Keeping up with the news is hard. So hard that we've decided to spare you the trouble by summing up the most important, most unusual, or just old, amazing stories every week.
This week was mostly as remarkable as it was unbelievably and unforgivingly cold. In the Midwestern United States, temperatures dropped to a level normally reserved for the depths of Siberia. As snow and ice filled our screens, much else has been going on, from political developments in Washington to our usual mix of tragedy and craziness in other places.
10 The Midwest Froze
So it feels like living in Antarctica. After a few days of terrible warnings and people struggling to winterize their homes, the polar vortex hit mid-week. A huge cold airflow crashed out of the Arctic, crossed Canada and settled in the Midwestern United States. It is better to believe that it was cold with a big "C". 
In Chicago, a city not unfamiliar to the biting winter, temperatures have dropped to -30 ° C. , In Minnesota, there were some -41 degrees Celsius (-42 degrees Fahrenheit) in some places. By comparison, at the time of writing, it is about -4 degrees Celsius in Moscow, -12 degrees Celsius in McMurdo Station in Antarctica and -18 degrees Celsius in Ottawa. So when we say it's cold in the Midwest, we mean really cold.
The sudden drop in temperature was dangerous for some. In Iowa, officials have warned people not to stay out in the open for more than ten minutes and to avoid breathing through their mouths or risking health problems. Freezing has so far involved at least eight deaths.
9 Greece approved the historic name change of Macedonia
Farewell to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM); Hello the Republic of North Macedonia! You may remember the columns from last year when the Macedonian government passed laws that would change the name of the country. Well, this change was conditional on the Greek parliament passing its own laws to ratify it. Last Friday they did it. Athens passed its bill with a breathtaking edge. The path for the historic name change of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is now clear.
The name "Macedonia" is controversial because a) there is a Greek province of the same name and b) many Greeks believe it is an overt attempt to claim their inheritance (a kind of as if Texas only " Mexico "or vice versa). The dispute meant that Athens continued to block FYROM's accession to NATO or the EU, effectively excluding Skopje from two of the largest regional alliances.
Thanks to the joint efforts of Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and the Greek government of Alexis Tsipras, these days are now over. Zaev has already met with the EU leaders on the start of accession negotiations in northern Macedonia. 
8 The US Government reopens  Thirty-five days. This was the period of partial closure of the US government, which finally ended last Friday, when President Trump made a startling announcement allowing for a three-week emergency response. The president said he had resigned to help those who had missed paychecks. The opposition (and some hardened Republicans) said it had been played hard by Nancy Pelosi.
The closure of 2018/19 is now the longest in the US. The closest took only 21 days in 1995. After the reopening of the government, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the 35-day break had cost the economy around $ 11 billion. $ 8 billion will be reclaimed in the process of resumption of government, but this still results in a $ 3 billion loss. [19459011
The thing is, it's still not over. The underlying tension of Trump, who really wants a wall and the Democrats really do not want, has not disappeared. The interim financing will expire on 15 February, which means we may need to go through it again.
7 A bomb attack on the deadly cathedral The Philippines
Jolo Island in the southern Philippines is a place that has long been plagued by Islamist terrorism. The militant group Abu Sayyaf has gone wild despite repeated efforts to destroy them. But rarely is the group as brash as on Sunday. During the Mass, they detonated two bombs in the Catholic Cathedral of Jolo. At least 20 people were killed and 81 injured in the double explosions. 
Abu Sayyaf has recently been associated with ISIS and is her local chapter in the Philippines. Although it believes that Abu Sayyaf carried out the attack, ISIS assumes overall responsibility. While their collapsing caliphate has lost much of its power over the past year, it is clear that they are still able to channel cruel atrocities.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to destroy Abu Sayyaf. It could be a big order. Abu Sayyaf has been persistently living since 1991.
6 A collapse of a dam in Brazil
In 2015, an upstream dam of a Brazilian mining company collapsed and looted the city of Mariana with a wall of mud 19 people were killed and whole neighborhoods were destroyed. After the disaster, the Brazilian authorities promised to ban upstream dams and hold mining companies accountable. But they did not do it. Instead, mining lobbyists were allowed to dictate the new legislation.
All this leads us to the tragedy in Brumadinho.
Last Friday, another upstream dam, used by a mining company, gave way. The death toll did not stop at just 19 years. The mud that devoured the city destroyed almost everything. At the time of writing, 99 people are known to have died. Nearly 260 people remain missing. It is assumed that all are probably dead. 
