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Report: Obama Authorizes Secret U.S. Backing for Syrian Rebels

President Obama has reportedly issued secret authorization for the United States to support rebels seeking to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Citing unnamed U.S. officials, the Reuters news agency reports Obama has signed an intelligence "finding" directing the CIA and other agencies to aid Syria’s armed opposition. The United States is said to be taking part in a "nerve center" backing the rebels from a secret base in Turkey near the Syrian border. The full extent of the U.S. role remains unclear. NBC News, meanwhile, is reporting the opposition group, Free Syrian Army, has just received a weapons shipment from Turkey that includes two dozen surface to air missiles for use against the Syrian regime’s fleet of aircraft.

Syrian Forces Accused of Mass Killing Near Damascus; Rebels Execute Pro-Regime Fighters

Both sides of the Syrian conflict are facing new accusations of committing atrocities. Opposition activists say government forces killed at least 50 people on Tuesday in an attack on a suburb of Damascus. Rebels forces, meanwhile, released video footage of the execution of four alleged pro-regime fighters seized in the ongoing battle for Aleppo. The video shows the bloodied fighters being led into a courtyard before they are mowed down in a hail of gunfire. The violence in Aleppo is intensifying, with government forces using fighter jets to carry out bombings and rebel groups deploying tanks.

Iraq: July Was Deadliest Month in Nearly 2 Years

The Iraqi government has confirmed July was Iraq’s deadliest month in nearly two years. Official figures show 325 people were killed, most of them civilians. Another 697 people were wounded. The monthly toll included Iraq’s deadliest day in nearly three years, when attacks in 19 cities left up to 106 people dead on July 23.

Panetta Tells Israel Military Force Remains Option on Iran

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has wrapped up a visit to Israel with a renewed vow to leave open the use of force against Iran. In a joint public appearance on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to criticize the U.S. role in international talks over Iran’s nuclear program, saying diplomacy has failed. In response, Panetta assured Netanyahu "all options" remain on the table.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: "You, yourself, said a few months ago that when all else fails, America will act. But these declarations have also not yet convinced the Iranians to stop their program. However forceful our statements, they have not convinced Iran that we are serious about stopping them."

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta: "We will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, period. We will not allow them to develop a nuclear weapon, and we will exert all options in the effort to ensure that that does not happen."

Study: Romney Tax Plan Would Benefit Wealthiest Taxpayers

A new study is predicting that Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s tax plan would boost the income of the nation’s wealthiest taxpayers, while reducing that of the middle class. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center says Romney’s proposals would increase net income by an average of 4.1 percent for those earning over $1 million a year. Those making less than $200,000 would see their net income reduced by 1.2 percent. Campaigning on Wednesday in Ohio, President Obama seized on the report’s findings.

President Obama: "The average middle-class family with children, according to this study, would be hit with a tax increase of more than $2,000. And here’s the thing: He’s not asking you to contribute more to pay down the deficit. He’s not asking you to pay more to invest in our children’s education or rebuild our roads or put more folks back to work. He’s asking you to pay more so that people like him can get a big tax cut."

House GOP Votes to Extend Bush-Era Tax Cuts

The revelations around Romney’s tax plan came as the Republican-controlled House voted to approve a one-year extension of the Bush-era tax cuts. President Obama has called for extending the cuts only for households making less than $250,000.

Appeals Court Freezes Arizona Anti-Abortion Law

A federal appeals court has temporarily blocked Arizona’s harsh new anti-abortion law just before it was to take effect. The law bans abortion after 20 weeks gestation — or 18 weeks post-fertilization — except in medical emergencies. Abortion rights advocates have filed a court challenge, calling the measure among the most extreme of the more than six similar bans across the United States. The law will now be on hold pending the outcome of the appeal.

Founder’s Anti-LGBT Views Draw Chik-fil-A into Same-Sex Marriage Debate

The fast food chain Chik-fil-A is drawing controversy after its founder openly declared his opposition to equal rights for LGBT people. In recent weeks, Chik-fil-A President Dan Cathy has acknowledged funding anti-LGBT groups and has denounced same-sex marriage. On Wednesday, opponents of same-sex marriage flooded Chik-fil-A locations across the country as part of a "Chik-fil-A Appreciation Day" called for by former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles a group of LGBT-rights supporters gathered in front of a Chik-fil-A to denounce Cathy’s views.

Karen Avizur: "I think it’s ridiculous. It’s intolerance of the worst kind. The LGBT community is amazing here in Los Angeles, and to have something like that permeating the airwaves on television and radio and on the Internet is just disgusting to me."

Ari Solomon: "I think he has a right to say whatever he’d like to say. We have freedom of speech in this country. But I think that when you take your profits and you donate millions of your profits to taking away civil rights, that, I think, people have a right to know and have a right to make a decision whether or not they want to spend money at your business."

Protests Held Nationwide for Striking Houston Janitors

Support for striking janitors in Houston extended nationwide on Wednesday with solidarity rallies in at least 17 cities. The strike in Houston began last month after workers making $8.35 an hour said they faced harassment and intimidation when they rejected an offer that would have raised their pay by just 50 cents an hour over five years. Wednesday’s rallies came one day after five janitors were arrested at a protest in Houston.

San Bernardino Declares Bankruptcy over $1 Billion in Debts

San Bernardino, California, has filed for bankruptcy protection over debts surpassing $1 billion. San Bernardino is the third city in California to seek bankruptcy protection in recent weeks, following Mammoth Lakes and Stockton.

Book: FBI Opposes NYPD Anti-Muslim Spying Program

New claims have emerged that top FBI officials are staunchly opposed to the New York City Police Department’s spy program targeting Muslim residents in the northeastern United States. According to a forthcoming book from investigative author Ronald Kessler, top FBI officials consider the NYPD’s spying "not only a waste of money but a violation of Americans’ rights."

97-Year-Old Hungarian National Accused of Nazi-Era War Crimes

A 97-year-old man accused of war crimes during the Nazi Holocaust has been detained in his native Hungary. Laszlo Csatary is accused of overseeing the deportation of around 16,000 Jews to the Auschwitz death camp in 1944. The Simon Wiesenthal Center had named Csatary its most wanted surviving war crimes suspect from the Nazi Holocaust. He lived in Canada for decades after the war, but fled in 1997 to avoid deportation. International criminal attorney Adam Gellert said it remains unclear if Hungarian authorities will issue an indictment.

Adam Gellert: "We had witnessed that the second suspect interview had just taken place in less than two weeks. Mr. Csatary is 97 years old, and the prosecution should move very fast forward. It always depends, as you see, on the international pressure being exacted on the Hungarian authorities. In this case, there has been substantial amount of pressure. But I believe that the prosecution service is now duly investigating this case. The question still remains whether an indictment will be lodged or not."

Mother of WikiLeaks Founder Meets with Ecuadorean President

The mother of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has wrapped up a visit to Ecuador in a bid to campaign for her son’s asylum request. Assange has taken refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London as he fights extradition to Sweden. After meeting with Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, Assange’s mother, Christine Assange, said her son would enjoy living in Ecuador should he receive asylum.

Christine Assange: "This is a sovereign decision, and I respect that. I respect that he will make the decision in the best interests of Julian, human rights and his country. I like the simple life close to nature, as does Julian. And if Julian were to come here, I think he would love it."


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