AP News in Brief at 10:58 p.m. EDT

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Associated Press

Posted on July 8, 2014 at 10:02 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 8 at 10:02 PM

Death toll mounts in Gaza from Israeli offensive; rockets hit Jerusalem and Tel Aviv

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 a strike that reached the northern city of Hadera for the first time, 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.

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 on national TV. "I call on you to display patience because this operation could take time."

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Urgently asking $3.7 billion 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 Gov. Rick Perry and religious and local leaders in Dallas. He rejected pressure from the Republican governor 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.

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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. ISRAEL LAUNCHES LARGEST OFFENSIVE IN GAZA IN TWO YEARS

The Israeli military carries out an aerial assault on Palestinian targets, killing 25 people while Gaza militants fire rockets at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

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Hopes for east Ukraine peace talks look slim as rebels reject gov 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.

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Hundreds line up at Washington pot shops as state begins legal marijuana sales

SEATTLE (AP) — Surrounded by thousands of packages of marijuana, Seattle's top prosecutor sought some advice: Which one should he buy?

A new day, indeed.

Twenty months after voters legalized recreational cannabis for adults over 21, Washington state's first few licensed pot shops opened for business Tuesday, catering to hundreds of customers who lined up outside, thrilled to be part of the historic moment.

The pot being sold at four stores in Seattle, Bellingham, Prosser and Spokane was regulated, tested for impurities, heavily taxed and in short supply — such short supply that several other shops couldn't open because they had nothing to sell.

Pete Holmes, Seattle's elected city attorney and a main backer of the state's recreational marijuana law, said he wanted to be one of the first customers to demonstrate there are alternatives to the nation's failed drug war.

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Republicans tap Cleveland to host 2016 convention, eye Ohio's 18 electoral votes

WASHINGTON (AP) — Cleveland won the unanimous backing of a Republican National Committee panel on Tuesday, all but guaranteeing the GOP's 2016 presidential pick will accept the party's nomination in perennially hard-fought Ohio.

The Republicans' site selection committee backed Cleveland over donor-rich Dallas, and the full 168-member RNC is expected to ratify the choice next month. The move reflects the role Ohio — and its 18 electoral votes— plays in presidential campaigns.

"As goes Ohio, so goes the presidential race," said party Chairman Reince Priebus.

The RNC did not announce a start date for the convention but Priebus said that June 28 or July 18, 2016, are the two options under consideration. An earlier-than-normal convention was a priority for Priebus, and leaders of Dallas' bid said the calendar was the main factor running against the Texas city.

"June is not an option for us," said former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who was involved in Dallas' bid. "Reince really wants June."

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Government watchdog says 67 VA whistleblowers report retaliation by supervisors

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal investigative agency is examining 67 claims of retaliation by supervisors at the Department of Veterans Affairs against employees who filed whistleblower complaints — including 25 complaints filed since June 1, after a growing health care scandal involving long patient waits and falsified records at VA hospitals and clinics became public.

The independent Office of Special Counsel said 30 of the complaints about retaliation have passed the initial review stage and were being further investigated for corrective action and possible discipline against VA supervisors and other executives. The complaints were filed in 28 states at 45 separate facilities, Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner said.

Instead of using information provided by whistleblowers as an early warning system, the VA often "has ignored or attempted to minimize problems, allowing serious issues to fester and grow," Lerner said Tuesday night at a hearing before the House Veterans Affairs Committee. Worse, officials have retaliated against whistleblowers instead of investigating their complaints, she said.

Lerner said her office has been able to block disciplinary actions against several VA employees who reported wrongdoing, including one who reported a possible crime at a VA facility in New York.

The counsel's office also reversed a suspension for a VA employee in Hawaii who reported seeing an elderly patient being improperly restrained in a wheelchair. The whistleblower was granted full back pay and an unspecified monetary award and the official who retaliated against the worker was suspended, Lerner said.

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Donald Sterling gives testy testimony in Los Angeles Clippers sale trial

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Donald Sterling, who's challenging the sale of his Los Angeles Clippers, gave testy, bombastic testimony Tuesday, contending he's mentally sound, sparring with his wife's lawyer and repeatedly drawing laughter from spectators.

"Tell me what you want to accuse me of...stand up and be a man," he told attorney Bert Fields during a 90-minute afternoon appearance.

The 80-year-old billionaire also called doctors who've declared he has Alzheimer's disease "hired guns," pleaded a faulty memory about some of his most controversial remarks and declared he could top the $2 billion offer for the Clippers by $10 billion by selling TV rights to Fox and winning an antitrust suit he's filed against the NBA.

"What do you think, I'm doing this for ego?" he asked Fields.

"Yes," the attorney replied.

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Germany pours in the goals and routs Brazil 7-1 to reach World Cup final for the 8th time

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (AP) — With Neymar out injured, just about everyone in Brazil knew it would be tough against Germany.

Nobody ever expected this.

The Germans tore apart Brazil's porous defense time and time again Tuesday, routing the hosts 7-1 in the World Cup semifinals, the largest margin of defeat at this stage in the history of the tournament.

"We wanted to make the people happy ... unfortunately we couldn't," said Brazil defender David Luiz, who had scored in each of the last two matches. "We apologize to all Brazilians."

The astounding scoreline is sure to overshadow Miroslav Klose's record-setting 16th career World Cup goal. The strike pushed Klose past Brazil great Ronaldo, who was at the Mineirao Stadium on Tuesday as the Germans advanced to their eighth World Cup final.

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AP PHOTOS: Brazil fans react to record 7-1 loss to Germany with tears, shock

The sadness, frustration and disappointment were palpable as Brazil fans watched Germany score goal after goal after goal (after goal after goal after goal after goal) at the World Cup semifinals in Belo Horizonte. Germany's 7-1 winning margin over the home team was the largest ever in a World Cup semifinal.

Brazilians — among soccer's most exuberant fans — covered their mouths first in shock, then in horror. Tears rolled down many faces, smearing makeup in the national colors of blue, green and yellow.

"We wanted to make the people happy ... unfortunately we couldn't," said Brazil defender David Luiz, who left the field dejectedly. "We apologize to all Brazilians."

Here's a collection of images showing fans' reactions.

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