Tovia Smith

Tovia Smith is an award-winning NPR News National Desk correspondent based in Boston.

For the last 25 years, Smith has been covering news around New England and beyond. She's reported extensively on the debate over gay marriage in Massachusetts and the sexual abuse scandal within the Catholic Church, including breaking the news of the Pope's secret meeting with survivors.

Smith has traveled to New Hampshire to report on seven consecutive Primary elections, to the Gulf Coast after the BP oil spill, and to Ground Zero in New York City after the September 11, 2001 attacks. She covered landmark court cases — from the trials of British au pair Louise Woodward, and abortion clinic gunman John Salvi, to the proceedings against shoe bomber Richard Reid.

Through the years, Smith has brought to air the distinct voices of Boston area residents, whether reacting to the capture of reputed Mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger, or mourning the death of U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy.

In all of her reporting, Smith aims to tell personal stories that evoke the emotion and issues of the day. She has filed countless stories on legal, social, and political controversies from the biggies like abortion to smaller-scale disputes over whether to require students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in classrooms.

With reporting that always push past the polemics, Smith advances the debate with more thoughtful, and thought-provoking, nuanced arguments from both –or all— sides. She has produced award-winning broadcasts on everything from race relations in Boston, adoption and juvenile crime, and has filed several documentary-length reports, including an award-winning half-hour special on modern-day orphanages.

Smith took a leave of absence from NPR in 1998, to launch Here and Now, a daily news magazine produced by NPR Member Station WBUR in Boston. As co-host of the program, she conducted live daily interviews on issues ranging from the impeachment of President Bill Clinton to allegations of sexual abuse in Massachusetts prisons, as well as regular features on cooking and movies.

In 1996, Smith worked as a radio consultant and journalism instructor in Africa. She spent several months teaching and reporting in Ethiopia, Guinea, and Tunisia. Smith filed her first on-air stories as a reporter for local affiliate WBUR in Boston in 1987.

Throughout her career, Smith has won more than two dozen national journalism awards including the Casey Medal, the Unity Award, a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award Honorable Mention, Ohio State Award, Radio and Television News Directors Association Award, and numerous honors from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Public Radio News Directors Association, and the Associated Press.

She is a graduate of Tufts University, with a degree in international relations.

There's been an unprecedented spike in white supremacist activity on campuses across the U.S. since the election and college students and administrators are struggling to figure out how to respond.

Posters at the University of Texas at Arlington last month implored students to "report any and all illegal aliens. America is a white nation." Also last month, at the University of Pennsylvania flyers blared "Imagine a Muslim-free America."

Editor's note: This story contains language that may be offensive to some readers.

Hate incidents can happen anywhere: the mall, the church, the office. But, in the wake of the 2016 election, hate's been showing up a lot in school.

The Department of Homeland Security is stepping up its support for Jewish institutions across the nation who've received more than 120 bomb threats in the past two months. Jewish Community Centers have been pressing for help as they've been targeted by waves of threatening calls as well as vandalism.

Since January, the calls coming in to JCCs have been both vivid and unnerving. Betzy Lynch, executive director of the JCC in Birmingham, Ala., got three of the threatening calls, all very similar.

Editor's note: This story contains language that may be offensive to some readers.

Harassment, threats and intimidation of minorities and immigrants spiked nationwide after President Trump's election in November. Comprehensive statistics are hard to come by, but officials and watch groups say hate-motivated incidents remain higher than usual more than three months after Election Day.

Massachusetts is among the many states that have seen such a spike.

They say opposites attract. But these days, maybe not so much.

A growing number of singles are adding a clause to their online dating profiles telling either Trump haters or Trump supporters — depending on their political preference — that they need not apply.

"This was like a deal breaker for me," says 50-year-old Elizabeth Jagosz from the Detroit area. "If you are Trump supporter, I'm not even going to consider meeting you for coffee."

It's not just an issue of party politics, Jagosz says. It's about core values. Love, she says, cannot conquer all.

For decades the same test has been used to convict drunk drivers.

Police ask a driver to stand on one leg, walk a straight line and recite the alphabet. If the driver fails, the officer will testify in court to help make a case for driving under the influence.

But defense lawyers argue, science has yet to prove that flunking the standard field sobriety test actually means that a person is high, the way it's been proven to measure drunkenness.

So, as attorney Rebecca Jacobstein argued to the Massachusetts high court, the tests shouldn't be allowed in evidence.

One staple in just about every sexual assault prevention program is the video vignette. It's usually a play-acted scenario used to teach students what crosses the line.

