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Up First briefing: Extreme heat; pandemic fraud; Supreme Court election theory ruling

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

A cyclist passes through a park during an evening ride, Monday, June 26, 2023, in San Antonio.
Eric Gay / AP
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AP
A cyclist passes through a park during an evening ride, Monday, June 26, 2023, in San Antonio.

Millions of people in much of the Southern U.S. are under extreme heat advisories. In Texas, residents have experienced 100-degree temperatures for three weeks and counting. (via KERA)

  • Several cities in Texas are seeing record-breaking heat index numbers, according to KUT's Mose Buchele. He reports on Up First today at least nine heat-related deaths have occurred, though some are still under investigation.
  •  Here's how to stay safe if you're experiencing extreme heat in your area.
  • A federal watchdog estimates that at least $200 billion of the $1.2 trillion federal aid given to businesses by the Small Business Administration during the pandemic was potentially fraudulent. The Office of the Inspector General claims in a new report that the rush to provide pandemic aid made it easier for scammers to get loans for non-existent businesses and have them forgiven.

  • NPR's Martin Kaste says the Biden administration is pushing back, saying potential fraud isn't actual fraud. Gene Sperling, a senior advisor to Biden, tells Kaste he predicts the $200 billion figure will be much lower once the cases are examined more closely.
  • The Supreme Court rejected the independent state legislature theory in a 6-3 ruling yesterday. Advocates of the theory want to give state legislatures ultimate authority over federal elections. The court's ruling means state courts and constitutions can protect voting rights.

  • On Morning Edition, Richard Pildes, a constitutional law professor at NYU, says the main point of the decision is that state legislatures have always had to "operate pursuant to their constitutions."
  • This is what the court's decision means for elections.
  • After completing a visit to the detention center at U.S. naval station Guantánamo Bay, a U.N. investigator says prisoners still face "cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment and that the site should be closed. The first official U.N. investigator to visit Guantánamo Bay, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, found "near-constant surveillance, forced cell extractions, [and] undue use of restraints" at the facility, where 30 men remain detained.

    Picture show

    Patrons at a club in Kharkiv hold sparklers in the darkened room. Despite the ongoing war, people are still finding a way release tension in nightclubs in the the battered city.
    / Claire Harbage/NPR
    /
    Claire Harbage/NPR
    Patrons at a club in Kharkiv hold sparklers in the darkened room. Despite the ongoing war, people are still finding a way release tension in nightclubs in the the battered city.

    Despite more than a year of war in Ukraine, regular missile strikes and power outages, the party goes all night long at a basement club in Kharkiv. See photos of residents dancing the night away and shouting lyrics under flashing red, blue and green lights.

    From our hosts

    Left: A selfie Michel Martin took with Virginia Johnson. Right: A poster of the Dance Theatre of Harlem on Michel Martin's wall.
    Michel Martin / NPR
    /
    NPR
    Left: A selfie Michel Martin took with Virginia Johnson. Right: A poster of the Dance Theatre of Harlem on Michel Martin's wall.

    This essay was written by Michel Martin, Morning Edition's newest host. She's previously hosted Weekend All Things Considered, the Consider This Saturday podcast and Tell Me More.

    As a little girl, I could think of few things more magical than being a ballerina. It's interesting because I don't think I saw a professional ballet until I was an adult. Television? Maybe...my family didn't always have a TV (don't ask, ok?).

    That dream — sparkly tutus, glittering headpieces and twirling — is common for little girls.

    But it is mostly a dream. Ballet training is expensive. Professional opportunities are few, especially for dancers of color. The classic "white ballets" (which refers to the costumes) are rooted in the white European aesthetic.

    So imagine the radical notion of a Dance Theatre of Harlem: a school and company founded by Arthur Mitchell to train and showcase dancers of color, especially black dancers.

    Virginia Johnson, one of the founding members, returned as Artistic Director after 28 years as a dancer to bring the company back from a years-long period of financial turmoil. Having achieved that, she is about to embark on a new adventure.

    When we sat down at the company's rehearsal studios in New York, it took me a minute to shake off being starstruck. It was as if she came off the poster on my wall — which I still have as you can see!

    But she was no diva. She was warm, kind and very much of this earth. Her message: Dance is human, ballet is for everyone, and so is the magic.

    3 things to know before you go

    Barbara Romero and her son Daniel.
    / Barbara Romero
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    Barbara Romero
    Barbara Romero and her son Daniel.

  • Before Barbara Romero's son Daniel was diagnosed with schizophrenia, she and her husband struggled with his behavior. She says a call to her unsung hero, a social worker, transformed her perspective of her son's condition.
  • Chris Gloninger left his job as a meteorologist because of threats he got over his climate change coverage. Now, he's tackling climate change more directly.
  • The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Office confirmed actor Julian Sands' death after his remains were found on California's Mount Baldy. Sands, known for his role in A Room with a View, was last seen hiking Mount Baldy in January.
  • This newsletter was edited by Majd Al-Waheidi.

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

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