The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » News Mon, 25 Jul 2016 11:54:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Verizon buys Yahoo for $4.83 billion Mon, 25 Jul 2016 11:54:20 +0000 SAN FRANCISCO – Verizon is buying Yahoo for $4.83 billion, marking the end of an era for a company that once defined the internet.

The sale announced Monday marks the second time in two years that Verizon has snapped up the remains of a fallen internet star as it broadens its digital reach. The nation’s largest wireless carrier paid $4.4 billion for AOL last year.

Verizon won the Yahoo bidding after a five-month auction.

Yahoo Inc. is parting with its email service and websites devoted to news, finance and sports in addition to its advertising tools under pressure from shareholders fed up with a steep downturn in the company’s revenue during the past eight years.

The deal is expected to close in 2017’s first quarter.

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Water main break closes section of Broadway in South Portland Mon, 25 Jul 2016 11:42:57 +0000 A section of Broadway in South Portland is closed Monday morning because of a water main break.

The break is in the area of Broadway near Pine Street, according to the Portland Water District.

Broadway is closed from Mussey Street to Sawyer Street. Commuters are being asked to avoid the area while crews work to repair the break.

The break was reported around 4 a.m.

]]> 0 Mon, 25 Jul 2016 07:47:00 +0000
Syrian asylum seeker detonates explosive in Germany, kills self, wounds 12 Mon, 25 Jul 2016 10:05:41 +0000 BERLIN – A rejected Syrian asylum seeker blew himself up near the entrance of a Bavarian music festival late Sunday, killing himself and wounding 12 others in the latest attack to rock Europe.

The incident sparked late night mayhem in Ansbach, a southern German town of 40,000 that hosts a U.S. military base. Authorities quickly evacuated 2,500 people from the rock festival.

The assailant, a 27-year-old Syrian whose request for asylum had been rejected, detonated an explosive device in his backpack around 10:10 p.m. after he was refused entry to the festival.

The device had been rigged with metal projectiles normally used in woodworking, according to Elke Schönwald, a spokeswoman for the Nürnberg police, which were handling the case.

The explosion went off near a wine bar toward the entrance of the music festival, with three of 12 injured in serious condition. Eye witnessed described a scene of chaos and fear that has become all too familiar in Germany and neighboring countries following a string of deadly attacks.

“We just went outside briefly because we wanted to have an ice cream and a drink and shortly after we heard a muffled bang,” Christian Hartdeck told reporters on the scene. “We were all petrified. A few people came running towards us who had been near the café . . . a few people had been hit by tiles that had fallen off a roof.”

Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann – a strong critic of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s initial decision to welcome refugees to Germany – told reporters that in his view the incident was “an Islamist suicide attack.” But police officials were more cautious, saying the assailant’s motive remained unclear.

Although authorities were not ruling out Islamist terrorism, the 27-year old, whose name was not released, had been rejected for asylum in Germany and was living in the country under a precarious legal status. Officials said he had twice attempted suicide, and had also been detained for drug possession and other minor offenses.

The incident came only two days after a troubled Iranian-German teenager went on a shooting rampage in a Munich shopping mall, leaving 10 people dead, including himself.

On Sunday, another Syrian asylum seeker was arrested in the town of Reutlingen, Baden-Wuerttemberg, after allegedly using a machete to kill a Polish woman she had apparently rejected his romantic advances.

On July 18, an asylum seeker from Afghanistan who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic Sate was shot dead after attacking and injuring five people on a train in Wuerzbug, also in southern Germany.

The Islamic State also claimed responsibility for the July 14 attack in Nice, France, when a 31-year-old Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel used a cargo truck to kill 84 people and wound dozens more.

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Mass shooting reported at Florida nightclub Mon, 25 Jul 2016 09:36:36 +0000 FORT MYERS, Fla. – A shooting at a Florida nightclub early Monday morning killed two people and wounded as many as 17, police said. The attack apparently occurred at a teen party, billed as a ”Swimsuit Glow Party,” at Club Blu in Fort Myers, according to local media.

Police detained three people and said the area around the club had been deemed safe, police Capt. Jim Mulligan said in a statement. Four people remained hospitalized with serious injuries, local station WINK-TV reported. One of the victims was 12 years old, Cherly Garn, a spokeswoman for Lee Memorial Health System, told WINK.

The shooting came more than a month after a nightclub shooting in Orlando that was the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history. The shooting at the Pulse nightclub on June 12 left 49 victims dead and 53 others wounded.

The violence at Club Blu erupted about 12:30 a.m. Monday, Mulligan said. As many as 17 people were shot, and there were two active crime scenes, police said. Several hours later a street in the area remained closed as police investigated.

The area was later deemed safe, but Mulligan said a street was still closed as authorities investigated.

In a statement, authorities said the Fort Myers police and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office were “actively canvassing the area looking for other persons who may be involved in this incident.”

The names of the victims were not immediately available.

This story will be updated.

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South Portland moves ahead with solar proposal on former landfill Mon, 25 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 SOUTH PORTLAND — City officials are moving forward with a cost-saving plan to build a solar power array on the former municipal landfill off Highland Avenue.

ReVision Energy of Portland has sweetened the terms of its proposal to build the solar facility, reducing the price that the city would pay for electricity generated by the array from 12 cents to 10 cents per kilowatt-hour under a power purchase agreement.

ReVision revised its offer after legislation to reform Maine’s solar regulations failed last spring, causing several communities to pull back from solar proposals without the means to make them financially viable.

“I think ReVision was really willing to work with us,” said Julie Rosenbach, the city’s sustainability coordinator. “The project economics look very good. We would save more in energy costs than we would pay to finance the project.”

Rosenbach and other city administrators are expected to pitch ReVision’s latest proposal at a City Council workshop on Aug. 22. A formal vote will follow at a regular council meeting.

“The new terms that ReVision has offered make it an acceptable proposal to bring to the council,” said City Planning Director Tex Haeuser, a longtime advocate for building a solar farm on the 34-acre landfill.

Rosenbach teamed up with Portland officials to negotiate separate agreements with matching terms for ReVision to build a solar array atop each city’s capped solid waste landfill.

The Portland City Council’s Energy and Sustainability Committee voted 3-0 Wednesday to recommend the revised proposal for a solar farm on that city’s the 44-acre landfill off Ocean Avenue. The full council will take it up next.

“By doing it jointly, we’d actually be saving some funds, so I’m optimistic,” said South Portland Mayor Tom Blake.

Under the proposal, ReVision would build a 660-kilowatt array on each city’s landfill. Each array would serve a maximum 10 municipal meters – the largest possible under Maine law.

ReVision can afford to build the arrays in part because, as a for-profit company, it would receive federal solar investment tax credits, which provide a tax reduction equal to 30 percent of a project’s costs. The cities aren’t eligible for a tax credit because they are nonprofit entities.

Each city would make an initial investment of about $25,000 per year for six years. The initial $150,000 investment is expected to be paid back within 10 years through energy savings.

“That’s based on conservative estimates, so people can say that’s not far-fetched,” said Assistant City Manager Josh Reny.

Each facility would generate about 1.2 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. That’s nearly 12 percent of the 10.1 million kilowatt-hours used annually by South Portland’s municipal and school facilities, Rosenbach said. And it’s about 3.5 percent of the 35.6 million kilowatt-hours used by Portland’s municipal and school facilities – enough to power Portland City Hall and Merrill Auditorium for a year.

The facilities are expected to be in cash-positive positions by the seventh year of the agreement, when each city would anticipate buying its array for $1.6 million, financed through a 20-year bond at 3 percent interest.

South Portland officials hope to cut the cost of financing the buyout, Rosenbach said, possibly by setting up a solar fund, where the city would set aside money for several years in advance, with an eye toward reducing or eliminating borrowing altogether.


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Maine groups work on opioid fix: More access to Suboxone Mon, 25 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Dr. Craig Smith says he once held the same misconceptions that many doctors have about bringing Suboxone – which is used to treat opioid addictions – into his practice.

Difficult patients. An overwhelming demand. A constant headache. Endless red tape.

“I thought it would be a big disruption. I thought I would have a lot of people looking like Keith Richards on my doorstep,” said Smith, referring to the Rolling Stones guitarist who has battled substance abuse.

Instead, Smith said that since he started prescribing Suboxone seven years ago, he’s helped numerous people improve their lives, and the patients have not been disruptive to the practice.

“It’s turned out to be the most gratifying part of the job,” said Smith, of Bridgton. “People come to you and they have hit rock bottom, and you’re helping them get back on their feet. Some of them, within weeks, they’re back in your office, smiling, and they’ve started to put their lives back together.”

The Maine Medical Association, an advocacy group representing physicians before the Legislature, is working hard to persuade more doctors to prescribe Suboxone to combat the state’s growing heroin crisis, because there’s a wide gulf between the supply and the demand for treatment.

Doctors must first undergo eight hours of training before being permitted to treat up to 100 patients with Suboxone, a pill that reduces cravings for opioids. Between 25,000 and 30,000 Mainers want drug treatment but don’t have access, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Lisa Letourneau, executive director of Maine Quality Counts, a health advocacy group, said Maine needs many more of its doctors to become Suboxone providers.

“Until we can get Suboxone into primary care practices, we will never have enough capacity in Maine,” Letourneau said.

There are 214 doctors actively prescribing Suboxone out of the roughly 2,000 primary care doctors in the state, according to figures provided by the medical association and Maine Quality Counts. About 13,500 Maine patients received a Suboxone prescription in 2015.

The shortage of prescribers is not just a Maine problem. Access to medication-assisted treatment is lacking across the United States, according to a study published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study estimated that only 2.2 percent of all doctors in the U.S. have completed Suboxone training, and that half of all opioid addicts have no access to medication-assisted treatment.

So far, persuading doctors to become Suboxone providers is slow going, and the need is daunting, officials say.

Maine has thousands of people addicted to opioids and not nearly enough doctors able to treat them effectively.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us,” said Gordon Smith, the medical association’s executive director. Smith said he believes minds are being changed, but it’s difficult to know whether it will translate into more doctors becoming Suboxone prescribers.

“There’s some reluctance from physicians to get involved in this,” he said.


Smith said that between now and the end of the year, he will be traveling the state and hosting 50 events for doctors, in part to try to persuade them to bring Suboxone into their practice. <URL destination=””>Maine had a record 272 drug overdose deaths in 2015, with most caused by opioids.

</URL>Suboxone can be picked up at a pharmacy, unlike methadone, which is usually dispensed in cups at standalone clinics. Methadone is typically recommended for the most severe opioid addictions, but Suboxone can be prescribed for many patients.

Dr. Elisabeth Fowlie Mock, a primary care physician from Holden, said doctors, along with the pharmaceutical industry, created the opioid crisis by overprescribing opioids for pain relief, starting in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Four out of five heroin addicts were first addicted to prescription opioids, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

“We have to own the fact that we created this tremendous mess,” said Mock, who will receive Suboxone training next month. “And now we have to be the ones to fix it.”

The medical association and Maine Quality Counts hosted a conference July 14 that discussed the dangers of prescribing opioids and how to comply with a new law that places a dosage cap on them, and also included discussions on Suboxone.

“We’re at the very beginning of addressing this problem,” said Eric Haram, who heads up a medication-assisted treatment program through Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick that’s being recognized as a model for access. But the Brunswick program is the exception.

The federal government is also working to expand treatment by increasing the cap on Suboxone patients per physician from 100 to 275. And Congress passed a law that will give nurse practitioners and physician assistants the authority to prescribe Suboxone, after completing training.

“That will be a great help,” said Smith, estimating that there are about 1,300 nurse practitioners and 700 physician assistants in Maine.

Increasing the cap to 275 patients would also be helpful, Smith said, but it doesn’t change the fact that there needs to be more doctors willing to prescribe Suboxone.

The federal government places a cap on the total number of patients each doctor can prescribe to discourage unscrupulous doctors from becoming “pill mills.”


The Maine Opioid Collaborative, a group consisting of people in the treatment community, public health system, hospitals, law enforcement, former addicts and others, concluded in May that expanding access to medication-assisted treatment would be the most effective way of dealing with the opioid crisis.

The collaborative pointed to research that shows how medication-assisted treatment is scientifically proven to work, while abstinence-based programs have a much higher relapse rate.

U.S. Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent, said there seems to be momentum on providing greater access to medication-assisted treatment.

“I’ve seen a change in the last two to three years regarding people’s attitudes on the subject. We have to expand access, as the problem we have with opioids is staggering,” King said.

Dr. Smith, the Bridgton physician, said that for doctors, it’s “really hard to make that first step” to become a Suboxone provider.

“Doctors don’t like to do things that are uncharted territory for them,” he said.

For Smith, what he saw in his practice spurred him into becoming a Suboxone provider.

In August 2009, four of his patients died from opioid-related drug overdoses. Alarmed, Smith did Suboxone training and soon thereafter began accepting patients.

“It opened my eyes and made me realize the problem is much bigger than we thought,” Smith said. He said his patients were using opioids but hiding it from him, so every time the medical examiner called, he was surprised to hear that toxicology tests revealed the presence of opioids. “It made me realize this is something we should be doing,” he said.

Smith’s wife, Dr. Jennifer Smith, is also a Suboxone provider and works in the same office, so they treat about 200 opioid patients at the same time.

He said about 60 percent to 70 percent of Suboxone patients need to remain on a low maintenance dose of Suboxone.

The practice can accept all patients, even the uninsured, Smith said. They work closely with Crooked River Counseling so that Suboxone patients can be paired with a therapist.

Smith said that after he started seeing positive experiences with Suboxone, he began telling other doctors about it, and now there are six doctors in the region – soon to be seven – who prescribe Suboxone.


Letourneau, of Maine Quality Counts, said there are many barriers to persuading doctors to prescribe Suboxone, and one is institutional resistance. She said many of the state’s hospitals have either not yet bought into the concept or are slow to do so, in part because of society’s “overwhelming bias and stigma” against drug addicts.

“In many cases, it’s not the doctor’s individual decision. Our institutions haven’t yet addressed this crisis in a systemic way,” Letourneau said. “There has not yet been an organizational commitment to take this on.”

Most primary care doctors in Maine are connected to a hospital network, such as MaineHealth or Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems.

Letourneau said some doctors may also feel held back from taking on Suboxone patients by bureaucratic requirements, which stifle their desire to treat patients with addictions.

Haram said Maine’se government could do a better job of recruiting Suboxone providers, going after grant money for training, and connecting Suboxone providers with counseling services.

“Doctors who choose to do this want to be supported,” Haram said “They don’t want to hang their shingle out for their 100 Suboxone patients and not have any counseling support.”

Haram said that despite the difficult task ahead, people are at least talking about and focused on the issue, so perhaps significant changes are ahead.

Letourneau agreed, and said that even though Maine has only a “tiny fraction” of the doctors needed to prescribe Suboxone, at least people seem more open-minded lately about treating addiction.

“There’s a buzz, a conversation about this topic that we weren’t having a few years ago,” she said.


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Maine fishermen testing a ‘game-changer’ for protected cod Mon, 25 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 GEORGETOWN — Like many Maine fishermen, Bryan Kelley faces a dilemma as he looks to diversify beyond the lobster that account for the bulk of his catch.

To target pollock, which are relatively common in the Gulf of Maine, he has to fish in the same areas frequented by cod, a type of groundfish protected through strict federal catch limits.

“We literally have to stay away from the codfish,” Kelley said while standing on his 40-foot boat moored in the Five Islands harbor of Georgetown. “I could fill this with codfish if I wanted to, but that wouldn’t help anybody in this sector and that is not why we are out here.”

To help him catch the groundfish he wants and avoid the species he doesn’t, Kelley has begun experimenting with a contraption akin to a conventional fishing reel on steroids and with an electronic brain. The “automatic jigging machines” loaned to Kelley and a handful of other fishermen by The Nature Conservancy allow them to more accurately target the water column where pollock hang out and stay off the bottom where cod lurk. The machines’ simple hooks and lures also ostensibly reduce inadvertent “by-catch” of cod while avoiding other downsides of trawlnets and gill nets more commonly used by fishermen.

“That’s part of the draw of it: It’s the quickest and easiest I have ever rigged anything up in my life,” Kelley said.

Geoff Smith, marine program director at the Maine chapter of the The Nature Conservancy, said preliminary reviews of the machines have been largely positive.

“This project is really about helping fishermen target those healthy stocks (of fish) while avoiding the codfish to allow them to rebuild,” said Smith, whose organization owns several groundfish permits in the Gulf of Maine. “We really feel that these jigging machines, if fished properly, can be selective and have minimal impact on the seafloor. … And if they work for fishermen, we think they could be a real game-changer.”


The jigging machine project is an example of the types of collaboration among fishermen and organizations that might have been unheard of decades ago. Working with the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, the project aims to re-engage small-boat fishermen in an industry that was once the backbone of New England’s coastal economy, but now numbers just a few dozen boats in Maine.

“With these jigging machines, we have seen a lot more interest from lobstermen in getting involved in groundfishing than we have had in a long time,” said Ben Martens, executive director of the fishermen’s association, a nonprofit founded by Port Clyde-based fishermen a decade ago.

Automatic jigging machines have been used elsewhere – most notably in Iceland and the Pacific Northwest – but are fairly uncommon in the Gulf of Maine, where trawls or gill nets were typically used to catch groundfish.

The machines, which are about the size of a small outrigger engine, attach to the side of the boat and feature a spool of heavy fishing line outfitted with six to 10 hooks. The machine drops the weighted line to the seafloor and then raises the hooks back up to the level specified by the fisherman. The “jigging” part of the names comes from the machine moving the hooks up and down in the water column to draw the attention of the fish.

Finally, sensors detect when a certain amount of tension or weight is on the hooks, triggering the machine to automatically retrieve the line. Fishermen then hand-remove the fish from the line.

Kelley said that during a recent trip, his crew hauled in roughly 2,300 pounds of pollock in a four-hour period. He uses simple, hard plastic lures, eliminating bait costs and allowing him to potentially bring on another deckhand. And with fresh pollock fetching anywhere from $2 to $3.50 a pound – compared to the 80 cents a pound Kelley said he used to receive for groundfish – the Georgetown lobsterman is already planning to purchase his jigging machines from The Nature Conservancy and invest in a few more.

“It gives us another season. There’s no downtime,” said Kelley, who, like many Maine lobstermen, has fished for everything – scallops, shrimp and other species – when the lobster are out-of-season or the fishing isn’t good.

In 1989, Maine fishermen landed more than 12 million pounds of cod alone, only to see the fishery peak and then collapse several years later. This year’s cod quota – or “annual catch limit” – for the entire Gulf of Maine is just over 600,000 pounds.

Groundfish accounted for just 2 percent of total poundage – and just 1 percent of the total value – of seafood landed by Maine fishermen in 2015, according to the Maine Department of Marine Resources. Lobster, by comparison, accounted for 44 percent of the total poundage and 81 percent of the monetary value of seafood landed in the state last year.


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has designated Gulf of Maine cod as “overfished” and well below the “target biomass level” needed to rebuild the stocks. Pollock, by comparison, are not considered overfished in the gulf in 2016 and have a federal quota of more than 30 million pounds. But after years of ever-tightening quotas, the number of Maine fishermen holding groundfishing permits has dwindled from hundreds of vessels in the 1990s to just 39 that landed any groundfish last year.

The Nature Conservancy and the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association are among several nonprofit organizations that have purchased groundfishing permits from willing sellers in Maine and other New England states in recent years as part of the groups’ focus on sustainable fishing. The organizations then typically lease the quotas, or “catch shares,” associated with those permits to fishermen at favorable rates or contracts with the fishermen to conduct research on gear configurations or practices meant to make a fishery more sustainable.

Smith said The Nature Conservancy purchased about 20 of the automated or electronic jigging machines and has installed several on boats in Maine. Participating fishermen are allocated some of the organization’s quotas for pollock as well as for cod to cover any by-catch. The conservancy will sell the machines to fishermen at a discounted rate, if they elect to continue using the technology.


Automated or electronic jigging machines are billed by manufacturers and supporters as being more sustainable because they can be used to more accurately target the desired species. And because fish are quickly retrieved after the line hits a weight limit, any fish that are undersized or of the wrong species can often be released alive or at least in better shape than those caught in a gill net or trawl. Additionally, Smith said the jigging machines do not damage the ocean bottom.

Kelley said the fish he’s been hauling up have been very “clean” – fishermen-speak for “not banged up” – which often can help them command a higher price in a marketplace already seeing growing demand for fresh, locally caught fish.

Others see a specialized market for hook-caught pollock.

“We are starting to have conversations with people in Portland and Boston and New York to see if there is a market for that product,” said Martens with the fishermen’s association.


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Maine delegates agree with resignation of Democratic Party chairwoman Mon, 25 Jul 2016 03:20:45 +0000 Maine’s delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia agree that Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz should resign as Democratic Party chairwoman, but some feel that her resignation at the end of this week’s convention doesn’t go far enough and suggested there should be a thorough housecleaning at the top of the party.

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills said hacked emails indicating that Democratic Party leaders favored Hillary Clinton over U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in the presidential primaries are a non-issue in her opinion.

“I don’t believe they are a big deal. No one here has been talking about them,” Mills, a Clinton delegate, said in a telephone interview Sunday night.

Mills predicted that Democrats will remain focused on the issues facing the nation and not be distracted by the emails. “I don’t see them as changing anything,” she said.

Phil Bartlett of Portland, a Maine superdelegate and chairman of the Maine Democratic Party, issued a statement Sunday night on behalf of the party.

“The resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz is absolutely appropriate and will enable our party to move forward,” he said. “We remain committed to talking to voters about the issues that matter, like how to rebuild our economy here in Maine, which, thanks to Republican leadership, lags behind the rest of New England and remains in the bottom ten in the nation.”

Bartlett added that if party members are talking about Wasserman Schultz, “we’re not talking about how Donald Trump – who manufactures his clothing line overseas and believes that wages are too high – would leave working Mainers behind. It is right that she should go.”

