Gulf catastrophe

Evening Briefing

Hurricane Laura has grown into a powerful Category 4 storm, with winds that could reach 145 mph. The cyclone is poised to be one of the worst ever to hit the western U.S. Gulf, threatening to pummel Texas and Louisiana with deadly storm surges, flash floods and destructive winds that could kill an untold number of residents while inflicting $25 billion in damage. It makes landfall tomorrow. —David E. Rovella

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Here are today's top stories

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has had a very bad year. First, it fumbled the initial response to the coronavirus, botching a Covid-19 test and then delaying availability as the virus spread. In July, the agency backpedaled (at first) on advice about when kids should go back to school after President Donald Trump complained. Now, the CDC has changed its advice about who should be tested, saying asymptomatic Americans don't need one even if they've been in contact with someone who is infected. This despite studies showing half of all infections may come from people with no symptoms. The latest shift reportedly came at the urging of White House officials, though the administration denies it. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called the move an effort by Trump to bring down the number of cases with less testing. More than 179,000 Americans have died from Covid-19.

The discovery of the coronavirus in the bathroom of an unoccupied apartment suggests the airborne pathogen may have wafted upwards through drain pipes, an echo of the SARS outbreak 17 years ago. Worldwide, there are now 24 million confirmed cases. In Wuhan, where the virus got its start, the city is shutting out the rest of the world. In the U.S., there were 37,986 new cases yesterday, and 1,234 Americans have died from the virus in the past 24 hours. Here is the latest on the pandemic.

U.S. commercial real estate prices are plummeting. Indexes for office, retail and lodging properties are dropping as volume dived 69% across all sectors compared with July 2019. Real Capital Senior Vice President Jim Costello said "the worst is yet to come."

Heroin's hidden ingredient costs $324 a jug. One container of acetic anhydride is enough to produce 90,000 hits of high-grade "China white." Mexican cartels get as much as they need and use it to cook meth, too. So who is making this special chemical that turns crude opium into a powerful drug used by one million Americans? U.S. companies, that's who.

A White fan of law enforcement was arrested after two people were murdered in protests over the as-yet unexplained police shooting of a Black man. Kenosha, Wisconsin, police fired seven shots into the back of Jacob Blake at point blank range on Sunday, in front of his children. Blake suffered a severed spinal cord, a shattered vertebra and damage to his stomach, kidney and liver, his lawyers said. Kyle Rittenhouse, of Antioch, Illinois, was taken into custody last night on suspicion of first-degree intentional homicide in Tuesday's double-homicide. A third person was also shot after a night in which police and self-described members of right-wing "militias" armed with rifles clashed with protestors.

Facebook, which hosted now-removed content from a purported militia group calling for "patriots" to head to Kenosha, had a good day Wednesday. Its shares shot up 8.2% as analysts hailed a new shopping section on the social media platform.

Three of the world's richest people have achieved staggering new levels of personal wealth. The net worth of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (above) eclipsed $200 billion as shares of the e-commerce giant climbed to a record Wednesday. The move simultaneously pushed his ex-wife MacKenzie Scott to the brink of becoming the world's richest woman, just behind L'Oreal SA heiress Francoise Bettencourt Meyers. Elon Musk, meanwhile, extended an extraordinary stretch of wealth gains to become a centibillionaire. Tesla shares rallied Wednesday, pushing his net worth to $101 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

What you'll need to know tomorrow

What you'll want to read in Bloomberg Technology

Veterans of Musk's Empire Try Self-Flying Planes

Silicon Valley has been hard at work on the vexing challenge of autonomous cars. Now veterans of Elon Musk's empire have unveiled a new startup working on self-flying planes for cargo. In June, Reliable Robotics demonstrated a fully automated remote landing of a Cessna 208 Caravan turboprop owned by FedEx.

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