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1540 WADK.com Updates

No West Nile found in latest mosquito tests in RI


State environmental officials have not found West Nile virus in the latest round of mosquito tests in Rhode Island.

The Department of Environmental Management said Monday that 68 mosquito samples from 24 traps set statewide on Sept. 12 tested negative for West Nile and eastern equine encephalitis.

Last week, the agency reported the first confirmed human case of West Nile virus in the state this year. The 49-year-old patient was diagnosed with meningoencephalitis caused by West Nile virus. The patient has recovered.

Last month, the agency reported one confirmed finding of West Nile virus and one confirmed finding of EEE in a mosquito sample.

The agency traps mosquitoes weekly and tests them at the state health laboratories. As temperatures cool, mosquito populations will die out and testing will be suspended.

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Gas prices fall 2 cents, to $2.16 a gallon, in RI


Gas prices are down a bit in Rhode Island, falling 2 cents per gallon to $2.16 cents for regular.

AAA Northeast says its weekly survey on Monday found that the average price in Rhode Island was a nickel below the national average of $2.21 per gallon.

It's also 5 cents below the price for regular gas in Rhode Island a year ago.

Lloyd Albert, of AAA Northeast, says prices in the state have been steady since August.

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Officials select firm to study upgrades to McCoy Stadium


A Kansas City, Missouri-based architecture firm has been tapped to study possible upgrades to McCoy Stadium, the home of the Pawtucket Red Sox.

PawSox Chairman Larry Lucchino, Democratic Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien and state Department of Administration Director Michael DiBiase said Monday they've chosen Pendulum Studio LLC.

The team, the city and the state will split the $105,000 cost of the study, plus expenses including travel costs for the firm to visit Pawtucket. Officials had previously estimated the study would cost between $80,000 and $100,000.

The study will assess whether the 74-year-old ballpark is a suitable home for the Triple A baseball team.

Pendulum is expected to complete its work no later than January 2017.

The team last year ended its pursuit of land in Providence for a new ballpark.

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New England has welcomed 650 Syrian refugees in past year


New England has taken in nearly 650 Syrian refugees since President Barack Obama set a goal last year to take in 10,000 refugees across the country.

Most of the refugees in New England have resettled in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Connecticut has taken in 334 refugees, the most of any New England state.

Massachusetts has accepted 145 refugees despite initial hesitations expressed by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker.

Rhode Island has welcomed 116 refugees, followed by Maine with 39 and New Hampshire with 14. No refugees have settled in Vermont.

Last month, the White House announced the goal was met. Obama set the goal Oct. 1, 2015.

Most of the refugees have clustered around large cities like Springfield in Massachusetts, Providence in Rhode Island and New Haven in Connecticut.

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Man rescued after week at sea to be reunited with family


A Vermont man who spent a week at sea in a life raft before being rescued by a passing freighter will be reunited with his family in Boston, while his mother is still unaccounted for and presumed dead.

Nathan Carman, of Vernon, Vermont, is expected to arrive in Boston on Tuesday morning aboard the freighter that rescued him off the coast of Massachusetts on Sunday. His mother, 54-year-old Linda Carman, of Middletown, Connecticut, has not been found.

The mother and son disappeared Sept. 18 after leaving a Rhode Island marina to go on a fishing trip in the son's 31-foot aluminum boat named the Chicken Pox.

The Coast Guard had suspended its search for the pair Friday. A private freighter found 22-year-old Nathan Carman two days later.

Family members have said the son has Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism.

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Fatal weekend crash in Pawtucket now ruled a homicide


Police in Pawtucket have announced that a deadly crash that occurred this past weekend in the Rhode Island city is now being ruled a homicide.

Details were scarce on Monday as Maj. Tina Goncalves updated the status of Saturday's accident. It's unclear what caused the crash or why it is now being investigated as a homicide.

Police say a BMW driven by an unidentified 23-year-old man slammed into a tree along Underwood Street around 2 a.m.

The driver suffered life-threatening injuries and was rushed to Rhode Island Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. No other people or vehicles were involved in the accident.

An investigation is ongoing.

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Providence awarded federal grant for police body cameras


All of Providence's uniformed police officers will soon be outfitted with body cameras after the city secured a $375,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The award, announced Monday, is part of a $20 million disbursement from the Justice Department's Body-Worn Camera Policy and Implementation Program to law enforcement agencies nationwide.

Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare says the cost of the program, including electronic data storage, will run between $300,000 and $400,000 annually. Providence has made an initial commitment for two years.

The city launched a pilot program for the body-worn cameras this past spring but needed additional funding to fully implement it.

Pare says 225 officers will be provided the equipment, which is being purchased from TASER International. Detectives will not be equipped with the cameras.

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RI Hospital gets $1.9M to study childhood health


Rhode Island Hospital is getting a nearly $1.9 million federal grant to study how environmental factors in early childhood can affect the health of children and adolescents.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Jack Reed announced last week that the National Institutes of Health is awarding the money.

The funding will allow Rhode Island Hospital to build a network that will support a four-year project enabling Hasbro Children's Hospital, Women and Infants Hospital and Brown University to conduct pediatric clinical trials.

The goal is to better understand how maternal and environmental influences can play a role in diseases and other health conditions including autism, obesity and asthma.

Reed says the grant is part of a $157 million commitment being made this year to support the federal Environmental Influence on Children's Health Outcomes initiative.

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Nation's newest tall ship to visit Providence


The nation's newest tall ship is making its first visit to Providence.

The SSV Oliver Hazard Perry is based at Fort Adams State Park in Newport. It's scheduled to arrive in Providence on Thursday. It will be docked at India Point Park and will host tours for the public and school children.

The 200-foot-tall, three-masted ship is named after War of 1812 hero Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry. The ship was built of steel at a cost of $16 million and is the first ocean-going, full-rigged ship to be built in the United States in more than 100 years.

Its main mast is 13 ½ stories high, or about 130 feet.

The ship accommodates 49 people overnight and is used for educational programs.

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Neighborhood coyote won't be euthanized after public outcry


A coyote in Middletown that was set to be euthanized for fearlessly roaming neighborhoods has been spared after public outcry.

