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UNDERGROUND SECT KPET KIDS OUT OF DAYLIGHT: Some of the 27 children had never seen daylight. Kept underground — in some cases for more than a decade — without ventilation, heating or electricity, authorities said. Prosecutors have brought child abuse charges against the parents and the central Russian sect's 83-year-old founder, who they they say declared himself a Muslim prophet and kept his followers underground to keep them apart from the outside world. \

SYRIA ATTACKS REBELS: Syria launches a ground assault 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 is not immediately clear if the offensive is "the mother of all battles" that Syria's state-controlled media vowed last month would take place for control of Aleppo. By Ben Hubbard.

JIHADISTS IN SINAI: After decades of neglect and the collapse of government authority in the past 18 months, Egypt's Sinai Peninsula has become fertile ground for Islamic extremists. In the desert mountains, militants have set up training camps to target neighboring Israel, and now Egypt's military. And they vow to set up an Islamic state.

EGYPT INTELLIGENCE CHIEF FIRED: Egypt's new president fires his intelligence chief for not acting on an Israeli warning of an imminent attack days before gunmen stormed an Egyptian border post in the Sinai and killed 16 soldiers. The dismissal, which followed Egyptian airstrikes against Sinai militants, marks a bold attempt by the Islamist leader to defuse popular anger over the attack and points to a surprising level of cooperation with the country's powerful generals.



THE WELFARE DEBATE: It's become a big issue in the presidential campaign this week, but welfare is a shadow of what it was in the 1970s. Nowadays, government cash assistance to the poor is mainly conditioned on work. The Obama administration waivers excoriated by Mitt Romney are unlikely to mark a reversal in that underlying policy.

REPUBLICAN CONVENTION RELIGION: Clergy and spiritual leaders will give invocations and benedictions each day at the Republican National Convention. Will Mitt Romney ask anyone from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to offer a blessing?

ROMNEY ENTOURAGE CRASHES NJ WEDDING SITE:  Mitt Romney crashed a New Jersey wedding. The Republican presidential contender's motorcade rolled into a fundraiser Wednesday evening as a bride and groom were posing for pictures in the parking lot outside the hall in Lakewood, N.J. Several men in yarmulkes who were standing nearby turned their cameras away from the couple, and a few men outside the hall chased the motorcade around the corner. Whether they were members of the wedding or Romney supporters from the heavily Orthodox Jewish community was unclear. A Romney aide says Romney met the bride and groom and took pictures with them before his fundraiser, which raised $1.5 million. Guests to Romney's event were advised they needed to leave promptly. The wedding was set to start at 6 p.m.



CENSUS CHANGES RACE SURVEYS: 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 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. \

HARDIER BREEDS  TO COMBAT DROUGHT: Cattle are being bred with genes from their African cousins who are accustomed to hot weather. New corn varieties are emerging with deeper roots for gathering water in dry spells. Someday, the plants may even be able to "resurrect" themselves from long droughts, 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, even thrive, in intense heat with little rain. B

 HOTTEST MONTH :This probably comes as no surprise: Federal scientists say July was the hottest month ever recorded in the contiguous United States. It was also a record for extremes of all sorts, from heavy rainfall to dry days, depending on the region.