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AP Top News at 4:23 p.m. EDT

Civilian casualty standard eased in Iraq, Syria
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama announced in May 2013 that no lethal strike against a terrorist would be authorized without "near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured." But amid unconfirmed reports of civilian casualties, the White House said this week that U.S. bombing in Iraq and Syria is not being held to the near-certainty standard. And the Pentagon, hamstrung by limitations in intelligence gathering, has been unable to determine in many cases whether the casualty reports are true.


Secret Service chief quits due to security lapses
WASHINGTON (AP) - Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resigned Wednesday in the face of multiple revelations about bumbling in her agency and rapidly eroding confidence that the president and his family were being kept safe. President Barack Obama "concluded new leadership of that agency was required," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.


Ebola patient told hospital he was from Liberia
DALLAS (AP) - The first Ebola patient diagnosed in the United States told a nurse on his initial hospital visit that he had recently been in an area affected by the deadly disease, but that information was not widely shared, a hospital official said Wednesday. Thomas Eric Duncan went to a Dallas emergency room Friday and explained that he was visiting the U.S. from Liberia. He was sent home with antibiotics, according to his sister, Mai Wureh.


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Liberia short on ambulances for Ebola patients
FREEMAN RESERVE, Liberia (AP) - The man with reddened eyes sat in his underwear outside his thatched home. He was weak from diarrhea, so his wife called the Ebola hotline for an ambulance. Now that it was here, though, he didn't want to go. "Have you been around someone who died? Ever been around any sick people?" asks Gordon Kamara, the first responder.


Hong Kong protesters threaten to occupy buildings
HONG KONG (AP) - Raising the stakes in their standoff with the authorities, Hong Kong's pro-democracy protesters threatened to occupy key government buildings unless the territory's top official resigns by the end of the day Thursday. The Chinese government, meanwhile, appeared to be losing patience. An editorial solemnly read Wednesday on state TV said all Hong Kong residents should support authorities in their efforts to "deploy police enforcement decisively" and "restore the social order in Hong Kong as soon as possible."


US sharply criticizes new Israeli construction
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Obama administration warned Israel on Wednesday that plans for a controversial new housing project in east Jerusalem would distance Israel from "even its closest allies" and raise questions about its commitment to seeking peace with Palestinians. The strikingly sharp criticism from the White House and State Department came just hours after President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met at the White House. Obama spokesman Josh Earnest said the president raised his concerns about the construction project with Netanyahu privately, though the two leaders made no mention of the matter in their comments to reporters.


Respiratory virus seen in 4 deaths; role unclear
NEW YORK (AP) - Four people who were infected with a virus causing severe respiratory illness across the country have died, but what role the virus played in the deaths is unclear, health officials said Wednesday. A 10-year-old Rhode Island girl died last week after suffering both a bacterial infection and infection from enterovirus 68, Rhode Island health officials said. The virus is behind a spike in harsh respiratory illnesses in children since early August.


Man convicted of murder in killing over loud music
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - A jury has found a Florida man guilty of first-degree murder for fatally shooting a teenager after an argument over loud music outside a Jacksonville convenience store. The jury reached its verdict Wednesday after more than five hours of deliberations.


AP-GfK Poll: Voters' pre-election focus on economy
WASHINGTON (AP) - It's not Obamacare or climate change. It's not yet terrorism or fear of the Islamic State group. Those issues are on the minds of voters as they begin casting ballots in this year's midterm elections, but nothing matters to American voters as much the economy. An Associated Press-GfK poll released Wednesday finds 9 in 10 likely voters call the economy an extremely or very important issue.


Q&A: What are students in Colorado protesting?
DENVER (AP) - A fight in Colorado over how United States' history is taught has pitted the new conservative majority on a suburban Denver school board against students and teachers who accuse the board of censorship. The students and teachers are protesting possible changes to the new Advanced Placement history course. Hundreds have turned out to demonstrate, holding signs saying "There is nothing more patriotic than protest" and "Teach us the truth."