More captives to be freed as mediators work to prolong the Israel-Hamas truce

More captives to be freed as mediators work to prolong the Israel-Hamas truce


Newly freed Palestinian prisoner Lamees Abu Arqub kisses her father after Palestinians were freed from Israeli jails in exchange for Hamas hostages held in Gaza, in the village of Dura in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday.

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Newly freed Palestinian prisoner Lamees Abu Arqub kisses her father after Palestinians were freed from Israeli jails in exchange for Hamas hostages held in Gaza, in the village of Dura in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday.

Hazem Bader/AFP via Getty Images

TEL AVIV, Israel — A temporary truce between Israel and Hamas was set to expire on Wednesday, but mediators in Qatar were trying to extend it for at least another 48 hours to allow for the exchange of more captives and for additional aid to reach embattled Gaza.

On the second day of a two-day cease-fire extension, at least another 10 Israelis were expected to be freed by Hamas in exchange for at least 30 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office says it believes that 161 of the original 240 hostages seized by Hamas in last month’s attack on Israeli communities were still being held by the Islamist militant group. Israel says around 1,200 people were killed when Hamas fighters swept out of the Gaza Strip, striking nearby Israeli communities.

On Tuesday, Hamas freed 10 Israelis and two Thai laborers in exchange for 30 Palestinians prisoners and detainees.

The families of Israeli hostages released by Hamas continue to share stories of their relatives’ captivity, with some relatives speaking to media outlets. Gideon Heiman says his 84-year-old mother did not receive necessary medical treatment while being held Gaza.

Israeli doctors also say rescued hostages have returned malnourished. One of the former captives is in stable condition at a hospital, but her family says her neurological condition is still unclear. Devora Cohen says her 12-year-old nephew Eitan told her that his captors used guns to threaten crying Israeli children to be quiet.

Earlier, a U.S. official told NPR that CIA Director William Burns was in Doha for meetings with Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani and David Barnea, the chief of Mossad, Israel’s spy agency. Speaking to NPR, an Israeli official on Tuesday also reiterated that “Israel has consistently said that as long as more hostages are released, it would address the possibility of further extending the pauses.”

Meanwhile, Hamas told mediators that they approve of extending the truce for four days, Israeli media reported. Israeli media has also said that a longer cease-fire could be in the works to secure the release of all the hostages and a large number of Palestinian prisoners.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that “airstrikes, shelling, and ground clashes have largely ceased,” since the temporary truce went into effect on Friday, but said that “exchange of fire reportedly took place between Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups in the Beit Hanoun area, in the north, and Israeli forces reportedly used tank fire at open areas in the south.”

The pause had allowed Egypt and the Palestinian Red Crescent Societies and U.N. agencies “to enhance the delivery of assistance into and across Gaza.” The U.N. said a Red Crescent aid convoy carrying food, medical supplies, water and non-food items reached areas north of an informal dividing line that bisects Gaza. Israel’s military, which has focused its military campaign on the north has warned Gazans to move south of the line.

Even with the aid convoy reaching the embattled north, OCHA emphasized that “the bulk of aid distribution during the day” took place in the south. It also cautioned that the aid reaching Gaza since the pause “is insufficient to meet the extensive needs.”

On Monday, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called for “a full humanitarian ceasefire, for the benefit of the people of Gaza, Israel and the wider region.”

NPR’s Scott Neuman and Daniel Estrin reported from Tel Aviv.



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This 3-year cruise around the world is called off, leaving passengers in the lurch

This 3-year cruise around the world is called off, leaving passengers in the lurch


When the Life at Sea cruise line failed to purchase the German cruise ship AIDAaura, seen here in 2020, its plans for a worldwide cruise embarking in November began to unravel.

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When the Life at Sea cruise line failed to purchase the German cruise ship AIDAaura, seen here in 2020, its plans for a worldwide cruise embarking in November began to unravel.