In an email, Trevor Doiron, a Clinton delegate from Jay, said “it is unfortunate that the DNC server was hacked by Russian state-sponsored groups who are trying to damage our party to ensure the election of Donald Trump, who has sung Putin’s praises and would rule with the iron fist that Putin does. That said, I think the resignation of (Wasserman Schultz) is necessary to allow us to continue to move toward unity as we work to defeat Donald Trump.”

However, state Rep. Diane Russell, a Sanders delegate from Portland, offered a different opinion on the email controversy.

“I think these emails were indicative of a culture of dismissiveness. They confirmed many people’s worst fears,” Russell said. “The whole upper echelon of the party should go. We need fresh leadership.”

Troy Jackson, a superdelegate from Allagash who supports Sanders said “the emails don’t shock me at all. These emails are further proof of the elitist attitude of party leaders.”

Jackson, who works in the logging industry, said he supports Sanders because the Vermont senator represents the interests of the working class.

“Leadership has been tone-deaf to what is going on in this country with the working class,” Jackson added. “I haven’t been happy with them for a long time.”

Despite the controversy, Jackson said, the Democratic Party and Clinton “are still better than Donald Trump and the Republicans, by 100 percent.”

Seth Berner, a Sanders delegate from Portland, said he remains impressed with Sanders and what he accomplished during the presidential primaries and caucuses. For him to have come so close to winning the party’s nomination demonstrates that Sanders did not need to be propped up, Berner said.

“I feel Bernie Sanders would be a much stronger candidate in the election against Donald Trump than Hillary would be,” Berner said. “Just imagine what he could do with a level playing field.”


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Somerset County starts alternative sentencing program Mon, 25 Jul 2016 02:05:07 +0000 After a judge found him guilty of operating under the influence, Marc Farrell, of Bradford, New Hampshire, faced a choice: He could either spend four days at the Somerset County Jail in East Madison or commit to a weekend of community service at a local junior high school.

Farrell, 56, chose to pay $225 to spend the weekend at Madison Junior High School, painting the school’s former industrial arts center along with a handful of others convicted of nonviolent minor offenses.

“It was less time for me and I’m also not lying in a jail cell staring at the ceiling,” Farrell said during a break from his second and last day of painting. “It may sound corny, but I’m in Alcoholics Anonymous now and I’ve been sober four and a half months. This is a way for me to give back to society.”

Farrell was one of four participants who recently completed the Somerset County Jail’s first alternative sentencing program, a new program that provides nonviolent offenders access to educational programs and the opportunity to do community service in place of a jail sentence.

Alternative sentencing is not unique to Somerset County – more than half of the county jails in Maine are involved in such programs – but there can be challenges to getting one started, said Teresa Brown, community corrections program supervisor for the jail in East Madison.

“It’s going to be a good thing,” said Brown, who added that the development of the program has been about a year in the making. “We’re saving the school money in manpower, and of course there’s the savings from these people not being in jail. Not only that, but it’s community service and they’re giving back. I think having these guys leave with a rewarding experience is more beneficial to them than sitting in jail for three days.”


The program is the first of its kind in Somerset County to offer community service as an alternative sentence. In 2014 the jail started its Alternative Substance Abuse Program, in which participants convicted of drug-related offenses spend up to one year in mental health and substance abuse treatment as an alternative to jail time, but that program targets a different jail population with more of an emphasis on treatment and behavioral modification for individuals struggling with substance abuse or addiction.

Some inmates also participate in regular community service through the jail’s work program, but they still spend most of their time at the jail.

In Kennebec County, which has had an alternative sentencing program for years, about 40 to 70 participants take part four times per year, said Kennebec and Somerset County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney.

“The beauty of this program is not only does it help with jail overcrowding, but the person is paying for their incarceration rather than having taxpayers pay for it,” Maloney said. “They’re giving back to the community, they’re paying for their time in custody and they’re learning about why their crime has a negative impact on the community.”

A vast majority of participants in alternative sentencing programs have been convicted of operating under the influence, according to Maloney, but the program in Somerset County is also open to other misdemeanor and nonviolent convictions for which someone is sentenced up to four days in jail.

The cost of participation is $225 for the weekend, something that Brown said she doesn’t see as a deterrent.

“If you were going to go to jail for four days, or you could pay $225, which would you rather do?” she said. “People are willing to pay for it.”

Farrell agreed. “Maybe if somebody was financially worse off it would be a deterrent, but for me it wasn’t a big deal,” he said. “It basically cut my time in half.”

The program is also expected to generate a small cost savings for taxpayers, as it eliminates the need for funds that would normally be spent on housing the participants of the program. The cost of housing an inmate for one day at the jail is about $90, according to Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster.

“Not only does it pay for itself, but it also pays money because we’re not having to incarcerate,” Lancaster said.

Brown and Somerset County Jail Program Manager Mike Welch, who oversaw the first alternative sentencing program, are both salaried employees, so they were able to be scheduled to work the weekend without an additional cost. In the future they estimate the program will pay for itself with the cost of participation in the program.


While the program is generally considered a win-win, Brown said there were some challenges in getting it started, including having to have the Maine Department of Corrections approve the community service site in advance and getting the community comfortable with the idea of having inmates working outside the jail. Other counties might also find it hard to staff larger programs, she said.

Counties that do not have alternative sentencing programs, according to the Maine Sheriffs’ Association, are Aroostook, Franklin, Hancock, Oxford, Piscataquis and Washington.

In Somerset County, inmates sleep on cots in a locker room at the middle school and in the evening attend speaking events with substance-abuse related experts – something that is not normally available to short-term inmates at the jail, where the first 72 hours are normally spent in the intake department going through the classification process.

“It was definitely interesting to hear other people’s point of view,” said one inmate, a local resident who did not want to give his name out of fear of losing his job. “It really opens up your eyes to how bad (addiction) can get.”

After reporting to Madison Junior High School Friday afternoon, the inmates spent all day Saturday and Sunday last week painting the school’s former industrial arts center. The job was a “significant” cost savings to School Administrative District 59, said interim Superintendent Bonnie Levesque, though she did not have an exact figure.

“I think it was great because it gave them something to do for the weekend while they served their time and it was a great service for us,” Levesque said.

By Sunday afternoon, the second coat of new white paint had almost been completely applied to the garage-like building and the four participants were cleaning up the area.

“Group dynamics are an important part of the program,” Welch said. “I think by working together they have a chance to interact and to learn that somebody else got caught for the same thing and the repercussions can be different. There were some that lost jobs, weren’t able to work anymore or lost their licenses. It affected them in different ways and hopefully they learn from each other’s experiences.”

“I think the four of us got along really well and worked really well together,” Farrell said. “The staff, too, treated us with respect and dignity. It made me want to do a really good job.”


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Marchers of 1966 weigh in on civil rights then and now Mon, 25 Jul 2016 01:40:17 +0000 JACKSON, Miss. — A half-century ago, thousands joined a march across Mississippi to challenge a system that condoned violence against black people and suppressed their rights – issues still reverberating in today’s national debates about police violence.

The March Against Fear in the summer of 1966 helped many find a voice to protest the injustices of the day, setting an example for contemporary movements such as Black Lives Matter.

The link between past and present was on the minds of participants in the march 50 years ago who recently told their stories to The Associated Press.

They say recent deadly encounters involving police show that Americans need to engage in honest dialogue about race – even if it’s uncomfortable for some people to acknowledge that black lives have long been devalued. They also lamented what they see as a lack of progress on many fronts.

“Literally nothing has changed,” says James Meredith, who launched the march. “That is not completely true. What has changed the so-called civil rights movement is completely at an end. It is over. … That’s why we have the crisis we have in the nation today.”

While Meredith declined to discuss specifics of the recent violence, he and his contemporaries say much work still needs to be done.

The march started as a one-man journey by Meredith, four years after he integrated the University of Mississippi amid violent backlash. In June 1966, he wanted to show that a black man could walk through Mississippi without fear. He set out to walk more than 200 miles from Memphis, Tennessee, to the Mississippi capital of Jackson.

But one day in, a white man shot and wounded Meredith. Activists including the Rev. Martin Luther King took up his cause and eventually rallied thousands of marchers.

Now 83, Meredith wants the black community to embrace education and mentorship as ways to “pay God back.”

“Citizenship is what the March Against Fear was about,” he says. “Citizenship. Not only rights and privileges are part of citizenship. Duty and responsibility are an equal part, and that’s the part the black race has failed to pay any attention to.”

Dianna Freelon-Foster is blunt in her assessment of America.

“I see this country as a violent country. …We shirk talking about it,” says Freelon-Foster, who was 15 when the marchers passed through her hometown of Grenada.

She says their courage gave locals the confidence to challenge segregation.She and other black students integrated Grenada schools the following fall, and they were beaten by white men wielding baseball bats and tree limbs.

A generation later, in 2004, Freelon-Foster was elected mayor of Grenada – a post she held for one year.

She says police aren’t bad people, but many can’t relate to the communities they patrol.

Marcher Flonzie BrownWright’s own grandson was fatally shot by deputies in Los Angeles in 1999.

Dion Goodloe, 19, was home in a wheelchair with a broken leg when officers came to investigate a report of trouble at a nearby store, says BrownWright. She was told that her grandson was sitting on his hands and that officers thought he was hiding a gun. A sheriff’s spokesman said at the time that he had a gun and pointed it at deputies.

“Whatever the reason was, it did not justify them shooting a kid sitting in a wheelchair who could not walk,” she says.

Still, she condemns any violence – whether by police or against them.

“The Bible tells us … you don’t have a right to take another person’s life. That works on all sides,” BrownWright says.

Back in 1966, she was an NAACP volunteer in Canton who received a phone call from King asking if she could provide food and housing for 3,000 marchers. Without hesitation, she said yes. The marchers slept in homes, on porches and in cars. Some slept in a gymnasium.

BrownWright says King talked about receiving threats, and he exhorted her and others to “do what you can do to continue the struggle.”

The Rev. Ed King was an anomaly – a white chaplain at a historically black private college that was a safe haven for civil rights activists. He was also active in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which challenged the state’s 1960s white establishment.

After a recent Tougaloo College commemoration of the march, he said people need to continue challenging injustice.

“You have to be able to say, ‘As an American, I have a right to ask these questions, to say that things aren’t perfect,” King says.

Wendell Paris, a Baptist minister in Jackson, still sees inequality and says, “Police violence – that’s always a concern.”

Paris was a 21-year-old student in Alabama when he drove to Mississippi to join the march. Along the final stretch, it was his job to persuade black spectators to participate.

“Man, that was just a day of jubilee for us, because here we were marching basically with much less fear than we had ever had before,” he says.

Still, he recalls a tense moment when he encountered an officer. “I looked him straight in the eyes and said, ‘You’ve got to be careful today how you treat us, because we’re not taking this foolishness that we’ve been taking before.”‘

Frank Figgers was 16 when he joined the final day of the march. He says he didn’t listen to the speeches because he was so caught up in seeing black and white people together, standing up to Highway Patrol officers who surrounded the Capitol as if protecting a fortress: “It was something energizing about the crowd.”

He sees today’s Black Lives Matter activists displaying the same kind of righteous energy that young people had 50 years ago: “It is a blossoming now of stuff that was planted then.”

]]> 0, 24 Jul 2016 22:00:33 +0000
Prominent wharf site in Augusta overgrown once again Mon, 25 Jul 2016 00:54:03 +0000 AUGUSTA — Tall grass, weeds and a few small trees have been allowed to grow back on a prominent riverfront granite wharf and parcel of land between the historic Arsenal property and the Kennebec River, prompting the city manager to raise concerns about a highly visible part of the city.

As part of a nearly $600,000 project in 2005, the 1,000-foot-long, 17-foot-high rock retaining wall had been reclaimed from overgrowth that all but hid it from view. But conditions have deteriorated in recent years.

Mowing the piece of land visible from Memorial Bridge high above it is not the responsibility of oft-criticized Arsenal owner and would-be developer Tom Niemann. Rather, it is the responsibility of the state under the terms of a 2007 “use agreement” with Niemann that specifies the state “shall maintain the wharf parcel in good order and repair and in a reasonably neat and clean condition, including periodic mowing and removal of brush as necessary.”

David Heidrich Jr., director of communications for the state Department of Administrative and Financial Services, acknowledges that periodic mowing is the state’s responsibility, but said the state hasn’t been able to arrange mowing since last summer when the only contractor to bid on the job doubled his price because of concerns about being able to mow the steeply banked property safely.

Heidrich said the state is looking at options and will find a way to get the parcel mowed.

“Ultimately, we’ll be addressing the issue and trying to find a solution that’ll get the wharf parcel maintained as it needs to be,” Heidrich said. “We’re not sure what our solution will be, but one way or another, we’ll get the grass down.”


He said some of the options could include putting the work out to bid again, or having state employees do the work of either mowing or weed-whacking the site to keep the grass at a reasonable height.

Heidrich said the department looked into burning the grass off in a controlled burn or replacing the grass and weeds growing there with rocks and doing some hardscaping, but state Department of Environmental Protection officials said those methods couldn’t be used because they wouldn’t do an effective enough job of retaining stormwater at the site.

Augusta City Manager William Bridgeo said he is concerned that the property isn’t being mowed, especially given its visibility in the city.

The 2005 restoration was funded by a $295,000 Save America’s Treasures grant from the National Park Service and National Trust for Historic Preservation, $200,000 from the state and $95,000 from the Capital Riverfront Improvement District, a now inactive state and city partnership.

“That cleaned up the whole front of the property and opened it back up. That’s when people rediscovered the majesty of the Arsenal property,” Bridgeo said.


Meanwhile, a lawsuit filed by the state in 2013 claiming Niemann had failed to maintain and protect the Arsenal’s eight historic granite buildings built between 1828 and 1838 remains on hold under an agreement between the state and Niemann. The settlement has allowed him to take steps in recent years to secure the property from vandals and weather damage.

“In the past two years, Mr. Niemann has made much progress in making the Arsenal buildings weather-tight and secure, but there is additional work that must be done,” Tim Feeley, special assistant in the Maine Office of the Attorney General, said in an email. “The parties are attempting to reach an agreement on the scope and time frame for this additional work, and we are optimistic that we will soon reach an agreement. If an agreement cannot be reached, the parties may need to involve the court in order to resolve their differences.”

Niemann bought the property from the state in 2007 for $280,000. Attached to the sale are requirements that the buildings be preserved and their historic character maintained. At the time, Niemann said he would redevelop the property for mixed uses, including condominiums, a restaurant, offices and retail. None of that redevelopment has occurred and the property remains vacant.


The state, in a court complaint filed in April 2013, alleged Niemann’s company, Niemann Capital and Main Street LLC, had neglected the property since taking ownership of the site, allowing it to be damaged by vandals and allowing historic architectural features to deteriorate. The state lawsuit sought damages and assurances that Niemann would protect the property, and also noted that if the work is not done, the state could seek to reclaim the property.

Niemann denied those allegations in court filings. He has said an economic collapse occurred just after he closed on the property, making financing hard to come by and preventing redevelopment.

Both sides have since met and, as Feeley indicated, agreed to keep the lawsuit on hold as long as they continue to agree on what Niemann needs to do to keep the property secured and protected from deterioration.

A joint status report filed in Kennebec County Superior Court this May indicated both sides were working collaboratively to reach an agreement on what needs to be done to protect the property, and it would be premature to place the case on a list of cases to be brought to trial.

Niemann said by email that he continues to cooperate with the state. He said he plans to meet with state officials to discuss maintenance of the property after Aug. 20.


Niemann said his firm, North Carolina-based Niemann Capital, remains committed to both the city and state to redevelop the property over time. He said “2010 was a very difficult year” for his company and the site.

He said Friday he hopes to announce a first tenant for the property in the fall, as negotiations are taking place with a Maine company he declined to name to occupy all of the Burleigh building, the largest of the buildings, and possibly some or all of one of the other buildings which are listed as National Historic Landmarks.

“There has been more interest expressed in the site from others over the last six months than the last six years,” Niemann said. “This is a very good sign, and it points towards the strong leadership in the city, the improving real estate market in the area and the intrinsic value of the Arsenal campus.”

Niemann said that since 2013, roofs of buildings there have been replaced, a security worker has been hired to watch over the property, and landscaping, painting, foundation, drainage and masonry work has been done.

Last month, Niemann closed off public access to the grounds of the property, citing concerns about illegal activity in and around the parking lot.

Augusta Deputy Police Chief Jared Mills confirmed that before the site was closed off, police had responded to reports of indecent conduct and drug dealing on the property.

The Greenway Trail, a hiking and biking trail that runs between the Arsenal buildings and the river above the currently unmowed wharf area, remains open to the public via an easement the city holds ensuring public access to it.

Niemann reiterated Friday that he plans to reopen the Arsenal grounds to public access, likely for limited hours, in August after forming a plan to do so.


]]> 1, 24 Jul 2016 21:02:09 +0000
Behavior could signal dementia before memory slips Mon, 25 Jul 2016 00:44:40 +0000 WASHINGTON — Memory loss may not always be the first warning sign that dementia is brewing – changes in behavior or personality might be an early clue.

Researchers on Sunday outlined a syndrome called “mild behavioral impairment” that may be a harbinger of Alzheimer’s or other dementias, and proposed a checklist of symptoms to alert doctors and families.

Losing interest in favorite activities? Getting unusually anxious, aggressive or suspicious? Suddenly making crude comments in public?

“Historically those symptoms have been written off as a psychiatric issue, or as just part of aging,” said Dr. Zahinoor Ismail of the University of Calgary, who presented the checklist at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Toronto.

Now, “when it comes to early detection, memory symptoms don’t have the corner on the market anymore,” he said.

Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, affects more than 5 million people in the U.S., a number growing as the population ages. It gradually strips people of their memory and the ability to think and reason.

But it creeps up, quietly ravaging the brain a decade or two before the first symptoms become noticeable. Early memory problems called “mild cognitive impairment” can raise the risk of later developing dementia, and worsening memory often is the trigger for potential patients or their loved ones to seek medical help.

It’s not uncommon for people with dementia to experience neuropsychiatric symptoms, too – problems such as depression or “sundowning,” agitation that occurs at the end of the day.

What’s new: The concept of pre-dementia “mild behavioral impairment,” or MBI, a term that describes specific changes in someone’s prior behavior that might signal degeneration is starting in brain regions not as crucial for memory, he said.

Ismail is part of an Alzheimer’s Association committee tapped to draft a checklist of the symptoms that qualify – new problems that linger at least six months, not temporary symptoms or ones explained by a clear mental health diagnosis or other issues such as bereavement, he stressed. They include apathy, anxiety about once routine events, loss of impulse control, flaunting social norms, loss of interest in food.

If validated, the checklist could help doctors better identify people at risk of brewing Alzheimer’s and study changes over time.

]]> 0 Sun, 24 Jul 2016 20:49:48 +0000
German cargo ship christened in Portland Mon, 25 Jul 2016 00:36:19 +0000 A German-based company that for years has quietly transported clay slurry to Maine for use in the paper mill industry put the spotlight Sunday on one of its newest cargo vessels, providing the public a rare look into the global maritime industry that makes Portland Harbor one of the state’s busiest ports.

The company, MST Mineralien Schiffahrt, based in Schnaittenbach, Germany, held an unusual naming ceremony late Sunday afternoon at Portland’s Ocean Gateway Terminal for the MV Marguerita. The ship is named after a New York City woman, Marguerita DeLuca, whose husband, Matthew, a shipping broker, has known MST’s founder for 45 years.

Clay slurry has been shipped by MST to the ports of Searsport and Portland for about 20 years, officials familiar with the company said. Clay slurry from Brazil supplied by Imerys, a company based in Savannah, Georgia, is used for specialized paper coatings in Maine’s paper mills. The slurry solution provides a glossy, smooth surface to the paper product.

Aside from the people who work in the port of Portland, cargo ships the size of the MV Marguerita – which is 185 meters long, or about the size of two football fields – largely go unnoticed. And if they are noticed, not too many people can guess what the ships are carrying.

“People notice all the cruise ships and tankers, but this cargo ship represents the other side of Portland Harbor. They slip in under the cover of darkness, before they ship out again,” said Capt. Shawn Moody, agency operations manager with Chase, Leavitt & Co. of Portland.

Moody’s firm acts as MST’s local shipping representative, making sure that ship arrivals and deliveries are coordinated with port authorities and local vendors.

The MV Marguerita was built in China and set sail on its maiden voyage in February. The ship made its first visit to Portland on March 9 and returns every 25 days, offloading its cargo at the Sprague Terminal in South Portland.

Moody said the fact that MST chose Portland as the place to christen its new ship is an honor.

“The owners could have done this in China, but instead they chose Portland. It’s something Portland should be proud of,” Moody said.

Markus Hiltl, MST’s chartering manager, introduced the ship’s captain, Paul Lukac, and his crew to a crowd of about 50 people who attended the ceremony at the Ocean Gateway Terminal. Hiltl said that on the guest list were people from all over the world, including China, Canada, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands.

Hiltl said the MV Marguerita, in addition to Brazil, has sailed to Vancouver, British Columbia.It also was designed to navigate through the Great Lakes Waterway, a system of channels and canals. It is manned by a crew of 21 sailors.

Matthias M. Ruttmann succeeded his father, Jürgen W. Ruttmann, in 2009 as MST’s owner. Matthias spoke at the ceremony.

Ruttmann said his father, who could not attend the ceremony, believes that naming a ship, an old seafaring tradition, is still important.

“Why should we christen a piece of steel?” Ruttmann asked. He said naming a ship is important to the crew, which can face all sorts of dangers on the open sea.

“In a situation of stress and danger, the crew will be happy to think of someone who will hold their hands, mentally of course,” Ruttmann said.

Marguerita DeLuca wished the crew calm seas and safe passage before cutting the rope that held a bottle of champagne suspended in midair. After cutting the rope, the bottle smashed against the hull. Ship tours and a private reception followed the christening ceremony.


