Obama seeks $500M to arm select rebels

JULIE PACE AP White House Correspondent Published:

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama is seeking to bolster U.S. efforts to train and arm select members of the Syrian opposition, a move that comes amid increased U.S. concern that the conflicts in Syria and Iraq are becoming an intertwined fight against the same Sunni extremist group.

Obama sent Congress a $500 million request Thursday for a Pentagon-run program that would significantly expand previous covert efforts to arm rebels fighting both the Sunni extremists and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad. If approved by lawmakers, the program would in effect open a second front in the fight against militants spilling over Syria's border and threatening to overwhelm neighboring Iraq.

Obama has long been reluctant to arm the Syrian opposition, in part because of concerns that weapons may fall into extremist hands. But administration officials say the U.S. has grown increasingly confident in recent months about its ability to distinguish the moderate rebels from the more extremist elements that include the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has stormed into Iraq and captured much of the northern part of the country.

Avoids prosecution: A California wind farm will become the first in the nation to avoid prosecution if eagles are injured or die when they run into the giant turning blades, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday. The Shiloh IV Wind Project LLC, 60 miles east of San Francisco, will receive a special permit allowing up to five golden eagles to be accidentally killed over five years. Previously, such a violation could potentially draw criminal charges and discourage private investment in wind farms known for catching birds in their rotors.

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House sold for $1: Smith College is selling an on-campus house for $1 -- but there is a catch. The buyer must pay to have the house moved off the Northampton, Mass., campus, and that is expected to cost about $70,000. That doesn't even include the cost of a plot of land to move the house to, or the cost of hooking up the water, electricity and other utilities. A school official told The Daily Hampshire Gazette (http://bit.ly/TAj6xv) the 2,332-square-foot structure built in 1860 was used as rental housing for faculty until the college decided to build new apartment-style student housing in its place.

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