Wisconsin police have identified the shooter who killed six worshipers at the Oak Creek Sikh temple on Sunday and critically wounded three others before being shot dead. The gunman was Wade Michael Page, a white 40-year-old U.S. Army veteran with links to white supremacist groups. Page served as a soldier in the Army from 1992 to 1998, when he was discharged for “patterns of misconduct.” On Monday, the Southern Poverty Law Center described Page as a “frustrated neo-Nazi who had been the leader of a racist white-power band.” At the White House, President Obama called for a national “soul searching” in the shooting’s aftermath.
President Obama: “I think all of us recognize that these kinds of terrible, tragic events are happening with too much regularity for us not to do some soul searching and to examine additional ways that we can reduce violence. And as I’ve already said, I think there are a lot of elements involved in it. And what I want to do is to bring together law enforcement, community leaders, faith leaders, elected officials at every level to see how we can make continued progress.”
A series of explosions at the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, California, has set off massive fires and a health scare for the surrounding communities. The blasts erupted early Monday evening, sparking blazing fires that sent large plumes of smoke into the sky. Residents of Richmond, North Richmond and San Pablo were ordered to stay in their homes with the windows and doors closed to avoid breathing in hazardous fumes. It was the latest in a series of fires at the more than 100-year-old Richmond plant. Around 200 people have reportedly sought medical treatment for respiratory issues. Chevron says the fire has been contained but not fully extinguished.
Clashes continue in the Syrian city of Aleppo in a fierce battle between government forces and rebel fighters. The regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says it has completed a deployment of 20,000 soldiers ahead of what many expect to be pivotal battle for control of Syria’s largest city. Syrian activist groups say at least 40 people were killed in Aleppo on Monday, most of them civilians. Rebel groups say they have captured more than 40 Iranian nationals inside Syria fighting for the Assad regime. Iran says the captives are Shia pilgrims who are visiting Syria to see religious sites. The Syrian government, meanwhile, continues to reel from the defection of Prime Minister Riyad Farid Hijab, who has accused Assad of committing “genocide.” In Washington, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Hijab’s defection shows Assad’s regime is imploding.
Jay Carney: “We have no reason to doubt the reports about the defection of the prime minister or other members of the government. That the titular head of the Syrian government has rejected the ongoing slaughter being carried out at Assad’s direction only reinforces that the Assad regime is crumbling from within and that the Syrian people believe that Assad’s days are numbered.”
In the Philippines, flood waters continue to rise around the capital Manila amidst torrential rains that have killed dozens of people in recent weeks. Tens of thousands have fled their homes as the flooding shuts down schools and businesses. There were reports the water was neck deep in some areas. The recent flooding comes after Typhoon Saola hit the Philippines more than a week ago, bringing drenching rains and heavy winds and killing more than 50 people.
New figures show the number of children enduring acute hunger worldwide has grown for the first time this decade. According to Oxfam, the food crises in West Africa, East Africa and Yemen have added 43 million to the number of people going hungry across the globe. Almost a billion people, or one in seven of the world population, are now going hungry.
Ecuador is expected to announce a decision within the next week on whether to grant WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange political asylum. Assange has taken refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden and ultimately, he says, to the United States. On a visit to Ecuador, Assange’s attorney, the Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, said the British government would have no legal grounds to block Assange’s journey to Ecuador should he be granted asylum.
Baltasar Garzón: “Hypothetically, if asylum is granted, Great Britain can’t say they won’t send him. One can always say no. We are tired of seeing international conventions being breached or not agreed with by different countries. But legally, they can’t do it, because Ecuador is a sovereign state, a free, democratic state, exactly like the United States. Nothing more, nothing less.”
New figures show Republican challenger Mitt Romney continues to lead President Obama in the fundraising race. Romney pulled in more than $101 million in July, beating out Obama by $25 million. The figures do not include the additional tens of millions raised by so-called “third-party” groups. Republican-linked groups outspent Democrats nine to one on broadcast television ads in July. The top two pro-Romney super PACs had a war chest of $53 million at the end of June, compared to less than $3 million for the top super PAC backing Obama. Both Obama and Romney attended more fundraisers last month than they did public campaign events.
Speaking on Monday at a fundraiser in Connecticut, President Obama continued to highlight a recent study predicting Romney’s tax plan would boost the income of the nation’s wealthiest taxpayers, while reducing that of the middle class. In his remarks, Obama debuted a new nickname for Romney: the opposite of Robin Hood, “Romney Hood.”
President Obama: “Governor Romney’s plan would effectively raise taxes on middle-class families with children by an average of $2,000 — to pay for this tax cut. He’d ask the middle class to pay more in taxes so that he could give another $250,000 tax cut to people making more than $3 million a year. It’s like Robin Hood in reverse. It’s Romney Hood.”
The White House ticket for the Green Party continues to add direct actions to its campaign itinerary. Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein and her running mate Cheri Honkala were arrested in Philadelphia last week at an anti-foreclosure rally targeting the government-backed lender Fannie Mae. Stein, Honkala and four others spent the night in jail before being released. They have been charged with trespassing and will appear in court next month.
A mosque in Joplin, Missouri, has burnt to the ground after suffering its second fire in just over a month. The Islamic Center of Joplin was set ablaze in the early hours of Monday morning. Firefighters were unable to contain the fire in time, leaving the mosque completely destroyed. The mosque had already been damaged on July 4 when an arsonist was videotaped throwing an ignited object onto its roof. The arsonist was never apprehended. The FBI is joining local police in investigating the latest fire.
New York’s top banking regulator has accused a British bank of violating U.S. law by hiding hundreds of billions of dollars in transactions linked to Iran. New York’s Department of Financial Services says Standard Chartered Bank “schemed” with Iran’s government despite U.S. economic sanctions to hide tens of thousands of transactions over nearly a decade, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in fees. Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky said in a written order the bank’s actions “left the U.S. financial system vulnerable to terrorists, weapons dealers, drug kingpins and corrupt regimes” and said the bank “operated as a rogue institution.” The regulator has threatened to revoke the bank’s state license.
Two undocumented activists who infiltrated the Broward Detention Center in Florida were released on Friday before being arrested again over the weekend calling for the release of other immigrants in detention. Viridiana Martinez and Marco Saavedra were effectively kicked out of the detention center after they reportedly refused to leave unless other so-called “low-priority” detainees were released. The pair were later arrested along with two other activists at a protest action Sunday calling for the release of dozens of immigrants they say are eligible for release under the Obama administration’s discretionary guidelines. At least one of the activists was later released. [UPDATE: All four have been released.] Among those detained at the Broward facility is Claudio Rojas, a father of two with no criminal record who was detained in February and has been on a hunger strike for more than two weeks. Activists said more than 500 detainees inside the facility also went on hunger strike Saturday. Meanwhile, the Obama administration says forms will be available August 15 for young people under the age of 31 who meet certain criteria to apply for deferred action to avoid deportation under the administration’s new policy.