The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » News Sat, 28 May 2016 08:00:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 USM balances budget without emergency money from UMaine System Sat, 28 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 After years of financial turmoil and declining enrollment, the University of Southern Maine is finally enjoying a stretch of good news.

The campus’ latest budget is balanced without emergency funds from the system office, and there’s a 19 percent spike in the number of students putting down deposits to attend in the fall, officials said Friday.

“This is tremendous news for USM,” said President Glenn Cummings, who had promised a “fast rebuild” of the campus when he took office a year ago.

The turnaround has happened faster than anticipated, he said.

“We didn’t know how many years it would take to get to this point,” he said Friday.

The $127 million budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 that was approved by the trustees on Monday shows that USM closed its budget gap, which had been projected to be $6 million, without any emergency funds from the system for the first time in years. The trustees, who had approved $15 million in system funds for USM over the last two years, broke out in applause when they heard the news.

Cummings tempered his enthusiasm by noting that USM still has a lot of ground to make up, but said he would “celebrate” a flat budget: “That’s our platform for growth over the next few years.”

USM closed the budget gap without layoffs or program cuts by leaving vacant positions open, filling some slots with lower-cost temporary hires, cutting administrative budgets and draining almost all of its $3 million in reserves. Enrollment was boosted by an overhaul of the recruitment and admissions process, said Nancy Griffin, who arrived at the school about a year ago as vice president for enrollment management.

Chief Financial Officer Buster Neel said the turnaround “was a very intimidating assignment.”

Cummings and his team came in after years of multimillion-dollar deficits that led to deep staffing and program cuts. In protest, students took over administrative buildings, staged walkouts, held rallies and marches on campus and downtown, and took over a trustees meeting to object to USM eliminating 51 faculty members and five academic programs.

Over the last five years, USM has cut almost 25 percent of its employees, as enrollment fell about 16 percent. Each 1 percent of enrollment represents about $600,000 in revenue.

The upheaval coincided with rapid turnover at the top. Cummings is the fourth president since 2011. He succeeded two interim presidents: David Flanagan, who made the deepest cuts to close a $16 million gap in 2010, and Theodora Kalikow, who served for two years. Kalikow had come out of retirement to fill the position after Selma Botman stepped down amid faculty unrest and a looming budget shortfall.

USM’s news comes as the larger financial picture for the entire system is improving. This week, new five-year financial projections for the UMaine system show a budget surplus in 2021, after years of multimillion-dollar deficits. Officials credit the turnaround in part to the ongoing One University, a long-term transformation that will streamline costs by cutting overhead, and sharply focusing on what academic programs will be offered at each campus.

Economics professor Susan Feiner, a sharp critic of cuts and budget decisions in past years, said Cummings and Provost Jeannine Uzzi, a former classics professor who had been laid off under Flanagan, worked closely with the faculty this year.

“We have been partners with the administration on this,” Feiner said. “It’s wonderful to have a leadership team that is so committed to USM and that understands the strengths of the institution.”

The administrators, she said, “were really respectful of everybody because they know how hard everyone at USM works.”

Cummings said he intends to rebuild the faculty, since the budget deficits have left many faculty positions open or filled with less costly part-time instructors.

“It’s a very important priority,” he said. “We need to grow our full-time tenure-track faculty. But we have to be extremely careful.”

A growing student body is the key to increasing revenue at USM, which had an enrollment of 5,681 students last fall. The rise in fall 2016 deposits is in sharp contrast to the same time in 2015, when fall deposit numbers were down 11 percent from the year before.

Griffin revamped and redirected the admissions officers to take proactive roles in reaching out to prospective students and created a new one-on-one 90-minute “onboarding” advisory session for each student. She ended far-flung recruitment campaigns in the Midwest and focused on re-establishing ties to area high school guidance counselors and cementing transfer plans with Southern Maine Community College. Admissions officers are directed to aggressively clear student roadblocks however they can, and the campus added new financial aid incentives.

“We went back to the basics and we’re seeing the results because of it,” Griffin said. In-state tuition and fees at USM are currently $8,920, and $21,280 for out-of-state students.

USM, with about $1 million in additional financial aid funds from the system, offered scholarships to transfer students for the first time. They also shifted existing financial aid to direct more of it to first-year students with high grades and a demonstrated need for aid, and “stacked” financial aid offers so that grant aid didn’t count against merit aid, meaning students who qualified for both got more aid, she said. Previously, and at many colleges, merit aid is reduced if grant aid is awarded.

“Students are taking a whole new look at USM,” Cummings said.


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A bare apartment becomes a home, with help from friends Sat, 28 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 ThatMomentBibiche Bekoka held the right side of her back and winced as she slowly lowered into a foldout camping chair in her living room.

For the past two months, she had been sleeping on an air mattress with her 15-year-old daughter, Gabriella, and 3-year-old son, Prince. Her two middle children, 8-year-old Angelina and 10-year-old Allegra, had been sharing the bottom of a set of bunk beds because there was no mattress on top.

The girls didn’t mind as much, because they could stay up talking about their favorite band, One Direction, and what they miss about South Africa.

“It’s kind of fun,” Allegra said.

But when Bekoka woke up Monday, it hurt to walk.

Relief, however, was coming. Furniture Friends, an organization that collects and delivers donated furniture in the Portland area, was scheduled to bring a shipment the next day to their apartment on outer Congress Street.

Since they had moved there in April, the children had been fighting over the two blue camping chairs that came from a pastor at their church and a Prince-sized, orange plastic one from Goodwill. Allegra and Angelina usually ate dinner on their bed or the floor.

Still, it was better than being at the family shelter, even though they each had their own beds there, Bekoka said.

“Everyone is using the bathroom. We are sharing the pots. We are sharing the plates. You are sharing everything,” she said in a thick accent that her children don’t have.

Bekoka and her family fled the Democratic Republic of the Congo for South Africa 12 years ago for their safety – the same reason they came to Maine in January, though, this time, her husband didn’t join them.

The pizza is better in South Africa, Angelina said, but otherwise she’s happy here. She’s already friends with half of her class, she said. Her oldest sister, Gabriella, is playing high school softball, and Allegra likes the snow.

When the girls are at school, Prince and their mother are mostly at home, if not at doctor’s appointments or the grocery store. Bekoka can’t save for a car until she gets a job, and she still has to wait a few more months before she can apply for a work permit. She hopes to find a job in information technology, which she studied in South Africa. Until that happens, she plans to volunteer.

But her first priority, after applying for asylum and getting medical check-ups, was to have furniture in their home.

“It’s difficult. We almost don’t have the family meal,” she said of not having a table to gather around.

She asked a young man she’d met at her new church, First Assembly of God, to come help with the delivery. Tutuma Alberto arrived in Maine a month ago from Mozambique. When he and Bekoka realized they both spoke French, they started talking.

Soon after he got to her apartment Tuesday morning, it became clear his help wouldn’t be needed. As a moving truck pulled into the driveway, a school bus with 10 volunteers parked out front.

From the time the first mattress came through the door, Bekoka’s mouth spread into a smile that didn’t go away. She occasionally broke into laughter as the stream of furniture flowed through the apartment. There were box springs, bureaus, tables and chairs. Between directing the volunteers, she clasped her hands to her chest watching the bare rooms become a home, where her family could eat together and sleep apart.

Only two wooden chairs came with the dining room table but they could use the foldout ones around it, too, now that the living room had a full-sized couch and an upholstered chair.

In the master bedroom, suitcases that overflowed with whole wardrobes were pushed aside to make room for the dressers where the clothes could finally be put away.

Bekoka folded up the deflated air mattress that never stayed blown up all the way, and in came a double bed that she’d have all to herself.

Prince bounced around among the volunteers setting up the frame. Then, in minutes, they were gone and the apartment was quiet again.

Bekoka went to sit down on her new couch, worn but undamaged, with room for three. She sank into the middle cushion and leaned back, letting her head fall over the top. Still smiling, she let out a sigh.

“It feels good,” she said.

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Read more stories from That Moment: Stories from life Sat, 28 May 2016 03:35:14 +0000 0 Fri, 27 May 2016 23:35:14 +0000 New Gloucester garage a total loss after woods fire spreads, engulfs building Sat, 28 May 2016 02:36:21 +0000 A garage with an office on a partially finished second floor was destroyed by a fire Friday night in New Gloucester, a fire official said.

The blaze started as a woods fire and spread to the building on Gloucester Hill Road, New Gloucester Fire Capt. Scott Doyle said. It was first reported at 5:30 p.m. and took firefighters more than two hours to put out, he said.

Doyle said fighting the fire was difficult because of a lack of access to water at the scene and because the metal roof of the structure partially collapsed.

He said no one was injured and the cause of the fire is unknown.

The 25-foot by 60-foot building was a total loss, Doyle said, estimating the value of the structure at $150,000.

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Scientists stunned by deep-water discovery of world’s largest sponge Sat, 28 May 2016 02:34:16 +0000 HONOLULU — Researchers in Hawaii have been absorbed by a sea creature they discovered last summer, and their findings are pretty big.

The team of scientists on a deep-sea expedition in the waters off Hawaii discovered what they say is the world’s largest known sponge.

The creature, roughly the size of a minivan, was discovered about 7,000 feet down in a marine conservation area off the shores of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The rare sponge, with a bluish-white color and brain-like appearance, stunned scientists when it appeared in the remote cameras attached to their underwater rover.

Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Hawaii studied the sponge for about a year before releasing their findings.

“The largest portion of our planet lies in deep waters, the vast majority of which has never been explored,” Papahanaumokuakea research specialist Daniel Wagner with NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries said in a statement released Wednesday. “Finding such an enormous and presumably old sponge emphasizes how much can be learned from studying deep and pristine environments.”

A study published this week in the scientific journal Marine Biodiversity described the massive creature.

The animal was found in the waters of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, which is the largest protected conservation area in the United States and one of the largest in the world. It covers an area that is bigger than all the other U.S. national parks combined.

Christopher Kelley, program biologist at the Hawaii Undersea Research Lab, who helped lead the expedition with Wagner, said the crew captured images of the sponge with remote underwater cameras that were positioned above their underwater research vehicle. They then used laser points to measure parts of the sponge and also carefully measured the vehicle and compared those dimensions to the images they had of the sponge and vehicle together to determine its size.

Kelley said they took samples of a sponge of the same species they found the day before the larger one and sent them to the world’s top experts, and no one could identify what genus the sponge belongs to.

“Here’s this animal that has presumably never been encountered before and it’s enormous and that kind of brings up a little intrigue for deep water and what else exists down there,” he said.

While this particular sponge is only incrementally larger than other sponges found, the researchers say it shows the value in exploring the ocean’s depths to discover unknown and mysterious forms of life.

They pored over scientific literature and found this was the largest documented sponge to date.

Paul Dayton, professor emeritus at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California has studied large sponges in the Antarctic.

“Certainly I can agree that this is a very large sponge indeed, the largest I have heard of,” Dayton said in an email to The Associated Press. “It is incrementally larger than the ones off British Columbia and they might find an even bigger one, but surely this is the biggest sponge I have ever heard of.”

Joseph Pawlik, a professor in the department of biology and marine biology at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington said getting a good sense of the size of these large sponges can be difficult. He has studied large barrel sponges that grow to very large sizes, and has come up with a method of estimating their age and size based on volume.

“Largest implies volume,” he said. “We have some pretty substantial sponges that are barrel sponges that have huge volume.”

Sponges are similar to coral reefs in that they provide critical habitat for other sea life and filter large amounts of sea water and remove material other animals in the ocean don’t eat.

According to scientists, some of the large sponges found in more shallow waters have been estimated to be over 2,300 years old, leading researchers to wonder how old some of these deep-sea organisms that have never been encountered can become.

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UNC system says it won’t enforce transgender restroom law Sat, 28 May 2016 01:37:53 +0000 RALEIGH, N.C. — The University of North Carolina system told a federal court Friday that it won’t enforce a law requiring transgender students to use restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates.

The declaration came in a motion asking a federal court to halt civil legal proceedings against the university system while a higher court decides a separate case on transgender rights from Virginia.

University system President Margaret Spellings wrote in an affidavit that, pending the outcome of the North Carolina case: “I have no intent to exercise my authority to promulgate any guidelines or regulations that require transgender students to use the restrooms consistent with their biological sex.”

The university system’s lawyers went further, noting in a filing that the state law contains no enforcement mechanism and the university system also hasn’t “changed any of its policies or practices regarding transgender students or employees.”

“There is nothing in the Act that prevents any transgender person from using the restroom consistent with his or her gender identity,” the lawyers wrote.

They ask the federal judge to halt proceedings against the university system pending the outcome of a case on transgender rights being heard by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia as well as a separate case by the federal Department of Justice against North Carolina.

Five dueling cases over the law are pending in federal courts in North Carolina.

The UNC System had been named as a defendant along with Gov. Pat McCrory in a case filed on behalf of plaintiffs including students and university employees. Plaintiffs say the law requiring them to use restrooms matching the sex on their birth certificate is discriminatory.

Separately, a three-judge panel of the Virginia appeals court gave a favorable ruling to a transgender student seeking to use high school restrooms in line with his gender identity. The Virginia school board he sued has asked for a new hearing before the full appeals court. That case hinges on a federal antidiscrimination law that’s also central to the North Carolina cases.

