1. Unanswered questions in UMass overdose death conviction

    This is a story of sadness and punishment compounding tragedy and pain.

    On Oct. 4, 2013, Eric Sinacori, a 20-year-old kinesiology major at the University of Massachusetts, was found dead in his apartment at Puffton Village in Amherst. He died from a heroin overdose. His father found his body.

    Sinacori’s story is heartbreaking. Most heartbreaking, perhaps, is the many tens of thousands of times this story — with details that vary — has been told and written about families throughout America in recent years. The opioid epidemic has become an almost equal-opportunity killer....

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  2. Political, moral fight joined over health care

    People with pre-existing conditions fear that they “are going to die because of a vote we might be taking.”

    Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Florida) said that earlier this week. He added, “(A) lot of people … call my office … daily who are extremely angry … because they are sincerely scared.”

    With good reason....

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  3. Constitution reading inspiring, disheartening

    The Preamble begins, “We the People.” The evening of March 26, a large group gathered at the Haymarket Café in Northampton to read the United States Constitution and its amendments. The thought was, we talk about the Constitution a lot but we actually don’t often read it.

    We began appropriately with Section 1 of Article I, which says, “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” Section 8 of that article enumerates, that is, specifically lists, the kinds of laws Congress has the power to enact. By enumerating Congress’ authority the founders intended to establish the boundaries of the power of the central government.

    To put an exclamation point on this limitation, the drafters included in the Bill of Rights the Tenth Amendment that reserves all rights not explicitly granted the federal government...

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  4. Resist federalizing local police

    Sanctuary. That exquisite word conjures images of sunlight through stained glass windows and feelings of calm, peace, quietude, and safety.

    But sanctuary, in the context of sanctuary city, is a misnomer. Sanctuary cities do not actually offer undocumented immigrants sanctuary, but they still matter a lot.

    Sanctuary has deep religious roots. In medieval England, a criminal could put himself beyond the reach of the law for 40 days by seeking refuge in a church. By the early 17th century, however, the church and the king of England had abolished the practice.

    Although church-based sanctuary has never taken root in American law, the religious practice of sanctuary is embedded here. In the early 1980s, for example, the sanctuary movement involved over 500 congregations of all faiths. Places of worship, although not legally protected, nonetheless often provided a safe haven – with shelter, food, clothing and legal advice – for Central American refugees fleeing oppression and death squads. Today, in reaction to Trump, religious institutions once again are embracing sanctuary for immigrants.

    The concept of sanctuary, to a degree, was incorporated into our system...

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  5. President Trump's travel ban inhumane

    On Dec. 7, 2015, candidate Donald Trump called “for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

    This threat (or to his supporters, a promise) became a mantra, a pillar of his campaign.

    Trump later added a demand for a registry of all Muslims already in America. He had his reasons. Reflecting the views of his alt-right, white supremacist and now chief policy adviser, Steve Bannon, Trump told CNN, “I think Islam hates us.”

    Fortunately, two major obstacles have impeded implementation of Trump’s plans to ban and register Muslims....

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  6. Is fascism at America's door?

    A year ago I could not have imagined asking or being asked the question, is fascism at America’s door? Now I find it critical to contemplate the answer.

    The question takes me back to my senior year at Antioch College in 1972 when I was taking a course taught by Mary Kaufman. She had been a prosecutor of I.G. Farben, Germany’s World War II chemical, industrial and financial war machine. Mary knew a thing or two about fascism.

    In her class we read Korematsu v. United States, the Supreme Court decision which held that President Roosevelt’s executive order during World War II to forcibly remove over 100,000 citizens from their homes, herd them into jails, and hold them indefinitely with no charges because of their ethnicity violated no constitutional right.

    During a discussion, one student referred to those prisons for Japanese-Americans as concentration camps. Another student objected. She argued that although those incarceration facilities in Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and California were horrifying, racist and jingoistic, they did not constitute the moral or functional equivalent of the Nazi death camps at Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen and Dachau....

