The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » News Sun, 26 Jun 2016 15:38:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Rift over sustainability leads to cancellation of Maine Seaweed Festival Sun, 26 Jun 2016 14:45:03 +0000 SOUTH PORTLAND – The Maine Seaweed Festival is a dream day for New England’s natural food lovers, who spend the day munching on seaweed granola and schmoozing with kelp harvesters at a daylong party astride sun-splashed Casco Bay.

But this year, it’s not happening, and a rift between the event’s organizers and some seaweed harvesters is the reason why. The planners of the popular festival, located in the country’s biggest seaweed state, said they are canceling the event this year over concerns about lack of sustainability.

Organizer Hillary Krapf, who runs a seaweed products and education company called Moon And Tide, said Maine’s seaweed industry has been besieged by a “Gold Rush mentality” that threatens sustainability as seaweed grows in popularity. New players are getting involved in Maine seaweed farming before there is anywhere near the infrastructure needed to sustainably process and sell it, she said.

“I would like to see more regulation and accountability. We can feel good about what we are promoting and make sure we are doing right by the ocean and its resources,” she said.

Maine overtook California as the country’s largest producer of seaweed about a decade ago. The Maine Seaweed Festival, held in South Portland, has sprung up along with the growth as an annual chance for the state’s seaweed producers to show off products and celebrate all things related to sea vegetables.

The seaweed festival started in 2014 and doubled in attendance to about 3,000 last year. The rise in attendance coincides with growth in Maine’s seaweed industry, which quadrupled its harvest from 2004 to 2014.

Krapf declined to single out companies in the seaweed industry that she believes are threatening the sustainability of the crop, which is used to make snacks, soap, dog food, nutritional supplements and many other products. The number of wild-seaweed harvesters in the state has held steady at around 150 to 170 for the last few years, and there are a handful of aquaculture seaweed farmers.

Paul Dobbins, who heads a Portland seaweed products company called Ocean Approved, said there are about 20 applications in the pipeline to open new seaweed farms. His company uses about half wild and half farmed, and it plans to move to 100 percent farmed.

Dobbins disagreed that Maine’s seaweed industry has a sustainability problem, but added that a lot of new faces are getting into the business.

“We see the market expanding dramatically for domestic seaweed,” Dobbins said. “Almost all seaweed in the U.S. is imported, and consumers are looking for a product from waters they can trust.”

But Shep Erhart, president of the Maine Seaweed Council and founder of Maine Coast Sea Vegetables, doesn’t paint so rosy of a picture. He said the state is experiencing a “seaweed bandwagon,” and this is a good time for the festival to take a year off.

“We can’t meet demand without overdoing it,” Erhart said. “We want to make sure we can meet this demand that Mother Nature is supplying us. We need to step back and slow down a bit.”

]]> 1, 26 Jun 2016 10:50:38 +0000
International conference in Portland looks at fish health Sun, 26 Jun 2016 14:36:51 +0000 An international conference about the health of marine life is expected to bring some 250 researchers and industry leaders to Maine’s largest city.

The second International Conference of Fish & Shellfish Immunology begins on Sunday and runs until June 30. The University of Maine Aquaculture Research Institute is hosting the event, which organizers say focuses on the health and welfare of wild and farmed aquatic animals.

One of the keynote speakers at the event is Bassem Allam of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University. He will speak about shellfish immunity and response to infections.

The event is taking place at the Holiday Inn By the Bay. UMaine is hosting it on behalf of the International Society of Fish & Shellfish Immunology.

]]> 0 Sun, 26 Jun 2016 10:36:51 +0000
UMaine hosts program to consider expensive environmental problem Sun, 26 Jun 2016 14:24:19 +0000 ORONO – High school students and teachers from Maine and elsewhere in the country are coming to the University of Maine for a program to create environmental solutions to stormwater management.

The university says the event will bring students from 16 Maine high schools and one each in New York and Missouri. The students will work with university facility, students and others during the program from Sunday to June 29.

The program is called the UMaine Stormwater Management Research Team Institute and it’s in its third year. The university says the program engages students in the implementation of science to address an environmental issue. About 85 students and 20 teachers are expected.

Many cities wrestle with how to environmentally and efficiently handle stormwater runoff, which can be an expensive problem.

]]> 1 Sun, 26 Jun 2016 10:24:19 +0000
Motorcyclist in critical condition after Sebago crash Sun, 26 Jun 2016 13:45:44 +0000 A 55-year-old woman was in critical condition Sunday after her motorcycle struck the side of a pickup truck in Sebago on Saturday.

The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office said Amy Bacon was driving a 2007 Harley-Davidson motorcycle north on Route 114 at about 9:30 a.m. when it crashed into a truck driven by Lindsay Madison, 28. The addresses of the two drivers were not available from police.

Police said Madison was traveling south when she turned her truck left onto Shaw Road and did not see the oncoming motorcycle. The motorcycle hit the side of the truck, between the rear tire and back door.

Bacon was not wearing a helmet.

She was taken to Maine Medical Center in Portland by a medical helicopter.

Madison and an infant passenger were taken to Bridgton Hospital for observation.

Police said speed and alcohol do not appear to be factors in the crash.

The accident remains under investigation.

]]> 4 Sun, 26 Jun 2016 09:45:44 +0000
Clinton gains double-digit lead as Trump plunges in national poll Sun, 26 Jun 2016 13:41:32 +0000 Support for Donald Trump has plunged as he has alienated fellow Republicans and large majorities of voters overall in the course of a month of self-inflicted controversies, propelling Democrat Hillary Clinton to a double-digit lead nationally in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The survey found sweeping unease with the presumptive Republican nominee’s candidacy – from his incendiary rhetoric and values to his handling of both foreign affairs and his own business – foreshadowing that the November election could be a referendum on Trump more than anything else.

Roughly two in three Americans say they think Trump is unqualified to lead the nation; are anxious about the idea of him as president; believe his comments about women, minorities and Muslims show an unfair bias; and see his attacks on a federal judge because of his Mexican American heritage as racist.

A slimmer majority say they disapprove of the way Clinton has handled questions about her use of a personal email server while she was secretary of state, and half of Americans are anxious about the prospect of a Clinton presidency, underscoring the historic unpopularity of the two major-party candidates.

In fact, so strong is many Americans’ opposition to Clinton and desire for a change in Washington that even some registering their disapproval of Trump say that as of now they feel compelled to vote for him.

THE NUMBERS: 51% to 39%

Nevertheless, in a head-to-head general election matchup, Clinton leads Trump 51 percent to 39 percent among registered voters nationwide, the poll found. This is Clinton’s largest lead in Post-ABC polling since last fall and a dramatic reversal from last month’s survey, which found the race statistically tied, with Trump at 46 percent and Clinton at 44 percent.

As the hard-fought general election gets underway, Trump’s political standing is on dangerous ground. Fifty-six percent of the public at large say the celebrity business mogul stands against their beliefs, while 64 percent say he does not have the necessary credentials to be president. Fifty-six percent feel strongly that he is unqualified.

Nearly one-third of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say Trump is flatly unqualified for office, and 18 percent say he does not represent their beliefs, exposing deep fissures in the Republican base as Trump struggles to unite conservatives going into next month’s national convention in Cleveland.

Then there are the Americans who plan to vote for him despite their disapproval. For instance, 18 percent of people who found Trump’s comments about the judge racist, 15 percent of those who think his comments generally are biased against women, minorities or Muslims, and 11 percent of those who think he is unqualified say they support Trump.

Trump enjoys a big lead with those who want a new direction for the country, 64 percent to Clinton’s 26 percent. After eight years of President Obama, a majority of Americans, 56 percent, say they want to elect a president who can set the nation in a new direction. Forty-seven percent say they feel so strongly.


The poll, conducted in the immediate aftermath of a massacre in Orlando that was perpetrated by a man who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, showed Obama’s approval rating at 56 percent – its highest level in Post polling since May 2011, after the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Obama is more popular now than Republicans George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush in the waning months of their presidencies. Although Obama’s approval rating has not reached the level of former Democratic president Bill Clinton’s in 2000, his standing suggests that he could be a relatively effective surrogate for Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail.

The survey of 1,001 randomly selected adults found a slight uptick in the share of people who identify as Democrats, from 33 percent in May’s poll to 36 percent this month. Self-described Republicans accounted for 24 percent of those polled this month, a drop from 25 percent in May, while independents made up 33 percent. This shift in party identification accounts for less than half of Clinton’s gains in the new poll.

In May, Trump was more competitive with Clinton because he had just secured the Republican nomination and the party’s electorate was coalescing around his candidacy. Clinton’s unfavorable ratings hit their record high last month, matching Trump’s at 57 percent and weighing her down.


But that dynamic reversed over the past month, with Democrats unifying behind Clinton and Republicans expressing fresh doubts about Trump. While 88 percent of Democrats or Democrat-leaning independents say they support Clinton, just 79 percent of Republicans or Republican-leaning independents back Trump.

And there is evidence in the poll that the emergence of Trump as the Republican Party’s standard bearer has pushed some GOP voters out of the fold. Just 69 percent of self-identified Republicans who supported a candidate other than Trump in the primary say they now support Trump; 13 percent say they back Clinton.

There is also little evidence that Trump is winning over Democratic primary voters. On the campaign trail in recent weeks, Trump has made direct appeals to disaffected supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. But the poll finds that just 8 percent of voters who backed Sanders in the primaries say they support Trump, down from 20 percent in May.

A 61 percent majority of all Americans say Clinton is qualified to serve, while Clinton maintains a 2-to-1 advantage on which candidate has the best personality and temperament to be president.

The poll found that 66 percent of all Americans say Trump’s comments about women, minorities and Muslims show an unfair bias; 68 percent say Trump’s criticisms of Judge Gonzalo Curiel were racist; and 85 percent say the comments were inappropriate.

Among only Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, 36 percent say Trump’s comments generally are unfairly biased while 39 percent say the Curiel attacks were racist and 71 percent say they were inappropriate.

With such broad public disapproval of Trump’s controversial comments, Republican elected officials have awkwardly tiptoed around their likely nominee. Trump has chastised fellow party leaders when they have distanced themselves or denounced his comments.


The poll found that 62 percent of Republicans or Republican-leaning independents want Republican leaders to speak out against Trump when they disagree with his views, while 35 percent think they should avoid criticizing him.

The June 12 shooting rampage at a gay nightclub in Orlando, which killed 49 people and the gunman, tested both Clinton and Trump, who took divergent approaches with their responses, both temperamentally and substantively.

Clinton’s support has risen significantly among male registered voters, jumping 11 percentage points since May to tie with Trump’s at 45 percent. Trump’s support fell by 12 percentage points among men overall and by 9 percentage points among white men specifically, a block with which he still enjoys a substantial advantage over Clinton.

Although Trump leads Clinton among white voters overall, 50 percent to 40 percent, he trails her badly among nonwhite voters, 77 percent to 15 percent. His is the smallest Republican advantage with whites for a Republican presidential candidate since 1996, when Bob Dole lost to Bill Clinton in a rout.

Clinton leads Trump among voters of all age groups, but the poll shows her with her greatest advantage, 54 percent to 34 percent, among those ages 18 to 39.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted June 20-23 among a random national sample of 1,001 adults reached on cellular and landline phones. The margin of sampling error for overall results is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Emily Guskin contributed to this report.

]]> 3, 26 Jun 2016 09:41:32 +0000
State police investigate death of Greenville man Sun, 26 Jun 2016 12:39:17 +0000 The death of a 32-year-old Greenville man Saturday night is being investigated by Maine State Police.

George Woodbury died at cabins off Burnt Jacket Road, near Beaver Cove, in Greenville, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety.

An autopsy will be conducted Monday in Augusta, McCausland said.

He said a team of detectives have been in Greenville since the incident was reported around 7:30 p.m. Saturday and are likely to be there for several hours Sunday gathering evidence and conducting interviews.


]]> 0 Sun, 26 Jun 2016 10:03:18 +0000
The night Portland burned Sun, 26 Jun 2016 08:00:10 +0000 0, 24 Jun 2016 13:09:35 +0000 Bill Nemitz: First lady serves up a reason to raise wages Sun, 26 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Hard times have come a knockin’ at the Blaine House door.

Mainers far and wide did a double take last week when WGME-TV reported that first lady Ann LePage has taken a summer job as a waitress at McSeagulls Restaurant in Boothbay Harbor because, as she unabashedly told reporter Jon Chrisos, she could use the extra dough.

“Oh, honey, it’s all about the money. It’s all about the money,” Mrs. LePage said with a laugh while the video camera rolled. As for life as the first family, she later added, “It’s tight sometimes.”

A couple of points worth making here.

First, as the TV report clearly shows, Mrs. LePage has all the attributes of a top-notch waitress. She’s friendly, fast and full of fun as she scurries about doing a job that she “always, always wanted to do.”

Any restaurant in Maine would be lucky to have her.

Second, at $70,000 per year, Maine pays its governor less than any other state in the country.

Sure, the job comes with free housing, free food, free transportation and other perks, but the fact is you’re not going to get rich serving as Maine’s chief executive – at least while you’re still in office.

All of which raises an interesting – and timely – question:

If we take the first lady at her word and accept that times can be tough on a Maine governor’s salary and benefits, what about those Mainers struggling to get by on far, far less?

Put another way, what are the odds that footage of an aproned Mrs. LePage readily admitting, “Oh, honey, it’s all about the money,” will show up this fall in a TV ad supporting the referendum to gradually increase Maine’s minimum wage from $7.50 to $12 an hour by 2020?

Make no mistake about it, folks, this looming fight goes to the core of the political turmoil roiling not only Maine, but the entire country.

On one side are voices in the business community (with some exceptions) who argue that $12 an hour, with built-in cost-of-living increases after 2020, is way too extreme. They say it will cost jobs, jack up prices and drive a stake through the hearts of small businesses that (as always) are on life support as it is.

Echoing that gloom and doom (again, with some exceptions), are restaurant owners who warn that raising the minimum wage for tipped service workers from $3.75 per hour to the adjusted minimum wage by 2024 will force them to lay off their wait staffs in droves.

Predicting these catastrophes and proving them, however, are two vastly different things.

In a 2014 letter to President Obama on increasing the federal minimum wage, more than 600 economists from across the nation, including seven Nobel laureates, made this observation:

“In recent years there have been important developments in the academic literature on the effect of increases in the minimum wage on employment, with the weight of evidence now showing that increases in the minimum wage have had little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers, even during times of weakness in the labor market.”

They continued, “Research suggests that a minimum-wage increase could have a small stimulative effect on the economy as low-wage workers spend their additional earnings, raising demand and job growth, and providing some help on the jobs front.”

Meaning rather than hurt the economy, an increased minimum wage can actually help it.

On the other side of this fight we have those low-wage workers.

Last week, Oxfam America and the Economic Policy Institute released a report showing that 181,410 Mainers, or 31.9 percent of the state’s workforce, currently earn less than $12 an hour.

Worse yet, the report states, 130,022 Maine workers, or 22.9 percent, make less than $10 an hour.

Do the math. Working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year – no vacation or paid sick time for this crowd – $12 per hour translates into an annual gross income of $24,960. Doing the same at $10 per hour will get you $20,800.

If “it’s tight sometimes” for Maine’s first lady, imagine what it’s like for those poor neighbors to pay the rent or mortgage, buy the food and keep gas in the car …

And if they have kids who need day care? Forget about it.

So who exactly are these people?

Contrary to the myth sure to be peddled by opponents of this fall’s referendum, they’re not all entry-level teenagers eager to get their first foothold on the ladder to prosperity.

In fact, Oxfam America found, of those Mainers making less than $12 an hour, 26 percent are between 25 and 39 years old, 20 percent are between 40 and 54, and a stunning 18 percent are age 55 or older.

Retirement? Once again, forget about it.

And what about those restaurant servers?

At a recent town hall meeting, before revealing that his wife had gone to work “to supplement the governor’s salary,” Gov. Paul LePage told his audience that his daughter spent last summer earning $28 an hour as a waitress in Boothbay Harbor.

It’s nice work if you can get it. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2015, a waiter or waitress in Maine made $18,850, or just over $9 per hour. With tips.

My guess is that Ann LePage, who said she plans to tuck away this summer’s earnings to buy herself a car, will do at least as well as her daughter as she showers locals and tourists alike with her genuine Maine hospitality.

I also suspect that as the co-owner of a home in Boothbay valued by the town at almost a half-million dollars when she and the governor bought it from a bank for $215,000 in 2014, she’ll have no trouble surviving once the LePages depart the governor’s mansion come January of 2019.

But unwittingly or not, Mrs. LePage spoke for more than herself last week when she graciously agreed to let the TV crew show her doing what tens of thousands of low-paid Mainers do every day, every week, every month of the year.

It truly is all about the money.


