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Mexican Immigrants Repeatedly Brave Risks to Resume Lives in United States October 3, 2011

AGUA PRIETA, Mexico — “My wife, my son — I have to get back to them,” Daniel kept telling himself, from the moment he was arrested in Seattle for driving with an expired license, all the way through the deportation proceeding that delivered him to Mexico in June.

Nothing would deter him from crossing the border again. He had left his hometown at 24, he said. Twelve years later, he spoke nearly fluent English and had an American son, a wife and three brothers in the United States. “I’ll keep trying,” he said, “until I’ll get there.”

This is increasingly the profile of illegal immigration today. Migrant shelters along the Mexican border are filled not with newcomers looking for a better life, but with seasoned crossers: older men and women, often deportees, braving ever-greater risks to get back to their families in the United States — the country they consider home.

They present an enormous challenge to American policy makers, because they continue to head north despite obstacles more severe than at any time in recent history. It is not just that the American economy has little to offer; the border itself is far more threatening. On one side, fences have grown and American agents have multiplied; on the other, criminals haunt the journey at every turn.

And yet, while these factors — and better opportunities at home — have cut illegal immigration from Mexico to its lowest level in decades, they are not enough to scare off a sizable, determined cadre.

“We have it boiled down to the hardest lot,” said Christopher Sabatini, senior director for policy at the Council of the Americas.

Indeed, 56 percent of apprehensions at the Mexican border in 2010 involved people who had been caught previously, up from 44 percent in 2005. A growing percentage of deportees in recent years have also been deported before, according to Department of Homeland Security figures.

For the Obama administration, these repeat offenders have become a high priority. Prosecutions for illegal re-entry have jumped by more than two-thirds since 2008. Officials say it is now the most prosecuted federal felony.

President Obama has already deported around 1.1 million immigrants — more than any president since Dwight D. Eisenhower — and officials say the numbers will not decline. But at a time when the dynamics of immigration are changing, experts and advocates on all sides are increasingly asking if the approach, which has defined immigration policy since 9/11, still makes sense.

Deportation is expensive, costing the government at least $12,500 per person, and it often does not work: between October 2008 and July 22 of this year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement spent $2.25 billion sending back 180,229 people who had been deported before and come back anyway. Many more have returned and stayed hidden.

Some groups favoring reduced immigration say that making life harder for illegal immigrants in this country would be far more efficient. They argue that along with eliminating work opportunities by requiring employers to verify the reported immigration status of new hires, Congress should also prohibit illegal immigrants from opening bank accounts, or even obtaining library cards.

“You’d reduce the number of people who keep coming back again and again,” said Bob Dane, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform. The alternative, says Doris Meissner, the country’s top immigration official in the mid-1990s, is to accept that illegal immigrants like Daniel “are people with fundamental ties to the United States, not where they came from.”

“Our societies are so deeply connected,” Ms. Meissner said, referring primarily to the United States and Mexico, the main source of illegal immigrants. “And that is not reflected at all in policy.”

The administration acknowledges that immigrants like Daniel are rooted in the United States and typically have otherwise clean criminal records. But under its new plan introduced in August — suspending deportations for pending low-priority cases, including immigrants brought to the United States as children — repeat crossers are singled out for removal alongside “serious felons,” “known gang members” and “individuals who pose a clear risk to national security.”

Administration officials say they are trying to break the “yo-yo effect” of people bouncing back, as mandated by congress when it toughened laws related to illegal re-entry in the 1990s.

But some experts argue that this commingling actually undermines security. After a decade of record deportations, critics argue, it has become even harder to separate the two groups that now define the border: professional criminals and experienced migrants motivated by family ties in the United States.

“If you think drug dealers and terrorists are much more dangerous than maids and gardeners, then we should get as many visas as possible to those people, so we can focus on the real threat,” said David Shirk, director of the Transborder Institute at the University of San Diego. “Widening the gates would strengthen the walls.”

Crime and the Border

The border crossers pouring into Arizona a decade or two ago were more numerous, but less likely to be threatening. David Jimarez, a Border Patrol agent with years of experience south of Tucson, recalled that even when migrants outnumbered American authorities by 25 to 1, they did not resist. “They would just sit down and wait for us,” he said.

Over the past few years, the mix has changed, with more drug smugglers and other criminals among the dwindling, but still substantial, ranks of migrants.

The impacts are far-reaching. In northern Mexico, less immigration means less business. Border towns like Agua Prieta, long known as a departure point, have gone from bustling to windblown. Taxis that ferried migrants to the mountains now gather dust. Restaurants and hotels, like the sunflower-themed Girasol downtown, are practically empty. On one recent afternoon, only 3 of the 50 rooms were occupied.

“In 2000, we were full every day,” said Alejandro Rocha, the hotel’s manager.

New research from the University of California, San Diego, shows that crime is now the top concern for Mexicans thinking of heading north. As fear keeps many migrants home, many experienced border guides, or coyotes, have given up illegal migration for other jobs.

In Tijuana, across the border from San Diego, one well-known coyote is now selling tires. In Nogales, the largest Mexican city bordering Arizona, power has shifted to tattooed young men with expensive binoculars along the border fence, while here in Agua Prieta — where Mexican officials say traffic is one-thirthieth of what it once was — the only way to get across is to deal with gangs that sometimes push migrants to carry drugs.

It is even worse in Matamoros, across from Brownsville, Tex. Just standing at the border fence brings out drug cartel enforcers demanding $300 for the right to pass. Migrants and the organizations that assist them say cartel lieutenants roam the shelters, looking for deportees willing to work as lookouts, earning $400 a week until they have enough to pay for passage north.

“I was thinking about doing it, too,” said Daniel, looking down. “But then I thought about my family.”

American law enforcement officials say the matrix of drugs, migration and violence has become more visible at the border and along the trails and roads heading north, where more of the immigrants being caught carry drugs or guns — making them more likely to flee, resist arrest or commit other crimes.

“There’s less traffic, but traffic that’s there is more threatening,” Mr. Jimarez, the border agent, said.

Larry Dever, the sheriff of Cochise County, Ariz., which sits north of Agua Prieta, agreed: “The guys smuggling people and narcotics now are more sinister.”

His county, 6,169 square miles of scrub brush, ranches and tiny towns in the state’s southeast corner, has been an established crossing corridor since the mid-1990s. Since 2008, the police there have tracked every crime linked to illegal immigrants, in part because state and federal officials frequently requested data, treating the county as a bellwether of border security.

Indeed, when a Cochise rancher named Robert Krentz was killed in March 2010 after radioing to his brother that he was going to help a suspected illegal immigrant, the county quickly became a flash point for a larger debate that ultimately led to SB 1070, the polarizing Arizona bill giving the police more responsibility for cracking down on illegal immigrants.

Yet, crime involving illegal immigrants is relatively rare (5 percent of all local crime, Sheriff Dever said). Mostly it consists of burglaries involving stolen food. And, public records show, in 11 of the 18 violent crimes linked to illegal immigrants over 18 months, immigrants were both the victims and attackers.

This is not the portrait given by Republican border governors, including Rick Perry of Texas, a presidential candidate who recently said that “it is not safe on that border.” But while Mexican drug cartels have increased their presence from Tucson to New York — sometimes engaging in brutal violence after entering the country illegally — Americans living near the border are generally safe.

A USA Today analysis of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California in July found that crime within 100 miles of the border is below both the national average and the average for each of those states — and has been declining for years. Several other independent researchers have come to the same conclusion.

But the border is not safe for people crossing or patrolling it. The number of immigrants found dead in the Arizona desert, from all causes, has failed to decline as fast as illegal immigration has, while assaults on Border Patrol agents grew by 41 percent from 2006 to 2010, almost entirely because of an increase in attacks with rocks. The heightened risks have stimulated a debate: Has the more aggressive approach — bigger fences, more agents and deportations — contributed to, or diminished, the danger?

