- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 29, 2014

128 killed on bloodiest day of Gaza war: Israel hits symbols of Hamas rule, power plant

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Israel unleashed its heaviest air and artillery assault of the Gaza war on Tuesday, destroying key symbols of Hamas control, shutting down the territory’s only power plant and leaving at least 128 Palestinians dead on the bloodiest day of the 22-day conflict.

Despite devastating blows that left the packed territory’s 1.7 million people cut off from power and water and sent the overall death toll soaring past 1,200, Hamas’ shadowy military leader remained defiant as he insisted that the Islamic militants would not cease fire until its demands are met.

The comments by Mohammed Deif in an audiotape broadcast on a Hamas satellite TV channel cast new doubt on international cease-fire efforts. Aides to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Egypt was trying to bring Israeli and Palestinian delegations together in Cairo for new talks in which Hamas would be presented this time as part of the Palestinian team.

Israel’s final objective in Gaza remained unclear a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Israelis to be prepared for a “prolonged” war.

Netanyahu is under pressure from hawkish members of his coalition to topple Hamas in an all-out offensive, but has not let on whether he plans to go beyond destroying Hamas rocket launchers, weapons depots and military tunnels used to infiltrate Israel and smuggle weapons.

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US, European Union order tough new economic, energy, defense sanctions on Russia over Ukraine

WASHINGTON (AP) - Spurred to action by the downing of the Malaysian airliner, the European Union approved dramatically tougher economic sanctions Tuesday against Russia, including an arms embargo and restrictions on state-owned banks. President Barack Obama swiftly followed with an expansion of U.S. penalties targeting key sectors of the Russian economy.

The coordinated sanctions were aimed at increasing pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin to end his country’s support for separatists in eastern Ukraine whom the West blames for taking down the passenger jet nearly two weeks ago. Obama and U.S. allies also warned that Russia was building up troops and weaponry along its border with Ukraine.

“Today Russia is once again isolating itself from the international community, setting back decades of genuine progress,” Obama said. “It does not have to be this way. This a choice Russia and President Putin has made.”

Tuesday’s announcements followed an intense lobbying effort from Obama aimed at getting European leaders to toughen their penalties on Russia and match earlier U.S. sanctions. Europe has a far stronger economic relationship with Russian than the U.S., but EU leaders have been reluctant to impose harsh penalties in part because of concern about a negative impact on their own economies.

However, Europe’s calculus shifted sharply after a surface-to-air missile brought down the passenger jet, killing nearly 300 people including more than 200 Europeans. Obama and his counterparts from Britain, France, Germany and Italy finalized plans to announce the broader sanctions Monday in an unusual joint video conference.

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10 Things to Know for Wednesday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday:

1. ISRAELI AIR, ARTILLERY STRIKES KILL SCORES

On the war’s bloodiest day, the barrage also leaves Gaza’s 1.7 million people without power and water.

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Water main break near UCLA spews geyser into air, flooding parts of campus; 5 people rescued

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A broken water main near the UCLA campus Tuesday sent a geyser of water some 30 feet into the air, forced the rescue of people trapped in underground parking garages and covered some of the best-known parts of campus in water, including the school’s famed basketball arena.

The 30-inch, 93-year-old pipe that broke under nearby Sunset Boulevard made a raging river of the street and sent millions of gallons of water across the school’s athletic facilities, including the famed floor of Pauley Pavilion and the neighboring Wooden Center training facility, as well as a pair of parking structures that took the brunt of the damage.

The arena - where Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Reggie Miller and Kevin Love starred and John Wooden coached for 10 years - recently underwent a $132 million renovation that was completed in October 2012. At least an inch of water covered the floor Tuesday night.

Firefighters, some using inflatable boats, have saved at least five people who were stranded in the underground parking structures.

People saw the water and started rushing down the stairwells to rescue their cars, and authorities had to keep them out as water rose up to the wheel wells of vehicles, many of which were stranded, city fire spokesman Brian Humphrey said.

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AP-GfK Poll: Americans’ illegal immigration concerns rising amid surge of unaccompanied kids

McALLEN, Texas (AP) - For nearly two months, images of immigrant children who have crossed the border without a parent, only to wind up in concrete holding cells once in the United States, have tugged at heartstrings. Yet most Americans now say U.S. law should be changed so they can be sent home quickly, without a deportation hearing.

A new Associated Press-GfK poll finds two-thirds of Americans now say illegal immigration is a serious problem for the country, up 14 points since May and on par with concern about the issue in May 2010, when Arizona’s passage of a strict anti-immigration measure brought the issue to national prominence.

Nearly two-thirds, 62 percent, say immigration is an important issue for them personally, a figure that’s up 10 points since March. President Barack Obama’s approval rating for his handling of immigration dropped in the poll, with just 31 percent approving of his performance on the issue, down from 38 percent in May.

More than 57,000 unaccompanied immigrant children have illegally entered the country since October. Most of the children hail from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, where gang violence is pervasive. Many are seeking to reunite with a parent already living in the United States.

Since initially calling the surge an “urgent humanitarian situation” in early June, Obama has pressed Central American leaders to stem the flow and has asked Congress for $3.7 billion in new money to hire more immigration judges, build more detention space and process children faster.

