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Up First briefing: McConnell freezes again; Johannesburg fire, Idalia aftermath

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., center, is joined by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., left, and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Jim Risch, R-Idaho, right, on July 27. On Wednesday McConnell appeared to freeze while talking to reporters at a Kentucky event.
J. Scott Applewhite
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AP
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., center, is joined by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., left, and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Jim Risch, R-Idaho, right, on July 27. On Wednesday McConnell appeared to freeze while talking to reporters at a Kentucky event.

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

  • Louisville Public Media's Sylvia Goodman spoke to voters at a political picnic shortly after McConnell's first incident. On Up First this morning, she says many thanked him for his decades of service but were ready to see a change. Some mentioned term limits and said it might be the only way to see more young people in Congress. 


More than 70 people have died after a fire broke out in a rundown building occupied by homeless people in Johannesburg, South Africa's biggest city. Authorities expect the death toll to rise.

  • Kate Bartlett is in Johannesburg. She says most businesses have moved from the downtown area to the suburbs, leaving empty, derelict buildings. On Morning Edition, she reports the fire will raise questions about why nothing has been done for years about the "hijacked buildings" and why millions still live in shacks in Africa's most developed economy.


Thousands in the Southeastern U.S. are without power after Hurricane Idalia swept through Florida, Georgia and South Carolina yesterday. Officials are urging residents to stay indoors and remain cautious due to flood risks.

  • Photos show the devastation Idalia unleashed when it came ashore in Florida. 
  • NPR's Bobby Allyn says Idalia was not as deadly as Hurricane Ian, which hit Florida last year. Many were spared because Idalia avoided heavily populated areas. But Allyn says the danger isn't over — rain bands are expected today. A rare blue supermoon will also further raise tides. 


Gabon is the latest African country to undergo a coup. A group of military officers arrested President Ali Bongo Ondimba and took over the government yesterday. In the last three years, there have been at least eight military takeovers in Africa. NPR's timeline breaks them down.

  • There has been international condemnation over the incident. NPR's Emmanuel Akinwotu says it reveals how powerless countries are to reverse the coups. Though leaders in the region talk about the "contagion" of recent coups, Akinwotu says they haven't mentioned the conditions that led to them, like the legitimacy of recent elections. 

Deep dive

Migrants at the Clinton Hill Shelter seek relief from the overcrowded confinements of 47 Hall St. Residents working as delivery drivers wait for orders to come in on July 19 in Brooklyn, N.Y.
José A. Alvarado Jr. / José A. Alvarado Jr. for NPR
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José A. Alvarado Jr. for NPR
Migrants at the Clinton Hill Shelter seek relief from the overcrowded confinements of 47 Hall St. Residents working as delivery drivers wait for orders to come in on July 19 in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Businesses across the U.S. are short-staffed and desperate to hire workers. Newly arrived migrants are eager to find work. It would be a perfect solution – if it wasn't so hard to get work permits.

  • The application process for work permits can be confusing. Approvals can take a long time.
  • The agency responsible for granting approvals has backlogs that extend back before the pandemic.
  • There are a couple of things President Biden could do, like grant temporary protected status to more people. But with elections around the corner, he's unlikely to take the political risk.

Living better

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Getty Images

Living Better is a special series about what it takes to stay healthy in America.

Prescriptions for the diabetes drug Ozempic and its weight loss counterpart, Wegovy, have skyrocketed in the past year. Doctors and patients have begun to notice another effect of these drugs: They appear to reduce cravings for alcohol, nicotine and opioids. Several clinical trials are underway to understand how these drugs alter people's drinking and smoking habits.

  • The active ingredient in Ozempic and Wegovy is semaglutide, a GLP-1 drug.
  • Studies show that GLP-1 drugs can reduce dopamine release in the region of the brain that controls motivation.
  • The National Institute on Drug Abuse advises against using Ozempic or Wegovy to treat addictions because it might not work on everyone, and there's a risk of pancreatitis.
  • More research could lead to a GLP-1 medication that treats addiction better than diabetes. 

3 things to know before you go

President Biden boards Air Force One at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo. on June 1, 2023, after attending the 2023 United States Air Force Academy Graduation Ceremony.
Andrew Harnik / AP
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AP
President Biden boards Air Force One at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo. on June 1, 2023, after attending the 2023 United States Air Force Academy Graduation Ceremony.

  1. Every detail of a president's trip is carefully planned, including which stairs he uses to get off the plane. Biden prefersthe short, sturdy stairs from the belly of Air Force One over the wobbly, 18-foot stairs placed over the plane's upper door. The move highlights his age.
  2. Do you sit or stand when you attend a concert? An encounter between Adele and a front-row fan has sparked conversations about concert etiquette.
  3. In the 1980s, David Bloom scammed wealthy New Yorkers, making millions and getting convicted twice. Now, he's resurfaced in Los Angeles after scamming people out of nearly $250,000. (via LAist)

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

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

Suzanne Nuyen