New England briefs

Bill to require labels on foods with GMOs clears committee

A bill that would require clear labels on foods containing genetically modified ingredients has won the backing of a Statehouse committee.

The bill cleared the Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture on Thursday.

Advocates say the bill has bipartisan support in the Massachusetts House and Senate with 154 co-sponsors out of 200 members.

Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group's Deirdre Cummings says similar laws have passed in Connecticut, Maine and Vermont. The Vermont law takes effect in July.

The food industry has said it supports voluntary labeling policies but opposes mandatory labeling on packages of foods that include genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

They say GMOs are safe and allow more food to be produced on less land.

The bill must be approved by lawmakers and signed by the governor.

Hearings on waterfowl hunting to be held

Public hearings on the status of waterfowl populations and waterfowl hunting seasons for the State of Vermont and Lake Champlain zone in New York will be held later this month.

Federal rules require the same rules to be in effect for Vermont and for the Lake Champlain zone of New York.

The annual hearings are being held by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department and Board.

Waterfowl hunters are encouraged to attend the hearings set for 7-9 p.m. on:

• March 15 at the Skenesborough Rescue Squad building in Whitehall, New York;

• March 16 at the Hartford High School auditorium in White River Junction, Vermont;

• March 17 at Memorial Hall, 5 Towers Road, Essex, Vermont.

Police: Vermont man dies after falling through ice on pond

Vermont State Police say the body of a man has been recovered after police responded to a call that a snow machine went through the ice on Ricker Pond in Groton State Park.

Police say they believe the death of 31-year-old Jordan Smith, of Groton, was an accident, but an autopsy will make the determination. They say investigators had no evidence that others were riding with him Saturday.

The state police received a call Saturday that a snow machine had gone through the ice. When they arrived, tracks led to a hole in the water and a search began.

Furniture store in old barn destroyed by blaze

Authorities are investigating after a furniture store in northeastern Vermont was destroyed by a fire.

The P&S Furniture and Mattress Gallery in Concord caught fire Thursday morning.

The store had occupied an old 14,000-square-foot barn along U.S. Route 2.

Eight fire departments were called to the scene. Concord Fire Chief Richard Fisher says the building burned to the ground after firefighters couldn't get inside.

State fire investigators are still trying to figure out how the blaze started.

John Deere, more turn to U.S. Supreme Court on auto dealer law

Lawyers for John Deere and other farm and heavy equipment managers are taking their case to the U.S. Supreme Court following a state court decision that rejected most of their challenges to New Hampshire's Auto Dealers Bill of Rights law.

The law, signed by Gov. Maggie Hassan in 2013, was expanded to include manufacturers of tractors and yard and garden equipment. Hassan said it leveled the playing field between manufacturers and dealers, but a judge barred it from taking effect after Deere and others filed suit.

Those manufacturers say the law looping them into protections designed for automobile and truck dealers unconstitutionally interferes with their equipment dealer contracts. They said they were improperly lumped in with auto manufacturers. The state Supreme Court rejected most of their arguments in December.

The manufacturers asked the U.S. Supreme Court last week to halt enforcement of the law so they can petition the court to review their case by the end of March.

"The equipment industry does not operate in the same way as the motor vehicle industry," lawyers for the manufacturers wrote. "It sells different products for different uses to different individuals and entities, and it contracts differently with its distributors and dealers." The lawyers say the New Hampshire Supreme Court's decision "raises critical questions about the standard to apply in a contract clause analysis." They also say the law will terminate the manufacturers' dealership agreements, creating "substantial uncertainty" in the marketplace.

The state had argued that the law is a merger of regulations that dealt separately with automobile manufacturers and farm and tractor manufacturers. It bars manufacturers from terminating contracts with dealers without just cause, limits mandatory upgrades to facilities and requires proper reimbursement for warranty work done by dealers.

Chief catches woman driving on 3 tires, with sparks flying

A New Hampshire woman caught the attention of a small-town police chief when he spotted her driving on three tires and saw sparks flying up from the metal rim where the fourth tire should be.

Police in Cornish say 20-year-old Samantha Clark-West was subsequently arrested on charges including driving while intoxicated and reckless operation.

Chief E. Douglas Hackett stopped 20-year-old Samantha Clark-West at close to 1 a.m. Sunday on Route 12A in Cornish, a town of about 1,600 residents.

The Newport woman is also charged with unlawful possession of alcohol, driving without a valid license and misuse of plates.

She is due to appear in Claremont District Court on March 14.

It was not immediately known if she has a lawyer. A phone listing for her couldn't be found.

Scientists: Shark ultrasounds the way to study shark moms

Scientists say ultrasound technology normally used on pregnant women can be used to gain insights about the reproduction of tiger sharks.

Researchers from the University of New England and University of Miami say their study of the use of ultrasounds on the sharks offers a less invasive way to investigate the sharks' biology.

They say the ultrasounds allow scientists a way to determine the presence of embryos in sharks while keeping the animals alive. Previous efforts normally involved dissecting the animals.

The researchers performed in-water ultrasounds on live tiger sharks and took blood samples for hormone analysis at Tiger Beach in the Bahamas.

University of New England professor James Sulikowski says the research found that a high number of tiger sharks were pregnant during the winter months.

– The Associated Press


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