News – Portland Press Herald Sat, 16 Dec 2017 12:43:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Single mother of four ‘struggling’ to build career, support family Sat, 16 Dec 2017 09:00:00 +0000 A woman in southern Maine wrote to the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund that she’s more confident than ever about a bright future for her family.

But that’s meant some sacrifices, she wrote, and right now she needs help.

“Hi. We are struggling,” she wrote.

The single mother has been working hard to build a long-term career while at the same time supporting four children, including three school-age boys and an “adorable” 2-year-old daughter, she wrote.

She just finished a career training program that led to a new full-time job, which she began in the fall, and is applying to get an associate degree in lab sciences to improve her earning power and open up new job opportunities.

All of which left her unable to provide holiday gifts for her children this year.

“I need help. I will be busy trying to catch up on my bills that have lapsed without a steady income. Any help would be greatly appreciated.”

The Portland Press Herald Toy Fund in the Spirit of Bruce Roberts is using donations from readers to provide toys to thousands of Maine children who might otherwise not receive holiday gifts because of hardships faced by their parents. Bruce Roberts was the original pen name of the newspaper columnist who co-founded the fund in 1949.

The fund – now in its 68th year – is accepting applications for toys from needy families in Cumberland, York, Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Androscoggin and Knox counties.

Applications can be downloaded at or picked up at the Press Herald’s Welcome Center at 295 Gannett Drive in South Portland. Call 791-6672 to have one mailed to you.

Donations to help buy the toys can be made at or by writing checks to the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund and mailing them to the fund at P.O. Box 7310, Portland, ME 04112.


]]> 0, 15 Dec 2017 20:27:33 +0000
A supersized Disney means a new era in Hollywood Sat, 16 Dec 2017 09:00:00 +0000 NEW YORK — After years of tremors, the earthquake that had long been predicted finally shook Hollywood.

Disney’s deal to purchase most of 21st Century Fox ends the era of the “Big Six” major movie studios, toppling one of the industry’s most famed studios and dramatically redrawing the Hollywood map.

Disney’s move – to pay $52.4 billion in stock for Fox assets – has countless reverberations. But by effectively absorbing Fox’s film studio, 20th Century Fox, Disney has rapidly accelerated the industry contraction that many considered inevitable in an era of flat-lining ticket sales and new streaming competitors like Netflix, Amazon and Apple.

The Big Six are now the Big Five – and the mightiest of them all has just been supersized.

The Disney deal hasn’t just made 20th Century Fox’s 3,200 employees anxious about their future within Disney. It’s sent shockwaves through an industry that has until now bent under the pressures of the new digital landscape, but not broken. Now, Hollywood as an industry is quite literally shrinking.

“The strongest will get stronger and the weaker will fall off or merge with other entities,” said Exhibitor Relations analyst Jeff Bock. “The future is right now and it’s pretty obvious what’s going on.”

Many analysts consider further consolidation simply a matter of time. Before Rupert Murdoch earlier this fall began shopping Fox, most expected the first studio to fall would be either Viacom’s Paramount Pictures (5 percent of the market) or Sony Pictures (8.8 percent), both of which have struggled in recent years and replaced their chief executives. Lionsgate and CBS are also frequent sources of speculation.

Fox is bigger, though. Founded in 1935 by the merger of Twentieth Century Pictures and Fox Films, 20th Century Fox is the home of “The Sound of Music,” the original “Star Wars” and the highest grossing film of all-time, “Avatar.” The studio has generally ranked either third or fourth in market share. This year, it’s fourth with 12.3 percent, following the market-leader Disney, Warner Bros. and Universal.

Fox isn’t necessarily disappearing. Disney will lease its fabled Los Angeles lot for the next seven years. But 20th Century Fox will be folded into Walt Disney Studios. Its movie-making operations will be reduced and likely restructured.

Robert Iger Invision photo by Evan Agostini

As a studio, Disney is already based on several distinct silos of brands: Disney, Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm. Its strength in intellectual properties – especially “Star Wars” and its library of animation classics – has made the studio dominant. In a conference call with investors Thursday, Disney chief executive Robert Iger suggested Fox may function similarly as a label within Disney.

“We have not only respected the culture of those organizations but respected and appreciated the talent that came with those acquisitions,” Iger said.

Before it sold a ticket for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Disney already has three of the top six movies of the year: “Beauty and the Beast,” “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2” and “Thor: Ragnarok.” It has used its might to enforce more onerous terms with theaters on films like “The Last Jedi.” Disney is requiring many theater operators to share a higher percentage – 65 percent – of ticket sales. The film is expected to come close to grossing $500 million worldwide this weekend.

The combination of sensibilities between Disney and Fox, has intrigued others. Though it’s easy to see the planned quartet of “Avatar” movies under a Disney banner (“Avatar” already has a place in Disney theme parks), many of Fox’s franchises, including “X-Men” and “The Kingsman,” are well off-brand for the family-friendly Disney. It hasn’t released an R-rated movie in four years.

“Time to uncork that explosive sexual tension between Deadpool and Mickey Mouse,” Ryan Reynolds tweeted after earlier reports of the Disney-Fox deal.

Disney, which sold Miramax Pictures in 2005, has lacked other kinds of films, too. Fox’s specialty label, Fox Searchlight, is among the industry’s art-house leaders. Two Searchlight films – “The Shape of Water” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” – along with Fox’s “The Post” have made the studio the leading company of this year’s awards season, at least with the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Iger voiced his support for maintaining those businesses. “We like being in the business of making quality movies,” said Iger. “We fully intend to stay in those businesses.”

The deal also, perhaps crucially, gives Disney the extensive Fox library for Disney’s planned streaming service, set to debut in 2019. Disney is now better armed to compete against deep-pocketed digital competitors. Netflix has said it will spend up to $8 billion on original content next year.

“It’s really a battle about the future of streaming,” said Peter Labuza, a film historian and researcher at the University of Southern California. “Disney needs all this material outside of its own brand which now is its own Disney product, Lucasfilm, Pixar. But this can fill in a lot of the space in a streaming site that can compete with, essentially, Netflix.”

That’s a component of the deal that will strike fear in the hearts of exhibitors. Disney has pursued an almost completely event-movie strategy (it’s releasing only eight movies this year), and it’s expected to cut back Fox’s theatrical slate. That’s reason for concern for already struggling theater owners. Box office revenues were up just 1 percent last year, and are expected to slide this year.

“They can’t be pleased,” said Bock of exhibitors. “Less product just means less revenue in their minds.”

But Disney has also, up until now, been a staunch defender of the traditional theatrical window. For that reason, as well as its reputation for quality, the world’s largest theater chain, AMC, hasn’t sounded any alarms over the purchase. Last week on CNBC, Adam Aron, AMC chief executive, applauded Disney’s track record. “AMC has made a lot of money partnering with Disney studios,” he said.

Whichever direction Disney chooses to go, it will have the sway – with approximately 40 percent market share – to set the course for the entire industry.

]]> 0 Fassbender as Magneto, in Fox's "X-Men: Days of Future Past," has a few new Disney suits to answer to.Fri, 15 Dec 2017 21:30:55 +0000
All together, Casco Bay High School seniors march toward their future Sat, 16 Dec 2017 09:00:00 +0000 The temperature is barely 20 degrees, the sidewalk in front of the Portland Museum of Art is a sheet of ice, and Ray Intwari has forgotten his gloves.

But the 18-year-old senior is beaming anyway when he steps off the school bus in downtown Portland, where he congregates with his classmates from Casco Bay High School. They’ve all been waiting for this moment for 3½ years. Today is the annual College March, when the senior class marches together down Congress Street in Portland to mail college applications and letters at the post office. When they step off, they will join a national movement of 2,300 students marching at 25 high schools across the country.

“Senior year always has a lot of hoopla at the end around graduation, and there’s a lot of hoopla around getting in,” Casco Bay Principal Derek Pierce said. “It can be a long anxious spell between applying and finding out for many kids. When I heard about this ritual, I was like, ‘That’s fantastic.’ ”

Casco Bay requires every student to submit at least one college application. Ninety-three students graduated in the class of 2017. Eighty-two went to college this fall. Seven planned to take a gap year after their high school graduation and then go to college. One entered the U.S. Marine Corps, and three entered the workforce.

“We want every kid to know they are college material, whether they choose to take a gap year or enter the military or the workforce,” Pierce said. “We want everybody to graduate knowing they can go to college if they so choose.”

While some mail applications to nearby schools like Southern Maine Community College, Pierce said most kids already have submitted their applications online by mid-December. So Intwari, like most of his classmates, will mail thank-you letters to teachers who wrote his recommendation letters. Others are mailing updated transcripts or test scores, waivers for application fees or notes for their families.


Intwari, 18, stashes his three envelopes in his backpack. One is for Scott Shibles, the director of student life and the leader of Intwari’s homeroom crew.

“Ray is extremely gregarious, outgoing and hardworking,” Shibles said. “He’s one of those kids who is friends with all friend groups.”

Intwari wasn’t always that way.

When his family moved to the United States from Burundi in 2011, Intwari said he was shy. He grew up speaking Kirundi and French, and he only knew basic English phrases. He was too young to fully understand the reasons why his family left their home, but he knew America promised a safer life – and a better education.

“America, my parents told me, it was the best education,” Intwari said.

So at King Middle School in Portland, he joined sports clubs to make friends and practice his English. He swam and played basketball. He volunteered and participated in a summer rock-climbing camp in New Hampshire.

When he advanced to ninth grade at Casco Bay, Intwari found a perfect fit. He said he’ll never forget spending a week in Detroit during his junior year, making a documentary and meeting new people and getting to know his classmates better.

“We all encourage each other,” Intwari said.


Outside the art museum, the seniors are buzzing. Intwari shoves his hands in the pockets of his blue vest to keep them warm. He stands in the back of a group photo, but he still stands out with his bright smile and colorful L.L. Bean beanie. He flashes a peace sign at the camera, then stuffs his hands in his pockets again.

With a cheer, the senior class starts marching down Congress Street toward the post office and Portland City Hall. Intwari jogs to catch up with a friend. The group chants periodically – “We are Casco Bay! We are Casco Bay!”

Police officers and teachers in yellow traffic vests have cleared them a path in the right lane. In the left lane, a line of cars is stopped at a red light. The drivers roll down their windows as Intwari trots down the center line with a hand outstretched for a high-five. Bystanders in Monument Square wave at the students, and Intwari pulls his hand out of his pocket to wave back. On the roof of the Portland Public Library, employees are on the roof, waving congratulatory signs and shaking red pom-poms.

The post office is just two blocks away now. Intwari received mail of his own this week – an acceptance letter from Curry College south of Boston, his first. He sent applications to a host of schools in New England, most in Massachusetts, such as Bunker Hill Community College, Greenfield Community College and Babson College. He will likely start at a community college to get an associate degree and then transfer to a four-year school, he said. He’s thinking about a major in liberal arts, and he’s not quite sure what he wants to do for a career yet.

Still, opening his first acceptance letter with his parents was unforgettable.

“I opened it, and it was one of those memories you will hold onto forever,” he said.


In front of the post office, students swarm a large mail bin, tossing their envelopes into a pile in the bottom. A friend drops Intwari’s three letters into the bin for him. The rush of seniors crosses Congress Street toward City Hall, slapping the hands of their principal and teachers as they go. The entire student body is waiting for them, screaming cheers with clouds of frozen breath, waving posters in the air like a pep rally. The messages are written in bright markers: “Wow” and “Yay Seniors!” One says, “Congrats on not dropping out.”

“It sends a really important message to the ninth-, 10th- and 11th-graders,” Pierce said. “They see the kids they look up to have made it to this point. That can give them inspiration.”

Intwari finds a spot halfway up the steps and sandwiches in the rows of his classmates. His hands are ice cold and still shoved in his pockets, but he is beaming. On the steps of City Hall, a girl in the front row leads a chorus of “C-B-H-S! C-B-H-S!” He joins the chant.

“That was really surreal,” he said later. “To be graduating with these incredible people is amazing.”

Pierce grabs a microphone and congratulates the students. Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling and Superintendent Xavier Botana follow suit. A couple members of the senior class have the chance to share their thoughts.

“When others are walking in life, you should march,” Emmanuel Kab said. “When others are marching in life, you should run. When others are running in life, you should fly.”

The students hoot and applaud and cheer for each speaker. When Pierce dismisses them, they scramble across the plaza, running to their friends or a coffee shop or a seat on the next bus. Some students seek warmth inside City Hall. There, a younger classmate breaks away from his group to approach Intwari.

“Congratulations, bro,” the boy says, reaching out for a handshake.

Intwari extends his hand as well and flashes that wide smile.

“You’re up next,” he says.

Megan Doyle can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

Twitter: megan_e_doyle

]]> 0, ME - DECEMBER 15: Casco Bay High School students complete their annual College March Friday, December 15, 2017. (Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer)Sat, 16 Dec 2017 01:08:37 +0000
Lawsuit alleges pattern of abuse at Maine’s juvenile detention center that goes back decades Sat, 16 Dec 2017 04:25:31 +0000 A lawsuit filed by a former inmate at Maine’s juvenile correctional facility alleges he was subjected to abusive practices including long periods of unwarranted isolation and excessive use of restraints when he was incarcerated in the 1990s.

An attorney for the plaintiff said his client suffers from debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder and other problems that stem from a pattern of inmate abuse that stretches back decades.

The plaintiff in the case is Matthew Keene, a 36-year-old Standish resident who was incarcerated at the Maine Youth Center from 1995 to 1999, beginning when he was 13 years old, according to the complaint filed Oct. 13 in U.S. District Court. The facility is now called the Long Creek Youth Development Center.

The attorney, Peter Clifford of Clifford & Clifford LLC in Kennebunk, contacted the Portland Press Herald via email about Keene’s case on Friday afternoon after reading a Press Herald article about a review of the facility that concluded it is understaffed and ill-equipped to handle youths’ serious mental health needs.

The independent review of Long Creek’s practices followed the suicide of 16-year-old inmate Charles Maisie Knowles on Nov. 1, 2016, and subsequent allegations by his mother, Michelle Knowles, that Long Creek’s staff had failed to provide proper mental health counseling to her transgender son, who had a history of depression. He was being held there on felony arson charges.

Keene’s lawsuit alleges that Department of Corrections staff members routinely placed him in isolation for long periods and used restraints on him without proper cause, despite the fact that Keene already had been diagnosed with “PTSD, depression, and anxiety, among other serious conditions,” the complaint says.

The lawsuit also alleges that the Maine Youth Center’s staff denied Keene the right to mental health treatment and consistently punished him instead of providing rehabilitative services, which exacerbated his mental illness.

“My client has been under a severe disability caused by the abuse that he suffered,” Clifford said.

The lawsuit names a total of 30 defendants, including the Department of Corrections and several current and former staff members. Ten defendants are listed only by their last names, accompanied by the words “first name unknown.”

“Some are responsible for enacting these policies,” Clifford said. “Other people were just guards and other officials who just abused their authority, and did it brutally and sadistically.”

Corrections Deputy Commissioner Jody Breton did not respond to a voice mail left on her office phone Friday after regular business hours. The department has not yet filed its response to the complaint in court.

Clifford said he was not at liberty to say why his client was incarcerated in 1995 because he did not know if Keene’s juvenile criminal record had been sealed. The complaint says that Keene was transferred to an adult correctional facility when he turned 18, but Clifford said he did not know how many years his client remained in prison.

Clifford also did not explain directly why his client waited until 2017 to file a lawsuit about allegations of abuse in the 1990s, saying only that for years Keene had believed that the staff at the facility had a legal right to mistreat him. Clifford added that because Keene has been diagnosed with a mental disability, he is not subject to any statute of limitations on filing the complaint.

Clifford said Keene’s life has been devastated by the abuse he suffered in the Maine Youth Center.

“He has severe PTSD,” Clifford said. “He’s unable to work. He’s unable to really function. He’s somebody who was severely tortured as a child.”

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

Twitter: jcraiganderson

]]> 0 PORTLAND, ME - DECEMBER 14: Long Creek Youth Development Center seen through the large fence that surround its outside grounds. A wide-ranging assessment of the center found serious deficiencies. (Staff photo by Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer)Sat, 16 Dec 2017 01:11:19 +0000
Trump calls FBI’s behavior ‘disgraceful’ Sat, 16 Dec 2017 04:03:52 +0000 QUANTICO, Va. — President Trump said Friday there is tremendous anger over what he called the FBI’s “disgraceful” behavior, taking aim at the bureau just before he appeared at its training facility to praise the nation’s police officers.

“It’s a shame what’s happened with the FBI,” the president said as he prepared to depart for a ceremony at the FBI’s National Academy in Quantico, where more than 200 law enforcement officers graduated from a program that imparts FBI expertise and standards.

Trump appeared to be referring to revelations that senior FBI officials exchanged anti-Trump and pro-Hillary Clinton text messages while working on the 2016 probe of Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state and again during Robert Muel’s investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election.

]]> 0 Fri, 15 Dec 2017 23:03:52 +0000
Father of murder victim wants domestic violence offenders electronically monitored Sat, 16 Dec 2017 03:16:30 +0000 BANGOR — The father of murder victim Stephanie Gebo said Friday that he and others are launching a campaign for widespread use of electronic monitoring – ankle bracelets – for people charged with domestic violence crimes.

Vance Ginn said such a program might have saved his daughter’s life.

“We want those used as a pretrial program,” he said Friday, a short time after Robert Burton was sentenced to 55 years in prison for murdering Ginn’s daughter. “As pretrial, the victim is protected. The most dangerous time that there is in these cases is from the time of arrest to the time of court.”

Ginn said right now there is only paperwork – restraining orders and protection orders – to protect victims of domestic abuse. He said court orders work in some cases, but not all.

Paperwork did not stop Steven Lake from killing his wife and their two children in June 2011 in Dexter. Amy Lake had a protection order on her husband. Bail conditions prevented him from having contact with his wife and children. With a monitoring device, Lake could have been tracked when he approached his family’s home.

Robert Burton’s history of domestic violence officially began in July 2000 when he reportedly used duct tape on the wrists and mouth of a girlfriend – the same thing he tried to do to Stephanie Gebo before he shot her to death 15 years later.

For that domestic violence infraction, he went to prison for 10 years in 2003. His last day of probation was June 4, 2015, the day before Gebo’s body was found by her 13-year-old daughter in a pool of blood at their home in Parkman.

But in Burton’s case, unlike the Lake case, there was no call to police from Gebo and no protection order filed by Gebo against him. A monitoring device while Burton was on probation might have helped his earlier victim, but might not have done Gebo any good. Gebo was not Burton’s previous victim so the “exclusion zone,” the area a violator is not permitted to enter, would not have included her home.

Gebo slept with a gun beside her and was prepared to use it, according to court testimony.

Nevertheless, Ginn argues that ankle bracelets can provide protection.

“We need every piece of protection that we can get,” Ginn said. “Monitoring ankle bracelets will give another tool to our officers and if nothing else, if someone violates their bail, it’ll give our officers time to get there. The system that we have now, if something is awry, we don’t have the time to go get them.”

The Lake murders prompted the first electronic monitoring program in the state in Somerset County, where county commissioners approved use of a one-piece GPS monitoring device for tracking the movement of people charged with domestic violence crimes.

The program was the first in Maine, and money from an event sponsored by Amy Bagley Lake’s parents helped get it rolling.

“Somerset County was the first county to implement that technology,” Sheriff Dale Lancaster said by phone Friday. “It has been extremely successful and is now an integral part of our operations.”

Lancaster said the majority of the bracelets are used as a pretrial tool to protect alleged victims of domestic violence, but there are a couple of cases in which the devices are used post-conviction, depending on an agreement between the courts, the prosecutors and the defense team and on a case-by-case basis.

Lancaster said part of the probation for a convicted domestic offender is treatment in any one of several batterers’ programs. Until the treatment is successfully completed, authorities could still apply the ankle bracelets as a condition of release to keep the victim safe.

Lancaster said it’s hard to predict if another crime would have been prevented by electronic monitoring.

“Until the crime is committed, you can’t say that you stopped it, but I believe that it has been instrumental in keeping the victims safe,” he said. “We have had a few people that we’ve put on the ankle bracelet that we’ve been alerted that there’s been a violation of where they could and couldn’t go.”

