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Feb. 5, 2013 at 10:15 PM   |   Comments

Magnitude-8 quake off Solomon Islands

HONIARA, Solomon Islands, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- A magnitude-8 earthquake struck off the Solomon Islands early Wednesday, the U.S. Geological Survey said, triggering a tsunami warning for the region.

The shallow quake reported past 1 a.m. local time struck at a depth of 3.6 miles off the region's Santa Cruz Islands.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii issued a tsunami warning for the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, New Caledonia, Kosrae, Fiji, Kiribati, Wallis and Futuna.

The center posted a tsunami watch for other areas in the region, including New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Marshall Islands, American Samoa and Guam.

There was no immediate report of injuries. TVNZ reported some patients at the Lata Hospital in the Solomons had been moved to higher ground.


U.K. House of Commons OKs gay marriage

LONDON, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Britain's House of Commons Tuesday resoundingly approved the legalization of same-sex marriage on a 400-175 vote.

The bill now goes to the House of Lords, where several members predicted it would pass "fairly untroubled," The Daily Telegraph reported.

The measure passed the House of Commons despite the failure of most Conservative members of Parliament to follow the lead of Prime Minister David Cameron, who called it "an important step forward" that strengthens society, the BBC reported.

The network said voting lists showed 136 Tories voted against the bill, including Environment Secretary Owen Paterson and Welsh Secretary David Jones, while 35 did not vote and five others registered their abstention by voting both for and against. Just 127 Conservatives voted in favor.

"I genuinely believe that we will look back on today as a landmark for equality in Britain," Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who heads the Liberal Democrats, said. "Tonight's vote shows Parliament is very strongly in favor of equal marriage."

Opposition leader Ed Miliband declared it "a proud day and an important step forward in the fight for equality in Britain."

"The overwhelming majority of Labor MPs supported this change to make sure marriage reflects the value we place on long-term, loving relationships whoever you love," he said.


Carney: Drone strikes legal, ethical

WASHINGTON, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- A White House spokesman said Tuesday President Obama takes the war against al-Qaida seriously, and drone strikes against the terrorist organization are legal.

White House press secretary Jay Carney was responding to a U.S. Justice Department memo, made public Tuesday, that says the United States can target its own citizens with drone strikes if they have recently been involved in violent attacks.

"I can just say that this president takes his responsibilities very seriously," Carney told reporters at the White House, "and first and foremost, that's his responsibility, to protect the United States and American citizens. He also takes his responsibility in conducting the war against al-Qaida as authorized by Congress in a way that is fully consistent with our Constitution and all the applicable laws."

He added: "We have acknowledged ... that sometimes we use remotely piloted aircraft to conduct targeted strikes against specific al-Qaida terrorists in order to prevent attacks on the United States and to save American lives. We conduct those strikes because they are necessary to mitigate ongoing actual threats, to stop plots, prevent future attacks and, again, save American lives. These strikes are legal, they are ethical and they are wise. The U.S. government takes great care in deciding to pursue an al-Qaida terrorist, to ensure precision and to avoid loss of innocent life."

NBC News reported Monday it had obtained a copy of the confidential 16-page memo. The case made for targeting U.S. citizens in countries such as Yemen is similar to, but goes beyond, the one laid out by Attorney General Eric Holder and other officials.


Tenn. bill: Force ultrasound for abortion

NASHVILLE, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- A Tennessee Republican lawmaker gearing up for a congressional campaign proposed making women get an ultrasound and wait 24 hours before getting an abortion.

State Sen. Jim Tracy proposed legislation that would force a woman to get a "transabdominal ultrasound" -- in which a technician rubs a device over the abdomen to produce an image and heartbeat sounds from a fetus -- before getting an abortion.

Under the proposed law, if a woman refused to look at the image the technician would be required to describe any limbs or other physical features visible on the monitor. Critics point out a transabdominal ultrasound often fails to generate more than a blurry image during the first trimester, making the measure little more than a hurdle to getting an abortion.

"This is the kind of issue you have when you have non-medical professionals trying to legislate on a medical issue," said Jeff Teague, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee.

The (Nashville) Tennessean said Tuesday Tracy has announced plans to run a primary campaign against U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, an anti-abortion Republican who won a second term in Congress in 2012 despite revelations he urged his former wife to have two abortions.

Any measure passed by the Legislature would almost certainly face a court challenge, the newspaper said.

The Tennessee Constitution has a specific right to privacy clause that has made legal roadblocks to women's right to an abortion difficult to enact in the past, the report said.

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