Of all the scandals that have dogged political campaigns, the one threatening Augustus Sol Invictus' US Senate run may be among the most unusual: ritual goat sacrifice.*
In 2013, Invictus walked from central Florida to the Mojave Desert and spent a week fasting and praying. Upon his return home, the Associated Press reports, Invictus sacrificed a goat and drank its blood in an apparent pagan ritual.
"I did sacrifice a goat," Invictus told the AP. "I sacrificed an animal to the god of the wilderness...Yes, I drank the goat's blood."
Invictus—he changed his birth name but declined to provide it to the AP—is now running for Senate in Florida on the Libertarian Party ticket. But the party hasn't taken well to has candidacy. Its state chairman resigned in protest and called Invictus a "self-proclaimed fascist" who is "promoting a second civil war." Invictus denied these charges but said he "sees a cataclysm coming."
In 2013, Invictus wrote a letter to his classmates at the DePaul College of Law in which he seemed to say he might start a new civil war. "I have prophesied for years that I was born for a Great War; that if I did not witness the coming of the Second American Civil War I would begin it myself," he wrote. "Mark well: That day is fast coming upon you. On the New Moon of May, I shall disappear into the Wilderness. I will return bearing Revolution, or I will not return at all."
He did return. But so far the only revolution he's bearing is the one within his own party.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated Invictus' role in the Libertarian Party.
On Monday, Hillary Clinton plans to unveil a series of proposals aimed at reducing gun violence that includes the possible use of an executive action to close the "gun show loophole," which currently allows gun sales to proceed even if background checks on individuals are still pending.
The Democratic presidential candidate is expected to announce the plan at two town hall events in New Hampshire. In advance of the appearances, Clinton's campaign released a statement outlining her proposals that detail her push for comprehensive background checks, the tightening of loopholes and internet gun sales even if "Congress fails to act," and efforts to block individuals with domestic abuse records and the mentally ill from obtaining firearms.
In the wake of Thursday's deadly rampage at a community college in Oregon, the former secretary of state called on lawmakers to enact stricter gun control legislation and vowed to help loosen the grip of the National Rifles Association on Congress.
"I'm going to try to do everything I can as president to raise up an equally large and vocal group that is going to prove to be a counterbalance," she said in response to the latest mass shooting in America. "And we're going to tell legislators, do not be afraid. Stand up to these people because a majority of the population and a majority of gun owners agree that there should be universal background checks. And the NRA has stood in the way."
Gun control is one area in which Clinton has appeared markedly more progressive than Sen. Bernie Sanders. In the past, the Vermont senator has drawn criticism from Democrats for his more libertarian stance on the issue, including his controversial support for a 2005 law that protects gun makers against lawsuits from victims of violence. In her plan on Monday, Clinton will reportedly announce her efforts to repeal that law as well.
Following Thursday's massacre, Sanders said he agreed with President Barack Obama's statements saying prayers and condolences were not enough to tackle gun violence in America.
Salvadoran troopers graduating from artillery school, 1981
In November 1981, early in what would become a 12-year civil war, Lt. Colonel Sigifredo Ochoa Pérez led an estimated 1,200 Salvadoran troops into a rural region near the Honduran border. As part of an eight-day campaign to eliminate guerrillas in the area, the soldiers allegedly killed dozens, even hundreds, of fleeing civilians near the community of Santa Cruz.
Now, nearly 34 years later, a group of human rights experts is trying to help bring Ochoa Pérez to justice—and is taking the fight to the CIA, as well. On Friday, the University of Washington Center for Human Rights (UWCHR) filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the CIA after the agency would neither confirm nor deny the existence of documents surrounding the Santa Cruz massacre. That includes files on Ochoa Pérez, who until recently was a member of Congress in El Salvador.
