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Virginia's Gov. Northam says that wasn't him in racist photo

By ALAN SUDERMAN, Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Resisting widespread calls for his resignation, Virginia's embattled governor on Saturday pledged to remain in office after disavowing a blatantly racist photograph that appeared under his name in his 1984 medical school yearbook.

In a tumultuous 24 hours, Gov. Ralph Northam on Friday apologized for appearing in a photograph that featured what appeared to be a man in blackface and a second person cloaked in Ku Klux Klan garb. In a video posted on Twitter, he said he could not "undo the harm my behavior caused then and today."

But by Saturday, he reversed course and said the racist photo on his yearbook profile page did not feature him after all. The governor said he had not seen the photo before Friday, since he had not purchased the commemorative book or been involved in its preparation more than three decades ago.

"It has taken time for me to make sure that it's not me, but I am convinced, I am convinced that I am not in that picture," he told reporters gathered at the Executive Mansion in Richmond, calling the shot offensive and horrific.

While talking with reporters, Northam admitted that he had previously worn blackface around that time, saying he once had used shoe polish to darken his face as part of a Michael Jackson costume he fashioned for a 1984 dance contest in San Antonio, Texas, when he was in the U.S. Army. Northam said he regrets that he didn't understand "the harmful legacy of an action like that."

His refusal to step down could signal a potentially long and bruising fight between Northam and his former supporters, which includes virtually all of the state's Democratic establishment.

After he spoke, both of Virginia's U.S. senators said they called Northam to tell him that he must resign. In a joint statement Saturday night, Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and the dean of Virginia's congressional delegation, Rep. Bobby Scott, said the recent events "have inflicted immense pain and irrevocably broken the trust Virginians must have in their leaders."

Since Friday, groups calling for his resignation included the Virginia Democratic Party and the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus. Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring, a Democrat, and top Republicans in the Virginia General Assembly also urged Northam to resign, as have many declared and potential Democratic presidential candidates.

"He is no longer the best person to lead our state," the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus said in a statement.

If Northam does resign, Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax would become the second African-American governor in the state's history. In a statement, Fairfax said the state needs leaders who can unite people, but he stopped short of calling for Northam's departure. Referring to Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax said he "cannot condone actions from his past" that at least "suggest a comfort with Virginia's darker history of white supremacy, racial stereotyping and intimidation."

Northam conceded Saturday that people might have difficulty believing his shifting statements.

He was pushed repeatedly by reporters to explain why he issued an apology Friday if he wasn't in the photograph.

"My first intention ... was to reach out and apologize," he said, adding that he recognized that people would be offended by the photo. But after studying the picture and consulting with classmates, Northam said, "I am convinced that is not my picture."

Walt Broadnax, one of two black students who graduated from Eastern Virginia Medical School with Northam, said by phone Saturday he also didn't buy the class's 1984 yearbook or see it until decades after it was published.

Broadnax defended his former classmate and said he's not a racist, adding that the school would not have tolerated someone going to a party in blackface.

The yearbook images were first published Friday afternoon by the conservative news outlet Big League Politics. An Associated Press reporter later saw the yearbook page and confirmed its authenticity at the medical school.

In an initial apology about the photograph on Friday, Northam had admitted to being in the photograph but did not say which of the two costumes he had worn.

That evening, he issued a video statement saying he was "deeply sorry" but still committed to serving the "remainder of my term." Northam's term is set to end in 2022.

The scars from centuries of racial oppression are still raw in a state that was once home to the capital of the Confederacy.

Virginians continue to struggle with the state's legacy of slavery, Jim Crow and Massive Resistance, the anti-school segregation push. Heated debates about the Confederate statues are ongoing after a deadly 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville. A state holiday honoring Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson is a perennial source of discontent.

Northam spent years actively courting the black community in the lead-up to his 2017 gubernatorial run, building relationships that helped him win both the primary and the general election. He's a member of a predominantly black church on Virginia's Eastern Shore, where he grew up.

"It's a matter of relationships and trust. That's not something that you build overnight," Northam told the AP during a 2017 campaign stop while describing his relationship with the black community.

Northam, a folksy pediatric neurologist who is personal friends with many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, has recently come under fire from Republicans who have accused him of backing infanticide after he said he supported a bill loosening restrictions on late-term abortions.

In a tweet late Saturday, President Donald Trump called Northam's actions related to the photo and abortion debate "unforgiveable!"

Last week, Florida's secretary of state resigned after photos from a 2005 Halloween party showed him in blackface while dressed as a Hurricane Katrina victim.

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Associated Press writer Ben Finley contributed to this report.


The Latest: At least 3 deaths in New York blamed on storm

CHICAGO (AP) — The Latest on a major snowstorm and frigid weather in the Midwest (all times local):

3:45 p.m.

