Early Monday morning, cranes pulled toppled commuter cars back onto tracks as federal investigators began piecing together a picture of what caused a Metro-North commuter train to derail in New York's Bronx borough 24 hours earlier.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation aims to find out why seven passenger cars and their locomotive cascaded over the train tracks as they neared the end of a nearly 80-mile commute from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., south to Grand Central Station in New York City.
The accident killed four people and injured about 60 others.
The scene “looked like a toy train set that was mangled by some super-powerful force,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a phone interview Sunday with CNN.
"As the cars were skidding across the ground, they were actually picking up a lot of debris; a lot of dirt and stones and tree limbs were going through the cars, so it actually looked worse up close," Governor Cuomo told NBC’s "Today" show Monday morning.
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The NTSB's Earl Weener said investigators are checking tracks, signals, and equipment and are looking at both the train’s maintenance records as well as personnel records to try to figure out what caused the accident, WNYC reported.
NTSB investigators are expected to be on-site for seven to 10 days.
Sunday’s accident is the second on the Metro-North line in six months and occurred about 2,000 feet from where the previous crash happened. In July, a CSX freight train carrying tons of garbage derailed. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), owned by the state of New York, runs the Metro-North commuter rail.
The two crash sites both lie along a curve in the train tracks where the Hudson and Harlem rivers meet in the Bronx near Spuyten Duyvil station. The MTA considers this area to be a “slow zone” because of two tight curves that come in quick succession. In the area, the speed limit drops to 30 m.p.h., compared with 70 m.p.h. for the track well ahead of the curves, said Mr. Weener.
Cuomo said he suspects that speed will turn out to be a contributing factor in the accident, although he also cited equipment failure, operator error, and track problems as other possible causes. “The trains negotiate that turn dozens of times all day long, so there has to be something else here,” he said.
The NTSB has been urging railroads for decades to install technology that can stop derailment from occurring as a result of excessive speed.
Congress in 2008 approved a rail-safety law that gave commuter and freight railroads until the end of 2015 to install the technology, known as positive train control. PTC is aimed at preventing human error – the cause of about 40 percent of train accidents. But the systems are expensive and complicated. Railroads are trying to push back the installation deadline another five to seven years.
Metro-North is in the process of installing the technology. It now has what's called an "automatic train control" signal system, which automatically applies a train's brakes if an engineer does not respond to an alert that indicates excessive speed. These systems would slow trains, but not bring them to a halt.
Authorities do not yet know how fast the train was traveling, but they located a black box, which records the speed of trains, and it should show how fast the train was traveling at the time of the crash, said Weener.
The number of Metro-North train accidents has been falling for the past decade, according to a Federal Railroad Administration database. However, injuries from accidents are up dramatically this year, and accidents this year are also on the rise, the Associated Press reported.
The deaths of four passengers in Sunday's derailment are the first in an accident in the MTA’s 31-year history.
A part of the Metro-North line between the Bronx and parts of New York’s Westchester County could be closed for a week or more. Service was suspended on Monday on the Metro-North’s Hudson line, which serves 26,000 on an average weekday, according to the MTA website.
This report includes information from the Associated Press.
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As warm rains bluster up the Eastern seaboard, disrupting pre-Thanksgiving travel on the busiest travel day of the year, New York City officials must decide what to do with the country's largest holiday spectacle, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Meanwhile, communities across the Midwest and South prepare for their own outdoor events in plummeting – and in some cases record-breaking – temperatures.
While the storm has been less disruptive to air travel than reports early in the week indicated, the area around New York City is bearing the brunt of weather-related complications. By Wednesday afternoon, flights to five airports – Philadelphia, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, and New York's Newark Liberty, LaGuardia, and John F. Kennedy – were being delayed at their points of origin.
