Up First briefing: Congress avoids government shutdown; Biden and Xi meeting takeaways
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The Senate passed a stopgap spending bill late last night, avoiding a government shutdown before tomorrow's deadline. The bill now heads to President Biden to be signed. Four federal agencies will be funded through Jan. 19 and the rest through Feb. 2. That means the House and Senate must negotiate 12 annual spending bills early next year, and plans could be derailed by Republican infighting.
Biden met with China's President Xi Jinping for about four hours yesterday in San Francisco. The two leaders announced new agreements to reopen military communication and reduce the flow of precursor ingredients used to make fentanyl from China to the U.S. Here are takeaways from their first face-to-face meeting in a year.
- Biden and Xi also discussed the war in Gaza and Israel. Biden said was "mildly hopeful" about a deal to release more hostages. On Up First, NPR's Tamara Keith says Biden's strategy is to publicly stand by Israel while privately delivering tough advice. She says the president said it was a "big mistake" for Israel to think they could occupy and maintain Gaza.
Israeli soldiers remain inside Gaza City's Al-Shifa Hospital, where thousands of displaced people and patients are sheltering. Meanwhile, the Israeli military is dropping leaflets telling residents in southern Gaza to evacuate deeper into the territory, raising fears the war could spread to areas it had told civilians were safe.
- Gaza's Health Ministry says Israeli troops are searching underground levels of the hospital and detained technicians who run equipment there. Israel's military released highly-produced videos showing what it claims is evidence of military operations there. NPR can't independently verify the videos. NPR's Lauren Frayer reports that Israel allowed fuel into Gaza for the first time yesterday. But the U.N. says it's not even 10% of what Gazans need every day and the two main telecommunications companies in Gaza warn of a complete telecom blackout in the coming hours.
- More than 200 health care workers have been killed in Gaza since the start of the war, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. The doctors left behind share details about their colleagues with NPR.
Check out npr.org/mideastupdates for more coverage, differing views and analysis of this conflict
A group of U.S. Senators are asking the Department of Veteran Affairs to immediately stop foreclosing homes of veterans and service members. They cited an NPR investigation that found thousands of veterans at risk of losing their homes through no fault of their own. These veterans took a COVID mortgage forbearance and were told their missed payments would be moved to the end of their loan. Then, the VA ended the program.
- NPR's Chris Arnold says the VA is aware of the program and working on a fix, but it would come too late for many people.
It's easy to add joy to your life if you start small. The BIG JOY project — a collaboration between UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center and other institutions — discovered that every day "micro-acts" of joy boost emotional well-being by 25% over the course of a week. Here's how to try it and why it works:
- Examples of micro-acts include self-reflection and meditation, celebrating another person's joy or doing a nice gesture for someone.
- Planning out a daily micro-act in advance can help people feel like they have more control over their emotions. And they may inspire others, too.
- Consider joy a skill you can improve through practice by incorporating a micro-act into your daily routine.
Five years ago this month, Colorado became the first state to change its constitution to ban forced prison labor. But people incarcerated there say their daily lives haven't changed. Data NPR obtained from the Colorado Department of Corrections indicates that more than 14,000 prisoners have been written up for failing to work since 2019, the year after the amendment passed. Advocates and academics discuss why prison labor is so hard to dismantle — and what that means for people in Colorado and beyond. Read the story and listen to it here.
3 things to know before you go
- New Zealand conservation group Forest & Bird named the pūteketeke their Bird of the Century, thanks to comedian and talk show host John Oliver. The Last Week Tonight host and his staff unleashed a zany worldwide campaign advocating for the bird.
- Cultural nonprofits can now apply for new ArtsHERE grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. The grants will go to groups that demonstrate a strong commitment to equity in their programming and operations.
- Justin Torres' novel Blackouts won the National Book Awards for fiction last night. In his speech, Torres invited all other finalists on stage to deliver a collective statement calling for a cease-fire in Gaza.
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