Sheriff Dever, lionized as an “illegal immigration warrior” by immigration opponents, says that increased enforcement has made Americans safer and should continue until his neighbors tell him they are no longer afraid.

But some immigration advocates contend that the government’s approach is too broad to be effective. “We have to really separate out the guy who is coming to make a living with his family from the terrorist or the drug dealer,” said Peter Siavelis, an editor of “Getting Immigration Right: What Every American Needs to Know.”

Home Is Where the Children Are

Deportations have muddled that delineation. In a recent line of deportees piling off a bus on the San Diego side of a metal gate leading to Tijuana, all were equal: the criminal in prison garb with the wispy goatee; the mother averting her eyes; and longtime residents like Alberto Álvarez, 36, a janitor and father of five who said he was picked up for driving without a license.

“Look, I’ve been in the U.S. 18 years,” he said, slinging a backpack over his Izod shirt. “Right now, my children are alone, my wife is alone caring for the kids by herself — they’ve separated us.”

During the immigration wave that peaked around a decade ago, deportations often meant something different: many deportees had not been in the United States for long; they were going home.

But now that there are fewer new arrivals, the concept of home is changing. Of the roughly 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States, 48 percent arrived before 2000. For the 6.5 million Mexicans in the United States illegally, that figure is even higher — 55 percent, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. There are now also 4.5 million American-born children of unauthorized immigrant parents.

Experts on both sides of the debate say this large group of rooted immigrants presents the nation with a fundamental choice: Either make life in the United States so difficult for illegal immigrants that they leave on their own, or allow immigrants who pose no threat to public safety to remain with their families legally, though not necessarily as citizens.

Steven A. Camarota, a demographer at the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, said the government should revoke automatic citizenship for children born to illegal immigrants, and seize assets from deported illegal immigrants so they have fewer incentives to return.

President Obama, having made no progress on getting his legalization plan through Congress, has instead been trying to make enforcement more surgical. Under the new guidelines, officials will use “prosecutorial discretion” to review the current docket of 300,000 deportation cases, suspending expulsions for a range of immigrants.

Several factors prompt “particular care and consideration” for a reprieve, including whether the person has been in the United States since childhood, or is pregnant, seriously ill, a member of the military or a minor, according to a June memo that initiated the change.

The issue of “whether the person has a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse, child or parent” appears in the memo’s secondary list of factors to consider. But it is not clear how broadly leniency will be applied. Repeat crossers are given a special black mark, and the administration has already deported hundreds of thousands of minor offenders, despite claiming to focus on “the worst of the worst.”

Several Democratic governors and law enforcement officials are particularly angry about Secure Communities, a program to run the fingerprints of anyone booked by the police to check for federal immigration violations. A large proportion of those deported through this process — 79 percent, according to a recent report by the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University — were low-level offenders, often arrested for traffic violations.

Administration officials dispute that, saying the ratio of serious criminals is increasing, and that ultimately they must enforce immigration law against all violators. They have mandated that the program be used nationwide by 2013.

Mexico’s border cities offer a portrait of what that could mean. Nearly 950,000 Mexican immigrants have been deported since the start of fiscal 2008. And in Tijuana — a former hub for migrants heading north, which now receives more deportees than anywhere else — the pool of deportees preparing to cross again just keeps growing.

Maria García, 27, arrived here after being deported for a traffic violation. She said she had spent six years living in Fresno, Calif., with her two Mexico-born sons, 11 and 7. She was one of many who said that without a doubt, they would find their way back to the United States.

“They can’t stop us,” she said.

The constant flow of deportees has become a growing concern for Mexican officials, who say the new arrivals are easy recruits, and victims, for drug cartels.

One former deportee was arrested this year for playing a major role in the deaths of around 200 people found in mass graves. In Tijuana, a homeless camp at the border has swollen from a cluster to a neighborhood, as deportees flow in, many carrying stories of being robbed or kidnapped by gangs who saw their American connections as a source for ransom.

Minutes after he arrived, Mr. Álvarez, the janitor, said he was worried about surviving — “you’re playing with your life being here,” he said. But his twin sons would turn 2 in a few weeks, and like many others, he said that no matter how he was treated in the United States, he would find his way back.

“I feel bad being here, I feel bad,” he said. “I’ve got my kids over there, my family, my whole life. Here” — he shook his head at the end of his first day in Tijuana — “no.”

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The gun crime map of America: interactive September 27, 2011

The latest US crime figures are out – what does it tell us about gun crime? Which states have the most firearms murders, robberies and assaults? Click on a state to explore it – or use the dropdown menu to choose different ways of seeing the data
Datablog: explore the data behind this map
Mapped using Google Fusion tables
• See notes

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Synagogue Bomb Plotters Sentenced to 25 Years in Prison July 1, 2011

Three men convicted of plotting to blow up New York synagogues and to fire heat-seeking missiles at U.S. military planes were sentenced to 25 years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon in Manhattan handed down punishments today against James Cromitie, 45, Onta Williams, 35, and David Williams, 30, who were found guilty in October of crimes including conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction against the U.S. A fourth defendant, Laguerre Payen, had his sentencing postponed pending a psychiatric evaluation.

McMahon called Cromitie and his co-defendants “thugs for hire,” adding that “I am nonetheless convinced a sentence of 25 years, a quarter of century behind bars, is sufficient to punish you for what happened and what didn’t happen.”

The men were accused of planning to bomb the Riverdale Temple, a Reform synagogue in the Bronx section of New York, and the nearby Riverdale Jewish Center, an Orthodox synagogue, in May 2009. They also sought heat-seeking missiles to fire at aircraft at the Stewart Air National Guard base in Newburgh, New York, the U.S. said.

Prosecutors sought life sentences for the three men, saying they were career criminals and willing participants in a plot organized by a government informant, Shahed Hussain, who was posing as a member of the Pakistani terrorist organization Laiksh-e-Mohammad.

‘Little Respect’

“They have shown little respect for the law throughout their adult lives,” the U.S. said in a sentencing memorandum dated June 8. “This investigation revealed what their rap sheets never could: that these defendants were among the handful of people in the country who would actually agree to join forces with a terrorist to bomb synagogues.”

The defense argued that the men were the victims of entrapment, lured into the plan by a paid government informant who gave them money for rent, food and car fare, and who promised them $250,000 in cash, a BMW, vacations in Puerto Rico and a barbershop.

The case is U.S. v. Cromitie, 09-cr-00558, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

© Copyright 2011 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

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Texas town pulls the plug on police department June 30, 2011

Attention gun-toting Texas natives: if you were looking to go a’looting, your time is now!

City Council members in Alto, Texas, a town of around 1,200, have voted to abolish the city’s police department for at least six months as the community considers if they will be able to afford the force into 2012.

As of June 15, Alto is being run by the Cherokee County sheriff’s office, whose headquarters are around 12 miles north of town. With only two dozen employees on the force there, overseeing security in the city of Alto will be a burden on the 1,000-square-mile stretch of land that the department is already in charge of.

“I’m going to try, but I can’t guarantee you there will always be an officer in the town,” says Sheriff James Campbell to the Wall Street Journal.

The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department is also the sole enforcer in Wells, Texas, which has a population of around 800. Earlier this year they relieved their only police officer.

Alto Mayor Monty Collins was against the measure, and he says now that the town’s citizens are instructing others to “bolt your doors” and “buy a gun.”

City Council officials in Alto calculate a budget shortfall of around $185,000 for the fiscal year ending on September 30, but note that it costs about $230,000 to run the town’s PD.

“We had to do something drastic,” says Jerry Flowers to WSJ. Flowers is both a councilman and hay farmer in Alto. “The police department, being a non-money-making entity, was the easiest to get rid of while we catch our breath and build up some cash.”

Apparently the council was given the choice of funding the police department or repairing the city-owned natural gas distribution system. With the latter generating most of the city’s revenue, it was an easy decision for lawmakers.

Charles Barron, however, feels otherwise. As Alto police chief, Barron says that the per-capita crime rate in 2010 exceeded the statewide level. The city was subjected to 66 reported crimes that year, including two dozen burglaries and 39 larcenies.

