10 things you need to know today: August 11, 2023

President Biden declares a major disaster as Hawaii's fire death toll rises, Iran moves 4 Americans from prison to house arrest in potential prisoner swap, and more

The remnants of burnt homes and streets devastated by fires in Hawaii
The death toll from fires reached at least 55 people in historic Lahaina in western Maui
(Image credit: PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

1. Biden signs major disaster declaration for fire-ravaged Hawaii

President Biden declared a major disaster in Hawaii to provide "significant relief" to communities devastated by unprecedented wildfires that have ravaged Maui and the Big Island. The death toll reached at least 55 people in historic Lahaina in western Maui, and was expected to rise. The fires, fueled by winds from a passing hurricane, destroyed hundreds of buildings, forced thousands of people to flee their homes, and overwhelmed hospitals with burn victims. "Recovering from these devastating fires will take significant time and resources, and we need all the federal support we can get," U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said in a statement announcing the declaration. Gov. Josh Green's office said the disaster declaration would make federal funds available to people affected on Maui.

Honolulu Star-Advertiser

2. Iran moves Americans from prison to house arrest

Iran and the United States reached a deal on a prisoner exchange that got four Americans out of the country's notorious Evin Prison. The detained Americans included Siamak Namazi, an Iranian American held in Tehran for nearly eight years; Morad Tahbaz, an Iranian American who also holds British citizenship; and Emad Shargi, an American-Iranian dual citizen. The fourth was not immediately identified. The four were transferred to house arrest pending the completion of the prisoner swap between Tehran and Washington, longtime adversaries. A fifth American reportedly already had been moved to house arrest. Iran is expected to free the Americans in exchange for several Iranians imprisoned by the U.S., and the release of $6 billion in Iranian oil revenue held in South Korea.

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The Washington Post

3. Ukraine announces 'humanitarian corridor' in Black Sea

Ukraine announced Thursday a "humanitarian corridor" for cargo ships to travel through the Black Sea, although it warned Russia posed "a military threat and mortal danger" after withdrawing from the Black Sea Grain Initiative on July 17. The new corridor for ships, some of which have been trapped in Ukraine's ports since Russia invaded in February 2022, will test the Ukrainian navy's ability to reopen sea lanes despite Russia's de facto blockade. Oleh Chalyk, a spokesperson for Ukraine's navy, told Reuters the corridor would be "very transparent," with "cameras on the ships and there will be a broadcast to show that this is purely a humanitarian mission and has no military purpose."


4. Trump and aide plead not guilty to latest documents charges

Former President Donald Trump and longtime aide Walt Nauta pleaded not guilty on Thursday to new criminal charges related to Trump's alleged mishandling of classified documents after leaving office and conspiring to prevent the government from getting them back. The charges, which were added to earlier counts last month, accuse Trump of telling Nauta and another aide to order the deletion of security footage taken outside a storage facility where secret documents were kept at his Mar-a-Lago residence and club in Florida. The other aide, Mar-a-Lago property manager Carlos De Oliveira, was at the hearing, but his arraignment was delayed until he gets his own local lawyer.

The New York Times

5. Russia scheduled to launch its 1st moon mission since 1976

Russia plans to launch its Luna-25 spacecraft on Friday, in its first mission to the moon since 1976, when it was part of the Soviet Union. The spacecraft aims to reach the moon on Aug. 23, the same day as an Indian mission launched July 14. The Russian space agency Roscosmos has said the goal of its lunar lander is to show Russia is "capable of delivering a payload to the moon" and ensure Russia's access to the moon. "Study of the moon is not the goal," popular Russian space analyst Vitaly Egorov told The Associated Press. "The goal is political competition between two superpowers — China and the USA — and ... other countries which also want to claim the title of space superpower."

The Associated Press

6. Biden asks Congress for another $20 billion for Ukraine

President Biden on Thursday asked Congress for more than $20 billion in additional aid to Ukraine as its counteroffensive against Russia shows signs of stalling. The White House Office of Management and Budget requested the money, which includes $13 billion in military funding and $7.3 billion for economic and humanitarian assistance, in a letter to lawmakers. Biden also asked for more than $12 billion for disaster relief and tens of millions of dollars to increase pay for crews that fight wildfires. The Ukraine aid "is likely to prove the most controversial item," according to The Washington Post. The United States has already sent Kyiv more than $60 billion in aid.

Politico The Washington Post

7. Special counsel asks for Jan. 2 Trump trial date

Prosecutors in Special Counsel Jack Smith's office have asked a Washington, D.C., judge to schedule former President Donald Trump's trial over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election for Jan. 2. The prosecutors wrote in the filing that a speedy trial, which is guaranteed under the Constitution, is particularly important in this case because it involves a former president accused of "conspiring to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election, obstruct the certification of the election results, and discount citizens' legitimate votes." Trump's lawyers have suggested the case should be delayed, possibly until after the 2024 presidential election, in which Trump is the front-runner for the GOP nomination.


8. Cooling core inflation eases pressure for Fed rate hikes

The consumer price index rose just 0.2% in July, the same increase as in June, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The annual inflation rate was 3.2%, up from a 3% pace in June. Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, fell to an annual rate of 4.7% from 4.8% in June. The cooling price pressures were expected to lead the Federal Reserve to hold off on raising interest rates again at its September meeting. Fed officials tend to focus on core inflation, and the new numbers added to recent data calling into question the need for another rate hike this year, according to The Wall Street Journal. "There's absolutely no question that core inflation has turned the corner faster" than the Fed expected, Laurence Meyer, a former Fed governor, told the Journal.

Reuters The Wall Street Journal

9. Virgin Galactic sends up its 1st space tourists

Virgin Galactic flew tourists to the edge of space for the first time on Thursday. The rocket-powered space plane took six people on a brief flight that let passengers experience a few minutes of weightlessness before the craft glided back to a landing on the Spaceport America runway in the New Mexico desert. The successful flight, delayed for years, set up Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic to start offering monthly rides and join Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin and Elon Musk's SpaceX in the space tourism race. Virgin Galactic's passengers included mother-daughter duo Keisha Schahaff, 46, and Ana Mayers, 18, of Antigua, and former British Olympic canoe competitor Jon Goodwin, who bought his ticket for $250,000 in 2005.

BBC News The Associated Press

10. California regulators approve expanded San Francisco driverless-taxi service

The California Public Utilities Commission voted 3-1 on Thursday to allow the expansion of driverless taxi services in San Francisco. The decision will let Cruise and Waymo offer paid rides in autonomous vehicles any time during the day throughout the city. Before the vote, Google-owned Waymo and General Motors-owned Cruise had to operate under strict limits. Cruise could only take passengers paying fares between 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. in a few neighborhoods. Waymo couldn't charge for driverless rides. The commission's decision came after a seven-hour public hearing and months of objections by city officials and civic groups, who argued driverless cars posed safety hazards.

San Francisco Chronicle The New York Times

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Harold Maass

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.