The North Carolina law enacted in March requires transgender people to use restrooms corresponding with the sex on their birth certificate in public schools, universities and many other public buildings. It also excludes gender identity and sexual orientation from statewide antidiscrimination protections.

Friday’s filings go a step further than previous statements by Spellings, who had lamented in a May 9 letter to the Justice Department that the system was “in a difficult position” caught between state and federal laws.

“Spellings is just being whipsawed,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond.

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Key building blocks of life found in comet Sat, 28 May 2016 01:25:13 +0000 BERLIN — Scientists have found further evidence supporting the theory that some of the building blocks for life may have come to Earth from outer space.

Using instruments aboard the European space probe Rosetta, researchers detected glycine and phosphorus in the dusty halo around a comet.

Glycine is an amino acid, one of the molecules needed to make proteins, while phosphorus is essential for DNA and cells.

Their presence in the coma enveloping comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko “supports the idea that comets delivered key molecules for prebiotic chemistry throughout the solar system and, in particular, to the early Earth,” according to the study published online Friday by the journal Science Advances.

Scientists say adding a high concentration of those molecules to a body of water could have produced the “primordial soup” that gave birth to life on our planet more than 4 billion years ago.

“The beauty of it is that the material in the comet was formed before the Sun and planets formed, in the cold environment of the star forming region (known as the) molecular cloud,” said Kathrin Altwegg, a physicist at the University of Bern, Switzerland, who led the study.

“That means what has happened a long time ago in the cloud from which our solar system emerged could happen in all clouds,” Altwegg said. “Then you just need another planetary system forming with a planet at the right position and you could have another go at life. It may not be successful, but as there are billions of stars and as we now know billions of planets, chances are good.”

Jonathan Lunine, director of the Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science at Cornell University, said scientists had expected to find glycine in comets.

“This is because glycine is so simple and easy to make,” said Lunine, who wasn’t involved in the study.

In fact, glycine has already been detected in meteorites, and NASA’s Stardust mission collected samples of dust from comet Wild 2 that were found to contain glycine. Because those samples were processed on Earth, however, there was a possibility that the glycine could have resulted from contamination. Scientists used a technique known as isotopic analysis to conclude that the molecules had likely come from a comet.

“Our detection is a very direct measurement with no human interference directly at the comet,” said Altwegg, adding that phosphorus has never previously been confirmed in a comet.

Lunine said confirmation of glycine on 67P would provide a useful comparison for future space missions to ocean worlds like those of Enceladus and Europa – moons of Saturn and Jupiter, respectively – that some scientists think could harbor life.

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Brazil police identify 4 of 30-plus men wanted in gang rape Sat, 28 May 2016 01:10:46 +0000 RIO DE JANEIRO —Police said Friday that they have identified and are searching for four of the more than 30 men suspected in the gang rape of a 16-year-old girl, a case that has rocked Latin America’s largest nation and highlighted its endemic problem of violence against women.

The announcement came as acting President Michel Temer called an emergency meeting of the security ministers for each of Brazil’s states to consider gender-related crimes.

“It’s absurd that in the 21st century we have to live with barbarous crimes like this,” Temer said in a statement. He promised to create a federal police force unit tasked with tackling crimes against women.

The assault came to light after several men joked about the attack online, posting graphic photos and videos of the unconscious, naked teen on Twitter.

Police also asked for the public’s help to track down the four men and identify the others. Local reports said more than 800 people had called a hotline that was set up to share information.

Authorities say the rape happened last Saturday while the girl was visiting her boyfriend in the Sao Joao shantytown on the west side of Rio de Janeiro.

“I want them to await the justice of God. I feel like trash,” the 16-year-old said in brief comments to O Globo newspaper. “It’s the stigma that hurts me the most. It is as if people are saying ‘it’s her fault. She was using scanty clothes.’ I want people to know that it is not the woman’s fault. You can’t blame a robbery victim, for being robbed.”

At a news conference Friday, police said the girl reported being raped by 33 men and regaining consciousness the following day. Police said they had been unable to confirm exactly how many men may have taken part.

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In Iraq’s battle to retake Fallujah, residents are caught in crossfire Sat, 28 May 2016 00:55:04 +0000 BAGHDAD — Five days into an Iraqi military operation to push Islamic State fighters out of Fallujah, residents still inside the city are preparing for a long battle, with some saying they fear being trapped between two forces they don’t fully trust.

More than 50,000 people remain in the center of the Sunni majority city, which has been under control of the extremist group for more than two years. Those who want to leave describe deteriorating humanitarian conditions, but they also say they are wary of the Iraqi government forces who have pledged to liberate them.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of the offensive late Sunday night. Backed by airstrikes from a U.S.-led coalition, Iraqi forces are tightening their grip around Fallujah and dislodging Islamic State militants from key areas.

“The airstrikes are almost constant,” one man said by phone from inside the city Thursday. The resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of concerns for his safety, said that after living for weeks on rice, canned food and processed cheese, those stocks were beginning to run low.

While many in Fallujah welcomed the takeover of the city by the Sunni-led Islamic State group as an alternative to what they considered their marginalization at the hands of Iraq’s leaders, humanitarian conditions in the city have deteriorated under the extremists.

Located 40 miles west of Baghdad, the city has a history of anti-government sentiment in post 2003 Iraq.

After the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 toppled Saddam Hussein, the city’s 250,000 residents initially supported a Sunni insurgency that rose up against U.S. forces and the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad. Militants from al-Qaida in Iraq fought two bloody battles with U.S. troops in Fallujah in 2004 that killed more than 100 Americans and wounded more than 1,000.

In 2012, Fallujah was the heart of an anti-government protest movement that mobilized tens of thousands across Sunni areas. The demonstrations were sparked by then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s increasingly sectarian rule that many Sunnis felt had left them without a voice. Clashes between Iraqi security forces and protesters killed dozens in Fallujah, with thousands of young men arrested.

Shortly after a bloody raid on a Fallujah protest camp in early 2014, Islamic State militants moved in and took over the town. Islamic State later captured the second-largest city of Mosul and then swept toward Baghdad in a blitz that seized nearly a third of Iraq territory.

As Iraqi government troops surrounded Fallujah in summer 2015, residents began reporting increased cases of malnutrition, with the siege preventing food and medicine from entering the city.

This week, as the fighting intensified, food and water are becoming even harder to find, residents said. The Iraqi forces don’t want the militants to escape the city, and coalition officials estimated earlier this week that 500-700 Islamic State fighters remain in Fallujah, nestled among the civilian population.

Iraqi military officials insist that safe “corridors” will be established to allow civilians to flee, but residents say Islamic State-controlled checkpoints along the city’s main roads have made that nearly impossible.

The large number of civilians is already complicating the operation. IS fighters have used civilians as human shields in the past, in some cases forcing families to flee with retreating fighters. The tactic makes airstrikes more difficult.

When the Iraqi military retook Ramadi, IS militants could withdraw to Fallujah, said Christoph Wilcke, an Iraq researcher for Human Rights Watch. But for the militants in Fallujah, “there’s no withdrawal route.”

Wilcke worries that could lead to more civilian casualties.

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Waterville promotes detective to deputy chief Sat, 28 May 2016 00:37:11 +0000 WATERVILLE — Detective Sgt. William Bonney has been named deputy chief of the Waterville Police Department, replacing Charles Rumsey, who leaves Tuesday to become of the Cumberland Police Department.

Bonney, 40, will take the position June 6 after working his way up through the ranks at the police department during his 18 years there. He started as a patrol officer in 1998.

Bonney, who was named 2016 Police Officer of the Year by the Maine Association of Police, will earn an annual salary of $92,000.

In announcing the promotion Friday, police Chief Joseph Massey said five sergeants applied for the deputy police chief’s position and all were well-qualified so he was faced with a difficult decision. Bonney, he said, has held every position in the department and understands the four divisions, how they work and what is expected of each, which will help him to be successful as deputy chief.

Bonney, of Fairfield, said he is excited about the new opportunity.

“It’s very humbling,” Bonney said Friday. “There were five very good candidates that put in for the position and to be selected out of five, to be considered, it’s a great honor, and I’m looking forward to working together with the chief and city officials and the community to continue to make Waterville a great place to live and work.”

Amy Calder can be contacted at 861-9247 or at:

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Messalonskee boys lacrosse upsets Brunswick Sat, 28 May 2016 00:34:55 +0000 WATERVILLE — The Messalonskee boys lacrosse team flipped the script on the best team in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A on Friday afternoon at Smith Field on the campus of Thomas College.

The Eagles screamed out to an 8-0 lead over Brunswick with goals from six different players, and Messalonskee held on to beat the Dragons 16-12 for the program’s first win over Brunswick in five years, according to Eagles head coach Tom Sheridan.

From Austin Pelletier’s unassisted goal in the first minute of play through Will Week’s second goal of the afternoon which prompted exasperated Brunswick coach Don Glover to call timeout at the 7:31 mark of the opening quarter, the Eagles (8-3) never lifted their foot off the collective gas pedal.

“The biggest thing (Friday) was definitely the start,” said senior midfielder Jack Bernatchez, who joined 12 other seniors on the Messalonskee roster who had never beaten Brunswick — including a loss in the regional finals last season.

“We came out on fire. Lots of times, it takes us a quarter or two to get woken up out there. (Friday), we just came out with guns blazing.”

Glover said the same thing about his Dragons (9-2), that they’ve made a habit of starting slowly. On Friday, it cost them.

“As a program, we tend to get scored on first in games and then wake up a little bit,” Glover said. “And it was a combination of that and that (Messalonskee) was just on fire. They played really, really well. They transitioned well, and we didn’t get our feet under us that well. They earned every one of those early goals.”

In all, Pelletier and Connor Smith each netted four goals in the statement victory, while Weeks finished with three scores. Bernatchez added a pair of goals of his own.

“It is a good statement,” said midfielder Dylan Burton, who had a goal and three assists, “It shows we can beat anyone in our conference, and that feels really good.”

Brunswick tried to fight back late in the first quarter, getting three Aiden Glover goals in the final four minutes of the period — including one as time expired to close to within 9-3.

The freshman Glover finished the game with five goals.

But the Eagles stood strong in the second quarter, thwarting any would-be Dragon momentum by holding the visitors scoreless to take a 13-3 advantage into halftime.

“Our midfield definitely led the way,” Sheridan said. “Usually, people are worried about our attack, but we’re just waiting for our midfield to take over and take control of the game. That’s what happened (Friday), and it was just huge.”

Messalonskee expects to see Brunswick again in just one week’s time, when the two meet in the KVAC championship game at Thomas. Sheridan likes the way his team is playing as it closes in on the postseason.

“We definitely saw some things the last time (against Brunswick on May 6) that worked for us,” Sheridan said. “Even though we lost 18-11, we were fortunate enough to put 11 goals on them. We’d been watching film and trying to learn from that, and we saw some things. We don’t usually go open set, but it worked for us (Friday).

“We’ve had some nice battles with Brunswick over the last couple of years, but we could never just put together a complete game along the way. They’re a good offensive team, but the kids fought hard. They definitely wanted this win right there.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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Travelers fly through security checkpoints Sat, 28 May 2016 00:23:16 +0000 ATLANTA — Travelers who were dreading long airport security lines before the Memorial Day weekend instead reported moving quickly through checkpoints Friday after authorities opened extra screening lanes and used bomb-sniffing dogs to give some passengers a break from removing their shoes.

“Wow. I mean, wow,” said Mike Saresky, who flew into Chicago from Philadelphia, where he breezed through airport security in 12 minutes and got to leave his shoes on. “I thought it was going to be a lot worse.”

The extra dogs were concentrated at the nation’s largest airports, but they were not used for all screenings, meaning that many travelers still had to observe the usual procedures.

But as the busy summer travel season kicked off, the federal Transportation Security Administration tried to offer travelers some relief after weeks of slow-moving lines blamed on an increase in the number of air travelers and a shortage of TSA security officers.

A TSA spokesman said the extra dogs would remain well beyond the holiday.

At Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta, known as the world’s busiest, all 16 security lanes at the main checkpoint were open Friday morning as a bomb-sniffing dog and its handler walked among waiting passengers. Wait times were slashed to less than 15 minutes, compared with backups of nearly an hour in recent weeks.

“All the natives were telling me, ‘Brace yourself,’ ” said Carl Pluim, who arrived in Atlanta to fly home to Denver. “I left myself two hours before my flight, so I think I’ll be OK.”

When she flew barely two weeks ago, LaGretta Watkin recalled security lines that were “so chaotic” that travelers “could barely move.”

“But today it’s smooth sailing and refreshing,” Watkin said as she started a trip from Atlanta to Jacksonville, Florida. “And I’m loving it.”

The TSA began deploying extra canine teams to the busiest airports months ago. While the goal was to shorten waits at larger airports, the reshuffling could also result in longer lines at airports that lost dog teams.

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Body recovered after small plane crashes in Hudson River Sat, 28 May 2016 00:19:46 +0000 NEW YORK — A small World War II vintage plane taking part in celebrations of its 75th anniversary flew a partial loop while smoke spewed from it and then crashed in the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey on Friday, and divers recovered a body from its sunken wreckage, police and witnesses said.

The single-seat plane, a P-47 Thunderbolt, crashed on a part of the river near where a US Airways commercial jet carrying 155 people splash-landed safely in 2009 in what became known as the Miracle on the Hudson.