An antiquated printing press used by an Alto newspaper has been moved to a nearby museum in the meantime to protect it from looters.

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NYC Pride Parade Celebrates Passage of Gay Marriage June 27, 2011

NEW YORK — One of the world’s oldest and largest gay pride parades turned into a carnival-like celebration of same-sex marriage Sunday as hundreds of thousands of revelers rejoiced at New York’s new law giving gay couples the same marital rights as everyone else.

This year, the revelry was likely to go beyond floats, music and dancing. For the first time, it could include surprise engagements.

Throngs of cheering supporters greeted Gov. Andrew Cuomo as he led off the parade two days after signing the historic bill that made New York the sixth state to extend full marriage rights to gay couples.

“New York has sent a message to the nation,” Cuomo said before the march down Fifth Avenue. “It is time for marriage equality.”

Revelers hoisted signs that said “Thank you, Gov. Cuomo” and “Promise kept.”

A half-million people were expected to participate.

Cuomo marched with his girlfriend, Food Network personality Sandra Lee, and openly gay elected officials, including New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

The crowd, a dozen deep behind police barricades, whooped and screamed as hundreds of motorcycles roared down the avenue.

“I’m really, really proud of New York,” said Hannah Thielmann, a student at Fordham University in the Bronx who attended with her girlfriend, Christine Careaga.

The couple, both 20, were dressed as brides.

Careaga said her mother called her crying tears of joy after the New York Senate voted on the measure Friday.

“Every mother wants her child to be happily married,” Careaga said.

State Sen. Tom Duane, a Manhattan Democrat who is gay, planned to join in the festivities.

“I always love the parade,” Duane said. “It’s like Christmas and New Year’s all wrapped into one.” This year, he said, the occasion would be “particularly joyous.”

Duane said he and his partner first discussed marriage when Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004 but opted not to make any decisions until it became legal in New York. They have not made any plans yet.

“That will be next week’s project,” Duane said.

In Chicago, organizers of that city’s parade scrambled to repair dozens of floats after someone slashed their tires overnight at a garage on the South Side.

Parade coordinator Richard Pfeiffer said as many as 50 of the approximately 75 floats had damaged tires. The parade was to go ahead as planned, though some of the 250 entries might be out of order.

“Whoever decided to do this is not going to affect the parade,” Pfeiffer said. “We’re all going to be out celebrating. We’re still going to go on.”

Police spokesman Mike Sullivan said it was too early to determine if the damage was a hate crime.

In New York, the parade stepped off just after noon at 36th Street and Fifth Avenue and headed downtown. It ends at Greenwich and Christopher streets, near the site where gays rebelled against authorities and repressive laws outside the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village on June 28, 1969 — an event that gave rise to the gay rights movement.

A year later, several hundred people marched through the neighborhood to commemorate the riots in what is commonly considered the world’s first gay pride parade.

This year’s grand marshals include author and sex columnist Dan Savage and his husband, Terry Miller, who married in Canada; the Rev. Pat Bumgardner, senior pastor of Metroplitan Community Church of New York and a proponent of gay rights; and the Imperial Court of New York, which raises money for gay health and social services.

The law signed by Cuomo takes effect in 30 days. It was passed amid opposition from influential religious groups in the state.

© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Accused Boston Crime Boss ‘Whitey’ Bulger Arrested June 24, 2011

Former mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger, captured near his coastal California hideout after 16 years on the run, was ordered held without bond Thursday for transfer back to Boston to face charges of murder, extortion and conspiracy.

Bulger, 81, one of America’s most wanted fugitives, was lured from his Santa Monica, California, apartment just blocks from the Pacific Wednesday evening by federal agents and police acting on a tip from the public.

The man who inspired the gangster character played by Jack Nicholson in the 2006 film “The Departed” put up no resistance when he and his longtime companion, Catherine Greig, 60, were arrested, federal officials said at a Boston news conference. Greig had been with him in hiding since 1995.

An employee for the company that manages the apartment building, Joshua Bond, told Reuters the couple had lived there for 15 years and went by the names Charles and Carol Gasko. Neighbors said had frequently seen pair out walking together.

The pair appeared Thursday afternoon before a U.S. magistrate judge in Los Angeles, who ordered both of them to remain in federal custody without bail.

Handcuffed but looking calm and fit, Bulger gave short answers to procedural questions posed by the judge. He was mostly bald and wore a neatly trimmed white beard and wire-rimmed glasses.

He smiled and chuckled to himself while staring at reporters in the courtroom before the proceedings began.

When the judge asked if he had read the indictment against him, Bulger held up a sheaf of white papers and replied, “I got ‘em all right here. It will take me quite a while to finish these.” He said “thank you” to the judge at the end.

Greig, with close-cropped white hair, appeared frailer and older than Bulger. She scowled through much of her hearing.

Bulger and Greig waived rights to challenge their removal from California to Boston. The judge said both would be “sent forthwith” back to Massachusetts.

Steven Martinez, assistant director of the FBI Los Angeles office, later said the pair were spending the night locked up in Los Angeles, and that U.S. marshals would escort them across the country as early as Friday.

Bulger, a onetime underworld informant and former leader of the Irish-American criminal group the Winter Hill Gang, was wanted on 19 counts of murder committed in the 1970s and 1980s, and on charges of drug dealing, extortion, money laundering and conspiracy.

Greig was charged in 1997 with harboring a fugitive.

Boston U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said Bulger faced life in prison if convicted.

Bulger fled Boston in late 1994 and was joined by Greig a few months later. Before their arrest, the last credible sighting of the pair was in London in 2002. Bulger was thought to have traveled extensively in the United States, Europe, Canada and Latin America after slipping away.

His story inspired Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning film “The Departed” about double-dealing gangsters and corrupt cops in Boston.

 

BEACHSIDE HIDEOUT

Inside Bulger’s Santa Monica hideout, agents said they found $800,000, more than 30 firearms, knives and pieces of false identification. They declined to give details of the ploy that led to Bulger leaving his apartment.

A new series of televised public service announcements aimed at female viewers who might have seen Greig was launched just Tuesday, airing in 14 cities during daytime TV programs — though not in Los Angeles. The FBI also placed billboards in New York’s Times Square and elsewhere.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard DesLauriers said the media campaign paid off with an anonymous tip that directly led the critical break in the case.

Agents from the FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department staked out the three-story apartment building Wednesday afternoon before making the arrests.

Bulger is the older brother of William “Billy” Bulger, a former president of the Massachusetts State Senate. William Bulger had no comment about his brother’s arrest.

He was placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list in 1999, and a $2 million reward was offered for information leading to Bulger’s arrest. The FBI doubled the reward offered for Greig’s whereabouts this week, to $100,000.

Bulger, said to be an avid reader and history buff who likes to take long walks on beaches, has been featured on the television show “America’s Most Wanted” more than a dozen times from 1995 to 2010. (Additional reporting by Lauren Keiper in Boston, Jeremy Pelofsky in Washington and R.T. Watson and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Steve Gorman and Eric Walsh)

© 2011 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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Hackers Break into Arizona Police Computers

* Arizona DPS confirms “computer issues”

* Group says it hacked computer to protest immigration law

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Computer hackers who
previously broke into a U.S. Senate server and brought down the
CIA web site struck an Arizona police web site on Thursday.

Lulz Security, saying it opposed a tough anti-immigration
law in Arizona, said it was releasing documents that related to
border control and other law enforcement activities. Its
headline was “Chinga La Migra,” Spanish for a more profane way
of saying “Screw Immigration.”

It released contact information for several people. Reuters
was able to reach two of them to establish that they were
accurate.

“We are aware of computer issues,” said Steve Harrison, a
spokesman for the Arizona Department of Public Safety, “We’re
looking into it. And of course we’re taking additional security
safeguards.”

The Mexico border state passed a law last year ordering
police to check the immigration status of anyone suspected to
be in the United States illegally, in a bid to curb illegal
immigration and border-related crime.

