MINNEAPOLIS — Students stayed home from school Thursday and several businesses were closed in parts of the upper Midwest as arctic air pushed wind chill readings to dangerously low temperatures.
A wind chill warning was in effect for northeastern North Dakota and northern Minnesota, with wind chill readings plunging to more than 40 below zero in some areas. Forecasters from the National Weather Service urged people to limit time outdoors and bundle up, as exposed skin could be subject to frostbite in as little as 10 minutes.
It’s possible that at least one death could be attributed to the cold. Police in Omaha said they found the body of Robert Freymuller, 80, early Thursday in a street not far from the assisted-living center where he lived. His death is being investigated, but police said he was not dressed for the weather; the wind chill had dropped to minus 26 degrees at that time.
In Minnesota, the coldest wind chill reading was in Fosston, in northwestern Minnesota, where the wind chill reached 48 degrees below, the National Weather Service said.
Minnesota’s Anoka-Hennepin School District notified parents that classes were canceled “due to extreme winter weather conditions in the early morning hours.” Several other districts were closed, and some had e-learning days, meaning that students received instruction online.
Schools, businesses and organizations were also closed or were opening late in Nebraska and Iowa on Thursday, as temperatures dropped to about 10-20 degrees below average in the northern and central Plains. Montana, South Dakota, Wisconsin and northern Missouri were also under wind chill advisories.
The upper Midwest will see some relief from the bitter cold over the weekend, as the cold air is expected to push into the Ohio Valley and interior New England and the lower Great Lakes region by Friday.
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WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidates hoping to revive their flagging campaigns increasingly took aim at Mike Bloomberg on Thursday, blasting their billionaire rival for trying to buy his way into the White House and raising questions about his commitment to racial equality.
Struggling to recover from poor showings in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden took the lead in attacking Bloomberg. Biden, the former vice president, said on ABC’s “The View” that “I don’t think you can buy an election,” while Warren took Bloomberg to task for his 2008 comments that ending redlining, a discriminatory housing practice, helped trigger the economic meltdown.
Biden and billionaire Tom Steyer also joined forces in slamming Bernie Sanders after the Vermont senator and self-described democratic socialist won New Hampshire and essentially tied for the lead in Iowa with Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Biden said Sanders hadn’t done enough to explain how he’d pay for his “Medicare for All” proposal to replace private insurance with a government-run program. Steyer said that “refusal to tell us how he will pay for his plan adds unnecessary financial risk to achieving health care as a right for every person.”
Voters, Steyer said, “should have all the facts.”
The sniping reflects the remarkably fluid state of the Democratic race even after two states that typically winnow presidential fields have already voted. The White House hopefuls are trying to blunt Bloomberg, who gained attention by flooding the national airwaves with hundreds of millions of dollars in advertisements and is on the verge of being admitted into next week’s presidential debate. And the lagging candidates are trying to prove that they still have the mettle to stay in the race, even if their path is becoming increasingly difficult.
WATERBURY, Conn. — Families of those killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting will have access to the shooter’s computer as part of their lawsuit against gun maker Remington.
A state Superior Court judge in Waterbury, Connecticut, signed off on a stipulated agreement Thursday between the families and Remington that will allow a forensic computer expert to examine Adam Lanzas’ computer and present digital images of his findings to both sides. The families are looking for evidence of Lanza’s exposure to advertisements for weapons.
Remington, based in Madison, North Carolina, is accused of violating the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act by marketing its Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle to civilians.
Lanza used the gun, which was owned by his mother, in a rampage that started with her and ended when he killed 20 first-graders and six educators inside the Newtown, Connecticut, school.
The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Joshua Koskoff, has accused the company of targeting younger, at-risk males through “militaristic marketing and astute product placement in violent first-person shooter games.”
One of Remington’s ads features the rifle against a plain backdrop and the phrase: “Consider Your Man Card Reissued.”
The AR-15’s design is based on the military M-16. There are now an estimated 16 million AR-platform long guns in the U.S.
The lawsuit is expected to go to trial in 2021.
NEW YORK — Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer told jurors Thursday that prosecutors in the rape case against him were acting like moviemakers, conjuring up a world “where women had no free will.”
“In the alternative universe that prosecutors have created for you, Harvey Weinstein is a monster,” lawyer Donna Rotunno said in her closing argument. But, she said, he’s an innocent man relying on jurors not to be swayed by a “sinister tale.”
Rotunno argued that prosecutors had to come up with a damning story about the once-powerful movie producer because they don’t have the evidence to prove the charges.
“The irony is that they are the producers and they are writing the script,” Rotunno said, urging the jury to not buy into “the story they spun where women had no free will.”
“In their universe, women are not responsible for the parties they attend, the men they flirt with, the choices they make to further their own careers, the hotel room invitations, the plane tickets they accept, the jobs they ask for help to obtain,” or the messages they send, Rotunno said.
