US-SYRIA-SENATE

Senate panel votes to authorize force in Syria

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Senate panel has voted to give President Barack Obama the authority to use military force against Syria in response to a deadly chemical weapons attack.

The vote Wednesday was 10-7, with one senator voting present. The full Senate is expected to vote on the measure next week.

The resolution would permit Obama to order a limited military mission against Syria, as long as it doesn't exceed 90 days and involves no American troops on the ground for combat operations.

The Democratic chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Menendez, and the panel's top Republican, Sen. Bob Corker, crafted the resolution.

The vote marked the first time lawmakers have voted to authorize military action since the October 2002 votes giving President George W. Bush the authority to invade Iraq.

OBAMA-SYRIA

Obama: Congress, world credibility at stake

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) — If Congress fails to go along with a U.S. military strike against Syria, will President Barack Obama go ahead with it anyway? Obama isn't saying.

At a news conference in Sweden today, the president said his request to lawmakers for approval of U.S. military action was not "an empty exercise." But he added that as commander in chief, he has the right "to act on behalf of America's national security."

Obama said it isn't just his own credibility that's at stake. He said governments representing 98 percent of the world's population have denounced the use of chemical weapons.

MISSING WOMEN FOUND-SUICIDE

Prosecutor: Castro couldn't take it

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The three victims of Ariel Castro are declining to comment on the news that the man who held them prisoner in his home for a decade has taken his own life in an Ohio prison.

But prosecutor Tim McGinty says it shows that Castro "couldn't take, for even a month, a small portion of what he had dished out for more than a decade."

Officials say the 53-year-old Castro hanged himself in his cell, using a bedsheet. He was found hanging last night at the state prison in Orient, Ohio. Prison medical staff performed CPR before Castro was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

A prisons spokeswoman says Castro was in protective custody because of the notoriety of his case, meaning he was checked every 30 minutes. But he was not on suicide watch.

Castro was sentenced Aug. 1 to life in prison after reaching a deal to avoid a possible death penalty.

A neighbor who lived up the street from Castro says, "He took the coward's way out." Elsie Cintron says, "We're sad to hear that he's dead, but at the same time, we're happy he's gone."

MISSING WOMEN FOUND-SUICIDE

Ohio prisons order review after inmate suicide

CLEVELAND (AP) — Ohio's prison director has ordered a review of Ariel Castro's medical and mental health treatment and the circumstances surrounding his suicide behind bars.

Authorities say the 53-year-old Castro hanged himself with a bedsheet in his cell Tuesday night.

Castro was serving a life sentence for holding three women captive in his Cleveland home for a decade.

Prison chief Gary Mohr says the Ohio state police are also investigating.

CLINTON-HEALTH CARE

Clinton defends federal health care law in speech

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Former President Bill Clinton is urging opponents of the federal health care overhaul to help implement it rather than continue "replaying" debates about the measure and trying to repeal it.

Speaking at his presidential library in Little Rock, Ark., Clinton on Wednesday offered a detailed defense of the law as a key part of its implementation nears. Clinton's speech is the first in a series by administration officials and allies before the Oct. 1 open enrollment for the insurance exchanges.

Clinton praised his home state of Arkansas for its plan to use Medicaid funds to purchase private insurance for thousands of low-income residents. Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe and the GOP-led Legislature approved the plan as an alternative to expanding Medicaid.

WALL STREET-CLOSE

Stocks move higher as auto sales increase

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are closing higher on Wall Street after automakers reported strong sales gains.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 96 points, or 0.7 percent, to close at 14,930 points Wednesday.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 13 points, or 0.8 percent, to 1,653 and the Nasdaq composite rose 36 points, or 1 percent, to 3,649.

General Motors and Ford both rose sharply after reporting big sales increases last month. August was the best month for auto sales in six years.

Technology companies also climbed. Apple gained $10.11, or 2 percent, to $499.698 after Cantor Fitzgerald initiated coverage of the company with a "buy" rating.

Two stocks rose for every one that fell on the New York Stock Exchange. Trading volume was about average at 3.2 billion shares.

SAFEWAY-GREENHOUSE GAS SETTLEMENT

Safeway to pay $600K fine for clean air violations

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Grocery store chain Safeway, Inc. will pay a fine of $600,000 and has agreed to a nationwide reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from refrigeration equipment at its 659 U.S. stores.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice on Wednesday said the settlement with the Pleasanton, Calif.-based retailer is the largest ozone protection case ever reached under the Clean Air Act.

The government says Safeway violated the nation's clear air laws by not promptly fixing leaks of HCFC-22, a heat-trapping gas that contributes to climate change, from its refrigerators. The government says Safeway also failed to keep proper maintenance records.

Safeway did not return a call seeking comment.

Safeway also agreed to reduce its company-wide average leak rate from 25 percent to 18 percent or below by 2015.

US-RARE-BRAIN-DISEASE

Surgical gear quarantined over rare brain disease

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire public health officials believe one person died of a rare, degenerative brain disease, and there's a remote chance up to 13 others in multiple states were exposed to it through surgical equipment.

Dr. Joseph Pepe, president of Catholic Medical Center, says officials are 95 percent certain that a patient who had brain surgery in May and died in August had sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob (KROYTS'-felt JAY'-kuhb) Disease.

Officials have notified eight people who had brain surgery during that time period, because the faulty proteins that cause the disease can survive standard sterilization. The disease has only been transmitted that way four times, never in the United States.

Some of the surgical instruments had been rented, and officials say up to five patients in other states could have been exposed.

The equipment has been quarantined.

TROPICAL WEATHER

NEW: Tropical depression forms south of Puerto Rico

MIAMI (AP) — A tropical depression has formed south of Puerto Rico, resulting in storm warnings.

Forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami say the depression was centered about 130 miles (210 km) south of San Juan, Puerto Rico on Wednesday afternoon.

Maximum sustained winds were 35 mph (55 kph), and forecasters expected it to become a tropical storm by Thursday.

Tropical storm warnings were issued for Puerto Rico and part of the Dominican Republic.

Forecasters expected the storm's center to pass between the islands and eventually curve back to the northeast away from the U.S. mainland. However, storm paths are difficult to predict accurately days in advance.

INDIAN CHILD WELFARE DISPUTE

NEW: Father of Cherokee girl to be extradited to SC

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin says the father of a Cherokee girl in the middle of an adoption case must go to South Carolina to face accusations that he is interfering with custody of the girl.

Fallin said Wednesday she had signed an extradition order that sends Dusten Brown to South Carolina. She had said last month she wouldn't sign the document if Brown showed a willingness to work with Matt and Melanie Capobianco, who want to adopt 3-year-old Veronica.

Fallin's order does not change Veronia's current placement with Brown's family.

Brown was charged with custodial interference last month after refusing to give Veronica to her adoptive parents. The Capobiancos were finalized as her adoptive parents in July, but Brown did not turn the girl over