The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » News Sat, 10 Dec 2016 05:54:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Democrats drop shutdown threat; budget goes to Obama Sat, 10 Dec 2016 05:43:16 +0000 WASHINGTON — With less than hour to spare, the Senate late Friday backed legislation averting a government shutdown as coal-state Democrats retreated on long-term health care benefits for retired miners but promised a renewed fight for the working class next year.

The vote was 63-36 and sent the stop-gap spending bill to President Obama for his signature before a midnight deadline.

It came hours after Democrats dropped threats to block the measure in hopes of using the shutdown deadline to try to win a one-year respite for 16,500 miners facing the loss of health care benefits at year’s end. Instead, the legislation provides benefits at a cost of $45 million for four months. Democrats evoked President-elect Donald Trump, a working class hero in coal country, in pressing for more benefits. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a potential member of the Trump Cabinet, led the fight of coal-state Democrats.

But House Republicans were unrelenting – and had already vacated the Capitol for a three-week holiday – forcing Democrats to concede. Manchin acknowledged Friday night that he did not have the votes to block the bill, but said “the fight will continue” next year.

“I’m born into a family of coal miners. If I’m not going to stand up for them, who is?” he asked reporters.

Manchin was meeting with Trump on Monday.

The fight gave Democrats, who suffered devastating election losses a month ago at the hands of working-class voters, a chance to cast themselves and not the GOP as the champion of the common man.

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For 80 years, Massachusetts family has made candy canes Sat, 10 Dec 2016 04:07:24 +0000 GARDNER, Mass. — It is a tradition 80 years in the making, but the Priscilla Candy Shop candy canes are only made once a year over the three-day weekend after Thanksgiving.

This year was no exception, with owner James Gallant and his assistant Josh Stephano, joined by Gallant’s son Sam Gallant, Brandon William and Tim Horrigan to mix, color, twist, pull, cut and bend each batch into 180 or so candy canes. It is a process followed since Charles Stephano started the business in 1936 and continued for decades by Stephano’s son-in-law Robert V. “Pete” Trudel and his wife, Virginia. It is now literally in the hands of Gallant, Trudel’s son-in-law and his wife, Maureen, who took over the business three years ago when the Trudels retired. They also run a Priscilla Candy Shop on Concord, which sells candy made in the Gardner store.

It is a family thing at the downtown Gardner candy shop. Josh Stephano is the great-grandson of the founder of the company. He never met his great-grandfather but left the restaurant business for a chance to create candy found in the older Stephano’s well-worn recipe book. He also helps Gallant with special orders and flavors, including a special candy cane created for Wachusett Brewing Co.

The tradition of making the candy canes the weekend after Thanksgiving began in the 1990s. When Gallant joined the business 31 years ago, candy canes were made after the store closed for the evening and they made many fewer than 3,300 made last year.

“It really got started when ‘Chronicle’ did a feature on it in 1996,” Gallant said.

After the television newsmagazine featured the candy shop, sales took off. Customers came from all over to visit the tiny home-made candy shop at 4 Main St. The candy-cane weekend helps kick off the holiday season in Gardner. Its candy canes last about 10 days before they are all sold out. The flavors include peppermint, wintergreen, spearmint, vanilla, molasses, maple, and the latest addition, mulled apple cider, made with cider from Pease Orchard in Templeton.

Gallant said his favorite is maple because it reminds him of Christmas morning. He should know. He estimates that he has made 50,000 candy canes over the years. Employee Skyla Johnson said her favorite flavor is the mulled apple cider. Johnson, a student at the University of Massachusetts, works at the store over the holidays. She has worked for the store for four years.

“I had a friend who worked here and got me a job when I was in high school,” she said.

Johnson was part of a busy crew waiting on customers and helping out Diane Dack pack the candy canes and other candies for sale and shipment. Dack has been with the business almost 30 years. She was a waitress at a diner that Pete and Virginia Trudel frequented. They liked her and asked her to come to work for them.

The making of the candy canes is a visual delight for customers who crowd into the kitchen area, standing around the edges to give the workers space. On a counter, there is often a small box of broken candy-cane pieces marked free. As parents watched the process Saturday, their children delighted by the discovery, picked up a few pieces to nibble on.

The canes are made with 25 pounds of sugar and cream of tartar.

It is first heated and worked into a block, which is then colored, flavored and placed on a hook to be pulled. Pulling the taffy is the big job, and the most popular part of the process for visitors. Gallant has had the honor since 1994, having inherited it from Trudel who inherited it from Stephano. He makes it look easy, but he said it took a long time for him to perfect the art.

Once the taffy is properly twisted and pulled, it is rolled and then a line of candy-cane material is pulled out, cut, packaged in plastic, bent like a shepherd’s crook and boxed or placed on the shelf, where they are quickly scooped up by customers and taken home to place in stockings or hang on Christmas trees.

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Election recount in Wisconsin allowed to move ahead Sat, 10 Dec 2016 03:57:37 +0000 PHILADELPHIA — A federal judge allowed Wisconsin’s presidential recount to move forward Friday as a another federal judge in Pennsylvania planned to take the weekend to decide on a Green Party-backed request to recount paper ballots and examine election computer systems for signs of hacking.

U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond in Philadelphia said he will rule Monday on the recount bid by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein in Pennsylvania, where Republican Donald Trump won, beating Democrat Hillary Clinton by about 44,000 votes.

Stein, who finished far behind Trump and Clinton, is seeking a recount of potentially more than 1 million paper ballots and a forensic examination of election system software in six large counties, including Philadelphia, that use different kinds of paperless electronic voting machines.

Stein’s lawyers argue it’s possible computer hacking occurred in a plot to change the outcome of the election and Pennsylvania’s heavy use of paperless machines make it a prime target. Stein also contends Pennsylvania has erected unconstitutional barriers to voters seeking a recount.

“The average voter in Pennsylvania has had to go through incredible lengths in order to have the assurance that their vote is being counted and being counted accurately,” Stein said after the hearing.

Still, opponents, including Trump and the state attorney general’s office, counter that no such evidence of hacking has been presented and that Stein has no standing to seek a recount because she can’t win the election.

Carnegie Mellon University computer science professor Michael Shamos, who tests voting machines, testified for the Pennsylvania Department of State that the chance of hacking was about as likely as “androids from outer space living among us.”

However, Diamond asked for estimates on how long a partial recount of about 20,000 paper ballots in perhaps a dozen counties and an examination of the hard drives from a sampling of paperless electronic voting machines might take. A hand recount of the paper ballots in each of the counties could happen over one long day, while examining hard drives might take two days, University of Michigan computer scientist Alex Halderman testified.

Still, Diamond raised concerns about the possibility of disenfranchising all 6 million Pennsylvania voters if the election is not certified by Tuesday’s deadline. He scolded Green Party lawyers for their timing: “You sat on your rights for three weeks now … and now (have caused) a judicial fire drill.”

The federal lawsuit is part of a broader effort by Stein to recount votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, states with a history of voting for Democrats for president and where Trump narrowly beat Clinton. Stein received about 1 percent or less in each of those states while victory in the states was crucial to Trump’s capturing the White House.

Trump’s percentage margin in Pennsylvania was the state’s closest in a presidential contest since 1840, Green Party lawyers said.

In Madison, Wisconsin, U.S. District Judge James Peterson refused to halt Wisconsin’s presidential recount, which began Dec. 1. He told Trump’s supporters that the effort probably won’t change anything anyway.

Trump defeated Clinton by more than 22,000 votes in the state. Wisconsin election officials reported Friday that nearly 89 percent of the ballots cast for president had been counted. Clinton had gained just 49 votes.

“The relief you’re asking for is so clearly unwarranted,” Peterson said during a hearing Friday morning.

Two pro-Trump groups, the Great America PAC and the Stop Hillary PAC, sued to stop the process. The PACs’ attorney said he would consult with his clients on whether to appeal.

Peterson said Friday that the Wisconsin recount has revealed no irregularities.

A federal judge halted the recount in Michigan on Wednesday after three days, citing a state court ruling that found Stein had no legal standing to seek it.

Stein is appealing, and on Friday two Michigan Supreme Court members who made Trump’s list of possible U.S. Supreme Court nominees removed themselves from consideration of Stein’s appeal.

Still, Stein’s Michigan appeal has only a remote chance of success. The five remaining justices haven’t decided whether to take the case, and three of them were GOP-nominated in their elections.

Meanwhile, in Nevada, the secretary of state declared a recount finished Thursday. The recount of ballots from five counties turned up 15 erroneous votes between Clinton and Trump and no change in the results of the election.

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‘Silicon Valley’ star arrested, accused of battery Sat, 10 Dec 2016 03:46:10 +0000 LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles police say actor T.J. Miller was arrested early Friday after a driver accused him of battery.

The arrest of the “Silicon Valley” star came two days before Miller will host the Critics’ Choice Awards in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles police officer Drake Madison says Miller was arrested around 1 a.m. Friday. The driver who accused him of battery wanted Miller booked under a citizen’s arrest. Madison did not have additional details about what led to the dispute between the driver and Miller.

Madison says Miller was released on his own recognizance and was ordered to appear in court on Jan. 9.

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Nuclear plant cleanup could top $70 billion Sat, 10 Dec 2016 03:38:35 +0000 TOKYO — A cost estimate to clean up Japan’s wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant has doubled to nearly $190 billion, with decommissioning costs expected to continue to rise, according to a government panel Friday.

The estimate raises the decommissioning part of the total costs to $70 billion from the current $17.5 billion because of surging labor and construction costs. Panel officials said the numbers could still grow as experts learn more about the damage to the plant’s reactors and determine fuel removal methods.

Costs for compensation, decontamination of the area and waste storage have also grown significantly.

The plant suffered multiple meltdowns following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Officials said its decommissioning will take several decades.

Rising cost estimates mean an increased burden on consumers.

Kunio Ito, Hitotsubashi University professor of commerce who heads the panel, said it would be inevitable for the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. or TEPCO, to pass on to customers part of the costs.

The panel has been discussing ways to keep TEPCO alive so that it can cover the cost that it’s responsible for. TEPCO has already received a government bailout, and the panel urged Fukushima cleanup-related operations to effectively stay under state control until the next review in 2019.

The 10-member panel commissioned by the Trade and Industry Ministry plans to urge TEPCO to perform drastic restructuring and reforms.

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Names of climate researchers requested Sat, 10 Dec 2016 03:37:09 +0000 The Trump transition team has issued a list of 74 questions for the Energy Department, asking agency officials to identify which department employees and contractors have worked on forging an international climate pact as well as domestic efforts to cut the nation’s carbon output.

The questionnaire requests a list of those individuals who have taken part in international climate talks over the past five years and “which programs within DOE are essential to meeting the goals of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.”

Trump and his team have vowed to dismantle specific aspects of Obama’s climate policies. The questionnaire, which one Energy Department official described as unusually “intrusive” and a matter for departmental lawyers, has raised concern that the Trump transition team was trying to figure out how to target the people, including civil servants, who have helped implement policies under Obama.

Thousands of scientists have signed petitions calling on the president-elect and his team to respect scientific integrity and refrain from singling out individual researchers whose work might conflict with the new administration’s policy goals. This potential clash could prompt a major schism within the federal government, with many career officials waging a battle against incoming political appointees.

While there have been many instances of political appointees and career scientists clashing in various administrations, what appears to be novel here is the request for the names of so many individual scientists, and that it comes during the transition period, before the Trump administration has even taken power.

This may be a signal of even more intense politicization after the inauguration.

Yale University environmental historian Paul Sabin said in an interview that previous administrations have worked in the past to install like-minded energy and environmental experts in key agencies, often at the expense of employees from previous administrations.

“But what seems unusual is singling people out for a very specific substantive issue, and treating their work on that substantive issue as, by default, contaminating or disqualifying,” Sabin said, adding that now officials can track a civil servant’s past activities “in such a systematic way” compared to the past.

Trump’s transition team did not respond to a request for comment.

The questionnaire was first reported by Bloomberg News. The Post has obtained its own a copy of both the initial document as well as one with some of the agency’s replies filled in, in addition to confirmation from other people in the department.

Democratic Rep. Bill Foster of Illinois, a physicist, warned that questionnaire “threatens to undo decades of progress we have made on climate change,” and Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., said punishing civil servants for their work under previous administrations “would be tantamount to an illegal modern-day political witch hunt and would have a profoundly chilling impact on our dedicated federal workforce.”

The document spanned a broad area of Energy Department activities, including its loan program, its technology research program, responses to Congress, estimates of offshore wind and cleanup of uranium at a site once used by the military for weapons research.

In many cases, the inquiries meshed with the priorities of conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation, which held a meeting on energy and environment issues in Washington on Thursday, as well as priorities outlined in a recent fundraising pitch sent by the American Energy Alliance (AEA), a wing of the Institute for Energy Research.

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ExxonMobil CEO Tillerson said to be top candidate for secretary of state Sat, 10 Dec 2016 03:21:09 +0000 ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson has emerged as the top candidate for secretary of state, according to two people familiar with the deliberations.

Tillerson and former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney were two of the finalists, along with former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Giuliani withdrew his name from contention Friday.

Tillerson is viewed as an unconventional pick who would bring dealmaking skills to the job. Both Tillerson and Romney are business executives with international experience in the for-profit world. But Tillerson would come into the job with a clean slate politically, while Romney’s candidacy had come under fire from some Trump aides who think the former governor went too far in his opposition to Trump during the campaign.

Tillerson also has extensive business dealings and ties to Russia, which could pose a potential problem for his nomination. Top Republicans in the Senate and President Obama are pushing for increased scrutiny of Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

As CEO of the world’s largest publicly traded company, Tillerson has brokered deals with Russia for drilling rights, which had been imperiled by U.S. sanctions against Moscow after Russia’s invasion of Crimea and its actions in Ukraine.

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Video confession of Dylann Roof details shooting at South Carolina church Sat, 10 Dec 2016 03:09:31 +0000 CHARLESTON, S.C. — Dylann Roof wanted the world to know he hated black people and thought they were criminals. He thought about attacking drug dealers, but they might shoot back. So, he told the FBI, he picked a historic black church in Charleston he had learned about online.

In a videotaped confession shown Friday during his death penalty trial, Roof laughed several times and made exaggerated gun motions as he recounted the massacre. He explained that he wanted to leave at least one person alive to tell what happened and complained that his victims “complicated things” when they hid under tables.

Forty-five minutes into the interview, an FBI agent decided to tell him nine people died in the June 17, 2015, shootings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

“There wasn’t even that many people in there,” Roof said incredulously. “Are you lying to me?”

The blurry video made it hard to see his face. After being told the details, an agent asked how he felt.

“Well, it makes me feel bad,” said Roof, who earlier in the confession estimated he might have killed five.

Roof’s lawyers have conceded that he carried out the attack and are concentrating on convincing jurors to spare his life in the second phase of the trial.

Later Friday, Roof’s handwritten journal was read aloud. It was full of dubious, offensive racial claims about blacks and Jews, from stories about African-Americans enjoying slavery to segregation keeping white people from being dragged down.

“How could our faces, skin color and body structure be so different, but our brains exactly the same?” Roof wrote.

His video confession came about 17 hours after the shooting. FBI agents drove to Shelby, North Carolina, where he was arrested. The plane that would take him back to Charleston was not going to arrive for a few hours. So FBI agent Michael Stansbury got permission to take a chance and interview him immediately.

It paid off. After reading Roof his rights and engaging in brief small talk, an agent asked Roof what he was doing on the night of the killings.

“I went to that church in Charleston and, uh, I did it,” he said.

Roof said he wanted to kill black people because they rape white women daily. Agents asked why he chose Emanuel AME. He said online it was listed as the oldest black church in the South, and there probably would not be any white people there.

“I knew that would be a place to get a small amount of black people in one area,” Roof said, later adding, “They’re in church, they weren’t criminals or anything.”

Earlier testimony from survivor Felicia Sanders said Roof sat through the Bible study beside pastor Clementa Pinckney and opened fire as the rest of the group of 12 closed their eyes for a final prayer.

“I was sitting there thinking about whether I should do it or not. That’s why I sat there for 15 minutes. I could have walked out,” Roof said.

Church surveillance videos indicate Roof was actually inside for about 45 minutes.

Roof, as he has for much of the trial, hardly looked up as the confession played, mostly just shuffling papers in front of him.

