NEW YORK — The official start of summer brought temperatures in the high 90s, record-setting in some spots and close in others, to the Eastern Seaboard on Wednesday, with people wilting at graduation ceremonies, students trying to learn in suffocating classrooms and authorities warning folks to check on elderly neighbors.
The hot spell arrived on the summer solstice and longest day of the year. According to the National Weather Service, all three New York City-area airports saw record temperatures, as did Connecticut’s Bradley International Airport and the cities of Burlington, Vt., and Houlton, Maine.
Health officials across the Northeast warned residents to drink water, stay out of the sun and in air conditioning, and to check on elderly neighbors and pets. Public cooling centers have been set up in dozens of cities for those without air conditioning.
According to the weather service, it hit 94 degrees at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, passing the 93-degree mark set in 1995. The 98-degree temperatures at LaGuardia Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport passed records set in 1953, when highs reached 96 at LaGuardia and 97 at Newark.
In New England, the mercury hit 97 degrees at Bradley airport in Hartford, Conn., breaking the 1995 record of 96 degrees. Record temperatures were also seen in Burlington, Vt., and Houlton, Maine, which reached 95 degrees and 90 degrees, up from 94 and 89.
Even places that didn’t break records were extremely hot. In Washington, the airports topped out at 98, just shy of setting new heat marks. The mercury in Philadelphia rose to 97 degrees, 1 degree short of the record of 98 set in 1931.
Syrian rebels launch offensive to retake key Homs neighborhood
TALBISEH, Syria — Rebels fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad have launched an offensive to recapture the Baba Amr neighborhood in the city of Homs, an area they lost to government forces in February after a 26-day siege that trapped civilians, left hundreds dead and destroyed scores of buildings.
The neighborhood has symbolic and strategic importance as rebel forces, with new supplies of weapons and ammunition, push the Syrian army from key portions of central and northern Syria, rebels say.
The battle for Baba Amr captured international attention in February when the Syrian military began a weeks-long assault on the area. At the time, news accounts generally portrayed the fighting as a one-sided artillery barrage by government forces on a residential neighborhood, though the reality was somewhat more nuanced: As many as 1,000 rebel fighters had taken control of the area and were resisting government efforts to push them out.
WikiLeaks founder takes refuge in Ecuadorean Embassy
LONDON — Holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in a bid for political asylum, Julian Assange now faces arrest if he steps outside, Scotland Yard said Wednesday.
By spending the night inside the embassy, the founder of the WikiLeaks website broke the bail conditions under which he has lived in Britain since he was arrested here in December 2010 at the request of Swedish authorities, police said.
Assange entered the embassy Tuesday to request asylum, opening a new chapter in his long-running attempt to avoid extradition to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault. His legal appeals against being shipped to Stockholm have been nearly exhausted; earlier this month, the British Supreme Court ruled that extradition could go ahead.
Assange contends that extradition to Sweden would merely be cover for his eventual removal to the United States, where he says he would be tried and sentenced to death because of his whistle-blowing website’s leak of thousands of classified State Department cables.
Ecuadorean officials say they are considering Assange’s asylum petition.