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Western NY death toll rises to 28 from cold, storm chaos

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Buffalo residents hovered around space heaters, hunted for cars buried in snow drifts and looked for more victims Monday, after 28 people died in one of the worst weather-related disasters ever to hit western New York.

The rest of the United States also was reeling from the ferocious winter storm, with at least another two dozen deaths reported in other parts of the country.

Up to 9 more inches of snow (23 centimeters) could fall in some areas of western New York through Tuesday, the National Weather Service said.

“This is not the end yet,” said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, calling the blizzard “the worst storm probably in our lifetime,” even for an area accustomed to punishing snow.

Some people, he noted, were stranded in their cars for more than two days.

The AP Interview: Ukraine FM aims for February peace summit

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s foreign minister said Monday that his nation wants a summit to end the war but he doesn’t anticipate Russia taking part, a statement making it hard to foresee the devastating invasion ending soon.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told The Associated Press that his government wants a “peace” summit within two months at the United Nations with Secretary-General António Guterres as mediator.

The U.N. gave a very cautious response.

“As the secretary-general has said many times in the past, he can only mediate if all parties want him to mediate,” U.N. associate spokesperson Florencia Soto Nino-Martinez said Monday.

Kuleba said Russia must face a war-crimes tribunal before his country directly talks with Moscow. He said, however, that other nations should feel free to engage with Russians, as happened before a grain agreement between Turkey and Russia.

Mega Millions Tuesday jackpot surpasses estimated $565M

The holiday shopping season — for Mega Millions lottery ticket buyers, at least — is ramping up as officials say the estimated jackpot for Tuesday night’s drawing has surpassed half a billion dollars.

As of late Monday, lottery officials estimate Tuesday’s prize at $565 million — or more than $293 million if delivered in cash — after there were no lucky winners holding a ticket that matched all six numbers in the last drawing held on Friday.

Tuesday’s drawing will be held at 11 p.m. EST.

Tickets sold in California and Florida for an Oct. 14 drawing shared the last Mega Millions jackpot of $502 million. The lottery’s top prize has been building anew over 20 drawings held since then.

Lottery officials say there have been 11 winning jackpots of $500 million or more since Mega Millions began in 2002. The record Mega Millions jackpot is more than $1.5 billion, won in 2018, and a jackpot surpassing $1.3 billion was won in Illinois in July.

Long COVID: Could mono virus or fat cells be playing roles?

A British historian, an Italian archaeologist and an American preschool teacher have never met in person, but they share a prominent pandemic bond.

Plagued by eerily similar symptoms, the three women are credited with describing, naming and helping bring long COVID into the public’s consciousness in early 2020.

Rachel Pope, of Liverpool, took to Twitter in late March 2020 to describe her bedeviling symptoms, then unnamed, after a coronavirus infection. Elisa Perego in Italy first used the term “long COVID,” in a May tweet that year. Amy Watson in Portland, Oregon, got inspiration in naming her Facebook support group from the trucker cap she’d been wearing, and “long hauler” soon became part of the pandemic lexicon.

Nearly three years into the pandemic, scientists are still trying to figure out why some people get long COVID and why a small portion — including the three women — have lasting symptoms.

Millions of people worldwide have had long COVID, reporting various symptoms including fatigue, lung problems, and brain fog and other neurological symptoms. Evidence suggests most recover substantially within a year, but recent data show that it has contributed to more than 3,500 U.S. deaths.

Russia says it shot down Ukrainian drone near air base

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The Russian military reported Monday that it shot down a Ukrainian drone approaching an air base deep inside Russia, the second time the facility has been targeted this month — again revealing weaknesses in Russia’s air defenses.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said debris killed three servicemen at the Engels air base, which houses Tu-95 and Tu-160 nuclear-capable strategic bomber planes that have struck Ukraine with missiles in the 10-month-old war.

Russia’s Baza news outlet reported that four people were wounded and said a fire had broken out, with explosions, sirens and flashes on a video it posted on its Telegram channel. The Defense Ministry claimed no Russian aircraft were damaged. It wasn’t clear whether the drone had been launched from Ukraine or Russian territory.

If the drone had been launched from Ukraine, it would have traveled more than 600 kilometers (370 miles) to reach Engels, located in Russia’s Saratov region on the Volga River. Shooting the drone down after such a long trip inside Russia again raises questions about the effectiveness of Russia’s air defenses, particularly those intended to protect its most strategic military assets such as warplanes capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

In keeping with the Kyiv government’s long-standing practice of not confirming cross-border attacks but welcoming their results, Ukrainian air force spokesperson Yurii Ihnat didn’t directly acknowledge his country’s involvement in Monday’s incident in an interview on Ukrainian television, but said: “These are the consequences of Russian aggression.”

