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A teenage gunman is in custody after allegedly killing five members of his family in New Mexico on Saturday night. Police say 15-year-old Nehemiah Griego killed his parents and three siblings, each suffering multiple gunshot wounds. The suspect was armed with several weapons, including an assault rifle. It was the deadliest mass shooting in the United States since the Newtown massacre over a month ago.
The New Mexico shooting came on the same day opponents of gun control held rallies across the country to oppose the White House effort to reform the nation’s gun laws. At demonstrations in Pennsylvania and Ohio, gun owners pilloried calls for stricter gun control.
Marvin Otterman: “No law put on law-abiding citizens has ever deterred crime. Now they’re going to take my gun, so I can get shot.”
Tom Mabelitini: “My thoughts is, you can tell the left-wing, liberal idiots there in Washington, and all of 'em, leave our guns alone. We're not hurting anything. It’s the criminals. Deal with the criminals, not the law-abiding citizens.”
The pro-gun rallies also coincided with a series of gun shows nationwide where at least five people were wounded when their firearms accidentally went off. In North Carolina, three people were injured when a shotgun accidentally was fired as its owner removed it from its case. Another gun owner accidentally shot himself in Indianapolis, while in Ohio a gun show attendee was injured by a stray bullet.
President Obama is set to publicly take the oath of office today at his second-term inauguration in Washington. Obama gathered with his family Sunday in the Blue Room of the White House to privately recite the 35-word oath read to him by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
Three activist groups have received permission to protest President Obama along the route of the inaugural parade. The antiwar group ANSWER says it expects thousands of people.
At least four people have been killed in a U.S. drone strike inside Yemen. The Yemeni government says the attack killed four militants, but the claim has not been independently verified. The attack comes one day after locals angered over the drone attacks blocked a main road linking the targeted town of Ma’rib with the capital Sana’a.
The Obama administration has reportedly decided to exclude CIA drone strikes in Pakistan from new legal oversight for targeted killings overseas. The Washington Post reports counterterrorism adviser and CIA nominee John Brennan has signed off on a plan to exempt the drone attacks in Pakistan from a list of operations that would be covered under newly enacted rules. Areas covered in the so-called playbook include the process for adding names to kill lists, the principles for killing U.S. citizens abroad, and the command chain for authorizing CIA or U.S. military strikes outside war zones. The exemption of drone strikes in Pakistan would allow the CIA to continue carrying them out without a legal framework for up to two years.
The hostage standoff in Algeria has ended in the deaths of dozens of people, including up to 48 of the captured workers. Algerian forces say they have recovered at least 25 bodies after storming the militant-held gas complex on Saturday, bringing the confirmed death toll to at least 80. Witnesses say the hostages were brutally executed. The toll could have been worse, as hundreds of hostages had earlier managed to escape. A well-known Islamist fighter named Mokhtar Belmokhtar has claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of al-Qaeda. The militants who took the complex claimed they were doing so to seek an end to the French military intervention in neighboring Mali.
The French army continues to advance toward northern Mali in its effort to wrest control from Islamist rebels. Earlier today, French forces entered the key town of Diabaly on the ground after a week of air strikes. The rebels have apparently fled the town after vowing a stiff resistance. At the United Nations, a spokesperson for the U.N. Refugee Agency said the fighting in Mali threatens to displace up to 700,000 people.
Melissa Fleming: “We believe that there could be in the near future up to 300,000 people additionally displaced inside Mali and over 400,000 additionally displaced in the neighboring countries. Many also fear the strict application of sharia law. They report having witnessed executions, amputations, and they say that also large amounts of money are being offered to civilians to fight against the Malian army and its supporters. Disturbingly also we are hearing accounts that there are children among the rebel fighters.”
Fighting erupted in Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul earlier today after suicide bombers attacked the headquarters of the Afghan traffic police. At least eight people were killed, including three officers and five militants. It was the second attack on an Afghan government building in Kabul in five days.
A new U.N. report says the torture of prisoners in Afghanistan is not only continuing but may be on the rise. Investigators say they have uncovered ongoing abuses in Afghan prisons, including the beating of detainees with cables and hanging them by their wrists. More than half of prisoners interviewed said they had been tortured, higher than the previous rate of 24 percent in 2011. The report also cites an unnamed Afghan official confirming prisoners are being held at secret detention sites to avoid international scrutiny. Last week the U.S. military said it had halted the transfer of detainees to some Afghan prisons over ongoing torture.
The Israeli military has forcibly removed yet another Palestinian protest encampment in the path of the expanding Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank. Palestinian residents of the village of Beit Iksa had set up three tents and a mobile building on Friday to stop Israel from seizing parts of their land. The demonstrators named their site Bab al-Karama, Arabic for “Gate of Dignity.” Upon receiving the evacuation demand, the activists say they tore up the Israeli military’s order in the faces of Israeli soldiers. The encampment was raided and dismantled by Israeli soldiers earlier today. Another Palestinian encampment in the West Bank, Bab al-Shams, Arabic for “Gate of the Sun,” was removed earlier this month.
Rebels in Colombia have announced an end to a two-month unilateral ceasefire declared amidst peace talks with the government. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, says it would have extended the truce had the government been willing to sign a new accord. But Colombia rejected a pact, saying FARC has violated its ceasefire pledges multiple times. Military attacks against the FARC have continued even after rebels and the Colombian government began meeting for peace talks in Cuba late last year.
The Interior Department has again delayed a regulation that would require the disclosure of chemicals used in the natural gas and oil drilling process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. It is the second time the rule’s implementation has been delayed since it was first proposed in May.
In a bid to draw attention to the environmental impact of fracking, the musician and activist Yoko Ono has joined with her son, musician Sean Lennon, for a tour of impacted areas in the northeastern United States. The actor and activist Susan Sarandon joined Ono and Lennon for part of their trip.
Susan Sarandon: “Fracking is such a major, major decision, because it’s forever. I mean, we do not undo the damage of a well. Even when they’ve gotten the gas they want and they leave, all that stuff is still emitting.”
Sean Lennon: “We need to educate people that fracking is dirty, there’s no way to make it clean. The industry knows that it’s dirty, and that’s why they’re spending so much money on a PR campaign to sort of spread disinformation and to tell people that it’s going to save their economy, when actually what it does is it devastates local communities.”
Hundreds of people gathered in New York City on Saturday for a public memorial service honoring Aaron Swartz, the Internet freedom activist who took his own life earlier this month. Swartz was weeks before a trial date for downloading millions of articles provided by the nonprofit research service JSTOR. He was facing 35 years in prison, a penalty supporters called excessively harsh. At the memorial, Aaron Swartz’s partner, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, called for prosecutors to be held accountable.
Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman: “Last Friday, he faced the prospect of yet another three months of uncertainty and ups and downs and being forced by the government to spend every fiber of his being on this damnable, senseless trial, with no guarantee that he could exonerate himself at the end of it. He was so scared and so frustrated and so desperate and, more than anything else, just so weary. I think he just couldn’t take it another day. … Aaron would have loved to have been here, because out of the last week and out of today phoenixes are already rising from his ashes. The best possible legacy for him is for all of us to go out from here today and do everything we can to make the world a better place. A thousand flowers are blooming in his name already. Some of the most important that we’ll be fighting for, David Segal and many others of us are organizing around. The U.S. attorney’s office must be held accountable for its actions.”