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Feb. 24, 2013 at 5:00 PM   |   Comments

Denver area buffeted by blizzard

DENVER, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- The Denver area was under a winter storm warning Sunday with 10 inches of blowing snow expected into the evening, the National Weather Service said.

Much of eastern Colorado was hunkered down as the blizzard blew through on a course that will take it across the Great Plains and into the Midwest Monday.

The FAA said air traffic at the Denver airport was seeing at least two-hour delays and some 200 flights canceled. In the city itself, a fleet of snowplows hit the streets Saturday night and motorists were urged to stay home.

A spokeswoman for the city told the Denver Post heavy duty plows were working to keep up with rapid snowfall on main roads. Smaller pickups were working on side streets to prevent ruts and packed, frozen snow tracks from forming, which makes it more difficult to clear later.

"We are trying to stay with it," said Ann Williams, spokeswoman for the city's public works department. "The snow is coming down fairly fast and fairly heavy."

If snowfall increased to more than a foot, the department would have to request funds for additional plowing from city hall.

Next in line for a snow day will be the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles as well as Kansas and the Kansas City areas. AccuWeather predicted strong winds -- up to 50 mph in some places -- and snowfall rates up to 2 inches per hour, making for likely blizzard conditions.


Duncan blames Congress for looming cuts

WASHINGTON, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the sequester, which will go into effect in just five days, could lead to 40,000 teachers losing their jobs.

On CBS's "Face the Nation" Sunday, Duncan said when such effects will take place is unknown, but the across-the-board cuts will cause nationwide instability in the education system.

"And as you know, the vast majority of federal money goes to help vulnerable children, so whether it's children with special needs, whether it's poor children, whether it's adults in college who are doing work study programs, whether it's our babies we talk about in Head Start, we don't have any ability with dumb cuts like this to figure out what the right thing to do is," he said.

Duncan insisted that the sequester's effects are not being exaggerated, and said the cuts would lead to 70,000 less children in the Head Start program.

Duncan said school districts are already struggling and blamed Congress for not knowing what is going on in their local districts.

"We don't have to be in this situation. This is not rocket science. We could solve this tomorrow if folks had the will to compromise, to come to the table and do the right thing for children and to try and keep growing the middle class," he said.


LaHood: No avoiding air controller cuts

WASHINGTON, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he would have no choice but to cut back on air-traffic staffing in the event the sequestration takes effect.

Appearing on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday, LaHood discounted the notion there were other areas of the Federal Aviation Administration budget that could be cut without impacting air travel.

"The largest number of employees at DOT is at FAA, of which the largest number are FAA controllers," said LaHood. "We are going to try and cut as much as we possibly can out of contracts and other things that we do. But in the end, there has to be some kind of furlough of air traffic control."

The sequestration includes mandatory spending cuts and tax hikes that will take effect March 1 unless Congress and the Obama administration agree on a budget proposal. The FAA alone faces $600 million in immediate cuts.

LaHood this week warned airlines this week that furloughs would reduce air-traffic control staffing and other FAA services, and would lead to significant slow-downs at major airports.

The warning stirred up speculation the Obama administration was using scare tactics to pressure congressional Republicans..LaHood told CNN, however, there was no way to dodge the requirements of making billions of dollars worth of budget cuts on short notice.

"This sequester is very serious business, and it requires us to make the reductions that we're making," La?Hood said. "It requires us, as painful as it is, to furlough the people that we're going to have to furlough. And we're taking it very seriously."


Special Forces to exit key province

KABUL, Afghanistan, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Afghanistan has banned U.S. Special Forces from operating in a province near Kabul, saying Afghans working for the elite force have tortured villagers.

The New York Times reported Sunday the order is set to be implemented within two weeks in the Maidan Wardak province. The newspaper said the province lies southwest of Kabul and is used by the Taliban to launch attacks on the capital.

The Times said that with the scheduled withdrawal of regular U.S. combat troops, the special operations teams would have been the only offensive troops in the area.

The report said coalition leaders were told of the order Sunday afternoon, and were still trying to find out what it actually involved.

Aimal Faizi, a spokesman for President Hamid Karzai, said the country's National Security Council decided to impose the ban after weeks of trying to get answers to accusations that Maidan Wardak residents were being killed or tortured or had disappeared.

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