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Up First briefing: Concerns over Israel's war strategy; long COVID origins

Students from Hunter College chant and hold up signs during a pro-Palestinian demonstration at the entrance of their campus in New York earlier this month.
Michael Nigro/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images
Students from Hunter College chant and hold up signs during a pro-Palestinian demonstration at the entrance of their campus in New York earlier this month.

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

Israel has bombarded Gaza for more than two weeks following the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7., in which more than 1,400 people were killed. Palestinian officials say more than 6,000 people in Gaza have been killed in Israeli airstrikes. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called Israel's strategy a violation of international humanitarian law. Israel says a ground invasion is imminent. But U.S. officials are concerned about the possibility of the war spreading.

People injured in nearby Israeli strikes rest at a school housing displaced Palestinians in Rafah, on the southern Gaza Strip, on Tuesday.
Mohammed Abed / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
People injured in nearby Israeli strikes rest at a school housing displaced Palestinians in Rafah, on the southern Gaza Strip, on Tuesday.

  • A major concern is Iran getting involved, NPR's Tom Bowman says on Up First. President Biden warned Israel not to repeat the mistakes made by the United States in the aftermath of 9/11. "You destroy Hamas," Bowman says. "Who governs Gaza?"
  • In a press conference yesterday, 85-year-old freed Israeli hostage Yocheved Lifshitz recounted her experience of being kidnapped and held captive. 
  • Kibbutz Kfar Aza was one of the hardest-hit Israeli communities in the Hamas attacks. Survivors describe what it's like living in limbo at a hotel north of Tel Aviv.
  • Though attention has been on the conflict in Israel and Gaza, violence has also increased in the occupied West Bank. Dozens of Palestinians have been killed by Israeli settlers and the Israel Defense Forces since Hamas's attacks.  


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

Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson is the newest nominee for House Speaker. House Republicans initially nominated Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer yesterday. He dropped out hours later after he couldn't secure the 217 votes needed to win the full House vote expected today at noon.

  • After three weeks of chaos, Republicans are "openly venting" about the House's inability to function, NPR's Deirdre Walsh says. It's unclear whether Johnson can win the House vote. If he does, he'll have to contend with a looming government shutdown — the issue that Walsh says "got Republicans in this mess." 


More than 40 states sued Meta yesterday, accusing Facebook and Instagram's parent company of violating consumer protection laws by designing deliberately addictive products that harm teen mental health. Meta issued a statement sharing concerns for teen health but hasn't addressed the substance of the lawsuit.

  • Teen depression doubled between 2011 and 2021. San Diego State University professor Jean Twenge tells NPR's Bobby Allyn "no other explanation really fits" for the surge other than social media use. 


Tensions are heightening in the U.S. ahead of next year's presidential election, according to a new survey. The Public Religion Research Institute says 75% of Americans surveyed agree U.S. democracy is "at risk" and nearly a quarter agree "true American patriots may have to resort to violence" to save the country.

Deep dive

Radoslav Zilinsky / Getty Images
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Getty Images

Low levels of serotonin in the blood could predict long COVID symptoms, according to new research. The study traces a possible cause for persistent symptoms like brain fog, memory loss and fatigue all the way from the gut to the brain.

  • The amino acid tryptophan plays an essential role in producing serotonin in the gut — where 90% of it is made.
  • Lingering viral RNA can cause inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract that hampers tryptophan absorption.
  • Low serotonin impairs the vagus nerve, which acts like the brain's monitoring system. Brain activity drops in response, which could cause long COVID symptoms.
  • Future studies are needed to fully understand the serotonin pathway's effect on long COVID, as this study was done on mice. 

Enlighten me

Enlighten Me is a special series with Rachel Martin about what it takes to build a life of meaning.

All over the world, people are grieving deaths caused by the war in Israel and Gaza. Martin says there's no single conversation that can represent the pain accumulated over generations. But she found hope in UCLA Jewish history professor David Myers, who has tried to find a middle ground where Jews and Palestinians on campus could safely stand and grieve together.

Listen to Myers discuss how he's helping his students recognize the humanity in everyone while dealing with his own grief.

3 things to know before you go

People across Iceland gather during the women's strike in Reykjavik, Iceland, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023. Iceland's prime minister and women across the island nation are on strike to push for an end to unequal pay and gender-based violence.
Arni Torfason / AP
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AP
People across Iceland gather during the women's strike in Reykjavik, Iceland, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023. Iceland's prime minister and women across the island nation are on strike to push for an end to unequal pay and gender-based violence.

  1. Iceland's Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir joined women and nonbinary people across the country yesterday in a 24-hour strike to protest the gender pay gap.
  2. Katie Ortman Doble has lived cancer-free for just over two years. She remembers a moment in 2014 when her unsung hero offered "a mom hug" during an especially challenging time and gave her exactly what she needed. 
  3. California issued an indefinite suspension on the company Cruise's driverless cars over safety concerns

This newsletter was edited by Majd Al-Waheidi.

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