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7 high school seniors named presidential scholars

Seven Massachusetts high school seniors have been selected as 2021 US Presidential Scholars, a prestigious honor bestowed to just 161 students nationwide, the US Department of Education said Thursday. In a statement, the Education Department identified the Massachusetts recipients as Ritvik Chandra Pulya of Acton; Arden E. Lloyd of Amherst; Andrew Harris of Concord; Caroline Curran of Pocasset; Kevin Wen of Somerville; Maria Isabella Carpenter of Wenham; and Julie A Canuto-Depina of Weymouth “The 2021 Presidential Scholars represent extraordinary achievements for our extraordinary times,” said US Education Secretary Miguel Cardona in the statement. “I am delighted to join President Biden in saluting these outstanding young people for their achievements, service, character, and continued pursuit of excellence.” The statement said the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars each year selects honorees based on academic achievement, artistic and technical excellence, essays, school evaluations, and transcripts. The panel also considers community service, leadership, and a “demonstrated commitment to high ideals,” the statement said.



Store owner charged in retail scheme

The owner of a video store accused of employing 26 “prolific shoplifters” to steal from local stores and then resell the merchandise on his personal eBay and Amazon accounts was ordered held on $2,500 bail following his arraignment this week in Leominster District Court, officials said. John Duplease, 66, was arrested Saturday at his home in Lancaster following a yearlong investigation into what police describe as a “criminal enterprise” he ran at the Adopt a Video store. Sergeant Thomas Wade said he was unsure how long Duplease had been running the alleged scheme but his high profits — more than a million dollars, according to police — indicate “it was a longtime operation.” He is charged with aggravated organized retail crime over $10,000, leader of an organized retail crime, and receiving stolen property over $1,200, according to police. He was arraigned on Monday. It was unclear Thursday if he posted bail.



Farm to rebuild burned barn

The owners of the historic Scamman Farm say they plan to rebuild a large barn built in 1836 that was destroyed in a fire Monday night. “The big barn burned down completely,” owner Doug Scamman said in a telephone interview Thursday. “But you have to pick up and move on. . . . We’ll have to figure out how we build the new barn. The old granite foundation can’t be used so we have to clean everything out. We’re going to have to rebuild something new.” Scamman said another barn on the property that dates back to 1750 is also in need of repairs. Windows were broken and there was smoke damage on the inside, but it’s “certainly very salvageable,” he said. “It was quite a fire,” he said. When firefighters responded to Scamman Farm at 10:36 p.m. Monday they found the large barn engulfed in flames. Between 250 and 300 chickens perished in the fire; only 15 or 16 survived, he said. Scamman said he’s focused on repairing the 1750 barn and rebuilding the one that was destroyed in the fire. “I feel like we got a bad break, but we’re just picking up and moving forward,” he said. “When you’re on a farm, I was taught that you don’t cry over spilled milk. We just keep going.”



N.H., Maine hot air balloon festivals canceled

The COVID-19 pandemic has cancelled popular hot air balloon festivals this summer in New Hampshire and Maine. An annual hot air balloon rally beloved by locals on the ground in Pittsfield, N.H., usually is held on the first weekend in August. “The Suncook Valley Rotary Club has announced that it will be canceling the 2021 Annual Hot Air Balloon Rally,” the club said in the posting. In Lewiston, Maine, the Great Falls Balloon Festival announced in a recent statement that its event also would not be held in 2021. It was scheduled for Aug. 20-22, according to the festival’s Facebook page. “After much deliberation and consideration, we do not feel we can meet our mission goals, respect the current state mandates, and reach our sponsorship goals to put on this event given the effects of COVID,” festival president Tracy A. Collins said in a statement.