News – The Portland Press Herald Tue, 24 Jan 2017 14:47:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Trump repeats lie about voter fraud — this time, to lawmakers Tue, 24 Jan 2017 13:57:25 +0000 WASHINGTON – Even as President Donald Trump starts reaching out to lawmakers and business and union leaders to sell his policies, he’s still making false claims about election fraud.

During a bipartisan reception with lawmakers at the White House Monday evening, Trump claimed the reason he’d lost the popular vote to his Democratic rival was that 3 million to 5 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally had voted. That’s according to a Democratic aide familiar with the exchange who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting.

There is no evidence to support Trump’s claim.

The assertion appeared to be part of a developing pattern for Trump and his new administration in which falsehoods overshadow outreach efforts.

After a contentious weekend, Trump began his first full week as president bounding from one ornate room of the White House to another as he played host to business, labor and Congressional leaders. Again and again, he ordered aides to summon journalists from their West Wing workspace at a moment’s notice for unscheduled statements and photo opportunities.

Among those meetings: a reception at the White House for congressional leaders of both parties, with plenty of meatballs and small talk.

Trump on Tuesday will continue his outreach efforts as he meets with executives from the auto industry.

Trump tweeted early in the morning that his focus will be creating and keeping jobs.

“I want new plants to be built here for cars sold here,” he wrote.

Also on Tuesday, Trump is expected to speak by phone with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and meet with his newly sworn-in CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

Trump’s comments on the popular vote were similar to claims he made on Twitter in late November that he had won the electoral college in a “landslide” and “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 2.9 million votes despite losing the electoral college. There is no evidence that voter fraud significantly affected the vote.

Earlier Monday, Trump charted a new American course abroad, withdrawing the United States from the sweeping Trans-Pacific Partnership, using one of his first actions in office to reject a centerpiece of Barack Obama’s attempts to counter China and deepen U.S. ties in Asia.

For Trump, the move was a fulfillment of a central campaign promise. He has repeatedly cast the 12-nation trade pact – which was eagerly sought by U.S. allies in Asia – as detrimental to American businesses

“Great thing for the American worker what we just did,” Trump said in brief remarks as he signed a notice in the Oval Office.

The Obama administration spent years negotiating the Pacific Rim pact, though the mood in Washington on trade soured over time. Obama never sent the accord to Congress for ratification, making Trump’s actions Monday largely symbolic.

The start of Trump’s first full week in office had begun as a reset after a tumultuous weekend dominated by his and his spokesman’s false statements about inauguration crowds and their vigorous complaints about media coverage of the celebrations. While Trump’s advisers have long accepted his tendency to become fixated on seemingly insignificant issues, some privately conceded that his focus on inauguration crowds was unhelpful on the opening weekend of his presidency.

In addition to his executive action on TPP, Trump signed memorandums freezing most federal government hiring – though he noted an exception for the military – and reinstating a ban on providing federal money to international groups that perform abortions or provide information on the option. The regulation, known as the “Mexico City Policy,” has been a political volleyball, instituted by Republican administrations and rescinded by Democratic ones since 1984.

The actions were among the long list of steps candidate Trump pledged to take on his opening day as president. But other “Day One” promises were going unfulfilled, including plans to propose a constitutional amendment imposing term limits on members of Congress and terminating Obama’s executive actions deferring deportations for some people living in the U.S. illegally.

Spokesman Sean Spicer said Monday that Trump intended to follow through on his proposals, though on a more extended timeframe to ensure maximum attention for each move.

Yet he appeared to suggest that Trump would not move quickly – or perhaps at all – to reinstate deportations for young immigrants protected from deportation under the Obama administration.

Spicer said Trump’s focus would be on people in the U.S. illegally who have criminal records or who pose a threat.

“That’s where the priority’s going to be, and then we’re going to continue to work through the entire number of folks that are here illegally,” he said.

Spicer – making his first appearance at the briefing room podium since his angry tirade against the press on Saturday – also appeared to back away from Trump’s assertion that he could move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. While presidential candidates have long made similar pledges, all have abandoned the idea over concerns that following through would further inflame tensions in the volatile region.

“We are at the early stages in this decision-making process,” Spicer said of the possible embassy relocation. “If it was already a decision, then we wouldn’t be going through a process.”

Associated Press writers Ken Thomas, Erica Werner, Jonathan Lemire and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.

]]> 0 Trade Council adviser Peter Navarro, right, and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, center, await President Donald Trump's signing three executive orders, Monday, Jan. 23, 2017, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)Tue, 24 Jan 2017 09:13:34 +0000
LePage calls Portland the ‘leader of breaking the laws’ on welfare Tue, 24 Jan 2017 13:51:57 +0000 Gov. Paul LePage took aim at Portland Tuesday, saying the city was the leader in misusing state funds by providing General Assistance welfare benefits to “illegal immigrants.”

LePage has been criticized for applying the term “illegals” to immigrants who arrived legally and are seeking political asylum, a group that the Legislature decided is eligible for benefits. Portland also provides benefits to immigrants who have not yet applied for asylum, although it does not use state funds for that aid.

In his current 2-year budget proposal, LePage is asking the Legislature to eliminate about $12 million in state funding for the General Assistance program, which cities and towns use to help the poor or those facing a financial crisis with cash benefits.

“You follow the rules, there would have been no problems, but if you try to not follow the rules and you use the money for illegal immigrants then you get what you pay for,” LePage said during his weekly appearance on the Bangor-based radio station WVOM’s George Hale and Ric Tyler Show. “The Maine people did not buy into you breaking the laws, and Portland in particular was the leader of breaking the laws.”

For at least three years, LePage has been at odds with Portland’s city government because it has provided assistance to immigrants seeking asylum in Maine, a federal process that can take as long as 18 months for some immigrants to complete.

Disagreements between Portland and the state have already cost the city millions of dollars.

Meanwhile, a state law enacted last year granted eligibility for anyone “who is lawfully present in the United States or who is pursuing a lawful process to apply for immigration relief.” Assistance was capped at two years.

Federal law allows noncitizens to file for asylum within one year of entering the United States, regardless of how they arrived in the country. The vast majority of asylum seekers in Maine arrive in the U.S. on student, work or visitation visas that expire within six months, meaning they have six months to complete the long and complicated asylum application before facing deportation.

Federal law also prohibits asylum seekers from receiving legal work permits for at least six months after they apply. And many asylum seekers wait years for interviews with immigration officials because of a growing national backlog.

LePage said as governor he was in charge of state funding and “doing what’s best for the society of Maine of 1.3 million people, and if they want to break the rules we’ve got to make adjustments,”

In December Portland’s City Council voted to change the city’s ordinance on General Assistance so that only locally raised funds from property tax payers would be used for immigrants that are not eligible under the state program. The change was meant to counter a state rule change made last May by the LePage administration’s Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees state funding of the program.

The bulk of the General Assistance money paid out by the state, just over $10 million, is used by Maine’s three largest cities, Portland, Lewiston and Bangor.

LePage’s comments Tuesday are the latest in an ongoing legal and political battle between the governor and city leaders.

In 2014 LePage sought to prevent immigrants who enter the country legally and then apply for political asylum from receiving state benefits until they are able to receive federal authorization to work.

After the initial effort failed through the official state rule-making process, the administration later informed municipalities that it would simply no longer reimburse communities that continued to provide assistance to asylum seekers, citing a federal law enacted under President Bill Clinton in 1996.

Portland, along with the Maine Municipal Association, sued the administration and received a split ruling from a Superior Court judge in 2015.

Justice Thomas Warren ruled that the administration was able to withhold the disputed reimbursement from municipalities, since the Maine Legislature had not enacted a bill making asylum seekers eligible. However, Warren also ruled that the administration should have followed proper rule-making procedures, which it didn’t do.

Portland and the MMA decided not to appeal or seek clarification on the ruling. In December 2016, city officials estimated Portland lost roughly $3 million in fiscal year 2015 because of the lawsuit. However, the city recently settled a separate lawsuit with the state over its homeless shelter operations, receiving $1.3 million from the state.

After the ruling, the Legislature passed a bill making some noncitizens eligible for General Assistance. LePage then mistakenly missed a deadline to fulfill his promise to veto the bill and it went into law. A subsequent effort to force a statewide referendum to overturn it was aborted.

During the 2015 city budget process, Portland allocated $250,000 for an estimated 90 immigrants that it expected would not be deemed eligible under the state program. Those individuals include immigrants who have not filed an asylum application.

Through September 2016, the city had spent about $68,000 of those funds, plus an estimated $20,000 more in October, according to City Manager Jon Jennings.

City officials have estimated that providing General Assistance to immigrants will cost the city about $265,000 in 2017.

“My point is, if they want to do what they do, then let them fund it,” LePage said. “If they want to take education money and put it in for illegal immigrants, by all means, go ahead and do it but do it with your money, not state money.”

While LePage highlighted Portland in his comments, he also said all of the state’s larger cities were misusing the program. “Actually, it happens everywhere but Portland was the major leader,” LePage said.

LePage said he believed state law made towns and cities responsible for the poor. “If you look at the law, they are the overseer of the poor. It’s not the responsibility of the state, it’s the responsibility of the local community,” he said.

He said cutting state funding for the program wasn’t a cost-shift to local taxpayers because the program was originally funded by local municipalities until the state began sharing that cost in an attempt to provide local property tax relief.

“The state is just putting its foot down and saying, ‘Hey wait a minute, this was your program, we didn’t ask for this,” LePage said. “If you feel you need it, then you pay for it.”

LePage told show host Ric Tyler he didn’t believe there was any city in Maine that was using General Assistance properly. “Frankly, I haven’t seen it,” he said.

This report will be updated.

]]> 0 Tue, 24 Jan 2017 09:47:58 +0000
Musical ‘La La Land’ leads Oscar nominations with 14, tying ‘Titanic’ record Tue, 24 Jan 2017 13:39:08 +0000 BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — The candy-colored love letter to musicals “La La Land” has landed a record-tying 14 Academy Awards nominations, matching it with “Titanic” and “All About Eve” for most nominations ever.

“La La Land” has earned nods for best picture, its stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, its songs and its 32-year-old writer-director, Damien Chazelle.

The other nominees for best picture are: “Moonlight,” ”Arrival,” ”Manchester by the Sea,” ”Hell or High Water,” ”Lion,” ”Fences,” ”Hidden Figures” and “Hacksaw Ridge.”

Following two years of “OscarsSoWhite” furor, the Academy of Motion Pictures fielded a notably more diverse field of nominees, led by Barry Jenkins’ luminous coming-of-age portrait “Moonlight,” Denzel Washington’s “Fences” and Theodore Melfi’s “Hidden Figures.”

Here are the nominations so far:

Best motion picture

“Arrival,” ”Fences,” ”Hacksaw Ridge,” ”Hell or High Water,” ”Hidden Figures,” ”La La Land,” ”Lion,” ”Manchester by the Sea,” ”Moonlight.”

Best supporting actress

Viola Davis, “Fences”; Naomie Harris, “Moonlight”; Nicole Kidman, “Lion”; Octavia Spencer, “Hidden Figures”; Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea.”

Best animated feature

“Kubo and the Two Strings,” ”Moana,” ”My Life as a Zucchini,” ”The Red Turtle,” ”Zootopia.”

Best documentary feature

“Fire at Sea,” ”I Am Not Your Negro,” ”Life, Animated,” ”O.J.: Made in America,” ”13th.”

Best original song

in a motion picture have been announced by the film academy. They include: “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” from “La La Land,” ”Can’t Stop the Feeling!” from “Trolls,” ”City of Stars” from “La La Land,” ”The Empty Chair” from “Jim: The James Foley Story,” ”How Far I’ll Go” from “Moana.”

Best actress

Isabelle Huppert, “Elle”; Ruth Negga, “Loving”; Natalie Portman, “Jackie”; Emma Stone, “La La Land”; Meryl Streep, “Florence Foster Jenkins.”

Best actor

Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”; Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge”; Ryan Gosling, “La La Land;” Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic”; Denzel Washington, “Fences.”

Best foreign language film

“Land of Mine,” Denmark; “A Man Called Ove,” Sweden; “The Salesman,” Iran; “Tanna,” Australia; “Toni Erdmann,” Germany.

Best supporting actor

Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”; Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water”; Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea”; Dev Patel, “Lion”; Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals.”


]]> 0, 24 Jan 2017 09:13:30 +0000
UK government loses Brexit case, must get approval from Parliament Tue, 24 Jan 2017 11:37:31 +0000 LONDON — Britain’s government must get parliamentary approval before starting the process of leaving the European Union, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday, potentially delaying Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans to trigger negotiations by the end of March.

The 8-3 ruling forces the government to put a bill before Parliament, giving pro-EU politicians a chance to soften the terms of Brexit – Britain’s exit from the EU. “Leave” campaigners had objected, saying Parliament shouldn’t have the power to overrule the electorate, which voted to leave the bloc in a June 23 referendum.

May had said she would use centuries-old powers known as royal prerogative to invoke Article 50 of the EU treaty and launch two years of exit talks. The powers – traditionally held by the monarch – permit decisions about treaties and other issues to be made without a vote of Parliament.

“The referendum is of great political significance, but the act of Parliament which established it did not say what should happen as a result, so any change in the law to give effect to the referendum must be made in the only way permitted by the U.K. Constitution, namely by an act of Parliament,” the president of the Supreme Court David Neuberger said in reading the judgement.

“To proceed otherwise would be a breach of settled constitutional principles stretching back many centuries,” he said.

The case was considered the most important constitutional issue in a generation, clarifying who ultimately wields power in Britain’s system of government: the prime minister and her Cabinet, or Parliament.

Financial entrepreneur Gina Miller sued to force the government to seek Parliamentary approval before invoking Article 50. Leaving the EU will change the fundamental rights of citizens and this can’t be done without a vote of lawmakers, she argued.

May had argued the referendum gave her a mandate to take Britain out of the 28-nation bloc and that discussing the details of her strategy with Parliament would weaken the government’s negotiating position.

Significantly, the court also ruled that parts of the United Kingdom – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – do not need to be consulted. Had the court ruled that the “devolved” Parliaments needed a say, a significant delay to the process would have been likely as lawmakers from the regions piled in with concerns.

The decision doesn’t mean that Britain will remain in the EU. But it could delay the process – though May’s Downing Street office said its timetable remained on track.

The government moved quickly to say it would offer its plans in detail to the House of Commons on Tuesday afternoon. Legal experts suggest that May will try to keep the scope of the legislation narrow – focusing solely on triggering Article 50 – in order to limit the chance for amendments that could delay a vote.

But opposition became evident immediately. Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the party would seek to amend the legislation to make sure the government is “accountable.” The Scottish National Party, the third largest party in the House of Commons, promised to offer 50 amendments.

“Today’s result comes as a surprise to no one. Unfortunately for businesses and other institutions, Brexit still means uncertainty,” said Phillip Souta, head of U.K. public policy at law firm Clifford Chance. “Parliament remains divided and the outcome of the negotiations remain unknown.”

The bill could also be subject to delay in the unelected House of Lords.

“Defeat in the House of Lords would not stop Brexit from happening, but it could delay it until mid-2020,” Souta said.

Miller, an online investment manager, had argued the case wasn’t about blocking Brexit. Instead, she said, it was about “democracy” and the “dangerous precedent” that a government can overrule Parliament.

For Miller, who brought the case with hairdresser Deir Dos Santos, the Supreme Court judges brought vindication after months of threats to her security that followed her involvement in the case.

“No prime minister, no government can expect to be unanswerable or unchallenged,” she said. “Parliament alone is sovereign.”

The case revolved around an argument that dates back almost 400 years to the English Civil War as to whether power ultimately rests in the executive or Parliament.

Underscoring the importance of the case, May put Attorney General Jeremy Wright in charge of the legal team fighting the suit. Wright had argued the suit is an attempt to put a legal obstacle in the way of enacting the referendum result.

The decision is a bad defeat for the government and means that the government “still does not have control of the Brexit timetable,” said David Allen Green, lawyer at London legal firm Preiskel & Co.

“The appeal decision is, however, a victory for the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty and a vindication of an independent judiciary,” Green said. “The Supreme Court has told the government to get back into its box: A proper process has to be followed.”

]]> 0, 24 Jan 2017 06:46:17 +0000
Nor’easter raking Maine: ‘Only travel if you must’ Tue, 24 Jan 2017 10:52:38 +0000 A dangerous mix of sleet and freezing rain is falling on Maine Tuesday morning, leading to treacherous road conditions and scores of storm cancellations.

Sleet and freezing rain are expected to continue throughout the day and howling northeast winds could gust up to 35 mph.

Central Maine Power issued a statement late Monday afternoon advising its customers of potential power outages from what it characterized as a “major winter storm.” The company said it was concerned because gusty winds “could put tree limbs into contact with power lines and may create dangerous travel conditions that could lead to car-pole crashes.”

See full, searchable list of storm cancellations, delays.

“It would be a good day to stay home if you don’t have to be on the roads,” said Margaret Curtis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray. “Overall, it is going to be a mess.”

Winter weather advisories for sleet and freezing rain are in effect in the Portland area until 1 p.m. A winter storm warning is in effect for northern Maine.

CMP reported more than 3,600 customers without power at 9:30 a.m., down from more than 5,000 an hour earlier. Nearly all of the outages are in Lincoln County.

The speed limit is reduced to 45 mph for the entire length of the Maine Turnpike. The left lane of the turnpike at mile 16 southbound in Wells is blocked by a crash reported around 9:30 a.m. The Maine Turnpike Authority also issued a warning to drivers that the there is a crash at mile 1 westbound on the Falmouth Spur. One lane is closed while crews clear the crash.

The Maine Department of Transportation reported multiple vehicles off roads across the region.

Schools across the state are closed and the Legislature canceled all hearings and meetings scheduled for Tuesday and closed legislative offices. Cumberland County courthouses are closed.

Portland City Hall, municipal buildings and all library branches are closed Tuesday. In Wells, town hall and all other nonessential offices also are closed for the day.

The Cumberland County sheriff’s administrative offices in Portland will be closed Tuesday. In a post on Facebook, the sheriff’s office warned drivers of “treacherous road conditions” and asked people to stay home if possible.

The weather service reported that 1.5 inches of sleet had fallen in parts of southern York County before 6:30 a.m. West of Portland, 1 to 2 inches of snow fell before precipitation switched to sleet and freezing rain.

“The sleet and freezing rain are going to be the rule in Portland through a good portion of the morning,” said Tom Hawley, a meteorologist with the weather service.

Temperatures in the Portland area will likely rise just above freezing by late morning and there will be a switch to rain by early afternoon. It will be windy throughout the day, with gusts up to 35 mph, Hawley said.

Over the ocean, wind speeds could reach 60 mph, creating waves up to 20 feet high. In Kennebunk, Beach Avenue near Kennebunk Beach is closed because large waves are crashing over the seawall and into the road.

Portland did not have a parking ban Monday night, but Biddeford, Saco, Sanford and Lisbon all announced parking bans.

Amtrak Downeaster trains are experiencing delays because of the conditions. Nearly a dozen flights scheduled to leave the Portland International Jetport Tuesday morning have been delayed or canceled.

Jessica Grondin, spokeswoman for the city of Portland, said public works crews have put down two layers of treatment on city roads, but they are still slick.

“Motorists should take it slow and only travel if they must,” she said.

]]> 0, 24 Jan 2017 09:47:29 +0000
As Portland’s city-run health clinic closes, a mix of good intentions, trauma Tue, 24 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 The transfer of health care for people with HIV from a city-run clinic in Portland to a private nonprofit has been called a success, but only a fraction of the more than 200 patients and none of the staff followed the funding to the new care provider.

In December, the city transferred a $356,500 federal grant to Greater Portland Health, a nonprofit formerly called the Portland Community Health Center. That grant covered the cost of care for 229 patients, most of whom were expected to follow the funding to the nonprofit. However, only 33 of those patients have registered for care at the privately run clinic. None of the eight city workers transitioned to the nonprofit after their positions at the city-run clinic were eliminated.

