The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » News http://www.pressherald.com Fri, 06 May 2016 14:59:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.3.3 Colby museum receives Picasso etching series http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/06/colby-museum-receives-picasso-etching-series/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/06/colby-museum-receives-picasso-etching-series/#comments Fri, 06 May 2016 14:42:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=868620 The Colby College Museum of Art has acquired a set of Pablo Picasso’s etchings from 1939 considered the artist’s “most significant cycle of prints” and a hallmark of 20th-century modernist printmaking, museum Director Sharon Corwin announced Friday.

Maine philanthropists and longtime Colby supporters Peter and Paula Lunder donated the 100 etchings, known as the Vollard Suite. The Lunders also donated their collection of American art to the Museum in 2013.

Colby will show highlights from the collection beginning June 2. The full suite will be on view in 2018.

The Vollard Suite explores themes of mythology, identity, creativity and sexuality, etched in a neoclassical style. Colby’s suite is one of 50 sets printed on extra-large Montval laid paper in 1939, and is believed to be one of eight sets that Picasso signed in full. The set is in pristine condition and has never been publicly exhibited, Corwin said.

“We are immensely grateful for the Lunders’ generosity to the museum and their continued commitment to building the collection at Colby,” Corwin said in a press release. “The Vollard Suite is a masterwork that captures a major moment in Modernism, and we are so proud to welcome this treasure to Colby.”

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Bronx man, Veazie woman arrested at Bangor hotel for allegedly selling Oxycodone http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/06/bronx-man-veazie-woman-arrested-at-bangor-hotel-for-oxycodone-sales/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/06/bronx-man-veazie-woman-arrested-at-bangor-hotel-for-oxycodone-sales/#comments Fri, 06 May 2016 14:14:46 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/06/bronx-man-veazie-woman-arrested-at-bangor-hotel-for-oxycodone-sales/ A New York man and a Veazie woman were arrested at a Bangor motel for allegedly selling Oxycodone pills, according to the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency.

Found in a room at the Comfort Inn on Bangor Mall Boulevard were 260 30-milligram Oxycodone pills and about $40,000 in cash. Arrested were Steve “Swift” Abreau, 25, of the Bronx, New York, and Meredith Perrone, 32, of Veazie. Both are charged with Class B traffcking in scheduled drugs.

Perrone’s bail was set at $25,000. Abreau’s bail was set at $70,000. Both are expected to appear Friday in Bangor Unified Court.

The arrests followed reports of suspected drug activity in the room after witnesses saw many people coming and going from the hotel room. Police conducted an undercover buy before the arrests. Police said more arrests are likely.

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The most popular baby names list released (Emma, Noah rejoice) http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/06/the-most-popular-baby-names-list-released-emma-noah-rejoice/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/06/the-most-popular-baby-names-list-released-emma-noah-rejoice/#comments Fri, 06 May 2016 13:44:33 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/06/the-most-popular-baby-names-list-released-emma-noah-rejoice/ WASHINGTON — On baby names, at least, divided Americans can generally agree: Emma and Noah are tops.

And don’t name your child Isis.

For the second year in a row, Emma and Noah top the annual list of top baby names, according to the Social Security Administration. That’s the third year on top for Noah and the second in a row for Emma, which was also No. 1 in 2008.

The administration released its annual list of top baby names Friday, and the top five names for girls and boys in 2015 remained unchanged from the previous year. Noah was followed by Liam, Mason, Jacob and William. Emma was followed by Olivia, Sophia, Ava and Isabella. Ava and Isabella switched spots from 2014, with Ava climbing to number 4.

One major change was the girls’ name Isis, which had remained steadily in the middle of the pack of the country’s top 1,000 names for the last 15 years. In 2015, after the name had emerged as an acronym for the extremist group Islamic State, it dropped completely off the list.

That’s a dramatic shift, says Laura Wattenberg, baby name expert and founder of BabynameWizard.com.

“It’s actually quite rare for a name to be eliminated by issues in the news,” she says, noting that the name Adolph was still at No. 555 in the U.S. at the end of World War II when the Nazis and Adolf Hitler fell.

There’s another recent example, though: the name Hillary dropped off the list in 2009, a year after Hillary Clinton lost the Democratic presidential primary to Barack Obama. The name was No. 721 in 2008. Hillary remained off the list this year, as did the name of her current Democratic primary opponent, Bernie, as in Sanders.

Barack has never appeared in the top 1,000 names, and the popularity of the name of Obama’s predecessor, President George W. Bush, dropped slightly during his eight-year presidency, from No. 130 to No. 163.

The first name of this year’s presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, also dropped in 2015, from No. 418 to No. 441.

Wattenberg said that unlike in the past, parents avoid politics in name choices today. But names of past presidents remain popular.

“We want our presidents out of office or preferably dead before we name our babies after them,” Wattenberg said.

Emma’s popularity soared in 2002, the same year that Rachel, a character played by Jennifer Aniston on the TV show “Friends,” named her baby Emma. Also boosting the name, actress Emma Watson played Hermione Granger in the popular Harry Potter movies.

Emma has been ranked among the top three baby names for girls since 2003, first reaching No. 1 in 2008. In 2013, Emma was No. 2 behind Sophia.

For several years, trends have favored names that are short and smooth — Mia, Liam and Noah — and that have a lot of vowels.

Two girls’ names that skyrocketed in popularity in 2015 were Alaia and Adaline, illustrating that vowel trend. Alaia moved up more than 2,000 spots on the list, from No. 2,676 to No. 664.

The reasons for Alaia’s rise aren’t clear.

“Perhaps this can be attributed to high-fashion designer Azzedine Alaia, or maybe it is because of Alaia Baldwin, the model/daughter of actor Stephen Baldwin,” speculated the Social Security Administration in a news release.

The name Adaline moved from No. 1,393 to No. 364. “The Age of Adaline” was a 2015 movie starring Blake Lively.

For boys, the top-rising name is Riaan, which moved from No. 2,286 to No. 926. It’s the name of the young son of a well-known Bollywood actor, Riteish Deshmukh.

The Social Security Administration’s website provides lists of the top 1,000 baby names for each year, dating to 1880. The top baby names that year were John and Mary. John is now No. 26 and Mary has fallen to No. 124.

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Republican-dominated states benefiting from shift to wind and solar energy http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/06/republican-dominated-states-benefiting-from-shift-to-wind-and-solar-energy/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/06/republican-dominated-states-benefiting-from-shift-to-wind-and-solar-energy/#comments Fri, 06 May 2016 13:07:12 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/06/republican-dominated-states-benefiting-from-shift-to-wind-and-solar-energy/ WASHINGTON — If there’s a War on Coal, it’s increasingly clear which side is winning.

Wind turbines and solar panels accounted for more than two-thirds of all new electric generation capacity added to the nation’s grid in 2015, according to a recent analysis by the U.S. Department of Energy. The remaining third was largely new power plants fueled by natural gas, which has become cheap and plentiful as a result of hydraulic fracturing.

It was the second straight year U.S. investment in renewable energy projects has outpaced that of fossil fuels. Robust growth is once again predicted for this year.

And while Republican lawmakers in Washington have fought to protect coal-fired power plants, opposing President Barack Obama’s efforts to curtail climate-warming carbon emissions, data show their home states are often the ones benefiting most from the nation’s accelerating shift to renewable energy.

Leading the way in new wind projects are GOP strongholds Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, home to some of the leading critics of climate science and renewable energy incentives in Congress. Republican-dominated North Carolina trails only California in new solar farms, thanks largely to pro-renewables polices enacted years ago under a Democratic legislature.

The most dramatic change has been seen in the plummeting cost of emissions-free wind energy, which has declined by two-thirds in the last six years thanks to the availability of cheaper, more efficient turbines. An annual analysis by the investment firm Lazard determined that wind energy is now the lowest-cost energy source, even before federal green-energy tax incentives are factored in.

“We are entering the era of renewables,” former Vice President Al Gore said Thursday at the Climate Action 2016 conference in Washington. “It’s a very exciting new reality.”

Billions of dollars in private equity are going to construct massive new renewables projects, especially in the Sun Belt and Great Plains. Thousands of miles of new high-voltage transmission lines are also under construction to send power from the wind and sun from the sparsely populated areas where it is collected to the urban centers where it’s needed.

Even with the surge in new projects, energy from such renewable sources as wind, solar and water accounted for only about a tenth of total U.S. power generation last year.

Still, the U.S. leads the world in wind energy with about 48,800 utility-scale turbines operating across the country, generating enough electricity to power about 20 million homes. By 2030, the Energy Department estimates wind will provide a fifth of the nation’s electricity.

“Wind energy is very low-cost and not subject to the fuel price risk that both natural gas and coal face,” said Michael Goggin, senior director of research at the American Wind Energy Association, an industry trade group. “Adding wind is cheaper than new gas or new coal. It is by far the lowest-cost resource.”

Coal has dropped over the last decade from providing half of all U.S. electricity to about one-third.

Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal company, last month joined a growing list of major mining firms forced to seek bankruptcy protection. Wall Street appears to also be writing coal’s financial obituary. JPMorgan Chase recently announced it will no longer finance new coal mines or coal-fired power plants, following similar announcements from other big banks.

While new clean-air regulations and tax incentives for renewables are having a negative impact on coal, the plummeting cost of cleaner-burning natural gas made possible by fracking is largely driving the closure of many old coal-fired power plants. Exports of coal to foreign customers such as China also are down.

“We didn’t see the decline coming this fast and this deep,” said Luke Popovich, spokesman for the National Mining Association, an industry trade group.

Meanwhile, the long-promised potential of Clean Coal technology has yet to be realized. A model power plant in Mississippi designed to capture the carbon dioxide generated from burning coal has encountered repeated delays and multibillion-dollar cost overruns.

Closures mean America’s coal mines now employ about only about 56,700 people, down from a peak of more than 10 times that. By contrast, the fast-growing solar industry now employs more than 210,000 workers. Wind energy accounts for another 77,000 by federal estimates.

Political giving by the big coal companies and their executives has declined, but the industry still spends heavily to protect its interests in Washington. Pro-coal interests spent at least $11 million to influence the 2014 Congressional midterm elections, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. More than 95 percent of that went to support Republican candidates.

Among them is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who rarely misses an opportunity to blame Obama’s “War on Coal” for killing mining jobs. Nearly all of the 27 states that have sued to stop the administration’s carbon emissions-cutting Clean Power Plan have GOP governors.

For Republicans from areas benefiting from renewable energy, the political calculus can be complicated. An increasing number of them try to balance criticizing Obama’s environmental efforts with quietly supporting the federal tax incentives helping drive investment in renewables.

GOP leaders compromised with Democrats and a growing number of pro-renewables Republicans to include a five-year extension of tax breaks for wind and solar projects as part of a federal budget agreement approved in December.

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, among the earliest boosters of government support for wind power, points out that fossil fuels and nuclear plants have long benefited from tax credits. Last month, MidAmerican Energy announced plans to invest another $3.6 billion to add new turbines in Iowa, which already gets about a third of its electricity from the wind.

“We’ve seen the economic success story behind renewables up close and personal,” Grassley said as the new project was announced. “There are more than 6,000 good wind jobs in Iowa.”

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Some showers this weekend, but far from a washout for all your activities http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/06/showers-weekend-far-washout-activities/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/06/showers-weekend-far-washout-activities/#comments Fri, 06 May 2016 12:44:25 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=868470 Saying this hasn’t been a good weather week would be quite the understatement.  Since the sun went into hiding on Sunday we haven’t really seen much of it.  To make matters worse temperatures are running so cold that it feels like the middle of March not close to the second week of May.

Overall the pattern still looks quite gloomy, but there will be some breaks in the clouds and days with warmer temperatures.  For the weekend, Saturday should be the day with the lowest chance of showers, however even on Saturday some of you are likely going to see some rain, especially early. The timing of the showers for Sunday could change, but morning seems like the wettest period.

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

I am considering hiking on Saturday and I know I am going to have to dress in layers.  When the sun pops out it will feel much warmer than the 50s and if there is a quick shower it will become chilly.  Overnight temperatures remain in the 40s Saturday night into Sunday morning.

The risk of showers increases during Sunday morning.  If it’s dry when you get up there will likely be a period of showers through early afternoon. The second part of the day looks to be the best.  Any rain could be briefly heavy.

Predicted Highs Mother's Day

If you’re going beaching and boating…

NH Seacoast to Rockland: This isn’t a great beach weekend per se, but it is the weekend with the highest tides of the month.  For those of you putting in rafts and boats this is a good weekend to get that chore done. The higher water levels during high tide make moving heavy docks a lot easier! Showers are likely Sunday morning after 9 a.m and while there’s a chance of them on Saturday, it generally appears to be a dry day.

Belfast to Eastport: Easterly winds on Saturday flip to the south on Sunday before shifting to the west late in the day.  The showers on Sunday may be mostly concentrated to the north.

If you’re playing soccer, softball, baseball, or golf…

Saturday’s forecast: Fields will likely have wet grass as will the golf courses.  Putting greens will be slower in the morning with the heavy droplets on the grass.  Some of the morning games might be affected by showers.  Temperatures will be in the 50s along the coast and near 60 degrees inland.

Sunday’s outlook: The models are a bit divergent with the timing of the showers.  Early morning looks like the driest period.  The showers should arrive and depart between 10 a.m and 2 p.m .  The bottom line, play very early or wait until the rain is done if you don’t want to get wet. I’d stay away from the middle of the day if possible.

If you’re gardening…

The moisture this week will definitely help things grow.  It is likely we are done with frost and this will be a good weekend to put houseplants back outside.  Remember, plants get burned in the strong sunshine so be careful.

If you’re running errands…

Saturday has some showers in the morning, but we will enjoy dry weather for the most part, so you can leave the umbrella in the car.  Sunday morning an area of showers will cross the region and some of the showers could be briefly heavy and create some puddles on the roads.  The showers will exit eastern most Maine by the middle of the afternoon.

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U.S. job report shows employers added fewest jobs in 7 months http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/06/u-s-job-gains-smallest-in-7-months/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/06/u-s-job-gains-smallest-in-7-months/#comments Fri, 06 May 2016 12:39:39 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/06/u-s-job-gains-smallest-in-7-months/ WASHINGTON — U.S. employers pulled back on hiring in April after a streak of solid monthly gains, adding 160,000 jobs, the fewest in seven months.

The unemployment rate remained at a low of 5 percent, roughly the same level it has been since the fall.

The job gain was down from the average increase of 200,000 over the past three months, which is the softest three-month pace since October.

The slowdown may raise concerns that weak U.S. economic growth has discouraged some employers from hiring. The economy’s growth has slumped to a sluggish 1 percent annual rate since October.

But wage gains showed signs of picking up. Average hourly pay rose 2.5 percent from a year earlier, above the sluggish 2 percent pace that has been typical for the past six years.

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Searchers scour remote N.M. terrain for missing treasure hunter http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/06/searchers-scour-remote-n-m-terrain-for-missing-treasure-hunter/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/06/searchers-scour-remote-n-m-terrain-for-missing-treasure-hunter/#comments Fri, 06 May 2016 11:57:06 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/06/searchers-scour-remote-n-m-terrain-for-missing-treasure-hunter/ ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Fixated on computer screens and video monitors, an army of volunteers scattered across the country has been painstakingly reviewing hundreds of images and hours of footage recorded over the last four months, desperately hoping to find a single clue to the whereabouts of missing treasure hunter Randy Bilyeu.

The Colorado man disappeared in early January in a remote part of northern New Mexico while searching for a $2 million cache of riches supposedly hidden several years ago by an eccentric antiquities dealer.

From the shadow of a blue heron flying low over the Rio Grande to a scrap of cardboard, nothing has gotten past the volunteers who are looking for Bilyeu.

The group, linked through email and social media, is analyzing every stretch of the rugged canyons and plateaus along the river via drones and telephoto lenses. Some are searching by foot and boat.

Psychics have even reached out and federal authorities say they’re checking areas within Bandelier National Monument where it’s too dangerous for the public to go.

“Words cannot express the gratitude the family has for all the caring individuals who take time out of their busy lives to help, in one way or another, search for Randy,” said ex-wife Linda Bilyeu. “He would be humbled if he knew how many people he has touched.”

The family has no intention of giving up the search for Bilyeu, a father and grandfather who would have celebrated his 55th birthday in February.

“However long it takes, we will find Randy,” said Linda Bilyeu, as she sorted through dozens of messages while trying to coordinate the hunt from her home in Orlando, Florida.

Pulses quickened last week when, for the first time in months, a clue was discovered — a blue backpack near the top of a rugged, rocky slope at Bandelier. The search was re-energized and park officials began investigating.

Based on what’s in the pack, there’s a strong indication it belonged to Bilyeu but authorities have yet to make an official determination.

Bandelier Superintendent Jason Lott confirmed this week the search is still active.

As they wait for word, the volunteers are focusing instead on areas outside the park. They launched a canoe trip down the Rio Grande on Thursday and another drone flight is planned this weekend.

Thursday marked four months since Bilyeu set out in his raft in search for the treasure — a bronze box said to be full of gold, jewels and other artifacts.

Bilyeu dreamed of finding the treasure. He moved out West two years go and began researching spots where he believed New Mexico antiquities dealer and author Forrest Fenn hid the loot.

Bilyeu vanished after setting out to raft part of the Rio Grande west of Santa Fe. His raft and dog were found after he was reported missing but there was no sign of him.

He had scouted the area in the weeks leading up to his disappearance. His maps were dotted with notes and references to the cryptic clues laid out by Fenn in his memoire.

“Where warm waters halt … in the canyon down … too far to walk …” The clues have inspired tens of thousands of people to look for the treasure, from Yellowstone National Park to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

Fenn dismisses those who suggest the treasure isn’t real. It’s still out there, he says, while cautioning would-be hunters that it’s in a place where an 80-year-old man could hide it.

Some say the treasure hunt should be called off. Even the volunteers are mindful of the dangers of searching — whether it’s for the treasure or for Bilyeu.

After four months, the odds have yet to deter the volunteers — a nod to Linda Bilyeu’s determination and the efforts of family and friends to keep alive Randy’s sense of adventure and humor.

