6.26.2023

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Good morning. It's Monday, June 26, and we're covering weekend upheaval in Russia, a corruption trial in Israel, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.

 

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Need To Know
 

The Coup That Wasn't

An uprising by Russia's top paramilitary group against Kremlin officials ended nearly as quickly as it began over the weekend, with Wagner group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin going into exile in neighboring Belarus. The challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin's authority followed months of simmering tensions between the group and military brass (see timeline).

 

Events rapidly escalated Friday when the former Putin confidant released a video calling for the ouster of top defense officials (while denying a coup attempt against Putin). By Saturday morning, Wagner—a private military force numbering around 25,000—had captured the southern city of Rostov and began to march toward Moscow.

 

Within hours, Prigozhin announced he would turn his troops around following a Belarus-brokered deal. Prigozhin departed to Belarus while the Kremlin dropped charges of treason and offered amnesty to Wagner troops. The deal ended what observers had called the biggest threat to Putin since he assumed power in 2000.

 

Analysts speculated Prigozhin may have overestimated popular support for the effort once already en route to Moscow before abandoning the effort, while US intelligence reportedly detected signs of the uprising in advance. 

 

How the events and loss of Prigozhin on the battlefield will affect the war in Ukraine remains to be seen; see updates here.

 

FDA Guidance on Psychedelics

The US Food and Drug Administration released a draft of guidelines for research into the therapeutic use of psychedelics Friday, initiating a 60-day public comment period. Observers see the move as the latest step toward potentially legitimizing classic psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA, which have long faced cultural and medical stigma.

 

Psychedelics are powerful, psychoactive compounds that temporarily alter perception, mood, and other cognitive processes, and have been used for millennia for their mind-altering effects (see overview). Synthetic versions sparked popular use in the 1970s, leading to their designation as Schedule 1—or banned—drugs. However, research in recent years suggests medically supervised use can likely treat prevalent mood, anxiety, and substance disorders, prompting both private investment and public legislation to further explore the drugs' medical applications.

 

Officials released the nonbinding recommendations two days after a bipartisan group of lawmakers filed a bill in Congress seeking to require the FDA to produce such a document. Watch how psychedelics affect the human brain here.

 

Netanyahu Trial Continues

Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan began providing key testimony yesterday in a long-running corruption case against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Prosecutors claim Milchan provided Netanyahu with a string of gifts totaling more than $200K in exchange for pushing legislation that would grant Milchan favorable tax status. 

 

The allegations form the center of one of three high-profile corruption cases, which have dragged on for years due to the pandemic and various legal challenges and have now been rolled into a single trial (see overview). The proceedings have spanned the deaths of multiple witnesses and seen Netanyahu both be voted out and back into office amid the country's larger political gridlock. 

 

In related news, nearly 100,000 protesters gathered in Tel Aviv for the 25th straight week, demonstrating against judicial reforms proposed by Netanyahu's government. See an explanation of the proposal here.   

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In The Know
 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> Human remains found in area where British actor Julian Sands went missing while hiking in January (More) | Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, recovering from operation following breast cancer diagnosis (More)

> Brittney Griner named WNBA All-Star starter in first season since 10-month detainment in Russia (More) | Dean Smith, former Olympic gold medalist and prolific Hollywood stunt performer, dies at 91 (More)

> Florida tops LSU 24-4, breaking the record for most runs in a Men's College World Series game; winner-takes-all Game 3 set for tonight (7 pm ET, ESPN) (More) | Los Angeles Angels top Colorado Rockies 25-1 for MLB's third-largest margin of victory since 1900 (More)

 

Science & Technology

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> Xbox chief Phil Spencer testifies in antitrust case against Microsoft's acquisition of Activision, argues the Xbox gaming console has fallen far behind competitors (More)

> Turtle study reveals mechanism linking warmer temperatures with increased number of female hatchlings and higher fertility rates (More)

> NASA officials say the cost of a proposed robotic mission to retrieve samples from the surface of Mars has grown to $10B, roughly equal to the James Webb Space Telescope; estimates put the effort in doubt (More)

From our partners: Master the concepts behind technology. Whether you’re a professional building new skills or a lifelong learner curious about the world, Brilliant is the best way to learn. Thousands of bite-size, interactive lessons get you hands-on with everything from AI and data science to foundational math and more. Join 10M+ people around the world and start learning with a 30-day free trial.

 

Business & Markets

> US stock markets close lower Friday (S&P 500 -0.8%, Dow -0.7%, Nasdaq -1.0%);  Nasdaq ends streak of eight weeks of gains (More)

> Starbucks employees at nearly 150 unionized stores strike over Pride month decoration restrictions at certain stores (More)

> Bridge collapse causes train carrying asphalt, sulfur to crash into river in Montana Saturday; also damages high-speed internet cable (More)

 

Politics & World Affairs

> Much of the southeastern US set for an extreme heat wave this week as a high-pressure heat dome stalls air, keeps away clouds (More) | What are heat domes?  (More)

> Greek conservative leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis wins second term as prime minister Sunday, New Democracy party wins majority in parliament (More) | Former Guatemalan first lady Sandra Torres leads polls in presidential election Sunday, unlikely to reach majority needed for outright victory; runoff scheduled for Aug. 20 (More)

>Three San Antonio, Texas, police officers charged with murder for shooting death of woman reportedly experiencing mental health crisis early Friday (More)

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Etcetera
 

Team USA powerlifter celebrates Special Olympics victories (w/video).

 

... and see the best photos from the 2023 Special Olympics. (via Instagram)

 

Meet Scooter, the world's new ugliest dog

 

Speed dating is making a comeback

 

Firefighters rescue horse stuck in a pool

 

Russia steps up dolphin patrols around Crimea.

 

Researchers find Asia's tallest tree—inside world's deepest canyon

 

Election for Toronto mayor sees record 102 nominees—including a dog.

 

Clickbait: Why US tourists are the new hot commodity

 

Historybook: Francisco Pizarro is assassinated (1541); Sports great Babe Didrikson Zaharias born (1911); Berlin Airlift begins (1948); JFK delivers famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech (1963); Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage in the US (2015).

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