]]> 55, 25 Jun 2016 20:40:13 +0000
Maine voters dissatisfied with presidential options Sun, 26 Jun 2016 01:00:41 +0000 Most Mainers who are likely to vote in November have a poor opinion of Hillary Clinton, but even fewer like Donald Trump.

A new Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram poll shows that 57 percent of likely voters see the Democratic former first lady and secretary of state in an unfavorable light, while 62 percent say they have an unfavorable view of the firebrand Republican real estate mogul and television celebrity.

“These are the two most unpopular candidates to have ever run for president, at least going back for as long as there has been polling,” said Andrew Smith, director of the UNH Survey Center. “You never see them both under water like this.”

Still, among the party faithful, 74 percent of Democrats said they will likely vote for Clinton and Trump sees an identical level of support among Republicans, according to the poll of 609 randomly selected adults conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.

The poll has Clinton leading Trump in Maine, with 42 percent saying they are likely to vote for her Nov. 8, while 35 percent say they will vote for Trump. Another 19 percent say they will vote for somebody else and 4 percent are undecided.

Clinton’s lead is within the poll’s margin of error for likely voters, which is plus or minus 4.5 percent.

The numbers mimic what Americans in general are feeling about their presidential choices. A June 23 poll by Reuters/Ipsos of 1,339 registered voters nationwide showed 44 percent favored Clinton and 34 percent favored Trump.

Smith said it’s also telling that nearly 20 percent of respondents in the Press Herald poll said they would vote for someone else. While that doesn’t mean a third-party candidate such as Libertarian Gary Johnson will be able to pull off a victory, it does mean alternative party candidates are likely to siphon off more votes than ever before from the major party candidates.

That is a problem for both Democrats and Republicans, even though most of the media attention has focused on divisions among Republicans over Trump, Smith said.

“Voter antipathy towards Clinton on the Democratic side is as bad as it is towards Trump on the Republican side,” he said.

The appeal of Bernie Sanders to younger and more progressive Democrats has left many of them disappointed and dissatisfied, meaning some may simply choose not to vote at all while a small percentage may even side with Trump. Smith said Sanders and Trump share an anti-establishment message that especially resonates with young voters.

Earlier this week Trump made an appeal to Sanders voters, urging them to join his movement. Smith said he doubts Sanders’ fans will do so in droves, but some will certainly find greater solace in a vote for Trump than for Clinton.

“The Democrats have a fairly significant problem,” Smith said. Bringing Sanders voters back into the Democratic fold could be critical for Clinton, he said.

Ruth Lind, a Stockton Springs voter who took part in the poll, said she had not settled on either candidate but seemed to summarize the general feeling of dissatisfaction in Maine.

“I think we should draft Olympia Snowe for president,” said Lind, referencing the long-serving but now retired Republican U.S. senator from Maine. Lind, who is over 45 but wouldn’t disclose her exact age, said she still doesn’t know who she will vote for in November. “I wasn’t particularly excited about any of the people running,” she said.

Favorability ratings: Donald Trump

Favorability ratings: Hillary Clinton

INTERACTIVE: Christian MilNeil | @vigorousnorth


Beyond the general disdain voters feel toward the presidential candidates, the new Maine poll reveals other details.

It shows that Clinton, who would be the nation’s first female president if she wins, clearly leads among likely female voters while male voters favor Trump, though by a smaller margin.

Forty-eight percent of women said they favored Clinton while only 28 percent said they would pick Trump. Forty-four percent of men said they like Trump better than Clinton, while 35 percent say they prefer the former first lady.

The poll also shows that Maine’s most educated voters – those who have done postgraduate work – prefer Clinton by a wide margin, with 59 percent saying they would vote for her while only 19 percent favor Trump. Trump’s support among those with a high school diploma or less is stronger than Clinton’s, with 46 percent saying they would vote for him while 35 percent prefer Clinton.

Trump and Clinton have similar favorability ratings among households earning less than $60,000 a year, but Clinton leads among households with incomes over $60,000. Her favorability rating for households earning $60,000 to $100,000 is 38 percent compared to Trump’s 28 percent. In households earning more than $100,000, Clinton’s favorability rating climbs to 43 percent and Trump’s drops to 21 percent.

Filter poll results by key demographics:

By gender
By Congressional district
By educational attainment
By household income
By party affiliation
By age
INTERACTIVE: Christian MilNeil | @vigorousnorth


Likely voters in Maine’s more urban, Democratic and southern 1st District favored Clinton over Trump, 42 percent to 27 percent. But the race appears to be more of a dead heat in the state’s more rural and northern 2nd District, where 30 percent of likely voters said they favor Trump compared to only 28 percent who favor Clinton. The race in the 2nd Congressional District also highlights the dislike likely voters feel for both candidates – 64 percent had an unfavorable view of Clinton compared to 59 percent who had an unfavorable view of Trump.

Among likely voters in the 1st District, Clinton has a clear advantage, with 48 percent saying they’ll vote for her compared to 33 percent who say they will vote for Trump.

Likely voters in the 2nd District are more evenly split, with 37 percent favoring Trump and 36 percent Clinton.

Statewide, 32 percent of registered voters are Democrats, 27 percent are Republican, 37 percent are unenrolled and about 4 percent are Green Party members, according to voter registration at the Secretary of State’s Office.

Poll respondent James Ruffin, 34, of Hodgdon in far northeastern Maine near the New Brunswick border, said he’s voting for Trump despite not agreeing with everything the Republican does or says.

“He’s going to tell you his honest opinion and he ain’t going to beat around the bush when it comes to certain issues,” Ruffin said.

Another respondent, John Nickerson, 74, of Belfast, said he would be voting for Clinton. “I don’t have any other choice,” said Nickerson, a retired federal employee.

“I caucused for Sanders, but he’s fallen off the radar, so to speak,” Nickerson said. While he doesn’t want to “be pals” with Clinton, he does think she would be the best person to lead the U.S. on the global stage.

Michel Cadorette, 79, sits in his Portland apartment on Friday. He says he will vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton, but somewhat reluctantly. "There are issues with her that are a bit of a turn-off but I guess it's what they call the lesser of two evils at this point," he said.

Michel Cadarette, 79, sits in his Portland apartment on Friday. He says he will vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton, but somewhat reluctantly. “There are issues with her that are a bit of a turn-off but I guess it’s what they call the lesser of two evils at this point,” he said. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

Michel Cadarette, 79, of Portland, said he’s been a lifelong Democrat and intends to vote for Clinton, but he’s not necessarily enamored with her. It’s a far cry from when he first voted for a Democrat for president in 1960 and he cast his ballot for John F. Kennedy.

“It’s really difficult this year,” Cadarette said, “There are issues with her that are a bit of a turn-off but I guess it’s what they call the lesser of two evils at this point.”

Trump supporter Chuck Phillips, 49, of Saco is also pensive about his choice.

“It’s not as straightforward as it’s been in some years,” Phillips said. “I’m not overly crazy about him but I find him the more palatable candidate.”

What he finds most palatable about Trump? “He’s an outsider, where Hillary has always been there, she’s a part of the problem so I figured I would try somebody who hasn’t had a chance at all with it.”

The poll suggests that Maine voters still have a somewhat dim view of Republican Gov. Paul LePage, with 58 percent of those surveyed saying they disapprove of him. In a June 2014 poll by the UNH Survey Center, 52 percent said they disapproved of LePage. While LePage’s approval ratings this June were high among Republican voters, at 76 percent, 57 percent of unenrolled voters and 88 percent of Democrats said they disapprove of him.

When respondents were asked to identify the most important problem in Maine, 18 percent said it was LePage. That puts the governor in second place, behind jobs and the economy, which 33 percent of respondents picked as the most important problem. Only 5 percent of respondents identified welfare or taxes as the most important problems – both are issues that LePage frequently rails about.

While the governor has hinted that he may run for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Sen. Angus King in 2018, poll findings from 467 likely voters suggest such a match-up would not go LePage’s way. Sixty-three percent said they would pick King – only 29 percent said they would vote for LePage.

Hypothetical 2018 Senate matchup: LePage vs. King

INTERACTIVE: Christian MilNeil | @vigorousnorth


In other poll findings, President Obama had an approval rating of 49 percent, up 5 percentage points from June of 2014, when 44 percent said they approved of the president. But like LePage, Obama’s approval numbers hinge on party identification. Among registered Democrats, the president’s approval level was 82 percent, while registered Republican voters gave him a 79 percent disapproval rate.

Maine’s most popular politician remains U.S. Sen. Susan Collins – 73 percent of the voters polled voiced a favorable opinion of the Republican lawmaker. King, an independent, also remains popular, with a 69 percent approval rating.

The Maine Legislature had a 49 percent approval rating. Only 26 percent of poll respondents said the U.S. is on the right track, while 69 percent said it wasn’t. Forty-five percent said Maine was on the right track, while 46 percent said it wasn’t.

The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram Poll was conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center on June 15-21, 2016. Results are based on landline and cellular telephone interviews with 609 randomly selected Maine adults and 475 randomly selected likely Maine voters. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points for all adults and plus or minus 4.5 percentage points for likely voters.

]]> 21, 26 Jun 2016 11:38:23 +0000
Pingree leads comfortably, Poliquin and Cain virtually tied in congressional races Sun, 26 Jun 2016 01:00:00 +0000

Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree holds a comfortable lead over a pair of Republican challengers ahead of her re-election campaign in Maine’s 1st District, according to a Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram Poll.

Pingree, a four-term incumbent, leads Mark Holbrook 56 percent to 34 percent in a head-to-head match-up. She also leads Ande Smith, 55 percent to 34 percent, according to a survey of 248 likely voters in the 1st Congressional District conducted June 15-21 by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.

Although Holbrook has been declared the winner of the June primary, the margin was only 55 votes and a recount has been scheduled for later this week.

In Maine’s other congressional race, first-term incumbent Bruce Poliquin, a Republican, and Democratic challenger Emily Cain are virtually tied, the Telegram poll found.

Among 227 likely voters in Maine’s 2nd District, Poliquin had 41 percent support and Cain was just behind at 40 percent – with 12 percent undecided.

That race is a rematch of the 2014 election, which Poliquin won with 47 percent support. Cain earned 42 percent of the vote and independent Blaine Richardson finished third with 11 percent.

Both congressional races in Maine could be affected by the presidential election, which historically means higher turnout, and polarizing candidates on both sides.

Pingree’s lead over both Holbrook and Smith is bolstered by 85-87 percent support among Democrats and 55-61 percent support among independent, or unenrolled, voters.

Maine’s 1st Congressional District, which comprises York, Cumberland, Knox, Sagadahoc and Lincoln counties and parts of Kennebec County, is much more liberal than the northern, mostly rural 2nd District.

Pingree, 61, of North Haven, previously served four terms in the Maine Senate from 1992 to 2000 – the last four years as majority leader. Since being elected to the House in 2008, Pingree has not been in danger of losing her seat, and both Republican challengers have no prior political experience.

Holbrook, of Brunswick, is a professional counselor and former police officer. Smith, of North Yarmouth, is a former nuclear engineer officer aboard Navy submarines and now works as an attorney focusing on cybersecurity and technology.

One big takeaway among those polled was how unknown both Smith and Holbrook were. Asked to rate the candidates as favorable, unfavorable or don’t know, 70 percent said they didn’t know for Holbrook and 66 percent said they were unsure about Smith.

Pingree, meanwhile, had a favorability of 49 percent, and only 12 percent of those polled didn’t know.

Addie Philbrook, 81, of Vinalhaven, was among those polled. She said she thinks Pingree has done a good job in Congress and plans to vote for her again.

“I think she’s trying to help the elderly, which Maine has a lot of,” Philbrook said. “I’m a Democrat, but I don’t always vote that way. I’ve supported Susan Collins. But Pingree is far better than the Republicans I’ve seen run for that seat in recent years.”

While Pingree appears safe, Maine’s 2nd District race looks to be much closer, at least at this stage.

Poliquin, 62, a former state treasurer under Gov. Paul LePage, was elected in 2014 after the seat became vacant when former U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, a Democrat, stepped down to run against LePage.

Cain, 36, spent 10 years in the Maine House and Senate before running for the U.S. House seat two years ago.

For a sitting congressman, Poliquin had a low favorability rating of 33 percent, according to the poll, although it was still higher than Cain’s favorability of 30 percent.

But Poliquin also held an edge in unfavorability – 32 percent viewed him unfavorably, compared to only 20 percent who felt that way about Cain. The Democrat did have a much higher percentage of those who didn’t know – 37 percent – compared to only 23 percent who are unsure about Poliquin.

Both Poliquin and Cain poll well within their respective parties, the poll found, and Poliquin has a slight edge among independent voters – 30 percent to 27 percent, although that group also is 25 percent undecided.

Roger Ryan, 36, of Belmont, is not among the undecided. He said he thinks Poliquin is much better suited to represent the 2nd District.

“I think Emily Cain is a little wacky and very liberal,” he said.

Does he think the race will be close?

“Boy, I hope not,” he said. “I’ll be sad if it’s close.”

]]> 2 Sun, 26 Jun 2016 07:40:27 +0000
Sanford man arrested on drug charges Sat, 25 Jun 2016 23:33:06 +0000 A Sanford man was arrested Saturday in North Berwick after police making a traffic stop said they spotted drugs in the man’s car.

North Berwick police said they found cocaine, suboxone, marijuana, a scale and some hypodermic needles in the car driven by Samuel Chernin, 24.

Chernin was charged with unlawful possession of drugs and possession of hypodermic apparatuses.

He was taken to the York County Jail and his bail was set at $5,500.

]]> 0 Sat, 25 Jun 2016 19:36:07 +0000
Poliquin-Cain rematch garners national attention Sat, 25 Jun 2016 23:17:56 +0000 History is on the side of incumbent Republican Bruce Poliquin in the race for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District in the November election.

But observers say his once-defeated challenger, Democrat Emily Cain, could benefit from the political shakeup of a high-stakes presidential race that’s expected to boost voter turnout in the general election.

Both candidates are gearing up for a rematch of their 2014 race, in which Poliquin edged Cain by 5 percentage points. And the race is already on track to outpace their last contest as the most expensive congressional race in state history. Neither candidate faced primary challenges in this month’s election.

With no bear-baiting referendum and Republican Gov. Paul LePage absent from this year’s ballot – two issues experts say gave Poliquin an advantage in the 2014 race – the pendulum could swing toward Cain, a former state lawmaker. But the absence of a third-party candidate – in 2014 conservative Blaine Richardson ran as an independent – could drive even more votes to Poliquin.

There are also national implications for the race in the 2nd District, which is one of 30 seats that Democrats are targeting in an attempt to regain a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. On June 15, the day after the primary election, the National Republican Congressional Committee released a memo saying the seat is “widely viewed as a top target for both political parties in November,” and that the GOP group is “committed to protecting the seat” held by the freshman congressman.

Earlier this month, Poliquin was at one of his favorite spots in the district, Simones’ Hot Dog Stand in Lewiston, while home from Washington for a weekend. A former state treasurer, Poliquin, 62, who lives in Oakland, said in an interview at Simones’ that with one term in Congress under his belt, he’s better prepared than ever to stand up for the 2nd District.

“I’m in a position right now to help the 650,000 people I work for,” he said. “You have to get out front. You have to push. Use the authority people give you to fix problems. Don’t hide behind the sofa; get out there and push, and that’s what I do.”

In a recent interview at her Bangor headquarters above a shopping plaza, Cain said she’s running again because “the stakes are higher than ever.”

“The same issues that got me started in 2004 (in the Maine Legislature) – as I looked around and saw too many of my peers having to move away or take jobs that weren’t the best jobs for them – those issues are the same, there are just more faces,” said Cain, 36, who lives in Orono and served 10 years in the Legislature.


Complicating the race is the presumptive Republican presidential nomination of Donald Trump. Voter turnout in presidential years tends to favor Democrats, according to political scientists, but Maine’s 2nd District is also historically a swing district – one that could conceivably go to either party.

While it’s still too early to tell how the presidential race will shake out, the high-energy, high-interest race is sure to affect congressional races across the country, including in Maine’s 2nd District, said Mark Brewer, professor and interim department chairman of political science at the University of Maine.

“As many people as there are that like him and are motivated to get out and support Trump because they find him so different, I think there’s an equal number of people who find Trump frightening and somewhat appalling, and they are going to be just as motivated to get out and work against Donald Trump becoming president,” Brewer said.

That political risk could cut both ways for Republicans such as Poliquin. Many establishment Republicans have been slow to rally around Trump at the risk of alienating their constituents or fellow party members.

Like many Republicans, Poliquin would not say whether he supports Trump or how he sees the presidential race affecting Maine’s 2nd District.

“I’m focused completely on my race and doing work for my constituents,” he said. “The presidential race is the presidential race. It’s something completely different.”

Like Poliquin, Cain said she is not focused on the presidential race, but said it has been an unusual election year so far. “I think the craziness is only going to get worse.”