A witness to the P-47 Thunderbolt crash, Hunter College student Siqi Li, saw smoke spewing from the plane and thought it was doing a trick.

“It made kind of a U-turn, and then there was a stream of smoke coming from it,” Li told the Daily News. “It was tilting down toward the water. I thought they were doing some sort of trick. I didn’t realize it at first, but it was a plane crash.”

Scuba divers recovered a body from the submerged plane about three hours later, New York Police Department Detective Michael Debonis said. Police hadn’t confirmed the body was that of the pilot, the only person who was aboard the plane.

The body was taken back to the New York shore via police boat. Several police officers carried a stretcher to the dock.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft, which went down near the George Washington Bridge around 7:30 p.m., was among three planes that had departed from Republic Airport in Farmingdale, on Long Island, just east of New York City. The other two aircraft returned to the airport and landed safely.

The American Airpower Museum is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the P-47 Thunderbolt this weekend. Museum spokesman Gary Lewi said the plane was kept at the museum and was taking part in an air show at nearby Jones Beach this weekend.

“Apparently the aircraft suffered an inflight engine failure,” Lewi said. “I’m told the aircraft is at the bottom of the Hudson.”

The three planes, the P-47, a P-40 and a photo plane, had been flying over the Hudson to shoot promotional material for the Jones Beach air show, Lewi said. The identity of the pilot of the plane that crashed was being withheld, he said.

North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue co-director Jeff Welz told The Jersey Journal that firefighters and the Coast Guard responded after the Friday night crash. He said the plane sank “pretty quickly.”

The P47-Thunderbolts were the heaviest single-engine fighter planes used by Allied forces in World War II. They first went into service in 1942, with the 56th Fighter Group based on Long Island.

The one that crashed in the river flew periodically, including to other air shows, Lewi said.


]]> 0 Sat, 28 May 2016 00:10:31 +0000
Cellphone radiation study raises cancer concerns Sat, 28 May 2016 00:19:23 +0000 WASHINGTON — A new federal study of the potential dangers of cellphone radiation, conducted in rats, found a slight increase in brain tumors in males and raised long-dormant concerns about the safety of spending so much time with cellphones glued to our ears.

But the study had enough strange findings that it has caused other federal scientists to highlight flaws in the research, and experts said these findings and those from other studies continue to suggest the potential risk from cellphone radiation is very small.

The National Institutes of Health study bombarded rats with cellphone radiation from the womb through the first two years of life for nine hours a day. It found tumors in 2 to 3 percent of male rats, which the study’s authors called low. But females weren’t affected at all and, strangely, the rats not exposed to the cellphone radiation died much faster – at double the rate – of those that were.

The results were preliminary, and only part of what will ultimately be released. They were made public before they were officially published – and despite strong criticism from other NIH scientists – because the results were similar to other studies that hint at a potential problem, said study author John Bucher.

The study is part of a seven-year, $25 million effort conducted by the National Toxicology Program at the request of the Food and Drug Administration. It looked at the specific type of radiation that cellphones transmit, called non-ionizing radiofrequency.

“This is the first study to actually show that non-ionizing radiation (causes) cancer,” said Dr. Otis Brawley, the American Cancer Society’s chief medical officer. The cancer society in a statement praised the study for “evidence that cellphone signals could potentially impact human health” but notes that it doesn’t quite address real risk to people.

“If cellphones cause cancer, they don’t cause a lot of cancer,” he said in an interview. “It’s not as carcinogenic as beef.”

He said people should be far more concerned about “distraction caused by cellphone,”‘ which he said causes more deaths.

Both Brawley and Bucher said this would not change how they use their own personal cellphones.

Since about 1986, U.S. brain cancer deaths have not increased or decreased, Brawley said. That suggests that whatever effect cellphones may have it is so small as to be undetectable amid regular cases of brain cancer.

]]> 0, 27 May 2016 20:19:23 +0000
Former B-17 gunner dies outside Battle of Britain Bunker Sat, 28 May 2016 00:12:00 +0000 The Washington Post

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Melvin Rector long carried Britain in his heart after he helped defend it during World War II, but 70 years passed without him setting foot in the country.

The 94-year-old finally decided to leave his home in Barefoot Bay, Fla., to visit Britain this month.

The National World War II Museum in New Orleans conducts a travel program through which interested parties can visit certain sites of the war. He signed up for one, in hopes of visiting the Royal Air Force station Snetterton Heath, in Norfolk.

He served there with the 96th Bomb Group in 1945 as a radio operator and gunner on B-17 Flying Fortress bombers, flying eight combat missions over Germany during the spring of the war’s final year.

On four of those missions, his plane came under heavy enemy fire. One almost proved catastrophic, and the plane returned to base with holes dotting its wings.

Rector was excited for his return to the place that made this great plane famous.

“He planned it for like the last six months,” Darlene O’Donnell, Rector’s stepdaughter, said of the trip, according to the Florida Today newspaper. “He couldn’t wait to go.”

Over the Atlantic, the pilot of his American Airlines flight summoned him to the cockpit so that the two could take a photograph together. “The flight attendant stopped us and said, ‘Mr. Rector, the captain would like to meet you,'” Susan Jowers told Florida Today.

She had become almost a daughter to Rector after serving as his guardian during a 2011 Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C., and she accompanied him on this tour.

On May 6, Rector set foot on British soil for the first time in 71 years. The group visited RAF Uxbridge in the London borough of Hillingdon.

Rector toured the Battle of Britain Bunker, an underground command center where fighter plane operations were directed during D-Day.

After climbing back into the sunlight, he told Jowers he felt dizzy. She grabbed one of his arms, and a stranger grabbed the other.

There, just outside the bunker where Winston Churchill famously said, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few,” Rector died quietly. “He walked out of that bunker like his tour was done,” Jowers said.

Sandy Vavruich, Rector’s daughter, said it’s how he would have liked to die, even though he sadly never made it to RAF Snetterton Heath.

“He couldn’t have asked for a better way to go,” she told Florida Today. “It was quick and painless. He had just gotten to see two planes, and he passed away between them.”

Rector’s remains were repatriated to the United States on Tuesday.

“He completed his final mission,” Jowers said.

]]> 0 Fri, 27 May 2016 20:12:00 +0000
Authorities in Oxford County arrest two on drug charges Sat, 28 May 2016 00:06:31 +0000 Two men were arrested during a drug raid in Roxbury, Maine, and charged with heroin and other drug-related crimes, the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office said Friday.

As deputies, agents from the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and local departments drive to a search on Main Street in Roxbury, they saw the target of the investigation, Jeremy Belskis, 29, riding in a car on the highway.

The vehicle was stopped and Belskis was arrested. At his home, police found nearly $1,400, 2.4 grams of cocaine, 2.8 grams of heroin and 8.9 grams of psilocybin mushrooms. Belskis was charged with trafficking heroin, a class B felony. Bail was set at $5,000 cash.

Also arrested was the driver of the car in which Belskis was riding. Jarrod Chessie, 32, of Mexico was charged with possession of heroin, taken to the Rumford Police Department and realeased on bail. More arrests are expected, police said.

]]> 0 Fri, 27 May 2016 20:14:44 +0000
Serving prison sentence turns into serving God Sat, 28 May 2016 00:00:29 +0000 LAKE FOREST, Calif. — Danny Duchene dropped to his knees as pastor Rick Warren led a prayer over him, the recently named pastor for Saddleback Church’s prison ministry.

“The greatest feeling in life is being used by God for something larger than yourself,” Warren said after announcing Duchene’s new job. “God can use anybody because of his mercy. Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future.”

Duchene, 53, is a twice-convicted murderer.

He was serving double 25-year-to-life sentences at Sierra Conservation Center in Northern California for killing two men when, with the help of a letter Warren penned to the parole board guaranteeing him a job at Saddleback, he was released Dec. 24, 2014.


Nearly 20 years into his sentence, Duchene became familiar with Warren through his book “The Purpose Driven Life.” It inspired him to start a Purpose-Driven Church at the prison, to encourage inmates that their lives had a purpose.

Duchene finished reading Warren’s book in 2003 at the same time Saddleback Church was launching a National Day of Purpose campaign. Duchene wanted to be part of that, so he contacted Saddleback leaders and told them 20 inmates wanted to participate. Saddleback staff sent videos and workbooks.

“We had the support of the corrections director of substance abuse. He let us know if there were enough men, we could expand,” Duchene said. “We thought maybe 50 men would participate in the small groups, but as we went door to door asking if men in the prison were interested, more than 200 guys signed up.”

At the end of 40 Days of Purpose, Saddleback Pastor Steve Rutenbar visited the prison. And Warren came to the prison and led a service in the yard.

“When Rick spoke, more men came out of their cellblocks,” Duchene said. “When he gave an invitation to men to come across the yard and give their lives to God, as one came, more began coming and a very rowdy prison yard became still..”

A few months later, Saddleback Pastor John Baker returned to the prison and trained Duchene and others to lead Celebrate Recovery programs, aimed at helping them get their lives in order.

“There was something about Danny that was truly authentic,” said Baker, who oversees Duchene outside the prison walls. “You could see the pastor’s heart in him. He was doing everything he could to be a man of God. Rick turned to me and said, ‘We’ve got to hire Danny.'”

Within a year, prison officials dedicated an entire 200-man cellblock to prisoners participating in Celebrate Recovery.

“I think the normal prison environment teaches men to be isolated,” Duchene said. “They’re separated from their families. They have guilt and shame of their crimes. By hoping for a changed life and not coming back, they find support of other men who want the same thing compared to the normal environment of prison peer pressure to do the wrong thing.”

After his 2014 Christmas Eve release, Duchene worked as a drug and alcohol counselor at a San Francisco methadone clinic and got married. He and his wife lead a small group in their Mission Viejo, Calif., home.


Duchene grew up in Redding, in Northern California. By fourth grade, he was a latch-key kid spending summers with his siblings, but with little, if any, adult supervision.

His parents had nice homes and cars and he grew up thinking that was his goal in life. One day, he said, he came home and found his parents sitting with a friend with thousands of dollars in cash spread out on the table.

“I was told they were going on a business trip to Peru and that I’d see them at Christmas,” he said. “But my parents did not return from that trip. Instead … I learned that my parents had been arrested in Mexico for smuggling cocaine.”

At age 16, Duchene began using drugs and committed crimes to support his habit. By 18, he was addicted to alcohol and drugs.

“I struggled to keep myself supplied,” he said. “I was reckless and never worried about getting caught for my crimes, and I certainly didn’t consider the consequences to others..”

Duchene was arrested in 1982 in Yuba City, Calif., after a knife fight in which he and an accomplice killed two men.

Russell Duane Ruhl had been hired for $400 to kill someone, and he asked Duchene to assist him. They would split the money, according to court records.

Ruhl and Duchene found their target in a field, where he was with another worker. Ruhl and Duchene decided both men had to die, according to court records. After a struggle, the two men were knifed to death.

On Nov. 15, Ruhl and Duchene pleaded guilty to two counts each of first-degree murder.

Duchene said his sentence was just.

“I feel my crime was the most horrific it could have been because it seeks to value a human being’s life based on the lowly desire of alcohol and drugs,” he said.

Though Duchene pleaded guilty with a chance of parole, he said he never believed he would get out. Still, his behavior was exemplary. He passed 32 years of confinement with no disciplinary actions.

At his parole hearing in December 2013, he was recommended for release. Getting a recommendation from Warren helped, Duchene said.

“This isn’t a crime you get over and move on,” he said. “My life from now on is living out the amends by serving others.”

]]> 1, 27 May 2016 20:00:29 +0000
‘The Blueprint’ mural on Free Street demolished for building renovation Fri, 27 May 2016 23:37:28 +0000 “The Blueprint,” a large-scale architectural drawing that has adorned the side of a building at 48 Free St. in Portland for 30 years, was covered in scaffolding and demolished Friday. It may not be replaced.

Scarborough artist Chris Denison installed the artwork for the building’s previous owner in 1986. He said the current owners contacted him a month or so ago about repainting the mural, but he hasn’t heard back.

“I certainly offered to do it again and I gave them a ballpark quote – and haven’t heard a word since,” he said. “I don’t know if it scared the hell out of them.”

Chris Denison installed the mural for the building’s previous owner in 1986. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Chris Denison installed the mural for the building’s previous owner in 1986. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

The building is owned by J.B. Brown & Sons. CEO Vincent P. Veroneau could not be reached Friday to discuss his plan for the building and whether the mural will be replaced.

The building is being repaired to fix moisture damage, a tenant said. Crews recently installed scaffolding and were seen removing material from the side of the building on Friday, taking large sections of the mural with them.

Workers are now repairing moisture damage on the building. John Ewing/Staff Photographer

Workers are now repairing moisture damage on the building. John Ewing/Staff Photographer

That was distressing to Susan Roux, who operates Roux and Cyr International Fine Art Gallery on the first floor of 48 Free St., on the opposite side of the building from the mural.

“I love the mural,” she said. “It’s a landmark. We’re so sad it’s coming down. I can’t believe they can’t rectify the problem without taking the mural down.”

Portland resident Fran Houston had a similar reaction.

“I love seeing that,” Houston said of the mural. “It’s big and different. It’s something I wouldn’t like to be without.”

Denison, who painted murals on the sides of buildings at Tommy Park in the Old Port, has painted 48 Free St. twice. He painted it originally in 1986 as a blueprint – light blue paper with fuzzy blue lines – and again in the 1990s with white paper and sharp black lines to reflect changes in the way building plans are drawn.


