In brief: House votes to cut flood insurance rates


Washington – In a rare moment of bipartisanship, the House voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to roll back flood insurance rate increases that have devastated many homeowners in coastal communities and dogged lawmakers on the campaign trail.

The deal, brokered by Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., with a bipartisan coalition of coastal state lawmakers, sailed through the House, 306 to 91, despite protests from conservative Republicans that the changes would add to the national debt.

The legislation faces an uncertain future in the Senate, which passed a bipartisan bill this year that was essentially dead on arrival in the House. That measure added $2.1 billion to the deficit over the decade and was rejected by GOP leaders.

Gas explosion kills one, damages homes

Ewing, N.J. – A gas leak and subsequent explosion destroyed at least 10 houses and damaged dozens of others at a suburban town house development Tuesday, killing a woman and injuring seven workers, authorities said.

The body was not discovered until late in the day, on a car near the site of the explosion, after authorities had thought the neighborhood had escaped the blast without any deaths. Lt. Ron Lunetta said officials were not able to identify the victim and will await an autopsy for positive ID and cause of death. He added that no one else was believed to be missing.

At least 55 units in the complex were damaged, police said, including at 10 that were destroyed.

Work stopped on plutonium waste facility

Washington – The Energy Department said Tuesday it was stopping construction of a massive plant in South Carolina to handle surplus plutonium.

In releasing its fiscal 2015 budget, energy officials said they were stopping construction of the “mixed oxide fuel” plant at the Savannah River site in South Carolina. “The cost has gotten way beyond what we could ask taxpayers for in these tight times,” said officials at the National Nuclear Security Administration, a unit of the Energy Department.

The facility, which is more than half completed, was originally supposed to cost $4.8 billion, and the most recent construction cost estimate put it at $7.7 billion. The department has already spent $3.9 billion on the project, and the total projected cost for the plant hit $30 billion, including future operations.

The plant was intended to convert 34 tons of surplus bomb-grade plutonium into fuel for commercial reactors.

The U.S. and Russia each agreed to reduce their plutonium stocks by the 34 tons, but the decision to put the South Carolina facility into a “cold shutdown” will require a new round of talks between the two countries.

Complaints move Dove to nix armpit ad

New York – Dove is learning the hard way that New Jersey residents don’t appreciate being referred to as “The Armpit of America.”

Unilever, the brand’s parent company, said it no longer plans to run a billboard featuring the well-known dig at the Garden State. The ad was intended to promote a new line of deodorants by encouraging people to see armpits in a more positive light.

The text of the ad read, “Dear New Jersey, When people call you ‘The Armpit of America,’ take it as a compliment. Sincerely, Dove.” It featured a smiling woman in a white tank top raising an arm behind her head to expose an armpit.

Dove is known for its unconventional ads, including a campaign that celebrates “Real Beauty” by featuring women who don’t look like the typical models featured in most other ads. But the latest campaign apparently hit the wrong nerve with New Jersey residents.

The news of the billboard, which was set to run in July, sparked complaints after the New York Times published a story about it last week.


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