Also missing from the 2016 election cycle are factors that may have worked to Poliquin’s advantage in the last race.

“I think Congressman Poliquin was quite closely tied to Gov. LePage; and there’s pretty clear evidence there was a high correlation between conservatives, the bear-baiting referendum and votes for LePage and Poliquin,” said Sandy Maisel, chairman of the government department at Colby College and a Democrat.

And there’s the lack of a third-party candidate. Richardson, a Belfast resident who temporarily left the Republican Party to run as an independent for Congress in 2014, captured 11 percent of the vote that year, compared to 42 percent for Cain and 47 percent for Poliquin.


In the November election, Cain also faces the uphill climb of history: Congressional incumbents for decades have won re-election in the 2nd District. Since the district was created in its present form in 1962, no incumbent member of Congress has lost a re-election campaign there.

Nationally, incumbents tend to have a financial advantage and don’t have to work as hard to get their name and message out to the public, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which reported that in 2014 that 95 percent of House incumbents were re-elected.

The district represents nearly 80 percent of the state, while the 1st District represents the highly populated Portland area and extreme southern Maine coast. The 2nd District is the largest geographic district east of the Mississippi River, presenting a challenge to non-incumbents because of its demographics, according to Ken Palmer, a retired professor of political science at the University of Maine. “It’s a big area and it takes a long time for a politician to establish a reputation in all these tiny communities and to get known in those communities,” he said. “It’s not like a city where you can quickly build a political organization inside that city. In the 2nd District, you have to go town to town.”

Cain said she plans to pick up where she left off in 2014 after spending last year working as a consultant for the nonprofit Jobs for Maine’s Graduates.

“I knocked on thousands of doors when I ran for the state Legislature, and if I could physically knock on every door in the 2nd District I would, because there’s no better way to connect,” she said. “That personal connection, it matters.”

When it comes to some of the work she’s most proud of during her time in the Legislature, Cain points to balancing the state budget as chairwoman of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, working together with Democrats and Republicans and helping to pass a bill lowering the cost of oral cancer treatments.

“I remember meeting a woman whose sister had been spending thousands of dollars a month to get the pills she needed, and she went to the pharmacy to get her weekly dose and the pharmacist said, ‘That will be $40,’ and in that moment her life was changed,” Cain said. “Lawmaking isn’t supposed to be easy, but if you stick on the side of doing the right thing, ultimately it can get done and you can make a difference in somebody’s life.”

In order for Democrats to regain control of the House, they need to win back 30 seats. Maine’s 2nd District has a freshman congressman in a district that often has voted Democratic in the past, both factors that Maisel, the Colby professor, said could help the party.

But Maine is also one of just two states in the U.S. that divides its electoral votes, which means it could be targeted by Trump as a state where he could walk away with one electoral vote even if he doesn’t win the entire state.

The race is already on track to be the most expensive congressional race in Maine history, with Poliquin already outraising his 2014 campaign by more than $600,000 and Cain raising $1.3 million so far – about $600,000 less than she raised in all of 2014’s election cycle.

Among candidates for Congress, Poliquin ranks as the ninth at getting the most money from the national Republican Party, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The campaigns also have raised the 10th-most money among general election candidates nationally.

“Maine’s 2nd Congressional District is going to get a huge amount of resources dumped into it and national attention paid,” said Brewer, of the University of Maine. “I think that will really tell people how important this race is. If you live in the 2nd District, you should recognize its importance to you; but the importance goes beyond the 2nd District. It really does have national political importance and implications.”


Brewer said it’s still too early to say what issues will define the 2nd District race, but the debate about whether to create a national monument in the Katahdin region could be at the forefront.

Poliquin has opposed the designation of 87,000 acres in the region for a national monument – different from a park in that it is protected under the National Antiquities Act and may include more than just land. During a congressional field hearing held at his request, he said it “would take (the land) off-line from productive economic use forever.”

The hearing was criticized by some Democrats who said its outcome was “predetermined” and “scripted” since it was hosted by Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, a vocal opponent of the Antiquities Act, under which national monuments are created by either Congress or the president. Only opponents of the monument spoke at the hearing, though dozens of monument supporters and opponents sounded off afterward during a lengthy public forum held later that day by Poliquin.

Cain, who has said she will support the national monument only as part of a larger jobs package for the region, was among Democrats who labeled the congressional field hearing a “sham” and in a news release after the event criticized Poliquin for failing to attend earlier hearings on the issue at meetings organized by Sen. King and attended by National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis.

“My priority for the Katahdin region is creating jobs,” Cain said. “It’s ridiculous that Congressman Poliquin called for an additional hearing on this issue while mills were closing and Mainers were losing their livelihoods.”

Poliquin also took heat from Cain and others last month when he was one of seven Republicans who changed his vote on a gay rights measure under pressure from party leaders.

Cain cited the vote as an example of Poliquin’s indecisiveness when it comes to issues affecting the 2nd District.

“This is yet another example of how Bruce says one thing but does another,” Cain said. “He’s done it on trade; he’s done it on the import-export bank; he does it with seniors and with veterans and with college students every single day.”

But even as Cain and Democrats accused him of flip-flopping, Poliquin defended his voting record, saying his arm wasn’t twisted by anyone and that the reason he changed his vote was because additional language was introduced that also protected religious freedoms when the amendment came up for a second vote.

“I will work with anybody,” said Poliquin, who was also one of just three House Republicans to vote against the repeal of Affordable Care Act last year. “I’ve shown people that – Republicans, Democrats, it doesn’t matter to me as long as they have the same agenda as our families do – which is more jobs and better paying jobs in the 2nd District.”


]]> 2, 25 Jun 2016 19:49:52 +0000
Police officer charged with sex crime resigns, Brunswick chief says Sat, 25 Jun 2016 23:15:46 +0000 BRUNSWICK — A Maine police officer charged with sending explicit pictures of himself to an undercover agent he thought was a 13-year-old girl has resigned from the Brunswick police department.

WCSH-TV reports that Brunswick Police Chief Richard Rizzo announced the resignation of 25-year-old Garrett Brosnan, of Bath, on Saturday.

Brosnan was arrested last week and appeared in federal court in Portland on Wednesday. He was ordered to live with his parents and have no contact with anyone under the age of 18.

Federal officials say he’s been under investigation since October, when the parents of a 13-year-old girl in Arizona reported that someone had engaged their daughter in an online conversation that was sexual in nature.

It’s unclear if Brosnan has a lawyer.

]]> 2 Sat, 25 Jun 2016 19:19:51 +0000
Concert review: Loud and energetic, Sleep rouses fans in Portland Sat, 25 Jun 2016 23:14:19 +0000 Cult bands don’t get much more cult-like than Sleep. The metal trio, founded in the early 1990s, has a rare mystique, marked by their major influence on new-millennium stoner rock, their classic albums and their epic record-label feuds (which can happen when you submit one 60-minute song as your album). In the late 1990s, they split – a career move than only enhances one’s myth – only to reform in recent years for sporadic gigs that have drawn pilgrimages by their fans.

On their recent tour, they made Portland’s State Theatre their only concert venue north of New York, and fans journeyed from throughout New England and Eastern Canada to attend. The merchandise table was perhaps the busiest the State has ever hosted – for the entire duration of the evening, the line went at least 10 deep, as fans bought T-shirts until pretty much everything was sold out.

The appeal of the shirts was obvious, as they were adorned with psychedelic artwork of dragons and spacemen that was reminiscent of the comics in Heavy Metal magazine – but in the context of the Sleep’s allure, they were also totems to affirm your allegiance, and prove you were part of one of their rare appearances.

The band opened the concert the same way it opened its 1992 album “Holy Mountain” – with “Dragonaut,” a radio-friendly song fueled by a funky, even danceable riff that does so little to mentally prepare listeners for what’s to come afterward that it almost feels like a sly joke. Once “Dragonaut” faded away, the tempo mostly slowed to a quagmire march, the clear hooks became obscured by smoke and anything else resembling a blues riff was buried under a mountain of sludge.

It was undoubtedly one of the loudest shows the State Theatre has put on in recent years, yet it never felt aggressive or punishing. Oddly enough, and perhaps true to the band’s name, the music was often relaxing. There were people slamming off of one another in a mosh pit throughout the evening and others crowd surfed during some of the more euphoric moments, but despite the potent energy, the music was also contemplative – apt for a band whose vocals are directly inspired by Gregorian chants.

From an instrumental standpoint, the band was as proficient as expected. Al Cisneros found numerous ways to coax sound from his bass guitar, sometimes deftly working both hands up the neck and wildly moving his fingers like a flamenco guitarist, and other times beating the instrument like a drum. There are many bassists with distinctive styles, but Cisneros is one of the few with a distinctive sound, in his case a tone somewhere between a bass and a buzz saw. Coupled with deep chords of Matt Pike’s guitar and doomsday cymbals from drummer Jason Roeder, it created a relentless swamp of sound that could occasionally shift dramatically when Pike would take a high-arcing solo or Roeder would rely more heavily on clean snare hits.

The result of those shifts is that half of the show sounded like dirt was being slowly shoveled on your head, and half sounded like nothing but open spaces and fresh air. There is something unquestionably life-affirming about that duality – there’s little wonder people travel from all over to experience it.

Robert Ker is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.

]]> 0 Sat, 25 Jun 2016 19:30:36 +0000
The EU bureaucracy Britons love to hate Sat, 25 Jun 2016 22:37:06 +0000 Britons have cited an array of complaints about belonging to the European Union, from immigration to a lack of local control. But the organization itself has also generated feelings of ill will. Here are some of the reasons, Britons love to hate the EU:

Pay for EU bureaucrats

Even as individual nations across Europe have had to impose grinding austerity measures, including slashing pay for government workers, most European Union employees get paid generous wages with special, minimal taxes. The Telegraph – an anti-EU newspaper – found in 2014 that many mid-level EU workers were taking home more money than British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Overreaching regulation

In Britain, the famous “bendy banana” came to be a symbol of Brussels regulatory overreach, when Brussels set guidelines that bananas should be “free from malformation or abnormal curvature.” Those advocating Brexit said Britons could decide for themselves how bent their bananas could be.

Lack of accountability

The big decisions in the EU get hammered out behind closed doors, whether it’s inside the European Commission or at meetings of EU leaders or ministers. Unlike lawmakers in national legislatures, where much of the sausage-making happens in the open, EU leaders bargain in private, then announce their decisions afterward.

A Babylon of costly translations

Depending on how you read it, you might find the EU’s tendency to translate nearly everything it does into all 24 of its official languages a testimony to its internationalist glory or a wasteful use of resources. By EU custom, all public EU documents are translated into every language. All high-level EU meetings are the same way. The European Commission says it employs 1,750 linguists, 600 full-time interpreters and 3,000 freelancers.

Unnecessary bureaucracy

Every EU member state gets to appoint a commissioner.As the EU expanded, it needed to dream up new cabinet agencies to match the number of members.

]]> 1 Sat, 25 Jun 2016 19:19:34 +0000
Photos: Vintage baseball clubs take the field in Cornish Sat, 25 Jun 2016 21:59:02 +0000 The New England Vintage Base Ball Festival got underway Saturday at the Cornish Fairgrounds, with three games played among six teams from New England and New Jersey, including Maine’s Dirigo Base Ball Club.

Organized by the town’s historical society and fairground committee to help restore and maintain the fairgrounds, the festival will continue on Sunday with more 1864-rules base ball.

]]> 0, 26 Jun 2016 09:48:02 +0000
Mulch fires have Augusta chief fuming Sat, 25 Jun 2016 21:47:16 +0000 AUGUSTA — In the early morning of June 18, Augusta firefighters responded to a call about smoke coming from under a deck at the State Farm building on Sewall Street.

The cause of the fire was something all too familiar to the department these days: bark mulch.

“It’s getting worse, and people do not care enough,” Augusta Fire Chief Roger Audette said. “People just flick their cigarettes and before you know it, something is smoldering.”

Audette said he’s getting frustrated by how often the department has to go to the Marketplace at Augusta or other places of business to put out bark mulch fires. “It’s driving up the cost of business, and market places are pulling our resources quite a bit,” Audette said.

In the last few weeks, the Augusta Fire Department was called to the Hannaford supermarket on Cony Street, Shaw’s Plaza on Western Avenue and MaineGeneral Medical Center to deal with smoldering bark mulch. Audette said his firefighters are handling 60 to 70 of such calls per year, a risk made even greater lately by a stretch of dry weather and less-than-average rainfall in Maine.

“We are constantly going to a lot of these places because people flick their cigarettes in there and then the areas are smoldering,” Audette said. “This stuff is basically fuel. We go out daily.”

Because of the increase in fighting these fires, Audette said his department is considering proposing ordinance changes to make businesses responsible for paying when the Fire Department goes to extinguish a mulch fire.

“Charging fees is something we are looking at,” Audette said. “I mean, if we’re going to the same shopping center multiple times, maybe it something to think about.”

Jordan Genest of Augusta used water bottles from her car to put out a mulch fire Friday afternoon at the Citgo station on Civic Center Drive. She said she was surprised nobody from the convenience store was outside taking care of it, considering fire and gas are an especially volatile mix.

“Does anybody from the store even know?” Genest asked.

Audette said that while the majority of these fires could be put out with a bucket of water, there is a risk of larger fires if certain safety precautions aren’t taken. Ideally, Audette said, businesses shouldn’t use bark mulch at all; but because it is less expensive and, some would say, more visually appealing, than crushed stone, it is still being used, especially at new businesses or buildings.

“That’s just bad practice from a safety perspective, but we see it annually,” Audette said. “The big driver in all of this for us is safety.”

Waterville and Winslow Fire Chief Dave LaFountain said he can understand Audette’s frustration. He agrees that some corrective action should be taken.

“There are some days where we have to send an engine across town several times for the same area where dry bark mulch has ignited,” LaFountain said. “I can’t understand why businesses that have decorative mulch applied to landscaped areas don’t water that area as part of its regular maintenance.”

Eric Conrad, spokesman for the Maine Municipal Association, said there is a trend statewide of municipalities looking for ways to curtail “frequent fliers” – people or businesses that are heavily demanding of police and fire-rescue departments – or charge them for what might be considered excessive use.

“All of the property taxpayers in a city pay for police and fire-rescue service, so if one person or business is using the fire department a whole lot, addressing that actually is in most taxpayers’ best interest,” Conrad said.

The practice goes back about a decade, Conrad said, when federal and state rescue people started charging adventure seekers for extremely expensive rescue operations when they were stranded during a mountain climbing or back-country skiing operation.

According to data provided by the state fire marshal’s office, 94 bark mulch fires were reported to that agency in 2015, up from 59 in the previous year.

State Fire Marshal Joseph Thomas said the careless disposal of cigarettes seems to be the main culprit in causing these fires. He said local chiefs sometimes contact him to ask whether any bark mulch has been recalled because of spontaneous combustion, though he had no information about any specific problems.


]]> 6, 25 Jun 2016 18:19:16 +0000
George Will leaves Republican Party over Trump Sat, 25 Jun 2016 21:38:21 +0000 Conservative columnist George Will has left the Republican Party over its presumptive nomination of Donald Trump.

Will announced his decision Friday at an event for the Federalist Society in Washington.

“This is not my party,” he told the audience, according to PJ Media. He said that he has changed his voter registration from “Republican” to “unaffiliated.”

Will has been a major proponent of the “Never Trump” movement. In April, he wrote a column with the headline, “If Trump is nominated, the GOP must keep him out of the White House.” In response, Trump called Will “a major loser.”

Friday, Will said Republican voters should just “make sure he loses,” then “grit their teeth for four years and win the White House.”

]]> 40, 25 Jun 2016 17:47:02 +0000
Calfornia wildfire destroys 150 homes Sat, 25 Jun 2016 21:30:02 +0000 LAKE ISABELLA, Calif. — A voracious and deadly wildfire in central California has burned 150 homes and the toll may rise, fire officials said Saturday.

The tally rose from 80 homes as firefighters began going through neighborhoods to count houses and mobile homes incinerated by the blaze.

Entire blocks were reduced to rubble, and at least 2,500 homes remained threatened.

Weather conditions that drove the fire through small southern Sierra Nevada communities with terrifying speed remained a worry, with low humidity and 30-mph steady winds forecast,

“That’s something we have to keep an eye on. It could spark another disaster,” Kern County fire Engineer Anthony Romero said.

About 1,100 firefighters battled the flames.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency, freeing up money and resources to fight the fire and to clean up in the aftermath. The Federal Emergency Management Agency also authorized the use of funds for firefighting efforts.

Since it began Thursday, the fire has swept through nearly 56 square miles of parched brush and timber. It moved so quickly that some residents barely had time to escape – and two didn’t.

An elderly couple apparently were overcome by smoke as they tried to flee, county Sheriff Donny Youngblood said. Their bodies were found Friday but their names haven’t been released.