Marit Hommedal/NTB Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images

They were promised the world. But cruise company Life at Sea recently told customers who bought passage on a three-year voyage that rather than visiting 140 countries, their trip was called off.

Those customers are now scrambling to make new plans for where they will live for the next three years — and to extract refunds from the cruise line. The intense fallout is drawing comparisons to infamous debacles such as the Fyre Festival — the “luxury” music festival that was more like a “disaster relief area.”

Here’s what to know about the cruise around the world that was called off

What was promised? The world.

The original itinerary mapped 1,095 days of travel, heading from Istanbul to Europe and then to South America and the Caribbean. Passengers would then pass through the Panama Canal before seeing the U.S. West Coast, Hawaii and Alaska and then head west across the Pacific.

“We are going to be following summer the entire time that we go around the world,” then-Life at Sea CEO Kendra Holmes told prospective passengers in a Zoom webinar in September.

Voyagers were to see seven continents, visiting 140 countries. They would spend roughly 300 days at sea, 795 days at port and have 413 overnight port stays, Chief Operating Officer Ethem Bayramoglu of Miray Cruises, the Turkish parent company of Life at Sea, said in that online session.

Along the way, they would explore wonders of the world, visit UNESCO World Heritage sites and have plentiful chances to go diving and snorkeling, the company said.

The three-year voyage was to begin on Nov. 1, departing from Istanbul. Some passengers reportedly only learned of the cancellation after arriving in Turkey.

What are customers saying?

When the cruise missed its planned departure date, the company promised to resolve lingering issues. But after further delays, the trip was canceled.

“Still waiting for my refund. And now you’ve gone belly up?” a woman who identified herself as a Life at Sea customer said on the company’s Instagram account. The woman, a retired educator, did not respond to NPR’s message seeking further comment.

Former flight attendant Meredith Shay was looking forward to the trip as a centerpiece of her retirement.

“How did I feel about it?” Shay said in an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America. “Devastated, disappointed, sad. I packed up my belongings, put them in storage, sent four boxes to Miray Cruises.”

A wide range of passengers had seemingly booked cabins.

“The age group is split pretty much between 35 and 85” years old, and the passengers included a large number of Americans, Holmes said.

How much did the Life at Sea cruise cost?

The cheapest packages started at $196,000 for a single traveler, and $231,000 for couples, according to the company’s website. Costs ranged much higher for guests staying in premium rooms.

In exchange, passengers — or residents, as the company called them — were promised a long list of amenities, including an onboard hospital and doctor. Some cabins could host cats; travelers were also promised high-speed internet, free dining, alcohol and laundry service, and “enrichment seminars.”

Terms of the deal help illuminate the would-be passengers’ financial and logistical plight. Life at Sea set initial deposits at 30% of the overall cost. Under its 12-month payment plan, the first draw came due one month ahead of the sail date.

And rather than portioning the cruise for sale in smaller stages, the company required customers to commit to the full three years.

“Our residents are changing their lives for this opportunity, and we are honored to be a part of their personal journeys,” Holmes said in June.

Did the cruise line actually have a ship?

“In two days’ time, we own this vessel,” Life at Sea itinerary planner Robert Dixon said in late September, speaking in a promotional video from the bridge of a ship he called the “MV Lara.”

But the company wasn’t able to close that deal, and the ship in question — the 20-year-old AIDAaurawas instead sold in November to Celestyal, which specializes in Mediterranean cruises.

Miray’s attempts to purchase the ship dragged on for weeks, and it eventually stalled after investors balked, according to a company message obtained by CNN and other outlets.

“If you’re focused on the ship, this is not the journey for you,” Holmes said in the September webinar. But two months later, she would leave her leadership post at Life at Sea and Miray, as plans for the ambitious cruise unraveled.

Holmes was trying to allay concerns about the quality of the vessel. But it seems that it was the company’s focus, not the public’s, that was the problem.

