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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israel destroys the headquarters of Hamas' prime minister in a blistering assault on the Gaza Strip and shoots down a rocket aimed at Tel Aviv, stepping up a four-day-old air offensive against the Islamic militant group. As the Israeli military calls up more soldiers and moves more tanks to the Gaza border, diplomatic efforts gain steam in neighboring Egypt to broker a cease-fire. By Ibrahim Barzak and Josef Federman. AP photos, video of airstrike sites, Israeli troops in south.
AP photos, video, interactive.
— ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS-IRON DOME — A look at Israel's "Iron Dome" anti-missile defense system.
— PALESTINIANS-MOOD — Israel's new offensive against the Gaza Strip turns into a political bonanza for the territory's Hamas rulers.
JERUSALEM — With pinpoint airstrikes on militant targets in the Gaza Strip and Iranian-made rockets flying deep into Israel, the current conflagration between Israel and Hamas reflects the vast changes that have taken place on the battlefield in just four years. Israel, armed with precise intelligence and newly developed munitions, has carried out hundreds of surgical airstrikes in a campaign meant to hit militants hard while avoiding the civilian casualties that have marred previous offensives. Hamas, meanwhile, has not been stopped from firing its new longer-range rockets that shocked Israelis by reaching the areas around Tel Aviv and Jerusalem for the first time, and has revealed a variety of new weapons. By Aron Heller.
AP photos, video.
BANGKOK — For President Barack Obama, expanding U.S. influence in Asia is more than just countering China or opening up new markets to American businesses. It's also about building his legacy. Fresh off re-election, Obama will make a significant investment in that effort during a quick run through Southeast Asia that begins Sunday. The trip marks Obama's fourth visit to Asia in as many years, and with a second term now guaranteed, aides say he'll be a regular visitor to the region over the next four years as well. By Julie Pace.
—OBAMA-MYANMAR OR BURMA? — Obama's landmark visit to Myanmar, known by the U.S. as Burma, brings up an unusual problem of protocol: What does he call it?
KARACHI, Pakistan — Pakistan is secretly racing to develop its own armed drones, frustrated with U.S. refusals to provide the aircraft, but is struggling in its initial tests with a lack of precision munitions and advanced targeting technology. The development of unmanned combat aircraft is especially sensitive in Pakistan because of the widespread unpopularity of U.S. drone strikes against militants in the rugged tribal region bordering Afghanistan. By Sebastian Abbot.
HAVANA — Under Cuban law, those who leave the island illegally have had to wait many years for the opportunity to return — even briefly to visit family. But starting January a new rule will make it much easier for Cubans who left after 1994 to re-enter their abandoned homeland. The change will affect many leading lights of the cultural and athletic worlds, from musicians and ballet dancers to soccer players and former Yankee hurler Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez. By Anne-Marie Garcia.
THE NEXT KUDZU?
OXFORD, N.C. — It's fast-growing and drought-tolerant, producing tons of biomass per acre. It thrives even in poor soil and is a self-propagating perennial, so it requires little investment once established. To people in the renewable fuels industry, Arundo donax is a miracle. An Oregon power plant is looking at the giant reed as a potential substitute for coal, and North Carolina boosters are salivating over the prospect of an ethanol bio-refinery that would bring millions of dollars in investment and dozens of high-paying jobs to hog country. But to scientists and environmentalists, Arundo looks like a nightmare waiting to happen. By National Writer Allen G. Breed.
TRANSITIONING FROM TWILIGHT
LOS ANGELES — Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner have walked their last "Twilight" red carpet with the arrival this weekend of the series finale "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2." Now, they must step into careers of their own using the superstardom the multi-billion-dollar franchise has provided them. But making the transition from a beloved film series with a fervent fan base can be tricky. By Movie Critic Christy Lemire.
