To our Northern Hemisphere readers, Happy Shortest Day of the Year! At least where the calendar is concerned, it only gets brighter from here!-Now, on to everything-else you need to know to Get Up to Speed and Out the Door. (You can also get "5 Things You Need to Know Today" delivered to your inbox daily. Sign up here.)
1. Melbourne car attack
A car plowed into a crowd of Christmas shoppers today in Melbourne, Australia, in what police are calling a "deliberate act." Two people have been arrested in connection with the incident, though police say it is too early in the investigation to name a motive.
Thankfully, no one was killed, but more than a dozen people were injured, including a small child. The car hit pedestrians outside Melbourne's iconic Flinders Street station just after 4:30 p.m. local time. The streets and landmarks around the station recently have been the target of multiple attempted terrorist plots, all foiled by police.
2. Taxes and Shutdown
After every triumph comes another challenge, as many in the GOP are learning this week. The passage of a sweeping tax plan has clearly reinvigorated the White House and GOP lawmakers. President Trump is hoping the tax win will spur Congress to act on some of his other goals, like rewriting welfare rules and overhauling infrastructure.
For now, though, the hurdle for House Republicans is cobbling together a proposal to keep the government open ahead of tomorrow's shutdown deadline. Yes, tomorrow. Some big-ticket items still must be hammered out, including disaster aid, defense spending and funding for health insurance for children.
3. Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico's governor this week called for a re-examination of the number of deaths on the island related to Hurricane Maria. The problem is, most of these bodies have been buried or cremated already, which will severely limit the US territory's efforts to re-analyze the deaths.
The official death toll from Hurricane Maria stands at 64. In reality, it may be many times higher, a fact that came to light after a CNN report in November. At that time, CNN surveyed half of the funeral homes in Puerto Rico and identified 499 deaths that funeral home directors and staff say were hurricane-related.
4. Theresa May
British Prime Minister Theresa May has fired her closest political ally, First Secretary of State Damian Green, after an unseemly porn scandal. Green admitted lying over the presence of pornography on a computer in his parliamentary office, a claim that arose from a 2008 police raid and government inquiry. More recently, Green was accused by a journalist of making unwanted advances towards her during a 2015 meeting. Green is the third cabinet member to leave in two months.
5. Confederate statues
Two Confederate statues have been removed from parks in Memphis, after city officials sold the land to a nonprofit. In terms of infamy, the statues paid tribute to two of the most controversial Confederate figures: Civil War general and Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest, and Jefferson Davis, who served as President of the Confederate States. As a reminder: These types of statues almost never went up right after the Civil War. The Forrest statue was placed in 1904, amid the passage of Jim Crow-era segregation laws. The Davis statue was placed in 1964, amid the civil rights battle.
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Remember that Virginia House race that was won by one vote?-
Well, they apparently found a previously uncounted vote, so now it's a tie.
The release of Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheerios helped boost slumping cereal sales this year
Really playing fast and loose with the word "cereal," aren't we?
US life expectancy has fallen for the second year in a row
What do you expect when you eat so much chocolate peanut butter cereal?
Khlo- Kardashian has confirmed her pregnancy-
Here's what children around the world get for Christmas-
NUMBER OF THE DAY
The number of people who lost their lives last year to opioid overdose. That means, in 2016, more people were killed by opioid abuse than by breast cancer.
WHAT'S FOR LUNCH
UN vote on Jerusalem
The United Nations General Assembly will vote today on-a resolution that condemns the Trump administration's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.-US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has warned that-the US will be "taking names" of the countries that vote in favor.
A delicate election
Voters in the Spanish region of Catalonia will-elect a new government today, in a litmus test of the independence movement's legitimacy after its provocative attempt to break away from Spain..
AND FINALLY ...
Don't think about it. Just watch.
Because sometimes, you just need some penguins in Santa suits. (Click to view.)