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Susan Smith-Harmon

Susan Smith-Harmon

Busy winter storm brings snow, cold to Northeast

Friday, 03 January 2014 02:59 Published in National News
   BOSTON (AP) — A blustering post-Christmas snowstorm that has dropped nearly 2 feet of snow just north of Boston, shut down major highways in New York and forced U.S. airlines to cancel thousands of flights nationwide is continuing its bitter cold journey through the Northeast.
   The brutal weather — which brought plummeting temperatures to some areas that forecasters predicted could see highs just above zero and wind chill readings of minus 10 degrees and colder by early Friday — dumped 21 inches of snow in Boxford, Mass., late Thursday night and 18 inches in parts of western New York near Rochester. In Central Park early Friday, the National Weather Service said just over 3 inches of snow had fallen.
   The snowfall, frigid cold and stiff winds extended Christmas break for some students while posing the first test for New York City's new mayor and perhaps the last challenge for Boston's outgoing one.
   U.S. airlines canceled more than 2,300 flights due to snowfall and low visibility.
   "It's been a tough road," said traveler Heather Krochuk, of Toronto, Canada, inside a Boston hotel Thursday night after her flight home out of Logan International Airport got canceled in what's turned into a 36-hour trip from Seattle, where she spent Christmas with her husband, Ron.
   But, she said, "we have a place to sleep that isn't the airport."
   Snow began falling overnight Wednesday in parts of New England and New York state, but the brunt of the storm began late Thursday.
   The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for Cape Cod, coastal areas north and south of Boston and part of Maine as well as New York's Long Island.
   Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said state offices that closed early Thursday would remain closed on Friday. He said National Guard members and state police were on standby for any high tide flooding in vulnerable coastal areas, but no mandatory evacuations had been ordered.
   New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered three major highways in his state, stretching from Long Island to Albany, closed overnight. The highways were expected to reopen at 5 a.m. Friday.
   As of late Thursday in Connecticut, about 3 inches of snow had fallen in Hartford County, and 3 inches were reported in East Hartford and Simsbury. Parts of New Hampshire had 5.5 inches, and areas of Rhode Island had more than 2.
   Outreach teams looked to get homeless people off the frigid streets of New York City and Boston.
   Staff members at the Pine Street Inn were keeping the Boston shelter open 24 hours and said they would turn no one away, even if it meant setting up extra cots in lobbies and other common areas.
   The heavy weather began rolling in just a day after New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was sworn in to lead the nation's largest city and a few days before Boston Mayor Thomas Menino ends 20 years in office on Monday.
   De Blasio, who as public advocate in 2010 criticized his predecessor Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his handling of a large snowstorm, dispatched hundreds of plows and salt spreaders on the streets as soon as the snow started falling Thursday night. Forecasters said that while only 3 inches of snow had fallen in Central Park by early Friday, up to 8 inches were still expected in the city.
   "If you don't need to go out, please don't go out," de Blasio said at a press conference Thursday evening, urging residents to use mass transit. "Stay off the streets, stay out of your cars."
   Across the region, state and local police were busy responding to accidents and reports of stranded vehicles.
   Amtrak planned to run trains on all of its Northeast lines on Friday but operate on a modified schedule, spokeswoman Christina Leeds said.
   As the storm approached, a worker at a suburban Philadelphia salt storage facility was killed when a 100-foot-tall pile of road salt fell and crushed him. Falls Township police said the man was trapped while operating a backhoe. There was no word on what may have caused the accident.
   Douglass Bibule shopped for rock salt and other supplies at a home improvement store in Watertown, N.Y.
   "Well, there will be some shoveling that I will have to do and some sanding," he said. "I've got to go home and do some stretching exercises to make sure I don't hurt myself while doing that, and do a little shopping to make sure that we have all the supplies that we need. We need food because we have three older children at home."
   The snowstorm worked its way east from the Midwest, where it dropped up to a foot of snow on Michigan and more than a foot in parts of Illinois, prompting the cancellation Thursday of hundreds of flights at both Chicago airports.
   Nearly 17 inches of snow fell in some of Chicago's northern suburbs, and more than 12 inches of snow was recorded at Midway International Airport.

