PUSH FOR FREEDOM Family of jailed Marine presses Iran as UN meets

The family of a U.S. Marine imprisoned in Iran came Tuesday to New York, where world leaders are gathered for the UN General Assembly, to press his case and plead for him to be reunited with his dying father.

Amir Hekmati, a 31-year-old American citizen, has been held in Iran for three years since being arrested when he went back to Iran to visit family for the first time. At first, Hekmati was tried on espionage charges and sentenced to death, but that verdict was overturned and he was charged with a lesser offense — for cooperating with the United States, which carries a 10-year sentence.

“His father has terminal cancer,” said Ramy Kurdi, Hekmati’s brother-in-law. “His time is limited, and he is always thinking about being reunited with his son. It is very difficult for him.”

“… if Iran truly seeks to become a member of the global community as a nation, it cannot hold political prisoners.”

- Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich.

With Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in New York, Kurdi, who is married to Hekmati’s sister, Sarah, left their children in Michigan to come and make their loved one’s case.

Hekmati’s father, Ali, 63, has suffered three strokes and has an inoperable brain tumor, family members said.

Before heading to New York, the family released a video in which the father speaks about missing his son on these difficult days.

“It has been a long time since last I’ve seen you,” the father says in a weak, frail voice. “During this time I’ve suffered three strokes, a tumor…a rough life…”

Sarah Hekmati said the Iranian regime knows her brother, who went to Iran to see his grandmother, is no spy.

“We were shocked and it was disbelief,” she said of learning he was detained. “We contacted the Iranian authorities to find out what the problem could have been, because he went with all the appropriate paperwork and he had a visa. “

Kurdi and Sarah Hekmati brought some political muscle with them, in Rep. Dan Kildee, D- Mich. Kildee said Rouhani’s recurring bid to put a moderate face on the Islamic republic does not square with an imprisoned U.S. Marine.

“The position of Congress and the American people is that if Iran truly seeks to become a member of the global community as a nation, it cannot hold political prisoners,” Kildee said. “Amir Hekmati is an innocent man and he’s being held for political purposes.”

Along with the support of various human rights groups, the case has received bi-partisan attention from lawmakers urging Iran’s judiciary to release Hekmati. His family and supporters have set up a website, Amir Hekmati Freedom Fund where people can find out more about his case and how to help bring him home.

When Rouhani took office more than a year ago, many were optimistic that the self-proclaimed moderate would show more compassion in human rights cases than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but there has been scant evidence of any change. At least one other U.S. citizen, Pastor Saeed Abedini, of Boise, Idaho, is also being held in an Iranian prison. Abedini has been imprisoned for two years and accused of evangelizing. 

As world leaders gather for the UN General Assembly, many human rights organizations have expressed fear that the rise of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and increased emphasis of climate change have taken center stage and relegated human rights violations in Iran and around the world to the sidelines.

Lisa Daftari is a Fox News contributor specializing in Middle Eastern affairs.

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HAWAII GUN FIGHT Judge KOs law keeping firearms from immigrants

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FILE: Handguns are displayed. (AP)

A federal judge has overturned a Hawaii law barring legal immigrants from applying for a firearm permit, the latest in a wave of rulings against similar laws across the country. 

Judge J. Michael Seabright ruled last week in favor of plaintiff Steve Fotoudis, an Australian citizen who is a permanent resident living in Honolulu. 

According to court documents, Fotoudis was a competitive shooter in his home country and “had extensive training in firearms use and safety” before he moved to the U.S. 

However, when Fotoudis attempted to apply for a firearm permit at the Honolulu Police Department, he was told he was not allowed to because of state law. The law restricted police in Hawaiian counties to issuing gun permits only to U.S. citizens, with a few exceptions that did not apply to Fotoudis.

Seabright ruled that law unconstitutional. 

“The undisputed facts establish that Fotoudis, as a lawful permanent resident alien of the United States (and resident of Hawaii), was denied the opportunity to apply for a permit to acquire firearms solely because of his alienage,” Seabright wrote. “This classification violates the equal protection clause of the U.S.”

Gun rights advocates, like Second Amendment Foundation founder Alan Gottlieb, say rulings such as this strengthen the rights of both permanent residents and Americans citizens.

“The Second Amendment is an individual right,” he told FoxNews.com. 

The Hawaii statute  is the latest in a series of similar laws being struck down across the nation.

Earlier this year, another federal judge ruled that a New Mexico law that only allowed citizens to apply for concealed handgun permits was unconstitutional.

Judge M. Christina Armijo ruled the law violated the 14th Amendment rights of another Australian citizen, who was represented by the Second Amendment Foundation.

According the Washington Times, attorneys for the state in that case unsuccessfully argued that the law was necessary, as it is impossible to run a complete background check on an immigrant. 

They also argued setting different standards for citizens and permanent residents was not discriminatory.

The Second Amendment Foundation has likewise been successful in Massachusetts, Nebraska and Washington on the issue and has filed similar cases in other states.

The issue of gun rights for legal immigrants has also gained support from another end of the political spectrum. The American Civil Liberties Union told FoxNews.com in 2011 they supported the rights of legal immigrants to apply for a concealed weapon permit. 

That same year, the group successfully helped a British citizen who was a permanent resident sue the state of South Dakota for the right to apply for a permit.

Gottlieb said while his foundation was not involved in the Hawaii case, he is “really proud” that the judge in that case seems to have followed the precedent of prior decisions.

He said if legal immigrants benefit from other constitutional rights while living in America, they also deserve this one.

“Second Amendment rights should be treated the same way,” he said.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/09/23/gun-hawaii-immigrant-second-amendment/

Pentagon: Khorasan was "nearing the execution phase" of an attack

Last Updated Sep 23, 2014 12:50 PM EDT

The al Qaeda affiliated group the United States struck unilaterally was “nearing the execution phase of an attack either in Europe or the homeland,” Lt. Gen. William Mayville, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday.

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Mayville briefed reporters Tuesday morning after the U.S. carried out airstrikes in Syria. Five Arab nations in the region joined in strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (also known as ISIS, or ISIL), and the U.S. independently targeted the Khorasan group, which Pentagon Spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said was plotting an imminent attack.

“We’ve been watching this group closely for sometime,” Mayville said. “We believe the Khorasan group was nearing the execution phase of an attack either in Europe or the homeland. We know that the Khorasan group has attempted to recruit Westerners to serve as operatives or to infiltrate back into their homelands.

“The Khorasan group is clearly not focused on either the Assad regime or the Syrian people. They are establishing roots in Syria in order to advance attacks against the west and the homeland,” he continued.

But it was too early to tell whether the U.S. was able to neutralize the threat from the group.

“Give us some time to assess the targets and the effects we thought we had last night before we can answer that,” Mayville told a reporter who asked if the threat had been deterred.

He also said that the U.S. “did not target individual leaders” of ISIS during the airstrikes, instead focusing on command and control centers.

Despite those facts, Kirby told reporters, “our initial indication is that these strikes were very successful.”

Mayville called the strikes the “beginning of a credible and sustainable persistent campaign to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.” As for the length of the campaign, he said, “I would think of it in terms of years.”

“Last night’s strikes were only the beginning,” Kirby said.

Mayville also pledged that the U.S. “will not put ground forces into Syria” even though the process of training and equipping moderate Syrian rebels, which Congress approved last week, would be a multi-year process.

President Obama spoke about the airstrikes Tuesday morning, saying, “It must be clear to anyone who would plot against America and try to do Americans harm that we will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people.”

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The strikes against ISIS and Khorasan occurred three different waves, Mayville said. The first one, which began around midnight in Syria, targeted Khorasan compounds, manufacturing workshops and training camps around Aleppo and Ar-Raqqah.

The coalition partners — Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates — joined the U.S. for the second and third waves of strikes which targeted ISIS headquarters, training camps, barracks and combat vehicles in eastern Syria. The bulk of the munitions, 96 percent, were precision guided, Mayville said.

Asked about reports of civilian casualties that occurred as a result of the strikes, Mayville said he was “unaware of any civilian casualties.”

“But obviously, limiting civilian casualties is a top priority for the United States. And if any reports of civilian casualties emerge, we will fully investigate them,” he said.

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Could U.S. attacks on Khorasan backfire?

Last Updated Sep 23, 2014 11:45 AM EDT

The United States military confirmed early Tuesday morning that, in conjunction with five Arabic nations, it had begun bombing the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) inside Syria.

At the bottom of the press release from U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), two paragraphs explained that in addition to targeting ISIS, U.S. bombs had also hit a group that nobody had even heard of just a couple weeks earlier: Khorasan.

At a Pentagon press conference Tuesday morning, Lieutenant General William Mayville said the U.S. had been monitoring Khorasan closely.

“We believe the Khorasan group is — was nearing the execution phase of an attack either in Europe or the homeland,” Mayville said. “We know that the Khorasan group has attempted to recruit Westerners to serve as operatives or to infiltrate back into their homelands.”

The general added that it was too early to describe the effects of the eight air strikes against Khorasan, or say who may have been killed.

U.S. officials told CBS News last week that Khorasan is a unit with a mandate directly from al Qaeda’s central command in Pakistan, sent into Syria with bomb-making experts from the terror network’s affiliate in Yemen, to try and plot attacks against the U.S. and Western allies.

“I think it’s important that the fight against ISIS has now gone to Syria,” Mike Morell, former deputy director of the CIA, said Tuesday, “but I think it’s even more important that we struck the Khorasan group last night.”

Morell, who is now a CBS News contributor, noted on “CBS This Morning” that CENTCOM had said it was attacking Khorasan to due to “imminent threat plotting” by the group.

“That’s what we were trying to disrupt,” Morell said. “What that means to me as an intelligence officer, it means that we had detailed intelligence on attack plotting, either in the United States, or in Western Europe, or in both.”

CENTCOM said only that it had targeted Khorasan “training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communication building and command and control facilities” to the west of the sprawling frontline city of Aleppo.

The military’s press release made it clear that the strikes against Khorasan “were undertaken only by U.S. assets” — in other words, no help from the five nations which joined in the fight against ISIS, or any other regional allies.

Khorasan does not function as an independent group on the Syrian battlefield. It is part of or at least directly linked to al Qaeda’s franchise in the country, known as the al-Nusra Front, and as CBS News correspondent Clarissa Ward reports, attacking it may bring repercussions.

Unlike the attacks on ISIS, “airstrikes against Nusra are not likely to be very popular on the ground,” Ward said on “CBS This Morning.”

“Although both espouse the same extremist ideology, Nusra has large support among the Syrian population, and has actually been fighting against ISIS on the battlefield — at times even alongside the Western-backed, so-called ‘moderate’ rebels that the U.S. is hoping will fight this war,” explained Ward.

She said American strikes against al-Nusra could “put those U.S.-backed fighters in a very tough situation, because they simply do not have the weaponry or the manpower to fight the Assad regime and ISIS, and now potentially the Nusra Front as well, at the same time.”

The U.S. State Department made it clear that as far as the Obama administration is concerned at least, a strike on Khorasan is not the same as a strike on al-Nusra.

CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan reported that, according to State Department officials, there is “some” overlap between al-Nusra and Khorasan, but they are not one in the same.

A Department official told Brennan that Khorasan refers to a network of al-Nusra Front and al Qaeda extremists and their associates who share a history of training operatives, facilitating fighters and money, and planning attacks against U.S. and Western targets.

Early Tuesday, Syrian activists said airstrikes overnight had killed as many as 50 al-Nusra fighters in rural Idlib province, which lies to the west of Aleppo. It remains unclear who carried out the strikes — with some witnesses saying they were U.S. missiles and others saying it was Syria’s own military, on the orders of President Bashar Assad.

At least one senior al-Nusra commander was reportedly among the dead in Idlib province.

It was not immediately clear whether the U.S. government told its Arab allies in advance — some of whom participated directly in the strikes against ISIS — that American firepower was also going to be directed at members of Khorasan.

In addition to causing possible angst among the “moderate” rebels who are being bolstered by new infusions of U.S. cash and weaponry, the strikes against Khorasan — if perceived to be strikes against the wider al-Nusra group — could also raise eyebrows among key U.S. allies in the Gulf region.

While all Arab states deny funding or supporting terrorist groups, there have been many reports suggesting oil-rich Sunni Muslim governments, including Qatar’s, have given their tacit approval for donations to groups including al-Nusra for years, eager to shore-up the fighters on the ground deemed most capable against the Shiite Muslim Assad regime.

Qatar is not alone. CBS News’ Wyatt Andrews reported earlier this month that U.S. officials have focused on private donations as a revenue stream to jihadist groups in Syria, including ISIS.

