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Up First briefing: Key GOP debate takeaways; Israel alleges sexual violence by Hamas

Republican presidential candidates from left, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy during a Republican presidential primary debate hosted by NewsNation on Wednesday at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Gerald Herbert
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AP
Republican presidential candidates from left, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy during a Republican presidential primary debate hosted by NewsNation on Wednesday at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

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

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley stood out as the frontrunner of last night's fourth Republican primary debate. Still, she's behind former President Donald Trump, who remains the frontrunner overall and has not participated in the debates, in some polls. These are five takeaways from last night.

  • The candidates are still "threading the needle" of not criticizing Trump while advocating for themselves as the best person to lead the Republican party, NPR's Ximena Bustillo reports on Up First. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was Trump's most outspoken critic, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis refused to answer whether he thought Trump was mentally fit to hold office.
  • Trump and his allies are preparing for an expansion of his powers if he wins the presidency, including more power to crack down on immigration and overhaul the Justice Department. 


Israel has accused the U.N. of being slow to respond to and condemn allegations of sexual violence against women on Oct. 7 by Hamas fighters. Israel says it collected more than 1,500 eyewitness accounts of rape or evidence of sexual violence from Hamas attacks. Hamas denies its fighters were involved in sexual violence.

  • An Israeli police officer and rescue workers shared testimony with the U.N. on Monday. U.N. Women, the branch that focuses on women's issues, said it was deeply shocked by the accounts and though U.N. procedures can appear slow-moving, it has been closely following reports, NPR's Michele Kelemen says. Editor's note: This story and the audio contain descriptions of graphic violence and sexual assault.


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

After making history as the only House speaker removed by a vote by his colleagues, Kevin McCarthy announced he would retire at the end of the year before his term ends.

  • His departure shrinks the Republican party's "already razor-thin majority," says Joshua Yeager from NPR network station KVPR in Fresno. But the chances that Democrats can flip his seat are slim, as McCarthy's district is one of California's reddest. Yeager adds that GOP candidates can expect to "feel their purse strings tighten" in the upcoming election, as McCarthy was a big fundraiser for the party.


Senate Republicans voted yesterday to prevent debate on a security funding bill that would include money for Ukraine and Israel. President Biden warned Congress that it needed to approve funding for Ukraine before the holiday break, or it would strengthen Russian President Vladimir Putin's position. Republican lawmakers want to see U.S. border security and immigration policy measures added to the package.

Deep dive

A protestor wearing a keffiyeh waves a Palestinian flag during a rally in support of Palestinians in Lisbon in October.
Patricia De Melo Moreira / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
A protestor wearing a keffiyeh waves a Palestinian flag during a rally in support of Palestinians in Lisbon in October.

Two recent incidents of violence against people wearing keffiyeh in the U.S. have drawn attention to the checkered scarf, which has become a symbol for Palestinians. One involved a British Punjabi man who was at a playground in Brooklyn. The second was the shooting of three students of Palestinian descent in Vermont. So what is the keffiyeh, and who wears it?

  • The Keffiyeh was the traditional Arab headdress worn by nomadic Bedouin communities in historic Palestine.
  • Over the last century, Palestinians adopted it as a symbol of nationalism and resistance — first against British rule, and later, against Israeli occupation.
  • In recent times, some people have worn it as a political statement and to protect their faces during protests from tear gas or identification.
  • Since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, some have embraced it as a symbol of unity and solidarity in support of oppressed people — especially Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

Today's listen

The 1808 Érard piano that Napoleon gifted to his second wife, Marie-Louise, is on long-term loan from the <a href="https://momh.org.uk/">Museum of Music History</a> to the <a href="https://www.cobbecollection.co.uk/">Cobbe Collection</a> of historic instruments outside London.
/ Museum of Music History
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Museum of Music History
The 1808 Érard piano that Napoleon gifted to his second wife, Marie-Louise, is on long-term loan from the Museum of Music History to the Cobbe Collection of historic instruments outside London.

If you listen closely during Ridley Scott's latest biopic film Napoleon, you'll hear the delicate sounds of a piano that once belonged to the French emperor himself. The more than 200-year-old instrument was gifted to Napoleon's second wife, Marie-Louise. It was used in two introspective moments in the film's score.

3 things to know before you go

Supporters hold up a banner displaying the Haudenosaunee Confederacy as they cheer for the Haudenosaunee Nationals during a July 23, 2023 match against England in San Diego, Calif.
/ Alan Nakkash For NPR
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Alan Nakkash For NPR
Supporters hold up a banner displaying the Haudenosaunee Confederacy as they cheer for the Haudenosaunee Nationals during a July 23, 2023 match against England in San Diego, Calif.

  1. President Biden said he hopes to see a team of Native Americans compete under their own flag when lacrosse debuts as an Olympic sport in 2028.
  2. The College Board has released an updated framework for its AP African American history course, following criticism from state officials and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this year. The course is set to launch in the 2024-2025 school year. 
  3. Producer and screenwriter Norman Lear has died at 101. He was known for addressing serious issues in humorous sitcoms like All in the Family and The Jeffersons.

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

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

Suzanne Nuyen