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Manhattan man charged in 2 random knife slashing murders

NEW YORK (AP) — Two seemingly isolated and random outdoor murders at the height of the holiday season and of the kind New Yorkers have increasingly feared since the pandemic began were blamed by police officials Monday on a city resident with a criminal record.

James Essig, chief of detectives for the New York Police Department, underscored at a news conference how brief and unplanned were the encounters Roland Codrington is accused of having with two men slashed to death in nighttime killings three days apart, resulting in two murder charges.

It was not immediately clear who would represent Codrington at initial court appearances.

The killings come at a time of increased anxiety citywide over random violence. Mayor Eric Adams recently announced plans for authorities to more aggressively intervene to help people who need mental health treatment, including forcing individuals off streets and subways and into treatment.

Early this year after taking office, Adams said even he didn’t feel safe riding the subway, despite boosted police patrols.

GOP stumbles with independents contributed to midterm woes

EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — As Republican Tyler Kistner’s closing ad aired last month in one of the most competitive congressional districts in the U.S., Vickie Klang felt that something was missing.

The 58-year-old veterinary technician and self-described independent voter watched as the 30-second spot showed grainy black-and-white images of President Joe Biden with two-term Democratic Rep. Angie Craig superimposed alongside him. The narrator ominously described life in America as “dangerous and unaffordable” because of an alliance between the two Democrats.

Absent from the ad, Klang thought, was anything close to a solution beyond electing Kistner.

“You’re never telling me what you’re going to do for the state or the country,” Klang recalled. “That’s a huge turnoff.”

Klang ultimately backed Craig, contributing to a 5 percentage point win for a Democratic incumbent whom Republicans spent more than $12 million to unseat. From Maine to California, Republicans faced similar unexpected setbacks with the small but crucial slice of voters who don’t identify with either major party, according to AP VoteCast, a sweeping national survey of the electorate.

4th Washington state electrical substation vandalized

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — A fourth electrical substation was vandalized late on Christmas Day in Washington state, leaving homes in Kapowsin and Graham temporarily without power, according to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office.

By 7 a.m. Monday, more than 10,500 Puget Sound Energy customers were without electricity across the region, KOMO-TV reported.

The suspects broke into a fenced area and vandalized equipment, causing a fire, officials said. The fire was extinguished and power was later restored, but no suspects are in custody, officials said.

The attacks come as federal officials are warning that the U.S. power grid needs better security to prevent domestic terrorism and after a large outage in North Carolina earlier this month that took days to repair.

The first substation was vandalized at about 5:30 a.m. Sunday, followed by a second substation, according to Tacoma Public Utilities. The outages affected about 7,300 customers in an area southeast of Tacoma. Just before noon, the utility had restored power to all but 2,700 customers whose power was estimated to be restored at about 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

US to let MLB stars play for Cuba in World Baseball Classic

HAVANA (AP) — The United States will permit Major League Baseball players from Cuba to represent their home country in the World Baseball Classic next year.

The decision announced Saturday in a news release by the Baseball Federation of Cuba (FCB) could be a big step in once again turning Cuba’s national team into heavy hitters on an international stage.

Major League Baseball confirmed Monday that the U.S. granted the license to FCB. It clears the way for MLB stars such as José Abreu, Yordan Alvarez, Randy Arozarena, Yoán Moncada and Luis Robert to play for Cuba in the WBC in March if they choose to accept a potential invitation.

It’s up to each country’s national governing body to pick the players on its WBC team. Final 30-man rosters are due Feb. 7 for the WBC, which begins March 8 with Cuba facing the Netherlands in Taiwan.

While the sport of choice for much of Latin America is soccer, baseball dominates in Cuba. The island has gained fame around the world for its baseball talent.

Zach Bryan drops ‘All My Homies Hate Ticketmaster’ album

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The chorus against Ticketmaster’s contentious concert pricing practices is growing, numbering among them Zach Bryan and friends.

The country music artist dropped a live album, “All My Homies Hate Ticketmaster,” on Sunday. With it came a statement posted to social media in which he decried “a massive issue with fair ticket prices to live shows lately.”

“I’ve decided to play a limited number of headline shows next year to which I’ve done all I can to make prices as cheap as possible and to prove to people tickets don’t have to cost $450 to see a good and honest show,” Bryan wrote, cautioning that he didn’t have control of ticket prices for festivals he’ll play.

The statement doesn’t mention Ticketmaster by name except in the new album title, though he tagged the company in a separate Instagram post displaying the track listing. A message seeking comment from Ticketmaster was not immediately returned.

Ticketmaster has faced a slew of bad press and scrutiny in recent weeks, notably around the botched rollout of tickets for superstar Taylor Swift’s upcoming Eras Tour.

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