]]> 1, 27 May 2016 21:21:40 +0000
Ron Burke of Shapleigh, master potter who shared skills with many, dies at 80 Fri, 27 May 2016 23:17:23 +0000 A 1969 documentary clip shows master potter Ron Burke in his element.

In the film, Burke throws a slab of clay on a table to get the air bubbles out. Next, he throws it from hand to hand to form a ball, then places the clay on a potter’s wheel.

“It’s all in the good hands and the good earth,” says the commentator, Charles Kuralt. “Out of a pile of real dirt touched by real fingers comes truth. Truth shaped by human pressures into beauty.”

In the clip, Burke showed viewers how to make a bowl. When done, he looked at it and promptly destroyed it.

Mr. Burke, an accomplished potter from Shapleigh who dedicated his life to sharing his passion for pottery with others, died Tuesday from cancer-related pneumonia. He was 80.

Mr. Burke was an independent studio potter for more than 30 years, and taught master pottery classes from his home. He also worked as a visiting professor and instructor at numerous institutions, including the University of Southern Maine, the University of New Hampshire, the Maine College of Art, Portland Pottery, and the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle.

He was a both resident craftsman and instructor at Haystack. His wife, Tess Burke, said he built massive kilns for several schools.

She and their three children gathered on Friday to share stories of a man who inspired many through his love for art, teaching and family.

He began working as an independent studio potter in 1965 while living in Rock Tavern, New York. In 1973, the Burkes moved to Shapleigh, where he transformed a dairy barn into an art studio. Throughout his career, he made and sold an estimated 34,000 clay objects, including sculptures and stoneware vessels such as bowls, mugs and plates.

“He liked feeling the clay with his hands, … touching it and rolling it,” his wife said. “He really got to know each piece.”

Most recently, Mr. Burke taught at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. He taught there for seven years before retiring in 2005

“He taught his students how to run kilns and make beautiful pieces,” his wife said. “He wanted his students to learn the whole process. He loved the chemical process of glazing pottery and formulating his own glaze.”

Outside his studio, Mr. Burke was a devoted husband and father who cared deeply about social justice causes.

“He wanted to be inclusive to everyone,” his wife said. “He didn’t want to leave anyone out. He had a welcoming personality. He could strike up a conversation with anyone.”

His daughter Tamara Hlava of Laguna Beach, California, said her father was caring, present, and always interested in their lives.

“I miss that he was my friend,” Hlava said. “He was always in my corner. He always made me feel like I was doing everything right for me and that I was a good mom. He believed in me. … He was always really proud of me and that was a cool feeling.”

He also shared a close relationship with his daughter Tracy Burke of Cape Elizabeth. His son, Brent Burke of Portland, Oregon, said Friday that he appreciated his father’s advice and admired his positive and optimistic outlook on life.

“I admired his boundless optimism about the future. He wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns,” his son said. “He leaned forward and that was awesome.”

Mr. Burke was diagnosed with cancer in April 2010. He stayed in remission for four years. The cancer returned last fall. Throughout his illness, his family said he kept a positive outlook.

“He never gave up,” his wife said.

A brief service will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday at Autumn Green Funeral Home in Alfred. Following the service, there will be an informal gathering to remember him at the York County Shelter at the Brothers on Shaker Hill Road.

Several pieces of his pottery will be displayed during the service.


]]> 0, 27 May 2016 20:46:42 +0000
2016 Memorial Day parades Fri, 27 May 2016 23:12:47 +0000 Memorial Day parades

Here are the local parades scheduled for Monday:

BIDDEFORD AND SACO: Opening ceremony at Saco’s Eastman Park at 10 a.m., followed by a parade proceeding down Main Street in Saco to Veteran’s Memorial Bridge for a wreath ceremony and on to Main Street in Biddeford, turning left onto Alfred Street and continuing to Biddeford Veterans Memorial Park at Alfred and Pool streets for a closing ceremony.

CAPE ELIZABETH: Parade begins at 9 a.m. at the intersection of Fowler and Old Ocean House roads. Continues north on Route 77, takes a left onto Scott Dyer Road and ends at the War Veteran’s Memorial with a ceremony.

CUMBERLAND: Parade begins at 10 a.m. at the Mabel I. Wilson School and ends at the Veterans Memorial.

DAMARISCOTTA: Parade begins at 11 a.m. at the Lincoln County News parking lot on Route 215.

DURHAM: Parade begins at 10 a.m. at Davis Road and runs south on Royalsborough Road to the back entrance of the Durham Community School.

FALMOUTH: Parade begins at 10 a.m. at the American Legion Post at 65 Depot Road and proceeds to Foreside Road and south to Pine Grove Park for ceremonies, including performances by the Falmouth Middle and High School bands and choruses. Refreshments will be served on the lawn of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.

FREEPORT: Parade beings at 9:30 a.m. at Freeport High School and ends at Bow Street Park. Ceremony at 10 a.m. In case of rain, the ceremony will be held at the high school.

GORHAM: Parade begins at 11 a.m. at the Village School and ends at Eastern Cemetery on Johnson Road.

KENNEBUNK: Parade begins at 2 p.m. at Town Hall, runs down Main Street and loops backs to Town Hall.

KENNEBUNKPORT: Parade begins at 9:30 at Masonic Hall on Temple Street and ends at Dock Square for ceremony.

LEWISTON: Parade begins at 9:30 a.m. at Kennedy Park and ends at Veteran’s Park.

OLD ORCHARD BEACH: Parade begins at 1 p.m. at The Ballpark. Ceremony follows at Veterans Memorial Park.

PORTLAND: Parade begins at 10:15 a.m. at Longfellow Square and proceeds down Congress Street to Monument Square, where ceremonies will take place.

FRIENDS OF EVERGREEN: Memorial Day Procession begins at 2 p.m. along Stevens Avenue from Deering High School to Evergreen Cemetery in Portland. A brief ceremony follows the parade.

SANFORD: Parade begins at 10 a.m. at Number One Pond, up Gowen Park Drive and onto Main Street to Central Park.

SCARBOROUGH: Services at local cemeteries and monuments begin at Black Point Cemetery at 8 a.m. and on to Dunstan Memorial, Dunstan Cemetery, Blue Point Cemetery and Memorial Park. A parade begins at 10 a.m. at Scarborough High School, proceeding along Route 1 to Maine Veterans’ Home, pausing at Maine Veterans Monument for service. Additional ceremonies at the Post home, including an open house with refreshments at noon and a performance by the Kora Temple Highlanders.

SOUTH PORTLAND: Parade begins at 10:30 a.m., starting at Southern Maine Community College at the end of Broadway to the Veterans Memorial Monument. A wreath-laying ceremony at the public boat landing will be held at noon.

WELLS AND OGUNQUIT: Parade begins at 9 a.m. at Wells High School on Sanford Road and continues to Ocean View Cemetery on Route 1 for a ceremony. The parade will disband and reform in Ogunquit and step off at 11 a.m. on Bourne Lane, with ceremonies to follow.

WESTBROOK: Parade begins at 10 a.m. at the end of Longfellow Street and follows down Main Street to Riverbank Park. Ceremony follows.

WINDHAM: Parade begins at 9 a.m. at the high school. Luncheon and ceremony at Windham Veteran’s Center starts at noon.

]]> 0 Fri, 27 May 2016 19:12:47 +0000
Unhealthy ozone levels expected in parts of Maine on Saturday Fri, 27 May 2016 23:02:39 +0000 The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has issued an air-quality alert for Saturday, saying ozone concentrations will be at unhealthy levels from Kittery to Acadia.

Winds are expected to carry unhealthy ozone levels that have been present in southern New England this week toward Maine after midnight, according to a news release from the DEP.

That means children, adults who exert themselves and people with respiratory diseases, such as asthma or bronchitis, may experience shortness of breath, coughing, throat irritation or an uncomfortable feeling in the chest.

Avoiding strenuous outdoor activity during the afternoon could help prevent those symptoms, the DEP said.

The agency also expects ozone levels to be moderate in western Maine and particle pollution to be moderate up the coast to Acadia and in the western part of the state.

Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

Twitter: lesliebridgers

]]> 2 Fri, 27 May 2016 19:49:22 +0000
Civil War re-enactment continues Memorial Day tradition at Brunswick school: Photos Fri, 27 May 2016 22:46:07 +0000 Fifth-graders at Brunswick’s Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School brought their lessons to life Friday, re-enacting Pickett’s Charge.

The historic battle on July 3, 1863, was the third and final day of fighting at Gettysburg.

The Stowe school has been doing re-enactments on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend for more than 20 years. Students play roles based on what they have learned in class during the school year.

]]> 1, 27 May 2016 23:52:00 +0000
Pope’s embrace of Al-Azhar imam signals new cordial era Fri, 27 May 2016 22:23:33 +0000 Associated Press

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis on Monday embraced the grand imam of Al-Azhar, the prestigious Sunni Muslim center of learning, in a sign that a five-year suspension of important Catholic-Muslim ties was over.

As Sheik Ahmed el-Tayyib arrived for his audience in the Apostolic Palace, Francis said that the fact that they were meeting at all was significant.

“The meeting is the message,” Francis told the imam.

The two men spoke privately for 25 minutes in the pope’s private library, bidding each other farewell with an embrace. El-Tayyib and his delegation then had talks with the Vatican cardinal in charge of interreligious dialogue.

The meeting comes five years after the Cairo-based Al-Azhar froze talks with the Vatican to protest comments by then-Pope Benedict XVI.

Benedict had demanded greater protection for Christians in Egypt after a New Year’s bombing on a Coptic Christian church in Alexandria killed 21 people. Since then, Islamic attacks on Christians in the region have only increased but the Vatican and Al-Azhar have nevertheless relaunched ties, with a Vatican delegation visiting Cairo in February and extending the invitation for el-Tayyib to visit.

Francis gave him a copy of his environmental encyclical and a peace medal.

After the audience, el-Tayyib travels to Paris to open a Muslim-Catholic conference on East-West relations.

The Vatican’s relations with Islam hit several bumps during Benedict’s papacy. He outraged Muslims with a 2006 speech quoting a Byzantine emperor as saying some of the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings were “evil and inhuman.” The subsequent suspension of talks with Al-Azhar institutionalized the bad blood.

El-Tayyib, however, sent a message of congratulations to Francis upon his 2013 election and said he hoped for renewed cooperation. Francis responded, and has made clear over the course of his three-year pontificate that relations with Islam are a top priority.

]]> 0, 27 May 2016 18:23:33 +0000
Red Sox demote Clay Buchholz to bullpen Fri, 27 May 2016 21:56:19 +0000 The Boston Red Sox finally ran out of patience with starting pitcher Clay Buchholz. He is being sent to the bullpen, with Eduardo Rodriguez taking his spot in the rotation, Manager John Farrell told media in Toronto, where the Red Sox lost Friday night.

Buchholz, 31, has always been considered one of Boston’s most talented pitchers, but the results are not consistent. He began this season with a 2-5 record and 6.35 ERA. Buchholz made his 10th start Thursday at Fenway Park, allowing six earned runs over five innings in a loss to Colorado.

Rodriguez, 22, made a splash in his first major league season last year, going 10-5 with a 3.85 ERA. He began this season on the disabled list after suffering a dislocated kneecap in spring training. He had been making rehab appearances with Triple-A Pawtucket. Farrell said Rodriguez will start Tuesday’s game in Baltimore.

Buchholz has made two career relief appearances, one in his rookie season in 2007 and another in 2008.

Farrell said Buchholz will make multi-inning appearances in order to remain stretched out and could return to the rotation later in the season.

]]> 0, 27 May 2016 22:24:39 +0000
Cousins behind Market Basket return to court Fri, 27 May 2016 21:49:31 +0000 BOSTON – Two cousins whose feud over their family’s New England supermarket chain prompted an employee walkout and a customer boycott are fighting in court again.

Arthur S. Demoulas sold his stake in the Market Basket chain in 2014 after a protest by workers upset that a board controlled by him fired his cousin Arthur T. Demoulas. The chain’s customers supported the workers and began shopping elsewhere. Arthur T. Demoulas got his job back, and the chain has rebounded.

Last week, Arthur S. Demoulas and his sister-in-law filed a lawsuit alleging they’ve been excluded from involvement in an IRS audit of the chain of 76 stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.

A spokeswoman for Demoulas Super Markets told The Boston Globe the company always planned to include Arthur S. Demoulas in the audit process.

]]> 1 Fri, 27 May 2016 18:18:11 +0000
Turnpike traffic into Maine heavy at start of holiday weekend Fri, 27 May 2016 21:32:40 +0000 The long Memorial Day weekend started early for some travelers heading to Maine.

Traffic began backing up on the Maine Turnpike about 2:30 p.m. Friday, said Erin Courtney, the turnpike’s spokeswoman. By about 5 p.m., the stop-and-go traffic of cars approaching the York tollbooth northbound stretched for 3 miles as tourists streamed into the state for the unofficial start to summer.

Turnpike officials said the heavy traffic had eased by about 7 p.m.

The Maine Turnpike Authority predicts that about 930,000 vehicles will be on the turnpike between Friday afternoon and Monday. Traffic on Monday is expected to be heaviest southbound between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.

