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This Hour: Latest Massachusetts news, sports, business and entertainment

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MASSACHUSETTS MEDICAL MARIJUANA

Marijuana rally at Statehouse Thursday

BOSTON (AP) - Marijuana advocates are calling on Gov. Deval Patrick to make better progress on licensing medical marijuana dispensaries.

The Massachusetts Patient Advocacy Alliance is organizing a rally at the Statehouse Thursday afternoon and then will deliver a letter outlining their concerns to the governor.

Matthew Allen, the group's executive director, says the goal is to try to shift attention back to residents who need marijuana to cope with long term illnesses such as cancer and chronic pain. He says too much focus has been placed on political intrigue around the 20 companies that have been awarded temporary licenses to become one of the state's first medical marijuana dispensaries.

The rally comes on the same afternoon state lawmakers are set to hold a hearing on a proposal to legalize and tax marijuana outright.

ANIMAL ABUSE

Bill would increase penalties for animal cruelty

BOSTON (AP) - A bill calling for tougher penalties for animal cruelty is set for a hearing on Beacon Hill.

The so-called PAWS act would also create a statewide registry of people who have been convicted of animal abuse and make that list available to animal shelters, pet stores and breeders.

The Legislature's Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear the measure on Thursday.

The bill was filed by Senate Republican leader Bruce Tarr following last year's highly-publicized case involving a year-old pit bull, later nicknamed "Puppy Doe," who was euthanized after being found beaten and tortured in Quincy.

Under the proposed legislation, convicted abusers could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Those penalties could double for repeat offenders or if certain aggravating factors are involved.

ANTI-BULLYING BILL

Massachusetts governor to sign anti-bullying bill

BOSTON (AP) - Gov. Deval Patrick is planning to sign a bill designed to build on the state's 2010 anti-bullying law by strengthening protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students and students with disabilities.

Massachusetts lawmakers have already approved the bill which would also create new reporting measures for schools and recognize certain populations as more vulnerable to bullying.

Patrick plans to sign the bill Thursday at the Statehouse.

The 2010 law was designed to crack down on bullying and cyberbullying and require schools to establish anti-bullying programs.

The new bill would create a data collection and reporting mechanism designed to help educators, administrators and legislators identify trends and respond to them.

Schools would be required to report bullying data annually to education officials. The statistics would be passed on to the attorney general and lawmakers.

MISSING BOY-MASSACHUSETTS

Defense experts allowed to examine boy's body

FITCHBURG, Mass. (AP) - The funeral of a 5-year-old Massachusetts boy found dead last week after being missing for months is being delayed so pathologists for the defense can examine the body.

A judge Wednesday gave the defense until Monday to complete an examination of the body of Jeremiah Oliver of Fitchburg.

Jeremiah, whose family was being monitored by state child welfare officials, had not been seen since September but was not reported missing until December. His body was found near Interstate 190 in Sterling last Friday. His mother and her boyfriend are facing charges in connection with his disappearance, but not his death.

The body is in the custody of the state medical examiner pending an autopsy.

Jeremiah's father says he's not happy with the judge's decision, but has no choice but to comply.

MISSING MEN

Jury in man's triple slaying trial selected

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) - Jury selection in the trial of a North Adams man charged with helping to kill three Pittsfield men has been completed.

Opening statements in 47-year-old David Chalue's (shuh-LOOZ') trial are scheduled to take place Friday in Hampden Superior Court after the selection of 12 jurors and four alternates was completed Wednesday. No court proceedings in the case are scheduled for Thursday.

Prosecutors say Chalue was one of three men who carried out the killings in August 2011 of David Glasser, Robert Chadwell and Edward Frampton. He has pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges.

The trial is being held in Hampden County because of the heavy media coverage the case received in Berkshire County.

One man has already been convicted in the case. A third murder suspect awaits trial.

BICYCLIST KILLED

Barnstable woman convicted in bicyclist's death

(Information in the following story is from: Cape Cod (Mass.) Times, http://www.capecodonline.com )

BARNSTABLE, Mass. (AP) - A Barnstable woman charged with driving from the scene after striking a bicyclist who later died has been convicted of a lesser charge than the one she originally faced.

Angelica Barroso was found guilty by a judge Wednesday of leaving the scene of an accident causing personal injury.

The Cape Cod Times reports she had been charged with leaving the scene of an accident causing death, but the judge determined that because the cyclist was struck by a second vehicle "harm resulting in death was not proved beyond a reasonable doubt."

Police say the 24-year-old Barroso struck 20-year-old Sheila Moreta as she cycled home at 2 a.m. on June 14, 2012 from her job at a restaurant. Moreta landed in the street and was struck by a second vehicle.

AX ATTACK

Police: Lunenburg woman attacks boyfriend with ax

LUNENBURG, Mass. (AP) - A Lunenburg woman has been arrested after allegedly attacking her live-in boyfriend with an ax, landing him in the hospital with a serious neck wound.

Authorities say 47-year-old Rhonda Ravanis was charged with attempted murder, assault with a dangerous weapon, vandalizing property and resisting arrest after attacking 53-year-old Robert Volpe at about 1 a.m. Wednesday.

Police say after attacking her boyfriend, Ravanis used the ax to damage a neighbor's house.

Ravanis was scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday, but was instead sent for a competency evaluation by a judge because she was being uncooperative. She is scheduled to appear in court next month when a lawyer will be appointed for her.

Volpe remains in a hospital in critical condition. Police did not disclose a possible motive.

TAX FRAUD-DOCTORS

150 doctors targeted for tax fraud in NH, Vt.

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen has asked the Secret Service and Internal Revenue Service to investigate reports of tax fraud affecting more than 150 doctors and health care providers in the state and in Vermont.

The medical societies in both states say Social Security numbers have been stolen and used to file fraudulent federal tax returns. At least several hospitals and some private providers have been targeted.

Rick Adams, a spokesman for Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, tells the Valley News about 50 doctors and other employees who work at the hospital have been affected.

Scott Colby of the New Hampshire Medical Society says similar cases have been reported in other states, such as Maine, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Shaheen is asking for a joint investigation between the Secret service and IRS.

RABBIT HEADS-MAILBOXES

Rabbit heads left in Westfield sisters' mailboxes

(Information in the following story is from: The Westfield (Mass.) News, http://thewestfieldnews.com )

WESTFIELD, Mass. (AP) - Westfield police are investigating after severed rabbit heads were found in two mailboxes in town this week.

The Westfield News reports that a man called police on Monday evening to report that a rabbit's head had been left in mother's mailbox.

The woman said a rabbit's head had also been left in her sister's mailbox about four blocks away.

The heads were removed and disposed of.

Police say a hunter who saw the heads said they appeared to be from wild rabbits, not domesticated rabbits.

Police say no one in the neighborhood reported seeing anything suspicious and are seeking the public's help.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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