PROVIDENCE -- The House today approved legislation mandating that live musical performers in Rhode Island who use names or songs of another performer acknowledge their act is a "tribute or salute," according to a news release.
Known as the Truth in Music Advertising Act, it would penalize knockoff musical groups that misrepresent themselves as originals. Civil fines would run from $5,000 to $10,000 for violations. The House bill is sponsored by Rep. Peter John Petrarca, D-Lincoln.
Under the legislation, a band must include at least one member of the original recording group. Tribute bands would not be affected.
The bill now goes to the Senate. Similar bills have passed in many states.
In February, Jon "Bowser" Bauman, the former baritone singer of the doo-wop revival group Sha Na Na, testified at the State House in support of the legislation. Bauman is chairman of the Truth in Music Committee of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame and in testimony cited The Drifters, The Coasters, The Platters and The Marvelettes, whose names are being used by other performing ensembles in the country.
-- projo.com staff writer Michael P. McKinney, with Journal archival reports
Summer lunch program under investigation; director fired
PROVIDENCE -- The director of the city’s summer lunch program has been fired and the entire administrative staff will not be brought back after a state audit found that the program falsely claimed it had served far more lunches than it actually had over the past two years, and improperly received hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of federal reimbursement over that span.
A criminal investigation conducted by Providence police is under way, though city officials would not divulge the details or the targets of the investigation.
Program Director Jane Shugrue has been fired, according to Providence Chief of Operations Alix Ogden. Her entire 11-person administrative staff will also not return for the summer season. The city will now hire a new director, and subcontract the summer lunch contract to a private food-service provider.
The program serves lunches to school-age city children at roughly 100 parks and community centers during the summer months. Shugrue has run the program since 1991 and been on staff since 1984.
Ogden said that Shugrue was fired for mismanagement of the program, but would not say if she is a target in the criminal investigation.
Chief of Administration Richard I. Kerbel said that the dollar amounts in play are not yet clear, but it appears that at least several hundred thousand dollars worth of lunches were falsely claimed over the past two years. In the last five years, the program spent about $680,000 a year.
The discovery is the result of a state inquiry into the program last summer and this fall. The state informed Providence of the over-claiming at the end of January. Providence is also conducting its own audit looking into the program.
The program is paid for with federal dollars, but administered at the local level.
Update: 1 building still without power at Pastore complex
CRANSTON -- The Hazard Building remains the only building without full power this afternoon at the Pastore Complex of state offices after outages hit seven buildings this morning.
The power failure's cause? Beneath Howard Avenue, steam from a pipe eroded a conduit carrying electrical wiring, according to Adelita Orefice, executive director of the Office of Health and Human Services. It is being repaired, she said.
Orefice said she was taking the lead on providing the update on the situation because she has responsibility for five agencies affected, among them Department of Human Services, Department of Mental Health and Retardation, and Department of Children, Youth and Families.
Six buildings are running at full power on generators, Orefice said. They include the Training School facility.
The Hazard Building, which houses the Department of Elderly Affairs, is expected to be up and running by tomorrow morning. The Hazard Building only has power today to light stairwells and exit signs.
Orefice said Department of Human Services employees who want to check on the status of the building for tomorrow may call (401) 462-2121, where she said a message should be available.
-- projo.com staff writer Michael P. McKinney
A capital improvement project exists for the repair and replacement of wiring in the Pastore Complex, a press release said today. "Until the project is completed, we will continue to inspect the wiring in the system and do our best to prevent this from happening again," Director of Administration Jerome Williams said in the release.
At the Ferand Building, which tends to get warm in hot weather and where power was out for part of the day, some employees used the option of vacation leave or personal leave, Orefice said. The Ferand Building houses the Department of Human Services.
She added that about 60 to 70 employees from the building were deployed to offices in other communities while about 30 to 40 stayed in the building's atrium to assist the public.
"We expect state employees will return to work as usual tomorrow," she said.
Actress Bracco: 'The vortex had a hold on me' / Photo
Journal photo / Sandor Bodo
Actress Lorraine Bracco, left, poses with Patricia Ryan Recupero, president and CEO of Butler Hospital, today.
PROVIDENCE -- Actress Lorraine Bracco, who played Tony Soprano’s psychiatrist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi, on the HBO series The Sopranos, openly described her bout with depression today during a luncheon at the Westin Hotel.
The 53-year-old told the crowd in her signature raspy Brooklyn accent that during the mob drama’s early years in about 2000-2001, she realized she was suffering from a “deep” depression.
