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  |   Feb. 26, 2013 at 4:59 PM
'Heart attack snow' strikes Chicago area

AMARILLO, Texas, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- "Heart attack snow" struck the Chicago area Tuesday, along with sleet and freezing rain, prompting a winter weather advisory.

A major winter storm made travel hazardous and grounded hundreds of flights, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The National Weather Service said in its advisory, "Snowfall rates in excess of an inch per hour could occur at times," with 3 to 6 inches by Wednesday morning. "This will likely be a heavy wet snow sometimes referred to as heart attack snow."

The newspaper said FlightStats reported nearly 500 flights had been canceled at O'Hare International Airport and 183 at Midway International Airport.

The Illinois State Police Chicago District instituted its emergency snow plan and Chicago's Streets and Sanitation Department deployed its entire fleet of 284 plows

Extra plows were being deployed to the 2nd Congressional District because of Tuesday's primary election.

The complex but powerful winter storm, after pounding the High Plains, expanded northeastward Tuesday from Missouri to Iowa and Illinois.


Obama blames GOP for sequester stall

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama told Newport News, Va., shipyard workers drastic budget cuts due to kick in Friday will weaken the economy.

"The sequester will weaken America's economic recovery. It will weaken our military readiness, and it will weaken the basic services that the American people depend on every day," he said Tuesday afternoon in an address at Newport News Shipbuilding.

Among the shipyard's projects is building aircraft carriers USS Gerald R. Ford and USS John F. Kennedy, a White House press statement noted.

Obama blamed Republicans in Congress for forcing the sequester issue into its final hours.

"There are too many Republicans in Congress right now who refuse to compromise even an inch when it comes to closing tax loopholes and special interest tax breaks. That's what's holding things up right now," he said.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called Tuesday for Democrats in the Senate to "get off their ass" and act to prevent the cuts.

"We have moved a bill in the House twice," Boehner told a press conference following a meeting of the Republican Conference.

"We should not have to move a third bill before the Senate gets off their ass and begins to do something."

Presidential spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One Obama would be meeting with Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., at the White House later Tuesday and the sequester was expected to be among the topics.


Senate ends Hagel debate

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate voted to end the debate blocking a vote on former Sen. Chuck Hagel to be the next defense secretary, opening the way for confirmation Tuesday.

The Senate voted 71-27 to end the first-ever filibuster against a defense secretary nominee. The Hill reported 18 Republicans voted with Democrats to break the filibuster.

A final vote was expected later Tuesday.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, the main opponent to President Obama's nominee, indicated two weeks ago Hagel might have given still-undisclosed speeches to "extreme or radical groups" or received money from foreign sources or defense contractors from 2008 to 2010.


Court hears DNA collection case

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court heard argument Tuesday on a basic law enforcement tool -- whether DNA samples may be taken from suspects without a warrant.

The effect of a ruling would have an impact throughout the United States. Twenty-eight states and the federal government routinely take DNA samples from suspects, often linking them to past unsolved crimes, including rapes and murders.

All 50 states and the federal government collect DNA from convicted felons.

A decision against the police procedure would put the use of many DNA data banks in jeopardy.

Maryland is one of the states that collect DNA from suspects before conviction. Alonzo Jay King Jr. was arrested in Maryland on assault charges, and a sample of King's DNA was then taken by putting a cotton swab inside his cheek, the ABA Journal reported.

King's DNA was matched to evidence from an unsolved sexual assault. Maryland law says a DNA match cannot be used as evidence at trial, but can provide probable cause for arresting a suspect and taking another DNA sample, the Journal said.


U.N.: Syria targeting hospitals, doctors

DAMASCUS, Syria, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- Syrian hospitals and health workers have been targeted in clashes between the government and opposition forces, humanitarian officials and medical workers say.

A special U.N. commission reported last week government hospitals have turned away even wounded children if they are thought to be opposition supporters, McClatchy Newspapers reported Monday.

Even field hospitals are targeted, a violation of international law, the commission said.

The commission found multiple incidents where the Syrian government attacked medical facilities and healthcare workers, with snipers targeting staff members or ambulances.

A barrel bomb attack on an Aleppo hospital killed civilians and greatly reduced the facility's ability to treat patients, the commission said. Some 300,000 people in the city's Ashrafiya district have been left without medical care after all five private hospitals in the district stopped functioning.

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