TIME Music

Bahamas R&B Singer Johnny Kemp, Known for ‘Just Got Paid,’ Dies at 55

6th Annual BMI Urban Awards At Roseland Ballroom - Show & Backstage
Ray Tamarra—Getty Images Recording artist Johnny Kemp attends the 6th Annual BMI Urban Awards at the Roseland Ballroom August 30, 2006 in New York City.

His song "Just Got Paid" was a No. 1 hit

(KINGSTON, Jamaica)—Bahamian R&B singer Johnny Kemp, who is best known for the hit song “Just Got Paid,” has died in Jamaica. He was 55.

Jamaica police said Friday that Kemp was found floating at a beach in Montego Bay on Thursday morning. It had not yet been determined how he died.

Police said Kemp arrived in Jamaica on a cruise ship but added that they did not have further details.

Reach Media Inc. said Kemp had been scheduled to be on a Caribbean cruise this week, but the U.S.-based parent company of the “Tom Joyner Morning Show” said it did not have further details.

Kemp was nominated in 1989 for a Grammy Award for “Just Got Paid” in a category that included Bobby Brown and Luther Vandross. The song was a No. 1 hit on the U.S. Billboard R&B chart.

Kemp appeared on a 2007 Keith Sweat DVD called “Sweat Hotel Live” and had been performing at musical events across the U.S. in recent years.

TIME Environment

Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day Brings Rally and Concert to DC

Usher, Mary J. Blige, Gwen Stefani, Common and Train are scheduled to perform

(WASHINGTON)—An all-day Earth Day rally and concert Saturday is drawing some big names to the National Mall and some celebrities into the world of politics to confront the dual issues of climate change and poverty.

Usher, Mary J. Blige, Gwen Stefani, Common and Train are scheduled to perform during the free Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day rally hosted by will.i.am and Soledad O’Brien. The event runs from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. near the Washington Monument.

Backstage before his performance, Train frontman Patrick Monahan said he didn’t know much before about the environmental movement and the push to end extreme poverty.

“It’s about all of us being aware but getting our hands dirty because it’s not going to be an easy thing,” Monahan said.

Monahan said he’s been inspired by the charitable work of Coldplay’s Chris Martin and Hugh Evans of the Global Poverty Project, which has set a goal to end extreme poverty by 2030.

“Those guys lead their lives with their hearts. That’s the kind of people I want to be around,” Monahan said. “Whatever I can do to help legislation change, which is a humungous thing, and to get dollars to go to different places.”

Earth Day organizers also are announcing plans with developers of the popular “Angry Birds” game to create a new in-game experience about climate change. “Angry Birds” has been downloaded 2.8 billion times worldwide. The game’s climate change campaign will coincide with the U.N. General Assembly in September as world leaders tackle sustainability goals.

Earth Day Network President Kathleen Rogers said the game and celebrity power will help more people focus on solving climate change.

The rally is a joint initiative with the Global Poverty Project and coincides with meetings at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Washington. Top officials from the World Bank and United Nations are expected to speak at the rally.

Eliminating poverty will require solving climate change, Rogers said. So advocates on both issues are collaborating to push for sustainable international development.

“Whether it’s the big migrations we expect to see or soil depletion or emptying the oceans, loss of species, loss of timberland — all these things are creating poverty at the same time that they are also creating climate change issues,” Rogers said.

While Earth Day is officially on April 22, the Saturday rally is asking participants to commit to making environmentally friendly “acts of green” this year. Organizers also are asking attendees to sign petitions for a U.N. conference on climate change planned for Paris in December.

TIME Italy

Pope Asks Europe to Do More to Help Migrants Flooding Into Italy

ITALY-IMMIGRATION-SHIPWRECK
Giovanni Isolino—AFP/Getty Images Shipwrecked migrants disembark from a rescue vessel as they arrive in the Italian port of Augusta in Sicily on April 16, 2015.

"The proportions of the phenomenon require much broader involvement"

(ROME )—Pope Francis joined Italy in pressing the European Union Saturday to do more to help the country cope with rapidly mounting numbers of desperate people rescued in the Mediterranean during journeys on smugglers’ boats to flee war, persecution or poverty.

