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Good morning. It's Thursday, July 20, and the US women's soccer team is ready to take home a third straight title, while the James Webb Space Telescope makes another astounding discovery. Find this and more in today's digest. First time reading? Sign up here.


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Need To Know

World Cup 2023

The 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup gets underway today, with cohost New Zealand having kicked off action against Norway at 7 pm local time (3 am ET). The US national team enters the tournament looking to maintain their dominance in international competition and capture their third straight World Cup title.


The tournament has been viewed as a changing of the guard for the US, who enters as the No. 1-ranked team in the world. Led by veterans Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, the squad also features 22-year-old Sophia Smith (the leading scorer in the US women's professional league), 21-year-old Trinity Rodman (the highest-paid player in the league), and 18-year-old Alyssa Thompson (the first teenager on the US team since 1995).


The US enters as favorites to win the cup, with England, France, and Spain viewed as their stiffest competition. The Americans have won half of the world titles since the tournament began in 1991.


The tournament format for the cup involves an initial round-robin group stage with eight groups of four teams each (see groupings)—teams are awarded three points for a win, one point for a draw, and no points for a loss. The top two teams from each group then advance to a 16-team, single-elimination knockout stage.


The US faces Vietnam in their opening match tomorrow night (9 pm ET, FOX). 


Cosmic Dust Discovery

Carbon-rich cosmic dust typically associated with more mature galaxies was detected within the first billion years after the Big Bang, much earlier than previously thought, according to a new paper published yesterday. Astronomers claim the findings—the latest enabled by the James Webb Space Telescope's ultrasensitive hardware (see 101)—may suggest a previously unknown mechanism driving the star formation in the early universe. 


Current theories posit the earliest stars in the universe consisted mostly of hydrogen and helium, the lightest elements; only after an extended cycle of star formation and collapse did these stars have the energy to create heavier elements like carbon and oxygen (read how stars form). Using the Webb's infrared instruments, astronomers were able to identify wavelengths within nearly 14-billion-year-old starlight.


The findings come a little over a week after astronomers celebrated the Webb's first anniversary of operation. Read our previous write-up here


Legacy Admissions Dropped

Wesleyan University announced yesterday it will no longer weigh an applicant's familial ties to the school as part of admissions decisions. The liberal arts college in Connecticut joins a number of universities that have ended decades-old legacy admissions practices, including Johns Hopkins, Carnegie Mellon, and MIT.


The announcement comes after the US Supreme Court last month struck down affirmative action, ruling that race-based standards for college admissions are unconstitutional. Following the ruling, legacy admissions were thrust into the spotlight, with critics saying the policy discriminates against students of color as it tends to benefit students who are wealthy and white. A Pew Research survey last year found 75% of Americans believed an applicant's relationship to the school shouldn't be a factor in admissions decisions. 


Separately, Stanford president and neuroscientist Marc Tessier-Lavigne announced he is resigning after an independent investigation found flaws, including data manipulation, in past papers he wrote. The 63-year-old will step down from his leadership role Aug. 31 and remain at Stanford as a biology professor. 

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In The Know

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with CARIUMA

> Netflix hauls in nearly 6 million new subscribers and $8.2B in revenue in Q2 as the streamer cracks down on password sharing (More)

> Prosecutor delivers closing remarks in Kevin Spacey's London sexual assault criminal trial, with defense set to deliver their closing today (More)

> Golf's 151st British Open kicks off today from Royal Liverpool Golf Club; Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy are among the favorites to win (More)

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Science & Technology

> Reports suggest Apple has been developing an in-house large language model similar to ChatGPT, aims to deploy platform sometime next year (More)

> Detailed cell maps reveal unprecedented view of various organ functions, including how kidney disease progresses, the impact on blood flow of the placenta, and more (More)

> Researchers link asymptomatic COVID-19 infections to a common gene variation; gene type boosts immune system T cell memory after encountering the common cold, making them more effective against SARS-CoV-2 (More)


Business & Markets

> US stock markets close higher (S&P 500 +0.2%, Dow +0.3%, Nasdaq +0.03%); Dow up for eighth consecutive session, first time since 2019 (More)

> Tesla delivers record $25B quarterly revenue, but margins decline due to price cuts (More) | Carvana shares up 40% after company announces deal to reduce debt by $1.2B (More)

> Skims—shapewear brand founded by Kim Kardashian—raises $270M at $4B valuation; company delivered sales of $500M last year (More)


Politics & World Affairs

> Russian drones and missiles strike export facilities in Ukrainian port city of Odesa and nearby southern city of Chornomorsk, destroying 60,000 tons of grain two days after pulling out of a critical grain exports deal (More) | See war updates (More

> US service member Travis King in North Korean custody was previously involved in two alleged assaults in South Korea that led to his 47-day detention there; officials investigating how King transitioned from being escorted to an airport to entering North Korea (More) | See previous write-up (More

> House Oversight Committee hears first public testimony from two IRS whistleblowers on the Justice Department's alleged mishandling of probe into President Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden (More) | Federal judge denies former President Donald Trump's bid for new trial in E. Jean Carroll abuse case (More



> The Fall of Dan Snyder 

ESPN | Don Van Natta Jr., Seth Wickersham. A riveting account of how a series of damaging emails and a web of unidentified leakers—each with their own motives—led to the demise of Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder. (Read)


> San Francisco's Drug Economy

SF Chronicle | Megan Cassidy, Gabrielle Lurie. Part I of an investigation into the recent rise of Honduran drug dealers in San Francisco and how a housing boom in an area of Honduras is rooted in the US drug sales. (Read)

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