Monday, November 19, 2012

Published:

Israel, Hamas present truce ideas to Egypt, but threaten to escalate if talks fail

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers traded fire and tough cease-fire proposals Monday, and threatened to escalate their border conflict if diplomacy fails. No deal appeared near.

An Israeli airstrike targeting a Gaza media center killed a senior militant and engulfed the building in flames. The Israeli military said the Islamic Jihad were using space there as a command center.

Gaza fighters fired 95 rockets at southern Israeli cities, nearly one-third of them intercepted by an Israeli missile shield.

A total of 38 Palestinians were killed Monday. Two more Palestinians were killed in airstrikes past midnight, bringing the death toll since the start of Israel's offensive to 111, including 56 civilians. Some 840 people have been wounded, including 225 children, Gaza heath officials said. Three Israeli civilians have been killed and dozens have been wounded.

Over the weekend, civilian casualties in Gaza rose sharply after Israel began targeting the homes of what it said were suspected militants.

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Historic Asia trip: Obama praises Myanmar, chides Cambodia leader; meets China premier next

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) -- On a history-making trip, President Barack Obama on Monday paid the first visit by an American leader to Myanmar and Cambodia, two Asian countries with troubled histories, one on the mend and the other still a cause of concern.

Obama's fast-paced, pre-Thanksgiving trip vividly illustrated the different paths the regional neighbors are taking to overcome legacies of violence, poverty and repression.

Cheered by massive flag-waving crowds, Obama offered long-isolated Myanmar a "hand of friendship" as it rapidly embraces democratic reforms. Hours later, he arrived in Cambodia to little fanfare, then pointedly criticized the country's strongman leader on the issue of human rights during a tense meeting.

Obama was an early champion of Myanmar's sudden transformation to civilian rule following a half-century of military dictatorship. He's rewarded the country, also known as Burma, with eased economic penalties, increased U.S. investment and now a presidential visit, in part to show other nations the benefits of pursuing similar reforms.

"You're taking a journey that has the potential to inspire so many people," Obama said during a speech at Myanmar's University of Yangon.

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10 Things to Know for Tuesday

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

1. WHAT THE U.S. BELIEVES IS KEY TO STOPPING GAZA WARFARE

As a first step, the White House insists that Hamas must cease firing rockets into Israel.

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Away with the manger: Judge rules that Santa Monica can keep Nativity scenes out of park

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- There's no room for the baby Jesus, the manger or the wise men this Christmas in a Santa Monica park following a judge's ruling Monday against churches that tried to keep a 60-year Nativity tradition alive after atheists stole the show with anti-God messages.

U.S. District Judge Audrey B. Collins rejected a motion from the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee to allow the religious display this season while their lawsuit plays out against the city.

Collins said the city was within its constitutional right to eliminate the exemption that had allowed the Nativity at the oceanfront Palisades Park because the change affected all comers -- from Christians to Jews to atheists -- and provided other avenues for public religious speech.

The coalition of churches that had put on the life-sized, 14-booth Nativity display for decades argued the city banned it rather than referee a religious dispute that began three years ago when atheists first set up their anti-God message alongside the Christmas diorama.

The judge, however, said Santa Monica proved that it banned the displays not to squash religious speech but because they were becoming a drain on city resources, destroying the turf and obstructing ocean views. Churches can set up unattended displays at 12 other parks in the city with a permit and can leaflet, carol and otherwise present the Christmas story in Palisades Park when it is open, she said.

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Wet, windy forecast for Washington, Oregon; hunter is killed, police officer injured

SEATTLE (AP) -- Rain and wind pounded Washington and Oregon on Monday, snarling the commute, causing sporadic road closures and power outages and at least one death.

The wet weather was expected to continue throughout the week, and forecasters warned that Hurricane strength wind into the evening on the Washington and Oregon coasts.

"Not a dry day for a while," said meteorologist Johnny Burg of the National Weather Service's Seattle office.

A hunter on Oregon's northwest coast was killed when a tree crashed on his tent near Nehalem Monday morning. Two hunters in an adjacent camp heard the tree snap as gusts reached more than 70 mph, and saw it lying across the tent. They cut it away in an attempt to rescue the man, to no avail.

Tillamook County Sheriff Andy Long identified the hunter as Nathan Christensen, 52, of Seattle.

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Making HIV tests as common as cholesterol checks: Guideline pushes routine screens for most

WASHINGTON (AP) -- There's a new push to make testing for the AIDS virus as common as cholesterol checks.

