Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been shot and killed by an assassin wielding what appeared to be a homemade gun. Abe was campaigning for a parliamentary election Friday morning in the city of Nara in central Japan when two shots rang out. Images of the attack’s aftermath show security officials tackling a man in a gray T-shirt; they later named the 41-year-old suspect as Tetsuya Yamagami, a former member of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force. Footage from the scene shows what appears to be an improvised double-barreled gun. Japan’s strict gun control laws prevent almost everyone from possessing firearms. In 2021, there were 10 shooting incidents in Japan and just one gun death; by comparison, the U.S. typically records 45,000 gun fatalities each year.
Shinzo Abe was airlifted to a nearby hospital with injuries to his neck and heart. He was pronounced dead earlier today from blood loss. He was 67 years old. Abe was Japan’s longest-running prime minister when he stepped down in 2020, citing poor health. Over nearly eight years in office, Abe remained pro-nuclear, despite the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown following an earthquake and tsunami. Throughout his career, Abe tried unsuccessfully to do away with Article 9 of Japan’s Peace Constitution, which renounces war and bars Japan from using — or threatening to use — military force.
Ukraine’s government says at least four people have been killed and several others wounded by Russian rocket fire in Kharkiv and Kramatorsk. Elsewhere, Russian warplanes bombed Snake Island early Thursday, just after Ukrainian troops landed on the Black Sea territory and hoisted blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flags to celebrate Russia’s withdrawal from the island. In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin said Russia’s military operation in Ukraine has yet to start in earnest — more than 130 days after he ordered Russia’s military to invade.
President Vladimir Putin: “We are hearing that they want to defeat us on the battlefield. What can I say? Let them try. We have often heard that the West wants to fight us until the last Ukrainian. It’s a tragedy for the Ukrainian people, but it looks like it’s heading in that direction. But everybody should know that, largely speaking, we haven’t even yet started anything in earnest.”
In Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelensky met Thursday with visiting U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham and Richard Blumenthal. The pair are promoting bipartisan legislation that would see the U.S. declare Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism” — joining a list that includes Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Syria. Senator Blumenthal spoke to reporters after the meeting.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal: “I was shaken to the bone at the soul-shattering sight of the mass graves at Bucha today and the photographs of innocent people with their hands tied behind their backs, slaughtered outside their homes, and the destruction of nursery schools and civilian targets — plainly innocent people killed. If that isn’t terrorism, I don’t know what is.”
On Capitol Hill, progressive Democrats Mark Pocan and Barbara Lee have proposed slashing the Pentagon budget by $100 billion. Their proposed amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act comes after Democratic leaders agreed to add up to $45 billion to President Biden’s already record-breaking request this year for $813 billion in military spending. Meanwhile, Public Citizen reports members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees have received over $10 million in campaign contributions from weapons manufacturers during the 2022 election cycle.
In Russia, WNBA star Brittney Griner has pleaded guilty to charges that could bring her up to 10 years in prison, after officials found less than a gram of cannabis oil in her luggage as she passed through customs at a Moscow airport in February. Griner’s Russian lawyer spoke to reporters outside a Moscow-area courthouse Thursday.
Marina Blagovolina: “Our defendant has pleaded guilty. She drew the court’s attention to the fact that she did what she did inadvertently, without intent.”
Griner’s guilty plea added to speculation that the U.S. may be negotiating her release as part of a prisoner swap with Russia.
President Biden is signing an executive order today to protect abortion rights, two weeks after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The order directs Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to submit a report within 30 days on how to safeguard access to abortion medication and emergency contraception while maintaining patient privacy.
Residents of Akron, Ohio, were ordered to spend another night under curfew Thursday as protesters continue to demand justice for Jayland Walker, the 25-year-old Black man killed in a hail of police gunfire on June 27. Walker was unarmed when Akron police fired about 90 rounds at him, after he tried to flee a traffic stop. His body was still handcuffed when it arrived at a coroner’s office for an autopsy, which showed he was struck at least 60 times. On Thursday, Akron officers arrested prominent family members of police shooting victims and charged them with rioting. Bianca Austin is an aunt of Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed by police in her own home in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2020. Also arrested was Jacob Blake Sr., whose son was left partially paralyzed after he was shot by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 2020.
Jacob Blake Sr.: “We’re here to take a stand, because enough is enough. If this was white America and a white boy had been shot 60 times by the police, it would go up in smoke. But because he’s Brown and looks like me, 60 shots — or, what did he do to provoke? Nobody can provoke someone to shoot them 60 times. No one.”
A federal judge has sentenced former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin to 21 years in prison for violating the civil rights of George Floyd. As part of a plea agreement, Chauvin also pleaded guilty to violating the civil rights of John Pope Jr., a Black teen who was just 14 years old in 2017 when Chauvin grabbed him by the throat, hit him repeatedly in the head with a flashlight and pressed his knee into the boy’s neck while he was prone, handcuffed and not resisting. Chauvin will now be moved to a federal prison to serve his sentence concurrently with his 22-and-a-half-year sentence on state charges of murder and manslaughter for killing George Floyd in May 2020.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court is allowing sex trafficking survivor Chrystul Kizer to argue in court that she was justified in killing her trafficker. The ruling argued a 2008 state law that protects trafficking survivors from criminal liability for any acts committed as a result of trafficking extends to first-degree murder. Chrystul Kizer is accused of killing her white sex trafficker, Randall Volar, in 2018. She was 17 at the time. He had abused her since she was 16. Court records show Kenosha police knew Volar had a history of sexually abusing underage Black girls and was under investigation for sex trafficking, but he remained free for months. Kizer says she shot and killed Volar in self-defense after he drugged her and tried to rape her.
In Haiti, protesters took to the streets of Port-au-Prince Thursday marking one year since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. People denounced Haiti’s worsening political and economic crises since Moïse’s killing and the lack of process in his murder investigation.
Marcelus Adeline: “It seems many officials from the Justice Ministry are involved in the president’s murder. We can’t say who they are, but we’re waiting for justice to be done. We’re very worried since there are plenty of officials said to be involved in the murder.”
In Texas, Republican Governor Greg Abbott has ordered state National Guard soldiers and state law enforcement officers to apprehend and expel asylum seekers who cross the U.S.-Mexico border — a move immigrant justice advocates have denounced as illegal. This comes as ProPublica and The Texas Tribune report the Justice Department is investigating alleged civil rights violations under Operation Lone Star, a multibillion-dollar immigration and border crackdown ordered by Abbott last year. The program has seen thousands of asylum seekers arrested and jailed — sometimes for weeks — and often without facing charges.
California Governor Gavin Newsom has approved a budget that allocates some $100 million for the state to manufacture its own insulin at a cheaper price. This is in response to the skyrocketing cost of the lifesaving medicine that has made it inaccessible to many diabetes patients. Newsom made the announcement Thursday.
Gov. Gavin Newsom: “Nothing epitomizes market failures more than the cost of insulin. Many Americans experience out-of-pocket costs anywhere from $300 to $500 per month for this lifesaving drug. California is now taking matters into our own hands. The budget, the budget I just signed, sets aside $100 million so that we can contract to make our own insulin at a cheaper price, close to at cost, and to make it available to all.”