Warning flags went up earlier this year, when the company changed course from its initial plan to refit one of its ships, the MV Gemini. For the lengthy worldwide voyage, it planned to deploy the larger “MV Lara” — a ship that never materialized.

What does the cruise company say now?

It’s complicated. On Sunday, Miray Cruises issued a statement in Turkish, denying that the cruise is canceled. Instead, the company said the voyage is postponed — and it blamed a lack of enough passenger bookings, rather than problems finding an appropriate ship.

But responding to a social media comment about that same statement, the company sought to clarify that its other operations are unaffected — and in doing so, it stated, “The cancellation in question is related to our 3-year world tour project.”

The company said that anyone requesting a refund will get one, and that it will reimburse travel expenses related to the cruise.

Miray also said it has begun legal proceedings against what it says are ugly and inaccurate stories about the company and its owner.





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How can we break the cycle of childhood trauma? Help a baby’s parents

How can we break the cycle of childhood trauma? Help a baby’s parents


Teresa Cox-Bates and her husband John Bates, along with their kids Eli, Ava and Issac. Teresa says HealthySteps has helped her face her own childhood trauma and be a better parent.

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Teresa Cox-Bates and her husband John Bates, along with their kids Eli, Ava and Issac. Teresa says HealthySteps has helped her face her own childhood trauma and be a better parent.

Kholood Eid for NPR

Teresa Cox-Bates was only 11 years old when her father died, an event that dramatically altered her family’s circumstances and shaped her childhood experiences.

“I really remember us not having enough food to eat,” says Cox-Bates, 37. Her mother worked as a paralegal back then, but struggled financially. “It was just hard. My mom was trying her best to provide everything, but it just wasn’t enough.”

She remembers not having clean clothes and eating only one meal on most days – and food could spark literal battles with her mom.

“If we snuck into the kitchen to get something, she’d beat us,” she says, adding that her mother struggled with alcoholism in those days. “So with little things, she’d just snap.”

There was housing instability, too: “I didn’t stay anywhere long enough to even have a best friend.”

The hardships Cox-Bates endured during childhood are what researchers call Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES). Studies show they can leave a profound impact on the brains and bodies of kids, affecting their health as adults, increasing their risks for chronic health issues like heart disease, obesity, depression and suicide attempts.

Studies also show that adults who experienced such traumas in childhood are likely to feel more stressed when they become parents, and their children are at a higher risk of developmental delays and mental health problems.

When Cox-Bates became a mother, she knew she didn’t want her children to experience what she and her siblings did.

“I wanted to provide something better for my kids,” says Cox-Bates, who now has two sons, ages 10 and 6, and a 4-year-old daughter. She and her husband, John Bates, wanted to give their kids a childhood free of hunger, neglect and violence and one filled with stability, love and connection.

Teresa Cox-Bates.

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Teresa Cox-Bates.

Kholood Eid for NPR

And they have been able to accomplish that, thanks to the support they received from their pediatrician’s office through HealthySteps, a program for families with lower incomes who face more stressors from their financial circumstances. Often these are the people who are more likely to have experienced childhood traumas.

HealthySteps helps families cultivate a healthy environment for their children in the earliest and most developmentally vulnerable age – 0 to 3 years – by connecting them with a child development specialist.

The specialist meets one-on-one with parents during pediatric appointments, educating them about their child’s development, and doing screenings to catch any problems early on. They also offer practical support, addressing families’ social and psychological needs: whether it is to find appropriate care for a parent’s own history of trauma, or to connect families to stable housing and food.

HealthySteps is in nearly 250 American clinics. And research shows it is having a positive impact on families.

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HealthySteps is in nearly 250 American clinics. And research shows it is having a positive impact on families.

Kholood Eid for NPR

“It’s that kind of support that I think can disrupt that vicious cycle [of childhood traumas],” says Dr. Kevin Fiori, a pediatrician and director of social determinants of health for Montefiore Health System.