“The vortex had a hold on me,” said the actress, who has shoulder-length brown hair, and wore a tailored charcoal-colored pants suit and spike-heeled open-toed sandals. “It was like I was dead inside.”
In front of the audience of about 525, she spoke for about 15 minutes at Butler Hospital’s annual "Real Stories, Real Recoveries" event. It raised $120,000 for the private mental health facility on Providence’s East Side.
In addition to raising money for Butler, Bracco came to Providence to promote her autobiography, "On the Couch." Critics have hailed her memoir as “from the heart.”
She also participated in the luncheon to dispel the stigma that sometimes surrounds mental illness, she said. “If you break your leg, you have it fixed. If you have a toothache, you go to the dentist. When it comes to mental health, people tend to think they can just get over it. I thought I could yoga my way out of it.’’
PROVIDENCE -- Lawyers representing victims of The Station nightclub fire are asking a federal court judge to allow them to proceed with questioning of Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, the owners of the West Warwick nightclub.
The court issued a stay in November 2004 that barred the victims’ lawyers from questioning the brothers while they were facing manslaughter charges in connection with the deadly fire at their club. One-hundred people died from the Feb. 20, 2003, fire; more than 200 others were injured.
Now, the lawyers say, they should be allowed to proceed with taking sworn testimony from the Derderians because their criminal cases are over and “it no longer appears that Jeffrey or Michael Derderian will be subject to further state or federal criminal charges.”
The lawyers say that the Derderians’ testimony concerning the events that occurred the night of the fire at their club “is critical to the plaintiffs’ case. Jeffrey was a witness to the events that took place on that night,” the lawyers say in their motion. “In addition, a number of [other defendants who have been sued by the victims] have listed Jeffrey and Michael Derderian as people they would depose because their testimony is of general interest.”
On Sept. 29, 2006, the brothers were sentenced in Superior Court after pleading no-contest to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter. Jeffrey was spared a prison sentence and last November, completed 500 hours of community service.
Michael was sentenced to a four-year term at the Adult Correctional Institutions in Cranston. The Parole Board decided in January that he will be released one year early from that sentence. He is now scheduled to be freed in October 2009.
Jane Goodall to cut ribbon on Hopkinton parrot sanctuary
HOPKINTON -- She did internationally known study of chimpanzees in Tanzania. She founded an institute, was named a dame of the British Empire and got the French Legion of Honor.
Next stop for Jane Goodall: Hopkinton.
On May 7, Goodall, the well-known primatologist, and a Massachusett state senator will do the official ribbon cutting ceremony to open the Foster Parrots Exotic Wildlife Sanctuary in Hopkinton, which a news release today says is New England’s first non-profit permanent care center for parrots and other exotic wildlife.
Goodall started studying of chimpanzees in 1960 at what was then called the Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve with her mentor, the anthropologist and paleontologist Dr. Louis Leakey. In 1977, she set up the Jane Goodall Institute, which the news release called "a global leader in the effort to protect chimpanzees and their habitats." The institute also sets up conservation and development programs in Africa, and the Roots & Shoots education program involving tens of thousands of young people in almost 100 countries.
Then-United National Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2002 named Goodall a United Nations Messenger of Peace. She was reappointed in 2007.
ISO: Electricity supplies should be enough for summer
HOLYOKE, Mass. -- The organization that oversees New England's power grid says electricity supplies appear to be adequate to meet spiking demand this summer.
An annual update from Holyoke-based ISO New England Inc. says grid operators should have enough flexibility to handle sharply higher electricity use, even in a prolonged heat wave.
This summer, the region is expected to have nearly double the amount of so-called "demand resources" than it had last summer. Demand resources include large industrial customers that agree to cut electricity use during peak demand.
The organization forecasts this summer's peak New England demand could reach 28,000 megawatts under 90-degree temperatures. The region's all time peak power use was set Aug. 2, 2006, at 28,130 megawatts. One megawatt serves as many as 1,000 homes.
RWU offers reward for information on acts of vandalism
BRISTOL -- Roger Williams University is offering a $1,000 reward to anyone with information about two recent acts of vandalism on campus in which racist messages were scrawled on cars and posted on a dormitory wall.
The more recent of the incidents occurred on the evening of April 15 when two student cars were keyed with racist words. The previous week someone had stuck a piece of paper with racist and derogatory messages targeting a faculty member on an interior wall of a residence hall.
