KTEP - El Paso, Texas

James Doubek

The Pentagon is placing about 8,500 U.S. troops on heightened alert to possibly deploy to Eastern Europe as Russian forces stand poised for a possible invasion of Ukraine.

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said on Monday that the decision to deploy troops has not been made.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin "has placed a range of units in the United States on a heightened preparedness to deploy, which increases our readiness to provide forces if NATO should activate the [NATO Response Force] or if other situations develop," Kirby said.

Updated January 23, 2022 at 8:58 PM ET

The State Department ordered the family members of staff at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, to leave the country, as fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine grow.

The department is also allowing the departure of nonessential embassy employees, it said in an updated travel advisory issued on Sunday evening.

Updated January 12, 2022 at 9:04 AM ET

A simple word game is the newest social media and pop culture phenomenon: Wordle.

The task is to guess a five-letter word. You have six tries. After each guess, the tiles change colors to show which letters are not in the word (gray), which letters are in the word but in the wrong position (yellow) and which ones are correctly in the word and in the right position (green).

Updated January 9, 2022 at 10:06 PM ET

Actor, comedian and director Bob Saget has died at age 65.

The Orange County Sheriff's Office in Florida said deputies were called to the Ritz-Carlton in Orlando on Sunday after an unresponsive man was found in a hotel room.

Historic conservation experts in Virginia have pulled numerous pamphlets, newspapers, coins, bullets and other memorabilia from a copper box found at the site where a Robert E. Lee statue stood in Richmond.

A monitor group said 3,746 people were killed in the Syrian civil war in 2021, the 11th year of the conflict in the country.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said this week that the number includes 1,505 civilians, and among them were 360 children. About 600 Islamic State, or ISIS, members were killed and 158 from the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias.

The Observatory is based in the U.K. but has a network of contacts in Syria.

The family of Daunte Wright says the conviction of former Minnesota police officer Kim Potter in Wright's death is a "bittersweet" moment ahead of the Christmas holiday, when "what we'll be able to look at is his urn on top of the fireplace."

Potter, who served as a police officer in Brooklyn Center, Minn., for 26 years, mistook her handgun for a Taser and fatally shot 20-year-old Wright during a traffic stop in April.

Eighty years ago this week, a small group of American aviators fought in their first battle in World War II.

Their mission was unusual: They were mercenaries hired by China to fight against Japan.

They were called the American Volunteer Group and later became known as the Flying Tigers. Though only in combat for less than seven months, the group became famous at the time for its ability to inflict outsize damage on Japan's better-equipped and larger aircraft fleet.

Updated December 14, 2021 at 8:04 PM ET

Teams in western Kentucky are digging through mountains of debris and searching for survivors and bodies after tornadoes ripped through 200 miles of the state Friday night into Saturday.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said on Tuesday that 74 people were confirmed killed, while more than 100 remain unaccounted for.

Updated November 23, 2021 at 4:49 PM ET

A jury in Virginia has found a group of white nationalists who organized the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., liable of engaging in a conspiracy ahead of the violent demonstration, awarding the plaintiffs who brought the case more than $25 million in damages on Tuesday.

President Biden welcomed the reigning NBA champions, the Milwaukee Bucks, to the White House on Monday, making them the first NBA champions to visit since 2016.

"In sport and in a democracy, unity perhaps is the most elusive thing and the most necessary thing," Biden said. "But that's who this team is, they're unified. That's who we are as a nation."

Biden praised the "power of a team's example in not just winning the title," adding that players "took a stand for justice and peace in the wake of Jacob Blake's shooting in Kenosha, Wis."

James Michael Tyler, the actor best known for playing the recurring character Gunther on Friends, has died at age 59 of prostate cancer.

He died at his home in Los Angeles on Sunday morning, his manager Toni Benson confirmed to NPR.

It has been 30 years since Dan Savage started his column "Savage Love" to answer questions about sex, love and relationships.

He's celebrating the anniversary with a new book, Savage Love from A to Z, an illustrated collection of essays with one for each letter of the alphabet.

Things have changed a lot from when he started writing about sex in The Stranger, Seattle's alternative weekly newspaper, in 1991.

A 3,500-year-old clay tablet that was looted from an Iraqi museum 30 years ago is headed back to Iraq.

Known as the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet, it was acquired by the company Hobby Lobby in 2014 for display in the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. U.S. authorities seized it in 2019, saying it was stolen and needed to be returned.

That return is happening Thursday at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. It is part of a group of about 17,000 looted antiquities that the U.S. agreed to return to Iraq. Some of them went back in July.

In the latest example of a wicked hot housing market, a 10-foot wide house in Boston has sold for $1.25 million.

Located in the city's historic North End neighborhood, the 2-bedroom 1-bath home was built in 1890, according to city tax records, though some accounts say 1862.

Students are destroying or stealing items at their schools, often in the school bathrooms, for what school administrators and police are blaming on a TikTok trend.

NASA won't be ready to send astronauts to the moon by 2024 as planned because, among other reasons, their spacesuits won't be ready, the agency's internal watchdog found.

Arkansas, among the states hardest-hit by a new wave of coronavirus cases linked to the highly contagious delta variant, says it is down to eight unoccupied ICU beds statewide with which to care for COVID-19 patients.

Gov. Asa Hutchison, in a tweet on Monday, said the latest report highlighted "startling numbers."

The U.S. government announced new sanctions Monday on Belarusian government officials and wealthy allies of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, calling the measures a response to the regime's ongoing political repression and corruption.

Updated August 9, 2021 at 4:39 PM ET

The Department of Defense is moving to make COVID-19 vaccinations required for all department employees.

Slovenian powerhouse Tadej Pogačar officially claimed his second Tour de France victory on Sunday after dominating the field for most of the race's three weeks.

Pogačar, 22, pulled ahead in the general classification standings on a rainy stage eight and never gave up the leading rider's yellow jersey, winning three of the race's 21 stages.

Last year, Pogačar came to an unexpected victory after his rival Primož Roglič faltered in the penultimate stage time trial. At the time he was the youngest winner of the Tour in 116 years.

Pro cyclist Lachlan Morton wasn't officially in this year's Tour de France, but he rode the route anyway, by himself — and beat everyone to the finish in Paris by five days.

After starting shortly behind the official group on June 26, he crossed the unofficial finish line at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday: 3,424 miles in 18 days, including ascents up some of France's famously brutal mountains.

Morton rode around 200 miles each day, usually spending about 12 hours in the saddle before finding a place to camp for the night (or simply riding through the night).

The largest organization of insect experts in the world is dropping its common names for two insects — the gypsy moth and gypsy ant — because it says the names are inappropriate and offensive.

The Entomological Society of America said it would take input on new names for the moth Lymantria dispar and the ant Aphaenogaster araneoides.

Many scientific groups follow its lead in referring to insect species.

There was one spot of good news amid the search for the dead in Surfside, Fla. A cat named Binx, who had lived on the ninth floor of the collapsed building, was found alive and reunited with his family.

"I'm glad that this small miracle could bring some light into the lives of a hurting family today and provide a bright spot for our whole community in the midst of this terrible tragedy," Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told reporters at a press conference on Friday.

Updated July 3, 2021 at 11:37 PM ET

Officials paused search and rescue operations at the site of the partially collapsed condo building in Surfside, Fla., on Saturday, as crews prepare to demolish the portion that still stands.

Twenty-four people been confirmed killed; 121 remain unaccounted for.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said in a press conference that search efforts were paused at 4 p.m., and that the unstable building poses a threat to the people involved in ongoing search operations.

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