As the pope made his appeal, flanked by Italian President Sergio Mattarella, hundreds of migrants took their first steps on land in Sicilian ports after being rescued in past days by merchant vessels and Italian Coast Guard boats. Sicilian towns were running out of places to shelter the arrivals, including more than 10,000 in the week ending Saturday.

With his wide popularity and deep concern for social issues, the pope’s moral authority gives Italy a boost in its lobbying for Brussels and northern EU countries to do more. Since the start of 2014, nearly 200,000 people have been rescued at sea by Italy.

“I express my gratitude for the commitment that Italy is making to welcome the many migrants who, risking their life, ask to be taken in,” Francis told the Italian head of state. “It’s evident that the proportions of the phenomenon require much broader involvement.”

“We must never tire of appealing for a more extensive commitment on the European and international level,” Francis said.

Italy says it will continue rescuing migrants abandoned by smugglers but demands the European Union increase assistance to shelter and rescue them. Since most of the migrants want to reach family or other members of their community in northern Europe, Italian governments have pushed for those countries to do more, particularly by taking in the migrants while their requests for asylum or refugee status are examined.

“For some time, Italy has called on the European Union for decisive intervention to stop this continuous loss of human life in the Mediterranean, the cradle of our civilization,” Mattarella said.

The European Union’s commissioner for migration, Dmitris Avramopoulos, says a new policy will be presented in May. Meanwhile, he has also called for member states to help deal with the crisis.

Some of the 90 migrants who set foot Saturday on Palermo’s docks were too weak to stand. Most were from Somalia. A merchant ship which intercepted their distress call rescued them; then they were transferred to an Italian Coast Guard vessel.

Also on Saturday, an Italian navy ship arrived in the Sicilian port of Messina with more than 450 migrants, including 50 minors, from Ethiopia, Eritrea and Syria. Police marched two suspected migrant-smugglers off the ship after arresting them onboard.

Several Sicilian towns say they are running out of room, and many of the latest arrivals were being taken to other shelters on the Italian mainland, including in the north.

Days of calm seas and good weather, combined with increasing chaos and violence in Libya, are cited as factors in the current surge of migrants.

TIME Australia

5 Australian Teens Arrested in ISIS-Inspired Anzac Day Plot

Five arrested over ANZAC Day terrorism plot in Australia
Karen Sweeney—EPA Australian Federal Police acting Deputy Commissioner Neil Guaghan (L) and Victoria Police acting Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton during a press conference on the arrest of five teenagers during counter terrorism raids in Melbourne, 18 April 2015.

"There was reference to an attack on police"

(SYDNEY)—Five Australian teenagers were arrested Saturday on suspicion of plotting an Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria-inspired terrorist attack at a Veterans’ Day ceremony that included targeting police officers, officials said.

The suspects included two 18-year-olds who are alleged to have been preparing an attack at the ANZAC Day ceremony in Melbourne later this month, Australian Federal Police Acting Deputy Commissioner Neil Gaughan told reporters.

Another 18-year-old was arrested on weapons charges, and two other men, aged 18 and 19, were in custody and assisting police. All the arrests took place in Melbourne.

ANZAC Day is the annual April 25 commemoration of the 1915 Gallipoli landings — the first major military action fought by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps during World War I.

Police said they believe the plot was inspired by the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, and was to have involved “edged weapons.”

“At this stage, we have no information that it was a planned beheading. But there was reference to an attack on police,” Gaughan said. “Some evidence that we have collected at a couple of the scenes, and some other information we have, leads us to believe that this particular matter was ISIS-inspired.”

Australia’s government has raised the country’s terror warning level in response to the domestic threat posed by supporters of the Islamic State group. In September last year, the group’s spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani issued a message urging attacks abroad, specifically mentioning Australia.

Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Michael Phelan said at a separate news conference that the teens had links to Numan Haider, an 18-year-old who stabbed two Melbourne police officers and was subsequently shot dead in September. Haider had caught authorities’ attention months earlier over what police considered troubling behavior, including waving what appeared to be an Islamic State group flag at a shopping mall.

Phelan said the teens arrested Saturday were on officials’ radar for months, but the investigation was ramped up when it appeared they were planning a specific attack.

“This is a new paradigm for police,” Phelan said. “These types of attacks that are planned are very rudimentary and simple. … All you need these days is a knife, a flag and a camera and one can commit a terrorist act.”

One of the teens, Sevdet Besim, appeared briefly in court Saturday on a charge of preparing for, or planning, a terrorist act. He did not apply for bail and was ordered to reappear in court next week.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has warned that the terrorism threat in Australia has escalated, with one-third of all terrorism-related arrests since 2001 occurring in the last six months. At least 110 Australians have gone to Iraq and Syria to fight alongside extremists, and the nation’s security agency is juggling more than 400 high-priority counterterrorism investigations — more than double the number a year ago.

In February, two men were charged with planning to launch an imminent, Islamic State group-inspired terrorist attack after authorities said they appeared on a video threatening to stab the kidneys and necks of their victims. In September, a man arrested during a series of counterterrorism raids was charged with conspiring with an Islamic State group leader in Syria to behead a random person in Sydney.

In December, Man Monis, an Iranian-born, self-styled cleric with a long criminal history, took 18 people hostage inside a Sydney cafe, forced them to hold up a flag bearing the Islamic declaration of faith and demanded he be delivered a flag of the Islamic State group. Monis and two hostages were killed.

Abbott said the latest alleged plot was at an advanced stage of planning, prompting police to swoop in. Still, he urged the public to participate in ANZAC Day events as usual.

“The best sign of defiance we can give to those who would do us harm is to go about a normal, peaceful, free and fair Australian life,” he said. “And I say to everyone who is thinking of going to an ANZAC Day event, please don’t be deterred. Turn up in the largest possible numbers to support our country.”

TIME Education

Thousands of Kids Opt Out of Standardized Common Core Tests Across U.S.

At some schools, up to 70 percent of kids are refusing to take the exams

(ATLANTA)—Thousands of students are opting out of new standardized tests aligned to the Common Core standards, defying the latest attempt by states to improve academic performance.

This “opt-out” movement remains scattered but is growing fast in some parts of the country. Some superintendents in New York are reporting that 60 percent or even 70 percent of their students are refusing to sit for the exams. Some lawmakers, sensing a tipping point, are backing the parents and teachers who complain about standardized testing.

Resistance could be costly: If fewer than 95 percent of a district’s students participate in tests aligned with Common Core standards, federal money could be withheld, although the U.S. Department of Education said that hasn’t happened.

“It is a theoretical club administrators have used to coerce participation, but a club that is increasingly seen as a hollow threat,” said Bob Schaeffer with the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, which seeks to limit standardized testing.

And so the movement grows: This week in New York, tens of thousands of students sat out the first day of tests, with some districts reporting more than half of students opting out of the English test. Preliminary reports suggest an overall increase in opt-outs compared to last year, when about 49,000 students did not take English tests and about 67,000 skipped math tests, compared to about 1.1 million students who did take the tests in New York.

Considerable resistance also has been reported in Maine, New Mexico, Oregon and Pennsylvania, and more is likely as many states administer the tests in public schools for the first time this spring.

The defiance dismays people who believe holding schools accountable for all their students’ continuing improvement is key to solving education problems.

Assessing every student each year “gives educators and parents an idea of how the student is doing and ensures that schools are paying attention to traditionally underserved populations,” U.S. Department of Education Spokeswoman Dorie Nolt said in an emailed statement.

Opposition runs across the political spectrum.

Some Republicans and Tea Party activists focus on the Common Core standards themselves, calling them a federal intrusion by President Barack Obama, even though they were developed by the National Governors Association and each state’s education leaders in the wake of President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind program.

The Obama administration has encouraged states to adopt Common Core standards through the federal grant program known as Race to the Top, and most have, but each state is free to develop its own tests.

