Opioid epidemic’s ‘fourth wave’ and Social Security COLA: Morning Rundown

The U.N. says warnings could have saved thousands of lives in Libya. Researchers explain what’s causing a “fourth wave” of the opioid epidemic. And next year’s Social Security cost of living adjustment could rise more than expected.

Here’s what to know today.

Threats mount against FBI agents and prosecutors in Hunter Biden probe

FBI agents and prosecutors investigating Hunter Biden have increasingly been the target of threats and harassment by those who feel they have not been tough enough on the president’s son — part of an uptick in threats so alarming that it prompted the FBI to create a stand-alone unit to investigate and mitigate the threats — according to government officials and testimony obtained exclusively by NBC News.

The creation of a new FBI unit comes as the threats against those involved in high-profile investigations have hit “a number we’ve never had before,” a then-executive director of human resources for the FBI told the House Judiciary Committee in June. In the six-month period from October to March, there were more threats than in the previous 12 months, she said.

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The uptick coincided with attacks on the FBI and the Justice Department by congressional Republicans and former President Donald Trump, as they accuse both agencies of a conspiracy to subvert justice amid two federal indictments of Trump.

Sometimes, the threats go beyond those directly involved in the cases. An FBI agent in the Hunter Biden investigation told the House Judiciary Committee last week that agents’ family members have also received threats. Read the full story here.

More on Hunter Biden

  • Hunter Biden accused a former Trump White House aide of violating data laws in connection with the publication of laptop content attributed to him, according to a newly filed lawsuit .

20,000 feared dead in Libyan city destroyed by floods

Up to 20,000 people are now feared dead after a torrent of water ripped through eastern Libya — a devastating toll that could largely have been avoided, U.N. officials said. As rescuers in the ruined city of Derna searched underwater and under rubble, fears grew that rotting bodies could lead to a deadly outbreak of disease in the wake of this week’s floods.

A precise tally of the rising number of people killed is incredibly difficult given the level of destruction and chaotic political situation in the region, with bodies still washing up on the shore and burials being held in mass graves.

President Biden is ‘not focused’ on impeachment

President Joe Biden made his first remarks about the impeachment inquiry targeting him, a day after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced that he was directing three House committees to launch the inquiry. “I get up every day, not a joke, not focused on impeachment,” Biden said at a campaign reception yesterday evening in Virginia. “I’ve got a job to do.”

He alluded to the timing of the inquiry being linked to a to a potential shutdown if Congress doesn’t meet the Sept. 30 deadline to fund the government.

Far-right Republicans, however, said the impeachment inquiry and their demands for spending cuts in funding legislation are “totally unrelated,” and they don’t plan on softening their demands.

Meanwhile, Reps. James Comer and Jim Jordan, who chair the House Oversight and Judiciary committees, briefed a group of Senate Republicans yesterday afternoon about the impeachment inquiry, including the investigation process and a planned timeline, according to multiple GOP sources.

How Justin Roiland used his ‘Rick and Morty’ fame to pursue young fans

In the years following the 2013 debut of Adult Swim’s cartoon phenomenon “Rick and Morty,” its star and co-creator Justin Roiland became a titan of the animation and video game industries and a rock star in youth counterculture.

Roiland exchanged explicit messages with a woman from Pennsylvania in 2017.Obtained by NBC News

But as he partied with superstars and traveled the world for conventions, he found he could use his fame to strike up conversations and develop relationships with young fans, including some who were underage. This is according to interviews with 11 women and nonbinary people who shared thousands of messages with Roiland between 2013 and 2022 — with nine of the people saying he turned the exchanges sexual. Of those nine, three said they were 16 when they started talking to Roiland. To corroborate their stories, the 11 women and nonbinary people shared pictures, videos, social media posts, emails, and plane ticket and Uber receipts with NBC News.

The opioid epidemic’s ‘fourth wave’

The proportion of overdose deaths involving fentanyl and a stimulant, like cocaine or methamphetamine, increased more than fiftyfold from 2010 to 2021, according to a new study, a phase that researchers have deemed a “fourth wave” of the opioid crisis. Such deaths are called polysubstance overdoses, and the trend began to take shape in 2015, when stimulants’ involvement in fentanyl overdoses began to rise in virtually every state.

