Federal government shuts down heading into holidays

Parts of the federal government shut down early Saturday for the third time this year after a last-ditch effort by Republicans and Democrats failed to resolve a budget standoff. Lawmakers refused to meet President Donald Trump’s demands for $5 billion to start erecting his proposes wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a chaotic postscript for Republicans in the waning days of their two-year reign controlling government. Nine federal departments and several smaller agencies ran out of funding at midnight Friday, requiring them to close their doors, and put more than 380,000 federal workers on furlough and force another 420,000 employees to work without pay. House and Senate lawmakers are scheduled to return to work at noon Saturday to presumably resume negotiations among themselves and the White House. But no immediate deal seems certain. 

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A government shutdown could have an impact on everything from your passport application to your trip to a national park.
USA TODAY

Full moon and meteor shower will light up Saturday night sky

A full moon and a meteor shower are coming this weekend. The moon becomes full at 12:49 p.m. Saturday, but it will certainly appear plenty big and bright Saturday night. It’s the final full moon of the year, and in North America, we call the December full moon the Long Night Moon, Cold Moon or Moon Before Yule, according to Earthsky.org. The Ursid meteor shower, which peaks around Saturday,  will also occur this weekend, per EarthSky. Typically a rather low-key shower, the few shooting stars it produces might be even more difficult to see this year thanks to the bright light of the full moon.

NFL Week 16: Playoff push heats up

It’s the penultimate week of the NFL season, with plenty at stake as the playoffs draw near. In the NFC, the New Orleans Saints can clinch home-field advantage with a win against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile, in the AFC, the Kansas City Chiefs need a bit of help, but can clinch the division title and a first-round bye with a win against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night, paired with a  Los Angeles Chargers loss Saturday night. Elsewhere, the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots can clinch their respective divisions with a win. 

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Attention, procrastinators: You still have time to shop!

“Super Saturday,” Panic Saturday or just the Saturday right before Christmas — whichever it may be, is expected to the busiest shopping day of the year, rivaling and possibly even beating Black Friday crowds. About 134 million people, up from 126 million last year, plan to take advantage of Super Saturday sales and extended store hours, according to the National Retail Federation’s new survey. Although it’ll be a popular day to shop with 24 percent of Americans expected to buy their final gifts, don’t expect to find Black Friday-like prices. However, there will still be plenty of sales to take advantage of. 

And if you didn’t get those gifts shipped … 

Saturday is one of your last days to get packages to their destinations by Dec. 25. The U.S. Postal Service’s Priority Mail Express and UPS On-Call Pickup for UPS Next Day Air should get your presents to where they need to be before Christmas if sent by Dec. 22, the carriers say. FedEx offers same day services on Christmas, too. As always, carriers handle massive numbers of deliveries during the holiday season. This past week through Dec. 23 was expected to be the USPS’s busiest this season, during which it expected to process and deliver nearly 3 billion pieces of First-Class Mail, including greeting cards.

Contributing: Associated Press

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