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World briefly for Aug. 6
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LONDON (AP) — There was no mystery as to which team Varun Pemmaraju was supporting: His American flag was tied around his neck, the Stars and Stripes floating like a cape behind him.

"I was going for the Superman, Captain America-look," said the beaming 19-year-old computer science and chemical engineering student from San Jose, California, as he stood a stone's throw from Olympic Stadium. "I thought America was a little under-represented."

Patriotism and the Olympic games have long gone together, but gone are the days when one just waved a flag. Now flags are worn.

The fashion flags can be found at Olympic Park and around London as shift dresses and smocks, pants and shorts, hats and shoes, even dangly earrings and bracelets. There's apparently no garment — nor nail polish — that can't be fashioned into something akin to a national banner.

Although the sponsorship police at the International Olympic Committee can stop merchants from using the five Olympic rings, there's no trademark police on flags.

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'Touchdown confirmed': NASA rover Curiosity lands on Mars, beams back photo of own shadow

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — In a show of technological wizardry, the robotic explorer Curiosity blazed through the pink skies of Mars, steering itself to a gentle landing inside a giant crater for the most ambitious dig yet into the red planet's past.

Cheers and applause echoed through the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory late Sunday after the most high-tech interplanetary rover ever built signaled it had survived a harrowing plunge through the thin Mars atmosphere.

"Touchdown confirmed," said engineer Allen Chen. "We're safe on Mars."

Minutes after the landing signal reached Earth at 10:32 p.m. PDT, Curiosity beamed back the first black-and-white pictures from inside the crater showing its wheel and its shadow, cast by the afternoon sun.

"We landed in a nice flat spot. Beautiful, really beautiful," said engineer Adam Steltzner, who led the team that devised the tricky landing routine.

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Motive sought after gunman kills 6 at Wisconsin Sikh temple and is fatally shot by police

OAK CREEK, Wis. (AP) — As worshippers prayed and meditated at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin on Sunday morning, about a dozen women were preparing food in the temple kitchen for a meal after services which are open to community members, regardless of religious affiliation.

Then the shooting started, sending terrified congregants scrambling for cover.

When the gunfire finally ended in a shootout between a gunman and police outside the temple in suburban Milwaukee, seven people lay dead, including the suspect, and three others were critically wounded in what police called an act of domestic terrorism.

Satpal Kaleka, wife of the temple's president, Satwant Singh Kaleka, was in the front room and saw the gunman enter the temple, according to Harpreet Singh, their nephew.

"He did not speak, he just began shooting," said Singh, relaying a description of the attack from Satpal Kaleka.

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Can anyone catch him? For Bolt, a gold in the 100m may just be the start to his Olympic party

LONDON (AP) — Legs churning fast, arms swinging high, Usain Bolt finally made it to warp speed a few steps past the halfway point of the Olympic 100 meters. Emerging from behind, he put clear daylight between himself and the field.

Now he was racing against the clock, not the competition.

"Then, I thought, 'World record,'" Bolt said. "But it was too late to do anything about it."

And so the Jamaican simply had to be satisfied with the second-fastest time in history — 9.63 seconds — another gold medal and, of course, the comfort of knowing he'll have another chance to rewrite the record book very soon.

Undeterred from his goal of becoming a "living legend," Bolt returns to Olympic Stadium on Monday to receive his medal. A day later, he'll begin running in his favorite race, the 200.

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EYES ON LONDON: Gabby's back for more gold, and a men's 400m final with no Americans

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:

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MORE GOLD FOR GABBY?

With two gold medals in her pocket already, Gabby Douglas is back for more.

The dynamic gymnast who helped the Americans to their first team gold since 1996 and then won the all-around competition returns to action on the uneven bars on Monday.

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AP Interview: Secretary Arne Duncan discusses impact of reforms as kids go back to school

WASHINGTON (AP) — A more well-rounded curriculum with less focus on a single test. Higher academic standards and more difficult classwork. Continued cuts to extracurricular and other activities because of the tough economy.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan says those are some of the changes and challenges that children could notice as they start the new school year.

Several significant reforms have taken place over the past three years.

Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core standards, a set of uniform benchmarks for math and reading. Thirty-two states and the district have been granted waivers from important parts of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law. Billions in federal dollars have gone out to improve low-performing schools, tie teacher evaluations to student growth and encourage states to expand the number of charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Duncan said he believes students will see the concrete effects of those changes when they head back to class.

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APNewsBreak: US audits spending of Katrina recovery funding for sewer lines on Miss. coast

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) — Federal housing authorities are auditing the use of more than $650 million in grants designated for an ambitious plan for sewage and water systems across south Mississippi in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, The Associated Press has learned.

The money was divided among five south Mississippi counties, with the most, more than $230 million, set aside for the largest, Harrison County. The entire plan is being audited by the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said Robbie Wilbur, spokesman for the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. Wilbur's agency hired engineering firms to draft the Gulf Region Water and Wastewater Plan after Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005.

HUD officials would not comment on whether an audit is being done.

In June, an AP investigation found that officials implementing the plan in one county spent millions of federal dollars on sewage plants and water tanks that may not be needed for decades.

The AP found the state-hired engineering firms based the plan on projections of huge growth in many areas. However, other studies estimated much more modest growth, and populations in many coastal areas actually declined, in part because Katrina displaced thousands of residents whose homes were destroyed.

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Syrian TV says country's prime minister has been fired less than 2 months after taking post

BEIRUT (AP) — Syria's state-run TV says the country's prime minister has been fired less than two months after taking up his post.

Riad Hijab is a former agriculture minister and a loyalist in President Bashar Assad's ruling Baath party.

He was appointed as prime minister on June 23. The TV did not immediately give a reason why Hijab was dismissed from his post Monday. It says Omar Ghalawanji, Hijab's deputy prime minister, was named as a temporary replacement.

The announcement came hours after a bomb attack ripped through the third floor of the state TV building in Damascus, causing heavy material damage and light injuries.

A deadly uprising has convulsed Syria for the past 17 months.

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Egypt sends helicopter gunships to Sinai after attack killed 16 troops at border with Israel

EL-ARISH, Egypt (AP) — Officials say Egypt has deployed at least two helicopter gunships to the Sinai Peninsula in the hunt for militants behind the killing of 16 Egyptian soldiers at a checkpoint along the border with Israel.

Security and military officials said Monday that more aircraft were expected to arrive in the town of El-Arish ahead of a military campaign against the militants in the area. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Suspected Islamists on Sunday evening attacked the Egyptian checkpoint, killed the troops, then stole two of their vehicles and burst through a security fence into Israel. Israeli aircraft then halted their assault.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

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McCain, Huckabee, Rice announced among first round of GOP convention speakers

WASHINGTON (AP) — A trio of female firsts and three former GOP presidential contenders are among the first speakers disclosed for August's Republican National Convention.

The GOP convention schedule is packed with high-profile names to fire up divergent wings of the Republican Party, from social conservatives to fiscal hawks. They will speak ahead of Mitt Romney's formal acceptance of his party's presidential nomination.

Convention leaders were not ready to announce the keynote speaker, a prime speaking slot that has the potential to catapult a rising member of the party to national prominence.

The schedule's outlines were first reported by The Tampa Bay Times late Sunday and were confirmed to The Associated Press by Republican officials with direct knowledge of the plan. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because convention officials had not yet announced the schedule.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, the first female governors of their states, are among party leaders slated to address the gathering that begins Aug. 27. Martinez has the additional distinction of being the first female Hispanic governor in the country.

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