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Israel and Palestine
July 15, 2014

President Obama delivered a brief speech Monday night at an Iftar dinner, the evening meal for Muslims during the holy fasting month of Ramadan, and reiterated the administration's call for a ceasefire in the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip.

Our goal has been and continues to be peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians. And I will say very clearly, no country can accept rocket fired indiscriminately at citizens. And so, we've been very clear that Israel has the right to defend itself against what I consider to be inexcusable attacks from Hamas.

At the same time, on top of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza that we've worked long and hard to alleviate, the death and injury of Palestinian civilians is a tragedy, which is why we've emphasized the need to protect civilians, regardless of who they are or where they live. [Obama]

Watch the full video of Obama's speech, posted below. The section about Israel and Gaza begins at roughly the 6:30 mark. --Eric Kleefeld

The Obamas
2:50 p.m. ET

First Lady Michelle Obama was more than a tad skeptical when President Obama told her and Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett that he might sing "Amazing Grace" during his eulogy last month for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was killed in the Charleston church shooting.

The New York Times has the scene, which took place aboard Marine One on the way to the funeral.

"When I get to the second part of referring to 'Amazing Grace,' I think I might sing," he told them, by Ms. Jarrett's account.

"Hmm," Ms. Jarrett recalled responding.

Mrs. Obama was a little more pointed. "Why on earth would that fit in?” she asked.

He tried to explain. "I don't know whether I'm going to do it," he said, according to Ms. Jarrett, "but I just wanted to warn you two that I might sing." He added, "We'll see how it feels at the time." [The New York Times]

Of course, Obama did ultimately break out in song — and it was arguably the most stirring part of his eulogy. Later, he told Jarrett, "I knew I was going to sing. I was just trying to figure out which key to sing it."

Read the entire inside account at The New York Times.

Yikes
2:10 p.m. ET
Jemal Countess/Getty Images

While comedian Amy Schumer will tell you she isn't racist, a pair of university professors disagree — and have gone as far as to say she "inspired" the worldview of alleged Charleston shooter Dylann Roof in a Washington Post op-ed titled, "Don't believe her defenders. Amy Schumer's jokes are racist."

Stacey Patton, a history professor at American University, and David Leonard, a professor in the Critical, Cultural, Gender and Race Studies department at Washington State University, wrote that Schumer's racially insensitive jokes make her no different than Donald Trump, who has come under fire of late for comments calling Mexican migrants rapists and murderers. Patton and Leonard argue that Schumer could run on the same presidential ticket as Trump, citing several stand-up routines, including one in which Schumer said, "I used to date Hispanic guys, but now I prefer consensual."

Patton and Leonard are not the first to call Schumer out for her offensive jokes, however: The Guardian previously ran a piece arguing that Schumer has a "large blind spot around race." But the Washington Post op-ed takes this argument a step further, claiming the comedian's jokes are not merely offensive, but dangerous, and could be to blame for accused Charleston shooter Dylann Roof's "worldview."

"Invoking the 'it's just a joke" defense denies the social, historic, and cultural implications of racial humor," Patton and Leonard write, adding that Schumer's jokes spread racism of the caliber seen in the murder of nine black Americans last month:

This rhetoric isn't just ugly. It contributes to a worldview that justifies a broken immigration system, mass incarceration, divestment from inner city communities, that rationalizes inequality and buttresses persistent segregation and violence. Yet nobody wants to take responsibility for spewing rhetoric that breeds the fear that results in soaring gun purchases, that "inspires" monsters like Dylann Roof to craft a manifesto with deadly consequences. [Washington Post]

Mediaite noted that when criticized for the op-ed, Patton responded in a tweet that "black people can't be racist." Jeva Lange

excellllllleennnnnnnt
1:59 p.m. ET
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

They'll never stop The Simpsons. Just weeks after announcing he was leaving The Simpsons behind after 26 years, Harry Shearer — who voices Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, and Principal Skinner, among many other characters — will return to Springfield after all.

Shearer has signed a new contract for The Simpsons, which secures his voice work for four more seasons. Shearer and the other five principal voice actors on The Simpsons, who had already signed on for the new seasons, are each estimated to earn more than $300,000 per episode.

Shearer originally left The Simpsons in May over a dispute during contract negotiations for the show's upcoming 27th season. "I wanted what we've always had: the freedom to do other work," Shearer tweeted at the time. In reply, executive producer James L. Brooks tweeted, "Hey, we tried. We're still trying. Harry, no kidding, let's talk." Scott Meslow

Really? Really.
1:53 p.m. ET

Southern cooking star Paula Deen once again has "a lot of esplainin' to do." This time, it's for a photo that Deen posted on Twitter and Facebook, in which her son Bobby is wearing brownface.

"Lucyyyyyyy! You got a lot of esplainin' to do! #TransformationTuesday," the now-deleted tweet read. A photo of Deen and her son Bobby dressed up as Lucy and Ricky Ricardo from I Love Lucy was attached below it.

Since Bobby Deen's hands are held right up to his face in the photo, it's glaringly obvious that his skin was intentionally darkened with makeup in order for him to depict the Cuban-American Ricardo. It's unclear why Deen would have decided to resurface the photo, which Yahoo reported is actually from a shoot in 2011.

Deen is no stranger to accusations of racism: She first landed herself in a batch of trouble for racism in 2013, when she admitted to using the "n-word" and said she once thought about hiring "black waiters and waitresses to dress up like 'slaves' for her brother Bubba's wedding," Mic reports. These incidents cost Deen most of her business relationships and her reputation, and yet, two years later, she seems to be right back at it. Becca Stanek

This just in
12:55 p.m. ET

An F-16 military fighter plane collided with a private Cessna C-150 in the skies above Moncks Corner, South Carolina, 11 miles north of Charleston, ABC News reports. One witness described the collision as a "ball of fire in the air" to local station WCBD.

The F-16 was reportedly from Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, and a defense official said that the pilot ejected safely from the plane. There is no word yet on how many others were aboard the private Cessna, nor are there details of casualties. Jeva Lange

This just in
12:32 p.m. ET
Pool/Getty Images

South Carolina prosecutors said Tuesday that Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old accused of killing nine people at a historically black church in Charleston last month, has been indicted on 13 charges, including murder, attempted murder, and possessing a weapon during a violent crime.

Charleston County prosecutor Scarlett A. Wilson previously said that she has not decided whether to seek the death penalty against Roof, since she first wanted to discuss that possibility with the victims' families. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R), meanwhile, has called for Roof to face the death penalty. Becca Stanek

Breakfast anyone?
12:27 p.m. ET

Here's something you can use that pocket change for: In honor of the International House of Pancakes' 57th anniversary, the breakfast chain will be selling its short stack of three buttermilk pancakes for just 57 cents between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 7.

IHOP started as a single restaurant in Los Angeles specializing in pancakes from around the world in 1958 and has since expanded to over 1,500 locations in the United States and Canada. In recent years, it got a little bit more international when it opened locations in Dubai and Kuwait. Marshall Bright

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