A majority of Americans supported the measure, but outraged
opponents charged it was unconstitutional and would lead to the
harassment of Hispanic-Americans, and called for an economic
boycott of the desert state.

The most controversial parts of the law were blocked by a
federal judge shortly before it came into effect last July,
although Arizona is pursuing an appeal.

FEW ARRESTS

Lulz, a group of rogue hackers who have not been
identified, posts the results of its hacks on Twitter, the
microblogging site where the group has cultivated more than
240,000 followers.

So far LulzSec’s publicized assaults on Sony Corp., the
CIA, News Corp’s Fox TV and other targets have mostly resulted
in temporary disruptions of some websites and the release of
user credentials.

There have been few arrests in the hacks. British police
said Tuesday that they had arrested a 19-year-old man on
suspicion that he was connected to attacks on Sony, the CIA and
a British police unit that fights organized crime.

Spanish police earlier this month apprehended three men on
suspicion they helped Anonymous, a second rogue hacking group
that has teamed up with LulzSec.

Hacker attacks forced Brazil to shut down its presidential
website and other government sites temporarily Thursday, a
day after cyber attacks briefly disabled other government
sites.

LulzSec, whose hacks started to hit headlines last month,
has published the email addresses and passwords of thousands of
alleged subscribers to porn sites, it temporarily took down the
public website of the CIA, and it published data from internal
servers of the U.S. Senate.

Security experts who have researched LulzSec’s origins say
it emerged from Anonymous, which became famous for attacking
the companies and institutions that oppose WikiLeaks and its
founder, Julian Assange. Anonymous also attacked Sony and
governments around the globe that it considered oppressive.

LulzSec’s members are believed to be scattered around the
world, collaborating via secret Internet chat rooms. Suspected
leaders include hackers with the handles Kayla, Sabu and
Topiary, security experts say.

The group’s name is a combination of lulz, which is slang
for laughs, and sec, which stands for security.

(Additional reporting by Tim Gaynor in Phoenix and Roberto
Samora in Sao Paulo)

(Reporting by Diane Bartz and Jim Finkle; Editing by Paul
Simao)

© 2011 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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Census Shows Whites Lose US Majority Among Babies June 23, 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) — For the first time, minorities make up a majority of babies in the U.S., part of a sweeping race change and growing age divide between mostly white, older Americans and predominantly minority youths that could reshape government policies.

Preliminary census estimates also show the share of African-American households headed by women — made up of mostly single mothers — now exceeds African-American households with married couples, a sign of declining U.S. marriages overall but also continuing challenges for black youths without involved fathers.

The findings, based on the latest government data, offer a preview of final 2010 census results being released this summer that provide detailed breakdowns by age, race, and householder relationships such as same-sex couples.

Demographers say the numbers provide the clearest confirmation yet of a changing social order, one in which racial and ethnic minorities will become the U.S. majority by midcentury.

“We’re moving toward an acknowledgment that we’re living in a different world than the 1950s, where married or two-parent heterosexual couples are now no longer the norm for a lot of kids, especially kids of color,” said Laura Speer, coordinator of the Kids Count project for the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation.

“It’s clear the younger generation is very demographically different from the elderly, something to keep in mind as politics plays out on how programs for the elderly get supported,” she said. “It’s critical that children are able to grow to compete internationally and keep state economies rolling.”

Currently, non-Hispanic whites make up just under half of all children 3 years old, which is the youngest age group shown in the Census Bureau’s October 2009 annual survey, its most recent. In 1990, more than 60 percent of children in that age group were white.

William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution who analyzed the data, said figures in the 2009 survey can sometimes be inexact compared with the 2010 census, which queries the entire nation. But he said when factoring in the 2010 data released so far, minorities outnumber whites among babies under age 2.

The preliminary figures are based on an analysis of the Current Population Survey as well as the 2009 American Community Survey, which sampled 3 million U.S. households to determine that whites made up 51 percent of babies younger than 2. After taking into account a larger-than-expected jump in the minority child population in the 2010 census, the share of white babies falls below 50 percent.

Twelve states and the District of Columbia now have white populations below 50 percent among children under age 5 — Hawaii, California, New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Florida, Maryland, Georgia, New Jersey, New York and Mississippi. That’s up from six states and the District of Columbia in 2000.

At current growth rates, seven more states could flip to “minority-majority” status among small children in the next decade: Illinois, North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, Connecticut, South Carolina and Delaware.

By contrast, whites make up the vast majority of older Americans — 80 percent of seniors 65 and older and roughly 73 percent of people ages 45-64. Many states with high percentages of white seniors also have particularly large shares of minority children, including Arizona, Nevada, California, Texas and Florida.

“The recent emergence of this cultural generation gap in states with fast growth of young Hispanics has spurred heated discussions of immigration and the use of government services,” Frey said. “But the new census, which will show a minority majority of our youngest Americans, makes plain that our future labor force is absolutely dependent on our ability to integrate and educate a new diverse child population.”

Kenneth Johnson, a sociology professor and senior demographer at the University of New Hampshire, noted that much of the race change is being driven by increases in younger Hispanic women having more children than do white women, who have lower birth rates and as a group are moving beyond their prime childbearing years.

Because minority births are driving the rapid changes in the population, “any institution that touches or is impacted by children will be the first to feel the impact,” Johnson said, citing as an example child and maternal health care that will have to be attentive to minorities’ needs.

The numbers come amid public debate over hotly contested federal and state issues, from immigration and gay marriage to the rising cost of government benefits such as Medicare and Medicaid, that are resonating in different ways by region and demographics.

Alabama became the latest state this month to pass a wide-ranging anti-immigration law, which in part requires schools to report students’ immigration status to state authorities. That follows tough immigration measures passed in similarly Republican-leaning states such as Georgia, Arizona and South Carolina.

But governors in Massachusetts, New York and Illinois, which long have been home to numerous immigrants, have opted out of the federal Secure Communities program that aims to deport dangerous criminals, saying it has made illegal immigrants afraid of reporting crimes to police. California may soon opt out as well.

States also are divided by region over old-age benefits and gay marriage, which is legal in five states and the District of Columbia.

Among African-Americans, U.S. households headed by women — mostly single mothers but also adult women living with siblings or elderly parents — represented roughly 30 percent of all African-American households, compared with the 28 percent share of married-couple African-American households. It was the first time the number of female-headed households surpassed those of married couples among any race group, according to census records reviewed by Frey dating back to 1950.

While the number of black single mothers has been gradually declining, overall marriages among blacks are decreasing faster. That reflects a broader U.S. trend of declining marriage rates as well as increases in non-family households made up of people living alone, or with unmarried partners or other non-relatives.

Female-headed households make up a 19 percent share among Hispanics and 9 percent each for whites and Asians.

Other findings:

—Multigenerational households composed of families with grandparents, parents and children were most common among Hispanics, particularly in California, Maryland, Illinois, Nevada and Texas, all states where they represented nearly 1 in 10 Latino households.

—Roughly 581,000, or a half percent, of U.S. households are composed of same-sex unmarried couples, representing nearly 1 in 10 households with unmarried partners. Unmarried gay couples made up the biggest shares in states in the Northeast and West, led by the District of Columbia, Oregon, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont. The largest numbers were in California and New York, which is now considering a gay marriage law.

—Minorities comprise a majority of renters in 10 states, plus the District of Columbia — Hawaii, Texas, California, Georgia, Maryland, New Mexico, Mississippi, New Jersey, Louisiana and New York.

Tony Perkins, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council, a conservative interest group, emphasized the economic impact of the decline of traditional families, noting that single-parent families are often the most dependent on government assistance.

“The decline of the traditional family will have to correct itself if we are to continue as a society,” Perkins said, citing a responsibility of individuals and churches. “We don’t need another dose of big government, but a new Hippocratic oath of ‘do no harm’ that doesn’t interfere with family formation or seek to redefine family.”