“The roots really did start with overprescribing prescription opioids, but now it is really characterized by stimulants and fentanyl,” one of the study’s co-authors said. But she concedes that data doesn’t offer a full picture of the deaths.

Federal recommendations for infant rockers

Staff members at the Consumer Product Safety Commission have recommended new safety rules for infant rockers, including making them firmer and flatter, as well as a requirement that they pass stability and other safety tests. The reclined seats designed to soothe babies by rocking have been linked to 11 deaths from 2011 to 2022, mostly while babies were sleeping.

What happens next? CPSC commissioners are expected to meet next month to decide whether to adopt the recommendations. Then, the next step would be a public comment process. But finalizing the rules could take months or years.

Today’s Talker: Next year’s Social Security cost of living adjustment will be…

…higher than expected — but not high enough to keep up with inflation, an advocacy group said. The Senior Citizens League said the raise will likely be 3.2% for 2024, which translates to about an additional $57 in monthly benefits. But the pace at which prices are rising is outpacing benefits, the group said. And for a specific group of beneficiaries, that could be a serious problem.

Politics in Brief

Trump investigations:  Donald Trump raised the possibility this week that he could take the stand in his own defense in the four criminal cases he faces. The makeup of the juries could determine his fate, defense attorneys, former prosecutors and jury experts say.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, in his office after announcing he will not seek re-election on, Sept. 13, 2023 in Washington.Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, in his office after announcing he will not seek re-election on, Sept. 13, 2023 in Washington.Frank Thorp V / NBC News

Romney retirement: Mitt Romney — the Republican senator representing Utah who has been an outspoken critic of Trump — will not run for re-election in 2024.

Immigration: A federal judge in Texas declared the DACA program illegal. The program prevents the deportation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

Coronavirus: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration is advising residents under the age of 65 to not get the new Covid boosters, deviating from federal recommendations.

 Jan. 6 riot: “I did the right thing,” a Capitol rioter said before she was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. During yesterday’s sentencing, she also launched into a 45-minute rant.

Law enforcement officers escort Danelo Cavalcante from a Pennsylvania State Police barracksLaw enforcement officers escort Danelo Cavalcante from a Pennsylvania State Police barracks in Avondale Pa., on Sept. 13, 2023.Matt Rourke / AP

Staff Pick: The 13-day search for a murderer

Danelo Cavalcante’s escape from a Pennsylvania prison and the manhunt that followed captivated the nation for nearly two weeks. His capture yesterday marked the end of a saga that, at times, felt like it was straight from a Hollywood thriller. This recounting of Cavalcante’s 13 days on the run is like a movie you know the ending to but is intriguing anyway. — Elizabeth Robinson, newsletter editor

In Case You Missed It 

  • Up to 146,000 workers could strike as soon as tomorrow if contract agreements with the “Big Three” U.S. automakers — General Motors, Ford and Stellantis — can’t be reached by the end of the day. Union leaders are pressing a bold set of demands.
  • A teenage driver is in custody on suspicion of intentionally striking three bicyclists, killing one, in a Southern California beach city last weekend.
  • Hurricane Lee could make landfall this weekend anywhere from the coast of Maine to Nova Scotia, the National Hurricane Center said.
  • A former project manager and property caretaker for Ye said he was fired after refusing to remove all of the windows and electricity from the rapper’s Malibu home to make it “like a bomb shelter,” according to a new lawsuit.
  • The wife of Mexican crime lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán was released from prison after serving less than two years for her role in the drug trafficking empire.
  • Quarterback Aaron Rodgers vowed to “rise yet again” after his season-ending Achilles tear.

Select: Online Shopping, Simplified

Toners can help reduce the appearance of enlarged pores, remove makeup and hydrate skin. Experts suggest using products with ingredients that help with your skin goals. Here’s how to shop for toners and the best options on the market.

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