Maeghan Maloney, district attorney for Kennebec and Somerset counties, was with Lancaster for a 5K walk-athon in Dexter held in June 2014 to raise public awareness of domestic violence after the Lake murders. The event was sponsored by Ralph and Linda Bagley of Harmony, Amy Bagley Lake’s parents. The event raised $14,000 for the electronic monitoring program. A race in 2012 raised $18,000 for the state to look into electronic monitoring.

Maloney said her Somerset County office was the first in the state with electronic monitoring because of the fundraising efforts by the Bagley family of Harmony to honor the memory of their daughter and grandchildren.

She said Kennebec County soon followed, as did other counties in Maine, including Waldo, Sagadahoc and Cumberland counties.

Maloney said in October she has seen successes with post-conviction monitoring.

“I have cases where the court has ordered electronic monitoring as a condition of probation,” Maloney said.

One of the cases, she said, was that of Andrew Maderios, the former high school music teacher from Pittsfield who was sentenced to serve three years in prison and then to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet for two years for domestic violence assaults against his then-girlfriend.

Ginn said he and his supporters will be conducting walks in Stephanie’s name sometime in the spring to draw attention to domestic violence and to help raise money for counties in Maine that don’t have an ankle bracelet program.

Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at:


]]> 0 Ginn, right, returns to his seat after testifying about his daughter, Stephanie Gebo, at Penobscot Judicial Center on Friday during the sentencing of Robert Burton for the murder of Gebo. Ginn later spoke of the need to use ankle monitoring bracelets to prevent assaults and murders by domestic violence perpetrators like Burton.Fri, 15 Dec 2017 22:33:31 +0000
Poor Venezuelans make their own cash Sat, 16 Dec 2017 02:53:53 +0000 CARACAS, Venezuela — Hard cash is tough to find in Venezuela as the country struggles with financial hardship. So residents in the capital on Friday unveiled their own currency.

The panal, which means honeycomb in Spanish, can be spent in just a few stores. But residents of one neighborhood desperate for spending cash said they welcome the idea proposed by pro-government groups.

“There is no cash on the street,” said Liset Sanchez, a 36-year-old housewife who plans to use her freshly printed panales to buy rice for her family. “This currency is going to be a great help for us.”

Amid triple-digit inflation and a currency meltdown, there has been a run on cash in Venezuela.

Buying common items such as toilet paper, or paying a taxi driver, requires stacks of the official currency, called the bolivar.

President Nicolas Maduro recently announced that Venezuela is launching a national digital currency called the petro, similar to bitcoin. But he has offered few details.

Salvador Salas, a community leader who unveiled the panal, said its circulation is limited to one poor neighborhood. Initially 62,000 bills have been printed – ones, fives and 10s, he said. One brightly colored bill has a picture of the late President Hugo Chavez wearing a red shirt with his arm raised as if giving a fiery speech.

One panal is equal to 5,000 bolivars, or about $1.50 at the official exchange rate and about 5 cents on the black market.

The panal revives a concept promoted by Chavez, who proposed 10 communal currencies before his death in 2013.

Jose Guerra, an opposition politician, knocked the idea of an alternative currency. He said that having multiple currencies could add “monetary chaos” to the ongoing economic crisis.

This has been a turbulent year for Venezuela, which holds the world’s largest oil reserves but has been battered by low crude prices and a crash in production. The country saw months of protests that left more than 120 dead earlier this year, and it is now facing U.S. economic sanctions as it seeks to refinance a huge international debt.

The struggles have caused the president’s approval rating to plunge, although the opposition has been largely unable to capitalize on Maduro’s unpopularity.

]]> 0 customer buys bank notes called panales at a communal bank in Caracas, Venezuela, on Friday. Associated Press/Fernando LlanoFri, 15 Dec 2017 22:40:13 +0000
Noble High School named state winner in STEAM competition Sat, 16 Dec 2017 02:19:19 +0000 Noble High School in North Berwick has been named the Maine state winner in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest, a program that encourages teachers and students to solve real-world issues in their community using classroom skills in science, technology, engineering, arts and math – or STEAM.

The nationwide contest aims to raise enthusiasm in STEAM subjects by encouraging teachers and students to solve issues in their community, according to a news release.

Each of the 51 winners, representing all 50 states and Washington, D.C., will receive a minimum of $25,000 in Samsung products. The state winners were selected from thousands of schools representing communities across the country, Samsung said.

Each state winner will create a video showcasing its proposed solution to a local problem. Ten schools will be chosen to receive additional prizes, including $150,000 worth of Samsung products for each of the top three schools.

Noble students are looking for a remedy to the manganese contamination of the public water supply discovered in fall 2016. Manganese from the rocks and riverbed soil was leaching into the public water supply because of the decreased water level.

The Noble project proposes using STEAM skills to find a way to filter the manganese out of the water and bring the water supply back to a level safe for drinking.

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

Twitter: @jcraiganderson

]]> 0, 15 Dec 2017 21:53:05 +0000
NFL notebook: Panthers owner being investigated for alleged misconduct Sat, 16 Dec 2017 02:18:36 +0000 CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers founder and owner Jerry Richardson is under investigation for allegations of workplace misconduct.

The team said Friday former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles is overseeing the investigation by a Los Angeles-based law firm.

Team spokesman Steven Drummond said in a release that the Panthers and the 81-year-old Richardson take the allegations seriously and are committed to a full investigation and taking appropriate steps to address and remediate any misconduct.

“The entire organization is fully committed to ensuring a safe, comfortable and diverse work environment where all individuals, regardless of sex, race, color, religion, gender, or sexual identity or orientation, are treated fairly and equally,” Drummond said in the release. “We have work to do to achieve this goal, but we are going to meet it.”

Richardson was unavailable for comment.

Drummond told The Associated Press because the matter is under legal review, the Panthers cannot comment publicly on the specifics of the allegations.

SAINTS COACH Sean Payton, Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll, Jaguars offensive line coach Pat Flaherty and Jaguars wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell were fined $10,000 each for improperly going onto the field during Week 14 games.

Payton said he was trying to call timeout when he ran onto the field in the final minutes of New Orleans’ 20-17 loss at Atlanta on Dec. 7. Payton drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

NFL rules say a head coach or trainers can enter the field only to check on players’ health, and that assistants may never go on the field.

Carroll said he knew he’d be penalized for walking onto the field but wanted to calm players near the end of a 30-24 loss at Jacksonville. Late-game scuffles resulted in ejections of two Seattle players, defensive end Quinton Jefferson and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who were each fined $9,115 for unnecessary roughness. Seattle offensive lineman Germain Ifedi was fined $24,309 for verbal abuse of an official.

CARDINALS: Adrian Peterson was placed on injured reserve because of a neck injury, ending the running back’s season after only six games with Arizona.

Acquired from New Orleans on Oct. 10, Peterson ran for 448 yards – 314 in his first three games – and two touchdowns on 129 carries and had nine catches for 66 yards for the Cardinals.

BILLS: The team placed left tackle Cordy Glenn on injured reserve after he missed the past five games because of a lingering foot and ankle injury.

Coach Sean McDermott says quarterback Tyrod Taylor will start against Miami. Taylor sat out Buffalo’s 13-7 overtime win over the Colts last week because of a knee injury. Rookie backup Nathan Peterman is in the NFL concussion protocol.

VIKINGS: Minnesota likely will be missing left tackle Riley Reiff (ankle) and tight end Kyle Rudolph (ankle) against Cincinnati on Sunday. Both were listed as doubtful on the injury report.

CHIEFS: The team placed center Mitch Morse on injured reserve because of a left foot injury and elevated cornerback Keith Reaser from the practice squad.

Morse was hurt Oct. 2 against Philadelphia. He missed five games before getting back onto the field against Denver, and started four more games before he was carted off during the Chiefs’ loss to the Jets on Dec. 3.

JETS: Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson has been benched and will not travel with the team to New Orleans.

This is just the latest issue involving Wilkerson, the Jets’ highest-paid player. Wilkerson was benched for most of the first quarter against Kansas City this month for being late to a team meeting.

RAIDERS: Oakland will be without wide receiver Amari Cooper against Dallas after he aggravated a left ankle injury during last week’s loss to Kansas City.

PRO BOWL: Ladainian Tomlinson, Warrick Dunn, Jason Taylor and Derrick Brooks were selected as Pro Bowl legends captains for the Jan. 28 game in Orlando, Florida.

]]> 0, 15 Dec 2017 21:45:37 +0000
Lebanon has plans to drill offshore for oil and gas in 2019 Sat, 16 Dec 2017 02:14:07 +0000 BEIRUT — Lebanon will begin exploratory drilling for offshore oil and gas in 2019, Energy and Water Minister Cesar Abi Khalil said Friday, as the country hopes to find resources to shore up its indebted economy.

“This is going to create a new sector in the economy,” said Abi Khalil. “And it is going to secure a local source for energy.”

Lebanon’s economy is mired in debt and struggling to grow as the civil war in neighboring Syria stretches into its seventh year. The conflict has paralyzed trade and pushed some one million refugees into Lebanon.

The country has been slow to capitalize on geological survey findings from 2011 indicating a strong possibility of mineral resources in its offshore waters. Its government has been crippled by political deadlock emanating from the crisis in Syria as parties butt heads over taking sides in the war.

It is not certain whether companies will find reserves in Lebanese waters. But a bid, accepted by the Lebanese government on Thursday, by a consortium of international oil and gas giants to explore two sectors in the eastern Mediterranean reflected the potential for a windfall, said Mona Sukkarieh, a political risk analyst at the Beirut-based consultancy group Middle East Strategic Perspectives.

“If they choose to proceed with exploration and drilling, then we are talking about a lot of money,” said Sukkarieh.

The consortium’s members are Eni from Italy, Total from France and Novatek from Russia. Lebanon’s government approved the necessary licenses Thursday.

The country’s share of revenues from oil and gas sales will measure between 55 percent and 71 percent, said Abi Khalil. The window for exploration will be open for up to six years. The contracts with the three companies will be signed in early 2018.

A major finding in Lebanon’s southernmost waters could raise the possibility of a dispute with its neighbor Israel.

There are over 800 square kilometers of waters claimed by the two countries which are technically at war.

Abi Khalil said exploration would proceed in “Block 9,” one of the two sectors open for drilling, in any case.

“It is our right to explore in all our southern blocks, we are determined to exploit this national wealth,” he said.

Several companies told Lebanon’s Petroleum Authority in 2013 they considered Block 9 the most promising, according to Sukkarieh.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated in 2010 there were 122 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered natural gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean basin.

Gas is expensive to extract. A major finding could spur investment in Lebanon’s failing energy sector that civil society activists say is rife with corruption. Lebanon experiences rolling blackouts on a daily basis, despite massive subsidies to its national electricity company. The World Bank says transfers to the Electricite du Liban account for a staggering 40 percent of the debt the country has accumulated since 1992.

]]> 0 exploratory drilling "is going to create a new sector in the economy," Lebanon's Energy and Water Minister Cesar Abi Khalil tells a gathering in Beirut on Friday.Fri, 15 Dec 2017 21:14:07 +0000
Santa’s deadline puts the pressure on retailers to deliver Sat, 16 Dec 2017 02:13:37 +0000 NEW YORK — A calendar quirk this year and Amazon’s seven-days-a-week delivery capability are building pressure on retailers to deliver.

With Christmas on a Monday, most retailers have one less day to get packages delivered on time. Some are pushing up their deadlines for standard delivery or free shipping. And after promoting the convenience of buying online with store pickup, retailers are also trying to satisfy lots of customers coming in to collect their orders.

It’s especially important for retailers to hit the mark after some missteps earlier in the season, and because online leader Amazon has the advantage of delivering on Sundays. Research firm StellaService says Dec. 19 is the most popular cutoff date for retailers, two days earlier than last year. Amazon Prime members, meanwhile, get same-day delivery up until Dec. 24 in 8,000 cities.

Retailers have been trying to speed up delivery as they try to replicate the service offered by Amazon. But UPS said this month that some package deliveries were being delayed because of a surge of orders from online shoppers after Thanksgiving. And Walmart said around the same time that more online buying created delays in some orders.

Holiday spending is turning out to be stronger than expected, putting more pressure on stores to get it right.

“I am not very impressed,” said Sheryl Matson of Mount Gilead, Ohio, who has run into problems twice already.

She ordered a PS4 game console on the Kohl’s website two days before Thanksgiving, and the next morning received an email that her order was cancelled. She got on the phone to resolve the issue and got Kohl’s Cash, similar to a gift card, for her troubles. A few days later, she ordered four items on the Kohl’s website for in-store pickup at two places. At one location, one of the three items was missing; at the other store, the product – a digital coin collector – was the wrong color. She says she spent two hours on the phone and $20 in gas money to try to get it fixed. She had to keep the incorrect color, but did receive another $20 in Kohl’s cash.

Now, she’s buying the rest of her gifts at stores: “You see that the merchandise is actually there, instead of relying on their system.”

Kohl’s has actually carved out space for Amazon shops in some of its department stores, where shoppers can find Amazon devices and return items they bought from the online retailer.

Overall, retailers are wrapping their arms around e-commerce fulfillment but “are still struggling,” said Alex Vlasto, vice president of marketing at StellaService.

The company found a marked decrease in how quickly retailers responded to queries from customers via chat message or phone during the first big shopping weekend of the season. For the 30 retailers it monitored from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, the average response time from a live customer service representative was more than three minutes, compared with less than two minutes a year ago. Responses via chat took nearly two minutes, compared with just over a minute a year ago.

Shoppers seem ready to spend. Government data shows U.S. consumers went on a shopping binge last month as the holiday season began, with big increases among online retailers, electronics stores and furniture stores.

Technology firm First Data says that retail spending, which excludes grocery stores, restaurants, auto parts merchants and gas stations, rose 5.4 percent for the period Nov. 1 through Dec. 11, compared to last year’s growth of 2 percent. Adobe Analytics, the research arm of software maker Adobe, says online sales have soared nearly 15 percent this year, reaching $65.15 billion from Nov. 1 through Dec. 5.

Delivery has been one of the biggest battlegrounds as online shoppers seek speed and convenience.

Target said this week it is paying $550 million to buy Shipt, which charges members $99 a year and sends people out to choose and deliver groceries from stores, after earlier this year buying a delivery logistics company to offer same-day service to in-store shoppers in New York City.

Amazon has long invested in an infrastructure to do Sunday deliveries, relying on the U.S. Postal Service and its own network of local couriers. For Amazon’s same-day deliveries for Prime members, it uses local couriers, the company said. Vlasto says the decision by most retailers not to do Sunday deliveries comes down to cost and the limits of their current logistics.

]]> 0 UPS employee loads packages onto a truck at a company facility in New York in this May file photo. With Christmas on a Monday, most retailers have one less day to get packages delivered on time. UPS said earlier in December that some package deliveries were being delayed because of a surge of orders from online shoppers after Thanksgiving.Fri, 15 Dec 2017 21:34:53 +0000
Maker of batteries to employ hundreds at Kentucky plant Sat, 16 Dec 2017 02:12:30 +0000 A maker of lithium batteries is promising to provide an economic jolt to the Appalachian region, announcing plans Friday to relocate from California to Kentucky and build a factory employing hundreds of workers in an area reeling from the coal industry’s decline.

EnerBlu Inc. announced it will invest $372 million and create 875 full-time jobs in eastern Kentucky with the production facility in Pikeville. The company also will move its headquarters from Riverside, California, bringing another $40 million investment and 110 administrative, research-and-development and executive jobs to Lexington, Kentucky’s second-largest city.

The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority has given preliminary approval for incentives worth up to $30 million over 15 years for EnerBlu’s facilities.

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers were among state and regional leaders who gathered in Pikeville to cheer EnerBlu’s announcement. The governor predicted the company’s arrival would transform a region where coal jobs have disappeared.

“We are not going to live down to the stereoptypes people have of us,” the governor said. “We’re going to dispel those, and we’re going to rise above them and blow people’s minds.”

Rogers, who represents eastern Kentucky, called the announcement a “big step” toward “evolving the economy of a whole region.”

It shows other businesses that eastern Kentucky “is a good place to be,” the Republican congressman said. “This is where we’ve got a lot of workers needing work that are … capable, ready to go,” he said.

The company pointed to the availability of workers, low power costs and Kentucky’s location within a day’s drive of 65 percent of the nation’s population as factors in its choice.

“You cannot imagine how thrilling it is to play a part in helping revitalize a region and put coal miners back to work through retraining and good jobs,” said Michael Weber, executive chairman at EnerBlu. “It is tremendously gratifying to be more than just a company that sells products, but to also make an impact on people’s lives.”

The Pikeville plant will manufacture rechargeable lithium titanate batteries that power transit buses, commercial trucks, military vehicles and other equipment. Construction is scheduled to start in mid-2018, with the opening in 2020. The new headquarters office is expected to open early next year.

]]> 0 Fri, 15 Dec 2017 21:35:41 +0000
Tech stocks, tax reform push indexes to new highs Sat, 16 Dec 2017 02:11:40 +0000 Wall Street capped the week with broad gains, propelling the major stock indexes to a new set of milestones Friday.

Investors welcomed signs that Congressional Republicans were solidifying support for a major overhaul of the nation’s tax laws ahead of an expected vote next week.

Technology stocks led the gains, which more than wiped out the market’s losses from the day before. Health care companies and banks also posted solid gains. Energy stocks were the only laggard.

Small-company stocks, which stand to benefit most from lower corporate tax rates, rose more than the rest of the market.

“The tax bill seems to be the driver right now,” said Erik Davidson, chief investment officer at Wells Fargo Private Bank. “The market just thinks it will get done.”

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 23.80 points, or 0.9 percent, to 2,675.81. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 143.08 points, or 0.6 percent, to 24,651.74. The Nasdaq added 80.06 points, or 1.2 percent, to 6,936.58. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 23.47 points, or 1.6 percent, to 1,530.42.

The Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq closed at record highs and finished the week with gains.

Technology stocks, which are leading the market this year, notched solid gains. Intel rose $1.30, or 3 percent, to $44.56.

Banks and other financial companies were among the biggest gainers. Navient added 58 cents, or 4.6 percent, to $13.20.

CSX slumped 7.6 percent after the railroad operator said CEO Hunter Harrison is taking a medical leave. The stock was the biggest decliner in the S&P 500, shedding $4.38 to $52.93.

A batch of strong company earnings and outlooks also helped lift the markets Friday.

Costco Wholesale rose 3.3 percent after the warehouse club operator’s latest quarterly earnings and sales came in well above financial analysts’ expectations. The stock added $6.20 to $192.73.

Shares in Jabil gained 1.5 percent after the electronics manufacturer posted a bigger profit and better revenue than analysts had anticipated. The stock picked up 42 cents to $27.87.

Oracle’s latest quarterly results failed to impress investors. Its stock fell 3.8 percent after the second-quarter performance of the business software company’s cloud-computing business and its forecast for its current quarter disappointed traders. Oracle slid $1.89 to $48.30.

Bond prices were little changed. The yield on the 10-year Treasury held steady at 2.35 percent late Thursday.

Oil futures finished mixed. Benchmark U.S. crude rose 26 cents to settle at $57.30 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 8 cents to close at $63.23 per barrel in London.

Gold added 40 cents to $1,257.50 an ounce. Silver added 13 cents to $16.06 an ounce. Copper gained 6 cents, or 2 percent, to $3.13 a pound.

The dollar rose to 112.63 yen from 112.18 yen on Thursday. The euro weakened to $1.1757 from $1.1792.

Bitcoin futures finished its first week of trading on the Cboe Futures Exchange on a high note, climbing $1,305, or 7.8 percent, to $18,105.

The futures allow investors to make bets on the future price of bitcoin. The average price of an actual bitcoin was $17,682 in trading Friday on private exchanges, according to Coindesk. The price of the digital currency has soared this year, having begun 2017 under $1,000.

Bitcoin futures trading on the Cboe, which began late Sunday and had its first day of full trading on a major U.S. exchange on Monday, slowed a little bit after the first day, said Kalen Holliday, spokeswoman for Interactive Brokers, which handled half the volume on the initial day of trading.