At least three deaths in western New York are being blamed on the winter storm that has dropped more than 20 inches (50 centimeters) of snow and inflicted subzero wind chills.

Authorities said Thursday that a homeless man found frozen in a suburban Buffalo bus shelter may have been a fourth storm victim but an autopsy was needed to confirm his cause of death.

Two Buffalo-area men died clearing snow and a man died in Livingston County when his vehicle hit a snowdrift and crashed early Thursday.

The victims' names and other details haven't been released.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz says one of the men who died clearing snow was shoveling and the other was operating a snowblower.

Buffalo schools will be closed for a third day Friday.

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3:35 p.m.

As much of the Midwest begins a quick thaw from the deep freeze that dropped wind chill temperatures below minus 50 (-45 C) in some places, crews are preparing to clean up the mess expected from crumbling roads, frozen pipes and broken water mains.

The number of water mains being patched in Detroit swelled from two dozen Wednesday to 44 on Thursday. And more trouble is expected once the temperature swings by 60 degrees next week, kicking the city's freeze-thaw cycle into hyper drive.

Detroit registered a -14 (-25 C) low Wednesday night. A high of 50 degrees (10 C) is expected Monday.

Water department Deputy Director Palencia Mobley says wet soil around mains contracts and expands with temperature changes, making the ground and pipes shift and causing breaks.

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3 p.m.

More than 4,000 flights have been canceled at Chicago's two international airports amid a deep freeze that brought record cold temperatures to Illinois.

Flight tracking website, FlightAware, says close to 3,300 flights in and out of O'Hare Airport and more than 850 at Midway Airport were canceled between Tuesday morning and Thursday afternoon. That's more than half of the scheduled flights for Wednesday and Thursday.

Joseph Schwieterman is a transportation professor at DePaul University in Chicago. Schwieterman says operations should be back to normal by midday Saturday unless snow forecast for Thursday night complicates matters further.

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2:50 p.m.

The Illinois Department of Public Health says at least 144 people made hospital emergency-room visits and one person has died due to cold-related injuries since Tuesday.

Department spokesman Melaney Arnold said Thursday that there were at least 65 hospital visits in Chicago and at least 75 outside Chicago. The data say the injuries were either hypothermia or frostbite.

The department didn't specify the cause of the death or where it occurred.

The injuries came as temperatures plummeted in Illinois to double-digit subzero readings. Wind chill readings fell to more than 55 below zero in some areas.

Temperatures are forecast to ease later Thursday before warming to more than 50 degrees in some parts of Illinois early next week.

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1:20 p.m.

Xcel Energy has lifted a request to its Minnesota natural gas customers to lower their thermostats, as concerns about conserving gas eased with the warmup in the forecast.

The utility is also working to restore gas service by the end of Thursday to about 150 customers in Princeton, Minnesota, who lost their heat as temperatures dipped to around negative 20 (negative 29 Celsius) Tuesday night.

Company spokesman John Marshall says workers in the field are looking forward to the warmup.

Marshall says the utility is not expecting any problems related to the expected big upswing in temperatures in the coming days. He says he has "a lot of confidence in our equipment out there, both our gas and electric systems."

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12:50 p.m.

Authorities say two all-time low temperature records have been broken in Illinois.

The National Weather Service says the temperature dropped to minus 33 (-36 Celsius) on Thursday, breaking the previous record of -27 (-32 C) set Jan. 16, 2009. Rockford hit minus 31 (-35 C) Thursday, beating the -27 (-32 C) recorded Jan. 10, 1982.

Illinois' statewide all-time low temperature still stands at -36 (-37 C), set in Congerville in 1999.

The bitter cold that has put much of the Midwest into a historic deep freeze is expected to ease later Thursday when between 1 and 4 inches (2.5 and 10 centimeters) of snow are forecast for northern and central Illinois.

Parts of Illinois are expected to warm over the weekend. Some areas could reach 56 (13 C) on Monday.

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12:40 p.m.

The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office says it's investigating the death of a woman found frozen in her unheated apartment.

The medical examiner says the 38-year-old woman was pronounced dead about 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Authorities say an investigation revealed the thermostat in her apartment had malfunctioned. An autopsy was scheduled for Thursday.

Another day of dangerously cold weather closed hundreds of schools, businesses, shopping centers and government offices in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the Midwest.

The National Weather Service says the low temperature of minus 20 degrees (minus 28 Celsius) at 5 a.m. Thursday in Milwaukee breaks a previous record for the day of -15 (-26 C) set in 1899.

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12:10 p.m.

Detroit's light rail system suspended service due for a few hours due to the extreme cold after streetcar batteries struggled to remain charged.

QLINE spokesman Dan Lijana told the Detroit Free Press in an email that heat was being run at full capacity in the cars at all times and "the level of cold right now drains the batteries rapidly."

