• BUS INSPECTIONS GET LAX OVERSIGHT DESPITE CRASHES: HOUSTON (AP) — Months after their state-certified vehicle inspection station was cited by federal authorities for failing to notice defects in a bus that crashed in North Texas, killing 17 passengers, brothers Alam and Cesar Hernandez shuttered their firm. But that didn’t mean they were out of the vehicle inspection business.
Instead, they opened another station in the same Houston neighborhood and continued to inspect buses like the one involved in the accident. And they did it with the approval of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
The Hernandez brothers’ story underlines a phenomenon that highway safety advocates say has long existed with deadly consequences — the lack of oversight for the businesses that perform state inspections of buses and other large commercial vehicles.
Records examined by The Associated Press show that three of the deadliest bus crashes in recent years raised questions about the commercial vehicle inspection programs in Texas, Illinois and Mississippi and prompted calls from the National Transportation Safety Board for better oversight. Forty people died in those wrecks, yet the agency to which the recommendations were directed, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, has refused to act.
The inaction has rankled safety advocates, who believe government regulators aren’t attentive to the needs of bus travelers.
• CREWS NEAR FULL CONTAINMENT OF COLORADO WILDFIRE: CONIFER, Colo. (AP) — Colorado authorities are allowing all remaining evacuees from the Lower North Fork wildfire to return home on Monday.
Jacki Kelley of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office said that residents of 50 homes can return Monday morning, nearly a week after the fire erupted.
She says firefighters have contained 97 percent of the fire’s perimeter. That, and a cold front that could deliver snow overnight, should allow all remaining evacuees to return to their homes.
• MOTOR HOME CRASH KILLS 5 IN NORTHEAST KANSAS: LYNDON, Kan. (AP) — A packed motor home headed from Texas to Minnesota crashed Sunday morning in northeast Kansas, killing five people and sending 13 others to hospitals.
The Kansas Highway Patrol said the northbound vehicle was filled with 18 people and pulling a trailer when the driver lost control at 9 a.m. on Interstate 35. The vehicle hit a guardrail and a concrete bridge rail before crashing into a creek ravine near the small town of Williamsburg, which is located about 70 miles southwest of Kansas City, Mo. Debris was strewn around the crumpled Freightliner box truck, which had living quarters inside.
Trooper Don Hughes said the fatality victims included adults and children.
• LAWYER: MAN MAY ENTER US FROM MEXICO TO BURY SON: ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) — An immigration lawyer says a Mexican man will be allowed to enter the United States to bury his 10-year-old son, a U.S. citizen who died in a house fire in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Fidelmar “Fidel” Merlos-Lopez initially was barred entry into the country. But his Philadelphia-based lawyer, Elizabeth Surin, says her client was issued a humanitarian parole to attend the funeral.
She said early Sunday that Lopez was on a plane bound for Pennsylvania.
Lopez’s son, Damien Lopez, died Tuesday in a Shenandoah row house fire along with his cousin, aunt and 7-month-old half-brother. The funeral is set for Monday.
Lopez was an illegal immigrant who left the U.S. voluntarily in 2008. He’s in the process of getting his green card so he can rejoin his wife in Shenandoah.
• REP. RYAN: I MISSPOKE ON MILITARY GENERALS: WASHINGTON (AP) — Rep. Paul Ryan says he’s apologized in a telephone call to the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman for accusing the military of not giving its “true advice” on President Barack Obama’s budget plan.
Military generals are required under oath to provide lawmakers their personal views on security matters, even if those views conflict with the White House. In this case, Gen. Martin Dempsey had testified that he thought Obama’s $614 billion plan for defense spending next year was adequate. Dempsey said he stood by his testimony, despite Ryan’s remarks.
On Sunday, the Wisconsin Republican said he was wrong for suggesting the generals weren’t on the up and up. Ryan said he “really misspoke.”
Ryan appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” and ABC’s “This Week.”
• MORMON LEADERS WARN AGAINST SECULARISM: SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Mormon leaders Sunday urged church members to strengthen their families and their religious commitments in the face of growing secularism.
The senior leaders, addressing a semiannual meeting of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, lamented that many in broader society have tried to dismiss biblical teaching as outdated or false. Leaders also noted that the number of births outside of marriage is growing and blamed the trend for “a host of societal and economic ills.”
“The spiritual divide gets ever wider as evil becomes ever more deceptive and subtle and pulls people toward it like a dark magnet,” said Elder M. Russell Ballard, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the second-highest ranking body in the church.
Ballard was among several Mormon leaders who spoke at the two-day General Conference, which ended Sunday. Mormons meet in April and October to hear speeches and spiritual guidance from the faith’s senior leaders. More than 20,000 people gathered for the event at a church conference center in Salt Lake City. Millions more watched from around the world through satellite, Internet and radio broadcasts.
The Utah-based church claims more than 14.5 million members.
President Thomas S. Monson, considered a prophet by Mormons, urged church members to use their “power to think, to reason,” to choose the right path as they move through life. He said blessings can be earned through a life of “striving, seeking” and repentance.