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Thousands of people gathered in Aurora, Colorado, on Sunday at a public vigil for the victims of the shooting rampage at a local movie theater. The toll stands at 12 people killed and 58 wounded, nine of them critically. After meeting with grieving families, President Obama said he had brought a message of support on behalf of the country.
President Obama: “I confessed to them that words are always inadequate in these kinds of situations but that my main task was to serve as a representative of the entire country and let them know that we are thinking about them at this moment and will continue to think about them each and every day, and that the awareness that not only all of America but much of the world is thinking about them might serve as some comfort.”
After two days of attempts, bomb squads were able to defuse the array of explosives left behind in the apartment of shooting suspect James Holmes. Police believe Holmes meticulously planned his rampage, spending thousands of dollars on weapons and ammunition that arrived in some 90 packages over the course of several months. Holmes’ online purchases — done with a few keystrokes — included 3,000 rounds of handgun ammunition, 3,000 rounds for an assault rifle and 350 shells for a 12-gauge shotgun. When police disabled his booby-trapped apartment, they found 30 improvised hand grenades and several containers filled with gunpowder and gasoline. At least six other firearms were also retrieved. According to witnesses, a higher death toll may have been avoided because Holmes’ weapon jammed as he fired on the fleeing crowd.
In the aftermath of the Aurora tragedy, the Obama administration has already ruled out a push to change the nation’s gun control laws. On Sunday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters: “The president’s view is that we can take steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them, under existing law.” Holmes is currently being held in solitary confinement at an Aurora jail, ahead of his first court appearance today.
Police in the California city of Anaheim are facing allegations of murder and brutality after fatally shooting two Latino men over the weekend and firing rubber bullets at crowds of protesters. On Saturday, Anaheim police shot and killed 24-year-old Manuel Diaz after he reportedly ran away from a group of officers who confronted him in an alleyway. Diaz was unarmed. One witness reported that Diaz had his back to the officers when he was shot in the buttocks. Police then allegedly fired another bullet through his head as he fell to the ground. Two of Diaz’s sisters demanded justice for their slain brother.
Correna Chavez: “Once they even shot him in the leg, and he went down, the cop continued and shot him in the head. Like, what is that about? My brother did not have a weapon on him at all.”
Lupe Diaz: “These cops need to know what they’ve done to us, to our family, especially my mom. And we’re going to speak for him, and we’re going to bring this to justice.”
Hours after Diaz’s death, a chaotic scene broke out when police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at a crowd of local residents protesting the shooting. A number of people were wounded, included several children. Video was taken of a police dog rushing a man trying to protect his infant child. More than 24 hours after Diaz’s death, police shot dead another Latino resident in Anaheim, Joel Acevedo. Police say Acevedo was suspected in a car robbery. The circumstances around his death remain unconfirmed.
Dozens of people have been killed in a spate of attacks across Iraq earlier today. At least 93 people are dead along with 140 wounded from 19 separate bombings and shootings. At least 15 soldiers were killed when assailants struck a military base in the province of Saladin. It was the deadliest day of violence in Iraq this year.
The Syrian government is claiming to have retaken a district of the capital Damascus after a week of clashes with rebel fighters. Witnesses reported seeing the execution of several people as Syrian troops conducted house-to-house searches. The violence came days after the rebels dealt a major blow to the Assad regime with the killing of four top officials in a suicide attack. At a meeting in Qatar, Arab League foreign ministers approved a call urging the resignation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and offering him safe passage out of Syria.
In Afghanistan, three U.S. military contractors were killed on Saturday when a man dressed in an Afghan army uniform opened fire at a training camp in the province of Herat. It was the latest in a series of deadly shootings by apparent members of the Afghan forces against foreigners with the U.S.-led NATO occupation.
Tens of thousands of people gathered at memorials in Norway on Sunday to mark the one-year anniversary of the bombing and shooting rampage that left 77 people dead. On July 22, 2011, the attacker, Anders Behring Breivik, set off bombs at government buildings in Olso, killing eight people, before shooting dead 69 people at a Labor Party youth camp, most of whom were teenagers. Breivik has said he targeted the ruling Labor Party because its policies were too open to Muslim immigrants. The head of the Labor Party’s youth wing, Eskil Pedersen, said mourners had done their best to honor the victims.
