If you haven’t gotten it out yet, it’s time to find your “cheesy” holiday sweater. It could earn you some free queso. Here’s what else you need to know to Get Up to Speed and Out the Door. (You can also get “5 Things You Need to Know Today” delivered to your inbox daily. Sign up here.)
1. California wildfires
Today will be another hellish day in the fight against the Southern California wildfires. The winds will be strong, with gusts up to 64 mph. It’s still dry, with humidity at less than 10%. Those conditions, paired with dangerously dry vegetation, mean Los Angeles’ fire danger number will be 296, a record high (165 or higher is considered extreme).
More than 100,000 acres have burned so far in the region. Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated. Nine miles of busy Interstate 405 were shut down as the fires got close. Many schools in LA are closed. And the wildfires are affecting Hollywood, too: Chelsea Handler had to leave her home, and the TV show “Westworld” temporarily stopped production as fire neared its set.
Meantime, California utility company Edison International has lost $3.3 billion in market value since the blazes began Monday. Wall Street fears Edison could be liable for damages if its power lines are found to have started the fires.
2. Russia investigation
Donald Trump Jr. would not tell House investigators Wednesday what he and his father discussed after reports surfaced about a June 2016 meeting he had in Trump Tower with Russians, citing attorney-client privilege. President Trump and his son had a conversation this summer after Trump Jr. produced emails about his involvement in the meeting, according to Rep. Adam Schiff, who attended the Wednesday session. At the classified hearing, Trump Jr. acknowledged speaking with senior White House aide Hope Hicks to help craft a response to the initial reports. But Trump Jr. did not provide details about communications with his father and invoked attorney-client privilege because of the presence of attorneys.
President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — and eventually move the US embassy there — could temporarily derail the Mideast peace process, two White House officials told CNN. Others think it will destroy any chance for peace. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the move will only aid extremist organizations that want to wage so-called holy wars. The Palestine Liberation Organization called it the “death knell” of the peace process. Regional allies like Saudi Arabia and Jordan expressed disappointment. Trump’s decision isn’t playing well in Europe or Asia, either, with officials in France, Germany, China, Indonesia and other countries all expressing their displeasure.
4. Same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage is now legal in Australia. The country’s parliament approved it after a non-binding vote by Australians showed that 61% were in favor. Australia is now the 24th country to allow same-sex couples to marry. The first same-sex weddings there won’t happen until January, at the soonest, though, because all couples in Australia must give a full month’s notice before they can get married.
The GOP tackled the tax code in 2017. Next year, the party sets its eyes on cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and welfare programs. House Speaker Paul Ryan said these entitlements need to be changed in order to “tackle the debt and the deficit.” That comment sparked harsh criticism from the left, including from Sen. Bernie Sanders, who said Ryan “admitted” that Republicans plan to pay for their proposed tax bill — which would increase the deficit by about a $1 trillion dollars — with cuts to social programs that help “vulnerable Americans.”
NUMBER OF THE DAY
The number of Democratic senators who have called on Sen. Al Franken to resign. Franken, facing multiple sex harassment claims and a Senate Ethics Committe investigation, is set to make an announcement today.
People are talking about these. Read up. Join in.
People were thrilled to see “The Silence Breakers” named Time’s Person of the Year. But social media wondered, what was Taylor Swift doing on the cover?
The great white hopes
Are you a person of color tired of fighting about racism on social media? Relax. Here are some white folks who have your back.
A little something extra
The nativity scene at Saint Susanna Parish near Boston is unlike any kind you’ve ever seen because it makes a can’t-miss statement about gun violence.
Roll that video
A masked man in an oyster costume singing a rap ballad. Sounds like 2017, alright. Here’s what else we liked on YouTube this year.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“It goes against everything we stand for as a people in this country.”
Ralph Fernandez, attorney for the parents of the suspected Tampa, Florida serial killer, says parents shouldn’t be forced to testify against their children. Suspect Howell Donaldson III’s parents aren’t cooperating with police and may be charged with contempt when they appear today before a judge.
AND FINALLY …
The only thing we love more than movies is movie trailers, so enjoy this mash-up of previews of 230 films released in 2017. (Click to view.)