On Feb. 24, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed that country’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law. The law, according to executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights Vincent Warren, instantly outlaws the ability of LGBTI people to advocate for their rights. Warren says in a column he wrote for the Huffington Post that “such a fundamental denial of rights to an entire class of people is illegal under international law as well as the Ugandan constitution.“
For that reason the CCR is continuing to pursue the anti-gay minister Scott Lively for the role he played in getting the legislation passed. According to their own website the CCR filed a federal lawsuit against Lively in the United States District Court of Massachusetts in March of 2012. The suit alleges that Lively’s action in anti-gay efforts in Uganda amounted to a conspiracy to strip away rights of LGBTI persons and constitutes persecution.
The suit was filed under the Alien Tort Statute that allows U.S. courts to hold individuals accountable for committing “gross human rights violations” according to a story on the website Pink News.
Lively is a resident of Springfield, Mass., and the founder of Abiding Truth Ministries. Late last year he announced his bid for governor of Massachusetts. He also co-authored a book titled “The Pink Swastika” which says in its introduction “homosexuals [are] the true inventors of Nazism and the guiding force behind many Nazi atrocities.” Lively has denied all allegations in the lawsuit, including that he encouraged government-backed acts of violence against gays as a result of his rhetoric.
He continues to contend that his actions are protected by the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech. He has dismissed the lawsuit as frivolous and says he doesn’t think it will hurt his chances as a gubernatorial candidate.
"If anything, I think it will help me when people learn how ridiculous the lawsuit is," he was quoted as saying in the Massachusetts paper The Republican.
Lively’s trial is still pending, though. In January, a federal judge set deadlines to file final motions and also denied Lively’s motion to dismiss the case. The next pretrial hearing is scheduled for May 6, 2015.
With a Feb. 24 court date approaching, the father of Justina Pelletier has spoken.
Justina, just 15 years old, has been in the custody of the state of Massachusetts for slightly more than one year now. In February 2013, Justina caught the flu. For people in good health, the flu is typically an easily beaten – even if unpleasant – ailment. But Justina has been diagnosed with mitochondrial disease by Tufts University doctors. Mitochondrial disease can make even the most mundane sickness a legitimate health concern. Because of this, Justina’s parents checked her into Boston Children’s Hospital.
After three days in the hospital, BCH doctors delivered some unexpected news. They told the Pelletiers that Justina’s health problems – both the flu and her mitochondrial disease diagnosis – were not legitimate physical sicknesses. They thought Justina’s problems were psychosomatic and said she needed mental health help.
Shockingly, the Massachusetts accused the Pelletiers of over-medicating their daughter and took custody of her. That was one year ago. In the year since, the Pelletiers have spent time, money, and endless emotional energy fighting to regain custody of Justina.
Justina’s father Lou Pelletier spoke to The Blaze recently about his family’s fight.
“We need help,” he said. “I’m trying to save my daughter’s life.”
The Pelletiers are due back in court on Feb. 24.
“Now we go back the 24th, a week from today, and I want to have all my guns blazing,” Pelletier said. "We’re not going to make it much more."
His daughter Jessica, who is also diagnosed with mitochondrial disease, chimed in, as well.
“Our family, I don’t know how we survived this long,” she said.
The Pelletiers are hoping, as they have for more than a year now, to regain custody of Justina and continue the Tufts-recommended regiment that was successfully treating her mitochondrial disease.
“She needs physical therapy,” Lou Pelletier said. "She needs to be back on the vitamin cocktail. She needs to be treated for the goddamn diagnosis she had from the beginning. I need to save my daughter. If we don’t do something, she is going to die.”
The Pelletiers set up a PayPal account connected to freejustina.com in hopes of raising money to cover the legal bills from their struggle.
In response to the death of a woman who was being held in custody at a Massachusetts jail, four Lowell police officers have been placed on paid leave while they are investigated for their involvement in the incident.
The woman, 31-year-old Alyssa Brame, was arrested in January 2013, according to WBUR. Brame died from acute alcohol poisoning around two hours after her arrest.
