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Morning news brief

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

For 19 days, Gaza has been relentlessly bombarded by Israeli airstrikes in what is believed to be preparation for a ground invasion.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Entire neighborhoods in Gaza have been leveled, while Israel says it's targeting Hamas' network of underground tunnels. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called Israel's strategy a violation of international humanitarian law.

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ANTONIO GUTERRES: Protecting civilians can never mean using them as human shields. Protecting civilians does not mean ordering more than 1 million people to evacuate to the south, where there is no shelter, no food, no water, no medicine and no fuel, and then continuing to bomb the south itself.

MARTÍNEZ: At the U.N. Security Council meeting, the United States rejected calls for a cease-fire and instead called for a humanitarian pause in the fighting. Now, though, the question remains, when might Israel start a ground invasion? And what concerns do American leaders have about Israel's strategy?

MARTIN: For more on this, we called NPR's Tom Bowman, who covers the Pentagon. Tom, good morning.

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Hey, Michel.

MARTIN: So, Tom, the U.S. secretary of defense has been in regular contact with his Israeli counterpart. There appears to be some concern building among U.S. officials about this offensive. What more can you tell us?

BOWMAN: Well, a few things. There's concern about this all spreading throughout the region should Israel invade and with maybe the Iranian-backed militants in Lebanon - Hezbollah - firing its vast amount of missiles into Israel. Concern as well about that Israel may not have thought through the implications of a massive ground invasion of Gaza. So, you know, top officials are asking, what are your goals? What about civilians, keeping them safe? We're already seeing reports of thousands of Palestinian civilian deaths, and the U.S. is warning the Israelis that this will be tough and brutal - Michel, worse than the fight to defeat the Islamic State in the Iraqi city of Mosul back in 2016. And we're talking a vast network of underground tunnels, booby traps, a close quarter of fighting with hundreds of thousands of civilians in the middle.

MARTIN: Say more about the fears that this conflict could spread. What are your sources saying to you about this?

BOWMAN: Well, again, it's - a major concern is Iran itself getting involved somehow. That's why you see the American aircraft carriers, the attack aircraft, the missile defense systems that will also protect U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria. By the way, I'm told this is all part of a long-standing U.S. plan to defend Israel. It's been on the shelf for some time. It's not just kind of a haphazard movement of armaments and troops.

MARTIN: What would the priorities for the U.S. military be in this scenario?

BOWMAN: One of the priorities is keeping U.S. troops in the region safe. There are a couple of thousand troops in Iraq, 800 to 900 in Syria. They have already been attacked by Iranian-backed militias, but those attacks by missiles and drones have been dealt with.

MARTIN: President Biden has talked about and has openly said that he would like Israel to learn from the mistakes the U.S. made after 9/11. You've been talking to a lot of officials about that. As briefly as you can, what are those mistakes?

BOWMAN: Well, the mistakes for the U.S. were invading two countries, Afghanistan and Iraq, overthrowing their governments and thinking this will all be better, all fueled by fear of more terrorist attacks or suspected weapons of mass destruction. And in both cases, you had guerrilla warfare that lasted for two decades, really continuing to this day. The same could be true here. You destroy Hamas, but who governs Gaza? And are you creating more militants by your tactics?

MARTIN: That's NPR's Tom Bowman. Tom, thank you.

BOWMAN: You're welcome.

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MARTIN: Twenty-three days until a government shutdown and still no speaker of the House, which means that Congress is at a standstill.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. And Republicans haven't even begun to work through the divisions that got everyone here in the first place. Yesterday, GOP House members voted and nominated Tom Emmer of Minnesota. That was just for a few hours, though, because he had to drop out when he couldn't lock down the votes to be elected by the full House. Then, lawmakers went back to the drawing board and nominated a fourth person to take former Speaker Kevin McCarthy's place - Congressman Mike Johnson from Louisiana.

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MIKE JOHNSON: We're going to serve the people of this country. We're going to restore their faith in this Congress. You're going to see a new form of government, and we are going to move this quickly. This group here is ready to govern, and we're going to govern well. We're going to do what's right by the people.

MARTIN: NPR congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh has been clocking some long hours watching all this, and she's with us now again. Deirdre, good morning.

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Good morning, Michel.

MARTIN: So can Congressman Johnson get elected by the full House?

WALSH: That still remains to be seen. But the plan is for the House to vote around noon today. He won the nomination inside the GOP conference, but as we've seen over and over again, he's going to need 217 votes if all members are present and voting on the House floor. Democrats are expected to stay united and vote for their leader, Hakeem Jeffries.

MARTIN: So tell us more about Johnson. And I'm real - I'm interested in what he means by this new form of government.

WALSH: He's 51, a social conservative and a member of the House Judiciary Committee. He was elected in 2016. Johnson's really a top Trump loyalist. He was an impeachment manager for Trump's team back in 2020. He's a constitutional lawyer, and he was one of the Republicans drafting arguments against certifying the electoral count from some states on January 6. He's also currently a member of GOP leadership. That's been a strike against others who've won and had to drop out, like Emmer and Steve Scalise. So it's unclear to me in terms of this new form of government that he's talking about.

