First of a one-two
weather punch sweeps through eastern U.S.
with wet, heavy snow

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- A winter storm dumped several inches of wet, heavy snow on parts of the eastern United States on Monday, snarling commutes and Super Bowl fans’ trips home, closing schools and government offices, and cutting power.

Fat flakes fell in Philadelphia and New York, creating slushy sidewalks and streets and all but erasing all memory of Sunday’s weather in 50s. The storm began moving out of the region Monday afternoon, making way for another system expected to sweep in from the Plains with ice and snow in time for the Tuesday afternoon rush hour.

The National Weather Service reported about 8 inches of snow near Frostburg, Md., while parts of southern Ohio and West Virginia got about 10 inches. Totals in the Philadelphia area ranged from 3 to 9 inches; New York saw as much as 7 inches by 3 p.m.

Government offices, courts and schools closed in parts of Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia; scattered power outages were reported throughout the region. Speed limits were reduced on many major highways.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie declared a state of emergency with travel conditions hazardous. Nonessential government employees were dismissed early.

Cars warning each other
of collisions? U.S. to
propose new rules in
hopes of cutting crashes

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Your car might see a deadly crash coming even if you don’t, the government says, indicating it will require automakers to equip new vehicles with technology that lets cars warn each other if they’re plunging toward peril.

The action, still some years off, has "game-changing potential" to cut collisions, deaths and injuries, federal transportation officials said at a news conference Monday.

A radio signal would continually transmit a vehicle’s position, heading, speed and other information. Cars and light trucks would receive the same information back from other cars, and a vehicle’s computer would alert its driver to an impending collision. Alerts could be a flashing message, an audible warning, or a driver’s seat that rumbles. Some systems might even automatically brake to avoid an accident if manufacturers choose to include that option.

Your car would "see" when another car or truck equipped with the same technology was about to run a red light, even if that vehicle was hidden around a corner. Your car would also know when a car several vehicles ahead in a line of traffic had made a sudden stop and alert you even before you saw brake lights The technology works up to about 300 yards.

If communities choose to invest in the technology, roadways and traffic lights could start talking to cars, too, sending warnings of traffic congestion or road hazards ahead in time for drivers to take a detour.

Al-Qaida shuns militant group blamed for bloody infighting among Syria’s Islamic factions

CAIRO (AP) -- Al-Qaida’s central leadership broke with one of its most powerful branch commanders in an apparent attempt to stem the deadly infighting that has erupted in Syria among the militant Islamic factions trying to bring down President Bashar Assad.

More broadly, the announcement Monday appeared to be a move by al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri to reassert the terror network’s prominence in the jihad movement across the Middle East amid the mushrooming of extremist groups during the upheaval of the past three years.

The dispute is between al-Qaida’s central leadership and a faction known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of al-Qaida’s branch in Iraq, formed the Islamic State last spring to expand his operations into neighboring Syria, defying direct orders by al-Zawahri not to do so. Al-Zawahri named a different group, the Nusra Front, as al-Qaida’s branch in Syria.

Now, the break is likely to spark a competition for resources and fighters between the two sides in what has become a civil war within a civil war. The test for al-Zawahri’s influence will be whether his decision leads fighters to quit the Islamic State.

Obama seeks to hold Dems together in election year

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama is trying to tamp down internal Democratic divisions on issues like trade and energy, as lawmakers in his own party show little reluctance to publicly break with the White House.

Obama met one-on-one Monday with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has sharply opposed the president’s proposal to let Congress vote quickly on international trade pacts.

The president also will meet with House Democrats on Tuesday and Senate Democrats on Wednesday, when he’s likely to face more pushback on the Keystone XL pipeline and health care, particularly from lawmakers who will face voters in November.

White House officials have tried to dismiss the intraparty divisions, saying they’re aware of the election-year pressures driving some Democrats to oppose Obama on high-profile issues.

Doctor: Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death epitomizes the tragedy of drug addiction

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Philip Seymour Hoffman suffered from a chronic medical condition that required ongoing treatment. An admitted drug addict who first sought professional help more than two decades ago, Hoffman apparently succumbed to his affliction with an overdose despite a return to rehab last March.

A father of three with a thriving career, the Oscar winner died Sunday with a needle in his arm and baggies of what appeared to be heroin nearby. New York City medical examiners were conducting an autopsy on Hoffman’s body Monday as investigators scrutinize evidence found in his apartment.

His death, which came after a long period of sobriety that ended last year, "epitomizes the tragedy of drug addiction in our society," said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

"Here you have an extraordinarily talented actor who had the resources, who had been in treatment, who obviously realized the problem of drugs and had been able to stay clean," she said, adding that Hoffman’s case shows how devastating addiction can be.

Success has no more bearing on drug addiction than it does on heart failure, doctors say: Both can be fatal without consistent care. And while rehab may be part of treatment, it’s no antidote. Amy Winehouse and Cory Monteith had both been to rehab before eventually dying from overdoses.

Heroin confirmed in packets in Hoffman’s NYC apartment; dozens found

NEW YORK (AP) -- A law enforcement official says tests have confirmed there was heroin in at least some of the dozens of plastic packets in a New York City apartment where Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead. Officials are working to determine whether the drug was mixed or tainted with anything else.

An autopsy was being conducted Monday. Police have been investigating Hoffman’s death as an apparent overdose. Law enforcement officials said he was found with a needle in his arm.

Two officials said Monday that at least four dozen small packets were found in the apartment. The officials said some packages were stamped with the ace of hearts, others with the ace of spades.

Death comes to the mall as funeral outlets, casket stores seek a livelier sales environment

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- We eat there, buy our clothes there and some people suspect teenagers may actually live there. So perhaps it was just a matter of time until funeral homes began moving into the local shopping mall.

Over the past two years, Forest Lawn has been quietly putting movable kiosks in several of the malls that dot Southern California’s suburbs.

The move, by one of the funeral industry’s best known operators, expands on a marketing innovation that appears to have begun at the dawn of the decade when a company called Til We Meet Again began opening casket stores around the country.

"We try to reach our audience where they are at and the mall is a great way to do that," said Ben Sussman, spokesman for Forest Lawn, whose cemeteries count among their permanent residents such notables as Walt Disney, Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson.

"And it’s also, perhaps, a way to reach people who might be a little leery about coming directly into one of our parks," Sussman said.

Leno says goodbye to ‘Tonight’ again and late-night TV; for his next act, comedy clubs, cars

BURBANK, Calif. (AP) -- Jay Leno, as affably efficient backstage as he is in front of the camera, avoids waxing poetic about his 22-year "Tonight Show" run that draws to a close Thursday.

Instead, he relies on numbers to tell the story. Leno’s tenure is second only to Johnny Carson’s 30 years; "Tonight" was No. 1 among viewers when he took it over and will be when he hands it off to Jimmy Fallon; he’ll have taped more shows than any predecessor, Carson included, with the final and 4,610th one.

His dry assessment also may stem from a case of deja vu. After all, he lived through this before when he surrendered "Tonight" in 2009 to Conan O’Brien, only to reclaim it after NBC’s messy bobbling of the transition and O’Brien’s lackluster ratings.

But this time it’s different, Leno contends, offering another hard fact: The older generation has to make way for the younger one.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II can keep 65-year-old Prince Charles cooling his heels. Leno doesn’t have the power to do the same with Fallon, 39. The "Late Night" host is moving the show from its longtime Burbank home, near Johnny Carson Park and off Bob Hope Drive, to its New York birthplace when he debuts as host on Feb. 17.