]]> 0, 24 Jul 2016 20:48:19 +0000
Whitefield couple cook up business incubator Mon, 25 Jul 2016 00:27:32 +0000 WHITEFIELD — When Stephen and Milva Smith purchased the Country Farm Restaurant building on Mills Road in 2008, they converted part of the building into apartment units and a commercial space available to lease, but they had no idea what to do with the restaurant’s kitchen.

“It was trashed and it was unused,” Milva Smith said.

The couple left the space untouched and unoccupied for quite some time before slowly converting it into a commercial kitchen and business incubator called Food Forge that can be rented by anyone who has a need for a large-scale food operation without the financial or regulatory hassles that come from building one themselves.

“We did some research and looked around, and we saw an interesting space in Washington, D.C., which, on a really large scale, is what we envision for our space,” she said.

The Smiths, who live down the street from the property, said there are regulatory and financial burdens that come with trying to open something like this. Not everyone wants to spend or can afford $200,000 to build one of these kitchens, especially if they just have an idea for a product they’d like to explore.

“I’ve gotten a call recently from a baker who bakes out of her home kitchen, but she wants to be able to approach places like Whole Foods and local markets, but she needs something on a larger scale than what she has at home,” Milva Smith said. “Those are the kinds of people calling us.”

Her husband said the local Whitefield area is the center for a back-to-the-earth, organic movement, and the couple felt there was a need for kitchen space so people could not only harvest food from those local farms, but also have a place to process it locally. They have a Commercial Food Processor license from the state, which allows many foods to be prepared in the kitchen and re-sold.

Stephen Smith, who by day is a trial lawyer for Lipman & Katz in Augusta, credits the Sheepscot General country store down the street from Food Forge for reinvigorating the farming community in the area.

“They opened a new chapter in Whitefield, and we hope that something like this can keep it going,” he said.

Because the couple, who have four children ranging from 3 to 14, already owned the building, there isn’t a lot of pressure to immediately fill the space and make money. Most of the equipment came with the purchase of the restaurant back in 2008, so the Smiths haven’t put too much new money into the venture.

Food has always been a big part of Milva’s life, and growing up in an Italian family, it became a passion. Her parents came to the U.S. from Italy in the 1960s, and her father, Donato Ferrante, was an original co-owner of an Amato’s Italian sandwich shop in Portland, where she spent much of her childhood.

She and her husband owned Giacomo’s Italian Groceria in Bangor, but it was difficult to run the business with a growing family, so they now lease it.

Stephen Smith knew how important food was to his wife from the beginning.

“When I first went to her mother’s house, there was a very beautiful meal on the table, and it was so delicious that I had thirds,” he said. “Then I learned that there were four more courses coming. It’s her vernacular, and I’ve really come to appreciate it.”

The couple hopes the family’s love and passion for food translates into a successful venture that offers not only commercial cooking space, but cooking classes and space for events and other projects.

The building, which also includes two apartments and a hair salon, sits on the front of several acres of farm property the Smiths own.

The kitchen is fully equipped with everything a baker or chef would need, including a commercial-grade stove and hood, multiple sinks, a convection oven, meat slicer, stainless steel work tables and granite presentation tables among many other pieces of equipment. During the tour, the Smiths showed off the kitchen equipment, much of which was covered up by the client currently using the facility, and explained where they hope to see the venture go in the future.

“I want to get to the point where we have a lot of different people making a lot of different products,” Milva Smith said. “We just want to get people in here and tell them what we do.”

The kitchen is available to rent for $125 for a five-hour block that must be used within a 30-day period. The event space, which has enough seating for 30, can be rented for $125 per day, and the business offers rentals of glassware, dishware, utensils and other party and event supplies.


]]> 1, 24 Jul 2016 20:30:00 +0000
Bomber dead after blast at music festival in Germany Mon, 25 Jul 2016 00:16:52 +0000 ANSBACH, Germany — A man who blew himself up and injured 12 people after being turned away from an open-air music festival was a 27-year-old Syrian who had been denied asylum, Bavaria’s top security official said early Monday.

“We don’t know if this man planned on suicide or if he had the intention of killing others,” Bavarian interior minister Joachim Herrmann said.

He added that the man’s request for asylum was rejected a year ago, but he was allowed to remain in Germany on account of the situation in Syria.

Three of the 12 victims suffered serious injuries, Herrmann said.

A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office in Ansbach said the attacker’s motive wasn’t clear.

“If there is an Islamist link or not is purely speculation at this point,” said the spokesman, Michael Schrotberger.

The explosion in the southern German state came just two days after a man went on a deadly rampage at a Munich mall, killing nine people, and after an ax attack on a train near Wuerzburg last Monday wounded five.

Authorities said they were alerted to an explosion in the city’s center shortly after 10 p.m. on Sunday.

The open-air concert with about 2,500 in attendance was shut down as a precaution after the explosion.

Germany, and Bavaria in particular, have been on edge following the attacks in Munich and on the train, which in turn came shortly after a Tunisian man in a truck killed 84 people when he plowed through a festive crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, on the French Riviera.

Bavarian public broadcaster Bayerische Rundfunk reported that about 200 police officers and 350 rescue personnel were brought in following the explosion in Ansbach.

]]> 4 Sun, 24 Jul 2016 23:23:44 +0000
Turks rally against failed coup, voice fears about crackdown Mon, 25 Jul 2016 00:07:06 +0000 ISTANBUL — They ostensibly rallied here on Sunday to protest the attempted overthrow of their government. But what seemed to worry them was the direction of that same government and a crackdown led by its powerful leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“I’m afraid. Erdogan is trying to become a dictator,” said Ahmet, a 21-year-old university student who joined thousands of other demonstrators here in Istanbul’s Taksim Square.

He declined to give his last name because, like many in Turkey, he feared being swept up in the extraordinary purge of state institutions triggered by a failed coup on July 15.

The measures have involved the detention, suspension and firing of tens of thousands of people, including soldiers, police, judges and civil servants. On Saturday, Turkey’s presidency ordered the closure of 1,043 schools, 1,229 charities and foundations, 15 universities and 35 medical institutions.

Participants at the rally waved Turkish flags and chanted nationalist slogans. Some drank beer – an unspoken rebuke to the Islamic orientation of Erdogan’s government – and held up posters showing the visage of Turkey’s secular founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

They were united in expressing concern about the turbulence shaking this Middle East nation of 75 million people. Many also seemed careful not criticize their president – at least not in public or in front of foreign journalists.

A climate of fear has gripped many Turks, who say the government’s response seems more about Erdogan consolidating his power than just rooting out coup plotters. Turkey’s allies, including the United States, have expressed similar concerns.

Supporters of the Republican People’s Party – the country’s main opposition, referred to here as the CHP – have long been critical of the Turkish leader’s religious agenda and attempts to silence journalists and critics.

Even so, the CHP’s secular-leaning leadership tried to extend an olive branch to Erdogan and his Islamist allies. The party organized Sunday’s rally, and its officials formally extended an invitation to Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party and its supporters.

That gesture felt at odds with comments on Friday by the CHP’s head, Kemal Kilicdaroglu. He suggested that Erdogan had taken the purge too far.

“We want all those who are prosecuted on coup-related charges to be tried in line with democracy and the rule of law. We don’t want a witch hunt,” Kilicdaroglu told NTV, a private broadcaster.

]]> 1, 24 Jul 2016 22:48:08 +0000
Thousands of detained coup suspects mistreated in Turkey, lawyers say Mon, 25 Jul 2016 00:01:27 +0000 ANKARA, Turkey — Thousands of people taken into custody since Turkey’s attempted coup are being held in sports facilities and stables, where some have been beaten and mistreated, according to lawyers familiar with the cases.

Lawyers from the Ankara Bar Association’s human rights commission say members have reported the alleged abuses after trying to meet with clients. Other lawyers and human rights organizations have made similar allegations.

In addition to verbal and physical abuse, clients complained about a lack of food and that their hands have been bound for days, said Sercan Aran, deputy head of the commission. The mistreatment is “systematic,” and lawyers have been prevented from documenting physical signs of beatings and abuse, he said.

The Turkish government strongly denies the allegations, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stressed that due process is being followed.

“We are doing everything according to the law,” said a Turkish official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in line with government protocol. He said the law is being upheld and that he “categorically denied” that prisoners have been abused in custody.

The United States and European nations have urged Turkey to maintain democracy and respect for human rights after the brazen attempted coup, which left at least 232 people dead as a rebel faction of the military bombed parliament and police bases with hijacked aircraft.

In a large-scale crackdown on alleged coup plotters, more than 9,000 people, mostly soldiers, have been taken into custody, while 50,000 others have been fired from their jobs or suspended while they are investigated. Erdogan, who has declared a state of emergency, has pledged to “cleanse” what he has described as a “cancer” in the country.

“Right now, law is suspended,” Aran said. “We see investigations going on without any rule of law. Yes, the military intervention was stopped, the military dictatorship was stopped, but right now we see they are trying to build a civilian dictatorship.”

The state of emergency has compounded fears among lawyers and human rights groups that the rule of law will be eroded, which would threaten Turkey’s long-standing bid to join the European Union.

“The idea that Turkey, a country seeking European Union membership, would not respect the law is absurd,” the Turkish official said, pointing out that 1,200 of the detained were released on Saturday. “All we care about is concrete evidence of complicity in this grave assault,” he said.

Before the emergency law was announced, detainees were already being held without charge longer than legally allowed, lawyers said. Under the new measures, suspects can be held for up to 30 days.

Some are also being denied the right to speak privately with lawyers and to call a next of kin, according to lawyers and families searching for information about missing relatives.

The Ankara Bar Association has set up a 24-hour hotline and crisis center, where phones ring incessantly. Out of fear of being seen as sympathetic to coup plotters or critical of the government, most lawyers and family members declined to be quoted by name.

“Crisis Center,” said one curly haired lawyer working at the center, as she picked up one of four phone lines. “Have you called previously?”

“Tell me his name,” she then said in response to the caller.

She typed the name of the caller’s missing husband into her computer and came up with a match. “He’s in the academy sports hall,” she said, then added: “Don’t go, they aren’t letting anyone visit.”

She told the caller that he hasn’t been appointed a lawyer, but to call back the next day for an update.

On Thursday, 2,398 soldiers were in custody in the Ankara area, according to a list of names that the police had sent to the lawyers. Some 1,086 were being held at a police academy’s sports facility, it showed. Another 452 are being held at a volleyball court, 354 at another sports facility and 304 at an equestrian center.

Others were being held at an intelligence building and other detention facilities. On Friday, the police sent more names, bringing the number of soldiers recorded as being in custody in Ankara to 4,218.

The call center covers only the Ankara area. For the families of people detained in Istanbul and elsewhere, there is no such service.

The Ankara bar association has assigned 961 of its lawyers to coup-related cases, but most of the bar’s 3,000 criminal lawyers are too afraid to take them on or politically opposed to doing so, Aran said.

Dogukan Toguc Cankurt, another lawyer with the bar association, said that lawyers representing clients connected with the coup have themselves faced harassment.

“If they try to record signs of torture, they face threats and violence from the police,” he said. “A colleague that tried to photograph evidence of torture was made to erase the photos.”

The prosecutors office gave the Ankara Bar Association a list of 189 lawyers who aren’t allowed to represent coup plotters.

Most had represented cases linked to the Gulen movement in the past. The Turkish government accuses its leader, Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, of being behind the coup, a claim he has denied.

In one official written statement, a general who denied involvement in the coup said he was unarmed and did not resist arrest when police forces turned up at his office. His lawyer added a note at the end asking that his client be referred for medical examinations to record “wounds” on his body.

“I have not benefited from the right to talk to my client,” the lawyer noted.

The government official said that injuries may have occurred at the time of arrest.

“During many arrests, fire was exchanged and there was resistance from coup plotters,” he said. “Individuals in need of medical assistance receive necessary treatment.”

However, Andrew Gardner, a researcher for Amnesty International, said he didn’t think that the fact that beatings had taken place in custody was “in dispute whatsoever.”

“There are a litany of abuses that have been reported to us,” he said. “There are serious allegations of widespread mistreatment and mutually corroborating reports going beyond beatings to high levels of abuse.”

Gardner also said that complaints of sexual abuse had been reported to Amnesty.

One lawyer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic, said a detainee reported being raped in custody.

Gardner said it is not possible that authorities have collected evidence on all of the suspects.

“And if they don’t have concrete evidence, they shouldn’t be detaining them,” he said.

A woman who had traveled from Britain in search of her missing brother, a military officer, said the family last heard from him the morning after the coup via a text message that read: “I’m fine.”

A lawyer at the call center explained to the woman that her brother is in a high-security prison and that in normal times, three relatives would be allowed to visit.

“But these aren’t normal times,” the lawyer said, adding that the officer has been appointed a lawyer.

“These are the brave ones,” the woman said of the lawyers in the call center, who work for a nominal fee, doing shifts through the night. “They have the courage to help us. It gives me some hope.”

]]> 0 Sun, 24 Jul 2016 20:20:43 +0000
Northeast’s farmers ration water as drought worsens Sun, 24 Jul 2016 23:37:28 +0000 CONCORD, N.H. — At Lavoie’s Farm in New Hampshire, beans and corn haven’t broken through the ground yet and fields of strawberries are stunted.

The drought that has taken hold in the Northeast is especially felt at John Lavoie’s farm in Hollis, presenting him with some tough choices. Irrigation ponds are drying up, forcing him to choose between tomatoes and berries or apple and peach trees.

Lavoie decided to hold off watering the fruit trees so he could quench the tomato and berry plants before they succumb to the heat.

“We need some rain pretty quick,” Lavoie said. “There is just some corn that won’t make it. A lot of things we would like to give water to, we can’t.”

The dry blast in New Hampshire is being felt throughout the Northeast, from Maine to Pennsylvania, driven by a second year of below-average rainfall. Though not as dire as the West Coast drought of five-years running, the dry, hot weather has stressed farms and gardens, prompted water restrictions and bans in many towns, and threatened to bring more wildfires than usual.

In the hardest-hit areas of western New York, Massachusetts and southern parts of New Hampshire and Maine, it’s been dryer than in a decade or more. And national weather experts predict the drought will persist at least through the end of October.

“The Northeast is a little bit of a mixed bag, but the bottom line is that the conditions have deteriorated over the past several weeks to a couple of months,” said Rich Tinker, a drought specialist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

If there were a drought epicenter, it probably would be Massachusetts. More than 74 percent of the state, according to the United States Drought Monitor, is experiencing some degree of drought, and almost the entire state is dry.

Many Massachusetts farmers are hurting, said Katie Campbell-Nelson, a vegetable production specialist with UMass Extension. Yields and quality are down, and irrigation costs are up.

“Some farmers are abandoning crops because it’s not worth the financial risk of harvesting them,” Campbell-Nelson said.

The dry conditions have raised the risk of wildfires in Massachusetts, said Dave Celino, chief forest fire warden for the state Department of Conservation and Recreation. Typically, the state records about 1,600 wildland fires a year. But this year, it’s already seen more than 1,000.

Meanwhile, some wells are going dry in Connecticut. And the blueberry crop in Maine will be slightly smaller this year than the past two, said Nancy McBrady, executive director of the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine.

In New Hampshire, the Lavoies, like their farming neighbors, are spending twice as much and committing 90 percent of their labor to watering. They’ve instituted drip agriculture and other conservation measures to ensure every drop of water goes farther and lasts longer. It’s a smart move, especially since it may be months before they see any relief.

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Farmington town meeting to consider assisted living center Sun, 24 Jul 2016 23:10:59 +0000 FARMINGTON — Residents at a special town meeting Tuesday will consider allowing the town to enter into a tax increment financing agreement with a Waterville-based company that is looking to develop an assisted living care center on Knowlton Corner Road.

The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the Farmington Community Center following a 6:30 p.m. regularly scheduled Board of Selectmen’s meeting at the same location.

Selectmen earlier this month approved the terms of a tax increment financing agreement with Woodlands under which the town would reimburse 100 percent of incremental tax revenue to the company for 10 years. While selectmen agreed on the terms, the town entering into TIF agreements is subject to voters’ approval.

At Tuesday’s meeting, voters will consider establishing a tax-increment financing district for the 38-acre area on Knowlton Corner Road where the $4 million assisted living center will be built. They will then consider authorizing selectmen to enter into a credit enhancement agreement for the district with Woodlands Senior Living.

Woodlands Senior Living, which operates 12 residences in Maine, approached the town in December about developing an assisted living center specializing in memory care within Farmington. The center will have 36 beds and provide care for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

In April, when Matthew Walters, who co-owns Woodlands Senior Living with his father Lon, first requested the 10-year TIF, selectmen tabled the issue, saying they thought that length of time at 100 percent was too long. However, after touring the Woodlands assisted living center in Lewiston and hearing more about the value the project would bring to Farmington, selectmen agreed to accept the terms as presented, Farmington Town Manager Richard Davis said.

Matthew Walters said there is no assisted living center in the area offering these type of memory care services. He said a big factor in choosing the plot of land on Knowlton Corner Road is the possibility of further development beyond the initial $4 million project. He said it is likely that a second phase of development would occur, possibly in the form of an apartment-style care center on the site.

The company hopes to close out on the land purchase and break ground on the project by late August. Walters said the residence is expected to open in late summer next year.


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Commanding debut at box office for ‘Star Trek Beyond’ Sun, 24 Jul 2016 22:58:34 +0000 LOS ANGELES — “Star Trek Beyond” has landed atop the weekend box office.

Paramount’s latest outing with the Starship Enterprise soared to $59.6 million in domestic ticket sales, according to studio estimates Sunday, knocking Universal’s “The Secret Life of Pets” from the No. 1 spot. “Pets” fell to second place, adding an additional $29.3 million to its stellar $260 million earnings over the past three weeks.

“Star Trek Beyond” is the third film in the rebooted franchise that kicked off with J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek.” This latest film opened $20 million behind that 2009 release, but experts say the returns are still promising for Paramount.

“This is a solid enough debut to tell them there’s still enough interest in ‘Star Trek’ to keep this franchise alive,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box-office tracker comScore.

“Star Trek Beyond” opened in line with industry expectations, he said, despite the unexpected death last month of 27-year-old actor Anton Yelchin, who played Chekov.

“The tragic passing of Anton Yelchin made it bittersweet for fans,” Dergarabedian said. “I don’t think that took away anything from the film. Fans can pay their respects to Yelchin by watching him on the screen.”

“The Secret Life of Pets” and “Ghostbusters” bested – or tied – the weekend’s other new releases. Warner Bros.’ low-budget horror film “Lights Out” opened with $21.6 million – more than quadrupling its reported $5 million budget – to tie with “Ghostbusters” for third place.

Fox’s animated “Ice Age: Collision Course” debuted with $21 million. Fox Searchlight’s “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie” opened outside the top 10 with $1.8 million.

The documentary “Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party,” from conservative political pundit Dinesh D’Souza, edged into the top 10 in its second week with $3.7 million.

“That’s pretty amazing,” Dergarabedian said. “But it’s obviously due to the timing with the Republican National Convention last week and the Democratic National Convention this week.”

Here are estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to comScore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday also are included. Final three-day domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. “Star Trek Beyond,” $59.6 million ($30 million international).

2. “The Secret Life of Pets,” $29.3 million ($10 million international).

3. (tie) “Lights Out,” $21.6 million ($8.3 million international).

3. (tie) “Ghostbusters,” $21.6 million ($10.5 million international).

5. “Ice Age: Collision Course,” $21 million ($30 million international).

6. “Finding Dory,” $7.2 million ($19.5 international).

7. “The Legend of Tarzan,” $6.4 million ($44.7 million international).

8. “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates,” $4.4 million ($1 million international).

9. “Kabali (Tamil & Telugu),” $4.1 million.

10. “Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party,” $3.7 million.

]]> 1 Sun, 24 Jul 2016 19:30:18 +0000
As deaths rise, Coast Guard warns paddlers to take precautions Sun, 24 Jul 2016 22:05:49 +0000 As the popularity of paddle sports surges, the Coast Guard is warning kayakers, canoeists and paddleboarders to be prepared before venturing out following a rise in deaths in the past year.

Eighteen people have died in New England since October, compared to seven in the 12-month period that ended in October, said Nicole Grolls, a Coast Guard spokeswoman in Boston.

The problem can partly be attributed to the growing popularity of paddleboards, kayaks and canoes, but too many paddlers are unprepared for changing conditions, don’t have appropriate safety gear and lack skills needed to stay safe when the unexpected happens, said Walter Taylor, a Coast Guard recreational boating safety specialist.

Even taking the normal precaution of wearing a life jacket may not be enough when the water is cold enough to kill, he said.

“It could be a nice beautiful day forecast in the 90s, but the water temperature where they’re paddling is below 60. They may not account for hypothermia,” Taylor said.

That’s exactly what happened a month ago in Maine.

A licensed guide from Maine and his two clients from New Jersey departed on a pleasant afternoon but encountered a brief-but-violent squall that capsized their kayaks. Ed Brackett of Gouldsboro and Michael Popper of Plainfield, New Jersey, died June 22. Popper’s wife, Cheryl, survived severe hypothermia after being in the water for five hours.

The three were wearing life jackets, and Brackett even had a waterproof radio. Others knew their plans and reported them missing.

“He wasn’t a seat-of-your-pants kind of guy. He was always prepared,” Town Manager Bryan Kaenrath said of Brackett, who worked for the town.

They were doing many of the right things, but they weren’t dressed for the possibility of going into the water, the Coast Guard said.

They were wearing summer clothes – shorts and T-shirts – instead of something geared to insulate themselves from the cold water, Taylor said.

The number of paddler deaths fluctuates from year to year. Nationwide, paddler deaths have ranged from a low of 144 to as high as 198 over the past 10 years even as the total number of boating deaths has dropped, according to Coast Guard data.

Meanwhile, more people are getting into the sport each year. The Outdoor Foundation says nearly 22 million Americans – about 7 percent of the population – participated in paddle sports in 2014.

