News – Press Herald Wed, 23 Aug 2017 15:33:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Sanford teen killed when dirt bike collides with Jeep in Acton Wed, 23 Aug 2017 14:56:10 +0000 A 16-year-old Sanford boy was killed Tuesday night when the dirt bike he was riding struck the side of a car turning into the Acton Trading Post parking lot.

Police say Aric J. Davis of Sanford was operating a 2005 Kawasaki dirt bike south on Route 109 toward Shapleigh when the crash occurred around 7:30 p.m. Davis hit the side of a 2005 Jeep Cherokee driven by 39-year-old Kelly Bshara of Shapleigh as she made a left turn into a parking lot.

Davis was pronounced dead at the scene, according to York County Sheriff Bill King.

Wreckage of the motorcycle after the fatal collision on Route 109 in Acton. York County Sheriff's Department photo

The crash is being reconstructed by sheriff’s deputies and remains under investigation.

Sanford school officials notified parents early Wednesday that a junior at the high school had died, but did not provide his name because it had not been released by police. Sanford High School is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday for students and staff to meet with counselors in the gymnasium.

A candlelight vigil in Davis’ honor is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Friendship Park on Sam Page Road in Acton.

The Jeep Cherokee in the collision shows damage where it was struck. York County Sheriff's Office photo

]]> 0, 23 Aug 2017 11:11:04 +0000
Scout wars: Girl Scouts accuse Boy Scouts of recruiting girls Wed, 23 Aug 2017 14:35:03 +0000 Long plagued by declining membership, the Boy Scouts are considering a campaign to recruit in a previously untapped market: girls.

The Girl Scouts aren’t having it.

A feud between the two largest scouting organizations broke into the open Tuesday when the president of Girl Scouts of the USA called the Boy Scouts’ “covert campaign” to recruit girls “reckless” and “unsettling” in a letter obtained by BuzzFeed News. A Girl Scouts spokesman confirmed the letter in an email to The Washington Post.

“We were disappointed in the lack of transparency as we learned that you are surreptitiously testing the appeal of a girls’ offering to millennial parents,” Girl Scouts President Kathy Hopinkah Hannan wrote in her letter to Boy Scouts President Randall Stephenson. “Furthermore, it is inherently dishonest to claim to be a single gender organization while simultaneously endeavoring upon a co-ed model.”

She said the Boy Scouts’ “well documented” declining membership – its numbers have dwindled by a third since 2000, to just more than 2 million as of 2016 – is behind its push to include girls.

The Boy Scouts said in a statement to The Washington Post that they are considering including girls in their ranks not to boost their numbers but in response to requests from families who want their daughters to be a part of the same organization as their sons.

“The Boy Scouts of America believes in the benefit of single-gender programs,” said the statement from the Boy Scouts’ director of national communications, Effie Delimarkos. “But in evaluating the possibility of serving the whole family, we’ve been having conversations with our members and volunteers to see how to make Scouting accessible for families.”

No final decision on whether to include girls has been made, she said.

The Girl Scouts spokesman, explaining the letter, said the organization “believes in maintaining an open and honest dialogue with other organizations in the youth serving space. . . . To that end we sent a professional letter” to the Boy Scouts, and look forward to “working out those issues with them in a mutually satisfactory manner.”

Girl Scouts’ membership has also taken a hit in recent years, falling from its peak of more than 3.8 million in 2003 to 2.8 million in 2014.

Some women outside the Girl Scouts have actively lobbied the Boy Scouts to include girls in its ranks. In February, after the 107-year-old Boy Scouts announced it would admit transgender children in its scouting programs, the National Organization for Women called on the group to “honor its decree to help all children by permitting girls to gain full membership.”

“Women can now hold all combat roles in the military, and women have broken many glass ceilings at the top levels of government, business, academia and entertainment,” said NOW President Terry O’Neill. “It’s long past due that girls have equal opportunities in Scouting.”

One New York teen leading the push for the Boy Scouts to include girls as official members is Sydney Ireland, who has been an unofficial member of her brother’s troop in Manhattan for several years but is unable to earn a merit badge to begin the process of becoming an Eagle Scout because she is a girl. With her father, Ireland has become a leader in the national push to allow girls to join the Boy Scout ranks, appearing in a video with more than 3 million views and launching a petition with more than 8,400 supporters.

“I know I could rise through the ranks and become an Eagle Scout alongside the best of the boys – all I need is the opportunity,” Ireland wrote on

But the “single-gender expertise” of Girl Scouts’ leaders has inherent value, the organization’s president argued in her letter.

“Girl Scouts believes in meeting the needs of America’s youth through single gender programming by creating a safe place for girls to thrive and learn,” Hopinkah Hannan wrote. “Over the last century, GSUSA has adapted to the changing environment, always prioritizing the health, safety and well-being of girls. For BSA to explore a program for girls without such priorities is reckless.”

The Boy Scouts organization – which was launched into the national spotlight during President Trump’s controversial speech at its jamboree celebration – should focus its efforts on recruiting all boys, including black and Latino youth, instead of girls, Hopinkah Hannan said.

]]> 0, 23 Aug 2017 10:43:14 +0000
Kennedy family members incited partygoers into ‘mob,’ police say Wed, 23 Aug 2017 14:31:58 +0000 BARNSTABLE, Mass. — Police say a member of the Kennedy family screamed incoherently and threw himself into a wall after he was confronted by police responding to complaints about a loud party and fireworks.

A Barnstable police officer says the actions of both 52-year-old Matthew “Max” Kennedy and his daughter, 22-year-old Caroline Kennedy, incited the partygoers into “an angry mob” on Sunday in Hyannis Port.

The officer says people yelled “you don’t know who you are messing with” as police arrested Matthew Kennedy.

Matthew Kennedy pleaded not guilty to disturbing the peace charges at his arraignment Monday. Caroline Kennedy will be arraigned Nov. 22. It’s unclear if she has an attorney who can comment on the charges.

Matthew Kennedy is an author and the ninth child of Robert and Ethel Kennedy.

]]> 0, 23 Aug 2017 11:13:59 +0000
Egypt snubs Jared Kushner after U.S. cuts, delays aid Wed, 23 Aug 2017 14:23:05 +0000 CAIRO – Egypt’s Foreign Ministry abruptly cancelled a meeting with White House adviser Jared Kushner on Wednesday after the Trump administration cut or delayed hundreds of millions of dollars in aid over human rights concerns.

Kushner, who is also President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, stopped in Cairo as part of a Middle East tour aimed at exploring ways to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Egypt’s top diplomat, Sameh Shoukry, was to meet with Kushner and the U.S. delegation, but a modified version of the minister’s schedule showed the meeting had been called off, shortly after Kushner’s delegation landed in Cairo.

The apparent snub came after the Trump administration on Tuesday cut nearly $100 million in military and economic aid to Egypt and delayed almost $200 million more in military financing, citing Egypt’s poor human rights record and its crackdown on civic and other non-governmental groups.

Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi later met with the American delegation, which also includes Jason Greenblatt, the U.S. envoy for international negotiations, and Dina Powell, the deputy national security adviser. The meeting was reported by the privately-owned CBC TV network, which is close to the government.

The Foreign Ministry said Egypt regretted the U.S. decision to reduce aid funds, calling it a “misjudgment of the nature of the strategic relations that have bound the two countries for decades.” It said the move “reflects the lack of understanding of the importance of supporting the stability and success of Egypt.”

Egypt is among the top recipients of U.S. military and economic assistance, receiving about $1.5 billion annually. The $1.3 billion in military aid and $250 million in economic aid is linked to Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel, and underpins a U.S.-Egyptian security relationship that is now mostly aimed at fighting terrorism.

In recent years, Egypt has clamped down on civil society, particularly human rights groups and other organizations that receive foreign funding. Such groups played a central role in the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak, and pro-government media often present them as part of a conspiracy to undermine the state.

The authorities have arrested thousands of people since el-Sissi led the 2013 military overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist who won the country’s first freely contested election.

Most of those in detention are Islamist supporters of Morsi, but a number of prominent liberal and secular activists have also been jailed.

Trump made no public mention of human rights when he warmly welcomed el-Sissi to the White House in April, an omission that many took as a sign that the issue was not a priority for the administration.

But two months later, two senators from Trump’s Republican Party slammed as “draconian” a new Egyptian law that effectively bans the work of non-governmental organizations and urged its repeal.

Egypt has defended the law, which provoked an international backlash, saying it was drafted and approved according to its constitution.

Egypt is grappling with an insurgency by Islamic militants in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula, an ailing economy and a rapidly growing population of 93 million. The militants, led by a local affiliate of the extremist Islamic State group, have in recent months targeted Egypt’s large Christian minority, killing scores in a spate of attacks.

Kushner has meanwhile been trying to revive Middle East peace talks, which last collapsed in 2014. He has made little evident progress, and has yet to lay out a clear vision for what Trump has called the “ultimate deal.”

He and his delegation traveled to Jordan on Tuesday, where they met with King Abdullah II. They also visited Saudi Arabia and Qatar, according to local media reports.

On Thursday, the delegation is expected to hold separate meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, but no major breakthroughs are expected.

Trump has yet to fully endorse a two-state solution, which has been at the heart of U.S. policy for nearly two decades. He has said it’s up to Israel and the Palestinians to decide the shape of a final settlement.

]]> 0 - In this May 21, 2017 file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump, right, holds a bilateral meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Riyadh. Egypt's Foreign Ministry has cancelled a meeting with senior White House advisor Jared Kushner after the U.S. announced aid cuts and delays to Egypt earlier. Kushner arrived on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017 on top of U.S. delegation that includes Jason Greenblatt, envoy for international negotiations, and Dina Powell, deputy national security adviser to discuss the possibility of resuming the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)Wed, 23 Aug 2017 10:26:44 +0000
German ship in Portland accused of falsifying pollution records Wed, 23 Aug 2017 13:56:56 +0000 PORTLAND – A Germany-based shipping company is charged in Maine with failing to keep accurate pollution control records and falsifying others aboard a cargo ship.

The U.S. attorney’s office says the nine-count indictment stems from the falsification of records in 2016 and 2017 to cover up overboard discharges of oily mixtures and wastewater from the Liberian-flagged cargo vessel, M/V Marguerita.

The indictment alleges that at least eight times, the ship entered U.S. waters and ports with a false and misleading oil record book available for inspection by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Indicted are management company MST Mineralien Schiffarht Spedition Und Transport and ship owner Reederei MS “Marguerita.” It wasn’t immediately known if they had a lawyer.

The company has transported clay slurry used in paper mills to the ports of Searsport and Portland.

]]> 0, ME - JULY 24: With crew watching on board, Marguerita deLuca of NYC prepares to cut the rope for the christening of the MV Marguerita, for which she became the Godmother of during a naming ceremony at the Ocean Gateway Terminal. (Photo by Jill Brady/Staff Photographer)Wed, 23 Aug 2017 10:04:05 +0000
Report: Kansas discarded disproportionate number of ballots in 2016 Wed, 23 Aug 2017 13:32:58 +0000 WICHITA, Kansas – A conservative firebrand promoting President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud oversees a Kansas election system that threw out at least three times as many ballots as any similarly sized state did, fueling concerns about massive voter suppression should its practices become the national standard.

Only six states – all among the top 10 in population – discarded more votes during the 2016 election than the 33rd-largest state of Kansas, according to data collected by the bipartisan U.S. Election Assistance Commission, a federal agency that certifies voting systems. Kansas’ 13,717 rejected ballots even topped the 13,461 from Florida, which has about seven times as many residents.

Critics of Kansas’ election system argue its unusually high number of discarded ballots reflects policies shaped over several elections that have resulted in many legitimate voters being kept off voter rolls in an effort to crack down on a few illegitimate ones.

There is particular attention on Kansas now because its secretary of state, Kris Kobach, is co-chairman of Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The architect of strict election policies requiring voter ID and proof of citizenship, Kobach has suggested Kansas’ rules could become a national panacea for voter fraud, which Trump – without providing proof – blames for Hillary Clinton’s popular vote victory.

“It is somewhat ironic that (Kobach) is claiming to really care about the integrity of voter rolls when this suggests that there may be a real problem that Kansas has with keeping voter rolls up to date,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program.

Kansas Elections Director Bryan Caskey argues it is difficult to compare states because their election laws differ and that Kansas officials are actually more aggressive than other states at getting ballots in the hands of would-be voters.

“I am understandably a little defensive about it because our routine is that if you walk in the door you get a ballot,” Caskey said. “… Even if there is no way that ballot is going to count, to at least give us a chance to do a little research to see if we can count it, and many states don’t do that.”

Under federal law, almost all states are required to hand out a provisional ballot to anyone who shows up at a polling place but isn’t listed on the voter rolls. The purpose of provisional ballots is to preserve the ballot until a voter’s eligibility is determined and alert officials of a breakdown in election administration, so Weiser argues a high number of them could be “a red flag that something is quite wrong.”

Jason Kander, the former Democratic secretary of state in neighboring Missouri, says it’s “not at all true” that poll workers in Kansas hand out provisional ballots to voters who would’ve been turned away in other states. He argues most election officials are aggressive about handing out regular ballots whenever possible because the provisional ones can be thrown out for something as small as a sloppy signature.

Missouri discarded 3,803 ballots in November – about a quarter of Kansas’ total. Kansas gave out 40,872 provisional ballots, compared to 5,511 for Missouri.

“Secretary Kobach uses every trick that he can to make it as hard as possible for eligible voters to cast a ballot – whether it is unconstitutional legislation, targeting immigrants or forcing more eligible voters to use provisional ballots,” said Kander, president of Let America Vote, a voting rights advocacy group. “He is on a crusade to stop people from voting and now the president of the United States has given him a bigger platform.”

According to Kobach’s office, Kansas did reject 931 provisional ballots because voters either lacked documentary proof of citizenship when they registered or failed to show sufficient identification at the polls.

By far the largest chunk of the state’s rejected ballots – 10,148 – was due to other polling-site issues such as voters who were not registered in the state or who tried to cast ballots at precincts in the wrong jurisdiction.

In Kansas, if a voter moves to another county without updating the registration address, the entire ballot is discarded. However, when a voter shows up in the wrong polling place but the correct county, the only votes that are counted are the races that overlap both jurisdictions. Kansas had 22,726 ballots that were partially counted in 2016.

The Kansas policy on out-of-county voting is much stricter than rules in many other states. Some states, including California and Ohio, hand out provisional ballots as a way to update their lists of voter addresses and then counts the full verified ballot.

Fifteen states, plus the District of Columbia, also allow people to register and cast a ballot on the same day, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Kobach derailed a bill during the last legislative session that would have instituted same-day registration in Kansas.

Some Kansas voters – although the exact number is unclear – even went to the polls incorrectly believing they had legally registered, misled by erroneous confirmations the online registration system generated. Emails Kobach’s office provided to The Associated Press under an open records request show problems with the online system dated back months before the general election, although state officials did not recognize it as a systemic glitch until the month before the election.

The office explained it didn’t tell the public about the problem because it had received only “occasional reports of a few people.” Instead, county officials were told to only count the ballots of unregistered voters who produced a computer printout of the online confirmation. Anyone without such proof received a provisional ballot, but those were later discarded.

Doug Bonney, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, said his group heard from several people who were affected by the website bug.

“They were rightly outraged by it,” Bonney said. “They thought they had done everything they needed to, and had a confirmation that they were in fact registered, and it turned out to be false.”

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]]> 0 - In this May 17, 2017, file photo, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach talks with a reporter in his office in Topeka. Kobach, co-chairman of President Donald Trump's Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity who is promoting Trump's unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud, oversees a Kansas election system that threw out at least three times as many ballots as similarly sized states did. That is fueling concerns about massive voter suppression should its practices become the national standard. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner, File)Wed, 23 Aug 2017 09:39:13 +0000
Trump again defends Charlottesville comments in angry speech Wed, 23 Aug 2017 11:25:15 +0000 PHOENIX — President Trump opened his political rally in Phoenix with calls for unity and an assertion that “our movement is about love.” Then he erupted in anger.

He blamed the media for the widespread condemnation of his response to violence at a Charlottesville, Virginia, protest organized by white supremacists. And he shouted that he had “openly called for healing, unity and love” in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy and had simply been misrepresented in news coverage.

He read from his three responses to the racially charged violence — getting more animated with each one. He withdrew from his suit pocket the written statement he’d read the day a woman was killed by a man who’d plowed a car through counter-protesters, but he skipped over the trouble-causing part that he’d freelanced at the time — his observation that “many sides” were to blame.

That, as well as his reiteration days later that “both sides” were to blame for the violence that led to the death of Heather Heyer and two state troopers, led Democrats and many Republicans to denounce Trump for not unmistakably calling out white supremacists and other hate groups.

Members of the John Brown Gun Club and Redneck Revolt protest outside the Phoenix Convention Center before President Trump’s rally. Associated Press/Matt York

Trump also suggested he still intends to pardon former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is awaiting sentencing in Arizona after his conviction in federal court for disobeying court orders to stop his immigration patrols. But he left little doubt that he wanted to do it. He said he’d aimed to avoid “controversy” by not immediately granting the pardon. But Trump also said, “I’ll make a prediction: I think he’s going to be just fine.”

Of his media criticism, the president told the crowd of thousands shoehorned into the Phoenix convention center: “You know where my heart is. I’m only doing this to show you how damned dishonest these people are.”

Well after his appearance had ended, Trump sent a tweet on his Twitter account saying: “Not only does the media give a platform to hate groups, but the media turns a blind eye to the gang violence on our streets.”

Trump’s broadside against the media, and the “fake news” he says is out to get him, was one of several detours he took from his prepared remarks at a rally where he was introduced by Vice President Mike Pence and other speakers appealing for unity and healing.

The president unabashedly acknowledged that his own advisers had urged him to stay on message, and that he simply could not.

People protest outside the Phoenix Convention Center on Tuesday before President Trump’s rally inside. Associated Press/Matt York

He went on to skewer both of Arizona’s Republican senators, insisting that his coy refusal to mention their names showed a “very presidential” restraint. He said his aides had begged him, “Please, please Mr. President, don’t mention any names. So I won’t.” Yet he’d clearly described Sen. John McCain as the reason Congress didn’t repeal and replace the much-maligned Affordable Care Act, and he labeled Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake as “weak” on borders and crime.

As for how he would assist with the upcoming Herculean tasks facing Congress — passing tax reform, raising the debt ceiling, and agreeing on a budget — Trump offered little detail. He did threaten that if legislators force a government shutdown “we’re building that wall,” a reference to his campaign promise to close off the border with Mexico.

In the comfort of his most fervent fans, Trump often resurrects his free-wheeling 2016 campaign style, pinging insults at perceived enemies such as the media and meandering from topic to topic without a singular theme. This was Trump’s eighth rally since taking office in January, and each event is attended by supporters screened by his campaign.

His comfort-level was apparent: As he discussed his responses to Charlottesville, he interrupted himself. “I didn’t want to bore you. You understand where I’m coming from. You people understand.”

Outside the rally, the divisiveness seen across the country was on display.

One man on a loudspeaker said the largely Latino protesters belong in the kitchen. A Trump opponent hoisted a sign depicting the president with horns. A day of noisy but largely peaceful protests turned unruly after his speech, as police fired pepper spray at crowds after someone apparently lobbed rocks and bottles at officers.

Trump is on a two-day trip to the west, which continues Wednesday with travel to an American Legion convention in Reno, Nevada. He began his Arizona visit Tuesday with a brief trip to the southern edge of the country, touring a Marine Corps base in Yuma that is a hub of operations for the U.S. Border Patrol.

His focus on immigration and rallying a supportive crowd offered a respite from a more uncomfortable development in his presidency.

Trump on Monday announced in an address to the nation a plan to maintain a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, upending a campaign vow to end America’s longest war. Senior U.S. officials said Trump’s strategy may involve sending up to 3,900 more troops, with some deployments beginning almost immediately.

