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Biden to hold summit with Japan, Philippines; FAFSA delays threaten college enrollment

President Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stand together during a state visit ceremony at the White House.
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds
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AFP via Getty Images
President Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stand together during a state visit ceremony at the White House.

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

President Biden is hosting a trilateral meeting today with Japan and the Philippines, two key U.S. allies in Asia. Both countries currently have territorial disputes with China — Japan in the East China Sea and the Philippines in the South China Sea. The leaders will discuss shared values and alliance strengthening. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Biden are expected to discuss infrastructure projects, including a bullet train line in Texas.

  • Many countries in Asia rely on China for trade and the U.S. for security, NPR's Anthony Kuhn tells Up First. Now, nations feel pressured to pick sides because of the U.S.-China rivalry. Aaron Connelly, a Singapore-based expert in Southeast Asian politics, tells Kuhn that the U.S. has historically played a stabilizing role in Southeast Asia. But its rivalry with China is making Southeast Asia less safe. 


Changes to the government's federal student aid form, or FAFSA, could mean that fewer high school seniors will go to college this fall. The Education Department launched a new form this year. Delays and errors have plagued the process, and as a result, almost half a million fewer students have applied to FAFSA this year compared to 2023.

  • High FAFSA completion numbers have historically meant higher college enrollment numbers, NPR's Elissa Nadworny says. Students who have been accepted to college tell her it's not real until the schools send them financial aid packages. In many cases, that hasn't happened yet. For low-income students, these packages are crucial so they can make a decision about whether they can afford college.


European Union lawmakers have passed a new package of laws that could change the EU's migration and asylum policies. The EU Asylum and Migration Pact aims to make it harder for people to come to Europe and stay there if they don't have a valid reason to seek asylum, such as fear of persecution in their home country. The new laws are also intended to help countries along Europe's southern border share the responsibilities of caring for migrants with other EU nations.

  • No one knew whether the package would pass "right up until the very end," NPR's Teri Schultz reports from Brussels. Human rights activists protested the vote, chanting, "This pact kills, vote no," and launching paper airplanes with details of migrants who died at sea trying to make it to Europe. Some far-right lawmakers opposed the package, saying it doesn't go far enough to block people from coming to Europe. Some on the far left say the package doesn't do enough to protect people who need it or take the burden off frontline countries.

Deep dive

About a third of all taxpayers are expected to file their returns in the last two weeks before the April 15th deadline.
Scott Olson / Getty Images
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Getty Images
About a third of all taxpayers are expected to file their returns in the last two weeks before the April 15th deadline.

Next Monday is Tax Day. Have you filed your return yet? If you're a procrastinator (like me), here are some things you need to know:

  • This year's tax season began a week later than last year's. But the total number of returns filed so far remains even with 2023. 
  • You can file for an extension to get six more months to file. Pay any taxes you think you may owe now, though, to avoid penalties and interest for a late payment.
  • The IRS's pilot "Direct File" program will let some people in 12 states file electronically directly with the federal government for free. You can also check out free tax filing options at the IRS Free File website.
  • Wages have generally been rising, which means you could find yourself in a higher tax bracket.

Picture show

Many members of Rachel Mukantabana's family were killed in the 1994 genocide.
Jacques Nkinzingabo / for NPR
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for NPR
Many members of Rachel Mukantabana's family were killed in the 1994 genocide.

This week, Rwanda marks the 30th anniversary of the genocide in which nearly one million people, most of them ethnic Tutsis, were killed. Rachel Mukantabana was a teenager at the time. Her mother, four siblings and more than 50 members of her extended family were killed. Today, Mukantabana lives in a "reconciliation village," where people who survived the genocide live side by side with those who took part in the killings.

See photos of Rwanda today from NPR's team on the ground, and read the stories of survivors and killers as they learn to live side-by-side.

A two-spot octopus, like the type an Oklahoma family brought home as a pet.
/ Angelina Komatovich
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Angelina Komatovich
A two-spot octopus, like the type an Oklahoma family brought home as a pet.

  1. When the Clifford family welcomed Terrance the octopus into their home as a pet, they didn't realize she was pregnant. With help from a friend, they're taking care of Terrance and more than 20 octopus babies.
  2. Alice Claus and her sister, Emily, traveled to Budapest for their uncle's funeral in June 2021. After facing issues checking in to their rented apartment, the thought of climbing five staircases with their heavy suitcases made them want to cry — until an unsung hero stepped in.
  3. The advocacy group Consumer Reports wants the federal government to remove Lunchables from the free and reduced-price lunch program after an analysis found high levels of sodium and heavy metals in them.

This newsletter was edited by Majd Al-Waheidi.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Suzanne Nuyen
[Copyright 2024 NPR]