By David Ingram and Richard Valdmanis WASHINGTON/BOSTON (Reuters) - The United States will seek the death penalty for accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is charged with planting homemade explosives devices that killed three people and wounded 264 at the Boston Marathon last year, the government's chief prosecutor said on Thursday. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement that he was authorizing trial prosecutors to seek the death penalty against Tsarnaev, who is charged with committing one of the largest attacks on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001. "The nature of the conduct at issue and the resultant harm compel this decision," Holder said. Holder had faced a Friday deadline for deciding whether to seek the death penalty as part of Tsarnaev's upcoming trial in Boston. Government prosecutors said in a filing with the U.S. District Court in Boston that reasons for Holder's decision included that the killings were premeditated, cruel and that Tsarnaev had shown a lack of remorse. "One way or another, based on the evidence, Tsarnaev will die in prison," Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said. A trial date has not yet been set for Tsarnaev, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Boston Mayor Martin Walsh reacted to Holder's announcement by saying he supported "the process that brought him to this decision," adding that his thoughts were with the victims of the bombing and their families. "We stand together as one Boston in the face of evil and hatred," he said. UNUSUAL CRIME Prosecutors say that Tsarnaev, 20, and his 26-year-old brother Tamerlan planted a pair of homemade pressure-cooker bombs at the race's crowded finish line on April 15, 2013, killing three people - including an 8-year-old boy. The blast also wounded 264 others, many of whom lost limbs. Three nights later, the ethnic Chechen brothers killed a university police officer and later engaged in a shootout with police that left Tamerlan dead, prosecutors say. Dzhokhar was later found hiding in a boat in which he scrawled several phrases, including "we Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all", according to prosecutors. Austin Sarat, Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College in Massachusetts, said the nature of the case probably left the Justice Department little choice but to seek a capital prosecution. "If the harm is unusual, if the harm is dramatic, gruesome, and devastating, it is often very hard for any other factor to outweigh it," he said. "I'm not surprised by this decision." Tsarnaev's attorneys have argued against a possible death sentence, in part because they claim he was following the lead of his older brother. They have also accused the government of throwing up unfair obstacles to hinder preparation of their client's defense, including seeking to rush the start of trial and not sharing important evidence. Tsarnaev's defense attorney Miriam Conrad declined to comment on Holder's decision on Thursday. Holder has said that he is not a proponent of the death penalty because he believes its value as a deterrent is questionable, but since becoming attorney general in 2009, he has authorized prosecutors to seek the death penalty in 36 cases, according to the Justice Department. Legal experts said that if Tsarnaev is convicted, the jury would ultimately decide whether to apply the death penalty or a lesser sentence like life in prison. CRITICISM FROM ACLU Holder's decision immediately drew fire from the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, which pointed out the case would be prosecuted in a state that had scrapped the death penalty decades ago. A Boston Globe survey found last year that 57 percent of Boston residents favored life in prison for Tsarnaev, if he is convicted, with 33 percent in favor of execution. "I wish federal officials would have respected the clear wishes of the people of Massachusetts, who were on the front lines in this tragic event," Carol Rose, the executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, said. Only three people have been executed as the result of a federal capital case since 1988, when the United States reinstated the federal death penalty, including Oklahoma City federal building bomber Timothy McVeigh in 2001. "This development will ensure that many of the victims feel like they are getting justice, but it will also extend and complicate the prosecution and dramatically increase the cost to taxpayers," said Steve Huggard, a former federal prosecutor who is now Boston-based partner at Edwards Wildman. "This case now could easily last a decade." The blasts killed 8-year-old Martin Richard as well as Krystle Campbell, 29, and Chinese national Lu Lingzi, 23. Tsarnaev is also accused in the shooting death of Sean Collier, 27, the university police officer. A spokesman for Richard's family said the family did not want to comment. Efforts to reach the families of the other victims were not immediately successful. A trial date for Tsarnaev has not yet been set. (Additional reporting by Ross Kerber, Tim McLaughlin and Joan Biskupic; editing by Howard Goller, James Dalgleish, G Crosse, Bernard Orr, Tom Brown and Cynthia Osterman)
- Yahoo News
U.S. Rep. Denver Riggleman, R-Va., told the Yahoo News "Skullduggery" podcast that President Trump's supporters claiming voter fraud share a lot in common with the people searching for Bigfoot.
- Yahoo News
Rep. Ilhan Omar proposed the legislation in April but concerns about an impending wave of evictions has continued to grow.
- USA TODAY
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been a top official dealing with the pandemic.
