News – Press Herald Sun, 30 Apr 2017 01:22:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 American soldier killed by explosive device Sun, 30 Apr 2017 00:09:51 +0000 A U.S. service member died of wounds inflicted by an explosive device outside of the city of Mosul in Iraq, the Pentagon said in a release Saturday.

The release from the U.S.-led coalition gave no other details, and a Pentagon spokesman was unable to elaborate. It is unclear whether the blast was combat-related. Mosul has been the site of heavy fighting since October as Iraqi forces have attempted to rout the Islamic State group from the city.

Saturday’s death, if caused by hostile fire, would be the fifth U.S. combat death in Iraq since the start of the campaign against the Islamic State there in 2014, and the first during the Trump administration. In October, Navy Chief Petty Officer Jason C. Finan was killed by a roadside bomb on the outskirts of Mosul just days after the battle to retake the city began.

]]> 0 Sat, 29 Apr 2017 20:52:47 +0000
Trump hits the road on his 100th day Sun, 30 Apr 2017 00:06:25 +0000 WASHINGTON — President Trump on Saturday marked his 100th day in office by saying he had brought “profound change” to Washington and reaffirming that “my only allegiance” is to those he governs.

On a threshold that Trump has both derided and tried to define, the president also said he is putting Americans first even as he learns on the job.

“My only allegiance is to you, our wonderful citizens,” Trump said in his weekly radio address.

It was a preview of a day on which Trump traveled to Pennsylvania to emphasize such priorities as American manufacturing, better trade deals for the U.S. and his underdog victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton in November. He also was promoting a still-to-be defined tax cut plan and the nation’s strong economy, on which many of his political fortunes rest.

Meanwhile, North Korea’s missile launch Saturday signaled its continued defiance against the U.S., China and other nations, on which Trump tweeted: “Bad!” Asked on CBS’ “Face the Nation” if military action would follow a nuclear test by the North, Trump responded: “I don’t know. I mean, we’ll see.”

Trump’s 100th-day events were set in politically important Pennsylvania, which he won with 48 percent of the vote. It was the first time the state had voted for a Republican presidential candidate since George H.W. Bush in 1988.

In Pennsylvania, Trump was visiting a shovel company when he signed an executive order directing the Commerce Department and the U.S. trade representative to conduct a study of U.S. trade agreements. The goal is to determine whether America is being treated fairly by its trading partners and the 164-nation World Trade Organization.

The AMES Companies in Pennsylvania’s Cumberland County has manufactured shovels since 1774. After Trump’s visit there, he was to hold a campaign-style rally in Harrisburg, the state capital. Democrats planned their own rally nearby.

Trump’s 100th-day rally was a bit of counterprogramming from the former reality television star. Back in Washington, media organizations and a few stars were gathering on Saturday for the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. Trump, who has derided journalists as “dishonest” and even enemies of the American people, is the first president since 1981 to stay away from the event. That year, Ronald Reagan was recovering from an assassination attempt.

At the 100-day mark, Trump chose instead to spend the evening with people who helped elect him and, polls show, remain largely in his corner. Though the White House created a website touting its accomplishments of the first hundred days, Trump has tried to downplay the importance of the marker, perhaps out of recognition that many of his campaign promises have gone unfulfilled.

“It’s a false standard, 100 days,” Trump said while signing an executive order on Friday, “but I have to tell you, I don’t think anybody has done what we’ve been able to do in 100 days, so we’re very happy.”

His rally Saturday in Pennsylvania will give him a chance “to talk to voters about what he has done over the past 100 days and how he sees the next 100 days and the 100 days after that,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said.

A failed effort to overhaul President Barack Obama’s health care law behind him, Trump is turning to what he’s billed as the nation’s biggest tax cut. It apparently falls short of Reagan’s in 1981, and tax experts are skeptical that the plan would pay for itself, as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has claimed.

The economy, so far, has been Trump’s ally. Polls show that Americans feel slightly better about his job performance on that subject than his job performance overall.

“Together we are seeing that great achievements are possible when we put American people first,” Trump said in his weekly radio and internet address. “That is why I withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. That day was a turning point for our nation. It put the countries of this world on notice that the sellout of the American worker was over.”

He said in his remarks: “In just 14 weeks, my administration has brought profound change to Washington.”

]]> 0 Trump gives the thumbs-up as he walks to board Air Force One on Saturday en route to Harrisburg, Pa. Trump has signed executive orders but not any major legislation.Sat, 29 Apr 2017 20:57:31 +0000
New York retirees flock to booming Sun Belt areas Sat, 29 Apr 2017 23:50:08 +0000 Susan Gifford moved last August from Rome, New York, to Garden City, South Carolina, where she lives in a home two miles from the beach. “The weather was the motivating factor, getting away from winter,” the 67-year-old retired teacher said.

Almost 600,000 Americans moved from the Midwest and Northeast to the Sun Belt states last year, the most since 2005, according to Brookings Institution demographer William Frey. Migration is boosting growth along Southeast and Western coasts as well as Nevada and Arizona, reflecting a healthier national economy that has made it easier to re-locate.

Retirement centers Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and The Villages near Orlando were the fastest growing metro areas in the U.S. in the year ended July 1, while a flow of younger workers have led to employment booms in Florida, Georgia and Nevada, all growing at almost twice the rate of the nation.

“There’s been a renewed push of people moving to the Sun Belt,” said IHS Markit economist Karl Kuykendall. “The 2009 recession slowed it down because of the housing slump and severely hurt resident mobility. More people are back to moving south and west for better jobs, and there is retiree migration as well.”

Sun Belt migration fell by almost half between 2005 and 2010 as aging baby boomers delayed retirement in the wake of both plunging home prices and stocks, and the “sand states” suffered from record foreclosures. Moreover, fewer job opportunities in the wake of the most severe recession since the 1930s prompted fewer job-related moves.

“Think of the recession as freezing people in place — now that is thawing,” said Kenneth Johnson, senior demographer and public policy professor at the University of New Hampshire. “States with histories of slow growth due to large domestic migration losses — which did better during the recession — are starting to see less growth again.”

U.S. government data released Friday showed that residential investment increased at a 13.7 percent annualized pace in the first quarter, contributing 0.5 percentage point to economic growth, the most since the fourth quarter of 2012.

Florida added 207,155 people in 2016, or almost 600 people a day. By contrast, New York, Illinois and California each lost more than 100,000 people.

The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce promotes tourism in about 50 travel and trade shows each year, and the visits now invite relocation as well, said Brad Dean, its president. Recent pitches were in Scranton, Pennsylvania, as well as Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio.

“We hear people say, ‘When I can sell this home I am moving down south,'” he said. “There is clearly a base of people ready to make a change. We are not surprised by this steady growth. Our message is always well received.”

]]> 0 Sat, 29 Apr 2017 19:50:08 +0000
Indictments expose illegal trade in eagle parts Sat, 29 Apr 2017 23:35:48 +0000 PIERRE, S.D. — A two-year undercover operation that led to indictments against 15 people for illegally trafficking eagles and other migratory birds offers a rare window into the black market for eagle carcasses, feathers, parts and handicrafts, including one alleged dealer who called himself the “best feather man in the Midwest.”

The indictments announced this week in Rapid City, South Dakota, portray an illicit trade carried out through face-to-face meetings, emails, texts and personal introductions. Eagle heads or wings can fetch hundreds of dollars, though sellers sometimes trade goods such as bear claws, buffalo horn caps or animal hides. The eagle parts are often used in Native American-style handicrafts.

“This was the illegal black market trafficking of eagles and eagle parts for profit,” South Dakota U.S. Attorney Randy Seiler said. “It basically was a chop shop for eagles.”

Eagles are the national symbol of the United States and they’re widely considered sacred by American Indians. Federal law limits possession of eagle feathers and other parts to enrolled members of federally recognized tribes who use them in religious practices. Bald eagles once nearly disappeared from most of the U.S. but flourished under federal protections and came off the endangered list in 2007. Hunting them generally remains illegal.

The defendants include people from Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming.

One case accuses a Rapid City family, Troy Fairbanks and his two adult sons, who are enrolled members of the Standing Rock and Lower Brule Sioux tribes. The father ran a Native American dance troupe called Buffalo Dreamers that performed at venues such as the Crazy Horse Memorial and Custer State Park in the Black Hills. But they also did a large trade in eagle parts and feathers, according to their indictment.

Fairbanks bragged to an unnamed “cooperating individual” that he was the “best feather man in the Midwest,” boasting that 19 people in the Los Angeles area wanted to buy from him.

]]> 0 Nevada game warden displaying the carcasses and wings of two golden eagles and a hawk seized from an Arizona man. There is an expensive underground market in eagle feathers and carcasses.Sat, 29 Apr 2017 19:35:48 +0000
March marks 25 years since Rodney King riots Sat, 29 Apr 2017 23:27:34 +0000 LOS ANGELES – Twenty-five years ago, a jury acquitted four white police officers in the beating of black motorist Rodney King, sparking looting and violence that would turn into one of the deadliest race riots in American history.

On Saturday, hundreds of people marked the anniversary with marches advocating peace and hope.

A “Future Fest” began at Florence and Normandie avenues – the South Los Angeles intersection where rioting erupted – and was followed by a community festival.

Organizer Eric Ares, 34, is a lifelong resident. He remembers the electricity going out in his house at the start of the rioting, leaving his family essentially cut off from the outside world without lights or a TV.

“For the next couple of nights, there was this fear going on,” he said. “We were huddled up in the living room.”

When he did venture outside, Ares saw plumes of smoke coming from places where buildings had been torched. But a small restaurant on the corner, a liquor store and other local businesses were untouched, he said.

People had a “real feeling of anger and frustration,” but it was mainly directed at police, politicians and businesses they believed oppressed, neglected or exploited them, Ares said.

Graffiti on walls warned: “No justice, no peace,” he said.

“I remember being at the park on the third day, people screaming: ‘We’re not gonna let them do it to us anymore,” Ares said.

But while the march and festival marks the events of a quarter-century ago, the commemoration also looked to a future where community organizations are working to deal with problems still confronting South L.A., Ares said.

“There’s still extreme poverty. There’s still issues of law enforcement … education and health care and access to good jobs,” he said. “But the difference is, we have a plan.”

About five miles north of the intersection, a peace parade was held in the Koreatown neighborhood, where tensions between black residents and Korean-American immigrant storekeepers led to markets, shops and gas stations being looted or burned. Some merchants stood guard with guns to protect their stores.

In the wake of the riots, community groups reached out and tried to mend fences.

On Saturday, several hundred people marched in an enthusiastic show of unity that included Korean drummers in traditional costume, a South L.A. drumline, taekwando students and schoolchildren from Watts.

K. Choi, 73, of Arcadia, was among the marchers. He helped organize the original peace march days after the rioting and said he believed racial relations had vastly improved.

“At that time it was different,” he said. “The politics and the social problems, whatever, all commingled together and then things exploded.”

“But now is a very different situation,” he said. “All those relationships are getting better between (the) Korean and black community, including (the) Spanish community … we’re getting along very good, and I hope we’re getting a better future.”

]]> 0 march begins Saturday at the corner of Florence and Normandie, the flash point of the 1992 riotsSat, 29 Apr 2017 19:27:34 +0000
Maine marchers protest Trump climate policies Sat, 29 Apr 2017 22:59:57 +0000 AUGUSTA — About 1,100 people in brightly colored shirts, carrying signs and chanting slogans, paraded slowly from the State House, around Capitol Park and back to the State House on Saturday as part of the Maine People’s Climate March.

The event was held to show solidarity with similar efforts nationwide aimed at protesting President Trump’s environmental policies.

Organizers of the Augusta rally and march said they want politicians to protect the state’s natural resources, public health, public safety and future.

Melissa Mann, advocacy coordinator for the Maine Conservation Alliance, which partnered with the Natural Resources Council of Maine and 350 Maine to sponsor the event, outlined major concerns.

“In his first 100 days, President Trump has worked to reverse climate progress, roll back fuel economy standards and propose deep cuts to the (Environmental Protection Agency) budget,” Mann said in a statement.

Other concerns were shown in signs held by demonstrators: “Solar Now,” “Protect Mother Earth” “Save Our Lobster,” “Save Our Syrup,” “Impeach traitor Trump Putin’s puppet,” and “(Scott) Pruitt is Repulsive Save the EPA.”

Vaughan Woodruff, owner of Insource Renewables, based in Pittsfield, told the crowd, “It’s great for us to come out here and be reinvigorated,” and he urged participants to “reach out to others” with the message after they left.

Dawn Neptune Adams, of the Penobscot Nation, translated “Water is life” into several Native American tongues.

Sue Pastore of Portland, a volunteer with 350 Maine, staffed a portable booth that offered sunscreen for the participants and held a collection bucket for donations.

“We are introducing our environmental concerns to the public and letting them know what they can do and how they can engage by letting them know about solar legislation and how to divest from banks supporting fossil fuels,” she said.

Martha Jones of Westbrook circulated a petition on behalf of the Maine Conservation Alliance calling on Maine’s U.S. senators, Republican Susan Collins and independent Angus King, to work to protect Maine’s environment. She said people were eager to sign.

Christina Nelligan of Augusta said she believes that the health of the planet reflects the health of the people.

“Health is our greatest wealth, and I believe we have a responsibility to future generations,” she said.

Bill and Libby Schecher of Hallowell, engineers turned acupuncturists, sat on the lawn outside the State House to listen to the speakers.

Libby Schecher held a sign with a quote from the Grateful Dead’s 1973 album “Wake of the Flood”: “Wake up to find out that your eyes are the eyes of the world.”

“Climate change is real,” she said.

“Earth science and NASA are being undermined and our ability to verify facts is being undermined,” Bill Schecher said. “If you don’t collect data, how do your really know what’s going on?”

Stepping off from the area between the Burton M. Cross State Office Building and the State House, Lucy Chatfield, a student in the Maine Coast Semester at Chewonki, chanted, “Tell me what democracy looks like.” And fellow marchers responded, “This is what democracy looks like.”

Just as marchers approached State Street a second time, they stopped en masse and sat down, pounding their chests 100 times to represent the first 100 days of the Trump administration.

Donna Little of Falmouth, Judy Love of Dover-Foxcroft and Carol Shoreborn of Dexter, who classified themselves as teachers and eco-feminists, sat together and watched on the granite steps leading to the north entrance of the State House.

“I turned 75 and took my retirement and put solar panels on my home,” Shoreborn said. “I don’t want to see all my resources lost because a governor doesn’t get it and a president doesn’t get it.”

Betty Adams can be contacted at 621-5631 or at:

Twitter: betadams

]]> 0 1,100 protesters gather Saturday between the State House and the Burton M. Cross State Office Building during the Maine People's Climate March.Sat, 29 Apr 2017 21:02:40 +0000
Three-alarm Waterville fire at community support agency near fire station draws crews from several communities Sat, 29 Apr 2017 22:56:47 +0000 WATERVILLE — Fire heavily damaged a community support services agency and attached apartment building Saturday night, leaving one person homeless and damaging both structures, according to fire officials.

Addison Point Agency, which is two buildings north of the Waterville fire station on College Avenue, started burning around 6 p.m. when a crew was doing work on its roof, according to Waterville fire Capt. Rodney Alderman, who was at the scene.

“A crew was working on the roof and apparently has a permit to do construction on the roof and was running a saw, and the saw sparked the fire,” Alderman said.

A strong wind blew as firefighters from several area towns worked at the scene and spectators lined the sidewalks. By about 7:40 p.m., the fire was out.

Alderman said the wind-driven fire spread from the roof of the Addison Agency to the three-story apartment building, which is attached to the back of the agency building and sits back from the road.

Alderman said wind caused the fire to spread from the Addison Agency’s roof to the apartment building roof and into the eaves and attic of the third floor of the apartment building. Then fire spread into the walls and ceiling of the second floor, he said.

“There was one person living on the third floor who is displaced,” Alderman said, adding that the American Red Cross was helping the man.

He said that no one was hurt in the fire.

Waterville police blocked College Avenue off to traffic from about the post office on College Avenue to the fire station, just south of Union Street.

Firefighters from Waterville, Winslow, Oakland, Fairfield and Clinton worked at the scene and Vassalboro firefighters covered the Waterville station. Delta Ambulance was on scene, as was the Skowhegan Fire Department’s Rapid Intervention Team, Alderman said. In emergency situations with mutual aid and automatic response at large fires, various departments are assigned by the local command staff to specific duties — direct action firefighting, ventilation, water supply setup, looking for hot spots, debris removal and rapid intervention. Skowhegan is the rapid intervention team for this fire.

A sign on the Addison Agency said it has been a family-operated nonprofit agency since 1988.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

Doug Harlow — 612-2367


]]> 0 battle a fire Saturday on College Avenue in Waterville.Sat, 29 Apr 2017 20:30:25 +0000
No guns allowed at Trump NRA event Sat, 29 Apr 2017 22:17:45 +0000 ATLANTA — For the excited NRA faithful, one aspect of seeing President Trump open their annual meeting Friday was a bit of a downer: No guns were allowed.

Guns are allowed in most public places in Georgia, including in the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, where the National Rifle Association is holding its annual meeting this weekend. But as with most presidential appearances, firearms weren’t allowed.

The rule left some attendees feeling a little out of sorts without a sidearm or almost any kind of weapon they might ordinarily carry, including pepper spray and knives.

But many figured they were safe given the event hall was swept hours earlier by the Secret Service, and there were K-9 dogs and metal detectors to get past before getting inside.

“If the president wasn’t here, we’d be carrying. We’re in the safest place right now,” said Mark D. Swinson, an NRA-certified instructor who with his wife owns a company that provides firearms training.

Still, he confessed, “I did feel a little naked getting here” from the hotel, a few blocks away from the conventional hall.

The NRA gathering is taking place in a sprawling convention center a block from CNN and a short distance from Centennial Olympic Park, where a bomb exploded during the 1996 Summer Olympics. The CNN center, which has a food court open to the public on the first floor, has its own history of violence. In 2007, a gunman shot and killed his ex-girlfriend who worked in an adjoining hotel.