The bobbing floats and marching bands of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade draw performers from around the country to New York, along with 3.5 million spectators each year. But the whimsical fete's balloons could be grounded if sustained winds exceed 23 miles per hour and gusts exceed 34 miles per hour. After ferocious winds in 1997 caused a mammoth Cat in the Hat balloon to topple a light post and seriously injure a spectator, the city restricted the parade to safe wind conditions, reports Associated Press.
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By Wednesday afternoon the National Weather Service was predicting morning winds between 15 and 25 miles per hour in the city, with gusts between 30 and 45 miles per hour. City officials will decide Thursday morning whether to let the balloons go up.
"On Thanksgiving morning, Macy's works closely with the NYPD, who, based on real time weather data and the official regulations determine if the balloons will fly and at what heights," Macy's spokesman Orlando Veras told Associated Press.
Though flights were on hold to Philadelphia shortly after noon Wednesday, winds there are expected to subside in time for the City of Brotherly Love's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which claims to be the country's oldest. Thursday will mark its 94th year.
While Wednesday has been warm and wet on the East Coast, snowstorms have been snaking through Appalachia, upstate New York, Pennsylvania, and the Great Lakes. There may be knocking knees at this year's Chicago Thanksgiving Day Parade, which will occur on the coldest Thanksgiving since 1989 if temperatures don't rise above the predicted high of 31 degrees F. America's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which marches through Detroit, will also be visited by unseasonably low temperatures, and possibly snowflakes.
The deep South will experience its coldest Thanksgiving in years, breaking records in some areas. A freeze is expected to reach the Gulf coast and portions of central Florida, where fruit trees could be at risk of damage Wednesday night. The Poarch Creek Indians of Atmore, Ala., will host their 43rd annual Thanksgiving Powwow in sunshine, but when the day's first dances begin, the area will just be thawing after a frigid overnight low of 24 degrees F.
For up-to-date information on airport conditions and delays, visit the Federal Aviation Administration's web page on flight delays. Websites like Flightstats.com allow users affected to check on specific flights, and USA Today has compiled a list of national airlines' fee-waiver policies. Airlines are allowing travelers booked on Wednesday flights to various East Coast destinations to delay their flights a day or more at no cost.
Having galloped across the country, leaving high winds, power outages, and coastal flooding in its wake, the storm should go whinnying out of Maine by Wednesday night, Accuweather reports. It is expected to leave clear, cold Thanksgiving air behind as it sweeps through Canada's Maritime provinces. Canadians can batten their hatches, having celebrated Thanksgiving in October.
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The gassy rumblings of ruminating cattle, along with the hisses and sloshes as natural gas is extracted, refined, and transported to communities across the United States, may release 50 percent more methane into the atmosphere than the government had estimated, according to a report published Monday by Harvard University scientists. Because methane (CH4) is a potent greenhouse gas, the new findings could tilt the international debate on the safety of natural gas, which the White House has promoted as a "clean energy" source responsible for a domestic manufacturing boom.
The nearly 90 million cattle who spend their days in US feedlots are the country's largest source of methane from anthropogenic (human-caused) emissions, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates. But the new report finds that ruminant animals generate twice as much methane as the EPA supposed. In Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, anthropogenic methane emissions from all sources were 2.7 times greater than believed, making up 24 percent of the nation's emissions, found the study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The report comes on the heels of a decision by the EPA to reduce its estimates – by 25 percent to 30 percent – of the atmospheric carbon released by the natural-gas industry.
"These results cast doubt on the EPA's recent decision," wrote the researchers for the report. "Overall, we conclude that methane emissions associated with both the animal husbandry and fossil fuel industries have larger greenhouse gas impacts than indicated by existing inventories."
The MIT Technology Review described how the study might change the perceptions of different fossil fuels:
"At stake is whether switching from coal to natural gas can provide a net benefit in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Burning natural gas releases about half as much carbon dioxide as burning coal. But that benefit could be offset by leaks of methane, the primary component of natural gas."
