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All your news in a single email. We scour 100+ sources so you don't have to. Culture, science, sports, politics, business, and more - all packaged in a 5-minute read below.
Need To Know.
Deep Freeze Grips Midwest.
At least eight deaths were reported from near-record low temperatures as a blast of polar air enveloped the upper Midwest and the eastern US on Wednesday. Over 1,800 flights were canceled in Chicago, where temperatures sunk to minus 23 degrees (F), just a few degrees above the record of minus 27 degrees. Wind chills in the city were reported up to minus 51 degrees. Many spots, from North Dakota to Wisconsin, recorded temperatures lower than prominent Antarctic cold spots. The conditions were driven by a break in the polar vortex - a pocket of low-pressure, cold air that rotates counter-clockwise above both of the Earth's polar regions. A warm mass of air from the South caused rapid heating above the North Pole about a month ago, eventually pushing down part of the polar vortex into Canada and the Northern US. The cold snap is expected to break by this weekend. 

On the other side of the world, Australia is experiencing a record-breaking heat wave.
Federal Reserve Also Chills.
The US Federal Reserve signaled yesterday that it would be "patient" in raising its benchmark interest rate in the foreseeable future, marking a significant policy shift from what had been a steady rise in rates since 2015. Officials also said they would leave rates at 2.25-2.5%, untouched from their previous hike in December (see timeline of rate hikes). Interest rates often determine how expensive it is for consumers and businesses to finance things like buying a car or starting a new plan - the decision reflects the Fed's perception that the US may be facing modest economic headwinds. Markets bounced up on the news, with the Dow up 1.77%, S&P 500 up 1.55%, and the Nasdaq up 2.2%. 

Sort of understand what the Fed is - but sort of don't? Here is a solid primer on its history and how it works. 
Maduro Offers Meeting.
In a small conciliatory move, Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro said he would be open to holding talks with political opposition in the country. The comments come as opposition leader Juan Guaido, who was recognized by the US and 20 other nations as the country's interim president last week, said he has met with the country's military leaders - a move seen as crucial to ousting the current regime. Maduro, who has overseen a crumbling economy since assuming power in 2013 while garnering international criticism for human rights abuses, remains in power at the moment and has so far retained the support of the military. He also issued a warning to the US, likening involvement in Venezuela to the Vietnam War. 

See background on the long-simmering crisis here.
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In The Know.
Sports, Entertainment & Culture.
> Lord of the Rings filmmaker Peter Jackson signs on to direct Beatles documentary with 55 hours of unreleased footage (More)
> The Twilight Zone reboot to premiere April 1, 2019; Get Out director Jordan Peele tapped to produce, narrate (More)
> Warner Bros. announces new Batman film for June 2021; Ben Affleck ruled out as titular character (More)
Science & Technology.
> Apple blocks Facebook from running internal iOS apps after reports that Facebook circumvented Apple's App Store to run a research program tracking teen phone use behavior (More)
> Newly analyzed evidence suggests ancient-human species co-mingled in Siberian cave system for tens of thousands of years (More)
> Scientists demonstrate months-long, reversible male contraception drug mix; approach uses injectable gold nanoparticles that dissolve inside the body when hit with infrared light (More)
Business & Markets.
> US and Chinese officials kick off two-day trade talks in Washington DC (More)
> Earnings Season: Facebook announces record earnings, shares up 11% in after-hours (More) | Tesla sees smaller profit versus previous quarter, shares down 5% in after-hours; CFO also announces retirement (More)
> Boeing raises 2019 profit expectations as it surpasses $100B in annual revenue, shares up 6% (More) | Visa tops revenue and earnings expectations as payment volume increases 11%, shares up 2% in after-hours (More)
Politics & World Affairs.
> Bipartisan group of congressional leaders from House and Senate meet for first time since end of shutdown, seeking to avert a second; deadline for funding deal is Feb. 15th (More)
> Sources say Germany, France, and Britain exploring mechanism to circumvent US sanctions, conduct non-dollar trade with Iran (More)
> New rules expand private health care options for veterans, raising number of those eligible from 560,000 to about 2.1 million (More)
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In Depth.
The Murky Ethics of the Ugly-Produce Business.
The Atlantic | Amanda Mull. Not every carrot is good enough to be sold at Whole Foods, and a range of new startups who are trying to profit from these produce beauty preferences. See how these startups are buying the produce that farmers can't sell and sending it right to your doorstep - but not without criticism. (Read)
My Crazy Kurdistan Road Trip.
Outside | Jason Motlagh. The Kurdish region of Iraq isn't frequently referred to as a vacation hot spot, but with an exceptionally hospitable people and an equally impressive geography, the region has the potential to become an adventure tourism destination. (Read)
Visualizing how prices have changed over the past 20 years for goods and services.  
Photos from the Midwest as the polar vortex makes a visit
...And when it gets this cold, Chicago sets its train tracks on fire

Why you should fight the urge to kill spiders you find in your house
Watch a GoPro go down a 900-meter borehole in the Antarctic
Not All Heroes Wear Capes: Woman runs final 19 miles of marathon while cradling a lost puppy
Los Angeles Rams player arranges for team custodian to attend Super Bowl LIII with his son
This luxury space hotel is now booking rooms for $9.5M
Singer Ariana Grande's takes flack for tattoo mishap
Clickbait: Put down the nuggets, they may contain rubber
Historybook: Guy Fawkes is executed (1606); 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery, passes in Congress (1865); HBD Jackie Robinson (1919); HBD actress Kerry Washington (1977); HBD Justin Timberlake (1981).
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