The coyote, known as Cliff, will be relocated from Aquidneck Island to an area zoo. It wasn't immediately clear which zoo Cliff will soon call home.

The move was announced Friday, just hours before a hunter was set to find and shoot Cliff.

Middletown Police Chief Anthony Pesare says he consulted scientists from the Narragansett Bay Coyote Study because the animal had grown too comfortable around people. Cliff was spotted roaming neighborhoods in broad daylight, foraging for food in Dumpsters and sunbathing on lawns.

Pesare says the decision was made to euthanize Cliff after the coyote appeared at a bus stop filled with children.

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2 soldiers killed in Afghanistan added to Garden of Heroes


State and local officials have gathered to remember two Rhode Island soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

Gov. Gina Raimondo and U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse were among the officials who gathered outside the State House in Providence in the Garden of Heroes to remember 1st Sgt. P. Andrew McKenna and Staff Sgt. Timothy Raymond McGill.

Their names were carved into the memorial Saturday. More than two dozen other names are also etched into the memorial, which honors those killed defending the U.S. since 9/11.

McKenna was a Bristol native with the U.S. Army Special Forces when he died during an attack in Kabul last summer.

McGill was a Ramsey, New Jersey, native who served with the Rhode Island National Guard. He was killed in Gardez, Paktia Province, three years ago.

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1 of 2 boaters missing for week found alive, adrift in raft


The U.S. Coast Guard says one of two Connecticut boaters missing for a week has been found alive, drifting on an inflatable life raft off the coast of Massachusetts.

The Coast Guard on Friday suspended its search for 54-year-old Linda Carman and her 22-year-old son, Nathan, of Middletown.

The mother and son disappeared Sept. 18 after leaving a Wakefield marina to go on a fishing trip in a 31-foot aluminum fishing boat named the Chicken Pox.

The Coast Guard in Boston says Nathan Carman was found Sunday by a freighter about 100 nautical miles south of Martha's Vineyard.

He was listed in good condition. Linda Carman's whereabouts remain unknown.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicole Groll says the freighter is scheduled to reach land Tuesday.

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Military leaders from 106 countries meet in Newport


Senior military representatives from more than 100 countries have gathered in Newport to talk about ways to address shared challenges and threats.

The U.S. chief of naval operations is hosting the 22nd International Seapower Symposium from Wednesday through Friday at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport. About 500 people from 106 countries are attending.

The college says the group includes leaders from more than half the navies in the world.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson welcomed the group Wednesday, telling them the fundamental purpose for the meeting is to communicate with each other.

He says collaboration among navies ensures their collective security and stability.

He says the group will discuss collective maritime operations, cyber security and the importance of international norms and standards, among other topics.

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City plan to put all inmates in 1 political district upheld


A federal appeals court has concluded that a redistricting plan in a Rhode Island city that puts all the inmates at the state prison into one ward is politically fair.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday cited an April decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in ruling that Cranston's district lines were constitutional.

The plan puts about 3,400 inmates at the Adult Correctional Institutions into Cranston's Ward 6.

The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union argued that was unfair. A judge agreed and ordered a new plan. He said the votes of 10 residents in the other wards were equal those of seven residents in Ward 6.

But the appeals court found no evidence the plan creates unfair discrimination.

The ACLU is considering an appeal.

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Man to plead guilty in plot to behead blogger for IS group


A Warwick man charged with plotting to help the Islamic State group is expected to plead guilty to conspiracy charges, including a plot to kill conservative blogger Pamela Geller.

A change-of-plea hearing is scheduled for Nicholas Rovinski on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Boston.

The 25-year-old Rovinski is charged with conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization and conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries.

Prosecutors say Rovinski plotted with two Massachusetts men to behead Geller. The plot was never carried out.

Prosecutors also allege that Rovinski, while in jail, tried to recruit people to carry out plans for violent attacks in the United States, including the beheading of nonbelievers.

Rovinski's lawyer says his client now renounces violence and any allegiance to the Islamic State group.

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E. Providence votes to terminate suspended city manager


Despite having the backing of the audience, suspended City Manager Richard Kirby was ousted from his position by the East Providence City Council following a 2 ½-hour session.

Councilors on Wednesday voted 3-2 to terminate Kirby, who was suspended in August in response to a slew of grievances against the Rumford man.

The complaints involved Kirby's move to dismiss city human resources director Kathleen Waterbury, allegations that he paid his predecessor for unused vacation time and that he struck deals involving tax sale properties.

With a new lawyer in tow, Kirby addressed each claim himself and called the situation a "farce."

Kirby maintains his firing is political blowback for prior complaints he made against Mayor Thomas Rose.

Rose was one of the three votes in favor of terminating Kirby.

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US Navy to name ship after late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy


The U.S. Navy is naming a ship after Robert F. Kennedy.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced the name Tuesday at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. Members of the Kennedy family attended.

Congressman Joe Kennedy says they're "deeply grateful" for the honor.

The Robert F. Kennedy's job will be to restock and refuel ships already at sea.

Ships in the class are being named in honor of human rights heroes. Mabus says the class would be incomplete without Kennedy's name.

Kennedy served as U.S. attorney general from 1961 to 1964 and as a U.S. senator from New York from 1965 to 1968. He was assassinated in 1968.

Mabus chooses ship names to help connect people with the Navy and Marine Corps.

Construction is expected to begin in 2021.

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Historic RI diner heads to public auction


An Art Deco-style diner built in what an expert calls the "golden age of the diner" is being auctioned off after sitting vacant for 14 years in a weed-strewn lot in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

The Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency says it scheduled a public auction to sell the historic Silver Top Diner on Oct 5.

Built in 1938, the diner was located in Providence for about 65 years until forced to move in 2002 to make room for housing near the Providence Place mall.

Pawtucket officials offered the diner operator a loan to move it to city-owned land, but there were disagreements over how to operate it.

An appraiser estimates the value of the diner at between $20,000 and $30,000, but says it might cost $250,000 to refurbish.

