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Colin Dwyer

For a few fleeting hours Sunday, people perched in the arid heights of northwest Algeria caught sight of something rarely seen: the Sahara Desert, shrouded in white. Residents of Ain Sefra, a small town surrounded by the Atlas Mountains of Northern Africa, walked outside to find a dusting of snow underfoot — and more than a foot of it crowding the town's outer boundaries.

It has been more than 100 days since Germany headed to the polls — but the next handful of days might matter more than all of them combined.

Since late September — when German voters handed Chancellor Angela Merkel a fourth term, albeit without giving her party an outright majority — the country has teetered without a new formal government. Unable to win the support of another party for a governing coalition yet, Merkel is now staring down the possibility that the monthslong standoff may force a new election entirely.

Enter: the Social Democrats.

Pfizer has announced plans to end its research efforts to discover new drugs for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. The pharmaceutical giant explained its decision, which will entail roughly 300 layoffs, as a move to better position itself "to bring new therapies to patients who need them."

Peru's former President Alberto Fujimori left a hospital in Lima on Thursday night, wheeled out to the adoring cheers of supporters who had gathered for the occasion. For the first time since 2009, when he was convicted of human rights crimes, the newly pardoned Fujimori could greet the outside world in person as a free man.

For those who have been in the grips of the winter weather buffeting the Northeastern U.S. and Nova Scotia, suffering the throes of bitter winds and whipping snow, there might be some solace in knowing that somewhere in the world, warmth still exists.

In fact, so much warmth exists, it is literally melting a major roadway in Australia.

Alex Trebek, the face of the Jeopardy! franchise for more than three decades, will be taking time off from the syndicated game show while he recovers from brain surgery. He announced the hiatus in a video posted to the show's online accounts Thursday.

For nearly five decades, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has been technically free for all, the price of admission but a suggestion offered at the front door. All visitors could pay what they wished — or what they were able.

That 1970 policy is set to change later this year: Beginning March 1, adults who live outside New York state and who are out of school will have to pay $25 to enter the museum. Seniors will pay $17, and students outside the tri-state area — New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — will pay $12. Children under 12 will still enter for free.

A federal trial in New York City, which saw a Turkish banker tried on allegations of evading U.S. sanctions on Iran, ended Wednesday with his conviction on five of six charges — including bank fraud and several conspiracies to defraud American financial institutions.

Across the country, U.S. residents have awakened to a new year, new resolutions — and a whole host of new rules to keep track of. Hundreds of new state laws took effect across the country Monday, and they're sure to reshape the political and legal landscape in the coming months.

They run a vast gamut — from recreational marijuana and paid leave time, to traveling barbers and exotic pets — so you'll have to forgive us if we pick just a few to focus on. Here is a glimpse of some notable new laws, in brief.

As China steps into the new year, it is doing so without a once-thriving facet of its economy: the ivory trade. The country's ban on the domestic sale and processing of ivory and its products took effect on Sunday, making good on a commitment Chinese authorities made at the beginning of 2017.

Updated at 8:20 p.m. ET

Nearly three months since Catalans cast their votes for independence from Spain, setting off a weekslong showdown between their regional government and Madrid, Catalonia opened its polls again on Thursday — and promptly put pro-independence parties back in control, by a very slim margin.

Updated at 1:30 p.m. ET

The United Nations General Assembly has overwhelmingly rejected the Trump administration's decision to recognize the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. By a 128-9 vote Thursday, the diplomats gathered in New York City ignored U.S. objections and approved a nonbinding resolution calling on countries to avoid moving their embassies to Jerusalem.

It has been roughly eight months since cholera first took hold in war-torn Yemen. In that brief span, the waterborne disease has exacted a staggering toll on the country's population — and that toll only continues to rise by the day.

The number of suspected cases of cholera has crossed one million, the International Committee of the Red Cross announced Thursday. Of those who have contracted the disease since April, the World Health Organization believes more than 2,200 people have died of it — almost a third of whom are children.

For the past few days, the weather in Southern California granted firefighters a rare reprieve. Winds dropped, humidity ticked up a tad — and for a brief span, at least, firefighters had a little natural help reining in the massive Thomas Fire northwest of Los Angeles, which they had 60 percent contained by Wednesday morning.

But that lull didn't last long.

Olympic medalist McKayla Maroney has filed a lawsuit against USA Gymnastics, saying the organization sought to silence her claims of sexual abuse against disgraced team doctor Larry Nassar last year.

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