In the News

By: U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark

Since 1935, Americans have relied on Social Security upon retirement. Today, almost two-thirds of seniors count on Social Security for most of their income and another one-third for the entirety of it. Equally fundamental to the financial protection of seniors is Medicare, which provides access to health care for 49 million Americans annually.

While these programs support the security of our expanding senior population, Republicans are rapidly marching forward with their decades-long campaign to dismantle both. Even more incredibly, they’re using their deficit-exploding tax bill as their justification to do so. The party of so-called “fiscal responsibility” added $2 trillion to the national deficit to pay for the $1.3 trillion in tax cuts they gifted corporations and America’s wealthiest one percent. Now, they want to balance the budget with your hard-earned benefits.

They weren’t shy about this strategy either. Immediately after the tax bill passed, House Speaker Paul Ryan stated, “We’re going to have to get back to entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit.”

In June, Republicans released a proposal that would raise the retirement age from 66 to 67 for retirees born after 1960 and prohibit recipients from receiving unemployment benefits and Social Security disability insurance concurrently. It would privatize Medicare replacing the current system with fixed payments that recipients would use to independently purchase health plans. It would also repeal benefit improvements passed as part of the Affordable Care Act, including closing the Part D coverage gap that has saved Medicare beneficiaries more than $20 billion on prescription drugs since 2010.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which is charged with measuring the economic impact of legislation, found that these “reforms” would only cut federal spending if they also increased costs to beneficiaries. The GOP plan would increase the average premium by 50 percent, causing some beneficiaries to purchase private coverage and driving up costs for the oldest, frailest, and most ill. That is, any savings these changes would result in would be at the expense of seniors that simply cannot afford it.

Americans have paid into Social Security and Medicare through a lifetime of work, with the promise that they would be available when they needed them. By labeling Social Security and Medicare as “entitlements” that need to be reformed Republicans are trying to convince us that these lifesavings programs are government hand-outs. In reality, Republicans want to break commitments made through Social Security and Medicare so they can fund the trillions of dollars of giveaways to the super-wealthy and big corporations.

It is true that Americans are living longer and that we need to adapt these programs to better align with our modern economy and demographics. While Social Security has been paying for itself since day one, runs with a $2.8 trillion surplus and is solvent for another 17 years, we do need a long-term plan that ensures generations in the future can rely on this fundamental support system. This process needs to be honest, transparent and reflect the true mission of these programs. Using the GOP tax scam to threaten the livelihood of older Americans is not the way forward.

Congresswoman Katherine Clark represents the Massachusetts 5th Congressional District

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By: Amanda McGowan

The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court ushers in a "dangerous time" for the nation's highest court, Representative Katherine Clark said Tuesday.

Kavanaugh was sworn in Monday after a bitter and protracted confirmation process, which included an FBI investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against the nominee and an emotional testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a California professor who alleged that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school.

Clark told Boston Public Radio that she found Ford's allegations "credible" and that Kavanaugh's testimony gave her "extreme concern."

"I thought [Ford] was credible and brave in the way that she testified, and I thought that [Kavanaugh's] reaction gave me extreme concern for where we're headed, not just with this nominee but also as a Supreme Court, where we need to maintain the integrity and the nonpartisanship of that court," Clark told Boston Public Radio.

"His reaction, especially the way he was so rude to the Senators and throwing their questions back at them, just really, I think we're in a dangerous time for the Supreme Court," Clark continued.

Clark also addressed the possibility of the House conducting an investigation against Kavanaugh should Democrats retake that chamber this fall. Representative Jerrold Nadler, who is in line to become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee should the Democrats win a majority, said last week that the committee could expand the scope of the FBI's investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh.

"It may be right to investigate. That may be called for as we learn more," Clark said.

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By: Alysha Palumbo, Monica Madeja and Karla Rendon-Alvarez

A day after saying they expected service to be fully restored by Tuesday, National Grid and Woburn officials announced that some affected customers would not have their natural gas service restored until Thursday.

