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Good morning. It's Friday, July 14, and we're covering a second big blow for Hollywood, approval to expand birth control access, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.


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Need To Know

Hollywood Walkout

Thousands of actors will officially go on strike starting today as the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists failed to secure a new contract with major studios by the Wednesday midnight deadline.


The union—representing approximately 160,000 TV and film actors, broadcast journalists, and more—claims the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers has been unwilling to offer a fair deal on issues such as pay increases in the era of streaming and regulated use of artificial intelligence. AMPTP—representing major studios like Netflix, Amazon, Disney, and Warner Bros.—responded that the union's decision to walk away from talks is responsible for the strike, claiming to have offered historic pay increases, among other benefits.


The news comes after the Writers Guild of America went on its first strike in 15 years in May and marks the first time since 1960—when former President Ronald Reagan was the president of SAG—that actors and writers will jointly protest. The strike is projected to halt production on numerous shows and movies.


Over-the-Counter Birth Control

US health regulators approved yesterday the first birth control medication available over the counter without a prescription in the US. The contraceptive, dubbed Opill, is expected to hit the market in stores and online sometime early next year.


Advocates for the decision say it will expand access to one of the most effective forms of birth control. While oral contraceptives are 99% effective at preventing pregnancy when taken as instructed (93% under real-world usage), only around 12% of US women aged 15 to 49 use them (see data). 


Produced by the French manufacturer HRA Pharma, Opill is a progestin-only contraceptive. The single hormone formulation carries a lower risk of blood clots than most oral contraceptives available in the US, which combine progestin and estrogen—as many as nine women in every 10,000 taking the mixed hormone pills experience blood clotting each year.


Reports suggest no age restrictions will be placed on sales of the pill.


US Feels the Heat

More than 110 million people were under heat advisories yesterday as a far-reaching heat wave settled across the southern US stretching from California to Florida. Triple-digit temperatures are expected to persist through the weekend in many locations, particularly in the Southwest. 


The culprit is a heat dome—a high-pressure system trapped under a northward bulge in the jet stream—exacerbated by an El Niño weather pattern. Hot spots include Palm Springs, California, which is projected to reach 119 degrees today; Phoenix, Arizona, is on track to break its record of consecutive nights above 90 degrees; and Marathon Key, Florida, saw the heat index hit 118 degrees. California's Death Valley, one of the hottest places on Earth (see 101), is expected to pass 130 degrees this weekend, nearing its all-time high of 134 degrees. 


The heat comes on the heels of what NASA measurements say was the hottest month of June on record, with global temperatures 1.9 degrees above the historical average.

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In The Know

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> Kevin Spacey takes the stand at his London criminal trial, denies allegations of sexually assaulting four men (More)

> Major League Cricket, upstart American professional cricket league, debuted yesterday in Texas (More) | Wimbledon women's final set for Saturday (9 am ET, ESPN) as Tunisia's Ons Jabeur takes on the Czech Republic's Markéta Vondroušová (More

> US soccer star Christian Pulisic joins Italian club AC Milan after four years with Chelsea (More) | Inter Miami to officially introduce Lionel Messi as member of the MLS team Sunday (More)


Science & Technology

> US regulators reportedly open investigation into OpenAI over allegations its ChatGPT chatbot can generate responses that put personal information and data at risk (More) | The Associated Press inks two-year deal giving OpenAI access to its archives to train its language models (More)

> Researchers reveal the most detailed map of the heart's cell and structure to date; atlas includes the cardiac conduction system, where the heartbeat originates (More)

> Study suggests at least one-third of the US white-tail deer population has had COVID-19, with three instances of transmission to humans; data suggest deer may act as a coronavirus reservoir (More)


Business & Markets

In partnership with SmartAsset

> US stock markets close higher (S&P 500 +0.9%, Dow +0.1%, Nasdaq +1.6%) for fourth consecutive session; S&P 500 and Nasdaq close at highest levels in 2023 (More)

> Delta Airlines posts record quarterly revenues and earnings, increases full-year guidance on strong travel demand (More)

> XRP coin surges after US judge rules cryptocurrency firm Ripple did not violate securities laws by selling tokens on public exchanges (More) | Former CEO of crypto lending firm Celsius arrested and charged with fraud and securities manipulation (More

From our partners: This Princeton grad's startup raised $161 million to help people plan for retirement—SmartAsset's free tool will match you with up to 3 vetted financial advisors serving your area who can help you work toward financial security. Try it out for yourself.


Politics & World Affairs

> Secret Service closes probe into cocaine found at the White House ahead of the July Fourth holiday; no suspects identified, officials say no fingerprints or leads were discovered (More)

> Jury finds shooter who carried out a 2018 attack at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue eligible for the death penalty; mass shooting left 11 people dead and six others injured (More)

> Thailand's military junta blocks Pita Limjaroenrat, a reform candidate whose party won the most votes in May elections, from becoming prime minister (More)



> Tracing a Tragedy

WashPo | Staff. An illustrated, detailed look at discrepancies in the timeline of events leading up to last month's migrant boat tragedy in the waters off Greece's coast. (Read)


> Grizzly Sprawl

High Country News | Gloria Dickie. The rebound of the 800-pound carnivore is one of America's biggest conservation successes, but an increasing number of grizzly bears are encroaching on farms and neighborhoods. (Read)

> US Pedestrian Deaths

Freakonomics | Stephen Dubner. (Podcast) Several experts weigh in on the reasons why the US sees so many pedestrian deaths, including car dominance, increased distraction, and faster vehicles. (Listen)


> Do Animals Grieve?

Ted-ED | Barbara J. King. While scientists warn against the human projection of emotions onto animals, some research suggests many species behave in ways only explainable by something like human grief. (Watch)

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Explaining the design of the great American diner. (via YouTube)


Ranking the world's greatest luxury hotels.


The origins of American politics' first third party


Florida snake hunters capture a record-breaking python.


Explore America's best freshwater snorkeling spots.


Meet Chipotle's new avocado-slicing robot.


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Are you a true '80s baby? Find out here.


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Historybook: Revolutionaries in France storm the Bastille (1789); Archaeologist and spy Gertrude Bell born (1868); President Gerald Ford born (1913); Howard Hughes' crew breaks record with 91-hour flight around the world (1938); NASA's New Horizon probe completes flyby of Pluto (2015).

"Do the impossible, because almost everyone has told me my ideas are merely fantasies."

- Howard Hughes

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