South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday)

First winter storm of the season batters northeaste­rn US

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WARREN, Mass. — The first big wintry storm of the season began dropping what forecaster­s say could be more than a foot of wet, heavy snow Saturday on parts of the Northeast, making travel treacherou­s and cutting off power to thousands.

Morning rain gave over to snow in the afternoon in New England. Accidents littered the Massachuse­tts Turnpike, where speed limits were reduced to 40 mph. Massachuse­tts and New Hampshire utilities quickly reported thousands of customers without power.

Forecaster­s warned the windy nor’easter could result in near-blizzard conditions and could dump a foot of snow near Boston.

Authoritie­s in Connecticu­t urged drivers to be careful.

“Troopers are responding to accidents all over the state,” state police tweeted. “We ask motorists, if they can stay home please do. And if you have to go out please drive slow and ditch all distractio­ns.”

In some areas, snowfall of 3 inches per hour was possible, said National Weather Service meteorolog­ist Michael Clair in Gray, Maine.

“This is the first big one,” Clair said of the beginning of the winter season. “There has been some snow up in the mountains, but this is the first one across where most people live.”

Localized totals of more than 18 inches are possible in higher terrain, Clair said.

Russian vaccine centers:

The city of Moscow opened 70 vaccinatio­n facilities where thousands of doctors, teachers and others in high-risk groups had signed up to receive COVID-19 vaccines starting Saturday.

The centers in the capital started giving shots to willing recipients three days after President Vladimir Putin ordered the launch of a “large-scale” COVID-19 immunizati­on campaign even though a Russian-designed vaccine has yet to complete the advanced studies needed to ensure its effectiven­ess and safety in line with establishe­d scientific protocols.

The Russian leader said Wednesday that more than 2 million doses of Sputnik V will be available in the next few days, allowing authoritie­s to offer jabs to medical workers and teachers across the country starting late nextweek.

Russia boasted that Sputnik V was the world’s “first registered COVID-19 vaccine” after the government gave it regulatory approval in August. The move drew criticism from internatio­nal experts, who pointed out that the vaccine had only been tested on several dozen people at the time.

NY church fire: A historic church in lower Manhattan that houses New York’s Liberty Bell and whose congregati­on dates to the city’s earliest days was gutted by a massive fire early Saturday that sent flames shooting through the roof.

The Middle Collegiate Church in the East Village burned after a fire spread from a five-story vacant building adjacent to the church around 5 a.m.

The fire department said in an Instagram post that there were four minor injuries to firefighte­rs and that marshals were investigat­ing the blaze.

Built in 1892, the church is home to the oldest congregati­on of the Collegiate Churches of New York, which date to the Dutch settlement of the island in the 1620s, according to the church’s website.

The bell tower houses New York’s Liberty Bell, which pealed to mark the birth of the nation in 1776 and has since been rung for the inaugurati­ons and deaths of American presidents and events such as remembranc­e of the Sept. 11 attacks, according to the church.

Anger in Armenia: Tens of thousands of opposition supporters marched across the Armenian capital Saturday to push for the resignatio­n of the ex-Soviet nation’s prime minister over his handling of the conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.

In six weeks of fierce fighting that ended with a Russia-brokered peace deal on Nov. 10, the Azerbaijan­i army reclaimed lands that Armenian forces have held for more than 25 years.

Armenia’s opposition parties warned Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan there would be civil disobedien­ce across thecountry if he does not resign by noon Tuesday. Pashinyan has refused to step down, defending the peace agreement as a painful but necessary move that prevented Azerbaijan from over running the entire Nagorno-Karabakh region.

More than 20,000 protesters rallied in Yerevan on Saturday, chanting “Nikol, you traitor!” before marching to the prime minister’s official residence.

Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994.

Ethiopia conflict: Several thousand combatants have been killed in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region, an official with the fugitive regional government is asserting, although claims remain difficult to verify after amonth of fighting between Ethiopian and regional forces.

Getachew Reda, a senior adviser to the Tigray leader, in an interview with Tigray TV that aired Thursday urged young people and others in the region to “rise and deploy to battle in tens of thousands.”

His call came days after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared victory in a power struggle that exploded between his government and the heavily armed regional one that once dominated Ethiopia’s ruling coalition.

The fighting continues in some areas, and with the leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front on the run in rugged territory, fears remain of a drawn-out conflict.

Getachew didn’t say how many people are actively fighting but said “our army is doing amazing things with limited numbers.”

France protests: Thousands of people around France protested a proposed bill that could make it more difficult for witnesses to film police officers, with tensions quickly rising at the Paris march Saturday as intruders set fire to several cars, pillaged a bank and tossed objects at police.

The protest- crashers, who disrupted a similar demonstrat­ion a week ago, formed a barricade on a section of the march route in eastern Paris, temporaril­y blocking the march. Dressed in black, the socalled “black blocs” are a feared element at French demonstrat­ions.

Police officers who have come under fire for alleged racism and gratuitous violence within their ranks, were hard-pressed to stop the individual­s seeding chaos at the march.

“Police mutilate, police kill,” read one banner carried by protesters.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said at least 64 people were arrested at the protests around France and eight police officers were injured. In a tweet, he praised police.

In the western city of Nantes, two riot police were injured, one of them with a Molotov cocktail, French media reported.

 ?? EMMANUEL DUNAND/GETTY-AFP ?? A fireworks display is set off Saturday during the lighting of the Christmas tree in the biblical city of Bethlehem. Only a few dozen people attended the ceremony near the Church of the Nativity, where Christians believe Jesus was born. Others watched it online due to the coronaviru­s pandemic. The annual event normally draws thousands of pilgrims.
EMMANUEL DUNAND/GETTY-AFP A fireworks display is set off Saturday during the lighting of the Christmas tree in the biblical city of Bethlehem. Only a few dozen people attended the ceremony near the Church of the Nativity, where Christians believe Jesus was born. Others watched it online due to the coronaviru­s pandemic. The annual event normally draws thousands of pilgrims.

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