Everett Evans, 45, fled Thursday as the fire came down a mountain with a roar toward his South Lake mobile home.

“When you hear a freight train, it’s time to leave. You could hear it, you could see it, you could smell it,” he said.

The fire tore through small communities of houses and mobile homes that surround the lake – actually a reservoir – and the Kern River, a popular spot for fishing and whitewater rafting. The communities are nestled in foothills of the Sierra Nevada, a mountain range that runs hundreds of miles north and south through eastern California.

Scorching heat and tinder-dry conditions across the West have contributed to massive wildfires in the past week that have destroyed properties and sent residents to seek shelter and hope for the best.

Laura Rogers thought she’d never see her home or her brother’s home again. Instead, she was lucky to find both standing in a neighborhood of mobile homes that was devastated.

“I was sure this place was gone last night,” Rogers said Friday as she gestured at the destruction around her. “I mean look at this, I can’t believe it. It’s like a scary movie.”

The downspout of her brother’s home was melted on the ground, but the structure was intact.

Dozens of other homes were gone, left in piles of charred sheet metal and cinderblock foundations. Scorched tricycles, air conditioners and TV dishes littered the landscape. Burned-out cars sat on tireless rims and leafless trees poked from blackened dirt.

]]> 0, 25 Jun 2016 17:50:52 +0000
Program would test taxing motorists by the mile Sat, 25 Jun 2016 21:15:42 +0000 A group of East Coast states wants to help overhaul the way America pays for its decaying roads, and it’s starting with Monopoly money.

Delaware, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New Hampshire are proposing pilots to figure out how they might charge motorists a fee for the miles they travel – rather than taxing their gas, as state and federal officials do today.

The I-95 Corridor Coalition, which represents transportation officials from 16 states and the District of Columbia, applied for a federal grant last month to test the idea.

Officials would stitch together the policies and technologies needed to count the miles driven by 50 recruits from each of the four states, including state legislators, transportation officials or other willing guinea pigs. They would send out “faux invoices” monthly. And they would collect the data that legislatures – and the driving public – would require to decide if the change makes sense.

Although California plans to launch a pilot in July, also with fake invoices, and Oregon has had success with a volunteer program collecting actual cash, the concept is not particularly well known – or well loved across the country.

The Mineta Transportation Institute, which has polled the public on a variety of tax questions for the past seven years, found that the mileage tax was “unwaveringly unpopular.” In the latest survey, which covered 1,500 people and was released this month, the institute found that support ranged between 23 percent and 48 percent, depending on how the question was framed. More people liked the idea if the mileage tax varied by how much a car pollutes.

But Jennifer Cohan, Delaware’s secretary of transportation and chair of the coalition, said states have no choice but to seek alternatives.

“Reliance on the gas tax as a major contributor to funding transportation is no longer a viable option,” Cohan said.

The federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon has not been raised since 1993, and many states have not indexed their own gas taxes to inflation, so those key funding sources have fallen far behind the nation’s needs.

]]> 7, 25 Jun 2016 17:28:20 +0000
Massachusetts farm provides immigrants, refugees with land to grow crops Sat, 25 Jun 2016 19:20:32 +0000 LANCASTER, Mass. — Vue Yang cleared the weeds surrounding her crops planted in rows across her 1-acre plot, revealing small green leaves just beginning to emerge from the ground.

“It’s just like we used to do in my country, but a little different,” she said, wielding a hoe to remove the unwanted growth.

Yang, a Hmong resident of Fitchburg, has been farming daily at Flats Mentor Farm in Lancaster for seven years, a skill she learned in Laos, the country from which she emigrated in 1979.

Flats Mentor Farm, operated by World Farmers, provides more than 275 immigrants and refugees with land and knowledge to grow fresh crops.

Yang is among more than 15 Hmong residents who use part of the 70 acres at the border of Lancaster and Bolton, hidden behind a row of trees on Route 117.

Maria Moreira, executive director and co-founder of World Farmers, said the Hmong people occupy the largest plot of land and were the first group she provided space to when she opened the farm more than 30 years ago.

“I know what it’s like to not have land,” Moreira said about her motivation to turn what was once a field for her milking cows into a vast farmland shared by immigrants and refugees.

She emigrated to the United States from the Azores, where she came from a family of farmers.

“We want to connect people to fresh produce,” she said. “In this area, it’s easier to go to a fast-food chain than to access fresh crops.”

The connections go beyond the farmers markets with which many who use the land participate.

Because of a new three-year grant, the mentoring farm is welcoming local partnerships to provide assistance in crop development and marketing. Those partnerships include Nashoba Regional High School, UMass Extension, the Lancaster Agricultural Commission and Community Center and more.

Four interns from the high school will work with the farm during the summer to learn about nonprofit business, farming and other cultures, Program Director Jessy Gill said.

“It’s kind of like a cultural exchange,” she said.

“It’s a cultural experience you only understand through contact.”

And there are plenty of cultures at the farm, offering unique perspectives to farming and a diversity of produce.

The majority of the farmers are from Africa and share the remaining land which is divided into small plots.

Mary Koigi and her sisters from Kenya have been farming there for two years after finding out about the farm through word of mouth.

Koigi said she was enjoying kale at a friend’s house and asked where she got such fresh produce. Her friend replied she had farmed it in Lancaster.

“Now I have fresh corn, beans and tomatoes,” she said.

Most of the farmers have full-time jobs, but still make time to check on their crops both morning and night, and especially on the weekends, Moreira said. Koigi even called it an “extracurricular activity.”

Farmers pay a land preparation fee at the beginning of the season, Moreira said, but for first-year farmers the plot is free.

Farmers are able to decide the purpose for their land – consume the food they grow or, the most popular option, sell it.

The bulk of the produce grown is at farmers markets across the state.

“We sell at 40 different farmers markets,” Moreira said. “Each city and town want different produce.”

For instance, based on market research the farm has completed, lalu, a leafy green plant, is very popular in Brockton and Mattapan, she said.

“It’s difficult when you come to this country and you aren’t able to access foods that were once available to you,” she said. “It’s like a small piece of home.”

]]> 2, 25 Jun 2016 17:30:19 +0000
How Maine’s members of Congress voted Sat, 25 Jun 2016 18:10:37 +0000 WASHINGTON — In addition to roll call votes last week, the House also passed the Fraud Reduction and Data Analytics Act (S. 2133), to improve government measures to assess and mitigate fraud risks and improve the use of data analytics to prevent fraud; passed the Social Impact Partnerships to Pay for Results Act (H.R. 5170), to encourage and support partnerships between the public and private sectors to improve our nation’s social programs; passed the Small Business Health Care Relief Act (H.R. 5447), to provide an exception from certain group health plan requirements for qualified small employer health reimbursement arrangements; and passed the Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act (S. 2487), to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to identify mental health care and suicide prevention programs for women veterans.


House Vote 1

MOBILE PHONE SUBSIDY: The House has rejected the End Taxpayer Funded Cell Phones Act (H.R. 5525), sponsored by Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga. The bill would have ended universal service support payments to mobile phone carriers under the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline program for providing phones to low-income consumers. Scott said after Lifeline was expanded in 2005 to include mobile phones, fraud and abuse have resulted in millions of phones being given to people who are not low income, and “Congress must act to impose fiscal discipline” on Lifeline to stop the wasteful phone subsidies. A bill opponent, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., said Lifeline’s mobile phone expansion gave millions of low-income consumers a way to get jobs and emergency services, helping them emerge from poverty. The vote, on June 21, was 207 yeas to 143 nays, with a two-thirds majority required for passage.

NOT VOTING: Chellie Pingree, D-1st District

YEAS: Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District

House Vote 2

FUNDING CYBERSECURITY TECHNOLOGIES: The House has passed the Support for Rapid Innovation Act (H.R. 5388), sponsored by Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas. The bill would require the Homeland Security Department’s Science and Technology Directorate to increase its backing and funding of the research and development of cybersecurity technologies. Ratcliffe said that with cybersecurity threats growing, the increased backing was needed to “help spur innovation and break down bureaucratic barriers that are currently preventing government from leveraging the private sector’s emerging technologies” for improving the security of information technology. The vote, on June 21, was 351 yeas to 4 nays.


YEAS: Poliquin

House Vote 3

HOMELAND SECURITY PARTNERSHIPS: The House has passed the Leveraging Emerging Technologies Act (H.R. 5389), sponsored by Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas. The bill would direct the Homeland Security Department to work with technology developers to address homeland security needs and considering opening offices in areas with concentrations of technology developers to help Homeland Security partner with the developers. Ratcliffe said the bill sought to “move us toward further addressing homeland security needs by supporting technology innovation” by the private sector and Homeland Security working together. The vote, on June 21, was 347 yeas to 8 nays.


YEAS: Poliquin

House Vote 4

RULE ON INVESTING FOR RETIREMENT: The House has sustained President Obama’s veto of a resolution (H.J. Res. 88), sponsored by Rep. David P. Roe, R-Tenn., disapproving of a proposed Labor Department rule defining the term “fiduciary” as it applies to financial advisers managing the retirement funds of their clients. Roe criticized the rule as too complex and misguided, and creating restrictions on the access working families and small businesses have to advice on the best ways to save for retirement and create employee retirement plans. A veto supporter, Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., said the fiduciary rule will keep advisers from costing those saving for retirement up to $17 billion yearly by steering them into financial products that give the advisers large commissions but hurt investors. The vote to override the veto, on June 22, was 239 yeas to 180 nays, with a two-thirds majority needed to override.

NAYS: Pingree

YEAS: Poliquin

House Vote 5

MILITARY CONSTRUCTION, VA, ZIKA FUNDING: The House has agreed to the conference report with the Senate for the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act and Zika Response and Preparedness Act (H.R. 2577). The bill would provide $82.5 billion for the Veterans Affairs Department and military construction programs in fiscal 2017, and provide $1.1 billion to fund programs for responding to the Zika virus outbreak. A supporter, Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., said the Zika funding gave agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on ways to combat Zika. An opponent, Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Mass., criticized the bill for inadequately funding the response to Zika, which he called a “potentially devastating crisis.” The vote, on June 23, was 239 yeas to 171 nays.

NAYS: Pingree

YEAS: Poliquin


Senate Vote 1

TERRORISTS AND GUN PURCHASES: The Senate has rejected a cloture motion to end debate on an amendment sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 2578). The amendment would have authorized measures to notify the Federal Bureau of Investigation of attempts by people who have been on terrorist watch lists in the past five years to purchase a gun. Cornyn said the notifications would start an FBI process that could result in terrorists being arrested and stopped from carrying out planned attacks. An amendment opponent, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said the notifications would do nothing to stop gun violence. The vote to end debate on the amendment, on June 20, was 53 yeas to 47 nays, with a three-fifths majority required for approval.

NAYS: Susan Collins, R-Maine; Angus King I-Maine

Senate Vote 2

SUSPECTED TERRORISTS AND GUN PURCHASES: The Senate has rejected an amendment sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 2578). The amendment would have authorized Justice Department measures to block individuals on the FBI’s terrorist watch list from buying firearms. Feinstein said FBI data indicated that known or suspected terrorists are often able to buy firearms, and closing “this dangerous loophole” to stop such purchases would prevent potential attacks. An amendment opponent, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said it would “deny American citizens their constitutional rights without due process of law based on a secret list that the government maintains.” The vote, on June 20, was 47 yeas to 53 nays.

NAYS: Collins

YEAS: King

Senate Vote 3

BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR GUN PURCHASES: The Senate has tabled an amendment sponsored by Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 2578). The amendment would have required background checks for private gun sales and expanded the national instant criminal background check system for potential gun purchasers. Murphy said the checks were a needed way to protect against terrorists and others buying assault weapon firearms to carry out mass shootings. No amendment opponents spoke on the Senate floor. The vote to table, on June 20, was 56 yeas to 42 nays.

YEAS: Collins

NAYS: King

Senate Vote 4

FBI SEARCHES OF ONLINE DATA: The Senate has rejected a cloture motion to end debate on an amendment sponsored by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 2578). The amendment would have made permanent a provision authorizing individual terrorists to be legally treated as agents of foreign powers, and authorize the FBI’s use of national security letters to request Internet customer data from telecommunications companies without a warrant. McCain said timely access to the data was an important tool for law enforcement to defend the country against terrorist threats without compromising the privacy of Americans. An amendment opponent, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said giving the FBI warrantless access to data on online activities of Americans threatened judicial due process and citizens’ liberties. The vote to end debate, on June 22, was 58 yeas to 38 nays, with a three-fifths majority needed to end debate.

YEAS: Collins, King

Senate Vote 5

NO-FLY LIST AND FIREARMS PURCHASES: The Senate has rejected a motion to table an amendment sponsored by Sen. Susan M. Collins, R-Maine, to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 2578). The amendment would block purchases of firearms by people who are on the federal government’s no-fly list, alert the FBI and local law enforcement agencies of firearms purchases by people who were recently on the federal government’s terrorist watch list, and authorized a judicial process for people denied firearms purchases to appeal the rejection. Collins said the amendment would cover only a small number of Americans on the no-fly list while protecting against terrorist acts such as the Orlando shootings, while preserving a robust appeals process for Americans wrongly blocked from buying firearms. The vote on the motion to table, on June 23, was 46 yeas to 52 nays.

NAYS: Collins, King

Senate Vote 6

FIREARMS SALES TO SUSPECTED TERRORISTS: The Senate has tabled an amendment sponsored by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., to the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 2578). The amendment would have authorized the Justice Department to block firearms and explosives purchases by known or suspected terrorists, subject to a judicial burden of proof before the government can block the purchase. Johnson said it would “accomplish the goal of keeping weapons out of the hands of terrorists, would-be terrorists, while not giving up our constitutional rights.” An amendment opponent, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said it would not enable Justice to block any potential terrorists from buying guns, and the Senate should instead pass more effective legislation against terrorist gun purchases. The vote to table the amendment, on June 23, was 67 yeas to 31 nays.

YEAS: Collins, King

]]> 0 Sat, 25 Jun 2016 16:55:19 +0000
Idexx founder donates $1 million for science initiative at Acadia National Park Sat, 25 Jun 2016 17:37:28 +0000 The founder of Idexx Laboratories in Westbrook is giving $1 million to help explore and expand the links between science and Acadia National Park.

The gift from David Shaw will help launch the “Second Century Stewardship” initiative, which will underwrite programs involving the National Park Service, Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and other institutions.

Shaw announced the gift and the initiative Saturday on Park Science Day at Sieur de Monts in Acadia National Park.

“Modern science provides us with unprecedented ability to be wise stewards of these special places and cultural treasures, for the benefit of future generations,” Shaw said. “And parks offer exceptional opportunities for important scientific research and inspirational education.”

Shaw is a director of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a trustee of the National Park Foundation, so the gift helps bring together those interests. He also served as executive producer of the film “Second Century,” which premiered at Acadia on Saturday. The film is subtitled “Science Behind the Scenery at Acadia National Park.”

Shaw said the science-based initiative will focus on projects at Acadia National Park at the start and then spread to other national parks.

“I’m thrilled to be able to do something like this in my own backyard,” Shaw, who lives in Scarborough, said in a telephone interview Saturday. “But all the parks can benefit from this.”

The program will connect scientists and their research with educators, students and the public to support a greater understanding of science, an appreciation of the natural world and park stewardship.

Science is an often underappreciated aspect of the national parks, said Kevin Schneider, the superintendent of Acadia National Park.

“Our National Parks have always been perceived as a place for recreation, but now we need to communicate to the public that parks are places for science, a place to inform science literacy in our nation,” Kevin Schneider said.

And science is important to assessing how well the parks are operating, Shaw said.

“It’s important to engage science to know what good management looks like,” he said.

Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park is a nonprofit partner of the National Park Service and helps advance a vision for Acadia as a destination for science and inspiration.

Both the National Park Service and Acadia National Park are celebrating their centennials this year.

In addition to founding Idexx, which makes veterinary diagnostic equipment, provides laboratory services and develops tests for dairies and water systems, Shaw is managing partner of Black Point Group, which has investments in technology companies and public service. He has been involved in companies such as Ikaria, Curiosity Stream, Ironwood, Physion, Vets First Choice, and Modern Meadow. He also has worked with AAAS, the National Park Foundation, The Jackson Laboratory, the Sargasso Sea Alliance, Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, Maine Medical Center, Hurricane Island Outward Bound, the U.S.-Israel Science and Technology Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, Service Nation and other groups.

]]> 1, 25 Jun 2016 20:47:04 +0000
Jay teen among youngest Democratic national delegates Sat, 25 Jun 2016 16:58:22 +0000 AUGUSTA — Trevor Doiron isn’t old enough to vote until late July. But when he does, he’ll be voting for Hillary Clinton as one of the youngest national Democratic delegates this year.

