Tag Archives: weapons

From Congressman Jim McGovern’s office …

McGovern Announces $836,000 for UMass Medical to Fight Heart Disease

Funds will Support Heart and Vascular Disease Research, push for Cures

Congressman Jim McGovern announced yesterday that UMass Medical School has been awarded $836,858 by the Department of Health and Human Services to support research on treatments and cures for heart and vascular diseases. The new federal funding is awarded through the Community Surveillance of Coronary Heart Disease program, a national HHS effort to invest in medical research at world-class universities like UMass Medical School.

“Heart disease impacts families across the country every year and there has never been a more important time to invest in life-saving medical research. This new federal funding for UMass Medical School will help them continue their cutting-edge medical research that will help save lives while supporting economic growth right here in Massachusetts,” Congressman McGovern said. “I am grateful to HHS Secretary Burwell for making this investment in our community and recognizing UMass Medical School as a leader in the fight against heart disease. Together we can continue to support this important work to help families in Massachusetts and across the country.”

The grant continues the decades-long work of the Worcester Heart Attack Study, funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute since the mid-1980s. The community-based study provides 40 years of data about the number of heart attacks among residents of the Greater Worcester community and outcomes of their medical care during and after hospitalization. It also provides insights on how patients who experience heart attacks in the community are treated by physicians.

“We’re going to have a 40-year picture of heart disease, which is unique. What we’ve learned since 1975 is that even though Worcester heart attack patients have become older and sicker, often having multiple diseases, the incidence of heart attacks is declining, and patients’ prognosis both in-hospital and post-discharge is getting better,” said Robert Goldberg, PhD, professor of quantitative health sciences and founder and principal investigator of the renamed Worcester Heart Attack Study. “We think this is because patients are being much more aggressively managed with evidence-based care.

“What we want to learn is will these trajectories continue: will incidence of heart attacks continue to decrease? Will patients’ prognosis continue to improve? And how much more effectively can patients be managed?”

The new funding will help Dr. Goldberg and his research team achieve these goals by monitoring trends of heart attack patients; and patient management.

“Most novel is that we’re going to use bioinformatics and very technical approaches to sift through available medical records, be they in paper or electronic form, and see how machines do compared to our manual abstractors,” Goldberg said. “The goal is to streamline the approach to data collection and data abstraction and give feedback to investigators and clinicians in real time.”

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McGovern, House Democrats Call for White House to Strengthen Safeguards on “Killer Robots”

House Lawmakers Raise Concerns About New Military Technology

Congressman Jim McGovern led a group of House Democrats yesterday in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Ash Carter to push for meaningful human control as a safeguard on lethal autonomous weapons systems, also known as fully autonomous weapons or so-called “killer robots – an emerging and concerning military technology.

The letter comes ahead of the upcoming Fifth Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) to be held at the United Nations in Geneva on December 12-16, 2016. The CCW is five-year Review Conference and will focus on lethal autonomous weapons systems.

In today’s letter to the Obama Administration, Congressman McGovern and House Democrats write that these weapons “would constitute a new method of warfare – and one that would not be for the betterment of humankind. Once activated, these weapons would be able to select and attack targets without any further human involvement. While these weapons do not yet exist, technology is racing ahead, and experts say that they could be procured within years, not decades.”

Joining Congressman McGovern on yesterday’s letter to the White House were Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Alan Grayson (D-FL), Mark Pocan (D-WI), John Conyers (D-MI), John Lewis (D-GA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), and Maxine Waters (D-CA).

The lawmakers expressed their support of “the call for a preemptive prohibition on the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons. This call has been endorsed by thousands of artificial intelligence and robotics experts, including many of the most respected people in those fields, as well as two dozen Nobel peace Laureates, more than 100 prominent faith leaders, numerous humanitarian organizations and many more. This prohibition, which should require meaningful human control over target selection and engagement for each individual attack, could be achieved as a new CCW protocol.”

In the letter, McGovern and House Democrats called on the Obama Administration to take the following actions at the CCW Review Conference next week:

· The U.S. should strongly support the continuation of discussions in the CCW on the legal, ethical, technological, proliferation, international security, and other challenges raised by what the CCW calls “lethal autonomous weapons systems.”