The officers who were on duty at the time of Brame’s death are being accused of failing to properly attend to her obvious medical condition. Video evidence clearly depicts at least two officers dragging Brame into her cell because she is unable to stand up.
“The combined investigations by the Middlesex district attorney and our own board of inquiry determined Ms. Brame was not given the proper medical attention that she was in obvious need of while in the custody of the Lowell Police Department," Lowell Police Department Superintendent William Taylor said in an official letter regarding the investigation. "In addition, policies and regulations of the Lowell Police Department specifically in place to prevent such a tragedy were violated.”
According to the Lowell Sun, the department is required to check on inmates every 30 minutes, but there was a 56-minute gap in time before Brame was checked on. Officers have attributed this gap in time to the fact that the employees changed shifts while Brame was in custody, and the new officers were not aware of her condition.
District Attorney Marian Ryan defended the employees’ decision to keep Brame in the jail, claiming that hospitals might have been asking the department to cease sending so many individuals in their direction.
“Over time, there appears to be a perception among police personnel that there was push-back from the hospitals regarding the number of prisoners being transported to the hospital for evaluation,” Ryan said.
Taylor is also investigating three other employees who have not been placed on paid leave in an attempt to find who was responsible for the incident.
A legal battle in New England is pitting a family against the Boston Children’s Hospital and the state of Massachusetts.
Several years ago, 15-year-old Justina Pelletier was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease – a rare genetic condition with a huge variety of symptoms ranging from loss of muscle coordination to learning disabilities. Justina’s 25-year-old sister Jessica has been diagnosed with the condition as well.
In February 2013, Justina caught the flu. For people with mitochondrial disease, the symptoms of illnesses are amplified. While the flu makes everyone who catches it feel terrible, it’s a full-fledged medical emergency for someone with mitochondrial disease. Accordingly, Justina’s family checked her into the Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) to be monitored as her body fought off the virus.
After three days in the hospital, the medical team at Boston Children’s Hospital told Justina’s family some strange and unexpected news. Doctors believed all of Justina’s ailments – both the flu and her mitochondrial disease – were not legitimate physical illnesses. They believed her symptoms were psychosomatic.
Psychosomatic illness is defined as a sickness having physical symptoms but originating from mental causes. Despite an official mitochondrial disease diagnosis from Tufts Medical Center, the crew at BCH believed Justina’s ailments were mental in nature.
Justina’s family was understandably confused by the BCH team’s diagnosis. They decided they wanted to check Justina out of BCH and take her over to Tufts Medical Center, where she’d been treated for years for her mitochondrial disease. The doctors at BCH had other plans.
When the Pelletiers went to discharge Justina, they were told they wouldn’t be allowed to do so. BCH had filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families saying it suspected the Pelletiers of both child abuse and subjecting Justina to invasive treatments while denying her mental health help.
Today, one year later, Justina remains in the custody of the state of Massachusetts. Justina spent most of last year in a psychiatric ward and now lives in a residential treatment center. State medical officials have prescribed her mental health treatments and discontinued her mitochondrial treatments. The decision stems from their unwavering belief that Justina’s ailments are psychosomatic.
Prior to contracting the flu last year, Justina was an active teenager. Now, having gone a year without mitochondrial treatment, she is wasting away.
“She is going off a cliff,” father Lou Pelletier said. “She looks awful and is pale and her hair is falling out. Her gums are receding and she has no body strength.”
The Pelletiers are locked in a legal battle for their daughter. Massachusetts maintains custody of Justina and does not look to have any intentions of giving her up. The family wants to regain custody of their daughter and admit her to Tufts to resume her past medical treatments.
To help the Pelletiers do so, the Coalition for Diagnostic Rights filed a complaint against the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families accusing them of “medical child neglect and medical child abuse for failure to provide medical care” to Justina.
"Doctors are absurdly reckless when they exclude a medical investigation in favor of a vague somatoform diagnosis," a representative from the coalition said. "It's always a guess. This is a battleground where doctors and patients are fighting for authority."
Pelletier told ABC News that Justina’s doctor from Tufts has given them his emphatic support in their fight.