Though his choice surprised many of his friends who are die-hard supporters of Bernie Sanders, Doiron, 17, says he wants to get them on board to defeat presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Doiron, of Jay, with a population of fewer than 5,000 people, says he’s not from a rich family – he’s just a small-town kid from a rural area.

“I want to show (that) someone like that has the potential to do great things on the national stage,” he says.

Doiron will turn 18 on July 29 – the day after the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia ends.

So far, Doiron is the youngest Democratic national delegate, according to the Maine Democratic Party, though that could change after the few remaining states finalize their delegates. Other teenage delegates for this November’s election include Michigan Democratic delegate Ethan Petzold, 18, and Jace Laquerre, 17, a Republican delegate from Vermont.

Doiron is one of eight pledged Clinton delegates from Maine. Sanders, who beat Clinton by a nearly 30-point margin in the March caucus, will have 17 pledged delegates. Of Maine’s five superdelegates, three have pledged for Clinton and one for Sanders.

Now a senior at Spruce Mountain High School, Doiron has been interested in politics since 2008, when a neighbor asked the then-10-year-old, to help put up political signs. One Howard Dean rally at the University of Maine-Farmington later, he was on board with liberalism. Since then, he’s spent hundreds of hours working phone banks and canvassing for Democratic candidates.

Doiron assisted his regional school district’s board of directors with its budget. Concerns about cuts to state aid have informed his political leanings.

“Government has a moral responsibility to take care of poor people and ensure people don’t go without basic health care, education – all that you need to be successful in life,” Doiron said.

Doiron describes himself as center-left, and said that during his February vacation he sat on a Florida beach reading Clinton’s memoir, “Hard Choices.” He’s drawn to her attention to detail. He likes how she appeals to young people with her “debt-free” college plan, he says. And he dismisses scandals over Benghazi and Clinton’s private email server as a “political witch hunt.”

But at a time when a Bloomberg Politics poll shows Sanders supporters leaning toward Trump or third-party candidates, Doiron hopes Sanders soon endorses Clinton.

“I think Donald Trump is a serious threat and should be taken as a serious threat,” Doiron said.

Despite his resume so far, Doiron isn’t set on his post-high school plans and said he’ll keep saying yes to opportunities as they come to him.

]]> 8, 25 Jun 2016 18:01:15 +0000
Britain, EU disagree over timing of U.K.’s exit Sat, 25 Jun 2016 14:15:10 +0000 LONDON — Britain and the European Union haven’t even begun divorce talks yet but were already bickering Saturday as the political and economic shock waves from the British vote to leave the bloc reverberated around the world.

Senior EU politicians, rattled by a result that few saw coming, told Britain on Saturday to hurry up and trigger the formal exit process – something the U.K. insists won’t happen for several months.

“There is a certain urgency … so that we don’t have a period of uncertainty, with financial consequences, political consequences,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said at a meeting in Berlin of the EU’s six founding nations.

Britons voted 52-to 48 percent Thursday in favor of ending their country’s 43-year membership in the 28-nation bloc. England’s 300-year-old union with Scotland could be another casualty of the referendum, since most people in Scotland voted to remain in the EU but were outvoted by a majority in much-larger England.

Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon said her semi-autonomous administration would seek immediate talks with EU nations and institutions to ensure that Scotland could remain in the bloc despite the U.K.-wide vote to leave.

“(We will) explore possible options to protect Scotland’s place in the EU,” she said after meeting with her Cabinet in Edinburgh, adding that a new referendum on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom is “very much on the table.”

Scotland voted in 2014 to remain a part of the U.K., but that decision was seen by many as being conditional on the U.K. remaining in the EU.

The victorious “leave” campaigners in Thursday’s referendum have said there is no rush to trigger Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon treaty, which will begin a two-year exit process to renegotiate trade, business and political links between the U.K. and what will become a 27-nation bloc.

British Prime Minister David Cameron announced his resignation Friday and said his successor, to be chosen by October, should be the one to start the process of withdrawing from the bloc.

The favorite to succeed him, former London Mayor Boris Johnson, has said there’s “no need for haste” – but EU leaders are saying the opposite, in insistent tones.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said Saturday that the British had voted to leave and “it doesn’t make any sense to wait until October to try and negotiate the terms of their departure.”

“I would like to get started immediately,” he said.

Juncker said the split was “not an amicable divorce” – but noted it was never “a tight love affair anyway.”

Top diplomats from the European Union’s six founding nations – France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg – met in Berlin for hastily arranged talks and stressed that the exit process should be speedy.

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said he hoped there would be no “cat and mouse” games.

“There must be clarity,” Asselborn told reporters. “The people have spoken and we need to implement this decision.”

France’s Ayrault suggested Britain could name a new prime minister within “several days,” – but in reality that is likely to take several months. The process calls for Conservative lawmakers to winnow candidates down to two choices who will then be voted on in a postal ballot of party members.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel struck a less urgent tone, saying it “shouldn’t take forever” for Britain to deliver its formal notification of leaving “but I would not fight over a short period of time.”

“There is no need to be particularly nasty in any way in the negotiations. They must be conducted properly,” Merkel said at a news conference in Potsdam, outside Berlin.

Britain’s “leave” campaigners have been accused of lacking a plan for the aftermath of a victory, and Johnson and other Brexit leaders were keeping quiet Saturday.

Dominic Cummings, director of the “Vote Leave” group, said it would be “unthinkable” to invoke Article 50 before a new prime minister was in place. He tweeted: “David Cameron was quite right. New PM will need to analyze options and have informal talks.”

Britain will remain an EU member until the divorce is finalized, but its influence inside the bloc is already waning. Leaders of the bloc will hold a summit in Brussels next week, and the second day, Wednesday, will take place for the first time without Britain.

On Saturday, Britain’s representative on the EU’s executive Commission, Jonathan Hill, stepped down, saying he was disappointed by the referendum result but “what’s done cannot be undone.”

Juncker transferred Hill’s responsibility for overseeing financial services to Latvian commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis – costing Britain a key voice in a sector that is hugely important to London, whose status as Europe’s financial capital is threatened by Britain’s EU exit.

The referendum has already triggered financial turmoil around the world. Stock markets plummeted Friday, with the Dow Jones industrial average dropping 611 points, or 3.4 percent, its biggest fall since August.

The pound dropped to its lowest level since 1985, plunging more than 10 percent from about $1.50 to $1.35 before a slight recovery, on concerns that severing ties with the single market will hurt the U.K. economy and undermine London’s position as a global financial center.

Credit rating agency Moody’s downgraded the U.K.’s economic outlook from stable to negative, saying Britain faces “a prolonged period of uncertainty … with negative implications for the country’s medium-term growth outlook.”

The vote to leave the EU has also caused an earthquake in British politics. The Conservatives are facing a leadership battle to replace Cameron, and some members of the opposition Labour Party also hope to oust their leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who they accuse of failing to promote the “remain” side strongly enough.

“(Corbyn) clearly isn’t the right person to actually lead the party into an election because nobody thinks he will actually win,” said Labour legislator Frank Field.

Corbyn said Saturday he would not resign, and said Britain must react “calmly and rationally” to the divisive referendum result. He told a meeting in London that politicians needed to take seriously British voters’ deep concerns about immigration, which led many to back the “leave” side.

“We must talk about immigration . but we will never pander to prejudice,” Corbyn said.


]]> 4, 25 Jun 2016 17:32:46 +0000
Firefighters saved 10 cottages on Sheep Island, Maine Forest Service says Sat, 25 Jun 2016 13:47:20 +0000 HARPSWELL — Maine firefighters and forest rangers managed to save 10 cottages from a fire that burned about 4 acres on Sheep Island in Casco Bay.

They faced challenges in getting equipment to the island and working in dense underbrush.

No one was injured in the fire, which started about 2 p.m. Friday.

Two people were on the 9.4-acre island while the fire spread quickly due to dry conditions and a large number of dead fir trees. The cause of the blaze is under investigation.

Dan Skillin, a Maine Forest Service firefighter, said extinguishing a fire on an island presents challenges. He said the dozen firefighters from the forest service and surrounding communities had to drag all of their equipment from vehicles to boats.

“Then there is the rockiness and trying to get your pumps in the water,” Skillin said Saturday.

He said it is difficult to fight a fire amid dense underbrush and the possibility of blazing branches blowing down on firefighters.

“Just trying to walk among all that stuff is pretty complicated,” Skillin said.

At one point, Skillin was called off the island after smoke was reported in Pittston and Whitefield, about an hour away. It turned out the smoke was from the Sheep Island fire.

Two Maine Forest Service helicopters poured 40 loads of water, or nearly 10,000 gallons, on the flames. Skillin said firefighters remained on the scene overnight and into late Saturday morning, putting out hot spots.

The island is visible from the shore in Harpswell, Skillin said.

Dry conditions triggered fires in other parts of the state on Saturday.

Firefighters from the Maine Forest Service were flown in to fight a fire late Saturday morning near the top of Mount Abram near Kingfield, and by midafternoon 10 acres had burned.

A Franklin County dispatcher said the fire flared up from an earlier lightning strike. The dispatcher said the fire was in a remote region away from buildings and development.

Early Saturday evening the Maine Forest Rangers and firefighters were battling a wildfire in Cathance Township in Washington County that covered 15 to 20 acres and destroyed two buildings, the rangers said on Twitter.


]]> 0, 25 Jun 2016 19:26:25 +0000
Search continues for missing people after West Virginia flooding Sat, 25 Jun 2016 13:42:55 +0000 CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Heavy rains that pummeled West Virginia left at least 23 people dead, and authorities said Saturday that an unknown number of people in the hardest-hit county remained unaccounted for.

Most of the dead and all of the missing, officials believe, were in the county of Greenbrier – home of the renowned golf resort of the same name.

“The reports we got this morning are that Greenbrier County may still have some folks unaccounted for. It does not appear there are unaccounted for people in other counties, but it’s still a somewhat fluid situation,” said Chris Stadelman, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s chief of staff.

Stadelman said there were still “lots of folks in shelters” and that state would apply for federal disaster funds. Scores of homes were damaged.

In one bizarre twist, a woman sustained burns over two-thirds of her body after her deluged house blew up. Belinda Scott of White Sulphur Springs called her husband Ronnie and told him their house was filling up with water. She fled to the attic and waited. She smelled natural gas. Then, the house exploded.

Belinda Scott was able to break a vent and get out onto a porch, then make it onto a tree, which she clung to for hours before being rescued by state police, her husband told The Associated Press.

“My wife was out there four and a half hours hanging in a tree with a house burning right beside her, flood waters running all around her,” said Scott.

About 500 people were stranded overnight in a shopping center when a bridge washed out, and dozens of other people had to be plucked off rooftops or rescued from their cars.

Greenbrier County Sheriff Jan Cahill described “complete chaos” in his county.

“Roads destroyed, bridges out, homes burned down, washed off foundations,” he said. “Multiple sections of highway just missing. Pavement just peeled off like a banana. I’ve never seen anything like that.”

The state Division of Homeland Security reported 15 people killed in Greenbrier County and rescue efforts continue. Other deaths were reported in Kanawha, Jackson and Ohio counties.

Currently 200 National Guardsmen were assisting in eight counties, helping local crews with swift water rescues, search and extraction efforts and health and welfare checks. The governor declared a state of emergency in 44 of 54 counties and authorized up to 500 soldiers to assist.

The governor said he had planned to fly around the hard-hit areas, but wasn’t able to because all state aircraft were being used for rescues.

Eric Blackshire was one of the stranded at Crossings Mall, a mix of restaurants, stores and a hotel in Elkview, which is about 15 miles northeast of Charleston. Some had to sleep in their cars or at businesses overnight. Blackshire opted for a hotel room.

“It was kind of like a hurricane party. I guess you could call it a flood party. There were lots of beers being drank last night,” he told The Associated Press.

He was able to get to safety Friday when Pinch Volunteer Fire Department firefighters used a rope to guide people down a hillside. Crews were working to build a gravel road on the backside of the shopping plaza.

An area near the West Virginia-Virginia border received at least 9 inches of rain while other parts of the state had 3 to 5 inches, National Weather Service hydrologist John Sikora said. While most of the rain had tapered off Friday, there were still scattered showers, thunderstorms and river flood warnings.

Some of the heaviest rainfall was in Greenbrier County, where The Greenbrier luxury resort and golf course is nestled in the mountains. The course, overrun by floodwaters, is scheduled to host a PGA tour event from July 4-10.

“It’s like nothing I’ve seen,” owner Jim Justice, a Democratic candidate for governor, said in a statement. “But our focus right now isn’t on the property, golf course or anything else. We’re praying for the people and doing everything we can to get them the help they need.”

Professional golfer Bubba Watson was apparently visiting the resort and tweeted photos of entire holes underwater: “Prayers for (at)The–Greenbrier & surrounding areas. We are without power & it’s still raining. Never seen this much rain! (hash)WestVirginiaBeSafe.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it was sending teams to help with damage assessments.


]]> 0, 25 Jun 2016 17:34:02 +0000
Acadia park institutes no-car zone at Bubble Pond Sat, 25 Jun 2016 13:00:20 +0000 AUGUSTA – From now until October, visitors to Acadia National Park will only be able to explore the picturesque Bubble Pond by riding free park buses and bicycles.

The park says the move temporarily banning private vehicles from the pond’s 11-space parking area is to improve safety and bus circulation in an area long known for congestion and illegal parking.

From June 23 to Oct. 10, visitors can ride the Island Explorer bus to Bubble Pond for free through the Loop Road and Jordan Pond routes.

Acadia National Park Superintendent Kevin Schneider called Bubble Pond the park’s “most challenging bus stop.”

The park will be studying the change as it develops a transportation plan for Acadia National Park.

The Bubble Pond parking area will reopen to private vehicles Oct. 11.

]]> 0 Sat, 25 Jun 2016 17:43:17 +0000
Bangor police stop car driven by 12-year-old boy Sat, 25 Jun 2016 12:54:18 +0000 BANGOR – Police in Bangor say an officer stopped a car driven by a 12-year-old boy after noticing it had front-end damage and was dragging a front bumper.

The Bangor Police Department said a patrol officer came across a damaged vehicle driving without headlights at around 4 a.m. Saturday.

The officer signaled for the vehicle to stop. Police say the driver didn’t stop and was driving erratically.

Police say a sergeant later stopped the vehicle by using the front end of his patrol car. The cruiser received minor damage, and the other vehicle had modest damage.

Police are investigating whether the car the 12-year-old was driving struck any other vehicles before encountering police.

The 12-year-old faces charges of driving to endanger, eluding a police officer and theft. Police say more charges might follow.

]]> 9 Sat, 25 Jun 2016 17:44:51 +0000
Maine immigration advocates criticize Supreme Court decision Sat, 25 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Maine immigration advocates say they are disappointed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 4-4 vote that kept President Obama’s immigration plan stalled in the courts, dealing a major blow to efforts to give some undocumented immigrants the ability to legally work in the U.S.

Mufalo Chitam, who legally immigrated to the United States in 2000 from Zambia and who helps women integrate into American society, said the lower court’s ruling, which will stand because of the Supreme Court deadlock, will make it harder to obtain work permits, which are key to becoming a part of society.

“It’s unfortunate,” said Chitam, of South Portland. “It is saddening to see how immigration issues continue … to divide us as a nation, when all we should be striving for as communities in a nation is unity.” Chitam works as a sales coordinator for the American Red Cross.

Nationally, about 4 million illegal immigrants were awaiting word from the Supreme Court that would have shielded them from deportation and allowed them to work legally if they met certain conditions, such as having been in the U.S. since 2010, having relatives who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents, and having not committed any serious crimes. The Obama administration approved the changes by executive order and was ready to begin implementing them in 2014 when a federal judge in Texas issued an injunction halting the process.

The vote means the case will return to federal court for a possible trial that could take years to resolve.

Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling, who has been working on connecting recent immigrants to work, said the decision stalls some efforts that would allow immigrants to legally work.

The city is looking into creating an Office of New Americans, which in part would help immigrants integrate into society and find work.

“It’s not good for our economy and not good for our society when they have to live in secret,” Strimling said. “It’s leaving people behind.”

Portland has the largest concentration of immigrants in Maine, with 10,000 foreign-born residents living here in 2013, according to Coastal Enterprises Inc., which provides business counseling services.

Susan Roche, executive director of the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project in Portland, which provides affordable legal services for recent immigrants, said while the Supreme Court decision was discouraging, the court did not rule on the merits of the executive orders.

“We believe in the end, the program will go forward,” Roche said.

But she said it could take years to resolve and meanwhile, people are not receiving their work authorizations.

Obama criticized the Supreme Court decision on Thursday.

“Today’s decision is frustrating to those who seek to grow our economy and bring a rationality to our immigration system, and to allow people to come out of the shadows and lift this perpetual cloud on them,” Obama told reporters at the White House. “I think it is heartbreaking for the millions of immigrants who’ve made their lives here, who’ve raised families here, who hoped for the opportunity to work, pay taxes, serve in our military, and more fully contribute to this country we all love in an open way.”


