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Morning news brief

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

President Biden says he's staying in the race for President and will not be pushed out.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

He's working to convince Democrats that he can defeat former President Donald Trump in November. Last night, Biden met with 25 Democratic governors. The group included several who have been mentioned as possible replacements if Biden were to drop out. Maryland Governor Wes Moore spoke after the meeting.

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WES MOORE: And I think we came in, and we were honest about the feedback that we were getting. We were honest about the concerns that we are hearing from people. And we were also honest about the fact that as the president continued to tell us and show us that he was all-in, that we said that we would stand with him.

INSKEEP: NPR senior White House correspondent Tamara Keith has been following all of this. Good morning, Tam.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: OK, did the president convince these 25 governors that he has what it takes?

KEITH: Wes Moore, who you heard, is a top surrogate for Biden on the campaign trail, and he was pretty effusive. He said, Biden is in it to win it and essentially said, let's stop hand-wringing and get to work. But others were a bit more circumspect. Tim Walz from Minnesota said they all agreed that victory in November is the top priority, but he left something else conspicuously unstated. He didn't say keeping Joe Biden at the top of the ticket was the key to that victory - though, when he was asked by reporters, Walz was firm that Biden is fit to serve.

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TIM WALZ: What we saw in there today was a guy who was the guy that all of us believed in the first time who could beat Donald Trump and did beat Donald Trump.

KEITH: Only three of the 25 or so governors who met with Biden came out to talk to reporters. Many joined virtually. Others left out the back. I would say that the message from the governors we've heard from is that Biden is the nominee. Former President Trump is a threat and needs to be stopped, but they didn't get into hypotheticals about whether Biden is still the best person to take on Trump.

INSKEEP: What is Biden doing to reassure people about his condition after that disastrous debate?

KEITH: Biden has been in touch with congressional leaders, donors - lots of calls. Based on conversations my colleagues are having with members of Congress, anxiety is extremely high. They are worried that a beleaguered Biden could affect their races as well and even control of the House. And the thing is that what last week was contained to whispers and group chats is now spilling out in the open. Some say Biden needs to get out now so the party can settle on a more vigorous nominee in time for the convention. Some say that that is way too dangerous a gamble. Biden has beaten Trump once before, and Democratic Party chaos would only help the former president. Some think Biden is fine, and he has what it takes, and all this speculation and worry needs to stop so everyone can get to work on winning.

INSKEEP: I'm noticing that former President Trump has been unusually quiet the last several days. He doesn't have to say anything because Democrats have this disaster unfolding in front of them. So what can the current president do to try to show millions of people who saw that debate that he's OK?

KEITH: Yeah, Trump has finally announced a couple of rallies next week. Biden is holding a campaign rally in Madison, Wis., on Friday. More significantly, while he's there, the president will sit down for an interview with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos. This is a pretty rare thing for Biden - certainly compared to past presidents. An unscripted interview is another high-profile test of his cognitive abilities. And depending on how it goes, the interview could quiet the calls for Biden to step aside or make them grow louder.

INSKEEP: Tam, thanks so much.

KEITH: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Tamara Keith.

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INSKEEP: OK, as Israel wages war in Gaza, it's also expanding Jewish settlements in a different region - the occupied West Bank.

FADEL: Several recent moves are being described as the biggest seizure of Palestinian land for the settlers in more than 30 years.

INSKEEP: NPR's Greg Myre is following this from Tel Aviv. Hi, Greg.

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: OK, what exactly is the Israeli government doing?

MYRE: So the government approved nearly 5 square miles of, quote, "state land." Now, this means it's land that can now be used for settlements. It's deep inside the West Bank, in the Jordan Valley, near the border with Jordan. This was done quietly last week but wasn't published until Wednesday, and this follows two similar moves earlier this year that totaled about 4 square miles. So according to Peace Now, an Israeli monitoring group that opposes settlements, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government has seized more West Bank land this year than in any year since the Israelis and Palestinians began peace negotiations way back in the 1990s.

INSKEEP: Some people will ask, I suppose, if Israel is acting now because they think international attention is focused in the other direction - on the war in Gaza.

MYRE: Yeah. This is certainly one argument we're hearing, but the Israeli cabinet minister who's driving this is very open about his intentions. That's finance minister Bezalel Smotrich. He's a far-right politician and a West Bank settler himself who also has responsibility over settler issues. I spoke about him with Dror Etkes, an Israeli who opposes settlements and has been monitoring them for many years.

DROR ETKES: It's important to remember that these type of things are being done by all Israeli governments in the last 57 years. This is an Israeli policy. It's not Smotrich policy. Smotrich is doing it faster, more aggressive, and he is, I guess, more provocative about it.

INSKEEP: More provocative - OK, what response is he provoking?

