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Morning news brief

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There is new pressure on Israel to explain two airstrikes yesterday in the Middle East.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Iran says Israel yesterday attacked its embassy compound in Syria in a strike that killed a senior security commander. Israel has not confirmed it carried out the attack, though it typically doesn't comment on strikes against Iranian targets. But today, Israel and other countries are bracing for retaliation. And another airstrike, this one in Gaza, killed seven aid workers.

MARTIN: NPR's Jane Arraf is with us now from Amman, Jordan, to tell us more about all this. Jane, it's good to have you with us.

JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: Thank you. Good to be here.

MARTIN: So Israel is believed to have stepped up attacks on Iranian and Iran-linked targets in Syria recently, although, as we said, they haven't commented on this one. How significant was yesterday's attack?

ARRAF: Well, Michel, it was really significant for several reasons. It targeted Iran's diplomatic mission, the consular section of the embassy. So strikes on military targets are one thing, but embassies are considered sovereign territory, and targeting those is a different ballgame. Iran announced that a senior commander of the elite Quds Force of its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and his deputy, along with five other people, were killed in the strike. The U.S. has designated the group as a foreign terrorist organization. Israel hasn't claimed responsibility, but as you said, it normally doesn't comment on these kind of strikes.

MARTIN: But Israel is saying that it's preparing for retaliation. Can you say more about that? What is it expecting?

ARRAF: Well, Israel said yesterday it had placed some of its own embassies on high alert. Iran has powerful proxy forces in the region, notably Hezbollah in Lebanon. Hezbollah and Israel have waged a low-grade war across the Lebanese Israeli border since the war in Gaza began. Hezbollah said the strike will be met with punishment and revenge, and that's been the fear of many governments in and outside the region, that attack outside Gaza could escalate the conflict and spark a wider war. Iran's foreign ministry said Iran reserves the right to take reciprocal measures. The country's foreign minister made it clear that it holds the U.S. answerable for backing Israel in the war in Gaza. Iran also backs powerful armed groups in Iraq, which could also escalate attacks on U.S. military targets there.

MARTIN: In a separate airstrike yesterday, this U.S.-based aid group, World Central Kitchen - you know, very well known, you know, in the United States - said seven aid workers in Gaza were killed while distributing food it sent by sea. What can you tell us about that?

ARRAF: Israel has imposed extensive restrictions on aid entering Gaza by land, the most efficient way of delivering it. So World Central Kitchen has begun deliveries by sea from Cyprus, approved by Israel. The second shipment left Sunday. The group said its convoy, which included armored vehicles and was clearly marked with the aid group logo, was hit while leaving a warehouse in Gaza yesterday on a route coordinated with Israeli forces. It said citizens of the U.S., Canada, Australia, Poland and the U.K. were among those killed, along with a Palestinian. Israel called it a tragic incident and said it was investigating at the highest levels. Last night, the group's founder, celebrity chef Jose Andres, said they were pausing the missions.

MARTIN: How hard is it for reporters like you to verify what's happening on the ground in moments like this?

ARRAF: It's unprecedented. Israel barred World Central Kitchen from taking reporters on their missions, for instance. It has also largely banned foreign journalists from Gaza, while the death toll of Palestinian journalists and media workers there has risen to more than 90. That's according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, an international press watchdog. Israel disputes the number, saying not all counted were journalists and some weren't working as journalists when they were killed. And now, yesterday, Israel adopted a new press law which allows the government to temporarily shut down foreign news organizations operating in the country. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he'll use it to shut down the Qatar-supported news channel Al Jazeera, although he didn't say when. Israel says Al Jazeera has an anti-Israel bias and is a security threat. The White House said the move is, quote, "concerning."

MARTIN: That is NPR's Jane Arraf reporting from Amman, Jordan. Jane, thank you.

ARRAF: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: With two rulings issued late yesterday, Florida's Supreme Court has pretty much ensured that abortion will be the issue on the state's November ballot.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, the court is letting a law stand that bans abortions after 15 weeks. Now, that ruling also triggers a six-week abortion ban taking effect next month. But in a separate opinion, the court says a constitutional amendment protecting the right to an abortion will appear on the ballot in the general election, and that leaves the final say up to voters.

MARTIN: NPR's Greg Allen is in Miami, and he's going to tell us more about all this. Good morning, Greg.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Good morning, Michel.

MARTIN: So let me start by asking, where do things stand now in Florida when it comes to abortion access?

ALLEN: Right. Well, with yesterday's 6-1 court decision, women can't get an abortion in Florida after 15 weeks unless there's a fatal fetal abnormality or if it's necessary to prevent serious injury or to save the life of the mother. That law was passed in 2022, but didn't go into effect while there was a court challenge pending. Then last year, the Republican-dominated legislature passed another law which would ban abortions after six weeks, with the stipulation that it wouldn't go into effect unless and until 30 days after that earlier ban was approved, which has happened now. So that means Florida joins other states in the South by severely limiting the right to an abortion.

MARTIN: And at the same time, Florida's highest court now says abortion policy will go before the voters this fall. How did that come about?

ALLEN: Well, abortion rights groups started working on getting the issue on the ballot after lawmakers passed that 15-week ban. They gathered nearly a million signatures, which is more than enough to qualify. The language of the ballot measure, though, had to be approved by Florida's Supreme Court. And this is what the ballot measure says. No law shall prohibit, penalize, delay or restrict abortion before viability or when necessary to protect the patient's health as determined by the patient's health care provider. Florida's attorney general argued that the language was vague and misleading, but in a narrow 4-3 decision, the court said it was OK and would go on the ballot.