He told FBI agents questioning him that he could never look at the families of the victims. And throughout the trial, he has not looked at the dozens of family members in the courtroom.

Roof meticulously prepared for the shootings. He carried eight magazines that could each hold 13 bullets. But he only loaded 11 bullets so he could shoot 88 times – a revered number among white supremacists, standing for Heil Hitler because H is the eighth letter of the alphabet.

In the confession, Roof said he left bullets in a magazine so that he could kill himself after the slayings but changed his mind when he didn’t immediately see any police.

At one point, an agent asked if Roof thought about killing more blacks.

“Oh no. I was worn out,” Roof said.

A crime scene technician testified that she found two handwritten notes in Roof’s car – one to his mother and one to his father. He told his dad: “I love you and I am sorry. You were a good dad.”

To his mother, he said: “As childish as it sounds, I wish I was in your arms.”

Roof’s mother suffered a heart attack while watching opening statements Wednesday. Her condition is unclear.

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Mainers recall John Glenn as a down-to-earth hero and politician Sat, 10 Dec 2016 03:01:44 +0000 The first time John Glenn made an impression on Patrick Paradis was in February 1962, when Glenn rode into outer space atop a rocket and circled Earth three times in his space capsule, becoming the first American to orbit the planet.

Paradis was 8 years old then, on vacation from school and following the mission on television.

More than two decades later, Paradis was in his early 30s and representing part of Augusta at the State House when acquaintances asked if he could show Glenn around central Maine as he campaigned to become the Democratic nominee for president.

Though Glenn was widely recognized as a national icon by that point – he had given new hope to the U.S. in its space race against the Soviet Union – he never showed it, Paradis recalled.

“I had not met him, but he was a hero of mine,” said Paradis, who is now 63. “He was so low-key, quiet-speaking and not like a politician. He’d speak to you directly.”

Paradis was one of at least two Mainers to remember his encounters with Glenn on Friday, a day after the former astronaut died at the age of 95.

In his Northern Avenue home, Paradis showed a few of the artifacts he has acquired over the years that hint at his admiration for the spaceman turned politician.

There are commemorative stamps Paradis purchased for $2 days after Glenn’s orbit. There is the Life magazine issue about Glenn from 1962 that Paradis purchased just two weeks ago while browsing at a flea market in Brunswick.

There are pins from Glenn’s 1984 presidential campaign and a framed photo of him and Paradis together in Augusta.

Paradis, now an outgoing city councilor in Augusta, said he took Glenn to rallies, restaurants, meetings with senior citizens and gatherings of state lawmakers in 1983 during the Ohio senator’s campaign stops in Maine.

“He was a one-on-one campaigner,” Paradis said, remembering the moment a young member of the Marine Corps approached the candidate wearing a uniform and Glenn, a former Marine, engaged the man in conversation. “He just zeroed in on him. He spent all the time he could speaking to that man.”

Walter Mondale ended up receiving the Democratic nomination that year and lost to incumbent Republican President Ronald Reagan, but Paradis said he was proud to support Glenn, whose moderate political views and ability to reach across the aisle he thinks are lacking in today’s political climate.

Another Maine man described Glenn in similar terms on Friday.

Peter Dixon, a 76-year-old pilot and teacher who recently retired in Cape Elizabeth, said he met Glenn while serving as the engineer on a flight from New York City to Amsterdam. Dixon was performing preflight checks when he heard a man ask if he could enter the cockpit. Dixon agreed, then noticed the visitor’s identity.

“He sat down, and I’m like, ‘Holy smokes! It’s John Glenn,’ ” Dixon said. “But he couldn’t have been nicer. He was just absolutely pleasant. He was interesting. He was soft-spoken and had a really good sense of humor.”

A flight attendant in her early 20s entered the cockpit but didn’t recognize the senator and former astronaut, Dixon said, prompting Glenn to feign feeling hurt and act as though he had been stabbed in the heart.

Glenn also introduced the crew to his wife, Annie, whom Dixon described as “lovely too.”

Dixon, like Paradis, also supported Glenn during his presidential bid, and his sister worked on Glenn’s campaign.

“He was bright,” Dixon said. “He knew about stuff, unlike these politicians. He was not a good candidate, because he told the truth.”


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South Korean president impeached in stunning fall Sat, 10 Dec 2016 02:18:46 +0000 SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean lawmakers on Friday impeached President Park Geun-hye, a stunning and swift fall for the country’s first female leader amid protests that drew millions into the streets in united fury.

After the vote, parliamentary officials hand-delivered formal documents to the presidential Blue House that stripped Park of her power and allowed the country’s No. 2 official, Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, to assume leadership until the Constitutional Court rules on whether Park must permanently step down. The court has up to six months to decide.

“I’d like to say that I’m deeply sorry to the people because the nation has to experience this turmoil because of my negligence and lack of virtue at a time when our security and economy both face difficulties,” Park said after the vote, before a closed-door meeting with her Cabinet where she and other aides reportedly broke down in tears.

Hwang separately said that he wanted “the ruling and opposition political parties and the parliament to gather strength and wisdom so that we can return stability to the country and people as soon as possible.”

Once called the “Queen of Elections” for her ability to pull off wins for her party, Park has been surrounded in the Blue House in recent weeks by millions of South Koreans who have taken to the streets in protest. They are furious over what prosecutors say was collusion by Park with a longtime friend to extort money from companies and to give that confidante extraordinary sway over government decisions.

Organizers said about 10,000 people gathered in front of the National Assembly to demand that lawmakers pass the impeachment motion. Some had spent the night on the streets after traveling from other cities. Scuffles broke out between angry anti-Park farmers, some of whom had driven tractors to the assembly from their farms, and police. When impeachment happened, many of those gathered raised their hands in the air and leapt about, cheering and laughing.

“Can you hear the roar of the people in front of the National Assembly?” Kim Kwan-young, an opposition lawmaker said ahead of the vote, referring to South Korea’s formal name. “Our great people have already opened the way. Let’s make it so we can stand honorably in front of history and our descendants.”

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Eastern Aleppo caves under Syrian onslaught Sat, 10 Dec 2016 01:45:05 +0000 BEIRUT — Nearly two weeks into a crushing blitz, Syrian forces and their allies have taken control of nearly all of what was once an opposition stronghold in eastern Aleppo, touching off a new wave of evacuations Friday and raising concerns about hundreds of men who have disappeared and are feared to have been seized by the government.

A flood of civilians streamed out on foot in the wake of the relentless campaign by forces loyal to President Bashar Assad to drive rebels from their rapidly crumbling enclave. They joined tens of thousands who have fled since Nov. 26, seeking shelter from the nonstop bombardment and crippling siege.

“The writing on the wall looks as if eastern Aleppo’s battle is virtually over,” said Staffan de Mistura, the U.N. special envoy to Syria, in an interview at U.N. headquarters.

The U.N. human rights office expressed deep concern about reports that hundreds of men have vanished after crossing from eastern Aleppo into government-controlled areas.

Relatives reported losing contact with the men, who are between the ages of 30 and 50, after they fled opposition-held areas about a week to 10 days ago, said U.N. spokesman Rupert Colville. It was not clear whether they were fighters or civilians.

Colville also said the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights is also concerned by reports that some civilians trying to flee are being blocked by armed opposition groups and, in some cases, fired upon.

“Civilians are being used as pawns and prevented from leaving,” he said at a briefing in Geneva. He estimated there may be about 100,000 civilians in areas under the control of armed opposition groups. They include about 500 medical cases of people in need of urgent evacuation.

Syrian state TV broadcast video of families emerging from the ravaged eastern districts, the enclave that had been held by rebels since 2012.

On Thursday, Russia announced the Syrian army was suspending combat operations to allow for civilians to leave besieged rebel-held districts, but residents and medics in the neighborhoods said there was no letup in the bombardment.

“Bombing is truly round the clock,” said Ziad Mohammed, in the al-Mashhad neighborhood. “There are no hospitals, the remnants of the dead fill the streets and the wounded have to fend for themselves.”

Mohammad, a government opponent, said he and many others are bracing for certain death. “If staying here means dying here, then standing by my principles will have been enough,” he said.

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They’re bringing out the old at St. Mark’s Sat, 10 Dec 2016 01:21:01 +0000 AUGUSTA — The bells sitting on a flatbed trailer Thursday outside St. Mark’s Episcopal Church were a sign that change is nigh.

For 130 years, the granite Gothic Revival building between Summer and Pleasant streets, along with the rectory and its parish hall, was home to the Episcopal congregation that has been in Augusta for 175 years.

But now, with the congregation relocated to Augusta’s east side for nearly two years, and the church real estate expected to be listed for sale later this month, parts of the church, like the bells, are starting to find their way to other churches across the country.

“I’m a religious guy, and I talk about it like death and resurrection,” said the Rev. Erik Karas, St. Mark’s pastor. “Even though you know that death and resurrection are the way things change and grow, the death part continues to be hard.”

Next week, the Tiffany stained-glass window will be removed, and in the spring, other stained-glass windows will be taken out, along with pews, the organ and anything else Larchmont, New York-based Adrian Hamers Inc., can find a market for.

“When it was built,” Karas said, “(the church) was a great tool to do ministry in Augusta. Today, it’s not a good tool for what Augusta needs.”

St. Mark’s congregation is passionate about working in the community. Last weekend, the Everyday Basics Essentials Pantry served 407 people in the community by providing items such as toiletries. In addition to the pantry, the church also operates Addie’s Attic Clothing Bank and the Augusta Food Bank.

“The face of being a religious community in this country and in this state is dramatically different from what it was” in the mid-19th century, Karas said. “It’s hard and it’s sad, but buildings are not what we are about. We are about people.”

The three church buildings, tucked between the newly renovated and expanded Lithgow Public Library and a residential neighborhood, will be listed together, although there will be an option to sell the rectory separately, Karas said.

The fate of the buildings has been the source of speculation in Augusta for months.

In July, rumors that the property would be purchased by the Bread of Life Ministries, which operates a homeless shelter on Hospital Street and a soup kitchen on Water Street, prompted city officials to propose a moratorium and changes to clarify the city’s zoning rules to prevent uses such as homeless shelters and soup kitchens in some areas. In August, a temporary ban on group, boarding and rooming homes was put in place.

At that time, John Richardson, executive director of Bread of Life Ministries, said it was too early to comment. On Thursday, he said his organization is considering buying the St. Mark’s property.

Services were last held in the building two years ago. Following Christmas celebrations in 2014, the congregation made the move to east Augusta, sharing worship services and clergy with Prince of Peace Lutheran Church at 209 Eastern Ave.

Now, Karas said, St. Mark’s is in the process of becoming a combined federated congregation with the members of Prince of Peace. That means the church will have a congregation that is both fully an Episcopal Church and an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. In 1999, the two Protestant denominations agreed to full communion. “We call ourselves the Church at 209 because of our address,” he said. “But we will likely find ourselves a new, more churchy name.”

The combination of the two congregations, which Karas serves equally, has been like a marriage, and like a marriage, there has been a combining of worldly goods, and in that way, some of the traditions of St. Mark’s live on.

The baptismal font, the paraments – the seasonal cloths that adorn altars and lecterns – a Nativity set, an Advent wreath and all of the vessels required to serve Communion have been moved to the Church at 209.

The St. Mark’s church parlor, the Farnham Room, has been relocated and recreated with its furnishings on Eastern Avenue, Karas said.

As furnishings have merged, so have missions. In addition to what St. Mark’s has brought, the Prince of Peace congregation holds a Christmas supper for the community.

“We are stronger than the sum of our parts,” Karas said.

One of St. Mark’s 12 bells, the service bell that dates back to the days of a wooden church that burned down before the 1886 building went up, also will stay with the congregation.

The remaining 11 bells, part of a carillon that played music from the bell tower, will play somewhere else.

For Jim Melcher, who has been a member of St. Mark’s for more than 17 years, the changes are hard to contemplate.

“Those bells were known as the Kling bells,” Melcher said. They were given to the church in memory of Ellen Kling in 1925.

“There’s a plaque there that says something like, ‘These bells will ring when my voice is still,’ ” Melcher said.

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Charles Eichacker contributed to this report.


]]> 0, 09 Dec 2016 22:10:04 +0000
Secret CIA assessment says Russia tried to help Trump win election Sat, 10 Dec 2016 01:01:44 +0000 The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.

Intelligence agencies have identified people with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.

“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. “That’s the consensus view.”

President Obama’s administration has been debating for months how to respond to the alleged Russian intrusions, with White House officials concerned about escalating tensions with Moscow and being accused of trying to boost Clinton’s campaign.

In September, during a secret briefing for congressional leaders, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky, voiced doubts about the veracity of the intelligence, according to officials who were present.

The Trump transition team did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump has consistently dismissed the intelligence community’s findings about Russian hacking.

“I don’t believe they interfered” in the election, he told Time magazine this week. The hacking, he said, “could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.”

The CIA shared its latest assessment with key senators in a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill last week, in which agency officials cited a growing body of intelligence from multiple sources. Agency briefers told the senators it is now “quite clear” that electing Trump was Russia’s goal, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

The CIA presentation to senators about Russia’s intentions fell short of a formal U.S. assessment produced by all 17 intelligence agencies. A senior U.S. official said there were minor disagreements among intelligence officials about the agency’s assessment, in part because some questions remain.

For example, intelligence agencies do not have specific intelligence showing officials in the Kremlin “directing” the identified individuals to pass the Democratic emails to WikiLeaks, a second senior U.S. official said. Those actors, according to the official, were “one step” removed from the Russian government, rather than government employees. Moscow has used middlemen to participate in sensitive intelligence operations so it has plausible deniability.

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has said in a television interview that the “Russian government is not the source.”

The White House and CIA officials declined to comment.


On Friday, the White House said President Obama ordered a “full review” of Russian hacking during the election campaign, as pressure from Congress grows for greater public understanding of exactly what Moscow did to influence the electoral process.

“We may have crossed into a new threshold, and it is incumbent upon us to take stock of that, to review, to conduct some after-action, to understand what has happened and to impart some lessons learned,” Obama’s counterterrorism and homeland security adviser, Lisa Monaco, told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

Obama wants the report before he leaves office Jan. 20, Monaco said.

During her remarks, Monaco didn’t address the latest CIA assessment, which hasn’t been previously disclosed.

Seven Democratic senators, and independent Sen. Angus King of Maine, asked Obama last week to declassify details about the intrusions and why officials believe that the Kremlin was behind the operation. Officials said Friday that the senators specifically were asking the White House to release portions of the CIA’s presentation.

King spokesman Scott Ogden said in an email Friday night that the senator could not comment on classified material. Earlier in the day, King issued a statement in support of President Obama’s order for a review.

“I am pleased to see the President take this step and welcome the growing number of concerned voices – on both sides of the aisle – about Russia’s attempts to interfere with our electoral process,” King said. “It is … crucial that, to the greatest extent possible, more information be made available to the American people because the first line of defense against intrusions like these is an educated and vigilant public.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Collins could not comment on classified information.

Both Collins and King are members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

This week, top Democratic lawmakers in the House also sent a letter to Obama, asking for briefings on Russian interference in the election.

U.S. intelligence agencies have been cautious for months in characterizing Russia’s motivations, reflecting the United States’ longstanding struggle to collect reliable intelligence on President Vladimir Putin and those closest to him.

In previous assessments, the CIA and other intelligence agencies told the White House and congressional leaders that they believed Moscow’s aim was to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system. The assessments stopped short of saying the goal was to help elect Trump.

On Oct. 7, the intelligence community officially accused Moscow of seeking to interfere in the election through the hacking of “political organizations.” Though the statement never specified which party, it was clear that officials were referring to cyber-intrusions into the computers of the DNC and other Democratic groups and individuals.

Some key Republican lawmakers have continued to question the quality of evidence supporting Russian involvement.

“I’ll be the first one to come out and point at Russia if there’s clear evidence, but there is no clear evidence – even now,” said Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a member of the Trump transition team. “There’s a lot of innuendo, lots of circumstantial evidence, that’s it.”


Though Russia has long conducted cyberspying on U.S. agencies, companies and organizations, this presidential campaign marks the first time Moscow has attempted through cyber-means to interfere in, if not actively influence, the outcome of an election, the officials said.

The reluctance of the Obama White House to respond to the alleged Russian intrusions before Election Day upset Democrats on the Hill as well as members of the Clinton campaign.