According to a spokesperson, National Grid crews completed service shutdowns for 300 customers in the Lowell and Wyman streets area overnight and assessments Tuesday morning.

Crews are now starting the process of reintroducing gas service into the system for the 300 affected customers, the spokesperson said, a process which could take until Thursday to complete.

Hundreds of gas meters in Woburn were shut off due to an overpressurization issue around noon on Monday. The incident served as a scary reminder to Woburn residents of the Sept. 13 gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley, as three communities continue to recover from a series of devastating gas explosions that killed one person, injured 25 others and damaged properties.

"We almost had a catastrophe here," Woburn resident Robert Deane said. "Thank God they caught it just in time."

National Grid says a worker doing routine maintenance in the affected area accidentally introduced extra gas to the system. The utility company said the error was fixed within minutes and the situation is under control.

"The crew quickly recognized the error and within minutes, reduced the system to normal operating pressures," National Grid said in a statement. "The area is safe, and National Grid has the situation under control."

Crews went door to door to check gas levels and turn off meters to every home in the affected area Monday. No residents were evacuated and everyone was safe.

"They're saying that everything’s good," said resident Roxane Mogauro. “Don't panic. That’s what he said. And of course, I panicked."

Resident Ruth Kichton said the Merrimack Valley gas explosions were the "first thing" that she thought of when she heard the news about the overpressurization incident.

"That was frightful," she said.

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By: Alena Sadiq

House Democrats and civil society organizations are urging Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to reconsider the State Department’s exclusion of reproductive rights from its annual human rights reports.

Their letters noted that since 2011 these country-specific reports have included detailed information about women’s access to contraception and abortion across the world. This precedent was broken in the 2017 reports, as first reported by POLITICO in February. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, the subsection on gender-based violence was also trimmed down.

Ninety-seven civil society organizations have signed a letter calling on Pompeo to immediately restore the human rights reports to their previous form.

“Governments do not get to pick and choose whose rights will be respected,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “We are already suing the Department of State for documents pertaining to the Department’s decision to delete the reproductive rights section and seeking copies of the full Human Rights Reports prior to the last-minute cuts.”

In a separate letter, 129 House Democrats have demanded that Pompeo ensure that the section on reproductive rights be included in future reports. These reports help Congress evaluate requests for foreign aid as well as assess legislation that may have foreign policy implications. Rights activists and non-governmental organizations also rely on these reports.

“By omitting reproductive rights from its annual Human Rights Reports, the Administration is further signaling that it does not recognize women’s rights as human rights,” Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.

The members have also asked the State Department to provide them with all internal and external correspondence that led to this decision. Additionally, they want to know which officials were involved in making this decision. Earlier this year, POLITICO reported that the move was ordered by a top aide of then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

“The Department’s 2017 report was a giant step backwards for women and demonstrated a total disregard for our safety, rights, and autonomy here and around the globe,” Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) said in a statement. “Documenting and reporting human rights violations is a major component of eradicating their existence. The Trump administration cannot get away with trying to quietly tolerate these inhumanities by sweeping them under the rug.”

When reached for comment, a spokesperson said the State Department will respond to the letters in due course.

The report for 2018 is expected to be released in early 2019.

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Original story here.

If you’re raising kids in the Boston area, you probably won’t be surprised that this is one of the most expensive places for child care in the country.

Even if her party wins control in Congress, Clark is still embarking on a somewhat quixotic quest. She will need to jockey for attention amid a crowded list of priorities for the House Dems -- one that includes curbing drug costs, getting public infrastructure built, and reforming campaign finance rules. Clark will also need more allies in Congress, and in the business community.

Then there’s the cost: an estimated $40 billion a year, or more. Clark hinted that the recent corporate tax cut could be pared back to help pay for it. But it’s never politically easy to take back a tax cut. To Clark, it’s all about priorities. The staggering cost of child care comes up frequently on the campaign trail. She says investing in early childhood education can pay off in the end: Parents have more freedom to go back to work, children get enriching experiences in formative years, and lower-paid workers could see salary increases.

