Tuesday February 12, 2013

Northeast commuters deal with snow-clogged roads after epic weekend storm

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- The workweek opened with a white-knuckle ride Monday in the snow-clobbered Northeast as drivers encountered unplowed streets, two-lane roads reduced to a single channel and snowbanks so high it was impossible see around corners.

Schools remained closed across much of New England and New York, and about 140,000 homes and businesses were still waiting for the electricity to come back on after the epic storm swept through on Friday and Saturday with 1 to 3 feet of snow that entombed cars and sealed up driveways.

The storm was blamed for at least 15 deaths in the U.S. and Canada, and officials warned of a new danger as rain and higher temperatures set in: roof collapses.

In hard-hit Connecticut, where some places were buried in more than 3 feet of snow, the National Guard used heavy equipment to clear roads in the state’s three biggest cities.

"This is awful," said Fernando Colon of South Windsor, Conn., who was driving to work at Bradley International Airport near Hartford on a two-lane highway that was down to one lane because of high snowbanks.

Military weighs cuts, shifts in drone programs to save money, face evolving threats

LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va.


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(AP) -- The Pentagon for the first time is considering scaling back the massive buildup of drones it has overseen in the past few years, both to save money and to adapt to changing security threats and an increased focus on Asia as the Afghanistan war winds down.

Air Force leaders are saying the military may already have enough unmanned aircraft systems to wage the wars of the future. And the Pentagon’s shift to Asia will require a new mix of drones and other aircraft because countries in that region are better able to detect unmanned versions and shoot them down.

If the Pentagon does slow the huge building and deployment program, which was ordered several years ago by then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates, it won’t affect the CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere against terror suspects. Those strikes were brought center stage last week during the confirmation hearing for White House counterterror chief John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s pick to lead the CIA.

Gen. Mike Hostage, commander of Air Combat Command, said senior leaders are analyzing the military’s drone needs and discussions are beginning. But he said the current number patrolling the skies overseas may already be more than the service can afford to maintain.

Overall, Pentagon spending on unmanned aircraft has jumped from $284 million in 2000 to nearly $4 billion in the past fiscal year, while the number of drones owned by the Pentagon has rocketed from less than 200 in 2002 to at least 7,500 now. The bulk of those drones are small, shoulder-launched Ravens owned by the Army

Fugitive ex-LA cop charged with murdering Riverside police officer

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) -- A fugitive ex-Los Angeles police officer was charged Monday with murdering a Riverside police officer and special circumstances that could bring the death penalty.

Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach said Christopher Dorner was also charged with the attempted murder of another Riverside officer and two Los Angeles Police Department officers.

The LAPD officers and the Riverside officers were fired on in two separate shootings early Thursday after Dorner became the target of a manhunt suspected of killing a former LAPD captain’s daughter and her fiance the previous weekend.

"By both his words and conduct, he has made very clear to us that every law enforcement officer in Southern California is in danger of being shot and killed," Zellerbach said.

Southern California authorities were investigating hundreds of tips Monday after offering a $1 million reward for information leading to Dorner’s arrest.

Rebels seize Syria’s largest dam, controlling water and electricity supplies to wide areas

BEIRUT (AP) -- Syrian rebels scored one of their biggest strategic victories Monday since the country’s crisis began two years ago, capturing the nation’s largest dam and iconic industrial symbol of the Assad family’s four-decade rule.

Rebels led by the al-Qaida-linked militant group Jabhat al-Nusra now control much of the water flow in the country’s north and east, eliciting warnings from experts that any mistake in managing the dam may drown wide areas in Syria and Iraq.

A Syrian government official denied that the rebels captured the dam, saying "heavy clashes are taking place around it." The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. But amateur video released by activists showed gunmen walking around the facility’s operations rooms and employees apparently carrying on with their work as usual.

In the capital, Damascus, the rebels kept the battle going mostly in northeastern and southern neighborhoods as the fighting gets closer to the heart of President Bashar Assad’s seat of power.

The capture of the al-Furat dam came after rebels seized two smaller dams on the Euphrates river, which flows from Turkey through Syria and into Iraq. Behind al-Furat dam lies Lake Assad, which at 247 square miles is the country’s largest water reservoir.