Kentucky, USA Gymnastics Settlement, and the Year's Best Science Images Everything you need to know for today in five minutes.

Good morning. It's Tuesday, Dec. 14, and we're covering a recovery across the Mid-South, a landmark sexual abuse settlement, and much more. Have feedback? Let us know at [email protected].

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Damage Assessment 

Search and rescue efforts continue across Western Kentucky as Gov. Andy Beshear confirmed 74 deaths Monday, with more than one hundred still missing, after several deadly tornadoes hit Kentucky and eight other states. Fourteen people have been confirmed dead in the other affected states. The victims range in age from 5 months to 86 years old.


Eight deaths occurred at a candle factory in Kentucky, less than originally feared, where 110 employees were initially thought to be trapped inside. All employees have reportedly been accounted for.


President Joe Biden will visit the state tomorrow to assess the damage. More than 28,500 households are without heat, water, or electricity as temperatures dip below freezing. Federal officials are working to document losses, with nearly 300 National Guard members assisting rescue efforts. It could be weeks until the cost of the disaster is known; early estimates place the value at hundreds of millions of dollars.


See before and after photos of the damage here.

800,000 Deaths

The number of reported COVID-19 deaths in the US is projected to pass 800,000 as early as today, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The mark comes one day after the total number of reported cases hit 50 million. Globally, more than 5.3 million deaths have been reported.


Roughly 75% of the deaths in the US occurred in patients 65 years and older (see data), a figure that represents about one in every 100 older Americans. The current number of deaths in fully vaccinated patients is unclear—the most recent data through early October suggest more than 90% of deaths occurred in unvaccinated patients. Roughly 61% of the US population has been fully vaccinated (not including booster shots).


In related news, follow-up on the first 43 investigated cases of the omicron variant identified in the US revealed one hospitalization and zero deaths. Thirty-four of the patients were fully vaccinated, with the majority under age 40.


Scientists have said the strain may cause less severe symptoms but have cautioned against drawing firm conclusions as of yet.


Separately, the first US COVID-19 vaccination was administered one year ago today.

USA Gymnastics Settlement

The US Olympic and Paralympic Committee agreed to pay $380M to athletes harmed by convicted sex criminal Larry Nassar, one of the largest settlements on record made to victims of sexual abuse. The decision is the culmination of a yearslong legal battle to require the organization's insurers to cover the claims and includes hundreds of victims spanning three decades of abuse.


Nassar, the former physician for the women's national gymnastics team, is said to have abused at least 265 women and underage girls under the guise of medical treatment. Bronze medalist Jamie Dantzscher filed a lawsuit in 2016, leading to a slew of claims and allegations, in parallel to an explosive report accusing USA Gymnastics of covering up sexual abuse. Nassar is currently serving a de facto sentence of life in prison.


The final agreement is likely to allow USA Gymnastics to exit bankruptcy while remaining the sport's governing body, albeit under new leaders.

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Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with CanvasPeople

> Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk named Time magazine's 2021 Person of the Year (More) | "Dr. Oz" talk show to end after 13 seasons as Oz preps for Senate run (More)


> “The Power of the Dog” and “Belfast” lead all films with seven nominations apiece for 2022 Golden Globe Awards (Jan. 9); "Succession" leads TV shows with five nods (More)


> Two Chicago Bulls games postponed due to COVID-19 outbreak; first delay due to COVID-19 infections this NBA season (More) | NFL had 37 positive COVID-19 tests Monday, the most of the season (More)

From our partners: Free large canvas?! Bring beautiful photos from the camera roll to the living room, with CanvasPeople. They print your favorite images onto high-quality canvases, and today they're giving 1440 readers one free 16x20 canvas print (over $120 in value). Just pay S&H; create yours today!

Science & Technology

> Cybersecurity experts raise alarm over bug in widely used Apache logging software, may affect critical infrastructure; US cyber chief says it's one of the "most serious" she's seen in her career (More) | What is the Apache Log4J exploit? (More)


> Merck's COVID-19 antiviral pill downgraded; shown to reduce hospitalizations by 30% in larger study, compared to 50% in preliminary analysis (More)


> Scientists identify a taste receptor in fruit flies that operates similar to sour taste receptors in humans; taste receptor has been preserved over 800 million years (More)

Business & Markets

> US stock markets fall (S&P 500 -0.9%, Dow -0.9%, Nasdaq -1.4%) ahead of tomorrow’s Federal Reserve meeting (More) | US investor optimism index drops to lowest level since Q2 2020 (More)


> Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to acquire Arena Pharmaceuticals, maker of a bowel disease drug currently in late-stage clinical trials, for $6.7B (More)


> Fatal collapse of Amazon’s Edwardsville, Illinois, warehouse is being investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (More)

Politics & World Affairs

> Derek Chauvin expected to plead guilty in federal probe examining whether the former Minneapolis police officer violated George Floyd's civil rights; Chauvin was convicted in April of murdering Floyd during an arrest last summer (More)


> Jan. 6 committee votes to refer former Trump chief of staff, Mark Meadows, for contempt charges; Meadows declines cooperation, citing executive privilege (More) | Panel releases texts from Donald Trump Jr., TV commentators from Jan. 6 (More)


> Northern California hit with major storm; some mountain peaks now expected to see up to 8 feet of snow (More) | See photos here (More)



Inside the Fall of Kabul

NYT Magazine | Matthieu Aikins, Jim Huylebroek. The Taliban shocked the US with how quickly it took the Afghan capital of Kabul amid the American withdrawal. Here's how it happened and what came next. (Read, paywall)

Who is the Black Axe?

BBC | Staff. A two-year investigation reveals how a Nigerian student fraternity evolved into one of Africa's most-feared crime syndicates. (Read)



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A timeline of the news that defined 2021.


The year's best science images


The five skills you need on your resume.


A brutal restaurant review goes viral—and the chef responds with horse drawings.


Eye drops may eliminate the need for reading glasses.


Video calls are so 2020; holograms are the future


Typo costs NFT trader $270K


Veteran reunited with bracelet lost during World War II.


Clickbait: Child animal drawings horrifyingly brought into reality.


Historybook: President George Washington dies (1799); Author Shirley Jackson born (1916); Actress Patty Duke born (1946); Eugene Cernan is last person to walk on the moon (1972); 20 children and six staff murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School (2012).


"Curiosity is the essence of human existence."

- Eugene Cernan

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