Officials with the city and Greater Portland Health said they believe many patients chose clinics closer to their homes, or chose to follow a specific doctor. They did not have an explanation for why none of the staff decided to apply for work at the nonprofit.

However, former patients and staff at the city clinic say the closure severed long-term relationships and was difficult and stressful. Jenson Steel, a longtime India Street patient who helped with the transition, believes many of the patients were so upset that the city closed the HIV clinic that they actively resisted the city’s recommendation to receive care at Greater Portland Health.

“I think it was very obvious to most involved that the emotional trauma of the directed transfer of patients to a new facility was immediately recognized as a cold and callous result of the city manager and City Council,” said Steel, 67.


The HIV Positive Health Care program was one of three city-run services that had been offered at the India Street Public Health Clinic, which also houses the privately run Portland Free Clinic.

The two other city programs, a needle exchange program and an STD clinic, continue to operate at India Street and together serve more than 2,000 people. However, both services are now in need of additional funding and staffing because medical staff who used to work at the HIV clinic also were integral to those operations. The city could not provide an estimate of how much additional money will be needed for those programs.

“We have only been open with this staffing for two weeks, so it’s hard to estimate the revenue (from remaining patients) with this short experience,” Portland Health and Human Services Director Dawn Stiles said in an email.

City Manager Jon Jennings proposed transitioning clinical services to Greater Portland Health as part of the city budget for the fiscal year that began in July, arguing that the nonprofit health center was in a better position to deliver those services and secure federal grants in future funding cycles. The move also was part of a larger effort by Jennings to refocus government on core public services, such as public safety and infrastructure.

The transition of the HIV program was approved last May by the City Council in an 8-1 vote, with former Councilor Jon Hinck opposed.

Mayor Ethan Strimling voted to close the HIV clinic, even though he angered Jennings and the council by publicly criticizing – and some said misrepresenting – the plan.

Before voting, Strimling declared that India Street had “been saved” because the roughly 2,000 people who use the STD clinic and needle exchange would still be served at the city clinic.

“I think saying India Street was saved is a bit of an overstatement,” said Joey Brunelle, who had several friends who used the clinic and who became an advocate for the patients.

Brunelle organized rallies against the plan, but later served on a committee that helped implement the transition and provide assistance to patients. “While the transition was a success, it was really a tragedy (that) we dismantled this program in the first place,” he said. “It was a world-class program.”


City officials deemed the transition a success because each patient had the support and counseling necessary to make well-informed and difficult decisions regarding their health care, they said. And officials with both the city and Greater Portland Health said the process was made smooth by committee members such as Steel and Brunelle who gave voice to patient concerns and provided advice about how to communicate with patients.

At the same time, officials hoped most of the patients and some former India Street staffers would move to Greater Portland Health, providing some continuity through the transition. Greater Portland Health CEO Leslie Clark said no one from the city applied for a position at the clinic and only 33 patients have transferred their records to GPH and seen a doctor.

Clark conceded that the migration of patients was a “small number.” She expects that number to grow, although the city said only four patients had not yet made a decision about where to receive care.

Greater Portland Health has increased its staff to care for the new patients, but still plans to hire more.

Dr. David Stein and Dr. Jennifer Rogers have been hired to provide HIV services, Clark said. The clinic has yet to fill a substance abuse and mental health counselor position. She said the full-time position may be split between two people, one man and one woman.


While the city provided assistance, former patients and staff say the transition was difficult.

Weeks before the city’s HIV clinic closed Dec. 30, staffers hosted a celebration for their patients with raffles, food, music, coffee and a hot chocolate bar, said Dr. Ann Lemire, the former medical director. In many cases, staff members were saying goodbye to patients they had been caring for since the clinic opened nearly two decades ago.

“We elected to go out on a positive (note),” Lemire said. “It wasn’t just hard for our patients to leave – it was hard for the staff, too. We had a tight bond with our patients. This was a place they felt welcomed at.”

Many of the patients at the city clinic also deal with mental health and substance abuse issues, in addition to their HIV status, factors that made the transition more difficult. Patients and former clinic staff who helped with the transition still feel a deep sense of loss because of the long-term relationships and comprehensive care at the city facility.

“I felt like India Street and the whole staff was on my side,” said Bart James, a 63-year-old who had been an India Street patient for five years. “It was too good to be true down there at India Street. I don’t anticipate getting that back.”

James said the news of the closure and the transition were stressful, mainly because he will have to relive his traumatic medical history. Diagnosed with HIV in 1991, he also is a two-time cancer survivor. His chemotherapy left him anemic, a condition caused by a lack of healthy red blood cells.

James said he needs mental health counseling after being a caretaker to two men who died of AIDs and to his mother, who died after suffering with Alzheimer’s disease. At times, he said, he questioned whether living was still worth it.

“I just really don’t want to tell another whole set of providers my story,” he said. “You’re having to relive your health care story all over again, especially if it’s a traumatic one.”

James was among the 50 or so patients who transferred their medical records to InterMed, a private health care provider. But he does not expect to see his doctor for the first time until March. At India Street, he went on a weekly basis. Instead of getting mental health and clinical services for his HIV in the same location, he will have to go to two different places.


Steel, on the other hand, chose to go to Greater Portland Health. He was a patient at India Street for 12 years, but said he has been pleased with his new medical provider.

“I gotta say, Greater Portland Health really stepped up to the plate to come up with a model close” to India Street’s, he said.

It’s not clear if the nonprofit will continue to get the same amount of public funding in future years.

Clark said the clinic, which now serves 86 HIV-positive patients, will have to reapply next year for the federal Ryan White grant, which provides more than $700,000 over a two-year period.

She expects the federal government will make changes to the formula used to distribute the grants, possibly in favor of federally qualified health centers such as Greater Portland Health. She said she does not think the smaller-than-expected number of patients will negatively affect future grant awards, at least in the short-term.

Meanwhile, questions remain about the viability of the services remaining at India Street.

“They are operating at a skeleton staff right now,” Steel said. “There could be one person there running the clinic at any given time and I don’t think that’s a good idea.

“(City officials) sound like they’re committed to keeping it going, but I don’t know how long it can exist on its own.”


Jennings, the city manager, originally proposed also transferring the STD clinic and the needle exchange program, which disposes of old needles and provides new needles to intravenous drug users to prevent the spread of diseases, to Greater Portland Health. But community opposition, including public rallies and crowded public hearings, prompted a last-minute budget amendment from City Councilor Belinda Ray.

Ray’s amendment kept those services at India Street for the foreseeable future, allocating an additional $19,000 in lease payments at 103 India St. through July 1.

Clark said Greater Portland Health is continuing to have discussions with the city about those programs. She said that as of July 1, the clinic will need a medical provider to oversee operations, which the nonprofit may offer through a contract.

She anticipates state-level changes to the way it funds STD programs, such as those offered at the city clinic.

“There is a good likelihood that state funding is potentially going to change and go away next year,” Clark said. “So there is still a conversation that needs to be had in the community about ways to make sure those services are available. … We will help in any way we can.”

Brunelle, the patient advocate, said the members will continue to meet and advocate for the city to fully fund the STD and needle exchange programs.

“It’s not really a tenable situation,” Brunelle said of the current arrangement. “It’s on the horizon to have a big fight over funding. It hasn’t been given the resources to thrive.”

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

Twitter: randybillings

]]> 0 Steel, a longtime HIV patient at the India Street clinic who helped others transition to a new health care provider, stands in the corridor outside his West End apartment. The directed transfer of patients to a new facility caused "emotional trauma," said Steel, 67.Tue, 24 Jan 2017 09:33:54 +0000
Mike Pompeo takes over at CIA amid divisions with president Tue, 24 Jan 2017 05:36:33 +0000 WASHINGTON — Mike Pompeo was confirmed as CIA director by the Senate on Monday, putting the conservative Kansas congressman in charge of an agency bracing for its most contentious relationship with the White House in decades.

As CIA director, Pompeo will be responsible for managing a global spying network at a time of escalating security problems, including renewed aggression by Russia and the terror threat posed by the Islamic State.

But, at least initially, Pompeo’s most vexing task may be finding a way to establish a functional relationship between the CIA and President Trump.

The new commander in chief traveled to CIA headquarters Saturday, in an effort to create a fresh start with an agency he has frequently treated with contempt. Instead, Trump aired grievances against Democrats and journalists.

Trump skipped most of the daily intelligence briefings offered him after his surprise election victory. He has dismissed the agency’s conclusions on critical issues, particularly that Russia interfered in last year’s election to help him win. Trump also accused intelligence officials of conducting a Nazi-like campaign to smear him.

Trump has expressed confidence in Pompeo, a businessman who served as an Army tank commander and graduated at the top of his class at West Point.

“Intelligence agencies are vital and very, very important,” Trump said this month.

His comments signaled that his hostility toward the agency might subside when his designated director is in charge. But CIA veterans say Pompeo may face other challenges, including whether he will be listened to at the White House and be able to insert hard data into debates presided over by a president who suggests he sees information on WikiLeaks as more reliable than intelligence briefs.

Michael Morell, the former deputy director of the CIA and a supporter of Hillary Clinton during the campaign, said that he has “come to admire” Pompeo and expects him to arrive at the CIA without preconceived notions.

“Pompeo has two key challenges: winning over a workforce a bit skeptical of him … and making the CIA’s voice heard at the Trump White House,” Morell said. “I know Pompeo, and he will succeed at the first challenge. The second will be the defining issue of his tenure.”

During his confirmation hearing, Pompeo vowed to defy Trump if ordered to direct the agency to resume brutal interrogation of terror suspects. He called the consensus of U.S. spy agencies that Russia hacked the election in part to help Trump as “sound” judgment.

]]> 0 PompeoTue, 24 Jan 2017 00:43:28 +0000
Maine’s attorney general among 16 seeking to defend consumer watchdog Tue, 24 Jan 2017 03:44:02 +0000 WASHINGTON — Attorneys general from 16 states and the District of Columbia are seeking to defend a U.S. consumer watchdog agency in court amid speculation that President Trump may fire its director, Richard Cordray.

Maine’s Janet Mills is among the attorneys general, all Democrats, who said in a court filing Monday that they have “a vital interest in defending an independent and effective” Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and are seeking to intervene in a case over whether its structure is constitutional.

Janet Mills, Maine attorney general.

Janet Mills, Maine attorney general.

They said it’s urgent for them to intervene because Trump as a candidate expressed opposition to the 2010 law that created the CFPB while tightening regulation of the financial industry.

A federal appeals court ruled in October that the agency’s structure violates the Constitution’s separation of powers by limiting the president’s ability to remove the agency’s director. That ruling is being appealed by the CFPB.

The attorneys general, led by George Jepsen of Connecticut, noted that they have often brought legal actions in coordination with the federal agency. If the court ruling were allowed to stand, their power to protect consumers against abuse would be undermined, they argued.

The independent agency has been swept up in partisan politics since its creation to protect consumers from harmful banking and lending practices. Wall Street interests, the banking and consumer finance industries, and Republicans in Congress have opposed and criticized the agency.

The law creating the CFPB after the 2008-09 financial crisis says its director can only be removed “for cause,” such as neglect of duty, and not over political differences. In its ruling, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said that conflicts with the Constitution, which allows the president to remove executives for any reason.

That problem can be solved, the court said, by taking out the “for cause” provision — giving the president the power to remove the director at will.

After Trump won election, some Republican lawmakers urged him to fire Cordray, a Democrat and Obama appointee whose five-year term doesn’t end until next year.

Trump pledged during the campaign to dismantle the Dodd-Frank law, which tightened supervision of Wall Street and the banking industry in the wake of the crisis and created the CFPB.

“Contrary to his populist rhetoric, the president’s failure to support the CFPB would be a gift to powerful financial interests and a bitter broken promise to regular Americans he vowed to defend,” Jepsen said in a statement.

The CFPB has taken legal action against banks, mortgage companies, credit card issuers, payday lenders, debt collectors and others. The agency says that over five years it has recovered $11.7 billion that it returned to more than 27 million harmed consumers.

Some Democratic lawmakers also have warned recently against a possible move by Trump against Cordray. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, the Democrats’ fiercest critic of Wall Street, told reporters in a conference call last week that firing Cordray “would be a huge handout to lobbyists for the big banks.”

In addition to Mills and Jepsen, the attorneys general asking to intervene in the case are from Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

]]> 0 Mills, Maine Attorney General.Tue, 24 Jan 2017 09:44:57 +0000
Abortion opponents take heart with Trump in office Tue, 24 Jan 2017 03:34:33 +0000 TOPEKA, Kan. — Abortion opponents expressed optimism Monday that President Trump’s early months in office would advance their cause as hundreds converged on the Kansas Statehouse to mark the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

Trump, inaugurated Friday, has promised to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court with what he has called a “pro-life” justice and has said he would sign anti-abortion measures approved by the Republican-controlled Congress. Even as Republican governors and legislatures enacted a raft of new anti-abortion laws over the past decade, the movement faced a big obstacle from Democrat Barack Obama’s eight years as president.

“I have high expectations,” said Karin Capron, a 69-year-old retired chemist from the Kansas City suburb of Mission who has been active in the anti-abortion movement for more than four decades. She said the more she hears about Trump, “the more I think he can be very helpful to the pro-life movement.”

Some longtime anti-abortion activists and local private school students attended the annual Rally for Life, one day after the 44th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling.

The rally, which is regularly the largest annual political event at the Capitol in Topeka, was accompanied by worship services and workshops – a prelude to the movement’s paramount event, the annual March for Life on Friday in Washington.

Trump on Monday reinstated a ban on providing federal money to international groups that perform abortions or provide information on the option. The policy has been instituted by Republican administrations and rescinded by Democratic ones since 1984.

While the anti-abortion rally has drawn as many as 1,000 people to the Statehouse, a women’s march and rally on Saturday drew more than 3,000 people – many of them concerned about abortion rights.

Marilyn Ault, of Topeka, now 78, became an abortion rights supporter in the early 1960s after watching a friend recover from an illegal abortion. Ault, who ran the local Battered Women’s Task Force, said she recalls fellow abortion-rights activists thinking after the Roe decision, “That was it, and we wouldn’t have to worry about it.”

Capron, a lifelong Catholic, said she became active in the anti-abortion movement in 1973, following the decision, after seeing a slide show at a church that featured pictures of aborted fetuses. She’d just had a baby, and recalls, “I said, God, I’ve got to do something.”

She has protested and handed out literature outside abortion clinics and staffed anti-abortion booths at fairs. She has marched to raise money for crisis pregnancy centers and worked as a pregnancy counselor.

Capron hopes Congress approves a measure to halt funding for Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading provider of abortions. Another congressional proposal would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

At the state level, tough new restrictions on abortion are being pushed in numerous Republican-controlled legislatures. For example, Ohio and Kentucky, within the past six weeks, have joined about 15 other states in banning abortions after 20 weeks.

Newly released data show that the number of abortions in the U.S. fell to about 926,000 in 2014, the lowest level since 1974 – the year after the Roe v. Wade ruling. Reasons for the drop include the surge of abortion restrictions and the increased availability of effective contraceptives.

]]> 0 stand outside the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan., on Monday during the annual Rally for Life marking the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.Tue, 24 Jan 2017 00:45:37 +0000
A Q&A on the Patient Freedom Act, the proposed ACA substitute Tue, 24 Jan 2017 02:46:29 +0000 Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy have unveiled the Patient Freedom Act as a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, which currently insures 20 million Americans, including about 80,000 Mainers.

Under the Collins-Cassidy bill, states would be able to keep the ACA or opt for another plan that would allow them to automatically insure the uninsured in a high-deductible plan with several thousand dollars in federal funds deposited into health savings accounts for each person.

Q: What would happen to Mainers who currently have health insurance plans purchased through the Affordable Care Act?

A: For states that chose to stay in the ACA, nothing would change. For states that chose not to, enrollees in the health insurance marketplace and the uninsured would be automatically enrolled in health savings account plans. The federal government would deposit several thousand dollars into each account, to be used to pay for premiums, deductibles and co-pays.

Q: What is a health savings account?

A: An HSA is a tax-free medical savings account that is available to those enrolled in a high-deductible health plan. The funds can be used to pay for qualified medical expenses, including deductibles.

The money in the accounts – including the taxpayer funds – would be rolled over and would thus accumulate year-over-year. Participants also can contribute to the accounts up to certain limits.

Q: Would there be a lifetime limit to health benefits under the proposed plan?

A: Collins and Cassidy have said the Patient Freedom Act, like the ACA, would not permit insurers to place lifetime limits on how much is paid out for claims, protecting people with severe illnesses from having to pay out of pocket for catastrophic medical expenses.

Q: What health services would be covered at little or no cost under the proposed plan?

A: It’s not clear exactly what health services would be covered, although Collins and Cassidy said that some versions of prescription drugs and childhood immunizations would be included.

Q: Would those enrolled in the high-deductible plan have to pay a premium?

A: Yes, but the cost of typical premiums is unclear.

Q: What would the deductible be for those insured under the high-deductible plan?

A: It’s not known yet known.

Q: Could states that don’t operate their own health insurance marketplace choose to stay with the current ACA system?

A: Yes.

Q: Could uninsured people refuse to be enrolled in the proposed plan?

A: Yes, people can opt out of enrollment, but they would be forgoing free money.

Q: Who decides whether a state would participate in the plan? Would it be the governor, the Legislature or voters?

A: Each state would set its own rules for deciding on whether it would participate.


]]> 0, 24 Jan 2017 09:32:51 +0000
Two men charged with heroin trafficking in Southwest Harbor Tue, 24 Jan 2017 02:44:43 +0000 Two men have been arrested and charged with heroin trafficking in Southwest Harbor, a fishing and resort community on Mount Desert Island.

Leon Jacobs, 43, of Southwest Harbor and Jesse Couto, 29, of Trenton were each charged with Class B felony trafficking in heroin, according to a press release issued Monday by Cmdr. Peter Arno of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency.

Arno said the men were charged following an investigation by the MDEA, the Southwest Harbor Police Department, the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office and Maine State Police into the sale of heroin on Mount Desert Island.

Jacobs and Couto were taken into custody late Friday night after a Southwest Harbor police officer stopped their car. A state police dog performed a drug sniff of the car and police found 40 grams of heroin with a street value of $12,000.

Jacobs and Couto were transported to the Hancock County Jail. Couto made bail, but Jacobs was still being held Monday night on $25,000 cash bail.

]]> 0 Mon, 23 Jan 2017 22:29:00 +0000
Woman charged with biting officer at Women’s March rally in Augusta Tue, 24 Jan 2017 02:25:06 +0000 AUGUSTA — A Newcastle woman allegedly bit a police officer on the hand Saturday during the Women’s March on Maine rally outside the State House.

Capitol Police Chief Russell Gauvin said one of his officers working at the rally was bitten on the hand when he was trying to get a topless woman down off a pillar.

“There was a woman who was standing on one of the pillars bare-chested, and the officer asked her to get down,” Gauvin said.

In Maine, Gauvin said, there is no prohibition against women going topless. Rather, he said, it was a safety move.

“We were trying to get people down from everywhere,” he said. “People were trying to climb all sorts of things to see better. It was a safety issue. The crowd around her assumed it was because she had taken her shirt off.”

The topless woman was not identified.

Gauvin said Officer Alan Carr tried to grab the belt loop on the woman’s pants when he was bitten by another woman.

Initially, the crowd would not allow officers to get close to that woman, he said, but after the rally broke up, Teresa Frisbie-Calder, 64, was issued a summons on a charge of assault.

Kelly Spence, who was also attending the rally and standing nearby, said an officer asked the topless woman to get down and cover up because children were present. Spence said crowd members told the officer that toplessness is legal in Maine. Other officers arrived, and one tried to get the woman off the pillar by pulling on the waistband of her jeans.

