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Posts tagged ‘Massachusetts’

Death Penalty Decision Imminent in Boston Bombing.


As attorney general, Eric Holder has approved pursuing the death penalty in at least 34 criminal cases, upholding a long-ago pledge to Congress that he would vigorously enforce federal law even though he’s not a proponent of capital punishment.

 

In the next day or two, Holder will make the most high-profile death penalty decision of his career in law enforcement: whether to seek capital punishment in the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the defendant in the Boston Marathon bombings last April that killed three people and injured 260.

As the U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C. in 1993, Holder recommended to Attorney General Janet Reno that she not seek the death penalty in the case of a slain police officer because of legal obstacles that made conviction unlikely. Reno overruled him but in the end, the government cut a deal that put the killer away for life imprisonment, a frequent outcome in capital punishment prosecutions.

“The case had problems … and when we had the ability to get a plea from the defendant that put him in jail without any chance of parole for the rest of his life, we decided to accept the plea,” Holder explained later to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

At the same hearing, Holder assured the Senate panel that “I will enforce the law that has been passed, and any statute that contains a death penalty provision will be looked at as any other statute. I will enforce the law as this Congress gives it to us.”

In recent death penalty cases brought by Holder’s Justice Department, one defendant was sentenced to death and six received life sentences, either through a plea or a trial.

Even when there’s a conviction, the odds against death sentences being imposed are such that “from the Justice Department’s point of view the question about the death penalty often comes down to ‘If we seek it, how likely are we to get it?'” said David Schertler, who was chief of the homicide section when Holder ran the U.S. Attorney’s office in Washington, D.C.

Holder has had “a lot of experience with the death penalty and he has always been extremely thoughtful, deliberate and concerned about being consistent on the subject,” Schertler said.

As recently as last week, Holder emphasized that his opposition to the death penalty is due in part to practical concerns — what he sees as failures in the legal system.

“The problem is that in too many places, lawyers who are defending poor people don’t have adequate resources to do a good job,” Holder said in an appearance at the University of Virginia last Thursday. “You end up with these miscarriages of justice.”

“It’s really one of the reasons why I am personally opposed to the death penalty,” Holder added. “As good as our system is, it’s ultimately a system that is filled with men and women who are well intentioned but who make mistakes. And as horrible as it is for somebody to be put in jail for crimes that they did not commit, it is obviously not as bad as a situation where somebody is executed for a crime that he or she did not commit.”

But Holder’s description of a flawed legal system with inadequate resources doesn’t apply to the Boston case.

One of the finest death penalty attorneys in the country, Judy Clarke, is leading the legal team defending Tsarnaev. That legal team may be able to mount a strong defense by arguing that the defendant, just 19 at the time of the bombings, was under the influence of his older brother, Tamerlan, who was killed in a shootout with police four days after the blasts.

Another factor could complicate the government’s case if it seeks the death penalty. Massachusetts hasn’t had a state death penalty law since 1984. History suggests that it can be extremely difficult for federal prosecutors to win capital punishment cases in states that don’t have a capital punishment law of their own.

On the other hand, a jury of Massachusetts residents handed up a death sentence in the only federal capital case now pending in the state. A judge tossed out the jury’s death sentence against Gary Lee Sampson, a drifter who pleaded guilty in the July 2001 slayings of two men who had picked Sampson up hitchhiking. The U.S. Attorney in Boston, Carmen Ortiz, says prosecutors will again seek the death penalty instead of allowing Sampson to serve a life sentence.

The numbers seem to suggest an uphill battle for a death penalty prosecution.

From 1993 to 2012, the Justice Department brought 88 capital punishment cases in states that didn’t have a death penalty. Just seven of the defendants wound up on death row, according to data compiled by the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project.

Larry Mackey, a former Justice Department prosecutor, said that if Tsarnaev goes to trial, jury selection will delve into whether the jurors really hold the same view as Massachusetts law. In the end, he said, any risk that the prosecution can seat 12 jurors prepared to vote for death — even in Massachusetts — will propel negotiations for a guilty plea with life imprisonment. In this case, both parties have a reason to be at the negotiating table, he said.

There have been just three federal executions since the death penalty was reinstituted in 1976, and Mackey prosecuted one of them — Timothy McVeigh, in the Oklahoma City bombing case. The other defendant in the Oklahoma City bombing case, Terry Nichols, is serving a term of life imprisonment without possibility of parole.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

White House: Young Are Flocking to Obamacare.


The White House insisted Monday that there had been a “surge” in young Obamacare enrollees, disputing doubts from a Democratic Virginia lawmaker that there wouldn’t be enough millennials signing up “to make this bill work,” reports said.