All told, the weekly volume for the January contract was 9,588, according to FactSet.

At this point, it’s too early to tell whether futures trading, which makes it easier to short bitcoin, will reduce the volatility of the digital currency.

“You have to have a pretty strong stomach at this point,” Holliday said. “It’s just right at the outset. Maybe things will settle down, maybe they won’t. It’s too early to tell.”

Investors will get another option to trade in bitcoins Sunday, when the Cboe rival Chicago Mercantile Exchange is set to begin trade in bitcoin futures contracts.

In other energy futures trading, wholesale gasoline slipped 2 cents, or 1 percent, to $1.65 a gallon. Heating oil lost a penny to $1.90 a gallon. Natural gas fell 7 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $2.61 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Major stock indexes in Europe finished mostly higher. Germany’s DAX rose 0.3 percent, while France’s CAC 40 shed 0.2 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.6 percent after European Union leaders said they would allow the Brexit talks to move on to the next stage, including trade.

Earlier in Asia, Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index dipped 0.6, while South Korea’s Kospi climbed 0.5 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 1.1 percent.

]]> 0 Fri, 15 Dec 2017 21:11:40 +0000
‘Transgender,’ ‘diversity,’ and ‘fetus’ are forbidden words at CDC Sat, 16 Dec 2017 02:11:14 +0000 Trump administration officials are forbidding officials at the nation’s top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases – including “fetus” and “transgender”– in any official documents being prepared for next year’s budget.

Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden words at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden words are: “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”

In some instances, the analysts were given alternative phrases. Instead of “science-based” or “evidence-based,” the suggested phrase is “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes,” the person said. In other cases, no replacement words were immediately offered.

The question of how to address such issues as sexual orientation, gender identity and abortion rights – all of which received significant visibility under the Obama administration – has surfaced repeatedly in federal agencies since President Trump took office. Several key departments, including Health and Human Services, which oversees CDC, as well as Justice, Education and Housing and Urban Development, have changed some federal policies and how they collect government information about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

In March, for example, HHS dropped questions about sexual orientation and gender identity in two surveys of elderly people.

HHS has also removed information about LGBT Americans from its website. The department’s Administration for Children and Families, for example, archived a page that outlined federal services that are available for LGBT people and their families, including how they can adopt and receive help if they are the victims of sex trafficking.

The meeting about the banned words was led by Alison Kelly, a senior leader in CDC’s Office of Financial Services.

]]> 0 Fri, 15 Dec 2017 21:11:14 +0000
San Francisco cove closed after sea lions bite 2 swimmers Sat, 16 Dec 2017 02:04:01 +0000 SAN FRANCISCO — Two unusual sea lion attacks in a San Francisco Bay cove led authorities to close the popular area to swimmers Friday as officials try to determine the reason for the aggressive behavior.

A sea lion bit a man in the groin area Friday as he swam in the waters off San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, park spokesman Lynn Cullivan said. It was “a very serious bite,” and the man was taken to a hospital, he said.

The cove hosts swimming and rowing clubs and is a favorite spot for dedicated swimmers. It’s usually a transit area for sea lions heading to Pier 39, where they congregate, Cullivan said.

The area just off Ghirardelli Square, a popular square with shops and restaurants, will be closed to swimmers until Monday, he said.

Another swimmer was seriously injured Thursday after a sea lion bit him on an arm. Officers applied a tourniquet and he was transported to a hospital, where he had a least two surgeries.

Christian Einfeldt said the animal trailed him as he swam from the beach to the mouth of the cove. When he turned to swim back, the massive sea lion was right there, he told TV station KGO.

]]> 0 lions bark in San Francisco Bay, where two swimmers were bitten this week.Fri, 15 Dec 2017 21:04:01 +0000
Summit ends with EU still divided over migrants Sat, 16 Dec 2017 01:16:19 +0000 BRUSSELS — European Union leaders ended a summit Friday deeply divided over how to get thousands of stranded immigrants out of Italy and Greece, with an eastern bloc of nations boasting it was resisting pleas to take in refugees in a “battle” with other EU member states.

European Council leader Donald Tusk put migration at the top of the summit’s second-day agenda by circulating a note in advance that described the EU’s scheme for relocating refugees as ineffective and “highly divisive.”

The assessment proved a catalyst for high emotions and debate, pitting the countries that have refused to accept asylum-seekers against those that received disproportionate shares of the desperate people who arrived in Europe starting in 2015.

The latter include Italy and Greece, where most migrants come ashore after crossing the Mediterranean Sea, as well as Germany and a few other countries that welcomed new arrivals.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who had razor wire fences built to keep migrants and refugees out of his country and has been the most outspoken of the anti-migrant voices in Europe, used war to describe a debate at a summit dinner Thursday night

In a Facebook video subtitled in English and posted after midnight, a smiling Orban said: “It’s 12:40 a.m. We struggled with each other till now. It was close combat, a type of political close combat.”

He said the Poles, Hungarians, Czechs and Slovaks “did well in battle” against EU leaders wanting them to take in more refugees.

“We held on to our positions, but we could not convince our adversaries,” Orban said.

On the other side of the divide, EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, who is Greek, earlier this week called Tusk’s note “anti-European” and said it violated the European principle of solidarity.

Tusk expressed satisfaction that his note helped all sides hash out the matter. He also acknowledged that with such deep divisions, an accepted approach to relocating Syrians, Iraqis and others who are already on the continent seemed elusive.

“Mandatory quotas have remained a contentious issue, even though its temperature has decreased considerably. If only for this reason it was worth raising this topic,” Tusk said. “Will a compromise be possible? It appears very hard, but we have to try our very best.”

The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia said Thursday that they planned to spend $41 million to beef up borders.

]]> 0 Afghan family arrives aftyer taking a Greek ferry at the port of Piraeus near Athens early Wednesday.Fri, 15 Dec 2017 20:16:19 +0000
Pressure remains on Sen. Collins as vote on Republican tax bill looms next week Sat, 16 Dec 2017 01:06:57 +0000

Sen. Susan Collins is surrounded by reporters while on her way to a vote in the Senate chamber on Tuesday. Her vote next week is critical to Republicans’ chances of passing an overhaul of the tax code so she is being targeted by both sides. Staff photo by Gregory Rec

Sen. Susan Collins is in the pressure cooker heading into a crucial vote on tax reform next week, targeted by protesters in Maine and Washington, lobbyists both for and against the bill, Republican leadership and health care advocates.

Progressive activists were arrested at Collins’ Bangor office on Dec. 4 and clergy were arrested at her Portland office on Dec. 7.

Collins voted for the Senate version of the tax reform bill early this month, but she remained undecided during the reconciliation process between the House and Senate versions of the bill, pending the fate of amendments she championed. She cheered their inclusion in the final version of the bill that was released Friday afternoon.

“Americans deserve a tax system that is fair, simple, and promotes economic growth,” Collins said in a statement she released on Twitter and on her website Friday night. “I am pleased that the final tax reform bill includes all three of the amendments I authored, along with a number of provisions for which I strongly advocated, that will benefit lower- and middle-income families.”


The vote is expected to be razor-thin in the Senate, with Arizona Sen. John McCain in frail health and possibly not being present to vote. With Republicans holding a slim 52-48 majority, it only takes three defections for the tax bill to be stopped in its tracks.

Another Arizona Republican, Sen. Jeff Flake, remains undecided. He has previously raised objections about the bill adding to the deficit, and he also wanted immigration solutions to help “dreamers,” or those in the U.S. illegally but who arrived here as children. But with the other possible holdouts – Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. – flipping to a “yes” on Friday, the Republicans might not need Collins’ vote to pass the tax package.

A group made up mostly of Peaks Island residents holds a “cribbage-in” Friday at Sen. Susan Collins’ Portland office, pushing her to vote against the Republican tax bill. The protesters, from left, are Jean Thompson, Christina Foster, Lisa Penalver and Judy Nelson. Foster said Collins “is being played like a cribbage board,” referring to the promises Republican leaders are making to Collins for her vote. Staff photo by Derek Davis

The $1.4 trillion tax reform package would add $1 trillion to the national debt over the next 10 years after accounting for economic growth – according to official congressional estimates – and slash the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent. Business groups favor the tax cuts, arguing that they would spur the economy, while critics complain that the cuts are skewed to the wealthy, and that the cuts for individuals would expire after nine years while the corporate tax cut is permanent.


Collins has made it clear that she wants to see two bills become law that would help stabilize the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplace, and for Congress to waive $25 billion in automatic Medicare spending cuts that the bill would trigger. But the timing remains tricky, as it looks increasingly likely that the ACA-stabilization bills would be brought up after tax reform is voted on early next week.

Collins said this week that she would be “much more comfortable” if the votes for ACA stabilization occurred before the tax reform vote. On Nov. 30, she told reporters in Washington at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast that having the ACA votes go first was “hugely important” to her.

The tax reform bill repeals the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which would leave 13 million more uninsured and increase premiums by 10 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The individual mandate requires that people who can’t get employer-based coverage buy health insurance on the individual market or pay a penalty. The mandate is a way to ensure that young, healthy people are in the individual market, keeping premiums down.

The fixes Collins touts would mitigate the mandate’s repeal with $5 billion per year for two years of reinsurance, which would help alleviate the cost spikes of having fewer young people in the insurance pools. Another bill, Alexander-Murray, would restore the “cost-sharing payments” to insurers that the Trump administration halted this year.

Annie Clark, a Collins spokeswoman, said “it’s our expectation” that next week, the two ACA fixes would be attached to a must-pass continuing resolution government-funding bill.

And Clark said Collins wasn’t concerned that the Affordable Care Act bills she supports might be in jeopardy now that the Senate appears to have the votes it needs to pass tax reform regardless of how Maine’s senior senator votes.

“We remain very confident in the agreements we have,” Clark said in an email Friday night.

Critics argue that House conservatives will balk at passing the Collins bills, and that House Speaker Paul Ryan was not part of any deal made between Collins and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell promised Collins that the bills would be voted on by the end of the year. McConnell and Ryan issued a joint statement on Dec. 1 promising to avoid the automatic spending cuts to Medicare.

But after tax reform passes, Collins would have much less leverage to make sure the bills are approved, critics have said.

“She is being played like a cribbage board,” Christina Foster of Peaks Island said, referring to the promises Republican leadership is making to Collins that Foster believes will be broken.

Foster was one of about 10 members of Peaks Indivisible, a liberal advocacy group composed of Peaks Islanders, who played cribbage in Collins’ Portland office Friday to protest the tax reform bill. Foster said they got to talk to Collins on the phone for five minutes, but they felt like the senator was likely to vote for tax reform despite their objections.

The two ACA bills have been the subject of several studies by health policy experts, but one analysis released Thursday indicates that the Collins-Nelson reinsurance bill and Alexander-Murray would, for two years, more than offset the 10 percent premium increases caused by the mandate’s repeal.

“This means that the package of provisions would more than offset the impact of repealing the individual mandate, and result in premiums that are roughly 10 percent lower,” according to Oliver Wyman Health, an actuarial consulting firm.


Oliver Wyman concluded that states could use the $5 billion in reinsurance money to leverage a total of $15 billion in federal money for reinsurance through waivers that would need to be approved by the Trump administration.

Larry Levitt, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which analyzes health policy, said the Oliver Wyman analysis is “conceptually correct” although it might be a “little optimistic” on how much federal money could be leveraged by states. Levitt said he attributes most of the premium benefits to the Collins-Nelson reinsurance bill.

“The Collins-Nelson bill would blunt the effect of premium increases of repealing the individual mandate, although there would still be coverage losses,” Levitt said.

But Levitt said the extra reinsurance funding is temporary, while mandate repeal is permanent. Levitt said that states could alleviate the potential 13 million who would lose coverage with mandate repeal by approving individual mandates on the state level, automatic enrollments or other “carrots” that would get people to sign up for insurance.

Topher Spiro, vice president of health policy at the Washington-based Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank, said that the “Collins package does nothing” after two years. And he said that many states with conservative governments may balk at reinsurance programs.

“Will red states hostile to the ACA – which do not want to make the law work – act? It’s very uncertain,” Spiro said.

Staff Writer J. Craig Anderson contributed to this report.

Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at:

Twitter: joelawlorph

]]> 0, D.C. - DECEMBER 12: Sen. Susan Collins is surrounded by reporters while on her way to a vote in the Senate chambers in the Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, December 12, 2017. (Staff Photo by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer)Sat, 16 Dec 2017 00:36:36 +0000
Campaign in Paris takes aim at ‘fatphobia’ Sat, 16 Dec 2017 00:46:33 +0000 PARIS — France gave the world butter croissants and foie gras, yet it has often been a place where being overweight was seen as almost sinful.

Now, after taking a hard look at the contradictions in the mirror, its capital has launched a campaign to counter sizeism, an often disregarded kind of discrimination in the image-conscious city known for luxury fashion brands and tiny waists.

Paris anti-discrimination chief Helene Bidard began the initiative after falling victim to weight-related insults and noticing how bias against French people who are overweight went unnoticed, never mind unpunished.

“We see fat people as ugly and even stupid, lacking hygiene and in bad health,” Bidard said.

As part of its annual week devoted to raising awareness about discrimination, Paris on Friday unveiled its “Fatphobia, stop! Taking action together” campaign with a plus-size fashion show and panels featuring bloggers from the “body positive” movement. Fifty thousand leaflets with legal advice and helpline numbers are set to be distributed at sports centers, night clubs, swimming pools and bistros.

The effort, which is aimed at countering both casual and institutionalized discrimination, comes amid rising obesity rates in France. The National Institute of Health and Medical Research reported that nearly 16 percent of the adult population was obese last year, compared to 6 percent in 1980. But thinness ideals persist.

“There’s this French paradox where you’re supposed to eat foie gras, but you’re not supposed to get fat,” said curvy French blogger Daria Marx.

Marx said that while a 2011 French law prohibits job discrimination based on physical appearance, employers often get around it by prioritizing job applications that contain candidates’ photos.

Calling it “discrimination,” she cited research that concluded that fat people are 15 times less likely to be called back for interviews if they include their photos.

Doctors also can deny in vitro fertilization to women who are deemed overweight.

To challenge the images of small-sized beauty propagated by fashion houses such Paris-based Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Dior, organizers of Friday’s event put on a big-is-beautiful runway show with plus-size clothes specially made by designers such as Ewa Minge.

Since Oct 1, French fashion conglomerates LVMH and Kering stopped hiring excessively thin models and now require models to provide medical certificates to prove they are healthy before they can work.

]]> 0 plus-size model presents a fashion creation Friday during a big-is-beautiful runway show as part of a week to counter sizeism in Paris.Fri, 15 Dec 2017 22:45:33 +0000
Drone training event for Augusta teens turns into stunning lesson about safety Fri, 15 Dec 2017 23:28:57 +0000 AUGUSTA — What was supposed to be a simple demonstration on how to fly an unmanned aerial vehicle quickly turned into an impromptu lesson on drone safety Friday afternoon after one of the aircraft twice “attacked” its operator with the ferocity of a wild animal.

Kristopher Kleva of the Maine Drones Society was bleeding from his right arm and one of his fingers after the incident at the Augusta Boys and Girls Club. He was trying to show a group of teenagers how to operate a DJI Phantom drone, which has a GPS chip and is operated using a remote controller and a smart device app.

Because of the Buker Center’s proximity to the Augusta State Airport, the drone’s rotors wouldn’t begin to spin until it was outside of a certain range. When the drone was in the middle of the gym floor, it was stationary, but once Kleva moved back toward the front of the Buker Center, the drone was active.

It lifted off the ground hovered for a few seconds before it went straight at Kleva, who had to pull out its battery to get its blades to stop spinning. He wrapped his arm in gauze while the group of teens stood around watching in amazement — some were speechless and others were mentioning how they’ve never seen anything like that before. Kleva tried to get the drone to fly a second time, but it did the same thing, and he took a bit of a hit to one of his fingers. He decided to move onto smaller, safety drones for the remainder of the demonstration.

The “Mentoring for an Impact” two-day event sponsored by the Augusta Elks Lodge gave teens at the Augusta Boys and Girls Club the chance to learn how to fly real drones, use a flight simulator and watch members of the Maine Drones Society demonstrate what makes unmanned aerial vehicles fly.

“It’s really cool and a lot of fun,” seventh-grader Kamealiya Eaton said. It was her first experience with a drone, and she had a smile on her face watching her sister, Emilliana Lopez, try to maneuver the small drone around the Buker Center gymnasium.

Lopez, Eaton and Alex Choate took turns flying the drone, which is no bigger than the average fist, around the gym trying to exercise throttle control. The idea, Kleva said, was to keep the drone at a consistent altitude, or height, while flying around the gym from side to side.

Choate was the first one to try, and after a couple of attempts that resulted in the drone crashing to the gym floor, he was able to move the aircraft from side-to-side just an inch or two off the ground for more than a minute. Kleva said it takes a few tries for people to get used to the controls and the movement.

“Turning was the hardest part,” Choate said.

Kleva and Drones Society member Jon Silverman started the demonstration by showing the group a drone flight simulator and a flight programming software program. They wanted the teens to have the opportunity to see a drone fly in angle mode, which keeps the aircraft in the max tilt angle allowed using the control stick, and horizon mode, which allows an operator to do rolls and turns and then returns the aircraft to a level position.

“Most teenagers are interested in the aspect of building something or making something themselves,” Kleva said. “They’re into building and maintaining or they’re really into racing.”

Using $40,000 in grant funding received over the last five years from the Elks National Foundation, the Augusta Elks group has mentored and educated teens at the Boys and Girls Club in volunteerism, dedication and support for one another.

Since the program began, mentors have participated with teens in woodworking, bowling, crafting, gardening and cooking. There have been field trips to Salem, Massachusetts, Monhegan Island, Canobie Lake Park in New Hampshire and Boston for a Red Sox game. Teens have volunteered at Elks events including the homeless veterans stand down at the VA Maine Healthcare System-Togus campus.

Monique LaFlamme said youth programs in central Maine have suffered substantial financial cuts over the last few years, and the Augusta Boys and Girls Club continues to operate with a very limited budget. She said the Elks is always looking for members and businesses who want to help give back to the community. A demonstration from the Maine Drones Society is a way to expose teenagers from central Maine to something they might not otherwise get to see.

“These kids are challenged with money and food, so they don’t get to do this very often,” LaFlamme said. “They were so excited about this.”

Charles Huerth, the club’s director, said the teens were intrigued to see how much someone can do with a drone. He said none of them realized the different uses for drones, and they were interested in learning more about it as the days progressed Thursday and Friday.

“It’s a great way to plant a seed with the kids and get them thinking about the future,” Huerth said.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

]]> 0 Kleva grabs a drone out of the air during a demonstration on at The Buker Center in Augusta. Kleva got a cut on the forearm when he had to grab the drone, as it wasn't following guidance from the controller.Fri, 15 Dec 2017 18:46:23 +0000
Analysis: Here’s a look at what’s in the final version of the Republican tax bill Fri, 15 Dec 2017 23:15:16 +0000 Republicans were joyful Friday as they finalized their tax plan, bridging differences between the House and Senate bills and moving another step closer to getting legislation to President Trump by Christmas.

Republicans also appear, at least for now, to have locked down the votes they need to pass the measure through the House and Senate, after holdout Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., pledged their support.

Overall, the Tax Cut and Jobs Act is the largest one-time reduction in the corporate tax rate in American history: from 35 percent down to 21. The bill also lowers taxes for the vast majority of Americans and small-business owners – at least until the cuts expire after eight years.

Last-minute changes to the Republicans’ big plan gave a larger tax break to the wealthy and preserved certain tax savings for the middle class, including the student loan interest deduction, the deduction for excessive medical expenses, and the tax break for graduate students. A change Friday morning to win over Rubio gives working-class families who have kids a few hundred dollars more back from the government.

Here’s a rundown of what’s in the final bill. The full text is expected to be released to the public Friday and voted on early next week.