President Obama remains a strong supporter of the natural-gas industry, but he has begun discussing it in more measured terms. In his 2012 State of the Union address, he praised the industry's cleanliness and economic promise, which he said was "proving that we don't have to choose between our environment and our economy." But his 2013 Economic Report included some reservations:
"Measuring fugitive methane emissions from the U.S. natural gas supply chain and, more generally, understanding the potential impacts of natural gas development on water quality, air quality, ecosystems, and induced seismicity, are critical to understanding the impact on the environment of the increasing use of natural gas."
The report also called anthropogenic greenhouse gases "the most significant long-term pollution challenge facing America."
After carbon dioxide, methane is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas, and it affects the atmosphere's ability to oxidize other pollutants. According to the report, anthropogenic methane emissions account for 50 to 65 percent of the global methane "budget," the largest portion of which comes from cattle. The natural-gas industry is the next largest source, followed by fermentation in landfills and then coal mining.
So, why are the results of this report so different from government data?
These scientists took a somewhat more on-the-ground (and, it turns out, up-in-the-air) approach. Whereas the EPA bases its estimates on assumed emissions per animal, or per unit of coal or gas sold, these researchers gathered nearly 13,000 measurements of airborne methane from points on the ground, on telecommunications towers, and on airplanes. They also used known information about population density and economic activity to try to determine the relative responsibilities of different methane-generating sectors, in different regions.
But, the MIT Technology Review wrote, the study does not provide "the last word" on methane pollution. "For one thing, it doesn’t directly measure emissions from specific sources, so it doesn’t pinpoint causes of leaks. As more data is gathered, steps can be taken to reduce methane leaks; for example, natural-gas producers and [distributors] could be required to follow best practices."
The EPA said Monday that it is reviewing the Harvard study. "EPA is committed to using the best available data for our inventory and continually seeks opportunities to update and improve our estimates," the agency said in a statement.
Natural-gas industries have been less welcoming of the news.
"Australia's coal seam gas industry has rejected" the study, saying it conflicts with existing information on natural-gas extraction, reports Australia's Sydney Morning Herald.
A source in the US natural gas industry said officials there were not ready to comment on the report.
Just one day before the Harvard report was published, a group of US and Russian scientists published a study in Nature Geoscience, which found that bubbles of ancient methane are surfacing at increasing rates in the Arctic region, as warming oceans thaw underwater permafrost and increasingly fierce storms break up structures that kept them underwater.
"Increasing storminess and rapid sea-ice retreat causing increased CH4 fluxes from the [East Siberian Arctic Shelf] are possible new climate-change-driven processes," the scientists wrote. "Continuing warming of the Arctic Ocean will strengthen these processes."
On Friday, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced the Pentagon's first-ever Arctic strategy to maintain peace and cleanliness in the rapidly fracturing region, as global warming makes it increasingly vulnerable to drillers and shipping companies.
The mother of Rebecca Sedwick, the 12-year-old Florida girl who killed herself in September after months of online bullying, announced Monday that she would push state and federal lawmakers to pass antibullying legislation.
Under her proposals, children who repeatedly bully others could be sent to a juvenile detention facility, and public schools would be required to establish and follow antibullying procedures, reports Reuters.
"I'm going to make sure that other children are not tormented like my daughter was. My goal is to use this personal tragedy to make society a safer place to live, said Tricia Norman, Rebecca's mother. "I know it is what Rebecca would want."
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Ms. Norman's lawyer, Matt Morgan, promised a "crusade" against bullying, during a press conference Monday in Orlando, Fla.
Rebecca, who had changed middle schools in an attempt to escape bullying by her classmates, jumped to her death from a silo in an abandoned cement factory, leading to the arrest of two girls, ages 12 and 14, on charges of stalking, and raising many questions about who should be held responsible in cases of juvenile and online bullying, and how.
