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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Elaine Lies and Kwiyeon Ha

SAGAMIHARA, Japan (Reuters) – A knife-wielding man broke into a facility for the disabled in a small town near Tokyo early on Tuesday and killed 19 patients as they slept, authorities said,Japan‘s worst mass killing since World War Two.

At least 25 other residents were wounded in the attack at the Tsukui Yamayuri-En facility for mentally and physically disabled in Sagamihara town, about 25 miles (40 km) southwest of Tokyo.

“This is a very heart-wrenching and shocking incident in which many innocent people became victims,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a regular news conference in Tokyo.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later told a gathering in Tokyo: “The lives of many innocent people were taken away and I am greatly shocked. We will make every effort to discover the facts and prevent a reoccurance.”

The suspect was a 26-year-old former employee of the facility who gave himself up to police. The man, Satoshi Uematsu, said in letters he wrote in February that he could “obliterate 470 disabled people”, Kyodo news agency reported.

He said he would kill 260 severely disabled people at two areas in the facility during a night shift, and would not hurt employees.

Uematsu was committed to hospital after he expressed a “willingness to kill severely disabled people”, an official in Sagamihara told Reuters. He was freed on March 2 after a doctor deemed he had improved, the official said.

Uematsu lived near the facility, and a neighbor described him as a polite, young man who always greeted him with a smile.

“It would be easier to understand if there had been a warning but there were no signs,” said Akihiro Hasegawa, 73. “We didn’t know the darkness of his heart.”

The suspect apparently began changing about five months ago, said Yuji Kuroiwa, the governor of Kanagawa prefecture, where the facility is located.

“You could say there were warning signs, but it’s difficult to say if this could have been prevented,” he told reporters.

“This was not an impulsive crime … He went in the dark of the night, opened one door at a time, and stabbed sleeping people one by one,” Kuroiwa said. “I just can’t believe the cruelty of this crime. We need to prevent this from ever happening again.”

Staff at the facility called police at 2.30 a.m. local time (1730 GMT Monday) with reports of a man armed with a knife on the grounds, media reports said. The man wore a black T-shirt and trousers, the reports said.

The 3-hectare (7.6 acre) facility was established by the local government. Surrounded by tree-covered mountains and on the banks of the Sagami River, it cares for people with a wide range of disabilities.

The facility’s website said the center had a maximum capacity of 160 people, including staff.

“IT MAKES YOU WEEP”

Japan has one of the lowest crime rates in the world and residents of Sagamihara said they were in shock. The last murder in the area was 10 years ago.

“This is a peaceful, quiet town so I never thought such an incident would happen here,” said Oshikazu Shimo, one of many residents of the town who gathered near the facility.

Taxi driver Susumu Fujimura said of the attacker: “He said ‘we should get rid of disabled people’ but he’s the worthless one.”

“That kind of person can’t defend themselves,” Fujimura said, referring to the victims. “That’s why so many died. It makes you weep to think of somebody just murdering them.”

The dead ranged in age from 19 to 70 and included nine males and 10 females, Kyodo said.

Police had recovered a bag with several knives, at least one stained with blood, a Kanagawa prefecture official said.

At least 29 emergency squads responded to the attack, Kyodo reported, with those wounded taken to at least six hospitals in the western Tokyo area.

Such mass killings are extremely rare in Japan and typically involve stabbings. Japan has strict gun laws and possession of firearms by the public is rare.

Eight children were stabbed to death at their school in Osaka by a former janitor in 2001. Seven people died in 2008 when a man drove a truck into a crowd and began stabbing people in Tokyo’s popular electronics and “anime” district of Akihabara.

A revision to Japan‘s Swords and Firearms Control Law was introduced in 2009 in the wake of that attack, banning the possession of double-edged knives and further tightening gun-ownership rules.

Members of a doomsday cult killed 12 people and made thousands ill in 1995 in simultaneous attacks with sarin nerve gas on five Tokyo rush-hour subway trains.

