News in Brief: Israeli and Palestinian Leaders Agree to Direct Talks, and More …

Israeli and Palestinian Leaders Agree to Direct Talks

After a 20-month impasse, Israel and Palestine will resume direct peace talks. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to announce Friday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas will meet in Washington in early September to begin negotiations. The leaders are expected to discuss the borders of a Palestinian state, security guarantees for Israel, the political status of Jerusalem, and other contentious issues, reported The New York Times. The last round of direct talks collapsed in December 2008 when, in response to rocket fire from Hamas, Israel launched a three-week offensive into Gaza.

Female Activists Sailing Aid Ship to Gaza

A group of women activists from Lebanon, the US and Europe are preparing to set sail for the Gaza Strip in an attempt to break Israel’s blockade there. The Mariam ship is expected to leave Lebanon Sunday night, carrying cancer medicine and followed by a second ship carrying medical equipment, reported Democracy Now!.

White House Ethics Czar Raises Questions Among Good Governance Groups

The Obama administration’s decision to appoint Bob Bauer as White House “czar” for ethics and transparency has elicited angry reactions from good governance groups and advocates of finance reform, reported The Washington Independent. Ellen Miller, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, said Bauer has “always defended the ability of special interest to put money into campaigns.” Bauer, a Democratic lawyer, has advocated against campaign-finance reform and already holds the demanding, full-time position of White House counsel.

BP Settlement Likely to Shield Top Defendants; Scientists Confirm Oil Plume in Gulf

Individuals and businesses seeking a lump sum from BP’s oil spill compensation fund may be forced to waive their right to sue BP or any other major defendant involved in the spill to receive the money, internal documents from lawyers involved with the fund have shown. The documents are the first glimpse of who will receive a payout from the $20 billion fund, how and when, reported The New York Times. They also include details such as geographic proximity as a factor in determining compensation.

Democracy Now! reports new evidence that the Obama administration’s claim that most of the oil spilled by BP in the Gulf has disappeared may not be accurate. A team of researchers confirmed a vast underwater oil plume, which stretches 21 miles from the blown-out well. The amount of oil in the plume is unknown.

Striking Public Workers in South Africa Talk to Government

On behalf of more than one million South African civil servants, union representatives have begun talks with the government to discuss ending a work stoppage that risks damaging Africa’s largest economy. Strikers are calling for a wage raise of 8.6 percent and a rise in housing allowances, which would increase state spending by about 1 to 2 percent. The strike quickly turned violent, with police firing rubber bullets at protesters blocking roads, reported Reuters.