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Up First briefing: Pakistan attacks Iran; Maine court holds Trump ballot decision

The Alabama Department of Corrections plans to execute Kenneth Smith on Jan. 25 using nitrogen gas. It will be the first time the gas has been used as an execution method in the U.S.
AP/Mark Harris for NPR
The Alabama Department of Corrections plans to execute Kenneth Smith on Jan. 25 using nitrogen gas. It will be the first time the gas has been used as an execution method in the U.S.

Good morning. You're reading the Up First newsletter. Subscribe here to get it delivered to your inbox, and listen to the Up First podcast for all the news you need to start your day.

Today's top stories

Pakistan's foreign ministry announced this morning that the country launched airstrikes on Iran, killing at least nine people. The strikes come after Iran struck Pakistan this week. The tit-for-tat attacks have raised questions over whether the war between Israel and Hamas is spreading to unexpected places.

Commuters ride along a street at Panjgur district in Balochistan province on Jan. 17. Pakistan recalled its ambassador from Iran on Jan. 17, and blocked Tehran's envoy from returning to Islamabad after an Iranian air strike killed two children in the west of the country on Jan. 16.
Banaras Khan / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Commuters ride along a street at Panjgur district in Balochistan province on Jan. 17. Pakistan recalled its ambassador from Iran on Jan. 17, and blocked Tehran's envoy from returning to Islamabad after an Iranian air strike killed two children in the west of the country on Jan. 16.

  • The conflict is playing out in an area that straddles Pakistan and Iran called Balochistan, where separatists, militants and smugglers have thrived, according to NPR's Diaa Hadid. While cross-border incursions have taken place here in the past, a columnist from Islamabad tells her that the scale of Iran's attack was "unprecedented," as was the speed and scale of Pakistan's response. Hadid mentions it's unclear if this is related to the Israel-Gaza war. Iran may be concerned because it's been accused of involvement in the current conflict through proxy groups.


Thousands of civilians in Gaza sheltered at Nasser Medical Complex in southern Gaza are evacuating due to nearby Israeli airstrikes and combat. Gaza is also approaching a week with no cell or internet service, making it difficult to distribute aid and get information in and out of the area. In a video released yesterday, Léo Cans, who heads Doctors Without Borders' mission in the area, called the hospital's situation "catastrophic."

  • NPR's Becky Sullivan is in Tel Aviv and reports "a lot of anger" in Israel over how the war is going. A hostage released in November told the media that she and about 30 others were kept for weeks at Nasser Medical Complex. Israel's military said Tuesday that a Hamas fighter launched munitions from the hospital's grounds, which NPR has not been able to independently verify. Still, Sullivan tells Up First that Israelis are increasingly skeptical of Israel's argument that more military pressure on Hamas in Gaza is needed for a new hostage release.


President Biden invited Congressional leaders to the White House yesterday to discuss his funding request for Ukraine. Republicans are holding up Biden's request for a $110.5 billion package for Ukraine, Israel and other needs. They want a new border policy in exchange for their votes.

  • Biden is also under pressure from Democratic governors and mayors grappling with an increase in the number of migrants in their states, NPR's Mara Liasson reports. Though Biden says he's willing to make concessions on border policy and a bipartisan group is working on a deal, Liasson says it's unclear whether it's enough, partly because many hard-right Republicans see bipartisan bills as failures.


Maine's Superior Court has put on hold a decision to bar former President Donald Trump from the state's primary. The hold will allow time for the Supreme Court to rule on a similar case in Colorado. Both states removed Trump from their primary ballots based on a reading of a constitutional provision that bars insurrectionists from holding office. Trump appealed Colorado's decision. The Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments on Feb. 8.

Today's listen

Kenneth Smith was convicted in 1988 for a murder-for-hire killing and sentenced to death by lethal injection. In 2022, workers called off his execution just before midnight after trying for an hour to insert intravenous lines. Smith is scheduled to be executed on Jan. 25 — this time by nitrogen gas, a method that's been under scrutiny for safety and human rights concerns.

Listen to Smith — who rarely speaks with journalists — tell NPR about the trauma of his failed execution and his fears as he faces his next one.

Life advice

/ LA Johnson/ NPR
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LA Johnson/ NPR

A well-fitting bra is a game-changer. It can help with back pain, give you better posture, make your clothes look better and boost confidence, according to professional bra fitter Laura Henny.

  • Wired bras offer lift, while unwired ones provide comfort. Choose one based on your needs.
  • Different necklines like balconette or plunge offer varying coverage levels and shape your bust differently.
  • On a properly fitted bra, the underwire will lay flat against your chest, the band will lay horizontally around your ribcage, and you should be able to fit two fingers under the straps.
  • Measure your underbust and overbust at home and use abrathatfits.com to help find your size. 


Download Life Kit's illustrated zine to take to your next bra shopping trip to ensure a great fit.

3 things to know before you go

This image shows a 'close-up' of the galaxy GN-z11 as imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope, superimposed on top of another image marking the galaxy's location in the sky.
/ NASA
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NASA
This image shows a 'close-up' of the galaxy GN-z11 as imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope, superimposed on top of another image marking the galaxy's location in the sky.

  1. The James Webb space telescope has detected the oldest black hole. It's 1.6 million times the Sun's mass and existed about 400 million years after the birth  of the universe. 
  2. Several fans were treated at the hospital for "hypothermia symptoms" after Saturday's playoff game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins. It was the fourth-coldest game in NFL history.
  3. U.S. Air Force Second Lt. Madison Marsh made history when she became the first active duty service member to be crowned Miss America this week. 

This newsletter was edited by Majd Al-Waheidi.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.