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Feb. 14, 2013 at 5:50 PM
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Carnival Triumph makes way to Mobile

MOBILE, Ala., Feb. 14 (UPI) -- The disabled Carnival Triumph Thursday slowly made its way to Mobile, Ala., as Alabama Cruise Terminal officials juggled logistics.

The Carnival Triumph was disabled Sunday by a fire in the engine room. The ship was left without electricity and passengers have endured squalid conditions, including no running water.

The vessel, assisted by tugboats, was expected to arrive in Mobile Thursday evening.

Mobile Regional Airport officials said they've been working with various airlines to set up charter flights for the cruise passengers, the Mobile Press-Register reported.

Carnival, however, planned to bus passengers to New Orleans.

Carnival Cruises Wednesday canceled all Triumph cruises for the next two months.

The company said people who have booked cruises through April 13 will get full refunds and discounts on a future cruise with Carnival. They will also be reimbursed for non-refundable travel to and from port and fees for shore excursions and other extras.

Oscar Pistorius charged with murder

PRETORIA, South Africa, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- Oscar Pistorius, the first amputee Olympic sprinter, was charged with murder Thursday in the shooting death of his model-girlfriend in his South African home.

Police in Pretoria said they would ask at a hearing scheduled for Friday that Pistorius be held without bail, The New York Times reported. They refused to speculate on a motive for the shooting but spokeswoman Brig. Denise Beukes said officers had been to Pistorius' home previously because of problems of a "domestic nature."

Model Reeva Steenkamp, 30, was shot in the head and arm around 3 a.m. and declared dead at the scene, police said. Some South African newspapers suggested Pistorius might have thought Steenkamp was a burglar.

Pistorius, 26, appeared severely shocked when questioned by police at his home in Pretoria, the Afrikaans daily Beeld reported. Police said they found a 9mm pistol in the house.

GOP blasted over Chuck Hagel filibuster

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Thursday blasted Republicans for their plan to filibuster a vote to confirm former Sen. Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense.

Republicans have told Reid they plan to filibuster the vote, scheduled for Friday, unless President Barack Obama releases more information on the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Politico reported

Reid said the issue is further complicated by the fact that the current secretary of defense, Leon Panetta, left his post Thursday afternoon.

"We do not have, at 12 o'clock today, a secretary of defense," Reid said. "It's tragic they've decided to filibuster this qualified nominee -- it is really unfortunate."

Panetta said he plans to stay on duty until Hagel is confirmed; however, Hagel will likely be absent from a NATO meeting next week, during which the Afghanistan war will be discussed, The Hill reported.

Senate Dems unveil sequester alternative

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- U.S. Senate Democrats Thursday presented a $110 billion alternative to the looming sequester that raises $55 billion in new revenue through the Buffett Rule.

The package, which would be effective through Dec. 31, splits spending cuts and new revenue evenly in a bid to replace the $85 billion in spending cuts set to go into effect March 1.

Both Republicans and liberal Democrats voiced opposition to the proposal.

The plan -- crafted by Democrats Patty Murray of Washington, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Max Baucus of Montana under the guidance of Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada -- seeks new tax revenue through implementation of the Buffett Rule -- named after American investor Warren Buffett -- which would set a minimum effective tax rate for the wealthy, The Hill reported. It also would raise funds by changing taxes related to oil extraction from oil sands.

Some $27.5 billion in spending would be trimmed from the defense budget and $27.5 billion would come through elimination of agriculture subsidies, The Hill said.

Iran ordered magnets for nuclear expansion

TEHRAN, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- Experts say Iran recently attempted to acquire tens of thousands of specialized magnets, a sign that the country may be planning to expand its nuclear program.

The Washington Post said an advanced program could shorten Iran's path to building atomic weapons.

The purchase orders show Iranian agents attempting to buy 100,000 of the magnets from China about a year ago, but it is unclear whether Iran purchased and obtained the magnets, the Post said.

The White House refused to comment directly on the report, instead urging Tehran to return to talks on its nuclear program. Deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said the United States is "well aware of Iran's aggressive efforts in violation of its U.N. Security Council Resolution obligation to obtain sensitive materials for its uranium-enrichment program" but that sanctions "have choked the supply of critical components for Iran's nuclear program."

Under U.N. resolutions, the magnets are banned from export to Iran, the Post reported.

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