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Up First briefing: affirmative action; student loan forgiveness; actors strike looms

College admissions lottery system.
Peter Judson for NPR
College admissions lottery system.

Good morning. You're reading the Up First newsletter. Subscribe here to get it delivered to your inbox, and listen to the Up First podcast for all the news you need to start your day.

Today's top news

The Supreme Court ruled that Harvard and UNC's race-conscious admissions were unconstitutional yesterday, effectively ending affirmative action in higher education. The justices ruled 6-3 along ideological lines. This means universities will no longer be able to explicitly use race as a factor in their admissions decisions. Read the court's full opinion here.

  • Here's why the ruling matters, including how it could affect race-conscious work programs.
  • Though the decision was expected, it was still a "major blow" to colleges that are committed to diverse campuses, Elissa Nadworny reports on Up First today. She says the ruling would only apply to about 200 U.S. colleges with highly selective admissions — but what happens at these elite schools matter because they're "gatekeepers to power in America."
  • California ended affirmative action in the '90s. A quarter-century later, school officials say they haven't met their diversity and equity goals despite spending more than half a billion on alternative, race-neutral policies.
  • Another Supreme Court decision has tens of millions of Americans gripped with anticipation. The justices are expected to give their opinion later today on President Biden's student loan forgiveness plan.

  • The court is assessing whether Biden's plan is legal and constitutional, according to NPR's Cory Turner. The administration says it's acting under the HEROES Act passed after 9/11, which lets the Education Secretary modify or waive student loan rules during emergencies, like the pandemic. Opponents say the plan, which would cost about $400 billion, does more than modify loans.
  • The SAG-AFTRA union's contract with major studios, networks and streamers ends tonight. Actors could strike if the union doesn't reach an agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers or extend the deadline. They'd be joining writers in the WGA union, who have been on strike since May.

  • NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports there hasn't been a dual writers-actors strike since 1960 when they demanded better residuals for movies played on TV. Now, actors want better residuals for content on streaming platforms and AI safeguards. 
  • The Commerce Department will release May inflation and personal spending figures later this morning. Personal spending jumped more than 4% in the first three months of the year and rose again in April, despite inflation and rising interest rates.

  • Credit card debt has also grown because personal spending grew faster than income. NPR's Scott Horsley spoke to consumers, who tell him they're finding ways to cut corners and avoid "frivolous" spending.
  • Weekly dose of wonder

    Nassim Haddad greets his customers and life with unflinching cheer.
    / Ari Daniel for NPR
    Ari Daniel for NPR
    Nassim Haddad greets his customers and life with unflinching cheer.

    Weekly Dose of Wonder highlights wondrous, awe-inspiring stories that deepen our connection to the natural world and humanity.

    Nassim Haddad was born laughing. He laughed even when his restaurant al-Tannour was destroyed after the Lebanese civil war broke out in 1975. He soon began rebuilding and opened Chez Nassim, a shop serving Middle Eastern desserts like baklava, knafeh and more. The store still stands today. NPR contributor Ari Daniel, who married Haddad's cousin, chats with him amid the sounds of crispy, crunchy desserts being baked about how he's able to keep laughing through decades of turmoil.

    Weekend picks

    From left to right: book covers for "Her Radiant Curse" by Elizabeth Lim, "A Warning about Swans" by R.M. Romero and "I Feed Her to the Beast" by Jamison Shea.
    / Meghan Collins Sullivan/NPR
    Meghan Collins Sullivan/NPR
    From left to right: book covers for "Her Radiant Curse" by Elizabeth Lim, "A Warning about Swans" by R.M. Romero and "I Feed Her to the Beast" by Jamison Shea.

    Check out what NPR is watching, reading and listening to this weekend:

    Movies: Jennifer Lawrence takes a crack at comedy in No Hard Feelings, a film about rich helicopter parents who hire a woman to seduce their teenage son to get him ready for college.

    TV: NPR critic Eric Deggans has fallen in love with the CW's Superman and Lois. He writes about how the show reinvents the iconic couple and the role helplessness plays in Superman's character arc.

    Books: Ambition, longing, love — these three summer YA fantasy picks show how intense emotions can bring out the monster in us.

    Music: Faith and religion are central in Killer Mike's Michael — his first album in more than a decade.

    Quiz: Ugly dogs and gravitational waves and Furbys, oh my! Test your news knowledge with this week's quiz.

    3 things to know before you go

    A squirrel splooting in the shade.
    / New York City Department of Parks and Recreation
    New York City Department of Parks and Recreation
    A squirrel splooting in the shade.

  • Have you caught a squirrel stretching its front and back legs out as it lies on its belly? The adorable pose is called splooting. It's a sign of climate change. The squirrels take that pose to cool themselves.
  • Several fashion influencers are facing backlash after they promoted an all-expenses-paid trip they took to Shein's factories in China. The fast-fashion conglomerate has been accused of forced labor and human rights violations.
  • Scientists have detected strange "ghost particles" called neutrinos coming from the Milky Way. They've previously only been detected in outer space. 
  • This newsletter was edited by Majd Al-Waheidi.

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