Vigils were held in Oregon last night after a gunman opened fire at a community college Thursday morning, killing nine people before he was shot to death. The shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg has been described as the deadliest shooting in Oregon’s history and one of the worst mass school shootings in recent years. Press reports have identified the gunman as 26-year-old Chris Harper-Mercer. According to one count, this is the 294th mass shooting in the United States so far this year and the 45th shooting on a school or college campus. We’ll have more on the Oregon shooting after headlines.
In California, a Planned Parenthood facility has been firebombed. Authorities say arsonists threw a container with flammable liquid through the window of the Thousand Oaks facility on Wednesday night. This follows an attack on the same facility in August in which windows were smashed. Wednesday’s attack came one day after the Republican House hearings on Planned Parenthood.
In Afghanistan, 11 Americans have died after a U.S. transport plane crashed at the Jalalabad airport, killing six U.S. soldiers and five civilian contractors. Three Afghan civilians also died in the crash. Meanwhile, fierce fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces backed by U.S. airstrikes and U.S. special operations troops continues to rage in the northern city of Kunduz. The Taliban have reportedly also seized control of the nearby Warduj district. The Pentagon has confirmed U.S. Special Forces have engaged in gunfire in Kunduz, although it says the troops were acting in self-defense. Obama declared an official end to the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan last year.
In Washington, the House has passed a $612 billion military spending bill that allows the Pentagon to sidestep mandatory "sequestration" budget cuts for the Defense Department, while the cuts remain in effect for domestic programs. The bill would also make it more difficult to close Guantánamo. Obama has said he would veto the measure because of the "irresponsible" way it boosts military spending.
Israel has deployed four battalions to the West Bank, following a shooting Thursday that killed a Jewish Israeli couple as the family drove between two Jewish settlements. The Israeli military is describing the shooter as a Palestinian gunman. The additional Israeli troops are slated to arrive in the West Bank this morning.
This comes one day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the Iran nuclear deal in an address to the U.N. General Assembly. Netanyahu compared Iran to a dog, saying, "Unleashed and unmuzzled, Iran will go on the prowl, devouring more and more prey." He also said he was prepared to resume peace talks with the Palestinians "without any preconditions whatsoever" — an assertion Hanan Ashrawi of the Palestinian Liberation Organization immediately contested.
Hanan Ashrawi: "So, in a sense, all his statements about peace and seeking peace have nothing to do with reality, are actually the opposite of what has been doing. He is the one who walked out of the peace talks. Israel is the country that reneged on all its commitments and signed agreements. Israel is refusing to abide by international law. And then it turns around, and it blames the Palestinians, who are its victims. Israel is a strong military power, holding a whole nation captive and at the same time blaming its victim for its own belligerence and its own destructive policies."
In Britain, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is clashing with members of his party after he told the BBC that if he were prime minister, he would not order the military to use nuclear weapons, regardless of the circumstances.
BBC reporter Laura Kuenssberg: "Would you ever push the nuclear button, if you were prime minister?"
Jeremy Corbyn: "I am opposed to nuclear weapons. I am opposed to the holding and the usage of nuclear weapons. They are an ultimate weapon of mass destruction that can only kill millions of civilians if ever used. And I am totally and morally opposed to nuclear weapons. I do not see them as a defense. I do not see the use of them as a credible way to do things."
Kuenssberg: "So, yes or now, you would never push the nuclear button?"
Corbyn: "I’ve answered you perfectly clearly. It’s immoral to have or use nuclear weapons. I’ve made that clear all of my life."
Corbyn also said that he would oppose the renewal of Britain’s billion-dollar submarine-based nuclear program Trident, calling the program a waste of money.
Russia has launched a third day of airstrikes in Syria as the United States calls on Russia to stop the attacks, saying they "only fuel more extremism." On Wednesday, Russia became the 10th foreign power to begin bombing Syria this year. The United States says Russia is targeting U.S.-backed rebels that are fighting ISIL. Facing questioning during a news conference at the United Nations over the targets of the airstrikes, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Thursday, "If it looks like a terrorist, walks like a terrorist, acts like a terrorist, fights like a terrorist, it’s a terrorist, right?"
In news from the campaign trail, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has raised nearly as much money as contender Hillary Clinton over the last three months, even as Sanders continues to refuse to accept donations from super PACs or corporations. Sanders has raised $26 million since July, compared to Clinton’s $28 million over the same period. Sanders has received small contributions from more than 1 million people so far, at a rate even faster than President Obama did in 2008.
House speaker contender California Congressmember Kevin McCarthy is facing criticism after he suggested the Benghazi oversight House committee had been set up to discredit former secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. McCarthy made the comments in an interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News Tuesday.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy: "Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought and made that happen."
McCarthy has been vying to become the next speaker of the House, following John Boehner’s announcement he would resign, but House Republicans are questioning McCarthy’s abilities following these statements.
Virginia has executed death row prisoner Alfredo Prieto, following a federal judge’s decision Thursday to reject his lawyers’ concerns that the drugs used to put him to death were unsafe. Prieto was executed at 9:17 p.m. local time Thursday after being injected by a three-drug cocktail that included the chemical pentobarbital, which was obtained not from a pharmacy but from the Texas prison system.
And in Madison, Wisconsin, community members are holding a memorial service today to commemorate the life of 16-year-old Skylar Lee, a transgender teenager and LGBT activist who took his own life on Monday. In a video he recorded before his death, Lee discussed the need for more resources to support youth of marginalized identities.
Skylar Lee: "Forty percent of transgender youth report having attempted suicide. People say that 'it will get better.' But what would happen if we invested our resources in the development and well-being of our youth? If I had a trillion dollars, I would spend money to create education programs designed to combat the system that sets youth of marginalized identities up for failure."
According to the National Center for Transgender Equality and the LGBTQ Task Force, more than 40 percent of trans people attempt suicide in their lifetime — nearly 10 times the national average.