In California, home to the nation’s largest public school system and Democratic political leaders who strongly endorse Common Core standards, there have been no reports of widespread protests to the exams — perhaps because state officials have decided not to hold schools accountable for the first year’s results.

But in deep-blue New York, resistance has been encouraged by the unions in response to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s efforts to make the test results count more in teacher evaluations.

In Rockville Centre on Long Island, Superintendent William H. Johnson said 60 percent of his district’s third-through-eighth graders opted out. In the Buffalo suburb of West Seneca, nearly 70 percent didn’t take the state exam, Superintendent Mark Crawford said.

“That tells me parents are deeply concerned about the use of the standardized tests their children are taking,” Crawford said. “If the opt-outs are great enough, at what point does somebody say this is absurd?”

Nearly 15 percent of high school juniors in New Jersey opted out this year, while fewer than 5 percent of students in grades three through eight refused the tests, state education officials said. One reason: Juniors may be focusing instead on the SAT and AP tests that could determine their college futures.

Much of the criticism focuses on the sheer number of tests now being applied in public schools: From pre-kindergarten through grade 12, students take an average of 113 standardized tests, according to a survey by the Council of the Great City Schools, which represents large urban districts.

Of these, only 17 are mandated by the federal government, but the backlash that began when No Child Left Behind started to hold teachers, schools and districts strictly accountable for their students’ progress has only grown stronger since “Common Core” gave the criticism a common rallying cry.

“There is a widespread sentiment among parents, students, teachers, administrators and local elected officials that enough is enough, that government mandated testing has taken over our schools,” Schaeffer said.

Teachers now devote 30 percent of their work time on testing-related tasks, including preparing students, proctoring, and reviewing the results of standardized tests, the National Education Association says.

The pressure to improve results year after year can be demoralizing and even criminalizing, say critics who point to the Atlanta test-cheating scandal, which led to the convictions 35 educators charged with altering exams to boost scores.

“It seems like overkill,” said Meredith Barber, a psychologist from the Philadelphia suburb of Penn Valley who excused her daughter from this year’s tests. Close to 200 of her schoolmates also opted out in the Lower Merion School District, up from a dozen last year.

“I’m sure we can figure out a way to assess schools rather than stressing out children and teachers and really making it unpleasant for teachers to teach,” said Barber, whose 10-year-old daughter, Gabrielle, will be in the cafeteria researching Edwardian history and the TV show “Downton Abbey” during the two weeks schools have set aside for the tests.

Utah and California allow parents to refuse testing for any reason, while Arkansas and Texas prohibit opting out, according to a report by the Education Commission of the States. Most states are like Georgia, where no specific law clarifies the question, and lawmakers in some of these states want protect the right to opt out.

Florida has another solution: Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill strictly limiting testing to 45 hours each school year.

In Congress, meanwhile, lawmakers appear ready to give states more flexibility: A Senate committee approved a bipartisan update of No Child Left Behind this week that would let each state determine how much weight to give the tests when evaluating school performance.

TIME

Chicago Cardinal Francis George Dies at Age 78

Cardinal Francis George sits for an interview on Oct. 20, 2014 at the Cardinal's Residence in Chicago.
Brian Cassella—Chicago Tribune/TNS/Getty Images Cardinal Francis George sits for an interview on Oct. 20, 2014 at the Cardinal's Residence in Chicago.

(CHICAGO) — Cardinal Francis George, a vigorous defender of Roman Catholic orthodoxy who played a key role in the church’s response to the clergy sex abuse scandal, has died. He was 78.

The Chicago archdiocese says George died Friday after a long fight with cancer.

Appointed to lead the archdiocese in 1997, George became a leading figure of his era in the American church.

He oversaw the contentious new English-language translation of the Roman Missal, one of the biggest changes in Catholic worship in generations. In 2002, at the height of the sex-abuse crisis, he led a group of U.S. bishops who persuaded Vatican officials to more quickly oust guilty priests.

George also spearheaded the fight among bishops against President Barack Obama’s health insurance plan, arguing it allow taxpayer money for abortion.

