In the USA...
April 17, 2013 05:00 PMAngry President Obama Calls NRA Out For Lies After Gun Measure Defeat
After cowardly Senators caved to the NRA and voted to defeat the Manchin-Toomey amendment to the gun safety bill allowing for near-universal background checks, a visibly angry President Obama took to his bully pulpit and spoke plainly about his disappointment and anger at the Senate.
But instead of supporting this compromise, the gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill. They claimed that it would create some sort of “big brother” gun registry, even though the bill did the opposite. This legislation, in fact, outlawed any registry. Plain and simple, right there in the text. But that didn’t matter.
But the fact is most of these senators could not offer any good reason why we wouldn’t want to make it harder for criminals and those with severe mental illnesses to buy a gun. There were no coherent arguments as to why we wouldn’t do this. It came down to politics -- the worry that that vocal minority of gun owners would come after them in future elections. They worried that the gun lobby would spend a lot of money and paint them as anti-Second Amendment.
And obviously, a lot of Republicans had that fear, but Democrats had that fear, too. And so they caved to the pressure, and they started looking for an excuse -- any excuse -- to vote “no.”
One common argument I heard was that this legislation wouldn’t prevent all future massacres. And that’s true. As I said from the start, no single piece of legislation can stop every act of violence and evil. We learned that tragically just two days ago. But if action by Congress could have saved one person, one child, a few hundred, a few thousand -- if it could have prevented those people from losing their lives to gun violence in the future while preserving our Second Amendment rights, we had an obligation to try.
And this legislation met that test. And too many senators failed theirs.
I've heard some say that blocking this step would be a victory. And my question is, a victory for who? A victory for what? All that happened today was the preservation of the loophole that lets dangerous criminals buy guns without a background check. That didn’t make our kids safer. Victory for not doing something that 90 percent of Americans, 80 percent of Republicans, the vast majority of your constituents wanted to get done? It begs the question, who are we here to represent?
Then he laid down the gauntlet:
So to change Washington, you, the American people, are going to have to sustain some passion about this. And when necessary, you’ve got to send the right people to Washington. And that requires strength, and it requires persistence.
It just grinds me that the wingnuts in the NRA have enough power to cow Senators into voting against what the majority of people in this country want.
Here are the names of the Democrats voting no, excluding Harry Reid, who voted no to keep the bill alive: Pryor, Begich, Baucus, and Heitkamp. Republicans who voted yes: McCain, Toomey, Collins, and Kirk. Shame on the NRA-owned Democrats and props to the Republicans who stepped up.
That was just the background check piece. Here's what happened on the assault weapons ban:
An amendment, put forth by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), to re-establish a federal ban on certain assault weapons was defeated by a vote of 40-60. A near-united Republican conference voted against the measure, with just one GOP senator, Mark Kirk (Ill.), voting in its favor.
As the President said, this is just Round One.
Click to watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dv5ZQuJdZIY
***********Senate Republicans Have Shamed America By Ignoring the Will of 92% of the Population
Apr. 17th, 2013
School age children are taught in arithmetic that a majority is a subset of a set consisting of more than half of the set’s elements, or in very simple terms; a majority is a number or percentage equaling more than half of a total. In government, the group or political party having the greater number of votes is considered to be in the majority, but for the past four years in the United States Senate, Republicans successfully transformed their minority numbers into a majority, made a mockery of democracy, and thumbed their noses at the will of the voters at the behest of their special interest masters.
It is no secret that Republicans serve special interests who buy their votes regardless the effect of putting the health and well-being of the people on the same level as deadly bacteria, and in the Senate on Wednesday, Republicans and four Democrats acted to ensure that the epidemic of gun violence will continue laying waste to innocent victims at the behest of the NRA. Whether it was the idea that allowing criminals, the mentally ill, and hate groups to have unfettered access to assault weapons, or obeisance to Ted Nugent and Wayne La Pierre, Republicans and their Democratic gun zealots successfully voted down expanded background checks because 8% of the population is now the majority of the American people and to Republicans, the will of a nation.
The vote in the Senate was 54-46 in favor of expanding background checks for gun purchases, and it included four Republicans voting yes because they regard reducing the senseless gun violence ravaging the nation a priority, and four Democrats voting no because they regard pleasing NRA leaders Nugent and La Pierre an important part of their jobs. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, echoing his NRA-supporting cohorts, said the Senate measure went too far and infringes on gun-owners’ rights saying, “The government should not punish or harass law-abiding citizens in the exercise of their Second Amendment rights,” and the male version of Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, said “In my view the approach of the federal government to violent crime should be very simple, it should be focused on stopping violent criminals.” It is too bad Republicans did not consider keeping guns out of the hands of violent criminals, but with Ted Nugent and Wayne La Pierre pulling the strings, rational consideration hardly enters into the thought process of Republicans in the employ of the NRA.
It is also too bad Republicans care so much about focusing on stopping violent criminals that they have, through their austerity madness, cut spending to such a degree that law enforcement across the nation is weakened due to lack of funding, but then again the Republicans’ legislative arm, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), enacted laws giving citizens the right to “stand their ground” to fill in for laid off law enforcement officers. One of the ways the NRA exerts is considerable influence is through ALEC by bankrolling their operations, and at one point co-chaired ALEC’s “Public Safety and Elections Task Force” that enacted stand your ground laws in states across the nation. Many of ALEC’s templates for Republicans to fill in as legislation were written by the NRA and adopted by ALEC’s legislators as models for a well-armed population, as well as enact bills to eliminate laws that protect Americans from gun violence. A little over a year ago at ALEC’s policy summit, the NRA garnered unanimous support from corporate lawmakers in ALEC’s task force to amend their “Consistency in Firearms Regulation Act” to expressly prohibit cities from banning machine guns and armor-piercing bullets, as well as making it legal to alter guns to make them more deadly.
