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Feb. 21, 2013 at 12:10 PM
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Storm spreads snow, rain across 20 states

KANSAS CITY, Mo., Feb. 21 (UPI) -- A huge storm moving across the central United States, already blamed for one death, could dump up to 2 feet of snow in some areas, forecasters said.

About 20 percent of the U.S. population -- roughly 60 million people in 20 states -- were under winter weather warnings, watches and advisories, CNN reported.

AccuWeather.com reported blizzard conditions in portions of northern Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri Thursday.

Forecasters said nearly a foot of snow already piled up over some communities in Kansas.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation said weather conditions Wednesday were to blame for the death of an Alex, Okla., high school senior, The (Chickasha) Express-Star reported. Officials said the teen died in a traffic accident involving a truck.

Travel was extremely dangerous along major interstates, including I-35, I-70 and I-80, AccuWeather.com said.

Kansas City International Airport in Missouri said some flights were canceled and urged passengers to check on the flight status before heading to the airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration said snow and ice were causing flight delays and cancellations at Denver International Airport as well.

Dozens of schools were canceled across the Plains states, CNN said.

In Wichita, Kan., crews have been treating streets since Monday, officials said.

In Oklahoma, thousands of utility customers were without power because of the storm, The (Oklahoma City) Oklahoman reported.

3 dead in rolling shoot-out in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Three people died and three people were injured Thursday after a shooting and a multi-car collision on the Las Vegas strip, police said.

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police said two cars were involved in a shootout near Flamingo Road and Las Vegas Boulevard that led to the multiple-vehicle accident, KTNV-TV, Las Vegas, reported.

The driver of one of the vehicles involved in the shootout was killed and a passenger was transported to a hospital, police said.

Las Vegas police said a taxi, one of the vehicles in the multi-vehicle accident, caught on fire and two people -- the driver and a passenger -- were reported dead.

Both the north- and south-bound lanes of Las Vegas Boulevard were closed in the area of the shooting and collision as police investigated the crime scene.

Deadly blast rocks Syrian ruling party HQ

DAMASCUS, Syria, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- A car bomb exploded near the headquarters of Syria's ruling party in Damascus, killing more than two dozen people, mainly civilians, opposition activists said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported least 31 people were killed by the bomb, while a pro-government television station said 35 people were killed, foreign media outlets reported.

The bomb exploded near the headquarters of President Bashar Assad's ruling Baath Party and the Russian Embassy, the New York Times reported.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the dead were mainly civilian but that security forces were among the dead.

China's state-run Xinhua News Agency reported 237 people were injured.

Witnesses and state media said a suicide car bomber detonated himself at a crowded intersection near a mosque the Baath party headquarters.

State-run television and the Syrian Observatory said mortar shells also exploded near the Syrian Army General Command, but there were no reported casualties from that site, the Times reported.

The Local Coordination Committees, an association of opposition groups, said at least 163 people were killed across Syria Wednesday, including 19 children and eight women.

The organization said most of the victims were from Damascus and its suburbs, where 96 people died, including 48 opposition activists said were killed in an air attack on Hamoria, CNN said.

Fatah angered by Hamas talks with Israel

RAMALLAH, West Bank, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Reports of negotiations between Hamas and Israel have angered Fatah officials, who charge the group is not authorized to hold such talks, officials say.

Representatives of Israel and Hamas recently arrived in Cairo for what are said to be indirect talks about consolidating the current cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, The Jerusalem Post reported Thursday.

Jamal Muheissen, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, said the talks were "unacceptable" because Fatah is the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people."

Muheissen also criticized Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi for acting as a mediator in the talks, accusing him of trying to undermine the Palestine Liberation Organization's status and "tame" Hamas.

Abdullah Abdullah, another senior Fatah official, expressed fear that Hamas would use the talks to establish a separate entity for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

A Fatah spokesman, Ahmed Assaf, charged the talks would have "catastrophic consequences for Palestinians."

Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar attempted to downplay the purpose of the talks.

He said they were negotiating solely over "humanitarian issues" such as reopening border crossings into Gaza, the cease-fire and hunger strikes by Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

11 killed, scores hurt in Hyderabad blasts

HYDERABAD, India, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- At least 11 people died and dozens were injured when two bombs exploded Thursday in Hyderabad in southern India, in what police said was a terrorist attack.

The first blast was reported at a park and the second at a restaurant in the Dilsukhnagar area of Hyderabad, The Hindu reported.

"It appears to be a terrorist attack, though we have not yet got full information of the incident. At least 10 are dead," director general of police V. Dinesh Reddy told The Hindu.

The blasts came from two bicycles at two sites 150 meters away from each other, Sushil Kumar Shinde, India's home affairs minister, said during a briefing in New Delhi. Eight people were killed at one site and three at the other. About 50 people have been injured.

Shinde said the central government had warned state governments that an attack was planned, The New York Times reported.

"We have had some information for the last two days of such an incident," the minister said "At this stage it is difficult to say more."

Teams from the National Investigation Agency, the National Security Guard and the Intelligence Bureau were traveling to the site, Shinde said.

"This is a dastardly attack, the guilty will not go unpunished," Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh posted on his Twitter page.

The Times said Hyderabad has been the target of terrorist activities in recent years, particularly those involving homemade bombs.

In August 2007, two bombs exploded simultaneously, ripping through two popular spots in Hyderabad, killing at least 42 people. In the hours after the twin blasts, police reported finding and defusing 19 more bombs at bus stops, movie theaters, pedestrian bridges and street intersections.

Removal of stuck Navy ship to begin Friday

MANILA, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Work to remove a U.S. Navy minesweeper stuck on a reef in the southern Philippines for more than a month is expected to begin Friday, officials say.

The USS Guardian will be cut up and its pieces carried away from Tubbataha Reef on which the ship grounded on Jan. 17, Stars and Stripes reported Thursday.

Since the grounding, the hull of the ship has been breached by wave action rocking it against the reef, which was also damaged by the ship.

The Guardian will be disassembled from the top down, Navy spokesman Lt. Frederick Martin said in an e-mail.

Equipment on the deck will be removed first, followed by the masts and funnels. Sections of the superstructure will be cut apart, enabling heavy machinery inside to be removed. Finally the hull of the 224-foot vessel will be cut into three pieces.

Hazardous materials and fuel have already been removed.

Biologists will be able to assess damage to the World Heritage Site reef once cranes lift away the last pieces.

The extent and nature of possible restorations to the reef will be decided by weather and the reef's condition, said Walter Jaap, a coral reef ecologist.

Tubbataha is in an area of strong waves, which is a difficult place to work, he said.

"In a case such as this with catastrophic impacts it would be decades or more for resources to recover to pre-incident status," Jaap said.

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