While she didn’t see the alleged assault, Spence said she did see the officer tell the woman on the pillar that toplessness was illegal.

Gauvin said Carr was treated at the scene by Augusta Fire and Rescue, which had responded to help someone who had apparently suffered a seizure. After the event, Gauvin said, Carr went to the hospital, where the wound was cleaned and he was given an antibiotic.

Attempts to reach Frisbie-Calder on Monday weren’t successful.

Jessica Lowell can be contacted at 621-5632 or at:

Twitter: JLowellKJ

]]> 0 Capitol Police tried to get this topless woman to step down from a pillar Saturday in Augusta, the officer was bitten on the hand by another woman, police said.Mon, 23 Jan 2017 21:51:58 +0000
UMF students secure $5,000 grant for Farmington homeless shelter Tue, 24 Jan 2017 01:47:37 +0000 FARMINGTON — When Melissa Sawyer-Boulette and her classmates started their resource management and grant writing class at the University of Maine Farmington this semester, they were mostly in it for the grade.

But after a visit to Western Maine Homeless Outreach, a homeless shelter on Wilton Road, the class started to feel more personal.

As they toured the 16-bed facility, which mostly houses homeless families, the students learned that the shelter did not have enough funding to keep its doors open during the day.

It took the students months of research, meetings and grant-writing, but on Monday afternoon those efforts paid off as representatives from Skowhegan Savings Bank presented shelter staff with a $5,000 check to run the 11-week daytime educational program.

“Every year we try to find funding for our day program so that the guests don’t have to leave during the day,” Tricia Plourde, the shelter manager, said Monday. “It’s very dangerous for them to be walking, especially with kids, on Route 2.”

Each morning at 8 a.m. shelter residents must find places to pass the time until they can return to their temporary home again after 4 p.m.

Some take up posts at a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts. Others trek more than 2 miles down the busy Wilton Road corridor, which is also U.S. Route 2, to downtown Farmington, often with small children in tow.

When the students learned about a program that might help the shelter stay open at least for portions of the day, one that would also teach residents financial management and communication skills key to finding and keeping their housing, the students resolved to apply for grants to secure funding for the shelter.

“Farmington is such a close-knit community that we feel like the homeless people are also part of this community,” Sawyer-Boulette, 37, said. “If it was any one of us, we assume that people would help us, too.”

As the students spoke Monday with Skowhegan and shelter staff at the university’s Education Center, UMF assistant professor Kelly Bentley looked on. Bentley has been teaching the grant-writing class for six years but said this was first time her students got to see their efforts pay off.

More importantly, she said, the students were able to make the connection between their coursework and the impact they can have on the world around them.

That impact was not lost on Rhiannan Jackson, 21, of Saco. Jackson said she shared many of her classmates’ sentiments about the class when it began, but as she learned more, the academics felt less important.

“We cared a lot and really wanted to do something for the shelter,” Jackson said. “We had such an invested interest in the subject, we did get good grades.”

Now some of Bentley’s students say they want to keep writing grants after they graduate. Sawyer-Boulette said she’s hoping to work in the nonprofit sector.

“I love it. I really do. I think the writing part and all that is difficult, but I think if you really want to help a nonprofit or an organization, that it doesn’t become work,” Sawyer-Boulette said. “It’s more meaningful.”

Kate McCormick can be contacted at 861-9218 or at:

Twitter: KateRMcCormick

]]> 0 left, University of Maine Farmington students Melissa Sawyer-Boulette, Ronie Moralis and Rhiannan Jackson helped write a successful grant proposal that will enable a homeless shelter to maintain its day program for residents.Tue, 24 Jan 2017 00:44:19 +0000
Portland to conduct annual homeless count Tuesday night Tue, 24 Jan 2017 01:38:02 +0000 Portland will conduct its annual point-in-time homeless count Tuesday night, as the city tries to get a better handle on how many persons are homeless in Maine’s largest city.

Mayor Ethan Strimling and members of the Portland City Council will meet William Burney, Maine’s field office director for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, at the Oxford Street Shelter, where the survey will begin at 5:30 p.m.

The survey’s purpose is to gather information from people experiencing homelessness. The data collected are then used to develop strategies to end homelessness.

Teams of volunteers will go out into the community Tuesday night to try to find homeless persons who are not sheltered. They may ask the individual questions and offer a place to stay if the person does not have shelter.

HUD requires federally funded homeless service providers across the nation to conduct a point-in-time count of their homeless population every January.

In 2016, Portland’s count identified 759 homeless individuals living in the city. Of that total, 706 were sheltered and 53 had no shelter.

]]> 0 Mon, 23 Jan 2017 20:57:53 +0000
Three storms drench Southern California Tue, 24 Jan 2017 01:22:11 +0000 LOS ANGELES — Sunshine and rainbows alternated with thunderclaps, downpours, snow and hail Monday as the last in a trio of storms broke up over California after flooding roads and homes and trapping people in swamped vehicles.

At least four people died, three were missing and others were rescued from raging floodwaters during the storms that added to impressive amounts of precipitation in a state that has struggled through years of withering drought.

As of Sunday night, downtown Los Angeles had recorded 14 inches of rain since the start of the water year on Oct. 1, just .77 inch less than the seasonal average, and rain continued to fall in the unstable aftermath of the storm front.

Heavy snow in the Sierra Nevada triggered an avalanche that shut down a highway west of Lake Tahoe. Officials warned of continuing avalanche danger at all elevations of the Sierra.

In northern Nevada, schools were canceled after more than a half-foot of snow fell near Reno.

Flood watches and warnings remained in place for much of Southern California, a day after nearly 4 inches of rain fell south of Los Angeles, inundating roadways, toppling trees and raising fears of damaging mudslides.

Low-elevation snow dusted rural communities just north of Los Angeles, while resort communities to the east in the San Bernardino Mountains were digging out from more heavy snow. Many schools in the inland region closed for the day.

The last of the three storms brought hours of rainfall to Southern California on Sunday.

Ryan Schwarzrock, 35, and his wife, Emily Earhart, 32, were at home in Seal Beach, south of Los Angeles, when the rain began to pound. The couple watched the street that winds through their mobile home community fill with water. Then, the water crept over the concrete step leading up to their home.

“It just started seeping in,” Earhart said. “We started getting towels and realized it wasn’t going to do it.”

The couple propped up couches on empty plastic bins and used paving stones to raise the bed off the floor. They pulled books from lower shelves and stacked them on the kitchen table. In 20 minutes, the floor was covered with 4 inches of water.

“With the drought, no one has really been thinking about rain and floods, and then it all comes,” Schwarzrock said.

Other Southern Californians were able to find some fun in the floods, paddleboarding and rafting through streets. A helmeted man raced a personal watercraft through suburban Fullerton.

The National Weather Service had warned that the system could be among the strongest storms in years, and it delivered.

Long Beach Airport received 3.87 inches of rain by 5 p.m. Sunday, breaking the all-time daily record for rainfall. Los Angeles Airport got 2.78 inches, another single-day record.

Fire departments reported numerous water rescues through the weekend, many involving motorists in high water.

A search resumed Monday for an 18-year-old woman whose car plunged into a rushing creek after a collision in Alameda County southeast of San Francisco on Saturday.

A man’s body was found in a swollen creek in northern San Diego County, which received more than 2.5 inches of rain.

]]> 0 Vincent Flores looks toward a rainbow from Bernal Heights Hill in San Francisco on Monday. The tail end of a punishing winter storm system lashed California with thunderstorms and severe winds Monday after breaking rainfall records, washing out roads and whipping up enormous waves.Mon, 23 Jan 2017 20:22:11 +0000
Southern storm death toll reaches 20 Tue, 24 Jan 2017 01:22:08 +0000 ALBANY, Ga. — A tornado warning on television sent Anthony Mitchell, his pregnant wife and their three children scrambling for what little shelter their mobile home could provide. They crouched in a hallway as the twister started taking their home apart piece by piece.

“The windows exploded, the doors flew off the hinges, the sheetrock started to rip off the walls and fly out the windows,” Mitchell said. “The trailer started to lift up. And about that time a tree fell on the trailer, and I think that’s what held the trailer in place from flying away.”

An unusual midwinter barrage of tornadoes and thunderstorms over the weekend was blamed for at least 20 deaths across the Deep South. Among them were three people killed at Big Pine Estates, the mobile home park in Albany where the Williams family lives.

A twister slammed into the southwestern Georgia city of 76,000 people Sunday afternoon, carving a path of destruction a half-mile wide in places and leaving the landscape strewn with broken trees and mangled sheet metal. Few of the roughly 200 homes at the trailer park escaped damage from the tornado, which was rated by forecasters as at least an EF-2, meaning it packed winds of 111 to 135 mph.

In addition to the three dead at Big Pine Estates, a fourth body was discovered at a home just outside the trailer park.

Mitchell lost his home and marveled that he didn’t lose his life, too.

“Something helped us walk out the front door of the house,” he said. “There’s some people who weren’t fortunate enough to have a front door to walk out of.”

Georgia reported 15 deaths Sunday, and four people died Saturday in Mississippi. In northern Florida, a woman died after a tree crashed into her home in Lake City as a storm passed through.

The National Weather Service said 39 possible tornadoes were reported over the weekend. The agency sent out teams to examine the damage and confirm how many of the storms were twisters, which can happen any time of year but are far more common in the spring and early summer.

A day after the violent weather passed, search crews looked for people and pets in the Albany trailer park, stepping over tree limbs and ducking under splintered pine trunks as they went from home to home. One team discovered a terrified dog in a smashed-in trailer, where it had spent the night. Authorities said the pet owner’s fate was unknown.

In rural Cook County, about 60 miles southeast of Albany, Aretha Perry prayed aloud in front of the First Baptist Church, where a shelter was set up after an apparent tornado destroyed about half the homes at the Sunshine Acres mobile home park.

Perry said her niece and the niece’s brother both lived there, and she drove out to try to help them after hearing the park had been hit.

“We were looking, looking,” Perry said, “but couldn’t find them.”

The coroner later confirmed seven people were found dead at Sunshine Acres. Perry said her two relatives were among them.

“They died in the storm trying to save her grandchildren,” she said, adding that the children survived. “I know they’ve gone on to Jesus.”

At Sunshine Acres on Monday, crews with cadaver dogs checked the wreckage of mobile homes for anyone dead or alive. Authorities kept residents from returning for a second day.

Devocheo Williams, 29, said his home was demolished the day after he moved in.

“The whole trailer park was gone in 15 seconds,” Williams said, describing a funnel cloud that appeared to loop back around and hit the neighborhood a second time. “It looked like a ball of fire was going 100 mph.”

Williams said he saw a little girl picked up by the winds and tossed into a ditch. Nearby, the girl’s mother and a baby were trapped in rubble. He said he helped dig them out.

Not everyone could be saved.

“I was walking by dead bodies of little kids and grown people,” Williams said

]]> 0 workers prepare to enter a mobile home Monday to search for survivors at Big Pine Estates after it was damaged by a tornado in Albany, Ga. Fire and rescue crews were searching through the debris Monday, looking for people who might have become trapped when the storm came through.Mon, 23 Jan 2017 20:22:08 +0000
For India’s many typewriters, ribbon is finally running out Tue, 24 Jan 2017 00:53:16 +0000 NEW DELHI — The end is coming, though admittedly it may not look that way at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, when dozens of young Indians have arrived for morning classes at Anand Type, Shorthand and Keypunch College, and every battered Remington is clattering away.

Looking around the cramped classrooms, you might think that the typewriter still has a future in India. But in one of the last places in the world where it remains a part of everyday life, twilight is at hand.

Even Sunil Chawla will tell you that, and he’s kept Chawla Typewriter going long after the profits disappeared.

“We thought this business would go on forever and ever,” said Chawla, a courtly man whose father founded the family company nearly 60 years ago, but whose own sons chose to avoid the typewriter business. “I’ll keep it alive as long as possible. But after me, I don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s no future in this business.”

For now, only one thing keeps him in the business: “I’m a typewriter man,” he said. “I still have a soft spot for them, and I don’t want to let it go.”

Plus, people do continue to send him typewriters to fix, though most of his work these days is selling supplies for copiers and laminating machines.

India still has a few thousand remaining professional typists. There are a handful of typewriter repairmen and stores selling spare parts. There are typing schools that, at least occasionally, are jammed with students. There are long-outdated government regulations that, for now, help the typewriter cling to life.

But for how long?

“I come here only to pass the time,” Satinder Kumar said on a recent afternoon at Tis Hizari, New Delhi’s main court complex, where 50 or so typists earn a few dollars a day preparing rent agreements, sales contracts and other legal documents.

Kumar worked for 41 years at Tis Hizari, raising two children on his pay.

“It was such a good job. We were working from morning until night,” he said, slouching in front of his manual Remington, a purple beret pulled down over his head to keep out the winter chill. “S.K. Kumar (typist)” it says on a hand-painted sign hanging above what counts as his office, a rusted metal desk in the complex’s yard.

Now, there are just 10-15 pages a day for the hundreds of lawyers scurrying through the maze of buildings and corridors. At 15 rupees a page, or about 20 cents, that barely pays for transportation to work, typewriter ribbons and an occasional tuneup from the complex’s last typewriter repairman. For the typists, things only get busy when all the computers are in use, or there’s an electricity outage.

Technology changes constantly. Jobs die out regularly. Did journalists write about the decline of the video store rental clerk? Did we mourn the end of the LED watch?

But there’s something different about the typewriter, which for more than a century was so important to how the world communicated. It was how presidents issued orders, how Hemingway wrote books, how reporters filed stories. Everything from painfully dull memos to deeply erotic love letters were crafted on typewriters.

In India, the typewriter was never just a piece of office equipment. It was a sign of education, of professional achievement, of women’s growing independence as they slowly entered the workforce. It’s been a Bollywood plot line and a symbol of nationalism (”The all-Indian Typewriter embodies the latest advances,” read a 1950s advertisement for Bombay-based Godrej typewriters.)

Even today it can be a path to success. In a country where government jobs have long been tickets to the middle class, thousands of Indians will sometimes apply for a single clerical position. And while most government offices have shifted to computers for typing tests, some still require a typewriter.

]]> 0 roadside professional typist works near the stock exchange market in New Delhi, India. India still has a few thousand remaining professional typists, but even here, one of the last places in the world where the typewriter remains a part of everyday life, the end is coming.Mon, 23 Jan 2017 19:53:16 +0000
Judge blocks $37 billion merger of health insurer giants Aetna and Humana Tue, 24 Jan 2017 00:36:37 +0000 A federal judge has prohibited the merger of two health insurance giants, Aetna and Humana, upholding the Justice Department’s decision that the $37 billion deal would hurt competition and raise prices for consumers.

“The court is unpersuaded that the efficiencies generated by the merger will be sufficient to mitigate the anticompetitive effects for consumers in the challenged markets,” U.S. District Judge John Bates wrote in his 158-page opinion.

In July, the Justice Department sued to block the merger, arguing that it would reduce competition in the Medicare Advantage market and in some of the exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act. Medicare Advantage plans are Medicare health plans offered by private insurers.

“We are reviewing the opinion now and giving serious consideration to an appeal, after putting forward a compelling case,” Aetna spokesman T.J. Crawford said. The companies’ merger agreement, which has already been extended twice, is due to expire Feb. 15.


Bates wrote in his opinion that the proposed merger would have decreased competition substantially in the Medicare Advantage market in 364 counties. Aetna and Humana had proposed that divesting some of that business to a smaller insurer, Molina, could have addressed those concerns, but the judge did not agree.

The merger was also deemed to lessen competition in the exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act in three Florida counties. Aetna withdrew from the majority of the exchanges that it had participated in this year, citing financial losses. The judge, however, wrote that Aetna withdrew from 17 counties highlighted in the case “specifically to evade judicial scrutiny of the merger.”

In a statement, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brent Snyder called the decision a victory for consumers and said taxpayers and customers would save up to half-a-billion dollars each year.

“This merger would have stifled competition and led to higher prices and lower-quality health insurance,” Snyder said.


In a research note, Ana Gupte, an analyst at Leerink Partners, wrote that she had expected the deal to have a one in three chance of closing. She said other bidders could now emerge for Humana.

In a separate case, Anthem and Cigna have proposed a $54 billion merger that was also blocked by the Justice Department and appealed. The decision in that case is still pending, but Gupte said that deal is also expected to be blocked.

Matthew Cantor, a partner at Constantine Cannon, an antitrust law firm, said the decision was based on a thorough analysis by the judge and argued that an appeal would likely be difficult from a legal standpoint. But he noted that a wild card could be the role of the Trump administration, which is currently pressing to replace the Affordable Care Act and will be negotiating with insurers who sell plans in the marketplaces and in whatever replaces them.

“You have a White House – at least when they were in the president-elect phase – that has seemingly been receptive to having discussions with executives whose mergers are under review,” Cantor said. “It could be that the independence of the Justice Department is cast aside here, in order to create a settlement which would benefit, from a political standpoint, the Trump administration. If they, in fact, revise the ACA so drastically and they can get public statements from these insurers – these large insurers – that they support the transition.”


Dan Mendelson, president of Avalere Health, said that whether on appeal or in new deals, he expects insurers to continue to make acquisitions or attempt mergers. He said it’s possible that insurers could turn to data and analytics firms.

“Health plans have been and will continue to be acquisitive,” Mendelson said. He pointed out that the largest health insurer, UnitedHealth Group, “has already scaled up to a very large degree, so the other companies are interested in following suit.”

A request for comment from Humana was not immediately answered.

The stock prices of both companies fell on the news.

The decision was applauded by advocates for doctors and patients.

“The court ruling halts Aetna’s bid to become the nation’s largest seller of Medicare Advantage plans and preserves the benefits of health insurer competition for a vulnerable population of seniors,” Andrew Gurman, president of the American Medical Association, said in a statement.

Gurman said the decision sets a precedent by determining that the Medicare Advantage market does not compete with traditional Medicare.

“Today’s ruling is a decisive victory for jobs, consumers, and health care. Mega mergers like the proposed consolidation of Aetna and Humana raise prices, lower health care quality – and kill jobs,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Ct., said in a statement.

]]> 0 - This Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, file photo, shows signage in front of Aetna Inc.'s headquarters in Hartford, Conn. A federal judge has rejected health insurer Aetna’s plan to buy rival Humana for about $34 billion and become a major player in the market for Medicare Advantage coverage. U.S. District Judge John Bates said in an opinion filed Monday, Jan. 23, 2017, that he largely agrees with federal regulators who contended that such a combination would hurt competition. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)Mon, 23 Jan 2017 21:48:34 +0000
Kansas bank robber chooses prison over wife Tue, 24 Jan 2017 00:00:39 +0000 KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A 70-year-old man who told investigators after robbing a Kansas bank that he’d rather be imprisoned than with his wife has admitted carrying out the holdup.

Lawrence Ripple pleaded guilty Monday in Kansas City, Kansas, to a federal bank robbery count. He faces up to 20 years in prison.

Court documents show that Ripple gave a Kansas City bank teller a note in September demanding cash and warning he had a gun. Ripple grabbed nearly $3,000, sat in the lobby and told a guard he was the “guy he was looking for.”

An FBI agent says Ripple had argued with his wife earlier.

]]> 0 Mon, 23 Jan 2017 19:00:39 +0000
It will be hard for Trump to make American economy greater Mon, 23 Jan 2017 23:29:11 +0000 WASHINGTON — President Trump’s economic plans are nothing if not ambitious: Annual growth of 4 percent – or more. A diminished trade gap. The creation of 25 million jobs over 10 years, including the return of good-paying factory positions.

It all adds up to an immense challenge, one that Trump aims to achieve mostly by cutting taxes, loosening regulations, boosting infrastructure spending and renegotiating or withdrawing from trade deals. At the top of his agenda: Pulling out of the 12-nation Pacific trade agreement, a move Trump initiated Monday, his first full weekday in office. He has also said he will rewrite the North American Free Trade Agreement to better serve the United States.