Maybe her idea gets scaled back, or incorporated in some form within someone else’s legislation. Maybe it doesn’t get much further than it did last year. It’s problematic that child care costs can add up more quickly than college tuition. At least, Clark says, she is getting people to talk about finding a solution.

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By Maria Cramer

All nine of Massachusetts’ representatives in the US House called on the Department of Homeland Security Wednesday to direct Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents not to arrest unauthorized immigrants when they appear at government offices for appointments about their applications for legal residency.

“We all have an interest in bringing these individuals out of the shadows and under the law, so we should not be deterring them from utilizing the very process the federal government has established for this purpose,” the letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen stated. “The fear of detention, regardless of how frequently it actually takes place, discourages members of our community from resolving their immigration status.”

The letter was sent one day before a federal judge is scheduled to resume hearings on a lawsuit against the agency filed by five immigrants and their spouses. It was signed by US Representatives Seth Moulton, James P. McGovern, Richard E. Neal, Katherine Clark, Niki Tsongas, Stephen Lynch, Joseph P. Kennedy III, Michael E. Capuano, and William R. Keating.

The lawsuit asks Judge Mark Wolf to order Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Boston not to arrest and detain immigrants seeking legal residency through their American relatives, specifically those who may qualify for provisional waivers put in place by the Department of Homeland Security that are meant to keep immigrants with their American families while their residency applications are processed.

On Aug. 14, lawyers for the immigrants submitted e-mails between ICE and US Customs and Immigration Services, the agency that processes residency and citizenship, that showed the two agencies were communicating with each other about visits from immigrants with final orders of removal.

Those immigrants would arrive for meetings scheduled by immigration officials, who then told ICE when to arrive so they could arrest them. In some cases, the immigrants were arrested after they were told they had been approved for an I-130, the first step for an immigrant trying to seek legal residency through an American relative.

The practice also occurred during the Obama administration, immigration attorneys say, but the revelation of the e-mails has sparked fury among political leaders in Massachusetts who said ICE should focus on immigrants who pose a threat to public safety, not immigrants trying to legalize their status.

“We are particularly concerned about the chilling effect the threat of detention will have on those who are working to resolve their immigration status,” the delegation members wrote. “There is a clear and compelling interest in encouraging the timely and proper resolution of ongoing cases with USCIS, and ICE should not hinder that effort.”

In May, Thomas Brophy, then the interim director of the Boston ICE field office, told Wolf during a hearing that ICE was no longer arresting immigrants at USCIS offices and that officers had been directed to focus on immigrants who posed a public safety threat.

Brophy was subsequently replaced by Rebecca Adducci, who told Wolf in June that ICE could not “exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement” without violating President Trump’s executive order.

An ICE spokesman has defended the collaboration between ICE and USCIS as a “routine coordination” needed to enforce immigration laws.

The letter from the Massachusetts delegation called on Homeland Security to “reverse” back to Brophy’s directive.

In court Tuesday, Adducci and Todd Lyons, who took over as ICE field office director on Sunday, told Wolf no one had been arrested at USCIS offices since February, when the lawsuit was filed, and that agents have been focused on criminal offenders. The Boston field office covers all of New England.

But lawyers for the immigrants said during the same hearing that ICE arrested a Polish man seeking legal residency through his wife at his Connecticut home in March and detained him for two months.

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Original story here.

By: Journal Staff

Mayor Brian M. Arrigo announced this week that the Revere Fire Department has been awarded a $1.1 Million SAFER Grant by the U.S. Department  Homeland Security.  The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant will help the fire department increase its compliment from 102 to 106 fire fighters in the current fiscal year.

“This is tremendous news,” said Mayor Brian M. Arrigo.  “We made it a priority in crafting the municipal budget to strengthen public safety at all levels, and this grant bodes well for the fire department.   This funding will help us continue to decrease the number of days that fire apparatus is out of service due to staffing issues.”

