The suspect in the massacre at a historic black South Carolina church has been arrested as the nation mourns the killing of nine victims. Twenty-one-year-old Dylann Roof was detained Thursday morning during a traffic stop in North Carolina. A friend of Roof’s said he wanted to start a new civil war. In a photo posted on Facebook, Dylann Roof is seen wearing a black jacket that prominently features the flags of Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and apartheid-era South Africa from when the two African countries were ruled by the white minority. Another photo appears to show Roof posing in front of a car with a front plate that reads “Confederate States of America.”
Sylvia Johnson: “I spoke with one of the survivors, and she said that he had reloaded five different times. And her son was trying to talk him out of doing that act of killing people. And he just said, 'I have to do it.' He said, 'You rape our women, and you're taking over our country. And you have to go.’”
The Department of Justice is investigating Wednesday’s attack as a hate crime, motivated by racism or other prejudice.
The Vatican has unveiled Pope Francis’ historic encyclical on climate change, urging world leaders to pay their “grave social debt” to the poor and take swift action to save the planet from environmental ruin. Pope Francis calls for a change of lifestyle in rich countries steeped in a “throwaway” consumer culture, and an end to “obstructionist attitudes” that sometimes put profit before the common good. In a nearly, 200-page document, the pope writes: “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.” Presenting the encyclical, a Vatican official said it should encourage the merging of environmental consciousness with spiritual teachings.
John Zizioulas: “As it emerges clearly from the encyclical, the ecological crisis is essentially a spiritual problem. The proper relationship between humanity and the Earth or its natural environment has been broken with the fall both outwardly and within us, and this rupture constitutes what we call sin. The church must now introduce in its teaching about sin the sin against the environment, the ecological sin. Repentance must be extended to cover also the damage we do to nature both as individuals and as societies.”
The United Nations says the number of people displaced by conflict and persecution has reached nearly 60 million worldwide. The figure includes 14 million newly displaced in 2014. U.N. High Commissioner of Refugees António Guterres said refugee numbers are growing while political solutions are dwindling.
António Guterres: “Unfortunately, one year afterwards, we have to announce that in 2014 we have, at the end, a number of displaced persons by conflict of 59.5 million, what represents an increase of 16 percent in relation to 2013 and an increase of 60 percent in relation to 10 years ago. The world has lost much of its capacity to prevent conflicts and to timely solve them, and the result is the dramatic situation we are presenting today, and dramatic not only because there are more and more refugees and displaced persons, but because there are less and less solutions for them.”
Workers of Haitian descent held protests in the Dominican Republic Thursday after a deadline passed for them to register their presence or risk mass deportation. Half a million people could be sent to Haiti under a ruling that stripped the citizenship of children born to Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic as far back as 1929, retroactively leaving tens of thousands stateless.
Protester 1: “It is an abuse. It is a threat to deport them, because their family is here, raised here. And they are Dominicans, as you are, because they were born here. What we want is protection for them.”
Protester 2: “After all the years spent here, I have nothing in Haiti. What I want is to stay here, because this is where I’ll receive my pension. I will not collect pension in Haiti.”
State officials say they will begin patrolling migrant neighborhoods to look for those who have not registered. The Dominican Republic’s decision to denationalize hundreds of thousands of people has sparked an international outcry.
The Greek debt crisis remains at an impasse after talks with eurozone finance ministers failed to reach a solution. The Greek government and European creditors are at odds over a deal before Greece’s current bailout expires at the end of month. The Greek government has rejected European demands for further pension cuts in exchange for a new loan to help Greece meet its obligations. The eurozone has rejected Greece’s latest proposals, including one that would create a panel to oversee Greece’s reforms. IMF chief Christine Lagarde ruled out any extension of Greece’s loan payment due at the end of the month.
Christine Lagarde: “So, on that particular issue, timeline: 30th of June is the day when the lump sum payment is due to the IMF, and there is no grace period or two-month delay, as I have seen here and there. On July the 1st, payment’s not been made.”
A new meeting of eurozone leaders will be held next week. The Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, urged creditors to drop demands that he said would burden Greece’s most vulnerable citizens.
Yanis Varoufakis: “So, there is no doubt the Greek government is utterly committed to adjusting further. We desperately need these deep reforms, but I urged my colleagues in the Eurogroup to take seriously under consideration the great difference between, on the one hand, reforms that attack parasitic, rent-seeking behavior and inefficiencies and, on the other hand, parametric changes that simply jack up already high tax rates and reduce benefits to the weakest.”
Aid and medical workers say the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad continues to use weaponized chlorine to attack civilians. Testifying before a House panel, Dr. Annie Sparrow of the Human Rights Program urged the imposition of a no-fly zone in Syria.
Dr. Annie Sparrow: “Creating a no-bomb zone would stop the most important tools that have been used to slaughter and terrorize Syrian civilians, especially the children, who are the most vulnerable, as you’ve seen, to these toxic gases and whose small bodies are literally ripped apart by the hideous shrapnel filled in these explosive barrel bombs. I’m a doctor, and I’m very familiar with death, but I have never seen a more obscene way to kill children. I have never watched so many suffer in such an obscene manner.”
The allegations of chlorine use come as the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has reported progress in its effort to rid the world of the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons. The organization says just 16 tons of the 1,300-ton Syrian stockpile remain to be destroyed.
The Supreme Court has ruled Texas can reject license plates that feature the Confederate flag. A group called the Sons of Confederate Veterans had sought to produce the plates as a tribute to Confederate soldiers. But in a 5-to-4 decision, the Supreme Court found license plate designs constitute government speech.
Two police officers in Anniston, Alabama, have been suspended over allegations they belong to a hate group. The Southern Poverty Law Center outed the officers, both lieutenants, as members of the League of the South, a “neo-Confederate” white supremacist organization.
NBC has restored anchor Brian Williams to a new role after a six-month suspension. Williams was taken off the air for making false statements about a 2003 incident in Iraq. Williams apologized after it emerged he had wrongly claimed he was on board a U.S. helicopter downed by rocket fire. American soldiers publicly challenged Williams’ account, saying he was nowhere near the aircraft that came under attack. On Thursday, NBC said Williams will no longer anchor the NBC Nightly News, but will take on a new role during the daytime hours at MSNBC. Williams’ replacement, Lester Holt, permanently becomes the first African American to solo anchor the evening news broadcast at the major networks. NBC reportedly uncovered a number of other instances where Williams made false or misleading claims, but says it will not make those findings public.
And the U.S. Treasury has announced plans to feature a woman on American currency for the first time in 119 years. Starting in 2020, an as yet undetermined woman will appear on the $10 bill, replacing Alexander Hamilton. The government is seeking public input on which female historical figure to feature.