At least eight deaths have been reported in the U.S. as the deadly polar vortex with frigid Arctic temperatures slammed the Midwest and headed east on Wednesday. The polar vortex has caused temperatures to drop much farther south than usual, with temperatures in certain areas of the Midwest comparable or below those in Antarctica, where the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station hit minus 25 degrees. “A record arctic air mass will remain over the central and eastern U.S. over the next several days,” the NWS warned Tuesday.
Canada has announced it is removing up to half of the Canadians at its embassy in Cuba after another diplomat was found to have fallen mysteriously ill. Canada has confirmed 14 cases of mysterious health problems since early 2017. Twenty-six American embassy workers in Cuba have also been affected, suffering a range of symptoms and diagnoses including mild traumatic brain injury, also known as concussion.
President Donald Trump lit into the U.S. intelligence community on Wednesday, telling his intel chiefs to “go back to school” just one day after they publicly contradicted him on several of his foreign policy priorities. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and CIA Director Gina Haspel both indicated on Tuesday that there is significant daylight between the president and the intelligence community on major issues. They testified that the Islamic State remains a forceful presence in Iraq and Syria, that North Korea is not likely to give up its nuclear weapons, and that Iran is not yet seeking a nuclear weapon.
Facebook posted strong financial numbers for its fourth quarter Wednesday, beating on earnings and revenue and sending shares up more than 12 percent in extended trading. Active user metrics continue to rise, though slowly. It proved to be a strong financial quarter for Facebook, despite growing public outrage over the company’s privacy practices. Earnings per share jumped 65 percent from the year-ago period. Net income totaled $6.88 billion, a record profit for the company and an increase of 61 percent from the year-ago quarter.
Severe winter weather, including snow and bitter cold is snarling air travel from the upper midwestern U.S. to Georgia this week. Temperatures will remain well below zero degrees Fahrenheit in the Chicago area on Wednesday and early Thursday with “dangerously cold wind chills” of as low as minus 50, the National Weather Service said. Airlines canceled more than 850 flights scheduled to fly to or from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Wednesday, about a third of the day’s schedule at the American Airlines and United Airlines hub.
On Tuesday, Pakistan’s Supreme Court upheld its acquittal of a Christian woman who had been sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010, clearing the way for her to leave the country as radical Islamists seethe. Asia Bibi, a mother and illiterate farmhand of Christian faith, spent eight years on death row, until the country’s top court acquitted her last October, sparking massive protests across Pakistan. The case stems back to a sweltering day in 2009, when Bibi was ordered to fetch water, upsetting Muslim farmworkers who feared she might sip from the same vessel.
Venezuela’s government struck back at self-declared interim president Juan Guaido on Tuesday, with the Supreme Court imposing a travel ban and freeze on his bank accounts despite a warning from Washington of “serious consequences” if it did so. The Supreme Court approved a request from Venezuelan Attorney General Tarek Saab to open a preliminary investigation into Guaido based on accusations he helped foreign countries to interfere in internal matters.
A Toronto landscaper pleaded guilty to eight murders on Tuesday in a case that traumatized the gay community in Canada’s largest city. The landscaper, Bruce McArthur, 67, was arrested a year ago and initially charged with killing six men, dismembering them and hiding the pieces in planters on the property of a client who allowed him to store tools there. Six of the victims were of South Asian or Middle Eastern descent.
“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett was attacked in the early morning hours on Tuesday in what Chicago police are calling a possible hate crime. Smollett was attacked by two people who were “yelling out racial and homophobic slurs” and “poured an unknown chemical substance on the victim,” police said. One of Smollett’s alleged attackers also put a rope around his neck, according to police. Both fled the scene.
After more than 17 years of fighting and 2,248 American troop deaths, negotiators for the United States and Taliban reached “agreements in principle” on a possible peace deal that would end the longest war in US history, a top American envoy said Monday. In exchange for US troop withdrawals, the Taliban committed to ensure the country never becomes a haven for terrorists, as it was for al Qaeda in the years leading to the 9/11 attacks.