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Morning news brief


Iowa is at the center in U.S. politics today.


Yeah. Tonight, Iowa Republicans hold the first nominating contest in the party's presidential race. The favorite in that race, Donald Trump, is also the clear favorite to win the Iowa caucuses. But some rivals to the former president have been campaigning hard, even as temperatures in Iowa have plunged below zero.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea is in Iowa. We have defrosted him so he can join us today. Don, the forecast calls for - what? - below zero degrees all day in Des Moines. So what's that feel like, and how is it affecting the race?

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Oh, you are being so optimistic on the temperature. As we speak, it is minus 16...


GONYEA: ...Windchill minus 33. Here's the good news. We don't expect any snow today. At caucus time, it'll be 5 below, plus windchill. Candidates have been talking about it, knowing that the weather could play a role in the results. So let's listen to some sound from a recent day on the trail this week. Here's Nikki Haley, Donald Trump Jr. And then you'll hear Ron DeSantis.


NIKKI HALEY: It's going to be so cold. Like I don't even know what negative 15 is.

DONALD TRUMP JR: I understand it's going to be minus four. But if I can get my Florida butt back up here...

RON DESANTIS: Zero degrees. Negative 10, negative 20. But you know what?

GONYEA: OK. So, you know, we don't know how many voters will actually show up. These are dangerous conditions. We don't know what the roads are going to look like everywhere. But I do have to say, some voters, when you talk to them, are really committed, like Brice Musgrove. I met him at that DeSantis event.

Might the weather affect whether or not you actually caucus?

BRICE MUSGROVE: No. Probably not.

GONYEA: You'll get out.

MUSGROVE: Yeah. Yeah. We're used to it in Iowa. So that's important enough. We'll get out.

GONYEA: You're used to 15 below?

MUSGROVE: I don't know whether you ever get used to it, but you can tolerate it for short periods of time.

MARTÍNEZ: Wow. All right. You know, Don, not that long ago, I spent a few days driving from Sioux County to Des Moines. And almost everyone I spoke to was, for the most part, all-in on Donald Trump. Is that what you're hearing, too?

GONYEA: That's what the polls show us, certainly. And it's really easy to find people who are extremely enthusiastic about Trump running again. But you can find people who are not voting for Trump. You find them at rallies for DeSantis and Haley, and they'll tell you lots of reasons why they can't back Trump. But when you press them about what they'll do if Trump is the nominee come November, most say, yeah, they'd be with him over Joe Biden.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, if Trump wins, it would seem to be a close battle for runner-up between Haley and DeSantis. How have they positioned themselves in the contest's final days?

GONYEA: So Haley says Trump was the right president at the right time, but electing him again would just bring chaos. DeSantis says you can like Trump, but you can't deny that if he is the nominee, then the election's going to be all about January 6 and criminal charges and that that plays into Democrats' hands.

MARTÍNEZ: And, you know - and for Donald Trump, it seems like his main battle, Don, is not necessarily with the other candidates, but against his own expectations. So then what's in it for everyone else?

GONYEA: Well, it does feel like a battle for second place. And more than anything, it's DeSantis who needs second place because he has poured so much into Iowa. And if he should finish third, you'd really hear calls for him to drop out. Haley has New Hampshire coming up next, where she has actually polled well - second place - but well. And she really wants to set up a showdown with former President Trump there.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Don Gonyea. Thanks for braving the cold, Don.

GONYEA: Will do.


MARTÍNEZ: In Israel, Gaza and around the world, people marked 100 days of war over the weekend.

FADEL: It was a somber moment, remembering more than 24,000 people killed in Gaza - the majority of women and children - following the Hamas attack which killed 1,200 in October. Those numbers are according to the Gaza Health Ministry and the Israeli government, respectively. Today, nearly 2 million people are displaced inside Gaza. That's almost the entire population. And people are starving, with only a trickle of aid being allowed into the Palestinian enclave.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Lauren Frayer is in Tel Aviv. Lauren, those numbers that Leila just mentioned, I mean, it's - they're horrible - horrible, horrible numbers. How are Israelis and Palestinians marking this?

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: There's grief across Israel, the West Bank and, of course, Gaza, where fighting continues. Overnight, Hamas issued a video of three hostages held in Gaza pleading with the Israeli government to end this war and bring them home. It's unclear when this video was recorded. They're presumably speaking under duress. A spokesperson for Hamas' armed wing made an appearance on TV, saying many of the hostages may already be dead, killed by Israeli bombing of Gaza.

MARTÍNEZ: Wow. That has got to be difficult for families to hear.

FRAYER: That's right. There have been vigils across Israel this past weekend for the hostages, a sense that time may be running out for them. Here's Karin Rose (ph). She's an Israeli teacher whom my colleague Aya Batrawy interviewed in a gathering in Tel Aviv on Saturday.