]]> 65 Fri, 24 Jun 2016 23:33:31 +0000
Brits in Maine call EU exit a ‘terrible, terrible mistake’ Sat, 25 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 British expats in Maine reacted with sadness and disbelief Friday to the stunning win by Brexit supporters at the polls in the United Kingdom on Thursday.

“It really is a terrible, terrible mistake of mind-boggling proportions,” said Philip Jones, a Yarmouth resident originally from London.

Earlier this week, some U.K. citizens living in Maine said they were watching the referendum to leave the European Union closely, but none planned to vote. The general sense was that voters would remain in the EU, although the vote would be close.

The results Thursday shattered those expectations.

“I think there was some naiveté. We thought surely people would come to their senses,” Jones said. “It was so clear that it was the right thing to stay, it is inconceivable that 52 percent of the population was in favor.”

Jones and others fear the result of the vote could spell economic and social catastrophe for the U.K., or even split the union entirely. In Scotland, where voters heavily favored remaining, nationalist politicians are already planning for a repeat of a 2014 independence referendum. Sinn Fein, the nationalist party in Northern Ireland, also called for a vote to unite with the Irish Republic.

“One of the ironies of the whole situation is the reason for leaving was to put Britain first, but it might lead to the break-up of the country,” Jones said.

Daniel Bookham, a U.K. citizen who has lived in Maine for the last two decades, also was saddened by the result, saying the vote is a reflection of people who are scared by a changing world around them.

“You can’t really say, ‘Stop the world, I want to get off.’ But that is what voters did,” Bookham said. He worries that British youth, who overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU, will be most affected by it.

“The people who have to live with this decision the longest were the ones voting against it,” he said. “It is deeply unfortunate, deeply selfish.”

Bookham was opposed to Scottish independence in 2014, but said his view has changed overnight. Thursday’s referendum showed the English voting for their self-interest, he said, so he cannot oppose Scots voting for theirs, even if it would mean independence.

“I hate the idea of it, but it is perfectly in their right to do it,” Bookham said.

Henry Laurence, a political science professor at Bowdoin originally from England, had predicted the remain-in-the-EU side would win with a thin margin.

“I’m still in a state of bewilderment,” he said Friday.

Laurence said the vote will mean short-term financial problems, an expensive and difficult process to disentangle from the EU, and a probable vote on Scottish independence. But, at the same time, he dismissed more nightmarish predictions of financial collapse and possible violence in Europe.

“It is not going to lead to the destruction of western civilization,” Laurence said.

]]> 51 Fri, 24 Jun 2016 23:22:34 +0000
Sanders says he’d vote for Clinton, but battles on Sat, 25 Jun 2016 03:14:09 +0000 Bernie Sanders finally said what Hillary Clinton has been waiting to hear on Friday: She’s got his vote in November.

Asked on MSNBC if he would cast a ballot for his opponent for the Democratic nomination for president, the Vermont senator said simply, “Yes.”

“I’m going to do everything I can to defeat Donald Trump,” said Sanders, who still hasn’t conceded the race to Clinton. “I think Trump in so many ways will be a disaster for this country.”

Stopping short of an endorsement, Sanders said he’s still in negotiations over the party platform and he focused his remarks against Trump rather than in support of Clinton.

“We do not need a president whose cornerstone of his campaign is bigotry. He is insulting Mexicans and Latinos and Muslims and women,” Sanders said. “This is not somebody who should become a president.”

Sanders said in a later interview on CNN that there are lessons for the U.S. presidential campaign in Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. While he supports cooperation between countries to avoid war and conflict, he said the globalization of companies is hurting workers.

“In terms of the global economy, in the EU and in the U.S., while it’s great for CEOs to be running to China and making investments in China, they are forgetting about the millions of people who have lost their jobs,” Sanders said. “We can not ignore the reality of so many people in this country who have been hurt by the global economy.”

During the primary battle, Sanders painted Clinton as too cozy with Wall Street and too entrenched in the political establishment to make a meaningful difference. Many Sanders voters, drawn to his calls for a “political revolution,” believe Clinton represents the status quo. Sanders has fed an impression among his supporters that the rules of the nominating contest were stacked against him from the start, in part because of Clinton’s backing from most party leaders, accentuating the bitterness toward her.

Clinton has been making attempts to appeal to Sanders supporters while at the same time wooing working-class white men who lean toward Trump. She signaled Wednesday that her general election message on the economy is “to make sure economy works for everyone – not just those at the top … .”

Sanders said on MSNBC that he is still in the race.

“My job right now is to fight for the strongest possible platform in the Democratic convention,” he said. “That means a platform that represents working people, that stands up to big money interests.”

]]> 1, 24 Jun 2016 23:19:53 +0000
Vermonters mixed on Senate GMO label compromise Sat, 25 Jun 2016 03:11:09 +0000 MONTPELIER, Vt. — Vermonters reacted with mixed emotions Friday to the prospects that a U.S. Senate compromise on labeling genetically modified foods could set aside a state law due to take effect next week.

The law, effective July 1, would make Vermont the first state to require the majority of U.S. food products containing genetically engineered ingredients to bear labels that say “produced with genetic engineering.”

Industry groups have sued to block Vermont’s law, but have been unsuccessful so far. And some food companies have announced plans to begin shipping products with labels compliant with the law.

But in Congress, Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, who chairs the Agriculture Committee, and Michigan’s Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the panels top Democrat, announced a deal Thursday that would require similar labeling nationwide but allow food companies to use text, a symbol or an electronic label accessed by smartphone. No significant action is expected on the proposal before the Vermont law goes into effect.

In the state, residents had opposing reactions.

A bar code-style label not readable by the naked eye drew the ire of some.

At the Tulsi Tea Room, a vegetarian restaurant specializing in locally produced, organic food, manager Fiona Sullivan said needing a smartphone to read food labels “sounds very classist. You’d have to own a smartphone, for one thing, and you’d need to be educated to a certain degree.”

“It’s another example of big money blocking change that needs to take place,” she said.

But Brenda Steady, who stopped in at the Middle Road Market in Minton for a turkey grinder for lunch, said she was not worried about whether any of its ingredients was made with genetic engineering.

“I think it’s horrible,” Steady, a Democrat, said of the law passed by a Legislature and signed by a governor of her party in 2014. “It’s another way to micromanage small business. If people want to know what is in their products, they can go on Google and check them out.”

Meanwhile, Campbell’s Soup and General Mills announced months ago they would begin shipping products with labels compliant with Vermont’s law. Spokesmen for both companies said Friday they support the federal labeling proposal.

“We need consistency across the country. And without this national solution, we risked having a system of 50 different regulations impacting our packages,” General Mills’ Mike Siemienas said.

Tom Hushen of Campbell’s said the company has “already printed and shipped to comply with Vermont’s law”

“We will continue to comply with Vermont’s law until Congress and the president enact legislation that pre-empts and replaces it,” Hushen said.

]]> 0 Fri, 24 Jun 2016 23:22:28 +0000
Two die fleeing California wildfire Sat, 25 Jun 2016 02:50:31 +0000 LAKE ISABELLA, Calif. — A deadly wildfire that roared through dry brush and trees in the mountains of central California gave residents little time to flee as flames burned dozens of homes to the ground, propane tanks exploded, and smoke obscured the path to safety.

An elderly couple trying to flee from the flames were overcome with smoke outside of their house and killed, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said.

Their bodies were found Friday near Lake Isabella, a popular recreation area east of Bakersfield that was ravaged by wind-whipped flames, said a county fire spokesman.

At least 80 houses were destroyed in the southern Sierra Nevada as the fire burned out of control across nearly 47 square miles, leveling neighborhoods and forcing thousands of people to flee from fast-moving flames.

The names of the two dead have not been released. The sheriff said his department hasn’t been able to search very extensively and would be looking through burned homes with cadaver dogs seeking more possible victims.

David Klippel, 78, a retired police officer, said he didn’t see much of a threat after receiving an automated call advising him to leave. That changed dramatically within an hour Thursday afternoon.

“I’ve never been so close to a fast-moving, ferocious fire. It was unbelievable,” said Klippel, who later learned his house had caught fire. “I almost didn’t have time to get out.”

Neighborhoods of mobile homes were charred to their foundations. Gusty winds pushed flames and smoke farther into drought-starved terrain.

“The forces of nature collided with a spark,” Kern County Fire Chief Brian Marshall said. “The mountainous terrain, five years of drought and wind gusts of over 20 mph all drove a fire over 11 miles in 13 hours.”

Scorching heat and tinder-dry conditions across the West have contributed to massive wildfires in the past week that have destroyed properties and sent residents to seek shelter and hope for the best.

Crews faced a “firefight of epic proportions” as they tried to protect neighborhoods. Officials said they expect to find many more homes destroyed as the smoke clears.

]]> 0, 24 Jun 2016 23:10:30 +0000
Colby to present plans for 3 athletic fields Sat, 25 Jun 2016 02:37:31 +0000 WATERVILLE — Colby College plans to start building three athletic fields this fall on about 19 acres behind the Harold Alfond Athletic Center, with a goal of having them completed and ready for use in the fall of 2017.

There will be an artificial turf field for soccer and lacrosse, a grass field for soccer and a third practice field to be used for soccer and other sports, according to Mina Amundsen, Colby’s assistant vice president for facilities and campus planning. The fields, which will be built in the area of the former softball field, will replace those to the west of the biomass plant, which is on Washington Street just west of the Alfond athletic center.

The athletic fields’ construction is part of a larger, multi-year athletic complex project Colby plans to undertake that would include building an athletic center, possibly on the west side of the biomass plant, and tearing down the current one. The building will not be razed until the new one is built, according to Amundsen.

“That’s a few years out,” Amundsen said Thursday.

Colby officials are scheduled to go before the Waterville Planning Board at 7 p.m. Monday with an informal pre-application for the plan to construct the three athletic fields. The board will review the plans under the city’s subdivision and site plan review ordinance, and Colby will return at a later date for further review.

Kate Carlisle, Colby’s director of communications, said Thursday that the larger athletic complex project is still in the planning stages and many things need to be finalized before applications and permits are sought.

Colby recently completed a baseball and softball complex on campus, just across Mayflower Hill Drive from the area where the three new fields will be developed.

Amundsen said grouping all the competition fields together will provide a more pedestrian-friendly and convenient environment.

“Visibly, you’ll see this sort of wonderful complex of fields,” she said. “I think it allows us to be far more efficient in our operations, but the important piece is encouraging much easier walking between fields and the ability to see everything that’s happening there.”

The new fields are designed to coincide with the natural terrain and the wooded areas will be kept intact, Amundsen said. The fields will be built around the trees, she said.

The Alfond athletic center, which is a little more than 200,000 square feet, includes the field house, gymnasium, ice rink, fitness center, offices for coaches and locker rooms. The building replacing it would be larger, according to Amundsen; but she, like Carlisle, emphasized that project is still in the planning stages.

The center, built from the 1950s to the 1980s, is not the right configuration, according to Amundsen.

“It no longer meets our needs,” she said.

When the building is torn down, the property it is on probably would become green space, she said.

Meanwhile, she noted that area school graduations that are now held in the Alfond center, including those of Waterville and Winslow high schools, would be held in the new building.

“We care about the graduations,” she said. “Our facilities are a community resource.”


]]> 2, 24 Jun 2016 22:40:25 +0000
Teen who became honorary Portland police officer succumbs to cancer Sat, 25 Jun 2016 02:29:00 +0000 Zachary Johnson, an honorary Portland police officer and a popular 2016 graduate of Edward Little High School, died Tuesday after a three-year battle with cancer. He was 18.

Johnson fulfilled his lifelong dream of becoming a police officer in March. Portland City Clerk Katherine Jones swore him in as an honorary officer during a ceremony at police headquarters. Police Chief Michael Sauschuck took off his own badge and handed it to Johnson.

“It was one of those moments the family will never forget,” said an emotional Kevin Haley, Johnson’s uncle and a 21-year veteran of the Portland Police Department. “To see that kid smile from ear to ear, to see him take the oath, it was amazing.”

Johnson, of Auburn, was the son of Aaron and Stephanie Johnson. He also is survived by a brother and sister, Martin and Megan Johnson.

Johnson’s family spoke Friday about the unwavering strength and positivity he showed throughout his fight against Ewing’s sarcoma, a bone cancer.

He was diagnosed in July 2013 at the age of 15. He underwent 10½ months of aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatment. By April and July of 2014, his scans were clean. A month later, doctors found two tumors in his head. He went through additional treatments before the cancer returned to his pelvis area and then his spine. About eight weeks ago, he became paralyzed from the waist down. Throughout his treatments and setbacks, Johnson maintained an optimistic outlook, his family said.

“He never once said, ‘Why me?’ ” his father said. “He never got down about it. He never got upset. As far as he was concerned, he was going to beat it.”

Johnson had much to live for. He had dreamed of walking in his uncle’s footsteps and becoming a Portland police officer. In March, his wish was granted. Sauschuck gave Johnson his police badge and the St. Christopher medal from around his neck.

“We wanted to step up and officially make him a member of the family,” Sauschuck said. “We really do lean on the core values of our department. When you start talking about leadership, integrity and service, Zach really embodied all of those things. He really brought out the best in people. We certainly saw that when he was here with us.”

Johnson had a ride-along with the department’s Special Reaction Team. Shortly thereafter, he went to the department’s firing range. He also spent time four-wheeling with Maine game wardens, who presented him with a badge and a jacket.

Johnson carried his police badge everywhere, especially to his chemotherapy appointments.

“I’ll tell you, the Portland police family treated Zach like gold,” Haley said. “He was really on top of the world, smiling from ear to ear. He was very blessed to be exposed to all the men and women” in law enforcement.

Johnson attended Auburn schools. On June 4, he graduated from Edward Little, where he was a member of the marching band.

He was escorted to the graduation ceremony by Auburn police. Two classmates pushed Johnson in his wheelchair in the procession line. One of his favorite teachers wheeled him across the stage to receive his diploma. When his name was called, the crowd erupted with cheers and gave Johnson a standing ovation. Many said there wasn’t a dry eye in the stands.

“It was a huge accomplishment,” said Mike Dunn, Johnson’s guidance counselor. “He made our high school community a brighter community because he was in it. Everyone loved Zach.”

John Guy, an ed-tech at Edward Little, said Johnson was the kind of person who thought of others before himself. Guy mentioned the day Johnson called him after the Odyssey of the Mind team Guy coached competed last month in the finals in Iowa.

“He called and asked how the team did,” Guy said. “I was dumbfounded. That’s the kind of young man he was. I will never forget him.”

To honor Johnson and recognize his courage, integrity and service to the community, the Portland Police Department will give him a full policeman’s funeral. Police officers, along with the Maine Warden Service and its honor guards, will pay tribute to Johnson during his wake, which will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday at Jones, Rich & Hutchins Funeral Home, 199 Woodford St., Portland. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. Monday at St. Pius X Catholic Church on Ocean Avenue in Portland.

Johnson and his family will then be escorted to Gracelawn Memorial Park in Auburn by Portland police, the warden service, Maine State Police, and vehicles from police departments including Auburn, Lewiston and Scarborough.

“It’s quite an honor,” Haley said. “Everyone is willing to do what is needed to show respect for this young man.”

]]> 5, 25 Jun 2016 09:30:16 +0000
Libertarians gather at New Hampshire festival Sat, 25 Jun 2016 02:13:33 +0000 LANCASTER, N.H. — T-shirts promoting “Bitcoins not Bombs.” An ice cream stand selling cones of “Bananarchy.” A refurbished school bus housing young men debating the presidential candidacy of Gary Johnson.

Welcome to PorcFest, a weeklong camping festival billed as a libertarian utopia of sorts in the mountains of New Hampshire. Run by the Free State Project, the annual festival attracts 1,500 people from across the nation, who started trickling in Sunday.

Called “porcupines,” the animal that serves as a logo for libertarians, they come to share ideas and be among others who dream of a small government society where taxes are limited, trade is free and people are allowed to eat, imbibe and inhale whatever they please. The festival, officially called the Porcupine Freedom Festival, offers a glimpse into the kind of libertarian paradise Free State Project leaders hope to one day create statewide.

“I always kind of keep an eye out for jobs in New Hampshire,” said Kyle O’Donnell, a 26-year-old PorcFest attendee who knits socks for a living in Raleigh, North Carolina. “Hopefully, one day in the future I can join the rest of them here as we assemble, like, a critical mass of libertarians to affect state policy.”

This year’s PorcFest comes at a key moment for the Free State Project, a plan devised in the early 2000s to persuade 20,000 libertarians to move to New Hampshire en masse. New Hampshire was chosen, in part, because of its “Live Free or Die” motto and the relative ease of getting elected to office: The state’s citizen legislature has 424 seats. In February, the movement earned its 20,000th “signer,” the threshold that is supposed to trigger a mass move within five years.

