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— PRESBYTERIANS-ISRAEL — Presbyterians weigh divestment measure against Israeli policy in Palestinian territories. Debate under way, time of vote uncertain.
— OBAMA-CAMPAIGN NOTEBOOK — Touring Ohio by bus, Obama plays up his family ties as he seeks a second term.
— POLONIUM-Q&A — Yasser Arafat's widow calls for the late Palestinian leader's body to be exhumed after scientists find elevated traces of radioactive polonium-210 on clothing he allegedly wore before his 2004 death. What is polonium and how dangerous can it be?
— US-LAOS-REMAINS RECOVERY — Wartime remains of 6 US airmen located in southern Laos.
— LIFEGUARD-FIRED — The Florida lifeguard fired after leaving his post to help rescue a swimmer outside his zone is offered his job back but decides not to take it.
— MISSING LOUISIANA STUDENT — Police report arrest in case of missing University of Louisiana student.
WASHINGTON — The outlook for the U.S. job market seems to brighten after fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week and private surveys showed increased hiring in June. But the economy is still far from healthy. American service companies grew more slowly last month, and retail sales figures were disappointing. Still, economists say the stepped-up hiring suggests many businesses are less worried that the spring slump will endure. By Christopher S. Rugaber.
FEWER BANK FAILURES
WASHINGTON — Fewer U.S. banks are failing than at any time since the financial crisis erupted in 2008. The healthier banking industry is helping sustain a U.S. economy slowed by lackluster hiring, weak manufacturing and Europe's debt crisis. Banks have benefited from low interest rates, higher fees on bank accounts and a wave of mergers. The U.S. economy's rebound from the financial crisis has helped, too. It's allowed more people and businesses to take out and repay their loans. By Marcy Gordon.
MAUMEE, Ohio — President Barack Obama defends his economic record on a bus tour of election swing state Ohio, bracing for a Friday jobs report that will help set battle lines for the summer campaign. Fresh signs of weakness could undermine Obama's core argument that he pulled the U.S. back from recession while Republican Mitt Romney embraces the policies that led to a near collapse. By Ben Feller.
— ROMNEY-VP — Mitt Romney's wife discloses a detail about her husband's intensely secret vice presidential search: He's considering choosing a woman. AP photo.
— THE RACE — In recasting the national health care law as a tax, Republican Mitt Romney risks straying from what had been his main focus: the limp economy under President Barack Obama.
CHAMAN, Pakistan — Trucks carrying NATO supplies roll into Afghanistan for the first time in more than seven months, ending a painful chapter in U.S.-Pakistan relations. The challenge for hundreds of Pakistani drivers, however, is just beginning as they face the harrowing prospect of making it hundreds of miles to the border without being shot, bombed or kidnapped by the Taliban. By Matiullah Achakzai and Munir Ahmed.
AP photos by Matiullah Achakzai, Shakil Adil and Mohammad Sajjad. AP video.
ORLANDO, Fla. — A judge allows George Zimmerman to go free on bail again, but raises serious doubts about the credibility of the neighborhood watch volunteer charged with killing Trayvon Martin. Saying Zimmerman deceived the public and "flaunted the system," the judge's ruling could hurt Zimmerman's chances of arguing he killed Martin in self-defense. By Mike Schneider.
AP photos, video, interactive.
OYSTER BAY, N.Y. — A yacht that capsized with 27 friends and family aboard on an outing to watch Fourth of July fireworks was severely overcrowded and doomed to tip over, safety experts say, even as the skipper blames the tragedy on a wave that came out of the dark. Three children died after becoming trapped in the cabin of the 34-foot vessel off the north shore of Long Island. By Frank Eltman.
AP photos, video.
WASHINGTON — Despite repeated alerts, tens of thousands of Americans may still lose their Internet service Monday unless they do a quick check of their computers for malware that could have taken over their machines more than a year ago. By Lolita Baldor.
WASHINGTON — The House Agriculture Committee unveils its approach to a long-term farm and food bill that would reduce spending by some $3.5 billion a year, almost half of that coming from cuts in the federal food stamp program. The legislative draft envisions reducing current food stamp spending projections by $1.6 billion a year, four times the amount of cuts incorporated in the farm bill passed by the Senate last month. By Jim Abrams.
LE BOURGET, France — A pilot facing faulty data and deafening alarms in an oversea thunderstorm pitched his plane sharply up instead of down as it stalled, then lost control, sending the Air France jet and all 228 people aboard to their deaths in the Atlantic Ocean in 2009. The fatal move was part of a chain of events outlined in a report by French investigators that could have legal consequences for plane-maker Airbus and airline Air France — and could change the way pilots around the world are trained to handle planes manually. By Cecile Brisson and Angela Charlton.
