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Morning news brief

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Israel's military says it has expanded its ground offensive in Gaza and is now targeting Hamas strongholds all across the Gaza Strip.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Israeli forces are telling people to flee some areas to avoid those strikes, and that is the hard part. Many civilians have already moved from northern Gaza to the south and may now face demands to leave the same areas to which they fled.

MARTIN: Joining us now with more is NPR's Eleanor Beardsley in Tel Aviv. Eleanor, hello.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Hello.

MARTIN: So the fighting resumed on Friday after the cease-fire broke down. Would you just start by telling us more about Israel's stepped-up operations?

BEARDSLEY: Yes. Well, Israel says it's hit hundreds of Hamas targets overnight as its forces pushed deeper into Gaza. And there were multiple strikes in and around the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, where the top Hamas leadership is believed to be located, including Yahya Sinwar, who orchestrated the October 7 attack. Israeli media is reporting that any fighting in Khan Younis will be complicated, not only by the hundreds of thousands of people who have fled from the north, but also by the fact that some of the Israeli hostages are believed to be held somewhere around the city. Here's Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari.

DANIEL HAGARI: (Non-English language spoken).

BEARDSLEY: The forces are fighting Hamas terrorists face to face wherever they are and killing them. The military says it has found 800 Hamas tunnels since the beginning of the war, and it claims to have destroyed 500.

MARTIN: So, Eleanor, as we already mentioned, Israel is telling many people in the areas that it is targeting to leave. But how and where are they supposed to go? We're already hearing that this latest evacuation warning is causing a lot of confusion and anger.

BEARDSLEY: Yeah, that's right. I mean, the Israeli army is claiming they have published a very detailed digital map online to help people get to safer places. And they've also dropped leaflets. You know, they're urging people to go east or west toward the sea, but you can't go any farther south, so it's difficult. NPR's producer in Gaza, Anas Baba, spoke with Gazans yesterday. Here's Basel Bassyouni. He's an engineer and a father putting up a tent for his family. He says there are no words to describe the horrible conditions and what's happening. Let's listen.

BASEL BASSYOUNI: (Non-English language spoken).

BEARDSLEY: He says there are more than a hundred families here, and the last two nights were the most terrible in my life, he told NPR. Bassyouni says he and his five children watched as the sky was lit up with bombing.

MARTIN: Well, what about Israelis? What are you hearing Israelis saying about this renewed fighting?

BEARDSLEY: Well, some Israelis will tell you that it's just time to get rid of Hamas once and for all. But here in Tel Aviv, the prevailing sentiment seems to be that getting the hostages out is more important than the war, and it should come first. I was at a massive rally in Tel Aviv over the weekend for the more than a hundred hostages still in Gaza. Hadas Calderon spoke. Her two children, ages 12 and 16, were kidnapped from a kibbutz and just released. Here she is.

HADAS CALDERON: (Non-English language spoken).

BEARDSLEY: "Mom, you're alive is the first thing my kids said to me," she tells the crowd. And her kids thought she had been killed when they were separated in the October 7 Hamas attack. And Calderon told the crowd we can't leave the hostages there in the dark and helpless.

MARTIN: And briefly, Eleanor, you were in the Israeli-occupied West Bank over the weekend. What are people saying there?

BEARDSLEY: Well, people feel frustrated. And there's powerlessness over what's happening in Gaza. I spoke with 70-year-old Amad Omar, a jeweler in Ramallah. He described how people feel.

AMAD OMAR: They feel so bad about Gaza, you know? This effects everybody because they're Palestinians, you know, the same people. We can't do nothing about it. They bombarded it so much. We see little kids. It's hard.

BEARDSLEY: You know, tensions have risen in the West Bank since October 7, and Israeli human rights groups say that 250 Palestinians have been killed since then. One told me it was a pressure cooker ready to explode.

MARTIN: That's NPR's Eleanor Beardsley in Tel Aviv. Eleanor, thank you.

BEARDSLEY: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: The Supreme Court meets the opioid crisis today.

MARTIN: The justices hear arguments in a challenge to the bankruptcy deal that was meant to compensate victims of the addictive painkiller OxyContin.

INSKEEP: NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg is covering the story. Nina, good morning.

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What's this case about?

TOTENBERG: Well, you know, today, we know that Purdue Pharma actively pushed highly addictive drugs without telling people what they were doing. That's documented in court and in a documentary called "Crime Of The Century."

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "THE CRIME OF THE CENTURY")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: This was a new drug cartel. They were drug dealers wearing suits and lab coats.

TOTENBERG: Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to three criminal charges, and the company agreed that it owed $8 billion in criminal and civil fines, most of which were to be paid to state and local governments handling the fallout from the opioid crisis. And most of that money was conditioned on the company reaching a deal in bankruptcy court that would reimburse the victims.

INSKEEP: OK, so I'd heard about all of that. Is a challenge to that arrangement what the Supreme Court is now considering?

