THE DRIVE: US arms Syrian Kurds; Hernandez guilt erased; nuclear waste tunnel fails
Trump OKs arms for Syrian Kurds, despite Turkish objections
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration announced Tuesday it will arm Syria's Kurdish fighters "as necessary" to recapture the key Islamic State group stronghold of Raqqa, despite intense opposition from NATO ally Turkey, which sees the Kurds as terrorists.
The decision is meant to accelerate the Raqqa operation but undermines the Turkish government's view that the Syrian Kurdish group known as the YPG is an extension of a Kurdish terrorist organization that operates in Turkey. Washington is eager to retake Raqqa, arguing that it is a haven for IS operatives to plan attacks on the West.
Dana W. White, the Pentagon's chief spokeswoman, said in a written statement that President Donald Trump authorized the arms Monday. His approval gives the Pentagon the go-ahead to "equip Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces as necessary to ensure a clear victory over ISIS" in Raqqa, said White, who was traveling with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in Europe.
The U.S. sees the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, as its most effective battlefield partner against IS in northern and eastern Syria. White said they're "the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future."
Tunnel with nuclear waste collapses in Washington state
SPOKANE, Wash. — A portion of an underground tunnel containing rail cars full of radioactive waste collapsed Tuesday at a sprawling storage facility in a remote area of Washington state, forcing an evacuation of some workers at the site that made plutonium for nuclear weapons for decades after World War II.
Officials detected no release of radiation at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and no workers were injured, said Randy Bradbury, a spokesman for the Washington state Department of Ecology.
No workers were inside the tunnel when it collapsed, causing soil on the surface above to sink two to four feet over a 400 square foot area, officials said.
Prosecutor to appeal Hernandez conviction ruling
FALL RIVER, Mass. — Prosecutors say they will appeal a ruling erasing former NFL star Aaron Hernandez's conviction in a 2013 murder because he died before his appeal was heard.
Judge Susan Garsh ruled Tuesday that Hernandez's conviction must be dismissed under longstanding case law in Massachusetts that says a conviction is not final until a court has decided the merits of a defendant's appeal.
After the judge announced her decision in court, Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn III said he will appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Judicial Court.
Hernandez killed himself in prison last month.
Phoenix serial killings suspect: 'I'm innocent'
PHOENIX (AP) — A former city bus driver suspected in a string of nine deadly shootings that spread fear in Phoenix declared "I'm innocent" as residents of the terrorized neighborhoods expressed both relief Tuesday over the arrest and frustration that it took so long.
Aaron Saucedo, 23, spoke up during a brief court appearance late Monday night after his arrest on suspicion of being the killer dubbed the Serial Street Shooter. A judge ordered him held without bail.
Police say Saucedo killed nine people and carried out 12 shootings from August 2015 to July 2016, gunning down victims after dark as they stood outside their homes or sat in their cars. Most of the killings were in a Latino neighborhood.
Police gave no details on a motive. Saucedo knew only one of the victims, and the other killings were random, authorities said.