Now, the videotape of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump bragging about groping and kissing women is quickly becoming the classic real-life case study.

During the Our Ocean conference in Washington, D.C., President Obama announced the creation of the first national marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean.

If colleges are a hunting ground, as they've been called, for sexual predators, advocates say that high schools are the breeding ground — and that any solution must start there. They say efforts at college are too little, too late.

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When it comes to sexual assault of students, some say private secondary schools are still being a little too private about how they handle misconduct.

When it comes to punishing students for campus sexual assault, some say kicking offenders out of school isn't enough. They want schools to put a permanent note on offenders' transcripts explaining that they've been punished for sexual misconduct, so other schools — or employers — can be warned.

Survivor Carmen McNeill says it's common sense. She was a college junior nearly two years ago when, she says, she passed out on someone's bed after a party, from a mix of drinks — including one she suspects was spiked.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

A group of die-hard Patriots fans went to federal court earlier this week trying to overturn the team's punishment for Deflategate.

More than 700 million women worldwide today were married as children, and most of them are in developing countries. But there is a growing recognition that many young teens are marrying in the United States as well — and several states are now taking action to stop it.

Advocates say the young marriages run the gamut: They include teens of every ethnicity and religion, teens who are American-born and teens who are not being forced into arranged marriages.

I first noticed it in a neighborhood of Boston aptly called the "Innovation District." On a crumbling corner of an old brick building, there was a gaping hole created by about 15 missing clay bricks, filled in with about 500 Lego blocks.

I was determined to find out who the artist was.

"I don't know!" I was told by folks working in the building. Their property manager had no clue, nor did the people at Lego. "If you hear, let us know," said brand relations manager Amanda Santoro.

College students can't miss the warnings these days about the risk of campus sexual assault, but increasingly, some students are also taking note of what they perceive as a different danger.

"Once you are accused, you're guilty," says Parker Oaks, one of several Boston University students stopped by NPR between classes. "We're living in a society where you're guilty before innocent now."

Xavier Adsera, another BU student, sounds a similar theme. "We used to not be fair to women on this issue," he says. "Now we're on the other extreme, not being fair to guys."

Students headed for college this fall can expect a slew of new efforts aimed at preventing campus sexual assault. A federal law that took effect this summer requires schools to offer programs to help raise awareness and lower risk.

It was once a tiny niche market, but it is now an exploding industry with everything from fingernail polish that detects date-rape drugs in drinks to necklaces that hide mini panic buttons — and all kinds of crash courses on how to get and give consent.

Having clinched the long-sought prize of same-sex marriage in all 50 states, some long-time advocates are now waking up to the realization that they need to find a new job. At least one major same-sex marriage advocacy group is preparing to close down and other LGBT organizations are retooling.

They have grown from a ragtag group with a radical idea into a massive multi-million dollar industry of slick and sophisticated sellers of a dream. Today, their very success has made their old jobs obsolete.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

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NPR's Tovia Smith is covering the sentencing phase of the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev trial in Boston. A jury is weighing whether the 21-year-old convicted in the bombings that killed three people and left 264 others wounded should be put to death for his crimes. Tovia will be tweeting developments as they happen.

Bostonians marked the second anniversary of the marathon bombing Wednesday, all while awaiting the sentencing phase of convicted bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to begin. The jury must decide on death or life in prison — a fact that hung over the day's events.

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The defense rested its case on Tuesday for admitted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev after just a few hours of testimony. The defense called four people to testify compared to the 92 called by prosecutors.

Tsarnaev's lawyers have admitted he did what he's accused of doing. Their single aim is to try to cast Tsarnaev as less in charge than his brother Tamerlan — who died while they were running from authorities — and therefore less deserving of the death penalty if it gets to that.

The dramatic admission of guilt by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's defense team in its opening statement Wednesday has generated questions about the trial now underway. Many are wondering why the government wouldn't accept a plea deal in exchange for life in prison, or why Tsarnaev wouldn't want to plead guilty to avoid graphic and disturbing testimony that he's not even contesting.

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The search for jurors in the case of accused Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is taking longer than expected.

Defense attorneys say it's nearly impossible to find open-minded, unbiased jurors around Boston. They're asking yet again for the judge to move the trial somewhere else.

From the beginning, defense attorneys have argued the entire jury pool has been poisoned by what they call "a narrative of guilt" from a "tidal wave" of media coverage. Now, Tsarnaev's lawyers say jurors' own comments on a court questionnaire prove widespread bias.

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