TOTENBERG: Correct. The question at the center of the case is whether the bankruptcy court has the authority to release the Sacklers from liability despite the fact that all three of the original Sackler brothers who bought Purdue and ultimately developed OxyContin were doctors, and that six Sacklers sat on the board of the company, including the board chair, Richard Sackler, who closely directed the firm's aggressive and deceptive OxyContin marketing strategy.

INSKEEP: OK, so the question is whether the court had the power, but don't courts have a lot of power in these cases?

TOTENBERG: They do. But the question of releasing from liability a whole category of guilty players is one that's not been decided by the Supreme Court. In this case, the Sacklers at first offered $4 billion for the settlement, then moved it up to 6 billion. But the Justice Department trustee who oversees bankruptcy cases in New York, Connecticut and Vermont still objected to the deal. And defending that position today, the Biden administration will argue that the bankruptcy law does not authorize bankruptcy courts to approve or release from liability for third parties like the Sacklers, who have not declared bankruptcy and still have at least half their wealth and probably more if the deal is approved.

INSKEEP: OK, so the Biden administration is taking the view that the Sacklers shouldn't get away with whatever they still are getting away with. What are the basic arguments on each side?

TOTENBERG: Those opposing the settlement deal say that the Sacklers are effectively getting the rewards of a bankruptcy at half price, but they're still able to keep more than half of their money in assets. And they can't be sued personally, so they'll never have to testify about their misdeeds. Georgetown Law professor Adam Levitin puts it this way.

ADAM LEVITIN: Bankruptcy is supposed to provide relief for honest but unfortunate debtors. They come clean about their assets, and they give up all of their assets to their creditors. And the Sacklers are not doing either of those things.

TOTENBERG: The other side acknowledges that bankruptcies can be messy like this one, but it's the only way to get all the players and the victims in one tent and provide some real compensation. And if the Supreme Court vetoes the bankruptcy, there's no guarantee that victims will actually be compensated because the Sacklers have hidden their wealth in foreign banks that are very difficult to access. And at best, getting to that money would take years and potentially burn millions, if not billions, of dollars in legal fees.

INSKEEP: NPR's Nina Totenberg. Thanks so much.

TOTENBERG: Thank you, Steve.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: Former Wyoming congresswoman Liz Cheney is sounding a warning about former President Donald Trump.

INSKEEP: Yeah, she told our colleague Leila Fadel it would be the end of democracy in this country if Trump is elected again. Cheney used to be the No. 3 House Republican, a post she lost when she turned against Trump for his effort to stay in office after he lost the presidential election in 2020.

MARTIN: She spoke to Leila ahead of the release of her new book, which comes out tomorrow. And Leila is with us now to give us a preview. Good morning.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Good morning, Michel.

MARTIN: Now, you had a pretty thorough conversation with her and I know you read her book. What was your biggest takeaway?

FADEL: I mean, biggest takeaway is that Cheney's making it her mission to make sure Trump is not reelected. Let's listen to some of our conversation.

Are you considering a run for the presidency in 2024?

LIZ CHENEY: I haven't ruled it out. I look at it, though, very much through the lens of stopping Donald Trump. And so whatever it will take to do that is very much my focus. I think the danger is that great that that needs to be everybody's top priority.

FADEL: So her warning is stark. She says, as Steve said, democracy in this country is at stake if Trump is elected again. And her book, "Oath And Honor," is an accounting of what happened inside her party in the weeks before and after the January 6 attack on the Capitol by supporters of the former president. And, Michel, she does not hold back, calling her former colleagues collaborators and enablers who knowingly went along with a lie that the election was stolen in 2020 and a lie that led to the attack on the Capitol. And she writes in her book that Trump is the most dangerous man ever to inhabit the Oval Office.

MARTIN: Well, what about her former colleagues? I mean, you said that she doesn't hold back. What about the Republican Party writ large, the party itself?

FADEL: Yeah, I mean, as you know, Michel, Liz Cheney is a through and through conservative. But she told me the Republican Party in its current form is not her party. She calls it an anti-constitutional party. And I asked her what she thought when she saw six out of eight Republican White House hopefuls in a debate raise their hands when asked if they'd support Trump as the Republican nominee if he were convicted of a crime, and here's what she said.

CHENEY: If the party goes down the path of nominating Donald Trump, certainly the party itself will have lost any claim to be a party that is, in fact, supportive of the Constitution.

MARTIN: You know, Leila, Cheney was part of the January 6 committee which investigated the attack on the Capitol. Does she think her work with that committee accomplished what it needed to?

FADEL: You know, I asked her that, and she says that work was just the beginning. It's why she wrote this book, she says, in which she calls out the Republican Party leadership for being cowards who went along with Trump and risked the country's institutions, is what she wrote. And the danger, she says, is not in the rearview mirror.

CHENEY: There was an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal recently where they suggested that even if Donald Trump were elected, it wouldn't be that bad because, of course, we have these institutions and we have these traditions, and we have the separation of powers and that people could somehow count on that to restrain him. And one of the main messages of my book is, no, you can't. You cannot count on those institutions to restrain him.

MARTIN: Well, looking forward to hearing more of what she said. That's NPR's Leila Fadel. Leila, thank you.

FADEL: 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.

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