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Feb. 21, 2013 at 5:16 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 as much as 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.

Missouri Gov. Jay NIxon declared a state of emergency in the "Show-Me" state, which was bracing for at least 10 inches of snow. Kansas City, Mo., Mayor Sly James declared a state of emergency in the city, where CNN reported 250 snow plows were working to clear roads and the public was urged not to travel unless necessary.

Forecasters said nearly a foot of snow already piled up over some communities in Kansas. Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan., canceled Thursday classes, CNN said.

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 collision 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 their 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 closed across the Plains states, CNN said.

Crews have been treating streets since Monday in Wichita, Kan., officials said.

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

As of 6:45 a.m. CST Thursday, the Kansas Department of Transportation said most major highways across the state were snow- and ice-packed and travel was extremely dangerous.

The system eventually will stretch from Texas to the Dakotas, CNN reported, bringing snow to the north, torrential rains and tornadoes along the Gulf Coast and freezing rain over Arkansas and Missouri.

The storm is expected to provide some relief for agriculture in the Plains, Accuweather.com said.

3 dead in rolling shootout in Las Vegas

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

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police said occupants of a Maserati sports car and a sport utility vehicle were involved in a shootout near Flamingo Road and Las Vegas Boulevard that led to the multiple-vehicle crash, KTNV-TV, Las Vegas, reported.

Police were searching for a black Range Rover with tinted windows, black rims and paper dealer license plates after shots rang out from the vehicle at the intersection in front of Bally's hotel casino across from the Bellagio and Caesars Palace. Six vehicles were involved in the crash about 4:30 a.m., KLAS-TV said.

The driver of the Maserati 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 pileup, caught fire and two people -- the driver and a passenger -- were reported dead.

Both the northbound and southbound lanes of Las Vegas Boulevard were closed in the area of the shooting and collision as police investigated the crime scene.

Biden speaks at gun-control conference

DANBURY, Conn., Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Vice President Joe Biden, speaking Thursday at a Danbury, Conn., gun-control conference, called on political colleagues to show courage in enacting new laws.

"We have to speak for those 20 beautiful children who died 69 days ago, 12 miles from here," he said, a reference to those killed in the shooting at a Newtown, Conn. elementary school Dec. 14.

Biden said he met with two parents of the children before taking the stage, and said of them, "You have a hell of a lot more courage than I do."

Referring to his colleagues in politics, he added, "If you are concerned about your political survival, you should be concerned about the survival of our children," noting "There's a moral price to pay for inaction. I can't imagine who we will be judged as a society if we do nothing."

The daylong conference Thursday, organized by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Sen. Chris Murphy and Rep. Elizabeth Esty, also heard from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Bridgeport, Conn., mayor Bill Finch, Newtown First Selectwoman Pat Llodra, and Connecticut State Police Capt. Dale Hourigan, the Hartford, Conn. Courant reported Thursday.

Hourigan explained the horror of arriving at Sandy Hook Elementary School and said, "It's our hope as law enforcement officers that as a result our laws are strengthened."

Poll: Public would blame GOP for sequester

WASHINGTON, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- U.S. voters agree with President Barack Obama on reducing the debt through increased revenues and spending cuts, a Pew Research Center/USA Today poll found.

The nationwide poll of 1,504 adults -- conducted Feb. 13-18 -- found if is no deal is reached by March 1 to avoid scheduled across-the-board federal spending, 49 percent would hold congressional Republicans responsible and 31 percent would blame President Barack Obama.

About 1-in-4 of those surveyed said they had heard about the spending -- about the same percentage as those who said they knew nothing about it.

If there is no deal by March 1, 40 percent say it would be preferable to let the cuts take effect and 49 percent say it would be better to delay the cuts, Pew said on its website.

The margin of sampling error was 2.9 percentage points.

Obama placed telephone calls Thursday to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to discuss the sequester, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, telling White House reporters the president "had good conversations" with the top congressional Republicans.

Carney did not provide specifics of the discussions.

The president placed calls this week to several GOP senators -- including John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida.

Obama said Thursday he doesn't know whether Republicans "are going to move" on avoid what he has called a "meat clever" approach to spending cuts, The Hill reported.

"We're going to have to try to keep pushing over the next seven or eight days," he said on the syndicated Al Sharpton radio show.

"My sense is their basic view is that nothing is important enough to raise taxes on wealthy individuals or corporations, and they would prefer to see these kind of cuts that could slow down our recovery over closing tax loopholes," the president said. "And that's the thing that binds their party together at this point."

A spokesman for Boehner said Republicans would consider closing loopholes, but only if savings did not go to pay for further deficit spending, The Hill said.

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