The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » News Fri, 30 Sep 2016 13:32:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Portland police offices to carry Narcan Fri, 30 Sep 2016 13:32:29 +0000 The Portland Police Department has instituted a new policy for all patrol officers to carry Narcan, the drug that blocks the effects of opioid overdose.

Police Chief Michael Sauschuck says the policy is a direct response to the opioid epidemic in Portland. Every regularly assigned patrol officer has been trained to properly administer the drug.

“Since the beginning of the year, we’ve been working on a three-pronged strategy to fight addiction by increasing our educational efforts, community awareness and facilitating treatment through our Law Enforcement Addiction Advocacy Program,” Sauschuck said in a prepared statement. “Having our officers carry Narcan is a logical component to this effort for those times in which we are the first to arrive on scene.”

The police department received the Narcan doses free of charge from the Attorney General’s Office. Attorney General Janet Mill is distributing the antidote, known as naloxone, in an effort to equip more first responders with the lifesaving drug. Her office has distributed at least 866 doses of the nasal spray to several law enforcement agencies, including 150 in Portland.

In August, Mills’ office had spent $76,500 to buy 2,040 doses from AdaptPharma, which produces the nasal spray form of the drug. To pay for the program, Mills has drawn from the consumer trust fund, a pot of money built up from court settlements that is controlled by the attorney general and is used to fund the consumer protection division and other initiatives at the attorney general’s discretion.

Gov. Paul LePage this year vetoed legislation to expand access to naloxone, saying that making the antidote availble does not address the root causes of the drug problem and that keeping it on hand “serves only to perpetuate the cycle of addiction.”

“Naloxone does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose,” LePage wrote in his veto letter.

There were 272 drug overdose deaths in Maine in 2015, most caused by heroin, fentanyl or prescription opioids. That represented a rise of 31 percent over the number of overdose deaths in 2014. Nationwide and in Maine, more people now die from drug overdoses than vehicle accidents.

In Portland, firefighters or emergency medical personnel administered Narcan 161 times in 2015. This year through the end of July, the fire department said naloxone was used 63 times, a decrease from 86 in the same seven-month period of 2015.

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Westbrook crash knocks out power in 4 towns Fri, 30 Sep 2016 12:54:20 +0000 A car crashed into a pole on County Road in Westbrook Friday morning, knocking out power to 1,400 customers.

County Road – also known as Route 22 – is partially closed because of the crash. The crash occurred near Smiling Hill Farm and has already been cleared, but power crews are on the scene replacing a pole.

Traffic is down to one lane in the area and may cause delays.

Central Maine Power Co. says 1,400 customers in Westbrook, Scarborough, Gorham and Buxton lost power because of the crash.

In Windham, Nash Road between Falmouth Road and Roosevelt Trail was closed during the morning commute as CMP crews replaced a pole that was knocked down during a crash. Emergency dispatchers said the road may be closed for several hours and drivers should seek an alternate route.

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Port Clyde lobsterman’s boat intentionally sunk twice Fri, 30 Sep 2016 12:47:54 +0000 ST. GEORGE — The Maine Marine Patrol is investigating the sinking of a Port Clyde lobsterman’s boat on Wednesday, just days after the owner had repaired the boat after an earlier sinking on Aug. 17.

Tony Hooper, 37, said his lobster boat was released from its mooring overnight, with hoses and bilge wires cut, and left to wash up on a nearby island.

The sinking comes little more than a month after an earlier incident when his boat was found 30 feet underwater.

“I’m doing all I can to keep my wits about me,” he said. “This is getting ridiculous.”

Hooper said he had already lost around $30,000 to repairs for the boat after the first incident and weeks spent off the water. This time, he said he was lucky to have found the boat beached on a nearby island at low tide, with water in the engine. He said he does not know how much these new repairs will cost.

“I’ve been losing traps all season,” Hooper said. “I’ve always had a little bit of a problem before, but not to this extent.”

Sgt. Matthew Talbot of the Maine Marine Patrol confirmed both sinkings are under investigation and appear to be intentional.

Hooper said he thought other lobstermen were paying drug addicts to destroy rival lobstermen’s property.

On Sept. 1, two men sunk another lobster boat and stole an abandoned a skiff in St. George, according to court documents.

One of the men told investigators they then drove to Augusta to buy drugs with money they were paid to sink the boat. Three men have been charged in that incident.

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Obama: Peres won his wars but understood the need for peace Fri, 30 Sep 2016 11:41:24 +0000 JERUSALEM – President Barack Obama hailed Shimon Peres Friday as a man who showed the world that justice and hope are at the heart of the Zionist ideal and saw “all people as deserving of dignity and respect.”

Wearing a Jewish skullcap as a sign of respect and reverence, Obama said he was the 10th president to fall prey to Peres’ charms and they forged an unlikely friendship, despite the nearly four-decade gap in their ages and starkly different backgrounds.

“It was so surprising to see the two of us, where we had started, talking together in the White House, meeting here in Israel,” he said. “I think both of us understood that we were here only because in some way we reflected the magnificent story of our nations.”

“The last of the founding generation is now gone,” Obama said, speaking just to the left of Peres’ casket draped in blue and white. Peres died at 93 Wednesday, two weeks after suffering a stroke.

Obama and other world leaders hailed Peres for his vision and his leadership in securing a strong defense. But they also spoke of his never-ending quest for peace. Obama said Peres understood the Palestinians must be seen as equal in dignity to Jews and therefore must be equal in self-determination.

“Shimon never saw his dream of peace fulfilled,” noted Obama, speaking at Israel’s national cemetery, Mount Herzl.

“The region is going through a chaotic time,” the president said. “Threats are ever-present and yet he did not stop dreaming and he did not stop working.”

In many ways, he said that Peres reminded him of other giants like Nelson Mandela and Queen Elizabeth, leaders “who speak with depth and knowledge, not in sound bites.”

Former President Bill Clinton, in his eulogy, said he was in awe of Peres’ endless capacity to move beyond the most crushing setbacks to seize the possibilities of each new day. “He never gave up on anybody, I mean anybody,” Clinton said.

Peres, whose name is synonymous with Israel’s history, served stints as prime minister, president and foreign minister. He welcomed Obama on his first trip to Israel as president in 2013, as the two men sought to restart a peace process with the Palestinians that has so far failed.

The United States delegation included Clinton, Secretary of State John Kerry and about 20 members of Congress and several administration officials.

Air Force One landed in Tel Aviv early at daybreak Friday and Obama headed back to the airport as soon as the service ended. He participated in the eulogy portion of the service and walked to the grave site with family members and other world leaders. Obama watched as the coffin was lowered and 10 wreaths were placed next to the grave.

The two leaders shared similar visions for a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Peres’ son-in-law and personal physician, Dr. Rafi Walden, said Obama had called the family overnight on Wednesday during Peres’ final hours and spoke to Peres’ daughter, Tzvia. “We are deeply moved,” Walden said.

Obama awarded Peres the Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honor, in 2012, saying “Shimon teaches us to never settle for the world as it is.”

In turn, Peres bestowed the Medal of Distinction on Obama, making him the first sitting U.S. president to receive Israel’s highest civilian honor.

“This award speaks to you, to your tireless work to make Israel strong, to make peace possible,” Peres said in 2013. “Your presidency has given the closest ties between Israel and the United States a new height, a sense of intimacy, a vision for the future.”

Those who worked with both men said they shared mutual respect and affection.

“Even a man into his 90s, Peres was always thinking about the future,” said Dennis Ross, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former adviser to Obama. “I think that captured the president’s imagination and added to the respect for him.”

Ross, who said he spoke often with Peres during the past three decades, said the Israeli leader believed that Obama’s heart was in the right place. But “he wasn’t always convinced that the president fully understood the nature of Israel’s predicament in the region,” Ross said.

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Europe’s comet chaser on course for crash-landing Fri, 30 Sep 2016 11:39:58 +0000 BERLIN – The European Space Agency says it has lost contact with its Rosetta probe after it hit the surface of a comet, marking the planned end of a 12-year mission.

Scientists sent the probe on a collision course with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, where Rosetta will now rest with its sidekick Philae, which landed on the surface in November 2014.

Jan Woerner, the head of the European Space Agency, said the 1.4 billion euro ($1.57 billion) mission was already a success. Aside from sending a lander onto the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in November 2014 – a cosmic first – the Rosetta mission has collected vast amounts of data that researchers will spend many more years analyzing.

Scientists have already heralded a number of discoveries about the chemical composition of the comet that provide crucial insights into the formation of the solar system and theories about the origin of life on Earth.

Andrea Accomazzo, the spacecraft operations manager, said the mission had been a huge challenge and should be considered an achievement “not just for ESA, but for mankind.” Should Earth ever be threatened by an asteroid, the experience gained from the Rosetta mission would prove valuable, he said.

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Colorado gives marijuana candy new look to avoid confusion Fri, 30 Sep 2016 10:14:05 +0000 DENVER – Wondering if that brownie contains pot? Colorado has you covered.

A requirement that edible marijuana products come with a diamond-shaped stamp and the letters T-H-C – not just on the packaging but on the brownies, candies and other edibles themselves – takes effect Saturday.

The rule referencing marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient was added after complaints that the treats look too much their non-intoxicating counterparts. It is the first such requirement in any legal weed state.

Colorado’s new “universal symbol” for foods that contain marijuana is designed to give the treats a distinct look even after they’re out of the packaging. In other words, a pot cookie being passed around a high school cafeteria no longer will look so innocent, giving parents a way to identify marijuana edibles without smelling or tasting them.

The stamping requirement comes in addition to exhaustive labeling and packaging rules that include childproof zippers and lids, along with warnings that the product should be kept away from children and not eaten before driving or while pregnant or nursing.

“We want to ensure that people genuinely know the difference between a Duncan Hines brownie and a marijuana brownie, just by looking at it,” said state Rep. Jonathan Singer, a Democrat who sponsored the law requiring stamped edibles.

There are no numbers in Colorado or any marijuana state on how many children or adults accidentally eat pot. But a 2016 study tracing admissions at Children’s Hospital Colorado just outside Denver found that more kids were treated for accidental pot ingestion after legalization, from 1.2 per 100,000 population two years prior to legalization to 2.3 per 100,000 population two years after legalization.

Marijuana ingestions remained relatively rare, though, with the hospital reporting 81 children treated for accidental pot ingestion between 2009 and 2015. Authors noted that “poor child supervision or product storage” was present in about a third of those cases.

Still, reported accidental ingestions caught lawmakers’ attention. The law was passed more than a year ago but is just now taking effect because of difficulties implementing it. None of the other legal weed states has considered a universal symbol requirement for marijuana products themselves, as opposed to the packaging.

Candies and baked goods may be simple to stamp, but the label requirement gets a lot trickier for bulk items such as granola, or marijuana-infused sodas or powders that can be dissolved in water. The state ultimately settled on new packaging rules for those impossible-to-stamp items, requiring that sodas come in small single-serve bottles, for example.

Colorado also requires that edible packages contain the phrase, “Keep out of reach of children.”

At BlueKudu, which makes marijuana-infused chocolates, owners had to buy new molds for a line of candy bars that include flavors like mint chocolate, toffee almond and coffee crunch.

Company founder Andrew Schrot said that when he started his company in 2011 for medical marijuana customers, his pot treats looked like any other chocolate bars. But he said the switch to a recreational market in which new marijuana users were trying his products necessitated change.

“This is not your normal chocolate bar. There’s something different about it. You can tell just from looking at it,” Schrot said.

Colorado’s marijuana industry initially was hesitant about the change, pointing out in regulatory meetings that alcohol makers aren’t required to dye their drinks funny colors to make sure parents don’t let kids get ahold of the booze.

“Some of the industry expectation was, ‘Let’s keep it on the parents and the users in keeping it away from children or people who shouldn’t use it,”‘ Schrot said. “But you know, sometimes mistakes happen. You turn your back and a product is left out.”

Colorado has no estimate of how many accidental ingestions might be avoided by the stamping. Starting next year, the state also will ban any edible marijuana products in the shape of a fruit, animal or human – in addition to existing bans on the use of cartoon characters on packages or other images deemed attractive to kids.

“It’s really a step in enhancing public safety and making sure that marijuana is out of the hands of children,” said Ron Kammerzell, head of enforcement for the state Marijuana Enforcement Division.

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Make your weekend plans with this Saturday, Sunday forecast Fri, 30 Sep 2016 08:47:47 +0000 A weather system will slowly move through New England this weekend brining a period of rain, especially south of Portland. Sunshine will be hard to find on either day.

Today brings some sunshine mixed with the clouds. Clouds will tend to thicken this evening. A low pressure system to our south will be close enough to allow its rain shield to move into southern New England. We will be on the northern fridge of this area tonight through Sunday morning.

Temperatures will average below normal this weekend with highs only around 60 Saturday and perhaps a few degrees warmer for Sunday.

If you’re going to view the foliage: Cloudy skies can make the colors pop. Head north and west for the best color. The highest chance of rain is south and east so the best color areas should be driest this weekend.

If you’re playing soccer, softball, baseball, or golf: Fields no doubt have the potential to be wet this weekend. I have a flag football game on Saturday which won’t be canceled if we do see showery conditions. Dress for a raw cold day with periodic showers and even a downpour over southern York County is possible.

Sunday will bring clouds and a chance of showers, but some dry weather as well. I would plan on this being a better day to at least try to get a round of golf in, just prepare for that ever present chance of showers.

If you’re going to Fenway for the final two regular games: The rain Saturday will likely taper off enough to get the game in during the evening. These things are always difficult to predict of course. Sunday is a drier day and the afternoon game is likely to be unaffected by any rain showers.

If you’re going to a local farm for apple picking, pony rides and cider donuts: There will be some showers Saturday, but don’t let that deter you from bundling the kids up and heading out to gather apples. It’s not a picture perfect day for sure, but you can avoid the crowds. Sunday is a drier day, but watch for scattered showers. Bring a dry pair of socks just in case.

Highs on Saturday will be chilly with lots of clouds and little or no sunshine

Highs on Saturday will be chilly with lots of clouds and little or no sunshine

If you’re gardening: The drought continues to be firmly entrenched and will likely remain this way for several months at least. Although some rain is expected it will do little to help the situation and I recommend continuing to water shrubs and trees where it’s possible. Plants should not go into winter with dry soil as that promotes damage, especially with evergreens.

If you’re running errands: Either day is going to be sunless so it won’t matter when to do your errands. If you want to avoid the rain and wettest part of the weekend stay away from being outside Saturday morning. I think rain tapers in the afternoon and Sunday, while not 100 percent rain free has less of a chance of showers.

If you’re going to a concert, outdoor party, or wedding: Saturday events may need to be delayed or moved inside. It won’t be a dry day. Sunday isn’t great, but you could manage to get lucky and dodge the rain showers.

If you’re going beaching and boating: A persistent onshore flow of air has built up seas enough so the surf is quite rough. Additionally, a gusty wind will make boating more difficult. A walk on the beach in the rain is possible, but certainly not something most of you will be doing Saturday. Sunday provides less of a chance of showers, but this is still far from a beach weekend.