What is changing:

A new tax cut for the rich: The final plan lowers the top tax rate for top earners. Under current law, the highest rate is 39.6 percent for married couples earning over $470,700. The GOP bill would drop that to 37 percent and raise the threshold at which that top rate only kicks in. This amounts to a significant tax break for the very wealthy, a departure from repeated claims by President Trump and his top officials that the bill would not cut taxes on the rich. The new tax break for millionaires goes beyond what was in the original House and Senate bill, as Republicans sought to ensure wealthy earners in states such New York, Connecticut and California don’t end up paying substantially higher taxes as a result of the bill.

A massive tax cut for corporations to 21 percent: Starting on January 1, 2018, big businesses would see their tax rate fall from 35 percent to just 21 percent, the largest one-time rate cut in U.S. history for America’s largest companies. The House and Senate bills originally had the big-business tax rate falling to 20 percent, but Republicans were not able to make the math work to keep the rate that low and start it right away in the new year, so they compromised by moving the rate to 21. It’s still amounts to roughly a $1 trillion tax cut for businesses over the next decade. Republicans argue this will make the economy surge in the coming years, but most independent economists and Wall Street banks predict only a “modest” and short-lived boost to growth.

You can deduct just $10,000 in state, local and property taxes: One of the most controversial parts of the Republican tax plan is the push to greatly scale back how much state and local taxes Americans can deduct on their federal income taxes. Under current law, the state and local deduction (SALT) is unlimited. In the fina lRepublican plan, people can deduct up to $10,000. The House initially restricted the $10,000 deduction to just property taxes, but the final bill allows any state and local taxes to be deducted, whether for property, income or sales taxes. The move is widely viewed as a hit to blue-states like New York, Connecticut and California, and there are concerns it could cause property values to fall in high-tax cities and leave less money for public schools and road repairs.

Working-class families get a bigger Child Tax Credit: Thanks to a late push by Marco Rubio and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, the Child Tax Credit became more generous low-income families and the working class. The current Child Tax Credit is $1,000 per kid. Both the House and Senate bills expanded the Child Tax Credit, with the Senate going up to a maximum of $2,000 per child. The final bill keeps the $2,000 per child credit (families making up to about $400,000 get take the credit), but it also makes more of the tax credit refundable, meaning families that work but don’t earn enough to actually owe any federal income taxes will get a large check back from the government. Benefits for those families were initially limited to about $1,100, but through changes Rubio and Lee pushed for, it’s now up to $1,400.

You can inherit up to $11 million tax-free: In the end, the estate tax (often called the “death tax” by opponents) remains, but far fewer families will have to pay it. Under current law, Americans can inherit up to $5.5 million tax-free (that threshold is $11 million for married couples). The House wanted to do away with the estate tax entirely, but some senators felt that was too much of a giveaway to the mega rich. The final compromise was to double the threshold, so now the first $11 million that people inherit in property, stocks and other assets won’t be taxed (and yes, that means $22 million for married couples).

]]> 0 Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, talks to reporters at the Capitol after Republicans signed the conference committee report to advance the Republican tax bill in Washington on Friday.Fri, 15 Dec 2017 20:32:46 +0000
Hunter indicted in death of Hebron woman, faces additional charge Fri, 15 Dec 2017 21:34:36 +0000 SOUTH PARIS — A Hebron man was indicted on two felony charges Friday in connection with the shooting death of a woman who was killed on her property while he was hunting and she was searching for gemstones.

Investigators concluded that Robert Trundy failed to identify his target and failed to provide aid to a person and report a hunting accident.

Karen Wrentzel died from a gunshot wound Oct. 28 while on her property along Greenwood Mountain Road about 10:30 a.m., after being shot by Trundy. It was opening day of deer season for resident hunters.

The 34-year-old woman had moved to Hebron the day before and had planned to stay for the winter to help care for her grandmother Beverly Spofford.

Wrentzel’s family said she had been digging for gemstones when she was shot.

According to a sworn statement by District Game Warden Anthony Gray, Trundy said he could see “what he thought was the ‘ass of a deer’ with a tail, skinny legs and a possible glimpse of what he thought could have been part of a head or antler of a deer.”

Trundy shot Wrentzel using a Browning semi-automatic, 30-06 caliber rifle from about 100 yards away, Gray wrote. The rifle was not equipped with a scope.

Last month the Warden Service charged Trundy, 38, of Hebron with manslaughter after finding probable cause for that crime. Friday’s action by an Oxford County grand jury formalizes that charge and adds the second felony of failing to aid and report.

Trundy’s attorney, Scott Lynch, took exception to the allegation that Trundy failed to provide aid.

“Anybody who’s coached Little League or had some of the most basic first responder training knows that the CPR guidelines, the care-rendering guidelines, basically require a division of labor – that is, that somebody calls to get the professionals there while somebody else tends to the injured party,” Lynch said Friday night.

“I think the facts are going to be undisputed at trial that this division of labor happened,” Lynch said. “Robert Trundy’s father, who in fact had some training in CPR, rendered the assistance after instructing the son to go where he could get a good cellphone signal to summon the professionals to the scene. That’s exactly what happened.”

On Nov. 8, Trundy appeared in Oxford County Superior Court on the initial charge where bail was set at $2,500, which has been paid.

Bail conditions for Trundy include no use or possession of firearms, bows or other dangerous weapons, no hunting and no contact with witnesses in the case.

He has not yet entered a plea.

According to Maine law, “a hunter may not shoot at a target without, at that point in time, being certain that it is the wild animal … sought.”

According to Gray’s affidavit, “At no point did Robert have an essentially unobstructed view of the head and torso of a deer.”

Trundy, who held an any-deer permit for the 2017 hunting season, has no prior criminal record.

After November’s bail hearing, Lynch said his client intends to plead not guilty and that law enforcement’s account of what happened is incomplete and “somewhat of a false narrative about the assistance that was rendered or not.”

During the wardens’ investigation, Trundy told authorities he saw “this brown thing move,” but never saw the outline of a deer.

According to the arrest affidavit, Wrentzel screamed when she was shot. Trundy told investigators he “thought to himself, ‘Deer don’t do that.’ ”

Trundy also told investigators that he had walked about three-quarters of the way to Wrentzel when he saw a yard rake leaning against a rock. “It was at that point he thought that he had shot someone,” investigators said.

Trundy couldn’t bring himself to walk the rest of the distance to Wrentzel, he told Gray.

“Honestly, I couldn’t go down there,” he told Gray. “If I don’t see it, it’s out of my mind.”

Trundy phoned his father, who was hunting in the area, to say he thought he had just shot someone.

Ralph Trundy, 69, told a warden he instructed his son to “go look” at his target, because “if it was a person, he had to call 911.”

Ralph Trundy then walked to where his son had seen the rake and discovered Wrentzel’s unresponsive body. He told his son to call 911.

The elder Trundy then went to Wrentzel, saw the wound on her hip and tried to stop the bleeding. He also attempted CPR.

The affidavit said that Robert Trundy estimated it took three to four minutes for his father to arrive at the scene. Ralph Trundy told investigators it took him 10 to 15 minutes to reach his son’s location.

Chief Medical Examiner Mark Flomenbaum later determined her death was the result of a gunshot wound to the lower torso, which caused extensive fractures of the pelvis and lacerations of major arteries.

Under Maine law, a manslaughter charge is brought against someone when they act recklessly, or with criminal negligence, to cause the death of another human being. The felony crime is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a maximum $50,000 fine.

Maine law also requires someone who knows or “has reason to know” that they have caused injury to another person by firearm, bow and arrow or crossbow while hunting to make themselves known to the victim, render first aid and then notify a game warden or other law enforcement officer as quickly as possible.

Failure to do these things is a Class C felony, punishable by up to five years in jail and a $5,000 fine.

]]> 0, 16 Dec 2017 00:37:50 +0000
Ex-priest facing sex assault charge goes back to Missouri after posting bail Fri, 15 Dec 2017 21:16:12 +0000 A former Jesuit priest and teacher at Cheverus High School who was charged last month with child sexual assault dating to 1998 has posted bail and returned to Missouri, where he’s been living for the last six years.

Walt McKee, an attorney for James Francis Talbot, 80, said his client posted bail in the amount of $50,000 cash. He was then sent back to the Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer, Missouri, a Catholic Church-run residential facility for troubled priests or former priests, many of whom have been accused of sex abuse.

Talbot, who pleaded not guilty during his initial appearance on Dec. 1, is not scheduled to appear in court again until February.

The longtime Cheverus teacher was indicted by a grand jury last month on charges of gross sexual assault, a Class A felony, and unlawful sexual contact, a Class C crime. The charges stem from allegations by a Freeport man who said Talbot abused him on several occasions when he was 9 years old. The alleged abuse occurred at St. Jude Church in Freeport, where Talbot was a visiting priest.

The same victim settled a lawsuit last summer. The Press Herald does not name victims of sexual abuse without their consent.

Talbot has a lengthy history of child sexual abuse dating to when he taught at Boston College High School, another Jesuit school, and continuing to when he arrived at Cheverus in 1980.

He was terminated by the Portland school in 1998 after allegations were made by another victim. Michael Doherty, also from Freeport, said Talbot abused him both at Cheverus and at the rectory of a church in Yarmouth in the mid-80s.

Doherty sued Talbot, Cheverus, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland and the Jesuits, an order within the Catholic Church. The lawsuit was settled in 2000 for an undisclosed sum.

Talbot was never charged with a crime for his abuse of Doherty because it fell outside the state’s statute of limitations, which has since been changed.

After Doherty went public, though, numerous other victims of Talbot came forward, mostly from his time in Boston. In 2003, 15 of them had settled lawsuits totaling more than $5 million.

Meanwhile, reports of abuse by Talbot at BC High led to criminal charges against Talbot in Massachusetts. He was sentenced to five to seven years in prison in 2005 and served six years. Since his release in 2011, he’s been living in Missouri.

Jim Scanlan was one the victims from BC High whose report of abuse led to the charges against Talbot, although he did not publicly discuss the abuse until late 2015, after viewing the movie “Spotlight,” which is based on The Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into the church’s abuse scandal.

Scanlan, in a recent interview, said he attended one of Talbot’s parole hearings in Massachusetts in 2009. Scanlan said he heard his alleged abuser make a startling confession that he had victimized as many as “88 or 89” children in his life.

He said Talbot’s recent arrest has stirred up emotions for him.

“One of things that I struggle with most is the feeling that people at Cheverus knew about this guy and didn’t protect kids from him,” Scanlan said.

After his indictment in late November, Talbot was extradited to Maine and was held at the Cumberland County Jail.

McKee, Talbot’s attorney, said he knows who posted bail for his client but it’s confidential. At Talbot’s initial court appearance this month, McKee said his client was “penniless.”

It’s likely, though, that the money came from the Jesuits, who have assumed responsibility for Talbot even though he was laicized by the church, which means he no longer is a priest.

Cheverus put out a statement after Talbot’s arrest.

“James Talbot was employed by Cheverus High School from 1980-1998, and was removed from employment after the revelation of sexual abuse of a minor. That revelation was a very sad and troubling part of our history, and one that compelled us to increase our vigilance in preventing sexual abuse,” the statement read. “These measures are in place to prevent sexual abuse at this school, but they can not erase the pain and suffering experienced by the victims of sexual abuse. We will continue to pray for all victims of sexual abuse and offer support to bring healing to these victims of egregious acts.”

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

]]> Dec. 2, 2017 Former Jesuit priest James Francis Talbot confers with defense attorney Walter McKee after entered by not guilty plea. <li>Staff photo by Ben McCanna</li> /Staff PhotographerSat, 16 Dec 2017 00:41:35 +0000
LePage, on visit to D.C., to press to remove junk food from food stamp purchases Fri, 15 Dec 2017 20:55:17 +0000 AUGUSTA – Gov. Paul LePage says he plans to bring up his proposal to prevent the use of food stamps for junk food during a visit to Washington, D.C.

LePage, who blames the sugar lobby for resistance to his proposal, planned to travel to Washington for a holiday party this week.

LePage told The Associated Press that even though Maine children and adults are dealing with obesity and type 2 diabetes, the federal government won’t allow him to take soft drinks, chocolate bars and candy off the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s list of allowed foods.

LePage had hoped a new presidential administration would listen. Federal officials earlier this year asked the Republican governor to provide more details.

]]> 0, 15 Dec 2017 16:15:19 +0000
Republicans on track to pass massive tax plan after Marco Rubio pledges support Fri, 15 Dec 2017 20:22:56 +0000 WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans appear to have secured enough support to pass their massive tax plan into law after one critical holdout, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., signaled he would vote for it after last-minute changes.

Rubio emerged as a final challenge in a complicated political puzzle that the White House and Republican leaders have been assembling for the past two months.

They worked – often behind closed doors – to build a $1.5 trillion tax package that would impact almost every American family and business.

Republicans thought they had finished crafting the tax bill Thursday, but Rubio threatened to block the measure if more changes weren’t made to expand access to the Child Tax Credit for low and middle-income families.

Many of his colleagues were furious, but they relented and made changes overnight to expand the tax credit for millions of working families. On Friday afternoon, Rubio spokeswoman Olivia Cubas-Perez said he would vote for the bill.

Rubio, in a series of Twitter posts, called the planned expansion of the Child Tax Credit a “solid step toward broader reforms” that he planned to continue working on in the months and years to come.

Americans will lose the personal exemptions that often dictate how much money is withheld from their paychecks. They will instead pay taxes through a new regime that exempts a higher level of income from taxation and then subjects much of the rest to lower tax rates. Many more Americans will have access to the expanded Child Tax Credit, but they will also lose the ability to deduct large amounts of state income and local property taxes. On net, Republicans believe the changes will lower most people’s taxes. But there will be many Americans who see their taxes go up, particularly those in high-tax states like New York, New Jersey and California.

The House and Senate plan to vote on the tax bill next week, clearing the way for President Donald Trump to sign it into law. Many of its changes – lower tax rates and fewer deductions – will go into effect in January, though it will likely take some time for the economy to adjust.

The package has sweeping political and economic changes, and the ramifications might not be fully known for years.

It would represent Trump’s first major legislative victory and includes both an overhaul of the tax code and a targeted change to the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans have long sought to dismantle.

The tax plan has enormous benefits for many businesses, with a permanent and sharp reduction in tax rates that Republicans believe will trigger more economic growth and lead to higher wages.

It also changes the tax system for American households, temporarily lowering rates and creating new limits on deductions that are expected to lower the taxes of most Americans but could still lead millions to owe the government more.

The plan will also add at least $1 trillion to the debt over 10 years, based on numerous economic forecasts, an issue that will likely intensify policy debate in Washington into 2018.

The bill was originally pitched as a sweeping tax cut for the middle class, but it changed over the course of several months as Republicans demanded a variety of changes.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., extracted more tax cuts for businesses whose owners file their taxes through the individual income tax code.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and East Coast Republicans demanded changes that allow Americans to deduct up to $10,000 state and local taxes.

House Republicans tried to cap the mortgage-interest deduction to interest paid on up to $500,000 in new home loans, but they acquiesced eventually to a $750,000 cap.

A number of Republican donors complained that the bill could push their taxes up, so Republicans agreed to a late change that lowers the top tax rate to 37 percent.

For many Americans, the tax bill could have an immediate impact.

It could alter the tax benefit of mortgages issued in just two weeks, and Americans could see more take-home pay in their paychecks by February.

The process of filing taxes each year will change, however, and could lead Americans to change how they allocate money. It could also lead companies to restructure, based on their income, investment and spending patterns.

Many of the changes made late in the negotiations benefited businesses and the wealthy, but Rubio’s late-stage demands pulled the package back a bit more toward its working-class roots.

Republicans had proposed to expand the Child Tax Credit from $1,000 to $2,000, but the benefits formula they’d planned to use would have capped the credit for many low and moderate-income families at $1,100. Rubio demanded the credit be raised, and Republicans at first believed he would balk, in part because he voted for the Senate bill even after the party rebuffed his effort to expand the Child Tax Credit in that measure.

But when he threatened Thursday to block the bill and appeared to have the backing of Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, Republican leaders agreed to make changes and expand the tax credit up to $1,400 for those families.

Republicans had only passed an earlier version of the bill through the Senate with a 51-49 vote, and losing two more members could have proven fatal. Rubio’s support appeared to give them the margin of victory they needed to enact it into law.

Democrats have blasted the tax plan, accusing it of showering corporations with lower taxes at the expense of driving up the debt and giving only temporary and uneven benefits to the middle class. Public opinion polls show many Americans share this view, but Republicans have persisted, with many believing it will lead to a surge in economic growth and buoy their prospects going into the 2018 midterm elections.

The Washington Post’s Heather Long contributed to this report.

]]> 0 - In this Sept. 26, 2017, file photo, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Rubio will vote for his party's $1.5 trillion tax bill. That gives a major boost to the prospects that GOP leaders will be able to push their prized measure through Congress next week. The Florida lawmaker had said he'd oppose the legislation unless his colleagues made the per child tax credit more generous for low-income families. On Dec. 15, Republicans said the final legislation would do just that. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)Fri, 15 Dec 2017 20:34:05 +0000
Not real news: A look at what didn’t happen this week Fri, 15 Dec 2017 20:21:01 +0000 A roundup of some of the most popular, but completely untrue, headlines of the week. None of these stories are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked these out; here are the real facts:

NOT REAL: UPDATE: Alabama election officials found 5,329 more dead folks who voted for Jones

THE FACTS: Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill dismissed the viral story that over 5,000 of the votes for Democrat Doug Jones in Tuesday’s special U.S. Senate election were cast by the dead. “There are not 5,000 dead people on the voters rolls unless they died today,” Merrill told the AP Thursday. The story is one of several false claims that cropped up after Jones’ victory over Roy Moore. Merrill also denied reports that vans of people in the country illegally voted in the race, and that University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban got all the write-in votes. The state has not begun counting the write-in votes, he said.

NOT REAL: BREAKING: Roy Moore’s accuser arrested and charged with falsification

THE FACTS: A story published by a satire site called NoFakeNewsOnline and many others reported that Alabama Attorney General John Simmons filed misdemeanor charges of falsification against Mary Lynne Davies for accusing Moore of assaulting her. John Simmons is not the state’s attorney general, Steve Marshall is; and Mary Lynne Davies is not among the eight women who have publicly accused Moore of misconduct. Another story published on a hoax site claimed another Moore accuser had recanted her claims in a TV interview; the accuser was identified as Harley Hannah, not one of the eight women who have accused Moore, and was linked to a picture of a British singer.

NOT REAL: BREAKING: First NFL team declares bankruptcy over kneeling thugs

THE FACTS: The Jacksonville Jaguars say they have no plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, despite the claims first published this month on the Patriot Post satire site and shared widely on several conservative sites. The satire piece said the Jaguars had lost income because team members knelt for the national anthem at home games. The team has not knelt for the anthem since September. The story also said it planned to file in the 3rd District Court of Atlanta. There is no court by that name, and any bankruptcy court filings for Jacksonville would go through the Middle District of Florida.

NOT REAL: London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, approves ‘banned’ Jihadi bank

THE FACTS: Khan did not approve the opening of a bank that funds terrorism and has been banned in the U.S., despite the claims of the conspiracy site YourNewsWire. For one thing, the mayor has no authority to approve the opening of any banks; that job in Britain goes to the Financial Conduct Authority. Khan did announce the opening in September of two London branches of Habib Bank AG Zurich , a Switzerland-based institution. There is a similarly named, but unrelated, entity called Habib Bank Ltd. , which is Pakistan’s largest bank and is based in Karachi. Habib Bank Ltd. was fined by New York state this year for failing to stop illicit money flows, including terrorist financing. Habib Bank AG Zurich has no offices in the U.S.

Starbucks is not giving out $50 coupons in exchange for taking an online survey. Elise Amendola/The Associated Press

NOT REAL: Get a free $50 coupon from Starbucks by taking an online survey

THE FACTS: Starbucks is not giving out $50 coupons in exchange for completing an online survey. The coffee chain said the links being shared on social media are phony and have been circulating for years. After people click the link and take the fake survey, they are told to share the link on their own Facebook account. Some signs the survey is fake: the Starbucks logo may look outdated and the wording in the survey may have typos or spelling errors. Starbucks said customers who can’t tell if a promotion is the real deal can call Starbucks customer care or ask an in-store employee.