Wednesday’s Senate vote revealed many atrocities going on in America at the hands of Republicans’ special interests, and it is clear that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid must now give up his expression of “comity” for his esteemed colleagues across the aisle and put an end to their running this government from a minority position. A visibly angry President Obama summed up the sentiment of 92% of the American people who supported a sane measure to keep Americans safe and said “There were no coherent arguments as to why we wouldn’t do this. All in all, it was a pretty shameful day for Washington.” The President was right, but he failed to say it was a shameful day for America because 8% of the population, Ted Nugent and Wayne La Pierre, ALEC, and gun-crazed Republicans thumbed their noses at the great majority of Americans and cemented what many pundits have said for four years; Democracy is dead, and like the Sandy Hook massacre and thousands of gun violence victims, it is not coming back.
*********A look at the key senators who killed the background checks amendment
By Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian
Wednesday, April 17, 2013 22:05 EDT
The senators, Democrat and Republican, who killed the bipartisan compromise amendment on background checks for gun sales explained their opposition in terms of principle. But gun reformers will view it more as political cowardice on the part of politicians fearful of damaging their re-election chances.
The vote was on a proposal agreed between Democrat Joe Manchin and Republican Pat Toomey that would have required criminal and mental health background checks for advertised sales of guns, including at gun shows and online.
It was the last meaningful measure left in a draft bill that had already been stripped of most of its substance.
Vice-president Joe Biden, on his way to the Hill for the vote, said: “I hope to God that there’s 60 people up there who have the courage to stand up.” Less than an hour later he got his answer.
Here are the key votes that killed the measure, just four months after Newtown.
Heidi Heitkamp, 57, Democrat, North Dakota
Heitkamp has the distinction of being the first Democratic senator to break ranks by announcing publicly that she would vote against background checks.
Unlike some of her colleagues, she does not face the prospect of re-election next year, having just been elected in November. But that victory was extremely tight, with her winning by just 2,994 votes.
She has said repeatedly in interviews that guns are part of the way of life in North Dakota and her priority is the interests of her state. One of her campaign ads set out her platform as “schools and tractors and guns”.
In the aftermath of the Newtown shooting, she dismissed Barack Obama’s proposals for gun reform as “extreme”.
Mark Begich, 51, Democrat, Alaska
Begich is up for re-election next year in a state that normally votes Republican. He was one of only two Democrats to vote last week against starting a debate on gun reform.
A large part of the Democratic psyche is conditioned to believe that their disastrous losses in the 1994 congressional elections can be blamed to a large extent on Bill Clinton’s assault weapons ban.
Barack Obama called Begich seeking his support, but the senator argued that what was needed is not new legislation but enforcement of existing laws.
In 2008, Begich became the first Democrat to represent Alaska in the Senate since 1980 after the long-serving Republican senator Ted Stevens was found guilty just eight days before the election of seven counts of making misleading statements. The indictment was later thrown out over prosecutorial misconduct.
Begich, who faces a tough re-election battle next year, attributed his win in part to his opposition to gun control.
Mark Pryor, 50, Democrat, Arkansas
Pryor was the other Democrat who voted last week against bringing the bill to the floor of the Senate. Although representing a traditionally red state, he won convincingly in 2002 by 54% to 46%, partly because he is an evangelical Christian.
Pryor was easily re-elected six years later when the Republicans opted against fielding a candidate. He famously said in a documentary: “You don’t need to pass an IQ test to be in the Senate”.
Max Baucus, 71, Democrat, Montana
Facing re-election next year, Baucus is one of the Democrats scarred by the belief that gun reform in 1994 cost the party votes. A senator for 35 years, the closest Baucus came to defeat was that year, winning by a margin of five points.
He voted for the 1994 assault weapons ban, but is this time not repeating what he would view as that mistake. He is the only Senate Democrat with an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association.
Kelly Ayotte, 44, Republican, New Hampshire
Gun reformers rested their hopes on securing the support of Republicans such as Ayotte to offset the loss of the four Democrats. She was classified as a potential swing vote. Those hopes rose further when she was among 16 Republicans who voted last week to open the debate.
But, in a statement on Wednesday, she said: “While steps must be taken to improve the existing background check system, I will not support the Manchin-Toomey legislation, which I believe would place unnecessary burdens on law-abiding gun owners and allow for potential overreach by the federal government into private gun sales.”
Lisa Murkowski, 55, Republican, Alaska
Like Ayotte, she is one of the few Republicans the gun-reformers hoped might be persuadable. But she announced on Tuesday night she was resisting all attempts to win her round and would vote against expanded background checks.
Unlike others who had been sitting on the fence but eventually voted against, she is in a relatively strong position electorally. Her popularity in Alaska was confirmed in 2010 when she lost a Republican primary to the Tea Party-backed Joe Miller but won re-election with a write-in campaign.
Manchin and Toomey altered their plan to try to win her over, putting in an exception to background checks for those living in remote areas far from gun stores.
It failed to sway her. In a statement, Murkowski wrote that Alaskans “want to keep Americans safe as much as anyone, but don’t believe they need to compromise their second amendment rights to get there”.
