Obama to step up military support of Syrian rebels following new chemical weapons assessments
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has authorized sending weapons to Syrian rebels for the first time, U.S. officials said Thursday, after the White House disclosed that the United States has conclusive evidence President Bashar Assad's government used chemical weapons against opposition forces trying to overthrow him.
Obama has repeatedly said the use of chemical weapons would cross a "red line," suggesting it would trigger greater American intervention in the two-year crisis.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one of the strongest proponents of U.S. military action in Syria, said he was told Thursday that Obama had decided to "provide arms to the rebels," a decision confirmed by three U.S. officials. The officials cautioned that decisions on the specific type of weaponry were still being finalized, though the CIA was expected to be tasked with teaching the rebels how to use the arms the White House had agreed to supply.
Still, the White House signaled that Obama did plan to step up U.S. involvement in the Syrian crisis in response to the chemical weapons disclosure.
"This is going to be different in both scope and scale in terms of what we are providing," said Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser.
Top Republicans say those who want to harm US change tactics after NSA leaks
WASHINGTON (AP) — Two senior Republican lawmakers said Thursday that terrorists are already changing their behavior after leaks about classified U.S. data gathering programs, but they offered no details.
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said it's part of the damage from disclosures by National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden of two NSA programs, which collect millions of telephone records and track foreign Internet activity on U.S. networks. Snowden fled to Hong Kong in May and has granted some interviews since then, saying he hopes to stay there and fight any charges that may yet be filed against him.
Rogers said there are "changes we can already see being made by the folks who wish to do us harm, and our allies harm" and that the revelations might also "make it harder to track bad guys trying to harm U.S. citizens in the United States."
Later Thursday, Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, used similar language in criticizing Snowden.
"The bad guys are now changing their methods of operation," Chambliss said. "His disclosures are ultimately going to lead to us being less safe in America because bad guys will be able to figure out a way around some of the methods we use, and it's likely to cost lives down the road."
10 Things to Know for Friday
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday:
1. US CONCLUDES THAT ASSAD HAS USED CHEMICAL WEAPONS
With the regime crossing a "red line," Obama plans to send weapons and ammunition to Syria's rebels, officials say.
Massive storm system that started in Midwest hits Mid-Atlantic; 2 deaths blamed on weather
WASHINGTON (AP) — A massive storm system that started in the Upper Midwest brought soaking rains and heavy winds to the Mid-Atlantic Thursday, causing widespread power outages, flash flooding and extensive flight delays, but largely failing to live up to its fierce billing.
The severe weather was also blamed for two deaths.
The storm came and went in the Washington, D.C., area ahead of the evening rush hour, bringing winds and thunder that knocked trees onto houses, cut power to thousands of homes and traffic signals and led to the brief closure of a bridge that connects to the beaches on Maryland's Eastern shore.
Three tornadoes were reported in Maryland, though there were no immediate reports that they caused significant damage.
"The wind was pretty bad. It was just a squall that came through really fast," said Jim Estes, director of instruction at a golf driving range in Olney, a Washington suburb where one tornado was reported.
Court ruling against gene patents may open BRCA breast cancer tests to more women, experts say
A ruling by the Supreme Court that human genes can't be patented is expected to increase access and drop the cost for tests for gene mutations that greatly raise the risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer.
In a bit of a mixed message, the court unanimously decided that certain types of gene tests may still be protected by patents, yet it struck down patents that a company has long held for BRCA genes. The company makes the only test for two of those breast cancer genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2.
"It appears that it will allow the market to open up so that other laboratories can offer the test," said Rebecca Nagy, a genetics counselor at Ohio State University and president of the National Society of Genetic Counselors. And that should make the tests cheaper and available to more women, she said.
Hours after the ruling, one company — DNATraits, part of Houston-based Gene By Gene, Ltd. — said it would offer BRCA gene testing in the United States for $995 — less than a third of the current price.
A primer on the case:
4 years after clashes, Iran opposition weighs quiet protest of election boycott
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — In the end, Iran's presidential election may be defined by who doesn't vote.
Arguments over whether to boycott Friday's ballot still boiled over at coffee shops, kitchen tables and on social media among many liberal-leaning Iranians on the eve of the voting. The choice — once easy for many who turned their back in anger after years of crackdowns — has been suddenly complicated by an unexpected chance to perhaps wage a bit of payback against Iran's rulers.
