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Biden focuses on outreach to Black Americans; Billie Eilish finds herself

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Today's top stories

President Biden is set to meet with leaders from a group of Black sororities and fraternities today. On Sunday, he'll deliver the commencement address at Morehouse College, a leading historically Black school in Georgia. Biden has had strong support from Black voters in the past. This time, not everyone is as enthusiastic. Recent polling shows just 38% of Black Americans feel Biden's policies have helped Black people. At Morehouse, some faculty members wrote a letter in opposition of awarding the president an honorary degree due to his policies on the war in Gaza. They ultimately voted to give Biden the degree.

  • NPR's Asma Khalid tells Up First that some protests are expected during the graduation ceremony. Martin Luther King Jr. is an alum of Morehouse, and a student tells her that they take pride in the idea that their school is "built on a legacy of peaceful protest." Another tells her that Morehouse is a school known for "Black male excellence," and he doesn't believe that Biden has the capability to inspire them. 


Louisiana could become the first state in the country to categorize mifepristone and misoprostol — the drugs used in medical abortions — as controlled dangerous substances. State and federal regulations for these substances aim to control access based on the drug's medical benefit and potential for abuse. The bill moving through the Louisiana legislature would create penalties of up to 10 years in prison for anyone caught with the drugs without a valid prescription. Doctors opposed to the decision say a "false perception that these are dangerous drugs" could lead to "fear and confusion among patients, doctors, and pharmacists, which delays care and worsens outcomes" in a state with high rates of maternal injury and death.

  • Workers at a Mercedes-Benz auto plant in Alabama could make history today. As a union election wraps up this morning, the plant could become the first in the state to unionize. Workers want lower health care costs, more predictability in their schedules and an end to the "Alabama discount," which refers to the tendency for companies to pay workers less in the deep South. 


The South has been a tough place for unions in the past, NPR's Andrea Hsu says. The United Auto Workers Union has tried to organize there for decades, but workers just weren't interested. Hsu says there's been some acknowledgement that the reason jobs even existed in the region was because it's cheaper to make cars there. But the UAW's recent wins following the strike against the Big Three automakers, Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, has renewed interest in unionizing.

Picture show

A Phoenix Herpetological Society rattlesnake class attendee moves to pick up a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake with snake tongs under the supervision of instructor Cale Morris at the Florence Ely Nelson Desert Park in Scottsdale, Arizona.
/ Caitlin O'Hara for NPR
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Caitlin O'Hara for NPR
A Phoenix Herpetological Society rattlesnake class attendee moves to pick up a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake with snake tongs under the supervision of instructor Cale Morris at the Florence Ely Nelson Desert Park in Scottsdale, Arizona.

During rattlesnake season in Arizona, the Phoenix Herpetological Sanctuary holds classes for the public and businesses. As people are trained to handle rattlesnakes, they learn how basically everything they thought they knew about the creatures is a myth. The practice could prove helpful, as Arizona saw a surge in rattlesnake bites in April.

See photos of students in action with the slithery creatures, and learn about common rattlesnake misconceptions.

Weekend picks

Bridgerton. (L to R) Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton, Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in episode 303 of Bridgerton. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024
/ Liam Daniel/Netflix
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Liam Daniel/Netflix
Bridgerton. (L to R) Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton, Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in episode 303 of Bridgerton. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024

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

Movies: Evil Does Not Exist — or does it? This Japanese eco-drama about the residents of a bucolic woodland community who face off against a developer with big plans for the land will leave you rapt — and profoundly unnerved.

TV: You can bet that as soon as I'm done with work today I'll be parked on my couch binge-watching the newest season of Bridgerton. TGIF!

Books: Honor Levy's My First Book is a short story collection that provides an amusing, if sometimes uneven take about what it's like to grow up white, privileged, and Gen Z.

Music: Alongside her brother Finneas, Billie Eilish tells Morning Edition that she discovered a new self-awareness on her latest album, Hit Me Hard and Soft.

Theater: Giacomo Puccini's Turandot, of the world's most famous operas, has premiered at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. with a whole new ending.

Quiz: Happy one year anniversary to the NPR News Quiz! How long have you been playing? See if you remember the answer to this week's throwback bonus question.

3 things to know before you go

Kansas City Chiefs player Harrison Butker, pictured at a press conference in February, is in hot water for his recent commencement speech at Benedictine College in Kansas.
Chris Unger / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Kansas City Chiefs player Harrison Butker, pictured at a press conference in February, is in hot water for his recent commencement speech at Benedictine College in Kansas.

  1. The NFL has made a statement distancing itself from a commencement speech made by Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker at Benedictine College. In it, he denounced abortion rights, Pride Month, COVID-19 lockdowns, "the tyranny of diversity, equity and inclusion," and urged women to be homemakers.
  2. An unfortunate mistake at Georgia State University in Atlanta caused 1,500 people who applied for admission to receive acceptance letters by mistake. 
  3. About two dozen advocates are at the U.S. Capitol this week to call for the renewal of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, which expires in June. People who live near the areas where nuclear weapons were tested say their communities still suffer harm and want Congress to continue providing funding to help them.

This newsletter was edited by Majd Al-Waheidi.

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