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Judge Michael Ponsor, holding his first novel, "The Hanging Judge," which was published in 2013.
File photo / The Republican

When Springfield federal Judge Michael Ponsor semi-retired after three decades on the bench, he started to enjoy two privileges of part time work: He could choose the type of cases he wanted, and he had a lot more time for his other professional passion, fiction writing.

A few years ago, his first legal thriller — "The Hanging Judge" — reached the New York Times bestseller list. His second — "The One-Eyed Judge" — features the same main character, Judge David Norcross, who Ponsor insists is only loosely based on himself.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.
State House News Service

President Donald Trump Wednesday tweeted that the military will no longer "accept or allow" transgender individuals from serving. And many elected officials  and legal advocacy groups in New England are speaking out on the ban.

After years of encouraging solar development, Vermont seems to be attracting the attention of national solar companies.

Construction of the MGM casino in Springfield, Mass., as of Oct. 2016.
Don Treeger / The Republican

New legislation allowing Massachusetts casinos to serve alcohol until 4 a.m. gives them a competitive advantage over gambling facilities in several neighboring states.

With approval from regulators, the Bay State could allow casinos to serve booze several hours later than any other New England state with legal gambling.

Casinos in Connecticut and Rhode Island must stop selling alcohol at 2 a.m. on weekends, and 1 a.m. during the week. In Maine, they can serve until 1 a.m.

People playing the slot machines at the Plainridge Park Casino
Don Treeger / The Republican

As some high profile Massachusetts politicians criticize recent legislation that paves the way for casinos in the commonwealth to serve alcohol until 4 a.m., elected officials in communities where resort casinos will operate are generally supportive of the law.

The change allows the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to issue liquor licenses allowing casinos to serve alcohol to people gambling on casino floors until 4 a.m. The new time, which amounts to a two-hour extension, was included in the state budget Governor Charlie Baker signed into law.

State officials announced on Monday the operator of a new commuter rail line between New Haven and Springfield, and said the launch of that service will be delayed into mid-2018.

Gov. Baker signs fiscal 2016 budget on July 17, 2015.
Antonio Caban / State House News Service

State lawmakers will be taking a closer look at the line-item vetoes made last week by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker before he signed the state's overdue $40.2 billion budget into law. A lot of the $320 million in vetoes stem from cuts Governor Baker made to MassHealth, in the hopes of getting his full package of healthcare reforms enacted.

Massachusetts Congressman Richard E. Neal.
File Photo / The Republican

Two Massachusetts Congressmen remain supportive of a bill that would impose criminal penalties on Americans who support a boycott of Israel, despite concerns raised by the American Civil Liberties Union.

US Representatives Joe Kennedy III and Richard E. Neal said in statements Friday that they still support the bill known as the Anti-Israel Boycott Act. Both congressmen cosponsor the bill, along with 238 other House members.

James Carse, at his home in Rowe, Mass.
Carrie Healy / NEPR

The next book in our summer fiction series took Rowe, Massachusetts, author James Carse five years to create, from start "to publish."

In his whodunit novel "PhDeath: The Puzzler Murders," the perp creates puzzles, and a group of academics solves them to learn the identity of the victim.

St. Thomas Church in Huntington, Massachusetts.
Kevin Gutting / Daily Hampshire Gazette

St. Thomas Church in Huntington, Massachusetts, will go up for auction on Thursday. It's one of over 30 churches in the Springfield Diocese to close its doors in the last decade, but the first to be put up for auction.

Diocese spokesman Mark Dupont said the town's decision to make the church an historic district in 2012 could have made it harder to sell.

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