I will be updating the forecast on Twitter @growingwisdom throughout the weekend.


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WEX embraces new parental leave policy to attract, keep workers Fri, 30 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Parents who work at WEX Inc. have a new perk: up to six weeks of fully paid parental leave for the birth or adoption of a child.

The South Portland payment processing technology firm has joined a small but growing list of employers that offer paid leave to both male and female employees for childbirth and adoption. WEX implemented the new policy Sept. 1, retroactive to the beginning of this year.

That’s good news for Johann Sabbath, a strategic planner at WEX whose daughter, Pemma Sabbath, was born on April 27. He used two weeks of vacation time to be with his wife, Yasmin Mahal, and their newborn daughter. Now he has the vacation time back, along with the option to take four more fully paid weeks off.

An employee at WEX Inc. in South Portland, Johann Sabbath of Portland used two weeks of vacation when his wife, Yasmin Mahal, gave birth to their daughter, Pemma, in April. A retroactive change to his company's family leave policy allows the new dad to get his vacation time back and take another four weeks of paid time off.

Johann Sabbath of Portland, an employee of WEX Inc. in South Portland, used two weeks of vacation when his wife, Yasmin Mahal, gave birth to their daughter, Pemma, in April. A retroactive change to his company’s family leave policy allows the new dad to get his vacation time back and take another four weeks of paid time off. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

“It enables me to take time off and pinch-hit with childcare,” said Sabbath, whose wife also has a career. “I think this new policy is awesome for expecting parents or those looking to adopt children.”

The new benefit is in addition to WEX’s existing maternity leave allowance, which provides up to eight weeks of short-term disability leave at two-thirds pay for female workers. WEX, which has 2,600 employees worldwide, including about 760 in Maine, had no prior leave policy for new fathers.

According to the Alexandria, Virginia-based Society for Human Resource Management, only 17 percent of U.S. companies offer paid parental leave to both male and female employees. Only 21 percent provide paid maternal leave to female workers, it said.

WEX’s parental leave policy only applies to the company’s full-time U.S. workers, but Senior Vice President of Human Resources Jenifer Rinehart said most other countries in which the company operates already have government-mandated parental leave policies that meet or exceed the new WEX policy.

“In the U.S., we lag behind in robust benefits for new parents,” Rinehart said.

Those benefits vary by industry, said Amie Parker, state director-elect of the human resource management society’s Maine chapter. “There are some industries that are ahead of the curve.”

For instance, colleges and universities, law firms and technology companies are among those most likely to offer paid parental leave, Parker said. Large corporations also are more likely than small businesses to offer the benefit, she said, adding that many small businesses cannot afford to pay workers for parental leave.

Portlanders Yasmin Mahal and Johann Sabbath with their infant daughter, Pemma Sabbath. Johann Sabbath works for WEX Inc. and is benefiting from the company's new parental leave policy.

Yasmin Mahal and Johann Sabbath of Portland with their infant daughter, Pemma Sabbath. Photo courtesy Wex Inc.

Rinehart said WEX researched the costs and benefits of adding a parental leave policy and found that the pros outweighed the cons. For example, a California study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that 87 percent of businesses that implemented parental leave policies on a trial basis reported no impact on their bottom line. Another 9 percent said they actually saved money because of decreased employee turnover and other benefit payments. Only 4 percent said the policy had a negative financial impact.

WEX also found that companies with parental leave policies gain a distinct edge over their competitors when it comes to attracting new talent, Rinehart said.

“It will definitely help us from a recruitment perspective,” she said.

WEX found evidence that parental leave policies benefit parents and children, as well. A study in Iceland by the Icelandic Review of Politics and Administration found that parents who take time off for childbirth and adoption are 70 percent more likely to share in child-rearing duties, and 18 percent less likely to suffer from depression.

WEX employee Johann Sabbath, who is a new father, recently took advantage of his company's parental leave policy. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

WEX employee Johann Sabbath, who is a new father, recently took advantage of his company’s parental leave policy. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Adding parental leave for adoptions is important because the average adopting family must spend seven to 10 days in the birth state of the adopted child, according to the Association of Administrators of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children. The time requirement can be even longer for adopted children born in foreign countries.

Parker said few employers in Maine offer parental leave benefits, in part because the state is dominated by small businesses. Still, WEX isn’t the only company in the state that provides employee benefits to parents who are not the birth mother or primary caregiver.

Idexx Laboratories Inc. in Westbrook implemented a “bonding leave” benefit in 2014, which provides two weeks of fully paid leave to non-birth mother parents to bond with their newborn or adopted child, in addition to its paid maternal leave policy of six weeks at half pay and $5,000 in financial assistance toward the cost of adopting a child.

In general, Parker said, changes in family dynamics and increased adoption rates have helped bring the issue of parental leave further into the spotlight.

“Employers that are more progressive are moving in that direction,” she said.

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Owners of Scarborough campground and farm dispute EPA charges Fri, 30 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 An attorney for the owners of a popular Scarborough campground and farm disputed the federal government’s claims that they “filled wetlands” on their property, saying the family only settled to avoid a costlier legal battle.

But Bayley’s Camping Resort also faces more potential sanctions from Maine environmental regulators for allegedly filling in additional freshwater wetlands without first receiving state permits.

The owners of Bayley’s Camping Resort, Bayley Hill Deer and Trout Farm have agreed to restore nearly 65 acres of wetlands and pay a $227,500 civil penalty over alleged federal Clean Water Act violations dating back decades.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s case against Fred, Kathleen and Thomas Bayley and their related companies – FKT Resort Management LLC and FKT Bayley Family Limited Partnership – stems from work the Bayley family did on their farm and campground near the Pine Point area of Scarborough and Old Orchard Beach. That work was sometimes carried out in cooperation with state agencies.

Attorney Gene Libby pointed out that the Bayleys settled “without any admission of liability” and said the family never “filled in” wetlands but, instead, redeposited soil previously moved from the site. Libby also portrayed the EPA and U.S. Department of Justice as Goliath taking on David, in this case private property owners.

“We have two individuals who are both 77 (years old), and at this stage in their lives they simply do not have the stamina to engage in this sort of fight,” Libby said. “So clearly this is a compromise.”


The case of Bayley Camping Resort and Bayley Hill Deer and Trout Farm in many ways highlights the complexities for landowners trying to navigate the maze of state and federal environmental regulations, as well as the challenge of enforcing those laws.

The EPA alleges that the Bayleys placed fill and other materials in wetlands that are part of Scarborough Marsh at their Ross Road farm and at the campground. The agency contends the actions were done without first obtaining the necessary permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and constitute illegal discharges into the waterways.

At the campground, the EPA claims the Bayleys had discharged dredge or fill into 18 acres of designated wetlands since 1984 without first obtaining permits. As part of the settlement, the Bayleys agreed to restore a roughly 7-acre area known as the “goose pasture” that attracts waterfowl but that the campground has used for farming and other activities in the past.

But Libby suggested the EPA targeted the Bayley family for activities it undertook as part of a 450-acre waterfowl habitat restoration project in Scarborough Marsh. The Bayleys provided equipment, labor and $5,000 to rebuild an impoundment on state-owned land to create the wetlands, working with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife as well as Ducks Unlimited.

As part of the project, Fred Bayley created the “goose pasture” for migratory birds with help and advice from the state. The Scarborough Marsh wetlands and pasture restoration even received a lengthy write-up in the Maine department’s magazine as an example of the state’s work to improve wildlife habitat.

While Libby said the EPA dropped initial charges for the dam work because it was on state-owned land, he said the Bayley family agreed to restore 7 acres of the pasture land “because it was the least expensive way to resolve the controversy.”

The family, however, is under additional scrutiny from the state for allegedly filling in other wetlands and improving areas of the property without permits.


During a January 2015 inspection, DEP staff noted that up to 35,281 square feet of freshwater wetlands had been filled by the campground owners without a permit. Additionally, DEP staff noted 5.4 acres of newly developed campsites, an excavation area and a new road, all done without prior DEP approval.

The DEP issued a “notice of violation” to FKT Bayley Family Limited Partnership in March 2015. A department spokesman declined to comment because the case is still pending.

In the case of the farm property, the settlement with the EPA alleges that the Bayleys or their employees discharged materials into about 77 acres of wetlands and along about 3,773 feet of tributaries.

Libby countered that some of the work was done “with the advice and consent of” the Cumberland County Conservation District, which was formerly a part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Also, land clearing in 2007 was done under a provision of Maine law that allows farmers to convert freshwater wetlands into farm fields as long as the topography is not affected, Libby said.

“We don’t have a dredge-and-fill operation here,” he said. “We have a farmer creating farmland who ran into some restrictive regulations.”

But Bayley Hill Deer and Trout Farm paid a fine of more than $19,500 to the state three years ago for some of the same site work.

In May 2012, a Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry official inspected the farmland in response to the complaint about wetlands disturbance.

“It appeared as though the character of the land wasn’t significantly altered other than some smoothing,” inspector Matthew Randall wrote in his report.


Ultimately, however, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection determined that the farm violated the state’s Natural Resources Protection Act by “removing or displacing” soil or vegetation and then filling a freshwater wetland without obtaining a permit. The Bayleys also built a culvert, a stream crossing and a road adjacent to the stream without a permit.

While the DEP’s May 2013 consent agreement with the Bayleys acknowledged Maine law allows wetland alterations for farming purposes, the settlement noted that “when the agricultural fields were created, some land topography was altered in the wetland areas.”

The Bayleys subsequently filed for “after-the-fact” permits from the DEP and restored some of the wetlands.

An EPA spokesman declined to comment Thursday when asked for a response to Libby’s statements.

“EPA and DOJ do not comment on our negotiations when reaching a settlement,” the statement from the EPA states. “However, the United States is confident that we have reached a fair and appropriate settlement in this matter.”

The EPA consent agreement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court approval.


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Tragedy at sea: Sinking of El Faro recalled one year later Fri, 30 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 One year ago, the crew of the container ship El Faro, with five Maine Maritime Academy graduates on board, got caught in a powerful Category 4 hurricane and sank off the coast of the Bahamas in 15,000 feet of water.

All 33 crew members, including the ship’s captain, 53-year-old Michael Davidson of Windham, were lost at sea in one of the worst maritime tragedies in U.S. history.

This weekend, many of the families of the victims will gather in Jacksonville, Florida, to mark the one-year anniversary of the El Faro tragedy. The ship sank on the morning of Oct. 1, 2015.

Several events to remember the victims are scheduled this weekend in Jacksonville, which was the El Faro’s home port.

Maine Maritime Academy President William J. Brennan said Thursday evening that the school will not commemorate the El Faro incident out of respect for the families of all the graduates who have died at sea.

“At Maine Maritime Academy we work on the sea, and we train hard for extremely complex and even perilous situations, so our purpose here at MMA is all the more critical in the face of an incident such as the sinking of the El Faro,” Brennan said in a statement. “Out of respect for the families of all of our alumni who have been lost since the founding of the Academy, we will not commemorate the one-year mark of the incident in a public way.”

Brennan said scholarships have been established in the names of the El Faro crew.

“We are honoring the legacy of our alumni who are forever the officers and crew of the El Faro through the establishment of scholarships in their names,” Brennan said.

Brennan said the names of all MMA alumni lost at sea will be read at the Regimental Induction Ceremony during the school’s 2020 Regimental Induction Weekend on Saturday, Oct. 8.

“The names of all of our alumni lost in the line of duty or at sea will be read at the ceremony, recognizing their service, their contributions, and their influence on us,” Brennan said.

In addition to Davidson, the other crew members with a connection to Maine were 25-year-old Michael L. Holland of Wilton, 23-year-old Dylan O. Meklin of Rockland and 34-year-old Danielle L. Randolph of Rockland. A fifth crew member, 26-year-old Mitchell T. Kuflik of Brooklyn, New York, graduated from Maine Maritime Academy.

Holland’s mother, Deb Roberts of Wilton, traveled to Jacksonville to participate in the ceremonies. Roberts said she was looking forward to meeting some of the families that she has only been able to correspond with on social media.

She met a close friend when her flight landed in Atlanta. Laurie Bobillott’s daughter, Danielle Randolph, was on the El Faro when it sank. Roberts and Bobillott were booked on the same flight from Atlanta to Jacksonville.

“I’m feeling good, but it has been a mix of emotions,” Roberts said Thursday evening in a telephone interview from Florida. “It’s hard coming back here. It brings back a lot of emotions and memories from when I came here last year with the hope that Michael was still alive.”

Roberts and other El Faro family members have been invited to attend a Friday night dinner hosted by the American Maritime Officers union in Jacksonville.

The Seafarers International Union will hold a remembrance Saturday at 11 a.m. in Jacksonville. Seventeen of the El Faro crew members lived in the Jacksonville area. A monument will be unveiled at the union hall, featuring a miniature lighthouse with 33 stars.

Earlier this week, the Florida Times Union reported that the Jacksonville City Council voted to pass a resolution changing the name of Dames Point Park to El Faro Memorial at Dames Point Park. The newspaper said El Faro’s owner – Tote Services Inc. – will pay for improvements to the blighted park and erect a permanent 10-foot statue in the crew’s memory.

That statue will be unveiled at 4 p.m. Saturday, according to Roberts.

“We don’t have a grave. No body was buried, but at least we will have a place we can return to,” Roberts said, referring to the memorials.

The El Faro made its final departure from Jacksonville on Sept. 30. At the time, the cargo ship was carrying 391 shipping containers and 294 cars and trailers. Davidson was aware of the storm, which had been named Joaquin, and was trying to travel under the weather system. Instead, he sailed directly into the hurricane’s path.

El Faro lost propulsion and started to take on water during the storm, which battered the 790-foot ship with waves as tall as 30 feet.

Davidson ordered the crew to abandon ship, according to El Faro’s voyage data recorder, which the National Transportation Safety Board and the Navy recovered in August. It contains 26 hours of conversations that took place on the bridge, as well as navigational data, onboard radar images and wind data.

In addition to 28 American crew members, there were five Polish mariners on board the cargo ship. Tote Services has settled 23 of the 33 wrongful death claims filed by the families, according to the Florida Times Union.

The NTSB and the Coast Guard continue to investigate the circumstances that caused the El Faro to sink. Two hearings have been held this year by the Coast Guard’s Marine Board of Investigation, with a third hearing expected to be held once the NTSB has developed a transcript of the sounds and discernible words captured on the El Faro’s bridge audio.

“The vessel’s loss of propulsion was mentioned on the bridge audio about 6:13 a.m. (Oct. 1). Also captured was the master speaking on the telephone, notifying shoreside personnel of the vessel’s critical situation. He also informed them he was going to send out an emergency distress signal,” the NTSB said in a news release issued after the data recorder had been found. “The master sounded the abandon ship alarm about 7:30 a.m., Oct. 1.”

The recording of conversations on the bridge ends about 10 minutes later.


]]> 1, 30 Sep 2016 08:03:01 +0000
Small Westbrook lab in race to help speed up testing for Zika Fri, 30 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 WESTBROOK — A test that soon could be available to help millions of people worldwide determine whether they have the Zika virus could rely on research done at a small lab in a Westbrook industrial park. Unlike current tests that take weeks to process, the new tests would give patients quick results, potentially within 20 minutes.

