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    The FBI is doing a nationwide manhunt for whoever is sending the pipe bomb packages.

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- Suspicious packages addressed to New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and former National Intelligence Director James Clapper -- and similar in appearance to pipe bomb devices sent to other prominent Democrats -- have been intercepted, the FBI said Friday, as investigators scrambled from coast to coast to locate the culprit and motives behind a bizarre plot aimed at critics of President Donald Trump.

    The discoveries brought to 12 the total number of devices addressed in recent days to Democratic figures including former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton.

    The FBI said the package to Booker was intercepted in Florida. The one discovered at a Manhattan postal facility was addressed to Clapper c/o CNN. An earlier package had been sent to former Obama CIA Director John Brennan in care of CNN in New York.

    Investigators were analyzing the innards of the crude devices to reveal whether they were intended to detonate or simply sow fear just before Election Day.

    Law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that the devices, containing timers and batteries, were not rigged like booby-trapped package bombs that would explode upon opening. But they were uncertain whether the devices were poorly designed or never intended to cause physical harm. A search of a postal database suggested at least some may have been mailed from Florida, one official said. Investigators are homing in on a postal facility in Opa-locka, Florida, where they believe some of the packages originated, another official said.

    The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation by name.

    Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, in an interview Thursday night with Fox News Channel, acknowledged that some of packages originated in Florida.

    New details about the devices came as the four-day mail bomb scare spread nationwide, drawing investigators from dozens of federal, state and local agencies in the effort to identify one or more perpetrators.

    The targets have included Obama, Hillary Clinton, CNN and Rep. Maxine Waters of California. The common thread among them was obvious: their critical words for Trump and his frequent, harsher criticism in return.

    Trump claimed on Friday he was being blamed for the mail bombs addressed to his critics, complaining in a tweet sent before dawn: "Funny how lowly rated CNN, and others, can criticize me at will, even blaming me for the current spate of Bombs and ridiculously comparing this to September 11th and the Oklahoma City bombing, yet when I criticize them they go wild and scream, 'it's just not Presidential!'"

    At a press conference Thursday, officials in New York would not discuss possible motives or details on how the packages found their way into the U.S. postal system. Nor would they say why none of the packages had detonated, but they stressed they were still treating them as "live devices."

    "As far as a hoax device, we're not treating it that way," police Commissioner James O'Neill said.

    Details suggested a pattern -- that the items were packaged in manila envelopes, addressed to prominent Trump critics and carried U.S. postage stamps. The devices were being examined by technicians at the FBI's forensic lab in Quantico, Virginia.

    The packages stoked nationwide tensions and fears as voters prepared to vote Nov. 6 to determine partisan control of Congress -- a campaign both major political parties have described in near-apocalyptic terms. Even with the sender still unknown, politicians from both parties used the threats to decry a toxic political climate and lay blame.

    "A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News," Trump said on Twitter. "It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description. Mainstream Media must clean up its act, FAST!"

    Former CIA Director Brennan, the target of a package sent to CNN, fired back.

    "Stop blaming others. Look in the mirror," Brennan tweeted. "Your inflammatory rhetoric, insults, lies, & encouragement of physical violence are disgraceful. Clean up your act....try to act Presidential."

    CNN didn't immediately respond to messages seeking comment before business hours Friday.

    The list of bombing targets spread from New York, Delaware and Washington, D.C., to Florida and California.

    The explosive devices were packed in envelopes with bubble-wrap interiors bearing six American flag stamps and the return address of Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

    The bombs seized Wednesday were about 6 inches (15 centimeters) long and packed with powder and broken glass, according to a law enforcement official who viewed X-ray images. The official said the devices were made from PVC pipe and covered with black tape. At the New York briefing, authorities confirmed that at least some of the packages were distributed through the U.S. mail, and cautioned that there could be additional devices in the postal system. They said investigators searching for more suspicious parcels had not found any during the previous eight hours.

    David Chipman, a retired federal ATF agent and now senior policy adviser for the Giffords Center, said the details revealed telltale signs that could help guide investigators.

    The tape on the pipe is "an investigator's dream," he said, recalling a case in Texas that was solved because the fibers on the tape were traced to the bomber's dog. He said bombers tend to plot methodically.

    "This is someone sitting down and spending time thinking about what they're going to do to someone else. And some people like to relish that," he said.

    The new packages discovered Thursday set off a new wave of alarm.

    A retired New York police detective working in security in De Niro's Manhattan office called police after seeing images of a package bomb sent to CNN and recalling a similar package addressed to the actor, officials said.

    The packages addressed to Biden were intercepted at Delaware mail facilities in New Castle and Wilmington, according to a law enforcement official who, like others, wasn't authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

    Like earlier targets, both Biden and De Niro have been sharply critical of Trump. The actor dropped an expletive insult at Trump at this year's Tony Awards and apologized to Canadians for the "idiotic behavior of my president." Biden said last week that the president may not "know what he's doing" and coddles dictators.

    Trump has called Biden "Crazy Joe" and "mentally weak."

    On Thursday, during a campaign trip to suburban Buffalo, Biden said: "We've got to get off this hate machine. We've got to come together."

    The packages were "clearly an effort to terrorize people politically, to choose people for political purposes and attack them because of their beliefs," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

    The first crude bomb to be discovered was delivered Monday to the suburban New York compound of George Soros, a liberal billionaire and major contributor to Democratic causes. Soros has called Trump's presidency "dangerous."

    Similar packages addressed to Clinton and Obama were intercepted on their way to Clinton's New York home, where she lives with former President Bill Clinton, and to Washington, where Obama lives with his wife, Michelle Obama. The Secret Service said neither package reached its intended recipient.

    Other packages were sent to frequent Trump critics Waters, D-Calif., and former Obama Attorney General Eric Holder. His ended up at the Sunrise, Florida, office of Wasserman Schultz, who was listed as the return address.

    A police bomb squad removed the package addressed to Brennan on Wednesday from CNN's New York office, which was evacuated.

    In response to the events, Trump decried political violence but also joked about moving to more polite speeches.

    "Let's get along," he said at a Wisconsin rally Wednesday night. "By the way, do you see how nice I'm behaving tonight? Have you ever seen this?"

    ___

    Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman, Ken Thomas, Jill Colvin and Chad Day in Washington and Jim Mustian, Deepti Hajela and Tom Hays in New York contributed to this report.


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    The Democratic DA from Hampden County said Baker's approach has made communities safer.

    Hampden County District Attorney Anthony Gulluni, a Democrat, has endorsed Republican Gov. Charlie Baker's gubernatorial campaign.

    Baker's campaign announced Gulluni's endorsement as one of several endorsements by law enforcement officials and organizations. It came days after Baker appointed Gulluni to the state's Victim and Witness Assistance Board, which funds organizations that provide services to crime victims.

