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NEW ENGLAND IN BRIEF

Taj Mahal gets 'official blues' designation

Governor Mitt Romney signed legislation yesterday recognizing Taj Mahal as the first ''Official Blues Artist of the Commonwealth." Taj Mahal, born Henry St. Claire Fredericks in Harlem in 1942, grew up in Springfield and gained local fame in the early 1960s by playing with his band, The Elektras, while attending the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He plays more than 20 instruments and has won two Grammys over the course of his career. .

Herald's assets won't be frozen by verdict

Suffolk Superior Court Judge Charles R. Johnson will not freeze the Boston Herald's assets as requested by a jurist who won a $2 million libel verdict against the paper in February 2005, lawyers involved in the case said yesterday. Bruce W. Sanford, an appellate lawyer based in Washington and retained by the Herald, said last night that Johnson had asked for and had received a letter from the Herald's insurance company, Mutual Insurance Co. Ltd. of Bermuda, stating that it will pay Judge Ernest Murphy the amount owed if he wins on appeal. Murphy's lawyer, Howard Cooper, said Murphy is owed more than $3 million because of interest accrued on the original judgment.

Nighttime traffic delays expected

Drivers can expect nighttime traffic delays this week in the Storrow Drive Tunnel and around the Evelyn Moakley Bridge, officials said yesterday. The bridge will be closed tonight and tomorrow from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. for a film shoot. Traffic will be detoured across the Congress Street Bridge, the Boston Transportation Department reported. Atlantic Avenue will remain open, and drivers can access Interstate 93 via Congress Street to Atlantic Avenue. The state Department of Conservation and Recreation began routine inspections last night on the Storrow Drive Tunnel and plans to continue them tonight and tomorrow from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. One lane of traffic is to remain open during the inspections.

Fallen wires halt Green Line service

The MBTA's Green Line service was suspended from Government Center to Lechmere for about 40 minutes during the evening commute after wires landed on a trolley at Government Center. The train was evacuated, but the wire posed no threat to riders, officials said. Shuttle buses and other transportation for riders were provided until the service resumed at about 6.

Oil accidentally pumped into home

An oil company accidentally pumped an estimated 150 gallons of oil into the basement of an apartment building with no oil tank on Vinson Street in Dorchester yesterday, forcing the evacuation of the complex. The Boston Fire Department responded shortly after 2 p.m. The incident is under investigation.

One in 5 said to have high mercury levels

One in five women of childbearing age tested in Massachusetts and nationwide had mercury levels at or above federal recommended limits, a study by the environmental groups Sierra Club and Greenpeace found. The hair of 218 adults and children in Massachusetts was tested for the metal, which is particularly dangerous for women of childbearing age because exposure in the womb can cause neurological damage and other health problems in children. Among all Massachusetts residents tested, 27 percent had mercury levels at or above the limits set for women of childbearing ages. The Environmental Quality Institute at the University of North Carolina at Asheville conducted the hair analysis of 6,600 people in 50 states.

CONCORD, N.H.

Bill to buy damaged property gets support

Governor John Lynch is urging lawmakers to help victims of last fall's floods. In a letter to the House Finance Committee, the governor supported a bill to allow the state to buy property in Alstead and nearby towns severely damaged or destroyed by the October flooding(AP)

Settlement reached in termination lawsuitA former Saint Anselm College employee who changed genders from male to female says she and the school have reached a settlement over her firing. Sarah Blanchette sued the Catholic college in May, saying it fired her as a senior computer programmer after she told school officials she planned to change genders. Blanchette, 53, then was known as Robert Blanchette. The group Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders said yesterday it has settled the lawsuit filed in US District Court. No details of the settlement were released. (AP)

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