AP News in Brief at 5:58 a.m. EST

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Associated Press

Posted on February 12, 2014 at 6:02 AM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 12 at 11:30 AM

Republicans abandon bedrock budget-cutting principle in debt ceiling vote

WASHINGTON (AP) — It was once the backbone of the House Republican majority — the hard-line stand that brought President Barack Obama to the negotiating table and yielded more than $2 trillion in deficit reduction.

On Tuesday, it abruptly vanished, the victim of Republican disunity and a president determined not to bargain again.

During the summer budget negotiations in 2011, House Speaker John Boehner had insisted that any increase in the nation's borrowing limit be matched dollar for dollar with spending cuts. It became the "Boehner Rule," a mantra of fiscal discipline. And while it didn't always live up to its tit-for-tat formula, it helped drive budget talks and kept deficit reduction at the fore of the Republican agenda.

But there are limits to Republican power, and on Tuesday inevitability finally caught up to the speaker.

Boehner let Congress vote on a measure to extend the nation's borrowing authority for 13 months without any spending conditions — a "clean bill" that was an unequivocal victory for Obama. It passed 221-201, with only 28 Republican votes. The Senate still has to approve the extension, but that's considered a mere formality in the Democratic-controlled chamber.

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Atlanta, other parts of the South brace for 'catastrophic' ice storm threatening the region

ATLANTA (AP) — Emergency management workers hunkered down in Atlanta waiting to spring into action as rain — and temperatures — fell overnight, potentially leading to "catastrophic" ice conditions that forecasters said could hit the region.

Already, Georgia Power was reporting more than 2,000 power outages early Wednesday throughout the state. Forecasters and officials said that number would probably grow throughout the day. In north Georgia, morning snow was falling. Other areas of the South, from Louisiana to South Carolina, and the Mid-Atlantic also were expected to get socked with a wintry mix of ice, snow and freezing rain.

Atlanta and the surrounding region dodged the first punch of a dangerous winter storm Tuesday, but forecasters warned that the second punch would likely bring a thick layer of ice and heavy winds that could knock out power to thousands and leave people stranded in their cold, dark homes for days. National Weather Service forecasters said in a memo early Tuesday that while a foot of snow could fall in some parts of the northeast Georgia mountains, "it is the ice that will have the catastrophic impacts."

Elected leaders and emergency management officials began warning people to stay off the roads, especially after two inches of snowfall caused an icy gridlock two weeks ago and left thousands stranded in vehicles overnight. It seemed many in the region around the state's capital obliged as streets and highways were uncharacteristically unclogged Tuesday.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed in a news conference at the Georgia Emergency Management Agency's special operations center Tuesday evening implored people to get somewhere safe and stay there.

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Tina Maze and Dominique Gisin tie for gold in Olympic women's downhill

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — In a rare tie in Alpine skiing, Tina Maze of Slovenia and Dominique Gisin of Switzerland both won Olympic gold Wednesday in the women's downhill.

The pair sped down the 1.69-mile (2.7-kilometer) Rosa Khutor course in 1 minute, 41.57 seconds. Lara Gut of Switzerland was 0.10 behind in third.

For the 28-year-old Gisin, it was only her third downhill victory, but two have been in ties. In January 2009, she shared a World Cup victory with Swedish great Anja Paerson in Altenmarkt, Austria — the last time a women's downhill ended in a tie.

Wearing bib No. 21, Maze started 30 minutes after No. 8 Gisin as temperatures approached 50 degrees (10 C).

Maze led Gisin at each time split and speed check but then appeared to be slowed by softening snow on the final slope.

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India's election-season freebies, from subsidies to goats, raise questions about fairness

NEW DELHI (AP) — Just before village council elections, Southern Tamil Nadu state Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha went all out to gain favor with rural voters. Schoolgirls received laptops. Farm workers got cows and goats. Homemakers were given spice grinders and fans.

The price tag for the giveaway, which started in 2011 and continues today: 20 billion rupees ($322 million) in a state of about 70 million people.

Freebies are a fact of life in Indian politics, and items like livestock are only part of it. All three parties seen as the front-runners in upcoming elections have enticed voters with subsidies on electricity, cooking gas or grain.

The largesse could give sputtering growth a short-term boost, but there are growing concerns that the subsidize-everything mentality they represent will damage government finances and the economy. Growth is expected to be less than 5 percent in the 2013-14 fiscal year, far below the 8 percent rate the country averaged in the past 10 years. A crisis of confidence stemming from erratic government policymaking is partly to blame by deterring business investment.

India's Election Commission said this month it plans to require political parties to explain how they will pay for any "welfare measures" announced in the run-up to the vote, to be held by May.

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In a saga of family unity, six brothers form the core of the West Bank's best soccer team

WADI AL-NEES, West Bank (AP) — Palestinian farmer Yousef Abu Hammad sired enough boys for a soccer team — literally. Over the years, his 12 sons have formed the core of what is now the top-ranked team in the West Bank.

The current roster includes six of Abu Hammad's sons, three grandsons and five other close relatives. The players from the hamlet of Wadi al-Nees consistently defeat richer clubs and believe their strong family bonds are a secret to their success.