Sheriff Grady Judd of Polk County, Fla. told the New York Times that the 14 year old had posted on Facebook, "Yes, I bullied Rebecca and she killed herself," and used internet slang to emphasize that she couldn't care less. But, he said, the girl told police that her account had been hacked, and that she had not written the posting. Last Wednesday the charges against both girls were dropped due to lack of evidence, and on Thursday the younger of the two appeared on NBC's "Today" show with her parents. She denied the felony stalking charges against her, and said the experience had taught her the importance of standing up against bullies.
Norman announced at Monday's press conference that she intended to file a civil lawsuit that would "hold them accountable to the full extent of the law," though her lawyer would not say whom exactly the lawsuit would target.
"I know having anger in my heart is not good," Norman said, according to an Associated Press report. "I keep waiting for an apology I know will never come. This lack of personal responsibility is beyond upsetting."
The Orlando Sentinel reports that a Florida cyberbullying law went into effect weeks after Rebecca's death, but that there is no criminal penalty for those accused of cyberbullying.
The proposed law has been dubbed "Rebecca's Law," and Mr. Morgan said that it had "support at the highest levels," though he would not specify whether the proposed law had legislative sponsors.
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A ferocious storm, which formed off the coast of California last week and coated the southwest and southern Plains with unseasonal snow and ice, is now lumbering toward the eastern part of the US. It is expected to gain momentum by joining forces with another pressure system currently forming in the Gulf of Mexico, before moving north and disrupting Thanksgiving travel on Wednesday, the biggest travel day of the year.
"In the storm's wake, fresh, cold air will pour across the Eastern US for Thanksgiving Day," reports Accuweather. But, notes the forecasting service, winds could remain strong, which might impact festivities, including the balloon-filled Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.
With 37 percent of all holiday travelers planning to set out for their weekends on Wed., Nov. 27, Accuweather predicts widespread travel delays that will affect all of New England and the mid-Atlantic, reaching as far south as Georgia and as far west as central Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
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The storm is expected to deliver 2 inches of rain and high winds along the East coast's I-95 corridor, Tuesday and Wednesday, according to meteorologist Dave Samuhel of Accuweather.com. Inland from that area, he forecasts six inches of snow across a broad area encompassing West Virginia, parts of Pennsylvania and New York, and northern New England.
AAA, the service organization for motorists, projects that 43.4 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from their homes between Wednesday and Sunday, 90 percent of them by car. On average, they will venture 601 miles away from home, which is the distance between Chicago, Ill., and Chattanooga, Tenn., a nine-hour car trip.
About 1.5 percent fewer people are projected to travel than did last year, reports AAA. Thanksgiving 2012 may have been the peak of the post-recession travel rebound, after the 2008-2009 recession drove Thanksgiving travel down by 25 percent.
“For those traveling, the good news is motorists will receive a holiday bonus in the form of lower gas prices, which are at their lowest levels for the holiday since 2010," said AAA Chief Operating Officer Marshall Doney, in a press release. In most states, reports AAA, drivers can now find gas being sold for under $3 per gallon.
Aside from rains in California and snow showers in the upper Great Lakes area, weather on Thanksgiving Day should be cause for gratitude after the passing storm; most of the country can expect a brisk but sunny day.
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A former state chemist for Massachusetts pleaded guilty Friday to breezing fraudulently through tens of thousands of tests used to prosecute drug-related crimes and then covering up her shortcuts. Annie Dookhan will serve three to five years in prison, and the Massachusetts criminal justice system must now reevaluate thousands of prosecutions that relied on her tests.
After initially denying the charges, Ms. Dookhan, who was born in Trinidad, raised in Boston, and is now a single mother in her 30s, changed her plea Friday. She pleaded guilty to 27 charges of obstruction of justice, perjury, and tampering with evidence.
Dookhan's actions may have distorted the results of the criminal trials of more than 40,000 individuals, and close to 350 people have already been released from prison as a result, Boston public radio station WBUR reports. The Boston-area Department of Public Health laboratory where she had worked for 10 years was closed in August 2012 after the scandal surfaced, and the Associated Press reports that 1,100 criminal cases have been dismissed or not prosecuted as a result.
