Diocese pulls speaker invite over anti-Islamic concerns

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Worcester has rescinded an invitation to a speaker at a men’s conference after Muslims objected to what they call the speaker’s anti-Islamic views.

The diocese on Wednesday withdrew an invitation for Robert Spencer to speak at the March conference. Spencer, a Catholic, runs blogs and has written books that some consider anti-Muslim.

A spokesman for the diocese said Spencer’s appearance at the conference “is being seen as harmful to Catholic-Islamic relations.”

A spokesman for the Islamic Council of New England called Spencer a “hatemonger” and lauded the diocese’s decision.

Spencer in emails to The Boston Globe said there is “nothing hateful or bigoted” about his views, and called the diocese’s decision to pull his invitation “evidence of the cowardice of Roman Catholic officials.”


Would-be robber arrested after threatening to burn 2

Police say a masked man with a lighter in his pocket walked into a Clinton convenience store and doused two employees with lighter fluid in an attempt to rob the business.

Brian Dziczek was arrested late Tuesday after the store clerks fought back, tackled Dziczek, and called police. They never gave him any money.

He was scheduled to be arraigned Thursday on charges including assault with intent to murder and attempting to burn a building.

Police said the suspect told them that he owed some people some money.


Bear rehabilitator caring for record 27 orphaned cubs

It’s a busy winter for New Hampshire’s only bear rehabilitator, who is caring for a record 27 orphaned bear cubs.

Ben Kilham near Lyme has had three to five orphaned cubs hibernating near his home for the last 20 years.

WMUR-TV reported that it’s been very different this year because so many sows were shot in chicken coops and beehives as they searched for food.

Kilham said he has received some grants and donations. He estimates it will cost $1,000 per cub to get them through to June.


High school students protest against testing requirement

Rhode Island students are protesting an upcoming requirement that they score proficient on a standardized test in order to graduate from high school.

The Providence Journal reported that more than 45 high school students from Providence rallied at the State House on Wednesday to oppose the testing requirement, which takes effect with the class of 2014.

The requirement says high school students must score partially proficient on the New England Common Assessment Program test before they can graduate. More than 25 states use testing as a high school graduation requirement.

Critics say the testing requirement is unfair to disadvantaged students and forces teachers to focus their lessons on the test.

Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist said students shouldn’t get diplomas if they haven’t mastered 10th-grade material.


New city law aims to deter thieves of manhole covers

After 230 manhole covers were stolen last year, Providence leaders have passed a law intended to make it harder for scrap metal thieves to sell stolen metal.

The new rules announced this week prohibit scrap metal dealers from buying manhole covers without a city certificate approving the sale. Dealers are also required to keep any manhole covers they buy for 10 days and call the police if someone tries to sell a manhole cover without the proper documentation.

In addition, dealers who buy any metal statues, fencing, beer kegs or cemetery items must notify the police and hold the items for 10 days.

City Council President Michael Solomon helped craft the law. He notes that missing manhole covers pose a significant danger and a big cost to the city.


Proposal would allow state to bill for some hiker rescues

Hikers and others rescued in New Hampshire’s backwoods could pay several hundred dollars in fees to the state to help dig the search and rescue fund out of the red under new legislation.

Anyone rescued who possesses a current hunting, fishing or other outdoors license or buys a new hike safe card for $18 would not pay the minimum fee. The proposal also would establish a $10 surcharge on fines for fish and game law violations to go into the fund.

The minimum fee facing those rescued would be $350 if the rescue cost between $500 and $999. The fee rises to $600 if the rescue costs between $1,000 and $1,499. For rescues costing more, the fee would be $1,000..

Recent rescue costs ranged from about $200 to more than $50,000. The Department of Fish and Game has been operating the search and rescue account at an average annual deficit since 2006 of more than $100,000.

The agency has recovered some of its rescue costs by billing people determined to be negligent.


Pastor back in jail for refusal to testify before grand jury

A pastor was taken back to jail Thursday for continuing to refuse to tell a grand jury what he knows about a woman who fled the country to escape a custody dispute with her former lesbian partner.

Kenneth Miller, a Mennonite pastor from Stuarts Draft, Va., and U.S. District Court Judge William Session III continued their philosophical discussion about deeply held religious beliefs versus the needs of the law.

Miller told the judge that the week he has spent in jail has strengthened his resolve that his beliefs require him to follow God’s law when they conflict with civil law. He said he is willing to pay the price, even if it means more time in jail.