]]> 0 Doug Jones speaks during an interview with the Associated Press, in Birmingham, Ala. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill dismissed the viral story that over 5,000 of the votes for Jones in Tuesday's special U.S. Senate election were cast by the dead. "There are not 5,000 dead people on the voters rolls unless they died today," Merrill said on Thursday.Fri, 15 Dec 2017 17:22:50 +0000
Scientists didn’t discover a 512-year-old shark, probably Fri, 15 Dec 2017 18:07:01 +0000 Mother Nature is capable of some incredible things, but we have to credit humanity with the dubious feat of aging a shark 240 years in just 16 months.

“272-Year-Old Shark Is Longest-Lived Vertebrate on Earth” was National Geographic’s headline in August 2016, after researchers estimated the age of a particularly long-in-the-tooth Greenland shark.

But for some reason, the shark’s North Atlantic cousins, the British tabloids, dug up the same study this week and advanced the shark’s age to 512 years – “meaning it was born before SHAKESPEARE,” as the Sun explained.

Before long, Newsweek was getting in on the ancient shark frenzy, and Live Science was patiently trying to explain that, no, no known shark has been swimming around for half a millennium.


Probably, that shark isn’t much older than the Taj Mahal.

We don’t know a whole lot about the Greenland shark, which spends its days in deep, icy waters, eating fish and seals and occasionally a polar bear.

Inuit people named the shark “skalugsuak,” Discover magazine once reported – a mythical beast that was said to live for centuries and destroy human flesh with its skin.

Which actually isn’t far from the truth, as a team of researchers laid out in a paper published in Science last year.

The shark’s meat is toxic if eaten, as fishermen have discovered when they tried to make the best of a skalugsuak tangled up in their net.

And while exact ages are hard to pin down, the shark does appear to grow very, very old.

The scientists had to use creative methods to estimate the ages of 28 Greenland sharks they’d captured.

They used radiocarbon dating to determine that most of the specimens predated nuclear bomb tests, which began in the 1950s. Then they extrapolated from the shark’s extremely slow growth rate that the largest was likely just shy of four centuries old.

But given the margins of error, the shark could have been as young as 272 or as old as 512 – thus, the Daily Star’s screaming headline about “Ancient LIVING shark born in 1500s.”

It’s still unclear why the newspapers started recycling the study this week, although of course we’re now guilty of the same thing, as The Washington Post was among the outlets that covered the paper when it came out last year.

The Post even talked to a marine researcher not involved in the study, who was a little skeptical of age estimates but convinced that the shark was incredibly old regardless.

“The business of whether it’s got another 100 years here or there,” he told us, “is almost irrelevant.”

But not to the headlines.

]]> 0, 15 Dec 2017 13:17:16 +0000
Cape Elizabeth picks Maranacook school chief as its superintendent, ending 2-year search Fri, 15 Dec 2017 17:07:39 +0000 CAPE ELIZABETH — After a nearly two-year process and a couple of false starts, the School Board has selected the superintendent of Regional School Unit 38 in Readfield to become Cape Elizabeth’s school chief.

Donna H. Wolfrom is in her sixth year as superintendent of the Maranacook Area Schools. She has meetings with Cape Elizabeth administrators, teachers and students today and will be at Town Hall from 6:30-7:30 p.m. to talk with parents and other community members.

“I’m honored and overwhelmed to have been selected,” Wolfrom said Wednesday. “Cape Elizabeth has a reputation of having an excellent school system and community.”

Wolfrom said she hasn’t signed a contract yet, and expects to finish the school year in RSU 38 and start in Cape Elizabeth in time for the 2018-2019 session.

Born in New Jersey, Wolfrom, 66, moved to Maine in 1988. She now lives in Monmouth, and said she plans to find an apartment in or around Cape Elizabeth to stay during the work week.

Wolfrom previously was assistant superintendent in Bangor, where she was responsible for K-12 curriculum development, district-wide professional development, and writing and oversight of federal grant applications.

Before that she worked for 20 years in School Administrative District 55 (Sacopee Valley), first as a classroom teacher, then literacy specialist, and finally curriculum director.

Wolfrom graduated from Lycoming College in Pennsylvania with a degree in English and elementary education. She later received a master’s degree in literacy at the University of Southern Maine, and then a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Maine at Orono.

“The School Board feels strongly it has found the right fit for the position of superintendent,” outgoing board Chairwoman Elizabeth Scifres said. “Dr. Donna Wolfrom is not only warm and personable, but highly qualified with a rich professional background.”

A search committee of current and incoming School Board members, school administrators, a teacher from each school, parents, and community members, first screened applications then conducted two rounds of interviews with a pool of 10 applicants.

“Dr. Wolfrom was outstanding because she encompasses a combination of qualities that our stakeholders felt were important for our next superintendent,” Scifres said.

The board has been looking for a permanent superintendent since Meredith Nadeau, who was hired in 2011, announced her resignation in January 2016. She left that July for a job in New Hampshire.

Retired Mount Desert Island Superintendent Howard Colter has served as interim superintendent since then. The search to take his place has not been an easy one.

After Nadeau resigned, two candidates were selected to interview for the post, but both backed out in April 2016.

The board hoped to secure another finalist by last April, but instead suspended its search on March 28 because a suitable candidate could not be found.

Colter, who had expected to stay as interim superintendent until a new superintendent could start on July 1, 2017, agreed to remain for another year. A new search for his replacement began in October.

Wolfrom said Colter called her last year during the School Board’s search in 2016 to suggest she apply for the position, but she didn’t feel the time was right.

When she was invited again this fall, Wolfrom decided it was time to make the move.

“I’m really excited to get to know the community and learn what has been working so well for Cape Elizabeth schools,” she said. “I can’t wait to get into the schools and get a feel for the district.”

Scifres said it’s been a pleasure working with Colter.

“He has not been a traditional interim superintendent, in that he has done much more for Cape Elizabeth schools than just ‘keep the ship off the rocks,'” she said.

]]> 0, 16 Dec 2017 00:44:46 +0000
Auburn middle school assistant principal convicted of OUI Fri, 15 Dec 2017 16:55:36 +0000 AUBURN — The assistant principal at the city’s middle school was convicted Wednesday of operating under the influence of alcohol and leaving the scene of an accident.

A jury of eight men and four women in Androscoggin County Superior Court returned guilty verdicts on the two misdemeanor charges at the conclusion of the two-day trial of Kevin Shaw, 48, of Minot.

The OUI charge is punishable by up to 364 days in jail. The jury found him guilty of an enhancement on that charge, having determined that his blood-alcohol content was 0.15 percent or more. For that reason, he faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 48 hours in jail. The legal threshold for blood-alcohol content while driving is 0.08 percent.

The charge of leaving the scene of an accident is punishable by up to six months in jail.

Shaw will remain free on personal recognizance until his sentencing, scheduled for Dec. 27, a judge said.

He is operating with a restricted driver’s license.

Auburn Schools Superintendent Katy Grondin said Wednesday that Shaw had called her with the verdict.

Personnel issues are handled in private at the school, she said. Shaw remained employed at the school as of Wednesday as a faculty member in good standing, she said.

Shaw has worked in the local school district for more than 20 years and understands the importance of serving in his capacity as a role model, she said.

“I’m confident that he has taken the necessary steps to make sure that something like this doesn’t happen again,” she said. “He also takes his role of responsibility very seriously. And he does recognize that he’s going to have to address concerns from the community.”

]]> 0, 15 Dec 2017 22:06:45 +0000
Daughter of driver with suspended license dies in crash Fri, 15 Dec 2017 16:27:28 +0000 A car driven by a Roque Bluffs man who had a suspeneded license veered off the road and hit a tree in Washington County around 11:15 p.m. Thursday, killing his 11-year-old daughter, according to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

Christopher Stevenson was operating the vehicle when it left Route 191 in Cathance Township. His daughter, the only other passenger in the car, died at the scene, authorities said.

Washington County deputies issued Stevenson a summons on a charge of operating after suspension. The crash is being investigated.

]]> siren lights genericFri, 15 Dec 2017 16:49:44 +0000
Boy who fell from Windham roof collecting icicles still hospitalized Fri, 15 Dec 2017 16:14:08 +0000 The 9-year-old boy who fell from a roof while trying to collect icicles at an apartment building in Windham remains hospitalized with a head injury at Maine Medical Center, Windham police said Friday.

The boy, who has not been identified, was found unconscious in a narrow space between two buildings at 20 Main St. about 10 a.m. Thursday.

Police said the boy had been playing outside and bringing icicles into his grandmother’s apartment on Main Street.

When she heard a “thump” the grandmother went outside to find the source of the noise and found the boy on the ground in the back of the house and called 911.

It was unclear how the boy got onto the roof, but police said he might have climbed the fire escape or accessed a third-floor window.


]]> 0, 15 Dec 2017 11:23:38 +0000
State placed 4-year-old girl in home of woman now charged with her murder Fri, 15 Dec 2017 16:08:44 +0000 WISCASSET — The 4-year-old girl allegedly murdered last week by a 43-year-old Wiscasset woman showed signs of previous traumas, and suffered multiple severe injuries that included a fatal blow to her abdomen, court records show.

Shawna L. Gatto of Crickets Lane in Wiscasset is charged with the murder of Kendall Chick, who died of blunt-force trauma to the abdomen but also had serious injuries to her head, neck and limbs. Gatto, who made an initial appearance in Wiscasset Superior Court Friday morning, is being held at Two Bridges Regional Jail without bail.

Gatto was caring for Kendall in the home they shared with the girl’s grandfather, Stephen Hood, and two of Gatto’s grandchildren. Kendall had been placed there by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services in January, according to a police affidavit, although it was not clear why the state was involved or whether the girl was legally in the custody of the state when she died.

A DHHS spokeswoman refused to confirm or deny the agency’s involvement in the case, citing confidentiality laws.

Emergency personnel responded to 19 Crickets Lane on Dec. 8 after Gatto called 911 and reported that she found Kendall unresponsive in a bathtub a few moments after stepping away from the girl to get her a drink of chocolate milk. Kendall, who was cold to the touch and pale when EMTs arrived, was rushed to Mid Coast Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Kendall had severe and extensive injuries visible when the first police officer, Wiscasset Sgt. Craig Worster, arrived on the scene, to a state police affidavit states.

Worster told state police that he believed Kendall’s skull had been fractured, there were lacerations on her head, neck and face, bruising around her eyes, under her nose, and on the side of her face and neck.

An autopsy later said she had suffered significant blunt-force trauma to her head and neck, in addition to her abdomen.

According to a police report and an application for a search warrant filed with the court, Gatto’s account of what happened did not align with the forensic evidence gathered from the trailer home where Gatto lived, or with the evidence found during Kendall’s autopsy.

Two of Gatto’s grandchildren also live in the home. One is also 4 years old and the other is 9 months old, police said.

It is state policy to give priority to family members when DHHS officials make decisions about placement for a child who is involved with the child welfare system, the department said. “As with all out-of-home placements, providers of care must meet basic health and safety requirements,” the DHHS website states.

Gatto told investigators that shortly before Kendall became unresponsive, the girl had vomited and had diarrhea. Gatto said she had placed Kendall in the bathtub to clean her up. Gatto said that Kendall then asked for a drink, so Gatto walked a short distance to the kitchen, but when she returned Kendall was unresponsive and she called 911. Lincoln County dispatchers received Gatto’s call for help at 4:30 p.m.

“She was fine like 10 minutes ago,” Gatto said to the dispatcher during the emergency call, the police report said.

Four minutes later at 4:34 p.m., Gatto texted her daughter-in-law, who works at Mid Coast Hospital in an unidentified capacity, where Kendall was also transported.

“U need to get home now I think Kendall is dead,” the text message read, police said.

The daughter-in-law later texted Gatto back, apparently after seeing Kendall at the hospital.

“I’ve never seen something so bad in my life,” the daughter-in-law wrote to Gatto, police said. “Did she hit her head off something? That was horrible.”

Police said Gatto was the only one who was alone with Kendall that day, and that neither Hood nor Gatto’s adult son, Joshua, who had stopped by the house that day, had any reason to hurt the girl.

But Gatto’s account is contradicted by autopsy results that showed Kendall had suffered blunt-force trauma to her abdomen resulting in lacerations to her pancreas and parts of her digestive tract, according to a report by Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Mark Flomenbaum that is described in the police reports. The blow to the abdomen occurred between one and 12 hours before she died, court records state.

In addition to the abdominal injuries, Kendall suffered multiple injuries of varying age to her head, neck and limbs, indicating she suffered trauma in the past. A further microscopic examination of her thymus gland showed signs of chronic physiological stress. Kendall also had a cut on her chin that seemed to be fresh, but had not bled, the report said.

There also was physical evidence in the home that seemed to point to prior instances of violence against the girl. Evidence technicians found red-brown stains that presumptively tested positive for blood on sheets of a bunk bed where Kendall slept and on the bathtub where Kendall had been placed near the time of her death. Technicians also documented blood near a round indentation in a wall in Kendall’s bedroom that seemed to correspond with the size of Kendall’s head.

Blood also was found on paper towels in a wastebasket in the bathroom and on a towel in a laundry hamper in the kitchen. A sponge found in the bathtub also tested positive for blood.

“In sum, there is physical evidence present indicative of trauma and subsequent cleanup of what has tested presumptive positive for blood,” Maine State Police Detective Jonathan Heimbach wrote.

Hood, who left for work at about 6 a.m. and returned about 3:30 p.m. that day, told police that his granddaughter did not greet him when he arrived, which was unusual. In explaining the girl’s absence, Gatto told Hood that Kendall had made a mess of herself and was in a time-out in the bathtub. Hood told investigators the next time he saw Kendall was after Gatto called him into the bathroom and reported that the girl was unresponsive.

Gatto has no criminal record in Maine, according to the State Bureau of Identification. Her next court date has not been set yet.

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

Twitter: MattByrnePPH

]]> January, DHHS placed the girl in her grandfather's Wiscasset home at 19 Crickets Lane, which he shared with Gatto and two of her grandchildren.Sat, 16 Dec 2017 00:15:02 +0000
Trump says ‘We’re going to rebuild the FBI’ Fri, 15 Dec 2017 15:20:10 +0000 QUANTICO, Va. – Taking aim at the credibility of the FBI, President Trump unleashed a blistering attack on the bureau’s leadership even as he praised state and local police officers as a bulwark against rising violence and crime.

Trump denounced the bureau for its handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, calling it “really disgraceful” and continuing his questioning of his country’s intelligence and law enforcement institutions as no president before.

“It’s a shame what’s happened with the FBI,” the president said. “We’re going to rebuild the FBI, it’ll be bigger and better than ever, but it is very sad when you look at those documents, and how they’ve done that is really, really disgraceful, and you have a lot of very angry people that are seeing it.”

The president’s broadside appeared to reflect his anger over revelations that senior FBI officials exchanged anti-Trump and pro-Hillary Clinton text messages while working on last year’s Clinton probe and during special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump associates colluded with Russian officials in the 2016 election.

Trump laced into the bureau as he was departing for its training academy in Virginia, where he lavished praise on graduates of a weeks-long FBI National Academy program for law enforcement leaders from around the country.

He praised the graduates, who were trained on FBI standards, touting their accomplishments and pledging his unwavering support. Trump told law enforcement leaders he is “more loyal than anyone else could be” to police.

“Anti-police sentiment is wrong and it’s dangerous,” he added. “Anyone who kills a police officer should get the death penalty.”

Trump depicted a nation besieged by violence, using dark rhetoric that was a stark departure from the language of his predecessors. He evoked this week’s attempted terror attack in New York when he called for stricter immigration policies. He also delivered a stern warning to members of the international gang MS-13 that his administration will root them out and arrest them.

Trump celebrated his decision to make it easier for local police forces to purchase surplus military equipment, and questioned rising violence in Chicago.

“What the hell is going on in Chicago? What the hell is happening there?” asked Trump returning to a favorite campaign target.

The law enforcement crowd often chuckled and applauded its approval. Trump has often appeared at ease in front of police groups and loves to suggest that they supported him in last year’s campaign.

Violent crime has increased nationally the last two years but has dropped precipitously over the last quarter century. Gun violence in Chicago has dropped in 2017 from 2016 and of Dec. 10 there had been 620 homicides compared to 730 at the same time last year.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose has faced Trump’s wrath after recusing himself from the Russia probe, distanced himself from Trump’s criticism of the bureau, saying he does not share a view that the FBI “is not functioning at a high level all over the country.” He praised the bureau’s crime-fighting efforts and stopped short of saying he agreed with Trump’s assessment that the reputation of the agency is “in tatters.”

Hours before Trump’s speech, White House Deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley told Fox News Channel that edits to former FBI Director James Comey’s statement on Clinton’s private email server and anti-Trump texts from a top agent are “deeply troubling.”

“There is extreme bias against this president with high-up members of the team there at the FBI who were investigating Hillary Clinton at the time,” Gidley charged, as Mueller pushes on with a probe of possible Trump campaign ties to Russia. Gidley says Trump maintains confidence in the FBI’s rank-and-file.

Edits to the Comey draft appeared to soften the gravity of the bureau’s finding in its 2016 investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state.

“It is very sad when you look at those documents, how they’ve done that is really, really disgraceful, and you have a lot of really angry people who are seeing it,” Trump said of the document.

Gidley said the disclosure of politically charged text messages sent by one of the agents on the Clinton case, Peter Strzok, were “eye-opening.” Strzok, who was in the room as Clinton was interviewed, was later assigned to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team to investigate potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. He was re-assigned after the messages were uncovered this summer.

With the attack, the White House joined a growing movement among the conservative media and some Republicans to question the integrity of Mueller’s investigation.

About 200 leaders in law enforcement from around the country attended the weeks-long FBI National Academy program at Quantico aimed at raising law enforcement standards and cooperation. Coursework included intelligence theory, terrorism and terrorist mindsets, law, behavioral science, law enforcement communication, and forensic science.

Associated Press writer Sadie Gurman contributed reporting from Washington.

]]> 0 Trump speaks during the FBI National Academy graduation ceremony Friday in Quantico, Va. "The President of the United States has your back 100 percent," Trump told graduates, saying law enforcement officers need to be supported. "I will fight for you and I will never, ever, let you down."Fri, 15 Dec 2017 17:31:37 +0000
Killer who led longest manhunt ever in Maine gets 55 years for murdering his ex-girlfriend Fri, 15 Dec 2017 15:19:23 +0000 BANGOR — Robert Burton was sentenced Friday to serve 55 years in prison for the murder of his former girlfriend, Stephanie Gebo, in June 2015 in a house they once shared in Parkman, a small town in Piscataquis County, some 20 miles north of Skowhegan.

Burton sat motionless, staring directly ahead inside the Penobscot Judicial Center as Justice Robert Mullen imposed the sentence at about 10 a.m. Mullen said he was tempted to impose the life sentence the state had asked for, but considered the aggravating and the mitigating factors in the case, setting the maximum sentence at 55 years.

With prison “good time,” Burton will be in his 80s when he is eligible to be released.

Stephanie Gebo’s father, Vance Ginn, 66, said that he was satisfied with the sentence, noting that Burton, who is 40, might never get out of prison alive.

“Of course, we would have much rather heard the word ‘life,’ but by the way it was explained to us, this is kind of preventative medicine because a life sentence is a lot easier to get overturned … so we don’t have to face an appeal down the road,” Ginn told reporters outside of the courthouse. “The attorneys did the math and the earliest he can be released, doing nothing wrong in jail, he’ll be 86 years old. This is life for him that will stand.”

Burton was convicted of murder by a jury in October in the shooting death of his former girlfriend, Stephanie Gebo, in June 2015 in her home where they had lived as a couple with Gebo’s two children for more than two years.

Gebo, sleeping with a gun under her pillow because she feared what her jealous ex-boyfriend might do, shot Burton after he climbed through her bedroom window, armed with a knife and black duct tape. Burton had planned to bind her until she “admits her wickedness” of cheating on him with other men.

Burton, bleeding from the neck and shoulder, turned the gun on Gebo and shot her from behind, leaving her for dead with three bullet wounds in her back.

Gebo was killed the day after Burton’s probation had ended on a domestic violence conviction that sent him to prison for 10 years. Burton fled after the shooting without seeking medical attention for himself and without calling 911 for Gebo. He turned himself in to police 68 days after what authorities said was the longest and most costly manhunt in state history.

