AP Top News at 6:29 p.m. EST
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Millions of people hunkered down against a deep freeze Sunday to ride out the winter storm that has killed at least 34 people across the United States and is expected to claim more lives after trapping some residents inside houses with heaping snow drifts and knocking out power to tens of thousands of homes and businesses. The scope of the storm has been nearly unprecedented, stretching from the Great Lakes near Canada to the Rio Grande along the border with Mexico. About 60% of the U.S. population faced some sort of winter weather advisory or warning, and temperatures plummeted drastically below normal from east of the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachians, the National Weather Service said.
BOBRYTSIA, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainians usually celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7, as do the Russians. But not this year, or at least not all of them. Some Orthodox Ukrainians have decided to observe Christmas on Dec. 25, like many Christians around the world. Yes, this has to do with the war, and yes, they have the blessing of their local church. The idea of commemorating the birth of Jesus in December was considered radical in Ukraine until recently, but Russia’s invasion changed many hearts and minds. In October, the leadership of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which is not aligned with the Russian church and one of two branches of Orthodox Christianity in the country, agreed to allow faithful to celebrate on Dec.
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — President Vladimir Putin claimed that Russia is ready for talks to end the war in Ukraine even as the country faced more attacks from Moscow — a clear sign that peace wasn’t imminent. Putin said in a state television interview, excerpts of which were released on Sunday afternoon that Russia is “prepared to negotiate some acceptable outcomes with all the participants of this process.” He said that “it’s not us who refuse talks, it’s them” — something the Kremlin has repeatedly stated in recent months as its 10-month old invasion kept losing momentum. Putin also repeated that Moscow has “no other choice” and said he believed the Kremlin was “acting in the right direction.” “We’re defending our national interests, the interests of our citizens, our people,” he said.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Three buses of recent migrant families arrived from Texas near the home of Vice President Kamala Harris in record-setting cold on Christmas Eve. Texas authorities have not confirmed their involvement, but the bus drop-offs are in line with previous actions by border-state governors calling attention to the Biden administration’s immigration policies. The buses that arrived late Saturday outside the vice president’s residence were carrying around 110 to 130 people, according to Tatiana Laborde, managing director of SAMU First Response, a relief agency working with the city of Washington to serve thousands of migrants who have been dropped off in recent months.
Could the COVID-19 surge in China unleash a new coronavirus mutant on the world? Scientists don’t know but worry that might happen. It could be similar to omicron variants circulating there now. It could be a combination of strains. Or something entirely different, they say. “China has a population that is very large and there’s limited immunity. And that seems to be the setting in which we may see an explosion of a new variant,” said Dr. Stuart Campbell Ray, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University. Every new infection offers a chance for the coronavirus to mutate, and the virus is spreading rapidly in China.
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis used his Christmas message Sunday to lament the “icy winds of war” buffeting humanity and to make an impassioned plea for an immediate end to the fighting in Ukraine, a 10-month-old conflict he decried as “senseless.” At noon in Rome, Francis delivered the traditional “Urbi et Orbi″ (Latin for ”’to the city and to the world”) speech from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. On a sunny day, with the midday temperature reaching about 15 degrees Celsius (nearly 60 F), warm for a Roman winter, some 70,000 tourists, pilgrims and residents of the city packed St.
LONDON (AP) — King Charles III evoked memories Sunday of his late mother, Queen Elizabeth II, as he broadcast his first Christmas message as monarch in a speech that also paid tribute to the “selfless dedication” of Britain’s public service workers, many of whom are in a fight with the government over pay. Charles, 74, also empathized in the prerecorded message with people struggling to make ends meet “at a time of great anxiety and hardship.” Like some other parts of the world, the U.K. is wrestling with high inflation that has caused a cost-of-living crisis for many households. The king’s first remarks, however, recalled his mother, who died in September at age 96 after 70 years on the throne.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden celebrated a quiet Christmas with his family at the White House and spoke with service members stationed around the world. “They’re away from their families to protect us,” Biden said in a tweet. “And they have the thanks of a grateful, indebted president.” The White House said Biden and the first lady, Jill, called members of the Army stationed at Panama City, Panama; the Navy aboard the USS The Sullivans in the Arabian Sea; the Marine Corps at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego; the Air Force at Okinawa, Japan; the Space Force in Europe; and the Coast Guard aboard the cutter Bertholf in Alameda, California.
Kathy Whitworth set a benchmark in golf no one has ever touched, whether it was Sam Snead or Tiger Woods, Mickey Wright or Annika Sorenstam. Her 88 victories are the most by any player on a single professional tour. Whitworth, whose LPGA Tour victories spanned nearly a quarter-century and who became the first woman to earn $1 million for her career on the LPGA, died on Christmas Eve, her longtime partner said. She was 83. Bettye Odle did not disclose a cause of death, saying only that Whitworth died suddenly Saturday night while celebrating with family and friends. “Kathy left this world the way she lived her life — loving, laugh and creating memories,” Odle said in a statement released by the LPGA Tour.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — “Avatar: The Way of Water” sailed to the top of the box office in its second weekend, bringing in what studios estimate Sunday will be a strong $56 million in North America — a sign that the sequel may stay afloat into the new year and approach the massive expectations that met its release. James Cameron’s digital extravaganza for 20th Century Studios has made $253.7 million domestically in its first 10 days of release, compared to $212.7 million in the same stretch for 2009′s first “Avatar,” which would go on to become the highest-grossing film of all time.