Within the administration, top officials from different agencies sparred over whether and how to respond. White House officials were concerned that covert retaliatory measures might risk an escalation in which Russia, with sophisticated cyber-capabilities, might have less to lose than the United States, with its vast and vulnerable digital infrastructure.

The White House’s reluctance to take that risk left Washington weighing more limited measures, including the “naming and shaming” approach of publicly blaming Moscow.

By mid-September, White House officials had decided it was time to take that step, but they worried that doing so unilaterally and without bipartisan congressional backing just weeks before the election would make Obama vulnerable to charges that he was using intelligence for political purposes.

Instead, officials devised a plan to seek bipartisan support from top lawmakers and set up a secret meeting with the Gang of 12 – a group that includes House and Senate leaders, as well as the chairmen and ranking members of both chambers’ committees on intelligence and homeland security.

Obama dispatched Monaco, FBI Director James Comey and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to make the pitch for a “show of solidarity and bipartisan unity” against Russian interference in the election, according to a senior administration official.

Specifically, the White House wanted congressional leaders to sign off on a bipartisan statement urging state and local officials to take federal help in protecting their voting-registration and balloting machines from Russian cyber-intrusions.

Though U.S. intelligence agencies were skeptical that hackers would be able to manipulate the election results in a systematic way, the White House feared that Russia would attempt to do so, sowing doubt about the fundamental mechanisms of democracy and potentially forcing a more dangerous confrontation between Washington and Moscow.


In a secure room in the Capitol used for briefings involving classified information, administration officials broadly laid out the evidence U.S. spy agencies had collected, showing Russia’s role in cyber-intrusions in at least two states and in hacking the emails of the Democratic organizations and individuals.

And they made a case for a united, bipartisan front in response to what one official described as “the threat posed by unprecedented meddling by a foreign power in our election process.”

The Democratic leaders in the room unanimously agreed on the need to take the threat seriously. Republicans, however, were divided, with at least two Republican lawmakers reluctant to accede to the White House requests.

According to several officials, McConnell raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.

Some of the Republicans in the briefing also seemed opposed to the idea of going public with such explosive allegations in the final stages of an election, a move that they argued would only rattle public confidence and play into Moscow’s hands.

McConnell’s office did not respond to a request for comment. After the election, Trump chose McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, as his nominee for transportation secretary.

Some Clinton supporters saw the White House’s reluctance to act without bipartisan support as further evidence of an excessive caution in facing adversaries.

“The lack of an administration response on the Russian hacking cannot be attributed to Congress,” said Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, who was at the September meeting. “The administration has all the tools it needs to respond. They have the ability to impose sanctions. They have the ability to take clandestine means. The administration has decided not to utilize them in a way that would deter the Russians, and I think that’s a problem.”

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Waterville homeowner sued over woman’s fatal fall Sat, 10 Dec 2016 00:56:10 +0000 The father of Stacey MacDonald has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the man who owned the Waterville home where the 33-year-old Clinton woman died nearly a year ago. She accidentally fell from the second story because a balcony hadn’t been built outside a sliding glass door.

The lawsuit, filed in Kennebec County Superior Court by Willey Law Offices of Bangor on behalf of Frederick MacDonald, alleges that Robert Grenier was reckless and negligent because he “failed to block the sliding doors, warn that there was no balcony off the second-floor sliding doors, or the other reasonable actions to prevent Stacey Lynn MacDonald from opening the sliding doors and walking outside.”

Phone messages left Friday at Willey Law Offices were not returned.

A response to the lawsuit has not been filed in court yet. Reached by phone Friday, Grenier declined to comment but said Liberty Mutual insurance would be representing him in the civil case.

MacDonald graduated from Madison Area Memorial High School and was a “dedicated, hard worker as well as a jack of all trades” who enjoyed hunting, fishing and riding horses, according to her obituary. She had a son, Carter Chase, according to her obituary.

MacDonald had been at Grenier’s house at 160 Drummond Ave. for a Christmas party and had been drinking alcohol, according to the lawsuit. The house was being renovated at the time and the second-story balcony outside the sliding doors hadn’t been built yet.

MacDonald, sleeping in a second-story bedroom, woke up during the night and stepped out the door, falling to the ground. Police at the time said her body was found Saturday afternoon, the day after Christmas, on a cement patio behind the house.

The cause of her death was determined to be blunt force injuries of head and chest resulting from a fall from height, and was ruled accidental, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

MacDonald’s death was at least the second dangerous incident to occur at 160 Drummond Ave. around Christmas. On Christmas Day in 2013, fire destroyed a large barn and attached buildings on the property and heavily damaged the house.

The lawsuit, filed Nov. 17, also alleges that Grenier’s in-progress house renovations violated city building codes and lacked a necessary permit. In addition, the lawsuit claims Grenier “owed a special duty of care” to MacDonald as an overnight guest because she had been drinking alcohol at the Christmas party.

The lawsuit seeks punitive damages, citing emotional distress, the loss of income, medical costs and funeral-related costs.

]]> 0, 09 Dec 2016 20:10:31 +0000
Hildegard Hamm-Breucher, ‘Grand Dame’ of German pro-business party, dies at 95 Sat, 10 Dec 2016 00:40:15 +0000 BERLIN — Hildegard Hamm-Bruecher, the “Grand Dame” of Germany’s pro-business Free Democratic Party who made an unsuccessful bid for the country’s presidency in 1994, has died, her party said Friday. She was 95.

The FDP’s branch in Bavaria announced the death without providing further details.

Born in 1921 in Essen, Hamm-Bruecher’s parents died when she was young and she was raised in Dresden by her grandmother, whose ancestors had converted to Protestantism from Judaism.

In a 2012 interview with the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, she said the family was discriminated against under the Nazis for being part-Jewish.

Under the looming threat of deportation to a concentration camp, her grandmother killed herself in 1942. In addition, friends and acquaintances she met as a student in Munich and who joined the anti-Nazi White Rose movement were executed by the Nazis.

“My grandmother’s suicide and the execution of the White Rose students led me to the conclusion that if I survived this madness, I would fight my whole life so that something like it could never happen again,” Hamm-Bruecher told the newspaper.

Hamm-Bruecher entered politics with the Free Democratic Party, which became the kingmaker of post-war German politics, in 1948. She served as a member of the federal parliament from 1976 until her retirement in 1990.

She was the FDP’s candidate for president in 1994, but lost to Roman Herzog of then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s Christian Democrats.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany had lost “an outstanding democrat” who had helped rebuild the country politically after the war.

“Freedom for her was a privilege, but also a responsibility,” Merkel said.

]]> 0, 09 Dec 2016 19:40:15 +0000
Revenue fizzling, Coca-Cola plans change at the top Sat, 10 Dec 2016 00:32:19 +0000 NEW YORK — Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent will step down from that role next year and be succeeded by the company’s No. 2 executive, at a time when people are drinking less sugary soda including its flagship Coke.

Chief Operating Officer James Quincey, long expected to become the next CEO, will take over leadership of the world’s largest beverage maker on May 1, the company said Friday. Kent will remain as chairman of the board.

Quincey, who’s worked at Coca-Cola for about two decades, has led its drive to cut down the sugar in its drinks and said Friday that he’ll continue to do that as CEO. He also said he’ll keep pushing for more low-calorie beverages and for offering soda in smaller cans and bottles.

He said he wants to “stay relevant” with customers by continuing to “digitize” the business, selling drinks online, through food delivery companies and any other platform customers go to in the future.

“The iPhone didn’t exist when Muhtar became CEO,” Quincey said.

The Atlanta-based company has been diversifying its drinks to try to adapt to changing tastes. U.S. sales volume for regular Coke is down 14 percent over the past decade, according to the industry tracker Beverage Digest, while Diet Coke’s volume is down 29 percent.

So last year Coca-Cola rolled out nationwide a milk drink called Fairlife that it said had more protein and less sugar than regular milk. It also makes Sprite, Fanta and Dasani water, and has invested in options like bottled teas that have bigger growth potential.

The company is in the midst of selling off its bottling businesses to independent companies who will handle the bottling of sodas and its other drinks. This means less revenue, but fewer costs, for Coca-Cola as it focuses on selling syrups and concentrates to the bottlers as well as expanding its brands. Coca-Cola’s annual revenue has fallen in the past four years and Wall Street analysts expect revenue for the current year to fall about 5 percent from the year before. In October, the company said its third-quarter profit fell 28 percent.

Quincey, 51, spent much of his career with the company in Latin America and was named president and chief operating officer last year.

Analysts at Stifel said “job one” for Quincey is to improve revenue growth.

Shares of The Coca-Cola Co. rose $1.06, or 2.6 percent, to $42.04 in afternoon trading Friday.

Kent, 64, will continue as chairman of the board after he steps down as CEO. He has been CEO for more than eight years and first joined the company nearly 40 years ago.

Coca-Cola is the second beverage company to announce a CEO change in the past several days. Last week, Starbucks Corp. said Howard Schultz will step down as CEO next year and stay on as the coffee chain’s executive chairman.

Change is also coming to Coca-Cola’s board. It had said Thursday that Howard Buffett, the son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, would retire from the board and not seek re-election next year. Analysts at Bernstein were concerned it could signal that Warren Buffett, whose holding company Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is Coca-Cola’s largest shareholder, could sell Coke stock.

Warren Buffett didn’t mention his stake Friday but said he was pleased with the CEO succession plans.

“I know James and like him,” Buffett said in a statement, “and believe the company has made a smart investment in its future with his selection.”

]]> 0, 09 Dec 2016 19:51:36 +0000
Washington state sues Monsanto over chemicals known as PCBs Sat, 10 Dec 2016 00:01:04 +0000 SEATTLE — Washington has become the first U.S. state to sue the agrochemical giant Monsanto over pervasive pollution from PCBs, the toxic industrial chemicals that have accumulated in plants, fish and people around the globe for decades. The company said the case “lacks merit.”

Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced the lawsuit at a news conference in downtown Seattle on Thursday, saying they expect to win hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars.

“It is time to hold the sole U.S. manufacturer of PCBs accountable for the significant harm they have caused to our state,” Ferguson said, noting that the chemicals continue to imperil the health of protected salmon and orcas despite the tens of millions of dollars Washington has spent to clean up the pollution. “Monsanto produced PCBs for decades while hiding what they knew about the toxic chemicals’ harm to human health and the environment.”

The suit arrives just days before Monsanto shareholders vote whether to accept a $57 billion buyout offer from Germany’s Bayer. The extraordinary meeting of shareholders takes place just outside of St. Louis on Tuesday.

PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, were used in many industrial and commercial applications, including in paint, coolants, sealants and hydraulic fluids. Monsanto, based in St. Louis, produced them from 1935 until Congress banned them in 1979.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, PCBs have been shown to cause a variety of health problems, including cancer in animals as well as effects on the immune, nervous and reproductive systems.

In a company release, Monsanto spokesman Scott S. Partridge said that the “case is experimental because it seeks to target a product manufacturer for selling a lawful and useful chemical four to eight decades ago that was applied by the U.S. government, Washington state, local cities, and industries into many products to make them safer. … Most of the prior cases filed by the same contingency fee lawyers have been dismissed, and Monsanto believes this case similarly lacks merit.”

Several other cities – including Seattle, Portland, Oregon, and Oakland, Berkeley, San Jose, Long Beach and San Diego, California – have also sued Monsanto over PCB pollution. Those cases are ongoing.

Ferguson, a Democrat, pointed to internal Monsanto documents that show the company long knew about the danger the chemicals posed. In 1937, an internal memo said testing on animals showed “systemic toxic effects” from prolonged exposure by inhaling PCB fumes or ingestion.

Nevertheless, Monsanto told officials around the country the contrary. In a letter to New Jersey’s Department of Conservation that year, Monsanto wrote, “Based on available data, manufacturing and use experience, we do not believe PCBs to be seriously toxic.”

Washington’s suit seeks damages on several grounds, including product liability for what it described as Monsanto’s failure to warn about the danger of PCBs; negligence; and even trespass, for injuring the state’s natural resources.

]]> 0, 09 Dec 2016 20:50:50 +0000
Man indicted on manslaughter charge in 2015 crash in Starks Fri, 09 Dec 2016 23:55:37 +0000 SKOWHEGAN — A 24-year-old Madison man has been indicted on a manslaughter charge in connection with a fatal crash more than a year ago in which police said he was passing cars at 80 mph on a back country road in Starks.

Jonathan Cayford is charged by a Somerset County grand jury for his alleged role as the driver of a car in which another Madison man was killed and two others were injured in the crash on Anson Road on Nov. 13, 2015.

An indictment is not a determination of guilt but rather indicates that a grand jury has found there is enough evidence to proceed with a trial.

The charge is a Class A felony, punishable by up to 25 years in prison if he is convicted. He is charged with being reckless or criminally negligent in causing the death of Clint J. Briggs.

Cayford was arrested at Inland Hospital in Waterville at 12:01 a.m. Friday on a warrant based on the indictment. Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster said his department had information that Cayford was visiting at Inland Hospital. The Waterville Police Department found Cayford at the hospital and Deputy Sheriff Cpl. Gene Cole arrested him and took him to the Somerset County Jail in East Madison.

Lancaster said the investigation took more than a year because of the amount of evidence to sift through.

“Investigations take time,” Lancaster said. “Gathering evidence, processing evidence, return of evidence results, discussions, more follow-up investigation, decisions, and working within the district attorney’s schedule.”

District Attorney Maeghan Maloney agreed, saying that motor vehicle fatalities take a long time to investigate and involve more up-front prosecution work before starting in the criminal justice system.

“Before starting a case like this, we wait for every piece of evidence,” Maloney said in an email Friday. “We know the charge itself changes someone’s life so we want to be sure that we can prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Briggs, 21, a passenger in a car driven by Cayford, was found dead at the scene, the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office said at the time.

Cayford, driving west, was passing a line of other westbound vehicles at a high speed when he went off the road, according to the sheriff’s department.

Deputies at the scene estimated Cayford’s speed at 80 mph. The release said that as the vehicles he was passing approached a corner in the road near the intersection of the Olde Ferry Road, Cayford lost control of the 1998 Nissan Maxima, striking several trees.

Briggs was not wearing a seatbelt, the sheriff’s department said, and evidence gathered at the scene indicated speed and alcohol may be contributing factors in the crash.

Cayford was taken to Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan after the crash. A 17-year-old female passenger, who was in the front seat, was taken by LifeFlight of Maine helicopter to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. Her name was not released.

Cayford is being held on $5,000 cash bail or $50,000 worth of property with a condition that he not possess or use alcohol. He was expected to make his initial court appearance by video from the jail Friday, according to Lancaster.

The crash that resulted in Briggs’ death occurred the same night that a Norridgewock man was killed when he was hit by a pickup truck in Solon. Joshua Sincyr, 31, was killed while walking in the road when he was hit by a pickup truck driven by Seth Burns, 18, of Embden, according to a news release at the time from the Maine State Police. No charges ever were brought by the district attorney in that crash, Lt. Mark Brooks, commander of State Police Troop C Barracks in Skowhegan, said Friday.

]]> 0, 09 Dec 2016 18:55:37 +0000
After further testing, schools in Benton, Clinton taken off bottled water Fri, 09 Dec 2016 23:40:02 +0000 After weeks of using only bottled water for drinking and cooking, two schools in Fairfield-based School Administrative District 49 are allowing students to use tap water again.

Benton and Clinton Elementary schools initially put water out of service after tests revealed dangerously high lead and copper levels above the federal limits at which a school has to take action. After replacing water fixtures throughout the schools and conducting multiple rounds of testing, the principals say the water in the schools is now safe to drink again.

Benton Elementary put water back in service on Friday and Clinton Elementary did the same around Dec. 6.

Action must be taken when more than 10 percent of samples show that a water supply’s lead level is above 15 parts per billion for residential areas and 20 parts for schools, or when a water supply’s copper level is above 1.3 parts per million, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Lead is most dangerous to children, because it can cause developmental and behavioral delays. High levels of copper can cause harmful symptoms such as nausea and irritation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The original tests at Benton Elementary, conducted by the Kennebec Water District in October, were taken at three locations throughout the school and showed levels of lead at 670, 78 and 57 parts per billion.

The school has since replaced all water fixtures, according to Principal Brian Wedge, and the water district replaced the water meter with an updated, lead-free version.

Teachers are regularly running the faucets in classrooms for a few minutes on Mondays in an effort to “flush” the water, Wedge said. Flushing gets the water that has sat in the pipes overnight out of the system, so the water people do get comes directly from the water utility’s system.

