Also in the news this Thursday: a royal start to the school year for a little princess, anger over delayed military projects and the name-calling over Brexit battle.
Hurricane returns to Category 3 as it creeps up coast
Hurricane Dorian , back to a Category 3 storm, began raking the Southeast U.S. seaboard early Thursday and left tens of thousands without power as it threatened to inundate low-lying coasts from Georgia to Virginia with a life-threatening storm surge after its deadly mauling of the Bahamas.
Dorian squatted over the island nation as its strongest hurricane on record, leaving widespread devastation and at least 20 people dead. But it weakened substantially in the days since, dropping from a Category 5 to a Category 2 storm before increasing again late Wednesday. Dorian could maintain this intensity for several days before gradually weakening through Saturday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
As of early Thursday more than 68,700 customers in Charleston County and over 15,200 in Beaufort County were without power, according to Dominion Energy. Berkeley Electric Cooperative reports another 12,600 lost electricity in Charleston County.
Duke Energy in a news release Wednesday said it expected the storm to cause 700,000 outages in the Carolinas and that it brought in resources from 23 states and Canada to respond "as soon as it was safe to do so."
More than 1,500 people sought refuge in 28 shelters in South Carolina, where sheets of rain began falling late Wednesday in the historic port city of Charleston, located on a peninsula prone to flooding. As Dorian crept dangerously closer, winds picked up sending rain sheets sideways, thunder boomed in the night sky and power flickered on and off in places.
Dorian remained a force to be reckoned with, its swirling circle of winds and rain wrapped around a large, gaping eye visible on photos taken from space. At 5 a.m. EDT Thursday the distinct eye of the hurricane churned about 80 miles south of Charleston, moving north at 8 mph off the coast with dangerously high winds of 115 mph extending about 60 miles outward.
In Charleston's downtown, stores and restaurants were boarded up with wood and corrugated metal and about 830,000 people were under mandatory evacuation orders on the South Carolina coast.
Hundreds of shelter animals from coastal South Carolina arrived in Delaware ahead of the storm. The News Journal of Wilmington reports nearly 200 animals were airlifted early Tuesday from shelters at risk of flooding. About 150 other animals were expected to arrive that night via land transport. WDBJ-TV reports more than 50 animals from North Carolina were shipped to Virginia and may be available for adoption as early as this weekend.
Hundreds of thousands also were ordered off the Georgia coast. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said "we are very worried, especially about the barrier islands getting cut off."
Dorian's approach left the cobblestone streets of Savannah, Georgia's downtown historic district largely deserted. But there were still places to find a hurricane party. More than 30 people gathered at Pinkie Master's Lounge on Wednesday evening, even as wind gusts bent tree tops in Savannah — nearly 20 miles inland.
In North Carolina, where authorities said an 85-year-old man died after falling from a ladder while preparing his home for Dorian, Gov. Roy Cooper warned of a coming storm surge and flash flooding from heavy rains. The Outer Banks barrier islands were particularly exposed.
Blocked by opponents, UK leader calls them cowardly over Brexit battle
Prime Minister Boris Johnson accused Britain's main opposition leader on Thursday of trying to dodge an election, after rebellious lawmakers rejected the U.K. leader's call to trigger a snap poll and moved to block his plan to leave the European Union next month without a divorce deal.
Johnson remained determined to secure an election as the only way out of Britain's years-long Brexit impasse. His office said he would argue in a speech later that politicians must "go back to the people and give them the opportunity to decide what they want."
Johnson called Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn's refusal to endorse an election a "cowardly insult to democracy."
Johnson's determination to lead Britain out of the EU on Oct. 31 come hell or high water is facing strong opposition from lawmakers, including members of his own Conservative Party who oppose to a no-deal Brexit.
On Thursday, the prime minister's brother, Jo Johnson, quit the government, saying he could no longer endure the conflict "between family loyalty and the national interest."
Jo Johnson has served as an education minister in his older brother's government, despite his opposition to leaving the EU without a divorce deal. He said Thursday that he would step down from Parliament, the latest in a string of resignations by Conservative moderates opposed to the government's hard-Brexit stance.
Boris Johnson became prime minister in July by promising to complete Brexit and break the impasse that has paralyzed the country's politics since voters decided in June 2016 to leave the bloc, and which brought down his predecessor, Theresa May.
