The death toll from a once-in-a-generation winter storm that brought Arctic temperatures and heavy snow to much of the U.S. has risen to 50. More than half of the dead are in Buffalo, New York, where search-and-rescue crews are searching for people trapped under more than four feet of snow. More snowfall is forecast for today. New York Governor Kathy Hochul said it was the worst blizzard ever in a city known for its inclement winter weather.
Gov. Kathy Hochul: “And this will go down in history as the most devastating storm in Buffalo’s long, storied history of having battled many battles, many, many major storms.”
The winter weather grounded thousands of flights and caused chaos on some of the busiest travel days of the year. In Texas, federal regulators have granted the Electric Reliability Council of Texas permission to exceed air quality limits and pollute more than is usually allowed, in order to meet surging demand due to freezing temperatures. Meanwhile, Jackson, Mississippi, has once again issued a “boil water” order for city residents after cold temperatures caused pipes to burst and brought pressure through the city’s crumbling water system to a trickle.
In Texas, the city of El Paso extended an emergency declaration over the weekend as temperatures plunged into the teens and shelters reached capacity. The declaration came as hundreds of migrants spent the Christmas holiday outdoors on the Mexican side of the border despite freezing temperatures. They were unable to cross to the U.S. to seek asylum after the Supreme Court last week ordered the Biden administration to continue the Trump-era Title 42 policy, which has been used to expel some 2 million people from the border. This is a Venezuelan asylum seeker speaking from Ciudad Juárez on Christmas Eve.
Franyer Chavez: “I would like to spend Christmas in a place where it is not cold. I would really like to have shelter, just as everyone here would like to spend Christmas under a roof, because the cold is strong.”
More than 100 asylum seekers arrived on buses outside the residence of Vice President Kamala Harris on Christmas Eve as temperatures in Washington, D.C., dropped to 18 degrees Fahrenheit. They were the latest migrants sent by Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott to cities led by Democrats. Immigrant rights activist Jenn Kauffman said the asylees were quickly given blankets and brought to a shelter by members of the D.C. Migrant Solidarity Mutual Aid Network. She added, “This was intended to be a cruel stunt by Greg Abbott, but people are working around the clock to treat these families with the dignity they deserve.”
In Afghanistan, the Taliban has decreed that women can no longer work for nongovernmental organizations, including humanitarian relief agencies. Under the new rules announced Saturday, groups that employ women could lose their license to operate in Afghanistan, and five key NGOs have now halted work: CARE International, the Norwegian Refugee Council, Save the Children, the International Rescue Committee and Islamic Relief. This is David Wright, chief operating officer at Save the Children International.
David Wright: “We have got 5,000 staff, including community volunteers, in Afghanistan. Almost half of those are women. So, essentially, if we were to keep working, we’d have to turn up for work tomorrow with half our workforce missing.”
This comes just days after the Taliban banned women from attending university.
South Korea’s military scrambled warplanes and helicopter gunships on Monday after five North Korean drones crossed the Demilitarized Zone separating the two countries. It was the first time since 2017 that North Korean drones have entered South Korean airspace. South Korea’s military said it had sent its own drones over the North in response.
Officials in Taiwan have extended mandatory military service for young men to one year — up from the current four months. The change in Taiwan’s conscription period came after dozens of Chinese military aircraft on Monday entered into airspace designated by Taiwan as an air defense zone. It was the latest in a series of patrols and military exercises carried out in the Taiwan Strait by both China and the United States.
Russia says three military servicemen were killed by falling debris Monday after a Ukrainian drone was shot down as it approached an air base used to launch attacks on Ukraine. It was the latest in a series of attacks by Ukraine deep inside Russian territory. In Ukraine, fighting continued over the weekend after calls for a Christmas ceasefire went unheeded. Ukraine’s government says Russian artillery fire killed 10 people and injured dozens more on Christmas Eve in the city of Kherson, which was recaptured by Ukraine last month. Russian attacks on the power grid left some 9 million people without electricity over the holiday weekend. On Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was prepared to negotiate to end the war in Ukraine, adding, “It’s not us who refuse talks, it’s them.” Ukraine’s foreign minister, meanwhile, called on the U.N. to convene a peace summit with Secretary-General António Guterres as mediator.
In Nepal, the former leader of the Maoist insurgency that helped end monarchical rule has been appointed prime minister for a third time. Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known as Prachanda, took the oath of office Monday after winning the backing of a coalition led by the Unified Marxist-Leninist party. Prachanda led Nepal briefly in 2008 and ’09, and again in 2016. He previously led a Maoist insurgency that waged a decade-long civil war that ended with the abolition of the Shah dynasty in 2008 and the establishment of a republic.
Brazil’s incoming justice minister says security will be tightened for the New Year’s Day inauguration of President-elect Lula da Silva, after authorities stopped an alleged bomb plot over the weekend. George Washington de Oliveira Sousa, a 54-year-old businessman and supporter of outgoing far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, was arrested on terrorism charges Saturday. He’s accused of attempting to set off a bomb near the airport in the capital, Brasília. Local police say the suspect confessed that he intended to “start chaos” ahead of Lula’s inauguration to “prevent the establishment of communism in Brazil.”
Facebook’s parent company Meta has agreed to pay $725 million to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by plaintiffs who say the social media giant improperly shared users’ information with Cambridge Analytica, a company founded by the right-wing billionaire Robert Mercer. During the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, Cambridge Analytica harvested some 87 million Facebook profiles without the users’ knowledge or consent and used the data to sway voters during the 2016 campaign.
Congressional Democrats are calling on New York Republican Congressmember-elect George Santos to resign, after he admitted he repeatedly lied about his work, education and family history. On Monday, Santos admitted to the New York Post he fabricated his claims that he’d worked for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup and that he’d earned a degree from Baruch College. Santos also spoke with New York radio station WABC.
Rep.-elect George Santos: “I’m not a fraud. I’m not a criminal who defrauded the entire country and made up this fictitional character and ran for Congress. I’ve been around a long time. I mean, a lot of people know me. They know who I am. They’ve done business dealings with me. And I’m not going to make excuses for this, but a lot of people overstate in their résumés or twist a little bit or aggrandiate themselves. I’m not saying I’m not guilty of that.”
Santos also admitted that he falsely claimed that his grandparents were Jewish and fled the Holocaust. He told the New York Post, “I am Catholic. Because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background I said I was 'Jew-ish.'” Texas Democratic Representative Joaquin Castro responded that Congress should expel George Santos if he refuses to resign, and called on authorities to investigate him. Castro added, “Just about every aspect of his life appears to be a lie. We’ve seen people fudge their resume but this is total fabrication.”