Authorities think he had been living in the woods before he gave himself up at the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department, saying he was afraid he was going to be shot.

Friday’s proceedings started with victim impact statements spoken to the court by friends, former coworkers and family members.

Caleb Ball, a cousin who spent much of his early life with Stephanie Gebo, spoke amid sobs, saying that most nights he wakes up with nightmares about Stephanie. He said he goes to counseling, has panic attacks and drinks until he passes out, only to wake to another nightmare. He said he remembers her laugh but is scared he won’t remember it someday.

Gebo’s mother, Christine Knapp, said her family lived for 68 days while Burton was on the run looking over their shoulders, not knowing where Burton was. She told the judge her daughter’s murder changed the family forever and asked for a life sentence.

Sidney Gebo, Stephanie’s daughter, who at age 13 came downstairs the morning of June 5, 2015, and found her mother lying face down in a pool of her own blood, was next to speak Friday morning, but she wouldn’t say Burton’s name aloud in court. She said when her mother finally broke up with Burton, their little family was happy again after a toxic couple of years with Burton living in their home.

She said she would be comforted with a sentence of life in prison.

According to a court affidavit, Maine State Police Detective Micah Perkins found four shell casings from a 9 mm handgun and an open window in the bedroom where Gebo’s body was found. Medical Examiner Margaret Greenwald, who conducted the autopsy on Gebo on June 7, 2015, found multiple gunshot wounds to the lungs, spinal area and trachea and determined the death was a homicide.

Sidney saw her mother’s body and got her 10-year-old brother out of bed, then called 911. As she was calling, she saw a camouflage backpack and jacket outside that she recognized as Burton’s. Inside the backpack, police said they later found a knife, duct tape and medication in bottles prescribed for Burton. Police said they found Burton’s cellphone in the jacket.

Burton’s trial lasted nine days in late September and early October and featured Burton testifying on the witness stand. The trial concluded when the jury of five women and seven men finished deliberating for more than six hours over two days, ultimately rejecting the defendant’s arguments claiming self-defense and having no intention to kill.

Burton himself stood Friday morning to emotionally speak his peace before being sentenced. He said he was “sincerely sorry” for the way the two children had to find their mother.

“I would trade places with her if I could,” he said of Gebo, who, during the trial, he said he had loved.

Assistant Attorney General John Alsop, one of two prosecuting attorneys in the case, said they were disappointed that Justice Mullen did not give them the life sentence they had asked for. He said Burton was not remorseful and previously had said that Burton’s testimony during the trial was “pure fiction.”

Defense Attorney Hunter Tzovarros had asked for a sentence somewhere in the range of 35 years.

“We are happy that he got less time than the life sentence that the state was asking for,” he said. “The focus will be on appealing the case now.”

Burton, who had a felony conviction for domestic violence and was on probation before moving in with Gebo, also faced a separate charge of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. He faced an additional five years in prison on that charge. Justice Mullen, who presided over the nearly two-week murder trial, sentenced Burton on Friday to serve four years on the firearm charge, to run at the same time as his sentence for murder.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367


]]> 0 Burton enters a courtroom Friday at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor where he received a sentence of 55 years in prison for the murder of Stephanie Gebo.Sat, 16 Dec 2017 00:45:32 +0000
Americans pessimistic about Trump, and just 3 in 10 say U.S. is on right track, poll shows Fri, 15 Dec 2017 15:14:57 +0000 WASHINGTON — President Trump frequently casts his first year in office as a string of successes and campaign promises fulfilled. But less than a quarter of Americans think Trump has made good on the pledges he made to voters while running for president, according to a new poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Among Republicans, just half say Trump has kept his promises, which included vows to overhaul his predecessor’s health care law, withdraw the United States from a nuclear accord with Iran and invest millions in new projects to fix the nation’s aging infrastructure. None of those steps have been taken.

“Everything has stalled out,” said Mark Krowski, 36, an independent from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who leans Republican but didn’t vote for Trump last year.

As 2017 comes to a close, the majority of Americans painted a broadly pessimistic view of Trump’s presidency, the nation’s politics and the overall direction of the country. Just three in 10 Americans said the United States is heading in the right direction, and 52 percent said the country is worse off since Trump became president – worrisome signs both for the White House and Republicans heading into a midterm election year where control of Congress will be at stake.

Along with the 23 percent who think Trump has kept his promises, another 30 percent think he has tried and failed and 45 percent think he hasn’t kept them at all.

In a second AP-NORC poll conducted this month, Trump’s job approval rating sits at just 32 percent, making him the least popular first-year president on record. A quarter of Republicans say they’re among those who disapprove of the president.

One relative bright spot for Trump? The improving economy.

With a soaring stock market and unemployment hovering around 4 percent, 40 percent of Americans approved of Trump’s handling of the economy. That’s higher than the three in 10 Americans that approved of the president’s handling of health care, foreign policy or taxes.

Still, Trump continues to talk about his presidency with lofty rhetorical flourishes, declaring that his first months in office outshine those of his predecessors. But there’s no doubt that 2017 has been devoid of any significant legislative accomplishments, though Republicans are urgently trying to pass a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s tax system. The package would give generous tax cuts to corporations and the wealthiest Americans, and more modest tax cuts to low- and middle-income families.

“We’re very, very close to a historic legislative victory, the likes of which rarely has this country seen,” Trump said during a meeting with lawmakers earlier this week.

Republicans are banking on the tax overhaul being enough to carry them through next year’s House and Senate contests, elections that will largely be a referendum on Trump’s first two years in office and the GOP’s stewardship as the majority party on Capitol Hill. But with the legislation rushed through Congress and negotiated largely in private, Trump and lawmakers may have more work to do to sell the public on its benefits.

“There’s so much back and forth and so many adjustments being made. It’s just so uncertain,” Edward Hale, a 72-year-old independent, said of the tax legislation.

One thing Hale, a retired federal government employee from Clarion, Pennsylvania, is certain of in the proposal? “It definitely favors Mr. Trump and his wealthy friends,” he said.

The survey results suggest that with or without a tax overhaul, Trump has work to do in convincing the public that his presidency is benefiting them. Just 25 percent of Americans think the country is better off since Trump took office — and only 20 percent say they personally are doing better.

By contrast, an AP-NORC poll conducted a year ago found that Americans were more likely to think the country had become better off over the course of Barack Obama’s presidency than worse off, 46 percent to 33 percent.

Only 9 percent think the country has become more united as a result of Trump’s presidency, while 67 percent think the country is more divided because of Trump. That’s far higher than the 44 percent of Americans who said in a poll one year ago that Obama’s presidency had served to divide the country further.

Even Republicans are more likely to say Trump has divided America than united it, 41 percent to 17 percent.

Notably, the deep-seated pessimism about the president and national politics doesn’t extend to local communities. Overall, about half of Americans said they feel optimistic about their local communities. And that feeling is shared across the political spectrum: 55 percent of Democrats and 50 percent of Republicans feel optimistic about the way things are going locally.


The AP-NORC polls surveyed 1,444 adults from Nov. 30-Dec. 4 and 1,020 adults from Dec. 7-11 using samples drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points for the first survey and plus or minus 4.3 percentage points for the second.

Interviews were conducted online and using landlines and cellphones.


]]> 0, 15 Dec 2017 10:25:59 +0000
Business Breakfast Forum: Cybersecurity and Privacy Fri, 15 Dec 2017 14:23:40 +0000 All businesses need to protect their networked assets, and securing customer data from the start is a top priority for best practices. Small businesses need to consider what services are worth the investment… and what schemes are worth anticipating. Hear from experts about the best strategies to retain and grow your business during a time of rapid technology development. Moderated by business editor Carol Coultas.

This free, live event offers the opportunity for you to join in the conversation while connecting with people in the Greater Portland business community, and enjoy complimentary coffee and light breakfast.

Doors open at 7:15 a.m. Program begins at 7:45 and ends at 9:00.

On the panel

MODERATOR: Carol Coultas, business editor


Sponsored By







]]> 0, 15 Dec 2017 14:30:52 +0000 Plan on a cold, sunny and quiet weather weekend Fri, 15 Dec 2017 14:08:18 +0000 Temperatures this morning hovered in the single digits and lower teens throughout southern Maine, the coldest weather we’ve seen since last March. Portland was 10 degrees as I was putting this post together, 7 degrees colder than any previous morning this winter.

You may be seeing sunshine, but clouds are going to quickly increase as the weather continues to be move rapidly across the country. I use the term rapidly because the upper level winds are blowing quite strongly just to our south today at nearly 200 miles per hour or over 170 knots. Since the wind is coming from the west, blowing towards the east, it quickly takes any storm systems underneath these winds out to sea before they have a chance to develop or have much if an impact.

Strong winds will keep a storm south of Maine this weekend. Tropical Tidbits

While this next system will rapidly bring clouds into the area later this morning all the snow will stay south of Maine. If you are headed to Boston this weekend, you could see a few flakes or even half an inch of snow overnight tonight. The Portland area will see clouds move in today and out tonight, leaving us with a dry and sunny weekend.

There is ice on the ponds and lakes now and while I personally don’t skate or ice fish, I know every year someone falls through the ice because it’s not safe. Use common sense this weekend and next as ice conditions change.

Ice will continue to thicken this weekend, but may not be safe for all activities everywhere yet.

Ice will continue to thicken this weekend, but may not be safe for all activities everywhere yet.

Saturday will be the windier day this weekend with highs around the freezing mark. Sunday is a bit colder with temperatures just under freezing. There will be plenty of sunshine both days. 

Sunday will be the colder of the two weekend days. Dave Epstein

Skiing conditions are great for mid-December after new, natural snow fell over the past week. Many areas in Maine have yet to open and without any big storms some of the smaller mountains could stay closed for a while longer.  

Two areas in Maine are open as of Friday morning. Call ahead to see if others are scheduled.

Next week milder air will try to move into the region which could bring some spotty light precipitation for the Monday morning commute. Temperatures could reach 40 degrees by Tuesday and Wednesday along the coastline. This could melt some of the snow – except in ski country.

Follow Dave Epstein on Twitter @growingwisdom

]]> 0, 15 Dec 2017 10:06:17 +0000
Trump judicial nominee painfully fumbles basic questions about the law Fri, 15 Dec 2017 13:50:16 +0000 WASHINGTON — Nomination hearings for U.S. district judges tend to be dry affairs that offer little in the way of mass entertainment – in other words, they’re not typically the stuff of viral videos.

But a clip of one of President Trump’s federal judicial nominees struggling to answer rudimentary questions about the law garnered well more than 1 million views in a matter of hours on Thursday night and stoked speculation that another of the president’s nominations might get derailed.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., shared footage of Matthew Petersen, a nominee for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, getting quizzed by Sen. John Neely Kennedy, R-La., on basic aspects of trial procedure during his appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

For five painfully awkward minutes, Petersen, a member of the Federal Election Commission and a lawyer with no trial experience, fumbled with Kennedy’s questions, visibly uncomfortable as the lawmaker pressed him about how things work in a federal courtroom.

“Hoo-boy,” Whitehouse wrote in a widely circulated tweet of the exchange, seizing on the moment for maximum political effect.

In Wednesday’s hearing, Kennedy started by asking Petersen and the four other nominees who appeared with him: “Have any of you not tried a case to verdict in a courtroom?”

Petersen alone raised his hand.

Kennedy, a first-term Republican who has challenged some of Trump’s previous judicial nominations, bore down.

Had Petersen ever handled jury trial?

“I have not,” the nominee responded.

Civil? No. Criminal? No. Bench trial? No. State or federal court? No.

How many depositions had he taken – fewer than five?

“Probably somewhere in that range,” Petersen said.

Had he ever argued a motion in state court? Federal court? No on both counts.

Kennedy then asked the last time Petersen had read the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure – the standards that govern civil cases in U.S. District Court, where Petersen is hoping to get a lifetime appointment.

“In my current position,” Petersen stuttered, “I obviously don’t need to stay as invested in those on a day-to-day basis, but I do try to keep up to speed.” He added that he oversees a number of attorneys in the FEC’s litigation division and advises them on legal strategy.

How about the last time he read the Federal Rules of Evidence, which regulate the use of evidence in civil and criminal trials, Kennedy asked. The rules are amended and republished every year.

“All the way through? Well, comprehensively, would have been in law school,” Petersen said.

Kennedy kept digging.

“As a trial judge, you’re obviously going to have witnesses. Can you tell me what the ‘Daubert standard’ is,” the senator asked, referring to a critical and well-known rule on using expert testimony in federal court.

“I don’t have that readily at my disposal,” Petersen said. “But I would be happy to take a closer look at that. That is not something that I had to -”

Kennedy cut him off. “Do you know what a motion in limine is,” he asked. A motion in limine is a widely used request for certain evidence to be excluded at trial.

Petersen said yes, then tried to sidestep the question. He reminded the senator that his background wasn’t in litigation and said he hadn’t had time to “do a deep dive.”

“I understand the challenge that would be ahead of me if I were fortunate enough to become a district court judge,” Petersen said. “I understand that the path that many successful district court judges have taken has been a different one than I have taken.”

Kennedy said he was familiar with Petersen’s resume, then asked again what a motion in limine was.

“I would probably not be able to give you a good definition right here at the table,” Petersen said.

Petersen received his law degree from University of Virginia School of Law in 1999 and spent three years at the law firm Wiley Rein LLP in Washington, where he specialized in campaign finance law. After that, he worked briefly as counsel to the Republican National Committee and served as counsel for two congressional panels.

He was appointed to the Federal Election Commission in 2008 by President George W. Bush. There, he served for five years alongside Donald F. McGahn II, the current White House counsel.

Trump tapped Petersen in September to fill a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, one of the most important federal trial courts in the nation. Until now, his nomination has drawn little attention, and Trump’s other nominees to the court in Washington have breezed through the confirmation process with bipartisan support.

When video of the interrogation made its way online, several high profile law professors tweeted their surprise.

“Don’t want to beat up on the guy but the questions he was being asked could be answered by a second year law student,” wrote Aderson Francois, a professor at Georgetown Law. “Even if you know zero about evidence the one doctrine every law student knows is Daubert because it’s a very famous case about standard to admit expert testimony.”

Anthony Michael Kreis, a professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law, said it was unreasonable to expect Petersen to have recently studied the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a lengthy and complex document. “But,” Kreis added, “if you have little or no trial experience, I’d hope you could speak a little bit about the law with some degree of sophistication. Daubert is pretty basic.”

Others put their concerns more bluntly. “Seems like FEC Commissioner Petersen may not be leaving the FEC for the federal district court after all,” wrote University of California Irvine professor Rick Hasen. “This is pretty devastating.”

Petersen’s testimony drew scrutiny one day after Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, said that two of Trump’s nominees would not be confirmed to the federal bench following questions about their qualifications, disrupting an otherwise smooth streak of federal judicial confirmations for the president.

Brett Talley, nominated for a federal district court seat in Alabama, was thwarted after he was reported to be the author of a 2011 message board comment defending the Ku Klux Klan. Democrats had objected to his nomination from the beginning, noting that he had never served as a judge nor tried a case.

Jeff Mateer, nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, was also blocked after speeches surfaced in which he advocated discriminating against members of the LGBT community and called transgender children proof that “Satan’s plan is working.”

No one is accusing Petersen of making controversial or insensitive remarks. But in Wednesday’s hearing, Kennedy probed anyway, just to be sure.

“Any of you blog? Any of you ever blogged in support of the Ku Klux Klan?” he asked.

Petersen and the other panelists shook their heads no.

]]> 0, 15 Dec 2017 22:10:34 +0000
As ACA hangs in balance, health care task force pursues Maine-based solutions Fri, 15 Dec 2017 09:00:00 +0000 As Congress decides whether to repeal a key provision of the Affordable Care Act, a Maine-based task force set to meet for the first time next week will be studying state-based fixes to the health care system. Included in the discussion would be long-shot proposals to establish a single-payer system in Maine.

The Health Care Coverage Task Force – created by the Legislature after a hearing on a single-payer bill that failed earlier this year – will meet Wednesday in Augusta to begin a wide-ranging discussion on health care. The task force includes residents, a bipartisan mix of eight lawmakers, and representatives from health care groups, hospitals, the insurance industry, and small and large employers.

Sen. Geoff Gratwick, D-Bangor photo

Sen. Geoff Gratwick, D-Bangor, a physician who is on the task force, said that although he supports single-payer in theory, he’s looking for practical solutions that can be supported by Republicans, Democrats, patients, hospitals and health care professionals.

“No health care reform is going to work unless we bring everyone to the table,” Gratwick said.

Democrats tend to support single-payer, but Republicans are usually opposed.

While many European countries and Canada have established universal health care systems, the United States created the Affordable Care Act under then-President Barack Obama, reforming the existing system rather than creating a single-payer version. No state has adopted a single-payer system despite several attempts to do so.

Single-payer means that a single entity – usually the federal government – is responsible for paying health care providers such as doctors and hospitals. Out-of-pocket costs for individuals go down, but taxes are increased to compensate. The U.S. has elements of a single-payer system in the Medicare and Medicaid systems for seniors, the disabled and low-income populations. The ACA reduced the number of uninsured by expanding Medicaid and offering subsidized insurance to working-class and middle-income families that didn’t have employer-based insurance.


Since congressional Democrats and Obama muscled the ACA through Congress on a party-line vote in 2010, many Republicans have argued that it doesn’t work well and have tried to dismantle it.

President Trump and congressional Republicans came within one vote of repealing the ACA this summer – with Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine a key “no” vote – and are trying to weaken the ACA in a number of ways, including by repealing the individual mandate in the pending tax reform bill.

Repealing the individual mandate – which requires people who can’t get insurance through an employer to purchase coverage or pay a penalty – would result in 13 million fewer Americans with health care coverage, the Congressional Budget Office estimates. The Trump administration also has cut ACA advertising and outreach budgets and slashed the enrollment period from 12 weeks to six.

Meanwhile, as Congress and the Trump administration consider ways to undermine the ACA, California is exploring adoption of a single-payer system. A bill to create single-payer stalled in the California Legislature this year, but Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is a strong supporter of universal health care and he is considered a leading Democratic candidate for governor next year.

However, other efforts to create state-based single-payer systems have collapsed – including in Vermont in 2015, Oregon in 2002, Colorado in 2016 and California in 1994. Voters soundly rejected single-payer ballot initiatives in Oregon, Colorado and California.

John McDonough, professor of the practice of public health at Harvard University, said single-payer system proposals in the United States have failed when details start emerging.

“As much as people are attracted to the idea, it has always fallen apart when you get to the issue of finance. How are we going to pay for it? Then the exuberant support fades, people’s fears take over and it falls apart,” McDonough said.


He said the referendums in Oregon, Colorado and California started with promising levels of public support before failing at the polls, with less than 30 percent of voters voting “yes.”

But Delene Perley, education and communications chair for Maine AllCare, a group that advocates for single-payer, said she looks to Canada, which started in the provinces before becoming a countrywide system in the 1980s.

“If we can’t get universal health care done nationally, we can start in the states,” Perley said. She said she’s also encouraged by the Nov. 7 vote in Maine to expand Medicaid, which passed with 59 percent of the vote. Perley believes Maine AllCare eventually will launch a referendum drive.

“It’s headed that way,” she said. “That Medicaid vote was a good sign. People want health care that they can access and afford.”

Perley doesn’t hold out much hope that the Maine task force will recommend a single-payer system, but “it’s a start. It’s opening the discussion,” she said.

McDonough said there are many reforms that states can approve to improve health care affordability without going to a single-payer system, such as a robust reinsurance program in Alaska that allows people to “buy into” Medicare or Medicaid, or simply offering more generous subsidies on the ACA’s individual market.

For instance, the Massachusetts state government approved a system similar to the ACA in the 2000s under Republican Gov. Mitt Romney that offered enrollees more generous subsidies than what was later approved under the ACA. When the ACA’s individual market started in 2013, Massachusetts continued the generous subsidies – supplementing federal ACA funding with state dollars – so that enrollees wouldn’t see their health care costs go up, McDonough said.

