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News Wrap: Rescue teams search for missing victims of deadly Quebec fire

January 27, 2014 at 6:02 PM EST
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GWEN IFILL: A dangerous cold wave that could be one for the record books moved deeper into the heart of the nation today. The frigid air pushed east from the Northern Plains and Midwest, and began snarling travel and schools.

NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman has our report.

KWAME HOLMAN: The frigid system is again driving arctic air and snow south from Canada, for the second time in a month. Forecasts today called for windchills of minus 43 in Minneapolis and minus 40 in Chicago, prompting the closing of schools in and around the Windy City and airlines to cancel hundreds of flights.

Along the waterfront, steam rose across lake Michigan, as the water was much warmer than the air. Elsewhere, extreme wind, gusting up to 60 miles an hour, blew snow into near whiteout conditions for travelers in the Dakotas. And slick roads triggered a massive 33-car pile-up yesterday in Warren, Michigan. Only minor injuries were reported.

NADEER BOUBAKER, Michigan driver: An SUV come up behind me, hit me. Then another car come and hit him. And next thing you know, it was a really bad, bad accident.

KWAME HOLMAN: With the deep cold expected to linger for several days, road crews around Indianapolis raced to clear snow as quickly as they can.

ALAN BACON, Indianapolis Department of Public Works: It’s going to be a very hard freeze, and it doesn’t matter what product you put on it, salt or whatever. It’s not going to move.

KWAME HOLMAN: But salt was in high demand in many places, including portions of Wisconsin, where they’re already running short.

JOHN MAREK, town chairman, Waukesha, Wisconsin: The town of Waukesha has used its entire allocation of salt for the 2013-2014 season.

KWAME HOLMAN: Propane also was in short supply, as families and businesses struggle to keep warm. Prices spiked in the Midwest last week, forcing suppliers to ration deliveries.

Meanwhile, the South and East now are preparing for the cold that’s coming in the days just ahead. The National Weather Service has issued winter storm warnings and cold advisories from Southeast Texas and along the Gulf Coast and on up the Eastern Seaboard.

GWEN IFILL: In Quebec today, police and search teams braved the biting cold to search for victims of a fire at a seniors residence; 32 people are feared dead from last Thursday’s blaze, but officials have recovered only 14 bodies so far. The wreckage is now encased in heavy ice and police are still investigating the cause.

Major Internet companies have worked out a compromise on what they can say publicly about customer information they turn over to the government. The Justice Department announced the surveillance agreement today with Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Facebook, and LinkedIn. The companies get to disclose, within limits, how often they are ordered to hand over information, but not until six months after the fact.

The government of Ukraine agreed tonight to scrap new anti-protest laws. The announcement came on the official Web site of President Viktor Yanukovych. He imposed the laws earlier this month, sparking violent clashes between police and demonstrators. The opposition wants closer ties with the European Union, but the government has signed a new pact with Russia instead.

The Syrian peace talks appear stuck for the moment, after negotiations lasted less than an hour today. The focus was supposed to be on creating a possible transitional government. Instead, the Assad regime offered a paper on fighting terrorism and cutting off funds for rebels.

After the meeting broke down, the opposition and the regime blamed each other.

MURHAF JOUEJATI, Adviser to Syrian National Coalition: The focus, as all the international community expected, was for us to discuss the implementation of the Geneva communique. Instead, the regime put forth what they called a joint declaration of principles, which was clearly a deviation from the path.

BOUTHAINA SHAABAN, adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad: We were surprised that this basic paper was rejected by the other side, who either doesn’t have the capacity to acknowledge Syria and its territorial integrity, or they don’t care about what is happening to the Syrian people.

GWEN IFILL: Over the weekend, the two delegations did agree to let women and children leave the besieged city of Homs, but they have yet to work out the logistics.

A new wave of bloodshed has broken out in northeastern Nigeria; 45 people were killed at a church service on Sunday, and at least 52 others died today in a separate attack on a village. The attackers are believed to be from Boko Haram, a radical Islamist sect that launched an uprising in 2009.

Back in this country, jury selection began today in New Orleans in the federal corruption trial of former Mayor Ray Nagin. The two-term Democrat is accused of taking more than $200,000 in cash and other gifts from contractors. In exchange, he allegedly helped them secure millions of dollars in city repair work after Hurricane Katrina. Nagin left office in 2010.

Republican Congressman Trey Radel is resigning his House seat, after he pleaded guilty to cocaine possession late last year. The freshman from Florida initially insisted he’d stay on, but party leaders urged him to step down. Radel had been in office 10 months when he was caught buying cocaine from an undercover police officer in Washington.

Wall Street had another down day, but the losses were far less severe than last week. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 41 points to close below 15838. The Nasdaq lost 44 points to close at 4083.

The French duo Daft Punk basked in congratulations today after winning four Grammy Awards last night in Los Angeles. The electronic music pioneers perform as helmeted, silent robots. Their wins included record of the year for the song “Get Lucky” and album of the year. Producer Pharrell Williams and hip-hop artists Macklemore and Ryan Lewis also claimed four trophies apiece.