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RI awards student debt relief to 215 college grads


Rhode Island is helping 215 college graduates pay back their student debt.

The state's Commerce Corp. said Tuesday that it's awarding an average of $3,750 a year in loan relief to the winners of its new Wavemaker Fellowships.

The tax credits that defray the cost of student loan repayments are meant to entice professionals who work in science, engineering and related fields to stay in Rhode Island instead of accepting jobs elsewhere.

More than 300 Rhode Island residents applied by the June deadline, and 215 were selected.

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo pushed to introduce the fellowships after taking office last year. The inaugural $1.75 million program expands to $3.5 million next year.

About 60 percent of fellows graduated from a Rhode Island institution. Ninety percent are working in the state.

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Ex-finance director accused of gambling away embezzled funds


A statement from the chairman of the Providence Plan's board of directors alleges that the nonprofit's former finance director gambled away funds he embezzled from the organization.

Richard Spies' statement, posted to the nonprofit's website on Monday, does not expressly name Charles Denno but refers to the "then Director of Finance" who was fired on July 27.

Providence Plan officials previously identified Denno as the employee fired for allegedly embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars. A forensic audit reportedly tied the thefts to Denno.

Spies says officials have so far determined that more than $600,000 was taken over a four-year period. A state police investigation is ongoing.

Denno's attorney declined comment.

The Providence Plan was established to help alleviate poverty through educational and job-training initiatives.

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RI had 15th lowest uninsured rate for kids in 2015


A new analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data conducted by Rhode Island Kids Count found that nearly 4 percent of the state's children were without health coverage in 2015.

The study also determined that Rhode Island had the 15th lowest uninsured rate for children among all 50 states last year.

The Census Bureau's American Community Survey data shows an estimated 6,900 children younger than 18, or 3.4 percent, had no health insurance in 2015. On a national scale, 4.8 percent of all children were uninsured last year.

Rhode Island's uninsured rate was higher than every state in the New England region except Maine.

Kids Count officials say children who have adequate health coverage are generally healthier and miss fewer days of schools than their counterparts.

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New England farmers hurt by freezes eligible for loans


 

Federal authorities say Massachusetts farmers are now eligible to apply for low-interest emergency loans to make up for some of the losses caused by cold weather earlier this year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated most of the state's mainland as a primary natural disaster area due to losses caused by frosts and freezes that occurred from February through early May.

Farmers in Suffolk County, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket are also allowed to apply for loans because they are contiguous with the declared disaster area.

Farmers in New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont in counties contiguous with the affected Massachusetts counties are also eligible.

Farmers and ranchers have eight months to apply.

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Ex-Red Sox pitcher Schilling agrees to 38 Studios settlement


Former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling and others have agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle their part of a lawsuit brought over Rhode Island's disastrous $75 million deal with 38 Studios, Schilling's failed video game company.

The settlement agreement with Schilling and other 38 Studios officials was announced Monday by the Rhode Island Commerce Corp.

Retired Superior Court Judge Francis Darigan had been acting as mediator in the case.

The settlement must still be approved by a judge. If approved, it would bring the amount of settlements in the case to approximately $45 million.

The only remaining defendant would be First Southwest, which acted as Rhode Island's financial adviser in the deal.

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Gas prices holding steady in RI


The price of a gallon of gas in Rhode Island is holding steady.

AAA Northeast says its weekly survey on Monday found the price of a gallon of self-serve, regular gas was unchanged from last week, at an average $2.18. That price is three cents below the national average.

A year ago at this time, the average price in Rhode Island was seven cents higher at $2.25.

AAA says it found self-serve, regular gas selling in Rhode Island for as low as $2.08 per gallon and as high as $2.25.

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Providence mother throws twin toddlers out window


Two twin boys are recovering at a Rhode Island hospital after police say their mother threw the toddlers out of a first-floor window at their apartment in Providence.

Thirty-seven-year-old Benita Barbour was held Monday after being arraigned on charges of disorderly conduct in Providence District Court.

Police say a neighbor reported to the state Department of Children, Youth and Families that she saw Barbour toss both of her 2-year-old boys out of a window onto a front porch.

Some of the incident was captured on video and turned over to authorities.

Police say officers investigating the incident encountered an intoxicated Barbour. They reported she showed no remorse at the scene.

It's unclear if Barbour has an attorney who can comment. Police may bring additional charges against her.

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Providence municipal car accumulated years of unpaid tickets


Officials in Providence say a municipal car used by Mayor Jorge Elorza's advance staff was towed late last week for accumulating seven years' worth of unpaid parking tickets.

The vehicle was booted Friday while parked outside Providence City Hall.

Emily Cromwell, the mayor's communications director, says the car is used by staff members of several city administrations who assist in setting up locations for various mayoral events.

Cromwell says city officials do not have immunity and are expected to park legally while out on city business.

The unpaid tickets were still being inventoried on Monday. Some date to former Mayor David Cicilline's administration in 2009.

Cromwell says it may be possible to determine which staffer is responsible for each individual ticket.

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Coast Guard: Search for 2 missing boaters continues


The U.S. Coast Guard says a search for two missing boaters off the coast of Rhode Island has shifted to the waters south of Long Island, New York.

The Coast Guard was informed Sunday evening that 54-year-old Linda Carmen and her son, 22-year-old Nathan Carmen, failed to return from an offshore fishing trip near Block Island.

The pair departed from Point Judith on Saturday evening in a 32-foot aluminum center console boat.

The Coast Guard Sector Southeastern New England, in Boston, said Monday evening the search was focused on Hudson Canyon, about 115 miles south of Montauk, New York. No further details were released.

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Report: Only 39 percent of low-income kids in state pre-K


A new report from a Rhode Island nonprofit has found that only 39 percent of children from low-income families and 20 percent of 4-year-olds in the state will be enrolled in Head Start or state-financed pre-kindergarten programs this fall.

The report released Monday by Rhode Island Kids Count says state spending on childcare subsidies falls short of expenditures a decade ago.

The latest budget from Gov. Gina Raimondo includes $3.3 million more for childcare assistance than the previous year.

