Middle East whodunit. Scientists have determined Yasser Arafat died from poisoning, and Palestinian leaders say Israel did it. Arafat’s body was exhumed earlier this year so that three teams of scientists could further investigate his 2004 death. Yesterday, investigators from Switzerland said they found evidence of radiation poisoning in the remains of the former president of the Palestinian National Authority. According to investigators, Arafat, who was believed to have died from an illness, likely ingested the radioactive substance polonium. A separate team of Russian scientists agreed Arafat died “by toxic substance.” Palestinian investigator Tawfik Tirawi called Israel “the first, fundamental, and only suspect in the assassination of Yasser Arafat.” A spokesperson for the Israeli Foreign Ministry quickly dismissed the accusation. “Let me state as simply as I can: Israel did not kill Arafat,” Yigal Palmor said Friday.
Unsafe at any amount. Yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration took the first step toward banning trans fats from American food. The agency claims the move could prevent an additional 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year and up to 20,000 heart attacks. The FDA has solicited public comment on the proposed rule change, which would designate trans fats as an unsafe food additive. If the ban took effect, manufacturers would have to get approval from the FDA before putting foods with trans fats on the market. Trans fats, created when hydrogen is added to oil to make it more solid, are added to foods to increase their shelf life and flavor stability, according the FDA. In January 2006, it required food producers to disclose on nutrition labels the amount of trans fat a food contained. Manufacturers responded by decreasing the amount of trans fats in foods, but they are still “found in many popular processed foods, like baked goods and frozen foods that time-crunched Americans use to feed their families,” the FDA stated.
Free Saeed. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, continues to push President Barack Obama to work toward freeing American pastor Saeed Abedini, jailed in Iran for his Christian faith. Yesterday, Cruz and 22 other senators—including two Democrats—sent Obama a letter encouraging him to leverage the ongoing nuclear negotiations between Iran and world leaders to secure Abedini’s freedom. “There might also be an opportunity for administration officials participating in nuclear negotiations in Geneva this week to raise the issue directly with their Iranian counterparts,” the letter read. “Time is of the essence given Pastor Saeed's current predicament.” The Iranian government recently transferred Abedini to one of its most brutal prisons, renewing fears for his life.
Mama drama. The Florida Supreme Court yesterday settled a custody dispute between two lesbian women who both claimed to be a child’s mother. One woman donated the egg, which was fertilized and implanted in the other woman. The child was born in 2004. When the couple broke up two years later, the child’s birth mother took the girl and left the country. She claimed that her ex-girlfriend had no more right to the child than an egg or sperm donor would have. The court ruled against her, saying that the couple’s intent to parent the child together gave both women parental rights. Now it is up to a lower court to determine the details of a joint-custody arrangement.