     "The Baker-Polito Administration's thoughtful, balanced, and pragmatic approach to public safety has made communities safer across the Commonwealth," Gulluni said in a statement.

    Baker is facing Democrat Jay Gonzalez in the Nov. 6 election.

    Gulluni is a Democrat who has donated to Democratic candidates, including House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Governor's Councilor Mary Hurley, Chicopee Rep. Joseph Wagner, Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi and former House Ways and Means Chairman Brian Dempsey.

    Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn, also a Democrat, is also backing Baker. The state's two Republican District Attorneys already announced their support for the governor.

    Baker has generally been a supporter of law enforcement. Two organizations that backed Democratic former attorney general Martha Coakley for governor against Baker in 2014 - the Massachusetts Coalition of Police and the Massachusetts Police Association - announced they were supporting Baker this year.

    The Massachusetts Major City Chiefs of Police Association made its first candidate endorsement in 15 years to support Baker. The association specifically cited Baker's efforts to address opioid addiction and his signing of a law adding a fee to car rentals to fund municipal police training.

    Several other police organizations that backed Baker in 2014 are supporting him again, including groups representing minority police officers and corrections officers.

    "Since day one, we have worked hard to provide our brave law enforcement officers the tools and support they need to do their jobs, and to invest in programming and resources that help communities keep our streets safe," Baker said in a statement.

    In addition to signing the municipal police training bill, Baker successfully advocated with the Legislature to include in a criminal justice bill a harsher penalty for assault and battery on a police officer.

    Baker has supported the death penalty for people who kill police officers, although there is little chance of Massachusetts reinstating the death penalty. He has been pushing for legislation that would give judges and prosecutors more opportunity to classify an offender as "dangerous" when considering bail and conditions of release.

    Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, a Democrat, is backing Gonzalez.

    Gonzalez has been a strong critic of the culture at the Massachusetts State Police, calling for the firing of Police Col. Kerry Gilpin in the wake of multiple scandals. Baker said Gilpin has led the investigation into the scandals.

    Gonzalez supports making additional reforms to the criminal justice system to focus on things like mental health treatment and diversion to lower incarceration rates. He supports eliminating all mandatory minimum sentences other than murder and eliminating cash bail.


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    Despite disagreeing with the Trump administration on a host of issues, Attorney General Maura Healey said this week that the law and its impact on Massachusetts -- not partisan politics -- is what has guided her office's decisions to challenge the White House on immigration, health care and other policies.

    SPRINGFIELD -- Despite disagreeing with the Trump administration on a host of issues, Attorney General Maura Healey said this week that the law and its impact on Massachusetts -- not partisan politics -- is what has guided her office's decisions to challenge the White House on immigration, health care and other policies. 

    Healey, in a Thursday meeting with The Republican's editorial board, rejected the suggestion that she's using her office to legislate, offering that she's committed to enforcing the law and "not writing new or law or making new law."

    The attorney general, who is up for re-election in November, further raised concerns about the Trump administration's impact on federal judicial appointments and urged voters to keep that in mind this election cycle. 

    Stressing that she's only challenged the Trump administration when the White House or federal agencies "have done things that are illegal or unconstitutional," Healey argued that her office has "been routinely vindicated in court for the actions (it's) taken." 

    Massachusetts, New York attorneys general sue President Donald Trump over association health plans

    "It's a fair point to say that I don't agree as a policy matter with any number of the president's decisions, but that's not what this is about. What guides me is what's the impact of those decisions or executive order on Massachusetts residents, our businesses, our interests," she said.

    Healey pointed to challenges her office has pursued in regards to the Trump administration's efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, roll back limits on emissions and bar travel for some into the United States as examples of actions she has taken to protect Massachusetts. 

    Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey says she plans to join lawsuit defending DACA/'Dreamers' program

    "To me, it's about enforcing the law ... it's not about rewriting laws or remaking laws -- that's another job, that's another department, that's another entity," she said. "My job is just to make sure that we are doing what we need to do to enforce the laws. That's led us, yes, to sue the Trump administration a number of times."

    The attorney general, however, stressed that despite the number of high-profile cases she has filed against the administration her office has also remained focused on its work in Massachusetts. 

    She added that her office has achieved "record recoveries for the state" in the course of its day-to-day work, including its focus on Medicaid fraud cases, consumer hotline calls and unscrupulous employers.

    Although Healey said she expects federal judges and courts to remain apolitical, the attorney general further urged voters to consider the judiciary when casting ballots in the upcoming election.

    "I'm somebody who believes that elections matter, and one of the consequences of any election is that the president gets to make nominations and the Senate should go through a confirmation process. ... I do think it's important that voters vote because right now we have a federal administration where you look at a lot of the policies, they're authored by Stephen Miller," she said. "One of the reasons we've been so successful in court as the Trump administration sought to do any number of illegal things is because they're not following the law."

    Attorney James McMahon wins GOP primary and will face Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in November

    Healey, a Democrat, will face Republican James McMahon III in the Nov. 6 election.


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    The Justice Department says a person has been taken into custody in connection with a series of package bombs sent to prominent Democrats.

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal authorities have detained a person in connection with the mail-bomb scare that widened to 12 suspicious packages, a Justice Department official said Friday.

    Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said authorities planned to announce more information at a press conference.

    Earlier Friday, authorities said suspicious packages addressed to New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and former National Intelligence Director James Clapper -- both similar to those containing pipe bombs sent to other prominent critics of President Donald Trump-- had been intercepted.

    The discoveries -- making 12 so far -- further spurred a coast-to-coast investigation, as officials scrambled to locate a culprit and possible motive amid questions about whether new packages were being sent or simply surfacing after a period in mail system.

    The devices have targeted well-known Democrats including former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and former Attorney General Eric Holder.

    The FBI said the package to Booker was intercepted in Florida. The one discovered at a Manhattan postal facility was addressed to Clapper at CNN's address. An earlier package had been sent to former Obama CIA Director John Brennan via CNN in New York.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Friday the Justice Department was dedicating every available resource to the investigation "and I can tell you this: We will find the person or persons responsible. We will bring them to justice."

    Trump, on the other hand, complained that "this 'bomb' stuff" was taking attention away from the upcoming election and said critics were wrongly blaming him and his heated rhetoric.

    Investigators were analyzing the innards of the crude devices to reveal whether they were intended to detonate or simply sow fear just before Election Day.

    Law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that the devices, containing timers and batteries, were not rigged to explode upon opening. But they were uncertain whether the devices were poorly designed or never intended to cause physical harm.

    Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, in an interview Thursday with Fox News Channel, acknowledged that some of packages originated in Florida. One official told AP that investigators are homing in on a postal facility in Opa-locka, Florida, where they believe some packages originated.