He said the more generous system has led to Massachusetts having the lowest uninsured rate in the nation, at 2.8 percent.

McDonough said there’s nothing stopping any state from making reforms similar to the ones in Massachusetts, which would lower health insurance costs and make coverage more affordable for those buying on the individual market.

“You can go for the so-called ‘perfect system’ in single-payer, and end up with nothing,” he said. “Or you can make these other, more incremental, reforms.”

Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at:

Twitter: joelawlorph

]]> 0, 15 Dec 2017 09:47:04 +0000
Applications flowing in as Toy Fund expands to Androscoggin County Fri, 15 Dec 2017 09:00:00 +0000 The Portland Press Herald Toy Fund has been bringing joy to children in the Portland area for 68 years, but it’s brand new to the Lewiston/Auburn area.

The toy fund this year began accepting applications from Androscoggin County, expanding its reach to families that, in the past, did not qualify and were turned away.

And, as expected, the applications have been flowing in from parents who are grateful and relieved to be included.

“I am the single mother of four beautiful children,” a woman from Androscoggin County wrote to the fund. Her youngest, a boy, was born last year with numerous medical challenges, including a heart defect that required open heart surgery to repair.

“He is the apple of our eyes and has lit up our lives since his birth,” the mother wrote. “I was meant to be my children’s mother and I love them to the moon and back. The four of them are my everything.”

But although the woman works 40 hours a week, she is struggling financially, she wrote.

“I struggle with affording basic necessities, but somehow I make it work. Due to poverty guidelines and income limits, my family is not eligible for any government/public assistance programs. My family and I are more than grateful for any assistance the toy fund can offer. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.”

The Portland Press Herald Toy Fund in the Spirit of Bruce Roberts is using donations from readers to provide toys to thousands of Maine children who might otherwise not receive holiday gifts because of hardships faced by their parents. Bruce Roberts was the original pen name of the newspaper columnist who co-founded the fund in 1949.

The fund – now in its 68th year – is accepting applications for toys from needy families in Cumberland, York, Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Androscoggin and Knox counties.

Applications can be downloaded at or picked up at the Press Herald’s Welcome Center at 295 Gannett Drive in South Portland. Call 791-6672 to have one mailed to you.

Donations to help buy the toys can be made at or by writing checks to the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund and mailing them to the fund at P.O. Box 7310, Portland, ME 04112.



Thank you for your work with the Toy Fund. CF Santa $200

Merry Christmas! $100

In memory of my mother Madeleine Broadhurst- she always made Christmas time special for her children and made it special for all children. Lori and David $100

Merry Christmas from Pam and John Fridlington $250

In memory of Bob & Irene and Leo & Barb $50

Anonymous $50

Merry Christmas! Rick & Janet $50

In loving memory of Gigi with love from Alex, Brendan and Abbi $200

Have a wonderful holiday! $100

Merry Christmas from Edie and Jack Cornell $50

Anonymous $100

Anonymous $20

Sam and Marge DiBiase $50

In honor of my wonderful bus driver, Mr. Mike Lavallee, Bus 31, Scarborough from Amelia Odlin $25

In memory of Joe Guertin, who loved toys. $50

In memory of Joe Bromley – Carl & Rachel Akin $30

In lieu of local Christmas cards – Carl & Rachel Akin $30

Merry Christmas! The Hughes family $50

LT’s – Merry Christmas! $50

To honor Earl G $25

Merry Christmas to the children $25

In memory of Mom and Dad Foss $150

Edwin Heisler $100

Constance and Robert Fallon $20

Janine Myers $100

Year to date: $57,554

]]> 0, 14 Dec 2017 22:38:43 +0000
Portland elver trafficker caught in sting gets jail, another Mainer pleads guilty Fri, 15 Dec 2017 04:29:00 +0000 Operation Broken Glass, an interagency sting of a national elver trafficking ring based in Maine, has yielded two more jail sentences and a guilty plea this week.

Yarann Im, a 35-year-old Portland seafood dealer, was sentenced to six months in jail for illegally trafficking 480 pounds of elvers, which are also known as glass eels or juvenile American eels, following a hearing Thursday in federal district court in Portland. Im pleaded guilty in 2016 to buying more than $500,000 worth of eels, or almost a million individual elvers that had been illegally harvested in Virginia, North Carolina and Massachusetts, and selling them abroad.

Thomas Choi, a 76-year-old seafood dealer from Maryland, was sentenced Thursday to six months in prison with a $25,000 fine for trafficking in $1.26 million of elvers.

On Tuesday, Maine fisherman Albert Cray pleaded guilty to trafficking elvers, admitting to harvesting them illegally in New Jersey and selling them to a Maryland dealer, who then exported them from the United States to buyers in Asia. In 2013, Cray admitted to trafficking more than $250,000 worth of illegally harvested elvers, according to a statement of facts filed with Cray’s plea agreement.

“The poaching and illegal selling of American eels negatively impacts not only the species, but also the economies of our East Coast states and the livelihood of local U.S. fishermen who legally harvest these eels,” said Edward Grace, acting chief of law enforcement for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “These recent court actions should serve as a warning to those who illegally profit from our country’s natural resources. You will be caught and held accountable.”

Eels are highly valued in East Asia for human consumption. Japanese and European eels were historically harvested to meet this demand, however overfishing has led to a decline in these populations and harvesters have turned to the American eel to fill the void. American eels spawn in the Sargasso Sea, an area of the North Atlantic Ocean bounded on all sides by ocean currents. They travel as larvae from the Sargasso to the East Coast of the U.S.

They enter a juvenile, or elver, stage when they reach the U.S. They swim up river and grow to adulthood in fresh water. Harvesters and exporters of American eels can sell elvers to East Asia for more than $2,000 a pound. Because of the threat of overfishing, Atlantic Coast states have cooperated to ban elver fishing in all but Maine and South Carolina, which heavily regulate their elver fisheries.

Led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Operation Broken Glass set up a sting operation into the illegal trafficking of elvers. It has resulted in guilty pleas for 19 people that are estimated to have illegally trafficked more than $5.25 million worth of elvers. Maine Marine Patrol was one of 20 law enforcement agencies that has helped work on the investigation.

Penelope Overton can be contacted at 791-6463 or at:

Twitter: PLOvertonPPH

]]> 0 federal decision on the status of eels will come as the market for baby eels, called elvers, is booming. Maine has by far the most lucrative eel fishery in the country.Fri, 15 Dec 2017 12:42:53 +0000
Newtown families turning tragedy into advocacy Fri, 15 Dec 2017 04:05:17 +0000 NEWTOWN, Conn. — Out of a senseless tragedy, they have sought ways to find meaning in advocacy.

Many relatives of the 26 children and educators killed five years ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School have dedicated themselves to charity, activism and other efforts to channel their grief and, in many cases, to help prevent violence.

“You have two choices,” said Rebecca Kowalski, whose 7-year-old son, Chase, died in Newtown. “I could be in the bottom of a bottle; I could not get out of my bed. Or, I could do what’s making us heal a little bit every day.”

Some organizations, like the Kowalski’s youth triathlon program, honor the passions of the children who were lost on Dec. 14, 2012.

Others have jumped into the policy fray to lobby for gun control or improved mental health care. In some cases, they have traveled the country, and even the world, as recognized experts in their fields, such as Jeremy Richman, a scientist whose Avielle Foundation for the study of brain health is named for his slain daughter.

The Sandy Hook families have created a website to share each of their stories and information about the various projects they have started in memory of their family members.

A look at some of them:


Alissa Parker had Michele Gay’s phone number on her refrigerator because Parker’s daughter, Emilie, had been invited to a birthday party for Gay’s daughter, Josephine.

The day before the party was to be held, both children were killed.

Parker, who had lived in Newtown less than a year and didn’t know many other parents, called Gay. The two bonded over their shared loss and eventually teamed to form Safe and Sound Schools, a foundation that provides information and resources about school safety.

They travel, usually separately, to schools around the country, giving talks that detail their personal experiences on the day of the shooting and discussing in detail how their children died. They then talk about what can be done to make schools safer, everything from making sure that classrooms can be locked from the inside to involving first responders in school emergency drills.

“I feel very solid that this is what Josephine wants me to be doing, and Alissa feels the same way about Emilie,” Gay said. “We made a deliberate choice to be guided by our children and their spirits. We wanted to be positive. We wanted to avoid the political and some of the hot button issues and be focused on the practical things that everybody can do to make the community safer.”


Kowalski said her healing has come by organizing a children’s triathlon program, Race4Chase , in memory of their son, who loved to race and had competed in a similar event the summer before the shooting.

The free day camps, run in conjunction with the YMCA, teach children the fundamentals of swimming, biking, running, nutrition, strength and flexibility. At the end of six weeks, campers come together for a sanctioned triathlon.

The program has grown to 20 locations in three states.

“We originally wanted a brick-and-mortar place where families could come and work out and be together,” Kowalski said. “We knew we were going somewhere, but we didn’t know where. Chase provided us with the direction. Now, we have 20 places, and people have really embraced what the program is all about.”


While some in Newtown avoid speaking the name of the shooter, Adam Lanza, Nelba Marquez-Greene freely discusses the social and emotional problems of the man who killed her 6-year-old daughter, Ana Grace.

“I want people to remember that Adam, the person who did this, was also once 6 and in a first-grade classroom and that if we had reached out earlier, then maybe this could have changed,” Marquez-Greene said.

Marquez-Greene’s Ana Grace Project works with schools in New Britain, a city just west of Hartford, to teach empathy, combat bullying and help socially isolated children.

The foundation’s Love Wins campaign, created with a local teacher, builds on the existing curriculum and also brings therapists and interns into the schools to help identify children who need extra help with social skills.

Scarlett Lewis, whose son, Jesse, was killed at Sandy Hook, also has been pushing for more emotional learning in schools. Her Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement has developed its own social-emotional learning curriculum which began on a pilot basis in four schools in Connecticut, Hawaii, Arkansas and New Mexico and has been downloaded by many other schools and organizations.

“I believe this is an urgent matter,” Lewis said. “I believe it would have saved my son’s life, as well as the lives of other victims across the United States and reduce bullying.”


The family of slain first-grade teacher Vicki Soto decided to hold a 5K race in her hometown of Stratford, Connecticut, annually around her November birthday to celebrate her life.

In 2013, about 500 runners took part, many wearing outfits adorned with Soto’s favorite animal, the pink flamingo. Last month’s race had more than 4,000 runners and walkers.

With the proceeds, the Sotos have given out more than $90,000 in scholarships to students pursuing careers in education.

Emily Mackay, of Stratford, received one of the first scholarships in 2014. She expects to graduate this spring from the University of Massachusetts with a degree in communications disorders and plans to get a master’s degree so she can pursue a career in an elementary school as a speech pathologist.

“Being a part of Vicki’s legacy has really motivated me throughout school. I will forever be grateful and honored that the Soto family believed in me to carry on Vicki’s legacy and will always teach my students with her in mind,” Mackay said.

The Sotos also have established a literacy campaign at the local library that involves such things as after-school tutoring, and the creation of mentor-text learning programs.


Sandy Hook Promise, one of the best-known organizations to form in the shooting’s aftermath, was co-founded by several Newtown families, including the parents of first-grade victims Dylan Hockley and Daniel Barden.

The group lobbied for mental health care changes and gun control legislation in the months after the shooting, successfully advocating for state laws limiting sales of some guns in states such as Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois and New Jersey.

The group also was heavily involved in a failed effort in 2013 to get a federal law banning some semi-automatic weapons and expanding criminal and mental background checks for gun purchases.

The group says it had 17 families from Sandy Hook who lobbied 49 senators over seven days.

Sandy Hook Promise then switched its focus from legislation to community-based prevention programs, education and public service campaigns designed to change “gun violence acceptance attitudes and behaviors,” said Nicole Hockley.

Among other things, the organization teaches people to recognize those who exhibit warning signs such as a bullying victim who has a fascination with firearms, has threatened to hurt themselves or others, has access to guns and has become disinterested in school.

They point to events such as one in Cincinnati in 2015 in which a counselor trained by the organization was able to identify a threat to a middle school that resulted in the arrest of a student who had told others he was planning to bomb the school and had recruited others to help shoot children.

“We absolutely know it’s making a difference because we’ve trained over 2 million children and adults in the last 2 1/2 years,” Hockley said.

The group this week launched its latest public service announcement, depicting a newscast covering a school shooting the day before it actually takes place to illustrate how knowing warning signs can prevent such tragedies.

]]> 0 participate in the fun run at the Vicki Soto 5K race in Stratford, Conn. in November, 2016. The race is held by the Soto family to raise money to fund scholarships.Thu, 14 Dec 2017 23:46:40 +0000
It’s a Jedi night in Maine and the nation as latest Star Wars film opens Fri, 15 Dec 2017 03:44:00 +0000 There was no way Tom Long of Portland was going to miss the nationwide opening of “The Last Jedi,” the eighth episode in the Star Wars saga that has become a cultural touchstone for generations of moviegoers.

Long, 43, sported a Jedi costume while holding his ticket to the eagerly awaited installment of the series in the lobby of the Westbrook Cinemagic before the show Thursday night. He’s seen every single Star Wars film in a theater, including the 1977 original when he was 2.

“I don’t remember it, but I was there,” he said.

Phoebe Tran probably won’t have that problem even though she’s a relative newcomer to the ways of the Jedi. Attending the movie with the group of adults that included Long, the 7-year-old sported a Star Wars T-shirt.

Positive reviews and the return of Luke Skywalker to the franchise meant optimism for the new release was running high in the Cinemagic lobby before the show Thursday night.

Lane Boucher of Biddeford, wearing a Rey costume, likes all the Star Wars films – even the much-maligned prequels – and was looking forward to “The Last Jedi.”

Dressed as Jedi knights, 42-year-old Peter Spiegel, left, of Hallowell and Brian Juengst, 35, of Manchester stage a light-saber battle Thursday night on the sidewalk outside Regal Cinemas in Augusta. The Star Wars fans were about to watch Episode VIII in the saga: “The Last Jedi.” Staff photo by Joe Phelan

“I’ve heard some trepidation out there, but I’m excited,” she said. “I’m not too afraid.”

It was much the same in theaters across the state as loyal fans turned out in force.

At Regal Cinemas in Augusta, Jake Sturtevant and his family – who have their own podcast about Star Wars – were among a crowd that included plenty of fanboys and fangirls in costumes and Star Wars-related apparel.

Sturtevant, of Poland, was wearing a gray Star Wars hoodie, and his daughter, Bella, 11, and son, Simon, 8, were decked out in capes and blankets adorned with images of their favorite characters.

“I like Luke (Skywalker) the best,” Simon said. His sister didn’t name a favorite character, but did say she really enjoyed the first three films in the trilogy, Episodes I-III, which were released in 1999, 2002 and 2005, respectively.

Their podcast, which is called Sturt Wars and is available on SoundCloud, focuses on the children and what they think is happening in the Star Wars universe. Sturtevant said he’s happy to share his love for the franchise with his kids.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said. “To see that next generation of fans taking over is pretty special.”

Sturtevant grew up a Star Wars fan. He has a brother named Luke and a sister named Leah, but he said he never asked his mother if they are named after Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa. His mom was at the theater with the family Thursday and confirmed that the names were partly because of Star Wars.

Phoebe Tran, 7, sports a Star Wars shirt in the lobby of Cinemagic in Westbrook on Thursday for the nationwide opening of “The Last Jedi.” Tran went to the movie with a group of adults including Tom Long, left, who wore a Jedi costume for the occasion. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

The last Star Wars film, “The Force Awakens,” brought the death of Han Solo and the return of Skywalker, and the movie ended with Skywalker on a deserted island being handed a lightsaber by Rey, the main character in the film. Sturtevant said he’s curious to see what Skywalker’s role is in the film and what becomes of Leia, played by Carrie Fisher, who died unexpectedly almost a year ago.

“I’m really curious where they take things with the new characters and how they work in the story with Luke, because we haven’t seen him in a while,” Sturtevant said.

Director Rian Johnson is new to the franchise, and he has a tough act to follow. J.J. Abrams directed “The Force Awakens” and will return to direct Episode IX, which is set to be released in 2019.

“I think it’s great to see somebody new step into this middle (episode),” Sturtevant said. “To be able to see a different perspective is really interesting.”

The crowd included a mix of adults and families, and there were people in Star Wars leggings, cloaks, hoodies and robes. Just as they did two years ago on opening night, superfans Peter Spiegel and Brian Juengst brought their lightsabers and had a three-minute duel outside the theater.

“I’ve been able to avoid reviews and spoilers by a media shutdown,” Spiegel said. “My expectations are to go in and have fun.”

Spiegel, 42, of Hallowell, and Juengst, 35, of Manchester, predicted the film will address actress Carrie Fisher’s death in a shocking way – they both think her character, Leia, will die.

Juengst was looking forward to seeing how the new writer-director, Johnson – whose previous films included the noirish “Brick” in 2005, “The Brothers Bloom” in 2008 and 2012’s sci-fi adventure “Looper” – handles the story.

“‘Looper’ was based on a book, and he had a lot of source material to work with, and Star Wars is so rich with history,” he said. “There are already characters set in there, and he gets to play in this established sandbox, which makes a huge difference.”

Staff photographer Ben McCanna contributed to this report.

]]> 0 as Jedi knights, 42-year-old Peter Spiegel, left, of Hallowell and Brian Juengst, 35, of Manchester stage a light-saber battle Thursday night on the sidewalk outside Regal Cinemas in Augusta. The Star Wars fans were about to watch Episode VIII in the saga: "The Last Jedi."Fri, 15 Dec 2017 08:39:51 +0000
Maine lobster council to keep funding marketing effort despite critics Fri, 15 Dec 2017 03:42:18 +0000 Despite grumbling from lobster dealers, the state Lobster Advisory Council voted unanimously Thursday to continue funding the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative.

The collaborative is about to begin the final year of its five-year mission to promote the state’s signature product. It wants the Legislature to renew its authorization, and its $2.2 million a year budget funded by surcharges on state-issued lobster licenses. But it needs the support of the people that its work is serving – the individual lobster zone councils and the Lobster Advisory Council that oversees it all.

Thursday’s endorsement from the statewide council gave the organization a perfect scorecard with local lobster regulators, having already won approval from all seven lobster zone councils. The state Department of Marine Resources and the Maine Lobstermen’s Association also support the organization, praising and defending the agency in front of the very legislative committee that will be tasked with its reauthorization next year.

South Thomaston lobsterman Robert “Bob” Baines told fellow council members that he realized the importance of what the collaborative does when he attended one of its “Maine After Midnight” tasting parties for chefs in San Francisco in August. He and four other Maine lobstermen spent 48 hours sharing the story of Maine lobster with an array of the city’s most influential chefs. The experience surprised him, Baines admitted.

“Everybody who we talked to was really interested in Maine lobster,” said Baines, who introduced the reauthorization motion. “The cost of the trip? I have no idea. Was it valuable to do? Absolutely. There were five fishermen on that trip, and they took three other trips like that, and the amount of people we talked to, well, I personally spoke to well over 100 people, and it was all positive. All positive.”


But the collaborative’s focus on using social media, lobster sightseeing trips and after-hours tasting parties to make high-end chefs from across the country fall in love with new-shell lobster has come under fire from some lobstermen, dealers and the lobstermen’s union. They claim the strategy doesn’t help those who harvest new-shells late in the fall, gives too much time, attention and funds to the harvester side of the story, and wastes license-holders money on strategies that don’t raise lobster prices.

These groups want the collaborative to focus on extending the new-shell consumer season into the fall, supporting efforts to sell new-shell lobster abroad, and cutting license surcharges, possibly even getting the state to kick in some money to fund the marketing effort for its top export.

The dealers are especially frustrated, saying they are paying the lion’s share of the license surcharge and getting the least out of it.

“I don’t know one dealer that has ever said they’ve made one dollar off this,” said John Hathaway, the president of Shucks Maine Lobster.

The collaborative’s chef strategy focuses on the harvester, but leaves the dealers out in the cold, said Annie Tselikis, director of marketing for Maine Coast out of York and the director of the Maine Lobster Dealers’ Association. The harvesters and dealers, who often accuse the other of trying to get the upper hand, need to work together, Tselikis told the council and the collaborative representatives who attended the meeting Thursday.