The AP’s Jill Colvin, Darlene Superville, Alan Fram and Josh Hoffner contributed to this report.

]]> 0 Donald Trump reacts to the song as he arrives at a rally at the Phoenix Convention Center, Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)Wed, 23 Aug 2017 07:38:23 +0000
James Clapper questions Trump’s fitness, worries about his access to nuclear codes Wed, 23 Aug 2017 10:25:38 +0000 James R. Clapper Jr., former national intelligence director, questioned President Trump’s fitness for office following his freewheeling speech in Phoenix Tuesday night, which Clapper labeled “downright scary and disturbing.”

“I really question his ability to be – his fitness to be – in this office,” Clapper told CNN’s Don Lemon early Wednesday morning. “I also am beginning to wonder about his motivation for it – maybe he is looking for a way out.”

In Trump’s remarks, delivered without a teleprompter, the president threatened to shut down the government over funding for the border wall he promised, opined that North American Free Trade Agreement will likely be terminated and hinted he might pardon former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, convicted last month of criminal contempt.

Clapper said watching Trump’s speech, he worried about the president’s access to nuclear codes.

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says Trump’s Phoenix speech was the most disturbing performance he has ever watched. Associated Press/Evan Vucci

“In a fit of pique he decides to do something about Kim Jong Un, there’s actually very little to stop him,” Clapper said, referencing North Korea’s leader. “The whole system is built to ensure rapid response if necessary. So there’s very little in the way of controls over exercising a nuclear option, which is pretty damn scary.”

Clapper has become a regular critic of Trump, who routinely disparaged the intelligence agencies during his campaign. But such a statement about a president by a lifelong military and intelligence professional – who has served at the highest levels of government under Republicans and Democrats alike – is extraordinary and perhaps unprecedented.

Clapper, who said he has “toiled in one capacity or another” for every president from John F. Kennedy through Barack Obama, said Trump’s Phoenix speech is the most disturbing performance he has ever watched. Clapper said the president should “have quit while he was ahead” after his speech on U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan. In that speech, the president read from a teleprompter.

In May, after Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey, Clapper said the country’s core institutions were under assault from Trump.

“I think the Founding Fathers, in their genius, created a system of three co-equal branches of government and a built-in system of checks and balances,” Clapper told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “And I feel as though it’s under assault and eroding.”

The issue of Trump’s fitness for the presidency has, until recently, mostly been raised by academics and partisan Democrats such as Hillary Clinton and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

In May, conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, following revelations about Trump revealing classified information to Russian diplomats, suggested that the 25th Amendment be used, which provides for removal of a president who is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office . . .”

Following the president’s erratic responses to the deadly unrest in Charlottesville, the criticism came from his own side of the aisle, with Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., questioning whether Trump has the “stability” and “competence” that are necessary to lead the country.

“The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful,” the senator told reporters in Tennessee last week. “And we need for him to be successful.”

]]> 0 Intelligence Director James Clapper sees a world in constant peril.Wed, 23 Aug 2017 06:42:37 +0000
Navy sacks commander of 7th Fleet in wake of deadly disasters Wed, 23 Aug 2017 09:53:34 +0000 The U.S. Navy on Wednesday relieved the admiral in charge of the service’s 7th Fleet based in Japan due to “loss of confidence” in his ability to command, it said in a statement. The move comes after four embarrassing accidents this year, two of which killed sailors at sea.

Admiral Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet relieved Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin from his duties at the 7th Fleet’s Yokosuka base in Japan. Rear Admiral Phil Sawyer, the Pacific Fleet’s deputy commander, will immediately take command. He had been scheduled to assume the post on Sept. 7.

The incidents include the deadly collision Monday of the destroyer USS John S. McCain with a much heavier oil tanker off Singapore, and a June 17 accident in which the destroyer USS Fitzgerald was ripped open by a larger Japanese container ship.

Seven sailors were killed in the Fitzgerald disaster, and at least some of the 10 sailors reported missing from the McCain are dead, Swift said Tuesday.

Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, holds a news conference after the collision of the USS Fitzgerald in Yokosuka, Japan, on June 18, 2017. Associated Press/Eugene Hoshiko

Aucoin has been the 7th Fleet commander since September 2015, and was previously the deputy chief of naval operations for warfare systems. His removal, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, is the highest profile in the Navy since the disasters occurred.

The collisions have shocked the Navy, where good seamanship and avoiding collisions are a fundamental expectation and demand. Adm. John M. Richardson, the chief of naval operations, announced Monday that he is ordering an “operational pause” across the globe in which commanders take a day or two each to make sure that sailors understand the fundamentals of good seamanship. He also directed a four-star officer, Adm. Phil Davidson of Fleet Forces Command, to launch a separate review of the 7th Fleet over the next few months to assess its culture, operations and readiness for missions.

Swift, who oversees the 7th Fleet as part of his role as Pacific Fleet commander, expanded the scope of that scrutiny Tuesday, ordering a second step to Richardson’s review that will include all Navy forces in the Pacific. It will include a “deliberate reset” for ships that focuses on navigation, maintaining mechanical systems and manning the ship’s bridge appropriately, Swift said.

“One tragedy like this is one too many, and while each of these four events is unique, they cannot be viewed in isolation,” Swift said of the 7th Fleet’s accidents. “I welcome the broad, comprehensive view announced by the chief of naval operations.”

So far this year, the fleet has faced four accidents that together have prompted questions about whether the sailors are being properly trained and supported. On May 9, the guided-missile cruiser Lake Champlain collided with a South Korean fishing vessel. On Jan. 31, the guided-missile cruiser Antietam ran aground in Tokyo Bay.

The 7th Fleet has headquarters in Yokosuka, Japan, and is responsible for an area that spans 36 maritime countries and 48 million square miles in the Pacific and Indian oceans, according to the Navy. The fleet has about 50 to 70 ships assigned to it, including about a dozen at sea at any time. The force’s missions range from responding to natural disasters to countering North Korean threats and Chinese audaciousness in the South China Sea, where Beijing has established new military bases.

“I think it’s important to note that the 7th Fleet is out there all the time, and it has been since World War II ended,” said retired Vice. Adm. Peter Daly, the chief executive officer of the U.S. Naval Institute. “It has been heel-to-toe. It has been ships there all the time, and ships deploying there all the time to augment the ships that are already there.”

Daly, who commanded everything from destroyers to carrier strike groups, said the recent incidents have highlighted what appears to be a disparity between how well ships that are based in Japan perform, as compared to ships that are based in the continental United States or Hawaii and set sail from there. The difference, Daly said, has sparked “a healthy concern” about why there is a difference between the two.

The unusual nature of the disasters even has prompted senior Navy leaders to rebut speculation that sabotage or a cyber attack may have caused the collisions. There is no indication that either occurred, Swift said again Tuesday.

The scrutiny comes as the Navy remains mired in a corruption scandal in which Malaysian defense contractor “Fat” Leonard Francis offered prostitutes, cash, gifts and other favors in exchange for information as he made hundreds of millions of dollars of business from the Navy. At least 19 defendants have been convicted, with at least 10 more cases pending.

But there’s another issue at play. Daly and another 7th Fleet veteran, Scott Cheney-Peters, said that years of the Navy reducing its number of ships has taxed the crews of those on the remaining vessels, as the Navy does more with less.

“Although many of these ships are more capable than their predecessors from the early 1990s, at some point the lower absolute number of ships taxes those remaining and their crews because they can only be in so many places and doing so many things at once,” said Cheney-Peters, who served on the Fitzgerald and later founded the Center for International Maritime Security, which facilitates discussion of naval issues.

“When I served in 7th Fleet aboard Fitzgerald a decade ago, the culture was of getting the mission done and taking care of your people, and only then taking care of yourself,” he said. “This is how it should be, but usually there wasn’t much time left for taking care of yourself, including for sleep.”

]]> 0, 23 Aug 2017 08:18:28 +0000
At long last, a peach of a harvest for growers in Maine Wed, 23 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 That groaning you hear is the sound of a peach tree leaning over in a local orchard, its fruit-laden limbs about to snap under the weight of this year’s crop.

Peaches are hard to grow in Maine, and crops the past couple of years have been so dismal that growers could practically count on one hand the number of peaches they got, if any.

But this year’s harvest is peaking now, and “it’s a major bumper crop,” said Guy Paulin, owner of Brackett’s Orchards in Limington, where he tends to 150 trees.

“The trees are really loaded, and it’s been kind of dry, so the peaches are a little bit smaller than usual,” he said. “But we’re lucky to have peaches at all, because most years we’re too far north, and we just don’t get the production we should.”

Paulin and other growers say this is the biggest peach harvest they’ve ever had, even after thinning the trees regularly to give the fruit room to grow and keep branches from breaking.

“We should have thinned more,” said Ann Stevens, who has been growing peaches with her husband, Howard, for 30 years at Foxes Ridge Farm in Acton. “We’ve got a lot of peaches.”

Last week, a little overwhelmed, the Stevenses opened their orchards to pick-your-own visitors for the first time ever so their fruit could be harvested and eaten before it rots.

At Libby & Son U-Picks in Limerick, “We actually already had our best year ever on peaches, and we’re not even halfway through them,” said Aaron Libby, one of the owners.

He credits the months of January and February, which were “really perfect for fruit growing.”

Renae Moran, a fruit tree specialist at the University of Maine, backs that up.

“It was a good winter for peaches because we didn’t have a week of temperatures in the 70s,” she said. “That’s what undoes peaches. It tells them that springtime is here, and they start growing too soon. Then we get another deep freeze and it kills the flower buds.”

Stevens said peach trees produce blossoms about an inch to inch-and-a-half apart, “and this year I think every blossom set a peach.”


Peach orchards are more common, and larger, in the southern part of the state because of the fruit’s sensitivity to cold. The northernmost peach trees in Maine are grown in Enfield, about 40 miles north of Bangor, Moran said. Across the state, so few peaches are grown here that no one keeps statistics on the size of the crop.

Last year, commercial growers in southern New England saw their flower buds wiped out by a deep freeze in February that they labeled “the St. Valentine’s Day massacre.”

Art Kelly, owner of Kelly Orchards in Acton, harvested just a dozen peaches last year off his 3½ acres of peach trees. This year, “we’re kind of struggling to keep up with the picking, to tell you the truth.”

In Maine, peaches do better when they are grown on warmer hilltops where colder air drains into the valleys below. Joel Gilbert, owner of Berry Fruit Farm in Livermore, has hilltop trees, and this year the crop is “the best I’ve ever had, absolutely, and the quality is just fantastic.” He’s had to hire help to thin the fruit so it won’t be too small.

Backyard orchardists also are having a bountiful year. Jesse McAvoy of Westbrook, who has planted 90 percent of his half-acre homestead into food crops, saw his first peach tree bear fruit for the first time this summer.

“We ended up, shockingly, with about 36 pounds,” he said. “They’re not huge peaches, so there was a lot of them.”

McAvoy made nine half-pints of salted brown sugar peach jam and froze the rest of the fruit for use in smoothies or more jam.

“I couldn’t believe how juicy they were,” he said.


Peaches may be scarcer in Maine than in other parts of the country, but for the Maine eater, they have the advantage of not being picked too early, only to sit – hard as a rock – on a delivery truck for days until they reach a grocery store.

“A tree-ripened peach is supposed to be soft,” Gilbert said, “and the juice runs down your face and your arms when you eat it.”

Kelly said he generally picks his peaches just a day or two before he knows they will be eaten. The timing is delicate.

“I’m out there every day biting peaches and squeezing peaches and looking at the color,” he said.

Portland restaurants are benefiting from this year’s bounty. Scales, on the city’s waterfront, is making peach butter and putting the fruit into galettes. At Central Provisions on Fore Street, roasted local peaches are being served on a thyme biscuit with sweet corn ice cream. Union, the restaurant in the Press Hotel, is offering a summer peach and roasted jalapeño gazpacho.

Peach growers prefer simpler preparations.

“I was thinking today a peach pie would be nice,” Paulin said.

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MeredithGoad

]]> 0, ME - AUGUST 22: Coralstar peaches at Libby & Son U-Picks farm in Limerick. (Staff photo by Derek Davis/Staff Photographer)Tue, 22 Aug 2017 23:54:22 +0000
Prides Corner aglow again as drive-in’s back in business Wed, 23 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000

The Campbell family gathers to watch “Despicable Me 3” at the Prides Corner Drive-In theater Tuesday night. The Westbrook landmark reopened Friday after being closed for more than a year. “We’re just happy they’re back,” said Mark Campbell, father of six. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

WESTBROOK — The Prides Corner Drive-In is back in business, serving up popcorn, burgers, fries and of course feature-length movies shown under starlit skies.

After taking last year off, the family-owned drive-in established in 1952 began showing “Despicable Me 3” and “The Mummy” starring Tom Cruise on Friday evening – during a torrential downpour.

The Westbrook drive-in will continue to show movies through September, and possibly October, but only on weekends during those months, manager Jeff Tevanian said. “A family from Lewiston drove down here to show their support,” he said Tuesday evening as moviegoers started parking their cars on the slightly inclined slopes that face the giant screen. Only three cars filled with loyal supporters showed up during the downpour Friday night. “We didn’t turn them away. There is rarely a time when we don’t stay open.”

Last year, Prides Corner Drive-In was closed for the season while Tevanian and his parents, Thelma and John Tevanian, restructured the business and planned to acquire a new digital projector, which cost approximately $75,000. They installed the projector in July.

Prides Corner had to adapt to the new technology or face closure. The nation’s 340 drive-ins have been scrambling to convert to digital projection as film distributors have nearly phased out film prints in place of much cheaper digital copies. All six of Maine’s drive-ins have now converted to digital.

For theaters, the benefit of digital is that the movie won’t degrade over time like film does. For a while, drive-ins could get enough 35 mm films to stay in operation, but Tevanian says that is no longer the case. He estimates he should be set for the next decade – unless of course the technology changes again.


Tevanian says this month’s digital debut is a soft reopening for the drive-in on Route 302 that his father, John Tevanian, built with his brothers, Avie and Herbert Tevanian. John Tevanian died in July. He was 91.

Jeff Tevanian, who has received a lot of encouragement and support from local officials and residents, said it made no sense to hold a grand opening at the end of the summer season.

He’s hoping that if all goes well, they will hold one next June.

Not much has changed at Prides Corner. The interior of the snack bar has a 1950s feel and Tevanian has taken care to recognize the drive-in’s history. Black-and-white photographs from its grand opening adorn the walls and there’s also a photograph of his father. One photograph shows children playing on a swing set and playground that the Tevanians erected a few feet in front of the outdoor projection wall.

For Karen and Matthew Stevenson of Westbrook, who have three young children, the drive-in’s reopening comes as wonderful news.

“This has been a longtime tradition for our family,” Karen Stevenson said, as her children, 7-year-old Schuyler, 5-year-old Ben, and 2-year-old Cora waited in the snack bar lobby for their food order.

Stevenson said the Prides Corner venue is perfect for her kids because they can play outside the car, throw Frisbees or run around.

“We didn’t get to see many movies last year because this place was closed,” Matt Stevenson said. He said taking the children to an enclosed movie theater with fixed seating can be challenging because they can get restless during a two-hour movie.

And the Stevensons point out that you can’t beat the price. Prides Corner charges $20 per car. If there are more than four people in a car, there is an added fee of $5 per person.

Matthew Stevenson, 37, grew up in Portland and said his parents took him to the Prides Corner Drive-in when he was a kid.

“It was a cool place to go when I was a kid. It still is,” he said.


Mark Campbell and his wife brought their six children to Tuesday evening’s shows.

The Westbrook resident said he was disappointed when the drive-in closed last year. He had to bring his family to the Bridgton Twin Drive-In, which is operated by John Tevanian, Jeff’s brother, to get the same experience. He likes drive-ins because his family can spread out on blankets and chairs and it’s much less expensive than a regular theater.

“We’re just happy they’re back,” Campbell said.

Rob Dudley, 47, of Windham, and his daughter, Victoria, were the first patrons in line Tuesday evening.

“I’m ecstatic that they’re open again,” Dudley said. “Ever since I was a kid I’ve been coming to the drive-in. And the price is good. You’re basically getting to see two movies for the price of one.”

And the stars are free.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]

]]> 0, 23 Aug 2017 10:13:35 +0000
Senate committee hears from founder of firm tied to Trump dossier Wed, 23 Aug 2017 04:46:50 +0000 WASHINGTON — The co-founder of a Washington opposition research firm that produced a dossier of salacious allegations involving President Trump met for hours with congressional investigators Tuesday in a closed-door appearance that stretched into the evening.

Glenn Simpson’s lawyer emerged from the daylong private appearance with the Senate Judiciary Committee and said his client had “told Congress the truth and cleared the record on many matters of interest.”

The lawyer, Josh Levy, noted that Simpson appeared voluntarily and said he had so far been the only witness to participate in a private interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee as the panel looks into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The sheer length of Simpson’s appearance – far longer, for instance, than Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, spent earlier this summer before Senate and House intelligence committees – reflected the intrigue on Capitol Hill surrounding the dossier and the origins of the document.

Simpson’s firm, Fusion GPS, hired a British intelligence officer who produced a dossier containing allegations of ties between Trump and his associates and Russia. Simpson kept the identities of the firm’s clients confidential during his appearance before Congress, his lawyer said.

The document attracted public attention in January when it was revealed that FBI Director James Comey had briefed Trump, soon before he was inaugurated as president, about claims from the dossier that Russia had amassed compromising personal and financial allegations about him. It’s unclear to what extent the allegations in the dossier have been corroborated or verified by the FBI since the bureau has not publicly discussed it.

“Fusion GPS is proud of the work it has conducted and stands by it,” Levy, Simpson’s lawyer, said in a statement.

He said the “investigation into Mr. Simpson began as a desperate attempt by the Trump campaign and its allies to smear Fusion GPS because of its reported connection to the Trump dossier.”

Leaders of the Judiciary Committee said last month that they were negotiating private appearances for Donald Trump Jr., who has attracted scrutiny for accepting a June 2016 meeting with Russians at which he expected to receive damaging information about Hillary Clinton, and for Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman.

Yet no dates have been announced for their appearances.

“Following up on comments from certain Senate Judiciary Committee members who have noted Mr. Simpson’s cooperation with this investigation,” Levy said in a statement, “I would like to add that he is the first and only witness to participate in an interview with the Committee as it probes Russian interference in the 2016 election.”

]]> 0 Wed, 23 Aug 2017 00:52:00 +0000
Navy expected to relieve admiral in charge of Japan-based fleet Wed, 23 Aug 2017 03:07:38 +0000 The Navy will relieve the senior admiral in charge of the service’s 7th Fleet based in Japan in response to four embarrassing accidents this year, two of which killed sailors at sea, two U.S. officials said.

Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin will be removed from his job formally Wednesday, the official said. The incidents include the deadly collision Monday of the destroyer USS John S. McCain with a much heavier oil tanker off Singapore, and a June 17 accident in which the destroyer USS Fitzgerald was ripped open by a larger Japanese container ship.

Seven sailors were killed in the Fitzgerald disaster, and at least some of the 10 sailors reported missing from the McCain are dead, Adm. Scott Swift, the commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, said Tuesday.

Aucoin has been the 7th Fleet commander since September 2015, and was previously the deputy chief of naval operations for warfare systems. His removal, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, is the highest profile in the Navy since the disasters occurred.

The collisions have shocked the Navy, where good seamanship and avoiding collisions are a fundamental expectation and demand. Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, announced Monday that he is ordering an “operational pause” across the globe in which commanders take a day or two each to make sure that sailors understand the fundamentals of good seamanship. He also directed a four-star officer, Adm. Phil Davidson of Fleet Forces Command, to launch a separate review of the 7th Fleet over the next few months to assess its culture, operations and readiness for missions.

Swift, who oversees the 7th Fleet as part of his role as Pacific Fleet commander, expanded the scope of that scrutiny Tuesday, ordering a second step to Richardson’s review that will include all Navy forces in the Pacific. It will include a “deliberate reset” for ships that focuses on navigation, maintaining mechanical systems and manning the ship’s bridge appropriately, Swift said.