It’s par for the course that firearms are not allowed in venues where the president is present. The same holds true for presidential candidates.

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Richmond wants Sunday cocktails for real this time Sat, 29 Apr 2017 22:07:37 +0000 RICHMOND — When voters in this northern Sagadahoc County town lifted a ban on serving alcohol on Sundays more than a decade ago, they didn’t do what they thought they did.

Now the owners of two Richmond restaurants are waiting to see whether they will be able to continue serving Bloody Marys and beer to Sunday patrons.

Scott McIntire, at The Old Goat, and Kimberly Travis, who runs Kimberly’s Restaurant & Lounge, were circulating a petition last week to put a measure on the ballot at Town Meeting to lift the Sunday ban properly.

Because the Richmond Town Office is closed on Fridays, they won’t know until this week whether they collected enough signatures from registered Richmond voters to get a place on the town’s June ballot.

“The town did hold a special town meeting in 2005,” Town Manager Janet Smith said. Smith has spent some time looking through town records to find out what happened 12 years ago.

Residents voted at the special meeting by a show of hands to lift the blue law, she said, but that didn’t meet the standard set out in state statute.

In the course of her research, she said, she also found a memo from the Richmond Police Department dating back more than a decade that said state liquor enforcement officials had no record that Richmond had lifted the ban.

David Heidrich, of the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services, said Friday that state law contains provisions for a local option in lifting alcohol sales at bars and restaurants. Among its requirements are a petition, signed by a number of registered town voters equal to 15 percent of those who voted in the last gubernatorial election, to be submitted at least 45 days before the vote is scheduled to take place, and a public hearing. It also details how the vote is to reported to the Maine secretary of state’s office.

In addition, Smith said the petition cannot originate with municipal officers and the vote has to be conducted by secret ballot, with absentee balloting starting 30 days before the election.

“The intent was there in ’05,” she said, “but the execution was a little lacking.”

Taking a short break from cooking on Friday, Travis said she had collected petition signatures but she doesn’t think it was enough.

Kimberly’s, which opened earlier this year in the former Railway Café, serves traditional brunch cocktails such as mimosas, Bloody Marys and screwdrivers to Sunday brunch customers, and she expects those who come in for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day will want to order drinks. But if they can’t, she’ll still be serving food.

“I hope we get enough signatures,” Travis said, adding that not being able to serve alcohol probably would hurt McIntire more.

McIntire said he’s not sure how many of the signatures will make the cut. They need 240.

“We turned in more than enough to meet what they wanted,” he said. “They are pretty thorough going through them.”

If the number of petition signatures fall short and the measure doesn’t make it on the ballot for the June 13 election, the next opportunity to put it before voters would be the November election.

“Sunday is a tenuous day,” McIntire said. Without the ability to serve beer, he said he’d probably close on Sundays, and that could lead to layoffs.

“That’s 27 man hours my staff is going to lose,” he said, “and I do pay well, $4 over the minimum wage. There’s also the income I would lose.”

]]> 0 and Kimberly Travis stand in front Kimberly's Restaurant & Lounge. It's one of two businesses hoping to ask Richmond voters to try again to OK Sunday liquor sales.Sat, 29 Apr 2017 18:17:25 +0000
Winter lingered in northern New England, and so will mud season Sat, 29 Apr 2017 22:07:11 +0000 NEW GLOUCESTER — Spring is in the air. But mud is on the ground, and will be for a while.

Mud season is an annual mucky rite of passage in the lives of northern New Englanders. This year, it’s gloppier than usual in places, and hanging around longer.

Even Acadia National Park had to close its famed carriage roads this season because of the mud, disappointing park visitors. The roads reopened last week but remained closed to horses because of the soft surface.

Mud season sets in when snow melts, the ground softens and spring rains come. Parts of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont had a snowier winter than usual, followed by a wetter-than-average spring, making for a longer-lasting muddier mess.

Mud season is normally over by April, but forecasters say it could stick around until early May.

“Generally we would be done by now, but we’re still having rain and snow events,” said Victor Nouhan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Caribou.

Caribou got nearly 125 inches of snow this winter, 15 inches more than the average. In the southern part of the state, Portland got 95.3 inches, well above the average 61.6 inches. Rainfall has also been heavy. Portland has had more than 15 inches of rain since Jan. 1 and averages less than 14 inches in that time.

The muddy late April means all-terrain vehicle enthusiasts who maintain 7,000 miles of trails in Maine are hard at work keeping people off the paths, said Real Deschaine, president of ATV Maine. ATV use during mud season can damage trails.

“There’s always somebody trying to find some muddy holes,” Deschaine said.

A motorist drives on the wrong side of the road to avoid a large puddle on Tuttle Road in Pownal. An extended mud season has made travel challenging in rural areas.

Parts of New Hampshire and Vermont also are still beset with mud after heavy winter snows. Concord, New Hampshire, averages 61.2 inches of snow but got 86.3 inches. In Burlington, Vermont, where more than 100 inches of snow fell, the average was exceeded by nearly 20 inches.

In Farmington, New Hampshire, it took Pat Frisella an extra 20 minutes to get into work Tuesday after a truck got stuck in the mud near her home and other vehicles coming to its aid blocked the road.

“I had to go the long way around because there was a second one of those huge tow trucks, a firetruck and a police car in the road,” she said. “That poor guy is as stuck as stuck can be.”

Paul Cerminara, the road foreman for the rural community of Middlesex, just outside the Vermont capital of Montpelier, said this year’s just-ending mud season was about normal, but coming after two or three years of easy seasons, it seemed worse.

Crews on Tuesday were pouring gravel into one low-lying muddy spot in some woods, which keeps the sun from drying it out. Over the last several years, Cerminara has worked with town officials to fix the traditionally troublesome spots by making sure the road can drain. They’re making progress.

“Mud season, it was just a fact of spring. When the sap started running, the roads went to hell,” Cerminara said. “Now, I’ll tread lightly, but folks don’t want to hear the road’s not passable right now. And I get that. It’s just not acceptable in this day and age.”

]]> 0 Tobey breaks up a clump of moist dirt while weeding her garden in Freeport last week.Sat, 29 Apr 2017 21:12:27 +0000
Women at NRA convention are sticking to Trump guns Sat, 29 Apr 2017 22:01:35 +0000 ATLANTA — Among the tens of thousands of people who took part in the National Rifle Association convention here, women were an obvious minority.

The thing that seemed to unite them was an overwhelming enthusiasm for President Trump.

“Look at what he’s putting his family through for us,” said Anne Jansen, an artist selling jewelry handcrafted out of bullet casings and shotgun shells.

“It’s for us. Right? He’s doing nothing but things for us. . . . To the resistance, it’s like, follow him. Take a chance. Follow him. He’s your leader. Are you an idiot?”

Jansen had never voted for president before supporting Trump in November. At 53, the self–proclaimed bohemian from Quincy, Ill., had only cast a ballot once before in her life, when she wrote in Mickey Mouse for president.

That was 10 or 15 years ago. Now, from her booth on the vast NRA exhibition floor, Jansen laments she can’t take a break to see Trump speak.

“I’ve always liked him,” she said. “Just knowing he’s here makes me feel good.”

Trump’s presence at the NRA convention Friday electrified the mostly male, mostly white crowd. But his choice to become the first sitting president to speak here since Ronald Reagan seemed to have special meaning for the women in attendance, from political junkies to gun enthusiasts to saleswomen.


They couldn’t be happier with Trump, these women said in nearly two dozen interviews. Even if they felt uncomfortable at first with the president’s attitude toward women after a race in which he was accused of being a sexual predator, even if they didn’t support him in the GOP primary, they’ve spent the past 100 days developing a profound sense of loyalty to him.

Despite running against Hillary Clinton, the first female major-party nominee, Trump won white women without college degrees by 27 points in November. He lost college–educated white women by 7 points to Clinton. Trump’s approval rating has been trending downward among women since he took office, with a Gallup poll taken at the end of March showing him at just 34 percent among all women.

But a fresh ABC News–Washington Post survey revealed that 94 percent of those who supported Trump in the election now approve of his performance.

That sentiment was reflected by Patricia Valentine, 67, waiting in line Friday to hear Trump’s NRA speech, who cheered the president’s promise to build a wall along the U.S.–Mexico border and to try to break up the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which ruled against the president’s travel ban.

“I’m ready for that wall to be built,” Valentine said. “I’m ready for him to cut taxes on businesses like my husband had. I think the Ninth Circuit Court, he needs to split those people up, move them around and get what he wants – what we want.”

Valentine, who is from the Atlanta suburbs, supported Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in the primary. But she beams with pride at the fact that Trump is president and is already fighting – in her eyes – political correctness, fake news and illegal immigration.

“Already he’s deporting people,” she said. “He’s just going by the laws we already have on the books. That’s all I want him to do: go by the laws we already have on the books! They shouldn’t be over here, and they definitely shouldn’t have sanctuary cities. . . . I’m telling you, he’ll get it done.”

On immigration?

“On everything.”

Trump’s decision to address the NRA was, in some ways, a gesture of thanks; the group endorsed him sooner than it had any other candidate in a presidential election, and fueled his victory with advertising in battleground states, creating what some called Clinton’s “lead ceiling.”

Many of the NRA ads featured women who felt empowered by gun ownership, with Clinton depicted as the antagonist, working to take that right away.

“Every woman has a right to defend herself,” a woman said in one television spot. “Hillary Clinton disagrees with that. Donald Trump supports my right to own a gun.”

As those television ads played on giant screens Friday, NRA chief lobbyist Chris W. Cox called Trump the most outspoken pro–gun nominee in U.S. history. His comments ahead of the speech recalled Trump’s dark rhetoric about the state of the country and served as a reminder of how potent that rhetoric became for these voters when married to the debate over gun rights.


Not every woman at the convention gave Trump a pass.

Meredith Lafavor, 41, voted for Trump because of her opposition to Clinton and to abortion rights. But she still doesn’t love everything he says.

“I would have liked to have seen somebody different,” she said, standing near a noisy gun raffle. “I just didn’t think Trump would make it.”

Lafavor grew up around guns because her family owned a sporting goods business. Plus, she said, she was “born and raised in the woods.”

Now, as the financial manager for a local chain of gun ranges, she is especially proud of the company’s location in midtown Atlanta and the diverse crowd such a spot attracts. Her boss is a Democrat, and the range once held an event for a Black Lives Matter group, she said.

The range also draws a lot of women, unlike your average NRA event.

“This is a man’s playground,” she said, waving her hand toward the convention hall. “This is Disney World for men. . . . It’s comfortable, familiar for me, personally. But most women, not so much.”

The NRA gathering happens annually, and many women remembered last year, when Trump spoke in Louisville and the NRA endorsed his candidacy.

“The Second Amendment is under threat like never before,” Trump had said. “Crooked Hillary Clinton is the most anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment candidate ever to run for office.”

This year, Lafavor bought two tickets to see Trump’s speech, but she gave them to her father and stepmother in the end.

“I’m not about public humiliation and talking down to people, and I think that’s the vibe you got from him up until now,” she said.

Upstairs, even Valentine voiced some brief concerns about Trump – about his Twitter habit and the saga of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who resigned after it became clear he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his contact with Russian officials.

“With Flynn, I’m sort of concerned about it,” she said. “But you know what? There are always people you’re not sure about.”

Asked about the wider issue of possible ties between Trump associates and Russia, she answered firmly: “No, it doesn’t bother me. I thought it was a bunch of bull.”

Down on the exhibit floor, Jansen doesn’t understand why, in her words, so many topics have become controversial, such as Trump’s business ties or whether and how people own guns.

She received her first BB gun at 8 years old, for her first Communion. Now she owns two firearms: “one for home protection,” the other a pistol.

Jansen said she hopes Trump can bring some calm to the political debate and reach out to people such as her, who spent most of their lives avoiding identification with either party. She said she looks forward to a Republican repeal of the Affordable Care Act because she doesn’t have health insurance and is starting to see the penalty she pays every year go up.

“People criticize me when I say that, that I’m not getting Obamacare,” she said. “I said, ‘I’ll be damned if anybody’s going to tell me that I can and can’t do something.'”

]]> 0 attendee passes by a large banner advertising a handgun during the NRA convention at the Georgia World Congress Center on Thursday in Atlanta. President Trump gave the keynote the address to the convention, where the women who helped him beat Hillary Clinton are sticking with him.Sat, 29 Apr 2017 19:10:54 +0000
Change may bolster Vermont ethics-panel proposal Sat, 29 Apr 2017 21:54:11 +0000 MONTPELIER, Vt. — A state representative may offer a last-minute change to strengthen a plan to create Vermont’s first ethics commission, an idea lawmakers have floated for years but is only now coming to fruition.

The measure creating a commission has been approved by the Senate and two key House panels, and appears ready for a final House vote.

The commission’s main function would be accepting ethical complaints about state officials and referring them to the appropriate oversight body, such as the attorney general’s office or legislative ethics committees. Vermont is one of just five states without some sort of ethics oversight body, according to a tally by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“I’m disappointed that it doesn’t do more,” said Democratic Rep. David Yacavone. He said he wants to offer an amendment forcing lawmakers to give detailed financial disclosures showing income sources.

As the bill stands, lawmakers would only have to disclose that they’ve received “investment income” over $5,000, but not the sort of investment. Yacovone wants more detail.

“It allows people to ask the question ‘Dave, you derive a portion of your income from banks and you’re regulating them?”‘ he said.

Yacovone isn’t the only one disappointed over the proposed commission’s weakness. Secretary of State Jim Condos has consistently argued for a commission that would have a full-time staff and the ability to investigate complaints with subpoena power.

The American Civil Liberties Union in Vermont and the Vermont Public Interest Research Group have both argued for similar changes. They also argue for a clause that would force candidates for any statewide office to disclose their tax returns, a piece that House lawmakers struck from their version of the bill.

On the other side, some lawmakers say Vermont doesn’t need an ethics commission. Democratic Rep. David Deen, who chairs the House Ethics Committee, said the current systems are working just fine.

Despite the critics, House lawmakers seem to like the bill. The House Appropriations Committee approved it on an 11-0 vote Thursday.

The measure includes a provision that would allow the commission to collect 2.3 percent of each state agency’s budget to pay its bills.

The House Government Operations Committee approved it last week, and the committee chair, Democratic Rep. Maida Townsend, said the consensus was hard fought.

“I think this is overdue, to get something like this in place,” Townsend said. “And if this is what we can get in place now, fine, even if it’s not as robust as … some folks would like.”

Yacovone said he’s still working on crafting his amendment and acknowledges he doesn’t have much time to gather support with legislative leaders because the session will end soon. But he said he’s worried that if lawmakers don’t fix the bill now, they won’t consider changes if it becomes law.

“My fear is once Vermont makes this step, it will be the only step for a very long time,” he said.

]]> 0 Sat, 29 Apr 2017 18:24:16 +0000
Proposal would make voting harder for N.H. homeless Sat, 29 Apr 2017 21:52:29 +0000 CONCORD, N.H. — Every Election Day, Chrissy Simonds makes the rounds to homeless shelters and transitional housing in Manchester urging people to vote.

Simonds, who was once homeless, often faces skepticism from people who tell her their vote doesn’t matter. Still, she presses on.

In November, she convinced seven people to vote – a record, if small.

But Simonds and other advocates fear a bill in the New Hampshire Legislature will create further barriers to voting for a population that already feels marginalized.

The Republican-authored bill adds new requirements for anyone who registers within 30 days of an election to provide documentation, such as a lease or a driver’s license, to show where they live and that they plan to stay there.

For people without a fixed address, such documents might not exist or be difficult to access.

“If you want people to vote, why would you make things more difficult?” said Simonds, who lacked a valid ID or a bill in her name when she fled an abusive relationship years ago with her young son in tow. She now leases an apartment in Manchester.

“Folks who are on the streets, folks who are in the shelters, they simply don’t have the types of documentation that this bill would require,” said Cathy Kuhn, director of the New Hampshire Coalition to End Homelessness. “It could have huge repercussions on their ability to vote and their ability to even feel like they can vote.”

It’s impossible to know how many homeless people vote in New Hampshire. But a 2016 report from the coalition estimates more than 1,300 people were without a home.

The bill is working its way through the GOP-controlled Legislature, and Republican Gov. Chris Sununu will likely sign it.

It spells out 10 forms of acceptable proof someone registering shortly before or on Election Day could bring, including a state-issued ID, residency at a local college, a deed or long-term lease or evidence of enrolling a child in local schools. Proof that a person has arranged a local homeless shelter to receive their mail also counts. It’s intended to stop people living here for temporary purposes, such as campaign work, from voting.

Republican Sen. Regina Birdsell, the bill’s sponsor, said it will not stop homeless people from voting.

The registration form provides a section people can initial to say they have no evidence verifying where they live – and that they understand local officials may try to reach them by mail or take “other actions” to verify their address.

No voters, homeless or otherwise, who lack proof on Election Day will be barred from voting, but they could later face an investigation or a fine of up to $5,000.

If passed, the law will face a near certain court challenge. Democrats and other opponents say the form amounts to a literacy test and could intimidate voters who don’t have the necessary documents. They argue the form could confuse voters and election officials alike.

Birdsell said it’s “disheartening” to hear suggestions that the legislation will bar the homeless, students or the military. “I hope it doesn’t discourage anyone from voting,” she said.

]]> 0 Sat, 29 Apr 2017 18:26:08 +0000
Climate Change marchers in Augusta call for politicians, others to protect Maine resources Sat, 29 Apr 2017 21:14:33 +0000 AUGUSTA — About 1,100 people in brightly colored shirts, carrying a variety of signs and chanting various slogans, paraded slowly from the State House, around Capitol Park and back to the State House as part of the Maine People’s Climate March.

The event was held to show solidarity with similar efforts nationwide aimed at protesting President Donald Trump’s environmental policies.

In a news release, organizers of the Augusta rally and march on Saturday said they want politicians to protect the state’s natural resources, public health, public safety and future.

Melissa Mann, advocacy coordinator for the Maine Conservation Alliance, which partnered with the Natural Resources Council of Maine and 350 Maine to sponsor the event, outlined major concerns.

