Airstrikes in Yemen, Chile wildfires and a dangerous California storm: Weekend Rundown

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U.S. airstrikes hit targets in Yemen

The U.S. and the United Kingdom launched airstrikes Saturday targeting Iran-backed Houthis in rebel-held areas of Yemen.

The “precision strikes” were meant to “disrupt and degrade the capabilities” the Houthis have used to attack ships in the Red Sea, threatening global trade and innocent sailors operating the ships, a multination joint statement said.

U.S. Central Command handout/EyePress News via Reuters

The strikes were unrelated to the Friday strikes that targeted 85 sites in Iraq and Syria used by Iranian forces and Iran-backed militants, a senior administration official said.

Yemen’s Iran-linked Houthis said they would not be deterred by the American and British airstrikes, adding that the attacks would “not go unanswered or unpunished.”

Catch up on the latest news here.

More on the Israel-Hamas war

NBC News poll highlights Biden’s struggles against Trump

Despite a growing economy and little opposition for his party’s nomination, President Joe Biden confronts a dissatisfied electorate and a challenging political climate nine months before he faces re-election, according to a new national NBC News poll.

Biden trails GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump on major policy and personal comparisons, including by more than 20 points on which candidate would better handle the economy. The poll also shows Trump holding a 16-point advantage over Biden on being competent and effective, a reversal from 2020.

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Biden’s approval rating has declined to the lowest level of his presidency in NBC News polling — to 37% — while fewer than 3 in 10 voters approve of his handling of the Israel-Hamas war.

But when the survey’s final question re-asks voters what their ballot choice would be if Trump is found guilty and convicted of a felony this year, Biden narrowly pulls ahead of Trump, 45%-43%.

Once unthinkable, frequent fires are Hawaii’s new normal

Photo illustration of a grid showing a fire mapping computer program, the Lahaina wildfire burning in 2023, and a white board with notes.
Photos by Josiah Patterson for NBC News; AP

Clay Trauernicht, a fire scientist, spent a decade sounding the alarm to officials, legislators and community groups: Hawaii has a new wildfire reality and needs to start prioritizing prevention and management.

His call went largely unheeded. Last year’s deadly Lahaina fire spread fastest and burned hottest in areas covered in invasive African grasses that evolved to burn and quickly grow again, like the site Trauernicht showed federal officials on the Big Island months before.

“We started putting out information about this in 2014,” said Trauernicht, who noted that fire frequency and severity has only increased since. “This is not [just] a Lahaina problem. They just got the worst outcome you can imagine.”

On Maui alone, nearly as much land has burned in the last five years as the previous 20 combined, much of it near communities on the west side of the island.

A grieving mother confronted a coroner for answers about her son’s death

Gretchen Hankins Exhumation of Son, Jonathan Hankins
Gretchen Hankins, center, at the exhumation of her son.Ashleigh Coleman for NBC News

The Hinds County, Mississippi, coroner told Gretchen Hankins that she had to leave the pauper’s field where her son’s body was being exhumed Friday, after she demanded answers on why she wasn’t notified of her son’s death.

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Hankins learned from NBC News in December that her son, Jonathan David Hankins, 39, had died of a drug overdose in May 2022. His body had gone unclaimed for more than a year as family, friends and police searched for him, and without anyone notifying his mother, he was buried in a grave marked only with a number: 645.

“I don’t know about missing persons,” Hinds County Coroner Sharon Grisham-Stewart told Hankins after being confronted at the exhumation. “I don’t know how to find people. I know how to determine cause and manner of death. But if I fall short of looking for people, I apologize. I don’t know how to find people.”

Meet the Press

Speaker Mike Johnson told Republican colleagues the House will vote this week on a stand-alone bill to provide aid to Israel. On “Meet the Press” Sunday, he defended the bill after the White House dismissed it as a “ploy.”

Moderator Kristen Welker asked Johnson whether he proposed the stand-alone package to kill a compromise immigration deal in the Senate that included Israel aid.

“No, we’ve made very clear what the requirements of the House were, and that is to solve the problem at the border,” he said, adding that the House has been “awaiting” action from the Senate.

“We cannot wait any longer,” Johnson argued. “The House is willing to lead, and the reason we have to take care of this Israel situation right now is because the situation has escalated.”

You can watch the full interview here.

Politics in brief

California braces for a serious storm

A man walks by a flooded road during a rain storm in Long Beach, Calif. on Feb. 1, 2024.
David Swanson / AFP via Getty Images

A strong Pacific storm system is expected to bring “life threatening flooding” and heavy snow to California over the weekend into early next week, according to the National Weather Service.

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Much of the state is expected to receive heavy rainfall, with up to 12 inches likely for mountain ranges. Damaging winds of up to 95 mph, brief tornadoes and waterspouts are also possible Sunday.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered in some counties, and residents are being encouraged to follow local alerts.

Culture & trends

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley appeared on “Saturday Night Live” in a town hall sketch, giving her some face time with a version of Donald Trump and allowing her to correct perhaps her biggest flub on the campaign trail.

“What would you say was the main cause of the Civil War?” an audience member, played by host Ayo Edebiri, asked Haley. “Do you think it starts with an ‘s’ and ends with a ‘lavery’?”

“Yep, I probably should’ve said that the first time,” Haley responded.

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