Orlando massacre was ‘revenge,’ not terrorism, says man who claims he was gunman’s lover

Univision Noticias reports: Omar Mateen, the Muslim gunman who committed the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, was “100 percent” gay and bore a grudge against Latino men because he felt used by them, according to a man who says he was his lover for two months.

“I’ve cried like you have no idea. But the thing that makes me want to tell the truth is that he didn’t do it for terrorism. In my opinion he did it for revenge,” he told Univision Noticias anchor Maria Elena Salinas in an exclusive interview in English and Spanish on Tuesday.

He said Mateen was angry and upset after a man he had sex with later revealed he was infected with the HIV virus.

Asked why he decided to come forward with his story, he said: “It’s my responsibility as a citizen of the United States and a gay man.”

The man said he had approached the FBI and been interviewed three times in person by agents.

Univision was unable to independently verify his account. The FBI confirmed to Univision that it had met with him.

The man, who did not want his true identity revealed, agreed to an interview wearing a disguise and calling himself Miguel. Speaking in fluent Spanish and accented English, he said he met Mateen last year through a gay dating site and began a relationship soon after. He and Mateen were “friends with benefits,” he said. [Continue reading…]

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Possible link to Jo Cox killing puts U.S. neo-Nazi group back into focus

The Guardian reports: Roaring up the gravel track on a Yamaha Grizzly ATV, Dave Pringle is wearing a long beard, ponytail, a camouflage hunting cap and shorts. His dark blue T-shirt says “Hillary for prison 2016”. His right arm has a tattoo with the words, “molon labe” – the ancient Greek battle cry, “Come and take them”.

Pringle, a gunsmith, is chief of staff at the National Alliance (NA), a fascist group that apparently sold books to Thomas Mair, the man charged with the murder of British MP Jo Cox. On Saturday, speaking to the Guardian over a padlocked gate at the organisation’s 364-acre “campus” in the Appalachian mountains, he denied all knowledge of Mair.

“If he bought the books from Amazon.com, could he be linked to [its founder] Jeff Bezos?” he demanded. “Lots of people buy books. I’ve been buying from New Vanguard [the NA’s propaganda arm] since 1989 and guess how many crimes I’ve committed? Zero.”

Pringle, 47, married with two teenage children, said of Cox’s death: “It’s a terrible thing. She was white, an Englishwoman with two children. What else can I say? Do I agree with her politics? Of course not. Do I think you guys need more Syrians in Britain? No.”

Once the most feared neo-Nazi group in the world, the NA is now something of a spent force. It never recovered from the death in 2002 of its founder, William Pierce, a leading white supremacist who advocated racial apartheid in America and was banned from the UK. His 1978 novel The Turner Diaries, about a survivalist who blows up the FBI and triggers a purge of Jewish and black people to create an Aryan fantasy world, inspired Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and British “nail bomber” David Copeland. It was described by the FBI as “the bible of the racist right”. [Continue reading…]

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Troubled. Quiet. Macho. Angry. The volatile life of the Orlando shooter

The Washington Post reports: After a lifetime of angst and embarrassment, Omar Mateen was on the verge of realizing a longtime dream in the spring of 2007.

He was about to graduate from a Florida training academy that would put him on a path to being a police officer. He had left behind his youth as a pudgy, often-bullied kid to become a bulked-up bodybuilder. He was learning how to shoot a gun. Now it was all about to fall apart.

At a class barbecue, Mateen told a fellow cadet he was “allergic” to pork, and he got teased about it. Mateen blew up, recalled several cadets who were present, and said he couldn’t eat anything off the grill.

“I asked him if he was Muslim and he denied it,” Roy Wolf said. “I said, ‘It doesn’t matter to me if you are.’ . . . He got mad, really angry.”

A short while later — just a week after the Virginia Tech shooting that left 32 victims dead — Mateen asked a classmate whether he would report him if he brought a gun to campus, documents show. The next thing students knew, Mateen had been kicked out of the academy for a pattern of sleeping in class, plus the gun threat, which officials described in documents as “at best extremely disturbing.”

Mateen was never charged, and so the incident became one more anecdote in a life punctuated by many such moments, outbursts when his insecurities and inner conflict erupted into rage — a pattern culminating Sunday at a gay nightclub in Orlando in the worst shooting in U.S. history.