“Randy is going to continue to play hide and seek while we continue to guess where he is,” Linda Bilyeu said.

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Augusta council OKs emergency bedbug measure http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/06/augusta-council-oks-emergency-bedbug-measure/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/06/augusta-council-oks-emergency-bedbug-measure/#comments Fri, 06 May 2016 11:31:06 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/augusta-council-oks-emergency-bedbug-measure/ AUGUSTA — City councilors adopted an emergency bedbug ordinance Thursday to give city officials the tools and rules they said they need to fight and prevent infestation of the hard-to-remove biting bugs from housing in the city.

As an emergency measure, the ordinance takes effect immediately, will be in place for only 60 days, and required a vote in favor by at least six councilors.

Councilors passed it unanimously, 7-0, despite concerns from the property manager of two boarding houses that were infested with bedbugs, who said the emergency has been addressed, and other concerns from a certified entomologist and pest control worker who said the ordinance places the burden of dealing with the bugs only on landlords, not on tenants.

City Manager William Bridgeo said a bedbug infestation at the two Water Street boarding houses prompted him and other members of an impromptu task force that formed last week to propose an emergency ordinance to enable the city staff to take stronger enforcement action to prevent the spread of the insidious biting insects.

“What we have available for tools right now is almost nothing, either in state law or city ordinance,” Bridgeo, before the ordinance was approved, said of rules governing what landlords are required to do when bedbugs are discovered in rental housing in the city. “I thought we had residents in our community who were at risk, and somebody needed to step in.”

The ordinance gives landlords responsibility for having a pest control agent treat bedbug infestations. Landlords would be required to submit a plan, after consulting with a pest management professional, to decontaminate the dwelling unit, the people living there and their personal belongings, and provide a bug-free place for tenants to live while their apartments are being decontaminated. If the city deems the planned abatement measures insufficient, the city may require additional action. Landlords also would be responsible for all costs of decontamination of tenants and their belongings.

Al Sugden searches his bedding for bedbugs in his unit at 382 Water St. in Augusta on Tuesday, two days before city council was scheduled to discuss a new bedbug ordinance.

Al Sugden searches his bedding for bedbugs in his unit at 382 Water St. in Augusta on Tuesday, two days before city council was scheduled to discuss a new bedbug ordinance.

If a landlord fails to comply with the ordinance’s requirements to deal with bedbugs, the city could enter the building, remove the bedbug infestation and recover the costs of doing so by assessing a special tax on the property, to be included in the owner’s next property tax bill, or place a lien on the property.

City officials who entered two buildings at 382 and 384 Water St. last week reported seeing an infestation of bedbugs in common areas and in individual units, including a shower floor, bedding, and furniture covered in dozens of the bugs and their exoskeleton shells.

Bedbugs shed their exoskeletons as they grow, leaving the empty exoskeletons behind.

Bridgeo said the landlord of those properties, River City Realty owner Larry Fleury, has been cooperative and the city is working with him and tenants to rid the buildings, tenants and their belongings of bedbugs.

Karla Lilley, office manager of River City Realty, said no emergency exists because the company already had a licensed pest control company spray chemicals in the infested buildings on Saturday. She also criticized the city for not including a landlord on the task force that drafted the ordinance, said city officials are not qualified to determine the adequacy of treatment plans, and the ordinance — unlike state law — puts the burden of the cost of getting rid of the bugs on landlords alone, even when tenants don’t cooperate with efforts to get rid of them. She also said bedbugs don’t cause diseases or deaths, as other insects such as fleas, ticks and mosquitoes can do.

Councilors and Bridgeo noted that the council will consider a more permanent ordinance and it should be put in place by the time the 60-day emergency ordinance expires. They said the proposal is not perfect and changes can be made, with input from pest control experts and landlords, in the meantime.

“I don’t see this an issue between landlords and tenants,” Ward 1 Councilor Linda Conti said. “At this point, this is so bad the entire city is at risk. They can be spread to schools, businesses. I don’t feel like I’m protecting just the tenant. I’m protecting all of the citizens of the city.”

Stephen Langsdorf, city attorney, said state law gives tenants the right to take legal action to force their landlords to address bedbug infestations, but many tenants aren’t able to take that action.

“You’re dealing with tenants who, very often, aren’t at all sophisticated and who feel intimidated going after a landlord, and may be one step away from being homeless,” Langsdorf said. “And this situation was extreme. Not one or two bedbugs. Hundreds, thousands, of bedbugs were in these buildings.”

Bridgeo said he heard, anecdotally, one or more other landlords with buildings in Augusta also might have a bedbug infestation in their buildings.

Bridgeo said a task force was formed to deal with the problem last week, and it met again Monday. Task force members include city codes and public safety personnel, Langsdorf, a representative of the Maine Center for Disease Control, the city health officer, the Fire Department’s medical officer, an attorney from Pine Tree Legal Services, Bridgeo and Ralph St. Pierre, assistant city manager.

Mike Peaslee, a certified entomologist and technical manager for Modern Pest Services, said the ordinance probably was well-intended, but it has multiple flaws. He said there is no established industry method for decontaminating a person of bedbugs; the ordinance removes all responsibility for bedbugs from the tenants who can contribute, or even cause, the problem; it could force landlords to move tenants in bedbug-infested buildings to other, “clean” buildings, which could be costly and make the problem even worse; and the ordinance in general is overreaching and too broad. He also said it is impossible to say, for sure, where an infestation started.

“I think it is well-intended, but there are serious problems with it,” Peaslee said of the ordinance.

Tenants’ duties, under the proposed emergency ordinance, would include promptly notifying their landlord when they know of or suspect an infestation of bedbugs in their dwelling unit, granting the landlord and pest control agent access to their unit for inspection and treatment, and taking all reasonable measures to eliminate a bedbug infestation.

The bugs are brown, flat and about one-quarter-inch long with a soft, rounded look. After a blood meal, they are dark red and larger.

They feed on human blood but are not believed to carry disease.

 

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Superintendent’s judgment questioned, and son’s hiring ‘is just the latest example’ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/06/superintendents-judgment-questioned-and-sons-hiring-is-just-the-latest-example/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/06/superintendents-judgment-questioned-and-sons-hiring-is-just-the-latest-example/#comments Fri, 06 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=868065 Frank Sherburne is no stranger to criticism.

In less than five years as superintendent of School Administrative District 6 in Buxton, he’s been accused of unfairly pushing out a principal, having inappropriate communications with a student and failing to cancel classes during a snowstorm.

But the latest controversy has led to calls for his termination from parents, some of whom presented a petition to the school board this week.

Sherburne is under fire for hiring his son as an ed tech – an apparent violation of the district’s nepotism policy that only surfaced after 23-year-old Zachariah Sherburne was arrested in March on charges of sexually assaulting a teenage student from another district where he worked.

Concerned community members say the situation represents a larger problem – and they hope it finally forces a change in leadership.

“I think this is just the latest example of his lack of judgment,” said Carolyn Biegel, a former member of the SAD 6 board who believes Sherburne should resign.

Jennifer Connors, the mother of two high school students, thinks teachers have complaints about Sherburne but are too scared to voice them for fear of backlash from him.

“There’s a much bigger issue than just this,” she said.

The Saco Valley Teachers’ Association did not respond to a request for comment.

Chris Day, another parent of high schoolers, said he’s worried about how Sherburne’s actions – and, so far, the lack of repercussions – appear to students and the general public.

“I’m extremely disappointed with our superintendent, with all the stuff happening under his watch,” Day said.

SUPPORTERS AS WELL AS CRITICS

Sherburne, however, does have defenders in the community.

Students at a school board meeting Monday backed him, saying he was a good educator and a good man. Daniel Shirnin, the student representative on the board, said the accusations against the superintendent are “completely unlike Mr. Sherburne, given his character, given his experience.”

In the past, the board, too, has stood behind Sherburne, but Biegel questioned whether the board is properly performing its job – the same concern that led her to resign as a member last year.

“Is the board doing what’s best for the district or what’s best for the superintendent?” she said.

Current board members have yet to weigh in on whether Sherburne violated the district’s nepotism policy. Board Chairwoman Rebecca Bowley said a committee was established to review the possible violation and that she expects to receive its findings this week. Bowley did not respond to an email Thursday asking whether that had occurred and, if so, when the information would be released to the public. According to its agenda for a regular meeting Monday, which does not include any items related to the hiring issue, the board has scheduled a special meeting for Tuesday. The agenda for that meeting had not been posted on the district’s website as of Thursday evening.

A petition was handed to the board at Monday’s meeting, calling for the board to take action in response to the perceived violation of the nepotism policy. Even though the petition is a public document, Sherburne told a board member Monday not to show the paperwork to a reporter and said it would only be released in response to a Freedom of Access Act request.

The Portland Press Herald made that request Tuesday and had not received a response or an acknowledgment of the request as of Thursday.

The petition, however, is posted on change.org under the title “Fire Frank,” and calls for the board not to renew his contract, which doesn’t expire until 2019. Keeping him on for another three years, however, clearly isn’t the wish of the petitioners.

“The trust in his leadership is once again being called into question and too much of our tax money, and your time as board members is being spent on matters such as this rather than on the business of providing a quality education for our children. It’s time to find a new leader for our schools,” it reads.

It had 119 signatures as of Thursday evening.

Sherburne did not respond to requests for comment. He has repeatedly refused to answer questions about his son’s employment and said Monday he does not speak to the media.

Sherburne was hired by SAD 6 in 2011 to replace Suzanne Lukas, who resigned to become a superintendent in Ellsworth.

She also was criticized during her tenure at Bonny Eagle, when she refused to give a diploma to a student who bowed and blew a kiss to the audience at the high school’s 2009 graduation ceremony.

Although the school board backed her actions, the incident, which became a national news story, resulted in the formation of a committee to discuss graduation guidelines every year before the ceremony, and she did not hand out diplomas the following year.

CONFLICT WITH PRINCIPAL, UNION

Soon after Sherburne was hired, Biegel said he told the school board that he was a professional who didn’t need oversight and that the board should trust him to do his job.

He had been superintendent of Regional School Unit 57 in Waterboro, also known as Massabesic, since 2007 and had previously served as director of special education there.

Sherburne, 52, who is married with two sons and lives in Kezar Falls, has master’s degrees in educational leadership and the education of the deaf, according to a biography on Bonny Eagle’s website. He was a teacher of the deaf and in a special education resource room before becoming an administrator.

With more than 3,700 students from Buxton, Hollis, Limington and Standish, Bonny Eagle is nearly tied with Bangor as the biggest district in the state after Portland.

A year-and-a-half into his job there, Sherburne recommended that the board not renew the contract for Beth Schultz, who had been principal of Bonny Eagle High School since 2008, saying she lacked leadership abilities.

Teachers showed up in support of Schultz when she waived her right to a confidential hearing to have her contract discussed in public. She told the board that several improvements had been made at the high school under her leadership.

Her lawyer said that, unless she did something wrong, the district was sending a message that no one employed there has job security.

The board voted in favor of Sherburne’s recommendation.

A couple of months later, in May 2013, the Saco Valley Teachers’ Association wrote a letter to the board saying Sherburne communicated directly with a troubled student through phone, text and email, and interfered with the staff’s ability to “respond to the student’s significant mental health needs.”

The school board quietly hired Portland law firm Pierce Atwood to investigate the accusations, which cleared him of wrongdoing, and the board never brought the situation to the attention of the public.

Rumors, however, started swirling that Sherburne had been placed on administrative leave.

FIVE-YEAR CONTRACT, STORM APOLOGY

In September 2013, he sent an email to parents throughout the district announcing that he would start posting his schedule online to put an end to those rumors, which seemed to come up whenever he was out of the district.

Soon after, the investigation from that spring surfaced, prompting another letter posted on the school district’s website and sent to parents, saying the allegations were untrue and were a product of the union’s resistance to change.

The district refused to provide the Press Herald with a report from the investigation at the time.

Although the letter was signed by then-school board Chair Charlotte Dufresne, she said it was written collaboratively by her, Sherburne and the district’s attorney.

The teachers association responded by saying it didn’t know what resistance the board was referring to and that “the letter shows a complete lack of support and respect” for teachers.

After the clash, the union, the board and Sherburne issued another letter pledging to work together.

Sherburne’s contract was renewed in July 2014 for five more years. His salary this school year is $122,000.

Sherburne didn’t make headlines again until the first day of this spring, when a snowstorm led most southern Maine school districts to cancel classes. SAD 6, however, did not, and that day a district bus that was carrying middle and high school students went off the road into a ditch. No one was injured and the students were transferred to another bus. Sherburne issued an apology, saying the storm did not track the way he had been told it would.

But he has yet to say why he would allow the hiring of his son.

HIRING OF SON A FLASH POINT

The district’s nepotism policy says the board prohibits the hiring of “any person who is a member of the family of a board member or the superintendent.”

Zachariah Sherburne worked for the district from Feb. 8 to March 11, when he turned himself into the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office. Four days later, he was charged with gross sexual assault, a felony, and sexual abuse of a minor, a misdemeanor. Police say he had sex in the Kezar Falls Fire Department, where he is a volunteer, with a 16-year-old student from Sacopee Valley High School, where he also worked as an ed tech. The teenager says she is pregnant and he is the father.

“What’s the reason for the in-depth investigation? It’s clear the policy wasn’t followed. Is there more we don’t about?” Biegel wondered.

She was among a group of parents that showed up at the board’s meeting Monday, hoping to voice concerns about Sherburne. The board, however, only takes public comment on agenda items. Still, the group did not appear deterred from its mission.

“I think the public has had enough, and if the board is unwilling to act, then the public will have to,” Biegel said.

 

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Bangor police charge 12-year-old boy with stealing school bus http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/bangor-police-charge-12-year-old-boy-with-stealing-school-bus/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/bangor-police-charge-12-year-old-boy-with-stealing-school-bus/#comments Fri, 06 May 2016 03:28:49 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/bangor-police-charge-12-year-old-boy-with-stealing-school-bus/ Bangor police say a 12-year-old boy who stole a school bus has been charged with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and driving without a license.

Sgt. Tim Cotton posted a lengthy press release and video of the boy’s short-lived joyride on the Bangor Police Department’s Facebook page. Police said Tuesday’s bus ride lasted no more than a half-mile.

A motorist, John W. St. Germain III, and his girlfriend followed the blue bus and captured the boy’s erratic driving on their phone camera. They followed the bus, and when it stopped, Germain jumped out of his car.

“John ran up to the swinging bus doors and took control of the blue, rolling missile of destruction,” Cotton said in the release. “The young man was taken into custody and John continued on his way. He probably saved much property damage and even injury or death to an innocent driver.”

The bus was stolen from a bus depot in Bangor that is operated by Cyr Bus Lines. Bangor police do not know how the boy started the bus.

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Maine man charged in chase, carjacking in Carolinas http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/maine-man-charged-in-chase-carjacking-in-carolinas/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/maine-man-charged-in-chase-carjacking-in-carolinas/#comments Fri, 06 May 2016 02:50:10 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/maine-man-charged-in-chase-carjacking-in-carolinas/ Police say a man from Maine who led officers on a high-speed chase in North Carolina and South Carolina, carjacked a vehicle and rammed police cruisers is facing multiple criminal charges.

WSPA-TV in South Carolina reported that police began pursing a car driven by Sayer Anthony-Spang Tamiso, 27, of Hampden, Maine, when he was pulled over Wednesday in Polk County, North Carolina.

Tamiso sped off, weaving in out of traffic and reaching speeds of 115 mph, police said. He crashed his car in South Carolina and ran into a store called True Timber, where he carjacked an employee’s vehicle at gunpoint.

The TV station said True Timber employees barricaded themselves in their offices, sending text messages and leaving voicemails for loved ones.

The chase ended a short while later in Spartanburg County, South Carolina, when Tamiso rammed four police cruisers with the second getaway car. Four cruisers were damaged and one deputy was taken to a hospital for treatment of a back injury.

The television station reported that Tamiso is charged with armed robbery and failure to stop, with other charges pending.

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Cumberland hires its new police chief from Waterville department http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/cumberland-hires-its-new-police-chief-from-waterville-department/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/cumberland-hires-its-new-police-chief-from-waterville-department/#comments Fri, 06 May 2016 02:50:07 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/cumberland-hires-its-new-police-chief-from-waterville-department/ WATERVILLE — Deputy police Chief Charles Rumsey is leaving the Waterville department in early June to take the police chief’s job in Cumberland.

Rumsey, who accepted the Cumberland position Thursday morning, has been with the Waterville department more than 21 years, nine as deputy chief.

“It’s going to be bittersweet to leave here,” Rumsey said Thursday afternoon. “I’m extremely proud of the time I served here and I’m very excited to take the skills and experience I’ve had here and bring it to the town of Cumberland.”

Cumberland Town Manager Bill Shane said Thursday that town officials were seeking a strong leader who understands community policing, and Rumsey’s training, skills, experience and professionalism were apparent during interviews.

“It was pretty much a home run for us,” Shane said. “We’re just doing cartwheels. He is just a class act.”

Rumsey was chosen from among 12 candidates, according to Shane. He said five candidates were interviewed.

Rumsey starts his new job June 6 and will replace Joe Charron, who retired April 1 after 38 years with the department, according to Shane. In Cumberland, with a population of 7,500, Rumsey will oversee 11 full-time officers and an animal control officer, Shane said. It is a smaller department than Waterville’s, which has 31 officers.

Waterville police Chief Joseph Massey praised Rumsey and his work and said he has mixed emotions about seeing him go.

“The selfish part of me wishes he had not been offered the position, because I’m losing a very capable, competent police administrator,” Massey said. “But on the other side, I realize he’s a professional and he wants to be a chief, and this is the right time for him and he needs to do what’s best for him and his family and his career.”

Rumsey, 45, worked his way up through the ranks in Waterville. He was hired in 1995 as a patrol officer after graduating from University of North Dakota with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice studies. He was a patrol officer more than three years and then was promoted to detective. In 2002, he was named patrol sergeant and in 2007, deputy chief.