Dean Heller, 52, Republican, Nevada
Heller announced on Tuesday he would vote against the amendment.
“Despite the good faith efforts of senators Manchin and Toomey, the onerous paperwork and expansion of federal power mandated in this legislation are too great of a concern. I believe that this legislation could lead to the creation of a national gun registry and puts additional burdens on law-abiding citizens,” he said.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2013
***********Progressives vow to fight Democrats who voted against background checks
By Eric W. Dolan
Wednesday, April 17, 2013 17:03 EDT
Progressives vowed to target Democrats who voted against expanded criminal background checks after the Senate on Wednesday rejected an amendment to gun legislation that would close the so-called gun show loophole.
“Today, the Senate voted against the 91% of Americans who support background checks to stop gun violence. We’ll be holding accountable Democrats who voted against their constituents by running ads in their states, featuring some of the 23,000 gun owners who have joined our campaign for common sense gun reform,” said Stephanie Taylor, Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder.
The progressive group Democracy for America made similar comments.
“Democrats who were too cowardly to get on the right side of a 90-10 issue like universal background checks better believe that the progressives will remember their spinelessness on gun violence prevention come reelection time. The over 1 million members of Democracy for America nationwide work to elect progressive fighters, not U.S. Senators who can be cowed by the right-wing fringe and gun industry lobbyists like the NRA,” remarked Neil Sroka, the communications director for Democracy for America.
The Toomey-Manchin amendment would have required background checks for firearm sales at gun shows and on the Internet. The Senate voted 54-46 in support of the amendment, but failed short of the 60 votes needed.
Democratic Sens. Mark Pryor (AK), Max Baucus (MT), Mark Begich (AK) and Heidi Heitkamp (ND) voted against the amendment. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) also voted against the amendment so that Democrats could bring the bill up again.
Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) have proposed an alternative amendment, which does not expand background checks. Instead, it focuses on prosecuting individuals who fail background checks.
New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, the co-chair of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, also blasted Democrats who voted against the Toomey-Manchin amendment.
“Today’s vote is a damning indictment of the stranglehold that special interests have on Washington,” he said in a statement. “More than 40 U.S. senators would rather turn their backs on the 90 percent of Americans who support comprehensive background checks than buck the increasingly extremist wing of the gun lobby. Democrats – who are so quick to blame Republicans for our broken gun laws – could not stand united. And Republicans – who are so quick to blame Democrats for not being tough enough on crime – handed criminals a huge victory, by preserving their ability to buy guns illegally at gun shows and online and keeping the illegal trafficking market well-fed.”
**********Mississippi man arrested over ricin laced letter sent to Obama
By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, April 17, 2013 21:31 EDT
US authorities have arrested a suspect over mailings laced with the deadly poison ricin to President Barack Obama and a senator, officials said.
“Today at approximately 5:15 pm (2215 GMT), FBI special agents arrested Paul Kevin Curtis, the individual believed to be responsible for the mailings of the three letters sent through the US Postal Service,” the Justice Department said.
The letters “contained a granular substance that preliminarily tested positive for ricin,” it added in a statement.
Earlier reports had said that the letters to Obama and Republican Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi were signed “I am KC and I approve this message.”
Curtis was arrested at his home in Corinth, Mississippi, the Justice Department statement said.
The US Secret Service said the letter to Obama had been intercepted at a mail screening site on Tuesday, the same day authorities said a letter was sent to Wicker that also showed traces of ricin.
Ricin — a highly toxic protein found in castor beans — can, when inhaled, cause respiratory problems. Ingested orally, it is lethal in even miniscule quantities.
Secret Service spokesman Edwin Donovan said the agency, which protects the president and his family, was working closely with the US Capitol Police and the FBI.
The FBI said “There is no indication of a connection to the attack in Boston.”
The White House deflected inquiries on the incident to the FBI and the Secret Service.
Senator Carl Levin meanwhile issued a statement saying one of his staffers had discovered a “suspicious-looking letter” at a regional office in Michigan and handed it over to authorities for further investigation.
The person had no symptoms, but was being held in hospital overnight as a precaution, the senator said.
Adding to nervousness in the US capital, two Senate office buildings were briefly cordoned off amid reports of a suspicious package, but were reopened after the all-clear was given.
Republican Senator Jim Risch told AFP that everyone on Capitol Hill was perpetually as “vigilant as they can be” and that such scares had been part of life for many years.
The poisoned mail episodes recalled the mysterious series of letters laced with anthrax sent to lawmakers and some journalists, which killed five people and sickened 17 others, following the September 11 attacks in 2001.
Congressional mail has been screened off-site ever since.
Three Senate office buildings were shut in 2004 after tests found ricin in mail that had been sent to the Senate majority leader’s office.
The biological agent was also sent to the White House and the Department of Transportation in November 2003. There were no injuries in those incidents.
04/17/2013 03:36 PMWorld from Berlin: US Reaction to Boston Shows 'New Maturity'
America's measured reaction to the deadly bombings at the Boston Marathon has been admirable, German editorialists write on Wednesday. Remaining calm in the face of deep uncertainty is the key to defeating the aims of terrorists, they argue.
Three people were killed and more than 170 injured when two bombs went off near the finish line of the prestigious Boston Marathon event on April 15. As authorities continue to investigate the deadly incident, Bostonians are mourning the victims.