Yet to come anywhere near his goals, economists say Trump would have to surmount at least a handful of major hurdles that have long defied solutions.

He may yet succeed. But he faces deep-rooted obstacles that have bedeviled presidents from both parties for years.

Among the challenges:


Trump’s goal of vastly expanding manufacturing would require at least the partial reversal of a decades-long trend toward a service-oriented economy and away from factory work. Former President Obama sought to add 1 million manufacturing jobs in his second term but came up two-thirds short.

Even if Trump could return factory production to its heyday by toughening trade deals and threatening to slap tariffs on America’s trading partners, a surge of new jobs wouldn’t necessarily follow. The increased use of robots and automation has allowed factories to make more goods with fewer workers. Research shows that automation has been a bigger factor than trade in the loss of U.S. factory jobs.

The trend is spreading outside factory gates. Uber is experimenting with self-driving cars. Restaurant chains like Eatsa can now serve meals through an automated order-and-payment system. No cashiers or servers are needed.

“You cannot just slap tariffs on and hope that will bring back middle-class jobs,” says Daron Acemoglu, an economist at MIT. “The jobs that went to China would come back to robots rather than people.”


Jobs that can’t be automated typically require education beyond high school. Yet not everyone can or wants to attend college. Many analysts say the economy needs better and more widely available post-high school education and training, whether through community colleges, vocational schools or boot camps offering technology training.

Such a boot camp is how Sharnie Ivery managed to move beyond the retail and sales jobs he’d held right after high school. In 2013, Ivery began a six-month computer coding boot camp at Flatiron School in New York through which he obtained internships. Last year, he began working as a software developer at Spotify, the music streaming service. “There weren’t many opportunities for a career in technology” without training and experience, said Ivery, 24.

Last year, the Obama administration opened some financial aid programs to Flatiron and other boot camps. But such efforts remain in an experimental phase, and any widespread successes from those programs are likely years away.

A lack of technological skills isn’t an issue only for the tech industry itself. Modern manufacturing work increasingly requires high-tech know-how requiring some education or training beyond high school. Since the economic recovery began in 2009, only 12 percent of manufacturing jobs have gone to workers with no more than a high school degree, according to research by Georgetown University’s Center for Education and the Workforce.


In the past decade, the growth of American workers’ productivity – the amount they produce per hour worked – has slumped to roughly half its long-term average.

That slowdown has imposed a dead weight on the economy. When employees become less efficient, it slows economic growth, and companies can’t raise pay without boosting prices. A faster expansion needs a combination of more people working and more efficient workers.

Trump’s proposals might help somewhat. He favors expanded tax breaks for companies that invest in new machinery and equipment, which typically make workers more productive. And he’s vowed to build more roads, tunnels and other infrastructure, which can save on shipping and commuting costs.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the conservative American Action Forum, says Trump’s push to loosen regulations might also lead to more startup companies, which could prod established businesses to become more efficient.

Still, many economists, like Robert Gordon of Northwestern University, argue that today’s innovations – in mobile communications and biotechnology, for example – aren’t transformative enough to fuel the explosive productivity growth that resulted from inventions like the automobile, telephone and computer.


Economic growth since the recession ended has been both slow and uneven: It’s benefited wealthier Americans far more than low- and middle-income households. Trump’s nominee for Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, noted this concern at a confirmation hearing last week: “The average American worker has gotten nowhere,” he said.

The tepid gains for low- and middle-income families have slowed the economy because those groups typically spend more of their income than do affluent households, and consumer spending is the economy’s primary fuel. Against that backdrop, Trump’s goal of 4 percent annual economic growth – a formidable one under any circumstances – might be next to impossible.

Mnuchin said the administration’s proposals to cut taxes for individuals and businesses would shore up families’ finances and encourage companies to hire more. Yet America’s wealth gap has widened even as previous presidents have cut individual taxes.

And there’s no way to know how companies would use their tax cuts. Many large companies return profits to shareholders by boosting dividend payments and share buybacks, rather than by expanding investment and raising employee pay.


Trump has pledged to add 25 million jobs over the next decade. But with fewer people looking for work now than just a few years ago, it’s unclear where all those extra workers would come from.

The president’s pledge will run up against a long-standing trend: a decline in the proportion of Americans either working or seeking work.

That’s largely a reflection of an aging population. Roughly 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day, and many retire. The Congressional Budget Office forecasts that the proportion of Americans working or looking for work will keep dropping to 61.5 percent by the end of 2020.

Mark Lashinske of Tempe, Arizona-based Modern Industries, which makes machine tools, says he’s struggling to fill 14 machinists’ positions.

Lashinske blames the steady loss of manufacturing jobs since 1980 for discouraging an entire generation from factory work. His company is expanding its efforts to find younger job applicants.

The company has established an internship program and is working with a nonprofit group to encourage disadvantaged high school students to consider manufacturing careers.

“We’ve been looking for quite a while,” he says. “We have such a shortage.”

]]> 0 Mon, 23 Jan 2017 18:44:08 +0000
Rumford man sentenced for conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine Mon, 23 Jan 2017 23:02:18 +0000 A Rumford man has been sentenced to five years in federal prison for his part in a conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine.

Wendell White, 52, formerly of Bangor, will also serve three years of supervised released under the sentence handed down Monday in U.S. District Court in Bangor by federal Judge John A. Woodcock Jr.

According to court records, White was part of a conspiracy from 2010 to 2013 to buy crack in New Haven, Connecticut, and distribute it in Maine, primarily in Penobscot County. Officials also said that White allowed members of the Red Side Guerrilla Brims and Almighty Blood Nation, two street gangs, to use his Bangor apartment, where he lived with his 3-year-old son, to sell and use crack.

The case was investigated by the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, the New Haven, Connecticut, office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and New Haven police.

]]> 0 Mon, 23 Jan 2017 21:17:27 +0000
New Hampshire couple finds U.S. homes for island dogs Mon, 23 Jan 2017 22:10:20 +0000 EXETER, N.H. — During their annual vacations to the French side of the Caribbean island of Saint Martin, Jacqueline Stahle and her husband noticed a four-legged problem.

“We were horrified by how many dogs there were wandering the streets,” said Stahle, an Exeter resident. “They were sick; they had a version of dog AIDS. We would go down there year after year and be sad. You’re there to have a great time and there are these dogs that are emaciated and sick. We wanted to do something.”

From their love of both dogs and Saint Martin grew Friends of Island Dog, an organization established to bring homeless dogs from the island to the United States and place them in loving homes. Working directly with the I Love My Island Dog Shelter on the island, Stahle started a website in 2015 to solicit funds to send to the shelter. Now, she oversees the travel routes of dogs to the United States and matches them with owners.

“(Saint Martin’s) version of a shelter is much different than ours,” Stahle said. “It’s a fenced-in yard with a big grassy area. They have running water but no electricity. That was it. We’re used to coming to the SPCA here where the dogs have their own stalls, air conditioning and playrooms. We decided that was where we wanted to focus our energy.”

Stahle said many island residents don’t spay and neuter their dogs, so the four-legged population on the island is constantly increasing. Many of them are roamers.

Since May 2015, Stahle has placed 15 dogs in local homes. She and her husband have three island dogs themselves: Poco, Pop and Zeb.

“When I’m down there, all of the dogs are special,” she said. “It’s really hard to pick which one is the best one.”

The dogs fly to the United States in the plane’s cabin, not as cargo. The dog and its carrier have to weigh 20 pounds or less, so the dog must be a puppy or on the small side.

Stahle lines up the homes before she gets the dogs. “My goal is to make sure the dog is in the right home,” she said. “There has to be a home first before a dog.”

If Stahle and her husband aren’t scheduled to make a trip to the island, they arrange escorts through the shelter’s Facebook page. Stahle said people who are flying back to New England volunteer to transport the dog. The Facebook page has over 200 members so if someone is flying to Boston, Stahle asks if they would mind bringing a dog with them.

Stahle doesn’t charge any fees for her efforts. The adopter pays $100 to the shelter and $100 for the airline fee, but nothing to Stahle.

“I don’t make anything,” she said. “I don’t sell dogs; I don’t make a dime. This is what I do to give back and help the shelter. We’re just looking to get the dogs off the island and into a good home.”

Stahle has placed coconut retrievers and Belgian Malinois, but many dogs from Saint Martin are mixes.

For Stahle, she said it’s about the “happy ending” for the dogs.

“Every shelter dog has a sad story and working in rescue, my job is to turn their life around,” Stahle said. “To give them a happy life and a happy ending. That’s why I do it. I’m loyal to I Love My Island Dog because they have the same passion for animals as I do and they need help. They have nothing. All the help that I do really makes a difference. Saint Martin is our second home and that shelter needs our help so much. For me it’s personal.”

]]> 0 Mon, 23 Jan 2017 17:10:20 +0000
Strong nor’easter promises tricky driving through Tuesday Mon, 23 Jan 2017 22:05:13 +0000 Most of you have heard there is a nor’easter on the way for late Monday night and Tuesday.  This storm at about 5 p.m. was located off the mid-Atlantic coastline and will move northward over the coming 24 hours, eventually turning east and weakening over the Atlantic Ocean.

Typically, a storm taking this track would be a good snow maker for much of New England.  However, the lack of cold air is a problem and will not allow for a lot of snow from the coastline into the foothills.

A nor'easter will bring a mixed bag of precipitation to the area tonight and Tuesday

A nor’easter will bring a mixed bag of precipitation to the area Monday night and Tuesday. Dave Epstein

The biggest challenge with the forecast is in knowing how much warm air will be present between the ground and the clouds where snow is being manufactured by the dynamics of the storm.

If the temperatures from the cloud to the ground are below freezing, we would be looking at a 12- to 18-inch snowstorm.  If the temperatures at the ground are really warm, we would be looking at an inch, perhaps 2, of rain.

In this upcoming storm, we have a combination of warm and cold air with a layer of warmth just big enough to melt the snow, and a layer of cold just thick enough for it to refreeze.  The image below is a prediction of the atmosphere over Portland on Tuesday morning.  The black line on the right represents temperature and this is forecast to bulge above freezing. This sandwich of warm air will melt the snow falling from the clouds, but the rain will then freeze into pellets of ice known as sleet.   It’s this funky profile that is the reason snow isn’t the primary concern.

Warm air at about 6 to 7 thousand feet will create a sleet and freezing rain situation

Warm air at about 6,000 to 7,000 feet will create a situation of sleet and freezing rain. Dave Epstein

The exact depth of each layer determines whether you receive sleet or freezing rain, and I suspect we will get a bit of both.  Along the coastline, warm air off the ocean will change the precipitation to all rain much earlier than over the foothills and mountains.  In these areas, up to 5 inches of sleet and snow could accumulate.

Sleet and snow will make for slow travel late Monday and Tuesday

Sleet and snow will make for slow travel late Monday and Tuesday. Dave Epstein

It will be breezy, but not excessively so, and I don’t expect any wind damage from this storm.  Coastal flooding, if any, would be minimal as well.

This is a moderate- to high-impact storm for travel because of the ice. This isn’t a major snowstorm or a major ice storm.  While there will be freezing rain on top of the sleet, I don’t expect it to become heavy enough for widespread power outages.  There can, of course, always be scattered issues in any storm.

You should expect precipitation Monday after 9 p.m and continuing through Tuesday.  The storm will wind down Tuesday evening, mostly in the form of rain.

Expect clearing skies Wednesday along with a mild flow of air.

]]> 0, 23 Jan 2017 23:57:09 +0000
Maine author Ashley Bryan’s book about slaves wins Newbery Honor Award Mon, 23 Jan 2017 21:29:37 +0000 Maine author and illustrator Ashley Bryan’s children’s book “Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life” won a Newbery Honor Award on Monday, a runner-up to the Newbery Medal. The American Library Association announced the awards at its winter meeting in Atlanta. The prizes recognize excellence in children’s literature.

The Newbery Medal was awarded to the book “The Girl Who Drank the Moon” by Kelly Barnhill. Other books receiving runner-up honor awards were “The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog,” written by Adam Gidwitz and illustrated by Hatem Aly; and “Wolf Hollow,” written by Lauren Wolk.

“Freedom Over Me” also won two honors medals for the Coretta Scott King Book Award on Monday.

Bryan finished the book last year, after working on it for several years. The project began when he purchased slave records at auction in Maine. Those papers included the names, ages and sale prices of several slaves, and Bryan told their stories by imagining their lives as free people.

The book also was a finalist for a Kirkus Prize in children’s literature.

Bryan, 93, has written more than 50 children’s books, many dealing with African-American spirituals and traditions. He has won many honors, including multiple Coretta Scott King awards and a Lupine Award from the Maine Library Association. A New Yorker, he came to Maine to attend the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in the late 1940s. He has lived year-round in Islesford on Little Cranberry Island since retiring from Dartmouth College in the 1980s.

Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

Twitter: pphbkeyes

]]> 0, ME - JULY 22: Artist Ashley Bryan, 91, poses for a portrait in the workshop at his home in Little Cranberry Island Tuesday, July 22, 2014. Bryan has been making art on the island since 1946 and retired there full time in the 1980s. (Photo by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer)Mon, 23 Jan 2017 23:14:24 +0000
Alec Baldwin to host ‘Saturday Night Live’ Feb. 11 Mon, 23 Jan 2017 21:26:56 +0000 NEW YORK — At the dawn of the Donald Trump administration, “Saturday Night Live’s” own Trump – Alec Baldwin – will be back as the show’s guest host for the 17th time.

The NBC show said Monday that Baldwin will host the Feb. 11 show. Baldwin, who has been portraying Trump on a semi-regular basis this season, has hosted the venerable comedy show more times than any other person.

SNL said that actress Kristen Stewart will debut as a host on the Feb. 4 show.

Alessia Cara will be the musical guest on Stewart’s show, with Ed Sheeran performing on Baldwin’s show.

]]> 0 BaldwinMon, 23 Jan 2017 18:14:05 +0000
Patriots fan pleads not guilty to pulling fire alarm at Steelers’ hotel Mon, 23 Jan 2017 20:54:44 +0000 A New England Patriots fan entered a not guilty plea Monday in East Boston Municipal Court to charges stemming from an incident in which he allegedly pulled a fire alarm early Sunday inside the Boston Hilton Logan Airport hotel in which the Pittsburgh Steelers were staying.

“I’m drunk, I’m stupid, I’m a Pats fan,” Dennis Harrison told Massachusetts State Police, according to the Boston Globe, after he allegedly set off the alarm about 15 hours before kickoff of the AFC championship game. Harrison, who was released on his personal recognizance, was charged with disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace and setting off a false fire alarm.

The idea for the prank was hatched when friends at a housewarming party Harrison was attending dared him to pull the alarm. A friend drove the 25-year-old to the hotel in his car and he went in through the main entrance and pulled the nearest alarm on the second floor at 3:40 a.m., according to the state police. He ran out to his car, but it and his keys were gone. As Harrison walked away from the hotel, he was stopped by state police and told them he was waiting for an Uber car. After a few moments of questioning, he admitted to pulling the alarm and expressed regret, according to Trooper Bryan Erickson’s report.

Harrison is a fourth-year finance student living with his father, his court-appointed attorney Francisco Napolitano told the Globe. He added that Harrison is embarrassed and surprised to have gotten so much media attention. “What stands out in the police report is an allegation of alcohol use,” Napolitano said. “There are also allegations that there were some statements made by this gentleman and the question that becomes pretty obvious: Was he in any condition to make statements?”

His next court date is Feb. 13.

The hotel was partially evacuated, but the Steelers, who went on to lose to the Patriots, were undisturbed.

]]> 0 England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount holds the AFC championship trophy surrounded by fans after the AFC championship NFL football game Sunday in Foxborough, Mass. The Patriots defeated the the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-17 to advance to the Super Bowl.Mon, 23 Jan 2017 15:54:44 +0000
Retiring UNE president to receive Chamber award for leadership Mon, 23 Jan 2017 20:42:56 +0000 Danielle Ripich, the president of the University of New England, will receive an award from the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, recognizing her for 10 years of leadership and contributions to the local economy.

Ripich, who announced she is retiring this year, will receive the Robert R. Masterson Economic Growth Award at the chamber’s annual meeting. During her tenure, enrollment at the university increased from 4,000 to more than 10,000 students and generated an economic impact of more than $1 billion in 2016, according to a release from UNE. The college added new programs to produce dentists, pharmacists, as well as other health professionals, and built a marine sciences program under her leadership. The college launched a study abroad campus in Tangier, Morocco, and acquired an Atlantic island to serve as a field station for its marine science students.

“Leadership is all about having a vision and finding a way to make that vision a reality,” said Chris Hall, Portland chamber CEO, in the release. “Danielle Ripich embodies the best qualities of leadership, and her vision, implemented by her great team at UNE, has brought our region remarkable benefits. Great jobs, exciting new opportunities and the highest quality educational experiences only begin to describe what President Ripich’s leadership has meant to our community.”

]]> 0 Mon, 23 Jan 2017 17:39:04 +0000
Senate panel backs Tillerson for secretary of state in 11-10 party-line vote Mon, 23 Jan 2017 20:42:54 +0000 WASHINGTON — Rex Tillerson’s bid to be secretary of state narrowly won approval Monday from the Republican-led Foreign Relations Committee, a move that all but ensures Senate confirmation of President Donald Trump’s choice to be the nation’s top diplomat.

Members of the committee voted along party lines, 11-10, to back Tillerson after a contentious confirmation hearing nearly two weeks ago that stoked concerns he might not win the panel’s recommendation. But just hours before members cast their votes, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., declared his support for Tillerson, backing off from a challenge to the new president.

Rubio said that despite serious reservations about Tillerson, particularly over his views on Russia, he believes a president is entitled to significant deference in assembling his Cabinet.

None of the committee’s 10 Democrats voted for Tillerson. They cited concerns that Tillerson would continue to view the world through the lens of a corporate executive and not the nation’s chief diplomat.

Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the panel’s top Democrat, said Tillerson “equivocated” during his confirmation hearing on questions about human rights, civil society and press and religious freedoms, and repeatedly prioritized “narrow business interests ahead of these core national security interests.”

Every nominee for the job going back at least four decades has been approved by overwhelming votes from both sides in the Foreign Relations Committee, as senators have traditionally wanted to deliver a bipartisan display of confidence to the nation’s top diplomat. No other nominee since 1977 has received more than two “no” votes from the committee.

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the committee’s Republican chairman, said he has “no doubt” Tillerson is well-qualified, citing his leadership of the energy giant. Corker chided his colleagues who had demanded information about Tillerson’s personal taxes, saying the material had been used to ask “silly, silly questions.”

Rubio announced he would vote for Tillerson in a statement posted on Facebook. “Despite my reservations, I will support Mr. Tillerson’s nomination in committee and in the full Senate,” said Rubio, who’d come under strong pressure from fellow Republicans to back the nomination and avoid dealing Trump an embarrassing setback in the early days of his presidency.

Rubio clashed with Tillerson at a committee hearing this month, bridling at his refusal to label Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” and his failure to condemn human rights violations in Saudi Arabia and the Philippines in strong enough terms. He chided Tillerson over the need for “moral clarity.” But in the end, after unsuccessfully opposing Trump for the Republican nomination last year before coming around to support him, Rubio decided to fall in line this time, too.

His statement came after the nomination got a boost on Sunday from two influential Republican senators, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who also offered tepid endorsements for Tillerson. Like Rubio, McCain and Graham had voiced concerns in light of Tillerson’s long history of personal dealings with Putin, his record of doing oil deals in Russia and his questioning of the U.S. sanctions on that country.

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said he was encouraged by several of Tillerson’s public stances, including “his clear-eyed understanding of the threat posed by Putin’s Russia” and his commitment to NATO. But Coons said the differences on key issues between himself and Tillerson two outweighed the similarities.

