5 Muslims convicted in Fort Dix plot
CAMDEN, N.J., Dec. 22 (UPI) -- A federal jury in New Jersey Monday convicted five Muslim men of plotting to attack soldiers at Fort Dix -- a plot prosecutors say was inspired by al-Qaida.
The verdicts came on the sixth day of deliberations by the U.S. District Court panel following an eight-week trial in Camden, The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger reported. In addition to conspiracy counts, some of the men were found guilty on weapons charges.
The defendants were acquitted, however, of attempted murder, the newspaper said.
"The burden imposed on us has been heavy, but we are confident our verdict has been reached fairly and impartially," the jurors said in a note them passed along to Judge Robert Kugler.
Kugler set sentencing for April 22 and 23. They face up to life in prison.
The defendants are Shain Duka Eljvir Duka, Dritan Duka -- all brothers who are ethnic Albanians-- and Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer, a Jordanian, and Serdar Tatar, who is from Turkey.
A 15-month federal investigation concluded in May 2007 with the arrest of two suspects who tried to buy automatic weapons from an FBI informant, The Star-Ledger said.
U.S. deficit could reach trillion
WASHINGTON, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- While it's difficult to predict, next year's U.S. federal deficit could reach a trillion dollars, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Monday.
"It's going to be large," Fratto, the deputy press secretary, said at a White House news briefing.
The deficit will reflect the economic slump, a drop in federal revenue and the "large increase in spending over the short term to deal with the financial crisis," Fratto said, noting passage of a second stimulus bill rests with Congress and the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama.
Sunday, Vice President-elect Joseph Biden said a second stimulus package is needed because the Obama administration is likely to inherit the largest deficit in U.S. history -- probably exceeding a trillion dollars.
Biden said a deficit of a trillion-plus would dictate the need for a second stimulus package in the range of $600 billion to $700 billion.
Christmas travel plans socked by weather
SEATTLE, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- Severe winter weather made for Christmas travel nightmares across the United States Monday, with canceled flights and closed highways common, officials said.
Portions of the New York State Thruway were closed for a few hours Monday morning from near Rochester, N.Y., to the Pennsylvania state line as dozens of vehicles slid off the icy highway, CNN reported. The National Weather Service said Buffalo, N.Y., received 7.4 inches of snow Sunday and more was forecast for Monday.
Travel was also difficult in Boston, where schools were closed because icy roads made it impossible for buses to operate. Airlines using Newark-Liberty International Airport in New Jersey reported two-hour delays while New York's LaGuardia Airport was logging delays of more than an hour, CNN said.
On the West Coast, stranded airline travelers awoke Monday after camping overnight at airports in Seattle and Portland, Ore., as Alaska, Horizon Air and Southwest airlines canceled many Sunday flight due to blizzard conditions. Amtrak canceled trains on its Coast Starlight and Empire Builder routes.
Portland residents were blanketed with more than 11 inches of snow, the most seen since 1968, CNN said. Officials urged drivers were advised to stay off the roads completely.
Blizzard conditions in western Michigan led to a 30-car crash on Interstate 94 Sunday, officials said. Law enforcement officials blamed the conditions for the death of one man involved in another accident.
Residents in the Great Lakes Region, New York and New England were bracing for another round of heavy snow and gusty winds, the National Weather Service said.
"Some places are going to end up with 1- to 2 feet of additional snow, forecaster Michael Eckert of the National Weather Service in Camp Spring, Md., told CNN. "Temperatures over the upper Great Lakes have fallen below zero, and those cold temperatures are going to move to New England states on Monday. We'll see wind-chill temperatures below zero over much of the northeastern U.S."
Passenger: Engine trouble before boarding
DENVER, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- A passenger aboard the airliner that skidded off the runway in Denver said there had been an announcement before takeoff referring to a troublesome engine.
Gabriel Trejos told KUSA-TV in Denver that Continental Airlines gate staff announced that the plane they were about to board for their flight to Houston Saturday had been experiencing engine problems, but that the issues had been fixed.
"Shortly after that, they said everything is fine," Trejos said. "There's going to be an on-time flight."
A fire of still-unknown origin broke out as Flight 1404 was about to take off, forcing the jet to go skidding off the runway at Denver International Airport and catch fire. All 115 people survived although 38 had to be taken to area hospitals.
The National Transportation Safety Board pulled the aircraft's black box from the cockpit of the crippled plane and sent it to Washington for analysis, CNN said Monday.
"I looked to the side and all of a sudden there was this giant fireball behind my husband's head," Trejos' wife, Maria, told CNN. "I have this image of him just grabbing my son's head and just pulling him toward himself and all of a sudden we felt this heat."
Iraqi lawmakers delay troop pact vote
BAGHDAD, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- A vote on a resolution to legalize the continued presence of non-U.S. foreign troops in Iraq was delayed Monday, observers said.
The country's Parliament had been expected to vote on a draft resolution that would govern the mission of foreign troops in the country since 2003, including British troops who are expected to withdraw during the next several months, al-Sumaria reported.
But the vote was postponed when some MPs, angry at Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Mahmoud Mashhadani, demanded his resignation over perceived insults and boycotted Monday's session, The Times of London reported.
The rebel MPs, mostly Shiite and Kurdish lawmakers, say Mashhadani insulted them during an argument that broke out in Parliament regarding an incident in which an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at U.S. President George Bush, the newspaper said.
It was unclear when Parliament would resume, further complicating the foreign troop vote.
Lawmakers rejected the measure last week but reached agreement on terms since, al-Sumaria reported. They approved a status of forces agreement for U.S. troops earlier in December. That agreement goes into effect Jan. 1, after a U.N. resolution authorizing international military intervention in Iraq expires Dec. 31.