Among the dead in the attack against spectators of the prestigious sporting event was 8-year-old Martin Richard, whose mother and sister were also injured. A photograph of the boy holding a sign that reads "peace" has quickly become a symbol of the tragedy as it is published around the globe. Krystle Campbell, a 29-year-old restaurant manager, and a Chinese graduate student at Boston University identified as Lu Lingzi by the Shenyang Evening News, also perished in the attack.
Some 70 people injured by the bombs remained hospitalized on Tuesday night, 24 of them in critical condition, according to the the Boston Globe. As they recovered, hundreds of people gathered in various spots around the city to mourn the victims on Tuesday evening, singing and holding candlelight vigils.
With police presence high across the city, investigators are still searching for evidence and sifting through videos and photos of the event. So far, they have reportedly found that the two bombs were likely made from pressure cookers and filled with shrapnel, then placed in dark nylon bags and left at the scene. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, and no suspects are in custody, which has prompted the FBI to ask the public for tips.
President Barack Obama, who will travel to Boston on Thursday to speak at a memorial service, has called the attacks an "act of terror." Following the worst bombings in the US since the Sept. 11, 2001, anxiety is high. Two flights were reportedly disrupted on Tuesday due to security fears and nervous passengers. Adding to these concerns, the FBI is investigating a suspicious letter sent to Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker, which tested positive for the deadly poison ricin, police said Tuesday night.
Still, the country's reaction has been decidedly measured, German editorialists argue on Wednesday. They encourage Western countries to remain calm and resist curbing further civil liberties in response to terrorism.
The conservative Die Welt writes:
"After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Americans built a powerful network of institutions to prevent such attacks. And indeed, until Boston, it also managed to thwart many terrorist plots. It was clear, however, that this series of successes wouldn't last forever. The public will probably have to live with the fact that it will be under the threat of totalitarian forces for several more decades. The only thing that will help is a mixture of vigilance and calm. … At the same time, we must not allow ourselves to be distracted from our lives, our sports and other festivities, even if radicals manage to strike again. It took a few years, but after 9/11, the democracies of the West have found a balanced response to terrorism. All in all, open society has proven itself to be both tough and capable of learning. It is this inner strength that characterizes our societies and repeatedly challenges the rage of extremists. Anyone who thinks they need to use bombs has already lost the battle of ideas."
The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:
"Once again, terrorism's simplicity is clear. The same mechanisms that changed the course of history more than 11 years ago are still working today -- the attack on the unsuspecting crowd, the paralyzing effect of numerous images, the symbolic place, the collective fears. Although Boston doesn't come close to the dimensions of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, terrorism still works the same way."
"But luckily, this also holds true: Because terror has the greatest effect on the mind, much of its devastating force can be eased through thoughtfulness and serenity. Given the monstrosity of 9/11, this inner distance was not possible at the time. But after Boston it must be possible. President Obama waited a long time before using the word terrorism. His prudence is helpful and contributes to a de-escalation."
"Hysteria is the triumph of terror, but America has responded remarkably unhysterically to the bombs in Boston. This demonstrates a new maturity -- but also an unceasing fatigue. The Americans want to leave the decade of terror behind them, but the terrorists aren't ready to give up. Not yet. Eventually, however, its futility will finally be understood."
The left-leaning daily Die Tageszeitung writes:
"What is so perfidious about bomb attacks is that their effect is so broad. In addition to the bystanders, they are also a strike against all of society, which subsequently has to live with restrictions and further curtailments of civil rights and liberties."
"The Boston bombs hit a marathon race rich in tradition. Thousands came here without checkpoints or body searches to cheer on 23,000 runners. That has now changed, and it's to be feared that the kinds of security checkpoints previously only seen at airports will be applied to city marathons and, more generally, events with mass crowds in the future."
"Sporting events, e.g. events with high symbolic significance and mass audiences, have always been potential targets. They were in Munich in 1972, at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 and at the 2010 Africa Cup in Angola, where the Togo national team was attacked. The drama at the Munich Summer Games 41 years ago fundamentally changed everything. Since then, Olympic Games have become high security events monitored by police, special forces and militaries. Free access to stadiums, sporting facilities or Olympic Villages is no longer possible. In fact, there are very few sports that still offer space where one can manuever freely. Marathons were among them. So will they now become the subject of intense security?"
"What remains is an uneasy feeling for the next visit to a marathon. But this feeling -- which arises at shopping areas, in the subway or as a demonstrator in a crowd of thousands -- cannot be allowed to become so overpowering that people are willing to abandon open spaces and progress made in civil liberties. The answer to the bombings of Boston can only be: We are all willing to endure this uneasy feeling for the sake of civil society."
The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:
"The Boston bombs were detonated on a public holiday in Massachusetts that commemorates the first battles of the Revolutionary War. Maybe the murderers see themselves as descendants of those revolutionaries in a fight against the repressive power of the state. What madness that would be! The culprits behind the Boston attacks aren't brave heroes but cowardly murderers who turned a grand sporting event into a bloodbath. President Obama has repeatedly had to find comforting words for a troubled nation, most recently after the massacre at an elementary school. He's going to have to do so again, with Americans expecting authorities to quickly find the perpetrators. And with the hope that Boston doesn't mark the launch of a new spate of terrorist attacks, because the whole world felt the consequences of 9/11."
-- Kristen Allen
April 17, 2013Suspicions in Boston Attack Turn to Man Seen in Videos
By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE, SCOTT SHANE and MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT
BOSTON — In the first major break in the hunt for the Boston Marathon bomber, F.B.I. personnel on Wednesday found security video clips that showed a man they believe may have played a role in planting the explosives that killed three people and injured more than 170 on Monday.
