Aurora shooting suspect James Holmes made his first court appearance on Monday, days after allegedly killing 12 people and wounding dozens more in a shooting rampage at a local movie theater. District Attorney Carol Chambers of Colorado’s Arapahoe County said prosecutors have yet to decide if they will seek the death penalty.
Carol Chambers: “The death penalty decision has to be made within 60 days of the arraignment. So it is months down the line still. But we will, over the course of those months, be talking with all of the victims, developing relationships, just so that they know who we are and who they can talk to. And that will take some time in this case.”
Holmes appeared dazed and unresponsive throughout the proceedings, forcing his court-appointed attorney to answer the judge’s questions on his behalf. Around 40 relatives of the shooting victims were seated in the courtroom when Holmes appeared. Both President Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney continue to reject calls for stricter gun control laws in the shooting’s aftermath. On Monday, Romney said, “I still believe that the Second Amendment is the right course to preserve and defend and don’t believe that new laws are going to make a difference in this type of tragedy.”
At least nine people have been killed in a U.S. drone strike in northwest Pakistan. Pakistani officials say the victims were suspected militants, but the Obama administration’s policy is to deem all adult-male drone targets as militants unless exculpatory evidence emerges after their deaths.
Bombings and gun attacks continued across Iraq on Monday, bringing the one-day death toll to 116. It was Iraq’s deadliest day of violence this year. Most of the attacks targeted Shiite Muslims.
Clashes are raging in the Syrian city of Aleppo as government troops and rebel forces battle for control. Syrian activists say at least eight prisoners were killed overnight when Syrian soldiers crushed a protest inside a remote jail.
On Monday, the Syrian government drew international rebukes after vowing to use chemical weapons in the event of an attack by foreign countries. This is Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jihad Makdissi.
Jihad Makdissi: “Any stocks of WMD or any unconventional weapon that the Syrian Arab Republic possesses would never — would never be used against civilians or against the Syrian people during this crisis at any circumstances, no matter how the crisis would evolve, no matter how. So this is the title. All the stocks of these weapons that Syrian Arab Republic possess are monitored — monitored and guarded by the Syrian army. These weapons are meant to be used only and strictly in the event of external aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic.”
Speaking during a campaign trip in Nevada, President Obama said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would be “held accountable” were he to use chemical weapons. Obama also vowed to continue aiding Syria’s armed rebels.
President Obama: “Today we’re also working for a transition so the Syrian people can have a better future, free of the Assad regime. And given the regime’s stockpiles of chemical weapons, we will continue to make it clear to Assad and those around him that the world is watching and that they will be held accountable by the international community and the United States, should they make the tragic mistake of using those weapons. And we will continue to work with our friends and our allies and the Syrian opposition on behalf of the day when the Syrian people have a government that respects their basic rights to live in peace and freedom and dignity.”
Obama’s comments on backing the Syrian opposition come amidst new details on U.S. support for Syria’s rebels. The Wall Street Journal reports the United States has worked behind the scenes to block weapons and oil shipments to Assad’s regime from Iran and passed intelligence to Syrian rebels through the Jordanian and Turkish governments.
Drenching rains have swept across China, leaving nearly 100 people dead, including 37 in the capital Beijing. Beijing saw its heaviest rains in six decades over the weekend as floodwaters submerged cars and tens of thousands of people were evacuated from their homes. Some have questioned whether infrastructure gaps left by the city’s rapid modernization compounded the damage. Meanwhile, the strongest typhoon to hit Hong Kong in 13 years has left more than 100 people injured and flooded several areas. Typhoon Vicente reached southern China Tuesday in the form of a tropical storm, prompting the evacuation of tens of thousands of people. Some scientists have warned the spate of recent extreme weather events marks a preview of a permanent future under global warming.
British prosecutors have announced plans to charge eight people over the phone-hacking scandal that has engulfed Rupert Murdoch’s News International media empire. The company’s News of the World tabloid was shut down last year following revelations executives and reporters had conspired to hack into the phones and intercept the communications of hundreds of people. Among those charged are former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, a top aide and close confidante of Rupert Murdoch, and Andy Coulson, the former spokesperson of British Prime Minister David Cameron.
The International AIDS Conference continued in Washington, D.C., on Monday with a keynote speech by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Addressing the conference’s opening session, Clinton touted the Obama administration’s reversal of a 20-year-old ban that prevented people infected with HIV from entering the United States. Clinton also said the United States seeks to achieve an ”AIDS-free generation.”
Hillary Clinton: “Let me say five words we have not been able to say for too long: 'Welcome to the United States.' I’ve heard a few voices from people raising questions about America’s commitment to an AIDS-free generation, wondering whether we are really serious about achieving it. Well, I am here today to make it absolutely clear: the United States is committed and will remain committed to achieving an AIDS-free generation. We will not back off. We will not back down. We will fight for the resources necessary to achieve this historic milestone.”
Protests have been held around the conference to oppose U.S. policies banning the inclusion of sex workers and to call for increased funding of AIDS treatment worldwide. A march on the White House is scheduled for today to push for a “Robin Hood” tax on Wall Street transactions to fund global AIDS programs.
Police in Lincoln, Nebraska, say they are investigating a potential anti-LGBTQ hate crime in a brutal attack by three masked assailants on a woman in her home. The attackers entered the 33-year-old victim’s home early Sunday morning, tied her up, and then carved anti-LGBTQ slurs into her body with a knife. Hateful graffiti was also sprayed on the walls. Hours after the attack, hundreds of Lincoln residents held a vigil as the woman received treatment in a local hospital for her wounds. The attack comes ahead of a public vote in Lincoln on a proposal that would ban discrimination in housing and employment based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
The first of eight U.S. soldiers charged in the death of Army Private Danny Chen is set to face a court-martial today at North Carolina’s Fort Bragg. 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, is one of five soldiers whose multiple charges include the most serious offense of causing Chen’s death through negligence. A group of family members and supporters are traveling to Fort Bragg to attend the trial.
Police in South Texas say all 14 people who died in a car crash Sunday night were undocumented immigrants from Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala. The victims were traveling in a pickup truck when it swerved off the road and crashed into two trees. Nine people survived.
The Georgia Supreme Court has granted a stay of execution to a death row prisoner who had been scheduled to die Monday night. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday to delay Warren Hill’s execution pending a decision on whether a new one-drug lethal injection process violates state laws. Hill was convicted of murder in 1991 and sentenced to die, despite concerns he may be mentally disabled. Two judges have ruled Hill is likely mentally retarded, but he has been unable to pass Georgia’s strict guidelines requiring proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Sally Ride, the first female U.S. astronaut in space, has died at the age of 61. Ride made history as a part of the crew aboard the “Challenger” space flight in 1983. She returned to space for another mission a year later. In a statement announcing her death, Ride’s foundation confirmed for the first time she was a lesbian with a longtime female partner of 27 years. Ride’s sister, Bear Ride, said: “I hope it makes it easier for kids growing up gay that they know that another one of their heroes was like them.”