The U.S. has complained, but the Gulf states have internal reasons for allowing the donations to continue, said Andrews.

“In Kuwait, some of terrorist fund-raisers are very powerful and popular, and the government is very concerned about upsetting this domestic constituency,” former U.S. intelligence analyst Lori Plotkin Boghardt told CBS News. “The irony is that some of America’s closest allies in the Gulf allow their citizens to support terrorist groups.”

The U.S. has slapped sanctions on some Gulf citizens in recent months for funneling money to extremist groups in Syria.

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Will latest ISIS strikes inspire attack on U.S.?

While U.S. intelligence has not identified a specific threat from ISIS to the homeland, sources say there are new worries that the militant group could inspire retaliatory attacks in response to the American strikes in Syria, CBS News correspondent Bob Orr reports.

One fear is that a lone wolf, who may not be on law enforcement’s radar, could be motivated to act in the name of ISIS. That kind of threat is very difficult to detect.

The other worry is about those Americans and Western Europeans who have already joined the ISIS ranks — the FBI is trying to track more than 100 Americans who have gone, or have tried to go to Syria. Some have been stopped and arrested. Others are under surveillance. The concern is there may be some radicalized Americans who have returned from the fight without our knowledge.

At least three Americans have been killed fighting with militant groups including ISIS. Others remain on the battlefield.

The larger threat against the U.S. may be the al Qaeda-affiliated group known as Khorasan, which the U.S. targeted separately from ISIS, citing “imminent threat plotting.”

CBS News’ senior security contributor and former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell spoke about the significance of the attack against Khorasan.

“I think it’s important that the fight against ISIS has now gone to Syria. But I think it’s even more important that we struck the Khorasan group last night,” CBS News’ senior security contributor and former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell said.

The U.S. central command’s press release referencing the “imminent threat plotting” suggests to Morell that “we had detailed intelligence on attack plotting, either in the United States, or in Western Europe, or in both. So these eight strikes in Northwestern Syria, a long way from the ISIS targets were, very, very important.”

Meanwhile, ISIS continues to mount a very aggressive social media campaign, aimed at recruiting more young radicals. The terror group is now posting web videos with ISIS logos over popular video games like “Grand Theft Auto.”

Westerners are increasingly appearing in ISIS propaganda videos. A new tape, titled “Flames of Wars” features a masked man who speaks in clear unaccented English.

The FBI believes the speaker is either American or Canadian and the U.S. government is now trying to identify that man and his associates.

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Reporting on ISIS: Producers’ video diaries

The video above was produced by 60 Minutes Overtime’s Senior Editor Ann Silvio and Producer-Editor Lisa Orlando.

For the season premiere of 60 Minutes, Scott Pelley reports on The Islamic State from the front lines and refugee camps in Iraq. The broadcast’s companion web show, 60 Minutes Overtime, sent small cameras with Pelley’s producers to document the 60 Minutes team reporting on the ground in Iraq. The producers, led by Henry Schuster, came back with vivid, behind-the-scenes footage, posted in the video player above as a producers’ video diary.

“We wanted to be up close with ISIS,” Schuster tells Overtime’s Ann Silvio, using the acronym for the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

“My strategy was to divide and conquer. I went with my crew and we went to the front lines,” says Schuster. “Rachael Morehouse is my associate producer, and her team went north to the refugee camps to hear what life was like under ISIS rule.”

For Morehouse, the trip was her first foray into war reporting. She traveled in a convoy of three armored cars with a team of fixers, security, a sound technician, and an experienced cameraman who knew the area well. It was Morehouse’s team that stumbled upon a sight that would be familiar to anyone who watches the fictional Showtime series “Homeland.”

“We were about three hours away from Erbil, and on the way, we spotted this abandoned, half-constructed building,” says Morehouse. “There must have been thousands of people living there. No running sewage, no clean water — and right away, just the stories started pouring out. It looked like the scene out of “Homeland” when Brody was living in that half-built building in Venezuela.”

“Everybody who sees that shot says, ‘Oh, just like in “Homeland,'” says Schuster. “Well, you know, that’s not life imitating art. That’s art stealing it from life. The truth is this is what happens in a war.”

After chasing rumors and talking to many victims of ISIS, Morehouse’s team found several siblings from a Yazidi family whose village was attacked and slaughtered by ISIS. Pelley’s gut-wrenching interviews with the sister and two brothers in that family appeared in the broadcast this week. In the above video, Morehouse explains how she found them and shares footage of her first meetings with the three family members.

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Meanwhile, Schuster documented his trip to the front lines. At one point, Schuster’s team stopped at a bridge on the road to Tikrit. On the other side of the bridge, the black flag of ISIS flies in the desert winds.

“When you look across that bridge, you think, ‘Is that a reality? Is it permanent?’ You know, how long is that flag gonna be there?” says Schuster. “The disconcerting part of it is that when both sides at that bridge have trenches up, that says, it’s a new border of a new territory — and for the world that’s a pretty frightening prospect to have ISIS there.”

Schuster had reported in the area for 60 Minutes in the past, and he said it was tempting to walk across the bridge to learn more about life under ISIS.

“You want to walk across that bridge. You want to find out what it’s like over there, but then you think, ‘Don’t be stupid.’ We were there when one of the American hostages was beheaded, so you’re fully aware of the consequence of what happens if you make a wrong move,” says Schuster.

Three years ago, Schuster, Pelley and cameraman Chris Albert had reported a story in the area just across the bridge which is now controlled by ISIS.

“We see the sign that says, “Tikrit, 90 kilometers,” says Schuster. “Scott [Pelley] looks over at me and said, ‘I just never imagined we’d be back here.'”

When asked by 60 Minutes Overtime what was going through his mind, thinking back to that trip three years ago, Schuster said:

“What the hell are we doing back here again? How did this go so wrong and how did it seem to go so wrong, so quickly?”

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Shooting at Ala. UPS facility leaves shooter, 2 others dead

Last Updated Sep 23, 2014 11:55 AM EDT

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – A shooting at a UPS facility in Alabama Tuesday morning left three dead, including the shooter, police say.

The shooter was wearing a UPS uniform when he opened fire, Birmingham Police spokesperson Lt. Sean Edwards said.

According to Edwards, the shooter was an employee of UPS but it is unclear whether he was a current or former employee.

Police say the shooting took place in the UPS Customer Center in the Inglenook community in north Birmingham.

Birmingham Police Chief A.C. Roper said authorities were called to the location shortly after 9 a.m. on reports of an active shooter. He said all of the deceased appear to be UPS employees.

The motive for the shooting is under investigation.

According to CBS affiliate WIAT, the shooter appears to have suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

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‘REALLY SCARY’ Death may be 1st fatal bear attack in 150 years in NJ

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September 21, 2014: This photo shows the Apshawa Preserve in West Milford, N.J. A 22-year-old Edison man named Darsh Patel lost his life at the preserve after being attacked by a black bear while hiking with some friends Sunday. (AP Photo/The New Jersey Herald, Daniel Freel)

New Jersey wildlife officials believe that a black bear in search of food killed a Rutgers University senior who was hiking with four friends over the weekend. 

The body of Darsh Patel, 22, of Edison, N.J., was found Sunday in the Apshawa Preserve in West Milford. Police Chief Timothy Storbeck said the male bear was walking in a circle about 30 yards from the victim’s body and wouldn’t leave even after officers tried to scare it away by making loud noises and throwing sticks and stones.

According to Storbeck, the five friends noticed the bear beginning to follow them and ran, splitting up as they did. When the other four couldn’t find Patel, they called police, who found his body about two hours later.

The 300-pound animal was killed with two rifle shots and is and is being examined at a state lab for more clues as to why it may have pursued the group of five hikers. If it is confirmed that the bear caused Patel’s death, it would be only the second fatal bear attack recorded in the state’s history. The other occurred in 1852. 

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Ragonese told reporters Monday that the bear had not been tagged by researchers, so there is no documented history of interaction with other humans. 

State and local officials stressed that bear attacks are rare even in a region of the state that may have as many as 2,400 bruins in its dense forests. Chief Storbeck noted that his department receives six to 12 calls per week regarding bears, usually involving them breaking into trash cans.

Kelcey Burguess, principal biologist and leader of the state Division of Fish and Wildlife’s black bear project, said the bear could have been predisposed to attack but more likely was looking for food, particularly since wildlife officials believe there is a current shortage of the acorns and berries that bears eat. The hikers had granola bars and water with them, Storbeck said.

Officials don’t believe the hikers provoked the bear but they may have showed their inexperience when they decided to run. The safest way to handle a bear encounter is to move slowly and not look the bear in the eye, Ragonese said.

Laurie Coyle, who said she just moved into a neighborhood that borders the preserve, hadn’t heard about the bear attack.

“It’s shocking and it’s so sad,” she said Monday as she sat in her car at the entrance to the preserve. “I take the kids here after school for exercise. It’s really scary.”

Ragonese said bear-human encounters in New Jersey have slowly decreased in recent years, likely due to the DEP’s introduction of a state-sponsored bear hunt and efforts to educate the public on how not to attract the bruins.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Click for more from NJ.com.

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EBOLA ALARM CDC predicts up to 1.4 million cases by Jan.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report Tuesday predicting as many as 550,000 to 1.4 million cases of the Ebola virus in Liberia and Sierra Leone alone, by the end of January. 

The CDC calculations are based, in part, on assumptions that cases have been dramatically underreported. Other projections haven’t made the same kind of attempt to quantify illnesses that may have been missed in official counts. 

CDC scientists conclude there may be as many as 21,000 reported and unreported cases in just those two countries as soon as the end of this month.

The agency’s numbers seem “somewhat pessimistic” and do not account for infection control efforts already underway, said Dr. Richard Wenzel, a Virginia Commonwealth University scientist who formerly led the International Society for Infectious Diseases.

Separately, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned in a new report that the number of people infected with the Ebola virus could reach 20,000 by the beginning of November if efforts to contain the outbreak are not accelerated. 

The outbreak has killed around 2,800 people in five West African countries this year. An estimated 5,800 people have been infected with the virus, which has no known cure. The WHO has repeatedly said that the actual number of infections and deaths is almost certainly higher than the official figures. 

The report, published six months after the first cases were reported, is far more pessimistic than an earlier survey published last month, in which the WHO suggested that the number of cases could reach 20,000 by the middle of next year. According to The New York Times, the report also raises the possibility that the outbreak will cause Ebola to become endemic in West Africa. 

The WHO said Monday that the Ebola outbreak was “pretty much contained” in Nigeria and Senegal. However, the death rate among infected is currently at around 70 percent in the other three countries touched by the infection: Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. Of those three, Liberia has reported the most Ebola cases, at just over 3,000. 

The epidemic has overwhelmed the healthcare systems of all three countries, which rank among the world’s poorest. There aren’t enough hospital beds, health workers or even soap and water.

Last week, the U.S. announced it would build more than a dozen medical centers in Liberia and send 3,000 troops to help. Britain and France have also pledged to build treatment centers in Sierra Leone and Guinea and the World Bank and UNICEF have sent more than $1 million worth of supplies to the region.

“We’re beginning to see some signs in the response that gives us hope this increase in cases won’t happen,” Christopher Dye, WHO’s director of strategy and study co-author, told the Associated Press. “This is a bit like weather forecasting. We can do it a few days in advance, but looking a few weeks or months ahead is very difficult.”

Other outside experts questioned the WHO’s projections and said Ebola’s spread would ultimately be slowed not only by containment measures but by changes in people’s behavior.

“It’s a big assumption that nothing will change in the current outbreak response,” said Dr. Armand Sprecher, an infectious diseases specialist at Doctors Without Borders.

“Ebola outbreaks usually end when people stop touching the sick,” he said. “The outbreak is not going to end tomorrow but there are things we can do to reduce the case count.”

Local health officials have launched campaigns to educate people about the symptoms of Ebola and not to touch the sick or the dead. Previous Ebola outbreaks have been in other areas of Africa; this is the first to hit West Africa.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Click for more from The New York Times.

 

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MISS AMERICA SCANDAL Beauty queen kicked out of sorority over hazing

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September 14, 2014: Miss New York Kira Kazantsev, right, walks the runway after she was named Miss America 2015 during the Miss America 2015 pageant in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Miss America Kira Kazantsev was kicked out of her Long Island college sorority after a hazing scandal, she admitted on “Good Morning America” Tuesday morning. 

“Under the broad definition of hazing, yes, I was involved,” she said. “At the time, unfortunately, that was just the culture of the university, and I was hazed, and I was kind of brought up through the organization thinking that is appropriate behavior…”

The newly crowned pageant queen, whose platform in the competition was anti-domestic abuse, was kicked out of Hofstra University’s Alpha Phi sorority last year after she sent an email ahead of an event to members of her sorority that she said was misinterpreted. 

