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Syrian jets bomb northern city

Wednesday, March 06, 2013 - Updated: 4:50 PM

BEIRUT (AP) -- Syrian jets bombed opposition-held buildings Tuesday in the strategic northern city of Raqqa, a day after rebels overran the onetime regime stronghold and captured its provincial governor. A toppled statue of President Bashar Assad's father was defaced with graffiti reading, "Tomorrow will be better."

The rebels continued to battle pockets of government troops in Raqqa, struggling to crush the remaining resistance in the city of 500,000 people on the Euphrates River.

If successful, it would be the first major city they would completely control in the civil war, and it would consolidate their recent gains in the northern Syrian towns along the historic river that runs from Turkey to Iraq.

"This is the beginning, and other Syrian cities will soon fall, one by one God willing," said Mustafa Othman, a Raqqa-based activist who spoke via Skype, with the sounds of gunfire crackling in the background.

But government airstrikes and intermittent clashes, particularly around two security buildings, raised doubt about whether the rebels would be able to maintain their hold on Raqqa, about 120 miles (195 kilometers) east of the commercial capital of Aleppo.

Brennan approved as CIA director

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate Intelligence Committee voted Tuesday to approve President Barack Obama's pick to lead the CIA after winning a behind-the-scenes battle with the White House over access to a series of top-secret legal opinions that justify the use of lethal drone strikes against terror suspects, including American citizens.

John Brennan's installation at the spy agency has been delayed as Senate Democrats and Republicans have pressed the Obama administration to allow a review of the classified documents prepared by the Justice Department. The senators have argued they can't perform adequate oversight without reviewing the contents of the opinions, but the White House had resisted requests for full disclosure.

The intelligence committee's chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a statement Tuesday that the committee voted 12-3 to send Brennan's nomination to the full Senate for confirmation. The panel's deliberations were held behind closed doors. Feinstein did not identify the senators who voted against Brennan.

Although Brennan has made it out of the committee, Republicans have threatened to hold up his nomination unless the White House supplies them with classified information, including emails among top U.S. national security officials, detailing the Obama administration's actions immediately following the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed during the raid.

Feinstein said the full Senate should act quickly confirm Brennan, who spent 25 years at the CIA before becoming Obama's top counterterrorism and homeland security adviser in the White House.

NYC crash suspect ready to surrender

NEW YORK (AP) -- The suspected driver who fled the scene of a grisly crash that killed a pregnant woman, her husband and ultimately the child they were expecting is meeting with an attorney Tuesday and plans to report to police.

Julio Acevedo, 44, told the Daily News of New York that he was speeding away from a gunman who was trying to shoot at him early Sunday when the accident with a hired car happened in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.

He said he fled the scene because he was worried he'd be killed and didn't know the couple had died until he saw it in newspapers.

"My heart goes out to them," Acevedo told the newspaper Tuesday in a phone call arranged by a friend. "I didn't know they died until I saw the news."

The friend who arranged the call, Derrick Hamilton, said Acevedo was running for his life after the crash, and called it a terrible accident. "He's meeting with a lawyer right now, they are going to arrange how to turn himself in," Hamilton told The Associated Press.

Military leaders: GOP bill will ease cuts

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A massive House Republican measure to keep the government operating would ease some of the pain of automatic spending cuts slamming the Defense Department, the nation's senior military leaders told Congress on Tuesday.

Members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff painted a dire picture of construction projects on hold, limits on aircraft carriers patrolling the waters and even a delay in the expansion of Arlington National Cemetery due to the $43 billion in across-the-board cuts that kicked in Friday.

Problematic for the Pentagon has been the combination of the automatic cuts and the government still operating at last year's spending levels. The GOP measure unveiled on Monday would give the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments sought-after flexibility in spending that other agencies lack.

     

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