AP Top News at 12:08 p.m. EDT

Italy earthquake kills dozens, reduces towns to rubble
AMATRICE, Italy (AP) - A strong earthquake in central Italy reduced three towns to rubble as people slept early Wednesday, killing at least 73 people and injuring hundreds more as rescue crews raced to dig out survivors with bulldozers and their bare hands. The toll was likely to rise as crews reached homes in more remote hamlets where the scenes were apocalyptic "like Dante's Inferno," according to one witness. Complicating matters was that the area is a popular vacation spot in summer, with populations swelling, making the number of people in the area at the time difficult to estimate. "The town isn't here anymore," said Sergio Pirozzi, the mayor of Amatrice.


Turkey in cross-border operation to free IS-held Syrian town
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) - After a pre-dawn barrage of heavy artillery and airstrikes, Turkish tanks and special forces pushed into Syria on Wednesday in a U.S.-backed assault aiming to retake a border town from Islamic State militants and contain Kurdish expansion. It marked the NATO member's most significant military involvement so far in the Syria conflict. The Turkish and Syrian governments said the cross-border incursion on the town on Jarablus was backed by U.S. airstrikes. Hundreds of Syrian opposition fighters also joined the assault. Just hours after the operation began, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden landed in Ankara. The unprecedented incursion marked a dangerous escalation in the Syrian conflict - and demonstrates the twisted rivalries that run through the war.


Attack underway at American University in Afghan capital
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - The president of the American University in the Afghan capital says a militant attack is underway on the campus. Mark English tells The Associated Press that security forces are on the scene after Wednesday's attack and that "we are trying to assess the situation." Witnesses say they heard explosions and automatic gunfire. It was not immediately clear if anyone was wounded. Police spokesman Sediq Sediqqi says police and intelligence agency personnel are at the campus, on the western outskirts of Kabul. He says police believe there is just one assailant. The attack comes two weeks after two university staff were kidnapped from their car by unknown gunmen.


Watch Top News Video




As Trump tries minority outreach, many blacks unconvinced
AKRON, Ohio (AP) - Black Republicans cheer Donald Trump for a newfound outreach to African-Americans, but say the GOP presidential nominee must take his message beyond arenas filled with white supporters and venture into the inner cities. Many rank-and-file black voters, meanwhile, dismiss the overtures as another racially charged pitch from a campaign aimed exclusively at whites, from Trump's emphasis on "law and order" to his withering critiques of President Barack Obama, the nation's first black chief executive. It was Trump in 2011 who fiercely challenged Obama's U.S. birth. "Any minority who would vote for him is crazy, ought to have their head examined," said Ike Jenkins, an 81-year-old retired business owner in the predominantly black suburb of East Cleveland.


Horrified by Trump, Democrats getting nostalgic about Romney
WASHINGTON (AP) - When President Barack Obama ran for re-election, Democrats made no secret of their disdain for Mitt Romney. That was all before Donald Trump. Horrified by the prospect of Trump in the White House, Obama and his party have changed their tune about Romney. As they denounce Trump as "unhinged" and unfit, they're getting nostalgic about the 2012 Republican nominee they now describe as principled, competent and honorable. It's a sharp reversal from four years ago. Back then, Democrats spent hundreds of millions of dollars portraying the former Massachusetts governor as a callous, unpatriotic, pet-abusing caricature of the uber-rich.


Raped and tortured by IS, Yazidi women recover in Germany
VILLINGEN-SCHWENNINGEN, Germany (AP) - The Yazidi girl had been in the safety of a refugee camp in Iraq for two weeks when she imagined she heard the voices of Islamic State fighters outside her tent. Petrified by the thought of again facing rape and abuse at their hands, 17-year-old Yasmin vowed to make herself undesirable. So she doused herself in gasoline and lit a match. The flames burned her hair and face, peeling away her nose, lips and ears. That was her state when German doctor Jan Ilhan Kizilhan found her in a refugee camp in northern Iraq last year - physically disfigured and mentally so scarred that she had falsely thought her former captors were coming for her.


In some US schools, resistance to ending corporal punishment
Two licks with a wooden paddle in the principal's office was the price 11-year-old Kaley Zacher, of Dexter, Georgia, paid for ignoring warnings about falling behind in her school work. Rules are rules, said her mother, Kimberly Zacher, so why shouldn't the punishment be the same as at home when her daughter falls out of line? "What we instill in our children is if you break the rules, there's a punishment that you have to suffer the consequences for," she said. "You don't want to give two sets of rules." Although corporal punishment in American schools has declined in recent decades, paddling is still on the books in 19 states despite calls from the U.S.


Astronaut breaks US record: 521 days in space and counting
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - An astronaut has set a U.S. record for most time spent in space. Jeffrey Williams, commander of the International Space Station, marked his 521st day in orbit Wednesday, a number accumulated over four flights. That surpasses the 520-day record set by Scott Kelly, whose one-year space station mission ended in March. By the time Williams returns to Earth in two weeks, he will have logged 534 days off the planet for NASA. His record won't last long. Space station veteran Peggy Whitson will top that after she flies up in November for a six-month stay. She's already at the 377-day mark for total space time, a record for a woman.


World's largest aircraft damaged on 2nd test flight
LONDON (AP) - The developer of the world's largest aircraft says the blimp-shaped airship sustained damage after it made a bumpy landing Wednesday on its second test flight in eastern England. Hybrid Air Vehicles said it is trying to figure out what caused the rough landing of the 302-foot (92-meter) Airlander 10 during its 100 minute flight Wednesday in Bedfordshire, north of London. "The Airlander experienced a heavy landing and the front of the flight deck has sustained some damage, which is currently being assessed," the company said. "Both pilots and the ground crew are safe and well and the aircraft is secured and stable at its normal mooring location." A hybrid of blimp, helicopter and airplane, the Airlander is able to stay aloft for days at a time.


Measuring the fallout from a summer full of box-office flops
NEW YORK (AP) - Hollywood's blockbuster machine frequently stalled and sputtered this summer, leaving behind a steady trail of misbegotten reboots, ill-conceived sequels and questionable remakes. None of the movies that did poorly this summer were the spectacular species of bomb: an out-of-leftfield disaster like "The Lone Ranger." The failures of "Ben-Hur," ''Independence Day: Resurgence" and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows" were, to most people who have seen a movie in the last decade, not exactly shocking. Instead, the running theme was of big movies not living up to the hype, for either moviegoers, critics or both. "Suicide Squad" is one of the biggest grossers of the summer with $577.6 million globally, but it and the previous Warner Bros.-DC Comics film, "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," may have left hundreds of millions on the table by not being better and more crowd-pleasing.