The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » News http://www.pressherald.com Fri, 09 Dec 2016 19:49:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.3.6 Bill Townsend, a ‘giant’ in Maine’s conservation community, dies at 89 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/bill-townsend-a-giant-in-maines-conservation-community-dies-at-89/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/bill-townsend-a-giant-in-maines-conservation-community-dies-at-89/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 18:54:50 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/bill-townsend-a-giant-in-maines-conservation-community-dies-at-89/ Friends and former colleagues are mourning the death of Clinton “Bill” Townsend, a tireless advocate for river restoration who helped lead many of the state’s environmental organizations over the decades.

Townsend, of Canaan, died Thursday at age 89. He was a Skowhegan attorney but is best known for his decades-long involvement in environmental issues – particularly river health – and his leadership of many of the organizations and boards that work to protect Maine’s natural resources.

“He had this terrific internal driver and he was involved with history-making initiatives in Maine that transformed how we think about rivers and the life they carry – the fisheries,” said Landis Hudson, executive director of Maine Rivers, one of the organizations that Townsend helped to lead.

Over a 50-year span, Townsend was also president of the Natural Resources Council of Maine during its earlier years and served on the boards of directors of the Maine chapter of The Nature Conservancy, the Atlantic Salmon Federation and the Somerset Woods Trustees.

A lifelong fisherman, Townsend was a passionate advocate for cleaner rivers and restoring fish passage around the dams that have blocked or impeded migratory fish – such as Atlantic salmon and alewives – in some cases for centuries. He helped lead the effort to remove the Edwards Dam in the Kennebec River as well as numerous smaller dams, worked on the creation of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway and was a prominent voice against the massive Big-A and Dickey-Lincoln hydroelectric proposals.

“There is no river in Maine that has not been touched and improved by his work,” said Hudson.

Additionally, Townsend served for a decade on the board of the Land for Maine’s Future program, on the Land Use Regulation Commission and represented the United States on the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization.

Lisa Pohlmann, executive director of NRCM, which Townsend joined in 1960 after reading about the new organization in the newspaper, called Townsend “a giant” in Maine’s conservation movement.

“Bill fought for clean water, clear skies, a toxic-free environment, rich habitat for our native wildlife, and access to the outdoors for Maine people and visitors to our state,” Pohlmann wrote on NRCM’s website. “Maine is a better place because of Bill, and so many of us are better people for having known him.”

U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, referred to Townsend as “a dear friend and one of my most treasured mentors.”

“He was a man of enormous intellect and even greater character who fought tirelessly to deliver justice for people across Maine and who worked unceasingly to preserve and protect Maine lands and resources for the enjoyment of future generations,” King said in a statement. “I will miss Bill tremendously but am grateful for his many years of friendship and counsel, and more importantly, for all that he has done on behalf of our beloved state.”

This story will be updated.

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Republicans ready to launch probe of Russia, despite Trump’s stance http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/republicans-ready-to-launch-probe-of-russia-despite-trumps-stance/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/republicans-ready-to-launch-probe-of-russia-despite-trumps-stance/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 17:39:51 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/republicans-ready-to-launch-probe-of-russia-despite-trumps-stance/ Leading Senate Republicans are preparing to launch a coordinated and wide-ranging probe into Russia’s alleged meddling in the U.S. elections and its potential cyberthreats to the military, digging deep into what they view as corrosive interference in the nation’s institutions.

Such an aggressive approach puts them on a direct collision course with President-elect Donald Trump, who plays down the possibility that Russia had any role in the November elections – arguing that a hack of Democratic National Committee emails may have been perpetrated by “some guy in his home in New Jersey.” The fracture could become more prominent after Trump is inaugurated and begins setting foreign policy. He already has indicated the country should “get along” with Russia since the two nations have many common strategic goals.

But some of Trump’s would-be Republican allies on Capitol Hill disagree. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, is readying a probe of possible Russian cyber-incursions into U.S. weapons systems. McCain said he has been discussing the issue with Select Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., with whom he will be “working closely” to investigate Russia’s suspected interference in the U.S. elections and its alleged cyberthreats to the military and other institutions. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has been apprised of the discussions. Burr did not respond to requests for comment.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., also said he intends to hold hearings next year into alleged Russian hacking. Corker is on Trump’s short list for secretary of state, according to the Trump transition team.

U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and six others urged President Obama last week to declassify details to make it clear what occurred and to prevent a recurrence.

Trump transition officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The loudest Republican calls for a Russia probe are coming from McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Both have taken a hard line on Russia and have been highly critical of Trump, particularly his praise of President Vladimir Putin.

“They’ll keep doing more here until they pay a price,” Graham said of Russia. He plans to spearhead legislation and hold a series of investigative hearings next year into “Russia’s misadventures throughout the world,” including suspected Russian meddling in the U.S. elections.

“I’m going after Russia in every way you can go after Russia. I think they’re one of the most destabilizing influences on the world stage. I think they did interfere with our elections and I want Putin personally to pay the price,” Graham said in an interview with CNN on Wednesday.

McCain said his Armed Services Committee will launch a probe in the 115th Congress into Russia’s cyber-capabilities against the U.S. military and weapons systems, “because the real threat is cyber,” he said.

But McCain said he expects the investigation will also dovetail with the topic of Russia’s suspected hacking of the DNC and state-based election systems – which include a hack that took place in McCain’s home state of Arizona.

“See, the problem with hacking is that if they’re able to disrupt elections, then it’s a national security issue, obviously,” McCain said Thursday.

He added that the Armed Services Committee was “still formulating” exactly how to address the issue. But despite Trump’s dismissal, McCain said that “there’s very little doubt” Russia interfered in the U.S. elections, which he called “very worthy of examination.”

In October, the U.S. government officially accused Russia of hacking the DNC’s emails during the presidential campaign. The emails were posted on websites such as WikiLeaks and caused embarrassment for the party, including forcing the resignation of the DNC chair, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida.

U.S. military officials also are concerned about Russia’s capacity to steal military secrets and to corrupt operations: Officials suspect Russian hackers are behind a major email breach at the Pentagon last year. The military could be a target for backlash, after an NBC News report widely circulated by Russian media stated that U.S. military hackers were ready to launch cyberattacks against Russia in the event of an obvious election hack.

Trump continued to play down Russian involvement in the elections in an interview released this week for Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” feature. In the interview, the president-elect disputed President Barack Obama’s administration’s accusation that Russia interfered in the election.

“I don’t believe they interfered,” Trump said of Russia. “It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey. I believe that it could have been Russia and it could have been any one of many other people. Sources or even individuals.”

Some Republicans delicately demurred while still defending Trump’s ability to negotiate with Putin.

“The Democratic National Committee … the intelligence community is of pretty much one mind that Russia was involved in that, was behind that,” Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said in an MSNBC interview. King is a member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and chairman of the Homeland Security subcommittee on intelligence and counter-terrorism.

King added that he was “confident” Trump “will not be taken in by Putin.”

Democrats have also taken issue with Trump’s desire to pursue more friendly relations with Moscow, as well as with his affinity for Putin.

“The primary area of discomfort for the Republicans here and the Trump administration, in foreign policy and national security, is over Russia,” said Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the Intelligence Committee’s ranking Democrat, who accused Trump of becoming “a propaganda piece for the Kremlin” on MSNBC this week. “They may be giving him breathing space right now, but I don’t expect that to last.”

Since the election, Republican lawmakers voted to re-establish a U.S. hard line against Russia’s global ventures, with a House-passed measure to sanction anyone who supports the Syrian government in its ongoing civil war – a category that primarily includes Russia and Iran. There is also language in the annual defense policy bill to provide millions of dollars in lethal aid to Ukraine, where the government in Kiev is engaged in open hostilities against Russian-backed separatists.

But many Democrats are impatient with Republicans for not taking faster and more concrete steps against Russia after the Obama administration officially accused Moscow of meddling in the elections.

Corker expressed early interest in holding hearings on Russia. But months later, those hearings have not been held.

“We’re getting no pressure from anyone – we just feel like it’s something we should do,” Corker said in an interview Wednesday, when asked if the president-elect had pressured him not to raise the topic. “As a matter of fact we attempted to set a classified briefing up this week.”

A spokeswoman for Corker said the hearing was postponed because State Department officials were unavailable because of previous travel commitments. She added that Corker and Sen. Benjamin Cardin (Maryland), the Foreign Relations Committee’s ranking Democrat, received a classified briefing on cyberthreats before the election.

Obama administration officials maintain that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and other officials were ready to brief senators about Russia’s suspected role in the DNC hack on Thursday. Administration officials said that at the last minute, the committee dramatically broadened the scope of the hearing, forcing them to cancel.

Corker pledged on Wednesday that hearings investigating Russia’s role in the elections would be forthcoming next year.

“We’re definitely going to look at it,” Corker said.

An aggressive probe of Russia’s activities may not extend to the House, where leading Republicans say they already have been investigating Russia and will continue their efforts regardless of Trump’s stance.

Russia has “always been a priority for me, and it will remain a priority for me,” said Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the Intelligence Committee chairman.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, stressed that his committee has been looking at suspected Russian cyberthreats to the military for the past two years.

“We’re going to have to all pay more attention to cyber and to Russian activities to influence things through cyber,” Thornberry said.

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Obama orders review of email hacking during election http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/obama-orders-review-of-email-hacking-during-election/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/obama-orders-review-of-email-hacking-during-election/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 17:37:02 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1121415 President Obama has ordered a “full review” of Russian hacking during the November election, as pressure from Congress has grown for greater public understanding of exactly what Moscow did to interfere in the electoral process.

“We may have crossed into a new threshold, and it is incumbent upon us to take stock of that, to review, to conduct some after-action, to understand what has happened and to impart some lessons learned,” Obama’s counterterrorism and homeland-security adviser, Lisa Monaco, told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

Obama wants the report before he leaves office on Jan. 20, Monaco said.

On Oct. 7, the intelligence community officially accused Moscow of seeking to interfere in the election through the hacking of “political organizations.” Though the statement never specified which party, it was clear officials were referring to cyber-intrusions into the computers of the Democratic National Committee and other Democratic Party groups. Hacked emails that were damaging to the party and its presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, soon after appeared on websites such as WikiLeaks.

The intelligence-community statement said such leaks were “consistent” with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts. “We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities,” the statement said.

U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and six others urged President Obama last week to declassify more details about the intrusions and why officials believe the Kremlin was behind the operation. And this week, top Democratic lawmakers in the House sent a letter to Obama urging briefings on Russian interference in the election.

Leading Senate Republicans say they are preparing to launch a wide-ranging probe into Russia’s meddling in the election and into potential cyberthreats to the military.

U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies had already been probing what they see as a broad covert Russian operation to sow distrust in the presidential election process. It was their briefings of senior lawmakers that led a number of them to press for more information to be made public.

Though Russia has long conducted cyberspying on U.S. agencies, companies and organizations, this presidential campaign marks the first time Russia has attempted through cyber means to interfere in, if not actively influence, the outcome of an election, the officials said.

The review comes as President-elect Donald Trump has again dismissed the intelligence community’s findings about Russian hacking and meddling. “I don’t believe they interfered” in the election, he told Time magazine this week. The hacking, he said, “could be Russia. It could be China. And it could be some guy in New Jersey.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Friday, “Given President-elect Trump’s disturbing refusal to listen to our intelligence community and accept that the hacking was orchestrated by the Kremlin, there is an added urgency to the need for a thorough review before President Obama leaves office next month.”

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Austria’s word of the year: Bundespraesidentenstichwahlwiederholungsverschiebung http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/austrias-word-of-the-year-bundespraesidentenstichwahlwiederholungsverschiebung/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/austrias-word-of-the-year-bundespraesidentenstichwahlwiederholungsverschiebung/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 17:04:04 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1121413 VIENNA — For all those who don’t speak German — and indeed for those who do — here is Austria’s word of the year, adding to the challenges of reading and speaking the language.

It’s “Bundespraesidentenstichwahlwiederholungsverschiebung,” or “postponement of the repeat of the runoff of the presidential election.”

The tongue-twister was born of the record time it took to elect Austria’s president, and was announced following a poll of 10,000 people carried out by the Research Unit for Austrian German at the University of Graz, in cooperation with the Austria Press Agency.

A first round in April was followed by a May runoff between the two most popular candidates. This was annulled because of irregularities. A new date set for October was then postponed because of faulty absentee ballots to Dec. 4, when the vote was won by Alexander Van der Bellen.

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MaineToday.com Weekend Weather: bundle up! http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/mainetoday-com-weekend-weather-bundle-up/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/mainetoday-com-weekend-weather-bundle-up/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 16:45:06 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1121407 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/mainetoday-com-weekend-weather-bundle-up/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/12/weather-thumb2.jpgFri, 09 Dec 2016 11:45:06 +0000 Estate tax repeal would benefit President Trump, Cabinet http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/trump-administration-estate-tax-repeal-would-benefit-president-cabinet/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/trump-administration-estate-tax-repeal-would-benefit-president-cabinet/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 16:37:13 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1121403 WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump, who won the hearts and minds of millions of working-class voters, may help deliver a multibillion-dollar bonanza to America’s wealthiest families.

The Manhattan businessman’s election offers congressional Republicans their best chance in years to eliminate the estate tax, which he and others call the “death tax.” Abolishing it would save more than $20 billion a year for the millionaires and billionaires the tax applies to — including the Trump family and several of the people he has chosen for his administration.

“A lot of families go through hell over the death tax,” Trump said during his presidential run. The tax’s opponents say it forces some families to sell their farms or small businesses in order to pay up. Studies suggest that only a small percentage of estates fall into those categories.

Wiping out the estate tax has been a longstanding goal for Republican lawmakers, and the party’s sweeping victories in the 2016 election have brought them thrillingly close to achieving it. But there are potential stumbling blocks. Their narrow margin in the Senate leaves few votes to spare. And Trump may have a hard time reconciling his populist campaign themes with a tax break for America’s richest.

Under federal law, the tax, which is levied at a 40 percent rate, applies only to estates worth more than $5.45 million for individuals and $10.9 million for couples. Estates worth less than that may be passed on to heirs tax-free. Last year, just 0.2 percent of estates of people who died were subject to the tax, according to estimates by the Tax Policy Center, a Washington-based research group that’s a joint venture of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution.

Trump “campaigned as someone who’s going to help the middle class, the forgotten guy, but every policy he’s advocating — huge tax cuts for the wealthy, estate tax — all for the top .001 percent,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler, a Democrat from Manhattan.

America’s wealthiest “hit the jackpot” with Trump’s election, he said.

Since Trump’s election, House Ways & Means Chairman Kevin Brady and Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch have repeated their desire to repeal the estate tax. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have long supported its elimination. Passage in the Republican-led House is assured. In the Senate, a decade-long estate tax repeal can pass with 50 of 52 expected GOP senators under a special mechanism called reconciliation, while 60 votes could end it for good.

“The death tax on family farms, small businesses, ranches and estates has crippled hard-working families for far too long,” Hatch told Bloomberg News in a statement.

In 2013, 120 of the 3,780 estates subject to the tax were farms and businesses, according to the Tax Policy Center. That’s a little more than 3 percent. The same year, estates valued above $20 million paid an average tax rate of 18.8 percent — many achieve a lower effective rate through tax-planning strategies, including giving some of their fortune away to charity.

At that 18.8 percent effective rate, repealing the tax would be a large windfall to the leaders-in-waiting of the Trump administration.

Trump’s estate would save $564 million, based on his estimated net worth of $3 billion. Trump disagrees with that net-worth estimate, which Bloomberg News compiled in July; he has said his net worth exceeds $10 billion. If so, his savings would increase — to as much as $1.9 billion at an 18.8 percent effective tax rate. Trump’s transition team didn’t respond to a request for comment for this story.

Trump’s Commerce secretary choice, Wilbur Ross, might save about $545 million, based on his estimated net worth of $2.9 billion. Ross is the chairman and chief strategy officer of WL Ross & Co. LLC. Richard DeVos, the father-in-law of Trump’s education secretary choice, Betsy DeVos, might save $900 million, based on his estimated $4.8 billion net worth. Richard DeVos is co-founder of Alticor Inc., the parent of closely held direct-seller Amway Corp. Their net worth estimates were compiled by the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Repealing the tax would also benefit Treasury secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin, who held shares in CIT Group Inc. worth more than $100 million as of Dec. 2. And Linda McMahon, Trump’s pick to head the Small Business Administration, and her husband, Vince McMahon, have earned hundreds of millions of dollars after founding World Wrestling Entertainment Inc.

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Despite the rain and snow, Maine drought persists http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/despite-the-rain-and-snow-maine-drought-persists/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/despite-the-rain-and-snow-maine-drought-persists/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 16:31:05 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1121399 AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine is covered in snow, but that doesn’t mean the drought is over.

The Maine Drought Task Force said most of the state remains in a “severe drought” going into the winter. The ground will soon be freezing up, so there won’t be any major changes until the spring, and that’ll depend on the snowpack.

Maine Emergency Management Agency Director Bruce Fitzgerald said conditions have improved with recent rain and snowfall.

Fitzgerald says surface water levels in Maine are now normal range but officials say groundwater levels will take longer to recover.

He noted that his agency has received only two reports of dry wells in the past two weeks following hundreds of reports in the summer and fall.

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New fishing net provides hope for Maine groundfishermen http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/new-fishing-net-provides-hope-for-maine-groundfishermen/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/new-fishing-net-provides-hope-for-maine-groundfishermen/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 15:47:32 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/new-fishing-net-provides-hope-for-maine-groundfishermen/ A team of scientists and fishermen led by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute has created a new kind of fishing net that can catch popular flatfish like yellowtail flounder without busting strict quotas set to protect the Atlantic cod from overfishing.

The new design shrinks the height of this cone-shaped, bottom-dragged net from 5 or 6 feet to about 2, and cuts away much of the top, allowing about half of the cod that would have been caught in a traditional trawl to swim to freedom over the top of the smaller, cut-away net.

The ultra low opening trawl net, as seen in the water recirculating tank at the Marine Institute of Newfoundland. Note the headrope is longer than the groundgear, or sweep. Usually the headrope is shorter than the sweep. This enables cod to swim up and over the net, escaping capture, while bottom fish like the flounder are caught.

