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Aurora Shooting Suspect James Holmes Charged for Massacre

Shooting suspect James Holmes has been charged with 24 counts of first-degree murder for the killings of 12 people earlier this month at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. The rampage also left 58 people wounded, several critically, for which Holmes also faces 116 counts of attempted murder. On Monday, Holmes made his second court appearance since the massacre, with shooting survivors and relatives of the slain victims in attendance. Prosecutors have yet to announce whether they will seek the death penalty. A pretrial hearing has been set for late September.

Syria: Clashes Continue in Aleppo; Gov’t Accused of Targeting Monitors

Syrian government troops and rebel forces are engaged in intense fighting as the battle for Aleppo continues for a fourth day. Both sides have offered conflicting accounts of their advances in the city, with the Syrian military claiming to have retaken several rebel-held areas. Residents have reported intense overnight shelling in a number of neighborhoods targeted by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Government forces, meanwhile, are again being accused of targeting international monitors after a convoy carrying the head of the U.N. observer mission was attacked on Monday. At the United Nations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the violence.

Ban Ki-moon: "The government is adding to its brutal crackdown by attacking heavily populated areas with fighter aircraft and helicopters. The armed opposition groups have also stepped up their attacks. Each day, as the violence spirals, more Syrians are killed, injured and tortured or forced to flee their homes or their country."

Romney Faults "Culture" for Gap Between Israeli and Palestinian Economies

Republican candidate Mitt Romney has drawn international criticism for suggesting that a superior culture — not occupation — explains the gap between the Israeli and Palestinian economies. Speaking at a fundraiser attended by wealthy U.S. donors in Jerusalem, Romney spoke of a "dramatically stark difference in economic vitality" between Israel and the Occupied Territories. Romney concluded, "I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things ... if you could learn anything from the economic history of the world it’s this: Culture makes all the difference." Romney added that similar economic differences are present in other neighboring countries, such as the United States and Mexico. In his comments, Romney also grossly understated the income gap between Israelis and Palestinians living under occupation. Palestinians have denounced Romney’s remarks. In Ramallah, Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat said Romney had been racist.

Saeb Erekat: "Look, Palestinians and Israelis may be in a conflict, but Palestinians and Israelis are people, equal, and such racist statements do not serve those who are trying to protect and save lives in this region."

In his remarks, Romney also lavished praise on Israel’s socialized medical system, applauding it for its lower rate of GDP spending than in the United States. Romney was in Israel as part of a three-nation foreign tour that has now brought him to Poland.

Democrats Draft Platform Embracing Same-Sex Marriage

Democrats appear poised to adopt same-sex marriage as part of their convention platform, becoming the first major party to do so. The Democratic Party drafting committee reportedly voted unanimously over the weekend to approve language endorsing same-sex marriage. The addition now faces a vote before the entire platform committee in two weeks, then another vote by convention delegates in Charlotte, North Carolina, in September. The move comes after President Obama became the first sitting president to declare his support for same-sex marriage in May.

Judge Declines to Block Arizona Abortion Law

A federal judge has refused to block a new anti-abortion law in Arizona, clearing the way for it to take effect later this week. The law bans abortion after 20 weeks gestation — or 18 weeks post-fertilization — except in medical emergencies. Abortion rights advocates have vowed to appeal, calling the measure among the most extreme of more than six similar bans across the United States.

Undocumented Activists Infiltrate Florida Detention Facility

A group of undocumented immigrant activists say they have infiltrated a detention facility in Broward, Florida, and found dozens of immigrants there who should be released under the Obama administration’s policies. Seven organizers with the National Immigrant Youth Alliance allowed themselves to be placed in deportation proceedings in order to organize with detainees at the Broward Detention Center. The group said they found more than 60 detainees with no criminal record or prior deportations, some of whom were detained as passengers in vehicles. They also found detainees in need of immediate medical care, including one with a blood clot in his leg and another with a bullet in the spine. Despite an executive action announced by President Obama last month to stop deportations of many undocumented youth, the group said they found more than a dozen young detainees who would qualify for the DREAM Act, a legislative proposal granting residency to certain youth who entered the country as minors. Obama administration officials had promised to comb through backlogged cases to close those involving immigrants with no criminal records and strong family ties, but fewer than 2 percent of deportation cases have been closed under the review.

1st Soldier Court-Martialed in Hazing Death of Pvt Danny Chen Found Not Guilty of Negligent Homicide

The first of eight U.S. soldiers court-martialed in the death of Army Private Danny Chen has been found not guilty on the most serious offense of causing Chen’s death through negligence — but has been convicted on lesser charges. A 19-year-old Chinese American, Chen allegedly took his own life just weeks after he was deployed to Afghanistan last October. His family says Chen had been abused by comrades on an almost daily basis, including racist hazing, with soldiers throwing rocks at him, calling him ethnic slurs and forcing him to do push-ups or hang upside down with his mouth full of water. All eight accused soldiers were Chen’s superiors in rank. The first soldier to stand trial, Sergeant Adam Michael Holcomb, was acquitted of negligent homicide on Monday but found guilty on two counts of maltreatment and one count of assault consummated by battery. After the verdict, Elizabeth OuYang of the Organization of Chinese Americans said Holcomb should be discharged.

Elizabeth OuYang: "If you are going to send a strong signal to both our community and to the community at large that there is no room, there is no room for any so-called superior who harbors racist feelings to be in the Army, than you dishonorably discharge Sgt. Adam Holcomb from the United States Army. He is a disgrace to the Army. He does not represent the principles of respect that the Army so upholds."

Mother of Julian Assange Campaigns for Son’s Asylum Request in Ecuador

The mother of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has traveled to Ecuador in a bid to campaign for his asylum request. Assange has taken refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London as he fights extradition to Sweden and ultimately, he says, seeks to avoid being handed over to the United States. Speaking on Monday in Quito, Assange’s mother, Christine Assange, said her son deserves international protection.

Christine Assange: "We know that WikiLeaks and Julian are doing something good for the world, and we have millions of supporters among the peoples of the world. And this is more than an issue now of just WikiLeaks or just Julian. This is now an issue of justice and the future of press freedom. So, regardless of what we may feel personally, we’re fighters like you are in Latin America, and we don’t give in to bullies. This is one of the reasons that Julian chose Ecuador."

Protesters Shut Down West Virginia Mountaintop Removal Coal Mine

Protesters opposed to mountaintop removal coal mining shut down operations at a controversial West Virginia strip mine over the weekend with a series of coordinated lock downs, tree-sits and banner drops. Police said about 20 activists were arrested after the action Saturday at Patriot Coal’s Hobet strip mine in Lincoln County, West Virginia; most of them charged with trespassing. Activists with the group RAMPS, or Radical Action for Mountain Peoples’ Survival, criticized the Obama administration’s regulatory policies and said mining practices are endangering the health and safety of people in Appalachia.

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