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    The Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce held its 58th Annual Meeting & Awards Dinner at Tekoa Country Club Wednesday with more than 125 chamber members and guests in attendance.

    WESTFIELD - The Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce held its 58th Annual Meeting & Awards Dinner at Tekoa Country Club Wednesday with more than 125 chamber members and guests in attendance.

    The three-hour event featured a social-hour, a full buffet-style dinner and an awards ceremony.

    This year, the three awards went to Business of the Year - Armbrook Village, the Non-Profit of the Year - The Westfield Athenaeum, and the Lifetime Achievement Award went to Ann Lentini, of Domus, Inc.

    The agenda included a cocktail/social hour, dinner, a formal welcome and the annual meeting, a sponsorship thank you, the year in review, a Share the Love table, and the awards presentation.

    The Platinum Event Sponsor was Westfield Bank and Silver Sponsorship included Tighe & Bond with the Bronze Sponsorship of Comcast, Health New England, Commercial Distributing, MedExpress, MBK, and the Shortstop Bar & Grill.

    The Small Business Sponsor included ReStore and the Signature Cocktail Sponsors were, Armbrook Village, JDog Junk Removal & Hauling, and The Polish National Credit Union.

    The Coffee and Dessert Sponsorship was compliments of the Governor's Center, Liptak Emergency Water Removal and Vivid Hair Salon & Spa.


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    The club has reportedly been offered $2.7 million to host a meter station for the pipeline firm. Watch video

    Longmeadow Country Club should communicate about their apparent plan to host a natural gas meter station in exchange for $2.7 million from Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., local residents said at a public forum Wednesday night. 

    "The country club owes us a community-wide discussion before any decision is made," said Michele Marantz, a leader with Longmeadow Pipeline Awareness Group, which organized the session. "This is a matter of great public importance."

    Around 50 people turned out to hear information assembled by the local group which opposes plans by Tennessee Gas Pipeline and Columbia Gas of Massachusetts to build new natural gas infrastructure in town. The plans by the two companies are part of a larger, regional expansion plan, which attendees also questioned.

    Three panelists at the event, all Longmeadow residents, opined that a meter station at the country club -- around a quarter mile from Wolf Swamp Elementary School -- would present unacceptable risks. They claimed that fumes from the station could make people sick, and that gas facilities sometimes vent toxins into the air.

    The panelists said natural gas infrastructure can fail, and referenced the Sept. 13 explosions and fires in the Merrimack Valley that federal investigators have linked to Columbia Gas.

    "This is a densely populated community, and that's a problem for a meter station," said Karen Tallman, a chemistry professor and member of the Longmeadow pipeline group.

    Andrew Berke, also a chemist, said natural gas contains toxic materials, including volatile organic compounds. "Leaks can be caused by routine wear and tear, improper maintenance, or over-pressurization," he said.

    Andrea Chasen, a longtime climate activist, said that natural gas is rich in methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and that its use will prevent Massachusetts from reaching its emissions reduction goals.

    A meter station would step down gas pressure from the interstate line to the local distribution system, and measure the flow. It would connect the Tennessee Gas Pipeline system with the Columbia Gas of Massachusetts system. Columbia wishes to sell more gas in the Pioneer Valley.

    People in the audience asked questions, and some strategized about how to stop the natural gas expansion plans. Marantz said the group will meet again on Dec. 13.

    On the same night, at around the same time, the Longmeadow Country Club on Shaker Road reportedly held a membership meeting to vote on the lucrative land deal with Tennessee.

    With $2.7 million from selling an easement on its property near Hazardville Road, the country club would install a new sprinkler system on its greens and fairways, according to an internal club memo procured by Marantz.

    "The document appeared outside my doorway," she said.

    Marantz provided a copy of the memo, in which the country club's board encouraged members to vote "yes" on the real estate deal.

    The memo said TGP has had a pipeline under the country club for more than 50 years with no incident, and runs meter stations in East Longmeadow and Monson without any problems.

    Marantz said that despite her anonymous source, club leaders have been unwilling to communicate with the public. Local homeowners in attendance at the meeting said they want to know what is going on, and were curious as to whether the country club approved the real estate transaction on Wednesday night.

    State Rep. Brian Ashe, D-Longmeadow, told the crowd that he is working with Sen. Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow, to support a better flow of information.

    "I don't think this is anything that needs to be rushed into," he said of the meter station plan at the golf course. Ashe said it's a "complex issue" because the infrastructure is proposed on private land where a pipeline easement has been in place since the 1950s.

    "There's money on the table for them. I get where they're coming from," said Ashe of the country club. "But you can't put money in front of peoples' health, peoples' lives, peoples' welfare, and the future of our town."

    Ashe said he and Lesser have been in touch with Matthew Beaton, Gov. Charlie Baker's energy and environment secretary, about holding a public hearing in Western Massachusetts on the expansion plans by Tennessee and Columbia.

    Tennessee plans new infrastructure in Agawam and Longmeadow to support Columbia Gas and its "Greater Springfield Reliability Project," which would increase the utility's footprint in the Pioneer Valley.

    While Tennessee Gas Pipeline has traversed the southern tier of Massachusetts for more than 50 years, the current expansion plans are new.

    More information will be revealed when Tennessee prepares a state-level environmental impact report for its Longmeadow and Agawam projects. The Agawam project, at least, will require a certificate from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

    For its part, Columbia Gas has yet to submit any formal environmental or siting application, but its Greater Springfield Reliability Project is roughly described in a five-year plan filed with state utility regulators.

    Neither Longmeadow Country Club manager Rod Clement nor board president Patrick O'Shea responded Monday to a reporter's request for information.

    "The Longmeadow Country Club has said they want to be a good neighbor," said Marantz. "Here's their opportunity."


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    The blaze at 32 Masonic St. was reported shortly after 6 a.m., Deputy Chief William Millin said. No injuries were reported.

