WASHINGTON (AP) - A federal agency is acknowledging it needs to do more to improve oversight of oil and gas drilling after it failed to inspect oil and gas wells considered to be potentially high risks for water contamination. Jeff Krauss of the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management notes his agency has strived to keep up with the nation's energy boom. He says BLM is counting on Congress to approve a budget request that would allow it to use $10 million raised from oil fees to pay for inspections. An investigation by the Government Accountability Office found that BLM didn't conduct inspections on more than 2,100 of 3,702 wells. Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts sent a letter asking that Interior Secretary Sally Jewell explain what BLM will do to increase well inspections.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Washington's outgunned deficits hawks are holding their annual pep rally, but this year's gathering comes as lawmakers and the White House have given up any pretense of tackling the country's budget woes in the run-up to November's midterm elections. The annual "fiscal summit" was held just blocks from the Capitol, where the Senate was debating a measure extending tax breaks for a variety of special interests for another two years, adding $85 billion to the nation's debt. This year's summit also is happening as Democrats and Republicans are taking a break from battling over the budget after a tumultuous 2013. Last fall's government shutdown and subsequent small-scale budget deal and increase in the debt limit have combined to take away any pressure for a budget deal this year.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Netflix is raising its Internet video prices by $1 per month for new customers and giving its current U.S. subscribers a two-year break from the higher rates. The changes mean anyone signing up for Netflix's video subscription service beginning Friday will pay $9 per month for in the U.S. The old price of $8 per month will continue until May 2016 for Netflix's existing 36 million U.S. subscribers. The price increase, Netflix's first in nearly three years, isn't surprise. The Los Gatos, California, company disclosed its plans to raise its rates last month without specifying the precise amount. Netflix Inc. say its needs more money so it can afford to pay for more original programming along the lines of its Emmy award-winning political drama "House of Cards."
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Postal Service says it lost $1.9 billion over the first three months of this year and is pleading again for Congress to pass reforms to its financial system. The agency said Friday that the loss for the quarter ended March 31 matched the $1.9 billion in red ink in the same period last year. And it came despite a 2.3 percent rise in its operating revenue and continued cost-cutting efforts. Postal officials have been asking for comprehensive legislation that includes a different delivery schedule, greater control over its personnel and benefit costs and more flexibility in pricing and products. Though various legislative proposals have been advanced, Congress has been unable to pass a bill with the requested changes.
WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. home prices rose at a slightly slower pace in the 12 months that ended in March, a sign that weak sales have begun to restrain the housing market's sharp price gains. Data provider CoreLogic says prices rose 11.1 percent in March compared with March 2013. Though a sizable increase, that was down a bit from February's 12.2 percent year-over-year increase. On a month-to-month basis, prices in March rose 1.4 percent from February. But CoreLogic's month-to-month figures aren't adjusted for seasonal patterns, such as warmer spring weather. Home sales and construction have faltered since last fall, slowing the economy. A harsh winter, higher buying costs and a limited supply of available homes have discouraged many potential buyers. Existing-home sales in March reached their lowest level in 20 months.
BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) - Office Depot is planning to close at least 400 U.S. stores, as its merger with OfficeMax resulted in an overlap of retail locations that can be consolidated. Office Depot Inc. expects to close 150 stores this year, mostly in the fourth quarter. All of the store closures are anticipated to occur by the end of 2016. The company has more than 2,000 stores globally. The store closings are expected to result in at least $75 million in annual savings by 2016's end and add to earnings starting next year. Office Depot said Tuesday that it's still trying to determine expected working capital savings and costs related to the store closings. Shares of the Boca Raton company climbed more than 8 percent in premarket trading.
LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A review finds the Lansing area needs a coordinated emergency plan to help prevent problems that left some Lansing Board of Water & Light customers without power for more than a week following a December ice storm. The need was outlined in a Community Review Team report released Monday. The Lansing State Journal and MLive.com say the team found power could have been restored two to three days sooner if the municipal utility had followed its own policies for preparation and response. The team says there was spotty contact between local leaders and the utility at times. The utility says it plans to review the report. The power company has faced widespread criticism of how it handled outages that affected about 40,000 of its customers after the Dec. 21-22 storm.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Investigators in Rhode Island say they have completed an initial investigation into a circus accident that sent eight acrobats hanging from their hair plummeting to the floor.
Providence fire investigator Paul Doughty (DOW'-tee) says they are turning evidence over to federal workplace safety investigators.
Doughty says that includes the three pieces of a broken carabiner clip that was one of several pieces at the top of a chandelier-like apparatus that suspended the performers during Sunday's performance of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus.
Doughty says they have narrowed down the cause of the broken clip to two possibilities: a manufacturing defect or improper use. He says it's up to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to determine that.
The eight acrobats are still hospitalized.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
The Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey circus packed up and headed for Connecticut without eight of its acrobats, who remained hospitalized in Rhode Island on Tuesday, two days after an accident during a hair-hanging stunt sent them plummeting to the ground during a performance.
Stephen Payne, a spokesman for Feld Entertainment, Ringling's parent company, said the circus inspected all of its equipment on Monday night when it loaded up in Providence and planned another inspection when it unloaded in Hartford.
Investigators suspect a snapped clip, which they found broken in three pieces on the ground, is to blame for the accident that occurred during a Sunday morning performance before 3,900 people, many of them children. The carabiner clip was one of several pieces at the top of a chandelier-like apparatus that suspended the performers, who were dangling by their hair.
When the clip snapped, the women fell 20 feet or more to the ground, and the apparatus landed on them.
Relatives and rescuers say the women suffered injuries including a pierced liver, neck and back fractures, broken ankles and head injuries. Four of the women were in serious condition and four were in good condition Tuesday morning, according to Rhode Island Hospital.
Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare stopped short of saying the carabiner was the cause of the accident. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is trying to make a final determination.
Feld said Monday that it did not know why the carabiner failed, and that it is replacing each one in the show before the next performance, on Thursday in Hartford. The hair act will not be performed there, the company said.
The equipment has been used dozens of times per week since the beginning of the year, and a circus crew had installed it last week, according to Payne. The crew told investigators the clip had been visually inspected before the show.
ST. LOUIS (AP) - Nestle Purina PetCare Co. is suing a competitor, alleging that Blue Buffalo Co. Ltd. misleads consumers about the ingredients in its dog and cat foods. The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in St. Louis, where Purina is based. It accuses Wilton, Connecticut-based Blue Buffalo of false advertising, disparagement and unjust enrichment. Messages seeking comment from Blue Buffalo were not immediately returned. Blue Buffalo advertises that its pet foods contain natural ingredients and do not contain chicken or poultry byproduct meals. The company also says the pet foods do not contain corn, wheat or soy - potential allergens for some pets. The suit says testing by an independent lab and funded by Purina showed that several Blue Buffalo products contained "significant" percentages of poultry byproduct meal and corn.
NEW YORK (AP) - Subway is testing hummus and thinner slices of deli meats that look more appealing as it looks to keep pace with changing eating trends. Tony Pace, Subway's chief marketing officer, said in interview on Tuesday that the chain began testing hummus as a topping in early April. Pace noted that many customers already order vegetarian sandwiches and that the hummus would give people looking for meatless options another choice. Co-founder Fred DeLuca says the chain is also testing thinner slices of deli meats. DeLuca said the thinner slices improve the "bite" of the meat and make it look like there's more meat.