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Mount Washington Experiences Record-setting Wind Chill

The Arctic air that descended on the Northeast on Saturday brought dangerously cold sub-zero temperatures and wind chills to the region, including a record-setting wind chill of minus 108 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 78 C) on the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire. 

In addition to the U.S. record low wind chill, the Mount Washington Observatory at the peak of the Northeast’s highest mountain, famous for its extreme weather conditions, recorded an actual temperature of minus 47 (minus 44 C), tying an observatory record set in 1934, while winds gusted to 127 miles per hour (204 kph). 

Across the rest of the region, wind chills — the combined effect of wind and cold air on exposed skin — dropped to minus 45 to minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 43 to minus 45 C), the National Weather Service reported. 

The current method to measure wind chill has been used since 2001. 

“This is just kind of an Arctic intrusion,” said Stephen Baron, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine. “Sometimes in the winter the Jetstream dips and the Arctic oscillation allows the cold air to come into our area for a day or two.” 

The high winds were blamed for the death of an infant Friday in Southwick, Massachusetts. 

The winds brought a tree branch down on a vehicle driven by a 23-year-old Winsted, Connecticut woman, according to the Hampden district attorney’s office. The driver was taken to the hospital with serious injuries, but the infant died, authorities said. 

Most people heeded warnings to stay inside Saturday, but some people ventured out. 

Gin Koo, 36, braved the cold to take his Boston terrier, Bee, out for a necessary walk. 

“I can’t remember it being this cold, not since 2015,” said Koo, who was wearing three shirts and a down jacket, as well as a hat and a hood. Bee still shivered despite his doggie coat. “I wouldn’t go out if I didn’t have to.” 

Paul Butler, 45, who has been homeless since he was evicted in December 2021, took shelter in South Station, the Boston transit hub that authorities kept open overnight so unhoused people had somewhere warm to sleep. 

“This is the coldest I ever, ever remember, and I worked the door at a bunch of clubs for 15 years,” said the former Marine. 

Boston’s Pine Street Inn, the largest provider of homeless services in New England, ramped up outreach to those on the streets, doubling the number of vehicles that could transport people to shelters and opening their lobby to provide extra space. 

“On a night like last night, the biggest concern is the people who have compromised judgment,” President and CEO Lyndia Downie said Saturday of people who have substance use disorder or mental illness. “On these cold nights, they are not thinking at 100% of their capacity. Those are the people we are most worried about.” 

The emergency room at Massachusetts General Hospital treated several people for hypothermia overnight and a couple were admitted for frostbite. 

“The reason that people unfortunately end up with severe frostbite in most cases is just because they don’t have anywhere warm and safe to go,” said Dr. Ali Raja, deputy chair of the emergency department. 

Several cities, including Boston; Providence, Rhode Island; Hartford, Connecticut; Worcester, Massachusetts; Albany, New York; and Glens Falls, New York set or matched record low temperatures for Feb. 4, according to the National Weather Service. 

The cold curtailed some traditional winter activities. Organizers of an annual ice castle attraction in North Woodstock, New Hampshire shortened the evening visitor schedule for Saturday night. 

Erin Trotta of Massachusetts, who had already booked a visit, still planned to go but was taking extra steps to stay warm. 

“We are prepared to take on the polar vortex ice castles. … Snow pants, thick winter coats, hand and foot warmers, face masks, the kind where only your eyes are exposed, and good gloves and winter boots. Plan to drink some hot cocoa to keep warm.” 

In New York’s Adirondack Mountains, Old Forge recorded a temperature early Saturday of minus 36 degrees (minus 38 C) degrees. Temperatures plunged into the negative teens in dozens of other cities and towns, with wind chill making it feel even colder. 

Mackenzie Glasser, owner of Ozzie’s Coffee Bar in Old Forge, said frigid temperatures are just part of living in the Adirondacks. 

“I even had customers for the first hour that I was open, and I wasn’t expecting that at 7 a.m. So, I don’t think it’s keeping too many people away,” she said. 

The good news is that the cold air is expected to move out of much of the region by Sunday, when temperatures could rise to the 40s. 

“That’s quite a change,” the National Weather Service’s Baron said. 

Disney World Unions Vote Down Offer Covering 45,000 Workers

Union members voted down a contract proposal covering tens of thousands of Walt Disney World service workers, saying it didn’t go far enough toward helping employees face cost-of-living hikes in housing and other expenses in central Florida.

The unions said that 13,650 out of 14,263 members who voted on the contract Friday rejected the proposal from Disney, sending negotiators back to the bargaining table for another round of talks that have been ongoing since August. The contract covers around 45,000 service workers at the Disney theme park resort outside Orlando, Florida.

Disney World service workers who are in the six unions that make up the Service Trades Council Union coalition had been demanding a starting minimum wage jump to at least $18 an hour in the first year of the contract, up from the starting minimum wage of $15 an hour won in the previous contract.