“In his first 100 days, President Trump has worked to reverse climate progress, roll back fuel economy standards and propose deep cuts to the (Environmental Protection Agency) budget,” Mann wrote in a news release.

Other concerns were visible in signs held by rallygoers: “Solar Now,” “Protect Mother Earth” “Save Our Lobster,” “Save Our Syrup,” “Impeach traitor Trump Putin’s puppet,” and “(Scott) Pruitt is Repulsive Save the EPA.”

Vaughan Woodruff, owner of Insource Renewables, based in Pittsfield, told the crowd, “It’s great for us to come out here and be reinvigorated,” and he urged participants to “reach out to others” with the message after they left.

Dawn Neptune Adams, of the Penobscot Nation, translated “Water is life” into several Native American tongues.

Sue Pastore of Portland, a volunteer with 350 Maine, staffed a portable booth that offered sunscreen for the participants and held a collection bucket for donations.

“We are introducing our environmental concerns to the public and letting them know what they can do and how they can engage by letting them know about solar legislation and how to divest from banks supporting fossil fuels,” she said.

Martha Jones, of Westbrook, circulated a petition on behalf of the Maine Conservation Alliance calling on Maine’s U.S. senators, Republican Susan Collins and Angus King, an independent, to work to protect Maine’s environment. She said people were eager to sign.

Christina Nelligan, of Augusta, stopped at the rally on her bicycle after an earlier ride from Augusta to Gardiner and back along the Kennebec River Rail Trail. Nelligan said she believes that the health of the planet reflects the health of the people.

“Health is our greatest wealth, and I believe we have a responsibility to future generations.”

Bill and Libby Schecher, of Hallowell, engineers turned acupuncturists, sat on the green lawn just outside the State House to listen to the series of speakers.

Libby Schecher held a sign with a quote from the Grateful Dead’s 1973 album “Wake of the Flood”: “Wake up to find out that your eyes are the eyes of the world.”

“Climate change is real,” she said.

“Earth science and NASA are being undermined and our ability to verify facts is being undermined,” Bill Schecher said. “If you don’t collect data, how do your really know what’s going on?”

Stepping off from the area between the Burton M. Cross State Office Building and the State House, Lucy Chatfield, a student in the Maine Coast Semester at Chewonki chanted, “Tell me what democracy looks like.” And fellow marchers responded, “This is what democracy looks like.”

Just as marchers approached State Street a second time, they stopped en masse and sat down, pounding their chests 100 times to represent the first 100 days of the Trump administration.

Donna Little, of Falmouth, Judy Love, of Dover-Foxcroft, and Carol Shoreborn, of Dexter, who classified themselves as teachers and eco-feminists, sat together and watched on the granite steps leading to the north entrance of the State House.

“I turned 75 and took my retirement and put solar panels on my home,” Shoreborn said. “I don’t want to see all my resources lost because a governor doesn’t get it and a president doesn’t get it.”

Betty Adams — 621-5631

Twitter: @betadams

]]> 0 1,100 protesters gather Saturday between the State House and the Burton M. Cross State Office Building to hear speeches during the Maine People's Climate March in Augusta.Sat, 29 Apr 2017 20:38:27 +0000
Hungarian government still plans to close school Sat, 29 Apr 2017 21:06:05 +0000 BUDAPEST, Hungary — The Hungarian government remained defiant Saturday over the possible closure of Budapest-based Central European University, founded by billionaire George Soros.

The issue was on the agenda during Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s meeting in Brussels with leaders of the European People’s Party, of which his Fidesz party is a member.

The EPP was unusually direct in its criticism of Orban over CEU, a government campaign called “Let’s stop Brussels” and a draft bill targeting civic groups which receive foreign funding.

EPP president Joseph Daul said that in light of objections by the European Commission and after consultations with Hungarian civic groups and the academic community “we have come to the conclusion that dialogue alone is not enough.”

The EPP “will not accept that any basic freedoms are restricted or rule of law is disregarded,” Daul said in a statement. “The EPP wants CEU to remain open, deadlines suspended and dialogue with the U.S. to begin.”

Both Daul and EPP spokesman Siegfried Muresan posted messages on Twitter saying Orban said Hungary would comply with the commission’s requests and EU laws.

While Orban said he was ready for cooperation with the commission, he indicated he was unwilling to eliminate new amendments to the law on higher education which could force CEU to stop operating as it currently does.

CEU, in Budapest since 1993, is accredited in Hungary and New York state, its graduate degrees are recognized both in Hungary and the U.S., but it has no U.S. campus. Orban says that issuing a U.S. degree gives CEU an unfair advantage.

]]> 0 Sat, 29 Apr 2017 18:30:34 +0000
Can chronic meth use lead to psychosis? Sat, 29 Apr 2017 20:59:57 +0000 LOS ANGELES — Over the past seven years, Los Angeles jail officials have seen a nearly 50 percent increase in the number of mentally ill inmates, a rise the sheriff attributes to methamphetamine use.

Studies show chronic meth use can cause paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations and delusions. But doctors say it’s often difficult to determine whether patients had underlying conditions and then started abusing drugs, or if their chronic drug use led to psychiatric disorders.

Los Angeles sheriff’s officials, who house close to 4,000 mentally ill inmates in one facility alone, are working to adapt policies and train deputies to de-escalate tense situations and work with clinicians and other mental health professionals to treat people who have both psychiatric disorders and substance abuse problems.

Here’s a look at the correlation between chronic meth use and diagnosed mental illness.

What are the effects of chronic methampetamine use?

In addition to psychiatric symptoms, like paranoia and hallucinations, chronic meth users can experience anxiety, confusion and violent behavior, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The hallucinations often mimic the symptoms of a schizophrenic episode, and some users also have homicidal or suicidal thoughts, said Dr. Rana Biary, a toxicologist at the NYU Langone Medical Center.

Can meth use cause someone to develop a mental illness?

“Absolutely,” says Dr. Joel Braslow, a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“Heavy, high use of methamphetamine can cause psychotic symptoms,” he says.

It is also known to exacerbate symptoms for people with underlying psychotic disorders, he said. But Braslow says it is “too easy” to blame methamphetamine use for a rise in the number of mentally ill inmates. It’s extremely difficult to distinguish between those who abuse drugs, causing psychiatric symptoms, and patients who turned to drugs because they feel better when they are high.

What does chronic meth use do to the brain?

Neuroimaging studies have shown chronic methamphetamine users sometimes have structural and function changes in the parts of the brain that are associated with emotion and memory, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Those changes can cause emotional and cognitive problems.

How do doctors know if someone has mental illness brought on by substance abuse or if they already had an underlying disorder?

Experts say that’s one of the most challenging things when dealing with patients who have mental illness and are struggling with substance abuse.

“Almost everyone who uses meth will tell you initially they didn’t do it to get high. They did it to level out and feel normal,” said Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds, who specializes in substance abuse and addiction disorders. “In the case of meth, you will hear people say, ‘I started using because it made the voices go away.”‘

What other effects do chronic meth users experience?

Those who use methamphetamine for long periods can also suffer weight loss, severe tooth decay and tooth loss. Chronic users also sometimes have skin sores from picking and scratching at their skin, which experts say often is because the users are trying to get rid of insects they imagine are crawling under their skin.

]]> 0 listen during a program at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility on Thursday in Los Angeles. The facility houses perhaps the world's largest group of inmates whose mental illness is attributed to drug abuse.Sat, 29 Apr 2017 16:59:57 +0000
Pope celebrates Mass for Egypt’s Catholics Sat, 29 Apr 2017 20:41:57 +0000 CAIRO — Pope Francis wrapped up a brief but deeply symbolic visit to Egypt on Saturday with an open-air Mass for the country’s tiny Catholic community, defying security concerns to show his support for the Christians of this Muslim majority Arab nation who have increasingly become targeted by Islamic militants.

Military helicopters flew overhead and police fanned out in force as Francis zoomed around the soccer stadium in suburban Cairo where Mass was held, using an open-topped golf cart and waving to members of the congregation, evidence of his hallmark desire to be close to his flock at all costs.

The crowd cheered him wildly, waving Egyptian and Holy See flags and swaying to hymns sung by church choirs. The military-run stadium has a capacity of 25,000, but only about 15,000 people attended – a reflection that Catholics represent less than 1 percent of Egypt’s 92 million people. But the relatively modest number and the draconian security did not dampen their jubilant mood. Francis engaged the crowd with waves and smiles, and gave his blessings to the children hoisted up by their parents.

In his homily, Francis urged them to be good and merciful to their fellow Egyptians, saying “the only fanaticism believers can have is that of charity!”

“Any other fanaticism does not come from God and is not pleasing to him!” he said.

It was a very pastoral message after Francis on his first day demanded that Muslim leaders renounce religious fanaticism that leads to violence. Francis made the appeal during a landmark visit to Cairo’s Al-Azhar, the revered 1,000-year-old seat of Sunni Islam learning that trains clerics and scholars from around the world.

Security was exceptionally tight around the stadium and in the upscale neighborhood where Francis spent the night, with uniformed and plain-clothed police stationed every meter (yard) or so along his motorcade route. Police used metal detectors to check vehicles for explosives and armed guards stood watch, some on rooftops, their faces covered.

But Francis decided to forego the bullet-proof “popemobile” his predecessors used on foreign trips and drove through Cairo in a simple Fiat, his window rolled down.

“He is a messenger of peace, he is really a messenger of peace,” said attendee Amgad Eskandar before the Mass began at the stadium. “All his words talk about peace, call for peace, push for peace, which is great.”

The pope’s gestures – the simple Fiat and the open-topped Golf cart – sent a defiant message to the extremist Islamic State group, whose local affiliate in Egypt has vowed to target Egypt’s Christians to punish them for their support of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

As defense minister in 2013, El-Sissi led the military’s ouster of the Islamist Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely-elected president whose one-year rule proved divisive. El-Sissi was elected president a year later and is widely expected to run for a second, four-year term in office in June 2018.

Already, attacks against Christians in northern Sinai, the epicenter of the insurgency, have forced scores of families to flee the region, seeking refuge elsewhere in Egypt. Recent attacks on churches – one in Cairo in December and twin Palm Sunday attacks in cities north of the Egyptian capital – have claimed at least 75 lives.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the three attacks, carried out by suicide bombers, as well as one earlier this month that targeted a police checkpoint near the famed Saint Catherine’s monastery in central Sinai that killed a policeman.

The attacks led to heightened security at churches nationwide and the declaration by el-Sissi of a state of emergency.

Francis strongly backed the government’s crackdown on extremists, saying Egypt was uniquely placed to bring peace to the region and “vanquish all violence and terrorism.” El-Sissi has since 2013 overseen a major crackdown against Islamists, jailing thousands along with hundreds of the activists behind the 2011 uprising.

]]> 0 Francis ignored security concerns to celebrate Mass on Saturday for Egypt's tiny Catholic community, who have increasingly become targets for Islamic militants.Sat, 29 Apr 2017 18:34:11 +0000
Concert festival turns into Lord of the Flies Sat, 29 Apr 2017 20:34:51 +0000 In this day and age, the young and beautiful live and die on social media.

In the case of the ill-fated Fyre Festival – a multiday music, art and culture party that promised “an invitation to let loose and unplug with the likeminded” on the Bahamian island of Exuma – it’s been a sudden and ugly death, chronicled in real-time on YouTube and filtered through Facebook.

Organizers canceled the event at the last minute after poor planning, disorganization and lack of accommodations. Most of the A-list acts had pulled out of the festival days before, citing a lack of payment.

It was supposed to be a sun-soaked experience filled with yachts, gourmet food and models. Ticket prices ranged from $500 to $12,000.

But by Saturday morning, the partygoers had decamped, many of them to hotels in Miami in hopes of salvaging a weekend. People decried the festival accommodations as being like a “disaster tent city” and a “refugee camp.”

The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism expressed its deep disappointment in a statement sent to the media.

“Hundreds of visitors to Exuma were met with total disorganization and chaos,” the tourism office wrote in a statement.

In a statement posted on the Fyre Festival website Saturday, co-organizer Billy McFarland said festival goers will be refunded in full. “We will be working on refunds over the next few days and will be in touch directly with guests with more details. Also, all guests from this year will have free VIP passes to next year’s festival,” he wrote.

The hype for Fyre Festival began months ago, marketed with slick videos on social media.

“I saw it on Instagram and booked it before the lineup was announced,” said Mitch Purgason, a 25-year-old bespoke menswear designer in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Instagram ads looked especially “ridiculous” – parlance for amazing – what with models like Gigi Hadid and rapper Ja Rule. Blink-182 was supposed to perform. Photos of the impossibly blue water and the sugary sandy beach looked incredible. And the veritable icing on the cake: wild, docile pigs lived on the beach and swam in the warm water, perfect props for a killer Instagram selfie.

Although the festival on the island chain east of Florida appeared to cater to the Millennial trust fund crowd, it was people like Purgason and 29-year-old Jake Strang of Pittsburgh who purchased early tickets – young professionals who wanted to spend a fun weekend in the tropics.

Like Purgason, Strang paid $500 for a flight to the island from Miami, lodging and food. Strang and seven of his friends planned the trip to coincide with a birthday. They reserved a “lodge” for eight, with four king beds and a seating area in the middle.

“Everything made it look amazing,” said Strang.

The festival website was also enticing. It promised a treasure hunt of “exceptional proportions,” with over $1 million in riches to be found. It also said the event would be held on a private island.

Purgason said he was skeptical, but went ahead with the planned vacation anyway. “Worst case scenario, I figured, we’re still in the Bahamas in a villa.”

His first inkling that something was amiss came on Thursday morning. Purgason was on the first flight from Miami to Exuma and when they landed, organizers said the villas weren’t ready. So they whisked the planeload of partygoers to a restaurant at a nearby resort. He noted that it wasn’t a private island at all.

Still, food and drink were free and plenty. Cute pigs and bikini-clad girls roamed the beach. There was a DJ.

“They actually treated us pretty well,” he said. “The first three hours was dope.”

Jenna Conlin, 30, an advertising professional in Venice, California, said, “They were putting down bottles of tequila on every table in an attempt to make everybody happy.”

Strang flew in later Thursday and wasn’t so lucky.

“When we arrived, it essentially looked like a construction site. It looked like they were trying to sell lots for homes,” he said.

The festival goers were suddenly told by the promoter to find a tent, and waved his arm in a direction. But the tents had holes that had obviously allowed rain to come in because the beds were wet. They were given a Styrofoam container of food that involved “two slices of ham, lettuce and one slice of cheese on soggy bread,” Strang said.

A few lucky patrons had been relocated to resorts. Most were left to find beds in the tents.

It wasn’t like it was easy to just grab another hotel room; Exuma is a small island with a population of about 7,000, without the well-developed tourist infrastructure of Nassau or Freeport. The island’s hotels were already booked months in advance by a well-known regatta, wrote Robert Carron, owner of the Bahamas Tribune newspaper.

By daybreak, people had already started to line up and complain, and buses began taking people to the airport. It was official: the festival was canceled. Word got out via social media that organizers issued a statement citing “circumstances out of our control” for their inability to prepare the “physical infrastructure” for the event in the largely undeveloped Exuma.

“I’m heartbroken at this moment,” Ja Rule, whose real name is Jeffrey Atkins, said on Twitter. “I wanted this to be an amazing event. It was not a scam as everyone is reporting. I truly apologize as this is NOT MY FAULT.”

Dylan Caccamesi, who paid about $1,200 to attend, said organizers asked those seeking refunds to write their names, email addresses and phone numbers on pieces of computer paper. He signed the paper in the hope that it would help guarantee a refund. “I’m not sure what the intent was,” the 22-year-old from New Jersey said in a phone interview from the Bahamas. “We still have to get a hold of them.”

]]> 0, attendees paid up to $12,000 for accommodations that amounted to leaky surplus tents and bare mattresses. Far left, festival organizer Ja Rule. At left is a meal provided to a concert-goer consisting of bread, cheese and lettuce.Sat, 29 Apr 2017 16:34:51 +0000
Venezuela protests near turning point Sat, 29 Apr 2017 20:20:34 +0000 CARACAS, Venezuela — In the cramped hillside slums where they once adored Hugo Chávez, hungry families now jeer and bang pots at the man struggling in his shadow, President Nicolás Maduro.

Chávez, a master showman who promised his country a socialist “revolution,” loved to wade through crowds of poor Venezuelans, blowing kisses and dispensing hugs.

But when his successor has ventured out in public in recent months, he’s been pelted with eggs and chased by angry mobs.

“Maduro is so different,” said Irene Castillo, 26, who lives in El Guarataro, a tough neighborhood not far from the presidential palace.

She voted for Maduro in 2013 when Chávez died after 14 years in power. But no one on Castillo’s block supports the government anymore, she said. “Now, those who remain ‘chavistas’ are just the radicals.”

As the country’s bloody, volatile month-old protest movement hardens into a prolonged standoff between demonstrators and the government, the loyalties of poorer Venezuelans like Castillo have become a swing factor in determining whether the president will survive.

The thousands of demonstrators pouring into the streets in recent weeks are mostly middle class, outraged by Venezuela’s economic collapse and the government’s increasingly authoritarian rule. But Venezuelans from longtime chavista strongholds are starting to join them, at considerable risk. Residents of Castillo’s neighborhood protested openly against Maduro for the first time last week.

Pro-government block captains in neighborhoods like El Guarataro have responded by threatening to deny food rations to those who march with the opposition or fail to join pro-Maduro rallies. Militia groups armed by the government known as “colectivos” are deployed to intimidate would-be defectors and are suspected in the deaths of several protesters.

As the confrontation escalates, many other destitute Venezuelans remain on the sidelines, disillusioned with Maduro but unpersuaded by his opponents, or too busy looking for food to join a march.

Aside from a military revolt, there is perhaps nothing Maduro fears more than a rebellion spreading through the neighborhoods that long backed Chávez. There are signs it’s already happening.

The leaders of the Democratic Unity party, the big-tent coalition of Maduro opponents, are demanding that the government release political prisoners and move up presidential elections due to take place in late 2018.