The videos also showed at least a handful of others whom the authorities want to question, either because of what they appear to be doing in the video or their proximity to the blasts, a senior law enforcement official said.
The official said the authorities were trying to boil down the number of people of interest in the videos and would then decide whether to ask the public’s help in locating them.
“It’s a crowd, there are a lot of different angles. It is not like some television-produced video — there’s a lot that isn’t clear,” said the official. “But most interpretations support the notion that one man is seen dropping a bag.”
The official added: “There are several videos with people in them, and we’re looking to talk to more than one guy. It’s still very squishy but there are a lot of interesting people” the authorities want to talk to.
As word spread of the videos Wednesday afternoon, officials emphatically denied a flurry of news reports that they had made an arrest. The F.B.I. was still “looking for a name to put with a face in a video,” one law enforcement official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Those denials did not deter hundreds of office workers and reporters from gathering outside the federal courthouse, where they anticipated that a suspect would be arraigned. A midday bomb scare caused the courthouse to be evacuated and created confusion as the crowds were moved far away from the building and it was ringed by police vehicles. By nightfall, no arrest had taken place.
At Copley Square, the crime scene, several blocks long, remained barricaded as investigators in white hazmat suits scoured the buildings and roofs for pieces of evidence from the two explosions, which occurred at 2:50 Monday afternoon near the finish line of the marathon.
Teams of investigators, including more than 1,000 F.B.I. agents, were tracking possible leads developed on Tuesday after they had discovered remnants from the two bombs.
Those remnants included: parts of one or two kitchen pressure cookers that had evidently been packed with nails, ball bearings and black powder and used as explosive devices; the torn remains of a dark nylon backpack or duffel bag in which one of the bombs had been hidden; and a circuit board, wires and other parts from timing devices. Investigators hoped to track the items back to where they were sold and compile a list of names or descriptions of the buyers.
A piece of the lid of one of the pressure cookers was found on a rooftop near the blast, a law enforcement official said on Wednesday — giving a sense of the tremendous force of the explosion.
The possible break in the case came as investigators scrutinized scores of videos and photographs from surveillance cameras from nearby businesses, as well as from marathon spectators’ smartphones and television crews that were filming the Boston Marathon when the deadly blasts went off. So far, no one has taken responsibility for the explosions.
As the investigation went into a third day, there were signs of jitters around the nation, which was on high alert. New York City officials said there had been an increase in reports of suspicious packages. In Oklahoma City, the scene of a devastating bombing in 1995, City Hall was briefly evacuated Wednesday morning as the authorities examined a stolen rental truck that was parked outside. (There was no bomb, officials there said.)
In Washington, parts of two Senate office buildings were shut down as officials investigated reports of suspicious letters or packages, and the Secret Service said that a letter addressed to President Obama contained a suspicious substance. It was intercepted at a screening facility outside the White House, and federal agents arrested a suspect on Wednesday evening.
The police in New York received 143 reports of suspicious packages between Monday afternoon, just after the Boston explosions, and midnight on Tuesday. This was an increase of more than 300 percent over a similar time period last year, said Raymond W. Kelly, the police commissioner.
And in Boston, the John Joseph Moakley United States Court House was evacuated in the afternoon as officials called out “code red” and bomb-sniffing dogs were sent inside.
The courthouse was swarming with scores of journalists from around the world, who had flocked there because of rumors — reported early Wednesday afternoon by several news organizations but forcefully denied by the F.B.I. and the Boston Police Department — that an arrest had been made in the case or was imminent.
One of those evacuated, Dave Greenup, 58, who works at a restaurant inside the courthouse, reflected the anxiety caused by the bombings. “For the past couple days, I have been in a daze,” he said. “All of a sudden, we get this evacuation thing. Every time we turn around now, there’s something. I was really hoping they caught somebody. You want closure.”
Court employees were allowed back into the courthouse at 4:15 p.m. No bomb was found there.
Boston prepared to mourn the victims at an interfaith church service on Thursday morning at the Cathedral of Holy Cross. President Obama and his wife, Michelle, were scheduled to attend.
The three people killed in the blasts represented a cross-section of Boston, brought together seemingly at random to watch one of the city’s proud traditions, the 117th marathon. There was Lu Lingzi, 23, from China, a graduate student at Boston University and one of the thousands of international students drawn to the area’s universities. There was Martin Richard, a vivacious 8-year-old third grader from a well-loved family in Dorchester, a tightknit community. And there was Krystle Campbell, 29, of Arlington, Mass., a woman known for her sense of humor who had started working at restaurants as a waitress in high school and worked as a restaurant manager.
If investigators in Boston can find a facial image of sufficient quality from the videos, it could provide a powerful lead.
The F.B.I. has been working for several years to create a facial recognition program, and the video of a suspect or suspects could be matched against the bureau’s database of mug shots of about 12 million people who have been arrested, officials said.
If there is no match, investigators can hunt for the suspects’ images in the voluminous videos and photographs from the bombing site that were submitted by members of the public in response to an F.B.I. appeal. That is still a technically difficult task, because the software is most accurate with head-on facial images and can be thrown off even by a smile, specialists said on Wednesday.
Still, “it’s vastly superior to just watching the video,” said Al Shipp, chief executive of 3VR Inc., a company that sells video analytics software. “You can sort through years of video in seconds. That’s the game changer.”