KARIN ROSE: Everyone in Israel can't - no one will be able to go on with life until they're back. I know that everyone feels that this is the top priority, and I just don't understand why it's not happening.

FRAYER: Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people have rallied in other countries this weekend, including the U.S. and Europe, calling for an end to Israeli attacks on Gaza. Our Gaza producer, Anas Baba, is in Rafah in southern Gaza, where he spoke with a man named Muhammad Subek (ph).

MUHAMMAD SUBEK: (Speaking Arabic).

FRAYER: He says he's from the north of Gaza, describes fleeing his home under fire, squeezing into the south with more than a million other evacuees. The United Nations says famine is imminent there, and it accuses Israel of using food, water and medicine as, quote, "instruments of war."

MARTÍNEZ: Now, the U.S. has stood by Israel, but President Biden has said that too many Palestinians have died in Gaza. So what role is the United States playing a hundred days in?

FRAYER: The U.S. is pushing Israel to tamp down that bombardment of Gaza and shift to targeted special operations, to hunt Hamas leaders and find those hostages. Here's the National Security Council spokesperson, John Kirby, on CBS "Face The Nation" yesterday.


JOHN KIRBY: We have been talking to them intensely about a transition to low-intensity operations. We believe it's the right time for that transition.

FRAYER: But, you know, the U.S.-Israel relationship is showing some signs of strain.

MARTÍNEZ: I wonder now if this conflict is in danger of spreading to other countries in the region.

FRAYER: That's a worry. I mean, Israel's been trading fire over its northern border, too, with militants based in Lebanon. Two Israelis were killed yesterday when an anti-tank missile hit their home in that border region. And the conflict is also spilling over into global sports, actually. An Israeli soccer player who plays professionally in Turkey was briefly detained there after he displayed a wristband with the words 100 days and a Star of David on it. And Israel's defense minister in response, has accused Turkey of acting like, quote, "the de facto executive arm of Hamas." So tensions are running high across the region over this war.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Lauren Frayer in Tel Aviv. Lauren, thank you.

FRAYER: You're welcome.


MARTÍNEZ: In Guatemala, there was a giant victory for democracy overnight.

FADEL: Just a few hours ago, Bernardo Arevalo was sworn in as the country's new president. And it came despite months of efforts to prevent his inauguration that saw rising tensions both in the halls of Congress and on the streets right up until the transfer of power.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Eyder Peralta has been up all night. He joins us now from Guatemala City. Eyder, let's just start off by telling us what happened there.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Oof. I mean, where do I start? It was full of drama, remarkable in every way. The day started with everyone thinking that this was going to be a celebration. The king of Spain, the president of Colombia, Honduras and Chile flew in. And the new Congress was supposed to be sworn in at 8 a.m. And then in the afternoon, we learned that the old Congress was refusing to swear in the new Congress. And it was that new Congress that gets to swear in the new president. So all of the young people who won congressional elections, along with the president, interrupted a meeting. There was pushing and swearing inside Congress. And outside on the streets, the people took matters into their own hands. Let's listen.


PERALTA: So now the Indigenous groups have taken to the streets of Guatemala. This was supposed to be a day of celebration, and now it has turned into a day of protest. "Not one step back," they're shouting. "Not one step back."

HUGO CHAVEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

PERALTA: And that man is named Hugo Chavez (ph). He was facing off with cops in front of Congress. And he's saying that "our anthem calls us to triumph or die, and any one of us could be killed at any moment," he said. "But here we are, doing something we believe in for something that matters." But what followed were hours of more stalling by the outgoing Congress. I mean, the sun went down. Some of those foreign dignitaries got tired of waiting, and they left. And Guatemala had not sworn in a president.

MARTÍNEZ: So why were they trying to stop this inauguration?

PERALTA: I mean, look, Guatemala has descended into a really dark political cynicism. People here say the country is run by a pact among corrupt politicians, and this is craven corruption, downright grabbing of millions of dollars that should be going towards schools and hospitals in a really poor country. President Bernardo Arevalo is an outsider. His campaign was born at a university and out of an anti-corruption movement. And his win was grassroots - an unprecedented coalition between a young urban crowd and rural Indigenous people. And that scares the corrupt. They can't buy those votes, and they think that this government might very well throw them in jail. So they've done everything to try to stop Arevalo from getting to power.

MARTÍNEZ: In the end, they couldn't stop the inauguration, though.

PERALTA: They couldn't. And it was literally minutes ago that Bernardo Arevalo finally came out to meet his supporters. He came out on the balcony of the National Palace. And people here were just chanting over and over, yes, we did it; yes, it could be done. And that just finished minutes ago, almost a whole 24 hours before it was supposed to have started.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Eyder Peralta reporting from Guatemala City. Thank you very much.

PERALTA: Thank you, A. 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.

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