Russia and the United States may be open to talks to end the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine. Also in the news: The latest with President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan and the U.S. is back on the World Cup pitch in Qatar this weekend.
Here’s Friday’s headlines.
Biden, Russia say they are open to talks
President Joe Biden said he’d be willing to meet with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. In a news conference Thursday in Washington where he and French President Emmanuel Macron assailed the conflict in Ukraine, Biden said he’d talk with Putin “if he has decided he’s looking for a way to end the war.” Neither side expressed optimism that either a gathering of leaders or peace talks would happen anytime soon, but it was a rare indication of mutual willingness to find a solution to a conflict that began with the Russian invasion Feb. 24. Earlier Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters that Moscow is open to peace talks. Read more
- U.S. gas prices plunged as Americans get much-needed relief at the pump ahead of the holidays.
Senate votes to avert freight rail strike
A nationwide freight rail strike that President Joe Biden warned would have decimated the U.S. economy has been averted after the Senate voted overwhelmingly Thursday to impose a tentatively approved labor deal. The vote was 80-15. The legislation, which the House passed Wednesday, marked the first time in 30 years that Congress intervened to stop a rail strike. But Biden and bipartisan congressional leaders – reluctantly – said it was imperative the potentially crippling rail strike be prevented. Read more
- ”He’s not stepping up”: Union workers feel let down by “pro-union” Joe Biden amid rail dispute.
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- ? Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan invite people into life ”behind closed doors” in Netflix doc trailer.
- ? The biggest surprises and disappointments of the college football season.
- ? What happened this week? Test your knowledge with our news quiz.
- ? On today’s 5 Things podcast, a rail strike was averted with the Senate’s vote to impose a labor deal. You can listen to the podcast every day on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your smart speaker.
? What’s the weather this weekend? Check your local forecast here.
Supreme Court will hear arguments on Biden’s student loan plan
The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear oral arguments about President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness program, an important step toward resolving a monthslong legal battle over whether the administration exceeded its authority when it decided to wipe out debt owed by tens of millions of Americans. In a brief order, the high court kept the program’s implementation on pause – for now. That means Biden will continue to be blocked from implementing loan forgiveness at least until the Supreme Court rules next year. The court said it would hear arguments in the litigation as soon as February. Read more
- Conservative states tell Supreme Court that Biden’s student loan relief was a power grab.
Looking to next week: Georgia US Senate runoff between Warnock, Walker
Former President Barack Obama told Georgia voters at a rally on Thursday that he is a bit more optimistic about the country’s future ahead of the rematch between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker, urging party voters to turnout for next week’s runoff election. As early voting begins for the Dec. 6 runoff, Obama noted how Americans showed they cared about issues such as abortion access, gun violence, and environmental protections. He called out how voters rejected conspiracy theorists and election deniers on the ballot in key states. Read more
- Biden recommends South Carolina go first in Democratic primary process, replacing Iowa.
- Appeals court overturns special master review of records found at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago.
Just for subscribers:
- ? Jackson water crisis flows from a century of poverty, neglect and racism.
- ? A Kroger worker took his own life. Now his family is suing, testing the ”Suicide Rule.”
- ✍ I helped clear unexploded bombs in my birthplace to save the next generation.
- ? Producer Bizness Boi went from being homeless to making hits for Rihanna, Lil Baby and Lil Nas X.
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USMNT up against the Netherlands
The United States will play against the Netherlands on Saturday for a place in the quarterfinals of the World Cup in Qatar. The Americans have not reached the quarterfinals since 2002. And U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter knows plenty about Dutch soccer — he turned pro in the Netherlands 28 years ago. Read more
One thing to know: All eyes will be on whether United States midfielder Christian Pulisic will play Saturday after bruising his pelvic bone while scoring in the 1-0 win over Iran. He said: “I will do everything in my power to work with this medical team and make sure I can play.”
- By sharing World Cup prize money with USWNT, USMNT does what FIFA will not.
- Germany is out: The four-time champions beat Costa Rica 4-2 Thursday but it wasn’t enough to reach the round of 16. Japan’s 2-1 victory over Spain in the other group game allowed both of those teams to advance instead.
- Japan’s controversial win: It appeared that the ball may have ever-so-slightly gone over the line before Kaoru Mitoma got his cross away. But camera angles can be deceiving.
- Abuse in the NWSL: Our columnist writes that if the NWSL, U.S. Soccer and anyone else who had a hand in creating, tolerating and perpetuating the abusive atmosphere in the league really want to make amends, strong, substantive measures are needed.
? Photo of the day: President Biden hosts French President Macron at White House during state visit ?
With pomp and pageantry, President Joe Biden welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, to the White House on Thursday for an official state visit and dinner — the first of Biden’s presidency. Read more
- Related: Biden open to ”tweaks,” not an overhaul, of climate subsidies opposed by Macron.
Click here to see more photos from the state visit.
One more thing
- ? It was just one random act of kindness. But it sparked a family’s decade of giving.
- ? In a rush? Shop White Elephant gifts under $25 at Amazon for delivery in time for the holidays.
- ? Watch this boyfriend drop an engagement ring into Gulf of Mexico during his proposal.
- ? Lion cubs rescued from war-torn Ukraine find ”forever home” at U.S animal sanctuary.
Nicole Fallert is a newsletter writer at USA TODAY, sign up for the email here. Want to send Nicole a note, shoot her an email at NFallert@usatoday.com or follow along with her musings on Twitter. Support journalism like this – subscribe to USA TODAY here.
Associated Press contributed reporting.