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Up First briefing: Labor Day travel; 9/11 trial; best summer video games

Malte Mueller
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Getty Images/fStop

Good morning. You're reading the Up First newsletter. Subscribe here to get it delivered to your inbox, and listen to the Up First podcast for all the news you need to start your day.

Today's top stories

Do you have travel plans for the long weekend? Whether you're flying or driving, this Labor Day weekend is expected to be one of the busiest of the year.

  • "The best advice is to get to the airport early and be patient," the Associated Press' airline reporter David Koenig says. On Up First today, he says though airlines have recovered from Hurricane Idalia's disruptions, they've struggled even during good weather. They're also seeing a shortage of air traffic controllers. Drivers should hit the road early in the morning or later in the day.


The 22nd anniversary of 9/11 is coming up this month. In all this time, there's still been no trial for the five men accused of plotting the attack. Settlement talks began last year. But government prosecutors now say they'll quit negotiating unless the defense settles today.

  • NPR's Sacha Pfeiffer says efforts to have a 9/11 death penalty trial have been "a complete failure." It's happening at Guantánamo, which is a "logistical nightmare." The men were also tortured, creating legal problems. The goal of last year's settlement talks was to get the defendants to plead guilty to get life in prison. Many families Pfeiffer spoke to supported plea deals. They say they don't think a trial will ever happen, and if it does, the verdict could be appealed or overturned.
  • Pfeiffer spoke to a whistleblower in an exclusive interview about "gross" waste in Guantánamo spending in 2019. Listen to the interview or read the article


The government is releasing new job numbers today. Forecasters predict steady but not spectacular job gains.

  • Despite the prediction of slower hiring than earlier this year, NPR's Scott Horsley says employers are still adding enough jobs to keep unemployment at almost a 50-year low. An economist tells him the Federal Reserve will be relieved the slowdown is not coming from layoffs. Horsley says the question now is whether the job market can remain steady or if more cuts are coming. 


An investigation by the Military Times and The Texas Tribune has found that National Guardsmen in Texas broke longstanding guidelines by intercepting human traffickers' communications and posing as migrants. The mission, called Operation Lone Star, had guardsmen collecting WhatsApp chats that included migrants and smugglers in order to determine when Southern border crossings would happen.

  •  "There's a reason foreign intelligence is usually the import of the federal government," Army Times senior reporter Davis Winkie says. Diplomatic relations are complex, and spy missions coming to light can be disruptive. An expert tells Winkie that even when well-intentioned people break the rules, it can erode everyone's safety. 

Deep dive

A maintenance worker sweeps the street in front of a row of new homes in Fairfax, Va., on Aug. 22. Sales of new homes are taking off as current homeowners are reluctant to sell their houses, because they would face a higher mortgage for their next one.
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
A maintenance worker sweeps the street in front of a row of new homes in Fairfax, Va., on Aug. 22. Sales of new homes are taking off as current homeowners are reluctant to sell their houses, because they would face a higher mortgage for their next one.

Mortgage rates are the highest they've been in more than two decades. Here's how it's changing the housing market:

  • Would-be buyers are being priced out.
  • Homeowners who bought or refinanced a home earlier at lower interest rates don't want to sell. There's a lot of competition among buyers.
  • New homes are in high demand.
  • The average size of a new house has fallen.

Weekend picks

Screenshots from <em>Immortals of Aveum, Baldur's Gate 3 </em>and<em> My Friendly Neighborhood.</em>
/ Electronic Arts/Larian Studios/DreadXP
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Electronic Arts/Larian Studios/DreadXP
Screenshots from Immortals of Aveum, Baldur's Gate 3 and My Friendly Neighborhood.

Check out what NPR is watching, reading and listening to this weekend:

Movies: Bottoms, starring Ayo Edebiri and Rachel Sennott, falls into a classic Hollywood genre: horny teens desperate to lose their virginity. TV: Revisit Pop Culture Happy Hour's conversation about FX's Archer ahead of the violent and smutty show's final season premiere.

Books: Looking to start a new book this weekend? Take your pick from the fiction, non-fiction and young adult finalists for the 2023 Kirkus Prize.

Music: Before Justin Vernon formed Bon Iver, he was in a band called DeYarmond Edison. A lavish new box set is a treat to fans who want to explore their early influences.

Games: NPR's roundup of the best video game releases this summer has it all: "mascot horror," Hello Kitty island-building, and backgrounds inspired by French impressionism.

Theater: The new musical adaptation of Back to the Future has a few tricks up its sleeve, including a DeLorean that actually flies into the audience. Take a peek behind the curtain.

Quiz: This week's quiz will test whether you read any news outside of this newsletter. A few stories were not featured! Test yourself here.

3 things to know before you go

Employers are increasing their requirements for in-person work this fall, nudging employees to return to some of their pre-pandemic office routines.
/ SolStock
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SolStock
Employers are increasing their requirements for in-person work this fall, nudging employees to return to some of their pre-pandemic office routines.

  1. Looking for a new remote job? Good luck. Many U.S. employers (even Zoom!) are introducing stricter return-to-office policies this fall.
  2. The biggest names in late-night TV have joined forces for a Spotify podcast. All proceeds from Strike Force Five, featuring Jimmy Kimmel, John Oliver, Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon, will go toward supporting their staff during the writers' strike. 
  3. Back-to-back World Cup champion Julie Ertz is retiring from soccer. She joins her U.S. Women's National Soccer teammate Megan Rapinoe in retiring. 

This newsletter was edited by Majd Al-Waheidi. Anandita Bhalerao contributed.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Suzanne Nuyen