    NORTHAMPTON -- Investigators are working to determine the cause of an early Thursday fire that displaced residents from a downtown building.

    The blaze at 32 Masonic St. was reported shortly after 6 a.m., Deputy Chief William Millin said. No injuries were reported.

    The three-story condominium-style building houses several businesses on the first floor and residential units on the second and third floor, Millin said.

    Millins said residents from multiple units were displaced. The Western Massachusetts Chapter of the American Red Cross has been summoned to the scene.

    Firefighters, as of 9:45 a.m., remained on scene, he said.

    The blaze caused fire damage on the second floor and smoke and water damage on the first and third floors.

    It is being investigated by the Northampton police and fire departments and troopers attached to the state Fire Marshal's office.

    Firefighters from Amherst and Easthampton provided mutual aid.

    This is a developing story. Additional information will be posted as soon as it is available.


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    Jose Diaz is the first officer to face charges in a saga of violence and investigations that has plagued the Springfield Police Department for over three years.

    The Massachusetts Attorney General's Office has filed nine criminal charges against Springfield Police Officer Jose Diaz in connection with an alleged 2015 beating of four men by off-duty Springfield officers after a barroom argument.

    Diaz, 54, was arraigned Thursday morning in Springfield District Court on four counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, one count of assault and battery with serious bodily injury and three counts of simple assault and battery.

    He is also accused of conspiring with "unnamed identified conspirators" to commit assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, suggesting that Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey's Office has other suspects in its crosshairs, according to court records. 

    Diaz is the first officer to face charges in a saga of violence, investigations, lawsuits and alleged cover-ups that has plagued the Springfield Police Department for three-and-a-half-years. He pleaded not guilty and was released on his personal recognizance with the condition that he stay away from the victims.

    "Officer Diaz maintains his innocence and is awaiting his day in court," his attorney Jeremy B. Powers said.

    The Attorney General's Office first put the case before a statewide grand jury in February, reviving the criminal case after Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni declined to press charges in early 2017.

    Gulluni said at the time that while Herman Paul Cumby, Jozelle Ligon, Jackie Ligon and Michael Cintron were victims of an assault, their description of their alleged attackers were too inconsistent to hold up in court.

    Rather than indict Diaz through the grand jury, the Attorney General's Office filed a criminal complaint in district court. A spokeswoman for Healey's office declined to comment, saying the charges are part of an active an ongoing criminal investigation by the AG's Office with assistance from the FBI.

    According to the criminal complaint, Diaz is accused of assaulting Cumby with his foot and assaulting the Ligon brothers and Cintron with a weapon. The type of weapon is known to prosecutors but was not publicly released, according to the criminal complaint.

    Diaz has been suspended without pay for five days and will be placed on administrative leave following once the suspension is complete, as is standard for officers charged in district court, Springfield Police Spokesman Ryan Walsh said in a statement.

    The suspension was put in place Thursday.

    "This stems from an off-duty incident that occurred nearly four years ago. The Springfield Police Department's Major Crimes Supervisors, Hampden District Attorney's Office and Department of Justice all reviewed this incident and no charges were brought forward at that time," Walsh wrote. "The Attorney General's Office has brought forward this complaint in Springfield District Court, but their investigation is ongoing so we cannot discuss this or any other aspect of their investigation at this time." 

    Since the altercation outside Nathan Bill's Bar and Restaurant, a picture of what happened the night of April 7, 2015 has come into gradual focus, through media interviews with the alleged victims, internal police investigations obtained by MassLive and Gulluni's public report released after his office declined to press charges.

    The DA's report found that the men were getting drinks at Nathan Bill's when an argument began between Jozelle Ligon and a group of off-duty officers at the bar.

    Cumby and Ligon have said that Jozelle was whistling at a bartender for a drink, but that Officer Daniel Billingsley accused him of whistling at Officer Melissa Rodriguez, his then-girlfriend. Billingsley and Rodriguez were at the bar with fellow officers Christian Cicero, Anthony Cicero and Igor Basovskiy, according to the department's Internal Investigations Unit report.

    After a verbal argument, which Cumby and Jackie Ligon said they attempted to defuse, Billingsley allegedly told staff that the men were not welcome in the bar. At that point, the dispute remained tense but peaceful. Uniformed police officers responded to the bar but made no arrests.

    Cumby and his group left the bar, where they separated, with Cumby walking down the street while speaking to his girlfriend on the phone and the Ligons and Cintron waiting in the parking lot of a nearby store for Cumby to return and drive them home, according to interviews with the alleged victims.

    Cumby, who has said he was afraid he would be targeted and pulled over if he drove away while the off-duty officers were still at the bar, reunited with the other men around 2 a.m. He saw a crowd of 10 to 15 men bearing down on them, he said.

    Leading the way was Billingsley, according to a lawsuit that Cumby settled with the city last month for $775,000. Billingsley allegedly began yelling at the men and hit Jozelle. Jackie threw a punch in return, and Cumby - who has said he was trying to peacefully end the fight - was allegedly struck from behind  and knocked unconscious.

    When he awoke, uniformed officers and EMTs were on scene. Cumby, who had suffered serious injuries, was escorted back to the bar and drove away in his truck, according to statements officers made to internal investigators.

    Diaz's alleged role

    The exact circumstances of Diaz' alleged role in the fight have not been released by the AG's office. The Springfield District Court Clerks' Office said it could not release the full file on the case Thursday afternoon because sections had been impounded and the file was still in judge's chambers.

    But in the Springfield Police Department's internal investigation report, Diaz was singled out for his inconsistent account of the night in question.

    Officer Jeremy Rivas told internal investigator Sgt. Bill Andrew that he saw Diaz inside Nathan Bill's after Rivas responded to the scene of the fight and returned to the bar's parking lot, well after 2 a.m.

