It’s official: Government shutdown becomes the longest in history 

The partial government shutdown, which began on Dec. 22, entered its 22nd day early Saturday, making it the longest in history. The previous longest shutdown on record lasted from Dec. 5, 1995, to Jan. 6, 1996,  when Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Democratic President Bill Clinton faced off over taxes. On Friday, some 800,000 federal workers missed their first paycheck since the shutdown began. The shutdown is the result of an impasse between President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats over funding for a barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border. Negotiations stalled again this week after Trump abruptly left a White House meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. The president traveled to Texas Thursday to review the situation at the border. 

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NFL’s best weekend loaded with playoff action

From The Immaculate Reception to last year’s Minneapolis Miracle, the divisional round of the NFL playoffs has produced some of the greatest games in NFL history. This weekend’s slate of games begins Saturday afternoon with the Colts visiting the Chiefs (4:35 p.m. ET, NBC). At night, Cowboys fans in L.A. will storm the Coliseum to watch Dallas take on the Rams (8:15 p.m. ET, FOX). The action continues Sunday as Philip Rivers and the Chargers travel cross-country to play Tom Brady and the Patriots (1:05 p.m. ET, CBS) and concludes with the defending champion Eagles visiting the New Orleans Saints (4:40 p.m. ET, FOX). Check out who our NFL staff thinks will advance to the conference championship games, along with who’s on upset alert and the X-factors for all four games.

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SportsPulse: As we get deeper into the NFL playoffs, predicting which team will come out on top gets tougher. USA TODAY Sports’ Lorenzo Reyes is here to help you pick an upset and a lock heading into the weekend. USA TODAY

Midwestern states brace for winter storm to hit the region

A winter storm system packing snow, sleet and ice is bearing down on more than 20 million people this weekend, with heavy snow expected from Denver to New York City. The storm will most likely disrupt travel in the mid-Atlantic as it settles in on Saturday night. Motorists along key Interstate highways will be hardest hit, especially the I-64 and I-70 corridors of the Plains and Midwest. For many areas, this will be a long-duration winter storm event that lasts more than 12 hours and perhaps as much as 48 hours in some cases. Most of the snow should be over for the NFL playoff game Saturday in Kansas City, and forecasts indicate New England will escape the snowy onslaught for the game in Foxborough, Massachusetts, Sunday afternoon. Several major airlines are also waiving change fees.  

Stars pay tribute to Aretha Franklin at Los Angeles concert

Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, Celine Dion, SZA and Patti LaBelle are among the artists who will pay tribute to Aretha Franklin at Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium on Sunday.”Aretha! A Grammy Celebration for the Queen of Soul,” which will be televised by CBS at a later date, was announced by the Recording Academy and is the latest in a recent series of Grammy tribute events, including concerts devoted to Stevie Wonder and the Beatles. The tribute concert comes days after MGM announced that Liesel Tommy will direct the long-gestating Franklin biopic, “Respect,” starring Jennifer Hudson as the Queen of Soul. Franklin died at the age of 76 in August from pancreatic cancer. 

France prepares for revived anti-government protests

Authorities in France have deployed 80,000 security forces nationwide for a ninth straight weekend of anti-government protests. The movement, which waned over the holidays, appears to be resurging despite President Emmanuel Macron’s promises of billions of euros in tax relief and an upcoming “national debate” to address demonstrators’ concerns. Online groups mounted calls through the week for actions in Bourges, a provincial capital with a renowned Gothic cathedral and picturesque wood-framed houses, and the suburban Paris business district of La Defense. But authorities warned that could be a ploy to draw police away from key sites in the capital, which epitomizes the power and wealth that’s the target of the provincially driven protest movement. Protesters want deeper changes to France’s economy and politics, seen as favoring the rich. 

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Contributing: Associated Press

 

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