A landslide sent 18 multimillion-dollar houses crashing down a steep sandstone hill in Laguna Beach, Calif., early Wednesday as homeowners alarmed by the sound of walls and pipes coming apart ran for their lives in their pajamas. At least four people suffered minor injuries. About 1,000 people in 350 other homes in the Blue Bird Canyon area were evacuated as a precaution. The cause of the disaster was under investigation, but the US Geological Survey said it was almost certainly related to the winter storms that drenched southern California. Laguna Beach, an Orange County community about 50 miles southeast of Los Angeles, has been dry since a trace of rainfall nearly a month ago, but before that, southern California had its second-rainiest season on record.

A total of 49.6 million children attended public and private school in 2003, beating the previous high mark of 48.7 million set in 1970, the US Census Bureau reported Wednesday. The growth is largely due to all the children born to baby boomers in the late 1940s to early '60s, who have since become parents themselves, the bureau said. Rising immigration played a part, too. A total of 22 percent of students had at least one foreign-born parent, including 91 percent of Asian children and 66 percent of Hispanic youngsters.

After a 15-year legal battle, Gov. Jeb Bush (R) of Florida and the state's Cabinet approved a $12.5 million deal Wednesday to prevent oil drilling in Florida's coastal waters. Coastal Petroleum, the company that holds the last of the offshore drilling leases the state issued in the 1940s, will receive the money in exchange for dropping efforts to drill along the state's west coast. "It sends a very positive and powerful signal that offshore drilling, particularly in the near waters of our state, is taboo," Bush said. "That chapter in Florida's history is over."

With her once-jilted fiancé at her side, runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks pleaded guilty Thursday in Lawrenceville, Ga., to a felony charge of making a false report. She wept as she was sentenced to two years of probation, 120 hours of community service, and a $2,550 fine. Earlier, she agreed to pay $13,250 to Duluth, Ga., to offset overtime costs incurred in searching for her after she disappeared before her scheduled April wedding. She eventually surfaced out West.

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