Nation & World Briefs 04-04-14

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SEATTLE -- A decade before a colossal landslide buried a Washington community, county officials considered buying up people's homes there to protect them from such a disaster.

A 2004 Snohomish County flood-management plan said the cost of buying Oso properties and removing residents from the path of a potential slide "would be significant, but would remove the risk to human life and structures."

But after weighing several options, the county instead recommended a project to shore up the base of the unstable hillside above the community about 55 miles north of Seattle, according to documents first reported by The Seattle Times.

A huge log wall was eventually built to reduce landslide and flood risks. But it wasn't enough to hold back the square mile of dirt, sand and silt that barreled down the hillside March 22, leveling homes and killing at least 30 people.

Some area residents and their family members say they knew nothing of the landslide danger or home-buyout proposals.

Sidesteps space junk again: The International Space Station had to dodge space junk again -- the second time in less than three weeks. NASA said the station fired its thrusters Thursday afternoon, moving up about half a mile, to avoid some parts from an old Ariane 5 rocket. The European Space Agency launches Ariane rockets out of South America. The junk would have come within 1,040 feet of the outpost. NASA said the six man crew was never in danger.

Push EPA for more time: Industry groups and more than a dozen GOP senators are urging the Obama administration to reconsider its plan to assert regulatory authority over many of the nation's streams and wetlands. They say the proposed rule hurts economic activity and oversteps legal bounds. The senators are faulting the Environmental Protection Agency for announcing a proposed rule before the government's peer-reviewed scientific assessment was complete. In a letter to EPA chief Gina McCarthy, they are calling on the government to withdraw the proposed regulation or give the public more time to review the plan.

Bill extends tax breaks: Wind farms, NASCAR tracks and filmmakers would keep their treasured tax breaks as part of an $85 billion package of temporary tax cuts passed by a key Senate committee Thursday. Some U.S. firms with foreign income would be winners too after Senate Finance Committee chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., backed off plans to significantly trim the package. Congress routinely passes the package of more than 50 temporary tax breaks for businesses and individuals, but they were allowed to expire at the start of the year. The Senate Finance Committee voted Thursday to extend all but two of them through 2015.

Invests in birth control makers: The company leading the legal challenge against birth control coverage under the new health care law offers its workers a retirement plan that includes investments in companies making contraceptive and abortion drugs. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. has a 401(k) plan featuring several mutual funds investing in pharmaceutical firms that produce intrauterine birth control devices, emergency contraceptive pills and drugs used in abortion procedures, according to Labor Department documents and a review of fund portfolios. Hobby Lobby's 401(k) plan includes funds that invest in Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, maker of Plan B, known as the morning-after pill, and ParaGard, an intrauterine device. Hobby Lobby objects to offering employee coverage for both forms of birth control.

More planes added to search: Search crews hunting for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 headed back out to a remote patch of the Indian Ocean today, a day after leaders of the two countries heading multinational efforts to find the missing jetliner vowed that no effort would be spared to give closure to the families of those on board. More resources were committed to the search today, with 14 planes and nine ships planning to scour an 84,000 square mile expanse about 1,100 miles northwest of Perth, the Joint Agency Coordination Center overseeing the search said. Ten planes were involved in Thursday's search.

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