Britain is in a state of mourning today after British Parliament member Jo Cox was shot and killed shortly after a meeting with her constituents Thursday. Jo Cox was a 41-year-old mother of two who worked at Oxfam before being elected as a Labour MP last year. She was known for her passionate support for Syrian refugees and was a member of Labour Friends of Palestine. British Prime Minister David Cameron paid tribute to her on Thursday.
Prime Minister David Cameron: “This is absolutely tragic and dreadful news, and my thoughts are with Jo’s husband Brendan and the two children and their wider family. We have lost a great star. She was a MP, great campaigning MP with huge compassion, with a big heart, and people are going to be very, very sad at what has happened. Dreadful, dreadful news. It’s right that we’re suspending campaigning activity in this referendum, and everyone’s thoughts will be with Jo’s family and with her constituents at this terrible time.”
Jo Cox is the first member of the British Parliament to be murdered in over 25 years. Her death came just a week before the major Brexit vote, when British voters will decide whether the country should stay in the European Union. Cox was a vocal advocate for Britain to stay in the EU. During the attack, eyewitnesses said, her assassin, Thomas Mair, shouted “Britain First”—a possible reference to the far-right, anti-immigrant political party of the same name which is pushing for Britain to leave the EU. The Southern Poverty Law Center says Mair is a longtime supporter of the neo-Nazi National Alliance. This comes as today marks the first anniversary of the attack by white supremacist Dylann Roof on the historic AME church in Charleston, South Carolina, that claimed nine lives. We’ll have more on the Charleston anniversary and Jo Cox’s murder after headlines.
President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden visited Orlando, Florida, Thursday, where they met with the families of the 49 victims of Sunday’s shooting massacre at an LGBT nightclub. The meeting came one day after Senate Democrats mounted a nearly 15-hour filibuster to demand a vote on gun control measures. In Orlando, President Obama called for action on gun control.
President Barack Obama: “Those who were killed and injured here were gunned down by a single killer with a powerful assault weapon. The motives of this killer may have been different than the mass shooters in Aurora or Newtown, but the instruments of death were so similar.”
Meanwhile, in a New York Times op-ed published Thursday, General Stanley McChrystal, the former U.S. commander in Afghanistan, also called for increased gun control, writing: “Our communities should not feel like war zones. Our leaders can start by doing more to keep guns out of the hands of those who cannot be trusted to handle them responsibly. That must be our mission.” This comes one day after Massachusetts Congressmember Seth Moulton, a Marine veteran, appeared on the cover of the New York Daily News holding an assault rifle underneath the headline “No civilian should own this gun.”
Meanwhile, Arizona Senator John McCain has blamed President Obama for Sunday’s massacre in Orlando while speaking to reporters Thursday.
Sen. John McCain: “I’m hearing a lot from my constituents about the—about what happened, and, of course, I’m making them realize that Barack Obama is directly responsible for it, because when he pulled everybody out of Iraq, al-Qaeda went to Syria, became ISIS, and ISIS is what it is today thanks to Barack Obama’s failures, utter failures, by pulling everybody out of Iraq, thinking that conflicts end just because we leave. So, responsibility for it lies with President Barack Obama.”
McCain later tried to walk back these comments, writing, “I misspoke. I did not mean to imply that the President was personally responsible. I was referring to President Obama’s national security decisions, not the President himself.” But presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump stood by McCain’s original comments, telling supporters in Dallas that while Obama is blaming guns, Trump thinks the shooting was caused by “weakness on behalf of our leadership.”
CIA Director John Brennan has told the Senate Intelligence Committee that Orlando shooter Omar Mateen had “no direct link” to the self-proclaimed Islamic State or any other extremist network, although Brennan said Mateen was inspired by ISIS. Meanwhile, Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson has asked Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for data from multiple Facebook accounts allegedly associated with Omar Mateen. In the letter, Senator Johnson claimed Mateen had posted on Facebook calls for the U.S. and Russia to stop bombing campaigns against ISIS.
Meanwhile, in Mexico, new information is emerging about a shooting massacre at an LGBT nightclub in the southern state of Veracruz last month. On May 22, gunmen opened fire inside Madame, a popular LGBT bar, in Xalapa. There are conflicting reports of the number of people killed—between five and seven—while 14 people were injured. Authorities also said the shooting was drug-related, but community members are calling it a hate crime.
In news from the campaign trail, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders addressed his supporters in a live webcast Thursday night, vowing the continuation of what he called his political revolution. The speech came two days after Hillary Clinton won the last primary in Washington, D.C. While Clinton has claimed victory in the Democratic race, Sanders announced he would stay in until the Democratic convention. He did not endorse the former secretary of state, but vowed to work with her to defeat the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. He also said he plans to push the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party to adopt a more progressive agenda. We’ll have more on the Sanders campaign later in the broadcast.
More than 50 State Department diplomats have called for U.S. military strikes against the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, saying Assad has repeatedly violated Syria’s tenuous ceasefire. In an internal State Department memo, the diplomats argue for a sharp departure from President Obama’s policy on Syria, which includes targeting the self-proclaimed Islamic State but not the Assad regime. In the memo itself, however, the diplomats acknowledge the risks to increased U.S. military intervention, including the possibility of military confrontations with Russia, which is backing Assad. President Obama and his top military commanders, meanwhile, have raised concerns about the power vacuum that would emerge if Assad is removed. The memo comes as airstrikes on rebel-held sections of Aleppo forced a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders to shut down Thursday. Aleppo residents also reported barrel bombs being dropped. Meanwhile, a federal judge has ruled against Texas, allowing the federal government to resettle Syrian refugees there.
A new Senate report says the Red Cross lied to Congress in the wake of the 2010 Haiti earthquake and used far more donated money on its own overhead costs than previously acknowledged. The Red Cross raised nearly half a billion dollars in donations after the disaster. The 300-page report says the Red Cross used 25 percent of these donations—about $125 million—on its own fundraising, management and program costs, rather than on aid in Haiti. The report concludes there are “substantial and fundamental concerns about the Red Cross as an organization.”
Last month was the hottest May on record. It was the 13th straight month to set a new record, amid increasing global warming. This comes as the Central United States is slated to experience a sweltering heat wave over the weekend. Meanwhile, hundreds of people in Southern California have been evacuated from their homes near Santa Barbara as a drought-fueled wildfire exploded in size Thursday. Scientists have linked the increase in wildfires to climate change.
And in Seattle, a public school teacher who was pepper-sprayed by the police during a Black Lives Matter protest on Martin Luther King Day has reached a $100,000 settlement with the city, and he’s using the money to establish the Black Education Matters Scholarship for student activists. Jesse Hagopian is a history teacher at Garfield High School. He was pepper-sprayed by Seattle police officer Sandra Delafuente while talking on the phone with his mother after addressing the rally. He announced the settlement on Monday.
Jesse Hagopian: “I did reach a settlement with the city of Seattle for $100,000. But I want it to be clear that $100,000 is not justice.”