Thursday morning news: January 31, 2019

Polar blast wreaks havoc across Midwest and beyond » A blast of polar air is still chilling much of the U.S., causing all kinds of trouble.

Twenty-three states recorded sub-zero temperatures on Wednesday, from Montana to Kansas to New England.

In Minneapolis, with an afternoon high of -12, one resident said it’s difficult to breathe.

AUDIO: It’s like hard to take a breath in. It’s affecting my lungs a little bit. 

In Chicago, temperatures dropped to a low of around -23 degrees. That was cold enough to snap rail lines and ground hundreds of flights.

And in Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday declared a state of emergency.

WHITMER: We just want to make sure that people understand the severity of the weather out there and that they are prepared. 

The dangerous cold forced the U.S. Postal Service to suspend mail delivery in parts or all of 10 different states Wednesday.

And the extreme winter weather is to blame for as many as eight deaths so far. Multiple people have died from hypothermia, others in traffic accidents on icy roads.

U.S. and Chinese negotiators resume trade talks » U.S. and Chinese negotiators resume trade talks again this morning. They opened two days of talks on Wednesday, aimed at ending a six-month trade war.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Fox Business, President Trump wants fair, reciprocal trade with China.

MNUCHIN: Right now China has free access into our markets and we have limited access into theirs. So the critical issues we’ve talked about are market access, making sure there aren’t forced joint ventures, not forced transfer of technology. 

He said the U.S. also wants measures to ensure China lives up to its end of the bargain.

He also insisted recently announced Justice Department charges against Chinese tech giant Huawei and one of its top executives are completely unrelated to trade talks.

The two sides are not expected to reach an agreement this week but a March 2nd deadline looms. That’s when the Trump administration is scheduled to increase tariffs from 10 percent to 25 percent on $200 billion dollars worth of Chinese imports.

Demonstrators gather in Venezuela’s capital » AUDIO: [Sound of Venezuela protests]

Protesters once again took to the streets of Caracas on Wednesday. Doctors in scrubs, businessmen in suits, and construction workers in jeans demonstrated in the nation’s capital, renewing calls for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to step down and hold free elections.

AUDIO: [Sound of Venezuela protests]

The latest walkout came one week after opposition leader Juan Guaido proclaimed himself president. The U.S. and many other nations now recognize him as the country’s rightful leader.

Guaido, heard here through an interpreter, said the people of Venezuela are suffering.

GUAIDO: Now the people need medicine, food. That’s at the center of our policy, the humanitarian aid passed and approved by the United States, European Union and other powers in the region, that’s the first priority, humanitarian aid. 

As Maduro grows increasingly isolated, he said yesterday that he’s open to negotiating with the opposition—quote—“for the sake of Venezuela’s peace and its future.”

Maduro on Wednesday also accused President Trump of ordering the Colombian government to assassinate him.

British prime minister pushes for changes to Brexit deal » The British Parliament this week gave Prime Minister Theresa May the green light to reopen Brexit talks between the UK and the European Union. May said Wednesday…

MAY: The plan that was set out last night shows that we can obtain a substantial and a sustainable majority.

But EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said once again that the deal the EU and May’s government agreed to last year is the only deal possible.

JUNCKER: The debate and votes in the House of Commons yesterday do not change that. The withdrawal agreement will not be renegotiated. 

British lawmakers gave May a two-week deadline to revisit the Irish border portion of the agreement, which remains a major sticking point. The EU and Britain at first agreed on a so-called “backstop,” which would prohibit border controls between Northern Ireland and Ireland. But members of Parliament argued an open border with Ireland could keep Britain tied to the EU indefinitely.

Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union on March 29th.

FBI: No clear motive for Vegas massacre » The FBI has concluded its 16-month investigation into the Las Vegas massacre at the Route 91 Harvest Festival but investigators still can’t say why it happened. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin has that story.

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: The bureau released a long-awaited report on Tuesday that found no “single or clear motivating factor” to explain why 64-year-old Stephen Paddock committed the mass murder.

Paddock fired more than a thousand bullets from a 32nd-floor hotel suite into a crowd attending the outdoor country music festival. He fatally shot himself as police closed in.

The report found Paddock’s physical and mental health were declining. The retired postal service worker, accountant, and real estate investor had complained he was sick and depressed months before the shooting.

But the FBI said he was a loner with no religious or political affiliations, and he did not leave a manifesto or suicide note.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin.

Virginia Democrats push legislation to allow abortion up until birth » A push by Democrats in Virginia to loosen restrictions on late-term abortions is drawing fire this week. Some state lawmakers want to allow abortions all the way up to the moment of birth.

Democrat Kathy Tran introduced the bill and testified this week in support of it. During the hearing, subcommittee Chairman Todd Gilbert asked if a woman is dilated and moments away from giving birth, should she still request an abortion?

TRAN-GILBERT: Mr. chairman, that would be a decision that the doctor, the physician and the woman… GILBERT: I understand that. I’m asking if your bill allows that. TRAN: My bill would allow that, yes. 

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, also a Democrat, continues to support the measure. He called controversy over the bill overblown.

(Anthony Souffle/Star Tribune via AP) A cyclist decked out in cold weather gear rides past the city skyline and a frozen Bde Maka Ska in Minneapolis. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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