Major blizzard may dump 2 feet of snow
BOSTON, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- A major high-wind blizzard threatened to dump up to 2 feet of snow on the U.S. Northeast Friday, disrupting travel, closing schools and knocking out power.
"Accumulation is expected to be swift, heavy and dangerous," Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said in a Statehouse briefing Thursday evening.
He urged non-emergency drivers to be off the roads by noon, said non-emergency state employees would work from home and advised private employers to let their staffs do the same.
Winter weather warnings, and in some cases blizzard warnings, were in effect from Pennsylvania through New Jersey and metropolitan New York and up through Maine, the National Weather Service said.
"A major winter storm is expected to impact the Northeast and New England Friday into Saturday," the service said in a statement that called the storm "potentially historic."
"As much as one to 2 feet of snow is forecast from the New York City metro area to Maine, with localized heavier amounts possible," the statement said. "This, in addition to wind gusts as high as 60-75 mph, will create significant impacts to transportation and power. Coastal flooding is also possible from Boston northward."
Storm surges in coastal areas were predicted to be 3 to 5 feet, weather officials said.
At the storm's height, snow could fall at 2 to 4 inches an hour and may be accompanied by thunder and lightning, AccuWeather said.
Manhunt: Residents warned to stay indoors
BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif., Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Authorities warned residents of mountain communities near San Bernardino, Calif., to stay indoors as police hunted an ex-cop believed on a murderous rampage.
They told residents of Big Bear Lake and other ski resort communities surrounded by the San Bernardino National Forest 100 miles from Los Angeles to stay off the streets as the sweeping manhunt expanded for Christopher Dorner, a former Navy reservist fired from the Los Angeles Police Department in 2008.
Police said Dorner was targeting police officers and their families, already killing at least three people, including an 11-year Riverside, Calif., Police Department veteran.
"Dorner is considered to be armed and extremely dangerous," Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said.
"He knows what he's doing -- we trained him. He was also a member of the armed forces. It is extremely worrisome and scary, especially to the police officers involved," Beck said.
Police sent protection teams to guard uniformed officers and their families overnight. Motorcycle police were ordered off the roads and told to patrol only in squad cars.
Snow footprints discovered near Dorner's truck, found burning on a dirt road in a wooded area near Big Bear Lake, did not lead to the suspect "at this point," San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said.
Officials would not say what, if anything, was found in the burned truck, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Testimony shows rift in U.S. Syria policy
WASHINGTON, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- President Obama blocked a Pentagon, State Department and CIA plan to arm Syrian rebels, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Obama's top military adviser said.
Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee they both supported the proposal brought to Obama last summer, but they were rebuffed.
The plan, developed by David Petraeus, CIA director at the time, was also backed by Hillary Clinton, then secretary of state, Panetta and Dempsey said in the first public revelation of a rift in the administration on this critical foreign policy issue.
The disclosure came when Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., asked Panetta and Dempsey if the Pentagon supported the recommendation by Clinton and Petraeus "that we provide weapons to the resistance in Syria -- did you support that?"
"We did," Panetta said.
"You did support that," McCain said.
"We did," Dempsey said.
Panetta and Dempsey didn't say why Obama did not follow their recommendation.
Panetta said he now accepts the decision not to act on the proposal.
Penny Pritzker eyed for commerce secretary
WASHINGTON, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Business executive and Hyatt Hotels heiress Penny Pritzker is the leading candidate to be the next U.S. commerce secretary, people familiar with the matter say.
Pritzker, a close personal friend of President Barack Obama and a fellow Chicagoan who was the national finance chairman of his 2008 presidential campaign, would succeed acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank, who took over for John Bryson when he took a medical leave of absence last June following a series of car accidents attributed to a seizures.
A White House aide told The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal Obama hadn't made a decision on the post, and an announcement likely was still weeks away.
The White House also has identified backup candidates in case Obama decides not to nominate Pritzker, one of the people familiar with the matter told the Journal.
Obama is filling out his Cabinet for the second term, which began Jan. 20. Open spots include secretaries of labor, transportation and energy and the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
The administration's economic team is expected to be led by former White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew, who Obama nominated to be treasury secretary.
The Senate has not yet considered confirming Lew's appointment.