“He’s been crying on the phone with us,” Pelletier said.
While Pelletier acknowledges he is fighting an uphill battle – he recently referred to the situation as “fighting two goliaths” – he insists his family will do whatever it takes to regain custody of Justina.
“I have got to save my daughter’s life,” he said. “The system has failed. I am battling the medical world that thinks it knows everything.”
An elderly woman was caught on video stealing a tablet computer from another customer who accidentally left it inside a Panera Bread, and police are looking for help in tracking her down.
Regina Sanchez of Windsor, Conn., a business owner, says she had just finished a meeting at the restaurant when she accidentally left the $500 Samsung Galaxy Tablet behind.
The incident happened at the Burlington Plaza Shopping Center in Massachusetts in September, but the video was uploaded to YouTube by local police a few days ago, The Inquisitr reports.
The suspect’s purse was reportedly a Vera Bradley, the same brand as the victim’s tablet cover, coincidentally.
The video shows an older couple at Panera Bread. A younger woman at their table points out the tablet on a window sill. The older woman then walks over and places it under the table before putting the tablet into her purse, WHDH reports.
“That looks like a grandma!” said Sanchez, who thought the suspect would be a teenager. “It’s despicable. She was good. She looked like a master thief. The hard part about this is I earned that tablet. I’m a single mom, trying to get on my feet. I can’t replace it.”
Sanchez had been working with the restaurant and police to get the video.
“Criminals just do stuff like that,” Burlington Police Lt. Glen Mills said. “It’s kind of natural for them to do things like that. We’re not like that. If you’re a good person you would feel bad and you’d be really nervous. For them it’s just kind of natural. Most of the people that we catch committing crimes are younger. It’s something most people grow out of as they get older. They usually know better when they get older.”
The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case Wednesday on the right to protest near abortion clinics.
Anti-abortion activists have challenged a Massachusetts state law that forbids them from protesting or handing out materials within 35 feet of an abortion clinic.
The state's "selective exclusion law" makes it a crime for people who are not clinic employees or agents to "enter or remain on a public way or sidewalk" within 12 yards of "a reproductive health care facility."
Activists say this law has kept them from talking with patients who want to enter a clinic. Protesters argue that their First Amendment rights don’t end just because they are in close proximity to the clinic’s door.
"It's time for the Supreme Court to put an end to these perverse attempts to silence pro-life speakers," said Dana Cody, the president of the anti-abortion Life Legal Defense Foundation. "Massachusetts is grasping at straws and its bubble zone law flies in the face of the very notion of freedom of speech."
"Too many times, we've seen the Supreme Court pass a death sentence on voiceless children in the womb. It would be yet another injustice to silence any person who speaks out on behalf of these children," said Lila Rose, the president of Live Action. "The Constitution of the United States does not become void as one gets close to an abortion facility."
Last year a federal appeals court ruled that "the right of the state to take reasonable steps to ensure the safe passage of persons wishing to enter health care facilities cannot seriously be questioned."
"Massachusetts' buffer zone statute strikes the right balance between ensuring safe access to medical facilities and preserving freedom of expression," argued state Attorney General Martha Coakley. "This law has enhanced public safety in a fair and constitutional manner."
Anti-abortion activists say the law shouldn’t apply to peaceful protestors and those who just want to hand out reading material.
"The prohibition applies even to speakers who are entirely peaceful, do not engage in any obstructive or intimidating conduct, and seek only to proffer leaflets, engage in consensual conversations, or even just stand and display a sign or pray,” said Mark Rienzi, a Catholic University law professor.
A ruling is expected by June.
A Foxborough, Massachusetts high school student whose battle with progeria has served as an inspiration for others with the rare aging disease, died at age 17 last Friday night. The student, Sam Berns, died at home with his parents by his side, according to the Boston Globe.
Sam’s parents, Leslie Gordon and Scott Berns, have been instrumental in advancing progeria research ever since their son was diagnosed early on his in life. Both Leslie and Scott are doctors, and Gordon managed to successfully isolate the gene responsible for the disease in 2003. Gordon subsequently began administering a drug treatment to her son that allowed him to surpass his life expectancy of age 13, and many others around the world suffering from the disease also sought her treatment.