He said the cars must stay at stations longer than usual to charge and that affected operations, so officials decided to shut down Thursday morning to charge the cars. The QLINE reported on Twitter around midday Thursday that service has resumed.

The light rail system's route connects the downtown Detroit riverfront to the New Center Area.

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11:55 a.m.

Amtrak is beginning to restore service out of Chicago after cancelling dozens of trains this week because of the extreme cold.

The passenger railroad said it will restore service on some routes Thursday, and all but one train is expected to operate on Friday.

Typically, Amtrak operated 55 trains a day to and from the busy hub of Chicago.

Amtrak says anyone planning to travel out of Chicago should check the status of their train beforehand on the railroad's website.

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11:30 a.m.

A coroner in Ohio says the death of a woman whose body was found in a vacant house was likely related to the dangerous cold gripping the state.

Lorain County Coroner Stephen Evans said the 60-year-old woman's body was found Wednesday in Lorain. He told The (Elyria) Chronicle-Telegram it appears she died of hypothermia.

Authorities say she may have been staying in the house for months and apparently died in the last day or two.

The deep freeze affecting the Midwest led some universities across Ohio to cancel classes again Thursday.

The National Weather Service said the temperature Thursday fell to negative 10 degrees (negative 23 Celsius) in Toledo, setting a record low for the date there. The previous record was minus 5 (-15 C), set in 1971.

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11:20 a.m.

United Parcel Service says it has halted deliveries in about 250 zip codes in the Midwest and western New York because of concerns for the safety of those making deliveries in the extreme cold .

UPS Chief Operating Officer Jim Barber said Thursday that most of the routes that won't receive deliveries are in rural areas. He says drivers delivering in cities have a chance to warm up while making deliveries to businesses.

UPS says it stopped deliveries to about 100 zip codes on Wednesday. The Post Office says there are 42,000 zip codes across the country.

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11:15 a.m.

The dangerously cold weather is still setting low-temperature records in many Iowa communities.

It was minus 30 (minus 34 Celsius) Thursday morning in Cedar Rapids, shattering previous record -21 (-29 C) set Jan. 31, 1996. The low of -28 (-33 C) in Iowa City was 10 degrees colder than the previous record of -18 (-28 C) set Jan. 31, 1996.

New lows for the date also were set in Dubuque and Waterloo.

The bitter cold chilling the middle of the U.S. also broke records in several Iowa cities Wednesday, including Des Moines.

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10:45 a.m.

A meteorologist says parts of the northern U.S. are going to experience an "unprecedented" and "dramatic warm-up."

Weather Underground's meteorology director Jeff Masters says places in Michigan and Illinois experiencing record or near-record cold this week are expected to be around 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) by Monday.

He said Thursday that he hasn't before seen a 70-degree shift in temperature during the winter. He says "past record-cold waves have not dissipated this quickly" and that the region seems headed for "spring-like temperatures."

Masters says the polar vortex is "rotating up into Canada" and is not expected to return in the next couple of weeks.

He says it might return in late February, but if it does, "it won't be as intense."

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10:25 a.m.

Police say a 60-year-old Michigan man has been found dead outdoors amid frigid temperatures.

Police say the man's body was discovered in East Lansing on Wednesday.

An autopsy will determine the cause of death, although police say foul play is not suspected. The deaths of at least two other Michigan residents have been connected to the extreme cold weather .

In Ecorse, police identified a 70-year-old victim as Gary Sammons, a former city council member and teacher. He was found Tuesday outside his home.

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10:05 a.m.

Officials say a suburban Detroit fundraiser in which people were to sleep outdoors to raise awareness about homelessness has been replaced with a drive to get people indoors during the extreme cold .

The Detroit News reports Roseville police on Thursday cancelled the "Sleep Out for the Homeless" event scheduled for Friday night. The group organizing it, Macomb Feeding The Need, instead will open a temporary shelter.

The change in plans comes amid bitterly cold weather. The National Weather Service says minus 13 degrees (minus 25 degrees Celsius) was recorded Thursday morning in the Detroit area, breaking the record for Jan. 31 of minus 7 degrees (minus 27 degrees Celsius) set in 1920.

Meteorologist Alex Manion tells the Detroit Free Press people should stay inside if possible and wear multiple layers.

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9:45 a.m.

The dangerously cold weather system that is enveloping much the Midwest has brought an icy record low to a northern Indiana city.

The National Weather Service says the temperature fell to minus 20 degrees (minus 29 Celsius) Thursday morning in South Bend, setting a record low for Jan. 31. The previous record was minus 11 (minus 24 Celsius), set in 1936.

National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Roller says South Bend's record low is "odd" because when temperature records are set they're usually within a few degrees of the previous record and not nine degrees different.

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9:30 a.m.