· The U.S. should strongly and unequivocally support the recommendation agreed to by CCW members, including the United States, in April that states establish a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) at this Review Conference to continue these deliberations next year. The creation of an open-ended GGE would move the CCW discussions from informal to the more appropriate formal status, and indicate that the CCW is making progress on the issue and intends to produce a result. Such groups have been the CCW’s established method of work for the past two decades to address explosive remnants of war, landmines and cluster munitions. The U.S. agreed to the recommendation in April with reluctance, and at an August meeting, the U.S. indicated its preference is to continue the process using the current format of informal meetings. Given the uncertainty on advancing arms control measures, support for proceeding to the more formal process seems warranted.

· The U.S. should propose an ambitious mandate for CCW work in 2017, one that states that CCW deliberations in 2017 should be carried out with a view to formal negotiations on lethal autonomous weapons systems in the future.

· The U.S. should propose that the CCW commits to at least four weeks of time for its deliberations on lethal autonomous weapons systems in 2017. In the past, the CCW has only made progress on issues when it devoted such an amount of time.

The Full Text of the Letter to the Obama Administration:

December 8, 2016

The Honorable John F. Kerry Ashton B. Carter
Secretary of State Secretary of Defense
U.S. Department of State U.S. Department of Defense
Washington, DC 20520 Washington, DC 20301-1400

Dear Secretaries Kerry and Carter,

We are writing with respect to the upcoming Fifth Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) to be held at the United Nations in Geneva on December 12-16, 2016.

The main focus of this five-year Review Conference will be lethal autonomous weapons systems, also known as fully autonomous weapons or so-called “killer robots.” The high contracting parties, including the United States, will decide whether to continue discussions on this issue in the CCW, and if so, what the format, content, objective and duration of the talks should be.

We believe that fully autonomous weapons are a matter of vital concern. They would not simply be another weapon in the world’s arsenals, but would constitute a new method of warfare – and one that would not be for the betterment of humankind. Once activated, these weapons would be able to select and attack targets without any further human involvement. While these weapons do not yet exist, technology is racing ahead, and experts say that they could be procured within years, not decades.

We support the call for a preemptive prohibition on the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons. This call has been endorsed by thousands of artificial intelligence and robotics experts, including many of the most respected people in those fields, as well as two dozen Nobel peace Laureates, more than 100 prominent faith leaders, numerous humanitarian organizations and many more.

This prohibition, which should require meaningful human control over target selection and engagement for each individual attack, could be achieved as a new CCW protocol. The CCW has already taken similar action on one weapon, namely preemptively banning blinding laser weapons through its Protocol IV.

We urge that at the CCW Review Conference in December the U.S. delegation take the following actions:

· The U.S. should strongly support the continuation of discussions in the CCW on the legal, ethical, technological, proliferation, international security, and other challenges raised by what the CCW calls “lethal autonomous weapons systems.”

· The U.S. should strongly and unequivocally support the recommendation agreed to by CCW members, including the United States, in April that states establish a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) at this Review Conference to continue these deliberations next year. The creation of an open-ended GGE would move the CCW discussions from informal to the more appropriate formal status, and indicate that the CCW is making progress on the issue and intends to produce a result. Such groups have been the CCW’s established method of work for the past two decades to address explosive remnants of war, landmines and cluster munitions. The U.S. agreed to the recommendation in April with reluctance, and at an August meeting, the U.S. indicated its preference is to continue the process using the current format of informal meetings. Given the uncertainty on advancing arms control measures, support for proceeding to the more formal process seems warranted.

· The U.S. should propose an ambitious mandate for CCW work in 2017, one that states that CCW deliberations in 2017 should be carried out with a view to formal negotiations on lethal autonomous weapons systems in the future.

· The U.S. should propose that the CCW commits to at least four weeks of time for its deliberations on lethal autonomous weapons systems in 2017. In the past, the CCW has only made progress on issues when it devoted such an amount of time.