The ultra low opening trawl net, as seen in the water recirculating tank at the Marine Institute of Newfoundland. Note the headrope is longer than the groundgear, or sweep. Usually the headrope is shorter than the sweep. This enables cod to swim up and over the net, escaping capture, while bottom fish like the flounder are caught. Photo courtesy of GMRI

Field tests show this ultra low-opening trawl reduced the amount of cod caught by about 45 percent, but landed just as many flatfish, like yellowtail or dabs, as a traditional net dragged over the same area by the same fisherman, said research scientist Steve Eayrs, who joined GMRI in 2007 to head up its efforts to develop environmentally friendly fishing gear. It also reduced fuel consumption by about 7 percent.

“For the first time, fishermen in New England have to avoid cod as best they can, which is a reversal of 400 years worth of tradition,” Eayrs said. “Yet here we are, having some very good success pretty much straight off the bat. In effect, fishermen can fish almost twice as long using this trawl without being limited by their cod quota or losing other valuable fish.”

Catching the wrong fish, or catching too much of a low-quota fish like cod, can end a season for a commercial fisherman. In recent years, the interstate fishing board, New England Fishery Management Council, has slashed the number of cod that could be landed from the Gulf of Maine from about 1,550 metric tons in 2014 to 280 metric tons now. Individuals that catch too many, even by accident, can be shut down for the season.

Regulators are trying different methods, including quotas and trip limits and gear restrictions, to help fishermen catch the right fish and avoid what’s known as bycatch, which can lead to overfishing low-quota species like cod or the discard of food fish such as haddock. The industry is trying to modify gear and techniques to better target some species while avoiding others to avoid burdensome quotas or closures.

Fishermen who trawl for herring off Georges Bank cited their fear of haddock bycatch – at certain times of the year, schools of haddock and herring swim together, making it hard for herring trawlers to avoid haddock, which is not a vulnerable species but an economically important one with its own markets, fleet and quotas – as a reason they didn’t land enough of the popular baitfish to supply Maine’s $500 million annual lobster industry.

Atlantic cod and the flounder family are considered groundfish, and Maine’s once sizable groundfish fleet has practically disappeared, falling from more than 300 in 1982 to about 50 today. In 2015, all the groundfish landed in Maine totaled less than 5 million pounds, and was valued at about $7.1 million, which is a little more than 1 percent of Maine’s total 2015 catch of all species, according to state data.

Researchers, fishermen and gear manufacturers would like to find a way to bring back Maine’s storied groundfishing fleet.

The ultra low-opening trawl test results bode well for future collaborations among fishermen, scientists and gear manufacturers to develop new ways to protect vulnerable fish without killing off the fisherman’s livelihood, reducing the availability of the flounder that remain both plentiful and popular with the consumer, or taking a bite out of an iconic sector of the New England economy.

The net redesign team was led by Eayrs, himself a former commercial fisherman in Australia, and Massachusetts state fisheries biologist Michael Pol. The team included four commercial fishermen from Massachusetts and New Hampshire, two other scientists and a Rhode Island netmaker. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Saltonstall-Kennedy program funded the $265,000 project in 2015, when it awarded $22 million in fisheries grants.

Gulf of Maine Research Institute scientist Steve Eayrs samples the catch landed aboard the Lisa Ann III. The new net caught as much flatfish as a traditional trawl, but cut the number of cod caught in half and vessel fuel use by 7 percent.

Gulf of Maine Research Institute scientist Steve Eayrs samples the catch landed aboard the Lisa Ann III. The new net caught as much flatfish as a traditional trawl, but cut the number of cod caught in half and vessel fuel use by 7 percent. Photo courtesy of GMRI

NEW MODEL FOR TRADITIONAL INDUSTRY

Over the course of a year, the team came up with several prototype trawls intended to avoid cod, but chose this low-opening design for computer modeling, then a scale model of the same net for testing in a large recirculating water tank at the Marine Institute in Newfoundland. Based on those results, they commissioned the netmaker to build a full-scale trawl for field tests.

Massachusetts fishing captain Jim Ford tested the low-opening net, alternately dragging it and a traditional trawl behind his boat, the Lisa Ann III, for two weeks in May just east of Newburyport. Ford liked the net enough to ask to keep it for his own use for the rest of the fishing season. Eayrs hopes he will tell his friends all about it.

The netmaker is building three more ultra low-opening nets that will be available for loan to Gulf of Maine fishermen at no cost in 2017.

“We only ask that fishermen share the landing and fuel results with the team,” Eayrs said.

If the fishermen like it, Eayrs is hopeful they will order nets like it from their netmakers when it is time to replace their traditional trawl nets. The average trawl net usually has a lifespan of about five years for a typical fisherman, unless it becomes snagged on something when dragging the flat ocean bed and rips, Eayrs said. That means widespread change to this net would take time, and only happen if fishermen want it.

Although they have sometimes used gear restrictions to protect species, Eayrs said regulators would be unlikely to ever require flounder fishermen to use this new kind of net, because it would be considered redundant when cod is already managed by a strict quota system. Both regulators and researchers want fishermen to embrace a cod-aversion net like this one on their own rather than have it forced on them.

While fishermen are reluctant to invest in new technology, the savings promised by the new net is persuasive, Eayrs said. Not only is it cheaper, costing between $8,000 and $10,000 compared to the average $10,000 to $12,000 cost of a similarly sized traditional trawl, and easier on a fisherman’s gas budget, but the cod reduction means a fisherman can land more flounder without having to worry about buying extra cod quota.

“With numbers like that, we think the idea will catch on,” Eayrs said.

 

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Annie Glenn: ‘When I called John, he cried. People just couldn’t believe that I could really talk.’ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/annie-glenn-when-i-called-john-he-cried-people-just-couldnt-believe-that-i-could-really-talk/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/annie-glenn-when-i-called-john-he-cried-people-just-couldnt-believe-that-i-could-really-talk/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 14:29:31 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/annie-glenn-when-i-called-john-he-cried-people-just-couldnt-believe-that-i-could-really-talk/ Well before he exited the Earth’s atmosphere, John Glenn flew at least 149 combat missions – 59 during World War II and 90 during the Korean War.

It must have been difficult on his wife, Annie Glenn (maiden name, Castor). To ease her fear, before each mission Glenn would utter the same words:

“I’m just going down to the corner store to get a pack of gum.”

“Don’t be long,” she would always respond.

He said it before he was propelled into space on Feb. 20, 1962, to become the first American to orbit the Earth. Years later, in 1998 when Glenn – a man possessing an “otherworldly spirit” – would exit earth’s gravitational pull at 77 years old, for the final time, they repeated the dialogue.

This time, he slipped her the perfect coda – a pack of gum – which she kept in a breast pocket until he returned to earth.

John and Annie were a strong couple – married 73 years – but while John spent his life in the air and on television, Annie spent hers here on Earth, focused on the people who often go unseen: the disabled.

“It really is worth everything to be able to help people,” Annie told The Washington Post in 1984.

And she did – despite, or more accurately because, of all she had to overcome.

To many, theirs was an odd coupling.

As John himself wrote, “We practically grew up in the same playpen. We never knew a time when we didn’t know each other.” (Annie says they were 2 years old when they met.)

But they were different. John was athletic and outgoing while Annie barely spoke, not because she didn’t have anything to say, but because when she did, people often assumed she was either deaf or mentally deficient.

For most of her life, Annie was afflicted with an 85 percent stutter, meaning she would become “hung-up on 85 percent of the words she tried to speak, which was a severe handicap,” as John put it.

Some of the inconveniences might seem small. John recalled them:

“For Annie, stuttering meant not being able to take a taxi because she would have to write out the address and give it to the driver because she couldn’t get the words out. It would be too embarrassing to try to talk about where she wanted to go. Going to the store is a tremendously difficult and frustrating experience when you can’t find what you want and can’t ask the clerk because you are too embarrassed of your stutter.”

Others were large. As The Post reported, once her daughter stepped on a nail. As blood gushed out, Annie couldn’t speak well enough to call 911. Instead, she found a neighbor to make the call for her.

She spent the early years of their marriage avoiding the spotlight. While John seemed to enjoy the television cameras, he clearly cared more for her privacy.

In his book about the Mercury 7 astronauts, “The Right Stuff,” Tom Wolfe recalled an incident perfectly highlighting this fact.

John Glenn had just sat for five hours sitting in the Friendship 7 capsule, but the mission was eventually scrapped due to the weather. Meanwhile, Annie sat in their home with Vice President Lyndon Johnson sitting outside and, in Wolfe’s words, hoping to “pour ten minutes of hideous Texas soul all over her on nationwide TV.”

Annie stuttered this to John over the phone, as he prepared to climb out of his spacesuit. She didn’t want the media attention, not with her stutter.

“Look, if you don’t want the vice president or the TV networks or anybody else to come into the house, than that’s it as far as I’m concerned,” John Glenn told her. “They are not coming in and I will back you up all the way and you tell them that! I don’t want Johnson or any of the rest of them to put so much as one toe inside our house!”

“As the wife of a famous astronaut, I had to deal with being constantly in the public eye. I had to deal with the press. And if this wasn’t hard enough, I had to do it all with a severe handicap,” Annie told The Post.

She continued, “Those were difficult times for me. In times of difficulty or defeat, it’s easy to think that we really have no choices. That we are trapped. I know I felt that way. Having tried, having failed so many times.”

Then, one day in 1973, the couple was watching the “Today” show. A doctor was discussing a new method of treatment for stutterers, an intensive three-week program in Roanoke, Virginia.

Annie enrolled. They made her relearn each letter of the alphabet. They forced her to go to a shopping center and . . . shop. To ask questions, for the first time.

They weren’t allowed to call friends or family for that three weeks. When it was over, Annie picked up the telephone.

“When I called John, he cried,” Annie said. “People just couldn’t believe that I could really talk.”

And when she got home, according to John Glenn’s memoir, she talked. He recalled one of her first lines: “John, I’ve wanted to tell you this for years. Pick up your socks.”

Joking aside, she was 53 years old, and she had found her calling.

Annie began giving speeches on behalf of her husband when he ran for Senate. After each speech, she would rush to greet those everyone else ignored – the disabled.

As The Post’s Myra MacPherson observed in 1984:

“After years of cruel slurs, of being overlooked by strangers, Annie Glenn seeks out the handicapped. In a crowd, she heads straight for those in wheelchairs. She has a sort of radar; finds the shyest person in the room and takes the time to draw him out. A group of deaf people were in the audience at one of her husband’s speeches. Afterward, Annie Glenn went over to them and soon was learning sign language. As the press crowded around Glenn, he looked over at his wife, who was signing “I Love You” to the deaf. ‘That’s what you should be covering,’ he told the reporters.”

Deciding to help those in need, she became an adjunct professor with the Speech Pathology Department at Ohio State University’s Department of Speech and Hearing Science.

“She is incredibly inspirational to students, many who have not had that much contact with people who stutter,” Rebecca McCauley, a professor in the department said. “Her influence is quite huge when speaking to students who are just getting into the field.”

In recognition of Annie (and John), the school renamed a street on its campus to Annie and John Glenn Avenue in 2015.

By that point, though, Annie Glenn had received many honors for her work with those trying to overcome their stutters. In 1983, she received the first national award of the American Speech and Hearing Association for “providing an inspiring model for people with communicative disorders.”

Eventually, the association named an award after her. In 1987, the first recipient of the Annie Glenn Award was James Earl Jones, an actor who had previously struggled with stuttering himself.

With Glenn’s death this week, Annie Glenn, now 96, is alone for the first time in 73 years. But her life has been a testament to strength in adversity.

As John Glenn once wrote of her: “It takes guts to operate with a disability. I don’t know if I would have had the courage to do all the things that Annie did so well.”

“We tend to think of heroes as being those who are well known,” he wrote, “but America is made up of a whole nation of heroes who face problems that are very difficult, and their courage remains largely unsung. Millions of individuals are heroes in their own right.”

“In my book, Annie is one of those heroes.”

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Marine pilot found dead after ejecting off the coast of Japan http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/marine-pilot-found-dead-after-ejecting-off-the-coast-of-japan/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/marine-pilot-found-dead-after-ejecting-off-the-coast-of-japan/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 14:18:22 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/marine-pilot-found-dead-after-ejecting-off-the-coast-of-japan/ The body of the Marine pilot that ejected more than a 100 miles off the coast of Japan was recovered by a Japanese Self-Defense Force vessel Thursday, the Marine Corps said in a statement.

Capt. Jake Frederick was pronounced dead shortly after he was pulled from the sea. He ejected from F/A-18C at approximately 6:40 p.m. local time Wednesday southeast of Iwakuni, Japan. The aircraft was assigned to 1st Marine Aircraft Wing based out of Okinawa.

A fellow F/A-18 flying with Frederick stayed in the area until it was forced to depart to refuel, Stars and Stripes reported. Over the course of the day, U.S. search and rescue efforts expanded, incorporating naval and air units from the Japanese Self Defense Forces.

The Marine Corps said that more information would be released in the coming days.

According to Stars and Stripes, Frederick was a graduate of W.B. Ray High School in Corpus Christi, Tex, and attended the University of Texas at Austin. He was married with a young son and was expecting a second child.

The cause of the incident is under investigation.

It is the fourth Marine Corps F/A-18 to crash since July. In August, because of an increasing number of training mishaps, the Marines temporarily grounded their entire fleet of F/A-18s.

First debuted in the 1980s, the F/A-18 is a multi-role fighter and is primarily used by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. It comes in a number of variants with both single- and two-seat configurations and has been exported to a handful of U.S. allies, including Canada and Kuwait.

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Colombian president to collect Nobel without rebels in tow http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/colombian-president-to-collect-nobel-without-rebels-in-tow/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/colombian-president-to-collect-nobel-without-rebels-in-tow/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 14:00:43 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/colombian-president-to-collect-nobel-without-rebels-in-tow/ OSLO, Norway — Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos brought no members of the leftist FARC rebel group to Oslo for the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony because he didn’t want to “create a problem” for the Norwegian government, he said Friday.

“They will be here in heart and spirit,” Santos said of the rebel group, with whom he recently reached a peace agreement.

Santos will collect the Nobel Peace Prize on Saturday for his efforts to end a 52-year-old conflict that has left more than 200,000 dead. The prize went to him alone and not the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which is still designated as a terrorist group by many countries including the U.S.

“The FARC is not here is because I didn’t want to create a problem with the Norwegian government,” he said, adding a Spanish lawyer who served as a chief negotiator for the rebels would represent the rebels at the ceremony.

The entire FARC leadership — some 50 rebels in all — is unable to safely travel outside of Colombia because they face international arrest orders by the U.S. on drug-trafficking charges

Santos said legal procedures are underway in Colombia “in order for them to be completely free to go around the world.” He also said Colombia will ask other countries to remove the group from terror lists following the peace deal, which was formally ratified by lawmakers last week after an earlier version was rejected in a referendum.

“The EU has already taken some steps in that direction and I hope that the U.S. will take steps in that direction,” Santos said.

He denied, however, that the Colombian government has asked the U.S. to release Simon Trinidad, a FARC leader serving prison time in the U.S.

In a letter to the White House on Thursday, U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham said they had learned that the Santos government had approached the Obama administration about the issue. Releasing Trinidad, they warned, would jeopardize millions in U.S. funding for implementation of the peace accord.

“We have not asked for Simon Trinidad’s liberation,” Santos said. “That has not been an official request of the Colombian government to the American government.”

The new accord introduced 50 changes to the deal that was narrowly rejected by voters in a referendum in October. Santos said he hopes Colombia’s Constitutional Court on Monday will approve a fast-track procedure to implement it.

“An impossible dream just a few years ago is now a reality,” he said.

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South Portland man pleads guilty in road rage machete attack http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/south-portland-man-pleads-guilty-in-road-rage-machete-attack/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/south-portland-man-pleads-guilty-in-road-rage-machete-attack/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 13:11:30 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/south-portland-man-pleads-guilty-in-road-rage-machete-attack/ AUBURN — A South Portland man accused of attacked another man with a machete after a road rage incident has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge.

The Sun Journal reports 52-year-old Carlos Genoves was sentenced to more than two months in jail after pleading guilty to criminal threatening. Prosecutors dismissed two felony counts of aggravated assault and criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon.

Police say the man told officers the attack happened on Aug. 6 after he yelled at Genoves, of South Portland, who had allegedly been driving erratically on a Lewiston road.

Police say Genoves followed him to his home in Sabattus, and the two started to argue. That’s when police say Genoves removed a “machete-type knife” from the trunk of his car and attacked the man. He suffered minor injuries.

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More than 1,000 Russian athletes took part in doping, according to report http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/more-than-1000-russian-athletes-took-part-in-doping-according-to-report/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/more-than-1000-russian-athletes-took-part-in-doping-according-to-report/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 12:45:15 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1121357 LONDON — A new report into systematic Russian doping details a wide-ranging “institutional conspiracy” that involved more than 1,000 athletes across more than 30 sports, including evidence corroborating large-scale sample swapping at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren said Friday the conspiracy involved the Russian Sports Ministry, national anti-doping agency and the FSB intelligence service, providing further of state involvement in a massive program of cheating and cover-ups.

“It is impossible to know just how deep and how far back this conspiracy goes,” McLaren said at a news conference in London. “For years, international sports competitions have unknowingly been hijacked by Russians. Coaches and athletes have been playing on an uneven field. Sports fans and spectators have been deceived. It’s time that this stops.”

McLaren said his conclusions were based on irrefutable forensic evidence, including DNA analysis proving that samples were swapped and other tests showing that doping bottles were opened.

The Canadian law professor’s investigation found that 15 Russian medalists in Sochi had their doping bottles tampered with, including athletes who won four gold medals. Names were not given.

McLaren also reported that Russia corrupted the 2012 London Olympics on an “unprecedented scale” but the full extent will “probably never be fully established.”

No Russian athlete tested positive at the time of the games, but McLaren said the sports ministry gave athletes a “cocktail of steroids … in order to beat the detection thresholds at the London lab.”

The findings confirmed and expanded on much of the evidence contained in McLaren’s first report issued in July.

His first report led WADA to recommend that Russia be excluded from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. The IOC rejected calls for an outright ban, allowing international federations to decide which Russian athletes could compete.