Mayor Arrigo cited fire department statistics that enumerate the downward trend of out-of-service days to a four-year low of 380 in 2017, a better than 50 per cent improvement from the earlier years.  The Mayor envisions a day soon where so-called “brown-outs” will be at a minimum.  “We’re hoping that toward the end of 2019, the Department will be at full compliment, and manpower shortages will no longer be a reason that apparatus will be out of service.  Brown-outs will be much more manageable as they will relate to training or apparatus maintenance, but not manpower.  This grant goes a long way toward helping us fulfill that goal.”

Fire Chief Chris Bright echoed the Mayor’s sentiments.  “We are currently budgeted for 106 firefighter positions, but long-term injuries and three pending retirements make this Grant especially important.   In September we’re hiring 7 new fire fighters, we’ve got seven more starting the fire academy in October and they should be ready for deployment by December.  Our goal is to make ‘brown-outs’ a rarity.”

Mayor Arrigo has his sights set on the full 106 fire-fighter force.  “The City’s Human Resources department is working now with the fire department to re-fill the reserve list and position us to reach the 106 figure.  That’s our goal, and we fully aim to accomplish that in the foreseeable future.”

“It’s a process,” said Chief Bright.  “There is a lag time in the hiring as we get candidates onto the reserve list, and then we need to get them into slots at the fire academy for training before they are ready for active fire duty.”

The Homeland Security SAFER Grant program was created to give fire departments support in meeting community needs.  “We are fortunate that our Congressional delegation, including Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren and Congresswoman Katherine Clark, appreciate the financial burdens that modern-day public safety imposes on communities.  Equipment is expensive, manpower is expensive, and communities strive to meet their needs.  Federal assistance such as the SAFER Grant program is invaluable.”

Chief Bright praised the members of his staff that prepared the detailed SAFER Grant application.  “They deserve a ‘shout out’” said the Chief, who singled out fire Captain Mike Bowden, his Administrative Assistant Paula Sarcia, and Sarah White, statistician with the Metro North Regional Emergency Communications Center.  “As you can imagine, the work in filling out the Grant application requires detail and documented support, and I can’t say enough about our team’s effort.  That’s the reason for our success.”

As the City continues to grow, Mayor Arrigo has persisted in his call for public safety enhancements.  “I share Chief Bright’s hope that the current feasibility study will clear the way for the City to bond for the demolition and reconstruction of the Alden A. Mills Fire Station in the Point of Pines.  Looking toward the future, the Revere will continue to seek the monies available in federal staffing grants.  We are blessed in Revere with dedicated and outstanding fire department geared for the demands of our growing city.  When public safety is a priority, and we can meet our expectations in public safety, then every resident of our City benefits.”

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Original story here.

By: Sophia

US Senator Elizabeth Warren and US Representative Katherine Clark sent a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos this week in which theycite Massachusetts as a model for gun safety and implored the Trump cabinet official to rebuff Republican efforts “to fund school security infrastructure at the expense of students’ access to mental health services.”

The two Democrats included with the letter the results of a recent nonscientific survey, conducted by their offices, of 384 Massachusetts teachers, parents, school administrators, and students that they said showed support for mental health services over security.

“Because the Commonwealth of Massachusetts consistently has the lowest rate of gun violence in the United States, Massachusetts teachers, parents, students, and administrators are uniquely positioned to comment on how policymakers can reduce gun violence in schools,” the letter said.

DeVos is leading the Federal Commission on School Safety, which was established by President Trump in March as a response to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that claimed the lives of 17 people. About a week after that shooting, the president suggested arming teachers as a security precaution.

In the survey from Warren and Clark, respondents cited universal background checks, “banning accessories designed to simulate military-grade automatic weapons,” enforcing “extreme risk protection orders,” and implementing waiting periods for gun purchases as policies that would “help reduce the risk of gun violence in schools.”

The survey, which included a series of multiple choice and open-ended questions, was sent to several education groups who they said distributed it to parents, principals, and other stakeholders.

Those groups included the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, Boston Teachers Union, Massachusetts Teachers Association, Massachusetts Parent Teacher Association, Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, Massachusetts School Administrators’ Association, Massachusetts Association of School Committees, and MassPartners.

