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Good morning. It's Saturday, Sept. 23, and in this weekend edition, we're covering criminal bribery charges against a US senator, the arrival of the autumnal equinox, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.


PS—Today is National Public Lands Day; all national parks that typically charge an entrance fee, like Yellowstone and Yosemite, are offering free admission. Find a national park near you here.  


You share, we listen. As always, send us feedback at [email protected].

One Big Headline

Cash Bribes, Gold Bars, and a Car

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and his wife were indicted yesterday on three counts of federal bribery charges related to alleged corruption. The couple is accused of taking bribes in the forms of at least $480K in cash, at least $100K worth of gold bars, and a luxury vehicle in exchange for sharing sensitive US government information, among other actions, to influence foreign affairs on behalf of Egypt. 


Menendez, 69, leads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but will need to step down from that role due to his felony charge. Three New Jersey businessmen tied to Menendez were also indicted. Read the indictment here.


The latest charges come nearly six years after an unrelated criminal indictment against Menendez ended with a deadlocked jury in 2017. In the earlier case, which began in 2015, Menendez had faced charges for allegedly helping a Florida eye doctor deal with allegations of Medicare fraud in exchange for nearly $1M worth of gifts and campaign contributions. 


Menendez appears to be the first sitting US senator to have been indicted twice on unrelated criminal charges. He currently plans to seek a fourth term in the senate next year. 

Quick Hits

United Auto Workers expand strike at GM and Stellantis.

An additional 5,600 autoworkers will be walking out of 38 General Motors and Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler) parts distribution centers in 20 states, the union said Friday. They join 13,000 of nearly 150,000 workers who began striking GM, Stellantis, and Ford a week ago. Ford was spared from the new round of strikes because it had met some of the union's demands in contract negotiations this week, the UAW president said. 


Ukraine missile hits Russia's Black Sea Fleet headquarters.

Russia's Black Sea Fleet is headquartered in the occupied city of Sevastopol in Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014. At least one Ukrainian cruise missile destroyed the top floors of the headquarters and caused a fire Friday. Ukraine has been targeting Sevastopol in recent weeks as it seeks to disrupt Russia's military operations. No casualties were reported. 


NASA's samples from asteroid Bennu to land on Earth tomorrow.

The space agency's OSIRIS-REx craft is expected to drop off a capsule, roughly the size of a mini fridge, containing rocks and dust from the asteroid Bennu after a seven-year mission. The sample is expected to land in the Utah desert. See our previous write-up here. Watch the livestream of the delivery here (10 am ET). 


Brainless box jellyfish demonstrate ability to learn by association.

New research published Friday shows scientists, for the first time, have been able to train the tiny box jellyfish species known as Tripedalia cystophora to alter their behavior as a result of past experiences. The findings show a centralized brain—which jellyfish lack—is not needed for associative learning. 


Amazon to run commercials on Prime Video in 2024.

Beginning early next year, Amazon Prime Video will include advertising during shows and movies, which subscribers can avoid by paying an extra $2.99 per month, the company announced Friday. The ads will first appear for viewers in the US, UK, Germany, and Canada, and later in France, Italy, Spain, Mexico, and Australia.


Autumnal equinox begins in the Northern Hemisphere today.

During the equinox—derived from the Latin words for equal and night—the Earth's axis is tilted in a way in which both the Southern and Northern Hemispheres experience roughly the same amount of daylight and darkness. The fall season will last until Dec. 21, which marks the winter solstice. See a visual guide to the equinox here.

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Two moms create adaptive clothing for children with disabilities. (More


UK woman buys a book online for her husband's birthday, finds a 40-year-old message she wrote to her dad inside. (More)


Parkland school shooting survivor creates an app called Joy to help people heal. (More)


A 12-year-old boy saves a man from drowning after using CPR he learned from "Stranger Things." (More)


A 10-year-old girl jumps into a marathon in Salt Lake City, Utah, to help her struggling mom finish the race. (More, w/video)

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Today, we're sharing a story from reader Jen N. in Hartford, Connecticut


"My 17-year-old daughter and I were half a mile into a 2-mile hike in a Costa Rican volcano park when she suddenly fell ill. She was ghostly pale, weak, and could barely stand. We tried walking out of the jungle 15-30 feet at a time. But she laid down on the dirt path and nearly passed out. Another American family and their Costa Rican tour guide came upon us and offered to help."


"The guide carried her on his back part of the way, but it was tough due to heat and the rough dirt path. The father of the family carried her on his back nearly half a mile, all the way back to the ranger station while the tour guide called ahead for help. It took amazing physical and mental discipline to carry her out, and we’re so grateful. We wish we had some way to thank them. We both hope to help someone like this in return someday."


What act(s) of kindness did you experience this week? Tell us here.



Recent Gallup poll finds 47% of Americans identify as religious, 33% identify as spiritual, 2% identify as both, and 18% identify as neither. See the data here.

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Historybook: American civil rights activist Victoria Woodhull born (1838); Nintendo is founded as a playing card company (1889); Musician Ray Charles born (1930); Neurologist Sigmund Freud dies (1939); Hurricane Jeanne kills more than 3,000 people in Haiti (2004).

"You better live every day like your last because one day you're going to be right."

- Ray Charles

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