]]> 0 Fri, 27 May 2016 22:36:42 +0000
Jury acquits Portland man with history of indecent acts of threat charges Fri, 27 May 2016 21:26:39 +0000 A Portland man who has been in and out of jail for years because of his
history of masturbating in public and assaultive behavior will soon be released again after being acquitted this week of the latest charges against him.

Steven Ricci, 52, was found not guilty Friday after a three-day jury trial in the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland on two felony charges of criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon.

Ricci remains held in jail for now, for violating his probation by cutting off his GPS monitoring bracelet from a prior felony assault conviction. In 2013, he groped a female nurse at Mercy Hospital in Portland. But Ricci’s attorney, Mark Bullock, said he expects that Ricci will be set free soon because he had already spent about six months in custody for that violation.

Ricci was on trial this week in connection with a Portland police case stemming from his arrest Dec. 10, about a month after he had been released from nearly three years in prison in the nurse assault case. He was accused of using a kitchen knife to threaten a Portland police behavioral health coordinator and an intern as the two women went to check on Ricci at his home at 915 Brighton Ave. It was the same incident in which he cut the bracelet off his leg in a violent outburst, according to police.

When Ricci was released from prison in the nurse assault case last Nov. 6, Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck held a news conference to warn the public that Ricci would be free in the community.

“His mental status and mental capabilities make him extremely high risk to reoffend here in our community,” Sauschuck said at the time.

Ricci, who was born with brain damage and has cerebral palsy, has a criminal history extending to the early 1990s, with more than a dozen convictions. His offenses include indecent conduct, assault and violation of conditions of release. His various lawyers, law enforcement officials and others have not been able to find him a suitable treatment program.

In this week’s trial, Ricci testified in his own defense after the jury heard from the behavioral health coordinator, the intern and the arresting police officer, among others.

Ricci’s speech is impaired and often difficult to understand, but Bullock said the jury seemed to understand that he did not mean to threaten anyone with the knife.

“A lot of it came down to what Steve was intending to do at that time, whether he had any malicious intention or whether he wanted to hurt anyone,” Bullock said when reached by phone after the verdict.

Ricci’s sentence in the nurse assault case was 44 months. He initially served 33 months, but has been held without bail since his arrest in December and will get credit for that time, Bullock said.

“We still have to resolve the probation violation,” Bullock said. “We are going to set it as soon as possible so he can go free.”

Bullock said Ricci’s cutting off the GPS bracelet was a technical probation violation, not a new criminal offense, so he expects the time he has already served awaiting trial will be sufficient.

Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at:

Twitter: scottddolan

]]> 0, 27 May 2016 21:01:40 +0000 Yarmouth approves later start school start times Fri, 27 May 2016 21:21:52 +0000 The Yarmouth School Committee has approved pushing the school start times back 20 minutes at all Yarmouth schools.

Starting next school year, students at the high and middle schools will start at 8 a.m. and school will get out at 2:45 p.m. Yarmouth Elementary School and Rowe School will start at 8:40 a.m. and let out at 3:30 p.m.

High school students will still start later on Wednesdays, starting school at 9 a.m. and letting out at 2:45 p.m.

According to a notice of the change on the school department’s website, bus schedules will be adjusted to reflect the 20-minute change. Schools will not schedule more morning meetings, practices and rehearsals for student extra curricular activities. There may be opportunities for a limited number of young students to access childcare at one of the schools or a off site location before school starts and the school committee expects to release more information by the end of the school year.

Other Maine school districts, including Biddeford, Saco, Dayton and School Administrative District 51 in Cumberland and North Yarmouth have also implemented later start times. School departments across the country are examining later start times based on recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control that early start times can be harmful to student health.

]]> 0 Fri, 27 May 2016 17:35:09 +0000
Typical hurricane season expected after years-long reprieve Fri, 27 May 2016 21:06:33 +0000 MIAMI – U.S. government forecasters expect a near-normal Atlantic hurricane season, after three relatively slow years. But they also say climate conditions that influence storm development are making it difficult to predict how many hurricanes and tropical storms will arise over the next six months.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s outlook Friday called for a near-normal season with 10 to 16 named storms, with four to eight hurricanes and one to four “major” ones with winds reaching 111 mph and up.

The long-term season averages are 12 named storms, with six hurricanes and three major ones.

The Atlantic hurricane season officially starts June 1, but tropical weather got a head-start this year: Hurricane Alex made an unseasonable debut in January over the far eastern Atlantic.

The National Hurricane Center says an area of low pressure between Bermuda and the Bahamas had a high chance of brewing into something bigger Friday or Saturday.

Hurricane hunter aircraft will investigate the disturbance Friday, and communities along the coasts of Georgia and the Carolinas should monitor its development, said NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan.


While they can’t predict whether any storm will strike the U.S., and more tropical storms are expected than in the last three years, NOAA officials said significant variables are at play.

It’s unclear whether a decades-long high-activity era for Atlantic hurricanes has ended, said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. Meanwhile, El Nino is dissipating while La Nina looms for the season’s peak from August through October.

El Nino is the natural warming of parts of the Pacific Ocean that changes weather worldwide. That tends to reduce hurricane activity in the Atlantic, while La Nina tends to increase it.

The active storm era associated with warm Atlantic temperatures and stronger West African monsoons began in 1995, but recent hurricane seasons showed shifts toward a cooler phase marked by colder waters and a weaker monsoon, Bell said.

Each era can last 25 to 40 years, and it might take years to determine whether the transition has happened, Bell said.

The last transition to a less active hurricane era happened in the 1970s, without the data and computer models that forecasters have now. “We’re watching it for the first time with very new eyes,” Sullivan said.

2015 TALLY

The 2015 season was slightly below average with 11 named storms, including two tropical storms that made landfall and caused flooding in South Carolina and Texas. Hurricane Joaquin, one of two storms to reach major hurricane strength, killed all 33 mariners aboard a cargo ship that sank off the Bahamas in October.

During U.S. Coast Guard investigative hearings this month into the sinking of the El Faro, one federal investigator characterized the disaster as “a colossal failure” of management.

Initial forecasts for Joaquin also were wildly inaccurate. Sullivan said NOAA is on track to meet storm track and intensity forecast improvement goals, and a new weather satellite launching this fall will produce much sharper images of hurricanes and other severe weather.


The last major hurricane to strike the U.S. mainland was Hurricane Wilma, which cut across Florida in 2005. Wind speeds, not damage estimates, determine whether a hurricane is classified as “major” – that’s Category 3 and up on the hurricane wind scale .

Since 2005, the population in the 185 coastline counties most threatened by hurricanes has grown 8.7 percent to 59.2 million people, according to U.S. Census estimates. Overall, 143.6 million people – 44.7 percent of the U.S. population – from Maine to Texas could be living in harm’s way.

Other Census figures hint at the potential financial risks throughout those states: 60.1 million housing units and 3.3 million business establishments with 52.3 million paid workers.

Ferocious storm winds aren’t the deadliest threat. According to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, storm surge and rainfall flooding combine for three-quarters of all U.S. deaths from hurricanes, tropical storms or tropical depressions.


In the Bahamas, Joaquin caused over $60 million in damage, according to the hurricane center. The islands reported widespread flooding that contaminated drinking water, cut off an airport and swamped a local fishing fleet.

Even “minor” storms can leave misery behind. After Tropical Storm Erika swept through the Caribbean last year, damage estimates on the island of Dominica ranged up to $500 million for homes, roads, bridges and infrastructure, and Puerto Rico reported $17.4 million in agricultural losses for plantains, bananas and coffee.

The Northeast was wracked by catastrophic flooding, first from Hurricane Irene in 2011 and again from Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Damage estimates tallied in the tens of billions of dollars.

Due to the financial hardships left in Sandy’s wake, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Monday that it’s overhauling its appeals process for flood insurance claims with more transparency and oversight. Homeowners will be able to take disputes directly to FEMA instead of first going through the insurance companies they’re fighting.


Rising sea levels are expected to increase the vulnerability of coastal communities to flooding from tropical systems. Recent research indicates climate change is likely to make hurricanes more intense in the future.

Improved computer models show that warming atmospheric conditions may hinder tropical cyclone development worldwide, says David Nolan, a University of Miami professor of atmospheric sciences.

But the hurricanes that do form could grow more intense because ocean temperatures will be higher, Nolan says. Warm ocean waters feed hurricanes like fuel in an engine.

“The ones that do occur could be a little bit stronger,” Nolan says, “but the changes over the next 10, 20, 30 years would be very small, almost undetectable.”

]]> 0, 27 May 2016 18:17:52 +0000
Convicted murderer from Anson asks court to set him free Fri, 27 May 2016 20:50:03 +0000 An Anson man convicted of murdering another man during a 2009 drug deal is asking a federal court to release him from prison on grounds that the evidence presented at his trial was insufficient — his fourth attempt to get his 2012 conviction overturned.

Robert Nelson, 45, asked the U.S. District Court in Bangor to “vacate the illegal conviction of an innocent man,” according to a petition for writ of habeas corpus filed Monday.

Nelson, who was convicted in 2012 and sentenced to 45 years in prison for the shooting death of Everett L. Cameron, previously filed a motion for a new trial in Somerset County, appealed his conviction before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court and also filed a post-conviction appeal. All were denied.

In the new filing, Nelson, who is representing himself, argues that a lack of DNA evidence, the state’s failure to produce a murder weapon and a lack of evidence about what happened at the murder scene between the time Nelson admitted meeting with Cameron and the time he was found dead, are all grounds for his claim that the state did not meet the required burden of proof.

He also writes that prosecutors linked one witness account of a gunshot in the area to the murder although there was no evidence to prove that the gunshot the man heard was the one that killed Cameron.

During the 2012 trial, the state argued that Nelson was a drug addict who was under the influence of pills and alcohol when he met with Cameron on Town Farm Road in Anson to get oxycodone and shot him in his truck. Nelson later showed up at his 4-year-old daughter’s birthday party incoherent and high on drugs.

But Nelson’s DNA was never found in Cameron’s truck and two DNA samples belonging to unidentified males were never investigated, according to the petition filed by Nelson. A murder weapon was never produced.

Witnesses at the trial testified that they saw Nelson at his daughter’s birthday party around 2:15 p.m. the day of the murder — about two hours before Cameron’s body was discovered — and the state failed to explore whether Cameron was still alive after meeting with Nelson and what may have happened between 2:15 and the time when his body was discovered around 4 p.m., according to the filing.

Testifying on his own behalf, Nelson told the court that on the day of Cameron’s death, he met with him to tell him he didn’t have the money he owed him but did not kill him. Cameron was found dead around 4 p.m. that afternoon after his girlfriend, Virginia Hayden, grew worried that he had not returned home and discovered his truck down the road.

Nelson’s trial attorney, Phil Mohlar, told the court in 2012 that state police never looked at anyone but him as a suspect and conducted a poor investigation.

“Cameron was reaching out to people that day and had contact with other people in the drug community. He made calls to other people. What about those people who called Cameron before Rob? What if they made arrangements with him?” Mohlar said.

John Nivison, then a Somerset County Superior Court justice, decided the case in a jury-waived trial and said that even without a murder weapon, DNA evidence and eyewitness accounts, the state’s circumstantial evidence against Nelson was sufficient to prove him guilty.

In his 2013 appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, Nelson also argued that there was insufficient evidence in the trial to convict him, but a panel of six judges contradicted the argument, saying there was ample evidence to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

“This is not a case where the testimony or evidence is in dispute, what’s in dispute is the way the trial judge, sitting as the fact finder, unreasonably interpreted those facts and completely abandoned the presumption of innocence,” Nelson wrote to the federal court.


]]> 0, 27 May 2016 22:05:51 +0000
Man dies in Augusta motorcycle crash Fri, 27 May 2016 20:18:46 +0000 A Whitefield man was killed in a motorcycle accident in Augusta early Friday, the Augusta Police Department said.

Police found Bryn Goodman, 33, lying unresponsive on the sidewalk near a Harley-Davidson motorcycle in the area of 78 South Belfast Ave. about 12:50 a.m. Friday. Rescue personnel pronounced Goodman dead at the scene.

Lt. Chris Read of the Augusta Police Department said an initial investigation revealed that Goodman was not wearing a helmet. Read said the Maine State Police are reconstructing the accident, though Read said it appears that Goodman ran off the road.

Goodman pleaded guilty in 1997, when he was 14, to fatally shooting his 13-year-old sister Ciji in the head. He admitted before sentencing that he and his sister had gotten into an argument after he woke her up for school one morning. Goodman said he kicked open the door of the family’s gun cabinet in their mobile home and removed a 12-gauge shotgun.

He was sentenced to the Maine Youth Center until he turned 21, the maximum sentence allowed under juvenile law.

]]> 5 Fri, 27 May 2016 16:18:46 +0000
Maine fishermen to give electronic monitors first try Fri, 27 May 2016 19:28:37 +0000 HARWICH, Massachusetts – A commercial fishing association says a group of fishermen from Massachusetts and Maine will use digital cameras instead of human monitors to collect data during trips at sea.

Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance says up to 20 fishermen who catch groundfish such as cod and flounder will use the cameras in a first-time program.

The fishermen are required to bring monitors on some fishing trips. Many fishermen say the cost of human monitors is prohibitive.

The electronic monitoring systems use cameras to record fish handling on deck. That will allow for some fish to be identified and measured before they are discarded.

The hard drives are later sent to third-party reviewers who watch the footage and count the number of discarded fish. That will allow regulators to use the information.

