News in Brief: Iran Offers to Escort Next Aid Convoy to Gaza

Iran has offered to send its Revolutionary Guard to escort the next aid convoy to Gaza, reported the Guardian UK. This move could seriously escalate tensions in the region, with Israel accusing Tehran of seeking to build a nuclear weapon and backing Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu dismissed a UN proposal to have an international commission investigate the assault last week by Israeli commandos on an aid ship heading to Gaza, in which nine people died.

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Iran admonished Russia Tuesday about its expected support of fresh U.N. sanctions against Tehran, reported Reuters. At the Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia conference in Istanbul, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said “There is no big problem, but they must be careful not to be on the side of the enemies of the Iranian people.” According to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the Security Council resolution has been “practically agreed.”

The CICA summit, attended by the leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran, was a display of regional power just days before a debate in the United Nations Security Council on tightening sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, reported The New York Times. Ahmadinejad told the conference, dedicated to increasing cooperation and security in Asia, “If the U.S. and its allies think they could hold the stick of sanctions and then sit and negotiate with us, they are seriously mistaken.” European and American officials say the vote on sanctions is expected as early as Wednesday.

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Eleven states will play out their primary contests Tuesday, reported the New York Times, with high-profile names like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Senators Barbara Boxer and Blanche Lincoln in the final hours of defending their campaign. In California, voters will also be asked to consider whether the primary election system should be replaced – with a version in which all candidates run in the first round and the top two to garner the most votes compete in the general election, regardless of party affiliation.

The competition for Democratic and Republican match-ups in November was set to be particularly tough in California, Iowa, Nevada and South Carolina, where GOP primary voters are settling a four-way contest, reported the AP.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that anti-incumbent sentiment is at an all-time high, reported the Washington Post. The national survey found that only 29 percent of Americans may support their House representative in the November elections. This figure is even lower that in the 1994 elections, when Democrats were pushed out of the House after their 40-year majority.

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President Obama defends his response to the Gulf oil spill, reported the Guardian UK, saying he was working to discover “whose ass to kick” in a television interview. On NBC’s Today Show, Obama said if BP’s chief executive Tony Hayward had been working for him, he would have been fired by now. Since the spill, Hayward has made comments such as: “I want my life back”; asserting that the Gulf was “a very big ocean”; and that “the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to be very, very modest.” Polls have shown that the majority of Americans look unfavorably on Obama’s handling of the crisis.

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An Arizona elementary school has backtracked on the changes it made to a mural to lighten the faces of dark-skinned children, reported Democracy Now!. The Miller Valley Elementary School in Prescott, Arizona, said it will restore the mural to its original colors. School administrators ordered artists to lighten the skin tone of the children depicted in the mural following complaints about their ethnicity, though the school principal has continued to say this was done from an “artistic” point of view, not a “racial” one. Principal Jeff Lane apoligized and reversed his decision: “Miller Valley made a mistake. When we asked them to lighten the mural, we made a mistake. We are going back to our original theme.”