Heavy snows force closures

FARGO, N.D. - Heavy snow driven by wind gusting to 40 mph brought parts of the upper Midwest to a halt Tuesday, closing courts, schools, businesses and a major highway.

Up to a foot of snow was forecast Tuesday for parts of eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota.

The National Weather Service posted blizzard warnings and winter storm warnings for wide areas of North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. All three states reported school closings.

Minnesota and North Dakota authorities shut down a 130-mile stretch of Interstate 94 from Jamestown, N.D., to Fergus Falls, Minn.

Spacewalkers tackle chores

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Two space station astronauts ventured out on a spacewalk Tuesday to do a little maintenance work before visitors arrive.

The spacewalk 220 miles up took place on the eve of space shuttle Discovery's launch to the orbiting outpost.

American commander Mike Fincke and Yuri Lonchakov, a Russian, were eager to wrap up some chores that they did not get to during a spacewalk just before Christmas. Tuesday's spacewalk was expected to last close to six hours.

Magician: I rode in crate to Vegas

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - A professional magician who claims he shipped himself by cargo plane on a cross-country flight from upstate New York to Las Vegas may find it difficult to escape prosecution from federal authorities who want to know if he really pulled off the stunt.

Wade Whitcomb said he folded himself into a cramped wooden crate and sat on a bench for the 26-hour trip, first on a United Parcel Service truck then aboard a UPS plane.

Whitcomb, who goes by the stage name Wade Live, said he made the trip in November as a publicity stunt for a friend's Web site, videotaping the trip.

The Transportation Security Administration and the FBI are investigating Whitcomb's claim, said TSA spokeswoman Lara Uselding. She said the stunt would violate a number of laws.

Dan McMackin, a spokesman for Atlanta-based UPS, said Whitcomb's claim may be a hoax.

Man accused of sex with corpse

CINCINNATI - A former morgue worker already in prison for having sex with a woman's body has pleaded not guilty to two more charges of sexually abusing corpses.

Fifty-five-year-old Kenneth Douglas entered the plea Tuesday. He is being held on $50,000 bond at the county jail in Cincinnati until the latest charges are handled.

Douglas was an attendant at the Hamilton County morgue from 1976 to 1992. He is serving a three-year sentence for violating probation and having sex with the body of a 19-year-old murder victim in 1982.

NJ casinos post biggest drop

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - Atlantic City's 11 casinos posted a 19.2 percent drop in revenue last month, the biggest monthly decline in the state's 30-year history of legalized gambling.

Every casino in the city saw a decline, most by 20 percent or more and some by nearly 30 percent, according to figures released Tuesday by the state Casino Control Commission.

Three casinos here are in bankruptcy, a fourth is headed there and a fifth is fighting off foreclosure because it can't pay loans.

Lawyers: Madoff will plead guilty

NEW YORK - In a courtroom surprise, it was revealed Tuesday that Bernard Madoff will plead guilty Thursday to securities fraud, perjury and other crimes, knowing that he could face up to 150 years in prison for one of the largest frauds in history.

The revelation came as prosecutors unveiled an 11-count charging document against the 70-year-old former Nasdaq chairman, and as his lawyer, Ira Sorkin, told a judge that Madoff planned to plead guilty this week without a plea deal.

Madoff has been under house arrest in his $7 million Manhattan penthouse since he was arrested in early December after authorities said he confessed to his family that he had carried out a $50 billion fraud. Tuesday, prosecutors raised the size of the fraud to $64.8 billion.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Litt said there was no plea deal and that Madoff could be exposed to the maximum penalty under sentencing guidelines: 150 years.