Americans ages 15 to 64 should get an HIV test at least once -- not just people considered at high risk for the virus, an independent panel that sets screening guidelines proposed Monday.

The draft guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force are the latest recommendations that aim to make HIV screening simply a routine part of a check-up, something a doctor can order with as little fuss as a cholesterol test or a mammogram. Since 2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has pushed for widespread, routine HIV screening.

Yet not nearly enough people have heeded that call: Of the more than 1.1 million Americans living with HIV, nearly 1 in 5 -- almost 240,000 people -- don't know it. Not only is their own health at risk without treatment, they could unwittingly be spreading the virus to others.

The updated guidelines will bring this long-simmering issue before doctors and their patients again -- emphasizing that public health experts agree on how important it is to test even people who don't think they're at risk, because they could be.

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In Gaza confrontation, stakes are high for Israel and Hamas as cease-fire nears

JERUSALEM (AP) -- With little notice, Israel has launched a blistering air offensive against the Gaza Strip's ruling Hamas militant group. Here's a look at why the violence erupted, the goals of the warring sides and how it may end:

LIGHTNING STRIKE

Israel opened its offensive with a surprise airstrike on Nov. 14 that killed the shadowy leader of Hamas' military wing. Since then, it has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in what it says is a systematic campaign to halt years of rocket attacks launched from Gaza. While Israel claims to have inflicted heavy damage, dozens of rockets have continued to fly out of Gaza each day.

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Officials: Fatal house explosion in Indianapolis now criminal homicide investigation

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Authorities launched a homicide investigation Monday into the house explosion that killed two people and left numerous homes uninhabitable in an Indianapolis neighborhood.

Indianapolis Homeland Security Director Gary Coons made the announcement after meeting with residents affected by the Nov. 10 blast and just hours after a funeral for the husband and wife who were killed. The couple lived next door to the house where investigators believe the explosion occurred.

"We are turning this into a criminal homicide investigation," Coons said, marking the first time investigators have acknowledged a possible criminal element to the case.

Search warrants have been executed and officials are now looking for a white van that was seen in the subdivision the day of the blast, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said. Federal authorities are offering a $10,000 reward for information in the case.

Curry said the investigation is aimed at "determining if there are individuals who may be responsible for this explosion and fire," but neither he nor Coons took questions or indicated if investigators had any suspects.

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Superstorm stripped 30-40 feet from Jersey beaches, puts federal beach program in spotlight

SPRING LAKE, N.J. (AP) -- Towns along the Jersey shore that made use of federal money to build up beaches came through Superstorm Sandy with far less damage than those that didn't, findings that are sure to intensify a debate that has raged for years over the wisdom of pumping millions of dollars' worth of sand onto the coastline, only to see it wash away continually.

That dispute pits coastal advocates for some of the most valuable shoreline in the country against elected officials from inland states who say it's unfair to ask taxpayers from, say, the Great Plains to pay to keep rebuilding beaches they don't even use.

The storm caused major erosion along New Jersey's famous 127-mile coastline, washing away tons of sand and slimming down beaches. Some lost half their sand; the average loss statewide was 30 to 40 feet of beach width, according to findings that are not yet public but were revealed to The Associated Press.

Routine storms tear up beaches in any season, and even normal waves carry away sand. Over the years, one prescription for insulating communities from the invading sea has been to artificially replenish beaches with sand pumped from offshore. The federal government picks up 65 percent of the cost, with the rest coming from state and local coffers.

"It really, really works," said Stewart Farrell, director of Stockton College's Coastal Research Center and a leading expert on beach erosion. "Where there was a federal beach fill in place, there was no major damage -- no homes destroyed, no sand piles in the streets. Where there was no beach fill, water broke through the dunes."

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In many state capitols, supermajorities will be able to act with no need for compromise

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- There's a new superpower growing in the Great Plains and the South, where bulging Republican majorities in state capitols could dramatically cut taxes and change public education with barely a whimper of resistance from Democrats.

Contrast that with California, where voters have given Democrats a new dominance that could allow them to raise taxes and embrace same-sex marriage without regard to Republican objections.

If you thought the presidential election revealed the nation's political rifts, consider the outcomes in state legislatures. The vote also created a broader tier of powerful one-party governments that can act with no need for compromise. Half of state legislatures now have veto-proof majorities, up from 13 only four years ago, according to figures compiled for The Associated Press by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

All but three states -- Iowa, Kentucky and New Hampshire -- have one-party control of their legislatures, the highest mark since 1928.

The result could lead to stark differences in how people live and work.