MORE ON ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israel's new Gaza offensive has turned into a political bonanza for the territory's Hamas rulers, while sidelining Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, their Western-backed rival in the West Bank. Gazans feeling unfairly attacked by Israel watch with gleeful pride as Hamas militants fire rockets deeper than ever into the Jewish state and Arab leaders flock to previously isolated Gaza to show their support. By Karin Laub and Ibrahim Barzak.
— OBAMA-MIDEAST — White House: Israel has right to defend itself, make decisions about military operations.
— MIDEAST DIPLOMACY — Turkish prime minister vows in speech in Cairo support for Palestinians in Gaza.
JC PENNEY-CEO'S VISION
NEW YORK - J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson seems unfazed that the department store chain's mounting losses and sales declines have led to growing criticism of his plan to change the way we shop. Perhaps that's because this isn't the first time during Johnson's 30-year career that he's attempted what seemed impossible. For instance, no one thought the stores he designed for Apple would succeed, and now they're the most profitable in the nation. But Johnson's latest plan is shaping up to be his biggest gamble yet. By Retail Writer Anne D'Innocenzio.
—JC PENNEY-JOHNSON BIO.
—JC PENNEY-COMPANY HISTORY.
—JC PENNEY-COMPANY MILESTONES.
ASSIUT, Egypt — A speeding train that crashed into a bus carrying Egyptian children to their kindergarten kills 51 and prompted a wave of anger against a government under mounting pressure to rectify the former regime's legacy of neglect. The crash, which killed children between four and six years old and three adults, led to local protests and accusations from outraged Egyptians that President Mohammed Morsi is failing to deliver on the demands of last year's uprising for basic rights, dignity and social justice. By Mamdouh Thabet and Aya Batrawy.
AP photos, video.
PARIS — France welcomes a member of the Syrian opposition to be the country's new ambassador, a bold bid to confer legitimacy on the week-old opposition coalition and encourage other Western nations to follow suit. By Elaine Ganley.
— TURKEY-JOURNALIST — Turkish cameraman captured in Syria is set free but colleague still missing.
— AFGHANISTAN-TALIBAN TALKS — Afghan peace council head says Pakistan will help bring Taliban to the negotiating table.
EASTERN EUROPE NUCLEAR DELAYS
VISAGINAS, Lithuania — The stillness at Ignalina, a nuclear power station in Lithuania, masks an unsettling fact: Three years after it was shut for safety reasons, it still has nuclear fuel inside one of its two reactors. The lesson to Europe, as it seeks to bolster the security of its nuclear power industry, is that it's one thing to kill a reactor; getting rid of it is another matter. By Gary Peach and Liudas Dapkus.
— FRANCE-GAY MARRIAGE — Anti-gay marriage marchers take to the streets in a dozen French cities.
— GREECE-UPRISING ANNIVERSARY — Greeks march to commemorate 1973 student uprising against the former dictatorship.
— FINLAND-SHOOTING — 3 people killed in shooting near Finnish farmhouse, police call jealousy the probable motive.
— SIERRA LEONE-ELECTIONS — Sierra Leone votes peacefully for leader to help war-battered nation continue recovery.
SAN FRANCISCO — The Twinkie auction has officially begun. Hours after Hostess announced it would shutter its doors, the Internet has emerged into a busy marketplace for Ding Dongs, Zingers, HoHos and, of course, those famous yellow, cream-filled sponge cakes. Sellers crept up overnight on Craigslist and eBay, some seeking thousands of dollars for a box. That's quite a markup from the retail price of $4.29 a box. By Michael Liedtke.
POLITICS & WASHINGTON
FISCAL CLIFF-BENEFIT PROGRAMS
WASHINGTON — Obama's re-election has stiffened Democrats' spine against cutting popular benefit programs such as Medicare and Social Security. Their new resolve could become as big a hurdle to a deal that would skirt crippling tax increases and spending cuts in January as Republicans' resistance to raising tax rates on the wealthy. By Andrew Taylor.