In closing, we would like to stress that we recognize the importance of artificial intelligence and robotics to the future of the U.S. military, and their central role in the Pentagon’s Third Offset Strategy, but we firmly believe that there must always be meaningful human control over critical combat functions.

Sincerely, …

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Bipartisan McGovern Human Rights Bill Passes Congress

McGovern Bill Will Crack Down on Corruption and Human Rights Abuses Around the World

McGovern Urges Trump to Continue U.S. Leadership on Human Rights

Congressman Jim McGovern this week applauded Congressional passage of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, a bill he co-authored to crack down on corruption and human rights abuses around the world. … Congressman McGovern is one of four co-sponsors of the bipartisan legislation along with Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ). The bill now goes to President Obama’s desk for his signature.

“America must stand up for human rights at home and abroad. With today’s passage of the Global Magnitsky Act, Republicans and Democrats came together to continue America’s leadership on human rights around the world,” Congressman McGovern said. “This bill will empower the president to deny U.S. visas and freeze U.S.-based assets of human rights abusers and corrupt foreign officials. I urge President Obama to sign this important bill into law. This is an important step, but there is still much more work ahead.”

“During the campaign, two words I never heard Donald Trump utter were ‘human rights’ and that should concern all of us. President-elect Trump has repeatedly praised Vladimir Putin and other world leaders guilty of brutal crackdowns on dissidents. Since his election, President-elect Trump has continued to raise red flags about his approach to political opponents. … Americans need a leader who will stand up for the freedoms our country was founded on and I hope President-elect Trump proves his critics wrong and uses the new tools in this bill to bring the leadership we need on human rights.”

The Global Magnitsky Act allows the president to deny U.S. visas and freeze U.S.-based assets of human rights abusers and corrupt foreign officials. It also directs the president to consider information from NGOs when determining who to sanction. Members of Congress and certain assistant secretaries of state may also recommend names for sanction. The president is required to make public the names of individuals being targeted.

Congressman McGovern has been a leading voice in the call for U.S. leadership and action to strengthen human rights across the world, including in Russia. Congressman McGovern is one of the authors of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, legislation passed by both the U.S. House and Senate in 2012 to establish a critical precedent that human rights must be an essential component of trade legislation.

The Magnitsky Bill was named after Sergei Leonidovich Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer and auditor who worked for Hermitage Capital Management. Magnitsky’s arrest and subsequent death while in Russian custody triggered both official and unofficial inquiries into allegations of fraud, theft, and human rights violations.

 

HOME OF THE BRAVE

By Edith Morgan

We all have an opinion about weapons: How many, what type, who should have them, where to use them, etc. Our country is awash in guns, assault weapons, and ammunition. Our movies and television programs extol weapon-wielding “heroes” who are presented to our children as the “good guys.” Many of grew up to believe that these brave heroes solve their (and our) problems by shooting the bad guys and thus making us safe. But do we actually feel safer? Do all the motion detectors, alarms, guns under pillows and in drawers, foot patrols, surveillance cameras, deadbolts, and the myriad other defensive devices really make us feel safer?  How much more “protection will we need to feel safe?

Perhaps our problem lies in our definition of “Safe.” Cowards are always afraid. Brave people much less so. The persons who will go down in history as having accomplished great things and influenced millions to do better, have stood up UNARMED , against well-armed enemies, and won. Think of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Moses, Jesus, Buddha – and numerous others like them.

Much closer to home, we all know real ”heroes and heroines” who took risks , and unarmed, convinced others to follow their better selves.

For example: her home never had a weapon in it; but when a young Nazi lieutenant came to her door in the middle  of the night to arrest her husband, she had the courage to demand to see the paperwork, and asked the name of his commanding officer. The young recruit, unaccustomed to being questioned, retreated to get the paperwork, giving the family time to get help and make plans. That same woman, on vacation in Paris, walked up to a group of young American students in the hotel lobby where she and her husband were staying, and asked them to take their feet off the glass-topped table, then proceeded to lecture them on how to behave as representatives of their mutual country, America. Back home, this remarkable lady, while on her daily walk with her husband, found their way obstructed by a group  of teenagers loitering on the corner. She marched up to the group and asked them to make way on the public sidewalk so she and her husband could pass. Miraculously, they did. That woman was my mother – who saved our family many times during the difficult days of WW II.