The proposal rejected Friday would have raised the starting minimum wage to $20 an hour for all service workers by the last year of the five-year contract, an increase of $1 each year for a majority of the workers it covered. Certain positions, like housekeepers, bus drivers and culinary jobs, would start immediately at a minimum of $20 under the proposal.

“Housekeepers work extremely hard to bring the magic to Disney, but we can’t pay our bills with magic,” said Vilane Raphael, who works as a housekeeper at the Disney Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa.

The company said that the proposal had offered a quarter of those covered by the contract an hourly wage of $20 in its first year, eight weeks of paid time off for a new child, maintenance of a pension, and the introduction of a 401K plan.

“Our strong offer provides more than 30,000 Cast Members a nearly 10% on average raise immediately, as well as retroactive increased pay in their paychecks, and we are disappointed that those increases are now delayed,” Disney spokesperson Andrea Finger said in a statement.

The contract stalemate comes as the Florida Legislature is prepared to convene next week to complete a state takeover of Disney World’s self-governing district. With the support of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the Republican-controlled legislature last April approved legislation to dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District by June 2023, beginning a closely watched process that would determine the structure of government that controls Disney World’s sprawling property.

The contract with the service workers covers the costumed character performers who perform as Mickey Mouse — as well as bus drivers, culinary workers, lifeguards, theatrical workers and hotel housekeepers — representing more than half of the 70,000-plus workforce at Disney World. The contract approved five years ago made Disney the first major employer in central Florida to agree to a minimum hourly wage of $15, setting the trend for other workers in the hospitality industry-heavy region.

A report commissioned last year by one of the unions in the coalition, Unite Here Local 737, said that an adult worker with no dependents would need to earn $18.19 an hour to make a living wage in central Florida, while a family with two children would need both parents earning $23.91 an hour for a living wage.

While a wage of $15 an hour was enough for the last contract, “with skyrocketing rent, food, and gas prices in the last three years, it’s no longer possible to survive with those wages,” the report said.

With inflation causing the price of food and gas to shoot up, an employee earning $15 an hour full time currently makes $530 less than the worker would need for rent, food and gas each month, the report said.

Last month, food service and concessions workers at the Orange County Convention Center voted to approve a contract that will increase all non-tipped workers’ wages to $18 an hour by August, making them the first hospitality workers in Orlando to reach that pay rate.

Арахамія анонсував санкції проти позбавлених громадянства колишніх чиновників часів Януковича

Володимир Зеленський позбавив громадянства України «зрадників, які були одними зі стовпів режиму Януковича»

Енергетики перерахували регіони, в яких у неділю пів дня не вимикатимуть світло

«Київ, Київщина та Дніпропетровщина 5 лютого в першу половину дня будуть без обмежень електропостачання»

Зеленський позбавив громадянства колишніх чиновників часів Януковича – ЗМІ

Колишні чиновники були позбавлені українського громадянства через наявність російських паспортів, зазначають журналісти

US Considers Shooting Down Chinese Spy Balloon Over Atlantic

The Biden administration is considering a plan to shoot down a large Chinese balloon suspected of conducting surveillance on the U.S. military by bringing it down once it is above the Atlantic Ocean where the remnants could potentially be recovered, according to four U.S. officials.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive operation, said it was unclear whether a final decision had been made by President Joe Biden. In a brief remark Saturday in response to a reporter’s question about the balloon, Biden said: “We’re going to take care of it.”

The balloon was spotted Saturday morning over the Carolinas as it approached the Atlantic coast.

Biden had been inclined to down the balloon over land when he was first briefed on it Tuesday, but Pentagon officials advised against it, warning that the potential risk to people on the ground outweighed the assessment of potential Chinese intelligence gains.

The public disclosure of the balloon this week prompted the cancellation of a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Beijing scheduled for Sunday for talks aimed at reducing U.S.-China tensions. The Chinese government Saturday sought to play down the cancellation.

“In actuality, the U.S. and China have never announced any visit, the U.S. making any such announcement is their own business, and we respect that,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Saturday morning.

China has continued to claim that the balloon was merely a weather research “airship” that had been blown off course. The Pentagon rejected that out of hand — as well as China’s contention that it was not being used for surveillance and had only limited navigational ability.

The balloon was spotted over Montana, which is home to one of America’s three nuclear missile silo fields at Malmstrom Air Force Base.

Meanwhile, people with binoculars and telephoto lenses tried to find the “spy balloon” in the sky as it headed southeastward over Kansas and Missouri at 60,000 feet (18,300 meters).

The Pentagon also acknowledged reports of a second balloon flying over Latin America. “We now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon,” Brigadier General Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, said in a statement.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to a question about the second balloon.

Blinken, who had been due to depart Washington for Beijing late Friday, said he had told senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi in a phone call that sending the balloon over the U.S. was “an irresponsible act and that (China’s) decision to take this action on the eve of my visit is detrimental to the substantive discussions that we were prepared to have.”

