Below-zero temperatures descend on Midwest, Northeast as part of dangerous 'polar vortex'
CHICAGO (AP) -- Icy, snow-covered roads and high winds made travel treacherous Sunday from the Dakotas and Michigan to Missouri as much of the nation braced for the next winter wallop: a dangerous cold that could break records.
A whirlpool of frigid, dense air known as a "polar vortex" was expected to suppress temperatures in more than half of the continental U.S. starting into Monday and Tuesday, with wind chill warnings stretching from Montana to Alabama.
It was 5 degrees at kickoff Sunday afternoon inside sold-out Lambeau Field for a playoff game between the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers, one of the coldest ever played.
"We suited up, we brought all the snowboarding gear we use ... and added to it," said 49ers fan Jeff Giardinelli of Fresno, Calif. "Without the wind, which isn't here yet, we're good. When it gets windy, we'll be ready for it."
The forecast is extreme: 25 below zero in Fargo, N.D., minus 31 in International Falls, Minn., and minus 15 in Indianapolis and Chicago. Wind chills -- what it feels like outside when high winds are factored into the temperature -- could drop into the minus 50s and 60s. Northeastern Montana was warned of wind chills up to 59 below zero.
Iraqi troops battle al-Qaida militants in fighting that kills 34; deadly bombs hit Baghdad
BAGHDAD (AP) -- The Iraqi military tried to dislodge al-Qaida militants in Sunni-dominated Anbar province Sunday, unleashing airstrikes and besieging the regional capital in fighting that killed at least 34 people, officials said. A series of bombs in Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad, meanwhile, killed at least 20 people.
The recent gains by the insurgents have been a blow to the Shiite-led government -- as sectarian violence has escalated since the U.S. withdrawal. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington was "very, very concerned" by the fighting but would not send in American troops.
Video of the airstrikes in Anbar -- apparently taken by aircraft at night -- was released by Iraq's Defense Ministry showing al-Qaida hideouts being bombarded. It showed men gathered around a vehicle, then running away as the site was struck.
A ministry statement said the air force struck a militants' hideout overnight, identifying them as belonging to the al-Qaida-linked Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, which the government refers to as "terrorists."
The army and allied tribesmen also fought al-Qaida militants around the provincial capital of Ramadi on Sunday, two Anbar government officials told The Associated Press by telephone. They said 22 soldiers and 12 civilians were killed, along with an unknown number of militants, and 58 people were wounded. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.
10 Things to Know for Monday
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Monday:
1. WHERE 'POLAR VORTEX' IS TAKING AIM
The whirlpool of frigid, dense air is ushering in snow and bitter cold across the Midwest and into the Northeast. Temperatures in Fargo, N.D. will drop to 25 below.
Kerry: US will support fight against al-Qaida-linked militants in Iraq without troops
JERUSALEM (AP) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that the United States will support Iraq's fight against al-Qaida-linked militants who have overrun two cities, but won't send in American troops.
Kerry said the militants are trying to destabilize the region and undermine a democratic process in Iraq, and that the U.S. is in contact with tribal leaders in Anbar province who are standing up to the terrorists.
But, he said, "this is a fight that belongs to the Iraqis. That is exactly what the president and the world decided some time ago when we left Iraq, so we are not obviously contemplating returning. We are not contemplating putting boots on the ground. This is their fight. ... We will help them in their fight, but this fight, in the end, they will have to win and I am confident they can."
Al-Qaida linked gunmen have largely taken over the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi in an uprising that has been a blow to the Shiite-led government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Bombings in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, killed at least 20 people Sunday.
Anbar, a vast desert area on the borders with Syria and Jordan, was the heartland of the Sunni insurgency that rose up against American troops and the Iraqi government after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
Colorado sheriff's dispatcher: 1 person killed and 2 injured, 1 severely, in Aspen plane crash
DENVER (AP) -- A fiery plane crash at the Aspen airport Sunday afternoon killed one person and injured two others, one severely, Colorado authorities said.
Officials said the flight originated in Mexico and all three aboard were pilots and Mexican men.
Alex Burchetta, director of operations for the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office, identified the man who died as Sergio Carranza Brabata of Mexico. He did not release the names of the two injured, and he did not know where in Mexico the 54-year-old Brabata lived.
Burchetta said the plane went off the right side of the runway, flipped over and burst into flames.
"The injuries were traumatic in nature, but they were not thermal," he said. "So the fire never reached inside the cabin as far as we can tell."
