Friday, February 8, 2013

Published:

Storm batters NY, New England, dumping more than a foot of snow; 350,000 lose power

BOSTON (AP) -- A storm that forecasters warned could be a blizzard for the history books, with a potential for up to 3 feet of snow, clobbered the New York-to-Boston corridor on Friday, grounding flights and knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of customers across the Northeast.

By Friday evening, more than 14 inches of snow had fallen in Belmont, Mass., just northwest of Boston, and more than 13 inches covered parts of northeastern Connecticut. Throughout the Northeast, about 350,000 homes and businesses lost electricity as wet, heavy snow, freezing rain and howling winds caused havoc.

Earlier, as meteorologists warned of the impending blizzard conditions, shoppers from New Jersey to Maine crowded into supermarkets and hardware stores to buy food, snow shovels, flashlights and generators, something that became a precious commodity after Superstorm Sandy in October. Others gassed up their cars, another lesson learned all too well after Sandy. Across much of New England, schools closed well ahead of the first snowflakes.

"This is a storm of major proportions," Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said. "Stay off the roads. Stay home."

The wind-whipped snowstorm mercifully arrived at the start of a weekend, which meant fewer cars on the road and extra time for sanitation crews to clear the mess before commuters in the New York-to-Boston region of roughly 25 million people have to go back to work. But it could also mean a weekend cooped up indoors.

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A state-by-state look at the blizzard in the northeastern US

A look at effects in states and provinces in the path of the storm sweeping across the Northeast and southern Canada:

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CONNECTICUT

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy imposed a travel ban Friday on the state's highways and deployed National Guard troops around the state for rescues or other emergencies.

A coastal flood warning was posted for southern Fairfield County, saying Friday evening's high tide could be 3 to 5 feet higher than normal in western Long Island Sound.

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Snowy Calif. mountain manhunt imperils police as wanted ex-police officer knows their tactics

BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif. (AP) -- All that was left were footprints leading away from Christopher Dorner's burned-out pickup truck, and enormous, snow-covered mountains where he could be hiding among hundreds of cabins, deep canyons and dense woods.

More than 100 officers, including SWAT teams, were driven Friday in glass-enclosed snow machines and armored personnel carriers to hunt for the former Los Angeles police officer suspected of going on a deadly rampage to get back at those he blamed for ending his police career.

With bloodhounds in tow, officers went door to door as snow fell, aware to the reality they could be walking into a trap set by the well-trained former Navy reservist who knows their tactics and strategies as well as they do.

"He can be behind every tree," said T. Gregory Hall, a retired tactical supervisor for a special emergency response team for the Pennsylvania State Police. "He can try to draw them into an ambush area where he backtracks."

As authorities weathered heavy snow and freezing temperatures in the mountains, thousands of heavily armed police remained on the lookout throughout California, Nevada, Arizona and northern Mexico for a suspect bent on revenge and willing to die.

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Ramping up pressure on Congress, White House details looming 'self-inflicted' spending cuts

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Trying to ratchet up pressure on Congress, the White House on Friday detailed what it said would be the painful impact on the federal workforce and certain government assistance programs if "large and arbitrary" scheduled government spending cuts are allowed to take place beginning March 1.

They include layoffs or furloughs of "hundreds of thousands" of federal workers, including FBI agents, U.S. prosecutors, food safety inspectors and air traffic controllers, said White House budget officials at a briefing and in a fact sheet that included these examples of what the cuts would mean:

-- About 70,000 young children would be kicked off Head Start, 10,000 teacher jobs would be put at risk and up to 2,100 food safety inspections might have to be canceled.

--Up to 373,000 "seriously mentally ill adults and seriously emotionally disturbed children" would go untreated, up to 1,000 fewer National Science Foundation research grants and effecting some 12,000 scientists and students could be threatened, many small business loans denied, workplace safety inspections curtailed, federally assisted programs like "Meals on Wheels" slashed and 125,000 low-income renters put at risk of losing government-subsidized housing.

-- Approximately 424,000 fewer HIV tests could be conducted by state agencies working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and some 100,000 formerly homeless people, including veterans, would be removed from their current housing and emergency shelter programs.

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Kerry says US evaluating Syria options, won't weigh in on issue of giving arms to rebels

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday that the United States is evaluating new options to halt Syria's civil war, but he refused to weigh into administration debates over whether to arm the rebels fighting President Bashar Assad's regime.

In his first news conference as secretary, Kerry said the Obama administration was looking at the crisis anew and hoping to find a diplomatic solution. But he sidestepped specifically addressing a question over providing military assistance to the anti-Assad opposition.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress on Thursday that they had recommended offering military support to the rebels but were rebuffed by President Barack Obama.