“In the email I made a joke that was taken out of context and forwarded,” she said.

So what was the joke? “That we would make the evening scary for the pledges.”

She described the hazing pledges were put through, explaining they were made to do “menial tasks.”

“It included something like you would stand in a line and basically like recite information or a few sleepless nights crafting,” she said. 

A report on Monday claimed that pledges were called names, criticized over their appearance and made to perform physically difficult tasks to the point of exhaustion.

“Kira has been fully transparent with the Miss America Organization about her termination from the Alpha Phi sorority,” a Miss America Organization spokesperson told FOX411. “It’s unfortunate that this incident has been exploited to create a storyline that distracts from what we should be focusing on: Kira’s impressive academic achievements at Hofstra University, including earning a triple major from the Honors College and her commitment to serving her community. Kira is an exceptional ambassador for the Miss America Organization, and we are excited to be a part of her journey as a force for good across our nation, promoting education and service and working to empower young women.”

The trilingual New Yorker maintained a 3.6 GPA and triple majored in political science, geography and global studies at the Long Island school.

The executive director of Alpha Phi Linda Kahangi told FOX411 the organization’s privacy policy prohibits the sisterhood from commenting on “details related to membership status changes.” 

“Alpha Phi is, and always has been, a values based organization that has no tolerance for hazing in any form,” Kahangi wrote in an email. “The Theta Mu chapter of Alpha Phi at Hofstra is no exception; they have shown responsibility in addressing inappropriate behavior by individual members to ensure a positive chapter culture.”

This isn’t the first scandal for the new Miss America. She sparked controversy when it was revealed that she once participated in a three month internship for Planned Parenthood.

WATCH: In the Zone: Miss America’s advice to Ray Rice

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‘REALLY SCARY’ Death may be 1st fatal bear attack in 150 years in NJ

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September 21, 2014: This photo shows the Apshawa Preserve in West Milford, N.J. A 22-year-old Edison man named Darsh Patel lost his life at the preserve after being attacked by a black bear while hiking with some friends Sunday. (AP Photo/The New Jersey Herald, Daniel Freel)

New Jersey wildlife officials believe that a black bear in search of food killed a Rutgers University senior who was hiking with four friends over the weekend. 

The body of Darsh Patel, 22, of Edison, N.J., was found Sunday in the Apshawa Preserve in West Milford. Police Chief Timothy Storbeck said the male bear was walking in a circle about 30 yards from the victim’s body and wouldn’t leave even after officers tried to scare it away by making loud noises and throwing sticks and stones.

According to Storbeck, the five friends noticed the bear beginning to follow them and ran, splitting up as they did. When the other four couldn’t find Patel, they called police, who found his body about two hours later.

The 300-pound animal was killed with two rifle shots and is and is being examined at a state lab for more clues as to why it may have pursued the group of five hikers. If it is confirmed that the bear caused Patel’s death, it would be only the second fatal bear attack recorded in the state’s history. The other occurred in 1852. 

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Ragonese told reporters Monday that the bear had not been tagged by researchers, so there is no documented history of interaction with other humans. 

State and local officials stressed that bear attacks are rare even in a region of the state that may have as many as 2,400 bruins in its dense forests. Chief Storbeck noted that his department receives six to 12 calls per week regarding bears, usually involving them breaking into trash cans.

Kelcey Burguess, principal biologist and leader of the state Division of Fish and Wildlife’s black bear project, said the bear could have been predisposed to attack but more likely was looking for food, particularly since wildlife officials believe there is a current shortage of the acorns and berries that bears eat. The hikers had granola bars and water with them, Storbeck said.

Officials don’t believe the hikers provoked the bear but they may have showed their inexperience when they decided to run. The safest way to handle a bear encounter is to move slowly and not look the bear in the eye, Ragonese said.

Laurie Coyle, who said she just moved into a neighborhood that borders the preserve, hadn’t heard about the bear attack.

“It’s shocking and it’s so sad,” she said Monday as she sat in her car at the entrance to the preserve. “I take the kids here after school for exercise. It’s really scary.”

Ragonese said bear-human encounters in New Jersey have slowly decreased in recent years, likely due to the DEP’s introduction of a state-sponsored bear hunt and efforts to educate the public on how not to attract the bruins.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Click for more from NJ.com.

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"They have no safe haven"; U.S. touts first strikes against ISIS in Syria

WASHINGTON – Combined U.S.-Arab airstrikes on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s military strongholds in Syria achieved their aim of showing the extremists that their savage attacks will not go unanswered, the top American military officer said Tuesday. Separately, the U.S. launched strikes against a group said to be plotting to attack the U.S. and Western interests.

The U.S. and five Arab nations attacked the Islamic State group’s headquarters in eastern Syria in nighttime raids Monday using land- and sea-based U.S. aircraft as well as Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from two Navy ships in the Red Sea and the northern Persian Gulf. Video purporting to show a series of strikes in Raqqa surfaced on YouTube, although its authenticity has not been independently verified.

American warplanes also carried out eight airstrikes to disrupt what the military described as “imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests” by a network of al-Qaida veterans “with significant explosives skills,” said Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The White House said President Barack Obama would speak about the airstrikes before flying to New York on Tuesday morning for the United Nations General Assembly meeting. His remarks are expected at around 10 a.m. ET.

U.S. officials said five Arab nations either participated in the airstrikes or provided unspecified support. They were Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. Dempsey said their role was indispensable to the U.S. goal of showing that the battle to degrade and defeat the Islamic State group is not just a U.S. fight.

Dempsey called the strikes an unprecedented coalition with Arab states and said the partnering has set the stage for a broader international campaign against the extremists.

“We wanted to make sure that ISIL knew they have no safe haven, and we certainly achieved that,” Dempsey told reporters as he flew to Washington after a weeklong trip to Europe. ISIL is an alternate acronym for the Islamic State group whose fighters swept across much of Iraq this summer.

Dempsey said the five Arab nations’ agreement to join in the airstrikes came together quickly. “Once we had one of them on board, the others followed quickly thereafter,” he said, adding that the partnership came together over the past three days. “We now have a kind of credible campaign against ISIL that includes a coalition of partners.”

It was not immediately clear exactly what role each of those nations played, but Jordan confirmed it had carried out strikes with its own fighter jets inside Syria and “destroyed a number of selected targets used by terrorist groups to dispatch their members for terrorist attacks” in Jordan.

The strikes hit targets in and around the city of Raqqa and the province with the same name, activists said. Raqqa is the militant group’s self-declared capital; it began referring to itself as simply the “Islamic State” during the summer.

“The strikes destroyed or damaged multiple ISIL targets in the vicinity of Ar Raqqah, Dayr az Zawr, Al Hasakah, and Abu Kamal and included ISIL fighters, training compounds, headquarters and command and control facilities, storage facilities, a finance center, supply trucks and armed vehicles,” CENTCOM said in a statement, using an alternate acronym for the group.

The Reuters news agency quoted a group that tracks the war as saying at least 20 ISIS fighters were killed in the strikes.

Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which gathers information from a network of activists on the ground, told the agency at least 50 strikes were carried out on ISIS targets in the Syrian provinces of Raqqa and Deir el-Zour.

Video released by the U.S. Navy showed the launch of multiple Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMs) from the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea.

Several hours after the Pentagon announced the airstrikes against Islamic State targets, U.S. Central Command said American warplanes also launched eight airstrikes “to disrupt the imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests” by a network of al-Qaida veterans – sometimes known as the Khorasan Group – who have established a haven in Syria. It provided no details on the plotting.

CBS News’ Bob Orr said late last week that Khorasan — a group of operatives U.S. officials say were dispatched by al Qaeda’s central command in Pakistan to try and link up the terror network’s bomb-making experts with Western jihadists who have joined the fight in Syria — was deemed a more imminent threat to the U.S. than even ISIS.

Khorasan is believed to be a subset of al Qaeda’s larger affiliated group in Syria, al-Nusra Front, which has battled against both the Assad regime and ISIS for territory in the country’s north. Al-Nusra enjoys significant popular support inside Syria, and is believed to be directly supported by some Arab Gulf states, including some listed as partners in the strikes against ISIS.

Dempsey said the decision to launch both operations simultaneously was influenced by a concern that word of strikes in eastern Syria could prompt the al-Qaida veterans to disperse. The Khorasan Group “may have scattered” if the attack missions had been done sequentially rather than simultaneously, he said.

Central Command said the bombing mission against that group was undertaken solely by U.S. aircraft and took place west of the Syrian city of Aleppo. It said targets included training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communication building and command and control facilities.

According to the Syrian Observatory, citing local activists on the ground, at least 50 Nusra fighters were killed in strikes against al-Nusra in the Idlib province. The observatory said eight civilians, including two children, were also killed. It was not immediately clear, however, whether those strikes were carried out by U.S. planes, allied nations, or by the Syrian military.

Unconfirmed reports suggested airstrikes were continuing around Idlib, but it was unclear who might be carrying them out. The U.S. military confirmed only eight strikes against Khorasan “west of Aleppo to include training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communication building and command and control facilities.” Idlib city is to the southwest of Aleppo, but the exact location of the U.S. strikes were not given.

The strikes were part of the expanded military campaign that Obama authorized nearly two weeks ago in order to disrupt and destroy the Islamic State militants, who have slaughtered thousands of people, beheaded Westerners – including two American journalists – and captured large swaths of Syria and northern and western Iraq.

The airstrikes began around 8:30 p.m. EDT. Central Command said the U.S. fired 47 Tomahawk cruise missiles from aboard the USS Arleigh Burke and USS Philippine Sea, operating from international waters in the Red Sea and the northern Persian Gulf. U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps fighter jets, drones and bombers also participated.

Syria’s Foreign Ministry said the U.S. informed Syria’s envoy to the U.N. that “strikes will be launched against the terrorist Daesh group in Raqqa.” The statement used an Arabic name to refer to the Islamic State group.

Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said Tuesday the strikes weren’t coordinated with the regime of President Bashar Assad, but added: “There was no resistance, no interaction with Syrian air forces or military defenses” during the operation.

In the past, Syrian officials have insisted that any strikes against ISIS in the country should come only after coordination with Damascus. Without their consent, Syrian officials have said such airstrikes would be an act of aggression against Syria and a breach of the country’s sovereignty.

However, U.S. officials ruled out direct coordination with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.

“In recent days, over 130,000 civilians fled from over 200 villages raided by ISIS in Syria,” the head of the U.S.-backed Syrian Opposition Coalition, or the SNC, President Hadi al-Bahra, told CBS News’ Pamela Falk. “These airstrikes may help alleviate the crisis in that area by slowing the extremists’ advances.”

But, al-Bahra stressed that “what happens after the airstrikes is critical. First, there must be a no-fly zone sustained over the areas of these strikes, so that the regime will not attack civilians in order to create chaos and blame the international coalition for civilian casualties. Additionally, working with our partners, we will accelerate plans and efforts to train and equip mainstream opposition forces to carry on the fight on the ground. And finally, we must engage on multiple fronts with the international community to put pressure on the Assad regime to step aside for a full political transition. Moderate, inclusive governance is needed to suffocate the extremists and prevent them from re-emerging.”

Russia’s foreign ministry warned Tuesday that what it called “unilateral” air strikes would destabilize the region. “The fight against terrorists in the Middle East and northern Africa requires coordinated efforts of the entire global community under the auspices of the U.N.,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Dempsey said Arab participation needs to extend beyond direct military roles to assisting in an international effort to undercut finances, recruiting and ideological support for the Islamic State group.

“What we’re talking about now is the beginning of an air campaign,” he said, adding that it must lead to what he called “the other air campaign” – an effort to fill public airwaves across the Muslim world with arguments for why the extremists must be defeated.

At a conference on Sept. 11 with Secretary of State John Kerry, key Arab allies promised they would “do their share” to fight the Islamic State militants. The Obama administration, which at a NATO meeting in Wales earlier this month also got commitments from European allies as well as Canada and Australia, has insisted that the fight against the Islamic State militants could not be the United States’ fight alone.

In a speech Sept. 10, Obama vowed to go after the Islamic State militants wherever they may be. His military and defense leaders told Congress last week that airstrikes within Syria are meant to disrupt the group’s momentum and provide time for the U.S. and allies to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels.

President Obama spoke with House Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi about the strikes Monday evening, officials said. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Committee on Intelligence, was briefed by Vice President Biden earlier in the day.

The U.S. military has been launching targeted airstrikes in Iraq since August, focusing specifically on attacks to protect U.S. interests and personnel, assist Iraqi refugees and secure critical infrastructure. Last week, as part of the newly expanded campaign, the U.S. began going after militant targets across Iraq, including enemy fighters, outposts, equipment and weapons.

