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December 13, 2018

'Twas a few weeks before Christmas, and all through one U.K. Christmas festival, things were most definitely stirring. Namely the festival's Santa Claus impersonator.

The English town of St. Ives was trying to host a peaceful holiday affair on Sunday, where Santa was slated to arrived by boat with his Chief Snowman. But a "family rave" — not affiliated with the festival — was thumping below Santa's "grotto," as the festival described it. And when an alarm went off thanks to the rave's smoke machine, Santa started acting "very strangely," parents tell Cambridgeshire Live.

As the festival describes it, Santa "immediately assisted in the evacuation of the building." By parents' accounts, he ripped off his hat and beard and yelled at kids "to get the f--k out," per Cambridgeshire Live. Parents later complained on Facebook that Santa was "an absolute disgrace" in front of "50 odd kids," and said they were "not too sure why he was so cross," per CNN.

The DJ at the event seems to have an explanation for Santa's conduct. "He probably sat there trying to talk to kids with thumping music playing," he told The Irish Times, adding that "the fire alarm going off was probably the final straw for him." The festival apologized for "any offense or distress caused to parents and children," and hasn't said whether the same Santa will sail into his grotto again this weekend. Kathryn Krawczyk

7:00 a.m.

"After the back-to-back attacks in Dayton and El Paso, this president once again signaled he was open to tougher background checks to help curb gun violence," CNN's Chris Cuomo said Monday night. "But once again, he's lost his spine." On Sunday, Trump was noncommittal and evasive, telling reporters that the U.S. already has "very strong background checks right now," echoing messaging from the National Rifle Association.

Cuomo pointed to internal congressional Republican talking points on gun legislation, including falsely blaming "violence from the left" and claiming universal background checks are a Democratic ploy to start a federal gun registry with an eye toward seizing guns. His guest, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) said the NRA has gotten to Trump.

NRA officials have lobbied Trump and his top aides since Dayton and El Paso, arguing that background checks aren't effective at preventing mass shootings and that many states Trump needs to win in 2020 are rich in NRA members who don't want new gun restrictions, White House aides and other sources tell The Washington Post. Also, "Trump's campaign commissioned a poll on guns after this month's shootings, and his political advisers warned him that there is little support for significant action among Republican voters, and even some Democrats." An unidentified White House official insisted to the Post that "the president is not backing down."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has told advisers he won't allow consideration of gun legislation unless Trump is fully on board and it has widespread Senate Republican backing; Trump seems keen to let the Senate take the lead. "I think he personally wants to do something," Brendan Buck, a top aide to former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), tells the Post, "but I'm not sure how equipped he is to maintain his attention on it for the next two months — which this would require — in the face of pushback from people he cares about." Peter Weber

4:45 a.m.

President Trump is apparently at least half-serious about purchasing Greenland, and Conan O'Brien is all in. "What if we, the United States, did buy Greenland?" he asked on Monday's Conan. "It might just be a good idea, it seriously might. And as the elder statesman of late night, what if I negotiated the deal? Seriously, what if I handled this historic negotiation? I have as much, if not more, negotiation experience as Trump."

Greenland and its colonial overlord, Denmark, both insist the semiautonomous island territory is not for sale. "But if there's anything I've learned from watching hundreds of hours of Property Brothers, saying 'It's not for sale' is the classic opening gambit — that means you're ready to go, yeah?" O'Brien said. "Greenland is definitely for sale. And ladies and gentlemen, if we don't move fast, some other country is going to overpay for it."

"So all right, Denmark, you want to play hardball?" O'Brien asked. "I'm ready to sweeten the deal. There's a couple of ways we could do it. First, we could do a straight trade: Greenland for Florida, okay? Trust me, this is our best state — and please do not google 'Florida.' Not convinced yet? How about this, Greenland? Once you're part of the United States, you'll be enrolled in the U.S. health care system. Also, please do not google 'U.S. health care system.'" He listed some other perks of joining the U.S.

"And here's the best part: To make sure this purchase goes through, I, Conan O'Brien, am going to personally travel to Greenland," becoming "the first American host to visit Greenland since Arsenio Hall did a week of shows there in 1989," he joked. Andy Richter pretended to remember those fictional shows. And Conan laid out some pretty high stakes for his negotiation. Watch below. Peter Weber

4:00 a.m.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has quickly risen from an obscure Kansas congressman best known for pushing Benghazi conspiracy theories to President Trump's CIA director and then top diplomat, "the last survivor of the president's original national-security team and his most influential adviser on international affairs," Susan Glasser writes in a new profile of Pompeo in The New Yorker. But in early 2016, he backed Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) in the Republican presidential primary, and on the day of the Kansas caucuses, he stood in for Rubio and savaged Trump.

Trump, like President Barack Obama, would be "an authoritarian president who ignored our Constitution," Pompeo told a booing crowd of GOP caucus-goers in Wichita. Noting that candidate Trump said he would order soldiers to commit war crimes and they would obey, Pompeo said U.S. service members "don't swear an allegiance to President Trump or any other president. ... They take an oath to defend our Constitution." Backstage, Trump demanded to know who was thrashing him, Glasser recounts.

"I realized, listening to the speech of Mike Pompeo back in 2016, that I've never really heard him go off on Trump in a video form," Glasser recounts in a video accompanying her profile. "Mike Pompeo is very, very sensitive about even the appearance of being caught out disagreeing with Donald Trump. I think he is worried about the idea that Donald Trump is gonna remember back to March 5, 2016."

