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Biden struggled, Trump lied. Debate takeaways, plus what to do this weekend

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

At last night’s debate, President Joe Biden struggled to find his voice, while former president Donald Trump leaned on familiar falsehoods. The first presidential debate did little to ease fears about the candidates’ ages. They are scheduled to face off again on Sept. 10.

President Joe Biden and former President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump participate in the first presidential debate of the 2024 elections at CNN's studios in Atlanta, Georgia, on June 27, 2024.
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
President Joe Biden and former President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump participate in the first presidential debate of the 2024 elections at CNN's studios in Atlanta, Georgia, on June 27, 2024.

  • 🎧 Trump focused his energy on Biden’s handling of immigration, but political correspondent Danielle Kurtzleben told Up First that meant he didn’t speak to other key topics like child care, addiction and concerns about the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Scott Horsley, who covers the economy, similarly noted that the debate lacked clear economic plans from both candidates. Instead, it was filled with finger-pointing and dubious claims. NPR immigration reporter Sergio Martínez-Beltrán noted that Trump didn’t respond when asked about his plan to deport undocumented immigrants.
  • 🔍 Here are three fact checks of claims made during the debate related to immigration from both candidates.


NPR's Domenico Montanaro analyzes the key points of the debate and writes:

Biden clearly did not have a good debate Thursday night — and it has set off a brand-new round of worries in Democratic circles.

“Sometimes the spin don’t spin,” one Democratic strategist told me during the first general-election presidential ate.

Others are going so far as to say that the party might need to think about replacing Biden at the Democratic National Convention this summer. That’s highly unlikely, but the 81-year-old’s performance did nothing to reassure the kinds of voters who already had concerns about Biden's age and ability to handle four more years in office.

That said, even though Biden woefully underperformed and Republicans are thrilled with the debate, Trump had some rough moments, too. He spread myriad falsehoods, did little to credibly defend his conduct on and before the Jan. 6 siege on the Capitol, and he used the kind of hyperbolic and vituperative language that has long turned off swing voters.

Americans have said they are unhappy with their choices, and in this, the biggest moment yet of the 2024 presidential campaign, it was clear why. — Domenico Montanaro.

All Oklahoma schools are required to incorporate the Bible and the Ten Commandments in their curriculums, the state’s chief education officer announced in a memorandum Thursday. At a State Board of Education meeting, Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters said the Bible is “one of the most foundational documents used for the Constitution and the birth of our country.” The announcement drew immediate backlash.

  • 🎧 Beth Wallis, an education reporter for nonprofit news outlet StateImpact Oklahoma, tells Up First that Oklahoma law is very clear that decisions on textbooks, curriculum and instructional materials fall exclusively under the purview of school districts — not the state department that Walters is in charge of. She adds that the civil liberty group Americans United for Separation of Church and State said in a statement it would do everything in its power to stop the mandate.


Iranians are voting to elect a successor to the late Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash last month. For hardliners who want more power, the goal is to maintain their grip on the presidency, and critics say the Guardian Council – which controls the selection of candidates -- has laid the groundwork for that to happen. That is not the same as keeping a grip on power. In Iran, the power to make major decisions rests with Iran’s Supreme Leader. Here’s what to know about who’s running for president, and why the result is important.

Every weekday, NPR’s international correspondents report on global elections — and provide an international perspective on the upcoming U.S. election. Listen to them on the State of the World.

From our hosts

This essay was written by Morning Edition and Up First host, Michel Martin.

Be honest: if I asked you, who is “poor” in America, what do they look like, where do they live—what face do you see?

Rev. William Barber II thinks too many people have a Black or brown face in mind — and frankly that’s just not true—or all of the truth, or even most of it.

He’s got a new book titled White Poverty (written with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove) where he digs into the fact that, among the 140 million people in America who are technically considered poor or low income, 66 million are white.

That’s almost three times as many white people as the 24 million black people who are poor or low income.

Rev. Barber is African American, a MacArthur genius grant winner, a prolific author best known as a civil rights activist, a longtime NAACP chapter President. He led many demonstrations over many months in North Carolina to highlight actions he thought the legislature was taking that harmed and disenfranchised low income, and yes, Black people.

He says he wrote this book because he thinks demagogues have racialized poverty in a way that has made it easy for those in leadership to ignore it and even make it worse.

There’s a scripture in the New Testament (Matthew 26:11) that says “the poor you will always have with you.”

Rev. Barber says, maybe not. What do you think? Listen to our conversation here.

Weekend picks

 Mother and daughter Janet (Julianne Nicholson) and Lacy (Zoe Ziegler) share a slow New England summer in  <em>Janet Planet.</em>
Courtesy of A24 /
Mother and daughter Janet (Julianne Nicholson) and Lacy (Zoe Ziegler) share a slow New England summer in Janet Planet.

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

🍿 Movies: Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Annie Baker shines with her debut film, Janet Planet. Set in the summer of 1991, this sharply funny and exceptionally quiet narrative follows 11-year-old Lacy (Zoe Ziegler) in Western Massachusetts as she observes her mother, Janet (Julianne Nicholson), navigate a series of relationships.

📺 TV: The Bear is back for its third season. Linda Holmes from Pop Culture Happy Hour loves its creativity and boldness, even with some tricky moments. The show switched things up each season, much like Carmy’s menu, which sometimes leads to misses but shows off everything it can do.

📚 Books: Science journalist Sadie Dingfelder is one of 10 million Americans with face blindness (prosopagnosia), making it hard for her to recognize familiar faces and recall detailed memories of people. In her new book, Do I Know You? she explores the science of sight, memory and imagination.

🎵 Music: Discovering new songs on NPR's All Songs Considered on Spotify has been a favorite highlight. NPR Music's Stephen Thompson and Anamaria Sayre give you the lowdown on Omar Apollo's new LP, Lil Yachty's collaboration with James Blake, and the fourth album by Hiatus Kaiyote.

Quiz: Is your dog ugly? Find out in this week's news quiz.

3 things to know before you go

"Beethoven" (1936). A new study suggests the German composer and pianist may have suffered from lead poisoning.
The Print Collector / Getty Images
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Getty Images
"Beethoven," (1936). A new study suggests the German composer and pianist may have suffered from lead poisoning.

  1. Beethoven, known for his classical and romantic compositions, had high levels of lead in his body. New tests on his hair suggest this lead exposure may have contributed to his health problems.
  2. A giant sinkhole caved in at the center of a soccer field in Illinois. The 100-foot hole, caught on video Wednesday morning, is the result of a collapsed mine, according to the Alton Telegraph.
  3. LeBron James and his son Bronny are set to team up in a historic first for the NBA. The Los Angeles Lakers drafted Bronnyin the second round, paving the way for them to be the first father-son duo on an NBA team.

This newsletter was edited by Obed Manuel.

Copyright 2024 NPR

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Majd Al-Waheidi
Majd Al-Waheidi is the digital editor on Morning Edition, where she brings the show's journalism to online audiences. Previously, Al-Waheidi was a reporter for the New York Times in the Gaza Strip, where she reported about a first-of-its-kind Islamic dating site, and documented the human impact of the 2014 Israel-Gaza war in a collaborative visual project nominated for an Emmy Award. She also reported about Wikipedia censorship in Arabic for Rest of World magazine, and investigated the abusive working conditions of TikTok content moderators for Business Insider. Al-Waheidi has worked at the International Center for Religion & Diplomacy, and holds a master's degree in Arab Studies from the Georgetown School of Foreign Service. A native of Gaza, she speaks Arabic and some French, and is studying Farsi.