- Created on 16 April 2013
BOSTON — Investigators appealed to the public Tuesday for amateur video and photos that might yield clues to the Boston Marathon bombing as the chief FBI agent in Boston vowed "we will go to the ends of the Earth" to find whoever carried out the deadly attack.
Two bombs blew up seconds apart Monday at the finish line of one of the world's most storied races, tearing off limbs and leaving the streets spattered with blood and strewn with broken glass. Three people were killed, including an 8-year-old boy, and more than 170 were wounded.
A doctor treating the wounded said one of the victims was maimed by what looked like ball bearings or BBs.
Federal investigators said no one had claimed responsibility for the bombings, which took place on one of the city's biggest civic holidays, Patriots Day. But the blasts raised the specter of another terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
President Barack Obama said the bombings were an act of terrorism, but investigators do not know if they were carried out by an international organization, domestic group or a "malevolent individual." He said, "the American people refuse to be terrorized."
On Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called the bombings "a cruel act of terror" and said "a thorough investigation will have to determine whether it was planned or carried out by a terror group, foreign or domestic."
Across the U.S., from Washington to Los Angeles, police tightened security, monitoring landmarks, government buildings, transit hubs and sporting events.
"We will go to the ends of the Earth to identify the subject or subjects who are responsible for this despicable crime, and we will do everything we can to bring them to justice," said Richard DesLauriers, FBI agent in charge in Boston.
He said investigators had received "voluminous tips" and were interviewing witnesses and analyzing the crime scene.
Gov. Deval Patrick said that contrary to earlier reports, no unexploded bombs were found. He said the only explosives were the ones that went off.
FBI agents searched a home in the suburb of Revere overnight. Authorities gave no details. But investigators were seen leaving a building there early Tuesday carrying brown paper bags, plastic trash bags and a duffel bag.
At a news conference, police and federal agents repeatedly appealed for any video, audio and photos taken by marathon spectators, even images that people might not think are significant.
"There has to be hundreds, if not thousands, of photos and videos" that might help investigators, state police Col. Timothy Alben said.
Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis said investigators also gathered a large number of surveillance tapes from businesses in the area and intend to go through the video frame by frame.
"This is probably one of the most photographed areas in the country yesterday," he said.
Investigators refused to give any specifics on the bombs and say, for example, where they might have been hidden or whether they were packed with shrapnel for maximum carnage, as is often the case in terror bombings overseas.
But Dr. Stephen Epstein of the emergency medicine department at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center said he saw an X-ray of one victim's leg that had "what appears to be small, uniform, round objects throughout it — similar in the appearance to BBs."
The fiery explosions took place about 10 seconds and about 100 yards apart, knocking spectators and at least one runner off their feet, shattering windows and sending columns of smoke rising over the street.
- Created on 16 April 2013
WASHINGTON — The U.S. immigration system would undergo dramatic changes under a bipartisan Senate bill that puts a new focus on prospective immigrants' merit and employment potential, while seeking to end illegal immigration once and for all by creating legal avenues for workers to come here.
The bill would put the 11 million immigrants in the country illegally on a 13-year path to U.S. citizenship that would cost each $2,000 in fines plus additional fees, and would begin only after steps have been taken to secure the border, according to an outline of the measure.
The sweeping legislation also would remake the nation's inefficient legal immigration system, creating new immigration opportunities for tens of thousands of high- and low-skilled workers, as well as a new "merit visa" aimed at bringing people with talents to the U.S. Senators had planned to formally introduce the bill Tuesday, but after Monday's bombing at the Boston Marathon a planned press event was delayed until later in the week.
Employers would face tough new requirements to check the legal status of all workers. Billions of dollars would be poured into border security, and millions of people who've been waiting overseas for years, sometimes decades, in legal immigration backlogs would see their cases speeded up.
Overall, the changes represent the most dramatic overhaul to U.S. immigration law in more than a quarter-century.
"There's a realization among most Republicans and Democrats that this issue needs to be addressed," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a leader of the effort. "You can't have 11 million people living in the shadows forever."
McCain and another leader of the group, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., were to meet with President Barack Obama on Tuesday to brief him on the legislation. It's a top second-term priority for the president.
The bill is the result of months of secretive negotiations among eight lawmakers. In addition to Schumer and McCain, they are Democrats Dick Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado, working with Republicans Marco Rubio of Florida, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona.
The legislation is a painstaking attempt to balance a focus on border security and legal enforcement sought by Republicans in the group with Democratic priorities like making citizenship widely accessible. Crafting the bill was a time-consuming process of seeking compromise and bringing together traditionally opposed groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO, the United Farm Workers and the American Farm Bureau Federation.
But even harder work lies ahead now that legislative language will become public for other lawmakers and groups on all sides to examine and react to. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on the bill beginning Friday and likely move to amend and vote on it in May, with action on the Senate floor expected later in the summer. The Republican-controlled House also must act, and opposition from some conservatives there is likely to be fierce.