    "When we followed the last male to the bar I did notice Officer J. Diaz standing outside with [redacted] and one of the owners of the bar," Rivas wrote in his statement.

    But Diaz told Andrew that he left Nathan Bill's around 2 a.m. after helping the owner, an acquaintance of his, clean up the bar.

    When Andrew began to press Diaz for details, he appeared to lose track of the conversation, according to the report.

    "I asked Officer Diaz if he was present at the assault. Officer Diaz experienced difficulty understanding the question," Andrew wrote. "Officer Diaz states he didn't know what was going on."

    Andrew asked again with no coherent response, he wrote in the report. After the another of the question, Diaz said he was not there during the fight.

    "When we followed the last male to the bar I did notice Officer J. Diaz standing outside with [redacted] and one of the owners of the bar," Officer Jeremy Rivas wrote in his statement.

    Andrew then questioned Diaz about the discrepancy between his and Rivas' accounts of when he left the bar. Andrew asked where Diaz was before he arrived at Nathan Bill's, at which point Diaz ended the interview.

    "Officer Diaz stated that he should consult with an attorney," Andrew wrote. "I asked Officer Diaz if he wanted to assert his Fifth Amendment Rights. Officer Diaz stated that he did want to assert his Fifth Amendment Rights."

    Victims claimed cover-up

    In separate lawsuits filed by Cumby, the Ligon brothers and Cintron, the victims alleged that officers had worked to cover up the assault.

    The initial police report by Officer Darren Nguyen was brief, did not include any mention of the alleged presence of off-duty officers and described Cumby's injuries as "scrapes and cuts" when he was concussed and had a broken leg. It also described Cumby and his group as "uncooperative."

    But, according to Cumby's federal lawsuit, he did cooperate, giving a full description of what happened to Nguyen's partner Shavonne Lewis. Lewis did not author her own report and no reference to her interview with Cumby made it into Nguyen's account - an omission that Cumby alleges was part of a deliberate cover-up.

    The Ligons and Cintron's suit also claimed that the identification process used by investigators was designed to hamper the investigation. Investigators with the Springfield Police Department's Major Crimes Unit showed the victims thousands of photos, asking them to pick out their attackers from a massive gallery of men who matched their broad descriptions.

    A police source, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation, defended the photo array procedure to MassLive earlier this year. The source said it is common to generate large photo arrays in cases where the name of a suspect is not known.

    And while uniformed officers identified several specific off-duty officers as being present at the bar before the fight, investigators did not have that information when they first interviewed the victims, according to the source. By the time investigators took statements from the responding officers the array had already been shown to the victims, and running a second array could have legally tainted the identification and made it unusable in court, the source said.

    Twelve officers, including those allegedly involved in the fight and responding uniformed police, received disciplinary charges in the case but have still not yet had disciplinary hearings. The City of Springfield has said it intends to hold hearings and bring the cases before the city's Community Police Hearing Board.


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    U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat who is considering a 2020 presidential run, will outline her vision Thursday for a progressive foreign policy that aligns the country's actions abroad with those at home.

    U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat who is considering a 2020 presidential run, will outline her vision Thursday for a progressive foreign policy that aligns the country's actions abroad with those at home. 

    The senator will highlight her "progressive foreign policy that works for all Americans" during an afternoon event at American University in Washington D.C.

    Warren, a vocal critic of President Donald Trump's approach to foreign policy, is expected to discuss the work she believes is needed to strengthen American democracy.

    Watch the Massachusetts Democrats' remarks here:


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    Retired Massachusetts State Police Trooper Paul Cesan, of Southwick, has pleaded guilty to embezzlement charges.

    Retired Massachusetts State Police Trooper Paul Cesan pleaded guilty to embezzlement charges in federal court on Thursday in connection to the agency's widespread overtime abuse scandal.

    Cesan, 50, of Southwick, signed onto a plea deal struck between his attorney Terrence M. Dunphy and the U.S. Attorney's Office in which he admits guilt to the charge levied against him: that he embezzled from an agency receiving federal funds.

    Under the plea deal filed in federal court last month, prosecutors recommended a reduced prison term between 10 to 16 months, and the repayment of $29,287 for overtime hours Cesan never showed up for.

    The charge of embezzling money from an agency that receives federal funds can carry a maximum prison penalty of 10 years with supervised release for three years, and a fine of $250,000. 

    Cesan is scheduled to be sentenced on Tuesday, March 12 at 2:30 p.m. 

    In a courtroom within Moakley Courthouse in Boston on Thursday, Senior Judge Douglas P. Woodlock reminded Cesan that he is not bound to follow the recommendations laid out in the plea agreement.

    "I might go higher, I might go lower," Woodlock said, of the suggested prison terms.

    Woodlock asked Cesan a number of questions to ensure he understood what it meant to plead guilty. "You understand you're giving up very valuable constitutional rights?" Woodlock asked, to which Cesan responded, "Yes." 

    Cesan is one of 46 current and former state police troopers under investigation for the alleged widespread abuse of overtime pay within the agency.

    He retired last March from his role with Troop E, which patrolled the Mass. Turnpike and Boston tunnels. MassLive learned Cesan earned $172,797 in 2017, including $35,271 in overtime pay. In 2016, he earned $163,533, and that included $50,866 in overtime. 

    Mass. State Police Overtime Scandal: Here are 23 of the troopers we know were suspended or retired and how much they made

    An audit of the Accident and Injury Reduction Effort patrols shared by state police last spring found nearly two dozen state troopers were paid for phantom overtime shifts. Those numbers grew as separate investigations were conducted by state and federal authorities. 

    Cesan was first arrested on June 27. He and three others have pleaded guilty to charges tied to overtime abuse, including suspended Trooper Eric Chin, retired Trooper Gregory Raftery of Westwood, suspended Trooper Gary Herman of Chester, and suspended Trooper Kevin Sweeney of Braintree.

