Up First briefing: Defense Secretary visits Israel; Southwest to pay $140 million fine

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visits Israel amid escalating conflict, protests arise in Tel Aviv, a major change in U.S. immigration policy looms, Southwest Airlines faces a hefty fine and a landmark trial opens in Hong Kong.

Middle East tensions: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visits Israel amidst increased pressure by the Biden administration on Israel to more carefully target Hamas and minimize civilian casualties.
* Protests in Tel Aviv are escalating after the accidental killing of three Israeli hostages by Israeli troops.
* Demonstrators demand a hostage deal and cease-fire, camping out in front of the war cabinet building.

Potential policy overhaul: U.S. Senate postponed winter break to allocate more time to negotiate a deal on immigration.
* If a deal is made, it could represent the most significant alteration to U.S. immigration policy since the ’90s.
* The topic of immigration will likely be crucial in the 2024 election, with potential criticism from Republicans and potential anger from progressives, depending on Biden’s compromises.

Airline fallout: The U.S. Department of Transportation has ordered Southwest Airlines to pay a $140 million civil penalty for operational disruption during the 2022 holiday season.
* As part of the agreement, Southwest is required to establish a $90 million compensation system for future passengers affected by significant delays and cancellations.

Landmark trial: Pro-democracy media tycoon, Jimmy Lai, faces a national security trial in Hong Kong after spending over 1,000 days in detention under China’s National Security Law.
* Lai’s pro-Democracy newspaper, the Apple Daily, was shut down in 2021.
* His charges of collusion with foreign forces carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.
* The case is seen as a political statement by Beijing against opposition, with many independent media outlets in Hong Kong having shut down or moved abroad.
View original article on NPR
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