TIME Crime

Baby Shot in Head in Apparent Road Rage Case, Police Say

The baby girl was in "very critical condition" on Friday, a day after the shooting

(SEATTLE) — Police in the Seattle suburb of Kent say a 1-year-old girl was shot in the head as she sat in a car with her parents in what is described as an apparent case of road rage.

Harborview Medical Center spokeswoman Susan Gregg said the baby girl was in “very critical condition” in Seattle on Friday, a day after the shooting.

Kent police spokeswoman Melanie Robinson says the child was in a car seat in the back of a silver Chevrolet Impala and her parents were in the front seat when a black car pulled alongside around 4:30 p.m. Thursday. Robinson says the driver and passenger of the black car opened fire, then drove off.

Police didn’t offer details on the possible conflict.

The shooting took place at an intersection near an apartment complex.

TIME conflict

Saddam Deputy Killed Near Tikrit, Iraqi Officials Say

Iraqi Vice chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri salutes during a ceremony at the Martyrs Monument in Baghdad, Iraq on Dec. 1, 2002 Gov. Raed al-Jabouri says soldiers and allied Shiite militiamen killed al-Douri on April 17, 2015 in an operation east of the city of Tikrit.
Jassim Mohammed—AP Iraqi Vice chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri salutes during a ceremony at the Martyrs Monument in Baghdad, Iraq on Dec. 1, 2002 Gov. Raed al-Jabouri says soldiers and allied Shiite militiamen killed al-Douri on April 17, 2015 in an operation east of the city of Tikrit.

Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri remained a wanted fugitive since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi officials said Friday they believe that government forces killed Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, the former deputy of Saddam Hussein who for over a decade was the top fugitive from the ousted regime and became an underground figure involved in Sunni insurgencies, most recently allying with Islamic State militants.

It was not the first time Iraqi officials have claimed to have killed or captured al-Douri, who was the “king of clubs” in the deck of playing cards issued to help American troops identify key regime fugitives after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion ousted Saddam. DNA tests were underway to confirm whether a body recovered from fighting around the city of Tikrit was al-Douri’s.

Reports of al-Douri’s death came as Iraqi forces are trying to push back Islamic State group fighters in Salahuddin province, where Tikrit is located. Government troops took back several towns near the country’s largest oil refinery at Beiji in the province, officials said.

Further north, a large car bomb exploded Friday afternoon next to the U.S. Consulate in the northern city of Irbil, a rare attack in the capital of the Kurdish autonomy zone. Iraqi police officials said three people were killed and five were wounded in the bombing. U.S. officials said there were no American casualties or casualties among consulate personnel or guards.

An Associated Press reporter at the scene said the powerful blast went off outside a cafe next to the building in Irbil’s Ankawa neighborhood, setting several nearby cars on fire. Shortly afterward, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the Irbil attack, reported the SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks militant websites.

According to the governor of Salahuddin province, Raed al-Jabouri, al-Douri was killed by Iraqi troops and Shiite militiamen in an operation in the Talal Hamreen mountains east of Tikrit, Saddam’s hometown, which was retaken from the Islamic State group earlier this month.

Troops opened fire at a convoy carrying al-Douri and nine bodyguards, killing all of them, Gen. Haider al-Basri, a senior Iraqi commander, told state TV.

The government issues several photos showing a body purported to be al-Douri. The body had a bright red beard, perhaps dyed, and a ginger-colored moustache. Al-Douri was a fair-skinned redhead with a ginger moustache, making him distinctive among Saddam’s inner circle.

DNA tests were underway to confirm the identity of the body, Iraqi intelligence officials told The AP, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. In 2013, the Iraqi government said it arrested al-Douri, circulating a photo of a bearded man who resembled the former Baathist. It later said it was a case of mistaken identity.

Col. Pat Ryder, spokesman for U.S. Central Command, said the U.S. has no information to corroborate the reported death of al-Douri.