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Maine’s Open Farm Day gives visitors an inside look Sun, 24 Jul 2016 18:36:17 +0000 GORHAM — Clutching a furry living ball in her hand, Althea McNulty, 11, stood stock still in the henhouse at the Underhill Fiber Farm on Wilson Road.

It was the first time she had held a live chick.

“It’s soft but its wings are prickly,” Althea said.

The moment was exactly why Althea and her family moved back to Maine last month after a four-year stint in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, a 24-hour flight away, said her mother, Gretchen McNulty. The McNultys were spending Sunday visiting local farms as part of Open Farm Day, when more than 80 agricultural operations across the state flung open their doors to the public.

“I am blissing out. I am embracing the fresh, clean beautiful air. We are so happy to be back,” said Gretchen McNulty, who worked at an international school in Kuala Lumpur and just took a job as a curriculum director for the Falmouth public schools.

The Underhill Fiber Farm – run by Jenny Smith, 41, her parents, Cindy and Larry Smith, who bought it in 1977, and twin sisters Nancy and Chrissy, 31 – was a picture of summer bounty with the Smith family’s high-energy industriousness on full display.

The gardens surrounding the house were a tumble of flowers and vegetables. Swiss chard burst up among the yellow daisies. Tomatoes poked through the amaranth and delphinium spikes. Corn stalks towered over mounds of catnip and mint. Scarlet runner beans bloomed blood red.

Visitors patted the horses, held the Angora bunnies and nuzzled the 50 baby broilers and 30 baby turkeys.

The farm animals emitted an outdoor concert of baas, quacks and bleats.

Out in front of the 1700s-era farmhouse Jenny Smith sold skeins of wool from her animals, while several friends demonstrated how to make yarn at their spinning wheels. Betty Johnson of South Portland, who met Smith at a spinning event, sat spinning cobalt blue wool. Johnson once spent four years collecting the fur off her 120-pound Newfoundland dog, Emily.

“I combined it with sheep wool and made a capelet and shawl,” Johnson said.

The fiber operation is a labor of love. If she is lucky in a given year, Jenny Smith will cover her costs. Digging her hand into a bag of dark brown sheep wool, Smith said it takes $150 a year to feed a sheep. In return she gets about 5 pounds of wool. She will lose 30 percent of that when she washes it. Then she spins it and sometimes she knits it into sweaters and hats. She spins any fiber she can find, including cat fur.

The family eats from the garden. They slaughter and eat their chickens, sheep and pigs. They make cheese from goat milk and dine on freshly laid eggs. Smith makes wine, using rhubarb or autumn olives and other fruits and berries – “from anything I can get my hands on,” she said.

Johnson said she considers Smith amazing, and held up an orifice hook used to thread a spinning wheel that Smith fashioned out of copper wire and a wine cork.

“I don’t drink, but I hear her blueberry wine is terrific,” Johnson said.


]]> 0, 24 Jul 2016 17:49:04 +0000
Froome wins his third Tour de France Sun, 24 Jul 2016 18:20:17 +0000 PARIS — After the beer and champagne celebrations, Chris Froome delivered a sobering and emotional message from the Tour de France winner’s podium on the Champs-Elysees.

Ten days after the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice that killed 84 people, Froome – a Kenyan-born British rider who often trains on the French Riviera – reminded everyone what the Tour stands for.

“These events put sport into perspective, but they also show why the values of sport are so important to free society,” Froome said on Sunday in a prepared speech. “We all love the Tour de France because it’s unpredictable, but we love the Tour more for what stays the same – the passion of the fans for every nation, the beauty of the French countryside and the bonds of friendship created through sport. These things will never change.

“Thanks for your kindness in these difficult times,” Froome added, switching to French as he addressed the local fans. “You have the most beautiful race in the world. Vive le Tour, Vive la France.”

Cheered on by thousands of fans undeterred by the recent spate of violence across Europe, Froome celebrated his third Tour title in four years. He finished safely at the back of the main pack in the final stage, arm-in-arm with his teammates during the mostly ceremonial leg ending on the cobblestones below the Arc de Triomphe.

Andre Greipel of Germany won the 21st leg in a sprint finish.

At the start of the stage, Froome dropped back to his Team Sky car to collect bottles of beer and distributed them to his teammates for a celebratory round. Then it was time for the traditional flute of champagne.

Froome rode a yellow bike to go with his yellow jersey, helmet, gloves and shoes.

Froome finished with an advantage of 4 minutes, 5 seconds over Romain Bardet of France, while Nairo Quintana of Colombia placed third, 4:21 back.

Only four men – five-time winners Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault, Eddy Merckx and Miguel Indurain – have more Tour victories than Froome.

“I’ve definitely grown to appreciate this history of the sport a lot more,” Froome said. “Being in the position that I’m in now, I’m understanding how tough it is to win a race like the Tour de France. To win back-to-back editions and now to be a three-time winner is incredible. It’s beyond what I’ve ever dreamed.”

While other top riders of his generation like Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali have won all three Grand Tours – the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France and the Spanish Vuelta – Froome plans to keep his focus on the Tour.

“It would be my dream to keep coming back to the Tour de France for the next five, six years,” he said. “I’ve already won it three times and I wouldn’t say the novelty is wearing off. … It’s the biggest event we have on our calendar and to be here in the yellow jersey, it’s every cyclist’s dream.”

Compared to his wins in 2013 and 2015, Froome has become more adept at handling speculation that he is doping. After facing constant accusations during last year’s race – including a spectator yelling ‘doper!’ and hurling a cup of urine at him – Froome released some of his training data at the end of last year.

“I think I’ve put that to rest now,” he said. “I’ve really done a lot in terms of offering up my physiological data and trying to be open to people as much as I can while protecting a competitive advantage at the same time.”

Froome took the yellow jersey with a daring downhill attack in Stage 8, padded his lead with a late breakaway in Stage 11, and overcame a motor bike crash on the legendary Mont Ventoux and a fall on a slippery descent in the Alps with two stages to go.

Tour director Christian Prudhomme complimented Froome for showing “panache” after his downhill attack in the Pyrenees, and the fans have treated him better, too.

“The atmosphere on the roads has been fantastic,” Froome said. “The French public, they make this race what it is.”

Out of respect for the Nice victims, Froome refused to discuss race details the day after the attack. But he lauded Tour organizers for deciding to keep the race going.

“It’s been a really strong sign,” he said, “that life goes on and it’s not going to be stopped by these terrorist activities.”

]]> 0, 24 Jul 2016 20:09:26 +0000
Suspect in Kittery sex assault arrested in Florida Sun, 24 Jul 2016 17:56:27 +0000 A man suspected of sexually assaulting a woman in Kittery on July 10 was arrested Thursday in Florida.

Kittery police said the woman had accepted a ride home from an evening out when she was attacked by the male driver. The woman was able to escape and ran to the home of a Kittery resident, who called police.

Kittery police said their investigation led them to a suspect, Alhassane Camara, 43, of Rollinsford, New Hampshire, who had left New England for Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

U.S. marshals and Fort Lauderdale police helped arrest Camara, who has been charged with being a fugitive from justice. He will be formally charged with felony gross sexual assault when he is returned to Maine.

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White Sox suspend top pitcher Chris Sale for ripping up jerseys Sun, 24 Jul 2016 15:26:23 +0000 CHICAGO – The Chicago White Sox suspended ace Chris Sale five days without pay for destroying collared throwback uniforms the team was scheduled to wear.

The White Sox announced the punishment on Sunday after Sale was scratched from his scheduled start and sent home the previous night.

The suspension comes to $250,000 of his $9.15 million salary. He was also fined about $12,700 – the cost of the destroyed jerseys – according to a person familiar with the penalty. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized.

“Obviously we’re all extremely disappointed that we have to deal with this issue at this time both from the standpoint of the club as well as Chris’ perspective,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “It’s unfortunate that it has become this level of an issue and potential distraction taking away from what we’re trying to accomplish on the field.”

Sale was not expected at the ballpark on Sunday. He is eligible to return Thursday against the crosstown Cubs at Wrigley Field, though Hahn would not say if the left-hander would start that game.

The Major League Baseball Players Association declined comment, spokesman Greg Bouris said. Sale could ask the union to file a grievance.

FanRag Sports first reported Sale was protesting the 1976-style jerseys, which were navy and sported unusual collars on a hot and humid night.

Sale then cut up an unknown number of jerseys before the game and was told to leave the stadium. With not enough usable 1976 jerseys available, the White Sox wore white throwback uniforms from the 1983 season.

The incident comes with the White Sox in a tailspin after a 23-10 start and Sale’s name circulating in trade rumors.

“The actions or behaviors of the last 24 hours does not change in any aspect, any respect, our belief that Chris Sale can help this club win a championship and win multiple championships,” Hahn said. “It does not move the needle one iota in terms of his value to this club, his value to any other club that may be interested in his services or the likelihood of him being moved or kept whatsoever. None of that stuff is impacted at all by these events.”

This wasn’t the first flare-up involving 27-year-old Sale, who is known for his competitive streak and strict training regimen.

He was openly critical of team executive Ken Williams during spring training when he said Drake LaRoche, the son of teammate Adam LaRoche, would no longer be allowed in the clubhouse. Adam LaRoche retired as a result, and Sale hung the LaRoches’ jerseys in his locker.

He was also suspended five games by Major League Baseball last season for his role in a brawl at Kansas City that started with a flare-up between teammate Adam Eaton and the Royals’ Yordano Ventura. Sale went to the Royals clubhouse after he got tossed and was seen pounding on the door.


]]> 0, 24 Jul 2016 17:14:16 +0000
IOC decides not to ban full Russian team from Olympics Sun, 24 Jul 2016 15:06:32 +0000 The Russian flag will be flying at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, after all, and the athletes from a nation mired in an ongoing drug scandal will be allowed to compete on the sporting world’s largest stage.

Less than two weeks before the start of the Rio Games, the International Olympic Committee ruled against barring Russia from the Summer Olympics but did approve measures that could reduce the number of Russian athletes participating. Members of the executive board met on a conference call Sunday and granted wide-reaching powers to the 28 individual federations that govern each sport to rule on which Russian athletes would be permitted to compete in their respective disciplines.

While that could curtail Russia’s participation in the Rio Olympics, it means the exact number of participants and medal hopefuls representing the nation could remain in flux until days before the opening ceremony, which is scheduled for Aug. 5.

While the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the international body that oversees track and field, has already ruled that Russia would not be permitted to compete in Olympic competition, other governing bodies will have big decisions to make in the coming days. Many sports federations, such as gymnastics, have already indicated a preference to see Russian athletes competing for Olympic medals. Bruno Grandi, president of the FIG, the international gymnastics federation, for example, said in a statement last week, “Blanket bans have never been and will never be just.”

No nation had ever been barred from competing at an Olympics for doping, but with sentiment growing against the Russian athletes and questions about whether they’d compete clean in Rio, the IOC faced a difficult decision. Last week the World Anti-Doping Agency, the international body that polices doping in sports, released a damning report that charged Russia with operating a prolific state-run doping program spanning 30 sports over several years.

As the doping scandal grew, more than a dozen anti-doping agencies from around the world, including those from the United States and Canada, banded together and urged the IOC to issue a wholesale ban of Russia from these Olympics, an extraordinary measure that would have included athletes who’ve never tested positive for banned substances or been implicated in the scandal.

The IOC opted not to take immediate action last week, preferring to wait for an important ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which last Thursday upheld the ban on Russia’s track and field teams. In June those squads were barred from the Rio Games by the IAAF. The court’s ruling effectively set a precedent that a sport’s international federation had the authority to prohibit certain athletes from competing.

The Russian Olympic Committee said in a statement last week that the court’s ruling unfairly punished a large swath of Russian athletes for the alleged misdeeds of a few. “The CAS decision violates the rights of all clean athletes who from today will also bear a collective responsibility for the guilt of others,” the committee said.

While officials with the Russian sports ministry have acknowledged a “culture of doping,” they have denied any form of government involvement. Russia President Vladimir Putin has been vocal about what he sees as an unfair process and a political witch-hunt that has seeped into the sports world.

“Today, we see a dangerous return to this policy of letting politics interfere with sport,” Putin said in a statement last week, harkening back to Cold War-era relations. “Yes, this intervention takes different forms today, but the essence remains the same; to make sport an instrument for geopolitical pressure and use it to form a negative image of countries and peoples. The Olympic movement, which is a tremendous force for uniting humanity, once again could find itself on the brink of division.

Before a single Olympic event has been contested, doping has already emerged as a dominant storyline of these Summer Games. The IOC and WADA have been trying to cleanse the Rio Games of known cheaters and have been retesting samples from the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics. They found 98 athletes who tested positive for prohibited substances, including at least 23 medalist from the Beijing Games.

Since competing under the Russian flag, the country has been among the top three or four medal winners in each of the past five Summer Olympics. Russia, which has traditionally been a power in track and field, wrestling and gymnastics especially, won 79 medals at the 2012 London Games, trailing only the United States (103) and China (88). Russia hosted the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi and won more medals there than any other country – 13 golds and 33 overall — a feat that might not stand the test of time after the IOC and WADA completes their doping inquiry and metes out individual punishments.

The absence of any number of Russian athletes will surely have a major impact on the medal hopes of athletes competing in almost every sport. Russian typically sends an Olympic team of more than 400 athletes at the Summer Games. The last time Russian athletes missed the Summer Games was 1984, when the then-Soviet Union was among 14 communist nations to boycott the Olympics. That year the United States won 83 gold medals at the Los Angeles Summer Games, which is still an Olympic record.

]]> 2, 24 Jul 2016 17:16:30 +0000
Democratic Party head resigns amid scandal over anti-Sanders emails Sun, 24 Jul 2016 14:35:54 +0000 PHILADELPHIA — The Democratic National Committee chairwoman resigned under fire Sunday, on the eve of a national convention meant to project competence and unity in contrast to what Democrats say was the chaos of the Republicans’ gathering last week.

The disarray threatened to upend Hillary Clinton’s plan to paint the Democrats as the party best prepared to lead a divided and anxious country and herself as the leader who can offer an optimistic alternative to Republican Donald Trump.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz was forced aside by the release of thousands of embarrassing emails among party officials that appeared to show coordinated efforts to help Clinton at the expense of her rival in the Democratic primaries. That contradicted claims by the party and the Clinton campaign that the process was open and fair for her leading challenger, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

The trove of messages released by hackers on the website WikiLeaks proved to be the last straw for Democrats, including top Clinton advisers.

“Myself and other Democrats who were Clinton supporters, we have been saying this was serious. It truly violates what the DNC’s proper role should be,” said Edward G. Rendell, a former DNC chairman and former Pennsylvania governor.

“The DNC did something incredibly inappropriate here,” and needed to acknowledge that, Rendell said.

Republicans led by Trump jumped to portray the episode as evidence that the system was rigged for Clinton, whom Trump calls “Crooked Hillary.”

“The Democrats are in a total meltdown but the biased media will say how great they are doing!,” Trump exulted on Twitter. “E-mails say the rigged system is alive & well!”

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, who is Wasserman Schultz’s counterpart, said in an interview “There was no way out. The end has come. There wasn’t any other outcome that was foreseeable.”

Sanders said he was not surprised by the email revelations. He is scheduled to address the opening night of the Democratic convention on Monday. While he is expected to stress unity, many of his supporters say they are furious about what they see as evidence of party bias.

The Clinton campaign – and several cybersecurity experts – said the leak was a political ploy carried out by the Russian government to aid in the election of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

That didn’t stop a massive political firestorm directed largely at Wasserman Schultz – nor strong pressure from the Clinton campaign and others to step aside, according to a senior Democrat familiar with the negotiations.

She finally did, but not before speaking with President Obama – and not without a fight, according to Democrats familiar with the negotiations.

A member of Congress from south Florida, Wasserman Schultz said in a statement that her resignation will take effect upon the close of the convention. Donna Brazile, a longtime Democratic strategist, will take over as interim chair, according to the DNC.

“I know that electing Hillary Clinton as our next president is critical for America’s future,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement. “I look forward to serving as a surrogate for her campaign in Florida and across the country to ensure her victory.”

The controversy blew up at a key political moment for Clinton: just as convention delegates were descending on Philadelphia – and just as her campaign was hoping to patch up disagreements with Sanders supporters over superdelegates, the party platform and her choice of running mate, Virginia Sen. Timothy M. Kaine, who is seen by some as insufficiently progressive.

Erin Bilbray, a DNC member from Nevada who supported Sanders in the primaries, said there had been talk about some delegates turning their backs on Wasserman Schultz in a show of protest during the convention if she didn’t step down.

“There definitely would have been some anger in the convention hall,” Bilbray said. “Hopefully, this will be a good thing for unity in Philadelphia.”

In pressuring Wasserman Schultz to resign, campaign officials argued that she had become a lightning rod for divisions within the party.

Democrats said pressure was applied both publicly and behind the scenes, in hopes of getting the embarrassing episode over as quickly as possible. Democrats began lobbying Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta on Saturday, arguing that the campaign had to step in before the damage worsened.

And it may not be the end of it. R.T. Rybak, a former Minneapolis mayor and a DNC vice chairman, said in an interview that Wasserman Schultz did the right thing by resigning and “allowing the rest of us to clean up this mess so that we can quickly pivot to talking about Hillary Clinton.”

Rybak called for DNC staff who wrote emails aiming to discredit Sanders or any other candidate to be dismissed.

“There is some deeply disturbing information in the emails, but they don’t need to distract from the convention if the DNC takes clear and immediate action,” Rybak said. “We should clearly state that any person from the DNC who worked to discredit another presidential candidate, especially on DNC time and equipment, should be fired immediately. No question.”

According to one Democratic member of Congress involved in the discussions leading up to her resignation, Wasserman Schultz strongly resisted giving up her position amid discussions that staff should shoulder some of the blame. Among the options discussed was having Amy Dacey, the DNC’s chief executive officer, put out a statement, according to two Democratic sources.

That served to exacerbate other Democrats’ frustration with her – and led to accusations that she had made the situation worse by not acting swiftly to step aside as the convention loomed.

“There was a lot of drama,” this lawmaker said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. “She made this as painful as she could. She did not want to go. She was in a meeting this afternoon and blamed it all on Amy Dacey. … She wasn’t going to resign until the president called her. She put a lot of people through hell.”

“We were going to come into the week and be united,” said the member of Congress. “But she did ugly and messy and stepped on the message of unity.”

This person said that senior Democrats expect there to be additional departures from the DNC’s senior staff in coming days.

Brazile is taking over as the interim chair, but discussions were underway Sunday about who might be suitable to step in as chair between now and the November election. Among the Democrats mentioned: former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Rep. Steve Israel of New York and EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock. All are loyal supporters and trusted allies of Clinton.

Less clear is how much turmoil remains within the party, even with Wasserman Schultz gone. According to one top Democratic official who requested anonymity to speak candidly, “People feel the culture of the DNC is not right, and it starts at the top.”

In addition to the friction with Sanders and his supporters that was revealed in the email hack, donors were also upset over the way they were talked about in some of the emails, and were complaining: “They talk about us that way?”

In one email exchange in May, national finance director Jordan Kaplan and one of his deputies, Alexandra Shapiro, strategized about where to seat a major Florida donor, Stephen Bittel, at a DNC fundraiser featuring President Obama. Bittel, a real estate mogul in south Florida, appears to have exasperated the officials, the documents suggest.

“He doesn’t sit next to POTUS!” Kaplan wrote.

“Bittel will be sitting in the (expletive)-est corner I can find,” responded Shapiro, who also referred to donors who had yet to confirm for the event as “clowns.”

Wasserman Schultz expects to continue to help out through the end of the convention.

In addition, Clinton issued a statement in which she announced that Wasserman Schultz would serve as honorary chair of the campaign’s 50-state program as well as continuing as a surrogate nationally and in Florida.

In a statement, President Obama said he was “grateful” for Wasserman Schultz’s service. “Her fundraising and organizing skills were matched only by her passion, her commitment and her warmth. And no one works harder for her constituents in Congress than Debbie Wasserman Schultz.”

Others were less generous.

“On the whole I’d rather she not be in Philadelphia,” said James Carville, a longtime Clinton confidant.

Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, said that the DNC would need to investigate the hack, including checking to see whether any emails were “doctored,” and that the party would “take appropriate action.”

“What’s disturbing to us is that experts are telling us that Russian state hackers broke into the DNC, stole these emails, and other experts are now saying the Russians are releasing these emails for the purpose of actually helping Donald Trump,” Mook said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I don’t think it’s coincidental that these emails were released on the eve of our convention here, and that’s disturbing.”

Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort said Mook’s Russia theory is “absurd.” Asked about Mook’s allegation that the Russians were trying to help Trump by releasing damaging DNC emails, Manafort said, “It’s a far reach, obviously.”

The Washington Post reported last month that Russian government hackers penetrated the DNC, stealing opposition research about Donald Trump and compromising the party’s email and chat systems.

But that explanation seems unlikely to mollify Sanders supporters who are angry about the messages and distrustful of Clinton and the party.

The emails revealed a DNC official apparently discussing how to use Sanders’s religion against him to help Clinton ahead of the Kentucky and West Virginia primaries. In another email, a Clinton campaign lawyer suggested to the DNC how it should respond to claims from the Sanders campaign that it was improperly using a joint fundraising committee with state parties.

They also reveal the prized perks given to the party’s top donors.

Central themes of the Democrats’ convention will be optimism and inclusion, in direct contrast to what Clinton calls Trump’s divisive and dysfunctional politics. Democrats have planned to use the spectacle of the Republican convention as Exhibit A for how not to lead.

DNC spokesman, Luis Miranda, who announced Brazile as the interim party leader in a Twitter message Sunday, had earlier recapped the Republican convention by saying “it was a chaotic week that set a low bar.”

Monday’s convention program is expected to open with some of the party’s biggest political stars, and it will highlight some of the party’s most progressive voices.

Sanders, first lady Michelle Obama and Warren, the senator from Massachusetts and a liberal firebrand, are expected to kick off the opening session.