ViroStat Inc., a private company on Spiller Drive, is in a race with at least one other company to develop an antibody that could be used in diagnostic tests kits, company officials said. The Zika virus has become a worldwide public health hazard because scientists have concluded that the virus can cause birth defects.

ViroStat doesn’t make the tests, but sells the antibodies to diagnostic testing companies.

The lab, which has six employees including president and founder Doug McAllister, has spent a year researching and testing and is close to the point where the antibodies could be sold to makers of the diagnostic tests. Three U.S. test-making companies are evaluating the antibodies produced in the ViroStat lab, McAllister said, and if all goes well, the Zika tests could be put on the market in 2017.

ViroStat's president and founder Doug McAllister said the tests would be a boon to combating the Zika virus, especially in developing countries.

ViroStat’s president and founder Doug McAllister said the tests would be a boon to combating the Zika virus, especially in developing countries.

“It’s a race to be first and a race to see who has the best-quality test,” McAllister said.

The price for the antibodies is $50,000 per 4-ounce bottle. McAllister estimates that 4 ounces of antibodies could be used in millions of Zika tests, probably a blood test from a finger prick in a doctor’s office or by medical workers in the field.

“This is like selling the razor blades to the razor companies,” said McAllister, 69, who founded the company in 1985.

McAllister said the tests would be a boon to combating the virus, especially in developing countries where many have suffered from the Zika virus, which is known to cause microcephaly, a condition where babies are born with small heads. The mosquito-born Zika virus has spread throughout much of South America and the Carribbean, and cases have started appearing in the United States, especially Florida.


Zika virus symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, muscle pain and headaches, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is no cure or vaccine for Zika, and treatment would be rest, rehydration and pain relievers while waiting for symptoms to pass.

The mosquito that carries the Zika virus cannot live in Maine because of its cold climate, but there have been 11 cases of Zika in Maine involving people who traveled to tropical areas, contracted the virus and returned to Maine, according to the CDC. Because the mosquitoes that live in Maine can’t transmit the Zika virus, the virus can’t be spread here, scientists have said. However, a person with Zika can spread it to a sex partner.

Meghan May, an associate professor of biomedical sciences at the University of New England who has studied the effectiveness of Zika diagnostic tests for the CDC, said that if an antibody test is developed, it would be superior to the tests currently in use.

At ViroStat's lab in Westbrook, Amber McAllister fills vials holding antibodies that could be used in new diagnostic tests for Zika to get faster results.

At ViroStat’s lab in Westbrook, Amber McAllister fills vials holding antibodies that could be used in new diagnostic tests for Zika to get faster results.

Antibodies – blood proteins – bind to the virus, signaling its presence.

Aside from the length of time to get results, an antibody test would be better than the current tests that use ribonucleic acid, or RNA, to detect the Zika virus in blood, May said. She said the RNA tests for Zika result in too many false negatives, in which the test came back negative when the patient actually had the virus. That’s partly because the Zika virus is constantly evolving, making it difficult to detect with the RNA tests, she said.

“With an antibody, it’s much less likely the virus is going to escape detection,” said May, who wrote a research paper on the topic that was published in September.

Obtaining immediate test results is always preferable for the patient, she said. For example, a pregnant woman who suspects she has the Zika virus could have a “terrifying” two to three weeks of waiting for test results.

Also, she said being able to administer the tests in the field would be beneficial in third world countries, where access to clinics and communication with patients can be difficult.

“It can be quite an ordeal to get to some of these clinics, and many people don’t have a phone,” May said. “It can become impractical to administer these tests.”


The potential new tests cost less – about $10 for a field or doctor’s office test versus $100 per test for those that have to be sent away to get the results, McAllister said.

He said ViroStat has developed antibodies used in tests for many common infectious diseases, including RSV, influenza and rotavirus. There are only a few companies in the world that do this type of research, he said.

May agreed that it’s a narrow, “very specialized” research field, and that not many labs have the expertise to do it.

Researching an antibody is a long and arduous process. Near the beginning of the research a year ago, 10 mice at a lab in Wisconsin were given a Zika vaccine. Although there is no human vaccine for Zika, there is one for mice.

In its Westbrook lab, ViroStat developed cells taken from the vaccinated mice that secrete an antibody that binds to the Zika virus. Researchers at a California lab then took those cells and injected them into other mice where they could grow more rapidly. The cells are then extracted from those mice and returned to ViroStat to be purified and packaged in 4-ounce containers.

“The work we do has to be very specific so you don’t end up with false positives or false negatives,” McAllister said. He said it’s nice to know the tests could potentially help millions of people, especially if one day a cure or better treatment for the Zika virus is discovered.

“The quicker the results can come back from these tests, the quicker medical action can be taken,” he said.


]]> 0, 30 Sep 2016 08:00:29 +0000
Two years after referendum, Gorham unveils new public safety complex Fri, 30 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Gorham residents will get their first peek this weekend at the product of a $5 million renovation and expansion to their public safety complex on Main Street.

The transformed fire station and a new 10,000-square-foot police station will be unveiled during an open house Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.

“This is a vast improvement,” said police Chief Dan Jones, who joined the department a little more than a year ago.

The police and fire departments long shared a building, but the town identified the need for more space in 1999. Officials claimed the showers, sleeping areas, interview rooms, offices and storage space were not sufficient.

“The first time I sat down and really talked about it was 17 or 18 years ago,” said longtime Fire Chief Robert Lefebvre.

In 2013, town officials presented voters with a $6.3 million plan that called for renovating the former Little Falls School into a new headquarters. Disappointed with the price and the location, nearly three-quarters of voters said “No.” So in 2014, the town tried again, this time with a cheaper plan to renovate the existing building for the fire station and build the new police station next door. By a narrow margin – 3,588 to 3,490 – the question passed.

Among the improvements in the new buildings are more storage and work space for all employees. The police department added three interview rooms, a secure entrance and a secure room for evidence testing and storage.

“It had been repurposed so many times that all the rooms were also hallways,” Jones said of the old department. “If people had to get from one end of the building to another, they would have to walk through those rooms.”

The new fire station boasts two new bays, a safer cleaning station for contaminated gear and a 60-seat training room that doubles as an emergency operations center. That space was not previously available to the departments and was one of the priorities for a redesign, the chief said.

“Before there were a lot of places we were just sitting on top of each other,” Lefebvre said.

“It was difficult to have a lot of pride when someone came in both facilities,” he added. “Now, we feel like a professional organization.”

Gorham’s staff includes 24 police officers. The fire department has 14 full-timers, and the call team totals 170. The open house on Sunday will be a chance for the public to take tours of both departments, as well as watch demonstrations and the dedication of a new memorial.

“This facility will certainly serve the community for the next 25 years or better,” Lefebvre said. “It gives us the resources that we need.”

Ever since the police department moved into its new building in the spring, Jones said the work environment for officers has improved. In March 2015, a town-commissioned report cited claims of domestic violence and low morale among Gorham officers.

“Just the fact that it’s a lot easier for the officers to get their jobs done, morale seems great right now,” Jones said.

The public safety complex is located at 270 Main St.

Megan Doyle can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

Twitter: megan_e_doyle

]]> 0, 30 Sep 2016 04:00:00 +0000
Supreme Court to rule whether band can trademark slur in its name Fri, 30 Sep 2016 03:31:25 +0000 WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed Thursday to decide whether the Slants, an Asian-American rock band from Portland, Oregon, can trademark its name despite the government’s objection that it is an offensive term.

This clash between free speech and trademark protection has drawn wide attention in part because the Washington Redskins football team is locked in the same dispute.

Simon Tam, the founder of the band, said his aim was to adopt a word that had been a slur directed at Asians in order to make fun of the term. But officials at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected Tam’s application for a protected trademark.

The decision did not prevent the band from using the name, but trademark status can be valuable in preventing others from using the same or similar name in marketing.

When Tam and the Slants sued, a federal appeals court struck down part of a 1946 law that tells the government to reject trademarks that “disparage … persons, living or dead.” The judges said the law violated Tam’s right to free speech.

The Justice Department appealed to the Supreme Court and argued that awarding a trademark is a government benefit, not a limit on private speech.

The Supreme Court justices met behind closed doors this week to sift through pending appeals and announced they would hear eight new cases, including the trademark dispute in Lee vs. Tam.

The outcome is likely to determine whether Washington’s NFL team will lose its trademark status. Native Americans have sued the team, contending the name Redskins is offensive and disparaging, and the government office agreed its trademark status should be withdrawn. The team has appealed that decision to the high court.

]]> 0 Thu, 29 Sep 2016 23:31:25 +0000
Israel pays final respects to Shimon Peres Fri, 30 Sep 2016 03:21:44 +0000 JERUSALEM — Thousands of Israelis flocked to parliament Thursday to view the casket of Shimon Peres, paying final respects to the former president and prime minister whose life story mirrored that of his country.

Dignitaries began arriving for a funeral that is expected to be Israel’s largest since that of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Peres’ partner in peace who was slain by a Jewish nationalist in 1995.

Peres’ office said more than 90 delegations from 70 countries have confirmed their participation, including U.S. President Obama, French President Francois Hollande, German President Joachim Gauck, Prince Charles of Britain and King Felipe VI of Spain.

After an initial hesitation due to the collapse of peace efforts, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also confirmed his participation, as did representatives from Egypt and Jordan – the two Arab countries at peace with Israel. That was a testament to the wide reach of Peres, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who was his country’s strongest advocate for ending the conflict in the Middle East.

In contrast to an outpouring of grief from Western leaders, Arab leaders have remained largely silent over Peres’ death Wednesday at age 93. Abbas was one of the few to express sorrow. A representative said Abbas wanted to attend the funeral to send a message to Israeli society that despite the current stalemate, Palestinians still believe in peace and appreciate men of peace like Peres.

A spokesman for Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza, urged Abbas to cancel.

Many in the Arab world are deeply critical of Peres because of his role in building Israel’s defense arsenal, his early support for West Bank settlements, and for waging war in Lebanon while prime minister. Israeli Arab leaders, whose community Peres championed, were also conspicuously quiet.

“We have strong objections and criticism to Peres of the occupation, of building the settlements and the crimes in Qana (in Lebanon),” said Ayman Odeh, head of the Arab Joint List in parliament. Arab social media sites also featured caricatures depicting Peres as the angel of death.

However, Khalid al-Khalifa, the foreign minister of Bahrain, issued a rare Arab tribute.

“Rest in peace President Shimon Peres, a man of war and a man of the still elusive peace in the Middle East,” he tweeted.

Police were preparing for a complicated security operation, which will include the closing of the major highway from the airport, as well as shutting down a large part of Jerusalem. Schools near the national cemetery are to be closed, and thousands of additional forces have been deployed.

Peres’ casket lay in state in the plaza outside the Knesset, or parliament, as soldiers in uniform, teenagers from youth movements and Israelis from all walks of life lined up on a warm September day to pay their respects. They were joined by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, the first foreign dignitary to arrive.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin laid wreaths beside the casket early Thursday. Clinton, escorted by Rivlin and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, stopped by later, staring solemnly at the casket without commenting.

The casket was covered in a blue and white Israeli flag and watched over by a small honor guard as two military officers recited psalms. Mourners slowly walked by, laying wreaths, snapping photos and praying. A picture of a smiling Peres, with a black stripe in its corner, was placed beside a flickering candle and in front of a row of Israeli flags at half-staff.

Parliament spokesman Yotam Yakir said about 25,000 Israelis had arrived by midday, and he expected that to double by evening.

]]> 0, 29 Sep 2016 23:21:44 +0000
LePage administration faces new question of whether it followed open meetings law Fri, 30 Sep 2016 03:18:46 +0000 AUGUSTA — Less than three weeks after paying a $500 fine for violating Maine’s open meetings law, the administration of Gov. Paul LePage is again facing questions about whether it provided adequate notice for a public meeting.

A special working group composed of lawmakers, administration officials and members of the public is set to meet at the Department of Health and Human Services offices in Augusta at 1 p.m. Friday to devise a way to block point-of-sale purchases for items that are illegal to buy with certain welfare benefits. Public notice of the meeting, which is required under the state’s Freedom of Access Act, went out just two days before it was to be held.

“The ‘Feasibility Working Group’ appears to be subject to the public proceeding requirements of FOAA,” Brenda Kielty, an assistant attorney general who serves as the state’s FOAA ombudsman, wrote in a message to Ana Hicks, the chief of staff for House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick.

“Absent emergency circumstances, notice for a public proceeding pursuant to FOAA must allow “ample time” for public attendance and should be “disseminated in a manner reasonably calculated to notify the general public,” Kielty wrote. “I question whether a two-day notice to the DHHS website and a listserv is ample time to reach the general public.”

Nick Adolphsen, the legislative liaison for the DHHS who organized the meeting, said Thursday that Legislative leaders were informed of the time and place of the meeting in June when they were requested to make their respective appointments to the panel. But Adolphsen also said it was an “oversight” on his part that more public notice was not provided. He said if there were members of the public or others who felt they were unable to attend the proceedings Friday because of the short notice he would schedule additional meetings to address those concerns.

Adolphsen also said the law creating the working group set an Oct. 1 deadline for the group’s first meeting. The law also calls for the working group to provide its recommendations to the Legislature by Dec. 15.

Sigmund Schutz, an attorney who represents the Portland Press Herald and other news organizations on open meetings and public records law, said the short notice is clearly a violation of both the “letter and the spirit” of Maine’s Freedom of Access Act.

“It’s compromising the ability of this group to do its job, it’s compromising the public’s right to know and participate and attend and probably at least risk a legal challenge to the validity of this group’s work,” Schutz said. While the short notice may be an honest mistake, it was still “problematic on many levels,” he said

Schutz said the violation isn’t as clear cut as the case in April, when members of the Republican governor’s staff worked to keep the first meeting of a Blue Ribbon Task Force on public education reform behind closed doors. Maine Attorney General Janet Mills brought a case against LePage’s administration in Kennebec County Superior Court over that violation and rather than fight the case, the administration decided to pay the $500 fine.

Even those appointed to the working group said they only found out the meeting was set for Friday, late on Wednesday afternoon.

“The department never notified me of the meeting, the department sent out (an email) listserv late yesterday afternoon and that’s the first time I received any notification from the department,” Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, said Thursday. Gattine, who serves as the co-chairman of the Legislature’s Health and Human Service Committee, said he had a previously scheduled engagement on Friday that conflicted with the set meeting time. He intended to show up late for the meeting, which was scheduled for just two hours.

Gattine said he hoped DHHS staff had not already reached a predetermined decision on how to proceed with the point-of-sale ban for those receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families via a state-issued Electronic Benefits Card. He also said the Legislature passed the work of figuring out the details of a point-of-sale ban to the working group because it needed careful consideration, time and expertise that wasn’t readily available as lawmakers worked to craft a compromise that could be acceptable to various stakeholders including the merchants who accept EBT cards for payment.

A law passed by the Legislature this year banned the purchase of various products, including alcohol, lottery tickets, tobacco or adult entertainment products with TANF funds.