“I believe that climate change is a pressing national security threat,” Coons said. “I believe that advocating for human rights, a free press, and democracy around the world advances our own security and economic interests here at home.”

Further roiling the debate is U.S. intelligence’s assessment that Russia meddled in the presidential election to help Trump defeat Hillary Clinton.

Even while announcing his support for Tillerson, Rubio laid out a series of concerns in his statement Monday.

“Despite his extensive experience in Russia and his personal relationship with many of its leaders, he claimed he did not have sufficient information to determine whether Putin and his cronies were responsible for ordering the murder of countless dissidents, journalists and political opponents,” Rubio said of Tillerson. “He indicated he would support sanctions on Putin for meddling in our elections only if they met the impossible condition that they not affect U.S. businesses operating in Russia.”

]]> 0 of State-designate Rex Tillerson testifies on Capitol Hill at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this month. He won an 11-10 endorsement by the committee on Monday.Mon, 23 Jan 2017 18:30:15 +0000
What can mackerel and an 1815 volcanic eruption say about climate change? Mon, 23 Jan 2017 20:27:29 +0000 What could an Indonesian volcanic eruption, a 200-year-old climate disaster and a surge in the consumption of mackerel tell us about today’s era of global warming?

Quite a bit, researchers say.

A group of scientists and academics with the University of Massachusetts and other institutions made that assessment while conducting research about a long-ago calamity in New England that was caused by the eruption of Mount Tambora half a world away in 1815.

A cooled climate led to deaths of livestock and changed fish patterns in New England, leaving many people dependent on the mackerel, an edible fish that was less affected than many animals. The researchers assert that bit of history gives clues about what food security could be like in the modern era of climate change.

“How we respond to these events is going to be critically important for how we come out of this in the long term,” said Karen Alexander, the lead author of the study and a research fellow in environmental conservation. “We can learn from the past how people dealt with the unanticipated.”

The research group’s findings were published this month in the journal Science Advances. They looked at what the catastrophic Tambora eruption meant for the Gulf of Maine and nearby human food systems.

The eruption was one of the most powerful in recorded history and was followed by a short time of climate change – specifically, global cooling – and severe weather. Its impact on weather, food availability and human and animals deaths worldwide has been studied extensively. The year that followed the eruption, 1816, is often described as the “Year Without a Summer.”

The researchers behind the Science Advances article found that alewives, a fish used for everything from fertilizer to food by 19th-century New Englanders, did not fare well. But mackerel had better survival rates and became a critical source of protein and jobs, Alexander said.

As crops failed and famine began to spread, the little fish emerged as a staff of life, the report states. The shift marked the beginning of the mackerel fishery as a critical piece of New England’s marine economy, and it remains active today; Maine and Massachusetts fishermen caught more than 8 million pounds of Atlantic mackerel in 2015.

It’s a scenario similar to what parts of the developing world are experiencing today as climate change affects food security.

The study states there is a parallel between the need for immediate adaptation after Tambora and the challenges in coping with the climate-driven devastation caused by storms, floods and droughts today. It notes that the loss of food staples due to climate change caused people in the northeastern states to move — something seen today in places such as Pakistan and Syria.

“Understanding how adaptive responses to extreme events can trigger unintended consequences may advance long-term planning for resilience in an uncertain future,” the report states.

How fisheries in the developing world will adapt to future climate change is an important contemporary food security issue, because fish are a vitally important protein resource worldwide. More than a billion of the world’s poor obtain most of their animal protein from fish, and 800 million depend on fisheries and aquaculture for livelihoods, according to the nonprofit research group WorldFish.

The report illustrates how abrupt changes in climate can have unexpected consequences long after conditions moderate, said Andy Pershing, chief scientific officer and ecosystem modeler for the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland.

“Good stewardship of our natural resources can help buffer against some climate impacts. Unlike the people in 1815, we have an idea of what’s coming, and we need to make sure we are prepared,” he said.

]]> 0 Bay fishermen clean mackerel near their saltwater farm off the Maine coast in this 1891 photo. Scientists have concluded that the 1815 volcanic eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia led to a short period of climate cooling, and that led to increased the consumption of mackerel, which were less affected than crops and other animals in New England.Mon, 23 Jan 2017 15:27:29 +0000
Lewiston women left child in car while they robbed Biddeford store, police say Mon, 23 Jan 2017 19:33:26 +0000 Two Lewiston women were arrested Sunday after allegedly leaving a child in a car while they robbed a Biddeford store clerk at gunpoint.

Kaylee M. Bernier and Monica L. Durgin, both 23, were arrested after officers responded to an incident at 7B Corner Store on Elm Street around 6 p.m., police said.

Bernier was arrested on charges of robbery, criminal threatening and endangering the welfare of a child. Durgin was charged with robbery and endangering the welfare of a child. Bail was not allowed for either woman and they were taken to York County Jail.

The Department of Health and Human Services was contacted about the 6-year-old child found waiting in the car the women were using. The child was placed in the custody of a relative in Lewiston.

]]> 0 Mon, 23 Jan 2017 14:33:26 +0000
Title of new Star Wars film, ‘The Last Jedi,’ raises the obvious question Mon, 23 Jan 2017 19:26:36 +0000 NEW YORK — “Star Wars: Episode VIII” finally has a title: “The Last Jedi.”

The Walt Disney Co. announced the title for the next chapter in the Skywalker saga Monday. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” will be released on Dec. 15.

Speculation over just who the last Jedi is immediately ran rampant on social media. “The Force Awakens” chronicled Daisy Ridley’s Rey discovering her powers with the Force, but ended ominously with a withdrawn Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) on a remote island. If there’s to be just one Jedi left, Luke’s days could be numbered.

In an interview Monday at the Sundance Film Festival, Mark Hamill said he liked that the title was “straightforward” and “minimalist.”

“They told us that when we were making the movie and I said don’t tell me these things. I talk in my sleep,” Hamill said. “They have us so jacked up with paranoia over leaks.”

Writer-director Rian Johnson has previously said “Episode VIII” will start right where “The Force Awakens” left off.

]]> 0 scene is from "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." The title for the next chapter in the Skywalker saga is "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," to be released on Dec. 15.Mon, 23 Jan 2017 16:41:09 +0000
Car set to be repossessed is stolen in Fairfield Mon, 23 Jan 2017 18:37:01 +0000 FAIRFIELD — A car believed to have been repossessed by a bank earlier this month turned out actually to have been stolen, according to police.

Fairfield Police Chief Tom Gould said a 2011 maroon Nissan Altima was taken from a driveway on Crane Drive. The car had been signed back over to the bank, and the owner cleaned it out and left the keys under the car for the bank.

The car was last seen on Jan. 12, but Gould said the bank recently called the former owner to see where the vehicle was. It was then determined the car had been stolen. Gould said he did not believe the vehicle had license plates on it.

The name of the vehicle’s former owner is not being released, Gould said, because at the time of the theft he did not own it anymore.

“When the car disappeared (the owner) thought the bank had come to get it,” Gould said, adding the man “didn’t think anything of it.”

There are no suspects at this time, but the theft remains under investigation. Gould said Fairfield does not experience all that many car thefts, usually just two or three a year. Normally the vehicles are recovered shortly thereafter, he said.

“It’s not totally unheard of, but it certainly stands out,” Gould said.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

Twitter: @colinoellis

]]> 0 Mon, 23 Jan 2017 13:37:01 +0000
Tom Brady on Trump: ‘It’s just a friendship’ Mon, 23 Jan 2017 18:11:09 +0000 If Tom Brady picked up a phone and called President Donald Trump in the days leading up to his inauguration, he would prefer for that to remain a state secret, thank you very much.

“I have called him, yes, in the past. Sometimes he calls me. Sometimes I call,” the New England Patriots quarterback said Monday morning on WEEI radio in Boston.

“But, again, that’s been someone I’ve known. I always try to keep it in context because for 16 years you know someone before maybe he was in the position that he was in. He’s been very supportive of me for a long time. It’s just a friendship. I have a lot of friends. I call a lot of people.”

Brady has tried to dodge political talk about Trump throughout the regular season, and he was taking evasive action again last week after Trump addressed Patriots owner Robert Kraft during a pre-inaugural dinner, saying, “Your friend Tom just called. He feels good. He called to congratulate us. He feels good.” Brady might have let the topic die after that statement, but he elaborated the morning after the Patriots advanced to Super Bowl LI.

“Why does everybody make such a big deal?” he said. “I don’t understand it.”

It has been a rather big deal ever since a “Make America Great Again” cap was spotted in Brady’s locker during the 2015 season. He, along with Coach Bill Belichick, have been asked again and again about the friendship with Trump. During a campaign stop the weekend before the election, Trump proclaimed in New Hampshire that Brady had voted for him and Belichick had sent a supportive note. But Brady’s wife, supermodel Gisele Bündchen, replied “NO!” to an Instagram user who asked if she and Brady supported Trump.

Last October, he described a relationship based on golf and Trump’s support for the football team. On Monday, Brady said that even the best of friends and golfing buddies do not always agree on every single thing.

“I don’t want to get into it, but if you know someone it doesn’t mean you agree with everything they say or they do. You have a lot of friends in your life,” Brady said. “I think there are things that are based in your own dealings with someone that is a personal dealing, not a public dealing. Because you have personal experiences.”

With a Super Bowl less than two weeks away, Brady least of all wants to create the thing football coaches hate most: a distraction.

“I just don’t want to be a distraction for our team. There are too many guys that are working hard in one direction to help us win games to help us get to the point where we are now. You just don’t want to be a distraction. There are too many distractions in life.”

So . . . it’s on to Houston. If the Patriots win the Super Bowl, maybe Brady won’t skip the White House visit the way he did in April 2015.

“I just try and stay positive and actually this world could use a little more positivity,” Brady said. “Everything’s not great in this world and everything is not great in life. But if you try and take a positive approach . . . I try to do that. I try to do that in practice. I try to do that with my team. I try to do that with my family. That’s how I go about life. I don’t like negativity. I don’t like a lot of confrontation. Those things don’t make me feel very good. I wouldn’t be a good talk show host.”

]]> 0, 23 Jan 2017 13:56:32 +0000
Wind-driven storm could cause messy commute, power outages Mon, 23 Jan 2017 18:05:02 +0000 Portland City Hall and municipal buildings will open later than usual, the Legislature canceled all hearings and meetings, and Central Maine Power Co. issued a weather warning to customers as the state braced for a potentially dangerous winter storm that was expected to drop a mix of snow, rain, sleet and freezing rain over most of Maine early Tuesday.

Margaret Curtis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, said Portland could get up to three inches of wet snow before it changes to sleet and freezing rain early Tuesday morning.

“It would be a good day to stay home if you don’t have to be on the roads,” Curtis said. “Overall, it is going to be a mess.”


The nor’easter prompted Portland officials to announce Monday that City Hall and other municipal buildings would not open until 9 a.m.

State government announced late Monday afternoon that all of Tuesday’s legislative work sessions, public hearings and meetings have been canceled and all legislative offices will be closed.

CMP issued a statement late Monday afternoon advising its customers of potential power outages from what it characterized as a “major winter storm.” The company said it was concerned because gusty winds “could put tree limbs into contact with power lines and may create dangerous travel conditions that could lead to car-pole crashes.”

“Every hour of every day, we are prepared to respond to power interruptions, but in a case like this, all employees throughout the company are on heightened alert,” Sara Burns, CMP’s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

The weather service said winds will be powerful along the coast, with gusts up to 40 mph. Over the ocean, wind speeds could reach 60 mph, creating waves up to 20 feet high along the coast.

Emera Maine, which provides electrical service to northern and eastern parts of the state, also issued a statement saying the company is ready to respond to outages.

“If forecast models hold true, most of the winds are expected from the north, and that is a good thing,” said Brad Flannery, manager of line and meter operations. “The fact that most trees have lost their leaves and the ground is frozen is also helpful, but the ice is a concern. So we’re preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.”

Portland did not have a parking ban Monday night, but Biddeford, Saco, Sanford and Lisbon all announced parking bans.

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

]]> 0 Tue, 24 Jan 2017 00:00:25 +0000
Greely High graduate killed while walking cross-country for environmental cause Mon, 23 Jan 2017 17:21:31 +0000 A former Greely High School student and standout athlete was killed Saturday in Florida while walking barefoot across the country to raise awareness about climate change.

Mark Baumer, 33, was struck by a 2015 Buick SUV while walking along the shoulder of Highway 90 in Walton County, his father, Jim Baumer, said Monday. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Baumer began walking cross-country barefoot on Oct. 13 to raise awareness about climate change and funds for the FANG Collective, an environmental organization in Providence, Rhode Island.

“I am crossing America barefoot to save earth,” Baumer wrote on his website. “Climate change is the greatest threat we’ve ever faced as a civilization. A lot of scientists agree. I am not a scientist. I am a poet. I am also a regular human being.”

Baumer grew up in Durham, the only son of Jim and Mary Baumer of Brunswick. He was a 2002 graduate of Greely High School in Cumberland and a standout on the school’s baseball team. He was an all-conference power-hitter who earned the respect of players on and off the field.

“Whatever he decided to do, he threw his whole heart into it,” his father said. “He was a tremendous baseball player. He had a great work ethic. He was a great kid.”

Baumer went on to play baseball at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. During his senior year, the team made it to the Division III National Championship game but fell short. He graduated in 2006, and left the game of baseball.

In July of that year, Baumer began hitchhiking across the U.S. with a friend. They made it to the West Coast in 20 days.

In 2009, he was accepted into the Master of Fine Arts program at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. At the end of his first year, he walked across the U.S. in 81 days. He wrote a book about his experience, “I am a Road.”

Baumer returned to Brown University and received his master’s in 2011.

The following year, Baumer took a position at Brown University Library, most recently working as a web content specialist. He took a leave of absence in October to make his second walk across America.

“He was a curious and innovative thinker, who was truly committed to his work at the library and at the university,” said Kerri Hicks, manager of library web services.

While living and working in Providence, he became involved in local labor and social justice causes. He became a union steward and worked to secure a fair contract for librarians at Brown University. He participated in protests against companies such as Providence-based Textron, the last U.S. manufacturer of cluster bombs. He was arrested last year during a protest at Textron.

The arrest didn’t deter him. The experience fueled his passion for activism.

Baumer left again on Oct.13 to walk barefoot across the country. His father said he felt a pull to get back on the road to raise awareness about climate change.

While walking through Ohio, Baumer encountered severe weather conditions and took a Greyhound bus to Jacksonville, Florida. On day 78, he joined a group of activists protesting the Sabal Trail pipeline in the Southeast.

“He was so passionate about the environment and climate change,” his father said. “During the trip, he questioned whether he should be in North Dakota instead of there. Even though he was committed to getting across the country, he wanted to lend his support.”

Baumer documented his trips through various blog posts and videos posted on Facebook and other social media platforms.

“I decided to cross America barefoot to see if I could save earth,” Baumer wrote in a post on a fundraising website. “I know this is a lofty goal, but I hope through my walk I can raise awareness about climate change. If we are ever going to overcome climate change we all need to do everything we can to stop it.”

His goal was to raise $10,000. As of 6:30 p.m. Monday, $18,028 had been raised.

Sonja Siglar of Westville, Florida, was identified as the driver of the SUV that struck and killed Baumer. Police said the driver will face charges, The Associated Press reported.

A celebration of Baumer’s life is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 4 in Providence.

]]> 0, 24 Jan 2017 00:21:59 +0000
York County casino plan qualifies for statewide vote in November Mon, 23 Jan 2017 17:20:47 +0000 Maine voters likely will decide in November whether to approve a York County casino sought by a controversial international developer responsible for bringing gambling to Maine more than a decade ago.

The Maine Secretary of State’s Office said Monday that backers of the ballot initiative seeking a York County casino or slot machine facility submitted enough signatures to send the issue to the voters this fall. The language of the ballot initiative is phrased in a way so that only gambling entrepreneur Shawn Scott or his associates would be allowed to build the casino.

This was the second attempt to qualify for the ballot by Horseracing Jobs Fairness – the political group behind the campaign – after Secretary of State Matt Dunlap invalidated tens of thousands of signatures last year.

Horseracing Jobs Fairness has spent roughly $4 million to get to this point, every penny of which came from Scott’s sister.

In her first public comments on the ballot drive, Lisa Scott said Monday that the proposed “Southern Maine gaming facility” would create 800 construction jobs and more than 1,000 permanent jobs. The ballot initiative does not specify a location in York County for the facility.

“The approval of this initiative will preserve tens of millions of dollars in revenues that are currently being lost from Maine and going to other New England gaming locations,” Lisa Scott, a Miami resident involved in real estate development, said in a written statement. “These revenues can be kept in Maine. In light of the expanded gaming developments in Massachusetts, it is more critical than ever to protect the jobs and tax revenues in Maine.”


All ballot initiatives first go to the Legislature, which can either approve the proposal or send it to voters. Historically, lawmakers have allowed voters to decide such issues.

Like Maine’s two other voter-approved gambling facilities – Hollywood Casino in Bangor and Oxford Casino in Oxford – the York County proposal is touted as a way to prop up Maine’s financially beleaguered harness racing sector.

“This project will protect tax revenues for the Maine harness racing industry – the owners, breeders, trainers, drivers and grooms that preserve the traditions and values of this valued agricultural industry – in addition to providing millions of dollars for health care and education,” Lisa Scott said.

She pumped millions of dollars into Maine in late 2015 and early 2016 in hopes of placing the issue on last November’s ballot. But the process was marred by complaints about aggressive or misleading petitioners and sloppy paperwork, while also highlighting the largely underground national industry built around gathering signatures for ballot initiatives.

Trying to gather more than 61,000 signatures in a matter of months, Horseracing Jobs Fairness hired contractors reportedly offering petition circulators up to $10 per signature. But Dunlap’s office invalidated more than 55,000 of those signatures, forcing the campaign to hit the streets again late last year.

The second batch of 64,897 signatures filed with Dunlap’s office in December included more than 51,000 valid signatures, which, when combined with 35,000 valid signatures submitted last year, allowed the group to qualify for this fall’s ballot.

Shawn Scott’s involvement in the project is likely to become part of the debate going forward, given his previous ventures in Maine and around the world.

Scott led the 2003 referendum campaign to authorize Maine’s first “racino” – a combination horse racetrack/slots casino in Bangor. He didn’t stick around long enough to build the racino as state regulators scrutinized his business ties. Instead, he cashed out by selling the rights to Penn National Gaming for a reported $51 million. Penn National subsequently expanded Hollywood Casino to include table games.

Scott and his gambling dealings have been the subject of considerable scrutiny in other states and countries. Most recently, the Mariana Islands-based firm where Scott is listed as vice chairman, Bridge Capital, helped fund the 2016 ballot initiative in Massachusetts seeking approval to add slot machines at Suffolk Downs racetrack. Bridge Capital’s involvement did not become public until days before the election.

Massachusetts voters rejected the ballot initiative by a margin of 61 percent to 39 percent.

In her statement released Monday, Lisa Scott said the York County proposal would “complete the vision started more than a decade ago when gaming was first introduced in Maine to preserve the horse racing tradition, revenues for health care and education, and jobs for Mainers.”


The York County casino proposal already ranks as one of the state’s most expensive ballot initiatives, and the true campaign hasn’t even begun.

Lisa Scott contributed nearly $4.1 million to Horseracing Jobs Fairness to qualify for the ballot. By comparison, last year’s failed campaign to require background checks on private gun sales in Maine spent $5.4 million, while supporters of same-sex marriage spent $4.5 million on the entire 2009 campaign.

Gambling proposals have mixed records with Maine voters. While the Bangor and Oxford proposals were both approved at the ballot box, voters have rejected several attempts by Maine’s Indian tribes to open gambling facilities as well as a proposed Lewiston-area casino.