BEIRUT — Over 140,000 Syrians have been displaced in the last three days alone by violence in the country’s northwest, bringing the total of those uprooted in a Syrian government offensive against the last opposition stronghold to over 800,000, the United Nations said Thursday.
The U.N. said at least 60% of the more than 800,000 displaced since Dec. 1 are children. The humanitarian crisis in the already overcrowded opposition-held enclave is compounded by freezing weather conditions, and existing severe needs.
The government offensive, backed by Russia, has intensified and expanded to include southern and eastern Idlib province as well as southern and western Aleppo, an area home to an estimated 4 million people. Most have already been displaced from other parts of Syria because of the ongoing conflict.
The humanitarian situation for people in northwest Syria is “at the most critical points,” the U.N. said, adding that the massive scale of human displacement over such a short period of time has increased needs exponentially.
David Swanson, U.N. regional spokesperson for the crisis in Syria, said more resources, including funding, are immediately needed to save lives and alleviate suffering, predicting the 800,000 figure will rise in the coming days as the government offensive continues.
WASHINGTON — In a bid to revive the Equal Rights Amendment, the House on Thursday approved a measure removing a 1982 deadline for state ratification and reopening the process to amend the Constitution to prohibit discrimination based on sex.
“There is no expiration date on equality,” said Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier of California, the resolution’s sponsor.
Nearly 50 years after it was first approved by Congress and sent to the states, the Equal Rights Amendment “is just as salient as ever,’’ Speier said. “For survivors of sexual violence, pregnancy discrimination, unequal pay and more, the fight for equal justice under the law can’t wait any longer.’’
The House approved the resolution, 232-183, sending it to the Senate. Five Republicans — all men — joined 227 Democrats to support the measure. No Democrat opposed it.
Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have co-sponsored a similar proposal, but the measure is unlikely to be taken up in the GOP-controlled Senate. Cardin said this week he is confident the resolution would pass if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell allowed a floor vote.
Congress sent the amendment, which guarantees men and women equal rights under the law, to the states in 1972. It gave states seven years to ratify it, later extending the deadline to 1982. But the amendment wasn’t ratified by the required three-quarters of states before the deadline.
Last month, however, Virginia lawmakers voted to ratify the amendment, becoming the 38th and final state needed. The Justice Department has said it’s too late, and a lawsuit is now ongoing.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called passage of the resolution long overdue, noting that Congress will soon observe the 100th anniversary of women having the right to vote.
And yet “the ERA is still not enshrined in the Constitution,’’ the California Democrat said. “As a result, women still face inequality under the law from the wage gap to pregnancy discrimination, sexual harassment and, again, resulting in women being underrepresented at the table.’’
The House measure helps the country “take a giant step toward equality for women, progress for families and a stronger America, because we know when women succeed, America succeeds,” Pelosi said.
The House vote ran into political headwinds this week as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — a feminist icon — said fellow ERA supporters should start over in trying to get it passed, rather than counting on breathing life into the failed attempt from the 1970s.
“I would like to see a new beginning,” Ginsburg said Monday night at Georgetown University law school in Washington. “I’d like it to start over.”
In addition to Virginia, Nevada and Illinois also voted to ratify the amendment in the past three years. Five states have moved to rescind their earlier approvals.
“There’s too much controversy about latecomers,” Ginsburg said. “Plus, a number of states have withdrawn their ratification. So if you count a latecomer on the plus side, how can you disregard states that said we’ve changed our minds?”
Ginsburg has been a champion of the Equal Rights Amendment for decades. And her standard response to the question of how she would improve the Constitution is to point to the ERA.
Democrats did not address Ginsburg’s argument directly, but said at a Capitol event Wednesday and during floor debate Thursday that it’s absurd to suggest women are too late to win equality.
“There should not be a deadline on equality,” said Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Va., a former state lawmaker who hailed Virginia’s adoption of the amendment last month.
“Thanks to the tireless work of so many trailblazers and activists over the years, women — finally — are one step closer to being included in our nation’s founding document,” she said.
Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said Democrats were trying to “rewrite history” by reviving the ERA after three-quarters of the states failed to ratify it by the 1982 deadline.
“Congress does not have constitutional authority to retroactively revive a failed constitutional amendment,’’ he said.
“If you support the language of the 1972 ERA,’’ he added, “you only have one constitutional option, and that’s to start the whole process over again and make your case to current voters nationwide.’’
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. said the Senate would reject any effort to revive the ERA.
“I completely concur with Justice Ginsburg’s public statements about the need to reissue the amendment” and start over, Graham said Thursday in a statement that placed him in rare agreement with one of the court’s most liberal members.
“It is clear the statutory period to have passed the ERA expired decades ago, and it would be necessary for it to be reintroduced to have constitutional viability,’’ Graham said.