While in Waterville, he took advantage of the tuition reimbursement program offered by the city and earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Maine in 2009. He also attended the FBI Academy in 2010 in Quantico, Virginia.

His duties as deputy chief in Waterville included overseeing day-to-day operations of the department and supervising members of the management team. He also organized and managed the hiring and promotion processes, handled complaints and was involved in the community, serving on the advisory committee for High Hopes Clubhouse for people with mental illnesses and helping to develop the Children’s Advocacy Center.

Rumsey said he plans to move with his wife, Cindy, and son, C.J., to southern Maine, probably within the next three months.

 

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Scientists develop robots that can stitch you up better than a surgeon http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/scientists-hope-to-develop-robots-for-surgery-that-are-a-cut-above-doctors/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/scientists-hope-to-develop-robots-for-surgery-that-are-a-cut-above-doctors/#comments Fri, 06 May 2016 01:54:52 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/scientists-hope-to-develop-robots-for-surgery-that-are-a-cut-above-doctors/ WASHINGTON — Getting stitched up by Dr. Robot may one day be reality: Scientists have created a robotic system that did just that in living animals without a real doctor pulling the strings.

Much like engineers are designing self-driving cars, the research is part of a move toward autonomous surgical robots, removing the surgeon’s hands from certain tasks that a machine might perform all by itself. No, doctors wouldn’t leave the bedside – they’re supposed to supervise, plus they’d handle the rest of the surgery. Nor is the device ready for operating rooms.

But in small tests using pigs, the robotic arm performed at least as well – and in some cases a bit better – as some competing surgeons in stitching together intestinal tissue, researchers reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The project is “the first baby step toward true autonomy,” said Dr. Umamaheswar Duvvuri of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, a head and neck surgeon and robotic specialist who wasn’t involved with the new work.

But don’t expect to see doctors ever leave entire operations in a robot’s digits, he cautioned.

The STAR system works sort of like a programmable sewing machine.

Kim’s team at Children’s Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation took a standard robotic arm and equipped it with suturing equipment plus smart imaging technologies to let it track moving tissue in 3-D and with an equivalent of night vision. They added sensors to help guide each stitch and tell how tightly to pull.

The surgeon places fluorescent markers on the tissue that needs stitching, and the robot takes aim as doctors keep watch.

Now the test: Could the STAR reconnect tubular pieces of intestinal tissue from pigs, sort of like two ends of a garden hose?

Using pieces of pig bowel outside of the animals’ bodies as well as in five living but sedated pigs, the researchers tested the STAR robot against open surgery, minimally invasive surgery and robot-assisted surgery.

By some measures – the consistency of stitches and their strength to avoid leaks – “we surpassed the surgeons,” said Children’s engineer Ryan Decker.

The STAR approach wasn’t perfect. The STAR had to reposition fewer stitches than the surgeons performing minimally invasive or robot-assisted suturing. But in the living animals, the robot took much longer and made a few suturing mistakes while the surgeon sewing by hand made none.

Kim, whose team has filed patents on the system, said the robot can be sped up. He hopes to begin human studies in two or three years.

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Gene modified mosquitoes to battle Zika virus http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/gene-modified-mosquitoes-to-battle-zika-virus/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/gene-modified-mosquitoes-to-battle-zika-virus/#comments Fri, 06 May 2016 01:42:41 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/gene-modified-mosquitoes-to-battle-zika-virus/ Genetically modified mosquitoes are coming to Grand Cayman.

On Thursday, British manufacturer Oxitec announced it had finalized a deal with government officials to release its modified males on the island’s western tip to battle Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the invasive bug that carries the Zika virus and other dangerous diseases. The move comes six years after a field trial on the island, the first ever for the altered insects, generated controversy for providing too little notice to citizens.

This time around, officials plan to meet with residents and conduct a town hall meeting in upcoming weeks. The decision also follows the release of millions of mosquitoes in Brazil, the epicenter of a severe Zika outbreak, that helped quiet some opposition.

While no cases of Zika have occurred in the Caymans, the country remains on alert because the disease has popped up “in many of our neighboring countries,” Premier Alden McLaughlin said

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Pirates’ departure from Portland sparks suggestions for new revenue http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/pirates-departure-sparks-suggestions-for-new-revenue/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/pirates-departure-sparks-suggestions-for-new-revenue/#comments Fri, 06 May 2016 01:12:27 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/pirates-departure-sparks-suggestions-for-new-revenue/ Losing the Portland Pirates is a serious blow to the city’s image, economy and the hearts of fans.

Still, sports industry professionals in Maine said there are fundamental economic challenges to operating an American Hockey League team in a city the size of Portland that may have made the Pirates’ departure inevitable.

Since the height of the Pirates’ success in the mid-1990s, entertainment options in Portland have expanded dramatically, they said, while the amount of discretionary spending has remained fairly stable.

Instead of trying to replace the Pirates with another AHL team, some suggested the city should pursue other economic opportunities such as attracting a less-expensive hockey franchise or other sports team to the Cross Insurance Arena, or boost revenues by building a separate, large convention center.

Portland isn’t the only city that has struggled to meet its AHL team’s financial needs, said Brian Corcoran, founder and CEO of Shamrock Sports & Entertainment in Portland. Other teams have been forced to move to larger cities because of the relatively high franchise fees all teams must pay. The Pirates are expected to play their next season in Springfield, Massachusetts, after 23 years in Portland.

“The business model of minor league hockey is beyond challenging,” said Corcoran, whose company sold corporate sponsorships for the Pirates in 2013 and 2014. “Only one-third of the teams are profitable, one-third break even, and the other third are borderline bankrupt.”

Corcoran praised the team’s majority owner, Ron Cain, for keeping the Pirates in Portland as long as he did, while other AHL teams were relocating to larger cities as a hedge against high operating costs.

“Two-thirds of operating revenue are contingent on putting butts in seats,” he said.

‘A PERFECT STORM OF BAD THINGS’

Corcoran said the team’s move to Lewiston while the arena was being renovated, followed by contentious negotiations with the venue over food and beverage concessions, depressed ticket sales at a time when the growth and expansion of restaurants and music venues in the Portland area was spreading the population’s disposable income ever thinner.

“It’s a perfect storm of bad things that happened,” he said.

Corcoran said the Pirates already had seen regular attendance decrease after 2009, when the Maine Red Claws NBA Development League team began playing in Portland with an overlapping season.

Red Claws owner William Ryan Jr., however, said he does not think the two teams competed directly for fans and he isn’t happy to see the Pirates leave.

He said the two teams often collaborated on projects to promote Portland as a sports and entertainment hub.

The problem for the Pirates, he said, is that the team was required to make an $800,000 payment each season to its parent franchise in the NHL. Neither the Red Claws nor the Portland Sea Dogs Minor League Baseball team are saddled with such high costs.

“Having the pro sports teams here … it’s a net positive,” Ryan said. “I never felt like we were competing with the Pirates.”

Ryan said that while the Red Claws aren’t interested in moving to the Cross Insurance Arena from the Portland Expo, the team is profitable and there are no plans to leave Portland, ever.

He suggested that Portland might want to pursue an East Coast Hockey League team to replace the Pirates, because the franchise fees are much lower.

“Maybe an ECHL team makes more sense,” Ryan said. “I know Manchester (New Hampshire) went that route.”

CONVENTION CENTER REDUX?

Others said they see the Pirates’ departure as an opportunity to reopen discussions about a shift to making conventions and business travel more prominent revenue streams for Portland.

“This news should revive our ancient and recurring conversation about finally building a convention center in Portland,” said Christopher O’Neil, owner of O’Neil Policy Consulting in Portland and a former lobbyist for the Greater Portland Chamber of Commerce, which advocated for the $34 million renovation of the former civic center into a modern entertainment arena in 2014. “If not a convention center, perhaps a repurposing of the (arena) asset. Maybe it’s time for the wrecking ball.”

O’Neil said that as far as arenas go, Portland’s “has lost its sweet spot.”

Eclectic venues such as Thompson’s Point, State Theatre and Merrill Auditorium dominate when it comes to smaller musical acts, he said, while Bangor has become the prime destination for larger acts.

“I don’t know anybody who thinks the renovated civic center could make the Pirates viable,” O’Neil said. “Ron Cain talks about getting blood from a rock.”

A SEPARATE CONVENTION CENTER

Steve Hewins, former executive director of Portland’s Downtown District, who is now an independent business consultant, sees a future for both the arena and a separate convention center in Portland.

He noted that in March 2017, the America East Women’s Basketball Championship will be held at the arena, the first of two consecutive championships the league has committed to playing there.

“After they invested $34 million in that building, I don’t think a conversion to a convention center would make sense at this point,” he said.

Hewins said the city should focus on finding another hockey franchise to take up residence at the arena while reopening the discussion about building a convention center in another nearby locale.

Most conventions take place outside of Portland’s peak tourist season, he said, and the city now has enough hotel rooms to accommodate major events – far more than it did back in 2004, when the last round of serious debate about a convention center occurred.

“I’m talking about a building [to host events] that could fill all the hotel rooms in the city,” Hewins said.

 

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New York City lawmakers impose 5-cent charge for plastic bags http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/nyc-lawmakers-impose-5-cent-charge-for-plastic-bags/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/nyc-lawmakers-impose-5-cent-charge-for-plastic-bags/#comments Fri, 06 May 2016 00:58:20 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/nyc-lawmakers-impose-5-cent-charge-for-plastic-bags/ NEW YORK — Every minute of every day, usually without thinking, thousands of New Yorkers reach across the counter at shops and supermarkets and accept a disposable plastic bag. The city’s sanitation department estimates 10 billion bags a year are tossed in the trash – roughly 19,000 per minute.

Now, city officials are poised to test whether a 5-cent charge can wean New Yorkers from the convenient but environmentally unfriendly sacks.

The City Council approved a bill Thursday that would require most merchants to charge customers at least a nickel for each bag, including those made of paper. Technically, the fee isn’t a tax. Stores will get to keep the money they collect.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has a goal of sending zero waste to landfills by 2030, said he will sign the bill, which will take effect Oct. 1.

Some New Yorkers interviewed as they ran errands this week said they weren’t so sure how they would adapt, especially in a city where most people are shopping on foot rather than by car.

“A lot of times I leave work, if I’m on the way home, I don’t have time to have a bag with me,” said Pat Tomasso, 70, who has a neon sign business.

Todd Killinger, 47, who works in advertising, said it’s a good idea. “After a time I think people will switch and bring their own bags but initially not so much,” he said.

If the law is enacted, New York City will join more than 150 other municipalities around the country that have passed ordinances either to ban single-use plastic bags or to charge a fee for them.

Officials from Washington, D.C., testified at a New York City Council hearing that their 5-cent bag fee, enacted in 2009, has led to a 60 percent drop in bag use.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg first proposed a plastic bag charge in 2008, but the idea failed to attract support from the City Council.

“Everyone knows that plastic bags are a problem,” said Councilman Brad Lander, a Brooklyn Democrat and bill sponsor. “They blow everywhere. They never biodegrade. They’re made of petroleum. And we don’t need them.”

Opponents say the fee essentially amounts to a new tax on a heavily taxed population.

“I’m tired of my constituents being nickeled-and-dimed all the time,” said Councilman Steven Matteo, a Staten Island Republican who voted against the bag fee. “It’s going to give my constituents another reason to shop in New Jersey.”

According to the Sanitation Department, New York City spends $12.5 million a year to send plastic bags to landfills and even more to clean them off beaches, parks and other public spaces.

Lee Califf, executive director of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, accused the City Council of “imposing a new, regressive grocery bag tax that will hurt seniors, working class and low-income New Yorkers while enriching grocers.”

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FBI interviews a top Clinton aide in email investigation http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/fbi-interviews-a-top-clinton-aide-in-email-investigation/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/fbi-interviews-a-top-clinton-aide-in-email-investigation/#comments Fri, 06 May 2016 00:39:32 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/fbi-interviews-a-top-clinton-aide-in-email-investigation/ WASHINGTON— The FBI has interviewed Huma Abedin, a close aide to Hillary Clinton, as part of a federal investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state, a person familiar with the probe said Thursday.

The person insisted on anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

The FBI and Justice Department have been investigating whether sensitive information that flowed through Clinton’s email was mishandled. Abedin was one of Clinton’s closest aides during her tenure as the nation’s top diplomat, serving as deputy chief of staff. The interview of Abedin, part of Clinton’s inner circle, is a possible indication that the investigation might be in its final stages. It was not immediately clear whether other aides have been interviewed, or when or if Clinton herself might be questioned.

“From the start, Hillary Clinton has offered to answer any questions that would help the Justice Department complete its review, and we hope and expect that anyone else who is asked would do the same,” Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said in a statement. “We are confident the review will conclude that nothing inappropriate took place.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment Thursday, and a spokesman for the FBI did not return messages seeking comment.

On Wednesday, a federal judge in Washington said he may order Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner, to testify under oath about whether she used a private email server to evade public records disclosures.

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Jerry Sandusky gets hearing date in bid for new trial http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/jerry-sandusky-gets-hearing-date-in-bid-for-new-trial/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/jerry-sandusky-gets-hearing-date-in-bid-for-new-trial/#comments Fri, 06 May 2016 00:35:02 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=867906 HARRISBURG, Pa. — A Pennsylvania judge Thursday gave convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky a hearing later this month to prove his claims that prosecutors lied, withheld evidence and leaked secret grand jury information to find additional victims.

Judge John Cleland said the May 20 hearing would “provide the defense with an opportunity to prove” claims as it seeks to have charges dismissed against the former Penn State assistant football coach or a new trial.

A major subject of the hearing will be a statement in the closing argument by prosecutor Joe McGettigan that referred to “others unknown to us, to others presently known to God but not to us.” Sandusky could try to show that McGettigan’s reference was a lie.

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Portland mayor calls for reforms in arena leadership http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/portland-mayor-calls-for-reforms-in-arena-leadership/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/portland-mayor-calls-for-reforms-in-arena-leadership/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 23:53:41 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/portland-mayor-calls-for-reforms-in-arena-leadership/ A day after city leaders were caught off-guard by news that its minor-league hockey team of 23 years was leaving Portland, Mayor Ethan Strimling called for changes in the way the Cross Insurance Arena is managed.

The Portland Pirates confirmed that the team had been sold and would no longer be playing its home games at the Portland arena, which is owned by Cumberland County and managed by a nine-member board of trustees appointed by the county commissioners.

The announcement provoked anger, not only because of the loss of a beloved team and economic catalyst, but also because taxpayers in 2011 approved a $34 million investment in the facility as a way to secure a long-term contract with the team.

If the proposed sale and move to Springfield, Massachusetts, is approved by the league, the Pirates would be leaving two years into a five-year lease, making it more difficult for the county to pay down debt incurred by the renovation.

It appears no one from the team or the arena reached out to the city to discuss the potential sale or move, even though they had been renegotiating their lease for a couple of weeks.

“The governing structure over there I think has to be looked at so it’s a little more accountable to taxpayers, especially the biggest taxpayer in the pool,” Strimling said of the arena board. “Portland taxpayers are putting money into that place and I’m pretty frustrated we had no warning, no voice at the table, no nothing in terms of the conversation.”

The governance structure of the arena was also questioned in 2013, when the Pirates and arena officials were at-odds over lease negotiations. Forty-four people applied to be a volunteer trustee with the hopes of reigniting negotiations.

The county currently assesses $39.9 million in taxes on 28 communities. In fiscal 2016, Portland contributed the most at $5.4 million, more than the second- and third-largest contributors combined. Scarborough contributes nearly $2.5 million, while South Portland pays $2.5 million.

It’s not clear why Portland officials did not know that the arena’s board was renegotiating a lease with its key tenant.

QUESTIONS, CRITICISM FOR TRUSTEES

Former Portland City Manager Joe Gray serves on the arena’s board of trustees. When reached by phone, Gray said he couldn’t comment because he was traveling in New York. Sam Surprise, the board’s vice chair and its representative for Portland and Long Island, referred all questions to the board chairman, Mitchell Berkowitz.

“It’s speculative that the city could have done anything,” Berkowitz said.

Berkowitz said he invited the five county commissioners to a meeting at which negotiations over new lease terms for the Pirates were discussed. Two of the commissioners, Susan Witonis and Stephen F. Gorden, attended. Neither represents Portland.

Also, Strimling said the $100,000 penalty for the team breaking its lease is not enough, given the public investment in the facility.

“It’s my understanding that the buyout is 100,000 bucks,” he said. “That’s a joke. That should have been negotiated much more strongly.”

Other city officials were disappointed with the announcement, noting that it was a business decision driven by flagging attendance, though they would have liked to have been given the opportunity to participate in the negotiations. Instead they are looking to the future.

“It’s disappointing to lose the Pirates at this time, but I am optimistic the future is still bright for future uses at that facility,” said Greg Mitchell, the city’s economic development director.

The Pirates also lease space in the city-owned Spring Street parking garage. That lease generates $23,000 a year in revenue and can be terminated without penalty with 180 days notice, said Mitchell, who is not aware of any formal notice from the team that they’d be leaving.

‘WE WEREN’T GIVEN THE CHANCE’

Mitchell, whose job is to attract and retain businesses in the city, said he didn’t learn of the Pirates’ move until the city began receiving calls from reporters. He said rumors about the Pirates leaving were more prevalent before the arena was renovated and that things had been quiet since the project was completed in 2014.

“I’m disappointed,” he said. “I’m not sure what the city could have offered, not being a part of the discussions. We’re sort of Monday morning quarterbacking about the event.”

The Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce didn’t learn of the news until it was reported in the media, Chief Executive Officer Chris Hall said. He was not surprised by the sale, since minor-league hockey teams in the Northeast have been struggling with attendance and the American Hockey League had made a strategic decision to pull out of the region.

When asked if there was anything the chamber or the city could have done to keep the team here, Hall said, “we weren’t given the chance. But I can guarantee you we would have tried.”

Hall said some businesses are “freaking out.” During the campaign to approve the renovation bond, bars and restaurant owners said their revenues increase 25 percent to 30 percent when there is an event at the arena. That added revenue is especially helpful in the winter, when business usually drops.

