He had his audience totally engaged on every word, his knowledge so overwhelming, his delivery so confident and precise.
Breakfast Chair Mark Robinson, FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Kevin White, FBI Special Agent In Charge Joseph Bonavolonta, and Jordan Girls and Boys Club Executive Director Gina Centrella.
Joseph R. Bonavolonta, FBI special agent in
charge of the Boston Field Office, was the guest speaker at the Jordan Boys and
Girls Club Breakfast Series Tuesday and his remarks were so captivating that he
received two other guest speaking invitations before he left the hall.
“It’s been an incredibly interestingly and
enlightening morning – that was great,” said Breakfast Chair Mark Robinson at
the conclusion of Bonavolonta’s remarks.
Bonavolonta took the guests on an up-close
look at the vital work that the United States’ principal law enforcement agency
does around the clock and how it affects people not only in this nation but
around the world.
He began by illuminating “about the types of
threats we’re facing in our AOR (Area of Responsibility),” which is the
four-state region of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
He divided the subject matter between the
categories of national security threats and criminal threats.
“I’ll start with pure national security,
that’s really where we’re focusing on our counter-terrorism and
counter-intelligence threats, two of the absolute top threats, not only here in
our area, but also nationally,” said Bonavolonta.
He said the FBI is focusing on two types of
counter-terrorism, international terrorism and domestic terrorism.
“International terrorism is where you have
your historical terrorism threats, really pre-and-post 911: Al Qaeda and ISIS,
They still are persistent. They still are significant threats for us, but the
threat landscape in terrorism has really changed every year since September 11,
2001,” he said.
Bonavolonta noted that the primary threat
here is Homegrown Violent Extremists (HVE). “What I mean by that, simply, are
individuals who have been self-radicalized primarily over the Internet – it
could be by other means as well. They go out and commit significant acts of
violence against what we would call or they call to be soft targets: schools,
shopping malls, any areas where there are public gatherings where you can
potentially inflict mass casualties with the lowest amount of risk or immediate
interaction with law enforcement.
“It’s something that concerns us every day,”
He said the agency has to take each threat
seriously and be very quick to react. “We’ve had cases right in our own area
where we’ve had individuals that have one day woken up and they’re in that
radicalization process and they’ve decided that today’s the day they’re going
to go out and they’re going to attack or kill members of law enforcement or
“These are threats that have to be acted on
immediately and we have to ready to mobilize and cut them off before they
commit these acts of violence,” he said.
Bonavolonta defined domestic terrorism “as
individuals who are associated with or inspired by US-based movements that are
promoting ‘violent extremist ideologies.”
He said what makes domestic terrorism a
complex issue is “the fact that a lot of what we see in that realm potentials
butts right up against First Amendment freedom of speech issues.
“That’s something that we really have to be
incredibly careful when we’re looking at it. It’s a very, very high threshold
for us to predicate a case where we’re charging acts related to domestic
“In a lot of cases, these issues start with
individuals that are spewing certain types of speech that are protected under
First Amendment activities,” Bonovalonta clarified.
During the question-and-answer session that
followed, Bonavolonta was asked about FBI resources, hiring and personnel.
He said the FBI is always looking for
“cyber-talented people with a true background in cyber skills.”
we are making a significant push for much more aggressive recruitment – we are
aggressively recruiting people with skills in the STEM field,” said
Bonavalonta. “We are placing a specific emphasis on recruiting females into the
agent cadre as well. We need to make sure that from a diversity perspective that
our agent cadre, as much as it can, mirrors overall society. And just within
the last three or four years, there has been a very definitive effort to
proactively put on female law enforcement symposiums.”
The growing movement for the federal
government to take the lead in effecting policies that will negate the effects
of both economic inequality and climate change has been incorporated into what
is being referred to as the Green New Deal.
Our U.S. Sen. Edward J. Markey, is among
those who is spearheading the legislation, along with newly elected
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.
The key features of the Green New Deal are
both economic and environmental.
Health insurance for all Americans, job
creation, and the expansion of the safety net are among the highlights of the
economic aspect of the proposal.
On the environmental front, the goal is for
the United States to become carbon-neutral within 10 years.
Both aspects of the proposal will face
opposition in Congress from Republicans. The economic aspects will require
raising taxes on the wealthy, which essentially would repeal the tax cuts
approved by the GOP Congress last year.
The environmental goals will face a fierce
fight from the energy industry and other business groups.
The Green New Deal seeks to address what we
believe are the two great existential threats both to the American way of life
and America itself :
First, that we are becoming a plutocracy —
a government of the rich, for the rich, and by the rich.
