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Up First briefing: smoke and heat waves; French protests; gravitational waves

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Today's top stories

A heat wave wasn't enough for Americans to deal with. In some parts of the Midwest and East Coast, air quality has worsened again because of the smoke from wildfires that are still burning in Canada.

Both high heat and smoke can trigger respiratory problems, NPR's health correspondent Allison Aubrey says on Up First this morning. Fine particulates in the smoke irritate the lungs. On top of that, the heat wave can also "trigger ground-level ozone," a harmful gas.

  • Keep yourself safe: Bookmark our guides on how to stay safe from extreme heat and poor air quality.
  • You're used to reading about protests against police brutality here in the United States. Similar protests are breaking out across France after police were shown on video fatally shooting a 17-year-old of North African descent in a Paris suburb over a traffic violation.

  • Reporter Rebecca Rosman says there have "long been complaints about police brutality and discrimination" in working-class suburbs like where the incident took place. France saw protests after George Floyd was killed in 2020, but this incident "hits closer to home." President Emmanuel Macon called the killing  "unexplainable and inexcusable."
  • Some of Russian President Vladimir Putin's generals have not been seen in public recently, prompting questions about who might be under suspicion or arrested for what they knew about the Wagner group's failed rebellion last weekend.

  • NPR's Greg Myre spoke to Gen. Viktor Nazarov, who spent nearly a decade in the Soviet army as a young man but is now chief adviser to Ukraine's top general. Myre says Nazarov doesn't think the rebellion has affected the war in Ukraine because the Wagner group "weren't expected to play a crucial role" now that Russia is mostly on the defensive. Nazarov added that new equipment from the U.S. and NATO have strengthened Ukraine's army but warned against underestimating the Russians.
  • Wake up babe, new gravitational waves just dropped: After 15 years of work, scientists have discovered evidence of an elusive, mysterious gravitational wave that may help them understand the nature of black holes — especially supermassive black holes, which occur when many black holes come together.

    Today's listen

    Muhammad Aslam, whose sons Qasim and Munir are still missing from the shipwreck, sits near his house in Noor Jamal village, Punjab province, Pakistan on June 22, 2023.
    / Betsy Joles for NPR
    /
    Betsy Joles for NPR
    Muhammad Aslam, whose sons Qasim and Munir are still missing from the shipwreck, sits near his house in Noor Jamal village, Punjab province, Pakistan on June 22, 2023.

    Muhammad Aslam sold his house in Pakistan to pay smuggler fees to send his two sons, Qasim and Munir, to Europe. He hasn't heard from them since they boarded the fishing vessel that departed from Libya and capsized off the coast of Greece on its way to Italy last week. Local accounts say more than 200 migrants from Pakistan have been confirmed dead. Now, Pakistanis are discussing how they're copingas they wait for news of their loved ones.

    Deep dive

    The Smithfield feed processing mill producing food for nearby hog-raising farms. Milford, Utah. (photo by: Jon G. Fuller/VW Pics/ Universal Images Group via etty Images)
    VW Pics / VWPics/Universal Images Group vi
    /
    VWPics/Universal Images Group vi
    The Smithfield feed processing mill producing food for nearby hog-raising farms. Milford, Utah. (photo by: Jon G. Fuller/VW Pics/ Universal Images Group via etty Images)

    In the past 40 years, Chinese companies and investors have bought up land in the U.S. Chinese-owned land is a tiny fraction of all foreign-owned land in the U.S., but the purchases have raised fears that the Chinese government could control U.S. assets through Chinese corporations.

  • Though the land is owned by Chinese corporations and not the government, Chinese laws allow the government to access citizens' and corporations' data.
  • Some of these fears are related to a gap in data on where Chinese-owned land is and whether it's near military installations.
  • Compared to Canada, the Netherlands, Italy, and Germany, Chinese corporations control much less land — it's about the size of Rhode Island.
  • Though lawmakers from both parties want to limit how much U.S. land Chinese companies can buy, even skeptics of Chinese investment say Congress must be careful its policies don't promote xenophobia and anti-Asian sentiment.
  • 3 things to know before you go

    President Biden talks to reporters as he departs the White House on Wednesday. After reporters pointed out the marks on his face, the White House revealed the president used a CPAP machine, used by people who have sleep apnea, Tuesday night.
    Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
    /
    Getty Images
    President Biden talks to reporters as he departs the White House on Wednesday. After reporters pointed out the marks on his face, the White House revealed the president used a CPAP machine, used by people who have sleep apnea, Tuesday night.

  • Presidents: They're just like us! President Biden is using a CPAP machine to help with his sleep apnea, a common condition that often has an annoying symptom: loud snoring.
  • Two of the biggest names in gymnastics are back. Simon Biles is competing for the first time since the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and Sunisa Lee is returning to the sport after taking time off to treat a kidney issue.
  • Madonna has canceled her international tour after she was hospitalized for a bacterial infection. Her longtime manager said she's expected to make a full recovery.
  • This newsletter was edited by Majd Al-Waheidi.

    Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Suzanne Nuyen