Asking $3.7B for immigration crisis, Obama heads for Texas -- but not border

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama appealed to Congress on Tuesday for $3.7 billion in emergency spending to deal with the immigration crisis on the nation’s southern border, where unaccompanied children have been showing up by the thousands in a human drama that’s causing a political storm in Washington and beyond.

Obama himself was flying to Texas on Wednesday, a trip designed mostly for political fundraising for Democrats but now including a meeting on immigration with religious and local leaders in Dallas. He rejected pressure from Republican Gov. Rick Perry to visit the border for a firsthand look.

In Washington, Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill seemed open to approving the emergency money, which would go toward hiring more immigration judges and asylum officers, building more detention facilities, boosting deterrence and enforcement and increasing surveillance along the border with Mexico. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the Senate would act on it this month.

Obama said in a formal letter of request that the money was needed to "address this urgent humanitarian situation."

But Senate Democrats voiced skepticism about other changes the White House has said it wants that would send the minors back to Central America more quickly, partly by limiting their existing rights to court hearings. Those proposals, which are not part of Tuesday’s request, have infuriated immigrant advocates who say they would result in harsher treatment of kids and eliminate their legal protections.

Hopes for Ukraine peace talks look slim as rebels reject government conditions

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) -- Ukraine’s government took an increasingly aggressive stance Tuesday toward the pro-Russia separatists, vowing to expunge them from their reduced area of control and imposing new conditions before peace talks can restart.

But as the military moves to encircle the rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine, the government also said it would stop using the air and artillery strikes that drove the rebels from other towns so as to avoid terrorizing civilians.

Ukraine has displayed growing confidence in recent days after driving the insurgents from Slovyansk, a city that had been the heart of the armed resistance since mid-April. Security officials said Tuesday the area held by the rebels has now been reduced by half.

This apparent rout has forced hundreds of militants to regroup in Donetsk, the regional capital, where they occupy government buildings and move freely around the city.

Andrei Purgin, deputy prime minister of the self-proclaimed independent Donetsk People’s Republic, said the rebels have an estimated 15,000 fighters and are focusing their efforts on defending Donetsk, a major industrial hub of 1 million.

Ukrainian rebel stronghold struggles back after separatists are routed

SLOVYANSK, Ukraine (AP) -- For the first time in three months, Alla Grebenkova says she can go out on the streets of this city in eastern Ukraine without fear of being recognized as Ukrainian.

"I lived in hell. It was complete chaos and lawlessness," the 68-year-old teacher said of life in Slovyansk after it came under the control of pro-Russia separatists in April. "I was afraid to admit that I am Ukrainian. Finally, this absurdity has ended."

The rebels fled Slovyansk, a city of 100,000 that had been their stronghold, over the weekend as Ukrainian troops mounted an offensive. They left behind a city heavily damaged by fighting and riven by vehemently differing views.

President Petro Poroshenko made a surprise visit to Slovyansk on Tuesday and announced that electricity was being restored after the city went weeks without power, water or gas. Its hospital was operating on electricity supplied by portable generators, and chief surgeon Arkady Glushchenko said Monday that gasoline for those critical machines was in danger of running out soon.

Poroshenko also promised that all schools would be repaired by the first day of classes on Sept. 1, saying children going to school would be "a symbol of peace."

Somali government: Presidential compound secured following militant attack

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) -- Somali troops retook the presidential palace in the capital of Mogadishu after militants forced their way in and exchanged heavy gunfire with troops and guards Tuesday, the latest attack underscoring the threat posed by Islamic extremist group al-Shabab in east Africa.

Smoke billowed from inside the heavily-fortified presidential compound, and loud explosions and gunfire could be heard as troops tried to repel the intruders. After more than two hours of fighting, Somalia’s presidency said in a Twitter update that "the shameful attack" had been foiled by Somalia’s armed forces fighting alongside African Union peacekeepers.

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack.

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was not inside the palace at the time of the attack, but the prime minister and the speaker of parliament were, said Capt. Mohamed Hussein, a senior police official.

The presidency said both President Mohamud and Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed were safe.

Forgotten vials of smallpox found in U.S. storage room; unclear if virus is dead or alive

ATLANTA (AP) -- A government scientist cleaning out an old storage room at a research center near Washington made a startling discovery last week -- decades-old vials of smallpox packed away and forgotten in a cardboard box.

The six glass vials were intact and sealed, and scientists have yet to establish whether the virus is dead or alive, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

Still, the find was disturbing because for decades after smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980, world health authorities said the only known samples left were safely stored in super-secure laboratories in Atlanta and in Russia.

Officials said this is the first time in the U.S. that unaccounted-for smallpox has been discovered. At least one leading scientist raised the possibility that there are more such vials out there around the world.

The CDC and the FBI are investigating.

Israeli military steps up Gaza offensive and masses troops
along Gaza border

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel on Tuesday launched its largest offensive in the Gaza Strip in nearly two years, carrying out a blistering aerial assault on scores of targets and killing 25 people in what officials called an open-ended operation aimed at ending weeks of heavy rocket fire. As Gaza militants unleashed salvos on cities including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Israel mobilized forces along the border for a possible ground invasion.