Uncensored reactions on the Chinese internet mirrored the official government stance that the U.S. was hyping the situation.

Many users made jokes about the balloon. Some said that since the U.S. had put restrictions on the technology that China is able to buy to weaken the Chinese tech industry, they couldn’t control the balloon.

Others called it the “wandering balloon” in a pun that refers to the newly released Chinese sci-fi film called “The Wandering Earth 2.” In a sign of censorship, the “wandering balloon” hashtag on Weibo was no longer searchable by Saturday evening.

Still others used it as a chance to poke fun at U.S. defenses, saying it couldn’t even defend against a balloon, and nationalist influencers leapt to use the news to mock the U.S.

“The U.S. is hyping this as a national security threat posed by China to the U.S. This type of military threat, in actuality, we haven’t done this. And compared with the U.S. military threat normally aimed at us, can you say it’s just little? Their surveillance planes, their submarines, their naval ships are all coming near our borders,” Chinese military expert Chen Haoyang of the Taihe Institute said on Phoenix TV, one of the major national TV outlets.

China has denied any claims of spying and said it is a civilian-use balloon intended for meteorology research.

On Saturday, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs again emphasized that the balloon’s journey was out of its control and urged the U.S. not to “smear” it based on the balloon.

Wang said China “has always strictly followed international law, we do not accept any groundless speculation and hype. Faced with unexpected situations, both parties need to keep calm, communicate in a timely manner, avoid misjudgments and manage differences.”

Alfred Wu, an associate professor at the National University of Singapore, said China’s apology did not appear sincere.

“In the meantime, the relationship will not improve in the near future … the gap is huge.”

В Офісі президента відповіли на погрози Медведєва «ударами відплати»

«Погрози офіційних осіб РФ про «удари відплати» – це тільки фіксація наміру вчинення масових убивств і спроба лякати у традиційному стилі РФ. Завжди ігноруйте Медведєва»

У Зеленського розповіли про стан звільнених з полону українських захисників

«Президент наголошує: кожен звільнений з полону захисник України має відчувати, що держава йому вдячна і опікується ним»

У Мінцифри розповіли, коли будуть перші результати реформи військово-лікарської комісії

Найголовнішим елементом цієї реформи має стати цифровізація шпиталів та  впровадження медичної інформаційної системи

Nuclear Envoys of US, South Korea Downplay Seoul’s Nuclear Intent

South Korea’s top nuclear envoy said an agreement with the United States to jointly bolster “extended deterrence” against North Korea gives the Yoon administration needed confidence that the alliance will be able to effectively defend against aggression from Pyongyang.

The U.S. commitment, laid out in a joint statement by the two countries in mid-September, includes an affirmation that a North Korean nuclear test “would be met with an overwhelming and decisive response.”

It adds that the two countries will “continue and strengthen close Alliance consultation regarding U.S. nuclear and missile defense policy.”

Kim Gunn, South Korea’s special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, reiterated a recent statement by South Korean President Yoon Suk on the matter during a Friday interview with Washington Talk, a weekly on-air discussion on North Korea by the VOA Korean Service.

“In his recent interview, my president made it very clear that we have confidence in the U.S. extended deterrence,” he said. “We are having a very close coordination [with the U.S.] on how to strengthen the effectiveness of our extended deterrence.”

On January 11, Yoon received widespread attention with a suggestion that Seoul could respond to the North Korean nuclear threat by building its own nuclear weapons or having U.S. strategic assets redeployed to South Korea.

His remarks came amid growing concern among the South Koreans over the U.S. commitment to defend their nation against growing North Korean threats. But Kim Gunn said on Washington Talk that the alliance’s focus on bolstering the extended deterrence should allay the public concern.

Sung Kim, U.S. special representative for North Korea, who appeared on the show with Kim Gunn, also seemed to play down speculation that South Korea is contemplating the development of its own nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction.

“President Yoon has made clear that the ROK is not interested in pursuing a WMD program but is instead working very closely with us in all levels to make sure that our defense and deterrence are as strong as it needs to be,” he said.

The ROK stands for South Korea’s official name, the Republic of Korea.

The U.S. envoy continued, “That includes engaging in a very serious dialogue about how we strengthen extended deterrence, including things like looking at the frequency and intensity of U.S. strategic deployments on the peninsula.”

Bolstering extended deterrence

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup agreed at their meeting on January 31 in Seoul to boost deterrence measures including ways to expand information sharing and to respond to North Korea’s use of nuclear weapons through tabletop exercises scheduled for later this month.

The U.S. conducted joint military drills with South Korea on February 1 involving U.S. B-1B long-range strategic bombers and stealth fighters as a show of force to provide “credible extended deterrence against North Korea,” according to South Korea’s Defense Ministry.

In response, North Korea released a statement Thursday saying the combined drills have “reached an extreme red-line.” It vowed to “take the toughest reaction to any military attempt of the U.S. on the principle of ‘nuke for nuke and an all-out confrontation for an all-out confrontation.’”