To date, U.S. fighter aircraft, bombers and drones have launched about 190 airstrikes within Iraq.

Urged on by the White House and U.S. defense and military officials, Congress passed legislation late last week authorizing the military to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels. Obama signed the bill into law Friday, providing $500 million for the U.S. to train about 5,000 rebels over the next year.

The militant group, meanwhile, has threatened retribution. Its spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, said in a 42-minute audio statement released Sunday that the fighters were ready to battle the U.S.-led military coalition and called for attacks at home and abroad.

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Reporting on ISIS: Producers’ video diaries

The video above was produced by 60 Minutes Overtime’s Senior Editor Ann Silvio and Producer-Editor Lisa Orlando.

For the season premiere of 60 Minutes, Scott Pelley reports on The Islamic State from the front lines and refugee camps in Iraq. The broadcast’s companion web show, 60 Minutes Overtime, sent small cameras with Pelley’s producers to document the 60 Minutes team reporting on the ground in Iraq. The producers, led by Henry Schuster, came back with vivid, behind-the-scenes footage, posted in the video player above as a producers’ video diary.

“We wanted to be up close with ISIS,” Schuster tells Overtime’s Ann Silvio, using the acronym for the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

“My strategy was to divide and conquer. I went with my crew and we went to the front lines,” says Schuster. “Rachael Morehouse is my associate producer, and her team went north to the refugee camps to hear what life was like under ISIS rule.”

For Morehouse, the trip was her first foray into war reporting. She traveled in a convoy of three armored cars with a team of fixers, security, a sound technician, and an experienced cameraman who knew the area well. It was Morehouse’s team that stumbled upon a sight that would be familiar to anyone who watches the fictional Showtime series “Homeland.”

“We were about three hours away from Erbil, and on the way, we spotted this abandoned, half-constructed building,” says Morehouse. “There must have been thousands of people living there. No running sewage, no clean water — and right away, just the stories started pouring out. It looked like the scene out of “Homeland” when Brody was living in that half-built building in Venezuela.”

“Everybody who sees that shot says, ‘Oh, just like in “Homeland,'” says Schuster. “Well, you know, that’s not life imitating art. That’s art stealing it from life. The truth is this is what happens in a war.”

After chasing rumors and talking to many victims of ISIS, Morehouse’s team found several siblings from a Yazidi family whose village was attacked and slaughtered by ISIS. Pelley’s gut-wrenching interviews with the sister and two brothers in that family appeared in the broadcast this week. In the above video, Morehouse explains how she found them and shares footage of her first meetings with the three family members.

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Meanwhile, Schuster documented his trip to the front lines. At one point, Schuster’s team stopped at a bridge on the road to Tikrit. On the other side of the bridge, the black flag of ISIS flies in the desert winds.

“When you look across that bridge, you think, ‘Is that a reality? Is it permanent?’ You know, how long is that flag gonna be there?” says Schuster. “The disconcerting part of it is that when both sides at that bridge have trenches up, that says, it’s a new border of a new territory — and for the world that’s a pretty frightening prospect to have ISIS there.”

Schuster had reported in the area for 60 Minutes in the past, and he said it was tempting to walk across the bridge to learn more about life under ISIS.

“You want to walk across that bridge. You want to find out what it’s like over there, but then you think, ‘Don’t be stupid.’ We were there when one of the American hostages was beheaded, so you’re fully aware of the consequence of what happens if you make a wrong move,” says Schuster.

Three years ago, Schuster, Pelley and cameraman Chris Albert had reported a story in the area just across the bridge which is now controlled by ISIS.

“We see the sign that says, “Tikrit, 90 kilometers,” says Schuster. “Scott [Pelley] looks over at me and said, ‘I just never imagined we’d be back here.'”

When asked by 60 Minutes Overtime what was going through his mind, thinking back to that trip three years ago, Schuster said:

“What the hell are we doing back here again? How did this go so wrong and how did it seem to go so wrong, so quickly?”

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Syrian refugees lament late U.S. arrival

URFA, Turkey — Most Syrian refugees who spoke to CBS News’ Holly Williams on Tuesday as they crossed the border into Turkey welcomed the U.S. airstrikes in their home country, but many of them said they had come too late.

In less than a week, more than 100,000 Syrian refugees have streamed across the border into the safety of Turkey.

They have been fleeing Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants, who went on another violent offensive last week seizing dozens of villages in northern Syria and besieging the town of Kobani.

The refugees told Williams they were relieved the U.S. military had finally intervened in Syria’s three-and-a-half year civil war, which has already claimed close to 200,000 lives.

Ibrahim Mustapha fled ISIS three days ago with his family, and told Williams, “we just wish Obama had started the airstrikes even earlier, maybe then we wouldn’t be here.”

During the bloody civil, war many Syrians have pleaded for U.S. airstrikes in their country; everyone from wounded fighters to the U.S.-backed opposition and countless refugees have told CBS News America should intervene.

But like Abdu al-Adekhani, who we met fleeing Syria last year with his family, they all had hoped for airstrikes against the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, which is not what began on Monday night.

“We are wish America (would) finish Bashar Assad,” he told Williams.

Despite those pleas for help, the Obama administration was determined to stay out of the complicated Syrian conflict. That changed with the rise of ISIS and its rapid expansion to push its own violent form of Islam across the region.

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ATTACK ON ISIS IN SYRIA BEGINS US, allies strike at two militant groups

The United States, joined by five Arab allies, launched an intense campaign of airstrikes, bombings and cruise-missile attacks against the Islamic State and another militant group in Syria Monday night – marking the first U.S. military intervention in Syria since the start of that country’s civil war in 2011. 

U.S. Central Command (Centcom) said in a statement released early Tuesday that 14 Islamic State targets were hit, including the group’s fighters, training camps, headquarters and command-and-control facilities, and armed vehicles. The operation involved a combination of fighter jets, bombers, Predator drones and Tomahawk missiles launched from the Red Sea and Persian Gulf. 

The strikes “destroyed or damaged” multiple targets, according to the U.S. military, which reported “all aircraft safely exited the strike areas.” 

The mission was not limited to hitting Islamic State positions. Centcom said that U.S. aircraft also struck eight targets associated with another terrorist group called the Khorasan Group, made of up Al Qaeda veterans. Those strikes, near the northwestern Syrian city of Aleppo, targeted training camps, a munitions production facility, a communication building and command-and-control facilities.

Centcom said the Khorasan Group was involved in “imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests.” 

President Obama, who did not publicly address the strikes on Monday, plans to speak at the White House Tuesday morning, Fox News has learned. 

The military strikes come less than two weeks after Obama, on Sept. 10, authorized U.S. airstrikes inside Syria as part of a broad campaign to root out the militants. The strikes ostensibly put the United States, for now, on the same side as Bashar Assad, the Syrian strongman whose ouster Obama once sought — though the Assad regime was not involved in Monday’s strikes. 

Syria’s Foreign Ministry told the Associated Press that the U.S. informed Syria’s envoy to the U.N. that “strikes will be launched against the terrorist Daesh group in Raqqa.” The statement used an Arabic name to refer to the Islamic State group, which is more commonly known as ISIS or ISIL. 

U.S. officials said that the airstrikes began around 8:30 p.m. ET, and were conducted by the U.S., Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. The first wave of strikes finished about 90 minutes later, though the operation was expected to have lasted several hours. Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said the military made the decision to strike early Monday.  

The operation involved 47 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles launched from the USS Arleigh Burke and USS Philippine Sea. Officials told Fox News that B-1 bombers, F-16 and F-18 fighters, and Predator drones were also used. The F-18s flew missions off the USS George H.W. Bush in the Persian Gulf. 

Obama, in announcing plans for an expanded campaign against ISIS earlier this month, said: “I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq.”

The following day, at a conference with Secretary of State John Kerry, key Arab allies promised they would “do their share” to fight the Islamic State militants. The Obama administration, which at a NATO meeting in Wales earlier this month also got commitments from European allies as well as Canada and Australia, has insisted that the fight against the Islamic State militants could not be the United States’ fight alone.

Until now, U.S. airstrikes have been limited to specific missions in northern Iraq, where 194 missions have been launched since August 8. Lawmakers and military advisers, though, had stressed for weeks that any campaign against the Islamic State would have to include action in Syria, where the militant network is based.

“To defeat ISIS, we must cut off the head of the snake, which exists in Syria,” Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said in a statement late Monday. “I support the administration’s move to conduct airstrikes against ISIS wherever it exists.”

A senior official told Fox News that Obama was briefed by military officials on the operation throughout the night. Earlier in the evening, the president spoke to House Speaker John Boeher, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. A White House official also updated House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on the progress of the airstrikes.

Because the United States had stayed out of the Syria conflict for so long, the Obama administration had spent the last several weeks scrambling to gather intelligence about possible targets in Syria, launching surveillance missions over the country last month.

Syrian activists reported several airstrikes on militant targets in the northern city of Raqqa, ISIS’s main base. One Raqqa-based activist, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AP that the airstrikes lit the night sky over the city, and reported a power cut that lasted for two hours.

The head of the main Western-backed Syrian opposition group, Hadi Bahra, welcomed the commencement of airstrikes in Syria.

“Tonight, the international community has joined our fight against ISIS in Syria,” he said in a statement.  “We have called for airstrikes such as those that commenced tonight with a heavy heart and deep concern, as these strikes begin in our own homeland. We insist that utmost care is taken to avoid civilian casualties.”

Centcom said that other airstrikes hit ISIS targets near the Syrian cities of Dayr az Zawr, Al Hasakah, and Abu Kamal. Also, the U.S. carried out four airstrikes against ISIS in northern Iraq, southwest of the city of Kirkuk. 

Military leaders have said about two-thirds of the estimated 31,000 Islamic State militants were in Syria.

Some officials have expressed concern that going after Islamic State militants in Syria could inadvertently help Assad, since the militants are fighting in part to overthrow Assad.

Urged on by the White House and U.S. defense and military officials, Congress passed legislation late last week authorizing the military to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels. Obama signed the bill into law Friday, providing $500 million for the U.S. to train about 5,000 rebels over the next year.

The militant group, meanwhile, has threatened retribution. Its spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, said in a 42-minute audio statement released Sunday that the fighters were ready to battle the U.S.-led military coalition and called for attacks at home and abroad.

Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin, Justin Fishel, Ed Henry, Chad Pergram and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/09/23/us-launches-first-wave-bombing-strikes-over-syria/

US targets two militant groups in Syria

The United States, joined by five Arab allies, launched an intense campaign of airstrikes, bombings and cruise-missile attacks against the Islamic State and other militant groups in Syria Monday night – marking the first U.S. military intervention in Syria since the start of that country’s civil war in 2011. 

U.S. Central Command (Centcom) said in a statement released early Tuesday that 14 Islamic State targets were hit, including the group’s fighters, training compounds, headquarters and command and control facilities, storage facilities, a finance center, supply trucks and armed vehicles. The statement said that the operation involved 47 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles launched from the USS Arleigh Burke and USS Philippine Sea operating in the Red Sea and the North Arabian Gulf. Officials told Fox News that B-1 bombers, F-16 and F-18 fighters, and Predator drones were also used. The F-18s flew missions off the USS George H.W. Bush in the Persian Gulf.

Centcom said that U.S. aircraft also struck eight targets associated with another terrorist group called the Khorasan Group, made of up Al Qaeda veterans. Those strikes, near the northwestern Syrian city of Aleppo, targeted training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communication building and command and control facilities.

Centcom said the Khorasan Group was involved in “imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests.”

U.S. officials said that said the airstrikes began around 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time, and were conducted by the U.S., Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. The first wave of strikes finished about 90 minutes later, though the operation was expected to last several hours. Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said the military made the decision to strike early Monday. 

Syria’s Foreign Ministry told the Associated Press that the U.S. informed Syria’s envoy to the U.N. that “strikes will be launched against the terrorist Daesh group in Raqqa.” The statement used an Arabic name to refer to the Islamic State group, which is more commonly known as ISIS or ISIL.

The military strikes come less than two weeks after President Obama, on Sept. 10, authorized U.S. airstrikes inside Syria as part of a broad campaign to root out the militants.

In a nod to his plans to go into Syria, Obama said then, “I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq.”

The following day, at a conference with Secretary of State John Kerry, key Arab allies promised they would “do their share” to fight the Islamic State militants. The Obama administration, which at a NATO meeting in Wales earlier this month also got commitments from European allies as well as Canada and Australia, has insisted that the fight against the Islamic State militants could not be the United States’ fight alone.