Sanders moved quickly on Sunday to separate the dispute with the DNC from his support for Clinton. He strongly denied that the revelations had changed his support for Clinton and said the real threat was Trump.

“To my mind, what is most important now is the defeating of the worst candidate for president that I have seen in my lifetime, Donald Trump, who is not qualified to be president by temperament, not qualified to be president by the ideas that he has brought forth,” Sanders said on ABC.

Brazile, a vice chair of the convention, wasalso caught up in the leak. Asked for comment in an email from a Washington Post reporter about negotiations between the Sanders campaign and the DNC about the composition of the party’s convention committees, Brazile forwarded the reporter’s request to DNC officials.

“I have no intentions of touching this,” she said. “Why? Because I will cuss out the Sanders camp!”

]]> 198, 24 Jul 2016 23:41:29 +0000
Suicide attack in Baghdad kills at least 14 people Sun, 24 Jul 2016 13:39:23 +0000 BAGHDAD – A suicide bomber attacked a security check point in northern Baghdad on Sunday, killing at least 14 people, Iraqi officials said.

The bomber, who was on foot, detonated his device at one of the busy entrances of the Shiite district of Kadhimiyah, killing at least 10 civilians and four policemen, a police officer said. At least 31 other people were wounded, he added.

Three more civilians were killed and 11 wounded in a bomb explosion in an outdoor market in Baghdad’s western suburb of Abu Ghraib, another police officer said.

Two medical officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.

In an online statement, the IS group claimed responsibility for the Kadhimiyah attack, saying it targeted a gathering of security forces and Shiite militia members. The Associated Press could not verify the authenticity of the statements, but they were posted on a militant website commonly used by the extremists. Security forces and public areas, mainly in Shiite neighborhoods, are one of the most frequent targets for the Islamic State group, which controls key areas in mainly northern and western Iraq.

Since late last year, the group has suffered a string of territorial losses, most recently last month in Fallujah, where it was driven out by Iraqi forces after occupying the city for more than two years. But the extremists have continued to carry out near-daily bombings in and around Baghdad, as well as complex attacks in other countries.


]]> 1 Sun, 24 Jul 2016 18:33:53 +0000
Arundel woman arrested in stabbing Sun, 24 Jul 2016 12:31:03 +0000 A 50-year-old woman was arrested Saturday after she stabbed a man in the neck at the residence they and others share in Arundel, the York County Sheriff’s Office said Sunday.

Deputies responded to a reported stabbing at a home on South Skillings Road at 4:30 p.m. They found many people at the home, including Violet Walker, who lived there along with the stabbing victim and others.

Their investigation revealed that Walker had gotten into an argument with the man and stabbed him in the neck with a pocketknife, Sheriff William King said.

Walker was arrested and charged with aggravated criminal threatening.

The man was taken to Maine Medical Center in Portland with non-life-threatening injuries. He was treated and released. His name has been withheld by police.

Walker is being held at York County Jail on $1,000 bail and her initial court appearance is scheduled for Monday.

]]> 9, 24 Jul 2016 22:14:24 +0000
Democrats agree on compromise to limit superdelegates Sun, 24 Jul 2016 12:10:01 +0000 PHILADELPHIA – The role of superdelegates could be significantly reduced in future Democratic presidential primaries under a compromise deal struck at the Democratic National Convention rules committee Saturday.

Efforts by Bernie Sanders supporters to pass amendments eliminating or limiting the power of superdelegates failed to win approval at the committee meeting in Philadelphia. But campaigns for Sanders and Hillary Clinton worked out an agreement to create a “unity commission” to revise the nominating process, including changing superdelegate rules, which won near-unanimous support.

The 21-member commission will study a number of issues, including how to improve access to caucuses and how to broaden the party’s appeal. For superdelegates, the commission’s recommendation is that Congress members, governors and other elected officials should remain as unpledged delegates, but that other delegates would be bound proportionally to the primary results of their state.

Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver endorsed the plan, saying it would “result in the reduction of superdelegates as we know them by two-thirds.” The Clinton campaign also expressed support for the commission.

Any changes to superdelegate rules would still be subject to DNC approval. A report by the commission is due by Jan. 1, 2018.

The compromise came after a lengthy meeting in which Sanders supporters grew increasingly frustrated as their efforts on superdelegates were voted down.

Discussing the proposal to eliminate superdelegates, Aaron Regunberg, a Sanders delegate and a Rhode Island lawmaker, argued that the current system does not reflect “our core values.” But Clinton supporters argued that the superdelegate system brings more people into the political process and instead called for a more extensive review of the nominating process.

The amendments did win enough support to potentially move on to the convention floor for votes next week. But conflict on the floor appeared unlikely. Calling the compromise a “step forward,” Regunberg said they had not filed a so-called minority report to pursue a floor fight on the amendment to abolish superdelegates.

Sanders has been critical of superdelegates during his contentious primary fight with Clinton. His supporters argue that Clinton’s substantial superdelegate lead may have influenced the outcome of the race, although Clinton also led Sanders with pledged delegates. Late in the race, Sanders sought to flip superdelegates, but with little success.

There are 713 superdelegates, mainly members of Congress and members of the Democratic National Committee. Clinton leads Sanders with superdelegates 602-48. Combining pledged delegates and superdelegates, Clinton leads 2,807 to 1,894.

A collection of liberal organizations and Sanders backers held a news conference before the hearing, stressing their opposition to superdelegates. Supporters crowded the conference room where the hearing was held, with more people packed in an outside hallway, cheering and chanting.

With the convention just days away, the hearing was one of the last opportunities for Sanders’ supporters to push their agenda. The party platform debate concluded recently with a draft document that included many of Sanders’ priorities, including proposals for a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage, abolition of the death penalty and steps to break up large Wall Street banks.

The hearing came as the Democratic Party tries to unify for the general election after an acrimonious primary. But the recent release of hacked DNC emails, detailing the split between the DNC and Sanders, may slow that process.

]]> 4, 24 Jul 2016 18:08:04 +0000
What’s it like to be a police officer in Maine today? Sun, 24 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 BIDDEFORD — Officer Liz Coleman tries to ease her children’s fears whenever she slips into her uniform and heads to work, but it’s not always easy.

When they hear stories of police officers killed on the job, Coleman’s three children worry that their mom is in danger.

“They’ll ask me if I have to go to work. I’ll get extra texts from them,” said Coleman, who has been a police officer in Biddeford for 28 years. “I remind them that I’m smart and well-trained. I remind them that I’ll be home tonight.”

It’s a conversation police officers across Maine are having with their families in the wake of ambushes in Dallas and Baton Rouge that killed a total of eight officers. The killings of the police officers were apparently carried out by people who nursed grievances against the police over police brutality, especially against minorities.

Police officers have also found themselves at the nexus of growing tension over race relations in the U.S. that has spilled into the streets with protests – sometimes violent – over recent fatal shootings of African-Americans by police in places such as Louisiana and Minnesota.

While police actions have been the subject of many of the protests, law enforcement officials say they still have a duty to protect their communities, even as they process the emotions surrounding both the danger to themselves and the criticism they face.

Saco Police Chief Brad Paul says police officers are always cautious doing their jobs – but have to be even more so now.

“We’re acutely aware of the danger out there, but we try not to let it affect our policing,” said Paul, who noted that an average of 144 police officers are killed in the line of duty in the United States each year.

In many departments, chiefs and other top officers have been engaging in conversations about staying safe and positive on the job.

“It’s the most difficult period of time for police officers I recall in my 29 years as one of them,” Lincoln County Sheriff Todd Brackett wrote this week on Facebook. “They, like you and I, struggle to understand or make sense of recent events and they need and deserve our support more than ever.”

Officers in Maine say they rely on their training to ease anxiety about the risks they face and that community support in the wake of the shootings has reaffirmed their commitment to serve.

Here, those in the law enforcement community – and one who aspires to join – describe how they deal with the pressure and why they still put on their uniforms each day.

• • • • •

Officer John Gill

Scarborough Police Department

Scarborough Patrol Officer John Gill counts on 35 years of law enforcement experience and training to help keep him and others safe.

“Being a police officer always had an element of risk,” said Gill, 55. “Our awareness of that has been sharpened in recent weeks. We do things on a daily basis that we think are keeping us safe. I’m sure the officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge thought the same thing.”

Officer John Gill Scarborough Police Department

Officer John Gill, Scarborough Police Department

Gill, who is married and has two grown children, has been a patrol officer in Scarborough for 13 years, and in Saco for 1½ years before that. It’s his second career in law enforcement, following 20 years as a special investigator in the Air Force.

With all that time on the job, Gill is no stranger to the heart-pounding adrenaline that flows during encounters with violent criminals. In 2012, Gill joined a team of U.S. marshals that was hunting a fugitive in Portland. When the cornered felon opened fire, members of the team fired back and Gill dove to the ground. Other members of the team thought Gill was dead, but he was unharmed.

“It can happen to anyone, but it’s not something you think about all the time,” Gill said. “The reality of it is, if we let it get in our heads and change the way we do business, we’re putting ourselves and potentially someone else in danger.”

Even being a cop in a bucolic seaside suburb of Portland doesn’t make Gill feel he can let down his guard or feel safer than officers in big cities. All kinds of people come to Maine, especially during tourist season. And social media and 24-hour news about police-involved shootings have increased tensions everywhere in everyday encounters with the public, regardless of state, county or municipal borders.

“Those barriers or boundaries really aren’t there,” Gill said.

• • • • •

Cpl. Ted Gagnon

Saco Police Department

At the beginning of each shift, Saco police officers pass around a bag of black bands to slip over their badges in honor of fallen police officers. It’s a somber moment and one that stays with Cpl. Ted Gagnon when he’s on patrol.

“You look in the mirror and see that band and you are reminded there are people out there who wish us ill will,” Gagnon said.

Cpl. Ted Gagnon checks in with Saco Police Department dispatch during a traffic stop last week in Saco. Gagnon, 28, studied medical sciences in college but fell in love with the connections he made in the community as an officer of the law. Those connections are what keep him in uniform, Gagnon said.

Cpl. Ted Gagnon, Saco Police Department

Gagnon, 28, has been a police officer for five years. After considering a career in medicine, he fell in love with the connections he made in the community as a police officer. Those connections – shooting hoops with kids or chatting with seniors – are what keep him in uniform, even as officers are second-guessed and targeted, he said.

He tries not to focus on the what-ifs, relying instead on his training and commitment to serve the citizens of Saco. At home, he and his fiancee talk about police shootings and he reminds himself the risk is worth it. Gagnon, the son of a police officer, said he always has been well aware of that risk and how it could affect his family.

“Growing up, the last thing we’d always say (before leaving) was ‘I love you,’ ” he said. “That’s still the last thing I say every day when I leave for work.”

In the past two weeks, the police department has been flooded with support from the community. Residents have dropped off baked goods, offered to buy officers lunch and shouted encouraging words as they pass officers on patrol. All of that reaffirms Gagnon’s decision to stay in law enforcement.

“You’re that much more careful at work. You watch people that much more closely,” Gagnon said. “When you get home, you hug your family a little closer.”

• • • • •

Officer Michael Pierce

Yarmouth Police Department

Michael Pierce, 33, a patrol officer for the Yarmouth Police Department, said he hasn’t felt as safe as he used to since the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, two years ago after a police officer there fatally shot an 18-year-old black man. Pierce said he is now “hypervigilant” when he responds to calls. He’s used to being on guard during a traffic stop, but now worries about situations like responding to noise complaints.

“Those are the calls that make me nervous, honestly,” Pierce said. “Every call, you are wondering, is it some mundane call that will lure me into letting my guard down and expose me to an ambush?”

Growing up, Pierce looked up to police officers and wanted to join what he saw as an admirable profession. When he started his first job in Virginia, he was surprised to learn some people didn’t trust or like the police.

“There was a little bit of a culture shock in that regard,” he said.

Pierce’s children are too young to know what is going on, and even though his wife is supportive of his career, she’d be happier and less worried if he had a 9-to-5 job, he said. He’s even thought about leaving policing altogether.

Media coverage of police shootings can be misleading, and is an indication of the gap in understanding between police and the public, he added.

“I think a lot of what people see creates shock and awe,” he said, referring to cellphone videos showing police-involved shootings. “Unless you know the entire situation, that 10 seconds doesn’t tell the whole story. I think they don’t necessarily understand what it is like to make a life-and-death decision in a split second.”

• • • • •

Officer Andrew Shortill

Biddeford Police Department

After 10 years on the job with the Biddeford Police Department, Officer Andrew Shortill finds himself in “a very interesting place” when he watches news reports of fellow officers being gunned down on the job.

“The gut reaction is to question if it’s worth the risk to me and my family. It’s a hard and heavy burden to bear, knowing there is a target on me just for going to work,” he said. “That burden quickly dissolves into resolution to continue to do the things I do to the best of my ability.”

Shortill, 32, says being a police officer was the only job he ever wanted. He joined the force knowing it was his job “to stand between the chaos and order” and hold criminals accountable. Those are responsibilities he remains committed to, even as his wife and father worry about him.

Officer Andrew Shortill Biddeford Police Department

Officer Andrew Shortill, Biddeford Police Department

“My wife tells me every day when I leave to be safe,” he said. “My dad tells me every time we talk to watch my back.”

Shortill, who spends most of his time on foot patrol in downtown Biddeford, said there are times he worries because he is alone and other officers may not know exactly where he is if something goes wrong. He said his fellow officers now make a point to drive by and check on his location more often.

“I can be as aware of my surroundings as possible, but I can’t control what other people are doing,” he said.

In the last two weeks, Shortill said he has felt even more support from a community that has long supported its officers. After the shootings in Dallas, someone left flowers outside the police station. Others dropped off food and cards.

“What’s going on currently has prompted more people to make an effort to express their appreciation,” he said. “It reinforces why I’m here.”

• • • • •

Officers Erin & Jeff Warren

South Portland Police Department

When Erin and Jeff Warren start work each afternoon, they exchange the same parting words: “I love you. Be safe.”

That hasn’t changed for the newlyweds, both officers in the South Portland Police Department.

“I always say that, but now it has more meaning,” said Erin Warren, 30, a nine-year veteran of the force who recently transitioned from patrol officer to community response officer, focusing on community-related investigations and outreach.

While violence and safety concerns have always been an aspect of policing, she said, recent events have reminded her that she must always be vigilant in anticipating threats and adhere to her training without sacrificing her professionalism and compassion.

“You don’t want to be complacent and you don’t want to let it affect your work,” she said. “I do my best to treat everybody as human beings and I wouldn’t want to change that.”

Erin Warren said she’s gotten used to being videotaped by members of the public during arrests and other interactions, in addition to being recorded by dashboard cameras in cruisers and audio microphones that officers wear. But she’s unnerved by the rush to judgment in incidents captured on video before the cases are fully investigated.

“Everything now is trial by social media,” she said. “I feel police are guilty until proven innocent.”

Jeff Warren said the recent ambush killings of police officers have validated his fundamental training to be constantly aware of his surroundings. Warren, 31, has been a patrol officer in South Portland for four years.

“Nothing has changed for me,” he said. “It’s a reminder that we always have to be on alert. Not defensive, but prepared.”

That means parking his cruiser in a safe place to write up reports, calling for backup when necessary and avoiding other common threats that come with being a police officer.

“We have to trust society,” Jeff Warren said. “We have to trust that 99 percent of people are going to do the right thing and not hurt us, but unfortunately there are some people who want to hurt us.”

Despite the dangers he faces, Jeff Warren said he gets tremendous satisfaction from being a police officer, especially when he’s able to assist, support and bring justice to crime victims.

“Those are the times when the job is really rewarding,” he said.

• • • • •

Officer Ben Davis

Cape Elizabeth Police Department

Cape Elizabeth Patrol Officer Ben Davis has wanted to be a police officer since he was a kid, and recent police-involved shootings in other states haven’t dampened his enthusiasm.

“I love that you don’t know what call you’re gonna get,” said Davis, 27. “I can’t imagine going into work, sitting at a desk and doing the same thing every day. That’s just not me.”

Davis, who is single, has an associate degree in criminal justice from Southern Maine Community College and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Southern Maine, and he completed his training at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.

As for concerns about the dangers he might encounter on one of those random calls, Davis tries not to think about it.

“You don’t want it to affect the way you do your job,” Davis said. “In Maine, police officers are pretty well trained. You rely on your training. If you start thinking about what-ifs, you’re going to go down the wrong path.”

While there always will be people who don’t like or trust police officers, Davis said, he and other officers have been heartened by demonstrations of community support in recent weeks. The lunchroom table at the police station is overflowing with treats dropped off by townspeople. One resident stopped an officer in a convenience store last week and said, “Thank you for doing what you do.”

“In light of recent events, it feels good knowing the community appreciates us,” Davis said. “You just go out and do your best every day. A lot of people don’t interact with police regularly, so if you can make sure it’s a positive experience, hopefully they’ll remember that.”

• • • • •

Officer Dennis Ryder

Falmouth Police Department

Dennis Ryder, who has been a police officer in Maine for 29 years, felt more vulnerable after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks than he has after the recent attacks on police.

“I’m always aware of my surroundings and try to keep on my toes. I can’t say that has changed because of recent events,” said Ryder, a Falmouth police officer.

Still, the national conversation about race and policing has affected him. In the past week, he pulled over two African-American drivers for traffic violations and sensed an unusual degree of wariness and mistrust from them.

“I kind of get the vibe that they are very concerned with dealing with a white cop,” Ryder, 52, said. “I think it’s a shame. When I stop a car I don’t have a clue whether a person is white or black and nor do I care. I am stopping them for a violation.”

At home, he’s talked to his children, ages 12 and 16, about the news of police shootings.

“Some of the questions I can’t answer,” he said. “I can’t answer why the black person got shot by a police officer. I don’t know what was going through the officer’s mind, or the victim’s.”

At the end of the day, though, Ryder feels grateful he lives in Maine, where the crime rate is low, and that he works in a quiet town. That’s what he tells his family when they ask about his safety.

“I try to reassure them. We live in Maine. It is pretty peaceful, quiet,” Ryder said.

• • • • •

Osman Bashir

prospective police officer

Outside the Windham Police Department, where Osman Bashir was taking the ALERT test, a state police entrance examination, the 25-year-old said he is hopeful about his prospects of becoming a police officer.

He said that despite the attacks on police around the country, he is still energized by the thought of helping his neighbors in Lewiston, where he and his family live.

His experience with American police has been inspiring, he said, especially compared to the Kenyan military police he dealt with growing up. Bashir fled Somalia as a child and grew up in a refugee camp in Kenya, where he encountered a different kind of policing.

“They’re more strict, military-wise, and the work they did wasn’t very sophisticated,” Bashir said. “It was mostly brutality.”

By contrast, his run-ins with police in Lewiston and Auburn have been positive experiences, and Bashir envisions himself as a potential force for good as a police officer who speaks Arabic.

“There are good people and there are bad people,” he said. “In every department you have bad police and good officers.”

His mother is not so sure. She has discouraged Bashir from pursuing a law enforcement career, saying it is dangerous and that he would be singled out for his nationality.

“She says, ‘You’re Somali and you’ll be targeted within your own department,’ ” Bashir said. “She’s not happy with it but I’m standing on the point. I want to make people’s lives different.”

His friends rib him for the choice of careers, too, and are blunt about the risks, asking him, “What if you get shot?”

“If I have to die in the line of duty, so be it,” he said.

• • • • •

Officer Liz Coleman

Biddeford Police Department

Liz Coleman, the Biddeford police officer, joined the department in 1989 at a time when many people didn’t trust police officers, she said.

“Back then, we were ‘pigs,’ ” she said. “I don’t hear that a lot these days.”

Officer Liz Coleman, 53, a former patrol officer and long-time detective, now serves as a school resource officer with the Biddeford Police Department, a post she requested. A single mom with two daughters and a son, she says she relishes the connections she makes with young people as part of her job.

Officer Liz Coleman, Biddeford Police Department

During her career, Coleman, 53, has served in a variety of roles, including six years as a patrol officer and 17 years as a detective. She is now a school resource officer at Biddeford Middle School, a job she requested specifically so she could work with kids. A single mom to two daughters and a son, she relishes the connections she makes with young people.

It is the kids, she said, who seem to have the most respect for police officers these days, even when their parents or relatives have had trouble with the law. Despite those positive interactions, Coleman is acutely aware that many people are distrustful of all police officers.

“It’s been really rough for a lot of us. It’s disheartening to see what people think of us,” she said. “The lack of sympathy is overwhelming to me. It makes me reevaluate if it’s worth it.”

Last week, she spent an afternoon walking to a free outdoor concert with some local kids, then connecting other young teens with an arts nonprofit where she thought they’d enjoy taking classes. As she’s out and about in the city, Coleman said people thank her for her service to Biddeford. Those interactions help sustain her commitment to the job.

“A guy last week asked if he could hug me. It’s comforting to know that people in our community value what we do here,” she said. “We’re here and we’re not going anywhere. We’re going to continue to serve with integrity and honor.”

Staff Writers Kelley Bouchard, Matt Byrne and Peter McGuire contributed to this report.

]]> 35, 24 Jul 2016 12:27:18 +0000
Power plants, happy with high electric rates, fight natural gas expansion Sun, 24 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Almost everyone agrees that the cost of electricity in Maine and New England is too high. Almost everyone, that is, except the region’s power plant owners.

They’ve recently stepped up their opposition to plans aimed at lowering wholesale natural gas prices by expanding pipeline capacity. These plans would pump more fuel to power plants when electricity demand peaks, increasing supply to gas-fired generators that now provide half of the region’s power.

Environmental and citizen groups grab headlines in the fight over new gas pipelines. But don’t look for these power generators to be marching around with protest signs that denounce climate change, or raising their voices at town meetings where pipeline routes are debated. Their fight is being waged quietly in legal filings at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington, D.C., the key agency that must approve interstate power projects.

In a recent filing, two major players complain that a proposed pipeline project called Access Northeast would flood New England with natural gas, “unreasonably suppressing gas prices and wholesale power prices.”