- Associated Press
The European Union’s aviation safety agency has extended a ban imposed on Pakistan's state-run airline this year barring it from flying to Europe after a plane crash that killed 97 people in the port city of Karachi, a spokesman said Friday. At the time — and while the probe into the May 22 Airbus A320 crash was still underway — authorities acknowledged that nearly a third of Pakistani pilots, 260 out of 860, had cheated on their pilot’s exams. Pakistan International Airlines subsequently grounded 150 of its pilots while a probe by the country’s Civil Aviation Authority into the other pilots is still ongoing.
- Yahoo News 360
Media reports suggest President Trump is eyeing another bid for the White House in four years. Will Trump 2024 become a reality?
Iran plans to install hundreds more advanced uranium-enriching centrifuges at an underground plant in breach of its deal with major powers, a U.N. nuclear watchdog report showed on Friday, a move that will raise pressure on U.S. President-elect Joe Biden. The confidential International Atomic Energy Agency report obtained by Reuters said Iran plans to install three more cascades, or clusters, of advanced IR-2m centrifuges in the underground plant at Natanz, which was apparently built to withstand aerial bombardment.
- Yahoo News
David Cohen, who helped spearhead CIA modernization efforts, could be Biden's pick for the agency's post-Trump future
Cohen is reportedly being considered as one of President-elect Joe Biden’s candidates for CIA director amid pushback from human rights experts and progressives opposed to Michael Morell, Biden’s original top choice.
- The Week
President Trump reportedly needs no encouragement to start praising the dangerous, baseless QAnon conspiracy theory.The most pressing matter for federal Republicans right now is the upcoming Senate runoffs in Georgia, which will determine control of the body. But in a meeting with advisers and top Senate Republicans about that matter, Trump totally derailed the conversation by bringing up QAnon, people familiar with the discussion tell The Washington Post.Trump is reportedly not thrilled with Georgia and that fact that it flipped for President-elect Joe Biden, and is publicly upset with Republican leaders in the state who haven't somehow overturned the election for him. So even though Republican advisers say Trump's help is "key to convincing his die-hard supporters to vote for Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue" in the January runoff election, the president isn't thrilled about doing so, the Post reports. "Advisers say he has been frustrated at how some GOP senators have criticized him," leading Trump to appear "disinterested" when discussing Senate campaign plans, the Post continues.That was clear in a recent meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Todd C. Young (R-Ind.), and other aides. As they discussed Georgia's Senate races, Trump brought up the QAnon-supporting soon-to-be congressmember Marjorie Taylor Greene. Trump mispronounced the name of the group as "Q-an-uhn," and then said supporters of the theory that purports Democrats are a cannibalistic, pedophilic cabal "basically believe in good government," people familiar tell the Post. Everyone reportedly went silent until White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows mentioned he had "never heard it described that way," the Post reports.Trump has been asked to denounce QAnon several times, but usually gives the theory his tacit approval instead.More stories from theweek.com The Donald goes down to Georgia What Trump is doing isn't politics. It's something much worse. 5 absurdly funny cartoons about Trump's desperate fraud claims
Russia protested on Friday after Latvia charged several journalists from the Rossiya Segodnya news agency with violating European Union sanctions. The journalists were charged because of their association with Dmitry Kiselyov, who heads Rossiya Segodnya, said Sputnik Latvia, a subsidiary of Rossiya Segodnya. The Kremlin media mogul was sanctioned by the EU for his role in Russia's seizure of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.
- Associated Press
The Army Corps of Engineers reversed course on an Obama-era proposal to charge for water drawn from reservoirs the Corps manages, North Dakota’s attorney general said Friday. Attorneys general from a dozen Western and Plains states sent a letter last year to the Trump administration asking that the proposal be withdrawn. Republican North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem headed the effort, which was backed by attorneys general from Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
- The Independent
Young Delaware senator’s devastating losses shaped life and career in Washington
- USA TODAY
Five executions are scheduled before Joe Biden, who opposes capital punishment, takes office. Ninety current and former law officials want a halt.
- Yahoo News Video
As a pair of critical Senate runoff races approach on Jan. 5, Georgia Republican leaders find themselves in a conundrum, trying to balance indulging President Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud with supporting state GOP election officials. Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, a Republican, is frustrated with the misinformation about the election process in his state. “I’m actually embarrassed at the amount of misinformation that continues to show up on Twitter feeds and Facebook posts and blogs that takes literally 10 seconds to debunk,” Duncan told Yahoo News. “Anybody could debunk it, but because they’ve let themselves get to a point where they’re more worried about flipping an election result than they are following the truth, that’s how we’ve gotten here.”