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Israel Asks US to Let Spy Attend Father’s Funeral June 21, 2011

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israelis are rallying behind convicted spy Jonathan Pollard like never before, urging the U.S. on Sunday to let the former Pentagon analyst leave prison to attend his father’s funeral.

Israelis widely feel that after 25 years behind bars, Pollard has been excessively punished, and they seem puzzled over the U.S. refusal to set him free, despite recent calls for his release from some prominent former American officials.

Pollard was a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy when he copied and gave to his Israeli handlers enough classified documents to fill a walk-in closet.

Arrested in 1985 after unsuccessfully seeking refuge at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, Pollard was convicted and sentenced to life in prison two years later. Pollard is scheduled for release in 2015, according to a U.S. Justice Department Web site.

Nachman Shai, an Israeli lawmaker leading a campaign on Pollard’s behalf, said Israel has done everything it reasonably could to repair the damage done by the scandal.

“Israel has already apologized,” he said. “Israel accepted responsibility.”

It also pledged years ago to halt espionage against its main ally.

Pollard advocates claim that other spies convicted of far worse crimes against America — including on behalf of actually hostile nations — have received lesser sentences and have been released earlier than Pollard.

The U.S. defense establishment is considered hostile to the idea of clemency, claiming Pollard caused huge, but largely undisclosed, damage.

Once a niche cause for the Israeli right, the Pollard campaign is now an issue that unites most Israelis. It is a rarity in this politically divided country, and it is reflected in the origins of the petition — in Shai’s opposition centrist Kadima Party.

Nearly two-thirds of the members of Israel’s parliament signed the call asking that Pollard be allowed to attend his father’s funeral Monday in Indiana, and dozens rallied for Pollard in front of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv Sunday. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has personally appealed for Pollard’s freedom as well.

“The Americans have still not figured out how principled an issue this is for the Israeli people,” wrote Ben Caspit, the normally liberal-leaning chief columnist for the Maariv daily. “It is simply an issue of humanity. To let him say a final goodbye to his father after spending 25 years in jail, you don’t have to be ‘Israel’s best friend.’ You simply have to be a human being.”

Caspit suggested that Israeli officials boycott the annual July 4 party at the U.S. ambassador’s home because of America’s “cruelty and brutality” in the matter. Pollard’s mother died in 2001, and he was not allowed to see her or attend her funeral.

Shai, who collected 73 signatures from the 120 lawmakers, said a similar petition last week, calling for Pollard to visit his dying father in the hospital, was ignored. “It’s a very humanitarian issue, nothing to do with any political business or security,” he said.

Israeli Arab lawmaker Ahmad Tibi called the uproar over Pollard “typical Israeli hypocrisy” — since “Israel consistently refuses to allow Palestinian prisoners attend their parents’ funerals.”

Israeli prison officials were not available for comment.

Pollard’s Israeli lawyer, Nitzana Darshan-Leitner, said she believes his harsh punishment initially derived from a personal vendetta of former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, who pushed for a heavy sentence despite a plea bargain that would have sent Pollard to prison for a shorter term.

She said Israel’s refusal for years to acknowledge that Pollard was in fact its operative has harmed his chances for clemency ever since. Israel accepted responsibility for the affair only the following decade.

Pollard, 56, was granted Israeli citizenship during Netanyahu’s first tenure as prime minister, in the late 1990s. Later, when he was out of office, Netanyahu visited Pollard in prison. In January, Netanyahu made a formal appeal to the U.S. for his release and on Sunday his office said it had contacted Washington in hopes of at least getting him out for the funeral.

A string of top American officials, including former U.S. Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Schultz and former U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle, have also lobbied for Pollard’s freedom.

“We are in Obama’s hands now,” Darshan-Leitner said.

Before he died, Morris Pollard, 95, a professor emeritus of biological sciences at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, said he couldn’t sleep at night because of his son’s incarceration. He called it “an overwhelming miscarriage of justice.”

Pollard wife, Esther, said she hoped her husband would be allowed to bury his father after not being able to see him in person.

“Right now we are just so brokenhearted, because Morris so much wanted to see Jonathan before he died, and Jonathan wanted so much to part from his father like a real loving son,” she said, in tears. “He just wanted to say goodbye to his dad, and he never got a chance.”

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After 2-year Run, ‘Barefoot Bandit’ Faces Prison June 19, 2011

SEATTLE (AP) — Colton Harris-Moore gained authority-mocking, cult status as he ran from the law for two years in stolen boats, cars and planes. Now, he faces years in prison.

The young Washington state man dubbed the “Barefoot Bandit” for a cross-country his crime spree pleaded guilty Friday to seven felony charges, ranging from stealing an aircraft to possessing a firearm.

“We’re here today to say that Mr. Harris-Moore’s flight from justice has ended,” U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan said after the hearing. He will “spend a significant time in prison and will not make one dime from his crimes.”

Under a plea agreement, Harris-Moore would forfeit any future earnings from movie, book, or other deals from selling his story. Earnings would be used to pay off the $1.4 million in restitution he owes to his many victims.

Harris-Moore could receive between 5 1/4 and 6 1/2 years in prison when he’s sentenced in October, defense attorney John Henry Browne said.

However, he still faces state charges in several counties, including the county where his crimes began.

Prosecutors have said Harris-Moore hopscotched his way across the United States, frequently crash-landing planes in rural areas and stealing cars from parking lots at small airports. His escapades were widely followed in print and the Internet, earning him the “Barefoot Bandit” moniker by committing some of crimes without shoes.

Harris-Moore, now 20, smiled and greeted his lawyers as he entered the court room Friday. He sat quietly — sometimes smiling, sometimes holding his hands and looking down — as federal judge Richard Jones went over the details of the crimes.

The federal charges, which included stealing an aircraft, possession of firearms and piloting without a license, stemmed from a spate of crimes in late 2009 and early 2010, when Harris-Moore was accused of flying a stolen plane from Anacortes, in northwestern Washington, to the San Juan Islands.

Authorities say he later stole a pistol in eastern British Columbia and took a plane from a hangar in Idaho, where investigators found bare footprints on the floor and wall. That plane crashed near Granite Falls, Wash., after it ran out of fuel, prosecutors said.

He made his way to Oregon in a 32-foot boat stolen in southwestern Washington — stopping first to leave $100 at an animal shelter in Raymond, Wash. From Oregon, authorities said, Harris-Moore traveled across the United States.

In Indiana, he stole another plane, flew across half of the united States, and crash landed in the Bahamas, where he was captured last July.

Harris-Moore also faces several dozen charges in four Washington counties, with the most serious charge being burglary where a handgun was involved. Those charges will likely be consolidated and a hearing should take place in about a month, San Juan County prosecutor Randall K. Gaylord said.

Friday’s agreement calls for Harris-Moore to serve his federal sentence concurrently with whatever prison time he may get from the state.

But the state charges could mean more time in prison beyond what the federal judge decides, as well as an increase in the restitution owed, according to federal and local prosecutors.

“All of this is up to the judge,” Browne said. “We’re very hopeful it’ll be around the same sentence.”

Browne added that Harris-Moore’s story would attract enough attention to pay off all the restitution.

Asked what Harris-Moore plans to do after he’s done with prison, Browne said that he’d like to go to college to study engineering.

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ICE Announces Changes to Secure Communities June 18, 2011

ATLANTA (AP) — Federal immigration authorities say they’re changing the way they enforce immigration policies in an effort to focus on the most serious criminals.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton said Friday many of the changes were prompted by concerns from local law enforcement agencies and communities.

Some changes will be made to the Secure Communities program, which enables law enforcement to check arrestee fingerprint information against federal immigration records.

Morton says he’s creating an advisory committee to come up with ideas on changing Secure Communities to focus on serious criminals.

New policies announced would urge officers to avoid putting victims and witnesses of crimes into immigration proceedings that can lead to their deportation.

Critics have said Secure Communities discourages immigrants from reporting crimes. Several states have declined to participate.

