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Another snowstorm blankets Northeast

The United Nations was shut down and more than a million children got the day off from school Wednesday on the heels of a storm that dumped as much as 14 inches of snow in the Northeast.

It was the latest in a series of storms that have spread snow and ice across parts of the eastern half of the nation since the weekend.

At least 55 deaths have been blamed on snow, ice and cold this week from Kansas to the East Coast.

Airlines canceled more than 400 flights Wednesday at Newark's airport, along with more than 300 at La Guardia and about 50 at Kennedy, officials said.

Mars rovers on track

to do more exploring

PASADENA, Calif. _ The Opportunity rover is on track to roll onto Mars as early as Sunday, just days before its twin could resume its work exploring the Red Planet, NASA said Wednesday.

Opportunity unfolded its front wheels and locked them into position, leaving just a few more tasks before being ready to travel the final 10 feet from its lander and onto the surface of Mars, mission members said.

Meanwhile, engineers worked to regain full control of Spirit, which has been sidelined for a week on the other side of the planet with crippling software problems.

Before execution, inmate confesses to killings

HUNTSVILLE, Texas _ An inmate confessed to more than a dozen killings just before he was executed Wednesday night, about a month after his punishment was postponed while courts considered an appeal.

After he was strapped to the death chamber gurney, Billy Frank Vickers, 58, admitted that he shot grocery store owner Phillip Kinslow during a botched robbery in 1993. He was being executed for that crime.

Vickers also took credit Wednesday for more than a dozen other killings. He said there were "several more that I had done or that I had been a part of, and I'm sorry but I am not sure how many. There must be a dozen or 14, I believe, all total."

He mentioned no names, except in the case of a former Texas oil millionaire who was accused and later acquitted of killing his stepdaughter in 1976.

Tobacco-smuggling operation broken up

WASHINGTON _ In the largest crackdown of its kind, federal officials said Wednesday they had broken up a tobacco-smuggling operation that sometimes disguised cargo containers of cigarettes as toys and other goods.

Officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement said 10 people have been arrested in five states _ Texas, New Mexico, New York, Florida and California. Portions of a 92-count indictment detailing the alleged scheme were unsealed in El Paso, Texas.

The cigarettes came from Asia and elsewhere and were sold in shops across the country, said Michael Dougherty, chief of operations at Immigration and Customs Enforcement.


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