The operators of this mine are Vale SA, the same company that oversaw the collapse of the dam in 2015. Meanwhile, three employees and two entrepreneurs have been arrested. If the Brazilian authorities had joined forces before the collapse, about 350 people could now live.
5 Toronto's LGBT killer admitted to eight murders
Between 2010 and 2017, eight men have disappeared from the gay village of Toronto. Most of them came from immigrant communities and were still in the closet. As the LGBT population in Toronto quickly realized that a serial killer was operating in their midst, the police refused to entertain the idea.
Then, in 2018, a 66-year-old landscape gardener and sideline shopping center named Bruce McArthur was arrested. McArthur was a grandfather who came out in middle age. This week he pleaded guilty to all eight murders. He dismembered his victims and hid their bodies in plant pots under the guise of his landscaping. 
McArthur's crimes would be shocking in any community, but they were particularly peaceful in Toronto City in a country that has rarely experienced murder. The worst of it could be that McArthur was arrested by the police in 2013 for the killings and then released. Because the police refused to believe that a serial killer was at work, five other men died.
4 A Russian lawmaker arrested for murder in parliament
Until Wednesday, Rauf Arashukov was a member of the ruling ruling party a legislator and a major power player in his home region Karachay-Cherkessia in the North Caucasus. He was also something of a violent thug. The police had already tied two political killings in his home region in 2010.
But only on Wednesday took place the meeting of Arashukov. According to some, the Federation Council in Moscow was suddenly closed to the media and the doors were surrounded by armed guards. The charges against Arashukov were read out, and the legislature voted to withdraw him there and there of his parliamentary immunity. Apparently he tried to escape, but was arrested and washed away.  
The former legislator is now in prison for double murder. Given that accountability is not always an issue in Russia, it is good to see that a powerful man has been forced to pay for his crimes.
3 US Taliban Talks Made a Breakthrough
Just a week ago, we told you about how a gigantic Taliban truck bomb killed between 40 and 100 people in a remote city. This week, the Afghan insurgent group was back on the news, this time from a completely different perspective. On Monday, US Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said a breakthrough had created a framework for peace talks between the Taliban and Washington. It was the most significant breakthrough since the US-led invasion of 2001. 
All of this probably raises the question, "Why the hell is anyone negotiating with the Taliban?" That seems to be the only way the US can end its longest war. With the end of the American presence, the Taliban storm back. The US must either make peace with the group or invest a tremendous amount of resources in the proper occupation of Afghanistan. These are two terrible choices.
The basic framework seems to be an agreement whereby the Taliban would bring all (other) terrorist groups out of Afghanistan to achieve a complete US withdrawal. However, many are suspicious of the Taliban's unwillingness to negotiate with the government in Kabul and what that could mean for life after the country's withdrawal.
2 The EU has launched a program to prevent Iran's sanctions
It's been almost a year since President Trump has dramatically withdrawn the US from Iran's nuclear deal, and the remaining signatories had to save for something to save some of it. Since then, the US has aggressively cracked down on every company that deals with Tehran. Now finally the answer of the European Union has arrived. Known as the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), it will help EU companies with legitimate business interests to circumvent US sanctions. [19459011
The SPV bypasses financial restrictions in its dealings with Iran by setting up a barter system so that companies can exchange goods instead. It is the brainchild of Germany, France and the United Kingdom, with the EU itself behind the program. If successful, it could help European companies to be affected by reprisals in the US. The US has rejected the SPV as something that will not affect its Iranian sanctions regime.
The news is further proof of how far the US and its allies are drifting apart in many aspects of global security. The days when the EU worked to circumvent US sanctions would have been extraordinary. Well, it's synonymous with the course.
1 One of President Trump's closest allies was charged
Oh, you see, another charge in the Russia probe.
Last Friday, when the US government came to life again, lifelong Republican Representative Roger Stone was arrested by the FBI and charged with obstruction, witness manipulation and lies before Congress. He is one of the president's closest confidants who has been arrested so far. 
Stone is a GOP veteran who has previously worked for Ronald Reagan, the Bushs and many other prominent Republican candidates. He is also a very longtime friend of Donald Trump. The new indictment claims that Stone contacted Wikileaks for publishing Democratic Party e-mail during the 2016 campaign, and informed the Trump campaign of impending leakages. That would make him an important player in any coordinated effort to influence the election and perhaps the most important indictment of Müller.
It should be noted, however, that none of them so far relates to collusion with Russia or concerns the President directly. It could be that even more can be expected in this dirty story. Or it could be that the dollar has really stopped with someone like Jared Kushner (as many outlets predict). On the street it says that the probe from Müller is in the final phase. I think we'll find out soon.