Second, that climate change will wreak
environmental and economic havoc on our nation with catastrophic consequences
unless we take immediate steps to reverse its effects before they reach a
tipping point from which we cannot escape.
Some may call the Green New Deal a
pie-in-the-sky idea. But the reality is that unless we do something — and soon
— about the growing concentration of wealth in the hands of a few and the
imminent threat of climate change, the future of America (and the world) is
Gov. Charlie Baker
brought a short smile to the face of many when he unveiled an increase in
education funding in his State Budget proposal two weeks ago, but this week
Supt. Mary Bourque said the proposal needs to go further for cities like
“Although a step in the
right direction for public education and in particular gateway cities, the
Governor’s FY20 budget does not go nearly far enough,” she wrote in a letter on
Bourque said the Chelsea
Public Schools are facing another year where they will likely – as it stands
now – have to cut another $2 million from their budget. That falls upon
multiple years of cuts that have weighed cumulatively on the schools and taken
away core services from students.
One of the problems is
that salaries, health insurance and special education costs are rising so
quickly. This year, she said, they are looking at increases in those areas of
Gov. Baker’s budget
proposal steers an increase of $3.2 million to Chelsea over last year, but in
the face of rising costs, that still leaves the schools in the red.
It’s yet another year of
advocacy for the schools to fix the Foundation Formula – an exercise that has
seemingly played out without any success for at least five years.
“Once again we are facing
another year of painful budget cuts because the foundation formula used to
calculate aid to our schools is broken,” she wrote. “The formula from 1993 has
not kept up with inflation, changing demographics or increased student
needs. I am however, encouraged this year that all leaders at the State
level have acknowledged that the formula is broken, including for the first
time the Governor.”
Bourque also spelled out
the complex nature of the Chelsea Schools, including numerous factors that are
contributing to the reduction in funding.
One of the most startling
situations is that there are fewer kids, and with education funding based on
numbers of kids, that translates to even less money for the schools.
Bourque said this year
they have begun to identify a downward trend in enrollment for the first time
in years. She said fewer kids are coming in from outside the U.S. and families
are leaving Chelsea for areas with lower rents and costs of living.
“In addition to the
foundation formula undercounting critical costs, a significant portion of this
year’s $2 million dollar gap is due to student demographic shifts taking place
in our schools,” she wrote. “We are seeing a downward trend in student
enrollment…This year we have noted fewer students entering our schools from
outside the United States as well as a number of students and families moving
from Chelsea due to the high cost of living in the Boston area.”
The Chelsea Public Schools
under the City Charter have until April 1 to submit their balanced budget.
Bourque said they plan to lobby members of the House of Representatives and the
Senate in the meantime to fix the funding gaps that now exist.
This is an exemplary retrospective of the financial crisis of 2008 and its aftermath. Adam Tooze regales us with a depiction of the horrors that were unfurled during and after the crisis. the book is divided into four parts, each of which attends to different facets of the 10-year period following the financial disaster.
The author does a nice job of holding the reader’s interest. The book is filled with facts and figures pertinent to the monetary emergency, but Tooze does his best to make it accessible to the average reader.
The crisis originated in the United States when Lehman Brothers collapsed, but to quote Tooze: “ To view the crisis of 2008 as basically an American event was tempting,” but in fact the emergency spread all over the world, especially to the Eurozone, which experienced the brunt of the crisis around 2010 and 2011. Tooze divides the blame on liberals and conservatives alike, although I got the feeling that he is/was a moderate left-winger.
In Europe the difficulties involved Ireland, Spain and most famously and harmfully Greece, which experienced economic turmoil after European authorities imposed austerity measures due to a terrible run on banks. European countries, especially Germany experienced great duress over the prospect of bailing out Greece.
In addition, the world was beset by what was viewed as populist political remedies, in particular the rise of Donald Trump in America and the Brexit vote in Britain. Tooze attributes most of the blame for these maladies to the shaky fiscal situation which arose from the crisis of 2008. The author lumps all these phenomena under the financial banner, and I am not sure they were all interrelated, but he does make an intersecting case for it all.
Tooze’s chapter on Trump elaborates on what the author believes to be the rise of a right wing demagogue, but he barely mentions the positive effect that Trump has had on the U.S. economy.
The crisis of 2008 was widely viewed by many to be the most unstable period since the Great Depression, which germinated in 1929 and lasted beyond the 1930s. During the latest crisis, millions of people lost their jobs and/or homes in the period from 2008 to 2015. President Obama who inherited the mess from the previous Bush Administration, did his best to contain the crisis, but the enormity of the instability was such that government intervention by itself could not contain the onslaught from the failing banks.
