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Morning news brief

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

After seven weeks of war, the cease-fire between Hamas and Israel has begun. The pause in the fighting is to allow the exchange of hostages held by Hamas and prisoners held by Israel. Now, if things go according to plan, the first exchanges should begin later today. For more, we're joined by NPR's Daniel Estrin in Tel Aviv. Daniel, people have been waiting for this day for a while now. So what's the mood where you are?

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: You know, it's finally a morning of hope for Israelis. There's been just a little rocket fire onto southern Israel just after the 7 a.m. cease-fire went to effect. But now, you know, the streets here, which have been very quiet for these past seven weeks, are kind of bustling. And I'm outside the Tel Aviv Art Museum, where there are crowds of Israelis buying yellow bouquets of flowers, their donations to the families of hostages. And I spoke to one of those Israelis who are - is bringing home flowers to her family for a sense of hope. Here's what she said, Diana Montia (ph).

DIANA MONTIA: I'm bringing these flowers to my mom as a symbol of hope, and we're hoping to see everybody return safely to their families.

ESTRIN: Now, Qatar, which brokered this deal, said 13 hostages out of the about 240 being held in Gaza - 13 only will be released today. We still don't know which ones. Israel says it received a list and notified all of the hostage families. So the families already know if their loved ones are coming home today or not. But they've been asked not to say anything publicly. You know, no one wants any last-minute snags that can derail this whole thing.

A MARTÍNEZ: And now that the fighting is stopped or at least on pause for a while, what's it like in Gaza, as best as you can tell?

ESTRIN: It's actually a very confusing and very chaotic day for people in Gaza. I spoke this morning to our producer Anas Baba in Gaza. Here's what he told me.

ANAS BABA, BYLINE: The people still a little bit skeptical about, like, what they're going to do. We didn't witness any, like, celebrations in the streets.

ESTRIN: And actually, we're hearing reports that Israeli troops have fired on people in Gaza who tried to go back to their homes in northern Gaza. The area where Israeli troops have occupied. Now, the Israeli army has not yet commented on those reports. We have seen some video footage that we haven't independently verified, but it seems the army has tried to to warn Gazans with flyers - dropping flyers from the air not to return to northern Gaza. But that just gives you a sense of the confusion of, what does this cease-fire actually mean for people? What can people do? We spoke to one pharmacist in Gaza who said he feels depressed. People can't really return to their homes. Electricity still hasn't been restored. Israel says fuel and cooking gas have been transferred to the U.N. in southern Gaza to alleviate this catastrophic humanitarian situation there, where hundreds of thousands of sheltering.

A MARTÍNEZ: You mentioned how when it comes to the hostages, 13 are going to be released. Don't know much more than that about who the hostages are. But what more can you tell us about how the exchange is going to work? Because I got to imagine it's going to be really complicated and delicate. And there's still actually maybe a possibility that it might be delayed.

ESTRIN: Yeah. I mean, an Israeli official told NPR that it's going to work this way. The International Committee of the Red Cross will facilitate the hostages going into Israeli hands across some kind of border from Gaza, probably through Egypt and then to Israel. There will be initial medical checks at the border. If possible, some of these hostages released will have their first conversation with their families back home. Many of them lost relatives in the October 7 attack. They probably don't even know about that. Then they'll be flown to hospitals, and families will meet them at the hospitals, and the adults will be questioned by Israeli security forces.

A MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Daniel Estrin in Tel Aviv. Daniel, thanks.

ESTRIN: You're welcome.

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A MARTÍNEZ: Across the country, many progressive prosecutors have been labeled soft on crime for criminal justice reforms such as eliminating cash bail and not prosecuting shoplifters. Some have been removed from office. And in St. Louis, the resistance is so fierce that one police officer is refusing to do one of the most important parts of his job. NPR's Sacha Pfeiffer collaborated with ProPublica to examine how this situation mirrors a nationwide trend. So, Sacha, tell us about this man.

SACHA PFEIFFER, BYLINE: This is a St. Louis homicide detective named Roger Murphey. He is refusing to testify in murder cases in which he was the lead investigator. So far, he's declined to take the stand in at least nine cases. And Murphey thinks his absence hurt prosecutors' chances of getting convictions. And, A, there's another trial coming up soon, and Murphey won't testify in that one, either.

A MARTÍNEZ: So why not? Why won't he testify?

PFEIFFER: Because the St. Louis prosecutor's office put Murphey on a list of cops with credibility problems. Murphey landed on it, he believes unfairly, because of some Facebook posts interpreted as being racist. But even though Murphey was on that list, the prosecutor's office still asked him to testify in cases. Murphey says it's hypocritical to question his integrity yet trust him to take the stand.

A MARTÍNEZ: So let me guess. A progressive prosecutor is at the center of the story.

PFEIFFER: Yes, a woman named Kim Gardner. She was the top prosecutor in St. Louis for nearly seven years. She vowed to reduce mass incarceration, hold police accountable. But she clashed with police. They say she failed to prosecute legitimate cases. And Detective Murphey strongly opposes her policies.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

ROGER MURPHEY: I don't believe in the progressive system at all. The public has seen me as the enemy and has seen our profession as the enemy. But we didn't break the system. We kept arresting people, and she kept letting them out.

