Lucy Perkins | KUOW News and Information

Lucy Perkins

In December, it's all but impossible to avoid brushing shoulders with holiday cheer. Tinsel, garlands, wreaths and twinkling lights — it can often seem the decorations are everywhere.

Among the most famous of these many attractions are the window displays at Lord and Taylor, on the busy Fifth Avenue sidewalk in New York City. They're far more complicated than a few mannequins in Santa suits; they're more like festive pieces of art.

It wasn't all in your head — last month was hotter than ever before.

Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report that July had the highest average temperatures in records since 1880.

And it's not just in the U.S. Average July temperatures around the world set heat records too, NPR's Kat Chow reports.

She tells our Newscast unit that:

"This confirms what NASA and a Japanese agency found using separate data.

The movie theater chain Regal Cinemas, which is run by Regal Entertainment Group, has announced that it is checking the bags of theatergoers.

In its admittance procedures online, Regal says that any bag or backpack is subject to inspection:

You may see new customer service technology at the airport soon. It's part of an effort by federal agencies to make it easier for people to give the government feedback, according to the Washington Post.

The equipment has a simple design, and it looks more like it belongs in a playroom than in an airport.

Thai police say they have video of a man who may be responsible for Monday's bombing in Bangkok. As we previously reported, the explosion killed at least 20 people.

As Michael Sullivan tells our Newscast unit from Bangkok, a sketch of the suspect was released Wednesday, and is based on images from surveillance cameras. The sketch shows a man apparently leaving a backpack at the Erawan shrine, minutes before the explosion took place.

Two police officers responded to a 911 call in March 2014 that ended in the killing of James Boyd, 38, a homeless man camping in the foothills outside Albuquerque, N.M.

Now a judge says there is probable cause to try officers Dominique Perez and Keith Sandy for murder, The Associated Press reports.

The AP notes that during a hearing:

U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to charges of racketeering conspiracy, bribery and mail fraud, writes The Associated Press.

As we previously reported, the government alleged last month that Fattah was involved in a widespread conspiracy that involved the theft of charitable funds, the illegal use of campaign contributions and bribery.

NPR's Eyder Peralta explained:

The Army is deploying 200 soldiers to help fight wildfires that are burning through about 1.1 million acres across the Western United States. That's according to a press release from the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.

"It's been nine years since wildfire was so widespread all at once that active military troops joined firefighters battling blazes," NPR's Howard Berkes reports. "Four military C-130 cargo planes are also in use as air tankers."

United States Steel Corp. says it is shutting down its blast furnace and steelmaking operations at its plant near Birmingham, Ala., this fall.

More than 1,000 U.S. Steel employees at Fairfield Works in the town of Fairfield will lose their jobs, NPR's Debbie Elliott reports. She adds:

"The nearly century-old plant once rolled steel used to build ships during World War I and was long the center of Birmingham's steel industry. It's located in the suburb of Fairfield, established by U.S. Steel as a planned company mill town in the early 1900s."

U.S. government officials report that Kayla Mueller, the American who was kidnapped while doing relief work with Syrian refugees, was repeatedly raped by the top leader of the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

DNA tests confirm a captured grizzly bear was the animal that killed Lance Crosby while he was hiking in Yellowstone National Park last week. The bear was put down Thursday, according to a National Park Service news release.

The tests also conclude that, in addition to the adult grizzly, cubs were at the site of the attack, the statement says:

You can watch more than six seasons of Friends in the amount of time it takes to complete what will be the longest westerly nonstop commercial flight.

How long is it? A mere 17 hours and 35 minutes.

The Boeing 777, operated by Emirates, will hold 266 passengers, on its trip from Dubai to Panama City beginning next February, according to a press release.

A same-sex marriage fight continues in Kentucky, where a county clerk's staff turned away two different same-sex couples in search of marriage licenses on Thursday, saying no licenses would be issued, writes The New York Times.

NBCUniversal officially made a big investment in another media group Wednesday, putting $200 million into Vox Media.

NPR's David Folkenflik reports that Vox's value post-investment is nearly $1 billion. "Vox Media is the home to sites about sports, real estate, fashion, tech, as well as policy and politics," he says.

The resting place of Egyptian Queen Nefertiti, known for her beauty and power, has been unknown to the world. But one researcher has a hunch about where she was buried.

Nicholas Reeves, resident scholar at the School of Anthropology at the University of Arizona, has been studying laser scans of King Tutankhamen's tomb. (The scans were commissioned to create an exact replica to reduce damage from tourist traffic in the real tomb.)

