In brief | Nation & World, March 31, 2014


Washington mudslide death toll rises from 18 to 21; essential search dogs take break

DARRINGTON, Wash. — Many of the dogs essential in the search for victims of the deadly mudslide that buried a mountainside community will take a two-day break, rescue crews said Sunday, as the official death toll rose and more bodies were recovered.

The dogs can lose their sensing ability if overworked in the cold and rain.

“The conditions on the slide field are difficult, so this is just a time to take care of the dogs,” said Kris Rietmann, a spokeswoman for the team working on the eastern portion of the slide, which hit March 22 about 55 miles northeast of Seattle and is one of the deadliest in U.S. history.

Dogs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that arrived more recently will continue working.

On Sunday evening, the number of people who have been confirmed dead increased from 18 to 21, said Jason Biermann, program manager at the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management.

UN report dials up global warming risks; scientist says ‘We’re all sitting ducks’

YOKOHAMA, Japan — Global warming is driving humanity toward a whole new level of many risks, a United Nations scientific panel reports, warning that the wild climate ride has only just begun.

“Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change,” Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change chairman Rajendra Pachauri said in a Monday news conference.

Twenty-first century disasters such as killer heat waves in Europe, wildfires in the United States, droughts in Australia and deadly flooding in Mozambique, Thailand and Pakistan highlight how vulnerable humanity is to extreme weather, says a massive new report from a Nobel Prize-winning group of scientists released early Monday. The dangers are going to worsen as the climate changes even more, the report’s authors said.

“We’re all sitting ducks,” Princeton University professor Michael Oppenheimer, one of the main authors of the 32-volume report, said in an interview.

After several days of late-night wrangling, more than 100 governments unanimously approved the scientist-written 49-page summary — which is aimed at world political leaders. The summary mentions the word “risk” an average of about 5 1/2 times per page.

Congress: GM twice failed to fix defect that led to recall of 2.6 million small cars

DETROIT — General Motors discussed two separate fixes for an ignition switch defect in 2005 but canceled both of them without taking action, according to a memo released Sunday by the House subcommittee investigating GM’s handling of the defect and a subsequent recall.

GM last month recalled 2.6 million small cars because their ignition switches can move from the “run” to the “accessory” or “off” position, which causes the car to stall and disables the air bags and power steering. GM says the recall is linked to 13 deaths. The recall includes the Chevrolet Cobalt, Chevrolet HHR, Pontiac G5, Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Ion and Saturn Sky from the 2003-2011 model years.

Congress is investigating why GM didn’t recall the cars sooner, because it first found problems with the ignition switches in 2001. It’s also questioning federal regulators from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, who didn’t investigate the cars despite evidence of a problem.

GM CEO Mary Barra and NHTSA Administrator David Friedman are scheduled to appear Tuesday before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee. A separate Senate hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

The House memo provides new details about GM’s consideration — but ultimate rejection — of potential solutions.

By wire sources