But after just six weeks in office, his plans to lead the U.K. out of the EU are in crisis. He is caught between the EU, which refuses to renegotiate the deal it struck with May, and a majority of British lawmakers opposed to leaving without an agreement. Most economists say a no-deal Brexit would cause severe economic disruption and plunge the U.K. into recession.
Johnson's solution — though a risky one — is to seek an election that could shake up Parliament and produce a less troublesome crop of lawmakers.
On Wednesday, the prime minister asked Parliament to back an Oct. 15 election, after lawmakers moved to block his plan to leave the EU on Oct. 31, even if there is no withdrawal agreement to pave the way.
But Parliament turned down his motion. Johnson needed the support of two-thirds of the 650 lawmakers in the House of Commons to trigger an election — a total of 434 — but got just 298, with 56 voting no and the rest abstaining.
British prime ministers used to be able to call elections at will, but under 2011 legislation fixing elections at five-rear intervals, they now need the support of lawmakers to hold an early poll.
Corbyn said Labour, the biggest opposition party, would only vote for an early election if the prospect of a no-deal Brexit was taken off the table.
Lawmakers angry over military projects postponed for border wall
The Pentagon's announcement that it will divert $3.6 billion in military construction funds to help fund President Donald Trump's border wall has sparked bipartisan anger from lawmakers who learned that their states will be impacted by the decision.
Domestically, just under $1.8 billion is being shifted away from projects in 23 states and three US territories.
Additionally, the Pentagon will defer more than $1.8 billion in military construction projects overseas to free up over $3.6 billion in funds for 11 wall projects on the southern border with Mexico, according to a complete list obtained by CNN Wednesday.
In total, 127 domestic and overseas projects are being put on hold to help fund the wall that Trump initially promised would be paid for by Mexico.
Among the sites affected are facilities used to store hazardous waste, repair Navy ships and conduct cyber operations, that had been identified as being in need of repair or additional construction.
Puerto Rico was among the hardest hit of all US states and territories as it will see more than $400 million in funding for planned military construction projects diverted to the wall under the Pentagon's plan.
Trump has consistently sparred with Puerto Rican officials while he's been in office following 2017's Hurricane Maria.
"Most of the projects in Puerto Rico were a result of Hurricane Maria," a senior US defense official told CNN.
Overseas, $771 million in projects at various locations in Europe will be impacted. These projects, including airfield upgrades and staging areas in Eastern Europe, are meant to improve the defense of US allies from Russian threats.
"All these projects are important to us but we also have to respond to the emergency we've been directed to respond to on the southwest border," the senior US defense official said Wednesday.
"Projects on the list have either existing capabilities or temporary solutions to mitigate any delays, all projects on the list are important and we will work with Congress to support them," the official said while adding that there are no "guarantees" that the money will in fact be back filled.
Defense officials said Wednesday that there is no guarantee any of the money will be replaced for domestic or overseas projects. On Tuesday, chief Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said the Defense Department will not be seeking congressional funds to backfill the reprogrammed funding for overseas projects.
The Pentagon notified individual lawmakers from states that will be impacted Wednesday, sparking bipartisan criticism.
Utah's Republican senators, Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, expressed their concerns in a joint statement after learning military construction funds for projects at Hill Air Force Base would be reprogrammed.
Specifically, they were told that $26 million was being diverted from Hill AFB Composite Aircraft Antenna Calibration Facility and another $28 million from the Utah Test and Training Range Consolidated Mission Control Center.
"Congress has been ceding far too much powers to the executive branch for decades and it is far past time for Congress to restore the proper balance of power between the three branches," Lee said. "We should start that process by passing the ARTICLE ONE Act, which would correct the imbalances caused by the National Emergencies Act," Lee added.
Virginia's Democratic senators, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, said Wednesday that the Pentagon informed them of four military construction projects in their state that will lose a more than $77 million in funds due to the Pentagon's decision to divert that money toward building President Donald Trump's border wall.
New York Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, who is the top Democrat of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, said in a joint statement Wednesday they were told by the Defense Department that $160 million in funding allocated for an engineering center and supporting structures at the United States Military Academy at West Point would be repurposed.
"The United States Military Academy at West Point was founded as an engineering school, designed to ensure that our Army's leaders had access to the best resources and education that would enable them to succeed in their military careers in defense of our nation," Schumer said.
Trump clings to claim Alabama faced big threat from Dorian
President Donald Trump isn't giving up on the dubious idea that Alabama faced a serious threat from Hurricane Dorian.
