National briefs: Storm slams East Coast

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PHILADELPHIA -- Yet another storm paralyzed the Northeast with heavy snow and sleet Thursday, giving the winter-weary that oh-no-not-again feeling, while hundreds of thousands across the ice-encrusted South waited in the cold for the electricity to come back on.

In its icy wake, utility crews in the South toiled to restore electricity to more than 700,000 homes and businesses, mostly in the Carolinas and Georgia. Temperatures in the hard-hit Atlanta area, with more than 200,000 outages, were expected to drop below freezing again overnight.

At least 20 deaths, mostly in traffic accidents, were blamed on the storm.

Desert becomes solar plant

PRIMM, Nevada -- A windy stretch of the Mojave Desert once roamed by tortoises and coyotes has been transformed by hundreds of thousands of mirrors into the largest solar power plant of its type in the world.

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System formally opened Thursday after years of regulatory and legal tangles.

The $2.2 billion complex of three generating units, owned by NRG Energy Inc., Google Inc. and BrightSource Energy, can produce nearly 400 megawatts -- enough power for 140,000 homes.

It began making electricity last year.

Ky. gas line blast injures 2

KNIFLEY, Ky. -- An underground transmission pipeline carrying natural gas exploded early Thursday in southern Kentucky, sending two people to the hospital, destroying two homes and alarming residents who saw flames from miles away.

The explosion happened about 2 a.m. in a hillside and left a crater 60 feet wide.

The 30-inch pipeline is owned by Columbia Gulf Transmission. The company said in a news release that gas flow to the damaged pipeline was stopped and trained crews have been sent to work with emergency responders.

Va. marriage ban rescinded

NORFOLK, Va. -- A federal judge has ruled that Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen's decision Thursday makes Virginia the second state in the South to have a ban on gay marriages overturned. It comes the day after a similar ruling in Kentucky and following similar rulings in federal courts in Utah and Oklahoma.

Judge Wright stayed her decision until an appeals court rules, meaning that gay couples will not be able to marry in the state immediately.

No deaths in bridge jam

EDGEWATER, N.J. -- A traffic jam deliberately orchestrated by members of Gov. Chris Christie's staff that caused days of gridlock in northern New Jersey appeared not to lead to anyone's death or seriously compromise their medical care, according to a comprehensive review by The Associated Press.

The lack of life-or-death consequences reflects good fortune, not good planning. It would have been impossible for anyone responsible to have predicted that traffic would not cause serious emergencies for police, firefighters and paramedics.

Biden to visit Latin America

WASHINGTON -- The White House says Vice President Joe Biden will travel next month to Chile and the Dominican Republic.

Mr. Biden and his wife, Jill, will visit the two countries in the second week of March. Mr. Biden has been leading an effort by the Obama administration to increase engagement with Latin America.


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