At the same time, Pyongyang rejected any prospects for dialogue.

North Korea launched more then 90 ballistic and cruise missiles last year, including several intercontinental ballistic missiles. In September, it codified into its law the right to use nuclear weapons preemptively against threats it perceives as imminent.

Diplomatic outreach

Both envoys said North Korea largely dismissed calls by their nations for talks despite efforts made to engage Pyongyang.

Sung Kim said, “I can assure you that we have sent multiple messages to Pyongyang through various channels, including the New York channel.” The New York channel is the Permanent Mission of North Korea to the United Nations.

He continued, “Unfortunately, North Koreans have shown no interest in diplomatic engagement with us, but we will continue to remind them that our position has not changed, that we are, in fact, willing to engage in dialogue with them without preconditions.”

Kim Gunn said, “I think it’s obvious North Korea does not heed our call for dialogue.”

Despite Pyongyang’s lack of interest in engaging in talks, both envoys said the policy of Washington and Seoul to seek North Korea’s denuclearization has not changed.

When asked if he believes denuclearization is possible without changing the regime headed by Kim Jong Un, Sung Kim said yes. “We believe so.”

He continued, “That’s why our aim remains the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

China and Russia

Sung Kim, who also serves as the U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, said China and Russia have said they share the goal of denuclearization, but he emphasized that neither has made commitments toward that goal.

“They have a responsibility to faithfully implement U.N. Security Council resolutions,” he said. “And we have seen a lot of information suggesting that both Russia and China are helping the DPRK evade sanctions.”

North Korea’s official name is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

China and Russia blocked on May 26 a U.N. Security Council resolution drafted by the U.S. calling for strengthened sanctions on North Korea in response to its renewed ballistic missile tests, including an ICBM launched the previous day.

Again, on November 4, China and Russia blocked a U.N. action on North Korea by providing Pyongyang with “blanket protection,” according to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield. The remarks came a day after North Korea launched an ICBM, which apparently failed.

Kim Gunn stressed the importance of China’s role in persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear arsenal.

Despite China’s increasingly assertive role in the region, a South Korean Indo-Pacific Strategy released in December described China as “a key partner.” Asked during the Washington Talk show about his country’s reasoning, the South Korean envoy said, “China must be our partner to persuade North Korea to give up [its] nuclear weapons.”

Human rights

Also on the show, Sung Kim lauded President Joe Biden’s January 23 nomination of Julie Turner, a longtime State Department official, as the special envoy for human rights in North Korea. The position has been unfilled for the past six years.

“The signal it sends is to demonstrate [Biden’s] strong commitment to improving the lives of North Korean people, because we know that the human rights situation in North Korea remains very troubling,” said Sung Kim.

The Biden administration has maintained that human rights concerns are at the core of its foreign policy since it took office in January 2021.

За майже рік повномасштабної війни Україна зазнала понад дві тисячі кібератак – Федоров

Водночас за цей період в України «взагалі не було жодного витоку сенситивної інформації»

У Мінцифри розповіли, коли Facebook, Instagram і TikTok припинять блокувати українців через пости про російську агресію

19 січня компанія Meta, яка володіє соцмережами Instagram і Facebook, заявила, більше не блокуватиме контент про полк «Азов»

Gun Violence Puts Young Americans at Risk  

America’s urban youth may not live in war zones, but some face staggering death rates from gun violence that exceed the mortality rates of U.S. troops in recent wars, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers focused on gun-related deaths among young men in four major U.S. cities: Chicago, Philadelphia, New York and Los Angeles. The death rates for men ages 18 to 29 in two inner-city postal zones were higher than those faced by U.S. military personnel while serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“These results are an urgent wake-up call for understanding, appreciating and responding to the risks and attendant traumas faced by this demographic of young men,” said Brandon del Pozo, an assistant professor at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School, who was one of the researchers.

The study comes as firearms surpassed motor vehicle accidents as a cause of death for children, adolescents and young adults in the United States, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The U.S. public health agency said 3,597 children died by gunfire in 2021.

Overall, gun violence remained endemic in the United States in 2022, including 648 mass casualty shootings, a near-record, according to Gun Violence Archive, a Washington organization that tracks firearms violence. The first month of 2023 saw more than 50 mass shootings across the nation, defined as an incident in which four or more people were wounded or killed, not including the shooter.

While the JAMA report focused on four of America’s largest cities, gun violence claims eye-popping numbers of lives in many other U.S. metropolises as well.

Young lives taken

In Washington, firearms casualties involving young people are a near-daily occurrence. The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department reported a surge of gun violence at the start of 2023, including eight adolescents shot in five separate incidents on a single day in January.

“I’ve seen it all too often,” said Metropolitan Police 7th District Commander John Branch, speaking at a late-night news conference last month after the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old and the wounding of a 14-year-old. “I’m tired of having to come to these shootings. We must learn as a community how to resolve our problems and our issues peacefully and without gun violence.”