“One tragedy like this is one too many, and while each of these four events is unique, they cannot be viewed in isolation,” Swift said of the 7th Fleet’s accidents. “I welcome the broad, comprehensive view announced by the chief of naval operations.”

So far this year, the fleet has faced four accidents that together have prompted questions about whether sailors are being properly trained and supported. On May 9, the guided-missile cruiser Lake Champlain collided with a South Korean fishing vessel. On Jan. 31, the guided-missile cruiser Antietam ran aground in Tokyo Bay.

The 7th Fleet has headquarters in Yokosuka, Japan, and is responsible for an area that spans 36 maritime countries and 48 million square miles in the Pacific and Indian oceans, according to the Navy. The fleet has about 50 to 70 ships assigned to it, including about a dozen at sea at any time. The force’s missions range from responding to natural disasters to countering North Korean threats and Chinese audaciousness in the South China Sea, where Beijing has established new military bases.

“I think it’s important to note that the 7th Fleet is out there all the time, and it has been since World War II ended,” said retired Vice. Adm. Peter Daly, the chief executive officer of the U.S. Naval Institute. “It has been heel-to-toe. It has been ships there all the time, and ships deploying there all the time to augment the ships that are already there.”

Daly, who commanded everything from destroyers to carrier strike groups, said the recent incidents have highlighted what appears to be a disparity between how well ships that are based in Japan perform, as compared to ships that are based in the continental United States or Hawaii and set sail from there. The difference, Daly said, has sparked “a healthy concern” about why there is a difference between the two.

The unusual nature of the disasters even has prompted senior Navy leaders to rebut speculation that sabotage or a cyber attack may have caused the collisions. There is no indication that either occurred, Swift said again Tuesday.

The scrutiny comes as the Navy remains mired in a corruption scandal in which Malaysian defense contractor “Fat” Leonard Francis offered prostitutes, cash, gifts and other favors in exchange for information as he made hundreds of millions of dollars of business from the Navy. At least 19 defendants have been convicted, with at least 10 more cases pending.

But there’s another issue at play. Daly and another 7th Fleet veteran, Scott Cheney-Peters, said that years of the Navy reducing its number of ships has taxed the crews of those on the remaining vessels, as the Navy does more with less.

“Although many of these ships are more capable than their predecessors from the early 1990s, at some point the lower absolute number of ships taxes those remaining and their crews because they can only be in so many places and doing so many things at once,” said Cheney-Peters, who served on the Fitzgerald and later founded the Center for International Maritime Security, which facilitates discussion of naval issues.

“When I served in 7th Fleet aboard Fitzgerald a decade ago, the culture was of getting the mission done and taking care of your people, and only then taking care of yourself,” he said. “This is how it should be, but usually there wasn’t much time left for taking care of yourself, including for sleep.”

]]> 0 Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, answers questions at a press conference Tuesday with the USS John S. McCain and USS America docked in the background at Singapore's Changi naval base. Responding to Monday's fatal accident involving the McCain, he said, "One tragedy like this is one too many."Tue, 22 Aug 2017 23:24:15 +0000
Westbrook City Council resurrects proposal to charge impact fees Wed, 23 Aug 2017 03:04:13 +0000 The Westbrook City Council will give impact fees another chance.

The idea is popular among those concerned about the number of new housing units being built in Westbrook. City officials spent nearly one year developing formulas for school and sewer impact fees, which are designed to pay for new capacity needed as a result of a development. Under the system proposed, for example, the owner of a new three-bedroom house would need to pay a $3,245 school impact fee to offset the future costs of adding children to local classrooms.

But the City Council seemed to kill the idea two weeks ago. At the regular meeting Aug. 7, a majority of the councilors voted against new ordinances for school and sewer impact fees. They expressed concerns that added costs would deter families and businesses from coming to Westbrook.

“I do not want to be a deterrent to people moving into the city,” Councilor Lynda Adams said at the time.

Adams, however, made a motion during the City Council’s next meeting, on Monday, to reconsider the impact fee ordinances. She said more residents should have the chance to weigh in on the issue. Five people spoke at the Aug. 7 meeting, and four asked the council to nix the impact fees. But dozens of people had turned out last year for public meetings about residential development, and many wanted the city to enact a system for collecting impact fees.

“I feel like there are some people that wanted to be heard that they weren’t able to be heard,” Adams said.

The motion passed 4-1. Councilor Ann Peoples was the only no vote, and Councilors Anna Turcotte and Brendan Rielly were absent.

The two proposals will be on the Sept. 11 agenda for first reading. If approved, they will advance to the Oct. 2 agenda for a public hearing and final vote.

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

[email protected]

Twitter: megan_e_doyle

]]> 0 Wed, 23 Aug 2017 00:16:42 +0000
Penn State won’t let alt-right leader Richard Spencer speak Wed, 23 Aug 2017 02:58:40 +0000 Pennsylvania State University has denied a request by white nationalist Richard B. Spencer to speak on campus, the university announced Tuesday.

It was the fourth university to deny him a platform in recent days, citing security concerns after a “Unite the Right” rally that featured him as a speaker turned violent in Virginia.

Earlier this month, hundreds of Spencer’s followers marched through the University of Virginia’s campus carrying torches and shouting white-nationalist slogans, the beginning of an ideological clash that turned fatal the next day in Charlottesville when a man drove into a crowd of people protesting white supremacy, killing one woman and injuring many others. Two police officers also died when their helicopter crashed.

Spencer, who is president of the National Policy Institute, had asked to speak at Penn State in the fall.

Penn State’s president, Eric Barron, said in a written statement that Spencer’s views are “abhorrent and contradictory to our University’s values” but that the institution fully supports the right to free speech. However, he said, “the First Amendment does not require our University to risk imminent violence.” He said police had determined the event was “a major security risk,” and that risk, not the content of the speech, was the reason for denying the request.

In the days after the Charlottesville rally, other universities have made similar decisions. The University of Florida, for example, denied a request by the National Policy Institute to rent space on campus in September after assessing potential risk and social-media statements such as “The Next Battlefield is in Florida.”

Last week, Texas A&M University denied a “white lives matter” rally, organized by a former student named Preston Wiginton who said he was inspired by the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. Wiginton had invited Spencer to speak at the event.

Michigan State University also denied a request by Spencer’s group to rent space on campus for an event in September.

“They’re using what’s known as the ‘heckler’s veto,'” Spencer said. “They’re citing safety concerns as a way to suppress free speech. Legally that just doesn’t hold water. . . .

“There’s a very recent federal decision involving me and Auburn that is clear and unambiguous.”

In April, a federal judge reversed Auburn University’s cancellation of a Spencer event.

]]> 0 Spencer, who leads a movement that mixes racism, white nationalism and populism, speaks at Texas A&M University last year. Associated Press/ David J. PhillipWed, 23 Aug 2017 00:15:41 +0000
Engineers claim
 to have made
 world’s most 
powerful magnet Wed, 23 Aug 2017 02:37:57 +0000 TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Engineers at a lab in Florida have been working quietly for the last two and a half years on building the most powerful magnet in the world.

And on Monday, they succeeded. The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory – whose main location is housed at Florida State University – met its goal and reclaimed its status as home to the world’s strongest magnet.

They called it “Project 11,”a nod to the comedy film “This is Spinal Tap” about a fictional heavy metal band whose guitarist boasts an amplifier doesn’t go up to 10 but to 11.

Lab officials said they tested a 41.4-tesla magnet, which is roughly 20 times the strength of a magnet used in medical imaging machines and vastly stronger than the ones that get stuck to the door of a household refrigerator. The Earth’s magnetic field, by comparison, is one twenty thousandth (.00005) of a tesla. A tesla is a measure of magnetic field strength.

The new magnet – which cost $3.5 million to build – beat the old mark for resistive magnets which was held by a 38.5 tesla magnet in China. The National MagLab had previously held the record for 19 years.

Greg Boebinger, the lab’s director, said the loss of the record prompted officials to tell engineers, “Go ahead and make the thing bigger, go ahead and use more power, just go full volume to 11 and see what you can do.”

Resistive magnets are a type of electromagnet used for research. They differ from pulsed magnets, which can reach a higher field but can sustain that power for only a fraction of a second. Resistive magnets can run continuously.

Researchers say they can use a powerful magnet such as the one at the National MagLab to answer many questions, such as what kind of materials will work best in quantum computers, how does a potential Alzheimer’s drug change the brain and what molecules make up a sample of crude oil – and will it be worth drilling for?

The power of the new record-setting magnet, which is confined to a single room inside the lab, doesn’t create the type of effects witnessed in the X-Men film series by Magneto.

]]> 0 Tue, 22 Aug 2017 22:40:18 +0000
Collision kills motorcycle rider on Route 109 in Acton Wed, 23 Aug 2017 02:31:49 +0000 The York County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a fatal motorcycle accident that happened Tuesday night in Acton.

Sheriff William L. King Jr. did not have a complete report from his deputies on the scene, but said the victim may have been a 15- or 16-year-old boy.

Wreckage of the motorcycle after the fatal collision on Route 109 in Acton. York County Sheriff's Department photo

King said the teenager was operating a motorcycle when it collided with a motor vehicle on Route 109 around 8:30 p.m.

No other details were immediately available.

]]> 0, 23 Aug 2017 10:51:36 +0000
White House renews its request for privacy of Trump’s 11-year-old son Wed, 23 Aug 2017 02:08:14 +0000 WASHINGTON — The White House on Tuesday renewed its request to the news media for privacy for President Trump’s young son, Barron, after a conservative news and opinion website criticized the casual attire he wore home after the family’s summer vacation.

The 11-year-old wore shorts, a T-shirt that said “On Your Mark Tiger Shark” and loafers without socks for Sunday’s return trip to the White House from the family’s home on Trump’s private golf club in central New Jersey.

Trump wore a suit and tie while Barron’s mother, first lady Melania Trump, wore a sleeveless, calf-length yellow-and-white dress.

Ford Springer, The Daily Caller columnist, wrote that since Barron doesn’t have any responsibilities as the president’s son “the least he could do is dress the part when he steps out in public.”

“Barron was returning to the White House from New Jersey on Sunday and while the president and first lady traveled in their Sunday best, young Barron looked like he was hopping on Air Force One for a trip to the movie theater,” the column said.

Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for Mrs. Trump, appealed to the media to give Barron space to be a kid.

“As with all previous administrations, we ask that the media give Barron his privacy. He is a minor child and deserves every opportunity to have a private childhood,” Grisham said.

Vince Coglianese, editor in chief at The Daily Caller, defended Springer.

“Let’s not pretend the press is suddenly concerned about defending the Trumps,” Coglianese said by email, describing Springer as the “the most pro-Barron Trump writer I’ve ever met.”

“Leave it to the fake news to spin his bro-to-bro advice into some sort of ‘slam.’ He’s just looking out for the kid. Leave Barron alone,” Coglianese said.

The White House also got bipartisan support from former first daughter Chelsea Clinton, who defended Barron on Twitter. Clinton was the subject of ridicule as a teenager growing up in the White House in the 1990s when her father, Democrat Bill Clinton, was president.

“It’s high time the media & everyone leave Barron Trump alone & let him have the private childhood he deserves,” Clinton tweeted Monday, with a link to the Daily Caller column.

She followed on Tuesday after a Twitter user criticized Barron’s entire family in unpublishable terms.

“Barron is A KID. No child should be talked about in the below manner-in real life or online. And for an adult to do so? For shame,” she tweeted back to the individual, who uses the Twitter handle (at)MattyRenn. The user did not immediately respond to a Twitter message from The Associated Press for comment.

Earlier this year, Clinton defended Barron after he was the target of a joke by a “Saturday Night Live” writer. The writer was later suspended.

]]> 0 Trump and son Barron walk across the tarmac to board Air Force One at Morristown Municipal Airport in New Jersey on Sunday for the return flight to the Washington area.Tue, 22 Aug 2017 22:08:14 +0000
Is Faneuil Hall a reminder of racism? Wed, 23 Aug 2017 01:57:41 +0000 BOSTON — As cities grapple with what to do with Confederate statues, an advocacy group is calling for renaming Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall because its namesake had ties to the slave trade.

The brick meeting house, built in 1742 and nicknamed the “Cradle of Liberty,” was where Samuel Adams and other American colonists made some of the earliest speeches urging independence from Britain.

Decades later, Frederick Douglass and other prominent abolitionists of the 1800s would use its famous stage to call for an end to slavery.

But Kevin Peterson, founder of the New Democracy Coalition, says it’s past time to change the hall’s name because it was built and donated to Boston by Peter Faneuil, a wealthy merchant who owned and traded slaves.

“It’s an embarrassment to this city to remain focusing on this place as a place of celebration and as a place of which we should have some civic pride with this name attached to it,” said Peterson, whose nonpartisan group is focused on “renewing civic life.”

He made the comments last week in front of Faneuil Hall. City leaders, including Mayor Marty Walsh, had gathered at the landmark to call for peace in the aftermath of the violent white nationalist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one counterprotester dead and dozens of others injured Aug. 12.

Peterson suggests renaming the hall in honor of Crispus Attucks, a man of black and Native American heritage who was considered the first martyr of the American Revolution when he was killed not far from the hall in the Boston Massacre of 1770. Peterson said he wrote a letter to the mayor in May and hasn’t heard back.

Walsh has said it’s not the right time to debate the name change, given the emotion following the Charlottesville disturbance and heated arguments over removing Confederate monuments across the country.

The Democratic mayor noted that many prominent black leaders have spoken at the hall, including Martin Luther King, Jr., and that it’s a regular site for U.S. citizenship ceremonies.

Historians also suggested caution in moving to rename the hall. Robert Allison, a Suffolk University history professor, said it would be a “misguided and ineffectual” way to set history straight. “Erasing history by changing names is not a way to engage it, or understand it, but simply a way to forget it,” he said.

If the hall’s name isn’t changed, it’s important that its ties to slavery be given “wider and deeper recognition,” said Barbara Lewis, director of the William Monroe Trotter Institute for the Study of Black Culture at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. She suggested providing that through a permanent exhibit in the building.

Heather Cox Richardson, a Boston College history professor, said she supports removing all “celebratory” Confederate monuments from public properties but opposes simply renaming or removing all memorials to “problematic forebears.” “This country was founded on racial, gender and class biases. That is inescapable,” she said. “Our complex history needs to be contextualized, recognizing both the weaknesses and the strengths of our ancestors.”

Massachusetts leaders have appeared more open to the idea of changing or removing other controversial memorials in recent weeks.

In June, the state boarded up its lone memorial to the Confederacy: a stone marker on a historic island fort in Boston Harbor.

The monument, placed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in the 1960s, honors 13 Confederate soldiers who died as prisoners of war on the island.

]]> 0 pass Faneuil Hall in Boston Monday. As U.S. cities grapple with what to do with Confederate monuments, some are suggesting renaming the historic hall, given to the city by a wealthy merchant who traded slaves.Tue, 22 Aug 2017 21:57:41 +0000
Arthur Marcoux, accountant who volunteered his time, dies at 66 Wed, 23 Aug 2017 01:35:41 +0000 Arthur Marcoux, a respected accountant who operated Service Four in South Portland and competed on a track team, died Sunday after suffering a severe reaction to wasp stings.

Mr. Marcoux, 66, was remembered by family and friends Tuesday as a kind, generous and loving man.

His wife, Debbie Marcoux of South Portland, said that if a friend needed help with yard work, he was quick to lend a hand. If someone needed help preparing taxes, he was the guy people called.

Last week, Mr. Marcoux was preparing a driveway to be sealed when he accidentally disturbed a wasp nest and was stung multiple times. His wife said he suffered a severe anaphylactic reaction.

His wife, in a somber, subdued tone, said the family is shocked and deeply saddened by his untimely passing.

“He was a very genuine person,” she said. “Everyone that became friends with Art really liked him. People really appreciated his help.”

By trade, Mr. Marcoux was an accountant and owned Service Four for roughly 26 years. He assisted taxpayers, small businesses and organizations with tax preparation, tax planning and bookkeeping. His wife said he did a lot for organizations such as the Maine Public Relations Council and the Portland Club.

“He liked being his own boss,” she said.

Mr. Marcoux was also a volunteer tax preparer for the AARP Senior Tax Program.

“He thought it was a great program and a great service to offer people,” his wife said. “He loved helping people.”

Another hallmark of Mr. Marcoux’s life was his devotion to family. The couple celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary on July 4.

“He was so loving and supportive,” his wife said. “He had such a great sense of humor. He pushed me to be the best I could be.”

Mr. Marcoux and his wife hiked and traveled extensively. He reached his goal last year of visiting all 50 states. She said he loved visiting state capitols and touring local museums.

Ron Marcoux of Helena, Montana, laughed Tuesday recalling the day his younger brother visited and joined the family for a rafting trip down the Missouri River. At one point, Uncle Art jumped in the water to play with the kids.

“The water was 50 degrees,” his brother said laughing, noting the cold water shocked him. “He gave all the nieces and nephews a good laugh that day, but he showed them he was as tough as they were. They loved their Uncle Art.”

Another highlight of his life was competing on South Portland’s track team for the Maine Corporate Track Association. His wife competed, too. He did most events, including the high jump, long jump and long distance races.

Hollie Corbett, captain of the track team, said he was well loved by teammates and teams across the league.

“He was like a father figure,” Corbett said. “He had these crooked sunglasses, totally busted up. I’d say, ‘I don’t even know what that’s doing for you.’ I would tease him all the time. When he was racing, I was like a little bulldog screaming for him. He was one of my favorite people.”

Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MelanieCreamer

]]> 0 Marcoux,, an accountant who operated Service Four in South Portland, died Sunday after sufferring a severe reaction to wasp stings. Photo courtesy Maroux familyTue, 22 Aug 2017 21:47:17 +0000
Augusta board OKs plans for offices near State House despite design, financial concerns Wed, 23 Aug 2017 01:26:01 +0000 AUGUSTA — The Planning Board, following more than three and a half hours of debate Tuesday night, approved a controversial proposal to build two new office buildings on Capitol Street near the State House, despite concerns the design isn’t worthy of such a prominent location.

The developer of the project, meanwhile, warned before the vote that financing for it is “fragile” and could fall apart if the project can’t move in a timely manner.

The proposed project includes two new buildings, one a large, three-story 104,000 square foot building that would be leased to the state for offices, the other a 26,000 square foot building that would be leased to the Maine Public Employees Retirement System, as well as, originally, a 675-space parking lot, at the former site of the state Department of Transportation’s maintenance facility at 109 Capitol St.

Board members voted 6 to 1 late Tuesday to approve the project, but made that approval contigent on the developer coming back to the board to discuss the exterior design of the larger of the two buildings before construction.

Board member Alison Nichols made the motion, approved by the board, attaching multiple conditions to the board’s approval including that the developer pay a traffic impact fee, and come back to the board within three months with potential alternate exterior presentations of the building which will be closest to the State House and occupied by state workers, including versions of a different color than the currently white proposal, and a version that more closely matches the nearby Cross State Office Building, for the board to consider.

Some board members, and other city officials and residents, said they believe the Capitol area deserves a better, more attractive design.

“I think we can do better,” said board member A. Delaine Nye, who cast the dissenting vote. “This needs to be worked on a great deal more before we can approve it.”

Board member Tom Connors, however, said he believes the state needs more parking than it has now, and that he, for one, likes the design of the proposal.

Board member Peter Pare said the board needs to give the developer input on what it is the city wants in the project. Otherwise, he said, it would be like expecting someone to give you a painting that you’d want to hang in your living room, without saying what you want in the painting.

Claiborne Williams, a principal at FD Stonewater, developer of the project, said it is a thoughtful balancing act the company put a great deal of time and effort into creating.

Williams said demanding add-ons and an increased “wow factor” in the project could jeopardize it. He said financing for the project is “fragile” and if they don’t act in a timely manner it could fall apart.