The pre-K program is serving nearly 600 4-year-olds in high-poverty communities this year.

The nonprofit is recommending more money for pre-K teachers and higher state reimbursement rates to childcare programs to improve access to early-childhood classes and ensure high quality.

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Navy asks public not to ask to tour ships visiting Newport


Navy officials are asking the public not to go to Naval Station Newport to ask to tour ships that are visiting for an international symposium.

The chief of naval operations is hosting the 22nd International Seapower Symposium from Wednesday through Friday in Newport. The event draws senior military representatives from more than 110 countries.

Two U.S. Navy ships, a fast transport and an amphibious transport dock ship, and a Coast Guard national security cutter are visiting Newport as part of the symposium. The ships are not open for public tours.

The naval station asks that people not go to the gate to request access.

It says more than 100 cars were turned away at the gate when the stealthy and futuristic Zumwalt destroyer visited this month, causing traffic backups.

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Olive oil helps free man stuck in jetty while fetching phone


A man who got stuck head-first between two rocks on a Rhode Island jetty while trying to retrieve his cellphone has been rescued with the help of olive oil.

It happened Saturday afternoon near a fishing area in Point Judith.

Authorities say the man dropped his phone and got stuck up to his chest when he bent down to retrieve it.

Narragansett firefighters and environmental police spent most of the afternoon trying to free him before the tide came in. After about 2 ½ hours, they were able to remove him with the help of olive oil.

The man went to a hospital to be treated for hypothermia and a small injury to his foot.

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RI Expenditure Council announces annual meeting


The Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council is holding its 73rd annual meeting next month.

The Providence-based nonprofit organization announced Sunday that the meeting is scheduled for Oct. 17 at the Rhode Island Convention Center.

This year's keynote speaker will be Mark Zandi, the chief economist of Moody's Analytics.

RIPEC says Zandi's address will cover the economic outlook for Rhode Island and the United States.

This year's recipients of the Distinguished Public Service Awards will be recognized at the meeting.

RIPEC is an independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan public policy research and education organization.

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New office opens in Warwick to help veterans access benefits


Rhode Island has officially opened a new headquarters for the Office of Veterans Affairs' to serve as a resource center for veterans.

The office is now open on Jefferson Boulevard in Warwick, near a bus route, train station and Interstate 95 for easy access. It officially opened on Thursday.

Previously, there was no central place to help veterans who needed something other than a nursing home or mortuary services.

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo says the state is ushering in a new era of responsiveness and support for veterans.

She says veterans need and deserve a new office.

Two case managers are assigned to the office to help veterans navigate the claims process, learn about education and financial assistance and get access to training, employment, housing and other resources.

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RITBA enters partnership with cellphone navigation app Waze


The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority has reached an agreement with popular cellphone navigation app Waze on a partnership to share traffic information.

Under the agreement, the authority will receive Waze maps of the four bridges it controls complete with live traffic information as well as updated crash reports.

The authority operates the Newport-Pell Bridge, Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge, Mount Hope Bridge and Sakonnet River Bridge. It will share planned construction projects and lane closures with Waze in return.

Waze utilizes crowdsourced data to provide shortcuts for users to avoid traffic jams on the way to their destinations.

The city of Providence entered into a similar partnership with Waze earlier this year.

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73-year-old man fatally struck by car in Providence


Police say a 73-year-old Rhode Island man died over the weekend after he was struck by a car while crossing the street in Providence.

Lt. Richard Fernandes says a motorist collided with the unidentified victim around 2:30 p.m. Sunday while he was crossing Allens Avenue near Swan Street.

The impact sent the man airborne and he landed in the northbound lane. The victim was rushed to Rhode Island Hospital, where he later died.

Investigators say the victim worked near the scene of the crash and was known to walk in the area often.

Police say the driver, whose identity is being withheld, remained at the scene and no charges have been filed as of Sunday night.

An investigation is ongoing.

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RI is among 5 states that limited opioids in 2016


Rhode Island is one of five states that enacted limits on first-time opioid prescriptions this year after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called for even tighter restrictions.

They're part of a legislative package that takes a comprehensive approach to the state's opioid overdose crisis.

The new rules restrict initial prescriptions for outpatient adults to 20 doses of 30 morphine milligram equivalents each. The rules do not apply to patients with pain associated with cancer, palliative or nursing home care, and apply only to those with acute, not chronic, pain.

State Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott says the restrictions don't apply to people with chronic pain because some of those people are already addicted. Other provisions in the legislation are meant to improve treatment options.

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Ex-mayor announces plaza plan as protesters chant outside


A former Providence mayor's plan to reduce crime and panhandling in the city's Kennedy Plaza is being met with resistance from some advocates for the homeless.

Joseph Paolino Jr. announced the plan during a news conference Wednesday as protesters, including members of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, chanted outside.

Paolino is the chairman of the Downtown Improvement District. He says he'll recommend the district spend about $100,000 on outreach workers to help people who are homeless.

Paolino has also drafted an ordinance to make it a violation to pass anything from a vehicle in traffic to pedestrians. It could affect panhandlers and those soliciting money for charity.

The coalition argues that the ordinance's goal is to "eject those deemed undesirable" from the plaza.

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Raimondo announces plan to improve third grade reading


Gov. Gina Raimondo has announced plans to double the percentage of third-graders reading at grade level by the time children born this year reach the third grade.

The governor announced Wednesday that her plan aims to have three out of four third-graders reading at grade level by 2025.

Rhode Island Kids Count says that reading proficiently by the end of third grade is a leading indicator of high school graduation.

Raimondo says she plans to build on programs she's already introduced, including expanding quality Pre-K programs, offering all-day kindergarten and improving the quality of child care for low-income families.

She will also assign her performance-management team to track and analyze data.

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Report: More aging RIer's will head households


A new report says more affordable housing is needed for aging Rhode Islanders as the number of households headed by someone 65 or older continues to increase.

The HousingWorks RI 2016 Fact Book says 32 percent of all households in the state will be headed by someone 65 or older by 2025. That's up from 23 percent in 2014.