Days later, three people, including a 6-year-old and a 9-year-old, were wounded during an exchange of gunfire between two teenagers.

Last year, 105 juveniles were shot in the nation’s capital — 18 fatally — according to Lindsey Appiah, Washington’s deputy mayor for public safety.

In Baltimore, Maryland, a shooting last month left one man dead and three young people injured. After being shot, a young female motorist crashed her car, injuring a 3-year-old boy and a 2-month-old infant.

“I see a lot of folks out here acting like they are tough, but they are really weak,” said Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott during a news conference after the shooting. “Only weak people shoot somebody when they know children are right there.”

Five high school teens were shot in Baltimore last month, one fatally across the street from their school.

In Baltimore and many other U.S. cities, communities are demanding an end to the carnage while political leaders promise change.

“We will make sure that our communities and our children are safe, and they have a right to be safe in their own homes,” said Maryland Governor Wes Moore, a Democrat, addressing a recent anti-gun-violence rally in Annapolis.

Maryland’s legislature is considering several gun control proposals, including mandating that gun owners ensure their weapons cannot be accessed by anyone younger than 18. Another measure would increase the minimum age to legally own a rifle or shotgun in the state from 18 to 21.

Mark Pennak, president of Maryland Shall Issue, a gun rights advocacy group, called the proposals unconstitutional.

“Similar legislation has already been struck down by federal courts in New York and New Jersey,” Pennak said in a statement. Other groups have vowed to fight any new gun control laws via the court system.

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser has called youth violence an emergency and pledged more resources for law enforcement as well as establishing alternative justice programs for young criminal offenders.

“We need to make sure there are consequences to committing crime,” Bowser told reporters after a meeting with community leaders earlier this week. “Consequences in many cases can be a way to stop a kid from graduating to more violent offenses,” she said.

Bowser recently vetoed legislation by the D.C. Council that revised the criminal code to reduce maximum sentences for some serious crimes. Her veto was overridden.

“We don’t make ourselves safer by necessarily having a very aggressive, tough-on-crime response to everything,” said Brian Schwalb, attorney general for the District of Columbia, in an interview with WJLA-TV.

While there may be no single cure for gun violence afflicting urban youth, communities in Washington and elsewhere are looking to boost engagement with at-risk youngsters.

“We have got to give these kids and young people something meaningful to do,” said Ron Moten, a community activist. “We have to give youth the platforms they need to succeed so they will reject turning to crime.”

Others are simply pleading with young people to stop the gun violence.

“If you need a job, we will get you one. If you need support or mentoring, we’re here for you, but you got to make the change,” said D.C. Council member Janeese Lewis George during a recent demonstration to address the rash of shootings. “Killing and shooting in our neighborhoods is unacceptable, especially when our babies are being shot and some killed.”

Federal legislation

Last June, U.S. President Joe Biden signed into law the first major federal legislation limiting firearms in a generation. A major component of the law seeks to deny firearms to those deemed to be a threat to public safety.

Congress passed the gun safety bill with bipartisan backing one month after an 18-year-old gunman wielding a semiautomatic assault weapon killed 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

“We have to find out a mechanism that will make a family member see they need to step in” and try to stop a relative who might pose a threat of gun violence, said Northeastern University criminology professor emeritus Jack McDevitt.

“That person should have their guns taken away, at least temporarily,” he told VOA. “We don’t see that being exercised as much as we think it might be, based on the number of guns out there.”

Arctic Blast Grips US Northeast, Bringing Frostbite-Threatening Temperatures

A powerful arctic blast swept into the U.S. Northeast on Friday, pushing temperatures to perilously low levels across the region, including New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, where the wind chill dropped to -79 Celsius, forecasters said.

Wind-child warnings were posted for most of New York state and all six New England states — Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine — a region home to some 16 million people.

The National Weather Service (NWS) said the deep freeze would be relatively short-lived, but the combination of numbing cold and biting winds gripping the Northeast would pose life-threatening conditions well into Saturday.

Schools in Boston and Worcester, Massachusetts, New England’s two largest cities, were among those closed Friday over concerns about the risk of hypothermia and frostbite for children walking to school or waiting for buses.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu declared a state of emergency through Sunday and opened warming centers to help the city’s 650,000-plus residents cope with what the NWS has warned was shaping up to be a “once-in-a-generation” cold front.

The bitter cold forced a rare closing of a floating museum that presents a daily reenactment of the 1773 Boston Tea Party, when a band of colonists disguised as Native Americans tossed crates of tea taxed by the king into Boston Harbor in protest.

“It’s too cold for that, we’re closed,” a receptionist at the museum said Friday.

Early Friday, the arctic surge flowing into the United States from eastern Canada was centered over the U.S. Plains, weather service forecaster Bob Oravec said. Kabetogama, Minnesota, near the Ontario border, was America’s coldest spot at 1 p.m. EST, with a temperature of -39.5 Celsius.