After all fixtures were changed, the school hired Waterville engineering firm A.E. Hodsdon to take additional samples. All test results were below the federal action level.

The samples, taken Dec. 1, showed lead levels ranging from 1.29 to 13.9 parts per billion at four testing sites. The highest level was found in the water at the boiler room spigot, which once had the highest lead level – 670 parts per billion.

The firm also found that the water samples had copper levels below 0.5 parts per million.

After the district received the unexpected results from Benton, it had tests done at all of its other schools.

A.E. Hodsdon found that Clinton Elementary School also had levels of lead and copper above the federal limit for schools at some areas in the building.

The results from Nov. 14 showed one site with a lead level of 150 parts per billion and another site with a copper level of 1.5 parts per million.

After faucets and fountains were replaced throughout the school, samples from the school’s water showed all levels to be within federal limits. The town also paid to replace a water meter at the entrance to the school.

Lead levels in the water samples ranged from 2.64 to 10.2 parts per billion, and copper levels ranged from 0.12 to 0.82 parts per million.

Three Maine drinking water associations have since partnered with the state’s Drinking Water Program in an effort to provide financial and technical support to schools and water utilities for voluntary lead testing. The program will pay for public water utilities to conduct up to 10 tests at each school that they service.

Neither the state nor the federal government requires schools to test their water if they’re serviced by a public water utility. While water utilities have to test their supplies, lead leaching often occurs after the water enters a building’s system, which may have older pipes that contain lead soldering.

]]> 0, 09 Dec 2016 19:22:49 +0000
The polar vortex is coming: Here’s how cold it could get Fri, 09 Dec 2016 22:54:52 +0000 Winter’s first polar vortex blast, already taking shape in the Arctic this weekend, targets the Lower 48 next week. By Tuesday, temperatures below zero will plunge south into the northern plains and Midwest. Over the course of a few days, the cold air will blast across the country to the Northeast.

The northern tier has already seen a taste of what this winter has to offer – in fact, the region is already experiencing a significant cold snap. On Thursday morning, the temperature in Billings, Mont., dropped to minus-3. It was the first time the location saw a temperature below zero in 698 days, since Jan. 9, 2015. Almost the entire state of North Dakota is under a wind chill advisory – the National Weather Service is calling for temperatures that feel like minus-35.

Next week’s cold blast will dive farther south and east.

Weather forecast models are suggesting temperatures will nosedive in the Midwest. All of Minnesota and Wisconsin – plus the Chicagoland area – could see overnight lows plummet into negative territory: minus-15 in Minneapolis, minus-10 in Milwaukee and minus-5 in the Chicagoland area around Wednesday or Thursday.

The forecast is 20 to 35 degrees below average for this time of year.

This National Weather Service map shows the forecast for Saturday.

This National Weather Service map shows the forecast for Saturday. Image from National Weather Service

What will likely be the coldest air since last February will barge into the mid-Atlantic and Northeast late next week. Daytime temperatures from Washington to Boston will struggle to climb above freezing. Overnight lows will surely be in the single digits and teens, if not below zero in parts of New England.

Through Thursday, 75 percent of the Lower 48 will have experienced a temperature below freezing, including Texas, the Deep South and the Pacific Northwest, based on National Weather Service forecasts.

The frigid air tied up in this polar vortex blast has its origins in Siberia and northern Canada. It will be the coldest air of the season so far for most of the United States. Future cold blasts may be more potent, but we haven’t experienced this since last February.

The polar vortex is not a new thing – it’s a weather term that was popularized in 2014, though it’s always been something meteorologists knew of and referred to among themselves.

It’s a very large, extremely cold air mass over the Arctic (the Antarctic has one, too). The concentrated area of cold air is bound by the jet stream, which is a current of fast-moving air at very high levels of the atmosphere. When the jet stream is strong and keeps the polar vortex area bottled up north, temperatures can fall to minus-100 degrees.

The vortex is always present – even in the summer. But winter is when it really comes alive – not only is Arctic air colder because of the lack of sunlight, this is also when the jet stream plunges south. When that happens, it allows the cold air to spill south, like a freezer with the door left open.

Some of the most historic cold-air outbreaks of the past 30 years have been caused by the polar vortex diving south.

]]> 0, 09 Dec 2016 18:24:07 +0000
South Portland city councilor hospitalized following heart attack Fri, 09 Dec 2016 22:17:32 +0000 SOUTH PORTLAND — City Councilor Brad Fox is counting himself fortunate after having a mild heart attack and being admitted to Maine Medical Center in Portland on Wednesday evening.

Fox, who is 69, is scheduled to have quadruple bypass surgery sometime next week after undergoing a variety of tests that found four blocked arteries, the city councilor said in a phone interview Friday afternoon.

“I’m feeling really lucky,” Fox said. “I’m glad they will be able to fix it.”

A retired school administrator, Fox had experienced intermittent chest and abdominal pain over the last two weeks, first while walking his dog, then even while resting. Other possible causes were considered before a blood test finally detected enzymes indicating that his heart was in distress.

Fox, who has survived two bouts of cancer, said he expects to be in the hospital until he has surgery and for several days afterward.

He has served two years of a three-year term as District 5 councilor, during which time he has ruffled some feathers at City Hall and in the community by pushing controversial proposals and contradicting common practices.

]]> 0, 09 Dec 2016 17:35:54 +0000
One person hurt in crash on Mallett Drive in Freeport Fri, 09 Dec 2016 22:11:21 +0000 One person was hurt in a crash on Mallett Drive in Freeport Friday afternoon that snarled traffic along Main Street.

A Freeport police dispatcher said the crash was reported shortly after 2 p.m. on the road, which connects Upper Main Street and Durham Road.

She said one person was taken to the hospital, but she didn’t know the extent of the injuries or have any other details on the incident.

]]> 0 Fri, 09 Dec 2016 17:11:21 +0000
Wiscasset police investigate attack by two pit bulls Fri, 09 Dec 2016 21:59:50 +0000 Wiscasset police are investigating an attack by pit bulls Wednesday night that left a small dog badly injured and wounded a woman who tried to intervene.

Two pit bulls escaped a fenced-in yard on Ward Brook Road and attacked a small dog that was outside with its owner at a neighboring house, according to Wiscasset Police Chief Jeff Lange. When a neighbor tried to stop the attack, she was bitten by one of the pit bulls, Lange said. The woman was transported to the hospital and the injured dog to a veterinary office. The dog survived the attack but was badly injured, Lange said.

The dogs are currently locked up at their owner’s home and the case is being investigated by the animal control officer, Lange added.

The case is a civil matter but could result in criminal charges, Lange said.

]]> 0 Fri, 09 Dec 2016 20:08:43 +0000
Two men indicted in Memorial Day shooting in Portland Fri, 09 Dec 2016 21:32:53 +0000 Two men whose quarrel over a woman led to a shooting on Memorial Day in Portland have been indicted by the Cumberland County grand jury.

Fred O. Dodge and Sam Iserbyt were both charged with criminal threatening with a deadly weapon and reckless conduct with a deadly weapon.

Iserbyt, 48 at the time, was shot in his left thigh as he and Dodge struggled over Iserbyt’s handgun at Iserbyt’s house in Portland’s West End. Iserbyt said in an interview with the Portland Press Herald a few days after the shooting that Dodge believed the two were competing for the affections of a mutual friend.

Iserbyt said Dodge had been texting the woman, who told Dodge not to contact her again. Iserbyt said he and the woman had dated briefly and remained friends.

Iserbyt said that Dodge believed Iserbyt had urged the woman to rebuff Dodge and was tipped off on Memorial Day that Dodge was headed to his house. Iserbyt said he knew that Dodge was often armed, so he armed himself with an assault rifle and pistol and sat on his porch.

Iserbyt said he aimed his rifle’s laser sight at Dodge’s head, but Dodge twisted the rifle out of Iserbyt’s hands. Then, as the two grappled for Iserbyt’s pistol, the gun went off and hit Iserbyt in the leg.

Authorities did not provide Dodge’s hometown and age.

]]> 0 Fri, 09 Dec 2016 20:10:19 +0000
New House speaker, LePage agree to resolve impasse on forensic psychiatric center Fri, 09 Dec 2016 21:26:26 +0000 AUGUSTA — House Speaker Sara Gideon said a one-on-one meeting with Gov. Paul LePage Friday led to an agreement that could clear the way for the administration to build a new, 21-bed secure mental health facility next to the state’s Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta.

Democratic legislative leaders have blocked construction of the facility on the state property, saying they want a chance to review the plan.

Gideon, D-Freeport, said the hourlong meeting with LePage produced a tentative agreement that the administration would answer lingering questions lawmakers have about the facility, which LePage’s Department of Health and Human Services wants to be privately operated. Gideon said her next step was to share the agreement with her Democratic colleagues and Republican Senate President Mike Thibodeau.

“(Lepage and I) have agreed on a next step and I need to make sure that both President Thibodeau and the other legislative leaders are comfortable with that,” she said.

Gideon would not say exactly what process she and the governor agreed to, but said she believes lawmakers would be able to move quickly, and that the standoff between legislative Democrats and LePage would come to an end by Christmas.

LePage’s spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett, agreed with Gideon’s characterization of the meeting, saying LePage had agreed to get answers for Democrats and that he, too, viewed the meeting as productive. However, Bennett also said the administration was not changing course in its efforts to find an alternative location for the facility outside of Augusta and at a location that doesn’t need the approval of the Legislature’s governing body, the Legislative Council.

“He is moving forward as planned,” Bennett said. “He has agreed to answer the questions that the Democrats may have along the way, but that’s not going to slow the process, because the patients are deserving of this facility in a timely manner; they’ve waited long enough.”


The proposal for a new treatment center is aimed in part at regaining federal certification for Riverview and the $20 million annual funding reimbursement that comes with it. It also is meant to free up bed space for those with violent mental illness by moving forensic patients in state custody who no longer need hospital-level care to the new, so-called “step-down” facility.

On Thursday, for the second time in two weeks, the Legislative Council split along party lines on the issue, blocking the administration’s efforts to move forward with the new unit. The facility would house people who have been found not criminally responsible for crimes by a court because of a mental illness, but who are too dangerous to return to the community. Under state law, the Legislative Council must approve any new construction on state property in the Capitol Area of Augusta, which includes the State House grounds and the campus at Riverview on the east side of the Kennebec River.

DHHS officials have said they have the funds to build and operate the new facility, which has a tentative price tag of about $3.5 million.

House Republicans, who have supported LePage by voting for the new facility, said Friday they want a swift resolution.

“The governor’s interest in a new facility is, first and foremost, getting it done quickly, not about who gets credit,” House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, said in a statement. “The issue is about location and House Republicans will continue to push for action sooner rather than later.”

Gideon, who was chosen as House speaker on Wednesday, has long maintained that Democrats recognize the state is in a crisis situation and they, too, agree a new facility in Augusta is needed.

“Number one, this facility does need to be built; there are a variety of reasons why it has to happen,” Gideon said. “Number two, Augusta, next to Riverview, is really the logical best place for it. And, number three, it would both protect the safety of the public and the population at this facility.”

She said lawmakers still have concerns about how the facility will be operated, who will be housed there and how it will be paid for, as well as ensuring patients’ rights are protected.


Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, said during a radio interview on WZON, AM 620, on Friday that he, too, believes the Legislature should have some oversight and be involved in the process of developing a new mental health facility.

“We just got to be smart about it,” he said. “The governor has proposed a new facility on the Riverview campus. … It is perfectly appropriate, but there are numerous questions” such as how the additional treatment capacity will be used and about the proposal that it be privately run.

“That (privatization) is a huge, huge decision,” he said. “It may well be a good one, but this is a decision that the Legislature ought to weigh in on.”

The federal agency that oversees Riverview’s funding revoked the hospital’s certification in 2013 after regulators found many problems during an audit, including the use of stun guns, pepper spray and handcuffs on patients, improper record-keeping, medication errors and failure to report progress made by patients. That agency, the Center for Medicaid Services, also determined that Riverview was improperly commingling patients who needed intense hospital treatment with those who no longer required hospitalization.

Lawmakers have been wrangling over how to fix Riverview and expand the state’s capacity to treat the mentally ill for at least four years. They have also tried to tackle staffing and morale issues at the hospital, where health care workers have been attacked and injured by patients, by increasing salaries there.

Staffing issues have persisted and in 2015 lawmakers learned that more than 50 of the hospital’s 364 positions remained vacant, and 47 of those vacancies were for nurses.


]]> 0, 10 Dec 2016 00:06:57 +0000
One-third of long-term users say they got hooked on prescription opioids Fri, 09 Dec 2016 20:31:30 +0000 One-third of Americans who have taken prescription opioids for at least two months say they became addicted to, or physically dependent on, the powerful painkillers, according to a new Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation survey.

Virtually all long-term users surveyed said that they were introduced to the drugs by a doctor’s prescription, not by friends or through illicit means. But more than 6 in 10 said doctors offered no advice on how or when to stop taking the drugs. And 1 in 5 said doctors provided insufficient information about the risk of side effects, including addiction.

The survey raises sharp questions about the responsibility of doctors for an epidemic of addiction and overdose that has claimed nearly 180,000 lives since 2000. Opioid deaths surged to more than 30,000 last year, according to new data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with deaths from heroin alone surpassing the toll from gun homicides.

Doctors have been widely blamed for sparking the crisis by overprescribing highly addictive opioids to treat everyday pain. The survey suggests that they are still doing too little to stop it.

“Why isn’t it 100 percent?” demanded Gary Mendell, founder of Shatterproof, a grass-roots group dedicated to reducing addiction in the United States, referring to the share who say doctors have counseled them on stopping the medication. “It’s unbelievable that it’s not 100 percent.”


Patrice A. Harris, chairwoman of the American Medical Association’s Board of Trustees and chair of its task force to reduce opioid abuse, acknowledged that doctors could do more to counsel patients on avoiding addiction.

“The doctors that I have talked to are discussing this with their patients,” Harris said. But, citing the survey, she added: “We could certainly do a better job.”

Despite the high rate of dependence, the poll finds that a majority of long-term opioid users say the drugs have dramatically improved their lives. Opioids relieve pain that is otherwise intractable, they said in follow-up interviews, allowing them to walk, work and pursue other activities. Fully two-thirds of users surveyed said relief is well worth the risk of addiction.

People living with opioid users tend to have a darker view of the drugs’ effects. While one-third of users say they are hooked, more than half of people living with them suspect addiction, the survey found. Family members are also far more likely to say the drugs have damaged the users’ physical and mental health, finances and personal relationships.


Still, the survey’s findings highlight a fundamental conflict: While the drugs are a scourge for many, they are a godsend to others, especially the estimated 100 million Americans who live in chronic pain. Efforts by policymakers to restrict use have been met with outrage.

“We’re not saying that no one should ever be on these pills,” but most people would be “healthier and more functional if they were off them,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, who this spring urged doctors to sharply limit the number of pills they prescribe.

“The bottom line here is that prescription opiates are as addictive as heroin. They’re dangerous drugs,” Frieden said. “You take a few pills, you can be addicted for life. You take a few too many and you can die.”

Opioid abuse – both prescription painkillers and their chemical cousins, heroin and fentanyl – is the main cause of rising death rates among middle-aged white Americans, particularly women in rural areas. It also has contributed to the first overall decline in U.S. life expectancy at birth in more than two decades, the government reported Thursday.

In 2014, U.S. doctors wrote 240 million prescriptions for opiates, enough for every adult to have their own bottle of pills. The CDC estimated that about 2.1 million Americans are addicted to legal narcotics.

In the first-ever guidelines on opioids for physicians, the CDC in March urged doctors to try nonnarcotic methods before offering patients pills containing oxycodone, hydrocodone and other opioids. The guidelines noted that there is little evidence that opioids are effective beyond 12 weeks.

“Three days or less will often be sufficient; more than seven days will rarely be needed,” the guidelines say.

But many people take the drugs much longer. In the past two years, about 5 percent of American adults have used prescription opioids for at least two months, the poll found; about half of those report taking the drugs for two years or more.

In Williamsport, Pennsylvania, William Mundell, 49, took oxycodone for four years after back surgery. He switched to the non-narcodic medication gabapentin. His fear of becoming addicted to opoid pain medications was influenced by his son's addiction to heroin.