Nearly 250 clinics across the country use the program, mostly with philanthropic funding. They are reaching more than 370,000 children and seeing promising results.

Cox-Bates signed up for HealthySteps in 2017 when her second son, Isaac, was a few months old. Until recently, when her youngest graduated from the program, HealthySteps has supported her through many ordinary and unusually stressful periods of parenting.

“If I didn’t have [HealthySteps], I don’t think I would have been able to manage my mental health and for me to even press on to be the mother that I am today,” she says.

Disrupting intergenerational cycles of trauma

When I meet Cox-Bates at her apartment in Brooklyn on a recent afternoon, she is sitting on the big red sectional in her living room, working on her laptop.

Her two boys, Eli, 10, and Isaac, 6, are engrossed with a video game on the large TV, barely a few feet from their mother. Their sister, 4-year-old Ava is skipping around the room, eating strawberries, her beaded braids rising and falling with each step. Their mother, unperturbed by their noise and chaos, occasionally looks up from her computer to check on them. When Ava becomes upset about something, Cox-Bates sets aside her laptop and gently pulls her daughter onto her lap, hugging her, and whispering in her ear to calm her down.

After her husband, John Bates, takes the children to a playground, she tells me she wasn’t always as calm with her kids. When they were younger and always clamoring for her attention, she would feel easily overwhelmed.

“Sometimes I’d find myself getting so angry because I’d feel like I’m not doing enough,” she says. “They always want more.” She remembers snapping at her kids, then worrying that it “was her mom coming out,” she says. “I didn’t like it.”

It was during times like these that she reached out to her HealthySteps specialist, Allison Lieber, who directs the HealthySteps program at Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center.

“I would just call in, I would just talk to her even for 5 minutes, and I just felt better,” says Cox-Bates.

Teresa Cox-Bates and Allison Lieber, director of HealthySteps at Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center, say sometimes their check-ins were just five minute phone calls, but they helped Teresa cope with parenting stress.

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Teresa Cox-Bates and Allison Lieber, director of HealthySteps at Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center, say sometimes their check-ins were just five minute phone calls, but they helped Teresa cope with parenting stress.

Kholood Eid for NPR

Lieber, too, remembers those calls. “There were definitely conversations about wanting to parent differently and not knowing how to get there,” says Lieber.

Cox-Bates also struggled with reading “her kiddos’ cues and how to deal with those big feelings that came up for her when someone was tantruming or having a hard time,” Lieber adds.

So, Lieber gave her tools to manage her own stress, like journaling, and regular self-care. She also gave her strategies to deal with her children’s tantrums and meltdowns.

“She told me ‘just think [that] these are little people, and they need more time to develop,'” recalls Cox-Bates. That reminder has helped her become a calmer, more compassionate and nurturing mother.

And she sees the results reflected in her children’s happiness. “They seem pretty happy.”

A parent with a history of childhood traumas may not always know how to forge a loving, nurturing bond with their infant, says Fiori.

“Families that I work with haven’t had a good [parenting] model,” he says, “either because they had challenges with their own parents not being there or not being in a setup to provide the kind of nurturing that they wanted.”

So, they are more likely to use the kind of harsh parenting they grew up with, unless they’re shown ways to do things differently, says Rahil Briggs, the national director for the program and a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “Without intervention and without treatment and without help, we see these intergenerational cycles of trauma,” she says.

HealthySteps provides an alternative “parenting model” that is healthier for the parents and their children in the long run, says Fiori.

Supporting parents fosters healthier development in kids

A loving, responsive and nurturing relationship with a parent – what researchers call a secure attachment – is key to healthy childhood development, says Briggs.

“It’s this incredibly predictive sense of a strong foundation moving forward,” she says. “If this foundation is strong, you’re set up with some of those skills [needed to succeed in life].”

Those skills include language, communication and the social and emotional skills that help kids navigate day-to-day interactions with other people, she explains.

