News – Press Herald Thu, 29 Jun 2017 08:00:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 This year, a welcome switch on bait supply for Maine lobstermen Thu, 29 Jun 2017 08:00:00 +0000

Mitch Nunan prepares to load herring onto his boat in Cape Porpoise on Wednesday. Maine lobstermen are fishing without the prospect of a bait shortage, which they faced last year. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

Maine lobstermen are hitting the water late this year because of cold weather, but without the cloud of a looming bait crisis hanging over them.

Bait freezers along the coast are full of herring and pogies, and even alewives, which means that bait is not only available, it is also much less expensive than last year when herring cost as much as 60 cents a pound, said Pat Keliher, commissioner of the state Department of Marine Resources. This year the lobstermen’s go-to bait costs about half as much.

That’s still not a great price, Keliher said. Herring fetched about 18 cents a pound at the start of the 2015 lobstering season.

“I won’t say we’re in great shape, but we are in a heck of a lot better shape than we were last year,” Keliher said.

Herring about to be loaded onto Mitch Nunan’s lobster boat at the fishing pier in Cape Porpoise on Wednesday. This year’s herring catch came early enough in the season to keep prices low. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

He attributed the strong start to basic supply-and-demand economics. When the supply of bait fish is high and demand is low, lobstermen do well.

Fishermen caught herring in the deep waters off Georges Bank earlier this year than they did in 2016, Keliher said. Although they’ve landed a little more than last year – about 19.9 percent of their quota, compared with 19.1 percent at the same time last year, according to this week’s federal landing reports – this year’s catch came early enough in the season to keep prices low.

The inshore herring fishery in the Gulf of Maine opened this month. The state is applying the same restrictions it implemented last year to stretch out this local supply of fresh herring deep into the summer, when the lobster season starts to peak. These measures include weekly landing limits, a limit on how many days a week herring can be landed, and a prohibition on the use of carrier-only fishing vessels.

The state also is lobbying interstate fishing regulators for a larger share of the total herring quota to keep Maine’s $533 million fishery in bait because the inshore herring fishery alone will never be enough to satisfy the booming lobster industry, Keliher said.

Maine fishermen already have caught the small annual quota of 166,000 pounds of menhaden, or pogy, a small, oily fish that is a popular backup lobster bait. As a result, interstate regulators just approved Maine’s request to dip into a regional set-aside that allows states to exceed their quota when the pogies still are running strong. As of last week, about 14 boats have landed about 1.65 million pounds in Maine.

Jeremy Davidson prepares to load a barrel of lobster bait onto his boat, the Richard B, at York Harbor on Wednesday. When asked if he is enjoying lower prices this year, he said, “I’m paying the same price as last year.” Staff photo by Jill Brady

This year’s alewife harvest also is strong, just one more sign of the easy availability of fresh bait, said DMR spokesman Jeff Nichols.

Fresh local bait is always good for prices, said Chebeague Island lobsterman Jeff Putnam, a member of the state Lobster Advisory Council. Not only does it eliminate the high cost of trucking the bait to Maine from out of state, it also drives down the price of all imported bait, said Putnam, who is among the group of lobstermen who supply Calendar Island lobsters.

That is one of the reasons why Maine needed to lobby the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission for a larger share of pogy quota, Putnam said. Even if it’s not every lobsterman’s go-to bait, having a supply of fresh bait will deep the price of other baits down, he said. Also, pogies used to be a popular Maine fishery.

Mitch Nunan of Kennebunk, top, and Paul Foss of Rochester, N.H., load lobster traps onto Nunan’s boat in Cape Porpoise on Wednesday. The two had just retuned from lobstering for the day and were swapping out traps so they could make repairs. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

Putnam turned to pogies last year when herring prices shot up from $110 a barrel to $170. Overall, his bait costs were up at least 15 percent.

That would make him one of the lucky ones, Keliher said. A lot of lobstermen, especially those that fish hard, saw their bait prices triple.

On the other side of the equation, demand for bait has been low this spring. Although some fishermen saw their first shedders last month, the overall season is starting about a month late because of the cold weather, Keliher said. Many lobstermen who fish for soft- or new-shell lobsters are just now starting to set their first traps, a delay in demand that has helped keep bait prices low.

“The price of bait may go up now that gear is starting to go back into the water,” Keliher said. “It’s hard to say, but so far, it’s definitely a lot better.”

Penelope Overton can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

Twitter: PLOvertonPPH

]]> 0 PORPOISE, ME - JUNE 28: Mitch Nunan's prepares to load herring onto his lobster boat at the fishing pier in Cape Porpoise Wednesday, June 28, 2017. (Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer)Wed, 28 Jun 2017 23:12:48 +0000
Possible state shutdown has businesses wary of a ripple effect Thu, 29 Jun 2017 04:13:29 +0000 AUGUSTA — When Maine lawmakers get close to reaching an agreement on the state’s spending plan for the next two years, Peter McCarthy will be among the first to know.

McCarthy is the president of The Copy Center, which has contracts with the state for its printing, including the budget amendment.

On Wednesday, McCarthy said he had thought he was going to be printing the document, but it was a false alarm.

Now The Copy Center is just one of the businesses across the region that is hoping it won’t take a big hit if there’s a shutdown and it loses revenue from state government contracts or discretionary spending by state employees.

On Wednesday, Gov. Paul LePage said he believed a shutdown is likely at the end of the current fiscal year at midnight Friday. As of midweek, state legislators were unable to reach an agreement on a state spending plan. Lawmakers are deadlocked over education spending, and whether to repeal a 3 percent surcharge on household income over $200,000 imposed by a statewide vote last November.

Business owners and managers say they could weather a shutdown of nonessential state services that lasts a couple of days, but anything beyond that could cause hardship for the businesses and their employees.

Ryan Hill, general manager of Bay Wrap Augusta, said this week that even though it’s the start of the busy summer season for the restaurant he runs near the State House, he’s considering scaling back to winter staffing.

“Everyone will still get hours,” Hill said. “It’s a small staff. But rather than 30 to 35 hours, we’ll be looking at 15 to 20 hours.”

Hill, who has worked at Bay Wrap in Augusta for two years, estimated that more than half the people who come through the door every day are state workers, and most of them commute to the state capital daily.

“Being a small business this close to the State House, we get to know a lot of the state workers and legislators,” Hill said. “The biggest fear is having a week with no salary.”

Some customers are starting to scale back on what they order, choosing options that cost less.

“I have a lawyer who works for the state who comes in regularly,” he said. “She said she’s ordering a regular brew instead of a soy latte. It’s going to hurt everyone.”

If the shutdown lasts longer, the effects will be more severe.

Brian Olas is the sales representative for W.B. Mason, the Massachusetts-based office supply company that has an office in Augusta.

“We take care of the office supplies across all of state government,” Olas said Wednesday.

That’s everything from office furniture for state offices to janitorial supplies for restrooms at Baxter State Park. Maine state government is among W.B. Mason’s largest customers in the state.

A extended period of 12,000 state employees not using, needing or paying for what W.B. Mason sells could have an enormous effect on the company and its employees, Olas said. The company’s delivery drivers would feel the biggest impact. If the hourly workers are not making deliveries, they could be redeployed to do other things, or they could be working fewer hours.

“They’ll see a huge loss,” he said.

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

Twitter: JLowellKJ

]]> 0 Hill, left, general manager at Bay Wrap, says he's considering scaling back his business to winter staffing, having employees work 15 to 20 hours a week instead of 30 to 35.Thu, 29 Jun 2017 00:17:48 +0000
Australian police charge top Vatican cardinal with sex offenses Thu, 29 Jun 2017 02:27:51 +0000 SYDNEY — Australian police charged a top Vatican cardinal on Thursday with multiple counts of “historical” sexual assault offenses, a stunning decision certain to rock the highest levels of the Holy See.

Cardinal George Pell, Pope Francis’ chief financial adviser and Australia’s most senior Catholic, is the highest-ranking Vatican official to ever be charged in the church’s long-running sexual abuse scandal.

Victoria state Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said police have summonsed Pell to appear in an Australian court to face multiple charges of “historical sexual assault offenses,” meaning offenses that generally occurred some time ago. Patton said there are multiple complainants against Pell, but gave no other details on the allegations. Pell was ordered to appear in Melbourne Magistrates Court on July 18.

Pell, 76, has repeatedly denied all abuse allegations made against him. The Catholic Church in Australia, which issues statements on Pell’s behalf, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“It is important to note that none of the allegations that have been made against Cardinal Pell have, obviously, been tested in any court yet,” Patton told reporters in Melbourne. “Cardinal Pell, like any other defendant, has a right to due process.”

The charges are a new and serious blow to Pope Francis, who has already suffered several credibility setbacks in his promised “zero tolerance” policy about sex abuse.

For years, Pell has faced allegations that he mishandled cases of clergy abuse when he was archbishop of Melbourne and, later, Sydney. His actions as archbishop came under intense scrutiny in recent years by a government-authorized investigation into how the Catholic Church and other institutions have responded to the sexual abuse of children. Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse – the nation’s highest form of inquiry – has found shocking levels of abuse in Australia’s Catholic Church, revealing earlier this year that 7 percent of Catholic priests were accused of sexually abusing children over the past several decades.

Last year, Pell acknowledged during his testimony to the commission that the Catholic Church had made “enormous mistakes” in allowing thousands of children to be raped and molested by priests. He conceded that he, too, had erred by often believing the priests over victims who alleged abuse. And he vowed to help end a rash of suicides that has plagued church abuse victims in his Australian hometown of Ballarat.

But more recently, Pell himself became the focus of a clergy sex abuse investigation, with Victoria detectives flying to the Vatican last year to interview the cardinal. It is unclear what allegations the charges announced Thursday relate to, but two men, now in their 40s, have said that Pell touched them inappropriately at a swimming pool in the late 1970s, when Pell was a senior priest in Melbourne.

Australia has no extradition treaty with the Vatican. That leaves two likely outcomes: Either Pell volunteers to return to Australia to fight the charges, or the Vatican could tell the cardinal to do so, said Donald Rothwell, an international law expert at the Australian National University.

The charges put Pope Francis in a thorny position. In 2014, Francis won cautious praise from victims’ advocacy groups when he created a commission of outside experts to advise him and the broader church about “best practices” to fight abuse and protect children.

But the commission has since lost much of its credibility after its two members who were survivors of abuse left. Francis also scrapped the commission’s signature proposal – a tribunal section to hear cases of bishops who covered up for abuse – after Vatican officials objected.

In addition, Francis drew heated criticism for his 2015 appointment of a Chilean bishop accused by victims of helping cover up for Chile’s most notorious pedophile. The pope was later caught on videotape labeling the parishioners who opposed the nomination of being “leftists” and “stupid.”

When Francis was asked last year about the accusations against Pell, he said he wanted to wait for Australian justice to take its course before judging. “It’s true, there is a doubt,” he told reporters en route home from Poland. “We have to wait for justice and not first make a mediatic judgment – a judgment of gossip – because that won’t help.”

“Once justice has spoken, I will speak,” he said.

Francis appointed Pell in 2014 to a five-year term to head the Vatican’s new economy secretariat, giving him broad rein to control all economic, administrative, personnel and procurement functions of the Holy See. The mandate has since been restricted to performing more of an oversight role.

It remains to be seen how Pell – and the pope – will respond to the developments.

Given Francis’ credibility is on the line, any decision to keep Pell on as prefect while facing charges would reflect poorly on Francis, given he remains one of the pope’s top advisers.

At the same time, the Vatican has a history of shielding its own: When Cardinal Bernard Law resigned in disgrace in 2002 over his cover-up of abuse in Boston, victims expressed outrage that St. John Paul II gave him a plum position as archpriest of a Rome basilica.

The transfer spared Law what would likely have been years of litigation and testimony in U.S. courts as victims sued the archdioceses for their abuse, though Law himself was never criminally charged with wrongdoing.

In the 1980s, the Vatican refused to cooperate with Italian investigators when one of its officials, Archbishop Paul C. Marcinkus, was indicted over a banking scandal. The Vatican successfully cited his diplomatic immunity.

]]> 0 George Pell, left, reads a bible during the blessing of a statue of John Paul II at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney, Australia, in 2011. Associated Press/Rob GriffithWed, 28 Jun 2017 22:39:29 +0000
Voter-approved ranked-choice voting stays in effect as repeal bills fail Thu, 29 Jun 2017 02:15:32 +0000 AUGUSTA — A voter-approved law making Maine the first state in the nation to used ranked-choice voting for statewide elections will stay in effect until at least next year after two legislative efforts to repeal it were unsuccessful Wednesday.

The Legislature was attempting to respond to a May advisory opinion from the Maine Supreme Judicial Court that found the parts of the law that applied to races for the governor’s office and Legislature were unconstitutional.

A House bill would have left ranked-choice voting in state primary elections and those for Maine’s congressional seats, but not for legislative and gubernatorial races unless the Legislature approved a constitutional amendment to allow ranked-choice voting and state voters ratified it.

The Senate version, which had Republican and Democratic support, would have repealed the ballot law completely.

Under Maine’s current voting system, candidates who get the most votes win are declared winners, even if they receive less than 50 percent of the vote in a race with three or more contestants.

Under the ranked-choice system, voters would rank candidates in order of preference. If no one had more than 50 percent of the vote after the first count, the candidate with the fewest votes would be eliminated. Voters who chose the eliminated candidate would have their ballots added to the totals of their second-ranked candidates, and the ballots would be retabulated. The process would continue until one candidate had a clear majority and was declared the winner.

Kyle Bailey, a spokesman for the Ranked Choice Voting Committee, which worked to pass the ballot measure last fall, said Wednesday he was glad the Legislature was unable to overturn the will of Maine voters.

“Last November, Maine people approved ranked-choice voting with the second largest vote in Maine history and today the Legislature did not stand in the way of implementing the will of the people,” Bailey said. “Unfortunately Legislature also didn’t address the issue of constitutional compliance, but that’s an issue that can be settled by the courts.”

Opponents of ranked-choice voting have said the campaign misled voters last fall, claiming the new law would be constitutional. The court’s opinion means that the results of any legislative or gubernatorial races using ranked-choice voting could face a legal challenge.

Bailey said the campaign believed the law would be constitutional. “Obviously the court has said they have concerns about ranked-choice voting in some of the elections,” Bailey said.

It would take a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to resurrect either repeal bill this year, but lawmakers will likely attempt to resolve the issue in the second half of the current session, which starts in January 2018. The first statewide election scheduled that will use ranked-choice voting will be the party primary races set for June 2018.

Some lawmakers also said Wednesday there may be an avenue to have a court issue a ruling on the law pre-emptively before its 2018 implementation date.

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 791-6330 or at:

Twitter: thisdog

]]> 0 Bailey, campaign manager for the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, counts up the votes in a demonstration at Foulmouthed Brewing put on by the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting of what it's beer tour will look like this September. The committee is ranking beer in beer flights to demonstrate how ranked voting works to the public. The campaign will hold it's event at Foulmouthed Brewing on Sept. 11. Brianna Soukup/Staff PhotographerWed, 28 Jun 2017 22:30:48 +0000
House Republicans struggle to pass budget Thu, 29 Jun 2017 01:25:03 +0000 WASHINGTON — As their counterparts in the Senate struggled Tuesday to advance a high-profile health-care bill, House Republicans confronted their own critical failure to agree on a fiscal 2018 budget resolution.

Passing a budget is about much more than next year’s spending for Republican lawmakers. It also sets the stage for special budget procedures – known as reconciliation instructions – that will allow Republicans to pass major legislation without a filibuster from Senate Democrats.

But even the promise of tax reform and long-term spending cuts has not yet been enough to bring a fractious group of House Republicans together. A scheduled Thursday meeting of the House Budget Committee to prepare a budget resolution for a floor vote was canceled Tuesday amid continued infighting.

Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., a Budget Committee member, lamented Tuesday that the budget “should have been put to bed a long time ago.”

“It’s almost like we’re serving in the minority right now,” he said. “We just simply don’t know how to govern.”

House leaders struck an optimistic note last week after Republican defense hawks and deficit hawks appeared to agree on a compromise figure of $621 billion for defense spending in fiscal 2018. But another thorny issue has derailed the talks: how much entitlement spending to trim from the federal budget over the coming decade.

Most Budget Committee Republicans are prepared to trim $200 billion from the federal budget over 10 years, but hard-line conservatives are pushing for even more cuts to federal spending that now totals roughly $4 trillion a year.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said he has personally identified $300 billion of potential cuts to mandatory spending – programs such as Medicare and Medicaid that are not appropriated on a regular basis by Congress. In particular, he said, conservatives want cuts to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – food stamps – as well as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the main welfare program.

“To suggest that there’s no waste or inefficiencies in those areas would defy history,” he said.

But the chairmen of the House committees that would be charged with wringing out those inefficiencies are balking at being essentially ordered around by the Budget Committee, and that has talks in a fresh stalemate as a week-long July 4 holiday recess approaches. Under the typical yearly budget cycle, the House and Senate pass a budget resolution by April 15.

Budget Committee spokesman Will Allison said the panel’s chairman, Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., “is 100 percent committed to getting a budget done” and “plans to keep this process moving after the July 4th recess.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Tuesday attacked what she described as the Republicans’ fiscal irresponsibility.

“Almost five months into the Trump Administration, House Republicans still haven’t met their most basic responsibility to pass a budget,” she said in a statement. “Time is quickly running out to … avert a catastrophic default on the debt.”

]]> 0 Mark Meadows, House Freedom Caucus chairman, wants to cut $300 billion from welfare programs.Wed, 28 Jun 2017 21:59:01 +0000
Senate panel is promised access to Comey memos Thu, 29 Jun 2017 01:21:48 +0000 WASHINGTON — Senate Intelligence Committee leaders have received assurances they will soon be able to review the memos former FBI Director James Comey kept of his conversations with President Trump, according to the panel’s top Democrat.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., told reporters Wednesday that he and panel chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., have a “commitment” from a person they would not name to turn over Comey’s memos as part of the committee’s investigation into Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Warner said the memos are “critical information we have to have as part of our review process,” though he acknowledged that senators have already been briefed on most if not all of the memo’s details by Comey himself.

The commitment comes as Burr stated Wednesday that his goal is to wrap up the panel’s investigation by the end of the year – a target that though “aspirational right now, it can be done,” he said.

Warner would not speculate about the timeline, but noted the panel is moving into a new phrase of their probe.

“It’s going to be more, some of the names of people who are affiliated with the Trump campaign – who have been basically mentioned in the process have possible ties to Russia,” he said.

The committee is expected to interview Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, but has not yet set a date. Kushner recently retained new counsel.

Warner said that the committee is “expecting Mr. Kushner, who volunteered, that that commitment will be kept.”

But the committee has not set a date for interviewing other campaign advisers, such as Carter Page and Roger Stone, and Burr said Wednesday that he hadn’t decided whether the committee would interview them at all.

They “haven’t necessarily been high on our list because we haven’t identified high value to ’em,” Burr said.

“We’re still having a very difficult time understanding whether Stone has anything to contribute to our investigation,” Burr said, stressing the importance of trying “to separate what people say from what we find people do or did.”

Stone became a source of interest after he tweeted last year that Hillary Clinton’s campaign chief John Podesta would soon have his “time in the barrel” shortly before his private emails were published by WikiLeaks.

The House Intelligence Committee spoke to Podesta behind closed doors Tuesday, and according to a report in Politico, is expected to interview Stone next month.

]]> 0 FBI Director James Comey testifying earlier this month. Senate Intelligence Committee leaders have been assured they'll be able to review his memos.Reuters/Jonathan ErnstWed, 28 Jun 2017 22:03:38 +0000
Holocaust memorial panel shattered in Boston Thu, 29 Jun 2017 01:15:49 +0000 BOSTON — A man suspected of using a rock to shatter a glass panel on the New England Holocaust Memorial is mentally ill, his lawyer said Wednesday, as elected officials and religious groups came together to condemn the vandalism.

