The 5 Most Important Things in the News Today

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President Donald Trump said that there may be a breakthrough in trade negotiations with China. Tariffs imposed by both sides already have hurt the economies of each country. Products as diverse as U.S. soybeans and bourbon have been blocked as part of China’s side of new trade barriers. The United States has imposed tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods. According to Reuters:

President Donald Trump said on Twitter on Saturday that he had a “long and very good call” with Chinese President Xi Jinping and that a possible trade deal between the United States and China was progressing well.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a conciliatory holiday letter to President Trump. The two nations have been at odds over Russian meddling in U.S. elections and an Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, which limits the types of nuclear weapons each nation can deploy. According to CNBC:

Russian leader Vladimir Putin sent a holiday letter to President Donald Trump in which he said Moscow is ready for dialogue on a wide-ranging agenda, the Kremlin said in a statement on Sunday. Putin “stressed that Russia-U.S. relations are the most important factor behind ensuring strategic stability and international security,” the statement added.

Following through on a threat he made earlier this year, President Trump said he would freeze the pay of federal workers. According to USAToday:

Amid the current partial government shutdown, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to freeze pay for federal workers in 2019.The move is consistent with Trump’s budget proposal and a notice to Congress in August, when he cited “serious economic conditions” in cutting pay to civilian workers. “We must maintain efforts to put our nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases,” he said at the time. Trump signed the executive order late Friday afternoon. The military would not be affected.’ If the freeze stands, over two million federal workers will be affected.

College football powerhouse Alabama, the number one ranked team in the country, beat number-four-rated Oklahoma by a score of 45 to 34. The win means Alabama will play in the College Football finals. Alabama will face number-two-ranked Clemson, which beat number-three-ranked Notre Dame 30 to 3. According to the Associated Press:

Alabama (14-0) advanced to the national championship game for the fourth consecutive season and will play Jan. 7 in Santa Clara, California against familiar foe Clemson, which beat Notre Dame 30-3 in the Cotton Bowl. The Tigers, ranked No. 2, and Alabama will face off in the playoffs for the fourth year in a row, and have split two title games.

Two workers at a hotel in Portland, Oregon, who forced a black male guest to leave have been fired. According to Fox News:

A Portland, Oregon, hotel announced Saturday that it has fired two employees who were “involved in the mistreatment” of a black man who was told to leave the establishment last week. Jermaine Massey, 34, of Kent, Washington, was staying at the DoubleTree Hotel in the city after seeing a Travis Scott concert, The Oregonian reported. He went to the lobby to return a call from his mother that appeared urgent.

Elsewhere, a snowstorm is expected to affect the middle part of the nation, just a day after ice and snow snarled holiday travel across parts of the country. According to CNN, “The letup won’t last long, however. On Sunday, moisture emanating from the Gulf of Mexico will bring a band of showers to southeastern Texas and then stretch across southern Louisiana, all the way up through the Carolinas. Then, on the last day of 2018, another storm will bring rain, although less heavy, to the North and East …”

House Beautiful listed the best places around the world to celebrate the New Year.

Wonderwall posted a list of the celebrities who died over the course of 2018.

moviefone listed the Best Movies of 2018.

Popular Mechanics gave advice about why people should not warm up a cold engine.

And Delish provided a list of New Year’s appetizers.