He said the state made a huge effort to be fiscally responsible by capping how much it will pay to lease the building at $19 per square foot.

In July, when the developer first brought the project to the Planning Board seeking a major development permit, the board voted to table the proposal and multiple board members said it was aesthetically lacking, and that such a prominent spot should have a more attractively-designed facility upon it.

In response, and after consulting with city staff, representatives of developer FD Stonewater modified the proposal, adding a small park with a short walking path, benches, trees and grass, at the corner of Capitol and Sewall streets, in a spot which originally included more parking spaces.

The new plan reduces the total number of parking spaces for the two buildings from 675 to 619, with 45 of the spots being eliminated from the corner of Capitol and Sewall streets.

A small amount of additional green space was also added between the two buildings and the use of retaining walls was decreased in the revised plan for the 10.5 acre site.

The original proposal drew written criticism which was submitted to the Planning Board, including an email from resident Cheryl Clukey, who said the facility looks like a prison and “is awful and so unattractive for such a prominent location and also part of the Capitol complex.”

Brian Kent, an urban designer from Litchfield, who has worked as a consultant for the city in the past, criticized both the original and revised proposal, and submitted what he described as a “better plan” which would put the larger building at the corner of Sewall and Capitol streets, with parking behind it where, he said, it would be better screened from view. He wrote that the project, even as revised, does not meet good urban design standards, is not pedestrian-friendly, and does not comply with the neighborhood compatibility standards of the city’s Land Use Ordinance. He said Tuesday he sympathizes with the developer because they were limited by the state to a per square foot lease cost of about $19, which limits the project, and said the Governor and state Legislature should appropriate more money for the lease to get a better building.

Williams said the company’s proposal reduces the amount of pavement compared to what is on the site now, and adds greenspace, landscaping and areas for people to walk. He said the company is very proud of the design. He said it is meant to fit in with the surrounding buildings.

“We increased landscaping and greenspace where we can,” Williams said. “We’re certainly trying to be good partners and neighbors with the adjacent neighbors.”

Mayor David Rollins said while the city appreciates the state having the project built and owned by a private developer, and thus not exempt from property taxes like it would be if built and owned by the state, the proposed design is not adequate for such a significant location.

Board members in July also expressed concern the two buildings could bring too much traffic to surrounding streets.

The developer has since provided the city with a copy of a traffic study it submitted to the state Department of Transportation to obtain a traffic movement permit.

The traffic study indicates the 521 new employees projected to use the site, compared to the number of employees there previously, would generate an average of 1,780 “trips” to and from the site on weekdays — 276 of them in the morning hour of peak traffic and 253 in the evening hour of peak traffic.

Lionel Cayer, city engineer, said the additional traffic is bound to lead to some traffic delays, noting, “when you add trips, you’re going to add delay, that’s just a fact of life.”

Cayer and Matt Nazar, development director, both recommended the developer be required to pay a traffic mitigation fee which, based on a formula the city has used in previous projects of $175 per new trip, would total $39,000.

Nazar said the money would be used to study and make changes to the city’s traffic control system which was meant to coordinate signal changes on surrounding major streets including Western Avenue and Sewall and Capitol Streets.

He said the system was put in after Augusta Crossing was built, but that it hasn’t really worked in at least a few years.

The developer plans to demolish the large old green DOT buildings and build office space it will lease to the state, which plans to move workers from other buildings in Augusta to the new offices.

State workers would occupy the larger of the two buildings, which would be built on the lower portion of the lot, closer to the State House complex.

David Heidrich Jr., communications director for the state Department of Administrative and Financial Services, said about 520 state employees would move into the new building when it is completed, which is projected to be by July 2019. He said the vast majority of employees moving there work for the Department of Health and Human Services, most of whom now work at state owned office buildings at 221 and 242 State St.

Heidrich said on Tuesday that the project represents an opportunity for the city to get a vastly improved site, is well-designed and efficient, and he encouraged the board to approve it as proposed.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

]]> 0 efforts by the developer to modify the plan to build two new office buildings, the Augusta Planning Board on Tuesday once again asked FD Stonewater to come back with a revised plan for the large building proposed for the corner of Sewall and Capitol streets. The board wants to review different colors for the exterior and a version that more closely matches the nearby Cross State Office Building.Wed, 23 Aug 2017 09:28:17 +0000
Indian court strikes down Muslim instant divorce practice Wed, 23 Aug 2017 00:22:23 +0000 NEW DELHI — India’s Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down the Muslim practice that allows men to instantly divorce their wives as unconstitutional.

The bench, comprising five senior judges of different faiths, deliberated for three months before issuing its order in response to petitions from seven Muslim women who had been divorced through the practice known as triple talaq.

Indian law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on NDTV that since the court deemed the practice unconstitutional there is no need for any further legislative action.

The decision was widely lauded by women’s rights activists as a step toward granting Muslim women greater equality and justice. “It’s a very happy day for us. It’s a historic day,” said Zakia Soman, the co-founder of the Indian Muslim Women’s Movement, which was part of the legal battle to end triple talaq.

More than 20 Muslim countries, including neighboring Pakistan and Bangladesh, have banned the practice. But in India, triple talaq has continued with the protection of laws that allow Muslim, Christian and Hindu communities to follow religious law in matters like marriage, divorce, inheritance and adoption.

]]> 0 Tue, 22 Aug 2017 20:22:23 +0000
Video of man’s tirade at deli leads to forum on downtown issues in Portland Tue, 22 Aug 2017 22:50:03 +0000 A security camera video of a man screaming at employees in a downtown Portland deli last month has led to a community forum about how to deal with problems related to homelessness, mental illness and substance abuse.

Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling and members of the City Council will host the forum beginning at 5 p.m. Wednesday in response to calls from downtown business owners, including the owner of Sisters Gourmet Deli.

“People are clearly passionate and frustrated by what we’re talking about,” owner Michaela McVetty said in a statement issued by the city. “The rise in the population of those suffering from mental illness, drug addiction and homelessness has become something that none of us can ignore any longer.”

McVetty posted the deli’s security video of the confrontation on Facebook, and followed up with more posts and emails to fellow business owners calling for a citywide conversation and increased access to support services.

“There are so many in this city we love that are not getting the help they need. If they are taken care of properly, in return, downtown workers, residents and business owners can feel safer,” McVetty said.


McVetty began her push after 37-year-old Jesse James Taylor entered her deli in Monument Square on a Saturday afternoon in late July and began ranting at the female staff.

An employee notified Portland police, but the man continued to shout at and threaten the deli’s employees for about 10 minutes before he was coaxed out of the restaurant by a stranger shortly before police officers arrived.

Taylor was eventually charged with disorderly conduct and criminal mischief, in addition to interfering with constitutional rights because he allegedly made derogatory references about the sexual orientation of the female employees during his rant. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was sentenced to five days in jail.

The video of Taylor’s obscenity-laced tirade has been viewed more than 74,700 times, and McVetty has been using Facebook to keep pressure on city officials.

On Aug. 3, she posted interviews with both Strimling and City Manager Jon Jennings about city efforts to address issues in the downtown, including the possibility of relocating the city’s primary homeless shelter. The videos were each viewed thousands of times.

McVetty returned to Facebook on Monday to post a 3-minute video asking business owners and others to write letters expressing their concerns. She plans to present those letters to the city Wednesday.

“I’ve been given a microphone and I am not giving it up,” she said in an interview. “All I know right now is we have a problem that is not being addressed.”


Mental illness, substance abuse and homelessness have been perennial issues in Maine’s largest city since the state began closing mental health institutions in the 1980s. That put people with severe mental health issues on the street, and many of those people came to Portland, which has reiterated its commitment to shelter anyone in need.

Portland’s tourism economy also has made the downtown a magnet for panhandlers, which McVetty and others say is contributing to the problems.

McVetty said she plans to raise the idea of installing kiosks for donations that would be used by social service agencies to help the poor and homeless, a strategy used in some cities to discourage panhandling and make sure donations are not used to support substance abuse.

Portland Downtown, a group of business and property owners, recently concluded a months-long study about ways to address panhandling, which the nonprofit has said is becoming more aggressive.

The group ultimately decided against using kiosks to collect donations. It sent a series of recommendations to city officials last month that included strengthening an existing ordinance that prohibits aggressive panhandling, educating people in need about resources available in the city, and educating visitors about not giving money to panhandlers. Portland Downtown also is working with two graduate students from the University of New England to collect data about the issues that downtown businesses face.

The group also supports a new program launched by Portland that offers panhandlers the alternative of cleaning up parks and public spaces for the city’s minimum wage of $10.68 an hour.

Rob Parritt, director of the city-owned Oxford Street Shelter, said he does not have a solution for some of the problems downtown, but suggested educating business owners about social services offered by the city.

“A lot of people think that they can only call 911 (for help from the police department),” but other city services might be the best option, Parritt said.


He said anyone concerned about an individual who might be on drugs, intoxicated, homeless or in need of mental health counseling can contact several programs for assistance.

The Oxford Street Shelter is available around the clock at 761-2072. Milestone Foundation’s HOME Team (Homeless Outreach and Mobile Engagement) can be contacted at 838-8904 and has a mobile van that can pick people up off the street who are in distress from substance use, mental illness or homelessness.

Parritt said The Opportunity Alliance operates a street-level, case-management outreach program and has a 24-hour mental health crisis prevention team available at 774-4357.

“It’s a community issue that we need to work together on,” Parritt said.

Mayor Strimling applauded McVetty for pushing the issue into the public spotlight.

“She has turned a scary situation into an opportunity for all of us to grow and learn,” he said. “I look forward to hearing from more business owners and what they experience as we seek to find solutions to these issues in our city and state.”

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]

]]> 0 security camera captured the July 29 disturbance at Sisters Gourmet Deli in Monument Square as a man, later identified as Jesse James Taylor, left, verbally accosted female employees for more than 10 minutes.Wed, 23 Aug 2017 00:26:44 +0000
Trump administration won’t issue order to protect coal-fired plants Tue, 22 Aug 2017 22:46:13 +0000 WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has rejected a coal industry push for a rarely used emergency order protecting coal-fired power plants, a decision contrary to what one coal executive said the president personally promised him.

The Energy Department says it considered issuing the order sought by companies seeking relief for plants it says are overburdened by environmental regulations and market stresses. But the department ultimately ruled it was unnecessary, and the White House agreed, a spokeswoman said.

The decision is a rare example of friction between the beleaguered coal industry and the president who has vowed to save it. It also highlights a pattern emerging as the administration crafts policy: The president’s bold declarations – both public and private – are not always carried through to implementation.

President Trump committed to the measure in private conversations with executives from Murray Energy Corp. and FirstEnergy Solutions Corp. after public events in July and early August, according to letters to the White House from Murray Energy and its chief executive, Robert Murray. In the letters, obtained by The Associated Press, Murray said failing to act would cause thousands of coal miners to be laid off and put the pensions of thousands more in jeopardy. One of Murray’s letters said Trump agreed and told Energy Secretary Rick Perry “I want this done” in Murray’s presence.

The White House declined to comment on Murray’s assertion. A spokesman for Murray Energy, Gary Broadbent, also declined to comment on the letters.

Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said the agency was sympathetic to the coal industry’s plight.

“We look at the facts of each issue and consider the authorities we have to address them, but with respect to this particular case at this particular time, the White House and the Department of Energy are in agreement that the evidence does not warrant the use of this emergency authority,” Hynes said in a prepared statement Sunday.

The aid that Murray sought from Trump involves invoking a little-known section of the U.S. Federal Power Act that allows the Energy Department to temporarily intervene when the nation’s electricity supply is threatened by an emergency, such as war or natural disaster. Among other measures, it temporarily exempts power plants from obeying environmental laws. In the past, the authority has been used sparingly, such as during the California energy crisis in 2000 and after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The Obama administration never used it. The Trump administration has used it twice in seven months in narrow instances.

Murray’s company is seeking a two-year moratorium on closures of coal-fired power plants, which would be an unprecedented federal intervention in the nation’s energy markets. The company said invoking the provision under the Power Act was “the only viable mechanism” to protect the reliability of the nation’s power supply.

Murray told the White House that his key customer, Ohio-based electricity company FirstEnergy Solutions, was at immediate risk of bankruptcy. Without FirstEnergy’s plants burning his coal, Murray said his own company would be forced into “immediate bankruptcy,” triggering the layoffs of more than 6,500 miners. FirstEnergy acknowledged to the AP that bankruptcy of its power-generation business was a possibility.

Murray urged Trump to use the provision in the Federal Power Act to halt further coal plant closures by declaring an emergency in the electric power grid.

After a conversation with Trump at a July 25 political rally in Youngstown, Ohio, Murray wrote, the president told Perry three times “I want this done.” Trump also directed the emergency order be given during an Aug. 3 conversation in Huntington, West Virginia, Murray said.

“As stated, disastrous consequences for President Trump, our electric power grid reliability, and tens of thousands of coal miners will result if this is not immediately done,” he wrote.

Murray’s claims raise the possibility that Trump was warned against the move by his advisers – some of whom are known to be more cautious – or that he simply made assurances to Murray to avoid immediate confrontation. The people who worked on the decision most directly were Perry, Michael Catanzaro, who works under National Economic Council director Gary Cohn as the top White House energy adviser, and Perry’s chief of staff, Brian McCormack, U.S. officials told the AP. They spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss internal policy considerations by name.

Murray and his company have been impassioned supporters of Trump, donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to his campaign and inauguration, hosting fundraisers and embracing him as the rescuer of the Appalachian coal industry. The friendliness has been mutual: When Trump repealed an Obama administration regulation barring coal companies from dumping mine waste in streams, Murray and his sons were invited for the signing.

The Energy Department has already informed Murray it will not invoke the law, an official with knowledge of the decision told the AP.

Coal has become an increasingly unattractive fuel for U.S. electricity companies, which have been retiring old boilers at a record pace. At least two dozen big coal-fired plants are scheduled to shut down in coming months as utilities transition to new steam turbines fueled by cleaner-burning natural gas made more abundant in recent years by new drilling technologies.

Trump, who rejects the consensus of scientists that burning fossil fuels is causing global warming, has made reversing the coal industry’s decline a cornerstone of his administration’s energy and environmental policies. Since taking office, he has announced that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris climate accord, and he has moved to block or delay Obama-era regulations seeking to limit carbon emissions.

Other coal executives have urged similar government intervention to save their businesses. In a speech last week, the CEO of Peabody Energy Corp., the nation’s largest coal producer, also said a two-year moratorium on coal-plant closures was needed.

Perry has already twice invoked the Federal Power Act in narrow ways at the request of utilities seeking to keep old coal-burning plants online past their planned retirement dates. In both cases, the utilities were allowed to continue operations at plants amid concerns that shutting them down could lead to regional shortages in electricity.

]]> 0, 22 Aug 2017 21:28:48 +0000
At rally in Phoenix, Trump hints of pardon for convicted Arizona sheriff Tue, 22 Aug 2017 22:41:07 +0000 PHOENIX — President Trump on Tuesday threatened to shut down the government over border wall funding, said the North American Free Trade Agreement is likely to be terminated and signaled that he is prepared to pardon former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is anathema to the Latino community.

Trump’s freewheeling comments came during a boisterous campaign rally here during which he also went on an extended diatribe about the media, blaming reporters for the negative fallout he has received over his responses to the hate-fueled violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Arpaio was convicted last month of criminal contempt for ignoring a federal judge’s order to stop detaining people because he merely suspected them of being undocumented immigrants. A major Trump supporter during last year’s campaign, he awaits sentencing.

“So was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?” Trump asked the crowd. “You know what, I’ll make a prediction: I think he’s going to be just fine, OK? But I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy. But Sheriff Joe should feel good.”

Trump last week told Fox News that he was “seriously considering” a pardon for Arpaio and said he might do it soon, sparking speculation he would use Tuesday’s campaign rally here to make the move.

President Trump arrives at Tuesday’s rally at the Phoenix Convention Center, where supporters chanted “USA! USA! USA!” Associated Press/Alex Brandon

In a speech that stretched well over an hour, Trump also expressed frustration with efforts to negotiate with Canada and Mexico to improve NAFTA, saying he is more likely to terminate the deal. He also blamed “obstructionist Democrats” for standing in the way of funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall and suggesting a government shutdown might be needed to force their hand. And Trump called for ending the filibuster rule requiring 60 votes for many issues in the U.S. Senate, a move that Republican leaders have refused to embrace.

At the outset of the rally, Trump selectively recounted the series of statements he made in the days following the melee in Charlottesville, arguing that he “spoke out forcefully against hatred and bigotry and violence” but the media – whom he called “sick people” – refused to report it properly.

“You know where my heart is,” Trump said, before pulling a copy of his first of three statements on the violence out of his suit coat and reading it his audience. He later accused the media of giving a platform to the hate groups that were central to the violence in Charlottesville that led to three deaths.

Following his comments last week, Trump was criticized by Democrats and Republicans alike for blaming “both sides” for the violence and saying that “fine people” had marched along with white supremacists to protest the removal of a Confederate statue. He did not mention either of those remarks Tuesday.

The rally, organized by Trump’s re-election campaign, came as the president continues to face criticism for his response to Charlottesville and feuds with fellow Republicans in Congress whose cooperation he will need to kick-start his sputtering legislative agenda next month.


Phoenix’s Democratic Mayor Greg Stanton had urged Trump to not come to his city this week, saying that it was too tense of a time in the wake of the deadly Charlottesville clash between white nationalists and counterprotesters and that Trump could be setting the stage for more violent strife here. He also said that a pardon of Arpaio could make the situation even more dire.

Inside a partially filled Phoenix Convention Center, Trump was given a hero’s welcome from supporters who chanted “USA! USA! USA!” and waved signs reading “Drain the Swamp,” “Make America Strong Again” and “Make America Proud Again.”

“You were there from the start, you’ve been there every day since, and believe me Arizona, I will never forget it,” Trump said at the start of his remarks, referencing a large crowd he drew at the site early in his campaign. His crowd Tuesday night numbered in the thousands but did not completely fill the hall at the convention center.

Members of the John Brown Gun Club and Redneck Revolt protest outside the Phoenix Convention Center before President Trump’s rally. Associated Press/Matt York

Before his arrival, Trump went to Yuma, Arizona, where he received a closed briefing on border protection – something he touts as being among his administration’s successes – and greeted Marines and their families, signing a couple of autographs on camouflage hats.

Trump was greeted at the airport by Arizona’s Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who was not expected to attend the rally – nor were the state’s two Republican senators, with whom Trump has been openly sparring.

There was a heavy police presence in downtown Phoenix, with law enforcement seeking to maintain civility between Trump supporters and detractors. Authorities used tear gas to disperse protesters after the rally ended.

About an hour before Trump was scheduled to arrive, hundreds of protesters gathered across the street, shouting, “This is what democracy looks like!” Metal barricades divided them from the red-capped people streaming into the rally, some grinning and waving.

A police officer wearing a helmet and bulletproof vest could not say how many people had come to demonstrate against the president’s visit. “A lot,” he offered.

Uzma Jafri, a 40-year-old doctor from Phoenix, walked through the crowds of Trump supporters and protesters with a backpack of medical supplies. She said she came here to quickly treat anyone if violence broke out.

“My ethical background, and my moral background, is to assist anyone who needs it – regardless of if they hate me,” said Jafri, who poured a bottle of water over her black hijab in the 107-degree heat.

Brian Ratchford came to the event armed with a .357-caliber gun to defend Trump supporters if things got out of hand

“He’s an American for Americans,” said Ratchford, 47, of Tucson. What Trump said after Charlottesville “was perfect – people on both sides were causing the problems,” said Ratchford, who had been outside the convention center since 10 a.m.


Tuesday night’s event was part of a familiar pattern for Trump.

When he finds himself under attack or slipping in popularity, he often holds a rally in a place like this: a diverse blue city that’s home to liberal protesters but surrounded by red suburbs and rural towns filled with Trump supporters who will turn out in droves.

