Even in the darkest of times, acts of kindness shine bright. In Thousand Oaks, California, hundreds of people lined up to donate blood after the mass shooting there. Here's what 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 bar shooting
It was supposed to be a night of fun. It ended in absolute horror. The victims in the mass shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, were part of the huge crowd line dancing and having a great time at the bar's college night. Then a man dressed in a black trench coat and glasses, later identified as Ian David Long, opened fire. When it was all over 12 people, including a sheriff's deputy, were dead.
This latest mass shooting feels especially painful because many of the victims were so young. College students just trying to enjoy a night out. Grief stricken parents talked of desperately searching for their children, only to learn their loved ones had perished in the violence. And the nation is left, once again, searching for answers to gun violence after witnessing a fourth shooting in just two weeks.
The shooting is not the only calamity that folks in the area are dealing with. Parts of a town right next to Thousand Oaks had to be evacuated because of a brush fire burning through Ventura County. The blaze has charred almost 10,000 acres so far. And that's not the only wildfire burning in the state. About 40,000 people in Northern California evacuated to get away from the fast-growing Camp Fire, which has burned 20,000 acres in Butte County.
2. Russia investigation
Matthew Whitaker, the acting attorney general, probably won't recuse himself from the Russia investigation that he's now overseeing. That's a problem for a lot of people, who say his past comments -- in which he expressed deep skepticism about the probe -- should disqualify him from leading the investigation. Others say Whitaker's appointment is unconstitutional because he hasn't been confirmed by the Senate. Several senior White House officials told CNN they're worried the backlash might jeopardize Whitaker's chances of staying in the job.
Special counsel Robert Mueller's team has reportedly started writing its final report on the investigation, while President Trump reviews with his lawyers his written answers to Mueller's questions. And as fears (and protests) mount in some political circles that Whitaker might end the probe, Democrats are coming up with a plan to protect Mueller's investigation.
3. Midterm elections
You thought the 2018 midterm elections were over? Bless your heart. Just like the 2016 presidential election, this one might be with us for awhile. Both high-profile races in Florida -- for governor and senator -- might be headed for recounts as the margins tighten. Gov. Rick Scott, who is the GOP candidate in the Senate race, accused Democrats of trying to "steal" the election. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, Scott's opponent, said the governor's actions appeared to be "politically motivated." Meanwhile, in Arizona's Senate race, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema has moved into a slight lead over Republican Martha McSally. Get an update on other undecided races by clicking here.
The Taliban is much stronger in Afghanistan than it was three years ago. A new report from the US Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction says the Afghan government only controls about 55.5% of the country. In November 2015 the government controlled about 72% of Afghanistan. A big part of the problem is that the Afghan army is dealing with a huge personnel shortfall in the face of the determined, sustained Taliban insurgency. The US involvement in the war in Afghanistan has dragged on for 17 years.
5. Keystone XL pipeline
Construction on the Keystone XL oil pipeline has been stopped. A federal judge halted work on the controversial pipeline after ruling that the US government's use of a 2014 environmental review to justify issuing a presidential permit for construction of the cross-border pipeline violated the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. So no work on the pipeline can proceed until the government does an additional review of the pipeline's potential impact on the environment. Environmentalists and Native American groups have fought the pipeline for years, but President Trump OK'd a permit to start its construction right after he took office last year.
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Round and round
Why should hamsters have all the fun? These dogs are having the time of their lives running in this giant wheel. (Click to view)