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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines, or for in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. We produce our daily news hour at a fraction of the budget of a commercial news operation, all without ads, government funding or corporate underwriting? This is only possible with your support. Right now every donation to Democracy Now! will be doubled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $25 today, Democracy Now! will get $50 to support our daily news hour. Please do your part. It takes just a couple of minutes to make sure that Democracy Now! is there for you and everybody else in the coming year. Thanks so much. -Amy Goodman
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The former girlfriend of the gunman who carried out the massacre at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, on Sunday has been detained after an unauthorized gun was allegedly found in her home. Misty Cook, a 31-year-old waitress and nursing student with reported ties to white supremacist groups, worked at a restaurant a block from the temple where her ex-boyfriend Wade Michael Page killed six people. She and Page reportedly broke up earlier this summer. Cook was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Photos show her posing with members of the white supremacist group Volksfront and wearing a Volksfront T-shirt. The couple were reportedly both active in an online message forum for white supremacist groups.
A researcher who closely studied Wade Michael Page while researching hate music in Southern California several years ago has provided new details about the shooter’s background. In an interview published on Huffington Post, University of Nebraska at Omaha criminology professor Pete Simi said Page had a drinking problem and often struggled to get to work and pay his share of rent and food. He emphasized the importance of music in Page’s life, describing him as an “independent neo-Nazi skinhead who saw his musical involvement as his main form of activism.” In an email exchange with the shooter after the 9/11 attacks, Simi said Page appeared “very angry about Muslims and said something to the effect of America needing to go over to the Middle East and bomb ’em all.” But Simi said Page’s hate rhetoric was generally targeted toward Jewish people and nonwhites, specifically African Americans. Simi says Page’s military service strongly influenced his neo-Nazi identification in part because he saw whites in the Army as victims of reverse discrimination. Page reportedly told Simi: “If you don’t go into the military as a racist, you definitely leave as one.”
Arizona shooter Jared Loughner has pleaded guilty over the rampage in Tucson last year that killed six people and wounded 13 others, including former Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Under a plea deal, Loughner will spend the rest of his life in prison with no chance of parole. John Leonardo, the U.S. attorney for Arizona, said prosecutors decided not to seek the death penalty due to the state of Loughner’s mental health.
John Leonardo: “The doctors who have treated and observed Mr. Loughner since the shooting agree that he suffered from a severe mental illness — that is, severe schizophrenia — at the time of the shooting and before the shooting. Mr. Loughner’s condition was not diagnosed nor treated. In deciding to allow this plea agreement, not only the defendant’s past and current mental state but also the fragility of his continued competency to stand trial was taken into account.”
Loughner was initially declared unfit to stand trial after undergoing psychiatric evaluation. Prosecutors say they reached the plea deal in consultation with the shooting survivors and the victims’ families. Shooting victim Suzi Hileman said she backs the plea deal.
Suzi Hileman: “Today’s events make me very proud to be an American. This was the system. This was the system doing its best. It’s not a perfect solution. The perfect solution is one that we can’t have. What we want is not available to us. This is the best that can be expected.”
New details have been released on the warnings from a University of Colorado psychiatrist about Aurora shooting suspect James Holmes. Doctor Lynne Fenton has previously said she warned University of Colorado officials about Holmes, whom she had treated before he wound up dropping out of school. According to ABC News, Fenton now also claims she alerted a campus police officer. The University of Colorado has hired a former federal prosecutor to review its handling of Holmes’ case before the shooting. Holmes is accused of killing 12 people and wounding dozens more in a shooting rampage at an Aurora movie theater last month.
Syrian government forces have launched a long-awaited ground assault on the besieged city of Aleppo after weeks of clashes. Heavy fighting has already broken out in the frontline district of Salaheddine, with reports of many casualties. On Tuesday, the head of the U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria, Babacar Gaye, said the fighting in Aleppo has forced international observers to pull back temporarily.
Babacar Gaye: “I am extremely concerned about the continued violence in Syria, in particular the significant deterioration in Aleppo and its impacts on the civilian population. In that regard, I urge the parties to protect civilians and respect their obligations under international humanitarian law. And I want to strongly stress that civilians must not be subjected to shelling and use of heavy weapons.”
