November 23, 2012

New England Dispatches

MANCHESTER, N.H.

Alleged scammer charged after gas station incident

A Manchester man allegedly posed as a gas station attendant and then took off with the customer's cash.

Manchester police said Ariel Mejias, 46, walked up to a patron getting out of his car at the NH Convenience Store Monday and offered to pump his gas.

When the customer agreed, police said, Mejias asked him for cash in advance so he could activate the pump. Police said he took the customer's cash into the store, but didn't return.

Mejias was arrested in the common bathroom of a nearby apartment house. He was charged with theft and resisting arrest, according to police.

PORTSMOUTH, N.H.

Penalties reduced for fatality at Redhook brewery

A federal agency has agreed to lower fines against a New Hampshire brewery where an employee was killed in a keg explosion.

Ben Harris of Redhook Ale Brewery in Portsmouth was emptying a plastic keg with pressurized air when it blew apart at the seams in April, killing him.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration concluded Redhook was at fault because its equipment for emptying kegs was operating at a pressure that exceeded the maximum threshold recommended by the keg manufacturer.

Redhook's parent company, Craft Brew Alliance, has taken responsibility for failing to install a device that would have regulated the pressure inside the machine.

Foster's Daily Democrat reports in a settlement reached last week, OSHA threw out some violations and lowered the fines from about $63,000 to $44,000.

PROVIDENCE, R.I.

Elections overseerers ask state for new voting machines

The Rhode Island Board of Elections plans to ask the General Assembly to approve funding for the purchase of new voting machines.

The Providence Journal reports that the board executive director Robert Kando estimates the machines will cost $9 million to $10 million. He says the cost would be spread over several years under a lease-to-own agreement.

Kando also said he's considering the purchase of electronic voter books that would let voters use any line to check in, rather than just the one designated for the first letter of their last names.

Voters complained about long lines during the Nov. 6 election, and some voting machines malfunctioned. Kando says that long ballots, a shortage of poll workers and confusion over redistricting also contributed to the lines.

WOONSOCKET, R.I.

Incense burner's ashes blamed for church blaze

Fire officials have determined that ashes from an incense burner caused a fire that heavily damaged a Woonsocket church.

The Providence Journal reports that the state fire marshal has concluded the fire at St. Michael Ukrainian Orthodox church was an accident.

The fire broke out Wednesday around 4:30 a.m. No one was injured, but the blaze heavily damaged the building.

All 26 members of the Woonsocket Fire Department responded. Officials believe the fire was started by ashes that weren't properly disposed of after incense was used at a service Tuesday night.

Father Anthony Perkins says the church plans to hold upcoming services in the church hall, which is in a separate building.

BARNSTABLE, Mass.

Nonprofit agency suspends worker for disrespectful act

A Plymouth woman who posted a photo of herself pantomiming a yell and making an obscene gesture at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has been placed on unpaid leave from her job at a Cape Cod home for the disabled.

LIFE, Inc. said they are investigating the incident involving Lindsey Stone and a co-worker who took the photo. The chief financial officer told the Cape Cod Times Tuesday that the Hyannis nonprofit is "appalled."

Stone was on a company-sponsored trip to Arlington National Cemetery last month when she posed by a sign reading: "Arlington National Cemetery: Silence and Respect."

Stone posted the photo to Facebook and it went viral. A Facebook page called "Fire Lindsey Stone" has since been created.

BOSTON

Charities cut costs by distributing chickens

Some Massachusetts charities and food pantries gave needy families chickens instead of more expensive Thanksgiving turkeys this year, a move lamented by some, but which they say is necessary to ensure as many people as possible get to enjoy a holiday meal.

The American Farm Bureau Federation says the average price of a 16-pound turkey has jumped from $18 to more than $22 in two years.

Joyce Lonergan, director of the Franciscan Food Center at St. Anthony's Shrine in downtown Boston, says her mission is to provide as many people as possible with food, and if that means chicken instead of turkey, then so be it.

BROCKTON, Mass.

Murderous pedophile asks court for name-change

A man spending life in prison for kidnapping, sexually assaulting and killing a 10-year-old Cambridge boy has told a judge he wants to change his name because his "old human name" is religiously offensive.

The Brockton Enterprise reports that Charles Jaynes, handcuffed and representing himself in Brockton District Court, said Tuesday he wants to change his name to Manasseh-Invictus Auric Thutmose V, in line with his constitutional right to practice the Wiccan religion.

Jaynes was one of two men convicted of the 1997 killing of Jeffrey Curley.

Jeffrey's father, Robert, in court to oppose the request, has said Jaynes should not be allowed to hide his crimes behind a new name.

Jaynes said he's reminded of his crime every day he wakes up in prison. The judge did not immediately rule.

NEW BEDFORD, Mass.

Donations sought to sustain Moby-Dick Marathon

The New Bedford Whaling Museum is seeking the help of Herman Melville fans around the world to ensure that the 17th annual Moby-Dick Marathon goes on as planned.

The museum in the past has used a federal grant to help finance the event every January, but that funding has been lost.

So museum science director Robert Rocha Jr. sent out a letter this month to previous supporters and participants in the marathon asking for donations.

So far about $600 has been raised. Museum officials tells The Standard-Times it costs about $5,000 for the event. A few bucks from each person would do the trick.

The marathon involves volunteers reading portions of the book about man vs. whale cover to cover without stopping. The reading takes about 24 hours.

WELLFLEET, Mass.

Three stranded dolphins saved, one dies

Animal rescuers say they have rescued four stranded common dolphins after a herd of eight was caught swimming during low tide on Thanksgiving at Herring River on Cape Cod.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare says its Marine Mammal Rescue and Research team successfully herded three dolphins out of danger Thursday. One animal died.

Rescuers stabilized the four stranded dolphins, carried them out of the mud and placed them in a rescue trailer for full health exams. They were all deemed healthy for release back to the ocean.

Michael Booth of IFAW says the number of dolphin strandings has risen to 262 this year, far exceeding the average of 38.

NORWICH, Vt.

Three cruisers damaged by fire of unknown origin

Police say someone set fire to all three of the town's cruisers, causing $100,000 in damage.

Norwich police requested the Vermont State Police to conduct an investigation. Fire investigators from the state police and the Division of Fire Safety responded.

Earlier reports indicated arson was suspected, but state police said in a news release that the cause of the fire is undetermined and not suspicious. The three cruisers are considered a total loss.

-- From news service reports

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