HERE ARE THE TOP STORIES
Several people were arrested after Black Lives Matter protests in Minnesota on Wednesday.
Demonstrators staged a protest at the Mall of America in Bloomington, and in Minneapolis they blocked a highway, light rail line, and entrance to the airport as part of what they called BlackXmas. Closures were also reported in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, BuzzFeed News’ Leticia Miranda reports.
The demonstration was organized in protest against the fatal shooting of Jamar Clark, an unarmed 24-year-old black man shot by an officer on Nov. 15. Demonstrators also protested Monday’s announcement that nobody would be indicted in relation to the death of Sandra Bland, who died inside a Texas jail cell this summer. Organizers said that roughly 1,000 people took part in the protest.
Shortly after the protest began — on one of the busiest shopping days of the year — authorities shut down the mall. There were no injuries and police reported that no property was damaged.
How the dark forces of the internet came together this year.
In 2015, it became clear, obvious even, that various reactionary forces have coalesced into a larger, coherent counterculture — let’s call it the Chanterculture — that exists not just in opposition to racial diversity in politics and culture, but in order to advance its own agenda, which across a variety of fronts seeks to preserve and promote the cultural and political preeminence of white guys. This new movement, and it is a movement, combines age-old racist and sexist rhetoric with bleeding-edge meme culture and technology. It unites two equally irrepressible camps behind an ironclad belief in the duty to say hideous things: the threatened white men of the internet and the “I have no soul” lulzsters.
“This racist, reactionary, offense-embracing, meme-savvy internet is not simply a disparate collection of ravings from immature and bitter young men with too much time on their hands. Rather it is a flourishing protest culture, indeed a coherent counterculture, created in response to the growing ethnic and gender diversity of contemporary media and pop culture and to the incursion of identity groups into previously homogenous digital spaces. — Joe Bernstein
WE’RE KEEPING AN EYE ON
At least six people died in tornadoes in southern U.S. states.
A powerful storm system moved through the Mississippi and Tennessee River Valleys Wednesday, producing multiple tornadoes and leaving a path of death, destruction, and injuries in its wake, BuzzFeed News’ Jim Dalrymple II writes. A 7-year-old boy was killed in Mississippi.
In total, across multiple states and counties, dozens of people were reportedly injured. Dispatchers and local authorities were still combing their respective towns and working on casualty reports Wednesday night, Dalrymple writes.
The National Weather Service issued a “particularly dangerous situation” alert. Tornado watches covered parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee –– which declared a state of emergency.
Is this normal?
While tornadoes are most common in spring and summer, tornado season in the U.S. is technically year-round, meteorologist Marshall Shepherd writes for Forbes.
For more updates, follow BuzzFeed Storm on Twitter.
The number of U.S. teens giving birth dropped in 2014 to a historic low.
A massive downward trend in teenage birth rates has been ongoing since 1991, BuzzFeed News’ David Mack writes. And advocates are crediting MTV with the decline — yes, MTV.
DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THIS?
Blitzen Trappers: Russia’s nomadic reindeer herders face the future.
You may know them best as the animals who pull Santa’s sleigh. And they do look darling: They’re short — the tops of their heads don’t come up past five feet — and they’re as nervous as rabbits. Both male and female reindeer have antlers. But as Julia Phillips writes for BuzzFeed: “If you approach them from a distance, you might think they would hold their ground. Getting closer, though, you find a frightened, tender animal, which backs away from you and toward the rest of its herd.”
In reality, reindeer have served a much less whimsical role: They’re breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Phillips has the story about Siberia’s native herders, who have worked tirelessly to keep alive their centuries-old tradition of raising reindeer. It’s just not quite clear how much longer that will last.
Quick things to know:
Syria's government has said it's ready to take part in U.N.-organized peace talks set to be held early next year. (BuzzFeed News)
At least 31 people were killed and at least 100 others were injured in a hospital fire in Saudi Arabia. (BuzzFeed News)
A Zambian rapist has been appointed ambassador in the fight against gender-based violence. Apparently, the convicted rapist — who is also a musician — won the Zambian president over with a sycophantic song. (BuzzFeed News)
The U.K. and the U.S. have warned their citizens about “possible threats against Westerners” in Beijing, China, on or around Christmas Day. (BBC News)
A ninth suspect in relation to the Nov. 13 Paris attacks that killed 130 people has been arrested in Belgium. (BuzzFeed News)
Two Burmese migrant workers have been found guilty and sentenced to death for murdering two British backpackers on Thailand’s Koh Tao island last year. (BuzzFeed News)
New York City now requires employers, landlords, and cops to use transgender people’s pronouns of choice when addressing them. (BuzzFeed News)
An openly gay woman was one of the six U.S. soldiers killed in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan on Monday. (BuzzFeed News)
The man charged with killing three people at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado told a judge Wednesday that he wants to fire his attorneys and represent himself in court. (BuzzFeed News)
And a look at how different countries — including Germany and Canada — gave heartwarming welcomes to refugees and migrants this year. (BuzzFeed News)
THE BEST OF 2015
Don’t let the year end without reading these stories.
In 2015, BuzzFeed News reporters and contributors went everywhere from Nova Scotia to Kazakhstan to China. Here’s a selection of their stories, on the injustices, mysteries, phenomena, and fascinations we couldn’t miss this year.
A modern-day lynching in Mississippi: Craig Anderson was headed home to celebrate his birthday with his partner. Instead, he became the victim of a brutal and violent form of racism that many in Mississippi had thought long gone.
The untold story of the most notorious house in comedy history: One grand old house has played host to a generation of comics — including Sam Kinison, Andrew Dice Clay, and Robin Williams — launching dozens of careers and about as many drug problems. The crash pad of a comedy revolution, remembered, kinda, by the people who survived it.
A week in the mysterious sleeping villages of Kazakhstan: Radiation. Government conspiracy. Mass hysteria. There are plenty of theories as to why the residents of a tiny Kazakh mining region keep falling asleep for days at a time, but no answers.
The new American slavery: The H-2 visa program invites foreign workers to do some of the most menial labor in America. Then it leaves them at the mercy of their employers. Thousands of these workers have been abused — deprived of their fair pay, imprisoned, starved, beaten, raped, and threatened with deportation if they dare complain. And the government says it can do little to help.
Christmas: the season of giving, family time, and anticipated holiday foods. An average Christmas meal can range from 1,400 calories in Japan to 3,291 calories in the U.S., BuzzFeed News’ Venessa Wong reports. In the U.S. those calories might go into White Chocolate Pringles (a seasonal special) or Candy Cane-flavored Peeps, but in Japan, people are eating Kentucky Fried Chicken on Christmas. (Seriously, it’s a thing.) For more, Wong rounded up some of the world’s most delicious treats, from sweetbreads in Belgium to glühwein in Germany. Have a merry and delicious Christmas, everyone.
This letter was edited and brought to you by Claire Moses and Brianne O’Brien. You can always reach us here.