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  |   Nov. 19, 2012 at 8:01 AM
Gaza death toll rises, rockets hit Israel

TEL AVIV, Israel, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- Israeli airstrikes in Gaza killed 15 people Monday, Palestinians said, and more rockets hit southern Israel while international pressure mounted for a truce.

The Palestinian death toll had risen to more than 80 since the clashes began last week and U.N Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, among others, called for a cease-fire.

"This must stop," Ban said.

The conflict had its most violent day Sunday.

Israeli missiles were reported to have killed at least 30 Palestinians, including 10 members in three generations of a single family when a Gaza City home was flattened by an bomb.

Three people had been killed and at least 79 wounded by rockets fired against southern Israel, officials said Sunday.

One rocket exploded in a schoolyard, others near homes, officials said.

The Israeli army said one of the airstrike targets was a stadium used by militants to fire long-range rockets at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Preparations for an Israeli ground invasion continued, Israel Radio said.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said Ban was to meet with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi Monday, a day after Morsi met with Hamas leaders to discuss "Egyptian efforts to end the aggression."


Obama mentions Suu Kyi's input

YANGON, Myanmar, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama says he took a cue from opposition leader Aung Ang Suu Kyi in choosing to visit Myanmar during his Asian tour.

Obama, the first U.S. president to visit the isolated Southeast Asian nation as part of his three-nation Asian tour, has said he admires Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who has been a principal force in fighting for democracy in her country, speaking against the military dictators who ruled the country from 1962 until last year when the civilian government of President Thein Sein took over.

Since then, the new government has introduced a number of democratic and other reforms, winning praise from Western leaders like Obama, whose administration has eased the tough sanctions against Myanmar, formerly called Burma. The United States also has raised diplomatic relations with Myanmar to ambassadorial level.

Prior to leaving Thailand, Obama, answering media questions in Bangkok Sunday, defended his Myanmar visit despite criticism from some quarters that it would be premature as the new government hasn't gone far enough with reforms.

While stressing his trip was not an endorsement of the current government in Myanmar, Obama said the reform steps taken by the Thein Sein government includes having Suu Kyi, who leads the National League of Democracy, as an elected member of Parliament. Suu Kyi was kept under house arrest for nearly 16 years during the military regime before being freed.


Soyuz capsule lands safely

ARKALYK, Kazakhstan, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- A Russian Soyuz spacecraft landed safely in Kazakhstan Monday morning, returning three astronauts to Earth after four-plus months in space, NASA officials said.

Expedition 33 Commander Sunita Williams of NASA, Flight Engineer Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Russian Soyuz Commander Yuri Malenchenko landed north of Arkalyk aboard the Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft at 7:56 a.m. local time. They had undocked from the International Space Station 3 1/2 hours earlier, NASA said.

The trio had been at the space station since July 17.

NASA astronaut Kevin Ford, who took command of the space station Sunday, and his crewmates, Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin, will tend to the station for a month until three new crew members, including NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn arrive.


Ex-Romney backer pushes immigration reform

WASHINGTON, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- A top Latino Republican strategist had harsh words for U.S. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and joined other conservatives calling for immigration reform.

Carlos Gutierrez, who led Romney's Latino outreach during the presidential campaign, told CNN's "State of the Union" he was "shocked" Romney last week blamed his overwhelming electoral loss on "gifts" U.S. President Barack Obama gave key groups, especially blacks, Latinos and young people.

"I was shocked. I was shocked," he said. "And frankly I don't think that's why the Republicans lost the elections, why we lost the election. I think we lost the election because the far right of this party has taken the party to a place that it doesn't belong.

"We are the party of prosperity, of growth, of tolerance," said Gutierrez, who was commerce secretary under President George W. Bush.

He said he didn't know if Romney even "understood that he was saying something that was insulting" when he told top donors in a conference call Wednesday Obama followed the "old playbook" of offering big-government "gifts" to win votes.

These gifts included healthcare reform, which Romney said brought out pro-Obama black and Latino voters.

"With Hispanic voters, free healthcare was a big plus," Romney said. "But in addition, with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group."

Gutierrez said he and Washington lawyer Charlie Spies were creating a super political action committee called "Republicans for Immigration Reform."

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