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AP Top News at 7:13 a.m. EDT

Italy toll rises to 247 as anguish mounts over quake past
AMATRICE, Italy (AP) - Rescue crews raced against time Thursday looking for survivors from the earthquake that leveled three towns in central Italy, but the death toll rose to 247 and Italy once again anguished over trying to secure its medieval communities built on seismic lands. Dawn broke over the rolling hills of central Lazio and Le Marche regions after a night of uninterrupted search efforts. Aided by sniffer dogs and audio equipment, firefighters and rescue crews using their bare hands pulled chunks of cement, rock and metal apart from mounds of rubble where homes once stood searching for signs of life.

Welcome to the Trump-Clinton conspiracy election
LOS ANGELES (AP) - It's a conspiracy: The 2016 campaign features one candidate who warned against the "vast right-wing conspiracy" and another who was a leader of the so-called "birther" movement. Donald Trump and his surrogates hint at a mysterious "illness" afflicting rival Hillary Clinton. Pushing back, Clinton warns of murky ties between Trump and the Russian government, insinuating that her Republican opponent may be a puppet of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Rumors and innuendo long confined to the far reaches of the Internet are dominating the presidential race, forcing Clinton to grapple - once again - with the kinds of whispers that have dogged her family for decades.

AP-NORC Poll: Gender matters, but does it hurt or help?
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - There's no "glass ceiling" keeping a woman from the presidential nomination anymore, but most Americans still think Hillary Clinton's gender will influence the November election. They're just divided on whether it's more of a curse than a blessing. According to a new poll from the Associated-Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, most Americans see Clinton's gender playing a role in the campaign, with 37 percent saying her gender will help her chances of being elected president, 29 percent arguing it will hurt her, and 33 percent thinking it won't make a difference. "I think it will help her in a way because we haven't had a woman before," said Nayef Jaber, 67, of San Rafael, California.

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10 Things to Know for Today
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today: 1. SEARCH UNDERWAY FOR SURVIVORS IN ITALY QUAKE THAT KILLED MORE THAN 200 The number of dead and missing is uncertain given the thousands of vacationers in the area for summer's final days. 2. WELCOME TO CONSPIRACY ELECTION Trump and his surrogates hint at a mysterious "illness" afflicting his rival while Clinton warns of murky ties between the GOP nominee and the Russian government. 3. HOW AMERICANS VIEW ROLE OF GENDER IN PRESIDENTIAL RACE According to a new AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, 37 percent of respondents say being a woman will help Hillary Clinton become president, 29 percent argue it will hurt her, and 33 percent think it won't matter.

Turkey: US says Syria Kurds are pulling back in north Syria
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Turkish counterpart that Syrian Kurdish forces have started withdrawing east of the Euphrates River, Turkish officials said Thursday. The pullback was a major demand by Ankara after Turkey sent in tanks and special forces backed by U.S. airstrikes across the border to help Syrian rebels take a key Islamic State stronghold the previous day. Turkey's incursion into northern Syria was also meant to contain an expansion by Syria's Kurds amid the neighboring country's civil war, now in its sixth year. According to Turkish ministry officials, Kerry and Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke by telephone on Thursday to discuss the Turkish military operation to retake the IS-held border town of Jarablus in northern Syria.

US pursues Syria cooperation with Russia amid new volatility
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Obama administration is launching a fresh bid to enlist Russia as a partner in Syria despite more than a month of dashed hopes as the situation on the ground becomes more volatile and uncertain with the introduction of Turkish ground forces. As the military picture grows more chaotic and complicated by the day, Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov later this week to try to hammer out a diplomatic initiative that would see greater cooperation that could lead to a resumption in talks on a political transition. Before talks can begin, though, U.S.

N. Korea missile test adds to 'Military First' celebration
PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) - North Korea marked its "Military First" holiday on Thursday with mass dancing, outdoor concerts and boasts of a successful - and potentially game-changing - submarine-launched ballistic missile test it hopes will serve as a warning to Washington and Seoul to stop holding joint military exercises Pyongyang sees as a dress rehearsal for invasion. Television news broadcasts and the front pages of morning newspapers Thursday showed images of the launch, conducted in the early hours the day before. The test sent a "Pukguksong" missile soaring from a submerged position off the North's port city of Sinpo. It flew an estimated 500 kilometers (310 miles) toward the seas around Japan, the longest distance it has yet achieved in a submarine launch.

In Iran, unique system allows payments for kidney donors
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - The whirling hum of a dialysis machine could have been the soundtrack to the rest of Zahra Hajikarimi's life but for an unusual program in Iran that allows people to buy a kidney from a living donor. Iran's kidney program stands apart from other organ donation systems around the world by openly allowing payments, typically of several thousand dollars. It has helped effectively eliminate the country's kidney transplant waiting list since 1999, the government says, in contrast to Western nations like the United States, where tens of thousands hope for an organ and thousands die waiting each year.

Colombia's president rushing plebiscite on deal with rebels
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) - Colombia's president is moving fast to hold a plebiscite on a landmark peace deal reached with leftist rebels, presenting to congress Thursday the full text of the accord that he says will end a half-century of bloody combat. "Today is the beginning of the end to the suffering, pain and tragedy of war," President Juan Manuel Santos said Wednesday night in a televised address after the deal was announced in Havana, where talks went on for four years. He said he would hold an Oct. 2 yes-or-no vote on the accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

In Israel's religious press, Hillary Clinton is invisible
BNEI BRAK, Israel (AP) - Hillary Clinton may become the president of Israel's most important ally, but her image is banished from a significant swath of the country's media: the ultra-Orthodox press whose deeply conservative readership chafes at images of women. Clinton's nomination as Democratic candidate for the U.S. presidency is casting light on a longstanding policy that has already applied to other female figures from Germany's Angela Merkel to Israel's own prime minister Golda Meir. But whereas the election is causing some discussion among U.S. ultra-Orthodox media, their Israeli equivalents are digging in their heels. "For us there is no question.