News in Brief: Israeli-Lebanese Border Sees Fiercest Clashes Since 2004 War, and More

Israeli and Lebanese troops exchanged fire in what are the most serious clashes since Israel’s month-long war against Hezbollah in 2006, with two Lebanese soldiers and a journalist being killed by Israel shelling, The New York Times reported. Al Jazeera put the Lebanese death toll at three people, with two Israeli soldiers and five Lebanese soldiers wounded in the gunfire and mortar attacks. There is some contention over how the violence began. The New York Times reported that the Israeli military says it was fired upon from Lebanon, and witnesses told Reuters that the Israeli Army fired artillery shells as a Lebanese village after Lebanese troops fired warning at the border. These exchanges violate the United Nations Security Council Resolution that underpins the four-year cease-fire.

Pakistan Flood Death Toll Reaches 1,400; Three Million at Risk

The massive flooding in Pakistan has claimed the lives of more than 1,400 people and affected more than three million people, UNICEF reports, as fears that the rising waters could overwhelm the Warsak Dam continue to grow. The overflowing of the nation’s third-largest dam could only deepen the catastrophe, and resident’s in the city of Peshawar have been evacuated, reported Democracy Now!. Absar Ali, whose home was destroyed by the flood, said: “When we go home, there will be no water, no electricity, no gas. The entire system has collapsed. All our homes are destroyed. It is a tremendous loss.”

Republicans Call to Repeal 14th Amendment, Virginia Attorney General O.K.s Immigration Checks

GOP legislators call for the repeal of the 14th Amendment in an attempt to block citizenship for children born in the Unites States to undocumented immigrants, reported Democracy Now!. The 14th Amendment says that all people born or naturalized in the United States are citizens of the US – the Birthright Citizenship Act currently making its way through the House would place limits on this. It has been backed by 94 Republicans so far, and there is evidence of growing support in the Senate.

The Attorney General of Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli, issued a legal opinion Monday, which authorizes law enforcement to check the immigration status of any individual stopped by local law enforcement for any reason. This is a step up from the previous law, which only allowed officers to investigate legal status for people who were arrested and jailed. According to The Washington Post, this opinion is less stringent that the rule in Arizona’s infamous SB 1070 law, which requires Arizona authorities to question anyone who they have a “reasonable suspicion” is an undocumented immigrant.

China Overtakes US as World’s Biggest Energy Consumer

China has crept pass the US to become the world’s biggest energy user, reaching the equivalent of 2.26bn tones of oil in 2009 compared to America’s 2.17 billion tones, according to the International Energy Agency. The Chinese use of coal, oil, wind, and other sources of power, bypassing the nation which has been the world’s biggest energy user since records began, marks a major turning point, The Guardian UK reported, as energy use is closely wound up with carbon dioxide emissions, economic expansion and the global balance of power. China already has the highest emissions of any nation, and is set to overtake Japan as the world’s second-biggest economy.

Senate Cuts Food Stamps to Supplement Medicaid and Education

The Senate is preparing an unprecedented cut to food stamps, which may hit the poorest Americans where it hurts most, reported The Washington Independent, and, instead, allocating funds to keep teachers on the job and supplement Medicaid. To gain Republican votes for the passage of the whittled-down state-aid bill, the legislation has been made deficit neutral through, among other things, a $6.7 billion cut from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, also known as food stamps. This may result in a cut in benefit checks from one month to the next, which is unprecedented in the history of a benefit which averages only $4.50 a day even after being bumped up in the recession-era stimulus. In addition, the economic crisis has pushed an additional 12.9 million people into SNAP; as of April, more than 40 million collect the benefits.

Mosque to Be Built Near Ground Zero Clears Hurdle

At the end of a protracted battle, a Muslim center and mosque scheduled to be built two blocks from ground zero jumped its final hurdle Tuesday, reported The New York Times. The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously not to grant historic protection to a building meant to house the Muslim community center. The $100 million center, which will house a mosque, a 500-seat-auditorium and a pool, will be modeled on the YMCA and the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan. The debate over the center had set off a national debate over freedom of religion, drawing opposition from Sarah Palin and members of the Tea Party.