Having no distractions also helps.

There's little to do in the village except play soccer. It is perched on a hilltop just south of the biblical Bethlehem and has only about 950 residents, virtually all members of the Abu Hammad clan. Until the late 1980s, Wadi al-Nees had no running water or electricity.

"We all love soccer — kids, men, women, old and young," said team director Ahmed Abu Hammad.

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Long journey ends at home for Salvadoran fisherman who drifted more than a year at sea

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) — A fisherman who says he drifted at sea for more than a year has finally made it home to El Salvador, exhausted and speechless.

Jose Salvador Alvarenga tried to address a media throng waiting at the airport, eager to fill in details about what many people have viewed as a fish tale: a man tossed 6,500 miles (10,500 kilometers) across the Pacific in a small boat from Mexico to the Marshall Islands, surviving on raw fish, turtles and bird blood.

But when handed the microphone at the San Salvador airport late Tuesday, Alvarenga could only put his hands to his face, appearing to cry.

Wearing a dark blue T-shirt, khaki trousers and tennis shoes, the 37-year-old left the airport in a wheelchair and was taken by ambulance to the National Hospital San Rafael, where he was greeted by a daughter who didn't remember him and a mother who had thought he was dead after not hearing from him for years.

Dr. Yeerles Ramírez described the reunions as emotional, and said that according to medical tests so far, "the prognosis is very good."

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Nebraska city votes to keep illegal immigration rules despite concerns about cost, reputation

FREMONT, Neb. (AP) — Residents of a small Nebraska city have reaffirmed their desire to take on illegal immigration.

Nearly 60 percent of Fremont voters decided Tuesday to keep an ordinance that requires all renters to swear they have legal permission to live in the U.S., a move that will likely push the city back into the forefront of the nation's immigration debate.

Local voters first approved the rules by a smaller margin in 2010. Critics had pushed for the new vote, saying the housing restrictions would be ineffective and might cost Fremont millions of dollars in legal fees and lost federal grants. They also said it was hurting the city's image.

But it wasn't enough to sway voters in the conservative agricultural hub near Omaha.

Fremont is one of only a handful of cities trying to restrict illegal immigration and, like those other cities, has found itself mired in court fights because of the regulations. City leaders put the ordinance on hold after the 2010 vote while courts reviewed it.

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Air Force's new search for cures in nuclear missile force includes ideas tried 5 years ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — In launching a new search for cures to what ails its nuclear missile corps, the Air Force is considering proposals it tried five years ago, according to internal emails and documents obtained by The Associated Press.

Many of the proposals fell short when they were tried before, but the new effort is more far-reaching, on a tighter timetable and backed by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. So it appears to hold more promise for an Air Force under scrutiny after a variety of embarrassing setbacks and missteps raised questions about whether some of the world's most fearsome weapons are being properly managed.

The earlier approach, shown in internal Air Force documents and emails from 2008-09, included some of the ideas being floated again today by a new set of Air Force leaders, including bonus pay and other incentives to make more attractive the work of the men and women who operate, maintain and secure an Air Force fleet of 450 Minuteman 3 nuclear-tipped missiles. Then, as now, the Air Force also looked for ways to eliminate the most damaging "disincentives" — parts of the job that can make missile duty onerous.

"Keep the faith," one commander wrote to his ICBM troops in an email in early 2009.

Faith, however, seemed to falter.

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Clooney, Costner among celebrities reacting to death of child star Shirley Temple

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The praises of Shirley Temple are being sung by celebrities across Hollywood who remembered her as America's prolific little darling.

For the fifth time in its history, the Chinese Theatre planned to dim the lights in its famous forecourt, which features Temple's little hand- and footprints, in tribute to the star of such films as "Curly Top," ''Heidi" and "The Little Colonel."

Temple, known in her other life as Shirley Temple Black, died Monday night at her home near San Francisco at age 85. The cause of death was not disclosed.

Margaret O'Brien, a fellow child star during the same era, reminisced about her unique bond with Black. The "Meet Me in St. Louis" actress said she and Black were able to communicate about an experience "that we couldn't share with others."

"Although there were periods of time that we would not be able to speak, we exchanged Christmas cards every year and tried to keep in touch," said O'Brien. "It has hit me hard to think that she isn't going to be available to call on for advice or a cheerful word. I, as so many others, will miss her."

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Wire to wire: Sky the wire fox terrier wins best in show at Westminster, is America's top dog

NEW YORK (AP) — The bloodhound drew the loudest cheers. The Portie came with presidential connections. And the Irish water spaniel tried to earn another win for Seattle in the Super Bowl — of dogs, that is.

A little wire fox terrier called Sky stood in their way.

The 5-year-old Sky won best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club on Tuesday night, finishing off a season in which she was ranked the nation's No. 1 dog.

Handler Gabriel Rangel scooped up Sky in one arm after she was picked as America's top dog. He kissed judge Betty Regina Leininger's hand as the title was awarded inside a nearly full Madison Square Garden.

Rangel may've learned that trick from his dog.

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