But Hall isn’t focusing on what might have been.

“Really you have to pivot quickly to what comes next,” he said. “It’s a great sports culture in this town and we want to maintain that. That’s what makes Portland attractive to people.”

Staff Writer Ed Murphy contributed to this report.

 

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Sixth Maine health center gets federal grant http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/sixth-maine-health-center-gets-federal-grant/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/sixth-maine-health-center-gets-federal-grant/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 23:34:03 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/sixth-maine-health-center-gets-federal-grant/ A sixth Maine health center received a federal grant this week to expand its clinical care space for the medically underserved.

Pines Health Services in Caribou received $1 million, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.The agency announced $260 million in awards across the country Wednesday, but left Pines Health Services off its list.

The agency also awarded grants to Fish River Rural Health, Penobscot Community Health Center Inc., Portland Community Health Center, Healthreach Community Health Centers and Health Access Network Inc.

In total, the six Maine centers received $4,134,731, which the government estimated will allow them to serve 3,515 additional patients.

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New law may cost North Carolina college system federal funds http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/n-c-college-system-may-lose-federal-funds/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/n-c-college-system-may-lose-federal-funds/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 23:34:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=867789 RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina’s prized public universities could be the biggest losers as state leaders defend a new law limiting the rights of LGBT people.

The 17-university system, which includes the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University as well as several historically black colleges, risks losing more than $1.4 billion in federal funds if the Republicans who run the Legislature don’t reverse the law by the end of business Monday.

The U.S. Justice Department set that deadline in letters this week to University of North Carolina leaders, Gov. Pat McCrory and the state’s public safety agency, warning that the law violates civil rights protections against sex discrimination in education and employment.

If the Justice Department follows through on its enforcement threat, tens of thousands of students also could lose around $800 million in federally backed loans that cannot be borrowed to attend institutions that violate Title IX of the federal Civil Rights Act, UNC spokeswoman Joni Worthington said Thursday.

“It’s a very big stick,” said Katharine Bartlett, the former law school dean at nearby Duke University.

“The federal government is giving funds under certain conditions,” Bartlett said.

State legislative leaders vowed to resist what they describe as Washington’s bullying, but it remains to be seen how far they’ll go to defend a position compromised by a federal appellate ruling in Virginia last month.

The North Carolina law requires transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms conforming with their birth certificates, rather than their gender identity, and leaves LGBT people out of a statewide anti-discrimination code that also bars local governments from providing additional protections.

UNC President Margaret Spellings is two months into her new job, having succeeded Tom Ross, who was pushed out last year after the university system’s governing board was overhauled by the state’s ascendant Republican leaders. They have been eager to revamp a system that many consider the state’s leading bastion of liberal thinkers.

Now, the former Education Secretary to President George W. Bush has found her leadership tested as she steers the UNC system between the conservatives who just appointed her and the federal agency she once led.

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California man found guilty of ‘Grim Sleeper’ serial killings http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/california-man-found-guilty-of-grim-sleeper-serial-killings/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/california-man-found-guilty-of-grim-sleeper-serial-killings/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 23:07:18 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/california-man-found-guilty-of-grim-sleeper-serial-killings/ LOS ANGELES — A former trash collector in Los Angeles was convicted Thursday of 10 “Grim Sleeper” serial killings that spanned two decades and targeted vulnerable young black women in the inner city.

Lonnie Franklin Jr. showed no emotion as a clerk read the 10 murder verdicts in Los Angeles County Superior Court after a two-month trial in the potential death penalty case.

Franklin also was found guilty of one count of attempted murder.

Jurors were told to return May 12 for the trial’s penalty phase. Franklin could receive the death penalty.

The killings from 1985 to 2007 were dubbed the work of the “Grim Sleeper” because of an apparent 14-year gap after one woman survived a gunshot to the chest in 1988.

The crimes went unsolved for decades and community members complained that police ignored the cases because the victims were black, poor and some were prostitutes and drug users.

Much of the violence unfolded during the nation’s crack cocaine epidemic when at least two other serial killers prowled the part of the city then known as South Central.

The 10 victims, including a 15-year-old girl, were fatally shot or strangled and dumped in alleys and garbage bins. Most had traces of cocaine in their systems.

Franklin, 63, a onetime trash collector in the area and a garage attendant for the Los Angeles Police Department, had been hiding in plain sight, said Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman.

Police eventually connected Franklin to the crimes after a task force was assigned to revisit the case that dozens of officers failed to solve in the 1980s. The DNA of Franklin’s son, collected after a felony arrest, had similarities to genetic material left on the bodies of many of the victims.

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Cumberland adjusts plan to spray for browntail moths in response to environmental concerns http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/cumberland-adjusts-plan-to-spray-for-browntail-moths-in-response-to-environmental-concerns/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/cumberland-adjusts-plan-to-spray-for-browntail-moths-in-response-to-environmental-concerns/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 22:58:36 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/cumberland-adjusts-plan-to-spray-for-browntail-moths-in-response-to-environmental-concerns/ CUMBERLAND — Town officials have modified their plan to spray insecticide to fight a browntail moth infestation, in response to residents’ concerns about environmental threats posed by chemical pesticides.

The town proposed using a truck-mounted sprayer to coat trees along three miles of Foreside Road with a chemical insecticide to kill browntail moth caterpillars. The invasive insects defoliate trees and can shed tiny hairs that cause skin rashes and respiratory problems in some people.

Although many residents support using pesticides to curb the worst moth infestation in more than a decade, some worried that a synthetic insecticide could harm people and the environment, including marine life in Casco Bay.

Terry Traver, a licensed pesticide applicator with Whitney Tree Service, said the town decided instead to use a naturally derived pesticide to tackle the infestation.

“We feel like it is a more environmentally friendly approach with some of the residents who were concerned about spraying pesticides, with their gardens and pets,” Traver said.

The natural treatment could be less effective than a synthetic spray, but it is less harmful to the environment, he said.

Browntail moths nest high in oak and apple trees. In May, 2-inch-long caterpillars break out of the nests and start feeding on new leaves before spinning cocoons in late June to pupate into moths.

The caterpillars can do extensive damage to trees and are covered with toxic hairs that can drift through the air and cause a rash similar to poison ivy and provoke respiratory problems for some people. The moths shed their skins five times a season, and the hairs stay in the environment and can cause problems for months after the caterpillars are gone.

Ivy Frignoca, the bay keeper for Friends of Casco Bay, said her office received half a dozen calls from residents with concerns about the spraying program before a public meeting on the proposal last week. Concerns about damage ranged from people and pets to marine animals along the coast.

“As the lead advocate for Casco Bay, when an issue like this comes up that threatens the health of the bay, we have to look into it,” Frignoca said.

The town planned to use Tempo, a synthetic neurotoxin, to kill the caterpillars. Tempo is extremely toxic to fish and aquatic invertebrates and should not be allowed to run into storm water, according to the warning documents for the treatment. Even though state rules prohibit spraying pesticides within 250 feet of any shoreline, people were concerned that the chemical could find its way into Casco Bay and harm shellfish.

During the last browntail moth infestation, in the late 1990s, communities around Casco Bay used aerial sprays to counter the insects, but that was controversial because of its negative effect on shellfish, particularly lobsters. Cumberland is not considering an aerial spraying program this year.

For the spraying to be effective, the town needs a majority of Foreside Road residents to sign consent forms allowing the town’s contractor to spray on their properties. The deadline for signing the forms is Friday, and the town intends to start spraying next week.

Town Councilor Tom Gruber, a Foreside resident, said in response to resident concerns that the council decided to spray with spinosad, a chemical derived from soil bacterium that is toxic to insects and sold under the brand Conserve SC. The pesticide is less harmful to shellfish and it sticks to soil, giving it less potential to move to groundwater.

The town planned to spray only along Foreside Road, but now is expanding the scope of the project to include 18 private side streets. Private roads will be charged $300 to $500 for treatment, depending on the length of the road, according to a letter to residents from Town Manager Bill Shane.

The cost of the natural treatment is expected to be slightly more than the synthetic chemical, but Gruber said it shouldn’t exceed the $15,000 budgeted for the project.

“After a long discussion and concerns, we came up with a more environmentally friendly plan,” Gruber said.

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Maine golf instructors take a swing at teaching golf to veterans with disabilities http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/maine-golf-instructors-take-a-swing-at-teaching-golf-to-veterans-with-disabilities/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/maine-golf-instructors-take-a-swing-at-teaching-golf-to-veterans-with-disabilities/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 22:49:58 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/maine-golf-instructors-take-a-swing-at-teaching-golf-to-veterans-with-disabilities/ MANCHESTER — Professional Golf Association instructor Scott Mann said he often teaches his students to take swings with their eyes closed but never actually tried it himself. Until Thursday.

Mann and six other PGA instructors took part in an adaptive golf seminar at the Augusta Country Club in preparation for a new eight-week adaptive golf program in partnership with the VA Maine Healthcare Systems-Togus.

“It was so different,” Mann said of swinging the club with his eyes closed and covered. “I had to use my other senses and get a feel, and sound and feel was all I could rely on.”

The seminar was led by Dave Windsor, an Atlanta-based instructor from the Adaptive Golf Association. Throughout the hourlong session on the driving range, the PGA pros, wearing pullovers and hats because of the unseasonably chilly weather, took part in drills designed to mimic playing golf with a disability.

Bob Mathews of Farmingdale is the assistant pro at Rockland Golf Course and was the first to try out the adaptive golf simulator. Mathews had his right knee bent in a device with a prosthetic leg and foot and was trying to balance while completing a full swing.

“The hard part was really balance, and it was also very tiring because I had too much weight on one side,” Mathews said. “What we learned is that anytime a veteran can get out and do something, it’s going to be beneficial to them.”

Augusta Country Club general manager Jason Hurd said swinging a club with the adaptive equipment was harder than he thought it was going to be. He hopes to get the program started sometime in June and said the course will set up forward tees in the middle of the fairways to shorten the course and make it more accessible.

“The experience has been wonderful, and we hope for the people that participate in the program that it is a life-changing experience,” Hurd said. “Golf is a great game that people can play for the rest of their life.”

Liz Marrone, a recreational therapist at Togus, said the adaptive sports program has “been really cooking since late 2013” and said the importance of the different activities to veteran well-being cannot be understated.

“It’s not necessarily about the sport or activity, but rather it’s the process and getting there and feeling a sense of accomplishment and pride,” Marrone said before taking some swings while sitting in a chair to re-create what it would be like to play golf in a wheelchair. “Recreational therapy is so individualized, so it is important to find what works.”

After the session concluded, Mann said he was looking forward to implementing adaptive golf at his club in Norway.

“The fact that veterans can still participate in things like this in life is huge,” Mann said. “To be able to bring this element to these people where they can regain their confidence is incredible.”

Windsor, who got his big break in the golf industry at Innisbrook Golf Resort in Palm Harbor, Florida, said hearing from a veteran about the program’s effect is special.

“When you hear them talk after a program or a round of golf about how they got out there, controlled their emotions and made new relationships, it’s true therapy for them,” Windsor said. “There is such a crossover from the golf course to everyday life.”

It is also gratifying to see them absorbed in the process and learning the game, Windsor said.

“They are getting their families involved and focusing on things away from their upcoming appointments or surgeries,” he said. “It is a true escape for them to feel so much better about themselves.”

Augusta Country Club, off Western Avenue in Manchester, is a membership club, but Hurd said once the summer program is complete, any golfer who participated would be welcome to use the course for the remainder of the season.

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Earthlings prepare to observe Mercury’s transit of sun Monday http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/earthlings-prepare-to-observe-mercurys-transit-of-sun-monday/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/earthlings-prepare-to-observe-mercurys-transit-of-sun-monday/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 22:43:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=867651 CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Earthlings are in for a treat Monday as Mercury makes a relatively rare transit of the sun.

The solar system’s smallest, innermost planet will resemble a black round dot as it passes in front of our big, bright star. The last time Mercury crossed directly between the Earth and sun was in 2006, and it won’t happen again until 2019 – and then, until 2032. NASA says the event occurs only about 13 times a century.

Louis Mayo, program manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, considers it “a big deal.”

“Astronomers get excited when any two things come close to each other in the heavens,” Mayo said.

The eastern U.S. and Canada will see the entire 7 1/2-hour transit, as will most of South America, western Europe and westernmost Africa.

In the western portion of North America, stargazers can join in midway, at sunrise, while those in eastern Europe, central Asia, the Middle East and most of Africa will have to call it quits early when the sun goes down. Australia will have to sit this one out altogether.

Forget eclipse glasses. At barely 3,000 miles across, Mercury would be too small to spot. You’ll need binoculars or telescopes equipped with proper solar filters to protect your eyes.

Look for Mercury south of the sun’s equator. The planet might appear as though it’s hardly moving, but in reality it will be zooming past the sun at nearly 106,000 mph.

Three spacecraft will observe the transit, so if you can’t catch it with your own eyes, check out the space agency online . NASA promises images close to real time from its Solar Dynamic Observatory.

Astronomers have been observing Mercury transits since the 1600s. Monday’s occurrence will allow scientists to fine-tune instruments aboard solar observatories like SDO and learn even more about the sun.

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California man convicted of 10 ‘Grim Sleeper’ killings http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/california-man-guilty-of-10-grim-sleeper-killings/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/california-man-guilty-of-10-grim-sleeper-killings/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 22:00:20 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/california-man-guilty-of-10-grim-sleeper-killings/ LOS ANGELES – A former trash collector in Los Angeles was convicted Thursday of 10 “Grim Sleeper” serial killings that spanned two decades and targeted vulnerable young black women in the inner city.

Lonnie Franklin Jr. showed no emotion as a clerk read the 10 murder verdicts in Los Angeles County Superior Court after a two-month trial in the potential death penalty case.

Franklin also was found guilty of one count of attempted murder.

Jurors were told to return May 12 for the trial’s penalty phase. Franklin could receive the death penalty.

The killings from 1985 to 2007 were dubbed the work of the “Grim Sleeper” because of an apparent 14-year gap after one woman survived a gunshot to the chest in 1988.

The crimes went unsolved for decades and community members complained that police ignored the cases because the victims were black, poor and some were prostitutes and drug users.

Much of the violence unfolded during the nation’s crack cocaine epidemic when at least two other serial killers prowled the part of the city then known as South Central.

The 10 victims, including a 15-year-old girl, were fatally shot or strangled and dumped in alleys and garbage bins. Most had traces of cocaine in their systems.

Franklin, 63, a onetime trash collector in the area and a garage attendant for the Los Angeles Police Department, had been hiding in plain sight, said Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman.

Police eventually connected Franklin to the crimes after a task force was assigned to revisit the case that dozens of officers failed to solve in the 1980s. The DNA of Franklin’s son, collected after a felony arrest, had similarities to genetic material left on the bodies of many of the victims.

An officer posing as a busboy later retrieved pizza crusts and napkins with Franklin’s DNA while he was celebrating at a birthday party.

It proved a match with material found on the breasts and clothing of many of the women and on the zip tie of a trash bag that held the curled-up body of the final victim, Janecia Peters. She was found Jan. 1, 2007, by someone who was rifling through a trash bin and noticed her red fingernails through a hole in the bag.

Silverman described the victims as sisters, daughters and mothers who suffered frailties but had hopes and dreams.

She projected photos of the 10 women from happier days, many smiling from headshots that captured their youth and the hairstyles of the times. The images were in stark contrast to gory crime scene and autopsy photos also displayed of half-naked bodies sprawled among garbage — images that made family members wince, weep and recoil in the gallery.

Defense lawyer Seymour Amster challenged what he called “inferior science” of DNA and ballistics evidence. During his closing argument, he introduced a new theory: a “mystery man with a mystery gun and mystery DNA” was responsible for all the killings. He said the man was a “nephew” of Franklin’s who was jealous because his uncle had better luck with romance, though he offered no supporting evidence or any name.

Amster based the theory on the testimony of the sole known survivor, Enietra Washington, who was shot in the chest and crawled to safety after being shoved from an orange Ford Pinto in November 1988. She testified that her assailant said he had to stop at his “uncle’s house” for money before the attack.

Washington later led detectives to Franklin’s street.

Silverman scoffed at the “mystery nephew” notion, saying it was as rational an explanation as a space ship killing the women. She said the shooter had just lied to Washington about an uncle and was probably stopping at his house to get his gun.

The attack fit the pattern of seven previous killings and showed how the killer carried out the crimes, Silverman said. The bullet removed from Washington’s chest matched ammo retrieved from the previous victims and she provided a detail that would later prove telling.

Washington described how her attacker took a Polaroid photo of her as she was losing consciousness. Police searching Franklin’s house more than two decades later found a snapshot of the wounded Washington slouched over in a car with a breast exposed. It was hidden behind a wall in his garage.

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Volunteers take on giant task of dissecting 7-ton minke whale on Biddeford beach http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/volunteers-take-on-giant-task-of-dissecting-7-ton-minke-whale-on-biddeford-beach/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/volunteers-take-on-giant-task-of-dissecting-7-ton-minke-whale-on-biddeford-beach/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 20:58:31 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/volunteers-take-on-giant-task-of-dissecting-7-ton-minke-whale-on-biddeford-beach/ BIDDEFORD — Volunteers on Thursday helped dissect and remove the carcass of a 7-ton minke whale that washed up on a Horseshoe Cove beach this week.

Lynda Doughty, executive director of Marine Mammals of Maine, a nonprofit group that rescues ocean mammals, said the cause of the adult female whale’s death was not immediately obvious. Her group, with help from staff members of the New England Aquarium in Boston, were conducting a full necropsy of the animal and collecting samples to find out how it died.

“It is still to be determined. We got the report of the animal on Tuesday. It probably died out at sea and came in with the tide,” she said.

A resident of Granite Point Road reported the dead 28-foot whale on a Horseshoe Cove beach, Doughty said. The air was pungent around the whale carcass, and volunteers wore masks, along with gloves and oilskins, as they cut away portions of the animal.