According to UWCHR project coordinatorPhil Neff, the massacre was emblematic of the Salvadoran government's scorched-earth campaigns to "cleanse" areas of guerrillas while often claiming the lives of civilians. Ochoa Pérez, whom Neff calls "one of the US's top counterinsurgents during the '80s," is currently facing a criminal investigation in El Salvador in connection to the offensive. Now that Ochoa Pérez's congressional immunity has run out, the UWCHR is hoping to use CIA intelligence from that era to move the long-stalled cases against him.
Ochoa Pérez marches with supporters in a 2012 protest. Luis Romero/AP
"There have been no successful prosecutions of this kind in El Salvador," Neff says. "In comparison to Guatemala, the advances have been insignificant. So it's thought that he may be low-hanging fruit—but he's not an insignificant guy."
Kate Doyle, a senior analyst of US policy in Latin America at the National Security Archive, says the UWCHR faces an uphill battle. "The CIA has been traditionally very well protected against the efforts of citizens to gain records through the legal channels we have open to us," she says, noting that most CIA documents are exempt from FOIA thanks to a 1984 law signed by President Ronald Reagan. The declassifications that do occur, Doyle says, generally happen because the agency releases the information on its own or is forced to by presidential order. That very thing happened in 1993, when President Bill Clinton, under pressure from Congress, pushed the CIA to declassify an estimated 12,000 documents on the Salvadoran civil war, including some on Ochoa Pérez.
"The CIA has got a lot of tricks up its sleeve to protect itself from responding to something like this," Doyle says, noting that the courts rarely overrule the agency when it invokes national security. Still, she says the FOIA suit is a valuable public reminder that the US government has been knowingly sitting on records with important details of grave human rights abuses.
"The lawsuit has the tremendously positive effect," Doyle says, "of bringing that gap between the rhetoric of human rights policy in the United States and the practice into the light."
This story has been updated. For more on the Santa Cruz massacre, check out this short documentary from the University of Washington Center for Human Rights:
When asked at a Friday appearance in Iowa if he'd support 50 percent clean energy in the United States by 2030, GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson replied, "I want more than 50 percent."
The 50 percent by 2030 mark comes from the advocacy group NextGen Climate, which has launched a campaign pushing candidates on the issue. And while Carson hasn't yet released any details on how he plans to accomplish this goal—and sometimes struggles to explain what climate change is, exactly—the former neurosurgeon has recently voiced his support for green issues.
"I don't care whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, a liberal or a conservative, if you have any thread of decency in you, you want to take care of the environment because you know you have to pass it on to the next generation," he said Wednesday. "There is no reason to make it into a political issue."
While speaking to reporters during a campaign stop in Greenville, South Carolina, on Friday, Jeb Bush weighed in on the latest school shooting to take place in the United States, this time in Oregon, just a day before.
"We're in a difficult time in our country and I don't think more government is necessarily the answer to this," Bush said. "I think we need to reconnect ourselves with everybody else. It's very sad to see. But I resist the notion, and I had this challenge as governor—look, stuff happens. There's always a crisis. The impulse is always to do something and it's not necessarily the right thing to do."
You can watch the full video here:
When asked by a reporter if he stood by the "stuff happens" part of his quote, Bush did not back down:
The astonishingly callous summation of Thursday's deadly rampage that killed 10 people and injured seven others was buffered by Bush's criticism against renewed calls for gun control.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) announced a plan to introduce new gun legislation in the wake of Thursday's school shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon that left 10 dead and 7 others injured.
My thoughts are with the victims of the #UCCShooting. The frequency of mass shootings is beyond disturbing. We must act to end gun violence.
The proposed legislation, which seeks to ban gun sales without background checks pending beyond 72 hours, cites June's massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, inside a historic church, and the revelation soon after that a loophole in the background check process allowed shooter Dylann Roof to obtain a gun.
"While certain facts remain unknown, the FBI has acknowledged that a fully completed background check would have uncovered Dylann Roof’s prior arrest on a drug charge and his drug addiction, thereby barring him from purchasing the .45-caliber handgun with which he took nine lives," a statement released by Blumenthal's office said.