HousingWorks says about 40 percent of Rhode Islanders rent their homes, and more than half of renters spent more than 30 percent of their income on housing in 2014.

The report says a household earning the state's median household income of $54,891 in 2015 would be able to afford a median-priced, single-family home in only six of the state's 39 cities and towns.

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Rescued seal pups released off coast of RI


Mystic Aquarium has released six seal pups in the waters off Charlestown after they were rescued earlier this year.

The harbor seal pups were rescued by the aquarium in April and May along the coast of Maine. Officials believe the pups were abandoned shortly after birth.

The pups - named Jett, Amethyst, Quartz, Obsidian, Amber and Sapphire - are between four and five months old.

They're now healthy and prepared for life at sea.

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Treasurer of children's charity sentenced for stealing $186k


The treasurer of a Rhode Island children's charity has been sentenced to prison for stealing nearly $186,000 from the organization.

U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha says Robert Lonardo, of Burrillville, was sentenced Wednesday in federal court in Providence to six months behind bars followed by two years of probation.

The 67-year-old Lonardo pleaded guilty in June to one count of wire fraud.

Prosecutors say the Lonardo began withdrawing funds from the bank accounts of the Rhode Island Association for Cardiac Children in January 2013, following the death of his mother, who founded the charity. Lonardo withdrew money for his own personal use up until August 2015.

The charity raises funds for hospital equipment, children's cardiac treatment and research and for families whose children need surgery for cardiac disease.

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Rocky Hill School alumnae report sex abuse during the 1970s


Three former students of Warwick's Rocky Hill School have reported that they were each sexually abused by the same faculty member during the 1970s.

School officials held a closed-door meeting with parents on Wednesday to discuss the allegations against the unidentified male faculty member, who left the school in 2013.

The three female victims were between the ages of 16 and 18 at the time of the abuse. One of the incidents was an alleged rape. The accusations were never reported in the past.

Head of School James Tracy says the reports surfaced after a letter was sent to 1,500 alumni asking them to share any information regarding past or present sexual misconduct at Rocky Hill.

The school is working closely with local police and has launched an internal investigation.

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Middletown holds benefit for fire victims


The community came together last night to show support for a family who were torn apart by a deadly house fire in Middletown which claimed the life of 7-year old Ramon Arroyo.

A benefit pasta dinner to support the Arroyo family at Middletown High School drew more than 700 people.

Many of the supporters wore green, which was Ramon’s favorite color.

Leilaney and Cheyanne, Ramon’s sisters are Middletown High School students and survived the fire. 

The MLK Community Center collected donations for the Arroyo family, but would not get into specifics about how much was raised. However, they say it will help.

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Needle exchange program loses $65K in state funding


Rhode Island's only needle exchange program has lost the funding it needs to purchase clean needles and other supplies.

AIDS Care Ocean State lost $65,000 when state lawmakers in July cut by nearly half the General Assembly's community service grant program.

The grant was to be used to purchase nearly 60,000 syringes distributed each year and to dispose of more than 40,000 used syringes. The grant accounted for 60 percent of the organization's $105,000 in state funding for the fiscal year 2017.

The program helped reduce HIV and AIDS cases associated with intravenous drug use from 40 percent in the mid-1990s to less than one percent today.

ACOS President and CEO Kenneth Mayer says he's written to state officials about restoring funding but hasn't received a response.

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RI's incumbent congressmen win Democratic primary


Rhode Island's two congressmen have both defeated Democratic primary challengers.

U.S. Reps. David Cicilline  and James Langevin won their primary races on Tuesday.

Cicilline, a former Providence mayor, is seeking his fourth term in Congress. He represents the 1st Congressional District, covering the easternmost part of the state.

He faces Republican H. Russell Taub in November.

Langevin, of Warwick, is seeking his ninth term and faces Republican Rhue Reis for Rhode Island's 2nd Congressional District.

Cicilline beat Democratic challenger Christopher Young, a perennial candidate. Langevin beat two Democratic challengers, Steven Archer, of Warwick, and John Hamilton, of Charlestown.

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Town officials seek to dismiss application for power plant


Burrillville officials are seeking to squash an application for a 900-megawatt gas-fired power plant in the town.

The town on Tuesday filed a motion with the state's Energy Facility Siting Board requesting that the case filed by Chicago-based Invenergy LLC be dismissed.

The town says the company has failed to secure a necessary source of water for cooling the proposed facility's two generators.

The utility district turned down a request from Invenergy to reopen a well operated by the Pascoag Utility District that was closed in 2001 due to contamination. The company's request to use water from the Harrisville Fire District was also denied.

Invenergy Development Director John Niland says the company is "working diligently on finalizing an alternative water supply."

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Rust-colored patches in local waters safe


Rhode Island environmental officials say rust-colored patches in local waters pose no threat to public health.

The state Department of Environmental Management said Tuesday it has received reports of the patches, known as rust tide, in Narragansett Bay, Mt. Hope Bay and coastal salt ponds.

DEM says the rust tide is being caused by a large bloom of naturally occurring phytoplankton. This organism contains red photosynthetic pigments which cause the rust color visible on the water surface.

DEM says rust tide is not associated with the red tide that has caused shellfish closures in other New England states.

DEM says rust tide has been observed this summer in Peconic Bay off the eastern end of Long Island in New York and in Buzzards Bay and off Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts.

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After 14 months, Providence still hasn't hired a fire chief


Fourteen months after the retirement of former Providence Fire Chief Clarence Cunha, Rhode Island's capital city still has not filled the vacancy left by his departure.

Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare says that a headhunter hired by the city to conduct the search for a new chief has so far referred more than 12 candidates.

But Pare says the process for finding the "right" fire chief is still underway, with some of the headhunter's referrals not even being granted interviews.

Officials believe Providence could make a decision soon with the city having recently reached a tentative contract agreement with its fire union.

Pare says the city doesn't have a timeline for making a hire, although Providence needs a new fire chief "sooner rather than later."

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Gas prices hold steady at average $2.18 per gallon in RI


The price of a gallon of regular gas in Rhode Island has held steady at an average $2.18.