]]> 0 Fri, 27 May 2016 16:03:12 +0000
Federal judge hands Maine libertarians a partial victory Fri, 27 May 2016 19:25:06 +0000 A federal judge has given the Libertarian Party of Maine until July 12 to get enough signatures for its presidential and vice presidential candidates to appear on the November ballot.

Judge John A. Woodcock Jr. said Friday the Libertarian Party is likely to win its argument that Maine’s Dec. 1 deadline to certify parties is “unconstitutionally early.”

But he denied the group’s request to place lower-office candidates on the ballot.

John Branson, who represented the libertarians, said Maine is one of 15 states in which the Libertarian Party is not an officially recognized party.

Branson said the party feels confident it can enroll 487 people by the deadline. He added voters have “tremendous” interest in third-party candidates this year.

The ruling comes ahead of the Libertarian National Convention this weekend.

]]> 0 Fri, 27 May 2016 16:03:35 +0000
Porcupine 2.0 replaces sculpture stolen from jetport Fri, 27 May 2016 18:12:07 +0000 The porcupine sculpture that was swiped from the driveway of the Portland International Jetport has been replaced with a new, cuter version, featuring a full-grown mama porcupine with a baby in tow.

Porcupine 2.0 comes with a security upgrade, too: a large chunk of granite, onto which both spiny likenesses are sturdily affixed, meaning anyone who might have plans to abscond with the new sculptures better bring a front-end loader.

The artwork, by New York artist Wendy Klemperer, was donated by June LaCombe of Pownal. Klemperer’s original steel menagerie of woodland creatures, titled “Glimpse,” has stood at the long entrance road to the airport since 2011, and includes a herd of deer and a wolf.

In a statement, LaCombe said her donation is in tribute to the original work and its donor, William Hamill.

“I do not want his gift to be diminished by the theft,” LaCombe said.

The theft of the original porcupine sculpture has so far been unsolved. The city noticed the creature’s absence in April. It is unclear how long it had been missing.

]]> 0, 27 May 2016 14:59:54 +0000
Indian company offers to buy parent firm of Rumford mill Fri, 27 May 2016 18:11:23 +0000 A paper recycling company from India has expressed interest in buying Catalyst Paper Corp., including its mill in Rumford.

Kejriwal Group International, based in Mumbai, has sent a letter to the majority owners of Catalyst, saying it would offer $6 per share for the British Columbia-based company. Kejriwal is affiliated with the company that expressed interest in buying Verso Paper’s Bucksport mill in January 2015. That mill ultimately was closed and sold for scrap.

Catalyst’s board of directors said Monday it would evaluate the offer.

“(We are) encouraged by KGI’s proposal, which could provide the company with a significant amount of capital, which further enhances and accelerates Catalyst’s planned growth initiatives,” the board said in a statement.

Catalyst bought the Rumford mill, which makes coated paper, from NewPage Holdings in January of 2015 for $62.4 million. It employs 640 people, according to mill officials.

The Rumford mill has been a bright spot in what has been a generally dismal run of news for Maine’s paper industry. In April, the mill restarted an idled paper-making machine to diversify its product line, a move that restored 51 jobs.

Mill spokesman Tony Lyons said at the time that Catalyst started to develop new products to diversify its offerings in the global pulp and paper market. One of those new products is Rumford Offset, a specialty grade paper that is coated on one side and intended for use in marketing materials.

“We’re trying to develop more options, away from commodity grades,” Lyons said.

The state’s paper industry has lost 2,300 jobs since 2011, as five mills have closed in the wake of declining demand and changing consumer habits in global markets.

The letter laying out the terms of the acquisition said if Kejriwal’s offer is accepted, the company would be obligated to invest $60 million into Catalyst’s operations within a year of the closing.

The deal would need to be struck between Kejriwal and the four investment firms that own 79 percent of Catalyst: Mudrick Capital Management, Oaktree Capital Group Holdings, Cyrus Capital Partners and Stonehill Capital Management. The majority shareholders have 30 days to reach an agreement with Kejriwal, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

News of Kejriwal’s interest on Monday sent Catalyst stock soaring. After closing at 45 cents a share on May 20, the stock had reached $5.75 per share when the markets opened Tuesday. It moderated to $4.26 per share in late afternoon trading Friday.

Catalyst owns another U.S. mill, in Biron, Wisconsin, and several mills in Canada, employing a total workforce of about 2,800 people. In 2015, it reported sales of roughly $2 billion.

Kejriwal Stationery Holdings Ltd, which manufactures and distributes paper-based and recycled stationery products, is a subsidiary of the Kejriwal group, according to Bloomberg. The company was formerly known as Greenearth Education Ltd.

Rahul Kejriwal, chief executive of the Kejriwal group, sent a letter to District Court Judge John Woodcock dated Jan. 16, 2015, expressing interest in purchasing the Bucksport mill. But the letter arrived too late to be entered into the official court record, Woodcock ruled, allowing a previous agreement between Verso and metal recycler AIM Development LLC to stand.

]]> 2, 27 May 2016 23:53:57 +0000
One-third of Maine businesses have job openings, survey shows Fri, 27 May 2016 17:49:04 +0000 AUGUSTA – Maine officials say a survey of more than 2,000 businesses in the state shows that a third of them have at least one job opening.

The state Department of Labor’s Center for Workforce Research and Information posted the results of the 2015 survey earlier this week. It was sent to 3,400 Maine businesses, 2,100 of which responded.

Officials say 700 of the 2,100 businesses that responded indicated that they have at least one job available.

The data reflects vacancies from the fall of 2015.

State officials say the survey found that the largest number of vacancies were in health care and social assistance. That industry had nearly 7,000 vacancies.

Accommodation and food services was second with more than 3,500 vacancies.

]]> 0 Fri, 27 May 2016 13:50:47 +0000
Maine mallard mom makes rooftop nest, but what’s a duckling to do? Fri, 27 May 2016 17:20:43 +0000 Employees of the Pepperell Mill Campus in Biddeford were surprised to find a mallard duck nest on the roof of the sprawling brick mills. The duck may also be surprised to find herself guarding her 10 eggs several stories above the Saco River.

“You might be thinking ‘why would a mother duck lay eggs on a roof when the ducklings can’t fly?’ We’re wondering the same thing, and we’re willing to bet this is a first-time mother duck,” Pepperell mill management wrote in their latest newsletter. “We’re very worried that momma duck is going to lead the ducklings to the river and they’re going to fall off the roof, so we’ve contacted the Maine Warden Service for their help.”

Mill employees placed a fence around the nest – which sits atop a raised rooftop garden planter – so the ducklings can’t wander away once they hatch. The mother can still fly out and get food, according to the newsletter. The ducklings are expected to hatch at the beginning of June.

“The day they hatch, the game warden will lead them safely to water,” the newsletter says.

Mallards can live in almost any wetland habitat, including lakes, ponds, city and suburban parks and residential backyards, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. They are known to be strong fliers, traveling as fast as 55 mph. Mallards typically nest on dry land close to water, often concealing the nest in overhanging grass or vegetation.

]]> 2, 27 May 2016 13:23:54 +0000
Man charged with driving tractor-trailer on I-95 in Augusta while drunk Fri, 27 May 2016 17:04:39 +0000 AUGUSTA — A Connecticut man driving a fully-loaded tractor-trailer south on Interstate 95 was arrested Thursday on a drunken-driving charge when a test showed his blood-alcohol level was five times the legal limit for a commercial driver.

Maine State Police first received complaints about the way the tractor-trailer was being driven at 2:45 p.m., when the driver was reported to be passing through the Clinton-Benton area, according to Trooper John York. For the next 20 minutes, police received several other complaints about the driver before stopping him in Augusta between exits 109 and 112.

Damon Frechette, 39, was arrested on a charge of operating under the influence. Police administered a breath-alcohol test that showed his blood-alcohol level was five times the legal limit for a commercial driver.

In Maine, the legal blood-alcohol limit for commercial drivers is 0.04 percent, which is half the 0.08 percent allowable for non-commercial drivers. York would not specify Frechette’s blood-alcohol level, but five times the commercial driver limit would be about 0.2 percent.

Frechette’s bail was set at $500, according to an arraignment document.

He was headed south at the time police stopped him, pulling a tractor-trailer fully loaded with 48,000 pounds of mulch packed into pallets, York said.

“That’s a lot of destructive power,” York said of the combined size and weight of the vehicle Frechette was operating.

After police initially received complaints about the way Frechette was driving on I-95, they tried to stop him in Sidney by opening a weigh station that had been closed and turning on lights that indicate all commercial vehicles must stop there, York said.

But Frechette did not stop at the weigh station and several state troopers caught up to his vehicle near Exit 112 in Augusta.

Sgt. Jeff Mills began following the tractor-trailer, but it still did not stop, York said.

So York, who was driving a cruiser and was joined by Trooper Andy Hardy in the passenger seat, pulled alongside the truck with his siren on and lights flashing. Hardy motioned out the window for Frechette to pull over, which he eventually did at mile 111, York said.

Charles Eichacker can be contacted at 621-5642 or at:

Twitter: ceichacker

]]> 5, 27 May 2016 20:51:14 +0000
Sitel plans to lay off up to 120 workers in Caribou Fri, 27 May 2016 15:59:24 +0000 Sales and customer service outsourcing firm Sitel is planning to lay off up to 120 workers in July at its call center in Caribou.

The Nashville-based company, which employs about 350 workers in Maine, informed the state Department of Labor that the planned layoffs are the result of the company losing a major client, Comcast.

Sitel said it still serves three other clients at the Caribou location and will try to reduce the number of layoffs by picking up new business.

Sitel issued a notice to employees on May 21 notifying them about the layoffs, which are expected to begin July 17.

Under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification, or WARN, Act, companies with at least 100 employees are required to give notice at least 60 days in advance of a plant closing or mass layoff.

“Please be assured that this is a business decision and is not a reflection on your performance or the quality of the team,” the employee notification reads. “During the transition period, we are certain that you will continue to maintain the same level of dedication and professionalism you have always shown.”

Employees who work right up until the layoff date will ensure that their separation will be regarded as a “reduction in force” and will maximize their eligibility for unemployment compensation, states the notice from Diana Grandinetti, Sitel’s senior vice president of operations.

Positions targeted for elimination include 84 customer service representatives, 16 agent support mentors, five coaches, five coach apprentices, three learning specialists, two call monitoring specialists, two operations managers and a few others.

State Labor Department spokeswoman Julie Rabinowitz said the department’s rapid response team will offer sessions for affected workers prior to the layoffs to help them transition to new employment.

The announcement by Sitel underscores the uncertainty faced by employees of outsourcing companies that expand or shrink as they gain or lose client contracts.

Another customer service outsourcing firm that operates in Maine, SaviLinx, announced in March that it plans to triple its labor force by hiring 200 more people at its call center in Brunswick.

The company noted that it had recently landed a large contract that extends its scope of work for a New England-based insurance services provider, including quality monitoring and inbound phone inquiries.

Not all call centers in Maine are operated by outsourcing firms. Wayfair, an online furniture seller based in Boston, announced in February that it would be seeking 500 people to staff its new customer service center in Brunswick, and another 450 workers for jobs in Bangor.

According to the Maine Department of Labor, there were about 9,990 customer service representatives working in Maine in 2015, earning a median hourly wage of $15.43.

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

Twitter: @jcraiganderson

]]> 7 Fri, 27 May 2016 13:26:43 +0000
Video: Memorial Day weekend weather warm with showers arriving Fri, 27 May 2016 15:38:26 +0000 0, 27 May 2016 11:38:26 +0000 Biologists stay vigilant to protect salamanders, including Maine’s red-spotted newts Fri, 27 May 2016 15:37:05 +0000 SUNDERLAND, Vt. — Holding a sandwich bag containing a squirming, Eastern red-spotted newt, Evan Grant inspects its shiny skin for signs of a killer.

If he finds what he’s looking for, a gruesome fate awaits the amphibian. Ulcers would cover its body, eating away the skin and killing it outright or leaving it vulnerable to infection. Breathing would come with difficulty, and the lizard-like creature couldn’t absorb through its skin the water and minerals it needs.

Death would follow, not just for the specimen Grant holds at a pond in Vermont, but for any salamander afflicted by a fungus that has ravaged its brethren in parts of Europe. There’s no sign it has yet reached North America, home to 190 of the world’s 655 salamander species, but scientists aren’t taking chances.

Fearing the fungus could reach the United States through the pet trade, Grant and an army of fellow wildlife biologists with the U.S. Geological Survey, the lead federal agency in the fight, are checking salamanders nationwide. The goal is to take samples from 10,000 salamanders – including red-spotted newts from Maine and New Hampshire down to Virginia and over to Louisiana; Pacific newts in California and Oregon; and the flatwoods salamander in Florida, among others.

“We have the highest biodiversity of salamanders in the world,” said David Hoskins, assistant director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s fish and aquatic conservation program. “We were concerned that once the fungus reaches the United States – if it was introduced into wild populations – it could become established and spread and potentially wipe out important species of salamanders.”

They may be small, hard to spot and overlooked compared with tigers and polar bears. But salamanders are critical indicators of environmental health, and their roles in wetlands, lakes and forests are critical in controlling insect populations and providing food for other animals. Anything that harms them stands to harm other species.

The USGS hasn’t yet found the fungus in any of the nearly 1,000 salamanders it has sampled across the country. But there are many more salamanders than biologists looking for them.