"My sense right now is that everybody in the administration and people in other parts of the world are deeply distressed by the continued violence in Syria," Kerry told reporters alongside Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird. "There's too much killing. There's too much violence. And we obviously want to try to find a way forward."

"We are evaluating now," he said. "We're taking a look at what steps, if any, diplomatic particularly, might be able to be taken in an effort to try to reduce that violence and deal with that situation."

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Hacker gains access to private Bush family emails and photos; criminal investigation launched

HOUSTON (AP) -- Turns out even former presidents can fall prey to hackers.

A mysterious email hacker apparently accessed private photos and messages sent between members of the Bush family, including both retired commanders in chief.

The Secret Service is investigating the breach, which appeared to yield little more than a few snapshots and some family discussions. But the incident illustrated how easily hackers can pry into private lives, even those of one of the nation's most prominent and closely guarded political clans.

The Smoking Gun website displayed photos it said came from the hacker, including one that purported to show the elder Bush during his recent stay in a Houston hospital, where the 88-year-old spent almost two months undergoing treatment for complications from a bronchial infection.

The website said the hacker, who went by the online moniker "Guccifer," gained access to the material through Bush family members and friends.

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Protesters clash with police in street battles across Egypt as political turmoil continues

CAIRO (AP) -- Egyptian security forces backed by water cannons fired tear gas at rock-throwing protesters outside the presidential palace in Cairo on Friday while demonstrators clashed with riot police in cities across the country in marches against Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

The protests are part of a wave of opposition-led demonstrations over the past two weeks that have frequently devolved into street clashes. The violence has left more than 70 people dead and hundreds wounded, and plunged the country into a fresh cycle of bloodshed and political turmoil.

Egypt's opposition is demanding Morsi form a new coalition government, open an investigation into the killings of protesters over the past months and give guarantees that upcoming parliamentary elections will be fair and free. They also want him to form a commission to amend the country's newly adopted constitution, which was drafted by an Islamist-led panel and approved last December in a contentious referendum.

Some of the protesters go even further, demanding Morsi be removed from office. They also accuse the Muslim Brotherhood, the fundamentalist group from which Morsi hails, of monopolizing power and failing to deal with the country's mounting woes.

Thousands took their demands to the streets in cities across the country on Friday, carrying Egyptian flags and pictures of slain protesters and chanting "down with the rule of the Guide," referring to Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie, who critics allege is calling the shots for Morsi from behind the scenes.

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The worst of the flu season could be over, after earlier-than-usual start

NEW YORK (AP) -- The worst of the flu season appears to be over.

The number of states reporting intense or widespread illnesses dropped again last week, and in a few states there was very little flu going around, U.S. health officials said Friday.

The season started earlier than normal, first in the Southeast and then spreading. But now, by some measures, flu activity has been ebbing for at least four weeks in much of the country. Flu and pneumonia deaths also dropped the last two weeks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

"It's likely that the worst of the current flu season is over," CDC spokesman Tom Skinner said.

But flu is hard to predict, he and others stressed, and there have been spikes late in the season in the past.

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Golden Globe winner Kiefer Sutherland is Harvard University's Hasty Pudding Man of the Year

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) -- Golden Globe-winning actor Keifer Sutherland has been awarded the pudding pot after being honored as Man of the Year by Harvard's Hasty Pudding Theatricals.

The roast for the actor took place despite a massive snowstorm hitting the Boston area. The Friday evening event, including presentation of the traditional pudding pot, was moved to the Charles Hotel in Cambridge.

The 46-year-old Sutherland has been in dozens of films. He's perhaps best known for his role as Jack Bauer in the television series "24," for which he won Golden Globe and Primetime Emmy awards. He is currently starring in the television show "Touch."

Last year's Man of the Year was Jason Segel.

The 2013 Woman of the Year, Marion Cotillard (koh-tee-YAR'), was honored last week.

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Power company says Super Bowl blackout was caused by device designed to prevent power outages

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The company that supplied electricity to the Super Bowl says the blackout that halted the big game was caused by a device it installed specially to prevent a power failure.

But the utility stopped short of taking all the blame and said Friday that it was looking into whether the electrical relay at fault had a design flaw or a manufacturing defect.

The relay had been installed as part of a project begun in 2011 to upgrade the electrical system serving the Superdome in anticipation of the championship game. The equipment was supposed to guard against problems in the cable that links the power grid with lines that go into the stadium.

"The purpose of it was to provide a newer, more advanced type of protection for the Superdome," Dennis Dawsey, an executive with Entergy Corp., told members of the City Council. Entergy is the parent company of Entergy New Orleans, the city's main electric utility.

Entergy officials said the relay functioned with no problems during January's Sugar Bowl and other earlier events. It has been removed and will be replaced.