Parents of Boston Bombing Victim Advocate Life Imprisonment, not Death Sentence

By Ford Fischer, Special Report College Associate

“We were there. We lived it. The defendant murdered our 8-year-old son, maimed our 7-year-old daughter, and stole part of our soul,” write Bill and Denise Richard in the Boston Globe. Despite the loss of one child and the injury of another, they insist that they do not want the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Tsarnaev was found guilty on all 30 counts related to the bombibg and subsequent violence when he and his brother, Tamerlan, tried to escape. Many of these federal charges carry a maximum sentence of death. With the second phase of the trial beginning soon, the defense will present jurors with evidence that Tamerlan’s influence over Dzhokhar was responsible for the crimes, and that he should only be sentenced to life in prison. The government will argue that the crimes were heinous and that Dzhokar was remorseless.

However, the Richards want to see the death penalty taken off the table altogether. “We urge the Department of Justice to bring the case to a close,” they write. “We are in favor of and would support the Department of Justice in taking the death penalty off the table in exchange for the defendant spending the rest of his life in prison without any possibility of release and waiving all of his rights to appeal.”

Death penalty cases tend to be followed by years of appeals, costs, and strenuous legal processes. The family believes that this would keep the defendant in the spotlight and make it impossible to begin healing. “We believe that now is the time to turn the page, end the anguish, and look toward a better future — for us, for Boston, and for the country.”

Massachusetts residents are overwhelmingly against the death penalty. In the case of Tsarnaev specifically, one poll says that only 26 % of Bostonians want to see him executed.

The death penalty was abolished in Massachusetts in 1984 and hasn’t been used since 1947. However, the sentence is possible in this case because the charges are brought federally. 

What do you think? Should Tsarnaev receive the death penalty or life in prison?

Off the Vine: The Grapevine stories you missed!

Busy week in news as the 2016 lineup is filling up. Here are some of the stories that just missed out on being a part of the Grapevine.

By Phil Vogel, Special Report Producer

Feeling Low: Troop Morale is low -- really low. More than half of 770,000 soldiers are pessimistic about their future in the military and a similar number are unhappy in their jobs according findings obtained by USA TODAY. The physical health numbers were not pretty either -- only 14-percent say they are eating right and getting enough sleep. Since 2009, the Army has spends $287-million on a campaign to make troops more optimistic and resilient.  As part of the program, all soldiers -- including National Guard and reserves -- must fill out confidential questionnaires that measure resiliency. The army says the formulas used in the report are obsolete and will continue the positive psychological effort.

2016 Copy Editors Needed: Last week, we told you about Rand Paul's campaign website launching with "Education" misspelled (spelled it Eductation). This week, it was Hillary Clinton's turn for an embarrassing typo. The official press release announcement read, "Her work going door-to-door for the Children’s Defense Fund to her battling to create the Children’s Health Insurance Program, she’s fought children and families all her career." There is an important word missing there -- it was quickly fixed and the Presidential candidate got it right during her speaking engagements this week

Complexity Costs: Americans spend $32-billion to comply with the complicated tax system. And that is only the out-of-pocket cash - the National Taxpayers Union Foundation total the lost hours of productivity at 6.1 billion hours -- costing the economy $234 billion. 94% of returns were done with some kind of assistance -- I know mine was.

Old Habits Die Hard: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid must have been feeling nostalgic when he walked into the majority's weekly lunch on Tuesday. The problem is the Mansfield room is the lunching-domain of the Republicans now. The Nevada democrat quickly realized his mistake and exited through another door telling reporters, "wanted to check out the food."

Blast from the Past: Oddly enough, this week was not the first time a mailman has flown a small copter by the Capitol. On May 19, 1938, John Miller demonstrated the feasibility of a shuttle airmail service as part of National Airmail Week. Don't believe me? Here is the picture of proof from the Library of Congress.

Part 2: Bret Baier sits down with businessman Donald Trump

Part 1: Bret sits down with businessman Donald Trump

King Abdullah II: We're at war with 'outlaws of Islam'

Off the vine: The Grapevine stories you missed!

