6.28.2022

Amtrak Crash, Russian Default, and Google's Biggest Flop Everything you need to know for today in five minutes.

Good morning. It's Tuesday, June 28, and we're covering an Amtrak crash, Russia's debt obligations, and much more. Have feedback? Let us know at [email protected].

NEED TO KNOW

 

Breaking news: Yesterday afternoon, an Amtrak train derailed in Missouri. As of this writing, at least 3 people were killed and more than 50 injured. See updates here.

Russian Default

Russia has defaulted on its foreign debt for the first time in over a century, after it reportedly missed a deadline to pay about $100M toward two international bonds. Sources say the default was a result of ongoing sanctions from the country’s invasion of Ukraine—not due to lack of funds on Russia’s part. The Kremlin contends it made the payments, in dollars and euros, well before its 30-day grace period ended Sunday, but the money was stuck in a Brussels-based clearing house. 

 

Russia has about $600B in foreign currency and gold, but half of it is frozen overseas due to sanctions (see breakdown). Meanwhile, the ruble has reached its strongest level since 2015, partly due to oil and gas exports amid rising energy prices. However, most of the bonds don't have terms allowing for payments in rubles. 

 

Russia last defaulted on its international debt in 1918, following the Bolshevik Revolution, and on its sovereign debt in 1998 during a financial crisis and ruble devaluation (see history). 

Kennedy v. Bremerton

The Supreme Court ruled in favor yesterday of Joseph Kennedy, declaring the former Washington state high school football coach has a constitutional right under the First Amendment to pray on the field after games. The court voted 6-3, split along ideological lines, arguing that because he was praying after the game and his job as the coach was over, the prayers were considered protected speech.

 

Kennedy was put on administrative leave after defying directives to stop praying on the field after games, which the school said violated the separation of church and state. He sued the school district in 2016, arguing his dismissal violated his rights to freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

 

The decision is the latest from the court favoring religious liberty, including a ruling last week stating nonsecular schools cannot be excluded from a program that offers tuition grants. See a breakdown of the four cases that remain in the current Supreme Court term.

Griner Trial

Detained WNBA star Brittney Griner briefly appeared in public yesterday, attending a legal proceeding in which a Russian judge ordered Griner to remain in custody throughout the length of her trial on drug charges. Griner was arrested at a Moscow-area airport Feb. 17 after security officials claimed to have found vape pens with cannabis oil in her luggage. The trial is scheduled to begin Friday.

 

The monthslong legal saga comes as tensions between the US and Russia have significantly increased amid the war in Ukraine. Some analysts say Griner is at risk of being used as political leverage by the Russian government seeking concessions—the charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

 

In recent years, a number of elite women's basketball players have spent the offseason playing for Russian clubs, where top salaries can reach $1.5M per season. Griner, a two-time gold medalist and seven-time All-Star, makes around $230K per year with the Phoenix Mercury.

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IN THE KNOW

 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with The Ascent

> Sam Gilliam, influential artist best known for abstract draped paintings, dies at 88 of kidney failure (More) | Marlin Briscoe, first Black starting quarterback for NFL's forerunner, the American Football League, dies at 76 of pneumonia (More)

 

> Alex Wagner tapped to replace Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, will host prime-time show four nights a week (More) | Mary Mara, character actress known for role on "ER," dies by drowning at 61 (More)

 

> Wimbledon begins from London without Russian and Belarusian players (More) | See full Wimbledon schedule and draw (More)

From our partners: Six money tips to make in 2022. Experts at The Ascent say to consider these six moves to grow your wealth in 2022. And they've got a track record, because they've been helping people like you since 1993. Learn more today.

Science & Technology

> Genetic analysis suggests monkeypox strain has mutated six to 12 times faster than expected, potentially contributing to increased spread of the virus (More) | See current US case count (More)

 

> Researchers complete and release the genome of the desert locust, nearly three times longer than the human genetic code; work may allow genetic engineering of insect populations to prevent crop destruction (More)

 

> Scientists identify brain wave patterns linked to social engagement; mice experiments suggest animals under stress or exhibiting autism lack similar signals (More)

Business & Markets

> US stock markets close lower (S&P 500 -0.3%, Dow -0.2%, Nasdaq -0.7%) following last week’s gains (More) | Shares of free online trading firm Robinhood up 14% after reports cryptocurrency exchange FTX is considering an acquisition; FTX disclosed a 7.6% stake in the company last month (More)

 

> CVS limiting the sale of over-the-counter emergency contraceptives both online and in stores following last week’s Supreme Court ruling; company says it has ample supply, wants to provide equitable access (More)

 

> Nike beats sales and earnings expectations, despite 19% sales reduction in Asia amid COVID-19 lockdowns (More)

Politics & World Affairs

> House Jan. 6 Committee abruptly schedules hearing for today, citing unspecified recently obtained evidence; remaining hearings had been previously pushed to July (More) | Livestream here (Watch, 1 pm ET)

 

> At least 10 people killed and more than 40 injured after a Russian missile strikes a crowded mall in the central Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk (More) | See updates on the war here (More)

 

> Forty-six migrants found dead in an abandoned trailer in San Antonio, Texas; officials say group was likely being smuggled across the US-Mexico border (More)

IN-DEPTH

 

Revenge of the Earthworms

The Walrus | Moira Donovan. How the invasive jumping worm—named for the way it thrashes intensely when disturbed—is wreaking havoc on our ecosystems. (Read)

How Did Consciousness Evolve?

MIT Press Reader | Simona Ginsburg and Eva Jablonka​​​​​​​. An illustrated primer on evolutionary theory, our transition from nonsentient to sentient organisms, the origins of suffering, and more. (Read)

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ETCETERA

 

The 10-year anniversary of Google's worst hardware flop.

 

Explorers find the world's deepest shipwreck.

 

Eight bars and restaurants where US history was made.

 

NASA wants its moon dust and cockroaches back

 

Reimagining avian architecture

 

Vulture hitches a ride with a paraglider. (via Twitter)

 

Yankees fans cheer young girl's impressive bottle flip.

 

Meet Mr. Happy Face, the world's ugliest dog.

 

Clickbait: It turns out we're likely to pick friends who smell like us

 

Historybook: Archduke Franz Ferdinand assassinated, sparking World War I (1914); Treaty of Versailles is signed, ending World War I (1919); Stonewall uprising begins (1969); HBD Elon Musk (1971); RIP basketball coach Pat Summitt (2016).

 

"Value those people who tell you the truth, not just those people who tell you what you want to hear."

- Pat Summitt

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