Trump reportedly was reminded of it after announcing Pompeo as CIA director, but he kept him anyway. Now Pompeo is "among the most sycophantic and obsequious people around Trump," a former senior White House official told Glasser. A former U.S. ambassador was more blunt: "He's like a heat-seeking missile for Trump's ass."

Pompeo's biography is interesting and impressive — first in his class at West Point, former Army captain, Harvard Law graduate, unsuccessful Koch-funded Kansas businessman, congressman, and now Trump whisperer and, as Glasser puts it, probably "the most conservative, ideologically driven secretary of state ever to serve." Read the entire profile at The New Yorker. Peter Weber

2:04 a.m.

After 11 weeks of protests, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Tuesday said the government wants to hold "open and direct" conversations with demonstrators.

"Work will start immediately to build a platform of dialogue," she said. "We hope this dialogue can be built upon a basis of mutual understanding and respect to find a way out for Hong Kong." Lam also said political leaders will start investigating complaints against police, one of the demands made by protesters. "I sincerely hope this is the start of society returning to calm and turning away from violence," she said.

The protests started with the introduction of a bill that would let people arrested in Hong Kong be extradited to China. The measure has been shelved for now, but protesters want the bill to be totally withdrawn. The demonstrators have shut down Hong Kong's airport and clogged the streets near the financial district. On Sunday, a peaceful rally drew approximately 1.7 million protesters, and it was a very different scene from the earlier protests, when riot police fired rubber bullets and tear gas; this time, there was a light police presence. Catherine Garcia

1:41 a.m.

President Trump's next round of tariffs on Chinese imports will raise the average trade war cost for U.S. households to $1,000 per year, from $600, because the new duties will largely hit finished consumer goods, JP Morgan Chase researchers said Monday. The tariffs would largely negate any extra money consumers got from Trump's $1.5 trillion tax cut, and unlike with tax-subsidized farmers, "there is no simple way to compensate consumer," Dubravko Lakos-Bujas, JP Morgan's head of U.S. equity strategy, wrote to investors.

Consumer spending is the brightest spot in the U.S. economy right now, and facing slowdowns in manufacturing and business spending, and other warnings signs of a possible recession, the White House is now exploring a payroll tax cut to encourage Americans to keep their wallets open, The Washington Post and The New York Times report, citing several people familiar with the discussions. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow is also reportedly advocating a capital gains tax cut, which would mostly benefit wealthy investors but, unlike the payroll cut, wouldn't require approval by Congress.

Payroll tax cuts, typically popular among Democrats because they benefit middle class workers, either drain money from Social Security and Medicare accounts or add to the ballooning deficit, already up 27 percent from last year. The White House said Monday that "cutting payroll taxes is not something under consideration at this time," despite Monday's White House discussions and an internal white paper exploring the idea.

Publicly, Trump administration officials have been dismissing the idea of a recession, but "Trump has sent mixed messages," the Post notes. He tweeted that the economy is "very strong," then specifically urged the Federal Reserve to cut already-low interest rates by 100 basis points and pump more money into the economy through "quantitative easing." Cutting benchmark interest rates to 1.25 percent would give the Fed "little additional wiggle room to maneuver if a full-fledged recession began," the Post reports, and quantitative easing is "an extreme step that central bankers take when they are trying to urgently address a slumping economy." Peter Weber

1:21 a.m.

It was a study in contrasts: On one side, the well-maintained Alexandria National Cemetery, on the other, the overgrown and rundown Douglass Memorial Cemetery.

Three years ago, Griffin Burchard, now 16, was in Alexandria, Virginia, on a Boy Scout service trip. He was helping to remove dead wreaths at the national cemetery, but couldn't stop looking at the Douglass Memorial Cemetery, a historic black cemetery named in honor of abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Burchard saw leaves everywhere, he told The Washington Post, limbs falling off of trees, and damage caused by flooding, and wanted to do something about it.

This year for his Eagle Scout project, Burchard spearheaded a major renovation of the cemetery, assisted by other Boy and Girl Scouts. He first received a permit from the city to start the cleanup, and then conducted research on the cemetery, learning that at least 1,900 people were buried there between 1890 and 1975. Burchard earned $200 through recycling, and used that money to pay for a new sign, featuring a Douglass quote: "Without a struggle, there can be no progress."

Last Thursday, during a brief ceremony at the cemetery, Burchard said Douglass was a "great example of a citizen who impacted his community," adding that the project "made me want to be a great citizen." As there is no church or nonprofit taking care of the land, Burchard also hopes someone in the area will express interest in becoming the cemetery's regular caretaker. Catherine Garcia

12:22 a.m.

Kimberly Williams saved Dan Magennis' life, from nearly 900 miles away.

Last Tuesday, Magennis called Comcast with a question about his cable. The Walker, Michigan, resident was home alone, and had the phone on speaker. Suddenly, he was unable to answer the representative's questions, and couldn't move his right leg. Magennis said he realized he was having a stroke, but couldn't communicate that to the representative, Williams.

Williams was in her office in Jackson, Mississippi, but told M Live she had "confidence in my heart, I knew something was wrong with him." Williams moved fast, and started searching online for police departments near Magennis' house. She finally reached the Walker Fire Department, and five minutes later, paramedics arrived at Magennis' house and rushed him to the hospital.

Doctors quickly determined Magennis had a blood clot on the left side of his brain, and he was in surgery within an hour. Timing is critical with stroke victims, and Williams' fast thinking helped save Magennis' life. He left the hospital two days after surgery, and said he is so grateful for Williams. "It was absolutely unexpected," he said. "But I'm still here today. It's incredible." Catherine Garcia

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