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Morning news brief

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Israel and Hamas appear to be inching toward a possible deal for the release of some of the 240 hostages kidnapped by Hamas last month. To do that, there will also have to be a pause in the fighting.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In an interview on NBC's "Meet The Press," President Biden's deputy national security adviser, Jon Finer, issued words of caution.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MEET THE PRESS")

JON FINER: Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

INSKEEP: The news - or the anticipation of news - comes as Israel presented video that it says shows a Hamas tunnel under Al-Shifa Hospital, a focal point for the war in the past several weeks.

MARTIN: NPR's Lauren Frayer in Tel Aviv has been reporting on all of this, and she's with us now once again. Good morning, Lauren.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Good morning, Michel.

MARTIN: Would you just start by telling us the latest at Al-Shifa, which is Gaza's biggest hospital?

FRAYER: Michel, you've probably seen the pictures that captivated the world, these 31 newborn babies struggling to survive after their incubators cut out for lack of electricity at Al-Shifa. Doctors there had huddled them together on a bed to keep them warm as the war raged outside. Well, they now have been evacuated. Palestinian ambulances drove them out last night, and they're expected to cross the border into Egypt today. Israel now controls that hospital. It's been evacuating people, and it allowed U.N. representatives in. And they described the interior as a death zone with signs of shelling, gunfire and a mass grave. Israel, meanwhile, has released a bunch of videos it says prove that Hamas not only operated out of tunnels under the hospital but that it brought at least three hostages into the hospital and, in fact, killed one of them there. They showed us hospital security camera footage and video recorded apparently by a robot that went into those tunnels. NPR hasn't been able to independently verify any of that footage, though.

MARTIN: Let's turn to the hostages, which is a subject that deeply concerns people from a number of nations. The Gulf country of Qatar is acting as a mediator. Its prime minister told reporters yesterday that only minor obstacles remain on a deal to release hostages. Is that what you're hearing?

FRAYER: Yeah. I spoke with a former Mossad intelligence agent. His name is David Meidan. He negotiated Israel's last big hostage transfer involving Gilad Shalit. He was an Israeli soldier held by Hamas in Gaza for five years. He was released 12 years ago. And Meidan did the negotiations. He did it inside Egyptian intelligence headquarters in Cairo. And he described, you know, the Israelis in one room, Hamas down the hall, the Egyptians shuttling between them. He says this time is way harder.

DAVID MEIDAN: Because you have to send messages from Israel to Qatar, from Qatar to the leaders of Hamas in Qatar. And then you have Qatar passing the message to Gaza. You know, it takes time.

FRAYER: You know, the Hamas decision-makers, he says, are not in Qatar. They are literally underground in these Gaza tunnels. Another Israeli hostage negotiator told me his understanding is that they are literally passing notes on paper through these tunnels in Gaza, up to intelligence officials at the Egyptian border, then out to Qatar, to the U.S. and then to Israel.

MARTIN: Wow. So negotiations on the one hand. On the other hand, we see that Israel - we hear that Israel is widening its bombardment of Gaza. What's the latest on that?

FRAYER: Some of the fiercest fighting today seems to be around yet another hospital in the north of Gaza. Witnesses report airstrikes, shelling, Israeli tanks moving in. Israeli forces, meanwhile, have stepped up their attacks in the south of Gaza as well. And that is an area where Israel had encouraged civilians to flee toward. So Gaza's 2.3 million people are being squeezed into an ever smaller area that is suffering more Israeli strikes.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Lauren Frayer in Tel Aviv. Lauren, thank you.

FRAYER: Thanks, Michel.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: Condolences are pouring in following the death of former First Lady Rosalynn Carter. She died yesterday at her home in Plains, Ga., at 96.

INSKEEP: President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden said they remembered her for hope and warmth and optimism. Carter served her White House role from 1977 to 1981 and is remembered for spending even more years advocating for mental health and caregivers.

MARTIN: Rahul Bali covers politics for WABE in Atlanta, and he's with us ahead of the start of ceremonies next week which will honor her life. Good morning, Rahul.

RAHUL BALI, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: So Rosalynn Carter was sometimes referred to as the Steel Magnolia. Would you remind us about why that is?

BALI: As first lady, she was sometimes called Steel Magnolia by the media because she had a very gentle persona about her, but she was tough in her support of her husband and her causes. In a 1984 interview with NPR, she talked about her advocacy.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

ROSALYNN CARTER: I don't think I'm smarter than Jimmy Carter, but I love the political life. I loved it. I like the intrigue. And it's - and having one election, people who really support you, and the next election will be your opponents, and the ones who were your opponents will be your supporters. I just like the whole - I like all of it. I like getting out and meeting people and talking with them and learning the country. It was just fascinating to me. I miss it.

