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News Brief: Week of Jan. 27-Feb. 2


Extreme cold kills 27 in Midwest

Dangerously cold temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees gripped portions of the Midwest and Northeast on Wednesday and Thursday, causing at least 27 deaths and closing thousands of schools and businesses.

According to the National Weather Service, the temperatures were cold enough to cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as five minutes. Hospitals in Illinois saw 220 cases of frostbite and hypothermia during the extreme cold spell, according to officials.

The elderly and mentally disabled were among several of the 27 deaths. Alcohol and drug abuse is also believed to be a contributor to a few of the deaths.  

The frigid cold arrived as part of a polar vortex, an unstable mass of air, which rotates counterclockwise and moves south from the Arctic. The polar vortex last moved as far south as the continental U.S. five years ago.

Trump hints at declaring national emergency

As Democrats in Congress continue to oppose allocating billions to construct a southern border wall, President Donald Trump said Friday there is a “good chance” he will receive money for the project by bypassing Congress and declaring a national emergency.

During this exchange with reporters, Trump said a major announcement on border security will come during his Feb. 5 State of the Union address, adding “actually having a national emergency does help the process.”

The government will once again shut down on Feb. 15 if no deal between lawmakers is made.

Virginia governor faces controversy

Several Democratic leaders are calling for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam to resign after an image of him allegedly posing in a racist yearbook photo surfaced Friday.

The photo, which shows one person in a blackface and another in full Ku Klux Klan attire, was printed in the 1984 Virginia Military Institute yearbook. In a Friday night video address, Northam said he was in fact in the photo, which uses a racial slur to describe the blackface character.

However, Northam had a change of heart on Saturday, telling a Virginia Democratic source he has no recollection of taking the photo and therefore will not resign.

The Virginia Democratic Party released a statement on Saturday morning requesting Northam’s immediate resignation. Other influential groups, including the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, made public statements asking him to step down.


Bird scooter company leaves downtown Oklahoma City

The electric scooter company Bird, which dispatched 75 scooters on the Oklahoma Christian University campus last month, will no longer operate in downtown Oklahoma City.

Those opening the Bird app in Oklahoma City on Friday were greeted with a message stating the company was re-evaluating its business model and would at least temporarily pull out of the Oklahoma City market.

Because Bird has a separate contract with Oklahoma Christian University, the electric scooters on campus are unaffected by this decision to leave the Oklahoma City market, according to the SGA Head of Campus Improvements Nash Scott.

Streetcar fares now in effect

After a six-week trial period of free service, riders of downtown Oklahoma City’s streetcar now must pay a fare to reach their destination.

A base fare of $1 per riding hour took effect 7 a.m. on Saturday morning. Riders may also purchase a day pass for $3 or a yearlong pass for $384.

According to Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt, the streetcar has seen immediate success, with high ridership all seven days of the week.

While the streetcar was initially planned to be a six-day-per-week operation, Holt said this success caused officials to institute permanent Sunday service with expanded hours.

More information on the streetcars, including a full service schedule, can be found here.

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