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Texas Teachers May Get Student Criminal Histories June 14, 2011

DALLAS — Texas is close to enacting a law that would provide teachers with more detailed information about the criminal histories of students in their classrooms.

Texas already provides some background information about students but the new law would turn over details of crimes and arrests that most states keep confidential.

Juvenile experts complain the new law could make it harder for young offenders to lead a normal life after they are released. But educators insist teachers are in too much danger.

The legislation is adding to a national debate over whether teacher safety should outweigh the rights of young offenders.

The measure was spurred by the fatal stabbing of a teacher in Tyler in 2009. It was passed by the legislature last month, and awaits approval by Gov. Rick Perry.

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Alabama Passes Tough Illegal-immigration Law June 10, 2011

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama vaulted past Arizona on Thursday with what is being called the most restrictive law in the nation against illegal immigration, requiring schools to find out if students are in the country lawfully and making it a crime to knowingly give an illegal immigrant a ride.

Advocacy groups promised to challenge the sweeping measure, which like Arizona’s law also allows police to arrest anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant if the person is stopped for some other reason. In addition, it requires all businesses to check the legal status of workers using a federal system called E-Verify.

“It is clearly unconstitutional. It’s mean-spirited, racist, and we think a court will enjoin it,” said Mary Bauer, legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center.

It takes effect Sept. 1.

Republican Gov. Robert Bentley, who signed it into law on Thursday, expressed confidence it would withstand any legal challenges.

“We have a real problem with illegal immigration in this country,” he said. “I campaigned for the toughest immigration laws, and I’m proud of the Legislature for working tirelessly to create the strongest immigration bill in the country.”

Alabama has an estimated 120,000 illegal immigrants, a nearly fivefold increase from a decade ago, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Many of them are believed to be working on farms, at chicken processing plants and in construction.

One of the legislation’s sponsors, GOP Sen. Scott Beason, said it would help the unemployed by preventing illegal immigrants from getting jobs in the state. Alabama’s unemployment rate stood at 9.3 percent in April, the most recent figures available.

“This will put thousands of Alabamians back in the work force,” Beason said.

The measure instantly puts Alabama at the forefront of the immigration debate. Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center agreed that it is the nation’s toughest crackdown on illegal immigration.

Linton Joaquin, general counsel for the National Immigration Law Center in Los Angeles, said the Alabama law covers all aspects of an immigrant’s life.

“It is a sweeping attack on immigrants and people of color in general. It adds restrictions on education, housing and other areas. It is a very broad attack,” Joaquin said.

Among other things, the law makes it a crime for landlords to knowingly rent to an illegal immigrant.

Another provision makes it a crime to transport a known illegal immigrant. Arizona’s law appears narrower: It includes language against human smuggling and makes it illegal to pick up laborers for work if doing so impedes traffic.

Alabama’s law also goes further in requiring schools to check the immigration status of their students. The measure does not prohibit illegal immigrants from attending public schools; lawmakers said the purpose instead is to gather data on how many are enrolled and how the much the state is spending to educate them.

Jared Shepherd, an attorney for the ACLU, warned that because of that provision, some immigrant parents may not send their children to school for fear of arrest or deportation.

Activists such as Shay Farley, legal director of Alabama Appleseed, an immigrant advocacy group, said the bill invites racial profiling not only by law enforcement officers but by landlords and employers.

“It’s going to make us profile our neighbors and our church brothers and sisters,” Farley said.

Alabama’s Hispanic population more than doubled between 2000 and 2010 to 186,000, or 3.9 percent of the state’s nearly 4.8 million people, according to the Census.

Some farmers and other small businesses had hoped to be exempted from having to verify the immigration status of employees, fearing the database would be too costly and add too much red tape. Georgia’s recently passed immigration law, for instance, exempts businesses with fewer than 10 employees from using the database.

Alabama’s measure was modeled on Arizona’s. A federal judge blocked the most controversial parts of Arizona’s law last year after the Justice Department sued.

That includes the provision that required police to check people’s immigration status while enforcing other laws if there was reason to believe the person was in the country illegally. The case appears headed for the U.S. Supreme Court.

A less restrictive law in Utah also was blocked after a lawsuit was filed.

Civil liberties groups have also sued to try to block Georgia’s law cracking down on illegal immigration.

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New York Legislators Plan to Propose ‘Sext Ed’ June 7, 2011

New York state lawmakers plans to push for legislation that would warn teenagers about the perils of sending intimate photos of themselves from cellphones. The move comes amid politicians’ criticism of laws that can leave teens facing felony child-pornography charges for sending nude pictures.

The Cyber Crime Youth Rescue Act, which Democrats plan to sponsor in the Republican-led Legislature, would propose funding for an educational campaign about “sexting,” a trend that has caused problems for many who sent pictures back then that they regret now.

The topic exploded recently with allegations that Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., may have sent lewd photos to a Seattle college student.

The initiative would outline the potential legal repercussions and lifetime of embarrassment that can result from teenagers sending inappropriate photos of themselves via handheld devices and the Internet, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The program also would warn kids about “the nearly unlimited ability of an infinite audience to utilize the Internet search for and replicate materials.”

“There are too many kids who are getting themselves into serious trouble for adolescent behavior,” Alan Maisel, a Democratic assemblyman from Brooklyn and a co-sponsor of the bill, told the Journal. “I don’t know if they should be tainted with this evil brush for the rest of their lives.”

Similar proposals have been introduced or passed in more than a dozen other states to give prosecutors more leeway and distinguish such offenses from child pornography and sexual-predator crimes that include more serious and lasting penalties.

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Mass. Towns Give Thanks Tornado Toll Wasn’t Worse June 3, 2011

MONSON, Mass. (AP) — The sight of flattened homes, peeled-off roofs and the toppled steeple of a 140-year-old church stunned New Englanders after deadly tornadoes swept through Massachusetts, striking an area of the country that rarely sees such severe twisters.

The storms, which came with fair warning but still shocked with their intensity, killed at least three people, injured about 200 and wreaked damage in a string of 18 cities and villages across central and western Massachusetts.

Tornadoes are not unheard of in New England — the downtown of Connecticut’s largest city was devastated by one last June — so many people heeded warnings. That didn’t guarantee their survival; among the dead was a mother who shielded her teenage daughter as they huddled in a bathtub.

But in many cases, doing the right thing — quickly — helped save lives.

Karen Irla, 50, was leaving Adams Hometown Market in the picturesque village of Monson when she heard children on their bicycles yelling, “Look at that tornado!”

“I screamed and I screamed and I screamed, and that’s why I have no voice today,” said Irla, who went against experts’ recommendations by getting in her car. She made it to a nearby senior center and waited until the storm passed.

Inside the market, produce manager Frank Calabrese made a quick decision that helped keep customers and employees from coming to harm.

In a move recalling a famous video from the recent deadly tornado in Missouri that documented shoppers’ terrifying moments inside a convenience store cooler, Calabrese herded them into a walk-in freezer, where six to eight endless minutes passed while the building shook and windows shattered.

“What else are were going to do?” he said. “We sat inside and waited it out.” No one in the store suffered a scratch.

The storms hit as many people headed home from work Wednesday, paralyzing motorists who could see the twister coming at them.

A fixed television camera caught dramatic images of a debris-filled tunnel cloud crossing the Connecticut River and slamming into Springfield, a working-class city of about 140,000 residents, where it cut a swath of destruction 10 blocks wide in some spots. The city is home to the Basketball Hall of Fame, which was spared damage.

Michael Valentin, 29, said he was eating at a soup kitchen near downtown when he started hearing thunder and went outside.

“All this was chaos,” he said. “It was like a mad wind twisting. It was destroying everything. Cars were being smashed against walls. Pieces of wood and trees were flying in the air.”

Debbie Perkins, 30, was filling up a small backyard swimming pool for some children when they spotted the funnel. They ran into the home and huddled in the basement.

“The kids, they were all screaming and crying,” Perkins said. Unlike many of her neighbors, she escaped without damage to her home.