This is hardly the first time the senator has been front and center of the gun control debate. Following the 2012 Newtown shooting massacre in Blumenthal's state of Connecticut that killed 26 people, including 20 children, he came in out in strong support of gun safety measures. Congress, of course, failed to pass the legislation.
Back in May of 2014, he again pushed lawmakers to revive the gun legislation debate, "saying Congress will be complicit" if members fail to act again. Despite repeated calls, the introduction of new gun control legislation today will likely meet the same fate.
The month after the December 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, Sheriff John Hanlin of Douglas County, Oregon, posted a video called "The Sandy Hook Shooting - Fully Exposed" to his personal Facebook page. The video makes a number of conspiratorial claims, including about there being more than one shooter and that the grieving parents who appeared on news reports were acting.
The sheriff, who has done an admirable job in not glorifying the perpetrator from yesterday's mass shooting at Umpqua Community College, is also an avid guns rights supporter and a possible member of the Oath Keepers, a group that claims to be upholding their oath to defend the Constitution from any perceived threats—such as expanded gun control.
When President Barack Obama took the podium on Thursday night to speak about the mass shooting at Oregon's Umpqua Community College, he blasted Congress for its inaction on gun safety legislation. "Our thoughts and prayers are not enough," he said, visibly angry.
He also had a request for the media: "Have news organizations tally up the number of Americans who have been killed through terrorist attacks over the last decade and the number of Americans who have been killed by gun violence, and post those side by side on your news reports."
Wish granted, Mr. President. We compared gun deaths with other highly publicized causes of death in the chart below. (Note that about two-thirds of American gun deaths are suicides.) The numbers come from 2013—the most recent year that data is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On Thursday morning, a gunman opened fire inside a community college in Roseburg, Oregon, killing 10 people and injuring 7 others. The massacre is the latest mass shooting to take place in the United States—and the 45th school shooting in 2015 alone, according to the gun safety coalition Everytown.
A visibly frustrated President Barack Obama noted hours after the rampage that Americans have come to view mass shootings as a "routine" experience—with news of senseless killings taking place only months, and sometimes days, apart. He exclaimed in frustration, "It cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun." As for the biggest foe of gun control, the National Rifle Association, here's how it reacted to the tragedy via its Twitter feed…Actually, it did not react. The NRA's usually active Twitter feed was silent. Nada. Not a peep. No condolences to the families of those killed or any statement of concern for those injured.
But the NRA has recently been busy tweeting about other gun matters.
Note the time stamps. Its tweets on Thursday halted around the time that news of the shooting emerged. This has become S.O.P. for the gun industry-backed group. When gun massacres occur, it tends to duck and cover—and wait for the expressions of outrage and calls for gun control to pass. Then it's back to the business of opposing any efforts to enact new gun safety measures.
Update, 12:52 p.m. EST: After more than a day of silence, the NRA finally weighed in on Twitter with information about a kid's gun program.
On Friday, the Vatican sought to provide a few more details concerning Pope Francis' meeting last week with Kim Davis, the defiant Kentucky clerk who was jailed for her refusal to issue gay marriage licenses in Rowan County.
"The pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis, and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects," official Vatican spokesman the Reverand Federico Lombardi said in a statement.
The clarification follows a wave of controversy this week after Kim Davis revealed she had a private meeting with the pope during his historic visit to Washington, and claimed Francis gave her and her husband rosaries and told her to "stay strong."
"Just knowing that the pope is on track with what we're doing and agreeing, you know, it kind of validates everything," Davis said in an interview with ABC.
Days of speculation followed over whether the meeting in fact occurred, and if so, whether it put into question how truly progressive some believed the pope was. Some on social media professed to be shocked that the leader of the Catholic Church might endorse the politics of Davis and not support same-sex marriage, despite the church's clear stance opposing the issue.