Until now, U.S. airstrikes have been limited to specific missions in northern Iraq, where 194 missions have been launched since August 8. Lawmakers and military advisers, though, had stressed for weeks that any campaign against the Islamic State would have to include action in Syria, where the militant network is based.

“To defeat ISIS, we must cut off the head of the snake, which exists in Syria,” Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said in a statement late Monday. “I support the administration’s move to conduct airstrikes against ISIS wherever it exists.”

A senior official told Fox News that President Obama was being briefed by military officials on the operation throughout the night. Earlier in the evening, the president spoke to House Speaker John Boeher, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. A White House official also updated House Majority Leader Kevin McCarty, R-Calif., on the progress of the airstrikes.

Because the United States had stayed out of the Syria conflict for so long, the Obama administration had spent the last several weeks scrambling to gather intelligence about possible targets in Syria, launching surveillance missions over the country last month.

Syrian activists reported several airstrikes on militant targets in the northern city of Raqqa, ISIS’s main base. One Raqqa-based activist, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AP that the airstrikes lit the night sky over the city, and reported a power cut that lasted for two hours.

The head of the main Western-backed Syrian opposition group, Hadi Bahra, welcomed the commencement of airstrikes in Syria.

“Tonight, the international community has joined our fight against ISIS in Syria,” he said in a statement.  “We have called for airstrikes such as those that commenced tonight with a heavy heart and deep concern, as these strikes begin in our own homeland. We insist that utmost care is taken to avoid civilian casualties.”

Centcom said that other airstrikes hit ISIS targets near the Syrian cities of Dayr az Zawr, Al Hasakah, and Abu Kamal. Also, the U.S. carried out four airstrikes against ISIS in northern Iraq, southwest of the city of Kirkuk. 

Military leaders have said about two-thirds of the estimated 31,000 Islamic State militants were in Syria.

Some officials have expressed concern that going after Islamic State militants in Syria could inadvertently help Syrian President Bashar Assad, since the militants are fighting in part to overthrow Assad.

Urged on by the White House and U.S. defense and military officials, Congress passed legislation late last week authorizing the military to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels. Obama signed the bill into law Friday, providing $500 million for the U.S. to train about 5,000 rebels over the next year.

The militant group, meanwhile, has threatened retribution. Its spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, said in a 42-minute audio statement released Sunday that the fighters were ready to battle the U.S.-led military coalition and called for attacks at home and abroad.

Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin, Justin Fishel, Ed Henry, Chad Pergram and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/09/23/us-launches-first-wave-bombing-strikes-over-syria/

US targets two militant groups in Syria

The United States, joined by five Arab allies, launched an intense campaign of airstrikes, bombings and cruise-missile attacks against the Islamic State and other militant groups in Syria Monday night – marking the first U.S. military intervention in Syria since the start of that country’s civil war in 2011. 

U.S. Central Command (Centcom) said in a statement released early Tuesday that 14 Islamic State targets were hit, including the group’s fighters, training compounds, headquarters and command and control facilities, storage facilities, a finance center, supply trucks and armed vehicles. The statement said that the operation involved 47 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles launched from the USS Arleigh Burke and USS Philippine Sea operating in the Red Sea and the North Arabian Gulf. Officials told Fox News that B-1 bombers, F-16 and F-18 fighters, and Predator drones were also used. The F-18s flew missions off the USS George H.W. Bush in the Persian Gulf.

Centcom said that U.S. aircraft also struck eight targets associated with another terrorist group called the Khorasan Group, made of up Al Qaeda veterans. Those strikes, near the northwestern Syrian city of Aleppo, targeted training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communication building and command and control facilities.

Centcom said the Khorasan Group was involved in “imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests.”

U.S. officials said that said the airstrikes began around 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time, and were conducted by the U.S., Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. The first wave of strikes finished about 90 minutes later, though the operation was expected to last several hours. Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said the military made the decision to strike early Monday. 

Syria’s Foreign Ministry told the Associated Press that the U.S. informed Syria’s envoy to the U.N. that “strikes will be launched against the terrorist Daesh group in Raqqa.” The statement used an Arabic name to refer to the Islamic State group, which is more commonly known as ISIS or ISIL.

The military strikes come less than two weeks after President Obama, on Sept. 10, authorized U.S. airstrikes inside Syria as part of a broad campaign to root out the militants.

In a nod to his plans to go into Syria, Obama said then, “I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq.”

The following day, at a conference with Secretary of State John Kerry, key Arab allies promised they would “do their share” to fight the Islamic State militants. The Obama administration, which at a NATO meeting in Wales earlier this month also got commitments from European allies as well as Canada and Australia, has insisted that the fight against the Islamic State militants could not be the United States’ fight alone.

Until now, U.S. airstrikes have been limited to specific missions in northern Iraq, where 194 missions have been launched since August 8. Lawmakers and military advisers, though, had stressed for weeks that any campaign against the Islamic State would have to include action in Syria, where the militant network is based.

“To defeat ISIS, we must cut off the head of the snake, which exists in Syria,” Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said in a statement late Monday. “I support the administration’s move to conduct airstrikes against ISIS wherever it exists.”

A senior official told Fox News that President Obama was being briefed by military officials on the operation throughout the night. Earlier in the evening, the president spoke to House Speaker John Boeher, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. A White House official also updated House Majority Leader Kevin McCarty, R-Calif., on the progress of the airstrikes.

Because the United States had stayed out of the Syria conflict for so long, the Obama administration had spent the last several weeks scrambling to gather intelligence about possible targets in Syria, launching surveillance missions over the country last month.

Syrian activists reported several airstrikes on militant targets in the northern city of Raqqa, ISIS’s main base. One Raqqa-based activist, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AP that the airstrikes lit the night sky over the city, and reported a power cut that lasted for two hours.

The head of the main Western-backed Syrian opposition group, Hadi Bahra, welcomed the commencement of airstrikes in Syria.

“Tonight, the international community has joined our fight against ISIS in Syria,” he said in a statement.  “We have called for airstrikes such as those that commenced tonight with a heavy heart and deep concern, as these strikes begin in our own homeland. We insist that utmost care is taken to avoid civilian casualties.”

Centcom said that other airstrikes hit ISIS targets near the Syrian cities of Dayr az Zawr, Al Hasakah, and Abu Kamal. Also, the U.S. carried out four airstrikes against ISIS in northern Iraq, southwest of the city of Kirkuk. 

Military leaders have said about two-thirds of the estimated 31,000 Islamic State militants were in Syria.

Some officials have expressed concern that going after Islamic State militants in Syria could inadvertently help Syrian President Bashar Assad, since the militants are fighting in part to overthrow Assad.

Urged on by the White House and U.S. defense and military officials, Congress passed legislation late last week authorizing the military to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels. Obama signed the bill into law Friday, providing $500 million for the U.S. to train about 5,000 rebels over the next year.

The militant group, meanwhile, has threatened retribution. Its spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, said in a 42-minute audio statement released Sunday that the fighters were ready to battle the U.S.-led military coalition and called for attacks at home and abroad.

Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin, Justin Fishel, Ed Henry, Chad Pergram and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/09/23/us-launches-first-wave-bombing-strikes-over-syria/

U.S. hits ISIS with airstrikes in Syria

Last Updated Sep 23, 2014 3:55 AM EDT

The U.S. military has launched airstrikes against ISIS in Syria. The U.S. military said five Arab nations had roles in the attacks, which focused on ISIS’ heartland around the Syrian province of Raqqa.

Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement Monday evening that fighters, bombers and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles were used.

“The decision to conduct theses strikes was made earlier today by the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) commander under authorization granted him by the Commander in Chief,” Kirby said.

The strikes hit targets in and around the city of Raqqa and the province with the same name, activists said. Raqqa is the militant group’s self-declared capital; it began referring to itself as simply the “Islamic State” during the summer. Video purporting to show a series of strikes in Raqqa surfaced on YouTube, although its authenticity has not been independently verified.

“The strikes destroyed or damaged multiple ISIL targets in the vicinity of Ar Raqqah, Dayr az Zawr, Al Hasakah, and Abu Kamal and included ISIL fighters, training compounds, headquarters and command and control facilities, storage facilities, a finance center, supply trucks and armed vehicles,” CENTCOM said in a statement, using an alternate acronym for the group.

The Reuters news agency quoted a group that tracks the war as saying at least 20 ISIS fighters were killed in the strikes.

Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which gathers information from a network of activists on the ground, told the agency at least 50 strikes were carried out on ISIS targets in the Syrian provinces of Raqqa and Deir al-Zor.

The statement released by CENTCOM said Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates “also participated in or supported the airstrikes against ISIL targets.” It was not immediately clear what role those nations played.

America’s Arab partners did not, however, participate in U.S. airstrikes against another group in Syria which has emerged as a more urgent threat to the U.S. homeland, according to American intelligence officials.

“The United States has also taken action to disrupt the imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests conducted by a network of seasoned al-Qa’ida veterans — sometimes referred to as the Khorasan Group,” Centcom confirmed in its statement.

CBS News’ Bob Orr reported late last week that Khorasan — a group of operatives dispatched by al Qaeda’s central command in Pakistan to try and link up the terror network’s bomb-making experts with Western jihadists who have joined the fight in Syria — was deemed a more imminent threat to the U.S. than even ISIS.

Khorasan is believed to be a subset of al Qaeda’s larger affiliated group in Syria, al-Nusra Front, which has battled against both the Assad regime and ISIS for territory in the country’s north.

An anti-militant media collective entitled “Raqqa is being silently slaughtered” said targets included the government building used by ISIS militants as their headquarters, and the Brigade 93, a Syrian army base the militants recently seized.

The Syrian foreign ministry said Tuesday that the United States informed Damascus’ envoy to the United Nations before launching the airstrikes.

The ministry issued a brief statement, carried by Syrian state media, saying, “The American side informed Syria’s permanent envoy to the U.N. that strikes will be launched against the Daesh terrorist organization in Raqqa.” Daesh is an Arabic name for ISIS.

The ministry’s statement was Damascus’ first official reaction after the U.S. and five Arab countries launched the airstrikes on ISIS targets in Syria, expanding a military campaign into a country whose three-year civil war has given the brutal militant group a safe haven.

In the past, Syrian officials have insisted that any strikes against ISIS in the country should come only after coordination with Damascus. Without their consent, Syrian officials have said such airstrikes would be an act of aggression against Syria and a breach of the country’s sovereignty.

However, U.S. officials ruled out direct coordination with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.

“In recent days, over 130,000 civilians fled from over 200 villages raided by ISIS in Syria,” the head of the U.S.-backed Syrian Opposition Coalition, or the SNC, President Hadi al-Bahra, told CBS News’ Pamela Falk. “These airstrikes may help alleviate the crisis in that area by slowing the extremists’ advances.”

iraqsyriamapv03.jpg

But, al-Bahra stressed that “what happens after the airstrikes is critical. First, there must be a no-fly zone sustained over the areas of these strikes, so that the regime will not attack civilians in order to create chaos and blame the international coalition for civilian casualties. Additionally, working with our partners, we will accelerate plans and efforts to train and equip mainstream opposition forces to carry on the fight on the ground. And finally, we must engage on multiple fronts with the international community to put pressure on the Assad regime to step aside for a full political transition. Moderate, inclusive governance is needed to suffocate the extremists and prevent them from re-emerging.”

President Obama spoke with House Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi about the strikes Monday evening, officials said. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Committee on Intelligence, was briefed by Vice President Biden earlier in the day.

Since Aug. 8, the U.S. has launched at least 190 strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq. That increased military assistance, including the deployment of more than 1,600 U.S. advisers, has helped Iraqi and Kurdish security forces stem the tide of ISIS’ advance, though serious challenges remain.

Over the last several weeks, during which ISIS militants have beheaded two American journalists and a British aid worker, President Obama signaled America’s intention to broaden its campaign against the extremist group into Syria. Surveillance flights to gather intelligence on potential targets in Syrian territory were authorized in late August.

Throughout the ongoing operations, Mr. Obama has been steadfast in his insistence that the U.S. would not put boots on the ground in their fight against ISIS. Instead, the U.S. will rely on local forces in Iraq and moderate rebels in Syria to fight the extremists.

Last week, the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved arming and training moderate Syrian rebels to fight ISIS militants, though the go-ahead is good for less than three months.

After gathering strength and territory in Syria, ISIS militants seized Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, in June and embarked on an aggressive offensive across northern Iraq, forcing hundreds of thousands from their homes and coming dangerously close to heavily populated cities in Iraq’s Kurdish region.

In the Sunni-majority territory of Anbar province, the group quickly capitalized on long-standing grievances against the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, earning support from local populations.

