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Feb. 6, 2013 at 8:10 AM
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GOP lawmakers question citizenship pathway

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- House Republicans cast doubt on a citizenship path for the United States' 11 million undocumented immigrants, with some calling for legal residency and no more.

"Are there options that we should consider between the extremes of mass deportation and a pathway to citizenship for those not lawfully present in the United States?" House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., asked during the first of several hearings on immigration reform.

He asked the question of San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, a hearing witness.

Castro, a rising Hispanic star in the Democratic Party, said he didn't see a pathway to citizenship as "an extreme option," pointing out Congress previously chose that option and argued it has worked.

Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, a member of a bipartisan group of House members discussing immigration reform proposals, said undocumented immigrants generally do not care much about being a U.S. citizen.

Labrador, who was born in Puerto Rico, said undocumented immigrants simply want legal status.

Boehner, McConnell nix Obama's cuts fix

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- Congressional Republican leaders rejected U.S. President Barack Obama's call for new spending cuts and "tax reforms" to head off looming across-the-board cuts.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., both said Obama's proposal that Congress pass "a balanced mix" of limited spending cuts and tax changes to delay the automatic cuts, known as the sequester, was a non-starter.

Without any action, the cuts, amounting to $1.2 trillion over a decade, are to take effect March 1. They were originally slated to go into effect Jan. 2, but Congress delayed them during December negotiations.

"Republicans have twice voted to replace these arbitrary cuts with common-sense cuts and reforms that protect our national defense," Boehner said in a statement. "We believe there is a better way to reduce the deficit, but Americans do not support sacrificing real spending cuts for more tax hikes."

McConnell said in a statement Obama, "who first proposed the sequester, and who just last year claimed that the sequester 'will not happen,' now wants to 'delay' the sequester for a few months with more permanent tax hikes at a time when American families are already feeling the pinch of the Obama economy."

Obama said during a debate in the fall with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney the sequester "will not happen." On Tuesday, when he proposed the delay, he said it "doesn't have to happen."

Casualties reported in quake-hit region

HONIARA, Solomon Islands, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- A magnitude-8 earthquake struck off the Solomon Islands Wednesday, the U.S. Geological Survey said, prompting tsunami warnings with reports of deaths.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii posted warnings for wide regions in the Pacific but later canceled them.

TV New Zealand quoted the Lata Hospital on the Solomons as saying a tsunami, reportedly at a height of about 3 feet, left five people dead, four of them adults and the fifth a boy believed to be 10 to 12 years old.

CNN also reported hospital officials as saying five people had been confirmed dead on the islands after the quake and aftershocks set off a tsunami.

TVNZ said there also have been reports of people missing and that some of the villages had been destroyed.

The center of the quake was off the Santa Cruz Islands in the eastern part of the Solomon Islands. The quake, which struck early in the morning, was first believed to be a shallow one, but the USGS said it was at a depth of nearly 18 miles.

The tsunami center's warning before it was lifted covered the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, New Caledonia, Kosrae, Fiji, Kiribati, Wallis and Futuna.

French troops to begin leaving Mali soon

BAMAKO, Mali, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- A monthlong French offensive in Mali against Islamic militants will begin to wind down next month, the French defense minister said.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said "hundreds" of militants have been killed since French troops arrived in the African country at the request of its government, CNN reported.

"From the moment our forces, supported by Malian forces, began missions and patrols around the towns which we have taken, we have encountered residual jihadist groups which fight," Drian said during a radio interview.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said some French troops will remain in Mali to flush out militants in "terrorist havens" in northern Mali.

France's ground-and-air campaign in its former colony sent Islamic fighters who seized the northern region into the desert. Northern Mali fell during the chaotic times that followed a military coup.

The Islamic extremists imposed Sharia law and banned music, smoking and drinking, among other activities. They also destroyed historic tombs and shrines.

Police hunt for attackers of 14 tourists

ACAPULCO, Mexico, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- Investigators are following leads in the attack on 14 people, including the rape of six women, at a vacation villa in Acapulco, officials said Wednesday.

Guerrero State's Attorney Elva Martha Garzon said investigators have "strong evidence" concerning the men who attacked the 14 vacationers Monday, raping six women and tying up seven men, El Universal reported.

Thirteen of the victims were from Spain. The 14th victim was a Mexican female who was not sexually assaulted, Garzon said.

Garzon said during a radio interview five armed men, wearing hoods, entered the villa where the tourists were staying and attacked them. Besides the assault, the men stole laptop computers, cellphones, credit cards and other items.

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