“As a city we stand with the Jewish community,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said at the memorial.

Police responding to a call from a witness at about 2 a.m. found a roughly 9-foot-tall glass panel on one of the memorial’s six 54-foot-high towers shattered.

They quickly arrested James Isaac, 21, of Boston and charged him with malicious destruction of personal property and destruction of a place of memorial.

“When we hear the sound of broken glass, we shudder,” said Barry Shrage, president and CEO of Combined Jewish Philanthropies, referring to Kristallnacht, a wave of anti-Jewish violence in Germany in 1938.

Israel Arbeiter, a 92-year-old Holocaust survivor who played a key role in building the memorial, showed the tattoo he received from the Nazis on his arm.

“The Jewish people are strong. The city of Boston is strong,” he said.

Isaac was held on $750 bail at his arraignment but had his bail revoked for violating the terms of his probation in other pending cases. Not-guilty pleas were entered on his behalf.

His court-appointed attorney said her client suffers from mental health issues and is in a partial hospitalization program.

The Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations also denounced the vandalism.

“Desecration of a religious memorial is always heartbreaking and must be condemned,” chapter Executive Director John Robbins said in a statement.

The memorial designed by architect Stanley Saitowitz opened in 1995 and is located just off the Freedom Trail, near Faneuil Hall and City Hall. It is open at all times.

The glass towers are lit internally and etched with millions of numbers that represent tattoos on the arms of many Jews sent to Nazi death camps.

Extra panels were made and stored when the memorial opened, and the organization that oversees the memorial did not expect repairs to take long.

]]> 0 gather as Bob Satterlund, facilities manager for Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston, begins to pick up broken glass from one of the New England Holocaust Memorial's glass panels Wednesday.Wed, 28 Jun 2017 21:15:49 +0000
U.S. officials finalizing rules for revised travel ban approved by the Supreme Court Thu, 29 Jun 2017 01:05:52 +0000 WASHINGTON — Senior officials from the departments of State, Justice and Homeland Security labored Wednesday to finalize rules for visitors from six mostly Muslim nations who hope to avoid the Trump administration’s revived travel ban and come to the United States.

The deliberations came as U.S. embassies and consulates awaited instructions on how to implement this week’s Supreme Court order that partially reinstated the ban after it was blocked by lower courts. The administration has given itself a Thursday deadline for implementing the scaled-back ban, which applies to visitors from Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Iran and Yemen.

The justices’ opinion exempts applicants from the ban if they can prove a “bona fide relationship” with a U.S. person or entity. Government lawyers must determine how to define such a relationship. The court offered only broad guidelines – suggesting they would include a relative, job offer or invitation to lecture in the U.S.

Shortly after the court’s ruling, the State Department advised all U.S. diplomatic posts to await instruction

]]> 0 Wed, 28 Jun 2017 21:08:50 +0000
Minnesota teenager charged after stunt for video-recording kills boyfriend Thu, 29 Jun 2017 00:56:12 +0000 MINNEAPOLIS — A 19-year-old woman shot at a book her boyfriend was holding against his chest, killing him at close range outside their northwestern Minnesota home in what was a video-recorded stunt gone awry, according to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday.

Monalisa Perez was charged with second-degree manslaughter in Norman County District Court and remains in a regional jail in Crookston in connection with the shooting Monday night in Halstad of 22-year-old Pedro Ruiz III.

Perez, who is pregnant, appeared from a regional jail by video at a Norman County court proceeding Wednesday afternoon. She remains held in lieu of $7,000 cash bail.

Ruiz held up the book – described by County Attorney James Brue as a hardcover encyclopedia – and Perez pulled the trigger on a .50-caliber Desert Eagle pistol, trying to see whether the bullet would go through, according to the criminal complaint.

A few hours before the shooting, a posting went up on Perez’s Twitter account that read: “Me and Pedro are probably going to shoot one of the most dangerous videos ever. HIS idea not MINE.” The note included two wide-eyed emoji faces and another of an eye-covering monkey with a gaping mouth.

The Desert Eagle is described by retailer Cabela’s as “one of the world’s most powerful semiautomatic handguns.”

Brue said there are “multiple videos” of the shooting, and they will not be released publicly now.

“We called him our little daredevil,” said Lisa Primeau, an aunt who added that she “pretty much raised” Ruiz.

Primeau said Ruiz was always chasing a thrill, She said Ruiz also “had plenty of guns. He liked guns.”

Another aunt of Ruiz’s told WDAY-TV that the shooting outside the couple’s home with their 3-year-old daughter nearby, was part of a stunt they intended to post on YouTube.

]]> 0 Wed, 28 Jun 2017 21:11:03 +0000
Study shows slower gait linked with loss of mental acuity Thu, 29 Jun 2017 00:23:29 +0000 PITTSBURGH — Has grandma’s walking slowed down as she’s aged? This slower gait may be a sign of declining mental acuity.

And a 14-year University of Pittsburgh study published Wednesday in the journal Neurology has pinpointed the area of the brain – the right hippocampus – where this link may be demonstrated. It found that those experiencing cognitive impairment had a shrinking of this finger-shaped region deep in the brain, which is important in both memory and spatial orientation.

“For a while we weren’t really sure if it was just a parallel decline with age or a truly linked decline,” said lead author Andrea Rosso, assistant profession in Pitt’s Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology. Finding a brain region tied to both provides strong evidence that gait and cognitive change are not just correlated but linked, she said.

The findings by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health confirmed earlier studies that saw a correlation between slower walking and cognitive decline.

In the Pitt study, the scientists examined the walking of 175 adults aged 70-79. They regularly measured the participants’ walking speed over an 18-foot-long stretch of hallway multiple times over the 14 years. At the beginning, all participants had normal brain scans. Toward the end of the study period, researchers again took brain scans to measure gray matter volume and tested mental acuity.

Although everyone’s gait slowed over these 14 years, those who slowed by 0.1 seconds more per year than their peers were 47 percent more likely to develop cognitive impairment. The right hippocampus was the only part of the brain that shrunk in volume over this time among the participants with the slower walking.

The study suggests that rather than undertaking costly brain scans to test for dementia in every older individual, doctors could simply measure their patients’ walking speed over time to identify at-risk individuals. Rosso believes such evaluations should be included in regular geriatric exams.

]]> 0 Wed, 28 Jun 2017 20:23:29 +0000
Toddler wounded in accidental shooting in Penobscot County Wed, 28 Jun 2017 23:20:03 +0000 A 20-month-old girl was recovering Wednesday from a gunshot wound she suffered in what the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office is calling an accidental shooting.

Sheriff Troy Morton said in a statement Wednesday that the child, whose name is not being released, suffered a wound that was not life-threatening Monday night when she was shot in the town of Winn.

A family member drove the child to the hospital in Lincoln before the girl was transferred to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.

Morton said the shooting remains under investigation, and the people involved are cooperating with police.

Morton said no other details or information would be released Wednesday.

]]> 0 Wed, 28 Jun 2017 20:36:32 +0000
Doctor in Manchester to pay $133,464 to settle allegations of false claims Wed, 28 Jun 2017 23:15:08 +0000 An osteopathic doctor in Manchester has agreed to pay the government $133,464 to resolve a complaint that he submitted false claims to Medicare.

The civil agreement was announced Wednesday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Portland.

According to the complaint against Dr. Charles G. Landry, claims for evaluation and management services were submitted to Medicare from January 2011 to August 2014. Those services weren’t eligible for payment because they were part of the osteopathic manipulative treatment that Landry provided, the complaint alleges, and Landry received $66,732 in payments for which he wasn’t entitled.

The amount in the settlement reflects twice the amount of payments that the government alleges Landry received improperly.

]]> 0 Wed, 28 Jun 2017 19:15:08 +0000
Amended Maine solar incentive bill appears poised for passage Wed, 28 Jun 2017 22:50:52 +0000 AUGUSTA — A bill that would tweak Maine’s solar “net metering” credits and direct utility regulators to further study the policy appears headed to Gov. Paul LePage with veto-proof margins – at least for now.

On Wednesday, the Maine House voted 105-40 and the Senate voted 29-6 in support of a bill, L.D. 1504, that aims to forestall constroversial changes made to the policy that allows owners of solar energy systems to receive credit for excess electricity they generate. While a final vote is still required in the Senate, the margins in both chambers, if they hold, are above the two-thirds threshold needed to overcome an expected veto from LePage, a vocal net metering opponent.

The most recent version of the bill – which was amended again this week to gain additional support – would direct the Public Utilities Commission to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of net metering or “net energy billing.” The PUC would be required to report its recommendations on policy changes to the Legislature by January 2019 but would allow the commission to begin reducing the amount of credits paid to solar energy customers.

Under the current policy, owners of solar energy panels can receive credit for 100 percent of the full retail value of excess electricity they feed back into the grid. The bill would reduce that credit to 90 percent for new customers applying between Dec. 31, 2017, and Dec. 31, 2018, and then to 80 percent the following year. The bill also would allow the PUC to further reduce the credit amount for future net metering customers, but allow customers to keep receiving credits for up to 15 years.

Rep. Nathan Wadsworth, R-Hiram, called the amended bill “a small compromise” that would allow the PUC to continue doing its work. But opponents of net metering continue to argue that the policy forces all ratepayers – including low-income individuals – to help subsidize the costs of solar panels installed by wealthy Mainers.

Rep. Jeff Timberlake, a Turner Republican whose family runs a large apple orchard, questioned the inclusion of the word “farm” in the title of the bill, “An act regarding solar power for farms and businesses.”

“I don’t think there’s one thing that is about the bill and the only thing farm about it is what is generated at most farms and spread on the field,” Timberlake said. “That’s what this bill is.”

The amended bill drew praise from installation companies as well as the Natural Resources Council of Maine and other organizations involved in the debate over solar energy in Maine.

“When the PUC tried to gut solar energy programs across our state, it did so in direct defiance of public opinion and economic opportunity,” Emily Green, an attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation, said in a statement. “Today, the state legislature stood on the side of all Mainers and righted this wrong. Good solar policy creates jobs, lowers energy prices, and protects our air and water, and we thank all those who fought for progress and today prevailed.”

The bill would effectively put on hold a controversial decision the PUC rendered this year to gradually phase out net metering for owners of solar energy installations in the state. But LePage successfully vetoed a more sweeping solar energy bill last year and blasted the PUC for even allowing net metering to continue.

LePage is widely expected to veto the latest bill. And while the 105-40 vote in the House was above the two-thirds margin needed to override, supporters found themselves in a similar situation two years ago only to see the bill fall to a gubernatorial veto. LePage has successfully flipped House Republican votes on numerous bills that he has vetoed this year.


]]> 0, 28 Jun 2017 20:06:04 +0000
Three men injured as Jeep crashes in Georgetown Wed, 28 Jun 2017 22:48:45 +0000 Three men were injured, one critically, when the 2001 Jeep Wrangler they were riding in rolled over on Five Islands Road in Georgetown on Wednesday evening.

Sheriff Joel Merry said the driver, James Moran, 50, of Bath, suffered internal injuries and was taken to Maine Medical Center in Portland, where he was listed in critical condition.

A passenger, Richard Heffron, 38, was also taken to Maine Med and was listed in fair condition.

The third occupant, Michael Tibbetts, 60, of Georgetown, was treated for less serious injuries at Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick, according to Merry.

Merry said Moran got pinned in the Jeep, which has a soft top, when it crashed in the vicinity of 83 Five Islands Road.

The cause of the crash is under investigation by Deputy Brian Carlton, who is being assisted by an accident reconstruction specialist from the Bath Police Department.

]]> 0 Wed, 28 Jun 2017 23:01:46 +0000
Riverview patient who blinded himself pleads not criminally responsible in assault Wed, 28 Jun 2017 21:54:52 +0000 AUGUSTA — Because he had a history of assaulting others, no one expected 66-year-old James N. Staples to harm himself.

But he gouged his own eyes out a month or so ago while he was being held at the Maine State Prison’s intensive mental health unit.

He spent about a week at Tufts Medical Center in Boston for treatment of those injuries. Kennebec County is now being asked to pay a $39,000 bill to cover the cost of the Maine Department of Corrections employees who guarded Staples while he was hospitalized.

On Wednesday, Staples was at the Capital Judicial Center to be arraigned on felony assault charges from February 2017.

Now blind, the 6-foot-2 Staples was guided carefully into the courtroom with his hands and feet shackled. Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office deputies wearing protective purple gloves touched him occasionally and talked to him to indicate where he should walk, where he should sit and what was around him.

Both of Staples’ forearms were wrapped in white gauzy material.

Justice Michaela Murphy presented a matter-of-fact outline of events that brought Staples to the courtroom after finding that he was competent to enter a plea in the case.

“As court understands it, he started out as civil commitment patient,” Murphy said. Then a series of assault charges in February 2017 at Riverview Psychiatric Center brought Staples to the Kennebec County jail. Officials there decided they could not address Staples’ mental health needs, so he was sent to the intensive mental health unit at the Maine State Prison in Warren..

“In Warren, he injured himself quite severely and is now blind,” Murphy said.

Staples is being held in the prison infirmary, and two uniformed emergency medical technicians accompanied Staples to court.

Assistant District Attorney Kate Marshall said the state was proceeding only on a felony assault charge from Feb. 15, 2017. In that incident, Staples is accused of punching a woman, a fellow Riverview patient, in the face.

When she asked Staples to enter a plea, he said, “I’m NCR, your honor,” indicating he was not criminally responsible for his actions at that time.

The state dismissed charges that he assaulted a mental health worker on Feb. 3, 2017, and two corrections officers at the Kennebec County jail on Feb. 26, 2017.

Murphy also said she knew that plans called for Staples to be treated at a South Carolina mental health facility if she found him not criminally responsible for the assault, but that a bed was no longer available, and it might take until August to get another one.

The judge said there was no place in the Department of Corrections or the mental health system for Staples, calling that “a serious and shameful situation.”

Assistant Attorney General James Fortin, representing the Department of Corrections, said, “The department does not feel prison is appropriate. He needs to be treated in a hospital setting.”

Assistant Attorney General Molly Moynihan, representing the Department of Health and Human Services, said that if Staples was found not criminally responsible for the assaults and placed in the custody of the department’s commissioner, Staples would be placed “in an appropriate institution.”

Two other people from Maine, Anthony Reed and Michael James, who were formerly patients at Riverview and held at the Maine State Prison, are being held at the Columbia Regional Care Center, a privately operated health care facility in South Carolina.

Murphy said she would continue Staples’ case until July 10 to allow the parties to find a placement for Staples that was appropriate under Maine law.

Kennebec County Sheriff Ken Mason watched the hearing from a bench in the public area of the courtroom.

Before the hearing, he said he probably was not going to pay the $39,000 bill, adding that he would talk to the prison warden, Randall Liberty. “Why should it fall on the shoulders of Kennebec County taxpayers?” Mason asked.

Murphy referred to the bill during the hearing and urged the state departments to work together to resolve that matter.

Mason said he is concerned that Riverview patients who are arrested on criminal charges are brought to the jail, which is not suited to offering their mental health treatment.

“If he’s not criminally responsible, he doesn’t belong in my jail. He began assaulting my staff,” Mason said. “They’re not punching bags. At the prison they have facilities to deal with Mr. Staples.”

District Attorney Maeghan Maloney, who sat at the prosecution table, said afterward, “What I can’t understand is why Maine can’t offer mental health treatment that South Carolina can. Why can’t we offer them that treatment in Maine?”

She said the case was continued so that Staples could remain in prison because an immediate finding of not criminally responsible could put him back in Riverview, where his restraints — the wrist and leg shackles he had on in court — would be removed.

Maloney said Riverview is not capable of keeping Staples safe from himself.

“He doesn’t immediately self-harm,” she said. “He’s smart. He waits and he plans and then he self-harms.”

At the prison, the restraints can remain in place. In Riverview, she said, federal regulations say he cannot be restrained “unless the threat of self-harm is immediate.”

The May 2017 indictment against Staples lists nine prior assault convictions, beginning in 2009 in Bangor and ending with six convictions from July 19, 2016, in Penobscot County.

“He didn’t have a history of self-harm; he had a history of assaulting others,” his attorney Douglas Jennings said after the hearing. “This threw us for a loop.” Jennings said Staples took his eyes out with his own hands.

Jennings said doctors at Tufts were able to do “mostly cosmetic” repairs of the injuries.

He said Staples agreed to be sent to the South Carolina facility.

“He wants to be in a hospital; he doesn’t want to be in prison.” Jennings added, “It’s really a tragic thing. Everybody is trying to do the right thing. He’s a very nice fellow despite all this.”

Murphy continued the hearing until July 10, when, she indicated, she will make a finding that Staples is not criminally responsible for his actions.

He would then be placed in the custody of the commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

Twitter: @betadams


]]> 0 N. STAPLESWed, 28 Jun 2017 19:34:46 +0000
Fayette woman allegedly rams car, destroys garage bay at ex-husband’s home Wed, 28 Jun 2017 21:42:35 +0000 A Fayette woman was arrested on charges of aggravated criminal mischief and obstructing the report of a crime or injury after police say she rammed her pickup truck into a car and destroyed a garage bay at her ex-husband’s house.

Breanne Hewins

Maine State Police responded to a noise complaint on Gail Road and found the damaged car, according to a complaint dated Wednesday. In ramming Kimberly Fournier’s car, the state police report says, Breanne Hewins, 40, also allegedly destroyed an entire bay and side of the garage.

Hewins also allegedly took Fournier’s mobile phone so she could not immediately call 911.

Hewins was arrested and taken to the Kennebec county jail. Her bail has been set at $5,000 cash or $500 with a Maine Pretrial Services contract.

]]> 0 HewinsWed, 28 Jun 2017 17:56:35 +0000
Rally in downtown Portland celebrates setback for Senate health care bill Wed, 28 Jun 2017 21:19:50 +0000 After months of staging protests to pressure Sen. Susan Collins to oppose repeal of the Affordable Care Act, liberal activists were in a celebratory mood Wednesday at a rally in downtown Portland.

Two days after Collins, a key Republican swing vote in the Senate, announced her opposition to a bill that would result in 22 million fewer Americans with health insurance, the throng in Lobsterman’s Park voiced its approval.

“Thank you Senator Collins!” and “Thank you! No!” were the prevailing chants from the small crowd, including activists representing people with disabilities, many of whom rely on Medicaid for their care. The “No!” chant was to reinforce that Collins should stand firm and vote against the Senate bill, if it comes to a vote.

Medicaid would suffer deep cuts under the Senate health care bill, and one of the groups most at risk for losing funding would be the disabled. Collins has pointed to the cutbacks to Medicaid and the disproportionate harmful impact the bill would have on older, rural Americans as major factors in her opposition.

At the rally was Kings Floyd, 23, who has muscular dystrophy and uses a red scooter to move around. She spent some of her childhood in Cape Elizabeth, graduated from Waynflete and now lives in Washington, D.C., working for the National Council on Independent Living.

Floyd was one of about 40 people arrested for obstructing a public area in a “die-in” last week at Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office. Some of her fellow protesters exited their wheelchairs and were carried out of McConnell’s office, a scene Floyd described as “mayhem.” She was detained by Capitol Police for about 10 hours and fined $50.

“At first we were welcomed by McConnell’s staff, when there was one or two of us. But then we just kept coming in. They were overwhelmed,” Floyd said.

She said Medicaid funding is crucial for people with disabilities to be able to live independently.

“Without Medicaid, you are effectively cutting off people’s independence, their ability to have jobs and access to good health care,” Floyd said.

The Senate bill is now stalled after Collins and other Republican senators, like Dean Heller of Nevada and Rand Paul of Kentucky also said they were against the bill. More Republican senators, such as moderates Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia and Rob Portman of Ohio, came out against the bill after Collins tweeted her opposition Monday night. U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, also opposes the Senate bill.

