Who invited the Russian spy ship?

A Russian ship seems up to no good. A string of tornadoes ripped through the South. And Santa Claus is real. 

It’s Ashley with the news you need to know. 

But first, the original red Solo cup? This disposable cup was probably used once for wine 3,500 years ago. 🍷

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This Russian spy ship doesn’t even go here

The U.S. Coast Guard and military commands tasked with protecting North America are tracking a Russian spy ship that has been spotted from North Carolina to Florida over the past few days, spokespeople for the services said Tuesday. The Coast Guard issued a marine safety bulletin about the ship, which has been operating in an unsafe manner, said Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Dickinson, a Coast Guard spokesman based in Jacksonville, Florida. The notice was issued to warn vessels in the region that the spy ship could sail without running lights or fail to respond to radio calls. The ship was identified as the Viktor Leonov, a Russian navy surveillance vessel. 

‘Total chaos’ in the Deep South: Tornadoes and storms kill four

Emergency personnel across parts of the Deep South searched for survivors Tuesday after storms and dozens of suspected tornadoes raced through the region, killing at least four people, tearing through homes and businesses and toppling trees and power lines. At least a dozen people were injured, and damage was reported in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Tens of thousands of customers were without power at the height of Monday’s storms. “It was total chaos,“ Lawrence County, Alabama, Coroner Scott Norwood said of the destruction. In all, there were 27 reports of tornadoes across the region Monday, the Storm Prediction Center said.

  • Video: Tornadoes rip apart homes as storms race across South

Strong storms, including a tornado in Rosepine, La., moved across the Deep South on Dec. 16, killing at least four people and leaving a trail of smashed buildings, splintered trees and downed power lines the week before Christmas. (Photo: Heather Welch via AP)

What everyone’s talking about

  • The first reactions to “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” are mixed: “Not the best” finale.
  • Fact-checking “Bombshell,” the Fox News movie: Was Megyn Kelly really poisoned?
  • These are America’s top 100 restaurants in 2019, according to OpenTable.
  • A pet opossum in a pink pet carrier was booted from a JetBlue flight. Personally, I would have loved to sit next to it.
  • The 2021 Cadillac Escalade comes equipped with a 38-inch curved OLED screen. 

Trump calls Democrats ‘deranged,’ ‘spiteful’ in angry letter to Pelosi

President Donald Trump slammed a historic impeachment vote expected this week in the House as “spiteful” and “terrible” in a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday. Trump accused Democrats of “declaring open war” on democracy in their impeachment drive. Minutes later, in an appearance in the Oval Office, he echoed many of those points and said he feels “zero” responsibility for impeachment. The White House released the document as the House Rules Committee negotiated the terms of debate on an impeachment vote, which could come as soon as Wednesday. House Democrats are likely to vote yes, making Trump the third president impeached in U.S. history.

Gun violence: ‘Change is happening’

For the first time in more than 20 years, Congress could approve federal funding to study gun violence, which kills nearly 40,000 Americans each year. A House bill approved Tuesday includes $25 million for research, split evenly between the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Experts say the allocation would allow researchers to conduct large-scale studies that get at the root causes of gun violence while ensuring that firearm regulation does not infringe on Second Amendment rights.

  • The House approved a $1.37 trillion spending package that would avert a government shutdown, raise the tobacco age and research gun violence.

Rick Gates didn’t pull a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card 

Former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates was sentenced to 45 days in jail Tuesday, more than prosecutors said he deserved for being a witness in Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Gates testified against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and longtime Trump ally Roger Stone. Both were convicted. The judge said Gates’ cooperation was “an important public service,” but a short incarceration is “appropriate.” 

Real quick 

  • Actress Lori Loughlin told her daughters they needed to do better in high school as she plotted to get them admitted into USC, a court doc alleges.
  • A shooting at a Montana casino left three people dead, police said.
  • An American hero: Detective Joseph Seals was mourned after last week’s Jersey City shootings. 
  • Juice WRLD’s girlfriend opened up about the rapper’s death: “He literally loved every single one of you.”
  • “The Voice” finale: From Jake Hoot to Katie Kadan, who will win it all? 

Yes, there is a Santa Claus (in Indiana at least) 🎅

Have you ever sent a letter to Santa Claus and wondered whether it ever really made it to the North Pole? What if I told you that, rather than being delivered to the Arctic, there’s a chance it was rerouted to southern Indiana? Each year, tens of thousands of people from around the world send letters to Saint Nick that make their way to the tiny post office in Santa Claus, Indiana. Meet the volunteer “elves” who respond to more than 20,000 letters addressed to Santa. 

Want to help your kiddo send Santa a letter? Or, you know, send one yourself? Address it to: 

Santa Claus
PO Box 1
Santa Claus, IN 47579

Santa Jim Yellig, center, began coordinating efforts to respond to letters sent to the Santa Claus, Ind., post office around 1930. Each year, more than 20,000 people send letters to Santa that end up in the small southern Indiana town. (Photo: Provided by Santa Claus Museum)

A break from the news

  • The 25 best gifts under $50 of 2019.
  • People thank delivery drivers with snacks this holiday season. Security cameras capture their sweet reactions. 
  • A Christmas miracle? Target says you can drive up, drop by and get delivery on Christmas Eve. 

This is a compilation of stories from across the USA TODAY Network.

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