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AP Top News at 12:51 a.m. EDT

Iraqi officials believe Saddam's top deputy killed
BAGHDAD (AP) - He was the last member of Saddam Hussein's inner circle still on the run, depicted with his distinctive red moustache as the "king of clubs" on the U.S. military's deck of cards of most-wanted Iraqi regime fugitives. Now, officials say they believe government forces killed Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri near Tikrit, where the former deputy to Saddam was working alongside Islamic State militants.


Gulf health 5 years after BP spill: Resilient yet scarred
From above, five years after the BP well explosion, the Gulf of Mexico looks clean, green and whole again, teeming with life - a testament to the resilience of nature. But there's more than surface shimmering blue and emerald to the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon spill. And it's not as pretty a picture - nor is it as clear.


Gas-line blast closes major highway, injures at least 11
FRESNO, Calif. (AP) - A large gas pipeline exploded into a tower of fire Friday in Central California, closing both directions of a major highway in the region and injuring at least 11 people, three of them critically, authorities said. It was not clear what caused the explosion at the Fresno County Sheriff's gun range that brought traffic in the area to a halt. But authorities say it occurred while a county equipment operator was working with a jail inmate crew to expand a road on the range alongside heavily travelled Highway 99.


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Amid growing migrant crisis, 20 burn victims rescued at sea
MILAN (AP) - The unabated flow of migrants fleeing instability in Libya brought a new horror on Friday: The discovery of 20 migrants adrift at sea who had suffered grave burn injuries in a cooking gas explosion before departing Libya, and then were forced onto a smuggler's boat without treatment. Italian ships have picked up 10,000 people, many of them refugees of war and persecution, over the past week, an unprecedented number in such a short period. The influx is putting pressure on Italy's shelter system and raising calls for a better response to the emergency.


Volunteer deputy sold company, went back to police work
TULSA, Okla. (AP) - After he sold his insurance company for around $6 million, Robert Bates sought to return to a profession he tried for a year in his early 20s: law enforcement. Bates - the 73-year-old Tulsa County volunteer deputy accused of shooting an unarmed suspect to death while the man was being held down by others - began a law-enforcement career back in 1964, when he attended the Tulsa police academy. He served in the city police department only briefly, until the end of 1965, according to the agency.


Opt-out movement accelerates amid Common Core testing
ATLANTA (AP) - Thousands of students are opting out of new standardized tests aligned to the Common Core standards, defying the latest attempt by states to improve academic performance. This "opt-out" movement remains scattered but is growing fast in some parts of the country. Some superintendents in New York are reporting that 60 percent or even 70 percent of their students are refusing to sit for the exams. Some lawmakers, sensing a tipping point, are backing the parents and teachers who complain about standardized testing.


Obama open to 'creative negotiations' on Iran sanctions
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama on Friday left open the door to "creative negotiations" in response to Iran's demand that punishing sanctions be immediately lifted as part of a nuclear deal, even though the initial agreement calls for the penalties to be removed over time. Asked at a White House news conference whether he would definitively rule out lifting sanctions at once as part of a final deal aimed at keeping Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, Obama said he didn't want to get ahead of negotiators in how to work through the potential sticking point. He said his main concern is making sure that if Iran violates an agreement, sanctions can quickly be reinstated - the so-called "snap back" provision.


Cardinal Francis George, key Catholic orthodoxy voice, dies
CHICAGO (AP) - Cardinal Francis George, a vigorous defender of Roman Catholic orthodoxy who played a key role in the church's response to the clergy sex abuse scandal and led the U.S. bishops' fight against Obamacare, has died after a long fight with cancer. He was 78. George, who retired as Chicago archbishop in the fall of 2014, a few months before announcing his treatment for kidney cancer had failed, died late Friday morning, according to the Archdiocese of Chicago.


Fiorina aims to keep Clinton from playing the 'gender card'
NASHUA, N.H. (AP) - Carly Fiorina, the lone Republican woman eying the White House, wants to block Hillary Rodham Clinton from playing the "gender card" in the 2016 presidential race. But to do so, Fiorina is taking a page from the gender politics playbook herself.


Bryant 0 for 4 with 3 Ks in debut as Cubs lose to Padres 5-4
CHICAGO (AP) - Kris Bryant absorbed the sights and smells and sounds of Wrigley Field. He cherished playing in front of 30,000 charged-up fans. He appreciated all the family members and friends who turned out for his big league debut. Only two things were missing - a hit and a win.


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