Minkes are the smallest baleen whales in North American waters and can grow up to 35 feet long and weigh as much as 10 tons, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Minke whales are common in the Gulf of Maine and are the most abundant great whale in the world. According to NOAA, in 2015 the minke whale population in the Gulf of Maine and the Canadian Maritimes was estimated at 16,200 to 20,700 animals.

Doughty said reports about whales, porpoises and dolphins make up about 10 percent to 15 percent of the calls Marine Mammals of Maine receives every year, but it is uncommon to come across a dead beached whale.

“It doesn’t happen too often, but when it does we take the opportunity to find out as much as we can,” she said.

Volunteers working with a local excavating company planned to remove the carcass from the beach Thursday, according to Doughty. The animal’s soft flesh will be composted and the skeleton will be saved for education, she said.

Marine Mammals of Maine more often responds to calls about seal pups that appear to be stranded. The group recently received federal certification for its new short-term care center in Harpswell for animals rescued by its staff and network of 70 volunteers from Kittery to Rockland.

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Obama administration commutes sentences for 58 convicts http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/obama-administration-commutes-sentences-for-58-convicts/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/obama-administration-commutes-sentences-for-58-convicts/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 20:12:56 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/obama-administration-commutes-sentences-for-58-convicts/ WASHINGTON – The Obama administration on Thursday commuted the prison sentences of 58 federal convicts, including 18 who were given life sentences.

The action is part of a broader effort to overhaul the criminal justice system and ease punishments for nonviolent drug offenders.

Most whose sentences were cut short are now due out on Sept. 2, though some will be released over the next two years.

Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates said in a statement that the prisoners have been “granted a second chance to lead productive and law-abiding lives.”

The Justice Department revamped the clemency process two years ago to encourage more applications from nonviolent federal offenders.

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Exxon to join research on fuel cells that capture carbon emissions http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/exxon-to-join-research-on-fuel-cells-that-capture-carbon-emissions/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/exxon-to-join-research-on-fuel-cells-that-capture-carbon-emissions/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 19:22:22 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/exxon-to-join-research-on-fuel-cells-that-capture-carbon-emissions/ DALLAS — Exxon Mobil and FuelCell Energy say that they will jointly work on technology to reduce the cost of capturing carbon emissions from power plants.

The companies will try to develop technology that uses carbonate fuel cells to generate power while capturing carbon dioxide, which scientists say is the most prevalent greenhouse gas responsible for climate change.

It is a sensitive subject for Exxon Mobil Corp., based in Irving, Texas. Officials in several states are investigating the company, which they accuse of misleading investors and the public by understating the risk of climate change.

If the fuel-cell approach proves feasible, it could be used in coal- or natural gas-fired plants, the companies said.

Shares of FuelCell Energy Inc. jumped 20 percent initially but gave up most of the increase by afternoon trading.

Capturing significant amounts of carbon from power plants has been an elusive goal for the fossil-fuel industry. There have been several demonstration projects in the U.S. and elsewhere but they haven’t produced the desired results, partly because of high costs. Environmentalists say the money should instead be spent on renewable energy that is cleaner from the start.

Exxon and FuelCell declined to say how much they would invest in their new project. Exxon’s vice president for research and development, Vijay Swarup, said 10 to 15 Exxon scientists would spend some of their time on it; FuelCell CEO Chip Bottone said 15 to 20 of his scientists would work on it, which he called “a pretty sizable commitment.”

Even if the technology produces power and lowers costs, the companies would have to process and bury the carbon to keep emissions out of the atmosphere, a process called sequestration.

Exxon said it captured nearly 7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide last year. That, however, is far less than one one-thousandth of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, according to figures from the International Energy Agency.

In afternoon trading, FuelCell shares were up 28 cents, or 5 percent, to $5.86, after rising as high as $6.73 earlier in the day. Exxon shares rose 8 cents to $88.02.

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Airstrike kills at least 28 in Syrian refugee camp, activists say http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/airstrike-kills-at-least-28-in-syrian-refugee-camp-activists-say/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/airstrike-kills-at-least-28-in-syrian-refugee-camp-activists-say/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 18:58:58 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/airstrike-kills-at-least-28-in-syrian-refugee-camp-activists-say/ DAMASCUS, Syria – An airstrike hit a crowded refugee camp in Syria on Thursday close to the border with Turkey, killing at least 28 people, according to Syrian pro-opposition activists. Images posted on social media said to be of the aftermath of the strike showed at least a dozen tents burned to the ground and bloodied women and children being loaded onto a pickup truck.

The camp in Sarmada, in rebel-held territory the northwestern Idlib province, is home to between 1,500 and 2,000 internally displaced people who fled the fighting from the surrounding Aleppo and Hama provinces over the past year, according to activist Mohammad al-Shafie in the town of Atareb, about 7.5 miles from the camp.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 28 died while the Local Coordination Committees, another activist group, said more than 30 were killed. Footage on social media showed charred bodies and men pouring buckets of water on fires that erupted within the camp.

The attack came just hours after a twin bombing in the central province of Homs killed at least 10 people and wounded scores, state media and the regional governor, Talal Barrazi, said. A car bomb first exploded in the main square of village of Mukharam al-Fawkani, located about 28 miles east of the central city of Homs, Syria’s third-largest.

SUICIDE BOMBER ALSO STRIKES

As people gathered to help the victims, a suicide bomber riding a motorcycle detonated his explosives belt nearby. Four children and three women were among those killed, Syrian state TV said, and as many as 49 were wounded in the attack.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the Islamic State group has claimed to be behind several similar deadly attacks in Homs province. The area of the blasts is close to where Syrian troops and IS gunmen have been fighting for control of the vital Shaer gas field, which fell to the Islamic State on Wednesday after the extremists overran 13 government checkpoints and captured a Syrian soldier. The Observatory said 34 government troops and 16 militants have been killed in three days of fighting there.

Meanwhile, relative calm prevailed in the northern city of Aleppo, which has been the center of violence in recent weeks following a truce announced the day before by U.S. officials in agreement with Russia, in an effort to extend Syria’s fragile cease-fire to the deeply contested city. The Syrian military said the truce would last only 48 hours.

Syrian President Bashar Assad said in a letter to the Russian president that Aleppo will eventually be victorious, comparing the Syrian government forces’ resistance in the city to the protracted World War II battle of Stalingrad.

VIOLATIONS REPORTED IN ALEPPO

In Aleppo, Syrian state media reported some violations of the truce, saying militants fired more than 20 shells into government-held parts of the city, where 280 civilians have been killed over the past two weeks, according to the Observatory. The activist group said Thursday’s shelling killed one person.

In his letter to Vladimir Putin, which was carried on Syrian state media, Assad vowed that Aleppo and other Syrian cities and towns will defeat “the aggression” the way the Soviet Red Army defeated Nazi forces in Stalingrad.

“Aleppo today, as well as all Syrian cities embrace the heroic Stalingrad and pledge that despite the viciousness of the aggression … our cities, villages, people and army will not accept anything less than defeating the aggression,” Assad said.

It was unclear why Assad was making the comparison, but the rhetoric could be playing to Russian patriotic sentiment ahead of Victory Day next week – May 9 marks the capitulation of Nazi Germany to the Soviet Union at the end of World War II.

Also Thursday, renowned Russian conductor Valery Gergiev led the Mariinsky orchestra from St. Petersburg in a concert at the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, badly damaged by IS extremists who held the town for 10 months before Syrian troops captured it under the cover of Russian airstrikes in March.

The concert, dubbed “With a Prayer for Palmyra,” was to support the restoration of the UNESCO heritage site and in honor of the victims of Syria’s war. It was held in the town’s amphitheater and the audience included Russian servicemen as well as Russian sappers who have been doing demining in the town to remove bombs left by IS militants, who badly damaged the world famous archaeological site at Palmyra.

In opening remarks, Gergiev said that with the concert, “we protest against the barbarians who destroyed monuments of world culture.”

There was also a video linkup in which Putin addressed the audience, saying he regards the concert “as a sign of gratitude, remembrance and hope.”

ROCKETS ALSO STRIKE TURKEY

Elsewhere, a salvo of rockets struck southern Turkey from Syrian territory, wounding four people, Turkey’s state-run agency said. The Anadolu Agency said three rockets hit the Turkish town of Kilis early Thursday.

The rockets were fired from IS-controlled territory in Syria, according to the private Dogan News agency. It said one policeman was among the wounded. The agency carried photographs of damaged buildings and vehicles.

Such incidents have become a regular occurrence in the border town, which is home to a significant Syrian refugee population. Cross-border fire has left 20 people dead and dozens of others wounded this year.

The Turkish military typically fires back in line with its rules of engagement and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned IS on Wednesday that no attack on Turkey would go unanswered.

A Lebanese TV station embedded with the Syrian army says Syrian rebels are waging an offensive on a government-held village south of the city of Aleppo. Al Mayadeen TV, broadcasting live from near the fighting, says armed groups launched their assault for Khan Touman earlier in the afternoon on Thursday.

The TV says government jets are bombing rebel positions outside the village. Bomb blasts are seen in the station’s feed from the hilly countryside.

Issa reported from Beirut. Associated Press Writers Jim Heintz in Moscow, Bassem Mroue in Beirut and Dominique Soguel in Istanbul contributed to this report.

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Maine scallop season likely ended strong http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/maine-scallop-season-likely-ended-strong/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/maine-scallop-season-likely-ended-strong/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 17:48:18 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/maine-scallop-season-likely-ended-strong/ Maine’s rebuilt scallop fishery is enjoying high demand from the culinary world for its prized meaty mollusks, and the 2016 season that ended last month is likely to go down as another strong year.

All sea scallops have been growing in value over the past 15 years, and while Maine’s catch is a small fraction of the national total, they are a premium product for which restaurants and consumers pay top dollar.

The Maine scallop fishery dwindled to just about 666,000 pounds in 2009 before rebuilding to more than 3 million pounds in each of the last three years. State fishing managers credit new regulations, including a rotational management system that protects localized areas from being too heavily fished.

The 2016 Maine scallop season, which began in December and ended in April, apparently also was productive, said Trisha Cheney, a marine resource management coordinator with the state. She said the fishery benefits because it can often provide larger scallops than the national fishery, which is anchored in Massachusetts and New Jersey.

“That’s the type of product that high end restaurants are scrambling for,” Cheney said.

Fishermen caught about 200,000 pounds of scallops in December, about in line with the previous two years. December’s catch usually gives an indication of the strength of the season.

Maine scallops have also experienced a surge in price in recent years and sold for a record $12.70 per pound at the dock in 2015. The scallops were selling for about that much during the early part of the 2016 season.

Dana Black, a Blue Hill scallop fisherman who sells his catch from his home, said his prices have crept up from about $11 to $14 per pound over the past five years. He said the rise in value has made for a crowded fishery in recent years, but business has been good.

“I hope it stays that way,” he said.

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Federal parks director to hear from Mainers on North Woods national monument http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/national-park-service-director-to-hear-from-mainers-on-north-woods-national-monument/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/national-park-service-director-to-hear-from-mainers-on-north-woods-national-monument/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 16:52:48 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/national-park-service-director-to-hear-from-mainers-on-north-woods-national-monument/ The head of the National Park Service will be in Maine this month to hear feedback on a controversial proposal to create a national monument in the Katahdin region.

Park service Director Jonathan Jarvis plans to hold a public meeting at the University of Maine in Orono at 5 p.m. May 16 to “hear directly from Maine residents about the proposal,” according to an announcement from Sen. Angus King of Maine. Earlier that day, Jarvis plans to meet with selectmen from five local communities during an event in East Millinocket moderated by King. This meeting also is open to the public.

Jarvis visited the Katahdin region in 2014, and his trip this month is another signal that President Obama is seriously considering an offer from entrepreneur and conservationist Roxanne Quimby to donate about 87,500 acres east of Baxter State Park to the federal government. Quimby and her nonprofit, Elliotsville Plantation, originally sought the creation of a North Woods national park, but more recently have begun advocating for a national monument because the president can make such a designation without congressional approval.

“We think it is very important for supporters of a national monument to come out to let Director Jarvis and the Obama administration know that there is support for this in the state,” said David Farmer, spokesman for Elliotsville Plantation. “Our hope is that input will help the president make a decision on designating a national monument.”

Opponents are planning to make sure Jarvis hears their voices as well.

“We are trying to rebuild our communities, and the restrictions that would be placed on the land … would hamper our abilities to do that,” said Michael Madore, a Millinocket selectman. “When you look at this, no government body with the exception of a school board in a neighboring community has endorsed this. The towns of Millinocket, East Millinocket and Medway have all said ‘No.’ The Legislature has said ‘no’ and the governor has said ‘no.’ ”

INTERPRETING MEANING OF JARVIS VISIT

Obama has designated more than 20 national monuments during his tenure as he exercises his presidential prerogative to unilaterally protect “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest” on federally owned land. Creating a national park, by comparison, requires an act of Congress. And to date, only one member of Maine’s four-person congressional delegation, Rep. Chellie Pingree of the 1st Congressional District, has come out in support of Quimby’s proposal.

Supporters hope that national monument status will be a steppingstone to eventual creation of a North Woods national park. That is the same path followed by some of the nation’s best-known national parks, including Grand Canyon, Grand Teton and Acadia, which began life as Sieur de Monts National Monument.

Jarvis’ visit to Maine will likely be viewed by some as a sign that the president may be gearing up to accept Quimby’s offer of the donated land, although that is not a guarantee.

The administration typically holds public meetings in communities to hear local feedback before announcing a national monument designation. However, the White House Council on Environmental Quality advised commercial fishermen in March that the administration was no longer considering Cashes Ledge in the Gulf of Maine for a marine national monument, despite the administration holding public meetings on the proposal.

Quimby’s proposal has deeply divided the local community.

Supporters view a national monument as a rare opportunity for economic development in a region that has witnessed the permanent closure of the paper mills that were the backbone of the local economy.

“A new national monument would create hundreds of jobs in northern Maine and help to revitalize an amazing part of our state,” Lucas St. Clair, president of Elliotsville Plantation and Quimby’s son, said in a written statement. “We’re committed to creating a $40 million endowment that means a new monument can have an almost immediate, positive impact on the economy in the region.”

‘SIGNIFICANT CONCERNS’ WITHIN DELEGATION

Opponents have pushed back against the prospect of federal ownership, warning that a monument or park could lead to restrictions on activities such as snowmobiling and cause additional harm to the region’s already struggling forest products industry.

In April, Maine lawmakers passed a largely symbolic bill stating that the Legislature does not give consent to the federal government to acquire land in the state for a national monument, even though the president does not need the state’s consent. Gov. Paul LePage is an outspoken critic of the proposal, and last month the Maine Republican Party included a line stating that “federalization of the Maine Woods will not be tolerated” in the party’s official platform.

Last November, three members of Maine’s congressional delegation – King, Republican Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a 2nd District Republican – sent a letter to Obama expressing “serious reservations and significant concerns” about a potential national monument designation.

Jarvis responded on Obama’s behalf several months later in a letter that delegation members said did not adequately address their concerns. Instead, Jarvis wrote at length about the area’s natural beauty, its recreational potential, its rich history, its timber harvesting business and its economic growth potential if the land were designated a national monument. But Jarvis also said the administration would weigh “important factors” such as the region’s economic needs and traditional uses when making a decision.

King sent a letter to Jarvis in March requesting that the park service director visit the Katahdin region.

“I strongly believe that the voices of those who call the Katahdin region home and who create and sustain jobs there are a fundamental part of this ongoing discussion,” King wrote. “For this reason, I would encourage you to visit the region, as you have done in the past, to hear directly from the residents and to more specifically address their concerns, questions and ideas. As I am sure you would agree, their viewpoints are critical to this ongoing discussion.”

Jarvis is scheduled to meet with local elected officials at noon May 16 at the Katahdin Region Higher Education Center in East Millinocket. The larger public forum, during which members of the public will have a chance to share their views, will be held at the Hauck Auditorium on the UMaine campus in Orono beginning at 5 p.m.

 

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Bernie Sanders supporters march in downtown Portland http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/sanders-supporters-to-march-in-portland-on-thursday-evening/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/sanders-supporters-to-march-in-portland-on-thursday-evening/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 16:45:38 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/sanders-supporters-to-march-in-portland-on-thursday-evening/ Supporters of presidential contender Bernie Sanders held a march and rally in downtown Portland on Thursday evening, one day before Maine Democrats gather in the city for the party’s state convention.

The “We Love Bernie March” started at Congress Square and went down Congress Street to Monument Square for a rally with speeches and music.

Sanders handily won Maine’s Democratic caucuses on March 6 amid record turnout. But the Vermont senator is well behind Hillary Clinton in the nationwide number of pledged delegates and superdelegates. It is mathematically impossible for Sanders to win the Democratic nomination on pledged delegates alone.

But the Sanders campaign is, instead, focusing on winning more of the superdelegates – who are not bound by the outcomes of primaries or caucuses – away from Clinton.

Maine Democrats will gather Friday and Saturday at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland to elect 25 delegates and two alternates to attend the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Five superdelegates from Maine will also go to Philadelphia.

 

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Three men indicted in bizarre robbery, kidnapping in Waterboro http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/three-men-indicted-in-bizarre-robbery-kidnapping-in-waterboro/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/three-men-indicted-in-bizarre-robbery-kidnapping-in-waterboro/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 16:42:32 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/three-men-indicted-in-bizarre-robbery-kidnapping-in-waterboro/ Three out-of-state men accused of kidnapping a Waterboro man after threatening him and two other people with a blowtorch were indicted this week on a slew of charges in connection with the January incident.

The trio – Angel Alicea, 25, of Lawrenceville, Georgia, and Samuel Hilton, 24, and Anyheuris Mota-Speing, 24, both of Lawrence, Massachusetts – allegedly drove to a home on Northeast Road in Waterboro to steal marijuana. They were arrested after a victim they allegedly kidnapped escaped from their car in Newfield and yelled for help.

Alicea, Hilton and Mota-Speing were under the apparent misconception that there was a large amount of marijuana in the house, York County Sheriff Bill King said in January. The men became angry when they were told there was no marijuana and ordered the three victims to lie on the floor, where they were bound with duct tape while the intruders searched the house, King said.