McLaren’s latest report will put pressure on the International Olympic Committee to take action ahead of the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. His findings will be sent to the IOC, which has two commissions looking into the allegations.

IOC President Thomas Bach has said stiff sanctions will be taken against any athletes and officials implicated in doping. He said he favors lifetime Olympic bans for anyone involved.

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A cold wintry weekend followed by a Monday snow event http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/a-cold-wintry-weekend-followed-by-a-monday-snow-event/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/a-cold-wintry-weekend-followed-by-a-monday-snow-event/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 12:13:10 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1121347 It’s going to feel like winter this weekend and will likely look like winter by Monday. The weather is tranquil on Saturday and Sunday, with no chance of precipitation but there will cold temperatures across New England.

All of the forecasting will be about a weather system on Monday. It appears very likely there will be some snow perhaps ending with some mixed precipitation along the coast depending on the track of the storm.  Right now this event isn’t looking major.  I would say most of us will stay under the 6 inch mark in terms of snowfall.  However, it’s only Friday morning and things can change a bit in terms of where the heaviest snow falls and the timing of the snow.

I would plan on delayed travel during parts of Monday. The timing of the storm will probably change over the next few days, so stay tuned to my latest forecasts.

The snow will end Monday evening and winter cold will follow for the rest of next week.  Winter is here folks, ready or not.

Snow is forecast to overspread Maine on Monday morning.

Snow is forecast to overspread Maine on Monday morning.

Before then, here’s what you can expect for the weekend ahead.

If you’re skiing…

Many ski resorts in Maine are now open with fresh new snow from this past week blanketing several areas. It will be a cold one, especially on Saturday in the mountains, which will see single digits in the early morning and only teens  by the afternoon in the highest elevations, with 20s elsewhere.

Cold air is firmly entrenched across the area this weekend.

Cold air is firmly entrenched across the area this weekend.

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

You will notice the cold this weekend for sure. Saturday and Sunday morning bring single numbers and teens to the region, which makes for a pretty cold hike, run, or bike ride. The good news? Wind chill won’t be much of an issue.

If you’re playing field games…

Both days will feature dry weather, but snow likely puts an end to field games this coming week. Stay tuned.

If you’re raking and gardening…

Most folks have completed raking, but you should put in snow stakes along your driveway this weekend. The ground may already be too frozen to do this without some muscle.

If you’re running errands and holiday shopping…

No weather issues this weekend, so go continue to put a dent on some holiday shopping.

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Neighbor describes scene of Hebron apparent murder-suicide http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/police-say-hebron-man-killed-daughter-then-himself/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/police-say-hebron-man-killed-daughter-then-himself/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 11:14:32 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/police-say-hebron-man-killed-daughter-then-himself/ HEBRON – He thought they were just gruesome Halloween decorations, left over from October.

It was only after Carroll Daggett walked through the mudroom, past the body lying motionless and facedown on the porch, past the splatters of blood that flecked a nearby window and through the inner door with a spiderweb of cracked glass, that he saw the words spray painted on the kitchen counter and knew something was wrong.

“VOW BREAKER,” the words read.

Daggett looked around. There was more.

“ANITA ITS ALL YOUR FAULT,” was scrawled on a far dining room wall.

Daggett, 71, had gone to the home of Anita and Daniel Randall on Marshall Pond Road, the sleepy dead-end lane where he has lived for 36 years, after Anita Randall called him, concerned. The Randall’s daughter, Claire, had not answered her cellphone. Anita was not home, so could he go check on Claire?

Daggett never found Claire, and after realizing the body on the porch was no dummy, he called state police.

The he called back Anita Randall.

“I told her, ‘Claire is not answering, and if you could come home, I suggest you come home.’ ”

Police found Claire Randall, 27, dead in the bathroom with multiple gunshot wounds. Her father, Daniel Randall, 56, lay on the porch, dead from an apparently self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head, in what police say was a murder-suicide.

Police said Daniel Randall left Liberty Bay Recovery Center, a substance abuse treatment center on Forest Avenue in Portland, where he had completed a 90-day recovery program for alcohol treatment, at 10 a.m. Thursday morning. He then purchased a shotgun, drove to the house and broke in through the garage door because he did not have a key. He killed his daughter at 2 p.m. and spray painted messages in five rooms of the house before killing himself.

Randall was estranged from his family and had been served with divorce papers this week, state police said. Claire Randall had recently moved from Rhode Island to stay with her mother and her teenage brother in Maine. Neither her mother nor her brother were home during the shootings.

Daggett said the Randall family had moved into the tidy tan home just this summer, and he didn’t know them well, although he hauled the family’s trash every week and was familiar with their house. The couple came to Maine from Rhode Island so their son, Gabriel, could attend nearby Hebron Academy. Daggett had only met Claire last Tuesday, he said.

Daniel Randall had told Daggett that he was retired military, and a preacher. Police said Randall had been a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force.

To Daggett, an Army veteran himself, his time in service showed in quiet ways. Daniel Randall seemed to show signs of stress, or maybe post-traumatic stress disorder, Daggett said. He struggled to hold eye contact. He would start sentences and then stop himself.

“He seemed to be a very pleasant person,” Daggett said of his new neighbor. “A sort of take-charge family type person.”

And recently, Daggett said he hadn’t seen Daniel around, and later heard from Anita that he had been out of state in rehab.

Daniel Randall previously served as pastor at First Congregational Church in Bristol, Rhode Island. In a letter to the congregation dated December 2014, Randall resigned his position, effective January 2015, after 12 years of service there. In the letter, he said that his daughters Molly and Claire had been confirmed in the church.

“This is why my decision is so challenging at this time, but also is flavored with a hopeful and peaceful feeling,” he wrote in the letter, which does not give a reason for his resignation.

Detectives and evidence technicians worked late into Thursday night to process the scene and returned to the home Friday morning, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.

Autopsies on the Randalls are scheduled for Friday morning at the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Augusta.

Randall did not have a criminal record in Maine, according to state public records.

This story will be updated.

Staff writer Gillian Graham contributed to this report.

This video features Daniel Randall, who was found dead in a home in Hebron.  Police suspect he killed his adult daughter, then killed himself.

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Auburn police report 2 people shot at party http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/auburn-police-report-two-people-shot/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/auburn-police-report-two-people-shot/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 11:05:43 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/auburn-police-report-two-people-shot/ Two people were shot early Friday morning at a party on Bowdoin Street in Auburn, according to police.

Police were called to a reported shooting at the residence of DeWayne Williams at 241 Bowdoin Street around 2:20 a.m. Friday. Two men who had been shot had already been taken to hospitals in private cars before officers arrived.

Police say Michael Williams, 26, of Lewiston and 23-year-old Justin Botelho of Cranston, Rhode Island, were shot during an altercation inside the residence.

Michael Williams underwent surgery at Central Maine Medical Center and remained hospitalized Friday afternoon, police said. Botelho was treated and released from St. Mary’s Hospital Friday morning.

Police are still trying to identify a shooter and determine a motive. Police say they are confident the shooting was an isolated incident and not a random act.

Detectives executed a search warrant at the Bowdoin Street residence to process evidence.

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Adolf Burger, printer forced by Nazis to forge bank notes, dies at 99 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/adolf-burger-printer-forced-by-nazis-to-forge-bank-notes-dies-at-99/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/adolf-burger-printer-forced-by-nazis-to-forge-bank-notes-dies-at-99/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1121295 The experience, Adolf Burger would later recall, was like being “corpses on holiday.” Imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp north of Berlin, he was detailed to Operation Bernhard, a massive Nazi plot that relied on concentration camp inmates to forge British currency.

The fake bank notes – a total of more than 130 million pounds – were to be dropped by Luftwaffe airplanes over England in an attempt to upset the British economy. Although ultimately aborted, the top-secret plan, unknown at the time even to the camp commandant, is believed to have been one of the largest attempts ever at financial sabotage.

“It was a forgery factory,” said Margaret Shannon, a Washington-based research historian who collaborated on a book about the episode.

Because the scheme depended on the labor and skill of inmates – craftsmen, bankers, at least one professional counterfeiter and book printers such as Burger – the prisoners received some special privileges, such as the provision of blankets, civilian clothing, cigarettes and extra food. But they knew that at any time they might be killed, and it was only amid the chaos as the Allies advanced in 1945 that they escaped execution.

‘WORSE THAN AUSCHWITZ’

“In a way, it was worse than Auschwitz because we knew for certain they were going to kill us because of what we had done,” Burger later told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Burger, whose account of Operation Bernhard was later dramatized in the Oscar-winning Austrian film “The Counterfeiters,” died Dec. 6 in Prague. He was 99. The Associated Press reported his death, citing an announcement on the public broadcaster Czech Radio. The cause was not immediately available.

Burger was born on Aug. 12, 1917, to a Jewish family in Velka Lomnica, a village in what was then Austria-Hungary and is now northern Slovakia. Trained as a typographer, he did his earliest counterfeiting as a member of the Communist underground, producing false baptism papers in an effort to help Jews survive persecution.

Slovakia, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, was the first Axis partner to permit the deportation of its Jews for the Final Solution. Burger was arrested in 1942, the day before his 25th birthday, and deported with his wife, Gisela, to Auschwitz, where she perished.

‘I CHOSE LIFE’

“I had two choices: either to go and touch the barbed wire with 1,000 voltage in it and be dead in a second, or stay alive,” Burger later said in a radio interview cited by the AP. “I chose life, so I can tell everyone what they have done here.”

He withered to 80 pounds and was infected with typhus in a Nazi medical experiment, the Wall Street Journal reported in a 2007 profile. He said that a guard took a rifle to his face and knocked out his teeth simply because his given name was, like Hitler’s, Adolf.

But in 1944, Burger was informed that he had been chosen for a special assignment. Ordered by SS chief Heinrich Himmler and named for its SS overseer, Bernhard Krueger, the project involved roughly 140 inmates selected mainly from Auschwitz on the basis of their prewar professional expertise.

They were gathered at Sachsenhausen and housed in two barracks with windows painted over so that their activities could not be observed. Inside, the men churned out millions of bank notes, adhering to the highest standards of quality, as required by the Nazis, but sometimes engaging in delaying tactics to sabotage the effort.

“Britannia was hard” to capture, Burger told the Journal, referring to the depiction in the top-left corner of the bank note of the toga-clad, spear-wielding symbol of Great Britain.

The inmates also forged stamps, passports and U.S. dollars, but the British bank notes accounted for the bulk of their work.Germany never managed to deliver the counterfeit money to England, Shannon said.Burger wrote several memoirs, including one translated in English as “The Devil’s Workshop: A Memoir of the Nazi Counterfeiting Operation.”

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With traffic up 12 percent on Interstate 295, state says ‘volume is really pressing capacity’ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/i-295-traffic-volume-increased-by-12-percent-from-2009-2015-dot-says/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/i-295-traffic-volume-increased-by-12-percent-from-2009-2015-dot-says/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1121328 Traffic on Interstate 295, as seen Thursday evening looking southbound from the Bucknam Road overpass in Falmouth, increased by 12 percent from 2009 to 2015, and is expected to rise even more this year. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Traffic on Interstate 295, as seen Thursday evening looking southbound from the Bucknam Road overpass in Falmouth, increased by 12 percent from 2009 to 2015, and is expected to rise even more this year. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Average daily traffic volumes on Interstate 295 increased by 12 percent from 2009 to 2015 and are projected to rise again this year, the Maine Department of Transportation said Thursday.

Congestion on the busy highway has increased to the point that it is affecting how Maine State Police respond to collisions and enforce traffic laws there.

“During those rush hour times it’s nearly impossible to safely do enforcement work” said Lt. Walter F. Grzyb of Troop B in Gray, which is responsible for policing I-295. “By having a car pulled over on the side of the road, you’re actually creating more of a hazard than you’re fixing.”

Grzyb said his troopers try to increase their presence on I-295 during high-traffic periods to create a visual deterrent to would-be lawbreakers, taking enforcement action only when necessary. Much of their time during rush hour, he said, is spent responding to crashes.

“Even though there are more cars on the road, they’re still going fast. They’re driving closer and closer together and there’s no room for error,” Grzyb said.

The speed limit on much of the highway was increased from 65 mph to 70 mph in 2014.

Joyce Taylor, chief engineer for the Department of Transportation, said she asked state traffic engineers to start diving into traffic data following a rash of crashes after Columbus Day, when most of Maine’s tourist traffic has subsided.

“In this particular case, the data has led to more questions that we have and more research we need to do, but it certainly does show that the number of crashes have gone up,” Taylor said. “I think there’s a whole combination of things going on, but I think the volume is really pressing capacity at times, in particular at the commute times.”

1121328_433612 TrafficI295Volume121.jpg

COMING CLOSER TO CAPACITY

Taylor said the data show that there are more cars on the road for longer stretches of time, expanding the window in each day when the number of cars on I-295 comes close to hitting the highway’s capacity.

Longer high-volume times have meant more crashes spread throughout the day. On I-295 southbound between Portland and Brunswick from 2003 to 2005, the transportation department saw crashes peak between 8 a.m. and noon and then again for two hours in the evening. From 2014 to 2016, by contrast, the department recorded consistently high crash levels over 12 hours of the day.

Northbound crash numbers also increased from 2014 to 2016, although they occurred during a shorter time frame than in 2003 to 2005. Overall, the number of crashes has increased over time, jumping nearly 32 percent between 2013 and 2015.

Taylor said she did not yet know if increasing the speed limit in 2014 had contributed to the rise in crashes. “I think nothing’s coincidental,” she said of the many variables that cause crashes.

Steady traffic and a long camera exposure create light trails Thursday on I-295 in Falmouth. Crashes on the road jumped 32 percent from 2013 to 2015, and the Maine Department of Transportation is studying the many variables that lead to crashes, including speed, volume and distracted driving. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Steady traffic and a long camera exposure create light trails Thursday on I-295 in Falmouth. Crashes on the road jumped 32 percent from 2013 to 2015, and the Maine Department of Transportation is studying the many factors that lead to crashes, including speed, volume and distracted driving. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The Department of Transportation already had planned a long-term study of I-295, examining a wide array of variables from traffic volumes and speeds to distracted driving, tailgating and collision hot spots.

Taylor and state traffic engineer Stephen Landry said they are discussing a variety of options to help make I-295 safer and more reliable in the interim. The department already has shifted most road work to nights so it doesn’t need to close down lanes during commute times, and Taylor credited recently installed cable guard rails with preventing cars from careening into oncoming traffic during crashes.

“That is a good news story,” Taylor said. “We really believe those things are saving lives.”

Landry said the agency is looking into additional signage to communicate with drivers about upcoming road and traffic conditions so motorists can decide if they want to exit the interstate sooner or take alternate routes.

The Maine DOT has been working to gradually modernize the interstate system, which was built in the 1950s, creating acceleration and deceleration lanes for exits that see high numbers of crashes. But Taylor said the new data show they need to work faster.

Source: Maine DOT
Interactive: Christian MilNeil

TROOPERS OPT TO CLEAR CRASHES

State police also have changed how they handle crashes on I-295. In cases where troopers once would have advised motorists to stay where they are after a crash, they now prioritize clearing the road as quickly as possible, Grzyb said.

“We know what will happen if we leave them there; it’s just going to create more crashes,” he said. “I think we’re all looking at the way we do business and trying to make adjustments as best we can.”

Taylor said the transportation department will continue working to address the congestion. If the department’s study shows the road is over capacity, she said, the agency would seek ways to reduce volume through alternate routes or ride sharing before it considered expanding the roadway itself.

“We have a lot, a lot of people who are flat-out opposed to a third lane,” Taylor said. “It would not be an easy project to get forward and, you know, we’re hoping we can do some other things to make this a safer experience.”

In the meantime, she urges drivers to take responsibility for their behavior on the road.

“We can’t promise you you’re going to get home safe,” she said. “You have to own a piece of that yourself, and that means being alert, being defensive and paying attention.”

 

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Toy Fund volunteer loves the chance to hand out toys http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/toy-fund-volunteer-loves-best-the-chance-to-hand-out-toys/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/09/toy-fund-volunteer-loves-best-the-chance-to-hand-out-toys/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1121255 Jon Hebert remembers Christmases with lots of gifts when he was growing up in Westbrook. And he remembers the joy of Christmas mornings while raising his own children in the city, where he still lives today.

Those memories are a part of the reason the 74-year-old retired paper maker and businessman now volunteers each year to help the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund, which provides new toys for children who might otherwise have no presents to unwrap because of hardships faced by their parents.

“I had four children, and I just can’t imagine what it would have been like if I wasn’t able to give gifts to my kids,” Hebert says.

Hebert does many of the jobs that are needed to keep the fund working. He unpacks and sorts toys by gender and age, and helps package them for families that apply for help. And he helps hand out the bags full of toys to parents who arrive by appointment for pickups. Giving the toys out is his favorite part.

“They’re very thankful for what they get. I can see why. It’s as hard on the parents as it on the kids when they don’t have any presents. These are people who come in and they don’t have anything,” he said.

The Portland Press Herald Toy Fund in the Spirit of Bruce Roberts is using donations from readers to provide toys to thousands of Maine children who might otherwise not receive holiday gifts because of hardships faced by their parents.

The fund – now in its 67th year – is accepting applications for toys from needy families in Cumberland, York, Sagadahoc, Lincoln and Knox counties. Applications can be downloaded at pressheraldtoyfund.org or picked up at the Welcome Center desk on the fifth floor of One City Center in Portland. Call 791-6672 to have one mailed to you.

Donations to help buy the toys can be made on the website or by writing checks to the Portland Press Herald Toy Fund and mailing them to the fund at P.O. Box 7310, Portland, ME 04112.

For more information and to donate online, go to: pressheraldtoyfund.org.

See more stories about the fund at pressherald.com.