MARTIN: You know, and there's some precedent here. States that have put abortion on the ballot - abortion rights supporters have consistently won. So what are the anti-abortion activists in Florida planning to do now in Florida?

ALLEN: Well, it looks like there's going to be an effort to block this by getting voters to block this. Florida's House Speaker Paul Renner, a Republican, says there will be an organized campaign to defeat the constitutional amendment. He says it'll be aimed at people that he believes are in the political middle of the abortion debate. Here's what Renner says about the proposed amendment.

PAUL RENNER: It is extreme in its scope. It is the product of really abortion rights activists who have crafted this well beyond where most Floridians will find themselves, including Floridians who would consider themselves pro-choice.

ALLEN: Renner says he thinks Florida's soon-to-take-effect six-week ban should be considered a moderate approach, in his view, because it allows exceptions for fetal abnormalities and to protect the life of the mother.

MARTIN: And briefly, do you think - do people think that having abortion on the ballot will affect other key races in November, including the presidential election?

ALLEN: Well, that certainly is the big question. In places where abortion has been on the ballot - I'm thinking of Kansas, Ohio and Kentucky, to name a few - voters have overwhelmingly supported abortion rights. It's also boosted turnout. Donald Trump won Florida in 2020 by more than 3 percentage points while losing nationally, of course. But certainly having abortion on the ballot changes expectations about who will be coming out to vote in November. Another key race is Republican Senator Rick Scott's bid for reelection. Now, he's more vulnerable. He's facing former Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. Scott accuses her of extremism on the issue. But even before this ruling, Mucarsel-Powell has been targeting Scott for his strong anti-abortion stance, and she points to comments he's made that if he was still governor, he would have signed the six-week abortion ban.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Greg Allen in Miami. Greg, thank you.

ALLEN: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: It turns out that Google's Incognito web browsing mode has not been incognito after all.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, the tech giant says it will delete the browsing data of millions of people who thought they were searching privately. It's part of a settlement in a class-action lawsuit that found Google's Incognito mode did not live up to its name.

MARTIN: NPR's Bobby Allyn is with us now to explain what this all means. Good morning, Bobby.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Good morning, Michel.

MARTIN: OK, first, could you just tell us what's in this settlement?

ALLYN: There will be changes to how people search the web and new disclosures, but importantly, no money. Let's back up for a moment, though. Back in 2020, a group of consumers filed a $5 billion class-action lawsuit against Google. It alleged that Google was tracking and collecting data on what people were searching for and what sites they visited, even when they were in this so-called Incognito mode. That's a setting of Google's Chrome browser that, you know, is supposed to let you surf the internet in a more private way. Turns out, not so much. And so Google has agreed, as you mentioned, to delete billions of data records from people who were using Incognito mode. Google is going to give people more control over what's being collected, and the company now has to be more clear about what kind of tracking it is doing. Yet Google got something out of this too. It won't be paying any monetary damage to consumers or any fines.

MARTIN: That's interesting - no money for consumers and no fines. So how did Google get away with this to begin with?

ALLYN: For the past 16 years, Google has offered this service, this Incognito mode, that did limit how much data was being collected if you just were on the Chrome browser. But here's the rub, Michel. As soon as you went to any website on the browser, Google got the data anyway, kind of through a back door, because those websites were using tools to track users, and Google owned those tools. So nothing we do online is invisible, and this is a reminder of that. Now when you launch an Incognito session, you can stop website cookies from following you around the web. That is new and a part of this settlement. Google also now has to tell people right on the landing page of Incognito mode what the limitations are, that, yes, some data is still being tracked by Google.

MARTIN: If Incognito mode isn't really incognito, why do people use it? Like, why would anybody use it?

ALLYN: Yeah, I mean, that's something that Google rank-and-file employees have been asking for years. As part of the suit, lawyers obtained all sorts of internal emails with Google engineers pushing back against Incognito mode. One engineer wrote, quote, "we need to stop calling it incognito and stop using a spy guy icon." And that was referring to this little spy guy cartoon logo that was trying to convey that you can do things secretly when you browse this way. Another engineer wrote a Google manager that Incognito's branding should actually be, quote, "you are not protected from Google." I talked to Woodrow Hartzog. He's a privacy law expert at Boston University, and he says the spy guy branding, coupled with Google saying Incognito mode provided private browsing, just gave everyone the wrong impression.

WOODROW HARTZOG: At one point it was someone who had their, you know, hat pulled down and the collar pulled up, and it made it seem as though you would be safer here than you would be using the general mode. If you're going to offer that service, then you've got to be able to back it up.

ALLYN: Yeah. And that's essentially what this whole lawsuit is about, Michel, Google not being able to back up its privacy claims about Incognito mode.

MARTIN: So this settlement puts this class-action lawsuit to bed. Does Google have any other legal jeopardy?

ALLYN: Yeah. Google is facing down three major government lawsuits over allegedly abusing its power and running its business like a monopoly. Two of these cases were filed by the Department of Justice, and they're aimed at Google's search business and its advertising business, how Google makes all its money. So it's going to be a very busy year for Google in court.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Bobby Allyn. Bobby, thank you.

ALLYN: Thanks, Michel.

MARTIN: And here I'm going to note that Google is a financial supporter of NPR, although we obviously cover them the same we would anybody else. 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.
Michel Martin
Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered and host of the Consider This Saturday podcast, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.