When one victim resisted, an intruder struck him in the head with a gun, according to police. One victim was dragged down a flight of stairs and all were told they would be burned with a blowtorch if they did not reveal where the marijuana was hidden, police said.

“One of the victims concocted a story that the marijuana was in the possession of an ‘associate’ and pointed to a random vehicle that was passing the house,” King said in January. “The quick-thinking victim told the men the stash of marijuana was in the vehicle that was traveling down the road.”

Alicea, Hilton and Mota-Speing rushed to their car – forcing one victim to come with them – and tried to chase down the passing car, King said. The random car drove to Newfield before the suspects’ car caught up to it. When the cars slowed, the victim jumped out and yelled for help, King said.

Alicea and Mota-Speing were indicted this week by a York County grand jury on 13 charges: three counts of robbery with physical force (Class A), three counts of kidnapping (Class A), three counts of criminal threatening with a weapon (Class C), three counts of terrorizing with a weapon (Class C) and one count of conspiracy (Class B).

Hilton was indicted on nine charges: three counts of robbery with physical force (Class A), three counts of kidnapping (Class A), one count of criminal threatening with a weapon (Class C), one count of terrorizing with a weapon (Class C) and one count of conspiracy (Class B).

They face up to 30 years in prison for the Class A charges, up to 10 years in prison for the Class B charges and up to five years in prison for the Class C charges.

 

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Shelter broke rules, dashed woman’s hopes by letting LePage adopt dog before public could http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/lepages-adoption-of-veto-the-dog-violated-shelter-rules/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/lepages-adoption-of-veto-the-dog-violated-shelter-rules/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 16:00:29 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/lepages-adoption-of-veto-the-dog-violated-shelter-rules/ LEWISTON — A woman who had her heart set on taking home the same stray dog that Republican Gov. Paul LePage adopted is angry that the animal shelter broke its own rules by making the canine available to him a day before it was available to the public.

Donna Kincer, development director of the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society, acknowledged that the Jack Russell terrier mix was supposed to be made available a day later and on a first-come, first-served basis.

“The governor walks in your front door and it sort of shifts things a little,” Kincer told the Sun Journal.

Kincer said the shelter hoped for good publicity from the governor’s adoption Tuesday of the rescue dog from Louisiana.

LePage, Maine’s all-time veto champion, named the dog Veto and took it home to the Blaine House.

But what was a happy moment for the governor was heartbreaking for Heath Arsenault, who burst into tears when she saw that the governor had adopted the dog she’d had her eye on. She said she has been going through an emotionally difficult time and hoped the adoption would boost her spirits.

Arsenault, of Mexico, Maine, said she had already talked to staff about the adoption, and she had taken Wednesday off from work to be first in line. “I felt like they lied to me,” she said.

Meanwhile, the governor’s family had been looking for a new dog after the death of LePage’s previous pet, a Jack Russell named Baxter.

The governor’s family alerted him to the dog when they spotted it on the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society website, and the governor visited the shelter Tuesday after a lunch meeting in Poland, said LePage spokesman Peter Steele.

“He just stopped in to see the dog,” Steele said. “He was very pleasantly surprised when (the shelter) allowed him to take the dog home.”

Regardless of whether the governor knew about the policy, Arsenault believes the shelter was wrong to give him the dog he wanted while other people have to wait and stand in line.

“No one should be given special privileges, even if they are the governor,” she said.

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Waterville man denies sexual assault of 73-year-old woman http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/waterville-man-denies-sexual-assault-of-73-year-old-woman/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/waterville-man-denies-sexual-assault-of-73-year-old-woman/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 15:43:28 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/waterville-man-denies-sexual-assault-of-73-year-old-woman/ AUGUSTA — A Waterville man accused of breaking into the home of a 73-year-old neighbor and raping her at gunpoint pleaded not guilty Thursday to six charges in Kennebec County Superior Court.

Mark Halle, 32, is charged with two counts of gross sexual assault, burglary, aggravated assault, criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon and terrorizing with a dangerous weapon.

During the arraignment at the Capital Judicial Center, Halle told a judge that he understood his rights and the charges against him. He then entered not guilty pleas to the six charges.

The woman he is charged with attacking was in the courtroom Wednesday and declined to comment after the hearing.

At a hearing in February, the woman said she was pleased that Halle’s bail had been set at $500,000 and that she was grateful for the support of family, friends and the community. Halle’s bail conditions were not changed Thursday.

He was arrested in February after the woman reported to police that she had been attacked inside her West River Road home in Waterville.

Halle allegedly broke into the home at around 5 a.m. in the morning, waking her up. When she went to investigate the noise, she said he confronted her with what she believed was a handgun, forced her into the bedroom and put a pillow case over her head and assaulted her. Police said he also beat her with the gun. Police later found a pellet gun near the house, which they believe was used in the attack.

Halle is being represented by attorney Pamela Ames and is next scheduled to appear in court June 1.

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Mariner rescued after 2-month ordeal in Pacific in which 3 companions died http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/mariner-rescued-after-2-month-ordeal-in-pacific-in-which-3-companions-died/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/mariner-rescued-after-2-month-ordeal-in-pacific-in-which-3-companions-died/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 15:21:55 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/mariner-rescued-after-2-month-ordeal-in-pacific-in-which-3-companions-died/ HONOLULU — A Colombian mariner has been rescued after surviving a two-month ordeal in the Pacific by eating fish and seagulls to survive, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

The man told the Coast Guard that his three companions on the disabled 23-foot skiff died at sea, but their bodies were not aboard the vessel that was adrift in a lightly traveled expanse of the ocean. He did, however, have the men’s passports.

The four sailors had left Colombia more than two months ago, the Coast Guard said. At some point, their skiff’s engine failed and they were left adrift.

The 29-year-old survivor, who was not identified, was spotted and rescued by the Panamanian-flagged Nikkei Verde, a merchant ship, more than 2,000 miles southeast of Hawaii.

He was transferred to a Coast Guard boat and arrived in Honolulu in good condition on Wednesday.

Coast Guard video showed the survivor dressed in a black T-shirt, jeans, a baseball cap and a life vest as he gingerly climbed down a ladder from the Nikkei Verde onto the Coast Guard’s vessel. In the video, the survivor spoke through a Coast Guard interpreter and thanked his rescuers and God. He said he would have loved it if his friends from the skiff could have been there with him.

“This mariner had great fortitude and is very fortunate the crew of the Nikkei Verde happened upon him as the area he was in is not heavily trafficked,” said Coast Guard Lt. Commander John MacKinnon.

The Coast Guard said it is not investigating.

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Jackknifed truck removed from I-95 in Waterville after tying up traffic for hours http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/tractor-trailer-jackknifes-on-i-95-in-waterville-oakland/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/tractor-trailer-jackknifes-on-i-95-in-waterville-oakland/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 15:12:03 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=866709 WATERVILLE — The driver of a tractor-trailer was apparently distracted when his truck careened across the highway, crashed into guardrails then jackknifed on Interstate 95 on Thursday morning on the Kennedy Memorial Drive overpass.

The 10:19 a.m. accident backed traffic up in the northbound lanes of the highway into the afternoon as vehicles were detoured onto Kennedy Memorial Drive in Waterville and Oakland. The wreck was reported removed and the interstate reopened at about 3:40 p.m.

At 2:15 p.m., as crews began to remove the tractor-trailer, northbound traffic on the highway was still backed up,” Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said in a news release at that time. Reports were that traffic was backed up as far as Sidney, six or seven miles south of the crash.

The driver, Paul Cusano, 54, of Epping, New Hampshire, was taken to a hospital with minor injuries.

McCausland’s release said Cusano was apparently distracted, but did not give details.

Cusano was driving north in the 2010 Volvo truck, which was hauling a shipping container loaded with golf tees, when it apparently struck the guardrails on the east side of I-95 just before the overpass, then crossed over and hit the west side and crashed on the east side north of the overpass, according to Maine State Police Trooper Chris Carr, at the scene.

“He hit the guardrails and jackknifed and came to rest up on the guardrails,” Carr said.

The truck, whose cab door bore the name PLK Trucking, Epping, New Hampshire, was destroyed, according to Carr.

Cusano, who was walking around at the scene, was taken by Delta Ambulance to a hospital, but it was not immediately known which one.

Waterville firefighters, state Department of Transportation workers and state police worked at the scene, where the truck and container were twisted and stretched across the northbound travel and breakdown lanes, with the truck cab facing south and the container facing north. Debris from the crash was strewn over the highway.

Firefighters put sawdust on the road near the truck’s cab to soak up fluids, including spilled diesel, according to McCausland, who said that the state Department of Environmental Protection cleaned up the fuel.

The truck was heading to Pride Manufacturing in Burnham, which makes wooden golf tees.

Vehicles leaving I-95 via exit 127 either turned onto Kennedy Memorial Drive to head east to Waterville or west to Oakland, or they crossed over Kennedy Memorial Drive to re-enter I-95 north.

Waterville police reported no difficulties with traffic in the city as a result of traffic being rerouted off I-95.

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In talks to keep Pirates, trustees didn’t know arena’s income from games http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/arena-trustees-told-of-possible-pirates-departure-earlier-this-spring/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/arena-trustees-told-of-possible-pirates-departure-earlier-this-spring/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 15:09:16 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/arena-trustees-told-of-possible-pirates-departure-earlier-this-spring/ The trustees of Cross Insurance Arena didn’t know how much the arena was making from Portland Pirates’ hockey games when they sat down to discuss lease changes with the team last month.

Those talks ultimately failed when the team confirmed Wednesday that the Pirates are being sold and will be moving to Springfield, Massachusetts, for next year’s American Hockey League season. The departure results in the loss of the county-owned arena’s prime tenant. The Pirates played 38 regular-season games a year at the Portland arena, and business leaders say their presence was a key part of the city’s winter economy, filling bars and restaurants before and after games.

Mitchell Berkowitz, chairman of the arena board, said the trustees didn’t need to know how much revenue the Pirates produced for the arena because “there were other techniques we could use” in the discussions. He said Thursday he still doesn’t know how much revenue the hockey games brought in, and otherwise declined to be specific about the trustees’ negotiating approach.

Knowing how much the county made from the Pirates lease “isn’t the only direction I would use” in trying to fashion a deal with the team to prevent it from leaving the state, he said.

Berkowitz also said he didn’t notify the city that the Pirates might leave because it was “speculative” that Portland officials could have done anything to convince the team to abandon the sale and remain in town. He invited the five county commissioners to a meeting to discuss the lease last week, Berkowitz said, and two attended.

On Wednesday, Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling denounced the trustees’ failure to notify the city, saying he and other city officials were caught off-guard by the team’s departure. He also called for changes in the arena’s governing structure of nine trustees appointed by the Cumberland County commissioners and said the $100,000 limit on damages for breaking the lease was too low.

“The governing structure over there I think has to be looked at so it’s a little more accountable to taxpayers, especially the biggest taxpayer in the pool,” Strimling said. “Portland taxpayers are putting money into that place and I’m pretty frustrated we had no warning, no voice at the table, no nothing in terms of the conversation.”

DETERIORATING TEAM FINANCES

Without knowing how much revenue the team brings in, it’s difficult to assess whether Strimling’s criticism of the $100,000 fee is warranted.

Repeated calls Thursday seeking information on hockey revenues from Matt Hepich, general manager of the arena for the management firm Spectra, were not returned. The arena’s monthly financial reports reviewed by the Press Herald contain references to the amount of revenue above or below budget that comes in from hockey games, but not the actual or budgeted receipts. The lease calls for the team to pay the arena $1,000 per game, plus arena expenses, but there are complex revenue-sharing deals for concessions and ticket sales.

Berkowitz said the team approached the trustees “in the last two or three weeks” to say the Pirates’ finances “weren’t sustainable” under the current lease structure, which was hammered out in early 2014 after long and occasionally acrimonious negotiations that included a lawsuit filed by the team against the county. The arena was, at the time, closed for a $34 million upgrade and the team flirted with moving to Glens Falls, New York. But businessman Ron Cain, who bought a majority stake in the team in late 2013, decided to keep the Pirates in Portland.

During the recent discussions, the team told the trustees that the Pirates could be sold and moved out of Portland if there weren’t changes to address the team’s losses. Brad Church, the team’s chief operations officer, declined to provide details on the Pirates’ finances, but said expenses were increasing faster than revenues.

Church said Thursday that county officials offered “concessions” on the lease terms, but neither he nor Berkowitz would say what changes were being considered. The trustees met twice to discuss changing the lease – once last week and again Monday, but both discussions were held in executive session.

Berkowitz said he wouldn’t provide details on the lease changes the trustees considered because the team has not formally notified the county of the sale and relocation. Church told trustees Thursday that a letter of intent for the sale and move had been signed, but said he hasn’t actually seen the letter and doesn’t know who is buying the team or the location of the Pirates’ new home,

However, Church said he is going to league meetings in Chicago next week to seek approval of the sale and relocation.

Berkowitz said trustees felt pressured to come up with a proposal for the Pirates because they knew that AHL teams had to submit schedules to the league by May 10, next Tuesday.

ARENA REVENUE FALLING SHORT

Without knowing the hockey revenues, it’s impossible to say what impact the loss of the prime tenant will have on the arena’s overall financial situation.

The arena posted an operating loss of $600,000, excluding an annual bond payment of more than $1 million related to the recent $34 million renovation, for the year ending June 30, 2015.

The county is currently picking up nearly $3 million in costs that were expected to be covered by increased revenue from events at the arena, said County Manager Peter Crichton.

When the arena was renovated, the hope was that more bookings and business would generate enough money to cover the cost of repaying the 25-year bonds sold to finance the work. Those annual payments are $1.9 million now and will rise to $2.1 million in the next few years. Additionally, Crichton said the arena lost $530,000 during the last calendar year, and had $450,000 in capital needs. All of those costs have been passed on to county taxpayers.

In one bit of good news, Royce Cross, CEO of Cross Insurance, said his company doesn’t plan to reconsider its naming rights agreement with the arena despite the departure of the venue’s key tenant.

Berkowitz said the arena has attracted some concerts and other performances to supplement the income from hockey, but that industry is in poor financial shape these days. He said Spectra, which was hired a year ago to manage the facility, has failed to meet performance benchmarks that would make it eligible for bonus payments, but he has faith in the company’s ability to run the arena and make it successful.

Berkowitz also said that the goal of the renovation was never to make it a better place just for the Pirates. Before the renovations, the arena was unable to accommodate many traveling acts because of deficiencies in areas such as the loading dock and backstage facilities.

Reconnecting with tour operators to promote Portland as a venue takes time, Berkowitz said, likening the situation to putting a new teacher in a classroom of struggling students.

“Would you expect that the students after one year would move to an ‘A’?” he said. “It takes time to rebuild.”

 

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Maine supreme court hears restitution appeal in North Pond hermit case http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/maine-supreme-court-hears-restitution-appeal-in-north-pond-hermit-case/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/maine-supreme-court-hears-restitution-appeal-in-north-pond-hermit-case/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 14:57:58 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/maine-supreme-court-hears-restitution-appeal-in-north-pond-hermit-case/ EAST MACHIAS — Christopher T. Knight, the man known as the North Pond hermit, has been keeping up with restitution payments for the things he stole from camps and cottages while living alone in a wooded campsite in Rome for almost three decades, the state says.

But his attorney argued Thursday before six Maine Supreme Judicial Court justices that Knight should not have to also pay for repairing a dirt camp road that Maine State Police damaged in the process of taking down his campsite in 2013.

Kennebec County Deputy District Attorney Paul Cavanaugh argued that Knight should pay $1,125 for the gravel and regrading.

Oral arguments in the appeal were held at Washington Academy, where about 425 students and their teachers watched the proceedings. Knight, who remains on probation, did not attend the hearing.

Knight grew up in Albion, but left civilized society after high school to spend some 27 years alone in the woods in campsites he outfitted with items stolen from cottages and camps in Rome and Smithfield.

Authorities caught Knight breaking into the Pine Tree Camp three years ago, and the case drew worldwide media attention.

In 2015, after completing a specialty court program for individuals with mental health and substance abuse problems, Knight was sentenced on burglary and theft charges and ordered to serve seven months in jail – time he had already served – and the remainder of the five-year sentence was suspended. He is now serving three years of probation, which ends March 22, 2018, according to the state Department of Corrections.

On Thursday, Cavanaugh said Knight was meeting conditions of probation, including paying $25 a month toward restitution.

Knight’s attorney, Walter McKee, said Knight does not have the money to pay for the road repairs, and that he should not have to because the road repair was “so far attenuated or removed from the crime for which he was convicted” and could lead to numerous other costs assessed to people, such as a bridge built to an island so firefighters could fight a fire.

“There are no individual victims here,” McKee said. “The victims are the state police.”

Associate Justice Andrew Mead asked whether the state was trying to make the defendant underwrite the cost of the investigation.

Associate Justice Jeffrey Hjelm asked whether there had been prior attempts to resolve the dispute over the road repair money.

“The amount of money at issue here is a little over $1,000,” he said. “The amount of money expended on this appeal far exceeds that.”

McKee said attorneys had tried to find a resolution but failed.

“Chris could not agree to this issue,” McKee said. “He is very principled. He said, ‘I am willing to pay for what I took from people; that is perfectly appropriate. I am willing to do my time, so to speak. But I’m not willing to pay money for what the state police expended for fixing a road as part of their work.’ ”

Hjelm also noted that the woman who owned the property where Knight had his camp was not named as a victim of any of the crimes.

“For there to be consideration of restitution, the person who is entitled to the money has to be the named victim of the charges,” Hjelm said.

McKee said Knight paid restitution to the state “for the actual victims here.” McKee said the statute under which the restitution is being sought was aimed at costs of cleaning items such as methamphetamine laboratories.

Associate Justice Ellen Gorman asked, “Why should the restitution statute be read to say in addition to what the public already does to pay for the investigations and to pay for what they do to investigate and prosecute crimes, we should also require other persons to pay for that work?”

Cavanaugh said criminals should bear the financial burden.

