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Morning news brief

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

President Biden's 30-minute phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resulted in an Israeli promise to increase aid to Gaza, which the U.N. says is at imminent risk of famine.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This week, Biden said he was outraged and heartbroken by Israeli airstrikes that killed seven workers with the food charity World Central Kitchen in Gaza. Here is U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

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ANTONY BLINKEN: This week's horrific attack on the World Central kitchen was not the first such incident. It must be the last.

FADEL: To talk about this. We are joined by NPR's Daniel Estrin from Tel Aviv. Hi. Good morning.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: So tell us more about the president's phone call with Netanyahu.

ESTRIN: It came after an Israeli strike, as you mentioned, on one of the most prominent aid operations in Gaza, the food charity World Central Kitchen. It's run by the famous Washington, D.C., chef Jose Andres. And this group has been delivering food to Gaza by sea, by ship, with Israel's coordination. But on Monday night, the Israeli military struck the group's three-car convoy after the group had unloaded food in Gaza. And Israel says they misidentified the cars at night, didn't intend to attack the charity. But Biden had a call with Netanyahu yesterday, and Secretary Blinken said that the president told Netanyahu that, quote, "strikes on humanitarian workers and the overall humanitarian situation are unacceptable."

FADEL: So what is the president asking Israel to do?

ESTRIN: Well, he's asking Israel to announce a series of specific, concrete and measurable steps to address civilian harm and the safety of aid workers and humanitarian suffering in Gaza. And for the first time, Biden said that Israel's behavior would determine what U.S. policy will be on Gaza going forward. You know, you see, Leila, Biden's patience wearing thin with the civilian death toll in Gaza, with the humanitarian crisis and with U.S. domestic opposition to Biden's support for Israel's offensive. And now we see this strike appears to have led to a real turning point in U.S. support for Israel, and Biden is now conditioning it on Israel providing and proving that it's changing course.

FADEL: So Israel has promised to increase aid. What exactly does that mean?

ESTRIN: Israel has announced that it's going to take immediate steps to increase aid, to allow delivery of aid directly to an Israeli port and for the first time in this war, to open a main crossing point to north Gaza, where the food shortage is the most dire, to allow aid into north Gaza. Israel says it's also going to allow more aid from Jordan to cross the border, drive across Israel and then into Gaza. All this was announced right after Biden's call with Netanyahu. And Netanyahu's office said that this increased aid is going to prevent a humanitarian crisis and is, quote, "necessary to ensure the continuation of the fighting." So in other words, Israel cannot continue the war in Gaza without U.S. support and they realize that, and more aid is a direct U.S. demand.

FADEL: Now, the president also told Netanyahu to, quote, "empower his negotiators to conclude a deal without delay" for a cease-fire and hostage release. Where do those talks actually stand?

ESTRIN: The talks are stalled, as far as we know. Biden's call for Netanyahu to empower his negotiators to strike a deal without delay, that comes after Israeli media have been reporting that Netanyahu has actually limited the authority of his negotiators to reach a final deal. Biden signaling that Israel can do more to reach a cease-fire and a hostage release.

FADEL: NPR's Daniel Estrin in Tel Aviv. Thank you, Daniel.

ESTRIN: You're welcome.

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FADEL: The group known as No Labels will not be running a third-party candidate in the 2024 presidential election.

MARTIN: Yes, they made the announcement Thursday afternoon saying they are ending their effort to, quote, "put forth a unity ticket." The news makes the race slightly less complicated and may have President Biden and former President Trump both breathing a little easier.

FADEL: Joining us now to talk about it is NPR political correspondent Danielle Kurtzleben. Hi, Danielle.

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning.

FADEL: Good morning. So let's start with the basics. Who's No Labels and why did they decide to back out?

KURTZLEBEN: Sure. So No Labels is a centrist group that was formed back in 2010 to foster bipartisan cooperation. So for a long time, they were one of any number of groups here in D.C. with lofty mission statements. But their profile grew in the run up to 2024 because they started saying that they were going to run a presidential candidate. And they were serious. They got onto the ballot in 21 states, and they were working to get on it nationwide. And it was widely reported they had some pretty wealthy backers. So that's why this is a big deal, that they're not running anyone. Now, they said in that statement that they simply couldn't find a candidate.

No Labels said in that statement they were only ever going to offer their ballot to moderate candidates, quote, "with a credible path to winning the White House." And they added that since they didn't find any candidate that their responsible course of action was, quote, "for us to stand down." Now, while we don't know the full list of contenders they were considering, we do know that a lot of people this year who were considered potential No Labels candidates, one after another, they just said they wouldn't run. You had West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, former New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley once she dropped out of the GOP race.