"The Senate proposal issues an open invitation to enter the country illegally," Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said on the House floor Monday. "Millions more will do so before the border is secure. The Senate proposal will dramatically increase illegal immigration."
Under the bill, immigrants here illegally could gain a provisional legal status six months after enactment as long as they meet certain criteria, and if the Homeland Security Department has moved forward on plans to secure the border. They would remain in that provisional status for 10 years, able to work legally but barred from federal benefits like welfare or health care. After 10 years they could seek green cards conferring permanent legal status, and three years after that they could petition for citizenship.
They would have to pay a total of $2,000 in fines along the way, and at least hundreds more in fees, though that number has not been determined.
People brought here illegally as youths would have a faster path: They could get green cards in five years and would become eligible for citizenship immediately thereafter.
U.S. citizens no longer would be able to sponsor their siblings for eventual U.S. citizenship, a change activist groups have opposed. That's among several changes aimed at rebalancing an immigration system that now awards around 15 percent of green cards to people with employment ties, and the majority to people with family ties, to a system that awards 45 percent to 50 percent of green cards based on employment ties.
There would be no limit in the number of green cards awarded to people of extraordinary ability in science, arts, education, business or athletics, or to outstanding professors, doctors and others. A new startup visa would be created for foreign entrepreneurs trying to come here to start their own companies.
Visas for highly skilled workers greatly in demand by technology companies would nearly double. Low-skilled workers would be able to come in for jobs in construction, long-term care and other industries, ultimately up to 200,000 a year. A new agriculture visa program would bring farm workers to the U.S.; farm workers already here illegally would get a faster path to citizenship than others here illegally, able to seek a green card in five years, an effort to create a stable agricultural workforce.
The bill is titled the "Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013."
- Created on 15 April 2013
A multi-racial coalition of anti-violence organizations Thursday held a rally in Springfield urging lawmakers to pass a commonsense gun bill. The groups, mostly comprised of faith leaders, say they are tired of going to funerals – especially for youth.
At least two busloads of the coalition members and supporters traveled to the state capital from Chicago, wearing blue shirts that said, “Standing Together for Common Sense Gun Laws! Illinois Advocacy Day.”
Rev. Michael Pfleger, who has been outspoken on community violence , vowed that state leaders who didn’t support gun legislation palpable for the group and what Pfleger says is the will of many Illinoisans – by way of the 50,000-signature petitions the group delivered to the governor – could themselves lose constituent backing.
“They hide because there is no way in the world they can justify not registering guns and not banning assault weapons. They don’t want to talk,” Pfleger said Thursday, referring to members of the Illinois General Assembly.
“But, (Republican House Minority Leader Tom) Cross and all the others who are fighting against us have to understand they are fighting against 95 percent of the people of Illinois, and if they’re not going to vote for us, we’re going to make sure nobody votes for them,” Pfleger added.
He spoke at a press conference on the steps of the State Capitol, flanked by Gov. Pat Quinn and state Sen. Jacqueline Collins, D-16th. Collins is also member of Pfleger’s St. Sabina church. Others attending with the South Side priest included Rev. Ira Acree and members of his St. John Bible Church on the city’s West Sid, Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, which organized the rally, Bishop Christopher Epting, the assisting bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, Rev. B. Herbert Martin, Rev. Larry Martin, Hope Church Chicago, Marcinia Richards, executive director of the Peace Coalition Against Violence at Saint Sabina, state Sens. Napoleon Harris, D-15th, Dan Kotowski D-33rd, Don Harmon, D-39th, state Rep. Esther Golar, D-6th, Ald. Lona Lane (18th), Pam Bosley, from Purpose Over Pain, activist Camiella D. Williams and representatives from The Voices of the Surviving Siblings.
“We know they have the power of the pen to put in some commonsense gun legislation. We pray that you will make Illinois a model for the rest of the country as we end this epidemic of senseless violence,” Acree said while leading the group in prayer.
Quinn addressed the coalition.
“What we have to do in the best tradition of Abraham Lincoln’s democracy is to listen to what people are saying all over our state, all over our country that it’s time for gun safety legislation,” said the governor.
Illinois had been the only state in the country that did not allow citizens to carry concealed weapons. But in December, an appeals court ruled that the state has to come up with a law that allows concealed carry. Illinois was given 180 days to come up with the legislation.
The Illinois Council on Handgun Against Violence has joined Pfleger in his fight to lobby lawmakers to pass a bill the priest hopes will reduce violence and homicides in Chicago.
Pfleger and ICHV are demanding that any legislation proposed would allow local law enforcement to control who gets a permit and they also want a provision asking a gun permit applicant to provide a “good cause” for wanting a firearm.
Other provisions sought include: universal background checks on all gun purchases and transfers, reporting of lost or stolen firearms to law enforcement and titling guns like cars.