They also want full power restored to the legislative branch, which Maduro and pro-government judges have stymied since the opposition won majority control in 2015.

]]> 0 of President Nicolas Maduro march to the Ramo Verde military prison in Los Teques, on the outskirts of Caracas, Venezuela, on Friday. Venezuela's opposition called for a march to the prison where opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez is serving a nearly 14-year sentence for his role leading anti-government demonstrations in 2014.Sat, 29 Apr 2017 16:20:34 +0000
EU leaders show firm united front ahead of Brexit Sat, 29 Apr 2017 20:10:36 +0000 BRUSSELS — European Union leaders vowed Saturday to stand shoulder-to-shoulder behind their negotiating team during the divorce proceedings with Britain and warned that demands from British Prime Minister Theresa May will be dealt with “firmly.”

The 27 EU leaders in Brussels finalized the cornerstones of their negotiating stance within four minutes of starting a short smooth summit, a month after the British leader triggered two years of exit talks on March 29. The negotiations themselves are to open shortly after Britain holds an early election on June 8.

“We now have unanimous support from all the 27 member states and the EU institutions, giving us a strong political mandate for these negotiations” under chief negotiator Michel Barnier, EU Council President Donald Tusk said.

Tusk said there can’t be any discussions on the future relationship between the EU and Britain until there has been major headway on key issues.

“We must first achieve sufficient progress on citizens’ rights, finances and the border issue in Ireland. It is too early to speculate on when this might happen,” Tusk said Saturday.

He said the 27 leaders would unanimously have to say there was “sufficient progress” to allow the talks to go to the next phase. That would give any EU country with a dispute with Britain, like Spain over Gibraltar, major influence over the timetable of the talks.

The negotiating guidelines also halted British hopes of having future trade relations being discussed concurrently through the talks.

“Before discussing the future, we have to sort out our past. We will handle it with genuine care – but firmly,” Tusk said.

Some at the summit were already considering how to deal with possible British negotiating tactics.

“Maybe the British government will do its utmost to split the 27 nations. It is a trap we need to avoid,” said Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel.

Ever since the June 23 referendum last year in which Britons narrowly voted to leave the bloc, the unity of the remaining 27 EU nations “has been really exemplary,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

In contrast, citizens in Britain have been divided because of the momentous changes looming.

The EU is also intent on making Britain pay a divorce bill, which some EU officials have put as high as $65 billion.

The money aims to pay for everything from pensions to financial commitments already made in the EU’s 7-year-budget, which runs until 2020.

French President Francois Hollande said the leaders agreed on “a simple principle,” applicable to Britain or any other country that might want to quit the bloc in the future, “that they must not be in a more favorable situation on the outside than they were on the inside.”

“There is always a price, a cost, a consequence from quitting the Union,” Hollande said at his farewell European summit.

To kick off the negotiations with Britain, Tusk wants to center on the millions of people living in each other’s nations who would be immediately affected.

All sides “need solid guarantees for all citizens and their families who will be affected by Brexit on both sides. This must be the No. 1 priority,” Tusk said.

]]> 0 Chancellor Angela Merkel and 26 other EU leaders will negotiate Britain's exit.Sat, 29 Apr 2017 16:10:36 +0000
‘Fed up’ Russians urge Putin not to run Sat, 29 Apr 2017 19:55:14 +0000 MOSCOW — Under the slogan “I’m fed up,” demonstrators urging Vladimir Putin not to run for a fourth term rallied in cities across Russia on Saturday. Dozens were arrested in St. Petersburg and elsewhere.

The centerpiece rally in Moscow went peacefully, despite being unsanctioned by authorities. Several hundred people rallied in a park, then moved to the nearby presidential administration building to present letters telling Putin to stand down from running in 2018.

But in St. Petersburg, Associated Press journalists saw dozens arrested. The OVD-Info group that monitors political repression relayed reports of more arrests in several cities, including 20 in Tula and 14 in Kemerovo.

Putin has not announced whether he plans to run for president again next year.

He has dominated Russian politics since becoming president on New Year’s Eve 1999 when Boris Yeltsin resigned. Even when he stepped away from the Kremlin to become prime minister in 2008-2012 because of term limits, he remained effectively Russia’s leader.

Nationwide protests on March 26 appeared to rattle the Kremlin because of the demonstrations’ unusual size and reach. The predominance of young people in those protests challenges the belief that the generation that grew up under Putin’s heavy hand had become apolitical or disheartened.

Saturday’s demonstrations were much smaller, but indicated that marginalized opposition forces will continue to push.

The demonstrations were called for by Open Russia, an organization started by Kremlin foe Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

As an oil tycoon, Khodorkovsky was once listed as Russia’s richest man, but his political ambitions put him at odds with the Kremlin. He was arrested in 2003 and served 10 years in prison on tax-evasion and fraud convictions that supporters say were political persecution. He was pardoned in 2013, left the country and revived Open Russia as a British-based organization.

On Wednesday, Russia’s Prosecutor-General banned Open Russia as an undesirable foreign organization. But the group’s Moscow branch says it is administratively separate and not subject to the ban.

]]> 0 detain a participant of an unauthorized rally in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Saturday. A poster reads "Putin, you can retire!" At left, opposition activist Maria Baronova, left, and pro-Kremlin political activist Maria Katasonova meet before an unsanctioned protest in downtown Moscow on Saturday. Several hundred demonstrators gathered in central Moscow.Sat, 29 Apr 2017 17:16:20 +0000
Turkish court blocks citizens from accessing Wikipedia Sat, 29 Apr 2017 19:46:57 +0000 ISTANBUL — In a move social media users called censorship, a Turkish court on Saturday blocked access to Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, enforcing an earlier restriction by Turkey’s telecommunications watchdog.

The Information and Communication Technologies Authority said an Ankara court ordered Saturday that a “protection measure” related to suspected internet crimes be applied to Wikipedia. Such measures are used to block access to pages or entire websites to protect “national security and public order.”

In response, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales tweeted his support for those who labeled the decision censorship: “Access to information is a fundamental human right. Turkish people I will always stand with you to fight for this right.”

Turkey Blocks, an internet censorship monitor, said users in Turkey have been unable to access all language editions of Wikipedia since 8 a.m. Saturday.

“The loss of availability is consistent with internet filters used to censor content in the country,” the monitor said.

The site had initially been blocked by BTK under a provisional administration measure.

The exact reason for the ban remains unclear. But Turkey’s official news agency, quoting the Ministry of Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications, said Saturday the site was blocked for “becoming an information source acting with groups conducting a smear campaign against Turkey in the international arena.”

The state-run Anadolu Agency said officials warned Wikipedia to remove content likening Turkey to terror groups but the site “persistently” did not.

Turkey demanded Wikipedia open an office in the country, act in line with international law and abide by court decisions and not be part of “blackout operation against Turkey,” according to the agency.

Anadolu said if these demands are met and the content removed, the site would be reopened.

Opposition lawmakers also criticized the court order. Republican People’s Party parliamentarians Eren Erdem tweeted the ban puts “Turkey in line with North Korea” while Baris Yarkadas called it “censorship and a violation of the right to access information.”

Turkey’s status is listed as “not free” on the 2016 Freedom on the Net index by independent rights watchdog Freedom House. It says over 111,000 websites were blocked as of May last year.

Wikipedia, a collaborative online reference work, says it is ranked among the 10 most popular websites.

The government has blocked access to popular websites such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook in the past, offering justifications such as terrorist propaganda or insults against Turkish political figures.

“The government can’t get enough of censorship,” said lawmaker Baris Yarkadas of the largest opposition party, CHP, a member of a party board that monitors political pressure on the media.

]]> 0 Sat, 29 Apr 2017 17:17:27 +0000
Gorham boy, 5, hospitalized after roll-away car incident Sat, 29 Apr 2017 19:11:34 +0000 A 5-year-old Gorham boy was injured Saturday morning after he shifted a parked car into gear, causing it to travel down the driveway, across the street and down an incline.

Gorham police said the accident happened as family members worked on a project in the driveway at 34 Sebago Lake Road and the boy was playing in the parked car.

The boy was hurt while trying to exit the vehicle as it was rolling, police said. His injuries were not life-threatening.

Officials did not release his name, but a dispatcher said Saturday night that the boy remained hospitalized. His condition was not available.

]]> 0 Sat, 29 Apr 2017 19:58:52 +0000
Calorie counts on restaurant menus could be delayed again Sat, 29 Apr 2017 18:46:34 +0000 WASHINGTON — Consumers hoping to consistently find out how many calories are in that burger and fries may have to wait – again.

New government rules to help people find out how many calories are in their restaurant meals are set to go into effect next week after years of delays. But they could be pushed back again if grocery stores, convenience stores and pizza delivery chains get their way.

Originally passed as part of the health care overhaul in 2010, the law requires restaurants and other establishments that sell prepared foods and have 20 or more locations to post the calorie content of food “clearly and conspicuously” on their menus, menu boards and displays. The delays have come as those businesses that never wanted to be part of the law say it is burdensome and fiercely lobby against it.

Facing a May 5 compliance deadline set by the Food and Drug Administration last year, those groups are eyeing a massive spending bill that Congress will have to pass in the next week to keep the government open. They’re hoping to either delay the menu labeling rules again or include legislation in the larger bill that would revise the law and make it easier for some businesses to comply.

At the same time, the FDA is signaling it may act on the issue even sooner. In a typical first step before a rule or decision is announced, the agency has sent language to the White House for review that would delay the compliance date.

A delay would be the latest of many. The FDA took more than four years to write the rules, and establishments originally had until the end of 2015 to comply. That was pushed to 2016 and then to May 2017.

The idea behind the menu labeling law is people may pass on that bacon double cheeseburger at a chain restaurant, hot dog at a gas station or large popcorn at the movie theater if they know that it has hundreds of calories. But grocery stores and convenience stores have said the rules would be more burdensome for them than they would be for restaurants, which typically have more limited offerings. The majority of prepared foods in grocery stores will have to be labeled – from the salad bar to the hot food bar to cookies.

The industry groups are backing legislation by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., that would narrow labeling requirements for supermarkets by allowing stores to use a menu or menu board in a prepared foods area instead of labels on items. It would also allow restaurants like pizza chains that receive most of their orders remotely to post calories online instead of at the retail location, as the rules now require.

McMorris Rodgers, a member of House leadership, has been pushing for her legislation to be included in the spending bill. But if it’s not included, a delay by the FDA could give Congress the needed time to pass it.

With the nutrition-minded Obama administration out and President Trump promising to repeal burdensome regulations, the groups think they finally have a chance to win concessions on the law.

]]> 0 food restaurants are supposed to post correct nutrition information starting May 5, but some restaurants are lobbying to delay that change.Sat, 29 Apr 2017 17:23:53 +0000
Facebook acknowledges it’s being used for political meddling Sat, 29 Apr 2017 18:37:32 +0000 NEW YORK — Facebook is acknowledging that governments or other malicious non-state actors are using its social network to influence political sentiment in ways that could affect national elections.

It’s a long way from CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s assertion back in November that it was “pretty crazy” to think that false news on Facebook influenced the U.S. presidential election. It’s also a major sign that the world’s biggest social network is continuing to grapple with its outsized role in how the world communicates, for better or for worse.

In a paper posted online on Thursday, Facebook security researchers and its chief security officer said the company will monitor the efforts of those who try to hurt “civic discourse” on its service, whether that’s governments or other groups. It is also looking to identify fake accounts, and says it will notify people if their accounts have been targeted by such cyberattackers.

“(We) have had to expand our security focus from traditional abusive behavior, such as account hacking, malware, spam and financial scams, to include more subtle and insidious forms of misuse, including attempts to manipulate civic discourse and deceive people,” the report states. It was written by researchers Jen Weedon and William Nuland and Facebook exec Alex Stamos and titled “Information Operations and Facebook.”


The team defined “information operations” as any actions taken by governments or other actors to “distort domestic or foreign political sentiment” to achieve a strategic purpose. Such operations can include the dissemination of false news and disinformation and the use of fake-account networks aimed at manipulating public opinion through a variety of means.

Using the 2016 U.S. presidential election as an example, Facebook said it uncovered “several situations” where malicious actors used social media “to share information stolen from other sources, such as email accounts, with the intent of harming the reputation of specific political targets.”

The company did not name the actors or the victims, but it said its data “does not contradict” a January report by the U.S. Director of National Intelligence that Russia tried to meddle with the U.S. election.


Jonathan Albright, a professor who studies data journalism at Elon University in North Carolina, urged journalists and others back in February to look not just at the role of Facebook in spreading false or misleading information, but also at the sources of such information. That is, to attempt to identify both the producers of this material and those who spread it using social networks and other means.

Facebook’s paper addresses the amplifiers of such content – the fake accounts that “like” and share false news stories, for example. The company has also announced steps to support legitimate journalism and news literacy. But the paper does not delve into ideas about attacking false news and propaganda at the source, including by banning such content from the site.

Currently, Facebook users who want to share an article that has been debunked by outside fact-checkers, for example, are able to do so after they get a warning from Facebook. Facebook has long held that it does not want to be the arbiter of truth – that it wants its users to decide for themselves (within limits of its terms of service) what they want to read and post.

]]> 0 CEO Mark Zuckerberg originally did not acknowledge foreign election meddling on his site, but the company now says malicious actors did use Facebook as a platform.Sat, 29 Apr 2017 17:29:24 +0000
Climate march draws massive crowd to Washington in sweltering heat Sat, 29 Apr 2017 18:17:29 +0000 WASHINGTON – Tens of thousands of demonstrators assembled in Washington in sweltering heat on Saturday for the latest installment of the regular protests that punctuate the Trump era. This large-scale climate march marks President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office, which have been punctuated by rollbacks of environmental protections and Obama climate policies.

The People’s Climate March, which originated with a massive demonstration in New York in September 2014, picked a symbolically striking day for its 2017 event. Temperatures could exceed 90 degrees and possibly set a record for April 29 in the District of Columbia, which would amplify the movement’s message.

On the eve of the march, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it was beginning an overhaul of its website, which included taking down a long-standing site devoted to the science of climate change, which the agency said was “under review.”

“Hang on EPA, the midterms are coming. 2018,” read one sign carried by Kathy Sommer of Stony Brook, N.Y., as the protest assembled on the National Mall Saturday morning.

“There is no Planet B,” read another sign by Eva Gunther of Washington, D.C.

Many of the signs at Saturday’s climate march were dark and ominous, warning of climate catastrophe, dying oceans, crop destruction and planet degradation. But the mood of the marchers was anything but somber. Tens of thousands gathered all morning in the lush green National Mall in front of the U.S. Capitol carrying signs, singing and chanting as they prepared to march to the White House. It was a racially diverse crowd with marchers of all ages.

The marchers came prepared with water bottles, hats and sunscreen. They also arrived with sunny dispositions. “It’s beautiful,” said Allison Dale, a geologist from Conshohocken, Pa. “It’s so well organized and everyone is really friendly and in a really good mood.”

Impromptu concerts broke out as protesters waited for the march to begin. A brass band played as a stilt walker danced past. Tambourine shakers and drummers added to the joyful cacophony. Their reason for marching was serious but they were determined to have a good time, too.

The climate event differs from last week’s March for Science in its focus and also its participants – only 1 out of 8 contingents of Saturday’s protest featured scientific researchers. The rest included labor activists, indigenous people already facing severe effects from climate change, and children and young people who will live with the effects of climate change longest as the Earth continues to warm.

But there’s plenty of overlap between the marches. Ken Hunter, 78, traveled from Charles Town, West Virginia, for Saturday morning’s march. He also came to Washington for the March for Science last weekend and the Tax March on April 15 – and attended a Women’s March in Florida.

“Hell, I haven’t marched this much in years,” Hunter said with a laugh. “But these are all very important issues and it was important to be out here.”

The motivation for the current climate march is clear: The young Trump administration already has moved to roll back former President Barack Obama’s signature climate initiative, the Clean Power Plan, and Trump and his team have taken many other actions to weaken environmental protections of air and water, and to enable fossil fuel exploitation on public lands and waters.

The administration is grappling with a major climate policy decision: whether to remain in the Paris climate agreement. Several of Trump’s Cabinet picks are advising against following through on his campaign pledge to “cancel” the accord.

It all adds up to a big contrast with the original People’s Climate March in 2014. That event was aimed at rallying support for climate change action and preceded by about a year the Paris climate agreement. This event is much more targeted at resisting rollbacks of climate efforts. Celebrity attendees included Leonardo DiCaprio, Al Gore and Richard Branson.

The focus on Trump was not necessarily intentional: In a press statement, Paul Getsos, national coordinator of the People’s Climate Movement, said the event was planned “before the election.”

For Ethan Fekete, Saturday’s climate march was the first protest he has taken part in.

“Ironically we march to get rid of our carbon footprint,” said the 13-year-old Virginia Beach, Virginia, resident who attended the march with his dad and a friend.

“It’s so much more than just a bunch of people walking around,” Fekete said. “The signs are so creative and everyone is here for a good cause.”

Marchers on Saturday gathered at the Capitol and marched along Pennsylvania Avenue. They covered the entire width of the avenue and its length from the Capitol to 14th Street. The crowd filled Pennsylvania Avenue and the sidewalks carrying signs decrying the president and his actions on the environment.

The marchers unleashed their anger as they passed directly in front of the Trump Hotel, where they booed loudly and chanted “Shame!” and “We want a leader, not a creepy tweeter!” and “We will not go away, welcome to your 100 days!”

As the march streamed toward the White House, Freedom Plaza, an open area along Pennsylvania Avenue, provided an off ramp for sweltering protesters. At the far end of the plaza a series of six large water tanks awaited. Activists lined up to refill their bottles and, in a few cases, douse their heads.

The protesters were vociferous but peaceful. Interactions with the phalanx of police officers who stood at barriers in front of the hotel were friendly, with many protesters stopping to get pictures of themselves with officers.

They planned to “surround” the White House, according to the march website, and “make a loud sound demanding climate justice and good jobs that will drown out all of the climate-denying nonsense that has been coming out of this Administration.”

