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Good morning. It's Monday, May 20, and we're covering the presumed death of Iran's president, a journey to space, and much more. First time reading? Join over 3.5 million readers. Sign up here.

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Need To Know

Iranian President Presumed Dead

A helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and other officials crashed yesterday in dense fog, leaving no survivors, according to state media. Vice President Mohammad Mokhber is poised to assume the presidency, pending approval from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (see leadership structure). The country has 50 days to organize new elections.


Raisi—known to critics as the “butcher of Tehran”—was one of four judges who oversaw the execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988, following the Iran-Iraq War. After leading the judiciary, Raisi became president in 2021, known for cracking down on protesters, enforcing strict dress rules for women, and a confrontational approach to the West and Israel. A protégé of Khamenei’s, Raisi was considered a top candidate to eventually succeed the 85-year-old leader.


Raisi was in a convoy of three helicopters returning from a visit to Azerbaijan to inaugurate a joint dam project when his helicopter crashed over the mountainous region of northern Iran. Also onboard was Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and a provincial governor, among other officials.


Historic Space Flight

Space tourism company Blue Origin successfully carried six passengers just past the edge of space yesterday, its first successful crewed launch since its New Shepard rockets were grounded over safety concerns two years ago. 


The group included 90-year-old Ed Dwight, a former Air Force captain who was NASA's first Black astronaut candidate in the early 1960s. Dwight—who was ultimately never selected for crewed NASA missions—became the oldest person to enter space. Learn more about his story here (w/video). 


Led by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin focuses on recreational voyages, ferrying paying passengers just past the edge of space (what is the Kármán line?), 62 miles above the Earth's surface. The crew capsule rides a reusable rocket up and parachutes back down; the whole journey lasts about 10 minutes.     


See footage of Dwight and the crew exiting the craft after landing here.


Israeli Cabinet Pressure

Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz threatened to quit if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not advance a plan for postwar Gaza by June 8. If Gantz quits, Netanyahu’s coalition would collapse, prompting early elections.


Gantz’s demands are sixfold: demilitarize Gaza and prioritize the release of Israeli hostages remaining in the territory, return an estimated 60,000 Israeli civilians to their homes near the Lebanese border by September, advance a normalization deal with Saudi Arabia, form a Palestinian governing body in Gaza with Western and Arab oversight, and end military service exemptions for Orthodox Jews.


The announcement marks the second such critique of Netanyahu in days, following a speech last week by Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. Gallant, Gantz, and Netanyahu compose Israel’s three-person war cabinet, formed in the aftermath of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks. See updates on the war.

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In The Know

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> Seize the Grey wins 149th Preakness Stakes with Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan finishing second (More) | Manchester City wins a record fourth straight English Premier League title (More)

> Dabney Coleman, Emmy-winning character actor, dies at 92 (More) | Alice Stewart, CNN political commentator and GOP political adviser, dies at 58 (More)

> Xander Schauffele edges Bryson DeChambeau to win 2024 PGA Championship, Schauffele's first major title (More) | Oleksandr Usyk defeats Tyson Fury to become boxing's first undisputed heavyweight champion in 24 years (More)


Science & Technology

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> Geologists discover evidence of a now-dry branch of the Nile River near the Giza Pyramids; may help explain the pyramids' location and how they were built (More) | Explore the 3,000-year history of ancient Egypt in three minutes (More, w/video)

> Study links gut microbes produced by high-fat diets to tumor progression in mice; may help explain the correlation between obesity and increased risk of certain cancers (More)

> Engineers develop thin film that can provide continuous monitoring of air quality and the presence of toxic gases in industrial or home environments (More

From our partners: Why are 34,000+ investors backing this disruptor? Simple. Miso Robotics solves one of the biggest problems in the $1 trillion fast food industry: the 3 million-person worker shortage. Miso’s flagship robot, Flippy, helps fill the gap. That’s why top brands like White Castle automate with Miso Robotics. Now you can tap into Miso’s growth potential by joining them as a shareholder.


Business & Markets

> US stock markets close mixed Friday (S&P 500 +0.1%, Dow +0.3%, Nasdaq -0.1%), with the Dow closing above 40,000 points for the first time after temporarily surpassing the benchmark Thursday (More)

> Disneyland’s character performers vote to join the Actors' Equity Association after calling for higher wages and more dependable schedules (More) | Mercedes-Benz workers in Alabama vote against joining union (More)

> Elon Musk launches Starlink satellite internet service in Indonesia to support nation's health service and education sector across the 17,000-island archipelago; details of the agreement were not made public (More)


Politics & World Affairs

> The US and Saudi Arabia progress toward binational security deal in talks over the weekend; deal—reportedly days away—would include defense guarantees and cooperation on nuclear energy for civilian purposes, with a pathway for Israeli-Saudi normalization pending Israel's recognition of a Palestinian state (More)

> Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani charged with conspiracy, fraud, and forgery in Arizona case involving electors who defied state voters to cast votes for former President Donald Trump over President Joe Biden (More)

> London's High Court to decide today whether Julian Assange will be extradited to the US to face espionage charges; determination rests on US assurances about Assange's First Amendment rights and protection from death penalty (More

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Suspected meteor over Portugal and Spain turns sky neon blue. (w/video)


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Clickbait: A gathering of 706 Kyles.


Historybook: Christopher Columbus dies (1506); Charles Lindbergh makes first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic (1927); Singer-songwriter Cher born (1946); First photograph sent from Hubble Space Telescope (1990).

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