Eskil Pedersen: “So, to come together to mark that it’s been a year that has gone by is a special experience but an important experience, and I think we did the best of it. We were together, which is important. We had the possibility to show your emotions, your feelings about what happened, and at the same time we had the message that we have to continue living our lives.”
Arguments in Breivik’s trial came to a close last month, and a verdict is expected in late August.
A major international conference on global AIDS policy opened in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, the first time the event has been on U.S. soil in two decades. Hundreds of people marked the conference’s first day with a rally on the National Mall calling for cheaper antiretroviral drugs and greater international aid. At the conference’s opening panel, Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California called for a new push to help AIDS patients worldwide.
Rep. Barbara Lee: “I think we must redouble our efforts, redouble our commitment to PEPFAR, to the global fund, to our domestic national HIV-AIDS strategy and plan, which I believe President Obama has so boldly put forward. That is the right thing to do. But it’s been a bit quiet in this country, and we need to make some noise. We need to put eradicating HIV and AIDS at the front burner of our political agenda both here and abroad.”
The conference has drawn controversy from AIDS activists because of U.S. restrictions banning sex workers and drug users. The Obama administration has lifted a 20-year-old ban that prevented people infected with HIV from entering the country, but sex workers and drug users are still barred unless they can obtain a waiver. At a “satellite” session with sex workers from other countries, Miriam Edwards of the Guyana Sex Workers called for broader acceptance of sex work.
Miriam Edwards: “We are a part of the general population. We need people to accept sex workers as the general population and stop segregating them as different. Sex workers are human beings, and they must be accepted. If not, we will never get to zero on HIV.”
Sex workers and their allies have protested their exclusion at the global AIDS conference in Washington, D.C., by holding a separate conference, the Sex Worker Freedom Festival, in Kolkata, India. At the conference’s opening on Saturday, Ruth Morgan Thomas of the Global Network of Sex Work Projects said the event was being held to include the voices of marginalized sex workers.
Ruth Morgan Thomas: “The Sex Worker Freedom Festival is organized because of the U.S. travel restrictions that prevent sex workers from all over the world going to the Washington AIDS Conference to participate, as we have done since 1988 when the conferences started. And we are here to talk about our rights — of sex workers, that are fundamental to us being able to end AIDS.”
In Mexico, thousands of students marched against President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto on Sunday over accusations of electoral fraud. Nieto’s critics have accused him of buying votes and rigging media coverage in his victory over second-place candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Protester Jaime Sanchez Barrios said public protest is the only way to counter the Mexican media’s bias toward Nieto.
Jaime Sanchez Barrios: “This is our only way to counter the manipulation of media outlets. They own the television screens. They only say what is convenient to them. That’s why the people are here, those of us who aren’t willing to conform, which is the majority, even if they do not want to recognize that. This is the only way we can make them feel our discontent and let them know we do not agree with what is happening, that they want to impose the next president.”
Penn State University has removed a now infamous bronze statue of the late head coach Joe Paterno following a scathing report that found Paterno and other school officials covered up child molestation. A recent investigation found Paterno and three others hid the sexual molestation allegations against assistant coach Jerry Sandusky 14 years before they finally came to light. On Sunday, work crews removed a bronze statue of Paterno outside the school’s football stadium. In a statement, Penn State said: “Were it to remain, the statue will be a recurring wound to the multitude of individuals across the nation and beyond who have been the victims of child abuse.”
And Alexander Cockburn, the longtime journalist, columnist and publisher of the progressive website of news and analysis, CounterPunch, has died at the age of 71. Cockburn was a prolific writer who authored columns over the years for the Village Voice, the Wall Street Journal and The Nation magazine. In a 2007 interview with C-Span, Cockburn said he believes liberal U.S. media pundits who backed the U.S. invasion of Iraq should go to Baghdad to hear from the war’s victims.
Alexander Cockburn: “From 2003 to 2007, this country is gone, and people’s lives irretrievably. I mean millions of lives destroyed. It would have been better if they had not gone in. So I had said I’d like these people to be in Baghdad, you know, having to answer a few very serious questions from these poor women and family people constantly searching for their own. So I think we — I say at the end of that piece, it was the people accused of being the hard left, or the left, and also the libertarians — we should not forget the libertarians, people like on antiwar.com — who were against the war, clearly, and said this is a terrible idea.”
Democracy Now! interviewed Cockburn several times over the years.