Adam Tooze is a gifted writer and his book on the fiscal disaster is filled with minutiae relevant to the duration of the financial difficulties. I had never heard of Tooze before I read this book, but I will pay great heed to whatever he publishes in the future.
“Crashed” is an excellent read. The reader leaves it well informed on the niceties of finance. You, the reader will find it to be an excellent book. I recommend it heartily.
An MS-13 member was sentenced to life in prison for using social media to lure and violently murder two teenage boys – one from Chelsea – in East Boston.
Edwin Gonzalez, a/k/a “Sangriento,” 23, a Salvadoran national, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV to life in prison. In June 2018, after a multi-week trial, Gonzalez was convicted by a federal jury of conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, more commonly referred to as RICO or racketeering conspiracy. In addition, the jury found that Gonzalez’s racketeering activity on behalf of MS-13 included his participation in the Sept. 7, 2015, murder of a 15-year-old in East Boston and the Jan. 10, 2016, murder of a 16-year-old in East Boston.
MS-13 is organized into smaller groups known as “cliques” that operate throughout the United States. Gonzalez was a member of the Molinos Locos Salvatrucha clique of MS-13.
The investigation revealed that Gonzalez was the driving force behind, and key participant in, two separate murders in Massachusetts.
On Sept. 7, 2015, Gonzalez and three other MS-13 members lured a 15-year-old boy through social media to Constitution Beach in East Boston. Convinced that the victim was a gang rival, Gonzalez and others targeted him by pretending to be a girl on Facebook and lured the victim to the beach for a date. When the victim arrived at Constitution Beach, Gonzalez and three other MS-13 members took turns stabbing the victim repeatedly, leaving him bleeding to death on a public beach. The victim had approximately 33 sharp force injuries and multiple blunt force injuries.
The other three MS-13 members who committed the September 2015 murder with Gonzalez—Carlos Melara, a/k/a “Chuchito,” a/k/a “Criminal,” Henry Parada Martinez, a/k/a “Street Danger,” and Rene Mejia Flores a/k/a “Gasper,”—were also charged in connection with this investigation and pleaded guilty before trial. Melara was sentenced to 36 years in prison, while Parada Martinez and Mejia Flores are awaiting sentencing.
On Dec. 7, 2015, Gonzalez was promoted to “homeboy,” or full-member of the gang, to reward him for the murder he committed on behalf of MS-13. Melara and Mejia Flores were also promoted to “homeboys” for their role in the murder.
On January 10, 2016, Gonzalez and three other MS-13 members lured Christofer Perez de la Cruz, 16, of Chelsea, through social media to Falcon Street in East Boston. Again, convinced that the victim was a gang rival, Gonzalez and others targeted him by pretending to be a girl on Facebook. Gonzalez then went to pick up the victim, pretending to be a relative of the girl that the victim was supposed to meet for a date. When Gonzalez arrived with the victim in East Boston, the MS-13 members attacked the victim. Three of the MS-13 members, including Gonzalez, were armed with large knives and stabbed the victim repeatedly, while the fourth MS-13 member fired multiple gunshots into the victim. Gonzalez and the other MS-13 members then ran away, leaving the teenager bleeding to death on a public street. The victim had approximately 48 sharp force injuries, multiple gunshot wounds, and multiple blunt force injuries.
One of the murderers was captured on tape stating that the “the dude [victim] was left completely destroyed” and “Sangriento [Gonzalez] whacked the guy’s hands with a machete.” The day after the murder, Gonzalez himself was captured on tape admitting to the murder and discussing further violence against potential rivals, stating, “we’re going to leave all of them chopped in pieces.”
The other three MS-13 members who committed the January 2016 murder with Gonzalez—Edwin Diaz, a/k/a “Demente,” Jairo Perez, a/k/a “Seco,” and Rigoberto Mejia, a/k/a “Ninja”—were also charged in connection with this investigation and pleaded guilty before trial. Diaz and Perez were each sentenced to 35 years in prison, while Mejia received 27.5 years in prison.
Gonzalez was one of 49 defendants convicted as part of this investigation. All nine defendants who went to trial were convicted and 40 others pleaded guilty. In all, 16 defendants, including Gonzalez, were found to have committed or knowingly participated in murders.
There are three questions on the ballot for the upcoming state election on Tuesday, November 6. The three are about as unrelated and disparate as one could imagine.
The first question asks voters to adopt a proposed new law that would require minimum staffing by nurses in every hospital in the state. We have to admit that when we started reading the full text of the very lengthy proposed new law, our eyes began to glaze over because of the use of terminology that may be common to doctors and nurses, but which means little to the rest of us.
