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The news you need to know today

Here's the morning headlines for Friday, Dec. 17

Feud over mask mandate ends, feud over health worker shots ramps up
The U.S. Department of Educationconfirmed this week that a cease-and-desist complaint against Florida’s education department has been dropped officially ending the standoff between the Gov. Ron DeSantis administration and federal education officials over student mask requirements. But the fight over the federal vaccine mandate for healthcare workers continues as Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody on Thursday asked a full federal appeals courtto at least temporarily block a Biden administration rule that would require health-care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Funding coming to Panhandle
On Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced $12 million in funding will go to to help rural communities recovering from Hurricane Michael. And in Panama City, FEMA approved nearly $2.8 million to improve drainage into the Robinson Bayou Basin. The project is also part of Hurricane Michael recovery.

La Niña advisory in effect in Florida
A warm and dry winter is expected across the Sunshine State, according to the latest outlook from the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center. These forecasted conditions could lead to the gradual onset of drought, and an active 2022 Florida wildfire season. Read more from Florida Storms here.

NASA's most powerful space telescope ever
Next week on Christmas Eve, NASA is planning to launch the most powerful space telescope ever, the James Webb Space Telescope. NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce reports that this telescope should reveal how the early universe revved up nearly 14 billion years ago. Listen here.

From blood clots to infected neurons, how COVID threatens the brain
Months after a bout with COVID-19, many people are still struggling with memory problems, mental fog and mood changes. One reason is that the disease can cause long-term harm to the brain.

The current catalog of COVID-related threats to the brain includes bleeding, blood clots, inflammation, oxygen deprivation and disruption of the protective blood-brain barrier. And there's new evidence in monkeys that the virus may also directly infect and kill certain brain cells. Read more from NPR here.