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President Obama is calling on Congress to revisit gun-control legislation in the aftermath of Monday’s shooting rampage at a naval base in Washington, D.C., that left 13 people dead, including the gunman. Speaking to the Spanish-language television network Telemundo, Obama said the spate of mass shootings in the United States should force lawmakers to take action.
President Obama: “The fact that we do not have a firm enough background-check system is something that makes us more vulnerable to these kinds of mass shootings. And, you know, I do get concerned that this becomes a ritual that we go through every three, four months, where we have these horrific mass shootings, and yet we’re not willing to take some basic actions.”
The last major gun-control effort failed in April when a handful of Senate Democrats joined with Republicans to defeat a watered-down measure on expanding background checks. According to The Atlantic magazine, if the rate of mass shootings continues as it has since President Obama took office, there could be 14 before the end of his second term.
The alleged D.C. shooter, Aaron Alexis, bought a shotgun used in the rampage just this past Sunday. Officials in Virginia say he passed both state and federal background checks, despite at least two gun arrests and being under treatment for psychiatric problems. Just last month, Rhode Island police alerted the Navy after Alexis told them he was hearing voices and was being followed by three people harassing him with a microwave machine.
In addition to his gun purchases, alleged shooter Aaron Alexis was also able to maintain an all-access security pass to a number of military sites. The White House has ordered a review of security practices and contractor access at federal agencies and military installations. A new report from the Pentagon inspector general says 52 convicted felons have been able to access Navy facilities because of budget cuts.
As the D.C. shooting helps renew public attention on gun control, the Senate has postponed a hearing on “Stand Your Ground” laws that promote the use of weapons in response to perceived threats. A new study co-sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns and the National Urban League shows killings deemed justified increased in states with Stand Your Ground laws in effect. Overall, states with Stand Your Ground laws saw the number of justifiable homicides jump 53 percent. In states without Stand Your Ground, the rate dropped 5 percent.
The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council have met to discuss a resolution on taking control of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile. The United States and Russia continue to disagree on a threat of military force despite reaching a deal over the weekend. The Los Angeles Times reports, meanwhile, the Obama administration is withholding support for a war crimes case against the Assad regime at the International Criminal Court so as not to jeopardize a potential peace deal down the line. Speaking at the opening session of the 68th General Assembly, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said war criminals in Syria should face justice.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “I call for an end to arms flows to the country, which only sustain the bloodshed. I urge member states to consider what more we can do to prevent human rights violations, including through the possible use of U.N. monitors. There must be a robust effort to bring perpetrators to justice for the serious international crimes that have been committed since the beginning by all parties to the conflict. The high commissioner for human rights has repeatedly called for a Security Council referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.”
At least 32 people were killed in Iraq on Tuesday in a series of nationwide attacks. Iraq is in the midst of its most violent period since 2008.
Egypt’s military-backed interim government has arrested a top spokesperson for the Muslim Brotherhood in a continued crackdown on supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi. Gehad el-Haddad has been the Muslim Brotherhood’s leading English-language voice to the international media.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has cancelled an upcoming trip to the U.S. over revelations of spying by the National Security Agency. Rousseff was due to visit Washington next month and attend a state dinner in her honor at the White House. But on Tuesday, Brazil announced Rousseff has postponed her trip in response to leaks from Edward Snowden showing the United States spied on her personal communications as well as on Brazil’s state-run oil company, Petrobras. In a statement, the Brazilian government said the NSA’s “illegal practices … are incompatible with the democratic coexistence between friendly countries.” Brazil said Rousseff is open to visiting the United States after a “timely investigation” into the spying is complete. In a statement, the White House said it “understands and regrets” Brazil’s decision.
The National Security Agency has declassified a recent court order authorizing the bulk collection of U.S. phone records. The ruling from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court affirms that the government needs to prove only that the bulk collection of phone records is relevant to an investigation of terrorists both known and unknown, a much lower standard than in normal criminal cases. The declassified order also shows that no major telecom company has ever challenged the seizure of bulk phone records under the PATRIOT Act.
President Obama has ruled out halting the deportation of the undocumented immigrant parents of children granted a reprieve last year. Under its deferred action program, the White House has suspended the deportations of young immigrants who were brought to the United States at an early age and have lived without legal status. But speaking to Telemundo, Obama said it would be too extreme a measure to grant the same relief to their parents.
President Obama: “What we can do is then carve out the DREAM Act folks, saying young people who have basically grown up here are Americans that we should welcome. We’re not going to have them operate under a cloud, under a shadow. But if we start broadening that, then essentially I would be ignoring the law in a way that I think would be very difficult to defend legally. So that’s not an option.”
Immigrant rights groups have called on Obama to issue an executive order sparing undocumented parents should Congress fail to approve immigration reform this year. The United States has deported a record number of undocumented immigrants under Obama’s watch. In a statement, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network said: “Unless the President alters course, he risks cementing his legacy as having presided over the most anti-immigrant administration in history.”
New figures show the U.S. poverty rate has gone unchanged since last year. The number of people living in poverty increased slightly to 46.5 million in 2012, with the poverty rate holding at 15 percent. The total includes 16.1 million children.
A federal judge has overturned the convictions of five New Orleans police officers for the shooting deaths of two civilians in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and a subsequent cover-up. The charges were linked to the New Orleans police shootings on the Danziger Bridge that killed two civilians, 17-year-old James Brissette and 40-year-old Ronald Madison, and seriously wounded four others. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt ordered a new trial after ruling prosecutors had practiced “grostesque” misconduct in publishing anonymous critiques of the defendants and the New Orleans Police Department as the case went to court.
The Obama administration is extending key government protections on minimum wage and overtime to the nation’s home care workers. The Fair Labor Standards Act will be amended to cover workers who care for the elderly and disabled in their homes. The move follows years of campaigning to undo the loophole known as the “companionship exemption,” which has denied basic wage and overtime protections to home care workers by placing them in the same category as babysitters. The new regulation will not take effect until 2015.
The Washington, D.C. Council has failed to override Mayor Vincent Gray’s veto of a bill to grant retail workers a living wage. Gray issued the veto last week following pressure from Wal-Mart and other chains. The bill would have required large retailers to pay their employees at least $12.50 an hour. The bid to overrule Gray attracted seven votes, two short of the nine required.
Activists gathered in New York on Tuesday to mark the second anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, the protest movement against economic inequality. Demonstrators marched near the New York Stock Exchange and the United Nations, highlighting a call for taxing Wall Street transactions and directing the funds to public causes. Nellie Bailey of the United National Antiwar Coalition said the anniversary of Occupy is a time to look forward in the struggle for social change.
Nellie Bailey: “The most important lesson learned is that we must continue the fight. We must intensify the fight. We must have more people in the streets. That’s the lesson. And we can wax nostalgia all we want, as to who was there, you remember that day, or whatever, but that’s not going to get it, if we want to bring about those fundamental changes in as much of a revolutionary fashion as possible. If we move ahead with organizing, educating and hitting the streets, that’s the lesson. Those are the lessons.”