The Rundown for December 30, 2019

PENTAGON STRIKES KATA’IB HEZBOLLAH BASES IN IRAQ, SYRIA… The Pentagon announced yesterday that U.S. forces carried out “precision defensive strikes” in Iraq and Syria after a series of attacks targeting bases in Iraq that hosted U.S. service members. The strikes reportedly targeted five locations belonging to the Iran-backed Iraqi paramilitary group Kata’ib Hezbollah in response to attacks on bases that hosted Operation Inherent Resolve coalition forces. According to a Pentagon spokesman, recent Kata’ib Hezbollah strikes have included more than 30 rocket attacks on an Iraqi base near Kirkuk.

TALIBAN AGREES TO CEASE-FIRE… The Taliban announced yesterday that it has agreed to a temporary cease-fire to allow for the signing of a peace deal with the U.S. and the eventual withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. The Associated Press reported that the cease-fire is expected to last for 10 days. Once a peace deal is signed, Afghans on both sides of the conflict would soon begin negotiating a road map for the future of the country, including the role of the Taliban, the report said. The U.S. currently has some 12,000 troops in Afghanistan.

NATIONAL SECURITY TEAM INTERVENED OVER UKRAINE AID… The New York Times reported yesterday that the White House national security team intervened and tried to convince President Trump to reverse his decision soon after it became public knowledge that he had frozen military aid to Ukraine. Former National Security Adviser John Bolton, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly met with Trump in the Oval Office and tried to talk him into releasing the aid. Trump became the third president to be impeached when the House Judiciary Committee found him guilty of abusing is power and obstructing Congress for withholding the aid to Ukraine as part of an effort to pressure the country to dig up dirt on his political rival Joe Biden.

CONGRESSMAN JOHN LEWIS BATTLING CANCER… Georgia Congressman John Lewis announced yesterday that he has been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The 79-year-old civil rights icon said he was diagnosed following a routine medical visit and will undergo treatment. Lewis, whose 5th Congressional District includes much of Atlanta, was first elected to the House in 1986.

2 DEAD IN TEXAS CHURCH SHOOTING… A lone gunman was fatally shot by congregation members yesterday morning after opening fire during a service at a church in a suburb of Fort Worth, Texas. The gunman killed a security guard and critically wounded a parishioner at the West Freeway Church in White Settlement. A church elder said the security guard “was trying to do what he needed to do to protect the rest of us.”

ENTERTAINMENT
ZAC EFRON CONFIRMS ILLNESS… Zac Efron has confirmed that he was rushed to a hospital in Brisbane, Australia, for treatment of a “form of typhoid or similar bacterial infection.” The 32-year-old actor reportedly fell ill while filming his show “Killing Zac Efron” in Papua, New Guinea. The series is scheduled to launch April 6 on the short-form streaming service Quibi.

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE… “Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker” took in $72 million to remain atop the weekend box office. “Jumanji: The Next Level” stayed at No. 2 with $35.3 million. “Little Women” finished in third place with $16.52 million. “Frozen II” clipped to No. 4 after bringing in $16.5 million. “Spies in Disguise” made $13.2 million to cap the top five.

SPORTS
NFL POSTSEASON SET… It took until the last Sunday of the regular season for the NFL’s postseason to be finalized. The two available playoff spots and nine seedings became official yesterday…

In the AFC, the North Division champion-Baltimore Ravens (14-2), who already had clinched the division’s top seed, trampled the Pittsburgh Steelers 28-10. Baltimore will take a 12-game winning streak into the postseason… The West Division-champion Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) locked up the second seed and first-round bye in the playoffs with a 31-21 win over the L.A. Chargers… The Tennessee Titans (9-7) clinched a wild-card spot and the 6 seed by downing the South Division-champion Houston Texans 35-14. Tennessee will open the postseason at New England next weekend. The Patriots dropped to the 3 seed by falling to Miami 27-24. Houston (10-6) finished as the 4 seed and will host 5-seeded Buffalo in the first round of the playoffs. The Bills (10-6) fell to the Jets 13-6 in a game that had no bearing on their postseason position…

In the NFC, the San Francisco 49ers (13-3) held on at the end to beat the Seattle Seahawks 26-21 to claim the NFC West crown and the conference’s top seed. Niners linebacker Dre Greenlaw tackled Seattle tight end Jacob Hollister just short of the goal line on fourth down in the final seconds to seal the win. The Seahawks (11-5) enter the postseason as a 5-seeded wild card and will visit the 4-seed Philadelphia Eagles in the opening round. The Eagles (9-7) put away the N.Y. Giants 34-17 to capture the NFC East title… The North Division-champion Green Bay Packers (13-3) got a 33-yard field goal from Mason Crosby as time expired to beat the Detroit Lions 23-20 and claim the 2-seed and first-round bye… The South Division-champion New Orleans Saints (13-3) romped over the Carolina Panthers 42-10 and finished as the NFC’s 3-seed. They’ll host the Minnesota Vikings in their playoff opener. Minnesota (10-6), which had already clinched the 6-seed, fell to the Chicago Bears 21-19.

