News in Brief: Senate Fails to Approve Settlement for Black Farmers, and More

The Senate has adjourned for summer recess after again leaving African-American farmers waiting, by failing to finalize a $1.25 billion settlement in a class action lawsuit over longtime racial discrimination. Democracy Now! reported that the settlement was reached earlier this year, but Republicans blocked the needed Congressional approval. As Democrats sought unanimous consent for its passage it was stalled by Republican Sen. John Barrasso. “It seems like for the trains leaving the station in the Senate, they manage not to have the black farmers on them,” said John Boyd, founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association.

NATO Attack Kills Afghan Civilians

An unknown number of civilians have been killed in a US-led NATO bombing in Afghanistan, reported Democracy Now!. NATO says it was responding to insurgent fire, but witnesses on the ground say the victims were struck by missiles when they were in a house and a group of parked cars. The civilian death toll is estimated by witnesses to be between 12 and 32. This attack comes as the Afghan government put the number of civilians killed in a US Marine attack last month at 39, while the US said the toll was only six deaths.
Floods in Pakistan Head South

Floods in Pakistan are threatening to claim more lives and villages as they move south, reported The Guardian UK, bringing the number of people affected by the disaster to 4.5 million. The floods, set off by the annual monsoon rains, have killed at least 88 people and are the worst in 80 years. The flooding of crop-producing areas has dealt a crippling bow to the agriculture-based economy and is threatening a food crisis. The US Army based in the country joined efforts to provide assistance, The Washington Post reported.

US Envoy Attends Hiroshima Memorial Service; Japanese Oil Tanker Hit by Terrorist Attack

The annual ceremony marking the moment 65 years ago when the world’s first atomic attack incinerated Hiroshima, Japan, was, for the first time, attended by a representative of the United States, the country that dropped the bomb, which killed 140,000 people and injured millions more. Ambassador John V. Roos participated in the ceremony, showing the increased friendliness toward the administration of Barack Obama and his call for the elimination of nuclear weapons, The New York Times reported.

Meanwhile, experts investigating an apparent explosion near a Japanese supertanker believe the ship was the target of a terrorist attack. Inspectors at the port of Fujairah, in the United Arab Emirates, found traces of explosives on the oil tanker; one crewmember was slightly injured in the attack. The Guardian UK reported that the attack happened on July 28 as the vessel headed through the Strait of Hormuz, a waterway separating Oman and Iran, and was likely to have encountered a boat laden with explosives.

Medicare Lifespan 12 Years Longer

A new law setting in motion broad changes to the national health care system has strengthened Medicare’s finances; a government forecast predicted the federal entitlement program for the elderly will last 12 years longer than originally calculated. The report was prepared by trustees who monitor the fund that pays for older Americans’ medical care, reported The Washington Post. Critics wonder if the relatively bright forecast is reliable, considering that for the first time in nearly three decades, Social Security will pay out more in retirement checks than in takes in through payroll taxes.

Corporations Financing Lawmakers Through University Endowments; Target Sees Backlash for Political Donation

Nearly a dozen current or former lawmakers have received university endowments that were financed in part by corporations with business before Congress, reported The New York Times, bringing up potential conflicts of interest such as those faced by Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-New York) in a House ethics investigation. Federal records show these donations ranged from modest amounts to millions of dollars, and the lawmakers receiving them often pushed legislation or special appropriations sought by the corporate donors.

Target has come under fire for a political donation to a business group backing a conservative Republican for Minnesota governor, reported Raw Story, sparking talk of a customer boycott and angering some employees. Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel issued a statement to employees saying Target was “genuinely sorry” over its $150,000 contribution to MN Forward. The nonprofit supports private sector job creation and is running TV ads supporting Republican Tom Emmer for governor. Emmer is a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage and gay rights.