Collins has made it clear in national media interviews that she thinks the bill is extremely flawed and a few tweaks to it would not gain her support. Since Obamacare went into effect in 2013, the uninsured rate has declined from about 17 percent to 10.9 percent in 2016. Maine’s uninsured rate in 2016 was 9.1 percent, according to Gallup.

About 80,000 Mainers have insurance on the ACA’s individual marketplace. The Urban Institute, a Washington think tank, has estimated that 60,000 fewer Mainers would have health insurance by 2022 if the Senate bill were enacted.

“We are here to thank Senator Collins for her ‘no’ vote,” said Kim Moody, executive director of Disability Rights Maine.

However, advocates also made it clear they would continue to watch Collins closely.

Marie Follayttar-Smith, co-founder of liberal advocacy group Mainers for Accountable Leadership, said organizers will keep letting Collins know that supporting repeal of the ACA would be a “disaster.”

“She showed courage for standing up to her party and standing for the people of Maine,” Follayttar-Smith said. “We’re also letting her know we have her back for making that courageous decision.”

Collins, a moderate Republican in a closely-divided Senate with a 52-48 Republican majority, wields a key vote. Not only is she facing pressure from groups typically aligned with Democrats, but Maine was also one of a dozen states targeted by America First Policies, a conservative advocacy group that backs President Trump and the Senate bill.

“America First is appealing to voters in these states to encourage these senators to send a clear message to their elected officials: ‘vote yes to repeal and replace Obamacare now,'” the group said in a news release.

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

Twitter: @joelawlorph

]]> 0, ME - JUNE 28: Kingsley Floyd, a Waynflete graduate who was arrested at a health care protest in front of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office last week, attends a rally for health care at Lobsterman's Park in Portland on Wednesday, June 28, 2017. (Staff photo by Derek Davis/Staff Photographer)Thu, 29 Jun 2017 00:01:23 +0000
Kennebunk teacher on leave after alleged sexual relationship with student Wed, 28 Jun 2017 20:48:36 +0000 KENNEBUNK—Police are investigating allegations that a Kennebunk High School teacher had a sexual relationship with a male student, the school superintendent said.

Jill Lamontagne, a health teacher at the high school, was placed on administrative leave on June 12 when the family of a 17-year-old student notified school authorities that he had had sexual contact with Lamontagne, said Katie Hawes, superintendent of RSU 21.

“We’ve been in close communication with both the police department and the Department of Health and Human Services,” Hawes said.

Details of the alleged relationship were disclosed in a protection from abuse order filed in Biddeford District Court by the student’s mother on the boy’s behalf.

The family sought the protection order two days after Lamontagne was placed on leave, and described in court documents how a sudden hospitalization for a suspected suicide attempt led the student to reveal the relationship to a family member, a registered nurse and a psychiatrist.

If Lamontagne is criminally charged, the district would consider terminating her, Hawes said.

It is a class-C felony punishable by up to five years in prison for a teacher or anyone with supervisory authority over children to engage in sexual contact with someone under the age of 18 who is in their care.

The Press Herald is not naming the student because he is the alleged victim of sexual assault. A message left for the victim’s mother was not returned.

No one answered the door at Lamontagne’s Kennebunk home, and a call to her attorney, Thomas Richard, was not returned Wednesday.

A 2013 article published online in the Kennebunk High School newspaper said Lamontagne is a graduate of Kennebunk High School, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern Maine, and her master’s degree from the University of New England.

In a narrative included in the protection order, the boy was admitted to the emergency room June 9 after taking ibuprofen, Tylenol, cold medicine and warfarin, a blood thinner. A day later, he admitted to his aunt that rumors about him and Lamontagne were true. He had previously denied the relationship.

“He stated it was all true and he was sorry, so sorry for all the bad things he did,” the boy’s mother wrote. “He said he loved her, he said it happened numerous times, in the classroom, at her house, in her car. She told him that she hadn’t had a sexual relationship in two years.”

The boy said Lamontagne performed oral sex on him, and that “other stuff happened.”

He also admitted to his mother that he had told two classmates what had happened when he was “wasted,” according to the protection order, but that he shouldn’t have said anything because he didn’t want Lamontagne to go to jail.

He described one day when Lamontagne was attending a workshop after a half-day, and that she instructed him to meet her at her home, which is about 2 miles away, where they “fooled around,” according to the protection order.

Court records indicate Lamontagne is married and has children.

At a hearing Monday in Biddeford, a judge agreed to extend for two years the temporary protection from abuse order granted June 14. Lamontagne, through her attorney, agreed to have no contact with the boy or his family.

Hawes, the school superintendent, said the district hired Lamontagne five years ago, first as an ed tech and then as a full-time health teacher about four years ago.

Lamontagne passed all legally required background checks, Hawes said.

A request with the state Department of Education to determine whether Lamontagne was in fact properly licensed had not been completed as of Wednesday afternoon, but Hawes said the district followed all state laws, and performed an additional check against the national sex offender registry when Lamontagne was hired.

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

Twitter: MattByrnePPH

]]> 0, ME - JUNE 3: A sign outside Kennebunk High School reminds residents of RSU 21 to vote on June 9, when they will decide whether or not to approve a 56.5 million bond for renovations at Kennebunk High School, Consolidated School in Kennebunkport and Mildred L. Day School in Arundel. (Photo by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer)Wed, 28 Jun 2017 21:41:53 +0000
Deportation looms for man convicted of drug crimes in Augusta, York Wed, 28 Jun 2017 20:13:10 +0000 With her adult son facing imminent deportation back to Sudan, Kahtoum Idris was in Augusta on Wednesday to hear a lawyer try to get him a new trial on a 2014 drug conviction.

Faysal A. Mohamed, now 32, remains in federal custody in Louisiana and worries about leaving the country that has been his home since 1999, according to his attorney and his family.

“If he is deported, he will be killed,” Idris said, a belief confirmed by Mohamed’s aunt and uncle who accompanied Idris from Portland to Wednesday’s hearing at the Capital Judicial Center.

Mohamed’s attorney, Robert A. Levine, said the argument is “a last-ditch effort” to halt the deportation. He based his argument on several things, including the lack of an interpreter at court proceedings in Kennebec County, ineffective assistance of counsel, and the interests of justice.

Levine told Justice Robert Mullen that Mohamed could be deported “as soon as today,” meaning Wednesday. But later, outside the courthouse, Levine said Idris clarified that it would not be Wednesday, but could be Thursday or Friday.

Deputy District Attorney Paul Cavanaugh argued that the conviction in Kennebec County should stand, and that Mohamed had failed to meet deadlines that would have allowed the conviction to be reviewed “so now they want to create a whole-cloth remedy.”

At the close of the hearing, Mullen said he would read the various cases cited by attorneys and issue a decision prior to July 11.

Mohamed was convicted in June 2015 in Kennebec County of unlawful possession of crack cocaine and falsifying physical evidence, offenses that occurred June 26, 2014, in Waterville. He was sentenced to five years in prison, with all but 364 days suspended, while he serves three years of probation.

Not long afterward, Mohamed pleaded guilty to trafficking in drugs in York County, an offense that predated the Kennebec County ones. Levine told the judge on Wednesday that he is scheduled to argue at a hearing on July 11 in York County to try to get a new trial there as well.

While Mohamed was a legal permanent resident of the United States, he never became a citizen. His mother said she gave him money to pay for the paperwork for that process, but it appeared that he spent it elsewhere.

Idris, and Mohamed’s uncle and aunt, Baballa Adam and Saida Noureldin, are all U.S. citizens now.

“They kill people in Darfur,” Adam said. “It’s very dangerous.”

He added that Mohamed is of the Fur people, the largest ethnic group in Darfur.

Idris holds two housekeeping jobs. “I’m working every day 12 hours a day,” she said. “I need my son to help me.” She also helps care for Mohamed’s 9-year-old son.

She showed a video on her phone in which the boy is in tears and says, “I don’t want my dad to go to Africa. I want him in my life. I really want to be with him. I love you very much and hope to see you soon.”

“This is the face of deportation,” Levine said. “It’s hard not to feel for this family when you see the impact on them.”

In front of the judge, Levine argued that Mohamed should have been provided with an interpreter for all proceedings in the Augusta courthouse and was not. However, an interpreter was provided at every stage in the York County case.

Levin also argued that Mohamed’s lawyer in the Kennebec County case told Mohamed at the time that he would not be deported immediately, but that could change.

“It’s pretty clear to me that that’s not the correct advice,” Levine.

The judge noted that the federal government started deportation proceedings 14 months after the Kennebec County case was completed.

Cavanaugh said Mohamed’s lawyer at the time, Lisa Whittier, gave her client correct advice.

“She was absolutely right,” Cavanaugh said, to tell Mohamed that there are “dire consequences,” but it would not happen immediately.

Cavanaugh also said that if the conviction is overturned, the district attorney’s office would be proceeding on all charges including an unlawful-trafficking charge that had been dismissed in exchange for Mohamed’s plea to the possession charge.

“He could get a worse outcome than he is facing now,” Cavanaugh said.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

Twitter: @betadams

]]> 0 MohamedWed, 28 Jun 2017 16:43:27 +0000
White House may have tried linking worker visas to senators’ health care votes, report says Wed, 28 Jun 2017 18:28:08 +0000 Senior political appointees in the Trump administration last week ordered federal officials to immediately draft a rule to increase the number of visas issued to seasonal foreign workers for Maine and Alaska innkeepers and fisheries, according to a report published Tuesday evening by ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative news organization.

Several sources, who were not named, told ProPublica that the sudden directive had drawn concern because it was tailored to states represented by Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowksi, Republicans whose votes are considered crucial to passage of the Senate’s health care bill.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security declined to comment on the allegations in the report, which followed the department’s announcement last week that it wouldn’t authorize any additional H-2B visas for low-skilled seasonal workers until late July, leaving many Maine hotels, restaurants, and other tourism businesses critically shorthanded until at least mid-August, once application processing times are taken into account.

Collins announced Monday evening that she would not vote for the current health care overhaul after the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the plan would increase the number of uninsured Americans by 22 million while dramatically raising premiums and deductibles and allowing the imposition of lifetime caps on benefits.

A spokeswoman for Collins said her office had not been approached about any sort of horse trading regarding the health care bill and the additional H-2B visas, which Maine’s tourism industry is desperate to secure.

“There have been no such discussions and no link or attempt to link the H-2B issue with the health care bill and it is not something we would be interested in and is not something the administration would do,” said the spokeswoman, Annie Clark.

Maine businesses requested 2,877 H-2B visas this year, but only 700 were approved because of a cap imposed by Congress. That forced some seasonal businesses to curtail services, just as the summer tourism season is getting underway. After an outcry – including letters from Maine Gov. Paul LePage and the state’s entire congressional delegation – Congress last month authorized Homeland Security to nearly double the number of visas available this year, adding up to 63,500 nationwide.

But nearly a month later, Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Labor still haven’t issued a single extra visa, and say they won’t until late this month at the earliest. In a letter sent to Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly Wednesday afternoon, Sens. Collins, Angus King, I-Maine, and four other senators said they had heard reports that the department was considering issuing far fewer visas than Congress had authorized – possibly as few as 18,500.

“We are concerned that the timeline for approving H-2B applications would hinder businesses’ ability to hire the employees they need and leave them without help until late in the summer season,” the senators wrote. “We respectfully urge you to use the authority provided by Congress to increase the number of H-2B visas available to seasonal workers, and to work with the Department of Labor to ensure that visas are available as soon as possible.”


A spokeswoman for Kelly, Joanne Talbot, said he had “made a decision to assist a limited number of seasonal businesses that would be severely harmed if they do not receive temporary employment relief under the H2B program” but that “the need to coordinate with the Department of Labor to identify businesses truly at risk if they do not receive additional temporary workers, and the myriad steps required under federal rule-making before DHS can issue new visas” meant they would not be issued until late July at the earliest.

Talbot also emphasized that only severely affected businesses would receive visa approvals.

“The Administration and the Department are committed to protecting American jobs and U.S. workers,” Talbot added. “DHS is only seeking to provide visas to truly seasonal industries that would be severely/significantly harmed by not receiving H2B visas which would adversely impact US workers employed by these seasonal businesses.”

Talbot declined to comment on the ProPublica report or to say if Maine and Alaska were receiving special attention as the rules were revised.


King’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Steve Hewins, president of the Maine Innkeepers Association and the Maine Restaurant Association, said the delays are causing serious harm to Maine’s tourism sector.

“Every single day that we don’t see those workers in Maine, Maine’s hospitality businesses are losing money,” he said. “From a crisis standpoint I can tell you that our entire industry is impacted by not having these workers. I know restaurants that are limiting their hours because they can’t get enough staff to serve their customers.”

Hewins also said that the Maine hospitality industry’s use of the program didn’t harm U.S. workers, as Kelly has suggested, but rather allowed businesses to fill positions they couldn’t source locally.

“I can assure anybody that this industry would hire local people if they were available but they are not,” he said. “On the ground in Maine some people think that foreign workers are cheaper workers, but they’re actually infinitely more expensive because not only do you have to pay them the prevailing wage but you have to pay for them to get here. … They’re not displacing anyone.”

Colin Woodard can be contacted at:

]]> 0 faces a shortage of workers like Tirsha Lizotte, a room attendant at the Meadowmere Resort in Ogunquit.Thu, 29 Jun 2017 00:10:54 +0000
LePage says he opposes Senate Republican health care bill Wed, 28 Jun 2017 18:07:45 +0000 WASHINGTON – Count Gov. Paul LePage among those opposing the Senate health care bill.

LePage was asked if he backs the legislation and he said no, complaining that the bill doesn’t go far enough to fix current law. Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins opposes the bill.

LePage, who was at the White House Wednesday for a so-called roundtable on energy, said he met with Collins Wednesday morning.

Collins is one of nearly 10 Republicans who have expressed opposition to the bill. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell postponed a vote this week because he lacked the votes.

Several Republicans governors – among them Ohio’s John Kasich and Nevada’s Brian Sandoval – oppose the bill, fearing the cost to states if Medicaid expansion is phased out.

Correction: This story was updated at 2:55 p.m. June 28, 2017 to correct Sen. Susan Collins’ position on the Republican Senate health care legislation.

]]> 0, 28 Jun 2017 14:56:42 +0000
Analysis: Our health care is a bad example of American exceptionalism Wed, 28 Jun 2017 17:59:09 +0000 Washington has been consumed by a furious debate over the Senate’s recently unveiled health-care bill. The measure’s opponents – along with the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office – warn that, if passed, the bill could lead to tens of millions of Americans losing health insurance.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had planned to vote on the bill this week. But Senate Republicans, chastened by the uproar from critics and dissent within their own ranks, said Tuesday they would put off voting until after they return from the July 4 holiday recess.

In the meantime, it’s worth considering the issue in a more global context. Health care is an essential need in any society. In many places, in both the developed and developing world, governments play active roles in providing care, lowering costs, or both.

No country has the exact system as the other, nor is any country’s system free of critics and detractors. But you’d be hard-pressed to find any other wealthy nation in the world where the very idea of universal coverage provokes such partisan division.

The Affordable Care Act, often known as Obamacare, was an effort to expand health insurance coverage to millions who would otherwise be too poor to pay for it – or too sick to afford what insurers may charge. (Its precursor, of sorts, was implemented by a Republican governor in his state.) But most Europeans would look at the power still given to private insurance companies, as well as the high costs many Americans still shoulder, and consider Obamacare to be a centrist, if not center-right, political compromise. Indeed, the ideas at the core of Obamacare were ones long championed by conservative health-policy wonks.

Yet many Republicans viewed Obamacare as a tyrannical “socialist” plan to force people to pay for insurance they didn’t necessarily want. For years, Republican politicians have espoused the principle of “personal responsibility” – the supposition being that if you want health care, you’ll get employment and do what’s needed to afford it. The free market, they argued, would naturally provide sufficient options – never mind the various ways insurance companies placed ceilings on coverage or punished those with preexisting conditions.

Vice President Mike Pence tweeted: Before summer’s out, we’ll repeal/replace Obamacare w/ system based on personal responsibility, free-market competition & state-based reform.

The “free-market competition” espoused by Pence has led to spiraling costs in a medical system run mostly by for-profit companies and hospitals. According to OECD data – indicators for a bloc of developed countries – the United States spends close to 20 percent of its gross domestic product on health care, nearly $10,000 per person, roughly twice as much as countries like Britain, which has a nationalized health service. Americans, as a whole, pay more to get less.

“It is not just that U.S. healthcare is expensive, with price tags often far higher than those in other developed countries,” wrote Elisabeth Rosenthal, editor in chief of Kaiser Health News. “At this point, Americans face astronomical prices that quite simply defy the laws of economics and … of decency and common sense.”

She goes on: “Our prices for tests, drugs, hospitalizations and procedures – old or new – have gone up dramatically year by year, and are vastly higher than in other developed countries. Indeed, prices for similar interventions in other countries have often declined.”

What explains the difference? Some observers point to a cultural gap between Americans and those across the Atlantic. A 2011 Pew survey found that Americans tended to value individual liberty more than Europeans, who saw a positive role for the state. “Nearly 6-in-10 in the U.S. (58 percent) believe allowing everyone to pursue their life’s goals without interference from the state is more important,” noted the report. “Majorities in all European nations polled in 2011 said guaranteeing that nobody is in need is more important.”

But this kind of American exceptionalism would be a lazy answer. Just north of the border, you have an English-speaking society that embraces its own pioneer myths of hard work and self-reliance on the frontier, but which also has a health-care system that seeks to provide universal coverage.

“Single-payer systems, like the Canadian version, or a single provider system, as seen in the United Kingdom and other countries, provides the means of bringing care under the umbrella of a single, accountable authority,” explained two Canada-based doctors in an article for STAT News, a health-care news site. “This is neither socialism nor an attack on individual liberty. It is simply making a promise: to protect each other from disease and preventable harm, recognizing that our capacity to do so is perhaps the most meaningful measure we have of our society’s worth.”

Or, as U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, tweeted: Health care is a human right.

The profound unpopularity so far of the Republican-proposed replacements to Obamacare show that many Americans also want a system that better ensures the collective well-being of their society.

But the fact that it doesn’t yet exist is also a reflection of unhealed divisions in American society. In an article in the Atlantic, Vann Newkirk II points to a forgotten plank of the civil rights movements of the 1960s: access to health care.

Various countries in Europe had already instituted universal health-care schemes. But, as Newkirk noted, “America’s developing peculiar, private, decentralized, job-pension-based health-care infrastructure was the only fit for a modernizing society that could not abide black citizens sharing in societal benefits, and one where black workers had often been carved out of the gains of labor entirely.”

State-subsidized programs like Medicare and Medicaid, which came into existence a year after the 1964 Civil Rights Act, essentially forced hospitals to see black patients and helped “end formal segregation.” Decades later, Obamacare disproportionately helped expand coverage to people of color. But the new efforts pushed by the Republicans, wrote Newkirk, “will move America away from eliminating racial inequalities in health and health care.” It’s just another unfortunate way the U.S. system may distinguish itself from the rest of the world.

]]> 0 Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York holds up a photograph of constituents who would be adversely affected by the proposed Republican Senate health care bill as he and Democratic senators speak outside the Capitol Building in Washington on Tuesday.Wed, 28 Jun 2017 13:59:09 +0000
Man keeps ramming car into Ten Commandments statues Wed, 28 Jun 2017 17:43:31 +0000 In the video, the Arkansas capitol dome can be seen lit against the night sky as the Dodge Dart accelerates to 10, then 20 mph.

“Oh my goodness,” a man says as he flicks on the car’s lights. “Freedom!”

The vehicle speeds up the hill and the last thing that comes into view before a crash is a large, newly installed monument.

Authorities say the man in the video is Michael Tate Reed, an alleged serial destroyer of Ten Commandments monuments.