It happened in the first weeks of his presidential campaign, when he was dismissed as a sideshow and criticized for his comments on undocumented immigrants – only to be greeted by thousands of fans, along with protesters, at a rally at the convention center.

Then in March 2016, when Trump grew frustrated that he still had not become the presumptive Republican nominee, he planned a massive rally in inner-city Chicago that attracted thousands of supporters but was canceled at the last minute because of the high number of protesters. This March, when his presidency seemed constantly under attack, Trump held a rally in Nashville that attracted at least 2,500 protesters.

Unlike rallies in states that are solidly Republican, these events allow Trump to highlight the deep division in the country – and force voters to pick a side.

In Phoenix, campaign organizers expected more than 10,000 supporters to show up at the convention center on Tuesday night, and numerous counterprotests were planned for outside the rally. Local activists said they hoped to outnumber the rallygoers, sending a clear message to the president after the Charlottesville rally this month that attracted neo- Nazis and white supremacists.

“By coming here in a time of national crisis and a national question of where people stand, he is doubling down on his bigotry, continuing to race-bait and speak to his base,” said Carlos García, executive director of Puente Arizona, which advocates for migrants.

Phoenix is home to some of the most organized progressive activists in the country, and they have provided a much-studied example of how to fight at a grass-roots level to challenge lawmakers and change policies that target undocumented immigrants. The Phoenix area gave liberals one of their few victories last November: The ouster of Arpaio, the longtime Maricopa County sheriff, who was accused of encouraging his deputies to employ racial profiling and enforce federal immigration laws in the Phoenix suburbs.

In July, Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt in Arizona for ignoring a judge’s order to stop detaining people because he merely suspected them of being undocumented immigrants. His sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 5, and he faces up to six months in prison.

Last week, Trump told Fox News the former sheriff is a “great American patriot” who has “done a lot in the fight against illegal immigration.” Arpaio told CNN that he had not been invited to attend the Tuesday night rally.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters traveling with the president Tuesday that Trump was not planning to announce a pardon for Arpaio at the rally.

“There will be no discussion of that today at any point, and no action will be taken on that front at any point today,” she said.

A pardon – whenever it might come – would be likely to ignite the anger of hundreds of activists who spent more than a decade peacefully pushing for change through traditional channels, as well as the voters who chose not to reelect him.

“A pardon for Joe Arpaio is a pardon for white supremacy,” Jess O’Connell, chief executive of the Democratic National Committee, said at a news conference here Monday.


Early Tuesday morning, local authorities closed streets near the convention center and installed barricades along the sidewalks aimed at keeping protesters separated from rallygoers. Many businesses and government buildings downtown closed early. Meanwhile, it’s August in the desert, and the temperature here reached 107 degrees Tuesday afternoon.

In the hours before the rally, as Trump supporters lined up outside the convention site, a police officer on his motorcycle drove by, repeatedly offering this instruction: “Folks, please drink water. If you wait until you’re thirsty, it’s too late.”

Protest organizers said one challenge would be managing the hundreds of people not affiliated with their groups who showed up wanting to make a statement. Organizers and local lawmakers were urging a peaceful demonstration.

While Democrats and immigration rights activists have been holding news conferences and speaking out against the president this week, Republicans have been quiet. No one answered the phone at the Arizona GOP offices on Monday or Tuesday.

Arizona’s two Republican senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, have at times been critical of the president. Trump has tweeted praise of Kelli Ward, a former state lawmaker with far-right views and a long-shot Senate candidate who is challenging Flake.

In the hours leading up to the rally, a few dozen Ward supporters were out on the streets wearing yellow T-shirts reading “TRUMP 2016/WARD 2018” on the front and “MAKE ARIZONA GREAT AGAIN” on the back.

This was Trump’s ninth rally in the state – and his fourth at the Phoenix Convention Center.

His first event at the convention center was on July 11, 2015, a few weeks after he announced he was running for president and gave a rambling speech that cast undocumented immigrants as criminals and “rapists.”

Although those remarks prompted criticism and led several corporations to cut their business ties with him, the support for his campaign was evident in Phoenix, where he had to upgrade to a larger venue and then still had to turn away many supporters – a turnout that shocked many Arizonans.

]]> 0 Donald Trump reacts to the song as he arrives at a rally at the Phoenix Convention Center, Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)Wed, 23 Aug 2017 06:50:36 +0000
Human errors likely to blame for Navy’s recent deadly accidents, experts say Tue, 22 Aug 2017 22:24:48 +0000 A spate of accidents involving the Navy’s Pacific Fleet, including two deadly collisions in just over two months, are likely the result of human error, not mechanical malfunction, analysts and former Navy officers say.

The intense tempo of operations and long deployments at sea could mean crews are not getting enough training before being deployed, several experts say. That may help explain four incidents in the past year involving ships from the 7th Fleet crashing or running aground, including the two collisions this summer that resulted in at least 17 deaths.

“Even one Navy collision is unusual. Having four mishaps relatively closely spaced in time and in the same general operating region suggests a pattern,” said Loren Thompson, CEO at the Lexington Institute, a nonprofit focused on security issues. “The collisions are so different that they don’t suggest a mechanical or design issue, they suggest a human-error problem.”

At least 10 U.S. sailors have been missing since the USS John S. McCain collided Monday with an oil tanker in the Strait of Malacca, near Singapore, one of the busiest shipping corridors in the world. And the USS Fitzgerald was struck off the coast of Japan on June 17 by a much heavier container ship, the Philippine-flagged MV ACX Crystal, killing seven U.S. seamen. Both destroyers were built by Bath Iron Works in Maine in the early 1990s.

“This is more of a systemic problem with how the Navy is able to train and maintain ships during deployments,” said Bryan Clark, a former Navy officer and a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a think tank in Washington, D.C.

The Navy has shrunk the size of its overall fleet by 20 percent since 2000, putting a strain on remaining ships and crews, he said.


In February, the USS Antietam, a guided-missile cruiser, ran aground near the U.S. base in Yokosuka, Japan, and in May, the USS Lake Champlain, another Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser, crashed into a South Korean fishing boat.

The Pacific Fleet is at the front line of Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea and aggression from North Korea. The strain on the Japan-based force may reflect challenges confronting other naval fleets, such as U.S. ships in the Mediterranean, Clark said.

“The concern the Navy has is that the Japan force, because it is the most highly stressed, is the canary in the coal mine,” he said.

On Tuesday, CNN reported that a steering malfunction may have occurred before the McCain crashed. A spokesman for the 7th Fleet would not confirm that report Tuesday afternoon. The McCain passed a readiness inspection in May, the Navy said.

“We aren’t going to discuss possible causes, events or circumstances leading up to the collision,” Lt. Paul Newell said in an email. “The investigation will determine what happened. We’re focused now on finding our missing sailors, and on supporting their families and the crew.”

As of Tuesday evening, two of the McCain’s missing seamen had been identified – Logan Palmer of Illinois and Ken Smith of Michigan, The Associated Press reported.


Two commanding officers on the Fitzgerald were removed from their posts last week after an investigation concluded “flawed” teamwork and “inadequate leadership” contributed to the collision.

Clark said the reduced number of ships and the heightened stress on the remaining vessels and crew are especially apparent in units like the 7th Fleet. Its fast-paced operations don’t leave enough time for deliberate maintenance and training programs in port before ships head out again.

“There is a systemic trend between less time to train and a much higher up-tempo when they are underway,” he said.

Training and maintenance issues with Navy ships stationed overseas were highlighted in a 2015 report from the Government Accountability Office. The Navy has improved on maintenance since the report, but training is still lacking, said Jerry Hendrix, a former Navy officer and senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, D.C.

“We get some indication that there is a drop-off in bridge team efficiency. … What we have done is shortened training, put it in simulators. These bridge crews are not allowed to fully come together as teams,” Hendrix said.


On Monday, Adm. John Richardson announced that all 277 Navy ships worldwide would take an “operational pause” to review basic seamanship, teamwork and other fundamentals to ensure safety. A broader review by the Navy and its inspector general will assess the 7th Fleet’s performance, including personnel, maintenance, navigation capabilities, training and other measures.

The McCain and Fitzgerald are Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, multi-use ships that are the backbone of the Navy’s longest-running surface vessel program. Both ships were built at Bath Iron Works in the 1990s. The shipyard has produced 35 Arleigh Burke-class ships, more than half the number in active service. The most recent destroyer was launched last year.

On Tuesday, BIW spokesman David Hench referred all questions about the collision and investigation to the Navy.

BIW, a subsidiary of General Dynamics, has a small group of employees in Yokosuka, the 7th Fleet headquarters, to assist with periodic ship maintenance and upgrades, Hench said. He did not know if any BIW employees would be deployed for repairs on the McCain.

Peter McGuire can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: PeteL_McGuire

]]> 0 damaged port aft hull of USS John S. McCain, left, is seen while docked next to USS America at Singapore's Changi naval base on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017 in Singapore. The focus of the search for 10 U.S. sailors missing after a collision between the USS John S. McCain and an oil tanker in Southeast Asian waters shifted Tuesday to the damaged destroyer's flooded compartments. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)Wed, 23 Aug 2017 08:28:19 +0000
Orono group continues search for missing priest with ties to Waterville Tue, 22 Aug 2017 21:29:24 +0000 Despite an official search being suspended weeks ago, volunteers continue to search for a missing priest with ties to Waterville, and the family continues to hope he’ll return home safely.

Clement Thibodeau, 85, a retired priest who served as the pastor at Notre Dame Parish from June 30, 1981, to June 30, 1987, has been missing since he disappeared into a rural area in Maine more than a month ago.

Thibodeau, who is fondly remembered by Notre Dame parishioners, was believed to have been exhibiting dementia-like symptoms at the time of his disappearance, according to Caribou police. His family members said he was beginning to show signs of confusion.

Thibodeau disappeared July 15 from Reno’s Family Restaurant at 117 Sweden St. in Caribou. He was driving a gray 2013 Chevrolet Equinox with Maine license plate 638A.

Game wardens formally suspended their search for Thibodeau in July after he was traced to a heavily-wooded area where Washington, Penobscot and Hancock counties converge, perhaps around Lee, more than 100 miles from his home in Caribou. The last sign of him came from a cell phone signal on July 18.

The Down East Emergency Medicine Institute, an Orono-based nonprofit founded in 1991, continues to search for Thibodeau. DEEMI Operations Director Richard Bowie said his group of volunteers began searching after the wardens suspended their efforts.

The volunteers have conducted searches by vehicle and plane and have also used drones to search for Thibodeau, Bowie said. However, given the dense canopy of the trees, he said they haven’t found many leads. Once the foliage drops off in the fall or winter, he said teams may be able to find smaller logging roads Thibodeau may have gone down.

Thibodeau may have been last seen on the Depot Road in Lakeville, Bowie said, where a person biking reported seeing a car similar to the one Thibodeau was driving on July 17 or 18 before he was officially reported missing.

Bowie said it’s likely someone has seen Thibodeau’s car by this point and not known its driver was missing. But the fact the car is dark makes it hard to spot in the woods, he said, and anyone in the woods should wear bright-colored clothing so they can be more easily found if they become lost.

Volunteers continue to search a large area, he said, as it’s possible Thibodeau could have driven onto snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle trails.

Lynn Jones, Thibodeau’s niece, said she was the one who filed the missing person report after Thibodeau went missing. She praised DEEMI for continuing the search. While the wardens searched, Jones said authorities didn’t provide much information, which frustrated the family.

Thibodeau is a “great man” who is well liked by the communities he’s been a part of, Jones said. She’s heard stories about his generosity to families in Waterville, and people still remember him fondly. The family was shocked when he went missing. She said it was completely out of character as her uncle would always call her if he was going away. She said they are praying for his safe return and don’t know why he would have gone to that part of Maine.

“He’s just a great man,” Jones said.

According to information provided by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Thibodeau had a long history in the state of Maine. A native of Caribou, the retired priest graduated from St. Francis College in Biddeford and completed his clerical studies at the Grand Seminary in Montreal. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1958 in Portland, and his first assignment was as assistant pastor at Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Parish. He was named assistant pastor at Notre Dame Parish in Springvale, where he remained until he was assigned as chaplain at Notre Dame Institute in Alfred and instructor at St. Ignatius High School in Sanford in 1966. He taught at St. Ignatius for 17 years.

In 1969, he was named spiritual director for St. Louis High School in Biddeford and remained chaplain to multiple local schools. In 1970, he was assigned to Rome for special studies. He returned in 1971 and served as assistant pastor at St. Mary Parish in Lewiston, Newman chaplain at both Bates College in Lewiston and Nasson College in Springvale, coordinator of the Diocesan Pastoral Council, and temporary administrator for St. Agatha Parish in St. Agatha.

In 1975, he was named pastor of St. Mary Parish in Eagle Lake. In 1976 he was appointed coordinator of the Continuing Education of Clergy program. In 1981, Thibodeau was named pastor of Notre Dame Parish in Waterville, where he would serve until 1987 when he was assigned as pastor of St. Mary Parish in Bangor where he served from July 1, 1987, to June 30, 1994. During his time in Bangor, he oversaw the completion of the parish center. In 1994, he was named pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Gardiner. He retired from active ministry in 2001 and lived in Caribou.

Thibodeau served on the College of Consultors to the bishop, the Council of Priests and as a vicar forane, or a dean. He was active as a chaplain for the Knights of Columbus.

A silver alert, typically used for missing seniors with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or some other form of mental disability, was put out for Thibodeau on July 21. Caribou police have said family members said Thibodeau was exhibiting signs of confusion.

The Portland Diocese issued a statement on Aug. 8 from Bishop Robert Deeley on Thibodeau, thanking public safety officials and regular citizens for helping look for the missing priest.

“The Maine Warden Service and Caribou Police Department have assured us that their investigations will remain open until he is found,” Deeley said in the statement. “This is a difficult time for Fr. Thibodeau’s family, friends, and the people who have been blessed to encounter him. The outpouring of prayers and concern since his disappearance illustrates how Fr. Thibodeau’s priestly service has planted and nurtured seeds of faith in those who have benefited from his spiritual leadership and compassion. The diocese continues to pray for Fr. Thibodeau and those who are working tirelessly to find him.”

Anyone with information about Thibodeau’s whereabouts is asked to contact the Caribou police at 493-3301.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

]]> 0 Thibodeau, a retired Roman Catholic priest, has been missing since July 15 and was last seen at Reno's Family Restaurant in Caribou. The Down East Emergency Medicine Institute, an Orono-based nonprofit founded in 1991, continues to search for Thibodeau.Tue, 22 Aug 2017 18:27:02 +0000
Wife of Treasury chief Mnuchin apologizes for mocking social media commenter Tue, 22 Aug 2017 21:20:36 +0000 WASHINGTON – It was a glam shot that got ugly.

The wife of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin dove headlong into a social media skirmish this week, blasting a critic of her Instagram post highlighting her high fashion choices. Calling the commenter “adorably out of touch,” Louise Linton suggested she and Mnuchin contribute more to the U.S. economy and pay more in taxes than her critic.

After a day of mounting criticism, the Scottish actress issued an apology Tuesday. But she had already assumed a starring role in the continuing story of the Trump administration’s enormous wealth.

“I think spouses of political appointees are usually not fair game for critics, but with Trump, tensions are heightened,” said Republican political consultant Alex Conant.

The drama began Monday when Linton posted a photo of herself getting off a government plane in Kentucky with Mnuchin. In her post, Linton mentioned several designer labels for her white ensemble, including Tom Ford and Valentino.

Commenter Jenni Miller responded from Oregon: “Glad we could pay for your little getaway. #deplorable.”

Linton shot back, defending herself and Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs executive and hedge fund investor.

“Pretty sure the amount we sacrifice per year is a lot more than you’d be willing to sacrifice if the choice was yours,” Linton wrote. She went on to call Miller’s response “passive aggressive” and “nasty” before ending her retort with a suggestion that Miller “go chill out and watch the new game of thrones.”

Miller told CNN she found Linton’s original post “incredibly offensive,” saying Linton went to a state with high poverty and “chose to brag about her outlandishly expensive clothes. It’s more than tone-deaf, it’s deplorable.”

In her apology, Linton said: “I apologize for my post on social media yesterday as well as my response. It was inappropriate and highly insensitive.”

Norm Eisen, President Barack Obama’s chief ethics attorney, called Linton a “Marie Antoinette for our age.” In an email, he added that in the Bush or Obama administrations, a spouse of an official who replied that way and the official “would have been counseled.”

The White House referred questions about Linton to the Treasury Department, which said Mnuchin and Linton are reimbursing the government for Linton’s travel and that Linton received no compensation from the fashion labels mentioned in her post.

Anita McBride, who was chief of staff for former first lady Laura Bush, said people in high-level government jobs and their spouses must be careful about their public statements.

“Fairly or unfairly, you are held to a higher standard on how to respond and what kind of dialogue you should engage in,” she said. “Don’t take the bait.”

In a Cabinet with plenty of wealth, Mnuchin is among the richest members. He worked for Goldman Sachs for nearly two decades and later founding a successful hedge fund. He also ran a company that invested in Hollywood movies including such blockbuster hits as Avatar. He married Linton, who has had small roles in television shows and movies, in a lavish Washington wedding in June. Trump attended the wedding and Vice President Mike Pence officiated.

Before the wedding, Linton gave an interview to “Town and Country” magazine to talk about her jewelry, a lavish collection of diamonds and pearls.

Like the businessman president, Trump’s team is packed with high rollers, including Education Secretary Betsy Devos, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, as well as daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, both senior advisers.

This isn’t the first time their wealth has drawn attention. The president has chosen his lavish Florida vacation home as a place to host foreign dignitaries. During the transition, Ivanka Trump displayed a high-end bracelet on “60 Minutes.” The Washington hangout of choice for staffers and hangers-on is the opulent Trump International Hotel.

Still, Trump has always promoted his image as a wealthy mogul, unlike politicians who have tried to downplay their riches. Said Conant: “It has always been part of Trump’s brand and it’s extended to his cabinet.”

Mnuchin was visiting Kentucky on Monday for an appearance with Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a tour of Fort Knox. Treasury secretaries typically travel on commercial flights for domestic trips. The department did not answer questions about why the couple was using a government plane.

It’s not the first time Linton has raised eyebrows. Last year she apologized after being criticized for a self-published memoir of a year she spent in Africa as a teen, and withdrew the book. Critics deemed the book inaccurate in its depiction of life on the continent. An excerpt was published online by The Telegraph, but taken down by the British newspaper “in light of the concerns raised by readers.”

]]> 0 Treasury Secretary-designate Stephen Mnuchin and his then-fiancee, Louise Linton, are shown in Washington in January. Linton offered a condescending response to a social media critic Monday, telling a mother of three that that she was "adorably out of touch." Mnuchin and Linton were married in June.Tue, 22 Aug 2017 19:31:43 +0000
2 plead guilty to felony murder, robbery in 2015 killing of Augusta man Tue, 22 Aug 2017 20:40:47 +0000 WISCASSET — An Augusta man beaten to death in November 2015 was bound hand and foot as he was attacked by people intent on robbing him of his drug stash.

Details about the killing of 31-year-old Joseph Marceau came out at separate hearings Tuesday afternoon where two men indicted on murder charges in Augusta pleaded guilty to felony murder and robbery.

The guilty pleas were entered Tuesday in Lincoln County Superior Court by Damik Davis, 27, of New York, and Michael Sean McQuade of Augusta, who turns 47 on Wednesday. Both men signed plea agreements to cooperate with the prosecution of any remaining defendants, and the judge ordered the agreements sealed until the resolution of the murder charges against a third defendant, Aubrey N. Armstrong, 28, also of New York. A copy of the agreement was to be provided to Armstrong’s attorney.

Davis was the first defendant to plead guilty to felony murder and robbery, both Class A offenses, which carry penalties of up to a maximum of 30 years in prison.

