Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: September 11, 2021

1

U.S. marks 20th anniversary of 9/11

Commemoration events are set to take place throughout the United States on Saturday to mark the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. President Biden is scheduled to visit all three sites where the hijacked planes either hit their targets or crashed. Biden and first lady Dr. Jill Biden spent the morning alongside former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton for a memorial event at Ground Zero in New York. Biden is then set to travel to the Flight 93 memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the final plane crashed before reaching its intended target. Former President George W. Bush, who was in office at the time, is set to deliver remarks at the site. Finally, Biden will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Pentagon.

2

Biden tells vaccine mandate challengers to 'have at it'

President Biden on Friday responded to those threatening legal action over his sweeping new vaccine rules by telling them to "have at it." Biden is directing the Labor Department to require businesses with more than 100 employees to require workers show proof of vaccination or get tested for COVID-19 weekly, a move that received pushback from some Republican governors, who threatened to fight the decision in court. Biden added that he's "so disappointed" with the "cavalier" approach taken by those governors. It's unclear whether any challenges would be successful, but several legal scholars believe the rule has a solid chance of standing.

3

Appeals court reinstates DeSantis' mask mandate ban for now

A Florida appeals court on Friday reversed a previous decision by a judge who put a hold on Gov. Ron DeSantis' (R) ban on school mask mandates in the Sunshine State amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest ruling means that, for now at least, the Florida Department of Education can punish local school officials who require students to wear masks in schools without an opt-out clause for parents. Despite the legal victory for DeSantis, some school districts, including Miami-Dade County Public Schools, said they will continue to enforce their mandates while court proceedings continue.

4

CDC studies highlight vaccine effectiveness amid Delta

Three major studies released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlighted the available COVID-19 vaccines' effectiveness against serious illness, even during the latest Delta variant-fueled wave of cases. The first study found that people who were not fully vaccinated against the coronavirus this spring and summer were 10 times more likely to be hospitalized and 11 times more likely to die of COVID-19. The second indicated that the vaccine produced by Moderna was the most effective of the three shots in circulation, showing 95 percent effectiveness against hospitalization compared to Pfizer-BioNTech (80 percent) and Johnson & Johnson (60 percent), although all three combined for a collective 86 percent rate. The final study looked at the use of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines at five Veterans Affairs hospitals in major U.S. cities. They were found to be 87 percent percent effective in preventing hospitalizations.

5

Investigations cast doubt on U.S. strike in Kabul

Investigations by The New York Times and The Washington Post have cast doubt on the accuracy of United States' intelligence in the lead up to the country's final missile strike of its 20-year military mission in Afghanistan. U.S. Central Command initially said the drone strike targeted an Islamic State-linked vehicle carrying a significant amount of explosives that posed a threat to Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport, where many people were still gathered trying to evacuate the country. But the Times and Post report — citing video and photo evidence, experts' assessments, and interviews with the driver's co-workers and family members — that there's no solid evidence the car contained explosives. Meanwhile, the U.S. focused on the driver because of suspicious movements he made throughout the day, but the California-based aid group he worked for said the military likely misinterpreted his job duties. The strike reportedly killed 10 civilians.

6

Judge requires Apple to alter App Store rules

Judge Yvonne Gonzalez-Rogers on Friday issued a permanent injunction requiring Apple to allow developers to include buttons or links in their apps directing users to other "purchasing mechanisms," The Verge reports. The decision came as part of an antitrust trial that pitted Apple against Fortnite developer Epic Games. The New York Times described the ruling as a "major setback for Apple," which can now no longer prevent developers from including in their apps "buttons, external links, or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms" other than Apple's. Gonzalez-Rogers said the trial showed that "Apple is engaging in anti-competitive conduct under California's competition laws." But the judge also ruled that Epic failed to prove that Apple is an illegal monopolist, writing, "Success is not illegal."

7

Israeli police say they've arrested 4 of 6 Palestinian prison escapees

Israeli police on Saturday said they have arrested four of six Palestinians who broke out of the maximum-security Gilboa prison near the West Bank boundary after digging a tunnel beneath a sink in a cell. The police said in a statement that Israeli forces, including the military have been working "around the clock" to catch the fugitives, who have received support from many Palestinians. While the police did not publicly identify the escapees, most of the men are reportedly members of the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad, Al Jazeera writes. They were all either convicted or are suspected of planning or carrying out deadly attacks against Israelis.

8

NASA rover successfully collects first Martian rock samples

NASA's Perseverance rover successfully collected its first pair of rock samples on Mars earlier this week, the space agency announced during a Friday news conference. The hope is that an analysis of the rocks can help scientists piece together the timeline of the Martian past. So far, it appears the rock is basaltic, which means it may represent cooled lava. Perseverance has detected salt in the cores of the samples, as well. The compounds could have formed from groundwater flowing through he rock or surface water evaporating away. Additionally, the salts minerals may have trapped tiny bubbles of ancient Martian water, so they could offer scientists clues about the planet's climate and habitability long ago.

9

Disney to debut remaining 2021 releases exclusively in theaters

Walt Disney Co. said Friday that it will debut the remainder of its films set to be released in 2021 exclusively in theaters. The announcement follows the box-office success of Marvel's Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which had a theater-only release, despite concerns about Delta variant-fueled surges in COVID-19 infections across the United States. Earlier this year, Disney tinkered with releasing movies in theaters and on Disney+ simultaneously, but it appears the company is confident enough in moviegoers to separate the two by several weeks. Some of the notable films coming out are Encanto, Eternals, and West Side Story. 

10

Raducanu, Fernandez to square off in U.S. Open final

Great Britain's Emma Raducanu will face off against Canada's Leylah Fernandez in the women's final at the U.S. Open at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET airing on ESPN. It's been a miracle run for the two unseeded teenagers (Raducanu is 18, Fernandez is 19) as they both seek their first title in a major tournament. On the men's side, Novak Djokovic outlasted Alexander Zverev on Friday night in five sets to reach the final — he'll take on Daniil Medvedev on Sunday. It could be a historic day for Djokovic. He has a chance to both break the record for most major tournament victories in a career while also securing the first calendar-year Grand Slam for a men's player since 1969.

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