    The package addressed to Booker was found during an oversight search of that facility, according to a law enforcement official.

    The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation by name

    Most of those targeted were past or present U.S. officials, but one was sent to actor Robert De Niro and billionaire George Soros. The bombs have been sent across the country - from New York, Delaware and Washington, D.C., to Florida and California, where Rep. Maxine Waters was targeted. They bore the return address of Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

    The common thread among the bomb targets was obvious: their critical words for Trump and his frequent, harsher criticism in return.

    Trump claimed Friday he was being blamed for the mail bombs, complaining in a tweet sent before dawn: "Funny how lowly rated CNN, and others, can criticize me at will, even blaming me for the current spate of Bombs and ridiculously comparing this to September 11th and the Oklahoma City bombing, yet when I criticize them they go wild and scream, 'it's just not Presidential!'"

    The package to Clapper was addressed to him at CNN's Midtown Manhattan address. Clapper, a frequent Trump critic, told CNN that he was not surprised he was targeted and that he considered the actions "definitely domestic terrorism."

    Jeff Zucker, the president of CNN Worldwide, said in a note to staff that all mail to CNN domestic offices was being screened at off-site facilities. He said there was no imminent danger to the Time Warner Center, where CNN's New York office is located.

    At a press conference Thursday, officials in New York would not discuss possible motives or details on how the packages found their way into the postal system. Nor would they say why the packages hadn't detonated, but they stressed they were still treating them as "live devices."

    The devices were packaged in manila envelopes and carried U.S. postage stamps. They were being examined by technicians at the FBI's forensic lab in Quantico, Virginia.

    The packages stoked nationwide tensions ahead of the Nov. 6 election to determine control of Congress -- a campaign both major political parties have described in near-apocalyptic terms. Politicians from both parties used the threats to decry a toxic political climate and lay blame.

    Trump, in a tweet Thursday, blamed the "Mainstream Media" for the anger in society. Brennan responded, tweeting that Trump should "Stop blaming others. Look in the mirror."

    The bombs are about 6 inches (15 centimeters) long and packed with powder and broken glass, according to a law enforcement official who viewed X-ray images. The official said the devices were made from PVC pipe and covered with black tape.

    The first bomb discovered was delivered Monday to the suburban New York compound of Soros, a major contributor to Democratic causes. Soros has called Trump's presidency "dangerous."

    ___

    Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman, Ken Thomas, Jill Colvin and Chad Day in Washington and Jim Mustian, Deepti Hajela and Tom Hays in New York contributed to this report.


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    A gas leak on Marble Street in the city's South End on Friday morning prompted the evacuation of apartment buildings in the area. Watch video

    Update: 12:30 p.m. The fire department reports the gas is turned off and repairs are being made to the ruptured line. Evacuated people will soon be allowed to return to the area.


    SPRINGFIELD- A gas leak on Marble Street in the city's South End on Friday morning prompted the evacuation of several apartment buildings in the area as well as the South End Community Center.

    Just after 11 a.m., the Springfield Fire Department was called to the area of 99 Marble Street after a gas line was ruptured. 

    Moments later, additional fire crews were dispatched to the area to evacuate neighboring apartment buildings as a precaution. 

    According to Dennis Leger, aide to Fire Commissioner Bernard J. Calvi, a construction company with a backhoe stuck a gas main while working in the area.

    Around 11:35 a.m., employees of Columbia Gas were reportedly on scene, although ten minutes later, reports from the scene indicated the gas main was still venting into the air. 

    Over the following 30 minutes or so, fire crews were dispatched to various homes in the South End after occupants said they smelled natural gas. 

    This is a developing story which will be updated. 


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    "This new multimillion grant will bring unprecedented resources to our ongoing work to dismantle drug networks, prosecute traffickers, and combat this crisis."

    The Massachusetts Attorney General's Office and New Hampshire Department of Justice were awarded a nearly $3 million federal grant to ebb the flow of drugs into the region.

    "The drug trafficking investigations of our Fentanyl Strike Force have taken millions of lethal doses of heroin and fentanyl off the streets," Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement announcing the grant Friday. "This new multimillion grant will bring unprecedented resources to our ongoing work to dismantle drug networks, prosecute traffickers, and combat this crisis."

    The grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice's Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Anti-Heroin Task Force grant program. With the boost in funding, Healey said her office will support ongoing investigations into the flow of drugs into and through the Massachusetts-New Hampshire corridor. 

    "This grant award will enhance cooperation and collaboration among law enforcement in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts and provide needed resources to expand our collective efforts to combat the opioid crisis in our communities.  Expanding our work together will benefit the citizens of both our states and will enhance our collective efforts to interdict the flow of dangerous drugs," New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald said in a statement.

    Healey's office launched a fentanyl "strike force" two years ago focused on the deadly synthetic opioid. 

    More than 80 percent of fatal opioid-related overdoses involved fentanyl in 2017, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.  

    There were 1,977 confirmed opioid-related overdose deaths in Massachusetts last year. That number is double the number of deaths five years ago, though a decrease from 2016 numbers. 

    Prescribing rates of opioid prescriptions decreased by more than 56 percent between 2013 and 2017. 

    Since the launch of the "strike force," approximately 164 kilograms of heroin and fentanyl, 8,900 opioid pills, 67 vehicles, 51 firearms, $5.6 million in cash has been seized. The force arrested 169 suspects, primarily on trafficking charges. 


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    A couple of signs have been spotted so far. They were apparently put up Wednesday and both say "Keep NYC trash free."

     

    Even after the Red Sox knocked off the Yankees in the ALDS earlier this month, the Boston-New York rivalry is alive and well.

    Signs seen in New York City subways are taking aim at Boston sports fans (as well other signs that attack President Donald Trump supporters) and are falsely attributed to the city's sanitization department:

    A couple of signs have been spotted so far. They were apparently put up Wednesday and both say "Keep NYC trash free."

    One picture shows a similar sign, but with person wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat and Confederate flag tattoo. Despite the DSNY branding, the signs are fake, and were not created or posted by the sanitation department:

    The anti-Boston sports fan signs feature a person with a Boston Red Sox hat, a New England Patriots shirt and a Samuel Adams beer in hand.


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    Gelins was one of seven defendants charged in abbotched, drug-related home invasion on Oct. 30, 2016 in

    NORTHAMPTON - Warrens Gelin, the so-called "muscle" in a violent 2016 home invasion in Amherst, has been sentenced to four to five years in state prison.

    Gelin, 23, of Springfield, admitted to seven charges in the long-running case during a plea change hearing Friday in Hampshire Superior Court.

    Judge Richard Cary imposed the sentence on the recommendation of Assistant District Attorney Steven Gagne and Gelin's two defense lawyers. The judge also ordered Gelin to serve two years of probation following his release from prison.