By piecing together more images of suspects and their movements, the F.B.I. might be able to come up with a name. Even without a name, Mr. Shipp said, investigators could program multiple cameras at airports and elsewhere with the suspects’ images so the cameras would send an alert to them if someone resembling a suspect passed by.
While investigators have focused on the images of the possible suspect, they are continuing to pursue a broad range of other avenues, one law enforcement official said.
“We try not to get tunnel vision about it,” the official said, adding, “we’re working a lot of other possibilities.”
The process, the official said, can be a painstaking one. Once an image like that of a potential suspect is identified, investigators and analysts will seek to track the person in the image, both back in time and forward, seeking other images — photographs and videos — from other sources, looking for different angles and lighting.
Using the universe of video and still images being compiled for the investigation, they will also try to see where the person came from before he or she was captured in the initial image, and where he or she went, the official said.
Dan L. Vogel, a retired F.B.I. agent and former profiler for the bureau, said that if a suspect is not identified quickly, investigators might put the security video images of the suspect or suspects out to the public in the hope that someone would recognize them. “The only reason not to put it out is they’ll get so many calls that it will take a huge amount of time away from the investigation,” Mr. Vogel said.
Appealing to the public would most likely put more pressure on the suspect. “He’d get nervous and turn himself in, or he could go to ground,” said Philip Mudd, a former senior C.I.A. and F.B.I. official. “But having several million people looking for him outweighs any downside.”
Simultaneously, said Chris Westphal, an author on investigative software and consultant to law enforcement and intelligence agencies, the F.B.I. is most likely compiling data from license-plate readers, which are now often located on police cars as well as tow trucks and even finance company vehicles. On the theory that the bomber would have surveyed the marathon finish line repeatedly in advance of the race, investigators might collect license tag numbers for vehicles that cruised the area in the days before the race and obtain driver’s license photos for the owners.
“Right now, it’s got to be a shotgun approach,” casting a wide net and following numerous possible chains of evidence, said Mr. Westphal, of Visual Analytics Inc. in Frederick, Md. “It’s an overwhelming task.”
In the meantime, amateur crime-solvers emerged on the online community Reddit, where a “findbostonbombers” message board popped up early on Wednesday. Hundreds of Reddit users combed through photographs and videos of Boylston Street, looking for suspicious people and packages while simultaneously marking other people as innocent.
Some of the users tried to cross-reference an F.B.I. photo of a shredded backpack found at the scene of the bombings with backpack-carrying people in the crowd around the finish line of the marathon. Other users singled out people who appeared to flee from the scene after the explosions.
Before long the most popular message was titled “Does anyone remember Richard Jewell?,” a reference to the security guard at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta who was wrongly cast as a suspect after a bomb blast there.
Katharine Q. Seelye reported from Boston, and Scott Shane and Michael S. Schmidt from Washington. Reporting was contributed by John Eligon, Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Jess Bidgood from Boston; Michael Cooper, William K. Rashbaum and Brian Stelter from New York; and Eric Schmitt from Washington.
April 17, 2013With a Bill Now in the Senate, Immigrants Weigh the Possible Impact
By JENNIFER MEDINA
LOS ANGELES — In another era, Justino Mora might have been ashamed to talk about his mother coming across the border from Mexico illegally. But today, he calls her decision to immigrate more than a decade ago heroic.
When Mr. Mora, a student at the University of California, Los Angeles, received authorization to live and work in the United States late last year as part of the Obama administration’s plan to grant reprieves to young people who were brought to the country by their parents, he anxiously wondered whether his mother would ever receive the same benefits. Now, he said, there is a powerful sense of hope.
With the bipartisan group of eight senators having introduced their sweeping immigration bill in Washington this week, immigrants across the country are paying close attention to how the legislation might change their lives. They spoke with guarded optimism at the prospect of the proposal becoming law, enabling people who have lived here for decades without authorization to travel and work legally.
“We’ve all been living in fear, every day, but now people are finally starting to realize that every family like mine is part of this society and part of the fabric,” said Mr. Mora, 23. “Every family that comes here comes here with courage. We want the sense of security that comes with knowing we will not have to be separated.”
Since they received legal authorization last year, Mr. Mora and his younger brother have both obtained Social Security cards and driver’s licenses. But his older sister’s paperwork has not gone through, leaving her in a kind of legal limbo — she is worried she may lose her job as a secretary as soon as this week because she has not been able to show she is legally allowed to work.
“It’s no way to live,” Mr. Mora said. “But that is the life many people have.”
Many of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the United States work in low-wage jobs all over the country, making beds in hotels, cleaning tables in restaurants or laying brick at construction sites. And as the details of the bill were released Tuesday, many reacted with hopefulness that legal authorization would allow them to make more money, escaping jobs that can pay less than minimum wage.
But at the same time, they worried that they would never be able to scrape together enough money to pay the taxes and fees they would need to receive legal residency.
At a day-laborer site in North Phoenix on Tuesday, José Dominguez huddled under a tree with two other men, assessing their chances at legal status, wondering aloud whether they could assemble the necessary paperwork to prove they have lived in the United States long enough and paid enough taxes to qualify, even though they work in a business that deals almost entirely in cash.
For Luiz Alberto Herrera, 38, who left his native northern Mexico nine years ago, money may be the greatest obstacle to becoming a citizen.
“You live day by day” as a day laborer, he said. “How I’m going to be able to save to straighten up my paperwork, I don’t know.”