Following the discovery of the second act of vandalism, John King, the university’s vice president for student affairs, sent out a campus-wide e-mail on April 16 telling the student body that the incidents were being investigated and announcing a reward for information that leads to any arrests.
In response to the news, at noon this past Wednesday, about 200 students, professors and administrators gathered in the campus’s main quadrangle to rally against racism. It was a peaceful protest, said university spokesman Brian Clark.
“Obviously, students were concerned,” he said.
Although the reward was initially offered to students on campus, Clark said that if persons outside the university are able to help with the investigation, they may receive it, too.
The incidents are being investigated by campus police. The Bristol Police Department is also participating in the investigation into the vandalism to the cars. King would not comment on whether police had received any tips about the incidents, saying the investigations are ongoing.
FBI SWAT team arrests man in Mass. for R.I. robberies
This morning, an FBI SWAT team arrested a man in Mendon, Mass., who is wanted for robberies at a Lincoln bank and several Rhode Island pharmacies.
Prosecutors say in June last year, David R. Cahill, 31, wore a floppy brimmed hat, sunglasses and one latex glove into a Bank of America branch on George Washington Highway in Lincoln.
Prosecutors say Cahill told the teller he had a gun and left with $2,361.
That month, prosecutors say, he also broke into a Brooks Pharmacy on Mineral Spring Avenue in North Providence, showed a gun, and took about seven bottles of Oxycodone pills.
Cahill is charged with several similar crimes, including a robbery at the CVS drug store on Reservoir Ave. in Cranston, where he was able to escape police during a high-speed chase through the streets of Cranston, according to prosecutors.
He now faces felony charges of bank robbery and robbery affecting interstate commerce. Cahill. appearing this afternoon in U.S. District Court before Magistrate Judge David L. Martin, was ordered held pending a hearing slated for Monday at 3:30 p.m.
House agenda includes 24-hour gambling, martial arts
PROVIDENCE -- Legislation to allow 24-hour gambling on weekends and federal holidays at Twin River and Newport Grand is on the House's schedule today.
Also on the agenda is a bill that would create a commission to license the sport of mixed martial arts, also known as ultimate fighting.
The commission would oversee matches through the state Department of Business Regulation’s division of racing and athletics, which supervises boxing and wrestling. The bill is sponsored by Rep. John J. McCauley Jr., D-Providence.
Journal Photo/Bill Murphy
Rayshawn Bliss, age 6 of Providence, climbs a tree in Burnside Park in Kennedy Plaza in downtown Providence this afternoon. Temperatures are in the mid-70s this afternoon, under clear, sunny skies. The record temp for the day is 77 degrees. But don't let the sun fool you. It's also fire hazard weather, so be careful out there.
We asked each of our first-team selections to fill out a personal survey with questions including favorite TV show, favorite subject in school, and something people would be surprised to know about me.
The swimmers' answers, as well as audio clips of the swimmers talking about what inspired them this past season, will accompany their bios on their own personal pages.
Also, you will find full listings for second-team and All-Division selections. The All-State girls swimming page in The Providence Journal will run tomorrow.
Here is the full schedule for the All-State teams. The teams will be revealed at 6 p.m. each day online, and in the following day's newspaper.
Online now: Wrestling, gymnastics, cheerleading, girls basketball, boys basketball, girls indoor track, boys indoor track
Tonight: girls swimming
Tomorrow: boys swimming
Saturday: boys and girls hockey
Monday: independent stars
Police ID suspect in attack on security guard at mall
PROVIDENCE -- Police have an arrest warrant out for a suspect accused of attacking a security guard with a box cutter Sunday afternoon outside a Providence Place department store.
Police are seeking Anthony Osorio, 19, of Providence, who has been charged in the warrant with two counts of felony assault. The first is for slashing the neck of Spencer Jones, a security guard for JCPenney, with the box cutter and the second for threatening another guard with the weapon.
The assault occurred after the two guards spotted what looked like four men shoplifting in a coordinated way at the JCPenney store, police said.
One guard followed one of the men out of the store into the promenade area of the mall. Jones then left to help him, when police say he was attacked about 15 feet from the store's entrance.
The police say they suspect three others in the incident, but do not have arrest warrants for them at this time.
Jones was brought to the hospital for stitches that day and released, police said.
CRANSTON -- Two buildings in the Pastore Complex of state offices are without power, while five others are up and running on generators this morning, according to a spokesman for the governor's office.
Seven buildings had lost power, including the state Training School for those under age 18 convicted of crimes. The training school is among the five that have power from to generators.