FADEL: Now, we've heard from voters a thirst for a third-party candidate, and yet here's this group that couldn't even get a candidate to agree to run. So what does it tell us about third-party runs or centrism in the U.S.?

KURTZLEBEN: Well, we already knew the main lesson here, which is that it's difficult in any circumstance to have a viable third-party candidate, especially in our two-party system. And it's easy to talk about in the abstract, which No Labels often did, you know, saying that maybe voters would like another choice. But once you try to find the right person to buck the system and bring everybody together, things just get way harder. But you could also argue that this year it was especially hard.

Now, No Labels often made the case that they needed to put up a candidate because so many voters just aren't thrilled with Biden or Trump. Now, that is true. But at least in 2024, the corollary to that is a lot of negative partisanship. You have a lot of people, however they feel about their own party's nominee, who are just more scared of the other party winning. And so there are a lot of powerful people with knives out for No Labels. Late last year, for example, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared No Labels, quote, "perilous to our democracy" because of their potential presidential run.

FADEL: So the fact that they're not running a candidate, what does that mean for the Biden and Trump campaigns?

KURTZLEBEN: Again, it's really hard to tell because we don't know who they were going to nominate. It would have depended on who that would have been. But I can tell you that several Democratic leading groups have put out statements that are, really, openly celebrating this, along with the Lincoln Project, which opposes Donald Trump. These groups definitely seem to be breathing easier because some were very, very worried that No Labels would split the anti-Trump vote. And either way, I should add there are third-party candidates - most notably Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who's polling around 11% - who are already making this race also quite complicated.

FADEL: NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben. Thank you, Danielle.

KURTZLEBEN: Yeah, thank you.

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FADEL: A federal court in Los Angeles ruled that border officials are responsible for the welfare of children in makeshift encampments on the California side of the U.S.-Mexico border.

MARTIN: Migrants have been congregating in these camps while they wait to ask the Border Patrol for protection. Now a judge is ordering immigration cases with children to be expedited.

FADEL: Joining us from member station KQED in San Francisco to talk about what that means is senior immigration editor Tyche Hendricks. Hi, Tyche.

TYCHE HENDRICKS, BYLINE: Hi, Leila.

FADEL: So tell us what this ruling means.

HENDRICKS: Sure, well, this U.S. district judge in Los Angeles, Dolly Gee, ruled that even though the Border Patrol didn't create these camps, the fact is, agents are monitoring people and telling them where to go. We're talking about families and unaccompanied minors, as well as adults. So she ruled that they are effectively in Border Patrol custody. And the reason that's important is that when children are in immigration custody, there are legal protections that kick in.

FADEL: And what are those legal protections?

HENDRICKS: Yeah, there's a legal settlement that dates back to the '90s called the Flores agreement that says when children are in immigration custody, the government has to provide safe and sanitary conditions. But the conditions in these open-air sites are not safe or sanitary by anybody's estimation. There's no food or medical care except what volunteers are offering, and advocates say kids are sheltering from the wind and the rain in Porta Potties.

FADEL: Who created these encampments?

HENDRICKS: Yeah, well, they are people coming from many countries. They're seeking safety or opportunity in the U.S. They've crossed the border illegally and now they're in California. But, you know, they're not trying to run away from the Border Patrol. They're mostly waiting to ask for asylum. And so they've kind of congregated spontaneously. But agents say they don't have the capacity to process everyone immediately. And so migrants end up waiting in these open-air locations for hours, sometimes even days.

FADEL: So these encampments then are created spontaneously. What did the judge tell the government to do?

HENDRICKS: Yeah, Judge Gee says the Border Patrol needs to stop sending kids to these open-air sites. And they need to transport them, quote, "expeditiously" to more suitable facilities. She said that total time that kids can spend in the open-air sites, as well as in Border Patrol stations combined, that can't be longer than 72 hours.

FADEL: And has the government responded?

HENDRICKS: Yeah. U.S. Customs and Border Protection told me they're reviewing the court's order, and they say they will continue to transport children to Border Patrol facilities as quickly as possible. Now, Leila, as you know, what happens at the border is often seen through the lens of politics. But I talked to Leecia Welch with Children's Rights. She's one of the lawyers who asked the judge to weigh in. And she says we should really think of this as a matter of humanity.

LEECIA WELCH: When children show up in your backyard, whether you're a Democrat or a Republican or what your politics are, most people's first inclination is to want to make sure they're cared for. So for me, this isn't really about politics. This is about how we as a country want to take care of children.

HENDRICKS: But it's clear the government is going to have to find more resources to process kids faster. And the judge says she wants a report by May 10.

FADEL: KQED's senior immigration editor Tyche Hendricks. Thanks, Tyche.

HENDRICKS: My pleasure, Leila. 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.
Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.