AP News in Brief at 4:58 a.m. EST

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Associated Press

Posted on February 5, 2013 at 7:01 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 6 at 7:02 AM

Small tsunami damages homes in Solomons, 4 believed killed; other warnings canceled

SYDNEY (AP) — A powerful earthquake off the Solomon Islands generated a tsunami of up to 1.5 meters (about 5 feet) that damaged dozens of homes and likely killed several people in the South Pacific island chain Wednesday.

Authorities canceled warnings for tsunamis on more distant coasts.

Solomons officials reported two 1.5-meter (4 foot, 11-inch) waves hit the western side of Santa Cruz Island, damaging between 70 and 80 homes and properties, said George Herming, a spokesman for the prime minister. Many villagers had headed to higher ground as a precaution, Herming said.

Solomon Islands Police Commissioner John Lansley said local police patrols had reported that several people were presumed dead, though the reports were still being verified.

"Sadly, we believe some people have lost their lives," he said. "At the moment we potentially know of four, but there may of course be more."

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Obama's CIA pick Brennan, once stung by waterboarding, now opposes it

WASHINGTON (AP) — John Brennan, now President Barack Obama's nominee to be CIA director, sat quietly around a conference table at the agency's headquarters in Langley, Va., during briefings about the capture and waterboarding of key al-Qaida operative Abu Zubaydah.

Former and current U.S. intelligence officials who were part of those briefings say Brennan, then deputy executive director of the CIA's administrative arm, did not raise objections to the interrogation practices in those forums. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the top-secret meetings publicly.

Brennan's silence may have cost him his first chance to lead the spy agency. He withdrew his name from consideration in 2008 following a stream of complaints that he was tainted by his CIA service during the administration of President George W. Bush, when harsh interrogation techniques like waterboarding came under fire.

But in his letter withdrawing his nomination, Brennan wrote that he'd been a "strong opponent" of the program. Throughout Obama's first term, Brennan added to the body of criticism of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques in his role as Obama's counterterrorism adviser.

The same issue that caused him to withdraw from consideration to be the nation's spy chief is likely to come up again this week as Brennan faces his confirmation hearings in Congress to be director of the CIA.

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Analysis: Obama and GOP want to replace across-the-board cuts, but with what?

WASHINGTON (AP) — After two tumultuous years of budget brinkmanship, President Barack Obama and Republicans in Congress finally agree on something — namely, that a previous 10-year pact to cut $1 trillion across the board was such a bad idea it must be stopped before it starts.

If consensus counts as good news in an era of divided government, consider this: They also disagree vehemently on a suitable replacement.

As a result, they seem likely to spend the spring and perhaps a good part of the summer struggling to escape a bind of their own making. And this time, Medicare and the rest of the government's benefit programs are likely to face changes.

Already, the two sides are laying down markers.

Obama called on Congress on Tuesday to join him in developing a replacement for the across-the-board reductions, "a balanced mix of spending cuts and more tax reform."

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Boy Scouts of America board meets in Texas amid discussion of changing policy banning gays

IRVING, Texas (AP) — The Boy Scouts of America's policy excluding gay members and leaders could be up for a vote as soon as Wednesday, when the organization's national executive board meets behind closed doors under intense pressure from several sides.

BSA announced last week it was considering allowing troops to decide whether to allow gay membership. That news has placed a spotlight on executive board meetings that began Monday in Irving, Texas, where scouting headquarters is located.

BSA spokesman Deron Smith said last week that the board could take a vote Wednesday or decide to discuss the policy, but the organization would issue a statement either way. Otherwise, the board has remained silent, with reporters barred from the hotel where its meetings are taking place.

At nearby BSA headquarters, a handful of Scouts and leaders delivered petitions Monday in support of letting gay members join. The conservative group Texas Values, meanwhile, says it has organized a Wednesday morning prayer vigil urging the Scouts to keep their policy the same.

President Barack Obama, an opponent of the policy, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, an Eagle Scout who supports it, both have weighed in.

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FBI: Ala. captor rigged bunker with explosives, waged 'firefight' against SWAT team saving boy

MIDLAND CITY, Ala. (AP) — As FBI and police negotiators spent days seeking to coax an Alabama man into freeing a 5-year-old boy held hostage in an underground bunker, the captor was making plans of his own.

FBI special agent Jason Pack said in an email that bomb technicians found two explosive devices Tuesday on the man's property. He said one was inside the bunker and the other in the plastic pipe Dykes had told officers to use to talk with him.

Pack said Dykes also "reinforced the bunker against any attempted entry by law enforcement." And when SWAT agents stormed the bunker Monday to rescue the boy, the FBI says Dykes engaged in a "firefight" before he was killed.

