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Washington's Top News -- Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tuesday - 8/26/2014, 3:45am  ET

Here's a look at some of the day's top stories from WTOP:

US surveillance planes fly over Syria

U.S. officials say the U.S. has begun surveillance flights over Syria, after President Barack Obama gave the OK -- in a move that could pave the way for airstrikes against Islamic State militants.

While the White House says Obama has not approved military action inside Syria, additional intelligence on the militants would likely be necessary before he could take that step. Pentagon officials have been drafting potential options for the president, including airstrikes.

One official said the administration has a need for reliable intelligence from Syria and called the flights an important avenue.

VA says no proof delays in care caused vets to die

The Department of Veterans Affairs says investigators have found no proof that delays in care caused any deaths at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Phoenix.

Revelations that up to 40 veterans died while awaiting care from the Phoenix VA rocked the agency last spring, exposing a system in which veterans waited months for care while VA employees falsified records to cover up the delays.

The VA's Office of Inspector General has been investigating the delays for months. The final report has not yet been released. Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson spoke in an interview with The Associated Press.

Israel destroys 2 Gaza high-rises in escalation

Police in Gaza say two high-rise buildings in Gaza City were evacuated before they were attacked Tuesday by Israeli bombs. Gaza officials say a 15-floor tower with apartments and offices was leveled, and serious damage was done to a complex with 72 apartments and 60 stores.

A Gaza health official says 25 people were wounded in the strike on the complex.

Soldier dies after shooting herself in Virginia

Authorities have not identified a soldier who barricaded herself in a building at Fort Lee, Virginia, and fatally shot herself in the head as law enforcement officials tried to negotiate with her.

Fort Lee went on lockdown while the soldier was holed up on the third floor of a four-story building.

About 1,100 other people were inside, but no one else was hurt. Army officials say they don't know whether the soldier was being treated for mental health issues. She had been in the Army for 14 years.

Wisconsin, Indiana set to defend gay marriage bans

Attorneys for Wisconsin and Indiana are set defend their states' gay marriage bans before a federal appeals court in Chicago.

Civil rights advocates had challenged both states' bans, arguing that they violated gay couples' right to equal protection. Federal judges in both states struck their respective bans down in June.

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller have asked the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold the bans. Both argue states have the authority to set marriage standards.

The court consolidated the appeals and is set to hear oral arguments Tuesday.

For better health, just add salt

The nutritionists tell us to limit salt, but in Bethesda, people flocking to a room full of 32 tons of the stuff. It's Maryland's first salt cave, and some swear by the drying properties of the rocks of pink Himalayan salt for allergies, sinus problems, asthma and more. On WTOP's Living page, Rachel Nania talks with the woman who started the salt cave and finds out the appeal of the alternative therapy.

The world looks very different to college freshmen

Do you remember a world without FOX News or MSNBC? Without cloning? This year's incoming crop of college students don't. Beloit College has released its annual Mindset List, which acts as a reminder of the way the world looks to those who were born in - gulp - 1996. On WTOP's Tech page, find out what else may feel futuristic to you but old hat to high-school graduates - but prepare to feel old. (Remember Netscape? They probably don't.)

TV's biggest night

The Emmy Awards happened Monday night, and if you missed any of the moments, went to bed early or just want to look at it all again, check out the Live Blog from the reporters at Hollywood Reporter, including the skinny on the after-parties. You can also see a photo gallery of the winners and the red-carpet arrivals - all on WTOP's Entertainment page.

The football is fantasy; the fundraising is for real

Billions of dollars and millions of hours are spent across the U.S. on fantasy football, and a baseball executive has figured out a way to harness that money and energy to do some real-world good: It's called Meaningful Wins, and it lets you select nonprofits to benefit from your fantasy prowess. (Wait; was that "baseball executive"? Yes; find out how popular fantasy football is among the diamond set.) Find out more about it on WTOP's Sports page.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

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