Retiring Rep. Jim Moran told radio station WAMU in an interview Friday that people under 35 “are less likely to sign up.”

Urgent: Is Obamacare Hurting Your Wallet? Vote in Poll 

“I think they feel more independent,” he said. “I think they feel a little more invulnerable than prior generations. But I don’t think we’re going to get enough young people signing up to make this bill work as it was intended to financially.”

“I just don’t know how we’re going to do it, frankly,” he added. “If we had a solution, I’d be telling the president right now.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney, though acknowledging Obamacare’s “shaky rollout,” brushed aside Moran’s concern, The Hill reported.

Carney asserted instead that there had been “a significant surge in the percentage of young Americans under 35 enrolling.”

“Those numbers are consistent with what we saw in Massachusetts,” Carney said.

“And if you ask the Republicans in Massachusetts who supported and, in one case signed, into law the health insurance reform, which is the closest thing to a model for the president’s Affordable Care Act, they would say that that worked and that there the percentage of young people who enrolled was adequate.”

Harvard economics professor David Cutler, one of the ACA’s architects, has warned that if too few young people are covered, Obamacare won’t be able to offset the costs of insuring older and sicker Americans, sending the new law into a “death spiral.”

The Hill reported that the Department of Health and Human Services said 30 percent of Obamacare enrollees were 34 and under, and announced last week that 3 million individuals had purchased coverage.

The administration originally estimated 7 million consumers would enroll, with 39 percent ages 18-34, The Hill reported.

In Virginia, WAMU reported, more than 40,000 Virginians signed up for Obamacare; only 27 percent of those were young adults.

Urgent: Is Obamacare Hurting Your Wallet? Vote in Poll 

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

By Cathy Burke

WSJ: GOP Making Bold, Massive Bid to Take Senate.


Image: WSJ: GOP Making Bold, Massive Bid to Take SenateScott Brown, left, and Ed Gillespie

By Melissa Clyne

In its bid to gain the Senate majority in the midterm elections later this year, the GOP is crafting its strategy straight from the 2012 Democratic playbook, according to The Washington Post.

Republicans are casting a wide net to pick up the six seats needed to secure a majority, putting up viable candidates in a plethora of states where they hope to capitalize on President Barack Obama’s dismal job performance ratings as well as the national furor over Obamacare.

“The key to the Republican strategy is making the next tier of seats [and recruits] as large as possible since a few candidates will flame out, some incumbents will prove tougher to beat than they appear, and the national political environment could shift several times between now and November,” the Post notes.

Republicans need to win six new seats to flip the current Democratic majority of 55-to-45. In the current political climate, they are expected to gain between four and seven seats, according to the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report. 

States where the GOP can prevail include Alaska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, West Virginia, South Dakota, Virginia, and possibly Minnesota. Five of the vulnerabilities stem from retirement announcements by Democratic senators Max Baucus of Montana, Carl Levin of Michigan, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, and South Dakota’s Tim Johnson.

Midterm elections are historically unkind to the sitting president’s party. Add to that the hysteria over a botched healthcare law rollout and millions of Americans receiving notices of canceled insurance plans and it’s a recipe for an ouster.

According to the Wall Street Journal, five states Obama won in 2012 — Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Virginia, and New Hampshire — are now considered vulnerabilities.

In Virginia, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie should be “a very credible contender who can raise considerable money,” according to the Rothenberg Report, and former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown trails New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen by just three points and he hasn’t even announced whether he intends to run.

“I’d be more worried if I were a Democrat than if I was a Republican,” Rothenberg Report editor Stuart Rothenberg told the Journal. “The Republicans’ prospects in the existing targets are improving because of the president’s approval ratings, and they are continuing to put other races on the board.”

By offering voters strong GOP alternatives in a variety of states, even those historically blue, Republicans hope that hijacking the Democrats 2012 strategy proves to be a winner.

“One thing’s for sure,” political columnist Chris Cillizza writes in the Post. “If they make it over the top this November, Senate Republicans should send their Democratic counterparts a nice thank you gift for showing them the way.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Lawmakers Press Holder to Explain Prosecution of Reddit’s Swartz.


Lawmakers are demanding answers from Attorney General Eric Holder over the Justice Department’s conduct toward late Internet activist Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide one year ago, after he was slammed with federal charges over breaking into a Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer network.

A bipartisan group of eight lawmakers from the House and Senate wrote to Holder on Friday, one day before the first anniversary of Swartz’ suicide, calling him a “brilliant technologist and activist” and demanding that Holder explain how the Justice Department’s conduct toward the 26-year-old was “appropriate,” reports The Hill.