In the study, 337 respondents (87.8 percent) indicated that arming teachers would not reduce the risk of gun violence in schools. The study also showed 90.6 percent of respondents said greater access to mental health services would lessen the chance of gun violence.

Clark and Warren said they hope that DeVos and the rest of the commission will keep these suggestions in mind as they conduct listening sessions this summer.

“I’m grateful that educators and other stakeholders in Massachusetts, who have achieved the lowest rate of gun violence in the country, have shared what works and what we all can do better to end these tragedies,” Clark said in a statement.

Federal data released in 2017 found that Massachusetts had the lowest rate of gun deaths in the country in 2015. There were 213 gun deaths in the state that year — a rate of 3.13 per 100,000 residents.

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By: Niv Elis

The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday approved an amendment that would limit the use of shackles on pregnant women detained by immigration and border patrol.

“ICE has recently reported it has detained more than 500 pregnant women since December, and they are using shackling of pregnant women,” said Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), the amendment’s sponsor.

The American Medical Association, she continued, recommends against shackling pregnant women in their second or third trimester because it can increase chances of harming the fetus.

The practice of shackling women was uncommon until the Trump administration imposed its zero-tolerance border crossing policy, Clark said, in part because women were not regularly detained prior to that.

The amendment would still allow the use of shackling in extreme circumstances, such as for women who pose a clear flight risk or a danger to themselves or others.

The committee adopted the amendment to the Homeland Security Appropriations bill by a voice vote with no opposition. The bill is expected to advance later in the evening.

The committee also adopted an amendment from Clark that would prevent ICE from destroying records related to potential sexual assault or other forms of abuse of individuals in ICE custody.

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By: The Editorial Board

A person who has abused animals is five times more likely to commit violence against people, according to decades-old research. That stark correlation suggests policy opportunities for violence prevention that deserve to be more fully explored.

For instance, some individuals who have been convicted of animal cruelty are allowed to obtain a gun permit in some states, despite a federal law that prohibits those with a felony conviction from owning a firearm. That’s because some states treat some types of animal abuse as a lesser offense, charging only the most egregious incidents as felonies (like dog fighting or cock fighting).

A bill introduced by US Representative Katherine Clark on Capitol Hill would add misdemeanor convictions of animal cruelty in the federal gun ownership ban. It’s a common-sense measure that Congress should embrace.

“Much like the way domestic violence used to be thought of, violence against animals has historically been considered a private matter,” said Clark. “Those are your animals and you’re sort of allowed to do what you want in your property. But the research around the direct link between mass gun violence and a history of animal abuse has evolved and become more compelling.”Indeed, scientists have been studying animal abuse as a predictor of future mass violence since the 1960s. A 2013 study, coauthored by Northeastern University professor Arnold Arluke, found that about 40 percent of school shooters from 1988 to 2012 committed a particular type of abuse: flagrant, “up-close and personal” violence against animals, like “strangling, bludgeoning, burning, or mutilating” them.

Nikolas Cruz, the shooter who killed 17 people at the Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., with an AR-15 rifle, repeatedly abused animals. He reportedly shot chickens and squirrels with a pellet gun. He also boasted of killing toads to the point of noting that the toads would run away when they saw him because “I killed a lot of them.” Devin Kelley, the gunman who killed 26 people at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, last year, had been previously charged with a misdemeanor after beating his malnourished husky with his fists and then throwing him onto the ground.

Until two years ago, the FBI didn’t formally track animal abuse crimes. Federal authorities used to lump all crimes involving animals into one generic category. Now the FBI is gathering detailed data on “gross neglect, torture, organized abuse, and sexual abuse” involving animals.

As more sophisticated data become available, analysis of cruelty to animals will further inform our understanding of future patterns of violence — for instance, pet abuse and domestic violence often go together. For now, Congress should act on the clear connections between animal violence and human violence to ensure guns stay out of the hands of animal abusers.

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Original story here.