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Tsunami warning after earthquake strikes near Solomon Islands

A strong earthquake struck offshore near the Solomon Islands in the Pacific Ocean on Sunday morning, causing officials to issue a tsunami warning for the area. There were no immediate reports of damage.

The tsunami warning was issued for the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

The U.S. Geological Survey put the earthquake’s magnitude at 7.6, revised downward from initial estimates of 8.3. Strong earthquakes are frequent in the region.

It was not initially known whether the earthquake generated a tsunami, the warning center said in a bulletin, adding that there appeared to be no threat of a “destructive Pacific-wide tsunami” or any danger to islands distant from the region, such as Hawaii.

The Solomon Islands, east of Papua New Guinea, are mainly mountainous and covered with rain forest, and are not densely populated; the country as a whole has about 550,000 residents. The best-known island in the country, which has been independent since 1976, is Guadalcanal. The earthquake was centered about 30 miles south of San Cristobal Island.

Earlier this month the country suffered devastating flash floods, causing widespread damage.

—Emma G. Fitzsimmons, The New York Times

Google buys d

Google is reaching for the clouds, and not the virtual ones.

On Monday, the company said that it had purchased Titan Aerospace, the maker of high-altitude drone satellites, which will be used to take photos of the Earth and to connect people to the Internet.

“Titan Aerospace and Google share a profound optimism about the potential for technology to improve the world,” a Google spokesman said in a statement. “It’s still early days, but atmospheric satellites could help bring internet access to millions of people, and help solve other problems, including disaster relief and environmental damage like deforestation.”

The news was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

While it may sound like a lofty goal, it’s one that Google shares with a competitor. Facebook, recently acquired Ascenta, based in Britain, that makes a similar type of drone. Earlier reports had said that Facebook was in talks to buy Titan Aerospace.

The Titan Aerospace drones are unique because they are solar-powered and can fly for several years, according to the company’s website.

Drones that can fly for long periods of time without having to land could be used to offer constant updates of images of the Earth, allowing a company like Google to update the photos in its maps platform.

Both Google and Facebook are also competing to try to connect more people to the Internet that live in places that are too difficult to reach with traditional wires and traditional Internet solutions. While satellites can deliver the Internet to sparsely populated areas, the cost can be very high to use data connections. Drones, in comparison, will be able to do it at a much lower cost.

—Nick Bilton, The New York Times

E-cigarette makers targeting youth, congressional report says

WASHINGTON — An investigation by Democratic members of Congress into the marketing practices of electronic cigarette companies has found that major producers are targeting young people by giving away samples at music and sporting events and running radio and television advertisements during youth-oriented programs.

The inquiry, led by Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., and Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., was conducted as the Food and Drug Administration prepared a major package of tobacco control rules that would place e-cigarettes under federal regulation for the first time.

The new rules have been slow to appear, and lawmakers said they hoped their report, which came out Monday, might help speed their release.

“It’s time for the FDA to step up and regulate these products,” Durbin said during a conference call with reporters. “We’ve got to put an end to the marketing of these products to kids.”

Public health experts are deeply divided on the perils and benefits of e-cigarettes. Some say they offer the first satisfying alternative to smoking in generations and could greatly reduce health risks, while others contend they could become a gateway to traditional cigarette smoking for young people.

The report surveyed nine major producers, although only eight responded — Altria, R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co., NJOY, Eonsmoke, Logic, VMR, Lorillard and Green Smoke. Six of them said they had sponsored events, and eight said they had given away samples. In all, 348 events featured giveaways and sponsorship in 2012 and 2013, “many of which appeared geared toward youth,” the report said.

A spokesman for the Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association, the e-cigarette industry’s trade group, said, “We encourage responsible marketing directed to those over the age of 18,” and added that it “does not support, and our industry does not use, youth-oriented product marketing.”

The report found that Lorillard represented the largest portion of the giveaways and sponsorships in 2012 and 2013, providing free e-cigarette samples or sponsorship at 227 of the events, which included music festivals, parties and motor sports competitions.

Robert Bannon, a spokesman for Lorillard, said in a statement that the company does not advertise to youths.

“We have taken many steps to limit exposure of individuals under age 18 to our advertising and promotional activities and to prevent them from purchasing our electronic cigarette products,” he said.

NJOY, an e-cigarette company that does not make traditional cigarettes, said it “does not market to young people.” It added in a statement that it “has long supported sensible regulations to ensure that the e-cigarette industry is operating as an important alternative to tobacco cigarettes that cause the premature death of nearly a half million Americans every year.”

—Sabrina Tavernise, The New York Times