Other scores from yesterday…
CINCINNATI 33, Cleveland 23…
DALLAS 47, Washington 16…
Atlanta 28, Tampa Bay 22…
L.A. RAMS 31, Arizona 24…
JACKSONVILLE 38, Indianapolis 20…
DENVER 16, Oakland 15

NBA SCORES
Oklahoma City 98 – TORONTO 97… Shai Gilgeous-Alexander made a go-ahead jumper with 36 seconds remaining and the Thunder held on to edge the Raptors for their fifth win in six games. Gilgeous-Alexander finished with a game-high 32 points.

MEMPHIS 117 – Charlotte 104… Dillon Brooks scored 20 points to lead a balanced scoring attack and the Grizzlies dealt the Hornets their fifth straight loss. Jaren Jackson grabbed 12 rebounds to go with his 14 points.

NEW ORLEANS 127 – Houston 112… The Pelicans bombed the Rockets 41-19 in the fourth quarter to win going away. Lonzo Ball made a career-high seven 3-pointers on his way to 27 points and gathered 10 boards. Brandon Ingram also scored 27 points while Jrue Holiday tossed in 25.

DENVER 120 – Sacramento 115… Will Barton and Michael Porter Jr. scored 19 points apiece to lead seven players in double figures and the Nuggets held off the Kings.

L.A. LAKERS 108 – Dallas 95… Anthony Davis pumped in 23 points as the Lakers cruised past the Mavericks. LeBron James scored 13 points and dished off as many assists.

TONIGHT’S NBA SCHEDULE
Miami is at Washington…
Orlando hosts Atlanta…
Brooklyn is at Minnesota…
Chicago hosts Milwaukee…
Detroit is at Utah…
Portland hosts Phoenix

NHL SCORES
ST. LOUIS 4 – Winnipeg 1… Jaden Schwartz netted a pair of goals to lead the Blues past the Jets for their eighth straight win.

New Jersey 4 – OTTAWA 3 (OT)… Jack Hughes found the net 54 seconds into overtime to lift the Devils over the Senators. Sam Vatanen assisted on three goals.

Chicago 3 – COLUMBUS 2 (SO)… The Blackhawks came from two goals down in the third period to outlast the Blue Jackets. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane scored in the shootout.

N.Y. Islanders 3 – MINNESOTA 1… The Islanders scored three unanswered goals in the third period to upend the Wild. Goalie Semyon Varlamov made 25 saves.

BOSTON 3 – Buffalo 2… Jake DeBrusk scored two power-play goals 18 seconds apart in the third period to send the Bruins past the Sabres. David Pastrnak had a goal and an assist.

TAMPA BAY 2 – Detroit 1… Brayden Point’s power-play goal in the third period proved to be the difference in the Lightning’s win over the Red Wings. Ondrej Palat opened the scoring with a second-period goal.

FLORIDA 6 – Montreal 5… Jonathan Huberdeau scored twice over a half-minute span of the second period and assisted on two goals as the Panthers outshot the Canadiens. Aleksander Barkov netted two goals and had an assist.

Dallas 4 – ARIZONA 2… The Stars scored all four goals in the third period to erase a two-goal deficit and top the Coyotes. Jamie Benn had a goal and an assist.

Philadelphia 2 – ANAHEIM 1 (OT)… Kevin Hayes scored the game-winner at 3:53 of overtime as the Flyers edged the Ducks. Brian Elliott stopped 27 shots at goal.

Vancouver 5 – CALGARY 2… Tyler Myers scored the first two of the Canucks’ three first-period goals and had an assist. Jake Virtanen added a goal and an assist.

TONIGHT’S NHL SCHEDULE
Ottawa is at Pittsburgh

TOP 25 MEN’S COLLEGE BASKETBALL SCORES
#22 West Virginia, 67, #2 OHIO STATE 59…
#5 Kansas 72, STANFORD 56…
#6 OREGON 98, Alabama State 59…
#8 AUBURN 86, Lipscomb 59…
#11 MICHIGAN 86, UMass-Lowell 60…
#13 MARYLAND 84, Bryant 70…
#14 MICHIGAN STATE 95, Western Michigan 62…
#16 VIRGINIA 65, Navy 56…
#20 PENN STATE 90, Cornell 59…
#23 TEXAS TECH 73, Cal-State Bakersfield 58…
#25 IOWA 93, Kennesaw State 51

TODAY’S COLLEGE FOOTBALL BOWL SCHEDULE
Western Kentucky plays Western Michigan in the First Responder Bowl…
Mississippi State plays Louisville in the Music City Bowl…
California plays Illinois in the Redbox Bowl…
#9 Florida plays #24 Virginia in the Orange Bowl

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