Progeria is a genetic disease that causes the body to age rapidly beginning at an early age. Other notable individuals afflicted with the disease include Leon Botha, DJ for the South African hip-hop group Die Antwoord. Botha, an artist as well as a DJ, was one of the world’s oldest survivors of progeria before he passed away at age 26.
Berns was notable for the humble and honest ways in which he discussed his disease, an approach which gained him several supporters around the world including New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Berns recently spoke at a TED event regarding his experiences.
“Even though there are many obstacles in my life, I don’t want people to feel bad for me. I don’t think about these obstacles all the time, and I’m able to overcome most of them anyway,” Berns said during the recent TED talk.
In an interview with ABC News, Berns also explained that he hoped that his mother would one day be able to stop researching his disease.
“I kind of just want my mom to be done with progeria for her sake, because my mom will keep working forever until progeria is cured,” he said.
Berns is the subject of the HBO documentary “Life According To Sam,” which earned a spot on the Academy Award shortlist for its depiction of Sam’s life and his parent’s research.
Many of you surely remember slinging a backpack full of books over your shoulder while rushing out the door on your way to school. But for students at St. John’s Prep in Danvers, Massachusetts, this time-honored morning tradition will be no more.
Administrators at the Catholic school have banned backpacks due to looming security threats at the school.
The ban is set to take effect today. The school sent out letters to parents last week explaining the reasons for the changes. Twice, an unknown student has scribbled threatening messages on the walls of a school bathroom. The second threat was more specific in nature than the first, and even pinned this upcoming Friday morning as a day when damage would be carried out.
As a precaution, Danvers Police will have an increased presence at the school in the coming days and weeks. Students will only be granted “limited and monitored access to bathroom facilities," and backpacks will not be allowed to be worn. Instead, students must store any belongings they wish to bring to school in clear plastic bags.
“It is the unsettling reality of our times that we find ourselves faced with this situation at St. John’s,” Headmaster Edward Hardiman wrote in a letter to parents. “We believe, however, that these measures, while they may seem inconvenient, will help ensure the safest possible environment for our students, faculty and staff.”
Danvers Police are currently investigating the threats.
Massachusetts police say 18-year-old Alexander Torres pulled a knife on his father Christmas morning because he didn’t receive the iPhone he wanted for Christmas.
Police arrived at his Brockton home on Wednesday to find Torres "fighting with everyone in the house and he pulled out a knife on his father."
He was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and assault and battery with malicious damage to a vehicle.
His father was unharmed, but his stepbrother was sent to a local hospital for unknown reasons.
Massachusetts and Vermont have stopped payment to CGI Group, the same website contractor that built the federal health care exchange.
CGI Group made seven exchange sites for individual states.
Vermont says they did such a terrible job they want a refund. The Vermont site didn’t work until early December.
Vermont has paid $18.6 million of a $82.6 million contract with CGI. State officials are withholding $5.1 because they say the company failed to meet key deadlines.
“I’ve lost confidence in the contractors that were supposed to deliver a fully functioning website on Oct. 1,” said Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin. “I’m going to continue to hold their feet to the fire until they get it right.”
Until recently, the Massachusetts site failed to enroll anyone. The state paid $11 million of a $69 million contract to CGI.
Officials in Massachusetts are reviewing legal options against the Montreal-based information company technology.
Jason Lefferts, spokesman for the state’s marketplace website Commonwealth Health Connector, said the state won’t pay CGI a penny more until they receive a functioning website.
“CGI has consistently underperformed, which is frustrating and a serious concern,” Lefferts said. “We are holding the vendor accountable for its underperformance and will continue to apply nonstop pressure to work to fix defects and improve performance.”
“There should be some financial accountability to the taxpayers who have funded this,” said Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, executive director of Health Care For All, a Boston-based health advocacy group.
CGI spokeswoman Linda Odorisio said the company is reviewing letters from Vermont signaling the intent to recover damages.
“CGI fully intends to honor the terms of its contract,” Odorisio said in a statement.