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Up First briefing: Gazans describe a communication blackout; Biden's new AI oversight

A boy in Khan Younis sits on donkey-drawn cart loaded with a water tank, as drinking water and fuel become increasingly scarce in Gaza.
Mahmud Hams
/
AFP via Getty Images
A boy in Khan Younis sits on donkey-drawn cart loaded with a water tank, as drinking water and fuel become increasingly scarce in Gaza.

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

Gaza residents went without phone and internet service for much of the weekend as Israel launched what its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called a "second stage" of the war. The Israeli military says it hit hundreds of targets over the weekend and is expanding operations in Gaza with infantry troops and armored vehicles. The Gaza Health Ministry said the death toll among Palestinians passed 8,000. More than 1,400 people have been killed in Israel. Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep and the NPR team bring updates from Israel and Gaza.

  • Communications were cut while NPR's Daniel Estrin and Juana Summers were in the middle of a phone conversation Friday evening with NPR producer in Gaza Anas Baba. Baba found a signal near the border where he described seeing horrific scenes in Gaza City. "I cannot even recognize what street it is!" he says. "I can only smell death."
  • For roughly 34 hours, the rest of the world didn't know what was happening in Gaza. As people get back online, Gaza residents share voice memos describing what life was like during and after the communication blackout.
  • In Fassuta, a Catholic village in Israel near the northern border with Lebanon, Inskeep speaks with residents as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Hamas-allied Hezbollah fighters fire at each other.
  • Human Rights Watch executive director Tirana Hassa says her organization has seen an "unprecedented level of violence" in Israel and Gaza. On Morning Edition, she urges Israel's allies, like the U.S., not to make statements that are permissive of any violations of international humanitarian law.
  • See photos of the devastation in Gaza as communications partly return. Editor's note: Some images may contain graphic content.


Check out npr.org/mideastupdates for more coverage, differing views and analysis of this conflict.

President Biden is expected to announce an executive order today with the aim of reining in artificial intelligence. The White House is concerned about the risks AI could pose to national security, public health and privacy if left unchecked.

  • Much of the White House's work with tech companies so far has been voluntary, NPR's Deepa Shivaram says. Now, the government wants companies to share the results of their AI testing.


A dozen mass shootings took place in the U.S. over the weekend, leaving at least 11 people dead and 76 injured. The shootings come as residents of Lewiston, Maine, mourn the 18 people killed in the town's deadliest mass shootings. Police found the shooter's body last Friday.


The United Auto Workers Union has reached a tentative deal with Jeep maker Stellantis. This deal comes days after the union reached a similar one with Ford. Union members must now vote to finalize the agreements. Meanwhile, the union is expanding its strike on General Motors.

  • There have been 22 major work stoppages so far this year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Experts say this year's high-profile strikes could mark a turning point in the U.S. Labor movement.

Today's listen

Phyllida Swift posing with her scar.
/ Alice Webb/Phyllida Swift
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Alice Webb/Phyllida Swift
Phyllida Swift posing with her scar.

On activist Phyllida Swift's first Halloween after her car accident, she was asked if her facial scars were makeup. Kids told her they were scary. At first, she didn't know how to handle it. Now, she wants to be a role model for others with physical disfigurements -– so the only people they see with scars aren't just villains on TV.

She tells Morning Edition that most people who wear scars as part of their Halloween costumes are doing it innocently. But there's a way to tell where to draw the line.

Life advice

/ Photographs by brooklyngrace/Unsplash; Sindy Süßengut/Unsplash; Collage by Kaz Fantone/NPR
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Photographs by brooklyngrace/Unsplash; Sindy Süßengut/Unsplash; Collage by Kaz Fantone/NPR

Think of the most romantic relationship you can. Did it involve two people dating, falling in love and getting married? This traditional path doesn't work for everyone. Clinical psychologist Liz Clark has a beginner's guide to consensual non-monogamy, which describes romantically or sexually open relationships where everyone involved consents to the arrangement:

  • Keep an open mind when meeting new people.
  • Be honest with your current partner and give them time to decide how to move forward.
  • Talk through logistics like the relationship structures you want and how much you and your partner want to know about other relationships.
  • Reframe jealousy as something that can be normal and helpful at times. 

3 things to know before you go

Heman Bekele with the help of his 3M mentor, Deborah Isabelle (left), created a prototype soap to treat melanoma. Isabelle said of Bekele, "he's going to continue to inspire other young people to realize that science can make a positive difference."
/ 3M
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3M
Heman Bekele with the help of his 3M mentor, Deborah Isabelle (left), created a prototype soap to treat melanoma. Isabelle said of Bekele, "he's going to continue to inspire other young people to realize that science can make a positive difference."

  1. Teen scientist Heman Bekele developed a skin-cancer-fighting soap. The invention earned the 14-year-old the grand prize at this year's 3M Young Scientist's Challenge. 
  2. Friends star Matthew Perry has died at 54. The actor struggled with addiction for decades and dedicated his life to helping others going through the same.
  3. The FDA is warning consumers to avoid two dozen over-the-counter eye drops due to the risk of eye infection and vision loss.

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

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