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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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Hundreds of people gathered at a church in Orlando, Florida, Tuesday night to mourn the 49 victims of Sunday’s attack on an LGBT nightclub, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. More information has begun to emerge about the shooting at the Pulse nightclub as survivors of the attack tell their stories. Patience Carter was shot in both legs but survived, after being trapped in a bathroom with the shooter, Omar Mateen. She says she heard Mateen call 911 to say he was carrying out the massacre because he wanted the United States to stop bombing “his country.” Mateen was born in the United States; his parents are from Afghanistan. Carter gave her account on Tuesday.
Patience Carter: “And after that, he even spoke to us directly in the bathroom. He said, 'Are there any black people in here?' I was too afraid to answer, but there was an African-American male in the stall where most of my body was, majority of my body was, had answered, and he said, 'Yes, there are about six or seven of us.' And the gunman responded back to him saying that, 'You know, I don't have a problem with black people. This is about my country. You guys suffered enough.’ And he just—he made a statement saying that it wasn’t about black people. This isn’t the reason why he was doing this. But through the conversation with 911, he said that the reason why he was doing this is because he wanted America to stop bombing his country.”
Patience Carter was at the club with a friend, Tiara Parker, and the friend’s cousin, 18-year-old Akyra Murray, who perished in the attack. Murray and Carter had initially escaped the club, but went back in to look for Parker. All three were shot, Murray fatally. Carter delivered a poem about the guilt she felt for surviving.
Patience Carter: “The guilt of feeling lucky to be alive is heavy / It’s like the weight of the ocean’s walls / Crushing uncontrolled by levies / It’s like being dragged through the glass / With a shattered leg and thrown on the back of a Chevy / It’s like being rushed to the hospital / And told you’re going to make it / When you lay beside individuals / Whose lives were brutally taken / The guilt of being alive is heavy.”
Meanwhile, the shooter’s wife could face criminal charges if authorities establish she knew about the attack in advance. Noor Zahi Salman has reportedly told agents she tried to talk Mateen out of the shooting. Multiple sources have said Mateen was a regular at the Pulse nightclub and had contacted people on gay dating apps like Grindr. But the club has denied he was ever a patron.
President Obama has taken aim at presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump over Trump’s vow to ban Muslims from entering the United States. Following the Orlando attacks, Trump expanded his call for a ban, saying he would apply it to any country with a history of terrorism against the U.S. and its allies. The Orlando shooter was born in New York City. Speaking Tuesday, President Obama blasted Trump’s remarks.
President Barack Obama: “We hear language that singles out immigrants and suggests entire religious communities are complicit in violence. Where does this stop? The Orlando killer, one of the San Bernardino killers, the Fort Hood killer, they were all U.S. citizens. Are we going to start treating all Muslim Americans differently?”
In an email to the Associated Press, meanwhile, Trump accused Obama of “priorit[izing] our enemy over our allies, and for that matter, the American people.” Speaking in Greensboro, North Carolina, Trump also accused Obama of being angrier at him than the Orlando shooter.
Donald Trump: “And I watched President Obama today, and he was more angry at me than he was at the shooter. And many people said that. One of the folks on television said, 'Boy, has Trump gotten under his skin.' But he was more angry—and a lot of people have said this. The level of anger, that’s the kind of anger he should have for the shooter and these killers that shouldn’t be here.”
Top Republicans have sought to distance themselves from Trump’s remarks on Muslims. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to answer questions about Trump at his weekly news conference, but told The Huffington Post Trump’s ban is a “bad idea” and there are “an awful lot of patriotic, loyal American Muslims.” House Speaker Paul Ryan also criticized Trump’s remarks.
House Speaker Paul Ryan: “I do not think a Muslim ban is in our country’s interest. I do not think it is reflective of our principles, not just as a party, but as a country. And I think the smarter way to go, in all respects, is to have a security test and not a religious test.”