By Special Report Grapevine Producer -- Phil Vogel

While collecting Grapevine stories often times there are stories that are great/funny/interesting that just don't make the cut. So here are a few of my favorite pickings that fell off the vine--

Language Barrier: A new Social Security Administration Inspector General's report found that disability benefits were approved for hundreds of Puerto Ricans because they do not speak English -- despite Spanish being the dominate language in the territory. Moreover, the SSA doesn't have a system to track the number of beneficiaries who qualify by not being able to speak English. The administration has agreed to gather that data -- and to review the rules determining eligibility for disability benefits.

Making Me Look Bad: An Illinois sixth-grader completed a near-perfect NCAA bracket (perfect Sweet 16, Elite eight, Final Four, and Champion), but has been deemed ineligible for the grand prize due to being underage. ESPN requires participants to be at least 18, so the 12-year old is can’t enter the drawing to claim a $20,000 gift card and a trip to Hawaii. Holtz admitted to the Daily Herald he was irritated but, "still proud of my accomplishment, but I'm not happy with the decision." ESPN told the Associated Press that they are putting together a special prize for the youngster.

Think, Think, Think: Four Floridians got the bright idea to steal honey from a hive. They overlooked the fact that the hive was populated by actual bees -- about 30-thousand bees -- that were not welcoming to the invaders. Some neighbors called 911 and firefighters used a hose to help the bee-covered folk -- who were stung about 50 times each and sent to the hospital for treatment.

Friendly Skies: The Japanese Defense Minister believes aliens exist but is certain no aliens have entered Japanese airspace. "When the Air Self Defense Force detects indications of an unidentified flying object that could violate our country's airspace, it scrambles fighter jets if necessary and makes visual observation," Gen Nakatani said when questioned about the danger of space aliens. Sometimes it is birds or other flying objects are detected -- but no cases of non-Earth visitors. Well that is a sigh of relief.

Worth 1000 Words: This picture is so Joe Biden. A new take on politicians kissing babies?

(Photo: Facebook/Georgina Bloomberg)

The Periscope App: What is it?

Bret sat down with Adam Sharp, Head of Politics and Government at Twitter to talk about the new live-streaming app everyone is talking about. Periscope is a way for ordinary people all over the globe to share video in real time. It is changing the way we see the world and could have a real impact on campaigns and elections as we head into 2016. Many of the potential 2016 candidates have already started using Periscope. Hear what Adam has to say about this new app and find out how you can use it in all its forms--

Jack Nicklaus: Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony

By Bret Baier

As Spring is now officially in the air and the azaleas are in full bloom at Augusta National during this Masters week, it’s worth spending a few moments to watch and listen to a great speech about an amazing golfer.   Jack Nicklaus Jr., the son of the golfing great, gave a speech March 24th when his father received the Congressional Gold Medal.    While this speech IS about golf and it IS a tribute to the best in the sport, at its heart – it’s a speech from a son to his father… a speech worth listening to… from a family that is clearly engaged in FAMILY.   There is a great description of Jack Nicklaus’ historic 1986 win at the Masters – Jack Jr. was on his father’s bag that day.   The final nine holes of that tournament will stay with ME forever.  I was there that day in the crowd at Augusta – a high school golfer from Atlanta with goosebumps watching a 46 year old legend win again on golf’s biggest stage – Jack Nicklaus’ 6th green jacket.    I have since watched that ‘86 Masters tournament several times – on an old VHS tape I had (remember that format).  Listening to it from Jack Jr.’s speech – gives it new life.  I was out of the country when Nicklaus was awarded this medal on Capitol Hill.  I just recently watched the ceremony in full.   Congratulations Jack and Jack Jr.!   

Full disclosure – I am a HUGE Jack Nicklaus fan.   I essentially learned to play golf by reading and then repeatedly watching “Golf My Way” (Again with a VHS tape).   And even today, on the wall of my office on Capitol Hill, you can find a Nicklaus signed Augusta National scorecard from 1986 – and a signed picture of the Golden Bear and Arnold Palmer.  For me, he was and still is THE BEST EVER.   So here’s hoping for some of that Augusta National magic this week.  It’s moments like 1986 that create a whole new generation of golf addicts – like me.

Here is a link to Jack Nicklaus Jr.'s speech--

Dianne Feinstein: Literature that Influenced Terror Suspects “Should be removed from the Internet”

By Special Report College Associate Ford Fischer

Thursday, two New York women were arrested for plotting to build a bomb and carry out an ISIS-influenced attack. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California released a statement online condemning the attack and hinted at the idea of banning a book and magazine series that influenced the alleged terrorists.