    Gelin, one of seven defendants charged in the case, will be given credit for 461 days spent in custody since his arrest.

    The alleged leader of the botched home invasion, Patrick Bemben of Hadley, is headed for trial in Hampshire Superior Court in late November. 

    Bemben allegedly plotted the Oct. 30, 2016 home invasion at 943 South East St. over a conflict with renters in the home. He allegedly recruited four others -- including Gelin, who has a criminal record -- to help rob and beat the occupants, and solicited two others to drive and keep lookout.

    Bemben was injured at the scene and was arrested that night. It took seven months of investigation by police and prosecutors to round up the other suspects.

    Arrested on multiple felony charges were Bemben and Gelin; Stephanos Georgiadis of Hadley; and Joseph Barcelos of Belchertown. John Niemiec III and his girlfriend Brittany Buckowski, both of Sunderland, were the alleged drivers and lookouts. Tivon LaValley of Hadley, was previously deemed incompetent to stand trial.

    In September, defense attorney Jared Olanoff  argued that cellphone tower records relevant to Niemiec's whereabouts that night should be suppressed. He said investigators had no probable cause to obtain the so-called CSLI data, and should have obtained a search warrant to do so.

    Gagne argued that investigators indeed had enough evidence against Niemiec to obtain the data. Niemiec allegedly drove others to the scene in a rented UHaul, but had told investigators he was in Colrain, said Gagne.

    Judge Daniel Ford said he would take the evidence arguments under advisement.

    Defendants were allegedly armed and outfitted with tactical gear and wearing body armor during the invasion. One victim was pistol whipped and another suffered a severe hatchet wound.

    Bemben allegedly enticed others to participate by saying there were drugs in the home, and that he would share the cash proceeds.

    Gelin appeared in court with his lawyer, Elaine Pourinski, and Niemiec appeared with Olanoff. Bemben and Hoose were not present because Hoose had a scheduling conflict.

    A returned search warrant affidavit in the case has been impounded.

    The defendants are free on bail with various conditions, except for Gelin, who had his bail revoked in February following his arrest on 10 new charges in Springfield.


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    Mercy Hearing Center to close by year's end as Mercy, now part of one of the country's largest Catholic health care systems, takes "actions to ensure" its "sustainability."

    SPRINGFIELD -- Mercy Medical Center, which this week announced it will close its long-established hearing center along with other workforce changes, for several years has been part of Trinity Health, an Indiana nonprofit corporation whose fiscal 2018 operating income increased more than 50 percent over the prior year.

    Trinity Health Corp., headquartered in Livonia, Michigan, is one of the largest, multi-institutional Catholic health care delivery systems in the country. Its approach of merge and acquire seems to have proven strategically sound thus far for the corporation and it now includes 94 hospitals and 109 continuing care facilities, home care agencies and outpatient centers in 22 states.

    It has, according to its recent report for fiscal 2018, succeeded in improving performance and operating income over fiscal 2017 despite increases in expenses to "buffer continued unfavorable industry trends."

    "Throughout fiscal year 2018, we kept our focus on improving performance across all aspects of our people-centered care continuum which helped buffer continued unfavorable industry trends," Ben Carter, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Trinity Health, said in a news release about the financial results.

    "In particular, our efforts centered on clinical and administrative efficiencies related to both productivity and supply costs, as well as improving performance in value-based care delivery models."

    According to its fiscal 2018 results released Oct. 3, Trinity Health showed an operating income of $401.3 million before other items and corresponding operating margin and operating cash flow margin of 2.2 percent and 8.1 percent, respectively.

    It said this was a $135.2 million increase in year-over-year operating income, "representing an improvement of more than 50 percent over fiscal year 2017, during which the system reported results of $266.1 million in annual operating income."

    It said comparable fiscal 2017 operating margin and operating cash flow margin were 1.5 percent and 7.6 percent, respectively.

    It also said revenue increased by $700 million to $18.3 billion, which it called a 4.1 percent increase over fiscal 2017.

    Excluding the effect of acquisitions, it attributed the revenue increase primarily to the result of "growth in patient volumes, payment rates and case mix."

    It said expenses increased by $582.4 million, or 3.4 percent, to $17.9 billion.

    The news release also said "other items incurred during the year resulted in a net charge to operations of $264.4 million for non-cash asset impairment charges that are helping the system right-size inpatient physical plant utilization and reposition in some markets."

    The news release said the system's decision to move to a single, enterprise-wide electronic health record and revenue cycle management system platform "resulted in $107.8 million of the impairments."

    Trinity Health Corp. was formed in 2013 when Trinity Health, created from the consolidation of Holy Cross Health System and Detroit-based Mercy Health Services, merged with Catholic Health East.

    Catholic Health East was formed in 1998 when 12 health systems, including that of the Holyoke-based Sisters of Providence, whose hospitals included Mercy, integrated to form one system.

    Trinity Health Of New England, based at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, Connecticut, was formed in 2015.

    Parent company Trinity Health acquired St. Francis in 2013 and went on to initially create its New England entity with Mercy and St. Francis. It has since acquired other Connecticut facilities into what it calls its regional ministries with a management success geared to improving declining revenues and taking facilities out of the red.

    It made a capital commitment of $275 million to St. Francis over five years through 2020 "if performance metrics are achieved." 

    In fiscal 2017, Trinity Health Of New England reported an operating margin -- the percentage of what was taken in and what is left after expenses -- of 1.26 percent and a total operating margin, which includes more revenue sources, of 2.4 percent.

    Dr. Reginald J. Eadie was named president and chief executive officer of Trinity Health Of New England in March.

    Larger health systems can help update community hospitals they acquire, introducing or updating electronic recording keeping as an example. But these systems can face challenges from declining operating margins and net operating income.

    Hospitals acquired can feel the impact in both positive and negative ways, from changes in leadership and elimination of positions to the influx of funds for community population health projects.

    The fact that Mercy will close its hearing centers -- one on its Springfield campus and one in Agawam -- at year's end as part of what it called a "reorganization" and "transition in our workforce" speaks at a grassroots level to the change that continues for both providers and consumers of the health care industry. 

    Lower reimbursement rates from Medicaid and Medicare, the moved toward bundled payments rather than fee-for service, the rise in competing ambulatory care centers can all impact operating margins and revenue for hospitals.

    The Mercy Hearing Center was cited by Sister Kathleen Popko, president of the Sisters of Providence of Holyoke, as providing needed services in the area when it opened a number of years ago.

    It hired audiologists to provide an array of services to both children and adults, from diagnostic hearing tests in on-site sound booths to counseling on best options for improved hearing as well as fitting and programming hearing aids selected.

    Today, consumers have many outlets outside hospital settings when in need of such supports as hearing aids. 