    Through the issuance of fake citations and falsified documents, Cesan and others made it appear as though they were working extra hours patrolling the Massachusetts Turnpike and elsewhere. 

    An audit of state trooper patrols in 2015 is believed to have uncovered more instances of overtime abuse.

    Audit of 2015 Massachusetts State Police overtime patrols reveals more possible abuses, sources say

     

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    Operation of the Youth Diversion Program was rated highly, except for a lack of statistical data.

    NORTHAMPTON -- An audit of a Northwestern District Attorney program for first-time juvenile offenders showed it is operating the way it is supposed to, except for when it comes to the collecting and analyzing data, according to state Auditor Suzanne Bump.

    The audit on the DA's Juvenile Diversion Program, issued Thursday, found it is effective when it comes to assessing needs, defining expectations, and monitoring progress of those enrolled.

    The one shortcoming is the DA's office does not collect any statistical data that could be used for evaluation.

    "As a result, the (Northwestern District Attorney's Office) is limited in its ability to measure the success of the program and determining whether any changes to it are necessary," the audit notes.

    Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan on Thursday afternoon issued a statement that recognized the shortcoming, and promised that changes would be made to the auditor's satisfaction.

    The Juvenile Diversion Program is a statewide initiative that works with first-time offenders between the ages of 7 and 18 who have been arrested for minor, non-violent crimes. The program's goal is to work with the juveniles and divert them away from committing new crimes.

    It is run at the county level by the various district attorneys.

    According to the audit, the problem with not tracking data is it limits the ability of the DA to see whether it is working.

    On the whole, it found that 83 percent of young offenders who are enrolled in the diversion program successfully complete its requirements. Requirements include attending counseling and educational programs, making restitution and performing community service. Those who successfully complete the program have the charges against them dismissed.

    Sullivan said he considers the audit to be positive overall.

    "And we welcome guidance from the state auditor on how we can strengthen our data collection to do even better," he said.

    Bump's office has reviewed diversion programs in other counties. The audit for the Hampden County program found a similar fault with data collection.

    The audit of the Northwestern DA's office was conducted based on records from January 2015 through Dec. 31, 2017.

    It was completed prior to the passage in August of the Criminal Justice Reform Act of 2018, which requires, among other things, that the state adopt a standardized system of data collection for youthful offenders.

    Massachusetts auditor's report - Northwestern District Attorneys Office (002) by by Patrick Johnson on Scribd

    The full statement from Sullivan is as follows:
    NWDA Welcomes Auditor's Findings on Enhancing Data Collection
    Using findings in a recent audit by the Office of the State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump, the Northwestern District Attorney's Office is set to expand data collection by its Juvenile Justice Unit to enhance its ability to track the success of its diversion program helping youth.
    The NWDA was among DA offices throughout the state that underwent an audit earlier this year.  Auditors conducted a performance audit of the NWDA, focusing on the Victim Witness Assistance Program and the Juvenile Justice Unit's Juvenile Diversion Program (JDP) for the period January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2017.
    Bump's office found that the NWDA "provides required assistance to participants in its Victim Witness Assistance Program and that in the Juvenile Unit's Juvenile Diversion Program, "83 percent of program participants successful completed all the program's requirements."
    "Our victim advocates do critical work in guiding victims of crime through the complex criminal justice system and providing the necessary supports and referrals for their case," Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan said.
    The Juvenile Diversion Program offers alternatives to traditional prosecution in juvenile courts on the premise that young people can be held accountable while being guided in a positive direction. Youths must agree to and comply with requirements including community service, restitution, counseling and educational programming and writing notes of apology. If they complete the program successfully, they can avoid having a criminal record.
    "We were pleased that the Auditor's exhaustive evaluation has shown our Juvenile Diversion Program to have been a resounding success.  Keeping youth out of the criminal justice and being accountable for their actions are the core elements of our success," Sullivan said.
    "And we welcome guidance from the State Auditor on how we can strengthen our data collection to do even better."
    In its report, the Auditor noted that the NWDA currently collects data to monitor juveniles' compliance with and completion of the Juvenile Diversion Program.
    "We look forward to using the Auditor's findings as we continue work with children, families and community partners for a safer community and positive youth development,"  Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Mulcahy, chief of the Juvenile Justice Unit, said.

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    Rey Flores, 38, of New York, was sentenced to five years probation after pleading guilty to possession of heroin with intent to distribute.

    SPRINGFIELD -- A New York man on Thursday was sentenced to five years probation after pleading guilty in a case involving a March 2017 traffic stop that yielded 25,000 packets of heroin.

    Rey Flores, 38, had been charged with trafficking heroin in the amount of over 200 grams. A conviction on that charge would result in a mandatory minimum sentence of 12 years in state prison.

    But under a plea agreement, Flores was allowed to plead guilty to a lesser charge of possession of heroin with intent to distribute. Hampden Superior Court Judge Karen Goodwin accepted the agreed recommendation from prosecution and defense and sentenced Flores to five years probation.

    Flores has been out on $10,000 bail while the case was pending.

    At the beginning of the plea session the lawyers asked to speak with the judge privately at sidebar.

    Goodwin was told that Flores will begin serving a three-year sentence in New York after Christmas. The five years probation from the Hampden Superior Court case will run concurrently with the New York sentence, extending beyond it for two years, Green said.

    The charges in the New York conviction were not stated in court.

    Green said the case involved "unique circumstances" but said no more in open court about the sentence recommendation. He did say both he and defense lawyer Lisa J. Pelosi believed it was a fair and reasonable sentence.

    Asked by Goodwin to lay out the facts of the case, Green said a state trooper stopped Flores when he didn't come to a full stop when getting off Interstate 291 in Springfield.

