Polar Vortex Hits U.S.

A weather event known as a polar vortex brought subzero conditions to much of North America this past week, with temperatures reaching extreme lows on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019 and the following Thursday morning, before warmer weather began to take hold. 16 deaths have been confirmed in connection with the event, CNN reported. In addition, over 6,000 U.S. flights were cancelled and 75 percent of the U.S. population faced temperatures below freezing, with the Midwest and Eastern regions most directly affected.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) explains that the term “polar vortex” refers to the low pressure region of cold air that flows counterclockwise around the poles. Distortions of the vortex result in a jet stream, like the one that blew down from the Arctic Circle this week, bringing freezing air with it. BBC News and NOAA said that there may be a connection between this sort of jet stream distortion and global climate change.

Lebanon Forms New Government Nine Months After Elections

On Jan. 31, 2019 political leaders of Lebanon agreed on a new government after nine months of debate. The discussions began in May 2018 after the first parliamentary election held in Lebanon in nine years. According to The Associated Press, pressure on political factions to compromise was heightened by the country’s growing economic crisis.

The 30-member Lebanese Cabinet will be led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who heads the country’s largest Sunni political party. The number of Cabinet members associated with the politically-opposing Shiite group Hezbollah has increased. Hezbollah is currently facing U.S. terrorism sanctions. Other major changes include doubling the number of female ministers, as four women take their seats in government positions.

BBC News quoted Hariri as saying, “We must turn the page and start working.”

The new Cabinet met for the first time on Feb. 2, 2019.

Force-Feeding at U.S. Immigration Detention Center

Six immigrants held at the El Paso Processing Center in Texas are being force-fed by U.S. immigration officials, BBC News reported on Jan. 31, 2019. The detainees were engaging in a hunger strike against conditions at the detention center. 

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) considers people to be on a hunger strike after skipping nine consecutive meals. According to The Associated Press, ICE officials confirmed that 11 detainees in the center are on a hunger strike, in addition to 4 individuals held in Miami, Phoenix, San Diego and San Francisco. Detainees claim that the number of strike participants at El Paso is 30, most of whom are from India and Cuba. Some of the protesters have gone without food for over a month. The Associated Press also wrote that relatives of the six immigrants say the detainees are suffering from nosebleeds and vomiting as a result of the force-feeding process, which involves administering liquid food through nasal tubes.

An ICE official quoted by The Associated Press said that “Hunger strikes are uncommon and court orders authorizing force-feeding are exceedingly rare.”

BBC News reported that the World Medical Association, a partner of both the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association, maintains that “Forced feeding is never ethically acceptable.”