Mateen appeared conflicted about his religion and his sexuality, according to dozens of interviews with those who knew him. He married twice, each time to a woman he had met online, even though he also seemed drawn to gay life and culture. [Continue reading…]

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Thomas Mair, alleged killer of British MP Jo Cox, was a longtime supporter of American neo-Nazi National Alliance

Southern Poverty Law Center reports: According to records obtained by the Southern Poverty Law Center Mair was a dedicated supporter of the National Alliance (NA), the once premier neo-Nazi organization in the United States, for decades. Mair purchased a manual from the NA in 1999 that included instructions on how to build a pistol.

Mair, who resides in what is described as a semi-detached house on the Fieldhead Estate in Birstall, sent just over $620 to the NA, according to invoices for goods purchased from National Vanguard Books, the NA’s printing imprint. Mair purchased subscriptions for periodicals published by the imprint and he bought works that instruct readers on the “Chemistry of Powder & Explosives,” “Incendiaries,” and a work called “Improvised Munitions Handbook.” Under “Section III, No. 9” (page 125) of that handbook, there are detailed instructions for constructing a “Pipe Pistol For .38 Caliber Ammunition” from components that can be purchased from nearly any hardware store.

The NA may be best-known for the work of its now-deceased founder, William Pierce, a former physics professor who also wrote racist novels. One, The Turner Diaries, tells the post-apocalyptic fictional story of a white man fighting in a race war that may have provided inspiration for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. [Continue reading…]

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Orlando massacre: The shooter was an American

Mohammed Fairouz writes: In the early hours of Sunday morning, a young aquaintance through my inner circle of friends was shot and killed in Orlando. He was 32 years old. I saw his mother crying on TV.

I am incandescent with rage and overcome with grief.

I have never held a gun in my life and I probably never will. I do not feel as though I’m missing out on anything. No civilian needs an assault rifle. Period.

The shooter was not a ‘US citizen of Afghan descent’ as the press describes him. It’s a passable description on a technical level, but it is not a fundamentally true one. He was a Floridian and an American. The town in which he was born, New York City, is as American as apple pie. The Florida town in which he was raised is as American as apple pie. The assault weapon that he used to kill those people is as American as apple pie.

We have to acknowledge this. We have to look in the mirror and admit that we have a problem and we have to fix our problem.

The men who drafted the US Constitution understood that, like all functioning constitutions in the world, it would need to be a dynamic document. The founders were also men who, naturally, made mistakes with that document; mistakes like enshrining slavery into the original version. It took a bloody civil war to fix that mistake. But laws are made by us: flawed, mortal, human beings. And that is why they are in need of constant study, revision and change. [Continue reading…]

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As mass shootings plague U.S., survivors mourn lack of change

The Associated Press reports: The deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history has people around the world wondering why mass violence keeps happening in America.

For those who have lived through mass shootings, and for the law enforcement officers trying to prevent them, the answer is self-evident.

“Because we allow it,” said Sandy Phillips, whose daughter was among 12 killed at Colorado movie theater in 2012.

The nation began the week mourning the 49 people killed early Sunday when a gunman wielding an assault-type rifle and a handgun opened fire inside a crowded gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Authorities are investigating whether the assault was an act of terrorism, a hate crime, or both. Politicians lamented the violence as tragically familiar despite its staggering scale.

The causes of mass shootings are as disparate as the cases themselves, but those involved in other tragedies couldn’t help but feel the similarities.

President Barack Obama called the latest massacre “a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub.

“And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be.” [Continue reading…]

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Wolf dens, not lone wolves, the norm in U.S. ISIS plots

Reuters reports: If Omar Mateen acted alone in plotting the massacre of 49 people at Orlando’s Pulse gay nightclub, he would be the exception rather than the rule in U.S. cases involving suspected Islamic State supporters.

Sunday’s worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history prompted renewed warnings from officials of “lone wolf” attackers, a term that commonly invokes images of isolated individuals, radicalized online by violent propaganda and plotting alone.

But a Reuters review of the approximately 90 Islamic State court cases brought by the Department of Justice since 2014 found that three-quarters of those charged were alleged to be part of a group of anywhere from two to more than 10 co-conspirators who met in person to discuss their plans.

Even in those cases that did not involve in-person meetings, defendants were almost always in contact with other sympathizers, whether via text message, email or networking websites, according to court documents. Fewer than 10 cases involved someone accused of acting entirely alone. [Continue reading…]

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Orlando, gun violence, and American identity

Since 9/11, nearly half a million Americans have died as a result of gun violence inside the United States. That’s more than the number of Americans killed during World War II, the most deadly war in history.