    Mark Fulco, who was named Mercy president in 2017, told staff in a letter sent Wednesday about "reduction of positions." 

    A subsequent statement by Mercy's media specialist, Mary Orr, said the hearing center would close and that a "limited number of positions throughout the hospital will also be impacted" by what she termed "actions to ensure the sustainability of our health ministry."

    "These actions involve both a reorganization of certain departments and a transition in our workforce. This reorganization avoids any reduction in direct caregivers at the bedside," Orr said. "These changes will allow us to continue providing exceptional patient care, delivered with highest quality, and in a manner that honors our commitment to steward the resources entrusted to us."

    In July, Providence Behavioral Hospital in Holyoke, one of Mercy Medical Center's affiliates, announced the elimination of an unspecified number of full- and part-time jobs in what was said to be a restructuring to "align the size and structure of the workforce with current services."

    Last month, Mercy renamed its affiliated medical practices, such as RiverBend, Trinity Health Of New England Medical Group.

    The medical group includes more than 740 integrated surgical, specialty and primary care providers with 95 practice locations in Connecticut and Greater Springfield.

    The website of Trinity Health Of New England proclaims "we are just beginning our story."

    It describes its "regional health ministry" as a "strategic partnership" that also now includes three other Connecticut facilities -- Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Hospital in Hartford, Johnson Memorial Hospital in Stafford Springs and Saint Mary's Hospital in Waterbury.

    It notes Trinity Health Of New England "hospitals, walk-in clinics, medical offices, specialized facilities, affiliated institutions, and foundations serve a population of nearly three million people and includes 13,000 colleagues."

    Mercy's other affiliates include Weldon Rehabilitation Hospital on the campus of Mercy; Brightside for Families and Children, an outpatient service offering counseling and family support programs; two outpatient substance abuse treatment centers; and Mercy Continuing Care Network, which includes skilled nursing facilities, residential care facilities, an adult day health program, Mercy Homecare, Mercy Hospice and Mercy Life, a care program for the elderly.


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    The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has created the Steering Committee on Lawyer Well-Being to explore ways to reduce stress on lawyers.

    SPRINGFIELD -- The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has created a steering committee to explore ways to reduce stress on lawyers, help restore work-life balance, increase professional satisfaction and better support those who are confronting mental health and substance use disorders.

    Among the members is Springfield lawyer and past president of the Hampden County Bar Association Travaun Bailey.

    The justices of the court Friday named the members of the Steering Committee on Lawyer Well-Being.

    In his annual State of the Judiciary address in the John Adams Courthouse on Wednesday, Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants spoke of the importance of lawyer well-being.

    A press release from the SJC said the Report of the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being in August 2017 found that many attorneys are struggling with serious health issues that are exacerbated, if not caused, by the way that law is practiced today, including increased financial pressures and client and work expectations. 

    A study done two years ago of nearly 13,000 practicing lawyers found that between 21 percent and 36 percent qualified as problem drinkers and approximately 28 percent were struggling with some level of depression, 19 percent with anxiety and 23 percent with stress, the SJC press release said.

    The steering committee is coordinated by retired SJC Justice Margot Botsford, who served as an associate justice from 2007 to 2017.

    Committee members represent different areas of the legal community, including judges, bar regulators, legal employers and representatives from law schools, bar associations and the lawyer assistance program.

    "They will be responsible for consulting with a diverse, representative group in their respective areas of practice or work, including lawyers in recovery, to learn what is currently being done to support lawyer well-being, to explore best practices, and to consider whether structural changes need to be made to better foster the health of the profession," the press release says.

    "I am confident that the committee members will work together and with the legal community to develop some practical solutions to the serious issues confronting the profession," Botsford said.

    The other members of the committee are: Gabrielle R. Wolohojian, state Appeals Court judge; Denise I. Murphy, Massachusetts Bar Association vice president; Richard Page, Boston Bar Association executive director; Marilyn J. Wellington, Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners executive director; Constance Vecchione, Office of the Bar Counsel; Joseph Berman, Board of Bar Overseers general counsel; and David P. Rosenblatt of Burns & Levinson.

    Also: Anna Levine, Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers executive director; First Assistant Attorney General Mary Strother; Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney David A. Deakin; Pasqua Scibelli, Committee for Public Counsel Services staff lawyer for appeals; Christine Hughes, Emerson College vice president and general counsel; Geraldine M. Muir,  Boston University School of Law associate dean of student affairs; and Lyonel Jean-Pierre Jr., Harvard Legal Aid Bureau clinical instructor. 


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    Scenes for the film, starring Emma Watson, Meryl Streep, Bob Odenkirk, James Norton and Laura Dern, are also set to be filmed in Harvard on Nov. 2 and 5.

    Men and women donning long dresses and top hats hitched their horse-drawn carts in the center of Harvard Friday as the town transformed into Civil War-era New England for the filming of Columbia Pictures "Little Women."

    Scenes for the film, starring Emma Watson, Meryl Streep, Bob Odenkirk, James Norton and Laura Dern, are also set to be filmed in Harvard on Nov. 2 and 5. 

    Kim L'Ecuyer, who lives next to the Town Hall, walked down the street Friday morning to watch scenes being filmed. Crews have created a makeshift village in the center of town, transforming the Harvard General Store into the Concord General Store and hanging a "Union Army Soldiers' Fund" banner on a neighboring building.

    "Not much happens in Harvard, so this is very exciting," L'Ecuyer said. "The movie people have been so nice and friendly."

    The film is based on the classic novel by Louisa May Alcott, which centers around four sisters living with their mother in New England while their father serves as a chaplain in the Civil War. 

    L'Ecuyer said she thought Streep may be on set this week, but later heard the prospects of that happening are unlikely. 

    "We're holding out hope that Laura Dern might be here because she was having dinner in Concord the other night," she said.

    During the next round of filming, L'Ecuyer said crews are set to bring in a rain machine for a scene outside of Town Hall. 

    Town Hall will be closed Nov. 5, but it will be open until 7 p.m. on Nov. 1 to accept tax payments and for early voting.

    Harvard resident Diane Bishop also stopped by to watch the filming Friday. Her daughter, Kaia, was cast as an extra in the film and shot a scene in Stoughton two weeks ago. 

    Bishop said her daughter, who wants to go to film school, met director Greta Gerwig. 

    Several streets have been detoured for filming. A road map posted by the town shows routes that are closed. 

    Down the street, temporary horse stables were also set up in a field near Hildreth Elementary School. 

    May Lorente, who has lived in town for nearly two decades, said although filming has caused minor inconveniences, it's been "really cool" to watch.

    "I'm excited for the town, I think it's great," she said. 


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    Most limousine companies in Massachusetts have safe records.

    After a limousine crash killed 20 people in New York state earlier this month, investigators flagged problems with the vehicle and the qualifications of the person behind the wheel.