THURSDAY’S DONATIONS

Just paying it forward  $100

Merry Christmas to all from The Stowell Family  $100

In memory of Mary Griffin who loved Christmas – Hunter and Helana Griffin & the Griffin Family  $50

Merry Christmas! Kevin McCarthy  $100

In memory of Lowell Harmon  $50

Merry Christmas from Sam and Marge DiBias  $50

In loving memory of Robert H Foster from Carolyn M. Foster  $100

From our Grandchildren  $50

Nicholas and Barbara Fowler  $250

Merry Christmas from the Roy Family  $50

Happy Holidays to all! Adam and Isabelle Johnson  $100

Merry Christmas! The Leive Family  $100

Merry Christmas – Pam and John Fridlington  $250

Anonymous  $100

Susan Robinson  $25

Merry Christmas! The Jamieson Family  $200

In the spirit of giving, let this be a Merry one for many. – CJ & Keith  $100

In memory of Mr. Milliman  $30

The New Gloucester Elf  $100

Anonymous  $100

Merry Christmas! The Giles Family  $100

In memory of Clarence and Phyllis Smith  $100

In memory of Nigel  $20

In memory of Kirsten Angela Terhune $50

Anonymous  $30

Anonymous  $250

In memory of Caoimhe  $1,000

Merry Christmas from Mr. Rogers, Anna and Maizie  $30

In memory of Harold & Jo Richardson  $100

Happy Holidays! The Cox Family  $30

County of Cumberland Employees  $293

Kathleen & Ken Pierce  $100

In memory of our family and friends who are always in our thoughts at Christmas – Don & Denise Rioux  $50

In loving memory of Bob Davis from Betsy  $25

The Farmers  $50

For the kids  $100

In loving memory of Emmons & Joan Johnson from the Johnson and Hart Families  $200

In loving memory of Jane E. Quirk from Quirkie  $100

In memory of Tommy Langella from his family  $50

In memory of our Mothers – Donna Lee and Frank Mower  $25

In honor of our grandsons , Sam, Kevin and Jake – Susan and Jerry Goldberg  $150

In memory : Barry M. Campbell, Vietnam Veteran May 1947-1995  $100

In memory of Marie  $50

William and Julie Schirmer  $25

In memory of my husband , Paul Sferes  $200

In memory of Bill Murphy  $25

Michael Bowdler  $25

Remembering how much my parents, Isabelle and Whitney Caldwell, loved Christmas, children and giving  -Judith Caldwell-Manion  $100

Merry Christmas from Aubree, Preston, Shelby and Diddy B  $50

Merry Christmas from Helen Peterson  $20

Total to date………..$54,248.60

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Republicans ready to probe 
possible Russian interference in election http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/republicans-ready-to-probe-on%e2%80%a8possible-russian-interference-in-election-and-cyberthreat-to-military/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/republicans-ready-to-probe-on%e2%80%a8possible-russian-interference-in-election-and-cyberthreat-to-military/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 03:20:44 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/republicans-ready-to-probe-on%e2%80%a8possible-russian-interference-in-election-and-cyberthreat-to-military/ Leading Senate Republicans are preparing to launch a coordinated and wide-ranging probe into Russia’s alleged meddling in the U.S. elections and its potential cyberthreats to the military, digging deep into what they view as corrosive interference in the nation’s institutions.

Such an aggressive approach puts them on a direct collision course with President-elect Donald Trump, who plays down the possibility that Russia had any role in the November elections.

The fracture could become more prominent after Trump is inaugurated and begins setting foreign policy. He already has indicated the country should “get along” with Russia since the two nations have many common goals.

But some of Trump’s would-be Republican allies on Capitol Hill disagree. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, is readying a probe of possible Russian cyber- incursions into U.S. weapons systems. McCain said he has been discussing the issue with Select Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., with whom he will be “working closely” to investigate Russia’s suspected interference.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., also said he intends to hold hearings next year into alleged Russian hacking. Corker is on Trump’s short list for secretary of state.

Trump transition officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The loudest Republican calls for a Russia probe are coming from McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

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Trump gets mixed results in opinion poll http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/trump-gets-mixed-results-in-opinion-poll/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/trump-gets-mixed-results-in-opinion-poll/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 03:08:16 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1121266 The good news for Donald Trump: A lot fewer people think you’ll be a disaster as president than used to think that!

The bad news: People don’t like what they’ve seen so far. And even members of your own party continue to harbor major concerns about the man they’ve just elected.

A new poll from the Pew Research Center shows sharp drops – across the political spectrum – when it comes to those predicting the worst for Trump’s presidency. While in October 9 in 10 Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters said Trump would be a poor or terrible president, just 64 percent say that today. Among Republicans, that number has declined from 30 percent in March to just 10 percent today.

Clearly the doomsday scenarios have faded in people’s minds.

But the same poll suggests Trump isn’t getting great reviews so far and still has plenty to prove. It also suggests people still want him to change.

Overall, just 26 percent of Americans say Trump is a good role model, and more than 6 in 10 say he’s “reckless” and has “poor judgment.”

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Senate bids farewell to top Democrat Harry Reid http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/senate-bids-farewell-to-top-democrat-harry-reid/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/senate-bids-farewell-to-top-democrat-harry-reid/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 02:44:59 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/senate-bids-farewell-to-top-democrat-harry-reid/ WASHINGTON —Sen. Harry Reid bid farewell to the Senate Thursday after 30 years in the chamber and more than a decade as top Democrat, a remarkable run during which he shepherded key Obama administration legislation including the sweeping health care law.

But Reid leaves with his Democrats stuck in the minority despite his best efforts, and Republicans and President-elect Donald Trump making plans to repeal President Obama’s signature law as their first order of business next year.

In an uncharacteristically lengthy and personal farewell speech on the Senate floor, Reid warned of “a new gilded age” ahead and lamented how the Senate has changed. He cautioned colleagues to “temper” use of the filibuster, “otherwise, it will be gone.”

“I hope that everyone would do everything they can to protect the Senate as an institution,” he said. “As part of our Constitution, it should be given the dignity it deserves.”

Later, at a ceremony to unveil his portrait, Reid was lauded by Vice President Joe Biden and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, as well as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Reid’s successor as Senate Minority Leader, New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer. The audience was full of political leaders past and present, from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s first chief of staff, to former Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, who retired after criticism for supporting the health care law.

Reid recognized both as he spoke of a high point of his Senate career, that first congressional term under Obama, when Democrats briefly commanded control of the House and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. That allowed them to push through a raft of legislation including the economic stimulus, the health care bill and a financial overhaul. Reid declared it the most productive legislative session in history. “We worked so hard. We delivered big-time,” he recollected.

One by one, Biden, Clinton and the rest paid tribute to the soft-spoken, stoop-shouldered Reid, a taciturn master of the inside game. “That’s you, Harry – always, always, there,” Biden said.

Clinton, making her first visit to Capitol Hill since losing the presidential race, said of Reid’s new portrait: “The more fitting portrait will be the one that goes in the dictionary next to the word ‘fighter.”‘

The portrait, painted by a young artist, Gavin Glakas, who once worked on Reid’s staff, shows the senator in a typical posture: seated at his desk at work.

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Registered sex offender sentenced for new child porn crime http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/registered-sex-offender-sentenced-for-new-child-porn-crime/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/registered-sex-offender-sentenced-for-new-child-porn-crime/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 02:44:37 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/registered-sex-offender-sentenced-for-new-child-porn-crime/ AUGUSTA — A registered sex offender from Augusta was sentenced Wednesday to five years in prison for possessing sexually explicit materials depicting a minor under 12, the same crime that put him on the registry in the first place.

James R. Brann, 31, pleaded guilty at the Capital Judicial Center to the offenses, which occurred July 30, 2015.

Assistant District Attorney Frayla Tarpinian said the investigation was triggered after Brann’s probation officer checked his cellphone on that date and found images of young children in various bondage positions.

Two of the images in particular, which Tarpinian said showed young boys bound and gagged, were used as the basis for the charges.

Brann received the maximum sentence available under the law, Tarpinian said.

Brann’s attorney, Robert Ruffner, said the images were not provided to the defense but were described.

Brann was convicted in 2009 in Lincoln County of the same offense, and he was sentenced an initial six months in jail, with the remainder of the four-year sentence suspended.

The new convictions will result in a full revocation of that probation and they require Brann to register as lifetime sex offender. Previously he had been required to register for 10 years.

Brann has been held at Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset since his arrest on the probation violation.

 

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Farmers, police perplexed by rash of cattle releases in central Maine http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/farmers-police-perplexed-by-rash-of-cattle-releases/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/farmers-police-perplexed-by-rash-of-cattle-releases/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 02:31:27 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/farmers-police-perplexed-by-rash-of-cattle-releases/ It was around 7:30 a.m. Tuesday when Mike Brown got a call from a neighbor concerning his cows.

Brown, the owner of Meadowbrook Farm on Stanley Hill Road in China, discovered someone had vandalized his gates earlier that morning and let his cows out of their holding pen. The cows then made their way out into the road.

“We’ve never had anything like this happen before,” Brown said Thursday afternoon as his cattle grazed back in their holding pen.

Brown’s farm has 45 black Angus cows, and some 18 of the adult females had gotten out, as well as 15 of the younger animals, most of them making their way onto the road. Brown, who works at Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Winslow, said they probably had been out for about 15 minutes when he got there.

“No one got hurt, but there was a lot of potential,” he said.

Brown said it took about 45 minutes to an hour to get the cattle back into their pens. He said he isn’t sure why anyone would have released them. The farm is Animal Welfare Approved, Brown said, meaning it is audited and certified that it treats its animals humanely.

“I’m not sure what the purpose is,” he said. The incident at Brown’s farm was one of a handful of recent bovine-related acts of vandalism. A short distance away, on Maple Ridge Road, a padlock on a cattle fence at the McPherson Farm was broken. And two recent incidents in Clinton also have attracted attention.

The release of hundreds of cows from a large Clinton dairy farm drew a phone call from the FBI, which offered to assist in the investigation in case the incidents were the work of environmental extremists. Representatives from the FBI did not respond Thursday to calls seeking comment.

The Clinton police said they were contacted by the FBI Wednesday, following news reports about the incident at Misty Meadows Farm on Mckenney Road. Clinton police officer Karl Roy said Thursday he couldn’t remember the FBI offering to help in a Clinton investigation before, but he appreciated the offer.

“It’s very wise on their part,” Roy said. “Anytime you’re dealing with a crime, you want to have that information early.”

But Roy said Wednesday that the culprits in the cow releases were more likely to be juveniles than animal rights extremists.

“Quite often when you’re dealing with these extreme groups, they’ll want you to know they did it,” he said Wednesday.

There was no spray paint or propaganda left on the property, which Roy said would have been typical of an organization trying to bring attention to a cause.

“We’ve told them there’s nothing here in Clinton that suggests it’s terrorism,” Roy said.

Deputy Aaron Moody of the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office said there had been no new developments in the China investigation and that his agency had not been contacted by the FBI. He did say that a farm in Albion also might have been targeted, though he did not have details Thursday.

TWO INCIDENTS AT ONE FARM

At Misty Meadows Farm in Clinton, there were two separate incidents of cows being released in the same night last month, and one cow died of a broken neck when it fell into a drainage hole. The rest of the released animals were returned to their pens.

Roy said police think the culprits have knowledge of farm equipment. At Misty Meadows, a stainless steel cooling tank filled with milk had been shut off, but the tanks were turned back on before about $10,000 worth of milk spoiled. From there, the vandals went to nearby Wright Place Farm, but the damage there was much less significant. No cows were released or injured.

Brown’s theory is that it was “someone who cared a little bit” about animals. The gates to the interior of the farm had been opened but another gate that opened toward the road had been left alone, he said.

He said it could have been “someone concerned about animals used for food consumption.”

But Brown said if that was the case, the person probably didn’t know Meadowbrook is certified as humane.

“They all have names,” he said, gesturing to the cows behind him. One, standing behind him with a tag on its ear reading “309” is named May. The “09” in the tag means the cow came to the farm in 2009. “It’s not like we don’t care for them.”

While Clinton and the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office are exchanging information on the incidents, Roy does not think the one at Meadowbrook is connected to the events in Clinton. Roy said no other Clinton farms have been targeted and that police are investigating people of interest and a vehicle of interest in those incidents.

Matt Randall, the agricultural compliance supervisor at the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, said acts of vandalism at cattle and dairy farms are unusual, but they put both animals and humans at risk.

“The stress on humans and animals alike can be hard to measure,” Randall said. “Innocent motorists use these roads, and collisions can be detrimental and certainly fatal.”

Randall said that while some might consider these to be pranks, they can turn do real harm. He said the death of the cow in Clinton is a prime example.

“This is serious,” Randall said. “We would like to see the mystery solved.”

 

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Nation’s overdose death toll soars to more than 50,000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/overdose-death-toll-soars-to-more-than-50000/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/overdose-death-toll-soars-to-more-than-50000/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 02:19:17 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/overdose-death-toll-soars-to-more-than-50000/ NEW YORK — More than 50,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year, the most ever.

The disastrous tally has been pushed to new heights by soaring abuse of heroin and prescription painkillers, a class of drugs known as opioids.

Heroin deaths rose 23 percent in one year, to 12,989, slightly higher than the number of gun homicides, according to government data released Thursday.

Deaths from synthetic opioids, including illicit fentanyl, rose 73 percent to 9,580. And prescription painkillers took the highest toll, but posted the smallest increase. Abuse of drugs like Oxycontin and Vicodin killed 17,536, an increase of 4 percent.

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like this. Certainly not in modern times,” said Robert Anderson, who oversees death statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new numbers were part of the agency’s annual tally of deaths and death rates in 2015.

Overall, overdose deaths rose 11 percent last year, to 52,404. By comparison, the number of people who died in car crashes was 37,757, an increase of 12 percent. Gun deaths, including homicides and suicides, totaled 36,252, up 7 percent.

As part of its annual report the CDC also found that rates for 8 of the 10 leading causes of death rose last year, causing the nation’s life expectancy to go down for the first time in more than 20 years. Drug overdoses were a significant factor, but an unexpected increase in the death rate from heart disease, the nation’s No. 1 killer, was another major reason.

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Democrats may force government shutdown to pressure Republicans http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/democrats-may-force-government-shutdown-to-pressure-republicans/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/democrats-may-force-government-shutdown-to-pressure-republicans/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 02:19:17 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/democrats-may-force-government-shutdown-to-pressure-republicans/ WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats are threatening to force a brief government shutdown this weekend to pressure Republicans to support policies they say match promises President-elect Donald Trump made on the campaign trail to help coal country and boost American manufacturers.

Government funding is set to run out at the end of Friday and lawmakers are currently considering a stopgap spending bill that would keep federal agencies funded through April 28. The angry Democrats are not threatening to block the spending measure, but to threaten to miss the Friday deadline in hopes they can entice Republicans into further negotiations.

The tension over the spending bill is a sign of the possible scrambled alliances to come when Trump is inaugurated and how they could prove to be a headache for Republican leaders.

The senator fighting to have more generous medical and pension benefits for retired coal miners included in the spending bill is West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin III, whose state Trump won handily, in part, by promising to renew the coal industry. Manchin is one of several red state Democrats expected to face a tough reelection bid in 2018. He is set to meet with the president-elect at Trump Tower on Friday morning and it’s unclear whether they’ll discuss the issue. The Democratic senator has been floated as a possible member of Trump’s cabinet.

“I want to shut her down,” Manchin said Wednesday about the government, pointing to his anger over concerns about the miner provisions. “I mean this is ridiculous . . . You can’t throw 16,000 people out.”

About 12,500 former union miners and their families have been told their health benefits will lapse come Jan. 1, and an additional 10,000 are in danger of losing benefits at a later date. Many are also facing potential cuts to their retirement benefits due to declining coal companies being unable to make required contributions to pension funds.

Manchin is demanding a vote on an amendment to extend miners’ medical and pension benefits for one year.

Democrats are playing up the president-elect’s support for coal country.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., called out Trump by name as she left a Thursday meeting between Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid, D-Nev., and several of the Democrats who represents states where Trump won.

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Oakland firefighter hints inspection was missed at warehouse where fire killed dozens http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/oakland-firefighter-hints-inspection-was-missed-at-warehouse-where-fire-killed-dozens/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/oakland-firefighter-hints-inspection-was-missed-at-warehouse-where-fire-killed-dozens/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 02:04:03 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1121220 SAN FRANCISCO — The illegally occupied Oakland warehouse where dozens of partygoers perished in a blaze does not appear in a database fire inspectors use to schedule inspections and may never have been checked for fire hazards, a firefighter with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Oakland fire officials are supposed to annually inspect commercial buildings for fire safety, with only single-family homes and duplexes exempted. Officials typically pull addresses from a database to request the yearly checks, said the firefighter, who feared retribution for disclosing the information and spoke only on condition of anonymity.

“Commercial inspections are conducted as time permits during a fire station’s 24-hour shift and are not routinely scheduled on an appointment basis,” the city’s website says.

There’s a fire station right around the corner from the warehouse.

The victims, ranging in age from 17 to 61, died while attending a $10-a-head dance party at the warehouse. On the campus of the University of California at Berkeley on Thursday, family members and friends hugged one another and wept as they spoke of two students, two recent graduates and a campus volunteer who died in the blaze.

“There’s a part of our heart that’s missing today,” Michael Morris, father of 21-year-old victim Jennifer Morris, a musician and media studies major who died along with her roommate, Vanessa Plotkin, 21.

The fire department and Mayor Libby Schaaf each said Thursday they could not yet say when – or if – a fire inspector examined the warehouse.

Fire department spokeswoman Rebecca Kozak said Thursday she didn’t know whether the warehouse’s address was in the database of buildings to be checked.

Erica Terry Derryck, Schaaf’s spokeswoman, said the mayor’s office was putting together “what contact all city agencies have had with this property.”

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Scientists: Giraffes face extinction risk http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/scientists-giraffes-face-extinction-risk/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/scientists-giraffes-face-extinction-risk/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 01:50:29 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/scientists-giraffes-face-extinction-risk/ WASHINGTON — The giraffe, the tallest land animal, is now at risk of extinction, biologists say.

Because the giraffe population has shrunk nearly 40 percent in just 30 years, scientists put it on the official watch list of threatened and endangered species worldwide, calling it “vulnerable.” That’s two steps up the danger ladder from its previous designation of being a species of least concern. In 1985, there were between 151,000 and 163,000 giraffes but in 2015 the number was down to 97,562, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

At a biodiversity meeting Wednesday in Mexico, the IUCN increased the threat level for 35 species and lowered the threat level for seven species on its “Red List” of threatened species, considered by scientists the official list of what animals and plants are in danger of disappearing.

