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10 things you need to know today: January 2, 2018

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Harold Maass
The Georgia Bulldogs celebrate their Rose Bowl win
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1.

2018 starts with record low temperatures in parts of U.S.

The year started Monday with record-setting cold temperatures across much of the U.S., causing at least two deaths. The National Weather Service issued wind chill advisories from South Texas to Canada, and from Montana and Wyoming through New England. Temperatures dropped below zero in parts of the Midwest, reaching minus 32 in Aberdeen, South Dakota, and breaking a New Year's Day record that stood for 99 years. The temperature in Omaha plunged to 15 below zero overnight heading into the new year, breaking a record low set in 1884 and forcing the cancellation of the city's 18th annual New Year's Eve Fireworks Spectacular. [The Associated Press]

2.

Alabama and Georgia advance to college football title game

Alabama beat Clemson in the Sugar Bowl on Monday to advance to the Jan. 8 College Football Playoff championship against Southeastern Conference rival Georgia, which earned its spot by beating Oklahoma earlier in the day. Alabama dominated Clemson in a rematch of the 2016 and 2017 title games, winning 24-6. Alabama's defense sealed the victory in the third quarter with two interceptions. One of them set up a touchdown by the Crimson Tide offense; linebacker Mack Wilson ran the other back 18 yards to score. Georgia advanced after it came from behind to tie the game at the end of the third quarter, then held on through double overtime to win on a breakaway touchdown by senior running back Sony Michel. [NPR]

3.

Hoda Kotb to replace Matt Lauer as Today co-anchor

Hoda Kotb has been announced as the new co-anchor of Today after Matt Lauer was fired in November following allegations of sexual misconduct. NBC confirmed Kotb will be joining Savannah Guthrie during the program's first two hours and that she will also continue to co-host the show's fourth hour with Kathie Lee Gifford. "Over the past several weeks, Hoda has seamlessly stepped into the co-anchor role alongside Savannah, and the two have quickly hit the ground running," said NBC News chairman Andy Lack in an email to staff. "They have an undeniable connection with each other and most importantly, with viewers, a hallmark of Today." Together, the pair will be the first all-women team to anchor Today. [Today]

4.

South Korea answers North Korean overture with offer of talks

South Korea on Tuesday answered North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's call for dialogue by proposing high-level talks on the border next week. Kim suggested easing military tensions and said he was open to sending a delegation to the upcoming Winter Olympics in the South. Cho Myoung-gyon, Seoul's unification minister, proposed a meeting next Tuesday in the border village of Panmunjom, saying, "We hope the two sides sit down for frank talks." If Pyongyang agrees to participate, the meeting would mark the first such dialogue in two years. It comes after tensions escalated in 2017 after North Korea defied international warnings and sanctions with a series of nuclear weapon and ballistic missile tests. [The New York Times]

5.

Iranian president calls for unity as protest death toll rises

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Monday called for unity as the death toll mounted from several days of anti-government protests. "Our great nation has witnessed a number of similar incidents in the past and has comfortably dealt with them. This is nothing," Rouhani said in a meeting with lawmakers. Violent protests continued overnight in Tehran and other cities, however, leaving another nine people dead and pushing the death toll over six days to at least 20. Rouhani criticized President Trump, who tweeted support for the protests. Russia said Monday that the demonstrations were an "internal affair." [CNN, The Washington Post]

6.

California starts legal marijuana sales

California became the most populous state in the U.S. to allow legal marijuana sales on Monday. Voters overwhelmingly approved the drug for recreational use in November 2016, and the law took effect at the start of 2018. "This is essentially going to eliminate prohibition on the plant of the last 400 years and return the plant back to the people," said Khalil Moutawakkil, the CEO of a Santa Cruz dispensary. Sales won't take off immediately, however. Only 49 retail licenses for pot have been issued by the state in a slow rollout in most cities. Los Angeles, for example, delayed accepting applications until Jan. 3. Legal sales are expected to reach $5 billion by the end of 2019, however, so marijuana could eventually bring the state more revenue than beer. [Los Angeles Times, Newsweek]

7.

Trump slams Pakistan for 'lies & deceit'

President Trump said on Monday the U.S. had "foolishly" given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid over 15 years and received nothing in return. He vowed to end the largesse. "They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!" Trump tweeted. "They have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools." A National Security Council official said the White House is holding off on sending Pakistan $255 million in aid while the Trump administration reviews Pakistan's cooperation. Pakistan summoned the U.S. ambassador, David Hale, in protest, and Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is holding a Tuesday Cabinet meeting to discuss Trump's tweet. [Reuters]

8.

Gretchen Carlson named chair of Miss America board

Gretchen Carlson, the former Fox News anchor and 1989 Miss America, on Monday was named chairwoman of the Miss America organization's board of directors. She is the first former Miss America named to lead the pageant organization. Three other past winners will join her on the board. The leadership change came less than two weeks after CEO Sam Haskell and two other top leaders resigned under pressure over leaked emails in which they made insulting comments about the intelligence and sex lives of former Miss Americas. In a statement, Carlson said those who love the program want "a strong, relevant Miss America and we appreciate the existing board taking the steps necessary to quickly begin stabilizing the organization for the future." [The Associated Press]

9.

2017 safest year on record with no commercial jet crash deaths

Last year was the safest on record for the aviation industry, according to a report released Monday by the Netherlands-based aviation consultancy To70. No commercial jets fatally crashed anywhere in the world in 2017, continuing a downward trend. In 2016, 217 people died in fatal airplane events, compared to 471 fatalities in 2015 and 864 in 2014. In 2017, 13 people died in crashes involving all kinds of airplanes, with the deaths involving small turbo-prop aircrafts rather than commercial jets. Some crashes, including one Sunday in Costa Rica that killed 10 Americans and two local pilots, didn't count toward the total because the planes' weight fell below the threshold of 5,700 kilograms. [USA Today]

10.

Powerful Hollywood women launch anti-harassment project

A group of A-list Hollywood stars including Reese Witherspoon, Eva Longoria, Shonda Rhimes, Ashley Judd, and Natalie Portman on Monday announced the Time's Up initiative to confront sexual misconduct, power abuse, and promote workplace equality. The move came after a year of sexual misconduct allegations in entertainment and other industries. Hundreds of women in show business signed a letter in a full-page ad published in The New York Times and the Spanish-language newspaper La Opinion, promising to support working-class women. "If this group of women can't fight for a model for other women who don't have as much power and privilege, then who can?" Scandal creator Shonda Rhimes said to the Times. [USA Today, The New York Times]