    In Massachusetts, meanwhile, there are a number of licensing and inspection requirements in place to ensure limos and their drivers are as safe as possible. Few companies in the state have been cited for violations.

    It is unclear how many limousine companies operate in Massachusetts. The New England Livery Association has 83 members but not all companies join, said Executive Director Rick Szilagyi. He said there are likely 1,000 limousine companies in the state.

    "The Department of Public Utilities regularly inspects Massachusetts livery companies' operations, drivers, and vehicles, and all livery vehicles are also required to be inspected annually by a MassDOT-licensed inspection station," said Katie Gronendyke, a spokeswoman for the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. "The Department is committed to ensuring the safe operation of livery companies across the Commonwealth in compliance with all state and federal regulations."

    Szilagyi said most companies "go above and beyond" what's required with things like carrying additional insurance. He said the state does spot checks and companies can be cited for things like having a fire extinguisher that's out of date by a day.

    A random look at records for dozens of Massachusetts limousine services on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website found few companies under review. None listed any crashes, and most companies had a satisfactory safety record. A few were listed as conditional -- meaning that the carrier was out of compliance with one or more safety requirements.

    Here's a sampling of violations found earlier this month, based on a federal database search and information from a state DPU spokeswoman:

    • Concierge Limousine Co., of Stoughton, has a "not authorized" status because the carrier's insurance certificate has expired. The carrier has been notified to update the insurance with both that agency and the DPU.
    • A-Executive Limo, of Billerica, has a conditional rating but can continue to operate. That company was cited for six violations including four for having either missing, discharged or unsecured fire extinguishers, one for an inoperative or defective hazard warning lamp and another for insufficient warning devices.
    • A Formal Affair, of Marshfield, does not have federal interstate operating authority, but has a DPU charter certificate to operate intrastate.
    • Limo D'Skilo, of Dedham, is not authorized to operate interstate as it is under an out-of-service order by the federal government, and does not have a charter certificate from the DPU.

    Livery companies and drivers must have different types of licenses and permits depending on the number of occupants their vehicles can carry.

    "Passenger for hire" drivers carrying up to 14 passengers need a DPU-issued restricted motor bus certificate, which requires a road test, according to the DPU website. The driver is also required to have a current physical.

    Drivers transporting more than 14 passengers must have a commercial driver's license.

    Any livery company using a vehicle designed to transport nine or more passengers must have a DPU-issued intrastate charter certificate.

    All companies offering passenger for hire transportation must report to DPU any accident resulting in loss of life, serious personal injury or considerable property damage.

    Szilagyi said while attention falls to limousines after a crash like the one in New York, there's not as much scrutiny when it comes to ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft.

    In 2016, a law was passed to address those services in Massachusetts. The new law sets up a two-tiered background check system, one completed by the company and another by the DPU. Drivers would have to get an inspection of their vehicles, through a mechanism determined by state officials and law enforcement.

    The companies would be required to get insurance coverage for their drivers. Any time they are carrying a passenger, drivers must have at least $1 million in liability coverage.

    The driver in the deadly Oct. 6 limousine crash in Schoharie, New York, was improperly licensed and the vehicle failed an inspection the previous month, authorities have said.

    Federal safety investigators have been unable to conduct a full examination of the limousine because of a criminal case against the limo company's operator, the Associated Press reported.

    Nauman Hussain of Prestige Limousine is charged with criminally negligent homicide. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge and has declined to comment on the crash.

    Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer has called on the National Transportation Safety Board to create stricter safety regulations around limousines, according to CBS News.

    Expo preview

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    The line was shut off 90 minutes after the leak was noticed. Watch video

    This is an update of a story posted at 11:25 a.m.

    SPRINGFIELD - The flow of natural gas to a ruptured main at the end of Marble Street in the South End has been turned off, allowing residents of a dozen building who had been evacuated earlier to return to their homes.

    The leak, reported at just after 11 a.m., resulted in the evacuation of several homes in the area of Marble Street and Dwight Street Extension for more than 90 minutes Friday morning.

    At around 12:30 p.m., Columbia crews were able to locate and shut off the section of main where the leak was coming from.

    Andrea Luppi, spokeswoman for Columbia Gas, said the line is shut off until repairs can be made.

    No homes in the surrounding area lost service because the rupture was at the end of a line.

    "They still have access to heat, to cook and their appliances," she said.

    According to Dennis Leger, aide to Fire Commissioner Bernard Calvi, the leak was the result of a construction crew accidentally ripping through the underground line with a piece of heavy equipment.

    The spot of the leak was at the very end of Marble Street past the South End Community Center. Two apartment buildings there were razed by the city in the summer, and work is still ongoing at the site. 

    Leger said when the workers hit the main, gas immediately began venting out. The left the site and called for help.

    Several houses adjacent to the site and the South End Community Center were evacuated as a precaution. Firefighters with detection equipment could be seen walking through the neighborhood taking readings from manholes.

    At times, the amount of gas in the air was powerful enough to be detected by smell some 200 yards away.


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    The U.S. Bureau of Prisons online inmate log lists the 89-year-old Bulger as an inmate at the Oklahoma City Federal Transfer Center but it doesn't say when he arrived there.

    OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Boston gangster James "Whitey" Bulger has been moved from a federal prison in Florida to a transfer facility in Oklahoma City.

    The U.S. Bureau of Prisons online inmate log lists the 89-year-old Bulger as an inmate at the Oklahoma City Federal Transfer Center but it doesn't say when he arrived there. The agency on Friday declined to say why Bulger is being moved or where he will be taken.

    Defense attorney J.W. Carney Jr., who represented Bulger, also declined to comment.

     

    Federal inmates stay at the Oklahoma City facility on a short-term basis while in the process of being moved to other prisons. Inmates can be transferred from one facility to another for a variety of reasons, including medical needs, security issues and bed space. A Bureau of Prisons handbook for inmates at the Oklahoma City facility says the average length of stay is four to six weeks.

    Bulger is serving a life sentence after being convicted in 2013 of participating in 11 murders and related crimes. Among the slayings linked to Bulger was that of Roger Wheeler, who was gunned down outside his country club in Tulsa in 1981.

    Bulger was a fugitive for 16 years and was arrested in 2011 in California.


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    Around 2 p.m. on Oct. 12, Bognhossian allegedly told the victim, "take your last breath," Ryan's office said.

     

    A 53-year-old Belmont woman is accused of trying to kill a dementia patient in his 80s by suffocating him with a pillow at a Cambridge hospital, officials said.

    The victim was admitted to the hospital earlier this month as a result of complications from dementia, according to the office of Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan.

    Tania Boghossian was staying with the victim during his hospital stay, Ryan's office said in a statement released Friday. The victim and Bognhossian are known to one another.