AAA Northeast says its weekly survey released Monday found no change in average gas prices since last week. Nationally, the average price is also $2.18 per gallon.

Last year at this time, gas prices in Rhode Island were $2.30 per gallon, or 12 cents higher than today.

AAA says the weekly survey found prices as low as $2.08 per gallon and as high as $2.26 per gallon.

 

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Second-in-command at RI State Police to retire


The second-in-command at the Rhode Island State Police is stepping down.

Lt. Col. Todd Catlow  says he put in his retirement papers on Friday. His last day will be Sept. 16.

The announcement comes less than a week after Col. Steven O'Donnell announced his own retirement.

Catlow is a 24-year veteran of the force. He joined the state police after serving five years on the North Kingstown police force.

O'Donnell announced Thursday he plans to retire Sept. 23. He was police superintendent for more than five years. He first joined the state police in 1986 and spent six years working undercover on mob investigations.

Gov. Gina Raimondo says Lt. Col. Kevin Barry will serve as acting superintendent until a permanent replacement for O'Donnell is hired.

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Elorza, firefighters reach agreement over work hours


The city of Providence has reached an agreement with officials from the firefighters union following a months long battle over work schedules.

The agreement was announced Monday by officials in Democratic Mayor Jorge Elorza's office. The city and the union negotiated for more than a year.

The full terms of the agreement have not yet been released. Elorza spokeswoman Emily Crowell confirmed the city will allow firefighters to return to working a four-platoon shift schedule in exchange for a reduction in the number of workers that must be on the job at all times. The minimum number will drop from 94 firefighters to 88.

In August 2015, Elorza moved the department from four platoons to three platoons in an attempt to save millions on callback overtime.

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RI voters head to polls for primary


 

Rhode Island voters are heading to the polls to select candidates for Congress, the General Assembly and for municipal offices around the state.

Most polling places open at 7 a.m. Tuesday, except in Jamestown, where they open at 8 a.m., and in Hopkinton, Little Compton, New Shoreham and Westerly, where they open at 9 a.m. All polls close at 8 p.m.

There are no statewide races, but the election could affect the composition of the General Assembly since many Democratic incumbents face challengers from their own party.

There are also mayoral races in North Providence and Woonsocket.

Voters will notice a few minor changes at the polls this year. New voting machines mean voters will fill in an oval rather than connect an arrow on their paper ballots.

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RI's new computer system set for launch


Following years of delays, the largest IT project for the state of Rhode Island is set to go live after being launched four years ago by then-Gov. Lincoln Chafee's administration.

The Unified Health Infrastructure Project will be fully operational today at an estimated cost of $364 million to both state and federal taxpayers so far.

The project, which had an initial cost estimate of just $110 million, has grown to become a replacement for several of the state's out of date computer systems. The system encompasses many public-assistance programs including health coverage and the food stamp program among others.

Department of Administration officials say the agency has taken steps to ensure the transition is smooth as possible although issues following today's launch are expected.

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Former City Manager Robert Kando sues RI Board of Elections


The former executive director for the Rhode Island Board of Elections is now suing the state for the way they handled his firing.

Robert Kando filed the complaint in district court Monday.

He claims the board violated the open meetings act and did not provide him with an opportunity to speak prior to his termination.

The board voted 4 to 2 to fire Kando on August 31st following a series of suspensions and complaints against him.

Kando is now seeking a jury trial.

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US Navy gives look inside futuristic $4.4B Zumwalt destroyer


The U.S. Navy has given its first look inside the stealthy and futuristic Zumwalt destroyer during the ship's first port stop at at Naval Station Newport.

The 610-foot-long warship has an angular shape to minimize its radar signature and cost more than $4.4 billion. It's the most expensive destroyer built for the Navy.

It's headed from the Naval Station to Baltimore, where it will be commissioned in October before going to its homeport in San Diego. It was built at Bath Iron Works in Maine.

During a tour the Navy showed off the ship's bridge, weaponry and mission center.

Pacific Fleet Vice Adm. Tom Rowden says the ship will make a significant difference in the fleet. He says its advanced technology and capabilities allow it to perform a range of defensive and offensive missions.

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Providence-Newport ferry made more than 30,000 trips


Rhode Island transportation officials say ridership for the Providence-to-Newport ferry service during its inaugural summer exceeded their expectations.

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation released the final statistics for the service on Friday.

RIDOT Supervising Planner Julie Oakley says that a total of 33,221 passenger trips were made between July 1 and Labor Day weekend. That's 20 percent more trips than the agency projected. The pilot program launched July 1.

Oakley says the busiest day was July 23, with more than 750 people taking the Providence-to-Newport ferry that day.

Seventy percent of passengers who used the service were Rhode Islanders. The rest were from out of state.

RIDOT is hoping to bring the service back next summer.

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RI voters to see new machines at polls Tuesday


Rhode Island voters will go to the polls Tuesday to select candidates for Congress and General Assembly and for mayor in North Providence and Woonsocket.

Voters will notice a few minor changes at the polls this year. New voting machines mean voters will fill in an oval rather than connect an arrow on their paper ballots.

Some polling places will also use new electronic poll books to check in voters. The new wireless tablet-based system is designed to make it easier for poll workers to find voters' names and eliminate waits that can happen when workers have to pore through printed binders arranged alphabetically.

The group Common Cause says it is watching closely because of new voting equipment that transmits results wirelessly, due to concerns that results remain secure.

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State lawmakers to begin hearings on mental health issues


State lawmakers are set to begin a series of hearings on mental health issues and policies in Rhode Island.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee says the first hearing is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Thursday at the state house.

The committee chairman, Democratic Sen. Joshua Miller, of Cranston, plans to discuss the topics the committee will explore.

Executive Office of Health and Human Services Secretary Elizabeth Roberts will discuss a report on behavioral health services in the state and provide an overview of mental health challenges, resources and state policy options.

The committee has also invited mental health advocates to talk about their priorities.

The committee plans to accept public comment at the meeting.

Written testimony is encouraged. Copies will be shared with the committee members.