Suppose that during the same period, from 2001-2016, this number of deaths could be attributed to terrorism. Were that the case, democratic governance in the U.S. would have been suspended. We would now be living under martial law.

The fact that gun violence is not generally regarded as an issue vastly more perilous than terrorism, has nothing to do with an objective assessment of each threat. It is simply because the ability for Americans to kill themselves and each other with legally obtained weapons is widely accepted as a feature of American culture. It’s an American thing. It’s the homicidal/suicidal shadow of freedom.

Many of those Americans who are desperate to defend the right of each citizen to arm themselves, now want to characterize the mass shooting in Orlando as not being an American thing and the easiest way of doing that is to undermine the American identity of the gunman.

In news reports, journalists with what I assume are good intentions, are referring to Omar Mateen as “American-born” and a “U.S. citizen.” Both are accurate labels and yet they obscure the fact that Mateen was just as much an American as Donald Trump.

Who gets referred to simply as an American and who does not, illustrates the fact that in common discourse here, it’s generally assumed that there are three categories of name.

Someone who is white and has a vaguely English-sounding name — like Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Tom Hanks, or Bernie Sanders — gets called an American and no distinctions of heritage need be specified.

Then there are those Americans with Spanish names — like Gonzalo Curiel, Alberto Gonzales, Eva Longoria, or Sonia Sotomayor — who tend to fall in the nebulous might-be-American category.

And then there are Americans with “foreign” names like Omar Mateen.

Anyone with a name that signals Muslim or Middle Eastern, is commonly regarded as foreign until proved otherwise. And even if it turns out the individual was born in America and has never lived in any other country, they are still likely to be viewed in some unstated sense as somehow not quite fully American. These are the Americans who get asked where they come from after having already explained that the come from Florida, Texas, California, or wherever in America they happened to be born.

As much as this country professes to uphold a system of non-discrimination, the core category of membership has yet to shed racial and ancestral connotations. It’s ironic that a country that came into existence by breaking away from English rule and which took a Spanish name, should still retain such strong cultural ties to England.

Nevertheless, to understand what Mateen did, it’s necessary to acknowledge that he was no less American than Donald Trump or any other American who might currently be using the Orlando shootings to fuel Islamophobia and xenophobia.

Mateen’s dream was to become a law enforcement officer. He pictured himself as a cop in the NYPD.

In post 9/11 America, how much more American can someone aspire to become than to serve as a police officer in New York City?

Even so, while recognizing that American identity is not linguistically or ethnically determined, we also have to divest it of its mythological accretions: the notions that Americans are blessed in some way.

Americans aren’t special. They have no unique virtues and a multitude of commonplace failings.

What we are learning from those who knew Mateen was that, his dreams of the NYPD notwithstanding, he was a disaster in the making.

Former co-worker, Daniel Gilroy, a former police officer who worked with Mateen as a private security guard, found Mateen’s habitual and out-of-control rage so threatening, he ended up quitting his job. Gilroy now says: “I saw this coming.”

“I feel responsibility — there was no shock. I feel responsible. I felt like, because I was a coward, 50 people are dead. That’s the way I feel.”

American-born Donald Trump, with no foundation to make such an assertion, also claims prescience about the shootings.


Of course he’s not referring to a ban on the purchase of assault rifles — he’s alluding to his promised ban on Muslims.

He has yet to amplify what it would mean to “ban” American Muslims. Is he calling for all Muslims to be rounded up and put inside concentration camps?

The only predictable effect of Trump’s statements on this issue is that they will fuel hatred.

Hatred is contagious and can be found among the religious and non-religious in every nation.

As much as many people might pray for the creation of a more loving, less violent country, we will inevitably continue living in an America that harbors countless hateful individuals.

And yet as much as hate can harm others, hate alone cannot result in a massacre.

Without access to instruments of deadly violence, Omar Mateen’s hatred could certainly be hurtful but it was very unlikely to result in anyone’s death.

How many more mass shootings are to come is simply a question of how willing America remains as a facilitator of mass violence. Most likely, it takes a president to say resolutely, enough is enough — and follow through in action — but such a president has yet to take office.

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The Orlando killings and the message of Muhammad Ali’s funeral

Dave Zirin writes:  There are no words regarding the emotional whiplash I feel, having attended Muhammad Ali’s funeral on Friday and now, on Sunday, attending a vigil in Washington, DC, for the 50 — and counting — slaughtered at the Pulse in Orlando on Saturday. Was this really all the same weekend? The juxtaposition is beyond tragic.

