In brief | Nation & World, February 4, 2014


First of a one-two weather punch sweeps through eastern US

PHILADELPHIA — A winter storm dumped several inches of wet, heavy snow on parts of the eastern United States on Monday, snarling commutes and Super Bowl fans’ trips home, closing schools and government offices, and cutting power.

Fat flakes fell in Philadelphia and New York, creating slushy sidewalks and streets and all but erasing all memory of Sunday’s weather in 50s. The storm began moving out of the region Monday afternoon, making way for another system expected to sweep in from the Plains with ice and snow in time for the Tuesday afternoon rush hour.

The National Weather Service reported about 8 inches of snow near Frostburg, Md., while parts of southern Ohio and West Virginia got about 10 inches. Totals in the Philadelphia area ranged from 3 to 9 inches; New York saw as much as 7 inches by 3 p.m.

Government offices, courts and schools closed in parts of Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia; scattered power outages were reported throughout the region. Speed limits were reduced on many major highways.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie declared a state of emergency with travel conditions hazardous. Nonessential government employees were dismissed early.

Leno says goodbye to ‘Tonight Show’ again as Fallon waits in wings

BURBANK, Calif. — Jay Leno, as affably efficient backstage as he is in front of the camera, avoids waxing poetic about his 22-year “Tonight Show” run that draws to a close Thursday.

Instead, he relies on numbers to tell the story. Leno’s tenure is second only to Johnny Carson’s 30 years; “Tonight” was No. 1 among viewers when he took it over and will be when he hands it off to Jimmy Fallon; he’ll have taped more shows than any predecessor, Carson included, with the final and 4,610th one.

His dry assessment also may stem from a case of deja vu. After all, he lived through this before when he surrendered “Tonight” in 2009 to Conan O’Brien, only to reclaim it after NBC’s messy bobbling of the transition and O’Brien’s lackluster ratings.

But this time it’s different, Leno contends, offering another hard fact: The older generation has to make way for the younger one.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II can keep 65-year-old Prince Charles cooling his heels. Leno doesn’t have the power to do the same with Fallon, 39. The “Late Night” host is moving the show from its longtime Burbank home, near Johnny Carson Park and off Bob Hope Drive, to its New York birthplace when he debuts as host on Feb. 17.

Al-Qaida shuns militant group blamed for bloody Syria infighting

CAIRO — Al-Qaida’s central leadership broke with one of its most powerful branch commanders in an apparent attempt to stem the deadly infighting that has erupted in Syria among the militant Islamic factions trying to bring down President Bashar Assad.

More broadly, the announcement Monday appeared to be a move by al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri to reassert the terror network’s prominence in the jihad movement across the Middle East amid the mushrooming of extremist groups during the upheaval of the past three years.

The dispute is between al-Qaida’s central leadership and a faction known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of al-Qaida’s branch in Iraq, formed the Islamic State last spring to expand his operations into neighboring Syria, defying direct orders by al-Zawahri not to do so. Al-Zawahri named a different group, the Nusra Front, as al-Qaida’s branch in Syria.

Now, the break is likely to spark a competition for resources and fighters between the two sides in what has become a civil war within a civil war. The test for al-Zawahri’s influence will be whether his decision leads fighters to quit the Islamic State.

By wire sources