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Morning news brief

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Vice President Kamala Harris called for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

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KAMALA HARRIS: Let's get a cease-fire. Let's reunite the hostages with their families, and let's provide immediate relief to the people of Gaza.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Harris' phrasing in a speech in Selma, Ala., repeatedly drew applause. Many Democratic voters have objected to the Biden administration's support for Israel's offensive in Gaza. The vice president pressed Israel to deliver more aid and pressed Hamas to accept the pause in fighting to end inhumane conditions for civilians. The U.S. has been trying for a temporary cease-fire for weeks.

MARTIN: NPR's Daniel Estrin is in Tel Aviv to tell us more. Good morning, Daniel.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Good morning, Michel.

MARTIN: Could you just start by telling us, what's the holdup on reaching a cease-fire? We were under the impression that this was close.

ESTRIN: Well, Israel and Hamas both agreed to the basics of this deal, which would be a six-week cease-fire, an exchange of some of the Israeli hostages in Gaza for Palestinian prisoners and getting more aid into Gaza. But we have been speaking with Israeli and Egyptian sources close to the talks. And one of the main sticking points now is that Israel wants to know how many hostages are still alive. They want to know how many Palestinian prisoners Hamas is willing to accept in exchange. Israel is not sending negotiators to these talks in Cairo until it gets answers.

Now, Hamas also has its own demands. It wants Palestinians to be able to return to north Gaza, where fighting is mostly over, and they also want trailer homes brought in to Gaza, since so many homes have been destroyed in Israeli bombings. But this is just the first phase of a grand deal being negotiated. It's the foundation for every other phase needed to eventually reach the end of the war.

MARTIN: Now, we just heard Vice President Harris call for an immediate cease-fire. And you heard that it got a lot of applause. But she also said, for at least six weeks. Is this really a new position?

ESTRIN: I think publicly it's a more urgent plea from the United States. But all along, the U.S. has wanted to start with six weeks and then try to extend this cease-fire. And it's very tricky because Israel wants kind of the opposite. It wants to launch a final major battle in the city of Rafah in Gaza against Hamas battalions there. It's also where more than a million Palestinians are sheltering. And so behind the scenes, the U.S. has been trying and hoping that during this six-week cease-fire, they can avert a Rafah operation and reach some other arrangement.

And the U.S. has other plans. It wants to use this six-week cease-fire to set in motion grand plans like, you know, Saudi-Israeli diplomatic ties and other questions about the future of Gaza. One other significant thing that the U.S. has done is it's hosting Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz in Washington today, which has upset Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But, you know, polls are showing that Gantz would win if there were elections today. And it's a strong signal, I think, that the U.S. is looking at the post-war future, and that future may not involve Netanyahu.

MARTIN: Before we let you go, Daniel, the U.S. also conducted airdrops of food into Gaza over the weekend. What does that tell us?

ESTRIN: Well, it tells us what we've been hearing from the United Nations - extreme hunger in Gaza. At least 10 children, they say, died from dehydration and malnutrition. The U.S. wants to show it's doing something. You know, Air Force cargo planes dropped food packages. But Palestinians say these airdrops are humiliating. And it's not a solution. And all of this chaos about aid just shows that there's an intense pressure to reach a cease-fire deal.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Daniel Estrin in Tel Aviv. Daniel, thank you.

ESTRIN: You're welcome.

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MARTIN: Now to Haiti, where a gang leader has orchestrated two prison breaks, with the apparent goal of deposing Haiti's prime minister. At least nine people are dead, including four police officers.

INSKEEP: This is a lot. Nearly every one of the more than 5,000 prison inmates escaped there now on the streets, and the government has declared both a state of emergency and a nighttime curfew. So where is the prime minister who faces this effort to depose him? He's in Africa, trying to recruit a United Nations-backed security force to stop the very gangs behind the violence. He is also Haiti's acting president, by the way, because the previous president was assassinated three years ago.

MARTIN: For the latest on this, we're going to go to Harold Isaac now. He is an independent journalist based outside Port-au-Prince. Good morning.

HAROLD ISAAC: Good morning.

MARTIN: So tell us what's happening now in the streets of Haiti's capital.

ISAAC: Well as it is right now, it's a lot of uncertainty as we are under a state of emergency and under a curfew after days of violence following gang attacks.

MARTIN: So, you know, look, there's quite a lot of backstory to this violence. So for people who haven't been following this, could you just walk us through, as briefly as you can, what's led Haiti to this latest moment of crisis?

ISAAC: So the violence began on Thursday, with gangs coordinating massive amount of attacks throughout the city, aiming, essentially, at various institutions. So these coordinated attacks in Port-au-Prince included the country's international airport, the central bank and the national soccer stadium.

MARTIN: This is all happening while the current prime minister, Ariel Henry, is out of the country. Do we know how he's faring in his efforts to bring in a U.N.-backed security force from Kenya?

