WNPR

John Bender

John Bender is RIPR's Morning Edition Producer; he researches stories, interviews newsmakers and writes scripts for the morning news.  He also does additional reporting throughout the day for general reporting and special projects.

Gov. Gina Raimondo's position statement came as a welcome surprise to dozens of protestors gathered at the Statehouse Wednesday.

Residents and lawmakers had crammed into the Statehouse rotunda to protest federal plans to move rail infrastructure in parts of Charlestown and Westerly. Then, Charlestown Town Councilor Virginia Lee told the crowd the governor agreed with them.

The federal government is offering official approval for Rhode Island’s plan to toll commercial trucks on state bridges. The toll has generated opposition from the trucking industry and some businesses concerned about how the new tolls might impact the economy.

State Department of Transportation Director Peter Alviti says the go-ahead from the federal government is the final step needed to move forward with the project.  The tolls will be installed in 13 locations, and 34 bridges so far are slated for repairs from the toll revenue.

  A judge in U.S. District Court in Rhode Island began hearings Wednesday in a lawsuit against the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency, spurred by a local journalist.

Providence-based writer Phil Eil, says he’s fought for more than five years to obtain access to thousands of pages of public evidence from a pill-mill trial, about which he plans to write a book.

“I think it’s long overdue that the press and the public have access to the evidence, and I hope the judge will agree with that and say this has gone on long enough,” said Eil. 

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter was in the Ocean State Wednesday. He toured the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, and addressed students at the Naval War College in Newport.

Carter spoke in a large hall to naval officers, and some high school visitors. During a question and answer session, Carter discussed the difficulty of managing military obligations in Russia and the Middle East, while Asia rises in power.

Travel forecasters are predicting busy highways this Memorial Day weekend. AAA expects more than 38 million people to travel over the holiday, the highest volume in a decade.

State lawmakers and local supporters showed up Thursday for the opening of the Hillary Clinton campaign headquarters in Providence. Many of the state’s Democratic leadership, including Governor Gina Raimondo are backing the former Secretary of State.

Warwick resident Justine Lutzel-Caldwell voted for Clinton in 2008 and favors her positions on women’s health.

Weeks after students staged a sit-in over allegations of racism on campus, Providence College has detailed plans to address the students' concerns. In a letter, college officials outlined proposed changes to faculty training and the college curriculum.

In Rhode Island, Brown University has announced that it will use one-hundred million dollars to diversify its campus, to try to make the school more inclusive for students of color. This comes after weeks of protests over racial insensitivity on campuses across the country.

Brown University President Christina Paxson is out with a plan to address racial and class inequity on campus. 

The new PawSox leadership group is no longer ruling out McCoy Stadium as the permanent home of the triple-a baseball team. However, the group offered scant details on any new stadium deal during a media introduction to their new leaders in the club house at McCoy Stadium Monday.

PawSox chairman Larry Lucchino declined to discuss plans to either keep the team in Pawtucket or move to a new city.  He focused instead on introductions for new PawSox President, Dr. Charles Steinberg. He steps in following the unexpected death of former President Jim Skeffington.

The Volvo Ocean race is coming back to Newport in 2018. The international sailing event drew more than 100,000 people to the city by the sea this summer.

According to state officials, the final tally was nearly 130,000 spectators, who came for the races at Fort Adams State Park.

Newport was the only North American stop on the grueling international sailing race, which spans some 40-thousand nautical miles and takes nine months to complete.

At Brown University, a campus-wide survey shows one in four female undergraduates said they had experienced some type of unwanted sexual contact. Further, the survey found ten percent of female undergraduate students had experienced attempted rape. For female graduate students, that number was eight percent.

Rhode Island’s Viola Davis made history last night, as the first African-American woman to win an Emmy for best actress in a TV drama. In a rousing speech, Davis quoted 19th century abolitionist Harriet Tubman, then spoke to the barriers women of color continue to face today.

“And let me tell you something, the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity,” said Davis.

The Providence City Council approved a new zoning ordinance limiting student housing in the city. The council voted 11-3 to approve the ordinance.

Proponents say the ordinance will help alleviate the disruptive college partying, residents say is encroaching into quiet neighborhoods. They say landlords are buying up single family homes, and filling them with college kids.

A cantor chanted a Hebrew prayer of mourning, as the afternoon sun beat down on some one hundred people gathered for the dedication of the state’s Holocaust memorial. Local politicians and prominent members of the state’s Jewish community offered remarks on the project. Many highlighted the memorial’s significance in the light of more recent violence and genocide worldwide.

The newly unveiled memorial sits at the edge of Downtown Providence, near statuary dedicated to the two World Wars.

Rhode Island researchers have received $500,000 in federal grant money to investigate a fungus that’s killing native bats. The mysterious illness has attacked bats across North America.

Over the last decade, biologists believe an illness known as white-nose syndrome has killed some six-million bats in North America. The fungus appears on the bat’s muzzle. It targets hibernating bats, causing serious infections on their wings, and bodies.

Governor Gina Raimondo has signed into law a new minimum wage; set to take effect next year. The wage will increase by sixty cents.

The increase takes effect January 2016. The hourly wage will go from $9 an hour to $9.60 an hour.

Some lawmakers including the Governor and sponsors of the legislation had called for a larger. But the business community pushed back, saying that would place too high a burden on business owners.

The Pope of the Armenian Apostolic Church is in Rhode Island Saturday. The visit comes on the centennial of the killing and deportation of more than one million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire.

When he stops in Providence, the leader of the international Armenian church, Pope Aram I, will visit the memorial to what many historians call the Armenian Genocide, at the North Burial Ground.  He’ll also take part in a church service.

Father Gomidas Baghsarian, priest at Sts. Vartanantz Church, said the visit is a big honor.