Extreme cold grips Northeast as residents dig out from snowstorm
BOSTON (AP) -- Homeowners and motorists dug out across the white-blanketed Northeast on Friday as extreme cold ushered in by the storm threatened fingers and toes but kept the snow powdery and mercifully easy to shovel. At least 13 deaths were blamed on the storm as it swept across the nation’s eastern half.
While the snowfall had all but stopped by morning across the hard-hit Philadelphia-to-Boston corridor and many highways and streets were soon plowed and reopened, temperatures were in the single digits and teens, with wind chills well below zero.
"The snow is easy to move because the air was so cold when it snowed that it’s sort of light and fluffy stuff -- but, uh, it’s cold," Avalon "Nick" Minton said as he cleared the entrance to his garage and sidewalk in Arlington, Mass. "That’s the main part. It’s cold."
And officials from the Midwest to New England are preparing for another arctic blast in the next few days that could be even worse.
The heaviest snow fell north of Boston in Boxford, Mass., which received nearly 2 feet. Nearly 18 inches fell in Boston and in western New York near Rochester. Lakewood, N.J., got 10 inches and New York’s Central Park 6. Philadelphia got more than 6 inches.
Freezing temperatures with below-zero wind chills in some places complicated life for residents from Minnesota to Maine. Thirteen deaths were blamed on the storm as it swept across the nation’s eastern half. More cold blasts were in the forecast for the weekend and Monday.
Intelligence court: Government can continue collecting phone records daily
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A secretive U.S. spy court has ruled again that the National Security Agency can keep collecting every American’s telephone records every day, in the midst of dueling decisions in two civilian federal courts about whether the surveillance program is constitutional.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on Friday renewed the NSA phone collection program, said Shawn Turner, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Such periodic requests are somewhat formulaic but required since the program started in 2006.
The latest approval was the first since two conflicting court decisions about whether the program is lawful and since a presidential advisory panel recommended that the NSA no longer be allowed to collect and store the phone records and search them without obtaining separate court approval for each search.
In a statement, Turner said that 15 judges on the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on 36 occasions over the past seven years have approved the NSA’s collection of U.S. phone records as lawful.
Also Friday, government lawyers turned to U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to block one federal judge’s decision that threatens the NSA phone records program.
Witnesses estimated Porsche in crash that killed Paul Walker going 100 mph or more
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Porsche carrying "Fast & Furious" star Paul Walker may have been going 100 mph or more before it crashed, killing both Walker and the driver, according to a coroner’s report released Friday.
Investigators found no mechanical problems with the 2005 Porsche Carrera GT or debris or other problems on the roadway. The street forms an approximately 1-mile loop amid industrial office parks and is rimmed by hills and isolated from traffic, especially on weekends. The downed light pole the car hit had a speed limit sign of 45 mph. The area in Santa Clarita is about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.
Roger Rodas, Walker’s friend and financial adviser, was driving the Porsche at an unsafe speed, and witnesses interviewed by deputies estimated it was going 100 mph or more.
No alcohol or drugs were detected in the system of either man on the day of the fiery one-car crash.
The Nov. 30 deaths were ruled accidents and were due to combined traumatic and thermal injuries, the report said. It said both men were burned over 100 percent of their bodies.
Sniping from both sides shadows Kerry’s diplomatic pursuit of peace for Israel, Palestinians
JERUSALEM (AP) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s closed-door diplomacy to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians has burst into a public spat, with both sides trading blistering criticisms, Republican senators showing up in Jerusalem to argue Israel’s side, and Palestinian demonstrators protesting his visit.
Kerry is on his 10th visit to the region to try to craft a peace treaty that would create a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
He met for three hours on Friday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Later in the day, Kerry traveled to Ramallah, West Bank, to speak with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Although battered by sniping from all sides, Kerry remained upbeat -- at least publicly.
Asked if he was making progress, Kerry replied that progress is being made every day.
Earlier, about 150 Palestinians demonstrators marched through the streets of downtown Ramallah to protest Kerry’s visit. They carried Palestinian flags and signs that said: "The northern, central and southern Jordan Valley are a genuine part of Palestinian sovereignty." The West Bank’s Jordan Valley is a strategic area along the border with Jordan that Israeli hardliners, including members of Netanyahu’s Likud Party, say must be annexed by Israel for its own security.
DNA tests confirm man in Lebanese custody is top al-Qaida suspect, authorities say
BEIRUT (AP) -- DNA tests confirmed that a man in government custody is the alleged leader of an al-Qaida-linked group that has conducted attacks across the Middle East before shifting its focus to Syria’s civil war, Lebanese authorities said Friday.
The suspected militant, Majid al-Majid, is the purported commander of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades and one of the 85 most-wanted individuals in his native Saudi Arabia. The U.S. State Department designated the group a foreign terrorist organization in 2012, freezing any assets it holds in the United States and banning Americans from doing business with the group.
The brigades have claimed responsibility for attacks throughout the region, including the 2010 bombing of a Japanese oil tanker in the Persian Gulf and several rocket strikes from Lebanon into Israel. The most recent attack claimed by the group was the double suicide bombing in November outside the Iranian Embassy in Beirut.
Reports first surfaced in Lebanon early this week that authorities had detained al-Majid. Security officials eventually confirmed that they had a suspect in custody, but said they were not certain of his identity.
Lebanese and Saudi officials said DNA samples taken from the suspect would be checked against al-Majid’s relatives in Saudi Arabia, and the Lebanese army said Friday that tests established the detainee was indeed al-Majid. Lebanese officials still have not disclosed when or where he was taken into custody, and his current location has not been made public.
High-tech San Antonio library offers look at
a future without traditional books
SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Texas has seen the future of the public library, and it looks a lot like an Apple Store: Rows of glossy iMacs beckon. iPads mounted on a tangerine-colored bar invite readers. And hundreds of other tablets stand ready for checkout to anyone with a borrowing card.
Even the librarians imitate Apple’s dress code, wearing matching shirts and that standard-bearer of geek-chic, the hoodie. But this $2.3 million library might be most notable for what it does not have -- any actual books.
That makes Bexar County’s BiblioTech the nation’s only bookless public library, a distinction that has attracted scores of digital bookworms, plus emissaries from as far away as Hong Kong who want to learn about the idea and possibly take it home.
"I told our people that you need to take a look at this. This is the future," said Mary Graham, vice president of South Carolina’s Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce. "If you’re going to be building new library facilities, this is what you need to be doing."
All-digital libraries have been on college campuses for years. But the county, which runs no other libraries, made history when it decided to open BiblioTech. It is the first bookless public library system in the country, according to information gathered by the American Library Association.
France mulls ban on comic and his double-edged salute after anti-Semitic convictions
PARIS (AP) -- It’s caught on like a dance move -- one hand pointing downward, the other touching the shoulder with an arm across the chest. But for many, the gesture popularized by a French comic is hateful and anti-Semitic.
Now, France’s top security official wants to ban him from the stage.
Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala has a small but faithful following of fans from disparate walks of life. Some are marginalized immigrants from France’s housing projects. Some are Muslims. Some are even adherents of the far-right.
But Dieudonne’s profile has soared since the gesture, dubbed the "quenelle," went viral in recent months.
To Interior Minister Manuel Valls, it is an "inverted Nazi salute." He is exploring ways to ban gatherings he says threaten public order as a means of keeping the comic from performing.