Closely orchestrated murder trial of wife of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai begins

HEFEI, China (AP) — Closely orchestrated murder trial of wife of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai begins.


Syria launches ground assault in Aleppo to try to oust rebels

TEL RIFAT, Syria (AP) — Syria launched a ground assault Wednesday on rebel-held areas of the besieged city of Aleppo, the center of battles between government forces and opposition fighters for more than two weeks.

It was not immediately clear if the offensive was "the mother of all battles" that Syria's state-controlled media vowed last month would take place for control of Aleppo. In recent weeks, the regime's blistering attacks on rebel positions seem to have slowly chipped away at the opposition's grip on its strongholds in the country's largest city.

The official SANA news agency said regime forces have fully regained control of the Salaheddine neighborhood, the main rebel area in Aleppo. It claimed the "fall" of hundreds of "armed terrorists," the government's catchall term for its opponents, without specifying what that meant.

Rami Abdul-Rahman, the director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said troops met resistance in the offensive.

About 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of Aleppo, Syrian fighter jets carried out airstrikes early Wednesday on the village of Tel Rifat, hitting a home and a high school and killing six people from the same family, residents said.


As Syrian refugee camps swell, fears rise of exodus pressures along borders

YAYLADAGI, Turkey (AP) — His two-story house with a garden became a military post when government forces moved into his village in northeastern Syria. More than a year has passed for Amin Idlibi and his family, now sharing a crowded tent in a Turkish refugee camp, and the limbo of more than 250,000 others who have fled Syria's civil war into neighboring countries.

"Time passes so slowly here as we wait to return home," said Idlibi, a 58-year-old retired civil servant as he sat in this camp on the edge of a Turkish farming community, one of eight Turkish-run camps that have taken in thousands more refugees just in the past week.

And the numbers are likely to rise.

A government offensive Wednesday against rebel strongholds in Syria's largest city, Aleppo, could touch off another major exodus into nearby Turkey. In Jordan, authorities are straining to build more camps to accommodate refugees from Syria's south — where the uprising against President Bashar Assad's regime began more than 17 months ago. On one recent night alone, an estimated 4,000 Syrians arrived in Jordan.

In Jordan's Zataari camp, opened just two weeks ago on a desolate desert plain, some 3,300 displaced Syrians have raised complaints about conditions that include dust storms and tents that are home to snakes and scorpions.


Survey changes would drop use of 'Negro,' count Latinos as a separate group to blacks, whites

WASHINGTON (AP) — To keep pace with rapidly changing notions of race, the Census Bureau wants to make broad changes to its surveys that would treat "Hispanic" as a distinct category regardless of race, end use of the term "Negro" and offer new ways to identify Middle Easterners.

The recommendations released Wednesday stem from new government research on the best ways to count the nation's demographic groups. Still it could face stiff resistance from some racial and ethnic groups who worry that any kind of wording change in the high-stakes government count could yield a lower tally for them.

"This is a hot-button issue," said Angelo Falcon, president of the National Institute for Latino Policy in New York City and a community adviser to the census. "The burden will be on the Census Bureau to come up with evidence that wording changes will not undermine the Latino numbers."

Arab-Americans said they strongly support the Census Bureau's efforts. "The Census Bureau's current method for determining Arab ancestry yields a significant undercount of the actual size of the community, and we're optimistic that the new form should be significantly better at capturing ancestry data," the Arab American Institute said in a statement.

The research is based on an experiment conducted during the 2010 census in which nearly 500,000 households were given forms with the race and ethnicity questions worded differently. The findings show that many people who filled out the traditional form did not feel they fit within the five government-defined categories of race: white, black, Asian, Pacific Islander and American Indian/Alaska Native; when questions were altered to address this concern, response rates and accuracy improved notably.


AP PHOTOS: Torrential rains leave much of Manila submerged, force thousands to evacuate

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — People struggling to walk in streets through water often up to their chests. Rescuers in rubber boats frantically trying to reach distressed residents of submerged villages. Churches turned into temporary refuges.

Massive flooding has turned much of the Philippine capital into what one top government official called a "water world," a deluge that has killed at least 23 people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee.

Here are images of some of the worst flooding in the area since 2009, when hundreds were killed in non-stop monsoon rains and flash floods.


EYES ON LONDON: Felix lights up the track, US gets volleyball gold, Bolt coasts in 200 meters

LONDON (AP) — Around the 2012 Olympics and its host city with journalists from The Associated Press bringing the flavor and details of the games to you:



Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce doesn't mind a silver to go with her gold.

The winner of the 100-meter dash followed it up with a runner-up finish to Allyson Felix of the U.S. in Wednesday night's 200 meters.