If we look around our neighborhood, I think we could find people who display that kind of bravery every day: parents, teachers, friends, neighbors – who stand up for what is right, armed only with the courage of their convictions, They should be the real heroes to whom we pay homage. And sometimes, we are smart enough to elect such a person to represent us – a person who speaks truth to power again and again, does not enrich himself at our expense, and bravely forges on despite the odds.

 

 

The military abuse video you haven’t heard about

By Lindsay Pollard-Post

Americans and Afghans alike are rightly outraged over a video circulating on the Internet that allegedly shows U.S. Marines urinating on Taliban corpses. Pentagon officials are scrambling to do damage control, fearing that the video will hinder peace talks, and military officials are promising that those involved will be punished to the highest extent. But another video that surfaced recently also merits outrage and action: It shows a soldier viciously beating a sheep with a baseball bat while other soldiers laugh and cheer.

Blow after metallic, stomach-churning blow rains down on the terrified sheep’s skull. The convulsing and kicking animal tries in vain to rise and flee, but the man with the bat just keeps swinging. A local boy in the background jumps up and down in apparent delight while the sheep struggles on the ground. Despite a letter and phone calls from PETA to high-ranking Army officials, no action has been taken on this case after more than a month.

Animals don’t start wars. They don’t have political views, militaries or weapons. Yet they are often the victims of cruelty in combat zones. In 2008, video surfaced of a smiling Marine who hurled a live puppy off a cliff while another Marine laughed. Thankfully, after a massive public outcry and pressure from PETA, the puppy-tossing Marine was expelled, and another Marine in the video faced disciplinary action.

The same year, video that was allegedly taken from a CD found in Baghdad’s Green Zone depicts what appear to be U.S. soldiers taunting and tormenting a dog whose back legs were apparently crippled. The laughing men threw rocks at the dog, who snarled and yelped in pain before making a desperate attempt to flee on two legs. One of the men in the video said the dog’s attempt to run was “the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.” Many other similar incidents of abuse have been recorded on video, and many more likely never see the light of day.

Whether the abuser is a military service member or a regular Joe, cruelty to animals isn’t “normal” behavior, and it must be taken seriously, for everyone’s safety. People who find pleasure or humor in harming animals aren’t just cruel; they’re also cowards because they target “easy victims” who don’t have any hope of fighting back.

Mental-health and law-enforcement professionals know that animal abusers’ disregard for life and indifference to suffering indicate a dangerous psychopathy that does not confine itself to animal victims. A history of cruelty to animals regularly shows up in the FBI records of serial rapists and murderers, and a study by Northeastern University and the Massachusetts SPCA found that people who abuse animals are five times more likely to commit violent crimes against humans. Violence is a fact of war, but the depravity shown by the sheep-beating soldier and the sick pleasure the onlookers seemed to derive from watching the beating are red flags.

All the students who have opened fire on their classmates have histories of cruelty to animals. “BTK” killer Dennis Rader, who was convicted of killing 10 people, admitted that he was cruel to animals as a child and apparently practiced strangling dogs and cats before moving on to human victims. Serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer tortured animals and impaled cats’ and dogs’ heads on sticks. The Boston Strangler, Albert DeSalvo, used arrows to shoot cats and dogs who were trapped inside crates.

Whether it occurs at home or in a war zone, there is never an excuse for harming animals. The stakes of cruelty to animals are far too high to ignore it, to excuse it or to let those who commit it go unpunished. It’s time for the military to treat acts of cruelty to animals with the seriousness that they deserve.

On the Clark University gang/youth violence conference

By Rosalie Tirella

Last night’s conference at Clark University on gang violence and at-risk youth is something we hold to make ourselves feel better. No one wants to get to the real crux of the youth violence/gang problem: sky-high rents in Worcester. The good factory jobs are gone. Many adults in the innercity have McJobs. No one can pay Worcester’s exorbitant inner-city apartment rents. Our elected officials do not work to solve the real problem. So everyone throws out other little fixes, like Bandaids over blown off limbs: youth mentors, part-time jobs for kids.