These plant owners charge that states and utilities have concocted a “scheme” intended to “artificially suppress prices” by contracting for quantities of gas that the utilities know they don’t need.

Maine’s Public Utilities Commission approved such a “scheme” last week. It gave conditional approval to a plan in which electric customers would underwrite a contract through their power rates that would help pay for expanded natural gas capacity in New England. The project that two of the three commissioners said would provide the greatest benefit to consumers is Access Northeast, which its developer says will save New England ratepayers $1 billion in a typical year. Inadequate gas supply is costing Mainers more than $200 million a year, according to state estimates, because of the premium being charged for wholesale natural gas in New England when demand outstrips supply.


Massachusetts regulators have approved a similar plan. But efforts there to let utilities enter into long-term contracts for gas from Access Northeast are being challenged in court by the Conservation Law Foundation and the owner of Boston Harbor’s liquefied natural gas terminal.

The outcome of this complaint at FERC could affect rulings in Maine and Massachusetts, observers say.

One of the parties in the FERC case is NextEra Energy Resources, which owns Wyman Station in Yarmouth, Maine’s largest power plant.

Wyman Station in Yarmouth is owned by NextEra Energy Resources. The aging plant – fueled by oil, not gas – was put up for sale three years ago because it was considered obsolete and too costly to run. But tight natural gas supplies on the coldest winter days and lower oil prices have made Wyman valuable again.

Wyman Station in Yarmouth is owned by NextEra Energy Resources. The aging plant – fueled by oil, not gas – was put up for sale three years ago because it was considered obsolete and too costly to run. But tight natural gas supplies on the coldest winter days and lower oil prices have made Wyman valuable again.

Wyman is old and fueled by oil, not gas. It was put up for sale three years ago because it was considered obsolete and too costly to run. But tight natural gas supplies on the coldest winter days and lower oil prices have made Wyman very valuable again. ISO-New England, the region’s grid operator, pays millions of dollars each year for Wyman to stand ready in winter, in case the winter pipeline squeeze makes gas unavailable or too expensive.

NextEra is big into wind and solar these days, but it also owns the Seabrook nuclear power plant, one of the region’s largest and most important generators. Seabrook runs more-or-less constantly. Figures gathered by ISO-New England indicate that Seabrook earns tens of millions of dollars a month in the winter, thanks to higher wholesale prices.

NextEra also has a heavy hitter on its side in its complaint at FERC. Joseph Kelliher was the agency’s chairman until 2009. He’s now executive vice president for federal regulatory affairs at NextEra.

The other party is PSEG Cos. of Newark, New Jersey. It owns an oil-fired power plant in New Haven, Connecticut, and a coal- and oil-burning plant in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where it has plans to build a new gas-fired unit.

Together, they are fighting proposed, state-sponsored contracts that would support the development of Access Northeast, proposed by Houston-based Spectra Energy.

Access Northeast would boost the amount of gas flowing through the existing Algonquin and Maritimes & Northeast pipelines and provide direct connections to 60 percent of New England’s power plants. The goal is to make sure these plants have enough gas to run on the coldest days, when competing demands for heat and manufacturing make supplies tight and expensive.

Spectra plans to do this by upgrading the Algonquin line and adding LNG storage. That would bring up to 1 billion cubic feet a day of new gas, much of it from Pennsylvania shale deposits, to a region that needs more than 4 billion cubic feet on a frigid winter day. Spectra estimates that the 5,000 megawatts of electricity generated by the new gas supply could power 5 million typical homes. The target date is late 2018.

Underscoring these efforts are high electricity prices throughout New England. According to the latest comparison from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, retail residential electricity rates in April averaged 12.43 cents per kilowatt-hour in the U.S. while Maine residents averaged 14.34 cents per kwh, the lowest in the region. Connecticut residents averaged 21.15 cents per kwh that month, the highest in New England.


The administration of Gov. Paul LePage is a strong supporter of Access Northeast.

Patrick Woodcock, the governor’s energy director, points out that the difference today between whether wholesale power prices are high or low in the winter hinges directly on New England’s gas supply. Two winters ago, when a polar vortex plunged into the Northeast, gas priced for immediate delivery hit a record high and was 15 times more expensive than gas from fields in nearby Pennsylvania. The spike caused some paper mills and other factories to stop production.

Last winter, the reverse was true. Warm weather led to slack demand and very low prices.

“When power prices go up, who is receiving the extra payment?” Woodcock asked. “It’s going to the power plants, and everyone receives those higher prices, whether they’re a hydro or nuclear plant. So there’s a huge incentive for power generators to oppose additional natural gas capacity into New England.”

Woodcock said he disagrees with the characterization in the FERC filing that having utility customers help pay for expanding gas capacity is a scheme intended to “artificially suppress prices.” Any time utility regulators take action it has some impact on prices, he said, so the term “artificial” has no meaning.

NextEra didn’t respond to an interview request. But Dan Dolan, president of the New England Power Generators, said opposition isn’t directed at the actual project, but the way it would be financed.

“We don’t believe electric utility ratepayers should subsidize a new natural gas pipeline used by power plants,” said Dolan, whose trade group represents NextEra and PSEG.

Dolan acknowledged that pipeline expansions would bring more supply and cheaper gas. But he said consumers would still pay billions of dollars to build the lines, which wouldn’t be fully used on many days of the year. An unintended consequence, he said, is that cheap gas would threaten operations at the region’s two remaining nuclear power plants, Seabrook and Millstone in Connecticut.

Dolan pointed out that wholesale electricity prices are now among the lowest on record. At the same time, owners are competing with each other, spending billions to build the next generation of plants, without state subsidies.


But Tony Buxton, a lawyer who represents Maine manufacturers that use a lot of energy and lobbies for natural gas expansion, said New England still has some of the highest power prices in North America. The global glut of petroleum and natural gas – not competition – is chiefly responsible for moderating prices. Even now, gas delivered into New England is more than twice as expensive as gas in Pennsylvania, recent figures from the federal Energy Information Administration show.

That point was echoed by Richard Kruse, a Spectra vice president for regulatory issues. Kruse said electric rates will go down when Access Northeast is built, and generators will be forced to acknowledge that.

“For them,” he said, “lower costs for consumers appear to be a bad thing. The complaint is an effort to maintain the status quo, which only ensures continued high and volatile prices, given infrastructure constraints in the region.”

While the FERC filing is focused on the Access Northeast project, it provides a forum for a larger legal battle over the role of states, versus the federal government, in setting energy policy.

For instance: FERC rules help make sure the electric grid is maintained properly to keep the lights on. Reliability is one of the benefits New England states see from expanded pipeline capacity, but NextEra and PSEG say the states have failed to explain why their judgments should supersede FERC.

In the FERC filing, the two power generators say that the most economic way to meet demand in the winter is to build power plants that fire on both oil and natural gas, and to create access to LNG for gas-fired plants.

“There are many legitimate ways to lower prices for customers, such as increasing efficiency, but this (ratepayer-backed pipeline expansion) is not one of them,” they said in their complaint.


]]> 32, 23 Jul 2016 23:23:53 +0000
Uncopied and unarchived, governor’s handwritten notes mostly elude Maine’s open records law Sun, 24 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 AUGUSTA — Maine Gov. Paul LePage likes to jot down and fire off personal notes – notes to lawmakers, citizens or just about anybody else who happens to either please him or displease him.

In June 2015, he sent this message to state Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport:

“It is apparent that the Republicans in the Senate and House have not only thrown the Governor under the bus, but now want to take his executive powers. Therefore, beginning today and for the remainder of my term all bills will be vetoed requiring a 2/3rds vote in both Houses,” LePage scrawled on a note card with the state seal on the top of it.

The message is one of dozens that have been sent to lawmakers since LePage took office in 2011. Those that have been made public by people on the receiving end provide a glimpse of the chief executive’s unfiltered thoughts and policy positions, and his feelings about lawmakers and Maine residents who have been critical of him.

Governor LePage note sent to Senate President Mike Thibodeau (R-Waldo). Credit: Maine Progressives Warehouse

A note Gov. LePage note sent to Senate President Mike Thibodeau

LePage’s staff said there is no record of what the governor writes because the notes are never copied or archived, unless a copy of one is returned in a message back to the governor.

Staff members argue the notes are personal and not public documents that must be saved and accessible to the public. But others, including the state’s archivist and attorney general, say documents created by the governor that discuss state policy or business are public records, whether handwritten or not.

The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram formally requested a copy of all of the governor’s handwritten notes last year, after one of them included a message that prompted a state-funded charter school to rescind its job offer to one of the governor’s chief political rivals at the State House. Ten months later, the governor’s office provided copies of just three notes. Not included in the document release were the note to the charter school or about 12 that the newspaper had been given over the years by some of the people on the receiving end of the notes.

The governor’s notes, including the three turned over in response to the request and others made public by recipients, vary from personal thank-you messages to statements about policy positions to efforts to sway legislators.

One of the three notes was a response to a Maine citizen who was asking LePage to resign. LePage’s response was cordial: “Thank you for the card. Will take your suggestion under advisement. Have a nice day!”

A 2015 exchange of handwritten notes between Gov. LePage and a citizen

A 2015 exchange of handwritten notes between Gov. LePage and a citizen

The other two handwritten messages LePage’s staff turned over were also ones sent to citizens. Both involve LePage’s stance against providing asylum-seeking immigrants state or federal welfare benefits. In one, LePage appears to correct a letter writer’s assertion that he is suing President Obama.

“I do not have a lawsuit against President Obama,” LePage wrote. “I did file a lawsuit against illegal immigrants taking state money against state and federal laws.”


In 2015, another of LePage’s handwritten notes set in motion an ongoing lawsuit against him by Speaker of the House Mark Eves, D-North Berwick.

LePage’s threat to strip Good Will-Hinckley school in Fairfield of $530,000 in state funding if it hired Eves as its next president was communicated in a handwritten note from the governor to the school’s board chairman, Jack Moore. No copies of the actual note have ever surfaced, however.

Moore said he may have discarded the note. A copy was not among the documents the governor’s office released to the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram in response to a Freedom of Access Act request for all records related to the Good Will-Hinckley incident. That request was fulfilled in 2015.

LePage’s press secretary, Adrienne Bennett, and his communications director, Peter Steele, said they believe the notes are considered personal messages and his office is not required to retain copies of them.

State Archivist David Cheever and Maine Attorney General Janet Mills are among those who have a different view. Both have said Maine’s Freedom of Access Act pertains to the governor’s handwritten notes when he is discussing state policy or government business.

“I think the statute is self-explanatory about written messages regarding public business,” Tim Feeley, a spokesman for Mills, wrote in a message to the Maine Sunday Telegram. Feeley included the pertinent snippet of the law which reads, in part, “The term ‘public records’ means any written, printed or graphic matter or any mechanical or electronic data compilation from which information can be obtained, directly or after translation into a form susceptible of visual or aural comprehension, that is in the possession or custody of an agency or public official of this State . . .”


Brenda Kielty, the state’s FOAA ombudsman, has also repeatedly said, “Any government record, regardless of the form in which it is in maintained by an agency or official, can be a public record.”

Cheever also said the notes, depending on their content, may have historical importance. Cheever said he has advised LePage’s staff to keep copies of the notes, but he can’t legally require it.

“I can’t stop or even tell the governor what to do with his notes,” Cheever said. “It would be nice, because it does have a certain expositive value.”

LePage, who promised voters in 2010 that his would be the “most transparent” administration in state history, now has a long record of evading, avoiding or simply ignoring the state’s open records law.

In July, Mills filed a court complaint over the LePage administration’s efforts to keep closed a meeting of a Blue Ribbon Commission on education that was held at the Blaine House, the state’s official governor’s residence, in April. The first hearing on the complaint is scheduled for Monday.

Last Wednesday, copies of text messages sent by LePage’s staff and released by Mills’ office indicated LePage was calling the shots in the effort to keep reporters, the public and even elected officials from attending the meeting despite protests from lawmakers and Kielty who urged LePage’s staff to open the meeting to the public. Some lawmakers had been lobbying LePage’s staff for days, warning the meeting would be against state law if it were held behind closed doors.

The dust-up also caused LePage to reverse a previous policy decision that no state business should be conducted by text message. The anti-texting policy was issued after it was made public that an employee at the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said she had been ordered by her superiors and LePage appointees to use text messaging as a way to circumvent FOAA requests.

A June 2012 note from the governor to state Sen. John Patrick, D-Oxford

A June 2012 note from the governor to state Sen. John Patrick, D-Oxford

In 2014 LePage dared Mills, a Democrat, to sue him after she urged him to release a taxpayer-funded Medicaid study nearly four weeks after it came into his administration’s possession.

In 2013, LePage’s administration attempted to brief legislative leaders and members of the Legislature’s budget-writing Appropriations Committee on his proposed two-year budget during a private meeting in his Cabinet room, but after a reporter protested LePage’s attorney at the time agreed the meeting needed to be held in public and allowed the press to attend.

LePage has also proposed legislation that would allow his “working papers” to be exempt from FOAA, similar to an exemption that lawmakers can use when the Legislature is convened. LePage’s staff points out there is no requirement in state law that legislators provide public access to working papers such as personal notes, whether they include state business or not.

Lawmakers’ refusal to grant the governor an exemption in FOAA prompted LePage to tell reporters that he had instructed staff to limit its use of email so that their communications would not be disclosed under the law. “They can’t FOAA my brain,” LePage said at the time.


LePage also has made some efforts to improve transparency.

In 2011, LePage launched the state’s first online portal that allows virtually full disclosure on the salaries for all state workers and other state expenses. Dubbed Maine Open Checkbook, the website’s home page features a photo of a smiling LePage with a welcome message from the governor that reads, “You pay for your government, and you deserve to know how it spends your money. As part of the LePage Administration’s promise to expand public access to information, here you will find up-to-date information on state payroll and vendor payments.”

LePage’s communications team, Bennett and Steele, said LePage has been overly and unfairly scrutinized by the media, more so than other governors. Bennett said LePage’s office has provided “thousands and thousands” of pages of documents under FOAA and always complies with the law.

In 2015, LePage’s staff processed 50 FOAA requests and there have been 30 made so far this year, Steele said. He said the governor’s attorneys also sometimes provide assistance on FOAAs for other executive branch agencies that combined receive between 100 and 180 requests a week. Steele said about 80 percent to 90 percent of the requests come from the media.

“Media should exert the same level of intense scrutiny on the Legislature as they do on the Governor’s Office,” Steele wrote in an email. “They should hammer the Legislature every day in editorials and stories – the same way they do about the Governor’s Office – to insist that the Legislature subject itself to the same stringent requirements of FOAA.”

Steele said an official request for information triggers a thorough document search that can take months to sift through and then to ensure that no protected personal information is being released. He said many requests ask for large volumes of data with no clearly targeted information in mind.

Former administrations also have dealt with scrutiny and a flood of FOAA requests.

David Farmer, who worked as a deputy chief of staff in the office of former Gov. John Baldacci, a Democrat, said the media and the public had equally voracious appetites for public data during Baldacci’s eight years in office. Farmer said Baldacci’s office was also often under pressure to produce documents and records and faced criticism for not doing so quickly at times.

Baldacci also would on occasion write a handwritten note to a citizen, lawmaker or staff member, Farmer said, but they were largely personal messages – a note of kudos or a birthday message. For communicating with lawmakers, Baldacci would either call them or set up face-to-face meetings.

Dennis Bailey, who served as a spokesman for Baldacci’s predecessor, Angus King, now a U.S. senator from Maine, said his boss was a prolific writer of emails, which can be archived digitally, rather than handwritten notes. Cheever, the state archivist, said King even provided printed copies of his email correspondence to the archives when he left office.

Another governor who would write to lawmakers and citizens was Gov. James Longley, according to Cheever. Longley, who served as Maine governor from 1975 to 1979, would pen expansive letters, Cheever said, and like LePage he did not copy them and provide them for the historical record. Many of Longley’s letters were discovered because recipients kept and shared copies of them, Cheever said.

]]> 49, 24 Jul 2016 15:09:40 +0000
Bill Nemitz: Progressive, take note: The older I get, the better I drive Sun, 24 Jul 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Call me old and cranky, but I’m ready to throttle Progressive Corp. and its persistent quest to raise auto insurance premiums for Maine drivers of a certain age.

Why? Because, as I prepare to turn 62 this week, I’m a better driver than I’ve ever been, that’s why.

And because when I turn 65 three years hence, the last thing I’ll be in the mood to do is feed the insurance industry’s need for greed.

More on all of that in a minute. First, a bumpy trip down Memory Lane.

Back when I was 16, less than a month after I’d secured my driver’s license, my buddy Rich and I headed up Route 128 in suburban Boston to play our guitars for a folk-singing group and, more importantly, put the moves on a couple of girl singers who had caught our eye.

Yapping away as we left the highway, I took a turn a tad wide and … Boom! … my mom’s station wagon suddenly lurched up on the right side and came crashing back down before careening across the pavement and off into a grassy median strip.

I sat there, stunned. Rich jumped out.

“Looks OK!” he called out, motioning for me to back up. “No, really! It’s fine! C’mon! You’re OK! Nice and slow, now! Easy… easy …”

That’s when the right front wheel fell off.

So much for the double date.

A couple of months later, I was back behind the same wheel (bless my merciful parents) with six friends crammed inside the car, en route to Rich’s house for an evening of fun and frolic.

Again, I had my guitar. Again, I was hopelessly in love – this time with one of my female passengers, only she didn’t know it yet. And again, trouble lurked around the next corner.

Today we call it black ice. Back then it was just a friction-free stretch of back road-turned-skating rink, with dense woods on either side.

The car slid sideways to the right. Miraculously, I managed to pull it out.

Then it slid to the left. This time, I could only holler for everyone to get down as we plowed through the snowbank and descended into the blackness.

Two mammoth trees suddenly appeared in the headlights – the distance between them about a foot narrower than the AMC Matador wagon.

I steered between them anyway – to this day I can hear the crunching sound. In stereo.

Next came a smaller tree. It was dead ahead of us. And then it wasn’t.

I remember finally coming to a stop, turning off the engine and praying to God that no one was hurt. God answered my prayers.

A police officer arrived, summoned by a nearby homeowner who heard the crash. A surprisingly sympathetic young guy who had trouble even standing upright on the slick roadway, the cop reached for his radio and immediately put in an emergency call for sand.

Then Rich showed up in his mother’s station wagon to ferry my traumatized passengers the few remaining miles to his house. Coming from the other direction, he hit the ice just like I did and nearly took out the police cruiser.

“What’s happening?” Rich exclaimed, wide-eyed, as he bounced out of his car and almost fell into the cop’s arms.

Then, after 20 or 30 agonizingly long minutes, my dad’s Toyota Corona slowly came into view.

He got out and stared at my mom’s station wagon, now being coaxed out of the woods by a tow truck with at least 100 feet of winch cable.

I tried to point out how I’d managed to steer between the two biggest trees, but the look on Dad’s face told me I might as well have been talking to the trees.

Heck, even the young police officer tried to stick up for me.

“Sir,” he told my dad, “the road’s impassable. I just called for some sand. We’ve had a number of accidents here in the last – ”

My dad shot him a glare and held up his hand.

“Thank you, officer,” he said icily. “But I’ll be the judge as to whether my son was driving safely tonight.”

The cop and I looked at each other. “Please,” I implored with my eyes, “take me with you.”

Looking back over all those decades, I know now that my father was both frightened and angry – frightened that I’d come so close to killing myself (or someone else), and angry that, thanks to his 16-year-old Mario Andretti, his insurance rates were about to skyrocket. Again.

I also know that back then, loath as I may have been to admit it, I was one dangerous driver. Not reckless, mind you, but dangerous nonetheless in my lack of experience, my willingness to be distracted, my inability to adjust to the conditions around me.

Not so these days.

These days, I’m constantly on the lookout for, well, younger versions of me. And I see them everywhere – not too long ago, one came flying around a corner toward me on Route 112 completely on my side of the road.

I swerved into what should have been his lane to avoid a head-on collision. Then he looked up at the last second (that’s right, a texter) and instinctively swerved back into his lane, forcing me to swerve back into my lane.

Our side mirrors missed by inches. I pulled over to collect myself. He never even hit his brakes.

These days, when it comes to my driving speed, the only person who complains is my dear wife.

“Um … can’t you go a little faster?” she asks patiently as the cars line up bumper-to-bumper behind us.

“No can do,” I reply with a smile. “I’m already doing 38 and the speed limit is 35. We’re flying!”

I tell you all of this to demonstrate just how regressive Progressive was when it suggested to the Maine Bureau of Insurance last month that Mainers should pay, say, 6 percent more for auto insurance simply because they go from being 64 to 65.

Citing a state law that prohibits such a thing, the bureau nixed that request. But now Progressive plans to be back in August, seeking to gouge those 65 and over who are new customers and thus technically aren’t being subjected to a premium “increase.”

“Auto insurance companies should not be able to penalize seniors simply because they are getting older,” protested state Rep. Henry Beck, D-Waterville, who announced last week that he’ll submit legislation to clarify the existing statute and put the brakes on this insult to our intelligence.

Good for Beck, a young man clearly on the move. He just turned 30, has already served four terms in the House and is running for the Maine Senate.

I wonder if he needs a driver.


]]> 48, 23 Jul 2016 19:42:44 +0000
New position, same results for Benintendi Sun, 24 Jul 2016 02:47:13 +0000 In terms of the big picture, aka the Boston Red Sox, the big news Friday at Hadlock Field concerned Andrew Benintendi’s move from center field to left.

Benintendi’s position switch corresponds with the speculation that he could be Boston-bound before the end of the season.

But before detailing every fly ball that wound up in Benintendi’s glove, it should be noted that Benintendi also went 2 for 5 with two RBI as the Portland Sea Dogs beat the Binghamton Mets 9-3 before a crowd of 4,553.

Cole Sturgeon (2 for 4) doubled in two runs. Mauricio Dubon (2 for 5) doubled home a run, and Nate Freiman (1 for 3) had two RBI.