However, what is clear is that those who proposed this question have a good idea of what they’re doing.
We doubt there is anyone who would dispute that nursing care in hospitals is critical for patients. It also is beyond dispute that avoidable mistakes in hospital care are a leading cause of death of patients in even the best hospitals.
In our view, this ballot question comes down to a cost/benefit analysis: Is the added cost of minimum staffing for nurses (and by the way, no one really knows what that dollar figure might be) worth the undisputed benefits for patient care?
Question 2 seeks to amend the U.S. Constitution to limit the spending by corporate entities. The amendment is designed to overturn the Citizens United decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, which declared unconstitutional the limits imposed by Congress on campaign spending by corporations.
In deciding this question, voters would do well to recall the words of Louis Brandeis, “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”
The only way to change Citizens United is to amend the Constitution — a drastic measure, no doubt .
Question 3 seeks approval of an already-existing state law, that was approved by the legislature in 2016, that bans discrimination against transgender persons. The law has been working well and is endorsed by many groups and organizations, including the Mass. Police Chiefs Association. A “Yes” vote keeps in place the current law.
With the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, coming on the heels of the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, it is clear that the America as we have known it for the past 70 years, a time in which the United States attained and maintained its supremacy in the world and achieved unprecedented prosperity for its people, could be coming to an end. That may sound dramatic, but we don’t think it is overstating the case.
In our view, the principal reason why America has prospered since the end of WWII, despite our many missteps (Vietnam, Watergate, and Iraq being the top three) is because we have expanded the rights of all of our citizens and we have welcomed people from all over the world to partake of, and contribute to, our wealth and our democratic ideals.
As regards the latter point, we would note that the majority of the Nobel prizes awarded to Americans in recent years have been won by persons who were immigrants. And let’s not forget that Steve Jobs’s father came from Syria and the parents of one of the founders of Google emigrated from Russia. They came to this country, as immigrants always have and still do, to create a better life for themselves and their families and to contribute to their new country.
However, there should be no doubt that the newly-constituted Supreme Court not merely will take us back to the pre-1930s, but rather will be in the vanguard of a new movement.
The court in recent years already has eviscerated the Voting Rights Act and (via the Citizens United case) has entrenched the ability of the ultra-rich to throw unlimited amounts of cash into our electoral system.
Now, with the ascension of two more conservatives, the Supreme Court may turn back the clock on much of what most Americans have taken for granted for the past three generations in the realms of the rights of women, persons of color, and persons of different sexual orientations.
Hopefully, the Democrats will gain control of the House of Representatives in the fall — and we say that not so much because we love Democrats, but because we need at least one house of Congress to act as a check on the White House — but that will not change the direction of the Supreme Court.
So what does that mean for us in Massachusetts and the other states on the coasts (with a few pockets in between)?
In concrete terms, let us be welcoming to all people; let us be the safe harbors for a woman’s right to choose (when the Supreme Court eviscerates Roe v. Wade, as it surely will); let us increase the minimum wage and be supportive of unions; let us prepare for the effects of climate change; let us enforce strict gun laws (to keep crime and mass shootings down); and let us make our states’ educational systems world-class.
We need to be everything they are not
Think of it this way: Let’s build our state’s economy to take advantage of what they are giving up.
This will require two things: Out-of-the-box thinking by our elected leaders and an unprecedented partnership between the state and the business community, which must be convinced to partake of a partnership with the state in order to pursue our common goals.
In short, we must take our future into our own hands as we never before have imagined.
It will require lot of hard work and sacrifice — but given what is happening at the national level, we have no choice.
The Chelsea Police Department will increase impaired driving patrols on local roads with grant funds from the Highway Safety Division of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS). Chelsea Police will join local departments across the state as well as the Massachusetts State Police in the national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Overenforcement mobilization and public information campaign.
This year’s campaign will urge drivers drinking alcohol or using marijuana and other drugs to plan ahead and designate a sober driver, use a ride-share service or take public transportation.
“Impaired drivers create a dangerous situation for everyone around them, threatening the destruction of lives and entire families,” said Chief Brian A. Kyes. “This grant will help increase our efforts during the busy summer travel season to keep our roads free of impaired drivers and avoid the tragedy they wreak.”
“Getting behind the wheel after drinking alcohol, using marijuana or both is one of the most dangerous things drivers can do,” said Jeff Larason, Director of the Highway Safety Division. “A little planning can save your life or someone else’s. Regret or remorse won’t bring someone back.”
Marijuana or marijuana-type drugs were the most prevalent types of drugs found in people killed in crashes from 2011 to 2016.