Mr. Herrera and Mr. Dominguez, 50, a day laborer from Michoacán, Mexico, recently spoke to a lawyer about what they might face under the new proposal to become legal residents. “Patience,” Mr. Dominguez said, was the advice he received from the lawyer.
Indeed, any legislation is likely to produce a legal labyrinth, and immigration lawyers are already gearing up for more business. Charles Kuck, an immigration lawyer in Atlanta, said he expected to hire more legal staff members to handle the crush of new clients he anticipates.
For the last several months, Mr. Kuck has spoken to Latino groups throughout Georgia, advising them what kind of impact a new immigration law could have. He has cautioned them that the process could take months or even years, but that they should begin assembling files of tax records and marriage licenses.
“What they really want is the ability to be legal,” he said. “What most people really want is just the ability to drive without fear, to live without fear.”
Like others who immigrated illegally, Maria Galvan speaks of living in the shadows, like a ghost that does not want to be seen. But in recent months Ms. Galvan, who came from Mexico City to the San Fernando Valley 13 years ago, has felt emboldened. Last week, she traveled to a large rally in Washington and made calls to members of Congress demanding a new immigration law.
“It used to be that we had no power, but we have worked very hard and we want the respect we deserve,” said Ms. Galvan, 43. She spoke longingly of wanting to go back to Mexico to see nieces and nephews whom she has never met and are now teenagers. “We all have dreams we’ve been holding on to for a long time.”
For all the excitement, for many the promise of legalization was tinged with disappointment — both at the length of the 13-year path to full citizenship and because the legislation will leave out anyone who arrived after Dec. 30, 2011.
John Acosta, a Colombian who has lived in North Miami since 1995, said that while he agreed with the proposals to tighten border security, the cutoff would create “another new problem.”
Santos Canelas has had a legal work permit since the 1980s, but is eager to make his status permanent. While he believes he will be able to meet any requirements for citizenship, he expects that many other immigrants will not.
“It’s like a funnel,” he said. “They’re putting us all through a funnel, and those that are able to pay and persist will make it through, but others won’t.”
Reporting was contributed by Lizette Alvarez, Vanessa Garcia and Anthony Cave from Miami; Fernanda Santos from Phoenix; and Kim Severson and Robbie Brown from Atlanta.
April 17, 2013Court Says Police Need Warrant for Blood Test
By ADAM LIPTAK
WASHINGTON — The fact that alcohol dissipates from the bloodstream over time does not by itself give the police the right to draw blood without a warrant in drunken-driving investigations, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday.
The case arose from the arrest of Tyler G. McNeely, who was pulled over for speeding on a Missouri highway and, the State Supreme Court said, exhibited “the telltale signs of intoxication — bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and the smell of alcohol on his breath.” He performed poorly on a field sobriety test and was arrested.
Mr. McNeely refused to take a breath test and, after being taken to a hospital, to consent to a blood test. A blood test was performed anyway, about 25 minutes after he was pulled over, and it showed a blood alcohol level of 0.15 percent, almost twice the legal limit.
The state court suppressed the evidence, saying there had been no “exigent circumstances” that excused the failure to obtain a warrant. “Warrantless intrusions of the body are not to be undertaken lightly,” the court said in an unsigned opinion.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in an opinion joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and, for the most part, Anthony M. Kennedy, affirmed the state court’s decision. Justice Sotomayor said many factors had to be considered in deciding whether a warrant was needed.
“Whether a warrantless blood test of a drunk-driving suspect is reasonable must be determined case by case based on the totality of the circumstances,” Justice Sotomayor wrote.
Among the relevant factors, she said, are “the practical problems of obtaining a warrant within a time frame that still preserves the opportunity to obtain reliable evidence.” She said technological developments made promptly obtaining a warrant possible in many circumstances.
In 1966, in Schmerber v. California, the United States Supreme Court said no warrant was required to take blood without the driver’s consent after an accident in which the driver and a passenger had been injured. The fact that alcohol levels diminish over time figured in the court’s analysis, as did the time it took to investigate at the scene of the accident and move the injured people to the hospital.
In the Missouri case, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., joined by Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Samuel A. Alito Jr., concurred in part and dissented in part.
“A police officer reading this court’s opinion would have no idea — no idea — what the Fourth Amendment requires of him,” the chief justice wrote, referring to the Constitution’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. He said it was possible “to offer guidance on how police should handle cases like the one before us.”
“Simply put,” the chief justice wrote, “when a drunk driving suspect fails field sobriety tests and refuses a breathalyzer, whether a warrant is required for a blood draw should come down to whether there is time to secure one.” No warrant should be required, he wrote, unless a police officer reasonably concludes that there was enough time.
Thirty states use electronic warrant applications, Chief Justice Roberts said. Many allow police officers to call a judge directly. A Kansas county has officers e-mail warrant applications to judges’ iPads.
Chief Justice Roberts said he would have returned the case to the lower court to apply the standard he proposed.
Justice Clarence Thomas dissented in the case, Missouri v. McNeely, No. 11-1425. “Nothing in the Fourth Amendment requires officers to allow evidence essential to enforcement of drunk-driving laws to be destroyed while they wait for a warrant to issue,” Justice Thomas wrote.