TRIPOLI — Abdel-Hakim Belhaj is a former rebel commander and a jihadist. More recently, he has replaced his camouflage fatigues with a business suit and founded an Islamist political party that is the front-runner in Saturday's parliamentary elections. It is the first significant step in Libya's tumultuous transition toward democracy after more than 40 years under Moammar Gadhafi's eccentric rule. The challenges are formidable, from unruly militias to deepening regional and tribal divisions that erupt into violence with alarming frequency. By Maggie Michael.
AP photos by Manu Brabo.
RAMALLAH, West Bank — Digging up Yasser Arafat's bones may offer the best shot at learning if the legendary Palestinian leader was poisoned, as many of his old comrades-in-arms claim, but Palestinian officials signal they're not rushing into an autopsy. They first want to hear from Arafat's nephew and learn more from the Swiss lab that found elevated levels of a radioactive agent in clothing Arafat is said to have worn in his final days. By Karin Laub.
— POLONIUM Q&A — Yasser Arafat's widow is calling for the late Palestinian leader's body to be exhumed after scientists found elevated traces of radioactive polonium-210 on clothing he allegedly wore before his death in 2004. What is polonium and how dangerous can it be?
TAOYUAN, Taiwan — Tou Chih-kang gingerly places a small, mixed-breed puppy on a platform in his makeshift photography studio at an animal shelter in northern Taiwan. The dog looks about 2 months old, with alert, trusting eyes and a shiny black coat. Once its photo shoot is over, it will be taken away by vets to be put down. Tou has recorded the last moments of some 400 dogs, hoping the images will encourage responsibility among pet owners. By Tassanee Vejpongsa.
AP photos by Wally Santana. AP video.
TOKYO — Nuclear power returns to Japan's energy mix for the first time in two months, hours before a parliamentary panel blames the government's cozy relations with the industry for the meltdowns that prompted the mass shutdown of the nation's reactors. Though the report echoes other investigations into last year's disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, it could fuel complaints that Japan is trying to restart its reactors without doing enough to avoid a repeat. By Mari Yamaguchi.
POTOMAC, Md. — Emma Kelly's family is hauling water from a creek to flush its toilets in West Virginia. Members of Corey Phelps' family, meanwhile, are using a generator to keep their iPads and Nooks up and running in Maryland. Americans from the tony suburbs outside Washington to the rural hollows of West Virginia are using unique methods to cope after almost a week without electricity. By Eric Tucker and Vicki Smith.
— HEAT WAVE-HOT NIGHTS — Oppressive heat is slamming the middle of the country with record temperatures that aren't going away after the sun goes down forcing residents in areas not used to prolonged scorchers to scramble to escape the heat. AP photos, video.
WESTERN WILDFIRES-PRIVATE FIREFIGHTERS
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — When firefighter Eric Morris shows up at wildfires across the West, locals battling the blaze sometimes look at him and wonder who sent him. For Morris, it's an insurance company. He is among a group of private firefighters hired to protect homes with high-end insurance policies in recent years. And in a wildfire season that's one of the busiest and most destructive ever to hit the West, authorities and residents say their help is welcome. By P. Solomon Banda.
DES MOINES — Ever since gay couples began flocking to Iowa to marry three years ago, conservative Republicans have been looking forward to amassing enough political power to put an end to it. But now that the opportunity is finally approaching, their goal may be slipping out of reach. Conservative lawmakers are watching public opinion move away from them on the gay marriage issue, and now fear that voters might not approve a ban even if the GOP can put one on the ballot by winning control of the Legislature in the November elections. By Tom Beaumont. McCarthy edited.
SAN DIEGO — The Fourth of July fireworks display above San Diego Bay was over in a flash after a malfunction blamed on a computer glitch caused the 20-minute spectacle to burn up all at once. The show's producer apologizes, saying the company feels terrible about the mishap that caused the entire show to launch in about 15 seconds. By Elliot Spagat.
AP photos. Video pursuing.
ALSO GETTING ATTENTION
— JACKSON-LEAVE OF ABSENCE — Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. is being treated at an inpatient medical facility for "physical and emotional ailments." AP photo.
— OBIT-JIMMY BIVINS — Jimmy Bivins, a heavyweight boxer in the 1940s and 1950s who defeated some of the greatest fighters of his time, dies at 92.
— RIHANNA LAWSUIT — Rihanna sues her former accountants in New York, blaming them for tens of millions of dollars in losses from the singer's tours.
— ITALY-COSTA CONCORDIA — Italian judge lifts house arrest for cruise ship captain in wreck that killed 32 people, but says he must stay in town.
— CUBA-RENEWABLE ENERGY — Cuba is using alternative energy to bring electricity to isolated hamlets, but experts say the island's year-round sunshine and sea breezes could be doing much more.
— BEER IN SIPPY CUP — Phoenix mother accused of child abuse, allegedly poured beer into 2-year-old son's sippy cup.