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Up First briefing: U.S. conducts airstrikes on militants in Iraq; 2023 U.S. union wins

This 10.0 mm (0.4 inches) monster snowflake holds the Guinness record for the largest snow crystal. A microscope was used to photograph it in four quadrants, which were later digitally recombined.
Kenneth Libbrecht
This 10.0 mm (0.4 inches) monster snowflake holds the Guinness record for the largest snow crystal. A microscope was used to photograph it in four quadrants, which were later digitally recombined.

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

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed in a speech yesterday that Israel will keep fighting the war against Hamas. His statement came after he spoke with President Biden over the weekend. Though Biden did not ask for a cease-fire, the U.S. wants Israel to curtail bombing and employ a more precise ground operation. "That's not happening — at least not yet," NPR's Tom Bowman reports on Up First.

Men recover the body of a Palestinian killed in the aftermath of an overnight Israeli strike at al-Maghazi refugee camp in Gaza on Monday, as the war between Israel and Hamas carries on.
Mahmud Hams / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Men recover the body of a Palestinian killed in the aftermath of an overnight Israeli strike at al-Maghazi refugee camp in Gaza on Monday, as the war between Israel and Hamas carries on.

  • As Israeli strikes continue to intensify in Gaza, fears grow that the violence could spread to a larger regional war. An attack yesterday by the Iran-backed militant group Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq injured three U.S. military personnel. The U.S. responded with retaliatory airstrikes. Houthi rebels in Yemen have also been attacking commercial ships in the Red Sea. These Iran-backed groups also support Hamas. "The U.S. does not want to get caught up in this conflict, but it is a delicate situation," Bowman says. 


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

India's foreign minister, S. Jaishankar, is on the second day of a five-day visit to Russia. He's expected to discuss trade and other issues with Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov. Russia is India's top arms supplier, and India has been a big buyer of Russian oil since the invasion of Ukraine. But Russia and India's decades-long close relationship is complicated by India's growing relationship with the U.S.

  • India has not condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine. NPR's Diaa Hadid says there are two big reasons why: their close relationship and India's focus on independent foreign policy. A political scientist at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi tells her that this trip to Russia is a way for India to signal its autonomy — even as it moves closer to Western allies.


It's been a big year for unions. More than half a million workers went on strike this year — and many emerged with big wins.

  • NPR's Andrea Hsu speaks with Johnnie Kallas, who runs Cornell University's Labor Action Tracker. He says it's notable that this year's union activity has been among workers in the private sector. Only 6% of the private sector belongs to a union. Hsu says moving forward, she's closely watching the United Auto Workers union, which recently went on strike against the Big Three automakers Ford, General Motors and Stellantis. She reports the union now has its sights set on Tesla and foreign automakers in the South that are not unionized. 

Enlighten me

NPR's Rachel Martin with with her parents at her grad school graduation in the spring of 2004.
/ Rachel Martin
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Rachel Martin
NPR's Rachel Martin with with her parents at her grad school graduation in the spring of 2004.

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

After Rachel Martin's parents died, she says she felt an "existential void." They led rich spiritual lives, and their absence made her reflect on how she could lead a more meaningful and happy life. This conversation with her siblings is one of the first Martin recorded for Enlighten Me. Listen to them discuss how losing their parents made them reckon with their own faith and spirituality, and read the interview here.

Life advice

/ Planet Flem/Getty
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Planet Flem/Getty

Christmas party season may be over, but New Year's Eve celebrations are right around the corner. Don't feel bad if your social battery is low and you have to decline some social invitations. A new study finds that people tend to overestimate how much it matters to the inviter. Here's some advice on how to say no:

  • Provide a reason you need to decline. 
  • If the event has an expected cost, mention that in your reasoning.
  • Offer up an alternative activity you could do in the future.

  1. How big is the world's largest snowflake? They can get pretty big — but it depends on how you define a snowflake.
  2. The FDA is warning pharmacies, wholesalers, health care workers and patients to double-check their Ozempic products for counterfeit units. The organization discovered and seized thousands of counterfeit units in the legitimate supply chain. 
  3. Beyoncé's childhood home went up in flames on Christmas morning during a massive fire in Houston. 

This newsletter was edited by Treye Green.

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

Corrected: December 25, 2023 at 10:00 PM MST
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