As of course everyone knows by now, two explosions near the finish line at Monday’s Boston Marathon killed three people (including 8-year-old Martin Richard) and injured 176 others. While it’s been perhaps the most somber week since Sept. 2001, there were a few bright spots in an otherwise dark day.

There’s the story of the man in the cowboy hat, Carlos Arredondo, the 52-year-old Costa Rican immigrant who rushed into the bedlam in order to save as many people as he could. In the now-famous image, Arredondo is seen running alongside an wounded man as Arredondo pinches the end of an artery coming out of a torn leg.

Arredondo had been standing across the street when the first blast hit, waiting for a runner participating in memory of Arredondo’s son, Alexander, who was killed by a sniper in Iraq nine years ago. Falling into a deep depression, Arredondo locked himself in a van with five gallons of gas and set the van on fire. He survived the incident and went on to become a peace activist.

The story of the “man in the cowboy hat” (as he’s come to be known) isn’t the only account of selfless bravery and generosity in the aftermath of Monday’s horrific scene. Runners who’d just crossed the finish line went directly to the hospital to give blood, while many Bostonians opened their homes to strangers.

In the Google document “I Have a Place to Offer” created by Boston.com, Jamaica Plain resident Laura Keeler posted: “Guest room and two couches available to those who need a place. Very friendly dog for lots of post-marathon hugs.”


“I’m just an immigration bill”

After three months of something like anticipation, the “Gang of Eight” senators have finally released their bipartisan immigration bill. Here are three key parts to take into consideration:

1) The pathway to citizenship is not as streamline as many on the left had hoped (but seems as strenuous as Sen. Marco Rubio promised it would be). Undocumented immigrants who entered before Dec. 31, 2011, have no felonies on their record (or more than two misdemeanors), have a job, pay back taxes and $500 fine will automatically gain the status of “registered provisional,” which roughly translates to “you can stay.”

Immigrants would have to renew their status after six years, paying another $500 fine (for staying six years?), and will be eligible for permanent residency after 10 years, paying a $1,000 fine at that time. From there, it’s normal naturalization procedure — citizenship after a three-year wait if they’re married, five years if they’re not.

Fortunately, DREAMers would be given a shorter path to citizenship under the current plan, making them eligible for permanent residency after only five years and citizenship as soon as they receive their green cards. Field workers could also take advantage of the shorter path, though they’d have the normal waiting periods for permanent residents.

2) A lot hinges on border security. As Dylan Matthews writes for the Washington Post: “Applications for permanent residency would be allowed to start either 10 years after granting of ‘registered provisional’ status or after Homeland Security’s enforcement plans, e-verify implementation, and the visa-tracking system are all completed, whichever of the two comes later. So if ten years pass and the Homeland Security enforcement plans aren’t judged to have been completed, then registered provisionals would not be eligible to become permanent residents.”

3) Perhaps the ugliest facet of the bill is that it would not keep some families together. While the current plan would initially provide an unlimited amount of visas for spouses, children and parents of citizens and permanent residents, 18 months in, the siblings of citizens and permanent residents would become ineligible for visas.

And the bill does not recognize same-sex couples.

Andrew Sullivan suggests that, “paradoxically,” the widely-expected demise of DOMA has persuaded many congressmen to forgo adding any provision respecting same-sex couples, since once DOMA’s done for, same-sex couples will enjoy equal treatment under federal law, anyway. “But DOMA may not fall,” Sullivan writes, “and gay couples are living apart and in fear and distress and in a diaspora right now.”

And the curtain hasn’t even begun to close on immigration reform yet. On the contrary, it’s only the second act. Who knows what mutilations will occur in the Senate’s various committees and subcommittees — not to mention the depravity of the House.

When all is said and done, the bill just might resurface as a 50-year moratorium on Latin American immigration.

I shouldn’t be giving Congress any ideas.


Gun control shot down by NRA

There will be no restrictions on guns in America. Not this year.

In one of the lowest moments of American government in memory, the Senate rejected measures to ban assault weapons, ban high-capacity magazines and extend background checks for gun buyers.

That last bill, the one that would’ve closed the purchasing loopholes at gun shows and on the internet, died on a 54-46 vote.

A simple majority can’t pass anything in the Senate these days. Why, you ask? Because.

Standing beside Gabby Giffords, Vice Pres. Joe Biden and the parents of children killed in Newtown, Pres. Obama was visibily upset, delivering what may become a defining speech of his presidency.

“If action by Congress could have saved one person, one child, a few hundred, a few thousand — if it prevented those people from losing their lives to gun violence in the future while preserving our Second Amendment rights, we had an obligation to try. This legislation met that test,” he told reporters gathered in the Rose Garden. “And too many senators failed theirs.”

But there’s an upside for Illinoisans, as the state’s own Republican Sen. Mark Kirk voted in favor of all three measures, being only one of four Republicans who voted for background checks.

For his attempts at making guns harder to get, the NRA has given Kirk an F rating.

I, on the other, give him an E for his effort do right, no matter what lobbying group the rest of his party surreptitiously represents.

Heck, I might even vote for him next time around.


Chávez lives!

In Sunday’s Venezuelan election to choose a successor to the late Hugo Chávez, the handpicked heir, Nicolás Maduro, came out on top, as many had predicted. Though it wasn’t the trouncing most observers expected.

Maduro will be sworn in on Friday after beating Henrique Capriles by a mere 1.8 percent of the votes, even though Capriles was the same man who lost to Chávez by 11 points just six months ago.

The results seems to suggest that, while Maduro likely benefited from the overwhelming number of Chávez supporters (and a few electoral “irregularities”), the consensus among Venezuelans is clear: Maduro is no Chávez.

After 7 people were killed during a nationwide cacerolazo (pot-banging) called for by Capriles, the government temporarily issued an a warrant for his arrest, claiming he was attempting to overthrow the government.

This is definitely not a post-Chávez Venezuela yet, and if you ask me, I say the bird should’ve won it.


Pa’ fuera!

Finally, on a somewhat lighter note, a high school baseball umpire in New Mexico has quit after he was accused of trying to prohibit players from speaking Spanish on the field.

During a game in Alamogordo (I’m not that fat), Corey Jones reportedly told a first baseman to stop speaking Spanish, later telling one of the coaches that “anyone who speaks Spanish — coaches or players — will be ejected.”

No Spanish in béisbol? Seriously?

Then stop sending your recruiters to Cuba, Puerto Rico, the D.R. and Venezuela whenever you’re looking for an overpowering pitcher with a vicious sinker or a quick shortstop that can hit it out of the park.

Because then we’ll simply tell you, in our thick accent, “Sorry. No speak English.”


[Photo: “Boston Massacre,” Constantino Brumidi (1871) via Wikimedia Commons]

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