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MBTA crime on the rise, smartphones being targeted

ASSOCIATED PRESS

MBTA crime on the rise, smartphones being targeted

Crime on the MBTA is surging and transit police say it’s being fueled largely by the latest generation of smartphones.

T officials say crime is up 26 percent from Jan. 1 to June 24, compared to the same time span last year, with robberies and thefts up 42 percent. Cell phone thefts are up 17 percent.

Deputy Transit Police Chief Joseph O’Connor tells the Boston Herald that smartphones are attractive to thieves because their SIM cards, the memory chips that store carrier and subscriber information, can easily be replaced. The phones can then be sold at pawn shops or on the black market.

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority police are handing out cards warning riders to keep their phones hidden and secure when on buses and trains.

Mass. officials assess Supreme Court gun ruling

Massachusetts government, law enforcement and gun groups are poring over a new Supreme Court gun ruling to determine what effect it may have on the state.

Aides to Gov. Deval Patrick and Attorney General Martha Coakley were reviewing Monday’s 214-page ruling before offering any comment.

In Massachusetts, local police chiefs must review gun applications. Applicants also must meet federal guidelines.

Patrick is pushing to make it illegal to buy more than one gun per month.

Jim Wallace of the Gun Owners’ Action League said the state has been progressively restricting gun ownership since 1998, so the ruling should force a rethinking of gun laws.

The court ruled the Constitution restrains government’s ability to significantly limit “the right to keep and bear arms.”

In their narrow, 5-4 vote, the justices also signaled some limitations could survive legal challenges.

DiMasi defense sees boost from high court ruling

A lawyer for former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi says a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that narrowed the scope of a federal fraud law could help DiMasi’s defense.

The “theft of honest services” statute has been criticized by defense attorneys around the country as an overly broad law used by prosecutors in cases where they don’t have the evidence to prove that money is changing hands. The law makes it a crime “to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services.”

The Supreme Court last Thursday rejected a request by former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling to strike down the law as unconstitutional, but did limit prosecutors’ use of the law, which is frequently used to go after politicians. The court said prosecutors can continue to use the law in cases where they have evidence that defendants accepted bribes or kickbacks.

DiMasi and three co-defendants are charged with scheming to rig two lucrative state contracts for software company Cognos in exchange for payments, with DiMasi allegedly pocketing $57,000.

In DiMasi’s case, the statute refers to the allegation that DiMasi used his power as speaker to steer contracts to Cognos. DiMasi’s lawyer, Thomas Kiley, said he believes the Supreme Court ruling means the statute cannot be used in DiMasi’s case.

“It’s clear that the statute has been narrowed so that it does not apply to undisclosed conflicts of interest,” Kiley said. “The court has once again tried to put a brake on the government’s use of this statute to capture all manner and means of supposed inappropriate use of office.

“This is the decision we’ve been waiting for. The decision echoes the arguments that we’ve been making.”

Associated Press

Kagan pledges deference to Congress

WASHINGTON — Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan pledged Tuesday to be properly deferential to Congress if confirmed as a justice and strive to “consider every case impartially, modestly, with commitment to principle and in accordance with law.”

In advance excerpts of her opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kagan said the court is responsible for making sure the government does not violate the rights of individuals. “But the Court must also recognize the limits on itself and respect the choices made by the American people,” she said.

Even before the opening gavel fell on her nationally televised hearings, the 50-year-old Obama administration official and former Harvard Law School dean appeared on track for confirmation, the result of a Democratic majority on the Judiciary Committee and the Senate as a whole.

In excerpts of his own, the committee’s chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., noted that if confirmed, Kagan would be the fourth woman to take a seat on the high court. She is also President Barack Obama’s second selection to don the robes of a justice, following his nomination last year of Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

“No senator should seek to impose an ideological litmus test to secure promises of specific outcomes in cases coming before the Supreme Court,” Leahy said.

Judging by recent confirmation history, there was little chance that Kagan would run afoul of that admonition. In the last quarter century, most nominees to the Supreme Court have pledged fealty to the Constitution and legal precedent — and little else — in their effort to win confirmation.

FDA urging limited antibiotics in meat

WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration is urging meat producers to limit the amount of antibiotics they give animals in response to public health concerns about the drugs.

The FDA said the use of antibiotics in meat poses a “serious public health threat” because they create antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can infect humans who eat the meat. The agency is recommending that producers use the drugs judiciously, limiting their use unless they are medically necessary and only using them with the oversight of a veterinarian.

“Developing strategies for reducing (antibiotic) resistance is critically important for protecting both public and animal health,” the agency said in draft guidelines printed in the Federal Register on Monday.

The agency said misuse and overuse of the drugs has led to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Antibiotics have been used in meat to kill pathogens for more than 50 years, and the FDA acknowledged that practice has had “tremendous benefits” to animal and human health.

Of greater concern, the agency said, is when producers use antibiotics on healthy animals to speed growth and reduce feed costs. The agency is also concerned about antibiotics that are given continuously through feed or water to entire herds or flocks of animals.

The agency said it is expecting to issue more specific guidelines in the near future.

Associated Press