“I hope they don’t expect that we are going to get our work done on this (in one meeting) – this is more than one meeting and I’m expecting that we are going to continue to have additional meetings and my expectation is that the notice to the committee members will be a little bit better and the notice to the public will be a little bit better.”

In a email to the Press Herald Thursday, Kielty wrote that she was under the assumption that Adolphsen had notified the public, including the media, about the meeting, and “that notice for following meetings will be provided in ample time.”

Rep. Paul Stearns, R-Guilford, also appointed to the working group, said he knew the meeting was coming up and was told about it by Legislative staff in June, but he too never received any official notice of the meeting from DHHS. “About three weeks ago, I looked and said, ‘Oh my goodness that meeting is coming up, I’m surprised I haven’t heard anything about it,” Stearns said. He said he contacted Legislative staff last week and they confirmed the meeting was set for Friday. Stearns said he doesn’t think there was any ill intent on the part of DHHS and that people do make mistakes.

“They finally sent out an email notification today,” he said. “I think it was really just ineptitude really, and I don’t know on whose part, but I think it just fell through the cracks as far as notification. That was my feeling.”


]]> 16 Fri, 30 Sep 2016 08:02:25 +0000
Gridlock chokes Congressional to-do list as lame-duck session looms Fri, 30 Sep 2016 03:15:31 +0000 AP Congressional Correspondent

WASHINGTON – A bitterly divided Congress adjourned Thursday for the election, having accomplished little more than the bare minimum, with lawmakers looking ahead to a lame-duck session and a weighty to-do list already piling up for next year.

A must-pass spending bill, agreed to after an unnecessarily protracted struggle and repeated rounds of partisan finger-pointing, extends government funding until Dec. 9 and addresses the Zika crisis with $1.1 billion months after President Obama initially requested federal aid. Lawmakers advanced spending for flood victims in Louisiana and a compromise to help victims of lead-tainted water in Flint, Michigan.

Obama swiftly signed the spending bill into law.

When they return to Washington after the election, lawmakers will have to complete the annual appropriations process. Only one of the 12 must-pass annual spending bills has been completed.

Next year is likely to herald still more divisions. Even if Republicans hold the House as expected, manage to win the White House with Donald Trump and hang onto their fragile Senate majority, minority Democrats would still exercise significant power in the Senate. Republican control would be incomplete under the most optimistic scenarios for the GOP.

If Democrats win the White House or the Senate, it would usher in another era of divided government, perhaps even more fraught.

At the same time, Congress and the next president, whether Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton, will confront a series of daunting tasks pushed off into 2017.

Perhaps most monumental, the debt limit will need to be raised by around midsummer, something that has provoked intense battles in recent years.

Lawmakers will need to revisit major programs, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program under Medicaid, along with payments to hospitals and community health centers and expiring tax credits in industry. There’s also the annual budgeting process, a perennially tricky defense policy bill, reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration and a Supreme Court vacancy to fill.

Whichever party controls the Senate, the majority is likely to be razor-thin and senators will focus immediately on the 2018 election, when Democrats will be defending tough seats in GOP-leaning states.

]]> 0, 29 Sep 2016 23:15:31 +0000
See art, visit artists during Open Studio Tour Saturday Fri, 30 Sep 2016 03:00:44 +0000 The Wesserunsett Arts Council is hosting its seventh annual Open Studio Tour on Saturday in galleries, barns, storefronts – even a mural high atop the back of a building in downtown Skowhegan.

The tour, which is free, runs 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at more than 20 locations in Mercer, Canaan, Skowhegan, Anson, Solon and Wellington.

Participiants are invited to meet and visit with local artists and experience the connection each artist has with his or her rural Maine setting. Visitors will see where artists live and work.

Saturday’s art travelers can enjoy the fall foliage while exploring art that includes oil paintings, watercolors, pastels, landscapes, abstract images, still life, furniture, photography, felting, pottery and sculpture. Work will be for sale and refreshments offered at all studios.

The South Solon Meeting House also will be available for tours Saturday. Built in 1842, the meeting house has its original podium, pews, choir loft, windows and steeple, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

A map of the tour and a list of locations is on the arts council website.

]]> 0, 29 Sep 2016 23:00:44 +0000
Caffeine may help to prevent dementia, study suggests Fri, 30 Sep 2016 02:35:04 +0000 The study finds higher caffeine intake in women over 65 is associated with reduced odds of dementia.

MILWAUKEE — A new study suggests a significant relationship between caffeine and dementia prevention, though it stops short of establishing cause and effect.

The study, published in The Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, found higher caffeine intake in women age 65 and older was associated with reduced odds of developing dementia or cognitive impairment.

Among the 6,467 women in the study, self-reported caffeine consumption of more than 261 milligrams of caffeine was associated with a 36 percent reduction in the risk of dementia over 10 years of follow-up. That level is equivalent to two to three 8-ounce cups of coffee per day, five to six 8-ounce cups of black tea, or seven to eight 12-ounce cans of cola.

“While we can’t make a direct link between higher caffeine consumption and lower incidence of cognitive impairment and dementia, with further study, we can better quantify its relationship with cognitive health outcomes,” said Ira Driscoll, the study’s lead author and a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

“Research on this topic will be beneficial not only from a preventative standpoint but also to better understand the underlying mechanisms and their involvement in dementia and cognitive impairment,” she said.

Researchers know that caffeine binds to pre-existing adenosine receptors in the brain, so the findings point to a potential mechanism worth further exploring to determine a causative effect, Driscoll told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“The mounting evidence of caffeine consumption as a potentially protective factor against cognitive impairment is exciting given that caffeine is also an easily modifiable dietary factor” with few risk factors, Driscoll said.

The study was unique because researchers had an unprecedented opportunity to examine over time the relationships between caffeine intake and dementia incidence in a large group of women who consumed different amounts of caffeine.

The findings come from participants in the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Driscoll and her research colleagues used data from 6,467 postmenopausal women age 65 and older who reported some level of caffeine consumption. Intake was estimated from questions about coffee, tea and cola beverage intake, including frequency and serving size.

In 10 years or less of follow-up with annual assessments of cognitive function, 388 of these women received a diagnosis of probable dementia or some form of global cognitive impairment.

Those who consumed above the median amount of caffeine for this group (with an average intake of 261mg per day) were diagnosed at a lower rate than those who fell below the median (with an average intake of 64mg per day). The researchers adjusted for risk factors such as hormone therapy, age, race, education, body mass index, sleep quality, depression, hypertension, prior cardiovascular disease, diabetes, smoking and alcohol consumption.

]]> 0, 29 Sep 2016 22:35:04 +0000
Saco restaurant owner, former senator, teacher and coach David Kerry dies at 77 Fri, 30 Sep 2016 02:20:30 +0000 Mourners will gather Tuesday at a funeral Mass to honor David Kerry, a longtime co-owner of Traditions Italian Restaurant and the Kerrymen Pub in Saco.

Mr. Kerry died on Sept. 22 after a 20-year battle with cancer. He was 77.

He was remembered Thursday as a respected businessman and dedicated community leader who sought to make a difference in the world.

Mr. Kerry opened the Kerrymen Pub in 1978 with his three brothers and a cousin.

Mr. Kerry took on various roles such as public relations and booking bands. Many of those bands, including Schooner Fare, still play at Kerrymen Pub today.

John Kerry, his younger brother, said Schooner Fare is expected to play at Mr. Kerry’s funeral. John Kerry laughed Thursday recalling the way his brother would greet patrons.

“David used to sit at the end of the bar. He would get up and hug and kiss every woman that walked through the door. He shook every guy’s hand,” he said, laughing. “He was such an affectionate and outgoing guy. He was extremely charming.”

Mr. Kerry was the “visionary” behind Traditions Restaurant, which opened around 2000. He owned and operated the business with his brother Richard Kerry and two friends.

John Kerry noted his brother’s generosity. He said he helped many employees who were having difficulty in their lives.

“He was very unselfish in the giving of himself to others. He helped many people,” he said.

Mr. Kerry’s service to others was a theme throughout his life.

In his early years, Kerry was a history teacher and assistant football coach at Thornton Academy. He helped lead the Trojans to a state championship in 1962. He went on to teach and coach in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, before moving back to Saco in 1972 when he began teaching history and coaching football at Biddeford High School.

His brother said he loved helping students succeed in and out of the classroom.

“He saw history as a guide to help people fulfill their potential,” he said. “He taught in the classroom and sat on a bar stool and taught. He was always teaching everyone.”

Mr. Kerry went on to serve several years in the Maine State Senate. His obituary, which was published on Sept. 25, said he forged lifelong relationships with political figures such as former Sen. George Mitchell, former governors Joseph Brennan and John Baldacci, and former Senate President Gerard Conley.

Kerry’s visiting hours on Tuesday drew roughly 1,000 people including Brennan, Baldacci, state senators, and community leaders.

“David was always very gracious and very open to good discussions and friendships with everyone,” his brother said.

In addition to his brothers, he is survived by three children, Jennifer Kerry, Kathryn Kerry and Seamus Kerry; and a granddaughter Chelsea Tarbox.

The funeral Mass will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Most Holy Trinity Church in Saco. Interment will follow at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Biddeford.


]]> 0, 30 Sep 2016 08:04:14 +0000
Thailand suspends international seahorse trade Fri, 30 Sep 2016 02:17:42 +0000 JOHANNESBURG — Seahorses, traded by the millions annually as an ingredient in traditional medicine in parts of Asia, are getting a reprieve from Thailand, the world’s biggest exporter of the animal.

A marine biologist who works closely with Thailand on seahorse conservation welcomed the government’s decision to suspend seahorse trade because of concern about threats to its wild population.

“It’s a way station to getting serious management in place,” Amanda Vincent of The University of British Columbia said Thursday. Vincent is director of Project Seahorse, a marine conservation group whose partner is the Zoological Society of London.

The Thailand decision was announced at a meeting in South Africa of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES. The U.N. meeting, which regulates trade in more than 35,000 species of animals and plants, ends Oct. 5.

Seahorses are mainly used in dried form for traditional medicine in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. They are also popular as curios, and there is a trade in live seahorses for display in home aquariums, including in Europe and North America.

CITES requires some controls on trade in the dozens of types of seahorse, designed to ensure the survival of the species.

But Thailand, responsible for three-quarters of the world’s documented exports of seahorses, could not meet its obligations and stopped issuing export permits at the beginning of the year, according to Vincent. CITES has suspended the seahorse trade with three other big exporters – Vietnam, Senegal and Guinea – after they failed to meet requirements for the trade in the animal, Vincent said.

]]> 0, 29 Sep 2016 22:17:42 +0000
Canadian organic waste company picks Unity for first U.S. facility Fri, 30 Sep 2016 01:31:12 +0000 In a boon for Maine’s hard-hit and changing wood products industry, a Canadian-based organic waste company announced Thursday it plans to open its first U.S. facility in an industrial building in the town of Unity and eventually create 30 jobs while investing $4 million.

Envirem Organics will open its facility in a building on 15 acres at 39 Cornshop Road in Unity, where it will house offices, warehousing, and distribution functions, according to the Kennebec Regional Development Authority, the organization that helped Envirem choose a location.

Brad Jackson, executive director of the development authority, said Thursday that the wood products industry is one of several “cluster” industries he has been looking to draw to the region. The $4 million investment is estimated to involve a complete build-out of the 30,000-square-foot facility in Unity, including new equipment and machinery purchases.

“This won’t happen overnight,” Jackson said. “It will be phased in over a couple of years.”

The company describes itself as a “diversified environmental company, specializing in industrial and organic waste recycling and environmental sustainable waste diversion processes,” according to a news release from the development authority. Envirem selected the site in Unity “for its access to the New England organic lawn and garden markets, available shipping lanes, the environmental science programs at Unity College, the sustainable culture of the area, the local artisanal food movement, and proximity to New Brunswick, Canada, where the company is headquartered,” the release said.

“Unity and the Kennebec Valley region of Maine checked all the boxes for our first expansion into America,” Bob Kiely, president and general manager of Envirem, said in the release. “It provides the marketplace advantages we desire in terms of workforce, location and infrastructure and the quality of life we want for our employees.”

A report released this month by the Maine Forest Products Council says the total economic impact of Maine’s forest products industry fell from $9.8 billion in 2014 to $8.5 billion in 2016, with corresponding declines in payroll and local taxes as well.

Patrick Strauch, executive director of the Maine Forest Products Council, said he was pleased to hear the news Thursday about Envirem’s plans.

“To me, it looks like they’d have a line of mulch, and that’s always been an important part of moving sawmill residuals,” he said. “They should think about locating at a sawmill.”

Strauch, in a summary within the new report proclaiming “the forest products industry is reinventing itself,” writes that the industry has reached a turning point. Even as pulp and paper mills have closed, “technology and changing demands have transformed the global market, but also created opportunities.”

Strauch said the market for bark and wood residuals will be helped by Envirem’s presence, perhaps sustaining a year-round demand for material that’s traditionally been more seasonal. “I think we’ve always been pretty creative with these materials, and moving into the bark markets has always been part of the mix; but if we’re able to develop even more demand for it, that’s great,” Strauch said. “We’re searching for markets like this to take a large amount of tonnage, so it’s an opportunity.”

The Kennebec Regional Development Authority said it has been working with Envirem on the expansion for the last couple of months.

Development authority officials also said Envirem’s expansion could help the state’s struggling logging industry, in the wake of several mill closures such as Madison Paper.

Envirem’s products “utilize a part of the tree that makes logging more profitable,” Jackson said.

Jackson also said Envirem could establish several operating sites across the state over the next decade or so. Kiely, the company president, couldn’t be reached for comment immediately Thursday.

In Canada, the company employs nearly 1,400 people among eight locations.

]]> 1, 29 Sep 2016 21:31:12 +0000
Orbiter’s long, dramatic journey to end on comet it tracked Fri, 30 Sep 2016 01:23:35 +0000 It was conceived when Ronald Reagan was in the White House. It launched a few weeks after Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook in his Harvard dorm. It spent a full decade looping around the solar system. And when it finally caught up with its target, it deployed the first probe to land on a speeding comet and survive.

Now the long, dramatic journey of the Rosetta space orbiter is about to end. After logging 4.9 billion miles, the craft is set to commit operational suicide in the wee hours of Friday morning, deliberately falling to the surface of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the mountain-sized comet it has been following for the past two years.

But first it has just a bit more science to do.

During its final descent, Rosetta will gather close-range information about the comet and hastily beam data back to Earth before its main transmitter shuts off for good.

“It’s kind of bittersweet,” said Paul Weissman, a comet scientist at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz., who worked on Rosetta for 20 years. “You’d like to keep going, but it is also very satisfying. It’s been a tremendously successful mission.”

The $1 billion mission has been full of suspense.

Its many plot twists began before the spacecraft left Earth, when a faulty rocket postponed the launch by two years and caused mission planners at the European Space Agency to abandon their original comet and select a different one instead. The new comet, known as 67P, was four times larger than the initial target, and meeting up with it required a longer flight than originally planned – from March 2004 to January 2014.

