In the news

WORLD

ALGIERS, Algeria – A group linked to al-Qaida staged seven near-simultaneous bomb attacks Tuesday, targeting police in several towns east of Algiers and killing six people, officials said.

Al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa, the new name for the Salafist Group for Call and Combat known by its French acronym GSPC, claimed responsibility for the attacks in a telephone call to the Al-Jazeera television network and in a statement on the Internet. The group allied itself with al-Qaida last year, raising the stakes in the region’s fight against terrorism.

The seven bombings, some of which were car explosions, hit the Kabylie region east of Algiers between 4 a.m. and 10 a.m. Tuesday, the state news agency said.

The apparently coordinated attacks surprised the North African country, which has steadily emerged from an Islamic insurgency that killed more than 150,000 people in the 1990s. While scattered violence by the GSPC continues, such carefully planned strikes are rare in today’s Algeria, an ally in the U.S.-led war against terrorism.

The attackers’ statement claimed casualties were much higher and accused the Interior Ministry of playing down the impact. The statement said the attacks targeted six police stations and “ended successfully.”

The bombings quashed Algerian authorities’ claims that the GSPC lately had grown weaker, said Mohamed Darif, a terrorism expert at Morocco’s Mohammedia University.

NATION

ALBANY, New York – Snow-laden western New York braced for another wintery onslaught Wednesday, while in communities from the Midwest to the Northeast storms closed schools, menaced motorists and knocked out power.

The storms were blamed for at least one death in Ohio.

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer activated elements of the state Army National Guard to assist in removing the massive amounts of snow in Oswego County on Lake Ontario and to prepare for other missions as needed.

Last Thursday, the governor declared a state disaster emergency for Oswego County and other areas battered by snows since Feb. 2.

The National Weather Service forecast accumulations between 8 and 30 inches for areas around New York, with some locations receiving as much as 3 feet.

Connecticut officials closed Bradley International Airport, and all 632 state plows were scraping down highways and laying down salt, as sleet and freezing rain lashed the state. Up to one foot of snow was expected.

The weather service issued a blizzard warning for Massachusetts’ four westernmost counties early Wednesday, with snowfall rates that could exceed two inches per hour and wind gusts up to 40 mph.

STATE & LOCAL

RICHMOND – Verizon Communications Inc. will pay $2 million to Virginia customers affected by mistakes in phone directories under a settlement approved Tuesday by the State Corporation Commission.

The settlement follows a two-year investigation by state regulators of complaints about wrong numbers, dropped listings, published private lines and other mistakes. The discrepancies were likely a result of both computer and human errors, according to a report last year by the commission.

The mistakes hurt small business owners like Rusty McGowan, whose Virginia Beach waterscaping business fell on hard times when Verizon published the wrong number in three Yellow Pages in the state and dropped his number in the White Pages.

“That set me back two or three years,” he said on Tuesday. “People thought I was out of business.”

Business volume had been doubling every year until Verizon’s mistaken listings, then dropped to almost nothing. In the several years since, McGowan has built his business back up, in part because of a free phone book ad offered by New York-based Verizon, the nation’s largest local phone company.

Under the settlement, Verizon could face up to $4 million in payments if listings aren’t improved over the next three years. The settlement establishes a 99 percent accuracy rate, a commission statement said.

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