Thousands of warm-weather records set in March

Posted April 02, 2012, at 8:23 p.m.

BOSTON — New York’s airports and Chicago had their all-time warmest March as thousands of weather records were set or tied across the United States, according to the National Weather Service.

The average temperature for the month at John F. Kennedy International Airport was 48.5 degrees Fahrenheit, topping the previous record of 47.7 set in 1973, the weather service said. The average in Chicago was 53.5 degrees. That topped the previous mark of 48.6 degrees set in 1910 and matched in 1945, the weather service said, citing data compiled since 1873.

“There are many areas across the Upper Midwest that have had their warmest March ever. That seems to be where the core of the warmth was,” said Tom Kines, a meteorologist for AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pa.

In New York’s Central Park, the average temperature was 50.9 degrees, 8.9 degrees above normal although below the record 51.1 degrees in 1945, according to the weather service.

Across the U.S., 7,733 daily high temperatures records were set or matched in March, according to the National Climate Data Center in Asheville, N.C. The warm weather contributed to a decline in natural gas prices, as less of the energy was needed to heat homes and business.

Immigration officials arrest 3,100 nationwide

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration said Monday it arrested more than 3,100 immigrants who were illegally in the country and who were convicted of serious crimes or otherwise considered fugitives or threats to national security. It was part of a six-day nationwide sweep that the government described as the largest of its kind.U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say 145 of the arrests were made in New England. Fifty-five of those arrested had multiple criminal convictions.

Officials say there were three arrests in Maine, three in Vermont, 70 in Massachusetts, 32 in Connecticut, 24 in New Hampshire and 13 in Rhode Island.

Dorothy Herrera-Niles, field office director of enforcement and removal operations, said 50 of those arrested in New England were previously ordered out of the country, and 12 others had illegally re-entered the U.S.

Report: Arts classes at elementary schools reduced

MIAMI — A report by the U.S. Department of Education on the state of arts education Monday indicated that fewer public elementary schools are offering visual arts, dance and drama classes than a decade ago, a decline many attribute to budget cuts and an increased focus on math and reading.

The percentage of elementary schools with a visual arts class declined from 87 to 83 percent. In drama, the drop was larger: from 20 percent to 4 percent in the 2009-10 school year.

Music at the elementary and secondary school levels remained steady, though there were declines at the nation’s poorest schools. Music and arts classes are still out of reach for many. While 100 percent of high schools where 76 percent or more students qualify for free or reduced lunch — a key indicator of poverty — had a music class in the 1999-2000 school year, only 81 percent did a decade later.

None of 3 Mega Millions winners identified yet

BALTIMORE — The record-breaking Mega Millions jackpot climbed to $656 million on Monday, though no one holding one of the three winning tickets has come forward yet to claim a share of the prize, officials said.

Three tickets — one each in Kansas, Illinois and Maryland — will split the jackpot, which officials said Monday was higher than previously estimated. It is now at $656 million, after sales from the 44 state lotteries were totaled, up from the previously reported $640 million. That means each winner would receive roughly $218 million apiece before taxes.

Winners in all three states have several months — and in Kansas, a year — to claim the prize.

Study finds some early breast cancer overdiagnosed

NEW YORK — For years, women have been urged to get screened for breast cancer because the earlier it’s found, the better. Now researchers are reporting more evidence suggesting that’s not always the case.

A study in Norway estimates that between 15 and 25 percent of breast cancers found by mammograms wouldn’t have caused any problems during a woman’s lifetime, but those tumors were being treated anyway. Once detected, early tumors are surgically removed and sometimes treated with radiation or chemotherapy because there’s no certain way to figure out which ones may be dangerous and which are harmless.

The researchers estimated that for every 2,500 women offered screening, one death from breast cancer will be prevented but six to 10 women will be overdiagnosed and treated.

Romney halfway to clinching GOP nomination

WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney is halfway to clinching the Republican nomination for president.

The former Massachusetts governor inched up to 572 delegates on Monday — exactly half the 1,144 needed — after the Tennessee Republican Party finalized delegate totals from its March 6 primary. Results in several congressional districts were too close to call on election night, leaving three delegates unallocated. Romney got all three delegates. He also picked up an endorsement from a New Hampshire delegate who had been awarded to former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. Huntsman dropped out of the race in January and endorsed Romney.

Wisconsin’s primary Tuesday could give Romney momentum, but contests the same day in Maryland and the District of Columbia are likely to give him more of the delegates he needs. Polls find and analysts say that Romney could win all 56 delegates available in those two jurisdictions, more than the 42 in Wisconsin.

According to an Associated Press tally, Romney had more than twice as many delegates as Santorum going into Tuesday’s voting. Santorum had 272 delegates, followed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with 135 and Texas Rep. Ron Paul with 51.

Cyberattack suspected in al-Qaida website blackout

WASHINGTON — Al-Qaida’s main Web forums have been offline for the past 11 days in what experts say is the longest sustained outages of the sites since they began operating eight years ago.

No one has publicly claimed responsibility for disabling the sites, but the breadth and the duration of the outages have prompted some experts to conclude the forums have been taken down in a cyberattack launched perhaps by a government, government-backed organization or hacking group.

The first website, Shumukh al-Islam, a primary source for al-Qaida videos and messages, went down March 22, and since then four others have gone dark. The administrator of a second-tier al-Qaida site recently posted a message on an online forum saying that “the media arena is witnessing a vicious attack by the cross and its helpers on the jihadi media castles.”

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