As Rosetta closed in on its target, researchers were dazzled by the strange and unexpected shape that gradually came into focus. The comet was roughly 2.5 miles across and had two distinct lobes that resembled a rubber duck with a head, thin neck and bulbous body. In time, Rosetta’s instruments revealed a dramatic world of towering cliffs, deep pits and massive boulders.

“It was a big surprise,” said Claire Vallat, a scientist at the agency’s European Space Astronomy Center.

Rosetta continued to orbit the comet as it made its closest approach to the sun in August 2015. From a safe distance of 186 miles, it watched as 67P became more active, with streams of dust and gas shooting off its surface. The comet’s display subsided as it flew further from the sun.

“Rosetta had a major goal in mind, which was to rendezvous with a comet far from the sun and watch it wake up and then let it die down again,” said Laurence O’Rourke, a lander systems engineer at ESA. “Overwhelmingly, we have met that goal.”

Now Rosetta has reached the end of its journey. Comet 67P is on its way toward the orbit of Jupiter, and soon Rosetta’s 100-foot solar panels will be too far from the sun for the spacecraft to function.

Although the last few minutes of its life are difficult to predict, researchers expect it to hit 67P at a walking pace of slightly less than 3 feet per second. When it lands, it will tumble and bounce before settling into its final resting place on the small lobe of the comet. The impact will kick up a few clouds of dark, powdery dust. Then a preprogrammed computer command will turn off its transmitters forever.

Here on Earth, hundreds of scientists and engineers will gather at the European Space Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany, to watch for the flattening of the radio signal that will let them know Rosetta has gone offline forever.

]]> 0, 29 Sep 2016 21:23:35 +0000
Augusta children’s museum moving to Waterville Fri, 30 Sep 2016 00:37:18 +0000 The Children’s Discovery Museum, an Augusta fixture for families with young children, is moving to downtown Waterville.

The decision comes after nearly a year of research by museum officials, who viewed a number of presentations and went on a number of site tours.

The new location is expected to make the museum part of Waterville’s revitalization effort to draw more people to live, work and visit the city, funded by Colby College in partnership with investors and developers.

A number of details have yet to be worked out, but the plan is to begin construction of the museum’s new space in 2017 with an expected opening in 2018. During that time, the museum would remain open in Augusta.

“We think this is our best option to serve both communities,” Amarinda Keys, the museum’s executive director, said Thursday.

The Children’s Discovery Museum, which provides opportunities for hands-on learning through play for children ages 6 months to 8 years old, started as a series of traveling exhibits in 1984. Its first physical home was established on Water Street in 1992. A series of expansions took place over the next several years, and in 2007, after a yearlong renovation, it reopened its modernized facility. Two years later, the museum moved to its current location on Capitol Street.

Augusta Mayor David Rollins said city officials reached out to the museum board to understand the nature of the move and what they could do to persuade the museum to stay.

“As I look at the board, it seems to me there are more people not from Augusta on the board than are from the city of Augusta,” he said. “I think they felt their program opportunities would be better up there.

“There’s no hard feelings, and we wish them well.”

Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro said he knows the conversation has been going on a long time, and he’s excited to hear the news.

“If you had talked to me a year and a half ago, there were a lot more skeptics,” Isgro said. “Now we have a better track record.”

Last fall, Colby College President David Greene detailed a vision for downtown Waterville that included students living in downtown apartments and contributing to life in the city.

Art galleries, new retail stores and restaurants would be a part of the revitalized Waterville, joining the city’s existing assets, which include the Waterville Opera House, Railroad Square Cinema, the hospitals, colleges and the Colby College Museum of Art. College students and faculty members would live downtown. Traffic would move more slowly through downtown, and perhaps sidewalks would be made wider to afford shoppers and diners the leisure of spending time outside on the streets.

The college has bought land and a number of downtown buildings, with plans to renovate some and replace others with new construction. Demolition of four buildings started in July.

In addition to Colby’s investments, several developers have purchased other buildings downtown and hope to renovate.

“When there is a lot of commercial investment in any market, it creates a lot of interest,” Isgro said, “When you look at Waterville and the services we offer and the educational network we’re building, the Children’s Discovery Museum is a good fit.”

Megan Bourque, president of the museum board, said in a news release Thursday that the possibilities for collaboration are endless.

“We are excited to create a larger educational space for the Kennebec Valley community,” she said.

The Children’s Discovery Museum will continue to raise money to operate the Augusta facility until it opens in Waterville.

Keys said she hopes the community will be excited about this new opportunity.

“We still have a lot of great work to be done during our remaining time in Augusta,” she said.

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

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Waterville police find 2-year-old wandering barefoot, charge couple Fri, 30 Sep 2016 00:00:09 +0000 WATERVILLE — A couple were summoned on charges of endangering the welfare of a child after someone called to report a barefoot child wandering alone along the street Wednesday afternoon.

Dustin A. Moody, 25, and Sierra-Dawn Bailey, 18, were each issued a summons on the Class D misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

Police found a 2-year-old girl walking alone near the intersection of Ash Street and College Avenue, which is also busy U.S. Route 201, around 4:30 p.m., said Deputy Chief Bill Bonney. Police stopped the child and found that her feet were red and sore from walking on pavement.

After canvassing the area, officers found a door open at 9 Ash St. Inside, they found Moody in his apartment, where he reportedly was supposed to be watching the child for his girlfriend, who is the child’s mother.

Moody said his girlfriend, Bailey, was at work and that he works nights, so he had fallen asleep after the child had fallen asleep around 1 p.m. At some point the child must have awakened and wandered off from the apartment, Bonney said.

While Bailey was not present during the incident, she was still charged because she is the child’s parent and “is responsible for making sure the child was with somebody safe, which wasn’t the case,” Bonney said.

Bonney said police reported the incident to the state Department of Health and Human Services, which left the child in Bailey’s custody while investigating further.

Moody and Bailey are scheduled to appear Dec. 6 in Waterville District Court to answer the charges.

]]> 0 Thu, 29 Sep 2016 20:00:09 +0000
Report: Trump spent money in Cuba during embargo Thu, 29 Sep 2016 23:37:56 +0000 Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump came under intense scrutiny Thursday for allegations that he knowingly violated the U.S. embargo on Cuba in the 1990s, a report that could hurt him among Cuban-Americans in the crucial state of Florida.

A story published in Newsweek said Trump’s firm spent as much as $68,000 on a “foray” exploring business possibilities in Cuba in 1998, which would be a clear violation of the strict embargo in place at the time.

Trump spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway suggested in a television interview Wednesday that Trump had indeed spent money exploring business ventures in Cuba. But Conway later told The Washington Post that she “did not say he broke the law or violated the embargo.”

The report could become a significant political liability for Trump among Cuban Americans in Florida, a key battleground state in his fight against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. The two candidates are in a virtual dead heat in the state, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average.


Susan MacManus, a nonpartisan Florida political analyst, said the issue could cause great concern among older Cuban-Americans in the state, who are firmly pro-embargo. Those voters have expressed disdain for the Obama administration’s decision to open relations with Cuba.

“The hard-liners in the Cuban community are very high-turnout voters. And they’re shrinking in number,” she said. “Trump just went down there and had a special meeting with these people to try to shore up support with them. And, so, just when Trump was making inroads and assuring that community that he was on their side, then this story comes out.”

Ana Navarro, a Florida-based conservative strategist opposed to Trump, said that “it is never a good thing when voters feel played and find out the candidate they are supporting is a hypocrite on an issue that carries the emotion that Cuba policy does.”

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a former primary challenger of Trump’s who is running for re-election in November, urged the Trump campaign to address questions about the case but said he would not comment further until more information is known.

“The article makes some very serious and troubling allegations. I will reserve judgment until we know all the facts and Donald has been given the opportunity to respond,” Rubio said in a statement.

According to Newsweek, the fees associated with a business trip to the island by Trump representatives were paid by Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts through a consulting firm called Seven Arrows Investment and Development. The consulting firm later said the trip had been taken on behalf of a Catholic charity.

Trump blasted President Barack Obama for a “one-sided deal for Cuba” this month during a campaign event in Florida. He said the move to normalize relations would benefit the Castro regime. He has vowed to reverse Obama’s efforts to open U.S.-Cuba relations if he is elected president, “unless the Castro regime meets our demands – not my demands, our demands.”


Clinton told reporters aboard her plane that Trump’s business exploration in Cuba “appears to violate U.S. law, certainly flout American foreign policy, and he has consistently misled people in responding to questions about whether he was attempting to do business in Cuba.”

“This adds to the long list of actions and statements that raise doubts about his temperament and qualification to be president,” she added.

Conway, during a tense appearance on ABC’s “The View,” appeared to say that Trump had spent money in Cuba but emphasized that “he decided not to invest there.”

“I think they paid money, as I understand from the story, in 1998 – and we’re not supposed to talk about years ago when it comes to the Clintons,” Conway said amid crosstalk.

“So the question is: Did he spend money? He’s very critical of Cuba, he’s very critical of Castro, he’s been critical of Cuba,” she said. “He gave a speech the very next year to the Cuban American National Foundation in Miami critical of those who want to do business with Castro.”

In that 1999 speech, Trump denounced the Castro regime.

“I’ve had a lot of offers, and, sadly, it’s all been very recently to go into Cuba on deals, business deals, real estate and other deals. And I’ve rejected them on the basis that I will go when Cuba is free,” Trump said at the time, according to a video of his remarks. “Putting money and investing money in Cuba right now doesn’t go to the people of Cuba. It goes into the pockets of Fidel Castro. He’s a murderer; he’s a killer; he’s a bad guy in every respect.”

Conway said several times Thursday that Trump did not ultimately invest money on the island and sought to focus attention on foreign donations to Bill and Hillary Clinton’s family foundation.

“But again, we’re talking about, did his hotel invest money in 1998 in Cuba? No. Did she get money from seven foreign governments while she was secretary of state? Yes.”

Sean Sullivan, Ed O’Keefe and Anne Gearan contributed to this report.

]]> 5, 29 Sep 2016 19:37:56 +0000
Navy’s new warships face rough start with engines Thu, 29 Sep 2016 23:34:16 +0000 NEWPORT, R.I. — Five of seven of the U.S. Navy’s speedy new warships have had engine problems in the past year and four of them are now considered “test” ships that’ll rarely, if ever, be deployed.

The Navy insists the costly littoral combat ship program will be fine after a bumpy start.

Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, said recently in Newport, Rhode Island, that most major shipbuilding programs have “startup types of issues.”

“They’re very complex programs and so I think, overall, this program is on track and we are seeing that we’re learning lessons as it starts up,” he said.

But two senior senators, Arizona Republican John McCain and Rhode Island Democrat Jack Reed, say it’s time for the Navy to question all of its assumptions about the littoral combat ship program, which has been criticized for its growing costs, questions about the warships’ warfighting ability and now, the ships’ mechanical reliability.

They said acquisition mistakes and the ship’s complexity have led to problems now.

Earlier this month, the newest littoral combat ship, the USS Montgomery, suffered two major engineering problems just three days after its commissioning that will require potentially costly changes to other ships, and most of the replaceable mission modules for the ships are years delayed, said McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The program has “new problems,” McCain said in a statement, “but it is not a new program.” He said that’s why he and Reed are calling on the Navy to reconcile their aspirations with reality.

Two versions of the littoral combat ship were sped into production because the Navy wanted an affordable, fast ship to operate in shallow coastal, or littoral, waters.

Lockheed Martin is building the Freedom type in Wisconsin. Austal USA is building the Independence type in Alabama.

The Navy originally spoke of building the ships for about $220 million each in constant fiscal 2005 dollars, but costs for the first few more than doubled, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The cost for subsequent ships then came down under the current block-buy contracts to roughly $380 million in fiscal 2005 dollars, or about $450 million each in current dollars, the research service said.

McCain and Reed, ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, want the Navy to consider deploying the ships less often, establishing a site on land for engineering and technical support and reviewing the number of sailors assigned.

The Navy is overhauling how it operates the ships, to change how crews will be assigned and how the ships will deploy. The first four ships will be used for testing technologies and systems on the ships.

The ships were built to be equipped with swappable mission modules. Three crews would share two ships so one of the ships could be deployed at any given time.

The Navy said this month that deploying ships will now have two crews that rotate with the same ship and will typically focus on a single mission instead of swapping modules.

]]> 0 Thu, 29 Sep 2016 19:34:16 +0000
UN warns of ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ in besieged Aleppo Thu, 29 Sep 2016 23:16:32 +0000 BEIRUT – Syrian government forces continued their push into rebel-held districts of Aleppo on Thursday as international officials issued dire warnings of an ongoing humanitarian disaster in Syria’s largest city.

The U.N.’s humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien told the Security Council that the conditions in eastern Aleppo, which is besieged and assaulted by all sides by government forces, had descended into the “merciless abyss of humanitarian catastrophe.”

Speaking to the Security Council via video link from Geneva, O’Brien painted a grim picture of the conditions in the war-wracked eastern part of the city, where at least 320 civilians including 100 children have been killed in the last week. Another 765 have been wounded.

O’Brien’s report noted that the U.N. now calculates that 861,200 Syrians are trapped in sieges – a nearly 50 percent increase from the last estimate of 586,200. The new figure reflects the government’s protracted blockade around eastern Aleppo, where an estimated 250,000 people or more live.


Most of the besieged citizens, divided across at least 18 locations around the country, are trapped by government forces, and international observers are beginning to accuse both Damascus and its close ally Moscow of war crimes.

The U.N. embarked on an ambitious plan early this year to establish regular humanitarian access to Syrians living under various sieges but was reportedly stymied by the government as well as a restrictive covenant between rebels and the government to limit assistance to 60,000 of the most distressed, divided among four towns. At that time, a total of 487,000 Syrians were estimated to be living under siege.

O’Brien said certain Security Council members bore responsibility for global inaction on Syria and ended his address saying it was time to “place the blame.”

In Aleppo, rescue crews were working for the third straight day to clear the rubble and search for survivors of presumed Russian or Syrian government airstrikes on the eastern al-Shaar and al-Mashhad neighborhoods that flattened residential buildings and killed at least 23 civilians, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Germany and Turkey condemned what they called “blatant breaches of international humanitarian law” and renewed calls for a cease-fire.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who spoke by phone Thursday, said Russia, the Syrian government’s chief backer on the international stage, bears “special responsibility to calm the violence and thereby give any chance to a political process,” according to a statement released by Merkel’s office.


The White House said Thursday that Merkel also spoke with U.S. President Barack Obama by phone as well, and both agreed that Russia and the Syrian regime “bear special responsibility for ending the fighting in Syria and granting the U.N. humanitarian access to besieged and hard to reach areas in Syria.”

Meanwhile, airstrikes destroyed the last remaining bakery in Anadan, an opposition town north of Aleppo, activists said.

Adnan Medlej, an activist from Anadan, said the bakery was hit shortly after it distributed bread to the town’s remaining 2,000 residents and others in nearby villages. After intense bombings that devastated the town’s infrastructure, most residents have fled to other areas in rural Aleppo province.

A video shot by Medlej shows the bakery destroyed and a crater outside, with water leaking and walls scorched.

On Wednesday, government shelling near a bread distribution center in Aleppo city killed six people.

