House set to take up VA overhaul bill WASHINGTON (AP) - With a new Veterans Affairs secretary in place and an August recess looming, Congress is likely to move quickly to approve a compromise bill to refurbish the VA and improve veterans' health care. The House took up the bill on Wednesday, with a Senate vote expected soon after as lawmakers rush to complete their work before leaving town this weekend for a five-week recess.
Israeli strikes hit UN school, Gaza shopping area GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Israeli strikes hit a crowded shopping area in Gaza City, hours after tank shells tore through the walls of a U.N. school crowded with war refugees Wednesday in the deadliest of a series of air and artillery attacks that push the Palestinian death toll above 1,300 in more than three weeks of fighting. The bloodshed came on the heels of an escalation by both sides fighting in the embattled coastal territory, further dimming prospects for a sustainable cease-fire despite international diplomatic efforts.
Dissent quieted with most Israelis behind Gaza war JERUSALEM (AP) - Despite Israeli casualties and world criticism, a near-consensus in Israel supports the government's conduct of the Gaza war, views Hamas as the aggressor and considers outsiders' moralizing as hypocritical, ignorant or both. And in an echo-chamber fed by ubiquitous updates on Hamas rocket and tunnel attacks, the minority of local voices that do agonize over Gazans' suffering are being silenced in a way rarely seen in a country long proud of its spirited, democratic debate. A series of recent opinion polls have shown robust support for the war, reflecting years of frustration over rocket fire from Gaza and a new fear of Hamas' network of tunnels that stretch well into Israel and imperil communities along the border. Opposing views, coming primarily from leftist activists and intellectuals, have been met with threats, insults and charges of treason both in social media and face-to-face.
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AP ANALYSIS: Amid war, endgames in Gaza emerge TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) - The savage fighting between Israel and Hamas is escalating in Gaza, cease-fire efforts take on elements of farce, and bravado rules the public discourse. But even through the fog of war, a few endgame scenarios can nonetheless be glimpsed. For the moment, the deadlock is well-entrenched: As long as the crippling blockade of Gaza remains in place, Hamas says it will continue firing rockets at Israel - terrifying but mostly ineffectual, thanks to the "Iron Dome" defense system. Israel says the blockade must stay to stop a terrorist government from importing yet more weapons.
3 long-time Putin cronies hit with EU sanctions BRUSSELS (AP) - An official European Union document shows three long-time Putin cronies are among eight people who have been hit with new EU sanctions. The European Union measures announced Wednesday were the first to target members of the Russian president's inner circle for Russia's actions in Ukraine.
Clashes prevent experts from reaching bodies DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) - Almost two weeks after Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was blown out of the sky, the remains of some passengers are feared rotting in the 90-degree (32-degree Celsius) midsummer heat, deepening the frustration of relatives desperate to recover the bodies of their loved ones. Fighting between Ukrainian forces and separatist rebels has kept away international police charged with securing the site, a sprawling area of farmland and villages. And until it's secured, there is no way for forensic experts to recover the bodies or gather debris for analysis.
Sanctions will damage Russia if not lifted quickly MOSCOW (AP) - U.S. and European sanctions against Russia's energy and finance sectors are strong enough to cause deep, long-lasting damage within months unless Moscow persuades the West to repeal them by withdrawing support for Ukrainian insurgents. The U.S. and European Union released details Wednesday of new sanctions aimed at hurting Russia's economy without doing undue damage to their own trade interests, punishment for alleged Russian support for Ukrainian rebels and Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.
Ex-IRS official called conservatives 'crazies WASHINGTON (AP) - A former IRS official at the heart of the agency's tea party controversy called some right-wing Republicans "crazies" and more in emails released Wednesday. Lois Lerner headed the IRS division that handles applications for tax-exempt status. In a series of emails with a colleague in November 2012, Lerner made two disparaging remarks about some members of the GOP, including one remark that was profane.
Detroit police: Sleeping boy, 8, shot and killed DETROIT (AP) - Sporadic gunfire isn't an unusual sound in the Brewster Homes public housing complex in Detroit, but booming noises that shook Tenesha Higgins early Wednesday morning were way too close. Numerous shots were fired at an apartment building, with one piercing a wall and hitting an 8-year-old boy who was sleeping. The child - who Higgins described as a "good boy" who loved playing baseball - died 45 minutes later.
Senate reprieve for highly contested border bill WASHINGTON (AP) - A bill to deal with the immigration surge on the U.S.-Mexico border won a temporary reprieve in the Senate Wednesday as lawmakers maneuvered to offer some response to the crisis before adjourning for the summer. Senators voted 63-33 to advance the $3.5 billion emergency spending bill over an initial procedural hurdle. But with the GOP opposed, there was little expectation that the legislation would ultimately prevail with only days left before Congress' annual August recess.