During an Oval Office briefing Wednesday, Trump displayed a map of the National Hurricane Center forecast for last Thursday that showed Dorian could track over Florida. The map he displayed included what appeared to be a hand-drawn half-circle that extended the cone of uncertainty over a swath of Alabama.
Trump had raised eyebrows and drawn an emphatic fact check from the National Weather Service on Sunday when he tweeted that Alabama, along with the Carolinas and Georgia, "will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated."
The National Weather Service in Birmingham, Alabama, tweeted in response: "Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane #Dorian will be felt across Alabama. The system will remain too far east."
Few, if any, meteorologists put Alabama in the hurricane's path. Asked Sunday if Trump had been briefed about potential impact to Alabama, Christopher Vaccaro, a spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, wrote in an email, "The current forecast path of Dorian does not include Alabama."
On Monday, Trump pushed back on skeptics by insisting that "under certain original scenarios, it was in fact correct that Alabama could have received some 'hurt.'"
And then, on Wednesday, Trump displayed the graphic with the alteration that suggested the storm could have tracked over Alabama.
Trump had no explanation for who had altered the map he displayed in the White House.
But he told reporters, "I know that Alabama was in the original forecast."
He added: "Actually, we have a better map than that which is going to be presented, where we had many lines going directly — many models, each line being a model — and they were going directly through. And in all cases Alabama was hit if not lightly, in some cases pretty hard. ... They actually gave that a 95% chance probability."
The highest probability issued for a U.S. locale for Dorian has been in the 60% range, not 95%.
Trump later tweeted a map dated Aug. 28, claiming: "As you can see, almost all models predicted it to go through Florida also hitting Georgia and Alabama. I accept the Fake News apologies!"
Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami, responded: "He has no clue what he's talking about, or what is plotted on that map. At the time of that cycle, Alabama was at even lower risk than before, and it was barely anything to start with."
While forecasts from overnight Friday showed a tiny bit of Alabama at the edge of the cone of uncertainty, by Saturday morning — more than 24 hours before Trump's warning about Alabama — the storm was predicted to pose no threat to the state. Trump was getting regular updates about the storm.
American woman arrested at airport with baby hidden in bag
An American woman who attempted to carry a 6-day-old baby out of the Philippines hidden inside a sling bag has been arrested at Manila's airport and charged with human trafficking, officials said Thursday.
They said Jennifer Talbot was able to pass through the airport immigration counter on Wednesday without declaring the baby boy but was intercepted at the boarding gate by airline personnel.
Talbot, from Ohio, was unable to produce any passport, boarding pass or government permits for the baby, airport officials said.
Clad in an orange detainee shirt and in handcuffs, Talbot, 43, was presented to reporters in Manila on Thursday. She kept her head low and appeared at times to be on the verge of tears. She did not issue any statement.
Talbot had planned to board a Delta Air Lines flight to the Unites States with the baby, airport officials said.
"There was really an intention to hide the baby," immigration official Grifton Medina said by telephone.
After discovering the baby, airline staff called immigration personnel, who arrested Talbot at the airport. She was later turned over to the National Bureau of Investigation and the baby was given to government welfare personnel.
The investigation bureau said Talbot presented an affidavit at the airport, allegedly from the baby's mother, giving consent for the baby to travel to the U.S., but it had not been signed by the mother.
Officials said no government travel approval had been issued for the baby, prompting them to file human trafficking charges against her. The charges carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
U.S. Embassy officials have been notified of her arrest.
Officials are searching for the baby's parents, who have been charged under a child protection law.
Royal start as Princess Charlotte marks first day of school
Princess Charlotte, the daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, arrived for her first day at school on Thursday morning.
Charlotte, age 4 and fourth in line to the throne, was dropped off by her parents at Thomas's Battersea, along with her older brother Prince George who also attends the fee-paying south London school.
Prince William said his daughter was "very excited" for her first day, the Press Association reported.
After reaching the school by car, the family was first greeted by Helen Haslem, head of the lower school. Then the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge took their daughter to her new class, where she is one of 21 pupils.
Kensington Palace tweeted a video showing the Cambridges completing the school run this morning, in which the princess looked slightly nervous as she entered the school's grounds.
Thomas's Battersea educates 560 boys and girls between the ages of 4 and 13 and charges about $7,900 per term, according to the school's website.
Since her older brother also studies there, Princess Charlotte will receive a sibling discount which will reduce the cost slightly.