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Biden does post-debate damage control, and Simone Biles heads to her 3rd Olympics

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

President Biden spent the weekend doing damage control after his poor performance at last week's presidential debate. With many worried about his reelection prospects, Democrats are trying to shift the conversation to Trump and his policy positions.

President Biden speaks on the phone while walking to board Air Force One after a fundraiser in New Jersey on Saturday.
Mandel Ngan / AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images
President Biden speaks on the phone while walking to board Air Force One after a fundraiser in New Jersey on Saturday.

  • 🎧 NPR's Tamara Keith tells Up First that Democrats have been in this challenging position the entire time, since voters were concerned about Biden's age before Thursday's debate. "This is a pre-existing condition," she says. She adds that Biden has a long history of "being counted out and then proving doubters wrong." It's unlikely he'll step aside. If he does, Keith says there would be a "huge fight among the next generation of Democrats," and there's no guarantee Biden's replacement would have a better chance against Trump.
  • ➡️ Some of the president's defenders have pointed to other incumbents — like Obama and Reagan — who stumbled in their first debates but recovered to win reelection. How do these situations compare?
  • ➡️ Meanwhile, Republicans plan to streamline and simplify their party platform, according to a memo obtained by NPR. The platform aims to reflect Trump's vision for America and avoid creating lines of attack for his opponents.

Simone Biles will lead the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics team in Paris this month after winning the U.S. Olympic Trials by more than 5.5-points. This will be the 27-year-old's third Olympic Games. Biles pulled out of some events in Tokyo for her mental health, and the U.S. team took home a silver medal. They say they're on their "redemption tour" as they work toward a team gold in Paris.

  • 🎧 Though Biles' main competitors will be younger than her, NPR's Becky Sullivan says "it just doesn't matter," as with her competing, the U.S. will be the favorite to win the team all around. On the men's side, Sullivan says the team has "a star in the making" in Fred Richard, who has made it his mission not just to have a successful Olympic showing but to raise the profile of men's gymnastics overall.

Louisiana has become the first state to allow surgical castration to be used as a punishment for sex crimes. The permanent procedure involves the surgical removal of the testicles or ovaries to stop the production of sex hormones. The bill's passage has raised concerns among criminal defense lawyers, advocates and medical experts over the ethics and constitutionality of the law and whether the punishment would actually reduce sex crimes.

New from NPR


More than 60 countries are voting in their national elections this year, when concerns of democratic backsliding are on the rise. Throughout 2024, NPR's international correspondents will offer sound-rich storytelling and views from voters for the Year of Global Elections series. This morning, Europe editor Nick Spicer breaks down yesterday's French elections. See more of the elections NPR has covered since January and upcoming elections that we're closely following here.

In the first round of France's snap parliamentary elections, Marine Le Pen's far-right Rassemblement National (RN) party secured 33.4% of the vote as of this morning, surpassing President Emmanuel Macron's centrist Ensemble alliance, which garnered 20.76%. The left-wing Nouveau Front Populaire (NFP) came second with 27.98%.

High voter turnout has propelled the RN to potentially win the most seats in the National Assembly. The upcoming second round on July 7 is crucial, as Macron's camp and left-wing parties consider strategic withdrawals to spoil RN's chances of getting an absolute majority.

This election marks a significant shift in France's political landscape, potentially leading to a far-right government for the first time since the collaborationist Vichy regime under Nazi occupation. But there is a chance of a parliament with no clear majority, leading to ineffective governance. Macron could then call for another election in a year's time.

A government considered far-right may hurt France’s image overseas, and economists question its policy proposals. But it will do little to limit the extensive powers Macron wields under the French constitutions, especially in foreign and defense policy.

Life Advice

 An illustration of a woman and a cat sleeping before a clock.
/ Abby Ouellette for NPR
Abby Ouellette for NPR
An illustration of a woman and a cat sleeping before a clock.

As you can imagine, I have to be up at an ungodly hour of the day to get this newsletter to you each morning. Today, I'm writing to you more refreshed than ever, thanks to my colleague Clare Marie Schneider's special "Guide to Better Sleep" newsletter series. Last week, she shared experts' best advice for improving your sleep. I learned how diet, exercise and alcohol can affect sleep quality. I rethought how much screen time I got before bed. And I created a new wind-down routine that had me sleeping like a baby. Here's what worked best for me:

  • 😴 I started my to-do list the night before. My mind is always swirling with unfinished tasks. Getting them out on paper before bed helped lower my stress levels and set me up for success the next day.
  • 😴 I moved my body. As a notorious homebody, I begrudgingly admit that walking after dinner helped my digestion and made me feel more relaxed at bedtime. If you struggle to stay active like I do, here's how you can get started.
  • 😴 I changed my iPad habits. My husband and I often do a crossword puzzle before bed. This kept me too engaged and alert, so I've swapped this activity out for an ebook — and made sure the book isn't too exciting.

    3 things to know before you go

An image released by University of Tokyo researchers shows a robot smiling, with the help of mechanical actuators beneath a flexible layer of living skin.
Takeuchi et al. CC-BY-ND
An image released by University of Tokyo researchers shows a robot smiling, with the help of mechanical actuators beneath a flexible layer of living skin.

  1. Researchers have found a way to make robots more lifelike — or scary. Researchers at the University of Tokyo developed a new technology using engineered living skin tissue to give robots a more natural smile.
  2. Dengue infections are surging this year. While the disease is not a major threat in the U.S., the CDC warns summer travelers to be extra careful.
  3. Ross Cooper started trading Pokémon cards in 2018. The 33-year-old is more interested in building community with his hobby than making money. He finds joy in simply giving the cards away, mostly to kids.

This newsletter was edited by Majd Al-Waheidi.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Suzanne Nuyen
[Copyright 2024 NPR]