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'No more hurting people.' Will a safer future follow Boston tragedy's wake?

Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy killed in the Boston Marathon bomb attack, once held a sign that said 'peace' and 'no more hurting people.' Research finds a pattern of lessening violence as human history moves forward.

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On immigration, this case connects in the sense that the brothers where of Chechen heritage, born in Russia and Kyrgyzstan. Teenage Dzhokhar Tsarnaev became a US citizen last year, while his older brother Tamerlan, 26, was in the US on a green card.

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The New York Times reported that Tamerlan was interviewed by federal officials within the past couple of years, when a foreign government asked the FBI if he had extremist ties. The foreign government worried that Tsarnaev might be a security threat if he visited that nation on a planned trip, the Times reported, citing an unnamed government official.

Amid efforts to determine whether this or other facts about the Tsarnaevs should have been “red flags” that brought closer scrutiny from immigration or FBI authorities, at the very least the bombings serve as a reminder that debate over immigration reform includes a public-safety element.

Although civil liberties aren’t in the public spotlight to quite the same degree as guns or immigration, the Boston case also comes as America is wrestling with the right balance between defending freedoms and seeking to ensure public safety.

And again, the case brings some of these issues to the surface. One example: It shows how technology that diminishes personal privacy can also aid in making an arrest.

Footage from a Lord & Taylor surveillance camera proved essential in identifying the Tsarnaevs as the bombing suspects. Instances such as that could prompt efforts to boost the volume and quality of video-camera technology in public spaces across the US.

And with the ties of the Tsarnaev family to Chechnya, a hotbed of Muslim radicalization after years of rebellion against Russia’s central government, some observers have cautioned this week against the temptation to engage in “profiling” people as suspicious because of their ethnic or religious background.

This risk was highlighted, in an almost humorous way, as the ambassador to the US from the Czech Republic felt impelled to issue a public statement, saying, “I am concerned to note in the social media a most unfortunate misunderstanding…. The Czech Republic and Chechnya are two very different entities – the Czech Republic is a Central European country; Chechnya is a part of the Russian Federation.”

Securing the nation from future attacks, judicial experts say, involves preserving the right balance between efforts at vigilance – including tips from the public – and guarding the bonds of liberty and mutual trust that hold a diverse “nation of immigrants” and descendants of immigrants together.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick emphasized that theme in remarks at an interfaith “healing our city” gathering this week.

“America is not organized the way countries are usually organized,” he said. “We are not organized around a common language or religion or even culture. We are organized around a handful of civic ideals” of equality, opportunity, freedom, and fair play. “We must not permit darkness and hate to triumph over our civic faith.”

No one is expecting that such ideals, coupled with heightened vigilance, will suddenly make the dream of perfect peace – young Martin Richard’s expression – a reality.

But it’s worth noting that some recent academic research, done right near Boston by Harvard University’s Steven Pinker, finds a pattern of lessening violence as human history moves forward.

President Obama, speaking alongside Governor Patrick Thursday, echoed the thought about preserving America’s civic character.

“Our faith in each other, our love for each other, our love for country, our common creed that cuts across whatever superficial differences there may be – that is our power,” he said.


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Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

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