Matt Philips, the group’s president since March, estimates 2,000 people have already moved. The group is now working to convince other signers – some of whom committed more than a decade ago – to join them. Philips knows all may not come, but his ultimate goal is to hit 20,000 incoming residents.

Weston Cooke is one signer who hasn’t made the move. From under a tarp shielding his hammock from rain Wednesday, Cooke said he currently lives rent-free in Boston and won’t move until he can find a similar setup in New Hampshire. Cooke, 23, was drawn to the Free State Project’s limited-government message when he was diagnosed with diabetes last year and found some of the medical devices he wanted to use for his treatments hadn’t been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

In his second year at PorcFest, he’s selling temporary tattoos with the porcupine logo, attending talks about YouTube’s value to the marketplace of ideas and catching up with friends.

What draws Cooke to PorcFest?

“I think the obvious answer is freedom,” he said. “There’s nowhere else you can go and get served a cheeseburger by a 14-year-old with an AR-15 strapped to his back.”

Guns are indeed allowed freely at PorcFest; a posted flyer reminds gun carriers: “Be respectful. Be careful. Be safe.” Marijuana is freely smoked too, as most participants believe the drug should be legal.

Food and other goods are sold in a mini marketplace for cash or Bitcoin, the virtual currency that operates outside of government regulation.

Tim Davis, of Philadelphia, cooks up burgers made with locally sourced, grass-fed beef. He does not have a permit to sell, but most PorcFest attendees would say he shouldn’t need one.

Davis stood under his burger tent Wednesday with his friend Will Coley, whom he met at PorcFest four years ago. Coley, a Tennessean wearing a shirt reading “taxation is theft,” ran for the Libertarian party’s vice presidential nomination.

Coley and others say they enjoy PorcFest because it brings together people with views all along the libertarian spectrum, including anarchists and voluntarists.

The Free State Project’s members haven’t always given it a good name in New Hampshire. A group in Keene known for harassing parking meter attendants was disinvited from this year’s event.

Other critics say the project and its members aren’t open, especially if they’re running for political office. Many run as Republicans, but some are Democrats, and they don’t always publicly identify themselves as members or supporters of the project.

Opponents of the movement believe its members are trying to dramatically change the state in a negative way.

Philips said he hopes for a future where Free Staters can openly identify themselves as members of the project and begin to rapidly expand their message statewide.

That’s the first step, at least.

“First New Hampshire,” Philips said. “Then the world, right?”

]]> 1, 24 Jun 2016 22:25:56 +0000
Michael Herr, Vietnam reporter who wrote ‘Dispatches,’ dies at 76 Sat, 25 Jun 2016 01:53:39 +0000 Michael Herr, a Vietnam War reporter whose “Dispatches” remains one of the most powerful books about the ravages of combat and who later contributed to the screenplays of such bleak Vietnam-set films as “Apocalypse Now” and “Full Metal Jacket,” died June 23 near his home in upstate New York. He was 76.

His daughter Claudia Herr confirmed the death but declined to provide further details. He lived in Delhi, New York.

“Dispatches,” published in 1977, drew resounding critical praise. It was one of the first books to confront the Vietnam War in all its hallucinogenic awfulness and jarring absurdities. It was instantly placed in the pantheon of great war literature, widely viewed as journalism alchemized seamlessly into art.

The spy novelist John le Carré called “Dispatches” “the best book I have ever read on men and war in our time.” New York Times book critic John Leonard hailed Herr’s work as “beyond politics, beyond rhetoric, beyond ‘pacification’ and body counts and the ‘psychotic vaudeville’ of Saigon press briefings. … It is as if Dante had gone to hell with a cassette recording of Jimi Hendrix and a pocketful of pills: our first rock-and-roll war, stoned murder.”

Part autobiography, part journalism but largely fiction, the book is an impressionistic tour de force of Herr’s two years in Vietnam reporting for Esquire magazine at the height of the war. Shunning conventional reportage, the “nonfiction memoir,” as it was sometimes called, illuminated the mundane and the terrifying, as well as how service members – and fellow journalists – endured their years in a hell zone.

The book arrived two years after the U.S. withdrawal from Southeast Asia following more than a decade of war that cost more than 58,000 American lives and countless casualties among the Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotians and others. “Dispatches” arrived as a shockingly visceral remembrance of a war that many wanted to forget.

“You know how it is, you want to look and you don’t want to look,” Herr wrote about the sight of dead bodies.

In other passages, he evoked extreme survival measures: an American soldier who blanketed himself with the corpses of his comrades to avoid being bayoneted by enemy forces that had overrun them, for example, or the American troops on a packed helicopter compelled to shoot Vietnamese allies who swarmed them and threatened to prevent the chopper’s take-off amid hostile fire.

Like few other writers, Herr captured chaos with intense precision and imagination. He based his work on all he had seen but liberated himself from journalistic fact. His book was a fever dream of conversation, blood, drugs and rock music.

He spent 18 months consumed by “Dispatches,” writing the bulk of it before spiraling into a breakdown.

]]> 0 Fri, 24 Jun 2016 22:15:02 +0000
Bipartisan group getting behind House gun bill Sat, 25 Jun 2016 01:43:29 +0000 A bipartisan group of House lawmakers is getting behind a compromise gun control proposal that has the support of the majority of the Senate – another sign that moderate Republicans and Democrats are trying to find common ground on the contentious issue.

Reps. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., and Seth Moulton, D-Mass., on Friday introduced House bill that is identical to legislation crafted by a bipartisan group of senators led by Susan Collins, R-Maine, according to a spokeswoman for Moulton. In a procedural vote Thursday, 52 senators supported the Collins proposal although it would need 60 votes to pass and it’s unclear when it may be brought up for consideration again.

Curbelo and Moulton have the support of some Republicans in close reelection battles, such as Rep. Bob Dold, R-Ill., but they face stiff odds of getting a vote for their proposal in the House.

Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has refused to cede to Democrats’ demands to hold votes on two gun measures following the mass shooting in Orlando earlier this month: One to deny firearms to terrorists and another to expand background checks.

Democrats staged a dramatic sit-in on the House floor this week to push for the votes, but Ryan called the protest a “publicity stunt” and said he would not be pressured into holding votes on measures Republicans believe run counter to the Second Amendment.

He also noted that the bills being pushed by House Democrats were defeated in the Senate earlier this week.

Republicans in the bipartisan House group urged constituents on Friday to contact their representatives and press for action, saying they hope public pressure will compel their colleagues to sign on to the proposal and lead Republican leaders to hold a vote.

Democrats in the group said they expect their members to back the compromise proposal too, even though it is far less expansive than the measures they were demanding votes on during their floor protest.

“We’d so much rather see some progress than no progress at all,” Moulton said. “That was the point of the sit-in.”

The Collins and Curbelo-Moulton proposals would make it possible for the government to deny firearms to anyone whose name appears on the No Fly List or the Selectee List – two subsets of the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database comprised of about 109,000 individuals, only 2,700 of them United States citizens.

It also contains a “look-back” provision that would alert the FBI whenever someone who had been on one of those lists during the past five years bought a gun. It also gives anyone who thinks they were mistakenly denied a firearm the right to appeal the decision quickly, and have their legal fees covered by the government if they are proven right.

Collins’ proposal survived a test vote in the Senate Thursday, but it failed to garner the 60 votes that will be needed to get over future procedural hurdles. Before Thursday’s vote Collins said she believed there were enough Republicans “on the cusp” of backing her proposal to clear the 60-vote threshold had Republican leaders not scheduled a vote at the same time on another proposal that allowed wavering lawmakers another option to show they supported some restrictions on purchasing a gun.

Democrats declared a minor victory anyway, calling the test vote the first time the Senate had voted against the wishes of the National Rifle Association since 1994, when Congress passed an assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004.

“Even though it wasn’t a big victory, it was a victory,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. “Now the Republican leadership has the responsibility to bring this bill to the floor for a real vote.”

It is not clear that Republican leaders in the Senate are interested in giving Collins’ proposal an up-or-down vote.

Democrats in both chambers said they will continue to push for votes on gun control measures.

Though House Democratic leaders disbanded their sit-in after about 26 hours Thursday, they insisted they “will be back,” as Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said. They would not specify whether they planned to resume a sit-in or try other tactics when the House returns from its Fourth of July recess.

]]> 0, 24 Jun 2016 21:43:29 +0000
FBI not convinced Orlando killer sought gay life, officials say Sat, 25 Jun 2016 01:34:22 +0000 WASHINGTON — FBI investigators so far have not turned up persuasive evidence that Orlando gunman Omar Mateen was gay or pursuing gay relationships, according to two government officials familiar with the investigation.

The FBI began looking into that possibility after media reports last week quoted men as saying that Omar Mateen had reached out to them on gay dating apps and had frequented the gay nightclub where the June 12 massacre took place. One man claimed to be Mateen’s gay lover in an interview with Univision that aired this week, while another recalled Mateen as a regular at the Pulse club who tried to pick up men.

But the officials say the FBI, which has conducted about 500 interviews and is reviewing evidence collected from Mateen’s phone, has not found concrete evidence to corroborate such accounts nearly two weeks into the investigation. They also cautioned that the investigation is ongoing and that nothing has formally been ruled out.

The officials were not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Law enforcement officials have said there is no doubt that Mateen was radicalized at some point before the Pulse nightclub attack, though there is no evidence he was directed by foreign terror groups.

In calls with the police after the shooting began, he pledged his allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State group.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch has taken pains not to describe radical extremism as his sole motivation and declined in an interview on Tuesday to rule out any other possibility, including that he was secretly gay.

]]> 0, 24 Jun 2016 21:45:32 +0000
Scalia opinion may shorten prison stays Sat, 25 Jun 2016 01:11:43 +0000 Hundreds if not thousands of federal prisoners are likely to have their sentences shortened – and in some cases get immediate release – due to one of the final opinions written by Justice Antonin Scalia.

Scalia’s little-noticed opinion focused on one phrase in federal law but has created uncertainty and upheaval for judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys facing a pile of prisoner requests to have their cases reviewed.

Federal inmates have until Sunday to try to challenge their prison terms after the Supreme Court labeled 12 words in the criminal code “unconstitutionally vague” in an opinion announced by Scalia last June, eight months before his death.

The ruling eliminated a section of law that prosecutors relied on to seek stiffer penalties for defendants they said were especially dangerous. Defense attorneys had decried the wording because it was used to brand too many defendants as violent.

Unlike the low-level, nonviolent inmates the Obama administration has targeted for clemency, prosecutors such as U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein in Maryland are concerned the new court ruling will lead to the early release of truly violent people. It also could be painful for victims’ families if sentences imposed years ago unravel.

“The finality for the families that we thought came with the appellate process is no more,” said assistant U.S. Attorney Debbie Dwyer, who is overseeing hundreds of sentencing petitions in Rosenstein’s office. “We don’t know when it will end. This makes the process seem endless.”

Rosenstein has hired two lawyers to help respond to requests to revisit more than 580 old cases, including one involving the kidnapping and murder of three women in Prince George’s County in 1996. He worries about the diversion of resources from prosecuting crime in Baltimore, which recorded nearly 350 homicides in 2015. For defense attorneys, the court’s decision provides a new avenue to challenge lengthy sentences for prisoners who received severe penalties for nonviolent offenses, such as resisting arrest.

“It was a dumping ground,” said Amy Baron-Evans of the Sentencing Resource Counsel Project of federal public defenders. “It ended up sweeping in crimes that no one would think of as being violent.”

]]> 0, 24 Jun 2016 21:47:46 +0000
House Speaker Ryan unveils Republican plan for simpler tax code Sat, 25 Jun 2016 00:53:33 +0000 WASHINGTON —House Republicans led by Speaker Paul Ryan unveiled a plan for a simpler tax code, the sixth and last installment of a Republican agenda designed to be a policy counterpoint to the personality-driven campaign of Donald Trump.

Ryan and other Republicans announced the plan at a news conference Friday morning. The proposal would lower tax rates for both families and businesses, although it falls short of the 25 percent top rate for individuals that Ryan promised not long ago.

Instead, the tax reform plan proposes a 33 percent top tax bracket instead of the current top rate of 39.6 percent restored by President Obama in a 2013 victory over Republicans following his re-election.

The Ryan plan also lacks the detail required to measure whether it would maintain the current distribution of the tax burden by income range.

The plan won’t face a vote this year, but like other elements of Ryan’s agenda, it provides a template for potential action next year.

“It will take less from taxpayers at every income level, because Washington takes too much of your hard-earned dollars,” said Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, promising the plan will “make it easier to save for retirement and grow the local economy.”

Individual filers would retain tax breaks for mortgage interest, charitable giving and retirement savings in a decision that reflects the sweeping popularity of such measures. But retaining them would result in revenue losses that would mean rates cuts couldn’t be as big as once promised.

The measure also promises business and international tax reforms to make U.S. companies more competitive with overseas companies, including lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. In exchange, businesses would lose a host of write-offs.

“For families and individuals, the new tax system will simplify and lower tax rates. It also will provide for reduced but progressive tax rates on capital gains, dividends and interest income,” the proposal reads. “The approach reflected in this blueprint will be simple enough to fit on a postcard for most Americans.”

Tax reform is a longtime promise of Republicans.

]]> 0, 24 Jun 2016 21:04:17 +0000
Belongings of ‘Whitey’ Bulger, girlfriend go up for auction Sat, 25 Jun 2016 00:37:48 +0000 BOSTON — Some things seem to capture the public perception of gangster James “Whitey” Bulger’s life: a sterling silver “psycho killer” skull ring, a rat-shaped pencil holder, a stack of books about the Mafia.

But others tell of a mundane, domestic life in hiding with his longtime girlfriend, Catherine Greig: a coffee pot, a muffin pan, a few dozen T-shirts and pajamas.

Hundreds of items from both sides of Bulger’s life are going on the auction block Saturday as the federal government attempts to raise money for the families of his victims, including 20 people killed by Bulger and his gang and several extortion victims.

“We’re hoping to be able to use his fame – if that’s what you want to call it – to generate some higher prices for some of this stuff,” said Thomas J. Abernathy III, assistant chief inspector for the U.S. Marshals Service’s asset forfeiture division. “The theme here is to just try to get as much as we can for the victims, but nothing will ever bring their loved ones back.”

Bulger, now 86, was convicted of a host of charges, including participating in 11 murders, during a 2013 racketeering trial. He is serving a life sentence. His life was chronicled in the 2015 film, “Black Mass,” starring Johnny Depp.

Many of the items up for auction were found in a rent-controlled apartment in Santa Monica, California, where Bulger and Greig were captured in 2011 after 16 years on the run. Bulger fled Boston in late 1994 after his FBI handler tipped him off to an impending indictment. Prosecutors said Bulger was a longtime FBI informant, which Bulger denied during his trial.

During an auction preview Friday, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz acknowledged that auctioning Bulger’s belongings is “a little distasteful.”

“We didn’t want to glamorize him,” Ortiz said. “At the end of the day we were guided by trying to make the victims whole through restitution.”

The auction will include only a handful of valuable items, notably a diamond ring belonging to Greig, appraised at $15,000 to $20,000, and Bulger’s gold and diamond Claddagh ring, appraised at $10,000 to $15,000. There is also a replica 1986 Stanley Cup championship ring.

There are dozens of household items, many with animal themes, including cat figurines, a cat letter holder, a cat coffee mug and a pair of poodle salt and pepper shakers. There’s also a pancake maker, sauce pans, a vacuum cleaner and an ironing board.

Personal items include Bulger’s weight bench and barbells.

The live auction at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and the web simulcast auction Saturday will also include hundreds of books, many about World War II and the Holocaust, including some with Bulger’s handwritten notes in the margins.

Steve Davis, who believes his sister, Debra Davis, was killed by Bulger, said “I think the people who are going to bid on it – to own a piece of the rat bastard he was – it’s really sick.”

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Rhode Island yacht club urged to welcome women Sat, 25 Jun 2016 00:17:24 +0000 PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A yacht club that allows full membership to men only is being urged to change its policy or face a possible lawsuit.

Steven Brown of the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said Friday that the organization believes the Westerly Yacht Club is violating state law by bestowing membership on men only. Wives of members may be non-voting associate members. Single women can’t join, and divorced women lose their status.

The club voted last week to maintain the policy. The club’s commodore, Scott Howard, told The Associated Press earlier this week that he believes the policy is legal. He did not immediately return a phone message Friday.

While clubs have a right to associate without government interference, Brown said there were several reasons that state laws on antidiscrimination apply.

“It is our understanding that the club opens some of its facilities to non-members, serves as an important networking opportunity for businesspeople in the community and has benefited from state and federal funds over the years,” Brown said.

He added that the ban on female members wasn’t a political viewpoint but rather “an archaic vestige from another era when women were treated as second-class citizens.”