    Flores consented to a search of the car, Green said, where troopers found a "hide," or secret compartment, in the trunk. They found 25,000 individual baggies of heroin weighing about 600 grams. At the time of his arrest, state police said it was worth about $100,000.


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    Its future has been in doubt since BU sold the building on which the 3,600-square-foot sign sits to developers.

    Boston's mayor is vetoing landmark status for the city's iconic Citgo sign, but don't worry, it isn't going anywhere soon.

    Mayor Marty Walsh, the Venezuelan oil company, Boston University and developer Related Beal released a joint statement Thursday saying a deal has been reached to keep the sign at its current location "for years to come."

    Its future has been in doubt since BU sold the building on which the 3,600-square-foot sign sits to developers.

    The Boston Landmark Commission this month approved landmark status for the sign, meaning all changes had to be approved by the commission. But the mayor has veto power.

    Thursday's agreement eases the concerns of nearby property owners.

    The current sign, a red delta on a white background over the company's name in blue, dates to 1965.


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    U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, made her pitch Thursday for an American foreign policy "that works for all Americans, not just the rich and powerful."

    U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, made her pitch Thursday for an American foreign policy "that works for all Americans, not just the rich and powerful."

    Warren, a vocal critic of President Donald Trump's approach to global issues, laid out her vision for a foreign policy that aligns the United States' domestic and international policies in a wide-ranging address at American University in Washington D.C.

    The speech, billed as a "Conversation with Elizabeth Warren," added to speculation that the senator is gearing up for a 2020 White House run.

    Watch: Elizabeth Warren lays out foreign policy vision 'that works for all Americans'

    Arguing that Washington has shifted its focus in recent decades away from policies that benefit everyone to those that favor elites both at home and abroad, Warren called for a new international economic approach. 

    She offered that while capitalism and trade globalization have increased opportunity and helped lift people out of poverty, U.S. trade policy "has delivered one punch in the gut after another to workers and to unions that fight for them."

    "I believe capitalism has the capacity to deliver extraordinary benefits to American workers. But, time after time, our economic policies left these workers with the short end of the stick: stagnant incomes, decimated unions, lower labor standards, rising costs of living," she said. "Job training and transition assistance have proven powerless against the onslaught of offshoring."

    Warren added that "it's still not working today," pointing to the Trump administration's plan to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement as an example of such failures. 

    Elizabeth Warren says she'll vote against 'NAFTA 2.0,' but believes trade agreement should be renegotiated

    Casting the plan as "NAFTA 2.0," the senator argued that the proposed trilateral trade agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada won't end outsourcing, increase wages or create jobs. 

    She instead called for a new approach to trade that is based on the principle that "policies should not prioritize corporate profits over American paychecks."

    Beyond trade, Warren argued that U.S. economic policies should address the challenges of an interconnected world by focusing on: the transparency of the movement of assets across borders, privacy and data rights protections, and climate change solutions. 

    "We need to set new rules for global capitalism in the 21st Century: Rules that work for all Americans, not just wealthy elites. ... These are policies that are good for American workers, good for American investors and good for American businesses," she said, adding that "none of this requires sacrificing the interests of American businesses."

    The Democrat also offered that the United States must rein in "unsustainable and ill-advised military commitments and adapt our strategies overseas for the new challenges we'll face in this coming century."

    Warren called on the United States to "take an honest look at the full costs and risks of our military actions," offering that recent conflicts have resulted in staggering human and financial costs.

    Arguing that "these wars have not succeeded even on their own terms," the senator questioned "what actions make us truly safer?" She offered that it's time for the country to identify the programs that actually benefit American security and to reinvent in diplomacy.

    Warren proposed three core nuclear security principles: No new nuclear weapons, more international arms control, and no first use. 

    "We need to be smarter and faster than those who wish to do us harm," she said. "We need to tap our creativity to anticipate and evaluate both risks and responses. And we need to better weigh the long-term costs and benefits of military intervention. That's how we'll keep Americans safe."

    The senator added that "a foreign policy that works for all Americans must recognize that America can project power abroad only if we are strong and secure at home."

    Warren urged that the United States focus on investing in infrastructure, education and high-quality health care; protecting voter rights and access; and opposing "hateful rhetoric that fuels domestic terrorism of all kinds."

    The Democrat, who has repeatedly sparred with Trump on an array of issues, further accused the president of taking actions and showing instincts that "align with those of authoritarian regimes around the globe."

    Offering that "the time for holding back is over," Warren argued that Americans on both sides of the political aisle "must stand up to this type of behavior."

    "Americans must demonstrate to this president and to the world that we are not sliding toward autocracy--not without a fight," she said.

    Although she acknowledged that "none of this will be easy," the senator pledged to "persist" in her effort to make such changes.


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    Many black and Latino students are not graduating on time and are not continuing on to post-secondary education at the same rate as white students, the report shows.

    SPRINGFIELD -- For many years, community leaders and parents like Kim Rivera have been voicing concerns about the gap in academic achievement between black and Latino students and white students in the same public schools.

    Rivera, of Massachusetts Parents United, joined several parents and many educators Thursday at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, where a study conducted by The Massachusetts Education Equity Partnership was presented, revealing that her concerns are based on facts.

    MEEP was formed by advocacy organizations representing children and underrepresented groups. Its goal is to advocate for policies that help students who traditionally have not done well in school.

    The event, organized by the Urban League of Springfield, included several speakers explaining the results of a report released in September titled, "Number One for Some," which identified huge disparities statewide in educational milestones for black and Latino children, low-income children and English language learners.

    The data presented show that even in suburban communities, black and Latino students are not excelling academically at the same rate as their white peers.

    "Oftentimes in Massachusetts, we think of ourselves as a leader in education nationally, and it's true that there is a lot to celebrate in the state, but at the  same time we have to acknowledge what we haven't accomplished," said Natasha Ushomirsky, director of education equity policy for the Washington-based The Education Trust. "Underneath those really high rankings are big disparities in opportunity and achievement that affect so many low-income students and students of color across the state."