To hear about the remorseless killing of predominantly Latino LGBT people during Pride month is shattering enough. To then see Donald Trump and a collection of the worst anti-gay bigots be boastful, almost gleeful, about it because the shooter was Muslim is all the worse. Muhammad Ali, as eulogist Billy Crystal said, truly devoted the last half of his life to building bridges. These bridges are fragile; that’s what makes them matter. It is so much easier to just burn them down, and that is exactly what one shooter aimed to do, and now in death he is being assisted by an entire right-wing apparatus, which despises bridges about as much as it detests irony.

Never mind that by all accounts, we know that the shooter — whose name I will not write — was an American citizen. Never mind that he bought the automatic weapons legally, or was a violent misogynist, or worked for one of those shadowy global private security firms for almost a decade, or wasn’t even religious. The fact is that powerful people are demanding their villain of choice. So it won’t be the gun nuts, or those poisoned by seeing women as objects of violence, or the internal culture of these private security firms. It will be Muslims. That’s their narrative of choice. [Continue reading…]

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Let’s not give in to fear after the Orlando shooting

Steven W Thrasher writes: For generations, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans have turned to night clubs and bars like Orlando’s Pulse – the scene today of the deadliest shooting in American history – as places of refuge. They have been our sanctuaries.

When our homes would kick us out for being queer, there was the bar. When we were at risk of getting beaten up, as men, for wearing drag on the street, there was the club. When our places of employment might fire us for being queer (as they legally still can in most states), there were leathers bars and glam dance clubs where we could shake our moneymakers.

Bars offered us the illusion of a freedom from terror as queer people, the illusion that there was a place where our sexual desires and our communal need to gather with fellow queers would not be under attack.

This illusion was a lie, of course. Bars were not, and never have been, safe places. This should especially obvious every June when we celebrate Pride month. It’s when we remember the Stonewall riots, when all kinds of queers from all kinds of backgrounds were attacked by police inside a New York City dive bar 47 years ago, in June of 1969.

The police were violent to the queer people there. They thought they could do anything they wanted to them, because they knew queer people lived in fear. The police didn’t see the Stonewall as a sanctuary, but as a disgusting cage. They thought the patrons were sick and would be too ashamed of who they were to make a fuss.

But the brave queers at the Stonewall fought back against that. In finding the best spirit of themselves, they started what would become a worldwide movement – a movement that would evolve to fight legal oppression, challenge homophobia, organize around the holocaust of HIV/Aids, and lead to marriage equality many decades later. [Continue reading…]

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The Orlando shootings and American Muslims

Robin Wright writes: Hena Khan, the author of best-selling children’s books, thought Muhammad Ali’s funeral on Friday was going to be a turning point for American Muslims. “Ali spent his life trying to show the real Islam—battling Islamophobia even as he battled Parkinson’s disease. That’s what was highlighted after he died,” she told me this weekend. “It was nice to feel proud—and to see people saying ‘Allahu Akbar’ interpreted in a positive way.”

On Saturday, Khan was herself honored for the publication of “It’s Ramadan, Curious George,” a groundbreaking new book that also tries to span the cultural chasm for a new generation. The Diyanet Center of America packed its auditorium with kids and their parents to hear Khan read from her book. In this latest spinoff, the mischievous simian learns from his friend Kareem about the sacred Muslim month of fasting, good deeds, contemplation, and evening feasts. Together, they help with a food drive for charity. George gets up to his usual antics, this time planning a good deed to donate all the shoes that Muslims leave outside a mosque when they go in to pray, only to be stopped in the nick of time. In the evening, George and Kareem break the fast together with pizza and chocolate-covered bananas. In honor of Ramadan, The Man in the Yellow Hat — the caregiver who brought Curious George to America seventy-five years ago — dons a yellow fez.

At the end of Khan’s reading, a teen-ager dressed as Curious George raced down the aisles, onto the stage, and fist-bumped Khan. The kids went wild. “It was a weekend of hope and feeling inspired,” Khan told me. “It was a time of reaffirmation,” especially during the first week of Ramadan.

On Sunday, Khan woke up and, as is her habit, checked the news on her cell phone before waking her family. It was consumed with the killings at Pulse, the gay night club in Orlando, Florida. “First it was twenty people, then fifty,” she told me. “I thought, Not another shooting! When is this going to stop? This is insanity.