    A "sitter" was assigned by the hospital to watch the victim, the statement said.

    Around 2 p.m. on Oct. 12, the sitter allegedly heard Bognhossian tell the victim, "take your last breath," Ryan's office said. 

    Bognhossian and the victim were behind a curtain at the time.

    The sitter drew the curtain and allegedly saw Bognhossian holding a pillow over the victim's face, the statement said. 

    Bognhossian was removed from the premises by hospital security, the district attorney's office said.

    Cambridge police were contacted by Ryan's office on Oct. 18 regarding the incident. After a police investigation, a warrant was issued for Bognhossian's arrest.

    Bognhossian was arraigned Monday in Cambridge District Court on one count of attempted murder, Ryan's office said. She was ordered held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing.

    At the dangerousness hearing on Wednesday, Bognhossian was ordered held without bail again by Judge Dominic Paratore.

    Bognhossian is scheduled to return to court Nov. 15 and has also been ordered to undero a mental health evaluation.


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    Nghia Le is being held at the Franklin County House of Correction pending his arraignment next week.

    The New Hampshire man accused of stabbing a Massachusetts State Trooper last week in New Salem was released from the hospital where he had been treated for a gunshot injury, according to a spokesman for Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan.

    Nhhia V. Le, 18, of Manchester, New Hampshire, is now in the custody of the Franklin County Sheriff's Department, said DA spokeswoman Mary Carey.

    He is being held at the Franklin County House of Correction pending his arraignment, which is planned for sometime next week, she said.

    He is facing several charges including assault with intent to murder, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery on a police officer, armed carjacking, and multiple motor vehicle offenses.

    Le is charged with leading police on a pursuit from the Vermont line along Route 202 into New Salem. When the pursuit ended after Le crashed his car, he fought with an unnamed trooper who was attempting to arrest him.

    State police say at some point in the struggle, Le pulled out a knife and began stabbing the trooper in the neck and chest.

    Another trooper shot Le to make him stop.

    The 47-year-old trooper suffered multiple stab wounds and required surgery at UMass Medical Center in Worcester. At last report earlier in the week, the trooper was still hospitalized but he was said to be in stable condition and in good spirits.

    Le also required surgery at UMass Medical. The nature of his gunshot wound was not released.

    According to state police, Le had been involved in a car accident earlier in the day. He fled that scene by pulling a driver out of a car, jumping in and driving off.

    The man then cut through Vermont on Interstate 91 south and drove into Massachusetts.


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    Despite risks posed by tariffs and other uncertainty overseas, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, and the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston said Friday that the United States' economic outlook is strong.

    DALTON -- Despite risks posed by tariffs and other uncertainty overseas, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, and the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston said Friday that the United States' economic outlook is strong.

    Neal joined Federal Reserve Bank of Boston President and CEO Eric Rosengren in briefing Berkshire County business leaders and elected officials on U.S. monetary and fiscal policy during a 1Berkshire event at Wahconah Country Club in Dalton. 

    The congressman, who is the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, said he felt it was important to host a discussion on the economy amid the current focus on federal interest rate hikes, and how the Trump administration's trade, tax and foreign policies could impact markets.

    "Congress does fiscal policy and the Fed does monetary policy, but there's more analysis of what Congress does than there is about monetary policy, but you can see it's complicated and the amount of information that goes into the decision-making is profound," he said in an interview. "The interest rates are a very important consideration in American economic life ... I think just having (Rosengren) come out here and give an economic forecast is really good."

    Rosengren offered insight into how the Federal Reserve decides when to raise or lower interest rates, noting that they are tied to inflation among other economic indicators. 

    He also discussed how the Federal Reserve calculates its economic forecasts, weighs labor market data and analyzes risks posed by fiscal policies in the United States and other countries.

    Noting that the United States has "had two quarters of really strong growth," Ronsengren said the Federal Reserve's recent move to raise interest rates a quarter-point reflected that "good news."

    "You can have too much good news, that's why we want to make sure that we normalize interest rates at a time when the economy is doing really well," he said, adding that the Fed has been raising rates slowly in order to ensure continued growth. 

    Rosengren, however, stressed that "there are clear risks for the forecast," including the Trump administration's trade dispute with China, Brexit negotiations and volatility in emerging markets, like Turkey and Argentina. 

    China responds to President Trump, raises tariffs on $60B of US goods

    He, for example, offered that while current tariffs imposed on Chinese goods have had little impact on the costs of consumer goods, those set to take effect in January could hurt Americans' wallets. 

    "We're definitely monitoring those risks, but just because it's a risk you don't start reacting on monetary policy. You want to take your best guess as to what's going to happen in the economy and set rates appropriately. ... One thing you should remember is economists can't predict with any certainty what's going to happen," Rosengren said. 

    Neal noted that upcoming talks between President Donald Trump and Chinese officials could mitigate some of those risks. 

    "Maybe there will be a path that can be embraced," he said. "We'll know a lot more after that meeting."

    The congressman further argued that while some people may think economic forecasting "ought to be a lot easier than it is," it's hard to understand the impacts of various policies in real time.

    "The example I would use, is nobody, I think, at the time thought that the Iraq War would go on for 16 years of occupation. I think those are the kinds of considerations you're not able to make projections on," he said.

    The Federal Open Market Committee announced in late September that it had decided to raise the target range for the federal funds rate to 2 to 2.25 percent -- up from a previous range of 1.75 to 2 percent. Interest rates on credit cards, mortgages and small-business loans usually also rise when the bank boosts the federal funds rate.


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    Thinking about health care beyond the doctor's office and offering smaller buses to reach rural residents were among suggestions offered to address poverty and inequality raised in a recent statewide report. Watch video

    SPRINGFIELD - Thinking about health care beyond the doctor's office, offering smaller buses to reach rural residents and stepping out of silos to work collaboratively across the Pioneer Valley were some of the suggestions offered to address poverty and inequality raised in a recent statewide report. 

    About 100 people from human service agencies, education, health care and political realms gathered to hear Nancy Wagman, Kids Count Director of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, present findings from her report "Obstacles on the Road to Opportunity: Finding a Way Forward Together."

    The report from the Boston-based MassBudget, which looked at poverty, need and opportunity, was issued in May.

    Since then, the Massachusetts Association for Community Action has held forums to present the data and talk about solutions in Boston, Quincy, Lawrence and Worcester, said Lisa Clay, communications and member services manager for the association.

    The organization will hold one more forum in the Berkshires in January and issue a follow-up report.

    Clay said there have been improvements over the years that helped address issues that affect the poor, such as the raise in the minimum wage. After the report's release, the effort will focus on further advancements.

    Wagman opened the program at the Community Foundation in Springfield by providing a historical overview of poverty, saying income for all but the top 1 percent has remained stagnant since 1985.