From 2015 to 2016, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities increased 9 percent (109 to 119).
From 2011-2015, 82 percent of impaired drivers in fatal crashes were men.
From 2011-2015, 45 percent of all alcohol-related driver fatalities were ages 21 to 34.
National Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
Approximately one-third of all traffic crash fatalities in the United States involve drunk drivers. On average, more than 10,000 people have died each year (2012- 2016) in drunk-driving crashes. To put it in perspective, that’s equal to about 20 jumbo jets crashing, with no survivors.
In 2016, almost one in five children (14 and younger) killed in traffic crashes were killed in drunk-driving crashes. Fifty-four percent of the time, it was the child’s own driver who was drunk.
Drugs were present in 43 percent of the fatally-injured drivers with a known test result in 2015, more frequently than alcohol was present.
NHTSA’s 2013–2014 roadside survey found drugs in 22 percent of all drivers both on weekend nights and on weekdays.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects—slows reaction times, impairs cognitive performance, and makes it more difficult for drivers to keep a steady position in their lane.
Mixing alcohol and marijuana may dramatically produce effects greater than either drug on its own.
To view the Highway Safety Division’s (HSD) “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” TV spots, or for more information about the HSD’s public information campaign, go to www.mass.gov/DriveSober
The long-discussed wide- ranging opiate treatment bill passed the state legislature late Tuesday night just in the nick of time, after a conference committee on Tuesday agreed to a compromise form of the bill that went through many twists and turns over the past month.
State Rep. Dan Ryan, who is vice chair of the House’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Committee and had a big hand in the bill, said he was happy to see that the body came to agreement and voted unanimously on the final bill only hours after the compromise reached the floor.
He said that many hard issues were discussed – such as providing opiate treatment to inmates, creating Safe Injection Facilities, and looking at involuntary commitments for substance abuse treatment – but none of the sticking points caused the bill to derail in the last hours.
“A unanimous vote on such a major piece of legislation, such as the opioid bill, shows what we are able to do here in the Commonwealth,” he said. “Because we don’t retreat into our partisan safe zones, we are able deliver a bill that will go a long way in curbing this scourge that had affected so many communities… I have to thank Speaker DeLeo for appointing me vice-chair of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Committee. My knowledge of so much of the good work being done by others in Charlestown and Chelsea really helped me to shape discussion. I thank everyone in our communities that are doing recovery work.”
Rep. Ryan said he thanked Conference Committee Chair Rep. Denise Garlick and Sen. Cynthia Friedman for their quick analysis of a tough issue.
“After months of public testimony, stakeholder meetings and expert analysis they worked through the weekend processing all of that info and hammered out a bill we can all live with and will save lives,” he said. “Our neighborhoods, hospitals, schools and even correctional facilities will be safer places because of this bill.”
One of the sticking points in the bill was Safe Injection Facilities (SIFs), which allow people to use illegal injection drugs in a supervised medical environment. It is illegal in the United States and opposed by the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts. While that measure had supporters in the Senate, it did not get support in the House. The compromise on that created a commission to study the concept with municipal leaders, including Mayor Martin Walsh – who opposes the idea outright.
A second measure allows a pilot program in county jails and state prisons to allow treatment medicines, such as Methadone, to be given to inmates. Currently, those in treatment when they enter jail are cut off from that treatment. The pilot, however, does not operate in Suffolk County. Only two state prisons are included – MCI-Cedar Junction and the Plymouth treatment facility for men.
Finally, Ryan said the House had been very much opposed to the idea of Section 35 involuntary treatment, but Gov. Charlie Baker was very supportive of the idea. The program is running in Boston on a pilot with the West Roxbury District Court, and it allows police and medical professionals to involuntarily hold certain individuals for the sake of treatment without the approval of family – which is usually required.
The matter was adopted for study by a commission.
Other highlights include:
Requires electronic prescribing for all controlled substances, with limited exceptions, effective January 1, 2020.
Expands access to naloxone (Narcan) in the community by (1) establishing a standing order, providing access to naloxone without a prescription, (2) allowing certain Sheriffs to purchase naloxone at a lower cost through the state’s bulk purchasing program, and (3) allowing local governments and agencies to exchange unexpired naloxone.
Establishes a commission to make recommendations on the certification of Recovery Coaches.
Mandates that providers check the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) prior to issuing any prescription for a benzodiazepine.
Establishes a Center for Police Training in Crisis Intervention to support cost-effective, evidence-based mental health and substance use crisis response training programs for law enforcement, providing the tools to respond appropriately to behavioral health crises.