The offense backed starter Teddy Stankiewicz (3-7), who recorded his first win in a month, allowing three runs on five hits over six innings as he duplicated his last start.

“During the season, you’re going to have some bumps in the road,” Portland Manager Carlos Febles said. “His last couple outings have been pretty good.”

Portland helped Stankiewicz with two four-run innings, the third and seventh. The third inning featured five straight hits off Mickey Jannis (3-9). Benintendi’s two-run single to center highlighted the rally.

Benintendi’s fielding drew attention, not only in Portland but in Boston, where Red Sox Manager John Farrell discussed the move to left field in his pregame press conference.

“With Andrew going to left, we are looking down the road a little ways,” Farrell told the Boston media, as reported by Scott Lauber of

“When that day comes and he’s a left fielder here in Boston remains to be seen. The way he’s swung the bat, the way he’s advanced this year, you start to prepare for it, for that eventual day.”

The reasoning for the move is obvious, with All-Star Jackie Bradley Jr. occupying center field in Fenway.

“It was this or catcher,” Benintendi quipped after the game. “It’s just a matter of getting used to other positions.”

Binghamton tested Benintendi right away, with three of its first four batters flying out to left field. For the third catch, Benintendi had to leap at the warning track, catching the ball against the left-field wall.

“He just needs to get used to the wall,” Febles said. “He went back against it couple of times like it was nothing. He didn’t get intimidated or hesitate.”

The other speculated position switch is Yoan Moncada moving away from second base. Red Sox President Dave Dombrowski said last week that Moncada won’t switch this year. But before Friday’s game, Moncada was taking grounders at third. Febles said it was nothing out of the routine for a minor league infielder.

“Just getting him some work at third base, just like you normally see Dubon (a shortstop) take ground balls at second base – in case he has to go there,” Febles said. “So in case (Moncada had to play third), he has some work there. … But as of now he’s playing second base.”

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

Twitter: ClearTheBases

]]> 0 Sat, 23 Jul 2016 22:47:13 +0000
Floods kill 154 people in northern China Sun, 24 Jul 2016 00:33:34 +0000 BEIJING — Torrential rains that have swept through China have killed at least 154 people and left 124 missing, officials said Saturday, with most of the casualties reported from a northern province where villagers complained about lack of warning before a deadly flash flood.

The rains, which began on Monday, have flooded streams, triggered landslides and destroyed homes across the country. Most of the fatalities were reported in the northern province of Hebei, where the provincial Department of Civil Affairs said 114 people were killed and 111 others were missing.

More than 300,000 people were evacuated in Hebei, and the province made another round of appropriations of tents, blankets, rain boots and generators, the department said.

In the Hebei city of Xingtai alone, 25 people were killed and another 13 were missing.

]]> 0, 23 Jul 2016 20:59:10 +0000
Another ship sunk for artificial reef Sun, 24 Jul 2016 00:25:18 +0000 POMPANO BEACH, Fla. — Florida officials hope that a former tanker that was sunk Saturday off the state’s southern coast will become a major scuba diving attraction – and one of the biggest contributions to the state’s artificial reef system.

The aquatic attraction named Lady Luck became the newest centerpiece of Shipwreck Park, a series of 16 underwater dive wrecks full of marine life.

“There are lots of ships that are sunk,” said Tom DiGiorgio, chairman of the Economic Development Council of Pompano Beach. “But this will be the only one that is truly interactive and with artwork on it.”

As one of the most accessible major dive sites in the nation, Lady Luck is expected to lure approximately 35,000 divers each year. DiGiorgio said that after a 10-year search for the right vessel, Pompano Beach has finally found an economic engine for Florida’s tourism industry.

“It’s going to help the hotels, the restaurants and the ancillary effect is going to ripple out for years to come,” said DiGiorgio.

The 324-foot tanker was built in 1967 and was towed from New York to Florida earlier this year.

It features three larger-than-life shark statues, a life-sized mermaid and an interactive art exhibit that will display locally produced underwater artwork.

Artist Dennis MacDonald said he hopes his design will attract tourists and marine life and contribute to Florida’s artificial reef system.

Divers have the ability to swim up to card-slinging octopuses, fake slot machines and poker tables. Lady Luck includes 16 staterooms, a captain’s deck and an interactive art exhibit with a rotating gallery display of locally produced underwater artwork.

Shipwreck Park chairman Greg Harrison said that the funding for the creation of the artificial reef was split between the city of Pompano Beach and Pompano Beach Isle Casino.

The attraction will be free for certified divers with their own boats.

]]> 0, 23 Jul 2016 20:28:53 +0000
Portland researchers are trying to rebuild Massachusetts’ loon population Sun, 24 Jul 2016 00:21:29 +0000 WINDHAM — The common loon’s haunting wail that pierced the dusk on Massachusetts lakes disappeared long ago.

Today, the birds number fewer than 50 pairs in the Bay State and conservationists are hoping to rebuild their population, starting with a handful of chicks from Maine and New York.

The Restore the Call program at the Biodiversity Research Institute in Portland plans to move 10 chicks to an area south of Boston this summer. David Evers, the institute’s executive director, says restoring an animal population starts out small but he is optimistic.

Loons once lived throughout Massachusetts. Hunting and habitat loss contributed to their decline and they were wiped out by 1898, the last eggs plucked near a lake south of Boston. They began returning in the 1970s, but the state still only has 45 breeding pairs.

“All we need to do is establish one pair,” Evers said. “Once that one pair is established and once that pair produces young, and those young come back, and they start to establish territories, then you’ve got some brooding that can start from that little seed.”

However, common loons can be slow to recover because they don’t breed until they are several years old.

“Loons depend on high-quality habitat without certain types of disturbance,” said Danielle D’Auria, a wildlife biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

The bird’s range has shrunk throughout the U.S. It has disappeared in Oregon and southern Michigan and parts of Idaho, Montana and Washington. It is a threatened species in New Hampshire, where last year biologists for the Loon Preservation Committee recorded 234 loon chicks hatched and 26 percent of them did not survive.

In all, researchers count about 14,000 loon pairs in the country.

And while their population remains strong in Canada, where they are a national symbol, the birds face threats of mercury and lead pollution there as they do in the United States.

Maine Audubon, which is helping with the relocation project, says Maine has at least 2,000 pairs of loons and New York has about 1,000. The institute has undertaken similar projects in Minnesota and plans to add Wyoming to the program next year. A $6.5 million grant from the Ricketts Conservation Foundation funds the loon relocation efforts.

The institute also relocated seven chicks from New York’s Adirondack area to Massachusetts last year.

Most of the few dozen loons in Massachusetts live near the Quabbin and Wachusetts reservoirs in the central part of the state. The chicks will be relocated to an area near where the last eggs were believed taken before the birds disappeared from the state.

Maine has the largest common loon population in the eastern U.S. and the birds are loved in the state. Bird enthusiasts participate in Maine Audubon’s “loon count” every year.

Susan Gallo, wildlife biologist for Maine Audubon, said the group is working with the birders, some of whom haven’t embraced the idea of Maine loons moving out of state.

“Loons are near and dear to people’s hearts in Maine,” she said. “Anything we can do to get the loons to nest in new places, I think, is a benefit to loons.”

]]> 4, 23 Jul 2016 21:48:52 +0000
Poverty sends Cameroon women to rock quarries Sun, 24 Jul 2016 00:14:58 +0000 MAROUA, Cameroon — In a northern Cameroon town menaced by food insecurity and suicide bombers, women as old as 85 are spending long, grueling days crushing rocks into gravel to earn a living.

The dangerous, sometimes fatal work often pays no more than $2 per day, but it has increasingly become the best option for women like Marie Nangatai, 73, who began laboring three years ago at one of dozens of rock-crushing sites in the mountains near Maroua, the capital of Cameroon’s Far North region.

“My whole body hurts, we are working like animals. But there’s nothing we can do,” Nangatai said recently during a short break in her 12-hour workday, sitting under the hot sun.

When she began reporting to gravel sites in 2013, northern Cameroon was reeling from four years of alternating droughts and floods that doomed crops and left families with little or no food reserves, according to the World Food Program.

More recently, the region has been targeted by the Nigeria-based extremist group Boko Haram, which stepped up attacks in Cameroon last year. Suicide bombers have repeatedly targeted marketplaces and other high-traffic areas, adding insecurity to economic woes.

One consequence of thje dual crises has been an influx of women turning to rock-crushing to feed their families. Marthe Doumadate said that when she began in 2010, there were often no more than 10 people working alongside her.

“When I first came there was no one here, I was alone with my mom and my little brothers,” she said. “Now I can say there are between 150 and 200 people here.”

There are a few men, but the majority of the workers are women who have either lost their husbands or receive no support from them.

They have not been deterred by horror stories of women being maimed and killed by falling rubble.

“Sometimes the earth falls down on us. There are already four women who have been killed here,” said Suzanne Djidja.

]]> 0, 23 Jul 2016 21:00:38 +0000
Portland’s Summer Session Beer Festival is the toast of the town Sun, 24 Jul 2016 00:00:50 +0000 There were two things in ample supply Saturday at the Maine Brewers’ Guild Summer Session Beer Festival: beer, of course, and food. With 72 breweries at Thompson’s Point featuring over 250 different types of beer, there were bound to be some quirky gems. Whether it was the Jailbreak Chocolate Chili Stout from Bigelow Brewing of Skowhegan or the Lemonless Lemonade from Foulmouthed Brewing in South Portland, chances are the 2,000 or so attendees found something they liked.

And then there was the food. Twelve food trucks provided everything from raw oysters on the half shell to sliders. And, of course, there were lobster rolls. But you didn’t have to roll out the big bucks for a taste of the good life. C.J. Elliott of West Gardiner brought a pretzel necklace to cleanse his palate.

]]> 1, 23 Jul 2016 20:57:08 +0000
Maine employers face a new challenge: Not enough workers Sat, 23 Jul 2016 23:55:12 +0000 Maine’s labor force participation is dropping, making it more difficult to find skilled workers.

Kim Vandermeulen’s company is trying to get creative.

Since the first of the year, Alternative Manufacturing in Winthrop has added between 10 and 15 employees, and the electronics manufacturer that makes printed circuit boards is looking for five or six more workers.

Production is up 40 percent over last year, and the need to hire is very high, Vandermeulen said recently.

“We’re looking for entry level, light manual labor up to machine operators. We’ll do a lot of training for machine operators, but our preference is for someone in those positions to have some training,” he said.

Alternative Manufacturing is not alone. Across the region, “Help Wanted” signs dot the landscape. Businesses of all stripes are trying to fill positions, and they have been trying for months.

Ron Crocker works on a machine at Alternative Manufacturing Inc. in Winthrop. The company has added between 10 and 15 employees this year and is looking for five or six more workers to meet its production demands.

Ron Crocker works on a machine at Alternative Manufacturing Inc. in Winthrop. The company has added between 10 and 15 employees this year and is looking for five or six more workers to meet its production demands.

The reason behind the chronic need for workers is complicated, and it’s explained in part by the state’s unemployment rate.

On Friday, the Maine Department of Labor in conjunction with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, released the June unemployment numbers. At 3.7 percent, the state unemployment rate is up from May’s rate of 3.5 percent, but not by much.

“If you focus on that in a superficial way, it’s a great signal for economic condition,” David Findlay, an economics professor at Colby College, said.

On its face, he said, a low unemployment rate suggests a pretty healthy economic climate. “But at the same time, we’re dealing with an aging population and a labor force participation rate that’s dropping over time,” Findlay said. “I’m not sure we have as vibrant and dynamic an economy as policymakers and citizens would like. You have to look deeper.”


The unemployment rate is one measure of the strength of an economy, and some argue it’s not the best one.

Glenn Mills, chief economist at the Center for Workforce Research at the Maine Department of Labor, said the labor force, whose activity is measured by the unemployment rate, is made up of people who have jobs and people who are unemployed but actively looking for work.

That leaves large groups of people unaccounted for, Mills said, including students, retired people and homemakers, for instance. People who have become frustrated and have stopped looking for work even though they may want a job are also not counted in the labor force.

The size of the labor force can be fairly fluid, thanks to changing circumstances. Mills said that while students aren’t considered unemployed, they become unemployed as soon as they graduate and start looking for a job.

A broader measure of unemployment is the U-6 rate, which is a measure of all the unemployed, the people who want to work but have stopped looking and part-time workers who would like to work more hours.

In Maine, that’s calculated on monthly averages because the sample size is relatively small. From July 2015 to June 2016, the U-6 rate, sometimes referred to as the broader unemployment rate, is 9.3 percent.

That indicates that a larger pool of potential workers exists. But even so, companies are still having a hard time filling vacancies.

Joel Davis is in the same position as Vandermeulen. As managing director of Central Maine Meats in Gardiner, he’s trying to fill skilled positions at the fast-growing meat processing facility with mixed success.

“The more skilled workers we need – high-end butchers and meat cutters and middle management – they are harder and harder to find,” he said.

Entry-level workers are easier to find, he said, and those with a certain level of learning experience can be trained. Central Maine Meats has developed a training module with Kennebec Valley Community College that teaches the skills it requires in its employees, such as safe food handling and general math.

Once they’ve been hired, employees are on a path to build their skills and move up. “We march people along. And we pay more than minimum wage by a long shot,” Davis said.

But finding someone to work as a general manager overseeing operations has been a bigger challenge. “We’ve talked to many organizations, called headhunters, called half a dozen people looking for resumes and someone to fit that position. No go.”


Garvan Donegan is looking beyond the apparently low unemployment rate. Donegan is an economic development specialist with the Central Maine Growth Council in Waterville. The growth council is a public-private, collaborative, regional economic development agency.

“Just about every business I have talked to is hiring, looking to hire or worrying about (employee) retention,” Donegan said.

Workforce is the key challenge for any business the council is trying to recruit or retain. “We talk about tax incentives and TIFs and supply and demand economics,” he said, “but in the next year or so, we’re kind of at a critical stage in our demographics.”

Those demographics are the state’s aging population and shrinking pool of possible workers.

“Labor force participation is dropping,” Findlay said. “If fewer people are actively engaged in the labor market, it’s understandable why firms are having a hard time finding people.”

Donegan points to some bright spots that exist, including veterans and immigrants and naturalized citizens who can meet the demand for workers.

So can students. Early outreach, with pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs, can connect students in area schools with businesses and allow them to test drive a career.

“We’ve been doing it most successfully with the mid-Maine Technical Center. We take some of the most thriving students and place them in a competitive interview process,” he said. That exposes them to the soft skills they need to develop to be successful employees, and they have a chance to see what working in fields as diverse as robotics, healthcare and construction is like.

“The student has the opportunity to review a career path, and the goal is to get them into a long-term position,” Donegan said.

But right now, he said, there is not a hospital or an information technology company that’s not looking for workers.

In fact, MaineGeneral Healthcare, with hospitals in both Augusta and Waterville, currently has several dozen openings for both certified nursing assistants and medical assistants – jobs that require basic certifications.

MaineGeneral spokeswoman Sarah Webster said 15 medical assistants are needed in physician practices in both Waterville and Augusta. About 30 certified nursing assistants are needed in Augusta. MaineGeneral has been working with Maine CareerCenters and the state Department of Labor to reach the unemployed and the underemployed to provide on-site training for both CNAs and medical assistants.

MaineGeneral is also making a move that often accompanies a tight labor market. It recently raised starting pay for new CNAs from $10.50 to $12 an hour.

Findlay said there’s no significant evidence that wages are rising on the national level due to competition for workers. But Mills said in Maine, wages started rising in 2014 and the trend has continued in 2015 and so far in 2016. He characterized the increase as “pretty healthy.”

Just as rising wages are one indication of a tight labor market, working more hours is another.

Vandermeulen, president of Electronic Services Corp., the parent company of Winthrop’s Alternative Manufacturing, said his employees are scheduled to work four 10-hour days a week. To meet demand, employees have volunteered to work a fifth day every Friday for a year, and many have worked every Saturday since mid-May.

Tricia York packages a product after testing it at Alternative Manufacturing Inc. in Winthrop Wednesday.(Photo by Andy Molloy/Staff  Photographer)

Tricia York packages a product after testing it at Alternative Manufacturing Inc. in Winthrop Wednesday.(Photo by Andy Molloy/Staff Photographer)

In looking for workers, Vandermeulen said his company has been with Maine CareerCenters for some pre-job training and has been hiring high school students for positions that don’t require experience in electronics or manufacturing.

“For our company, our need to add workers will be pretty consistent,” he said. “We can see out a ways because our customers need to order pretty far ahead. For six months to a year it’s going to stay consistently high. It’s going to be tight for a long time. It’s an indication that the economy is doing better, so it’s not all bad news, but it makes it harder to hire.”


]]> 46, 23 Jul 2016 21:06:55 +0000
Balloonist back on Earth after record-breaking circuit of world Sat, 23 Jul 2016 23:32:04 +0000 CANBERRA, Australia – A cold and exhausted 65-year-old Russian balloonist came back to Earth with a bruising thud in the Australian Outback on Saturday after claiming a new record by flying solo around the world nonstop in 11 days, officials said.

Fedor Konyukhov landed 100 miles east of Northam, where he started his journey on July 12, about three hours after he flew over the same town on his return, flight coordinator John Wallington said.

“He’s landed, he’s safe, he’s sound, he’s happy,” Wallington said from the landing site. “It’s just amazing.”

“It’s fantastic – the record’s broken, everyone’s safe. It’s all good,” he added.

Konyukhov’s gondola – a carbon box just over 6 feet high and long and 5 feet, 11 inches wide – bounced twice over 200 yards in an empty field and tipped on its side before the support crew grabbed it to prevent the deflating balloon from dragging it farther, crew member Steve Griffin said.

“He’s got a bruise on his cheek, but he’s pretty well unscathed,” Griffin said.

Video of the landing showed Konyukhov smiling but silent as he emerged from the gondola. He stroked his bearded left cheek and wiped his eyes as he was hugged and cheered by supporters.

Konyukhov demonstrated precision navigation of his 184-foot-tall helium and hot-air balloon by returning to Australia directly over the west coast city of Perth, then over the airfield at Northam, 60 miles to the east by road.

American businessman Steve Fossett also started from Northam to set a record of 13 days, eight hours for his 20,500-mile journey in 2002.

Konyukhov, a Russian Orthodox priest, took a longer route and roughly 11 days, six hours to complete the circumnavigation.

Crews in six helicopters followed the 1.8-ton balloon from Northam inland to help him land.

His journey of more than 21,100 miles took him through a thunderstorm in the Antarctic Circle, where temperatures outside the gondola fell to minus-58 Fahrenheit.

The journey also took him to speeds up to 150 miles per hour and heights up to 34,823 feet.

Konyukhov aimed to get four hours of sleep a day in naps of 30 or 40 minutes.

]]> 2, 23 Jul 2016 19:35:26 +0000
‘Black Lives’ theme adds unlikely allies Sat, 23 Jul 2016 23:16:55 +0000 MEDFORD, Mass. — An attorney in Oregon is supporting political candidates who promise to address racial profiling in policing. In suburban Ohio, a mother says she and her friends will push for better racial integration in their children’s high school. And in rural Massachusetts, a young father has launched a Facebook group called “White Men for Black Lives.”

After standing silently on the sidelines, some whites who agree with demands by civil rights activists for greater police reforms say they’re being spurred to action following this summer’s fatal shootings of black men by officers in Minnesota and Louisiana and the deadly retaliation attacks on police in Texas and Louisiana.

“I was tired of every discussion on Facebook turning into a debate between Black Lives Matter versus All Lives Matter,” said Colin Allen, a 30-year-old Bernardston, Massachusetts, resident. “I wanted to start a conversation specifically with white men who know that something has to be done.”

Robert Milesnick, a 39-year-old civil attorney in Portland, Oregon, penned a sharply worded essay titled “My White Male Privilege Is Complicit In Black Male Killing” that ran in the local African-American newspaper this month.

“At some point, to not do or say anything is complicit,” Milesnick said. He’ll be putting that frustration into action by supporting local candidates who pledge to address racial profiling and other policing issues that disproportionately affect people of color, issues he would not have necessarily made priorities in years past.

In Shaker Heights, a diverse and wealthy suburb of Cleveland, 50-year-old Lisa Vahey said she and other mothers at her son’s high school are looking to turn an informal Facebook discussion about race into more concrete action.

The group, calling itself Shaker Heights High School CommUnity Builders, will be pushing administrators this school year to better integrate sports and other extracurricular activities that tend to get segregated along racial lines, she said.

“We come to this as parents,” Vahey said. “So we’re thinking about what message we’re sending to our kids by our actions or by our inaction.”

But not everyone has been able to turn their sympathy into action. At a Whole Foods store in the Boston suburb of Medford, Joanne Meehan said she would never consider speaking out on social media or attending a rally or protest – basic actions many activists are imploring of supportive whites.

She said her comments haven’t been warmly received the few times she has tried to broach the shootings with friends.

“My white friends say, ‘All lives matter,’ and I try to tell them we can say that because we’re not black,” said the Boston mother of three grown children. “Their lives have meant less to a lot of people.”

The recent killings of police officers complicate matters for some whites, who feel they have to choose sides and don’t want to come across as against police, said Barbara Simmons, executive director of the Peace Center, a social justice organization in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia suburb.

But Allen, the creator of “White Men for Black Lives,” said it’s critical for more whites to fight through their personal discomfort. Before this summer’s shootings, Allen said he also tended to avoid difficult conversations about race and never attended rallies by Black Lives Matter or other groups.

“There are too many of us just trying to live in our own little, private world, away from all the bad stuff out there,” Allen said.

]]> 0, 23 Jul 2016 19:16:55 +0000
At Democrats’ convention, Clinton will stress optimism, inclusiveness Sat, 23 Jul 2016 22:59:45 +0000 PHILADELPHIA — After Donald Trump presented a dark picture of the country at his convention in Cleveland last week, Hillary Clinton and the Democrats plan to project a more optimistic and inclusive vision of the future when they convene here starting Monday.