Throughout their offensive, ISIS has used a sophisticated propaganda operation, harnessing social media and digital technology to both instill fear in target populations and bolster recruitment of jihadists from the region and the West. According to recent U.S. intelligence estimates, ISIS could currently muster up to roughly 30,000 fighters in Syria and Iraq.

The group, which formally declared itself an Islamic state in June, is led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and is based on a rigid Islamic ideology. Most of its funding comes fromrobbery, extortion and smuggling operations, in addition to outside funding. It also levies taxes on electricity and gasoline in the territories it controls.

Iraqi and Kurdish security forces, backed by U.S. airstrikes, were able to retake the strategic Mosul Dam and several small towns since airstrikes began. However, serious challenges remain, since many of the Islamic State fighters have taken refuge in busy cities with high civilian populations, such as Fallujah and Mosul.

In northern Iraq, Kurdish fighters battling the Sunni militant group have begun receiving training from Western allies, including the United States, as they seek to beef up their capabilities, a top Kurdish security official said Monday.

Helgurd Hikmet, general director of the ministry overseeing Kurdish military forces known as Peshmerga, said that France, Italy and Germany are also among countries providing training to help Kurdish forces use new machine guns, mortars, rockets and demining robots they have received.

“We asked all our allies, when they provided us with new weapons, that these weapons need training,” Hikmet told The Associated Press Monday. “So now all the allies that provided us with those weapons are providing us with training.”

Last week, the French joined in the aerial campaign. A number of European countries have also committed to arming the Kurds and providing humanitarian support for more than a million people displaced by the onslaught of the militant group.

In addition, key Arab allies of the United States – Saudi Arabia, other Gulf states, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon – have pledged to help in the battle against ISIS militants, promising to stop the flow of fighters and funding to the insurgents and possibly to join military action.

Source Article from http://feeds.cbsnews.com/~r/CBSNewsMain/~3/IeVhRVyep3s/

Americans weigh in on global warming’s impact

By Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Anthony Salvanto and Fred Backus

Ahead of the U.N. Climate Summit at the United Nations this week, most Americans say global warming is having a serious impact now or will in the future, and 54 percent think it is mostly caused by human activity — the highest percentage in CBS News/New York Times Polls.

Forty-six percent say global warming is a problem that is having a serious impact now, while another 28 percent think it will have a serious impact sometime in the future. About a quarter don’t think global warming will have a serious impact at all. These views have changed little in recent years.

impact-of-global-warming.jpg

On a more personal level, 57 percent of Americans don’t think global warming will be a serious threat to them during their lifetime, but four in 10 think it will.

Perhaps because they are likely to have more years ahead of them, 50 percent of Americans under age 30 think global warming will pose a serious threat to them in their lifetime, compared to 40 percent of those who are older – but even younger Americans are divided in their opinions.

There are partisan differences too. Three in four Republicans don’t feel global warming will be a threat to them personally, but 56 percent of Democrats disagree.

will-global-warming-pose-a-serious-threat-to-you-in-your-lifetime.jpg

When asked about the primary cause of global warming, 54 percent of Americans think it is the result of human activity. Another 31 percent think it is due to natural fluctuations in the earth’s temperature. One in ten doesn’t think global warming exists.

The percentage who believes global warming is caused by human activity has ticked up since the spring and is now the highest it has been since CBS News began asking this question in 2011.

global-warming-due-to.jpg

Most Democrats and independents think global warming is mostly caused by human activity, while Republicans are inclined to say it is mainly due to natural patterns in the earth’s environment.

global-warming-due-to2.jpg

When asked directly to choose between the environment and the economy, 58 percent of Americans think protecting the environment should be the priority, even at the risk of curbing economic growth, while 37 percent pick economic growth, even if the environment suffers to some extent.

Younger Americans (those under age 30) are especially likely to prioritize protecting the environment over economic growth.

Conservatives (52 percent) and Republicans (51 percent) place a priority on economic growth, while Democrats (63 percent) and liberals (78 percent) think the protection of the environment is more important.

which-should-be-given-priority.jpg

Still, when Americans are asked to name the country’s most important problem, without being offered a list of choices, the economy and jobs is the top answer, far ahead of the environment.

Americans who say global warming is primarily caused by human activity are especially likely to see it as a serious threat and to say protecting the environment should be a priority over economic growth.

________________________________________________________

This poll was conducted by telephone September 10-14, 2014 among 1,000 adults nationwide. Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News and The New York Times by SSRS of Media, Pennsylvania. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.


Source Article from http://feeds.cbsnews.com/~r/CBSNewsMain/~3/WIMNMRhUeRk/

US, allies target ISIS in Syria airstrikes

The United States, joined by five Arab allies, launched an intense campaign of airstrikes, bombings and cruise-missile attacks against Islamic State targets in Syria Monday night – marking the first U.S. military intervention in Syria since the start of that country’s civil war.

Sources say the military operation included fighter jets, B-1 bombers and Predator drones, as well as Tomahawk missiles launched from the Red Sea and Persian Gulf. 

Officials say the coalition targeted about 20 sites, including command-and-control centers, training camps and weapons depots.

U.S. officials said that said the airstrikes began around 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time, and were conducted by the U.S., Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. The first wave of strikes finished about 90 minutes later. The operation was expected to last several hours, with the first explosions from Tomahawk missiles heard near Raqqa, the Islamic State stronghold in northern Syria. Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said the military made the decision to strike early Monday. 

Syria’s Foreign Ministry told the Associated Press that the U.S. informed Syria’s envoy to the U.N. that “strikes will be launched against the terrorist Daesh group in Raqqa.” The statement used an Arabic name to refer to the Islamic State group, which is more commonly known as ISIS.

U.S. aircraft include B-1 bombers, F-16s, F-18s and Predator drones, with F-18s flying missions off the USS George H.W. Bush in the Persian Gulf. Tomahawk missiles were fired from the destroyer USS Arleigh Burke in the Red Sea.

The military strikes come less than two weeks after President Obama, on Sept. 10, authorized U.S. airstrikes inside Syria as part of a broad campaign to root out the Islamic State militant group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

In a nod to his plans to go into Syria, Obama said then, “I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq.”

The following day, at a conference with Secretary of State John Kerry, key Arab allies promised they would “do their share” to fight the Islamic State militants. The Obama administration, which at a NATO meeting in Wales earlier this month also got commitments from European allies as well as Canada and Australia, has insisted that the fight against the Islamic State militants could not be the United States’ fight alone.

Until now, U.S. airstrikes have been limited to specific missions in northern Iraq, where approximately 190 missions have been launched. Lawmakers and military advisers, though, had stressed for weeks that any campaign against the Islamic State would have to include action in Syria, where the militant network is based.

“To defeat ISIS, we must cut off the head of the snake, which exists in Syria,” Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said in a statement late Monday. “I support the administration’s move to conduct airstrikes against ISIS wherever it exists.”

A senior official tells Fox News that President Obama is being briefed by military officials on the operation throughout the night. Earlier in the evening, the president spoke to House Speaker John Boeher, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. A White House official also updated House Majority Leader Kevin McCarty, R-Calif., on the progress of the airstrikes.

Because the United States had stayed out of the Syria conflict for so long, the Obama administration had spent the last several weeks scrambling to gather intelligence about possible targets in Syria, launching surveillance missions over the country last month.

Syrian activists reported several airstrikes on militant targets in Raqqa. One Raqqa-based activist, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AP that the airstrikes lit the night sky over the city, and reported a power cut that lasted for two hours.

The head of the main Western-backed Syrian opposition group, Hadi Bahra, welcomed the commencement of airstrikes in Syria.

“Tonight, the international community has joined our fight against ISIS in Syria,” he said in a statement, using an alternate acronym for the Islamic State.  “We have called for airstrikes such as those that commenced tonight with a heavy heart and deep concern, as these strikes begin in our own homeland. We insist that utmost care is taken to avoid civilian casualties.”

An anti-militant media collective called “Raqqa is being silently slaughtered” said among the targets were Islamic State buildings used as the group’s headquarters, and the Brigade 93, a Syrian army base that the militants recently seized. Other airstrikes targeted the town of Tabqa and Tel Abyad in Raqqa province, it said. Their claims could not be independently verified.

Military leaders have said about two-thirds of the estimated 31,000 Islamic State militants were in Syria.

Some officials have expressed concern that going after Islamic State militants in Syria could inadvertently help Syrian President Bashar Assad, since the militants are fighting in part to overthrow Assad.

Urged on by the White House and U.S. defense and military officials, Congress passed legislation late last week authorizing the military to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels. Obama signed the bill into law Friday, providing $500 million for the U.S. to train about 5,000 rebels over the next year.

The militant group, meanwhile, has threatened retribution. Its spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, said in a 42-minute audio statement released Sunday that the fighters were ready to battle the U.S.-led military coalition and called for attacks at home and abroad.

Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin, Justin Fishel, Ed Henry, Chad Pergram and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/09/23/us-launches-first-wave-bombing-strikes-over-syria/

SICK OF OBAMACARE? Insurers say number of enrollees dropping

President Obama’s claim last spring that 8 million people had enrolled in ObamaCare recently got a significant downgrade from the head of the agency overseeing the plan.

Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told a congressional committee that “as of August 15, this year, we have 7.3 million Americans enrolled in Health Insurance Marketplace coverage and these are individuals who paid their premiums.”

A key part of her statement was Tavenner’s reference to those who paid, because just signing up isn’t enough to be counted as enrolled.

As Doug Holtz-Eakin, former Director of the Congressional Budget Office, explained,”it’s not enough to sign up. You have to sign up and pay on a regular basis to really be enrolled.”

That is one reason both state and private insurance officials have been saying their enrollments were shrinking.

“They’ve deteriorated quite a bit, this was anticipated to some degree, but I think it’s exceeded expectations in some cases,” said Jim Capretta of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

For instance, state officials in Florida say their enrollments are now 220,000 lower than the administration’s count in April, going from some 983,000 to just over 762,000, a drop of more than 20 percent.

A state official said some may have been duplicate enrollments because ofwebsite problems on healthcare.gov. The others, he said, just didn’t pay their premiums and lost their coverage, a problem insurance companies are also reporting.

Robert Laszewski, of Health Policy and Strategy Associates, said,”I’ve talked to a number of insurance companies around the industry and they’re indicating that they’re down as low as 70 percent of the original enrollments they had.”

In fact, Mark Bertolini, the CEO of Aetna, the nation’s third largest insurer, said recently that his companyhad 720,000 people sign up for exchange coverage as of May 20, but only 600,000 turned out to be paying customers.

He added he expects that number to fall to “just over 500,000″ by the end of the year. That would leave Aetna’s paid enrollment down some 30 percent from its original sign-up numbers.

Many analysts think enrollments across the industry will continue to erode.

“So the enrollment that the administration was touting in March and April,” Capretta said, “I think you could bring that down by at least 20 percent going into the end of the year.”

The Congressional Budget Office is predicting 13 million total enrollments at the end of the next open enrollment in February 2015. So the number they’re starting from makes a big difference:

“If we’ve got closer to 6 million enrolled,” Laszewski said, “they’d have to enroll more people in 2015 than they did this past year.”

Jim Angle currently serves as chief national correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). He joined FNC in 1996 as a senior White House correspondent.

Source Article from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/09/23/number-obamacare-enrollees-appears-to-be-dropping/

U.S. begins airstrikes against ISIS in Syria

The U.S. military has begun airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, CBS News has confirmed.

Pentagon Press Secretary, Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement Monday evening that a mix of fighters, bombers and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles were engaged in the attack.

“The decision to conduct theses strikes was made earlier today by the U.S. Central Command commander under authorization granted him by the Commander-in-Chief,” Kirby said.

Details about the targets were unclear, but according to social media chatter coming out of Syria, strikes were conducted in the city of Raqqa. Video purporting to show the strike there was surfaced on YouTube, although its authenticity has not been independently verified.

Since Aug. 8, the U.S. has launched nearly 200 strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq. That increased military assistance, including the deployment of more than 1,600 U.S. advisers, has helped Iraqi and Kurdish security forces stem the tide of ISIS’ advance, though serious challenges remain.

Over the last several weeks, during which ISIS militants have beheaded two American journalists and a British aid worker, President Obama signaled America’s intention to broaden its campaign against the extremist group into Syria. Surveillance flights to gather intelligence on potential targets in Syrian territory were authorized in late August.

Throughout the ongoing operations, Mr. Obama has been steadfast in his insistence that the U.S. would not put boots on the ground in their fight against ISIS. Instead, the U.S. will rely on local forces in Iraq and moderate rebels in Syria to fight the extremists.

