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Rapid Reads: 6 Big stories of the day

Ashley Austrew is a freelance writer who loves tacos, Target and screen time. Her work has appeared on Scary Mommy, The Stir, Mommyish and more.

Democrats prep for their first debate, the Jersey Devil appears & more big news

Full news stories? Ain't nobody got time for that. Here's a quicker look at the top stories everyone will be talking about:

1. Game on

Tonight is the first Democratic presidential debate. It will feature Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, of course, but also Martin O'Malley, Jim Webb, Lincoln Chafee, and they're holding a podium in case Joe Biden decides to run. If you're wondering who the heck three of those people are, it's OK; Trump and the other Republicans have kind of been hogging the spotlight. After tonight, that should be a different story. Be sure to tune in at 8:30 p.m. ET on CNN. — CNN

More: A Democrat's reenactment of the Republican debate

2. Will work for books

Two Democratic senators are pushing legislation that would help make more college textbooks free. Al Franken and Dick Durbin drafted a bill that would create a competitive grant program to support the creation of open college textbooks. The books would be openly licensed, so they could be built on by professors and shared from student to student. Currently, books make up 40 percent of the cost of attending some universities, and 65 percent of college students report not buying a book they needed because it was too expensive. — Daily Kos

3. Not good at all

Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian was convicted of espionage yesterday in an Iranian court. The journalist was arrested over a year ago and charged with spying for the U.S., among other things that both he and the Washington Post vehemently deny. Iran won't release details of the conviction, but Rezaian could face up to 20 years in jail. The U.S. has been trying to organize a prisoner swap with Iran. Perhaps Rezaian is the carrot they're dangling to get us to comply. Either way, that carrot must be terrified, and we feel really bad for him. — Washington Post

More: Mark Zuckerberg ordered to appear before Iranian court

4. They get by with a little help

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has proposed an expansion of a work program that assigns inmates to fight wildfires alongside professional firefighters. Currently, firefighters in the program are non-violent, minimum security inmates. Under the expansion, inmates convicted of violent crimes could also be allowed to join. California has the nation's largest inmate firefighting unit, composed of 3,800 people who provide critical assistance to fire departments. Still, many are concerned about giving violent offenders the chance to work outside prison walls. — TIME

More: Woman gives birth, gets lost and starts a forest fire to get rescued

5. Mission: Possible

NASA has published an official three-phase plan for putting humans on Mars by 2030. A 36-page report explains the technology and funding that will be needed to make the mission a reality. The plans indicate the mission will be "earth independent," meaning they want people to stay there for a while. They also emphasize the importance of making the mission a collaborative effort with other nations. NASA is already doing research into long-term human spaceflight, space suits and habitats, so as long as they keep a steady flow of funds coming in, we're going to Mars, humans! — IFLScience

6. Jersey Devil

A New Jersey man claims to have had a run-in with the infamous Jersey Devil. He was driving past a golf course one night when he saw what appeared to be a llama with "leathery wings." He snapped a few photos, but only one turned out. Now, the internet is abuzz trying to decide if it's for real. The Jersey Devil is a part of folklore, much like the Loch Ness monster. For 200 years, people in the area have claimed sightings but it's never been confirmed. Here's a video from another supposed sighting:

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