Al-Douri was officially the No. 2 man in Iraq’s ruling hierarchy. He served as vice chairman of Saddam’s Revolutionary Command Council, was one of Saddam’s few longtime confidants and his daughter was married briefly to Saddam’s son, Odai, who was killed with his brother, Qusai, by U.S. troops in Mosul.

When Saddam’s Baathist regime collapsed as U.S. troops occupied Baghdad, al-Douri disappeared. He was No. 6 on the most-wanted list of 55 Iraqis after the invasion. When Saddam was killed months later and more regime figures were caught, al-Douri became the most prominent fugitive — and U.S. authorities soon linked him to the Sunni insurgencies that erupted against the American occupation and the Shiite-led government that replaced Saddam.

Early in the war, U.S. authorities linked al-Douri to Ansar al-Islam, a militant group with ties to al-Qaida, and he was accused of being a major financier of the insurgency. Sunni former officers from Saddam’s military and police were believed to have played large roles in the insurgency, whether with al-Qaida or other factions.

Al-Douri emerged as a leader of the shadowy Army of the Men of the Naqshabandi Order. The group depicts itself as a nationalist force defending Iraq’s Sunni minority from Shiite rule and as an alternative to the extremist version of Islam championed by al-Qaida. But last year, when the Islamic State group — the successor to al-Qaida’s branch in Iraq — launched a blitz across much of western and northern Iraq, al-Douri, the Naqshabandi Army and other former Saddam-era officers reportedly entered a shaky alliance with it.

When Tikrit was overrun by the Sunni militant group last June, witnesses said fighters raised posters of Saddam and al-Douri. Fighters loyal to his Naqshabandi Army as well as former members of Saddam’s Baath Party were the main militant force in Tikrit at the time of its capture, local residents told The AP at the time. Still, the Naqshabandi Army criticized IS atrocities, including the persecution of religious minorities and the burning of a Jordanian coalition pilot in Syria.

Iraqi security forces recaptured al-Douri’s hometown of Dawr in March as part of its large-scale offensive to retake Tikrit. Government forces seized control of Tikrit on April 1.

In Washington, Deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said there were no U.S. casualties among consulate staff or local guard staff in the Irbil attack.

Also Friday, Iraqi security forces gained full control over a contested area south of the Beiji refinery as part of their push to secure the rest of Salahuddin province.

General Ayad al-Lahabi, a commander with the Salahuddin Command Center, said the military, backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and Shiite and Sunni militias dubbed the Popular Mobilization Forces, gained control of the towns of al-Malha and al-Mazraah, located 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) south of the Beiji oil refinery, killing at least 160 militants with the Islamic State group.

Al-Lahabi said security forces are trying to secure two corridors around the refinery itself after the Sunni militants launched a large-scale attack on the complex earlier this week, hitting the refinery walls with explosive-laced Humvees.

Extremists from the Islamic State group seized much of Salahuddin province last summer during their advance across northern and western Iraq. The battle for Tikrit was seen as a key step toward eventually driving the militants out of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city and the capital of Nineveh province. In November, Iraqi security forces said they had recaptured the town of Beiji from the militant group. The refinery had never been captured by the militants but has been subjected to frequent attacks by the group.

In Iraq’s western Anbar province, Iraqi special forces maintained control of the provincial capital, Ramadi, after days of intense clashes with the Islamic State group left the city at risk. Sabah Nuaman, a special forces commander in Anbar, said the situation had improved early Friday after airstrikes hit key militant targets on the city’s fringes.

Sabah al-Karhout, head of Anbar’s provincial council, said there were no major attacks on the city Friday but that the militants still maintained control of three villages to the east of Ramadi, which they captured Wednesday, sending thousands of civilians fleeing for safety.

In Baghdad, a series of bombings ripped through the city on Friday, mainly targeting public places and killing at least 40 people, Iraqi officials said. No group claimed responsibility for the latest attacks, though the Islamic State has taken credit for similar attacks in the past, especially those targeting Shiites, as well as Iraqi security forces and government buildings.

