Tsunami strikes Solomons — A powerful earthquake off the Solomon Islands generated a tsunami of up to about 5 feet that damaged dozens of homes and likely killed several people in the South Pacific island chain early today. Authorities canceled warnings for tsunamis on more distant coasts. Solomons officials reported two waves hitting the western side of Santa Cruz Island, damaging around 50 homes and properties, said George Herming, a spokesman for the prime minister. Many villagers had headed to higher ground as a precaution, Herming said.
Same-sex military benefits — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is preparing to expand benefits to same-sex partners of military personnel, but it remained doubtful that the Pentagon could offer the medical, dental and housing allowances desired by gay and lesbian couples, officials said Tuesday. Full benefits would require the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, a 1996 law that defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
Gun laws — Members of both parties in the House outlined a plan on Tuesday to stiffen penalties on the illegal purchase and transportation of guns, a rare show of agreement. Two Democrats and two Republicans in the House of Representatives have introduced legislation that would create a dedicated federal anti-gun-trafficking law while further cracking down on people who buy firearms for someone else and lie about it on federal background check forms.
Israeli bus bombing — On Tuesday, Bulgaria’s interior minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, announced that two of the people behind a July 18 bomb attack, which killed five Israeli tourists, a Bulgarian bus driver and the bomber, were believed to be members of the military wing of Hezbollah. Hezbollah has denied responsibility for the bombing.
Britain gay marriage — The House of Commons voted Tuesday to approve a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in Britain, indicating that the bill is assured of passage. But in a setback for Prime Minister David Cameron, who championed the measure, it appeared that more than half of the lawmakers in his Conservative Party voted against it or abstained. The Commons vote was 400-175 for the bill, which now has to pass in the House of Lords.
Obama’s Israel trip — President Barack Obama plans to travel this spring to Israel for the first time since he took office as he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu try to move past the friction of the last four years now that both have won re-election. By making Israel a destination on the first overseas trip of his new term, Obama hopes to demonstrate support for the Jewish state despite doubts among some of its backers.
Korean propaganda — Posted recently on YouTube, a video by one of the North’s propaganda agencies shows an animated version of New York in flames — part of a dream in which a young Korean man envisions a future of rocket launchings and the reunification of the Korean Peninsula. By Tuesday afternoon, the video had been removed from YouTube after a copyright complaint from Activision, the maker of the video game “Call of Duty," from which the fiery New York scene was lifted.
Irish workhouses — Advocates for survivors of a Catholic workhouse system that kept generations of young women and girls in virtual slavery expressed disappointment and anger on Tuesday at Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s failure to formally apologize after a report found extensive state involvement in the institutions. Reacting to the 1,000-page government report, which found the state responsible for committing thousands of young women to the workhouses, the last of which closed in 1996.
Syrian conflict — Outbreaks of hepatitis A and other diseases spread by poor hygiene are now becoming problems among Syrians displaced by the civil war, the World Health Organization said Tuesday. Further aggravating the health of Syrians, the WHO said, is a breakdown in the delivery of safe water throughout the country, the closure of at least one-third of Syria’s public hospitals, an exodus of doctors and an acute shortage of ambulances.
Iranian political fight — Iranian judicial authorities arrested a protege of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday, the latest round in an escalating power struggle between Iran’s elected leader and the country’s most influential political family. The Tehran prosecutor’s website announced the arrest of the president’s ally, Saeed Mortazavi, late Monday night, although it gave no official reason for the action.
Mexican gang rape — Six Spanish tourists were raped by a gang of armed, masked men in the Mexican resort of Acapulco, the latest chapter of violence that has tarnished the once-glamorous Pacific coast resort. The vicious, hours-long attack occurred before dawn Monday at a house that six Spanish men, six Spanish women and a Mexican woman had rented on a quiet, idyllic stretch of beach on the outskirts of Acapulco.
World’s longest cat dies — Stewie the Cat, the longest domestic cat in the world at more than 4 feet long from nose to tail, has died. Hundreds of fans flooded Stewie’s Facebook site with memories and condolences Tuesday. The Maine Coon cat was a certified therapy animal that frequently visited a Reno senior center and helped promote animal welfare awareness with the Nevada Humane Society.
Great Lakes water level — Two of the Great Lakes have hit their lowest water levels ever recorded, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Tuesday, capping more than a decade of below-normal rain and snowfall and higher temperatures that boost evaporation. Measurements taken last month show Lake Huron and Lake Michigan have reached their lowest ebb since record keeping began in 1918, and the lakes could set additional records over the next few months, the corps said.
— From wire reports