Last week, the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved arming and training moderate Syrian rebels to fight ISIS militants, though the go-ahead is good for less than three months.

After gathering strength and territory in Syria, ISIS militants seized Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, in June and embarked on an aggressive offensive across northern Iraq, forcing hundreds of thousands from their homes and coming dangerously close to heavily populated cities in Iraq’s Kurdish region.

In the Sunni-majority territory of Anbar province, the group quickly capitalized on long-standing grievances against the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, earning support from local populations.

Throughout their offensive, ISIS has used a sophisticated propaganda operation, harnessing social media and digital technology to both instill fear in target populations and bolster recruitment of jihadists from the region and the West. According to recent U.S. intelligence estimates, ISIS could currently muster up to roughly 30,000 fighters in Syria and Iraq.

The group, which formally declared itself an Islamic state in June, is led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and is based on a rigid Islamic ideology. Most of its funding comes fromrobbery, extortion and smuggling operations, in addition to outside funding. It also levies taxes on electricity and gasoline in the territories it controls.

Iraqi and Kurdish security forces, backed by U.S. airstrikes, were able to retake the strategic Mosul Dam and several small towns since airstrikes began. However, serious challenges remain, since many of the Islamic State fighters have taken refuge in busy cities with high civilian populations, such as Fallujah and Mosul.

In northern Iraq, Kurdish fighters battling the Sunni militant group have begun receiving training from Western allies, including the United States, as they seek to beef up their capabilities, a top Kurdish security official said Monday.

Helgurd Hikmet, general director of the ministry overseeing Kurdish military forces known as peshmerga, said that France, Italy and Germany are also among countries providing training to help Kurdish forces use new machine guns, mortars, rockets and demining robots they have received.

“We asked all our allies, when they provided us with new weapons, that these weapons need training,” Hikmet told The Associated Press Monday. “So now all the allies that provided us with those weapons are providing us with training.”

Last week, the French joined in the aerial campaign. A number of European countries have also committed to arming the Kurds and providing humanitarian support for more than a million people displaced by the onslaught of the militant group.

In addition, key Arab allies of the United States – Saudi Arabia, other Gulf states, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon – have pledged to help in the battle against ISIS militants, promising to stop the flow of fighters and funding to the insurgents and possibly to join military action.

Source Article from http://feeds.cbsnews.com/~r/CBSNewsMain/~3/IeVhRVyep3s/

Americans weigh in on global warming’s impact

By Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Anthony Salvanto and Fred Backus

Ahead of the U.N. Climate Summit at the United Nations this week, most Americans say global warming is having a serious impact now or will in the future, and 54 percent think it is mostly caused by human activity — the highest percentage in CBS News/New York Times Polls.

Forty-six percent say global warming is a problem that is having a serious impact now, while another 28 percent think it will have a serious impact sometime in the future. About a quarter don’t think global warming will have a serious impact at all. These views have changed little in recent years.

impact-of-global-warming.jpg

On a more personal level, 57 percent of Americans don’t think global warming will be a serious threat to them during their lifetime, but four in 10 think it will.

Perhaps because they are likely to have more years ahead of them, 50 percent of Americans under age 30 think global warming will pose a serious threat to them in their lifetime, compared to 40 percent of those who are older – but even younger Americans are divided in their opinions.

There are partisan differences too. Three in four Republicans don’t feel global warming will be a threat to them personally, but 56 percent of Democrats disagree.

will-global-warming-pose-a-serious-threat-to-you-in-your-lifetime.jpg

When asked about the primary cause of global warming, 54 percent of Americans think it is the result of human activity. Another 31 percent think it is due to natural fluctuations in the earth’s temperature. One in ten doesn’t think global warming exists.

The percentage who believes global warming is caused by human activity has ticked up since the spring and is now the highest it has been since CBS News began asking this question in 2011.

global-warming-due-to.jpg

Most Democrats and independents think global warming is mostly caused by human activity, while Republicans are inclined to say it is mainly due to natural patterns in the earth’s environment.

global-warming-due-to2.jpg

When asked directly to choose between the environment and the economy, 58 percent of Americans think protecting the environment should be the priority, even at the risk of curbing economic growth, while 37 percent pick economic growth, even if the environment suffers to some extent.

Younger Americans (those under age 30) are especially likely to prioritize protecting the environment over economic growth.

Conservatives (52 percent) and Republicans (51 percent) place a priority on economic growth, while Democrats (63 percent) and liberals (78 percent) think the protection of the environment is more important.

which-should-be-given-priority.jpg

Still, when Americans are asked to name the country’s most important problem, without being offered a list of choices, the economy and jobs is the top answer, far ahead of the environment.

Americans who say global warming is primarily caused by human activity are especially likely to see it as a serious threat and to say protecting the environment should be a priority over economic growth.

________________________________________________________

This poll was conducted by telephone September 10-14, 2014 among 1,000 adults nationwide. Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News and The New York Times by SSRS of Media, Pennsylvania. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.


Source Article from http://feeds.cbsnews.com/~r/CBSNewsMain/~3/WIMNMRhUeRk/

Why one prominent doctor says, "I hope to die at 75"

As a result of advances in science and medicine, humans are living longer than ever. It’s hard to believe that at the turn of the last century, the average American life expectancy was just 47. Today, Americans can expect to make it to the ripe old age of 79 — and an increasing number live much longer.

Though many people welcome the idea of living as long as possible and watching their great-grandchildren grow up, some view the prospect of extremely old age as burdensome on both a societal and personal level.

In his controversial essay that appears in the October issue of The Atlantic, the prominent bioethicist Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel argues that longevity — living into your 80s, 90s and beyond — often comes at the expense of quality of life. Emanuel says he will be perfectly content if he dies at age 75.

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“By the time I reach 75, I will have lived a complete life,” Emanuel writes in the magazine. “I will have loved and been loved. My children will be grown and in the midst of their own rich lives. I will have seen my grandchildren born and beginning their lives. I will have pursued my life’s projects and made whatever contributions, important or not, I am going to make. And hopefully, I will not have too many mental and physical limitations.”

Emanuel, the director of the Clinical Bioethics Department at the U.S. National Institutes of Health and head of the Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, helped develop President Obama’s health care reform law. Emanuel makes it clear that he is not arguing for euthanasia or assisted suicide at a certain age.

Instead, he wants to call attention to “a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining.” Emanuel argues that in their oldest of years, people tend to see their creative output decline and contribute less to society.

Moreover, the efforts that go into living longer, including extreme lifesaving medical interventions, often result in lengthening the dying process and eventually in death without dignity.

“Ezekiel Emanuel did a remarkable thing: he created discourse. He made everybody start to talk about this,” said CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus.

But Agus, author of the books “The End of Illness” and “A Short Guide to a Long Life,” says we should embrace the extra years humans have been afforded as a result of scientific breakthroughs, better nutrition and overall improvements in quality of life. “If you start to live right, if you start to take the vaccines and preventive medicines you have, to move during the day, avoid smoking — all of the things that have been detailed before –it will work,” Agus told “CBS This Morning.”

There was a time when “old age” was considered a common cause of death, but it has not appeared on a death certificate since 1951, says Agus.

Pushing the limits of the human lifespan is becoming more and more possible as cures are found for once-fatal diseases, and as researchers uncover potential ways to counter effects of the aging process.

At the National Institute on Aging, a division of the National Institutes of Health, ongoing research looks at ways that age-related conditions such as cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease could be thwarted so that humans can age with more vitality.

A growing body of research also looks at the genetic differences among centenarians with optimal physical and cognitive health compared with the rest of the population. A number of genetic mutations may serve as a safeguard and prevent a person from developing certain age-related diseases. This is information is critical to scientists for developing effective medications to treat and prevent illnesses.

Other studies confirm what medical experts have been saying for decades — that a healthy lifestyle can vastly improve one’s health in old age. “It’s happened in animals and the trials are all going to humans. We’ve done stories of ways we can increase cognitive function as we get older,” said Agus. “There really is hope to live a much longer life with quality going forward. But you’ve got to take the steps today in your 20s, 30s and 40s to make that difference. “

Emanuel writes, “I think this manic desperation to endlessly extend life is misguided and potentially destructive. For many reasons, 75 is a pretty good age to aim to stop.”

But Agus disagrees. “I’m a believer and I’m an optimist,” he said. “I know we can prevent or delay most diseases. At the same time, I also see we have ways to reverse these diseases that are happening now. So it’s a very exciting time for medicine. I throw out the arbitrary age of 75 because I think we can all live much longer.”

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Reporting on ISIS: Producers’ video diaries

The video above was produced by 60 Minutes Overtime’s Senior Editor Ann Silvio and Producer-Editor Lisa Orlando.

For the season premiere of 60 Minutes, Scott Pelley reports on The Islamic State from the front lines and refugee camps in Iraq. The broadcast’s companion web show, 60 Minutes Overtime, sent small cameras with Pelley’s producers to document the 60 Minutes team reporting on the ground in Iraq. The producers, led by Henry Schuster, came back with vivid, behind-the-scenes footage, posted in the video player above as a producers’ video diary.

“We wanted to be up close with ISIS,” Schuster tells Overtime’s Ann Silvio, using the acronym for the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

“My strategy was to divide and conquer. I went with my crew and we went to the front lines,” says Schuster. “Rachael Morehouse is my associate producer, and her team went north to the refugee camps to hear what life was like under ISIS rule.”

For Morehouse, the trip was her first foray into war reporting. She traveled in a convoy of three armored cars with a team of fixers, security, a sound technician, and an experienced cameraman who knew the area well. It was Morehouse’s team that stumbled upon a sight that would be familiar to anyone who watches the fictional Showtime series “Homeland.”

“We were about three hours away from Erbil, and on the way, we spotted this abandoned, half-constructed building,” says Morehouse. “There must have been thousands of people living there. No running sewage, no clean water — and right away, just the stories started pouring out. It looked like the scene out of “Homeland” when Brody was living in that half-built building in Venezuela.”

“Everybody who sees that shot says, ‘Oh, just like in “Homeland,'” says Schuster. “Well, you know, that’s not life imitating art. That’s art stealing it from life. The truth is this is what happens in a war.”

After chasing rumors and talking to many victims of ISIS, Morehouse’s team found several siblings from a Yazidi family whose village was attacked and slaughtered by ISIS. Pelley’s gut-wrenching interviews with the sister and two brothers in that family appeared in the broadcast this week. In the above video, Morehouse explains how she found them and shares footage of her first meetings with the three family members.

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Meanwhile, Schuster documented his trip to the front lines. At one point, Schuster’s team stopped at a bridge on the road to Tikrit. On the other side of the bridge, the black flag of ISIS flies in the desert winds.

“When you look across that bridge, you think, ‘Is that a reality? Is it permanent?’ You know, how long is that flag gonna be there?” says Schuster. “The disconcerting part of it is that when both sides at that bridge have trenches up, that says, it’s a new border of a new territory — and for the world that’s a pretty frightening prospect to have ISIS there.”

Schuster had reported in the area for 60 Minutes in the past, and he said it was tempting to walk across the bridge to learn more about life under ISIS.

“You want to walk across that bridge. You want to find out what it’s like over there, but then you think, ‘Don’t be stupid.’ We were there when one of the American hostages was beheaded, so you’re fully aware of the consequence of what happens if you make a wrong move,” says Schuster.

Three years ago, Schuster, Pelley and cameraman Chris Albert had reported a story in the area just across the bridge which is now controlled by ISIS.

“We see the sign that says, “Tikrit, 90 kilometers,” says Schuster. “Scott [Pelley] looks over at me and said, ‘I just never imagined we’d be back here.'”

When asked by 60 Minutes Overtime what was going through his mind, thinking back to that trip three years ago, Schuster said:

“What the hell are we doing back here again? How did this go so wrong and how did it seem to go so wrong, so quickly?”

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Prosecutor sheds light on accused White House intruder’s past

Last Updated Sep 22, 2014 4:30 PM EDT

WASHINGTON – Investigators found more than 800 rounds of ammunition in the car of the man accused of scaling the White House fence and sprinting inside the building, a federal prosecutor said Monday. A machete and two hatchets also were found.

The accused intruder, former soldier Omar J. Gonzalez, had been arrested earlier in the summer in Virginia with a carful of weapons, authorities said, and the federal prosecutor said Monday in court that Gonzalez had had a map with the White House and the Masonic Temple in Alexandria circled.

CBS News’ Paula Reid reports that Gonzalez entered the courtroom in an orange jumpsuit and was unrestrained, but escorted by two guards.

Assistant U.S. Attorney David Mudd declared that Gonzalez was a “danger to the president.” Gonzalez, who was carrying a knife, was arrested just inside the White House front door.