Meanwhile the U.S. and Russia escalated their war of words over the catastrophe as government forces kept up their assault on Aleppo’s rebel-held quarters.


Government forces seized the Handarat neighborhood along the contested city’s northern flank, forcing rebels to withdraw further from a crucial supply route to the city’s east, the Castello Road, pro-government media and observers said. A government blockade of the road has kept the opposition-run east under siege since mid-July, with the exception of a month-long period where rebels broke through the government’s southern line.

But gains have proven ephemeral in the battle for Aleppo: government forces captured Handarat last Saturday, only to surrender it again Sunday.

Syria’s military also released a video purporting to show a freshly captured neighborhood in the city’s historic center.

The video shows damaged traditional buildings, with arched ceilings and stone walls, in the Farafra neighborhood which rests at the foot of the city’s towering central citadel. Soldiers and allied militants are seen walking past mounds of debris, twisted metal bars, and caved-in ceilings. The government claimed it expelled rebels from the front-line neighborhood Tuesday.

A top Russian diplomat meanwhile called a U.S. threat to halt cooperation with Russia in the Syria conflict an “emotional breakdown” and said Russia is willing to support a 48-hour cease-fire around Aleppo.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Thursday rejected Washington’s calls for a seven-day pause in hostilities, but said Russia is willing to support a 48-hour truce for humanitarian purposes.

Damascus blocked assistance from reaching eastern Aleppo during a week-long cease-fire which collapsed earlier this month.

]]> 6, 29 Sep 2016 19:29:24 +0000
Bangor man gets 20 years for taking explicit pictures of children Thu, 29 Sep 2016 21:34:53 +0000 A 29-year-old man from Bangor was sentenced Thursday in Bangor to 20 years and 10 months in federal prison, followed by lifetime of supervised release, for sexual exploitation of a minor.

Andy Quinn Goodall took sexually explicit images of two prepubescent minors, uploaded them to a foreign website and provided links to the images in emails he sent to others. Authorities found he had hundreds of other images and dozens of videos containing child pornography, according to U.S. Attorney Thomas E. Delahanty.

Goodall plead guilty to the charge Jan. 29.

]]> 0 Thu, 29 Sep 2016 17:34:53 +0000
Maine substance abuse official charged with driving drunk Thu, 29 Sep 2016 20:59:01 +0000 FARMINGTON – The associate director for the Maine Office of Substance Abuse is facing a charge of operating under the influence.

Police say 62-year-old Joan Smyrski of Jefferson was charged with drunken driving after being stopped Sunday evening in the Franklin County town of Avon. She was freed on $150 cash bail.

The Sun Journal reported that Smyrski is scheduled to speak about opioid-prescribing limits at the Maine Nurse Practitioner Association’s annual fall conference in November.

Smyrski couldn’t be reached immediately for comment, and it wasn’t known if she has hired a lawyer. An automatically generated email indicates she was out of the office starting Sept. 27.

The newspaper said she’s due in court next month. If convicted, the penalty for OUI is a $500 fine and loss of license for 150 days.

]]> 30 Thu, 29 Sep 2016 17:56:49 +0000
New Mainers Alliance will encourage immigrants to vote Thu, 29 Sep 2016 20:27:25 +0000 Leaders of Maine’s immigrant community have created a nonprofit to encourage new residents to vote and make their voices heard at the State House in Augusta.

The New Mainers Alliance announced its launch Thursday during a news conference at Portland City Hall.

Its members include representatives from the Iraqi, Congolese, Sudanese, South Sudanese, Somali and other immigrant communities in Maine. If successful, the group’s leaders said the New Mainers Alliance will help organize the civic work of those groups under one umbrella.

“Integrating our community into the society starts by a civic engagement process that explains the legal tools available in the system to get involved and to have a voice,” said Elmuatz Abdelrahim, one of the group’s officers.

The first priority for the New Mainers Alliance is educating immigrants about getting involved in civic processes. The group is planning fundraisers and a get-out-the-vote campaign leading up to this fall’s election.

“A community that’s actively engaged in the civic process, including voting, is a stronger community, a healthy community,” said Mahmoud Hassan, the president of the Somali Community Center of Maine and one of the founders of the New Mainers Alliance. “It’s an American tradition, and we should cherish that tradition as a cornerstone of our American democracy, and we should bring new Mainers to fully participate and fully understand that American tradition for a stronger and more prosperous and more equitable society for all of us.”

The group has also incorporated as a 501(c)4, a type of nonprofit social welfare organization that can engage in lobbying, which the New Mainers Alliance plans to pursue.

“We can be able to lobby and bring our issues to the steps of the Capitol and to the City Council and to the places where decisions are being made,” Abdelrahim said.

Abdifatah Ahmed said he and the group’s other founders have been meeting with local and state officials to talk about their goals.

“As members and leaders of the new Mainers community, we understand the urgent needs of the community,” he said. “Recent biased statements against immigrants and minorities in the national and state political discourse could create an atmosphere of uncertainty and anxiety. The New Mainers Alliance will work hard to ensure that such feelings do not cause suppression in voting among immigrants and minorities.”

Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling said he would encourage the New Mainers Alliance to attend city council meetings, testify about pending legislation and contact their councilors to voice their opinions.

“I think any group that’s trying to get more engaged politically is a good thing,” Strimling said. “We want our newest residents to be as engaged in the political process as those who have lived here for a long time.”

Last year, Abdelrahim and Ahmed also formed a political action committee with many of the same goals to represent new Mainers. According to its financial reports, the New Mainers PAC has spent a little more than $9,000 in payments to people who are helping new voters. The two groups are separate from each other, though many of the same people are involved in both.

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LB Kitchen to open on Congress Street in October Thu, 29 Sep 2016 19:47:10 +0000 A new health-conscious restaurant called LB Kitchen will open on Congress Street in October, according to a license application filed with the city of Portland.

Chef Lee Farrington is opening the cafe-style restaurant at 249 Congress St. with her partner, Bryna Gootkind, who has worked in the natural products industry. That’s the location of Farrington’s previous restaurant, Figa, which closed three years ago.

LB Kitchen will serve breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday, and brunch on weekends. Its goal is to serve more healthful options, such as veggie bowls, salads and grains.

A sample menu lists a variety of “Make It Your Own” bowls consisting of a base of grains or greens, three vegetables and a choice of proteins, such as herb-roasted chicken, wild salmon, charred tofu and wild boar. There also will be a selection of bone broths, such as Thai Tomato Beef and Coconut Mint Chicken.

The restaurant will offer juices, smoothies, beer and wine.

]]> 0 Thu, 29 Sep 2016 23:35:59 +0000
Spat Oyster Cellar opens in Kennebunk Thu, 29 Sep 2016 19:43:36 +0000 Spat Oyster Cellar, a new restaurant from New York chef Rebecca Charles, has opened in Kennebunk.

Charles owns Pearl Oyster Bar in New York City and announced in May that she was fulfilling a longtime dream of opening a restaurant in Maine by purchasing the former home of Abbondante Trattoria & Bar at 27 Western Ave. in the Lower Village. Spat Oyster Cellar is located in the downstairs part of the building, where there’s a small, 40-seat dining room and a fireplace. There’s a much larger dining room upstairs that will become the Maine incarnation of Pearl Oyster Bar and perhaps an event center. Charles said the earliest that space will open is next spring.

Spat Oyster Cellar opened quietly Tuesday night. The menu includes a selection of chilled seafood; small plates including fried oysters, buckets of steamers, clam chowder, mussels and smoked Atlantic salmon served with a johnnycake and creme fraiche; and larger plates including bouillabaisse, lobster rolls, whole grilled fish and a new creation from Charles – a “Carpetbagger Steak Sandwich” that is a baguette filled with roast beef and fried oysters.

The restaurant is open 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. It is closed on Mondays.

Charles has strong ties to Maine. Her family has summered in Kennebunk since 1917, and in the 1980s, Charles worked as a chef at the Whistling Oyster in Ogunquit and at Cafe 74 and the White Barn Inn in Kennebunk, where she was executive chef. She is building a home here, and plans to split her time between Maine and New York.

]]> 0, 30 Sep 2016 08:07:35 +0000
Roxanne Quimby buys campground near Acadia National Park Thu, 29 Sep 2016 19:34:57 +0000 Conservationist and Burt’s Bees co-founder Roxanne Quimby has purchased the scenic Ocean Woods campground on the Schoodic Peninsula in Hancock County and intends to continue operating it.

Portland-based real estate auction house Tranzon LLC disclosed on Sept. 9 that the 113-acre property had been placed under contract, and that a previously scheduled Tranzon auction had been canceled. On Thursday, Tranzon acknowledged that the sale had been completed and that the buyer was Quimby. It did not disclose the sale price.

Quimby has been a controversial figure in Maine. Her foundation, Elliotsville Plantation Inc., donated more than 87,500 acres in the Katahdin region to the federal government in August in a critical step toward the creation of a national monument in Maine’s North Woods. In August, President Obama designated the area a national monument.

Lucas St. Clair, president of Elliotsville Plantation and Quimby’s son, said Thursday that the family intends to continue operating Ocean Woods as a campground. St. Clair said Quimby chose to purchase the property because of its natural beauty and proximity to Acadia National Park.

“It’s just a beautiful place on the coast of Maine that really is so unique,” he said. “It’s also a great way to keep people on the Schoodic Peninsula.”

St. Clair said the campground provides an alternative to the sometimes crowded Acadia park and gives visitors a way to stay on the peninsula overnight. He said it also complements the recently opened Schoodic Woods campground, which the National Park Service operates further inland.

“In my opinion, it’s one of the most beautiful places on the coast of Maine,” he said.

Quimby’s land donation to the federal government was controversial and opposed by many local residents.

Although mile-high Mount Katahdin is located in Baxter State Park, Quimby’s land in the area include miles of frontage along the East Branch of the Penobscot River as well as Wassataquoik Stream. She has used proceeds from the sale of Burt’s Bees, the company she co-founded, to purchase large tracts of land in the Moosehead and Katahdin regions.

Quimby has amassed fans of her conservation philanthropy, and also ardent critics because she restricted hunting, snowmobiling and forestry on some of her land.

]]> 12 Thu, 29 Sep 2016 21:55:28 +0000
Portland woman charged with selling heroin, crack from motel room Thu, 29 Sep 2016 19:25:07 +0000 A 34-year-old Portland woman was arrested Wednesday on charges of selling crack cocaine and heroin from a motel room near the Portland/Westbrook line, the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency said Thursday.

Erica Burwell was charged with two counts of unlawful trafficking in scheduled drugs and receiving stolen property following a brief investigation by the Westbrook Police Department and the MDEA that was spurred by a heroin overdose.

Earlier Wednesday, Westbrook police and emergency medical personnel responded to a heroin overdose near 17 Main St., according to police.

The man who overdosed was taken to Maine Medical Center in Portland, where he was treated and released. At the scene of the overdose, police found several packages of heroin with distinctive packaging. Investigators determined that the heroin was being sold from a motel room at the Portland Travelodge at 1200 Brighton Ave.

Surveillance of the motel revealed that the occupants of room 127 appeared to be selling drugs. Police searched the room Wednesday night and found about 4 grams each of heroin and crack cocaine, two handguns, and about $4,500 in cash. The heroin seized was packaged in the same material as the drugs found at the overdose location, police said.

One of the handguns had been reported stolen during a burglary in Standish, police said.

Burwell was arrested as she attempted to flush the drugs down the toilet, police said.

She was taken to Cumberland County Jail in Portland, where she is being held on $50,000 bail.

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

Twitter: MattByrnePPH

]]> 13, 30 Sep 2016 08:01:17 +0000
Interactive map: as rainfall lags, watch drought spread across New England Thu, 29 Sep 2016 19:02:52 +0000 In spite of some recent rainy days, total precipitation in Maine and in much of New England remains far below historic averages, and much of southern Maine is now considered to be in an “extreme drought,” according to the National Drought Mitigation Center.

This interactive map shows the official drought maps for New England since the beginning of May 2016. Click and drag the slider below to watch drought conditions spread over the course of an unusually dry summer.

*As of Sept. 29.
SOURCE: National Weather Service, University of Nebraska National Drought Mitigation Center
INTERACTIVE: Christian MilNeil | @vigorousnorth

]]> 0, 29 Sep 2016 16:33:01 +0000
Environmental concerns to be focus of South Portland candidates’ forum Thu, 29 Sep 2016 18:30:53 +0000 SOUTH PORTLAND — The South Portland Land Trust will quiz City Council candidates on a wide variety of environmental issues at an election forum to be held Tuesday evening in the council chamber at City Hall.

The trust has invited the seven candidates who are running for two at-large seats in the Nov. 8 election. They are Maxine Beecher, who is the incumbent, Richard Carter, James Gilboy, Susan Henderson, Kate Lewis, Louis B. Maietta Jr. and Michael Pock. Steve Jocher, trust president, will serve as moderator of the 7 p.m. event.

Jocher said past forums hosted by the trust have revealed a great deal about candidates’ positions on the use of open space and other environmental concerns that are hot topics in South Portland and across the nation.

“Taxpayers want to know their candidates’ views,” Jocher said in a news release.

Prepared questions will cover subjects such as funding for the South Portland Land Bank, the city’s open space plan, land acquisition bond questions, recreational trails and maintenance responsibilities, and pets and open space. Members of the public also will be invited to ask questions.

]]> 0, 29 Sep 2016 19:50:29 +0000
Drought conditions spread dramatically, now ‘extreme’ in most of Cumberland, York counties Thu, 29 Sep 2016 17:39:08 +0000 Nearly all of York and Cumberland counties and the entire Casco Bay region are now experiencing extreme drought conditions, according to federal data released Thursday.

The latest map of Maine shows a dramatic expansion of the most drought-stricken part of the state compared with data released a week ago that showed only southern York County in the extreme drought zone. An area designated as being in severe drought, one level lower then extreme, now reaches north to the Bangor region and east to Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park.

More than 1.05 million Mainers are now living in drought, according to the updated model from the U.S. Drought Monitor, which is 79 percent of the state’s 1.33 million residents.

Also Thursday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared that an expanded disaster area now includes Cumberland, Androscoggin, Oxford, Sagadahoc and York counties because of the drought. Farmers within the disaster area will be eligible for assistance from the federal Farm Service Agency, including emergency loans. Farmers in York, Cumberland and Oxford counties got emergency assistance under a more limited disaster declaration earlier this month.

Rainfall has been far below normal this summer. Rainfall in York County since Oct. 1, 2015, has totaled 33 inches, about 16.6 inches below normal, according to the National Weather Service. Sagadahoc and Cumberland counties also have seen about 33 inches of total rainfall, which is 14.6 inches below normal in that part of the state.

And forecasters expect the drought to deepen before there’s any dramatic change in the weather. Some showers are in southern Maine’s short-term forecast, but there is an even chance of above- or below-average precipitation in the next three months, according to the weather service’s Climate Prediction Center.


Conditions are the driest in 15 years, and groundwater levels are dropping closer to the lowest point reached during the region’s last serious drought from 1999 to 2002, said Nicholas Stasulis, data section chief for the U.S. Geological Survey in Maine.