Women are allowed to serve on committees, organize parties and do other work at the club.

“This being 2016 and not 1916, we trust the club will immediately change its policy and welcome women as full members,” Brown said.

Brown said several women connected to the club who want to change the policy have approached the ACLU, but they don’t want to sue for fear of retaliation. He said the ACLU looks forward to working with anyone else adversely affected by the policy to address the issue.

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‘Mud people’ Filipino fest honors John the Baptist Fri, 24 Jun 2016 23:31:06 +0000 BIBICLAT, Philippines — Hundreds of Filipino villagers donning capes of banana leaves covered themselves in mud Friday in a ritual to thank their patron saint, John the Baptist, who they believe saved residents from killings by Japanese invaders in World War II.

The “Taong Putik” or “mud people” festival in Bibiclat village in northern Nueva Ecija province dates back to the brutal Japanese occupation of the Philippines, according to villagers.

Japanese troops gathered many of the male villagers in a Bibiclat church courtyard for execution by firing squad. But after women and children prayed to Saint John to spare them, a sudden downpour saved the men, villagers say.

The residents rolled in the mud in jubilation and have carried on the thanksgiving tradition ever since.

“They’re doing it yearly as a vow,” said parish priest, the Rev. Elmer Villamayor.

A mud-splattered participant said he prayed for sick relatives and another thanked God for curing him.

During the festival, men, women and children – some covered with capes from head to foot and with eyes peering from a cake of mud – collect candles from villagers along Bibiclat’s main street on their way to St. John the Baptist’s church to hear Mass. There they light the candles.

The Philippines is Asia’s largest Roman Catholic nation. The spectacle reflects the country’s unique brand of Catholicism, merging church traditions with superstitions.

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Three charged in Maine credit card skimming scam Fri, 24 Jun 2016 23:09:10 +0000 Three men from Florida and New York have been arrested by investigators from the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office for allegedly skimming and cloning credit card information around southern and midcoast Maine.

Shortly before 1 a.m. June 18, sheriff’s deputies arrested Yaisder Herrera Gargallo, 23, and Juan Carlos Febles, 51, both of Miami, Florida; and Febles’ son, Jose Castillo Febles, 29, of Richmond Hill, New York.

The three men are accused of surreptitiously installing a special cable inside point-of-sale credit card machines that records a user’s credit information without the user knowing it. The card transaction goes through as normal, with the card never leaving the possession of its owner, said Lt. Donald Foss of the sheriff’s office.

Later the thieves return to collect a memory card from the device and copy the card information onto blank credit cards, Foss said.

“Gift cards are a frequent purchase for folks who engage in credit card cloning, and really to a large extent purchasing gift cards with an illegal transaction is quasi-money laundering,” Foss said.

The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office said it was first alerted to the criminal activity this month when residents of Gray and New Gloucester reported fraudulent charges on their credit cards at local businesses.

After investigating the reports, deputies obtained surveillance footage of the suspects and a description of their vehicle, a rented Jeep Liberty with Massachusetts plates.

The arrests were made early last Saturday morning after Sheriff’s Deputy Todd McGee spotted the vehicle on Route 123 in Brunswick, and stopped it with the help of the local police department. A search of the SUV turned up electronics, jewelry and clothing, along with dozens of cloned credit cards and two credit card skimming devices.

Foss said investigators still do not know the monetary value of the thefts, and are working with local, federal and banking authorities to continue the investigation.

Gargallo was charged with aggravated forgery, misuse of identification and theft by deception, and has since posted $10,000 cash bail.

Both members of the Febles family were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit aggravated forgery and remain in custody at the Cumberland County Jail in Portland.

Foss said he recommends that to avoid such scams, consumers should choose to swipe their bank cards or credit cards at registers staffed by a person, which are far less frequently the target of such scams because the illicit hardware needed to collect the information is much more difficult to install undetected.


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Britain’s EU exit to shake up Maine’s imports, exports, tourism Fri, 24 Jun 2016 23:07:36 +0000 Britain’s vote Thursday to exit the European Union probably will boost profits at British importer Lisa Bussey’s family-owned business in Freeport, but she said no one involved in Bridgham & Cook is happy about the decision.

“We’re not sitting here saying, ‘Oh wow, this is going to make imports cheaper,’ ” Bussey said. “I’m not an economist and I’m not a financial adviser, but I think this is a bad thing.”

Mainers who import goods and services from the United Kingdom and the European Union said that while the immediate impact on their businesses may be positive because of favorable currency exchange rates, they think the long-term effects will be mostly negative.

And Maine businesses that export goods to the U.K. and EU said the Brexit vote could hurt their operations right away. Maine tourism also is likely to take a hit from U.K. residents who may find a vacation in the U.S. too expensive for a weak pound sterling.

Tim Regan, a British national who lives in Falmouth and operates a semiconductor business in Portland and the U.K., said he is all for living in interesting times, but that the economic uncertainty caused by the Brexit vote cannot be good for anyone’s business.

“I think in the medium and long term, this is very bad news,” said Regan, CEO and chief technology officer of IN2FAB. “Nobody knows where it’s really going to go from here.”

Maine exported $416.7 million of goods to the 28 EU countries in 2015 and $2.7 billion of goods worldwide, according to data from the Maine International Trade Center. The U.K. is among Maine’s top-10 trade partners, with the state’s top exports being airplane parts, biotech products and candles, said Janine Bisaillon-Cary, the trade center’s president and state director of international trade. Wood pulp and jewelry round out the top five, she said. In all, Maine exported goods valued at $54.8 million to the U.K. in 2015.

The U.K. is also Maine’s No. 1 source of overseas visitors, said Carolann Ouellette, director of the Maine Office of Tourism. While only an estimated 21,000 Britons visited Maine in 2014, the most recent year available, their vacationing habits made them very a desirable group, she said.

“There are several important things about them: They stay a long time and they spend a lot of money,” Ouellette said.

The outcome of Thursday’s vote was immediately disastrous for global markets. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell about 610 points, or 3.4 percent, to end the day at 17,401, while the Nasdaq fell 202 points, or 4.1 percent, to close at 4,708.

Things were looking far worse overseas as of 5 p.m. Friday: Germany’s DAX index was down 700 points, or 6.8 percent, France’s CAC 40 index had dropped 359 points, or 8 percent, and Japan’s Nikkei 225 index was down by more than 1,286 points, or nearly 8 percent.

Interestingly, the U.K.’s FTSE 100 index appeared to be taking the least amount of damage, as it was down only 199 points, or 3.2 percent. But where the country did take a major hit was in the value of its currency. The British pound sterling’s value fell by about 8.5 percent against the U.S. dollar before settling around $1.37 – a 30-year low.

That exchange rate is critical to both trade and tourism. A weaker pound means less buying power for Britons in the U.S., and more buying power for Americans in the U.K. It means U.S. exports will be more expensive, and British imports will be cheaper.

Still, it isn’t clear whether the pound’s decline is just a temporary reaction to the Brexit vote or a long-term trend, Bisaillon-Cary said.

“If the pound sterling does stay down … it will make Maine exports and U.S. exports more expensive,” she said. That would be bad news for exporters in Maine.

There are other issues related to the Brexit, Bisaillon-Cary said. When the U.K. becomes fully independent from the EU, it will have to negotiate new agreements with its trade partners, and trade with other European countries will no longer be seamless. That may create challenges for Maine’s international trade office in London, she said.

“There are going to be different duty and tariff rates – and it’s not going to be borderless,” she said.

The exchange rate is equally important when it comes to tourism, Ouellette said. While Britons are a fairly reliable group when it comes to Maine tourism, she said, they may opt for more affordable accommodations, shorten their stays, change travel dates to off-peak months and be more frugal while in Maine as a result of the weak pound.

“Exchange rates can have an impact on how they spend,” Ouellette said.

Despite those challenges, there are some potential upsides to the Brexit vote for Mainers.

Foremost among them: Travel to the U.K. will be more affordable for Mainers and other U.S. residents if the pound remains weak against the dollar. Similarly, British import goods will be cheaper.

Bussey, the importer in Freeport, said her customers are likely to see the effect of the dollar’s dominance over the pound when the holiday shopping season rolls around.

“It will certainly be a merrier Christmas here, because I think that’s when we’ll see the effects of the dollar versus the pound,” she said.

British investment in Maine also may increase because of the economic uncertainty caused by the country’s break from the EU, Bisaillon-Cary said.

“Investors look for stable markets,” she said. “It could be a couple years of uncertainty (in the U.K.)”

The fact that U.S. financial markets fell by less than their European and Asian counterparts is a sign that the U.S. economy remains stable despite Europe’s economic turmoil, said Jessamyn Norton, chief investment officer and senior vice president at Spinnaker Trust in Portland.

Still, she said investors’ larger concern is that the U.K. may be just the first of several nations to depart the EU. There has been speculation that countries like Spain or Italy may consider their own exits.

“We know there are other countries that have been itching to leave,” she said.

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Disbarred attorney F. Lee Bailey files for bankruptcy in Maine federal court Fri, 24 Jun 2016 22:57:59 +0000 F. Lee Bailey, the superstar lawyer who was part of O.J. Simpson’s defense team, has filed for bankruptcy in federal court in Maine in an attempt to discharge a federal tax debt of nearly $5.2 million.

Debts to the Internal Revenue Service are not normally discharged in bankruptcy proceedings, but Bailey said Friday that they can be after a period of time and as long as he has complied with certain conditions, such as filing and paying his taxes on time since the original taxes and penalties were assessed. He owes the money from a dispute over his reportable income from 1993 to 2001.

“After trying very hard to settle the case, the IRS turned me down on the grounds that I am a celebrity and it would look bad for them to settle the case,” Bailey, who now lives in Yarmouth, said Friday. “There’s a good case to be made for bias, but I’m not the one to make that case.”

Bailey was disbarred in Florida in 2001 over his handling of shares of stock owned by a client who pleaded guilty to drug smuggling and money laundering. That stock also led to the dispute with the IRS, which said Bailey owed $1.9 million because of his failure to report some of the stock proceeds as income. With interest and penalties, the IRS filed liens against Bailey totaling $4.5 million, which has since grown to nearly $5.2 million.

The bankruptcy filing also lists $364,925 owed on Bailey’s Yarmouth condominium, but it also said Bailey will seek a “reaffirmation agreement,” meaning he won’t try to have that debt discharged. He also owes $40,000 on an unsecured loan from Alvin Malnik, a lawyer who owns a restaurant in Florida.

Bailey said he wants to discharge what he owes to the IRS because “at 83, it’s a little late to raise that kind of money overnight. It’s been a long battle.”

In 2000, the Florida Bar found that Bailey misappropriated client assets, communicated with a judge improperly, had a conflict of interest, was guilty of self-dealing and testified falsely under oath and ordered him disbarred, a ruling that was upheld by the Florida Supreme Court. The Massachusetts Bar issued a reciprocal disbarment two years later, but Bailey applied for admission to practice law in Maine in 2012, three years after he moved to the state. The Maine Board of Bar Examiners voted 5-4 to deny him admission to the bar, saying he lacked “the requisite good character and fitness” to practice law in the state.

Justice Donald G. Alexander of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court overturned that finding in April 2013 and ordered the bar to issue a certificate of qualification to practice law, saying Bailey seemed to be making a “genuine effort” to resolve the tax debt, which Alexander had said was the main stumbling block to allowing Bailey to practice law in the state. The bar board appealed to the full state supreme court, which voted 4-2 and issued a 59-page ruling in 2014 to deny Bailey’s admission to practice law regardless of resolving the debt, saying he “failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that he recognizes the wrongfulness and seriousness of the misconduct that resulted in his disbarment.”

Bailey first rose to national prominence in the 1960s, successfully defending Dr. Sam Sheppard of Ohio, who was charged with murdering his pregnant wife.

Bailey appealed Sheppard’s initial conviction, and the U.S. Supreme Court said a “carnival atmosphere” around the first trial denied Sheppard a fair hearing. Sheppard was acquitted in a retrial.

The case inspired “The Fugitive” television series and later movie.

Bailey also represented Albert DeSalvo, accused of being the “Boston Strangler,” and was part of Simpson’s legal team, on which he led the effort to paint one of the police detectives, Mark Fuhrman, as a racist.

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Three Cumberland County restaurant owners indicted on sales tax theft charges Fri, 24 Jun 2016 21:18:25 +0000 The owners of three restaurants in Cumberland County have been indicted in recent months as part of a statewide sweep by Maine Revenue Services to crack down on eateries accused of withholding sales taxes from the state.

The owners of J’s Oyster Bar in Portland, Anjon’s Italian Restaurant in Scarborough and DiSanto’s Restaurant in Gray are the latest to be indicted on a slew of charges, including a Class B charge of felony theft by misapplication of sales tax against each of them.

Assistant Attorney General Gregg Bernstein, who is prosecuting the cases brought by Maine Revenue Services, the state tax agency, wouldn’t say Friday how many other cases are being brought against restaurants around the state. He said he was bound by state law to confidentiality prior to any convictions that arise from the cases.

But Bernstein identified a restaurant owner in York County who has been convicted and sentenced to jail in the sweep. Christo Stratos of Wells, the owner of Christo’s restaurant in Sanford, was sentenced in January to serve eight months in jail for stealing $243,902 in sales taxes between 1999 and 2014. He began serving the sentence at the York County Jail in Alfred on Feb. 8.

In the Cumberland County cases, Cynthia Brown of J’s Oyster Bar and John DiSanto Sr. of Anjon’s Italian Restaurant have made court appearances and pleaded not guilty.

DiSanto’s sister, Anna DiSanto, who owns DiSanto’s Restaurant, was the most recent to be indicted on June 9. She has yet to enter a plea in her case. She is scheduled to be arraigned next Thursday at the Cumberland County Courthouse in Portland.

Attorney Thomas Hallett represents both Brown and John DiSanto in their cases. It is not clear whether Anna DiSanto is represented by a lawyer.

“I’m disturbed how this is being handled,” Hallett said Friday. “These are largely civil matters that end up being blown into criminal cases, and it’s too bad.”

Hallett said he was aware of multiple other restaurant sales tax cases being investigated by Maine Revenue Services, but he declined to say how many because some may not lead to criminal charges.

Hallett also declined to say how much the state is claiming his clients owe in back taxes, but said fines and late fees compound the numbers.

Brown, 56, of Portland, was indicted in March on 21 tax-related counts: seven felony charges and 14 misdemeanors. The charges all relate to sales taxes in excess of $10,000 paid by customers of J’s Oyster Bar between March 2008 and March 2015 that she allegedly failed to pay to the Maine state tax assessor. The charges include theft by misapplication, tax evasion, failure to pay state sales tax and failure to file a state income tax return in 2011, according to the indictment in her case.

J’s is an iconic waterfront watering hole in Portland’s Old Port that is as popular with locals, from fishermen to lawyers, as it is with tourists.

Brown’s case is scheduled for trial on Sept. 26.

John DiSanto, 58, of Old Orchard Beach was indicted in April on 11 counts: six felonies and five misdemeanors. The charges against him relate to more than $10,000 in sales taxes paid by Anjon’s customers that he allegedly failed to pay to the state between February 2000 and November 2014. The charges against him include theft by misapplication, tax evasion and failure to collect, account for or pay over sales tax, according to the indictment in his case.

Anjon’s has been in DiSanto’s family for multiple generations and remains popular as a family destination for Italian food.

John DiSanto’s case is next scheduled for a dispositional conference on Aug. 24.

Anna DiSanto, 55, of Raymond was indicted on the same 11 counts as her brother, but those charges relate to her restaurant, DiSanto’s Restaurant in Gray, for more than $10,000 from her customers between July 2007 and September 2014 that she allegedly failed to pay to the state, according to the indictment in her case.

DiSanto’s Restaurant has many of the family recipes that made Anjon’s popular, but adds some new flair that made it a destination in the Lakes Region.

The most serious charge against Brown and the DiSantos is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

In the York County case, Stratos faced charges similar to those lodged against Brown and the DiSantos. The judge sentenced Stratos to a total of four years, with all but eight months suspended. The remainder will hang over him during a three-year probation term to follow his release from jail. Maine authorities have already recovered $150,000 from Stratos. He was ordered to pay the remaining $93,902 as restitution.

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Maine firefighters, rangers bring island fire under control Fri, 24 Jun 2016 20:42:17 +0000 Forest rangers and local fire departments battled a large forest fire Friday afternoon on Sheep Island in Casco Bay.

Forest rangers said the fire threatened four structures while it was active, but it was contained shortly before 6 p.m., WCSH-TV reported.

Plumes of white smoke rose from the fire, and a ranger helicopter was sent to the island, according to a tweet from the Maine Forest Service.

As the fire was underway, photos and statements posted on Twitter from the forest rangers indicated that several homes were in danger and that the chopper was to begin dropping buckets of water onto the flames.

Sheep Island is located off Harpswell.

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