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Associated Press

Posted on February 13, 2014 at 6:02 AM

Deaths, power outages in South amid ice and snow as storm takes aim at winter-weary East Coast

ATLANTA (AP) — Small armies of utility workers labored to turn the lights — and the heat — back on for hundreds of thousands of Southerners as a winter storm that left them without power threatened major cities further up the East Coast.

The Deep South remained a world of ice-laden trees and driveways early Thursday after several unusual days of sleet and snow brought by a powerful system that could bring more than a foot of snow to such metropolises as Philadelphia, Washington and Boston.

At least 12 deaths across the South have been blamed on the stormy weather and nearly 3,300 flights nationwide were canceled with another day of complicated air and road travel ahead Thursday, particularly in the Northeast.

Drivers in and around Raleigh, N.C., became snarled Wednesday in huge traffic jams and abandoned cars in scenes reminiscent of motorist woes in Atlanta during a storm two weeks earlier. In Atlanta, many streets were eerily quiet this storm, with drivers heeding dire warnings to stay off the roads. State troopers say they worked more than 200 crashes in Georgia.

For some on slick, snow-covered interstates in North Carolina, commutes that should take minutes lasted hours after many got on the highways just as soon as snow and sleet began at midday.

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Comcast to buy Time Warner Cable for $45 billion in all-stock deal that trumps Charter's bid

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Comcast Corp. has agreed to buy Time Warner Cable Inc. for $45.2 billion in stock, or $158.82 per share, two people familiar with the matter said late Wednesday.

The deal will combine the nation's top two cable TV companies and make Comcast, which also owns NBCUniversal, a dominant force in both creating and delivering entertainment to U.S. homes.

The deal was approved by the boards of both companies and, pending regulatory approval, is expected to close by the end of the year, the people said.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not been announced formally. An announcement is set for Thursday morning, they said.

The price is about 17 percent above Time Warner Cable shares' Wednesday closing price of $135.31 and trumps a proposal by Charter Communications Inc. to buy Time Warner for about $132.50 per share, or $38 billion in cash and stock.

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Case of Iranian businessman convicted of illegal satellite exports shows nuances of laws

HOPEWELL, Va. (AP) — Federal agents intercepted the wealthy Iranian entrepreneur at a U.S. airport, questioned him about his business and charged him with illegal export of American-made satellite equipment to his native country.

Seyed Amin Ghorashi Sarvestani pleaded guilty soon afterward, but changed circumstances now have encouraged him to challenge his 30-month prison sentence.

Since his plea, the federal government has approved for export to Iran the very products he was convicted of helping ship, his lawyers say. Then federal prosecutors in New York told a judge after the sentencing hearing that they had mistakenly exaggerated the equipment's capabilities. The judge hasn't moved to change the sentence, though lawyers for both sides are continuing to press their arguments.

Whatever happens, the case illustrates the complexity of laws in which actions banned one year may become legal the next and where one government priority, controlling exports in the name of national security, can brush up against another — in this case, promoting Internet freedom for Iranian citizens.

"I am neither an activist nor politically motivated," Sarvestani, 47, wrote from prison in an email to The Associated Press explaining his business of providing satellite-based Internet communications to Iran. "I am simply a citizen of the Earth who believe the Internet is a true miracle in mankind history."

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AP-WE tv Poll: Go ahead, get your Valentine a present. Odds are, he or she will appreciate it

WASHINGTON (AP) — Unsure what to get your sweetheart this Valentine's Day? Nothing is the wrong answer.

An Associated Press-WE tv survey found only 17 percent of adults in committed relationships say they don't want a gift this Friday or are skipping the holiday.

Flowers and candy top the list of preferred gifts. But there are those who want something pricey like a car, jewelry or a vacation, and others who'd be fine with a teddy bear.

About a third say they'd most like to have intangibles such as time together, health or happiness.

Overall, the survey found that Cupid's arrow hits the target for most Americans.

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Red, White and Very Blue: Big-name Americans struggling in early days of Sochi Olympics

SOCHI, Russia (AP) — What a stunning sight: Shani Davis gliding around the speedskating oval, head down in defeat, staring glumly at the ice.

For the U.S. Olympic team, it's becoming more and more common.

One after another, some of the biggest American stars have wiped out in sunny Sochi.

From Bode Miller and Julia Mancuso to Shaun White and Sarah Hendrickson, this is hardly shaping up as an Olympics to remember for the U.S. team.

Davis was just the latest to falter, finishing eighth Wednesday in the 1,000 meters, a race he won at the last two Winter Games.