“Between the innocent taxpayer supporting the state police or the criminal that caused that, it should be more about a criminal,” Cavanaugh said.

Chief Justice Leigh Saufley asked Cavanaugh whether the court should side with the defendant when the law is not crystal clear.

Cavanaugh said, “Despite Mr. McKee’s arguments, it is crystal clear that it is covered.”

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court issues its decisions later in writing.

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Republican states benefiting from shift to wind and solar energy http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/investment-in-wind-and-solar-projects-outpaces-fossil-fueled-power-plants-for-second-straight-yearthe-u-s-department-of-energy-says-wind-turbines-and-solar-panels-accounted-for-more-than-two-thirds/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/investment-in-wind-and-solar-projects-outpaces-fossil-fueled-power-plants-for-second-straight-yearthe-u-s-department-of-energy-says-wind-turbines-and-solar-panels-accounted-for-more-than-two-thirds/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 14:28:15 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/investment-in-wind-and-solar-projects-outpaces-fossil-fueled-power-plants-for-second-straight-yearthe-u-s-department-of-energy-says-wind-turbines-and-solar-panels-accounted-for-more-than-two-thirds/ WASHINGTON – If there’s a War on Coal, it’s increasingly clear which side is winning.

Wind turbines and solar panels accounted for more than two-thirds of all new electric generation capacity added to the nation’s grid in 2015, according to a recent analysis by the U.S. Department of Energy. The remaining third was largely new power plants fueled by natural gas, which has become cheap and plentiful as a result of hydraulic fracturing.

It was the second straight year U.S. investment in renewable energy projects has outpaced that of fossil fuels. Robust growth is once again predicted for this year.

And while Republican lawmakers in Washington have fought to protect coal-fired power plants, opposing President Barack Obama’s efforts to curtail climate-warming carbon emissions, data show their home states are often the ones benefiting most from the nation’s accelerating shift to renewable energy.

Leading the way in new wind projects are Republican strongholds Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, home to some of the leading critics of climate science and renewable energy incentives in Congress. Republican-dominated North Carolina trails only California in new solar farms, thanks largely to pro-renewables polices enacted years ago under a Democratic legislature.

The most dramatic change has been seen in the plummeting cost of emissions-free wind energy, which has declined by two-thirds in the last six years thanks to the availability of cheaper, more efficient turbines. An annual analysis by the Wall Street investment firm Lazard determined that wind energy is now the lowest-cost energy source, even before federal green-energy tax incentives are factored in.

“Wind energy is very low-cost and not subject to the fuel price risk that both natural gas and coal face,” said Michael Goggin, senior director of research at the American Wind Energy Association, an industry trade group. “Adding wind is cheaper than new gas or new coal. It is by far the lowest-cost resource.”

Billions of dollars in private equity are going to construct massive new renewables projects, especially in the Sun Belt and Great Plains. Thousands of miles of new high-voltage transmission lines are also under construction to send power from the wind and sun from the sparsely populated areas where it is collected to the urban centers where it’s needed.

Even with the surge in new projects, energy from such renewable sources as wind, solar and water accounted for only about a tenth of total U.S. power generation last year.

Still, the U.S. leads the world in wind energy with about 48,800 utility-scale turbines operating across the country, generating enough electricity to power about 20 million homes. By 2030, the Energy Department estimates wind will provide a fifth of the nation’s electricity.

Meanwhile, coal has dropped over the last decade from providing half of all U.S. electricity to about one-third.

Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal company, last month joined a growing list of major mining firms forced to seek bankruptcy protection. Big banks appear to also be writing coal’s financial obituary. JPMorgan Chase recently announced it will no longer finance new coal mines or coal-fired power plants, following similar announcements from Bank of America, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo.

“We didn’t see the decline coming this fast and this deep,” said Luke Popovich, spokesman for the National Mining Association, an industry trade group. “I don’t think we anticipated the determination of this administration to drive coal out of the market.”

While new clean-air regulations and tax incentives for renewables are having a negative impact on coal, the plummeting cost of cleaner-burning natural gas made possible by fracking is largely driving the closure of many old coal-fired power plants. Exports of coal to foreign customers such as China also are down.

Closures mean America’s coal mines now employ about only about 56,700 people, down from a peak of more than 10 times that. By contrast, the fast-growing solar industry now employs more than 210,000 workers. Wind energy accounts for another 77,000 by federal estimates.

Political giving by the big coal companies and their executives has declined, but the industry still spends heavily to protect its interests in Washington. Pro-coal interests spent at least $11 million to influence the 2014 Congressional midterm elections, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. More than 95 percent of that went to support Republican candidates.

Among them is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who rarely misses an opportunity to blame Obama’s “War on Coal” for killing mining jobs. Nearly all of the 27 states that have sued to stop the administration’s carbon emissions-cutting Clean Power Plan have Republican governors. All but one of the 34 senators and 171 House members who have signed on to support the court challenge are Republicans. Sen. Joe Manchin of coal-dependent West Virginia is the lone Democrat.

For Republicans from areas benefiting from renewable energy, the political calculus is more complicated. An increasing number of them try to balance criticizing Obama’s environmental efforts with quietly supporting the federal tax incentives helping drive investment in renewables.

Republican leaders compromised with Democrats and a growing number of pro-renewables Republicans to include a five-year extension of tax breaks for wind and solar projects as part of a federal budget agreement approved in December.

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, among the earliest boosters of government support for wind power, points out that fossil fuels and nuclear plants have long benefited from tax credits. Last month, MidAmerican Energy announced plans to invest another $3.6 billion to add new turbines in Iowa, which already gets about a third of its electricity from the wind.

“We’ve seen the economic success story behind renewables up close and personal,” Grassley said as the new project was announced. “There are more than 6,000 good wind jobs in Iowa.”

 

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Four men indicted on numerous charges in Lyman home invasion http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/four-men-indicted-on-numerous-charges-for-lyman-home-invasion/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/four-men-indicted-on-numerous-charges-for-lyman-home-invasion/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 14:07:15 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/four-men-indicted-on-numerous-charges-for-lyman-home-invasion/ Four men accused of breaking into a Lyman home and holding a family of five at gunpoint in January have been indicted on multiple charges by a York County grand jury.

The men – who are all from New Hampshire or Massachusetts – are accused of holding the family at gunpoint and sexually assaulting one family member before stealing guns, money, medical marijuana and electronic equipment, according to Maine State Police.

Xavier Watson, 23, of Brentwood, New Hampshire; Andre Thomas, 20, of Lawrence, Massachusetts; Vincent Casazza, 19, of Newmarket, New Hampshire; and Reynan Mora, 23 of Lowell, Massachusetts, were all arrested within a week of the alleged home invasion.

L to R: Reynan Mora, Andre Thomas, Vincent Casazza, Xavier Watson

L to R: Reynan Mora, Andre Thomas, Vincent Casazza, Xavier Watson

A York County Grand Jury this week indicted all four men on five counts of robbery with a weapon (Class A), five counts of criminal threatening with a weapon (Class C), one count of burglary with a firearm (Class A) and one count of theft with a firearm (Class B). Watson also was indicted on a charge of unlawful sexual contact (Class B).

They face up to 30 years in prison for the Class A charges, up to 10 years in prison for the Class B charges and up to five years in prison for the Class C charges.

State Trooper Jonathan Heimbach, who headed the investigation, said in January that the four men entered the home in Lyman and held the occupants at gunpoint as they ransacked the house. Two shotguns, several hundred dollars in cash, medical marijuana, four cellphones and two laptop computers were taken, he said.

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FDA will regulate e-cigarettes, ban sales to people under age 18 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/fda-will-regulate-e-cigarettes-under-new-rules/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/fda-will-regulate-e-cigarettes-under-new-rules/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 13:41:35 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/fda-will-regulate-e-cigarettes-under-new-rules/ WASHINGTON — Hundreds of electronic cigarette brands will have to undergo federal review to stay on the market under new rules that have the potential to upend a multi-billion-dollar industry attempting to position itself as an alternative to traditional cigarettes.

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday released long-awaited rules that bring the burgeoning industry under federal oversight.

The changes will ban e-cigarette sales to minors and require new health warnings. In a shift vigorously opposed by the industry, manufacturers must seek federal permission to continue marketing all e-cigarettes launched since 2007, making up the vast majority of the market.

Most companies will have to submit pre-market applications that will undergo review to assess their impact on the “public health.” Those that don’t submit the required information or don’t meet federal standards would have their products removed from the market.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that turn nicotine into an inhalable liquid vapor. Though nicotine can be addictive, e-cigarettes lack the chemicals and tars of burning tobacco.

Yet the devices haven’t been extensively studied and there’s no scientific consensus on any potential benefits or harms from “vaping,” including whether it leads young people to become regular smokers.

The FDA action comes five years after the agency first announced its intent to regulate e-cigarettes and more than two years after it floated its initial proposal.

Public health advocates applauded the news.

“Ending the tobacco epidemic is more urgent than ever, and can only happen if the FDA acts aggressively and broadly to protect all Americans from all tobacco products,” said Harold Wimmer, president of the American Lung Association.

The new requirements are likely to set up a legal showdown with manufacturers, many of whom have warned that the costs of complying with FDA regulation could wipe out their industry.

The agency has stumbled before in its efforts to regulate the devices. In 2010, a federal appeals court threw out the agency’s plan to treat e-cigarettes as drug-delivery devices, rather than tobacco products. The ruling was seen as a win for manufacturers who opposed the stringent and expensive requirements of conducting pharmaceutical-style studies.

House Republicans are pushing industry-backed legislation that would prohibit the FDA from requiring retroactive safety reviews of e-cigarettes that are already on the market and exempt some premium and large cigars from those same regulations. E-cigarette products introduced in the future would still undergo the safety reviews.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have long enjoyed a close relationship with the tobacco industry, which has already given more than $1.8 million to members of Congress this election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The FDA first gained authority to regulate some aspects of cigarettes and other traditional tobacco products under a 2009 law. But since e-cigarettes do not actually contain tobacco, they were not covered by the original law.

In April 2014, the FDA first proposed bringing e-cigarettes and other nontraditional tobacco products under its authority, including cigars, hookahs, nicotine gels and pipe tobacco. The agency was expected to finalize that proposal last June, but the deadline slipped for months because of industry resistance.

Some smokers like e-cigarettes because the nicotine-infused vapor looks like smoke but doesn’t contain the thousands of chemicals, tar or odor of regular cigarettes. Some smokers use e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking tobacco, or to cut down. However, there’s not much scientific evidence showing e-cigarettes help smokers quit or smoke less, and it’s unclear how safe they are.

E-cigarettes sales grew to an estimated $3.5 billion in 2015, according to Wells Fargo. After ballooning for several years, sales have recently begun to slow because of negative publicity and questions about safety. Retail sales are dominated by a handful of traditional tobacco companies, including Reynold’s American’s Vuse and Imperial Tobacco’s blu brands. Those products are sold nationwide at convenience stores and gas stations.

Hundreds of smaller companies sell more specialized products — often with refillable “tanks” and customized flavors — at vape shops and over the Internet. That market alone may be worth $2 billion in sales, according to estimates, though precise figures are not available.

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Applications for unemployment aid rise, but numbers still low http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/applications-for-unemployment-aid-rise-but-numbers-still-low/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/applications-for-unemployment-aid-rise-but-numbers-still-low/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 13:18:06 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/applications-for-unemployment-aid-rise-but-numbers-still-low/ WASHINGTON — More Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, but the totals stayed near historic lows in a sign that the recent slowdown in economic growth has yet to spark layoffs.

Weekly applications for jobless aid rose 17,000 to a seasonally adjusted 274,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, edged up to 258,000, close to the 42-year low achieved two weeks ago. Over the past 12 months, the number of people collecting benefits has dropped 5.4 percent to 2.12 million.

Jobless claims are a proxy for layoffs. With relatively few people seeking unemployment benefits, it appears as though employers are unworried about recent sluggish growth. The economy expanded at an annual rate of just 0.5 percent in the first quarter, the weakest pace in two years. That modest growth followed a weak gain of only 1.4 percent in the closing three months of 2015.

But employers have shrugged off the slowdown. Applications for unemployment benefits have stayed below 300,000 for 61 consecutive weeks, the longest streak since 1973.

The report on unemployment benefits indicates that hiring should continue to be healthy in the jobs report being released Friday by the government. Economists forecast that employers added 200,000 jobs in April, while the unemployment rate remained 5 percent. Those gains would follow the addition of 215,000 jobs in March.

Still, there is evidence that hiring may be curtailed somewhat because of a slowing economy. Payroll processor ADP said Wednesday that businesses added 156,000 jobs in April, down from 194,000 in March. Manufacturers shed 11,000 jobs, after losing 3,000 the previous month. Services firms added 166,000, down from 189,000.

Since the Great Recession ended seven years ago, growth has usually been weak in the first quarter, only to pick up in the April-June quarter. Many economists expect a simi

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Why is it still so cool in May? http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/still-cool-may-long-will-last/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/still-cool-may-long-will-last/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 12:31:59 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=866532 Wednesday was another very chilly and raw day. It certainly wasn’t what we’d all like in early May. On average, most of southern Maine would have seen at least one 80 degree day by now, but averages are made up of extremes, and I don’t see any 80-degree weather this year for quite a while. We’ve had 80-degree weather in March and we’ve had to wait until June to have it for the first time. This year, we will clearly be on the later side of average, at this point it’s waiting to see just how late.

Damp and chilly pattern

You are likely wondering how long this pattern is going to last and, perhaps, why it’s occurring. Weather is about balances and month after month after month, since last June, temperatures have been averaging above normal. At some point, this trend had to flip, and we are now seeing below average temperatures and a change in the pattern.

While May could end up cooler than average, it’s unlikely the next five, six, or seven months will also end up cooler than the 30-year normal.

It’s all about the atmosphere’s thickness

Without getting into Meteorology 101 too much, let me briefly explain one piece of the atmospheric puzzle: The atmosphere is not always the same thickness. In other words, if you had a very tall ladder and could climb to the top of the atmosphere around the planet, the height of the ladder you would need in each place around the globe would be different. In general, where it is colder you could get to the top of the atmosphere with a shorter ladder and where it was warmer you’d require a taller one.

Atmospheric Schematic

Atmospheric Schematic

There are averages to how thick the atmosphere should be at any given time of the year and meteorologists use this data to help them forecast. When the thickness of the atmosphere is much less than average we tend to have colder weather and vice versa.

High temperatures predicted Thursday

Upcoming changes

The map below shows how much above or below average the lower half of the atmosphere will be in the coming days. See all the blue over the northeast? That’s the model forecasting the atmosphere to be less thick than it would typically be in early May and you guessed it, cooler than average.

500 millibar prediction

Here’s the good news, the next map is a forecast for later next week. This map shows the thickness of the atmosphere returning to a more typical mid-May state and thus a warmer trend.

500 millibar prediction early next week

The contrast between the thick and not-so-thick atmospheric areas is what creates the jet stream, and, in our case, the jet stream is allowing areas of rain or showers to reach New England every few days. That pattern is also going to continue into the weekend.

Weather is all about balance, and, for much of April, New England was on the dry side of the equation. We still have three chances of showers in the upcoming forecast: later Thursday, Friday evening, and again Sunday morning. Thereafter, it doesn’t look perfect, but certainly a bit more like the spring we are all craving.

You can follow Dave Epstein on Twitter @growingwisdom and ask any questions about the weather—and gardening, too!

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Near record number of women running for U.S. Senate http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/near-record-number-of-women-running-for-u-s-senate/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/near-record-number-of-women-running-for-u-s-senate/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 12:31:03 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/near-record-number-of-women-running-for-u-s-senate/ WASHINGTON — If 2016 has been the Year of Trump in politics, it may also end up being a new Year of the Woman, if Democrats get their way. And that won’t be a coincidence.

Democrats will have female Senate candidates on the ballot in nine states in November, a near-record, and these contenders will likely be sharing the ticket with the first major-party female presidential nominee in history in Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump, whose commanding win in Indiana cemented his improbable status as the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee, is viewed unfavorably by 70 percent of women, according to Gallup. So as discomfited Republican Senate candidates released statements trying to change the topic or have it both ways Wednesday, Democrats made plans to link their largely male opponents to Trump, aiming to win back control of the Senate in November by electing Democratic women from coast to coast.

“I’ll tell you as a professional woman, too many women have had to fight Donald Trump’s type of sexism and offensive rhetoric their entire lives,” said Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona, who is challenging Republican Sen. John McCain and released an early ad in February tying the incumbent to Trump.

“After 33 years in Washington John McCain has changed, and Donald Trump proves that he has changed,” Kirkpatrick said in an interview, comments reflecting the Democratic approach in key Senate races across the country. “Because even after Trump’s sexist and offensive rhetoric, McCain has been really clear that he would still support Trump.”

Republicans have grappled for months with the impact a Trump candidacy would have on their efforts to protect their slim 54-46 seat Senate majority. Last fall, the executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Ward Baker, wrote a memo later leaked to The Washington Post that warned candidates to take lessons from Trump’s rise but steer clear of his incendiary stances.

“Houston, we have a problem,” Baker wrote. “Donald Trump has said some wacky things about women. … We do not want to re-engage the ‘war on women’ fight, so isolate Trump on this issue by offering a quick condemnation of it.”

Indeed for all of the controversies he’s stoked and every voter group he’s offended while appealing to enough white Republican men to emerge as the GOP nominee, women could be Trump’s biggest problem this fall, and the biggest problem for Senate Republicans. Women vote in higher numbers than men — in 2012, 10 million more women cast ballots than men — and vote more heavily Democratic. This year, strategists in both parties expect those trends to be magnified given Trump’s unpopularity with women, Clinton’s historic candidacy (though she herself faces high negative ratings), and the large number of women running for Senate.

On Wednesday, EMILY’s List, an influential political committee dedicated to electing women, targeted five GOP Senate candidates who face female opponents in November, demanding to know whether they would play the “woman’s card.”

