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Up First briefing: Boeing faces production caps, Haley bets on South Carolina

An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft is seen at Portland International Airport on January 9, 2024 in Oregon. The plane made an emergency landing following a midair fuselage blowout on Jan. 5.
Mathieu Lewis-Rolland
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Getty Images
An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft is seen at Portland International Airport on January 9, 2024 in Oregon. The plane made an emergency landing following a midair fuselage blowout on Jan. 5.

Good morning. You're reading the Up First newsletter. Subscribe here to get it delivered to your inbox, and listen to the Up First podcast for all the news you need to start your day.

Today's top stories

The Federal Aviation Administration has laid out a plan for Boeing 737 Max 9 jets to fly again, but also imposed new limits on production at the company's factories. More than 170 planes have been grounded since a door plug blew off an Alaska Airlines flight in midair earlier this month.

  • An apparent Boeing whistleblower has blamed mistakes at the Washington plant, alleging that four key bolts for the door were never re-installed after maintenance work before the jet left the factory. 
  • Max 9 planes could be back in the air as soon as tomorrow once they complete the FAA's maintenance and inspection plan, NPR's Joel Rose tells Up First. He says the FAA is imposing production caps not only on the Max 9 but other 737 lines, a rare step by the government.
  • Aviation safety analyst and former commercial pilot Kathleen Bangs told Morning Edition that while those limits will hurt Boeing's bottom line, the company is in many ways "too big to fail" because it gets more revenue from U.S. taxpayers than its commercial jets. 


Former South Carolina Gov. and U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley is pinning her presidential hopes on her home state, which holds its primary on Feb. 24. At a rally in Charleston last night, Haley criticized former President Donald Trump as "chaos" for the country and knocked him for his mental lapses. She also touted her own achievements from her time as governor, from economic development to criminal justice reform.

  • It's not clear that Haley's message is getting through to voters, NPR's Stephen Fowler reports from Charleston. When it comes to securing the votes and delegates needed to beat Trump, Fowler says in many ways "the math ain't mathin'." 


Alabama is set to carry out an execution today using nitrogen gas, a method that has never been used before in the U.S. This will be the second time the state attempts to execute Kenneth Smith, who was convicted for his role in a 1988 murder-for-hire plot. His first execution attempt, by lethal injection in 2022, was called off after workers spent hours trying to find a vein for the IV.

Today's listen

Religiously unaffiliated people now make up 28% of U.S. adults, according to a new study from Pew Research. That's a larger cohort than Catholics or evangelical Protestants.
Natacha Pisarenko / AP
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AP
Religiously unaffiliated people now make up 28% of U.S. adults, according to a new study from Pew Research. That's a larger cohort than Catholics or evangelical Protestants.

Religious "Nones" are now the largest cohort in the U.S. A new study from Pew Research Center found that the country's share of religiously unaffiliated adults — meaning they consider themselves to be "atheists," "agnostics" or "nothing in particular" — has grown to 28%, up from 16% in 2007. Nones tend to be young, white, male and liberal. And researchers say they could change electoral politics in the coming decades — if they can be persuaded to go to the polls. Read the story or give it a listen.

Deep dive

The scene at the U.S. Supreme Court on the day it overturned <em>Roe v. Wade</em> in June 2022. Researchers estimate that 64,565 rape-caused pregnancies have occurred in states that banned abortion since then.
Jacquelyn Martin / AP
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AP
The scene at the U.S. Supreme Court on the day it overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022. Researchers estimate that 64,565 rape-caused pregnancies have occurred in states that banned abortion since then.

New research estimates that rape has caused more than 64,500 pregnancies in the 14 states where abortion is banned. Few states with total bans on abortion have exceptions for rape, and those that do require victims to report the rape to authorities — which research shows only happens in a fraction of sexual assaults.

  • Data on sexual assault and pregnancy is limited, so researchers analyzed figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Bureau of Justice Statistics and FBI Uniform Crime Reports.
  • Polls show that most Americans support access to abortion after rape, though such exceptions are not legally or logistically feasible in many states that ban the procedure.
  • High-profile cases of abortion after rape — including in Kentucky and Ohio — have become political flashpoints since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022. 

3 things to know before you go

An experimental gene therapy tested in young children with an inherited form of deafness restored some hearing for most of them.
VICTOR HABBICK VISIONS / Getty Images/Science Photo Library
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Getty Images/Science Photo Library
An experimental gene therapy tested in young children with an inherited form of deafness restored some hearing for most of them.

  1. Gene therapy is showing promise for treating inherited deafness, researchers say. An experimental gene therapy restored at least some hearing for five of six participating children.
  2. Jon Stewart is returning to The Daily Show — which has spent more than a year looking for its new host — as executive producer and part-time host through the 2024 presidential election.  
  3. The Palestinian national soccer team has advanced to the knockout stages of the AFC Asian Cup for the first time, sparking a moment of joy amid war

This newsletter was edited by Majd Al-Waheidi.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Rachel Treisman
Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.