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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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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has lost Virginia’s Republican primary in one of the biggest upsets in congressional history. Cantor fell to tea party challenger David Brat, whose campaign accused Cantor of being insufficiently right-wing. Cantor conceded the race before supporters Tuesday night.
Rep. Eric Cantor: “I know there’s a lot of long faces here tonight, and it’s disappointing, sure. But I believe in this country. I believe there’s opportunity around the next corner for all of us. So I look forward to continuing to fight with all of you for the things that we believe in, for the conservative cause, because those solutions of ours are the answer to the problems that so many people are facing today.”
The House’s second most powerful Republican, Cantor’s defeat could upend Republican politics while further endangering congressional passage of immigration reform. Brat ran on a staunch anti-immigrant platform, citing Cantor’s mild support for a version of the DREAM Act. It’s the first time a House majority leader has lost a primary since the position was created in 1899.
In the night’s other key primary, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina easily defeated six challengers to seek a new term this fall.
A student has been killed and a teacher wounded in a high school shooting in Oregon that also left the gunman dead. A former student entered Reynolds High School and opened fire before turning the gun on himself. Two students described the moments after the shots rang out.
Student 1: “We just saw people running everywhere, like, people screaming. We didn’t know what was going on, and we just all went to the back of the classroom. And we were all scared.”
Student 2: “I heard gunshots, and then, at first, I thought it was just a joke or someone playing with firecrackers. And then they started yelling, telling us all to get down. And then we all got serious, and we went to lockdown.”
The student victim was identified as Emilio Hoffman, a 14-year-old freshman. It was at least the 74th school shooting in the U.S. since the Newtown massacre that left 26 dead in December 2012.
Speaking at the White House, President Obama urged a national “soul searching” on gun control. He also called congressional inaction a source of “shame.”
President Obama: “It’s not the only country that has psychosis, and yet we kill each other in these—in these mass shootings at rates that are exponentially higher than any place else. … The country has to do some soul searching about this. This is becoming the norm, and we take it for granted, in ways that, as a parent, are terrifying to me. And I am prepared to work with anybody, including responsible sportsmen and gun owners, to craft some solutions. But right now it’s not even possible to get even the mildest restrictions through Congress, and that’s—we should be ashamed of that.”
Amidst a spate of deadly shootings, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the Senate could revive a vote on the failed effort to expand background checks and ban assault rifles. The measure was introduced after the Newtown massacre but collapsed in the Senate a year ago this April.
An estimated 500,000 people have fled Iraq’s second-largest city following its capture by al-Qaeda militants. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — ISIL — seized Mosul on Tuesday with a sweeping attack on the city’s airport, TV stations, government buildings and prisons, setting over 2,000 inmates free. The capture of Mosul expands ISIL’s western stronghold after taking Fallujah and parts of Ramadi earlier this year. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has declared a national state of emergency. The Iraqi government has struggled to contain spiraling internal violence since the departure of U.S. troops in 2011. The conflict between Sunni militants the Shiite-led government is an outgrowth of the 2003 invasion, which helped spark a civil war.
In Washington, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said the U.S. supports the Iraqi government but called on Baghdad to do more to address political grievances.
Deputy White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest: “These kinds of challenges don’t have a solely military solution. So, while we can provide important military assistance to improve the security situation in Iraq, addressing these challenges is going to require a commitment by the Iraqi leadership, including Prime Minister Maliki, to confront the kinds of unresolved issues that are facing all of the people in Iraq.”
The bipartisan standoff over the prisoner swap that freed American soldier Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for five Taliban leaders continues to grow. On Tuesday, the White House held another congressional briefing to explain the Bergdahl deal. But several Republicans continued to lash out, with Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama calling the prisoner exchange “demoralizing.” The Republican-controlled House Armed Services Committee will begin an inquiry into the prisoner swap today. Critics fear another Benghazi-type partisan probe. The House Appropriations Committee meanwhile has approved a measure that would ban the use of federal money to transfer prisoners out of Guantánamo Bay.
At the Pentagon, military spokesperson John Kirby said Bowe Bergdahl continues to improve but remains mentally unprepared to return home after years in captivity.
Rear Admiral John Kirby: “We’re told that his health continues to improve and that he is engaging with hospital staff more and more each day. All of that is promising, and the secretary is certainly relieved to hear it. But this is going to be a long process, and nobody is going to push it any further or any faster than Sergeant Bergdahl and his caregivers are willing to take it. This soldier was held captive for nearly five years in what we must assume were harsh conditions. He is going to need — he’s going to need time to re-assimilate, time to heal mentally and physically. The secretary has made it clear that our first priority is giving him and his family that critical time and space.”
Bergdahl told officials last week Taliban captors tortured him and kept him in a cage after he tried to escape.
A California court has struck down a series of laws that grant tenure and other protections to public school teachers. In a potentially far-reaching decision, the California Superior Court said state law makes it too easy for low-performing teachers to keep their jobs. The education reform group Students Matter had sued on behalf of nine students, arguing protections for subpar teachers disproportionately impact children of color and from low-income families. Outside the courthouse, teacher union officials said they’re being unfairly targeted for the consequences of underfunded public education.
Alex Caputo-Pearl, United Teachers Los Angeles: “All of my 22 years of teaching in South Los Angeles, never was there a student who had a barrier thrown up in front of them because teachers had a right to a hearing or teachers had due process or teachers had seniority.”
Nikki Cichocki, California Teachers Association: “We’re deeply disappointed with the decision that had happened today. You see they highlighted all the wrong problems, they looked to the wrong processes, and they looked for the wrong solutions.”
The ruling has been stayed pending a union appeal.
And a top official at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency has been removed amidst accusations of failing to investigate abuses and deadly shootings by agents on the Mexican border. James Tomsheck was replaced as the CBP’s head of internal affairs following a wave of shootings by agents that have killed 28 people since 2010. The victims include at least six Mexican nationals killed on the Mexican side of the border. Hundreds of immigrants have filed complaints over alleged abuses, but just 14 cases have led to disciplinary action. A report by law enforcement experts earlier this year criticized the Border Patrol’s “lack of diligence” in investigations. Mark Morgan, the FBI’s deputy assistant director for inspections, will replace Tomsheck on an interim basis.