Ian just shy of a Category 5 hurricane; North Korea test launches missiles; Capitol rioter gets 7-year term | Hot off the Wire podcast

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The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Ian has rapidly intensified off Florida’s coast, gaining top winds of 155 mph, just shy of the most devastating Category 5 hurricane status. Ian is pushing a storm surge that could cause catastrophic damage along the state’s heavily populated Gulf Coast from Bonita Beach to the Tampa Bay region.

Forecasters say the stretch from Naples to Sarasota is at highest risk. At least 2.5 million people were ordered to evacuate. Winds and rain have begun intensifying, a day after Ian battered the western tip of Cuba, leaving the entire island without electricity.

At the White House, President Joe Biden said his administration was sending hundreds of Federal Emergency Management Agency employees to Florida and sought to assure mayors in the storm’s path that Washington will meet their needs.

South Korea says North Korea has fired two ballistic missiles toward its eastern waters a day before a visit by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff say the missiles were launched Wednesday from its capital region.

Russia is poised to formally annex areas of Ukraine where it has military control after referendums there reportedly endorsed Moscow’s rule. But the ballots were widely discredited and earned the Kremlin no relief from international pressure over its assault on Ukraine.

An Iowa man who admitted to taking part in the assault of a police officer as part of his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol was sentenced to seven years in prison Tuesday after the judge called him one of the most serious offenders on that day. Judge Amy Berman Jackson called Kyle Young a “one man wrecking ball” as she sentenced him to prison.

In sports, the Yankees clinched another AL East title, the Rays topped the Guardians, the Mariners continued their slide, the Mets lost and are now even with the Braves in the NL East.

Denmark says it believes “deliberate actions” by unknown perpetrators were behind big leaks, which seismologists said followed powerful explosions, in two natural gas pipelines running under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany. European leaders and experts pointed to possible sabotage amid the energy standoff with Russia provoked by the war in Ukraine.

Over 194,000 Russian nationals have entered Kazakhstan, Georgia and Finland in the week since President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization of reservists to fight in Ukraine.

Student activists have walked out of class across Virginia to protest Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s proposed changes to the state’s guidance on district policies for transgender students. If adopted by districts after they become final, the new policies would roll back some accommodations for transgender students.

A New Orleans social services nonprofit long known as the Kingsley House has ditched the name of a Victorian clergyman found to have held profoundly racist views. It was named in 1896 for both social reformer Charles Kingsley and the founder’s son Kingsley Warner, who died as a toddler. Now the organization is named “Clover.”

U.S. consumers grew more confident for the second month in a row as gas prices continued to fall. The Conference Board said Tuesday that its consumer confidence index rose to 108 in September, from 103.6 in August.

The Biden administration has an ambitious goal for America: ending hunger in the U.S. by 2030. The administration’s plan includes expanding monthly benefits that help low-income Americans buy food. It also seeks to promote healthy eating and physical activity so that fewer people are afflicted with diabetes, obesity, hypertension and other diet-related diseases.

Biogen has agreed to pay $900 million to resolve allegations that it violated federal law by paying kickbacks to doctors in the form of speakers and consulting fees to persuade them to prescribe its multiple sclerosis drugs.

Jury selection is underway in one of the most serious cases to emerge from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. The founder of the far-right Oath Keepers extremist group and four associates are charged with seditious conspiracy. Stewart Rhodes and the others are the first Jan. 6 defendants charged with the the rare Civil War-era offense to stand trial.

King Charles III’s new monogram has been unveiled, as the official period of mourning for his mother Queen Elizabeth II came to a close. The emblem, known as the king’s cypher, will appear on government buildings, state documents and some post boxes in the coming months and years. The cypher unveiled Tuesday features the initial C intertwined with the letter R for Rex, the Latin word for king. The Roman numeral III sits in the center of the R and a crown hovers above the letters.