In Williamsport, Pennsylvania, William Mundell, 49, took oxycodone for four years after back surgery. He switched to the non-narcodic medication gabapentin. His fear of becoming addicted to opoid pain medications was influenced by his son’s addiction to heroin. Erin Patrick O’Connor, The Washington Post

For the survey, one of the most comprehensive polls of long-term opioid users to date, The Post and Kaiser interviewed 622 people who said that they had taken narcotic painkillers for at least two months over the past two years. The survey also included 187 people who said they share a household with an opioid user, usually a spouse or a parent.

The survey did not include people who were treated for cancer or a terminal illness. At the time of the interview, 45 percent of long-term users were no longer taking the drugs, while 55 percent were still taking them. Users were slightly more likely than the general public to be white and far more apt to be middle-aged.

Nearly all long-term users (95 percent) said that they began taking the drugs to relieve pain from surgery, an injury or a chronic condition. Just 3 percent said that they started as recreational users.

More than 8 in 10 said that they tried to manage their pain with nonnarcotic medication; about 7 in 10 said that they tried alternative treatments, such as physical therapy and acupuncture. More than half (57 percent) found those methods ineffective.


Charles Stonesifer, 74, a former bricklayer who lives in Baltimore, has taken Tylenol with codeine and then Tramadol over the past two years. “Both my knees are shot,” he said, adding that he would be unable to walk without narcotics.

Stonesifer said that he had no trouble giving up the drugs when he tried, but his pain returned and he was forced to resume taking them.

“If they actually stopped you from getting the drugs, it would be very difficult for me,” Stonesifer said. “It would put me in a wheelchair instead of being able to get around. And once you’re in a wheelchair, you never get up.”

Nancy Horton, 62, of Martinsburg, W.Va., admits that she is addicted to the 190 milligrams of oxycodone she takes daily to dull the pain of rheumatoid arthritis. Without the drugs, “I get the shakes. I am very anxious,” she said. “I just pace constantly. I can’t get comfortable.”

After 15 years on opioids, she said, “I look back now and think, ‘What could I have done differently?’ ”

Sizable minorities of respondents report using the drugs for purposes other than managing pain. Such behavior is much more common among people who say they are addicted or physically dependent on opioids. Among this group, 47 percent say they sometimes take the drugs for “fun or to get high”; 38 percent use them to “deal with day-to-day stress”; and 30 percent use them to “relax or relieve tension.”

Side effects are widespread. Over half of long-term users said that they have experienced constipation; almost as many felt indigestion, dry mouth or nausea; and 15 percent said that they have had breathing problems. One in 5 (21 percent) have taken additional medications to treat those symptoms.

More than half (52 percent) of long-term users said that they have taken other prescription medications for anxiety, depression and sleeplessness while on opioids, and 1 in 6 said that they have consumed the drugs along with alcohol – risky combinations that could have dire consequences. Overall, nearly 6 in 10 said that they take at least four prescription drugs, and about one-third said that they take seven or more medications.


The survey revealed a largely positive relationship between opioid consumers and their doctors. Large majorities said doctors have warned them to avoid alcohol, cautioned them about possible side effects and explained the risk of addiction.

But 61 percent said that their doctors did not suggest a plan for getting off the drugs when they were first prescribed, and more than half said doctors have not altered their dose or frequency. Among long-term users who stopped taking opioids, 34 percent said the termination of their prescription was a reason.

Just 4 percent said that they have a prescription for naloxone, the drug that can be administered by someone else in an emergency to reverse the effect of an overdose.

While about a quarter of long-term users said a friend or family member has suggested they stop taking the drug, two-thirds said that they are “not too” or “not at all” concerned about becoming addicted. And about 6 in 10 of those who report being addicted have not sought treatment or other help.

Yngvild Olsen, chair of the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s public policy committee, said doctors “have a vital role to play in addressing the epidemic, not only by changing their prescribing patterns and learning a lot about more about chronic pain management and addiction, but also by stepping up to the plate in learning how to treat addiction.”

Emily Guskin, Monica Akhtar and Erin Patrick O’Connor contributed to this report.

]]> 0, 09 Dec 2016 15:50:15 +0000
Data skimming is occurring at some Maine gas stations, state officials say Fri, 09 Dec 2016 20:18:34 +0000 AUGUSTA – Maine state officials say credit card data skimming is taking place at gas stations throughout the state.

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Division of Quality Assurance says it is alerting the public in the wake of illegal skimming devices found at gas stations by investigators in Brewer this week.

The agency says similar reports have also implicated drive-thru tellers at banks, ATMs and restaurants.

The agency’s inspectors who check gas pumps for accuracy also search for skimmers, which the state says is a growing problem in Maine.

Agriculture Commissioner Walt Whitcomb says inspectors are also working with gas station owners to prevent skimming.

Skimming devices are small and can be fastened near credit card readers by criminals to capture data from the magnetic strip on the cards.

]]> 0 Fri, 09 Dec 2016 21:51:47 +0000
Bill Townsend, a ‘giant’ in Maine’s conservation community, dies at 89 Fri, 09 Dec 2016 18:54:50 +0000 Friends and former colleagues are mourning the death of Clinton “Bill” Townsend, a tireless advocate for river restoration who helped lead many of the state’s environmental organizations over the decades.

Townsend, of Canaan, died Thursday at age 89, his family said. He was a Skowhegan attorney but was best known for his decades-long involvement in environmental issues – particularly river health – and his leadership of many of the organizations and boards that work to protect Maine’s natural resources.

“He had this terrific internal drive and he was involved with history-making initiatives in Maine that transformed how we think about rivers and the life they contain – the fisheries,” said Landis Hudson, executive director of Maine Rivers, one of the organizations that Townsend helped to lead.

Over a 50-year span, Townsend also was president of the Natural Resources Council of Maine during its early years and served on the boards of the Maine chapter of The Nature Conservancy, the Atlantic Salmon Federation and the Somerset Woods Trustees.

A lifelong fisherman, Townsend was a passionate advocate for cleaner rivers and restoring fish passage around the dams that have blocked or impeded migratory fish – such as Atlantic salmon and alewives – in some cases for centuries. He helped lead the effort to remove the Edwards Dam on the Kennebec River as well as numerous smaller dams, worked on the creation of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, and was a prominent voice against the massive Big-A and Dickey-Lincoln hydroelectric proposals.

Townsend also served for a decade on the board of the Land for Maine’s Future program, served on the Land Use Regulation Commission and represented the United States on the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization.

“There is no river in Maine that has not been touched and improved by his work,” Hudson said.

A New York City native, Townsend moved to Maine with his wife, Louise, in 1957. He would later recount in interviews how he was prompted to get involved in environmental causes by the polluted state of Maine’s major rivers in the 1950s and 1960s.

Eliza Townsend said her father was passionate about “running water” and was proud of his involvement in many of those big-picture efforts, whether restoring fish passage in the Kennebec or opposing the Big-A dam on the Penobscot. As a child, Eliza Townsend remembers camping “everywhere” and said her parents made a point of visiting every corner of the state.

“His impact was enormous in so many ways, but it was fueled by his passion for this state. He wanted everyone else to have the same opportunity to enjoy this state the way that we did,” said Eliza Townsend, a former state lawmaker and commissioner of the Maine Department of Conservation. She now serves as executive director of the Maine Women’s Lobby and the Maine Women’s Policy Center.

Even in his elder years, Townsend was a fairly common face – and voice – at legislative hearings and public meetings, pushing to restore alewives to the St. Croix River or weighing in on Plum Creek Timber Co.’s development plans for the Moosehead Lake region. He and his wife also were heavily involved in civic activities in their hometown of Canaan and in the Skowhegan area.

Lisa Pohlmann, executive director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, which Townsend joined in the early 1960s after reading about the fledgling organization in the newspaper, called Townsend “a giant” in Maine’s conservation movement.

“Bill fought for clean water, clear skies, a toxic-free environment, rich habitat for our native wildlife, and access to the outdoors for Maine people and visitors to our state,” Pohlmann wrote on the council’s website. “Maine is a better place because of Bill, and so many of us are better people for having known him.”

U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine referred to Townsend as “a dear friend and one of my most treasured mentors.”

“He was a man of enormous intellect and even greater character who fought tirelessly to deliver justice for people across Maine and who worked unceasingly to preserve and protect Maine lands and resources for the enjoyment of future generations,” King said in a prepared statement. “I will miss Bill tremendously, but am grateful for his many years of friendship and counsel, and more importantly, for all that he has done on behalf of our beloved state.”


]]> 0, 09 Dec 2016 23:35:35 +0000
Obama orders review of email hacking during election Fri, 09 Dec 2016 17:37:02 +0000 President Barack Obama has ordered intelligence officials to conduct a broad review of election-season cyberattacks, including the email hacks that rattled the presidential campaign and raised fresh concerns about Russia’s meddling in U.S. elections, the White House said Friday.

The review, led by intelligence agencies, will be a “deep dive” into a possible pattern of increased “malicious cyber activity” timed to the campaign season, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said. The review will look at the tactics, targets, key actors and the U.S. government’s response to the recent email hacks, as well as incidents reported in past elections, he said.

The president ordered up the report earlier this week and asked that it be completed before he leaves office next month, Schultz said.

“The president wanted this done under his watch because he takes it very seriously,” he said. “We are committed to ensuring the integrity of our elections.”

U.S. intelligence officials have accused Russia of hacking into Democratic officials’ email accounts in an attempt to interfere with the presidential campaign. The Washington Post reported Friday that the CIA has concluded that Russia aimed specifically to help Donald Trump win the presidency.

The Post said the CIA presented its assessment to senators last week. The newspaper’s report cited anonymous U.S. officials who were briefed on that closed-door meeting.

The Kremlin has rejected the hacking accusations.

Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine, and six others urged President Obama last week to declassify more details about the intrusions and why officials believe the Kremlin was behind the operation. And this week, top Democratic lawmakers in the House sent a letter to Obama urging briefings on Russian interference in the election.

Leading Senate Republicans say they are preparing to launch a wide-ranging probe into Russia’s meddling in the election and into potential cyberthreats to the military.

In the months leading up to the election, email accounts of Democratic Party officials and a top Hillary Clinton campaign aide were breached, emails leaked and embarrassing and private emails posted online. Many Democrats believe the hackings benefited Trump’s bid. Trump has downplayed the possibility that Russia was involved.

Schultz said the president sought the probe as a way of improving U.S. defense against cyberattacks and was not intending to question the legitimacy of Trump’s victory.

“This is not an effort to challenge the outcome of the election,” Schultz said.

Obama’s move comes as Democratic lawmakers have been pushing Obama to declassify more information about Russia’s role, fearing that Trump, who has promised a warmer relationship with Moscow, may not prioritize the issue.

Given Trump’s statements, “there is an added urgency to the need for a thorough review before President Obama leaves office next month,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., senior Democrat on the House intelligence committee. If the administration doesn’t respond “forcefully” to such actions, “we can expect to see a lot more of this in the near future,” he said.

The White House said it would make portions of the report public and would brief lawmakers and relevant state officials on the findings.

It emphasized the report would not focus solely on Russian operations or hacks involving Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and Democratic National Committee accounts. Schultz stressed officials would be reviewing incidents going back to the 2008 presidential campaign, when the campaigns of Sen. John McCain and Obama were breached by hackers.

Intelligence officials have said Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney were targets of Chinese cyberattacks four years later.

]]> 0, 09 Dec 2016 20:56:03 +0000
Austria’s word of the year: Bundespraesidentenstichwahlwiederholungsverschiebung Fri, 09 Dec 2016 17:04:04 +0000 VIENNA — For all those who don’t speak German — and indeed for those who do — here is Austria’s word of the year, adding to the challenges of reading and speaking the language.

It’s “Bundespraesidentenstichwahlwiederholungsverschiebung,” or “postponement of the repeat of the runoff of the presidential election.”

The tongue-twister was born of the record time it took to elect Austria’s president, and was announced following a poll of 10,000 people carried out by the Research Unit for Austrian German at the University of Graz, in cooperation with the Austria Press Agency.

A first round in April was followed by a May runoff between the two most popular candidates. This was annulled because of irregularities. A new date set for October was then postponed because of faulty absentee ballots to Dec. 4, when the vote was won by Alexander Van der Bellen.

]]> 0 Fri, 09 Dec 2016 12:04:04 +0000 Weekend Weather: bundle up! Fri, 09 Dec 2016 16:45:06 +0000 0, 09 Dec 2016 11:45:06 +0000 Despite the rain and snow, Maine drought persists Fri, 09 Dec 2016 16:31:05 +0000 AUGUSTA — The ground is covered with snow and starting to freeze across northern New England, but that doesn’t mean the drought is over.

Most of Maine remains in a severe drought going into the winter, and the freezing ground means there won’t be any major groundwater replenishment until the spring, when the snow melts, said Tom Hawley, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service.

Surface water levels across the state are now in the normal range, but groundwater levels are going to take longer to recover. Much will depend on the level of the snowpack.

“We just hope we can build up the snowpack so we have a decent amount of snow on the ground for the spring melt,” Hawley said.

The Maine Drought Task Force was told Friday that the situation has improved since September and October, when officials were carefully monitoring some public water supplies.

The Maine Emergency Management Agency is aware of only two reports of dry wells in the past two weeks, compared to hundreds over the course of the summer and earlier in the fall.

Recent weeks have brought rain and snow to the region, and more precipitation is on tap for next week. But the long-term forecast is uncertain.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration currently projects equal chances of this winter having above-normal or below-normal precipitation.

The Maine State Housing Authority has received another infusion of emergency funding – $200,000 – to help low-income residents drill new wells, said MEMA Director Bruce Fitzgerald. The agency received $250,000 over the summer, and that was “gone in a flash,” he said.

Poland Spring, the Good Shepherd Food Bank and the American Red Cross are partnering to get bottled water to people whose wells dry up, he said.

Looking forward, water districts, farmers and others who are big consumers of water need to be thinking ahead in the event dry conditions persist, Fitzgerald said.

]]> 0 Fri, 09 Dec 2016 20:27:57 +0000
New net opens a way to help fishermen and protect cod Fri, 09 Dec 2016 15:47:32 +0000 A team of scientists and fishermen led by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute has created a new kind of fishing net that can catch popular flatfish like yellowtail flounder without busting strict quotas set to protect the Atlantic cod from overfishing.

The new design shrinks the height of this cone-shaped, bottom-dragged net from 5 or 6 feet to about 2, and cuts away much of the top, allowing about half of the cod that would be caught in a traditional trawl to swim to freedom over the top of the smaller, cut-away net.

The ultra low opening trawl net, as seen in the water recirculating tank at the Marine Institute of Newfoundland. Note the headrope is longer than the groundgear, or sweep. Usually the headrope is shorter than the sweep. This enables cod to swim up and over the net, escaping capture, while bottom fish like the flounder are caught.

The ultra low-opening trawl net, seen in the water recirculating tank at the Marine Institute of Newfoundland. The headrope is longer than the groundgear, or sweep. Usually, the headrope is shorter than the sweep. The design enables cod to swim up and over the net, escaping capture, while bottom fish like the flounder are caught. Photo courtesy of Gulf of Maine Research Institute

Field tests show that the ultra low-opening trawl reduced the amount of cod caught by about 45 percent, but landed just as many flatfish, like yellowtail or dabs, as a traditional net dragged over the same area by the same fisherman, said research scientist Steve Eayrs, who joined the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in 2007 to head up its efforts to develop environmentally friendly fishing gear. It also reduced fuel consumption by about 7 percent.

“For the first time, fishermen in New England have to avoid cod as best they can, which is a reversal of 400 years worth of tradition,” Eayrs said. “Yet here we are, having some very good success pretty much straight off the bat. In effect, fishermen can fish almost twice as long using this trawl without being limited by their cod quota or losing other valuable fish.”

Catching the wrong fish, or catching too much of a low-quota fish like cod, can end a season for a commercial fisherman. In recent years, the interstate New England Fishery Management Council has slashed the number of cod that can be landed from the Gulf of Maine from about 1,550 metric tons in 2014 to 280 metric tons now. Fishermen who catch too many, even by accident, can be shut down for the season.

Regulators are trying various methods, including quotas, trip limits and gear restrictions, to help fishermen catch the right fish and avoid what’s known as bycatch, which can lead to overfishing low-quota species like cod or the discard of food fish such as haddock. The industry is trying to modify gear and techniques to better target some species while avoiding others to avoid burdensome quotas or closures.