“Are we about to see him devalue his female opponent and launch character attacks on her in the same vein as Donald Trump?” asked the releases aimed at McCain, Rep. Joe Heck of Nevada, and Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock said this election presents the chance to send a historic number of women to the Senate, even more than in 1992’s “Year of the Woman” when female voters outraged over the all-male Judiciary Committee’s treatment of Anita Hill at hearings on Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court nomination swept women into office around the country.

“Donald Trump is going to have to really expand the electorate to overcome how badly he is seen by women voters in this country,” Schriock said in an interview. “If you’re starting your presidential campaign with 70 percent basically women who don’t like you, you’re going to have to find a lot of brand-new voters, a lot. And the truth is there’s not enough.”

Already, a GOP-run anti-Trump political action committee aired an ad featuring women reading some of Trump’s negative comments about women, including “bimbo,” ”dog,” and “fat pig.” In Arkansas, Democratic longshot Connor Eldridge released a digital ad this week showing Trump himself saying some of those things and worse, and then Republican Sen. John Boozman pledging to support the GOP nominee.

Democrats say much more of the same is yet to come.

“We have repeatedly called on Pat Toomey to distance himself from those and other comments of Donald Trump’s and he’s refused to do so,” said Katie McGinty, Democrats’ Senate nominee in Pennsylvania. “What we have is a Trump-Toomey ticket.”

Toomey’s spokesman Ted Kwong said that Toomey has made clear he disagrees with Trump in several areas, and accused McGinty of being “a total rubber stamp for Hillary Clinton and the Washington party bosses.”

Yet Toomey and the other Republicans running for re-election find themselves in a no-win situation. All have pledged to support the eventual nominee — to do otherwise would risk alienating Trump’s many enthusiastic supporters. But most want to create some distance from Trump if they can, forcing a delicate straddle that might get only trickier through the fall.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, a vulnerable incumbent, summed up the dilemma by declaring through a spokeswoman Wednesday that she would support Trump for president — just not endorse him.

After eight buildings collapsed and killed 15 people, President Uhuru Kenyatta last year ordered an audit of all the country’s buildings to see if they are up to code. The National Construction Authority found that 58 percent of buildings in Nairobi are unfit for habitation. Most of Nairobi’s 4 million people live in low-income areas or slums.

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Pregnant woman rescued 6 days after Kenyan building collapse http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/kenya-woman-found-alive-after-6-days-in-collapsed-building/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/kenya-woman-found-alive-after-6-days-in-collapsed-building/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 10:34:26 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/kenya-woman-found-alive-after-6-days-in-collapsed-building/ NAIROBI, Kenya — A pregnant woman was rescued after being trapped for six days in a collapsed apartment building in the Kenyan capital – one of four people rescued Thursday from the rubble.

The woman, who is eight months pregnant, was pulled from the rubble early Thursday, followed by the rescue of two women and a man later in the day, according to a Kenyan official

The rescues came as the death toll from the collapse of the seven-story building rose to 36 and 70 people remain missing.

A nearly six-month-old baby was rescued on Tuesday, which raised hopes that more survivors would be found. The infant was found unharmed in a washbasin four days after the building collapsed.

A crowd broke into applause as Elizabeth Night Odhiambo, under a blanket and with her face covered with an oxygen mask, was carried away on a stretcher to an ambulance in a scene broadcast live on Kenyan TV.

“I cannot say the happiness I have,” said her husband, Stephen Onyango. “I have never had such happiness like this in my life.”

The truck driver said his 24-year-old wife was eight months pregnant.

“This is a miracle,” said Pius Masai, head of the unit.

Before military engineers broke through slabs of concrete that had trapped her in a small corner of her room in the building, medics had managed to give her oxygen and an intravenous drip of water and glucose, according to Kenya’s Disaster Management Unit.

“We are very happy that even after six days, someone has been found alive,” said Abbas Gullet, head of the Kenya Red Cross.

On Tuesday, a nearly 6-month-old girl was found alive in a washbasin in the debris, raising hopes for more survivors in the April 29 collapse of the building.

At least 70 people remain missing, Gullet said, and rescuers were working around the clock to find any other survivors. Authorities initially used backhoes in the search, with firefighters and volunteers also removing chunks of debris by hand in the frantic rescue effort. A day after the collapse, the military brought in special equipment. President Uhuru Kenyatta visited the scene.

Odhiambo was found after trained dogs were brought in, along with special equipment to detect breathing and movement, said military spokesman Col. David Obonyo.

Authorities say it is rare for anyone to survive more than 72 hours without water in such instances.

Following the 2013 collapse of the eight-story Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh, a 19-year-old woman was rescued after being trapped in the rubble for 17 days, surviving on four packets of cookies and some water. It was the worst garment-industry disaster in history, killing 1,127 people.

In Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, a 17-year-old girl was found severely dehydrated and near death in a collapsed home 15 days after the quake struck. Rescuers said she may have had access to water from a bathroom.

The April 29 collapse in Nairobi’s low-income Huruma neighborhood that killed 36 people and injured more than 130 came amid Kenya’s April-May rainy season. The Kenya Red Cross said 150 building units and adjacent homes were affected in local .

A neighbor said the collapsed building had been constructed rapidly and poorly, and its 126 single rooms were snapped up quickly at a rent of $35 per month.

It was built less than 15 feet from a river, when it should have been six times that distance, said local lawmaker Steven Kariuki. The National Construction Authority said it had marked the building as unfit for habitation, but the county government failed to follow up.

The building’s two owners were taken into custody but released on $5,000 bail Wednesday, pending formal charges.

Most of Nairobi’s 4 million people live in low-income areas or slums. Housing is in high demand, and unscrupulous developers often bypass regulations to maximize their profits.

After eight buildings collapsed and killed 15 people in the country last year, Kenyatta ordered an audit of all the country’s buildings to see if they are up to code. The National Construction Authority found that 58 percent of buildings in Nairobi are unfit for habitation.

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Evacuees on the move again as Canadian wildfire grows http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/still-raging-wildfire-destroys-estimated-1600-structures-in-alberta-city/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/still-raging-wildfire-destroys-estimated-1600-structures-in-alberta-city/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 10:14:05 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/still-raging-wildfire-destroys-estimated-1600-structures-in-alberta-city/ FORT MCMURRAY, Alberta – A massive wildfire raging in the Canadian province of Alberta grew to 210,035 acres and officials said Thursday they would like to move south about 25,000 evacuees who had previously fled north, including 8,000 by air.

More than 80,000 people have emptied Fort McMurray in the heart of Canada’s oil sands, authorities said.

The Alberta government said more than 1,100 firefighters, 145 helicopters, 138 pieces of heavy equipment and 22 air tankers were fighting a total of 49 wildfires, with seven considered out of control. Chad Morrison with AB Wildfire, manager of wildfire prevention, said the blaze grew rapidly, fueled by gusting winds, and he expected the fire to continue to grow Thursday because of dry conditions, but it will be away from the community.

The fire has torched 1,600 homes and other buildings in Fort McMurray. There have been no injuries or death from the fires. The province of Alberta declared a state of emergency.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said so much is dependent on the weather and rain is needed. She said she didn’t know how much better the evacuation could have been when asked if ample warning was given to residents, noting that in 48 hours more than 80,000 people were evacuated from a town that essentially has two roads out of it.

CANADA’S MAIN OIL SANDS TOWN

Fort McMurray is surrounded by wilderness and is Canada’s main oil sands town. Despite the size of the town and its importance to the Canadian economy, there are essentially only two ways out via car. The region has the third-largest reserves of oil in the world behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.

Aided by high winds, scorching heat and low humidity, the fire grew from 29 square miles Tuesday to 38.6 square miles on Wednesday, but by Thursday it was almost nine times that – at 328.2 square miles.

The fire remained wrapped around the west and southern edges of the city.

About 25,000 evacuees moved north in the hours after Tuesday’s evacuation, where oil sands work camps were being pressed into service to house people. But the bulk of the more than 80,000 evacuees fled south to Edmonton and elsewhere, and officials said they eventually would like to move everyone south where they have better support for the displaced. Officials are now trying to fly 8,000 evacuees out of the area starting Thursday afternoon and are hoping the highway becomes safe enough to move people that way.

“Our focus right now is on getting those people south as quickly as possible,” Notley said.

ENERGY COMPANIES TO HELP IN AIRLIFT

Government officials said energy companies in the area were prepared to use their planes in an airlift and a military aircraft was on standby.

Unseasonably hot temperatures combined with dry conditions have transformed the boreal forest in much of Alberta into a tinder box. Morrison said they are investigating the cause of the fire but he said it started in a remote forested area and said it could have been lightning.

A combination of factors conspired to make this wildfire especially ferocious, said Bill Patzert, a climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. The El Nino global weather system brought Alberta a mild winter and low snowpack, he said. Patzert said the flames sparked at a time between the snowy season and before springtime rains that turn the landscape green, making the region especially vulnerable to wildfire.

The flames are moving so fast that they are nearly impossible to fight, he said.

“In a way, it’s a perfect storm,” Patzert said. “It’s been warm, it’s been dry and windy. It’s the in-between period before you’re in the full bloom of spring.”

The fire is driving one of the largest evacuations in North America in recent memory, said Bill Stewart, co-director of the University of California’s Center for Fire Research and Outreach at the University of California, Berkeley.

With few exceptions in the United States, an entire town hasn’t been threatened on this scale for over 100 years, he said, noting rather that devastation has struck neighborhoods and smaller communities in California.

There is no stopping the advance of a fire such as the wind-driven flames in Alberta, which is spreading embers well beyond fire lines, Stewart said. He noted that the aggressive fire is also unusual for burning so early in the warm season and so far north.

“You could add five times the number of firefighters, but you can’t get all the embers,” he said. “There’s no way to put out every ember flying over firefighters’ heads.”

OPERATIONS CENTER RETURNS

Officials said the emergency operations center relocated back to Fort McMurray on Thursday after moving to Lac La Biche, Alberta – about 175 miles to the south following an evacuation.

The fire has dealt a blow to the region’s crude production, with companies curtailing production or stopping it altogether. Notley said the infrastructure for oil and gas production remains largely unaffected. What’s slowing down production is that their employees are not there, she said.

“As things stand now the industry will be well positioned to ramp back up once the fire is under control,” Notley said. “It will depend on how long it takes for people to be able to return to work in and around Fort McMurray.”

The airport only suffered minor damage because of the “herculean”‘ efforts of firefighters, said Scott Long of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency. Firefighters have focused on protecting key infrastructure like the water treatment plant, the hospital and the airport.

Morrison said four air tankers from Quebec will arrive Thursday and 100 firefighters are arriving from Ontario.

Associated Press writers Rob Gillies in Toronto and Scott Smith in Fresno, California, contributed to this report.

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Portland firm to oversee completion of new U.S. embassy in Norway http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/portland-firm-chosen-to-oversee-completion-of-new-u-s-embassy-in-norway/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/portland-firm-chosen-to-oversee-completion-of-new-u-s-embassy-in-norway/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=865905 A Portland company has been hired to oversee the final stages of construction on a high-tech and highly secure new U.S. embassy near Oslo, Norway.

Tilson, which provides information technology services and network infrastructure, began its work on the $228 million embassy project in January, said company CEO Joshua Broder. When completed, the five-building embassy campus will incorporate cutting-edge information technology and advanced security into structures that are designed to be environmentally sustainable and aesthetically pleasing to the Norwegian eye.

“All those things sort of come together on the tail end of the project,” Broder said.

Tilson, which specializes in technologically complex projects, was chosen by the embassy’s lead contractor, Chicago-based Walsh Global LLC. Broder declined to specify the value of Tilson’s contract, but he said it involves 12 American workers and is expected to take about a year.

It is the first embassy Tilson has worked on, but Broder said he assembled a team of experts for the project with extensive backgrounds in embassy construction work.

Cumberland resident James Rice, Tilson’s director of federal construction, led a group that completed security upgrades at 40 U.S. embassies in the wake of the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Rice has both civil engineering and economics degrees from the University of Maine in Orono.

“It’s great when a Maine business can make a worldwide impact,” Broder said.

Building an embassy isn’t easy, and it isn’t cheap.

In 2011, after years of complaints by government leaders that American embassies were too ugly and imperial-looking, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations issued a new list of guiding principles.

It begins, “Purpose and Function: Embassies and consulates have two essential purposes: to be safe and functional and inspiring places for the conduct of diplomacy and to physically represent the U.S. government to the host nation. A facility that represents the best of American architecture, design, engineering and construction will be an appropriate workspace, and will also be contextually appropriate and become a respected landmark – representing the best of American government, enterprise and culture – in the host nation.”

As if those requirements weren’t challenging enough, an embassy also has to be structurally capable of withstanding a variety of attacks, including bombings. In essence, it must be an elegant fortress.

“An embassy is a really complicated building,” Broder said.

The new embassy in Norway was designed by Albany, New York-based EYP Architecture & Engineering. When completed, it will include a chancery, an underground support annex, three entry pavilions and Marine security guard quarters. It will accommodate roughly 200 employees.

The materials to be used for the embassy’s exterior were chosen to be symbolic and meaningful from the standpoint of U.S.-Norway relations.

According to the embassy’s website, it will incorporate elements of traditional Norwegian building design, along with some traditional materials, such as white Norwegian granite on the main facade.

“The work will preserve many of the area’s mature trees and the stream flowing through the site, and will include a copper roof, as a reminder of the Norwegian copper used in the Statue of Liberty in New York,” it says.

Broder said the building also will be energy-efficient and will qualify for the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver standard.

Some embassy projects have come under fire in recent years for their high cost. For example, the new U.S. embassy in London, set to open in 2017, is expected to cost $1 billion and will be covered on all four sides with 6-inch-thick, blast-proof glass.

The Norwegian embassy project began in 2012 and is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year.

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State filings show 130 products sold in Maine contain controversial chemical http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/controversial-chemical-used-in-130-products-sold-in-maine/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/05/controversial-chemical-used-in-130-products-sold-in-maine/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 04:01:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=866115 A chemical suspected of causing health problems is found in 130 products sold in Maine, from hair conditioner to greeting cards, according to a new analysis of manufacturers’ data filed with state regulators.

As of December, manufacturers were required to report to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection any children’s products sold in the state that contain a class of plastic-softening agents known as phthalates. Maine and Washington are the only states to mandate such reports, although Maine’s more sweeping rules also captured household products such as paint and cleaners.

An analysis released Thursday by two Maine-based advocacy organizations, the Environmental Health Strategy Center and Prevent Harm, shows that 14 manufacturers added phthalates to a wide range of products, frequently as “fragrance.”

The most common uses of phthalates were in household paints and primers or in cleaning products, such as disinfectants and surface cleaners. The report, titled “What Stinks? Toxic Phthalates in Your Home,” says phthalates also were found in hair conditioners and hair styling products, dolls, toy accessories, greeting cards and in the little plastic tubes found on the end of shoestrings or clothing drawstrings.

The list of manufacturers includes major household companies such as Procter & Gamble, 3M, Gap Inc. and American Greetings.

“This report is made possible because of the breadth of reporting that Maine requires,” the report says. “The data reported includes never-before-available information showing phthalates in products like paint and cleaners.

“In total, the products reported represent just the tip of the iceberg of the widespread use of phthalates in the marketplace. Much more proactive action from decision-makers in government and commerce is needed to eliminate harmful exposure to toxic phthalates, what many call ‘the everywhere chemicals.’ ”

There have been years of robust debate in the United States surrounding the safety of phthalates and similar compounds.

While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that “human health effects from exposure to low levels of phthalates are unknown,” research on laboratory rats has shown that some types of phthalates can affect the animals’ reproductive system.

The National Institutes of Health’s fact sheet on phthalates lists the plasticizing agent as a potential disruptor of the body’s hormone-regulating endocrine system, while the National Toxicology Program classified the chemicals in 2014 as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”

Last year, the European Union began to require special approval before manufacturers there can use certain phthalates in most consumer products.

But the American Chemistry Council, a trade group representing chemical manufacturers, has defended the safety of phthalates while touting their versatility and durability.

“Phthalates have been thoroughly studied and reviewed by a number of government scientific agencies and regulatory bodies worldwide and these agencies have concluded that phthalates used in commercial products do not pose a risk to human health at typical exposure levels,” a statement on the council’s website says.

In 2008, Maine lawmakers passed a first-in-the-nation bill that allows the state to require disclosure of products containing designated “priority” chemicals and creates a framework for banning the sale of products made with certain chemicals. The Kid-Safe Products Act was passed in response to growing frustration over Congress’ unwillingness to update a federal toxics law widely regarded as ineffective.

To date, the Maine DEP has required notifications for seven types of chemicals and banned the sale of reusable food and beverage containers or baby food packaging containing bisphenol-A, or BPA.

Yet environmental groups also have accused the DEP of moving too slowly or too cautiously to regulate chemicals.

The coalition of groups that submitted the original draft of the phthalates rule wanted it to apply not only to products that targeted children, but also to those that could be used by pregnant mothers. However, the LePage administration changed the rule so that it was limited to children’s products.

Kerri Malinowski, who heads the DEP’s “Safer Chemicals” program, said that the reported uses of phthalates matched up with her expectations. Although manufacturers are only required to file one report with the DEP – rather than annual reports – any new products containing phthalates sold in Maine would have to be reported separately to the department.

“We have found manufacturers are interested in complying,” Malinowski said. “They have called to ask questions and they have been very cooperative.”

Groups such as the Environmental Health Strategy Center criticized the DEP last year for not going further on phthalates by requiring manufacturers to report the chemicals’ usage in products aimed at pregnant women. Scientific evidence shows that phthalates and many other chemicals readily pass from the mother to an unborn child or during breastfeeding.

But Emma Halas-O’Connor, campaign manager for the Environmental Health Strategy Center, pointed out that Maine’s reporting requirements are stronger than those in Washington state in one key aspect. Maine mandates that manufacturers also report phthalates’ usage in paints, maintenance and cleaning products because of the potential for children to be exposed to those products in the household.

“We knew that phthalates were used sometimes as ingredients in fragrance in personal care products, but to see phthalates as fragrance in cleaning products and sometimes paint, that was new for us,” Halas-O’Connor said.

 

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