On the western side of the White House near the Old Executive Office building, the march changed character as it completed a loop around the center of U.S. presidential power. Instead of being densely packed and full of energy, the protesters grew more widely spaced out and slower in their strides. Some took a detour behind the White House and paused to sit in the shade on the grass between the South Lawn and the Ellipse.

Organizers told the National Park Service that they expect 50,000 to 100,000 attendees. More than 375 satellite marches were planned around the United States and even more around the world, from Manila to Amsterdam.

Getting to the march proved frustrating for many who chose to use public transportation. Metro officials did not make changes to their planned maintenance schedule, which affected several downtown stations that would normally be used by riders headed to the National Mall. In some instances, shuttle buses replaced trains. Many marchers complained the service was slow and were confused about where to board shuttle buses.

“Classic @wmata greatness while there are major events going on at once,” tweeted one disgruntled rider who included a screenshot that showed a 37-minute wait for a Shady Grove train.

Those who used the Red Line also ran into problems Saturday morning when smoke from an arcing insulator at the Woodley Park stop forced the agency to single-track trains between that station and Van Ness, causing mid-morning delays. Those delays were in addition to previously planned single-tracking between two downtown stations, Judiciary Square and Farragut North. But officials said they planned to resume full Red Line service between Judiciary Square and Farragut North around 3 p.m. to accommodate people leaving the Climate March and those headed to the Capitals playoff game.

Even so, Metro officials said they did not anticipate significant problems.

“We believe that planned service will be more than adequate to accommodate ridership demand,” said Richard L. Jordan, a Metro spokesman.

The forecast Saturday is for temperatures to reach as high as the low 90s. The current record for the date is 91 degrees, while this month already is the warmest April on record for the District of Columbia.

]]> 0 sit on the ground along Pennsylvania Ave. in front of the White House in Washington, Saturday, April 29, 2017, during a demonstration and march. Thousands of people gathered across the country to march in protest of President Donald Trump's environmental policies, which have included rolling back restrictions on mining, oil drilling and greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants. The demonstrators sat down for 100 seconds to mark President Trump's first 100 days in office.Sat, 29 Apr 2017 17:05:54 +0000
Death of longtime Maine State Prison inmate not deemed suspicious Sat, 29 Apr 2017 17:50:46 +0000 WARREN — A longtime Maine State Prison inmate who had complained publicly about prison conditions years ago died Saturday morning at the facility in Warren.

Deane Brown, 53, died about 7:51 a.m., the Maine Department of Corrections said in a statement.

Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said Brown had been sick for sometime and that foul play is not suspected.

Brown was serving lengthy consecutive sentences for robbery, burglary and theft convictions in 1996 in Knox County Superior Court, the corrections department said. His earliest possible release date was 2032.

Brown’s allegations of poor conditions at the state prison were the centerpiece of a series of articles more than a decade ago by journalist Lance Tapley in The Portland Phoenix. Brown was also a prison journalist for radio station WRFR-LP in Camden and regularly called in to shows to talk about prison conditions.

Brown was transferred from the Maine State Prison to a prison in Maryland in 2006, then to New Jersey in 2010 before being returned to Maine in 2013, according to criminal records.

He filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in 2007 alleging that Maine State Prison officials violated his First Amendment right to freedom of speech by transferring him to the prison in Maryland. But it was dismissed in U.S. District Court in Maine in 2008, according to court records.

Brown, a Rockland resident, was convicted in 1996 of four counts of robbery, 18 counts of burglary and 11 counts of theft. It was one of the most significant burglary cases in the midcoast in memory, police said at the time. The crime spree lasted seven months, and during that time three homes, 11 businesses and five churches were targeted until Brown and five others were arrested in April 1995.

The gang used police scanners and two-way radios during their nighttime crimes. The victims in some of the home burglaries and one church burglary were tied up and their faces covered with pillows or newspapers.

Brown was sentenced to a total of 59 years in prison.

The Maine State Police and state medical examiner are reviewing Brown’s death, according to the Department of Corrections.

Stephen Betts of The Courier-Gazette and Maine Sunday Telegram Staff Writers Noel K. Gallagher and Beth Quimby contributed to this report.

]]> 0 Sat, 29 Apr 2017 20:43:14 +0000
No one injured in rollover crash in Westbrook, police say Sat, 29 Apr 2017 13:07:44 +0000 Westbrook police said Saturday they solved the mystery of the predawn rollover crash on Larrabee Road.

Police who were called out to the accident in front of Napa Auto Parts found the car abandoned at 4:52 a.m. Search dogs failed to find anyone, and the department put out a request to speak to any witnesses.

By afternoon, in a tongue-in-cheek Facebook post, the department said police had met with the uninjured driver and single passenger and confirmed it “wasn’t an alien abduction,” a nod to the many Facebook messages it received speculating on what had happened to the 2001 blue Subaru Outback.

By Saturday night, the department had not identified the driver or said what caused the rollover or whether any charges would be filed.

]]> 0 found this Subaru Outback rolled over on Larrabee Road in Westbrook with no one inside.Sat, 29 Apr 2017 20:15:44 +0000
Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling requests salary review, monthly vehicle allowance Sat, 29 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Is $71,100 a year a reasonable salary for Portland’s popularly elected mayor, who has no executive control over day-to-day operations of the city?

That’s the question Mayor Ethan Strimling has put to the City Council, which recently approved significant raises for its three employees: City Manager Jon Jennings, City Clerk Katherine Jones and Corporation Counsel Danielle West-Chuhta.

“We made adjustments to the three other positions,” Strimling said. “I think they should look at it. We want to make sure the salary is competitive and good people run.”

Strimling said he’d like to see the mayor’s compensation package include a $500 monthly vehicle allowance, like Jennings’. The mayor and councilors already are eligible for travel and mileage reimbursements.

The city is looking to increase the salaries of its non-elected, nonunion staff, following Strimling’s first year in office, which was marked with clashes between the mayor, councilors and manager as well as controversial decisions to hire an assistant and to build new office space for the mayor.

Strimling said he originally made the request last fall, when the council was considering raises for its three employees. He recently sought an update from several councilors.

City Councilor Justin Costa said in an April 21 email to members of the Nominations Committee, which oversees the performance and salaries of the council’s three employees, that “the mayor has requested an increase in his salary.” Strimling maintains he asked only that his compensation be reviewed. Ultimately, the councilors decided to refer the matter to the Finance Committee, because the councilors don’t formally evaluate the mayor’s performance.

“I see it as a broad policy discussion,” Costa said in an interview Friday. “You never want to have the impression the mayor’s compensation is anything that could be affected by political views or policy disagreement or other stuff.”


City Councilor Nicholas Mavodones, who leads the Finance Committee, said the committee will probably take up the request Thursday, noting that it will be challenging for the city to find comparable salaries for Portland’s mayor, which is a hybrid system that empowers the mayor to help set city policy through the council, but does not give him any control over staff or operations.

“I think we should have that discussion for the budget,” Mavodones said. “I can’t imagine we would adjust his salary downward.”

The elected mayor’s position was created in 2010. The City Charter says the mayor must be paid a minimum of 1.5 times the median household income for Portland, as determined by the U.S. Census Bureau, but that does not preclude the mayor from earning more.

The charter calls on the council to adjust the salary prior to nomination papers becoming available for the mayor’s position, but that did not occur in 2015, while also allowing the council to adjust it during a mayor’s term.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey, the median household income for Portland was $46,280, which would put the mayor’s salary at $69,420. The 2015 income information is the most recent available.

If that is the rubric used by the committee, then Strimling’s current salary of $71,100 already exceeds the minimum set forth in the charter.


When Michael Brennan was elected mayor in 2011, he was paid $64,400 a year. Throughout his four-year term, Brennan did not have dedicated staff support like Strimling, who convinced councilors to hire a special assistant to the mayor who was paid $47,387 for a partial year in 2016. (The assistant’s full annual salary is $64,000 per year.)

Like councilors, the mayor has received the same Cost of Living Adjustment as other nonunion employees.

As a result, the mayor’s salary has increased by 10 percent since 2012.

Over that same period, the council’s stipend has increase from $5,899 in 2012 to $6,321 in 2016.

Strimling said he believes councilors should also receive a pay increase.

“I do think the councilors should be paid more,” he said. “There’s a lot of work they do and they should be compensated to meet the expectations of their constituents.”

Last year, the council approved a 12 percent, or $18,500, raise for Jennings, who now earns $166,500; a 17 percent, or $14,000, raise for Jones, who now earns $92,960; and an 11 percent, or $13,400, raise for West-Chuhta, who now earns $131,250.

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

Twitter: randybillings

]]> 0, ME - MARCH 20: Mayor Ethan Strimling speaks Monday, March 20, 2017 during a City Council meeting in Portland, Maine. (Staff photo by Joel Page/Staff Photographer)Sat, 29 Apr 2017 08:36:27 +0000
Wiscasset couple taking fireworks lawsuit against ‘Big Al’ to high court Sat, 29 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 WISCASSET — The Maine Supreme Judicial Court may be pulled into an ongoing legal battle between neighbors and the owner of a midcoast warehouse used for the storage of consumer fireworks.

The warehouse, owned by Allen Cohen – known locally as “Big Al” – is used to store consumer-grade Class C fireworks that Cohen sells at his retail store on Route 1. Tom and Katie Bryant, who live near the warehouse on JB’s Way, have taken him to court and lost, and say they are appealing next to Maine’s high court.

The Bryants allege that Cohen’s warehouse poses a risk to them and other residents in the area. The structure, which is just over 4,500 square feet and has two more storage containers adjacent to it, is located within 1,000 feet of multiple residences. It is also just 16 feet from the driveway the Bryants use to access their home.

The issue arose in 2013 when the Bryants found that Cohen was storing his fireworks in the warehouse. The couple bought their house in 2011, before fireworks were legal in Maine.

Normally, the warehouse would be required to be set back a certain distance from the driveway. However, the driveway is owned by Cohen, and is used by the Bryants via a right-of-way.

“How does it make any difference, for safety reasons, whether we own it or Big Al owns it? We’re still endangered either way,” said Tom Bryant.

The couple first filed a complaint with the Lincoln County Superior Court in 2014, and the dispute was the focus of more court battles in 2015 and 2016. They lost their last appeal on Sept. 28 and say the next stop is the Maine supreme court.

The Bryants said they have also obtained signatures from dozens of other nearby residents, who agree that they don’t like the presence of the fireworks storage in their neighborhood.

Despite the objections, Cohen said he is in 100 percent compliance with local, state, and federal requirements. He said the Bryants’ continued lawsuits are doing nothing but wasting money, considering the issue has been through the court system already.

“This is beating a dead horse, over and over and over again,” said Cohen. “It’s been through the planning board three times, it’s been through the court system twice.”

A letter from State Fire Marshal Inspection Supervisor Timothy Fuller, written in 2014, confirmed that Cohen was in compliance with state law. It also pointed out that in Maine, the storage of consumer-grade fireworks is unregulated.

The applicable Maine statute “does not require a separate permit to store consumer fireworks,” Fuller said in the letter. “I am not aware of any facts that lead me to believe that the building on JB’s Way is anything other than a cold storage facility.”

State Fire Marshal Inspection Supervisor Gregory Day confirmed that Cohen is still in compliance three years later.

“The statute does not require a separate permit to store consumer fireworks,” said Day. “He’s licensed by ATF to have his store and have his product; he’s in compliance of the Maine statute.” The ATF refers to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Day confirmed that Cohen had recently received an inspection for his retail operation, and is compliant and up to date with all requirements.

Special Agent Christopher Arone of the ATF’s Boston field division confirmed that as far as the ATF is concerned, Class C consumer fireworks are a non-issue.

“ATF doesn’t regulate consumer fireworks … or the storage of them,” Arone wrote in an email.

According to Day, the storage of consumer grade fireworks is left up to municipalities to regulate. Cohen’s warehouse is located in a “rural” zoning district, which does not restrict the storage of consumer fireworks.

That zoning designation is also used as proof that Cohen is in compliance with National Fire Protection Agency rules, which require consumer fireworks storage to be located “well away from residential areas.”

However, the Bryants contend that while the zoning may be rural, the language of the NFPA’s rules don’t go by zoning, they go by the term “area.” With several houses located within 1,000 feet of the warehouse, and over 50 residences within a half-mile, they contend it’s primarily a residential area.

“We just do not feel that there’s a zoning issue,” said Katie Bryant.

The only egress from their property is via their right-of-way. “It’s extremely hazardous location for a fire,” said Tom Bryant.

Chris Chase can be contacted at 386-5227 or at:

]]> 0 Cohen, known locally as "Big Al," uses a warehouse in Wiscasset to store consumer-grade Class C fireworks that he sells at his store on Route 1.Sat, 29 Apr 2017 11:21:52 +0000
Trump’s first 100 days featured plenty of action Sat, 29 Apr 2017 04:16:10 +0000 WASHINGTON — He won confirmation of a Supreme Court justice. He withdrew from a sweeping planned trade deal with 12 Pacific Rim countries. And he revived construction of the contentious Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines.

But he also failed to persuade his fellow Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. He tried to halt travel to the United States by citizens of six majority-Muslim nations, but was stopped again and again by the courts. And he was forced to fire his national security adviser for lying to the vice president.

In his nearly 100 days in the White House, President Donald Trump has seen his share of ups and downs on a host of domestic and foreign policy issues, from illegal immigration to Syria, taxes to China and everything in between.

And whether you’re one of his supporters or part of the so-called resistance you can probably agree on this: The brash, Twitter-friendly reality-TV star turned commander in chief has managed to leave everyone wondering what he will do next.

“The one word that defines all conversations throughout the United States and many capitals of the world is ‘Trump,'” said Ken Duberstein, who served as President Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff.


Trump has repeatedly mocked the 100-day benchmark, complaining he would be accused of failing no matter how much he accomplished. Yet he spent the final week before Saturday’s 100th day rolling out executive orders and policy proposals in a furious finish to the deadline.

“I’ve done a lot. I’ve done more than any other president in the first 100 days,” Trump told The Associated Press in an interview late last week. “The foundations have been set to do some great things.”

Trump promised to act fast – and he has – though he has done far less than he promised on the campaign trail when he outlined dozens of things he wanted to do in the first 100 days, many on day one. He even released a “Contract With the American Voter,” a 100-day action plan to “make America great again.” But after the election he streamlined his list, and many items remain undone as the president learns how long action takes in Washington.

William Galston, a former policy adviser to President Bill Clinton who’s a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a center-left policy research center, gives Trump a “C-” based on what he accomplished with his executive orders, legislation and policy proposals. “They were substantially unprepared for challenges at home and abroad,” he said.

Still, Trump has engaged in a flurry of activity from the first day – though some people argue that some of the moves have been more cosmetic than substantive – signing 28 bills into law, issuing 24 executive orders and ordering at least 17 studies on everything from election fraud to the Iran nuclear deal.

By far, his biggest accomplishment was the selection and confirmation of 49-year-old Neil Gorsuch, who with a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court could be ruling for decades on everything from the death penalty and searches-and-seizures to the scope of the president’s war powers. Trump is the first president since 1881 to get a Supreme Court nominee confirmed in the first 100 days.


Trump launched a military strike in Syria after President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons that killed dozens of civilians. He dropped the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in the U.S. arsenal on the Islamic State in Afghanistan. He secured the release of aid worker Aya Hijazi from an Egyptian prison. He has befriended China and angered allies Mexico and Australia. He’s stepped up deportations, seen a decrease in border crossings and tried to boost military spending.

And with little attention, the president has quietly implemented some of his most significant changes through dozens of federal agencies and departments.

He has chipped away at the privacy rights of ordinary Americans at the borders and at the computer screens. He has increased searches and seizures of electronic devices carried by travelers entering the country. He has repealed provisions that would have prevented broadband providers from selling data about the browsing habits of internet users. He has refused to protect foreigners visiting the United States from surveillance.

“I think he has changed government more than a lot of people know,” said Scott Jennings, political director for former President George W. Bush, who gives Trump an “A” grade in large part for “restoring American leadership on the world stage.” “A lot of very consequential things get virtually no attention.”

Many of Trump’s actions have fulfilled Republicans promises, now that the GOP controls the White House and both chambers of Congress, while others have merely undone the actions of his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama.

Trump’s administration has delayed or outright repealed a multitude of Obama-era regulations that affect everything from workers’ exposure to cancer-causing substances to hunters’ right to kill bear cubs in national wildlife refuges.


It has relied on a combination of administrative actions and a rarely used federal law, the Congressional Review Act, which allows lawmakers and a president to reverse regulations imposed recently by a previous president. Trump has used the law 13 times so far. It had been used only once before, by George W. Bush.

The president’s critics say the rollback of consumer and environmental protections, financial regulations, worker safety measures and other rules show the administration has thrown over the interests of ordinary Americans – and Trump voters – in its rush to make good on a wish list for big business.

“Just because legislation is not being passed doesn’t mean that this government isn’t harming consumers,” said Micah Hauptman, financial services counsel at Consumer Federation. “There are real consequences to what this administration is doing. … It’s hard to know what you’re missing when you haven’t tangibly felt the benefits, but that doesn’t mean you weren’t going to get the benefits.”

All the while, the president has endured endless scrutiny about infighting and dysfunction among his staff at the White House and an FBI inquiry into possible collusion between advisers to his election campaign and Russia. And he has been hampered by his lack of staff.

Trump entered the White House with the lowest approval rating of any president in modern history and not much has changed since then.

His supporters are largely satisfied with his performance, insisting he has kept his grandiose promises, though many haven’t been fulfilled, but he has not managed to win over new supporters.

“It’s an appropriate time to take stock of what this president has accomplished so far. Unfortunately, it’s not much,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “In the first 100 days, so many of the promises the president made to working families during the campaign have either been broken outright or remain unfulfilled.”

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told reporters this week that Trump has had a successful first 100 days.

“He’s accomplished so many of his goals,” he said. “I know there are narratives out there that say otherwise. But we look at it and see a president working at breakneck speed, somebody who is going as fast as he can within the confines of the law running through that punch list of promises that he made during the campaign.”