ISAAC: Well, the whereabouts of Henry as it is right now, at this very moment, are unclear. He was supposed to be on his way back from Kenya, where he went to sign an agreement with the Kenyan officials about deploying police officers from Kenya in Haiti to help deal with the gang violence.

MARTIN: How are regular people living right now? Like, how - are people getting food? Can kids go to school?

ISAAC: Well, for the most part, we're expecting to have a disrupted week here in Haiti, as most flights have been cancelled by U.S.-based carriers for the next three days. The U.S. Embassy in Haiti has decided not to operate for at least three days. And the government essentially put everybody under a state of emergency and curfew. So probably everybody will stay put.

MARTIN: And before we let you go, can you tell us any more about the prison break? Like, how did that happen?

ISAAC: So essentially over the weekend, in the early hours of Saturday, a coordinated attack by gangs on the prison led inmates to flee and be out in the nature, aggravating a security crisis that was already bad in the country.

MARTIN: And before we let you go, Harold, can I ask, how are you? How are you doing?

ISAAC: Well, it's a checkered reality. Every day we try to sort out our commute, where we go, how we come back. And it's going to be that again this week, very likely.

MARTIN: All right. Well, I hope you'll take care of yourself.

ISAAC: Thank you.

MARTIN: All right. That's journalist Harold Isaac speaking to us from outside of Port-au-Prince. Harold, thank you.

ISAAC: You're welcome.

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MARTIN: As the United States has moved away from the constitutional right to an abortion, France is doing the opposite.

INSKEEP: And one thing has a lot to do with the other. French lawmakers are convening today in a joint session of their Parliament to enshrine the right to an abortion in the constitution, which would make France the first country in the world to do so.

MARTIN: NPR's Eleanor Beardsley is with us now from Paris to tell us more. Good morning, Eleanor.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, guys.

MARTIN: So set the scene for us today. What's going to happen today? And, of course, we want to know, why now?

BEARDSLEY: Yeah, exactly. Well, it's a beautiful sunny day, and there will be an extraordinary session of both houses of Parliament at the Palace of Versailles this afternoon - the lower house and the Senate together - 925 legislators - to vote on whether the Constitution should be changed. It has to pass with a three-fifths majority. But this is a formality because the measure has actually been approved overwhelmingly in both houses, even the more conservative Senate.

The event's going to be broadcast live on French television, and a giant screen is being set up to watch it at Paris' Plaza of Human Rights, right across from the Eiffel Tower. You know, the French were really shocked when Roe v. Wade was struck down. They watched, you know, abortion rights being chipped away. And at the time, Macron said he wanted to make abortion rights, which he called health care rights, irreversible, by, as the French say, inscribing it in the Constitution.

MARTIN: Is access to abortion under threat in France?

BEARDSLEY: Absolutely not. None of the main political parties contest the right to an abortion, which in France is without restriction up to 14 weeks of pregnancy and also completely covered by French health care. Though some lawmakers were against what they called messing with the Constitution. Let's listen to the leader of the main opposition party to Macron in Parliament, Marine Le Pen, head of the right-wing populist National Rally party. Here she is.

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MARINE LE PEN: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: She asks, "are we the 51st state of the United States? No. What the U.S. Supreme Court decides has nothing to do with France." Le Pen said women's rights are threatened by things like the rise of radical Islam, with its inequality between the sexes and the veil for women, but not by abortion rights being restricted. And she called this a political stunt by Macron. But in the end, she did approve sending this measure to the joint session.

MARTIN: Is this popular with the French public?

BEARDSLEY: Completely. A recent poll shows that 90% of the French support the unfettered right to an abortion, and 86% actually believe the Constitution should be the ultimate guarantor of that right. You know, abortion was legalized in France in 1974 after a huge battle led by the country's first female health minister, Simone Veil. It was a nasty fight. She was even personally insulted and verbally attacked.

You know, at the time, France was a very conservative Catholic country, which does seem hard to imagine today. But - so people consider this a very cherished right, a hard-fought right. And you might not think that France needs this, but I spoke to women on the streets in Paris, and pretty much everyone I spoke to said, absolutely, it's the right thing to do. And I'm going to play you a 69-year-old Parisian, Guylaine Gauthier (ph). And she told me that it's absolutely possible that France could regress, and this has - right to abortion has to be protected. Here she is.

GUYLAINE GAUTHIER: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: So she says, "it's absolutely necessary. This should have been inscribed in the Constitution a long time ago, the day it was legalized." You know, Gauthier told me she actually had an illegal abortion at the time before it was legal. And she said it was horrible. But she says, even today, some doctors try to dissuade women by sending them for additional exams or trying to make it - you know, trying to talk them out of it. So she says this is absolutely necessary.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Eleanor Beardsley in Paris. Eleanor, thank you.

BEARDSLEY: Thank you. 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.

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.
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.

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