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Good morning. It's Friday, July 21, and we're covering religious protests in the Middle East, renewed box office enthusiasm, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.


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Need To Know

Middle East Protests

Iraq expelled the Swedish ambassador yesterday after hundreds of Iraqi protesters stormed the Swedish Embassy in Baghdad, setting it partially on fire, to protest a planned burning of the Quran in Stockholm. The Iraqi government also recalled its chargé d'affaires—the acting ambassador when the ambassador is not in-country— from Stockholm and suspended business for Swedish companies.


The protests were triggered after Swedish police granted permission for a group, including Iraqi refugee Salwan Momika, to hold a demonstration that would include burning a copy of the Quran outside the Iraqi Embassy in Stockholm under the pretext of freedom of speech. In yesterday's event, the protesters allegedly partially destroyed a copy of the Quran but did not set it on fire. Momika previously burned a copy outside Stockholm's main mosque during Eid celebrations last month. Muslims consider the Quran to be sacred and view burning it as a direct offense against God.


The freedom of speech laws are protected by the Swedish Constitution; however, the government has said it is considering legal changes.


US Soccer's New Star

Soccer superstar Lionel Messi makes his highly anticipated US debut tonight, suiting up for Inter Miami CF as they take on Mexico City's Cruz Azul as part of the Leagues Cup (8 pm ET, Apple TV+). The match will be played in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with some tickets reportedly going for as much as $56K. 


Messi is widely viewed as one of the greatest soccer players of all time and the highest-profile player to join Major League Soccer, having spent the bulk of his career at FC Barcelona and the past two years at Paris Saint-Germain FC. The 36-year-old Argentine has won a record seven Ballon d'Or awards—given to the world's best male player each year—and is the second-leading scorer of all time, with 807 goals. His contract runs through 2025 and may reach as high as $60M per year with bonuses. 


On the pitch, Messi led Argentina to its first World Cup title since 1986 last year, scoring two goals in the final against France. In his new home, he was spotted casually shopping for groceries at a Miami-area Publix (w/video). 


Watch some of Messi's career highlights here.


Blockbuster Movie Weekend

US movie fanatics are gearing up for one of the most anticipated weekends of film debuts since before the pandemic, with the release of both "Barbie" and "Oppenheimer." Driven in part by the fascination with the opposing themes of an iconic plastic doll come to life and the inner conflict of the scientist who created the atomic bomb, many have committed to buying back-to-back tickets to both showings. The roughly five-hour commitment has been dubbed "Barbenheimer."


The two movies combine to feature a slew of stars. "Barbie"—whose production supposedly caused a run on pink paint—is led by Margot Robbie and features Ryan Gosling, among others. In "Oppenheimer," Cillian Murphy gets his first chance to lead a Christopher Nolan-directed film, after playing supporting roles in "Batman Begins" and "Inception."


As of this morning, estimates project both films will bring in at least $100M combined on their opening weekend, not accounting for overseas sales. See the trailers for both here and here

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In The Know

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> Comic-Con International 2023, the world's biggest comic book and movie convention, kicks off from San Diego; see full schedule of events and panels (More

> Shakira being investigated for second case of alleged tax fraud in Spain; the pop star was previously charged with failure to pay Spanish income tax from 2012-14 (More)

> Team USA takes on Vietnam tonight (9 pm ET, Fox and Peacock) in their first match of the Women's World Cup (More) | See latest scores and group standings (More) | NFL approves sale of Washington Commanders for $6B, the most ever for a pro sports franchise (More)


Science & Technology

In partnership with Brave

> Google has piloted an AI-powered platform to write news articles, according to reports; technology has been demoed with The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and more (More)

> Study finds coelacanths, an ancient fish that became one of the first species to be known as a "living fossil," survived a mass extinction roughly 250 million years ago in a localized region near modern-day Switzerland (More)

> Engineers demonstrate wearable sensor with record-setting solar power efficiency; prototype analyzes real-time health status via sweat, does not require carrying a battery pack (More)

From our partners: Worried about your online privacy? You’re not alone–over 50 million people have switched to Brave, the privacy-first web browser. Brave blocks ads and trackers on every website–including YouTube. With private search, a VPN, and offline video playlists, Brave keeps you safe. Bonus: it even stops those annoying cookie requests. Get Brave for your phone or computer in under 60 seconds.


Business & Markets

> US stock markets close mixed (S&P 500 -0.7%, Dow +0.5%, Nasdaq -2.0%); Dow up for ninth consecutive session, first time since 2017 (More)

> Federal Reserve launches FedNow instant payments service to expedite the flow of capital between banks, businesses, and citizens (More)

> Private equity giant Blackstone becomes first alternative asset manager to reach $1T in assets under management (More)


Politics & World Affairs

> Ukrainian officials threaten Russian ships sailing through the Black Sea, days after a deal to allow grain exports from Ukraine expired (More) | Why is the Black Sea so important? (More)

> House Oversight Committee releases form from FBI detailing allegations tying President Joe Biden to payments from Ukrainian energy firm Burisma during his tenure as vice president (More) | Tip was recorded in an FD-1023 form, a route for unverified claims; read doc here (More)

> Saudi Arabia formally agrees to allow Israeli officials to attend September's UNESCO World Heritage meeting in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, the latest sign of cooperation between the regional rivals (More)



> The Making of 'Oppenheimer'

NY Times | Dennis Overbye. An interview with legendary director Christopher Nolan as his latest film, on the man who built the first atomic bomb, debuts. (Read)


> Sea Drones

Reuters Graphics | Mariano Zafra, Jon McClure. A survey of Ukraine's novel use of sea drones, a damaging and cost-effective alternative to aerial bombs.  (Read)

> Beating the Biological Clock

Economist | Staff. As women in wealthier countries start families later in life, demand for egg-freezing and other fertility services is on the rise. (Watch)


> Inside the Hollywood Strike

The Town | Matt Beloni. (Podcast) As actors and writers in Hollywood continue their rare joint strike, hear their demands from their head lawyer, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. (Listen)

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The world's aging demographics in one chart


Study suggests animals get tipsy, spread alcoholic fruits


Pay-with-your-palm is coming to Whole Foods.


Dogs in one French town must now carry a passport


... while Beenie Von Weenie is crowned fastest dachshund


What Barbie looked like when you were born.


India boasts the world's cheapest Domino's pizza.


Rare pink dolphins spotted swimming in the bayou


Clickbait: Fugitive goat toys with Alabama authorities


Historybook: Author Ernest Hemingway born (1899); Actor and comedian Robin Williams born (1951); Soccer great Brandi Chastain born (1968); Jay Silverheels becomes first Native American to have a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame (1979); NASA’s Space Shuttle program ends (2011).

"There’s no shame in failing. The only shame is not giving things your best shot."

- Robin Williams

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