Judge Carol S. Ball, who delivered Dookhan's sentence in Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston, said in her ruling that “the consequences of her behavior, which she ought to have foreseen, have been nothing short of catastrophic." She continued, "Innocent persons were incarcerated, guilty persons have been released to further endanger the public, millions and millions of public dollars are being expended to deal with the chaos Ms. Dookhan created, and the integrity of the criminal justice system has been shaken to the core."
As of Friday, the state had spent a total of $8.5 million responding to the drug lab crisis, AP reports, and another $8.6 million was authorized to be spent in the current fiscal year, according to Alex Zaroulis, spokeswoman for the state Executive Office for Administration and Finance.
Dookhan was removed from her laboratory duties after she was caught forging a colleague's initials in June 2011, according to The New York Times. But she continued to serve as an expert court witness until she was put on administrative leave in February 2012. In August 2012, she admitted to having mishandled samples, and a subsequent investigation, CNN said, alleged that she had routinely tampered with criminal evidence by altering vials of substances awaiting evaluation for drug content. She altered them, allegedly, to cover up the practice of "dry labbing" samples, which means testing only a fraction of a group of samples before marking them all positive for illegal drugs.
WBUR created charts that show the breakdown of Dookhan's lab results, along with the seemingly remarkable speed with which she processed drug tests. Her colleagues' work slowed down significantly after the US Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that the Sixth Amendment right to confront one's accusers required that chemists make themselves available to testify in court about the results of criminal drug tests. But Dookhan actually started processing drug samples more quickly after that point.
During her August 2012 confession, a police report quoted by The New York Times noted, “She became sad and a slight tear came to her eye, and she stated, ‘I screwed up big time. I messed up. I messed up bad. It’s my fault. I don’t want the lab to get in trouble.’”
But Dookhan's motives remain unclear.
Evidence emerged that she became a go-to chemist for prosecutors who needed their evidence analyzed quickly. Anne Goldbach, of the Massachusetts public defenders agency, told WBUR, “You can tell that Annie Dookhan felt a sense of allegiance to the prosecution. That is absolutely unconscionable.”
Dookhan's attorney, Nicolas Gordon, said, "Her motivation is to be the hardest-working and most prolific and most productive chemist that she could possibly be, and that's how this whole mess begins," WBUR reports.
The Boston Globe suggested that a humble background left Dookhan with a big need to prove herself. "A petite 4 feet 11 inches and a native of Trinidad, Dookhan appeared determined even as a young immigrant girl to outrun expectations and the perceived anonymity of her circumstances," the Globe wrote in February. "Notably intelligent, 'Little Annie' Dookhan was going to make sure that she would never be overlooked."
Dookhan's choice to plead guilty means that the case will not go to trial, so her motive may remain hard to pinpoint.
The Massachusetts state prosecutor had asked for a five- to seven-year sentence, citing the "egregious nature" of Dookhan's actions, AP reports. Her defense lawyer requested a one-year sentence for his client, who has no previous criminal record and has been the primary caretaker of her disabled son.
According to The New York Times, at least 50 of the defendants who have been released from jail because of the scandal, now known as "Dookhan defendants," have been rearrested. Two were murdered upon their release, and one man, Donta Hood, who had been serving time for cocaine possession, is back behind bars after allegedly shooting a man during a drug dispute.
Jamell Spurill, who had been jailed on drug charges, was recently released but soon rearrested, charged with possessing a stolen gun, the Times reports. According to Dookhan's prosecutors, he told police, “I just got out thanks to Annie Dookhan. I love that lady.”
The story of the so-called Scottsboro Boys, Depression-era black teenagers who hopped a box car to find work, got into a fight with some white men, and ended the day arrested for the rapes of two white women, is finally ending with a long-delayed chapter of redemption.
The state of Alabama on Thursday granted a posthumous pardon to the last three of the nine men who still had marks on their records. Their sagas, which began in 1931, helped galvanize the civil rights movement and yielded two landmark US Supreme Court decisions.
