Rail strike averted

Many nursing homes are poorly staffed. How do they get away with it? Be honest: Do you put your phone on airplane mode? And how much buying everything from the 12 Days of Christmas will cost this year.

👋 Hey! Laura Davis here. It's Thursday, which means I'm out of the office for the next week! But don't worry, you're in good hands: My friend Julius Lasin will be taking care of things while I'm out. See you in a week! Let's get to the news. And please let me know if you have any suggestions for things to do during a staycation! 

⛳️ But first, don't say you wouldn't be tempted (but really, don't do this): A TikTok star hit a golf ball into Grand Canyon. Here’s how much that stunt cost her.

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Just in 👉  No special master review of Mar-a-Lago documents: A federal appeals panel on Thursday overturned the order creating a third-party special master to review 11,000 documents seized at Mar-a-Lago, clearing federal investigators to use the records in the criminal investigation of former President Donald Trump. Here's what the ruling means.

Senate votes to impose rail labor deal, rejects sick leave for workers

A nationwide freight rail strike that President Joe Biden warned would decimate the U.S. economy appears to have been prevented after the Senate voted overwhelmingly Thursday to impose a labor deal on rail workers and companies. The agreement includes pay increases, bonuses and voluntary assigned days off, but only one paid day off for rail workers. Paid sick leave was a key issue cited by union members in rejecting the deal, and a separate measure passed in the House on Wednesday would have provided workers with seven paid sick days. But the Senate rejected that measure. Here's the latest.

Activists in support of unionized rail workers protest outside the U.S. Capitol Building on Wednesday in Washington.

SCOTUS may have final word on student loan forgiveness: The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear arguments about Biden's student loan forgiveness program, a step toward resolving the legal battle over whether the administration exceeded its authority. The high court kept the program's implementation on pause and said it would hear arguments as soon as February. Keep reading.

Biden hosts Macron for dinner: In a nod to the renewed U.S. alliance with France, Biden will fête French President Emmanuel Macron at a state dinner Thursday night. Follow our coverage.

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden welcome French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron to the White House for a state visit on Thursday.

Kyiv mayor: City could be without heat all winter

The continued Russian battering of Kyiv's energy infrastructure could result in large swaths of the city of 3 million people unable to heat homes and businesses this winter, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko warned Thursday. "Until spring, it will be very difficult," Klitschko said. "In a very short period of time, the temperature in the apartments may not differ much from the outside." Rolling blackouts are already a way of life in Ukraine's capital. If things get worse, Klitschko urged residents to be prepared for worst-case scenarios, suggesting they could move in with family or friends who have heat if winter in the city becomes unbearable.

👉 Live updates: US, NATO 'directly participating' in war against Russia, Kremlin says. Follow our Ukraine coverage.

A woman walks down a street in downtown Kyiv on December 1, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

What everyone's talking about

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Many nursing homes are poorly staffed. How do they get away with it?

Having enough nurses and aides is the strongest predictor of whether nursing home residents will thrive, but many nursing homes are understaffed. Biden has proposed the most ambitious nursing home reforms in decades, including the creation of nationwide staffing minimums, but a USA TODAY investigation found current guidelines aren’t being met, and facilities are rarely punished for it. A look at the dangers.

Tracey Pompey is a nurse’s aide and a co-founder and vice president of the advocacy organization Justice and Change for Victims of Nursing Facilities.

✈️ Do we really need to put our phones in airplane mode?

This is your captain speaking: Is your phone in airplane mode? Although it's not a well-studied question, a 2017 survey found that about 40% of passengers said they left their cell service on while flying. But federal regulations still require all passengers to use airplane mode while in the air, which is why an announcement is made on every flight. But changes could be coming. European regulators recently cleared the way for 5G-enabled mobile devices to keep their transmitters on during flights, and experts say it's likely that the U.S. will follow suit. So, what is the big deal? We break it down.

Real quick

🌤 What's the weather doing at your house? Check your local forecast.

Even the turtle doves aren't immune to inflation

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me ... just a partridge? 😩 The cost of buying your true love all the gifts from “The Twelve Days of Christmas” rose nearly 26% this year. The combined cost for the dozen gifts featured in the final verse of the famed Christmas carol totals $45,523, a 10.5% increase overall, according to the 39th annual PNC Christmas Price Index. What's driving up the prices? Birds! While swan, calling bird, and partridge prices didn't change, those of turtle doves, French hens and geese soared by 20%. The rising cost of fertilizer was a major factor driving up the prices of pear trees – they went from $223 to $280. I guess my true love had to make some budget cuts somewhere (and the pear tree isn't the worst decision because I'm not confident I could keep it alive, what with all the lords-a-leaping and such.) Take a look at the rest of the gifts.

Some of the gifts from 'The Twelve Days of Christmas,' the cost of which rose nearly 26% this year.

Source: PNC Financial Services Group

A break from the news

Laura L. Davis is an Audience Editor at USA TODAY. Send her an email at laura@usatoday.com or follow along with her adventures – and misadventures – on Twitter. Support quality journalism like this? Subscribe to USA TODAY here.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Senate rail strike vote, student loan debt, Macron state dinner, airplane mode, 12 Days of Christmas cost. Thursday's news.