The giraffe is the only mammal whose status changed on the list this year. Scientists blame habitat loss.

While everyone worries about elephants, Earth has four times as many pachyderms as giraffes, said Julian Fennessy and Noelle Kumpel, co-chairs of the specialty group of biologists that put the giraffe on the IUCN Red List. They both called what’s happening to giraffes a “silent extinction.”

“Everyone assumes giraffes are everywhere,” said Fennessy, co-director of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation.

But they’re not, Fennessy said. Until recently, biologists hadn’t done a good job assessing giraffes’ numbers and where they can be found, and they have been lumped into one broad species instead of nine separate subspecies.

“There’s a strong tendency to think that familiar species (such as giraffes, chimps, etc.) must be OK because they are familiar and we see them in zoos,” said Duke University conservation biologist Stuart Pimm, who wasn’t part of the work and has criticized the IUCN for not putting enough species on the threat list. “This is dangerous.”

Fennessy blamed shrinking living space as the main culprit in the declining giraffe population, worsened by poaching and disease.

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Millinocket Marathon’s goal: To get Maine mill town back on its feet http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/the-millinocket-marathon-aims-to-help-mill-town-get-back-on-its-feet/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/the-millinocket-marathon-aims-to-help-mill-town-get-back-on-its-feet/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 01:11:03 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1121172 Salena Chatman has never traveled farther north in Maine than Kennebunkport, but on Friday she and her husband will make the six-hour drive from their home in Middletown, Connecticut, to Millinocket for a most unusual road race.

The second annual Millinocket Marathon and Half Marathon is scheduled for Saturday, with nearly 1,000 entrants registered. The runners are attracted not so much by the absence of an entry fee as by the chance to help out a down-on-its-luck mill town.

“Running has done so much for us,” said Chatman, 39, who plans to run one loop of a 13.1-mile course that includes views of a snow-capped Mount Katahdin and several miles on the Golden Road built by the paper-making companies that once ruled the region. “If we can help a town by doing something we love, it’s just easy.”

Chatman and her husband, Chris, who will not run because of a calf injury, plan to stay at a bed-and-breakfast for two nights and patronize local shops and restaurants.

Gary Allen, founder of the Mount Desert Island Marathon, says that in starting the Millinocket race, "The whole concept was to spend money in town, go for a run, and maybe bring some cheer to these people."

Gary Allen, founder of the Mount Desert Island Marathon, says that in starting the Millinocket race, “The whole concept was to spend money in town, go for a run, and maybe bring some cheer to these people.” Kevin R. Morris photo

“We bought dance tickets and we’re planning on going to the spaghetti dinner,” Chatman said. “We’re fully ready to spend money. We’re actually very excited.”

That was the thinking behind an idea hatched by Gary Allen on Thanksgiving 2015 after reading about the devastating effects of mill closures in Millinocket and East Millinocket over the past decade.

Allen, a prolific distance runner and the founder and race director of the Mount Desert Island Marathon, posted the idea for a marathon and half-marathon on social media. He used Google Earth to map out a course. There would be no entry fee and no medals or amenities.

“The whole concept was to spend money in town, go for a run, and maybe bring some cheer to these people,” said Allen, 59, of Great Cranberry Island. “It was just fun and a good thing to do.”

LAST YEAR, ‘SORT OF A FLASH-MOB MARATHON’

Allen was one of six runners who ran two loops of the course for the 2015 marathon. Another 44 runners ran the half. People in town, tipped off by Facebook posts, made signs and put together a makeshift water stop.

“It was sort of a flash-mob marathon last year,” said Jessica Masse, who grew up in Caribou. With her husband, John Hafford, she opened a graphic design and social-media marketing business over a decade ago in Medway. They recently moved the business, called Designlab, to Millinocket.

“It was very impromptu,” Masse said of the 2015 road races, “but that’s Gary. He has faith in people and has faith in the stars aligning and just goes for it.”

A few weeks later, a Runner’s World article about the race appeared. The story went viral in the running community, and Allen soon had interest from runners in every state. He brought a USA Track & Field surveyor to Millinocket to get the race certified as a Boston Marathon qualifier.

As of Thursday, he had 943 race registrations. The National Weather Service forecast for Millinocket, which has about 5 inches of snow on the ground, says Saturday will be sunny but with a high of only 16 degrees.

Allen laughs at the absurdity of a marathon in northern Maine in early December, as if that ever would have emerged from a formal meeting.

“It struck a chord,” he said. “It’s the proximity to the holiday season and the fact that people really do have a giving spirit in them.

“People can reflect that we’re all maybe a paycheck away from hard times, that we’re all neighbors, that these mill towns in Maine are not so far from Portland, not so far from Bar Harbor.”

TOWNS ARRANGE A WEEKEND OF EVENTS

The folks in Millinocket, East Millinocket and Medway are prepared this year. There are waffle breakfasts and pasta dinners, strolling carolers and the Maine Short Film Festival – an entire weekend of events. Marsha Donahue, owner and founder of North Light Gallery in Millinocket, helped organize 45 local businesses that are putting on a variety of promotions, including Millinocket Floral offering $5 cash-and-carry bouquets near the finish line to give to runners.

Nine of the 17 artists who display their works at Donahue’s gallery will be painting there Saturday, and she noticed that everyone put up their Christmas decorations early. In recent seasons that hasn’t always been the case, if the decorations have gone up at all.

“For a town that’s been on the ropes for several years, it’s been hard,” she said. “But this year, it looks wonderful around here.”

Masse, the graphic designer and volunteer organizer, envisions a future of outdoor recreation that includes distance running, mountain biking and cross country skiing to augment the traditional hiking and snowmobiling that are popular in the Katahdin region.

“Not everything is doom and gloom,” she said. “We think this race is the start of a new era, where people think of this as more than a mill town.”

 

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Russia: Suspended combat operations allow civilians to evacuate Aleppo http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/russia-suspended-combat-operations-allow-civilians-to-evacuate-aleppo/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/russia-suspended-combat-operations-allow-civilians-to-evacuate-aleppo/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 00:58:58 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/russia-suspended-combat-operations-allow-civilians-to-evacuate-aleppo/ PARIS — Russia said late Thursday that the Syrian military has suspended its combat operations in eastern Aleppo to allow civilians to leave the city and that it had reached agreement with the United States to negotiate the safe departure of rebel fighters.

A senior U.S. State Department official here traveling with Secretary of State John Kerry said that neither of those assertions could yet be confirmed but that Kerry was in contact with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

There were conflicting reports from inside Aleppo, where some residents reported a sudden quiet, but others said neighborhoods were still under fire. On Wednesday, as many as 150 elderly residents of Aleppo’s Old City were evacuated by the government in a joint operation with the International Red Cross.

Lavrov, speaking to Russian journalists in Hamburg, said a much bigger evacuation was underway. “Yet another and the biggest operation so far … to evacuate the civilians willing to leave the place is underway there,” he said, according to Russia’s state-owned Tass news agency. “There are some 8,000 people in the column. That’s a huge operation, and the withdrawal route is five kilometers long.”

Kerry and Lavrov met twice Thursday morning in Hamburg, where both were attending an international conference. Kerry left at midday for Paris, and the two spoke again by telephone during the afternoon, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the diplomatic contacts.

The White House, which has long been skeptical of Moscow’s sincerity in its discussions on Syria, reacted guardedly. “Our approach to this situation from the beginning has been to listen carefully to what the Russians say but scrutinize their actions,” press secretary Josh Earnest said.

Last summer, the United States suspended military and diplomatic “expert” talks with Russia in Geneva over a possible cease-fire in Syria when the government siege of eastern Aleppo began with assistance from Russian air attacks.

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Delta Air Lines raises the bar on free in-flight snacks http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/delta-air-lines-raises-the-bar-on-free-in-flight-snacks/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/delta-air-lines-raises-the-bar-on-free-in-flight-snacks/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 00:49:47 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/delta-air-lines-raises-the-bar-on-free-in-flight-snacks/ ATLANTA — Delta Air Lines is upgrading its free snacks on flights and switching to yogurt bars, honey-roasted peanuts and brand-name pretzels.

One thing that isn’t changing in the snack lineup: The well-known Biscoff cookies, which are staying.

The free snacks are for flights longer than 250 miles. Depending on the length of the flight, travelers might get either Snyder’s of Hanover pretzels or Squirrel brand honey-roasted peanuts, or also have a choice of NatureBox apple cinnamon yogurt bars or Biscoff. The changes take effect next Wednesday.

The Atlanta-based airline said the new offerings have “larger portions and more variety.” Delta also plans to change its mix of snacks more often in the future based on customer feedback.

The carrier had tested cashews and yogurt bars as snacks on some flights earlier this year. Delta said it has set up vending machines in New York, Los Angeles and Seattle to offer free samples of the new snacks.

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Young adults now far less likely to out-earn parents at age 30 mark http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/young-adults-now-far-less-likely-to-out-earn-parents-at-age-30-mark/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/young-adults-now-far-less-likely-to-out-earn-parents-at-age-30-mark/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2016 00:40:16 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/young-adults-now-far-less-likely-to-out-earn-parents-at-age-30-mark/ WASHINGTON — The likelihood that young adults will earn more than their parents has plummeted in recent decades, a study has found, fueling concerns that the American dream of steady upward mobility is foundering amid a widening wealth gap.

Just half of Americans born in 1984 earned more at age 30 than their parents did at that age, down from 92 percent in 1940, according to research released Thursday by Stanford economist Raj Chetty and five colleagues.

The study found two reasons for the drop: Income inequality has widened, so that even when the economy has grown, fewer Americans have received enough income gains to overtake their parents. And average annual economic growth has slowed since 1980, compared with the 35 years after World War II.

“Reviving the ‘American Dream’ of high rates of mobility will require economic growth that is spread more evenly across the income distribution,” Chetty and his co-authors wrote.

Anxieties about status and economic opportunity formed a backdrop to the 2016 election campaign, with many voters concerned that their children wouldn’t fare as well as they had. Conversely, many younger voters worry that they won’t do as well as their parents, largely because of sluggish income growth and higher costs for housing, health care and student debt.

Chetty’s research suggests that those concerns are well-founded. The decline in mobility occurred across all states but was worse in Rust Belt states such as Michigan and Indiana, both of which backed Donald Trump for president.

Trump has indicated that his administration will focus on accelerating economic growth, but has said less about income inequality. His choice for Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, has said the administration’s policies will increase the economy’s growth to as high as 4 percent annually, from the roughly 2.2 percent pace that’s prevailed since the recession ended. The U.S. economy hasn’t posted 3 percent growth for a full year since 2005.

Chetty’s study underscores how much faster and more evenly distributed economic growth was after World War II. By 1970, when those born in 1940 were 30 years old, 92 percent – nearly all Americans, across all income levels – were earning more than their parents had at that age.

“Growth patterns after the war were magnificent,” said Nathaniel Hendren, an economist at Harvard and co-author of the study. “They were high, but also broadly shared across the income distribution.”

Among the poorest 10 percent of Americans, 94 percent of those born in 1940 had surpassed their parents’ income 30 years later. That fell to 70 percent for those born in 1980 and who reached 30 years of age in 2010.

The middle class suffered a sharper drop: 93 percent of those born in 1940 into families with median household incomes – halfway between the top and bottom – had fared better than their parents by 1970. By 1980, only 45 percent of those born into the middle class did better than their parents 30 years later.

And for children born into the richest 10 percent in 1940, nearly 90 percent did better than their parents. That figure plunged to 33 percent in 1980, partly because it became harder for children of wealthy families to surpass their parents.

Those figures show that mobility has fallen for everyone – rich and poor. Hendren suggested that that might, in fact, make it a less polarizing problem.

“This is something that everybody shares,” Hendren said. “It is perhaps a little less divisive than what one might have thought.”

The study follows separate research released this week by Thomas Piketty at the Paris School of Economics and two colleagues that documented worsening income inequality since 1980. That study found that Americans in the bottom half of the income scale have experienced stagnant income since 1980.

Adjusted for inflation, the bottom 50 percent earned about $16,000 in 1980 and earns about the same now, the paper concluded.

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LePage certifies results for all but two Nov. 8 referendum votes http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/lepage-certifies-results-for-all-but-two-nov-8-referendum-votes/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/lepage-certifies-results-for-all-but-two-nov-8-referendum-votes/#comments Thu, 08 Dec 2016 23:20:11 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1121100 Gov. Paul LePage officially certified election results Thursday for all but two of the questions that appeared on the state ballot Nov. 8.

The governor issued a proclamation to the secretary of state certifying the passage of measures to raise Maine’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020, establish ranked-choice voting and authorize a bond issue to improve transportation infrastructure. Those laws will take effect in 30 days – on Jan. 7.

LePage’s proclamation also certified voters’ rejection of a measure to expand background checks for gun purchases.

It did not certify results for two ballot questions that passed by narrow margins, according to the state’s official counts: marijuana legalization, and a 3 percent tax surcharge for high earners.

While the governor had a deadline Thursday to certify most of the results, he has more time to issue proclamations about the votes on marijuana and the tax surcharge because of recount requests, which delayed the legal certification process.

The marijuana vote is the subject of a hand recount that began Monday and could continue well into January. LePage won’t be asked to certify those results until the recount is complete.

A recount also was requested on the income tax surcharge. That request was later withdrawn, but not before delaying the secretary of state’s formal reporting of results to the governor.

The Secretary of State’s Office did not formally submit the results of referendum Question 2 until Dec. 2, and the governor has 10 days from that date to issue a proclamation certifying its passage.

LePage opposed all five of the citizen-initiated referendum questions. He created doubts about whether he would certify the results when he wrote in a Dec. 1 letter to incoming legislators that he had “strong concerns regarding the integrity of Maine’s ballot and the accuracy of Maine’s election results and I cannot attest to the accuracy of the tabulation certified by the secretary of state.”

The letter and a similar statement to the media days later did not include any evidence of voter fraud or explain the reason for his concerns.

On Wednesday, LePage called on the new Legislature to change two of the voter-approved laws. LePage said the ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage and impose a 3 percent tax surcharge on individual income above $200,000 a year will hurt the state’s economy.

Copies of LePage’s formal, signed proclamation were not available Thursday, according to the governor’s office and the Secretary of State’s Office.

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Lawmaker’s nonprofit is fined for mailer accusing Democrat of supporting terrorists http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/commission-fines-lawmakers-nonprofit-over-controversial-mailer/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/commission-fines-lawmakers-nonprofit-over-controversial-mailer/#comments Thu, 08 Dec 2016 23:18:07 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1121098 The state ethics commission approved a $672.80 fine against a conservative organization on Wednesday for a controversial mailer that suggested a former Democratic leader supported harboring illegal immigrants and terrorists in the state.

The New England Opportunity Project was assessed the penalty for filing a late financial disclosure for spending on a mailer described by the organization’s founder, Republican Rep. Lawrence Lockman of Amherst, as a fundraising letter but that clearly targeted former House Majority Leader Rep. Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan. The commission determined the expenditure should have been reported within 48 hours. Lockman’s nonprofit filed the report eight days late after being notified by commission staff.

The mailer was sent in the final weeks of McCabe’s heated but unsuccessful campaign for a Maine Senate seat, prompting one commissioner to call the penalty “a bargain” considering the potential impact on McCabe.

“This is a minor fine compared to the result,” said Commissioner Richard Nass, a former Republican lawmaker from Acton.

Democratic leaders denounced the mailing as false and misleading, with McCabe calling it “absurd” that he would support in any way terrorists living in Maine. McCabe’s Republican opponent during the campaign, Sen. Rodney Whittemore of Skowhegan, said at the time he had no connection to it.

The mailer was sent to residents in the Skowhegan area and features an unflattering picture of the heavily bearded lawmaker over the statement: “Should Maine taxpayers continue to give welfare benefits to Islamic State terrorists living in Maine? Ask Jeff McCabe!” That line appears to be a reference to an Iranian refugee who became radicalized after moving to Freeport and later died fighting for the Islamic State overseas. The man reportedly received welfare benefits while living in Maine.

The accompany letter calls Portland a “harboring haven for illegals” and attacked McCabe for blocking a bill introduced by Gov. Paul LePage and sponsored by Lockman to deny state funding to communities that prohibit police from asking about a person’s immigration status.

Maine campaign finance rules require disclosure of any “independent expenditure” by a party, a political action committee or other organizations that clearly depicts a specific candidate between Labor Day and the November elections. Lockman argued in an October 21 letter to the ethics commission that mailing was a fundraiser for New England Opportunity Project and noted that while it urged residents to contact McCabe on the issues raised, it was not intended to influence McCabe’s campaign.

Commissioner William Lee of Waterville, however, said the fact that McCabe was mentioned 16 times in the mailing made it impossible for him not to conclude that the purpose was to influence the campaign.

On Thursday, Lockman accepted responsibility for failing to disclose the “independent expenditure” within 48 hours, as required.

“My argument is there was no attempt at subterfuge or to hide this,” Lockman said. “It did generate publicity and Representative McCabe did have an opportunity to address the matter.”

Lockman is one of the Legislature’s most conservative members and is well known for his willingness to engage liberals in heated debates, whether on the House floor or on social media. His tactics and fiery rhetoric – including some past comments on abortion and rape, for which he has apologized – have made him a frequent target of criticism from progressives.

McCabe shot back Thursday by accusing Lockman of employing “hateful tactics” and said he hopes the ethics commission explores the donors behind the campaign mailings.

“Ethics has a responsibility to look into this further,” McCabe said.

The commission briefly discussed donors on Thursday, but because New England Opportunity Project is registered as a 501(c)(4) “social welfare organization” nonprofit, it is not required to disclose donors.

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 11:15 a.m. on Dec. 9, 2016 to correct that Rep. Lawrence Lockman’s nonprofit was fined for failing to disclose the expenditure within 48 hours. The organization filed the disclosure report eight days after the expiration of the 48-hour deadline.

 

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Campaign to draw workers to Maine gets $100,000 boost http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/workforce-attraction-campaign-gets-100000-boost/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/workforce-attraction-campaign-gets-100000-boost/#comments Thu, 08 Dec 2016 23:07:34 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/workforce-attraction-campaign-gets-100000-boost/ A campaign to attract more workers to Maine got a $100,000 boost Thursday from the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.