Water in a monitoring well in Sanford is a foot above the lowest point measured during that drought, Stasulis said. But groundwater levels typically reach their lowest in the fall, and if the dry weather trend holds, the levels could meet or break those records.

“Even though we haven’t reached the levels we had in the early 2000s, at a lot of our wells we saw the lowest July, August and probably September in the last 20 to 30 years,” Stasulis said. “That would lead us to believe that low levels in October and November would set those records.”

Stream flow data, which goes back more than a century in some cases, may be an even more significant indicator of the drought’s severity than groundwater readings, Stasulis said. Many of the state’s major waterways are considered to be in severe or extreme hydrologic drought, meaning there are only a few days on record with lower water flow measurements. For example, a section of the Saco River in Cornish is lower than 99 percent of readings recorded there over the past 100 years, Stasulis said.

Almost 10 percent of the state, including Cumberland, York and Sagadahoc counties, are in an extreme drought, one step away from exceptional drought, the most serious condition used by the national monitor. Severe drought has spread north and east and now affects most of Androscoggin, Kennebec, Knox, Waldo, Lincoln and Hancock counties. Roughly 18 percent of the state is in a severe drought, up from only 7 percent last week, according to the monitor.

Of the state’s 16 counties, only Aroostook has no areas experiencing drought, although a small portion is abnormally dry.


Farmers in Maine have been trying to weather the drought by increasing irrigation. The dry weather hurt hay crops in particular and meant some farmers lost second and third cuttings of hay that’s relied on to feed livestock during the winter.

Nina Fuller watches as her sheep head to a pond for water on her property in Hollis. The sheep usually don't drink from the pond, but because of the drought, that has changed this year, she said. Rainfall in York County since Oct. 1, 2015, is about 16.6 inches below normal. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Nina Fuller watches as her sheep head to a pond for water on her property in Hollis. The sheep usually don’t drink from the pond, but because of the drought, that has changed this year, she said. Rainfall in York County since Oct. 1, 2015, is about 16.6 inches below normal. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Public water sources, which provide drinking water to about 66 percent of the state, have mostly held up, so far, although the York Water District recently contracted with Kennebunk to pipe in water and has asked its customers to limit water use.

Private well owners, particularly those with shallow dug wells, have been hit especially hard in recent weeks as wells have run dry or are threatening to. Many of those Mainers are limiting water use, and some have resorted to ordering bulk water deliveries or spending thousands of dollars to drill deeper into shrinking groundwater aquifers.

Glen Brand, director of the Maine Chapter of the Sierra Club, said the worsening drought is consistent with extreme weather expected to be brought on by climate change.

“I would not say, ‘Oh, this drought was caused by warming pollution.’ No one could say that with any scientific legitimacy,” Brand said. “But what scientists are telling us is that long periods of drought are one of the manifestations of worsening climate disruption.”


]]> 14, 30 Sep 2016 05:40:39 +0000
N.H. hotel guests love 31-pound cat who’s living large Thu, 29 Sep 2016 16:57:48 +0000 WATERVILLE VALLEY, N.H. — Guests at a hotel in New Hampshire can be forgiven for thinking a raccoon is lounging out front.

But the huge ball of fur on the sidewalk of the Best Western Silver Fox Inn at the Waterville Valley Resort is actually a fat cat. A really fat cat.

The 8-year-old tabby is named Logan and weighs 31 pounds – about twice the size of a normal cat. Logan has become a huge hit with visitors and is now an internet sensation. Guests have posted photos of the cat sitting in a chair, and one video on Facebook shows it waddling through the hotel parking lot with the shooter saying “You are so big.” That video has been viewed 29 million times and shared 372,000 times.

Susan and Tor Brunvand adopted Logan from a Meredith, New Hampshire, shelter six years ago. At the time, Susan Brunvand said he was “a normal-sized cat.” But soon he was gobbling up food from the bowls of the couple’s two other cats and finding a way to sneak into the stash of cat food for a few extra bites.

“He just slowly put the weight on,” Susan Brunvand said, adding that she started to wonder if something was wrong as the cat grew in size.

“I’ve had cats my entire life and I’ve never had one do this,” she added, saying she had a 20-pound cat once, but that cat was big because “there was Maine coon in him.”

As Logan grew, the couple brought him to a vet and even had stretches – once after a fight with a feral cat – where he barely ate for several weeks. Still, nothing seemed to reduce Logan’s size.

The Brunvands sent the cat to a friend’s house, thinking separation might lead to a change, but he barely lost a pound.

The reaction to the supersized cat has been a mix of “OMG” amazement peppered with concern about its health. After the Facebook video was posted, Susan Brunvand said she got a call from someone who wanted to bring her up on animal abuse charges for allowing the cat to get so big.

“I felt bad for him because he looked very overweight,” said Janet Lynn, a hotel guest from Manchester, New Hampshire. “He was just too fat. It’s not healthy for that cat to be that fat. … I just wonder why a person would have a pet and let it get that heavy.”

Susan Brunvan insists there is little more she can do – or should do – to help the cat she likes to call her “little chubby boy, my little bear” shed the weight.

She has ruled out any kind of surgery and laughed when it was suggested that Logan could be put on a kitty treadmill. Rather, she just lets Logan act like her two other cats. He spends most days outdoors and can pretty much do anything a skinny cat can manage – including jumping onto a hotel sofa, stalking squirrels or purring when a visitor gives him a rub.

Visitors crack a smile whenever they spot the cat.

“This is who he is,” she said. “He’s happy as can be. … He is one of the happiest, easiest cats I’ve ever had. He doesn’t think he’s fat. He thinks he’s cute.”

]]> 4, 29 Sep 2016 21:29:46 +0000
Bath police go to home for child custody complaint, find 17 pounds of pot Thu, 29 Sep 2016 16:31:29 +0000 A routine investigation into a child custody complaint resulted in the seizure of 17 pounds of marijuana in Bath on Tuesday, police said.

A Bath police detective went to 5 Bumpy Hill Road at about 2:55 p.m. Tuesday. While there, the detective smelled an overwhelming odor of marijuana. The residents, Joseph Plummer and Alison Hartill, ultimately showed the detectives a massive amount of pot.

Some of the marijuana was already packaged in plastic bags, while a larger amount was held in a large plastic storage tote.

Both Plummer and Hartill were issued summonses charging unlawful possession of Schedule Z drugs, a Class C felony. They are both due in West Bath District Court on Nov. 22.

]]> 11 Thu, 29 Sep 2016 13:14:48 +0000
Portland man charged with snatching Rockland woman off the street Thu, 29 Sep 2016 14:47:05 +0000 ROCKLAND — A Portland man faces charges that he abducted a 22-year-old woman off a downtown street in Rockland and then fled from police.

Shane Hall, 29, was arrested on a felony charge of kidnapping and eluding an officer.

Rockland Deputy Police Chief Chris Young said Hall refused to stop his vehicle for Sgt. Matthew Lindahl, who said he saw Hall driving erratically on Main Street around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday. While officers were chasing the vehicle, the woman called 911 and told dispatchers that she had been kidnapped.

After a short chase, the driver lost control of the vehicle and crashed. Police said Hall tried to run away but was caught and arrested.

The woman in the vehicle, who asked that her name not be used, suffered minor injuries.

She said she was walking down Camden Street after work when she heard a car door slam behind her and turned to see a man in a ski mask coming at her.

She said she head-butted the man and bit him as he put his arm around her neck, but she couldn’t breathe and eventually passed out. When she woke up, she was in the passenger seat of the vehicle, speeding south through downtown Rockland.

She said that when her attacker saw that she was conscious, he put a knife to her throat and said he would kill her.

She noticed blue lights come on behind the vehicle as she was struggling to retrieve her cellphone from the back seat.

“I said to myself, ‘Hold on a little longer,'” she said.

She said the man then sped up and tried to push her out of the vehicle, telling her to tuck and roll as she jumped.

“I didn’t want to do that and maybe get run over,” she said.

She continued to fight and managed to dial 911. She started screaming out information about who she was and where she was, hoping the dispatcher could hear her, while struggling with the man.

“I was petrified,” she said. “He was very strong. I did the best I could.”

As the chase proceeded onto Pleasant Street, she said she grabbed the steering wheel and her attacker asked if she wanted him to crash. She said she told him she did.

The vehicle crashed into a utility pole. Hall tried to escape out the window and then went out through the sun roof. Police arrived, drew their guns and immediately caught him, she said.

She said she has sprained fingers, bruises and injuries to her face, but overall she is OK physically. However, the violent attack has taken an emotional toll.

“No one should have to feel this way,” she said. “It’s not right. It’s the worst feeling, thinking you’re not going to see your loved ones the next day.”

“My family has been surrounding me through this ordeal, making sure I know I’m safe. I don’t know what I will do when I’m alone.”

Hall was taken to the Knox County Jail in Rockland and is expected to make an initial appearance in Knox County Court on Friday.

Hall has a criminal record in Maine dating back to 2008, including felony convictions for robbery, burglary and aggravated assault for attacking a man with a shovel.

]]> 28, 29 Sep 2016 21:54:54 +0000
Firefighter hailed for subduing South Carolina teen in school shooting Thu, 29 Sep 2016 14:46:21 +0000 TOWNVILLE, S.C. – When two firefighters rolled up to an elementary school shooting, they said they found only a wrecked black pickup truck at the playground. There was no gunman, and no one inside the truck.

Within minutes, though, they performed actions that led to them being hailed as heroes: One went inside to help treat the wounded and the other searched for the shooter.

“This was more than just another call to us. This incident occurred in the school where our children and the children of the community attend,” Townville Fire Chief Billy McAdams said Thursday during a news conference, pausing to collect himself as he recalled the harrowing events of the day before.

Authorities say the teen shot his father at their home before driving the pickup a couple of miles to Townville Elementary School and shooting at a door as it was opened for recess. Bullets struck two students and a teacher and the school was immediately placed on lockdown.

One of the wounded, 6-year-old Jacob Hall, remained in critical condition Thursday and was said to be fighting for his life. A teacher who was shot in the shoulder and another student who was hit in the foot were treated and released from a hospital.

The shooter never made it inside the building, and no one else was hurt, Anderson County District 4 Superintendent Joanne Avery said.

Authorities said they don’t yet know a motive for the shooting and they were not sure if the students and teacher were targeted or shot randomly. The sheriff said the teen had been homeschooled.

The fire chief said he and firefighter Jamie Brock were working on his farm when they got the call about an active shooter at Townville Elementary. They rushed to the school and found the empty pickup.

Teachers told them there were wounded inside, and Brock suggested to the fire chief that he go inside to help because he was a paramedic. Alongside a school nurse, the chief attended to Jacob, who was the most seriously injured.

In the meantime, law enforcement swarmed the school and Brock looked for the shooter, finding him near the back of the school building.

“Feeling it was imperative to the safety of the students, the teachers and all the responders that were on site, he immediately confronted and subdued that shooter,” the chief said. “He was able to keep him on the ground until law enforcement could place him into custody.”

Authorities have not released the teen’s name or specific age.

Anderson County Coroner Greg Shore said the teen, crying and upset, called his grandmother’s cellphone at 1:44 p.m. Wednesday. The grandparents couldn’t understand what was going on, so they went to his home just 100 yards away. When they got there, they found 47-year-old Jeffrey Osborne dead and their grandson gone.

About one minute later, authorities received a 911 call from a teacher at the school of about 300 pre-kindergarten to sixth-graders.

The teen’s mother, Tiffney Osborne, said in a statement that the family “cannot express the devastation we feel at the loss of our beloved Jeff.” She was at work at the time of the shooting, Anderson County Sheriff John Skipper said.

Both Tiffney and Jeffrey Osborne’s first marriages ended in divorce before they got married. They each had children, who are now adults, with their exes.

Authorities said audio from the 911 calls will not be released while the investigation is ongoing.

In a statement read by the fire chief, Brock said he doesn’t want attention for his actions.

“The true heroes of yesterday’s senseless tragedy are the teachers who put their lives on the line to protect the students and the principal, through fears of her own, did what was right to ensure the safety of those students,” he said. “They deserve to be called the heroes, and I tip my hat to them.”

Associated Press writers Seanna Adcox, Jack Jones and Meg Kinnard contributed to this report from Columbia, South Carolina.

]]> 0, 29 Sep 2016 16:03:31 +0000
Latest water main break, in Westbrook, is fixed Thu, 29 Sep 2016 14:00:24 +0000 The Portland Water District spent part of Thursday dealing with another water main break, this time in Westbrook.

The district this week has responded to multiple breaks in Portland and Gorham that cut off water to customers, lowered water pressure and caused traffic detours and delays.

The break in Westbrook was reported Thursday morning on Stroudwater Street. The break, which did not affect any customers, was repaired by 11:30 a.m.

On Wednesday, a water main broke on outer Congress Street in Portland near the Westbrook line, delaying traffic along the heavily traveled corridor. At the same time, crews were working to repair water main breaks on Brighton Avenue and Colonial Road, also in Portland. About 30 households near the Colonial Road break were without water for the day.

A significant water main break in Gorham reported Tuesday resulted in low water pressure for customers in several communities, including Portland and South Portland. That break was in a 30-inch main and is expected to be repaired Thursday.

]]> 8 Thu, 29 Sep 2016 14:27:39 +0000
Woman killed, 108 injured as commuter train crashes into New Jersey station Thu, 29 Sep 2016 13:22:09 +0000 HOBOKEN, N.J. — A rush-hour commuter train crashed through a barrier at the busy Hoboken station and lurched across the waiting area Thursday morning, killing one person and injuring more than 100 others in a grisly wreck that renewed questions about whether long-delayed automated safety technology could have prevented tragedy.

People pulled chunks of concrete off pinned and bleeding victims, passengers kicked out windows and crawled to safety and cries and screams could be heard in the wreckage as emergency workers rushed to reach the injured in the tangle of twisted metal and dangling wires just across the Hudson River from New York City.

The New Jersey Transit train ran off the end of the track as it was pulling in around 8:45 a.m., smashing through a concrete-and-steel bumper. As it ground to a halt in the waiting area, it knocked out pillars, collapsing a section of the roof.

“The train didn’t stop. It just didn’t stop,” said Tom Spina, who was in the terminal and rushed to try to help the victims.

Ross Bauer was sitting in the third or fourth car when the train entered the historic 109-year-old station, a bustling hub for commuters heading to New York.

“All of a sudden, there was an abrupt stop and a big jolt that threw people out of their seats. The lights went out, and we heard a loud crashing noise like an explosion” as the roof fell, he said. “I heard panicked screams, and everyone was stunned.”

The engineer, Thomas Gallagher, was pulled from the mangled first car and was hospitalized, but officials said he had been released by evening. He was cooperating with investigators, said Gov. Chris Christie.

A woman standing on the train platform – Fabiola Bittar de Kroon, 34, of Hoboken, a former employee in the legal department of the business software company SAP in Brazil – was killed by debris, and 108 others were injured, mostly on the train, Christie said. Scores were hospitalized, some with serious injuries including broken bones.

“The train came in at much too high rate of speed, and the question is: ‘Why is that?”‘ Christie said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said investigators will determine whether the explanation was equipment failure, an incapacitated engineer or something else.