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Tea party tees off on McConnell after Cruz's demand forces debt limit vote

WASHINGTON (AP) — The tea party is teeing off on Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

Matt Bevin, who is challenging McConnell in the GOP primary in Kentucky, seized on the senator's vote Wednesday to move ahead on legislation to increase the nation's debt limit, describing it as a blank check for President Barack Obama. The tea party-backed businessman and conservative groups signaled they won't let Senate Republican incumbents forget the vote this election year.

"Kentucky and America can literally no longer afford such financially reckless behavior from the likes of Mitch McConnell," Bevin said in a statement.

Setting the vote in motion was one of McConnell's Republican colleagues — Texan Ted Cruz, the tea party darling who has caused heartburn for his GOP colleagues in his year in the Senate.

Cruz insisted on a 60-vote threshold for the Senate to proceed to must-pass legislation to allow the government to borrow money to pay its bills. House and Senate Republicans had decided against another round of brinkmanship and let it be known that they were ready to let Democrats deliver the votes on the debt bill after the House had passed it Tuesday.

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Activists: Syrian airstrikes, shelling kill 51 people in a single day in Aleppo's rebel areas

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian activists say 51 people, including 13 rebels, have been killed in a single day of government airstrikes and shelling of opposition-controlled districts of Aleppo.

The Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights says most of the victims died from airstrikes and barrel bomb dumped on eight rebel-held districts of the northern city on Wednesday. The rest died from artillery shelling and sniper fire.

The Observatory has been documenting Syria's conflict since its start in March 2011 through a network of activists on the ground.

It released its report on the latest Aleppo casualties on Thursday, ahead of a trilateral meeting between U.S., Russian and U.N. official with Syrian government and opposition representatives in Geneva.

The international mediators are trying to salvage the faltering peace negotiations.

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Afghanistan frees 65 accused militants from former US prison despite American protest

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan released 65 accused militants from a former U.S. prison on Thursday despite protests from the American military, which says the men are Taliban fighters who will likely return to the battlefield to kill coalition and Afghan forces.

The move further strains relations between Washington and President Hamid Karzai, whose increasingly anti-American rhetoric and refusal to sign a long-negotiated bilateral security deal has increased uncertainty ahead of the year-end withdrawal of most international combat troops.

Karzai ordered the detainees released several weeks ago, after his government took over the prison from U.S. troops. The decision prompted angry denunciations from Washington. U.S. forces in Afghanistan say some of the men are responsible for killing or wounding dozens of international and Afghan soldiers as well making bombs that have killed civilians.

The prisoners were freed just after 9 a.m. from the Parwan Detention Facility near Bagram Air Field, about 45 kilometers (28 miles) north of Kabul, according to prison spokesman Maj. Nimatullah Khaki.

They boarded a bus to leave the facility, laughing and smiling, he said.

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US ship tasked with destroying Syrian chemical arms arrives in Spain en route to Italy

ROTA, Spain (AP) — The American ship MV Cape Ray arrived Thursday at the Spanish naval base of Rota for crew rest and refueling ahead of an unprecedented mission to collect and destroy highly toxic substances that form part of Syria's chemical weapons program.

The ship, which left Portsmouth, Virginia Jan. 27, will leave Rota when Syria has completed removal of its chemical materials and proceed to the transloading port in Italy, Defense Department spokesman Col. Steve Warren said in a statement.

Here are some questions and answers about the Cape Ray and its mission:

WHAT IS THE MV CAPE RAY?

It is a giant U.S. government cargo ship, usually based in Virginia, which has been fitted with two machines designed to neutralize hundreds of tons of the most toxic chemicals, including mustard gas and the raw materials for sarin nerve gas, that are being removed from Syria as part of the international effort to destroy its chemical weapons program by mid-year. The 648-foot (197.5-meter) ship is typically used in relief operations after natural disasters such as the Haiti earthquake and Hurricane Sandy. It has a crew of about 35 civilian mariners and some technical experts on board.

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TV comedy pioneer Sid Caesar, whose legacy includes modern sketch comedy, sitcoms, dies at 91

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Carl Reiner remembers Sid Caesar as a great flame who drew comedy writer "moths" including Mel Brooks and Neil Simon to his side.

The genius of 1950s TV comedy is illuminating television even today. Shows from "Saturday Night Live" to sitcoms owe a debt to Caesar's brilliant interpretation of material by Brooks, Simon, Woody Allen and Reiner himself, among others.

He was "inarguably the greatest pantomimist, monologist and single sketch comedian who ever worked in television," Reiner said of the actor-comedian, who died Wednesday at his Los Angeles area home after a brief illness. He was 91.

"Your Show of Shows," 1950-54, with co-star Imogene Coca, and "Caesar's Hour," 1954-57, were his major achievements.

"He was one of the truly great comedians of my time and one of the finest privileges I've had in my entire career was that I was able to work for him," Allen said in a statement.

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