Lawmakers said they asked for details a year ago over the department’s treatment, but got no answers, “not even the sentencing memoranda that surely were prepared in a case such as this.”

Swartz’s family maintain he killed himself because of the overzealous federal prosecutors in his case. He was facing up to 35 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines after he was charged with wire and computer fraud, among other charges, for breaking into the MIT servers and downloading nearly 5 million documents from the JSTOR academic service.

The eight lawmakers, Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas; Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.; and Reps. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.; James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.; Alan Grayson, D-Fla.; Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.; and Jared Polis, D-Colo., also said they “respectfully disagree” with Holder’s claims that the case represented “a good use of prosecutorial discretion.”

Beyond his legal troubles, Swartz was considered a computer genius who as a teenager helped create the publishing program RSS, which allows people to subscribe to website, blog, and news site updates. Swartz co-founded the social news website Reddit, which was later sold to Conde Nast, as well as the political action group Demand Progress, which campaigns against Internet censorship.

Meanwhile, web visionaries Saturday remembered Swartz and his legacy, reports Wired.com.

Story continues below video.

“I think Aaron was trying to make the world work – he was trying to fix it,” World Wide Web founder Tim Berners-Lee said. “So he was a bit ahead of his time.”

And Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig, who noted “he was just doing what he thought was right to produce a world that was better.”

Director Brian Knappenberger, whose documentary “The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz” will debut at the Sundance Film Festival later this month, drew parallels between Swartz and National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

“Now we are all submerged in a massively networked world where every important part of our lives has an online component to it,” Knappenberger said. “Geeks and hackers already knew this but, thanks to Edward Snowden, now everyone realizes it.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Sandy Fitzgerald

Mass. and Vt. Move to Recoup Millions Spent on Healthcare Websites.


Two states are weighing legal options against the Canadian-based contractor that designed their healthcare insurance exchange websites along with the federal Obamacare site.

Massachusetts and Vermont both contracted with the Montreal-based CGI Group, which built HealthCare.gov. The states say they are withholding future payments and taking steps now to recoup millions in taxpayer dollars already spent on websites that still have serious problems, reports The Boston Globe.

Massachusetts officials are scheduled to meet on Jan. 9 to discuss their options. The state has already paid $11 million of a $69 million contract commitment to CGI. But Jason Lefferts, a spokesman for the state’s insurance marketplace, Commonwealth Home Connector, says no more will be paid until CGI delivers a fully-functioning website.

“CGI has consistently underperformed, which is frustrating and a serious concern,” Lefferts said. “We are holding the vendor accountable for its underperformance and will continue to apply nonstop pressure to work to fix defects and improve performance.”

Instead of going through the website, Massachusetts has had to use an alternative software program and paper notifications, even though the state’s system was long considered a national model that has provided coverage since 2007.

Bill Curtis, chief scientist at CAST Software, who was commissioned by The Boston Herald to critique Massachusetts’ healthcare marketplace, last month said the website is overwhelmed by unnecessarily large files, operates at slower speeds, and has other serious flaws that are preventing users from being able to comply with the state’s health insurance requirement.

Curtis also found that the state-run site is in worse shape than the federal HealthCare.gov website, with all its well-documented problems.

Vermont officials, meanwhile, have told CGI they plan to withhold $5.1 million in compensation because the company did not meet major deadlines. The state is disputing another $1 million in billed charges because it claims the company’s failure to complete its work delayed healthcare enrollments by Vermont residents until early December.

“I’ve lost confidence in the contractors that were supposed to deliver a fully functioning website on Oct. 1,” said Vermont’s Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin. “I’m going to continue to hold their feet to the fire until they get it right.”

In Vermont, shoppers can buy coverage on the state-run website, but can’t pay for it there.
CGI is also working on state-based marketplaces for Hawaii, Colorado, Kentucky, New Mexico, and California.

The website rollouts in those states, with the exception of Hawaii, went fairly smoothly. Hawaii’s site launch was delayed two weeks.

The company says it is working to fix all the state websites and has already improved the national Obamacare site.

According to the Globe, the federal government has already spent $319 million on the national insurance marketplace website. CGI’s portion of the bill is a reported $93.7 million. It is not clear how much of that has been paid out.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Sandy Fitzgerald

Scott Brown Takes Heat in NH on Assault Weapon Ban.


Image: Scott Brown Takes Heat in NH on Assault Weapon Ban

By Melissa Clyne

Though he hasn’t announced any plans to run for the U.S. Senate from New Hampshire, Scott Brown is causing a stir in in the Granite State.