Among the injured in Springfield was a prosecutor struck in the head by debris while walking to her car; she is expected to survive, but her name was not released.

The Hampden County district attorney, Mark Mastroianni, said he barely escaped injury himself when plate glass windows shattered and blew into his office and a conference room.

“People started to scream, ‘Get away from the windows,’ and as I was just turning to run, the glass window just came flying in,” he said.

The story was repeated in town after town around Springfield. Some of the most severe damage was in Monson, about 15 miles away, where homes were leveled and a historic church was badly damaged.

“This isn’t supposed to happen here,” Sen. John Kerry said after touring the damage in Monson, usually a quiet mountain hamlet about 90 miles west of Boston.

The toppled steeple of the First Church of Monson — founded in 1762 and rebuilt in 1873 — was a symbol of the heartbreak many residents were feeling. But townspeople were relieved that no one in the town of fewer than 10,000 was killed — and were determined to rebuild.

Patrick said he was moved by gestures of goodwill.

A woman in Monson received a phone call from someone in the Boston suburb of Milton — the governor’s hometown — who had recovered her checkbook register after the ferocious winds apparently carried it 90 miles.

He also addressed the death of the West Springfield woman who died while saving her daughter’s life by covering her in the bathtub.

“I’m a dad, and I understand a mom or dad would do anything to save their child,” Patrick said.

Authorities initially believed at least four people died but later determined that a heart attack death in Springfield was likely unrelated to the storms. A man died when a tree struck a van in West Springfield, and another person died in Brimfield, though authorities have not released details.

The governor, who declared a state of emergency allowing officials to sidestep usual regulations to provide quick relief, pledged that the state would throw all its resources behind recovery and that federal disaster assistance would be sought.

“For those who are feeling, quite understandably, that they can’t imagine what a better tomorrow would look like, I want to assure that we are working to get to that better tomorrow,” he said.

Massachusetts public health officials said about 200 people sought treatment for storm related-injuries.

Dr. Reginald Alouidor, a surgeon heading the trauma teams at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, said the injured at his hospital ranged in age from 2 to their mid-60s, with many suffering broken bones or other injuries from wind-driven debris.

Seven remained at the hospital Thursday, including a woman whose liver was lacerated when a building collapsed on her.

Police and National Guard troops went door to door in Springfield to check for any residents who were injured or otherwise needed help. The police chief confirmed reports of looting and other crimes, but no arrests were made.

Tens of thousands remained without power in the region.

Given the extent of damage, Patrick, who joined Kerry and Sen. Scott Brown for an aerial tour of the devastation, said it was remarkable there weren’t more deaths.

While two or three tornadoes hit Massachusetts on average every year, they’re usually weak and rarely strike heavily populated areas.

That may explain why the twisters caught people by surprise, said Stephen Frasier, a University of Massachusetts professor who has chased tornadoes across the Great Plains.

“Two things happened: This was bigger than the average tornado that hits Massachusetts that usually just knocks over a tree or something, and of course, it hit a populated area,” Frasier said.

Tornado watches and warnings had been posted Wednesday by the National Weather Service and were broadcast by radio and TV stations, “but people just don’t react to it here the way they do in other regions of the country,” he said.

Most Massachusetts communities also don’t have warning sirens like in the South and Plains, where people know exactly what they mean and are trained in grade school on how to react. Where sirens do exist, he said, New Englanders often treat them with curiosity rather than as a nudge to seek shelter.

In 1995, three people were killed by a tornado in the small town of Great Barrington, Mass., along the New York border. Last year’s tornado in Bridgeport, Conn., heavily damaged buildings but killed no one.

On June 9, 1953, a monster tornado sliced through Worcester and other central Massachusetts communities, killing 94 people and making it one of the deadliest single tornadoes in U.S. history.

___

Collins reported from West Springfield and Singer from Brimfield. Contributing were Associated Press writers Stephanie Reitz in Hartford, Conn.; and Denise Lavoie, Mark Pratt, Bob Salsberg, Sylvia Wingfield and Rodrique Ngowi in Boston.

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Holder: Petty Offenders Should Await Trial at Home June 2, 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) — Most non-violent offenders awaiting trial could be supervised at home instead of being placed in jail without endangering the community, Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday.

Holder, speaking at the National Symposium on Pretrial Justice, said many Americans accused of nonviolent or petty offenses remain in jail before trial simply because they cannot afford to post bail of even a few hundred dollars. Nearly two-thirds of inmates in county jails are awaiting trial, many for nonviolent crimes, at a huge cost to taxpayers, he said. And inmates who lose their jobs can also become ineligible for health benefits, relying on emergency rooms for routine treatment after their release.

“Almost all of these individuals could be released and supervised in their communities — and allowed to pursue or maintain employment, and participate in educational opportunities and their normal family lives — without risk of endangering their fellow citizens or fleeing from justice,” Holder said in his prepared remarks.

Holder told an audience of prosecutors, police officials and lawyers that society needs to continue developing better alternatives to incarceration.

He said the Department of Justice was providing guidance to local communities about how best to manage offenders awaiting trial and was also continuing to support programs aimed at helping inmates re-enter society after they serve their sentence and are released from custody.

The two-day symposium comes nearly 50 years after a similar summit, the National Conference on Bail and Criminal Justice, that was organized in 1964 by then-Attorney General Robert Kennedy. That conference paved the way for the Federal Bail Reform Act of 1966, which Holder said created the first major restructuring of bail system since the early days of the country.

A panel discussion on the criminal justice system earlier Wednesday included District of Columbia Police Chief Cathy Lanier and Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, among others.

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New Law on Crack Cocaine Could Apply to Old Cases June 1, 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) — A year ago, a drug dealer caught with 50 grams of crack cocaine faced a mandatory 10 years in federal prison. Today, new sentencing rules cut that to as little as five years, and thousands of inmates not covered by the change are trying to get it applied to old cases.

“Please make this situation fair to all of us,” prisoner Shauna Barry-Scott wrote from West Virginia to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which oversees federal sentencing guidelines. “Treat us the same.”

The commission meets Wednesday in Washington to consider making many of the new guidelines retroactive, a step that could bring early release for as many as 1 in every 18 federal prisoners, or approximately 12,000 inmates.

The commission has already received more than 37,000 letters on the issue, most from inmates and their families and friends. Many of the letters are form letters drafted by interest groups such as Families Against Mandatory Minimums, but others contain personal pleas. A woman from New York wrote to say her nephew should be “given another chance at society.” A mother from Illinois said her child was sentenced “very harshly.”

Prisoners have also been writing judges and public defenders, asking if the new law might help them.

“Dear Judge Blake, I am forwarding this letter to you for your assistance that concerns the new crack cocaine law that was just passed,” Steven Harris wrote to a federal judge in Maryland, asking about his 10-year sentence for crack possession and possession of a firearm during the crime. “I would like to know if this law will help me.”

Congress and President Barack Obama agreed in August to reduce the minimum penalties for crack. But the law did not apply to prisoners who were locked up before the change.

Michael Nachmanoff, the lead public defender in the eastern district of Virginia, where about 1,000 prisoners would be affected, the most of any area in the country, says his office has been getting about a half-dozen calls or letters a month.

Nachmanoff, who will testify before the commission Wednesday, says his office is prepared to act if the commission makes changes. And he says anyone who worries that retroactivity would be going light on offenders is wrong.

“All of these people will wind up serving long sentences,” he said. “This is really about fixing a really unfair problem that now everybody recognizes was wrong.”

Since the 1990s, advocates have complained that crack offenders are treated more harshly than those arrested with powdered cocaine. Many critics view the disparity as racial discrimination because black drug offenders are more likely to be charged with federal crack offenses and to serve longer prison terms than other offenders.

The Fair Sentencing Act, signed by Obama in August, attempts to remedy that disparity by changing the amount of crack cocaine required to trigger five and 10-year mandatory sentences.