John Bates plays with his daughter Ava, 4, and his son Eli, 10, at Brookdale Family Care Center’s clinic in Brooklyn. The Bates family has been connected to the HealthySteps program for years.

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John Bates plays with his daughter Ava, 4, and his son Eli, 10, at Brookdale Family Care Center’s clinic in Brooklyn. The Bates family has been connected to the HealthySteps program for years.

Kholood Eid for NPR

Fiori points to the landmark study on the long-term impacts of ACES, which also found that “nurturing a healthy child-parent relationship, providing environments where a child and their caregiver can have those appropriate attachments and support” can mitigate the health effects of childhood traumas.

But when that secure parent-child bond is missing due to the parents’ own history of trauma, or the stresses brought on by poverty, the child’s development suffers.

Briggs points to a 2009 study where U.S. researchers found that children 0-3 years of age who experienced neglect, physical, emotional or sexual abuse had significant developmental delays.

“If they had experienced seven or more kinds of trauma, the kids in that group, 100% of them had a developmental delay,” says Briggs. “Children who are spending all of their time and energy trying to stay safe, managing hunger, managing fear, a very stressful home – there’s not a lot left to learn your ABCs.”

Poverty, too, has serious developmental impacts.

“We see impacts on physical health, on developmental health,” says Briggs. “You’re seeing illness, hospitalizations, developmental delays, increased behavior problems, decreased cognitive functioning.”

HealthySteps is trying to prevent these health inequities and give at-risk kids a healthier start.

And there’s a growing recognition that a pediatrician’s clinic is an obvious place to identify families who need extra support, says Dr. Tumaini Rucker Coker, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

“For many families, that could be the only opportunity they have to address some of the social or psychosocial needs that they have,” she says.

The first few years of a child’s life are also when parents need the most support, adds Rucker Coker, especially those who are struggling otherwise. “They have a whole host of needs during that early childhood period, and it can range from social and financial needs, to support on the day-to-day things of being a new parent, like sleep, feeding and safety.”

Studies also show that investing in children and their families in these early years has “the biggest impact,” says Fiori.

Impacts of HealthySteps

Research shows that HealthySteps is already making a difference.

Children enrolled in the program are more likely to attend all of the first 10 well-child visits, shrinking the gap in attendance between families on Medicaid and those with commercial insurance. HealthySteps kids are also more likely to be up to date on their vaccines by age 2 compared to kids from similar backgrounds who weren’t part of the program.

Mothers report feeling more supported for breastfeeding, says Briggs, and they are more likely to discuss any depression symptoms and be connected to treatment. Children of mothers who reported childhood traumas scored higher on social-emotional screening after receiving support from HealthySteps compared to similar kids who didn’t participate in the program.

“If every mom, every family had this opportunity, I really believe that depression will go down with the mothers and the family,” says Cox-Bates, “because most of us feel like we don’t have anybody to turn to. We don’t have that help.”

She wishes HealthySteps was around when she was born. “It would have probably benefited my mother,” she says, and perhaps given her and her siblings a happier childhood.



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A judge awards Aretha Franklin’s properties to her sons, citing a handwritten will

A judge awards Aretha Franklin’s properties to her sons, citing a handwritten will


In this Dec. 4, 2008 file photo, Aretha Franklin performs during the 85th annual Christmas tree lighting at the New York Stock Exchange in New York.

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In this Dec. 4, 2008 file photo, Aretha Franklin performs during the 85th annual Christmas tree lighting at the New York Stock Exchange in New York.

Mary Altaffer/AP

DETROIT — A judge overseeing the estate of Aretha Franklin awarded real estate to the late star’s sons, citing a handwritten will from 2014 that was found between couch cushions.

The decision Monday came four months after a Detroit-area jury said the document was a valid will under Michigan law, despite scribbles and many hard-to-read passages. Franklin had signed it and put a smiley face in the letter “A.”

