Israel accepts Egyptian cease-fire plan, truce to begin Tuesday

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel and Hamas on Monday accepted an Egyptian cease-fire proposal meant to halt a monthlong war, signaling an end to the bloodiest round of fighting between the bitter enemies could finally be approaching.

The sides said a preliminary 72-hour truce was to begin at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT) Tuesday. Egypt was then set to host indirect talks to work out a long-term truce over the next three days.

A delegation of Palestinian officials from various factions, including Hamas, has been negotiating with Egypt in recent days. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the group had accepted the plan.

"It’s clear now that the interest of all parties is to have a cease-fire," said Bassam Salhi, a member of the Palestinian delegation. "It’s going to be tough negotiations because Israel has demands too."

The war broke out on July 8 when Israel launched an air campaign in response to heavy rocket fire out of Hamas-controlled Gaza. Israel expanded the operation by sending in ground forces on July 17 in what it described as a mission to destroy a network of tunnels used by Hamas militants to stage attacks. The army said it is close to destroying the last of the tunnels.


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Israel, Palestinians gear up for Gaza war crimes probes, saying they learned from last war

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- In a replay of the last major Gaza conflict, human rights defenders are again accusing Israel and Hamas of violating the rules of war, pointing to what they say appear to be indiscriminate or deliberate attacks on civilians.

In 2009, such war crimes allegations leveled by U.N. investigators -- and denied by both sides at the time -- never came close to reaching the International Criminal Court.

Some Palestinians hope the outcome will be different this time, in part because President Mahmoud Abbas, as head of a U.N.-recognized state of Palestine, has since earned the right to turn directly to the court.

Still, the road to the ICC, set up in 2002 to prosecute war crimes, is filled with formidable political obstacles.

Israel and the United States strongly oppose bringing any possible charges stemming from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before the court, arguing such proceedings could poison the atmosphere and make future peace talks impossible.

Defendant in Detroit-area
porch shooting: ‘I wasn’t
going to cower in my house’

DETROIT (AP) -- A suburban Detroit man said Monday that he was afraid when someone showed up on his porch before dawn one morning last year and started banging on his doors, but he wasn’t going to be a victim in his own home.

"I wasn’t going to cower in my house," Theodore Wafer told jurors at his trial for the Nov. 2 killing of 19-year-old Renisha McBride, who was drunk but unarmed.

Wafer is charged with second-degree murder and could be sentenced to up to life in prison with the chance for parole, if he’s convicted. He says he shot McBride in self-defense, but prosecutors say Wafer could have stayed safely behind his locked doors and called 911 instead of confronting McBride, whom he didn’t know.

Wafer, 55, took the stand on the seventh day of testimony. Legal experts had speculated that he would have to testify in his own defense to convince the jury that he had a reasonable and honest fear for his life that morning.

Softly and methodically, Wafer told the Wayne County Circuit Court jury how he followed loud bangs from his front door to his side door and back to the front again before fetching his 12-gauge shotgun.

Jim Brady, Reagan aide wounded in assassination attempt, dies at 73; was gun-control advocate

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A major trait that endeared Jim Brady to the Washington press corps was his sense of humor, especially when he made fun of his own boss.

When Ronald Reagan was campaigning for president in 1980, Reagan drew scorn from environmentalists for saying that trees were a greater source of pollution than cars. Aboard the campaign plane, Brady pointed at a forest fire in the distance and yelled, "Killer trees! Killer trees!" to the great amusement of reporters.

After the election, Reagan’s advisers appeared hesitant to appoint Brady press secretary. Nancy Reagan was said to feel the job required someone younger and better-looking than the 40-year-old, moon-faced, balding Brady.

"I come before you today not as just another pretty face but out of sheer talent," Brady told reporters. A week later, he got the job.

Brady, who died Monday at 73, would need humor and much more after March 30, 1981. On that day John Hinckley Jr. attempted to assassinate Reagan outside the Washington Hilton Hotel just two months into the new president’s term. Reagan nearly died from a chest wound. Three others, including Brady, were struck by bullets from Hinckley’s handgun.

Despite drug shortage, 2 states carry on with executions using potent sedative pentobarbital

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Despite a shortage of lethal-injection drugs, two of the nation’s most active death penalty states have quietly carried on with executions by turning to pentobarbital, a powerful sedative that generally puts inmates to death swiftly and without complications.

Missouri and Texas have avoided the prolonged executions seen in other states where authorities are struggling to find a reliable chemical combination. The drug’s apparent effectiveness raises questions about why it has not been more widely adopted.

"There is a better drug, and that better drug is pentobarbital," said Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the pro-death penalty Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.