    Some of the highlights of the report show major gaps in literacy, math and graduation rates for students of color.

    "Less than a third of African-American and Latino fourth graders are proficient in reading. That's a far lower rate than for their white peers," Ushmorisky said. "We see similar gaps in eighth grade math when it comes to low-income students and their higher-income peers."

    Many black and Latino students are not graduating on time and are not continuing on to post-secondary education at the same rate as white students, the report shows.

    "Too few students who graduate are able to meet college readiness benchmarks," Ushmorisky said. "That begs the question, what are they being prepared for?"

    Rivera said Mass Parents United felt it was important to be one of the organizations supporting the study.

    "We decided to get involved in this study because we are an advocacy group that makes sure parents are involved and empowered and have the opportunity to have a voice when it comes to the education of their children," Rivera said.

    A former parent facilitator in the Springfield Public Schools, Rivera said the study puts on paper what parents have been saying for decades.

    "For many years, parents have voiced that they wanted something to happen when it came to the education of their children because they could see that their black and brown children were not being educated as well as they should be," she said.

    The report concluded that the disparities are the result of a lack of funding to school districts serving low-income students, limited access to early education  programs and even a lack of qualified teachers.

    The study revealed that black and Latino students in Massachusetts are three times more likely than white students to be assigned to a teacher who lacks content expertise in the subject that they teach.

    Felix Rivera has a son in the Springfield Public Schools and one in Westfield Public Schools. He said the differences in the education they are receiving is surprising to him.

    "The education in Springfield seems more scripted instead of being focused on the students themselves. Westfield has a one-on-one approach," said Rivera, who has a 10th grader in the Westfield schools and a sixth grader in the Springfield schools. "It seems like in Springfield, the focus is on moving them along and passing the MCAS, and that worries me."

    Parents hope the new study will bring about change in the way black and Latino students are educated.

    "I read the report  last night and I just thought, this is what everyone has been saying, but now what? Where do we go from here?" Felix Rivera said. "You can organize all you want, you can protest and have marches, but who is willing to step up and change the curriculum and try to implement a new educational system?"


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    Christopher E. Rock pleaded guilty to unarmed robbery, larceny of more than $1,200 and possession of heroin.

    PITTSFIELD -  A 36-year-old Lee man was sentenced to between 4 and 5 years in state prison after admitting to robbing Pittsfield bank two months ago.

    Christopher E. Rock pleaded guilty to unarmed robbery, larceny of more than $1,200 and possession of heroin. 

    Judge John Agostini ordered him to serve his sentence at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Ceder Junction in Walpole.

    Rock admitted to the Sept. 17 robbery of the Berkshire Bank branch on Elm Street.

    According to Pittsfield police, a man entered the bank and handed the teller a note demanding cash. No weapon was shown.

    He was arrested a short time later on Seymour Street.


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    U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, slammed President Donald Trump Thursday for casting Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation as a "witch hunt," adding that House Democrats plan to use their power in the new Congress to ensure "no one in this country is above the law."

    U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, slammed President Donald Trump Thursday for casting Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation as a "witch hunt," adding that House Democrats plan to use their power in the new Congress to ensure "no one in this country is above the law."

    McGovern, who is expected to take over as the next House Rules Committee chairman, condemned Trump for criticizing the probe and suggesting that no collusion occurred between his campaign and Russia.

    "If there was no collusion and no criminal activity, then why are so many people willing to risk so much to facilitate a cover-up? The president wants to paint the special counsel's investigation as a witch hunt, but the facts speak for themselves," he said in a statement.

    Read: Michael Cohen's plea agreement with Special Counsel Robert Mueller

    McGovern added that the new plea agreement between Mueller and Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen only increases the need for the special counsel's probe to continue.

    "Each passing day reveals a new reason why Special Counsel Mueller's investigation must be protected from interference by the president and his accomplices," he said. "The new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives will use all of our powers to conduct proper investigation and oversight, and we will ensure that no one in this country is above the law."

    Mueller's office announced Thursday that Cohen had entered his plea to U.S. District Court Judge Andrew L. Carter.

    Cohen, in his agreement, admitted to making false statements to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in August 2017 about a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to documents Mueller's office released Thursday.

    President Donald Trump says Michael Cohen lied to special counsel to reduce sentence

    After news broke of Cohen's plea agreement, Trump told reporters that his former lawyer was "lying" to get a reduced sentence. 

    The president added that while he "didn't do the project" in Russia, he was within in rights to run his business during his 2016 campaign.

    "He's trying to get a lesser prison sentence by making up a story," he said. "Here's the thing, even if he was right, it doesn't matter because I was allowed to do whatever I wanted during the campaign. I was running my business -- a lot of different things during the campaign."

    Trump further criticized Mueller's probe in a series of tweets. 

    "Did you ever see an investigation more in search of a crime? At the same time Mueller and the Angry Democrats aren't even looking at the atrocious, and perhaps subversive, crimes that were committed by Crooked Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. A total disgrace!" he posted. "When will this illegal Joseph McCarthy style Witch Hunt, one that has shattered so many innocent lives, ever end-or will it just go on forever? After wasting more than $40,000,000 (is that possible?), it has proven only one thing-there was NO Collusion with Russia. So Ridiculous!"


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    Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said he is troubled by the allegations made against Police Officer Jose Diaz in connection with the alleged attack of four men outside Nathan Bill's Bar and Restaurant in 2015.

    Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said he is troubled by the allegations made against Springfield Police Officer Jose Diaz in connection with the alleged attack of four men outside Nathan Bill's Bar and Restaurant in 2015. 

    Sarno issued a statement Thursday after the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office filed charges against Diaz in Springfield District Court, including four counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, one count of assault and battery with serious bodily injury and three counts of simple assault and battery.