Live and Work in Maine, an online collaborative that promotes Maine’s regional quality of life and employment opportunities at more than 100 partner companies, won the award in a competitive bidding process, according to a release from the state. It will use the money to expand marketing efforts.

“This partnership will accelerate efforts to engage the estimated 34 million visitors to Maine each year and expand resources and opportunities to Maine employers pertaining to workforce attraction and retention,” said George Gervais, DECD commissioner, in the release.

Last summer, the organization established kiosks in the state’s visitor centers to introduce tourists to the notion of living and working in Maine.

It expects to launch a new job board in 2017, where job seekers can learn more about specific employment opportunities, send resumes directly to employers, and find more information about the culture and mission of Maine businesses. The site also includes testimonials from professionals who have relocated to Maine, details on internships and first career options for college students and new graduates, and information on the lifestyle offered by each of Maine’s eight geographic regions.

Additionally, the DECD expects to work with Digital Research Group of Kennebunk to gather more workforce attraction-related data. The company has previously conducted tourism studies for the Maine Office of Tourism. A profile of overnight visitors in 2015 showed that 36 percent of visiting business owners or CEOs indicated they would be very likely to relocate, expand, or start a business in Maine at some point in the future.

“Maine’s labor market will continue to tighten as baby boomers retire,” said Maine Department of Labor Commissioner Jeanne Paquette in the release. “Recruiting new workers to move to our state, and bring their families, is a critical element of our long-term workforce development strategy. We will need workers now and in the future to sustain economic growth. This is a high priority for both DECD and the Department of Labor as we work together to build a brighter future for Mainers.”

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Elliott Schwartz, Maine’s best-known classical composer, dies at 80 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/elliott-schwartz-maines-best-known-classical-composer-dies-at-80/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/elliott-schwartz-maines-best-known-classical-composer-dies-at-80/#comments Thu, 08 Dec 2016 23:02:47 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/elliott-schwartz-maines-best-known-classical-composer-dies-at-80/ Elliott Schwartz, one of Maine’s most influential classical music composers and a longtime Bowdoin College music professor known for inspiring students during a 43-year career, died Wednesday. He was 80.

Fellow composers and musicians from around the country flooded his Facebook page with their memories of his warm demeanor and creative mind, which constantly pushed the boundaries of music. He composed one piece based on actual Facebook posts, which included musicians reading the posts, while another piece featured TVs and radios on stage with the performers. His 1966 piece “Elevator Music” was performed by 12 small groups on various floors of a building, while the audience rode an elevator and heard parts of the piece on each floor.

“To classical music listeners outside the state, (Schwartz) was unquestionably Maine’s best-known composer, but it’s not until you look closely at Maine’s own musical life that you understand how influential he was,” said Allan Kozinn, a former New York Times music critic who now reviews classical music for the Portland Press Herald. “It’s hard to find a composer in Maine who hadn’t studied with him.”

Schwartz’s compositions have been performed by symphonies around the country, and books he wrote or co-wrote are used in many college music programs.

In 2006, his years of notes, sketches, files, sheet music, correspondence and recordings were acquired by the Library of Congress.

A RUSH TO SCHWARTZ’S BEDSIDE

Students, colleagues and friends went to Schwartz’s bedside in Brunswick this week, hoping to talk to him one last time as his health deteriorated. One former student, Mark Piszczek, flew up from Florida on Tuesday.

“When I saw him, I told him I’d bring (Maine composer Dan Sonenberg) to see him Wednesday, and he said that was good because he wasn’t sure he’d last four or five days,” said Piszczek, 59. “Then he said, ‘I have so much more to write.’ ”

Schwartz taught at Bowdoin from 1964 until 2007, but he continued to show up on campus, to eat in the dining hall, and to talk to students about music as much as they wanted. He continued to work with students, too.

Peter McLaughlin, 29, was one of his students during Schwartz’s last year at Bowdoin. Afterward, Schwartz continued to work with McLaughlin and meet with him. The two have had lunch together about every month for the past 10 years. Schwartz also wrote some music for a student group that McLaughlin was in and paid for the group to travel to New York to perform.

“Those of us in that last class were lucky because he was full of energy, and after retiring, he had all this free time that he spent with us,” said McLaughlin, a percussionist who works as music programmer at Space Gallery in Portland. “He loved his students. He loved young people. He was an infinitely energetic soul.”

CELEBRATIONS OF HIS CAREER

Schwartz was born in New York City and studied composition with well-known composers Otto Luening and Jack Beeson. His wife, Dorothy Schwartz, was an artist, professor and past director of the Maine Humanities Council who was considered a driving force in Maine’s cultural scene for some 20 years. She died in 2014 at the age of 75.

Besides his long career at Bowdoin, Schwartz had residencies or visiting professorships at Ohio State University, the University of California and Harvard, as well as Cambridge University in England.

Schwartz turned 80 in January, and throughout the year various groups and events honored him.

In Portland in April, the Back Cove Contemporary Music Festival celebrated his career with five of his works and some works by his students.

The Bowdoin International Music Festival held during the summer featured his music as part of a performance in July. Schwartz attended the performance.

“What impressed me about Elliott is that he was not only a lifelong creator and ardent advocate of new music, but that he also had a deep love of historical music of all eras and styles,” said David Ying, co-artistic director of the Bowdoin festival.

In a Bowdoin website article about his works being acquired by the Library of Congress, Schwartz was self-effacing: “I don’t think I’m being singled out because the Library thinks I’m a great composer. I think it’s partly because I’ve been a witness to so much that has happened in American music.”

But students and colleagues say Schwartz was innovative and extremely talented.

Schwartz, who played piano, was something of a musical collagist, said Vineet Shende, chair of the Department of Music at Bowdoin, a position Schwartz held for 12 years. Schwartz could find snippets of pieces that seemingly didn’t go together, but he would meld them perfectly.

He had a piece called “By George” that combined bits of music from Baroque composer George Handel with music by 20th century tune-smith George Gershwin. But it worked, Shende said.

Schwartz was also a fan of word puzzles, and he’d sometimes use notes in a composition – E, F, B – to spell out words only the musicians could see.

“He had a sense of humor and a playfulness. But his works were lyrical, presented beautifully,” Shende said.

 

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Central Maine man gets 5 years in prison for selling heroin near ‘safe children zone’ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/central-maine-man-gets-5-years-in-prison-for-selling-heroin-near-safe-children-zone/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/central-maine-man-gets-5-years-in-prison-for-selling-heroin-near-safe-children-zone/#comments Thu, 08 Dec 2016 22:20:19 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/central-maine-man-gets-5-years-in-prison-for-selling-heroin-near-safe-children-zone/ AUGUSTA — A Sidney man will spend an initial five years behind bars for trafficking in heroin in a “safe children zone,” near the Maine Children’s Home for Little Wanderers home and a park in Waterville.

Ryan J. Farnum, 27, pleaded guilty Wednesday to aggravated trafficking that occurred March 31 in Waterville, and agreed to criminal forfeiture of $485 cash seized from him July 6 also in Waterville.

Committing a crime in a safe zone aggravates the offense and the available penalties.

He was sentenced to five years in prison, with the remainder of the 10-year term suspended, and three years of probation.

In exchange for the plea and the forfeiture, a number of other charges against Farnham were dismissed. They included two counts of aggravated trafficking in heroin, one count of conspiracy to commit a crime or crime and unlawful possession of heroin, all March 31-July 5 in Waterville.

He was arrested July 6 during a motor vehicle stop in Waterville following a months-long investigation by Waterville police into drug trafficking in the city.

Farnham was represented by Jeffrey Towne, and the prosecutor was Assistant District Attorney Francis Griffin.

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Police suspect murder-suicide after 2 bodies found in house in Hebron http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/bodies-of-two-found-in-house-in-hebron/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/bodies-of-two-found-in-house-in-hebron/#comments Thu, 08 Dec 2016 22:08:20 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/bodies-of-two-found-in-house-in-hebron/ Maine State Police say they are investigating the deaths of a man and woman whose bodies were found in their home in Hebron on Thursday afternoon.

Steve McCausland, spokesman for the state police, said investigators suspect their deaths were a murder-suicide.

The names and ages of the deceased were not being released Thursday evening, to give family members the time they need to notify other relatives, said McCausland, who he expects to identify the victims publicly on Friday morning.

The body of the woman was found in a bathroom in the house on Marshall Pond Road in Hebron. McCausland said the man’s body was found on a porch at the home, and a shotgun was near his body.

“Detectives say it appears both had been shot,” McCausland said in a statement issued Thursday night.

Sgt. Mark Holmquist with the Maine State Police Major Crimes Unit told WCSH-TV that a neighbor discovered the bodies around 2 p.m. and notified the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office. McCausland said the neighbor was called by relatives to check on the people who live at the home. McCausland did not say how long they had been dead.

Holmquist told the television station that other people lived at the home but were not there when the shooting happened. He would not comment on the man and woman’s relationship.

“We believe everyone who has knowledge of these two individuals – family, friends – they’re all accounted for tonight and we feel comfortable with that and, like I said, they’re cooperating with investigators,” WCSH-TV reported.

The Sun Journal in Lewiston reported that the two people had lived at the home but the man hadn’t been living there for some time.

Police gathered evidence from the home, from nearby woods and from a white SUV parked on the road outside the home.

The bodies were taken to the state Medical Examiner’s Office in Augusta, where autopsies will be done Friday.

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Alfond Foundation pledges $1.4 million to grow Snowe leadership institute http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/alfond-foundation-pledges-1-4-million-to-grow-snowe-leadership-institute/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/alfond-foundation-pledges-1-4-million-to-grow-snowe-leadership-institute/#comments Thu, 08 Dec 2016 22:00:01 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1121053 The Harold Alfond Foundation pledged Thursday to provide $1.4 million in a matching grant program to support the development of a new generation of female leaders.

Greg Powell, chairman of the foundation, made his announcement at a luncheon celebrating the Olympia Snowe Women’s Leadership Institute, which offers leadership opportunities to girls in high schools throughout Maine. The money, offered as a 1 to 1 match, is intended to leverage a $2.8 million endowment to expand and sustain the program, now in its second year.

“The Alfond Foundation has a history of teamwork and backing winners,” said Powell in making the announcement before a gathering of 650 at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland. He later noted that Snowe made a career of building effective alliances and getting things done. “She is the perfect person to launch this kind of initiative,” he said.

Powell got the ball rolling by handing Snowe a personal check for $1,000, which the former three-term senator accepted graciously.

“We can make a big difference in the years ahead,” she said thanking Powell and the foundation.

Snowe started the institute last year to help Maine girls develop self esteem and leadership skills, first with a pilot program in seven high schools in Androscoggin County, where she grew up. Now more than 150 girls are currently enrolled in the program, which focuses on helping them develop their values, voice and vision through three years of mentorships and other opportunities.

Now in it second year, the program has expanded into at least one high school from each county, but the goal is to significantly expand that in the near future.

Karen Mills, Brunswick resident and the former head of U.S. Small Business Administration and a member of President Obama’s Cabinet, was the keynote speaker. She encouraged the women and girls in the audience to address inequities in the workplace, Congress and elsewhere by lifting each other up. Paraphrasing Michelle Obama, Mills said that when girls and women succeed and walk through a door of opportunity, they shouldn’t slam it behind them, but reach back and help the next person behind them.

“That’s what true leadership is all about,” said Mills, addressing the young girls in the audience. “Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you have to wait.”

For more information on the institute, go to www.snoweleadershipinstitute.org

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Richard Nickerson of Windham is Grammy educator finalist http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/richard-nickerson-of-windham-is-grammy-educator-finalist/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/richard-nickerson-of-windham-is-grammy-educator-finalist/#comments Thu, 08 Dec 2016 21:54:53 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/richard-nickerson-of-windham-is-grammy-educator-finalist/ Richard Nickerson, director of choral activities at Windham High School, was named one of 10 finalists for the 2017 Music Educator Award, a national program that recognizes “educators who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education.”

Created by the Recording Academy and Grammy Foundation, the award will be given during Grammy week and the winner will attend the 59th Grammy Awards ceremony on Feb. 12. The finalists were announced Thursday on “CBS This Morning.”

Nickerson, who has taught at Windham High for 30 years, was among 25 music educators nationwide who advanced to the semifinal round in October. He also was nominated in 2013, the first year that the award was given, and advanced to the quarterfinals.

A Windham resident, Nickerson conducts three choirs, teaches music courses and serves as music coordinator for the district. He’s been named Maine Music Educator of the Year, Maine Distinguished Choral Director of the Year and was runner-up for Maine Teacher of the Year.

Choral Director Magazine named him one of 10 “Choral Directors of Note” in the United States.

Nickerson considered leaving Windham High to teach at the college level after he earned a doctorate in choral conducting from the University of Missouri. But he decided to stay.

“Honestly, I feel this is where I am supposed to be,” he said. “Working with high school kids is my gift.”

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Two baby sisters from Houlton die in New York from radiator burns http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/two-sisters-from-houlton-die-in-new-york-from-radiator-burns-wcsh-reports/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/two-sisters-from-houlton-die-in-new-york-from-radiator-burns-wcsh-reports/#comments Thu, 08 Dec 2016 21:16:57 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/two-sisters-from-houlton-die-in-new-york-from-radiator-burns-wcsh-reports/ NEW YORK – New York City is conducting a rigorous investigation into a freak radiator accident that led to the deaths of two toddler sisters, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.

The two babies had moved with their parents to the city from Houlton, Maine, about a year ago, WCSH TV reported Thursday.

In New York, a “pained silence” filled the air when officials – surrounded by children’s drawings, symbols of a loving household – visited the Bronx apartment where 2-year-old Ibanez Ambrose and her 1-year-old sister, Scylee, were fatally injured Wednesday, the mayor said.

Something happened with a radiator valve, releasing an extraordinary amount of steam, said the mayor, who called it “horribly, horribly tragic.”

“In almost 30 years of inspections I’ve never once seen anything like this,” said buildings commissioner Rick Chandler. “…I’ve never heard of a radiator blowing out, particularly with a low-pressure boiler.”

The building was recently inspected, and there were no reports of anything major wrong, the officials said.

Homeless Services Commissioner Steven Banks said an inspector from his department was in the apartment where the two children died as recently as Monday and observed nothing problematic.

The privately owned building was used to house homeless people; four other families were moved out as a precaution.

The city was already working to phase out the so-called cluster-site housing, but the mayor said there’s no indication the deaths were related to the program.

Family members told WCSH that the girls’ parents were Danielle McGuire-Ambrose and Peter Ambrose.

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South African man pleads guilty in Maine to sexual exploitation of a minor, child porn http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/south-african-man-pleads-guilty-to-sexual-exploitation-of-a-minor-child-porn/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/south-african-man-pleads-guilty-to-sexual-exploitation-of-a-minor-child-porn/#comments Thu, 08 Dec 2016 20:39:28 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/south-african-man-pleads-guilty-to-sexual-exploitation-of-a-minor-child-porn/ A South African man pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court in Portland to sexually exploiting a minor and transporting child pornography.

Authorities said that Denver Carolissen, 42, of Kuilsrivier, South Africa, took sexually explicit photos of a minor girl in 2010 and in 2014, sent those pictures and other child pornography to undercover agents in Maine who were investigating the online transmission of child pornography.

In November 2014, Carolissen was indicted by a grand jury in the U.S. South African authorities were asked to arrest him and extradite him to the U.S.

Carolissen entered his guilty plea in U.S. District Court in Maine.

He faces a sentence of between 15 and 30 years in prison for sexual exploitation of a minor and between five and 20 years for transporting child pornography, along with a fine of up to $250,000 and the possiblity of life on supervised release for each offense.

He will be sentenced later.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offenses Unit of the South African Police Service.

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John Glenn, first American astronaut to orbit Earth, longtime senator, dies at 95 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/john-glenn-first-american-astronaut-to-orbit-earth-dies-at-95/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/john-glenn-first-american-astronaut-to-orbit-earth-dies-at-95/#comments Thu, 08 Dec 2016 20:35:22 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/john-glenn-first-american-astronaut-to-orbit-earth-dies-at-95/ WASHINGTON – John Glenn, whose 1962 flight as the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth made him an all-American hero and propelled him to a long career in the U.S. Senate, died Thursday. The last survivor of the original Mercury 7 astronauts was 95.

Glenn died at the James Cancer Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, where he was hospitalized for more than a week, said Hank Wilson, communications director for the John Glenn School of Public Affairs.

John Herschel Glenn Jr. had two major career paths that often intersected: flying and politics, and he soared in both of them.

Before he gained fame orbiting the world, he was a fighter pilot in two wars, and as a test pilot, he set a transcontinental speed record. He later served 24 years in the Senate from Ohio. A rare setback was a failed 1984 run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

His long political career enabled him to return to space in the shuttle Discovery at age 77 in 1998, a cosmic victory lap that he relished and turned into a teachable moment about growing old. He holds the record for the oldest person in space.

More than anything, Glenn was the ultimate and uniquely American space hero: a combat veteran with an easy smile, a strong marriage of 70 years and nerves of steel. Schools, a space center and the Columbus airport were named after him. So were children.

The Soviet Union leaped ahead in space exploration by putting the Sputnik 1 satellite in orbit in 1957, and then launched the first man in space, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, in a 108-minute orbital flight on April 12, 1961. After two suborbital flights by Alan Shepard Jr. and Gus Grissom, it was up to Glenn to be the first American to orbit the Earth.

“Godspeed, John Glenn,” fellow astronaut Scott Carpenter radioed just before Glenn thundered off a Cape Canaveral launch pad, now a National Historic Landmark, to a place America had never been. At the time of that Feb. 20, 1962, flight, Glenn was 40 years old.

With the all-business phrase, “Roger, the clock is operating, we’re underway,” Glenn radioed to Earth as he started his 4 hours, 55 minutes and 23 seconds in space. Years later, he explained he said that because he didn’t feel like he had lifted off and it was the only way he knew he had launched.

‘ZERO G, AND I FEEL FINE’

During the flight, Glenn uttered a phrase that he would repeat frequently throughout life: “Zero G, and I feel fine.”

“It still seems so vivid to me,” Glenn said in a 2012 interview with The Associated Press on the 50th anniversary of the flight. “I still can sort of pseudo feel some of those same sensations I had back in those days during launch and all.”

