Are you dreaming of a white Christmas, but the weather outside usually isn’t that frightful? You may yet be walking in a winter wonderland, now that the forecast is saying, “Let it snow!” in some unexpected places. 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. Tax overhaul
While you were sleeping, the Senate was busy. In this morning’s wee hours, it approved the final version of the first overhaul of the US tax code in more than 30 years, handing President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans their most significant legislative victory of 2017.
The next million-dollar question is, of course, what does this mean for you? Well, first of all, the House needs to vote on the measure again because of an arcane Senate rule. But after that, it’s all a matter of numbers. Here’s our tax calculator, which shows how the bill could affect your bottom line. In short, it will probably change your tax rate, and families and homeowners will see significant shifts in tax credits and deductions.
2. Amtrak crash
New details are emerging from Monday’s Amtrak derailment that killed at least three people and injured more than 100 in Washington state. The mayor of a city along the new route taken by the derailed train expressed concerns about the line as long ago as 2013, and he said this week that his town was “skeptical” of the project from a safety standpoint. The route was intended to be a shortcut to minimize commute times to cities along a stretch of the Puget Sound. Witness accounts paint a terrifying picture of the incident. A 79-year-old passenger told a CNN affiliate it was “like being inside an exploding bomb.”
Is Uber an app or a transportation service? Europe’s top court has ruled in favor of the latter. The decision by the European Court of Justice is a major setback for Uber, which had said it should not be subjected to the same regulations as traditional taxi companies. Uber argued it should instead be treated as a technology platform that connects drivers and riders, which, let’s be honest, is just a fancy way of describing a taxi company. Uber says the rule actually won’t change that much about the way the company operates in Europe, but in the grand scheme of things, the increased regulation could be a sign of things to come for other areas of the “gig economy.”
4. Cardinal Law
Cardinal Bernard Law, the former Boston archbishop who resigned in disgrace during the church sex abuse scandal, has died. Law and the Catholic Church were plunged into scandal in 2002, when it was revealed that Law and other bishops had covered for pedophile priests in the Boston Archdiocese. Law never faced criminal sanctions for his role in allowing abusive priests to remain in parishes and, in fact, went on to serve as archpriest of the Papal Liberian Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome, a position he held until his death. His detractors found his second career at the Vatican to be a revealing referendum on the church’s legitimacy and its consideration of the scandal’s young victims.
5. Virginia House race
Oh, you think your vote doesn’t count? Then explain how a Virginia Democrat just won a seat in the state’s House of Delegates by one … ONE measly vote. Because of that single vote, the House is now split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats. Virginia Republicans conceded the election yesterday after a “close recount” showed Democrat Shelly Simonds, who was 10 votes behind in the initial count, had actually defeated Republican Del. David Yancey by the absolute eensiest of margins.
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Disney’s new Trump robot will most definitely scare small children
This isn’t a knock on Trump, because the gaunt animatronic nightmare figure looks nothing like him.
Here’s the year in political GIFs
Belgium could send a female ambassador to Saudi Arabia
If this all shakes out, it’d be the first country to do so.
McDonald’s will offer a McVegan burger in Europe
The term “McVegan” is both hilarious and deeply unnatural. A McParadox, if you will.
Facebook will alert you to photos you’re in, but aren’t tagged in, because it knows everything about you now
NUMBER OF THE DAY
The approximate number of Americans who have applied for FEMA aid since Labor Day. Huge wildfires and a disastrous hurricane season have caused serious headaches for the agency.
AND FINALLY …
You can almost feel it getting stuck in your teeth
I’ve been in a “satisfying holiday-themed process video” mood lately, so enjoy watching how candy canes are made. (Click here to view.)