Nation roundup for June 14


GM recalls Camaros for ignition problem

DETROIT (AP) — Ignition switches once again are causing problems for General Motors.

This time the company is recalling nearly 512,000 Chevrolet Camaro muscle cars from the 2010 to 2014 model years because a driver’s knee can bump the key and knock the switch out of the “run” position, causing an engine stall.

That disables the power steering and brakes and could cause drivers to lose control.

GM said Friday that it knows of three crashes and four minor injuries from the problem. A spokesman said the air bags did not go off in the crashes, but GM hasn’t determined if the non-deployment was caused by the switches.

GM said the Camaro switches met its specifications — unlike those at the center of a recall of 2.6 million small cars. That problem has caused more than 50 crashes and at least 13 deaths.

Company spokesman Alan Adler said the problem occurs rarely and affects mainly drivers who are tall and sit close to the steering column so their knees can come in contact with the key.

The Camaro switches are completely different from those in the small cars with ignition switch problems. The Camaro switches, he said, were designed by a different person, and meet GM standards for the amount of force needed to turn the cars on and off.

Currently the Camaro key is integrated like a switchblade into the Fob, which contains the buttons that let people electronically lock doors and open the trunk. GM will replace the switchblade key with a standard one, and a separate Fob attached by a ring so it will dangle from the key. Adler said with the change, if the driver’s knee hits the Fob, it doesn’t come in contact with the key.

“You can hit the key Fob all day long and it’s not going to have any impact on the ignition,” he said.

The problem was discovered during internal testing of ignition switches after the company recalled the switches in small cars such as the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion earlier this year, GM said.

Fire crews burn house teetering on Texas cliff

WHITNEY, Texas (AP) — Charred debris from a luxury cliff-side home fell 75 feet into a lake below on Friday after fire crews set the $700,000 retreat ablaze rather than wait for it to crumble into the water as the land faltered around it.

It took less than an hour for the fire to level the home above Lake Whitney, about 60 miles south of Fort Worth. Flames consumed exterior walls after crews spread bales of hay and fuel to ignite flames throughout the expansive home.

The ground around the home cracked and became unstable in recent months. Then a few days ago, part of the land gave way beneath the 4,000-square-foot home, leaving pieces of the house dangling off the side of a cliff. Authorities condemned the home and the owners, Robert and Denise Webb, consented to Friday’s burn.

Authorities said destroying the house was better than waiting for it to topple into Lake Whitney. The cost of removing mounds of debris from the lake could prove prohibitive.

Spectators in dozens of boats witnessed the demolition from a safe distance. Live television coverage shared the view of the spiraling black smoke coming from the gated resort community.

The Webbs purchased the home in 2012, but a few weeks ago were forced to remove their personal items and relocate.

They expressed shock and sadness at losing their lake house.

The Webbs, who also have a home along Florida’s Miami Beach, told WTSP-TV on Thursday that the deterioration of their property has been hard to watch.

“You know, that’s my life there that we’re watching fall off,” Robert Webb said the day before the demolition.

Geologists and inspectors had told them before they purchased the land that the property was perfectly stable, “and so we bought it in good faith,” Webb said.

The house, built in 2007, was to have been left to his grandchildren, he said.

“It’s really tough, that house was special and I don’t even know why it was so special but it was special to me,” Denise Webb said.

President delaying on immigration changes

WASHINGTON (AP) — To the frustration of many of his supporters, President Barack Obama is backing away from immigration changes he could make on his own. He is kicking the issue to House Republicans instead, despite mounting evidence they won’t address the millions of immigrants living illegally in the United States.

This week, lawmakers from both parties summarily declared immigration-overhaul efforts dead after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor suffered an unexpected defeat at the hands of a fellow Republican who criticized him as too soft on the issue. But Obama still voices hope Congress will act.

“Our strategy has not changed,” says White House communications director Jennifer Palmieri. “The impetus for action remains on the House.”

It’s an approach that’s drawing friendly fire from immigration advocates who say Obama has been sitting on his hands long enough. For starters, they want immediate action to slow deportations.

But the White House wants to ensure that if and when an overhaul ultimately dies in Congress, Republicans can’t claim it was Obama who pulled the plug. Instead, Obama hopes his strategy will allow Democrats down the road to put all the blame on Republicans for failing to deal with immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

It’s not as if Obama could legalize an estimated 11.5 million people with a wave of his hand.

Last month in the Oval Office, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson presented him with a basket of options he’d developed after the president personally ordered a review of how he could make deportation policy more humane, said a senior White House official. The official spoke only on condition of anonymity to describe a private meeting.

Johnson’s options were narrow and would affect only small groups of immigrants facing deportation, the official said — a far cry from the across-the-board freeze many immigration advocates are demanding.

Even so, Obama directed Johnson to hold off. Republicans were arguing that if Obama acted unilaterally, he would prove he can’t be trusted to enforce immigration laws and would doom prospects for the legislative overhaul he so badly wants. So Obama decided to wait until it was certain House Republicans wouldn’t act during a narrow summertime window before the midterm elections.

For many lawmakers, that window closed this week. Cantor was trounced in his Virginia primary by an obscure, underfunded professor who had accused him of supporting “amnesty” and open borders. Cantor denied that, but no matter. Members of both parties said Republicans would draw a clear lesson: GOP voters will punish anyone who doesn’t take a firm stance on immigration — even the House’s No. 2 Republican.

“I think immigration is dead for the rest of the year,” said Rep. John Fleming, a conservative Louisiana Republican. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends it for the entire term of President Obama.”

On the night after Cantor’s shocking defeat, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough huddled with top Democrats in House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s Capitol suite to assess whether that was true and to plot their path forward. Joining the session were Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Democratic half of the “Gang of 8” that wrote and passed a bipartisan immigration overhaul last year. Obama sent his legislative liaison, Katie Fallon, and his domestic policy chief, Cecilia Munoz, across town for the meeting, according to several Democratic officials.

Over Capitol-shaped cookies and chocolate mousse left over from a reception honoring Kathleen Sebelius, the former Health and Human Services secretary, the Democrats agreed to stay the course, the officials said. The assumption was that Cantor, who had hardened his immigration stance after being attacked by his opponent, actually had been more of a hindrance than a help in getting a bill to the House floor.

The Democrats’ hopes have been bolstered now that it’s increasingly likely that Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy will succeed Cantor as speaker-in-waiting. His two main potential challengers for the post bowed out as support began coalescing behind McCarthy, although a third challenger entered the race Friday. McCarthy’s California district is more than a third Hispanic, and he has been supportive in the past of the idea of changing U.S. immigration laws.

Still, McCarthy’s own inclinations on immigration could prove less than decisive if rank-and-file Republicans decide that after what happened to Cantor, it’s too risky to be perceived as soft on immigration by the tea party and other conservative parts of the Republican base.

But if the summer comes and goes with no action in Congress, Obama will be under more pressure than ever before from immigration advocates to take substantial action to assist immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

“The president’s decision could not be harder,” said Gabriella Domenzain, who ran Hispanic media outreach for Obama’s re-election campaign. “Regardless of what he does, he’s going to get flak and it’s not going to be enough.”

 

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