In our news wrap Wednesday, an 8.2 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Chile Tuesday night, generating a tsunami and causing thousands to evacuate their homes. Six people died. Also, the CEO of General Motors faced more scrutiny on Capitol Hill over the company’s years-long delay in addressing a safety problem.
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It could have been much, much worse. Chile survived a major earthquake overnight, with relatively limited damage. The epicenter of the 8.2-magnitude quake was in the Pacific Ocean, about 60 miles offshore. It sent people running in the aisles of stores, as products tumbled off the shelves. Six people died, and thousands of coastal residents were evacuated from low-lying areas.
A smaller 5.8-magnitude quake hit Panama today. People reported light and moderate shaking, but the head of Panama’s emergency services said there was no damage, and no one was injured.
The confirmed death toll in the Washington State mudslide has now risen to 29; 18 others are still listed as missing. The updated numbers came as floodwaters receded in the small community of Oso. That’s allowed crews to reach some areas that had yet to be searched.
The head of General Motors faced another hostile reception on Capitol Hill today over the company’s years-long delay addressing a safety problem. It involves faulty ignition switches linked to 13 deaths. Mary Barra told senators she’s waiting for an internal investigation, and doesn’t know many details.
That frustrated California Democrat Barbara Boxer. She cited nine-year-old GM documents, already released, that concluded fixing the problem was too costly.
SEN. BARBARA BOXER, D, Calif.:
The code words — quote — “None of the solutions represents an acceptable business case.”
Now, that was a public document. GM gave that document over. Oh, you can’t even talk to that. You don’t know anything about anything. And I am very disappointed, really. As a woman to woman, I am very disappointed, because the culture that you are representing here today is a culture of the status quo.
Barra took over as CEO in January. She agreed calculations of cost must not influence recalls.
MARY BARRA, CEO, General Motors:
Once there’s a safety issue, it should never have a business case that goes against it in making any part of decision-making. And we — we go forward now. There isn’t any. So I am as disturbed as you. I want to understand. And I commit to you I will make change, both people and process.
Several senators warned GM may be guilty of a criminal cover-up. Barra promised the company will cooperate with a Justice Department investigation.
All this on the same day even more auto recalls were announced, this time from Chrysler. The automaker announced it’s calling back almost 870,000 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Durangos. Their brakes have parts that can corrode, making it harder to stop. The recall affects the 2011 through 2014 model years.
The nation’s capital will be getting a new mayor. City Council Member Muriel Bowser easily defeated incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. Gray has been embroiled in a campaign finance scandal from his previous mayoral race, although he denies any wrongdoing. Bowser will be favored in the November general election against another council member who’s running as an independent.
The man who became the face of the 1980s savings and loans crisis, Charles Keating Jr., has died. He was convicted of defrauding investors with $200 million worth of junk bonds. The collapse of his thrift in Phoenix cost taxpayers more than $2.5 billion. The scandal also ensnared five U.S. senators, who accepted Keating’s campaign donations. Charles Keating Jr. was 90 years old.
Wall Street moved higher today after upbeat reports on manufacturing and hiring. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 40 points to close at 16,573. The Nasdaq rose eight points to close at 4,276. The S&P 500 added five points to close at a record high 1,890.