Strike imminent? America is “ready to go” with a military strike against Syria, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said during an interview with the BBC today. Yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. government had “undeniable” proof that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s military used chemical weapons against rebel forces just outside Damascus. Assad continues to deny the accusation and said his country would retaliate against any U.S. offensive. Although Assad’s allies in Russia and China continue to defend him, a growing number of world leaders say his tyranny can’t go unpunished. Even the Arab League, an alliance of Middle Eastern and North African nations, issued a statement today holding Assad responsible for the attack that killed about 1,300 and asking the United Nations to take action.
Still raging. Although firefighters had California’s Rim fire 20 percent contained last night, the blaze continues to pose a threat to Yosemite National Park and San Francisco’s drinking water and power supply. Twenty helicopters and air tankers are dumping water from above while 3,600 firefighters are waging a ground war against the flames. The fire has so far consumed about 161,000 acres at a cost of about $20 million.
Costly trial. George Zimmerman, the former Florida neighborhood watch volunteer acquitted last month in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, will ask the state to pay for up to $300,000 of his legal bills. Mark O’Mara, Zimmerman’s lead attorney, said his office was still collecting bills but expected to submit the motion for payment soon. Florida law requires the state to pay for legal expenses, not including lawyers’ fees, for anyone acquitted of a crime. According to O’Mara, Zimmerman did not pay for his defense. The time O’Mara spent on the case is worth about $1 million. That doesn’t include other lawyers who worked on the defense team. The state so far has spent an estimated $902,000 on the case.
Weather patterns. A late-summer heat wave is blanketing the Midwest this week, prompting health warnings and school closures in Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, the Dakotas, and Illinois. Several Minnesota schools cancelled after-class athletic programs. Some schools throughout the region have only limited air conditioning available. But the heat’s not likely to last long. The Farmer’s Almanac predicts a much colder than average winter for most of the nation. The now sweltering Midwest will soon be blanketed with heavy snow, according to the 197-year-old publication, which makes annual weather predictions and offers gardening tips.
Negative reinforcement. Parents are protesting Miley Cyrus’ performance at Sunday’s Video Music Awards, during which she slunk around the stage in a flesh-colored bikini to a dance comprised mostly of obscene moves known as “twerking.” (Look it up, if you dare, but fair warning: Even the description is pretty offensive.) Cyrus, who became famous for the family friendly character Hanna Montana, seems to be doing her best to trade her squeaky-clean Disney image for the raunchy persona of other pop divas. But since she still has so many younger fans, parents are crying foul. One mom told CNN: “I just find it extremely discouraging and difficult to hold out hope for the improved status of women in this world when even the most entitled among us so negatively reinforce the worst stereotypes and misogynistic attitudes about women.”