Trajectory of sarin rockets tie Syrian military to chemical attack; Assad rebuts report
BEIRUT (AP) -- The trajectory of the rockets that delivered the nerve agent sarin in last month's deadly attack is among the key evidence linking elite Syrian troops based in the mountains overlooking Damascus to the strike that killed hundreds of people, diplomats and human rights officials said Wednesday.
That evidence, however, was dismissed by Syrian President Bashar Assad, who denied that his regime carried out the Aug. 21 attack outside Damascus.
In an interview with Fox News Channel broadcast Wednesday, Assad blamed terrorist groups for using chemical weapons and said Russia has evidence supporting his position.
"We have evidence that the terrorist group has used sarin gas," Assad said, adding that the evidence had been turned over to Russia.
"Second, the Russian satellite, since the beginning of these allegations at the 21st of August -- they said that they have information, through their satellite, that the rocket (was) launched from another area. So why ... ignore this point of view?"
Assad denies Syrian government carried out Aug. 21 chemical attack, says he'll forfeit weapons
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Syrian President Bashar Assad said a United Nations report finding "clear and convincing evidence" sarin nerve gas was used in Syria painted an "unrealistic" account, and he denied his government orchestrated the attack.
In an interview with Fox News Channel conducted in the Syrian capital of Damascus and aired Wednesday, Assad said terrorists were to blame for the chemical attack, which the U.S. says killed more than 1,400 people, including hundreds of children. He said evidence that terrorist groups have used sarin gas has been turned over to Russia and that Russia, through one of its satellites, has evidence that the rockets in the Aug. 21 attack were launched from another area.
While the U.S. report did not lay blame, many experts interpreting the report said all indications were that the attack was conducted by Assad forces. U.S., Britain and France jumped on evidence in the report -- especially the type of rockets, the composition of the sarin agent, and trajectory of the missiles -- to declare that Assad's government was responsible.
"The whole story doesn't even hold together," Assad said. "It's not realistic. ... We didn't use any chemical weapons in Ghouta," a Damascus suburb.
The interview was conducted Tuesday by former Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a Fox News contributor, and Fox News Channel Senior Correspondent Greg Palkot.
10 Things to Know for Thursday
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday:
1. U.N. SAYS TRAJECTORY POINTS TO SYRIAN REGIME ON CHEMICAL WEAPONS
But in an interview, Assad painted the report as 'unrealistic' and said terrorists were to blame for the attack.
Avoid government shutdown, national default, GOP House leaders say -- but also defund Obamacare
WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Republicans vowed Wednesday to pass legislation that would prevent a partial government shutdown and avoid a historic national default while simultaneously canceling out President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, inaugurating a new round of political brinkmanship as critical deadlines approach.
Obama swiftly condemned the effort as attempted political extortion, and the Republican-friendly Chamber of Commerce pointedly called on lawmakers to pass urgent spending and borrowing legislation -- unencumbered by debate over "Obamacare."
The two-step strategy announced by House Speaker John Boehner marked a concession to his confrontational rank and file. At the same time, it represented a challenge to conservatives inside the Senate and out who have spent the summer seeking the votes needed to pull the president's cherished health care law out by its roots. They now will be called on to deliver.
"The fight over here has been won. The House has voted 40 times to defund, change Obamacare, to repeal it. It's time for the Senate to have this fight," said Boehner, an Ohio Republican.
As outlined by several officials, Boehner and the leadership intend to set a House vote for Friday on legislation to fund the government through Dec. 15 at existing levels while permanently defunding the health care law. The same bill will include a requirement for Treasury to give priority to Social Security and disability payments in the event the government reaches its borrowing limit and cannot pay all of its obligations.
Navy Yard, Fort Hood attacks shatter sense of security at US bases; 'We will fix those gaps'
Armed guards stand at the gates. IDs are needed to pass through electronic barriers. And uniformed members of the American military -- well-trained and battle-tested -- are everywhere, smartly saluting as they come and go.
And yet, twice in less than four years, a person with permission to be there passed through the layers of protection at a U.S. base and opened fire, destroying the sense of security at the installations that embody the most powerful military in the world.
"It is earth-shattering. When military bases are no longer safe, where is safe if that even doesn't exist anymore?" said Col. Kathy Platoni, a reservist who keeps a gun under her desk after witnessing the shooting at Fort Hood in Texas in 2009, when Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan killed 13 people.
In the wake of this week's deadly rampage at the Washington Navy Yard, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the Pentagon to review security at all U.S. defense installations worldwide and examine the granting of security clearances that allow access to them.
"We will find those gaps and we will fix those gaps," Hagel vowed on Wednesday.
Submerged cars found in Oklahoma may solve mysteries that have haunted small town for decades
SAYRE, Okla. (AP) -- When three teenagers from this small Oklahoma town disappeared on their way to a high school football game in 1970, rumors swirled as to what happened to the trio.
Some thought the three had stumbled across a drug deal at a rural airstrip and been killed. Others said they might have run away to California.
"There have been theories from everybody," said Dayva Spitzer, publisher of The Sayre Record newspaper and a longtime resident. "Everyone suspected foul play. ... But every lead just went nowhere."
