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August 4, 2014
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An investigation by The New York Times shows that Israeli troops "paid little heed to warnings to safeguard" United Nations schools in Gaza, one of which was bombarded by artillery shells on July 30, killing 21 people, including many children. The report is the latest to question Israel's tactics in its ongoing conflict with the Islamic militant group Hamas, with critics contending that Israel has fired indiscriminately into civilian areas that exist cheek by jowl with militant hideouts in Gaza's crowded neighborhoods.

The Times reports that the Israeli military used artillery shells, rather than "smart" weaponry, to target the school. Such tactics are bound to result in civilian casualties, according to experts interviewed by the Times:

Artillery is a "statistics weapon," not a "precision weapon," experts said, generally fired from up to 25 miles away and considered effective if it hits within 50 yards of its target.

"Heavy artillery shelling into a populated area would be inherently indiscriminate," said Bill Van Esveld, a Jerusalem-based Human Rights Watch lawyer who investigates war crimes. "You just can't aim that weapon precisely enough in that environment because it's so destructive." [The New York Times]

An Israeli general who declined to speak on the record told the Times that such tactics were inevitable in war. "The orders are clear. But I find it very difficult to judge those fighters under fire and tell them, 'Look, please open your textbook and read out loud what we told you,'" he said. Ryu Spaeth

2:19 p.m. ET
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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced executive orders Saturday intended to ban LGBT conversion therapy in the state, BuzzFeed News reports.

Both public and private insurers are banned from reimbursing the therapy, which aims to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity, for minors. And facilities funded, licensed, or operated by New York will not be allowed to offer conversion therapy to minors.

"We will not allow the misguided and the intolerant to punish LGBT young people for simply being who they are," Cuomo said in a statement.

New York joins Washington, D.C., and states including Illinois, New Jersey, and California in banning conversion therapy. In April, President Obama called for an end to the practice. Julie Kliegman

1:40 p.m. ET

Don't panic, but Twitter might shake up your reverse chronological feed as soon as next week, BuzzFeed News reported Friday. They're already testing a new feature — an algorithm designed to put tweets you want to see near the top of your feed — with a small number of users.

There's reason to believe the switch, which would look a lot like your Facebook feed's out-of-order posts, will be optional:

Twitter declined to comment on feed changes. Julie Kliegman

12:55 p.m. ET

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) is in the middle of dealing with a crisis in Flint, where lead pipes have contaminated the drinking water. While addressing a grave concern in an impoverished city, Snyder celebrated his wife's birthday with quite an upscale-looking cake from an Ann Arbor bakery, MLive reports:

Interesting choice of optics. Julie Kliegman

12:22 p.m. ET
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MSNBC pundit Melissa Harris-Perry called out the Democratic Party on Saturday for a lack of diversity in an "anemic" candidate pool.

"I would argue that for me, Thursday night, watching Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders — we are in New Hampshire — and our party is so anemic. We are down to two candidates, right?" Harris-Perry said. "Say what you want to say about the mad house going on on the Republican side."

For Harris-Perry, the primary field bears some resemblance to a certain other much talked about national event: "It's whiter than the Oscars up in here." Julie Kliegman

11:37 a.m. ET
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You may or may not be excited for football, but chances are you're pretty amped about the food associated with Super Bowl Sunday.

Here are some striking numbers courtesy of ABC News regarding what U.S. viewers are expected to wolf down as the Denver Broncos face the Carolina Panthers:

12 million — Americans watching from restaurants and bars

48 million — takeout and deliver orders

139.4 million — pounds of avocados

1.3 billion — chicken wings, a 3 percent increase over 2015

$15.5 billion — total Super Bowl spending

Happy eating. Julie Kliegman

10:51 a.m. ET

Saturday would've marked Babe Ruth's 121st birthday. To honor The Great Bambino, relive the glory of his first-ever New York Times profile. It's from way back in 1915, and it has some real gems:

The paper of record described the soon-to-be-record-setting slugger as "peculiar" and "built like a bale of cotton."

"What the Yanks evidently need are some peculiar left-handed pitchers," the profile went on to say, to counter Ruth, who then pitched for the rival Boston Red Sox.

Either that, or perhaps they just needed to make the trade of the century. Julie Kliegman

8:06 a.m. ET
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As the Syrian government works to cut off Aleppo's rebel supply route from Turkey, foreign intervention is not welcome, Foreign Minister Walid-al-Moallem warned Saturday, The Associated Press reports.

"Any ground intervention in Syria without the consent of the Syrian government will be considered an aggression that should be resisted by every Syrian citizen," he said. "I regret to say that they will return home in wooden coffins."

Saudi Arabia recently said it would send troops as part of a U.S.-led coalition to fight Islamic State extremists, who control parts of Syria. The United Nations suspended peace talks Wednesday as conflict near Aleppo ramped up. Julie Kliegman

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