Sub-freezing, blustery conditions spread eastward through the day, sending wind-chill factors — measuring the combined effect of wind and cold on the body — plunging into the –40s across much of Maine, NWS meteorologist Brian Hurley said.

In Mount Washington State Park, atop the Northeast’s highest peak, temperatures fell to -43 Celsius on Friday evening, with sustained winds of 145 kph driving wind chill to -76 Celsius, according to Hurley.

By comparison, air temperatures in Eureka, Canada’s northernmost Arctic weather station, were hovering at -40 Celsius on Friday morning.

Boston was at -13 Celsius on Friday evening, while in Worcester, Massachusetts, 64 kilometers to the west, the mercury hit -16 C, with temperatures expected to fall even lower, Hurley said.

Record cold was expected in both cities Saturday.

Forecasts called for a low of –21 Celsius in Boston, exceeding an 1886 record –19 Celsius for the date. Worcester was headed for a low of –24 Celsius on Saturday, which would break its previous 1934 record of -20 for the date.

‘Before the real cold hits’

Despite the extreme cold, Nhon Ma, a Belgium native, was out Friday with his Zinneken’s food truck near Boston University selling Belgian waffles made from homemade batter and keeping warm with three or four waffle irons going at once.

“Those create heat, but of course it’s cold, it’s going to be cold, but we’re here,” Ma said.

In a frigid Biddeford, Maine, about 150 kilometers north of Boston, Katie Pinard, owner of a coffee and book shop, said business was brisk as customers came in from the cold, with some opting to work from her shop, Elements: Books Coffee Beer, rather than commute.

“Yeah, Mainers are pretty hardy, but talk to me tomorrow and we’ll see if we’re busy or not,” she said, looking ahead to Saturday morning, when temperatures were expected to drop to -28 Celsius. “I think people are out and doing what they need to get done before the real cold hits.”

While the Northeast was hunkering down, Texas and parts of the South were starting to warm up in the aftermath of a deadly winter ice storm that brought days of freezing rain, sleet and ice, causing massive power outages and dangerously icy roads.

But the weather was warming up, with temperatures in Austin, Texas, expected to hit 11 Celsius on Friday and 22 Celsius by Monday, forecasts say.

Meanwhile, a Pacific storm was expected to bring another round of heavy snow to California’s Sierra Nevada mountains Saturday night. Periods of moderate rainfall were forecast in lower elevations of central and northern California and the Pacific Northwest through the weekend.

Pentagon: Another Chinese Balloon Spotted Over Latin America

The U.S. Defense Department said Friday another Chinese surveillance balloon is sailing over Latin America, two days after a similar high-altitude balloon was discovered traveling over the United States.

Pentagon press secretary Air Force Brigadier General Pat Ryder said in a statement to media outlets “we are seeing reports of a balloon transitioning Latin America.”

“We now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon,” he said.

Earlier Friday, Ryder told reporters at the Pentagon that the balloon sailing over the United States is there for surveillance — in violation of U.S. airspace and international law – despite China’s insistence it is designed for meteorological research.

He said he could not go into specifics but said that U.S. defense officials know it is a surveillance balloon and have conveyed their displeasure to Chinese officials “at multiple levels.”

Ryder said they continue to monitor the balloon flying over the United States closely, and while he would not give its specific location, he said it was over the center of the continental United States and moving eastward. He said it does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground at this time.

U.S. defense officials first discovered the balloon Wednesday over the northwestern state of Montana, which houses one of the three U.S. Air Force bases that operate and maintain intercontinental ballistic missiles. Air traffic out of the Billings, Montana, airport briefly came to a halt Wednesday as the U.S. mobilized fighter jets to track the balloon.

On Saturday, China’s foreign ministry said the craft was a force majeure, citing a legal term to refer to events beyond one’s control. It accused U.S. politicians and media of taking advantage of the situation to discredit China.

“China has always strictly abided by international law and respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries,” the ministry said in a statement.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson confirmed Friday the balloon over the United States did, in fact, belong to China. The spokesperson said it was civilian airship used mainly for meteorological research and “had deviated from its planned course.”

The spokesperson said China regrets the unintended entry into U.S. airspace and would continue communicating with the United States on the matter.

Following confirmation that the balloon belonged to China, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed a trip to China just hours before he was set to depart.

Blinken said he told China’s top diplomat Wang Yi in a phone call Friday that the presence of the surveillance balloon in U.S. airspace is a “clear violation of U.S. sovereignty and international law,” and called it “an irresponsible act.”

Speaking a press conference Friday alongside visiting South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin, Blinken said China’s “decision to take this action on the eve of my planned visit is detrimental to the substantive discussions that we were prepared to have.”

Blinken, however, said the United States remained committed to engagement with China and said he would visit Beijing when conditions allowed.

China’s foreign ministry said Saturday that China and the United States had not announced any visit by Blinken and that “the U.S. announcements are their own matter and we respect that.”

