6.27.2024

Facts, without motives.
 

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Good morning. It's Thursday, June 27, and we're covering a journalist's trial in Russia, debate night, and much more. First time reading? Join over 3.5 million intellectually curious readers. Sign up here.

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Need To Know
 

Gershkovich Trial Begins

The trial of American journalist Evan Gershkovich began yesterday in Yekaterinburg, Russia, over charges he spied on Russian defense contractors for the US. The 32-year-old Wall Street Journal reporter has been jailed since March 2023 in what the US deems is a wrongful detention. It's the first such Russian imprisonment of a foreign correspondent on espionage charges since the Soviet era

 

Espionage trials in Russia are closed to the public, with lawyers prevented from commenting publicly on the case and witness testimony rarely publicized. Gershkovich (read bio) appeared with his head shaved in a glass enclosure in the courtroom prior to the closed two-hour hearing. His lawyers report Gershkovich—who denies the allegations—has kept busy reading Russian classics and playing chess by mail. If convicted, Gershkovich faces up to 20 years in prison—though officials have signaled openness to a prisoner swap.

 

American Paul Whelan and dual US-Russian citizen Alsu Kurmasheva are among those also wrongfully detained in the country. Gershkovich's next hearing is slated for Aug. 13.

 

Presidential Debate Tonight

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are scheduled to debate tonight at 9 pm ET on CNN. Tune in here.

 

Tonight marks the first general election debate of 2024, one of two such planned debates, with the second (hosted by ABC) scheduled for September. Tonight is also the first debate since the 1980s not organized by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates. Instead, the presumptive Republican and Democratic nominees have coordinated directly with news outlets on the dates and terms, agreeing to forgo opening statements, debate notes, and an audience. There will be a mute button to cut candidates' microphones off after their allotted response time expires. 

 

The debate—hosted by moderators Jake Tapper and Dana Bash—comes as recent polls predict a tight race, with Trump leading by 1%-2% nationally. Trump is currently leading in seven key swing state polls by 1%-5%.

 

Asteroids Passing by Earth

An asteroid is scheduled to pass an estimated 4 million miles from Earth today, its closest encounter in over 100 years. 

 

Roughly the size of Mount Everest at 1.4 miles wide, asteroid 2011 UL21 was once predicted to have a one in 71 million chance of hitting Earth by the end of the decade—an estimate experts now put at zero. Later this week, a much smaller asteroid, roughly the size of a stadium and discovered days ago, is scheduled to pass within roughly 75% of the distance to the moon. Both rocks—remnants from the early solar system—are expected to be visible using a telescope. A planet-killing asteroid is not expected to threaten Earth for at least the next 1,000 years, though NASA recently conducted an exercise to gauge readiness (see more).

 

The asteroids come days before Asteroid Day on June 30, timed to commemorate the 1908 Tunguska event in Siberia. An explosion that day was believed to be the largest observed asteroid strike, roughly 1,000 times as powerful as the blast at Hiroshima.

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In The Know
 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> The Atlanta Hawks take France’s Zaccharie Risacher with the top pick of the 2024 NBA Draft; Round 2 kicks off this afternoon (4 pm ET, ESPN) (More) | Team USA women's soccer 18-player roster announced for Paris Olympics (More)

> Investigation into "Friends" actor Matthew Perry's death reportedly could result in charges against multiple people involved in supplying Perry with ketamine (More

> UEFA European Championship Round of 16 set; see latest bracket and schedule (More) | ... and Copa América group stage continues; see latest standings (More)

 

Science & Technology

In partnership with Aura

> Daily multivitamin use shows no association with lower risk of death, including from cancer or heart disease, new research finds; study tracked almost 400,000 participants over 20 years (More)

> World's first usable titanium-sapphire laser on a microchip demonstrated; prototype is 10,000 times smaller and 1,000 times cheaper than commercial versions of the powerful research-grade laser (More

> Scientists capture early moments of butterfly metamorphosis at the microscopic level, shedding light on how the insect's unique scale architecture forms on its wings (More

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Business & Markets

> US stock markets close higher (S&P 500 +0.2%, Dow +0.04%, Nasdaq +0.5%); Nasdaq set for nearly 19% gain in first half of year, led by Nvidia and AI boom (More) | Amazon tops $2T market cap for first time as shares hit all-time high (More)

> Federal judge to likely reject $30B settlement between payment processors Visa, Mastercard, and merchants who say they have overpaid in credit card processing fees—which are often passed down to consumers (More)

> Japanese yen falls to weakest level against the US dollar since 1986; the yen has so far fallen 12% against the dollar this year, with analysts citing the gap between Japanese and foreign interest rates as a reason for the drop (More)

 

Politics & World Affairs

> US Supreme Court rejects lower court ruling restricting the Biden administration from contacting social media companies to remove misinformation (More) | The court is also planning to allow Idaho doctors to perform abortions in medical emergencies, per opinion accidentally published early (More)

> Bolivian general Juan José Zúñiga arrested after a failed coup attempt at the presidential palace; Zúñiga claims he was acting at the behest of the president (More) | Kenyan President William Ruto backs down on plans for tax hike following violent protests earlier this week and police crackdown (More

> Centrist George Latimer defeats Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D, NY-16) in most expensive primary race in US history; total spend was $24.8M, almost $15M from pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC (More

 

In-Depth

> Pay Phone Bandit

Mental Floss | Jake Rossen. How an Ohio man in a baseball cap managed to steal $500K to $1M per year from pay phones in the 1980s before he was ultimately caught. (Read)

 

> It Takes an Olympic Village

CNN | Joshua Berlinger. Paris' Olympic Village looks like no other. From seashell sidewalks to cardboard stools, the architectural choices are a large experiment hoping to produce a more sustainable approach to Olympic Village housing. (Read)

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Etcetera
 

Will radioactive material in rhino horns deter poaching?

 

A 7-foot-3 Chinese basketball player makes her international debut.

 

Beach restoration project spends millions on sand.

 

A look at Disney World's newest ride.

 

... and looking back at "The Lion King" after 30 years.

 

NFL team partners with Hallmark to produce Christmas movie.

 

The best (and worst) states for summer road trips.

 

The mood boards behind Paris' Fashion Week

 

Clickbait: Is it cheaper to pay rent or live at an all-inclusive resort?

 

Historybook: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints founder Joseph Smith killed by a mob in jail (1844); Author Paul Laurence Dunbar born (1872); Helen Keller born (1880); The US enters the Korean War (1950); Director JJ Abrams born (1966).

"When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us."

- Helen Keller

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