TIME Crime

Boston Bombing Victim’s Parents Say Tsarnaev Shouldn’t Get Death Penalty

The family of Boston Marathon bombing victim Martin Richard joins Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (R) at a ceremony at the site of the second bomb blast on the second anniversary of the bombings in Boston on April 15, 2015.
Brian Snyder—Reuters The family of Boston Marathon bombing victim Martin Richard joins Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (R) at a ceremony at the site of the second bomb blast on the second anniversary of the bombings in Boston on April 15, 2015.

Martin Richard was one of three people killed by the April 2013 explosions

(BOSTON) — The parents of the youngest victim of the Boston Marathon bombing are urging federal authorities to consider taking the death penalty off the table for the man convicted in the case.

Bill and Denise Richard, whose 8-year-old son, Martin, was one of three people killed by the April 2013 explosions at the marathon’s finish line, say in a front-page piece in Friday’s Boston Globe that sentencing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death “could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives.”

“We are in favor of and would support the Department of Justice in taking the death penalty off the table in exchange for the defendant spending the rest of his life in prison without any possibility of release and waiving all of his rights to appeal,” they wrote.

The Richards’ daughter, Jane, lost a leg in one of the explosions, and they both suffered injuries.

“We understand all too well the heinousness and brutality of the crimes committed. We were there. We lived it. The defendant murdered our 8-year-old son, maimed our 7-year-old daughter, and stole part of our soul. We know that the government has its reasons for seeking the death penalty, but the continued pursuit of that punishment could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives,” they said.

They wrote that when Tsarnaev fades from the media spotlight and public view they can start “rebuilding our lives and family.”

The Richards never mention Tsarnaev by name, simply calling him “the defendant,” and stressed that they are speaking only for themselves.

U.S. Attorney for Boston Carmen Ortiz says she is aware of the Richards’ view but cannot comment on the specifics.

“But as I have previously assured both Bill and Denise, I care deeply about their views and the views of the other victims and survivors,” Ortiz said.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, a friend of the Richard family, tells WBZ-AM he respects their point of view.

Jennifer Lemmerman, the sister of Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier who was killed by Tsarnaev and his older brother days after the explosions, has also spoken out against the death penalty on her Facebook page, in posts that have since been removed.

Relatives of other victims have expressed support of the death penalty.

The penalty phase of Tsarnaev’s trial starts Tuesday, the day after this year’s marathon.

Read next: Boston Marks 2 Years Since Marathon Bombing

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Cuba

Pope Considering Cuba Stop During U.S. Trip but No Decision

Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, April 15, 2015
Andrew Medichini—AP Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on April 15, 2015

Pope Francis has been credited with having helped the U.S. and Cuba reach their historic rapprochement

(VATICAN CITY) — Pope Francis is considering adding a stop in Cuba to his U.S. trip in September but no decision has been made, the Vatican said Friday.

Francis has been credited with having helped the United States and Cuba reach their historic rapprochement by writing to the leaders of both countries and having the Vatican host their delegations for the final negotiations.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Francis “is considering the idea of a Cuba leg” but that discussions with Cuba are at an early stage. He said it’s too early to say that a decision has been taken or that there is an operational plan underway.

The possibility of a Cuban stop was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Francis is scheduled to visit three U.S. cities in the last week of September. He will address Congress and meet with President Barack Obama at the White House, address the U.N. in New York and attend a church rally for families in Philadelphia.

If a Cuba stop is confirmed on either end of the U.S. trip, Francis would become the third pope to visit the island nation after the historic 1998 visit of St. John Paul II during which he said Cuba should “open itself up to the world, and may the world open itself up to Cuba.”

Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI followed up with a 2012 trip during which he voiced the Vatican’s long-standing position that the U.S. embargo was unjust and only hurt the most vulnerable on the island.

Francis also has spoken out against the U.S. embargo while also condemning socialism.

Francis’ personal intervention in the U.S.-Cuban thaw was one of the most tangible signs that he wants the Vatican to be a greater player in international diplomacy. A more controversial intervention was his recent declaration that the slaughter of Armenians by Ottoman Turks a century ago was “genocide.”

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