Researchers believe the fungus, related to one that has decimated frog populations around the world, likely arrived about seven years ago in Europe through the pet trade and was released in the wild when captive animals escaped or were abandoned. It has since been found in captive populations of fire salamanders, Europe’s best-known species, in the United Kingdom and Germany. There have also been outbreaks in wild populations in Belgium.

Wherever the fungus has been found, the end result is not good. In the Netherlands, the fungus has wiped out almost all fire salamanders.

The loss of what’s known as a “sentinel species” – the proverbial canary in the coal mine – could “disrupt the equilibrium of the ecosystems” across Europe, said An Martel, a Belgian professor who discovered the fungus on salamanders in the Netherlands.

“Very few animals are left,” Martel said. “It has had a huge impact. The populations where the fungus is present are almost gone. We don’t find any salamanders anymore.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, whose role is regulating the trade in amphibians and other species, in January prohibited 201 salamander species from being imported or traded across state lines, which should put a dent in a pet industry that saw 2.5 million salamanders imported between 2004 and 2014.

The move aims to get ahead of the fungus and avert the problems that came with combating the frog fungus, which wiped out several species before action plans started, Hoskins said.

At the pond in Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest, the shoreline teeming with red-spotted newts, Grant and colleague Adrianne Brand trapped as many as 30 in small nets or wire traps resting on the lake bottom.

The pair measured the newts, recorded sex ratios and looked for signs of the fungus, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, commonly called Bsal. Then they swabbed the creatures’ hands and underside for any evidence of Bsal and put the samples in a test tube for freezing and shipment to the USGS National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin, for analysis.

If the fungus is found, the response would depend on the location and the likelihood of it spreading; it could include limiting access to certain spots as well as quarantining or treating sick salamanders.

“For salamander diversity, I would hope not to find it,” Brand said. “But it is an interesting scientific issue. We have a chance to learn a lot. If it is a problem, we have a lot to learn about being on the forefront of disease.”

]]> 0, 27 May 2016 13:35:22 +0000
Gorham Savings picks finalists for its annual LaunchPad competition Fri, 27 May 2016 15:34:10 +0000 Gorham Savings Bank has chosen Blue Ox Malthouse, Fluid Farms, Garbage to Garden, Good To-Go and UniteGPS as the five finalists in this year’s LaunchPad competition. The winner will receive a $50,000 grant.

The five early-stage Maine businesses were chosen from a pool of 179 applicants because of their focus on “sustainability and convenience in a busy world,” according to a Gorham Savings news release. All five will participate in a live-pitch competition to be held the evening of June 7 at the University of Southern Maine’s Hannaford Hall in Portland.

In front of a live audience, an independent panel of judges will decide which business will be awarded the $50,000 grant from Gorham Savings. This year’s judges will be WEX Inc. President and CEO Melissa Smith, Winxnet CEO and co-founder Chris Claudio, and the Director of Southern Maine Community College’s Entrepreneurial Center, Michelle Neujahr.

Now in its fourth year, LaunchPad is designed to help fund the growth of one promising, early-stage Maine business. Entries for this year’s competition were submitted via an online form during the entry period of April 1 to May 1.

“Maine’s economy is made up of thousands of small and innovative businesses, and we want to see those numbers grow and more businesses succeed,” said Chris Emmons, president and CEO of Gorham Savings Bank, in the release. “We’re constantly inspired by the success stories we hear from entrepreneurs, and we’re looking forward to giving another one a meaningful boost this year.”

Blue Ox Malthouse of Lisbon Falls turns raw grain from local farms into malt used by craft breweries. The farmer-to-brewer link the malthouse creates also promotes economic sustainability.

Fluid Farms Aquaponic Produce in Portland grows organic greens and freshwater tilapia (striped bass), and operates the state’s only Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association-certified organic aquaponic greenhouse.

Garbage to Garden, also in Portland, makes it easier for residents, schools, and businesses to divert their food scraps – including meat, dairy and bones – from landfills. Each week, participants leave their bucket of scraps at the curbside to be exchanged for a fresh, clean one, and if requested, a bag of compost.

Good To-Go, in Kittery, offers a line of all-natural, dehydrated gourmet meals catering to “active adventurers.” Each meal is handmade by nationally-recognized chef Jennifer Scism, who once defeated Mario Batali on Food Network’s Iron Chef.

UniteGPS of Portland aims to improve a different outdoor experience: waiting for the school bus. The company’s GPS solution, CrossWalk, solves the problems of parents and students not knowing exactly when the bus will arrive each day.

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

Twitter: @jcraiganderson

]]> 0 Fri, 27 May 2016 11:34:10 +0000
Rafael Nadal withdraws from French Open Fri, 27 May 2016 15:20:05 +0000 PARIS — For a decade, Rafael Nadal ruled Roland Garros the way no other man has dominated any Grand Slam site.

On Friday, his powerful left wrist wrapped in a blue brace, Nadal delivered the surprising news he was withdrawing before his third-round match at the French Open because of an injury that would prevent him from delivering the whiplike, spin-heavy forehand that carried him to a record nine championships and a 72-2 record on the tournament’s red clay.

“To win the tournament, I need five more matches,” Nadal said, his face expressionless, his arms crossed in front of him, “and the doctor says that’s 100 percent impossible.”

His announcement, at what he called “one of the toughest press conferences in my career,” overshadowed everything else going on around the grounds on Day 6 of the French Open, from the straight-set victories by defending champion Stan Wawrinka and No. 2-seeded Andy Murray, to the out-of-nowhere 6-0, 6-7 (3), 6-0 upset of two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova by 108th-ranked Shelby Rogers, a 23-year-old American.

No. 15 John Isner, the last U.S. man in the field, found out about Nadal’s abrupt departure about 15 minutes after winning a five-setter to set up a showdown with Murray for a berth in the quarterfinals.

“It was a shock,” Isner said. “I had no idea.”

It robbed the event of more star power, coming a week after 17-time major champion Roger Federer pulled because of lingering back problems.

It cleared one potential obstacle from the path of No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who is attempting to win a fourth consecutive major title and his first in Paris — and could have faced Nadal in the semifinals.

And it raised more questions about how long Nadal, who turns 30 in a week, can continue to ply his intensely physical brand of tennis and remain among the sport’s best. In the past, he has dealt with problems to both knees and to his right wrist; this is the first time his left wrist has been an issue.

“I mean, it’s a bummer for the tournament,” Isner said. “I think a lot of people had him playing Novak in the semis on that side of the draw. It’s a shame.”

He knows he’ll have his own work cut out for him against Murray, a two-time major champion who has won all five of their previous matchups. Other fourth-rounders established Friday included No. 3 Wawrinka against No. 22 Viktor Troicki, No. 5 Kei Nishikori against No. 9 Richard Gasquet, and No. 8 Milos Raonic against unseeded Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

Women’s fourth-round matches will be Rogers against No. 25 Irina-Camelia Begu, No. 2 Agnieszka Radwanska against unseeded Tsvetana Pironkova, No. 4 Garbine Muguruza against No. 13 Svetlana Kuznetsova, and No. 6 Simona Halep against No. 21 Sam Stosur.

Kuznetsova won the tournament in 2009; Halep and Stosur have both been runner-up.

Nadal won the French Open four times in a row from 2005-08, then another five straight from 2010-14. His only losses came against Robin Soderling in 2009, snapping a 31-match winning streak at Roland Garros, and against Djokovic last year, ending a 39-match run.

Nadal, owner of 14 Grand Slam titles overall, said the wrist pain first developed during a match on clay in Madrid this month, then subsided, before growing worse this week. Nadal got a painkilling injection before his second-round victory Thursday, but by the time he awoke Friday, he couldn’t move his wrist and went for an MRI exam.

“He did not practice this morning, so I figured there was a problem,” tournament director Guy Forget said.

When Forget got a phone call from a member of Nadal’s entourage, he knew for certain something was wrong. Nadal’s exit means the man who was supposed to be his next opponent, Marcel Granollers of Spain, gets a walkover into the fourth round; win that, and Granollers will reach his first quarterfinal in 35 appearances at majors.

“Unfortunately, it is happening right now and it is impacting the tournament. It’s impacting you and me,” Forget said. “I think we’re all conscious that he is one of our best ambassadors. Unfortunately, what counts now is health.”

Nadal said the injury involves an inflamed tendon and might not require surgery if he rests the wrist. But he can’t practice for the time being and is not sure what his status will be for Wimbledon, where play begins in one month.

“Now is a tough moment,” Nadal said, “but (it) is not the end.”

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Maine man gets 2-week sentence for 2013 road rage incident Fri, 27 May 2016 14:56:59 +0000 AUBURN — A Maine man is heading to prison for two weeks for a 2013 road rage incident that a prosecutor says is one of the worst he’s ever seen.

The Sun Journal reports the sentence was handed down against 33-year-old Adam Getchell, who pleaded guilty to reckless conduct and criminal mischief on Thursday.

The Auburn man was convicted in March of driving to endanger, but acquitted of a hate crime in the incident.

Authorities had said Getchell tried to block 19-year-old motorist Matthew Wooten Jr. from passing him. When Wooten did pass him, Getchell apparently swerved and hit Wooten’s rear fender.

A police recording caught Getchell using racial epithets afterward inside a police cruiser.

Getchell wrote in a letter to the court that he apologized for his poor choices.

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UMaine wind power project back in running for major federal grant Fri, 27 May 2016 14:42:07 +0000 The University of Maine has regained its position as a top national competitor to develop a technology for offshore wind power and create a new clean energy industry.

An experimental turbine being developed by a UMaine-led consortium for use in a floating, deep-water wind farm was chosen Friday as a finalist in the Department of Energy’s Offshore Wind Advanced Technology Demonstration program.

The UMaine consortium had been one of several competitors for the three $40 million grants to be awarded by the energy department, but it lost ground to other projects in earlier rounds of funding and was designated as an alternate proposal.

Friday’s announcement means that Maine’s project, known as the New England Aqua Ventus I offshore wind pilot project, will be one of up to three leading projects that are each eligible for up to $40 million in grant funding over three years for the construction phase of the demonstration program.

“This decision is outstanding news for Maine and a testament to the unmatched hard work and ingenuity of the University of Maine and the numerous Aqua Ventus partners,” Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King said in a joint statement Friday. “We applaud them for their efforts and will continue to support them as they strive to lead our state and nation into a brighter, cleaner energy future.”

UMaine President Susan J. Hunter described the decision as a historic opportunity for Maine and New England.

“The level of research and development by UMaine researchers, students and partners that helped make the New England Aqua Ventus project a reality demonstrates the distinction of a public research university – and the difference it can make in its state, region and beyond,” Hunter said.

The Maine project had been competing with demonstration proposals in other states for a demonstration program grant, but was passed over in 2014 in favor of ventures in New Jersey, Virginia and Oregon. Instead, Maine became an alternate, and got $3 million to continue engineering and design work.

The Energy Department wants the United States to develop an offshore wind industry because roughly 80 percent of power demand occurs in coastal states. Europe has hundreds of offshore wind turbines, mostly in shallow water on steel towers buried in the seabed.

The Obama administration is seeking new designs to radically cut the cost of wind energy. One idea is to have turbines that float far offshore, where the wind is stronger and steadier, and where people can’t see or hear them.

But things haven’t gone as planned. Each of the three winners has been unable to secure a power purchase agreement for electric output. Last November, the Department of Energy gave the projects six-month extensions to try to resolve their problems. At the same time, Maine won $3.7 million to further refine its proposal, which would be located off Monhegan Island.

Six months later, the Oregon and Virginia projects are being dropped from the program and Maine Aqua Ventus is being elevated to a demonstration project, alongside the Fishermen’s Energy project in New Jersey and the Lake Erie Energy Development Corp. project, which also had been an alternate for demonstration project funding.

Maine supporters had been waiting to hear if the Energy Department would give up on any of the initial winning bids and whether it had concluded that Aqua Ventus has a better chance of coming to fruition. The project won a 20-year power-purchase agreement from the Maine Public Utilities Commission. An average Central Maine Power Co. home customer would pay an additional 73 cents a month, or $8.70 in the first year.

Maine Aqua Ventus is being developed by a for-profit spinoff that represents UMaine, Cianbro Corp. and Emera Inc. of Nova Scotia. The proposal is unique in that it’s made from advanced composite materials instead of steel, to fight corrosion and reduce weight. The hull is concrete, which, unlike steel, can be produced in Maine.

In 2013, the partners launched a one-eighth scale model and tested it off Castine. The pilot project would be full size, consisting of two turbines with a capacity of six megawatts, enough to power 6,000 average homes.

“The Aqua Ventus project represents a tremendous opportunity for the state to capitalize on our advanced and highly skilled workforce paired with our clean-energy ambitions,” said Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association. “This project brings together the best of all three worlds: economic growth and innovation; emission-free electricity; and Maine-made secure energy.”

If the pilot programs are successful, supporters envision hundreds of offshore wind farms nationwide and jobs for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of workers to install and maintain the turbines.

Clean-energy advocates see Aqua Ventus as Maine’s only near-term chance of developing an offshore wind industry.

In 2011, the Norwegian energy giant Statoil proposed an experimental, $120 million floating wind farm off Boothbay Harbor. But the company left Maine after a political maneuver by Gov. Paul LePage in 2013, and instead went to Scotland. Last week, Statoil announced plans to build the world’s largest floating wind farm involving five turbines off the Scottish coast.