BALI: And while she did miss it, she had another outlet for her advocacy. When the Carter Center was built in Atlanta in the '80s, she kept talking about mental health and caregiving. She wrote books about it, kept saying she wanted to fight the stigma around mental health, hoping people would have those important conversations. One of the things she did start was the Mental Health Journalism Fellowship program at the Carter Center. That's been going since 1996 with a goal of more accurate and in-depth reporting on mental health. She also had a deep passion for advocating for caregivers. That dates back to when her father had cancer, eventually passing away when she was 13. She took on the caregiving role as the oldest of four siblings.

MARTIN: Would you tell us a bit more about her relationship with Jimmy Carter? They were married for a very long time.

BALI: Seventy-seven years. And you often saw them together - Braves baseball games, building houses for Habitat for Humanity, traveling through Africa fighting diseases. For many people, they were really just the Carters. You know, when I covered Jimmy Carter's 99th birthday celebration a few weeks ago, so many people had a story about seeing the Carters together. Their last appearance together was at the Plains Peanut Festival - public appearance - where they rode in a parade back in September. They grew up in Plains together. They started dating in 1945. Jimmy Carter said in 2015 the best thing he ever did was marrying Rosalynn. The Carters had four children, 12 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren. One of those grandchildren, Jason Carter, served in the Georgia state Senate, now works as a trustee at the Carter Center.

MARTIN: And how are people in her home state remembering her?

BALI: Condolence notes are coming from all over the world and from across the country. You heard from President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden. Georgia's governor, Brian Kemp, who was among the first to pay his respects - he highlighted Carter's work championing mental health services and promoting the state she loved across the globe. Memorial services are scheduled to take place next week in Sumter County and in Atlanta, starting Monday through Wednesday of next week.

MARTIN: That is Rahul Bali with WABE in Atlanta. Rahul, thank you.

BALI: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: An ultraconservative economist who has pledged to take a chainsaw to Argentina's troubled economy has won a polarizing presidential race. Javier Milei won the runoff, defeating the ruling party's candidate, which was the country's economy minister, who's overseen one of the worst economic crises in decades.

INSKEEP: Now, Milei has a style that has drawn comparisons to Donald Trump. He captured voters' anger. He dealt a blow to the political establishment in his country and handed a victory to the global far-right movement.

MARTIN: We're joined now by NPR's Carrie Kahn in Buenos Aires to tell us more. Carrie, good morning.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: I understand that this is a huge political upset. So how did Milei and his supporters pull this off?

KAHN: It is huge. But the economic situation here in Argentina has been so bad for so long. Inflation is heading toward 200%. The peso loses value every day. People just can't make ends meet. And both the left and the right political establishment haven't been able to fix the situation. So this is not really a surprise that an outsider, even one as eccentric and ultraconservative as Milei, could win. I think the biggest surprise here is why it took so long.

MARTIN: So what did Milei have to say about his victory?

KAHN: He went out onto the street last night to address thousands celebrating and told the crowd that the work before them would be difficult and not for the timid. He said, the government has left us with a destroyed economy with skyrocketing inflation and a huge debt.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT-ELECT JAVIER MILEI: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: But he told the crowd, echoing his standard loud, expletive-laced stump speeches, that he has the determination and the force of his libertarian principles to put Argentina back on its feet and move it forward, all to thunderous applause and his fans' familiar chants of liberty, liberty.

MARTIN: Did the ruling party candidate speak last night, Sergio Massa? What did he say?

KAHN: It was quite stunning, Michel, how fast he came out and conceded. The official numbers weren't even out, and he was congratulating Milei and pledging a smooth transition. In the end, it was an 11-point difference. Massa had a tough campaign to run. Look. He's the current economy minister who's been overseeing Argentina's bad to worse finances for the last year. He couldn't run on his record, so he ran this huge fear campaign warning voters of Milei's radical changes. And clearly, it didn't work. And his Peronist party, which has been one of the dominant forces in the country for decades, was dealt this stunning blow yesterday.

MARTIN: So, Carrie, say more about what the voters were telling you.

KAHN: Many I talked to were ardent Milei supporters, but there were a lot of voters who were desperate for change but very worried about Milei's eccentricities. I'll just highlight a few here. He has five cloned dogs that he calls his children. His sister is his closest adviser and may be the first lady. He has this famous temper and no political experience. Voter Darrian Tarango (ph) told me he wasn't worried about any of that.

DARRIAN TARANGO: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: He says, "Sure, he's impulsive and gets emotional, but his economic policies are sound, and he'll have plenty of people around him to help him learn the ropes," he said. And Milei will have to do that fast. He takes power on December 10.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Carrie Kahn from Buenos Aires. Carrie, thank you so much.

KAHN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.