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Other News: Winter Storm Blasts East Coast; Obama Nominee to Pay Back Taxes

March 2, 2009 at 6:15 PM EDT
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JIM LEHRER: In other news today, a late winter snowstorm hit the Eastern Seaboard. It shut down schools, grounded flights, and triggered hundreds of accidents, including four fatalities. NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman narrates our report.

KWAME HOLMAN: March did, indeed, roar in like a lion, as blizzard-like conditions rolled up the coast. Parts of the Deep South got eight inches on Sunday. Elsewhere, totals reached a foot or more, as the storm moved north today.

It triggered a pre-dawn traffic jam in North Carolina that stretched for 15 miles, and there were hundreds of highway accidents.

For many, though, the heaviest snowfall of the season wasn’t all bad.

PAUL HUCK, New York resident: I’m done with winter, but a good snow is always fun, the first day. The second day, when everyone else comes out, it’s a problem.

KWAME HOLMAN: Up and down the coast, snowplows and shovelers were out in full force clearing streets and sidewalks. At times, they worked in the face of winds that created dangerous whiteout conditions.

Air traffic wasn’t much better off. More than 900 flights were canceled up and down the East Coast. Hardest hit were major airports in Boston and the New York City area.

Scores of schools also were snowed out. In New York City, a million public school students enjoyed a rare snow day. Their schools were closed for the first time in five years.

JIM LEHRER: The storm also left a trail of power outages, especially in the South. Some 300,000 customers were in the dark across the Carolinas and Virginia.

The nominee to be U.S. trade representative, Ron Kirk, has agreed to pay an estimated $10,000 in back taxes; that word came from the Senate Finance Committee. It said the problem involved speaking fees and deductions for season tickets to pro basketball games. The former Dallas mayor is the latest in a string of Obama nominees to have tax problems.

Secretary of State Clinton spent this day in the Middle East, and she voiced doubt about nuclear diplomacy with Iran. The Obama administration has signaled a willingness to engage Iran, but a senior State Department official traveling with Clinton said she is doubtful Iran will respond.

The secretary attended a meeting in Egypt on reconstruction in Gaza; 70 countries pledged to donate around $5 billion.

Talk radio pioneer Paul Harvey died over the weekend at a hospital in Phoenix, Ariz. His career began in the 1930s, and his popular news and comment show had been heard nationally since 1951 on the ABC Radio Networks. At his peak, his distinctive voice and staccato delivery reached more than 24 million listeners daily. Paul Harvey was 90 years old.