In an interview with VOA’s Mandarin Service, Timothy Heath of the Rand Corp. said the use of such balloons is considered a relatively outdated mode of collecting intelligence as most nations use satellites to collect such data.

But Heath said new technologies allow balloons to be more easily controlled, and they are often harder to detect by radar. He said the balloon, which is roughly the size of three school buses, can also hover over an area for longer periods of time.

In a separate interview, the Hudson Institute’s Patrick Cronin told VOA’s Mandarin Service the balloon is a “clumsy act of intelligence gathering by the Chinese,” and said the United States should prepare an “appropriately sharp response” to the action.

Experts say both the U.S. and the Soviet Union used similar surveillance balloons during the Cold War.

Spy balloons usually operate at 24,000- to 36,000 meters, far above the operating levels of commercial airline traffic and fighter jets.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

Лобісти з Росії переконували політиків у ЄС визнати анексію Криму – медіа

Листи російського політтехнолога вказують на фінансування європейських політиків, які закликали визнати Крим російським

Україна виконала понад 70% зобов’язань за Угодою про асоціацію з ЄС – Стефанішина

Лідером із виконання зобов’язань за Угодою стала сфера інтелектуальної власності – відсоток втілених змін у цій сфері зріс на 33%

VOA Interview: Taliban Policies Will Lead to More Isolation, Says Top White House Official

VOA White House Correspondent Sayed Aziz Rahman speaks with National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby about what the Taliban’s policies mean for future US relations

EU, US Pledge Additional Support to Ukraine

European Union officials pledged their unwavering support Friday to help Ukraine rebuild its infrastructure against Russia’s ongoing war, while the U.S. announced a fresh round of security assistance worth more than $2 billion.

Charles Michel, president of the European Council, and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv for the 24th EU-Ukraine Summit. The EU officials said the union will support Ukraine “for as long as it takes.”

In a joint statement Friday, the officials promised to help rebuild Ukraine’s devastated critical infrastructure, providing energy support and services for the country “to get through the winter,” and beyond. They said that so far, the EU and its member states have provided assistance worth $570 million in the area of energy and reconstruction, and another $525 million for humanitarian efforts.

The officials underscored their commitment to promote Ukraine’s integration in the European Union, but they said there was no promise of fast-track membership.

Kyiv applied to become an EU member shortly after Russia’s invasion and wants to start formal accession talks as soon as possible.

“There are no rigid timelines, but there are goals that you have to reach,” von der Leyen told the news conference in response to a question about Ukraine’s accession drive. One of the conditions for Ukraine’s EU integration is its fight against corruption. The EU Commission president praised Kyiv for its expanded efforts to clamp down on graft.

Michel and von der Leyen condemned Russia’s escalating war against Ukraine and its citizens as “a manifest violation of international law, including the principles of the U.N. Charter.”

They emphasized the need to establish a Special Tribunal at The Hague for the investigation and prosecution of war crimes against Ukraine.

They also emphasized that the EU will never recognize as lawful any illegal annexation of Ukraine by Russia.

In addition, the EU officials unveiled a new package of sanctions, the 10th, against Russia. It will target the trade and technology that supports its war against Ukraine, von der Leyen said.

“With our partners, we must deny Russia the means to kill Ukrainian civilians and destroy homes and offices,” she said in a tweet.

US defense assistance

The United States announced Friday it would provide an additional $2.175 billion worth of military aid for Ukraine, including conventional and long-range rockets for U.S.-provided HIMARs, as well as other munitions and weapons. According to a U.S. official, the longer-range precision-guided rockets would double Ukraine’s strike range for the first time since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Brigadier General Patrick Ryder told a news briefing Friday the package includes “critical air defense capabilities to help Ukraine defend its people, as well as armored infantry vehicles and more equipment that Ukraine is using so effectively, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, artillery ammunition.”

Ryder added that “as part of the USAI [Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative] package, we will be providing Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs to Ukraine.”

Friday’s aid package opens the door to many more deliveries of Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs, which have a range of 94 miles, according to a document reviewed by Reuters.

USAI is an authority under which the United States procures capabilities from industry rather than delivering equipment that is drawn down from Defense Department stocks. This announcement represents the beginning of a contracting process to provide additional capabilities to Ukraine’s Armed Forces as part of U.S. efforts to strengthen Ukraine’s military over the near and long-term.

In total, the United States has now supplied nearly $30 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration, the Defense Department reports. Since 2014, the United States has committed more than $32 billion in security assistance to Ukraine, and more than $29.3 billion since the beginning of Russia’s unprovoked, full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022.

Wagner Group recruitment

Meanwhile, Britain’s Defense Ministry said Friday the Wagner Group’s recruitment of convicts has dropped significantly. The ministry said the Russian Federal Penal Service experienced a decrease of 6,000 inmates since November. In comparison, the penal service had reported a drop of 23,000 inmates from September to November 2022.