But the challenge for Clinton and her newly minted running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia will be to avoid becomingcheerleaders for the status quo and instead infuse that hopeful tone into an argument for change that could galvanize a frustrated and divided electorate.

Democrats promise four nights of speeches and entertainment that will highlight the core theme of Clinton’s campaign: “Stronger together.” The program will alternate among political heavyweights led by President Obama and former president Bill Clinton, celebrities such as Katy Perry and Lena Dunham, and everyday Americans whose aim will be to make Clinton appear more appealing and approachable.

Clinton’s advisers are confident that the Philadelphia festivities will present a far more united Democratic Party than Republicans were able to display at their convention, which was repeatedly marred by outbursts of dissent and division.

Central to that mission is the Monday night speech by Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vt., who is charged with trying to rally his fervent supporters behind Clinton’s banner after a bruising primary battle, although there is lingering resistance to Clinton among some of his loyalists.

The harsh tone of Trump’s convention – symbolized by the anti-Clinton chants of “Lock her up!” – gives the Democratic nominee-in-waiting and her allies an opportunity to expand her appeal to disaffected voters who are hungry for change but perhaps reluctant to embrace Trump and the brand of politics he annunciated in Cleveland. At the same time, the Democrats similarly risk overreach in their denunciations of Trump.

Another danger is that if protests outside the arena turn violent, it could mar the party’s effort to provide a united and relatively peaceful contrast to the Republican event.

“The Republicans painted a black canvas with maybe a little stripe of red, which would be Donald Trump’s tie,” Democratic pollster Peter Hart said. “Unexpectedly, the Democrats end up with a white canvas and a chance to paint it in any direction that they wish.”

All year, Clinton has struggled to find a message that both energizes the Democratic faithful and reaches to a different part of the general electorate disenchanted with politics as usual. This will be her challenge on Thursday night, when she becomes the first woman to accept the presidential nomination of a major party.

“If she is so concerned about the progressive revolt that days one, two, three and four of the convention are saying, ‘I’m Bernie Sanders Lite with pantsuits,’ then this whole group turned off by Trump has nowhere to go,” said Henry Olsen, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

But Housing Secretary Julián Castro, who was in the competition to become Clinton’s running mate, noted the importance of energizing the coalition that helped Obama win two elections.

“We need an infusion of motivation and energy to remind folks that we can’t take this election for granted,” he said. “The nature of modern presidential elections, given the country’s partisanship, is that these are close elections. It’s probably not going to be a blowout, and people need to understand how important their individual vote is.”

Four days of programming at the Wells Fargo Center will showcase the Democratic Party’s diversity and progressivism, designed to help as many voters as possible identify with Clinton and the rest of the ticket. The speakers will be white, black, Latino and Asian; Christian, Jewish and Muslim; old and young; gay and straight; male and female. There is expected to be a heavy focus on such issues as immigration, gay rights and gun control.

Having watched the Republicans fight among themselves in Cleveland, Democrats will arrive in Philadelphia full of confidence. But some in the party suggest that, like much about Trump over the past year, what looks to be a problem for him does not always become one.

“We need to be agnostic on just how negative its consequences will be or indeed whether they’ll be negative at all,” said William Galston, domestic policy adviser in Bill Clinton’s White House and now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster, said, “If she lets this election get defined as change versus status quo, where Trump’s change and she is not, that’s one way she can lose this thing.”

]]> 6, 23 Jul 2016 19:12:39 +0000
Americans’ support for stricter gun laws grows Sat, 23 Jul 2016 22:55:54 +0000 Americans increasingly favor tougher gun laws by margins that have grown wider after a steady drumbeat of shootings in recent months, but they also are pessimistic that change will happen anytime soon, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents expressed support for stricter laws, with majorities favoring nationwide bans on the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons such as the AR-15 and on the sale of high-capacity magazines holding 10 or more bullets.

The percentage of Americans who want such laws is the highest since the AP-GfK poll started asking the question in 2013, a survey taken about 10 months after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 children and six educators.

High-profile shootings also appear to have taken a toll on Americans’ sense of safety. Strong majorities of those polled expressed some degree of concern that they or a relative will be a victim of gun violence or a mass shooting.

“If you live in the United States in these days right now, you have to be concerned,” said Milonne Ambroise, a 63-year-old administrative assistant from Decatur, Georgia. “You could be on the street somewhere. You could be at a shopping mall thinking there will be a mass shooting and you will be in the middle of it. You can’t not think about it.”

Ambroise, a native of Haiti who moved to the U.S. nearly 50 years ago, said she is now much more alert and on guard whenever she is in public.

“I’m looking for exits. This isn’t something I did before,” she said. “What if I have to run? Where’s the exit? Where would I go?”

The level of concern about being victimized is not uniform, however. Nonwhites are significantly more likely to be very or extremely concerned.

Alonzo Lassiter, 66, of suburban St. Louis, worries that his autistic 17-year-old son could be the victim of gun violence, either by a robber or the police.

“If somebody told him to get on the ground and put his hands up – or told him to give up his headphones – he wouldn’t readily identify those instructions,” said Lassiter, who is black. “He may be an easy target.”

He said straw purchasers who buy and then resell guns to ineligible felons and teenagers have flooded some urban neighborhoods with firearms and need to be stopped.

The poll was conducted July 7 to July 11, shortly after a string of high-profile shootings. That included the Orlando nightclub massacre that left 50 dead, including the gunman, and 53 others wounded, and the fatal police shootings of black men in Minnesota and Louisiana. Most interviews took place after the sniper attack that killed five officers in Dallas.

A majority of respondents expressed a desire for a national approach to gun laws, rather than a patchwork of state laws or local regulations, even though Congress has thus far failed to act on many of the initiatives the poll showed Americans support. Yet less than half of respondents said they believe gun laws will indeed get tougher in the coming year.

By a 55 percent to 43 percent margin, respondents said laws that limit gun ownership do not infringe on the constitutional right to bear arms. But the responses also revealed a partisan divide: 87 percent of Democrats support stricter gun laws compared with 41 percent of Republicans.

Gender and geography are other dividing lines, the poll found. Women and those who live in cities and suburbs are more likely to support gun restrictions than men and those who live in rural areas.

Americans find common ground on other issues. Strong majorities of Democrats and Republicans said they support requiring background checks for people buying firearms at gun shows and through other private sales. They also back a ban on gun sales to people on the federal terrorism watch list even if they have not been convicted of a crime.

“Why should it only be the dealers that have to do the background checks? At gun shows, individual sellers should be required to do the background checks so they don’t end up selling them to the criminal element,” said John Wallace, a disabled Vietnam veteran and former gun dealer who lives in Limestone, Maine, and owns several guns.

Despite the support for tighter gun laws, majorities oppose banning handguns, imposing an Australia-style gun buyback program or making gun manufacturers or sellers liable if guns are later used in a crime.

]]> 0, 23 Jul 2016 19:13:55 +0000
Athlete stops alleged sex assault outside bar in Florida Sat, 23 Jul 2016 22:55:11 +0000 When Christian Garcia spotted two people having sex behind a dumpster outside the Gainesville, Florida, bar where he was working security early Thursday, he at first passed it off as drunken antics.

But then the University of Florida linebacker realized the woman was unconscious, according to CBS Miami.

“I mean, at that point, I’m like, this isn’t right,” Garcia told CBS affiliate WFOR-TV. “This girl is probably drunk, there’s no possible way she could’ve given consent.”

“I grabbed the guy by the shoulder and said, ‘Get off of her, this isn’t right,’ and the guy yelled at me like, ‘Mind your own business,’ ” Garcia said. “He pulled away from the girl, and then he got aggressive with me. He tried to throw a few punches; his friends were holding him back.”

Garcia told the Gainesville Sun that the man was intoxicated and that after swinging at Garcia, he slipped and “busted his face on the wall.”

Police have identified the man as Christopher Shaw, 34, according to NBC affiliate WTLV. Authorities have charged him with sexual battery and jailed him on a $500,000 bond.

The victim, according to a police reported cited by the Sun, had difficulty speaking, was unable to walk and struggled to keep her eyes open. The report says that the alleged assault, which took place behind a bar called 101 Cantina, was captured on video.

“Upon viewing the videos, it is clear the victim was mentally and physically unable to give consent due to her level of intoxication,” the report says, according to the Sun. “The victim was slumping over and unable to hold up her head. The (defendant) can be seen pushing the victim back up. . . . When pushed back up the victim’s eyes were closed, and her head fell back against the dumpster.”

Shaw told police the woman initiated the contact by pulling him behind the dumpster while he was walking through the alley, the paper reported. Beyond kissing, he denied having sexual contact with the woman – an assertion that is “completely contradicted” by video evidence, according to police.

The athlete told WFOR-TV he had some advice for young people who are out drinking.

“It’s important that you don’t leave without any friends,” he said.

“I mean, this girl, her friends had completely left her at the bar alone when she was blackout drunk.”

]]> 1 Sat, 23 Jul 2016 19:14:50 +0000
Oakfest gets bigger and better in just a year Sat, 23 Jul 2016 22:45:26 +0000 OAKLAND — Festival spirit was flooding the grounds around Williams Elementary School Saturday as the second day of Oakfest drew hundreds of people to an open air market featuring local crafters, food vendors and music all to celebrate what Oakland has to offer.

“What you see around here is pretty much Oakland. A lot of the vendors are from Oakland, and (the market) gives a place for our people to come and enjoy what the town is all about,” said Gary Bowman, Oakland town manager.

The open air market ran from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and had something for everyone, including arts, food, music and games, at the second annual Oakfest, a festival that Bowman had set out to establish when he became town manager two years ago.

Children flocked to an array of offerings including moon bounces, farm animals, face painting and even the opportunity to check out the inside of an Oakland Fire Department ladder truck.

On Friday night, a parade and street dance kicked off the weekend’s festivities. The parade drew “thousands” according to Bowman, with onlookers lining up three and four people deep all along the three-mile parade route.

With Oakfest in its second year, the festivities, especially the open air market, have grown substantially. Last year the market featured 63 vendors, according to Bowman. This year’s market featured more than 100 vendors from Oakland and the central Maine area.

“We’re trying to improve the quality of life here in Oakland, and what better way to do that than to celebrate what Oakland has to offer?” Bowman said.

Bowman said the whole idea behind starting Oakfest was driven by the desire to improve the quality of life within the community and highlight the things that Oakland has to offer that residents might not know exists.

Local artists and crafters filled the market, offering a plethora of handmade products including jewelry, soap, pottery, walking sticks, farm-fresh produce, jams and canned goods.

Oakland resident Gail Lewis, of Brown Dog Baskets, took up basket-weaving as a hobby 10 years ago, but after she retired in December, she devoted more of her time to making and selling a variety of baskets. Having only been to one other craft fair to sell her handmade baskets, she was impressed with the turnout at Saturday’s market.

“This is my first year, but I have been very pleased with it. I’ve had a lot of people come through. I think they’re intrigued that these are actually handwoven right from scratch,” Lewis said. “It also gives you the opportunity to see other crafters. It’s been wonderful.”

Lewis said many people were surprised to find out that she makes her baskets from scratch. To make a basket, she starts with dry, uncolored reeds that she soaks to weave into a variety of basket patterns. She then dyes the baskets and applies a protective varnish.

There were also several tents at the festival offering educational experiences, such as the Friends of Messalonskee Lake, who were building a loon nest that is going to be placed on the lake in the spring.

Annie Swenson, 17, of Oakland, and Jill Twist, 19, of Belgrade, both Friends of Messalonskee Lake members, were staffing the loon nest construction, which featured straw and peat moss sitting atop a wooden base. The nest was then covered in burlap with the intent to protect the loons from prey while they were nesting.

The women said Oakfest has been a good opportunity to get the word out about their organization, and the interactive loon nest activity has garnered interest from people of all ages.

“A lot of people are like, ‘Oh, what’s that?'” Twist said. “Throughout the day we’ve had little kids come and help us with the nest.”

Musical performances from the local band The Values kicked off Saturday’s festivities. The Scott Davis Band, of Portland, played until 5 p.m., closing out the market. At 7 p.m., another area band, The Boneheads took the stage, with a special performance by Pam Tyler, of Oakland, who owns Riverside Restaurant.

Oakfest continues on Sunday with a “Peddle, Pedal, Pound the Pavement” triathlon at 9 a.m..


]]> 0, 23 Jul 2016 18:55:48 +0000
Owners reach deals to save historic dam in China Sat, 23 Jul 2016 22:42:57 +0000 CHINA — The owners of a decaying historic dam on Branch Mills Road have reached an agreement with multiple state agencies and the town to fix the 200-year-old dam and attached mill.

Branch Pond Mill, also known as the Dinsmore Dam, was bought by Christine and Steven Coombs more than a decade ago. The Coombses, who live in New Hampshire, have previously said that they originally planned to turn the mill and dam into an educational museum.

But repairing the dam wasn’t possible, they had said, because of water level orders issued by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection in 2014 at the request of campers.

The Coombses have now come to an agreement with the DEP and Maine Emergency Management Agency. The parties have set tentative deadlines for repairing parts of the mill and dam, according to MEMA Director Bruce Fitzgerald. Town Manager Dan L’Heureux said he doesn’t think the town will have to seize the mill or demolish it.

The couple said they would no longer comment on the issue.

The Branch Pond Dam was built in 1817, and the mill was added in 1914, according to a past dam safety report.

In 1979, the mill was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Since the Coombses bought the mill and dam in 2003, they have upgraded the earthen dikes, repaired sluice gates and installed a storm drainage system as well as a cribwork structure.

In 2014, before the agreement with the DEP and MEMA, state dam inspector Tony Fletcher found that the dam was a significant potential hazard.

This past January, Fletcher recommended that MEMA enforce a dam safety order requiring the Coombses to make repairs. If repairs weren’t made by an April 1 deadline, the order, which was not finalized, said the state could enter or seize the dam to protect life and property.

The code enforcement officer in China also told the couple in January that the town was considering getting a court order to condemn the mill and possibly demolish it. The town considered it a threat to public safety and wanted the Coombses to submit a repair plan.

The Coombses argued that the DEP water level order was prohibiting them from starting repair work.

On March 3, the state held a dam safety review conference in Augusta. The Coombses did not attend because of confusion about the location, according to email documents, but submitted a response to the conference discussion afterward, saying, “The water level order is the danger, not the dam.”

The DEP said that the dam has to be repaired and then it will be operational at that water level. The order allows the water level to be lowered for precipitation and repair and maintenance reasons.

In late April, Fitzgerald emailed the Coombses to tell them that they could lower the water level if they sent a letter of intent to the Department of Environmental Protection.

Fitzgerald also recommended that the parties involved in the issue sign a consent agreement as opposed to a dam safety order, as this would allow the Coombses to be “a participating partner in this process” rather than just taking orders. The Maine Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management, the DEP and the Coombses signed that agreement.

The DEP issued a permit by rule to the Coombses on May 10 to lower the water level of the dam so they could make repairs, according to emails released to the Morning Sentinel. They have seven months from that date to work on the repairs. After that, they have to increase the water levels again. The town of China also issued a building permit to the couple so they can repair the mill building.

So far, the Coombses have repaired a sluice gate in the dam. The next step is to prop up the mill and level it. The tentative date to finish this part of the project is Aug. 15, Fitzgerald said on the phone Wednesday.

“It’s complicated work,” he said.

The water level has to be lowered for this work because the Coombses have to pour concrete into the footings of the posts for the building, which the water would normally run over. If the water was to run over the concrete, it could cause environmental problems.

MEMA first started requesting that the dam be repaired more than two years ago. The building was falling down and some sluice gates at the bottom of the dam were blocked, creating the potential for water overflow that could breach the dam, said Mark Hyland, operations and response director for MEMA.

Once the building is stabilized, the next step is to repair the sluice gates by the pond. One gate is not broken but can’t operate because the other two need to be repaired. Together they control the lake level.

Fitzgerald said he would like the repairs to be done by the end of the year, but it’s difficult work so the deadlines are flexible.

“We’re just glad to have the work underway,” Hyland said.


]]> 0, 23 Jul 2016 19:00:48 +0000
Four people rescued from Casco Bay after their sailboat overturns in squall Sat, 23 Jul 2016 22:05:51 +0000 Four people were pulled from Casco Bay after their sailboat overturned in a squall Saturday afternoon.

John Tracy, captain of the Casco Bay Lines ferry Aucocisco, said he spotted the small boat about 4:30 p.m., shortly after heading off on a run from Portland to Great and Little Diamond islands. He said the sailboat was between Little Diamond and House islands when the storm came up.

“It got real dark over Portland, so we knew we were going to get hit,” Tracy said.

The small sailboat flipped over in a wind gust, pitching the four people aboard into the water, Tracy said. He stopped his ferry and tried to position it near the people in the water. But, he said, he couldn’t get too close because he was afraid the ferry could hit the people in the water.

“It was blowing so hard I was side-to the wind,” Tracy said. “I couldn’t get (the boat pointed) into the wind.”

Tracy said his crew tossed a life ring to a woman in the water and pulled her aboard. He said a passing Portland Fire Department boat picked up the other three, then followed the Aucocisco to Little Diamond Island, where the woman was put ashore.

Rescue boats are seen in Casco Bay as emergency crews remove people from a capsized boat on Saturday.

Rescue boats are seen in Casco Bay as emergency crews remove people from a capsized boat on Saturday. (Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer)

Tracy said a paramedic on the boat checked out the woman and said she wasn’t injured. He said the fire boat crew told him the other three were fine as well.

“They weren’t in the water too long,” he said.

The fireboat crew picked up the woman from Little Diamond Island and took her into Portland with the three others who had been on the sailboat.

He said that efforts were being made to recover the sailboat, but that it was still upside down in the water by about 6 p.m.

The storm swept through Portland in about 15 minutes late Saturday afternoon. The National Weather Service said winds at the Portland International Jetport gusted up to 40 mph and radar indicated winds of 70 mph near Peaks Island, although that was well above ground level.

Stonemason Barry Shaw takes in the scene of destruction after a swift-moving squall knocked down several trees on Peaks Island, including one that narrowly missed a house at on Brackett Street. A chimney that Shaw built at the home withstood some of the impact without any noticeable damage.

Stonemason Barry Shaw takes in the scene of destruction after a swift-moving squall knocked down several trees on Peaks Island, including one that narrowly missed a house at on Brackett Street. A chimney that Shaw built at the home withstood some of the impact without any noticeable damage. (Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer)

By early Saturday evening, about 563 customers of Central Maine Power Co. were without electricity, down from nearly 4,000 at the height of the storm.

A line of heavy thunderstorms passed through York County around 6:30 p.m. A partially fallen tree brought down power lines on Route 103 in Eliot.

Trees were knocked down by thunderstorms in Eliot on Saturday.

Trees were knocked down by thunderstorms in Eliot on Saturday. (Jill Brady/Staff Photographer)

The storms near Portland earlier in the day knocked down trees in Gorham and on Peaks Island, officials said.

CMP indicated that it hoped to have electricity restored to most of those customers who lost power Saturday night.


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California governor denies parole for Manson follower Van Houten Sat, 23 Jul 2016 21:59:10 +0000 SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Leslie Van Houten, the youngest member of the Manson “family” to take part in a series of gruesome California murders in 1969, has been denied freedom again – her past overshadowing her decades as a model prisoner.

California Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday overturned a parole board recommendation in April that found Van Houten, 66, was no longer the violent woman who helped slaughter a wealthy grocer and his wife.

The board noted that during her 46 years in prison, Van Houten completed college degrees, ran self-help groups for other inmates and had a spotless disciplinary record.

Brown disagreed with their conclusion.

“She remains an unacceptable risk to society if released,” he wrote in a five-page review that denied Van Houten parole for the 20th time.

Her attorney, Rich Pfeiffer, said he expected Brown’s decision because of the political pressure put upon him.

He said he will challenge the decision in Los Angeles County Superior Court, where he hopes Van Houten’s parole will fare better “because the judges and the courts have less political pressure than does someone like the governor.”

The next parole hearing could come in as little as a year, Pfeiffer said.


At 19, Van Houten was the youngest follower of Charles Manson to take part in killings he orchestrated in hopes of fomenting a race war that he dubbed “Helter Skelter,” after a Beatles song.

She did not take part in the Manson “family” murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others in 1969 but did participate in the killings of grocer Leno La Bianca and his wife, Rosemary, the next day.

At her parole hearing, Van Houten described how she helped secure a pillow over the woman’s head, wrapped a lamp cord around her neck and held her down while another member of the Manson family began stabbing the woman in her home.

Van Houten said she joined in the attack after Charles “Tex” Watson handed her a knife and told her to “do something.” She stabbed Rosemary La Bianca at least 16 times.

“I don’t let myself off the hook. I don’t find parts in any of this that makes me feel the slightest bit good about myself,” she told the panel.

The La Biancas were stabbed dozens of times, the word “WAR” was carved on Leno La Bianca’s stomach and messages were scrawled on the walls in Rosemary La Bianca’s blood.

“The shocking nature of the crimes left an indelible mark on society,” Brown wrote. “The motive – to trigger a civilization-ending race war by slaughtering innocent people chosen at random – is equally disturbing.”


Brown said it was unclear how Van Houten, a former homecoming queen from suburban Monrovia, California, transformed from a “smart, driven young woman” into a killer.

However, Brown said Van Houten’s statements to a psychologist and the parole panel this year falsely implied that she was “a victim who was forced into participating in the Family without any way out.”

In actuality, Brown wrote, she was willing to kill, wiped away fingerprints at the home after the attacks, and later bragged that the stabbing was “fun.”

“Even two years after the murders, when interviewed by a psychologist, Van Houten admitted that, although she had no present desire to kill anyone, she would have no difficulty doing it again,” Brown said in his statement.

“Gov. Brown has done a good thing here, and I think he sees what we see – that this was an unrepentant killer,” said Lou Smaldino, nephew of the La Biancas.

Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey and relatives of the victims last month turned in signatures of 140,000 people opposing Van Houten’s release.

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