Taiwan’s largest earthquake in 25 years and Trump sues Truth Social co-founders: Morning Rundown

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Biden levels some of his strongest criticism yet at Israel over the killing of 7 aid workers. The death toll could climb after Taiwan’s largest earthquake in a quarter-century. And an Oklahoma city council member with white nationalist ties is ousted in a recall vote.

Here’s what to know today.

 Fears of a wider Middle East conflict are bubbling

A suspected Israeli airstrike on the Syrian capital and a subsequent vow of retaliation from Iran is raising fears that the war between Israel and Hamas could flare into a wider conflict.

The attack on Iran’s embassy compound in Damascus on Monday killed two of the country’s top commanders, including Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi — a key figure in coordinating the so-called Axis of Resistance, a network of groups that operate with militants from across the Arab world. Five military advisers in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s powerful military and political organization, were also killed.

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The bombing pushes archenemies Iran and Israel into a direct confrontation. “This is a clear escalation and it could provoke something” wider, said Sanam Vakil, the director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at a London-based think tank. But Vakil and other experts believe neither country wants an all-out conflict.

Israel has yet to comment on the attack, though the country’s defense minister appeared to obliquely reference the strike during a parliamentary meeting yesterday. And Iran’s promises that the attack “will not go unanswered” are purely rhetorical so far.

Read the full story here.

Israel faced widespread condemnation after a strike killed seven aid workers in Gaza in what the IDF said was a “mistake following a misidentification.” President Joe Biden expressed outrage in some of his toughest criticism yet of Israel, saying the country “has not done enough to protect civilians.” The WCK has identified the people killed in the attack, which include a dual U.S. citizen and three British veterans. Follow live updates here. 

More on the Israel-Hamas war: 

7.4-magnitude earthquake is Taiwan’s largest in 25 years

At least nine people have died and more than 730 others were injured after a 7.4-magnitude earthquake struck on the east coast of Taiwan this morning. The quake happened at around 8 a.m. local time at a depth of about 21 miles, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It was about 11 miles south-southwest of Hualien City. Officials said the number of casualties could rise in the coming days.

A damaged building in Hualien City, Taiwan, after an earthquake
A damaged building in Hualien City, Taiwan, after an earthquake on Wednesday.TVBS via AP

The earthquake was felt in all parts of Taiwan, the Central News Agency reported, disrupting rail services across the island and damaging a major highway. Video showed one building partially collapsed, left standing at an angle. Another shorter building was similarly situated. The damage was concentrated in the county of Hualien, near the quake’s epicenter, where officials said they were working to free 131 people who were trapped.

The earthquake also prompted tsunami warnings that were later lifted in Taiwan, Japan and the Philippines. The U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said that while national authorities might continue to issue their own information, “the tsunami threat from this earthquake has now passed.”

Here’s what else we know.

Deputies killed kidnapped teen as she obeyed their commands, video shows

Abducted teen Savannah Graziano. Graziano, abducted by her father a day earlier, was killed amid a shootout with law enforcement Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, on a highway in California's high desert, authorities said.
Savannah Graziano.City of Fontana Police Department via AP

After deputies fatally shot 15-year-old Savannah Graziano during a 2022 roadside shootout, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office said the 15-year-old was wearing tactical gear and that she was a “participant in shooting at deputies.” However, new video from the incident appears to contradict those claims.

Savannah’s father, Anthony John Graziano, was believed to have kidnapped her in September 2022 after he allegedly killed his estranged wife, Savannah’s mother, according to the sheriff’s office. Her abduction set off an Amber Alert, and when deputies found the truck belonging to Savannah’s father, a car chase and shootout ensued.

In a recording from the deputy closest to Savannah, he is heard shouting, “Stop! Stop shooting her! He’s in the car,” referring to Savannah and her father. And in a video taken from a distance, just after the moment Savannah was most likely shot, a voice in the audio is heard saying, “Oh, no.” Savannah did not appear to be wearing a vest or tactical gear.

Both Savannah and her father died in the shootout. Read the full story here.

Oklahoma official with white nationalist ties ousted in recall vote

As residents in the small town of Enid, Oklahoma, cast their vote in the race to recall a city council member with white nationalist ties, Judd Blevins — the man at the center of the vote — was spotted holding up a sign for his own campaign. “I’m pretty confident I’ll come out on top,” he said. “And if not, I fought the good fight.” Hours later, Blevins would learn that he lost the vote. He’ll be replaced on Enid City Council by Cheryl Patterson, a former teacher and longtime Republican.