He was arrested by state capitol police officers at the scene early Wednesday, according to Michael Powell, a spokesman for the Arkansas secretary of state. Reed is charged with criminal trespass, first-degree criminal mischief and defacing objects of public interest.

The 6-foot-tall privately funded Ten Commandments monument was installed on the Arkansas Capitol grounds on Tuesday. Associated Press/Jill Zeman Bleed

Wednesday: The monument lies in pieces after Michael Tate Reed allegedly crashed into it with his Dodge Dart. Associataed Press/Jill Zeman Bleed

That object of public interest was a three-ton granite monument that had been installed less than 24 hours before its violent, pre-dawn demise on the southwest lawn of the state capitol in Little Rock.

Crews had cleaned up the crash site by late Wednesday morning and taken the broken pieces to storage, Powell said, but it was unclear whether the controversial monument would be reinstalled.

Reed could not be reached for comment. Powell told The Post he wasn’t sure if Reed had been released from jail.

According to the Associated Press, a 2015 law required Arkansas to allow the Ten Commandments display near the capitol. But groups who argue for a strong separation of church and state have criticized the placement of a biblical statue on the grounds of the seat of the state’s government.

After plans for the Ten Commandments monument were announced, the satanic temple pushed for a competing statue of Baphomet, a goat-headed, angel-winged creature accompanied by two children smiling at it, the AP reported.

Other states have grappled with similar Ten Commandments controversies, including Oklahoma, which installed a 4,800-pound monument on its capitol grounds in 2012.

In 2014, Reed rammed a car into that monument, Powell said. But it was replaced and stood on the capitol grounds until the state Supreme Court ruled it had to be removed, according to The Washington Post’s Abby Phillip.

Reed appears to allude to the Oklahoma toppling incident in a Facebook post before the Arkansas statue was rammed.

“I’m a firm believer that for our salvation we not only have faith in Jesus Christ, but we also obey the commands of God and that we confess Jesus as Lord,” he says in the post. “But one thing I do not support is the violation of our Constitutional right to have the freedom that’s guaranteed to us, that guarantees us the separation of church and state, because no one religion should the government represent.”

Later, he says he’s “back at it again,” and asks for people to donate money to help repair his car.

]]> 0, 28 Jun 2017 18:07:10 +0000
Clock ticking toward a Friday shutdown as new offer narrows budget differences Wed, 28 Jun 2017 17:28:15 +0000 AUGUSTA — With the hours dwindling before a potential state government shutdown at midnight Friday, legislative leaders are mulling the latest offer to end the stalemate over Maine’s next two-year budget.

The proposal assembled by the Republican majority in the Senate includes a funding increase for public schools of $146.7 million, which is $35 million more than Republicans previously had offered.

The new offer also bumps Maine’s sales tax on hotel and motel lodging from 9 percent to 10 percent to generate additional revenue. That sales tax also would be applied to campground visitors.

Although House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, said the difference over education funding that separates Democrats and Republicans is “negligibly small,” the Republican proposal has yet to win approval from Democratic negotiators, and discussions were ongoing. Gov. Paul LePage, meanwhile, issued a memo to more than 10,000 state employees Wednesday afternoon advising them on how the shutdown process will play out if a budget is not in place before the new fiscal year begins Saturday.

“With each passing hour, it seems as though the preparations our administration has made over the last two weeks are less an exercise in caution and more likely plans that may need to be implemented,” the Republican said in the memo. “While I have no desire to see state government shut down, good governance requires our administration be prepared for the possibility that July 1 may arrive without a budget.”

The issue of school funding has been a key sticking point as some lawmakers look to repeal a 3 percent surcharge on household income over $200,000 that was enacted by voters last fall. Republicans argue that the surcharge, which LePage has taken to calling a “surtax,” is damaging to many small businesses in Maine and will drive high wage-earners away while making it harder to recruit skilled professionals.


Sen. President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, said the latest proposal includes things that the four negotiating caucuses – House Republicans, Senate Republicans, House Democrats and Senate Democrats – have said they want to see in a final package. The school funding amount falls significantly short of House Democrats’ original demand that the budget include an amount equal to what would be raised by the surcharge, an estimated $320 million over the two-year budget.

House Democrats previously have said they would settle for an additional $200 million for schools. The surcharge was added by voters to ensure that the state funds public schools at 55 percent of their costs, a level of support that was mandated by voters in 2004 but has never been attained.

The Republican offer also includes $15 million in new funding to boost the wages of direct-care workers employed in group homes for the developmentally disabled who are reimbursed through MaineCare.

Details of the offer were released during a meeting of a six-member budget panel that was formed to negotiate a deal when talks on the budget-writing Appropriations Committee reached a stalemate this month. The panel, which was empowered to work for only 10 days, was reappointed in a vote Wednesday by the Legislature.

Thibodeau, Gideon, Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, and Reps. Aaron Frey, D-Bangor, and Tom Winsor, R-Norway, sit on the panel.

“There ought to be a clear message, and that’s ‘that the gap is narrowing,’ ” Thibodeau said. “We hope this proposal will be a catalyst to getting this done and avoiding a shutdown, which none of us want to see happen.”

Gideon thanked Thibodeau and Katz for the latest offer, and noted that she and fellow Democrats were pleased to see the increased funding for group home direct-care workers because a severe shortage of workers was emerging.

“This helps us move forward,” Gideon said. She said lawmakers would still need some time to “digest” the latest offer, but agreed that lawmakers need to move quickly if they hope to have a budget bill to vote on by Friday.

Wednesday evening, she told House members they would vote Friday, but warned that if those votes fail “folks should expect we will be here every day until we pass a budget.”

The Legislature needs a budget that can gain two-thirds support in both chambers in order to become law by the end of the fiscal year at midnight Friday. The two-thirds majority is needed to overcome a likely veto by LePage, who has said he will reject any bill that doesn’t repeal the 3 percent income tax surcharge or that exceeds $7.055 billion in total spending.

The latest proposal by Senate Republicans also eliminates a $1 million legal defense fund that LePage had requested in his budget.


In his memo to state employees, LePage said that in the event of a shutdown, he will declare a civil emergency and work with his commissioners to decide which state employees are necessary to provide “emergency services.” To determine those positions, LePage will use the standard employed by Gov. John McKernan during the last partial government shutdown in 1991.

That policy reads: “Only those persons employed by the state whose duties and functions minimize the risk of direct and imminent injury to persons, or minimize the risk of direct, imminent and substantial harm to property, or that serve to repair any such injury to persons or harm to property, or are essential to completing that portion of the lawmaking process that will relieve the state of emergency, or whose functions are necessary or appropriate to meet additional needs covered by the (Maine Emergency Management Act), shall be allowed to report to work and perform their assigned tasks.”

LePage’s communications office said Wednesday that the list of employee classifications deemed to be “emergency” and “non-emergency” positions probably would be released Friday. All state employees considered “emergency employees” are required to report to work and will be paid or compensated, but not necessarily immediately. “Non-emergency employees” are not permitted to work during a shutdown and will not be paid.

Although the governor’s memo to state employees was largely devoid of political rhetoric, a statement sent out along with the memo Wednesday squarely blamed Democrats and “radical activists” and “extremist environmental organizations” for the budget impasse.

“House Republicans are willing to negotiate and invest additional education funding, but the Democrats are still dug in,” LePage said in the statement. “Instead of voting on a budget to benefit the Maine people, Democrats are bowing to the demands of labor unions, radical activists at the Maine People’s Alliance and extremist environmental organizations. “Democrats should have the courage to compromise in the best interest of the Maine taxpayers and residents who will foot the bill for the budget,” he said. “If state employees are concerned about a potential shutdown, I urge them to call the speaker of the House and tell her to pass a fiscally responsible budget today.”

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 791-6330 or at:

Twitter: thisdog

]]> 0 Senate holds its morning session Tuesday at the State House in Augusta. The voter-passed 3 percent tax surcharge on higher incomes is at the heart of the budget impasse.Thu, 29 Jun 2017 00:25:44 +0000
Wiscasset traffic improvements to move forward despite loss of local support Wed, 28 Jun 2017 17:07:24 +0000 WISCASSET — The Maine Department of Transportation plans to move forward with planned traffic improvements in downtown Wiscasset despite a 3 to 2 vote by the Wiscasset Select Board to withdraw its support for the project.

The board withdrew support on June 20, with members Ben Rines, Katharine Martin-Savage, and Bob Blagden voting to send a letter to the DOT saying it doesn’t support the project. That vote came in the wake of a referendum that passed 400-323 June 13 that asked whether voters would “disapprove and reject, by a binding referendum, the changes made by the Maine Department of Transportation to the Route 1/Main Street Option No. 2 Project approved by voters in June 2016.”

The vote is not binding, according to legal advice given to both Wiscasset and the state’s transportation department.

“We are puzzled to hear that three select board members have voted against the project,” said Ted Talbot, press secretary for DOT. Talbot said the vote was to reject changes to Option 2, which is the “very project that Maine DOT has been developing over the last year.”

So far, the department has spent $622,000 on the project. That cost includes the acquisition via eminent domain of the Haggett Garage property on Water Street.

The entire project is expected to cost about $5 million, to be paid with state funds.

It includes eliminating on-street parking, widening sidewalks along Main Street, installing benches and greenery in the extended sidewalks, installing new traffic lights and turn-out lanes at intersections, and creating a new parking lot at the site of Haggett’s Garage.

The referendum question was put on the ballot thanks to a petition by the Wiscasset Taxpayers Alliance, a group of residents who disagreed with how the DOT is pursuing the project. Bill Sutter, spokesman for the group, said DOT’s withdrawal of federal funding is a key sticking point.

“They chose not to use federal funds and chose not to apply the standards of historic preservation to the project,” he said. Federal funding would cause the project to undergo Section 106 historic preservation standards.

“Wiscasset is not opposed to helping in any way we can, reasonably, in moving of traffic,” Sutter said, adding other DOT proposals have less of an effect on downtown, but still improve traffic flow. “I don’t think there’s any opposition to doing what is reasonably possible to address the DOT’s goals of increasing traffic flow through Wiscasset.”

Talbot said the referendum was “tainted by misinformation and misleading statements,” and that the DOT is continuing to work with the town’s advisory committee on the project. “Maine DOT will continue to make every effort to work collaboratively with the town, but we are committed to moving the project forward.”

Neighboring towns are watching the process in Wiscasset with interest. Alna, Edgecomb and Newcastle are all just north of Wiscasset, and can be affected by traffic issues, especially in the summer.

“I’ve gone down to one of the public meetings and testified in support of (the project) on behalf of our town,” said Alna Select Board member Douglas Baston. He was reluctant to comment specifically on the issues in Wiscasset, as it’s not his jurisdiction and he prefers to remain out of other towns’ business. However, he does point out that the issue of traffic is regional.

“I see up and down (Route) 218 when the volume of traffic quadruples or sextuples, I know Wiscasset is jammed up,” he said.

He also added that he doesn’t envy the position Wiscasset or the DOT is in. “It’s a little frustrating, because Wiscasset has a problem that’s not of their own making. I think it’s unfortunate, and I think it puts DOT in a bit of a public relations problem.”

Newcastle Select Board member Benjamin Frey said he also sees an impact from traffic, and said he’d offer his services “in any way he could” to help Wiscasset figure things out. “Temperatures and emotions run high on this one. But if you look back at the history of this, every idea that has been put forth has been rejected.”

While Frey was reluctant to comment on any specifics of the process, he said in Newcastle they’ve used volunteers and traffic cones to try out different traffic patterns to see how they work.

“Maybe just do something no-cost, a couple of volunteers go out there and put up some traffic cones to test these kind of things,” he said. “We just tested doing different traffic patterns to see how it would work.”

The DOT shows no signs of slowing down on the project. A site walk was recently performed with the advisory committee, and Talbot said meetings with the committee are ongoing.

“Meetings with the town’s advisory committee have been informative and productive,” Talbot said. “We also know there is a lot of local and regional support for the project and an expectation from the traveling public that Maine DOT will improve the longstanding congestion and pedestrian safety concerns in Wiscasset.”

]]> 0, 28 Jun 2017 16:20:51 +0000
After convicted killer dies, police plead for help finding clues in central Maine woman’s death Wed, 28 Jun 2017 16:58:52 +0000

Albert Cochran is escorted by Maine State Police on March 21, 1998, to a waiting police cruiser at Portland International Jetport. Cochran returned to Maine from Florida to face murder charges in the death of Janet Baxter, of Oakland, in 1976. Staff file photo

The death of a convicted killer has prompted Maine State Police to ask the public for help in solving a 41-year-old cold case.

Albert P. Cochran, 79, died Tuesday in a Rockport hospital while serving a life sentence for murdering and raping Janet Baxter of Oakland in 1976. Cochran’s girlfriend at the time, Pauline Rourke, disappeared two weeks after he murdered Baxter and was never found.

Albert P. Cochran is seen in a photo from the Maine Department of Corrections website. Photo courtesy of Maine Department of Corrections

In interviews Wednesday with the Morning Sentinel, authorities revealed for the first time that Cochran had told them that Rourke’s body was in a well in the Smithfield area, although he did not admit that he had killed his girlfriend.

The Maine State Police Unsolved Homicide Unit believes it is close to solving the case, and Cochran’s death spurred police to ask the public for help in finding the well that might contain Rourke’s remains.

“We haven’t been talking about some of this investigative work of the unit because we don’t want to give the impression that some cases have priority over others,” said Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety. “They are all equally important to us. But we are taking this unusual step to go public because we are convinced Cochran was responsible for Pauline’s death and he likely was the only person to know where her remains are.

“In the aftermath of Cochran’s death, we share this new information with the public, and hopefully someone will help solve this mystery and bring Pauline home after 41 years.”

The Unsolved Homicide Unit met with Cochran several times in an effort to unravel Rourke’s disappearance, said Lt. Jeffrey Love, who oversees both the Homicide Unit and the Major Crimes Unit.

Police drove around the Smithfield area with Cochran twice this spring to try to find the well that Cochran claimed contained Rourke’s body, but they did not find it.

“We searched three wells in Smithfield and we excavated two of those wells and we also excavated a piece of property in Fairfield,” Love said.

Two of the wells were on a dirt road off East Pond Road in Smithfield and the other was off East Pond Road itself, he said.

Janet Baxter

Cochran told police that during the year before Rourke died, he and Rourke were on the property where the well is located and Cochran stole two wagon wheels from the property, which also had a barn on it, said Detective Jay Pelletier, who worked with the Maine Department of Corrections and was with Cochran on the trips.

“He described it as a dilapidated barn that had caved in,” Pelletier said. “It had a well between the barn and the road and the well was lined with slate rocks on top and there was a hayfield out back.”

Pelletier said the slate may be an important piece of information the public may be able to help with because there were no other wells in the area police searched that were capped with that kind of rock.

The wells they searched were not working wells, but they probably were 25 or 30 years ago, he said. Of the wells that police examined, two were filled in and the third was covered over.

Police asked anyone who may be able to help with information about the well, which also could be in the Oakland or Fairfield area, to call police at 624-7076.


In addition to the 18 years that Cochran served of his life sentence, he previously had served nine years in an Illinois prison for murdering his 19-year-old wife, Patricia Ann, in 1964 in Joliet, Illinois. He admitted to strangling her.

Cochran also was charged, but never convicted, of stabbing their three children to death in Illinois. At the time, he claimed his wife had killed them.

He was on parole in Maine when he killed Baxter. Baxter was murdered on Nov. 23, 1976, but Cochran’s connection to the killing wasn’t discovered until DNA testing 23 years later. He was convicted in 1999 and was serving his sentence at the Maine State Prison in Warren.

He was never charged in connection with Rourke’s disappearance.

Love said that over the last 10 years, several investigators spoke to Cochran about the Rourke missing-person case, and police have had lengthy discussions with him about her whereabouts.

“Throughout a number of meetings with him, the impression I got was that he would only give so much and then he’d just hold back – almost like he was scheming and calculating,” McCausland said.

The behind-the-scenes work with Cochran is an example of what the new Unsolved Homicide Unit has been working on – “quiet and dogged investigation to solve Maine’s most difficult homicide cases,” McCausland said. “It’s a mystery we came very close to resolving, but whether Cochran was mistaken (about the well location) or whether he was just manipulating, we don’t know.”


In 1976, Cochran had moved in with Rourke at her mobile home in Fairfield Center. She disappeared around Dec. 12, 1976.

A copy of a 1974 family photograph of Pauline Rourke, who was the live-in girlfriend of Albert P. Cochran when she disappeared in 1976. Staff file photo

Love said Cochran would not admit that he had anything to do with her death, but he would disseminate “tidbits” of information to police.

“For instance, her location – but he would never say it was him that caused her death or put her there – he just knew this information. He did say that he’s the only one in the world that knows where she is,” Love said.

Authorities always have wanted to bring her home to her daughter, Honey Rourke; and when Cochran’s health began deteriorating, they increased the frequency of those visits. Police said they have been in close contact with Honey Rourke over the years.

Honey Rourke told the Morning Sentinel in March 1998, after Cochran was arrested for Baxter’s murder, that she was 12 when she lived with him and her mother. She said he always looked angry, never smiled and was always fighting with her mother.

“I remember he had huge, huge hands,” she said. “He always turned beet, beet red like a tomato. That’s when my mother would back off.”


Baxter had driven from her Oakland home on Nov. 23, 1976, to the A&P supermarket in the JFK Mall on Kennedy Memorial Drive in Waterville. She had a cold and went to the store to buy cold medicine.

She never returned home. Her boyfriend at the time reported her missing.

Police later found Baxter’s body in the trunk of a car along the Kennebec River in Norridgewock. She had been shot in the head and chest.

She had no known connection to Cochran.

After Baxter’s killing, Cochran seemed obsessed with the crime.

At some point, Honey Rourke said she overheard her mother say to a relative that she was scared that Cochran might have been involved in Baxter’s killing.

“She was scared and she didn’t know what to do,” she said.

Cochran once drove Honey and Pauline Rourke from their Fairfield home to the crime scene, Honey Rourke said.

“He wanted us to see where this happened,” Honey Rourke recalled in March 1998. “My mother thought that was real odd. From there on, the fighting got real bad between them. … Then all of a sudden, my mother disappeared.”

Cochran was married again and living in Stuart, Florida, when police charged him with Baxter’s murder in 1998.

McCausland said Wednesday that Cochran had been hospitalized in recent days and had been in poor health, although he did not know the exact cause of his death.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

]]> 0 Cochran is escorted by Maine State Police on March 21, 1998, to a waiting police cruiser at Portland International Jetport. Cochran returned to Maine from Florida to face murder charges in the death of Janet Baxter, of Oakland, in 1976.Wed, 28 Jun 2017 23:57:03 +0000
Mitch McConnell aims to revise Senate health care bill by Friday Wed, 28 Jun 2017 16:53:03 +0000 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is aiming to send a revised version of his health care bill to the Congressional Budget Office as soon as Friday as he continues to push for a vote before Congress’ August recess.

The effort reflects the tight timeline McConnell faces in his attempt to hold a vote in July – and the pressure he is under to change the bill to garner enough support to pass it. With both conservatives and centrists pushing different policy solutions, Senate leaders were struggling to craft a rewrite of the Affordable Care Act on Wednesday that would attract votes without torpedoing the CBO’s official score of how the legislation affects coverage levels and federal spending.

In between closed-door lunches and meetings with McConnell and his team on Wednesday, a number of Republicans flashed visible signs of frustration even as they expressed cautious optimism that a vote is possible. Conservatives asked for the lifting of coverage mandates to lower premiums and requested higher limits on tax exemptions for health-savings accounts. Moderates asked for more generous tax credits for the working classes and a gentler phaseout of the expansion of Medicaid that their states have enjoyed under the Affordable Care Act.

Some members questioned McConnell’s handling of the issue – an unusual public rebuke of a leader who managed to preserve his party’s control of the upper chamber despite a stiff challenge from Democrats in last year’s elections.

