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5 things to know for December 15: Storms, Congress, Covid tests, US border, World Cup


By Alexandra Meeks, CNN

If you’ve yet to begin your holiday shopping, don’t worry, you’re not alone. There’s still time to avoid the last-minute mad dash, but a lot of mail congestion is expected in the coming weeks — and inclement weather can throw a wrench in the works, forcing delivery delays or cancellations. So, plan to get packages in the mail by these shipping deadlines, and it’s more likely your loved ones will receive their gifts on time.

Here’s what else you need to know to Get Up to Speed and On with Your Day.

(You can get “5 Things You Need to Know Today” delivered to your inbox daily. Sign up here.)

1. Storms

Tornadoes have left trails of destruction across Louisiana and the Southeast, collapsing homes, flipping cars and knocking out power for more than 50,000 people in the region Wednesday night. The severe weather system has killed at least three people and injured dozens more, officials said. There were at least 49 tornado reports made across Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama and Florida over the past two days, according to the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center. And the threat isn’t over yet. More than 15 million people could see severe weather today in parts of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas as the storm system shifts to the east, forecasts show.

2. Congress

The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to pass a stopgap bill to avert a government shutdown at the end of this week. The vote was 224 to 201, with nine Republicans joining Democrats to vote in favor. The bill must now go to the Senate to be approved before it can go to President Joe Biden to be signed into law. A bipartisan agreement for a full-year government funding deal has proven challenging amid disagreements over spending priorities. Republicans are critical of recent domestic spending by Democrats and argue that measures they’ve passed — like a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill and sweeping health care and climate legislation — are wasteful and will worsen inflation. Democrats counter by saying they were necessary to help the country recover from the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as to tackle other critical issues.

3. Covid tests

The White House is warning of a possible Covid-19 winter surge, urging Americans to gather and socialize safely with family and friends during the holiday season. “This is not one disease in isolation,” White House Covid-19 response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha told CNN, referring to the concurrent waves of Covid-19, RSV, and the flu. In addition to encouraging people to get vaccinated and boosted, the administration said it is restarting the free at-home Covid-19 test program, permitting each American household to order up to four free tests this winter from It is also offering federal resources to local health departments, putting an extra focus on high-risk individuals in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

4. US border

The federal government is suing Arizona for placing shipping containers at the US-Mexico border as a temporary wall, according to court documents filed Wednesday. In August, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, issued an executive order telling state officials to use shipping containers to fill in gaps along the border, and did so without official permits or authorization. The federal government has been battling with the state ever since to get the containers removed, according to the lawsuit. The legal spat comes as the Biden administration faces a looming deadline this month to terminate Title 42, a public health authority that allowed officials to turn away migrants at the US southern border citing pandemic concerns. A federal judge blocked the administration’s attempts at maintaining the authority last month and set its expiration date for next Wednesday.

5. World Cup

The World Cup final is set after defending champion France ended Morocco’s impressive run during a semifinal match Wednesday with a 2-0 victory. Argentina and top player Lionel Messi now await the French for the ultimate showdown Sunday as the latter team seeks to win back-to-back World Cup titles. “Here we go again. It’s just an amazing feeling,” France’s captain Hugo Lloris said after the win, per FIFA. “We suffered a lot, especially in the second half. We played too deep and they showed they’re not a team only focused on defending. They know how to attack. They deserve a lot of credit for this World Cup,” he added. Morocco, the first African team to ever reach the tournament’s semifinals, will still go home with its head held high after defying expectations throughout the tournament.


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13.5 billion years

That’s how long it took for some of the light in this new “wide-field” image of the universe to reach Earth. The stunning image, captured by the James Webb Space Telescope, shows never-before-seen galaxies as well as some of the faintest objects visible in space.


“I don’t think it would qualify as a recession because you’ve got positive growth.”

— Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, saying Wednesday that he thinks the US economy will continue to grow through the Fed’s rate hike campaign, even though the central bank expects America’s gross domestic product to slip and unemployment to rise. His remarks came after the Fed raised its benchmark interest rate for the seventh time in a row, to a range of 4.25% to 4.5%. The Fed’s rate hikes are part of its aggressive plan to bring down the highest inflation since the early 1980s.


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