***********House Republicans Warn That They Will Obstruct Guns and Immigration Bills
Apr. 17th, 2013
Over the course of the past four years, the idea that government can do anything to improve the quality of American people’s lives either in terms of economics, social justice, or providing services to the people has been met with non-stop hindrance and opposition to interrupt progress on the population’s behalf. It is true that ideological differences between the two parties in Washington precludes unanimous consent to pass legislation regardless the party in power, but Republicans have made it a condition of service to oppose any and everything President Obama or Democrats proposed regardless the population’s overwhelming support for their agenda. It has made little difference whether Republicans were in the minority in the President’s first two years in office, or whether they controlled only one house in Congress, their primary goal is obstructing progress for obstruction’s sake and little else. A little over a month ago, Speaker of the House John Boehner chastised the Democratically-controlled Senate for not taking the lead on preventing the Republican’s sequester from being enacted, but whatever the Senate may have accomplished was fated dead on arrival in the Republican House, and now that the Senate is making progress on two very important issues to the American people, Boehner’s conservative caucus is ready to obstruct immigration reform and gun safety legislation because it is contrary to their ideology.
Last week, days before the tragic terror attack at the Boston Marathon, teabaggers in the House warned their leadership that despite an impending deal coming out of the Senate, putting immigration reform on the House agenda would be met with opposition and they told Boehner to slow down. Leading the charge against immigration reform is longtime anti-immigration advocate Steve King (R-IA) who said, “Up on our agenda came immigration … leadership is going to bring immigration, according to the agenda, sometime to the floor. How do we know we’re going to do immigration? How come I don’t know this?” King was not alone criticizing the idea the House would take up a Senate proposal to reform immigration, and as media reports emerged that a Senate deal was imminent, a number of House conservatives informed leadership they would not be steamrolled by the upper chamber. Referring to the so-called “gang of eight” in the Senate, Representative Mo Brooks (R-Ala) said, “Keep in mind, it’s just eight people. It’s not sanctioned by anybody; it’s going to be very difficult for me to agree to ratify illegal conduct.”
King’s opposition to immigration reform is legendary, and his comments last week were expository of his anti-immigration stance that led him to assail immigration reform in light of the Boston terror attack he used as a threat to kill any deal coming out of the Senate. King said, “Some of the speculation that has come out is that yes, it was a foreign national and, speculating here, that it was potentially a person on a student visa, if that’s the case, then we need to take a look at the big picture,” and that on immigration, the nation’s security demanded that any discussion regarding a path to legalization should be put on hold because “we need to be ever vigilant, we need to go far deeper into our border crossings.” Representative Brooks echoed King’s stalling tactic and said immigration issues “deserve adequate time for discussion” and warned the House leadership that “Republicans in the House need to be convinced that border security issue is addressed, not in the future but now. You’ve seen the Senate pushing a deadline, and you have never seen the House pushing a deadline because we realize how difficult it is to get final agreement on those last few issues.” Translation; conservatives will obstruct immigration reform.
There is a similar situation developing on gun safety legislation, and despite what Republicans and Democrats in the Senate compromise on, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) issued a warning to Boehner not to bring a firearm bill to the floor. Stockman penned an op-ed in The Hill contending that “President Obama and the Astroturf anti-gun agenda are leading his party into political oblivion, and Boehner is missing an opportunity to solidify and rally a voting and activist base of millions.” Stockman must not be aware that an overwhelming majority of Americans, including Republicans and NRA members, support expanding gun safety laws despite the NRA’s contention that Americans should be armed and dangerous regardless if they have a criminal background, mental illness, or buy assault weapons over the Internet or from unregistered gun sellers. The House Republicans are not going to act on gun safety legislation because it does not fit into their worldview that a heavily armed populace is necessary to enrich the firearm industry, and feeling pressure from the Senate appears to strengthen their resolve to block gun safety legislation.
On Monday, House Republicans began conspiring on how best to delay and weaken any Senate legislation they see as limiting Americans’ right to bear arms besides warning Boehner to kill any gun safety bill passed by the Senate by refusing to take action on it. Boehner appears more than happy to comply with House gun zealots and is reportedly planning what promises to be a months-long review of the Senate bill that involves chipping away at gun-related measures while pushing for proposals to identify and treat the mentally ill as the best hope to reduce gun violence. Republicans in the House are following NRA spokesman Wayne La Pierre’s directive to focus on mentally ill criminals as the bipartisan Senate plan to expand background checks gained momentum. The insanity of honing in on criminals with mental issues without being able to do background checks is lost on any sane human being, but when obstruction is the order of the day and obeisance to the gun lobby is requisite to be a Republican, any reason to obstruct measures that protect the population is salient to recalcitrant Republicans.
The idea of obstructing immigration reform and gun safety measures contrasts the will of the people according to a new poll that revealed most Americans, including half of all gun owners, say it is reasonable enact new laws without infringing on gun ownership rights, and overwhelming majorities support expanded background checks at gun shows and for online gun sales. On the issue of comprehensive immigration reform, nearly two-thirds of Americans support legislation that includes a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., and yet House Republicans are intent on killing any Senate legislation because as anti-immigration crusader Steve King says, “we need to be ever vigilant and go far deeper into our border crossings” because of speculation the Boston Bomber “was a foreign national and potentially a person on a student visa.” It is little wonder the poll also revealed that 70% of Americans, and nearly half of all self-identified Republicans, believe Republicans are significantly out of touch and the party as a group is disconnected from the mainstream.
The Republicans in the House have exceeded being out of touch and disconnected from America, and they are the sole reason why government is not working for the people. It is one thing to have ideological differences on policy and how best to solve the nation’s problems, but Republicans made it their life’s mission to obstruct intelligent debate and discussion on every issue whether it is immigration reform or creating jobs, and until they are evicted from Congress, particularly the House, government will not function and that has been their goal for over four years.