Now authorities believe they have a key piece to the puzzle: A 1969 Camaro, just like the one the teens were driving, was pulled from a lake with the skeletal remains of three people inside.
And that wasn't the only discovery. A second car containing remains, an early 1950s Chevrolet, was also recovered. Custer County Sheriff Bruce Peoples believes it may solve another case in which two men and a woman disappeared a year before the teens vanished.
Port Authority director calls $10 sale of World Trade Center name rights 'shameful episode'
NEW YORK (AP) -- The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on Wednesday called a deal that sold the World Trade Center's name rights to a nonprofit organization for $10 decades ago "a shameful episode" and vowed to cooperate with an anticipated investigation by New York's attorney general.
A newspaper story this month revealed that the name rights were sold to former Port Authority executive Guy Tozzoli in his role as head of the nonprofit World Trade Centers Association, formed to promote international trade. The Port Authority, which owns the lower Manhattan land where the Twin Towers stood before Sept. 11, 2001, is among more than 300 worldwide members that pay the WTCA a fee to use the words "World Trade Center."
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has criticized the deal. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he has referred the matter to state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to determine whether the WTCA "properly acquired from the Port Authority and developed the exclusive rights to the World Trade Center brand" and whether Tozzoli or others "improperly received the benefit of such intellectual property without right" at the expense of the Port Authority and taxpayers.
At a Port Authority board meeting on Wednesday, executive director Patrick Foye called the contract "a shameful episode," and board chairman David Samson said it appears "troubling." But neither could say with specificity who signed off on it.
The Record newspaper, of Woodland Park, N.J., reported in its initial story on the deal that a board secretary had signed off, and on Wednesday Samson said the original transaction "was approved by a prior board commissioner." Foye said it was approved by Port Authority officers but not by the full board of commissioners. Foye added that the Port Authority's executive director at the time of the deal, Stephen Berger, told him he hadn't signed off on it.
Federal appeals court in Va. rules clicking 'Like' on Facebook is protected free speech
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Clicking "Like" on Facebook is constitutionally protected free speech and can be considered the 21st century-equivalent of a campaign yard sign, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond reversed a lower court ruling that said merely "liking" a Facebook page was insufficient speech to merit constitutional protection.
Exactly what a "like" means -- if anything -- played a part in a Virginia case involving six people who say Hampton Sheriff B.J. Roberts fired them for supporting an opponent in his 2009 re-election bid, which he won. The workers sued, saying their First Amendment rights were violated.
Roberts said some of the workers were let go because he wanted to replace them with sworn deputies while others were fired because of poor performance or his belief that their actions "hindered the harmony and efficiency of the office." One of those workers, Daniel Ray Carter, had "liked" the Facebook page of Roberts' opponent, Jim Adams.
U.S. District Judge Raymond Jackson in Norfolk had ruled in April 2012 that while public employees are allowed to speak as citizens on matters of public concern, clicking the "like" button does not amount to expressive speech. In other words, it's not the same as actually writing out a message and posting it on the site.
Archeologists in Brazil find 200,000 items, including toothbrush thought to be emperor's
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- An ivory toothbrush thought to have belonged to Brazil's Emperor Pedro II and a minty toothpaste made by a European chemist for the Portuguese queen are among more than 200,000 pieces dating from the 17th through 19th centuries that archeologists have unearthed from a site in Rio de Janeiro being used for an extension the city's subway lines.
A team of more than two dozen archeologists, historians and others began excavating the plot in northern Rio last March. The plot, once the site of a slaughterhouse, is near the former imperial palace and thought to have once been used as a landfill by the imperial family and others, team members said Wednesday.
The area, now a construction site for Rio's massive subway expansion projects, has not only yielded an impressive number of objects but also pieces in remarkably good condition, team leader Claudio Prado de Mello said.
"What is the most impressive is the intact state" of many objects, said Mello. "In archeology we usually find very fragmented pieces, but this time we're finding whole objects."
The ivory toothbrush thought to have belonged to Dom Pedro II, who ruled over Brazil from 1831-1889, has turned brown with age. Its boar bristles are long gone, but the inscription remains legible: "His Majesty the Emperor of Brazil." A round white porcelain pot emblazoned with "to the Queen of Portugal Maria of Saboia" is thought to have contained mint-flavored tooth paste made specially for the queen by a chemist with offices in London and Paris.
Former heavyweight Ken Norton dies at age 70
LAS VEGAS (AP) -- He was the second man to beat Muhammad Ali, breaking Ali's jaw and sending him to the hospital in their 1973 heavyweight fight.
Ken Norton frustrated Ali three times in all, including their final bout at Yankee Stadium where he was sure he had beaten him once again.
Norton, who died Wednesday at the age of 70, lost that fight for the heavyweight title. But he was forever linked to Ali for the 39 rounds they fought over three fights, with very little separating one man from the other in the ring.
"Kenny was a good, good fighter. He beat a lot of guys," said Ed Schuyler Jr., who covered many of Norton's fights for The Associated Press. "He gave Ali fits because Ali let him fight coming forward instead of making him back up."
Norton is the only heavyweight champion never to win the title in the ring, and boxing fans still talk about the bruising battle he waged with Larry Holmes for the title in 1978. But it was his first fight with Ali that made the former Marine a big name and the two fights that followed that were his real legacy.