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October 19, 2018

Woman found in Massachusetts home with dead babies charged with murder

BOSTON (Reuters) – A 31-year-old Massachusetts woman who authorities discovered living with the bodies of three dead babies tucked inside a closet in her rodent-infested house was charged on Tuesday with two counts of murder, prosecutors said.

The woman, Erika Murray, had been charged in September with crimes including fetal death concealment after police found the bodies of three dead young children in the home in Blackstone, Massachusetts, she shared with her boyfriend, Raymond Rivera, 38.

Rivera was arrested on Tuesday and charged with seven criminal counts including assault and battery on a child causing substantial bodily injury.

“This has been and will continue to be a difficult case,” Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. said in a statement. “Our investigators followed the evidence where it led.”

Police were called to the house, located in a suburb some 40 miles southwest of Boston near the Rhode Island border in August, after crying children were reported there. They found four children, ranging in age from three months to 13 years, who were taken into state custody.

All the children, living and deceased, were the offspring of Murray and Rivera, prosecutors said.

Attorneys for the two defendants could not be reached for immediate comment.

Authorities have since razed the house, which had been located just a half-mile from the local police station on a quiet residential street.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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Woman found in Massachusetts home with dead babies charged with murder

Feds discuss plans for aging northeast rail line

NEW YORK (AP) — Rail travelers would be able to speed from Washington, D.C. to Boston at 220 mph and people on Long Island would take a tunnel straight to Connecticut and points north rather than go through New York City under some of the more ambitious long-range plans described by federal rail officials Wednesday to remake the beleaguered Northeast Corridor.

The 457-mile corridor is the busiest commuter rail line in the country and the site of regular and often lengthy delays on Amtrak and regional lines such as New Jersey Transit, due to 100-year-old infrastructure and crowded tracks.

At Wednesday’s open house, the Federal Railroad Administration laid out its vision for expanding service and making existing service more efficient. The three groups of projects presented, contained in a report released this month, were culled from an original list of 98 individual proposals that was then winnowed down to 15.

All three scenarios factor in new rail tunnels under the Hudson River between New Jersey and New York, a contentious issue that reached a boiling point four years ago when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie pulled the plug on a $9 billion tunnel project, citing potential cost overruns. Amtrak, which owns the tracks along the Northeast Corridor, is seeking funding for a new tunnel project that is at least 10 years away.

While work on aging infrastructure up and down the corridor would proceed regardless of the fate of a new tunnel, the expanded capacity it would provide would be crucial to any of the major projects, said Rebecca Reyes-Alicea, FRA project manager for the Northeast Corridor.

“What we can do is account for the immediate infrastructure needs in this process, so that it all fits together,” she said. “Building tunnels is not an easy task, but at least if we can all kind of shepherd around the same goal, we can get there. It’s going to a take a while, but if we can at least get the groundwork through this and through the environmental work that has to be done for the tunnels, we can at least start to get the wheels turning.”

The three proposals include features such as a tunnel to connect stations on Long Island to the Connecticut coastline for service to Providence and Boston; a “second spine” alongside the current Northeast Corridor tracks that would carry high-speed rail at speeds of 220 mph, and new service between New York and Boston that would serve Hartford, Springfield and Worcester, Massachusetts.

Currently, Amtrak lines split in New Haven, with Boston-bound trains heading up the coast and most inland trains terminating at Springfield.

Also, new tracks would bypass several movable bridges between southeastern Connecticut and Rhode Island that currently contribute to slowdowns due to capacity and speed restrictions.

A fourth proposal, called “no action,” calls for maintaining service at current levels through 2040.

The plans are in the very preliminary stages. Within the next year, more public comment will be solicited on the proposals and a draft environmental impact study on proposals will be released in fall 2015.

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Feds discuss plans for aging northeast rail line

Google's latest project: mapping small gas leaks in US cities

Google Street View cars outfitted with special sensors have identified hundreds of small but steady methane leaks lying beneath the streets in three US cities.

The specially equipped cars drove the streets of Boston, Staten Island, and Indianapolis sniffing out minor gas leaks for a pilot mapping project in conjunction with the New York-based Environmental Defense Fund and local utility companies. EDF released the findings online Wednesday, along with a set of interactive maps.

The leaks identified by this study do not represent a safety threat but do add up to a large volume of smog-inducing, greenhouse gas emissions, EDF chief scientist Steven Hamburg told reporters during a media briefing about the pilot program Wednesday.

Recommended: Think you know the odd effects of global climate change? Take our quiz.

While utilities are federally mandated to address large gas leaks that pose hazards to property and people, smaller, chronic leaks typically fall by the wayside until the pipes can be fully replaced, Mr. Hamburg said.

“This work creates an important tool for helping to understand where the largest of these leaks are and where the dollars that are being spent to modernize and upgrade gas systems can best be utilized,” Hamburg said.

National Grid, a utility company that operates pipelines in Boston and Staten Island, plans to use the data gathered through this pilot program to prioritize replacement of aging pipelines, Susan Fleck, National Grid’s Vice President of Pipeline Safety, told reporters during the briefing.

The problem appears to be particularly pervasive in cities with aging infrastructure. In Boston and Staten Island – both of which rely on many pipes that are more than 50 years old – the sensors detected an average of one leak per every mile driven. Many cities in the Northeast rely on similarly aging infrastructures. By contrast, Indianapolis – which has invested heavily in updated natural gas pipes – yielded an average of just one leak per 200 miles driven.

For its part, Massachusetts adopted a uniform classification system for prioritizing repairs of leaks in natural gas pipelines in a new law signed by Gov. Deval Patrick (D) on July 7. The EDF report highlights this law as a point of progress in developing a process to plan and fund long-term pipeline upgrades.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that can have a short-term impact on climate up to 120 times greater than carbon dioxide, says Louis Derry, a professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. Over the long term, however, methane is not a major factor in altering climate because it persists in the atmosphere for only 10 to 20 years, he says.

“Even if methane is not a major climate player, curbing emissions is the right thing to do because it will reduce the danger of small leaks growing into larger, more dangerous leaks and will help to improve overall air quality,” Professor Derry says. (Methane is a contributing factor in the formation of ozone and smog.)

The release of these findings in a user-friendly format could help to secure public buy-in for costly infrastructure improvements, Derry suggests.

Replacing pipelines “is expensive, nobody wants to pay for it, and nobody wants to have their street dug up,” he explains. The visualizations offered by the EDF maps could persuade the public to put up with rate increases and the nuisance of lengthy construction projects to overhaul corroding pipelines.

The most encouraging aspect of this study, Derry says, is its role as an illustration of the technological leap in sensing capabilities. Until just a few years ago, these measurements would have been collected by hand and individually processed in the laboratory, he says. Today, for about $50,000, researchers can affix a sensor capable of taking a reading every second to the roof of a car or the wing of an airplane.

“This is a highly, cost-effective way to cover large areas that just wasn’t possible a few years ago,” he says. That capability could be used to follow up in an area where pipes have been replaced to see whether the replacement was effective in curbing emissions. It could also be employed to measure other emissions such as water vapor or carbon dioxide.

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Google's latest project: mapping small gas leaks in US cities