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All your news in a single email. We scour 100+ sources so you don't have to. Culture, science, sports, politics, business, and more - all packaged in a 5-minute read below.
Need To Know.
Shutdown Continues.
President Trump invited congressional leaders to the White House today to discuss funding to extend a wall along the US-Mexico border, an issue at the center of a partial government shutdown that is now in its 12th day. The meeting will reportedly include a briefing by Homeland Security officials on the current state of border security. House Democrats have scheduled a vote on a bill to reopen the government tomorrow, the first day they assume control of the lower chamber, without the requested $5B in funding for a border wall. The bill would provide full funding for all shuttered parts of the government except Homeland Security, which would be funded through Feb. 8th to allow more time for negotiations. 

In related news, US officials fired tear gas across the border yesterday to repel an attempted breach by about 150 migrants outside of Tijuana.  
NFL Playoffs.
The 12-team NFL playoffs will include seven teams that did not make the field last year, following the conclusion of the regular season on Sunday. The New Orleans Saints (13-3) and the Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) locked in top seeds in their respective conferences (see full breakdown), and will be joined by the second-seeded Los Angeles Rams (13-3) and New England Patriots (11-5) in securing a bye week during the opening round of the playoffs. It was a dramatic final weekend, with the Baltimore Ravens (10-6), Indianapolis Colts (10-6), and defending champion Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) all squeezing into the remaining spots after facing must-win games. The Saints are the consensus favorite to win Super Bowl LII, while the Eagles are the long shot of the group. Finally, a number of non-contenders fired their coaches on Monday, including the Cincinnati Bengals who parted ways with Marvin Lewis after 16 seasons and zero playoff wins.  

At the college level, #1 Alabama beat #4 Oklahoma 45-34 while #2 Clemson dominated #3 Notre Dame 30-3 in the playoff semifinals - Alabama and Clemson will meet in the championship next Monday (8PM ET, ESPN). 
Syria Drawdown Extended.
The US has extended the timeline to withdraw the majority of its forces from war-torn Syria to four months, according to reports. President Trump had originally set a 30-day window in a December 19th announcement, and the extension allows for a more orderly exit, including deciding which equipment to bring back, leave with allies, or disable. Roughly 2,000 US personnel remain in the war-torn country, which is at the end of a nearly 8-year-long civil war. President Trump emphasized the near-eradication of ISIS (see background) as the reason for the withdraw. The pullout also threatens ethnic Kurds in the region, whose militia partnered with the US to fight ISIS but has been a long-standing target of Turkey, which borders Syria on the North. 

Need a quick refresher on the whole conflict? Check out this one-minute animated map of the war. 
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In The Know.
Sports, Entertainment & Culture.
> Netflix: Bird Box breaks record with 45 million views in first week (More) | Stranger Things gets July 4th release date for Season 3 (More)
> Kevin Spacey to enter not guilty plea on alleged sexual assault charges; Spacey must attend arraignment hearing January 7th (More)
> Verizon and Disney reach distribution deal to avoid blackout of ESPN on Fios (More)
Science & Technology.
> NASA's New Horizons deep space probe makes successful fly-by of farthest and oldest object ever investigated up close; will give insight into early formation of the solar system (More)
> Cyberattacks hobble printing and distribution of major US papers across the country; malware originated outside US, but of unknown origin (More)
> Researchers make first measurement of lifetime of graphene-based qubit, key step in using the material for quantum computing (More) | All you need to know about quantum computing (More)
Business & Markets.
> US stock markets end 2018 down - S&P500 -6.2%, Dow -5.6%, Nasdaq -4% - worst year for US stocks since 2008 (More)
> Sears chairman bids $4.4B for 425 stores to keep struggling retailer from liquidation (More)
> 20 US states increased minimum wage in 2019; see list of states and new wages (More)
Politics & World Affairs.
> Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) becomes first major Democrat to launch exploratory bid for 2020 presidency (More)
> California utility provider Pacific Gas and Electric could face charges up to murder if found liable in deadly Camp wildfire, which killed 88, according to court filings (More)
> Retired US Marine arrested in Russia on espionage charges (More)
New Year's Eve photos from around the world
Illinois hunters can now wear pink, and other state laws coming into effect for 2019
See the trailers for this coming year's biggest films
Ugh Millennials: Aren't afraid of sharing details about their salaries
2018's most-searched dictionary words...
...and the top words teens used to describe 2018...
...and 2018 as captured by the best user-submitted GoPro videos
Arizona residents are attacking self-driving cars
Bald eagle goes rogue at the Notre Dame-Clemson game, lands on a fan
Clickbait: Chrissy Teigen awkwardly rings in the new year by taking an umbrella to the face (via YouTube). 
Historybook: Reconquista completed (1492); Viet Cong get first major victory of Vietnam War (1963); Ronald Reagan sworn in as CA governor (1967); President Carter ends US-Russia detente (1980); HBD actress Kate Bosworth (1983).
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