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Up First briefing: Ukraine's land scarred by war; Iranian activist wins Nobel Prize

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Today's top stories

A new analysis from NASA's Harvest program — shared exclusively with NPR — reveals that 6.5-8.5% of Ukraine's total cropland is unplanted or abandoned due to Russian and Ukrainian troops' heavy artillery use during the war. It's left a scar so vast it's visible from space.

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  • Despite the vast amount of unused farmland, researchers tell NPR's Geoff Brumfiel on Up First that Ukrainian farmers were able to maintain production this year because of their resilience and good weather conditions. But Harvest program director Inbal Becker-Reshef tells him that if more shells fall, a hit to production could be inevitable and affect the global food supply. 


Republican Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz angered many in his party this week after he advanced a vote to remove Kevin McCarthy as House speaker. But the opinion among his constituents is much more supportive.

  • NPR's Greg Allen has been speaking with Republican voters in Gaetz's district. He says everyone loved Gaetz for removing McCarthy, and many expressed "deep dissatisfaction" that Democrats control the Senate and White House. Still, some expressed concern that Republicans could be hurt in the midterm elections if a new speaker isn't elected quickly.


The Biden administration announced yesterday that it would restart deportations to Venezuela and resume repatriation flights immediately. The administration is trying to discourage migrants from crossing the U.S-Mexico border illegally. Economic and political turmoil in Venezuela has fueled record levels of migration. This year, 400,000 migrants have crossed the Darién Gap, a treacherous stretch of roadless jungle between South America and Central America, to reach the U.S., according to Panamanian officials.

Jailed Iranian human rights activist Narges Mohammadi has won this year's Nobel Peace Prize for her fight against women's oppression in Iran and for promoting human rights and freedom for all. Berit Reiss-Andersen, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, urged Iran's government to release Mohammadi so she could accept her prize in person at the Oslo ceremony in December.

Climate solutions week

Rev. Ben Chavis, right, raises his fist as fellow protesters are taken to jail at the Warren County PCB landfill near Afton, N.C., on Sept. 16, 1982.
Greg Gibson / AP
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AP
Rev. Ben Chavis, right, raises his fist as fellow protesters are taken to jail at the Warren County PCB landfill near Afton, N.C., on Sept. 16, 1982.

NPR is dedicating this entire week to stories and conversations about the search for climate solutions.

In 1978, toxic chemicals called PCBs were illegally dumped in the majority-Black Warren County of North Carolina. Inspired by the civil rights movement, residents fought back. Their efforts birthed a movement that put environmental justice on the national agenda and still shapes climate activism today.

Check out all of NPR's Climate Solutions Week stories, including how conspiracy theories impede the fight against climate change.

Weekend picks

/ lupashchenkoiryna/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images
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lupashchenkoiryna/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images

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

Movies: The Exorcist: Believer serves as both a reboot and sequel to the beloved horror. Ellen Burstyn reprises her iconic role as Chris MacNeil.

TV: Dive into an epic tale spanning generations and continents about a family torn apart by spirits and fairies on AppleTV+'s The Changeling.

Books: Cat Bohannon covers female history from the Jurassic Age to the modern day to explore how the medical field has overlooked female bodies in Eve: How the Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Human Evolution.

Music: Bambino named his seventh album Sahel after the African region he calls home. It's dedicated to his fellow Tuareg, who are indigenous to the area.

Quiz: Can you tell the difference between an Italian car and a major meeting at the Vatican? You better brush up before taking this week's news quiz.

3 things to know before you go

Lots of factors influence what we eat, everything from taste preferences, to budgets and culture. New research suggests genetics may also play a role.
Manjunath Kiran / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Lots of factors influence what we eat, everything from taste preferences, to budgets and culture. New research suggests genetics may also play a role.

  1. Have you ever tried to switch to a plant-based diet and fallen off the wagon? Don't feel too discouraged — Northwestern University researchers believe your genes may influence whether you can adhere to a vegetarian diet. 
  2. Calling all college students! NPR is officially accepting entries to the third annual Student Podcast Challenge. The grand prize winner will get a $5,000 scholarship, more training and support and a chance to be heard by the NPR audience. 
  3. The Grace Hopper Celebration is meant to be a career-building event for women and nonbinary tech workers. But this year, self-identifying men showed up in droves.

This newsletter was edited by Majd Al-Waheidi.

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