Sun. Sep 20th, 2020

USA TODAY

Published 6:15 PM EDT Sep 14, 2020

Hurricane Sally is quickly approaching the Gulf Coast. The West is still on fire. And yes, we’re still very much in a pandemic.

It’s Alex, let’s escape to Venus? 

But first, it’s Steve Martin! Maybe? The 75-year-old star, concerned about his fans not being able to recognize him in a mask, came up with a helpful hack: He scrawled “Steve Martin” in red marker across an obviously-homemade cardboard sign. In case you were still confused, he also included an arrow pointing directly to his face. 

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3 weeks. 2 hurricanes. 

Less than three weeks after Hurricane Laura devastated Louisiana, Sally is barreling toward the Gulf Coast – potentially making landfall as a Category 2. “I know for a lot of people, this storm seemed to come out of nowhere,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “We need everybody to pay attention to this storm. Let’s take this one seriously.” As it lurches over the Gulf Coast, Hurricane Sally could bring 8 to 16 inches of rain, and some areas could see up to 24 inches. 

Tens of thousands were displaced from their homes after Laura. More than 82,000 people remain without power in Lake Charles and southwestern Louisiana. More than 210,000 households don’t have clean drinking water. Sally is the seventh hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season.

Jerry Harris from ‘Cheer’ under FBI investigation for allegedly soliciting nude photos, sex from minors

The FBI is investigating allegations that celebrity cheerleader Jerry Harris solicited sexually explicit photos and sex from minors, multiple sources told USA TODAY. Agents executed a search warrant Monday afternoon at a home in Naperville, Illinois, as part of that investigation. Harris, who gained national prominence when he was featured in Netflix’s recent “Cheer” docuseries, has not been criminally charged. The 21-year-old could not be immediately reached for comment. The criminal investigation is based on allegations that were reported separately to police by Varsity, a private company that dominates the cheerleading industry and handles everything from uniform sales to major competitions.

What everyone’s talking about

  • Scientists are outraged by White House appointees’ meddling with coronavirus information: “Outright egregious.”
  • A sheriff’s deputy in Georgia has been fired after being captured on video repeatedly punching a Black man during a traffic stop, authorities said.
  • A class with 100 students? COVID-19 plans are overwhelming some teachers with huge virtual classes.
  • A new proposal submitted by tech company ByteDance would feature software giant Oracle as a “trusted technology partner.”
  • Authorities are still searching for a gunman who shot two Los Angeles County deputies, and a $100,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest.

50 days until the election

There are 50 days until the presidential election. Is your vote still undecided? If so, you’re part of a key voter bloc for both Donald Trump and Joe Biden. And you’re not alone. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are still unsure of who they plan to support – or if they’re going to vote at all. Polls show Biden maintaining a roughly 7-point lead nationally over Trump, according to the Real Clear Politics average. But the lead has narrowed, even more so in the swing states that are expected to decide the presidency. USA TODAY interviewed several undecided voters. Here’s what they had to say.

  • Are the polls wrong? Polls show Trump is losing to Joe Biden. They said the same thing 4 years ago against Hillary Clinton.
  • Will my vote even count? Absentee ballot anxiety hits American expats voting abroad amid a pandemic and changes at USPS.

Real quick 

  • Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak says Trump took “reckless and selfish actions” by holding an indoor rally.
  • “We are trying to get used to it, but he’s 2”: A woman was escorted off her flight because her son wasn’t wearing his mask. 
  • As the COVID-19 pandemic hits the six-month mark, the travel industry is still struggling to bounce back. When will things go back to normal?
  • Two-thirds of Americans say law and order is a big problem, and they split on whether Trump or Biden is better suited to address it.

Climate change at center of wildfires? Biden says yes, Trump says no

Democratic presidential nominee Biden on Monday cited climate change as a key factor in the fires blazing through much of the West, but Trump instead placed the blame on “forest management” during a briefing in Northern California. “This is another crisis, another crisis he won’t take responsibility for,” Biden said. “If you give a climate denier four more years in the White House, why would we be surprised that we have more America ablaze?” And California Gov. Gavin Newsom told Trump forest management is an issue, but “climate change is real, and that is exacerbating this.”

Twenty-four deaths have been reported in California, 10 deaths have been reported in Oregon and one in Washington state since a rash of fires began burning in drought conditions a month ago. Several people are still missing and an unknown number of homes have been destroyed.

One ticket to Venus, please

Forget Mars. Scientists have discovered a possible sign of life in the clouds of Venus, according to a new study. Using telescopes based in Chile and Hawaii, astronomers spotted in Venus’ clouds the chemical signature of phosphine, a noxious gas that on Earth is only associated with life. Still, further observations are needed to explore the origin of phosphine in Venus’s atmosphere, scientists said. “This means either this is life, or it’s some sort of physical or chemical process that we do not expect to happen on rocky planets,” said study co-author Janusz Petkowski. 

A break from the news

  • Is the risk worth the treat?  New coronavirus map helps parents determine the risk level of Halloween activities in their area.

This is a compilation of stories from across the USA TODAY Network. Want this news roundup in your inbox every night? Sign up for The Short List newsletter here.

Published 6:15 PM EDT Sep 14, 2020

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