“I am particularly struck that the alleged bombers made use of online bombmaking guides like the Anarchist Cookbook and Inspire Magazine,” she said in an official statement. “These documents are not, in my view, protected by the First Amendment and should be removed from the Internet.”

The Anarchist Cookbook is a book describing homemade weapons and other domestic fighting tactics, released during the height of the anti-Vietnam war movement. The book is certainly not a favorite of Feinstein’s. In 1997, she sponsored a measure that would make the distribution of any book describing the creation of homemade bombs illegal. The motion failed.

Inspire Magazine is an online English-language al-Qaeda publication, which regularly calls readers to carry out attacks against the United States. According to the Daily News, U.S. Attorney General Barry Grisson noted last year to students at Wichita State University that people who access Inspire Magazine are monitored by the government. “Do not go to this website.” Grisson said. “You will be on our list.”

While monitoring undoubtedly occurs, the libertarian-leaning Reason Magazine was quick to point out the impracticability of Feinstein’s suggestion to rid the internet of such materials.  “There is no chance Feinstein's wishes would come true, or even could come true these days,” Reason’s Scott Shackford writes. “It's nevertheless a reminder that Feinstein is perfectly fine with censorship.”

Ironically, the women in New York were joined over the past two years by an FBI undercover agent who they believed was a fellow jihadist. According to the criminal complaint and request for an arrest warrant against the suspects, the undercover officer gave them a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook, which they hadn’t read until then. 

IRAN: A few key points

From Chief Washington Correspondent James Rosen

First, this is not a deal; it is the outline of a deal, and the technical experts for the seven countries (P5+1 and Iran) now have until June 30 to try to hammer out the fine print. As President Obama said in the Rose Garden: “our work is not yet done.  The deal has not been signed.”

Second, the reduction in the number of installed centrifuges, from 19,000 to 6,104, is significant – a reduction of roughly two-thirds – but we should remember that that was roughly the number of centrifuges Iran had installed when Barack Obama became president in 2009. As we have shown, roughly 75 percent of the centrifuges Iran has installed were installed on the Obama-Biden watch.

Also, earlier this week, Dr. Olli Heinonen, the former deputy director of the IAEA – one of the most respected arms control officials of his generation – told reporters that an agreement that enables roughly 6,500 centrifuges to remain in place would not have the effect of lengthening Iran’s “breakout time” (the length of time it would take Tehran to build a bomb if the regime abruptly nullified an agreement and made a mad dash for a weapons capability) from the current estimate of 60-90 days to one year, as the Obama administration claims the agreement does. Heinonen said on March 31: “[I]f there are 6,500 centrifuges remaining, installed and in operation, it might be difficult to get it to one year or longer, the breakout time. It will be clearly below [that]. And then we have to add all the uncertainties, the unknowns to this image: Are there some unknown nuclear materials? Are there some unknown centrifuges?”

Next: The fact sheet released by the State Department in Lausanne provides details of how IAEA inspections would work, including the ability of U.N. nuclear inspectors to have “regular access to all of Iran’s nuclear facilities”; “continuous surveillance” of centrifuge rotors; and access to any sites deemed “suspicious” for whatever reason. But the provisions outlined do not appear to include snap inspections.

As part of the transparency provisions, Iran will “implement an agreed upon set of measures to address the IAEA’s concerns regarding the possible military dimension (PMD) of its program.” The problem there is that the JPOA, the framework under which these negotiations have unfolded for the last sixteen months, provided that Iran was already supposed to do that – come clean to the IAEA about Tehran’s research a decade ago, into warhead design and re-entry vehicles. And that never happened. The IAEA certified that while Iran complied over the course of the negotiations, and still is, with its obligations to enrich only to certain levels, to dilute higher-enriched stockpiles down, etc., the IAEA has also certified that Iran has stonewalled on the PMD. President Obama in the Rose Garden papered over that: “Iran's past efforts to weaponize its program will be addressed” was all he said.

Finally, we refer to the president’s comments before the Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum in December 2013, when these negotiations were just getting underway. He said then: “[W]e know that they don’t need to have an underground, fortified facility like Fordow in order to have a peaceful nuclear program.  They certainly don’t need a heavy-water reactor at Arak in order to have a peaceful nuclear program.” The abandonment of those positions shows how far the U.S. dialed back its negotiation posture over the course of the talks.

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