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Feb. 26, 2013 at 11:59 AM
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Powerful storm pounds the Plains

AMARILLO, Texas, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- A complex but powerful winter storm brought blizzards to the Plains, U.S. weather forecasters said Tuesday.

The National Weather Service said blizzard conditions were punishing the Central and Southern Plains states. Blizzard warnings were in effect from northern Texas through portions of western and central Oklahoma into southern Kansas.

The forecasters said the storm next will pivot toward the Northeast.

Though the storm is expected to deliver only rain to the coast, it is expected to cause an array of bad weather, from heavy snow to a wintry mix and rain inland and farther north, AccuWeather.com reported. Locally, the nature of the precipitation could change several times from rain to snow and back.

The worst of the storm was expected in southern New England, where a combination of melting snow and rain could lead to some flooding in cities.

Rain was forecast from Washington to Philadelphia to New York City, AccuWeather said, setting up the potential for travel delays into the night along the Interstate-95 corridor.

Court blocks FISA challenge

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Tuesday a civil rights group does not have standing to challenge the government interception of foreign communications.

The decision fell along the high court's ideological fault line, with Justice Anthony Kennedy joining the four-member conservative bloc to form a majority.

At issue is the FISA Amendments Act, re-enacted by Congress in late December. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act amendments authorize a special special court to allow surveillance between U.S. citizens and foreigners.

The act and the government put anyone trying to challenge the surveillance in a Catch-22 bind.

The Bush administration and the Obama Justice Department have argued individuals and organizations must be able to show they were monitored by the surveillance program to have standing and challenge it.

But the program's target list is secret. The U.S. government won't tell potential targets whether they have been monitored. Therefore, the government contends, no one has standing.

Senate must 'get off ass' to fix sequester

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called Tuesday for Democrats in the Senate to "get off their ass" and act to prevent looming drastic budget 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."

Boehner's comments added a chorus of Republican lawmakers calling for President Obama to work with Congress to avert $85 billion in budget cuts instead of trumpeting how bad the cuts will be, NBC News reported.

"This is not time for a road-show president," House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told a news conference as Obama was to fly Tuesday to Newport News, Va., to highlight the effects of the cuts on the military-driven local economy.

Obama was to visit Newport News Shipbuilding, Virginia's largest industrial employer, the White House said. Among the shipyard's projects is building aircraft carriers USS Gerald R. Ford and USS John F. Kennedy.

World powers resume nuke talks with Iran

ALMATY, Kazakhstan, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- After an eight-month break, Iran and six world powers resumed nuclear talks in Kazakhstan Tuesday amid a call for "tangible" progress.

A spokesman for the European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said "Iran needs to understand that there is an urgent need to make concrete and tangible progress," The New York Times reported.

Iran denies its nuclear program has any military aims but the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council along with Germany want Iran to obey U.N. resolutions to suspend uranium enrichment and allow inspections.

Tuesday's session in the town of Almaty ended after approximately two and a half hours with no indication when negotiations would resume.

Western diplomats involved with the talks have expressed skepticism that chief Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili would be willing to make compromises ahead of his country's June presidential elections.

Six sailors freed by Nigerian pirates

MOSCOW, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- Six sailors captured by pirates off the Nigerian coast more than a week ago have been released, officials with the Russian foreign ministry say.

The sailors were aboard the vessel Armadah Tuah about 42 miles off the southern Nigerian state of Bayelsa when they were taken hostage Feb. 17, RIA Novosti reported Tuesday.

The foreign ministry said the hostages were released Monday and were "free and well," quoting the ship's manager, the Nigerian branch of the Malaysian company Armadah Navigation.

The hostages were Ukrainian, Indian and Russian nationals.

The ministry statement did not indicate if any ransom was paid.

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