Closer to Maine, other states have emerged as research and development centers for the evolving technology. In Rhode Island, Deepwater Wind began laying undersea cable this month to towers at its 30-megawatt Block Island Wind Farm, the country’s first offshore wind farm.

Even with a federal grant, the Maine project still needs to attract more than $100 million in private investment.

It also will seek to gain support on Monhegan Island, where at least some summer and year-round residents are concerned about the visual impact of the project and its potential interference with lobster fishing.

The turbines will be anchored 2.5 miles off the island’s southern tip and roughly 10 miles off the mainland. With turbine hubs 350 feet above the water and blade tips reaching 600 feet into the sky, the project would be visible from some locations, but not from the village, according to Jake Ward, vice president of innovation and economic development at UMaine.

Ward was on the island this week, meeting with a task force formed by the plantation. A citizen group, the Monhegan Energy Action Coalition, also has come together to question the scale of the project and the impact of an undersea cable.

“Some people like it, some don’t,” Ward said. “Like any group, there are people on all sides.”

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Dr. Henry Heimlich, 96, saves choking woman with famous maneuver Fri, 27 May 2016 13:57:22 +0000 CINCINNATI — The 96-year-old retired chest surgeon credited with developing the namesake Heimlich maneuver has used it to save a woman choking on food at his senior living center.

Dr. Henry Heimlich was in the dining room at the Deupree House in Cincinnati, where he lives, when an 87-year-old woman sitting next to him began choking Monday night.

The dining room maitre d’, Perry Gaines, told The Cincinnati Enquirer that Heimlich dislodged a piece of hamburger from the woman’s airway and she quickly recovered.

Heimlich said he was having dinner when he looked over at the woman sitting next to him and could see that her face was growing pink and she was obviously choking. He said he got up behind her and began the technique.

“As soon as I did the Heimlich maneuver, a piece of meat with a bone in it immediately popped out,” he said.

Choking victim Patty Ris said Friday that she couldn’t breathe and Heimlich rushed over to stand her up and dislodge the food.

“I definitely would have died right then and there,” said Ris, who said she felt fine Friday and had no after-effects. “There was no doubt about it.”

Ris said that after she regained her breath Heimlich explained to her what he had done. She told him afterward: “God put me in this seat next to you.”

Heimlich said in interviews Friday that it was the first time he’d used his maneuver, and his son Phil Heimlich said he believed that was accurate. But the doctor said in at least one previous account, a 2003 interview he did with BBC News Online, that he had applied his emergency technique three years earlier.

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Morning house fire in Gorham displaces family, injures firefighter Fri, 27 May 2016 13:25:18 +0000 GORHAM — One firefighter suffered minor injuries when fire tore through a garage and single-family home Friday morning on Plummer Road in Gorham.

Seth Crossman, 28, who has owned the home at 11 Plummer Road for about four years, awoke to the sound of people screaming that his house was on fire.

Gorham Deputy Fire Chief Ken Fickett said the fire appears to have started in the garage, which was ablaze when the first firefighters arrived.

Crossman said he bought the home to assist his extended family, who had lost their home to a bank. About seven people, spanning three generations and including one unrelated friend of Crossman’s, were living in the home at the time.

“I bought it four years ago to help my family out,” said Crossman, who stood barefoot and shirtless across the street as firefighters picked through and extinguished the last smoldering embers.

Now much of the home is ruined, but Fickett said a portion of it may be salvageable.

The Red Cross of Maine was expected to help Crossman and his family, Fickett said.

No one interviewed who was inside the home at the time of the fire could pinpoint why or where it started. The State Fire Marshal’s Office was called to investigate the cause, Fickett said.

Also destroyed in the fire was a camper set up behind the garage, where Crossman’s brother, Chris Green, was living. Green, 24, was at work when Crossman called to tell him the house was ablaze.

Green rushed from his job at a body shop, but by the time he arrived, the camper was already burning.

“Everything I owned was in that camper,” Green said. “Everything.”

Another resident, Shawn Cressey, 22, one of Crossman’s friends, said he fled the house before it filled with smoke, but ran back in to retrieve his two dogs, who made it out uninjured.

Asked if he was concerned about the loss of his belongings, Cressey was unmoved.

“I was more worried about me and my animals,” he said. “I don’t give a (expletive) about my stuff.”

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

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Origins of key Clinton emails from report are a mystery Fri, 27 May 2016 13:23:57 +0000 WASHINGTON — Since her use of a private email server was made public last year, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has insisted she turned over all work-related emails to the State Department to be released to the public.

But after 14 months of public scrutiny and the release of tens of thousands of emails, an agency watchdog’s discovery of at least three previously undisclosed emails has renewed concerns that Clinton was not completely forthcoming when she turned over a trove of 55,000 pages of emails. And the revelation has spawned fresh criticism from presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

The three messages include Clinton’s own explanation of why she wanted her emails kept private: In a November 2010 email, Clinton worried that her personal messages could become accessible to outsiders. The messages appear to have been found among electronic files of four former top Clinton State Department aides.

Two other messages a year later divulged possible security weaknesses in the home email system she used while secretary of state. The Clinton campaign has previously denied that her home server was compromised.

On Thursday, Clinton, who has called her use of a private email server “a mistake,” said she had been forthcoming with her personal emails and said she believed her use of a private email account was allowed.

“I have provided all of my work-related emails, and I’ve asked that they be made public, and I think that demonstrates that I wanted to make sure that this information was part of the official records,” Clinton said, according to an interview transcript provided by ABC News.

Most of Clinton’s emails have been made public by the State Department over the past year due to both a court order and Clinton’s willingness to turn them over. But hundreds were censored for national security reasons and 22 emails were completely withheld because the agency said they contained top secret material — a matter now under investigation by the FBI.

Clinton said in March 2015 that she would turn over all work-related emails to the State Department after removing private messages that contained personal and family material. “No one wants their personal emails made public and I think most people understand that and respect their privacy,” she said after her exclusive use of private emails to conduct State Department business was confirmed by media reports.

Senate investigators have asked for numerous emails about Clinton’s server as part of their own inquiry into Clinton’s email practices in recent months, but they didn’t get copies of key messages made public by the State Department’s own watchdog this week, a senior Republican senator said Thursday.

“It is disturbing that the State Department knew it had emails like this and turned them over to the inspector general, but not to Congress,” said Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the chair of the Senate judiciary committee that’s been probing Clinton’s use of a private server.

The emails appear to contain work-related passages, raising questions about why they were not turned over to the State Department last year. The inspector general noted that Clinton’s production of work-related emails was “incomplete,” missing not only the three emails but numerous others covering Clinton’s first four months in office.

The inspector general also found Clinton’s email set up violated agency policies and could have left sensitive government information vulnerable. It also complicated federal archiving of her emails, in turn making it more difficult to obtain them under the Freedom of Information Act.

On Thursday, Clinton told ABC News her use of the personal email was “allowed,” saying that “the rules have been clarified since I left.” In a later interview Thursday with CNN, Clinton said she “believed it was allowed.”

A spokesman for the Clinton campaign did not respond to emailed questions Thursday. An inspector general’s spokesman declined to discuss the report.

The report said the inspector general was able to reconstruct some of Clinton’s missing emails by searching the email files of four former Clinton aides who had turned over thousands of pages of communications in 2015 at the request of the State Department, which is defending itself in multiple public records lawsuits, including one filed by The Associated Press. The four aides who turned over those files, according to the report, were Clinton’s former chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, and top aides Huma Abedin, Jake Sullivan and Philippe Reines.

Abedin was the aide who authored the key email in November 2010 that provoked Clinton’s concerns about outsiders obtaining her personal emails. After the State Department’s computer spam filters apparently prevented Clinton from sending a message to all department employees from her private server, Abedin suggested that she either open an official agency email or make her private address available to the agency.

Clinton told Abedin she was open to getting a separate email address but didn’t want “any risk of the personal being accessible.” Clinton never used an official State Department address, only using several private addresses to communicate. Abedin, Mills, Sullivan and Reines all also used private email addresses to conduct business, along with their government accounts.

Two other emails sent to Abedin were cited in the inspector general’s report, but also did not turn up among the emails released by Clinton. Those messages to Abedin contained warnings in January 2011 from an unidentified aide to former President Bill Clinton who said he had to shut down Hillary Clinton’s New York-based server because of suspected hacking attacks.

In response, Abedin warned Mills and Sullivan not to email Clinton “anything sensitive” and said she would “explain more in person.”

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Eight automakers recall more than 12 million vehicles for Takata air bags Fri, 27 May 2016 12:44:24 +0000 DETROIT — Eight automakers are recalling more than 12 million vehicles in the U.S. to replace Takata air bag inflators that can explode with too much force.

Documents detailing recalls by Honda, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota, Mazda, Nissan, Subaru, Ferrari and Mitsubishi were posted Friday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

They’re part of a massive expansion of Takata air bag recalls announced earlier this month. Seventeen automakers are adding 35 million-to-40 million inflators to what already was the largest auto recall in U.S. history.

In addition, the Japanese transport ministry on Friday announced 7 million additional recalls related to the Takata inflators. Those recalls cover all front air bags that do not have a chemical drying agent.

Friday’s recalls include passenger air bags mainly in older models in areas along the Gulf Coast with high heat and humidity.

Takata uses the chemical ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion that inflates the air bags in a crash. But the chemical can deteriorate over time when exposed to high heat and humidity and burn faster than designed. That can blow apart a metal canister designed to contain the explosion, spewing hot shrapnel into vehicles.

The inflators are responsible for 11 deaths and more than 100 injuries worldwide. Two additional deaths are under investigation in Malaysia and may have been caused by the inflators.

The recalls are among the first to be unveiled by automakers since Takata agreed to the recall expansion, and more recalls will be announced in the coming weeks. The recalls are being phased in by the government due to a lack of available replacement parts. Models that are from 2011 or older in high heat and humidity areas will get first priority, followed by 2008 and older models in Southern-tier states, then 2004 and older models in the rest of the country.

Honda had the biggest recall total on Friday with more than 4.5 million inflators, while Fiat Chrysler reported 4.3 million. The Honda total even includes about 2,700 Gold Wing motorcycles with optional front air bags.

Honda says the latest recall covers only about 2.2 million additional Honda and Acura vehicles. The other 2.3 million vehicles were recalled previously for other Takata air bag problems. Honda expects the recalls to start in late summer for automobiles and in late fall for the motorcycles. Fiat Chrysler said it’s not aware of any crashes or injuries involving its vehicles that are part of the recall.

The latest recalls cover mainly front passenger air bag inflators without the chemical drying agent. The jury is still out on whether Takata will have to recall millions more inflators with the drying agent. Takata has to prove to the government that those are safe by the end of 2019, or more recalls will start.

Since the recalled models vary by state and age, officials say that the best way to see if your car is affected is to visit or manufacturer websites and key in the vehicle identification number. That number can be found on the driver’s side of the dashboard near the windshield or on your state vehicle registration. It may take several weeks for all of the newly recalled vehicles to be entered into the databases.

]]> 1, 27 May 2016 21:26:24 +0000
Almost two dozen athletes from London Olympics test positive for doping in reanalysis Fri, 27 May 2016 12:39:37 +0000 LONDON — Nearly two dozen athletes tested positive in reanalysis of their doping samples from the 2012 London Olympics, adding to the more than 30 already caught in retesting from the 2008 Beijing Games.

The International Olympic Committee said Friday that 23 athletes from five sports and six countries had positive findings in retests with improved techniques on 265 samples from the London Games.

The IOC did not identify the athletes, their sports or their nationalities.

“The reanalysis program is ongoing, with the possibility of more results in the coming weeks,” the IOC said .

The 23 London athletes are in addition to the 31 who tested positive in retesting from the Beijing Olympics. The IOC said Friday that another sample from Beijing has since shown “abnormal parameters,” and the case was being followed up.

Overall, up to 55 athletes from the past two Summer Olympics could be retroactively disqualified and have their results, and any medals, stripped.

The IOC stores Olympic doping samples for 10 years so they can be reanalyzed when new testing methods become available.

The current retesting program targeted athletes who could be eligible to compete at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August.

“These reanalyses show, once again, our determination in the fight against doping,” IOC President Thomas Bach said. “We want to keep the dopers away from the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. This is why we are acting swiftly now.”

Bach said he has appointed a disciplinary commission which “has the full power” to sanction athletes.

The IOC still has to retest the athletes’ “B” samples. Formal positive cases are not declared until the “B” samples confirm the original findings.

The IOC said the athletes, their national Olympic committees and their international sports federations were being informed ahead of formal disciplinary proceedings.

“All athletes found to have infringed the anti-doping rules will be banned from competing at the Olympic Games” in Rio, it said.

The IOC said the retests were carried out using “the very latest scientific analysis methods.”

The IOC retested 454 samples from Beijing. Of those original 31 positives, the Russian Olympic Committee confirmed that 14 involved Russian athletes.

Russian state TV said they included 10 medalists, among them high jumper Anna Chicherova. She won the bronze medal in Beijing and went on to take gold in London.

Match TV said 11 of the 14 athletes from Beijing were from track and field, including 4×100-meter relay gold medalist Yulia Chermoshanskaya.

Spanish hurdler Josephine Onyia has been identified in Spain as being one of the athletes whose samples from Beijing was positive.

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