As the FBI released new details, the boy was reported doing well at home.

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Woman charged in lover's slaying in Arizona continues testimony in death penalty trial

PHOENIX (AP) — Jodi Arias' life changed from the moment she met the man she killed. A world of opportunities seemed possible. A good job. A promising future. A potentially loving relationship.

As Arias testifies in her murder trial, she continues to lay out in painstaking detail the events that led up to the day she stabbed and shot Travis Alexander in his suburban Phoenix home.

Her testimony was set to resume Wednesday.

Arias has told jurors of a past marred by abuse at the hands of her parents, the numerous boyfriends who cheated on her and how things seemed to take a turn for the better when she met Alexander.

The 32-year-old is now accused of stabbing and slashing him 27 times, slitting his throat and shooting him in the head in June 2008. She initially denied any involvement, then later blamed it on masked intruders before claiming self-defense.

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Clues to timing of NKorea nuclear test seen in US holidays, Kim family dates, South's politics

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — So when will it be?

North Korea vowed last month to carry out its third nuclear test but has said nothing about timing. As a result, the building suspense in Seoul has prompted many to look at the dates Pyongyang has chosen for past atomic tests, as well as rocket and missile launches.

Dates and numbers have great symbolic importance to North Korea's government. So Pyongyang often schedules what Washington calls "provocative acts" around U.S. holidays and important South Korean political events, an effort to send none-too-subtle messages to its main enemies — Washington and Seoul. Pyongyang also uses the tests to give a nationalistic boost to its citizens, often favoring significant milestones of the state, party and ruling Kim family.

Here's a look at the "meaningful dates" North Korea has selected for past tests and launches, as well as future key dates on which Pyongyang might choose to stage its third nuclear test:

U.S. HOLIDAYS AND POLITICAL EVENTS:

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Mexico authorities seeking masked attackers who raped 6 Spanish tourists in Acapulco

ACAPULCO, Mexico (AP) — Authorities have information they hope will lead them to the gang of armed, masked men who raped six Spanish tourists in the Mexican resort of Acapulco, the attorney general in the southern state of Guerrero said.

The vicious, hours-long attack at a beach home on the outskirts of Acapulco before dawn Monday was the latest chapter of violence that has tarnished the once-glamorous Pacific coast resort celebrated in Frank Sinatra songs and Elvis Presley movies.

"Fortunately we have strong evidence to lead us to those responsible for this reprehensible act," Guerrero state Attorney General Martha Garzon Guzman told Mexico's Radio Formula on Monday.

The beach home on an idyllic stretch of coastline had been rented by six Spanish men, six Spanish women and a Mexican woman.

The attackers gained access to the house because two of the Spaniards were in the yard and apparently were forced to open the door, Acapulco Mayor Luis Walton told a news conference late Monday.

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Monopoly fans vote on 1 token to toss, 1 to add; shoe, iron or wheelbarrow face elimination

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (AP) — The classic Monopoly game is set for its most significant change in decades after fans of the game designed nearly 80 years ago voted to add a new token to replace the shoe, wheelbarrow or iron after they received the least support in an online contest.

Toy maker Hasbro Inc. is scheduled to announce the new token lineup Wednesday morning, hours after fans cast their final ballots to determine which of the five proposed pieces to add and which of the existing tokens to eject.

The tokens identify the players and have changed quite a lot since Parker Brothers bought the game from its original designer in 1935.

The voting closed just before midnight Tuesday. Rhode Island-based Hasbro says the wheelbarrow, shoe and iron were neck and neck for elimination through the Save Your Token Campaign. The new addition will be a robot, diamond ring, cat, helicopter or guitar.

Fans from more than 120 countries have voted.

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Mayor defends New Orleans; investigation continues into still-baffling Super Bowl power outage

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — New Orleans' mayor defended his city days after a power outage plunged the Super Bowl into 34 minutes of darkness, while authorities still baffled by the cause announced they were bringing in a consultant to help investigate.

The outage that embarrassed New Orleans as it sought to showcase its rebound from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina happened despite hundreds of thousands of dollars of improvements to decaying utility lines, documents show.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu sought to put an upbeat spin on the matter at a news conference Tuesday, saying the city's performance as host was near flawless despite the lights-out episode.

"The 34 minutes of darkness will never overshadow or outshine the city of New Orleans and how we performed this Super Bowl week," Landrieu said.

He also said the outage won't pull the plug on city plans to bid for an 11th Super Bowl in 2018. It last hosted a Super Bowl in 2002, three years before Katrina swamped the city.

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