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The Obama administration is criticizing a United Nations fact-finding mission that found Israel committed war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity in deliberately targeting Palestinian civilians during the attack on Gaza earlier this year. More than 1,400 Palestinians, over half of them civilians, were killed in the US-backed Israeli assault. The report also cited Palestinian militants for committing war crimes in firing rockets at Israeli towns. The report advises the UN Security Council to call on both Israel and Palestinian authorities to probe the allegations or face investigations by the International Criminal Court. On Thursday, the US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, said the White House has "serious concerns" about the report’s focus on Israel.
UN Ambassador Susan Rice: "The United States is reviewing very carefully what is a very lengthy document. We have long expressed our very serious concern with the mandate that was given by the Human Rights Council prior to our joining the council, which we viewed as unbalanced, one-sided, and basically unacceptable. We have very serious concerns about many of the recommendations in the report."
Meanwhile, in Gaza, the International Committee of the Red Cross is warning Palestinians could lose access to a safe water supply at any moment. The warning follows a UN report showing Gaza’s underground water system is on the verge of collapse. The system is Gaza’s only source of drinking water. Just five to ten percent of the aquifer is currently fit for human consumption.
Paraguay has rejected an extension of a military cooperation deal with the United States. On Thursday, Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo said his government would stop conducting a series of military exercises with US troops. Lugo cited recent hemispheric opposition to an agreement extending the US military presence inside Colombia.
Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo: "There would be about 500 US military and other personnel in the country, and that would not go unnoticed. It’s neither prudent nor convenient at this time and could raise concerns among the other members of Mercosur and UNASUR."
Back in the United States, the House has voted to strip the anti-poverty group ACORN of all federal funding. ACORN has long been a target of right-wing scorn for its work helping poor people fight foreclosures, fix tax problems, and register to vote. ACORN’s critics were recently given a boost after the group’s workers were caught on camera appearing to offer advice to a pimp and prostitute. The House measure passed by a 345-to-75 vote. It goes further than this week’s Senate vote, which targeted ACORN’s federal housing and community grant funding.
In Massachusetts, the State House has approved a measure that would let Governor Deval Patrick appoint an interim successor to the Senate seat left vacant by the death of Edward Kennedy. The successor would fill the seat until Massachusetts holds a special election in January.
The Justice Department has launched a probe of former Interior Secretary Gale Norton over her ties to the oil giant Royal Dutch Shell. Investigators are looking into whether Norton unlawfully granted Shell leases of public land around the same time she was considering working for the company. Norton stepped down in March 2006 and joined Shell as its general counsel nine months later.
In South Carolina, the insurance company Fortis has been ordered to pay $10 million in damages for rescinding the health coverage of a man who had tested positive for HIV. Jerome Mitchell obtained coverage from Fortis in 2001, when he was seventeen years old. But Fortis dropped Mitchell after he found out he was HIV-positive the following year. The company accused Mitchell of misrepresenting his medical history. In a ruling upholding a trial court judgment, the South Carolina Supreme Court said Fortis’s actions were "reprehensible" and "demonstrated an indifference to Mitchell’s life and a reckless disregard to his health and safety."
In labor news, the hotel and restaurant employees union Unite Here has announced it’s rejoining the AFL-CIO. The move comes four years after Unite Here broke off from the AFL-CIO to help form the rival coalition Change to Win.
A new government audit claims the program to radically increase electronic surveillance along the US border with Mexico is years behind schedule and has run billions of dollars over initial projections. The Government Accountability Office says the network of cameras, radars and fences won’t be completed until 2016, instead of the initial plan for later this year. Auditors also say the border system will cost an additional $6.5 billion in maintenance costs, with no mechanisms to gauge its actual impact.
The families of three Americans arrested in Iran last month are renewing their call for their loved ones’ release ahead of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to the United States next week. The three are believed to have mistakenly crossed over into Iran while hiking in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region. The detained Americans have been identified as Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Joshua Fattal. Bauer is a freelance journalist who has written for The Nation magazine and the Pacific News Service. On Thursday, Bauer’s mother, Cindy Hickey, spoke of the impact of his imprisonment.
Cindy Hickey: "Well, just on a day-to-day basis, it’s been very up and down for us, very emotional. Part of my — I have three children. Part of my family is not with me. It’s left a huge hole in my heart. And while we’re waiting for his return, we’re also having to continue our jobs and our life, and it’s been very hard to do that."
Ahmadinejad will be in New York next week to attend the UN General Assembly.
A federal judge has ordered authorities to allow a tent city protest during the G20 summit in Pittsburgh next week. The peace group CODEPINK plans to use a downtown park for the tent protest over the course of three days.
And the pioneering newspaper publisher and journalist W. Horace Carter has died at the age of eighty-eight. Carter founded the North Carolina-based Tabor City Tribune and won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on and commentary denouncing the Ku Klux Klan.