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Morning news brief

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Israel says the deal to implement a four-day pause in fighting in Gaza has been delayed until Friday at the earliest. So that means Israel continues to strike Gaza in an attempt to destroy Hamas, and families on both sides have to wait to bring their loved ones home.

We're joined now by NPR's Lauren Frayer in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Lauren, what's holding up this agreement?

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Well, Israel's national security adviser says talks with Hamas are still progressing and that the release of hostages held in Gaza and Palestinian detainees held in Israel will not take place, as you mentioned, before tomorrow. He didn't give an explanation for the delay. The deal, as we understand it, is this - a four-day pause in fighting, 50 hostages released by Hamas in stages, like one batch per day, and 150 Palestinian prisoners and detainees released from jails in Israel.

Now, just to note, this isn't a published document, so we're relying on both sides to describe what they have agreed on, and there could be discrepancies. For example, last night in a speech, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the International Committee for (ph) the Red Cross will visit all of the hostages inside Gaza and deliver medicine. But today, a Red Cross spokesperson told me the group isn't aware of any such agreement to do that. It's ready to do so if called upon, though.

MARTÍNEZ: So that means it's got to be pretty stressful for a lot of people. What kind of things are people saying?

FRAYER: Yeah. I mean, for families of hostages kidnapped in Israel on October 7, they're, like, on tenterhooks waiting for this release. Here's a man named Nimrod Schacher. My colleague Brian Mann met him in a Tel Aviv square where protesters have gathered. And he's angry at the Netanyahu government for not getting a deal to free all of the roughly 240 hostages.

NIMROD SCHACHER: The majority of the Israelis will demand this from our government, and we don't care what are the means to get this deal.

FRAYER: Meanwhile, here in the West Bank, I've been meeting families of some of those 150 Palestinian prisoners and detainees who are slated for release. Most of them are from the West Bank in Jerusalem. They're mostly teenage boys, a few teenage girls and several dozen adult women, some of whom have been in Israeli jails for years. But any homecoming preparations here are really muted because of the toll that this war has taken just south of here in Gaza.

I spoke this morning with a woman named Sahar Hantoolee. She's a French and English teacher here in Ramallah. And she said she's been in agony.

SAHAR HANTOOLEE: Because our people in Gaza are suffering from now 47 days. They are martyrs there physically, and we are martyrs here psychologically.

FRAYER: Meanwhile, an Israeli military spokesperson says forces continue to bomb Gaza, some 300 targets there in the past 24 hours. He says they're using ground forces, drones and precision-guided missiles. Israel says this is all aimed at destroying Hamas.

MARTÍNEZ: Lauren, this deal isn't in trouble, is it?

FRAYER: I mean, it's hard to tell. Like, it's not unusual for temporary cease-fires to be delayed or to falter once they do start. There are a lot of details to work out - as I mentioned, the discrepancy over what Netanyahu said last night and what the Red Cross is saying today. I mean, remember that the Hamas leadership is still believed to be underground in tunnels under Gaza. And negotiators that I've spoken with have told me this requires passing notes, like, down through the tunnels, then up to Gaza above ground, out to Egypt and to negotiators in Qatar and the U.S. and in Israel. And so not only did it take time to get this deal - weeks of negotiations - but it takes time to negotiate the implementation of all of the details, to work it out.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Lauren Frayer. Lauren, thanks.

FRAYER: You're welcome.

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MARTÍNEZ: Maybe you roll your eyes when you hear about Black Friday, and lots of people think it's overhyped, but it still is the busiest shopping day of the year as it kicks off the holiday shopping season. So what are we buying, and how can we afford it? NPR's Alina Selyukh is here. Should we be expecting massive crowds, Alina? Should I stay home? What should I do?

ALINA SELYUKH, BYLINE: That is your personal choice. But I do think you should expect a fair bit of crowds, definitely a lot of folks shopping online. The vast majority of Americans say they plan to shop on Black Friday. Over the long weekend, if you think through Monday, we're actually expecting 182 million shoppers. And that's according to Katherine Cullen at the National Retail Federation.

KATHERINE CULLEN: Just for context, that's actually the highest we've seen since we started tracking it this way in 2017.

SELYUKH: In other words, that's more people shopping than ever between now and Cyber Monday, which means I get to sound like a broken record because I seem to say this every year, but this holiday, we are on track to set a shopping record. Retailers are forecasting that spending will grow. It will grow a bit slower than we saw during the pandemic boom but in line with the decade prior. And an average shopping budget, according to the National Retail Federation, is around $875. That's for gifts, decorations, other holiday stuff. And that's slightly more than last year.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So typically around this time, Alina, my eyes and desire are bigger than my budget.

(LAUGHTER)

SELYUKH: Yes (ph).

MARTÍNEZ: Any great deals out there?

SELYUKH: You know, these are the best prices of the year. That is why people roll their eyes and still shop. The last couple of years, we did see inflation, high prices put a damper on holiday discounts. But I've got good news for you. This year, Adobe Analytics, which tracks online prices, is predicting that we will hit a high mark on deals. They're saying discounts will be as high as 35% off between now and Cyber Monday and as high as 16% off in the weeks to follow.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So what am I getting in debt for?

SELYUKH: I think probably a lot of classics. If you're like other folks in this country, you might be buying lots of clothes and toys. Those are the top.

MARTÍNEZ: Toys - that's me on toys.