Glenn said he was often asked if he was afraid, and he replied, “If you are talking about fear that overcomes what you are supposed to do, no. You’ve trained very hard for those flights.”

NASA’s reaction

The president-elect

Glenn’s ride in the cramped Friendship 7 capsule had its scary moments, however. Sensors showed his heat shield was loose after three orbits, and Mission Control worried he might burn up during re-entry when temperatures reached 3,000 degrees. But the heat shield held.

Even before then, Glenn flew in dangerous skies. He was a fighter pilot in World War II and Korea who flew low, got his plane riddled with bullets, flew with baseball great Ted Williams and earned macho nicknames during 149 combat missions. And as a test pilot he broke aviation records.

The green-eyed, telegenic Marine even won $25,000 on the game show “Name That Tune” with a 10-year-old partner. And that was before April 6, 1959, when his life changed by being selected as one of the Mercury 7 astronauts and instantly started attracting more than his share of the spotlight.

REGALED CROWDS WITH STORIES

Glenn in later years regaled crowds with stories of NASA’s testing of would-be astronauts, from psychological tests – come with 20 answers to the open-ended question “I am” – to surviving spinning that pushed 16 times normal gravity against his body, popping blood vessels.

But it wasn’t nearly as bad as coming to Cape Canaveral to see the first unmanned rocket test.

“We’re watching this thing go up and up and up … and all at once it blew up right over us, and that was our introduction to the Atlas,” Glenn said in 2011. “We looked at each other and wanted to have a meeting with the engineers in the morning.”

In 1959, Glenn wrote in Life magazine: “Space travel is at the frontier of my profession. It is going to be accomplished, and I want to be in on it. There is also an element of simple duty involved. I am convinced that I have something to give this project.”

That sense of duty was instilled at an early age. Glenn was born July 18, 1921, in Cambridge, Ohio, and grew up in New Concord, Ohio, with the nickname “Bud.” He joined the town band as a trumpeter at age 10 and accompanied his father one Memorial Day in an echoing version of “Taps.” In his 1999 memoir, Glenn wrote “that feeling sums up my childhood. It formed my beliefs and my sense of responsibility. Everything that came after that just came naturally.”

His love of flight was lifelong; John Glenn Sr. spoke of the many summer evenings he arrived home to find his son running around the yard with outstretched arms, pretending he was piloting a plane. Last June, at a ceremony renaming the Columbus airport for him, Glenn recalled imploring his parents to take him to that airport to look at planes whenever they passed through the city: “It was something I was fascinated with.” He piloted his own private plane until age 90.

Glenn’s goal of becoming a commercial pilot was changed by World War II. He left Muskingum College to join the Naval Air Corps and soon after, the Marines.

He became a successful fighter pilot who ran 59 hazardous missions, often as a volunteer or as the requested backup of assigned pilots. A war later, in Korea, he earned the nickname “MiG-Mad Marine” (or “Old Magnet A – ,” which he sometimes paraphrased as “Old Magnet Tail.”)

“I was the one who went in low and got them,” Glenn said, explaining that he often landed with huge holes in the side of his aircraft because he didn’t like to shoot from high altitudes.

BEGINNING OF PUBLIC LIFE

Glenn’s public life began when he broke the transcontinental airspeed record, bursting from Los Angeles to New York City in three hours, 23 minutes and 8 seconds. With his Crusader averaging 725 mph, the 1957 flight proved the jet could endure stress when pushed to maximum speeds over long distances.

In New York, he got a hero’s welcome – his first tickertape parade. He got another after his flight on Friendship 7.

That mission also introduced Glenn to politics. He addressed a joint session of Congress, and dined at the White House. He became friends with President Kennedy and ally and friend of his brother, Robert. The Kennedys urged him to enter politics, and after a difficult few starts he did.

Glenn spent 24 years in the U.S. Senate, representing Ohio longer than any other senator in the state’s history. He announced his impending retirement in 1997, 35 years to the day after he became the first American in orbit, saying “there is still no cure for the common birthday.”

Glenn’s returned to space in a long-awaited second flight in 1998 aboard the space shuttle Discovery. He got to move around aboard the shuttle for far longer – nine days compared with just under five hours in 1962 – as well as sleep and experiment with bubbles in weightlessness.

In a news conference from space, Glenn said “to look out at this kind of creation out here and not believe in God is to me impossible.”

NASA tailored a series of geriatric-reaction experiments to create a scientific purpose for Glenn’s mission, but there was more to it than that: a revival of the excitement of the earliest days of the space race, a public relations bonanza and the gift of a lifetime.

“America owed John Glenn a second flight,” NASA Administrator Dan Goldin said.

Glenn would later write that when he mentioned the idea of going back into space to his wife, Annie, she responded: “Over my dead body.”

Glenn and his crewmates flew 3.6 million miles, compared with 75,000 miles aboard Friendship 7.

‘THE RIGHT STUFF’

Shortly before he ran for the 1984 Democratic presidential nomination, a new generation was introduced to astronaut Glenn with the film adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s book “The Right Stuff.” He was portrayed as the ultimate straight arrow amid a group of hard-partying astronauts.

Glenn said in 2011: “I don’t think any of us cared for the movie ‘The Right Stuff’; I know I didn’t.”

Glenn was unable to capitalize on the publicity, though, and his poorly organized campaign was short-lived. He dropped out of the race with his campaign $2.5 million in the red – a debt that lingered even after he retired from the Senate in 1999.

He later joked that except for going into debt, humiliating his family and gaining 16 pounds, running for president was a good experience.

Glenn generally steered clear of campaigns after that, saying he didn’t want to mix politics with his second space flight. He sat out the Senate race to succeed him – he was hundreds of miles above Earth on Election Day – and largely was quiet in the 2000 presidential race.

He first ran for the Senate in 1964 but left the race when he suffered a concussion after slipping in the bathroom and hit his head on the tub.

He tried again in 1970 but was defeated in the primary by Howard Metzenbaum, who later lost the general election to Robert Taft Jr. It was the start of a complex relationship with Metzenbaum, whom he later joined in the Senate.

For the next four years, Glenn devoted his attention to business and investments that made him a multimillionaire. He had joined the board of Royal Crown Cola after the aborted 1964 campaign, and was president of Royal Crown International from 1967 to 1969. In the early 1970s, he remained with Royal Crown and invested in a chain of Holiday Inns.

In 1974, Glenn ran against Metzenbaum in what turned into a bitter primary and won the election. He eventually made peace with Metzenbaum, who won election to the Senate in 1976.

Glenn set a record in 1980 by winning re-election with a 1.6-million vote margin.

He became an expert on nuclear weaponry and was the Senate’s most dogged advocate of non-proliferation. He was the leading supporter of the B-1 bomber when many in Congress doubted the need for it. As chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, he turned a microscope on waste and fraud in the federal bureaucracy.

Glenn said the lowest point of his life was 1990, when he and four other senators came under scrutiny for their connections to Charles Keating, the notorious financier who eventually served prison time for his role in the costly savings and loan failure of the 1980s. The Senate Ethics Committee cleared Glenn of serious wrongdoing but said he “exercised poor judgment.”

The episode was the only brush with scandal in his long public career and didn’t diminish his popularity in Ohio.

Glenn joked that the only astronaut he was envious of was his fellow Ohioan: Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have a lot of great experiences in my life and I’m thankful for them,” he said in 2012.

In 1943, Glenn married his childhood sweetheart, Anna Margaret Castor. They met when they were toddlers, and when she had mumps as a teenager he came to her house, cut a hole in her bedroom window screen, and passed her a radio to keep her company, a friend recounted.

“I don’t remember the first time I told Annie I loved her, or the first time she told me,” Glenn would write in his memoir. “It was just something we both knew.” He bought her a diamond engagement ring in 1942 for $125. It’s never been replaced.

They had two children, Carolyn and John David.

He and his wife, Annie, split their later years between Washington and Columbus. Both served as trustees at their alma mater, Muskingum College. Glenn spent time promoting the John Glenn School of Public Affairs at Ohio State University, which also houses an archive of his private papers and photographs.

The John & Annie Glenn Museum is in New Concord, Ohio.

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Ethics commission favors shedding light on ‘dark money’ in Maine campaigns http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/ethics-commission-endorses-proposal-to-shed-light-on-dark-money-in-maine-campaigns/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/ethics-commission-endorses-proposal-to-shed-light-on-dark-money-in-maine-campaigns/#comments Thu, 08 Dec 2016 19:43:03 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1120945 Members of the commission that oversees Maine’s campaign finance laws unanimously endorsed a proposal Thursday that aims to shine light on national political organizations playing a growing role in the state’s elections.

The proposal from the state ethics commission would require any organization that contributes more than $100,000 to a Maine political party, a political action committee or a ballot question committee to identify the organization’s top five donors, among other things. Commission members said while there are no guarantees the proposal will survive the legislative process, it attempts to increase donor transparency following some of the most expensive election cycles in state history.

“It is an issue that needs to be addressed in some way. This is a good way to raise it and to start,” said Margaret Matheson, chairwoman of the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices.

Out-of-state organizations funneled tens of millions of dollars this year into campaigns in Maine this year to legalize marijuana, expand gun background checks, increase the minimum wage and fill the 2nd Congressional District seat. The spending shattered multiple records but also highlighted Maine’s status as a lower-cost venue for organizations to wage electoral battle on issues with national implications.

But those organizations frequently do not disclose their donors, making it difficult for Maine residents to know who is seeking to influence their vote.

Under current law, state campaigns and political action committees, or PACs, are required to disclose their donors. Yet those donors are often simply other PACs with anonymous donors of their own.

The proposal from the ethics commission staff, which won support from all five commissioners Thursday, would require organizations contributing more than $100,000 to file reports listing the five largest donors during the past year, as well as names and contact information for officers, the federal tax status of the organization and a certification attesting that the organization did not raise money specifically for the Maine campaign.

Those donors could be individuals or other organizations, underscoring the challenge of shedding light on campaign funders.

“My sense is enough folks are sick of what’s happening with our referendums now that it is worth discussion in the Legislature,” said commissioner and former lawmaker Richard Nass of Acton. “I’m not sure what the ramifications of these things are but that is the right place to bring the discussion. And I think part of our job is to get those thoughts over there to see what they want to do with them.”

All five of the ballot questions on Maine’s November ballot received donations from out-of-state organizations, but three in particular were largely bankrolled by national organizations. Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control group founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, donated nearly $5.3 million to the unsuccessful Question 3 campaign to require background checks prior to private gun sales. The National Rifle Association, on the other hand, funneled roughly $1 million to Question 3 opponents.

Likewise, the campaign to legalize recreational use of marijuana received $2.2 million from an organization called New Approach PAC while the National Education Association donated $2.4 million to the campaign to increase education funding through a 3 percent tax surcharge on those earning $200,000 or more. And national groups donated millions of dollars to the campaigns on both sides of the aisle working on state legislative campaigns.

It is unclear how lawmakers will respond to the proposal. The Legislature rejected a more sweeping donor transparency proposal from the ethics commission in 2015 following the previous year’s costly elections.

The proposed bill would go to the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee for consideration, although lawmakers are under no obligation to act on it.

The commission won a years-long legal battle with the National Organization for Marriage over the group’s refusal to identify the people behind its donations to a political action committee fighting same-sex marriage in Maine. In that case, the commission successfully argued that NOM should have filed with the state as a ballot question committee because it was fundraising for Maine’s 2009 referendum over same-sex marriage. Ballot question committees are required to disclose donors.

But a national organization that donates to a Maine campaign from its so-called “general fund” – made up of generic donations not solicited for a Maine campaign – does not currently have to disclose donors.

The ethics commission’s executive director said he could not rule out a constitutional challenge of the proposal, although he noted that California has a more stringent reporting requirement on its books. The specter of a legal battle still hung over the commissioners’ discussion, however.

“We’ve heard this from a number of sources: People want to know where is this money coming from and who is behind this ‘dark money,’ ” said Matheson, the commission chairwoman. “But I also want to be respectful of the fact that we don’t want to be enacting something that won’t pass a good constitutional muster.”

Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, a nonprofit that advocates for greater transparency and supports Maine’s public campaign financing system, said it supported the ethics commission proposal.

“These large contributions – often originating outside of Maine – play an increasing role in shaping our elections and influencing the outcomes,” Robert Howe with Maine Citizens for Clean Elections wrote to the commission. “Yet many of these contributions are made by entities with unfamiliar names and whose interests and background are obscure to the general public. It is very difficult for the public to assess the messages paid for by this money because the public lacks good information about the unique interest and possible motivations of the people and entities making these contributions.”

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Couple’s gift of $5 million celebrated at Portland Museum of Art http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/pma-announces-5-million-matching-gift/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/pma-announces-5-million-matching-gift/#comments Thu, 08 Dec 2016 19:30:05 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1120937 The Portland Museum of Art has received the largest matching gift in its history, a $5 million donation from a New York City couple with ties to Maine and the Estée Lauder cosmetics fortune.

Judy and Leonard Lauder are making the donation provided that the museum can match their contribution.

“We are well on our way to matching their $5 million gift,” said Mark H.C. Bessire, the museum’s director.

Thursday’s announcement coincides with the museum’s Focused Endowment Initiative, a targeted plan to spur more donor support and to increase the museum’s endowment by $15 million.

Bessire declined to say how much money had been pledged to the endowment initiative because most of the donations have been not been collected. The museum’s current endowment is about $30 million. Its annual operating budget is $6 million, Bessire said.

“This is a transformative gift and one of the largest in the history of the Portland Museum of Art,” he said in a written statement.

The Lauders hope their gift will motivate other people in the community to donate to the museum located in the heart of Portland’s arts district at Seven Congress Square.

“They are very entrepreneurial and sophisticated philanthropists,” Bessire said.

LIFELONG FRIENDS WITH MAINE TIES

Leonard Lauder is the chairman emeritus of Estée Lauder, the cosmetics company named for his mother.

Judy Lauder has a home in Cape Elizabeth and was married to Al Glickman, a well-known Maine philanthropist who died in May 2013. The University of Southern Maine’s library in Portland – the Albert Brenner Glickman Family Library – was named in his honor.

Judy and Leonard Lauder were married in January 2015 in Sarasota, Florida, in a wedding that was covered by The New York Times.

“They have been lifelong friends,” Bessire said. Although they live in New York most of the year, the couple does spend time in Maine.

He said Judy Lauder is a prominent international photographer and has been a longtime supporter of the Portland Museum of Art.

Steve Halpert, 83, of Portland has known Judy Lauder for more than 50 years. He also is a curator at the University of New England’s Art Gallery in Portland. Halpert said Judy Lauder has donated her photographic work to UNE over the years.

“I’m not at all surprised by this gift. They are both very generous people,” Halpert said Thursday night.

In 2013, Leonard Lauder donated his collection of 81 Cubist paintings, works and paper and sculptures to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, Bessire said. The collection included 34 pieces by Pablo Picasso and was valued at more than $1 billion.

“We are overjoyed to be able to make this gift to the Portland Museum of Art in recognition of its sterling leadership – from Director Mark Bessire and Board Chairman Jeffrey Kane – to the extraordinary board, museum staff, and volunteers, who have collectively made the Portland Museum of Art one of the leading regional art museums in the United States,” the Lauders said in a statement issued Thursday.

“While we recognize the importance of buildings, we also recognize the tremendous importance of economic stability for cultural institutions,” the statement said. “We are confident that this gift, which focuses on the museum endowment, will greatly enhance and promote the financial integrity of this magnificent Maine institution.”

STRENGTHENING MUSEUM’S CAPABILITIES

Jeffrey Kane, chairman of the museum’s board of trustees, said the museum is grateful for the Lauders’ generosity and confidence in the museum’s mission.

“As the Lauder gift clearly demonstrates, the museum’s focus on improving the visitor experience with the collection has made a compelling case for continued investment,” Kane said in a written statement. “This historic and generous gift confirms the Lauders’ extraordinary commitment to the arts and strengthens the capabilities of the PMA to connect art to everyday life.”

Dan O’Leary of Scarborough, who served as PMA director from 1993-2007, said Thursday night that “this (donation) is one of the great moments in the history of the Portland Art Museum. There are very few things that can stand beside this gift. After I heard about the gift I wanted to email Judy to tell her she is an angel. Her husband is also an angel.”

Andres Verzosa, the outgoing interim director of the Ogunquit Museum of American Art, said he is a longtime friend of Judy Lauder, having met her several years ago at his Old Port art gallery.

“I have the highest praise and admiration for her,” Verzosa said. “She just seems to embody all the right qualities as a philanthropist and supporter of the arts on every level. She is heartfelt and passionate.”

He said the $5 million doesn’t necessarily solidify the museum’s finances, but “it really paves the way for a more stable future.”

“This will cement the Portland Museum of Art as the anchor and leader of the state’s cultural arts community,” Verzosa said.

PMA officials said the only gifts to the museum that were similar in scope were the 17 Winslow Homer works from Charles Shipman Payson in 1979, a Renoir and related Impressionist works of art from John Whitney Payson in 1991, and the $4 million bequest from William Thon in 2000.

In honor of the donation, the position of PMA director will be renamed the Judy and Leonard Lauder Director of the Portland Museum of Art.

 

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Kitten taped into box, abandoned outside Farmington shelter http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/farmington-shelter-says-kitten-was-left-outside-in-vacuum-box/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/farmington-shelter-says-kitten-was-left-outside-in-vacuum-box/#comments Thu, 08 Dec 2016 18:58:39 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/farmington-shelter-says-kitten-was-left-outside-in-vacuum-box/ The Franklin County Animal Shelter in Farmington says someone left a kitten inside a vacuum box outside the facility’s door Thursday while the temperature hovered just below freezing.

In a post on its Facebook page, the shelter said workers opened the door to walk a staff member’s dog and found on the front step a vacuum box, taped shut, with holes poked through. Inside was a kitten; outside, it was 31 degrees.

“We don’t know how long the kitten was there — it’s been over an hour since any staff was outside,” the shelter posted late Thursday morning. “The poor kitten is fine but beyond terrified. It flew out of the box once the tape was peeled back and circled the office several times before we were able to catch him.”

The shelter said people have dropped off animals like that before but asked people to not do that.