The intensified fighting in Aleppo comes as the Syrian regime received public backing on Tuesday from visiting Iranian senior official Saeed Jalili. At a meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — Assad’s first public appearance in two weeks — Jalili called the fighting in Syria a battle against “regional and global enemies.” Meanwhile, speaking on a visit to South Africa, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeated her calls for a political transition in Syria.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “It is a very difficult time for the people of Syria, who are caught in this terrible violence. But I hope that we will look at the urgent tasks that I think confront the people of Syria and the international community and think through how we can address them first. We must figure out ways to hasten the day when the bloodshed ends and the political transition begins.”
Egyptian air strikes have killed at least 20 people in the Sinai close to the border with Israel. Egypt says it is acting against militants who killed 16 border guards along the border on Sunday as they ate a meal breaking the Ramadan fast.
In Bahrain, 15 police officers have been charged with the mistreatment of medics during the U.S.-backed crackdown on opposition protests. In June, the sentences were upheld for nine medics who were part of an original group of 20 sentenced for treating demonstrators. They were handed jail terms of between one month to five years. The new charges against the officers stem from a government-backed probe convened following heavy international criticism.
In the Philippines, tens of thousands of people have fled the capital Manila to escape a devastating flood. Heavy waters have submerged most of the city, with more than 80 percent of Manila affected. Some 800,000 people have been displaced so far.
President Obama has unveiled an additional $30 million in federal aid to combat the nation’s worst drought in 25 years. Nearly two-thirds of the contiguous United States has been found to be in moderate to exceptional drought, ravaging fields and driving up the price of basic staples. On Tuesday, President Obama unveiled the new aid and called on Congress to approve a farm bill assisting rural areas.
President Obama: “It is a historic drought, and it’s having a profound impact on farmers and ranchers all across many states. Now, at my direction, the Department of Agriculture, led by Secretary [Tom] Vilsack, has been working with every other agency across the federal government to make sure that we are taking every single possible step to help farmers and ranchers to fight back and recover from this disaster. Obviously, Congress has a role here. Congress needs to pass a farm bill that will not only provide important disaster relief tools, but also make necessary reforms and give farmers the certainty that they deserve.”
The private military firm formerly known as Blackwater has agreed to a fine of $7.5 million to settle a number of federal criminal charges surrounding weapons smuggling worldwide. Blackwater, now known as Academi, was accused of violations including possessing unregistered automatic weapons, lying to arms regulators about foreign sales, and illegal shipments overseas. Two years ago, Blackwater paid a $42 million fine for actions including illegal weapons exports to Afghanistan, making unauthorized proposals to train troops in South Sudan and providing sniper training for Taiwanese police officers. In a news release announcing the payment of the fines, Academi initially claimed the settlement “does not involve any guilty plea or admit[ting] to any violations.” But after being reminded of a clause barring it from “contradicting any aspect” of the agreement publicly, Academi issued a clarification, saying: “There is a distinction between an admission of events taking place and an admission of guilt.”
A basic training instructor with the U.S. Air Force has been sentenced to 30 days in jail after being convicted of improper sexual misconduct amidst the worst military sex scandal in more than 15 years. Technical Sgt. Christopher Smith is one of seven trainers at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, to be accused of sexual misconduct with charges ranging from rape to fraternizing with female trainees. Smith was convicted last week of seeking an intimate relationship with a female trainee and fraternizing with another. He was acquitted of other counts, including obstructing justice. In the most serious of the charges stemming from the investigation, a military jury gave Staff Sgt. Luis Walker a 20-year sentence last month for rape and sexual assault.
Occupy Wall Street activists and members of a group calling itself “Dos Paises, Una Voz,” or “Two Countries, One Voice,” held a direct action yesterday to support the Mexican movement Yo Soy 132 and condemn the Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim. Juan José Gutiérrez was among the protesters calling for U.S. activists to join the movement against Slim.
Juan José Gutiérrez: “All we want is to ask the American people to join in our effort to stop Carlos Slim’s predatory and monopolistic practices, which is causing great suffering and great underdevelopment to the nation of Mexico and the rest of Latin America.”
The protest kicked off a week of actions against Slim, the world’s richest man, who is under criticism for his involvement in the contested presidential election of PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto. Occupy Wall Street protesters are targeting businesses in New York City that Slim owns portions of, including Saks Fifth Avenue and the New York Times. Activist Daphne Carr said the action is part of Occupy Wall Street’s solidarity with movements around the world.
Daphne Carr: “Occupy Wall Street has been working with a lot of different community groups all around the world, and I think that this action today is just part of larger solidarity building between different action groups, unions, immigrants groups who are finding specific ways to target wealthy individuals, institutions and other practices that need serious modification or real radical change.”