National news in brief
Protesting tree sitter dies after 150-foot fall PORTLAND, Ore. - A tree sitter in the Mount Hood National Forest fell 150 feet to the ground, was badly injured and died before rescue crews could reach the remote site.
The timber sale she apparently was protesting had been canceled three days before her death, and the protesters expected to leave the area within a week.
It took rescue crews more than two hours struggling up snow-clogged dirt roads to reach the tree-sitters' camp after fellow activists called 911 on a cell phone at about 7 p.m., Clackamas County sheriff's spokeswoman Angela Blanchard said.
The caller said the woman, identified as Beth O'Brien, 22, of Portland, was unconscious but still breathing, Blanchard said. But by the time rescue crews arrived at about 9:30 p.m., O'Brien was dead.
She had unhooked herself from one platform and was trying to reach another by a rope ladder when she fell, Blanchard said.
Ivan Maluski, a longtime Eagle Creek protester, said tree sitters were days away from leaving the site after a three-year vigil.
Tree sitters live in plywood platforms attached to the upper limbs of trees slated for logging.Bush wants tax cuts to be made permanent WASHINGTON - President Bush reminded Americans ahead of Monday's tax deadline that they were saving money through his 10-year tax-cut plan, and he urged Congress to make the reductions permanent.
The president was traveling to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Monday to promote the tax cuts as the Republican-led House prepared to take up a bill that would keep them in place beyond 2010.
"I urge Congress to pass this vital measure," Bush said Saturday in his weekly radio address.
But that probably will not happen this year because of opposition from Senate Democratic leaders who say the cuts have darkened the nation's long-term budget picture.
The Democrats blame Bush's $1.3 trillion in tax cuts for contributing to the resurgence of deficits and siphoning money from domestic programs such as education and Medicare.
On the radio, Bush said the tax cuts were "a crucial part of my administration's overall economic growth agenda, to create more high-paying jobs."Tax filers get $30M for fake slavery credits WASHINGTON - The Internal Revenue Service mistakenly paid out more than $30 million to tax filers seeking nonexistent slavery tax credits in 2000 and 2001, according to a Treasury Department investigation.
A growing number of black taxpayers are being misled by scams falsely claiming that, for a fee, they can get tax credits or refunds as reparations for slavery. The scams are given credence when some taxpayers actually get money.
The IRS received more than 77,000 tax returns last year claiming $2.7 billion in reparations refunds, up from 13,000 the year before. Last year, the IRS learned that some erroneous refunds were being issued but was only partly effective in stopping them.
The Treasury inspector general for tax administration, David C. Williams, said in Senate testimony last week that refunds of more than $80,000 were issued "in some instances" to married couples when each spouse claimed the reparations credit.Killer whale dies at marine park SAN ANTONIO - For the second time in less than a year, a SeaWorld killer whale has died at the marine park in San Antonio.
The 4,200-pound whale named Winnie had been treated with antibiotics since last month and died Thursday. She had been performing at the park since 1999. SeaWorld officials and Brooks Air Force Base pathologists were trying to determine the cause.
A total of seven orcas have died at SeaWorld San Antonio since it opened 14 years ago. The marine park has three surviving whales and no immediate plans to acquire another.
"The whales that we have all know the shows," Dudley Wigdahl, vice president of zoological operations, said in Saturday's San Antonio Express-News. "All are quite capable of performing through the summer."
Last year, a 5,700-pound orca named Haida died due to a brain abscess that originated with a common fungus. Both whales had been captured in the wild.