- Associated Press - Thursday, August 7, 2014

Obama authorizes US airstrikes in Iraq if Islamic militants advance toward Americans

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama authorized U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq Thursday night, warning they would be launched if needed to defend Americans from advancing Islamic militants and protect civilians under siege. His announcement threated a renewal of U.S. military involvement in the country’s long sectarian war.

In a televised late-night statement from the White House, Obama said American military planes already had carried out airdrops of humanitarian aid to tens of thousands of Iraqi religious minorities surrounded by militants and desperately in need of food and water.

“Today America is coming to help,” he declared.

The announcements reflected the deepest American engagement in Iraq since U.S. troops withdrew in late 2011 after nearly a decade of war. Obama, who made his remarks in a steady and somber tone, has staked much of his legacy as president on ending what he has called the “dumb war” in Iraq.

Obama said the humanitarian airdrops were made at the request of the Iraqi government. The food and water supplies were delivered to the tens of thousands of Yazidis trapped on a mountain without food and water. The Yazidis, who follow an ancient religion with ties to Zoroastrianism, fled their homes after the Islamic State group issued an ultimatum to convert to Islam, pay a religious fine, flee their homes or face death.

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NCAA board approves plan giving 5 biggest conferences in college sports more power, autonomy

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The biggest schools in college sports are about to get a chance to make their own rules.

Up first is likely finding a way to spend millions of dollars in new money - either in the form or stipends or fatter scholarships - on athletes across the country.

The NCAA Board of Directors voted 16-2 on Thursday to approve a historic package of changes that allows the five richest football conferences - the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC - to unilaterally change some of the rules that have applied to all Division I schools for years. The 65 universities in those leagues will also benefit from a new, weighted voting system on legislation covering the 350 schools in Division I.

“It does provide degrees of autonomy for the five high-resource conferences,” said Wake Forest President Nathan Hatch, the board chairman and a key architect of the plan. “This is not complete autonomy. We’re still part of Division I, but I think it allows us to provide more benefits to student-athletes.”

A handful of university presidents who spoke at NCAA headquarters after the vote agreed on one thing: Paying athletes to play is off the table. And it’s very unlikely that the five leagues will design their own policies when it comes to infractions.

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Islamic State militants seize Iraq’s largest dam near Mosul, Kurdish troops withdraw

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