Annexation Begins, Florida Recovers, and a Hidden Leopard Everything you need to know for today in five minutes.

Good morning. It's Friday, Sept. 30, and we're covering Russia's move to annex part of Ukraine, the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, and much more. Have feedback? Let us know at [email protected].


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Annexation Begins

Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to formally sign orders today annexing four territories in the east and south of Ukraine, a move anticipated since occupying Russian forces oversaw referendums over the weekend. The declaration will make the regions part of Russia under Russian law but has been condemned as illegitimate by Ukraine and the West.


The Kremlin reported each area—Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson (see map)—voted to support the move by tallies of 99%, 98%, 93%, and 87%, respectively. Western officials called the results rigged, noting armed troops accompanied election officials to collect ballots door-to-door. Still, analysts say Russia may use the move as a pretext to escalate the conflict as fighting moves into what the Kremlin would likely consider sovereign Russian land. 


Separately, NATO joined EU officials in describing damage to the Nord Stream gas pipelines as sabotage—though investigating the alleged attack may prove challenging

Florida Assesses Damage

At least 12 people have been reported dead, with hundreds remaining unaccounted for, as Florida officials began assessing the damage caused by Hurricane Ian yesterday. Authorities expect the number of fatalities to rise, with thousands of residents in areas that remain difficult to access.


The system arrived as a powerful Category 4 storm Wednesday afternoon, bringing high winds, torrential rain, and record storm surge as it passed over the central peninsula. More than 2 million people were without power as of this morning. See photos of the aftermath here.


Fort Myers and towns along the peninsula's Gulf Coast suffered the brunt of the damage, with heavy flooding swamping the city and high winds having collapsed a causeway connecting Sanibel Island to the mainland. Early estimates suggest the cost of the storm will be in the tens of billions


Ian weakened as it moved across the state—but strengthened again once reaching the Atlantic Ocean. It is expected to make landfall in South Carolina today as a Category 1 hurricane.

UK Energy Increases

Millions across the UK will see energy costs increase starting tomorrow, as the cap on domestic energy bills for typical households will be guaranteed at an average of 2,500 pounds ($2,870) annually for the next two years. The guarantee was announced by Prime Minister Liz Truss to replace the original price cap, set by industry regulator Ofgem, of 3,549 pounds ($4,189).


Households will also receive a 400-pound reduction in their energy bills, spread over six months, as part of the 150B-pound ($162B) public support package. In comparison, the average UK energy bill last year was 1,971 pounds ($2,182). About 85% of UK households use gas boilers for heat, with the war in Ukraine helping drive gas prices prices up by 400% over the past year.


The news comes as many citizens are already struggling to afford essentials due to rising inflation, with year-over-year inflation running at a 40-year high of 9.9%. The Bank of England announced Wednesday it would purchase long-term UK bonds over the next two weeks to ease bond market concerns.

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Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> Phil Collins and Genesis bandmates sell song rights to Concord Music for $300M; former Genesis singer Peter Gabriel's music not part of deal (More)


> Denmark's Queen Margrethe, Europe's only reigning queen and longest serving monarch, strips four of her eight grandchildren of their royal titles (More)


> Team USA takes on Canada this morning in women's basketball World Cup semifinal (More) | NBA returns today from Japan with preseason matchup pitting defending champion Golden State Warriors against Washington Wizards (More)

Science & Technology

> Meta (Facebook) unveils text-to-video AI platform capable of generating five-second videos from a line of text (More) | OpenAI drops waitlist for powerful text-to-image software; explore the tool here (More)


> New robotic drug capsule drills through mucus lining in the intestines, allowing large molecule medications, including insulin, to be delivered orally instead of via injections (More)


> Astronomers find new evidence for the presence of liquid water beneath Mars' southern polar ice cap; study suggests previously unknown source of subsurface geothermal heating (More)

Business & Markets

In partnership with The Ascent

> US stock markets close lower (S&P 500 -2.1%, Dow -1.5%, Nasdaq -2.8%); S&P 500 drops to new 2022 low (More)


> US weekly jobless claims drop to 193,000; figure from last week is lowest in five months (More)


> US average 30-year mortgage rate increases to 6.7% per Freddie Mac’s weekly reading, highest level since July 2007 (More)

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Politics & World Affairs

> At least 40 people killed, more than 1,200 arrested as antigovernment, antimorality law protests hit the two-week mark in Iran (More) | See background on the demonstrations (More)


> Senate passes short-term funding bill, keeping the federal government open ahead of a midnight deadline tonight; legislation heads to House for approval (More) | Sen. Joe Manchin's (D-WV) amendment for energy permitting reform dropped from final version (More)


> Former Brazilian President Lula de Silva holds double-digit polling lead over incumbent Jair Bolsonaro ahead of Sunday elections; candidates must win 50% of the vote to avoid a runoff (More)



The Geography of Fantasy

Long Reads | Adrian Daub. (2017) Part of the draw of fantasy fiction is its maps: the comprehensive renderings of an entirely imagined world. (Read)

Reading People

Hidden Brain | Shankar Vedantam. (Podcast) It's not always easy to know what people are thinking, so this psychologist has some tips. (Listen)

Mold Up Close

Aeon | Joel Penner. This stunning (and possibly unsettling) time-lapse reveals how microbes rot our food—and enrich our lives. (Watch)



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Clickbait: There is no leopard in this photo—or is there?


Historybook: American novelist and screenwriter Truman Capote born (1924); Babe Ruth is first player to hit 60 home runs in a season (1927); Actor James Dean dies in a car crash (1955); President John F. Kennedy authorizes federal troops to integrate University of Mississippi (1962); Oscar-winning actress Simone Signoret dies (1985).


"Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor."

- Truman Capote

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