WASHINGTON — To hear many Republicans tell it, the Grand Old Party needs to get with the times. Among the early prescriptions offered by officials and operatives alike to rebuild after devastating elections: retool the party message to appeal to women, Latinos and working class Americans; upgrade antiquated get-out-the-vote systems with the latest technology; teach candidates how to handle the new media landscape. By Kasie Hunt and Steve Peoples.
WASHINGTON — Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito defends the court's 2010 decision in the Citizens United case that helped fuel hundreds of millions of dollars of spending by independent groups in the just-concluded campaign season. By Mark Sherman.
VETERANS PARADE-TRAIN CRASH
MIDLAND, Texas — Two days after a train suddenly plowed into a parade float, killing four veterans, the city of Midland, investigators and the victims' families began what likely will be a long, painful recovery. The Peterbilt truck that had been hit had been removed from the scene, where federal investigators worked Saturday. They measured distances, photographed the site and tested equipment, trilling the warning bells. And residents in the town of nearly 114,000 planned a weekend candlelight vigil.
By Juan Carlos Llorca.
AP photos, video, audio, multimedia.
CALIFORNIA DEATH PENALTY
SAN FRANCISCO — The voters have spoken and capital punishment remains the law in California. The state has spent nearly $1 million to construct a sparkling new lethal injection chamber. More than that has been spent on training a new "death penalty squad." And there are 15 Death Row inmates who have run out of appeals and are eligible for almost-immediate executions. Still, if a district attorney's long-shot legal gambit fails as expected this month, it is highly unlikely the state will resume executions any time soon after a five-year hiatus. By Paul Elias.
NEW YORK — They fell by the thousands, like soldiers in some vast battle of giants, dropping to the earth in submission to a greater force. The winds of Superstorm Sandy took out more trees in the neighborhoods, parks and forests of New York and New Jersey than any previous storm on record, experts say. By Jim Fitzgerald.
PITTSBURGH — Energy companies and environmental groups are both wondering how Obama's re-election will impact the boom in shale natural gas drilling. The stakes are huge. Business leaders don't want regulations to slow the flow of hundreds of billions of dollars of clean, cheap domestic energy over the next few decades. Environmental groups see that same tide as a potential threat, not just to air and water, but to renewable energy. And on a strategic level, diplomats envision a future when natural gas helps make the U.S. less beholden to imports. By Kevin Begos.
DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — Moonshine distillers are making their first batches of legal liquor in this tiny Georgia town's city hall, not far from the mountains and the maroon, orange and gold canopy of trees that once hid bootleggers from the law in the days of Prohibition. The moonshine makers and city officials say the operation helps them preserve a way of life. By Jeff Martin.
— DROUGHT-RIVER SHIPPING — Industry warns of economic fallout if Mississippi River shuts down because of low water levels.
THE HUNGRY GIRL
LOS ANGELES - She never set out to be a controversial food maven, telling people how to eat their cake and keep their weight down too. Lisa Lillien was just another LA "Hungry Girl," a 30-something woman who would diet off that extra 20 pounds and then put the weight back on as soon as she returned to her favored bacon-cheeseburgers and lobster sandwiches. That was until the former studio publicist started coming up with low-cal recipes for some of those favored foods and emailing them to friends. Ten years later, Lillien sits atop a multi-media Hungry Girl empire. But she's taken her share of criticism from food critics who complain her recipes are long on feel-good eats and short on nutrition. By John Rogers.
— TWILIGHT SHOOTING THREAT-MISSOURI — Police say Mo. man accused in plotting 'Twilight' attack threatened store clerk, committed in '09.
— IRELAND-ABORTION — Thousands march in Ireland in memory of Indian woman denied abortion in Irish hospital.
— DOLPHINS ATTACKED — Authorities investigating after dolphins found shot, slashed, stabbed with screwdriver.
— SMALL PLANE CRASH — Deputy says truck hit by plane was allowed to be on Maine runway; 3 killed in crash.
— GULF RIG FIRE — Coast Guard searches for 2 missing workers in Gulf after oil platform fire; 4 badly burned. AP photos.