“Wagner recruitment was likely a major contributing factor to this drop,” the British ministry said.  

The Ukrainian presidential office said overall in the last day, Russian shelling in Ukraine had killed at least eight civilians and wounded 29 others. 

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse. 

US: Taliban Should Meet Promises Before Seeking Legitimacy 

The United States Friday renewed criticism of Afghanistan’s Islamist Taliban for reneging on promises they would govern the country in a responsible way and respect the rights of all Afghans, including women.

John Kirby, the U.S. National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, told VOA the Taliban will continue to isolate itself from the international community unless they reverse restrictions on women.

“So, if the Taliban wants to be considered legitimate, if they want the recognition of the international community, if they want financial aid and investment in their country, then they should meet their promises, meet their obligations, and behave accordingly,” Kirby stressed.

Takeover

The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan in August 2021 and have since implemented harsh restrictions that severely curtail the rights of women and girls to participate in social, economic and political life.

The hardline rulers have turned Afghanistan into the only country in the world where girls are banned from attending secondary schools and universities.

The Taliban also have banned Afghan women from working for national and international nongovernmental organizations that provide humanitarian aid to millions of people in the conflict-ravaged country. Women also have been ordered to stop using parks, gyms and public bathhouses.

The human rights concerns have deterred the global community from formally recognizing the Taliban as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan.

The Taliban reject criticism of their polices, saying they are governing the country in line with Afghan culture and their interpretation of Islamic Sharia law — though scholars in Muslim-majority countries dispute those assertions, saying Islam gives full rights to women to work and seek education.

ISIS threat

Kirby also questioned the de facto rulers’ counterterrorism operations against Islamic State militants in Afghanistan.

“[The Taliban] are constantly under threat by ISIS in Afghanistan.  … We know that ISIS remains still a viable threat, a credible threat, not just in Afghanistan, but in other parts of the world too,” Kirby said, using an acronym for the Islamic State terrorist group, which is also known as ISIL or IS.

The Afghan affiliate of the militant outfit, known as Islamic State Khorasan or ISIS-K, has routinely carried out high-profile attacks in the Afghan capital of Kabul, and elsewhere in the country in recent months, killing scores of people.

Neighboring Pakistan also increasingly alleged in recent days that fugitive leaders of the outlawed Pakistani Taliban, also called Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), have increased cross-border terrorist attacks.

The latest attack occurred Monday when a suicide bombing ripped through a packed mosque in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, killing more than 100 people and wounding 225 others. The victims were mostly police officers.

Pakistani officials in Islamabad again pointed fingers at authorities in Kabul for not preventing TTP from launching cross border attacks and raising bilateral tensions. Taliban leaders reject the charges, saying they are not allowing any group to use Afghan soil for such activities.

Kirby noted Friday that the people of Pakistan remain under threat of terrorism from the Pakistani Taliban.

“There’s no question about that. And sadly, we’ve seen that borne out in recent days in a bloody, bloody way,” he said.

“We obviously will continue to stay in touch with Islamabad to see what we could do, what might be possible,” Kirby added when asked whether Washington would support Islamabad in countering the terrorist threat emanating from Afghanistan. He did not elaborate.

Detained teacher

Meanwhile, the United Nations demanded Friday that the Taliban release a university lecturer and education activist recently detained by security forces in the Afghan capital.

The detainee in question, Ismail Mashal, had reportedly been distributing academic and other books on Kabul’s streets after tearing up his own diploma on live television in protest of the Taliban’s decision to ban female students from higher education.

“It’s a very concerning development. The professor should be released immediately,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told a daily briefing in New York. “This is just yet another sign of the backsliding, shall we say, that we are seeing in Afghanistan with the de facto authorities, especially on issues of education for women and girls.”

A senior Taliban official claimed in a statement that Mashal had been arrested by security forces for gathering a crowd of journalists and for launching “propaganda against the government.”

Abdul Haq Hammad, head of media monitoring at the Taliban information ministry, claimed that he had visited the detained lecturer and found he was being held in good conditions and had been able to contact his family.

СБУ звинувачує двох посадовців Міноборони у розкраданні грошей на будівництві казарм

Правоохоронці розслідують «розкрадання понад 5 мільйонів гривень на будівництві казарм для військовослужбовців на території Миколаївського гарнізону»

Семеро підлітків постраждали через вибух фрагмента міни в Ізюмі – Синєгубов

Всі діти отримали осколкові поранення, п’ятьох із них госпіталізували

Генпрокурор США дозволив першу передачу конфіскованих російських коштів на користь України

За словами Ґарланда, конфісковані активи надалі будуть перераховані Державному департаменту США, аби бути витраченими «на підтримку народу України»

США запровадили нові санкції проти іранського виробника дронів

Зокрема, санкції обґрунтували тим, що Іран «постачає БПЛА для бойових операцій Росії з метою атак на критично важливу інфраструктуру в Україні»