MYRE: Well, you know, the Palestinians have had this long-standing position there can never be a viable Palestinian state with so many Israeli settlements in the West Bank. And the West Bank has been on boil since the Israel-Hamas war erupted in Gaza last October. There's a sharp increase in violence, and it has several dimensions. Jewish settlers have carried out hundreds of attacks against Palestinians. Jewish settlers are also attacked by Palestinians, though less frequently, and the Israeli military is battling Palestinian militants on a daily basis. Overall, since October, more than 550 Palestinians have been killed, as well as 12 Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank.

INSKEEP: All in this region that is not Gaza - that is off to the east and north of Gaza, home to millions of people - how have Jewish settlements expanded there over time?

MYRE: Yeah, back when the Israelis and Palestinians started their peace negotiations in the 1990s, Jewish settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem numbered a little over a quarter million. And the expectation is that they would have to leave as part of an agreement - or many of them would. But that peace deal never happened, and settlements kept expanding. Today, that number has tripled to around three-quarters of a million. So this means that about 10% of Israel's Jewish population now lives in East Jerusalem and the West Bank - territory Israel captured in the 1967 war and which is not internationally recognized as part of Israel.

INSKEEP: Greg, thanks so much for the insights - really appreciate it.

MYRE: Sure thing, Steve.

INSKEEP: NPR's Greg Myre has covered Israel for many years. He's in Tel Aviv.

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FADEL: The triple digits are back in Phoenix, and there have already been fatalities as a result.

INSKEEP: Yeah, the city suffered more than 600 deaths last year as a result of extreme heat, and more are coming this year. But the city and the surrounding county have been taking steps to try to prevent that.

FADEL: Katherine Davis-Young at member station KJZZ is tracking this closely and joins me now. Good morning.

KATHERINE DAVIS-YOUNG, BYLINE: Hi there.

FADEL: So it's nothing new that summer weather in Phoenix is hot, right? So why have officials become so concerned about the heat in the last few years?

DAVIS-YOUNG: Right. We are famous for our scorching temperatures. But the public health impacts of heat are tracked very closely by Maricopa County, and the number of those heat-related deaths has absolutely skyrocketed over the past decade. Actually, every year since 2016, we've set a new record for these fatalities. Ten years ago, we'd see maybe 75 heat deaths per year. Last year, like you said, there were 645.

FADEL: That's quite a jump. What are leaders doing to try to address this?

DAVIS-YOUNG: A lot of the increase correlates with really fast growth of our homeless population. Unsheltered people make up a large portion of those who die in the heat each year, so there have been major investments at the city, county and state level in homeless shelters and housing solutions.

But more specifically, to address heat, the city and county have been looking for ways to offer more access to cool spaces in summer months. There are dozens of heat relief sites across the Phoenix area. But the city, for the first time this year, is keeping one of its cooling centers open 24/7 since officials found about a third of heat-related 911 calls were actually happening overnight or in the early morning.

The city is also trying to respond to heat emergencies quicker. The Phoenix Fire Department this summer adopted a new method for immersing heatstroke patients in ice-filled bags to try to bring body temperatures down much faster in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

FADEL: OK, so it's July. Is there any indication so far this summer that these changes are reducing the number of deaths?

DAVIS-YOUNG: It's still early to tell. Last year, heat-related deaths were reported all the way into October, so we have a lot of hot weather still ahead of us. Unfortunately, officials have already confirmed six heat-related deaths, and there are more than 100 other deaths under investigation so far this year. That's about 40% higher than where we were at the same point last summer, but this June was a little hotter than last.

FADEL: So we know these warmer-than-normal temperatures are going to be more common as climate change continues to drive more frequent and intense heat waves, and city and county officials get more worried when it's those 110-degree-plus days in Phoenix. I mean, how much of a difference does a few degrees matter?

DAVIS-YOUNG: Yeah, the county public health department has analyzed data on heat-related illnesses over five years, and they found the difference between, like, 110 degrees instead of 105 degrees results in a 76% increase in these cases of heatstroke or heat exhaustion.

FADEL: And you said June was a little hotter this year than last. Last July, Phoenix set a record for the number of those 110-or-hotter days in a row. What does the forecast look like for this month?

DAVIS-YOUNG: Well, hopefully we won't have that really extreme - temperatures like we had last summer again, but the National Weather Service does say warmer-than-normal temperatures are likely for most of Arizona for the next few months.

FADEL: Katherine Davis-Young with member station KJZZ in Phoenix - thank you, Katherine.

DAVIS-YOUNG: Thank you.

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FADEL: Britons are electing a new Parliament and prime minister today, and it looks like things might be changing. Projections say the center-left Labour Party is on track to win a record number of seats in the new government, sweeping conservatives out of office after 14 years. That's a marked difference from the last U.K. general election in 2019, when it was the Conservative Party that won by a landslide with the election of Boris Johnson, but a series of blunders around immigration, the economy and COVID put Labour back on track to win. Polls point to about a 20% lead for Labour going into the election, but low turnout could change that. Join us tomorrow when we dig into the results with NPR's Lauren Frayer. 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.
Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
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