Snow, shovel, repeat: Weary East Coast digs out again
People across the Northeast wearily shoveled their sidewalks and dug out their cars after getting clobbered by the latest in a seemingly never-ending string of snowstorms, this one a mess that packed more punch than anyone expected.
"I've lived in New York 70 years, and this year is the worst I remember," said Lenny Eitelberg, 77. "It's the continuity of it. It just keeps coming."
In the Washington area, up to 7 inches of snow renewed memories of last year's "snowpocalypse."
The storm struck at the height of the evening rush hour Wednesday, forcing commuters into treacherous, eight-hour drives home. Even the president got caught in traffic.
New Yorkers had it a little easier, and the heaviest snow arrived overnight.
The forecast had called for up to a foot of snow, but the storm brought far more. New York got 19 inches, Philadelphia 17. Boston got about a foot, as expected. Many schools closed for a second day Thursday. Airports ground to a halt, and nearly a half-million people lost power at some point.
Fraud cases rise in oil spill claims
The $20 billion fund responsible for compensating victims of BP's Gulf of Mexico oil spill has received more than 7,000 potentially fraudulent claims, many of which have been referred to the Justice Department for criminal investigations, the fund's administrator told a Senate panel on Thursday. Lawyer Kenneth Feinberg, who is overseeing the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, said of more than 481,000 claims filed, 7,575 are considered "to be multi-claimant scams or even efforts at criminal fraud." The Justice Department has already indicted at least eight claimants.
Legislation targets automatic citizenship
Arizona lawmakers again dived into the national debate over illegal immigration by proposing a bill that challenges automatic U.S. citizenship for children of illegal immigrants. Republican Rep. John Kavanagh, who filed the latest proposal Thursday, said the goal isn't to get every state in the nation to enact such a law, but rather to bring the dispute to the courts in hopes of reducing the costs associated with granting automatic citizenship. A similar proposal was filed last week in the Indiana General Assembly by Republican Rep. Eric Koch. Pennsylvania state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, who is leading the effort to get the measure considered across the country, said he hopes that lawmakers in 10 to 15 states will file similar proposals this year.
Gay lawyer nominated as federal judge
President Barack Obama has nominated a former Clinton administration lawyer to be a federal judge in Manhattan; he could become the first openly gay man to serve on the U.S. federal bench. The lawyer, J. Paul Oetken, 45, is a senior vice president and associate general counsel of Cablevision. He is one of two openly gay men whose nominations are pending to the federal courts. The other is Edward C. DuMont, a lawyer who has been nominated to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington.
Control center fire diverts Atlantic flights
A fire at an air traffic control center in Newfoundland forced air traffic controllers in New York and Portugal to handle dozens of additional airliners over the Atlantic on Thursday morning. Many of those planes had to be detoured hundreds of miles, to their destinations in the United States, the Caribbean or South America, according to air traffic officials. Although a few planes were held on the ground in the United States, "from our perspective, it didn't result in a lot of delays or disruption," said Laura J. Brown, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration.
U.S. Muslims could number 6.2M by 2030
The Muslim population in the United States is projected to more than double over the next 20 years from 2.6 million to 6.2 million, according to a report by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life. The estimated increase is based on expectations of continued immigration and high fertility rates, the researchers said. The report predicted that Muslims would go from 0.8 percent of the U.S. population to 1.7 percent. The report, released Thursday, puts the world's Muslim population in 2030 at 2.2 billion, about a 35 percent increase.
Journalist who defied censors is fired
A newspaper columnist who challenged government censors by writing about corruption and political reform was dismissed Thursday by the Southern Daily Group, publisher of some of China's best-known newspapers. The columnist, Chang Ping, 42, said he was forced out because his bosses were "under pressure" from government propaganda authorities. Executive editor Zhuang Shenzhi said the publisher had decided not to extend Chang's contract. Authorities in China commonly dismiss journalists who defy censors.