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By AP

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Updated: Sat, 31 Aug 2013 01:16:04 EST

SYRIA CRISIS UPDATE: Syrians bracing for possible US strike WASHINGTON (AP) — As the U.S. edges toward a possible punitive military strike against Syria, residents of Damascus are stocking up on food and other necessities with no evident sign of panic. President Barack Obama said on Friday he's weighing "limited and narrow" action, accusing Bashar Assad's government of launching a chemical weapons attack that killed at least 1,429 people -- far more than previous estimates -- including more than 400 children. The White House will brief Republican senators in a conference call Saturday at the request of Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell. The Syrian government says the administration claims are "flagrant lies" akin to faulty Bush administration assertions before the Iraq invasion that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. A Foreign Ministry statement read on state TV said that "under the pretext of protecting the Syrian people, they are making a case for an aggression that will kill hundreds of innocent Syrian civilians." One resident of Damascus says he's "not afraid from the Western threats to Syria." He says "they created the chemical issue as a pretext for intervention, and they are trying to hit Syria for the sake of Israel." Obama said he has not yet made a final decision on a response to the suspected chemical attack. But he said it would not involve "boots on the ground." US-SYRIA-ASSESSMENT US: 'High confidence' of Syria chemical arms use WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration says it has "high confidence" that Syria's government carried out a chemical weapons attack last week outside Damascus, the capital — killing 1,429 people. The U.S. chemical weapons assessment says Syrian President Bashar Assad's government used an unidentified nerve agent in the attack. The report cites human and satellite intelligence that it says backs up publicly available videos and other evidence. The unclassified report says at least 426 children died. The report says the "high confidence" assessment is the strongest position that U.S. intelligence agencies can take short of confirmation. It dismisses the Assad government's contention that rebels were responsible. The U.S. says additional intelligence remains classified but is being provided to allies and Congress. SECRET SERVICE-WHITE HOUSE Court rules against disclosure of WH visitor list WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled that White House visitor logs for the president and most of the White House staff are not public information. The 3-0 decision would keep the visitor records confidential for up to 12 years after President Barack Obama leaves office. The appeals court ruling deals a defeat to a private group that asked the Secret Service for all White House visitor logs from Obama's first seven months in office. The appeals court says Congress made clear that it did not want documents like the appointment calendars of the president and his close advisers to be subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. A conservative-oriented watchdog group that sought the records says it is considering an appeal. GINSBURG-GAY WEDDING Justice Ginsburg to officiate at same-sex wedding WASHINGTON (AP) — Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is performing a same-sex wedding this weekend in what is believed to be a first for a member of the nation's highest court. Ginsburg is officiating at the marriage of Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser and John Roberts, a government economist, on Saturday. Kaiser says he asked Ginsburg to officiate because she is a longtime friend. The private ceremony is taking place at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, a memorial to President John F. Kennedy. The 80-year-old Ginsburg, an opera lover, is a frequent guest at the center. Justices generally avoid taking stands on political issues. The wedding, though, comes after the court's landmark ruling in June to expand federal recognition of same-sex marriages, striking down part of an anti-gay marriage law. SAN DIEGO MAYOR San Diego mayor's accusers host mock party SAN DIEGO (AP) — Some women who identified themselves as targets of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner's sexual advances are holding a mock celebration to mark the mayor's last day in office. Attorney Gloria Allred was flanked by her clients Friday as she displayed what she called parting gifts for Filner. Allred showed off a handheld mirror that she said Filner can look at when asking himself who's to blame for his resignation. She also displayed a card that says she looks forward to seeing him at a deposition for a client who accuses him of harassment. A wallet-sized card contained California's legal definition of sexual harassment. Filner is keeping a low profile on his final day in office. TV-MDA TELETHON Taped MDA fundraiser to air on ABC Sunday evening TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Celebrities such as "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest and "Brady Bunch" mom Florence Henderson will appear Sunday evening on the Muscular Dystrophy Association's nationally broadcast 48th annual telethon. The "MDA Show of Strength" will appear on ABC, unlike in previous years when the telethon aired on various networks' affiliates. Featured entertainers will include the Backstreet Boys, singer Paula Abdul, country star Lee Ann Womack and "The Voice" star Chris Mann. The show is set to air from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. in the Eastern and Pacific time zones and from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the Central and Mountain regions. This year's telethon is the third since comedian Jerry Lewis's 45-year role as host ended. Kelli Park, a spokeswoman for the Tucson, Ariz.-based MDA, says the 2012 telethon raised $58.7 million. WESTERN WILDFIRES-YOSEMITE Smoke from Sierra fire drifts into central Calif FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — Central California air officials say a shift in wind has sent smoke from the massive forest fire burning in and around Yosemite National Park down into six San Joaquin Valley counties. The regional Air Pollution Control District on Friday issued a health cautionary statement for San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno and Tulare counties, especially for foothill and mountain areas. Officials say the impacts from the 333-square-mile blaze will be felt throughout the Labor Day weekend. Previously, the fire prompted unhealthy air alerts in Nevada. Residents who see or smell smoke should stay inside, especially people with heart of lung problems, older adults and children. The 2-week-old fire is now the largest to date this year in the U.S. It's 35 percent contained. US-MAN-IN-TOILET Colo. potty peeper sentenced to 3 years in prison (Information in the following story is from: KUSA-TV, http://www.9news.com) BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — A Colorado man who hid in the tank of a portable toilet at a yoga festival to spy on women has been sentenced to three years in prison and 10 years of probation. Luke Chrisco's sentence was handed down Friday in Boulder. The 31-year-old pleaded guilty in July to attempted unlawful sexual contact and two burglary counts. Police arrested Chrisco in 2011 after a woman at a yoga festival in Boulder noticed something moving in the tank of the portable toilet, then saw a feces-stained man emerge and run away. Police say he also was suspected of hiding in other bathrooms around Boulder to watch women use the toilet. KUSA-TV reports (http://goo.gl/3BMSFA ) that prosecutors dropped other burglary charges and a misdemeanor count of criminal invasion as part of a plea agreement. US-POLICE-CHIEF-VIDEO-CONTROVERSY Hearing postponed for foul-mouthed Pa. chief GILBERTON, Pa. (AP) — A northeastern Pennsylvania police chief has been placed on indefinite suspension for online videos in which he fired borough-owned automatic weapons while shouting obscenities. The Gilberton Borough Council voted Friday night to extend Chief Mark Kessler's unpaid suspension indefinitely. Kessler's disciplinary hearing had been planned for Friday but was postponed because of a scheduling conflict. He said he expected his suspension would be extended. Kessler's pro-gun videos have garnered hundreds of thousands of views online. They show him shouting about the Second Amendment and liberals while spraying gun fire. US-FIREFIGHTERS-DIVERSITY Judge gives lawyers $3.5M in NY firefighters' case NEW YORK (AP) — A judge has granted $3.5 million in fees to lawyers representing a group of black firefighters who sued the Fire Department of New York over its hiring practices more than a decade ago. The U.S. District Court judge granted the payout plus $151,000 in costs Friday. Attorneys for the Vulcan Society firefighters had asked for $7 million. Lawyers for the group billed for 14,000 hours. An appeals court in May ruled the fire department must subject itself to court supervision for five years to ensure it doesn't discriminate against blacks and Hispanics in its hiring practices. The three-judge panel had removed the District Court judge from the case for trial purposes but left him in charge of the remedial process. The city has said it expects more minority firefighters after a new entrance exam was approved last year.

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