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Good morning. It's Wednesday, Dec. 21, and we're covering a looming holiday storm for much of the US, a deadly quake in California, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.


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Need To Know

Holiday Winter Storm

A major winter storm is sweeping across the Midwest this week and is poised to become a bomb cyclone, bringing heavy snow and blizzard conditions to parts of the Great Lakes and high winds to the East Coast. The storm will also bring in cold air to much of the country, including Texas and Florida. A bomb cyclone occurs when a storm system undergoes bombogenesis—when its central pressure drops rapidly within 24 hours (see 101).


As of this writing, 17 states are under winter storm warnings, watches, and advisories through the holiday weekend. Wind chills are expected to be as low as 60 below zero in some areas, such as the Dakotas, and wind gusts are expected to be as high as 55 mph, including in Chicago. Hundreds of flights have been canceled and airlines have begun issuing flight waivers


Today is also the winter solstice (see background), which marks the first day of winter and the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.


Northern California Earthquake

At least two people were killed and 11 injured early yesterday morning after a 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck the northern California coast roughly 250 miles north of San Francisco. The epicenter was just a few miles off the coast at a depth of 16 miles (see map), though no tsunami threat was announced.


Residents were awakened from sleep as one of the region's strongest quakes in a decade rocked the small redwoods communities of Ferndale and Eureka, leaving at least 70,000 homes without power. Hundreds of buildings suffered damage as roads buckled and bridges cracked. Officials reported at least 80 aftershocks, many of which reached a 3.0 magnitude.


The region sits adjacent to the Cascadia Subduction Zone, a 600-mile junction of tectonic plates parallel to the coast. Seismologists estimate there is above a 30% chance of a magnitude 9.0 quake occurring in the region within the next 50 years, likely triggering a devastating tsunami. Learn more about the "Big One" here (w/video). 


New Nazca Lines Discovered

Archaeologists in Peru announced the discovery of more than 160 new large-scale drawings, or geoglyphs, likely created by ancient Indigenous cultures more than two thousand years ago. Known as Nazca Lines, the designs were primarily made by scraping away desert topsoil to reveal white sand beneath and are only a foot or two deep. They were discovered within a roughly 170 square mile area previously designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. 


Researchers used high-resolution aerial photography and drones to find the images, which measure between 6 to 20 feet in length and include outlines of humans, camelids, birds, orcas, felines, and snakes. The purpose of the designs is still unknown, but a few theories include that they depict deities, were a form of irrigation, and were a calendar with astrological alignments. See background on the lines here


The new artwork brings the total found to 358 geoglyphs. Archaeologists hope to use the research in artificial intelligence-based surveys to help with discovery and aid preservation efforts.

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In The Know

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

> Billionaire mortgage lender Mat Ishbia to purchase NBA's Phoenix Suns and WNBA's Phoenix Mercury for a record $4B (More) | The Masters to allow players from the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour to compete in 2023 tournament (More)

> Disney tops $4B at global box office in 2022, including nearly $1B for "Doctor Strange," $790M for "Black Panther" sequel, and $500M for recent "Avatar: The Way of Water" release (More) | Sequel to 1996 film "Twister" set for 2024 release (More)

> World Cup final hauled in nearly 26 million viewers across Fox and Telemundo, a record for a men's soccer match in the US (More) | Argentina star Lionel Messi's celebration photo becomes Instagram's most-liked post with 66 million likes (More)


Science & Technology

> Twitter CEO Elon Musk says he will step down as chief executive upon finding a successor, while remaining owner of the platform (More) | US manufacturer 3M to phase out use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS or forever chemicals, by 2025 (More) | What are forever chemicals? (More)

> NASA's InSight Martian probe falls silent after four year mission; officials say dust covered its solar panels, causing it to lose power (More) | See the final image taken by the probe (More)

> Israeli archaeologists begin excavation of tomb typically associated with Salome, described in the Bible as the midwife of Jesus (More)


Business & Markets

> US stock markets close higher (S&P 500 +0.1%, Dow +0.3%, Nasdaq +0.01%) snapping four session losing streak (More) | Nike shares up 13% after topping expectations (More

> Wells Fargo to pay $3.7B to settle allegations it overcharged interest and fees on consumer products (More)

> Amazon reaches antitrust settlement with European Union, will make changes to European business to address allegations it was using independent data to company’s advantage (More)


Politics & World Affairs

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> Lawmakers unveil $1.7T spending package to fund government operations through fiscal year 2023; includes $858B for defense spending, up 10% over last year (More) | House panel votes along party lines to release report outlining recent tax returns and IRS audits from former President Donald Trump (More)

> Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expected to make surprise visit to Washington, DC, with a speech to Congress set for as early as today (More) | See updates on the war here (More)

> Taliban-led Afghan government issues decree prohibiting women from attending universities (More)

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The year in pictures.


The most popular Christmas cookie in every US state


... and this year's most scathing book reviews


Watch the top-rated holiday movies of all time.


See the first images of British banknotes featuring King Charles.


Icicles form fairytale sculpture in England


Pastel colors and patterns dot Florida's beaches.


A real-life "Elf on the Shelf."


Clickbait: Your bathroom experience may never be the same.


Historybook: "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" premieres (1937); F. Scott Fitzgerald dies (1940); Track and field star Florence Griffith Joyner born (1959); French President Emmanuel Macron born (1977); Bomb explodes on Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 (1988).

"All life is just a progression toward, and then a recession from, one phrase— 'I love you.'"

- F. Scott Fitzgerald, from "The Offshore Pilot"

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