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Good morning. It's Thursday, Dec. 29, and we're covering search and rescue efforts in Buffalo, health concerns at the Vatican, and much more. First time reading? Sign up here.


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Need To Know

Buffalo Digs Out

The death toll in Buffalo, New York, and surrounding areas following a severe holiday blizzard rose to at least 37 yesterday, as warming temperatures allowed search and rescue crews to accelerate efforts. The storm was the region's deadliest on modern record, surpassing a historic 1977 blizzard, which left 29 people dead. 


The storm swept into the city Friday, with lake-effect snow (see 101) dropping more than 4 feet of powder and creating near-whiteout conditions for almost two days. Victims were found outside, stuck inside cars, at home without heat, and elsewhere. As of yesterday, the National Guard was conducting door-to-door visits, while a driving ban was set to be lifted early this morning. See photos from the storm here.


Overall, at least 65 deaths have been linked to the winter storm from across the US. 


Papal Health Concerns

The health of 95-year-old Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI deteriorated in recent days, according to a statement from the Vatican yesterday. The former pope led the Roman Catholic Church for nearly a decade before resigning in 2013, the first to do so in over 600 years. Since then, he has mostly avoided publicity while living on Vatican grounds. 


Pope Francis first acknowledged the former pope's worsening health during a weekly Wednesday address, breaking from his prepared speech to ask for prayers for his predecessor. The Vatican later confirmed Benedict's health is in decline but he is stable and under regular medical observation.


Before becoming pope, Joseph Ratzinger was a renowned theologian from Germany who participated in the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s before becoming the church's head doctrinal enforcer as a cardinal. His papacy was overshadowed by the church's ongoing clerical sexual abuse scandals. See the most recent footage of the frail Benedict in August here.


COVID-19 Testing Requirement

The US will require inbound travelers from China to submit a negative COVID-19 test before entering the country, officials said yesterday, a move made in response to the virus's rapid spread in China in recent weeks. The news follows reports of Chinese travelers testing positive upon arrival in other countries, including Italy, where more than half of Chinese travelers on some flights returned positive tests. 


After nearly three years of pursuing a strict "zero COVID" approach, China loosened restrictions following waves of public protests. Anecdotal reports suggest the move has spurred a surge in infections—though the government stopped posting data on cases and deaths as it dropped restrictions. Leaked internal assessments estimate up to 250 million people, almost 20% of the Chinese population, were infected in the month of December. 


China dropped quarantine requirements for travelers entering the country this week, causing a spike in international travel bookings. The US will begin requiring tests Jan. 5. 

In partnership with Remi

Protect Your Smile With Your HSA/FSA


Did you know that your FSA dollars expire on Dec. 31? Did you also know that most people who grind or clench their teeth at night don’t even realize they're doing it?

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With Remi’s 30-day money-back guarantee, ordering your night guards is completely risk-free. Order your Remi Night Guards now—your teeth (and wallet!) will thank you.

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In The Know

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with The Ascent

> Bill Cosby, whose 2018 sexual assault conviction was overturned last year, is planning a stand-up comedy tour for 2023 (More)

"Top Gun: Maverick" becomes most-watched opening weekend film ever for Paramount+ (More)

> Ten convicted in Dominican Republic court of 2019 attempted murder of Baseball Hall of Famer David Ortiz; perpetrators were sentenced from five to 30 years in prison (More)

From our partners: This credit card is a reward-seeker's dream, offering unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases and a $200 welcome bonus. The Ascent's independent team of experts is calling it one of the best all-around cards. Learn more today.


Science & Technology

> Amazon begins drone deliveries for select products in Texas and California, with the goal of fulfilling orders within 60 minutes; drone models reportedly can haul up to 5 pounds (More) | See a prototype in action (More, w/video)

> New blood test detects a biomarker linked to Alzheimer's-related neurodegeneration; the test may replace costly and time-intensive imaging and cerebral spinal fluid tests (More)

> Enzyme that helps cells defend against viruses may indirectly accelerate tumor evolution by increasing the mutation rate in cancer cells; study may open new paths to inhibiting tumor growth (More)


Business & Markets

> US stock markets close lower (S&P 500 -1.2%, Dow -1.1%, Nasdaq -1.3%); markets on track for worst year since 2008 (More)

> Southwest Airlines canceled another 2,500 flights yesterday, approximately 60% of flights; other airlines cap flight prices to help grounded passengers (More)

> US pending home sales fall 4% in November to second-lowest level on record since 2001 (More)


Politics & World Affairs

> Co-ringleader in 2020 plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), Barry Croft Jr., sentenced to more than 19 years in prison (More) | Co-conspirator Adam Fox received a 16-year sentence Tuesday; see previous writeup (More)

> Rep. Jamie Raskin (D, MD-8) reveals diagnosis of serious but curable lymphoma, says prognosis is positive (More) | What is diffuse large B cell lymphoma? (More)

> Man accused of attacking Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D, CA-12), in the couple's residence in October pleads not guilty to state-level charges (More



> Stronger, Faster, Higher

Reuters | Staff. This fascinating visualization breaks down North Korea's progress in its missile program, and the current threat it poses to the world. (Read)


> Master of Cheer

Toronto Life | Courtney Shea. A Q&A with Ron Oliver, the scriptwriter who has come to dominate the holiday movie industrial complex. (Read)

In partnership with Remi

Use Your FSA Soon


If you have FSA dollars, they will expire Dec. 31. And if you grind or clench your teeth at night, you can protect your smile and spend your FSA (or HSA) dollars, all in one fell swoop: on a comfortable, custom night guard from Remi.

Order your impression kit online, take your impressions at home, and Remi’s team of in-house dental professionals will make you a set of custom night guards and deliver them right to your doorstep—all for 80% less than the cost of your dental office. Don’t wait until the last minute: Order your Remi Night Guards today before your FSA dollars expire on Dec. 31.

Please support our sponsors!


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Historybook: President Andrew Johnson born (1808); Texas becomes the 28th US state (1845); US Army kills over 250 Lakota people at Wounded Knee (1890); Actress Mary Tyler Moore born (1936).

"Pain nourishes courage. You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you."

- Mary Tyler Moore

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