Calif. man hopes law license will help immigrants

Friday, 03 January 2014 02:49 Published in National News
   SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A man who illegally came to the United States two decades ago said he hopes a court ruling granting him a law license will open doors to millions of other immigrants in the same situation.
   The California Supreme Court granted a license Thursday to Sergio Garcia, 36, in a unanimous decision.
   Garcia, who attended law school and passed the state bar exam while working in a grocery store and on farms, can begin practicing law immediately.
   Garcia said he hoped the decision would serve as a "beacon of hope" to others in the same situation. He plans to be a personal injury attorney in his hometown of Chico.
   It's the latest in a string of legal and legislative victories for people who are in the country without permission. Other successes include the creation of a path to citizenship for many young people and the granting of driver's licenses in some states.
   "This is a bright new day in California history and bodes well for the future," the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles said in a statement.
   The court sided with state officials in the case, which pitted them against the White House over a 1996 federal law that bars people who are in the U.S. illegally from receiving professional licenses from government agencies or with the use of public money, unless state lawmakers vote otherwise.
   Bill Hing, a law professor at the University of San Francisco, said the court made clear the only reason it granted Garcia's request is that California recently approved a law that specifically authorizes the state to give law licenses to immigrants who are here illegally.
   The new law, inspired by Garcia's situation, took effect Wednesday.
   It was unclear how many people would qualify to practice law under the ruling and whether it would influence other states. Legislatures and governors in more conservative states such as Alabama and Arizona are likely to be less receptive to the idea.
   He "can hang up a shingle and be his own company," said Hing, who represented the state bar association in the case. "Once he does that, a client can retain him as a lawyer."
   But some questions remained unresolved, such as whether Garcia can appear in federal court or in other states. Federal law makes it illegal for law firms to hire him.
   Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who wrote the opinion, said the new state law removed any barrier to Garcia's quest for a license. And no other federal statute "purports to preclude a state from granting a license to practice law to an undocumented immigrant," Cantil-Sakauye wrote.
   Garcia, 36, arrived in the U.S. as a teenager to pick almonds with his father, who was a permanent legal resident. His father filed a petition in 1994 seeking an immigration visa for his son. It was accepted in 1995, but because of the backlog of visa applications from people from Mexico, Garcia has never received a visa number.
   He applied for citizenship in 1994 and is still working toward that goal.
   The U.S. Department of Justice argued that Garcia was barred from receiving his law license because the court's entire budget comes from the public treasury, a violation of the federal mandate that no public money be used to grant licenses to people who are in the country without permission.
   Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Tenney, who argued the case, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
   The Obama administration's position in the case came as a surprise to some, since the White House has shielded from deportation people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, provided they also graduated from high school, kept a clean criminal record and met other conditions.
   At a hearing in September, a majority of the state Supreme Court justices appeared reluctant to grant Garcia the license under current state and federal law, saying they were prohibited from doing so unless the Legislature acted.
   Garcia worked in the fields and at a grocery store before attending community college. He then became a paralegal, went to law school and passed the bar exam on his first try. His effort to get licensed was supported by state bar officials and California's attorney general, who argued that citizenship is not a requirement to receive a California law license.
   Two other similar cases are pending in Florida and New York, and the Obama administration has made it clear it will oppose bar entry to immigrants unless each state passes its own laws allowing the practice, Hing said.
   California Attorney General Kamala Harris supported Garcia's petition and applauded the ruling.
   Nick Pacilio, a spokesman for Harris, said California's success "has hinged on the hard work and self-sufficiency of immigrants like Sergio."
    Thursday's decision is the latest example of changes in immigration policy happening at the state level while an effort to achieve a broad federal overhaul stalls in the House.
   California and nine other states last year agreed to grant drivers licenses to people in the country illegally, bringing the total to 13 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Nevada and Maryland began taking applications this week.
   Four states - Colorado, Minnesota, Oregon and New Jersey - last year offered in-state college tuition to residents who are here illegally, joining California and 10 others.

Alton man dies after clearing snow

Friday, 03 January 2014 02:42 Published in Local News

   St. Louis' extremely cold winter weather has claimed the life of an Alton, Illinois man.  

   Police say 66 year old Carl Walker had been removing snow with a snow blower outside his home Thursday morning when he became short of breath.  He went inside and his wife called 9-1-1.  

   Walker was taken by ambulance to the hospital where he died.  

   Madison County Coroner Stephen Nonn says Walker suffered a heart attack.  

   Nonn says its important for everyone, especially those with heart and other health conditions to use extra caution in cold conditions.

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