Haywood Patterson, Charles Weems, and Andy Wright all died decades ago, but their six-year court battle continues to inspire books, songs, documentaries, and a 2010 Broadway musical. The lyrics from one song explain:
"Our story beings one fine spring morning,
March the 25th, nineteen hundred and thirty-one,
on a box car headed for Memphis.
And 9 young boys, 9 complete strangers,
are about to begin the ride of their lives."
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After an all-white jury delivered the boys an initial death sentence – after six hours of deliberation, despite a recanted testimony by one of the accusers – the US Supreme Court ruled that blacks could not be excluded from juries on racial grounds, and that all criminal defendants required adequate legal representation.
The men's story also inspired Sheila Washington, a resident of Scottsboro, Ala., who read Mr. Patterson's memoir when she was a teenager, to seek some kind of justice for them.
Ms. Washington founded the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center in 2010, and earlier this year she gathered support in the Alabama legislature to pass a law allowing for posthumous pardons of felonies committed at least 75 years earlier. The new legislation was tailored to exonerate the three remaining Scottsboro Boys, who died as convicted felons, and in October, a group of scholars delivered a 107-page petition to the board seeking the pardons.
“Today is a reminder that it is never too late to right a wrong," Republican state Sen. Arthur Orr, who sponsored the bill, told the state parole board Thursday. "We cannot go back in time and change the course of history, but we can change how we respond.”
A three-person panel of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles voted unanimously to approve the measure, in a hearing Thursday in Montgomery.
“This decision will give them a final peace in their graves, wherever they are,” Washington told the Montgomery Advisor.
"[That]'s a nice thought," commented The Week's Emily Shire, on Washington's words. "But the gesture can only be considered too little, too late. Posthumous pardons may give comfort to a town that still bears the scars of hosting one of the most racist and blatantly biased trials in history. But it will never reclaim the years lost by the young men sitting on death row."
The three mens' relatives were invited to attend Thursday's hearing, but none did.
Though all of the men eventually made their way out of prison, many of them never recovered from the trials, their time on death row, and the stigma that dogged them during and after the high-profile, six-year ordeal, Ms. Shire writes. "Andy Wright was paroled in 1943, but when he returned to Alabama he was jailed until 1950. His brother Roy, the youngest of the nine, killed his wife and then himself in 1959. Haywood Patterson was jailed for killing a man in a barroom brawl, and died in prison at the age of 39. Willie Roberson had an IQ of 64 – legally mentally retarded – and the time and date of his death are unknown. Olen Montgomery tried to create a music career, but after struggling, spent his final days drinking away his frustrations."
Courts had overturned five of the men's convictions in 1937, but by the end of their lives, each of the nine had spent between six and 19 years in jail. Norris, the last surviving member of the group, was pardoned in 1976 and died in 1989; he was the only one to receive a pardon during his lifetime.
Accounts differ on how exactly the rape charges emerged. According to Washington, one of the two young women had been banned from crossing state lines, after a brush with the law. When the white men who had scuffled with the Scottsboro Boys sent police to stop the train and arrest them, a sheriff asked the woman on parole why she was on the train. She responded by asking if he was really going to arrest her "after what they did to us," telling the officer that the black boys had raped them.
James Goodman, a professor of history and creative writing at Rutgers University, described to CNN the effect the cases had on the awareness of white Americans. "African-Americans had never stopped agitating for their rights after Reconstruction, but this is the beginning – once again – of an interracial movement for equality that had been stalled between the end of Reconstruction and the beginning of the Depression," he said. "Suddenly, white people who just hadn't been paying attention begin to say, 'Holy mackerel, they're going to put nine African-American teenagers in the electric chair?' "
But, said Mr. Goodman, today's criminal justice system is still clogged with racial bias.
"Sadly, our prisons are still full of youngish black people who have been falsely accused of crime," he said. "Your chance, even to this day, of being incarcerated for something that you didn't do are still much greater if your skin is black or dark."