Fishermen who trawl for herring off Georges Bank cited their fear of haddock bycatch – at certain times of the year, schools of haddock and herring swim together, making it hard for herring trawlers to avoid haddock, which is not a vulnerable species but an economically important one with its own markets, fleet and quotas – as a reason they didn’t land enough of the popular baitfish to supply Maine’s $500 million annual lobster industry.

Atlantic cod and the flounder family are considered groundfish, and Maine’s once sizable groundfish fleet has practically disappeared, falling from more than 300 boats in 1982 to about 50 today. In 2015, all the groundfish landed in Maine totaled less than 5 million pounds, and was valued at about $7.1 million, which is a little more than 1 percent of Maine’s total 2015 catch of all species, according to state data.

Researchers, fishermen and gear manufacturers would like to find a way to bring back Maine’s storied groundfishing fleet.

The ultra low-opening trawl test results bode well for future collaborations among fishermen, scientists and gear manufacturers to develop new ways to protect vulnerable fish without killing off the fisherman’s livelihood, reducing the availability of the flounder that remain both plentiful and popular with the consumer, or taking a bite out of an iconic sector of the New England economy.

The net redesign team was led by Eayrs, himself a former commercial fisherman in Australia, and Massachusetts state fisheries biologist Michael Pol. The team included four commercial fishermen from Massachusetts and New Hampshire, two other scientists and a Rhode Island netmaker. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Saltonstall-Kennedy program funded the $265,000 project in 2015, when it awarded $22 million in fisheries grants.

Gulf of Maine Research Institute scientist Steve Eayrs samples the catch landed aboard the Lisa Ann III. The new net caught as much flatfish as a traditional trawl, but cut the number of cod caught in half and vessel fuel use by 7 percent.

Gulf of Maine Research Institute scientist Steve Eayrs samples the catch landed aboard the Lisa Ann III. The new net caught as much flatfish as a traditional trawl, but cut the number of cod caught in half and vessel fuel use by 7 percent. Photo courtesy of Gulf of Maine Research Institute


Over the course of a year, the team came up with several prototype trawls intended to avoid cod, but chose this low-opening design for computer modeling, then a scale model of the same net for testing in a large recirculating water tank at the Marine Institute in Newfoundland. Based on those results, they commissioned the net maker to build a full-scale trawl for field tests.

Massachusetts fishing captain Jim Ford tested the low-opening net, alternately dragging it and a traditional trawl behind his boat, the Lisa Ann III, for two weeks in May just east of Newburyport. Ford liked the net enough to ask to keep it for his own use for the rest of the fishing season. Eayrs hopes he will tell his friends all about it.

The netmaker is building three more ultra low-opening nets that will be available for loan to Gulf of Maine fishermen at no cost in 2017.

“We only ask that fishermen share the landing and fuel results with the team,” Eayrs said.

If the fishermen like it, Eayrs is hopeful they will order nets like it from their net makers when it is time to replace their traditional trawl nets. The average trawl net usually has a lifespan of about five years for a typical fisherman, unless it becomes snagged on something when dragging the flat ocean bed and rips, Eayrs said. That means widespread change to this net would take time, and only happen if fishermen want it.

Although they have sometimes used gear restrictions to protect species, Eayrs said regulators would be unlikely to ever require flounder fishermen to use this new kind of net, because it would be considered redundant when cod is already managed by a strict quota system. Both regulators and researchers want fishermen to embrace a cod-aversion net like this one on their own rather than have it forced on them.

While fishermen are reluctant to invest in new technology, the savings promised by the new net is persuasive, Eayrs said. Not only is it cheaper, costing between $8,000 and $10,000 compared to the average $10,000 to $12,000 cost of a similarly sized traditional trawl, and easier on a fisherman’s gas budget, but the cod reduction means a fisherman can land more flounder without having to worry about buying extra cod quota.

“With numbers like that, we think the idea will catch on,” Eayrs said.


]]> 0, 09 Dec 2016 23:45:20 +0000
Annie Glenn: ‘When I called John, he cried. People just couldn’t believe that I could really talk.’ Fri, 09 Dec 2016 14:29:31 +0000 Well before he exited the Earth’s atmosphere, John Glenn flew at least 149 combat missions – 59 during World War II and 90 during the Korean War.

It must have been difficult on his wife, Annie Glenn (maiden name, Castor). To ease her fear, before each mission Glenn would utter the same words:

“I’m just going down to the corner store to get a pack of gum.”

“Don’t be long,” she would always respond.

He said it before he was propelled into space on Feb. 20, 1962, to become the first American to orbit the Earth. Years later, in 1998 when Glenn – a man possessing an “otherworldly spirit” – would exit earth’s gravitational pull at 77 years old, for the final time, they repeated the dialogue.

This time, he slipped her the perfect coda – a pack of gum – which she kept in a breast pocket until he returned to earth.

John and Annie were a strong couple – married 73 years – but while John spent his life in the air and on television, Annie spent hers here on Earth, focused on the people who often go unseen: the disabled.

“It really is worth everything to be able to help people,” Annie told The Washington Post in 1984.

And she did – despite, or more accurately because, of all she had to overcome.

To many, theirs was an odd coupling.

As John himself wrote, “We practically grew up in the same playpen. We never knew a time when we didn’t know each other.” (Annie says they were 2 years old when they met.)

But they were different. John was athletic and outgoing while Annie barely spoke, not because she didn’t have anything to say, but because when she did, people often assumed she was either deaf or mentally deficient.

For most of her life, Annie was afflicted with an 85 percent stutter, meaning she would become “hung-up on 85 percent of the words she tried to speak, which was a severe handicap,” as John put it.

Some of the inconveniences might seem small. John recalled them:

“For Annie, stuttering meant not being able to take a taxi because she would have to write out the address and give it to the driver because she couldn’t get the words out. It would be too embarrassing to try to talk about where she wanted to go. Going to the store is a tremendously difficult and frustrating experience when you can’t find what you want and can’t ask the clerk because you are too embarrassed of your stutter.”

Others were large. As The Post reported, once her daughter stepped on a nail. As blood gushed out, Annie couldn’t speak well enough to call 911. Instead, she found a neighbor to make the call for her.

She spent the early years of their marriage avoiding the spotlight. While John seemed to enjoy the television cameras, he clearly cared more for her privacy.

In his book about the Mercury 7 astronauts, “The Right Stuff,” Tom Wolfe recalled an incident perfectly highlighting this fact.

John Glenn had just sat for five hours sitting in the Friendship 7 capsule, but the mission was eventually scrapped due to the weather. Meanwhile, Annie sat in their home with Vice President Lyndon Johnson sitting outside and, in Wolfe’s words, hoping to “pour ten minutes of hideous Texas soul all over her on nationwide TV.”

Annie stuttered this to John over the phone, as he prepared to climb out of his spacesuit. She didn’t want the media attention, not with her stutter.

“Look, if you don’t want the vice president or the TV networks or anybody else to come into the house, than that’s it as far as I’m concerned,” John Glenn told her. “They are not coming in and I will back you up all the way and you tell them that! I don’t want Johnson or any of the rest of them to put so much as one toe inside our house!”

“As the wife of a famous astronaut, I had to deal with being constantly in the public eye. I had to deal with the press. And if this wasn’t hard enough, I had to do it all with a severe handicap,” Annie told The Post.

She continued, “Those were difficult times for me. In times of difficulty or defeat, it’s easy to think that we really have no choices. That we are trapped. I know I felt that way. Having tried, having failed so many times.”

Then, one day in 1973, the couple was watching the “Today” show. A doctor was discussing a new method of treatment for stutterers, an intensive three-week program in Roanoke, Virginia.

Annie enrolled. They made her relearn each letter of the alphabet. They forced her to go to a shopping center and . . . shop. To ask questions, for the first time.

They weren’t allowed to call friends or family for that three weeks. When it was over, Annie picked up the telephone.

“When I called John, he cried,” Annie said. “People just couldn’t believe that I could really talk.”

And when she got home, according to John Glenn’s memoir, she talked. He recalled one of her first lines: “John, I’ve wanted to tell you this for years. Pick up your socks.”

Joking aside, she was 53 years old, and she had found her calling.

Annie began giving speeches on behalf of her husband when he ran for Senate. After each speech, she would rush to greet those everyone else ignored – the disabled.

As The Post’s Myra MacPherson observed in 1984:

“After years of cruel slurs, of being overlooked by strangers, Annie Glenn seeks out the handicapped. In a crowd, she heads straight for those in wheelchairs. She has a sort of radar; finds the shyest person in the room and takes the time to draw him out. A group of deaf people were in the audience at one of her husband’s speeches. Afterward, Annie Glenn went over to them and soon was learning sign language. As the press crowded around Glenn, he looked over at his wife, who was signing “I Love You” to the deaf. ‘That’s what you should be covering,’ he told the reporters.”

Deciding to help those in need, she became an adjunct professor with the Speech Pathology Department at Ohio State University’s Department of Speech and Hearing Science.

“She is incredibly inspirational to students, many who have not had that much contact with people who stutter,” Rebecca McCauley, a professor in the department said. “Her influence is quite huge when speaking to students who are just getting into the field.”

In recognition of Annie (and John), the school renamed a street on its campus to Annie and John Glenn Avenue in 2015.

By that point, though, Annie Glenn had received many honors for her work with those trying to overcome their stutters. In 1983, she received the first national award of the American Speech and Hearing Association for “providing an inspiring model for people with communicative disorders.”

Eventually, the association named an award after her. In 1987, the first recipient of the Annie Glenn Award was James Earl Jones, an actor who had previously struggled with stuttering himself.

With Glenn’s death this week, Annie Glenn, now 96, is alone for the first time in 73 years. But her life has been a testament to strength in adversity.

As John Glenn once wrote of her: “It takes guts to operate with a disability. I don’t know if I would have had the courage to do all the things that Annie did so well.”

“We tend to think of heroes as being those who are well known,” he wrote, “but America is made up of a whole nation of heroes who face problems that are very difficult, and their courage remains largely unsung. Millions of individuals are heroes in their own right.”

“In my book, Annie is one of those heroes.”

]]> 0, 09 Dec 2016 09:49:42 +0000
Marine pilot found dead after ejecting off the coast of Japan Fri, 09 Dec 2016 14:18:22 +0000 The body of the Marine pilot that ejected more than a 100 miles off the coast of Japan was recovered by a Japanese Self-Defense Force vessel Thursday, the Marine Corps said in a statement.

Capt. Jake Frederick was pronounced dead shortly after he was pulled from the sea. He ejected from F/A-18C at approximately 6:40 p.m. local time Wednesday southeast of Iwakuni, Japan. The aircraft was assigned to 1st Marine Aircraft Wing based out of Okinawa.

A fellow F/A-18 flying with Frederick stayed in the area until it was forced to depart to refuel, Stars and Stripes reported. Over the course of the day, U.S. search and rescue efforts expanded, incorporating naval and air units from the Japanese Self Defense Forces.

The Marine Corps said that more information would be released in the coming days.

According to Stars and Stripes, Frederick was a graduate of W.B. Ray High School in Corpus Christi, Tex, and attended the University of Texas at Austin. He was married with a young son and was expecting a second child.

The cause of the incident is under investigation.

It is the fourth Marine Corps F/A-18 to crash since July. In August, because of an increasing number of training mishaps, the Marines temporarily grounded their entire fleet of F/A-18s.

First debuted in the 1980s, the F/A-18 is a multi-role fighter and is primarily used by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. It comes in a number of variants with both single- and two-seat configurations and has been exported to a handful of U.S. allies, including Canada and Kuwait.

]]> 0 Fri, 09 Dec 2016 18:19:04 +0000
Colombian president to collect Nobel without rebels in tow Fri, 09 Dec 2016 14:00:43 +0000 OSLO, Norway — Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos brought no members of the leftist FARC rebel group to Oslo for the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony because he didn’t want to “create a problem” for the Norwegian government, he said Friday.

“They will be here in heart and spirit,” Santos said of the rebel group, with whom he recently reached a peace agreement.

Santos will collect the Nobel Peace Prize on Saturday for his efforts to end a 52-year-old conflict that has left more than 200,000 dead. The prize went to him alone and not the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which is still designated as a terrorist group by many countries including the U.S.

“The FARC is not here is because I didn’t want to create a problem with the Norwegian government,” he said, adding a Spanish lawyer who served as a chief negotiator for the rebels would represent the rebels at the ceremony.

The entire FARC leadership — some 50 rebels in all — is unable to safely travel outside of Colombia because they face international arrest orders by the U.S. on drug-trafficking charges

Santos said legal procedures are underway in Colombia “in order for them to be completely free to go around the world.” He also said Colombia will ask other countries to remove the group from terror lists following the peace deal, which was formally ratified by lawmakers last week after an earlier version was rejected in a referendum.

“The EU has already taken some steps in that direction and I hope that the U.S. will take steps in that direction,” Santos said.

He denied, however, that the Colombian government has asked the U.S. to release Simon Trinidad, a FARC leader serving prison time in the U.S.

In a letter to the White House on Thursday, U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham said they had learned that the Santos government had approached the Obama administration about the issue. Releasing Trinidad, they warned, would jeopardize millions in U.S. funding for implementation of the peace accord.

“We have not asked for Simon Trinidad’s liberation,” Santos said. “That has not been an official request of the Colombian government to the American government.”

The new accord introduced 50 changes to the deal that was narrowly rejected by voters in a referendum in October. Santos said he hopes Colombia’s Constitutional Court on Monday will approve a fast-track procedure to implement it.

“An impossible dream just a few years ago is now a reality,” he said.

]]> 0, 09 Dec 2016 18:11:10 +0000
South Portland man pleads guilty in road rage machete attack Fri, 09 Dec 2016 13:11:30 +0000 AUBURN — A South Portland man accused of attacked another man with a machete after a road rage incident has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge.

The Sun Journal reported that Carlos Genoves, 52, was sentenced to more than two months in jail after pleading guilty to criminal threatening. Prosecutors dismissed two felony counts of aggravated assault and criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon.

Police say the man told officers the attack happened on Aug. 6 after he yelled at Genoves, of South Portland, who had allegedly been driving erratically on a Lewiston road.

Police say Genoves followed him to his home in Sabattus, and the two started to argue. That’s when police say Genoves removed a “machete-type knife” from the trunk of his car and attacked the man. He suffered minor injuries.

]]> 0 Fri, 09 Dec 2016 18:16:45 +0000
More than 1,000 Russian athletes took part in doping, according to report Fri, 09 Dec 2016 12:45:15 +0000 LONDON — A new report into systematic Russian doping details a wide-ranging “institutional conspiracy” that involved more than 1,000 athletes across more than 30 sports, including evidence corroborating large-scale sample swapping at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren said Friday the conspiracy involved the Russian Sports Ministry, national anti-doping agency and the FSB intelligence service, providing further of state involvement in a massive program of cheating and cover-ups.

“It is impossible to know just how deep and how far back this conspiracy goes,” McLaren said at a news conference in London. “For years, international sports competitions have unknowingly been hijacked by Russians. Coaches and athletes have been playing on an uneven field. Sports fans and spectators have been deceived. It’s time that this stops.”

McLaren said his conclusions were based on irrefutable forensic evidence, including DNA analysis proving that samples were swapped and other tests showing that doping bottles were opened.

The Canadian law professor’s investigation found that 15 Russian medalists in Sochi had their doping bottles tampered with, including athletes who won four gold medals. Names were not given.

McLaren also reported that Russia corrupted the 2012 London Olympics on an “unprecedented scale” but the full extent will “probably never be fully established.”

No Russian athlete tested positive at the time of the games, but McLaren said the sports ministry gave athletes a “cocktail of steroids … in order to beat the detection thresholds at the London lab.”

The findings confirmed and expanded on much of the evidence contained in McLaren’s first report issued in July.

His first report led WADA to recommend that Russia be excluded from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. The IOC rejected calls for an outright ban, allowing international federations to decide which Russian athletes could compete.

McLaren’s latest report will put pressure on the International Olympic Committee to take action ahead of the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. His findings will be sent to the IOC, which has two commissions looking into the allegations.

IOC President Thomas Bach has said stiff sanctions will be taken against any athletes and officials implicated in doping. He said he favors lifetime Olympic bans for anyone involved.

