Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem speaks at a new conference beneath a portrait of President Bashar Assad in Damascus on Tuesday.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem speaks at a new conference beneath a portrait of President Bashar Assad in Damascus on Tuesday. (AP Photo)

National editor's pick of the top news stories in the nation and world at this hour:

U.S., allies ramping up for attack on Syria

The United States appeared to be rapidly ramping up Tuesday for an attack on Syria with the support of Britain and France, despite warnings from Syria, Russia and some members of Congress. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Tuesday that U.S. forces are ready to launch cruise missile attacks on Syrian targets, with four destroyers already positioned in the eastern Mediterranean, and U.S. warplanes also in the region. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem denied that his government had anything to do with a chemical weapons attack last week in suburban Damascus that killed more than 300 people, and he said Syria would defend itself against any attack using "all means available." But Syria was increasingly isolated as the Arab League threw its weight behind calls for punitive action. French President Francois Hollande also said his country "is ready to punish those who took the heinous decision to gas innocents" last week. And Prime Minister David Cameron summoned British lawmakers from summer break Tuesday for an emergency session on possible intervention in the Syrian conflict. Cameron said the House of Commons would have a chance Thursday to debate and vote on Britain's "response to chemical weapons attacks" in Syria.

A helicopter dumps water on hot spots battling the Rim Fire.
A helicopter dumps water on hot spots while battling the Rim Fire in the Stanislaus National Forest along Highway 120 near Yosemite National Park on Monday. (Paul Kitagaki Jr./Sacramento Bee/MCT)
Some U.S. lawmakers, including Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., and Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., demanded that President Barack Obama seek congressional approval before ordering any attack.

Firefighters gain ground on Yosemite fire

The body of Johnathan Croom, 18,  was found in the woods of southern Oregon not far from his abandoned SUV.
The body of Johnathan Croom, 18, was found in the woods of southern Oregon not far from his abandoned SUV. ( Courtesy Monica Croom/AP Photo)

Firefighters made progress against the massive Rim Fire at the edge of Yosemite National Park, reporting 20 percent containment Tuesday, up from 7 percent two days before. The fire expanded to some 280 square miles, but partly because of back burning by fire crews to deprive it of fuel. The fire crept toward the east, into backcountry parts of the park, but the main attractions in Yosemite remained open. "The next couple of days are really going to be key for us," said Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant. "If the weather cooperates, and we see an increase in containment, we could really turn a corner on this stubborn fire." The 11-day-old blaze is the seventh-largest wildfire in California since records have been kept in 1932.

This 75-pound wolf was killed the day after an attack on a 16-year-old camper.
This 75-pound wolf was killed the day after an attack on a 16-year-old camper. (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources)
It has destroyed about 23 structures and threatens some 4,500. An expected increase in humidity Tuesday afternoon could help suppress flames, said Matt Mehle, a National Weather Service meteorologist assigned to the fire. Crews planned to focus Tuesday on the portion of the fire threatening communities in the north. The fire approached the main reservoir serving San Francisco, but fears that the inferno could disrupt water or hydroelectric power to the city diminished.

'Into the Wild' fan found dead in Oregon woods

Sri Lankan policemen hold a pair of sniffer dogs Monday as they hold a wedding ceremony for nine pairs of police dogs in Kandy.
Sri Lankan policemen hold a pair of sniffer dogs Monday as they hold a wedding ceremony for nine pairs of police dogs in Kandy. (AP Photo)

An Arizona teen who had talked to his parents about the book "Into the Wild" and was saddened over the end of a relationship was found dead Monday evening in the woods of southern Oregon. The body of Johnathan Croom, 18, was found 1,000 feet from his abandoned SUV, and his death was being investigated as a suicide. His father, David Croom, said, "He was a young man who had a broken heart and headed out to try to find himself. We're looking forward to finding out exactly what happened." The younger Croom had talked to his parents about "Into the Wild," the true story of a young man who abandons civilization for an adventure in the Alaskan wilderness that proves fatal. "I think we have kind of a combination there," Douglas County sheriff's spokesman Dwes Hutson said. "He talked with his parents about 'Into the Wild,' and in text messages we've looked at, he does specifically talk about running away, kind of just running away from his life."

Sleeping camper attacked by wolf

A teenager camping in Minnesota suffered cuts to his head and puncture wounds to his face when a wolf attacked him while he was sleeping -- an almost unheard-of case of a wolf attacking a human. The attack on a 16-year-old camper happened early Saturday in a campground along the shore of Lake Winnibigoshish in the Chippewa National Forest. If confirmed, it could be the first documented wolf attack of such severity in the continental U.S. The wolf believed to be responsible was trapped overnight Sunday and killed Monday. The attack was described as a "freak deal" and "incredibly abnormal behavior" by Tom Provost of the Department of Natural Resources in Grand Rapids. There are two documented cases of fatal wolf attacks in North America, one in Alaska and the other in Canada, according to the DNR and a review of scientific literature. Investigators were looking into whether rabies, human habituation or a possibly debilitating jaw condition could explain the attack.

Sri Lankan police apologize for dog wedding

I take you to be my lawfully wedded -- woof! Sri Lankan police apologized Tuesday for holding a group wedding for drug- and bomb-sniffing dogs after the culture minister complained and demanded an investigation. Nine pairs of dogs dressed in shawls, hats and socks were placed on a decorated platform Monday like the kind used in traditional weddings. The doggie "marriages" in central Kandy were registered by an official in front of a crowd of veterinary surgeons, medical doctors, police officers and the public. The dog couples were later driven away in a decorated police jeep for their "honeymoons." Culture and Arts Minister T.B. Ekananayake wasn't amused, saying it undermined traditional wedding rituals and should be strongly condemned. Police spokesman Buddhika Siriwardena apologized for any damage to the country's cultural heritage, saying the goal was to breed sniffer dogs domestically. Bad police, bad!

The Wire, a summary of top national and world news stories from The Associated Press and other wire services, moves weekdays. Contact Karl Kahler at 408-920-5023; follow him at twitter.com/karl_kahler.