]]> 0, 29 Apr 2017 00:37:20 +0000
North Korea could face ‘painful’ measures Sat, 29 Apr 2017 03:15:20 +0000 UNITED NATIONS — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Friday for new economic sanctions on North Korea and other “painful” measures over its nuclear weapons program, as the Trump administration warned that it would take military action if diplomacy failed.

“Failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences,” Tillerson said during an unusual high-level session of the U.N. Security Council called to review what the Trump administration calls its most dire national security concern. “The more we bide our time, the sooner we will run out of it.”

Tillerson’s push at a special session of the Security Council came as the Trump administration said it is willing to bargain directly with North Korea over ending its nuclear weapons program, but under strict conditions that make talks unlikely anytime soon.

Ahead of the diplomatic effort at the United Nations, President Trump said direct conflict is possible. “There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,” Trump told Reuters in an interview this week. “We’d love to solve things diplomatically, but it’s very difficult.”

Hours after the U.N. meeting, North Korea fired another missile early Saturday local time, but it exploded within seconds of being launched, American and South Korean defense officials said. “The missile did not leave North Korean territory,” U.S. Pacific Command spokesman Cmdr. Dave Benham said in a statement. The launch underscored North Korea’s determination to show its defiance of international pressure.

Trump took to Twitter to reiterate his expectation that Chinese President Xi Jinping will use his leverage to make North Korea stop its weapons activities.

“North Korea disrespected the wishes of China & its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!” Trump tweeted.

In the most-detailed explanation to date of the Trump administration’s emerging policy for dealing with North Korea, Tillerson told the Security Council on Friday that U.S. urgency is driven by the current nuclear threat to allies South Korea and Japan as well as the likelihood that North Korea will soon be able to strike the United States.

“All options for responding to future provocation must remain on the table. Diplomatic and financial levers of power will be backed up by a willingness to counteract North Korean aggression with military action if necessary,” Tillerson said.

“We much prefer a negotiated solution to this problem,” he added. “But we are committed to defending ourselves and our allies against North Korean aggression.”

The effect of both Trump’s and Tillerson’s remarks is to present a willingness to negotiate with North Korea that surprised and pleased diplomats the United States needs for any new joint effort at the United Nations or elsewhere. At the same time, the administration reiterated that it would act alone if necessary.

At issue is North Korea’s simultaneous effort to perfect a nuclear warhead that could be delivered far from its shores and to develop missiles with a range long enough to be a threat to the United States. Analysts think North Korea, if undeterred, could have that capability within a few years – likely during Trump’s first term in office. North Korea already possesses missiles able to threaten U.S. allies South Korea and Japan, as well as other Asian neighbors.


The top U.S. diplomat said new economic penalties should come on top of scrupulous enforcement of existing sanctions, and he was bluntly critical of nations that look the other way as North Korea tries to evade the heavy yoke of sanctions the Security Council has already applied.

He asked for a halt to imports from North Korea, especially shipments of coal, and an end to a guest-worker program that provides cheap labor for other countries and earns hard currency for Pyongyang. Tillerson also asked other countries to suspend or downgrade diplomatic relations with the communist state, alleging that the regime of Kim Jong Un abuses diplomatic privileges to support illicit missile and nuclear programs.

In blunt terms, Tillerson said North Korea is unlikely to give up its weapons or change its bellicose behavior under current sanctions and diplomatic condemnations. He said new economic penalties are necessary, as well as more vigorous enforcement of existing sanctions that he said North Korea has found ways to evade.

“I urge this council to act before North Korea does,” Tillerson said. “We must work together to adopt a new approach and impose increased diplomatic and economic pressure on the North Korean regime.”

In a clear warning to North Korean ally China, Tillerson said nations that help North Korea evade sanctions “discredit this body.”

Tillerson noted that China accounts for 90 percent of North Korea’s foreign trade, giving it unique economic leverage.

He said the United States and China have had productive discussions about North Korea, and the new U.S. willingness to negotiate with North Korea is partly in deference to China’s long insistence that the only way to lessen tension is through direct talks.

“The United States also would much prefer countries and people in question own up to their lapses and correct their behavior themselves, but we will not hesitate to sanction third-country entities and individuals” that help North Korea go around sanctions, Tillerson said.

Although the council did not vote on new sanctions or other measures Friday, the Trump administration hoped for a show of force, with the full council, including China, Russia and the United States, uniting to air concerns about North Korea’s behavior.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the council that diplomacy is not hopeless.

“The state of affairs on the Korean Peninsula is not caused by any single party, nor is it reasonable to ask any party to take sole responsibility,” Wang said via an interpreter.

“We call upon all parties, especially those directly concerned – DPRK and the U.S. – to demonstrate sincerity for dialogue and restart dialogue,” Wang said, using the abbreviation for the North’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.


U.N. Secretary General António Guterres, who joined Tillerson and foreign ministers from countries that sit on the decision-making council, condemned what he called North Korea’s repeated violations of the body’s resolutions over nuclear and missile testing and development.

“I am alarmed by the risk of a military escalation in the region, including by miscalculation or misunderstanding,” Guterres said.

The U.N. Security Council session Friday comes at a particularly tense time in relations between North Korea and the United States, with the Trump administration sending warships to the region in a show of force against Kim’s regime.

This week, North Korea conducted large-scale artillery drills, showing off conventional weaponry that can easily reach South Korea’s capital, Seoul, the center of a metropolitan region of about 25 million people.

A North Korean propaganda outlet released a video clip Thursday showing a simulated attack on the White House and declaring that the ability to destroy the United States “is in our sights.”

“North Korea must understand that respect will never follow recklessness,” Tillerson said Friday. “North Korea must take concrete steps to reduce the threat that its illegal weapons programs pose to the United States and our allies before we can consider talks.”

]]> 0 Secretary of State Rex Tillerson listens to the debate during a ministerial-level Security Council meeting on North Korea at the United Nations headquarters Friday in New York.Fri, 28 Apr 2017 23:49:42 +0000
Unity farm wins $2,966 grant for system to conserve rainwater Sat, 29 Apr 2017 02:25:09 +0000 A small organic farm in Unity was one of 10 farms in the nation to receive a grant this month from The FruitGuys Community Fund, which gives money for sustainability projects.

The owners of Songbird Farm, Johanna Davis and Adam Nordell, will use the $2,966 grant to build a rainwater catchment system on their barn.

After the drought the Northeast suffered last summer – and which just officially ended for most of Maine this week – a system that will help the 13-acre farm conserve water will be a definite advantage, Davis said, especially because they have only one well.

Since March, groundwater levels have improved, according to the Maine River Flow Advisory Commission. The snowmelt and rain in April have provided good conditions to restore the groundwater.

Last summer, the state’s Drought Task Force met twice to discuss what officials called worsening drought conditions. The drought had been building for about three years, officials said, and affected southern Maine most harshly. A number of small-scale farmers in central Maine said the conditions were the worst they’d ever seen.

While the grains Davis and Nordell grow don’t require much water, the vegetable crops took a hit last summer.

“A guess would be that we probably got about one-third of what we were expecting,” Davis said, adding that throughout the fields the crops grew unevenly.

The rainwater catchment system that Davis and Nordell plan to build will collect water that hits the metal roof of their 40-foot barn. Gutters will channel the water to downspouts that empty into tanks, which will pump it out into the couple’s irrigation system.

Davis estimates that, given the surface area of the barn’s roof, a 1-inch rainstorm would provide 1,000 gallons of water.

“Which is kind of crazy,” she said.

Even if the state doesn’t suffer drought conditions again, Davis said, the system will help them get water into the irrigation system for their crops that are in high tunnels, which are unheated greenhouses that don’t get rainfall.

Davis came across the grant while doing research in the winter and applied in the first round, in February. Songbird Farm was one of 20 farms that made it to the second round, and the winners were announced April 6.

The grant comes from San Francisco-based The FruitGuys, a company that provides farm-fresh fruit to businesses so that employees can have healthful snacks at work. Its community fund, which is sponsored and managed fiscally by Community Initiatives of San Francisco, was established in 2012 and provides small grants of up to $5,000 for farms and agricultural nonprofits to complete sustainability projects.

While the couple had thought about adding a catchment system after they bought the farm nearly three years ago, the idea got “shaken up to the top” of the priorities list with the drought.

Still, it probably couldn’t have happened this year without the grant, Davis said.

“We’re super-grateful to the fund for granting us that money,” she said. “And besides just us, granting folks around the country who are doing cool, sustainable projects is really important.”

Davis and Nordell grow vegetables on 3 acres of their land, one of which is irrigated, and grains on the other 10 acres They also run a community-supported agricultural network, called the Pantry Share, which provides oats, beans, wheat and flour.

In the winter, the two travel the country as the folk duo Sassafras Stomp.

Before buying the farm in Unity, they rented land in Starks for four years.

Madeline St. Amour can be contacted at 861-9239 or at:

]]> 0 Johanna Davis walks through one of the greenhouses full of pea plants Tuesday at her Songbird Farm in Unity. Songbird Farm is one of 10 in the country to receive a sustainability grant from The FruitGuys Community Fund. The farm received $2,966 to build a rainwater collection system. The system will help the farm conserve water, which will be an advantage in times of drought.Fri, 28 Apr 2017 22:43:30 +0000
Arsonist who burned Rockland restaurant jailed on probation violation Sat, 29 Apr 2017 02:23:12 +0000 ROCKLAND — A 63-year-old serial arsonist who served prison time for destroying the former Grapes Restaurant in 2004 is back in jail for violating his probation.

John M. Moody, who now lives in the western Maine town of Canaan, was sentenced Wednesday in Knox County Unified Court in Rockland to six months in jail for possessing six lighters.

Moody is barred from having any incendiary devices as terms of his probation. He was convicted for arson in the Christmas Eve fire that destroyed the restaurant.

He was sentenced to 20 years in prison with all but eight years suspended. He was also ordered to be on probation for six years upon his release. He was released from the Maine State Prison in August 2011.

Moody admitted to investigators that he poured paint thinner on the restaurant, lit the fire and then went home and cried. He also admitted to investigators that he set a fire earlier in 2004 to two dumpsters behind Rock Coast Sports, a portable toilet on Winter Street, and a house on Orange Street that was being renovated.

He unsuccessfully sought upon his release to have his probation amended to allow him to smoke.

On March 8, Moody’s probation officer checked on Moody at his home and found him with six lighters.

He is serving the sentence in the Knox County Jail in Rockland.

Moody, who was born in Vinalhaven, has a string of arson convictions dating back to the mid-1970s in Massachusetts. When he was arrested for the Grapes fire, he admitted to setting other fires in Maine including in Portland, Standish, Swanville, Rockland in 1999, Warren, Augusta and Sidney, according to police.

]]> 0 Fri, 28 Apr 2017 22:25:37 +0000
Police say Carrabassett Valley man threw cocaine out window during 100 mph chase Sat, 29 Apr 2017 01:54:03 +0000 EUSTIS — Police say a driver tried to outrun police at speeds topping 100 mph while dumping cocaine out his window.

Franklin County Chief Deputy Steven Lowell told the Sun Journal that the driver who tossed white powder out the window initially pulled over Thursday, then sped away.

A state trooper made the arrest in Stratton after Lowell broke off the pursuit because of dangerous speeds. A U.S. Border Patrol K-9 team detected cocaine in the car, police say.

Police charged Matthew Willihan, 34, of Carrabassett Valley with eluding an officer, failure to submit to arrest, drunken driving, criminal speed and possession of drugs. He was being held Friday in the Franklin County Detention Center in Farmington. It was unknown if he had a lawyer.

]]> 0 Fri, 28 Apr 2017 22:12:53 +0000
Trump picks anti-abortion activist for key post Sat, 29 Apr 2017 01:27:37 +0000 WASHINGTON — President Trump announced Friday that he will appoint Charmaine Yoest, one of the nation’s most prominent anti-abortion activists, to a high-level post in the Health and Human Services department.

Yoest, a former Reagan administration official who until last year was president of Americans United for Life, will serve as assistant secretary of public affairs. In that position, she will help develop a communications strategy for the sprawling agency that includes Medicaid, Medicare, the Affordable Care Act and family planning programs.

During her nearly eight years at the helm of AUL, the organization was pivotal in pushing Republican-led states to enact restrictions on abortion in the name of women’s safety. The organization developed model legislation to require women to undergo ultrasounds before obtaining the procedure and to cut off government funding to Planned Parenthood, among other actions.

Yoest was one of Trump’s most outspoken supporters during the 2016 campaign, helping to shore up his reputation with social conservatives. She serves as a senior fellow at American Values, a conservative nonprofit that opposes abortion rights and supports “traditional marriage.”

The appointment was greeted with cheers from anti-abortion groups, which praised the choice as evidence that Trump was making good on his promise to promote pro-life causes, despite previously supporting abortion rights.

In a statement, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, called Yoest one of the movement’s most powerful communicators and lauded her “groundbreaking efforts to advance pro-life, pro-woman legislation at the state level.”

“This is a new era for the pro-life movement and our fight to protect unborn children and their mothers from the horror of abortion,” Dannenfelser said.

Abortion rights groups expressed concern in equal measure.

“Charmaine Yoest has spoken at length about her desire to ban abortion in this country and has spent her career working to abolish women’s most basic constitutional right to bodily autonomy,” Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement.

Yoest, a breast cancer survivor and mother of five who lives in Virginia, holds a Ph.D. in government from the University of Virginia. She has been an outspoken proponent of the view that abortion is harmful to women and that regulations on abortion clinics are necessary to protect women’s safety.

Abortion-rights groups have accused Yoest of using those points to conceal her ultimate agenda: to undermine women’s access to abortion. Based on AUL’s model bills, states have imposed such strict regulations that abortion clinics in Texas and elsewhere have closed. The organization also has championed laws requiring that aborted fetuses be buried or cremated rather than disposed of like medical waste.

In an interview with The Washington Post last year, Yoest said her belief that abortion is wrong does not preclude her from also caring about women. Those who accuse her of feigning support for women are trying to muzzle her movement, she said.

“Why could we not care about how women are being hurt in abortion clinics and still be pro-life?” she asked. “It’s designed to shut our voices down.”

]]> 0 YOESTFri, 28 Apr 2017 21:34:55 +0000
Trump promises NRA his support Sat, 29 Apr 2017 01:13:16 +0000 ATLANTA — On the eve of his 100th day in office, President Trump made a triumphant return before members of the National Rifle Association, promising a group that was one of his earliest and most enthusiastic supporters that he will “never infringe on the right of the people to bear arms.”

Trump, the first sitting president to address the NRA since Ronald Reagan, delivered a fiery speech in which he recounted his election victory and early actions from his administration that are friendly to the gun rights group, and he promised there would be more to come.

“You came through big for me, and I am going to come through for you,” Trump told thousands of members attending the NRA’s annual convention. “The eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end. You have a true friend and champion in the White House.”

With his appearance, Trump marked the coming milestone in much the same way he has governed in the early stages of his presidency: by appealing to his base.

The NRA claims 5 million members, including many white rural voters, a demographic that helped tip the electoral college in Trump’s favor.

The association played a powerful role in Trump’s election, providing critical support in battleground states. It spent more on behalf of Trump than any outside group and began its advertising earlier than in any other presidential cycle.

In remarks before Trump spoke, NRA chief lobbyist Chris Cox recalled the group’s endorsement at its convention last year, saying Trump was “the most proudly Second Amendment nominee in American history.”

“On Election Day, NRA members and gun owners stormed to the polls in an act of sheer defiance of the elites,” Cox said.

While making general promises to stand with the NRA moving forward, Trump made no mention of two of the group’s leading priorities in Congress: The NRA will be looking for Trump to put the weight of his office behind a bill that would make concealed-carry permits valid across state lines.

And the Hearing Protection Act would remove federal registration and identification requirements for gun silencers.

]]> 0 Trump addresses the NRA's annual convention Friday in Atlanta. "You came through big for me, and I am going to come through for you," he said.Fri, 28 Apr 2017 21:26:09 +0000
Half of 675 immigrants caught in raids had no more than traffic convictions Sat, 29 Apr 2017 01:06:48 +0000 About half of the 675 immigrants who were picked up in roundups across the United States in the days after President Trump took office had no criminal convictions or had committed traffic offenses, mostly drunken driving, as their most serious crimes, according to data obtained by The Washington Post.

Records provided by congressional aides Friday offered the most detailed look yet at the backgrounds of the people rounded up and targeted for deportation in early February by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents assigned to regional offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio and New York.

Two people had been convicted of homicide, 80 had been convicted of assault, and 57 had convictions for “dangerous drugs.” Many of the most serious criminals were given top billing in ICE news statements about the operation.

The largest single group – 163 immigrants convicted of traffic offenses – was mentioned only briefly. Over 90 percent of those cases involved drunken driving, ICE said Friday. Of those taken into custody in the raids, 177 had no criminal convictions at all, though 66 had charges pending, largely immigration or traffic offenses.

The raids were part of a nationwide immigration roundup dubbed Operation Cross Check, which accounts for a small portion of the 21,362 immigrants the Trump administration took into custody for deportation proceedings from January through mid-March.

The two-month total represents a 32 percent increase in deportation arrests over the same period last year. Most are criminals, administration officials have said. But 5,441 were not criminals, double the number of undocumented immigrants arrested for deportation a year earlier. The administration has released a detailed breakdown of the criminal records only of the raids in early February.

Trump has said that public safety threats are his top priority. Shortly after he was elected, he vowed to first deport serious criminals from the United States.

But critics say immigration agents instead have also targeted students, parents of U.S. citizens who do not have serious criminal records and minor offenders.

“That makes me so angry,” said Kica Matos, a spokeswoman for the Fair Immigration Reform Movement, which is organizing demonstrations Monday to protest Trump’s immigration policies. She said that many of the DUI convictions are years-old and that the data “confirms our worst fears, which is that this administration is really trying to deport as many as possible regardless of whether they have a criminal record.”

President Barack Obama also deported thousands of people who never committed crimes, but toward the end of his administration, he imposed strict new rules that prioritized the arrest of criminals.