The moderate Republican and former senator from Massachusetts headlined a state GOP holiday party in Nashua that drew supporters and protesters, many of them gun-rights activists who take issue with Brown’s position favoring a federal ban on assault weapons,The Boston Globe reports.

“His coming here is calculated disrespect, just as if he went to Saudi Arabia with pork chops in his suitcase,” protester Jay Simkin told Politico. “If he wants gun control, he should stay in Massachusetts.”

Brown, who also is pro-choice, changed course on the gun control debate after last year’ deadly shootings in Newtown, Conn. His move angered Second Amendment purists.

“If it’s Brown, flush it down,” one protester’s sign read. Others featured scrawled slogans such as “Keep New Hampshire Scott Free” and “Brownbagger go home to Mass.”

Brown has a vacation home in the Granite State, where he is relocating full-time,  sparking speculation that he plans to run for office from his new state.

Republicans there are looking for someone to challenge incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, the former governor elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008.

Brown has been coy about his intentions, but polling data collected before the launch of troubled Obamacare showed him trailing Shaheen by four percentage points, according to USA Today. His chances are thought to have risen since national outrage over policy cancellations and skyrocketing premiums.

“I didn’t think she was all that vulnerable,” Cook Political Report Senior Editor Jennifer Duffy told USA Today. “I feel a little bit differently about that now. But having said that, Republicans need a candidate and they don’t have one right now.”

In Massachusetts, Sen. Elizabeth Warren unseated Brown in 2012. He won the seat in 2010 in a special election.

A popular governor, Shaheen supported the Affordable Care Act, a decision that is coming back to haunt her in the form of a vicious TV spot skewering her and the president for the failed initiative.

“Obamacare, as you know, is a mess, and it’s really dramatically affecting people’s everyday lives,” Brown said.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Iyabo Obasanjo Refuses To Deny Authorship Of Letter To Her Father.


Iyabo Obasanjo
By Saharareporters, New York

SaharaReporters has learned that former Senator Iyabo Obasanjo, the first daughter of President Olusegun Obasanjo, has refused to denounce or deny her authorship of a blistering letter in which she characterized her father, among other unflattering epithets, as a liar, hypocrite, manipulator and opportunist. A source close to Mr. Obasanjo told our correspondent that Ms. Obasanjo had so far defied pressures from friends and family to state that she was not the writer of the letter or that she did not share the views expressed in it.

SaharaReporters also discovered that Ms. Obasanjo, who currently resides in the State of Massachusetts, has refused to take phone calls from the press. Instead, she has only accepted calls from a select few people whose caller IDs she knows, according to a friend knowledgeable about her movement today.

The friend also disclosed that Ms. Obasanjo had virtually stopped taking calls on her cell phone, except from members of a small inner circle. Part of her plan was to thwart relatives and friends of her father who had been sent on a mission to convince her to dissociate herself from the content of the explosive letter in order to save her father’s image. Our source revealed that the former senator’s cell phone rang incessantly all day yesterday, but was hardly answered. Our correspondent ascertained that Ms. Obasanjo’s voice message box was full, making it impossible for callers to leave her any messages.

Since the letter was published yesterday, several blogs have claimed that Ms. Obasanjo had denied writing it, an assertion that SaharaReporters determined to be completely false.

Several sources at Vanguard newspaper told SaharaReporters that former President Obasanjo’s daughter spoke twice yesterday with editors of the paper and stood by her letter. One source added that the former senator also agreed to let the paper release a tape of her confirmation should the need arise.

Late yesterday, SaharaReporters contacted the Harvard University Advanced Leadership Initiative where Ms. Obasanjo is a fellow. Speaking to our reporter, John Kendzior, a director of the program, confirmed that Ms. Obasanjo was in Boston and enrolled in the program. He asked our correspondent to send an email to be forwarded to her for response. However, Ms. Obasanjo did not respond to an email we sent via the director. Nor did she respond to several text messages to her mobile phone.

The fallout between Mr. Obasanjo and his daughter is the latest in a long-running feud between the former president and several members of his immediate family. Several years ago, Gbenga, Mr. Obasanjo’s first son, made shocking claims in a divorce filing to the effect that his father slept with his estranged wife. The former president’s first wife, Oluremi Obasanjo, who is the mother of both Iyabo and Gbenga, also wrote a scathing tell-all memoir titled Bitter-Sweet: My Life With Obasanjo. In the book, Mrs. Obasanjo accused her former husband of physical and emotional assaults as well as philandering.

Former President Obasanjo has come under sharp attacks from aides of President Goodluck Jonathan after the former wrote an open letter accused Mr. Jonathan of deception, encouragement of corruption, and the undermining of Nigeria’s democracy.

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