The arrest of the Scottsboro Boys on March 25, 1931, came on the same day when Ida B. Wells, the African-American investigative journalist who spent her life writing about miscarriages of racial justice, and campaigning against lynchings, died while writing her autobiography.
"Neither character nor standing avails the Negro if he dares to protect himself against the white man or becomes his rival," wrote Ms. Wells in 1892.
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A month after the death of a popular teacher at Danvers High School in Massachusetts, a grand jury has indicted 14-year-old Philip Chism on charges of murder, aggravated rape, and armed robbery.
Philip will be tried as an adult on the murder charge, which is required by Massachusetts law for anyone over 14 indicted for murder, according to a statement Thursday by the Essex District Attorney’s Office.
The rape indictment alleges that Philip sexually assaulted the teacher, Colleen Ritzer, with an object, and the armed-robbery charge stems from the allegation that Philip, armed with a box cutter, robbed Ms. Ritzer of credit cards and other items.
State law requires that the latter two charges be initially handled in juvenile court, though the statement says prosecutors will seek to have the charges handled alongside the murder charge in adult court.
“The indictments returned today detail horrific and unspeakable acts,” district attorney Jonathan Blodgett said in the statement. “Since the moment Ms. Ritzer’s body was discovered, a dedicated and professional team of state police detectives assigned to my office, Danvers Police officers, crime scene forensic experts and assistant district attorneys have worked tirelessly to compile and present the evidence to the Grand Jury. This is the first step in a long process to secure justice for Ms. Ritzer and her family.”
On Oct. 22 Ritzer, a math teacher who was in her 20s, stayed after school to talk with Philip about an upcoming exam, according to The Boston Globe, citing prosecutors and students. Philip was new to the school this year and played soccer.
When both individuals were reported missing later that day, police began an investigation. Blood was found in a second-floor bathroom of the school, and Ritzer’s body was recovered in woods near the facility.
Philip, who was arrested the night of the death while he was walking along a highway, is being held without bail. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, noted the statement from the district attorney’s office.
Denise Regan, Philip’s court-appointed attorney, declined comment, the Globe said Thursday.
The same week as Ritzer’s death, a teacher at a Nevada middle school was fatally shot in an unrelated incident. Michael Landsberry, also a math teacher, was killed on Oct. 21 by a 12-year-old male student who then killed himself, police say. Mr. Landsberry was trying to talk down the student and has been hailed as a hero for preventing more tragedy at the school.
"Mama, Mama can't you see? What the Marine Corps’s done to me," goes a Marine Corps cadence sung during marches. "After I passed the really hard test, They stuck a ribbon in my chest."
In a historic first, three women graduated from US Marine infantry training school Thursday, having passed 59 days of, indeed, "really hard" tests, including a 12.5-mile march through the woods of North Carolina, lugging 85-pound packs. But these newly minted US Marines, who were held to the same standards of physical and combat readiness as 221 male counterparts, will not be assigned to infantry units, despite the Pentagon's announcement this year that it would lift the ban on women in combat.
"The male graduates will join infantry units right away," The Washington Post reported. "The women will have to take other jobs, though their successful completion of the course will be noted in their personnel files."
Marine Corps leaders told the Post they need two more years to observe women's attempts to pass infantry training courses, to evaluate the feasibility of placing them in combat positions. Among the 10 women who have enrolled in the even harder infantry training course for officers, they noted, none have passed.
“Any force-wide changes to be made will occur only after we have conducted our research, determined the way ahead and set the conditions to implement our recommendations,” wrote Capt. Maureen Krebs, a Marine spokeswoman, in an e-mail to the Post.
Ground combat units are to be opened to women no later than 2016, the Pentagon has said. And the secretary of Defense has ordered that assessments of how the services will integrate women into such units be completed by July 2014. However, exceptions may be granted that keep certain positions male-only, and some see the Marine Corps as resistant to the changes.