The Trump administration has said the current president also wants to prioritize deporting criminals. But officials add that anyone in the United States illegally could be detained and deported.

“As Secretary Kelly has made clear, ICE will no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement,” said ICE spokeswoman Jennifer Elzea, referring to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. “All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.”

ICE arrested immigrants across the United States in February as part of Operation Cross Check, an initiative that seeks to detain immigrants that also occurred during the Obama administration.

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors limits on immigration, said ICE is properly enforcing immigration laws by arresting criminals and people in the United States without papers.

“Those are legitimate reasons to remove people,” she said. “ICE officers are no longer operating under the restraints imposed by the Obama administration. They’re not forced to look the other way when they encounter people who are removable.”

Congressional aides said the information from ICE follows months of frustration from lawmakers that the agency is not responding fast enough to requests for information.

After initially being supportive of Kelly, many Democrats have turned on him, believing he is being less than forthcoming about his sprawling department’s moves to implement Trump’s immigration policy.

Kelly, a retired Marine general, shot back at congressional critics last week in a speech at George Washington University.

“If lawmakers do not like the laws they’ve passed and we are charged to enforce, then they should have the courage and skill to change the laws,” Kelly said. “Otherwise they should shut up and support the men and women on the front lines.”

That kind of approach “wasn’t a constructive way to deal with Congress,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said in an interview Friday. Democrats, he said, are frustrated by Trump’s immigration policies but are unable to change laws because they don’t currently control Congress.

“That kind of language ought to be jettisoned,” Hoyer said.

]]> 0 Fri, 28 Apr 2017 21:30:56 +0000
Trump blames Obama for flawed vetting of Flynn Sat, 29 Apr 2017 00:58:38 +0000 WASHINGTON — Even though he named Michael Flynn to be his top national security aide, President Trump on Friday laid the blame for any flaws in Flynn’s vetting at the feet of his predecessor.

In an interview airing Friday evening on Fox News Channel’s “The First 100 Days,” Trump tried to deflect recent criticism of his decision to appoint Flynn as national security adviser despite Flynn’s past lobbying on behalf of Turkish government interests and his acceptance of tens of thousands of dollars from a Russian state-sponsored television network.

“When they say we didn’t vet, well Obama I guess didn’t vet, because he was approved at the highest level of security by the Obama administration,” Trump said.

Though Flynn was indeed with the Trump administration for a short period before he was forced out, he campaigned vigorously for Trump for months during the 2016 election battle.

President Barack Obama fired Flynn from his post as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014, but Flynn maintained a security clearance that was reissued in January 2016. Trump appointed Flynn as national security adviser in January. He forced him to step down in February.

]]> 0 Fri, 28 Apr 2017 21:16:27 +0000
Scarcity of fruit pickers means robots may step in Sat, 29 Apr 2017 00:47:12 +0000 SPOKANE, Wash. — Harvesting Washington state’s vast fruit orchards each year requires thousands of farmworkers, and many of them work illegally in the United States.

That system eventually could change dramatically as at least two companies are rushing to get robotic fruit-picking machines to market.

The robotic pickers don’t get tired and can work 24 hours a day.

“Human pickers are getting scarce,” said Gad Kober, a co-founder of Israel-based FFRobotics. “Young people do not want to work in farms, and elderly pickers are slowly retiring.”

FFRobotics and Abundant Robotics, of Hayward, California, are racing to get their mechanical pickers to market within the next couple of years.

Harvest has been mechanized for large portions of the agriculture industry such as wheat, corn, green beans and tomatoes for some time. But for more fragile commodities like apples, berries, table grapes and lettuce – where the crop’s appearance is especially important – harvest is still done by hand.

Members of Washington’s $7.5 billion annual agriculture industry have long grappled with labor shortages, and depend on workers coming up from Mexico each year to harvest many crops.

But President Trump’s hard line against immigrants in the U.S. illegally has many farmers in the country looking for alternative harvest methods. Some have purchased new equipment to try to reduce the number of workers they’ll need, while others have lobbied politicians to get them to deal with immigration in a way that minimizes harm to their livelihoods.

“Who knows what this administration will do or not do?” said Jim McFerson, head of the Washington State Tree Fruit Research Center in Wenatchee. For farmers, “it’s a question of survival.”

Washington leads the nation in production of apples and several other crops. Harvest starts in the spring with asparagus and runs until all the apples are off the trees in late fall.

The work is hard and dangerous, and has long drawn Mexican workers to central Washington, where several counties near the Canadian border are now majority-Hispanic. Experienced pickers, who are paid by the bin, can make more than $200 a day.

Advocates for farmworkers say robot pickers will have a negative effect.

The eventual loss of jobs for humans will be huge, said Erik Nicholson of Seattle, an official with the United Farm Workers union. He estimated half of the state’s farmworkers are immigrants who are in the country illegally.

But many of them have settled in Washington and are productive members of the community, he said.

“They are scared of losing their jobs to mechanization,” Nicholson said. “A robot is not going to rent a house, buy clothing for their kids, buy food in a grocery and reinvest that money in the local economy.”

While financial details are not available, the builders say the robotic pickers should pay for themselves in two years. That puts the likely cost of the machines in the hundreds of thousands of dollars each.

FFRobotics is developing a machine that has three-fingered grips to grab fruit and twist or clip it from a branch. The machine would have between four and 12 robotic arms, and can pick up to 10,000 apples an hour, Kober said.

One machine would be able to harvest a variety of crops, taking 85 to 90 percent of the crop off the trees, Kober said. Humans could pick the rest.

Abundant Robotics is working on a picker that uses suction to vacuum apples off trees.

Plans for the robotic harvesters – including a goal of getting them to market before 2019 – were discussed in February at an international convention of fruit growers in Wenatchee.

The two robot makers are likely to hit their production goals, said Karen Lewis, a Washington State University cooperative extension agent who has studied the issue.

“Both of them will be in the field with prototypes this fall,” Lewis said, calling the robotic harvesters a “game changer.”

But for the machines to work, apples and other crops must be grown in new trellis systems that allow robots to see and harvest the fruit, she said.

“We are evolving the tree architecture and apple placement to be compatible with robotics,” Lewis said, a process called “robot-ready.”

Large farming operations likely will be first to adopt the machines, but it might be decades before their use is widespread.

“I think for the next 10 to 20 years, they will be used by some growers to supplement regular picking crews and to serve as a backstop for picker shortages,” said Mike Gempler of the Washington Growers League in Yakima. Reliability and cost will determine if their use expands.

Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, whose family owns a large farming operation in Washington’s Yakima Valley, said the industry is deeply interested in alternatives to human labor.

“We are absolutely looking at ways we can increase our efficiency,” said Newhouse, adding his family’s farm each year employs some 120 farmworkers, many of them picking cherries and nectarines.

The industry has no choice but to embrace mechanization, said Mark Powers, president of the Northwest Horticultural Council, a trade group for farmers in Yakima.

“We don’t see some miraculous new source of labor appearing on the horizon,” Powers said. “We think labor will continue to be a scarce resource.”

]]> 0 Garcia empties a bag of Golden Delicious apples into a bin at an orchard near Wapato, Wash., in this file photo from fall 2013. Orchards that depend on immigrant laborers are exploring mechanized harvesting alternatives.Fri, 28 Apr 2017 21:23:50 +0000
Wrestlers help save program in SAD 11 budget Sat, 29 Apr 2017 00:41:42 +0000 GARDINER — For more than a half-hour, students hoping to wrestle at Gardiner Area High School made their case Thursday to the school district’s finance committee.

Alone, or standing with a parent or two, the students stood before the committee and reeled off the reasons why the high school wrestling program should not be cut: Wrestling helps them stay in shape, do well in school and meet and make friends.

But the words of Dan Del Gallo, a Gardiner Area High School graduate and 2017 NCAA Division III national champion in his weight class, were persuasive.

“I’m sorry if I get emotional,” Del Gallo said, “but it’s shocking to see this program considered for being dropped.”

Wrestling develops character like no other sport, the three-time state champion said, and it helped turn his life around. When he graduates in a couple of weeks from the University of Southern Maine, it will be with a 3.9 grade point average and that would not have been possible without Gardiner’s traditionally strong wrestling program.

“That was an impressive young group that got up to speak,” Eric Jermyn, the finance committee chairman, said Friday. “And Danny Del Gallo was particularly impressive and moving.”

When the district’s proposed $24 million budget is presented to the full School Administrative District 11 board May 4, it will include funding for high school wrestling and freshman boys’ and girls’ basketball, although not for freshman football, all of which had been identified for elimination.

The spending plan reflects a 0.63 percent increase over the current year’s budget, Jermyn said. The tax increase to the communities that make up the school district – Gardiner, West Gardiner, Randolph and Pittston – will be about 3.74 percent. The amount will differ by community because of local property valuations.

“I do feel like we worked really hard on the budget,” he said.

When the finance committee started its work, the proposed spending plan was about $800,000 higher than the current year’s approved budget. The initial target was to pare down that figure to about $420,000 higher than the current year’s, but the committee ended up with a recommendation that’s $337,000 higher.

On Thursday, committee members debated the costs and benefits of sports for the students who participate and the need to add money for supplies back into the proposed budget.

SAD 11 Superintendent Pat Hopkins made a case for restoring funding for supplies if funding were restored for athletics. As a former high school athlete herself, Hopkins said she understands the value in sports, but adding money for supplies benefits all the district’s students.

“It’s also our responsibility to make sure students are prepared for college and careers,” she said at Thursday’s meeting.

When the committee agreed to fund the sports at $19,500, it also agreed to restore that much for supplies for classrooms.

Among the other changes in the proposed budget is a change in technology for students. While students have been using MacBooks, an Apple product, some will start using Chromebooks, a more economical alternative.

Because of investments in software, training and budget constraints, the district cannot switch all the computers at one time. Not all the educational software is compatible for both Mac and PC systems, but that’s expected to change as more schools across the United States opt for Chromebooks.

Jermyn characterized the budget as lean.

“It’s the must-haves that are in the budget,” he said. “There are no nice-to-haves.”

At this point in the process, Jermyn said, the only unknown is the amount of state subsidy the district may receive. Because that’s not currently known, it won’t be a part of the budget that will go before voters in June, and the district ordinarily would not have the authorization to spend that money.

But this year, changes at the state level will allow school districts to address that with a warrant article that details how that money could be used.

Jermyn said the budget that goes to the school board will have some flexibility in how that subsidy can be used. To make the budget numbers work, $287,000 from the district’s carry-forward funds were used. Replenishing that fund is a priority, he said, and a warrant article that allows that will be presented.

But as budgets are more lean, there’s less carry-forward available to help develop budgets, and the school board will have to look at other options for savings.

“The reality is that the enrollment in the district is shrinking, and we do have to consider how to consolidate,” Jermyn said, and that might include closing a school with low enrollment.

That’s a conversation that’s expected to get underway later this year, he said, and it will involve elected officials and residents of the communities that make up the district.

“We are delivering a good education experience. Our kids are seeing good results and getting into very good schools. We have kids that will be headed to Ivy League schools,” Jermyn said. “The teachers are still the same. The students are still the same.”

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

]]> 0"It's shocking to see this program considered for being dropped," Dan Del Gallo told the finance panel.Fri, 28 Apr 2017 21:27:07 +0000
Smitten Spaniard prompts mixed response Fri, 28 Apr 2017 23:42:30 +0000 MADRID — A young Spaniard who was smitten with a woman he saw on a tram posted fliers on lampposts hoping to make contact.

Someone claiming to be the woman responded by pleading with him to leave her alone.

Spanish newspaper El Pais and other media reported Friday how Sergio Moreno had posted a letter titled “The Girl on the Tram” in the southeastern city of Murcia, describing the date and time of seeing her, how she was dressed and how he wished he could have cheered her up.

The story went viral when pictures started appearing of a supposed response from the woman, accusing Moreno of harassment and saying “if you want to make me happy, stop looking for me.”

But El Espanol newspaper cited a woman who said she wasn’t on the tram but had written the response because she and her friends had viewed Moreno’s letter not as one of romance but one that instilled fear.

Moreno told La Opinion de Murcia newspaper he had just wanted to meet up with the woman because she had seemed unhappy and denied accusations that he was bullying or being sexist.

He said he had received about 300 calls, some encouraging him, others insulting him and threatening him.

He said if the woman didn’t respond by Tuesday, he would throw away his phone.

The number he posted didn’t ring Friday.

]]> 0 Fri, 28 Apr 2017 19:42:30 +0000
Six arrested in Oxford County drug bust Fri, 28 Apr 2017 23:35:39 +0000 Six people were arrested in Oxford County early Friday on heroin and cocaine trafficking changes.

The arrests came after the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, along with Maine State Police tactical team members, executed two search warrants in the town of Mexico.

The searches, at two separate mobile homes, were part of an ongoing investigation of drug trafficking from Massachusetts to the Rumford-Mexico area.

Agents seized heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine that had been packaged for resale with a cumulative value of about $13,000. They also found scales and other trafficking materials.

The MDEA said that Jerry Philogene, 26, of Boston, Peguy Pacouloute, 27, of Mattapan, Massachusetts, and Travis Tidswell, 41, of Mexico were charged with aggravated trafficking in heroin and cocaine. They were being held without bail at the Oxford County Jail.

Derrell “Slim” Weathers, 28, of Boston, Joshua “Tiny” Campbell, 30, of Mexico and Glen Lane, 32, of Mexico were each charged with aggravated trafficking in heroin.

Bail was set at $40,000 for Weathers and $15,000 each for Lane and Campbell.

All six are expected to make their initial appearances Monday in Oxford County Superior Court.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

]]> 0 TidswellFri, 28 Apr 2017 20:19:42 +0000
Trekker in Nepal rescued after 47 days Fri, 28 Apr 2017 23:34:34 +0000 The Taiwanese hiker survived the ordeal but his girlfriend died three days before they were found.

KATHMANDU, Nepal — A Taiwanese trekker who was rescued after 47 days on a mountain in Nepal celebrated his 21st birthday at a hospital in the capital Friday.

A happy Liang Sheng-yueh cut chocolate cakes in his hospital room in Kathmandu, where hospital staff and a government minister sang “Happy Birthday.” His family members were expected to reach Nepal later Friday.

With a paper hat on his head, Liang joined his hands to thank the doctors and journalists who were at the birthday celebration. Doctors fed him pieces of cake.

“Thank you very much everyone for taking care of me,” Liang said. “I am sorry to make you worried. I hope that I can make contributions to society in the future and I will do my best to live up to my responsibilities.”

Dr. Chakra Raj Pandey said Liang is making good progress and was able to walk Friday with the help of physiotherapists.

Liang was rescued Wednesday, but his girlfriend died just three days before the two were discovered near a waterfall.

The doctor said Liang was happy to have survived but also sad about losing his girlfriend, 19-year-old Liu Chen-chun.

“She had lost hope of life the last week of her life. She was shouting, she was hopeless and she was in tremendous anxiety. It was impossible for her to survive,” Dr. Pandey quoted Liang as saying.

They were on a long trek on the Ganesh Himal trail, which is not as crowded as other popular routes, and were caught in a snowstorm in March and lost their way.

They appeared to have followed a river hoping to find a village, but slipped and fell over a waterfall. They landed on a ledge and were unable to climb up or down. The area is at an altitude of 8,520 feet.

They had no guides or porters and were carrying their own food, tent and sleeping bags. For the first two weeks they survived on food they had in their backpacks but after that they consumed only salt and water.

One of the rescuers, Dawa Tamang, said they were about13 miles from the nearest village.

]]> 0 Liang Sheng-yueh celebrates his birthday Friday at Grandee International Hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal. The Taiwanese man, who was rescued Wednesday after 47 days on a mountain in Nepal, marked his 21st birthday at the hospital in the capital.Fri, 28 Apr 2017 19:34:34 +0000
Maine catalog giant Dingley Press still growing in the digital age Fri, 28 Apr 2017 23:30:14 +0000 In a strange twist, internet commerce is helping to create new business for some catalog printers, including a Maine company that is one of the industry’s largest.

More than 35 years after losing Freeport-based L.L. Bean as its only customer, The Dingley Press in Lisbon now prints nearly 350 million catalogs a year for about 160 clients, including many online retailers that use printed words and images to drive consumers to their digital storefronts.

Business has been so good that Dingley, which employs about 350 workers, is in the process of a $17 million expansion to add a new press, robotics and other equipment.

“We’re at a point in our capacity utilization where we need new press capacity,” said Eric Lane, the company’s president.

Pressmen, left to right, Norm Begin, Kevin Sult and Armand Deschene work on a Goss printing press at The Dingley Press in Lisbon. The company has a new press under construction and expects it to be up and running by December. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

While overall demand for printed catalogs has declined over the past 15 years, there are still new customers entering the market, Lane said. Many of them are online-only retailers that send catalogs in the mail to attract new customers and foster relationships with existing ones.

“In order to reach prospects, to bring them to your website, you need a tool for that,” he said.

Dingley, a privately held company that does not disclose its annual revenue, is investing $13 million to install a new 48-page printing press inside its 268,000-square-foot facility in Lisbon. The company already operates four additional presses.

The new press is under construction and is expected to be up and running by December, Lane said.

Dingley is spending another $1 million on four large robotic arms that will lift and move heavy stacks of catalogs onto wooden pallets.

The final piece of new investment is $3 million to install an additional “co-mail line” inside the facility.

The cost of postage can be a significant barrier to companies that want their catalogs mailed directly to consumers. Therefore, catalog printers have developed strategies for bringing down postage costs to the bare minimum.


At Dingley, catalogs from all 160 clients are combined and sorted by destination on the co-mail lines before being bundled together on pallets for delivery, each to a specific post office. The company then delivers each pallet to the destination post office, which significantly reduces the cost of postage.

Martez Proctor works on a saddle stitcher at The Dingley Press in Lisbon on Wednesday. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

“Nobody has to touch it at the post office until it gets to the mail carrier,” Lane said.

When all of the new equipment is installed, Dingley’s annual capacity will increase to about 400 million catalogs per year, he said. The expansion will require additional staffing of 15 to 20 workers initially, with more added as business ramps up on the new press.