“This has been way more difficult than it needs to be,” said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who was among five senators whose opposition to the bill prompted McConnell to postpone a vote this week.

With Vice President Mike Pence prepared to cast the tiebreaking vote, and all Democrats opposed to repealing the 2010 law known as Obamacare, Republicans need the support of all but two of their 52 senators.

The draft bill that stalled this week would cut $772 billion from the nation’s Medicaid program over the next decade, by phasing out the program’s expansion under the ACA and reining in spending on the overall program, especially starting in 2025. It would also repeal or delay $541 billion in taxes, primarily on wealthy Americans and insurers.

The move to cut Medicaid, which covers nearly 70 million Americans, helps offset the bill’s generous tax cuts. But it has generated significant opposition among more than a half-dozen centrists who fear the reductions will impede the nation’s effort to address the opioid crisis and could leave many vulnerable Americans without any health coverage at all.

McConnell spent most of the afternoon in closed-door talks with Republican moderates who appear open to negotiation. The revolving door of meetings included Sens. Dean Heller of Nevada, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Bob Corker of Tennessee, along with Alaska’s two senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, and Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas.

“It is important to me that lower-income citizens have the ability to actually purchase plans that insure them and give them health care,” Corker said after his meeting with McConnell. “My hope is and my belief is that it is going to be addressed.”

President Trump, meanwhile, questioned in a tweet Wednesday afternoon why some were complaining about the bill’s impact on the longstanding entitlement program.

“Democrats purposely misstated Medicaid under new Senate bill – actually goes up,” he tweeted.

The tweet included a chart showing that, after a downturn in the early 2020s, federal expenditures on Medicaid would increase in absolute terms under the Senate bill. The chart excluded another trend line, part of the Congressional Budget Office’s recent analysis of the bill, showing that the legislation would result in nearly $800 billion less spent on Medicaid over the coming decade than if the ACA stays in effect.

While the legislation is likely to get further revisions after this next update, McConnell is trying to move quickly to produce a new CBO score by the time lawmakers return to Washington in mid-July. That would give the Senate about two weeks to fulfill the majority leader’s goal of voting before the August recess.

McConnell and his aides plan to continue negotiations through the end of the week and will be in frequent communication with the CBO, according to McConnell spokesman David Popp.

The majority leader needs to bring on board about nine senators who have said they wouldn’t vote for the Better Care Reconciliation Act in its current form. Moving to the left could mollify the moderates from states that expanded Medicaid, while moving to the right would appease conservatives in the Senate – and in the House, where any Senate bill would also have to pass.

One Capitol Hill aide described the situation as akin to the weeks leading up to the draft bill’s release, when McConnell presented chunks of the emerging legislation to the CBO to expedite the scoring process.

In a sign of how McConnell has only intensified negotiations in the past 24 hours, he huddled Wednesday afternoon at length with Heller and Capito, two Republican senators who have complained loudly that the proposal cuts Medicaid too deeply.

Heller left a weekly strategy lunch Wednesday and walked directly into McConnell’s private office in the Capitol. The two met for nearly 45 minutes, eventually being joined by Capito. Heller darted out a back entrance and down a private hallway, evading reporters.

The activity followed a dramatic day on the Hill on Tuesday, when Republican leaders bowed to pressure from within their ranks and postponed a vote until after the Fourth of July recess. The move bought Republican leaders more time to work out disagreements but also gave rise to new doubts about their ability to bring the matter to a final vote.

Trump is trying to help, mainly by wooing skeptical conservatives, which he has struggled to do. He convened a meeting of all Republican senators at the White House on Tuesday after McConnell announced that the vote would be delayed.

But the White House appears less involved in crafting specific policy tweaks. From the outset of the effort, McConnell and a small clutch of aides have controlled that process.

Republican leaders are exploring whether they can use some of the nearly $200 billion that the CBO has determined they can spend without violating Senate budget rules to address the priorities of the bill’s conservative and centrist critics.

Among the specific changes discussed Wednesday were an increase in the savings limits for health-savings accounts, more generous tax credits for lower- and middle-class earners, and a gradual step-down for people near the higher income threshold for Medicaid, according to senators and aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing negotiations.

Senators also proposed a more generous growth rate for Medicaid reimbursements after federal spending in the program was changed from an open-ended entitlement to a per-person cap. Under the current draft, starting in 2025 the federal government would apply the consumer price index for urban consumers, a lower inflation rate, to Medicaid payments.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a conservative who helped shut down the government in 2013 in an effort to repeal Obamacare, continued to call for fewer restrictions on the types of plans that can be offered. Cruz wants to allow insurers to offer bare-bones plans that do not meet minimum requirements, such as providing protections against charging higher rates for preexisting conditions, as long as they also offer at least one fully loaded option.

“What that does is it maintains the existing protections but it gives consumers additional new options above and beyond what they can purchase today,” Cruz told reporters. “That would have the effect of significantly lowering premiums and allowing more people to afford to buy insurance plans.”

Centrists such as Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., worry that Cruz’s plan would cause a domino effect that would destabilize risk pools across the insurance market and create unfairly high pricing, particularly for women who need maternity care.

“Yes, you want cheaper plans, absolutely,” Cassidy said. “Unless you have a common risk pool, you end up with policies that don’t cover maternity. As best I tell, women don’t get pregnant without sperm.”

Cassidy called it an “existential question” when asked whether the legislation was back on track. “I can’t speak for the leader,” he said. “It’s the leader’s staff that’s drafting this.”

]]> 0 Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., joined by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., left, shown after announcing that he was delaying a vote on the Republican health care bill on Tuesday, is aiming to revise the bill by Friday, aides say.Wed, 28 Jun 2017 21:55:36 +0000
Mother’s ex-boyfriend gets life in prison in killing of ‘Baby Doe’ Wed, 28 Jun 2017 16:39:06 +0000 BOSTON – A Massachusetts man was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison in the killing of a 2-year-old girl who became known as Baby Doe after her remains washed up on the shore of a Boston Harbor island.

Michael McCarthy, 37, will be eligible for parole after serving 20 years under the sentence imposed by Judge Janet Sanders.

McCarthy was convicted Monday of second-degree murder in the 2015 killing of Bella Bond, the daughter of his girlfriend at the time. A computer-generated image of Bella was shared by millions on social media as authorities scrambled to identify her.

Assistant District Attorney David Deakin asked the judge to set McCarthy’s parole eligibility at 25 years – 10 years more than the minimum. McCarthy’s lawyer called that recommendation “vindictive” and asked Sanders to make him eligible for parole after 15 years. The judge came out in the middle of the two recommendations at 20 years.

The girl’s mother, Rachelle Bond, who also was charged in the case, was the prosecution’s star witness. She told the jury she saw McCarthy kill her daughter one night after the girl didn’t want to go to bed.

McCarthy’s lawyer, Jonathan Shapiro, insisted that Bond was the real killer and cast a “web of lies” to blame McCarthy.

“There was no justice for Mr. McCarthy here,” Shapiro said.

Bond pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact for helping McCarthy dispose of her daughter’s body. Under a plea deal with prosecutors, she is expected to serve less than two years in jail. The agreement calls for her to be released after her sentencing July 12.

Bella Bond’s father, Joseph Amoroso, gave a victim impact statement before McCarthy was sentenced, describing Bella as “a happy and innocent child full of life.”

“I was robbed of my chance to be a father to Bella,” he said.

Testimony during the trial showed the girl’s short life was marked by turmoil. Both McCarthy and Bond were heroin addicts. A friend testified that he saw McCarthy discipline the girl by putting her in a locked closet.

]]> 0 McCarthy watches as jury selection begins for his murder trial in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston in May. McCarthy was convicted Monday of second-degree murder in the death of Bella Bond.Wed, 28 Jun 2017 13:29:14 +0000
‘Pharma Bro’ trial hits snag: Seating jury for ‘most hated man in America’ Wed, 28 Jun 2017 16:36:00 +0000 NEW YORK — Martin Shkreli got his first taste of Wall Street as an intern for a hedge fund firm started by CNBC personality Jim Cramer. After striking out on his own, he developed a reputation for aggressive tactics, including betting a company’s stock price would fall and then berating its executives on social media.

His battles earned him a spot on Forbes’ list of “30 under 30” after Shkreli torpedoed a health-care industry merger and “antagonized” pharmaceutical giant Pfizer into removing its former chief executive from the company’s board of directors, the magazine said. Shkreli, now 34, is a “boy genius,” his attorney has said.

But one of Shkreli’s most aggressive moves changed that narrative when, as chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals, he raised the price of Daraprim – a 62-year-old drug primarily used to treat newborns and HIV patients – from $13.50 to $750 a pill. When critics pounced, the live-out-loud Shkreli did his reputation no favors by calling a journalist a “moron,” quoting defiant rap lyrics on Twitter and defending the price increase as a “great business decision.”

“Our shareholders expect us to make as much money as possible,” Shkreli said at a health-industry summit in 2015, dressed nonchalantly in a hooded sweatshirt and sneakers. “That’s the ugly, dirty truth.”

These two images of the Brooklyn native are playing out in federal court this week as Shkreli faces eight charges that could land him in prison for years.

Packed into the second-floor courtroom in Brooklyn, several potential jurors said they had already formed strong opinions of Shkreli. One potential juror told U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto that Shkreli is “the price gouger of drugs. My kids are on some of these drugs.”

Another said, “I know he’s the most hated man in America,” while another asserted that “from everything I’ve read, I believe the defendant is the face of corporate greed in America.” All were excused from the jury.

Shkreli sat a few feet away by himself, intermittently appearing to write on a yellow pad or staring up at the ceiling. Dressed in a gray suit and no tie, he yawned and leaned his head against his arm. In the back row of the courtroom sat his father. During one break, Shkreli greeted friends in the courtroom and warned them to stay away from “fake news.”

The trial is slated to last four to six weeks, and Matsumoto told potential jurors that it “promises to be interesting and educational.” So far, more than 250 potential jurors have been interviewed, but not a single one had been seated. On Wednesday, the judge and lawyers were interviewing candidates again in hopes of finding 12 jurors and six alternates.


With news trucks stationed outside and more than a dozen reporters flowing in and out of the courtroom, Shkreli is facing intense media scrutiny. Citing negative news coverage of his client – which included the New York Post front-page headline “Jury of His Jeers, 134 jurors out in ‘Pharma Bro’ trial: They all hate him” – Shkreli’s attorney requested a mistrial, which was denied. He also asked that reporters not be allowed to listen to potential jurors’ voice their opinions about Shkreli, which was also denied.

Court officers confiscated a copy of one of the New York tabloids that covered the first day of the trial from one of the potential jurors. “I think it’s impossible for jurors not to see them. I have someone who is facing 20 years in prison,” said his attorney Benjamin Brafman.

Federal prosecutors alleged that for five years Shkreli lied to investors in two hedge funds and biopharmaceutical company Retrophin, all of which he founded. After losing money on stock bets he made through one hedge fund, Shkreli allegedly started another and used his new investors’ money to pay off those who had lost money on the first fund. Then, as pressure was building, Shkreli started Retrophin, which was publicly traded, and used cash and stock from that company to settle with other disgruntled investors, prosecutors contend.


But potential jurors appear to be struggling to separate Shkreli’s public persona with the charges he is facing. One juror told the judge that she had been in the health-care field for half her life and knew someone who used the AIDS medication whose price skyrocketed under Shkreli.

“I have cried with them,” she said. “I don’t think I could be the right person to sit” on the jury. Even after advised by Matsumoto that Shkreli is not facing charges related to raising drug prices, the potential juror said she couldn’t be impartial and was excused.

Shkreli’s attorneys are preparing to argue that he was following the advice of his lawyer, who is also facing criminal charges. His investors didn’t lose money and were not defrauded, they have argued.

“Shkreli did not defraud the investors and then make it up to them later with a different investment. This may be the Government’s view, but it’s not ours,” Brafman said in a court filing earlier this month. “At trial, the defendant will show that Mr. Shkreli never, at any time, intended for a single investor to lose a dime. Not in the short term; not in the long term; not ever.”

Shkreli’s emergence on the national stage coincided with a larger debate about rising drug prices, and Shkreli appeared to relish the attention, or at least not shrink from it. Even after he was arrested in December 2015, he spent hours on YouTube chronicling his life for fans and was eventually kicked off Twitter for harassing a freelance journalist.

When he appeared before a congressional committee last year, he smirked and grinned while refusing to answer questions. Afterward on Twitter, he called the lawmakers “imbeciles.”

Shkreli’s attorney urged him to stay quiet, but the former hedge fund manager repeatedly took to social media. In April, he offered $40,000 to a Princeton University student who solved a mathematical proof. In May, he pledged on Facebook to pay $100,000 for tips leading to the arrest of the person who killed former Democratic National Committee employee Seth Rich.

Shkreli is “traveling to the beat of his own very unique drummer,” Brafman has said.


When Shkreli asked this month for his $5 million bail to be reduced to $2 million, his loquaciousness worked against him. Brafman told the court that Shkreli didn’t have any cash and needed to pay taxes and legal fees. But skeptical prosecutors noted that Shkreli had bragged about his wealth, including flaunting that he had paid millions for a Picasso painting, a one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan album, and a World War II-era Enigma code-breaking machine used against Nazi Germany.

Those statements should not be taken seriously, his attorney responded. “Tweeting has become, unfortunately, so fashionable, and when people tweet, they don’t always mean what they say,” Brafman said.

The judge denied the request.

Many of the potential jurors interviewed Wednesday appeared well aware of Shkreli’s activities.

“He is probably guilty and there is no way I can let him slide,” one said, adding that he didn’t like that Shkreli had been disrespectful to the Wu Tang Clan.

Shkreli purchased the only known copy of a Wu Tang Clan album for $2 million and didn’t release parts of the album until after President Trump was elected. He later lashed out at the hip-hop group for distancing itself from him. “If I hand you $2 million … show me some respect. At least have the decency to say nothing or ‘no comment,’ ” he said on Twitter.

]]> 0, 28 Jun 2017 21:20:42 +0000
Hallowell police charge man with animal cruelty after he allegedly left dog in hot car for 30 minutes Wed, 28 Jun 2017 16:12:21 +0000 Hallowell police have charged a man with animal cruelty after he allegedly left his dog in a hot car for about 30 minutes Tuesday afternoon on Water Street.

The car was parked on the east side of the street, in the sun, and with its four windows each cracked open about 2 inches, when an officer arrived and found the dog inside, police Chief Eric Nason said.

The officer was responding to a call from a member of the public, who said the dog — brown and with the look of a boxer mix — had been in the parked car for a half-hour.

In an interview, the dog’s owner, 25-year-old Ryker Wells, of Augusta, said he was grabbing a drink at a bar in downtown Hallowell and made a mistake by leaving his 1.5-year-old dog, Atlas, in the vehicle. He didn’t dispute the civil charge and said he will be “honest” when appearing in court about it.

But Wells also said his dog was never in danger. The weather was overcast when he first parked the car Tuesday, around 1:30 p.m., and he immediately returned to let his dog out when he realized the sun had started to shine, he said.

“He was out in the actual heat for no more than 10 minutes,” Wells said of Atlas, whom he had picked up from a shelter eight months ago. “It was cloudy and fine when I left him there.”

In this case, two factors — the car’s temperature and the dog’s appearance — led to an officer charging Wells, according to Nason.

The dog “was awake and panting,” Nason said. “The panting sets off some red flags. Certainly that would be something that is not natural behavior from an animal. … It would be an indication of some type of possibility of extreme heat.”

And based on the time the dog was in the car and the outside air temperature of 72 degrees, the officer estimated the car’s inside temperature was about 100 degrees, Nason said.

He made that determination using a formula from the American Veterinary Medical Association, which estimates that 70-degree air outside can heat the interior of a car to 99 degrees in 20 minutes, and 104 degrees in 30 minutes.

Though the car’s windows were open a bit in this case, Nason said, “either way, it’s going to trap a fair amount of heat.”

An officer went to the car around 2 p.m. It was parked on the east side of Water Street, between the Wharf and Winthrop street intersections.

When Wells returned to unlock the car, the officer wrote him a civil summons on a charge of animal cruelty. Wells said he might face a fine of up to $500 and that he has an otherwise “100 percent clean record.”

But while Wells agreed that Atlas had been in the car a half-hour, he said the sun was beaming on the car for just 10 minutes. He didn’t leave the windows more open because he’d seen rain was in the forecast, he said.

At the time, he was getting a drink with someone in the outdoor section of the Quarry Tap Room, just down the block and on the same side of the street.

“The second the sun came out, I immediately told the waitress my dog was in the car and I had to pay my check,” Wells said. “He was never in any danger. He probably did have some discomfort. I’m not saying it wasn’t a mistake, but I treat him as good as I can. I would not have let him be in danger. If I thought it would take any longer, I would have sent (the person he was meeting).”

Wells also said this was the first time he left Atlas alone in the car and that he gave the dog water as soon as he returned. Afterwards, the dog seemed healthy to him.

“It’s not something I’ll be doing again,” he said.

Hallowell police commonly receive complaints about animals left in parked cars on hot days — and in winter, cold days — but Nason couldn’t recall another time that someone was punished for it in the last two years.

“They’re all case-by-case,” Nason said. “(They depend) on circumstances of the witness and the condition of the animal. Is the car in shade? Does the animal have water? All kinds of elements play into these kind of calls.”

Nason also couldn’t recall a time when a Hallowell officer has had to break into a hot car where an animal was being kept, but he said that could be an option for police when necessary.

If a citizen sees an animal in a parked car, whether in summer or winter, and thinks it’s in jeopardy, Nason said he recommends that person report it to the police or an animal control officer.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

Twitter: @ceichacker

]]> 0, 28 Jun 2017 17:37:28 +0000
Maine blueberry prices sank to 10-year low in 2016 Wed, 28 Jun 2017 15:43:52 +0000 DEBLOIS – The U.S. Department of Agriculture says Maine’s wild blueberry growers saw another decrease in crop value in 2016.

Wild blueberries are one of Maine’s most recognized agriculture products. Production of the blueberries has been high in recent years, and crept up a little less than one percent to almost 102 million pounds last year.

But prices have sunk to a 10-year low. The USDA says growers received 27 cents per pound for the blueberries last year, down 19 cents from 2015 and 33 cents from 2014. The berries sold for more than a dollar a pound as recently as 2007.

Maine agriculture officials are seeking new ways to promote the blueberries. The crop has suffered in part due to surplus supply and competition with Canada, where the dollar is weaker.

]]> 0, 28 Jun 2017 11:56:44 +0000
Map: Where are the higher-income households that would pay the 3% education surcharge? Wed, 28 Jun 2017 15:16:18 +0000 While Republicans in the Maine Legislature are struggling to repeal a voter-approved income tax surcharge on Maine’s highest earners, the vast majority of households that would be affected by the surcharge live in areas that consistently and overwhelmingly vote for Democrats, according to statistics from the Internal Revenue Service.

Last November, Maine voters approved a new 3% surcharge on annual household income above $200,000 to fund statewide education.

The measure is forecast to generate over $320 million in new income tax revenue for school funding over 2 years. But in negotiations over the state budget this month, Republican efforts to repeal the new tax rate have become the major stumbling block for a budget agreement. If lawmakers do not pass a budget by Friday, the state government may shut down.

Data from the Internal Revenue Service for the 2014 tax year, the most recent year available, breaks down where these high-income households live, by ZIP code. These statistics are illustrated in the map below. For privacy, the IRS suppresses statistics in ZIP codes where there are fewer than 20 tax returns reporting over $200,000 in income: these areas are shaded yellow.