He was in shackles in a green jail uniform and was brought into the courtroom by three Kennebec County transport deputies, two of whom remained seated at a table directly behind the defense table. Davis was represented by attorneys Caleb Gannon and Stephen Smith.

McQuade, who was wearing a green uniform with initials on the back that indicated he was being held at Two Bridges Regional Jail, was represented by attorney Andrew Wright. Wright told the judge that McQuade was pleading guilty under the theory of accomplice liability. Wright said McQuade was present at the time, but did not strike Marceau himself.

Brad Grant, the attorney representing Armstrong, watched the proceedings. Armstrong, known as “Butter” or “Butta,” was recently extradited to Maine to face the murder charges. He has been serving a sentence in New York. Grant said Tuesday he is preparing for trial.

The hearing to accept guilty pleas from Davis and McQuade was set during a conference of all the attorneys and Justice Daniel Billings.

On Tuesday, five members of Marceau’s family were in the Lincoln County courtroom to hear the guilty pleas. They were accompanied by the victim/witness advocate from the Maine Office of the Attorney General. Marceau’s mother declined to speak to a reporter afterward.

Assistant Attorneys General John Alsop and John Nathans prosecuted the case.

Alsop outlined the state’s version of the case against Davis, saying two Augusta police officers responded to a fourth floor Washington Street apartment Nov. 23, 2015, after downstairs neighbors reported a violent disturbance taking place above them.

The officers heard the ruckus as they climbed the stairs, Alsop said.

Alsop said Davis, who is also known as “Doughboy,” answered the door “sweating profusely, breathing hard and had blood on his left hand.” Alsop also said officers saw blood on a wall as well as a second individual, described as a “slender black male wearing a hoodie” behind Davis.

The officers asked for Zina Marie Fritze, 27, and McQuade, also known as “Dirty.” Both had been recently evicted from that apartment, but as the officers waited out front, the occupants fled out the back stairs, Alsop said. Police used a tracking dog and found Davis hiding in the bushes near the apartment building.

Marceau’s body was found in a bedroom near where Armstrong had been seen, Alsop said, adding that Marceau’s feet were bound with a shoelace, and his hands were bound with the bra to a bikini.

Alsop said the medical examiner concluded Marceau died of blunt force trauma to the head and neck and suffered a brain hemorrhage. Marceau also had been beaten on the torso with a rod or stick.

“Joe Marceau resisted,” Alsop said. “He was a pretty big guy, 6-foot-2, 215 pounds by the autopsy results. He resisted. There was a considerable struggle.”

Alsop also said McQuade “did not expect such a severe beating to be inflicted in connection with the robbery.”

McQuade told police he saw Davis and Armstrong attack Marceau, with Davis at one point attempting to stop Armstrong, Alsop said.

Alsop said Davis, McQuade, Armstrong and Fritze, had planned the robbery earlier while at the home of another woman, and three of them returned there afterward.

Alsop said once there, Armstrong bleached his clothes in an attempt to get rid of all the blood.

The next day, when they learned Marceau was dead, Armstrong fled to New York, and Fritze and McQuade hid out in Augusta where they were arrested on Jan. 22, 2016.

Nathans outlined the prosecution’s versions of events at McQuade’s hearing, saying that at one point Armstrong told the other woman “that he had beaten Marceau and threatened all (the others) to keep quiet about it.”

Billings continued both cases for sentencing, saying those hearings would be scheduled after the resolution of the charges against Armstrong. In the meantime, Billings ordered that Davis and McQuade continue to be held without bail.

All three men were indicted on charges of intentional or knowing or depraved indifference murder, felony murder and robbery.

Fritze was also indicted on the same charges; however, the day after she pleaded not guilty to the indictment, she hanged herself at the Kennebec County jail. Alsop said Tuesday that both McQuade and Fritze were “serious heroin addicts” who had known Marceau because they had purchased drugs from him in the past.

At the Davis and McQuade hearings on Tuesday, there was no mention of the third charge in the indictment, the one charging them with intentional or knowing or depraved indifference murder. The usual practice is for the state to dismiss other charges in exchange for pleas to the remaining counts. Nathans said he could discuss not discuss the plea agreement.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

]]> 0 Sean McQuade, left, confers Tuesday with his attorney, Andrew Wright, while entering a plea of guilty to a felony murder charge at Lincoln County Superior Court in Wiscasset.Tue, 22 Aug 2017 21:34:44 +0000
After digging for 14 hours, Italian rescuers pull 3 children from earthquake rubble Tue, 22 Aug 2017 20:37:57 +0000 MILAN – Italian firefighters working through the night, sometimes digging by hand, freed a 7-month-old baby Tuesday and then his two older brothers from the rubble of their home that collapsed when a 4.0-magnitude quake struck the resort island of Ischia during the height of tourist season.

At least two people were killed in the quake that struck just before 9 p.m. (3 p.m. EDT) Monday, while another 39 were injured and some 2,600 were left homeless. The victims were an elderly woman who struck by masonry that fell from a church, and a second woman who was inside a building that collapsed.

Eleven-year-old Ciro is carried on a stretcher after being rescued from the rubble of a collapsed building in Casamicciola, Italy, a day after a 4.0-magnitude quake hit the Italian resort island, on Tuesday. ANSA via Associated Press

In the hard-hit town of Casamicciola, dozens of firefighters worked for 14 hours to dig the Toscano brothers out of their home, where they were trapped alone after their father was rescued and their pregnant mother managed to free herself.

Cheers went up with each rescue, which firefighters confirmed with exclamation mark-punctuated tweets. The first was baby Pasquale, who was shown on a video wearing a white onesie and appearing alert as he was passed to safety, around 4 a.m.

It took another seven hours to free the middle brother, 8-year-old Matthias, who was pictured in his underwear and covered with cement dust before being quickly loaded onto a stretcher and into an ambulance, and two more hours to free the eldest boy, 11-year-old Ciro, who was credited with helping save Matthias.

The children’s parents were waiting for Ciro at the hospital’s emergency room, his mother sitting in a wheelchair next to his father, Alessandro, whose hands were bandaged from a fracture.

“It was a terrible night. I don’t have words to explain it,” the father told RAI state television while rescuers were working to free the older two boys. “The entire second floor of the house collapsed, and the firefighters pulled me out. They were great.”

He said his wife was in the bathroom and managed to escape through the window, but the older boys were in the bedroom in the family home while the baby was in a playpen in the kitchen.

Hospital officials said all three were doing well, with the older two boys being treated for dehydration and the oldest for a fracture to his right foot. They were expected to be discharged from the hospital Wednesday.

It wasn’t immediately clear where the family would be staying.

“For three children saved from the rubble, we have witnessed a true miracle. They are miraculously healthy,” said Virginia Scarfato, director of the Rizzoli hospital in Ischia.

The head of the financial police on the island said it was Ciro who helped save Mattias, pushing him under the bed.

“The gesture surely saved them both,” said Andrea Gentile. “Then with the handle of a broom he knocked against the rubble, making them heard by rescuers.”

Firefighter spokesman Luca Cari said they maintained voice contact with the two boys to keep them calm during the complex rescue operation to create an opening through the collapsed ceiling. The boys had been given bottles of water and a flashlight.

The quake hit during the height of the tourist season, with the island’s population of 64,000 ballooning by another 150,000 at the time the quake struck. Italian television showed many visitors taking refuge in parks and sleeping under blankets in the aftermath while authorities began organizing ferries to bring tourists back to the mainland early Tuesday.

Tourism officials said that the damage was localized in two towns, and said much of the island was business as usual Tuesday. According to Ermanno Mennella of the Federablberghi hoteliers association in Ischia, just 10 of the island’s 310 hotels had been impacted by the quake and only three or four were closed by it.

Together with the nearby island of Capri, Ischia is a favorite island getaway for the European jet set, famed in particular for its thermal waters. Casamicciola was the epicenter of an 1883 earthquake that killed more than 2,000 people.

Images from the quake zone show many buildings collapsed into rubble, while others showed signs of structural damage with deep cracks in exterior walls. Cars were overturned.

The extent of the damage for a relatively light quake raised questions about the quality of construction on the island in the seismically active area off Naples and the active volcano Vesuvius, and the prevalence of illegally built structures.

Fabrizio Pistolesi, the head of Italy’s national architecture advisory board, told SKY that many buildings on the island were built before seismic codes were adopted. He also cited the high incidence of illegal construction on Ischia and generally in the Campagna region that includes both the resort island and Naples.

“We know well that in Campagna, more than 200,000 homes were illegally constructed, we are talking about homes constructed in absolute scorn of seismic norms,” he told Sky TG24.

Former Naples prosecutor Aldo De Chiara told Corriere della Sera that most of the recently constructed buildings on Ischia were built without necessary permits, and many with poor quality cement. “We warned about the risk of collapses also in the case of not particularly serious temblors,” De Chiara said. “Unfortunately, what we had denounced, happened last night.”

The head of Italy’s Civil Protection Agency, Angelo Borrelli, told reporters that 2,000 people had been left homeless in Casamicciola and another 600 in the towns of Lacco Ameno and Ischia. He said authorities were checking the stability of hotels to see if they could be used as temporary housing.

The quake came just two days shy of the one-year anniversary of a powerful 6.2-magnitude earthquake that devastated several towns in central Italy. The quake on Aug. 24, 2016 killed more than 250 people in Amatrice and beyond and set off a months-long series of powerful aftershocks that emptied many towns and hamlets of their people.

]]> 0 pull out 7-month boy Pasquale from the rubble of a collapsed building in Casamicciola, on the island of Ischia, near Naples, Italy, on Tuesday.Tue, 22 Aug 2017 16:58:36 +0000
LePage claims that 7,600 Mainers fought for the South in Civil War Tue, 22 Aug 2017 20:25:44 +0000 LEWISTON – Republican Gov. Paul LePage says 7,600 residents of Maine fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War, a claim that is drawing consternation among historians.

The self-described “history buff” made the claim Tuesday on WVOM-FM during a discussion about Civil War monuments. He says Maine residents who fought for the South instead of the North were farmers “concerned about their land, their property.”

Jamie Rice with the Maine Historical Society says, “There’s no way to say he’s right or wrong, but it’s not a number I’d go with.” She says about 72,000 Maine residents fought with the Union Army. An estimated 9,400 Mainers died in the Civil War, according to the Maine Historical Society’s online resource, the Maine Memory Network.

LePage also criticized the media and repeated his claim that newspaper reporters are “pencil terrorists.”

He says, “If I walked across the Kennebec River, the headline would read ‘Governor can’t swim.’ ”

LePage has backed President Trump’s blaming of “both sides” after a car plowed into a group of counterprotesters at a white nationalist rally in Virginia on Aug. 12.

]]> 0, 23 Aug 2017 11:07:42 +0000
Commuter train crashes in Pennsylvania Tue, 22 Aug 2017 19:46:01 +0000 UPPER DARBY, Pa. – A commuter train crashed into a parked train at a suburban Philadelphia terminal early Tuesday morning, injuring dozens of passengers and the train’s operator, a transit spokeswoman said.

None of the 42 people hurt in the crash suffered life-threatening injuries, said Heather Redfern, a spokeswoman for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. “Some were considered walking wounded,” she said.

An inbound Norristown High Speed train crashed into an unoccupied train at the 69th Street Terminal in Upper Darby around 12:15 a.m. Tuesday. Redfern said hours later that the train operator had been treated at a hospital and released.

National Transportation Safety Board officials were at the scene and planned a briefing later in the day.

A passenger, Raymond Woodard, told WPVI-TV, that he was riding home from work when the train crashed.

“I heard the train going real fast … like, super-fast,” Woodard said. “And I looked up, and I saw that we’re at 69th Street and said, ‘Why are we going so fast?’ And then we just hit the train. Boom! I fell out of my chair, glass from the window shattered, I hit my head. Everybody was on the floor.”

Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority officials are investigating the cause.

Redfern said Norristown trains resumed normal operation but no express trains were running. She said commuters could expect some delays.

In an earlier news briefing, Upper Darby Mayor Nicholas Micozzie said the injured were taken to local hospitals.

One passenger told reporters that the operator of the train was “all banged up” and the scene was bloody.

In February, four people were injured in a crash near the 69th Street Terminal involving three out-of-service commuter trains. At the time, SEPTA said one train rear-ended another on a loop where trains turn around to get back into service. Cars from that accident derailed and hit a third train on nearby tracks.

]]> 0 victim is wheeled away from the scene of a train crash in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday, when a commuter train crashed into a parked train at the suburban Philadelphia terminal.Tue, 22 Aug 2017 15:46:01 +0000
Third person charged in New Hampshire overdose death gets 5 years in prison Tue, 22 Aug 2017 19:39:54 +0000 CONCORD, N.H. – The third of three people charged in connection with the fentanyl overdose death of a 17-year-old New Hampshire girl in 2015 has been sentenced to five years in prison.

In a plea agreement, 33-year-old Leslie Aberle, of Salisbury, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute heroin and fentanyl in the case of Evangelique “Eve” Tarmey. A judge on Tuesday accepted a five-year prison sentence recommended for Aberle.

The plea agreement superseded one last year in which Aberle agreed to plead guilty to distributing a controlled substance to a person under the age of 21 with death resulting. That would have called for at least 20 years.

Tarmey’s mother and her mother’s boyfriend are serving prison terms.

]]> 0 Tue, 22 Aug 2017 17:48:29 +0000
Ethics panel to consider $16,500 fine for Maine Sen. Andre Cushing Tue, 22 Aug 2017 19:02:29 +0000 AUGUSTA — A leading state Senate Republican is facing up to $16,500 in fines for violating state campaign finance rules – much less than the $105,000 penalty that could have been assessed under Maine Ethics Commission rules.

Sen. Andre Cushing, R-Newport, the Senate’s assistant majority leader, was the subject of a commission investigation, following a complaint by his sister. Cushing’s sister also filed a lawsuit against her brother over the alleged transfer of more than $1 million from a family business to his personal and campaign accounts.

Cushing said he accepted the staff’s findings and didn’t intend to oppose the fines.

“I’m familiar with the premise that a number of the reports in their opinion, and I respect that, I concur, were not substantially completed or completed with information that described the purpose (of the expenditures) as fully as it should have,” Cushing said. “I am not going to contest them in the context of what the staff is recommending with reduced amounts.”

The commission’s staff issued its findings Tuesday in advance of a hearing on the matter but is recommending that Cushing be fined between $1,000 to $1,500 for each report that was misfiled.

The recommendation acknowledges that Cushing could have faced as much as a $105,000 fine, but because of other mitigating circumstances, a lower penalty is being recommended.

The fine is hefty by commission standards, but it is far from the largest levied against a campaign, politician or political action committee. The highest fine ever assessed by the commission was $50,250 against the National Organization for Marriage for not registering and filing campaign finance reports as a ballot question committee in the 2009 elections, according to the commission’s executive director, Jonathan Wayne. The National Organization for Marriage campaigned against a ballot measure, approved by voters, that legalized same-sex marriage in Maine.

The five-member ethics commission is set to hear from Cushing and his attorney, Josh Tardy, at an Aug. 30 meeting before it votes on the fine recommendation. Wayne said the commission could reduce or waive the fine entirely.

“Although they omitted required information, almost all of the campaign finance reports filed by Cushing for Senate in 2014 and 2016 substantially conformed to the disclosure requirements for candidates, in the opinion of the Commission staff,” the staff recommendation notes. “We believe only one Senate campaign report (filed in December 2016) was substantially non-conforming.”

In a memo included with the staff recommendation, Wayne says the Cushing campaign filings should be regarded as late because they “substantially under-reported contributions.”

“Because the transactions were not reported for months, the preliminary penalties reached the maximum,” Wayne wrote. “The preliminary penalties against the PAC total $100,000, and the preliminary penalty against Cushing for Senate is $5,000. Maine law contains very few restrictions on how PACs and traditionally financed candidates may spend their funds. While there may be some public interest in debating whether Sen. Cushing’s uses of PAC or campaign funds were appropriate, such questions of policy and official conduct are outside the scope of the staff’s investigation, which was focused on whether contributions and expenditures were disclosed to the public as required by law.”

Cushing’s sister, Laura Cushing McIntyre of Hermon, filed an ethics commission complaint in October 2016 that prompted the panel to investigate the allegations. McIntyre has also filed a lawsuit against Cushing, his wife and his adult children in Penobscot County Superior Court over the alleged transfer of more than $1 million from a family business to his personal and campaign accounts.

Walter McKee, an attorney for McIntyre, said in an email Tuesday that the lawsuit is still pending and was a separate matter from the ethics commission complaint.

Cushing was reluctant to discuss the lawsuit, saying it involved family members and he wanted to allow the ethics commission to vote on the proposed fine before saying anything that could influence their actions. He said the campaign finance issue was complicated because of his use of PAC money to fund travel he does on behalf of the Senate Republican caucus.

“My PAC is not just campaign-related and I do a number of things for the caucus in my role (as assistant majority leader) on a couple of national boards with traveling so my expenses are more robust or profound than what you would normally see in a campaign finance report,” he said. “So I understand the need to comply with this and have actually filed amended reports on most of the items that were identified.”

Cushing is the state chairman of and serves on the national board of the American Legislative Exchange Council, an association of corporations and conservative state lawmakers, and some of his PAC travel expenses were related to attending conferences for that organization.


]]> 0 Senate assistant majority leader has denied any wrongdoing.Wed, 23 Aug 2017 11:33:35 +0000
John Wolfgram returns to Cheverus High football Tue, 22 Aug 2017 18:46:29 +0000 Legendary football coach John Wolfgram will be back on the Cheverus High sideline this fall as the Stags’ defensive coordinator.

Wolfgram had a record of 309-92-1 with 10 state titles in 40 years as a head coach at four Maine high schools. He coached at Cheverus for 10 seasons, retiring in April 2016. The Stags won the Class A championship under Wolfgram in 2010 and 2011.

Cheverus head coach Mike Vance was on Wolfgram’s staff at Cheverus for a decade, serving as the JV coach and Wolfgram’s defensive coordinator.

After being named head coach for the 2016 season, Vance said he often sought advice from Wolfgram and used him as a sounding board in an unofficial capacity. The Stags went 5-5 in Vance’s first season, winning one playoff game before losing to Windham 9-7 in a Class A North semifinal.

“He came to me and asked what I thought about him being the defensive coordinator and I didn’t have to think very long,” Vance said of Wolfgram. “We have a very good working relationship and the mentor and support role has been successful in a lot of places in the league.”

Several former football head coaches have worked as assistant coaches at SMAA schools. Former Thornton Academy head coach Dick Agreste is on Kevin Kezal’s staff at Thornton. Bonny Eagle’s Kevin Cooper employed his father, Pete Cooper, a coaching legend at Lawrence High, for many seasons. At South Portland, former Portland coach Mike Bailey was an assistant for Steve Stinson, who had played for Bailey.

Vance also played for and coached with Wolfgram at South Portland.

“It just makes sense,” Vance said. “Maybe those guys don’t want all the housekeeping chores that come with being a head coach but they want to be involved and they have a lot to offer to a program and a newer head coach.”

Wolfgram did coach last fall – as an assistant golf coach at Cheverus.

“It didn’t cut it for me,” Wolfgram said. “I love golf but not as much as I like football.”

Wolfgram was hired in late spring as a paid assistant football coach, he said.

He was involved “minimally” during summer workouts.

Now, with preseason training camp under way, Wolfgram runs the defensive practices.

“No question. I like working with Mike,” he said.

“We’ve got a good staff and I like working with the kids. He’s the head coach and he’s the guy calling the shots and I’m helping out any way I can.”

]]> 0 Wolfgram speaks with Cheverus football players during a 2010 game. On Monday, Wolfgram announced his retirement after four decades of coaching.(Staff file photo by Gordon Chibroski)Tue, 22 Aug 2017 23:53:30 +0000
Republican group asks to strike ‘insurance’ from Medicaid expansion ballot wording Tue, 22 Aug 2017 18:15:46 +0000 AUGUSTA — A group of Republican lawmakers led by former Maine Senate President Rick Bennett is asking Secretary of State Matt Dunlap to strike the word “insurance” from a ballot question that will ask voters in November to expand the state’s Medicaid program under the federal Affordable Care Act.