    The statement from Sarno reads: 

    "Again this is very troubling, as our police officers are sworn to enforce our laws, not break them. Any officer that breaches the public trust should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law - 'let the chips fall where they may'. From the beginning of this incident Commissioner Barbieri, City Solicitor Ed Pikula, Labor Relations Director Bill Mahoney and I have worked with all outside authorities to pursue this case, even bringing in independent counsel and retired Judge Bertha Josephson to hear this case before our citizens Community Police Hearing Board (CPHB). This reflects unfairly on the vast majority of our brave and dedicated police officers, who put their lives on the line protecting our citizens, day in and day out. Whether on-duty or off-duty our police officers must wear their badge not only with courage, but just as important with honor, integrity and professionalism. The reform efforts initiated by Commissioner Barbieri are ongoing and will continue in order to maintain the public's faith and trust." 

    Diaz, 54, was released on personal recognizance after his arraignment Thursday. He was ordered to stay away from all alleged victims in the case. 

    Diaz's lawyer told MassLive that Diaz maintains his innocence. 

    Diaz also faces an accusation from prosecutors that he conspired with "unnamed identified conspirators" to commit assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. The conspiracy charge suggests prosecutors from Attorney General Maura Healey's Office may have other suspects being eyed by investigators.

    Diaz is the only officer to face charges in connection with the April 7, 2015, altercation outside Nathan Bill's Bar and Restaurant.

    City Council President Orlando Ramos also issued a statement:

    "Officer Diaz and any other officer who is found to have participated in this assault and alleged coverup should be fired and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law!" Ramos said. "Not only has this incident hurt the public's trust in our police department; but it has cost the taxpayers over 3/4 of a million dollars."

    Healey's office had the Nathan Bill's case before a statewide grand jury in Worcester County, reviving the criminal case after Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni declined to press charges in early 2017. The status of the grand jury hearing evidence is unclear. 

    The alleged victims in the attack, Herman Paul Cumby, Jozelle Ligon, Jackie Ligon and Michael Cintron, had inconsistent descriptions of their alleged attackers, Gulluni said. 

    According to the criminal complaint, Diaz is accused of assaulting Cumby with his foot and assaulting the Ligon brothers and Cintron with a weapon. The type of weapon is known to prosecutors but was not publicly released, according to the criminal complaint.

    Diaz is now suspended without pay. The suspension will last for five days and after that, he will be on administrative leave, Springfield Police Spokesman Ryan Walsh said in a statement.

    Cumby settled a lawsuit with the city filed in connection with the altercation. He settled last month for $775,000.


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    Baker is in Scottsdale, Arizona, this week for the RGA's annual conference.

    Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker was re-elected to the executive committee of the Republican Governors Association on Thursday.

    Baker is in Scottsdale, Arizona, Wednesday through Friday for the RGA's annual conference.

    The RGA spent around $6 million supporting Baker's re-election campaign in 2018.

    Baker was first selected by RGA members to join the nine-member executive committee when he was a newly elected governor in 2015.

    On Thursday, the RGA chose Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts as its chairman and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott as its vice chairman.

    The Washington Post reported that Baker spoke as part of a panel discussion Wednesday with other Republican governors who were re-elected for a second term in Democratic-leaning states.


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    The Springfield Thunderbirds culminated a month-long campaign promoting cancer awareness by shaving down their mustaches and facial hair at The Salon at MGM Springfield on Thursday.

    The Springfield Thunderbirds culminated a month-long campaign promoting cancer awareness by shaving down their mustaches and facial hair at The Salon at MGM Springfield on Thursday.

    Throughout the month of November, the Thunderbirds encouraged donations to the T-Birds Foundation, which in turn were given to local cancer charities in the Pioneer Valley.

    The Thunderbirds hosted their first-ever Hockey Fights Cancer Night on Sat., Nov. 24 at the MassMutual Center, where the team wore specialty lavender-accented jerseys to honor those who have bravely fought this deadly disease.

    Photos: Springfield Thunderbirds host Hockey Fights Cancer night

    The jersey featured special sleeve tributes to local inspirations Alex Blais and Rachael Kowal, who each passed away earlier in the year.

    Those jerseys were silently auctioned the night of the game to benefit the Hockey Fights Cancer cause. 2018 marked the first year the Thunderbirds joined the NHL's longstanding initiative.

    "We are honored to support the Thunderbirds' efforts to promote cancer awareness in Western Massachusetts," said Saverio Mancini, spokesman for MGM Springfield. "We believe strongly that the success of a company depends heavily on the success of its community, and we continue to integrate ourselves into the fabric of Springfield and help our fellow neighbors."


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    Read obituaries from The Republican newspaper in Springfield, Massachusetts.

    Here are the obituaries published Thursday in The Republican:

    Obituaries from The Republican, Nov. 29, 2018

     

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    Paul H. Cucuta, 35, who goes by the nickname Murda, faces charges of trafficking over 100 grams of cocaine and distribution of cocaine.

    SOUTHBRIDGE -- A 35-year-old resident is being held without the right to bond after he was arrested for trafficking in cocaine while out on bail on a different narcotics charge.

    Paul H. Cucuta, who goes by the nickname "Murda" was arraigned in Dudley District Court on Tuesday and not guilty pleas were entered. A judge set bail at $20,000 for the new charges but revoked bail on previous drug charges that stem from a December 2017 arrest, Police Chief Shane D. Woodson said.

    Cucuta, of 384 Hamilton St., Apartment 3, was arrested on Monday and charged with trafficking over 100 grams of cocaine and on a warrant charging him with distribution of cocaine, Woodson said.

    After an investigation into suspected drug dealing, which included police observing an apparent drug sale, detectives attempted to pull over Cucuta as he was driving and arrest him for distribution of narcotics, he said.