A September 2014 report commissioned by the Legislature determined there was market capacity for additional casino gambling in Maine and recommended that any facility be located in the southern end of the state within close proximity of Interstate 95. The report, from Atlantic City-based WhiteSand Gaming, also said the state could support a modest casino – limited to 250 slot machines and 10 table games – near the Maine-Canada border in Washington County or Aroostook County in addition to the southern Maine facility.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

Twitter: KevinMillerPPH

]]> 0 dealer hands out chips at the Spanish 21 Blackjack table at Oxford Casino Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff PhotographerTue, 24 Jan 2017 00:31:46 +0000
Trump’s cancellation of hot-button Asian trade deal shifts U.S. role in world economy Mon, 23 Jan 2017 17:17:44 +0000 WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s cancellation Monday of an agreement for a sweeping trade deal with Asia began recasting America’s role in the global economy, leaving an opening for other countries to flex their muscles.

Trump’s executive order formally ending the United States’ participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership was a largely symbolic move intended to signal that his tough talk on trade during the campaign will carry over to his new administration. The action came as China and other emerging economies are seeking to increase their leverage in global affairs, seizing on America’s turn inward.

Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto declared Monday that his country hopes to bolster trade with other nations and limit its reliance on the United States. Chinese state media derided Western democracy as having “reached its limits”; President Xi Jinping had touted Beijing’s commitment to globalization during his first appearance at the annual gathering of the world’s economic elite last week in Davos, Switzerland.

“This abrupt action so early in the Trump administration puts the world on notice that all of America’s traditional economic and political alliances are now open to reassessment and renegotiation,” said Eswar Prasad, a professor of trade policy at Cornell University. “This could have an adverse long-run impact on the ability of the U.S. to maintain its influence and leadership in world economic and political affairs.”

The TPP was one of President Barack Obama’s signature efforts, part of a broader strategy to increase American clout in Asia and provide a check on China’s economic and military ambitions. The deal with 11 other nations along the Pacific Rim covered a wide swath of goods, granting U.S. cattle ranchers better access to Japan and lowering tariffs on apparel imported from Vietnam. Congress granted Obama “fast-track” authority to negotiate the agreement in 2015, but political sentiment quickly shifted, and the deal fell apart without making it to Capitol Hill for approval.

Trump’s election effectively guaranteed its demise. Monday’s executive order made it official.

Pulling out of the deal “raises fundamental questions about American reliability,” said Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. “It leaves our allies and trading partners in the lurch. It does create strategic opportunities for China.”

Those include Beijing’s own regional trade agreement, which it is pursuing with 15 other Asian countries, including Japan. An analysis by White House economists under Obama found that a deal between just China and Japan could jeopardize $5 billion in U.S. exports and millions of American jobs. Proponents of the TPP have also pointed to recent reports of Beijing’s weapons buildup on islands in the South China Sea as evidence of the country’s emboldened posture.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., echoed those concerns Monday, calling Trump’s withdrawal from the TPP a “serious mistake” that will give China greater authority to dictate the terms of international trade.

In his speech in Davos, even Xi warned that America’s protectionist turn could backfire and wind up damaging the world economy.

“No one will emerge as a winner in a trade war,” Xi said.

But canceling the TPP was one of the clarion calls of Trump’s campaign, part of a global backlash against the drive toward greater internationalization that has defined the world economy since the end of World War II. British Prime Minister Theresa May, who is in the midst of navigating her country’s own break from established trading partners, is slated to visit with Trump this week. A White House spokesman said meetings with Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are in the works.

“What we want is fair trade,” Trump said during a meeting with business executives Monday. “And we’re going to treat countries fairly, but they have to treat us fairly.”

Ending America’s involvement in the TPP was also a top priority for Democrats. On Monday, five Democratic senators introduced legislation that would require the president to notify each of the 11 other countries involved in the deal of the United States’ withdrawal. It would also block any “fast track” approval of the agreement in the future.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka hailed the president’s executive order and called for additional action.

“They are just the first in a series of necessary policy changes required to build a fair and just global economy,” he said in a statement.

John Veroneau, a partner at the law firm Covington who served as deputy U.S. trade representative under President George W. Bush, said the Trump administration could still pursue bilateral deals with individual countries, particularly Japan and Vietnam, that mirror the deals negotiated under the TPP. But he pointed out that China is aggressively seeking to lock in trade agreements with many of the same countries that had signed on to the TPP.

“If the U.S. decides to pause, we should assume that some of our trading partners will move ahead,” Veroneau said.

In addition to backing out of the TPP, Trump has also vowed to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, the cornerstone of the U.S. economic relationship with Mexico and Canada for more than two decades. Trump’s nominee for commerce secretary, billionaire investor Wilbur Ross, has said he considers reopening the deal the first order of business for his agency. On Monday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the administration would tackle NAFTA “very shortly.”

In Mexico, Peña Nieto said in a speech Monday that he plans to begin trade talks with other countries that had signed on to the TPP. And he stressed that in the Trump era, one of Mexico’s top priorities will be to diversify its trading and political partners so it won’t have to rely so heavily on the United States.

Mexico is a nation “open to the world,” Peña Nieto said.

Meanwhile, Trudeau and other top Canadian officials met with Trump adviser Stephen Schwarzman, chief executive of the Blackstone Group, according to the Globe and Mail. Schwarzman called trade between the United States and Canada “in balance.”

“Things should go well for Canada in terms of any discussions with the United States,” he said, according to the Globe and Mail.

In meetings with business leaders and union workers Monday, Trump highlighted his proposal for a border tax as a centerpiece of his administration’s trade policy.

Dow Chemical chief executive Andrew Liveris, who attended the meeting, said the border tax was discussed extensively. He said the executives were asked to return in 30 days with a plan to shore up the manufacturing industry.

“I would take the president at his word here,” Liveris said. “He’s not going to do anything to harm competitiveness. He’s going to actually make us all more competitive.”

Still, it is unclear exactly how a border tax would be implemented. Testifying before the Senate Finance Committee last week, Trump’s nominee to lead the Treasury Department said any border tax would be targeted at specific businesses. However, the president does not have the power to levy taxes, and experts on international trade have warned that focusing on particular companies could violate treaties.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has proposed allowing businesses that export goods to deduct many of their expenses, while those that import would not receive the same benefit. But in a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Trump dismissed the plan, known as “border adjustment,” as “too complicated.”

Some industry groups argue that Trump’s approach would better leverage America’s status as the world’s largest economy.

Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, said his group is hoping that opening up NAFTA could provide more leeway to combat currency manipulation in countries outside the agreement. His group, which represents both industry and unions, is also seeking more stringent rules of origin, which dictate how much production must occur within member countries to qualify for free-trade status.

“The details are going to matter a lot,” Paul said. “Renegotiating NAFTA obviously entails some risks and some rewards.”

]]> 0 Trade Council adviser Peter Navarro, right, and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, center, await President Donald Trump's signing three executive orders, Monday, Jan. 23, 2017, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)Tue, 24 Jan 2017 00:40:20 +0000
Passamaquoddy canoe maker and craftsman David Moses Bridges dies at 54 Mon, 23 Jan 2017 16:33:05 +0000 David Moses Bridges, an artist and activist who worked to preserve Wabanaki culture and fought for the environmental rights of tribes in Maine and across North America, died Friday at his ancestral home at Pleasant Point. He was 54.

A Passamaquoddy, Bridges made canoes from birch bark and spruce roots, and was an award-winning basketmaker. His canoes, baskets and other works are in museums across Maine and around the country, including the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, where Bridges was a board member.

The Maine Arts Commission named him a Traditional Arts Fellow, the state’s highest honor in craft. In 2006, the First People’s Fund gave him its Community Spirit Award, a national honor in recognition of his work as an activist and traditional artist.

“For lack of a better term, he was a culture bearer, and he worked very hard at it for a very long time,” said Hugh French, director of the Tides Institute & Museum in Eastport. “He was very proud of his culture, and he worked to preserve that culture through his own work and through education. It was a tall order, and he went at it hard.”

Bridges was born on May 17, 1962, in Portland, grew up in South Portland and studied forestry at Unity College before moving to California. When he came back to Maine, he learned to build boats and became a master canoe maker and craftsman.

He suffered from sinus cancer, and spent much of the past year in Portland receiving treatment. As his health allowed, he worked at a friend’s workshop in South Portland. He told the Portland Press Herald last February that working with his hands helped keep him focused on something other than his illness. “Work keeps my mind off where I am,” he said. “If I think about where I am, I would be under the covers all day, just peeping out waiting for the inevitable. I don’t want to do that. Work keeps my mind in a happy place. I am trying to balance the reality by living today, one moment at a time.”

Theresa Secord, a Penobscot basketmaker and National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow, said Bridges’ death reverberates across Maine and the country. “David was an inspiration to many, especially young male Wabanaki artists, and a draw to many of our events, as a truly gifted artist, teacher and culture bearer,” she said. “He will always be remembered among the brightest stars of our Wabanaki culture today. The Passamaquoddys have a song, and some of the words are, ‘We are the stars who sing, we sing with our light.’ David now sings with his light.”

Secord and Bridges followed similar paths in discovering and preserving their culture. Both grew up in South Portland in families that left the reservation for opportunities in southern Maine. Both returned to their tribal homes during the summer, where they learned traditional crafts from elders. He became a canoe maker, and Secord learned to make baskets and helped establish the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance.

“I was proud to watch his parallel work in reviving and saving another nearly lost art form, and we often exchanged ideas and opportunities,” Secord said. “We respected and admired each other’s work, and he even made me the wooden form that I weave my corn baskets on.”

Bridges was active across his community, said Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko, president of the Abbe Museum. As a museum board member, he helped guide internal discussions about a new strategic plan and the museum’s effort to reinterpret its collection and approach to storytelling from a Native perspective. He was a fierce environmentalist who understood his connection to the natural world, and worked with Maine tribes to protect their water rights. “He was always a voice for sovereignty,” she said. “He was a kind and loving artist and advocate for native issues. He never hesitated standing up when he needed to, and he always said what needed to be said.”

Bridges was the subject of an Andrew Wyeth painting in 2005, when Wyeth hired him to build a canoe. Bridges brought the birch for the project with him to the Wyeths’ private island and gathered spruce roots from the island. He worked on the project for several weeks, during which Wyeth painted a portrait of Bridges with his son, Tobias.

“Everybody on the island was involved in the process,” said Amy Morey, who manages the Wyeth Study Center at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland. “He was a cheerleader for the rest of us. He showed us how to do things. It was a wonderful experience.”

In the painting, which is owned privately, Bridges has his arm around Tobias in a protective pose and is looking off into the distance as storm clouds form behind him. Wyeth called the painting “Threat.”

Bridges also was the subject of a documentary movie, “Rhythms of the Heart,” by Maine filmmaker Thom Willey.

He is survived by his wife, Patricia; and three children, Tobias, Sabattus and Natanis; as well as his parents, three siblings and many other relatives.

A traditional Native American Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at noon Wednesday at Beatrice Rafferty School in Pleasant Point.

Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

Twitter: pphbkeyes

]]> 0 Moses Bridges, a Native American builder of birch bark canoes, holds a piece of the cedar bark used in the making of his traditional canoes.Tue, 24 Jan 2017 06:52:08 +0000
Former Mercy employee says hospital got millions in improper Medicare payments Mon, 23 Jan 2017 16:29:18 +0000 A former Mercy Hospital billing official claims the health care provider reaped millions of dollars in improper payments from the Medicare system.

Jennifer Worthy, who had been Mercy’s manager of patient accounts, filed a lawsuit after resigning from the hospital in early 2014. A federal judge in Maine last week denied most of the motions filed by Mercy and two billing companies that were seeking to dismiss her lawsuit, clearing the way for the case to move forward.

U.S. District Judge John A. Woodcock Jr. did dismiss some of Worthy’s claims under whistle-blower protection laws because they weren’t filed in time, but the bulk of her allegations are proceeding.

Wayne Clark, spokesman for Mercy, said Worthy’s claims have been investigated by state and federal officials and both declined to get involved with her lawsuit.

“While the law allows the employee to pursue the claim independently, we believe the lawsuit is deficient on the law and the facts,” he said.

Clark also noted that Woodcock’s order only allows the case to proceed and does not represent findings on the merit of Worthy’s claims. The hospital disputes those claims, he said, and Mercy “will vigorously defend ourselves.”

In her lawsuit, Worthy charges that Mercy and the two billing companies, Accretive and California Healthcare Medical Billing, engaged in a number of schemes to improperly bill Medicare, the government insurance program for the elderly. Those plans included “unbundling” bills and elevating the severity of patients’ visits to doctors – both of which she said resulted in higher bills to Medicare – and removing coding to get around Medicare limits and delays on some bills.

Also named in the lawsuit is Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems, the parent company of Portland-based Mercy Hospital.

The basis for the lawsuit is the False Claims Act, which dates back to the Civil War and was used by President Abraham Lincoln as a tool to prevent the government from being defrauded by contractors. It is often used by whistle-blowers to draw attention to potentially fraudulent government contracts or faulty goods or services provided to the government.

Jeffrey Neil Young, one of Worthy’s lawyers, said the overbilling amounts to “millions” of dollars, but he said more precise accounting won’t be available until lawyers get access to Mercy records as the trial moves forward.

After Worthy sued, the hospital and the billing companies moved to dismiss her allegations. Now that Woodcock has said most of the case can move forward, Mercy is supposed to reply to the lawsuit itself by early February, Young said.

Then, lawyers will begin exchanging records and taking depositions. Young said he doesn’t expect the case to be tried in court until next year.

Worthy claims that when she was a Mercy employee, she repeatedly objected to the practices used by Accretive and CHMB, but Mercy officials failed to force the companies to change their methods. Accretive’s methods have been criticized before, including in Minnesota, where state officials said the company stationed debt collectors in emergency rooms and demanded that patients pay their bills before getting treatment.

The hospital and companies asked Woodcock to throw out the case because they argued that it wasn’t specific enough. But Woodcock instead said Worthy’s allegations are “copious and dense” and he needed 34 pages to summarize them in his order denying most of the hospital and billing companies’ motions to dismiss.

Young said Worthy supplied several specific examples of what she alleges are improper billing and will be able to provide more once lawyers gain access to more of the hospital’s records.

The parts of the lawsuit that Woodcock dismissed relate to Worthy and her employment, rather than the underlying fraud allegations. For instance, he dismissed one allegation against CHMB, saying there’s no evidence that the company could be considered her employer, rather than Mercy and Accretive. He also dismissed her attempt to get monetary damages and lawyers fees under a state whistle-blower protection law, noting that her lawyers agreed that she missed a deadline for filing for those remedies under that act.

Worthy alleged that her resignation was a “constructive dismissal” by the hospital because she was working in a hostile environment and Mercy ignored her repeated complaints about the billing practices, creating intolerable conditions for her to continue working. Young said that even though the judge dismissed part of Worthy’s lawsuit that alleged she was wrongfully discharged, she may be able to pursue that claim by other means.

Young said Worthy now works as director of patient financial services for another health care provider.


]]> 0 Hospital is reviving plans to consolidate at its Fore River campus.Tue, 24 Jan 2017 00:19:14 +0000
George H.W. Bush well enough to leave ICU, and Barbara Bush is discharged Mon, 23 Jan 2017 16:16:42 +0000 HOUSTON — Former President George H.W. Bush is still suffering from pneumonia, but is well enough to leave the intensive care unit at a Houston hospital, doctors said Monday. His wife, Barbara, has been discharged from the same facility after completing treatment for bronchitis.

The 92-year-old former president was struggling to breathe when he was admitted to Houston Methodist Hospital on Jan. 14. Last week, he was breathing with the aid of a ventilator in the ICU. Doctors removed the breathing tube on Friday and by Monday were talking about the possibility that he could return home soon.

Dr. Amy Mynderse said at a news conference that the former president is “sitting up, watching TV and is waiting anxiously for his favorite oyster stew for lunch.”

“He’s on minimal oxygen, joking and laughing with the nurses and doctors,” she said.

Dr. Clint Doerr said Bush was still coughing “a fair amount” but that if he continues to improve, he could be discharged from the hospital by Friday or over the weekend.

“He’s excited to get home and he’s feeling well,” Mynderse said, describing Bush as “not your average 92-year-old.”

Mynderse said when she told Bush he was being released from intensive care, he asked her: “Can I just go home?”

Meanwhile, former first lady Barbara Bush, 91, who was admitted to the hospital for treatment of bronchitis on Wednesday, is “back to her normal self,” Mynderse said. Mrs. Bush was told she could return home Sunday, but she opted to stay one more night to fully recover and remain close to her husband, according to family spokesman Jim McGrath.

The couple’s 72-year marriage is the longest of any presidential couple in U.S. history, and the doctors said they have been a great support to each other.

“They truly do have just such an amazing love for each other and that really came across here,” Mynderse said, adding that Barbara Bush spent much her hospital stay by her husband’s side.

“Part of why she ended up, I think, in the hospital was because even though she was ill, she was trying to be by his bedside all the time.”

Doerr said: “They’re essentially therapy for each other. They help and are compliant in terms of when one of them doesn’t want to take a breathing treatment, the other says, ‘Get on that.’ It helps our cause.”

Bush, who was president from 1989 to 1993, has a form of Parkinson’s disease and uses a motorized scooter or a wheelchair for mobility. He was hospitalized in 2015 in Maine after falling at his summer home and breaking a bone in his neck. He was also hospitalized in Houston the previous December for about a week for shortness of breath. He spent Christmas 2012 in intensive care for a bronchitis-related cough and other issues.

The former president and his wife appear to have touched the medical staff with their humility.

Mynderse told reporters that when she informed the former president she would be speaking at a news conference Monday, he replied: “About what?”

“I said, ‘About you!’ And he said, ‘People want to know about me?”‘ she said.

“They’re so humble. They truly are the most humble people,” Mynderse said.

]]> 0 President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, pose for a photo at Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston. The 92-year-old former president is still suffering from pneumonia, but is well enough to leave the intensive care unit.Mon, 23 Jan 2017 19:50:15 +0000
Sen. Collins plan would replace ACA with individual health savings accounts Mon, 23 Jan 2017 16:06:53 +0000 Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and a senator from Louisiana rolled out their proposal for replacing the Affordable Care Act on Monday, touting it as a bipartisan compromise. But the bill already was under attack by a leading Democrat, and many details have yet to emerge.

It’s not clear how the proposed replacement would affect the 20 million Americans, including 80,000 Mainers, who currently purchase health insurance under the ACA. It also was not immediately clear what a typical premium or deductible would be.

Collins maintains that more Americans would be insured if the bill – the Patient Freedom Act of 2017 – were to become law.

“Our goal is to expand the number of people insured,” said Collins, who has argued in favor of a comprehensive replacement for the ACA as Congress debates whether to repeal it.

Collins said the proposal, which lacks some details on how it would operate, could attract support from Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

“I really believe this approach can bring both sides together,” Collins said Monday morning during a phone interview with the Press Herald. Collins believes Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, is interested in the plan, and she has spoken with several other Democrats about the idea, and they seem willing to listen.

Collins, a moderate Republican, said she has yet to speak to Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, but she plans to do so soon.

The ACA, commonly called Obamacare, is under threat of repeal by a Republican-led Congress and President Trump, who has vowed to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

Trump has not yet unveiled the administration’s replacement plan, but he signed an executive order Friday that could weaken the ACA. Collins said Monday that she was “very confused” by Trump’s executive order, and the ramifications of it are unknown.

Under the bill that Collins is pushing with her Republican co-sponsor, Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy, states could choose to stay in the federal health care plan as it is or create a new system that would transfer the uninsured into high-deductible plans that would deposit several thousand dollars per year of taxpayer money into health savings accounts for each person who was previously uninsured.

The money deposited into the accounts would be used to pay premiums, deductibles and co-pays. The amount people received would vary by geography and age, and by income for those with higher incomes.

“This is a generous approach to allow states to cover uninsured individuals,” Collins said.


Federal funding for the states would be the same regardless of whether the state chose to remain in the ACA or picked the alternative.

