unique, though, because “unlike earlier gay musicians who came out later in their careers, he’s been able to experiment with his identity throughout.”

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.