Frigid winter storm pummels Northeast
A blustery snowstorm combined with painfully cold arctic air descended Thursday on the Northeast, trapping New York-bound ferries in the ice, grounding hundreds of flights and prompting warnings to bundle up from Maine to Pennsylvania.
Fine, powdery snow fell across much of the region, with the mercury dipping into the single digits in some places, and to 20 and 30 degrees below zero in others -- a combination that closed schools, disabled car batteries, produced spinouts and fender-benders, and forced even ski resorts to close.
The bitter cold was expected to continue or worsen today.
Some ferries linking New Jersey and New York City were iced in, forcing commuters to hop buses or find some other way to work. Two New York-area airports, La Guardia and Newark Liberty, reported more than 200 flights canceled.
Philadelphia received 4 inches of snow and reached a high temperature of 22, but the mercury was expected to drop to zero for the first time in a decade Thursday night.
Impostor lottery winner pleads no contest
A woman who said she lost a $162 million Mega Millions lottery ticket when she dropped her purse pleaded no contest Thursday to making the story up on a police report.
Elecia Battle, 40, made no comment in court other than to say "yes" when asked if she understood her rights and the charge of filing a false police report.
The Cleveland woman faces a possible penalty of 30 days to six months in jail and $1,000 fine at sentencing Feb. 19.
Days after the Dec. 30 Mega Millions drawing, Battle filed a police report saying she had bought the winning ticket but lost it. Battle said she dropped her purse outside the convenience store in suburban Cleveland where the winning ticket was sold.
When Rebecca Jemison, 34, of South Euclid, came forward with the winning numbers and was declared the winner, Battle sued to block payment. But she later dropped her lawsuit and tearfully apologized about the incident.
Suspect charged in brothers' deaths
A man was charged Thursday with killing two brothers during a fight over a half-ounce of crack, and authorities were investigating whether he also shot his ex-girlfriend and her daughter.
Keith Howard, 38, was charged with homicide in the deaths of Jamar Hooper, 27, and Ondrea Hooper, 23, the county coroner's office said.
The men were found shot late Wednesday in Jamar Hooper's house in suburban Pittsburgh, where Howard had been staying. Earlier that day, the bodies of Jane Moyer, 42, and Kinisha Knight, 15, had been found in their home about a block away.
Police Chief Joseph Pero said police had been called to Moyer's home about a half-dozen times since December for domestic matters involving Howard and Moyer.
Convicted child killer again denied parole
Joel Steinberg, the disbarred lawyer imprisoned for the 1987 beating death of his illegally adopted daughter, was denied parole Thursday for the fifth time.
A parole board decision said Steinberg failed to understand his actions when he delayed calling for medical help after beating 6-year-old Lisa.
Steinberg, 62, is serving 8 1/3 to 25 years at the Southport Correctional Facility for first-degree manslaughter. He is tentatively scheduled to be released June 30 after completing two-thirds of his maximum sentence.
In 1987, Steinberg was accused of fatally beating Lisa, whom he had taken as a days-old infant from an unwed teenager. Steinberg was supposed to arrange an adoption, but instead took the baby home to his live-in companion, Hedda Nussbaum.
Lisa was found unconscious in Steinberg's Greenwich Village apartment and later died at a hospital. Steinberg did not seek medical attention for Lisa until 12 hours after she fell unconscious and Nussbaum also failed to seek help.
Elizabeth Dole's mother, civic leader, dies at 102
Mary Hanford, a civic leader and mother of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, has died. She was 102.
Hanford, whose daughter was elected North Carolina's first female senator in November 2002, died late Wednesday in Salisbury, her son said.
Mary Hanford was active in volunteer causes, including historic preservation, the Red Cross and the local PTA.
Dole -- who married Kansas Sen. Bob Dole in the 1970s, served as a Cabinet secretary in the Reagan and first Bush administrations, and headed the Red Cross -- often referred to her mother as "my best friend."
Machine operator claims half of Powerball prize
An electronics plant worker came forward Thursday in Harrisburg to claim half of the $221.5 million Powerball jackpot, more than two weeks after she bought the winning ticket.
Lisa Ensor said she had kept the ticket in a safe-deposit box as she sought legal and financial advice. She did not share the news with most friends and family until Thursday, when she presented her ticket to Pennsylvania Lottery officials and opted for the $60.2 million cash payout.
Ensor, 42, said she and fiance Dale Finkenbiner realized her ticket was the winner around lunchtime on Jan. 1. They watched with amusement as speculation mounted about the unclaimed winnings.
Ensor has not decided how to spend the money, but she resigned from her job as a machine operator at a Tyco Electronics Corp. plant.
The other half of the jackpot -- the fifth-largest Powerball prize -- was won by a couple who purchased their ticket in South Carolina.
Feds agree to $50M orange juice bailout
The federal government has agreed to bail out the struggling citrus industry by buying up to $50 million worth of orange juice.
The news was welcomed by Florida orange growers who are facing shrinking prices caused by their largest crop ever. Florida is the source of most of the nation's orange juice and is the world's second-largest orange producer behind Brazil.
The purchase is equal to two or three weeks worth of U.S. orange juice consumption, and could lead to a boost in the prices for producers.
The state's citrus industry originally had requested that the government buy between $200 million and $240 million worth of juice.
The orange juice will be used for federal programs that provide food to children, the elderly and the needy.