(Additional reporting by Kaori Kaneko, Minami Funakoshi, Linda Sieg, Chang-Ran Kim, Olivier Fabre and William Mallard in TOKYO, Eric Beech in WASHINGTON and Jon Herskovitz in AUSTIN; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Sandra Maler, Grant McCool and Paul Tait)

Photo: A facility for the disabled (L), where a deadly attack by a knife-wielding man took place, is seen in Sagamihara, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan, July 26, 2016. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was on CNN Sunday morning with Jake Tapper on his State of the Union show. In part because Democratic reps, like Republican reps, going on Sunday shows is about this coming election, and in part because newscasters are not particularly deep or creative when it comes to talking about politics, Tapper decided to spend a lot of time trying to get Ocasio-Cortez to attack Joe Biden for their differences of political opinions. Newsflash: Ocasio-Cortez, progressive hero, co-author of the ambitious Green New Deal environmental package, and Vice President Joe Biden aren't exactly on the same page as to how to handle climate change.

More to the point, Tapper asked Ocasio-Cortez whether or not she was bothered by the fact that Biden has not said he would outright ban fracking. The move to ban fracking in states across the country has been a seesaw battle of fossil fuel interests fighting against progressive environmentalism and science. Biden's refusal to provide full-throated support for a ban on fracking is disappointing to many of us on the left, but it isn't surprising. Even more importantly, it is below the most essential first step the progressive movement—and the country for that matter—needs to take: getting rid of Donald Trump and getting rid of the Republican majority in the Senate.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez isn't going to be pulled into a pointless argument about fracking with Jake Tapper. Her position is well-reported. So is Biden's. AOC explains very clearly that this is how politics work in a representative democracy.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: It does not bother me. I believe, and I have a very strong position on fracking. You know, the science is very clear, the methane emissions from fracking are up to 64 times more powerful than CO2 emissions and trapping heat in the air, and just from a perspective of stopping climate change there is a scientific consensus. However, that is my view. Vice President Biden has made very clear that he does not agree with the fracking ban and I consider that, you know—it will be a privilege to lobby him should we win the White House but we need to focus on winning the White House first. I am happy to make my case but I also understand he is in disagreement on that issue.

Tapper wonders whether this will depress the youth vote, a vote that AOC represents more closely than Biden. This, of course, is literally the only reason Trump and his surrogates have been bringing up this difference of positions the last couple of weeks. The hope is that it will depress the more progressive vote, while spooking some more conservative-leaning folks in fossil-fuel heavy states like Pennsylvania and Texas. Ocasio-Cortez points out that the youth vote over the past couple of years has not simply become more sophisticated since 2016, it has brought in more progressive candidates and officials into local elections. The turnout in 2018 showed that, and Ocasio-Cortez believes that this election is very clearly a choice between Donald Trump, someone who is a non-starter of a human being, and Joe Biden.

Tapper then plays a clip of Biden telling reporters that he isn't "getting rid of fossil fuels for a long time," but that he's talking about getting rid of the subsidies the fake free-marketeers enjoy in the fossil fuel industry. While Tapper is hoping that this will illustrate how Biden isn't AOC and the youth vote may be turned off by this statement, she sees it as an important step in the right direction.

REP. OCASIO-CORTEZ: When he says we are eliminating subsidies, I think that is, frankly, an important first step. A lot of folks who like to tout themselves as free market capitalists, while still trying to make sure they get as much government subsidy, and propping up of the fossil fuel industry as possible. ... If you do believe in markets, solar and renewable energies are growing less and less expensive by the day in many areas. They are starting to become less expensive than fossil fuels. When you eliminate government subsidies, it becomes more difficult for fossil fuels to compete in the market. I think while the vice president wants to make sure that he is not doing it by government mandate or regulation. I do believe that we are moving towards that future. I believe that there's a way and that we should push that process along but again, the vice president and my disagreements are, I believe, recorded and that is quite all right.