The rising fortunes of the lone relative moderate left in the race, former nuclear negotiator Hasan Rowhani, has brought something of a zig-or-zag dilemma for many Iranians who faced down security forces four years ago: Stay away from the polls in a silent protest or jump back into the mix in a system they claim has been disgraced by vote rigging.
Which way the scales tip could set the direction of the election and the fate for Rowhani, a cleric who is many degrees of mildness removed from being an opposition leader. But he is still the only fallback option for moderates in an election that once seemed preordained for a pro-establishment loyalist.
"There is a lot of interesting psychology going on. What is right? Which way to go?" said Salman Shaikh, director of The Brookings Doha Center in Qatar. "This is what it means to be a reformist in Iran these days."
2 found dead in area burned by out-of-control Colo. wildfire that destroyed at least 360 homes
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — A voracious wildfire driven in all directions by shifting winds has killed two people and destroyed at least 360 homes — a number that was likely to climb as the most destructive blaze in Colorado history burned for a third day through miles of tinder-dry woods, a sheriff said Thursday.
The destruction northeast of Colorado Springs has surpassed last June's Waldo Canyon fire, which burned 347 homes, killed two people and caused $353 million in insurance claims just 15 miles to the southwest. The heavy losses were blamed in part on explosive population growth in areas with historically high fire risk.
"I never in my wildest dreams imagined we'd be dealing a year later with a very similar circumstance," said El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, who drew audible gasps as he announced the number of homes lost to the blaze in Black Forest. The fire was 5 percent contained.
Maketa said one person who was reported missing Wednesday was found safe, but crews on Thursday found the remains of two other people who appeared to be trying to flee. The victims were found in a garage in Black Forest. "The car doors were open as if they were loading or grabbing last-minute things," Maketa said.
Earlier in the day, residents were ordered to leave 1,000 homes in Colorado Springs. Thursday's evacuation was the first within the city limits. About 38,000 other people living across roughly 70 square miles were already under orders to get out.
Police say man shot 3 others before killing self after argument at small St. Louis business
ST. LOUIS (AP) — An argument inside a St. Louis home health care business escalated into gun violence Thursday when a man shot three other people before turning the gun on himself, police said.
The shooting occurred at AK Home Health Care LLC, one several small businesses inside the Cherokee Place Business Incubator south of downtown St. Louis. The shooter gunned down another man and two women before turning his semi-automatic handgun on himself, Police Capt. Michael Sack said.
Authorities said the shooter either owned or was a co-owner of the small business and his three victims were employees.
"We don't know if this was a thing that carried over into today or was initiated today," Sack told reporters.
Police said surveillance video showed what appeared to be a verbal dispute, followed a short time later by gunshots penetrating an inside wall. The video showed that no one else had gone into the building other than the four people who were killed, the St. Louis Police Department said in details posted on its official Twitter account.
Mumford & Sons cancels Bonnaroo performance; bassist Dwane recovering from brain blood clot
MANCHESTER, Tenn. (AP) — Mumford & Sons has canceled its headlining performance at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Tennessee.
The decision comes after bassist Ted Dwane received treatment this week for a blood clot on his brain.
The band made the announcement on its Facebook page.
The band postponed three shows earlier this week after the blood clot was discovered, but hoped to play Bonnaroo on Saturday night.
There is no word on what act will replace Mumford & Sons in the headlining slot in front of 80,000 fans.
LeBron James makes statement with 15 points, Heat and Spurs tied at half in Game 4
LeBron James scored 15 points playing with the aggression and ferocity that everyone expects of the four-time MVP, and the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs went into halftime tied 49-49 in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night.
James scored 11 points in the first quarter and also had four rebounds to rally the Heat back from a 10-point first quarter deficit. Dwyane Wade added 14 points for the defending champions, who trail the Spurs 2-1 in the series.
Tony Parker showed no ill effects from a sore right hamstring, scoring 15 points and dishing out six assists for the Spurs. Boris Diaw added seven points off the bench, but the Spurs committed 10 turnovers.
Game 5 in the best-of-seven series is Sunday night in San Antonio.
Chris Bosh had eight points and four boards, but his dunk at the end of the first half was too late and prevented the Heat from taking a lead at the break. Miami had 26 points in the paint after managing 32 in the Game 3 blowout loss.