A report published by the Marine Corps Times about the women's achievement this week alludes not only to the physical strength but also the judgment skills deemed necessary for the armed forces' most male-dominated branch:
"Their successful completion of the program, confirmed Monday by a Marine official with knowledge of ongoing efforts to determine what additional ground combat jobs should open to women, is a historic milestone, one that would suggest at least some female Marines posses both the physical strength and acumen to keep pace with their male counterparts on the battlefield," wrote the paper, an independent outlet that reports on the military.
In recent wars, women have served increasingly important functions. As the Post put it: "The decision [to lift the ban on women in combat] was prompted in part by the recognition that women played a critical role in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, where commanders stretched rules to allow them to bear arms and support combat forces."
The ban on women in combat has made military careers less viable for them, according to the Los Angeles Times. "Since combat experience is crucial to career advancement, many women who served in Afghanistan and Iraq say they face difficult decisions about whether to stay in the military if they are not allowed to compete for such assignments," the paper says.
The milestone of the three US Marines – Pfc. Julia Carroll, Pfc. Christina Fuentes Montenegro, and Pfc. Katie Gorz – comes amid an alarming rise in the number of sexual assaults reported by servicewomen, along with a tense congressional debate over how to protect them. The US Senate and its 26-member Armed Services Committee are divided over whether to support a bill introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) of New York, which would strip commanders of the authority to decide which serious criminal charges from within their command are brought to trial. Her proposal would shift that authority to high-ranking military prosecutors, who might be less hesitant to pursue divisive criminal charges.
In a survey last year, the Post reports, 1 in 6 male US Marines said he would probably leave the service if he had to serve alongside women in ground combat units. The rate of female enlistment in the Marine Corps is 7 percent, which is half the rate of the military overall.
Carroll, Montenegro, and Gorz appear to have broken a meaningful barrier. According to United Press International, some 40 female US Marines started the enlisted infantry program in the past few weeks, up from 15 who started two months ago with Thursday's graduates.
Scientists haven't yet discovered how many children, upon hearing of time travel, dream of heading back a few decades to visit their parents as kids. Stripped of height and authority, would parents be any fun? Maybe they would just be bossy, brutish, and short. Would they know how to play tag?
If today's kids could wangle such a playdate, however, they might find themselves left in the sandbox dust, according to new research presented at Tuesday's annual meeting of the American Heart Association.
Exercise physiologists at the University of South Australia who analyzed research on 25 million children around the world determined that today's kids, on average, take a minute and a half longer to run a mile than did kids in 1975. The studies measured how far children of different ages could run in 5 to 15 minutes, and how quickly they could run distances up to two miles.
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But do fleet feet really matter now that most of our predators, as well as our prey, are stored behind bars? Isn't texting speed more relevant to modern survival?
Apparently running still matters. According to these researchers and many others, several factors make running fitness a key measure of heart health.
The Associated Press reported details on the findings, which were fairly constant across gender and age groups:
"The decline in fitness seems to be leveling off in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and perhaps in the last few years in North America. However, it continues to fall in China, and Japan never had much falloff – fitness has remained fairly consistent there. About 20 million of the 25 million children in the studies were from Asia."
The study's lead scientist, Grant Tomkinson, said that increased bodyweights and TV/video game consumption, along with unsafe and decentralized neighborhoods, and school curricula stripped of physical education, may all make it hard for children to get the 60 minutes of daily exercise recommended by government health experts.
"We are currently facing the most sedentary generation of children in our history," said Sam Kass, a White House chef and head of first lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move program, in a speech to the conference.
According to Tomkinson, it's important that parents limit their children's sedentary time – spent curled over a tablet, computer, or smartphone – to less than two hours per day.
What kids really need, he said, is good old-fashioned sweaty, exhausting exercise. Roller skates, anyone?
"You want exercise to be fun," said Tomkinson, "but there needs to be some huff and puff there as well."
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