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AP Top News at 4:19 a.m. EDT

Arizona execution takes nearly 2 hours
PHOENIX (AP) - A condemned murderer took nearly two hours to die and gasped for about 90 minutes during an execution in Arizona that quickly rekindled the national debate on capital punishment in the U.S. The execution of 55-year-old Joseph Rudolph Wood took so long that his lawyers had time to file an emergency appeal while it was ongoing. The Arizona Supreme Court also called an impromptu hearing on the matter and learned of his death during the discussions.


AP reporter's account of Arizona execution
FLORENCE, Ariz. (AP) - Joseph Rudolph Wood looked around the death chamber and glanced at the doctors as they made preparations for his execution, locating the proper veins and inserting two lines into his arms. Wood then uttered his final words, smiled at the victim's family members and made eye contact with a deacon. Just after declaring that he was at peace with his death, he smiled at the deacon, but for a second, a subtle look of panic took over his face.


Gaza fighting rages amid cease-fire efforts
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Israeli tanks and warplanes bombarded the Gaza Strip on Thursday, as Hamas militants stuck to their demand for the lifting of an Israeli and Egyptian blockade amid U.S. efforts to reach a cease-fire. The 16-day conflict has claimed the lives of 718 Palestinians, most of them civilians, Palestinian health officials say. Israel has lost 32 soldiers, all since July 17, when it widened its air campaign into a full-scale ground operation aimed at halting rocket fire from Gaza and destroying a sophisticated network of cross-border tunnels.


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Iraq: Attack on prisoner convoy kills 60 people
BAGHDAD (AP) - Gunmen attacked a prisoner convoy north of Baghdad on Thursday, setting off a gunbattle with troops in which 52 prisoners and eight soldiers were killed, officials said. The dawn attack began with militants firing mortar rounds on Iraqi army bases in the town of Taji, where suspects were being held on terrorism charges, prompting officials to evacuate the facilities, fearing a jailbreak.


2 planes with more crash victims to leave Ukraine
KHARKIV, Ukraine (AP) - Dozens of containers holding remains of victims of the Malaysia Airlines crash were loaded aboard two military transports to go to the Netherlands Thursday on the second day of the airlift, while Australia's government dispatched 50 police officers to London to prepare to join a proposed U.N. team to secure the crash site. The crash a week ago killed all 298 people - most of them Dutch citizens - aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Wreckage of the Boeing 777 fell on territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists, and U.S. officials say the plane was probably shot down by a missile, most likely by accident.


Taiwan airline suspects bad weather caused crash
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) - Stormy weather trailing behind a typhoon was the likely cause of a plane crash on a Taiwanese island that killed 48 people on board and injured 10 on the plane and five on the ground, the airline said Thursday. The ATR-72 operated by Taiwan's TransAsia Airways was carrying 58 passengers and crew when it crashed while trying to land in the Penghu island chain in the Taiwan Strait between Taiwan and China late Wednesday. The plane was flying from the city of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan.


Israeli border towns empty, adjust to new threats
NIR AM, Israel (AP) - With deadly fighting raging next door in the Gaza Strip, southern Israeli towns along the border have turned into mini army bases as most residents have fled. Those left behind say they are long inured to near-daily salvos of rocket fire from Gaza but newly discovered tunnels that have been dug by Islamic militants nearby have them spooked.


Social Security's $300M IT project doesn't work
WASHINGTON (AP) - After spending nearly $300 million on a new computer system to handle disability claims, the Social Security Administration still can't get it to work. And officials can't say when it will. Six years ago, Social Security embarked on an aggressive plan to replace outdated computer systems overwhelmed by a growing flood of disability claims. But the project has been racked by delays and mismanagement, according to an internal report commissioned by the agency.


Family: Teen pilot who crashed in ocean knew risks
PLAINFIELD, Ind. (AP) - Haris Suleman knew that flying around the world carried risks. But like adventurers before him, the 17-year-old Indiana pilot also believed dreams weren't achieved without taking chances. "Why does any explorer undertake the necessary risks in order to accomplish their dream? Because that person has a drive, they have a focus, and they have a need to explore that dream," he wrote in a July 15 blog for The Huffington Post.


AP PHOTOS: Church a haven for Muslims in Gaza
Muslim families driven from their homes by the fierce fighting between Israel and Hamas are observing Ramadan in Gaza City's Greek Orthodox church. St. Porphyrios Church has thrown its doors open to hundreds of displaced Palestinians, some of the more than 140,000 who have fled their homes, according to the UN.