]]> 0, 09 Dec 2016 18:10:03 +0000
A cold wintry weekend followed by snow on Monday Fri, 09 Dec 2016 12:13:10 +0000 It’s going to feel like winter this weekend and will likely look like winter by Monday. The weather is tranquil on Saturday and Sunday, with no chance of precipitation but there will cold temperatures across New England.

All of the forecasting will be about a weather system on Monday. It appears very likely there will be some snow perhaps ending with some mixed precipitation along the coast depending on the track of the storm.  Right now this event isn’t looking major.  I would say most of us will stay under the 6 inch mark in terms of snowfall.  However, it’s only Friday morning and things can change a bit in terms of where the heaviest snow falls and the timing of the snow.

I would plan on delayed travel during parts of Monday. The timing of the storm will probably change over the next few days, so stay tuned to my latest forecasts.

The snow will end Monday evening and winter cold will follow for the rest of next week.  Winter is here folks, ready or not.

Snow is forecast to overspread Maine on Monday morning.

Snow is forecast to overspread Maine on Monday morning.

Before then, here’s what you can expect for the weekend ahead.

If you’re skiing…

Many ski resorts in Maine are now open with fresh new snow from this past week blanketing several areas. It will be a cold one, especially on Saturday in the mountains, which will see single digits in the early morning and only teens  by the afternoon in the highest elevations, with 20s elsewhere.

Cold air is firmly entrenched across the area this weekend.

Cold air is firmly entrenched across the area this weekend.

If you’re going hiking, biking, or running…

You will notice the cold this weekend for sure. Saturday and Sunday morning bring single numbers and teens to the region, which makes for a pretty cold hike, run, or bike ride. The good news? Wind chill won’t be much of an issue.

If you’re playing field games…

Both days will feature dry weather, but snow likely puts an end to field games this coming week. Stay tuned.

If you’re raking and gardening…

Most folks have completed raking, but you should put in snow stakes along your driveway this weekend. The ground may already be too frozen to do this without some muscle.

If you’re running errands and holiday shopping…

No weather issues this weekend, so go continue to put a dent on some holiday shopping.

]]> 0, 09 Dec 2016 18:03:02 +0000
Asked to check on woman, neighbor discovered apparent murder-suicide in Hebron Fri, 09 Dec 2016 11:14:32 +0000 HEBRON — He thought they were gruesome Halloween decorations, left over from October.

It was only after Carroll Daggett walked through the mudroom, past the body lying motionless and facedown on the porch, past the splatters of blood that flecked a nearby window and through the inner door with a spiderweb of cracked glass, that he saw the words spray-painted on the kitchen counter and knew something was wrong.

“VOW BREAKER,” the words read.

Daggett looked around. Words were sprayed on other walls as well.

Daggett, 71, had gone to the home of Anita and Daniel Randall on Marshall Pond Road, the sleepy dead-end lane where Daggett has lived for 36 years, after Anita Randall had called him Thursday, concerned that the Randalls’ daughter, Claire, had not answered her cellphone. Anita, who had filed for divorce from her minister husband this week, was not at home, so could he go check on Claire?

Daggett never found Claire, and after realizing the body on the porch was no dummy, he called state police. Then he called back Anita Randall.

“I told her, ‘Claire is not answering, and if you could come home, I suggest you come home.’ ”

Police found Claire Randall, 27, dead in the bathroom with multiple gunshot wounds. Her father, Daniel Randall, 56, lay on the porch, dead from an apparently self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head in what police say was a murder-suicide. The state medical examiner confirmed Friday that the gunshot wounds were the cause of death for both Claire Randall and Daniel Randall.

Police said Daniel Randall left Liberty Bay Recovery Center on Forest Avenue in Portland at 10 a.m. Thursday, having just completed a 90-day recovery program for alcohol treatment. He then bought a shotgun, drove to the house and broke in through the garage door because he did not have a key. He killed his daughter at 2 p.m. and spray-painted messages in five rooms of the house before killing himself, police said.

State police spokesman Steve McCausland said investigators believe Randall bought the shotgun at a store but did not know where. They are still investigating the circumstances of the purchase.

Randall was estranged from his family and had been served with divorce papers this week, state police said. Claire Randall had recently moved from Rhode Island to stay with her mother and her teenage brother in Maine. Neither her mother nor her brother was at home during the shootings.


Daggett said the Randall family moved into the tidy tan home just this summer, and he didn’t know them well, although he hauled the family’s trash every week and was familiar with their house. The couple came to Maine from Rhode Island so their son, Gabriel, could attend nearby Hebron Academy. Daggett had just met Claire on Tuesday, he said.

Daniel Randall had told Daggett that he was retired military, and a preacher. Police said Randall had been a chaplain in the Air Force.

To Daggett, an Army veteran, his neighbor’s time in the service showed in quiet ways. Daniel Randall seemed to show signs of stress, or maybe post-traumatic stress disorder, Daggett said. He struggled to hold eye contact. He would start sentences and then stop himself.

“He seemed to be a very pleasant person,” Daggett said of his new neighbor. “A sort of take-charge, family-type person.”

Recently, Daggett hadn’t seen Daniel around, and later heard from Anita that he had been in rehab.

Another family member, who identified herself as Molly and said she was Anita Randall’s daughter, declined to comment when reached Friday afternoon.

“We don’t want to talk to anyone,” she said. “Please respect us in this. It’s very, very hard.”

Daniel Randall previously served as pastor at First Congregational Church in Bristol, Rhode Island. In a letter to the congregation dated December 2014, Randall resigned his position, effective January 2015, after 12 years of service. In the letter, he said that his daughters Molly and Claire had been confirmed in the church.

“This is why my decision is so challenging at this time, but also is flavored with a hopeful and peaceful feeling,” he wrote in the letter, which does not give a reason for his resignation.


Randall grew up in Sheldon, Iowa, and was ordained by the Yale University Divinity School, according to an online history of the First Parish Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in Saco, where Randall was pastor in 1993-1994. Randall’s first wife, Greta, died after slipping and hitting her head while she picnicked with Daniel and their two children at Two Lights State Park during the Fourth of July weekend in 1993, the Associated Press reported at the time.

She was pregnant and the baby died the next day, according to the church history. Randall took a two-month leave of absence and then left the church in early 1994. He moved to Arizona and met Anita before returning to the Northeast and taking a position at Lee Congregational Church in Lee, New Hampshire, according to the Saco church history.

Randall worked at the Lee church from 1996 to 2002, said the Rev. Gail Kindberg, who replaced him when he left. She said she met Randall casually once or twice, but did not know him personally.

Randall joined the Air Force reserves as a chaplain in 2002, at the same time he became pastor at the Bristol Congregational Church, according to the church history. He was listed as an Air Force chaplain in a 2011 Palm Sunday service at the church.

Randall helped form the East Bay Food Pantry in Bristol in 2009, said Nicki Ann Tyska, the pantry’s executive director. Anita Randall was the pantry director until the family left Rhode Island in 2014, Tyska said. She knew the Randalls only in a professional capacity, Tyska said.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Anita Randall, her son, Gabe, and daughter Molly,” Tyska said.

Randall was an affiliated chaplain with Roger Williams University in Bristol from 2009 to 2012, but was not a full-time employee, said the university chaplain, the Rev. Nancy Hamlin Soukup. She started at Roger Williams in 2011 and knew Randall only professionally.

“I am heartbroken by this news, heartbroken,” Soukup said.

Detectives and evidence technicians worked late into Thursday night to process the scene and returned to the home Friday morning, McCausland said.

Randall did not have a criminal record in Maine, according to state public records.

Staff Writer Gillian Graham contributed to this report.

This video features Daniel Randall, who police suspect killed his adult daughter Thursday, then killed himself.

]]> 0, 10 Dec 2016 00:44:55 +0000
Two people shot at party in Auburn Fri, 09 Dec 2016 11:05:43 +0000 Two people were shot early Friday morning at a party on Bowdoin Street in Auburn, according to police.

Police were called to a reported shooting at the residence of DeWayne Williams at 241 Bowdoin Street around 2:20 a.m. Friday. Two men who had been shot had already been taken to hospitals in private cars before officers arrived.

Police say Michael Williams, 26, of Lewiston and 23-year-old Justin Botelho of Cranston, Rhode Island, were shot during an altercation inside the residence.

Michael Williams underwent surgery at Central Maine Medical Center and remained hospitalized Friday night, police said. Botelho was treated and released from St. Mary’s Hospital Friday morning.

In a Facebook post Friday night, Auburn police said they were trying to locate Mickiel James, a 28-year-old transient, in connection with the shooting incident. They said he previously lived in Lewiston and Dorchester, Massachusetts.

“James is being sought for questioning and is not considered wanted at this time,” police said in the post.

Police are still trying to identify the shooter and determine a motive. They said they are confident the shooting was an isolated incident and not a random act.

Detectives executed a search warrant at the Bowdoin Street residence to process evidence.

]]> 0 Fri, 09 Dec 2016 23:06:15 +0000
Adolf Burger, printer forced by Nazis to forge bank notes, dies at 99 Fri, 09 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 The experience, Adolf Burger would later recall, was like being “corpses on holiday.” Imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp north of Berlin, he was detailed to Operation Bernhard, a massive Nazi plot that relied on concentration camp inmates to forge British currency.

The fake bank notes – a total of more than 130 million pounds – were to be dropped by Luftwaffe airplanes over England in an attempt to upset the British economy. Although ultimately aborted, the top-secret plan, unknown at the time even to the camp commandant, is believed to have been one of the largest attempts ever at financial sabotage.

“It was a forgery factory,” said Margaret Shannon, a Washington-based research historian who collaborated on a book about the episode.

Because the scheme depended on the labor and skill of inmates – craftsmen, bankers, at least one professional counterfeiter and book printers such as Burger – the prisoners received some special privileges, such as the provision of blankets, civilian clothing, cigarettes and extra food. But they knew that at any time they might be killed, and it was only amid the chaos as the Allies advanced in 1945 that they escaped execution.


“In a way, it was worse than Auschwitz because we knew for certain they were going to kill us because of what we had done,” Burger later told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Burger, whose account of Operation Bernhard was later dramatized in the Oscar-winning Austrian film “The Counterfeiters,” died Dec. 6 in Prague. He was 99. The Associated Press reported his death, citing an announcement on the public broadcaster Czech Radio. The cause was not immediately available.

Burger was born on Aug. 12, 1917, to a Jewish family in Velka Lomnica, a village in what was then Austria-Hungary and is now northern Slovakia. Trained as a typographer, he did his earliest counterfeiting as a member of the Communist underground, producing false baptism papers in an effort to help Jews survive persecution.

Slovakia, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, was the first Axis partner to permit the deportation of its Jews for the Final Solution. Burger was arrested in 1942, the day before his 25th birthday, and deported with his wife, Gisela, to Auschwitz, where she perished.


“I had two choices: either to go and touch the barbed wire with 1,000 voltage in it and be dead in a second, or stay alive,” Burger later said in a radio interview cited by the AP. “I chose life, so I can tell everyone what they have done here.”

He withered to 80 pounds and was infected with typhus in a Nazi medical experiment, the Wall Street Journal reported in a 2007 profile. He said that a guard took a rifle to his face and knocked out his teeth simply because his given name was, like Hitler’s, Adolf.

But in 1944, Burger was informed that he had been chosen for a special assignment. Ordered by SS chief Heinrich Himmler and named for its SS overseer, Bernhard Krueger, the project involved roughly 140 inmates selected mainly from Auschwitz on the basis of their prewar professional expertise.

They were gathered at Sachsenhausen and housed in two barracks with windows painted over so that their activities could not be observed. Inside, the men churned out millions of bank notes, adhering to the highest standards of quality, as required by the Nazis, but sometimes engaging in delaying tactics to sabotage the effort.

“Britannia was hard” to capture, Burger told the Journal, referring to the depiction in the top-left corner of the bank note of the toga-clad, spear-wielding symbol of Great Britain.

The inmates also forged stamps, passports and U.S. dollars, but the British bank notes accounted for the bulk of their work.Germany never managed to deliver the counterfeit money to England, Shannon said.Burger wrote several memoirs, including one translated in English as “The Devil’s Workshop: A Memoir of the Nazi Counterfeiting Operation.”

]]> 0 Fri, 09 Dec 2016 07:58:15 +0000
With traffic up 12 percent on Interstate 295, state says ‘volume is really pressing capacity’ Fri, 09 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Traffic on Interstate 295, as seen Thursday evening looking southbound from the Bucknam Road overpass in Falmouth, increased by 12 percent from 2009 to 2015, and is expected to rise even more this year. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Traffic on Interstate 295, as seen Thursday evening looking southbound from the Bucknam Road overpass in Falmouth, increased by 12 percent from 2009 to 2015, and is expected to rise even more this year. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Average daily traffic volumes on Interstate 295 increased by 12 percent from 2009 to 2015 and are projected to rise again this year, the Maine Department of Transportation said Thursday.

Congestion on the busy highway has increased to the point that it is affecting how Maine State Police respond to collisions and enforce traffic laws there.

“During those rush hour times it’s nearly impossible to safely do enforcement work” said Lt. Walter F. Grzyb of Troop B in Gray, which is responsible for policing I-295. “By having a car pulled over on the side of the road, you’re actually creating more of a hazard than you’re fixing.”

Grzyb said his troopers try to increase their presence on I-295 during high-traffic periods to create a visual deterrent to would-be lawbreakers, taking enforcement action only when necessary. Much of their time during rush hour, he said, is spent responding to crashes.

“Even though there are more cars on the road, they’re still going fast. They’re driving closer and closer together and there’s no room for error,” Grzyb said.

The speed limit on much of the highway was increased from 65 mph to 70 mph in 2014.

Joyce Taylor, chief engineer for the Department of Transportation, said she asked state traffic engineers to start diving into traffic data following a rash of crashes after Columbus Day, when most of Maine’s tourist traffic has subsided.

“In this particular case, the data has led to more questions that we have and more research we need to do, but it certainly does show that the number of crashes have gone up,” Taylor said. “I think there’s a whole combination of things going on, but I think the volume is really pressing capacity at times, in particular at the commute times.”

1121328_433612 TrafficI295Volume121.jpg


Taylor said the data show that there are more cars on the road for longer stretches of time, expanding the window in each day when the number of cars on I-295 comes close to hitting the highway’s capacity.

Longer high-volume times have meant more crashes spread throughout the day. On I-295 southbound between Portland and Brunswick from 2003 to 2005, the transportation department saw crashes peak between 8 a.m. and noon and then again for two hours in the evening. From 2014 to 2016, by contrast, the department recorded consistently high crash levels over 12 hours of the day.

Northbound crash numbers also increased from 2014 to 2016, although they occurred during a shorter time frame than in 2003 to 2005. Overall, the number of crashes has increased over time, jumping nearly 32 percent between 2013 and 2015.

Taylor said she did not yet know if increasing the speed limit in 2014 had contributed to the rise in crashes. “I think nothing’s coincidental,” she said of the many variables that cause crashes.

Steady traffic and a long camera exposure create light trails Thursday on I-295 in Falmouth. Crashes on the road jumped 32 percent from 2013 to 2015, and the Maine Department of Transportation is studying the many variables that lead to crashes, including speed, volume and distracted driving. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Steady traffic and a long camera exposure create light trails Thursday on I-295 in Falmouth. Crashes on the road jumped 32 percent from 2013 to 2015, and the Maine Department of Transportation is studying the many factors that lead to crashes, including speed, volume and distracted driving. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The Department of Transportation already had planned a long-term study of I-295, examining a wide array of variables from traffic volumes and speeds to distracted driving, tailgating and collision hot spots.

Taylor and state traffic engineer Stephen Landry said they are discussing a variety of options to help make I-295 safer and more reliable in the interim. The department already has shifted most road work to nights so it doesn’t need to close down lanes during commute times, and Taylor credited recently installed cable guard rails with preventing cars from careening into oncoming traffic during crashes.

“That is a good news story,” Taylor said. “We really believe those things are saving lives.”

Landry said the agency is looking into additional signage to communicate with drivers about upcoming road and traffic conditions so motorists can decide if they want to exit the interstate sooner or take alternate routes.

The Maine DOT has been working to gradually modernize the interstate system, which was built in the 1950s, creating acceleration and deceleration lanes for exits that see high numbers of crashes. But Taylor said the new data show they need to work faster.

