Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: December 26, 2022

At least 50 dead from nationwide blizzard conditions as western New York sees its worst storm ever, Christians around the world ring in another Christmas Day, and more

1

At least 50 dead from nationwide blizzard conditions as western New York sees its worst storm ever

Monday brought no relief from winter woes for much of the United States, which continued to battle a severe winter weather system that was making its way across the country. At least 50 people have reportedly died nationwide as the "once in a generation" storm continues to disrupt travel over the holidays. The storms were particularly bad in western New York, where lake effect snow was producing an estimated three to six inches of snow per hour in Buffalo. At least 27 confirmed deaths occurred in Buffalo by Monday morning, as New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) described the ongoing storms as "the worst" in the city's history. 

2

Christians around the world ring in Christmas Day

Christians around the world rang in another Christmas Day on Sunday, as people celebrated the holiday in ways both traditional and modern. While snowy backgrounds in the U.S. and Europe gave way to beaches and sun-drenched Christmas trees in the Southern Hemisphere, one particularly poignant scene was found in Kyiv, where people in the Ukrainian capital celebrated the holiday with a lone Christmas tree in the darkened city center. Pope Francis used his Christmas message to ask people to "do something good," and also lamented the ongoing war in Ukraine and violence around the world. The Vatican has additionally set up a website where people can donate to Ukrainian relief efforts. 

3

White House lambasts Texas governor for dropping migrants at vice president’s home on Christmas Eve

The White House harshly criticized Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) after he sent several busloads of migrants to be dropped off on Christmas Eve at the vice president's residence in Washington, D.C. as temperatures plunged below freezing. Officials said at least two busloads of people were taken to local shelters as more arrived on Saturday evening. "Governor Abbott abandoned children on the side of the road in below-freezing temperatures on Christmas Eve without coordinating with any Federal or local authorities," the White House said in a statement. "We are willing to work with anyone – Republican or Democrat alike – on real solutions, but these political games accomplish nothing and only put lives in danger." 

4

Trio of Russians killed during 2nd Ukrainian attack on airbase

At least three Russian air force personnel were reportedly killed following an incursion on Monday by a Ukrainian drone at the Engels air base. Officials said the trio died from falling debris after the drone was shot down by Russian anti-air defense systems. The drone was reportedly flying close to the base, where alleged long-range Russian bombers have been used to target Ukrainian cities and strategic infrastructure. This marks the second attack on the Engels air base in less than a month, though Ukraine has not officially taken responsibility for either of them. A number of planes at the base were also reportedly destroyed, according to unconfirmed reports. 

5

South Korea fires retaliatory shots after North Korean drones violate airspace

South Korean military forces fired a number of warning shots and scrambled their fighter jets after North Korean drones violated the country's airspace on Monday for the first time in five years. As tensions between the hermit state and the rest of the Asia-Pacific region continue to rise, at least five North Korean drones were detected moving over the fortified border between the two countries, South Korean military officials said. South Korea launched attack helicopters to shoot down the drones, though it is unclear if they were successful in doing so. "This is a clear provocation and an invasion of our airspace by North Korea," said Lee Seung-oh, a South Korean defense official, during a press conference. 

6

China sends massive cache of military might toward Taiwan in show of force

The Chinese military on Sunday staged a massive show of force against Taiwan as provocations between the two territories near a boiling point. Taiwanese officials said China had dispatched at least 71 warplanes to fly in the immediate area surrounding the island, and had sent an additional seven naval vessels to patrol Taiwan's shores. At least a few dozen of these planes were detected crossing the median line of the Taiwan Straight separating the island from mainland China. The military might from China comes just one day after President Biden signed an $858 million defense bill that includes additional funding to boost Taiwan's defenses. 

7

COVID cases continue to wreak havoc on China as hospitals are overwhelmed

Following China's abrupt lifting of its restrictive "zero-COVID" policy against the virus, the country is continuing to battle its worst outbreak since the start of the pandemic. In Beijing, hospitals and crematoriums across the nation's capital are struggling to keep up with the number of sick and deceased as emergency departments and ICUs remain filled to capacity. Calculations from Western-based health data firms estimate that more than 5,000 people are probably dying in China from COVID-19 every day, despite the country's own health officials working to downplay the number of fatalities. The country has not reported any deaths for the past six days even as crematoriums remained overrun with bodies. 

8

More than 100 Rohingya feared dead after attempting to flee Bangladesh

Dozens of ethnic Rohingya were rescued in Indonesia after spending more than a month adrift on a dilapidated boat without food or water, the United Nations said Sunday. At least 58 people were reportedly rescued from the boat, though more than 130 are still missing. Many of those who have not been found are women and children, and while the 58 rescued offered hope that more may be recovered, the majority are presumed to have drowned. The Rohingya had previously left squalor in Bangladesh — a majority Muslim nation — where they were living in refugee camps after fleeing persecution in their home country of Myanmar. Nearly 2,400 Rohingya have reportedly left Bangladesh by boat this year. 

9

Kathy Whitworth, winningest professional golfer in history, dies at 83

Kathy Whitworth, the winningest professional golfer in history and a trailblazer for women in sports, died Sunday at the age of 83. Her longtime partner, Bettye Odle, confirmed her passing, though did not elaborate on a cause of death, simply saying that she had passed suddenly with her family by her side. Whitworth's 88 victories are the most by any player on a professional tour, outperforming totems of the sport such as Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, and Arnold Palmer. She became the first woman to earn $1 million in the Ladies Professional Golf Association, and broke Mickey Wright's record of 82 wins in the summer of 1982. Her final victory would come three years later before she eventually retired. 

10

King Charles III gives 1st Christmas address as British monarch

King Charles III gave his first Christmas address as the British monarch on Sunday, taking over the decades-long tradition from his deceased mother, Queen Elizabeth II. During the address, the king reflected on his year of loss and also reckoned with families struggling through the economic crisis currently gripping the United Kingdom. "I particularly want to pay tribute to all those wonderfully kind people who so generously give food or donations, or that most precious commodity of all, their time, to support those around them in greatest need," Charles said. "While Christmas is, of course, a Christian celebration, the power of light overcoming darkness is celebrated across the boundaries of faith and belief."

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