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Pawtucket awarded $5.6M in federal funding for bus upgrades


The city of Pawtucket has been awarded $5.6 million in federal grants for bus facility upgrades and service improvements.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority and Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien announced the funding awarded through a Federal Transit Administration grant program.

They say RIPTA plans to build a bus hub that will be adjacent to a commuter rail station planned near the border with Central Falls. The rail station is expected to open by 2020.

The bus hub project is expected to cost about $7 million. Pawtucket, RIPTA and the state are also helping pay for it.

The Democratic mayor says the city wants to create a multimodal transit hub that will allow everyone, including pedestrians and cyclists, to easily travel to and from Pawtucket.

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Bridge and Turnpike Authority resumes use of bucket trucks


The Rhode Island Bridge and Turnpike Authority has resumed use of the type of "snooper" bucket truck that tipped over on the Sakonnet River Bridge last month.

The authority temporarily suspended the use of the bucket trucks during bridge inspections following the Aug. 29 accident, which left two employees dangling high above the Narragansett Bay. They were unharmed.

But authority officials say one of the trucks in question was utilized by employees for several days during last week's inspection of the Mount Hope Bridge.

The trucks feature a long boom used by inspectors to get to hard to reach places on the state's bridges.

Authority officials say they are comfortable that their machinery is operational after reviewing safety protocols and training staff last week.

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Price of gas in Rhode Island drops 2 cents


The price of a gallon of gas in Rhode Island has gone down two cents since last week.

AAA Northeast said Tuesday its weekly survey found self-serve, regular gas selling for an average $2.18 per gallon. The price is two cents below the national average.

The price in Rhode Island a year ago was 15 cents higher, at an average $2.33 per gallon.

AAA says it found gas selling for as low as $2.08 per gallon and as high as $2.47.

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RI in talks with PayPal about operations center


Rhode Island officials say payments company PayPal has been in daily contact with them about the possibility of moving an operations center to the state.

State Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor says his team is fielding questions from the San Jose, California-based company on a day-to-day basis.

He says Rhode Island leaders helped organize a tour of several properties around the state, including a vacant skyscraper in downtown Providence known as the Superman building. WPRI-TV reported last week about PayPal's interest in the building.

PayPal has been searching for a new office site after canceling plans to open a 400-employee operations center in Charlotte, North Carolina, a move in protest of the state's law requiring people to use bathrooms matching the gender assigned to them at birth.

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Embattled New Haven police chief resigns after outbursts


A Connecticut police chief has resigned after he was disciplined for two reported incidents of berating people in public.

New Haven Mayor Toni Harp announced Tuesday that Police Chief Dean Esserman resigned effective Sept. 2. Harp says the resignation was by "mutual agreement."

Esserman agreed in July to go on three weeks of paid leave and then went on temporary sick leave amid allegations he berated staff at a local restaurant.

Harp reprimanded Esserman two years ago for his angry confrontation with an usher at the Yale Bowl.

While police chief in Providence he was suspended without pay for a day in 2011 for a confrontation with a sergeant.

Esserman didn't immediately return a phone message Tuesday. He said in a statement that being chief was a privilege.

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RI sues oil giants over gas additive contamination


Rhode Island is suing 34 oil companies for using a gasoline additive that has contaminated groundwater in the state.

Attorney General Peter Kilmartin said Tuesday the state aims to recover money for the cleanup of methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE. He says he's hired outside law firms, including one that worked on similar litigation in New Hampshire and Vermont.

New Hampshire sued Exxon Mobil Corp. and other oil companies in 2003 for damages to remediate MTBE contamination, saying Exxon knew it was supplying a product that's more difficult to clean up than other contaminants.

The U.S. Supreme Court said in May it wouldn't hear Exxon's appeal of a $236 million judgment in the case.

Irving, Texas-based Exxon says MTBE lawsuits "represent legislative second guessing" of decisions made decades ago to protect human health and the environment.

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Warwick teen to be tried as adult in fatal Charlestown crash


A Warwick teenager will be tried as an adult on charges stemming from a fatal crash in Charlestown that claimed the life of a 21-year-old college student from Rhode Island.

The boy was arraigned Tuesday in Washington County District Court on charges of DUI death resulting, driving to endanger death resulting and possession of alcohol by a minor.

Prosecutors filed a motion for the teen to be waived out of Family Court and tried as an adult. The boy's attorney agreed.

Investigators say the teen was driving drunk along U.S. Route 1 on Aug. 29 when he lost control of his vehicle, crossed over the center island curb and slammed into a motorcycle driven by Thomas Hug.

The boy faces up to 12 years in prison if he's convicted.

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Cause of fire at $3.1M oceanfront home may never be known


Fire investigators say the cause of a blaze that gutted a multimillion-dollar 1880 oceanfront house in Rhode Island may never be determined.

Narragansett Fire Chief Scott Partington says the $3.1 million home owned by the family of late Pawtucket Red Sox co-owner James Skeffington is considered a total loss following Monday night's fire.

Strong winds from Hermine coupled with "water problems" at the scene prompted fire crews to attack the flames from the outside. Wind gusts reached and estimated 30 to 50 mph.

Partington says the fire already had engulfed the two-story home's upper levels by the time firefighters arrived to the estate. No other structures on the property were damaged.

A South Kingstown firefighter was treated for smoke inhalation. A Narragansett firefighter suffered a knee injury fighting the blaze.

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No West Nile found in latest mosquito tests in RI


State environmental officials have not found West Nile virus in the latest round of mosquito tests in Rhode Island.

The Department of Environmental Management said Tuesday that 80 mosquito samples from 33 traps set statewide on Aug. 22 and 24 tested negative for West Nile and eastern equine encephalitis.

Last month, the agency reported one confirmed finding of West Nile virus and one confirmed finding of EEE in a mosquito sample in Rhode Island. There are no confirmed human cases in the state.

The agency traps mosquitoes weekly and tests them at the state health laboratories. As temperatures cool, mosquito populations will die out and testing will be suspended.

Test results are pending for 26 traps set on Aug. 29.

