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China launches mission to moon's far side and Kentucky Derby best bets: Morning Rundown

Plus, Trump’s hush money trial will close out another week with more testimony from forensic analyst Doug Daus about data on Michael Cohen’s phone.
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President Joe Biden breaks his silence on campus protests. China launches a probe to the far side of the moon for a first-of-its-kind mission. And election data guru Steve Kornacki weighs in on the Kentucky Derby.

Here’s what to know today.

Why Biden finally spoke out about college campus protests

President Joe Biden finally broke his days of silence over the growing unrest on college campuses across the country, but didn't offer anything new about the White House's stance on the issue.

“There’s the right to protest but not the right to cause chaos,” Biden said during the four-minute speech yesterday. He condemned violent behavior while asking for demonstrators to remain peaceful and lawful. The speech was an acknowledgment that he couldn’t stay silent on the matter for much longer.

Some of the president’s Democratic allies had urged him to comment on the protests, and in recent days, former President Donald Trump has ramped up criticism of the White House’s handling of the turmoil.  

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According to people familiar with the situation, Biden asked his advisers to develop remarks Wednesday, the night after the New York City Police Department cleared protesters from Columbia University. By the time the speech actually happened, hundreds more people had been arrested as police cleared an encampment at UCLA.

Despite the multiplying demonstrations, Biden said they haven’t forced him to reconsider any U.S. policies in the Middle East. Meanwhile, negotiations to release 33 hostages still being held by Hamas in exchange for a six-week pause in fighting reached a critical point this week. 

Read the full story here.

More on the protests at college campuses: 

  • The NYPD has confirmed that a gun was accidentally discharged by an officer while clearing Columbia’s Hamilton Hall earlier this week. Follow live updates. 
  • More than 2,000 people have been arrested in college campus protests in the last three weeks, according to an NBC News tally.
  • Protesters are calling on universities to divest from companies doing business in Israel. But experts say the money flowing into universities can be difficult to follow.

More talk of Cohen’s messages and recordings as Trump trial closes out Week 3

Trump’s hush money trial will close out another week with more testimony from forensic analyst Doug Daus about data on former Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s phone, including text messages and secret recordings. Daus revealed yesterday on the witness stand that more than 39,000 contacts were found on Cohen’s phone, including for Melania Trump and former White House communications director Hope Hicks, as well as some secret recordings and more.

One of the recordings aired in court included part of a conversation between Trump and Cohen about how they should handle repaying National Enquirer publisher David Pecker in a $150,000 settlement with former Playboy model Karen McDougal. “Pay with cash,” Trump is heard telling Cohen. Prosecutors say that Cohen and Trump conspired with Pecker to suppress damaging stories during his 2016 presidential campaign.

During cross-examination, Trump’s attorneys questioned Keith Davidson, a lawyer for McDougal and adult film star Stormy Daniels in 2016, about his involvement in several high-profile celebrity tabloid scandals, including the extortion of pro wrestler Hulk Hogan, a settlement paid by actor Charlie Sheen and leaked info about actor Lindsay Lohan’s stint at a rehab facility.

Here’s what else happened yesterday and what to expect today.

Why the job market seems to be at a standstill

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is expected to report today that around 240,000 jobs were added in April — a slower pace than the 303,000 seen in March. All the while, the U.S. job market increasingly appears to be splitting. “It’s a buyer’s market for brain and a seller’s market for brawn,” said Aaron Terrazas, chief economist at Glassdoor, describing the shift toward skilled labor as white-collar hiring slows.

The health care industry continues to lead the employment boom, adding some 750,000 new jobs in the past year. Government jobs are seeing strong growth, as well as certain sectors of social work, travel, tourism and the arts.

Overall, the labor market is in what economists have labeled the “great stay,” but there is fear among consumers that a more dramatic shift is looming

Steve Kornacki’s guide to the Kentucky Derby

Photo collage of a horse race scoreboard, Steve Kornacki, and a horse running
Leila Register / NBC News; Getty Images

Tomorrow evening, 20 horses will bolt out of the starting gate for the 150th Kentucky Derby. Many will be watching and hoping they picked the Rich Strike of this year’s Run for the Roses. Fierceness is the favorite to take the trophy, despite a peculiar track record — three dominant wins and two total clunkers. And fans will be watching to see if Sierra Leone, a known closer, can build enough steam for a final charge down the homestretch. What will happen during that 1¼ mile race to the wire is anyone’s guess, including Steve Kornacki’s.