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  7. Keeping the flag flying

    On a Saturday morning some years ago, as part of a symposium sponsored by the Traprock Peace Center at Greenfield Community College, I participated on a panel with Frank Serpico, the retired New York City police officer who exposed corruption and bribery committed by his fellow officers. Al Pacino played him in the movie. The room was packed. Frank was the draw.

    I began my remarks by apologizing for running late and not having had enough time to finish dressing, at which point I took a tie out of my suit jacket and slid it under my shirt collar. Finishing dressing in front of an audience was a bit odd, I grant you that.

    But I had everyone’s attention. More accurately and importantly, the tie did. No one could miss the repeated pattern of American flags from the half-Windsor knot to my waist.

    This political theater allowed me to make the point that we who believe in liberty and equality should not allow the flag to be misappropriated....

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  8. Bill Newman opposes Questions 1 and 2, favors 3 and 4

    It’s your turn to be a legislator.

    In Tuesday’s election, Massachusetts voters will decide the fate of four proposed laws. They’re called ballot questions because they appear on our ballot as interrogatories, i.e. — “do you approve of” — followed by the substance of the initiative.

    Question 1 proposes another slot parlor in Massachusetts. No thank you.

    Question 2 asks whether Massachusetts should authorize as many as 120 new charter schools — up to a dozen a year for the next decade. To this question, even people who in general enthusiastically endorse charter schools should just say no.

    Let’s, as they said in “All the President’s Men,” follow the money. Question 2 would require Massachusetts public schools, which already pay $425 million a year for the existing 65 charters, to fork over up to an additional $1 billion annually for the new ones at the end of 10 years. The credit-rating agency Moody’s Investors Service has warned that passage of this ballot question could significantly weaken municipalities’ (including Boston’s) financial standing and threaten their credit ratings.

    More on money: look at who is bankrolling the Yes on 2 campaign....

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  9. A case of nerves as election season ticks down

    ‘Plop, plop, fizz, fizz …” Thanks to a recent game of Charades, this 1950s advertising jingle had become stuck in my brain and as the Clinton-Trump debate approached, I kept thinking that in order to live through that television extravaganza, I might need more help than Speedy Alka-Seltzer could provide.

    Maybe some anti-anxiety medications would be in order. After all, given the low bar the media had set for Donald Trump, all he needed to do in the 90-minute debate was appear semi-normal. If he did that, the media might well proclaim him the victor, which might propel him towards the presidency.

    The notion that a totally unqualified, largely ignorant and extremely dangerous racist, misogynist demagogue whose head is full of half-baked – make that one-eighth baked – ideas could be elected president made me consider that an anti-depressant might need to be added to the medication mix.

    As it turned out....

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  10. Why Jeff Morneau is right choice for Governor’s Council

    Contrary to popular mythology, donning a black robe before entering a courtroom does not imbue that person with some sort of preternatural ability to divine what’s right and to mete out justice. Sorry if we’re busting any judicial bubbles.

    Of course, the perspective, experience and ideology of the person wearing that cloak matters a lot. The intensity of the debate over whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump should make Supreme Court and other federal court appointments highlights this point.

    The confirmation process for a federal judge is straightforward. The president nominates. Then the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing (O.K., apparently not when Republicans control the Senate and Barack Obama is president but, you know, generally speaking, that’s what happens). Then the Senate votes. For state court judges the process is a bit different. The governor nominates one of the persons suggested by the Judicial Nominating Committee (approximately 20 lawyers from across the state appointed by the governor). Then the nominee appears before the Governor’s Council for an up or down vote.

    The Governor’s Council, a creation of the state constitution, is comprised of eight elected councilors. The lieutenant governor presides but votes only in the case of a tie.

    Mike Albano serves as the Governor’s Councilor for the four western counties. Albano is not seeking re-election because he’s running for Hampden County Sheriff. Two candidates are vying to replace him...

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