Reeves used the scans to see the bumpy terrain of the walls behind the gilded frescoes that decorate it.

The three state agents who were under investigation after they arrested a University of Virginia honors student in March returned to active duty on Monday.

Air traffic controllers' work schedules can lead to chronic fatigue, according to a study conducted by NASA researchers for the Federal Aviation Administration that was completed in December 2012 and published online Monday.

The Associated Press, which first reported on the findings, says the study came about after the National Transportation Safety Board made a recommendation to the FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association that they change controllers' schedules to provide more time to sleep.

The news service adds:

A year after he was in Ferguson, Mo., a reporter at The Washington Post has been ordered to appear in court.

A hiker was killed in Yellowstone last week and his body was found partially eaten.

The suspect? A mother grizzly bear. The hiker was identified Monday as Lance Crosby, who had been working for Medcor, an organization that runs urgent care clinics in the park, according to a National Park Service press release. Wire services say he was 63.

A woman who allegedly shot and killed a social worker last week just outside Montpelier in Barre, Vt., appeared in court Monday. The alleged shooter, Jody Herring, is being held without bail.

Police say that Herring reportedly shot Lara Sobel, 48, a social worker at the Department for Children and Families, because Herring was upset about losing custody of her daughter, according to the Associated Press.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane is facing criminal charges for allegedly leaking grand jury information and then lying about it under oath.

Kane is charged with perjury and obstruction, among other things, according to the criminal complaint.

NPR's Jeff Brady filed this report for Newscast:

The Newseum in Washington, D.C., has announced that it will acquire the set of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart after the host's last episode airs on Aug. 6. The museum devoted to the news says the set will be available for future display.

Updated at 9:20 p.m.

Three people were slightly injured at a movie theater in Antioch, Tenn., Wednesday in an attack by a man, who police say had a hatchet, pepper spray and a pellet gun. Officials identify the man as Vincente David Montano, 29, of Nashville. He was fatally shot by police.

Murfreesboro, Tenn., police say Montano was arrested there in 2004 and had four commitments for psychological incidents in 2004 and 2007. Murfreesboro police had considered him a missing person since Monday.

In a mesmerizing video, a researcher explains the math behind what seems like magic — photographs in which the view is obscured by things like chain-link fences and reflections become free of clutter with just a few clicks.

Updated at 3:15 p.m. ET

Our Newscast unit reports that Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced at a news conference Wednesday that pieces of a jet have been identified:

"Today, 515 days since the plane disappeared, it is with a very heavy heart that I must tell you that an international team of experts have conclusively confirmed that the aircraft debris found on Reunion island is indeed from MH370," he said.

One of the world's most prominent free divers is missing off the coast of an island called Formentera, near Ibiza, Spain. Natalia Molchanova of Russia was on a recreational dive on Sunday when she was separated from companions, according to AIDA, the worldwide federation for free diving. The organization calls her the most accomplished and most famous female free diver in the world.

The family of Sandra Bland, who was arrested in Prairie View, Texas, and was later found dead in her jail cell, announced Tuesday that they're suing authorities in Texas.

NPR's Wade Goodwyn reported for our Newscast unit that the wrongful-death lawsuit names the Texas state trooper who arrested Bland, the sheriff of Waller County, the Texas Department of Public Safety and two guards at the jail. "Among other things, the lawsuit accuses the state trooper of depriving Bland of her constitutional rights," Wade says.

Updated at 1:30am ET

Delta says it will no longer allow freight shipments of big game trophies. The decision follows the killing of a popular lion in Zimbabwe.

The airline said in a statement on Monday that, effective immediately, it "will officially ban shipment of all lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros, and buffalo trophies."

Toy guns that look real should no longer be sold in New York.

NPR's Joel Rose reports that retailers who were selling realistic-looking toy guns have agreed to halt their sales of the product. Wal-Mart, Amazon and other retailers have also agreed to pay $300,000 in fines as part of a settlement announced Monday.

An investigation by the New York attorney general's office found more than 6,000 toy guns that violate New York law were sold in the state in the past three years.

As wildfires continue to blaze across California, one fire is more expansive in its reach than others. It's called Rocky Fire, and it began last week. It has already burned through at least 60,000 acres.

The Rocky Fire, one of numerous active wildfires in the state, is north of San Francisco, and member station KQED reports it is roughly double the size of the city.

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