It’s a holiday tragedy. At least 12 people were killed and four critically injured when a fire ripped through a five-story apartment building in the Bronx borough of New York City on Thursday night. An infant was among the dead. Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said the fire — the deadliest for the city in more than a quarter-century — was ”historic in its magnitude.” Investigators had yet to determine a cause for the fire on the exceptionally cold night.
The Presidential Daily Brief
It’s part of a pattern. This morning’s attack in Kabul, which killed at least 40 people and wounded dozens more, continues a string of attacks on Shiite Muslim sites — but also on media agencies, which have become targets in recent years. The bombing apparently hit a ceremony to mark the 38th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and a discussion panel with students, many of whom were reportedly among the victims. ISIS has claimed the attack, with some speculating it’s an attempt to provoke Shiite Afghans into sectarian conflict
Now even the shouting is over. The Alabama State Canvassing Board has certified Democratic former prosecutor Doug Jones as the state’s newest U.S. senator after a judge dismissed Republican Roy Moore’s last-minute legal challenge over alleged voter fraud. Jones’ official margin of victory in the Dec. 12 special election to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions was 21,924, or 1.7 percent. He’s the first Democrat to win the seat in 25 years, and the shift trims the GOP advantage in the Senate to 51-49, leaving little room for dissent.
They’re going home for the holidays. Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists have begun one of the largest prisoner swaps since the beginning of their nearly four-year conflict, one mandated by poorly observed 2015 peace agreements. Ukraine sent about 230 prisoners to the rebel-controlled Donetsk region for 74 of their own, fewer than initially announced as dozens refused to return to their home turf. Meanwhile, the U.S. announced last week it will begin sending weapons to help Ukraine’s government continue to wage a war that has so far killed more than 10,000.
They’re over a barrel. Though oil prices are rising worldwide, Venezuela — which has earth’s largest proven oil reserves — is still floundering, with the state oil company mired in corruption. The nation’s economic crisis, partially spurred by plummeting oil prices in recent years, has left refineries in disrepair and oil production at its lowest levels in 30 years. Meanwhile, last month’s appointment of Major General Manuel Quevedo, who has no industry experience, to lead the state oil company and oil ministry is seen as President Nicolas Maduro’s attempt to stop potential coups.
Know This: The Miss America pageant is asking former winners to help lead the organization after a scandal forced the resignation of several top executives. A senior official in the Church of England has criticized American evangelicals who support President Donald Trump. And Apple and Amazon are reportedly holding talks on investment in Saudi Arabia’s high-tech dreams.
Read This: The world of competitive teen dance is normal teen competition ramped up to 11 — with sometimes tear-soaked false eyelashes.
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Those characters add up. Lauded by researchers in 2010 when it decided to collect the entire Twitterverse, the Library of Congress will notch things back for 2018. It’s already collected every tweet — albeit just the text, without attachments or response data — since Twitter’s 2006 launch. While it took three years to hit Twitter’s first billion posts, that number now proliferates in two days. To cut through the noise, America’s premiere archive will now collect Tweets as it does other things: when they appear to have some thematic value.
They’re feeling it. Residents of high-tax regions won’t be able to deduct more than $10,000 in state and local taxes from their federally taxable income after Jan. 1 — a mainly blue-state phenomenon. So some are rushing to pay property taxes early where it’s allowed. The Republican tax overhaul kicking in for 2018 won’t allow that with state income taxes, but it says nothing about property levies. So hundreds of homeowners are betting they can deduct them on 2017 returns, though experts warn that the scheme might backfire for some early payers.
This changes the pecking order. The Trump administration has reversed another Obama-era rule, declaring it won’t prosecute companies that kill birds by accident under the century-old Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which carries a maximum six months imprisonment and a $15,000 fine. The change means oil companies may be treated more gently after a devastating spill. Critics of the change said it removes an incentive to safeguard birds — millions of which die every year from contact with wind turbines, power lines and oil pits.
The only way to win is not to play. The World Health Organization has released a draft of its updated classification of diseases, and it now includes video games on a list of recognized addictions. “Gaming Disorder,” as it’s known, theoretically occurs when gamers can’t function properly, lack control of their playing habits and can’t stop even when negative consequences result. The U.S. version of the list calls for further study of the unofficial disorder, while the final WHO guidelines might still exclude it upon their expected 2018 release.
Call it blanket discrimination. Two young Black players for the NBA G League’s Memphis Hustle were flying economy on American Airlines on Christmas Eve when some first class passengers gave the pair their blankets. But a flight attendant noted the posh amenities, accused them of stealing and kicked them off the plane. The incident corroborates the NAACP’s advisory this fall warning people of color that American Airlines has a reputation for pre-judging passengers. The two men were later flown first class to their destination, and the airline has apologized.