Some witnesses said they didn’t hear or feel the brakes being applied before the crash. Authorities would not estimate how fast the train was going. But the speed limit heading into the station is 10 mph.

The National Transportation Safety Board planned to pull one of the black-box event recorders Thursday evening from the locomotive at the back of the train. The device contains information on the train’s speed and braking.

But it wasn’t safe enough yet for investigators to extract the second recorder from the engineer’s compartment because of the collapsed roof and the possibility of asbestos in the old building, NTSB vice chairwoman T. Bella Dinh-Zarr said.

Gallagher, the engineer, has worked for NJ Transit for 29 years, and a union roster shows he started as an engineer about 18 years ago. Neighbors describe Gallagher and his family as good people.

Investigators will examine the engineer’s performance and the condition of the train, track and signals, among other things, she said. They also plan to look into whether positive train control – a system designed to prevent accidents by overriding the engineer and automatically slowing or stopping trains that are going too fast – could have helped.

None of NJ Transit’s trains is fully equipped with positive train control, which relies on radio and GPS signals to monitor trains’ position and speed.

The NTSB has been pressing for some version of the technology for at least 40 years, and the industry is under government orders to install it, but regulators have repeatedly extended the deadline at railroads’ request. The target date is now the end of 2018.

“While we are just beginning to learn the cause of this crash, it appears that once again an accident was not prevented because the trains our commuters were riding lacked positive train control,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y. “The longer we fail to prioritize investing in rail safety technology, the more innocent lives we put in jeopardy.”

Cuomo, a Democrat, and Christie, a Republican, said it was too soon to say whether such technology would have made a difference.

Over the past 20 years, the NTSB has listed the lack of positive train control as a contributing factor in 25 crashes. Those include the Amtrak wreck last year in Philadelphia in which a speeding train ran off the rails along a curve. Eight people were killed.

Even without positive train control, there are still safeguards in place at the Hoboken terminal.

NJ Transit trains going into Hoboken have an in-cab system that is designed to alert engineers and stop locomotives when they go over 20 mph, according to an NJ Transit engineer who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the accident.

Trains like the one in Thursday’s crash also are equipped with an alerter system – a sort of dead man’s device – that sounds a loud alarm and eventually stops the train if the engineer goes 15 to 20 seconds without touching the controls.

But it was unclear whether those mechanisms kicked in or would have made a difference if they had.

The train was not equipped with an inward-facing camera in the cab that could give a fuller picture of the operator’s actions, though Dinh-Zarr said it did have outward-facing cameras on both ends.

The Hoboken terminal handles more than 50,000 train and bus riders daily, many of them headed into New York. After arriving at Hoboken, the commuters take ferries or PATH commuter trains across the river to the city.

Passengers said the train, which set out from Spring Valley, New York, was crowded, with standing room only in the typically popular first few cars, but authorities had no immediate estimate of how many were aboard.

Jamie Weatherhead-Saul was standing at a door between the first and second cars. She said the crash hurled passengers against her, and one woman got her leg caught between the doors before fellow riders pulled her up.

Michael Larson, an NJ Transit employee working in the terminal about 30 feet away, said he saw the train go over the “bumper block” and lift up into the air, stopping only when it hit the wall of the station’s waiting room.

As the train hurtled into the depot amid concrete dust and dangling electrical wires, “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” he said.

William Blaine, an engineer for a company that runs freight trains, said he saw the train’s engineer slumped over the controls after the crash.

More than 100,000 people use NJ Transit trains to commute from New Jersey into New York every day. With the Hoboken station still closed as of Thursday evening, NJ Transit trains out of Penn Station in Manhattan were crowded with commuters forced to find a detour around Hoboken.

“My 30-minute commute is turning into at least an hour and a half,” said Steve Malfitano, who had to go into New York just to get from one New Jersey city to another. But he added: “It is what it is. It’s better than what those people had to go through.”

In 2011, a PATH commuter train crash at the Hoboken station injured more than 30 people. The train slammed into bumpers at the end of the tracks on a Sunday morning.

]]> 11, 29 Sep 2016 21:28:05 +0000
Maine immigration resource center gets $300,000 for sex assault resources Thu, 29 Sep 2016 11:47:02 +0000 LEWISTON – The federal Office on Violence Against Women is giving a Maine immigration resource center $300,000 for sexual assault and domestic violence advocacy in the immigrant community.

The money is going to Immigration Resource Center of Maine, which is located in Lewiston. The center was formerly called the United Somali Women of Maine.

Maine U.S. Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins say the immigration resource center will create, maintain and expand sexual assault services for East African sexual assault victims who live in southern Maine.

The senators say the money will help provide culturally specific services to ensure that members of Maine’s East African community have support and education about sexual assault and domestic violence.

]]> 11 Thu, 29 Sep 2016 08:29:37 +0000
Maine archers head out to hunt deer Thu, 29 Sep 2016 11:43:15 +0000 AUGUSTA – Maine archers are heading into the woods to participate in the state’s annual fall hunt for those who harvest deer with bow and arrow.

The archery season begins on Thursday and lasts until Oct. 28.

The firearms hunting season for deer follows the archery season and begins on Halloween. It lasts until Nov. 26.

There is also an “expanded archery season” that runs from Sept. 10 to Dec. 10. That season is centered around designated areas where the state says the deer herd can withstand more hunting.

]]> 0 Thu, 29 Sep 2016 08:29:53 +0000
Young N.H. girl runs over 2-year-old sister while starting car Thu, 29 Sep 2016 10:54:03 +0000 SALEM, N.H. – A 2-year-old New Hampshire girl is recovering at a children’s hospital in Boston after her 7-year-old sister accidentally ran her over while starting the family car.

Police say the girl’s mother told officers she gave her daughter permission to start the car around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The 2003 Ford Focus was parked in front of the family’s apartment in Salem when the 7-year-old mistakenly put the vehicle into reverse and backed over her sister.

The toddler suffered broken bones in her legs as well as injuries to her chin, scalp, rib cage and upper right arm. The injuries aren’t considered life-threatening.

Police say this isn’t the first time the 7-year-old was allowed to start the vehicle They are considering filing criminal charges against the girls’ mother.

]]> 2 Thu, 29 Sep 2016 06:54:03 +0000
Panel warns Tokyo Olympics cost could top $30 billion Thu, 29 Sep 2016 10:49:55 +0000 TOKYO – An expert panel commissioned by Japan’s capital city has warned that the total cost for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics could exceed 3 trillion yen ($30 billion) unless drastic cost-cutting measures are taken.

The panel on Thursday said the ballooning costs reflect an absence of leadership and a lack of governance and awareness of cost control.

The Olympic investigation panel, led by Shinichi Ueyama, a Keio University public policy professor, was launched by newly elected Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike as part of broader reforms after she raised concerns about ever-growing unofficial cost estimates and the potential burden on the city and its taxpayers.

The report reviewed three out of seven permanent venues that Tokyo is planning to build, and proposed using existing locations rather than new facilities that could end up being white elephants.

The estimated 3 trillion yen is more than a four-fold increase from the initial estimate at the time of Tokyo’s successful bid for the games in 2013. Organizers have not released their official estimate.

Tokyo organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori acknowledged in July, 2015 that the total cost could exceed 2 trillion yen ($20 billion), doubling his unofficial estimate a year earlier.

“Naturally, anyone who hears these numbers is alarmed,” Ueyama said.

The report said facilities based on overestimated capacity for stadiums, use of unnecessarily high-grade equipment and lack of budget ceiling have driven up the scale of design and cost.

The panel also said legacy use prospects for the big new permanent facilities are also overly optimistic considering Japan’s declining population and aging society.

To cut costs, the report proposed moving the rowing and canoeing venue away from Tokyo and renovating existing facilities for two other sports.

Preparations for the games have been plagued by a series of scandals, including the new national stadium’s high cost and design, and allegations of bribery in the bidding process.

]]> 1, 29 Sep 2016 06:49:55 +0000
Downeaster will bus passengers between Brunswick and Wells this fall Thu, 29 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The Amtrak Downeaster will transport passengers on buses between Brunswick and Wells for about six weeks this fall as workers replace railroad ties on about 30 miles of track.

The use of buses is intended to avoid service interruptions and late trains that plagued the Downeaster during a tie replacement project last year, said Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority.

Also, one of the Downeaster’s five daily round-trips will be suspended during the work and there will be no service on two weekends in October and November because of track construction and bridge work in Massachusetts.

The inconveniences will undoubtedly turn passengers away, Quinn admitted.

“It is definitely going to have an impact on ridership and revenue,” she said. “We’ve planned and budgeted for that.”

However, a relatively brief service disruption is preferable to a months-long nightmare of delays and cancellations the service experienced in the past two years, Quinn said. From July 2014 to June 2015, only 30 percent of Downeaster trains arrived on time, mainly because of a massive construction project to replace 30,000 railroad ties on a 78-mile section of track. The Downeaster tried to schedule trains to avoid construction, but ended up with hourslong delays and canceled trains instead. The problems were exacerbated by a long, cold winter and construction delays.

This year, the Downeaster recovered from that setback, with 81 percent of trains running on time in April, May and June, an August report from the rail authority said.

About 15,000 ties on 30 miles of track between Portland and Wells will be replaced this year. Instead of trying to schedule around the construction, rail authority staff opted to use buses to transport passengers. Busing is a common way to replace train service during interruptions such as construction, Quinn said.

“The fact that we are going around all the construction is much better,” she said. “It is inconvenient, but it’s not some horrible crazy thing that doesn’t happen anywhere.”

Starting Oct. 11, Downeaster passengers from Brunswick, Freeport and Portland will be bused to and from the Wells station, where they will board trains for Boston. Passengers between Saco and Wells will be taken in a van. The bus service will start five to 15 minutes earlier to make sure the train from Wells is on time, Quinn said. Busing is expected to last until Nov. 21, when the Downeaster will release a new service with three round-trips a day between Brunswick and Boston, Quinn said.

A midday service between Boston and Portland also is being suspended during the tie replacement. Trains 683 northbound, at 11:26 a.m. and 684 southbound, at 12:40 p.m., and equivalent weekend trains, 693 northbound and 694 southbound, will be taken off line. There isn’t typically a lot of demand for those off-peak services, Quinn said.

To complicate matters, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is working on bridges over the Merrimack River over the next two months, and will be busing train passengers between Haverhill, Massachuestts, and Boston on Oct. 8-9 and Nov. 19-20. The Downeaster will not run any trains on two weekends, Oct. 22-23 and Nov. 5-6, to avoid busing passengers for most of the trip, Quinn said.

Downeaster passengers will be compensated with reduced fares during the construction period. One-way tickets between Boston and any of the stops north of Wells will cost $17, the cost of the Wells-Boston trip, Quinn said. A one-way ticket on the Downeaster from Boston to Portland now costs $25, or $34 for business class.

Because bus space is limited, passengers should make reservations well in advance, Quinn said.

“This is not a good time to show up without a reservation,” she said.

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Man who raped wife sentenced to 15 years in prison Thu, 29 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 AUGUSTA — Raymond R. Killam was sentenced Wednesday to a minimum of 15 years in prison for raping his then-wife in 2015.

Killam, 43, who pleaded guilty in early August to two counts of gross sexual assault, was sentenced to 25 years in prison with all but 15 years suspended and four years of probation for the first count. For the second count, he was sentenced to an additional 10 years in prison, all suspended, and another four years of probation.

Standing in the courtroom Wednesday at the Capital Judicial Center, the victim compared her situation to that of Valerie Tieman, the Fairfield woman whose body was discovered Sept. 20 by investigators and whose husband has been charged with her slaying.

“I think if Ray is released he will come to hurt me,” she said. “(Valerie Tieman) could have been me. That could have been me if he is allowed to go free.”

Killam did not turn around during the proceeding, but in lengthy remarks he spoke of “demons” he’s experienced in the past and apologized to a number of people, including his ex-wife, their children, his parents and young men he had mentored through a religious program in Waterville.

“I’m truly, truly sorry for not being the husband that you needed me to be,” Killam said.

Authorities said Killam raped his ex-wife when they were married in April and May 2015. Justice Michaela Murphy explained that gross sexual assault can be committed by one spouse against the other.


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Poll suggests Mainers open to changing the way they vote Thu, 29 Sep 2016 08:00:00 +0000 AUGUSTA — Maine voters are trying to make up their minds about being first in the nation to use a ranked choice system to vote for members of Congress, the Legislature and governor.

A recent Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center shows that 48 percent of likely voters support the ranked choice method.

However, the poll also found that 23 percent of voters were undecided and 29 percent will vote against the change.

The switch would make Maine the first state to adopt the system, which allows voters to rank candidates by preference instead of choosing a single candidate for each race come Election Day.

The system is used now for Portland’s mayoral and City Council races and has been adopted by other cities in the U.S., but Maine would be the first state to use the system or all statewide elections, including votes for the Legislature, Congress and governor.

The poll, which included more than 500 likely voters and surveyed both mobile and land-line telephones, was conducted in mid-September. The question will appear as Question 5 on the ballot Nov. 8.

Kyle Bailey, the campaign manager for Yes on 5, said the campaign was pleased with the numbers, but noted that other polls suggest stronger support and fewer undecided voters.

“We know there are a lot of undecided voters out there who haven’t heard about this or need more information,” Bailey said.

It’s a point that could be critical to the campaign’s success in 2016, according to Andy Smith, a political scientist and the director of the UNH Survey Center. Smith said with four other ballot questions facing voters, and two of those on the hot-button issues of guns and marijuana, how Mainers vote may not be at the forefront of voters’ minds come November.

“It’s not an issue that most people are very concerned about and it’s certainly not something that people are going to think about very often,” Smith said. He also said the fact that having to explain how ranked choice voting works makes for a difficult sell.

Smith said undecided voters will typically vote no on a question they don’t fully understand. “It’s a very foreign idea and something that’s hard to explain in a short period of time, especially when there are a lot of other things going on, other issues that are more visible or more understandable like legalizing marijuana, for example.”

That’s why the Yes on 5 campaign is focused on informing voters about how ranked choice voting works. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the top votes cast after the first tally, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated. Voters who chose the eliminated candidate have their ballots added to the totals of their second-ranked candidate and the ballots are retabulated. This process continues until one candidate has a majority of votes and is declared the winner.

“If your favorite candidate can’t win and no candidate gets an outright majority your vote is not wasted, it counts for the candidate you ranked as your second choice to help us reach a majority winner who is more broadly supported by voters,” Bailey said.

The poll indicates that Republicans are more likely to reject changing Maine’s voting laws with 43 percent or a plurality of those polled saying they would vote against the measure. That compares to 61 percent of Democrats and 45 percent of independents who support the switch.

Younger people surveyed showed higher levels of support for the change, with 51 percent aged 18 to 49 saying they will vote for the switch, while among voters aged 50 and over, only 46 percent saying they favor the change.

Fifty seven percent of voters in households earning less than $30,000 a year supported the proposal, but voters with higher incomes were less enthusiastic. In households earning $30,000 to $60,000, 48 percent supported the measure, while 49 percent supported in households earning more than $60,000.


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