The offensive set off the heaviest fighting between Israel and the Islamic militant group Hamas since an eight-day battle in November 2012. The militants fired about 160 rockets at Israel, including two intercepted over Tel Aviv, while Israel said it attacked more than 150 sites across Gaza.

Palestinian medics reported at least 25 dead, including six killed in an airstrike that flattened an apartment building in southern Gaza and set off widespread panic.

In a nationally televised statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said continued rocket attacks on Israeli communities would not be tolerated.

"Therefore I have ordered the military to significantly broaden its operation against Hamas terrorists and against the other terrorist groups inside Gaza," he said. "I call on you to display patience because this operation could take time."

Pot customers cheer first purchase as legal marijuana goes on sale in Washington state

BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) -- Cale Holdsworth strode to the counter at Top Shelf Cannabis, inspected and sniffed a glass jar filled with marijuana, and said: "I’ll take two grams."

Holdsworth paid $26.50 and held up the brown bag containing his pot as people applauded the store’s first transaction as Washington on Tuesday became the second state to allow people to buy marijuana legally in the U.S. without a doctor’s note.

"This is a great moment," said the 29-year-old from Abilene, Kansas, as a swarm of reporters and television cameras recorded the moment.

People began buying marijuana at 8 a.m. at Top Shelf Cannabis, which started selling the drug as soon as it was allowed under state regulations. Before it opened, several dozen people lined up outside the shop in this liberal college town of about 80,000 north of Seattle.

Holdsworth was first in line, along with his girlfriend, Sarah Gorton, and her younger brother. They showed up at 4 a.m.

Failure of Crumbs shows dangers of rapid expansion, tying business to one product

NEW YORK (AP) -- Turns out, being a one-hit wonder is risky.

When Crumbs, the New York City-based chain that built its business around cupcakes, shuttered several dozen of its remaining locations on Monday, it seemed like an abrupt ending for a company that opened a decade ago to ride the wave of popularity of the sugary treat sparked by the TV series Sex and The City.

But Crumbs’ rise and fall isn’t surprising when considering the company’s dependence on a fad. In fact, it’s the latest cautionary tale for businesses that devote their entire menus to variations of a single product.

-- Krispy Kreme, for instance, expanded rapidly in large part on the cult-like following of its doughnuts. But sales started declining and the company ended up closing some locations. Last year, restaurant industry researcher Technomic said Krispy Kreme had 249 locations, down from 338 a decade ago. The chain has broadened its menu more recently. Executives at Krispy Kreme, which celebrates its 77th anniversary later this week, weren’t available for comment.

-- A similar fate befell Mrs. Fields, which is known for its cookies. The chain has suffered in part because of the ubiquity of places that sell cookies, and it was down to 230 stores last year, from 438 a decade ago.

Tensions over conflicts push Arab soccer fans to watch World Cup on Israeli TV

BEIRUT (AP) -- With the World Cup in faraway Brazil coming at a time of unprecedented sectarian violence and soaring tension in the Middle East, some Arab football fans have been reduced to watching matches in secret or even -- and this is where it gets complicated -- on a TV channel owned by Israel.

Since the World Cup kicked off three weeks ago, Sunni Muslim extremists have seized territory in Iraq and Syria and declared an Islamic state. Lebanon has been hit by a spate of suicide bombings. Israelis and Palestinians were pushed on the edge of full conflict after the murders of four teenagers. Egypt’s political divide grew wider as hundreds of people charged with supporting the ousted Muslim Brotherhood group were convicted of terrorism-related crimes -- including three journalists for Qatar-owned Al-Jazeera network.

Many accuse the Doha-based network of editorial bias in favor of the now banned Islamic group in Egypt and of Sunni insurgents fighting Shiite-dominated governments in Syria and Iraq.

Qatar’s media conglomerate owns broadcasting rights to the World Cup in the Middle East, charging viewers from $110 to $320 for a three-month subscription that includes the 64 World Cup matches -- a tournament that should have been a welcome escape for millions of football fans.

Most fans can’t afford to pay for the satellite broadcasts of the World Cup, which was previously shown around the region on state free-to-air channels. Some Egyptians refuse to subscribe to Qatar’s channel for political reasons.

NYPD arrests mother of baby abandoned in subway station; says she is homeless, widowed

NEW YORK (AP) -- Security video showed nothing amiss when Frankea Dabbs -- wearing dark glasses, pushing a baby stroller and pulling a rolling suitcase -- entered a busy Manhattan subway station Monday night.

But after riding uptown to another stop, police say Dabbs purposely left her most precious possession behind on the subway platform: her baby girl.

Dabbs, 20, who has a record of petty crimes in North Carolina, was arrested near Central Park on abandonment charges Tuesday after someone recognized her from the video released by police. The name of her attorney wasn’t immediately available.

In a preliminary interview with detectives, Dabbs described herself as a homeless widow from North Carolina who had arrived in New York on July 2, said Stephen Davis, spokesman for the New York Police Department.

"She felt she couldn’t take care of the baby and thought she was leaving her in a safe public space," Davis said.