Before the law was passed, a person convicted of possessing 5 grams of crack cocaine — about the weight of five packets of Sweet’n Low — automatically got sentenced to five years. Now it takes 28 grams to trigger a five-year mandatory sentence, an amount more in line with powdered cocaine. Possessing 280 grams of crack triggers a 10-year sentence as opposed to the old standard of 50 grams — about the same weight as 10 nickels.

Inmates who received the mandatory minimum sentence under the old system will not be eligible for early release because only Congress can make minimum sentences retroactive. But inmates who received above the minimum could see their sentences reduced, and others whose offense did not rise to the level of a mandatory minimum could be eligible for earlier release, too.

The commission estimates that the average sentence reduction for applicable inmates would be approximately three years.

Not everyone supports the proposal for retroactivity. The Fraternal Order of Police opposed the law Obama signed and plans to oppose retroactivity before the commission, arguing criminals were aware of the penalties for their actions.

“They knew what they were doing. They went into it with their eyes open,” Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents more than 300,000 law enforcement officers.

Prisoners charged with crack offenses have already had one recent experience with retroactive sentence reductions. In 2007, the commission revised the crack sentencing guidelines, reducing sentences by an average of two years. Approximately 16,000 offenders had their sentences reduced.

For the change to be made retroactive, four members of the six-member commission would have to vote to support the idea. If that happens, Congress could still reject or modify the guidelines until the end of October.

Given that the Fair Sentencing Act passed Congress almost unanimously and that the commission has acted previously to make sentencing changes retroactive, Marc Mauer of the Washington-based Sentencing Project said he is cautiously optimistic that the proposal for retroactivity will be adopted.

The commission is expected to rule in the next few months, but that ruling can’t come soon enough for some prisoners.

“I love and miss my children very much,” inmate Samuel Tirado wrote to the commission from his New Jersey penitentiary. “And I hope to be reunited with them sooner than 2022.”

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San Francisco Sheriff May Refuse to Hold Illegals May 31, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — If the San Francisco sheriff’s plan becomes reality, illegal immigrants arrested for petty crimes won’t be held in jail longer than necessary, even if federal immigration agents may want them detained for possible deportation.

Instead, starting Wednesday, deputies will treat those eligible for release just like U.S. citizens: They will be cited to appear in court.

City officials, however, aren’t so sure about Sheriff Mike Hennessey’s plan.

The new policy is his attempt to comply with a city law that prevents police from aiding federal authorities in non-felony crimes and a U.S. law that requires authorities to share fingerprints with immigration agents.

ICE Spokeswoman Virginia Kice said Hennessey’s decision is “unfortunate.”

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Philly Mob, Once Written Off, Has Bounced Back May 28, 2011

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Just a few years ago, federal authorities thought they had the Philadelphia-area mob close to sleeping with the fishes: One boss had turned government informant, his successor was convicted of racketeering and the underworld organization seemed in disarray.

But a federal grand jury report unsealed Monday, announcing charges against the top two reputed Philadelphia mobsters and 11 others, paints a picture of La Casa Nostra as alive and well.

Its 70 pages detail an operation that has rebounded and is thriving in some of classic staples of organized crime: sports betting, electronic gambling, coded conversations and violent threats.

“Despite the clear history over the past 30 years, there are people still willing to be involved in this type of activity,” said Barry Gross, a former assistant U.S. attorney who helped bring down several city crime bosses. “These allegations seem to be in line with what they’ve always done. … It continues.”

The old-school hallmarks of organized crime are detailed in a report that reads like something straight from the big screen, replete with real-life characters who go by “Uncle Joe,” ”Mousie,” ”Bent Finger Louie” and “Sheep.”

The report outlines a structured world of bosses and underbosses, where members are “made” or “straightened out” in a ceremony where a knife and gun are displayed, and the potential member must agree to be willing to use either of them to help “our friends.” The guiding rule of this underworld is “omerta,” the code of silence, the grand jurors wrote, and the penalty for violating that code is death.

The indictment alleges that reputed mob leader Joseph “Uncle Joe” Ligambi, reputed underboss Joseph “Mousie” Massimino and 11 others engaged in loan sharking and ran illegal gambling businesses involving video poker machines and sports bookmaking.

There are no murder charges, but authorities allege the men used threats to kill or harm people to recoup business debts.

In April 2002, for example, two of the defendants went to collect “Uncle Joe’s money” and one of them told the debtor that he was “capable of cracking” the victim if necessary, the grand jurors allege. In another instance a month later, two defendants allegedly told a victim they had repeatedly assaulted another debtor, once with a bat.

The indictment paints a picture of a classic world of coded talk, where illegal gambling machines — placed in coffee shops, restaurants and other places — are spoken of as espresso or coffee machines. Reputed mobsters and associates engage in and secret “walk and talks,” the report alleges, having covert conversations on foot to hinder interception.

“Organized crime still exists in the Philadelphia area,” George Venizelos, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia field division, said at a news conference announcing the charges. “It has not disappeared.”

That’s a different tune than authorities were singing several years back, especially after former mob boss Ralph Natale was sentenced in 2005 to 13 years in prison.

Natale is believed to be the first reigning mob boss ever to testify for federal authorities.

It 1999, Natale admitted he ordered or personally committed a total of eight murders in exchange for a shorter prison term. He later testified in four trials, including that of Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino, the man investigators say succeeded him as leader. Merlino and six others were convicted of racketeering and other mob-related activities but cleared on murder and attempted murder charges.

“He helped expose it and helped eradicate the La Cosa Nostra in the Philadelphia area,” Gross said then.

In announcing the latest arrests, however, federal authorities described a revived and reinvigorated criminal enterprise that, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer said, “has shown a remarkable ability to reorganize.”

Edwin J. Jacobs Jr., an attorney who has represented Merlino and other alleged mobsters in the past, said prosecutors typically talk in cycles.

“At the conclusion of a racketeering case, the government will announce that they have delivered a fatal blow to organized crime,” said Jacobs, who declined to address the latest charges specifically. “But when they indict the next case, they readily acknowledge a healthy and a vibrant and a powerful organization.”

Gross said every past prosecution has hurt La Casa Nostra significantly, but the potential for making money keeps people coming back.

“It’s about the money. It’s always about the money,” he said.

One notable absence from the indictment is actual violence, something noted by a federal magistrate at a detention hearing for Ligambi and another defendant.

A decade ago, the last big mob indictment alleged three slayings, part of a bloody period in which more than 30 people were killed in gangland violence — starting with the March 21, 1980, assassination of former crime boss Angelo Bruno.

The latest incarnation of the city’s La Cosa Nostra, authorities allege, rules based on past reputation and fear.

“What they’re banking on is fear,” federal prosecutor John S. Han said. “They don’t need to commit actual violence.”

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UK Twitter Case Could Have Impact on US May 27, 2011

The 200-million-user social networking site Twitter poses a very real threat to the judicial process in Britain, suggests BBC News. Current legal rulings and proceedings in there ould set a precedent, and raise the question of whether the outcome will influence how social networking is handled in courts worldwide.

Although audio and video recordings are not allowed in British courts, smartphones have not been banned, and the nation’s top judge even cleared their usage.

In his ruling, the lord chief justice said: “The use of an unobtrusive, handheld, virtually silent piece of modern equipment for the purposes of simultaneous reporting of proceedings to the outside world as they unfold in court is generally unlikely to interfere with the proper administration of justice.”

Trials easily could be compromised via Twitter and similar websites by anyone with an Internet connection, or even put crime victims in danger if their names are revealed, suggest the BBC.

“There are potential pitfalls,” writes BBC News. “Journalists and ordinary people in the public gallery are party to information that the jury may have been prevented from hearing. The danger of a trial being seriously prejudiced is obvious.”

Information conveyed via Twitter was first allowed in a British court during the extradition hearing for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The issue exploded into the media this week when U.K. soccer player Ryan Giggs sued Twitter and “persons unknown” after he was outed by tens of thousands of users for an alleged affair.

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