10 things you need to know today: September 13, 2021
North Korea tests new long-range cruise missiles, Manchin says he won't vote for $3.5 trillion spending bill, and more
North Korea conducts 1st missile test in months
North Korea successfully launched newly developed long-range cruise missiles over the weekend, state media Korea Central News Agency reported Monday. The report said the launch met leader Kim Jong Un's defense goals, hinting at the missiles' possible nuclear capabilities. It was the country's first missile test in six months, escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The development came as President Biden's nuclear envoy, Sung Kim, is scheduled to travel to Tokyo to meet with Japanese and South Korean officials. Kim said last month in South Korea that he was ready to meet with North Korean counterparts "anywhere, at any time" to restart stalled negotiations on curbing Pyongyang's nuclear program.
Manchin says he won't vote for $3.5 trillion spending bill
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), a critical moderate swing vote, said Sunday that he wouldn't back the $3.5 trillion spending bill proposed by President Biden and his allies in Congress. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer "will not have my vote on $3.5 [trillion]," Manchin said on CNN's State of the Union. Manchin, who has proposed cutting the bill's cost in half, said there was "no way" Congress can reach a deal in time to meet House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's goal of passing the legislation by Sept. 27. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is writing the bill, said it is "not acceptable" to the White House, the "overwhelming majority" of Democratic caucus, or "the American people" that Manchin doesn't support the bill.
Surgeon general defends Biden vaccine requirements
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy defended the Biden administration's new coronavirus vaccine requirements in schools and big businesses. "We know these kind of requirements actually work to improve our vaccination rates," Murthy said on ABC's This Week. President Biden is using the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to make companies with more than 100 workers mandate employee vaccinations. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said on NBC's Meet the Press that the new vaccine requirement was "an unprecedented assumption of federal mandate authority" that "hardens the resistance" to vaccinations by overstepping federal authority and "increasing distrust with the government."
Taliban minister unveils gender-segregated education policy
The Taliban's new government in Afghanistan will let women continue studying in universities, but only in gender-segregated classrooms, the interim government's higher education minister, Abdul Baqi Haqqani, said Sunday. Women on campus will have to wear traditional Islamic dress, he said. The announcement came a day after the Taliban raised its flag over the presidential palace in a sign that the new government was getting to work. Also on Sunday, Qatar's foreign minister reportedly arrived in the Afghan capital of Kabul. He is the highest-level visitor since the Taliban last week unveiled its interim Cabinet, which includes many Islamist stalwarts.
Newsom heads into recall vote with polling lead
The latest polls before Tuesday's California recall election found that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) was strongly favored to keep his job. A survey released Sept. 1 by the Public Policy Institute of California showed that 58 percent of respondents backed Newsom, with 39 percent looking to replace him. As the possibility of a rout loomed, some of Newsom's Republican challengers began making baseless allegations that the election was going to be tainted by fraud. Former President Donald Trump said the election would be "rigged," and Larry Elder, a leading GOP candidate, said he was "concerned" about ballot fraud. "This is baked into the playbook now," said Michael Latner, an associate professor of political science at California Polytechnic Institute.
Video emerges of Al Qaeda leader believed dead
Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who has been rumored dead for months, appeared in a video marking Saturday's 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist websites. In the clip, al-Zawahiri praised Al Qaida attacks, including one in January that targeted Russian troops in Syria. He also mentioned the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years of war, but said nothing about the Taliban's takeover in the country last month, raising questions about how recently the recording was made. "He could still be dead, though if so, it would have been at some point in or after Jan. 2021," tweeted Rita Katz, SITE's director.
Tropical Storm Nicholas threatens Gulf Coast flooding
Tropical Storm Nicholas formed in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico on Sunday, threatening rains that could cause flooding from northeastern Mexico to New Orleans early this week. The National Hurricane Center said a tropical storm warning was in effect for the Texas coast from the mouth of the Rio Grande to Port Aransas, with the Houston area possibly facing the worst flooding. Wind shear was preventing the storm from strengthening into a hurricane, although its winds could intensify some when it gets closer to the United States. "The shear is expected to lessen a bit tomorrow, which may allow the system to continue to strengthen from a weak tropical storm into a strong tropical storm," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Rob Miller. Its top sustained winds were 60 miles per hour early Monday.
NYC school year starts with no remote-learning option
New York City public school students return to class on Monday in what amounts to the biggest experiment yet for in-person learning during the coronavirus pandemic. Teachers are under a vaccine mandate requiring them to get their first doses no later than Sept. 27, with no test-out option. The city's roughly 1 million students won't have to be vaccinated, except those participating in contact sports. All students must wear masks. Unlike some school districts, New York City schools won't offer a remote-learning option despite the Delta-variant-fueled coronavirus surge. "Our kids need to be in school and it's unbelievable that some kids haven't seen the inside of a classroom for a year and a half," Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.
Barrett says Supreme Court justices aren't 'partisan hacks'
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett on Sunday pushed back against criticism of partisanship on the high court. "My goal today is to convince you that this court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks," Barrett said at a Sunday celebration of the 30th anniversary of the McConnell Center, which provides scholarship opportunities at the University of Louisville. Barrett, who was appointed by then-President Donald Trump in 2020 just before his November election loss, said the justices' "judicial philosophies," not their political parties, matter most. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who founded the center, played a key role in pushing through Barrett's confirmation to widen the court's conservative majority.
Medvedev thwarts Djokovic's bid for a Grand Slam
Daniil Medvedev beat Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 to win the U.S. Open men's singles final on Sunday. It was the 25-year-old Russian's first Grand Slam title. Djokovic was going for his 21st major title, and the first calendar-year sweep of Grand Slam titles since 1969. "Knowing that I managed to stop him, it definitely makes it sweeter," Medvedev said. The loss left Djokovic tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal with 20 majors, the most in men's tennis history. Medvedev is the first 20-something rising star to beat one of the Big Three in a Grand Slam final. "You could feel that he was just at the height of his abilities on every shot," Djokovic said.