Source: Maine DOT
Interactive: Christian MilNeil


State police also have changed how they handle crashes on I-295. In cases where troopers once would have advised motorists to stay where they are after a crash, they now prioritize clearing the road as quickly as possible, Grzyb said.

“We know what will happen if we leave them there; it’s just going to create more crashes,” he said. “I think we’re all looking at the way we do business and trying to make adjustments as best we can.”

Taylor said the transportation department will continue working to address the congestion. If the department’s study shows the road is over capacity, she said, the agency would seek ways to reduce volume through alternate routes or ride sharing before it considered expanding the roadway itself.

“We have a lot, a lot of people who are flat-out opposed to a third lane,” Taylor said. “It would not be an easy project to get forward and, you know, we’re hoping we can do some other things to make this a safer experience.”

In the meantime, she urges drivers to take responsibility for their behavior on the road.

“We can’t promise you you’re going to get home safe,” she said. “You have to own a piece of that yourself, and that means being alert, being defensive and paying attention.”


]]> 0, 09 Dec 2016 09:40:10 +0000
Toy Fund volunteer loves the chance to hand out toys Fri, 09 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Jon Hebert remembers Christmases with lots of gifts when he was growing up in Westbrook. And he remembers the joy of Christmas mornings while raising his own children in the city, where he still lives today.

Those memories are a part of the reason the 74-year-old retired paper maker and businessman now volunteers each year to help the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund, which provides new toys for children who might otherwise have no presents to unwrap because of hardships faced by their parents.

“I had four children, and I just can’t imagine what it would have been like if I wasn’t able to give gifts to my kids,” Hebert says.

Hebert does many of the jobs that are needed to keep the fund working. He unpacks and sorts toys by gender and age, and helps package them for families that apply for help. And he helps hand out the bags full of toys to parents who arrive by appointment for pickups. Giving the toys out is his favorite part.

“They’re very thankful for what they get. I can see why. It’s as hard on the parents as it on the kids when they don’t have any presents. These are people who come in and they don’t have anything,” he said.

The Portland Press Herald Toy Fund in the Spirit of Bruce Roberts is using donations from readers to provide toys to thousands of Maine children who might otherwise not receive holiday gifts because of hardships faced by their parents.

The fund – now in its 67th year – is accepting applications for toys from needy families in Cumberland, York, Sagadahoc, Lincoln and Knox counties. Applications can be downloaded at or picked up at the Welcome Center desk on the fifth floor of One City Center in Portland. Call 791-6672 to have one mailed to you.

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

For more information and to donate online, go to:

See more stories about the fund at


Just paying it forward  $100

Merry Christmas to all from The Stowell Family  $100

In memory of Mary Griffin who loved Christmas – Hunter and Helana Griffin & the Griffin Family  $50

Merry Christmas! Kevin McCarthy  $100

In memory of Lowell Harmon  $50

Merry Christmas from Sam and Marge DiBias  $50

In loving memory of Robert H Foster from Carolyn M. Foster  $100

From our Grandchildren  $50

Nicholas and Barbara Fowler  $250

Merry Christmas from the Roy Family  $50

Happy Holidays to all! Adam and Isabelle Johnson  $100

Merry Christmas! The Leive Family  $100

Merry Christmas – Pam and John Fridlington  $250

Anonymous  $100

Susan Robinson  $25

Merry Christmas! The Jamieson Family  $200

In the spirit of giving, let this be a Merry one for many. – CJ & Keith  $100

In memory of Mr. Milliman  $30

The New Gloucester Elf  $100

Anonymous  $100

Merry Christmas! The Giles Family  $100

In memory of Clarence and Phyllis Smith  $100

In memory of Nigel  $20

In memory of Kirsten Angela Terhune $50

Anonymous  $30

Anonymous  $250

In memory of Caoimhe  $1,000

Merry Christmas from Mr. Rogers, Anna and Maizie  $30

In memory of Harold & Jo Richardson  $100

Happy Holidays! The Cox Family  $30

County of Cumberland Employees  $293

Kathleen & Ken Pierce  $100

In memory of our family and friends who are always in our thoughts at Christmas – Don & Denise Rioux  $50

In loving memory of Bob Davis from Betsy  $25

The Farmers  $50

For the kids  $100

In loving memory of Emmons & Joan Johnson from the Johnson and Hart Families  $200

In loving memory of Jane E. Quirk from Quirkie  $100

In memory of Tommy Langella from his family  $50

In memory of our Mothers – Donna Lee and Frank Mower  $25

In honor of our grandsons , Sam, Kevin and Jake – Susan and Jerry Goldberg  $150

In memory : Barry M. Campbell, Vietnam Veteran May 1947-1995  $100

In memory of Marie  $50

William and Julie Schirmer  $25

In memory of my husband , Paul Sferes  $200

In memory of Bill Murphy  $25

Michael Bowdler  $25

Remembering how much my parents, Isabelle and Whitney Caldwell, loved Christmas, children and giving  -Judith Caldwell-Manion  $100

Merry Christmas from Aubree, Preston, Shelby and Diddy B  $50

Merry Christmas from Helen Peterson  $20

Total to date………..$54,248.60

]]> 0 Thu, 08 Dec 2016 22:32:11 +0000
Republicans ready to probe 
possible Russian interference in election Fri, 09 Dec 2016 03:20:44 +0000 Leading Senate Republicans are preparing to launch a coordinated and wide-ranging probe into Russia’s alleged meddling in the U.S. elections and its potential cyberthreats to the military, digging deep into what they view as corrosive interference in the nation’s institutions.

Such an aggressive approach puts them on a direct collision course with President-elect Donald Trump, who plays down the possibility that Russia had any role in the November elections.

The fracture could become more prominent after Trump is inaugurated and begins setting foreign policy. He already has indicated the country should “get along” with Russia since the two nations have many common goals.

But some of Trump’s would-be Republican allies on Capitol Hill disagree. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, is readying a probe of possible Russian cyber- incursions into U.S. weapons systems. McCain said he has been discussing the issue with Select Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., with whom he will be “working closely” to investigate Russia’s suspected interference.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., also said he intends to hold hearings next year into alleged Russian hacking. Corker is on Trump’s short list for secretary of state.

Trump transition officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The loudest Republican calls for a Russia probe are coming from McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

]]> 0 Thu, 08 Dec 2016 23:01:30 +0000
Trump gets mixed results in opinion poll Fri, 09 Dec 2016 03:08:16 +0000 The good news for Donald Trump: A lot fewer people think you’ll be a disaster as president than used to think that!

The bad news: People don’t like what they’ve seen so far. And even members of your own party continue to harbor major concerns about the man they’ve just elected.

A new poll from the Pew Research Center shows sharp drops – across the political spectrum – when it comes to those predicting the worst for Trump’s presidency. While in October 9 in 10 Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters said Trump would be a poor or terrible president, just 64 percent say that today. Among Republicans, that number has declined from 30 percent in March to just 10 percent today.

Clearly the doomsday scenarios have faded in people’s minds.

But the same poll suggests Trump isn’t getting great reviews so far and still has plenty to prove. It also suggests people still want him to change.

Overall, just 26 percent of Americans say Trump is a good role model, and more than 6 in 10 say he’s “reckless” and has “poor judgment.”

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Senate bids farewell to top Democrat Harry Reid Fri, 09 Dec 2016 02:44:59 +0000 WASHINGTON —Sen. Harry Reid bid farewell to the Senate Thursday after 30 years in the chamber and more than a decade as top Democrat, a remarkable run during which he shepherded key Obama administration legislation including the sweeping health care law.

But Reid leaves with his Democrats stuck in the minority despite his best efforts, and Republicans and President-elect Donald Trump making plans to repeal President Obama’s signature law as their first order of business next year.

In an uncharacteristically lengthy and personal farewell speech on the Senate floor, Reid warned of “a new gilded age” ahead and lamented how the Senate has changed. He cautioned colleagues to “temper” use of the filibuster, “otherwise, it will be gone.”

“I hope that everyone would do everything they can to protect the Senate as an institution,” he said. “As part of our Constitution, it should be given the dignity it deserves.”

Later, at a ceremony to unveil his portrait, Reid was lauded by Vice President Joe Biden and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, as well as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Reid’s successor as Senate Minority Leader, New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer. The audience was full of political leaders past and present, from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s first chief of staff, to former Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, who retired after criticism for supporting the health care law.

Reid recognized both as he spoke of a high point of his Senate career, that first congressional term under Obama, when Democrats briefly commanded control of the House and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. That allowed them to push through a raft of legislation including the economic stimulus, the health care bill and a financial overhaul. Reid declared it the most productive legislative session in history. “We worked so hard. We delivered big-time,” he recollected.

One by one, Biden, Clinton and the rest paid tribute to the soft-spoken, stoop-shouldered Reid, a taciturn master of the inside game. “That’s you, Harry – always, always, there,” Biden said.

Clinton, making her first visit to Capitol Hill since losing the presidential race, said of Reid’s new portrait: “The more fitting portrait will be the one that goes in the dictionary next to the word ‘fighter.”‘

The portrait, painted by a young artist, Gavin Glakas, who once worked on Reid’s staff, shows the senator in a typical posture: seated at his desk at work.

]]> 0, 09 Dec 2016 09:02:03 +0000
Registered sex offender sentenced for new child porn crime Fri, 09 Dec 2016 02:44:37 +0000 AUGUSTA — A registered sex offender from Augusta was sentenced Wednesday to five years in prison for possessing sexually explicit materials depicting a minor under 12, the same crime that put him on the registry in the first place.

James R. Brann, 31, pleaded guilty at the Capital Judicial Center to the offenses, which occurred July 30, 2015.

Assistant District Attorney Frayla Tarpinian said the investigation was triggered after Brann’s probation officer checked his cellphone on that date and found images of young children in various bondage positions.

Two of the images in particular, which Tarpinian said showed young boys bound and gagged, were used as the basis for the charges.

Brann received the maximum sentence available under the law, Tarpinian said.

Brann’s attorney, Robert Ruffner, said the images were not provided to the defense but were described.

Brann was convicted in 2009 in Lincoln County of the same offense, and he was sentenced an initial six months in jail, with the remainder of the four-year sentence suspended.

The new convictions will result in a full revocation of that probation and they require Brann to register as lifetime sex offender. Previously he had been required to register for 10 years.

Brann has been held at Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset since his arrest on the probation violation.


]]> 0, 08 Dec 2016 21:49:47 +0000
Farmers, police perplexed by rash of cattle releases in central Maine Fri, 09 Dec 2016 02:31:27 +0000 It was around 7:30 a.m. Tuesday when Mike Brown got a call from a neighbor concerning his cows.

Brown, the owner of Meadowbrook Farm on Stanley Hill Road in China, discovered someone had vandalized his gates earlier that morning and let his cows out of their holding pen. The cows then made their way out into the road.

“We’ve never had anything like this happen before,” Brown said Thursday afternoon as his cattle grazed back in their holding pen.

Brown’s farm has 45 black Angus cows, and some 18 of the adult females had gotten out, as well as 15 of the younger animals, most of them making their way onto the road. Brown, who works at Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Winslow, said they probably had been out for about 15 minutes when he got there.

“No one got hurt, but there was a lot of potential,” he said.

Brown said it took about 45 minutes to an hour to get the cattle back into their pens. He said he isn’t sure why anyone would have released them. The farm is Animal Welfare Approved, Brown said, meaning it is audited and certified that it treats its animals humanely.

“I’m not sure what the purpose is,” he said. The incident at Brown’s farm was one of a handful of recent bovine-related acts of vandalism. A short distance away, on Maple Ridge Road, a padlock on a cattle fence at the McPherson Farm was broken. And two recent incidents in Clinton also have attracted attention.

The release of hundreds of cows from a large Clinton dairy farm drew a phone call from the FBI, which offered to assist in the investigation in case the incidents were the work of environmental extremists. Representatives from the FBI did not respond Thursday to calls seeking comment.

The Clinton police said they were contacted by the FBI Wednesday, following news reports about the incident at Misty Meadows Farm on Mckenney Road. Clinton police officer Karl Roy said Thursday he couldn’t remember the FBI offering to help in a Clinton investigation before, but he appreciated the offer.

“It’s very wise on their part,” Roy said. “Anytime you’re dealing with a crime, you want to have that information early.”

But Roy said Wednesday that the culprits in the cow releases were more likely to be juveniles than animal rights extremists.

“Quite often when you’re dealing with these extreme groups, they’ll want you to know they did it,” he said Wednesday.

There was no spray paint or propaganda left on the property, which Roy said would have been typical of an organization trying to bring attention to a cause.

“We’ve told them there’s nothing here in Clinton that suggests it’s terrorism,” Roy said.

Deputy Aaron Moody of the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office said there had been no new developments in the China investigation and that his agency had not been contacted by the FBI. He did say that a farm in Albion also might have been targeted, though he did not have details Thursday.


At Misty Meadows Farm in Clinton, there were two separate incidents of cows being released in the same night last month, and one cow died of a broken neck when it fell into a drainage hole. The rest of the released animals were returned to their pens.

Roy said police think the culprits have knowledge of farm equipment. At Misty Meadows, a stainless steel cooling tank filled with milk had been shut off, but the tanks were turned back on before about $10,000 worth of milk spoiled. From there, the vandals went to nearby Wright Place Farm, but the damage there was much less significant. No cows were released or injured.

Brown’s theory is that it was “someone who cared a little bit” about animals. The gates to the interior of the farm had been opened but another gate that opened toward the road had been left alone, he said.

He said it could have been “someone concerned about animals used for food consumption.”

But Brown said if that was the case, the person probably didn’t know Meadowbrook is certified as humane.

“They all have names,” he said, gesturing to the cows behind him. One, standing behind him with a tag on its ear reading “309” is named May. The “09” in the tag means the cow came to the farm in 2009. “It’s not like we don’t care for them.”

While Clinton and the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office are exchanging information on the incidents, Roy does not think the one at Meadowbrook is connected to the events in Clinton. Roy said no other Clinton farms have been targeted and that police are investigating people of interest and a vehicle of interest in those incidents.

Matt Randall, the agricultural compliance supervisor at the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, said acts of vandalism at cattle and dairy farms are unusual, but they put both animals and humans at risk.

“The stress on humans and animals alike can be hard to measure,” Randall said. “Innocent motorists use these roads, and collisions can be detrimental and certainly fatal.”

Randall said that while some might consider these to be pranks, they can turn do real harm. He said the death of the cow in Clinton is a prime example.

“This is serious,” Randall said. “We would like to see the mystery solved.”


]]> 0, 08 Dec 2016 23:48:30 +0000
Democrats may force government shutdown to pressure Republicans Fri, 09 Dec 2016 02:19:17 +0000 WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats are threatening to force a brief government shutdown this weekend to pressure Republicans to support policies they say match promises President-elect Donald Trump made on the campaign trail to help coal country and boost American manufacturers.

Government funding is set to run out at the end of Friday and lawmakers are currently considering a stopgap spending bill that would keep federal agencies funded through April 28. The angry Democrats are not threatening to block the spending measure, but to threaten to miss the Friday deadline in hopes they can entice Republicans into further negotiations.

The tension over the spending bill is a sign of the possible scrambled alliances to come when Trump is inaugurated and how they could prove to be a headache for Republican leaders.

The senator fighting to have more generous medical and pension benefits for retired coal miners included in the spending bill is West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin III, whose state Trump won handily, in part, by promising to renew the coal industry. Manchin is one of several red state Democrats expected to face a tough reelection bid in 2018. He is set to meet with the president-elect at Trump Tower on Friday morning and it’s unclear whether they’ll discuss the issue. The Democratic senator has been floated as a possible member of Trump’s cabinet.

“I want to shut her down,” Manchin said Wednesday about the government, pointing to his anger over concerns about the miner provisions. “I mean this is ridiculous . . . You can’t throw 16,000 people out.”

About 12,500 former union miners and their families have been told their health benefits will lapse come Jan. 1, and an additional 10,000 are in danger of losing benefits at a later date. Many are also facing potential cuts to their retirement benefits due to declining coal companies being unable to make required contributions to pension funds.

Manchin is demanding a vote on an amendment to extend miners’ medical and pension benefits for one year.

Democrats are playing up the president-elect’s support for coal country.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., called out Trump by name as she left a Thursday meeting between Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid, D-Nev., and several of the Democrats who represents states where Trump won.

]]> 0 Thu, 08 Dec 2016 21:30:43 +0000