Dingley is currently the fifth-largest catalog printer in the United States, up from 15th in 2004, Lane said.

“The catalog printing industry has consolidated quite a bit since 2004,” he said.

Paul Miller, vice president and deputy director of the Washington, D.C.-based American Catalog Mailers Association, said Dingley is one of about a half-dozen major players in the U.S. catalog printing industry.

“They are a good, loyal member (of the trade organization), and an important player in the catalog field,” he said.

The catalog industry continues to contract as more retailers seek avenues outside of print to reach new and existing customers, Miller said, but the industry still produces 8,000 to 10,000 different titles each year, and new clients continue to enter the market.

One example is Wayfair LLC, a Boston-based online retailer that sells furniture, housewares and other items, he said. Although the company conducts sales exclusively online, it has embraced printed catalogs as a means of attracting customers’ attention.

“They have gotten into catalogs quite heavily,” Miller said.


The catalog industry underwent a significant shock in early 2007 when the U.S. Postal Service suddenly raised postage rates for catalogs by 20 percent. It nearly killed the medium entirely, he said.

The Dingley Press in Lisbon prints nearly 350 million catalogs a year for about 160 clients, including many online retailers. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

But the industry has survived via strategies such as co-mailing, and by lobbying to ensure that such a dramatic rate hike doesn’t recur in the future.

“Fighting to keep catalog postage affordable – that’s what we’re all about,” Miller said of his organization.

The Dingley Press suffered its own shock in 1981 when its sole client, L.L. Bean, severed its relationship with the company, Lane said. L.L. Bean decided to migrate to a different printing process that Dingley could not accommodate with its equipment at the time.

Founded in 1928 in Lewiston, Dingley had been producing all of L.L. Bean’s catalogs since 1942. With no clients and an owner looking to shut down the operation, current company owner Chris Pierce offered to buy Dingley and then set about rebuilding the business from the ground up.

By 2004, Pierce had built Dingley into a $100 million enterprise, and he decided to sell the company to The Sheridan Group, a large commercial printing operation based in Maryland.

But in 2013, following the loss of another major client, Sheridan decided to sell the company, and Pierce realized he wanted it back.

“He does like the challenge,” Lane said of Pierce.

Lane noted that today, Dingley contributes significantly to Maine’s economy and its paper industry. In addition to its $13 million in annual payroll, the company buys about $10 million of paper each year from Maine paper mills, and it pays an additional $6 million to other Maine-based vendors.

Dave Burnham works on a SIM co-mailer at The Dingley Press. Catalogs from all of the company’s 160 clients are combined and sorted by destination on the co-mail lines before being bundled for delivery. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

“We get our paper from Maine paper mills as much as possible,” Lane said. “We are the closest shipping point for a lot of the mills in Maine.”

The role of the catalog in a retail operation has evolved significantly in recent years, Miller said. As a result, the industry has suffered a bit of an identity crisis.

“The catalog used to be much more of a self-standing mechanism than it is today,” he said, whereas now it “serves as a springboard to get the customer to buy from that company.”

Still, there are things a catalog can do that an online advertisement cannot, Lane and Miller said. A catalog is delivered directly into the hands of its recipient, bringing information about new products along with more subtle cues about the seller’s style and brand.

“The catalog still carries the identity of the company, of the retailer,” Miller said.

Correction: This story was updated at 1:42 p.m. on April 29 to correct the number of catalogs Dingley currently prints per year, and the number it expects to print once its new equipment is installed.

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

Twitter: jcraiganderson

]]> 0, LISBON, ME - APRIL 26: Pressmen work on a Goss printing press at The Dingley Press in Lisbon Wednesday, April 26, 2017. L to R, are Norm Begin, Kevin Sult and Armand Deschene. (Staff photos by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer). Below, LISBON, ME - APRIL 26: Eric Lane, president of The Dingley Press in Lisbon Wednesday, April 26, 2017. (Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer)Sat, 29 Apr 2017 13:49:36 +0000
North Korea tests mid-range ballistic missile, which blows apart Fri, 28 Apr 2017 22:37:35 +0000 TOKYO — North Korea fired another ballistic missile early Saturday morning but it exploded within seconds of being launched, American and South Korean defense officials said.

Coinciding with renewed diplomatic and military pressure on North Korea from the Trump administration, the launch underscores both Kim Jong Un’s determination to make technical progress on his weapons programs and his defiance of international pressure.

President Trump, who was briefed on the launch soon afterward, took to Twitter to reiterate his expectation that Chinese President Xi Jinping use his leverage to make Kim stop.

“North Korea disrespected the wishes of China & its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!” he tweeted.

Trump has repeatedly called on China, North Korea’s neighbor and largest trading partner, to punish the regime in Pyongyang, and has warned Xi that if he doesn’t act, the United States will.

But Ralph Cossa, president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Pacific Forum, said that the Trump administration appears to be struggling to figure out how to deal with North Korea.

“When it comes to foreign policy, and Korea policy in particular, the Trump administration has had a pretty steep learning curve, and it has been a lot more curves than learning,” Cossa said.


Saturday’s launch marked the 75th missile test since Kim Jong Un became leader of North Korea at the end of 2011, according to a Nuclear Threat Initiative database.

American and South Korean defense officials said that the unidentified missile appears to have exploded soon after being launched about 5 a.m. North Korea time.

“The missile did not leave North Korean territory,” U.S. Pacific Command spokesman Dave Benham said in a statement.

North Korea’s previous missile launch was on April 16, the day after a huge military parade in Pyongyang to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of founder Kim Il Sung. It also blew up almost immediately.

But analysts said not to be consoled.

“This test may have failed, but Kim Jong Un’s overall missile test record is 58 successful flight tests and 17 failures,” said Shea Cotton of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation, who compiled the Nuclear Threat Initiative database.

North Korea is clearly making progress and has the political will, if not the technology just yet, to improve its missile technology.


At this month’s military parade, North Korea presented two of its newest model missiles, including the submarine-launched ballistic type it successfully fired last year and the land-based version it launched last month.

Kim has repeatedly said that he wants an intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach the mainland United States, and although there are still plenty of technical hurdles, many analysts believe North Korea will eventually get there.

The latest launch comes amid heightened tensions in the region.

A U.S. Navy strike group, led by the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, will be in the waters around the Korean Peninsula this weekend, and one of the Navy’s largest submarines has been in port in South Korea this week.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday called for new economic sanctions on North Korea and other “painful” measures over its nuclear weapons program.

“Failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences,” Tillerson said during a special session of the U.N. Security Council. “The more we bide our time, the sooner we will run out of it.”

In its latest challenge to the United States, a North Korean propaganda outlet released a video clip this week showing simulated attacks on the United States and declaring that “the enemy to be destroyed is in our sights.”

]]> 0 Korean leader Kim Jong Un, waving during a military parade April 15 in Pyongyang, is showing determination to make technical progress on his weapons programs and defiance of international pressure.Fri, 28 Apr 2017 23:53:54 +0000
Collins, King to appear together on ‘Meet the Press’ Fri, 28 Apr 2017 22:08:46 +0000 Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King will appear together in a joint interview on the NBC political talk show “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

Collins, a Republican, and King, an independent, will be interviewed by host Chuck Todd about their efforts to build consensus and facilitate bipartisanship in an increasingly polarized climate.

Collins recently was named the Senate’s most bipartisan senator for the fourth consecutive year and King, who caucuses and often votes with the Democrats, is one of only two independents.

Both Maine senators are members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, so it’s possible they could be asked about the ongoing probe into Russian’s involvement in the 2016 presidential campaign.

“Meet the Press” airs Sunday morning on NBC. Collins and King are scheduled to go on at about 9:20 a.m.

Vice President Mike Pence also is scheduled to appear on the program, likely to talk about the Trump administration’s first 100 days.

]]> 0, 28 Apr 2017 18:43:48 +0000
Lawmakers consider ‘medical amnesty’ bill for drug users who report overdoses Fri, 28 Apr 2017 22:08:24 +0000 AUGUSTA — Brianna Nielsen doesn’t regret calling for help when a fellow drug user overdosed in front of her last year, knowing now that her quick action saved his life.

But the decision also landed her in jail and further complicated an already difficult climb back to sobriety and regaining custody of her young son.

“I know that I did the right thing by calling 9-1-1, saving my neighbor’s life. I worry, though,” Nielsen, a Portland resident clean for a little more than a year, told lawmakers on Friday in support of offering “medical amnesty” to people who report drug overdoses. “Because of the consequences that can happen to the person calling 9-1-1, they’re scared. And I fear there a lot of people not calling 9-1-1 when someone has overdosed in front of them.”

Nielsen was among dozens of people who testified Friday on a slew of bills aimed at addressing an opioid crisis that shows few signs of abating after killing about one Mainer a day last year. Many of the proposals sought to expand opioid treatment across Maine, whether by providing an additional $6.7 million a year for comprehensive medication-assisted treatment, or by increasing the MaineCare reimbursement rates paid to methadone clinics.

Other proposals, however, were a direct response to perceived foot-dragging at Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services and the Board of Pharmacy in crafting rules aimed at expanding access to the lifesaving drugs that reverse overdoses.

“We would like to do our part and are frustrated that we are not able to do so,” said Douglas Carr, a lobbyist for Rite-Aid, said of the delays in rules allowing pharmacies to make naloxone or Narcan available without a prescription.

A record 376 people died of drug overdoses in Maine last year, the vast majority of them from heroin or prescription opioids. While opioid addiction is a problem across the U.S., Maine recorded the nation’s third-highest increase in overdose deaths – a surge of 27 percent – between 2013 and 2014 and the fourth-highest increase in 2015. Overwhelmed treatment and social services providers now routinely use the word “epidemic” to describe opioid problem in Maine, the challenges of treating the disease and the resulting calamity of addiction.

“We are already in the midst of a second epidemic – a second epidemic of Hepatitis C,” said Kenney Miller, executive director of the Health Equity Alliance, which administers four of the state’s six needle-exchange programs.

Policymakers in Maine have been debating how to best respond to the heroin crisis for years and have directed additional money toward treatment and law enforcement. But the state also has been accused of being slow to respond.

One of the more sweeping bills considered Friday by the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee – L.D. 1326 sponsored by Republican Rep. Karen Vachon of Scarborough – would provide $75,000 in state funds for needle-exchange programs. It also would eliminate the criminal penalties for possessing a hypodermic needle for drug use. Needle-exchange programs have been proven to reduce the transmission of infectious disease and often are used as a way to connect drug users with treatment programs.

DHHS said the department partners with needle-exchange programs, but that the prevention programs do not allow direct funding of syringe exchange programs. The department opposed the proposal to decriminalize needle possession.

“While we understand the rationale, we do not believe that decriminalizing drug paraphernalia in the midst of an addiction epidemic is the right direction and that it sends a message of passive consent for dangerous and destructive activities,” Sheldon Wheeler, director of the DHHS Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, said in testimony to the committee.

The bill sponsored by Vachon also aims to make naloxone or Narcan more accessible by allowing overdose prevention programs to disperse it and providing $50,000 in state funds. That was the goal of a bill that passed the Legislature two years ago, however it was never funded and DHHS has yet to complete the rulemaking part of the initiative. Vachon’s bill would essentially sidestep the rulemaking.

Ross Hicks, harm reduction coordinator at the Health Equity Alliance, said his organization has been forced to operate in a legal gray area when distributing overdose prevention kits because DHHS “continues to sit on its hands” rather than craft the rules. His organization recorded 60 overdose reversals from kits distributed during the six-month period in which it was fully funded.

“Each time I handed a kit out, I am potentially breaking the law,” Hicks said. “As much as I enjoy the Robin Hood-esque idea of me breaking the law to do good, I wouldn’t have to if DHHS produced the rules required by law.”

Vachon’s bill also would create an “exemption from criminal liability” for anyone who overdoses on an illegal drug or who may have been using drugs themselves when they called for help for an overdose victim.

Nielsen, the recovering addict arrested by Westbrook police after calling 9-1-1 for her neighbor, said she would still make that call today. But she said the looming charges affected her ability to get a job and have complicated her efforts to get her life back on track.

Others told similar stories.

Shaun Le, a Portland resident who is in recovery, said his friend was declared brain dead because he was deprived of oxygen for seven minutes between the 9-1-1 call and the paramedics’ arrival. Another drug user fled the scene after making the 9-1-1 call..

“I believe that in that situation if the bill went through and these things were in place, that person would have stayed with him,” Le said. “They would have given him CPR and, if that oxygen had been given to him, he’d still be here today.”

A DHHS representative said the exemption could help increase the number of lives saved from overdoses. But the Maine State Police and Department of Public Safety opposed the creation of a “blanket exemption from arrest or prosecution.”

“We are concerned that this could have unintended consequences resulting in taking away a tool for law enforcement and prosecutors in our fight against illegal drugs,” said Major Brian Scott with the state police. “To insulate a person from being held accountable for their criminal wrongdoing may serve to exacerbate the drug problem we are facing. It would also likely be a considerable hindrance or make it impossible in obtaining search warrants in a case where a person dies as a result of that overdose.”

The various proposals heard Friday to increase funding for treatment likely will face tough scrutiny from lawmakers as they craft a two-year budget. Earlier this year, the Legislature approved a plan to funnel $4.8 million in state and federal money toward comprehensive, medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction, providing services to an estimated 400 additional people. Testifying against Vachon’s proposal for an additional $6.7 million per year, a DHHS representative said the Legislature should “give this model a chance” before allocating additional money to the program.

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

Twitter: KevinMillerPPH

]]> 0 this call in 2015, Portland paramedics were able to revive a woman who had injected a quarter-gram of heroin – but the number of Mainers who die of drug overdoses is increasing at an alarming rate.Fri, 28 Apr 2017 23:17:39 +0000
R.I. legislators find federal fine outrageous Fri, 28 Apr 2017 21:39:03 +0000 PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Members of a Rhode Island legislative committee said they were outraged after discovering the state was fined $805,000 months ago for changing a contract it had with the company overseeing its troubled new benefits system.

The U.S. Food and Nutrition Service issued the fine after the state neglected to submit a change in its contract with Deloitte Consulting for the $364 million Unified Health Infrastructure Project, known as UHIP.

WPRI-TV reported that all contract amendments must be submitted to the Food and Nutrition Service for approval, and this change was not.

The House Oversight Committee on Thursday asked acting Department of Human Services Director Eric Beane during a scheduled hearing on the UHIP project why the fine wasn’t disclosed.

Auditor General Dennis Hoyle brought the fine to light when he forwarded to the committee a Jan. 5 bill sent to the state by the Food and Nutrition Service, The Providence Journal reported.

Beane said Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo’s administration is appealing the fine.

]]> 0 Fri, 28 Apr 2017 20:24:38 +0000
Watchdog finds state lottery did not target low-income Mainers Fri, 28 Apr 2017 21:37:16 +0000 The Legislature’s watchdog agency concluded in a report issued Friday that the Maine State Lottery did not market any of its products to poor people or any other specific demographic group.

The 38-page report by the Maine Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability – or OPEGA – ends an 18-month review, which lawmakers requested following a series of stories reported in October 2015 by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting.

The stories, some of which appeared in the Portland Press Herald, found that residents of low-income communities were much more likely to buy lottery or scratch tickets and also revealed that about $22 million in winnings since 2010 were paid to people who receive some sort of public assistance.

The series questioned whether the lottery might be targeting low-income individuals.

“We found no indication that the lottery puts any marketing or advertising emphasis on any specific demographic group(s),” the report said.

OPEGA Director Beth Ashcroft reached her conclusion in part because television and radio advertisements by the Maine State Lottery were identical no matter where in the state the ads ran. She also found that the lottery had not increased its spending on advertising or marketing substantially. Most of the $3 million it spends goes to TV stations in Portland, Bangor and Presque Isle.

The Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services, which oversees the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations, hailed the report.

“The Maine Lottery has been accused of many things over the course of the last 18 months,” said Richard Rosen, the department’s commissioner. “The claims leveled at the lottery ranged from the purported tripling of its advertising spending to accusations that it targets low-income communities with its advertising. These claims had no basis in fact when they were made, and I am encouraged that OPEGA’s independent review helped bring this important information to light.”

The lottery is big business in Maine and elsewhere. Last year, the state sold $271 million worth of scratch tickers and Megabucks or Powerball tickets. That’s an increase of nearly 20 percent since 2014.

The amount paid to lottery winners in 2016 was $160 million, or about 58 percent of sales. State law says payouts must top 45 percent of all ticket sales. The majority of the net revenue goes into the state’s General Fund.

Gregg Mineo, director of the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverage and Lottery Operations, said the lottery always has been open and transparent and that the report should put to rest any question about its integrity.

“I thank both our customers and our retailers for their patience while we allowed this important process to work,” he said. “Despite a flurry of media coverage and interest from the Maine Legislature, OPEGA completed its review in a manner worthy of its stellar reputation.”

Although the OPEGA report was favorable, it still offered recommendations for the lottery, including better reporting of the agency revenues and prize payouts, and better publicizing of its board meetings. Also recommended was an annual report to the governor and Legislature, something that has not happened in recent years.

Joshua Moore, executive editor of the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, said he was glad to have OPEGA “shine a light into the activities of the Maine State Lottery.”

“The recommendations in this report will ensure that the Lottery operates with greater transparency and oversight, and Mainers are learning more about the way the state markets and operates this program,” he said. “That’s a win for all Mainers.”

The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, founded in 2009 by former newspaper journalists Naomi Schalit and John Christie, is a private, nonprofit investigative journalism foundation based in Hallowell.

The organization recently rebranded itself as Pine Tree Watch but will continue to focus on data-driven investigations. Its work is published by more than two dozen news outlets across the state, including the Press Herald.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

]]> 0 Maine State Lottery hasn’t been investigated or censured for using tax dollars to convince the most vulnerable – including thousands of benefits recipients – to take a chance on long-shot games. In fact, an inquiry first sought in 2007 has consistently been put on the back burner.Fri, 28 Apr 2017 20:26:59 +0000