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


At least 80 dead in Maui wildfire as search for survivors continues

The death toll from the devastating wildfire in Maui, Hawaii, reached 80 on Friday, officials said, as rescue workers continued to search for survivors in the decimated town of Lahaina. Police were restricting access throughout the island, and access to Lahaina remained heavily guarded as people were “warned to stay out of the area due to hazards including toxic particles from smoldering areas,” Maui County said in a press release. Evacuees from the area were being brought to shelters throughout the area, as cell service was beginning to be restored. A new wave of evacuations was also prompted after a fire broke out in the town of Kaanapali, though no details were immediately available. 

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Russia destroys at least 20 Ukrainian drones over Crimea

At least 20 Ukrainian drones were shot down on Saturday over the Russian-annexed area of Crimea, Russian officials said. The country’s defense ministry announced the event on the Telegram social media app, stating that there were no casualties and no damage from the attempted attack. At least 14 of the drones were shot down by air defenses and the remaining six were suppressed using electronic warfare, officials said. While the target of the attack remains unclear, Ukraine has increasingly been using drone technology in an attempt to counterattack Russian aggression, and Ukrainian officials have repeatedly said they plan to recapture Crimea from the Russians. 

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Judge warns Trump about disclosing details of 2020 election case

The judge overseeing former President Donald Trump’s indictment for alleged interference in the 2020 election warned him on Friday not to intimidate witnesses or otherwise tamper with the legal proceedings. “I caution you and your client to take special care in your public statements about this case,” U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan said, adding that she would “take whatever measures are necessary to safeguard the integrity of these proceedings.” Chutkan noted that Trump had a history of attacking witnesses and court officers in his prior indictments, and said that his 2024 presidential campaign “has to yield to the orderly administration of justice.” Chutkan herself has received an increased security detail since her assignment to the case. 

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Taiwan vice president heads to US amidst anger from China

Taiwanese Vice President William Lai headed to the United States on Saturday for what is likely to be a contentious trip given Taiwan’s fractious relationship with China. Lai, who is also a leading candidate for Taiwan’s upcoming presidential election, did not give exact details of his itinerary in the U.S., only stating that he is passing through on the way to Paraguay. It remains unclear if Lai plans to meet with Biden administration officials, and both Taiwanese and U.S. diplomats have said the trip is only a routine stopover. However, Beijing has condemned the trip, and some American officials fear it could cause increased tension between the U.S. and China, which considers Taiwan its own. 

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Joe Manchin skipping White House event as questions swirl over presidential bid

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) is skipping a White House event next week that will celebrate the first anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act, NBC News reported Friday. Manchin, one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress, has previously been at odds with President Biden, and his decision to skip the White House event has renewed talks of a potential presidential bid from the West Virginian. Manchin has previously expressed interest in running for president as a third-party candidate, and said this past week he was “absolutely” considering switching his affiliation from Democrat to independent. Biden has reportedly been talking with aides about how to handle Manchin should he decide to run. 

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DeSantis campaign paid $95,000 to court Iowa religious group

The presidential campaign of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has spent $95,000 trying to get the support of an evangelical religious group in Iowa, Reuters reported Saturday. DeSantis’ campaign, a DeSantis-linked super PAC and a supporting nonprofit group paid the five figures to the Family Leader Foundation, an Iowa nonprofit headed by religious leader Bob Vander Plaats, according to new campaign finance filings. Iowa represents a key state in the Republican primary — and a major test for the struggling DeSantis campaign. However, the true reason for the spending, according to Reuters, may be a coveted relationship with Vander Plaats, who is a major force in Iowa’s conservative Christian movement.

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At least 6 dead after migrant boat from France capsizes

At least six people died after a boat carrying migrants from France sank in the English Channel, officials said Saturday. A spokesperson for French coastal group Premar confirmed the deaths and said anywhere from five to 10 more people remained missing. A combined British and French rescue effort saved about 50 people from the foundering ship. Rescue officials said this was the seventh time in the past week they had to save people from the waters of the Channel, as Europe’s migrant crisis continues to cause deaths among those trying to cross the seas. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has previously pledged to stop migrant boats from crossing the Channel, an effort that has so far been unsuccessful. 



Allies of Niger president appeal to Western nations to save his life

Allies of ousted Niger President Mohamad Bazoum have begun appealing to the United States and other Western countries to help save his life. Bazoum was deposed from power three weeks ago during a coup d’etat that installed a military junta in Niger, and has been imprisoned in the basement of the presidential palace ever since. Niger’s ambassador to the U.S., Mamadou Kiari Liman-Tinguiri, pleaded with American officials to intervene, saying that the junta was denying Bazoum and his family food and electricity. “They are killing him,” Liman-Tinguiri told The Associated Press, saying that “the plan of the head of the junta is to starve him to death.” The U.S. has repeatedly expressed concerns about Bazoum’s condition. 

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Writers Guild evaluating offer from studios to resume negotiations

The striking Writers Guild of America (WGA) met with film and television studios Friday, and is evaluating an offer from the studios to restart negotiations. The meeting between the writers and the AMPTP, which represents the major Hollywood studios, was the first formal return to the table since the strike began this past May. The WGA has been striking for more equitable working conditions and protections from AI-produced scripts, and was joined in their strike last month by the actors guild, SAG-AFTRA. WGA officials said they were considering the offer from the AMPTP to formally begin strike-ending negotiations, and would return to the table with their response next week. The details of the AMPTP offer were not revealed. 

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Sam Bankman-Fried has bail revoked over alleged witness tampering

Disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried headed to jail on Friday after a judge revoked his bail for alleged witness tampering. Federal prosecutors had asked for Bankman-Fried’s bail to be taken back due to an alleged “pattern of witness tampering and evading his bail conditions.” Lawyers for Bankman-Fried had said he would be unable to properly prepare for the trial if his bail was revoked. The former cryptocurrency mogul is facing federal fraud charges after the collapse of his crypto exchange FTX last year. He had been living at his parent’s home in Palo Alto, California, since posting a $250 million bond, and will now be jailed until his trial is slated to begin this coming October. 

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