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Today's top stories
Congress is on track to avoid a government shutdown, after the House voted overwhelmingly — with Democratic support — to approve a two-tier spending bill. The unusual approach would keep some government offices open through Jan. 19, and the rest through Feb. 2, all at current funding levels. The Senate is expected to vote on the plan later this week, and the White House says Biden will sign it if it gets to his desk.
Yesterday was a dramatic day on Capitol Hill. Tennessee Rep. Tim Burchett accused former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of shoving him in a hallway, a charge McCarthy denies but has been accused of before. NPR's Claudia Grisales, who saw the altercation firsthand, told Up First that it's just the latest sign of how deeply divided House Republicans remain after weeks of increasingly personal infighting.
The Israel Defense Forces said in a social media post early Wednesday that it is carrying out a "precise and targeted" operation against Hamas inside Al-Shifa Hospital. Israel has long said that Hamas militants are embedded in Gaza's main hospital, a claim U.S. officials publicly backed on Tuesday. Many patients, doctors and civilians remain in the hospital, where conditions have deteriorated since it ran out of fuel to power its generators.
Meanwhile, objections over Israel's operations in Gaza appear to have caused rifts at the U.S. State Department. Some employees have signed dissent cables urging the administration to call for a cease-fire. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports that while not much is known about the memos' content or exact number of signatories, U.S. officials say they're listening and meeting with staff.
President Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping will meet today on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco. Their first face-to-face talks in a year come at a tense point in the countries' rocky relationship, and they have a lot to discuss. NPR's Tamara Keith says one of Biden's goals for the meeting is to restore the military-to-military communications channels that China broke off more than a year ago.
Keith says there are also signs that there could be an agreement aimed at reducing the flow of ingredients used to make the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl — though notes that there hasn't been much progress since the two countries pledged to do so in 2018.
This is Xi's first U.S. visit in six years, and Keith reports that the logistics have been carefully choreographed, "right down to what President Xi will see out of windows."
You don't need experts to remind you how stressful holiday travel can be. In fact, Scott Keyes, founder of the travel site Going.com, says his biggest piece of advice is "just don't do it." But what if you have no choice? He suggests the best days and times to take off:
Fly on the holiday, whether it's Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve or New Year's Day.
Avoid peak travel days right before and after those holidays.
Wait for January if possible — Jan. 8 is when Keyes expects prices to drop dramatically.
Fly early and direct to increase your odds of an on-time arrival.
André 3000 hasn't put out an album since legendary hip-hop duo Outkast split in 2006 — until this week. He announced in an interview with NPR Music's Rodney Carmichael that he'll release his debut solo album, New Blue Sun, on Friday. And it's a surprise for fans in more ways than one: It will feature no rapping or even singing, but instrumental, improvisational recordings of him playing the flute. Listen to their wide-ranging conversation and read more here.