Lethal injection is in the spotlight after executions went awry in Ohio, Oklahoma and Arizona, which all use midazolam, a drug that is more commonly given to help patients relax before surgery. In executions, it is part of a two- or three-drug lethal injection.

Texas and Missouri instead administer a single large dose of pentobarbital, which is often used to treat convulsions and seizures and to euthanize animals.

Groups say a U.S.-backed
program that used HIV workshop as political cover hurt aid work

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A U.S. program in Cuba that secretly used an HIV-prevention workshop for political activism was assailed Monday by international public health officials and members of Congress who declared that such clandestine efforts put health programs at risk around the world.

Beginning in late 2009, the U.S. Agency for International Development deployed nearly a dozen young people from Latin America to Cuba to recruit political activists, an Associated Press investigation found. The operation put the foreigners in danger not long after a U.S. contractor was hauled away to a Cuban jail.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said Monday it would be "worse than irresponsible" if USAID "concocted" an HIV-prevention workshop to promote a political agenda.

And InterAction, an alliance of global non-governmental aid groups, said, "The use of an HIV workshop for intelligence purposes is unacceptable. The U.S.government should never sacrifice delivering basic health services or civic programs to advance an intelligence goal."

The Obama administration defended its use of the HIV-prevention workshop for its Cuban democracy-promotion efforts but disputed that the project was a front for political purposes. The program "enabled support for Cuban civil society, while providing a secondary benefit of addressing the desires Cubans express for information and training about HIV prevention," said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

Australia considers intervening in case of Down syndrome baby abandoned to Thai surrogate mom

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) -- Seven-month-old Gammy, who was born with Down syndrome and a congenital heart condition, is being cared for by his young Thai surrogate mother after his Australian biological parents left him behind in Thailand, taking home only his healthy twin sister.

Now the Australian government says it is considering intervening in the case, with the country’s immigration minister saying Monday that the little blond, brown-eyed boy might be entitled to Australian citizenship.

Pattaramon Chanbua, a 21-year-old food vendor who has two young children of her own, says she met the Australian couple only once, when the babies were born, and knew only that they lived in Western Australia state. The couple has not been publicly identified.

Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison called Pattaramon "an absolute hero" and "a saint," but said the law surrounding the case "is very, very murky."

"We are taking a close look at what can be done here, but I wouldn’t want to raise any false hopes or expectations," Morrison told Sydney Radio 2GB. "We are dealing with something that has happened in another country’s jurisdiction."

Former enemies Belgium, France, Britain and Germany unite for ceremonies marking start of WWI

SAINT-SYMPHORIEN, Belgium (AP) -- Separated by only a small patch of yellow daisies at the Saint-Symphorien military cemetery lie two former enemies: British Captain Kenneth James Roy and German Gefreiter Reinhold Dietrich. Also between the two are some 9 million dead soldiers over four years.

Roy died in the first month of World War I, trying to stop the early German onslaught through Belgium. Dietrich died two weeks before the war ended with a German defeat.

On Monday, from Glasgow, Scotland to Liege and the small Saint-Symphorien in southern Belgium, leaders of the former enemies Belgium, France, Britain and Germany stood together in a spirit of reconciliation to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of conflict that became known as The Great War.

On Aug. 4, 1914 Germany invaded neutral Belgium as part of a planned attack on France, forcing Britain to declare war by nightfall and unleash the biggest conflagration the world had known.

"It opened Pandora’s Box," said German President Joachim Gauck, who acknowledged that it "is anything but self-evident to stand and talk to you on this day" and be warmly welcomed by the nation Germany overran.

Scrabble players rejoice: 5,000 new words large and small are on the way in dictionary update

NEW YORK (AP) -- To Scrabble fanatics, big gifts sometimes come in small packages.

The word "te" as a variant of "ti," the seventh tone on the musical scale, is a hardworking little gem among 5,000 words added to "The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary," out Aug. 11 from Merriam-Webster.

The dictionary’s last freshening up was a decade ago. Entries in the forthcoming book include texter, vlog, bromance, hashtag, dubstep and selfie were mere twinkles on the racks of recreational players.

But it’s the addition of te and three other two-letter words -- da, gi and po -- that has Robin Pollock Daniel excited. Daniel, a clinical psychologist in Toronto, is a champion of the North American Scrabble Players Association, which has a committee that helps Merriam-Webster track down new, playable words of two to eight letters.

"Being able to hook an ‘e’ underneath ‘t’ means that I can play far more words," explained Daniel, who practices Scrabble two to four hours a day. "Sometimes you play parallel to a word and you’re making two-letter words along the way. I call those the amino acids of Scrabble. The more two-letter words we have, the more possibilities a word will fit."