Search by ZIP code or town name



Notes: these statistics reflect reported adjusted gross income from income tax filings in each ZIP code. The number of filings is not equivalent to the number of people, since there are many joint and household filings. Adjusted gross income includes income from S-corporations, dividends, investments and net income from filers’ businesses.
SOURCE: U.S. Internal Revenue Service
INTERACTIVE: Christian MilNeil | @c_milneil

Statewide, fewer than 1 in 40 tax returns claimed income higher than $200,000 a year in 2014. But the ratio of high-income tax returns is substantially higher in a handful of coastal communities in Greater Portland and the midcoast region.

In the town of Cumberland, for instance, where only 33% of voters supported Donald Trump, 1 in 7 returns reported income over $200,000. In Yarmouth, where Trump won just 27% of the vote, 1 in 8 tax returns met the high-earner threshold.

Indeed, many of the towns where the most high-income taxpayers live are also towns where Democrats Hillary Clinton and Mike Michaud won some of their strongest support in the 2016 presidential election and 2014 gubernatorial election, respectively. The maps below shows how each town voted in those statewide elections – note the similarities between these maps and the maps above:

2016 election results, by town


INTERACTIVE: Christian MilNeil | @c_milneil

2014 gubernatorial election results, by town

INTERACTIVE: Christian MilNeil | @c_milneil
]]> 0, 28 Jun 2017 13:27:34 +0000
Paddington bear creator Michael Bond dies at 91 Wed, 28 Jun 2017 14:55:51 +0000 LONDON – It was a last-minute Christmas gift for his wife that inspired Michael Bond to create Paddington bear, the marmalade-loving teddy in a duffel coat and floppy hat.

Bond would go on to see his creation enchant children for more than half a century and become an icon immortalized in print, on screens and as countless stuffed toys before his death at age 91.

His publisher, HarperCollins, said Wednesday that the author died at his home a day earlier after a short illness.

Ann-Janine Murtagh, executive publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Books, said Bond “will be forever remembered for his creation of the iconic Paddington, with his duffel coat and wellington boots, which touched my own heart as a child and will live on in the hearts of future generations.”

The furry adventurer first appeared in “A Bear Called Paddington” in 1958 – a stowaway from “Darkest Peru” who arrived at London’s Paddington train station wearing a sign saying “Please look after this bear. Thank you.”

Adopted by the kindly Brown family, the misadventure-prone bear went on to star in more than 20 books, several television series and a 2014 feature film. A sequel is currently in production.

The books have sold some 35 million copies worldwide and have been translated into 40 languages, including Latin (“Ursus Nomine Paddington.”)

Born in Newbury, southern England, on Jan. 13 1926, Bond served in both the Royal Air Force and the British Army during World War II. He began writing while stationed with the army in Egypt in 1945.

He was working as a BBC cameraman when he created his most famous character. Paddington was inspired by a teddy bear that Bond bought for his wife one Christmas Eve as a stocking filler and named after the station he used for daily commutes.

Today, stuffed Paddingtons are for sale in toy stores and souvenir stands around Britain. A statue of the beloved bear stands at his namesake station.

In creating the initially homeless Paddington, Bond drew on memories of the refugees and evacuees who streamed through British train stations before and after World War II, seeking security in safer places. Many of the children had name tags hung around their necks.

Bond said a sense of vulnerability “was an important part of Paddington’s persona” and a reason why children were drawn to him.

Explaining the character’s enduring appeal in 2008, Bond said “there’s something about bears which sets them apart from the other toys.”

“I think dolls are always wondering what they’re going to wear next,” he told The Associated Press. “Bears have this quality that children in particular feel they can tell their secrets to and they won’t pass them on.”

Actor Hugh Bonneville, who plays Mr. Brown in the movie adaptations, said news of Bond’s death came on the final day of shooting for the upcoming film.

Bonneville said Paddington’s “enthusiasm and optimism has given pleasure to millions across the generations.”

“Michael will be greatly missed by his legions of fans and especially by his wife, Sue, his family and of course by his beloved guinea pigs,” he said. “He leaves a special legacy: long live the bear from darkest Peru.”

In addition to the Paddington stories, Bond wrote a series of books about a guinea pig named Olga da Polga and a string of novels for adults about a French detective called Monsieur Pamplemousse.

Bond is survived by his wife and his children, Karen and Anthony.

]]> 0, 28 Jun 2017 11:10:40 +0000
Judge lets egg baron Jack DeCoster serve prison time in New Hampshire Wed, 28 Jun 2017 14:54:04 +0000 Egg baron Jack DeCoster will be allowed to serve his federal prison sentence in New Hampshire for selling eggs that caused a salmonella outbreak.

DeCoster and his son Peter DeCoster pleaded guilty in Iowa federal court in 2014 to selling the adulterated eggs that led to the outbreak.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the 2010 salmonella outbreak included 1,939 officially confirmed cases, and that more than 56,000 people may have been sickened nationally.

In addition to fines, the two Quality Egg executives were also sentenced to three months in prison and have been ordered to serve their time this year after the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of their sentence.

Earlier this month, they asked to change the order in which they would serve their sentences and Jack DeCoster asked to be sent to a federal prison in New Hampshire.

DeCoster owned egg farms in Turner, which were repeatedly sued and fined for breaking labor, worker and food safety laws, violating environmental rules and for animal cruelty. In 1996, U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich called the conditions for workers at the Turner egg farms “as dangerous and oppressive as any sweatshop we’ve seen.”

Jack DeCoster, 82, eventually sold his Maine operations in 2011 and moved most of them to Iowa, where he has also faced fines and criticism for how he operated his farms. He was placed on probation for hiring undocumented workers and state authorities called him a “habitual offender” of employment laws. The governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad, labeled Jack DeCoster “a bad egg” who cheated contractors, didn’t pay his bills, hired illegal immigrants and broke environmental laws.

After pleading guilty to selling the adulterated eggs, the DeCosters appealed the part of the sentence that called for them to serve time in prison. Both have paid $100,000 fines that were part of the sentence, but each still owes more than $80,000 in court-ordered restitution.

In addition, Quality Egg was fined nearly $6.8 million.

The Supreme Court in May declined to hear their case, so the two went back to the Iowa court and asked that Jack DeCoster be allowed to serve his sentence in New Hampshire because he and his wife have relocated to Maine from Iowa. Maine has no federal prison facilities and the closest facility is a medium-security prison in Berlin, New Hampshire.

A federal judge also granted a request by the DeCosters to stagger their sentences so they aren’t imprisoned at the same time. Peter DeCoster will report to a federal prison in South Dakota on July 20, which will allow him to attend his daughter’s wedding in Iowa before going to prison.


The judge also altered the order of their sentences: Jack DeCoster was originally scheduled to go to prison first, followed by his son. Lawyers said switching the sentences will allow Jack DeCoster to get medical treatment after he suffered a recent episode of dizziness and weakness. He also suffers from hypertension, hyperlipidemia, anemia, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, prostate cancer and pre-diabetes, according to court filings.

That means that Jack DeCoster will report to the New Hampshire prison a month after his son is released. His lawyers have said that he will seek medical treatment in the meantime, primarily for his heart problems.

The prison he will be reporting to is located on Success Loop Road in Berlin. It houses 889 inmates in a medium-security facility and another 64 at an adjacent minimum-security “camp.” It has a capacity of 1,152 in the medium-security part of the facility and 128 in minimum security, where Jack DeCoster is expected to be assigned. Visitation is allowed on Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays.

In their filing to allow Jack DeCoster to serve his time there, his lawyers said he is likely to have better access to medical treatment at the Berlin prison and it will also be easier for family to visit him from Maine.

Construction of the prison was completed in November 2010, but the facility didn’t open for a year because of federal budget issues. The most notable prisoner housed at Berlin appears to have been Kent Hovind, who ran a church and creationist theme park in Florida. Hovind was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being found guilty in 2006 on 58 charges, most of them related to avoiding federal income taxes. He was released in August 2015.

The prison where Peter DeCoster will be sent is a minimum-security facility with 480 inmates in Yankton, South Dakota.

Edward D. Murphy can be cpntacted at:

]]> 0 farms in Turner, Leeds and Winthrop recently purchased by Pennsylvania-based Hillandale Farms were once owned by Austin “Jack” DeCoster.Wed, 28 Jun 2017 20:31:45 +0000
Dutch sleuth hopes for breakthrough in biggest U.S. art heist Wed, 28 Jun 2017 14:45:25 +0000 THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A Dutch art sleuth who says he’s following two possible leads in the largest art heist in U.S. history is hoping a $10 million reward will help track down the collection stolen from a Boston museum in 1990.

Arthur Brand thinks a decision last month to double the reward for information could prompt the return of 13 works stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, though the museum’s director of security says the leads Brand is following have already been pursued and are considered dead ends.

A security guard stands outside the Dutch Room of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, where robbers stole more than a dozen works of art by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas, Manet and others, in an early morning robbery March 18, 1990. Associated Press, File

The $10 million reward announced in May by the museum’s trustees is on offer only until the end of the year, when it will likely revert to $5 million.

“All the lights are on green,” said Brand, whose past searches for purloined paintings and sculptures have led to Ukrainian militiamen and Nazi memorabilia collectors. “If the people do not bring them back this year, it’s now or never.”

The stunning theft at the Gardner Museum was remarkably simple. Two men masqueraded as Boston police and got into the museum by telling a security guard they were responding to a disturbance.

Once inside, the thieves handcuffed two guards on duty and put them in the museum’s basement before snatching masterpieces that included paintings by Dutch masters Rembrandt van Rijn and Johannes Vermeer and French impressionist Edouard Manet.

Investigators have followed an array of leads and suspects — mobsters, Irish gunrunners, local thieves and even a Hollywood screenwriter.

The FBI told The Associated Press in 2015 that two suspects — Boston criminals with ties to organized crime — were dead, but the deaths did not end the search for the Gardner’s stolen art. The FBI said investigators believe the collection moved through organized crime circles to Connecticut and Philadelphia, but its exact whereabouts remains a mystery.

The missing pieces include Rembrandt’s only known seascape, “Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee,” and his “A Lady and Gentleman in Black;” Manet’s “Chez Tortoni;” and Vermeer’s “The Concert,” one of fewer than 40 known paintings by the 17th century Dutch painter.

A Dutch sleuth has his sights set on what he calls the “Holy Grail” of stolen art at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in the Fenway neighborhood of Boston. Associated Press/Chitose Suzuki, File

Neither of the leads Brand is following is new, but the tenacious sleuth hopes the bigger reward will help. He has a record of success — he helped German police seize a huge stash of art in 2015 that included two bronze horse sculptures crafted for Adolf Hitler. He also helped recover art stolen from a Dutch museum that had ended up with a militia in Ukraine. He runs a Dutch agency that helps track the provenance of works of art and advises buyers on their authenticity.

One of the leads focuses on a Dutch criminal who was reportedly in possession of photos of the stolen art and tried to sell the works in the Netherlands and the Belgian city of Antwerp in the early 1990s.

Brand has not seen the photos, but says sources tell him they were taken after the theft. He declined to identify the criminal involved, or his sources.

The lead sounds old, “but if he can tell us who gave … him these pictures at the time we could trace it back,” Brand said.

Empty frames from which thieves took “Storm on the Sea of Galilee,” left background, by Rembrandt and “The Concert,” right foreground, by Vermeer, remain on display at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Associated Press/Josh Reynolds, File

The other lead is one that U.S. law enforcement authorities have followed and discounted: That a former member or members of the Irish Republican Army, which was responsible for a 27-year campaign of violence in Ireland and the United Kingdom, may have information about the works.

“We are talking with some people about getting more information and trying to make a deal,” Brand said, again refusing to elaborate.

Anthony Amore, the Isabella Stewart Gardner’s director of security, says the FBI already has pursued Brand’s leads.

“We’ve explored the leads Arthur is discussing extensively in the past, and we’re confident that we closed them without further need for investigation,” Amore said.

He added, “There’s never been any evidence presented to us of any value that the art left the United States.”

Brand says he and other experts haven’t given up on the Irish angle.

“We all think we have very good leads in Ireland, but we still didn’t see the paintings, so you never know for sure,” he said.

The possibility that whoever now has the art may not face prosecution could also help, along with the huge reward, to get the art back to the Boston museum.

The five-year statute of limitations on crimes associated with the actual theft expired more than 20 years ago, so the thieves can no longer be prosecuted.

Federal prosecutors in Boston have not offered blanket immunity for whoever has the paintings now, but they are willing to consider immunity for anyone who can help them recover the stolen works.

“At this point, our primary focus is to get the paintings back,” Acting U.S. Attorney William Weinreb told The Associated Press.

Brand says that could be enough incentive to make him the middle man who brings the works back to the museum.

“If you have something in your house, even if it’s stolen, and they offer you $10 million and immunity and anonymity, who will hold you back?”

Asked to rank his chances of success on a scale of one to 10, Brand said. “So in a logical world, I would say 10. But the art world is not logical.”


Associated Press writer Denise Lavoie in Boston contributed.

]]> 0 empty frame, center, from which thieves cut Rembrandt's "Storm on the Sea of Galilee" remains on display at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.Wed, 28 Jun 2017 10:51:07 +0000
Australian developer agrees to buy Saddleback ski resort Wed, 28 Jun 2017 14:38:16 +0000 RANGELEY — An Australian developer has agreed to purchase the Saddleback ski area, which has sat idle for two years, saying he plans investments that will make it “the premier ski resort in North America.”

Sebastian Monsour, CEO of the Majella Group, was introduced as the buyer of Maine’s third-largest ski area at a news conference at Saddleback on Wednesday morning. The resort’s sellers, Bill and Irene Berry, and representatives from Maine’s congressional delegation were among the more than 100 people who attended the news conference.

Officials would not disclose the sale price. The company’s purchase of the resort is expected to be finalized this summer, representatives said.

An opening date for Saddleback has not been set, said Fred LaMontagne, the former Portland fire chief who will be the CEO of the resort, which previously employed about 300 people during peak times.

Monsour’s LinkedIn page says Brisbane, Australia-based Majella is a “multinational company operating in a number of sectors, including technology, design, engineering, project management and consulting services, property developments and capital finance.” The company has no experience owning or operating a ski resort.

Attendees applaud as former Saddleback Resort owners Irene and Bill Berry, right, pass the traditional wooden ski to Sebastian Monsour, chief executive officer of the Majella Group, at a sale announcement Wednesday morning at the resort outside Rangeley. Monsour has agreed to buy the resort in a sale expected to be finalized this summer. Staff photo by David Leaming

During the news conference, Monsour said he first visited Saddleback in 2011 while searching for a location for his company’s U.S. headquarters. He recounted how he and his family fell in love with Maine’s beauty and the warmth of its people, and he decided to base their company in the state because it “felt like home.”

As he described his family’s attachment to the area, Monsour choked up, saying his mother, who had died recently, had come to love the state deeply.

“We understand the importance of Saddleback to Rangeley, but also to the whole of Maine,” Monsour said. “So we are making this commitment to you today that not only will we be turning Saddleback into the premier ski resort in North America, but also into a four-season resort that we know and all think it deserves to be.”

As part of its first wave of projects, the company plans to replace the Rangeley Chair and Cupsuptic T-bar lifts. LaMontagne said the group will look at other infrastructure upgrades in the future.

“In this first year, our focus is to get everyone here and skiing,” LaMontagne said. “When our team has a date that ensures we can deliver to you the skiing experience that all of you deserve, you will know, and it’s as simple as that.

“We’re here to do it once and to do it right.”

Greg Sweetser, executive director of Ski Maine, said in an interview later Wednesday that Saddleback was always a key part of Maine’s ski industry, but it was only after the mountain closed that its true importance to the region became clear. He hailed the deal for the stability it will bring to local communities.

Former Portland Fire Chief Fred LaMontagne, the new CEO of Saddleback Mountain ski resort, speaks Wednesday of the excitement of the purchase and appreciation for the local support for the resort. Staff photo by David Leaming

“You know when you take something away you can’t deny what’s gone and people, I think, were shocked at how important it was,” Sweetser said.

He said the company’s focus on bringing more year-round recreation to the region is in line with similar efforts throughout Maine’s ski industry, where gateway towns such as Carrabassett Valley, Greenville and Millinocket have invested in attractions for hikers, mountain bikers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

“There’s a lot of infrastructure that goes into building a resort, and especially the ski resorts,” Sweetser said. “If we can utilize these facilities for more than just the winter season, I mean, it’s just a good business decision.”

The Berrys wished the new owners the best and said they would help in any way they can. Bill Berry said the family had received four or five serious inquiries about the mountain over the past two years, but they believed Majella was best positioned to not only sustain but also expand operations.

“A number of the groups I think had the ability to run it as it was, but it needed more than that,” he said. “Majella seemed to have the horsepower necessary to bring it to a higher level.”

News of Majella’s purchase of Saddleback came even as the Saddleback Mountain Foundation was attempting to raise money to buy the resort and make it community-owned. The foundation is a partnership of local business owners and season-pass holders who have been attempting since last fall to raise $4 million toward the purchase.

In a statement Wednesday morning, Wolfe Tone, the foundation’s acting executive director, said his group “applauds the effort of the future owners of Saddleback Mountain and the Berry family.”

“We wish them the best for this vibrant mountain and are excited for the lifts to be spinning again,” Tone said in the statement.

Ken Haley, who with business partners owns 200 lots in the Rangeley area, attends the announcement Wednesday that Bill and Irene Berry are selling Saddleback Mountain ski resort outside Rangeley to the Majella Group. He said he felt “ecstatic.” Staff photo by David Leaming

Though Majella lacks experience managing a ski resort, LaMontagne said the company has designed and worked on other resort projects. As part of its management strategy, Majella will be keeping on some longtime Saddleback staffers – including mountain manager Jim Quimby, and controller and director of finance Greg Andrews – in addition to bringing on local real estate developer Perry Williams.

“What we’re really excited about here is the local team,” LaMontagne said. “This is a solid operation here, and the Berrys have really given us a gem to build off of. It’s got a great core and a great infrastructure underneath it, and that’s what we’re looking forward to building on.”

Monsour has had previous business dealings in Maine. In July 2012, he eyed development opportunities in Portland’s East End, including investments along the eastern waterfront. He said Wednesday that those efforts didn’t result in any development.

His father, Frank Monsour, bought a historic church in Portland’s West End in 2012 with plans to develop it. The proposal prompted a neighborhood group to sue the businessman and the city because the property needed to be rezoned. The citizens’ group initially won its lawsuit, when a Superior Court Justice ruled that the city had erred when it rezoned the 1877 church property. But in 2014, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court reversed the lower court’s ruling, clearing the way for construction of office space in the church’s parish house.

That space will be renovated and will open in the coming months to serve as Majella’s U.S. headquarters, Sebastian Monsour said Wednesday.

The Berrys bought Saddleback and 8,000 acres surrounding it in 2003. Over the course of their ownership, they invested $40 million in improvements. In July 2015, the Berrys announced that they would not open for the winter unless they secured $3 million in financing for a new chairlift. In the fall of 2015, they announced that they were in negotiations with a buyer, but the sale was not successful and the mountain sat idle.

Kenneth Haley, who owns 200 lots in the Rangeley area with business partners, said Wednesday that he felt “ecstatic” after the sale announcement, “mostly for the business opportunity for the town, for the people.”

“It’s unbelievable for the future of the town,” Haley said. “It sounds like it’s going to be tremendous for everybody.”

Haley also said he was not disappointed that the group did not set a date for the reopening.

“They’re better off getting it ready and making it a showcase.”

Kate McCormick — 861-9218

Twitter: @KateRMcCormick

]]> 0 Monsour of the Majella Group is interviewed Wednesday with Saddleback Mountain in the background at the ski resort in Rangeley after it was formally announced that the company was purchasing the resort from former owners Bill and Irene Berry.Wed, 28 Jun 2017 23:57:58 +0000
Five-foot boa constrictor found on porch in Biddeford Wed, 28 Jun 2017 12:59:49 +0000 A Biddeford resident had an unexpected visitor Tuesday afternoon.

A 5-foot red-tailed boa constrictor was found curled up on the porch at 68 High St. The snake is not native to Maine.

