10 things you need to know today: September 12, 2023

The US agrees to release frozen Iranian funds in prisoner swap, Kim Jong Un arrives in Russia to meet with Putin, and more

Kim Jong Un arrives in Russia
Kim Jong Un arrives in Russia
(Image credit: Kirill Kudryavtsev / AFP via Getty Images)

1. US to release $6 billion to Iran under prisoner swap

The Biden administration has agreed to allow international banks to release $6 billion in Iranian assets to clear the way for the release of five American citizens detained by Tehran, The Associated Press reported Monday. The administration has also agreed under the tentative deal to free five Iranian citizens held in the U.S. European, Middle Eastern and Asian banks would have faced U.S. sanctions if they transferred the Iranian funds without the waiver spelled out in the agreement. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reportedly signed off on the deal last week, but Congress was only notified Monday. Republicans criticized the deal. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) called it "shameful."

The Associated Press, The Hill

2. Kim arrives in Russia for talks with Putin

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived in Russia early Tuesday aboard an armored luxury train for a summit with President Vladimir Putin, who wants Pyongyang to supply weapons for his invasion of Ukraine. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Kim would participate in talks with Putin and a "formal dinner" as part of a "full blown" visit in the port city of Vladivostok in eastern Russia. The visit is Kim's first known trip outside North Korea in nearly four years. The U.S. has "aggressively enforced our sanctions against entities that fund Russia's war effort" and "will not hesitate to impose new sanctions" if North Korea gives Putin the munitions he seeks, State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said Monday.

The Washington Post

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3. Hundreds killed in Libya flooding

Storm Daniel drenched eastern Libya with torrential rains, causing severe flooding that killed more than 2,000 people, the head of Libya's eastern government, Ossama Hamad, announced Monday. "Ossama Hamad said in press statements that residential neighborhoods disappeared after the torrents swept them into the sea along with thousands of their residents, and the situation is catastrophic and unprecedented in Libya," the state-run Libyan News Agency reported, according to CNN. Footage posted on social media showed water rushing through streets filled with submerged cars and flanked by collapsed buildings.


4. Morocco earthquake death toll rises as frantic rescue efforts continue

The death toll in Morocco's devastating earthquake rose to more than 2,800 on Monday as rescue teams continued frantic efforts to find more survivors. Rescuers from Spain, Britain and Qatar joined local crews trying to reach people trapped in collapsed buildings when the magnitude 6.8 temblor, the deadliest quake to hit the North African nation in more than six decades, struck villages in the High Atlas Mountains southwest of Marrakech. Mohamed Ouchen, 66, said residents pulled 25 survivors, including his own sister, out of the rubble in the village of Tagadirte immediately after the earthquake. "We were busy rescuing, because we didn't have tools, we used our hands," he said.


5. UK says Russia attacked civilian cargo ship in Black Sea port

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told members of Parliament on Monday that Russia attacked a Liberian-flagged civilian cargo ship in a Black Sea port on Aug. 24. The previously unreported missile attack was blocked by Ukrainian defenses, Reuters reported, citing Britain's foreign office. Ukraine has accused Moscow of threatening civilian vessels since it backed out in July from a United Nations–brokered deal that allowed shipments of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea. Many civilian ships have been stuck in the port of Odesa, and Ukraine has been trying to help them reach the open sea. Four cargo vessels have left Odesa since Aug. 18.


6. Alabama asks Supreme Court to step in after ruling against congressional map

Alabama on Monday asked the Supreme Court to block a federal court decision barring the use of a congressional map drawn by Republican lawmakers that critics say dilutes Black voters' power. After a three-judge appellate court panel denied the state's request for an emergency stay, Secretary of State Wes Allen asked the Supreme Court to intervene, arguing that having a special master redraw the districts "will intentionally segregate Alabamians based on race." A divided Supreme Court in June agreed that the original map, which included one majority Black district out of seven in a state that is 27% Black, should be redrawn to include a second majority-Black district. The lower court found that a new map didn't fix the problem.

AL.com, CNN 

7. FDA approves new Covid vaccines

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved new Covid-19 vaccines designed to protect against more recent coronavirus strains. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to hold an advisory committee meeting Tuesday to debate who should be eligible for the new shots, made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Covid-19 infections have increased since early July. Hospitalizations and deaths were up 16% and 17%, respectively, in the week that ended Thursday, compared to the previous week, according to the CDC. Getting a booster shot might not help younger people much, but anyone immune-compromised, obese, or suffering from chronic diseases "really do benefit," said Dr. Paul Offit, who directs the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

USA Today, The New York Times

8. Solemn ceremonies mark 9/11 22nd anniversary

Americans marked the 22nd anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on Monday with solemn ceremonies and moments of silence. Nearly 3,000 people died that day when terrorists hijacked planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon, and a Pennsylvania field. "For those of us who lost people on that day, that day is still happening," Edward Edelman said at the New York memorial to honor his slain brother-in-law, Daniel McGinley. "We know that on this day, every American's heart was wounded," said President Biden, speaking at an Alaska military base. "Yet every big city, small town, suburb, rural town, tribal community — American hands went up, ready to help where they could."

The Associated Press

9. American caver rescued in Turkey

Rescuers brought American caving expert Mark Dickey to safety early Tuesday after he fell ill 3,400 feet underground in the Morca cave in southern Turkey. Dickey, 40, entered on Aug. 30 as part of an expedition exploring the cave. He had been trapped since Aug. 31, when he suffered gastrointestinal bleeding. He lost three liters of blood. A member of his team climbed to the surface and, on Sept. 2, alerted authorities, who brought in more than 180 people from eight countries, including Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Poland, and the U.S., to help with the rescue in Turkey's remote Taurus Mountains. "It is amazing to be above ground again," Dickey told reporters. "I was underground far longer than ever expected."

ABC News, The New York Times

10. Charter reaches deal to end Disney blackout

Disney and Charter Communications on Monday reached a deal that will end a blackout of Disney channels, including ESPN and ABC, from the nearly 15 million subscribers to Charter's Spectrum pay-TV service. Under the agreement, Charter will pay higher rates for Disney TV channels in exchange for the ability to provide Disney+ and ESPN+ streaming services to its customers. Ad-supported Disney+ service will be included in Spectrum's popular TV Select video packages, and ESPN+ will be offered to Charter customers paying for extra sports channels. Disney executives acknowledged they had made concessions, but said the higher prices the entertainment giant would get for its channels made them worthwhile.

The Wall Street Journal

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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.