The Hazard building, where the state Department of Elderly Affairs is located, and the Ferand building, where the Department of Human Services is located, are without power.
Governor's spokesman Jeff Neal said officials are working to determine the cause of the problem and to install generators in order to have the Hazard and Ferand buildings back on line today.
Vaccines are free and available to adults only from 2 to 4:30 p.m. at the State House. In addition to the vaccines, pharmacists will screen participants’ blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol and provide other information.
Jeff Bratbert, a clinical assistant professor of pharmacy at the University of Rhode Island said this new dimension of his job allows him to educate patients.
“Some people work all day and are unable to get to a doctor's office or flu clinic when they are open,” Bratbert said, “so being able to get the flu shot at the pharmacy is a major convenience.”
A "red flag" is up and running now, as the National Weather Service warns that today's dry and windy conditions are ripe for possible fires.
The warning, which took effect at 10 a.m., is on until 6 p.m. tonight.
The warning area covers northern Rhode Island, northern Connecticut, most of Massachusetts and south and central New Hampshire.
It could also be a record breaker when it comes to the temperature today.
The National Weather Service is forecasting a high temperature near 78 degrees. The record is 77 degrees, set in 2001. Aside from that, more of the same ... sunny, clear skies and breezy north winds up to 17 mph.
More clear skies tonight, with a low temperature in the mid 40s and a north wind that could gust as high as 23 mph.
Tomorrow is looking cooler, with a high temperature near 68 degrees and mild northeast winds.
Parents, teachers or doctors of children with autism; students with autism, or anyone else who wants to add their stories are invited to comment during the final stages of a study by a legislative commission.
The House Commission to Study the Education of Children with Autism in RI convened in December. It has since gathered what Rep. Peter Palumbo, D-Cranston, called “formal” and “policy-type” information on educating children with autism.
“What we would really like to add to the mix, before we move toward making any formal, legislative recommendations, is the personal side of the issue,” he said in a statement.
The commission is inviting testimony at its next meeting, at noon on Wed., April 30, in the State House, room 313.
projo.com will host Senator Reed for live chat Monday
Sen. Jack Reed will answer questions from projo.com readers during a live chat from 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Monday, April 28.
You can submit questions now: go to projo.com/chat, click "launch chat", choose a display name (you don't need a password) and enter the chat room "senator reed." The senator will see your questions when he logs in on Monday morning, and he may not be able to answer every question.
When sending in a question, do not press enter or click send until you have completed your thought; doing so will cause us to receive an incomplete question. The questions will display to the room as Senator Reed answers them on Monday.
Trees in cities –– or “urban forests” –– have been shown to lower temperatures that are driven higher by heat-trapping asphalt; to limit runoff and pollution of water supplies; to dampen noise; and to mitigate particulate pollution.
And, really, they just look nice.
Mayor David Cicilline and City Forester Douglas Still are hoping to increase the number of trees in the city of Providence. They plan to unveil the State of Providence’s Urban Forests, a report that uses satellite imagery to calculate the total tree canopy of the city.
The study will be released at a tree planting ceremony tomorrow, which is also Arbor Day. Ultimately, the mayor’s office says it wants to plant 40,000 trees in the next 12 years.
A YouTube account holder who posted a video of two people throwing whipped "pies" at columnist Thomas Friedman before an Earth Day speech at Brown claimed the pie-throwers, and others who distributed leaflets, are a group called "Greenwash Guerrillas." The group has posted press releases and a link to the video on its Web site.
One of the pie-throwers was identified yesterday as a Brown student. A statement from the university said the student was "apprehended." The incident will be reviewed by the school's non-academic disciplinary system, the statement said.
Friedman, a Pulitzer-prize winning author and columnist for the New York Times, has coined the term "geo-green" to describe an environmental advocacy that, through the mechanisms of capitalism, he believes can strengthen both our political and economic standing in the world.
Lawmakers plan vote on bill expanding slot parlor hours
PROVIDENCE -- Rhode Island lawmakers could vote on a plan allowing the state's two slot parlors to operate around-the-clock on weekends and holidays.
Just don't bet on it.
First scheduled for a vote Tuesday, the bills have been pushed back until today because of a disagreement between Senate President Joseph Montalbano and House leaders.
Lawmakers are looking for new ways to raise money. Under their proposal, Twin River in Lincoln and Newport Grand could operate 24 hours on weekends and holidays. Closing time would be 3 a.m. on weekdays.
A spokesman for Montalbano says he believes Lincoln should get a larger slice of the profits for putting up with longer gambling hours.