AP Top News at 4:09 p.m. EDT

Obama focusing on condolences, not gun laws, in Oregon visit
ROSEBURG, Ore. (AP) - President Barack Obama is bringing words of comfort and sympathy to grieving families of victims of the shooting rampage in Roseburg, Oregon, muting his message about the need for new laws to stem gun violence as he visits an area where firearms are popular. Obama will talk with family members Friday at the start of a four-day West Coast trip. Eight community college students and a teacher were killed before the gunman fatally shot himself in front of his victims after he was wounded by police. Dozens of demonstrators had gathered near the local airport as Obama arrived to protest his call for strict gun laws.

US abandons Pentagon's failed rebel-building effort in Syria
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Obama administration is overhauling its approach to fighting the Islamic State in Syria, abandoning a failed Pentagon effort to build a new ground force of moderate rebels and instead partnering with established rebel groups, officials said Friday. The shift, telegraphed weeks ago by disclosures that the effort had produced only a handful of trained rebels, is meant partly to take better advantage of U.S. airpower, which can play a bigger role now that Turkey is permitting American fighter jets to operate from its soil. But it is not expected to immediately give new momentum to a slow-moving - some would say stalled - American-led campaign against the Islamic State.

IS advances near Syria's Aleppo despite Russian strikes
BEIRUT (AP) - Islamic State militants captured a string of villages near Aleppo on Friday in a lightning attack that brought them closer to the prized city in northern Syria, despite a major increase in Russian airstrikes that Moscow insists are targeting the extremists. The surprise advance that brought the IS group to within a few miles of Aleppo was the most significant in months, following what has largely been a summer of stalemate in the war against the extremists. It comes amid a wave of intense Russian airstrikes that have targeted insurgents fighting to topple President Bashar Assad, and a ground offensive by the Syrian army in the country's central region.

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Analysis: GOP is party desperately in search of a leader
WASHINGTON (AP) - The GOP is a party in chaos, desperately in search of a leader. In the unruly U.S. House, Republicans enjoy a near-historic majority, yet deep divisions between ultra-conservatives and more traditional GOP lawmakers have left them at a loss over who should be in charge. In the Republican presidential primary, experienced governors and senators - long the party's national leaders-in-waiting - are overshadowed by outsiders like Donald Trump who only seem to get stronger as they challenge the GOP establishment. Trump even claimed he helped push California Rep. Kevin McCarthy out of the race for House speaker this week, a shocking pullback by a lawmaker seen as the heir apparent.

Pressure builds on Paul Ryan to run for House speaker
WASHINGTON (AP) - The pressure is on Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP vice presidential nominee in 2012, to run for House speaker in the chaotic aftermath of Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's sudden decision to abandon his campaign for the post. "I've talked with Paul Ryan. He's talking to people. I think he'd make a great speaker," McCarthy, R-Calif., said Friday morning as he entered a closed-door Republican meeting. "It's a big decision. He's got to talk to his wife and everybody else, and it's got to be his decision." Ryan has insisted he's not interested in the post, preferring to focus on his chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee.

Farmers look at devastating losses as flood rolls downstream
BRANCHVILLE, S.C. (AP) - Thad Wimberly tugs on a clump of peanuts, shaking off the mud as he cracks the soggy shells to inspect his crop. But all he can do is sigh as his livelihood disintegrates between his fingers. Just a week ago, the 2,500 acres Wimberly farms with his partner, Jonathan Berry, baked in a drought that wiped out his corn crop. Now, his fields 60 miles south of Columbia in Branchville are filled with water. Moisture is trapped in his peanuts, creating mold and other toxins that make them unfit for humans and animals to eat. He expects to lose as much as $1 million this year, as crop insurance only covers a portion of market prices.

Israel struggles to contain wave of stabbing attacks
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Unrest that erupted several weeks ago at Jerusalem's most sensitive holy site spread Friday to Gaza in the form of deadly border clashes with Palestinian protesters, as Israeli security forces struggled to contain a wave of Palestinian stabbing attacks against civilians and soldiers. For the first time since the current violence began, clashes broke out along the Gaza border after Palestinians in the territory ruled by the Islamic militant group Hamas rolled burning tires and threw rocks at Israeli troops on the frontier. Six Palestinians were killed and a dozen were wounded, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

AP Exclusive: Saudi hajj crush was deadliest tragedy ever
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - One survivor of last month's crush and stampede at the hajj in Saudi Arabia recalled seeing so many bodies that he couldn't tell how many there were. The Associated Press sought to answer that question, arriving at a death toll of at least 1,470. That made the Sept. 24 disaster the deadliest accident ever at the annual pilgrimage. And hundreds remain missing. The AP count is 701 higher than Saudi Arabia's official tally of 769 killed and 934 injured in the Sept. 24 disaster in Mina, a few miles from the holy city of Mecca.

North Korea readies massive anniversary celebration
PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) - North Korea is holding what is expected to be one of its biggest celebrations ever Saturday for the 70th anniversary of its ruling party's creation, an attention-getting event that is the government's way of showing the world and its own people the Kim dynasty - now in its third generation - is firmly in control and its military a power to be reckoned with. The military parade kicking off the celebrations could hold some surprises for analysts abroad who will be watching its display of weaponry, particularly its growing fleet of drone aircraft and long-range missiles, very closely.

Nobel Peace Prize boosts struggling Tunisian democracy
TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) - It was the fall of 2013 and Tunisia's newfound democracy was in grave danger. The assassination of a left-wing politician had prompted the opposition to walk out of the constitutional assembly. The government was paralyzed, the constitution unfinished and the country on the brink of war. In nearby Egypt, which had followed Tunisia in a democratic revolution, a coup had just overthrown the Islamist government, and some sectors in Tunisia wanted to follow suit. Then four civil society groups - the main labor union, the bar association, the employers' association and the human rights league - stepped into the fray.