Up First briefing: Trump won’t testify; FDA approves landmark gene-editing treatment


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Today’s top stories

Former President Donald Trump announced yesterday he won’t testify for a second time as planned in the New York civil fraud trial against him and his company. His lawyers previously said he would be at the witness stand today. But Trump posted on his social media platform, Truth Social, that he “already testified to everything” and had “nothing more to say.”

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  • On Up First this morning, NPR’s Andrea Bernstein reports New York Attorney General Letitia James shrugged off Trump’s decision, saying, “We have already proven that he committed years of financial fraud” and that the “facts don’t lie.”

The Doha Forum, an annual policy meeting, resumes in Qatar today. This year’s gathering has largely focused on the war in Gaza and its impact on regional security. Qatar, a U.S. ally, played an active role in negotiating the temporary cease-fire to allow for the release of hostages taken by Hamas on Oct. 7 in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.

  • Israel says the war could take another two months, according to NPR’s Aya Batrawy. But leaders at the forum say it cannot go on, as it’s too destabilizing. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres says he expects public order to break down soon as hunger and disease spread amid Israeli bombardments. The U.S. was the only country to veto a proposed U.N. Security Council demand for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire last week.

Check out npr.org/mideastupdates for more coverage and analysis of this conflict.

University of Pennsylvania president Liz Magill resigned this weekend after receiving criticism for her congressional testimony on campus antisemitism. Scott Bok, the chair of the university’s board of trustees, also stepped down. Magill joined the presidents of Harvard and MIT last week to answer questions about how their schools were protecting students from antisemitism. Their answers to whether “calling for the genocide of the Jews” would violate university codes of conduct drew fierce backlash.

The FDA has approved the first gene-edited treatment for a human illness. The landmark decision approved two gene therapies for people 12 and over suffering from the most severe sickle cell disease, a blood disorder that affects about 100,000 Americans. Jennifer Doudna, who helped discover the CRISPR gene editing technology used in one of the treatments, said she was “elated, excited, in awe,” but said there’s more work to do. The treatments are very expensive and require complicated procedures many hospitals may not be equipped to provide.

Life advice

It’s the holiday season, and the temptation to buy brand-new gifts for everyone on your list is strong. But mindless consumption is a major burden on our resources. Here’s how you can be kinder to the environment — and your wallet — when shopping for holiday gifts:

  • Think of holiday shopping as a year-long activity. Look out for things with genuine meaning instead of succumbing to last-minute pressure.
  • Get creative: Wrap up some home-baked goods or tie-dye t-shirts from your local thrift store.
  • Explore online thrifting through websites like eBay or your neighborhood Buy Nothing group.
  • Talk to your loved ones about your commitment to cut down spending and rethink how you consume. Chances are they’ll join you.

Picture show

No one is more upset about Chuck E. Cheese getting rid of its animatronics than the adults. A spokesperson for the company said kids today have “higher expectations of realism and special effects,” so they won’t miss them. Even so, some parents are taking their kids to their local Chuck E. Cheese for the last chance to show them a piece of their childhood. Photographer Maggie Shannon documented the last generation of kids making memories with Chuck E. Cheese’s animatronics.

3 things to know before you go

  1. After months of accusations and intrigue, astronauts at the International Space Station solved the mystery of a missing tomato. Astronaut Frank Rubio harvested the tomato as part of a botany study before it went missing.
  2. The International Olympic Committee will allow some athletes from Russia and its close ally, Belarus, to participate as “Individual Neutral Athletes” in the 2024 Paris Olympics.
  3. Elon Musk has allowed conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to return to the social media platform X. Jones lost a defamation case against him for spreading lies about the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

This newsletter was edited by Majd Al-Waheidi. Anandita Bhalero contributed.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.