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Vox Sentences: When freezing means global warming

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How a polar vortex links to climate change; the US steps up pressure to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

The planet is warming up, so it’s getting cold

National Weather Service
  • The Midwest is about to get really, really cold. A polar vortex is expected to hit Tuesday through Thursday, with cities including Chicago likely to be as cold as minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit. [Vox / Brian Resnick]
  • About 90 million people will be exposed to temperatures below or at zero degrees in the coldest recorded forecast in generations. At least four national records for lowest temperature could be broken in states like Illinois and Iowa. [Washington Post / Angela Fritz]
  • What’s a polar vortex? Basically, the jet stream pushes a portion of the Arctic air that hangs above the North Pole down to North America. This may be due to a larger amount of warmer air at the pole displacing the colder air. [USA Today / Doyle Rice]
  • Climate change might explain why the North Pole is warmer than ever and this vortex is happening. If the polar climate continues to warm for a long time, colder air will keep streaming outside the Arctic. [NYT / Kendra Pierre-Louis]
  • Note to President Trump, who tweeted “what the hell is going on with global warming”: The phrase “global warming” doesn’t mean it can’t get cold anymore. 2018 was still the hottest year ever recorded — and a changing climate means changing weather. [Vox / Brian Resnick]
  • If you live in the Midwest, just stay inside if you can. Winds this cold actually displace the warm air the body naturally produces as armor against the cold, potentially causing frostbite within minutes. [Washington Post / Angela Fritz]

The US gives Guaidó more power to pressure Maduro

  • The US State Department today gave control of US bank accounts and property in Venezuela to National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó, whom the US recognized as the country’s legitimate leader last week. The State Department also issued a red-level travel warning for Americans traveling to Venezuela. [NYT / Edward Wong]
  • It’s the latest step the Trump administration has taken to support Guaidó: The administration announced on Monday that the US would place financial sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), in an effort to pressure President Nicolás Maduro to cede his power. This is basically an embargo on Venezuelan oil, and the US is its biggest client. [Vox / Alex Ward]
  • Giving Guaidó power over US property in Venezuela would allow him to sidestep Maduro’s strongholds in the economy and military — and it might be working. Venezuelan generals and diplomats have started to express support for Guaidó. [NYT / Edward Wong]
  • Maduro was mad at the US last week, but now he’s really upset that PDVSA, one of the country’s largest employers and revenue producers, has been slapped with $7 billion in blocked assets and $11 billion in frozen revenue. Guaidó established a new board of directors for PDVSA, making it even harder for Maduro to intervene. [NYMag / Jonah Shepp]
  • Some Democrats have disputed the sanctions. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said the US should be promoting democratic negotiations rather than rushing to prop up an opposition party. [Politico Magazine / Frida Ghitis]
  • Russia also isn’t happy — Venezuela has received billions of dollars in loans from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who claims Trump is just using sanctions to further US commercial interests. The sanctions could potentially delay Maduro’s regime from repaying Russia, causing tension in the region. [Washington Post / Anton Troianovski]

Correction: Monday’s edition of Sentences stated the Mariana dam accident in Brazil occurred in 2016 instead of 2015. Also, Brazil’s Brumadinho dam was actually deemed “stable” by inspectors prior to the incident last Friday. We regret the error.


  • It might be a good idea to shut off FaceTime: A bug in the Apple application gives callers access to your microphone, even if you don’t pick up. Here’s how to disable the video call platform for now. [The Verge / Barbara Krasnoff]
  • Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats disputed President Trump’s claim that North Korea would willingly give up its nuclear weapons. In a report to the Senate Intelligence Committee today, Coats also heightened the reality of cybersecurity concerns. [Bloomberg / Chris Strohm]
  • Roger Stone pleaded not guilty today to seven criminal charges, including witness tampering and making false statements. Stone was indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller Friday as part of an investigation into potential collusion with Russia in the 2016 election. [CNN / Katelyn Polantz]
  • The death toll from the dam collapse in Brumadinho, Brazil, has risen to 65. Today, five people were arrested in connection with the accident, including two engineers who worked for a company hired by Vale, the mining company that owns the dam. [WSJ / Jeffrey T. Lewis and Paulo Trevisani]
  • The State of the Union has officially been rescheduled for February. The political battle over the historical address is another example of Trump’s ability to violate norms and reinterpret American democracy. [FiveThirtyEight / Julia Azari]


“There are a lot of people in America who are facing despair and hopelessness — and their life is not based on the stock market. Their life is based on whether the promise of America is still available to them.” [Howard Schultz, the former Starbucks CEO and potential presidential hopeful, to Gwyneth Paltrow on her podcast, via the Federalist]

Watch this: El Chapo’s drug tunnels, explained

How El Chapo dug his way to the top of the drug trade. [YouTube / Mac Schneider]

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