Police were called to capture the boa and they posted photos of it on Facebook – it quickly became something of an online sensation, according to WCSH. The boa’s owner claimed the snake later on Wednesday after it was taken to the Animal Welfare Society in Kennebunk.

“We got a call at 1:54 in the afternoon from a person reporting a large snake curled up on the front porch of the place,” said Deputy Police Chief JoAnne Fisk. Animal Control Officer Garth Russell headed over to High Street and was able to capture the snake and put it in a pillowcase.

Photos of the snake on the porch and of Russell holding it were posted on the page for the Southern Maine Animal Control Group, where local animal control officers and animal welfare groups post information about lost pets.

Red-tailed boa constrictors are frequently kept and bred in captivity. They typically grow to a relatively modest 6 to 10 feet long.

Last year, a woman checking on a vacant house in Biddeford found a 3-foot python that had found its way inside. That snake was retrieved by the Maine Warden Service.

The discovery of the red-tailed boa in Biddeford on Tuesday also brought back memories – and lots of jokes on Twitter – about a much larger snake that was spotted multiple times in Westbrook last June. That snake, dubbed Wessie by locals, was believed to be about 9 feet long. People reported seeing it feasting on the remains of a beaver and swimming across the Presumpscot River near a local park.

A large snakeskin found in the area was later identified as having come from a green anaconda, a native of South America and one of the largest snake species in the world. The snake itself was never found.

Wessie continues to have a large social media following with cheeky posts on Twitter. The snake’s alter ego, “Wessie P. Thon,” on Wednesday responded to questions asking if he was the snake found in Biddeford.

“In Biddeford? No chance,” Wessie P. Thon tweeted, adding, “Five feet?! Go sit at the kiddie table pal.”

Gillian Graham can be contacted at:

]]> 0 Animal Control Officer Garth Russell holds up the 5-foot red-tailed boa constrictor before bagging it in a pillow case on Tuesday afternoon. The reptile was discovered on a porch, left, at 68 High St.Wed, 28 Jun 2017 22:04:58 +0000
Fish market owner upset by TSA’s photo of her humongous lobster Wed, 28 Jun 2017 12:56:43 +0000 OLD SAYBROOK, Conn. – The owner of a Connecticut fish market says she is “personally offended” after a photo of a 20-pound lobster being handled by a Transportation Security Administration screener circulated through social media.

Lisa Feinman, owner of Atlantic Seafood Market in Old Saybrook, packed the lobster in a cooler with other lobsters for a customer from Georgia.

TSA spokesman Michael McCarthy later shared a photo of a screener holding the lobster, getting thousands of likes on Instagram.

In a Facebook post, Feinman says the TSA should “leave our personal property alone.” She also criticized the way the agent held the lobster, saying he could have snapped off a claw by putting all of its weight on its joints.

The agency has not responded to requests for comment.

]]> 0 lobster photoWed, 28 Jun 2017 10:54:57 +0000
Companies struggle to recover after massive cyber attack with ransom demands Wed, 28 Jun 2017 12:35:04 +0000 MOSCOW – Companies worldwide struggled to recover Wednesday after wave of powerful cyberattacks crippled computer systems in Europe, Asia and the United States with a virus similar to the global ransomware assault in May that infected computers.

Researchers at Kaspersky Lab’s Global Research and Analysis Team in Russia said Wednesday that a regional Ukrainian website had been hacked and used to distribute the ransomware to visitors.

Kaspersky estimated that there had been more than 2,000 attacks, linked to a version of malware called Petya – 60 percent of them in Ukraine and 30 percent in Russia, including the country’s largest oil company.

But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “no serious problems” had occurred as a result of the cyberattacks. Speaking on a conference call Wednesday, Peskov also said he had no accurate information on the origin of the attacks.

But the damage was worst in Ukraine, and some Ukranian officials had initially expressed suspicions that the attacks originated in Russia. The hacks targeted government ministries, banks, utilities and other important infrastructure and companies nationwide, demanding ransoms from government employees in the cryptocurrency bitcoin.

The virus even downed systems at the site of the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant, forcing scientists to monitor radiation levels manually.

On Wednesday, Danish shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk said on Wednesday that it was working to restore its operations a day after being hit by the cyberattack.

“We have contained the issue and are working on a technical recovery plan with key IT partners and global cyber security agencies,” Maersk, which handles one in every seven containers shipped world wide, said in a stock exchange announcement.

The Copenhagen-based group said its APM Terminals were affected “in a number of ports,” but said that its vessels with Maersk Line were “maneuverable, able to communicate and crews are safe.”

Cyberattacks also spread as far as India and the United States, where the pharmaceutical giant Merck reported on Twitter that “our company’s computer network was compromised today as part of global hack.” The New Jersey-based company said it was investigating the attack.

France’s biggest bank, BNP Paribas, said on Wednesday said that its real estate unit, which provides services to corporations around Europe, had been hit in the attack.

“The international cyber attack hit our non-bank subsidiary, Real Estate. The necessary measures have been taken to rapidly contain the attack,” the bank said in a statement to Reuters on Wednesday.

Cyber researchers say that the virus used an “exploit” developed by the National Security Agency that was later leaked onto the Internet by hackers. It is the second massive attack in the past two months to use powerful U.S. exploits in attacks against the IT infrastructure that supports national governments and corporations.

The onslaught of ransomware attacks may be the “new normal,” said Mark Graff, the chief executive of Tellagraff, a cybersecurity company.

“The emergence of Petya and WannaCry really points out the need for a response plan and a policy on what companies are going to do about ransomware,” he said. WannaCry was the ransomware used in the May attack. “You won’t want to make that decision at a time of panic, in a cloud of emotion.”

The attack mainly targeted Eastern Europe but also hit companies in Spain, Denmark, Norway and Britain. Victims included the British advertising and marketing multinational WPP. India’s biggest container port was also crippled when a Maersk-run terminal in Mumbai was hit.

The scale of the hacks and the use of ransomware recalled the massive cyberattack in May, in which hackers possibly linked to North Korea disabled computers in more than 150 nations using a flaw that was once incorporated into the National Security Agency’s surveillance tool kit.

Cyber researchers have tied the vulnerability exploited by virus to the one used by WannaCry – a weakness discovered by the NSA years ago that the agency turned into a hacking tool dubbed EternalBlue.

Variants of Petya, like WannaCry, is a worm that spreads quickly to vulnerable systems, said Bill Wright, senior policy counsel for Symantec, the world’s largest cybersecurity firm. Its pervasiveness is what makes it difficult to control – or to aim at anyone in particular, he said.

“Once you unleash something that propagates in this manner, it’s impossible to control,” he said.

Although Microsoft in March made available a patch for the Windows flaw exploited by EternalBlue, Petya and its variants use other techniques to infect systems, said Jeff Greene, Symantec government affairs director. “It’s a worm that has multiple ways to spread,” he said, which could explain why there are victims who applied the EternalBlue patch and still were affected.

Variants of Petya differ from WannaCry in that it does not appear to reach out to the Internet and scan for vulnerable systems, said Paul Burbage, a malware researcher with Flashpoint, a cyberthreat analysis firm. It limits itself to the computers linked to the same router.

He said the variant of Petya used in the attacks is called GoldenEye, which was sold on underground forums used mainly by Russian-speaking criminal hackers, he said.

The ransomware hit Europe in the early afternoon Tuesday. In Ukraine, breaches were reported at computers governing the municipal energy company and airport in the capital, Kiev, the state telecommunications company Ukrtelecom, the Ukrainian postal service and the State Savings Bank of Ukraine.

Grocery store checkout machines broke down, ATMs demanded ransom payments, and the turnstile system in the Kiev metro reportedly stopped working.

The mayhem reached high into the government. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Pavlo Rozenko on Tuesday tweeted a picture of a computer screen warning in English that “one of your disks contains errors,” then adding in all capital letters: “DO NOT TURN OFF YOUR PC! IF YOU ABORT THIS PROCESS, YOU COULD DESTROY ALL YOUR DATA!”

“Ta-Dam!” he wrote. “It seems the computers at the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine have been ‘knocked out.’ The network is down.” His spokeswoman published a photograph showing demands for a ransom in bitcoin to release data encrypted by the virus.

Suspicions in Ukraine quickly fell on Russia, which annexed Crimea in 2014 and has been blamed for several large-scale cyberattacks on Ukraine’s power infrastructure. But no proof of the attack was presented, and Russian companies, like the oil giant Rosneft, also complained of being hit by a “powerful hacking attack.” Photographs leaked to the news media from a Rosneft-owned regional oil company showed computers displaying ransomware demands similar to those in Ukraine.

]]> 0 sailing yacht passes in front of a container ship operated by the A.P. Moller-Maersk Group at the Port of Felixstowe in Felixstowe, England, on June 23, 2017. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Chris Ratcliffe.Wed, 28 Jun 2017 08:39:45 +0000
Trump resorts display fake Time magazine covers featuring – who else? – Trump Wed, 28 Jun 2017 03:45:18 +0000 The framed copy of Time Magazine was hung up in at least four of President Trump’s golf clubs, from South Florida to Scotland. Filling the entire cover was a photo of Donald Trump.

“Donald Trump: The ‘Apprentice’ is a television smash!” the big headline said. Above the Time nameplate, there was another headline in all caps: “TRUMP IS HITTING ON ALL FRONTS . . . EVEN TV!”

This cover – dated March 1, 2009 – looks like an impressive memento from Trump’s pre-presidential career. To club members eating lunch, or golfers waiting for a pro-shop purchase, it seemed to be a signal that Trump had always been a man who mattered. Even when he was just a reality-TV star, Trump was the kind of star who got a cover story in Time.

But that wasn’t true.

The Time cover is a fake.

There was no March 1, 2009, issue of Time Magazine. And there was no issue at all in 2009 that had Trump on the cover.

A portrait of Donald Trump graces the cover of a fake Time magazine hanging on a wall at the Trump National Doral Miami Golf Shop. The cover is dated March 1, 2009 – a date on which there was no issue of Time. Washington Post/Angel Valentin

In fact, the cover on display at Trump’s clubs,observed recently by a reporter visiting one of the properties, contains several small but telling mistakes. Its red border is skinnier than that of a genuine Time cover, and, unlike the real thing, there is no thin white border next to the red. The Trump cover’s secondary headlines are stacked on the right side – on a real Time cover, they would go across the top.

And it has two exclamation points. Time headlines don’t yell.

“I can confirm that this is not a real TIME cover,” Kerri Chyka, a spokeswoman for Time Inc., wrote in an email to The Washington Post.

So how did Trump – who spent an entire campaign and much of his presidency accusing the mainstream media of producing “fake news” – wind up decorating his properties with a literalpiece of phony journalism?

The Trump Organization did not respond to questions this week about who made the cover and why it was displayed at Trump clubs. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to say whether Trump had known the cover wasn’t real.

“We couldn’t comment on the decor at Trump Golf clubs one way or another,” Sanders wrote in an email.

The cover seems to fit a broader pattern for Trump, who has often boasted of his appearances on Time’s cover and adorned his Trump Tower office with images of himself from magazines and newspapers. Trump has made claims about himself – about his charitable giving, his business success, even the size of the crowd at his inauguration – that are not supported by the facts.

In this case, Trump’s golf clubs might seem like a place where he wouldn’t need to stretch the truth. Reality is flattering enough. The clubs are monuments to Trump’s success – they bear his name and are filled with his images. But, still, his staff added an extra trophy that was phony.

It is not clear who created this fake Time cover – or why.

Its date might be a clue: March 1, 2009, was the season debut of Trump’s show “The Celebrity Apprentice.” But a transcript of that show offers no answers. In that episode, various B-list celebrities competed to sell cupcakes, and Trump fired comedian Andrew Dice Clay for poor performance. Nobody mentioned Time Magazine.

While it’s not difficult to mock up a fake cover using graphic-design software, whoever made this one actually sought out real Time headlines, to add to the fake.

There are secondary headlines on the Trump cover that tout stories on President Barack Obama, climate change and the financial crisis. Two of those are taken from a real March 2, 2009, issue of Time, which featured actress Kate Winslet on the cover. But the issue makes no mention of Trump.

The Post found that the fake cover had been hung in at least four of Trump’s 17 golf clubs.

At Trump’s resort in Doral, Fla., outside Miami, the fake image hangs in two prominent spots.

In the pro shop, it shares a wall with 11 other framed magazine pages – all of them highlighting Trump, another member of the Trump family or a Trump golf course.

Among the covers with Trump’s face on them, the Time cover looks like one of the most impressive. The others are old – such as a 1984 cover of GQ – or from less prominent titles, such as “Fairways + Greens” magazine and TV Guide Canada. Those two publications are out of print.

A copy of the fake cover also hangs in Champions, the Doral resort’s sports bar. It faces a framed cover of Fortune magazine from 2004, showing Trump’s face with the headline “Trumped.” That one is real.

In Virginia, the phony Time cover hangs on the wall of the member’s dining room at the Trump golf course in suburban Loudoun County, near Washington. Trump has visited that club more frequently since moving into the White House. In early June, the president ate lunch in that dining room with football star Peyton Manning and Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

A photo taken during their lunch shows that Trump’s chair faced the fake Time cover.

At the same club, Trump’s staff put up a historical marker declaring that there had been a Civil War battle on the site – and that the adjacent Potomac River became a “River of Blood.” Historians say this battle never happened. The marker was first reported by the New York Times.

The Time cover also appears to have been hung up at Trump’s golf resort in Doonbeg, in western Ireland. Trump bought the club in 2014. Photos posted on TripAdvisor show it on the wall of a dining room. But when a reporter visited the club this past weekend, it was gone.

A bartender later found it in the manager’s office. Officials at the club could not explain why it had been moved.

And at Trump’s Turnberry club in Scotland, employees said they recognized the cover. It had been added after Trump bought the course in 2014, said the employees, who spoke to The Post on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment to the media. One employee said the fake cover had previously hung in the resort’s pub, called “The Duel in the Sun” after a famous golf match played at Turnberry in 1977.

But, she said, the cover was taken down a few weeks ago.

“We used to have a Time Magazine cover up – aye, it was there for ages and ages, as long as I’ve been here. I know the one you’re on about,” the employee said. “But they came and took it down a while back.”

In its place, the club had hung up an old-timey photo of the course.

Club officials did not respond to queries about why it was taken down. The employee said it was part of a general reduction in photos of Trump.

“We certainly have been hearing more grumbling about all the stuff like that up on the walls since his election,” the employee said. “From Americans, mostly, funny enough. That’s why we all assumed they started taking some of his photos off the walls.”

“But it was just a guess. I don’t actually have a Scooby,” the employee added, using an expression that means, “I don’t have a clue.”

The Post also looked for the fake cover at two Trump courses in the United States that are open to the public, in the Bronx and in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. It was not on display at either. The rest of Trump’s courses are members-only, making it difficult to get inside to look at the decor.

The image does not appear to be among the many framed magazine covers that adorn Trump’s old office in Trump Tower, based on photos of the office.

One thing that is clear, from the president’s past statements, is that he views the cover of Time as a significant honor.

Trump has bragged that he’s been on more Time covers than anyone. “I think we have the all-time record in the history of Time Magazine,” he said during a January speech at CIA headquarters.

That is wrong. Richard Nixon has appeared on far more than Trump.

In a 2016 interview, when Trump was a candidate, he offered a mental tally of how many times he had appeared on the magazine’s cover.

“I think I was on the cover of Time Magazine twice in my life and like six times in the last number of months. So you tell me, which is more important, real estate or politics, okay?” Trump said. “I have six for politics and I have two for real estate or whatever they put me on for.”

But that count was wrong.

According to Time Magazine’s tally, Trump had been on the cover only once before he got into politics, in January 1989.

]]> 0, 28 Jun 2017 18:10:48 +0000
SUV crashes into historic, 28-ton Fryeburg monument, knocking it clockwise Wed, 28 Jun 2017 03:28:28 +0000 A woman from the Oxford County town of Denmark who police say drove into a century-old granite monument to one of Fryeburg’s earliest settlers faces charges of drunken driving and reckless conduct.

Dianne Beausoliel, 68, was driving her 2008 Toyota Rav 4 early Saturday morning – just after midnight – when she lost control of the vehicle and it hit the historic John Stevens Monument at Main and Portland streets, Fryeburg Police Chief Joshua Potvin in a statement Tuesday.

“Witnesses say the vehicle accelerated and swerved into the monument without braking,” Potvin said. “We have submitted a blood sample from the operator to determine her blood alcohol level. My investigating officers had probable cause to believe the operator was impaired.”

Beausoliel was taken to Bridgton Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. She has been charged with operating under the influence and reckless conduct, both misdemeanors. She is scheduled to appear in Bridgton District Court on Aug. 15.

Potvin said the impact of the crash damaged the monument. Town officials are obtaining estimates on what it would cost to repair.

“We believe the 28-ton granite monument is still stable; however, it has shifted clockwise approximately three inches due to the impact,” Potvin said.

In 1972, a truck hit the monument and badly damaged the structure. It was repaired in Barre, Vermont, and fitted with a new base.

The monument was erected in 1902 in memory of John Stevens, who wintered in Fryeburg in the early 1760s.

]]> 0, 28 Jun 2017 10:14:20 +0000
EPA to scrap wetland, stream protection rule issued under Obama Wed, 28 Jun 2017 02:41:54 +0000 WASHINGTON — President Trump’s administration will revoke a rule that gives the Environmental Protection Agency broad authority over regulating the pollution of wetlands and tributaries that run into the nation’s largest rivers, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said Tuesday.

Testifying before Congress, Pruitt – who earlier said he would recuse himself from working on active litigation related to the rule – said that the agency would “provide clarity” by “withdrawing” the rule and reverting standards to those adopted in 2008.

Pruitt, as Oklahoma attorney general, had sued EPA over the regulation, saying it “usurps” state authority, “unlawfully broadens” the definition of waters of the United States and imposes “numerous and costly obligations” on landowners.

A withdrawal was expected, based on the executive order Trump signed in February targeting the rule. But this is the first clear signal of how the EPA will act on the president’s order.

The current rule, known as Waters of the United States or WOTUS, unambiguously gives EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers authority that many think the agencies already possessed under the Clean Water Act. The 1972 law gave the agencies control over navigable rivers and interstate waterways, but a series of court rulings left the extent of that power ambiguous. The Obama administration sought to end a decade of confusion by finalizing the WOTUS rule, which took effect in August 2015, triggering protests from a variety of real estate development, agricultural and industrial interests.

The existing regulation covers wetlands adjacent to either traditional navigable waters or interstate waters, as well as streams serving as tributaries to navigable waters. The rule says that wetlands and tributaries must be “relatively permanent,” a phrase used in previous court opinions, which means they can be intermittent. Defining it this way extends federal jurisdiction to 60 percent of the water bodies in the United States.

Trump signed an executive order in late February calling on EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to revisit the regulation, a move he described as “paving the way for the elimination of this very destructive and horrible rule.”

The executive order instructed the agencies to change the interpretation of a 2006 Supreme Court decision on what falls under the federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.

]]> 0 Administrator Scott Pruitt says the Trump administration is taking steps to roll back an Obama-era policy that protected more than half the nation's streams from pollution.Wed, 28 Jun 2017 10:37:47 +0000
Cianbro gets Navy contract for work at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Wed, 28 Jun 2017 02:31:55 +0000 A Maine-based construction firm has been awarded a $23 million contract from the U.S. Navy to make improvements to a dry dock at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery.

Cianbro Corp. of Pittsfield received the contract, according to a joint statement issued Tuesday by U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine.

“The work done at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard has a direct impact on our national security and this contract for Cianbro will help make sure that the shipyard is well-equipped to continue its important mission,” Collins and King said.

The contract provides for the fabrication and installation of several enclosures and passageway sections for a new defueling complex that will support reactor servicing. The work is scheduled to be completed by July 2019.