For states choosing the ACA alternative, the taxpayer funds deposited into individual health savings accounts could accumulate year-over-year, which is designed as a benefit for healthier patients and promoted as a boon for young people who could see the accounts balloon over time, providing a nest egg to pay for future health care costs.

People also could contribute to the tax-free health savings accounts each year, up to $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for a married couple.

Those with serious illnesses would be covered, and the plan, like the ACA, would not permit insurers to place lifetime limits on how much is paid out for claims, protecting people with severe illnesses from having to pay out of pocket for catastrophic medical expenses.

The plan also keeps in place protections for patients with pre-existing conditions, and allows parents to keep their children on their plans through age 26. The plan also would cover some versions of prescription drugs and childhood immunizations.

Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow on health reform and private insurance for the Kaiser Family Foundation, said the plan is intriguing and signals a “different approach,” though she needed more details to determine how it would affect the health insurance landscape in the United States.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, criticized the plan Monday, saying, “It is nearly impossible to keep the benefits of the Affordable Care Act without keeping the whole thing.”

Collins blasted Schumer for slamming the plan before the ink was dry on the bill. The text of the bill was not available until Monday evening.

The linchpin of the bill gives more power to the states. Under one option, the government would deposit thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds into a health savings account for those who were uninsured, and automatically enroll them into a high-deductible plan. States would contract with insurance companies to administer the plans.

Under another option, states could choose to keep the Obamacare health plans they already have, including Medicaid expansion and the health insurance marketplace, where people purchase subsidized insurance.

“We believe in some states the ACA is working well. We don’t mandate a one-size-fits-all approach,” Collins said. “If the ACA is working in your state, you can keep it.”

The bill would leave it up to states to figure out how they would decide whether to stay in the ACA or not – either through executive action or by requiring the consent of the state Legislature.

States also could refuse all federal funding for health care.

Collins said that in many states, the ACA is underperforming, and the bill gives states the option to receive the same funding that they would under the ACA, but use it to instead develop a new system for low- to moderate-income residents.

If a state chose to exit the ACA, everyone who does not otherwise have access to insurance – such as through an employer or Medicare – would be automatically enrolled in a standard high-deductible insurance plan, and several thousand dollars would be deposited into a health savings account for each individual.

For states choosing the alternative to the ACA, the bill envisions a three- to four-year transition period.

Collins emphasized that the coverage would not be a catastrophic plan – a category of plans common pre-ACA that were often criticized by insurance experts for their overly skimpy benefits and failure to pay claims. The high-deductible plans would offer health benefits that would be covered by insurance and claims would be paid, Collins said.

“This is real insurance,” she said.

Individuals also would have the option of purchasing a more robust health plan by supplementing the federal funds with their own money.

Collins said under the bill, individuals would receive the taxpayer-funded deposits if they earned up to $90,000, or $150,000 for a married couple. After the income thresholds are reached, the assistance would be gradually reduced.

While funding for the ACA can be gutted with a simple majority – Republicans have a slim 52-48 majority in the Senate – a replacement bill would need 60 votes and the cooperation of several Democrats.


Emily Brostek, executive director of Consumers for Affordable Health Care, an Augusta-based nonprofit, said that for Democrats to jump on board, they would have to be persuaded that this bill would be better than the ACA.

“Once we have the details, it can be judged and analyzed,” Brostek said. “This doesn’t seem simple, and in many ways, it seems more complicated.”

Brostek said serious negotiations over replacing the ACA would take several months in order to hash out details. Meanwhile, repeal is currently on a fast track, started by Republicans in the House and Senate. Collins voted in favor of starting the repeal process, but has repeatedly said a comprehensive replacement plan needs to be developed and that repealing the ACA without a plan would jeopardize the health insurance of millions.

Collins said the replacement plan she’s introducing with Cassidy would likely result in more people being insured than currently are under the ACA.

Cassidy, in a joint news conference Monday with Collins in Washington, said giving the uninsured money up front in a health savings account would be an incentive for them to use their health insurance by getting preventive care or taking care of a health issue before it becomes severe.

Cassidy said people with low incomes and ACA insurance currently have a disincentive to use their insurance because they must first meet the deductible.

“If a patient has a $6,000 deductible, that might as well be $6 million,” Cassidy said.

Collins said the Patient Freedom Act eliminates the “cliff” problem inherent in the ACA individual marketplace, where someone who earns a dollar more than 400 percent of the federal poverty limit – about $97,000 for a family of four – is cut off from all subsidies. The Patient Freedom Act would more gradually reduce the amount deposited into health savings accounts.

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

Twitter: joelawlorph

]]> 0 Bill Cassidy, R-La., listens Monday as Maine Sen. Susan Collins discusses her Obamacare replacement plan in Washington.Tue, 24 Jan 2017 09:25:19 +0000
Trump tells business leaders they face hefty tax for moving production out of U.S. Mon, 23 Jan 2017 15:42:35 +0000 WASHINGTON — Opening his first official week in office, President Donald Trump warned business leaders Monday that he would impose a “substantial border tax” on companies that move their manufacturing out of the United States, while promising tax advantages to companies that produce products domestically.

“All you have to do is stay,” he said during a morning meeting in the White House’s Roosevelt Room.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Marillyn Hewson of Lockheed Martin were among the executives who attended the meeting. The gathering kicked off a jam-packed day for the new president, including an evening reception with lawmakers from both parties and a sit-down with union leaders.

The president also planned to sign multiple executive orders in the Oval Office. Trump had pledged to quickly use his executive authority to withdraw the U.S. from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact agreed to under the Obama administration. He’s also expected to sign an order implementing a federal government hiring freeze.

Conservatives are also eager for Trump to sign an order reinstating a ban on providing federal money to international groups that perform abortions or provide information on the option. The regulation, known as the “Mexico City Policy” or, by critics, the “global gag rule,” has been a political volleyball, instituted by Republican administrations and rescinded by Democratic ones since 1984.

Trump ran for office pledging to overhaul U.S. trade policy, arguing that massive free-trade agreements have disadvantaged American workers. Since winning the White House, he’s aggressively called out companies that have moved factories overseas, vowing to slap taxes on products they then try to sell in the U.S.

“Some people say that’s not free trade, but we don’t have free trade now,” Trump said Monday.

The president also reiterated his campaign pledge to lower taxes for companies, as well as the middle class, “anywhere from 15 to 25 percent.” He also called for cutting 75 percent of regulations, though he insisted that doing so would not compromise worker safety.

Trump’s outreach effort comes after a tumultuous first weekend in the White House that included lambasting news organizations for correctly reporting on the size of the crowds at his inauguration and mass protests against his presidency on the following day.

Trump delivered a more unifying message Sunday and sought to reassure Americans he was up to the daunting task ahead.

Speaking in the White House East Room during a swearing-in ceremony for top aides, the president warned his staff of the challenges ahead but declared he believed they were ready.

“But with the faith in each other and the faith in God, we will get the job done,” he said. “We will prove worthy of this moment in history. And I think it may very well be a great moment in history.”

Trump said his staff was in the White House not to “help ourselves” but to “devote ourselves to the national good.”

“This is not about party, this is not about ideology. This is about country, our country. It’s about serving the American people,” he said.

Earlier Sunday, Trump offered a scattershot response to the sweeping post-inauguration protests, first sarcastically denigrating the public opposition and then defending the right to demonstrate a short time later.

“Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn’t these people vote? Celebs hurt cause badly,” Trump tweeted early Sunday morning. Ninety-five minutes later, he struck a more conciliatory tone.

“Peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy. Even if I don’t always agree, I recognize the rights of people to express their views,” the president tweeted, still using his personal account.

Trump also spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who accepted an invitation to visit the White House in early February. The prime minister said he is hoping to forge a “common vision” with the newly inaugurated U.S. president that could include expanded settlement construction and a tougher policy toward Iran.

Trump also announced that he’s set up meetings with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.

“We’re going to start some negotiations having to do with NAFTA,” he said of his meeting with Pena Nieto. Mexico is part of the free trade agreement with the U.S. and Canada. Trump said he also will discuss immigration and security at the border. He has promised to build a wall along the length of the southern border and insisted that Mexico will pay for it.

Later in the week, he’ll address congressional Republicans at their retreat in Philadelphia and meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May.


Associated Press writers Julie Pace, Jonathan Lemire and Lisa Lerer contributed to this report.

]]> 0, 23 Jan 2017 11:04:14 +0000
Storms kill at least 19 people across Southeast Mon, 23 Jan 2017 15:11:15 +0000 ALBANY, Ga. — Chuck Stafford was watching the Atlanta Falcons rout the Green Bay Packers for the NFC title Sunday afternoon in the mobile home park in Albany where he’s lived for more than 31 years when the weather started getting bad.

Stafford, 74, had gotten up to go to the restroom during a commercial when the storm hit. He said the wind started blowing and the mobile home started shaking. “I grabbed hold of my washer and dryer, got my legs spread apart and hunched over,” Stafford said. “I guess I picked a good time to go to the bathroom.”

The force of the winds blew the windows out of Stafford’s trailer and glass was everywhere, but he survived the storm that has killed 19 people across the Southeast, including 15 in south Georgia alone.

Early Monday, Stafford was back at the trailer park with his sister, hoping to get in to look at his belongings. Meanwhile, fire and rescue crews kept residents out as they searched the debris looking for people who might have become trapped when the storm hit.

Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler said that a total of four people died Sunday in the county that includes Albany.

Some 60 miles away, Coroner Tim Purvis in south Georgia’s Cook County confirmed seven people died at the mobile home park in the rural community of Adel, where about half of the 40 homes were leveled. Debris lay about not far from mobile homes largely untouched but emptied of survivors and cordoned off by police.

Elsewhere, shredded siding from mobile homes, a house stripped of exterior walls but left standing, even a piano blown outdoors, all bore evidence of the power of the powerful storms system that tore across the Deep South during two days, killing four in Mississippi on Saturday.

The 15 killed in south Georgia included two deaths each in the counties of Berrien and Brooks.

In South Carolina, the National Weather Service has confirmed that two tornadoes struck over the weekend, injuring one woman who was trapped in a mobile home that was damaged near Blackville. The weather service says a tornado touched down about 3:45 p.m. Saturday in Barnwell County and moved into Bamberg County. The other occurred in Orangeburg County a few minutes later.

Weather experts say tornadoes can hit any time of year in the South — including in the dead of winter. Even north Florida was under the weekend weather threat.

While the central U.S. has a fairly defined tornado season — the spring — the risk of tornadoes “never really goes to zero” for most of the year in the Southeast, explained Patrick Marsh of the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

He said 39 possible tornadoes were reported across the Southeast from early Saturday into Sunday evening — none immediately confirmed. Of that, 30 were reported in Georgia, four in Mississippi, and one each in Louisiana and South Carolina.

January tornado outbreaks are rare but not unprecedented, particularly in the South. Data from the Storm Prediction Center shows that, over the past decade, the nation has seen an average of 38 tornadoes in January, ranging from a high of 84 in 2008 to just four in 2014.

Nineteen-year-old Jenny Bullard said she and her parents, Jeff and Carla, are glad to have escaped without major injury after an apparent tornado battered their home in Cook County. They are a farming family dating back generations, living not far from where the mobile homes were destroyed.

The middle section of their brick house was blown off the slab, leaving nothing but the kitchen island standing. On one side, the parents’ bedroom remained intact. Jenny’s bedroom on the other side was smashed in — and a piano was blown out of the house.

She recalled awaking to the sound of hail before dawn.

“The hall wall came in on me and I fell down. And our backdoor came through and fell in on me. And I heard my dad calling my name …There was a bunch of stuff on top of him and I just started throwing everything I could until I got to him,” she said.

Together, she and her father met up with their mother and got free.

The young woman wore a sling on one arm hours afterward Sunday as she went back through the debris for belongings. Bricks lay scattered about, alongside their possessions and furniture.

“The first thing I wanted to do was get all the pictures,” she said. Across the street, where the Bullards kept farm equipment in sheds, one shed was blown in amid twisted metal. Two grain silos were blown over.

“It’s a horrible tragedy. But all this stuff can be replaced,” she said. “We can’t replace each other. We’re extremely lucky. My dad is lucky to be alive.”

]]> 0, 23 Jan 2017 10:11:15 +0000
Ethics watchdog sues Trump, claiming his businesses violate Constitution Mon, 23 Jan 2017 14:21:35 +0000 NEW YORK — To fight what it called a “grave threat” to the country, a watchdog group Monday filed a lawsuit alleging that President Trump is violating the Constitution by allowing his business to accept payments from foreign governments.

The lawsuit claims that a constitutional clause prohibits Trump from receiving money from diplomats for stays at his hotels or foreign governments for leases of office space in his buildings.

The language in the clause is disputed by legal experts, and some think the lawsuit will fail. But it signals the start of a legal assault on what Trump critics see as unprecedented conflicts between his business and the presidency.

Trump called the lawsuit “without merit, totally without merit” after he signed some of his first executive actions Monday in the Oval Office.

The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed the lawsuit in the Southern District of New York.

The group is being represented in part by two former White House chief ethics lawyers: Norman Eisen, who advised Barack Obama, and Richard Painter, who worked under George W. Bush. The two said they feel they had no choice but to take legal action.

]]> 0 Trump, with his daughter, Ivanka, opens the Trump International Hotel in Washington last fall. Trump's company says it will donate profits from any foreign governments.Mon, 23 Jan 2017 21:35:29 +0000
Father and son killed in Knox County house fire Mon, 23 Jan 2017 12:39:01 +0000 A father and son were killed and a woman was injured in a fire that reduced their home in the Knox County town of Washington to rubble early Monday.

Steven Rhodes, 53, and his son Isaac Rhodes, 25, died in the fire.

Elizabeth Rhodes, Steven’s wife and Isaac’s mother, was treated at Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport for smoke inhalation and burns. She was then sent to Maine Medical Center in Portland, where she was in the special care burn unit Monday night.

Firefighters walk through remnants of the house that was destroyed Monday in an early morning fire that left two dead in the town of Washington.

Firefighters walk through remnants of the house that was destroyed Monday in an early morning fire that left two dead in the town of Washington. Photo by Elise Klysa

The blaze destroyed the family’s single-story house on Cattle Pond Road, and firefighters and investigators spent much of the day there Monday.

Steven’s parents, Lincoln and Moody Rhodes, live next door to the family and were among a number of relatives at the scene. They remembered Steven as strong, kind and caring. They said Isaac, who had Down syndrome, was a joyous person who loved singing and playing with animals.

1142168_1003306255 WEB Washington c.jpg

“It’s almost unreal that something this bad could happen so fast,” Lincoln Rhodes said as he watched the firefighters work.

The relatives said they thought that Elizabeth, 56, would recover from her injuries.

Neighbors discovered the fire about 5:45 a.m. When firefighters arrived, they found heavy flames and smoke coming out of the home, according to the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

Knox County sheriff’s deputies and firefighters pulled the younger man from the house, but resuscitation efforts failed. Steven Rhodes’ body was later recovered in the rubble of the home.

“It’s been a very difficult morning for the family and the firefighters,” Sgt. Ken Grimes of the fire marshal’s office told reporters.

Kim Peabody, sister of Steven Rhodes, who died in a fire on Monday, is comforted by a friend at the fire scene on Cattle Pond Road in Washington. Peabody's nephew, Isaac Rhodes, also died in the fire.

Kim Peabody, sister of Steven Rhodes, who died in a fire on Monday, is comforted by a friend at the fire scene on Cattle Pond Road in Washington. Peabody’s nephew, Isaac Rhodes, also died in the fire. Photo by Elise Klysa

The fire started in the basement of the home, according to Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, but investigators were not able to determine its exact cause by Monday afternoon because the building was so thoroughly damaged. They did not think it was suspicious, McCausland said.

Based on a phone conversation he had with Elizabeth on Monday morning, Lincoln Rhodes said he thought Steven had escaped the home during the fire, then returned inside to try to rescue Isaac.

Steven was born in England while his father was serving in the Air Force, according to Lincoln. He grew up in Washington and attended Medomak Valley High School in Waldoboro. He was employed by Storer Lumber in Waldoboro and used to work at Bath Iron Works. He was also active at South Liberty Baptist Church, speaking at services and coaching basketball there, Lincoln Rhodes said.

Firefighters from Washington and Liberty survey the damage Monday at the fatal fire on Cattle Pond Road in Washington.

Firefighters from Washington and Liberty survey the damage Monday at the fatal fire on Cattle Pond Road in Washington. Photo by Elise Klysa

Besides having a son with Elizabeth, they also had two older daughters, Rebekah Lord of Camden and Rachel Batlis of Washington.

“I’m just sad, overwhelmed,” Lord said Monday. “I can’t believe this happened.”

She described her father as “a very loving, caring man … who always put family ahead of himself.” She said her brother was “always happy, always laughing and always singing” and “a great uncle” to her children.

Isaac also graduated from Medomak Valley High School and participated in day programs offered by Mobius Inc., a nonprofit organization in Damariscotta that helps people with disabilities.

Lord also said her mother was “doing all right” late Monday, considering her injuries and the tragic deaths of her husband and son.

The fire was reported about 6 a.m. at 12 Cattle Pond Road.

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

Twitter: ceichacker

]]> 0 firefighter walks among the smoldering ashes Monday at the scene of the fatal fire in the Knox County town of Washington.Mon, 23 Jan 2017 20:33:09 +0000
Congressional Republicans try to find health care compromise Mon, 23 Jan 2017 11:00:00 +0000 WASHINGTON — President Trump wants Congress to move quickly this week to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, but congressional Republicans are far from a consensus on a repeal-and-replace effort that won’t leave millions of their constituents without insurance.

Monday, two senators who have cautioned colleagues to delay repeal until they’ve settled on a replacement will announce an alternative plan to give states the choice to keep the health care law or be granted flexibility to expand Medicaid and other coverage options.

That alternative, from Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Bill Cassidy, R-La, runs counter to the plans on the table, including one from Trump’s health secretary nominee Tom Price, known as the “Empowering Patients First Act.” That would offer tax credits, encourage the use of health savings accounts and urge states to develop high-risk pools.

“I’m not saying that it’s perfect, but it’s important that we put specific proposals on the table,” Collins said on the Senate floor about the plan she will advance this week. Repeal without replacement or repeal with a delay, as some lawmakers have suggested, would send insurance markets into a tailspin, she said.

In addition to Price’s plan, Republicans have considered House Speaker Paul Ryan’s “A Better Way.” Ryan’s plan would also offer tax credits to help people pay for insurance, and he wants to overhaul Medicare, which Trump has promised not to cut.

Complicating the situation, Trump’s pledge for “insurance for everybody” conflicts with what many fiscal-minded Republicans intend to do – and the yawning gap between congressional conservatives and their president on the issue is something Democrats are eager to exploit.

“I guess we have to wait for President Trump’s Twitter to figure out what the Republican plan is going to be,” said Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M. He is a member of Democratic leadership, which has sought to highlight Republican contortions over finding a solution. “They’re all on different pages and when they try to clean it up they contradict each other all over again,” Lujan said.

Although the new Trump White House website does not list health care as one of the administration’s “top issues,” and it didn’t come up in his inaugural address, Trump addressed repeal in one of his first acts as president. He signed an executive order Friday that reiterates his administration’s intent to seek “the prompt repeal” of the 2010 law that has extended health care to 20 million Americans. But the executive order itself notes that regulations can be changed only through the traditional process of “notice and comment,” which can take months or even years.

And it will require his political appointees to be in office, which has yet to happen, particularly as Senate Democrats look to slow the nomination of Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., Trump’s choice for health and human services secretary. Price goes before the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday for a confirmation hearing.

Trump has said his administration has a health care plan “very much formulated down to the final strokes.” But his promise a week ago of “insurance for everybody” has Republicans with an eye on fiscal restraint worried that he’s promising more than they can deliver. Vice President Mike Pence sought last week to clarify Trump’s words, telling CNN that Trump is talking about “making insurance affordable for everyone.”