Bennett, also a former chairman of the Maine Republican Party, said at a news conference Tuesday that the proposed question, which is currently under a public comment period, should describe the expansion as either “taxpayer-funded health benefits” or as “government-funded health benefits” but not as insurance.

But supporters of the expansion said there was little question that Medicaid is a health insurance program for the poor, even though opponents prefer to label it “medical welfare.”

Bennett said Tuesday’s event was not the launch of an opposition campaign but an effort to draw attention to a four-page letter he and expansion opponents had sent to Dunlap asking him to consider a wording change to the ballot question. The question now reads:

“Do you want Maine to provide health insurance through Medicaid for qualified adults under the age of 65 with incomes at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty line (which is now about $16,000 for a single person and $22,000 for a family of two)?”

Currently, 19- and 20-year-olds, individuals with disabilities, the elderly and certain low-income parents qualify for Medicaid, which operates as MaineCare.

Lawmakers in attendance Tuesday included Assistant House Minority Leader Ellie Espling, R-New Gloucester, and Republican Reps. Heather Sirocki of Scarborough, Phyllis Ginzler of Bridgton, Paula Sutton of Warren, and Stephanie Hawke of Boothbay Harbor. The group said the state’s price tag for the change, estimated at about $54 million a year in the bill’s fiscal note, should also be included in the question.

“A welfare expansion will take money from Maine taxpayers, from their pockets and put it into the pockets of others who are not disabled and are working-aged adults,” Sirocki said.

Robyn Merrill, executive director of Maine Equal Justice Partners, a nonprofit that advocates for the poor and led the petition drive for the ballot question, said Sirocki is wrong. Merrill said Medicaid doesn’t provide cash payments to those who would be covered under the expansion, but instead reimburses health care providers, including Maine hospitals, many of which are struggling to cover the cost of the state’s uninsured as charity care.

Merrill and other supporters acknowledge the proposal’s $54 million annual price tag. However, they say that opponents frequently fail to mention that expansion would draw down $525 million each year in federal matching funds, while saving the state an estimated $27 million a year in costs once it is fully implemented.

In all, 31 states have expanded their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act, including a number with legislatures controlled by Republican majorities and headed by Republican governors.

Maine Equal Justice Partners gathered more than 67,000 signatures of registered Maine voters in 2016 to put the Medicaid expansion question on the Nov. 7 ballot.

The Affordable Care Act, which passed in 2010, offers reimbursement rates for Medicaid expansions that taper from 100 percent to 90 percent in 2020. Since the ACA became law, the Maine Legislature has voted to expand Medicaid five times, only to see those expansions vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage – with support from minority Republicans in the House.

“The majority of the Legislature has passed this, it has been vetted,” Merrill said, “but the important thing is more people would have access to affordable health care.”

Merrill rebutted claims that Medicaid was not a health insurance program. “I disagree with the claim this isn’t insurance. Ask anybody who is covered by Medicaid – this is health insurance. Over 265,000 Maine people are covered by Medicaid and this is health insurance,” Merrill said. About one out five Mainers is now insured under the program.

Kristen Muszynski, a spokeswoman for Dunlap, said he would be reviewing all responses during a public comment period but not discuss specific concerns about wording.

The public comment period on the question’s wording closes at 5 p.m. on Sept. 1.

Bennett said he had no ulterior motives for entering the public fray over the ballot question and does not plan to run for office. Bennett had been considered a possible candidate for the governor’s race in 2018, and earlier this year said he was considering that, but on Tuesday he ruled that out as well.

“I’m not here for a campaign. I’m here as a former legislator, as a businessman, as a father and as a citizen who is just concerned about his state,” Bennett said.

As of Tuesday, no formal opposition to the ballot question had registered with the Maine Ethics Commission as a ballot question committee or as a political action committee, as required under state ethics and campaign finance laws.

LePage has also been an outspoken critic of expanding Medicaid in Maine in recent weeks, telling radio talk show hosts the expansion would be devastating to the state’s budget. LePage also once described Medicare and Social Security, which are funded with payroll taxes charged to employers and employees, as welfare.

In 2014, LePage’s office issued a press release after a report from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis showed Maine’s personal income growth was below the U.S. average and last in New England. The release said the BEA report “claims the other five New England states saw higher personal income growth than Maine, but that growth was driven by an increase in welfare benefits, especially in the form of Medicaid expansion. The BEA conceals welfare benefits by calling them ‘Personal Current Transfer Receipts.’ These ‘Transfer Receipts’ include: Social Security benefits; Medicare payments; Medicaid; and state unemployment insurance benefits.”

LePage continued: “It doesn’t matter what liberals call these payments, it is welfare, pure and simple. Liberals from the White House all the way down to Democratic leadership in Augusta believe that redistribution of wealth – taking money from hard-working taxpayers and giving it to a growing number of welfare recipients – is personal income. It’s not. It’s just more welfare expansion.”

The governor, who was then running for re-election, later accused the Portland Press Herald of making an “erroneous interpretation” of his statement and sought to clarify, saying he didn’t believe Social Security and Medicare were welfare.



]]> 0 Maine Senate President Rick Bennett speaks Tuesday in Augusta as Republican lawmakers asked Secretary of State Matt Dunlap to strike the word “insurance” from a November ballot question asking voters to expand the state’s Medicaid program under the federal Affordable Care Act.Wed, 23 Aug 2017 00:02:03 +0000
Cumberland County Jail inmate captured after walking away from work release Tue, 22 Aug 2017 17:51:44 +0000 A Cumberland County Jail inmate who walked away from his work release job Tuesday morning was recaptured Tuesday evening in Westbrook, the county sheriff’s office said.

According to the sheriff’s office, Larry Paul Goodwin walked away from his job at 158 Fore St. in Portland around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

The sheriff’s office said Goodwin, originally from Seattle, is serving a nine-month sentence for cocaine possession, operating under the influence and driving after license suspension. He was scheduled to be released in February.

The sheriff’s office said Tuesday night that deputies and Westbrook police apprehended Goodwin around 6:30 p.m. at an apartment complex in the city.

]]> 0, 22 Aug 2017 22:01:42 +0000
Police: No charges expected in Litchfield shooting Tue, 22 Aug 2017 17:47:38 +0000 Police do not expect to file any criminal charges in connection with a shooting in Litchfield on Monday afternoon, in which a man allegedly shot himself at 277 Academy Road, but survived his injuries and was taken to a Lewiston hospital.

The initial report of a shooting in the early afternoon drew a significant response from the Maine State Police and area rescue workers, and nearby schools were locked down for about 20 minutes. When the call came in to 911, the man reported that he had been shot in the head, but did not indicate that it was a self-inflicted wound.

The man is expected to survive his injuries, said Steve McCausland, a spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.

The man remained in a Lewiston hospital on Tuesday, McCausland said, and police do not anticipate filing any charges in connection with the shooting.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

]]> 0 troopers and detectives confer Monday outside a residence in Litchfield where a man was reportedly shot.Tue, 22 Aug 2017 16:41:37 +0000
Sen. Collins says she isn’t sure Trump will be 2020 Republican nominee Tue, 22 Aug 2017 17:06:03 +0000 BANGOR – U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine didn’t vote for President Trump and she says she’s not sure if he’ll be the Republican nominee in 2020.

Collins told MSNBC on Tuesday that there’s “a long ways between now and that point.”

Collins wrote in House Speaker Paul Ryan’s name in November instead of voting for any of the presidential candidates on the ballot. She said, “That was very hard for me to do as a lifelong Republican.”

She’s one of a handful of Republicans who voted against the Republican health care plan. But she said she remains hopeful of a bipartisan solution.

She also renewed her criticism of Trump’s handling of the racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. She said he “failed to meet the standard” of what’s expected of a president.

]]> 0 Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told MSNBC on Tuesday that she wasn't sure Donald Trump would be the Republican Party nominee in 2020.Wed, 23 Aug 2017 07:00:35 +0000
Driver hospitalized after fiery crash in Knox Tue, 22 Aug 2017 16:34:44 +0000 KNOX – A man was taken to a hospital after a fiery crash in Knox, in Waldo County.

Christian Zingia, 25, was the only person in the vehicle in the Monday night crash, WABI-TV reported.

Zingia was pinned in the vehicle and was later airlifted to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor with severe injuries.

Police told the station that Zingia was speeding along Penney Road when the car went off the road and it a tree.

]]> 0 Tue, 22 Aug 2017 17:49:59 +0000
President Trump’s list of false and misleading claims tops 1,000 Tue, 22 Aug 2017 16:31:39 +0000 We have been tracking President Trump’s false or misleading claims for more than seven months. Somewhere around Aug. 4 or Aug. 5, he broke 1,000 claims, and the tally now stands at 1,057.

That’s an impressive number by any standard. In fact, we are a little late with this update because we have simply been overwhelmed keeping track of the deluge of claims made by the president in the later part of July. Things slowed down during the president’s “working vacation,” so we have finally been able to catch up.

At the president’s current pace, he averages nearly five claims a day. Many are repeats of claims that have been previously debunked. We also include statements that are unacknowledged flip-flops from previously held positions, such as touting new highs in a stock market that he previously derided as being a “big, fat bubble.”

More than 30 of the president’s misleading statements have been repeated three or more times.

Trump’s most repeated claim, uttered 50 times, was some variation of the statement that the Affordable Care Act is dying and “essentially dead.” The Congressional Budget Office has said that the Obamacare exchanges, despite well-documented issues, are not imploding and are expected to remain stable for the foreseeable future. Moreover, Congress has been unable to pass a law that would repeal Obamacare, making the continuation of the law Trump’s problem.

Trump repeatedly takes credit for events or business decisions that happened before he took the oath of office – or had even been elected. Forty-two times, he has touted that he secured business investments and job announcements that had been previously announced and could easily be found with a Google search. And 19 times he has boasted that he achieved a reduction in the cost of Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, even though the price cut had been in the works before he was elected.

But some of the president’s repeated claims have nothing to do with policy but instead rehash discredited campaign rhetoric, such as the false charge that Hillary Clinton gave 20 percent of the U.S. uranium supply to Russia or that the deputy FBI director got $700,000 from Clinton. Both claims were deemed Four-Pinocchios false in 2016. Yet Trump brought them up 11 times.

Some of Trump’s favorite claims are simply odd. Eleven times, he has said that the United States has already spent $6 trillion on “Middle East wars,” money that could have been used instead on building roads in the United States. He often suggests this is a recently calculated figure, but it combines the cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (which is actually in South Asia) and then includes future obligations for veterans costs and interest on the debt through 2053.

At the six-month mark, the president was averaging 4.6 claims a day, but he has now increased his pace. At his current rate, the president won’t break 2,000 claims in his first year in office. But with five months to go, all bets are off.

]]> 0, 22 Aug 2017 12:54:15 +0000
NFL notebook: Patriots owner gave Trump engraved Super Bowl ring Tue, 22 Aug 2017 16:11:03 +0000 When it comes to Super Bowl paraphernalia, President Donald Trump received a little extra from the New England Patriots following their fifth championship.

In news first shared by former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci via Twitter direct message to user @rslashpatriots, and reported locally by CSNNE’s Tom Curran, Pats owner Robert Kraft gave Trump a Super Bowl LI ring.

According to the team’s vice president of media relations Stacey James, the ring had Trump’s name engraved on it. Usually, the Pats give a president a jersey and helmet.

Monday night, James clarified some of the details on why Kraft gave Trump a ring, as well.

For starters, Kraft and Trump are friends. Since the Patriots were the first team to be honored by this administration, James relayed that Trump went “above and beyond” what the Patriots had previously experienced, giving tours to the players to parts of the 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. White House the other four Super Bowl winners did not get a chance to take in.

Trump wanted to have the ring displayed prominently in the presidential library, along with rest of the gifts the administration receives from future champions it honors.

Linebacker Dont’a Hightower was one of three key players to return to practice as the Patriots prepared to head to Detroit for their third preseason game.

Starting left tackle Nate Solder and running back Mike Gillislee were also back on the field after missing time with injuries.

GIANTS: Leading receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall seemingly avoided major injuries in a meaningless preseason game.

Coach Ben McAdoo said that the team’s wideouts are being listed as day to day after being hurt in the first half of Monday night’s preseason loss to the Cleveland Browns. Despite escaping without a major injury, McAdoo did not rule out playing them in either of the final two preseason games.

One of the NFL’s most dynamic receivers, Beckham underwent an MRI on Tuesday. It revealed the three-time Pro Bowler had a sprained left ankle.

Beckham was hurt after being hit around the knee by defensive back Briean Boddy-Calhoun after catching a pass.

X-Rays on Marshall’s shoulder were also negative and the team would also see how he responds to treatment, McAdoo said.

Giants offensive lineman Michael Bowie was charged with assault and battery in Oklahoma.

Tulsa County Assistant District Attorney Kenneth Elmore told the Tulsa World that Bowie grabbed his girlfriend by the neck during a fight at her home in Bixby, then broke two televisions and punched a hole in the wall.

CHARGERS: Center Max Tuerk was suspended by the NFL for the first four games of the regular season for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Tuerk said in a statement issued through the team that he had taken over the counter supplements during the offseason.

]]> 0, 22 Aug 2017 23:46:40 +0000
Maine lawmakers have mixed reviews for Trump Afghanistan plan Tue, 22 Aug 2017 15:23:52 +0000 Maine’s congressional delegation is giving a mixed review to President Trump’s recommitment to the war in Afghanistan.

Trump used a primetime speech on Monday to say the U.S. must “fight to win” the war. Republican Sen. Susan Collins says Trump has “outlined an important change” from an approach she says has been driven by arbitrary deadlines.

Independent Sen. Angus King says he applauds Trump for moving toward a more regional approach to stabilizing Afghanistan. But he also says the U.S. must “move forward with clear goals” for its own troops.

While Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin, 2nd District, says it would be a mistake to declare arbitrary withdrawal dates, his 1st-District counterpart, Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree, says committing more troops to the conflict will make developing an exit strategy more difficult.

]]> 0 Tue, 22 Aug 2017 17:34:07 +0000
Warming ocean taking a toll on Gulf of Maine’s kelp forests Tue, 22 Aug 2017 15:05:06 +0000 APPLEDORE ISLAND – When diving in the Gulf of Maine a few years back, Jennifer Dijkstra expected to be swimming through a flowing kelp forest that had long served as a nursery and food for juvenile fish and lobster.

But Dijkstra, a University of New Hampshire marine biologist, saw only a patchy seafloor before her. The sugar kelp had declined dramatically and been replaced by invasive, shrub-like seaweed that looked like a giant shag rug.

“I remember going to some dive sites and honestly being shocked at how few kelp blades we saw,” she said.

The Gulf of Maine, stretching from Cape Cod to Nova Scotia, is the latest in a growing list of global hotspots losing their kelp, including hundreds of miles in the Mediterranean Sea, off southern Japan and Australia, and parts of the California coast.

Among the world’s most diverse marine ecosystems, kelp forests are found on all continental coastlines except for Antarctica and provide critical food and shelter to myriad fish and other creatures. Kelp also is critical to coastal economies, providing billions of dollars in tourism and fishing.

The likely culprit for the loss of kelp, according to several scientific studies, is warming oceans from climate change, coupled with the arrival of invasive species. In Maine, the invaders are other seaweeds. In Australia, the Mediterranean and Japan, tropical fish are feasting on the kelp.

Most kelp are replaced by small, tightly packed, bushy seaweeds that collect sediment and prevent kelp from growing back, said the University of Western Australia’s Thomas Wernberg.

“Collectively these changes are part of a recent and increasing global trend of flattening of the world’s kelp forests,” said Wernberg, co-author of a 2016 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which found that 38 percent of kelp forest declined over the past 50 years in regions that had data.

Kelp losses on Australia’s Great Southern Reef threaten tourism and fishing industries worth $10 billion. Die-offs contributed to a 60 percent drop in species richness in the Mediterranean and were blamed for the collapse of the abalone fishery in Japan.

“You are losing habitat. You are losing food. You are losing shoreline protection,” said University of Massachusetts Boston’s Jarrett Byrnes, who leads a working group on kelp and climate change. “They provide real value to humans.”

The Pacific Coast from northern California to the Oregon border is one place that suffered dramatic kelp loss, according to Cynthia Catton, a research associate at the Bodega Marine Laboratory at the University of California, Davis. Since 2014, aerial surveys have shown that bull kelp declined by over 90 percent, something Catton blamed on a marine heat wave along with a rapid increase in kelp-eating sea urchins.

Without the kelp to eat, Northern California’s abalone fishery has been harmed.

“It’s pretty devastating to the ecosystem as a whole,” Catton said. “It’s like a redwood forest that has been completely clear-cut. If you lose the trees, you don’t have a forest.”

Kelp is incredibly resilient and has been known to bounce back from storms and heat waves.

But in Maine, it has struggled to recover following an explosion of voracious sea urchins in the 1980s that wiped out many kelp beds. Now, it must survive in waters that are warming faster than the vast majority of the world’s oceans – most likely forcing kelp to migrate northward or into deeper waters.

“What the future holds is more complicated,” Byrnes said. “If the Gulf of Maine warms sufficiently, we know kelp will have a hard time holding on.”

On their dives around Maine’s Appledore Island, a craggy island off New Hampshire that’s home to nesting seagulls, Dijkstra and colleague Larry Harris have witnessed dramatic changes.

Their study, published by the Journal of Ecology in April, examined photos of seaweed populations and dive logs going back 30 years in the Gulf of Maine. They found introduced species from as far away as Asia, such as the filamentous red seaweed, had increased by as much 90 percent and were covering 50 to 90 percent of the gulf’s seafloor.

They are seeing far fewer ocean pout, wolf eel and pollock that once were commonplace in these kelp beds. But they also are finding that the half-dozen invasive seaweeds replacing kelp are harboring up to three times more tiny shrimp, snails and other invertebrates.

“We’re not really sure how this new seascape will affect higher species in the food web, especially commercially important ones like fish, crabs and lobster,” said Dijkstra, following a dive in which bags of invasive seaweed were collected and the invertebrates painstakingly counted. “What we do think is that fish are using these seascapes differently.”

]]> 0 shows a sample of a red shrub-like seaweed collected in the waters off Appledore Island. Kelp forests are critical to the fishing industry but are disappearing around the world.Tue, 22 Aug 2017 17:51:52 +0000
Two members of Kennedy family arrested for loud party Tue, 22 Aug 2017 14:52:50 +0000 BARNSTABLE, Mass. — Police in Massachusetts say a member of the Kennedy family screamed incoherently and threw himself into a wall after he was confronted by police responding to complaints about a loud party and fireworks.

A Barnstable police officer says the actions of both 52-year-old Matthew “Max” Kennedy and his daughter, 22-year-old Caroline Kennedy, incited the partygoers into “an angry mob” on Sunday in Hyannis Port.

The officer says people yelled “you don’t know who you are messing with” as police arrested Matthew Kennedy.

Matthew Kennedy pleaded not guilty to disturbing the peace charges at his arraignment Monday. Caroline Kennedy will be arraigned Nov. 22. It’s unclear if she has an attorney who can comment on the charges.

Matthew Kennedy is an author and the ninth child of Robert and Ethel Kennedy.

]]> 0, 22 Aug 2017 19:55:18 +0000
Can Trump achieve gains in Afghanistan that eluded Bush and Obama? Tue, 22 Aug 2017 14:14:00 +0000 Faced with a resurgent Taliban and the growing threat from Islamic State, Afghan watchers have little confidence President Trump’s new approach to the 16-year conflict in Afghanistan will do much to alter the dynamics of America’s longest war.

Pledging more troops, increasing pressure on Pakistan to stop providing a “safe haven for terrorists” and renewing diplomatic outreach to the Taliban, Trump late Monday announced an open-ended commitment to fighting the war in Afghanistan. “We are not nation building again,” he said. “We are killing terrorists.”