    "Cucuta quickly sped up and detectives believe he discarded a large amount of narcotics as he attempted to flee from police," Woodson said.

    Cucuta stopped on Route 169 in Charlton. After arresting him, police searched the area where they believed he had thrown the drugs and initially found a plastic bag with about 12 grams of crack cocaine that was packaged for sale, he said.

    A Massachusetts State Police K-9 officer and his dog was called to assist and searched the area Cucuta drove while speeding from police. They found a large plastic bag with more than 100 grams of what the suspected to be cocaine, he said.

    Cucuta was also arrested in 2010 for possession to distribute crack cocaine.


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    The lack of political will to tackle education reform for the 21st century is rooted in an aversion to the past controversies over issues such as charter schools testing, a new common core curriculum and how to evaluate teachers, Reville said.

    SPRINGFIELD -- Paul Reville, one of the architects of the 1993 Massachusetts Education Reform Act, issued a clarion call Thursday for a new era of educational reform, saying that despite the state's high national ranking for student achievement, it has failed minority and low-income students.

    Twenty-five years after the education reform bill's enactment, Reville said, persistent disparities continue between black, Latino and low-income students compared with white, suburban students.

    The former state education secretary and several other speakers addressed more than 200 people attending the Massachusetts Education Equity and Excellence Summit at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. 

    The three-hour summit was sponsored by the Urban League of Springfield, The Education Trust and the Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation.

    "We failed," Reville said, "The question is what do we do now?"

    "Right now the signs aren't good," Reville said, "We're lacking vision and leadership."

    The lack of political will to tackle education reform for the 21st century is rooted in an aversion to the past controversies over issues such as charter schools, testing, a new common core curriculum and how to evaluate teachers, Reville said. 

    "Bitter and divisive controversies over these issues have driven many of our allies away," he said. "And both political parties have become tongue-tied on the subject of ed reform."

    That resistance must be overcome for the sake of children who are falling behind, he said.

    Reville said the best chance for instituting needed reforms rests in the hands of local officials -- along with parents, students, teachers and business leaders who must clamor for new ways to raise the bar for all students.

    "It's going to take the whole community to do this job," he said, adding that people need to put aside ideological differences to reach the goal of equity in education.

    Natasha Ushomirsky of The Education Trust, a national nonprofit organization, presented new data illustrating the education equity gap.

    The report, titled "Number One for Some: Opportunity and Achievement in Massachusetts," contained the following findings:

    • Less than one in three black and Latino fourth-graders are on grade level in reading -- half the rate for the state's white students.
    • Twenty-eight percent of low-income eighth-graders are on grade level in math.
    • One in three English learners doesn't graduate on time, and one in seven drops out of school.
    • Less than one in three black and Latino students who take the SAT meet college-readiness benchmarks in reading and math, compared with two-thirds of their white peers.

    The data also showed disparities within school districts, often correlated with race.

    In English, the difference between black and white students varies from 11 to 46 percentage points depending on the district, with black students consistently performing worse.

    John Davis of the Davis Foundation said universal preschool is one reform that Massachusetts should put in place in order to prepare children for success in later grades, in life and in work.

    "Only 33 percent of students in the city are reading at grade level by grade three, compared to 66 percent in the suburbs," Davis said, adding that prekindergarten for all would help narrow that gap. 

    Lynn Jennings, director of national and state partnerships for The Education Trust, said there is no reform when others are left behind. In order to accomplish reforms, Jennings said it is imperative to create state and local partnerships.

    Among statewide reforms suggested by several speakers were longer school days, shorter summer vacations, more autonomy at individual schools and new approaches for underperforming schools, like the Springfield Empowerment Zone that oversees the city's middle schools.

    "It's time to take education reform to the next level," Jennings said.


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    Donald Foy, 28, was apprehended after a car crash and foot chase Thursday, authorities said.

    WORCESTER - After a day-long search for an armed suspect who is accused of carjacking a man at gunpoint and to escape from police after a multi-interstate chase, officers have taken Donald Foy into custody.

    The 28-year-old was apprehended in Worcester Thursday night after he crashed into at least one police cruiser and led officers on a foot chase that ended on the roof of a building, said David Procopio, spokesman for the Massachusetts State Police.

    Authorities told MassLive he was caught in Worcester on Chandler Street in the area of Newbury Street.

    Foy was wanted on 21 charges including armed carjacking, assault with a dangerous weapon, possession of counterfeit cash, a firearms charge and multiple motor vehicle violations after he attempted to mow down police, drove up Interstate-290 and carjacked a driver by gunpoint to evade officers just after midnight Thursday.

    The manhunt for Foy began when he was stopped by Webster police for driving an unregistered Dodge pickup truck shortly after midnight Thursday. Police were preparing to have the vehicle towed when Foy jumped into it and sped away, court records said.

    Webster police officers had to jump out of the way of the truck to avoid being hit. One officer was grazed by the truck's mirror, according to Webster police.

    The pursuit traveled through Oxford and eventually onto Interstate 395. With two women inside the car, Foy then headed north on the interstate, ran over stop sticks and then went up the ramp to Interstate 290 and drove the wrong way.

    With at least two flat tires, Foy soon crashed on the highway. He then held a gun to the head of another driver and sped away with his Buick, which is registered in Connecticut, records said.

    After searching for Foy all day, members of the State Police Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section learned he may be in Worcester. Troopers from the fugitive section with the State Police Special Tactical Operations Team, State Police Gang Unit, State Police Detective Unit for Worcester County, and Worcester Police set up surveillance to watch the location, Procopio said. 

    Police saw Foy leave a home and get into a vehicle. Officers pursued his car which crashed into at least one police cruiser. Foy then attempted to escape on foot and was apprehended after a chase with police, he said.

    State police did not say if anyone was injured in the chase and crash with the cruiser.

    MassLive reporter Scott J. Croteau contributed to this story.


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