After years of neglect and post-Mubarak security void, Islamic extremism grows in Sinai

El-ARISH, Egypt (AP) — After decades of neglect and with the collapse of government authority the past 18 months, Egypt's Sinai Peninsula has become fertile ground for Islamic extremists. Militant groups have taken root, carrying out attacks against neighboring Israel and now turning their guns against Egypt's military as they vow to set up a puritanical Islamic state.

At a mosque in the northern Sinai village of Sheikh Zuweyid, a Bedouin tribal sheik gestures out toward the deserts that stretch outside of town. There, Sheik Arafa Khedr said, it's well known that militants have set up training camps. Jihadists recruit young Bedouin. Palestinian militants from neighboring Gaza help in weapons training.

The danger, Khedr said, is that Sinai could become another Yemen, where al-Qaida-linked militants last year managed to take over a swath of territory in the south.

"We're expecting the entire region to be like Jaar," he said, referring to a southern Yemeni town that militants held for months until Yemeni troops uprooted them earlier this year.

Egypt's army and security forces on Tuesday launched an offensive to "restore control" over Sinai after a stunning attack this week made clear the militants' growing strength. On Sunday, gunmen attacked an army checkpoint near where the borders of Egypt, Israel and Gaza meet, killing 16 soldiers, stealing vehicles and driving them into Israel in an apparent attempt to carry out another attack before they were hit by Israeli forces.


Egyptian president fires intelligence chief over militant killings of 16 soldiers in Sinai

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's president fired his intelligence chief on Wednesday for failing to act on an Israeli warning of an imminent attack days before militants stormed a border post in the Sinai Peninsula and killed 16 soldiers.

The dismissal, which followed Egyptian airstrikes against Sinai militants, also marked a bold attempt by the Islamist leader to deflect popular anger over the attack. It pointed to a surprising level of cooperation with the powerful military leaders who stripped the presidency of significant powers just before President Mohammed Morsi took office June 30.

In a major shake-up, Morsi also asked Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi to replace the commander of the military police, a force that has been heavily used to combat street protests since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak 18 months ago. Rights activists have accused the military police of brutality against protesters.

Morsi also fired the commander of his presidential guards and ordered new chiefs for security in Cairo and the police's central security, a large, paramilitary force often deployed to deal with riots.

The decisions were announced hours after Egyptian attack helicopters fired missiles at militants in Sinai as part of what the military said was the start of an offensive, to "restore stability and regain control" over the desert territory bordering Israel and the Gaza Strip. The use of air power marked a sharp escalation in Egypt's fight against the militants, who have become increasingly active in the mountainous terrain since last year's uprising.


To confront climate change, US agriculture seeks hardier breeds that can survive long droughts

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Cattle are being bred with genes from their African cousins who are accustomed to hot weather. New corn varieties are emerging with larger roots for gathering water in a drought. Someday, the plants may even be able to "resurrect" themselves after a long dry spell, recovering quickly when rain returns.

Across American agriculture, farmers and crop scientists have concluded that it's too late to fight climate change. They need to adapt to it with a new generation of hardier animals and plants specially engineered to survive, and even thrive, in intense heat, with little rain.

"The single largest limitation for agriculture worldwide is drought," said Andrew Wood, a professor of plant physiology and molecular biology at Southern Illinois University.

On his Kansas farm, Clay Scott is testing a new kind of corn called Droughtguard as his region suffers through a second consecutive growing season with painfully scarce precipitation.

"These are products I really need," Scott said. "I couldn't be any happier that they are working on these products."


FBI: Sikh temple gunman died of self-inflicted gunshot; motive behind attack remains elusive

MILWAUKEE (AP) — There's no trial to prepare, no jury to persuade, no judge to hand down a sentence.

Wade Michael Page is dead, having shot himself in the head after killing six people at a Sikh temple outside Milwaukee. Although detectives have interviewed more than 100 people, combed through Page's email and recovered hundreds of pieces of evidence from his residences to the temple, their findings might never be presented in court.

Federal investigators are developing theories but also may never know for certain why he chose to attack total strangers in a holy place.

"We're trying to piece together, and eventually we will piece together as much as we can," said Steven Conley, assistant agent in charge of national security for the FBI in Milwaukee. "We will have a good idea of the motive by the time this investigation is done. But again, why that building, that temple, at that time, that may have died with Page."

At the moment, detectives are sifting through the gunman's life, assembling the biography of a man who apparently had few relatives, a spotty work history and a thin criminal record. The FBI's special agent in charge in Milwaukee, Teresa Carlson, said investigators haven't linked anyone else to the attack or found any kind of note left by Page.