Following the Orlando massacre, President Obama has called for the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban and measures to prevent suspected terrorists from obtaining guns. One of the two guns used by Orlando shooter Omar Mateen was an AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle, the same style used in the massacres in San Bernardino, California; at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado; and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. On Tuesday, hundreds of people gathered outside the headquarters of the National Rifle Association in Fairfax, Virginia, to call for gun control measures. Troy Petenbrink was among them.
Troy Petenbrink: “We need the assault weapon ban to be back in place. We need to keep these guns off the street and unavailable. We’re not talking about hunting rifles. We’re not talking about your basic guns that you need for protection. That’s all fine and good. We all support that. What we don’t support is literally weapons of mass destruction—49 people killed in a matter of minutes.”
California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein has released new statistics showing more than 90 percent of known or suspected terrorists who have attempted to buy a gun since 2004 have passed a background check and been cleared to do so. The data from the Government Accountability Office shows between 2004 and 2015 nearly 2,500 people on the watchlist applied to purchase weapons; nearly 2,300 of them were approved. Last year, individuals on the terrorist watchlist were involved in background checks to purchase firearms 244 times — only 21 of those were denied.
Hillary Clinton has won the final Democratic primary in Washington, D.C. Clinton met with rival Bernie Sanders for nearly two hours Tuesday night. In statements afterwards, the campaigns said they had agreed to work together on a “progressive agenda” for the Democratic Party platform in July. Sanders had issued a series of demands ahead of the meeting, including an end to the superdelegate system, the removal of DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and the most progressive Democratic platform in the party’s history. Sanders is expected to address his supporters by video message Thursday night.
Meanwhile, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein’s campaign has announced she has secured enough delegates to secure the Green Party’s nomination. After winning the majority of Green Party delegates in California, New York and Maryland, Stein has the support of 203 delegates, enough to secure the nomination at the party’s convention in August. Stein says a recent poll shows her with 5 percent support nationally. She has called for opening up the upcoming presidential debates to include third-party candidates.
The Washington Post reports Russian government hackers broke into the computer networks of the Democratic National Committee, accessing the DNC’s entire database of opposition research on Donald Trump. The hackers were reportedly able to read all email and chat traffic, and some had access to the network for about a year.
In a victory for advocates of the open internet, a federal court has ruled high-speed internet can be defined as a utility. The decision affirms the Obama administration’s moves to protect net neutrality by preventing corporate service providers from blocking access to websites, slowing down content or providing paid fast lanes for internet service. The FCC approved the rules last year after receiving a record 4 million public comments. In a statement, the group Free Press called Tuesday’s ruling “a huge victory for the millions and millions of internet users who have fought for years for Net Neutrality.” The telecom companies who oppose the rules may appeal to the Supreme Court.
In California, a judge who gave a former Stanford University swimmer a six-month sentence after he was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman has been removed from a similar case. Judge Aaron Persky sparked a national outcry and an effort to recall him, after expressing concern a longer prison term could have a “severe impact” on Brock Allen Turner. At the request of prosecutors, Persky has been removed from another case involving a male nurse accused of sexually assaulting an anesthetized patient. Click here to see our report on how, moments before sentencing Brock Turner, Judge Persky dealt another light sentence to a domestic violence abuser.
A cache of declassified documents has revealed new details about the CIA’s torture program. Among other findings, the records show a prisoner who was waterboarded 83 times was likely willing to cooperate with interrogators before the torture. The account from medical personnel who helped with the first waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah deals a major blow to the CIA’s insistence it gained crucial information through torture.
Meanwhile, an Afghan prisoner at Guantánamo received a hearing before a review board Tuesday after advocates say he went nine years without an attorney. The group Reprieve said Haroon al-Afghani, who has never been charged, has gone without an attorney since arriving at Guantánamo in 2007. Reprieve attorney Shelby Sullivan Bennis represented al-Afghani at Tuesday’s hearing after meeting him for the first time last week. In a statement, Sullivan Bennis said, “Very little is known to the world about Haroon, and Guantánamo’s secrecy laws currently ban me from filling in the blanks. I can say that my new client is every bit as heartbroken by the senseless violence in Orlando as I am, and presented for his Monday meeting with tears in his eyes.”