AP / Reuters News

Good morning. Here is today's selection of top stories from The Associated Press and Reuters to begin the day. 

Kentucky tornado death doll in the dozens; Tornado-hit Kentucky town grieves; Afghan Taliban leaders seek ties with the U.S.; North Korea's dictator at crossroads amid failing economic, nukes promise; Meadows faces contempt charges in Capitol insurrection probe. In other news:

  • The western U.S. faces major winter storm
  •  Hungary's media, health experts seek more COVID-19 data
  • UAE's new law unclear on babies born to unwed mothers
  • Quilts honor victims of racial violence in the U.S.

Menelaos Hadjicostis

The Associated Press

Advancing the Power of Facts

The Rundown

 

Tornado toll in dozens, yet not as high as initially feared | AP News

MAYFIELD, Ky. (AP) — Night-shift workers were in the middle of the holiday rush, cranking out candles at Mayfield Consumer Products when a tornado closed in on the factory and the word went out to seek shelter...Read More

 

"Y'all pray for Mayfield": Town grieves in tornado aftermath | AP News

MAYFIELD, Ky. (AP) — Judy Burton’s hands shivered as she gazed up at what had been her third-floor apartment. She could see her clothes still hanging in the closet, through the building's shredded walls. ...Read More

 

The AP Interview: Taliban seek ties with the US, other ex-foes | AP News

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers are committed in principle to education and jobs for girls and women, a marked departure from their previous time in power, and seek the world’s “mercy ...Read More

 

North Korea's Kim at critical crossroads decade into rule | AP News

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Too young. Too weak. Too inexperienced. Since taking power following his father’s sudden death 10 years ago, Kim Jong Un has erased the widespread doubts that greeted his early attempt...Read More

 

Jan. 6 panel set to vote on holding Meadows in contempt | AP News

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House panel investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection is set to recommend contempt charges against former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Monday as lawmakers are releasing ne...Read More

 

OTHER TOP STORIES

Rain, snowfall as California braces for the brunt of storm | AP News

The Western U.S. is bracing for the brunt of a major winter storm expected to hit Monday, bringing travel headaches, the threat of localized flooding, and some relief in an ...Read More

Hungary's media, health experts seek more COVID-19 data | AP News

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — As coronavirus infections and deaths soar in Hungary, the country's journalists and public health professionals are demanding more detailed data on...Read More

After UAE law change, out-of-wedlock babies still in shadows | AP News

SHARJAH, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Over a dozen unmarried women huddled in a jail cell south of Dubai last year, locked up for the crime of giving birth when a guard ent...Read More

'Away we resist': Quilts honor victims of racial violence | AP News

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Long after he was killed, Myrtle Green-Burton wouldn't let anyone wear her 17-year-old son's high school track team jacket. James Earl Green, an aspiring...Read More

“There are only two forces that can carry light to all the corners of the globe … the sun in the heavens and The Associated Press down here.”

Mark Twain

 

Hello

Here's what you need to know.

Biden declares a major disaster in Kentucky after deadly tornadoes, rescuers pull more bodies from rubble after Sicily explosion and the EU hesitates over a possible Olympic boycott in China.

Today's biggest stories

Damage and debris after a devastating outbreak of tornadoes ripped through several U.S. states, in Mayfield, Kentucky, U.S., December 12, 2021. REUTERS/Cheney Orr

The U.S.

President Joe Biden declared a major federal disaster in Kentucky after a swarm of deadly tornadoes hit the state on Friday, paving the way for additional federal aid, the White House said.

As part of the declaration, federal aid will be provided to affected individuals in the counties of Caldwell, Fulton, Graves, Hopkins, Marshall, Muhlenberg, Taylor, and Warren.

Amazon cargo driver Austin J. McEwen, 26, was an only child who loved to listen to rapper Mac Miller and hunt with his friends. He died trying to shelter from a tornado in the bathroom at an Amazon warehouse on Friday night, according to a coworker.

The United States reached 800,000 coronavirus-related deaths, according to a Reuters tally, as the nation braces for a potential surge in infections due to more time spent indoors with colder weather and the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

Mark Meadows, who served as Republican former President Donald Trump's chief of staff, said in an email ahead of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot that the U.S. National Guard would "protect pro-Trump people," a congressional committee said in a report.

A publicist accused of pressuring a Georgia election worker to confess to false allegations of committing voter fraud was not “associated” with Kanye West at the time she visited the worker, West's representative said.

Rescuers work at the site of a gas explosion that caused several houses to collapse in Ravanusa, Italy, on December 13, 2021. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

World

Rescuers have pulled four more bodies out of the rubble of houses destroyed by a suspected gas explosion in the Sicilian town of Ravanusa, bringing the total death toll to seven, the fire brigade said.

France and the Netherlands are seeking to find a common European Union approach over a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Olympic Games in China but any decision is unlikely to be reached soon, diplomats and foreign ministers said.

Two cargo ships collided during foggy conditions in the Baltic Sea between the Danish island of Bornholm and the southern Swedish city of Ystad, and a rescue operation was launched for two missing people, authorities said.

Britain said that the Omicron coronavirus variant was spreading at a "phenomenal rate" and now accounted for about 40% of infections in London, so people should get a booster shot because the double-vaccinated are still vulnerable.

France will be hit by a sixth COVID-19 wave next month due to the emergence of the more contagious Omicron variant while the country is still in the midst of the current, Delta-fueled, fifth wave of the pandemic, according to a leading French hospital executive.

President Vladimir Putin has lamented the collapse of the Soviet Union three decades ago as the demise of what he called "historical Russia" and said the economic crisis that followed was so bad he was forced to moonlight as a taxi driver.

The City of London financial district is seen in London, Britain, on October 22, 2021. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Business

Bankers and regulators will be at their screens on New Year's Eve to see if what was once dubbed the world's most important number slips quietly into the history books. The London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor, is finally being switched off.

Investors managing $4.1 trillion in assets are urging the world's biggest chemicals companies to phase out the production of hazardous substances which linger in the environment and have been linked to serious health problems.

Chinese artificial intelligence start-up SenseTime Group postponed its $767 million Hong Kong initial public offering after being placed on a U.S. investment blacklist.

Ivory Coast cashew processors are being driven towards bankruptcy by Asian exporters who buy up all the local supply, thwarting a government plan to invigorate the sector, company sources said.

Quote of the day

"We needed a bit of luck and we got it."

Christian Horner

Team Principal of Red Bull Racing

Max Verstappen wins his first Formula One championship in last lap drama

Video of the day

California plans gun law based on Texas abortion ban

California Governor Gavin Newsom said he plans to use a controversial U.S. Supreme Court ruling on strict abortion curbs in Texas to design a law that would allow private citizens to sue some gun manufacturers, distributors, and sellers.

And finally…

Deepfake anyone? AI synthetic media tech enters perilous phase

 

How increasingly sophisticated technology is applied is one of the complexities facing synthetic media software, where machine learning is used to digitally model faces from images and then swap them into films as seamlessly as possible.