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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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In Lafayette, Louisiana, three people were killed when a gunman opened fire in a packed movie theater. The shooter, described by authorities as a “lone white male,” killed two people and wounded nine others before fatally shooting himself. The shooting came the same day a jury in Colorado unanimously concluded James Holmes could face the death penalty for his mass shooting in an Aurora movie theater, which left 12 people dead almost exactly three years ago.
Just hours before the shooting in Louisiana, President Obama told the BBC the failure to pass gun-control laws in the United States is his biggest frustration.
President Obama: “If you ask me where has been the one area where I feel that I’ve been most frustrated and most stymied, it is the fact that the United States of America is the one advanced nation on Earth in which we do not have sufficient, commonsense gun-safety laws, even in the face of repeated mass killings. And, you know, if you look at the number of Americans killed since 9/11 by terrorism, it’s less than a hundred. If you look at the number that have been killed by gun violence, it’s in the tens of thousands.”
Turkey has taken two major steps to escalate the war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State following Monday’s deadly suicide bomb attack in the Turkish city of Suruc. The Turkish government agreed Thursday to allow the United States to use two of the country’s air bases, a move that one Obama administration official told The New York Times was a “game changer.” Turkish forces also carried out the country’s first direct attacks against the self-proclaimed Islamic State, shelling militants along the Turkish-Syria border and launching airstrikes against targets in Syria. Meanwhile, Turkish police detained more than 250 people in Turkey this morning in raids targeting both suspected ISIL members and suspected Kurdish militants.
In related news, the Syrian army has launched an offensive to recapture the historic city of Palmyra, which has been under the control of the self-proclaimed Islamic State since late May.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced today that a U.S. airstrike killed a senior al-Qaeda operational commander two weeks ago in Afghanistan. The announcement comes as the U.S. has stepped up its airstrikes in Afghanistan this summer, despite Obama’s announcement earlier this year that the U.S. had officially ended combat operations in the country.
President Obama is arriving in Kenya today in his first visit to his father’s birthplace since taking office. He’s holding talks in the capital Nairobi about trade, security, counterterrorism and human rights before visiting Ethiopia, marking the first time a sitting U.S. president has visited either country. At least 10,000 police officers have been deployed across Nairobi to ensure Obama’s security. Obama’s speech before the African Union will mark the first time a sitting U.S. president has addressed the body.
In news from Japan, former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama has taken part in protests aimed at stopping the government from rewriting Japan’s pacifist constitution. Murayama, who is 91, joined a crowd of more than 2,000 people gathered outside the Parliament building on Thursday to denounce the security bills passed by the Parliament’s lower house a week ago. The measures would clear the way for Japanese forces to fight overseas for the first time since World War II. Murayama vowed to defend the peace constitution.
Tomiichi Murayama, former prime minister: “I don’t know how many years I have left, but as long as I live, I will do everything I can to protect the peace constitution. Let’s all work together for this.”
In news from Mexico, the independent National Human Rights Commission has found serious flaws in the government investigation of the disappearance of 43 students last year from the southern state of Guerrero. The commission’s report, issued Thursday, said that the Attorney General’s Office has failed to investigate the suspects in the case, and has not even gathered basic information about the students from the rural teacher’s college of Ayotzinapa, who authorities claim were killed by a local drug gang after being detained by local police. News reports have pointed to the possible role of federal authorities. Their disappearance sparked mass protests and calls for President Enrique Peña Nieto to resign. Commission President Luis Raúl González spoke Thursday.
Luis Raúl González, director of the National Human Rights Commission: “The case of Iguala has proven the level of barbarity that we’ve reached, and this is just one case — the abandonment of the law and forgetting justice. Iguala, unfortunately, joins other grave situations that have happened before and others that have happened after, which makes it evident that as long as authorities do not watch after human rights when they occur, then we will continue to be witnesses to similar incidents that we do not want.”
Meanwhile, in two separate incidents this week, Mexican soldiers are being accused of fatally shooting a 12-year-old boy on Sunday in the western state of Michoacán and for being involved in the kidnapping of seven people found dead Saturday in the northern state of Zacatecas.
House lawmakers have passed a measure to block states from requiring the labeling of genetically modified foods. The measure would nullify existing GMO labeling laws, which have passed but not yet taken effect in Vermont, Connecticut and Maine. Dubbed the Denying Americans the Right to Know, or DARK, Act, the bill was backed by corporate food interests, including the Grocery Manufacturers Association and Monsanto.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton may face a criminal investigation over the private email account that she used while serving as secretary of state. Two inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open an investigation over whether she mishandled classified information by using a private email address and private server. The Justice Department has not yet announced whether it will take up the investigation.
Meanwhile, in more news from the Clinton campaign, The Intercept is reporting that at least one of Clinton’s top campaign lobbyists is also a registered lobbyist for the private prison giant GEO Group. The news raises questions about Clinton’s recent statement that, if elected, she would work to end mass incarceration.
And in Chile, a judge has charged 10 former military officers in the 1973 murder of the beloved singer and political activist Víctor Jara. A member of the communist party, Jara was brutally murdered after the coup of U.S.-backed dictator Augusto Pinochet. Soldiers cut off his fingers, broke his hands and wrists, and finally shot him more than 40 times. His family has long sought justice in his case. Following the judge’s announcement, four of the 10 former officers turned themselves in immediately.