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5 things to know for July 17: Air quality, Russia, Presidential race, Storms, Iran

By Alexandra Meeks, CNN

(CNN) — College tuition has increased almost 750% since 1963, and it’s only getting more expensive. At highly rated or selective schools — like Harvard — undergraduates can expect to pay more than $95,000 a year, including housing and other expenses. Price tags like this might explain why just 36% of Americans have confidence in higher education, according to a new Gallup poll.

Here’s what else you need to know to Get Up to Speed and On with Your Day.

1. Air quality

Millions of people are under air quality alerts today as Canadian wildfire smoke billows into the US again. Several areas are seeing decreased visibility, including Chicago, Detroit, New York, St. Louis, Cedar Rapids and Cleveland. The entire state of New York is also under an air quality health advisory due to smoke from wildfires in Western Canada. Forecasts show winds will continue to push the smoke eastward, bringing a smoky haze to other parts of the Northeast early this week. Meteorologists expect parts of the US will be at risk of smoke for the foreseeable future as Canada experiences its worst fire season on record. More than 24 million acres have burned in Canada so far this year, an area that is roughly the size of Indiana.

2. Russia

The vital Crimean bridge was hit by strikes early today, halting traffic on the only link between the annexed peninsula and Russia. Two people were killed in the “emergency incident” and inspections are underway to determine the extent of the damage, the Russian Ministry of Transport said. Ukraine’s security service claimed responsibility for the attack, though Kyiv has not responded directly. Earlier this month, Ukraine made what appeared to be the clearest admission yet that its forces were behind an attack on the bridge last year that caused parts of it to collapse. Meanwhile, a crucial deal that allows Ukraine to safely export grain “has been terminated,” the Russian government said. The deal helped stabilize global food prices and brought relief to developing countries that rely on Ukrainian exports. Moscow denied the decision was related to the bridge attack.

3. Presidential race

We are still in the early stages of the race for the Republican presidential nomination, but new campaign finance reports are providing a glimpse of the wide chasm between current fundraising leaders and the rest of the GOP field. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis raised $20 million — a strong total — but his campaign is burning through cash at a rapid rate. Former President Donald Trump, who leads the GOP field in polling, raised $17.7 million during the quarter, despite being indicted twice this year, while former Vice President Mike Pence brought in less than $1.2 million. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden’s campaign appears to be a bare-bones operation. Biden spent just $1.1 million in the second quarter and employed four staffers by June’s end, records show. By contrast, in the same window in 2011, President Barack Obama’s campaign had spent more than $11 million on his reelection effort.

4. Storms

Authorities in southeastern Pennsylvania are searching for two children after raging floodwaters swept them away from their family over the weekend. Five others were killed in the flooding and thousands of others were impacted by power outages. Local, state and federal authorities are assisting in search and recovery efforts in the area for victims. Over the last month, parts of New England and the Northeast have seen 200% to 300% of their average monthly rainfall, leading to last week’s disastrous flooding in parts of Vermont, New York and western Massachusetts. The storms moving across the region have also prompted ground stops at major airports across the Northeast — adding to existing airline issues, including staffing and pilot shortages.

5. Iran

Iran’s morality police will resume patrols to make women comply with strict Islamic dress codes, state media reported Sunday, 10 months after the death of a young woman in their custody triggered nationwide protests. Officers will first warn women who are not complying, while those who “insist on breaking the norms,” may face legal action, a spokesman for Iran’s enforcement body said. The morality police were cast into the international spotlight last September when 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died three days after being arrested by the force for wearing her hijab, or headscarf, incorrectly and taken to a “re-education” center. Inside these facilities, detainees are given classes about Islam and the importance of the hijab and are forced to sign a pledge to abide by the state’s clothing regulations before they are released.

BREAKFAST BROWSE

A $900 million jackpot is up for grabs in today’s Powerball drawing
The odds of winning the massive prize are astronomically low … but it doesn’t hurt to dream, right?

The 2023 Wimbledon champions
Carlos Alcaraz defeated Novak Djokovic, arguably the greatest tennis player in history. And on the women’s side, Markéta Vondroušová delivered a “painful loss” to fan favorite Ons Jabeur.

‘Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One’ was the movie event of the weekend
Tom Cruise is always a crowd-pleaser with his signature stunts. However, the movie’s 3-day box office showing clocked in a bit short of its predecessor.

Jason Aldean says he’s ‘feeling a lot better’ after ending concert early
The country singer said he’s on the mend after suffering a heat-related medical incident during his concert in Connecticut.

Cyclists fall ‘like skittles’ at the Tour de France competition
A number of bicycle riders fell after a fan apparently tried to take a picture. See the pileup here.

IN MEMORIAM

Jane Birkin, the British singer and actress who found fame in France, has died. She was 76. While her relationship with French actor and singer Serge Gainsbourg made Birkin a household name, she became a fashion star in her own right. Notably, she was the inspiration for the famous Birkin bag by French luxury house Hermes.

TODAY’S NUMBER

128°F
That was Sunday’s high temperature in California’s Death Valley, according to the National Weather Service. While this area is commonly known as the hottest place on Earth, the region has only surpassed 130 degrees Fahrenheit a handful of times — one of which is the all-time global record high temperature of 134 degrees.

TODAY’S QUOTE

“They literally ghosted us.”

— A former Twitter Africa employee, telling CNN that several former workers who were laid off after Elon Musk’s acquisition have not received the severance pay that they are owed. Twitter agreed to pay many employees three months’ worth of severance — but seven months have passed and they have not received the money or any further communication, the former employee said.

TODAY’S WEATHER

Check your local forecast here>>>

AND FINALLY…

Beautiful fruits and vegetables you’ve never seen
Have you heard of pichuberries, mashua or ice plant? Meet a man who grows these unfamiliar foods for high-quality restaurants. (Click here to view)

The-CNN-Wire
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