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Up First briefing: Biden sanctions Israeli settlers; mystery noise disturbs Floridians

U.S. President Joe Biden photographed in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 1. President Biden has issued an executive order targeting today Israeli settlers in the West Bank who have been attacking Palestinians in the occupied territory.
Anna Moneymaker
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Getty Images
U.S. President Joe Biden photographed in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 1. President Biden has issued an executive order targeting today Israeli settlers in the West Bank who have been attacking Palestinians in the occupied territory.

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

President Biden issued an executive order Thursday sanctioning four Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank who are accused of violence against Palestinians. The order imposes travel bans and lays the groundwork for financial sanctions against settlers who carry out violent assaults.

  • The move is mostly symbolic and reflects the growing U.S. frustration with Israel's policies, NPR's Greg Myre says on Up First. One of the men sanctioned spoke to NPR's Daniel Estrin. He owns a farm and says he has a good relationship with the 15 Palestinians he employs. He has no financial assets in the U.S. or plans to travel there. He tells Estrin he believes the sanctions are mostly about the U.S. sending a public message of disapproval to Israel.


All eyes have been on the Republican presidential primary so far this election cycle. Now, it's the Democrats' turn. Tomorrow, the first primary that President Biden appears on takes place in South Carolina. Biden is running largely unopposed and is likely to win.

  • NPR Network reporter Maayan Schechter from South Carolina Public Radio says Democrats chose South Carolina to kick off their primary season as a nod to the state's diversity. Black voters make two-thirds of the state's Democratic voter base. Democrats hope the primary will counter the narrative that people in Biden's party aren't energized to back him in this election cycle. Schechter reports health care has been a big motivator for Biden supporters, while Israel's war on Gaza and exhaustion over another Trump/Biden faceoff are concerns.


Tomorrow marks one year since a toxic train derailment displaced many residents in East Palestine, Ohio. Since then, the Norfolk Southern train company has dug up more than 175,000 tons of soil and and is starting to replace it with uncontaminated soil. The company has also processed more than 40 million gallons of contaminated water. President Biden is set to visit the town later this month.

  • At least 50 families never returned to East Palestine after the incident, Oliver Morrison of NPR network station WESA reports. A local business owner tells Morrison that the reputation of being a "toxic town" is hurting retail and other businesses that rely on people coming to town. Morrison says residents hope Biden's upcoming visit will help get the word out that the town is safe to visit again. Still, some are still wondering about the longterm impacts of the derailment on their health.

Today's listen

Alengo / Getty Images
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What's that noise? Residents in South Tampa, Fla., have reported a mysterious noise that wakes up children and shakes windows. One resident describes it as a subwoofer-like vibration you can feel in your core. But where is it coming from?

Listen to the slightly spooky and unnerving noise and learn about how researchers are investigating it.

Weekend picks

Naomi Watts plays Babe Paley and Tom Hollander is Truman Capote in <em>Feud: Capote vs. the Swans.</em>
/ FX
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FX
Naomi Watts plays Babe Paley and Tom Hollander is Truman Capote in Feud: Capote vs. the Swans.

Check out what NPR is watching, reading and listening to this weekend:

Movies: More than 75 movies were featured at this year's Sundance Film Festival. These are the ones the Pop Culture Happy Hour team thinks you should keep on your radar this year.

TV: The eight-part series Feud: Capote vs. the Swans tells stories of Truman Capote's friendships with, and betrayals of, New York's most prominent society women. It's the latest installation in Ryan Murphy's Feud anthology.

Books: Bora Chung focuses on the perils of surveillance advanced technology in her latest collection of short stories, Your Utopia.

Music: Billy Joel has released his first song in nearly two decades. With its rocking piano line and soaring strings, "Turn The Lights Back On" will sound familiar to his biggest fans.

Theater: Broadway's new show, Days of Wine and Roses, is based on the 1962 film. The show makes a heavy story of addiction and recovery sing.

Quiz: Swifties have the advantage on this week's quiz. The pop star showed up on the NPR home page five times this week. Were you paying attention?

3 things to know before you go

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - JANUARY 28: Travis Kelce #87 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates with Taylor Swift as she whispers in his ear after a 17-10 victory against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game at M&T Bank Stadium on January 28, 2024 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith / Getty Images
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Getty Images
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - JANUARY 28: Travis Kelce #87 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates with Taylor Swift as she whispers in his ear after a 17-10 victory against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game at M&T Bank Stadium on January 28, 2024 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

  1. Chart-topping singer Taylor Swift has recently been a fixture in the football scene because of her high-profile relationship with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. Now, she's entangled in political disinformation conversations as some spread rumors that the Chiefs' playoff win was Democratic propaganda.
  2. The EPA is proposing that nine PFAs, known as forever chemicals, are hazardous to human health. The agency cited studies that linked PFAs to "toxic effects" like cancer, thyroid issues and infertility. 
  3. NPR's Student Podcast Challenge is back for the sixth year. For the first time, fourth graders can enter. Here's how.

This newsletter was edited by Treye Green.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Suzanne Nuyen