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Blinken visits Israel amid tensions over Rafah invasion plan; DOJ sues Apple

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, talks to Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, during their meeting at Tahrir palace in Cairo, on Thursday.
Amr Nabil
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AP
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, talks to Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, during their meeting at Tahrir palace in Cairo, on Thursday.

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

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Tel Aviv, Israel, today for his sixth trip to the region since the start of the Israel-Gaza war. The U.N. and experts on global hunger warn that Palestinians in Gaza are facing severe hunger, with some already dying from starvation.

  • Blinken's visit highlights "a rift growing between the Biden administration and Israel's government," NPR's Aya Batrawy tells Up First. Israel's government is determined to launch a ground offensive against Hamas in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where more than a million displaced Palestinians are sheltering. Blinken says this would be a mistake and something the U.S. can't support. 


U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson says he plans to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress.Former President Donald Trump's social media platform, Truth Social, seeks to merge with Digital World Acquisition Corporation, a shell company specifically created for the merger. Digital World's shareholders are set to vote on the deal this morning. If it's successful, Trump would receive stock worth $3 billion. He faces a Monday deadline to post bond for his New York civil fraud trial. But under this merger, he can't sell his shares for six months.

  • Truth Social is not worth $3 billion, NPR's Rafael Nam reports. But he says many of the shareholders involved in the merger are believed to be Trump supporters who will happily buy shares to support him no matter what. Others are professional investors like Matthew Tuttle, who tells Nam he's investing because "it's going to have a rabid following, and it's going to be a fun stock."


The Justice Department, along with 15 states and the District of Columbia, has filed a lawsuit against Apple. They allege Apple stopped smaller companies from accessing its hardware and software and designed features like iMessage and Apple Pay to keep users dependent on its devices, leading to fewer options and higher prices for consumers. Apple says its hardware and software restrictions are meant to protect consumer privacy and security.

Oklahoma prosecutors say they will not pursue charges in the death of Nex Benedict, a 16-year-old nonbinary student who died in February after a fight with their classmates. Nex's death was ruled a suicide. They had been targeted by bullies for their gender identity. While bullying someone to attempt or complete suicide is a felony in the state, the Tulsa County DA says the fight wasn't one-sided, and there's not enough evidence to press charges. The president of GLAAD says the DA, Owasso police, the school district and the medical examiner's office "have failed Nex Benedict and failed us all."

Deep dive

Ultra-processed foods contain substances you wouldn't find in your own kitchen, like high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavor and color enhancers, anti-caking agents and emulsifiers.
Dan Kitwood / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Ultra-processed foods contain substances you wouldn't find in your own kitchen, like high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavor and color enhancers, anti-caking agents and emulsifiers.

Americans consume more than half of their calories from ultra-processed foods. A new article published in the British Medical Journal found that people who consume high amounts of these foods have an increased risk of anxiety, depression, obesity, metabolic syndrome, premature death and certain cancers, including colorectal cancer.

  • Ultra-processed foods are often high in salt, sugar, fat and calories and low in fiber and micro-nutrients such as vitamins.
  • The observational study doesn't prove that consuming these foods causes anxiety, cancer and other diseases, but adds to the growing body of research that these foods contribute to the development of these conditions.
  • The Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services could recommend limits for ultra-processed foods when they update federal dietary guidelines. A panel of advisers is currently reviewing the latest nutrition research.

Weekend picks

Chief Keef's new album with Mike WiLL Made-It, Dirty Nachos, shows just how far he's grown beyond the Chicago teen who stormed YouTube in 2012.
/ Tyler Shields/Courtesy of the artist
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Tyler Shields/Courtesy of the artist
Chief Keef's new album with Mike WiLL Made-It, Dirty Nachos, shows just how far he's grown beyond the Chicago teen who stormed YouTube in 2012.

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

Movies: Carla Gutiérrez's documentary Frida provides a fresh take on artist Frida Kahlo's life by telling her story in her own words, using handwritten letters.

TV: If you were growing up in the early 2000s, Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV presents a jarring look at allegations of abuse and toxic behavior behind the scenes of popular Nickelodeon shows like Drake & Josh and The Amanda Show.

Books: Marie Mutsuki Mockett's The Tree Doctor chronicles a woman's affair and response amid a series of life-changing crises.

Music: NPR's Sheldon Pearce writes that the success of Chief Keef's Dirty Nachos and MIKE's Pinball is evidence of a viability only made possible by "operating outside the demands of the attention economy." The former rap prodigies sustained their careers and redefined themselves by carving space for themselves in the music industry's margins.

Games: Four games will be inducted into the Video Game Hall of Fame in Rochester, N.Y., in May. Revisit some of the nominees, including Asteroids and Guitar Hero.

Quiz: It finally happened! Ten months after the debut of NPR's news quiz, I have finally received a perfect score. How well will you do?

3 things to know before you go

Surgeons perform the first transplant of a genetically modified pig kidney into a living human at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
/ Michelle Rose/Massachusetts General Hospital
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Michelle Rose/Massachusetts General Hospital
Surgeons perform the first transplant of a genetically modified pig kidney into a living human at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

  1. Surgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital have successfully transplanted a kidney from a genetically modified pig into a human for the first time.
  2. The Biden administration will cancel roughly $6 billion in student loans for nearly 80,000 public service workers.
  3. Carlee Russell, who went missing for two days last July, has pleaded guilty to falsely reporting her own kidnapping. She was ordered to pay nearly $18,000 in restitution and was sentenced to 12 months of supervised probation, community service and evidence of continued mental health counseling

This newsletter was edited by Majd Al-Waheidi.

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