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Boy, 7, killed in house fire; teenage girls injured


A 7-year-old boy has been killed and his teenage sisters injured in a house fire in Rhode Island.

The Providence Journal reports a police officer on patrol noticed smoke billowing from the home in Middletown early Monday morning. Officers forced their way inside and rescued the girls from the first floor.

Officers were unable to get to the home's second floor because of heavy smoke.

Responding firefighters eventually reached the second floor, where the boy was in serious condition.

All three siblings were taken to area hospitals, where the boy died from his injuries.

Police say that the children's parents were not home when the fire broke out.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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Judge to consider another settlement in 38 Studios lawsuit


A Rhode Island Superior Court judge will consider whether to approve a partial $25.6 million settlement in the lawsuit over the state's disastrous deal with 38 Studios, the video game company started by former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling.

Wells Fargo Securities and Barclays Capital Inc. have agreed to pay the money to get out of the lawsuit brought when 38 Studios failed less than two years after receiving a $75 million state loan guarantee.

If approved, the settlement would bring the amount the state has recovered to $42 million.

The lawsuit is still pending against Schilling and other 38 Studios executives, as well as First Southwest, which acted as Rhode Island's financial adviser in the deal.

First Southwest has objected to the settlement.

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Hermine expected to weaken as it lingers offshore


Hermine is expected to begin weakening as it churns hundreds of miles offshore in the Atlantic Ocean.

But forecasters are warning it could continue to impact areas from New York to southern New England with pounding waves, coastal flooding and beach erosion before it moves out to sea.

A tropical storm warning remains in effect Tuesday from Long Island to Massachusetts.

New York officials have extended beach closures beyond Labor Day because of dangerous rip currents.

In New Jersey, large waves and churning surf up to the base of dunes were reported in some areas of the state that were hit hard by Superstorm Sandy in October 2012, but no flooding or other damage was reported.

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Fire breaks out at $3.1M Narragansett oceanfront property


 

Firefighters have battled a blaze at a multi-million dollar Rhode Island oceanfront estate owned by the family of the co-owner of a minor league baseball team.

Crews were dispatched to the five-bedroom, five-bathroom Narragansett house after a fire broke out around 8:30 p.m. Monday.

The home is owned by the family of late Pawtucket Red Sox co-owner James Skeffington.

No one was inside at the time. A caretaker on the grounds first noticed the blaze.

Fire officials say strong winds from Hermine coupled with "water problems" made it difficult for firefighters to control the flames.

The two-story home and surrounding two-acre property is valued at $3.1 million.

Skeffington briefly owned the PawSox before his sudden death in May 2015.

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Woman wakes up half-naked in stranger's car with no memory


Police are investigating a sexual assault case involving a Massachusetts woman who woke up half-naked in a stranger's car in Providence with no recollection of how she got there.

The 23-year-old victim had a swollen eye and scratches on her body when she reported the assault to police on Monday.

Police say the last thing she remembers was buying a drink at Club Ultra on Saturday night before waking up naked from the waist down in the back seat of a white sedan with no license plates.

The police report states a young man approached the vehicle and told her she was in Providence. When the victim used his cellphone, she told police she found photos of herself unconscious that suggested she was sexually assaulted.

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Pedestrian struck and killed by vehicle in North Kingstown


A man has died after being struck by a vehicle while trying to cross Route 1 in North Kingstown.

North Kingstown Police Capt. Paul Barry said Thursday that 52-year-old Peter Munroe was pronounced dead after being rushed to Rhode Island Hospital with severe injuries on Wednesday evening.

Munroe had just left a nearby supermarket where he worked when he attempted to cross the four-lane Post Road, also known as Route 1. He was hit by a vehicle traveling in the right northbound lane at about 5:20 p.m. Wednesday.

Barry says the driver told police he didn't see Munroe, who might have been walking to a bus stop.

Police are still investigating what happened.

Barry says there are no criminal charges pending against the driver, 56-year-old East Greenwich resident Edmund Casey.

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CVS to pay Massachusetts $795K, tighten policies for opioids


CVS has agreed to pay Massachusetts $795,000 and will tighten its policies for dispensing opioids following an investigation into its drug prescription practices.

Attorney General Maura Healey announced the settlement Thursday. She says it resolves allegations that CVS failed to provide its pharmacists with a way to access the state's Prescription Monitoring Program, an online database that provides a patient's prescription history designed to curb the abuse of addictive medications.

The Woonsocket based drug store giant will now require its Massachusetts pharmacists to check the database before filling prescriptions for commonly misused opioids.

It has also agreed to pay $795,000, revise its prescription drug policies and retrain pharmacists.

CVS didn't immediately respond to emails seeking comment. Healey says the company has about 350 pharmacies and 1,200 pharmacists in Massachusetts.

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Female scientists from URI to lead expeditions to Antarctica


Three female scientists from the University of Rhode Island will each lead separate research expeditions to Antarctica this academic year.

University officials say the missions are further evidence of the school's success in attempting to recruit more women for science faculty positions.

The expeditions will conduct research on the biology of diatoms, microscopic algae that are essential to the ocean's role in regulating global climate. They will be supported by the Nathaniel B. Palmer, an ice-capable research vessel chartered by the National Science Foundation.

Bethany Jenkins, an associate professor of cell and molecular biology, says the missions are an opportunity for the scientists to serve as role models for the next generation of female researchers.

Jenkins and her 13-member team depart for Antarctica on Wednesday.

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3 firefighters injured in suspicious Smithfield blaze


Three firefighters are recovering from minor injuries sustained in a suspicious vacant house fire in Smithfield that's currently under investigation.

The blaze was reported around 2:30 p.m. Thursday at a home on Leland Mowry Drive in the Esmond section of town.

Fire Chief Robert Seltzer says someone ignited a fire on the porch, which worked its way into the interior of the structure by the time firefighters arrived.

Seltzer says the fire is being considered suspicious because the house was vacant and there was no power running to it.

Three firefighters were hospitalized after the blaze was extinguished. Two were treated for heat exhaustion and another was hospitalized with a bruised rib.

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