MARTIN: And you mentioned that Johnson is a Trump loyalist. How much is President Trump influencing this whole process?

WALSH: You know, a lot. You know, Tom Emmer, who won the nomination yesterday, was forced to withdraw, as you said, hours later after Trump took to social media and called Emmer a RINO, a Republican in name only. Trump's support wasn't enough to elect the person he endorsed. That was Ohio Republican Jim Jordan, who was forced to drop out after three failed votes on the floor. But Trump's opposition was a huge factor in derailing Emmer's really short stint as the speaker nominee. Emmer's vote to certify the 2020 election became an issue for him with his colleagues, and now Republicans are turning to someone who helped lead the charge to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

MARTIN: OK. So I keep going back to what Representative Johnson said about this new form of government. Has - how - these last three weeks - what does this say about the Republicans' ability to govern? And what do they say about it?

WALSH: I mean, even Republicans say it's been chaos. I mean, they've been openly venting and frustrated about the fact that the House just can't function. We're less than a month away from the deadline to avoid another government shutdown possibly. And the thing that got Republicans into this mess is when a group of hard-right members were mad at the speaker and passed the stopgap bill - is going to happen again if Congress can't avoid a shutdown next month. There's also concern about being unable to help a top ally, Israel, who's at war.

MARTIN: And if Representative Johnson does get the gavel, what's on the agenda first?

WALSH: I mean, that nomination to avoid a shutdown on November 17. There's this huge foreign aid package that his own party is split on. Johnson opposes more money for Ukraine. We also expect Republicans will focus back on an impeachment inquiry. That's something Johnson was a big part of.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Deirdre Walsh. Deirdre, I hope you get some rest today.

WALSH: Thanks, Michel.

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MARTIN: Forty-one states are suing Meta for allegedly designing products that addict teens and worsen their mental health.

MARTÍNEZ: State prosecutors say some features of Facebook and Instagram violate consumer protection and child safety laws.

MARTIN: NPR tech reporter Bobby Allyn is with us now to tell us more about this. Good morning, Bobby.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: OK, tell us about the case that the states are making.

ALLYN: Sure. The case boils down to this. State prosecutors say Meta created something they're calling dopamine-manipulating features. And they're features everyone who uses social media know very well, right? The algorithms that decide what we see when we log on to Facebook and Instagram, the ability to like a post, being able to scroll endlessly without limits - these features got teens hooked. And the states say Meta knew that teens' self-esteem would suffer once they got addicted to Facebook and Instagram.

Now, you might be thinking, OK, but how is that against the law? And the states say deliberately designing a product in a way that, you know, violates consumer protection laws. Some observers are likening these suits to the lawsuits of the 1990s against Big Tobacco. I talked to Jean Twenge about this. She's a professor of psychology at San Diego State University. And she says she hopes these lawsuits force Meta to change.

JEAN TWENGE: These days, when we see people smoking, they're in the small minority and we think, what are they doing? Maybe we'll think that way in the future about 12-year-olds and 14-year-olds being on social media.

MARTIN: And what's Meta's response?

ALLYN: Yeah, Meta issued a statement saying it shares the concern of state prosecutors. Like them, they want teens on Facebook and Instagram to be safe. But, you know, Meta hasn't directly addressed the substance of these suits. Legal experts are expecting Meta to invoke something called Section 230. Sounds very technical, but it's a decades-old federal law that protects tech companies from lawsuits over what users post on their sites. And for years, the law made it nearly impossible to win a successful civil lawsuit against a tech company.

But this is starting to change. Increasingly, there is this novel legal tactic that is getting around Section 230, and it involves suing companies over, essentially, shoddy design, looking at social media almost as a product that should have been recalled because it was harmful. And that is similar to what the states are doing here.

MARTIN: As briefly as you can, say more about what this research does say about social media's effect on teen mental health.

ALLYN: Yeah. You know, Michel, this has sparked a lot of debate. But I talked to Twenge at San Diego State University about it since she herself has been a researcher on some really large studies that have looked at teens nationwide. In fact, some of her work is cited by prosecutors in these lawsuits. And she says adolescents are in the midst of a mental health crisis. Consider this fact. Between 2011 and 2021, teen depression has doubled. And while there's many ways to explain this, Twenge says the obvious one to her is social media.

TWENGE: No other explanation really fits for why we have a doubling in teen depression at a time when the economy was doing well and crime was going down and almost every other indicator for teens was getting better, but they were spending a lot more time on social media, a lot less time with each other face to face and less time sleeping.

ALLYN: And now courts will decide whether Meta ignoring similar research constitutes breaking the law or just business as usual.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Bobby Allyn. Bobby, thank you.

ALLYN: Thanks, Michel. 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.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
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.