SELYUKH: Most popular ones are Legos, Hot Wheels cars, Barbies, other dolls - lots of nostalgia for us adults out there.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah.

SELYUKH: And there is a new theme this year. Maybe this one's for you. A record number of folks are saying they're planning to splurge on personal care items, like makeup, beauty, other personal care stuff.

And I do want to give a shoutout to gift cards. They're a popular gift. If you've ever felt bad about buying one - I know I always do - well, surveys every year find that gift cards are the most common thing people say they actually want to receive.

MARTÍNEZ: And slightly more personal than just cash, I think.

SELYUKH: Just a little bit. Just one step up from that (laughter).

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, they're almost the same thing. Yeah. All right. So, Alina, are our wallets ready for all this?

SELYUKH: You know, shoppers all year have been saying that they are tightening their belts. We're talking about inflation, prioritizing food and necessities. But we've also seen people - you know, they're still traveling. They're eating out a lot. And there is, I think, a high chance folks will feel like, you know, 'tis the season to splurge and celebrate.

I talked to Katie Thomas. She runs the Kearney Consumer Institute. It's a think tank inside the consulting firm Kearney. And here's what she said.

KATIE THOMAS: I do think ultimately people will still spend. People are employed. Wages are good. If they're working, they feel like they can buy gifts.

SELYUKH: She's mentioning there unemployment remains near record lows. Wages have been growing. Also, inflation has cooled off, and some prices are actually declining.

But there is another side of the story, which is that we are shopping a lot on credit. More people are starting to fall behind on credit card bills, especially folks in their 30s. And so Thomas suspects lots of people will spend through the holidays and face the consequences in 2024.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, that's next year. That's NPR's Alina Selyukh. Alina, thanks.

SELYUKH: Thank you.

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MARTÍNEZ: In Atlanta, a new police training facility is being built on 85 acres of wooded land. Protesters have long railed against the plan. More than 60 people have been arrested this year during protests. Some have been violent. And some protesters are now charged with racketeering. Some are also facing domestic terrorism and money laundering charges. Atlanta's mayor and Georgia's governor still support the training facility, and a petition to put the training center's funding on the ballot is stalled in court.

We're joined now by Chamian Cruz of WABE in Atlanta, who's been following this story. So what exactly do the protesters want, and why?

CHAMIAN CRUZ, BYLINE: Well, A, for more than two years now, protesters - and that includes environmentalists and anti-police groups - they've been saying that they fear the state-of-the-art facility will further militarize police from around the country who come to train here. And they say that construction is going to exacerbate environmental damage in this low-income, majority-Black area. So while you have some groups who say that the facility should just be built somewhere else where it isn't in people's backyards and destroying valuable green space in the community, you also have some people who don't want this facility to be built at all.

And protests have only intensified, and they gained national attention after state troopers shot and killed a protester at the site in January. And then recently, a special prosecutor announced that he would not be bringing charges against those officers involved. He said that he found their use of deadly force was objectively reasonable. And this comes, as you said earlier, while dozens of protesters are facing racketeering and domestic terrorism charges. So protesters have also been calling on those to be dropped.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, and despite all this, the mayor of Atlanta, the governor of Georgia, they've still stood behind the project. Why is that?

CRUZ: City officials say the training center is needed to improve things like de-escalation training, to boost morale and to recruit and retain more officers. The Atlanta Police Department is still about 500 officers short. And so, quite frankly, they say that they are simply spending too much money right now having to rent other facilities or that they're training in parking lots of old shopping centers or abandoned schools with mold and other problems. The city also already owns this land where the center is being built, and once it's completed, it's supposed to have, like, walking trails for the community and a place for them to keep their horses and canines, as well as a mock city where officers can train on how to conduct raids, which is why protesters call this project Cop City.

Just last week, protesters set several cement trucks on fire owned by a company working on the project. But Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said that despite this type of action, the project is still on track to be completed in December of next year.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. Saw that organizers delivered 116,000 signatures to City Hall to get a rare ballot measure started that would ask Atlanta voters to weigh in on whether they want the facility. Where does that stand?

CRUZ: Well, yes, they submitted the signatures to City Hall in late September, but they've just been sitting there ever since because, almost immediately, city officials refused to begin verifying them until a judge rules on whether they're even valid. So there's a court hearing scheduled for next month, where we should find out more.

MARTÍNEZ: That's Chamian Cruz with WABE. Thanks a lot.

CRUZ: Thank you.

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MARTÍNEZ: In Niagara Falls, N.Y., two people were killed Wednesday after their speeding vehicle crashed through a busy border checkpoint, causing an explosion. New York Governor Kathy Hochul says there were no signs that it was a terrorist attack and emphasized that the investigation is still in early stages. The Rainbow Bridge checkpoint was damaged and remains closed.

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KATHY HOCHUL: This is one of the busiest crossings not just in western New York, but along the entire U.S.-Canadian border. And it happens on the busiest travel day of the year. So naturally, in a time of heightened alert, everyone's springing into action.

MARTÍNEZ: Security footage shows a white vehicle speeding toward the tollbooths before swerving off the road and flying several yards into the air. It crashed into a Customs and Border Protection booth and then burst into flames. A Customs and Border Protection worker was treated for minor injuries. The identities of the two people in the car have not yet been released. There's more on this story at npr.org. 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.
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