March 14, 2013

New England Dispatches

From news service reports

BOSTON

Officials seize equipment of unlicensed radio stations

Federal officials say they have seized the transmission equipment of an unlicensed radio station in Brockton that was interfering with air traffic communications in the Boston area.

The U.S. Attorney's office in Boston announced Tuesday that the equipment was seized from a Brockton home on March 1 after several verbal and written warnings to stop were ignored.

The station, playing largely Haitian music, was called a "pirate station" because it used a frequency without a license from the Federal Communications Commission.

Officials said the station interfered with a frequency used by pilots to communicate with FAA controllers when flying in the Boston area, creating a potentially dangerous situation.

There have been no arrests because authorities are still trying to figure out who is responsible for the station's operation. 

Cab companies challenge smartphone-based service

The operators of one of Boston's largest taxi companies have sued the developer of a smartphone app that allows users to request a cab or livery service, saying it is essentially an unlicensed car service.

A lawyer for Boston Cab Dispatch Inc. and EJT Management, which combined have about 500 taxi licenses under the Boston Cab brand, says the Uber Technologies Inc. app ignores virtually all rules in place for cab companies.

The suit asserts that the private cars available through Uber are allowed to choose among their customers and destinations, unlike cabbies, prohibited from refusing to take fares based on age, disability, and location.

Uber had no comment on the lawsuit, but a manager tells The Boston Globe the company operates legally in Massachusetts. 

Ruling on restraint order clarifies abuse law's scope

Massachusetts' highest court says that substantive dating relationships developed and maintained using instant messaging, Skype, emails and other electronic communications are subject to the state's domestic abuse laws.

The Supreme Judicial Court made the broader ruling Wednesday even as it overturned a restraining order against a British man who was 24 when he developed a relationship with a 16-year-old Massachusetts girl after she visited London in 2011.

The girl's father had gotten the restraining order against the man but the court found that he was not a threat to the girl.

But the court also said Massachusetts courts can determine whether a couple is in a substantive dating relationship by considering the nature, frequency and length of their communications and if either one has ended the relationship. 

Ruling prevents total ban on pot treatment centers

Attorney General Martha Coakley has ruled that Massachusetts towns cannot issue total bans on medical marijuana treatment centers within their communities.

But Coakley also ruled on Wednesday that towns can adopt zoning bylaws that would regulate the treatment centers and possibly limit where they could be located.

Massachusetts voters in November approved the use of medicinal marijuana. The law allows for up to 35 marijuana dispensaries around the state.

The attorney general struck down a bylaw approved by the town of Wakefield that called for an outright ban on dispensaries.

But Coakley signed off on a bylaw passed in Burlington that imposed a temporary moratorium on the treatment centers until the town completes a further study of zoning issues.

The attorney general's office must approve all town bylaws, but does not have oversight of city ordinances.

CONCORD, N.H.

Speed limit raised to 70 on stretch of Interstate 93

Drivers would be able to go 70 miles per hour on a stretch of Interstate 93 north of Concord, N.H., under a bill headed to the Senate.

The House voted 292-65 Wednesday to raise the limit from 65 mph to 70 mph from Exit 18 to the Vermont border. The current speed limit would remain the same through Franconia Notch.

The House rejected bills raising the limit as high as 75 mph on the interstate system. 

Simulcasts of dog racing won't face legal restrictions

New Hampshire's House has rejected legislation that would have prohibited simulcasting greyhound races from three states that don't require reporting the dogs' injuries.

The House voted 243-108 Wednesday to kill the bill that targeted Florida, Alabama and Arizona because they don't require the reporting.

Rockingham Park race track and Seabrook Park simulcast races in New Hampshire. Bill opponents said placing limits on which races they could simulcast would cost them money and could mean layoffs.

Bill supporters said New Hampshire banned greyhound racing in 2010 because of a lack of humane treatment of the dogs. They said the bill supports humane treatment of animals. 

Bill to legalize marijuana killed by House, 239-112

The House has killed a bill that would have legalized marijuana in New Hampshire.

The House voted 239-112 Wednesday.

Supporters had argued that it was time to stop the government's war on marijuana users, saying tobacco and alcohol abuse are legal but pose a greater danger to personal health.

Bill opponents countered that marijuana is a gateway drug to using other illegal drugs. They said long-term use has a chemical effect on the brain that can influence memory, thinking and concentration.

WOBURN, MASS.

Newspaper carrier charged in fraudulent check scheme

A Reading man has been charged in an elaborate fraudulent check-cashing scheme involving the stolen identities of customers on his newspaper delivery route.

The Middlesex district attorney's office said Tuesday that 22-year-old Ikponmwosa Ogiugo has been charged with multiple counts of identify fraud and forgery. He is alleged to have stolen more than $200,000.

Investigators said Ogiugo often received tips from his customers in the form of checks. He'd then make new computer-generated blank checks using customers' personal banking information.

The counterfeit checks were allegedly sent across the nation and deposited into strangers' bank accounts where investigators say the unsuspecting victims were persuaded by Ogiugo to forward the money to a bank in India.

Ogiugo has been released on $5,000 bail. It was not clear if he had a lawyer.

SPRINGFIELD, Vt.

Quails, pigs perish in fire at farm for game animals

More than 20,000 quails and 30 pigs perished Wednesday in an early morning fire that destroyed a 19th century barn at a Vermont game bird farm.

Springfield firefighters have not determined what caused the dawn fire at the Cavendish Game Birds farm that leveled the hulking barn and its iconic silo.

The family-owned company -- which has been in business 25 years -- is the largest producers of Coturnix quails in New England, the Eagle Times of Claremont reports .

Bill Thompson started the business in the backyard of his Cavendish home. He and his brother, Rick, purchased the 75-acre farm in 1998 and moved their business there.

More than a dozen fire departments responded to the blaze. There were no reported injuries to firefighters or property owners.

It's terrible, the pigs were a brand-new thing," Bill Thompson told the Eagle Times. "There were two mothers and their babies, and then we had another set of seven, so we had 20-something. And down at the end of that barn we had a cage system full of our breeding quail, we had 6,000 quail. We pulled out 2,000 eggs a day."

The Thompsons said they have shipped their products all over the country, including to the White House.

The quails that died in the fire represent half their stock, but the Thompsons are determined to rebuild the barn and the business. With the help of insurance money, they will build a state-of-the-art facility for the quail operation, Bill Thompson said.

"We're not down at all," he said. "We'll be back up."

 

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