“The chef strategy is not the best tactic for where we are as an industry and for how product actually gets to market,” said Tselikis, who sits on the collaborative’s board. “That’s a very, very long-term strategy and we are a very rapidly changing industry right now, a very dynamic market. … The dealers are on the front lines of that, and we see it and there is value in that. We need to be able to work together moving forward.”


Dealers like Hathaway want to work with the collaborative to market their lobster directly to the chefs who attend the after-hours parties, but the group has said the collaborative needs to be careful about promoting any particular dealer. Instead, the group directs chefs to the collaborative’s website, which has a list of state dealers that sell wholesale or retail Maine lobster.

Low boat prices make it hard for some in the industry to swallow the collaborative’s license surcharge. The fee ranges from as low as $165 a year for a lobsterman who fishes alone, to $1,200 for a wholesaler or lobster hauler, to $4,000 for the highest-volume processors. Some players in this industry hold more than one license, so they pay into the Lobster Promotion Fund that bankrolls the collaborative more than once.

Supporters argued that a state that relies so heavily on one product needs to make sure it is doing its best to sell that product. The cost of the license surcharge is not much more than what the average lobsterman spends on bait in a day, they argue. And state law created the collaborative to market lobster, not necessarily to raise the price, although growing demand undoubtedly must help.

“We aren’t making a sales pitch,” said collaborative director Matt Jacobson. “We want as many people as we can to talk about our story. That’s what sells lobster.”

While the collaborative points to website hits, social media mentions and attendance at its after-hours chef tasting parties as evidence of success, critics argue the only real metric of success in this $533 million-a-year industry is the price of lobsters, and unfortunately for the collaborative and the industry, the price has fallen this year even though the catch has been slow and global demand has been strong.


But Jacobson said there are some things that no marketing council can fix, no matter how well-funded it is. He blames low boat prices on things such as hurricanes that ruined the summer restaurant seasons in lobster-loving cities like Miami and Houston, and the trade deal between Canada and the European Union that put Maine lobsters at a huge competitive disadvantage with one of its biggest customers.

The collaborative plans to continue its focus on using chefs and the media to influence consumers, but Jacobson said the organization is open to changing some of its strategies. He said the collaborative will probably never use its limited budget to try to market Maine lobster abroad, because he doubts it has enough money to make an international splash in that kind of high-overhead market.

But he said it could explore more ways to stretch the new-shell season into fall, for example.

Penelope Overton can be contacted at 791-6463 or at:

Twitter: PLOvertonPPH

]]> 0 Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative's $2.2 million budget is funded by surcharges on state-issued lobster licenses.Fri, 15 Dec 2017 00:13:44 +0000
Windham man sentenced for lying about Old Port shooting in 2016 Fri, 15 Dec 2017 03:36:59 +0000 A 36-year-old Windham man was sentenced to a year and a day in prison for lying to federal agents about a shooting in Old Port in November 2016.

Jason McGoldrick was involved in an altercation in Old Port during which someone fired three shots from a handgun at McGoldrick and a companion. Agents sought to identify McGoldrick’s companion, but he lied and gave them the name of a deceased friend.

He repeated that lie when testifying before a federal grand jury in December 2016. In February, after being confronted by agents, McGoldrick admitted his companion’s true identity.

“Our judicial system depends on people testifying truthfully to a grand jury,” said U.S. Attorney Halsey B. Frank on Thursday. “It is a fundamental duty of citizenship. As this case demonstrates, the failure to do so can have very serious consequences.”

Upon completion of his sentence, McGoldrick will have completed three years of supervised release.

Last month, the shooter in this case, Noor Mohammed, 26, of Roxbury, Mass., pleaded guilty to federal firearm charges and is awaiting sentencing.

The FBI and the Portland Police Department conducted the investigation.

]]> 0, 15 Dec 2017 08:30:41 +0000
Surge seen in icebergs drifting into North Atlantic ship lanes Fri, 15 Dec 2017 03:20:23 +0000 NEW LONDON, Conn. — About 1,000 icebergs drifted into the North Atlantic shipping lanes this year, marking the fourth consecutive “extreme” ice season, U.S. Coast Guard officials said Thursday.

The Connecticut-based Coast Guard International Ice Patrol, which monitors iceberg danger in the North Atlantic and warns ships, held its annual meeting in New London to discuss 2017 and look ahead to 2018.

Greenland glaciers are retreating, and storms broke up significant amounts of sea ice in 2017, freeing many icebergs, said Cmdr. Kristen Serumgard, who leads the Ice Patrol. She said 1,008 icebergs were detected in the shipping lanes in 2017, which is up from 687 icebergs in 2016.

The Ice Patrol classifies each season as light, moderate or extreme based on the number of icebergs. This year was the 19th most severe season since 1900.

The International Ice Patrol, which was formed after the Titanic sank, conducts reconnaissance flights that are used to produce charts showing the locations of icebergs. The unit’s mission is to eliminate the risk of ships colliding with icebergs.

Serumgard is often asked whether ships still hit icebergs. She said even with modern radar, ships still miss them.

“We don’t want another Titanic,” she said.

The Canadian Ice Service predicted a near-normal population of icebergs, which is roughly 500, in the shipping lanes in 2018, based on sea ice projections, surface air temperature and sea surface temperature. Scott Weese, a senior ice forecaster, said most icebergs will arrive near the shipping lanes in March, along with sea ice.

Coast Guard units and other agencies, such as the U.S. National Ice Center, the Canadian Ice Service and the Danish Meteorological Institute, attended the meeting. The Ice Patrol has started to rely more on satellite imagery. Only 2 percent of the icebergs that set the limit in its charts in 2016 were found using satellites, compared with 22 percent in 2017.

Serumgard said she’s hopeful that the Ice Patrol can transition to relying solely on satellites to free up Coast Guard planes for other missions, though it’ll take many years.

The cost of the satellite data has been prohibitive in the past, and it can be challenging to differentiate between icebergs and ships, particularly small ones, in the images, she said.

]]> 0 Coast Guard reported 1,008 icebergs in 2017, like these near the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, up from 687 in 2016.Thu, 14 Dec 2017 23:40:47 +0000
Crews from several towns battle Rumford house fire Fri, 15 Dec 2017 02:59:34 +0000 RUMFORD — Firefighters from several towns were battling flames and freezing temperatures after a single-family home caught fire shortly before 7 p.m. on Thursday.

Early reports were that the house at 411 South Rumford Road had been evacuated as fire crews from Rumford, Andover, Mexico, Woodstock, Peru, Dixfield and other towns fought the blaze.

A Rumford fire official said later Thursday that he had not heard of any injuries suffered in the blaze.

According to a source in Rumford, the home is owned by David A. Arsenault who, along with his son Corbin, escaped the burning home just before explosions were heard.

It was not immediately clear what exploded.

The first police officers at the scene reported that the building was totally engulfed. There were also power lines reported down in the street.

Fire crews battled ice and temperatures in the single digits as they fought to knock down the fire. Crews remained at the scene two hours after the fire was reported. A fire official said they would likely be there until early Friday morning.

South Rumford Road runs parallel to the Androscoggin River and Route 2.

]]> 0 house is destroyed by fire early Friday morning on Springer Road in St. Albans.Thu, 14 Dec 2017 23:39:46 +0000
Americans doubt Trump’s story on collusion with Russia, poll finds Fri, 15 Dec 2017 02:17:38 +0000 WASHINGTON — Most Americans think Donald Trump did something illegal or at least unethical regarding ties between his presidential campaign and Russia – and they think he’s trying to obstruct the investigation looking into those possible connections.

The deeply divided country is more concerned about health care and the economy than any collusion with the Kremlin, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. But the survey also shows that Americans are unhappy with the way Trump is dealing with the investigations led by Congress and special counsel Robert Mueller.

Most people believe Trump is trying to obstruct the investigations, which have produced charges against four of his campaign advisers and increasingly appear focused on the president’s inner circle.

Four in 10 Americans think the president has done something illegal when it comes to Russia, while an additional 3 in 10 say he’s at least done something unethical. And 68 percent disapprove of his response to the investigations.


There are significant partisan divisions, with Democrats far more likely than Republicans to be concerned about Trump’s actions or to feel invested in what the probes uncover.

Debra Nanez in Arizona said that she believes Trump broke the law and has been lying to the American people.

“If you go back and do a rewind, you say, ‘Yep, he’s guilty.’ He’s lied so badly to us from the beginning until now. He was involved in it. He knew what was going on,” said Nanez, 65, who doesn’t affiliate with a political party.

But Mary Ruth Stephenson, 83, of Kentucky says she’s not yet sure whether Trump has broken the law.

“Unethical, yes. I mean the whole picture of that man is unethical. Illegal? I’ll just have to hold that in abeyance until I find out more about what went down,” said Stephenson, a registered Republican who says she’s unhappy with the current party.

Overall, 62 percent of Democrats say they think Trump has done something illegal, while just 5 percent of Republicans think the same. Among Republicans, 33 percent think he’s done something unethical, while 60 percent think he’s done nothing wrong at all.

Both Nanez and Stephenson, like 63 percent of Americans, say Trump has tried to impede or obstruct the investigations into whether his campaign had Russian ties. According to the survey, 86 percent of Democrats, 67 percent of independents and 24 percent of Republicans agree.

Still, just short of half of Americans – 47 percent – say they’re extremely or very concerned about whether Trump or others involved with his campaign had inappropriate contacts with the Russian government. Those results fall along party lines, too, and are largely unchanged since March.

“I feel like there are so many more important issues that we could be focusing on other than something that’s basically water under the bridge,” said Martina Childers, a 53-year-old Republican who lives in Colorado.


She said the economy, taxes, the military and small-business concerns are more pressing issues. The Russia investigations? “I don’t think that’s so important. I just don’t,” she said.

Childers’ views reflect the feelings of a majority of Americans. Just 4 in 10 call the Russia investigation very or extremely important to them. By contrast, immigration, taxes and health care are all considered much more important, according to the survey.

Melinda McLaughlin, who identifies as an independent and lives in Ohio, said she, too, believes tax reform and the economy are more important issues, but that doesn’t mean she’s not concerned about the Russia investigations.

“I do feel like there was either collusion or a connection there that affected the election, and I do not feel like the president is telling the truth about his involvement in it,” said McLaughlin, who is 56.

She’s withholding judgment on whether she’ll trust the ultimate findings of Congress and Mueller.

In fact, at this point few Americans have high confidence in either Mueller or Congress to fairly investigate the issue.

Of the special counsel’s investigation, just 26 percent say they’re very or extremely confident that it will be fair and impartial, while an additional 31 percent are moderately confident. Opinions about the possibility of a fair and impartial congressional investigation are even lower, with just 13 percent saying they’re very or extremely confident in that happening and 32 percent saying they’re moderately confident.

In Colorado, Childers said she can’t completely trust Mueller.

“I feel like there may be some ulterior motives there,” she said, noting that Trump “ruffled a lot of feathers” when he took office.

But in rural Kentucky, Stephenson said she has high confidence in Mueller.

“I don’t see how anybody could be unbiased, but if he doesn’t show it in his investigation or his conclusions, that’s integrity,” she said of Mueller. “I have to go on what so many people have said: They believe in him. They trust him. They think he’s honest.”

Though, she couldn’t say the same thing about Congress.

“What a bunch of crap,” she said.

The AP-NORC poll surveyed 1,020 adults from Dec. 7-11 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population.

The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.

Interviews were conducted online and using landlines and cellphones.

]]> 0 this Dec. 13, 2017, photo, President Donald Trump speaks in the Grand Foyer of the White House in Washington. Most Americans think Trump did something either Illegal or unethical regarding his presidential campaign's ties to Russia_ and they think he's trying to obstruct the investigation looking into those connections. A new poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research reveals a deeply divided country more concerned about health care and the economy than any collusion with the Kremlin (AP PhotoThu, 14 Dec 2017 23:37:11 +0000
Show about viral video judge gets national deal Fri, 15 Dec 2017 02:02:41 +0000 PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A TV show featuring an 81-year-old municipal court judge in Rhode Island who has made a splash on social media is going national.

The producers of the local show “Caught in Providence” have struck a deal with FOX Television Stations to air the show in major media markets starting next fall, they announced this week.

The show is filmed in the courtroom of Providence Municipal Court Judge Frank Caprio, who presides with a folksy humor and compassion as people dispute their tickets for red-light running and expired parking meters. Clips from the show have had more than 1 billion views on social media.

The judge said Wednesday he’s happy people will be able to see his city in a favorable light. He wants his new viewers to see the good government can do, he said.

“I hope that people will take away that the institutions of government can function very well by exercising kindness, fairness and compassion in their deliberations. We live in a very contentious society,” he said. “I would hope that people will see that we can dispense justice without being oppressive.”

Among his most popular videos have been those where he calls children to the bench to help pass judgment on their parents. One shows him listening sympathetically to a woman whose son was killed then dismisses her tickets and fines of $400.

The judge will not be paid for the deal, he said. His brother, Joseph, runs Citylife Productions, which has produced the show for more than two decades.

Joseph Caprio recently struck a deal with Debmar-Mercury to co-produce the syndicated show. On Wednesday, he was celebrating his rise from decades of public access TV to a nationally syndicated show.

“It’s unbelievable. It’s a dream,” he said.

Mort Marcus and Ira Bernstein, co-presidents of the Lionsgate-owned Debmar-Mercury, said in a statement that they love the judge’s heartfelt take on justice. They called the show lighthearted and fun, something they said viewers are seeking “in these contentious times.”

The only thing they plan to add to the production is an additional camera and sound man, Joseph Caprio said, adding that his brother will not allow lights or anything that damages the integrity of the court proceedings.

Joseph Caprio said the interactions will remain unscripted, as they always have been, adding that it resonates with viewers because it’s real and because of the themes it hits.

“Compassion, love of other people, and justice and being fair,” he said. “That’s what matters.”

]]> 0, R.I., Municipal Court Judge Frank Caprio. FOX Television has picked up the 81-year-old judge's local show "Caught in Providence" for airing in major markets.Thu, 14 Dec 2017 23:52:30 +0000
Roy Moore still won’t concede defeat in Alabama Senate election Fri, 15 Dec 2017 01:34:21 +0000 Two days after losing Alabama’s special Senate election, Republican nominee Roy Moore has yet to concede the race.

Moore, who suggested on election night that the race would go to a recount, said in a Wednesday web video that late-counted ballots could change the results of the election.

“We have not received the final count to include military and provisional ballots,” Moore said. “This has been a very close race, and we are awaiting certification by the secretary of state.”

Moore, who lost by 20,715 votes, has received no official support from his party since digging in. President Trump congratulated Democratic Sen.-elect Doug Jones on election night. Alabama’s Republican Party, which stood by Moore when national Republicans abandoned him, congratulated Jones on Wednesday. At Thursday’s White House briefing, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders expressed surprise that Moore had not made a concession call.

“Sounds like it should’ve already taken place,” she said.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, who sided with Moore’s campaign during several election controversies, has said that the election will be certified Dec. 28. But at the same time, Merrill’s office has had to brush off conspiracy theories promoted by pro-Moore websites, which have suggested that the results were tainted by fraud.

One theory, which went viral before being debunked by, was that multiple black voters were caught trying to vote with fake IDs. (More than 95 percent of black voters supported Jones, giving him his winning margin.) Another, also debunked quickly, was that vans of illegal voters were seen somewhere in the state.

Merrill’s office confirmed that there had been no actual reports of fraud. “There’s a lot of misdirection that comes in around Election Day,” said John Bennett, a spokesman for Merrill. “We got no reports that caused us enough concern to act against them.” Alabama’s voter ID law, which has survived tough legal challenges, had previously led to four convictions of voter impersonation.

]]> 0 Moore lost Alabama's Senate election Tuesday by 20,715 votes, but he says military and provisional ballots yet to be counted might still warrant a recount in the race for Attorney General Jeff Sessions' seat.Thu, 14 Dec 2017 23:31:15 +0000
Margaret Chase Smith Library showcases cards from U.S. leaders and Phyllis Diller Fri, 15 Dec 2017 01:18:52 +0000 SKOWHEGAN — There’s Bill and Hillary Clinton. And Ike. And Nixon.

Thousands of cards, personal notes and letters from the nation’s leaders poured into the mailbox at U.S. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith’s home in Skowhegan every year beginning in November and stretching through New Year’s Day.

Margaret Chase Smith Undated U.S. Senate Historical Office photo

There were Thanksgiving greetings, Christmas cards and birthday cards – Dec. 14 was her birthday – mailed to the Skowhegan-born senator who was the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress and, in 1964, became the first woman to have her name placed in nomination for the presidency by either of the two major parties.

Smith died at her home in Skowhegan on Memorial Day, May 29, 1995, at the age of 97.

A collection of seasonal greeting cards sent to Smith has been collected by John Taylor, library assistant at the Margaret Chase Smith Library on Norridgewock Road, and is open for public viewing. The collection also has been uploaded online to Pinterest.

Angela Stockwell, library collection specialist and the one-time personal secretary to Smith, said she remembers Christmas cards and letters pouring in by the dozens. Stockwell said the senator responded to every piece of mail she received, whether it was from Skowhegan locals or the White House.

John Taylor, library assistant at the Margaret Chase Smith Library in Skowhegan, assembled a collection of holiday greeting cards sent to the senator over the years and showed off notable ones on Thursday. Staff photo by David Leaming

“She dictated what she wanted to write to them, then I typed them,” Stockwell said. “Her mail was very important to her. That whole card period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, there would be thousands of cards that she would get – 60 or 70 a day. It was absolutely amazing. It was crazy, crazy. It was a busy, busy time.”

Taylor, the library assistant, said he came across a couple of Christmas cards a few years ago from U.S. presidents and heads of state and began checking for more. There were cards from vice presidents and people who ran for president, along with fellow senators, including Maine Sen. Edmund Muskie.

“So we decided to put it up on the Pinterest page, which is what we did,” he said. “The cards that she received from presidents would have been after her career had ended in the Senate or while she was working there from 1940 in Congress. The earliest that we have would be from the Eisenhowers – the first one was 1956.”

There are several cards from President Dwight Eisenhower, who served in the White House from 1953 to 1961. There is a signed portrait from President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, from Elizabeth and Bob Dole, from President George H.W. Bush and his vice president, Dan Quayle, Nelson Rockefeller and Alabama Gov. George Wallace.

“This one is from the Johnsons. It goes across party lines,” Taylor said of Lyndon Johnson, who was vice president under President John Kennedy and sworn in as the 36th president following Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963.

A birthday card, bottom, signed by former President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and an invitation to a luncheon for Mrs. Clinton are part of a holiday greeting card collection at the Margaret Chase Smith Library in Skowhegan, on Thursday. Staff photo by David Leaming

“We have a few from Nixon, Ford, Vice President Agnew. This one’s from Muskie, who of course ran for president as well,” Taylor said, flipping through collection scrapbooks in the library’s research room.

There also is a card from George and Maude Mueller. George Mueller, who sent a photo of the first moon landing in his greeting card, was associate administrator for the Office of Manned Space Flight for NASA in the 1960s.

Conspicuously absent from the collection of greeting cards is anything from Kennedy. Taylor said the Republican Smith often disagreed with Kennedy, a Democrat.

“She sometimes questioned some of his actions and motives,” he said.

Among Smith’s admirers were comedienne Phyllis Diller and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“We have lots of cards from Phyllis Diller, actually for different holidays – Valentine’s, Halloween,” Taylor said.

Smith and Diller were affiliated through Northwood University of Michigan, which was responsible for all daily operations and programs at the library until 2012, when the University of Maine assumed those responsibilities.

Diller had been named as a distinguished woman as part of a Northwood program, of which Smith was chairwoman.

There is a birthday card from President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton and a personal letter from Hillary Clinton.

“This would have been personally from the first lady at the time,” Taylor said, referring to the letter from Mrs. Clinton. “It’s dated October 1993 and it’s talking about how Margaret was an inspiration for her and it’s signed on the back. It says she’s grateful still for her leadership today. She passed away in ’95, so Bill would have still been in office at that point.”

Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at:


]]> 0, 15 Dec 2017 06:25:36 +0000