Winter storm leaves at least 34 dead, ‘Avatar 2’ rules: 5 Things podcast


On today’s episode of the 5 Things podcast: Winter weather leaves at least 34 dead

Warmer temperatures are on the way after severe weather slammed most of the U.S. over Christmas weekend. Plus, migrants were dropped near the vice president’s residence in bitter cold on Christmas Eve, Springfield News-Leader Reporter Andrew Sullender looks at the life of an Afghan refugee in his Missouri community a year after escaping the Taliban, Russian President Vladimir Putin says his country is ready for peace talks, and “Avatar: The Way of Water” tops the box office again.

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Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript below. This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text.

Taylor Wilson:

Good morning. I’m Taylor Wilson and this is 5 Things you need to know Monday, the 26th of December 2022. Today, the latest on a massive winter storm that killed dozens. Plus, life for an Afghan refugee a year after escaping the Taliban, and Russia’s latest approach to the war in Ukraine.

A massive winter storm brought a white Christmas for much of the country yesterday. About 60% of the US has been under a winter weather advisory or warning from the system that stretched from the Great Lakes to the Mexico border. At least 34 people are dead as of this morning, and more than 1,700 flights were canceled as of yesterday. In the Buffalo area alone, at least seven people have died, and another four died after a major car pile up in Ohio. Meanwhile, residents in Jackson, Mississippi need to boil their drinking water after water lines bursts in cold temperatures. Warmer weather is on the way for some this week. That includes Chicago and New York City, along with Buffalo, which has seen some of the worst blizzard conditions in the nation in recent days.

Three buses of recent migrant families arrived from Texas near the home of Vice President Kamala Harris in record setting cold on Christmas Eve. Texas authorities have not confirmed their involvement, but the bus drop-offs are in line with previous drops by border state governors trying to bring attention to the Biden administration’s immigration policies. The buses that arrived late Saturday near the VP’s residence in Washington carried more than a hundred people according to a migrant relief agency. Those on board included young children. Their arrival came on the coldest Christmas Eve on record for DC, according to the Washington Post, with temperatures around 15 degrees and some wearing just T-shirts.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott did not respond to request for comment yesterday, but his office said last week that Texas has bused some 15,000 migrants out of the state since April to Washington, New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia. Abbott, along with some other Republican governors, argue that President Joe Biden has relaxed restrictions, encouraging many people to leave their countries of origin. Biden has ended some policies but kept others created by former President Donald Trump. A White House spokesperson called the bus drop-offs a cruel and dangerous stunt.

One year after an Afghan refugee came to America to escape the Taliban, he now says that he wants what everybody wants, for his family to be healthy and happy. Producer PJ Elliott spoke to reporter Andrew Sullender of the Springfield News Leader for more.

PJ Elliott:

Andrew, thanks so much for joining 5 Things.

Andrew Sullender:

Thanks so much for having me.

PJ Elliott:

You tell a pretty fascinating story of an Afghan refugee who worked for the US government now living in Missouri. Can you talk about the person in your story and what the transition from living in the Middle East under the Taliban to now literally in the middle of America has been like for them?

Andrew Sullender:

Yeah, so that individual, his name is Romal Noori. He came here from Afghanistan about a year ago upon the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. He’s worked for the United States government in Afghanistan as a translator and other jobs for almost 10 years since he was a teenager. And there was an issue about a year ago when there was the withdrawal of people who were being left behind being targeted by the Taliban, and one person who had worked with Noori came and helped Noori get out. And since then, Noori has been settled here in southwest Missouri and Springfield.

PJ Elliott:

So it’s not just Noori that’s an Afghan refugee living in Missouri, is it? There are others.

Andrew Sullender:

Oh yeah. We had a bit over a hundred different Afghan refugees come to the country and there’s a resettlement agency here locally that helped facilitate that. And they had a lot of volunteers. There was a lot of interest at the time. And then of course since then you’ve seen more refugees come into our community from Ukraine as well.

PJ Elliott:

Andrew, how are the locals there in Missouri handling their new neighbors?

Andrew Sullender:

Based on my reporting, it seemed that it was very positive reaction from people here in Springfield. Of course, people have different ideas, but Noori reported to me that he’s had a very positive experience with the locals welcoming him to the community. And the resettlement agency here has worked with Afghan families and paired them with local families here who really took them under their wing. And it seems like it’s been a positive experience overall. Of course, different people have different experiences.

PJ Elliott:

Is this a permanent solution for these refugees or are they just in the Springfield area temporarily?

Andrew Sullender:

Well, it depends. For the Afghan refugees that are here in Springfield, I know that Romal wants to stay here long term and really make his home here. And that was a big point that he made to me when I spoke with him, is he’s a very service oriented individual and he wants to give back to his community. He actually started working for the resettlement agency after he came here, helping other Afghan refugees and others move to other places. I know of another refugee who has family in California. So he was here for a few months and then he moved elsewhere in the country to be with his family.

PJ Elliott:

Andrew, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it.

Andrew Sullender:

Yeah, thank you so much for having me.

Taylor Wilson:

Russian President Vladimir Putin says that his country is ready for talks to end his war in Ukraine. He said in a state television interview partly released yesterday that Russia is prepared to negotiate some possible outcomes. He also said that Ukraine is the party who refuses to participate in peace talks, a repeated Russian claim throughout the country’s nearly yearlong invasion.

It’s not entirely clear if Putin comments represent a shift in Russia’s approach, but they come as Russia continues to attack Ukraine. At least three missiles hit the occupied Donetsk region yesterday, and Russia severely shelled the southern city of Kherson on Saturday, killing at least 16. The city was retaken by Ukraine last month.

Avatar: The Way of Water topped the box office again in its second weekend.

Avatar: The Way of Water trailer clip:
– I’m a warrior like you, I’m supposed to fight.
– Protect the people.

Taylor Wilson:

James Cameron’s sequel has made more than a quarter billion dollars at the North American box office in its first 10 days, even better than the first “Avatar,” which went on to become the highest grossing film of all time. Cameron’s movies have often been box office hits, but sequels usually tail off dramatically after the opening weekend. “The Way of Water” second weekend though was not considered a major drop-off. Meanwhile, the weekend’s biggest disappointment, “Babylon,” which you heard about on 5 Things last week. Director Damien Chazelle’s latest made just $3.5 million in a nationwide release. For more, head to the Entertainment section on USATODAY.com.

And a reminder, tonight is the last night of Hanukkah. The eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights marks the rededication of the second temple in Jerusalem.

Thanks for listening to 5 Things. You can find us every morning of the year right here wherever you’re listening right now. I’m back tomorrow with more of 5 Things from USA TODAY.



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