As Ukraine's frontline gains slow, Kyiv turns to sabotage. Republicans look at slow-walking a Biden impeachment vote. And a cruise ship was left unable to navigate after being hit by a rogue wave.
Here's what to know today.
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Inside Ukraine’s sabotage campaign against Russia
Facing a stalemate on the battlefield and a looming uncertainty over Western military aid, Ukraine is turning to a different tactic against Russia: sabotage.
The sabotage has come in different forms. In recent weeks, Ukraine has stepped up its drone strikes while also also disrupting Russia’s logistical network — targeting rail lines, roads, warehouses and oil depots deep inside Russian territory. There have even been brazen assassinations.
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The covert operations involve a secretive network of partisans that have struck at far-flung locations, former U.S. officials say. Sometimes, Ukraine has taken credit for the attacks. Sometimes, it hasn’t.
Investigative reporter Dan DeLuce details the attacks on Russian resources and how the Biden administration feels about the shadow campaign.
Border security negotiations on pause for the holidays
The Senate has left Washington D.C. for the year without reaching a deal on President Joe Biden’s bill to provide aid for Ukraine. While Biden said he is open to compromise with Republicans, his willingness to hear out the GOP’s immigration demands puts him on shaky ground with progressives who oppose an asylum crackdown. But despite attacks from the left, there are many in the Democratic Party who want the president to cut a deal to mitigate what they see as chaos at the border.
Meanwhile, Republicans’ attacks on Biden keep building. Yesterday, House Speaker Mike Johnson suggested in a scathing letter that Biden was to blame for the crisis at the border and that he should take a number of executive actions, including resuming the construction of a border wall.
The criticism comes as migrants in some U.S. cities are being released directly onto the streets as border facilities are overwhelmed with record numbers, according to two Department of Homeland Security officials.
Doubts about Israel’s progress in Gaza
Yesterday, the Palestinian Health Ministry confirmed that an estimated 20,000 people have been killed in Gaza by Israel’s bombing campaign and ground invasion. In the 76 days since Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attack, Israel has been waging a bloody campaign to defeat the terror group and oust it from political power.
But how successful has it been?
Israel has said it has killed thousands of Hamas fighters. However, experts and former U.S. military officers say that the progress the Israeli military has made in the past two months is temporary, and there is no sign that Hamas is on the verge of a strategic defeat.
More on the Israel-Hamas war
- Hamas reportedly rejected a proposed Israeli cease-fire deal that would have secured the release of 40 hostages in exchange for a one-week pause in fighting. The U.N. Security Council is expected to vote today on a resolution to provide desperately needed aid to Gaza, which the U.S. said it could support. Follow our live blog for the latest.
- In Gaza, Palestinian support for an "armed struggle" is rising as the best strategy to secure an independent state.
- After last month's temporary truce between Hamas and Israel ended, President Joe Biden and his top diplomats stepped up pressure on the Israeli government to open an additional border crossing at Kerem Shalom to increase the flow of aid, according to senior administration officials who first shared the details of how that happened with NBC News.
- A 13-year-old American Palestinian boy was released from an Israeli prison earlier this week after he was strip-searched, interrogated and falsely arrested without access to his family or a lawyer, his family said.
14 dead in shooting at Prague university
Authorities in the Czech Republic are investigating yesterday’s shooting at Charles University in Prague that left 14 people dead and dozens injured. The shooter, who was a student at the university, is also dead.
At a news conference after the shooting, police called the suspect a “blank slate” and said he was capable of more bloodshed had authorities not entered the building where the attack took place. Police believe he was a student at the school. The identities of the victims and shooter have not been released.
What to know about JN.1, Covid’s latest ‘variant of interest’
This week, the World Health Organization declared the JN.1 variant of the coronavirus a “variant of interest,” a designation that applies when variants drive new cases with genetic changes that help their spread. JN.1 accounted for around 21% of Covid cases in the U.S. as of Dec. 9, according to the CDC, up from 8% two weeks previously. But so far, this strain doesn’t seem any more severe than earlier Covid cases.
Many recent patients have reported sore throats as their first symptoms, often followed by congestion. Doctors say earlier Covid symptoms like dry cough or the loss of taste or smell have become less common. Here’s what else to know about the quickly spreading variant.
Today’s Talker: A Norwegian cruise ship lost...
… power and the ability to navigate after a rogue wave crashed into the vessel this week. The MS Maud was sailing toward the U.K. when a wave hit the vessel, shattering windows on the ship’s bridge, causing water to enter the ship and resulting in a power outage, according to Reuters. All 266 passengers and 131 crew members were reported safe.
Politics in Brief
Biden impeachment: Now that House Republicans authorized their impeachment inquiry of President Joe Biden, some think the vote should happen swiftly, early next year. But others want the process to be drawn out and used as political capital during presidential election. And some Republicans (and Democrats) share a third view: that an impeachment vote might not even happen.
Trump campaign: Many of the people who surrounded Donald Trump during his chaotic days in the White House are turning up again, jockeying for influence and a possible return to political power.
Bankruptcy filing: Rudy Giuliani has filed for bankruptcy in New York, a day after a court ordered him to immediately pay $146 million to the former Georgia election workers he defamed.
Jan. 6 misinformation: Since the Capitol riot, far-right figures have claimed the attack was actually driven by far-left antifa activists, federal agents or some combination thereof. The only problem? All these alleged agitators keep turning out to be Trump supporters.
Hunter Biden: A former Trump White House aide has asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit tied to the publication of laptop content attributed to Hunter Biden.
Staff Pick: A few holiday movie recommendations
Happy “Carol Season” to those who celebrate! No matter how you’re spending the holidays this year, there’s something for everyone to watch in NBC Out’s queer holiday film guide. The aforementioned “Carol” has become a cult classic, but newer streaming favorites like “Single All the Way” are also beloved by fans for their star-studded casts and light-hearted cheer. — Isabela Espadas Barros Leal, associate diversity editor
In Case You Missed It
- Two 10-year-old Wisconsin boys were killed when their father sped away from a traffic stop, was chased and then crashed.
- Chinese shipping vessels have been subject to U.S. Coast Guard inspections in an international effort to ensure sustainable fishing in the South Pacific Ocean.
- A former assistant of actor Vin Diesel has accused him of sexually assaulting her at an Atlanta hotel in 2010, according to a newly filed lawsuit.
- Kumon tutoring TikToks are bringing up hilariously painful memories for Asian millennials and Gen Zers.
- A YouTuber was accused of plagiarism. His apology highlighted a larger issue among creators.
- The FDA is warning about the dangers of unauthorized “fat-dissolving” spa treatments, with side effects like skin deformities.
Select: Online Shopping, Simplified
Baking cookies for the holiday, or any time of the year, can be fun, rewarding and delicious. Our Select team takes you through the steps of baking cookies and the tools you’ll need to get it done.
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