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5 Things to know for June 24: Debate countdown, Dagestan attacks, Middle East, Hajj heat, Starliner

By Alexandra Banner, CNN

(CNN) — A shiny monolith discovered in a mountain range near Las Vegas prompted theories of alien life, and has now been taken down by authorities. Police described the mysterious structure as a risk to public safety, saying they didn’t want eager tourists to become stranded in the vast desert attempting to locate it. Here’s what else you need to know to Get Up to Speed and On with Your Day.

1. Debate countdown

The Biden and Trump campaigns are making their final preparations for CNN’s presidential debate on Thursday. Both teams have spent weeks honing their messages on an array of issues, from the economy to foreign affairs to abortion. President Joe Biden has sought to rally potential voters around reproductive rights, especially young female blocs that are crucial to his reelection chances. His campaign is hosting dozens of events across the country today to mark two years since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade and the federal legal right to an abortion. Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump praised Supreme Court justices over the weekend for their role in tightening state-level restrictions on abortion and limiting access to the procedure.

2. Dagestan attacks

Three days of mourning have been declared in Russia’s Dagestan province after at least 19 people were killed Sunday in what appeared to be coordinated attacks against churches, synagogues and police posts. Dagestan is home to a small Christian minority and even smaller Jewish population that appeared to be among the targets. The victims include 15 police officers, an Orthodox priest and four civilians, according to local authorities. No group has yet claimed responsibility. The attacks come three months after ISIS affiliate ISIS-K said it carried out an assault at the Crocus City Hall in Moscow that claimed more than 140 lives in one of Russia’s deadliest terrorist atrocities in years. Russian law enforcement agencies told state-run news agency TASS on Sunday that the gunmen in Dagestan were “adherents of an international terrorist organization.”

3. Middle East

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that the “intense phase of the war with Hamas (in Gaza) is about to end,” and the military’s focus could then shift to Israel’s northern border with Lebanon. On the ground, around 800,000 people have been displaced from the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where conditions have been described by the United Nations food agency as “apocalyptic.” Netanyahu has come under increasing pressure from members of his government and Israel’s allies, including the US, to minimize civilian casualties and allow for more humanitarian aid to reach the Gaza Strip.

4. Hajj heat wave

More than 1,300 people died on this year’s Hajj pilgrimage with numerous cases due to heat stress as temperatures exceeded 125 degrees Fahrenheit in Saudi Arabia. More than 1.8 million worshipers took part in the pilgrimage despite the dangerous heat, according to Saudi Arabian authorities. Performing Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, which requires every Muslim who is physically and financially able to make the journey to the holy city of Mecca at least once in their life. Many Muslims save for years and complete the pilgrimage in their old age, leaving them especially susceptible to the heat. The Saudi government said a majority of the dead were “unauthorized to perform Hajj” and “walked long distances under direct sunlight, without adequate shelter or comfort.”

5. Starliner

Boeing and NASA have once again delayed the Boeing Starliner capsule’s return to Earth from the International Space Station. Officials have pushed back Starliner’s departure date several times after the vehicle, which launched astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams to the space station on June 5, experienced helium leaks en route. NASA has indicated the return of Starliner’s inaugural crew won’t come until July. “We are taking our time and following our standard mission management team process,” said Steve Stich, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager, in a Friday statement. Stich also said the vehicle was safe and there was no reason to believe it could not complete the journey home.


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Climate protestors disrupt end of PGA tour event

Activists threw a powdery substance on the course which delayed play for several minutes Sunday at the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship.

USA crashes out of T20 Cricket World Cup

The US ended its run at the T20 Men’s Cricket World Cup with a gut-wrenching defeat against England.

Taylor Swift stuns London crowd by bringing Travis Kelce on stage during Eras Tour concert

The pop star surprised her fans with a special skit featuring her Super Bowl champ boyfriend. See the moment here.

Barcelona ending apartment rentals by foreign tourists

The Spanish city announced it will bar apartment rentals to tourists by 2028.



That’s the age of Virginia “Ginger” Hislop, a master’s student who recently walked the stage at Stanford University to receive her education degree for coursework she completed in 1941.


Let this be a place where individuals find strength to bolster the collective and to root out evil.

— Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, as ground was broken on Sunday for a new building at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, where 11 people lost their lives in a hate crime shooting in 2018. The location will house a memorial and museum to combat antisemitism.


Women in the military draft? 

Capitol Hill is debating who should qualify for the draft as the US faces a shortage of military personnel. See lawmakers’ mixed reactions to a proposed bill that would expand the draft to women.

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