“We recognize some people feel their circumstances are so dire they can no longer keep their animals,” the shelter wrote, but instead people should contact their local animal control officer to surrender an animal or turn in a stray.

Otherwise, the shelter asked that people communicate with them “to ensure the cat’s well-being.”

“We have a doorbell that works very well for getting our attention during our closed but staffed hours,” the shelter wrote.

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High court upholds Portland’s approval of senior housing on Stevens Avenue http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/high-court-upholds-approval-of-portland-housing/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/high-court-upholds-approval-of-portland-housing/#comments Thu, 08 Dec 2016 18:47:05 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1120911 The Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Thursday upheld the city of Portland’s approval of a project to build more than 200 units of senior housing on Steven Avenue.

At issue was a July 2015 decision by the City Council to rezone 7.5 acres that include the historic Sisters of Mercy convent and athletic fields used by the former Catherine McAuley High School, now called the Maine Girls’ Academy. The land was changed from a low-density residential zone for single-family and smaller multifamily homes into a higher-density zone that would allow nearly 250 units of housing.

A group calling itself the Friends of the Mother House, along with Barbara Weed and Raymond Foote, sued the city three months later, arguing that the city did not follow proper procedures and that the rezoning was not consistent with the city’s Comprehensive Plan, which guides land use decisions.

The group lost its case in Superior Court, but appealed that decision to the Law Court, which heard arguments on Nov. 10.

“(The) Friends did not meet its burden to prove that the Council’s action rezoning part of the Motherhouse property to allow the development of senior housing – while retaining the high school and St. Catherine’s Hall in their original zone – was not ‘in basic harmony with the comprehensive plan,’ ” the ruling states.

Sea Coast Management and the Developers Collaborative are planning to restore the Motherhouse, originally built in 1908, and convert it into 88 units of senior housing. Additional residential buildings up to 55 feet tall could be added at the rear of the property located at 605 Stevens Ave.

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Driver was livestreaming when tractor-trailer hit her car, killing her and a passenger http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/teen-driver-on-facebook-live-when-tractor-trailer-hits-car-killing-her-and-passenger/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/teen-driver-on-facebook-live-when-tractor-trailer-hits-car-killing-her-and-passenger/#comments Thu, 08 Dec 2016 17:04:03 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1120846 TOBYHANNA, Pa. — An 18-year-old girl was live-streaming herself as she drove along a Pennsylvania highway in the moments before the crash that killed her and a passenger.

State police say Brooke Miranda Hughes was broadcasting live video on Facebook while driving very slowly in the right lane of Interstate 380 near Tobyhanna.

The Times-Tribune reports the passenger, 19-year-old Chaniya Morrison-Toomey, can be heard asking, “Are you going live?”

Before Hughes can answer, lights flash inside the car, followed by the sound of screeching tires.

Both teens died after a tractor-trailer plowed into the back of their car just after midnight Tuesday.

The driver of the truck was unhurt.

The video has been taken off Hughes’ Facebook page. State police say they’ll use it in their investigation.

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The next level: When kids can’t turn off their video game http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/the-next-level-when-kids-cant-turn-off-their-video-game/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/the-next-level-when-kids-cant-turn-off-their-video-game/#comments Thu, 08 Dec 2016 16:55:05 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1120841

Turn it off, she said.

I need to finish, he said.

No, she said.

Their voices got louder. She doesn’t remember exactly what made him reach for the glass on his bedside table. He threw it with such force that it spun across the room and shattered against his closet door, carving a two-inch gash in the white painted wood. Tiny shards glinted on the striped rug.

By then, the family’s stately home in New York was riddled with such scars – nicks in the walls, scratches in the floor, a divot in the marble countertop lining the kitchen sink. All remnants of the boy’s outbursts, which had intensified over the years, almost always triggered by a simple request from his parents: Byrne, please turn off the game. Please get off the computer.

When Byrne threw the glass, his mother, Robin, didn’t panic; she mostly felt numb. For five years, she and her husband, Terrence, had felt their son slipping away – descending deeper and deeper into a realm they didn’t like or understand, consumed by the virtual worlds shared by millions of strangers, all reachable through his Xbox and his computer. Robin and Terrence had conferred with therapists, medical experts and school counselors to try to help their son.

Just weeks before, they had turned to an education consultant, who helped them come up with a plan: Byrne had to go away – first, to a summerlong wilderness therapy program, where he could reconnect with himself and the real world around him, and then to a boarding school. He had to start over, in a place with strict structure, where he couldn’t spend his days immersed in video games.

His parents knew it was their last option. If this new plan couldn’t save their son, maybe nothing could.

A SOURCE OF ADDICTION

Video games are nothing new, and neither are reports of game addiction. But today’s most popular games are wholly immersive: Vast digital landscapes unfold in eye-popping detail, nuanced characters evolve from one level to the next.These games are deliberately designed, with the help of psychology consultants, to make players want to keep playing, and they are available on every platform – gaming consoles, computers, smartphones. Today’s teens are more tethered to this technology than any previous generation; these so-called “digital natives” have been playing more sophisticated games at younger ages than their parents ever did.

The games have been criticized as an escape from human interaction, but some offer a different sort of social connection: MMOs – or massively multiplayer online games – allow gamers to play together from any place at any time, and many describe a powerful sense of attachment to those who share this virtual realm. Logging off is that much harder for kids who feel a very real bond to their online friends and teammates.

The result, experts say, is a steep rise in the number of parents worried that their kids are in fact addicted, or at least compulsively devoted, to the games. A residential facility called reSTART, the nation’s first therapeutic retreat devoted specifically to internet addiction, launched a new adolescent program last month after receiving a barrage of calls from parents desperate to separate their children from video games, consoles, computers and smartphones. A small but growing number of psychologists across the United States have begun to specialize in treating children who struggle with compulsive gaming and screen use.

“I don’t think we know exactly how many are suffering from this, but we know it’s a big problem,” said psychologist Kimberly Young, founder of the Center for Internet Addiction. “A modest estimate might be 5 percent. But 5 percent of American kids is a lot.”

Boys tend to be more susceptible to compulsive gaming than girls, but any kid who is trying to avoid overwhelming stress – bullies at school, a difficult home environment, social anxiety – might be especially drawn to video games. Experts also see a correlation between obsessive video game use and traits associated with autism, attention deficit disorders, anxiety and depression, although the exact nature of the connection is not fully understood.

Whatever the causes behind this unhealthy attachment, at least one common factor comes through, said Kim McDaniel, a therapist and parent coach who specializes in the compulsive use of electronics.

“The biggest impression I get,” she said, “is that we have this generation of teens and kids who are just so lonely.”

A JOURNEY TO OBSESSION

Terrence and Robin say they were never the kind of parents who parked their children in front of the TV or relied on computer games and electronic gadgets to keep them preoccupied. Terrence, a pragmatic government employee, and Robin, an artistic owner of a small business, made it a priority to spend uninterrupted time with their two boys. They read books with Byrne and his brother, who is three years older, every day. The family cooked meals together and often took long outdoor walks.

The couple revisited their memories of Byrne’s childhood on a recent November evening, sitting together at their dining room table in the 1920s-era house where Byrne and his older brother grew up, nestled behind a row of tall pines on a quiet, small-town street. They both spoke thoughtfully, often completing each other’s sentences. They asked that their family be identified using middle names to protect their privacy.

The first signs of Byrne’s anxious and obsessive behavior surfaced at 4, when he would agonize over which book to read at bedtime: “It had to be the ‘just right’ book,” Robin recalled. In first grade, he excitedly brought his class roster home and called his classmates over and over to set up play dates, with such persistence that the families on the other end of the line rarely obliged.

Byrne was 6 when he first saw a therapist. At 10, he was hospitalized in a pediatric psychiatric unit; doctors told his parents that their highly intelligent, highly sensitive son had severe anxiety. Soon after, his therapist diagnosed him with ADD.

Byrne had trouble making friends, partly because of his obsessive behavior, partly because of his strong personal convictions. In fourth grade, when Byrne heard a couple of classmates complain that the school’s celebration of Black History Month was unnecessary, he launched into a passionate and eloquent rebuke. His teachers were impressed; his peers shunned him even more.

It was around that time when a relative gave Byrne and his brother an Xbox. Gaming was deemed a privilege Byrne would lose if he misbehaved. But that structure soon proved hard to implement.

“He was relentless about asking when he could play – it was a continuous negotiation,” Robin said. The routine grew exhausting, she added, and sometimes she and Terrence caved in to Byrne’s demands. “The games were his refuge.”

The pattern worsened after Byrne entered middle school.

“In seventh grade the downward spiral began, after having maintained High Honor Roll for one quarter, I was given a laptop. This is when my addiction to screens began.”

Byrne wrote these words years later as part of a reflective essay assignment while he was away at the wilderness therapy program.

“In eighth grade, my grades continued to be high, but my parents began to notice my addiction to xbox and my laptop worsening.”

Byrne had frequent arguments with his brother, who had once enjoyed playing games with him, and the two began to spend less time together. One by one, Byrne quit the sports teams that he’d once loved – football, baseball, basketball, lacrosse, sailing. He protested whenever his family made plans to leave the house.

“Anything other than video games,” Robin said, “he called ‘a waste of time.'”

CONFUSING REALITY

At the height of his obsession, Byrne’s games of choice were from the “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” series – first-person shooter games that are every bit as absorbing and nerve-racking as a real military battle simulation or an action movie, replete with stunning graphics, sound effects and atmospheric theme music. The gamer becomes the soldier: Leaves crunch beneath his combat boots as he stalks through an open field, gun raised. There is the sound of a thumping heartbeat when an enemy guard appears in the crosshairs, the soft ping of the bullet firing, a sharp inhalation of breath and a burst of dark blood as the guard falls.

Every movement, every shot fired, every victory within the game is accompanied by real-life physical and neurological responses: The gamer’s muscles tighten, the pulse pounds, and the brain’s prefrontal cortex – its pleasure center – is activated.

Researchers are still trying to figure out exactly how and why video games affect the brain. One 1998 study showed that video games raise the level of dopamine in the brain by about 100 percent, roughly the same increase triggered by sex. (And that was nearly 20 years ago – today’s games have evolved far beyond what was available then.) More recent research found measurable changes in the parts of the brain linked to cognitive function and emotional control after study subjects spent one week playing violent video games.

After Byrne’s prolonged periods of play, his parents noticed that his temperament was unusually volatile. The muscles in his back and neck felt tense and tight. His eyes would sometimes twitch. Lines of dialogue from the games would pop into his mind unbidden. At school, the class dismissal bell occasionally sounded just like the two-tone chime that signaled a new friend joining a game online – a sort of auditory hallucination that researchers refer to as Game Transfer Phenomena (GTP), in which the boundaries between reality and the game begin to blur.

Nicholas Kardaras, a New York psychotherapist and author who specializes in addiction, still remembers the very first gamer he treated who suffered from GTP: a teenage boy in a Metallica T-shirt who appeared frightened and confused as he sat in Kardaras’s office.

The boy blinked, looking up at the ceiling, then down at the floor.

“Do you know where you are?” the psychotherapist asked him.

The boy was quiet for a moment. Then he asked: “Are we still in the game?”

THERAPY AND PRIVATE SCHOOL

“When ninth grade rolled around, I began to ignore my responsibilities as a student for screens. I began to (make) more friends, however I did not notice that these people were making fun of me nonstop.”

Byrne’s classmates only really hung out with him through video games – each in their separate homes, connected online and through headsets that allowed them to chat while they played. But the same social hierarchy followed Byrne from his school hallways into the games, where the other boys continued to tease him.

Byrne tried to laugh it off; being mocked still seemed better than being ignored altogether. His parents noticed that he was often upset when the games ended. But he insisted on going back, because he felt he had nowhere else to go.

When Byrne started failing classes and refusing to go to school in 10th grade, his parents knew their situation had grown dire. They hired the education consultant who urged them to enroll Byrne in a private boarding school. The thought of sending him away was wrenching – but also hopeful.

“Finally, we had a path,” Terrence said. “We just had to figure out how to pay for it.”

Because video-game addiction isn’t recognized as an official diagnosis by the guidebook of American psychiatry, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – which cites “Internet Gaming Disorder” as a condition warranting more research – medical insurance doesn’t cover treatment, which can quickly climb into the tens of thousands.

Byrne’s parents said they took out a second mortgage on their home, raided their savings, ran up their credit cards and applied for financial aid to help cover the $25,000 summer-long therapy program and the annual $50,000 private school tuition.

“We knew, if we do this, and it doesn’t work, then we know we’ve done everything,” Robin said. “And you will do anything for your kid.”

Byrne wanted to go to the boarding school; he was eager to get away, to start over. He was less thrilled about the wilderness program but understood that it was mandatory. When his family dropped him off for 10 weeks in Vermont in June 2015, he handed over his phone and said goodbye.

His parents returned to a quiet house, filled with memories of a painful past that they wanted to leave behind. So Robin gathered years’ worth of files – towering stacks of teachers’ reports, special education plans, insurance forms and her own notes – and carried them into the sunny living room. She knelt beside the brick-lined fireplace and struck a match. Then she fed the papers to the flames, watching as they withered and crumbled to ash.

TONING IT DOWN

Byrne is 17 now, a sweet-natured, soft-spoken kid with glasses and a mop of tousled brown hair. He speaks with his father’s baritone voice and his mother’s thoughtful eloquence.

He lives on a sloping, wooded campus in New England, where his days are filled with classes and organized outings. Now in his junior year – he had to repeat 10th grade – he earns mostly A’s and B’s. He has a circle of friends and a roommate he describes as “hilarious” and “compassionate.” On Saturdays, Byrne goes sailing with the school team. On Sundays, he does his homework and orders pizza for dinner with his friends.

And, once or twice a week, he allows himself to play video games. This concerns his parents; they worry that his struggle to distance himself from the games isn’t over, that the risk of relapse always looms.

Byrne feels he has a healthier relationship to the games now. “I have to do my work, then I can play,” he said. “It’s much more like, ‘I can do this for a treat.'” But he knows he’ll always have to monitor himself carefully. He wants to go to college to become a counselor, to help other kids who are struggling like he has. He is repairing his relationship with his big brother, who began to drift away from Byrne when he became consumed by the games.

Lately, he’s been into a game called Overwatch, an MMO made by the creators of World of Warcraft, the most lucrative online video game in history. Set in a future version of Earth, Overwatch has an intricate story line and a cast of “heroes,” each with different skills and detailed biographies. Byrne plays the game with online friends and has become close to many of them: “Everyone likes me there,” he said.

He plays at his desk in the corner of his dorm room, a bright, messy space strewn with shoes and laundry and smelling faintly of microwave popcorn and gym socks. On a recent Sunday afternoon, he settled into his chair and opened his laptop, a model specifically designed for gameplay.

The screen was a blur of chaotic motion as his character stormed from one level to the next, through bright streets and towering canyons and apocalyptic underworlds. The illuminated keyboard bathed Byrne’s fingers in rainbow-colored lights. The speakers blasted the sounds of grunts, gunfire and shouts.

The world is worth fighting for! said the character he’d chosen for the game, a nerdy but powerful female scientist named Mei. Byrne smiled. “That’s one of the lines that pops into my mind sometimes,” he said, and repeated it as his right hand furiously clicked the mouse.

“The world is worth fighting for.”

Outside the tall windows, the day faded to late afternoon, the shadows of trees lengthening over the yellowed grass. Soon it was 4 o’clock, and Byrne had been playing for several hours. The guys would be ordering pizza soon, before evening study hall. Byrne had final exams to prepare for.

The sound of his friends’ laughter echoed in the hallway.

On the computer, a countdown ticked: Next game starts in 20 seconds … 19 … 18 …

His hand moved across the glowing keyboard, and with a soft click, the world on the screen disappeared.

 

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Community Health Options has fewer claims, higher losses in October http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/health-insurance-cooperative-sees-fewer-claims-higher-losses-in-october/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/health-insurance-cooperative-sees-fewer-claims-higher-losses-in-october/#comments Thu, 08 Dec 2016 16:30:03 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1120821 Claims were down but losses were up at Community Health Options in October, the Maine Bureau of Insurance said this week.

The bureau has been monitoring the cooperative health insurer this year after it racked up $31 million in losses in 2015 and set aside $43 million in reserves to cover anticipated losses for 2016.

The Lewiston-based insurer – which has more than 80,000 customers, mostly in Maine – had been the only bright spot among the insurance cooperatives that sprung up in the wake of the Affordable Care Act. It turned a $7 million profit in 2014, but then saw losses snowball last year as new customers signed up and accessed health care under the insurance cooperative, some for the first time in years. As the customers saw doctors and treated medical issues that some had previously ignored, they met annual deductible limits and the bills went to CHO for full payment, leading to increasing losses as the year went on.

The Bureau of Insurance had considered putting the cooperative into receivership in order to trim the ranks of customers and cut losses, but federal officials blocked that effort, saying the ACA required insurers to renew policies for customers. Instead, the bureau worked on a financial plan with CHO and said it would monitor the insurer’s finances on a monthly basis.

In its report for October, the bureau said claims were 12 percent lower than CHO’s financial plan, but the net loss for the month was 31.3 percent worse than forecast. For the year to date, the bureau said, net losses are 6.9 percent worse than what CHO planned for, but the drawdown from the reserve fund was slightly better than the plan.

The bureau also said CHO has done a good job of controlling its costs, with expenses 10.7 percent below what the plan anticipated for October and year-to-date expenses 1.9 percent lower than the plan.

CHO’s bonds, cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments also were lower than expected in October. The bureau said that was largely because CHO paid claims faster and had lower-than-expected premium income as it stabilized its customer base.

The bureau said CHO’s year-to-date financial performance has been “generally consistent with its plan, and October’s results were in line with the company’s most recent fourth-quarter projections.”

CHO’s finances are also likely to be affected by a lawsuit it has filed against the federal government, seeking $23 million from a pool created to help insurers cope with unexpected financial issues during the first few years of the ACA. A federal judge last week ruled that the lawsuit could continue, despite a federal government request for a delay.

 

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http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/08/health-insurance-cooperative-sees-fewer-claims-higher-losses-in-october/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/03/815658__522363_20131119_mainecoo_2.jpgThu, 08 Dec 2016 20:22:43 +0000