Jobs for kids – we love the idea! Mentors can sometimes turn lives around! But really, how are you going to change a kid’s world, if his mom and he and his siblings are living in an apartment in Piedmont and struggling to pay $850 a month rent? How can a family keep paying the bills and have a little money left over for a few fun extras, if they are behind the eight-ball every month?

And the idiots who diss Worcester’s CDCs are just that – idiots. They whine about the city’s “no-lo housing,” about the govt subsidizing the CDC apts when if fact the govt is also subsididzing their crumby inner-city apartments every time they take a tenant who receives “subsidized rent.” Could these greedy landlords charge what their apartments are really worth a month – around $600/$650? Certainly. But they will take the $1,200/grand the federal govt gives them per crumby apartment and perpetuate the system, a system in which Worcester apartments rent for too much money. Inflated rents! Then all the other landlords jump aboard, charging $800 or so for their digs. And guess what?

The youths politicians like Mike Moore, District Att. Joe Early Jr. and pals say they are trying to help are not helped one iota. The youths are too busy moving to new digs with their parent/s who are on the run from landlords (for not paying rent). Even with subsidized rents, the families still struggle, and we are creating a very dependent group of people who are too afraid to get off welfare because everything is so expensive and a McJob is not going to pay the bills! So that means the kids are probably changing schools, as their family moves to another Worcester slum apartment, and parents feel to stressed to vote or even register to vote in their new neighborhoods.

When I was kid, we were poor and so were all the families around us. My dad was MIA – like many dads were back then and still are. BUT my life was stable and so were many of my friends’ lives BECAUSE the rents were low enough for families to pay the bills and have a bit of cash left over. I attended Lamartine Street School, K – grade six. Guess what? I graduated from Lamartine with MOST of the kids I started out with – my kindergarten classmates.

Because of the inflated rents in Worcester – especialy in our poor neighborhoods- poor families cannot stabalize. So food is a problem, electricity bills are problems, clothing, taxi fare, school atttendance, teeth – all the other stuff – is a problem. Inner-city fmailies get stressed out. Dads bail. Violence, anger set in. The kids are hurt, angry, mad, ashamed. Of course, youths in the middle of a family crisis will act out. I am surprised there are not more Worcester kids breaking the law and carrying guns. They are having such a crappy time in our city!

Like I said, the kids go to new schools every year. Of course, their grades will suffer. The families move to a new neighborhood. Of course, mom or dad or any guardian will not be registered to vote in the new neighborhood. And will they take the time to re-register, if they are registered at all? This is why inner-city District 4 – Main South, Piedmont, downtown – has the fewest registered voters.

Families are on the move all the time. The result: intractable poverty, violence, stress, the creation of an underclass in Worcester.

Worcester’s underclass does not need basketballl with cops on a Friday night – though that may help. Worcester’s youth’s need Worcester City officials to call HUD- the federal office of Housing and Urban Development. Our city leaders must tell HUD that Worcester apartments are not worth the amonunt of money the feds are givng us – basically Boston vouchers. We are not Boston. Our jobs don’t pay as well as Boston’s; our cost of living is not as high. HUD’s rental vouchers must reflect that. If that happens, greedy Worcester landlords will get what they deserve for their third-rate subsidized apartments AND the other non-subsidized rents will come down for the rest of the apartments in Worcester’s poor neighborhoods. The rents have been inflated in this city for too long. The govt must stop feeding our bad habit.

By making rents affordable for poor families in Main South, Piedmont, Harrison/Providence streets, we will be stabalizing poor, inner-city families and neighborhoods.

Then – and only then – will we see a drop in youth crime/gang activity. We will also see stability in our inner-city (District 4) schools and we will have more registered voters in District 4/poor neighborhoods.

We will then be empowering kids in a real way. We will be strengthening poor families in a real way. Education, voting, empowerment. It all will come with rents that are affordable for the poor. McJobs are here to stay.

Just like it used to be in my Green Island neighborhood years ago and most every other poor neighborhood in Worcester. We had no underclass then. We just had immigrants and their kids and poor people living in stable neighborhoods, living together, forming a true community.