5 things you need to know Friday

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Editors, USA TODAY
Published 3:34 a.m. ET Dec. 15, 2017

‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ is finally here

The next chapter in the intergalactic space saga hits theaters Friday, as Star Wars fans welcome back Luke Skywalker, new hero Rey, villain Kylo Ren, and a host of new characters. Critics seem to have mixed reviews about The Last Jedi — not that it will stop fans traveling in droves to catch the eighth Star Wars film. But before you go, make sure to catch up on what happened to each character during The Force Awakens.

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Before you head out to see the new movie, here’s a recap of where the saga left off with ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens.’
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GOP lawmakers to reveal final tax plan bill

The House-Senate conference committee working to mesh competing tax plans is expected to release its final bill Friday amid a cloud of uncertainty. On Thursday, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said he would oppose the tax bill unless the child tax credit is expanded further to help working-class families. Other Republican senators are also undecided, including Mike Lee of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine and Jeff Flake of Arizona. Both chambers have to pass an identical bill before it can go to President Trump for a signature. As it stands, the GOP controls the House, 240-194, — with one vacancy  while holding a narrow 52-48 margin in the Senate. Votes on the bill are expected early next week. 

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The House and the Senate have passed different versions of President Trump’s tax reform bill so now it goes to a conference committee. Here’s what that means.
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It’s the last day for Obamacare enrollment

Friday is the last day for people in most states to enroll in Obamacare insurance plans for 2018, and enrollment has been brisk this year despite a shorter sign-up period, negative press and higher premiums. As of last Saturday, about 4.7 million people had signed up for Affordable Care Act health plans. That’s about 650,000 more people than at the similar point last year, but it will still be a challenge to beat 2016’s overall numbers. The enrollment numbers undermine the contention that the administration is undermining enrollment, said Christopher Condeluci, a former Senate Finance Committee Republican counsel who helped draft the ACA. People can sign up for plans on healthcare.gov

Holiday rush begins at airports

Holiday air travel is kicking into high gear, with airlines preparing for a record 51 million passengers starting Friday through Jan. 4. That’s a 3.5% increase from the previous peak of 49.3 million last year. Airlines are offering 91,000 more seats per day to meet the demand, and airline staffs have grown for nearly four straight years, the group said. Plan for busy terminals and longer security lines, due in part to new requirements for electronics bigger than a cell phone. But if you’re flying Alaska Airlines on Friday, if you wear a “festive sweater” to celebrate National Ugly Holiday Sweater Day your sartorial efforts will be rewarded with early boarding

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Hark! Free Shipping Day is here

You’ve checked your list twice, and it’s time to order last-minute holiday gifts. Friday is Free Shipping Day for some retailers and could be a great day to finalize your retail plans. Free Shipping Day was started in 2008, and this year, more than 800 retailers, including Amazon, Target and Toys ‘R’ Us, are offering free shipping with no minimum order and guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve. You better watch out for the fine print, though, because each retailer has its own rules (and specials) for the shipping holiday. To bag the best deals, stick with USA TODAY Network’s Reviewed Team. They’ll be tracking all the bargains here.

 

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