Red line. After running through a gauntlet of sniper fire that took out a truck but didn’t cause any human casualties, a United Nations inspection team finally arrived today at the site of a chemical weapons attack just outside Syria’s capital, Damascus. Videos posted by activists on social media show the inspectors touring the area with doctors. Officials from the United States, Great Britain, France, and other European Union nations say all evidence points to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime as the perpetrator of last week’s attack. About 1,300 people died. Al-Assad denied again today that his government had anything to do with the attack. But his protests may be too late: The Pentagon sent four warships armed with cruise missiles to the region. Although President Barack Obama has said he does not expect to deploy U.S. troops on Syrian soil, officials say a missile strike against Assad’s forces has become much more likely.
Raging on. The massive wildfire burning just outside Yosemite National Park now threatens the area’s iconic sequoia trees as well as San Francisco’s fresh water and power supply. The Rim blaze, which blew up last week, has already consumed about 225 square miles of vegetation. National Park Service rangers fear for the towering sequoias, which are naturally fire resistant, because the flames are so hot they might burn the canopy, leaving irreparable damage. San Francisco officials say the water in the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir remains clean, but they have had to cut power to more than 12 miles of lines. To ensure the city doesn’t suffer blackouts, officials are buying $600,000 of power on the open market. The fire is only about 7 percent contained.
Safe zone? Chicago public school students went back to class today, flanked by hundreds of security guards hired to keep them safe as they walked through gang-ridden neighborhoods. The school district hired an additional 600 workers for its Safe Passage program after school closures left many students to trek through dangerous parts of town to get to their new campuses. Officials credit the program, already in place at 35 high schools and four elementary schools, with lowering crime in those areas by 7 percent. But parents remain skeptical. “I think it’s just show-and-tell right now,” said Annie Stoball, who walked her 9-year-old granddaughter to school today. “Five, six weeks down the road, let’s see what’s going to happen.”
Final goodbyes. The parents of a young Florida boy battling a brain-eating amoeba said Sunday they would take him off the ventilator keeping him alive as soon as recipients could be found for his organs. Although 12-year-old Zachary Reyna beat the microbe with the help of a new drug designed to fight the rare disease, it did too much damage to his brain, doctors said. Reyna contracted the amoeba while playing in a rain-filled ditch near his home. He is the second child this summer to contract the disease, and his case prompted Florida health officials to issue a warning about dangerous water sources. A 12-year-old Arkansas girl who got sick after visiting a water park is expected to survive.