Loyal NBC News and MSNBC readers and viewers know Kornacki as a national political correspondent and election data guru. It turns out he is also a huge horse racing fan. And we had questions.

Q: What do you like about horse racing?

A: Every race is a puzzle. You’re never going to solve them all, or even most of them, but the challenge is enthralling and the thrill of actually cracking one is intense.

Q: Describe your perfect Derby hat.

A: I wish I could, but I never wear them and know very little about them!

Q: If you got to name a racehorse, what would you name it?

A: Wishiwasmoreclever

Q: Have you ever ridden a horse?

A: Nope

Luckily, prior horse-riding experience isn’t needed to break down the biggest storylines and best bets for tomorrow’s race. Read the full guide here.

China launches world-first mission to the far side of the moon, revving up U.S. space race

Fred Dufour / NBC News

China launched an uncrewed lunar spacecraft early this morning in a first-of-its-kind mission to bring back samples from the far side of the moon, the latest step in a rapidly advancing space program that is spurring competition with the United States and others. 

The Chang’e 6 lifted off on time at 5:27 p.m. local time (5:27 a.m. ET) from the Wenchang Space Launch Site in China’s southern island province of Hainan.

NBC News was at the launch site, where China’s space breakthrough was cause for a festival-like atmosphere, complete with beach gatherings and souvenir spaceships. 

Britney Spears ‘safe and at home’ after fight at Los Angeles hotel

Britney Spears is “safe and at home” after paramedics responded early yesterday to a fight between the pop star and her boyfriend at a Los Angeles hotel, two sources close to Spears said. Spears injured her foot and wasn’t treated by medical personnel who were summoned to the Chateau Marmont, the sources said, adding that Spears left with her own security and without her boyfriend.

On Instagram, Spears said she twisted her ankle and paramedics “showed up at my door illegally.” They didn’t enter her room, she said, but she felt “completely harassed” and added that she was moving to Boston.

Representatives for Spears did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this specific incident.

Politics in Brief 

Arizona abortion ban: Gov. Katie Hobbs signed a repeal of the state’s Civil War-era, near-total abortion ban. The road ahead on how and what abortion restrictions will be enforced is complicated. 

Russia-Ukraine war: China hasn’t delivered lethal weapons to Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, but it has provided crucial technology and tools for its military, helping shift the battlefield in Russia’s favor, the top U.S. intelligence official said yesterday at a senate hearing.

New benefits: More than 100,000 young immigrants protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, will soon be eligible to receive federal health care coverage, thanks to a new federal rule.

Want more politics news?  Sign up for From the Politics Desk to get exclusive reporting and analysis delivered to your inbox every weekday evening. Subscribe here.

Staff Pick: The home of the fastest growing Asian population in the U.S.

Families in the Belle Mead, who are mostly Indian and Chinese, flock there for the good schools, the friendly, small-town energy, and the safe streets.
Families in Belle Mead, who are mostly Indian and Chinese, flock there for the good schools, the friendly, small-town energy, and the safe streets.Yehyun Kim for NBC News

Belle Mead, a tiny, affluent New Jersey suburb once covered in farmland and sprawling greenery, is home to the fastest growing Asian American population in the U.S., according to the Census Bureau. While the area recorded just four Asian Americans in 2010, the group’s population skyrocketed and now makes up a majority of the hamlet’s 5,569 residents.

I spent some time there and saw how Asian Americans have influenced the local culture. Residents spoke about the celebrations they brought to the town, the activities like cricket and language schools that fostered a sense of community and the educational opportunities that drew them there. This feature looks into not only life in the area, but also the community’s political flavor and what the suburb can teach us about the Asian American electorate. — Kimmy Yam, NBC Asian America reporter

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