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Up First Briefing: Teflon Don; ACLU lawsuit; Pee-wee Herman's legacy

Donald Trump speaks during a Make America Great Again rally at La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway on October 27, 2020, in West Salem, Wisconsin.
Brendan Smialowski
/
AFP via Getty Images
Donald Trump speaks during a Make America Great Again rally at La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway on October 27, 2020, in West Salem, Wisconsin.

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

Despite two indictments and a possible third coming up, former President Donald Trump is still the undisputed front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. Trump has embraced his legal problems by making them part of his core message that the system is rigged against him.

  • Data shows that Trump gets a boost in polls after he gets into legal trouble, according to NPR's Franco Ordoñez. But on Up First today, Ordoñez says, "It's one thing to win the nomination, it's another to win the general election." His legal problems could hurt him with independents and swing voters, leaving some GOP leaders and donors worried about the general election.
  • A fight over school choice and the separation of church and state is playing out in Oklahoma. The ACLU and nine residents in the state have filed a lawsuit to stop a virtual charter school from opening. Oklahoma taxpayers would fund St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Charter School, which opponents say is unconstitutional. (via KOSU)

  • State Impact Oklahoma's Beth Wallace says school choice policies that subsidize private education with public dollars have been a hot topic in her state as well as in the nation. The plaintiffs argue that students whose identities conflict with the Catholic Church will be discriminated against, and students with disabilities won't receive adequate support. The school's supporters hope the case will go to the Supreme Court, where the conservative majority could rule on their side.
  • The deadline for veterans to receive retroactive PACT Act benefits is August 9, and advocates are urging veterans to sign up. The bill, hailed as the largest expansion of care in VA history, was passed last year and gives health care benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits and toxins like Agent Orange.

  • Some veterans are reluctant to sign up because they've been disappointed by the VA before or want to move on with their lives, veteran Dan Nevins tells NPR's Quil Lawrence on Morning Edition. But Nevins, who lost both his legs in a bomb blast and was diagnosed with cancer two years ago, says it should be easier this time. 
  • Paul Reubens, best known for creating and acting as Pee-wee Herman, has died of cancer at 70. The petulant man-child that Reubens portrayed in works like Pee-wee's Big Adventure and Pee-wee's Playhouse delighted children and adults alike.

  • "In many ways, he felt like an embodiment of childhood," NPR's Stephen Thompson says. Childhood can be magical and full of play but also weird and subversive. Thompson adds, "Pee-wee was for kids who felt weird — he belonged to us."
  • Deep dive

    Drag Queen Brigitte Bandit reads a book during a story time reading at the Cheer Up Charlies dive bar on March 11, 2023 in Austin, Texas. Bills to restrict drag performances across the country have failed to make an impact.
    Brandon Bell / Getty Images
    /
    Getty Images
    Drag Queen Brigitte Bandit reads a book during a story time reading at the Cheer Up Charlies dive bar on March 11, 2023 in Austin, Texas. Bills to restrict drag performances across the country have failed to make an impact.

    As states wrap up their legislative sessions for the year, NPR and its member stations are covering the legal realities and arguments of the many attempts to curb LGBTQ+ rights across the country.

  • Efforts in Republican-led states to restrict drag performances for kids have fallen short. Bills have been scuttled, blocked, vetoed and more.
  • Twenty states with gender-affirming care bans are under intense legal scrutiny over whether they violate the 14th Amendment, which guarantees people equal protection under the law.
  • Gender-affirming care has never been challenged before, and the topic could go up to the Supreme Court if circuit courts can't agree.
  • Weekly dose of wonder

    When people listen to the same song, their brain waves can synchronize. It's one way that music creates a sense of connection and wonder.
    / BlackJack3D/Getty Images
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    BlackJack3D/Getty Images
    When people listen to the same song, their brain waves can synchronize. It's one way that music creates a sense of connection and wonder.

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

    Music has always been a huge part of NPR's Rob Stein's life. He says listening to music is the closest he's "ever come to having a religious experience." Scientists say it's because music triggers the production of pleasure chemicals in the brain. It can even synchronize brain waves among people listening to the same song.

    3 things to know before you go

    A relief carved on a block in a stairway, one of the many exciting artifacts uncovered at Ocomtun in May.
    / Octavio Esparza Olguin/National Autonomous University of Mexico
    /
    Octavio Esparza Olguin/National Autonomous University of Mexico
    A relief carved on a block in a stairway, one of the many exciting artifacts uncovered at Ocomtun in May.

  • Laser technology helped archeologists find a massive Maya city in Mexico. The previously unknown city may have served as a political center, making scientists question their knowledge about the Maya civilization.
  • The giant, flashing 'X' sign installed at headquarters for X, formerly known as Twitter, in San Francisco has been taken down after 24 neighbors filed complaints.
  • British researchers have discovered that the sound male crickets make when they rub their wings together is used to attract female mates. May the loudest cricket win!
  • This newsletter was edited by Majd Al-Waheidi.

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

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