    "Poverty is a story about low wage work," she said. 

    A laborer earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 has an annual salary of $14,500. In Massachusetts, that laborer, even while earning the state minimum $11 an hour, still earns just $22,000.

    The poverty level for a family of four is $24,900. 

    She talked about programs that have helped improve the lives of some such as fuel assistance, housing assistance and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which have kept 920,000 out of poverty in Massachusetts, including 200,000 children.

    But she said the future is uncertain.

    "What happens in Washington really matters," she said. With the federal government facing a deficit, Congress can impose tax hikes, repeal the recent federal tax cuts or cut spending. And that could impact social service spending in the state, Wagman said.

    Federal revenue comprises 26 percent of the state budget -- $11 billion a year, according to the report. Cuts in Washington would mean cuts to programs here, she said.

    To help bring people out of poverty, Wagman said, there needs to be an investment in early childhood education and improvements in public education. 

    Claire Higgins, executive director of Community Action Pioneer Valley, echoed the need for early childhood funding. She her organization has to close classrooms because "teachers are so paid so little."

    Frank Robinson, vice president of public health and community relations at Baystate Health, who served on a panel to address need, repeatedly talked about changing the funding for health care to look at issues such as housing, transportation and the environment because those are factors in public health.

    State Rep. Carlos Vega, D-Holyoke, another panelist, said he wasn't surprised by the report. "It validated what we already knew," he said.

    He said needs such as good jobs and transportation are the same in both urban and rural areas.

    Linda Dunlavy, executive director of the Franklin Council of Governments, said the population in Franklin and Berkshire counties is dropping, which translates to less government aid. "(As our) poverty levels are increasing, the aid we've been receiving in Franklin County has been going down," she said.

    Dunlavy said the county needs help when it comes to transportation because public transit is unavailable to many. She suggested smaller buses to make trips to rural communities and funding assistance to help poor people repair their cars. 

    Obstacles on the Road to Opportunity 1 by ledermand on Scribd


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    Westfield stormwater fees could go up and a new city treasurer sought

    WESTFIELD - Saying unfunded stormwater mandates cost the city much more than related fees bring in, Department of Public Works Director David Billips presented a new plan for keeping up with costs.

    At a meeting Thursday of the City Council, Billips outlined Westfield's stormwater needs, costs and the potential fee structure.

    Currently, a flat residential fee of $5 is charged per quarter, with the annual fee being $20. Billips proposed a potential new fee of $0.014 per square foot of impervious cover, or a flat fee of $13.59 quarterly for the average home.

    The new fee could generate more than $350,000 in revenue compared with the current $200,000 generated by residential fees, he said.

    A new commercial fee of $0.014 per square foot of impervious coverage could generate $642,000 annually.

    Costs include an annual operations and maintenance, at $586,931, drainage-related improvements, estimated at $3.4 million, Westfield River levee maintenance, at $11 million, and equipment, at $340,000.

    Billips said the infrastructure needs are going to get worse and more expensive if not addressed.

    "You have to fix these systems," he said. "They've been neglected for too long."

    The fees alone will not cover all costs and bonding is still necessary, but the revenue from higher fees will help support a bond and other needs, he said.

    Councilors asked Billips questions about plans for road work and discussed issues throughout the city, including on the rail trail. They said Billips should create a detailed plan that could be shared with the council and the public showing exactly what is needed, why and what it will cost.

    "I can put together a comprehensive plan," he said.

    The Legislative and Ordinance Committee will continue discussing the stormwater fees at its next meeting.

    Treasurer resigns

    Also Thursday, the City Council accepted the resignation of Treasurer Meghan Kane. The reason for her resignation was not stated during the meeting.

    Councilor Cindy Harris, chairwoman of the personnel action committee, read a recommendation from the city legal department on the procedure for creating a screening committee to narrow down candidates for the position to recommend to the full council.

    The recommendation calls for a committee made up of representatives from the city law, personnel and audit departments, outside professionals and members of the City Council if they choose.

    Councilor Dave Flaherty amended the recommendation to include members of the finance, long-range finance overview and personnel action committees and a past city treasurer. He also made an amendment to have the legal department attend the screening committee meetings but serve in an advisory position and respond to any questions from the committee.

    "I see no need for (the law department) to be involved," said Flaherty.

    Harris said she did not favor any amendments and would vote against any committee other than what was recommended from the law department.

    The council voted 7-6 for Flaherty's amendment. Voting for Flaherty's amendment were councilors Mary Ann Babinski, Robert A. Paul Sr., Matt Emmershy, Nicholas J. Morganelli Jr., Andrew K. Surprise, Dan Allie and Flaherty.

    Voting against the amended recommendation were councilors Brent B. Bean II, Ralph J. Figy, Michael Burns, Cindy Harris, John Beltrandi and William Onyski.


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    The last day of work for laid-off Liberty Mutual employees in Springfield will be Nov. 16.

    SPRINGFIELD -- Liberty Mutual Friday laid off about 25 employees at its 1 Federal St. office as work is outsourced to "an external partner," a spokesman said.

    "These changes will impact approximately 25 employees in Springfield who currently perform administrative tasks for field legal offices. These employees will have the opportunity to pursue other job openings at Liberty Mutual, or we will support each of them with outplacement assistance," spokesman Glenn Greenberg said in an email. (see full statement below)

    "The last day of employment for impacted employees who do not pursue or secure other opportunities with the company will be Nov. 16," he said.

    The laid off employees were informed about termination of insurance benefits and options, he said.

    The change in how some administrative work is done comes as Liberty Mutual enters "a strategic partnership with an external partner," he said.

    The layoffs don't affect 340 other employees in the office who work in a call center for auto and home insurance customers, he said.

    Employees at the 1 Federal St. office declined to comment Friday.

    The Liberty Mutual office is a tenant in the Springfield Technology Park across the street from Springfield Technical Community College.

    Here is the statement about the layoffs from Liberty Mutual spokesman Glenn Greenberg:

    "We continually explore opportunities to enhance our business and service models to gain efficiencies that will make Liberty Mutual more competitive to meet the ever-changing needs of our customers.  Sometimes this results in growth in some areas of our operations, while other areas may experience a reduction in necessary resources.  Beginning in November, we are entering into a strategic partnership with an external partner to process administrative work that is currently managed in a centralized model within the legal operation.  These changes will impact approximately 25 employees in Springfield who currently perform administrative tasks for field legal offices.  These employees will have the opportunity to pursue other job openings at Liberty Mutual, or we will support each of them with outplacement assistance.  This action does not impact any of the other approximately 340 Liberty Mutual employees in our Springfield office, the majority (of whom) work in a service call center assisting our auto and home insurance customers."

    "As for your question about health benefits, each impacted employee was provided with information about the termination of their benefits after their final day of employment and their options."


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