Philippine police on Friday threatened to cane people who violate social distancing protocols as the Southeast Asian nation fights the spread of the coronavirus during the festive season. The Philippines celebrates one of the world's longest Christmas seasons, starting as early as September, and crowds have started to flock to sprawling malls and shopping centres despite the pandemic. Police general Cesar Binag, commander of the coronavirus task force, told a news conference that police and soldiers would patrol in public areas in the capital Manila, the hotspot of COVID-19 cases, carrying 1 meter rattan sticks to measure distancing.
- Associated Press
Turkey’s recent moves to de-escalate a clash with Greece and Cyprus over east Mediterranean energy reserves are “unconvincing” and European Union leaders need to take action that will prompt Ankara to heed international law, Greece’s foreign minister said on Friday. Nikos Dendias said Turkey opted not to seize an opportunity that European Union leaders offered it in October to ease tensions in the region so that the 27-member bloc could start reshaping its fraught relations with Ankara.
- The Week
President-elect Joe Biden has settled on a team to lead the U.S. through its biggest ongoing crisis, two people familiar with the decision tell Politico.Jeff Zients, who headed the National Economic Council under former President Barack Obama and is co-chair of Biden's transition team, will reportedly be named the White House's COVID-19 coordinator. Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general under Obama, will reportedly return to his role with more responsibilities, and Biden's coronavirus advisory board co-chair Marcella Nunez-Smith will get a special role focused on health disparities.Zients "isn't a health care guru, and he's the first to say that," one source close to Biden told Politico. But his managerial experience is seen as an asset as the U.S. prepares to roll out a vaccine and combat the coronavirus-induced economic crisis — "he's essentially playing that role with the transition now," the source said. Zients will reportedly be paired with health experts including Murthy, who has already been a part of Biden's coronavirus plans. Nunez-Smith, a Yale University associate professor of medicine, will meanwhile help address how COVID-19 and other health care issues disproportionately affect people of color.The left wing of the Democratic party isn't expected to be thrilled with Zients' selection, The New York Times reports. Progressive groups such as Revolving Door Project and Justice Democrats have already pointed out his corporate record, and the fact that an anesthesia company managed under the investment firm Zients ran had poor reviews. Under Obama, "his role was essentially to be a management consultant for the executive branch: cutting costs, finding efficiencies and looking at things like a businessman," Revolving Door said in a document about Zients' background.More stories from theweek.com The Donald goes down to Georgia What Trump is doing isn't politics. It's something much worse. 5 absurdly funny cartoons about Trump's desperate fraud claims
- The Telegraph
Former Hong Kong politician Ted Hui has announced he has chosen to go into exile as Beijing intensifies its crackdown on high-profile figures of the former British colony’s pro-democracy movement. Mr Hui, 38, initially fled to Denmark this week where he was joined by his family, but he said he would make his way to the UK to continue his pro-democratic activities. He joins Nathan Law, a prominent Hong Kong human rights activist now based in London, and a growing diaspora of dissidents who are continuing to advocate for more international pressure on China to allow greater rights and freedoms in the Asian financial hub. “My personal determination is that my exile will not be a migration. My only home is Hong Kong which is why I will not apply for asylum in any country,” said Mr Hui, adding that he would make it his “life mission” to fight for the city’s freedom. “There is no word to explain my pain and it’s hard to hold back tears,” he said as he announced his decision via Facebook. Mr Hui also revealed he had resigned from the opposition Democratic Party of Hong Kong. Last month he was one of 15 legislators who quit the city’s legislative council in protest at Beijing’s decision to oust four colleagues over their political views.
- The Independent
Educator says she wants to keep on teaching when Joe Biden becomes president
Firefighters battled to tame a wildfire on hillsides southeast of Los Angeles late on Thursday, some 24 hours after it broke out in a wooded canyon, apparently triggered by a faulty domestic generator. Two of some 500 firefighters deployed to control it had been hospitalized with injuries, the Orange County Fire Authority said on Twitter. The Bond Fire, named for the street in Silverado Canyon where it started, ignited late on Wednesday evening and was quickly whipped up by dry Santa Ana winds.
- Associated Press
The Tennessee Supreme Court on Thursday indefinitely postponed the execution of death row inmate Byron Black. Black was convicted by a Nashville court of murdering his girlfriend Angela Clay and her daughters Latoya, 9, and Lakesha, 6, at their home in 1988. Black’s lead attorney, Kelley Henry, filed the petition for a second delay last month after contracting COVID-19 during a visit to a federal prisoner she is representing in Texas.