AP Top News at 2:25 a.m. EDT

Arizona inmate dies 2 hours after execution began
PHOENIX (AP) - A condemned Arizona inmate gasped for more than an hour and a half during his execution Wednesday before he died in an episode sure to add to the scrutiny surrounding the death penalty in the U.S. Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne's office said Joseph Rudolph Wood was pronounced dead at 3:49 p.m., one hour and 57 minutes after the execution started.


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 bid
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Israeli tanks and warplanes are pummeling the Gaza Strip as U.S. and other diplomats push for a cease-fire with Hamas militants. Gaza police say an infant boy was among those killed when Israeli fighter jets struck the Jabaliya refugee camp early Thursday.


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40 bodies from jet solemnly returned to Dutch soil
EINDHOVEN, Netherlands (AP) - Victims of the Malaysian jetliner shot down over Ukraine returned at last Wednesday to Dutch soil in 40 wooden coffins, solemnly and gently carried to 40 identical hearses, flags at half-staff flapping in the wind. The carefully choreographed, nearly silent ceremony contrasted sharply with the boom of shells and shattered glass in eastern Ukraine as pro-Russian rebels fought to hang onto territory and shot down two Ukrainian fighter jets. The bold new attack showed the separatists are not shying away from shooting at the skies despite international outrage and grief at the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.


Casualty numbers raise questions about Gaza war
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Shopkeepers say they were sitting outside their shuttered businesses Wednesday, catching a break from being cooped up during wartime, when an Israeli missile struck a nearby mosque, killing a truck driver and wounding 45 people. One of those wounded by shrapnel said from his hospital gurney that the strike came without warning.


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.


Social Security spent $300M on 'IT boondoggle'
WASHINGTON (AP) - Six years ago the Social Security Administration embarked on an aggressive plan to replace outdated computer systems overwhelmed by a growing flood of disability claims. Nearly $300 million later, the new system is nowhere near ready and agency officials are struggling to salvage a project racked by delays and mismanagement, according to an internal report commissioned by the agency. In 2008, Social Security said the project was about two to three years from completion. Five years later, it was still two to three years from being done, according to the report by McKinsey and Co., a management consulting firm.


Taiwan airline suspects bad weather caused crash
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) - Stormy weather on the trailing edge of Typhoon Matmo was the likely cause of a plane crash on a Taiwanese island that killed 48 people, the airline said Thursday. The ATR-72 operated by Taiwan's TransAsia Airways was carrying 58 passengers and crew when it crashed while landing 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.


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.


Honduran families deported back to a bleak future
TOCOA, Honduras (AP) - Elsa Ramirez already had lost two brothers to violence in this remote Caribbean region when co-workers handling clandestine cocaine flights from South America murdered her husband four months ago. Then the killers came looking for her.