Across parts of northern Syria, rebels battle al-Qaida-linked insurgents
BEIRUT (AP) -- Syrian opposition fighters battled rival rebels from an al-Qaida-linked faction across parts of northern Syria on Sunday, as deep fissures within the insurgency erupted into some of the most serious and sustained violence between groups opposed to President Bashar Assad since the country's conflict began.
The clashes, which broke out on Friday and have spread to parts of four provinces, pit an array of moderate and ultraconservative Islamist brigades against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an extremist group that has become both feared and resented in parts of opposition-held areas for trying to impose its hardline interpretation of Islam.
The fighting did not appear to be a turn in unison by Syrian rebel groups against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, activists and analysts said, but rather an outburst of violence against the al-Qaida-linked group in certain communities where tensions with other opposition factions were already simmering.
In a reflection of the fragmented and localized nature of much of the fighting in Syria's civil war, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant continued to cooperate with rebel factions against government forces in other parts of the country.
But in some corners of opposition-held northern Syria, the backlash against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has been brewing for months. The group, which analysts say boasts more than 5,000 fighters, many of whom are foreigners, elbowed its way into rebel-held areas in the spring, co-opting some weaker armed opposition groups and crushing others as it consolidated its grip on new turf.
Upstate NY man reunited with family after AP photo shows him keeping warm on DC street
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Nicholas Simmons disappeared from his parents' house in a small upstate New York town on New Year's Day, leaving behind his wallet, cellphone and everything else.
Four days later, an Associated Press photographer, looking for a way to illustrate unusually cold weather, snapped his picture as he warmed himself on a steam grate a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol.
Paul and Michelle Simmons saw the AP photograph in USA Today Sunday morning after it was brought to their attention through a Facebook page set up to help find their 20-year-old son, according to police and family friends.
Michelle Simmons expressed her relief on Facebook shortly after her son was located.
"It could have been months before we had a lead on his whereabouts. My baby looks so lost and I will be spending the rest of my life making him well," she wrote.
New York Fire Department: 1 dead, 1 injured in midtown Manhattan high-rise fire
NEW YORK (AP) -- One man was killed and another was injured in a three-alarm high-rise apartment fire in midtown Manhattan on Sunday, authorities said.
Firefighter spokesman Danny Glover said the fire was reported shortly after 11 a.m. Sunday in an apartment on the 20th floor of a building at 43rd Street and 10th Avenue. About 150 firefighters battled the fire and brought it under control shortly before 1 p.m., Glover said.
It was not immediately clear what caused the fire, which spread heavy smoke to several apartments around the affected apartment, Glover said.
Police said one of the victims, 27-year-old Daniel McClung, was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. The other victim, a 32-year-old male, was hospitalized in stable condition, police said.
Assistant Fire Chief John Sudhik told the Daily News the victims were overcome by smoke and flames in the stairwell.
Pope to travel to Holy Land, Jordan in May amid new US-backed Israeli-Palestinian peace push
VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope Francis says his upcoming trip to the Holy Land aims to boost relations with Orthodox Christians. But the three-day visit in May also underscores Francis' close ties to the Jewish community, his outreach to Muslims and the Vatican's longstanding call for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
The announcement was made Sunday just as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wrapped up three days of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in a new U.S. bid for peace.
Francis told thousands gathered in the rain for his weekly Sunday blessing that he would visit Amman, Bethlehem and Jerusalem on May 24-26. It is the only papal trip confirmed so far for 2014 and the second foreign trip of Francis' pontificate, following his 2013 visit to Brazil for World Youth Day.
Francis, an Argentine Jesuit, will be the fourth pope to visit the Holy Land after Paul VI's landmark visit in 1964.
In his Christmas address, Francis singled out the Holy Land for prayers, saying "Bless the land where you chose to come into the world, and grant a favorable outcome to the peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians."
Dawson kicks FG as time expires as 49ers edge Packers 23-20 in frigid wild-card game
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- Under pressure in subzero weather, Colin Kaepernick kept his cool.
Facing a blitz on third-and-8, the elusive San Francisco 49ers quarterback scrambled 11 yards out of trouble to set up Phil Dawson's 33-yard field goal as time expired for a 23-20 win Sunday over the Green Bay Packers in an NFC wild-card game.
Doesn't matter where or when -- the 49ers keep figuring out how to beat Green Bay.
"Didn't think we were going to pull it out, did you?" coach Jim Harbaugh said.
When it's Kaepernick and the 49ers facing the Packers, the game is never over. Even in the meat locker that was Lambeau Field, where the temperature at kickoff was 5 degrees, with a wind chill of minus-10.