- Created on 15 April 2013
BOSTON — Two bombs exploded in the packed streets near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, killing two people and injuring more than 130 in a bloody scene of shattered glass and severed limbs that raised alarms that terrorists might have struck again in the U.S.
A White House official speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still unfolding said the attack was being treated as an act of terrorism.
President Barack Obama vowed that those responsible will "feel the full weight of justice."
A senior U.S. intelligence official said two other bombs were found near the end of the 26.2-mile course in what appeared to be a well-coordinated attack.
Authorities shed no light on a motive or who may have carried out the bombings, and police said they had no suspects in custody. Authorities in Washington said there was no immediate claim of responsibility.
"They just started bringing people in with no limbs," said runner Tim Davey of Richmond, Va. He said he and his wife, Lisa, tried to keep their children's eyes shielded from the gruesome scene inside a medical tent that had been set up to care for fatigued runners, but "they saw a lot."
"They just kept filling up with more and more casualties," Lisa Davey said. "Most everybody was conscious. They were very dazed."
The fiery twin blasts took place almost simultaenously and about 100 yards apart, knocking spectators and at least one runner off their feet, shattering windows and sending dense plumes of smoke rising over the street and through the fluttering national flags lining the course.
When the second bomb went off, the spectators' cheers turned to screams. As sirens blared, emergency workers and National Guardsmen who had been assigned to the race for crowd control began climbing over and tearing down temporary fences to get to the blast site.
Blood stained the pavement, and huge shards were missing from window panes as high as three stories.
Boston police said two people were killed. Hospitals reported at least 134 injured, at least 15 of them critically.
Some 23,000 runners took part in the race, one of the world's oldest and most prestigious marathons. One of Boston's biggest annual events, the race winds up near Copley Square, not far from the landmark Prudential Center and the Boston Public Library. It is held on Patriots Day, which commemorates the first battles of the American Revolution, at Concord and Lexington in 1775.
Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis asked people to stay indoors or go back to their hotel rooms and avoid crowds as bomb squads methodically checked parcels and bags left along the race route. He said investigators didn't know precisely where the bombs were planted or whether they were hidden in mailboxes or trash cans.
He said authorities had received "no specific intelligence that anything was going to happen" at the race.
The Federal Aviation Administration barred low-flying aircraft from within 3.5 miles of the site.
Obama was briefed on the explosions by Homeland Security adviser Lisa Monaco. Obama also told Mayor Tom Menino and Gov. Deval Patrick that his administration would provide whatever support was needed, the White House said.
"We still don't know who did this or why," Obama said, adding, "Make no mistake: We will get to the bottom of this."
With scant official information to guide them, members of Congress said there was little or no doubt it was an act of terrorism.
"We just don't know whether it's foreign or domestic," said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.
A few miles away from the finish line and around the same time, a fire broke out at the John F. Kennedy Library. The police commissioner said it may have been caused by an incendiary device but didn't appear to be related to the bombings.
The first loud explosion occurred on the north side of Boylston Street, just before the photo bridge that marks the finish line. The second explosion could be heard a few seconds later.
They occurred about four hours into the race and two hours after the men's winner crossed the line. By that point, more than 17,000 of the runners had finished the race, but thousands of others were farther back along the course.
The attack may have been timed for maximum carnage: The four-hour mark is typically a crowded moment near the finish line because of the slow-but-steady recreational runners completing the race and because of all the relatives and friends clustered around to cheer them on.
- Created on 15 April 2013
Illinois state Rep. La Shawn K. Ford, D-Chicago, recently accompanied 100 Chicago high school seniors to Talladega College in Alabama and all of them were accepted to the Historically Black Colleges and Universities school.
Their bus pulled up to Chicago's Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church April 6, after the two-day trip that was meant to expose the at-risk youth to other opportunities. The trip was coordinated by Community Recovery Network.
"It is an honor to join Community Recovery Network and over 100 Chicago Public Schools seniors to tour Alabama's oldest HBCU,” said Ford. "With the record number of school closures and huge disparities in the numbers of African Americans being accepted to four-year colleges when compared to other ethnic and racial groups, it was great to be part of having students see what options are open to them.”
Community Recovery Network is a community organization focused on connecting disadvantaged families and youth with opportunities to excel and a voice to make a difference. This year's tour was their 2nd annual one.
"Our goal is to overshadow the negativity and violence that is plaguing our communities with the love and grace of a Higher Power, and uniting communities to empower and inspire our future leaders," said Community Recovery Network Executive Director Hedy Ellison.
“It was great to meet with President Dr. Billy Hawkins of Talladega College, and it was exciting to hear the president's commitment to meet the needs of the families in Illinois and increase college enrollment to help reduce the college enrollment disparities we see for African Americans in Chicago,” said Ford. “We are excited that over 100 Chicago students from the West and South Sides of Chicago celebrated the end of the tour with a letter of acceptance to Talladega College, and 9 students received the Presidential Scholarship for a full ride.”