President Barack Obama and his family had left the White House for Camp David Friday evening when the incident occurred. Obama’s spokesman said Monday that the president was “obviously concerned” about what happened.

At a hearing Monday for Gonzales, Mudd said the man was already under indictment in Virginia, accused of having a sawed-off shotgun and eluding police in a case this summer.

Separately, Wythe County Deputy Commonwealth Attorney David Saliba said Gonzales also had two powerful rifles, four handguns and other guns and ammunition in his Ford Bronco when troopers stopped him in southwestern Virginia on July 19.

Saliba said Gonzalez initially tried to flee troopers, weaving and driving off the road into a highway median. Gonzalez was arrested at the scene after a trooper found the illegal shotgun in his car. The ammunition and weapons, including a tomahawk, were seized.

In Washington, the Secret Service increased its security on Monday around the perimeter of the White House, the presidential residence and one of the government’s enduring symbols, while investigating how officers had allowed the incident to happen.

The breach led to a rare evacuation of much of the White House Friday evening.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the Secret Service investigation will include a review of protective efforts both inside the White House grounds and outside the fence line along Pennsylvania Avenue, including staffing and threat assessment policies and procedures.

A law enforcement source told CBS News senior investigative producer Pat Milton that one of the primary questions being raised as the Secret Service conducts its internal review of the case is why the uniform division of the U.S. Secret Service, whose duty it is to protect the White House, failed “to execute” a comprehensive plan that is in place for such incidents.

A major issue is why the dogs were not released, which is a pertinent to the plan in cases such as this, the source said. The dogs are safe and fast, and weapons don’t need to necessarily be fired.

The fence jumper, the source said, should have been caught within feet of where the intruder landed, a routine that is regularly followed and has been extremely effective during numerous fence jumping incidents in the past by the Secret Service elite tactical team that protects the White House.

Gonzalez, a 42-year-old Army veteran from Copperas Cove, Texas, faces charges of entering a restricted building or grounds while carrying a deadly or dangerous weapon. The Army says Gonzalez served from 1997 until his discharge in 2003, and again from 2005 to December 2012, when he retired due to disability.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said he would ultimately review the findings of the investigation ordered by Secret Service Director Julia Pierson. Johnson said the public should not rush to judgment about the security breach and urged against second-guessing security officers whom he said “had only seconds to act.”

The Secret Service didn’t open fire on Gonzalez or send attack dogs after him.

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Officers who spotted Gonzalez scale the fence quickly assessed that he didn’t have any weapons in his hands and wasn’t wearing clothing that could conceal substantial quantities of explosives, a primary reason agents did not fire their weapons, according to a U.S. official briefed on the investigation.

Another consideration was whether bystanders behind the fence could have been injured by errant gunfire, said the official, who was not authorized to discuss the investigation by name and spoke only on condition of anonymity.

The Secret Service has long tried to balance public access to the “People’s House” and security of the presidential residence.

The two-block stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House’s north gates has been closed to vehicle traffic since May 1995, when President Bill Clinton ordered the immediate closure of the road in an effort to prevent a potential car- or truck-bomb attack.

On any given day, numerous uniformed officers can be seen patrolling parts of the sprawling lawns on either side of the White House, and others are stationed along the fence line on Pennsylvania Avenue. Monday morning, several officers patrolled the fence line, including one with a dog.

But the pedestrian-only zone hasn’t entirely prevented security breaches along the fence or Pennsylvania Avenue.

Last September a man was arrested and accused of throwing firecrackers over the fence on the north lawn, near the area where Gonzalez is accused of climbing over the barrier. The Secret Service at the time said the man with firecrackers did not pose a threat.

A few weeks later a Connecticut woman set off a police chase through downtown Washington after ramming a security checkpoint near the White House. Miriam Carey, 34, was shot and killed by police near the Capitol.

In May, a man was arrested after he followed a motorcade carrying President Obama’s daughters through the gates into the secure area near the White House. He had a pass for the Treasury Department, which is next door to the White House and also inside the pedestrian-only security zone. A charge of unlawful entry was later dismissed.

And in August a toddler managed to slip through the slats in the metal fence surrounding the White House. The Secret Service joked that they would wait until the boy learned to talk before questioning him.

Less than 24 hours after Gonzalez’s arrest, a second man was taken into custody after he drove up to a White House gate and refused to leave, Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan said. Bomb technicians in full gear searched the vehicle as agents briefly shut down nearby streets.

On Sunday, Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary identified the man as Kevin Carr, 19, of Shamong, New Jersey.

There was no indication the two incidents were connected. But they only intensified the scrutiny of the Secret Service, which is struggling to rehabilitate its image following a series of allegations of misconduct by agents in recent years, including agents on Obama’s protective detail.

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, said he had spoken with Secret Service Director Pierson and was encouraged she would ensure the agency would use the incident as a “learning opportunity to reduce the likelihood that something of this nature will happen again.”

House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, was to meet with Pierson later Monday.

It’s just the latest in a series of embarrassing slip-ups that have exposed glaring deficiencies in the agency’s protection of the president and the first family.

In 2012, more than a dozen agents and officers were involved in a prostitution scandal during President Obama’s trip to Cartagena, Colombia. And in March this year, three Secret Service agents were sent home from Amsterdam ahead of a presidential trip there after an episode involving public intoxication.

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US begins airstrikes over Syria

The United States, joined by several Arab allies, launched an intense campaign of airstrikes, bombings and cruise-missile attacks against Islamic State targets in Syria Monday night – marking the first U.S. military intervention in Syria since the start of that country’s civil war.

Sources say the military operation includes fighter jets, B-1 bombers and Predator drones, as well as Tomahawk missiles launched from the Red Sea and Persian Gulf.

Officials say the coalition is targeting about 20 sites, including command-and-control centers, training camps and weapons depots.

U.S. officials told Fox News that several Arab countries – including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates – were participating.

The operation was expected to last several hours, with the first explosions from Tomahawk missiles heard near Raqqa, the Islamic State stronghold in northern Syria

U.S. aircraft include B-1 bombers, F-16s, F-18s and Predator drones, with F-18s flying missions off the USS George H.W. Bush in the Persian Gulf. Tomahawk missiles were fired from the destroyer USS Arleigh Burke in the Red Sea.

The military strikes come less than two weeks after President Obama, on Sept. 10, authorized U.S. airstrikes inside Syria as part of a broad campaign to root out the Islamic State militant group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

In a nod to his plans to go into Syria, Obama said then, “I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq.”

Until now, U.S. airstrikes have been limited to specific missions in northern Iraq. Lawmakers and military advisers, though, had stressed for weeks that any campaign against the Islamic State would have to include action in Syria, where the militant network is based.

Because the United States had stayed out of the Syria conflict for so long, the Obama administration had spent the last several weeks scrambling to gather intelligence about possible targets in Syria, launching surveillance missions over the country last month.

Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby released a statement Monday night saying, “I can confirm that U.S. military and partner nation forces are undertaking military action against ISIL terrorists in Syria using a mix of fighter, bomber and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles.

“Given that these operations are ongoing, we are not in a position to provide additional details at this time. The decision to conduct theses strikes was made earlier today by the U.S. Central Command commander under authorization granted him by the commander in chief. “

Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin and Justin Fishel contributed to this report

 

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WHITE HOUSE BREACH Prosecutor: Intruder had 2 run-ins with law in ’14

The intruder who evaded Secret Service and bolted into the White House on Friday was found with 800 rounds of ammunition in his car and had two prior run-ins with the law this year, officials said. 

The details emerged during an initial court appearance for the suspect, 42-year-old Omar J. Gonzalez. 

Federal prosecutor David Mudd said Gonzalez had hundreds of rounds of ammunition in his car, in addition to two hatchets and a machete, at the time of Friday’s incident. He called the intruder a danger to the president. 

Gonzalez, who was quiet in the courtroom, was deemed a flight risk and ordered detained until his next hearing, set for Oct. 1. 

Mudd detailed two other recent incidents involving the suspect. He said Gonzalez, who is homeless, was arrested in July for evading police and was found at the time to be in possession of a sawed-off shotgun, as well as a map of the D.C. area with the White House and Masonic Temple circled. 

Separately, Wythe County Deputy Commonwealth Attorney David Saliba said Gonzalez also had two powerful rifles, four handguns and other guns and ammunition in his Ford Bronco when troopers stopped him in southwestern Virginia on July 19. Saliba said Gonzalez initially tried to flee troopers, weaving and driving off the road into a highway median.  Gonzalez was arrested at the scene after a trooper found the illegal shotgun in his car. The ammunition and weapons, including a tomahawk, were seized.

Mudd detailed an Aug. 25 incident as well in which he said Gonzalez was stopped along the south fence of the White House with a hatchet. He was not arrested at the time. According to Mudd, officials searched his car but found no other weapons at the time. 

The security breach this past Friday has prompted a comprehensive security review, as officials examine what happened and whether additional security changes are needed. 

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement he will “carefully evaluate” the findings but encouraged the public not to “rush to judgment” until all facts are in. 

Aside from the weapons apparently found in his car after the Friday breach, officials say the suspect was also carrying a small knife when he scaled the White House fence, sprinted across the lawn and entered the building before being arrested. 

In an affidavit filed with the criminal complaint, Officer Daniel Hochman said Gonzalez was caught carrying a Spyderco folding knife, with a serrated, three-and-a-half-inch blade. 

According to the statement, the suspect told Secret Service “he was concerned that the atmosphere was collapsing and needed to get the information to the president of the United States so that he could get the word out to the people.”

The breach led to a rare evacuation of much of the White House. President Obama and his family were headed to Camp David when the breach occurred Friday evening. 

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama is “obviously concerned” about the incident. 

The Secret Service increased its security on Monday around the perimeter of the White House, the presidential residence and one of the government’s enduring symbols, while investigating how officers had allowed the incident to happen. 

Earnest said the Secret Service investigation will include a review of protective efforts both inside the White House grounds and outside the fence line along Pennsylvania Avenue, including staffing and threat assessment policies and procedures. 

Gonzalez, an Army veteran from Copperas Cove, Texas, faces charges of entering a restricted building or grounds while carrying a deadly or dangerous weapon. The Army says Gonzalez served from 1997 until his discharge in 2003, and again from 2005 to December 2012, when he retired due to disability. 

The Secret Service didn’t open fire on Gonzalez or send attack dogs after him. 

Officers who spotted Gonzalez scale the fence quickly assessed that he didn’t have any weapons in his hands and wasn’t wearing clothing that could conceal substantial quantities of explosives, a primary reason agents did not fire their weapons, according to a U.S. official briefed on the investigation. 

The Secret Service has long tried to balance public access to the “People’s House” and security of the presidential residence. 

The two-block stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House’s north gates has been closed to vehicle traffic since May 1995, when President Bill Clinton ordered the immediate closure of the road in an effort to prevent a potential car- or truck-bomb attack. 

Last September a man was arrested and accused of throwing firecrackers over the fence on the north lawn, near the area where Gonzalez is accused of climbing over the barrier. The Secret Service at the time said the man with firecrackers did not pose a threat. A few weeks later a Connecticut woman set off a police chase through downtown Washington after ramming a security checkpoint near the White House. Miriam Carey, 34, was shot and killed by police near the Capitol. 

In May, a man was arrested after he followed a motorcade carrying Obama’s daughters through the gates into the secure area near the White House. He had a pass for the Treasury Department, which is next door to the White House and also inside the pedestrian-only security zone. A charge of unlawful entry was later dismissed. 

Another man apprehended on Sept. 11 after he jumped the White House fence was charged last week in local court for unlawful entry, according to the Secret Service. He was released on Sept. 16, with his next appearance scheduled for October. 

Recent incidents have only intensified the scrutiny of the Secret Service, which is struggling to rehabilitate its image following a series of allegations of misconduct by agents in recent years, including agents on Obama’s protective detail. 

Capitol Hill lawmakers are carefully scrutinizing the incident. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has scheduled a hearing on the incident for Sept. 30.

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson also was meeting Monday with Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas. And she spoke with Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. 

“Friday’s security breach at the White House was alarming and unprecedented. I am confident Director Pierson is taking swift action to investigate the incident and increase security procedures to prevent this from occurring in the future,” McCaul said in a statement. 

Sources familiar with the White House procedures are questioning why there isn’t an automatic locking system for such an incident. Further, the security breach is prompting some lawmakers to revisit talks about potentially pushing back the security perimeter on Capitol Hill. 

Congressional leaders, though, are resistant to adding that kind of security layer. 

“We could do that,” said one source, when asked about extending the perimeter outside the Capitol. “But then you create a perception of a more restrictive, less accessible Capitol.” 

Fox News’ Kara Rowland and Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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