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US appeals court keeps Mississippi’s last abortion clinic open, saying rights need protection

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi’s effort to close its last abortion clinic was overturned in federal appellate court on Tuesday. Advocates for the law said women with unwanted pregnancies could always travel to other states, but the judges said every state must guarantee constitutional rights, including abortion.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to block Mississippi’s 2012 law requiring abortion doctors to obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

Ten states have adopted similar laws, forcing a growing number of clinics to close. Many hospitals ignore or reject abortion doctors’ applications, and won’t grant privileges to out-of-state physicians. Both obstacles were encountered by the traveling doctors who staff Mississippi’s lone clinic, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

“Today’s ruling ensures women who have decided to end a pregnancy will continue, for now, to have access to safe, legal care in their home state,” said Center for Reproductive Rights president Nancy Northup.

The ruling from the conservative 5th Circuit was narrowly crafted to address the situation in Mississippi, but it could have implications for other states with similar laws and dwindling access to abortion, like Wisconsin and Alabama, whose officials have said women could cross state lines if clinics close, said the center’s litigation director, Julie Rikelman.

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Surgeon General: Skin cancer rates spike after generation of sunbathing, tanning beds

WASHINGTON (AP) - Stop sunbathing and using indoor tanning beds, the acting U.S. surgeon general warned in a report released Tuesday that cites an alarming 200 percent jump in deadly melanoma cases since 1973.

The report blames a generation of sun worshipping for the $8 billion spent to treat all forms of skin cancer each year.

Rear Adm. Boris Lushniak said state and local officials need to do more to help people cover up, such as providing more shade at parks and sporting events. Schools should encourage kids to wear hats and sunscreen and schedule outdoor activities when the sun is low in the sky. And colleges and universities should eliminate indoor tanning beds on campus much as they would prohibit tobacco use, he added.

“We need more states and institutions on board with these policies that discourage or restrict indoor tanning by our youth,” Lushniak said. “Tanned skin is damaged skin.”

The surgeon general’s “call to action” plan is part of a broader push this year by government officials and public health advocates to raise awareness on what they say has become a major public health problem. While other cancers such as lung cancer are decreasing, skin cancer is rising rapidly. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 5 million people are treated for skin cancer each year. And the number of Americans with skin cancer in the past three decades eclipse the number of all other cancers combined.

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Last surviving member of crew to drop atomic bomb on Hiroshima dies in Georgia

ATLANTA (AP) - The last surviving member of the crew that dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, hastening the end of World War II and forcing the world into the atomic age, has died in Georgia.

Theodore VanKirk, also known as “Dutch,” died Monday of natural causes at the retirement home where he lived in Stone Mountain, Georgia, his son Tom VanKirk said. He was 93.

VanKirk flew nearly 60 bombing missions, but it was a single mission in the Pacific that secured him a place in history. He was 24 years old when he served as navigator on the Enola Gay, the B-29 Superfortress that dropped the first atomic bomb deployed in wartime over the Japanese city of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945.

He was teamed with pilot Paul Tibbets and bombardier Tom Ferebee in Tibbets’ fledgling 509th Composite Bomb Group for Special Mission No. 13.

The mission went perfectly, VanKirk told The Associated Press in a 2005 interview. He guided the bomber through the night sky, just 15 seconds behind schedule, he said. As the 9,000-pound bomb nicknamed “Little Boy” fell toward the sleeping city, he and his crewmates hoped to escape with their lives.

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China announces probe into ex-security czar, showing President Xi Jinping’s firm grip on power

BEIJING (AP) - China’s ruling Communist Party announced an investigation into a feared ex-security chief, demonstrating President Xi Jinping’s firm grip on power and breaking a longstanding taboo against publicly targeting the country’s topmost leaders.

If he goes to trial, Zhou Yongkang would be the highest-level official to be prosecuted since the 1981 treason trial of Mao Zedong’s wife and other members of the “Gang of Four,” who mercilessly persecuted political opponents during the chaotic 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.

Until his retirement in 2012, the square-jawed, granite-faced Zhou was one of nine leaders in the party’s ruling inner circle - the Politburo Standing Committee - whose incumbent and retired members had been considered off-limits for prosecution in an unwritten rule aimed at preserving party unity.

However, Xi, who is party leader as well as president, has vowed to go after both low- and high-level officials in his campaign to purge the party of corruption and other wrongdoing that have undermined its legitimacy in the public eye.

The party’s anti-graft watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, said on its website Tuesday that it is investigating Zhou, 71, for serious violations of party discipline. Although it gave no details, such an announcement typically paves the way for the official to be ousted from the party and face prosecution.

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ESPN suspends Stephen A. Smith for comments about provoking assault

NEW YORK (AP) - ESPN has suspended outspoken sportscaster Stephen A. Smith for a week because of his comments about domestic abuse suggesting women should make sure that they don’t do anything to provoke an attack.

Smith’s commentary occurred during a discussion on ESPN2’s “First Take” last Friday about the NFL’s two-game suspension of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice following charges he assaulted his now-wife. The remarks attracted widespread attention, including a stinging rebuke online from a fellow ESPN personality.

Smith issued an on-air apology Monday, saying it was the most egregious mistake of his career.

A day later, ESPN took action. The network’s chief executive, John Skipper, told ESPN’s staff in a memo it was done after a “thoughtful discussion” about appropriate actions with men and women in his company.

“I believe his apology was sincere and that he and we have learned from what we’ve collectively experienced,” Skipper said.

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