Price also distanced himself from Trump’s pledge. He said at a Senate hearing that he was committed to seeing that Americans have “access” to health care coverage, which Democrats point out is not the same thing as guaranteeing coverage.

Trump’s most recent pledge would suggest “a much more expansive plan than he even talked about on the campaign trail or than any of the proposals coming from Congress,” said Larry Levitt, senior vice president for special initiatives at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “We’re in a period of very little clarity.”

]]> 0 Sun, 22 Jan 2017 23:34:53 +0000
Colby College picks Portland firm to build boutique hotel in Waterville Mon, 23 Jan 2017 10:00:00 +0000 WATERVILLE — Downtown revitalization efforts are ramping up on Main Street, with construction of a high-end boutique hotel expected to start soon at the former Levine’s store site, $5 million in renovation work progressing in the former Hains building and requests being sent out to developers to identify uses for the former Waterville Hardware site.

Colby College, which is working to infuse millions of dollars in investments downtown, has signed a contract with The Olympia Companies of Portland to build and manage the hotel, which will be owned by Colby.

“They have done a lot of hotel development and management, including the Brunswick Hotel & Tavern,” said Kate Carlisle, Colby’s communications director. “They have done hotels that are at or near college campuses, for example, Rollins College in Water Park, Florida. They will build it, and they will manage it.”

Olympia officials will choose an architect for the hotel with input from Colby, which has developed a limited liability company for the hotel ownership called Elm City 9, according to Carlisle. Olympia hotels include the Inn By the Sea in Cape Elizabeth; Hampton Inn, South Portland; Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Portland and Holiday Inn in Bangor.

The renovated former Hains Building on Main Street in Waterville, seen Friday, is due to house information technology firm CGI Group Inc. and a retail use.

The renovated former Hains Building on Main Street in Waterville, seen Friday, is due to house information technology firm CGI Group Inc. and a retail use. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Workers are renovating the former Hains building at 173 Main St., owned by Elm City 173, a limited liability company Colby created. The $5 million project to renovate the building is expected to be completed in a few months, according to Carlisle.

“By this summer there will be people working in there,” she said.

The Waterville Hardware block of buildings at 14-20 Main St., across from where the former Levine’s clothing store was torn down late last year, also is targeted for development, and officials are working to identify new uses for that lot.

“Very soon we’re going to put out requests for proposals in the development community – what would you do with this?” Carlisle said. “That’s stuff that’s all going to be happening this spring.”

Paul Ureneck, director of commercial real estate for Colby College, inspects the 1902-era safe from the former Waterville Savings Bank that first occupied the former Hains Building, which is being renovated as part of a $5 million project.

Paul Ureneck, director of commercial real estate for Colby College, inspects the 1902-era safe from the former Waterville Savings Bank that first occupied the former Hains Building, which is being renovated as part of a $5 million project. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Revitalization efforts started after Colby College President David Greene last year led meetings with city officials, businesses, arts organizations and downtown advocates to discuss ways to help revitalize downtown, draw more people to live and work there, enhance arts and cultural offerings and help boost the economy.

The city continues to negotiate the sale of the northeast corner of The Concourse downtown to Colby, which plans to build a student residential complex there. City Manager Michael Roy says the city is making progress in its discussions with Colby on final terms of the sale.

“The city staff, mayor and I still need to have conversations with the City Council, but I think we’re getting very close to that point,” Roy said. “I would hope that within a month that (sale) would be completed.”

City councilors last year voted to approve selling The Concourse lot for $300,000, but continue to work on details.

“There’s more involved than just the $300,000. There are other pieces to it that we need to finally conclude,” Roy said.

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

Twitter: AmyCalder17

]]> 0 Damboise and Ken Theriault work on the top floor of the former Hains Building on Main Street in Waterville on Friday. The building at 173 Main St. is being renovated as part of a $5 million project.Tue, 24 Jan 2017 07:04:41 +0000
Medical ethics bill targets drug company payments to Maine doctors Mon, 23 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 A state lawmaker is proposing an ethics bill that would substantially curtail gifts, free food, and speaking and consulting payments from drug companies to Maine physicians.

Rep. Scott Hamann, D-South Portland, said he got the idea for the bill from a Dec. 25 story in the Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram that detailed the increased spending by pharmaceutical companies to promote opioids in Maine despite the ongoing attempts by the medical community to persuade doctors to cut back on prescribing opioids. Maine is in the midst of an opioid crisis, with about one death per day caused by drug overdoses, according to state data.

Four out of five new heroin users were first addicted to prescription opioids, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

Last year, Maine approved a strict new prescribing bill that caps the dosage and length of time that opioids can be prescribed, a law that is going into effect this year.

Spending by drug companies to benefit doctors – including free food, consulting and speaking fees – as a method for marketing opioids doubled from $21,654 in 2014 to $42,550 in 2015, the latest year for which data is available. There is “insufficient evidence” that opioids are effective at controlling chronic pain, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the drugs present many dangers to patients.

For all drugs and medical devices, pharmaceutical industry spending in Maine on doctors totaled $11.9 million from 2013 to 2015, according to federal data made public through the Affordable Care Act.

Medical ethics experts say such payments from drug companies to doctors can influence prescribing patterns, and that listening to sales pitches from company representatives has no legitimate educational value for physicians. In addition, the payments create conflicts of interest for doctors, experts say, because physicians should only have their patients’ best interests in mind when prescribing drugs, and not be influenced to prescribe certain drugs because they are receiving gifts from the pharmaceutical industry.

“We want to make it so that when people go to the doctor they can be confident knowing that their doctor is also not receiving thousands of dollars in gifts from pharmaceutical companies,” Hamann said.

He said the language of the bill is currently being drafted, but he intends to model it on ethics legislation in Minnesota.

Under Minnesota law, which has been in effect since 2005, it is illegal for doctors to receive more than $50 in gifts – including food – per year, and consulting and speaking fees must be “reasonable” and for “bona fide” educational purposes. Minnesota has one of the strictest laws in the nation regulating such gifts, according to media reports.

Dr. Noah Nesin, vice president of medical affairs at Penobscot Community Health Care in Bangor, said the research is clear that the giveaways influence what doctors prescribe and that there is no professional value to the physicians in hearing from the sales representatives.

Drug company representatives are not permitted in the door at Penobscot Community Health Care, and some health organizations – such as Maine Medical Center in Portland, Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor and MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta – have strict policies limiting or banning such sales representatives from doctor’s offices.

For instance, at Maine Med-affiliated practices – according to the hospital’s policy – all gifts and food are banned, and doctors are prohibited from receiving any speaking or consulting fees from drug companies.

Nesin said speaking and consulting fees are of dubious value – it’s often merely an avenue for drug companies to pay doctors to persuade them to prescribe the pharmaceutical company’s products.

“I would be in favor of a law that sets these standards for physicians,” Nesin said. “It would set an ethical standard in the law and set up clear expectations.”

Gordon Smith, executive vice president of the Maine Medical Association, which represents doctors before the Legislature, said he is “conflicted” about the idea and would need to see the details of the bill before taking a position.

Smith said accepting more than a “modest” gift is against the medical association’s code of ethics. He said if all doctors followed the guidelines spelled out in the ethics code, this wouldn’t be an issue.

“The problem is that some people, when you give them an inch, are really pushing the envelope,” Smith said.

He said the central question is whether there’s a need for a law to make such practices illegal, or whether current policies and guidelines are sufficient.

In Minnesota, the ethics laws are not controversial among physicians, and now there is little interaction between doctors and the drug industry, said Dan Hauser, a spokesman for the Minnesota Medical Association.

“It is standard operating practice now for physicians in the state to set up a wall between themselves and the pharmaceutical industry,” Hauser said.

One Maine physician – Dr. Douglas Jorgensen of Manchester, a pain specialist – received $42,522 from August 2013 through December 2015 from drug companies regarding opioids, the data show. Jorgensen was criticized by Nesin and Dr. Stephen Hull of Mercy Hospital for receiving the payments, saying they represented a conflict.

Jorgensen, in a letter to the Portland Press Herald four days after the story was published, defended the drug company payments. Jorgensen had not responded to repeated requests for comment before the Dec. 25 article was published.

“My utilization of pharmaceutical companies for information … is no different than a computer software developer interacting with Microsoft or an oncologist seeking updates on chemotherapy from a pharmaceutical company,” Jorgensen wrote. “Medical experts, like non-medical experts, always seek competent and reliable sources of knowledge and information.”

Jorgensen wrote that “there is nothing malevolent or inherently unethical from seeking state-of-the-art information from pharmaceutical manufacturers.”

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

Twitter: joelawlorph

]]> 0 Scott HamannMon, 23 Jan 2017 05:51:09 +0000
Biddeford group hopes to preserve a legacy on ice Mon, 23 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 BIDDEFORD — When Annette Belleveuille was growing up in Biddeford in the 1960s, she’d spend hours with her friends skating at West Brook Skating Rink.

On weekend nights, dozens of skaters would pack the ice on the small pond set below Pool Street. Cars parked along the edge of the road to watch as speed skaters raced across the ice.

“It was bumper to bumper,” Belleveuille recalled last week as she watched her grandsons skate, a scarf pulled around her face to block out a cold breeze. “It would be awesome to have generations and generations keeping skating here. There’s nothing like skating outside.”

Behind her, two dozen skaters criss-crossed the ice, the youngest among them wobbling as they learned to balance on their skates. The thwap of hockey sticks and bursts of laughter echoed around the outdoor rink.

The scene – with skaters of all ages spending hours on the ice – is one Dave Gagnon and other volunteers at the iconic Biddeford ice rink hope to keep going. For nearly 100 years, the West Brook Skating Rink has been a go-to spot for locals who enjoy skating outside. But the property, which is owned by the city, needs work and the volunteers who run the rink are banding together to find a way to get it done.

“It’s a legacy. People who worked in the mills came here to skate. There’s a lot of history here,” said Gagnon, who is president of the West Brook Skating Rink Association. “I want to see it keep going.”

The volunteers, led by Gagnon, have formed Friends of West Brook Skating Rink and are obtaining nonprofit status. They hope to work with the city to apply for grants and raise money for the repairs. Gagnon said the property, including the small building that houses a concession stand and skate shop, needs at least $100,000 in improvements. The roof and floor of the building need to be replaced. Outside, the banking around the pond has eroded.

Mayor Alan Casavant sees the rink as a valuable asset to the community, but acknowledges allocating money from the city budget is tough when the city has a long list of infrastructure projects that also need money. The City Council could consider paying for improvements as part of the budget if the group requests funding, he said.

“I think it’s really desirable to keep it open,” Casavant said. “The question is allocation of funds and how to do that.”

The rink first opened in 1921 and has run almost continuously since then. It last underwent a renovation in the 1990s. The rink was first opened by the Laverriere family and later transferred to the Knights of Columbus, Gagnon said.

Last winter, the rink opened for only about a dozen days because of warm weather. When the temperatures are low enough, volunteers spend hours flooding the pond and prepping the ice for skating. After storms, they use a fleet of snowblowers to remove snow. Volunteers also sell snacks, collect admission and pass out rental skates. They post updates about the days the rink is open on Facebook. All money from admission, rentals and concessions goes to running the operation.

For many skaters, a visit to the ice rink is like stepping back in time. Not much has changed inside the warming hut, which is lined with benches and tables. The walls are covered with photo collages showing skaters as early as 1943. Several collages feature fishing derbies hosted at the pond before erosion left the waterline too low to stock it with fish.

“If you look at the pictures on the wall, you see three or four generations,” said Mike Bolduc, the group’s treasurer. “It’s tradition.”

Rosie Shaw, a Biddeford native back for a visit last week with her 6-year-old nephew, Hunter Shaw, was eager to search the collages for photos of herself and her friends. It was her first time back at the rink in 15 years and she marveled at how much has stayed the same – right down to the root beer and popcorn she and Hunter snacked on during a break from skating.

“It’s nice because it’s just like it used to be,” she said.

Outside, 66-year-old Mark Smith of Kennebunkport took a break from his first skate in 15 years. He said he had skated at the rink once many years ago, but drives by often and sees it as a “great public hockey place.”

“Look at the kids out here,” he said. “They’re having a great time and this is a great spot.”

During Biddeford WinterFest on Feb. 5, the rink will be open for free skating and pizza. Gagnon hopes special events like that will help people rediscover the rink, especially given the growing popularity of skating at outdoor rinks at Thompson’s Point in Portland and the Waterhouse Center in Kennebunk.

“Twenty-five years ago, this was the only (outdoor) rink around. Now every community has one,” Gagnon said. “But this one is special.”

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

Twitter: @grahamgillian

]]> 0 Borque, 10, of Biddeford takes to the ice at the West Brook Skating Rink in Biddeford, which opened for the season last week. The rink is in need of about $100,000 in repairs, and a group of volunteers has formed a nonprofit to help raise the money.Mon, 23 Jan 2017 09:00:07 +0000
Surge in new Scarborough apartments both welcomed and questioned Mon, 23 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 SCARBOROUGH — Seven housing projects now in the pipeline could add as many as 865 apartments to Scarborough’s housing market and the town’s tax rolls in the next few years.

If all of the apartments are built, they would increase the town’s 7,475 households by nearly 12 percent and increase the number of housing units by about 10 percent, based on U.S. Census figures. That’s a significant increase in a town where 78 percent of homes are owner-occupied and where multifamily property sales didn’t warrant a mention in the 2017 real estate forecast released last week by the Maine Real Estate & Development Association.

Three apartment projects have been approved: a 36-unit, market-rate senior housing complex on Griffin Road; the 38-unit Southgate House affordable housing complex on Route 1; and a 53-unit, market/affordable housing complex off Eastern Road.

Proposed projects include Dunstan Village, a 36-unit, market-rate complex off Route 1, and Gateway Commons, a 288-unit luxury complex off Haigis Parkway. Both go before the Planning Board on Jan. 30.

Town officials and others say Scarborough is prepared for such growth, although some residents are concerned about the marketability of so many apartments and the growing demand for town services. The Town Council last week increased the number of apartments that could be built under an adjustable growth-control ordinance from 215 to 500 units.

“It’s a reaction to the demand for multifamily housing that is out there in Greater Portland and York County, and it will provide the housing diversity that Scarborough needs,” said Shawn Babine, council chairman. “I think it will increase the overall value of Scarborough and bring a diverse group of citizens to our community.”

1142102_887693 ScarbApartments0117.jpg

The potential property tax benefit is undeniable. Based on a projected market value of $90,000 to $150,000 per unit, a 300-unit project would have a taxable value of $27 million to $45 million and generate $429,000 to $716,400 in annual property taxes, said Town Planner Dan Bacon.

In contrast, the recently developed Marshalls shopping center is valued at $12.6 million and the Cabela’s shopping center is valued at $30.3 million, Bacon said.

Commercial properties typically demand more town services, including road maintenance and public safety, than most multifamily housing, Bacon said. Any increased demand related to the additional apartments would require the town to improve public services and make them more efficient, Babine said.


Two of the proposed projects – Gateway Commons and the similar Commercial Place on Enterprise Drive off Route 1 – were approved years ago as commercial developments. They are being recast as multifamily complexes to meet growing demand for apartments from millennials, young to middle-aged professionals, local empty-nesters and seniors retiring to Maine.

“We’re really going after a lifestyle type,” said Ben Devine, developer of Gateway Commons. “It’s an ideal site for this multifamily project. We think it will serve the Greater Portland market well.”

Gateway Commons would be built off Haigis Parkway, directly across Payne Road from Cabela’s and Exit 42 of the Maine Turnpike, with Route 1 at the other end of the commercial parkway. Based on a similar project that Devine’s company completed last year in East Lyme, Connecticut, it would consist of 12 buildings with 24 apartments each. It would have covered garages and a clubhouse with a community room, outdoor pool, gym and pet-washing room.

The project would be built in phases to meet market demand, Devine said. The 280-unit East Lyme project was completed in two years.

If the Scarborough project is approved this spring, construction would start this summer and 75 to 80 units could be ready for tenants a year from now. Rents would range from $1,200 for a studio to $1,900 for a three-bedroom apartment, not including utilities. Few tenants would have children, Devine said.

“There isn’t going to be much impact on Scarborough schools,” Devine said. “These (apartments) are not designed for family living.”

Bacon, the town planner, estimated that only about 10 percent of the mostly one- and two-bedroom apartments proposed would have children, and few of them would be over age 5, thereby limiting the impact on the town’s recently expanded schools.

He also noted that if all of the proposed apartments were built, the developers would have to pay nearly $1 million in school impact fees, not to mention water, sewer and other impact fees.

Babine, the council chairman, said he has heard estimates that 865 additional apartments could bring 55 to 187 children to town, but he’s not concerned about the impact on local schools.

“There’s no way of predicting that now,” Babine said. “I believe our school system is prepared to absorb that amount. I actually don’t have a problem with our school system growing. I think that directly relates to the growing value and vibrancy of our community. I think we need to plan for it and be prepared.”


Benjamin Howard of Windsor Pines Drive, a 24-year-old engineer, questions whether millennials will want to live in large apartment complexes like Gateway Commons or Commercial Place. He said those complexes would be ideally located off Interstate 95 and Route 1, and he believes the town can handle the growth, but he worries about the impact that such large complexes will have on the town’s character.

The Gateway Commons apartment complex built by Devine Capital LLC in East Lyme, Conn., is similar to what is planned for Scarborough. If the Maine project is approved, construction would start this summer and 75 to 80 units could be ready for tenants a year from now. Gateway Commons consists of 12 buildings with 24 apartments each, and has a clubhouse with a community room, outdoor pool and gym. Rents range from $1,200 for a studio to $1,900 for a three-bedroom, not including utilities.

The Gateway Commons apartment complex built by Devine Capital LLC in East Lyme, Conn., is similar to what is planned for Scarborough. If the Maine project is approved, construction would start this summer and 75 to 80 units could be ready for tenants a year from now. Gateway Commons consists of 12 buildings with 24 apartments each, and has a clubhouse with a community room, outdoor pool and gym. Rents range from $1,200 for a studio to $1,900 for a three-bedroom, not including utilities. Photo courtesy of Devine Capital LLC

“I’d like Scarborough to remain an original town,” Howard said. “I don’t want to see the same buildings here as you see in other parts of the country.”

Portia Hirschman of Inspiration Drive lodged her concerns last year when town planners were reviewing the addition of 53 apartments to Eastern Village, a multi-phase housing development started more than a decade ago that includes single-family homes and townhouses.

Hirschman and her husband bought a house in the development four years ago after they retired. She said current residents struggle to get the developer, Kerry Anderson, to address unfinished paving, truck traffic, lack of parking and other issues. She looks forward to interacting with younger people who might rent the planned apartments, but she worries that parking, traffic and other problems will get worse.

“Many promises are made and it never seems to work out,” Hirschman said.

Anderson didn’t respond immediately to a call for comment.

Richie Axelsen of Colby Drive spoke against the council’s decision to increase the number of apartments that could be built under the growth-control ordinance. He also wrote a letter to the council about it. Axelsen is most concerned about affordable housing that’s part of the Southgate House and Eastern Village projects, as well as the proposed 84-unit Mussey Road Apartments.

“(Allowing) affordable housing to come into Scarborough (is) very disturbing,” Axelsen wrote. “We are allowing our town to become overpopulated, and the special character that this small town represents obviously does not matter to you.”

Axelsen continued, “I walked away from the meeting last night feeling like my wife and I made the wrong decision by building in Scarborough to escape all of this craziness that we (experienced) while owning a home in Portland,” where he saw affordable housing “overpopulate” that city.

Despite residents’ concerns, Babine said he believes that having more apartments in Scarborough is good thing.

“I think we’re in a good spot, because I don’t think this is a long-term trend,” Babine said. “I think it’s cyclical and it’s a big bump. It’s a nice place to be.”

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at:

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