]]> 0 Tue, 27 Jun 2017 22:37:54 +0000
Portland councilors hear from 10 groups vying for Bayside parcels Wed, 28 Jun 2017 02:18:52 +0000 A panel of Portland city councilors met Tuesday evening to weigh the merits of proposals from 10 groups that want to purchase and develop city-owned land on the western end of the Bayside neighborhood.

After listening to presentations from developers, the City Council’s Economic Development Committee also heard from members of the public, who pleaded with councilors to select proposals that support affordable housing.

“We really need more affordable housing,” Portland resident Karen Schneider told the committee. “We’re pushing out local residents. They can’t afford to live here.”

The hearing, held in a basement meeting room at City Hall, attracted a standing-room-only crowd.

Portland wants to sell six parcels of land on Portland Street, Hanover Street, Parris Street and Kennebec Street that were once used by the city’s Public Works Department, which is making the transition to a new facility on Canco Road.

Councilor David Brenerman, who chairs the Economic Development Committee, said it could take several weeks before the city makes a decision on the winning bidder or bidders.

Greg Mitchell, the city’s economic development director, has said Portland will keep financial information, including purchase offers from developers, confidential.

The Economic Development Committee plans to hold a second hearing before making a recommendation to the full City Council, which has final say.

“The council’s decision will be made in public,” Brenerman said.

Complicating the selection process is the fact that some developers are vying for the same parcels. The proposed uses also vary widely – from apartments and condos to business incubators and artist space, along with commercial, retail, office and food studio uses.

One developer, the West Bayside Development Group, is offering bids on five of the six parcels and represents a collaboration between Atlantic Bayside, Renewal Housing, Avesta Housing and Northland Enterprises.

Spokesman Jim Hanley said the West Bayside Development Group has the ability to deliver the greatest number of affordable rental units (65) and for-sale units (28) of any bidder. “It goes without saying that this is a team that can deliver,” he said.

Several audience members praised a proposal from N. Nasir Shir and Community Housing of Maine. Shir said he wants to develop 24 units of affordable housing in a four-story building at 56 Parris St. A small retail store would occupy the first floor.

“We are proposing affordable housing, 100 percent,” he said.

Pete Leavitt, who plans to open a deli on Kennebec Street, said he was disappointed that the development proposals did not call for greater density and building height, features he feels would attract more residents to the Bayside neighborhood.

Dinah Minot, executive director of Creative Portland, urged the committee to keep an open mind about some of the proposals. One of the developers plans to create “maker space,” where people with shared interests, such as in computing or technology, can gather.

“This is an amazing opportunity to build a community,” Minot said. “It’s an opportunity to create some sexy, cool buildings.”

Laura Cannon, vice president of the Bayside Neighborhood Association, said that “Bayside really needs more residents. It would be great if some of that housing is owner-occupied. It would be good to have more people with skin in the game.”

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

]]> 0 over retail or artists' space proposed for 178 Kennebec Street by developer Ross Furman. (Rendering by Arcadia designworks)Wed, 28 Jun 2017 12:02:26 +0000
Analysis: Republicans now burdened by promise to repeal Obamacare Wed, 28 Jun 2017 02:10:58 +0000 For Republicans, Obamacare was always the great unifier. In a fractious party, everyone agreed that the Affordable Care Act was the wrong solution to what ailed the nation’s health-care system, with too much government and too little freedom for consumers.

Replacing Obamacare has become the party’s albatross, a sprawling objective still in search of a solution. The effort to make good on a seven-year promise has cost the Trump administration precious months of its first year in office, with tax restructuring backed up somewhere in the legislative pipeline, infrastructure idling somewhere no one can see it and budget deadlines looming.

Republicans have been here before on health care, on the brink and scratching for votes. The House eventually found a way through this political and substantive maze. Now it’s left to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to find the puzzle pieces and President Trump, perhaps, to supply some muscle, lest the party be forced to admit failure on the party’s top legislative priority.

Was it only Monday that Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, boldly declared there would be no turning back this week, that the Senate health-care bill would be put to a vote before lawmakers leave for the July 4 recess? “I am closing the door,” he tweeted. “We need to do it this week.” So much for that.

If it was a bluff by the leaders, other Republican senators called it. McConnell, a shrewd legislative poker player, quickly folded Tuesday. Instead of moving forward, the bill is now on ice. The original Senate leadership plan called for negotiations in secret by a small group, springing the results on the other members and forcing a quick vote before outside opponents could mobilize. Instead, the calculation that time was of the essence crashed into the reality of vote counting. The new calculus is that delay is better than defeat.

But will more time help to melt away the opposition? It did in the House, after the sudden and spectacular collapse of the leadership’s bill hours before a scheduled vote in late March. By early May, after weeks of negotiations between Freedom Caucus conservatives and members of the less-conservative Tuesday Group, the House approved a bill. The president was so hungry for even a partial victory that he held a ceremony of celebration with House members in the Rose Garden. Later, he privately and then publicly called that House bill “mean,” and it was left to the Senate to make amends.

In a worst-of-all-worlds environment, Republicans continue to struggle with what they’re selling, beyond the stated goal of repealing or revising the Affordable Care Act. Whatever overarching arguments they hope to make on behalf of their legislation have been lost in a welter of competing claims and demands among senators with different priorities and dissimilar ideological viewpoints.

The Republicans’ major selling point is that Obamacare is collapsing. Even Democrats acknowledge weaknesses with the current law, though some Democrats have accused Trump and Republicans of deliberately trying to make those problems worse. McConnell said Tuesday that a Republican solution will be superior to the status quo. Exactly how, Senate Republicans haven’t been able to say.

On Monday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) put a dagger in the Senate GOP’s efforts. The CBO analysis said the Senate bill would result in 22 million more Americans without health care than under current law, just 1 million fewer than the House bill. Reductions in Medicaid spending pose another obstacle, particularly to Republican senators from states that expanded Medicaid under Obamacare.

The CBO report wasn’t all bad news for the senators. The Senate bill would save significantly more money than the House bill, giving McConnell and company funds to use to ease the opposition of some senators. But money alone won’t resolve all the differences, particularly among those who want to see the Affordable Care Act largely dismantled. It will be a tedious, though not impossible, process to find the votes.

McConnell was always prepared to tweak the first product that emerged from weeks of closed-door discussions. He was willing to make immediate adjustments to woo and win over the holdouts. He was prepared to do that before the bill hit the floor this week. He was ready to see it changed further through amendments on the floor.

But the timetable proved to be too ambitious. The resisters wanted changes – and several demanded more time. That was a toxic combination that McConnell could not overcome. Echoing Trump, McConnell acknowledged the complexity of the task. Such legislation often takes longer to put together than people think, he said. That was a game way of saying he’s on to Plan B, with no guarantees of success.

Health care has highlighted the divisions within the party. After the House vote, Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-N.J., resigned as co-chair of the Tuesday Group due to unhappiness with the deal he made with conservatives. On Friday, Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., a vulnerable incumbent facing reelection next year, announced that he could not vote for the Senate bill in its current form. Trump’s political action committee announced that it would mount an advertising assault on him, which began Tuesday. That kind of intraparty hardball could only make Heller weaker.

The health-care fight has left the president frustrated and at times looking helpless. He is torn between his desire for the ultimate victory and the many things he said about the subject during his campaign and even since, such as that he wants coverage for everyone. He has reduced all that to saying he wants something with heart. Does a bill that reduces coverage as significantly as the CBO says the Republican bills would do meet that definition?

The Republican Party’s health-care objectives haven’t changed, nor have the principles upon which Republicans want to create the new health-care system. It’s the details that they haven’t mastered. House leaders had one advantage over McConnell and the Senate: a larger margin for error. McConnell can’t afford to lose more than two Republicans. The road ahead will test him as perhaps never before.

If successful, Republican lawmakers will have a second test, which will be to sell their alternative to the public. The Affordable Care Act split the country, with supporters and opponents in hardened camps through most of the Obama administration. Today, Obamacare has become more popular, according to recent polls. In contrast, early measures of the Republicans’ plans show minimal support and sizable opposition.

What are the party’s options? Fail and be held accountable by a conservative base that for years has been promised that Obamacare would be gone once the GOP held power. Pass something that looks like either the House or Senate bills and be left with the potential political consequences of being accused of eliminating coverage for 20 million more Americans.

]]> 0 Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, center, and others before the president arrives for a meeting with Republican senators about health care at the White House Tuesday.Tue, 27 Jun 2017 22:26:16 +0000
FairPoint merger given final approval in Vermont Wed, 28 Jun 2017 01:50:24 +0000 MONTPELIER, Vt. — Customers of the telephone and broadband services provider FairPoint Communications in northern New England won’t notice much difference after it merges with an Illinois-based telecommunications provider, officials with the company merging with FairPoint said.

But Consolidated Communications will continue efforts begun by FairPoint to expand and improve broadband internet services to tens of thousands of customers across Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Eventually, it will also offer a number of new services.

“In the near term, we will begin rolling out new consumer products,” said Consolidated Vice President Michael Shultz. The company is based in Mattoon, Illinois.

The new products that will be offered in the region include home automation, home security, new video products, as well as the commitment to broadband improvements. Commercial customers will also see new offerings, he said.

On Monday, Vermont utility regulators gave final approval to the deal that will allow it to go forward. Over the last several weeks, regulators in Maine and New Hampshire also approved the deal.

Consolidated spokeswoman Jennifer Spaude said Illinois regulators are expected to approve the deal on Wednesday, when additional details of the company’s plans are expected to be released. Once the deal is completed, Consolidated will be operating in a total of 24 states.

“We really are excited about the benefits that we will bring to customers,” Spaude said.

Regulators in northern New England hope to avoid a repeat of mistakes that followed FairPoint’s 2008 acquisition of Verizon’s landline assets. FairPoint struggled with debt, declining landline accounts and customer service problems before filing for bankruptcy, from which it emerged in 2011. Unionized workers led a four-month strike against FairPoint in late 2014 and early 2015.

Workers are taking a wait-and-see approach about Consolidated but have said they remain hopeful that things will be better than under FairPoint.

Maine regulators were first in the region to sign off on the deal on May 31, after Consolidated agreed to invest at least $52.2 million in its infrastructure in Maine. New Hampshire regulators have also approved the deal.

Vermont regulators approved the deal on Monday. In a statement announcing the approval, the Public Service Board said the combined company would be more financially stable than FairPoint with stronger credit ratings, more flexible access to capital, and greater revenue diversity.

]]> 0 Tue, 27 Jun 2017 22:48:57 +0000
Rep. Chaffetz urges stipend to help lawmakers pay for D.C. housing Wed, 28 Jun 2017 01:43:13 +0000 WASHINGTON — On his way out of Congress, Rep. Jason Chaffetz gave many District of Columbia residents another reason to gripe Tuesday when he called for members of Congress to receive a housing stipend of up to $30,000 a year.

Chaffetz, R-Utah, who chaired the committee that has oversight of the nation’s capital, said federal lawmakers have trouble stretching their $174,000 salaries to cover housing in Washington, which he called “one of the most expensive places in the world,” and homes in their congressional districts. “I really do believe Congress would be much better served if there was a housing allowance for members of Congress,” Chaffetz told The Hill, which first reported his stipend proposal. “In today’s climate, nobody’s going to suggest or vote for a pay raise. But you shouldn’t have to be among the wealthiest … to serve properly in Congress.”

The idea lit up Twitter as people who think members of Congress are paid plenty, thank you very much, recalled Chaffetz’s comment earlier this year that low-income people could afford their own health care if they would scale back spending on things such as “that new iPhone they just love.”

“Chaffetz makes $175K/yr, wants extra $2500 for housing stipend. But others need to evaluate if they can afford the luxury of an iPhone? Ok!” tweeted Adam Best of Austin.

As chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Chaffetz, who is retiring this week, tried to reverse the District’s assisted-suicide law, opposed its legalization of marijuana, suggested lopping off part of D.C. and folding it into Maryland.

]]> 0 CHAFFETZTue, 27 Jun 2017 22:57:08 +0000
Workers at Chinese factory for Ivanka Trump brand report abuse and threats Wed, 28 Jun 2017 01:37:57 +0000 GANZHOU, China — A worker with blood dripping from his head marked a low point in the tense, grinding life at a southeastern China factory used by Ivanka Trump and other fashion brands. An angry manager had hit him with the sharp end of a high-heeled shoe.

Workers from the factory, including one current and two former employees who spoke to The Associated Press, reported overtime that stretched past midnight, steep production quotas and crude verbal abuse at Ganzhou Huajian International Shoe City Co. They said beatings were not unheard of, but the shoe attack, which all three say they witnessed last year, was violent enough to stand out.

“He was bleeding right from the middle of the head,” the current worker said.

“There was a lot of blood. He went to the factory’s nurse station, passing by me,” said a second man, who said he quit his job at Huajian because of the long hours and low pay.

The three workers are the first people with direct knowledge of conditions at the Ganzhou factory to speak with the media. They spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity, for fear of retribution or arrest.

Last month, three men investigating conditions at the Huajian Group factory were detained, accused of illegally using secret recording devices to steal commercial secrets. They, like one of the three men AP spoke with, worked with China Labor Watch, a New York nonprofit that has been investigating Ivanka Trump’s Chinese suppliers for more than a year.

Li Qiang, founder of China Labor Watch, describes Huajian’s Ganzhou factory as among the worst he has seen in nearly two decades investigating labor abuses. His group says pay can be as low as a dollar an hour, in violation of China’s labor laws. According to China Labor Watch investigators, until recently, workers might get only two days off – or less – per month.

China Labor Watch said the company forced workers to sign fake pay stubs with inflated salary numbers and threatened to fire workers if they didn’t fill in questionnaires about working conditions with pre-approved answers. Workers also said the company pressured people not to speak with outsiders about conditions.

In comments to the AP, the Huajian Group declined to respond to specific questions, but broadly denied all allegations, calling them “completely not true to the facts, taken out of context, exaggerated.” The company said it operates lawfully and that China Labor Watch “invented so-called ‘facts’ by illegal means of buying undercover work, which has already affected the enterprise’s normal business seriously and affected the survival and employment of tens of thousands of staff.” The company noted its significant contribution to the economy and to society, particularly through its employment of disabled people.

Before taking on an official role as adviser to her father, Ivanka Trump stepped back from day-to-day management of her brand, but she has retained her ownership interest. She has not commented on the detentions or the reports of poor working conditions at one of her brand’s suppliers. Her spokeswoman declined to comment for this story.

Abigail Klem, president of the Ivanka Trump brand, said “the integrity of our supply chain is a top priority and we take all allegations very seriously.” The company says its products have not been made in the factory since March, but China Labor Watch said it had an April production schedule indicating that nearly 1,000 pairs of Ivanka Trump shoes were due in May.

In the past, some brands have used China Labor Watch’s reports as a tool to help keep their supply chains clean. Walt Disney Co., for example, investigated and ultimately decided to sever its relationship with at least one supplier following reports of poor conditions.

China Labor Watch outlined its findings in letters sent in June to Ivanka Trump at the White House and to other brands. So far, the group says it has gotten no response.

The group said it also sent Ivanka Trump a video taken inside the factory in May. That video included a clip in which a manager threatened to rough up a worker who had apparently arranged shoes in the wrong order.

“If I see them f—ing messed up again,” the manager yells, “I’ll beat you right here.”

The video has not been released to the public, but it was shown to AP at China Labor Watch’s office in New York.

]]> 0 security guard smokes near a main entrance gate of the Ganzhou Huajian International Shoe City Co.'s factory, which has made shoes for the brand owned by Ivanka Trump, left. The firm, located in Ganzhou, has denied abuse allegations, and Trump has not replied to a letter from China Labor Watch..Tue, 27 Jun 2017 22:52:54 +0000
Manafort firm’s papers show Ukraine money link Wed, 28 Jun 2017 01:30:53 +0000 A consulting firm led by Paul Manafort, who chaired Donald Trump’s presidential campaign for several months last year, retroactively filed forms Tuesday showing that his firm received $17.1 million over two years from a political party that dominated Ukraine before its leader fled to Russia in 2014.

Manafort disclosed the total payments his firm received between 2012 and 2014 in a Foreign Agents Registration Act filing late Tuesday that was submitted to the U.S. Justice Department. The report makes Manafort the second former senior Trump adviser to acknowledge the need to disclose work for foreign interests.

Manafort is one of a number of Trump associates whose campaign activities are being scrutinized by Special Counsel Robert Mueller as part of a probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Mueller’s team has been consolidating inquiries into matters unrelated to the election.

Manafort and a former associate in his consulting business, Richard Gates, who also worked for the Trump campaign, disclosed their lobbying campaign on behalf of Ukraine’s Party of Regions in an 87-page document which described the gross receipts the firm received and some details of efforts undertaken to influence U.S. policy toward Ukraine. The filing shows the firm spent nearly $4 million to advance the party’s interests through polling and local salaries in Ukraine, activity that does not ordinarily require U.S. disclosure.

]]> 0 MANAFORTTue, 27 Jun 2017 21:30:53 +0000
Justices accept case that would legalize sports gaming Wed, 28 Jun 2017 01:28:34 +0000 WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to take up New Jersey’s bid to allow sports betting at its casinos and racetracks, a case that could lead other states to seek a share of the lucrative market.

The justices will review a lower court ruling against the state, which hopes to capture some of the estimated $150 billion illegally wagered on sports each year.

Gov. Chris Christie and supporters in the state Legislature tried for years to legalize sports gambling to bolster the casino and horse racing industries. The casino industry, after a period of job losses and closings, has lately been doing better.

Christie said he was encouraged by the court’s decision to take the case up.

“We’re not declaring victory but at least we’re in the game and that’s where we want to be,” Christie said.

New Jersey state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, a Democrat who has led the state’s effort to legalize sports gambling, said a win for the state would give an additional boost to casinos.

“Atlantic City is going to be packed when we win this case,” said Lesniak, who introduced legislation to overturn the ban in 2009. “Sports betting will lead to people staying for several days, not just playing a few hours and going home. During football season, the NCAA tournament, the World Cup, people will be flocking to Atlantic City.”

The case will be argued in the fall. Daniel Wallach, a lawyer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and expert in sports law, said the case could lead to a nationwide repeal of the federal ban.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the New Jersey law last year, ruling that the law violated the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 that forbids state-authorized sports gambling.

“This is the day that New Jersey has been waiting for for years,” said Wallach, who has closely followed New Jersey’s legal efforts to overturn the ban.

The court jumped into the case even after the Trump administration urged the justices not to get involved, putting the governor and the president he campaigned for on opposite sides.

President Donald Trump once owned the Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, which closed last October under the ownership of a fellow billionaire, Carl Icahn, who sold it in March to Hard Rock International. The company plans to reopen under its own brand next year.

Speaking on a sports radio show this month, Christie criticized the federal government for restricting sports betting while allowing states to legalize recreational marijuana even though it’s illegal under federal law.

The case has lasted nearly as long as Christie has been in office. New Jersey voters passed a nonbinding referendum to allow sports betting in 2011.

The four major pro sports leagues and the NCAA sued the state in 2012 after Christie signed a sports betting law.

Legal sports gambling is allowed in Nevada and three other states that approved some form of wagering before the federal law went into effect. Nevada is the only state to allow single-game wagering.

Congress gave New Jersey a one-time opportunity to become the fifth state before the ban was enacted, but the state failed to pass a sports betting law in time.

Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia and Wisconsin joined New Jersey’s effort to have the case heard.

This month, the American Gaming Association announced the creation of a coalition involving organizations of attorneys general and police, policymakers and others to advocate for the repeal of the ban that the industry said has fueled the illegal sports betting market.

]]> 0 U.S. Supreme Court is hearing an appeal to a case involving a 2010 shooting of a Mexican boy by a U.S. Border Patrol agent.Tue, 27 Jun 2017 21:47:31 +0000