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HOLD FOR RELEASE UNTIL 12:01 A.M. EDT THURSDAY. THIS STORY MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST OR POSTED ONLINE BEFORE 12:01 A.M. EDT. - In this Aug. 17, 2011 photo provided by Elizabeth Farnsworth, rare clubmoss grows in the challenging Alpine environment on Mount Mansfield near Stowe, Vt. A comprehensive report being released Thursday, March 26, 2015, by the New England Wild Flower Society shows that much of New England’s rich native flora is fighting for survival against increasing odds. Conservationists studied more than 3,500 known plant species and determined that about 22 percent are considered rare, in decline, endangered or possibly extinct. Many plants also range over a much smaller geographical area than they once did. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Farnsworth)

Report: NE biodiversity threatened

Thursday, March 26, 2015

BOSTON — From picturesque coastal estuaries of Cape Cod to the soaring White Mountains, much of New England’s rich native flora is fighting for survival against increasing odds, according to what conservationists call the most comprehensive accounting ever made of the region’s plant life. The report, to be released Thursday by the New England Wild Flower Society, studied more than …

House OKs early retirement plan for state workers

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

BOSTON (AP) — The Massachusetts House gave overwhelming approval Wednesday to Gov. Charlie Baker’s plan to offer early retirement packages to thousands of state employees. The governor and lawmakers expect about 4,500 executive branch workers to take advantage of the program, saving the state about $173 million in the next fiscal year that starts on July 1. The savings estimate was about $5 …

State plans takeover of Holyoke schools

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

BOSTON — Massachusetts Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester is recommending the Holyoke Public Schools be put into state receivership. Chester pointed to what he called the “persistent and pervasive” underperformance of Holyoke schools. He said only one in three students there is reading at grade level. Chester said he also based his recommendation on seven years of observing the district. Chester told the Board …

Jury hears testimony on gloves in bomber’s car

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

BOSTON — The blood of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer appeared on white gloves found in Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s car, a DNA expert testified Wednesday as prosecutors tried to show he played an active role in that killing days after the bombings. Tsarnaev, 21, …

Report predicts Boston Olympics could boost economy with ‘smart budgeting and effective planning’

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

BOSTON — Massachusetts could reap billions of dollars in economic activity if Boston is chosen to host the 2024 Olympics, the authors of a new report suggest, while adding there are still many questions that cloud the forecast. The study, released Wednesday by the Donohue Institute at the …

state briefs

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Boston area housing affordability worsening BOSTON (AP) — A new report says it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find affordable housing in greater Boston, especially for young adults and aging baby boomers. The 12th annual housing report card released Wednesday by the Boston Foundation says while the Boston area’s …

Pro-pot legalization group warns against excessive taxation

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

BOSTON — A group pushing for a 2016 ballot question on legalizing the recreational use of marijuana is warning against imposing excessive taxation or fees on the sale of pot. Bay State Repeal on Wednesday released a statement saying it welcomes a bill filed by more than a …

Snow problems in Boston chill Olympic bid

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

BOSTON - The hundreds of grumpy commuters crammed into South Station vented to one another as they waited to see whether their trains would be canceled or delayed. The snowiest winter on record had already exposed deep gaps in this city’s infrastructure and soured public will toward an …

Friend says he gave gun to Marathon bomber

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

BOSTON — Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev borrowed a gun two months before the 2013 attack and “kept coming up with excuses” for not returning it, a close friend testified Tuesday. Prosecutors have identified the Ruger handgun as …

AG seeks ban on sale of e-cigarettes to minors

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

BOSTON — Attorney General Maura Healey on Tuesday filed proposed regulations that would ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors, prohibit free product giveaways or sampling, and require the devices be kept out of the reach of customers at stores. Currently there is no state law prohibiting …

Woman choked by officer sues Chicopee police

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

CHICOPEE (AP) — A woman who was choked by a former Chicopee police officer during a violent struggle in February 2013 has sued for $1 million. The suit filed in federal court in Springfield by Maylene Maldonado alleges civil rights violations and improper training of officers. The city …

Chief justice, prosecutor differ on drug sentences

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

BOSTON (AP) — One of the highest profile prosecutors in Massachusetts has delivered a sharp rebuke to a plan by the state’s chief justice to abolish mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses. Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants at a legal summit Monday told dozens of lawyers …

Gay groups march in Boston St. Patrick’s parade

Sunday, March 15, 2015

BOSTON — Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade made history Sunday as two gay and lesbian groups marched after decades of opposition that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The gay military veterans service group OutVets …