Merry Christmas From The Dispatch

(Stock photo via Getty Images.)

Happy Friday! We hope all our readers celebrating Christmas this weekend have a wonderful time with family and friends. Stay safe in your travels; we’ll be back in your inbox on Tuesday.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • The Senate voted 68-29 Thursday to pass the $1.7 trillion government funding omnibus after failing to pass two immigration amendments which would have kept Title 42 in place and affected Department of Homeland Security funding. Lawmakers did pass amendments strengthening workplace protections for pregnant and nursing mothers. The House is expected to pass the bill today, averting a government shutdown that would go into effect at midnight.
  • The January 6th Select Committee released its 845-page final report last night, days before Republicans are set to take back the House and almost assuredly dissolve the panel. The report includes 11 recommendations to prevent a similar event from happening again, including reforms to the Electoral Count Act, additional oversight for Capitol Police, and harsher punishments for attempting to impede the transfer of power. House Republicans released a 141-page counter-report of their own earlier this week, focused primarily on security failures at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 rather than the reasons the U.S. Capitol required additional security in the first place.
  • Chinese health officials narrowed their definition of what is considered a COVID-19 death this week, further depressing what is already a significant undercount. A recent analysis from London-based research firm Airfinity Ltd. estimates that, since the Chinese Communist Party eased its COVID-Zero policies earlier this month, the country is averaging about one million new cases and 5,000 new deaths every day. Despite evidence of overwhelmed hospitals and crematoriums in cities across the country, China has officially reported fewer than 10 total COVID-19 deaths this month. 
  • Benjamin Netanyahu called Israeli President Isaac Herzog on Wednesday to inform him he’d cobbled together enough support from various right-wing parties to form a government, though he did not specify the various coalition agreements he made. Netanyahu will have a little over a week to formally swear in the new government with a vote in Parliament.
  • Bruno Kahl, head of Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, said Thursday that a German intelligence official had been arrested this week on treason charges for allegedly leaking classified information to Russia. It’s the first such arrest since 2014, when a spy was arrested and later convicted of leaking information to U.S. intelligence.
  • Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said Thursday China had sent 39 aircraft and three warships on drills toward southeastern Taiwan, and that 30 aircraft had crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait—the largest such drill since the large exercises conducted after Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan visit in August. Several countries have begun reacting to China’s increasing shows of force in the region, with the Philippine defense ministry on Thursday ordering a larger military presence in the South China Sea.
  • The average number of weekly confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States increased about 4 percent over the past two weeks according to CDC data, while the average number of weekly deaths attributed to the virus—a lagging indicator—increased 5 percent. About 32,800 Americans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, up from about 29,700 two weeks ago.
  • The Labor Department reported Thursday that initial jobless claims—a proxy for layoffs—rose by 2,000 week-over-week to a seasonally adjusted 216,000 last week, near pre-pandemic levels. The Commerce Department also revised its third quarter economic growth estimate up Thursday from 2.9 percent to 3.2 percent, highlighting that the economy remains strong despite the Federal Reserve’s rate hikes.

Dispatchers’ Holiday Traditions

It took a little longer than usual, but the news is finally starting to slow down a bit ahead of the holidays—allowing us to take a breather and share some of our families’ favorite holiday rituals. Let us know yours in the comments below!

Victoria Holmes, Associate Podcast Producer: I like to dub our family’s holiday traditions as “tejano spirituality.” With my mother’s Mexican practices (such as posadas) combined with my dad’s Texan practices (such as praying for the Cowboys to win during Christmas Eve mass), I have experienced a unique blend of Christmas practices that change yearly, depending on who we celebrate the holidays with and where. Even with the annual shuffle of holiday traditions, the food and good times remain the same.

Price St. Clair, Reporter: One of my favorite family holiday traditions is our Christmas breakfast, usually enjoyed between the emptying of stockings and the opening of other gifts. The menu of a “turkey wreath,” grits, monkey bread, and frozen fruit salad was first assembled by my late grandmother years before I was born and has been refined by my mom in the years since. In addition to being delicious, the annual meal is associated in my mind with memories of both the lighthearted fun and the deep significance of celebrating Christmas. The idea that the God who created the world actually entered into it as a human being himself is mysterious and hard to wrap one’s head around and worthy of our feasting.

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