Judd Blevins holds a campaign sign in Enid.
Judd Blevins in Enid, Okla, on Tuesday.Michael Noble Jr. for NBC News

Blevins’ white nationalist ties received heightened scrutiny after his election to the City Council last year. Those ties include his participation in a march alongside neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, and racist and antisemitic writings in secret forums in chats where he used a pseudonym.

Reporter Brandy Zadrozny has spent months reporting on Blevins’ past and the local efforts to oust him. She was in Enid yesterday to talk to voters and capture their reactions to the election results.

More election news:

  • In Wisconsin, voters approved a pair of Republican-backed constitutional amendments that will change how elections are run.
  • Trump taunted Biden with an empty lectern at his Wisconsin rally and said he’ll debate the president “anytime, anywhere, anyplace.”
  • Poll results that will be published in the next six months should be taken with a grain of salt, NBC News chief political analyst Chuck Todd writes. That’s because the rematch between Trump and Biden will be decided by “double-haters” — and we shouldn’t expect them to make a decision until the last possible minute. Read the full analysis here.

Trump sues Truth Social co-founders

Donald Trump doesn’t think the co-founders of his social media platform Truth Social should be entitled to their stock in the company. According to a recent lawsuit, executives Wes Moss and Andy Litinsky (who were former contestants on “The Apprentice”) made a series of costly mistakes that resulted in a long delay of the company’s going public. The lawsuit urges a judge to strip them of their shares in the company. 

Trump’s concerns about money don’t stop there. Earlier this week, he posted the $175 million bond in his New York civil fraud case. At one point, the bond amount was $557 million — or, as Trump’s lawyers put it, a “practical impossibility” to pull off paying. But then an appeals court stepped in. From a desperate struggle to a done deal, here’s how Trump posted the bond.

And in the New York hush money case, Trump’s lawyers are making another attempt to have Judge Juan Merchan remove himself from trial. In a letter to Merchan, Trump’s attorneys cited his daughter’s employment with a political firm and the recent gag order against Trump as factors for removal.

J.K. Rowling tests limits of new Scottish hate-crime law

Author J.K. Rowling celebrated Scottish police’s announcement that she wouldn’t be arrested for comments she made online about transgender women on the same day a hate-crime law took effect. The new law, called the Hate Crime and Public Order Act, criminalizes “stirring up hatred” against people based on various factors, including sexuality or gender identity. When the law took effect on Monday, the “Harry Potter” author shared a social media thread that misgendered several trans women and appeared to imply trans women have a penchant for sexual predation. Several critics called for police to act.

Scottish police said yesterday that they would not be investigating the remarks as a crime. Rowling cheered police’s announcement — and then doubled down on her criticisms of the law.

Politics in Brief

Supreme Court: For the first time, Democratic senators are publicly expressing an unease that history could repeat itself after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s refusal to step down. This time, they’re concerned about Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a lifelong diabetic and the oldest member of the court’s liberal wing. 

U.S.-China relations: President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping held a “check-in” call, their first discussion since November, to talk about China’s trade with Russia, the issues of cyberattacks and election interference, and other concerns.

‘Acute blood clot’: Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado underwent surgery after a blood clot was found in her leg and she was diagnosed with vascular condition, her campaign said.

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Staff Pick: The ‘Cowboy Carter’ listening experience

Grab your cowboy hat: Beyoncé fans celebrate 'Cowboy Carter' with themed listening parties
Venues from night clubs to bookstores hosted “Cowboy Carter”-themed parties across the country, over the weekend.
JerSean Golatt for NBC News

I cannot tell you how joyous this story makes me. Reporter Char Adams perfectly captured the excitement surrounding Beyoncé’s country album release, including a listening party in Irving, Texas. And photo editor Whitney Matewe produced these gorgeous photos. This story and the images truly brought me happiness (I highly recommend the album too, obviously). — Michelle Garcia, NBC BLK editorial director 

In Case You Missed It

  • A likely tornado moved mobile homes and uprooted trees in Kentucky, and buildings were damaged in Tennessee, as severe weather swept across the country.
  • Crews opened a second temporary channel to allow for some marine traffic to bypass the wreckage of Baltimore’s collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge.
  • A dream cruise vacation turned into a nightmare for eight passengers left stranded on an African island after the ship left without them.
  • Singer Lizzo clarified her announcement last week, in which she said “I QUIT.”

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