Ron DeSantis’ big gamble and the dangers of very early puberty: Morning Rundown

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Ron DeSantis’ big gamble and the dangers of very early puberty: Morning Rundown

In today’s newsletter: Was a big bet by Ron DeSantis’ early campaign backers a big bust? Puberty is coming dangerously early for some kids. And the reparations movement gains momentum. 

Ron DeSantis’ big Iowa gamble

Ron DeSantis during a campaign stop in Ankeny, Iowa
Ron DeSantis during a campaign stop in Ankeny, Iowa, on Dec. 19, 2023.Cody Scanlan / USA Today Network via Reuters

In the early days of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential bid, a key group backing him made a bet that the GOP nomination would be won by winning the door-knocking competition on DeSantis’ behalf. 

The super PAC Never Back Down blanketed the ground in early voting states with canvassers who knocked on hundreds of thousands of doors again and again (and in some cases, again and again after that), hoping to spread DeSantis’ message and better introduce him to the electorate.

Never Back Down says it has hit more than half of the total number of households in Iowa. A similar share was hit in South Carolina, where the group says it knocked on more than 968,000 doors. 

Some people close to the effort, however, see it as futile — that no amount of door-knocking can change what the polls show: former President Donald Trump trouncing the field. 

Allan Smith explains DeSantis’ big bet on door-knocking and how it faces Trump’s built-in campaign advantages and Nikki Haley’s renewed strength in the primaries. 

Netanyahu adviser travels to Washington

One of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s most senior advisers is scheduled to meet with White House and State Department officials in Washington today. Ron Dermer will discuss the war in Gaza, a source familiar with the matter told NBC News.

His visit comes after Netanyahu vowed yesterday, to keep fighting until Hamas is destroyed, defying global calls for a cease-fire. “Do not stop,” he told soldiers in northern Gaza after a bloody weekend for the troops, which saw 17 killed.

Growing awareness of precocious puberty and its risks

Left: Photo illustration of various childhood, girlhood and puberty items including hair bobbles, scrunchies, a doll etc.
“She’s a smart girl, but she’s still learning and growing,” Jennifer Benton said of her daughter.Nakeya Brown for NBC News; Caroline Gutman for NBC News

Jennifer Benton’s daughter was just 5 years old when her kindergarten teacher pointed out that the young girl was developing breasts.

Benton had never heard of precocious puberty. Having grown up in the Black community, where early puberty rates are among the highest in the U.S., Benton had known 7- and 8-year-old girls who’d had their periods or needed bras. She didn’t know there was an actual medical diagnosis, or that prescription hormone treatments called puberty blockers could help slow the physical changes, if needed.

Early puberty going untreated can have tremendous implications for the physical and emotional health of young children. With puberty beginning at increasingly younger ages, especially among Black girls, doctors say there’s an urgent need for greater awareness of precocious puberty among families who may face hurdles in access to diagnosis and medical care. 

How California is advancing the cause of reparations  

Advocates seeking reparations for the harms inflicted on Black people during centuries of slavery in America are entering the new year with reason for hope. Many municipalities either started or are forming commissions to address compensation to the descendants of enslaved Africans. 

California has made the most zealous effort. After two years of work, the state’s reparations task force now has a 1,100-page report with a detailed blueprint for cities, states and even the federal government to follow. Curtis Bunn reports on what’s next for California’s reparations plan and why pessimism persists.

Momentum builds to protect child influencers

The new year could mark a new chapter for young internet creators who have faced something of a Wild West when it comes to protections for their work on social media platforms.

More states will consider legislation in 2024 to protect minors who appear in online content. Some experts say the legislative action, while welcome, is long overdue. The law that governs “excessive child labor” dates back to 1938 and hasn’t been updated to apply to internet influencers. Same for California’s Coogan Act, which protects child actors. Kalhan Rosenblatt explains how the new efforts come at a time of reckoning for several prominent family vloggers and parents of child influencers.

A scientist reckons with climate grief 

climate scientist meditation meditate
Peter Kalmus meditates in TOWN, DATE.Evan Bush / NBC News

Peter Kalmus, 49, thinks civilization is on the path to break down, the Biden administration is clueless on climate, and that he might get fired from his job at NASA if he is arrested for a third time protesting what he views as downright madness: the continued use of fossil fuels. “It’s kind of weird and lonely,” he said. “People don’t want to talk about this stuff at parties.”

Kalmus, whose account has some 340,000 followers on X, is at the vanguard of a group of scientists who are disillusioned and convinced that more radical action is needed to wake up political leaders. 

He has been on a 15-year quest to halt climate change and has already oriented most everything in his life to minimize his own climate footprint and maximize what he can do to push society to change.

Politics in Brief

The year of independents: Americans are not happy with the two likely main choices for president in 2024, setting the stage for a large cast of third-party and independent presidential candidates.

Election 2024: Retirement announcements from members of Congress often come after the holidays, adding to an already volatile fight for control of the House next year

Congresswoman harassed: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was the victim of a “swatting” attempt at her home on Christmas. The Georgia Republican has been repeatedly harassed by fake reports of crimes in progress at her house.

2023 Review: The photos and illustrations that told the year’s biggest stories

Illustrations and photographs published by NBC News in 2023.
NBC News

We followed swimmers to sewage-tainted waters, caught up with a nurse pronounced dead by anti-vaxxers (Spoiler alert: She’s alive), drew up how one’s brain might feel when it’s zapped and so much more. See the images that captured 2023’s top stories.

In Case You Missed It

Select: Online Shopping, Simplified Studies show that jigsaw puzzles have a positive effect on visual-spatial reasoning and problem-solving skills, as well as reducing the risk of cognitive decline over time. Plus, they can be fun with family and friends or a soothing way to get absorbed in something on your own. NBC Select asked a puzzle historian for advice on how to shop for the best adult puzzles.

Thanks for reading today’s Morning Rundown. Today’s newsletter was curated for you by Richie Duchon. If you’re a fan, please send a link to your family and friends. They can sign-up here.

Richie Duchon

Richie Duchon is an NBC News digital editor in the Los Angeles bureau. 

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