PFEIFFER: Kim Gardner resigned this spring after huge pushback and a lot of dysfunction in her office. And Murphey is now retired, but he's still refusing to testify in ongoing cases.

A MARTÍNEZ: As we mentioned earlier, many progressive prosecutors across the country have also faced opposition in recent years.

PFEIFFER: Right. Philadelphia, Baltimore, San Francisco, Boston - they all have or had progressive prosecutors who were hit with huge resistance. And some were forced out or resigned. In Chicago, the top prosecutor is Kim Foxx, and she says some people were rooting for her to fail from the get-go.

KIM FOXX: Before I put my hand on the Bible to take this job, there was a police blog naming me Crimesha, C-R-I-M-E-S-H-A, a play on the word crime and what I believe to be a racist insinuation about me being Black with the name -esha, putting out my address and saying perhaps if people came to my house and assaulted my daughters, then my view on crime would be different.

PFEIFFER: So she thinks police weren't going to accept her, no matter how much she tried to work with them.

A MARTÍNEZ: What do we know about crime rates in places that have progressive prosecutors?

PFEIFFER: Some studies have found there's no connection between increased crime rates and progressive prosecutors. But criminologists will be debating for years how much crime rates were affected by COVID versus the economy versus progressive policies. Now, some police believe criminals are emboldened by progressive prosecutors because they think there will be no consequences for illegal behavior. The counterargument is that desperate or hardened people aren't thinking in advance about whether the local prosecutor is tough on crime or progressive. Here's the president of the St. Louis NAACP, Adolphus Pruitt.

ADOLPHUS PRUITT: You have people who not afraid to go to jail. It's as simple as that. They're at a point in their lives where, hell, my life ain't worth crap anyway, some of them feel. And then you're trying to tell me that jail is worse? (Laughter). A lot of them don't feel that way.

PFEIFFER: So both prosecutors and police have that to contend with, too.

A MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Sacha Pfeiffer. Sacha, thanks.

PFEIFFER: You're welcome.

A MARTÍNEZ: Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter championed many causes during her lifetime, but she held a special place in her heart for mental health. And one of the ways she did that was to help train journalists as Carter Fellows reporting on mental health. Joined now by one of those journalists. Christine Herman joins us from member station WILL in Urbana, Ill. Christine, so what made Mrs. Carter so interested in training and supporting journalists?

CHRISTINE HERMAN, BYLINE: Well, I think Mrs. Carter understood the power that the media has in shaping public perception. I mean, at the time when she was starting her mental health advocacy work in the '70s, mental illness was something that people were really ashamed to talk about. There were really harmful depictions of people with mental illness in the movies. And that really contributed to the stigma and discrimination that people with mental illnesses face. So one of the purposes of the Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellowship program is to teach reporters things like how to report accurately on mental health as a medical condition, not as a failing or as a lack of moral character.

A MARTÍNEZ: And you were one of those Carter Fellows. Tell us about your time there.

HERMAN: Yeah. So this was 2018, and I was changing careers from my Ph.D. in chemistry to being a full-time public radio reporter. And I wanted to report on mental health, but I had no experience. So this group of people from around the country and even internationally - we came together at the Carter Center in Atlanta for several days of training. And I got to basically hang out with Mrs. Carter. She attended a lot of these meetings that we had with experts and advocates and people who had lived experience. And she joined us for lunch. And what really stood out to me was just how approachable she was, how kind. And I was, of course, pretty starstruck around her, you know? But she made us all feel so welcomed. And being around someone who has championed these issues for so long, knowing I had her support - that helped me immensely, especially when I faced some challenges with my reporting project.

A MARTÍNEZ: And so tell us about that reporting project.

HERMAN: Yeah, so I was writing about people who have to give up custody of their children with serious mental illnesses in order to force the state to basically pay for the treatment that they needed. So this was a really heavy topic. And really, it took a toll on my own mental health. Like, once I started putting stories out, I was getting contacted by families from all over who had similar stories and feeling like no one was hearing them. And I was also a new mother at the time myself. So just the thought of giving up my child because it's the only way I could help them or even save their life - it became too much at times.

A MARTÍNEZ: Wow. So that's a lot to take on for you at once. How did your involvement with the Carter Center help you?

HERMAN: I would just say learning about Mrs. Carter's life gave me some perspective. I read her book "Within Our Reach." It's all about how it is possible to create a better mental health system. I mean, she's been working on these issues longer than I've been alive, right? - and 40, 50 years or so. And she was hopeful when she started this work, and she was still holding on to hope till the very end. So it really inspired me to stick with my project and to stick with this topic. And in fact, earlier this year, I put out a story about New Jersey, which has actually solved the problem of custody relinquishment. So it is possible. And that hope that these problems can be solved is really, I think, the legacy of Rosalynn Carter.

A MARTÍNEZ: Christine Herman is a 2018 Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism fellow. Thanks for sharing your memories, Christine.

HERMAN: Thank you, A. It was a pleasure. 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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