The papers will override a handwritten will from 2010 that was found at Franklin’s suburban Detroit home around the same time in 2019, the judge said.

One of her sons, Kecalf Franklin, will get that property, which was valued at $1.1 million in 2018, but is now worth more. A lawyer described it as the “crown jewel” before trial last July.

Another son, Ted White II, who had favored the 2010 will, was given a house in Detroit, though it was sold by the estate for $300,000 before the dueling wills had emerged.

“Teddy is requesting the sale proceeds,” Charles McKelvie, an attorney for Kecalf Franklin, said Tuesday.

Judge Jennifer Callaghan awarded a third son, Edward Franklin, another property under the 2014 will.

Aretha Franklin had four homes when she died of pancreatic cancer in 2018. The discovery of the two handwritten wills months after her death led to a dispute between the sons over what their mother wanted to do with her real estate and other assets.

One of the properties, worth more than $1 million, will likely be sold and the proceeds shared by four sons. The judge said the 2014 will didn’t clearly state who should get it.

“This was a significant step forward. We’ve narrowed the remaining issues,” McKelvie said of the estate saga.

There’s still a dispute over how to handle Aretha Franklin’s music assets, though the will appears to indicate that the sons would share any income. A status conference with the judge is set for January.

Franklin was a global star for decades, known especially for hits in the late 1960s like “Think,” “I Say a Little Prayer” and “Respect.”



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Ukraine says spy chief’s wife is being treated for poisoning with heavy metals

Ukraine says spy chief’s wife is being treated for poisoning with heavy metals


In this file photo, Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief, center, attends a commemorative event on the occasion of the Russia Ukraine war one year anniversary in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Feb. 24, 2023.

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In this file photo, Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief, center, attends a commemorative event on the occasion of the Russia Ukraine war one year anniversary in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Feb. 24, 2023.

Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP

KYIV, Ukraine — The wife of Ukraine’s intelligence chief has been diagnosed with heavy metals poisoning and is undergoing treatment in a hospital, a spokesperson for the agency said Tuesday as the country’s war with Russia stretched into its 22nd month.

Marianna Budanova is the wife of Lt. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, the head of the military intelligence agency that is known in Ukrainian as GUR for short. Her condition was confirmed to The Associated Press by Andrii Yusov, the agency’s spokesman.

Yusov did not provide more details about the alleged poisoning, nor did he say if it was believed to have been intended for Budanov or whether Russia was thought to be behind it. Earlier this year, he told Ukrainian media that military intelligence chief had survived 10 assassination attempts carried out by the Russian state security service, or FSB.

Previously, Budanov had also told local media that his wife lives with him in his office, which could suggest he was the intended target for the poisoning.

There was no immediate comment on the poisoning claim from the Russian government, which has long been suspected of poisoning opponents. Russia media and commentators picked up the Ukrainian reports, with some speculating that it could be part of infighting in Ukraine.

Local media, quoting their sources in GUR, said Budanova was hospitalized in Kyiv.

The exact nature of the heavy metals that caused the poisoning has not been made public. However, local media said the metals were not used domestically or in military equipment, so the GUR representatives presume the poisoning was carried out intentionally, possibly through food or drink.

Apart from Budanova, who has been married to Budanov since 2013, several GUR personnel also were diagnosed with the same poisoning, according to local newspaper Ukrainska Pravda.

An official statement with more details was expected to be released by GUR.

Budanova, who holds a degree in psychology and acted as an advisor to Kyiv’s mayor before the war, spoke about her experiences being married to Ukraine’s spy chief to local media.

In an interview in October 2022 to Ukraine’s Elle magazine, Budanova described how on the eve of Russia’s full-scale invasion on Feb. 23, her husband informed her it would start the next morning. “We got together and went to his place of work, and since then we have not been home,” she said, adding that they did not discuss sending her away somewhere else safer.



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