A Michigan utility that warned residents that they risk brief interruptions of natural gas service for heat amid bitterly cold weather if they don't reduce energy use says efforts to conserve energy are making a difference.

Consumers Energy said in a statement Thursday that it's "cautiously optimistic" its requests to curb natural gas use "are having a positive effect." Auto plants and other big energy users throughout Michigan are joining residential customers in cutting back.

Consumers Energy's CEO Patti Poppe made an appeal Wednesday following a fire at one of its suburban Detroit facilities that affected natural gas supplies.

An emergency alert was sent late Wednesday to cellphones asking people to lower thermostats to 65 degrees (18 degrees Celsius) or below through Friday.

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9:10 a.m.

About 1,700 flights in and out of Chicago's airports have been canceled in the last 24 hours amid the frigid weather in the Midwest , with experts saying the cold is affecting transit operations.

The temperature Thursday morning at O'Hare International Airport was negative 20 degrees (negative 29 Celsius). About 1,450 flights were canceled at O'Hare, one of the nation's busiest airports.

Midway International Airport had about 250 cancellations. Both airports were reporting delays of about 15 minutes.

Airline experts say the double-digit subzero temperatures affect manpower, equipment and fueling at airports. United Airlines has brought in heated tents for its employees at O'Hare and added workers to increase shifts.

The low temperatures also affected rail service in Chicago, the nation's third-largest city. Some commuter lines are shutting down or altering schedules amid the cold.

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8:15 a.m.

Officials are warning Michigan residents that they risk brief interruptions of natural gas service for heat amid bitterly cold weather if they don't help reduce energy.

The warning comes after a fire at a utility's suburban Detroit facility that affected natural gas supplies.

Consumers Energy's CEO Patti Poppe made an appeal Wednesday night for customers to reduce their natural gas usage. She later told The Detroit News that "localized planned curtailments: for some homes and business if demand isn't reduced.

An emergency alert was sent late Wednesday to cellphones asking people to lower thermostats to 65 degrees (18 Celsius) or below through Friday.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asked everyone to "to do your part."

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8 a.m.

A good Samaritan offered to pay for hotel rooms for 70 homeless people in Chicago who were camped out in tents amid the bitter cold that blanketed Chicago.

The offer came after the Chicago Fire Department on Wednesday confiscated nearly 100 propane tanks given the group to keep them warm as temperatures sank to negative 22 (negative 20 Celsius). The department acted after one of the donated tanks exploded.

Salvation Army spokeswoman Jacqueline Rachev said city officials told the organization about their actions at the camp. The Salvation Army was about to move the people to a warming center when the city called again and informed them of the gesture.

Rachev was not sure of the identity of the good Samaritan and only knew the hotel was on the city's South Side.

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7:30 a.m.

Temperature records have been broken in northern Illinois amid the arctic deep freeze enveloping the Midwest.

The National Weather Service says the temperature Thursday morning in Rockford hit a record-breaking negative 30 degrees (negative 34 Celsius).

The previous record of negative 27 degrees (negative 33 Celsius) was set on Jan. 10, 1982. The city's records date back to 1905. Rockford is about 80 miles (129 kilometers) northwest of Chicago.

Meteorologists say warmer weather is on the way for the weekend.

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7:20 a.m.

Another day of dangerously cold weather in the Midwest is closing hundreds of schools, businesses and government offices in Wisconsin and Minnesota, but students are heading back to school in the Dakotas.

Two of Wisconsin's largest school districts canceled classes again Thursday, when morning temperatures hovered around negative 20 degrees (negative 29 Celsius). In Minnesota, where wind chill readings could reach negative 55 degrees (negative 48 Celsius), several large school districts also called off classes.

The extreme cold has also sent dozens of people to hospitals in Minnesota. Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis says it has treated 22 patients for frostbite since Friday, including 13 admitted to the hospital.

But in North Dakota, students in Fargo and other nearby cities are heading back to school. Temperatures in the region dropped to minus 25 degrees (minus 31 Celsius) Thursday morning but forecasters are predicting a high of minus 2 degrees (minus 16 Celsius).

It's a bit warmer in South Dakota, where the National Weather Service says the high temperature in Sioux Falls on Thursday is expected to be 12 degrees (minus 11 Celsius).

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12 a.m.

The painfully cold weather system that put much of the Midwest into a historic deep freeze is expected to ease Thursday, though temperatures could still tumble to record lows in some places before the region begins to thaw out.

Disruptions caused by the cold will persist, too, including power outages and canceled flights and trains.

Before the worst of the cold begins to lift, the National Weather Service says Chicago could hit lows early Thursday that break the city's record of minus 27 set on Jan. 20, 1985.

Temperatures should bounce back into the single digits later Thursday and into the comparative balmy 20s by Friday. More people are expected to return to work in Chicago, which resembled a ghost town Wednesday after most offices told employees to stay home.