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House panel: Safety agency mishandled GM recall

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government’s auto safety agency should have discovered General Motors’ faulty ignition switches seven years before the company recalled 2.6 million cars to fix the deadly problem, a House committee majority charged Tuesday in a new report.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration misunderstood how vehicles worked, lacked accountability and failed to share information, according to the report, which was issued the same day that a Senate panel led by Democrats is scheduled to hold a hearing on the matter.

Acting NHTSA Administrator David Friedman and officials from the auto industry, safety advocacy groups and a government watchdog office were slated to testify.

GM officials also knew for at least a decade that the switches — which can shut off while the vehicle is moving, disabling the air bags and other key systems like power steering and power brakes — were faulty and causing accidents.

The House committee said in its report that a Wisconsin state trooper sent a report to NHTSA in 2007 about a crash that killed two teenage girls.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., the Senate panel’s chairman, has introduced a bill that would eliminate the $35 million cap on the amount the safety agency can fine automakers like GM, and give prosecutors greater discretion to bring criminal charges for auto safety violations, including up to life in prison for violations resulting in death.

Kansas election law looms large in US Senate race

(AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday over whether the Democrat who wants to drop out of the U.S. Senate race must stay on the ballot, a dispute that could have a big effect on Republicans recapturing a Senate majority.

Taylor’s exit seemed to set up a clear two-person race between the three-term incumbent, Republican Pat Roberts, and wealthy independent Greg Orman, who many believe has a chance to unseat Roberts head to head.

After Taylor’s announcement, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a conservative Republican who backs Roberts, declared that Taylor didn’t comply with a state election law limiting when nominees can withdraw.

[...] the 78-year-old Roberts looked vulnerable after emerging from a tough primary race against a tea party challenger, and he’s been dogged by questions about owning a Washington-area home while listing rented space in the Dodge City home of two supporters as his official residence.

FBI investigates Missouri officer’s stun gun use

(AP) — The FBI is investigating after a police officer in suburban Kansas City, Missouri, used a stun gun to subdue a 17-year-old during a traffic stop, leaving him hospitalized in critical condition.

An Independence police officer used the stun gun on Bryce Masters of Independence Sunday afternoon after stopping a car Masters was driving because it had a warrant attached to it, police said in a statement.

The FBI’s Kansas City office will investigate whether Runnels used excessive force, which falls under the bureau’s civil rights program, the FBI said in a statement.

The family issued a statement Monday asking that the U.S. Department of Justice investigate the confrontation “because of significant inconsistencies between public statements made by the Independence Police Department and information made available to the family in the form of statements of eyewitnesses and video and audio footage of the occurrence.”

Exploring ‘graveyard of ships’ near San Francisco

Over the past week, a team from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration used a remote-controlled underwater vehicle, equipped with sonar and video cameras, to examine and record the historic shipwrecks.

The five-day expedition was part of a long-term archaeological survey of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, which covers about 1,300 square miles of the Pacific Ocean off the Northern California coast.

NOAA researchers say more than 300 ships have wrecked in the gulf, where heavy fog, strong winds and protruding rocks have bedeviled many vessels heading in and out of the San Francisco Bay — especially before arrival of sonar and other navigational technologies.

The Associated Press accompanied the NOAA team on a research cruise Friday, when they used the underwater vehicle to explore three potential shipwreck sites near the Farallon Islands, a chain of rocky outcroppings about 30 miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Police: Ohio homicide suspect set himself on fire

CLEVELAND (AP) — A man who stepped into traffic and then set himself on fire in an apparent suicide attempt has been connected to a woman found dead in a Cleveland home, authorities said.
Hugo Ramos, who was in critical condition at a Cleveland hospital, is a homicide suspect in the death of a 25-year-old woman, Cleveland police said Tuesday. Her name and cause of death have not yet been released. Ramos, 28, told officers where her body could be found.
Officers forced their way into a home shortly before 3 p.m. and found the body.
Ramos pulled his car to the side of U.S. Route 20 in Lorain County, about 35 miles west of Cleveland, around 10:50 a.m. Monday with three small children inside, the Ohio State Highway Patrol said.