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Background Checks, Iowa, Little Penguins: Your Friday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest.

ImageCreditCalla Kessler/The New York Times

1. President Trump asserted the need for “intelligent background checks,” less than a week after two mass shootings left 31 people dead.

Mr. Trump also said that the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, supported the idea. But there were no new major signals from the National Rifle Association, the White House or Capitol Hill that action on guns was closer to compromise or resolution.

Separately, the suspect in the El Paso massacre told the police that he was targeting “Mexicans,” according to an affidavit. “I’m the shooter,” he said. Above, mourners in El Paso this week.


ImageCreditChang W. Lee/The New York Times

2. Democrats want to name President Trump’s big donors. His supporters say it’s harassment.

Drawing attention to those who fund campaigns is not a new tactic in politics, but the question of how much should be publicly disclosed has been raised repeatedly. Progressives looking to express their anger at Mr. Trump have threatened to boycott businesses owned by people who support him.

The issue came to a head this week when news surfaced that Stephen Ross, above, a SoulCycle and Equinox investor is raising money for Mr. Trump in the Hamptons Friday. This is what happened at a SoulCycle class in the Hamptons on Thursday morning.


ImageCreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

3. In Iowa, the race is on to beat Joe Biden.

As 2020 candidates descend on the Iowa State Fair for a packed schedule of cattle calls, bus tours and America’s best selection of fried food on sticks, many of the candidates are jockeying to become the leading rival to the former vice president.

This summer has been full of predictions about an early Biden demise as a presidential candidate, be it from a poor debate performance or some gaffes, like his comment Thursday that “poor kids” are just as bright as “white kids.” But Mr. Biden has rebounded repeatedly.


ImageCreditWhitney Curtis for The New York Times

4. “We’re not stopping until we get justice.”

Michael Brown Sr., above, called for a new investigation into his son’s death, five years to the day after Michael Brown Jr. was fatally shot by a Ferguson, Mo., police officer. Both state and federal prosecutors declined to charge the officer, who resigned after the shooting.

The energy of the street protests has faded, but the movement that gained steam in Ferguson carries on in national conversations about race, and in the lives of the people who were there. We talked with activists who emerged from the demonstrations in Ferguson.

Four Times photographers were sent to cover the unrest in the days after the shooting. They reflected on their work.


ImageCreditOne Concern

5. Major cities are turning to an A.I. start-up to help save lives during natural disasters. But some fear its promise has been dangerously exaggerated.

A Times investigation found that One Concern inflated its tools’ abilities and kept outside experts from reviewing its methodology. Now, San Francisco, an early adopter of One Concern, is ending its contract with the service, in part because of concerns about whether its predictions are trustworthy. Above, three versions of a One Concern product gave very different damage predictions for the same hypothetical 7.0-magnitude Seattle-area earthquake.

Separately, a revised prediction from federal forecasters sees the potential for as many as 17 named storms this hurricane season, four of which may be major. The new analysis suggests that an above-average season is substantially more likely than the agency first predicted in May.


ImageCreditRosem Morton for The New York Times

6. Summer in the city is hot. But some neighborhoods are hotter than others.

Researchers mapped the heatscapes of five American cities, including Baltimore, above, and found that temperatures on a scorching summer day can vary by as much as 20 degrees across different parts of the same city, with poor or minority neighborhoods often bearing the brunt of that heat.

In other climate news, Iceland is preparing for a future without ice. As global warming reshapes the country’s landscape, businesses and the government are spending millions for survival and profit.


ImageCreditJessica McGowan for The New York Times

7. Many of us have spent weekends mowing the lawn, voluntarily or not. But the history of that tradition isn’t so clear cut.

Originally inspired by European landscape design after the Revolutionary War, lawns went on to become iconic symbols of an American dream, the pride of homeownership and community. That dream is recognized by most, but attainable only to some. And now, we have a better understanding of how maintaining lawns contributes to climate change.

So why do we even have lawns in the first place? Our video team traced their history.


ImageCreditCharlie Riedel/Associated Press

8. Two flips, three twists.

At the national gymnastics championships on Friday night, Simone Biles will try to become the first woman to land a triple-double in the floor exercise competition. The world’s leading gymnast is on a quest for a record-tying sixth national title.

The triple-double is a skill that, until this point, has been performed only on the men’s side, where it is still rare. None of the men at the national championships are expected to try one, and most of Biles’s competitors can’t even do a double-double.


ImageCreditRose Marie Cromwell for The New York Times

9. “It’s hard-core explicit content, that is really the definition of dancehall.”

Known for its raunchy, sexual lyrics and provocative style, Jamaican dancehall has long been dominated by men. The popular music genre, which first took hold on the island in the late 1970s, is now in the midst of a global revival, one dominated by women like Spice, above. We talked to four women who are changing the language of the genre.

“On stage, I’m so extra aggressive and I’m so lewd and I put on this feisty persona,” she said. “I’m a different person than the Spice they see on stage.”


ImageCreditAsanka Brendon Ratnayake for The New York Times

10. And finally, a parade of the world’s smallest penguins.

It’s been a magical rite of passage on Phillip Island in Australia since the 1920s: watching thousands of tiny birds waddle out of the surf as night falls. For some time, the penguins coexisted with a coastal housing development. But in 1985, the government took the extraordinary step of removing every home in the area in order to save the birds.

The little penguins (yes, that’s their official name), averaging 13 inches tall, are now thriving. There are about 31,000 breeding penguins on the peninsula, up from 12,000 in the 1980s.

Happy feet, happy weekend.


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