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Up First Briefing: Russia grain deal; Alabama voting map; 2024 fundraising numbers

This photo released by Ostorozhno Novosti on Monday, July 17, 2023, reportedly shows damaged parts of an automobile link of the Crimean Bridge connecting Russian mainland and Crimean peninsula over the Kerch Strait not far from Kerch, Crimea.
AP
This photo released by Ostorozhno Novosti on Monday, July 17, 2023, reportedly shows damaged parts of an automobile link of the Crimean Bridge connecting Russian mainland and Crimean peninsula over the Kerch Strait not far from Kerch, Crimea.

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 stories

The only bridge linking Russia to Crimea has been damaged — and two people killed — in an apparent explosion that Russian officials are blaming on Ukraine. NPR's Charles Maynes reports from Moscow that the bridge is a key supply line for Russian forces operating in southern Ukraine as well as a "potent symbol of Moscow's hold over Crimea," which Russia illegally annexed in 2014.

  • Also today, Russia's government said it is halting participation in a grain deal that enables Ukraine to export food to the rest of the world. President Vladimir Putin had previously threatened to let the U.N.-backed agreement expire, and Maynes says some will surely point to the bridge attack as a provocation to justify that move. 
  • Alabama's Republican-led legislature is holding a special session to approve a new map of congressional voting districts, after the U.S. Supreme Court said the current map, approved after the 2020 census, weakens the power of its Black voters. It only has one majority Black district (out of seven), in a state where more than one in four people are Black.

  • NPR's Hansi Lo Wang says the groups who filed the lawsuit are looking to see if there are two majority Black voting districts in this new map, which could open the door to Alabama doubling the number of Democrats representing the state in the U.S. House of Representatives. Plus, he says the Supreme Court's ruling could have ripple effects in other states, including Georgia and Louisiana. 
  • The latest campaign fundraising numbers came out this weekend, offering a fresh snapshot of the state of the 2024 presidential race. President Biden raised $72 million from April through June — almost as much as all the Republican candidates combined, but still short of what former Presidents Obama and Trump had raised by this point in their reelection bids, NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith tells Up First.

  • Keith says these numbers matter because grassroots donations can be an indicator of enthusiasm for a campaign, and "a lot of these campaigns are coming up short in that area."
  • Living better

    Are smartphones safe for tweens? Parents should be aware of the risks, a screen consultant advises.
    Elva Etienne / Getty Images
    /
    Getty Images
    Are smartphones safe for tweens? Parents should be aware of the risks, a screen consultant advises.

    If you have a tween in your life, chances are you've gotten a question (or two, or more) about their first smartphone. Namely: When will they get it, and what will you do to keep them safe? Emily Cherkin, a screen-time consultant who spent more than a decade as a middle school teacher, is one of many experts who advise parents to hold off on devices (tablets included!) and social media for as long as possible. Read or listen here to find out why — and what alternatives she recommends instead.

    Picture show

    In Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta, oil bunkering — the practice of siphoning oil from pipelines — has transformed parts of the once-thriving delta ecosystem into an ecological dead zone, according to the U.N. Environment Programme.
    / Edward Burtynsky
    /
    Edward Burtynsky
    In Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta, oil bunkering — the practice of siphoning oil from pipelines — has transformed parts of the once-thriving delta ecosystem into an ecological dead zone, according to the U.N. Environment Programme.

    Humans — and our mines, dams, cities and agriculture — have made such a mark on the planet that some scientists argue we're officially in a new geologic time period: the Anthropocene era, or the age of the humans. Three Canadian artists fascinated by the debate captured 50 photos in 22 countries showing humans' impact on the Earth, from a sprawling garbage dump in Kenya to a Texas petrochemical plant. See some of them here.

    3 things to know before you go

    A visitor walks past books at the newly-opened Mohammed Bin Rashid library (MBRL) in Dubai in June 2022.
    Giuseppe Cacace / AFP via Getty Images
    /
    AFP via Getty Images
    A visitor walks past books at the newly-opened Mohammed Bin Rashid library (MBRL) in Dubai in June 2022.

  • Nearly 8,000 writers, including Viet Thanh Nguyen and Margaret Atwood, have signed a letter asking six artificial intelligence companies to stop using their work without permission or compensation.
  • Jane Birkin —  the British actress, pop singer and namesake of the Hermès Birkin designer handbag died on Sunday at the age of 76. 
  • An Alabama woman went missing on Thursday after telling 911 she was going to help a toddler stranded on the side of the interstate, capturing national attention. Police say she returned home on Saturday.
  • This newsletter was edited by Majd Al-Waheidi.

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

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    Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.