UPDATE: Storms causes outages, traffic jams, flight cancelations and federal shutdown
ATLANTA (AP) — A winter storm that rolled out of the South and is making its way to the Northeast has left more than 500,000 homes and businesses without power.
It's made roads treacherous and is blamed for at least 11 deaths in the South.
Atlanta residents heeded the warnings of icy roads and mainly avoided driving. But that wasn't the case in the Raleigh, N.C., area. Normally quick commutes were turned into marathon trips because of slippery roads. Some motorists abandoned their cars.
The storm is expected to generate at least a half-foot of snow Thursday in parts of the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. As a precaution, the federal government will be closed because of a snowy forecast in the nation's capital.
Air travel has also been snarled. Nearly 3,300 flights have been canceled nationwide.
WINTER WEATHER-FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CLOSES
NEW: Federal offices in DC area to be closed Thursday
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal offices in the Washington, D.C., area will be closed on Thursday as a harsh winter storm dumps snow and ice across the region.
The federal Office of Personnel Management announced the closings late Wednesday.
The OPM's website says emergency and telework-ready employees required to work must follow their agency's policies, including written telework agreements.
2 headed to hospital after deadly Ore. avalanche
GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — Two injured backcountry skiers from Washington state who survived a deadly avalanche in northeastern Oregon's Wallowa Mountains are being towed on rescue sleds to a nearby town where a National Guard helicopter can pick them up.
Baker County Undersheriff Warren Thompson said late Wednesday afternoon that rescuers were able to get the man and woman who both suffered broken legs off a steep slope where they'd spent the night.
The sleds were hitched to a snowcat and a snowmobile and towed about a dozen miles to the community of Halfway. A National Guard helicopter was to meet them at the high school there and fly them to Baker City.
There rescuers will decide whether to treat the skiers at the local hospital, or fly them to a trauma center in Boise.
The avalanche Tuesday killed two others in the party of six skiers and two guides.
2 US troops killed in apparent insider attack
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. defense officials say two American military members were killed Wednesday in eastern Afghanistan by gunmen wearing Afghan security uniforms.
The international coalition said in a brief written statement in Kabul that two members of the international military coalition were shot to death by two gunmen, but it did not provide the nationalities of the dead.
The U.S. defense officials who disclosed the nationalities spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss details of the case.
The attack appeared to be yet another in a long string of attacks on Americans and other members of the international coalition by their supposed Afghan allies. Further details about Wednesday's attack were not immediately available.
NEW: UN diplomat: Russia tables rival Syria resolution
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A U.N. diplomat says Russia has presented a rival U.N. resolution on the humanitarian crisis in Syria to key Security Council members after threatening to veto a Western and Arab-backed measure threatening sanctions against President Bashar Assad's government.
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin gave the text to the four other permanent council members — the U.S., Britain, France and China — at a meeting late Wednesday, the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the meeting was private.
The Russian draft includes parts of the Western and Arab text and negotiations were expected to see if the two texts can be merged, the diplomat said.
Western diplomats said their goal is to get council agreement on a resolution demanding immediate access to all areas of Syria to deliver aid.
NEW: Police raid 18,000 venues in China's sex capital
BEIJING (AP) — Police say they have raided more than 18,000 entertainment venues in a southern province in the wake of a high-profile state media expose of China's sex trade in the region.
The TV report on prostitution in the Guangdong province city of Dongguan broadcast over the weekend sparked a much-publicized crackdown across the whole of the wealthy coastal province. Guangdong police said in a statement Thursday that they had arrested 920 people allegedly engaged in prostitution.
The 18,372 premises raided included including singing and dancing venues, saunas and massage parlors.
CCTV's report on China's "sex capital" was criticized by many members of the public, who expressed sympathy for the sex workers and suggested Dongguan's entrenched sex industry couldn't have survived without the support of police and local authorities.
NEW: Comcast to buy Time Warner Cable for $45 billion
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Comcast has agreed to buy Time Warner Cable for $45.2 billion in stock, or $158.82 per share, in a deal that would combine the top two cable TV companies in the nation.
That's according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because it had not been announced formally. An announcement is set for Thursday morning, the person said.
The price is about 17 percent above Time Warner Cable shares' closing price Wednesday.
The deal trumps a proposal by Charter Communications Inc. to buy Time Warner for about $38 billion in cash and stock worth $132.50 per share and comes just a day after Charter said it was preparing a proxy fight by nominating a full slate of directors to Time Warner Cable's board.
EXECUTION-JIMMY RYCE'S KILLER
Fla. man executed in boy's rape, murder
STARKE, Fla. (AP) — A man has been executed in Florida for raping and killing a 9-year-old boy 18 years ago, a death that spurred the victim's parents to press nationwide for stronger sexual predator confinement laws,
Authorities say 46-year-old Juan Carlos Chavez was pronounced dead at 8:17 p.m. Wednesday after a lethal injection at Florida State Prison.
Chavez abducted Jimmy Ryce at gunpoint after the boy got off a school bus on Sept. 11, 1995, in rural southwestern Miami-Dade County. Testimony showed Chavez raped the boy, shot him when he tried to escape, then dismembered his body.
Ryce's parents turned the tragedy's pain into a push for stronger U.S. laws regarding confinement of sexual predators and improved police procedures in missing child cases.
4 gay couples challenge La. gay marriage ban
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Four gay married couples have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Louisiana Constitution's prohibition against recognizing same-sex marriages performed legally in other states.
At a news conference Wednesday with officials of Forum for Equality Louisiana, two of the couples said their daughters were their main reason for joining the suit. Louisiana won't recognize both members of a same-sex union as parents of a child born to them or adopted.
The parents say if their child has an emergency, their partners sometimes need to be able to approve their care.
The lawsuit also says the marriage recognition ban forces married same-sex couples who file joint federal tax returns to lie on their state returns, saying they're single.
Forum attorney Dalton Courson says that violates their free speech.
Biden to be opening guest for Meyers' 'Late Night'
WASHINGTON (AP) — Seth Meyers has scored a powerful guest for his first episode of "Late Night:" Vice President Joe Biden.
The vice president's office says Biden will appear on the show during the Feb. 24 premiere.
The longtime "Saturday Night Live" cast member is taking over the NBC show from Jimmy Fallon, who will be the new frontman for NBC's "The Tonight Show." First lady Michelle Obama is among the guests appearing on Fallon's show during his opening week. Fallon's new show debuts Feb. 17.