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News Wrap: Northeast braces for major snowstorm

January 21, 2014 at 6:01 PM EDT
In our news wrap Tuesday, a winter storm along the East Coast shuttered government offices and disrupted flight schedules, as New York and other cities prepared for at least a foot of snow. Also, a car bomb in Lebanon targeted supporters of Hezbollah, killing four people and wounding 35 in a Shiite neighborhood of Beirut.
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GWEN IFILL: A new winter storm shut down schools, shredded airline schedules and closed government offices from the Mid-Atlantic to New England today. Official Washington went dark as windblown snow began piling up. It made for dangerous driving, and touched off scores of accidents. More than 2,200 flights were canceled, and New York and other cities braced for at least a foot of snow.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO, New York: Everyone remembers how frigidly cold it was in the last storm. This could be even a bit colder. So, again, we want to focus — the best thing that can happen for this city is for the folks that work in the Sanitation Department to be able to do their job. We, every single New Yorker, we can help them do their job by staying off the streets, staying out of our cars.

GWEN IFILL: The National Weather Service warned that windchills could reach 40 below in some places.

The major players moved into position today to open the Syrian peace talks tomorrow in Montreux, Switzerland. But there were fresh recriminations over Iran’s absence and new revelations of atrocities, allegedly by the Syrian government. Chief foreign correspondent Margaret Warner has more on all of this right after the news summary.

In Lebanon, a new bombing struck at supporters of Hezbollah, the Shiite militia fighting for the Assad regime in Syria. A car bomber killed four people in a Shiite neighborhood on the outskirts of Beirut; 35 people were wounded in the blast. The Nusra Front in Lebanon claimed responsibility, calling the attack retaliation for Hezbollah’s actions in Syria.

Russian security agents are now hunting for three women who may be planning suicide bombings. Police leaflets say one is believed to be in Sochi, where the Winter Olympics begin next month. The women are known as black widows because their Islamist militant husbands died in previous attacks. We get more on the investigation later in the program.

All-out street battles broke out overnight in the capital of Ukraine. It marked a dramatic shift in the struggle between the pro-Russian government and protesters demanding closer ties with the European Union.

We have a report from Matt Frei of Independent Television News.

MATT FREI: Welcome or welcome back to Kiev, and yet these are fireworks. But they are used as missiles, and no one here is celebrating.

The avenue leading to Parliament is now the deafening front line of protest that’s become a siege, a homemade catapult their proudest, if not most accurate weapon. There was no shortage of would-be Davids, while the Goliaths stood their ground responding with stun grenades, rubber bullets and tear gas.

I was here month-and-a-half ago, and the atmosphere couldn’t be more different now. This is a full-scale siege, a standoff protesters and the riot police right in the center of Kiev just about 500 yards from the Parliament Building behind me.

The same Parliament that just a few days passed a new raft of anti-protest laws borrowed straight from Vladimir Putin. That is what has triggered this latest standoff. In the morning, the streets looked like an apocalyptic Narnia. The water cannon has coated everything in a blanket of ice, encrusted with discarded cobblestones the detritus of battle.

I went off to see one of the main opposition leaders in their makeshift headquarters, a place teaming with the urgency of history, but also vexed by the prospect of failure.

ARSENIY YATSENYUK, Fatherland Party: I condemn the violence. And this is my key message for the last two days. This is not the way we can get the results.

MATT FREI: And that’s the problem of Ukraine’s second stab at the Orange Revolution. Gray is the new orange.

GWEN IFILL: The government of Thailand has declared a state of emergency amid its ongoing political crisis. The announcement came after a series of recent attacks at anti-government protests in and around Bangkok. The decree is in force for 60 days. That gives security forces the power to ban large political gatherings, detain people without charge, and to impose curfews.

Reams of documents released today show how the Roman Catholic Church in Chicago hid decades of child sex abuse by priests. The material covers 30 clerics, out of at least 65 identified by the archdiocese as child molesters. We will hear from a lawyer for some of the victims later in the program.

President Obama will meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican this March. The White House announced today the president hopes to discuss a shared commitment to fighting poverty and inequality. His visit will be part of a larger trip to Europe.

Fishermen in western Japan have reportedly made their biggest dolphin roundup in four years. The anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd says about 250 dolphins were captured during the annual hunt. More than 50 of them were selected for sale to aquariums and others. About 40 were killed for their meat. The rest were released.

MELISSA SEHGAL, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society: These dolphin slaughters occur almost daily for six months. The dolphin drive season begins September and continues through the month of March. These dolphin killers will go out and hunt these dolphins and small whales. Almost daily, slaughters occur, and dolphins are taken captive for marine parks around the world.

GWEN IFILL: Over the weekend, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, tweeted that she was deeply concerned about the slaughter. A spokesman for the Japanese government insisted the traditional dolphin hunt is legal.

Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were indicted today in a federal corruption investigation. They’re facing wire fraud and other charges in connection with gifts from a political donor. Republican McDonnell has insisted he did nothing illegal. He was term-limited and left office this month.

Wall Street had an up-and-down day. The Dow Jones industrial average was down 44 points to close at 16,414. The Nasdaq rose 28 points to close at 4,225.