“Then I saw the name,” Khan said, her voice choking back sobs. Omar Mateen, the lone gunman in the largest terrorist attack in the United States since the September 11th attacks, in 2001, is an Afghan-American. Khan is Pakistani-American. Both are second-generation. Mateen, who was twenty-nine, was born in New York and later moved to Florida. Khan, who is forty-two, grew up in the Washington, D.C., area and now lives with her husband and two children in the Maryland suburb of Rockville.

“It added a whole new layer of anguish,” she told me. “I bore this tragedy as much as any American, and then to see his name. You can’t even find the words. It’s unbelievable. And during Ramadan! As a Muslim, your heart sinks.” [Continue reading…]

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Investors are dumping shares of G4S, the security firm that employed the Orlando shooter

Quartz reports: G4S employs 610,000 people in 100 countries, and sources many of its recruits from police and military backgrounds. It has faced criticism (paywall) in the past for breaches of security such as prison escapes. Since 2012, it’s been trying to rebuild its reputation after it failed to provide enough security guards to the London Olympics, and the army had to step into the breach.

The company was one of the US government’s biggest federal contractors after the September 11 terrorist attacks, and employs 57,000 people in North America. [Continue reading…]

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The Orlando massacre: A reminder of the dangers LGBT people live with every day

Michelangelo Signorile writes: We still know very few details about the horrific, heartbreaking mass shooting in an Orlando gay club, Pulse, where 50 people have been killed and over 50 more were injured. Omar S. Mateen of Port St. Lucie, Florida, is reported to have entered the club and soon went on a shooting rampage. It’s not yet been confirmed as a hate crime, a terror attack or random shooting.

Whatever the case, a Pride month night of celebration and fun — the weekly Latin Night at the popular club, focused on Latin music, performances and dancing — turned into a morning of mass death and devastation. It happened in an area where LGBT people feel welcome and accepted. Orlando has a large and diverse LGBT community, one in which, like so many across the country, many LGBT people surely feel comfortable and safe.

But the brutal reality that jarred Orlando’s LGBT community, and the entire nation, is something that LGBT have always experienced, as gay and lesbian bars and clubs have been targeted in the past by those who harbor hate toward LGBT people. And it’s a reminder — whatever the motives — of the animus against us, and the ever present danger, with which we still live. [Continue reading…]

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America has 4.4% of the world’s population, but almost 50% of the civilian-owned guns around the world

Vox reports: America is an exceptional country when it comes to guns. It’s one of the few countries in which the right to bear arms is constitutionally protected, and presidential candidates in other nations don’t cook bacon with guns. But America’s relationship with guns is unique in another crucial way: Among developed nations, the US is far and away the most violent — in large part due to the easy access many Americans have to firearms. These charts and maps show what that violence looks like compared with the rest of the world, why it happens, and why it’s such a tough problem to fix. [Continue reading…]

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Father of Orlando shooter says his son’s homophobia may have been motive behind massacre

NBC News reports: While no one may ever know what was truly going through the head of the man who shot over 100 people at a gay Orlando nightclub on Sunday, his family says he may have been motivated by pure hate against the LGBT community.

Various law-enforcement officials have identified the shooter as Omar Mateen, 29, who was born in New York and lived in Port . St. Lucie, Florida.

Because of his name and heritage, there were immediately questions about Islamic fundamentalism — but his father said it may have been a recent incident involving two men showing each other affection that set the gunman off.

“We were in Downtown Miami, Bayside, people were playing music. And he saw two men kissing each other in front of his wife and kid and he got very angry,” Mir Seddique, told NBC News on Sunday. “They were kissing each other and touching each other and he said, ‘Look at that. In front of my son they are doing that.’ And then we were in the men’s bathroom and men were kissing each other.’

“We are saying we are apologizing for the whole incident,” said Seddique. “We weren’t aware of any action he is taking. We are in shock like the whole country.”

Seddique added, “this had nothing to do with religion.” [Continue reading…]

The Daily Beast reports: [a] senior law enforcement source reports that Mateen became a person of interest in 2013 and again in 2014. The Federal Bureau of Investigation at one point opened an investigation into Mateen but subsequently closed the case when it produced nothing that appeared to warrant further investigation.

“He’s a known quantity,” the source said. “He’s been on the radar before.” [Continue reading…]

NBC News reports: The gunman who opened fire at a gay Florida nightclub early Sunday, shooting over 100 people, had called 911 moments before to pledge allegiance to the leader of ISIS, law enforcement sources told NBC News. [Continue reading…]

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