Trump’s commitment to Afghanistan bolsters Kabul as it faces renewed violence and could eventually build capacity in the Afghan security forces – particularly the air force and special forces that are crucial to securing the country and overcoming terrorist groups. However, his pledge of additional U.S. troops does not fundamentally differ from the approach of his predecessors and is unlikely to change the course of the 16-year conflict.

“Militarization is a recipe for more bloodshed and destruction,” said Abdul Basit, an associate research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, adding that a “surge of few thousand troops will not change the strategic reality” of the longstanding conflict. “The strategic stalemate will persist for the foreseeable future.”

Responding to Trump’s announcement, the Taliban threatened to transform Afghanistan “into a graveyard for the American empire” if the U.S. does not withdraw its troops, the group’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said in a statement.

The Taliban now controls or contests 40 percent of Afghanistan, or more than 400 Afghan districts, according to U.S. estimates, and there has long been acknowledgment that Taliban fighters could not have made such advances without significant support from Pakistan.

Islamabad has been accused of arming and supplying groups, including the Haqqani Network and Taliban, in a bid to assert geopolitical goals using proxy forces. Pakistan’s military in turn has blamed Afghanistan of harboring insurgents.

But after a series of bombings in Kabul, including the deadliest attack on the capital in 16 years on May 31, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani openly accused Pakistan of instigating “undeclared war of aggression” against his nation.

For that reason, Trump’s focus on Pakistan was welcomed.

“President Trump has acknowledged what Americans have known for some time,” said Husain Haqqani, a former ambassador of Pakistan to the U.S. and director of South and Central Asia at the Washington-based Hudson Institute.

“Pakistan’s regional goals as identified by its powerful military are at variance with America’s interests,” he said. “Trump has clearly decided that he will not let Pakistan block peace and stability in Afghanistan, and endanger itself in the process, while retaining its status as a U.S. ally.”

Pakistan’s military and its foreign ministry did not respond to requests for comment, although Imran Khan, the leader of Pakistan’s second-largest opposition party, noted the heavy human and economic cost of the country’s support for the U.S. wars in Afghanistan. “Our economy suffered over $100 billion in losses,” he tweeted. “In addition, there were intangible costs on our society.”

In Afghanistan, the government welcomed the U.S. decision to abandon its deadline for troop withdrawal.

“The specification of a withdrawal date gave a signal to the Taliban and their sponsors,” M. Ashraf Haidari, director general for policy and strategy and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in a phone interview. “And so they exercised strategic patience.”

Training and capacity building in the Afghan air force and a new special forces corps was particularly crucial, Haidari said. “We need this process to continue so that our air force is completely operational and on their feet,” he said. “We need capacity building and equipment to build a bigger special forces corps to fight the Taliban and ISIS.”

And he urged patience. “Development takes time,” Haidari said. “Sixteen years sounds like a lot of time. But in terms of development, it’s not much.”

Trump singled out India as a key player in bringing stability to the region.

“We want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development,” he said of India.

His comments reflect the deepening U.S.-India strategic partnership, said Shailesh Kumar, a Washington-based senior Asia analyst at Eurasia Group. “India wants to ensure that Islamabad does not gain a foothold or influence in the country,” Kumar said.

India’s foreign ministry welcomed Trump’s new strategy and the attempt to confront “safe havens and other forms of cross-border support enjoyed by terrorists” — a clear reference to Pakistan. New Delhi also said it would continue offering development assistance to Afghanistan.

India’s government has long been involved in Afghanistan. Since 2001, New Delhi has spent nearly $2 billion in Afghanistan – a huge sum for a developing country such as India – on projects including dams, roads and the new Afghan parliament building.

At the same time, Trump’s call for deeper Indian engagement in Afghanistan is likely to fuel long-held suspicions in Islamabad that arch-rival India is using its diplomatic and economic presence in Afghanistan to destabilize Pakistan.

“He is upping the Indian role in Afghanistan, which basically means upping the ante on Pakistan,” said Imtiaz Gul, executive director at the Center for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad. “That will only mean continuation of hostilities in Afghanistan and instability with little prospect for peace.”

Bloomberg’s Ismail Dilawar and Kamran Haider contributed to this story.

]]> 0, 22 Aug 2017 10:32:32 +0000
Divers find sailors’ remains in USS McCain’s flooded compartments Tue, 22 Aug 2017 10:09:34 +0000 SINGAPORE — Navy divers searching a flooded compartment of the USS John S. McCain found remains of some of the 10 sailors who were missing after a collision between the warship and an oil tanker, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander said Tuesday as he promised a full investigation.

Adm. Scott Swift said at a news conference in Singapore, where the McCain is now docked, that Malaysian officials had found one body, but it had yet to be identified and it was unknown whether it was a crew member.

The collision before dawn Monday near Singapore tore a gaping hole in the McCain’s left rear hull and flooded adjacent compartments including crew berths and machinery and communication rooms. Five sailors were injured.

“The divers were able to locate some remains in those sealed compartments during their search today,” Swift said, adding that it was “premature to say how many and what the status of recovery of those bodies is.”

“We will continue the search and rescue operations until the probability of discovering sailors is exhausted,” Swift said.

He would not say where in the destroyer the bodies were found.

It was the second major collision in two months involving the Pacific-based 7th Fleet, and the Navy has ordered a broad investigation into its performance and readiness. Seven sailors died in June when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship collided in waters off Japan.

There were two lesser-known incidents in the first half of the year. In January, the USS Antietam guided missile cruiser ran aground near Yokosuka base, the home port of the 7th Fleet, and in May another cruiser, the USS Lake Champlain from the Navy’s 3rd Fleet, had a minor collision with a South Korean fishing boat.

“While each of these four incidents is unique, they cannot be viewed in isolation,” Swift said.

He said the Navy would investigate “to find out if there is a common cause … and if so, how do we solve that.”

He said he had heard reports speculating that the Navy could have been a victim of a cyberattack. “We’ve seen no indications of that as yet, but … we are not taking any consideration off the table,” he said.

Earlier Tuesday, the 7th Fleet said the sea search by aircraft and ships from the U.S., Singapore and Malaysian navies would continue east of Singapore, where the McCain and the tanker collided.

Megan Partlow of Ohio, who said her fiance was on the McCain, told The Associated Press in a Facebook message that they last communicated Sunday and she was losing hope of seeing him again.

“My last text to him was ‘be safe,’ which is the same way we end every conversation. I’m just ready for answers,” she said. The identities of the missing have not been disclosed but Partlow said her fiance’s parents were in touch with the Navy’s family assistance center.

April Brandon of Michigan said her son, Ken Smith, 22, is among the missing sailors. Brandon told Detroit-area TV stations that she was visited by two officers Monday at her home.

Navy Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, on Monday ordered a pause in 7th Fleet operations for the next few days to allow commanders to get together with leaders, sailors and command officials and identify any immediate steps that need to be taken to ensure safety.

A broader Navy review will look at the 7th Fleet’s performance, including personnel, navigation capabilities, maintenance, equipment, surface warfare training, munitions, certifications and how sailors move through their careers. Richardson said the review will be conducted with the help of the Navy’s office of the inspector general, the safety center and private companies that make equipment used by sailors.

“Make no mistake,” Swift said Tuesday, “our sailors on these ships are doing critical work at sea. And for more than 70 years, the U.S. Navy has helped guarantee the security and stability of the western Pacific. … We owe it to the sailors that man the 7th Fleet and their families to answer the questions that flow from the uncertainty of what happened, how could it happen, and what can be done to prevent such occurrences in the future.”

Swift also lauded the crew for righting the listing ship quickly as they tended to the injured. He said sailors set up watertight boundaries and shored up the ship’s internal structure, and were able to begin evacuating sailors by helicopter within an hour or two of the collision.

He said it was “quite extraordinary” for the McCain to be “up and running as an operational ship almost immediately after the collision.”

The McCain had been heading to Singapore on a routine port visit after conducting a sensitive freedom-of-navigation operation last week by sailing near one of China’s man-made islands in the South China Sea.

China, Washington’s main rival for influence in the Asia-Pacific, seized on the McCain collision to accuse the Navy of endangering maritime navigation in the region. This year’s string of accidents shows the U.S. Navy “is becoming a dangerous obstacle in Asian waters,” the official China Daily newspaper said in its online edition.

The McCain and the Alnic MC oil tanker collided about 4.5 nautical miles from Malaysia’s coast at the start of a designated sea lane for ships sailing into the busy Singapore Strait.

There was no immediate explanation for the collision. Singapore, at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, is one of the world’s busiest ports and a U.S. ally, with its naval base regularly visited by American warships.

The Singapore government said no crew were injured on the Liberian-flagged Alnic, which sustained damage to a compartment at the starboard, or right, side at the front of the ship some 23 feet above its waterline. The ship had a partial load of fuel oil, according to the Greek owner of the tanker, Stealth Maritime Corp. S.A., but no apparent spill.

Several safety violations were recorded for the oil tanker at its last port inspection in July, one fire safety deficiency and two safety-of-navigation problems. The official database for ports in Asia doesn’t go into details and the problems apparently were not serious enough for the tanker to be detained.

]]> 0, 22 Aug 2017 19:28:06 +0000
Three arrested, 1 at large after standoff at Saco motel Tue, 22 Aug 2017 09:50:58 +0000 Three people were arrested and one man was still at large after a long standoff Tuesday at a Saco motel, police said.

Saco police received a call shortly before 2 a.m. reporting that people were being held against their will at the Brookside Motel on Ocean Park Road, said Jack Clements, Saco’s deputy police chief.

Clements said that when police arrived, one man dove out a back window of one of the rooms and ran off. He is still at large, Clements said.

Police recovered a handgun near the window, although they haven’t determined conclusively if the gun belonged to the man who ran off. Saco police called in a tracking dog and officer from Wells to try to follow the man, Clements said, but were unable to pick up a track.

A short time after police arrived, Michelle Mendoza, 38, of Old Orchard Beach left the room on her own, he said. Mendoza, who was arrested and charged with violating the conditions of her release, told police that two other people still in the room were not being held hostage.

But those two, a man and a woman, refused to leave the room, he said, leading to a standoff with police.

“They were just obstinate. They did not want to come out,” Clements said.

Later in the morning, police determined that the woman still in the room had outstanding warrants and obtained a search warrant to enter the room. They then arrested, without incident, Jessie Tulley, 35, of Old Orchard Beach, and John Felipe, 21, of the Bronx, New York.

Tulley was arrested on three outstanding warrants for failure to appear for traffic offense. Felipe initially provided false information on his identity and was arrested for failure to provide identification and summonsed for creating a police standoff.

Clements said police have not determined the identity of the man who jumped out of the window. He was still at large Tuesday afternoon.

He also said no weapons were recovered other than the handgun near the window where the man jumped from the room.

No one was injured and the public was not in any danger during the incident, he said. A section of Ocean Park Road in front of the motel was closed during the incident.

A state police tactical team had been called in based on the initial report of people being held against their will, but left after police determined that wasn’t the case, Clements said.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy contributed to this report.

]]> 0, 23 Aug 2017 00:51:03 +0000
USS McCain may have had steering failure before collision Tue, 22 Aug 2017 03:07:03 +0000

Commanding Officer Kevin Shilling stands at attention as Navy Rear Adm. Mark Whitney leads a proclamation ceremony and swearing-in of sailors Monday at Portland City Hall. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

News reports on Tuesday said that the U.S. Navy destroyer that collided Monday with an oil tanker near Singapore suffered a steering failure before the collision

CNN reported Tuesday that a Navy official said the USS John S. McCain suffered a steering failure during its approach into the Strait of Malacca.

The former skipper of the destroyer’s sister ship said that rules of the road for vessels going in the same direction call for the tanker to maneuver around the other ship and give way to the destroyer.

On Monday, before the news of the steering issues was made public, Chris Monroe, a retired Navy commander and now a maritime lawyer with the Portland firm Verrill Dana, said that, based on photographs of the damage to the USS McCain, a Bath Iron Works-built destroyer, the oil tanker could have been at fault and should have maneuvered around the Navy destroyer.

A broader U.S. Navy review will look at the 7th Fleet’s performance, including personnel, navigation capabilities, maintenance, equipment, surface warfare training, munitions, certifications and how sailors move through their careers. Richardson said the review will be conducted with the help of the Navy’s office of the inspector general, the safety center and private companies that make equipment used by sailors.

Boot camp-bound Alexander Porter of Gardiner stands with his family as they take photos and say goodbye outside Portland City Hall after his proclamation ceremony and sailor swearing-in Monday. Recent collisions of Navy ships won’t deter Porter from embarking on a career in the Navy. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Ten sailors were missing after the collision and others were injured in the crash of the tanker and the McCain off Singapore near a busy strait.

Tuesday morning, the remains of some of the missing sailors had been located in a compartment on the McCain. Adm. Scott Swift also said at a news conference in Singapore that Malaysian officials had found one body, which had yet to be identified, according to the Associated Press.

Monroe was commander of the USS Curtis Wilbur, a sister ship of both the McCain and the USS Fitzgerald, another Navy destroyer that collided with a container ship off the coast of Japan in June, killing seven sailors. The Navy last week relieved the commander and two senior leaders aboard the Fitzgerald of their duties, saying that poor leadership and a lack of teamwork contributed to that crash.

All three ships were built by Bath Iron Works, were commissioned about the same time and were part of the same squadron based in Yokosuka, Japan, Monroe said.

He said the rules of the road for vessels is that when two ships are headed in roughly the same direction, their actions are guided by how the vessels are positioned to each other. One is the “stand-on” vessel and is supposed to continue on its heading and speed, and the other is the “give-way” vessel and is supposed to maneuver around the other ship.

In the case of the collision early Monday, Monroe said, it appears the McCain was the stand-on ship, while the tanker was the give-way vessel and should have maneuvered to pass behind the Navy ship.

However, he said, the Navy ship should have taken action once it became clear a collision was imminent and the give-way vessel wasn’t doing what it should.

The McCain’s skipper, he said, “could have floored it” and might have been able to accelerate clear of the tanker. The destroyer has a top speed of more than 30 knots – about 35 miles per hour – and is highly maneuverable. The tanker is much slower and less maneuverable, Monroe said.

“There are international protocols and conventions designed to prevent collisions at sea,” he said. “One needs to wonder what went wrong.”

The Strait of Singapore, near where the collision occurred, is extremely busy, Monroe said. When he commanded the USS Curtis Wilbur in 2012 and headed into those waters, there was almost always at least one other ship in sight, he said, with hundreds of vessels transiting the strait every day. It’s only grown more congested since then, Monroe said.

“It’s known as the world’s busiest shipping lane,” he said.

There have been two other at-sea incidents involving Navy warships this year, in addition to the McCain and Fitzgerald. In January, the USS Antietam was damaged after running aground off Japan, and in May the USS Lake Champlain was struck by a South Korean fishing boat.

But the deadly collisions aren’t enough to deter Alexander Porter from embarking on his chosen career in the Navy. The 18-year-old from Lewiston was one of 11 Mainers to take an oath to defend the Constitution and obey orders, officially joining the Navy in a ceremony Monday at Portland City Hall. He will head off to boot camp in Illinois in January and said he hopes to become a diver.

“I’m not at all nervous,” he said.

His father, however, couldn’t conceal his anxiety at the prospect of his son joining the military at a time of great uncertainty in the world.

“I’m nervous. Obviously, I’m nervous,” said Chris Porter, who attended his son’s swearing in – a kickoff to Navy Week in Portland – along with Porter’s mother, grandparents and siblings in the State of Maine room at City Hall. “But he’s a smart kid, he works hard and he wants to serve his country.”

Another recruit, Philip Obert, 24, of Augusta, said he wasn’t worried about his career choice, but was concerned that his lush beard might have to go.

Obert is in line to become a machinist’s mate for surface ships after he heads off to boot camp in December. However, he’s been told he might be able to keep the beard if he becomes a machinist’s mate for submarines.

Fellow inductee Bobby Harriman said the group of 11 inducted Monday have gone through a Navy program in which they discuss the demands and rewards of service and they’ve addressed the possibility of war.

“There’s always that uncertainty,” said Harriman, 17, who is starting his senior year of high school and will enter the service next July. Concerns over war, peace and maritime safety “have been going on since we went into the program.”

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at:

[email protected]

]]> 0 Officer Kevin Shilling stands at attention as U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Mark Whitney leads a proclamation ceremony and swearing-in of sailors Monday at Portland City Hall.Tue, 22 Aug 2017 14:45:04 +0000
For a short spell, many of us were being followed by a moon shadow Tue, 22 Aug 2017 02:10:31 +0000 The stars came out in the middle of the day, zoo animals ran in agitated circles, crickets chirped, birds fell silent and a chilly darkness settled upon the land Monday as the U.S. witnessed its first full-blown, coast-to-coast solar eclipse since World War I.

Millions of Americans gazed in wonder at the cosmic spectacle, with the best seats along the so-called path of totality that raced 2,600 miles across the continent from Oregon to South Carolina.

“It was a very primal experience,” Julie Vigeland, of Portland, Oregon, said after she was moved to tears by the sight of the sun reduced to a silvery ring of light in Salem.

It took 90 minutes for the shadow of the moon to travel across the country. Along that path, the moon blotted out the midday sun for about two wondrous minutes at any one place, eliciting oohs, aahs, whoops and shouts from people gathered in stadiums, parks and backyards.

It was, by all accounts, the most-observed and most-photographed eclipse in history, documented by satellites and high-altitude balloons and watched on Earth through telescopes, cameras and cardboard-frame protective eyeglasses.

In Boise, Idaho, where the sun was more than 99 percent blocked, the street lights flicked on briefly, while in Nashville, Tennessee, people craned their necks at the sky and knocked back longneck beers at Nudie’s Honky Tonk bar.

Passengers aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean watched it unfold as Bonnie Tyler sang her 1983 hit “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”

Several minor-league baseball teams – one of them, the Columbia Fireflies, outfitted for the day in glow-in-the-dark jerseys – briefly suspended play.

At the White House, despite all the warnings from experts about the risk of eye damage, President Trump took off his eclipse glasses and looked directly at the sun.

The path of totality, where the sun was 100 percent obscured by the moon, was just 60 to 70 miles wide. But the rest of North America was treated to a partial eclipse, as were Central America and the upper reaches of South America.

Skies were clear along most of the route, to the relief of those who feared cloud cover would spoil the moment.

“Oh, God, oh, that was amazing,” said Joe Dellinger, a Houston man who set up a telescope on the Capitol lawn in Jefferson City, Missouri. “That was better than any photo.”

NASA reported 4.4 million people were watching its TV coverage midway through the eclipse, the biggest livestream event in the space agency’s history.

“It can be religious. It makes you feel insignificant, like you’re just a speck in the whole scheme of things,” said veteran eclipse-watcher Mike O’Leary of San Diego, who set up his camera along with hundreds of other amateur astronomers in Casper, Wyoming.

After the celestial spectacle, eclipse-watchers heading home in Tennessee and Wyoming spent hours stuck in traffic jams. In Kentucky, two women watching the eclipse while standing on a sidewalk were struck by a car, and one has died, authorities said.

The Earth, moon and sun line up perfectly every one to three years, briefly turning day into night for a sliver of the planet. But these sights normally are in no man’s land, like the vast Pacific or Earth’s poles. This is the first eclipse of the social media era to pass through such a heavily populated area.

The last coast-to-coast total eclipse in the U.S. was in 1918, when Woodrow Wilson was president. The last total solar eclipse in the U.S. was in 1979, but only five states in the Northwest experienced total darkness.

The next total eclipse in the U.S. will be in 2024. The next coast-to-coast one will not be until 2045.

]]> 0 looks like night Monday afternoon in New York where the Statue of Liberty becomes a silhouette during the partial solar eclipse that briefly had much of the nation in the dark.Mon, 21 Aug 2017 22:26:54 +0000